There’s no denying that I adore survivalist fiction. For example, I love Romero’s zombie films because they are all about surviving (and inevitably failing in) an impossible situation: a world overrun with violent madness. In terms of anime, I’ve often talked up Blue Gender, but there’s also Gantz, Infinite Ryvius and Highschool of the Dead: none of them perfect, but all four intense and absorbing. Recently, I blogged about Muv Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse. This I now regret because the series wasn’t good at all, but those first two episodes nailed that old weakness of mine all the same. What I’m trying to say is, I’m a slave to this genre and therefore, I’m a slave to Btooom!.
Writing, even anime blogging, can be hard. We all have ideas about what makes good writing and that’s why, sometimes, I have trouble doing it for this blog. I want to write posts that are, in their own ways, perfect. I know that’s an unrealistic goal, but I try anyway, and this whole process gradually becomes a huge weight for me to carry. I’m insecure; I’m rarely happy with how any given post turns out, but I keep trying anyway, because I hold out the hope that you will want to read these words, flawed as they may be.
This was all dragged up by the Run, Melos! arc of Aoi Bungaku, two of the loveliest and most emotional episodes of anime I’ve seen.
When all that's left is dust
When I think about Boogiepop Phantom, I’m also reminded of other recent Madhouse anime, like Shigurui and Casshern Sins. Each has a strange aesthetic; seductive yet tinged by an under-lying sense of sadness and desolation.
It would be easy to categorise them as dark and depressing, but they are more complex than that. It’s not horror merely for the sake of mindless chills; it’s horror to serve a purpose, to weave a spell. Boogiepop Phantom is disorientating, Shigurui is grotesque and Casshern Sins is desolate, but each conjures an atmosphere potent enough to provoke difficult questions.
Cherry picking in autumn
Hello, my name is bateszi. I’m a generic anime blogger and this is my generic autumn preview. Please enjoy these poorly researched comments on anime that I know nothing about, talking about new series with the same pictures, synopsis and links that you can see in dozens of other autumn previews too. I guess we all copy each other, but that’s okay, right? Also, please note, I couldn’t care less about intriguing stories or unique ideas. Boring! All that matters is character design, and I think all characters should look the same, they should all be cute, with big eyes, tsundere, loli. If not, I won’t watch. Everything and everyone should be classifiable by genre. I only like romance. Evangelion is overrated. I don’t like mecha! So, please, enjoy my generic autumn preview. It’s positively ignorant!
Tytania: Sweeping epic, space opera
If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you might have noticed that I’m often quite attracted to space operas. Last year, I really enjoyed Toward the Terra, was swept away by its poignant drama and epic scale. That’s why Tytania is on this list, but once I factor in that it’s from the writer (Yoshiki Tanaka) and director (Noboru Ishiguro) of Legend of the Galactic Heroes, then clearly, there is a very real chance of seeing something extra special.
There are certain ‘situations’ I’m expecting from this, lots of political intrigue and religious fundamentalism, some sensational betrayal of ambitious, old fashioned men, of men daring to dream the impossible, of mastering their own destiny, while their corrupt, bloated leaders destroy the lives of millions with a careless flick of their chubby little fingers. Characters will be wearing tidy, distinctive uniforms and have interesting names, while, for the fan-girls, there will be bishonen and romantic subtext.
Shikabane Hime (“Corpse Princess”): Potential fail, Gainax, horror
I’m not exactly brimming with excitement for Shikabane Hime. It’s just looking like more of the same, more Blood-esque horror, with a twist of Attitude. Our dearest high-school heroine devilishly delights in ripping through hordes of flesh-hungry zombies with her trusty machine gun, sound familiar? The first chapter of the manga reads more like an exploitative version of Bleach, with page after page of extreme gore and cheap fan service, while the anime trailer suggests a low budget. Alas, the involvement of Gainax has me intrigued. We all know what they are capable of. He is My Master. Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. This could go either way. Gainax are an enigma, capable of almost anything.
Michiko to Hatchin: Westernised anime for the masses, not otaku
I’ll take a wild guess and suggest that, just from seeing the trailer, Michiko to Hatchin will be licensed by Funimation (via Geneon) for a North American DVD release within the next 6-to-9 months, then thrown into a decent TV slot, selling well with the tagline of “from the makers of Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo“. There is nothing niche about this show, it has a clean, sexy and colourful style that’s refreshingly free of the creepy leering of typical otaku fare. It looks very cool, imbued with a Western Attitude, almost like a story based within the Mushroom Samba universe of Cowboy Bebop; sunny, desolate landscapes, big afros and kung-fu, what’s not to love? Ask the fans of Kyoto Animation.
One Outs: GAR, thriller
One Outs has a sinister, cold aesthetic, with character designs that are as hard as nails. Our dearest Madhouse reunites the staff of Akagi and Kaiji for this further round of manly tears and winner-takes-all gambling. Such a prospect is irresistible.
The premise.., hell, the mere subtitle of “Nobody wins, but I!” is enough to set my pulse racing. So it is sad, then, that many have already written it off because the plot is ostensibly related to baseball. You know, it’s not like I know anything about baseball either, but the game is just a means to an end; that end being a white-knuckle ride through the dangerous forest of failure, best faced whilst sporting a salary-man’s shabby suit and ruffled tie, as your tightly pursed, unfeeling lips nurse a slow burning, cheap cigarette.
Kurozuka: Horror, semi-necrophilia, action, science-fiction
This time last week, I knew absolutely nothing about Kurozuka. I was curious about its sparse promotional art, that was all, and it certainly wasn’t supposed to be on this list, but, well… I know more about it now. I devoured all 10 volumes of the manga over the weekend! I should have expected that to happen, but I just wanted to sample a few chapters and it hooked me. Plain and simple, I couldn’t stop reading it.
How might one describe Kurozuka? As a twisted love story, perhaps. As a doomed romance between immortals, that spans centuries, from Feudal Japan to a post-apocalyptic future.
Stop, I know I’m using words like ‘love’ and ‘romance’, but don’t be fooled, because this isn’t in any way profound or intimate. Kurozuka is about a woman desperately, madly in love with the severed head of a samurai named Kuro. In a twist that can only be described as bad luck, the only part of Kuro that became immortal was his head, and one more thing, these love birds, they feed on human blood. So, forget about all this ‘romance’ stuff, Kurozuka is a thoroughly grotesque, violent and strange story that is as stylish and action-packed as it is morally bankrupt.
One of the characters has a (Guts-esque) jet-powered dragon slayer sword (see the image at the top of the this post). I mean, seriously, do I need to say any more? Yes, I’m excited about Kurozuka. I’m anxious to see how it’s adapted by Madhouse, and whether or not it’s censored. If not, I feel safe in assuming that this will be the most ‘adult’ anime to air in autumn, but remember, ‘adult’ means sick, extreme, sex-laden and violent. Yum.
A romantic interpretation of Kaiba
I was always going to like Kaiba. Even before it started airing, I had, somewhat dangerously, convinced myself that it would be good. After all, with someone like Masaaki Yuasa directing, I had to expect it would special and well, some five months later, here we are again, I just finished Kaiba this weekend.
Lets allay some fears right now. Despite its polarizing visual style and artsy pedigree, Kaiba absolutely isn’t high falutin or pretentious, it is heartfelt and emotional, exciting and twisted, and most of all, character driven. It’s true that Yuasa occasionally indulges in daunting surrealism, no doubt the last episode is a testament to that, but I really hope that you watch Kaiba, because it is lovely.
Well, that’s a half truth. Kaiba is lovely, and sweet, and romantic, but it’s also tragic, and sad, and harsh. I’m recalling a line from Kino’s Journey that comes to mind, that “The world is not beautiful, therefore it is”. This is Kaiba, I think. An idealistic, almost child-like search for some meaning in life within a universe where human memory, the very essence of individuality, is ephemeral, readily transferred into tiny, fragile metal chips and where dreams are copied, fabricated and deleted.
People are weak little things, really. Our dreams are many, and many of them are impossible, but we strive on anyway. One watches Kaiba and feels this romantic melancholy for life, that every person, all of us, might as well be reduced to a grain of sand on a golden beach, one of countless millions, yet we all keep on believing that we can make a difference, or do something important. Sometimes we find happiness, other times not. Kaiba is beautiful for allowing a human life to blossom, like how a flower might sneak through the cracks of a concrete road, only to then be crushed underfoot. A life that was once so hopeful can be extinguished in an instant, lost forever, just another grain of sand. But if life is so insignificant, what is the point of living? Why not just give up?
Above all else, Kaiba is a love story. When Warp and Neiro fall from their lost palace and slip into the amnesia cloud below, Warp’s only concern is for his beloved Neiro’s memories, even at the cost of his own. They roll around in Neiro’s room, drunk, happy, absolutely content within the intimacy of the other’s company, they remain scared, fragile and lost, but they have each other, and that’s enough, I think. Likewise, Popo only realizes the hollowness of his rise to power after his last remaining friend has had her memories erased, “Don’t forget me!” he screams, but it’s too late, everything he strived for has been forgotten. We live for each other, a mother for her son, a boy for his friend, one lover for another. That’s why giving up isn’t an option, our dreams might be hopeless, but they keep us alive long enough to find a friend, a kindred spirit.
Apologies, I know things have been quiet around here of late. While everyone gets so excited about all this new anime airing in Japan, I just get tired of it. There’s too much to watch, too much to read and too much to say. It tires me out just thinking about it, so, despite having downloaded first episodes of 9 different anime last week, I’ve watched merely two. One was Code Geass, which, true to form, was great, stupid fun, and the other was Kaiba, a show I’ve been anticipating since, well… forever. But wait, Kaiba hasn’t been fansubbed (yet), right? Such enthusiasm forced me into yesterday’s impulsive decision; I decided to watch it raw. For the record, my understanding of Japanese is next to nothing and never before have I bothered to watch anime untranslated, but, at this point, I may as well just quit anime blogging if not inspired by something like Kaiba, something that’s so completely new. Code Geass R2 isn’t new; it’s just the same old collection of genres with a different lick of paint. Mecha, shonen, shojo, moe, harem, sports, we’ve seen it all before, but let me tell you this, you’ve seen nothing like Kaiba. Asked to describe the story, director Masaaki Yuasa mentioned suspense, romance, science fiction, comedy and action, and depending on your perception, it’s all of that, or nothing, but at least it’s new.
I won’t bother with an extended episode synopsis, as aside from my noted lack of comprehension regarding the Japanese language, Owen and BluWacky have recently posted some fine coverage on their blogs too. All I really want to say is that I liked it, a lot. With an aesthetic that’s part Astro Boy-era Tekuza, part Flintstones, it certainly looks different. It’s nothing like Yuasa’s previous work, Kemonozume, where the characters were grungy, gritty and blue (in the greasy, erotic sense). Here, the designs are clear and bright, as if lacking sophistication, an obvious ploy to violently contrast a playful, child-like aesthetic with a disturbing reality tainted with memory-stealing and body swapping. I’m reminded of Roald Dahl’s twisted style of storytelling, especially The BFG; all the excitement of Sophie’s wide-eyed adventure into a hidden world of friendly giants, offset when she discovers that they munch on humans.
The evocative visuals are well-matched by a soundtrack that’s ambient, electronic and artificial, yet emphasizes the fantasy and excitement on screen. In truth, it’s wonderfully apt for Kaiba, as a story so removed from reality shouldn’t sound familiar or contemporary; in particular, the opening and ending sequences are beautifully presented; setting the tone for what is an escape into a dream-like, distant plain of imagination.
People might think I’m talking this up because it’s different, because it looks weird. If that were the case, I wouldn’t be writing this now. It’s true that it’s unconventional, you won’t immediately feel empathy for the characters, or understand their feelings. You have to be prepared to submerge yourself in Kaiba, to accept things that might be unrealistic and weird. In this sense, it’s absolutely authentic animation; the product of boundless imagination, and it works because, despite everything, it still feels human; funny, weird and sad. I hope you like it!