Fall 2017 – Pitiful Packages Played-Out Poorly
The Gifts That Could Have Been Better, And the One’s We Wish We Never Got
By: Head Writer – J.R Tafoya
Hello again, my little Giga-Landers! J.R here to great you with a slightly late Christmas present of this Fall season’s anime in review!
Today’s first gift comes from out diligent Doctor Gabe, U.Q Holder! This adaptation from the manga of a similar name is sequel to the popular manga, Mahou Sensei Negima!. With a brilliant first half it had all the makings to be a fun show. However, because it was running late for Christmas, it took the bullet train home and encompassed a shocking 150 chapters of the manga into 12 episodes. Though a fun gift at first, one can’t help but feel “something” missing.
Our Second gift, or piece of coal, comes from our capricious Captain Gabe, Infini-T Force. A reimagining and cross-over of four of Tatsunoko’s most popular heroes, this would-be gift had the makings to be something great. However, the wrapping (the main character) on the gift was so ugly and unlikeable that it scared nearly everyone away. A shame for a gift that could have been more fun overall.
Lastly is Jan’s pick, Dies Irae. I guess. If you like this lump of coal, there may be something wrong with you. Please see a physician very soon.
Today I try a new format. While I didn’t finish either of the latter two anime, I did give a reason for dropping the show, what it did wrong altogether, and other shows in the same vein that would be more enjoyable for lovers of that particular genre. Spoiler Alert: I have absolutely no idea what genre Dies Irae is, what it’s about, or anything about it for that matter. So I kinda just give random suggestions. . .
Though our first gift falls a bit short, and I like it anyway, and the last one is fairly unwatchable, at least you can get some comedy out of my pain. As the wind beneath your wings and the weed killer in your garden of anime, I present to you Fall’s anime reviews! You’re welcome!
Verdict: When Marketing Trumps Writing and Storytelling –
If you’ll remember, because I know for a fact (lie) that you all read my initial reviews article, UQ Holder! Held a special place in my heart because of where it comes from. UQ is the lite (kind of) sequel to Mahou Sensei Negima!, a manga that I grew up with through highschool and college. While I never had the time during my busier college years to finish Negima, it was definitely a gateway drug anime/manga for me, and one of the reasons I belong in the garbage love anime and manga so much now.
However, I did have one particular gripe with the show before it even started, and that was how it was being sold off. The actual title of the show is, “UQ Holder! Mahou Sensei Negima 2”. I go into why that piques my ire quite a bit in my initial review so I won’t bother repeating myself here. However, I will say that particular branding blunder helped to seal the coffin on the show, and how it was paced as a whole, before it even aired.
UQ stars a young man named Konoe Touta, a vampire sired by a woman named Yukihime. After having become a vampire, an ageless child with new-found immortality, Touta joins the UQ Holders – a group of immortals who go around the world being superheroes. This shounen-esque trope works well in Ken Akamatsu’s, the writer’s, favor as it lends itself to a lot of open-ended ideas where Touta can train and become stronger. Which he definitely does . . . in the manga.
After some further research, I found that the anime in all its 12-episode glory had gone through about 150 chapters of the manga. Going so far as to cut out one of the main characters entirely, skipping a pivotal fight regarding Kirie, and even bypassing a very large chunk of the character development altogether, UQ felt like it was set on a schedule and using the bullet train to get there. This schedule stated that it had to get to a point in the manga where Negi and Asuna, the protagonists of Mahou Sensei Negima, became a large focus of the story so they could brand and market their material better. It made damn sure to let us know that, “Hey! THIS is Negima two-point-Oh! Remember that when you’re buying our merchandise!” And, in the end, I couldn’t get pessimistic thoughts like that out of my head, especially when I knew that one of Touta’s best friends was entirely erased from the show.
The show isn’t all bad, however. I’ve long been an advocate for “less fanservice, more character development” and I’m fairly certain I haven’t exactly been quiet about it. UQ removes literally 99% of Ken Akamatsu’s beloved upskirt fetish scenes and a large portion of the implied nudity. While I usually just spout about how it’s good because “fanservice is 4 loserz”, I do have to point out that, because they skipped the fanservice and the trope-laden scenes that come with them, they were able to focus on Akamatsu’s strongest point: the world building. We never think of Negima in a sense other than “middle schoolers and upskirts” because, well, that’s a large portion of what it was. But, if you take on the herculean task of ignoring those parts, and looking only at the story, you’ll see a well-built world full of magic, monsters, and wonder that you’d be hard pressed to match, even now. The show definitely gets full marks for that in my book. And, to take a second, I find it sexier that they show off Yukihime, the blonde buxom blood-sucking babe, without having to take off her clothes. I’m a bit of a leg-man myself (I like girls with nice legs), so I might be a bit bias though.
All in all, I find myself having an extremely hard time trying to recommend this to anyone. Readers of the manga would likely be upset that one of the characters was completely deleted and that specific, important scenes were taken out because of time constraints. New watchers or people like me who only dabbled in Mahou Sensei Negima might have a hard time as it’s obvious, even from where we stand, that “something” is missing from the show. One specific scene regarding Touta and his connection to Negi had me scratching my chin. His relevance to the previous protagonist is laid out, and Touta becomes uncharacteristically depressive. To make matters worse, all of the old characters tell him how great Negi is and that he’s basically eternally living in his shadow. Something like this would usually cause anger or withdrawn emotions from someone, but they skip to a new scene and everything is hunky-dory because “reasons”.
The animation is fantastic, and the fight scenes were all a pleasure to watch. The voice acting is absolutely on-point as I was hit fairly hard with a scene where our invincible vampire waifu broke down into tears and revealed her true emotions for once. Something like that is genuinely hard to deliver in a show like this where everything is run at 2x speed. However, much like Touta lives in Negi’s shadow, UQ Holder is beholden to Mahou Sensei Negima just because of how it needed to be branded. I can’t help but think that the marketing and producers had something to do with this as it was like putting sprinkles on a hamburger; it just doesn’t work. And, that’s all I can say about the show: “it just doesn’t work”.
While I enjoyed myself for the first half and even found myself loving it at one point, it falls apart in the second half as not just an anime, but a terrible marketing ploy. Stick to reading the manga, something I have never said before, and you’ll like this series much, much more.
Reason: When One Bad Character Ruins an Entire Anime –
A new writing template? This can ONLY go well, right? . . . Here goes, I guess.
Infini-T Force is a bit of a stretch when it comes to “new” anime. It harkens back to our younger days . . . well, the older anime watchers’ younger days, where shows like Tekkaman, Casshern, and Gatchaman (Battle of the Planets) were still airing. Also, Hurricane Polymar if you want to get obscure. However, Tatsunoko has never been as popular here in America as it has been in Japan, so the effort to reinvent and rebrand a set of heroes from the 70’s-80’s may be a bigger undertaking than they were expecting.
However, to add to that already substantial weight, the anime (I have to be specific about this) for Infini-T Force has one of the most unlikeable protagonists I’ve had the displeasure of encountering for a very long time. Crossover plots are a dime-a-dozen anymore and it’s not just difficult to make them seem interesting, it’s damn near impossible. Many crossovers, from games to manga to anime, generally star an original character to help tie all the brands converging characters together. This particular bi- . . . bad name for a female dog, Kaidou Emi (one letter away from “emo”), has become the center for all four of our Tatsunoko heroes. However, as to why they are tied with her, I have no damn idea.
Emi is as far and away from any kind of “-dere” character you can get. She’s moody, rude, pessimistic, hates babies (she actually says this), and probably spends her free time trying to kick kittens and run over doggos. While in control of some magical wish-granting device, her only response is to scoff and tell everyone why she’s too cool to have any wishes. I can understand being withdrawn, that’s normal for teenagers. However, Emi takes this to an entirely new level and becomes someone that is nigh impossible to relate with because of her awful attitude. The reason we have a grounded character in hero shoes is because we need a connection. It’s hard to identify with these specific kinds of heroes because they’re built to be the ideal of heroism; they’re nearly perfect. Spoiler alert: we aren’t perfect. So, it becomes Emi’s job to be our point of connection, or “replacement” if you’re into that, to an otherwise impossible universe.
Hate to break it you Emi, but I can’t see why anyone on God’s green Earth would be able to connect to you, let alone want to. You want to tell me who wouldn’t be overjoyed having four awesome heroes and robot dog living in their house? An asshole. Emi single-handedly destroys any interest in this show, regardless of how good the writing may be or how amazing the fights are. And, let me tell you, that’s hard to do. I will point out that the Emi of the manga for Infini-T Force is nowhere near the same. Instead, she takes on a very sister-like personality and tries to watch out for the people risking their lives to save her. Why this change happened, I don’t know, but whoever changed it should be punished accordingly.
If you’re looking for a good hero show this season, I still highly recommend Garo -Vanishing Line-. While the protagonist, Sword, may be a little on the weird side, his sidekick Sophie is a great human character to feel attached to. Having been orphaned and searching for the love of a family member, only to have it stolen away, can really break your heart. But, she gives you hope that things can be better, that things will get better, and that makes her infinitely more endearing than someone like Emi whose only job is to shit all over her benefactor’s hopes and dreams of RESTORING THEIR ENTIRE PLANET.
If you’re looking for a good classic, Tiger & Bunny is by far and away one of the best hero shows to date. Focusing instead on the downswing of a has-been heroes career, Tiger & Bunny is an interesting and satirical look at how heroism can affect society and how marketing would take part in their identity. Not only do we see a good hero get weaker with age, we see how the hero business completely removed him from his daughter’s life and how he tries to piece it back together. A genuinely good show, and not just for lovers of the hero/seinen/tokusatsu genre, but for anyone who wants a good story with great characters to drive a well-written story.
Compared to things like this, Infini-T Force can’t even hold a candle and I can’t fathom why anyone would forcibly watch this show when the one person we’re supposed to be rooting for is constantly telling you she could care less about what’s happening. If she doesn’t care, then why the hell should we?
Reason: LOL –
I’m going to start by saying that, if you liked this show, that’s perfectly fine. I like a shitty anime once in a while myself. In fact, I’m known to indulge on terrible “B” movies of the same ilk. However, anyone who considers this anime “good”, in any sense of the word, needs to take a long time re-evaluating their concept of quality (and probably their life).
Dies Irae is a cacophony of shit with a turd on top. It is the crap sundae on top of a dumpster of anime that needs to be forgotten. If you’ll take a moment to remember my initial review, you’ll know that I know nothing about this show. This show told me nothing, it gave me nothing (except a headache), and it accomplished nothing. I have absolutely no idea what this show was about, other than probably some chuuni got his hands on a Nietzsche book and tried to implement those ideals into an anime.
Dies Irae, after some research, is an anime based on an 18+ visual novel. Likely trying to ride the coattails of the “Fate” series, or the severely less popular “Grisaia” series, Dies Irae fails at even being sexy. I did, however, find out that this anime may have been crowdfunded by a hardcore group of lovers of the game, which genuinely explains the amateurish writing, animation, and characters/dialogue in this show. In fact, this can be seen as the complete opposite of “DEEN/Stay Night” in that it completely under-explains everything about the plot and it leaves everything up to question.
However, I imagine it’s because it was meant specifically for people who read the Visual Novel, which I’m sure is a fantastic business model. Generally, you want people to get interested in the product. Throwing in chuuni bullshit every other line, having about 6 frames of animation per fight scene, and hiring an art director with a hard-on for skeletons/”gothic” appendages (I don’t know what the hell that means either, but I can’t explain it any other way) probably isn’t exactly a good way to do this. But, what the fuck do I know? I only went to business school for four years.
Yes, yes I am just complaining. No, I couldn’t find a single redeeming quality about this show. I would genuinely tell you if I could. I recommend that no one with a shred of decency watch this show. And if any of your friends try to market this show to you, tie them up and leave them on a railroad track (don’t actually do this). I seriously don’t know how or what to compare this show to. I have absolutely no idea what it was about or what it was trying to convey, so I’m really at a loss here, guys. . .
If you want something that’s truly original, something that actually takes the risk of telling a unique story with no prior background information, I can’t suggest this season’s Kujira no Kora/Children of the Whales enough. Kujira no Kora is a fantastic anime that combines a unique ability with a drastic backlash for all the people involved and the character development and interactions are particularly human. I can see why people act the way they do, and I can follow the actual progression of dialogue (unlike Dies Irae). It’s a bit of a coming-of-age tale for a group of people that have no idea of the outside world, and how they teach themselves to fight, not just to protect themselves, but to fight for a future they didn’t know they wanted.
A second one anime in a similar vein would be 2012’s Shin Sekai Yori/From the New World. With a similar idea of using strange powers in normal, day-to-day society, this anime tells the story of how the word came to be, where the powers came from, what kind of damage it caused, and the eventual backlash of those powers when others rise up against it. It’s a truly amazing story rife with action, drama, and horror/suspense elements that brings together a finely tuned anime genuinely worth your time. With fantastic animation and visuals to boot, it’s stayed on my personal top ten for a long time.
All in all, I genuinely just wanted to complain about Dies Irae. It’s very much not worth your time, or my time for that matter. It angers me, and salt flows everywhere, when I think that garbage like this is made when other things like Jojo’s or Nozaki-kun or Black Lagoon etc. . . could be getting more attention. However impractical that thought is. If you want to see just how bad it is, at its peak, watch episode 0. You’ll see nonsensical Nazi (no I’m not kidding) German bullshit compounded with unmistakably awful animation, backgrounds, and dialogue that just make absolutely no sense. You’ll see exactly what I mean, and you won’t waste 90mins of your life you can never get back. You’ll thank me, I promise.