Winter Anime 2018:
The Presents That Came Just In Time!
By: Head Writer – J.R Tafoya
Hello again, and for the first anime season in 2018, Giga-Landers! This time I bring you good- . . . no . . . I bring you anime from the start of our Winter 2018 anime season!
This time around, David and I went back to our roots and picked some anime from the roster of available shows this season. The rule was: we picked three shows for ourselves, and three shows each other. Of course, as only good friends would do, we tried to pick the absolute worst anime we could think of for each other. Obviously, I picked the best things I could think of and went 100% with my gut. Which has TOTALLY never failed me before!
First we have Violet Evergarden, an anime about a woman recovering from the disasters of war and trying to fit back into society, something she’s never once been a part of. It’s already started strong is definitely leading the pack for quality anime this season. Second we have Darling in the Franxx, a high-powered mecha action anime from the famed Studio Trigger! Set with over-the-top action, ridiculous mech designs, and sexual innuendo out your-endo, it’s definite watch for this season for anyone who liked their other works like Kill la Kill. Lastly is Beatless, an anime I watched three episodes of and have absolutely no idea what it’s about!
As the green light on your drive down “great anime highway” and the respite that fills your lungs with relief, I present you with two shows that absolutely adored so far . . . and one that I could do without! You’re Welcome, Giga-Friends! -J.R
Outlook: Movie-Quality Anime, Every Week –
When the Promotional Video for Violet Evergarden aired so many months ago, it garnered a lot of attention, even here in the West, for several reasons. One of many of those reasons was that it was absolutely gorgeous. Almost like it had the budget of an anime movie, but for every episode in a full anime season. Secondly would be our story, one that promised to bring us to tears and remind us what it is to be human again.
Violet Evergarden is about a young woman named, well, Violet who has just recovered from several nearly fatal war injuries; Most noticeably her arms. Violet lost both of her arms in the war and is now equipped with mechanical arms that she can move just like her old hands, but without the feeling. Though, her efforts and loss were not in vain as her country had finally won the war. But, Violet -like so many other soldiers – isn’t capable of “turning off” her military training. She was born into the military, bred to fight, and taught to kill on command. For all intents and purposes, she was a machine built solely for war. So, what is a killing machine to do when there’s nothing left to kill?
When Violet awakes after recovering from her injuries, she is greeted by a former military friend, Colonel Hodgins. Hodgins picks up Violet as a favor to his old friend, Major Gilbert, the very man who cared for and subsequently fell in love with Violet. Though Hodgins tries his best to reintroduce Violet to society, they’re both finding it quite difficult as Violet has no knowledge of what “normal” life is like and her only intention is to get back to the battlefield to assist Major Gilbert.
However, after hearing that the war had ended, Violet agrees to work at Hodgins’ mail company to help ease her into society. There, she learns of a job called “Auto Memoir Dolls”, a position held almost exclusively by women who are tasked with ghost-writing letters for people. They are meant to “take peoples’ thoughts and convert them into words”. This job, the “Auto Memoir Dolls”, grabs at Violet’s attention and for the first time in her life she asks for a favor: to be trained and work as one of the Dolls. Ecstatic at the prospect of helping her, Hodgins immediately agrees, but not without asking “why”. Violet proclaims that she wants to know the meaning of the words, “I love you.”, the very same words she heard from the only person she held dear on the battlefield. Though, if that man still lives is a mystery to her, but not to us. . .
Violet Evergarden is definitely already sprinting far ahead to grab the spot of anime of the season, maybe even anime of the year with how it’s headed. This anime is a fantastical look at the rebuilding of a war-torn world, moments after the fighting has subsided. Men and women finally get to be together again, some men and women can’t adjust after the long battle, and some are too broken to ever take part in society again. These are all things, as Americans, we’ve either seen on the news or experienced first-hand in our lives here. Bypassing all the social commentary I possibly can, this anime brings to life something most others would rather side-step or completely ignore altogether and it does so with brilliant writing and characters that are easy to connect with. I honestly haven’t seen something attack PTSD or reintroduction to society since Aldnoah.Zero, which honestly wasn’t that good, but it goes to show how rarely someone wants to address these issues.
There’s not much to say about the animation: it’s really just gorgeous and stunning. Every movement and sound is given so much detail that it’s hard not to feel like we’re watching real people. Like I said earlier, it really feels like this anime has a movie’s worth of budget in every episode and it definitely shows with every minor action, or especially with Violet’s past battle scenes. The music is nothing to scoff at either. With a delicate touch and beautifully orchestrated music, Violet Evergarden’s emotional scenes hit harder than you can believe. A delicate piano melody played during a moment of bitter regret, or the thundering orchestra of Violet’s past battles that gets your heart pumping, everything fits so perfectly together that I can’t praise them highly enough.
One detail I would like to point out is how this specific story is told. We never actually see what Violet is thinking, despite her being the titular character. Instead, every episode so far has been told from someone else’ point-of-view. Our first episode, even, was told from Colonel Hodgins perspective and how he had felt nothing but contempt for himself at letting her be raised as a tool for war, instead of a normal child. It’s a very delicate touch that speaks volumes for the storytelling and I even adds points for originality (personally).
I’ve long been a fan of KyoAni (Kyoto Animation), even if I haven’t always loved their anime. They have always had astonishingly fluid animation and their scenery and shot compositions were definitely top-notch. But, this. This is what we’ve been waiting for. Until A Silent Voice and Violet Evergarden, KyoAni was just training. Practicing until the day they could finally show off their guns at max capacity. And when they started this race, they started at a full sprint with no end of stamina in sight.
I cannot recommend this anime enough. In an odd fashion, I withheld a ton of details because the show is just so much more enjoyable when you watch it blind. It isn’t action-packed to the brim, but every story told in this show hits an emotional cord that peaks perfectly, even garnering heavy emotions from someone as stoic as myself. If you want to watch something just absolutely stunning this season, you can’t go wrong with Violet Evergarden.
Darling in the FranXX
Outlook: Eureka 7 Meets Godannar Mainlining Red Bull –
So here we are again: a new year and a new Studio Trigger anime on our hands. Many know me as a bit of a counter-Trigger fan. I love Studio Trigger for what it is, but I haven’t always liked their shows. The most prominent being my distaste for the insanely popular Kill la Kill, fun as it was. However, I did fall in love with Little Witch Academia which restored my love for the studio as a whole, and my faith in their ability to both write a good story and give us comedy gold. Darling in the FranXX, so far, stands somewhere in the middle.
In a bleak and distant (and original) future, the planet has become something of a desolate wasteland. Upon these wastelands travel the behemoth creatures, Klaxosaurs (hey man, I didn’t name them). To protect themselves from these creatures, the humans created robots called “Franxx” (robots that look like typical ‘anime’ girls . . . no I’m not kidding), piloted by a team comprised of one man and one woman. Or, should I say, one boy and one girl. The children that pilot these robots are somewhat of a phenomenon in society and they are treated as such . . . in a roundabout way. These children are kept and raised in the city in a place called the “birdcage”, a confined area where they are closed off from the rest of society, indefinitely. Learning to pilot the Franxx is the sole purpose of their existence, and without that ability, they are deemed worthless and sent away.
Hiro, one such child, had previously failed his test to pilot a Franxx and simultaneously his reason to live. However, on the day he was to leave the city, he encounters a young woman who calls herself “Zero Two” that sees in him something she’s never encountered. Hiro, amazed by this pink-haired beauty with horns growing from her head, is bewildered more than anything. He soon finds out that Zero Two is a being known as a “Parasite”, something we know nearly nothing about, and the rumor that anyone she pilots with always dies on the third sortie. Hiro, desperate to find his meaning in life, still begs to pilot with her even after finding the fate of the other men whom she’d presumably killed, all on deaf ears.
During his classmates’ . . . christening? . . . of their Franxx’ first activation, the city is attacked by a rampaging Klaxosaur, one that had already destroyed other roaming shuttles belonging to the city. Zero Two instantly jumps into action to save the fledglings who are unable to fight, only to be battered by the monster. When her machine (obviously) falls right next to Hiro, he sees the male pilot, broken, beaten, and bleeding to death, fall from the cockpit. Zero Two invites Hiro to join so she can “bring out his potential”. When he foreseeably does, otherwise we wouldn’t have an anime, and they single-handedly destroy the monster, Hiro falls from the cockpit unconscious, but without a scratch on his body.
Studio Trigger has done it again. With their partnership with A-1 Pictures, Trigger has created an anime that feels as smooth as it looks at first glance. With their “Trigger-style” comedy still in tact, Darling in the FranXX is sure to be another popular one this season. If you’ve seen any other Trigger show before, like Kill la Kill, you’ll notice that this is somewhat hypersexualized to a point of hyperbole.
To be Franxx (lol), the Franxx are piloted with a girl on all fours in the front of the cockpit, while controls come off the butt of their suit and the men sit behind them to pilot. See the Godannar reference I was going for there (hell, even the mechs are designed like females!)? However, even this has symbolism. The suit does not need a male to pilot it, the female can do so on her own as shown in Zero Two’s first battle. However, the union between a man and a woman makes them much stronger, and easier to handle in battle. The woman is the heart and soul of the mech, and without her there is no machine. I will warn you though, be prepared for some sexual innuendo and hyperbole/satire to come along with all of this. True to their core, Trigger writes a serious story that constantly pokes fun at itself, keeping you off balance with the slew of jokes coming from left field.
The animation is superb as well, just as we’d expect from a congregation between the famed Studio Trigger and A-1 Pictures seemingly endless budget. Every footfall of the monsters and mechs alike hit with an impact that can hold my suspension of disbelief in place, just because of how good it looks. The fights, obviously, are just a beautiful sight to behold and anyone with an eye for quality would recommend this show on the caliber of the animation alone.
All in all, Darling in the FranXX is an action/comedy with a lot of sexual innuendo thrown in. It’s silly, yet serious. It’s beautiful, yet doles out fanservice like it’s candy on Halloween. Hiro’s search for meaning in his life is really what ties the show together. When you’re raised from a small child to believe that your one and only reason for existing on this planet is to pilot a mech, and you fail at that prime directive, what kind of depression would that cause someone to have? Failing at the one thing you were born to do would cause anyone to become sullen, and jump at the chance he’s given to pilot “the best mech ever created, ever” is understandable, even at the cost of his life. It’s easy to see how the higher-ups have brainwashed these children and it’s becoming increasingly apparent how the kids see the world vs. how it actually is.
I do highly recommend this show already. If you’re fine with the characters of Kill la Kill running around in kinky lingerie swinging scissors at each other, then this is probably gonna be a few steps down for you. While the “compromising positions!” (as we call it) is a little off-putting at first, it’s easy to see that it’s satire; a purposefully ham-fisted hyperbole meant to prove a point. So take it as such and just have fun with the anime. I, however, am still on edge. As much as I loved Little Witch Academia, I’ve been burned by Studio Trigger before, so I need to watch myself. However, this is a definite watch of the season, and likely most of the anime community will be abuzz about what happens every week. I suggest three episodes before coming to a solid conclusion yourself.
Outlook: Robo-Waifus and More Robo-Waifus and MORE Robo-Waifus – OR
Outlook: I STILL DON’T KNOW WHAT THIS SHOW IS ABOUT! –
This is gonna be hard. I knew what the actual premise for Violet Evergarden and Darling and The FranXX was, so it was easy to explain a bit of the synopsis, some strong plot points I found intriguing, and some final opinions on what I thought about them as a whole. Beatless . . .? Not so much. Three episodes in and I have no idea what I’m watching, what it’s about, or why I should care. But, I’ve seen worse (and written worse), so I accept this challenge with gusto! . . . Here goes, I guess. . .
Beatless is set in the near. . . -ish(?) future where everything is super sci-fi convenient. With these technological advancements humans have created ultra-advanced A.I controlled automata called “hIE” (no I don’t know or care what it stands for). However, society as a whole supposedly (and stupidly) all deem hIE “tools” and treat them as one would treat a hammer or a wrench. Our main character, Endou Arato, is SUPER WEIRD because he treats these (insanely expensive) dolls with care and kindness.
Can I go off-topic for a second here? I know we just started but, wouldn’t it be weirder for people NOT to be affectionate for something that looks and acts human? People are attached to their pets and treat them like family, farmers use horses for work but take very good care of them. So why is it so weird for someone to have an attachment to a robot!? How is it “strange” to care for something that cooks, cleans, and cares for your family!?
. . . I digress. . .
One day, while walking home, Arato meets his neighbors hIE on the way back from shopping. However, some kind of EMP affects the city and the robot begins attacking Arato. Not only that, but all the automated machinery goes haywire and attempts to kill him. Just as Arato was about to take his last breath, a robot in white carrying a large black coffin jumps in to save him. (What was she carrying in that coffin, originality!?) Upon rescuing him, the hIE, Lacia, offered a contract with Arato: if he would take responsibility for all her actions, she would become his hIE. Naturally he agrees, or else we wouldn’t have an anime, and then the next two episodes are nearly pointless.
I’m still not sure what the point of this show is, but I do know what the directors are telling me what to think: that we should all have raging boners for Lacia. The entire second episode goes out of its way to show us what a perfect waifu she is, how hot she is, and spends a good 10-15 minutes in a literal fucking fashion show to show off her body. Yes, I get it, you’re very proud of your creation, but not everyone that watches the show is: A) a hormonal teenager and B) a fucking idiot.
Beatless is one of those sci-fi shows that had a metric ton of potential inside of it. It’s easy to see where things could have been interesting with a specific turn towards a different genre, or how little details about their relationship that we can see, could tell us volumes about their feelings. However, the show treats its watchers like they’re all morons and expounds upon every. Single. Detail. That they think we need to know. Completely ignoring the Chekhov’s Gun fallacy (yes, it’s a fallacy in this garbage show), there are a lot of problems with this on different levels.
Case-in-point 1) When Arato was being attacked by machines, they could have used that to their advantage to make a good thriller/horror episode. Using our lack of knowledge as watchers to create an environment of suspense and fear would have gotten us deeper into the story and more connected to Arato. What it chose to do instead was prove that our main character was a typical beta-male without the capacity to think for or defend himself and to establish that the female robot is all that matters. If Arato doesn’t matter, why the hell should I care about him?
Point 2) Robots, as we know, don’t have the capacity to feel emotion. This is a given across the largest portion of the genre. When Lacia laughs at a silly comment, I thought to myself something was off. Just as I was thinking that, the anime TELLS me I should be thinking that’s strange as if any of us were just too oblivious to notice it.
As you can tell, I was completely underwhelmed by Beatless. Despite choosing it myself, I call this a complete loss. None of the characters make any kind of impact, even barring their trope-laden personalities, and none of the female robot designs stand out as impressive. They all just conform to one specific color which you can then attribute to their personality. The music is bland and just plain lazy using synthesizer mixes to fill in 90% of the soundtrack and the visuals are just as bad. I waited three episodes for a fight in a show that promised me nothing but, and it couldn’t even do that right. Stock animation and low frame rates everywhere!
If a show can’t establish any semblance of a plot or character development three episodes in, you can almost guarantee it’s going to count on anime archetypes to do all the work for it. As if being treated like we’re stupid isn’t enough, the show cuts corners as much as possible and prays we won’t notice. Nice try, Beatless, but you’re just as bad, if not worse, than some specific shounen anime last season, and you even tried to label yourself a sci-fi. Please watch ZERO episodes of this to know where you stand.