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April 15, 2012 / Bradley

Rage Against the Machina: Weekly Press #04

The new season has been refreshing. I’ve been watching the premier of as many series as I can get my hands on, and have been enjoying the majority of them. This is a good season for any kind of fan, and even our most bitter and disconnected members who are somehow still around should find something they will like. And that’s because of more than the virtue of variety- this season just has lot more quality. I’ve been blogging about the new Lupin III series already, but I’ve also been enjoying (deep breath) Space Brothers and Kids on the Slope and Tsuritama and Folktales from Japan and Kuroko’s Basketball and Dusk Maiden of Amnesia and Mysterious Girlfriend X and Sengoku Collection and Saki Episode 0f A and Jormungand and Polar Bear Cafe and Ozma and oh my gawd I’ve only seen half the season and there’s no way I’m going to finish all these cartoons.

I’ve been tweeting about everything as I watch it, but I’ve been considering writing up a longer post about the new season. I’ve been hesitant to do that, though, because that’s pretty much what every other blog has been doing, and I’d only like to contribute if I think I have something new to say. So, instead, I’ll just talk about anime everyone else was talking about three or four months ago! Yeah, that’ll make me stand out.

Future Diary (1 – 17)

“Love-hate” is too extreme to describe my feelings for this series. Maybe “Annoyance-Mild Enjoyment” is a better fit, but either way, my opinions on this series swing almost minute-by-minute. Scamp of The Cart Driver has written an entertaining series of episodic posts about Future Diary and has noted that the series seems to swing in quality episode-by-episode, with the high points being pretty much any confrontation between diary owners, and the low points being the build-up between those confrontations. But I think it’s worse than that- Future Diary‘s excesses also undercut those climatic mind-games between diary owners. This is a series with no clear sense of boundaries, where any violent and crazed thing can and often does happen, with mild consequences. That makes for a chaotic narrative with a skewed sense of what’s at stake- Yuno will purposefully kill dozens of her fellow classmates in one episode, and then she and Yukii will get police protection a few episodes later. The police are major players in the story but are comically ineffective. Characters who attempted to murder our hero will be allies a few episodes later, with no real explanation for their change, it simply happens. There are other examples of this inconsistency that nearly every other blog has detailed elsewhere. This has been mocked and then dismissed as “Future Diary Logic,” but I think we need to dig deeper than that, because it’s undercutting this series’ effectiveness as a suspense story.

In fact, this problem has little to do with “logic” and everything to do with emotions. What Future Diary is creating with its ravenous appetite for the most insane plot twists at any moment is a sense of nihilism. I know what I’m watching is kinda crazy, but what I saw a couple episodes ago was kinda crazy and I know in a couple episodes, I’m going to see something equally crazy. But I have no sense that stakes are being raised episode to episode. I’m just floating in a sea of nearly directionless crazy, and my only sense of progress comes from an internal counter that mentally counts down how many diary owners are left until the end of the game. That’s almost the only way that any of its plot points matter. And that’s a problem.

It may be a bit late to say this after those two paragraphs, but I am enjoying the series. A lot of that is because Yuno adds a novel dynamic to the series, simultaneously playing the role of arch-villain and ally. She’s both the only reason Yuki is alive and his best nemesis, without a shred of self-awareness of either role because of her out-sized devotion to him. She’s more a force of nature than a character, and that makes her really entertaining to watch. The last few episodes I’ve seen made her seem even more effective as an off-screen menace, so I’m a bit disappointed that she’s back as Yukii’s constant companion. And despite my criticisms earlier, the craziness is entertaining in and of itself, and sometimes goes into clever directions that I didn’t expect. I could do without the curt background story for each major villain, which are fairly cliche. I appreciate what it’s going for, but I would almost prefer the villains stay flat than sit through another flashback where it’s revealed that some woman is evil because of raaaaaaape. If you can’t write backstory well, don’t bother to write it all.

Also, this series is another piece of proof for my theory that any cartoon with a bad-ass woman with an eyepatch cannot be bad.

Aquarion EVOL (1 – 6)

I’m sure I’ll be writing about this again in another Weekly Press once I’m further along, so I’ll only share a couple short thoughts. I’ve tweeted before that harem + giant robots is an ineffective equation for entertainment. I think part of that is because all the examples I could think are the sum are two mediocre parts. The giant robots aren’t very interesting, aren’t well designed, or don’t do uniquely cool things, and the harem seems interchangeable with any number of other harems. But Aquarion EVOL is different- it actually does a good job with its robot action, and has a likeable cast of characters.

I think part of the reason for the former’s successes is because Aquarion’s roots aren’t in the real robot tradition of Gundam or Evangelion, which is where most girls and robots anime come from. Instead, this is a modern super robot cartoon through and through, with lots of enjoyably ridiculous action and super powers. And I think super robots are a much better fit than the grimness of the real robot, since harems are conceptually also ridiculous and lighthearted. It has been a fun watch through and through, and once I’ve more of it I’ll be sure to tell you more about why.

2 Milky 2 Holmes (7 – 12) (Complete)

I’ve been tweeting a lot about this series with the sense that no one is really listening or cares to hear me explain why I like this series and think folks should check it out. And the odds are really stacked against anyone liking this: it’s the sequel to a series that was widely agreed to be very lame, it has ugly art, it’s a collaboration between JC Staff and Artland, and neither studio has a reputation for quality.  But in a way, this is the most interesting series to air in a long while, in part because it’s a wonderfully weird comedy that toes the line between parody and sincerity, and also because you have to wonder how something this purposefully grotesque got made in the first place. So here, for the last time, I’ll make the case for Milky Holmes 2.

Which goes something like this: Milky Holmes 2 is a moe series, yes, but it’s a moe series with more in common with Rin & Stimpy than K-On! This series doesn’t care if the girls are cute, and any cute posturing is quickly undermined. “Failure is a character trait!” they’ll cheerfully explain. There’s a story, and it’s lame, but it plays second fiddle to the staff’s determination to be as weird and outsized as possible. Its humor relies on humilating moe stereotypes for being their stereotype- it actively prevents the girls from achieving their goals. This is a moe series written by the people who mocked Kanon for having a lead girl who acted like she had Down’s Syndrome. This is mean-spirited comedy.

It’s also a loud comedy, with jokes that are the equivalent of a noisy, sustained fart in silent theater. Many of its jokes go too far, and then are pushed the point where they’re funny again, before coming back around and no longer being funny. But I have to respect a series that will go way, way out of its way to find novel uses for a pair of nipples that can stretch for several feet. Or moe girls who are so dumb that basic language escape their comprehensions, or so poor that lard is considered a luxury.

It’s far from perfect- it’s directionless, and suffers from having no idea who its audience is. Moe will fans will hate- it viciously mocks what they love. Fans who don’t like moe won’t consider it either. So it’s stuck somewhere between the two, undecided about who it likes most, like a nervous teenager. Many of its jokes never worked for me, and some of them are embarrassing to just watch. But oh its ambitious, and weird and different, and in the wasteland of moe, it’s such a pleasant surprise to see a series go so far out of its way to be different.

Screaming Females – “It All Means Nothing”

Something loud and punkish this week for you. This is a good song, but I highly recommend their Castle Talk album as blazing listen front to back.

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4 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. draggle / Apr 15 2012 6:19 pm

    Yes, someone else who likes Milky Holmes! You, sir, have excellent taste!

  2. GoodbyeNavi / Apr 18 2012 10:10 pm

    I have a love-hate relationship with Mirai Nikki. I went into it loving it and then it started annoying me. How I loathed both Yuki and Yuno yet I watched the show to its end and sighed in frustration. I almost feel like I wasted my time but I did like Deus and of course bad ass woman with an eyepatch.

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