Thoughts on Fall 2013, part 2 (Galilei Donna, Valvrave, Kill la Kill)

Second part of my rant about the fall 2013 season.

Note: there will be trigger warnings for the Valvrave section. And there are some squick-ish things mentioned in the Galilei Donna one too.

Galilei Donna

In a nutshell: Three sisters who are descendants of Galileo try to find his inheritance while being hunted down by people.

This was actually the second most disappointing anime of the season for me, after Arpeggio. It seemed to promise sisterhood! Family! Adventure!

Did it deliver on any of that? Nope, not really.

While it starts off decent enough, this series really didn’t seem to have any idea where it was going with its interesting concepts. There were all these plotlines–the dwindling energy crisis, the increase in piracy, company corruption–that really never got resolved or went anywhere. (In particular, the resolution to Roberto’s, the villain’s, ‘arc’ was really ridiculous. There was really no rhyme or reason to it happening except for the sake of a “happy” and “conclusive” ending.) The whole Galileo thing was kind of pointless too because they really could have picked any other famous historical figure, stuck them into that role, and came out with the exact same anime.

The mystery aspects (finding Galileo’s inheritance) was also really lacking in that it didn’t expect any audience participation. It was basically just: we found a scroll! Let us read it! Oh we know where to go now! Um, OK, if the clues were this easy to find, why hasn’t anyone found the inheritance before them? (Yeah, yeah, I know, Hazuki’s deus ex machina hourglass. Which is also never really explained. An energy source that can time travel? I can see that ending well.)

What really disappointed me the most, though, was definitely the character development. I had been expecting a family drama in which a group of sisters and their parents reconcile their differences and learn about how valuable each other are. And I got that. Sort of. If you squint a bit.

But I also got a lot of terribad love interests for all three of the sisters. Hozuki’s thirteen, for God’s sake! And her love interest was her fucking ancestor! There are so many things wrong with this scenario. So. Many. Things.

  1. He is older than her.
  2. She has basically spent her entire life listening to her mother fangirling over his accomplishments.
  3. She is fully aware that he is Galileo and that he is going to achieve Great Things.
  4. He is not aware that she is his descendant. Awkward.

This does not a good equal relationship make. The power dynamics are horribly skewed in that Galileo, even if he doesn’t know it, basically has all the power, while Hozuki, well, doesn’t. She’s thirteen, for god’s sake! She’s been taught her entire life to think of Galileo as an idol. There’s no way a healthy relationship can come of that. And she’s thirteen!! Also he’s FUCKING GALILEO. And did I mention she was thirteen?!!!

OK, now that I’ve gotten that off my chest… Let’s talk about how creepy Cicinho and Hazuki’s “relationship” is.

Like, um, seriously. The first time she meets the guy, he tries to kill her and her family. Wow, what a great start to an absolutely healthy relationship!! (In case you didn’t get that, that was sarcasm.) And then he basically spends the remainder of the series hitting on her with belittling terms like “bambina,” even though she clearly hates his guts and rejects his advances.

And what makes it even worse is how the series continually tries to tell me “oh don’t worry look Cicinho is a good guy!! because he had a shitty childhood!! and he rescued some dudes!!” Um. No. Just because a character has a tragic backstory or someshit does not give him a free pass to act like a dick. He is still accountable for his actions. He is still more than a bit of a shitty person.

It just grosses me out how Galilei Donna starts with this guy trying to kill you, then for the remaining ten episodes, it keeps on trying to convince me that “oops sorry about that this guy is just a misunderstood robin hood.” I know this sounds shocking, but a guy can do good things a couple times and still be a raging asshole and dickhead. Like, you know, the type of guy who tries to kill your family.

Kazuki has possibly the best love interest moments because she actually starts right off the bat with a love interest (a fact that I was initially skeptical about) but then grows to appreciate her family a lot more. Her narrative was actually my favorite because you could see real development here. While she was initially ashamed of her family, she grows to love and accept them and realize that they’re worth a lot more than some random dude who doesn’t even believe in you.

So, yeah, Kazuki’s was actually good. Too bad all the other parts were shit. (And that the parents’ story basically disappeared.)

And Anna’s whole philosophy on how romantic love is basically the most important thing ever? And how everyone should look for romantic love when they get older? And how you should be willing to do anything for your lover, including die?!! Um, yeah, no. (1) This is incredibly heterosexist, and (2) if your lover wants you to do die for them, you need to find a new goddamn lover.

I guess the only saving grace was that none of them ended up with their love interest (thank god), but that really does not make up for the two episodes I had to sit through the gross incest theater. …nor does it make up for the ten episodes I had to sit through Cicinho. Man, I still want to step on that guy’s face.

Bottom line: A messy plotline along with messy characters. A complete disappointment in nearly all facets.

Kakumeiki Valvrave S2

In a nutshell: Shit goes down, along with giant mechas.

Uh. I really don’t know how to talk about this without talking about season one, but I really don’t want to talk about season one, so…

Well, let’s just say that Valvrave season two was much better than season one. It dropped the overt sexism back to covert (ha! yeah, that’s way better /sarcasm) and actually had some pretty nice action scenes and decent storytelling.

Too bad the anime is still (1) a complete mess and (2) a complete sexist mess.

True to form, Sunrise, once again, fails to adequately explain the mechanics behind the world they created for their mechas. They give a really handwave-y definition for Runes (“information”) but never actually explains the details.

Why is Cain able to survive off feeding on Runes from other people? What does this involve? Does he gain their memories? Why does Haruto still lose his Runes even though he feeds on other people L-elf? Why doesn’t L-elf lose anything by letting Haruto eat his Runes? Even if you feed on other people, how do you make sure that it’s their memories that power the Valvrave and not your own? Why did Haruto start losing Runes only in S2? He piloted a shit-ton in S1 too, didn’t he? What happened with the whole Runes deal then? Why does Haruto fucking die after running out of Runes? They’re fucking memories, dipshits. People can survive without memories.

Like, I can understand not providing information on things that are irrelevant to the plot, but the Runes are a HUGE ASPECT of the entire story. I mean, the Runes are arguably the source of the major conflict in Valvrave. And Sunrise just basically adds angst factor after angst factor to it, all without explaining what it actually is. OK. Thanks for that, Sunrise.

[trigger warning for rape] And, andddd. THIS IS THE BIG QUESTION. Why did Haruto have to fucking rape Saki? What is the whole fucking point? He just needs to bit people to get his goddamn Runes fix. So why did he fucking have to have sex with Saki? Even if he loses reason, biologically, there would be no reason to have sex, so why would he even do it? Like, seriously. THERE IS NOT EVEN AN IN-UNIVERSE EXPLANATION FOR THIS FUCKERY NOW. [end trigger warning]

Oh, right, and the covert sexism is still standing strong. Women are still beaten, put into a coma, killed, stabbed on national television, and etc. All for the sake of manpain.

Yeah, yeah, the last episode had a lot of dudes dying. I get it. But, look, when they died, did you think, “Oh, the saddest part of this death is that (insert woman here) would be sad! OH THE ANGST.” Never mind that they just spent the last season being their own person and saving people’s asses. No? Yes? Oh, who am I kidding? It doesn’t matter what your answer is. The point is: the dudes deaths are always framed with themselves as the center. They are intended to be heroic deaths, taken at their own individual value.

The gals’ deaths? Yeah, like, I think every woman who has died or been tortured or whatever in this series has had an instance where they show the man they are close to being all ANGSTY over it. Because a woman can’t do anything for her own sake. Nope. Even her pain has to be linked to a guy. A woman’s pain is only significant when a guy is also pained by it.

The really sad thing is that I LOVE these girls. These are GREAT and AMAZING female characters who are actually PEOPLE. Well-developed, fleshed-out human beings. And that just makes their degradation by the narrative even more heartbreaking because Valvrave seems to want to just take all these strong women and break them down. It’s just so incredibly awful.

Bottom line: More enjoyable than S1 (not a difficult feat), but still a huge mess. It’s basically an amalgam of every Sunrise mecha series ever. Basically. Complete with the sexism.

Kill la Kill

In a nutshell: A girl with one-half of a giant scissor goes to a school with cool uniforms in order to take vengeance on the one who killed her father.

Ugh. Kill la Kill is… difficult to talk about. I’ve written a lot about this on my tumblr in its beginning, and my opinion of it hasn’t really changed all that much.

In short, I don’t enjoy it. And there’s definitely too much oversexualization and victim-blaming elements in here for me to enjoy it, like, ever.

I don’t hate it, and I do admit that the art style and animation is really great and innovative and fun to watch, but the story itself feels kind of mundane to me. Because when you really get down to it, there really isn’t anything there. It’s a typical shounen ecchi monster-of-the-week-esque fighting series. It’s really cliche and doesn’t do much more with its premise.

I mean, its over-the-top-ness is great to witness, and it has earned a few “wow this is cool” comments, but… It’s just not consistently enjoyable for me. Every time I’m really into a scene, something throws me off and reminds me, yet again, of how crass this whole thing really is. Ergo, the Mankanshoku men ogling Ryuuko. (Even as a regular joke, this is getting old and not funny.) Or when Mako becomes the buttmonkey and gets physically abused. (It just makes me uncomfortable how much violence Mako is subjected to, though I’m glad they seem to be tapering that out now.)

Overall, while I think Ryuuko and Satsuki and Juukuzure and Mako are all great female characters, and they’re definitely fun to watch, I just don’t think they’re treated nicely enough by the narrative. Though, of course, there are worse things out there (Valvrave, for one).

I’m going to withhold ultimate final judgment until the end of the second-cour though, since I’ve been absolutely IN LOVE with Harime since her appearance, and I’m hoping that she can bring this all around. (A decidedly feminine coded character who owns people by just pulling threads with her NAILS? Yes please.)

Bottom line: Great creative direction, but I’m personally a bit skeptical about its treatment of sexuality and women.

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