Thoughts on Fall 2013, part 3 (Nagi no Asukara, Samumenco, Unbreakable Machine-Doll)

Last part of my complaints quick reviews of the fall season.

At least Samumenco was worthwhile. Mostly.

Nagi no Asukara

In a nutshell: There are sea-people and land-people and they have the most ridiculous arguments. There’s also a love polygon involved. It’s Mari Okada.

Nagi no Asukara is an incredibly lazy production. It is so completely half-assed that I can’t even take it seriously when I watch it. It just feels like the creators don’t give even half a shit about this series, so why should I?

There’s nothing egregiously problematic about this. There’s some overt sexism when the villagers discover that Akari had been dating someone from the land, but this sexism is portrayed as bad, and the audience are led to be firmly on Akari’s side. So it really isn’t an issue.

I guess what’s really awful about this series, social justice-wise, is the heterosexism. Basically every single boy and girl who has even spent one iota of a moment with one another is ship teased. (Here’s a list: Kaname and Chisaki, Chisaki and Tsumugu, Chisaki and Hikari, Hikari and Manaka, Manaka and Tsumugu, Miuna and Hikari, Sayu and Kaname.)

This series doesn’t seem to understand that boys and girls can JUST BE FRIENDS. I think the only true boy/girl friendship (that is without ship-teasing) so far is Kaname and Manaka. But the thing is these two actually RARELY interact with one another in the anime, even though they’re close friends. Manaka interacts more with TSUMUGU, who she is embarrassed to be around, for God’s sake, than with Kaname!

Ugh, and the fact that the anime does this ONLY with boy/girl pairs is annoying to the extreme. Okada does realize that LGBTQ+ people exist right?? That boys can like boys and girls can like girls?? Like, do I really need to spell out how problematic it is to ship-tease every single boy and girl that spends any amount of time in one another’s vicinity but then conveniently forget the boy/boy and girl/girl pairs can be possible too by that logic??

(And, yeah, tbh I’m rooting for the yaoi and yuri ends. OT3 Tsumugu, Kaname, and Hikari. And OTP Chisaki and Manaka, and Sayu and Miuna! This won’t happen but, hey, a girl can dream, right?)

This series is also so goddamn lazy with its worldbuilding. I mean, I tried to ignore it at first, because at least it had nice backgrounds. But it just got harder and harder to ignore, especially as it got closer to its climax and pulled a plot twist that made absolutely no sense.

Let’s start with the small stuff: the underwater people are basically carbon copies of the land people. Except while underwater there is a water filter painted over everything. That is basically it. Their cultures aren’t even that different, since Mari Okada didn’t even bother spending any time fleshing out Uroko-sama and the whole flame deal. Other than some cheap background gimmick, they don’t really take center focus until the ~climax~ which still makes no sense.

There is paper underwater, stoves, pens/pencils, televisions, kotetsus, rice, manjus, tea, miso soup, picture frames, trees, a goddamn pond… There are only two responses I can make to this: (1) their food must be so fucking soggy, so no wonder everyone seems angry or angsty all the time and (2) this must all be an elaborate early April Fool’s joke because no series trying to get people to take it seriously would have a goddamn pond underwater. Please no.

OK, now I might have been able to overlook all that “small” (well, the pond thing really isn’t small) stuff if the plot had been actually good, but it isn’t. It’s not just that I’m not a fan of love polygons. It’s that the pivotal plot twist is just as lazy as the rest of the worldbuilding.

Like, seriously, an apocalypse? Because people have ~forgotten~ the sea god, the world is going to be buried in saltflake snow? UM. WAIT A SEC. Why? Wouldn’t it be more logical if, say, the sea god was angry and wanted to show his wrath that he would make the saltflake snow fall? Why is it that it’s when we have ~~forgotten~~ him that the saltflake snow falls? Does that mean the sea god’s existence STOPS the saltflake snow, and before people started worshiping the sea god, saltflake snow fell all the time??? This makes no sense. It implies that the sea god doesn’t control this weather phenomenon but that he has the power to stop it. Like, um???

Also, how does this whole sea-people vs. land-people work anyway? It can’t be just that tiny village because when they went to town, they had places for sea-people to rest. So it must be at least a large regional thing and there must be quite a few sea-people. But why are the people in Shioshisho panicking because they don’t have enough children? If there are other villages, why don’t they intermarry with them?

I mean, Shioshisho can’t be the only village right? Especially since Uroko himself said he was only a “scale” of the sea god, implying that other scales could possibly exist. Like, how does this work out in the grand scheme of things? The saltflake snow has to be a GLOBAL phenomenon right? But then how? Isn’t that kind of weird? Weather patterns are different across the entire world, so if this thing starts happening EVERYWHERE in the world, wouldn’t there be like a huge global panic right now? Why isn’t there any sign of this happening?

And, well, in the end, this is Not How You Do Racism. Like, I don’t think Mari Okada even deserves a U Tried sticker for this. It’s just so awful. While appearance does lend a lot to racist tendencies, cultural dissimilarities and such do too. And, here? There is no cultural dissimilarities because Shioshisho is a carbon copy of the land. Except with a water filter. They eat the same goddamn food, they watch the same goddamn television, they even have the same goddamn kotetsus. Like, really.

And, even if we look at the physical features, it gets really dubious. Yeah, they have blue eyes. But babies born of a inter-uh-something-couple have turquoise eyes that seem even more uncommon/different. Why are they never shown to be discriminated against?

The worst thing about all this laziness is that it’s a two-cour series. I understand that Mari Okada is super duper ultra busy like all the time, and if this had been a simple thirteen-epsiode series, I would’ve just gone, “OK, I guess she just wanted to get this over with.” But, no, this had been set as a twenty-six episode series from the very beginning. In fact, it’s the longest series this season, even beating out Kill la Kill.

Seriously, if you know you’re going to write a two-cour series, you should at least invest some time in it so that it isn’t a total fucking mess.

Bottom line: Too much love polygon bullshit, complete with the laziest worldbuilding and storytelling I’ve ever had the displeasure to watch, especially for a two-cour series.

Samurai Flamenco

In a nutshell: Model/superhero fanboy decides to become a superhero for real with the help of a policeman he befriended.

Samurai Flamenco was one of those shows I was really looking forward to. After Tiger and Bunny (which I enjoyed but felt missed a lot of chances at delivering solid social commentary), I had hoped for a series about superheroes that was more down-to-earth and, well, analytical.

In its first few episodes, Samurai Flamenco seemed to promise just that. It had Masayoshi both fail and succeed at being a superhero, and even though his words and actions are sometimes completely crazy, I really couldn’t help but admire him for his childish naivete and his unyielding desire to do good in the world. It made me almost want to be more optimistic about life.

And then, well, episode seven happened, which was a shock, but wasn’t a bad turn. Or at least I thought initially. Since I had faith in Samumenco, I thought everything was going to turn out all right, and more interesting things could be said about superhero-ing with the new developments.

Well, I was completely wrong about that.

It wasn’t that Samurai Flamenco became a real superhero that bothered me; it was that Mari had to be damseled in order for that to happen. And while I did want badly for Mari to be called out on taking superhero-ing as a game, the way it happened was awful. And the evil villain in this case was just a complete jackass. I mean, what right does he have to decide that Mari was playing only a game and that Masayoshi wasn’t? Look at Masayoshi! He can barely remember the names of the monsters he defeated! And the fact that Moe was reduced to a one-dimensional character whose only defining characteristic is her love for Mari… ugh.

I really wish they had called Masayoshi out on his, well, shit. His shit with forgetting the names of monsters. His shit with jumping in too recklessly all the time with monsters. His shit with how he treats Gotou as his lackey. (As an aside, while Gotou is actually my favorite character in this series, his double standard with telling Mari to quit and not Masayoshi was bad bad bad. I was really glad when Mari called him out on it, but then they damseled her and framed it as a “punishment” for her disagreeing with Gotou. Ew.) Masayoshi is a good guy, but there’s still stuff he does that should be checked! Yet the anime never checks him.

And, well, especially after the whole Flamengers deal, it seemed they had scrapped a lot of the social commentary aspects and changed it into a parody instead. Now, I’m completely fine with parodies, but it just feels like Samurai Flamenco is becoming yet another Tiger & Bunny: a superhero show that is really enjoyable and has great ideas but is ultimately lackluster in its delivery.

Well, here’s to hoping that the second-cour will be better. Despite my criticisms of this series, this was still the one series I enjoyed the most in this season, and I hope it’ll be able to bring back that magic it had in its beginning with the next season.

Bottom line: Now seems to be mainly a parody. Your mileage may vary.

Unbreakable Machine-Doll

[trigger warning for mentions of sexual assault]

In a nutshell: Japanese boy goes to England with an automata to attend a school that pits these automata against each other in a tournament, so he can get revenge for the death of his family.

Adaptation-wise, this anime is actually quite good. It leaves out a few things, for the sake of time, and it adds a lot more ecchi and revealing scenes than in the manga, but, yeah, it’s an overall good adaptation. Learn from this, Seiji Kishi, GoHands!

As a story on its own, though… Unbreakable Machine-Doll isn’t very good. In all the time I’ve been reading it, I haven’t seen one thing that has been new or unique about the concept or the world. The steampunk magic system is interesting (and looks really nice animated) but, overall, everything this series has to offer has been done, and done better.

Yaya is also incredibly problematic as an element in and of herself. She is the personification of the “jealous girlfriend” trope and consistently threatens death upon both the protagonist and any females within his vicinity. Her continual attempts to sexually assault the protagonist is also treated as a running joke. A really, incredibly crass and disgusting running joke. Even in a vacuum, it wouldn’t be funny. It’s overused, overdone, and just plain lazy storytelling. Yaya is basically reduced to this one-dimensional image of jealousy, with nothing else to really make her a well-developed or even interesting character.

Actually, that’s not a problem solely associated with Yaya. Basically every single character in the series can be described with a simple word or two. They are all one-adjective caricatures, including the protagonist Raishin. There is nothing unique about them. They don’t really have any personality outside of their set roles. They’re humans but all of them act like the automatas they control, spouting the same, tired, cliche lines over and over, and performing the same predictable plotlines.

(Hey, maybe that’s the major twist! Everyone is actually an automata. The end. If that actually happens, I will revise my view of this series to: absolutely brilliant, though still problematic.)

There’s really nothing more to say about this series. It just plays it so safe with the constant reuse of old shounen tropes. It doesn’t really try to do anything creative with what it has.

Bottom line: Been there, done that. It is, however, nicely animated and a good adaptation. As a story, though, it’s positively boring.

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