Thoughts on Winter 2013/2014, part 2 (InaKon, KLK, NagiAsu, Nobunaga)

Part 2 of what will probably be a four-parter! Yay!

Also, surprisingly, other than InaKon, this post also comprises the shittiest anime (besides Hamatora) of the season. So whoo for getting this over with!

(Reminder that there is a trigger warning for Kill la Kill. Proceed with caution.)

Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha.

In a nutshell: Inari gains the powers of a god and tries to impress her crush, the basketball star of the school.

So as evidenced by my (ultra short) initial impressions three months ago, InaKon was one of the anime I was looking most forward too, since it’s one of my favorite manga that I’m currently reading. It’s just so down-to-earth and heartwarming that I don’t think anyone can help but love it! It’s premise is a common setup for romantic comedies, but it manages to circumvent the pitfalls of the romcom genre wonderfully! It’s always exceeding my expectations, and the way it handles all of its characters’ growth and development is absolutely incredibly. Honestly, I highly recommend the manga if anyone’s looking for a nice slice-of-life series to read.

Now, the anime isn’t… bad, per se. But it really doesn’t do the manga justice.

In terms of the good, the animation for it is really nice, and while the soundtrack isn’t the best ever or anything, it certainly is nice and fits the low-key atmosphere of the series perfectly. In short, the aesthetics of this series are great. They really managed to capture the tone of the work.

The pacing is really where everything gets Not So Great. I don’t think it’s entirely the director’s fault, as they only had a measly ten episodes to work with, but I do think they definitely have some responsibility. Although the important events were kept, a lot of the smaller occurrences of character building were done away with completely. This wouldn’t be so much a problem if InaKon’s entire story didn’t hinge on these interactions because, at its core, that’s what InaKon is: a coming-of-age story about a young girl and her friends. And the exclusion of these development scenes really skewed her development and even some of her personality.

Ergo, I recall, in around episode two, someone complaining about how stalker-like, and hence unsympathetic, Inari was in her pursuit of Tanbabashi as she transforms into his friend in order to visit him at his house while he’s sick. What the anime cut out is the fact that Inari volunteered to go to Tanbabashi’s house to deliver his homework in place of said friend because she wanted to be proactive in getting to know her crush. However, it’s only when she’s standing outside his door that she chickens out, so she turns into his friend. The entire scene in the manga is centered on furthering Inari’s conception of how she should use her divine powers–and this episode becomes the foundation for later occurrences in which Inari learns not to use her power. The anime scene, in contrast, does none of this, and as such inadvertently eschews Inari’s development.

And, in the end, I’m not even sure I can chalk up the bad pacing entirely to the lack of sufficient episodes anymore, either, especially because it seemed that the production staff had cut out so many scenes that they had run out of stuff to include at the climax. Which is why the audience gets an entire fifteen minutes of Inari running up the shrine. Yeah, great work.

Of course, InaKon’s adaptation isn’t atrocious or anything. The art and stylistic directions are nice, and the voice acting is superb. In terms of storytelling, however, it’s simply passable. Really, read the manga. There’s some incredibly great stuff in there, not least of which Sumizome’s development–particularly her struggles with liking a female friend is dealt with surprising delicacy and her feelings are never invalidated in the narrative.

Bottom line: Not a awful adaptation but not really worthy of the absolutely endearing source material. If you have the time, pick up the manga instead, and maybe listen to the soundtrack while you’re reading it.

Kill la Kill

[trigger warning for mentions of sexual assault and rape]

In a nutshell: Clothes are aliens hell-bent on taking over the world. No, really.

So. Kill la Kill. It really, honestly didn’t get better for me. It got slightly more watchable (because more Mako being amazing and less Mako abuse) but its problematic elements never really went away. They simply shifted focus. And there were definitely times in this second-cour where I was understandably immeasurably creeped out by both Nui and Satsuki’s mom. Man, I had really liked Nui too. Too bad she and Ragyou turned out to be absolutely incomprehensible abusive family members. I don’t even.

Let’s start with the good things, I guess: Mako.

Um, what else. Oh, Nonon is pretty cute too. And Ryuuko is a decent protagonist. Satsuki is also interesting, though I think her character gets severely shafted in terms of development, but I’ll talk about in a moment. Um, Gamagoori is OK, I guess. Ninja turtle I mean Sanagaeyama is bearable. The sexual harassment from the Mankanshoku men has been decreased to a minimum (thank fuck). And did I mention Mako was amazing? Yeah, Mako is amazing.

And, yeah, that’s basically it. So the good parts all come down to Mako. Essentially.

Now, let’s talk Satsuki’s shafted development. I wrote on my Tumblr before the finale how I felt Satsuki and Ryuuko were both very motivated by men. Well, after watching the finale and thinking about it more, I actually take that back. It really isn’t so much that Satsuki and Ryuuko are motivated by men–Ryuuko does gain friends and fight for their sake–it’s more that Satsuki’s development backpedals a bit to the point where I really don’t understand her character in the way I feel she deserves.

Satsuki is a character that has set ideals from the very beginning, and she never wavers with them. She’s essentially already developed pre-series, and Trigger’s overt focus on Ryuuko’s development (which was decently done I guess??) kind of left Satsuki’s personality with no room for further fleshing out. So at the climax when Ryuuko and Satsuki meet each other as allies, it felt really, really strange for Satsuki to have such a shoehorned realization about how she had never understood ruling and shit. Especially because her approach after this revelation hasn’t changed at all in comparison to her approach pre-revelation. Satsuki’s still the same Satsuki, and the way her “character development” arc (read: episode) was handled felt really last-minute and awkward. It wasn’t absolutely terrible, but it did leave me confused and unsure of Satsuki’s actual motivations. So.

But anyway, that’s probably the least offensive bit of Kill la Kill’s second season, actually. Now for the most offensive.

So, remember when I said that Satsuki’s mother and Nui were seriously creepy? Like the highest level of creepy ever? Because they are. They are fucking awful.

I mean, yeah, they’re meant to be fucking creeps in-universe, but the instance in which Ragyou basically sexually assaulted Satsuki in the bath and the other one in which both Ragyou and Nui does the same thing to Ryuuko is overtly sexualized to the point that I almost didn’t see it as rape. Which it was. Undoubtedly. In fact, I’m surprised there’s not much more outrage about these scenes than there are. This, right here, is rape culture disguised as something benign and innocuous and “sexy.” It’s fucking gross how many people gif’d or reblogged gifs of this scene because they thought it was “hot.” This scene is never discussed again, and no side-effects are ever seen. In fact, Ryuuko seems more concerned about being forced to wear clothes than being mindraped, and I can’t really blame her because it’s all the writers fault anyway.

Speaking of clothes, while Tumblr continues to sing KLK’s praises for having a ~wonderful~ message about adolescence and clothes as domination, I’m still here scratching my head and wondering if we watched the same anime. I mean, sure, you can say that there are a lot of clothes-related puns and maybe even something as coherent as a metaphor, but to say that the entire series had an actual theme that it worked to carry out? Um, I really don’t see it.

For instance, a lot of people have been talking about how, as Ragyou become more of a fascist dictator (basically), she became more covered-up, and as Ryuuko/Satsuki became more free, they started showing more skin or whatever. And while I don’t necessary disagree with that particular assessment, the anime itself contradicts these themes of evil = clothes and good = nakedness several times. I mean, there were so many times in which Ragyou herself enforced nakedness on one of the girls–that Satsuki shower scene I mentioned, included purely for fanservice (barf), the time Satsuki was captured and put naked in a cage, with additional butt-slapping provided by her mother (why did I watch this anime), and the mindrape naked scene with Ryuuko. These naked scenes were all HUGELY uncomfortable scenes that could’ve been easily removed, and the show probably could’ve done better by removing them, since it falls more in line with the general theme. But does it? Nope. Because fanservice.

So is Kill la Kill really trying to do something progressive and spin a tale of adolescence and conformity? I really don’t think so. It’s definitely a show built to appeal to a certain audience, and I find myself increasingly not that audience. In fact, the type of audience this show is for (I’m talking about those that sees this as something more than cheap entertainment and as an actual Anime to Save All Animes) is really not the type of people I want to be hanging out with.

Bottom line: Honestly, I did not enjoy this series at all, and I actually cheered out loud when it finally ended. Some people actually enjoy it as mindless entertainment though, so maybe if one watches it with zero expectations (and no fanwank), then it could possibly be watchable. It’s already too late for me.

Nagi no Asukara

In a nutshell: The sea god and his children all have no idea what the fuck they are doing. And the world is ending but no one cares.

OK, I don’t know how you did it NagiAsu, but you actually managed to make me hate you more with your finale. How is that possible? I thought I had hit the absolute bottom of the hate zone. I am truly awed by your commitment to antagonizing all those who exist outside of the normative sexual identities, NagiAsu. Truly a masterpiece of heteronormative proportions.

As per the above, let’s start with the good. The beginnings of this season really showed what Mari Okada can do when she puts all her energy into character interactions instead of shitty worldbuilding. She actually wrote Hikari incredibly, incredibly well, and I think the episode in which he deals with waking up five years in the future is NagiAsu’s best. It was poignant and perfectly executed. Actually, I think most of the character interactions are written decently well. As long as I look past the blatant heteronormativity of everything, I almost enjoy it. Sort of. Her characters have very real conversations, and very real feelings, and I really appreciate that.

However, there’s really a limit to the amount of love polygon angst one can do and make believable. Seriously, most of the reasoning behind a lot of poignant conversations are absolutely ridiculous. It felt like Mari Okada had written the later scene first and then somehow had to scramble to find some way to make it actually connect to the narrative. It makes for an almost great “tugging on heartstrings” moment that is ruined the moment the audience applies even an iota of thought to how the scenario came about.

(Like, seriously? Sayu and Kaname had one conversation. When Sayu was in elementary school. Five years ago. I can believe her having a kiddy crush on him back then, but being still abso-fucking-lutely in love with him even now? Five years might seem like nothing to an adult, but it is a goddamn long time to a kid. I can understand her maybe falling back in love with him after seeing him again, but nope. Mari Okada establishes that before he even wakes up, Sayu had been wanting him back. The same thing also applies to Miuna, but at least Miuna kind of has an excuse to think about Hikari a lot, since he is kind of her uncle now.)

And then, oh god, the clusterfuck with Manaka’s return was godawful. I didn’t think this series could get even worst with its wangst, but it somehow managed to. I can’t believe that, of all things, what with the world fucking ending and all, that Manaka losing her ability to feel romantic love is the most important thing in the universe to these kids. Like, what? What about your parents who might or might not be dead at the bottom of the ocean? WHAT ABOUT YOUR OWN CITY BEING COVERED IN SNOW FOREVER?

And not to mention the overt focus on romantic love being basically the most important emotion ever felt. UGH. PEOPLE CAN HAVE FULFILLING LIVES WITHOUT WANTING TO GO OUT WITH SOMEONE OK. And it’s not even like Manaka lost her ability to love in general. The anime explicitly makes sure we know that yes! manaka still likes her friends! but no! she can’t fall in love anymore! Like really? Can you not. Maybe if they had framed it as Manaka losing a piece of herself without her consent, then yeah, I could get down with that. But instead they framed it as “WE NEED TO GET MANAKA’S LOVE BACK AT ALL COSTS” still without her consent. Thanks, dudes, you guys are true friends.

The whole “I can’t believe Manaka forgot our memories together!” shit from Hikari also got really old really fast. Hey, this girl was trapped in the sea by the sea god for five years and she can’t even go back to her hometown because her ena had been taken away and all you’re worried about is the fact that she can’t engage in the love polygon wank you guys have going on? REALLY? These fucking kids and their priorities. Seriously.

And, of course, even in the finale, the worldbuilding still made no goddamn sense other than “i’m going to make this happen for the sake of angst.” Why did everything get solved by Manaka falling into the ocean again and then getting fished out. How. What.

I also realized that Mari Okada is REALLY good at writing friendships between girls but REALLY terrible at writing friendships between guys or friendships between guys and girls (without it turning into romance). Seriously, Miuna and Manaka’s interactions in the last ten minutes of the series was better than Hikari and Kaname’s interactions or Hikari and Manaka’s interactions throughout the entire series. Just ditch all the guys, Mari Okada, and write a GL series instead, please.

Bottom line: Still terrible and heterosexist as fuck.

Nobunaga the Fool

In a nutshell: Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table (which apparently consists of people such as Julius Caesar, Ferdinand Magellan, Alexander the Great, Cesare Borgia, Charlemagne, and Macchiavelli) try to conquer Sengoku-era Japan.

This series is absolutely fucking terrible in all respects.

OK, so maybe the OST is actually really amazing. And completely wasted on a series this bad. I think this is the lowest rating I’ve ever given on MAL, right there along with Canvas 2.

This is seriously one of the few times that I’ve seen a series fail so bad at writing its main protagonist. Especially because the protagonist is JEANNE D’ARC. Like, how the fuck do you screw up such a badass iconic female figure. HOW? You can QUITE LITERALLY replace Jeanne with a sexy lamp and the series would still be the FUCKING SAME. You wouldn’t even need to delegate any roles to minor characters. Jeanne literally DOES NOTHING except stand there and shout Nobunaga’s name. Oh and maybe once she blocked an attack for him or something, but a sexy lamp can do that too. Porcelain is more solid than you think.

Other than that, I feel absolutely nothing for the other characters. They’re all better than Jeanne, at least, though Jeanne is a pretty hard character to beat, awful-character-development-wise, but they’re all so completely shallow. Nobunaga in particular adheres only to the Rule of Cool in terms of his character development. One minute he’s ditching his younger brother’s coming-of-age ceremony and talking down to him and pissing off his “damn old dad,” and the next he’s crying over their corpses and vowing vengeance. I seriously can’t feel even the least bit sympathetic for this twat because he’s such an asshole to everyone, and I kind of just want him to be kicked in the nuts and dunked in the river a few times every time he opens his mouth so he would stop speaking.

Also, did the director do any research at all? I understand that this is basically a historical AU in which he just pulled up any western historical figure he could find and mashed it with the generals from the Sengoku Era, but seriously? What is with the absolute lack of anything remotely accurate? Their personalities and abilities don’t even seem remotely similar to their historical counterparts. It’s like he just slapped iconic names on typical anime characters and called it a day. (I still can’t get over Leonardo da Vinci telling the group to call him “da Vinci”–he literally just told them to call him “from Vinci.” OK, I guess that’s just how these weird western star guys do.)

Bottom line: So terrible it’s not even funny. I can’t even encompass it’s awfulness with any words.

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