What’s In a Character: Nagisa Shiota

Unassuming danger, and a boy who looks to follow Korosensei. But down which path?

Advertisements

Well, I kept everyone waiting yet again. After the Christmas treat that was Nonon’s character piece, it took a while again to really put together one of these special character pieces for the “What’s in a Character?” series. Today’s entry takes a pretty dramatic turn away from one crazy school in Kill la Kill to Kunugigaoka Junior High’s Class 3-E. Yup, we’re taking a trip to the Assassination Classroom once more (here’s the review on the show), and who better to guide that journey than the main character and narrator of that series, student #11, Nagisa Shiota? There’s a lot more to that wispy frame and flowing blue hair than meets the eyes, and his talent for both reading people, and more unnervingly, assassination, is undeniable. Get ready to come face to face with one of Korosensei’s well-trained pupils, in both military training and in life.

WARNING: Major spoilers for Assassination Classroom follow.


Initially speaking, the obvious character choice to talk about from this series is Koro-sensei- the one of a kind Mach-20 octopus man and crack teacher. In fact, it’s entirely conceivable that he could still be talked about in another character piece, but for today, the spotlight instead shines on the actual main protagonist and narrator of the show- Nagisa.

So what’s unique about this kid? Quite a lot actually.

https://d.wattpad.com/story_parts/373035997/images/14a3a3167335e711361605822183.jpg

By virtue of being in Class 3-E, Nagisa was looking to overcome the odds along with the rest of his class. From the start of the series, it is shown that he’s an extremely perceptive individual, but at the time also lacks the sort of confidence in himself you’d hope for. Quite a few details are omitted and then brought to light as time went on: an unlikely prior friendship with Karma Akabane, the bad boy genius of 3-E; an almost abusive mother who projected her fantasies of wanting a girl onto Nagisa, reflected in his long blue hair that he usually kept tied up in those “floofs,” and his own dreams being suppressed in turn by said mother, which means Nagisa as a person blossomed in his one year as a 3-E student.

The discovery of Nagisa’s latent natural talent at assassination and the subsequent question of what his future holds forms a major aspect of his character arc. His talent is foreshadowed immediately in “Assassination Time” (episode 1), with the “suicide” tactic Terasaka cooks up for him; again in “Assembly Time” (episode 5) when the class is required to attend a school assembly and Nagisa’s mere look terrifies two would-be bullies, and it becomes readily apparent to everyone else in “Talent Time” (episode 13), when Nagisa turns the tables on Takaoka, displaying the unnerving ability to turn a combat veteran’s hardened experience again him, along with full use of his unassuming and normally non-threatening appearance to its full advantage. The dynamic only continues to intensify during the class’s vacation to the resort island, when Nagisa once again defeats Takaoka in a rematch coordinated by the rogue mercenary as a means of revenge (and unintentionally good training for the class.)

https://pa1.narvii.com/5741/4b70053325cbf1fd616dfda66a49210e72b23027_hq.gif

Takaoka should have quit while he was ahead. This is one battle he won’t win.

Since I brought it up, I’d be amiss not to talk at least briefly about his long-standing friendship with Karma. It’s revealed immediately that the two are on friendly terms the moment Karma steps into 3-E, surprising the other students, and while they are in fact friends, there was also a fierce rivalry that boiled beneath the surface of the two boys’ relationship. Even more intriguing was the contrast in combat styles: Nagisa was an assassin in the purest sense of the word, always looking for an opening and a quick takedown, while Karma was a brawler with a bag of dirty tricks, his fist backing up his mouth and his mind as a threat. Nagisa always felt in the shadow of his friend, but the dynamic in 3-E shifted as he grew through the year, especially in his skills with assassination, and eventually, everything came to a head in one of the best fights of the series:

I suppose if you want to make a lasting point, you settle it like men.

There was also  the relationship with Kaede Kayano that boiled over in the same season. For what it’s worth, it might be one of the better shipping fakeouts in anime, largely because everything prior to Kayano’s tentacled reveal can be questioned as whether it was genuine or not, given her role as a professional actress. What was not in question was that Nagisa regarded her as a friend and potential romantic interest. The specific way in which he helped stop her rampage was also a pretty unexpected callback to the technique Irina Jelevic used on him back in “Grown-up Time” (episode 4) and in an ironic twist, the skill Nagisa had carefully accumulated over time probably saved a life that day instead of taking one.

In turn, Nagisa’s aptitude in taking what he’d learned and practically applying it to situations served him incredibly well in another way aside from the assassin arts- as a teacher. In a heartfelt episode (“Before and After Time,” episode 28) , after the class accidentally breaks an elderly principal’s leg, Koro-sensei bans them from studying for the midterms…and in exchange, 3-E is tasked to repair the run-down school of the principal in question. It is here that Nagisa mentors a young girl beat down mentally by past acts of bullying in her life, and helps her back to a place of confidence as the school is completely renovated and repaired. In subsequent episodes, it is shown that Nagisa continued to help her out even after the class’s commitment to the school was paid off in full. It also provided an alternate glimpse into what Nagisa could become- someone dedicated to the forming and teaching of young minds, which presented an interesting conundrum: would he take after the Korosensei that was the “God of Death” from his previous life, or become like Korosensei the teacher, blessed with immense talent in certain ways but sworn to use it for the good of others?

 

 

https://78.media.tumblr.com/f22a388067a233ddb1d5de8792777fa6/tumblr_nq4msbjkIL1sglmeao1_1280.png

 

Much has been made of Nagisa’s androgynous appearance, and I believe this was a conscious character design choice with storyline implications that were surprisingly well-played out, gradually and steadily. To start with, Nagisa is not lazily homosexual as this stereotype might perpetuate; it’s reinforced subtly and obviously that he’s very much a straight boy outside of his appearance, and while his frame and hair allows him to easily crossdress, the two episodes in which he does, both times out of necessity (and actually forced by Karma and Rio Nakamura in the latter moment), there is clearly discomfort in having to do so, going beyond simply being uncomfortable in the opposite sex’s clothes, which I don’t doubt would be off-putting for plenty of people (and a turn on for others, but I digress.) Instead, it actually plays a very important part in the deeper inner conflict of Nagisa’s life with his mother and her delusional dreams of wanting a girl, despite the fact that she has been gifted a fairly kind and perceptive young man for a son. Nagisa’s appearance also has the patently useful side effect of making for great disguise when it comes to being an assassin, but I suspect the protagonist probably favored the high-tech P.E. uniforms supplied to them by the government around the midway point of the show. Further to the point though, Nagisa’s appearance also suggests the personal inner conflict of what his future holds. Will it hold his mom’s demands? Will it hold the quiet and sordid life of a master assassin? What will it be? In that sense, Nagisa’s appearance is that of a book yet to be written; one that will resolve itself with a resoundingly definitive answer.

https://i.imgur.com/GsHW6Ks.png

“Is it okay if I become an assassin?”- Nagisa Shiota, to Koro-sensei during career counseling  

Before we get there however, there was the influence of the greatest teacher anyone could ask for, and his role in his pupil’s life. Yes, Koro-sensei provided personalized guidance to every last one of his students, but it was with Nagisa alone that one of his class might try and take after his profession- but which one? As was said earlier, Nagisa showed natural aptitude and a rare skillset that made him an ideal assassin…but he also showed a talent for touching the hearts of people who seemed closed off or in need, from  the young girl at the at the old schoolhouse the class repaired, to a raging Kayano in her darkest moments. As with everything else, Koro-sensei let Nagisa discover the answers for himself as time proceeded. A duality existed between master and pupil: the ability to flip a switch the moment life and death was on the line, but a kind and almost disarming ease when not in the heat of battle, not only characterized by Nagisa’s distinctively non-threatening appearance most times, but also Koro-sensei’s ability to win over an entire class of people aiming to kill him in an entire year through superb teaching, heartfelt life lessons, and just enough unpredictability to keep everyone guessing.

 

“Goodbye…Korosensei.” – Nagisa Shiota, upon being given the final task of Class 3-E

The final resolution to follow Koro-sensei’s footsteps not as an assassin, but as a teacher, is a triumphant validation of the former “God of Death’s” duty fulfilled: a natural prodigy raised in a year long environment of both assassination and school instead chose the “classroom” part of “Assassination Classroom.” It is also the validation of Nagisa’s wishes and dreams, signaling his independence of decision making from his reluctant but now understanding mother, and it also in the grandest of traditions, the figurative passing of the torch, as Nagisa alone carries the academic flame of 3-E into the future. As we find out though, our little blue-haired assassin still kept those skills, and put them to very good use in his first ever teaching assignment. (Truth be told, he probably remembered the punks from the Kyoto trip in the first season, but those punks were now his students. And trust me, he was ready:)

Through tragedy, flowers blossom upon the fertile soil of the next generation. Be it Korosensei’s sense of duty to his fallen lover, or a student looking to follow the master’s footsteps, that too is part of the life lessons to be learned in Assassination Classroom. But this is about Nagisa at the end of the day, and he’s got a wonderfully complex character that comes together nicely over the course of the show, with heartfelt emotional highs and lows, and an underdog mentality to beat the odds, whether that be the open defiance of Kunugigaoka Junior High’s caste system, the takedown of a professional mercenary on a helipad, the drive to help his friends, from Karma and Kayano to his other classmates, or the important gain in self-confidence that finally allowed him to confront his mother and her repressive wishes for his life. Nagisa represents what it means to be constantly learning, even as we grow older, and the ability to find our way forward in life provided we trust in others, some good guidance, be it from God, family, or a giant octopus man, and ultimately, the reality that making tough decisions in life can be painfully transformative in ways we’d never imagine. But most of all, Nagisa Shiota is one heck of a character with a unique aesthetic and plenty of reasons to root for him. “What’s In a Character” is quite the promotion from E-Class for this young man, but he deserves every bit of it.

 


Like what you see? Fan of Assassination Classroom or Nagisa? Leave a comment!

10 Thoughts: May 28th Edition

There’s always something new to talk about.

Dear readers,

Since the first 10 Thoughts wound up being so successful, I decided to bring it back for another round, but also the question in my head if people would like this to be a weekly column going forward. It’s been a good bit of fun to do, and in turn, I hope the new reviews this past week were up to people’s expectations. They were enjoyable to put together, and definitely featured some thought-provoking shows. Moving on then:

1. As promised, I finally sat down and went through the final half of Star vs the Forces of Evil’s 3rd season…and it did not disappoint. Without spoiling anything for anyone who might have not picked up the show and still wish to watch it sometime, family dynamics are an incredibly tricky aspect of life to manage, and perhaps doubly so when you’re a bunch of magical royals in a dimension where sometimes corn is more important than common sense for the people. A satisfying conclusion to the season, no doubt, and I’ll look to get a review out this week.

 

2. At the pace things are going, My Hero Academia’s midseason finale is setting up to be something huge. While I’m aware of how these events will probably all unfold, thanks to the manga, watching it get executed in animated form right now is a treat. Also, very happy they brought back simul-dubbing for this season. Both the dub and sub are pretty good, but for whatever reason, the English voice-over was behind by a few weeks when they aired season 2B, and not having the option to choose when the episodes first aired in Japan was a bummer.

 

3. Appreciative of the feedback received on the Devilman Crybaby review. While it’s only generated a handful of hits, it has in turn generated some really interesting conversation, which feels only right given that it’s a very polarizing kind of show with its content and context. I’ll say this- irregardless of what anyone thinks of the show, anytime a healthy discussion can be ignited from it is a pretty amazing aspect to consider. Animation’s definitely all about having a sense of fun and wonder- but it’s also a serious medium deserving of the same sort of discussion and attention live-action shows and movies receive- and in turn, that’s remained a constant point in my mind as I’ve continued to watch shows and movies.

 

 

4. Speaking of things worth talking about, I’d recommend Assassination Classroom to everyone, especially as the school year wraps for many and graduation season is in full swing. I wrote a review about the show roughly a year ago, and it might be one of the few productions I re-watch, simply because it’s so wonderfully fun, serious and unexpected in the best sorts of ways. I’ve always enjoyed simple premises in theory becoming far more than you’d imagine, and this series embodies that.

 

5. I’ve often wondered the reasoning behind why characters in shows/movies can be more or less popular among fanbases. For me, a well developed individual with a great storyline and a pleasing aesthetic to boot is ideal, but I’m wondering what any of your favorite characters might be and why. Leave a response in the comments! (And if you can’t tell already, make a great response and I might just be persuaded to turn that into something for the “What’s In a Character” series.)

 

6. Great themes are part and parcel with great shows. An undercurrent of politicization is not, unless it’s a clever parody or more rarely, actually insightful commentary.

 

7. Another show I’ve fallen far behind on is Cartoon Network’s popular Steven Universe. I was up to date with the series about a year ago, and since then…nothing, though apparently several huge events happened in that show. Despite a reputation that paints it as having a toxic fandom, it’s a solid show which someday, I’ll probably sit down and write about on here.

 

8. Not that anyone’s claiming that I have recency bias towards shows, but the last anime I watched was Martian Successor Nadesico, from the mid 1990’s. The plan is to bring a review of that show along soon, but as for quick thoughts, it’s definitely got the main hallmarks of 90’s anime: space adventures and giant mechs, with a shady organization pulling the strings to boot. It also has a super catchy opening, “You Get to Burning.” More than anything though, I’d definitely recommend to try out shows from different eras- it’ll give you a better appreciation of where the medium came from and how it has progressed along over time…and well, these shows are still pretty darn entertaining.

 

9. In turn about older shows, I’m always open to hear suggestions on pre-2000’s series I should undertake. I’ve seen some of the big ones in anime and in the West, but anything from Astro Boy to The Smurfs is fair game, so comments on that are also very much appreciated.

 

 

10. Finally, on a completely unrelated note that has nothing to do with animation, the Washington Capitals are playing the expansion Vegas Golden Knights for the Stanley Cup, which is an extremely cool story for a variety of reasons. The city of Las Vegas rallied around their first Big 4 sports team after the mass shooting last year, and in turn, the Golden Knights have turned in the finest expansion season to date of any professional team, blowing away the prevailing experience that these new teams are generally terrible. Some will blame an expansion draft that gave Vegas more favorable conditions than in the past, but it was really always more about having a GM who picked the right players (George McPhee), a coach who got the most out of them (Gerard Gallant) and well, the players themselves, who believed when no one else did. And on the other side, you have the hard-luck Capitals, who return to the Finals for the first time since ’98, when they where swept by Detroit. The difference is that it’s the first Cup appearance for superstar Alexander Ovechkin, and to date, the defining moment of a legacy dogged by comparisons to Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby, he of the 3 Stanley Cups. This series promises to be fun, so if all you non-sports/hockey fans out there want to see why we root for things the way we do, this is a great opportunity. (Finally, for the record, I’m a Buffalo Sabres fan. We’re getting Rasmus Dahlin!)


Like what you see? Comments are much appreciated, especially for points 5 and 9. Don’t forget, free speech is the hallmark of an open republic. And this column is pretty darn fun to write.

Review: Batman: The Animated Series

The Lowdown:

Show: Batman: The Animated Series

Network/years aired: Fox, 1992-1995

AniB’s Thoughts:

Now here’s a show I’d been wanting to review for a while, but never quite found the time until now. I’m especially pleased because it’s been a while since I did a Western animated show on here, and this one’s a classic- a huge trendsetter in the 90’s and a superb piece of work back then and now: Batman: The Animated Series.

Starting with a bit of history, this show was actually the first in a series of Batman animations that had continuity with each other, including later series like Batman Beyond, but also was the launching point for a DC canon in the medium. Prior to this point in time (1992), superhero shows were self-contained premises for the most part, and there was a lack of depth in storytelling and development that this show managed to bring to the forefront, by executing those very details at a high level.

Also of note was the neat juxtaposition of noir elements, which evoked the origins of the Batman franchise from the 1940’s, synthesized into a far more focused set of tales that brought the Bat into the 1990’s and beyond. This show set the groundwork for both its own iconic franchise and DC’s other properties as a whole moving forward, but beyond its historical significance, was it a great watch over 20 years from its conclusion?

Based on my experience, it holds up. The voice acting in this show still shines through, as does the characteristic art style. The characterization is on point, and overall, it has that classic Batman feel without being ham-handed, possessing a great understanding of the medium. The show proved to be excellent even in comparison to today’s modern animation, so you can start to imagine what it was probably like when something this complex released in ’92, after the era of “toons-to-toys” in the 80’s (gotta sell those action figures!) Interestingly, Batman could also sell plenty of toys without sacrificing quality here, which you’d expect from an iconic franchise, but it also proved again that Western animation had a far greater capacity for storytelling and vision than just some generic plot of the day story.

A Fox classic before the era of Seth MacFarlane, Batman: The Animated Series was a compelling look into the caped crusader’s universe, complete with the terrific voice acting of Kevin Conroy as Batman himself…and perhaps more memorably, Mark Hamill’s Joker, which in certain circles is seen as a definitive version of the character, an astounding achievement in a world where live-action interpretations of everything seem to dominate the common perceptions of series. Also of note was that the series spawned Harley Quinn, who would go on to become a huge part of the Bat-verse and a very popular character in her own right. She still bears the distinction of being the only main series rogue that was conceived in an animated show!


Animation Quality: Traditional 2-D animation. Unique to this show, the animators masked everything with a black background to help convey the darker tone of the show. It’s smooth, hand drawn animation with silver age influence and a unique style that the show could call its own. In turn, it enhanced the storytelling objectives the writers sought to do in any given episode. 5/5 points.

 

 
Characterization: The show featured a darker take (at the time) on Batman and his sizable rogue gallery; in the process a number of origin stories were detailed; Robin, who was Dick Grayson in this series, also was fleshed out further, and the show also introduced new characters; of these, the afromentioned Harley Quinn rose to prominence beyond just the show. It would also be amiss not to mention again Mark Hamill’s and Kevin Conway’s voice work as the Joker and Batman respectively- it marked the beginning of their association in voice acting for the series.  While I would normally detail the main cast further in this section, Batman is such a well-known, iconic property that he hardly needs too much of an introduction, but just in case you really have been out of the loop on one of the world’s most famous superheroes, he’s a billionaire (Bruce Wayne) who after witnessing the tragic deaths of his parents as a child, vowed to change society not just from his vast walth, but in action as well as the Batman. There’s variations on this basic origin, but it’s the framework of the character, which rings true beyond just this one show. 5/5 points.

 

 
Story quality: Episodic, with continuity and a canon. Batman had certain “villain of the day” plots, but there were references to past episodes and time continued to move forward in the universe. The format was solid, and the tales were usually very good and a lot of fun to watch. The elements of animation, characters and plot melded together in a cohesive manner and the dialogue was pretty well-written most of the time. 4.5/5 points.

 

 
Themes: Batman, by its nature, is darker in tone, but it explored a lot of questions about the human psyche, tragedy and relationships. For a show initially aimed at kids, it was significantly darker than one might expect, and the implications of many actions is quite serious, but befitting of the mood. 4.25/5 points.

 

 
Don’t insult the viewer: The show was smartly written, with a excellent characterization of the Batman universe and intense, yet relatively clean action. Special mention to a nice soundtrack and a unique visual style. 5/5 points.

 

Total Score: 23.75/25 (95%). Truly the spark of DC animation in the 1990’s and beyond, Batman: The Animated Series put the “dark” back in the “Dark Knight.” With superbly unique animation, cohesive storytelling and compelling characters, it continues to serve both as a reminder of what animation can do and as a classic of superhero TV series.


Like what you see? Big fan of the Batman franchise? Leave a comment!

Review: Devilman Crybaby

A classic franchise gets a facelift.

The Lowdown:

Show: Devilman Crybaby

Years aired: 2018

AniB’s Thoughts:

So over 4 (going on 5 at the time of this writing) months after its debut, the hype around this show has died down, thankfully enough. The premature declarations of “anime of the year!” eight days into January were amusing while they lasted, and I can confidently say that this show is hardly “show of the year material”, relative to the hype it generated and when pruned over by a discerning eye.

It has taken a long time to adequately gather my thoughts on this show, despite watching it relatively soon after its January debut amidst an uproar of hype that seemed more like a byproduct of Youtube personalities and other such entities. Delay after delay plagued this review, and while I knew something about this show hadn’t sat right with me, it wasn’t entirely clear how to voice that train of thought yet. However, a bit of background research certainly helped to make things a bit clearer on this series.

Devilman is a beloved classic franchise in Japan, created by Go Nagai back in the 70’s. He also conceived the famous Mazinger franchise for mecha fans, which boils down to “he created some pretty influential works.” The original Devilman anime is pure 70’s cheese, with bad production values, and winds up being far more comedic than anything dark with its dated character models, bad pacing and monster movie villains. However, it was a decent bit of fun to dig back into that time and see what the original inception of Devilman actually looked like, which brings us now to the present.

Even underneath the silliness of the first show, it was evident how dark the plotline actually was, and you could get a sense looking back that with more focused execution, something truly bone-chilling could in fact be conceived. To that end, I think the Netflix series succeeded- boiled down into a concise 10 episodes, there’s nary a wasted moment of impact- but in saying that, what did this series trade-off in order to be the descent into darkness we got?

The answer to that was a flawed compromise of execution juxtaposed against a show with unavoidably harsh themes.  As a result, what was presented instead was an overrated vile, disgusting show that despite the thematic brilliance that boiled beneath the surface, was such a depressingly sad slog of a spectacle that I was tempted to simply quit halfway through a 10 episode anime. It’s the “edgy” interpretation of Go Nagai’s original series back in the 70’s, and what I think this show lack specifically is much in the way of “fun.” Animation shouldn’t be a chore to watch through; it certainly can be complex and thought provoking, but this was an instance of a show where I pressed on mostly because of an obligation to complete the show, rather than any true enjoyment of the various events depicted on screen. This is the Titus Andronicus of anime, except with none of the endearing factors and all the bloodiness and explicitness you’d might expect a modern-day interpretation of a show with demons as a central focus might have- and unless you’re specifically in that niche who loves obscene, disturbing imagery and plenty of blood and guts, this isn’t your show.

For more specifics, I think Crybaby is symptomatic of the problems that exist in modern day re-interpretations that try to be too faithful. Don’t get me wrong: I love a well-adapted show from its original source material, but in the case of this specific show, the lack of restraint on modern-day producers in terms of how content is portrayed is a double-edged sword. It means the haminess of the 70’s show is largely voided, replaced instead by a constant, lingering dread of doom that only thickens as the show’s events spiral downwards. Thematically, it all makes sense, but in terms of a watching experience? It’s simply uncomfortable and downright unpleasant most times, which is putting it mildly.

The anime Youtubers and many other fans who raved about Devilman Crybaby are entitled to their opinion, but to me, this was the height of just the worst kind of letdown. It’s a show that’s just plain disturbing on every level, and although there are some ambitious ideas that exist in the fabric of the end production, it’s overwhelmed by a tidal wave of tragedy, disgust and death. Approach it at your own peril. (And no, no one under the age of 18 should see this show.)


Animation quality: Modern 2-D anime. Truthfully, the show has some stunning shots, but on the flip side, what exactly it’s used for is highly questionable at times. There’s a lot of disturbing imagery that I’d argue goes too far a lot of the time, and while some people might call me “old-fashioned” for such a view, I don’t need highly explicit imagery at every turn for an enjoyable experience. Therein lies the proverbial rub- while the imagery the show often employs is effective in instilling the sense of chaos and horror it seeks, it’s often repulsively unenjoyable in doing so. 3.75/5 points.

 

Characterization: The story centers around Akira Fudo, a kind young man who gets unexpectedly pulled into a darker world than he ever imagined during a highly explicit rave party gone wrong. As a result of his run-in with a powerful demon named Amon, Akira somehow is able to claim the evil specter’s powers and body as his own, and becomes the titular Devilman, sworn to protect mankind from other such beings. Unfortunately, Akira is not nearly as good at his job as he was in the 70’s original, and so tragedy after tragedy continues to unfold in his life…

Akira’s best friend in all the confounding events is Ryo Asuka, a mysterious young man who appears on the surface to be a highly ambitious prodigy of the rarest sort, but what exactly his ambitions are leading to is an entirely different question. There is a cruelness to his character that simply does not exist in Akira’s profile before or after his transformation into Devilman, and all of these unsettling aspects are careful foreshadowing to the true background of this unsettling young man.

While there are a host of other characters in the show with supporting roles, the last one worth mentioning here is Miki Makimura, the beautiful daughter of the host family Akira lives with. In this interpretation of the franchise, she’s a star athlete in track and field, and has a pure, kind heart, but in turn, also has a naive nature that sees her into deeper troubles than her or her kind, loving family deserve. I could say more about her, but it’d be massive spoilers (and for people who have seen the series, you know what happens with her endgame.)   3.5/5 points.

 

Story quality: Devilman Crybaby is a tragedy- the kind that unfolds but consistently and calmly crushes any hopeful note that arises for the tide to turn. Heck, even the main antagonist finds themselves roped into this scope of tragedy and goes down with the proverbial burning ship. In that sense, the pacing is actually very good, but the delivery is so joyless on many occasions that one could hardly be faulted for wanting to quit on such a sordid tale. As it is, Crybaby’s brilliant moments are often counteracted by a sort of miasma that just comes from the repeated, worsening hard knocks. You need levity, in in the darkest of tales, and this show has too little of it. (Perhaps it should have taken a few hints in that regards from the OG series?)  3/5 points.

 

Themes: There’s a big, huge thematic expose of God and demons that exists in this show, but perhaps that was inevitable in something called Devilman. Seriously though, the thematic elements are thought provoking on some level, and you have to wonder if on some meta level, it was a criticism of today’s society and the dangers blatant immoraility could lead to, but far more likely is that it was just a more far more focused viewpoint on the implications of a show with shockingly huge stakes. 3.5/5 points.

 

Don’t insult the viewer: What can I say? NC-17 visuals in larges swaths of the show, moments that are literal acid trips, moments where it’s plain disturbing- well, you get the idea. There’s still a story underneath here though, and a pretty sweet remix of the original Devilman theme in the soundtrack as well, so it still counts as “redeeming values” here. 2/5 points.

Total Score: 16/25 (64%): A deeply disturbing horror show that takes the Devilman franchise in an edgier direction than it has ever seen, Crybaby suffered from both overenthusiastic hype and an often joyless presentation filled with extremes (from explicit imagery to just violence). That isn’t to say that the show didn’t do some things well, as was noted- but for as strong an emotional impact the show can have, I don’t like walking away from animation feeling repulsed. I suspect hard-core horror fans will eat this show up, but this is one re-interpretation that could have struck a far better balance in its levity and presentation.


Like what you see? Have some comments on this show? Leave ’em here!

AniB’s Summer Kickoff: 10 Thoughts

Hi everyone!

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? While I do deeply apologize for the long hiatuses (and this was one was the longest of all), life sometimes demands that you put your best foot forward into other endeavors, and thus, through both a desire to maintain the quality of AniB Productions as well as the need to take care of academic pursuits, that was the reason that until today I’d been so quiet. With my return though, I can assure you that new reviews and pieces will be coming your way all summer long- and in turn, I didn’t stop thinking about animation during this layoff, or some brand new thoughts and ideas. I also like to do plenty of reading, and inspired actually by hockey columnist Elliotte Friedman and his 31 Thoughts column, it seemed like a fun idea to get the ball rolling with some insights of my own on animation now in the middle of May 2018 (at the time of this writing). So, here we go:

 

1. I never understood the rush by people to obsessively pour over new seasons of shows, be it Western animation or the cours they have in anime. Of course I like to watch new seasons or try a new show out or two, but I think you’ve got to be selective and pick your spots when it comes to jumping headfirst into an ongoing series. It’s not a bad thing to commit to a series that you know you’ll enjoy regardless (like My Hero Academia for myself right now), but it’s not always fun to get stuck watching something you simply are watching because the internet is talking about it. Don’t chase fads, but always chase quality.

 

2. Coming this summer, I plan to write a treatise on fanservice. This issue has been boiling in the back of my mind for quite a while now, and similar to that Valentine’s special I wrote over a year ago on shipping, it’s a controversial big picture topic worth talking about far more intelligently. To put it bluntly, fanservice is something that I at least view as a bigger threat to the medium’s legitimacy outside niche circles, particularly when it comes to anime, but I’ll have more on that when the time comes.

 

3. Speaking of Hero Academia, the end of season 3 should really be something. It’s one of the few series I picked up in manga form on the side, and let’s just say the finale will blow some minds if they stick to script like they have. High hopes, I have there.

 

 

4. On the Western animation end of things, I’ve miraculously avoided spoilers on Season 3B of Star vs the Forces Of Evil, though I am aware the season wrapped over a month ago now. While my studies kept me from watching the rest of the season yet, I do plan to follow it up with a post-season 3 review when I watch it soon. As for the first half of season 3…it’s fair. For better or worse, I’m hoping for a bit of “wow” from a show that’s now established and has built itself quite a bit of character development and storyline at this point. (And no, don’t spoil me in the comments if you follow the show.)

 

5. Coming soon to you: A Devilman Crybaby rant. Seriously, this has been in the works for months, but between bigger priorities and a piece that never seemed to come together right, it hasn’t been published yet. Here’s a preview: I have a bone to pick with this show, and it ties into my first thought on this column. Either way, it should be fun.

 

6. If you couldn’t tell by most of these thoughts so far, my watching habits have taken a heavy turn towards the East in the past year, and it has little to do with Western animation, but more so to do with always wanting a deeper context to the medium of animation and the diverse genres and plots it can carry. Anime is pretty terrific, but it definitely has shortcomings, and the same can always be said for the Western cartoons I’ve covered at length in different reviews as well.

 

7. However, one Western show has caught my notice in the days of my malaise, and it’s classic The Simpsons clips. You only have to watch a few of these to get a sense of why the show has stuck around so long, and there’s some absolute comedic gold (such as the woebegone lunch Skinner attempts to put on that spawned an Internet meme), but like other shows that became long-running phenomenons, doing a complete review and grading might just be the most daunting task any of us could ask for. I don’t think long-running, “classic” series should be immune to criticism, but it’s also hard to dish out a balanced report over a run that spans 3 decades as of next year. (Still, I might write about the show in some capacity at some point.)

 

8. I noted in passing that Rick and Morty, the Adult Swim phenom show, got renewed for 70 more episodes. Good for those guys, but even at this point, I really don’t get the hype about the show. In one of those rare “behind the scenes” moments I’ll talk about, I watched the first 4 episodes of the show a while back, and found myself with some mix of revulsion and general boredom, but I might resume the show at some point for purely professional purposes…if someone can persuade me. I want to be fair to every show I encounter, and so I find myself at an impasse with this series: Something I really don’t want to watch any more of against something people might really want to read about. Who knows? The comment section is useful for this sort of question (or for any of these numbered points, really.)

9. On a hint of what I’ve watched in the past few months, I can tell you all that there’s been a lot of anime as previously mentioned and a pretty healthy backlog of shows that could make their way on here for a review outside of some of the aforementioned shows in this column. The hope is that I can get back to writing regularly this summer, and schedule things moving forward so that I will have time to deliver the same quality material at a more consistent rate. The best news about this point though is that shows are coming! (and you are all hopefully excited now.)

10. It has been 2 years, 3 months and 4 days since Gravity Falls ended its run on Disney X.D. Man, time flies when you’re having fun…and when you’re busy too.

And there you have it- 10 thoughts on animation, for better or worse! If there’s one thing I was doing, it was giving everyone who has been so patiently awaiting a new piece something to chew on as more new material does in fact come your way. A long break off deserved a long response. I look forward to a lot more interesting pieces to write and commentary to be read and replied to!

-AniB


Like what you see? Thrilled to have me back? Leave a comment!

AniB’s 2018 Oscars Preview for Best Animated Picture

As I did last year, I will be doing a brief overview of this year’s best animated picture award competition- and while the probable winner is fairly obvious this time around, it’s worth taking a look at where the field stands on the eve of the Academy Awards.

A year’s already flown by since I lasted breached the topic of the Oscars, and here we are with a brand-new crop of films up for the honor, albeit in a far less compelling race than 2016’s films. This year’s nominees are headlined by the superb Coco, which I wrote a review of for Christmas, and which also marks the return of Pixar with a nominee after Finding Dory’s snub last year; a couple of interesting foreign films in The Breadwinner and Loving Vincent, as well as the somewhat bizarre inclusion of The Boss Baby and Ferdinand. The latter two’s unlikely nominations came from a rules change in the selection process, where anyone in the Academy could help nominate the films, and so instead of animation-focuses professionals, it largely became “what have you seen?” With all due respect to the last two films, congrats on making it, but you’re both two of the weakest nominees I’ve ever seen in the category. Moving on then to a bit of history…

As I said last year: “Generally, I only care about results when it comes to award shows, much the same way as when I watch shows. I don’t follow the Oscars for their over-bloated pageantry, self-aggrandizing celebrities who pat each other on the back and give meaningless compliments to other influential people they know, or to watch people on the Internet have meltdowns over “x amount” of diversity or lack thereof. I’m just interested in the movies themselves, the people who put the work into said films, and the statistics behind it. So, here’s a list of the past 10 winners, with studios, to give a recent historical representation of this category (and note, the year is when the movies came out, not the award ceremony date, which is always the following year.)”:

2017: ?

2016: Zootopia (Walt Disney Animation Studios)

2015: Inside Out (Pixar)

2014: Big Hero 6 (Walt Disney Animation Studios)

2013: Frozen (Walt Disney Animation Studios)

2012: Brave (Pixar)

2011: Rango (Paramount Pictures)

2010: Toy Story 3 (Pixar)

2009: Up (Pixar)

2008: WALL-E (Pixar)

2007: Ratatouille (Pixar)

So going back a decade, Pixar has unsurprisingly dominated the category, taking 6 out of the past 10 awards- but only twice in the past 5 years (although it’s been Walt Disney Animation in the other years.) However, Coco is the heavy favorite this cycle, which will likely keep the studio at that 6/10 ratio for the decade (can you believe Ratatouille was a decade ago? Me neither.) Meanwhile, Walt Disney Studios, who won two out of the last 3 times, is actually sitting this one out this year, though next year we’re getting Wreck-It Ralph 2, which should be interesting… As for the outliers on this list, Rango was a surprise in a very weak year (2011) and Happy Feet in 2006 was much the same, beating out the underwhelming (by Pixar standards, anyways) Cars and Monster House when the category only had 3 entrants in that year.

Historically speaking, the trends are not favorable for foreign entrants, a sentiment I said almost verbatim from last year’s pre-Oscar piece. In a year with a strong Pixar movie as well, that chance falls to almost 0%, especially given that the other Western contenders (The Boss Baby, Ferdinand) aren’t really seen as true threats in this race. Often harmed by their lack of exposure to wider audiences, foreign and niche animated films often suffer the reverse affect of the live action counterparts- if a lot of eyeballs among the general populace saw it and it was good, that film tends to win the category. In this year’s case, both foreign entrants are worthy of their place at the table, but are still definite underdogs; if either The Breadwinner or Loving Vincent won, it would be possibly the largest upset in the history of the category (shy of the lackluster Western entries I mentioned winning), so I’m not holding my breath too tightly on that.

 

This year’s nominees featured three 3-D CGI films, one traditional hand-drawn film, and most uniquely, an entire painted film in Loving Vincent. The latter’s unique style is probably what lifted it to a nomination over other niche entrants; however, while the Academy traditionally likes a range of animation styles in its nominations, it often has little bearing on what movie ultimately wins. In fact, every animated film that has won in the past decade has been 3-D animated, and you have to go back to 2005, when Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-rabbit won to find a different style (and that was also the last foreign film to win as well, marking a 12 year drought.) In fact, since 2001 when the category was created, only one other winner was a non-CGI film- the Miyazaki classic Spirited Away in 2002.

So who wins? The obvious pick of the litter based on both historical trends and overall quality is Coco, and it’s a worthy pick in a generally underwhelming year for animation. It’s arguably one of Pixar’s best two films this decade along with Inside Out (and we’re counting Toy Story 3 as the final year of the first decade of the 2000’s) and it’s got a wonderful charm to it…but if you want my full thoughts on the film, I linked the review at the beginning of this piece, so check it out if you haven’t! As for a quick word on the rest- The Breadwinner is definitely worth a look, as it has both some stunning depth and cultural significance, with a premise that takes off, and for the artsy crowd, Finding Vincent may be worth a look. As for the other two films…neither is terrible, but they’re run of the mill animated flicks in all honesty that will probably be long forgotten in a few short years by all but the most devoted of animation fans. Enjoy the show, and I’ll have an afterword once the results finally come in!


Like what you see? Have thoughts on the Oscars? Leave a comment! Also, credit to Cartoon Brew for the picture.

A quick update-

Hello dear readers,

First off, apologies for the nearly month long hiatus in material. Life has gotten extremely busy with other priorities at the present time…which is to say, I definitely still have new material coming as soon as the opportunity presents itself.

Secondly, in the vigor of my busy life, I forgot to thank everyone for supporting me through the first year of this blog’s life! It’s belated by about a month, but for those who have read, commented, and liked my material from the beginning, a big thank you to everyone (and to any passerby who might come by that I don’t know about- say hello in the comments sometime!)

Finally, if there’s any shows you’d like to see me write on, or characters, or even particular episodes from some place, feel free to comment on that! I do have a backlog of things I’ve watched and haven’t written on yet, so if there’s a demand I can expedite the process of making a review a reality…and if I haven’t seen it yet, I’m always excited for a new watch- the sense of starting a brand-new adventure is always a blast!

Keep on reading, and I’ll continue to deliver as time permits,

Sincerely,

Christian, aka “AniB”