Articles | Micro Reviews: Anime (2016-2018-2020)
A post from 2016. I have processed it and modernized it in mid 2018 and re-released it as an article.
Back when I was young and still watched television, the video media I grew up with, other than games, was primarily stuff like Reboot, Beast Wars, DBZ, Gundam Wing, and Shadow Raiders. The influences of some of these things can probably be seen in my graphics design, as especially the mainframe productions I still consider some of the best Western "cartoons" ever created. It wasn't for quite a while into my time on the internet, however, that I came to learn there was distinct cultural differences between countries and, indeed, some of the stuff I had once watched was not originally written in English. A lot of surprise was to be had learning most of the stuff I had grown up with was not originally in the same language I spoke. It was the first time I learned about localization and, of course, censorship (America always was rather frightened by genitalia, I'd discover).
As I was on extremely inhibited internet and hardware for a very long time, I never really got into watching media when I transitioned to digitalkin. I stopped watching TV around 2000, especially once I had begun modding, since the concept of sitting through advertisements to watch bite sized bits of content at pre-determined intervals quickly became undesirable. Also, nothing interesting was being aired anymore; history channel was a joke and there were no interesting cartoons. That was when we had access to those channels to begin with - Cable TV is extremely expensive and prohibitive, so we'd commonly have nothing at all during these years and after.
Even less interesting were movies. Other than the rare James Bond film, I never saw much on TV that caught my interest. This continues to this day; Western movies are boring. Badly written, badly produced. Some of them have interesting themes but spoil them in favor of social commentary. This trend can be observed in all modern Western media, perhaps best emphasized by disasters like Battlestar Galactica's reboot and Stargate: Universe. It just seemed like the West didn't like to have fun anymore, and didn't want to put in the effort to make statements actually mean anything. Amongst the worst movies I'd been privy to was "The Truman Show", which I'd, years later, hear faint praise about from the odd corner of the internet. I wasn't at the time quite sure what made the average joe flock to such drivel, but once I brushed up on the trends and practices of the entertainment industry I'd simply come to accept that no one actually wanted their entertainment to really have substance in the West. Again, it wasn't that there was a complete lack of drive for quality content, it was that no one wanted to have anything to do with it. There's a distinct difference in the goals behind what constitutes as "entertainment" in cultures. I suppose it's what defines culture as a body. In that retrospect it's hard to really frame America having a culture at all.
This isn't to praise the East, however, because while the East has many noteworthy productions it clearly is suffering from the whitelash every bit as much as its burgerbound counterparts.
Of the myriad of characters I have had association with over the years, almost none of them watch "anime" - Japanese animation. In fact, of the few I've talked to, most have expressed a very binary disliking of anime as a broad body. However, between what I considered high quality Western productions and high quality Eastern productions, I never saw so firm a divide as is seen in the games industry - at least, not for the timeframe. However, certainly more recently, as Eastern firms try to appeal to the West the average quality of their content plummets to reach the American standard. Anime is very quickly becoming just as detestable as the gut reflexes of these individuals would insinuate, but not because the medium is at fault. The fault rather lays with accepted practices, by-the-book trend conformity, and firms such as Holewood discouraging innovation and exploration as much as possible. A cancerous mindset that focuses exclusively on reducing risks and focusing on marketing above all. Japan would rather conform and take part in those colossal, greasy burgershekels than focus on advancing the craft and avoiding the destructive Western industry. Sounds familiar, doesn't it?
There is some major distinctions I've noticed between animations, however. One distinction I make repeated note of every time I review a shmup. The detail in Japanese animation has always been incredibly high. I haven't watch a tremendous amount of older anime yet, but even Dragonball's terrain is wonderfully drawn, Macross has insane detail on the ships, and Gantz represents a firm and encouraging transition from older styles into newer ones. Meanwhile, Western animation has only continued to drop in quality from the time of Beast Wars - since Beast Machines I have yet to see a CGI-based Western production that looked appealing, and most of their "drawn" art is laughable with the exception of Futurama which, although a fairly reasonable production, is still a far cry from the kind of quality traditional artists put into their work. Rather, Futurama represents an understanding of 3d technology and using it as a substitute in place of older pipelines. It keeps simple, and at the same time avoids taking any risks of trying to make more out of that technology. Unfortunately, Americans became so adverse to risk taking that Futurama represents a pinnacle in Western production quality that has yet to be braved by almost any mainstream production since.
This hesitation is not necessarily a black and white thing, though. We see both Futurama and modern anime try to blend 2d and 3d art and push the 3d aspects more profoundly, and in almost all cases it ends up jarring and unbalanced. Such was the beauty of Mainframe's productions - their art production was, as to be expected, mediocre. But it was consistent and didn't try to be something it wasn't. By the end of their production lives, Shadow Raiders and Beast Wars were not entirely terrible. Dated, as is always the case with 3d, but comfortably. Rather, they didn't try to be something they weren't - like Team Fortress and its myriad of "style" copycats - and cement themselves in an embarassing time capsule. To me, it seemed that Mainframe knew and accepted the limits of 3d and, rather than modern developers, didn't try to hide it away with distractions and buzzwords.
To be fair, most anime trying to adopt the 3d-driven scenes and blend them into 2d ones do an extremely poor job of it. Most immediate thing I can recall is ghost in the shell, whose CGI intro doesn't at all resemble the actual production. Gantz uses 3d imaging for some parts and it just looks plain bad. Aldnoah's 3d art still looks very dated by standards set in the playstation 3 era - pure 3d Japanese productions, like the newer Appleseed movie, blow it entirely out of the water, and stylistically the scenes do not blend into the rest of the production. Final Fantasy 15's CGI prequel had impressive assets and choreography but disappointing animation. Blizzard fails to even approach a shadow of the quality their pre-rendered content had twenty years ago even though they've thrown money at third party studios to do all the work for them. Everywhere you look the advantages of technology and platform experience get willfully ignored for the sake of simply doing things cheaper and faster, driving the quality of motion picture down at a rate far exceeding what the advancement of the industry's age should ambiently be pushing.
The net result of the depressing nature of unregulated greed and risk-free metric milking is that, at best, you get an extremely unpredictable market as a consumer.
I was asked by individuals about anime and my opinions on them for quite some time, but I'm hardly experienced enough in the material to consider myself a capable reviewer. Even so, in 2016 I published two short blog posts discussing some of the productions I watched, and in 2018 I've returned to these posts and now present them to you as-is. Take it or leave it, as most of this material, unlike my other reviews, is very subjective and perspective-oriented.
I try to go into this sort of mixed and limited view review process comparing all the sorts of different styles and mindsets against each other as individuals, objectively comparing their benefits and drawbacks, and how it made me feel as a viewer subjectively.
For the sake of brevity I don't really plan to summarize much about what these anime are about unless it fits into my thoughts about them. Also, I do spoilers. So, watch out if you're hoping to avoid them.
Be very careful when watching any media that is translated to your mother language. Many translations, such as those from extremist brainwashing outlets like Crunchyroll, heavily censor or completely change dialogue if it doesn't fit their political narrative, and most translators do an extremely poor job of adhering to the source material to begin with. Discourse with a Japanese native who performed a myriad of English translations enlightened me on the subject and the immensely widespread practice of translations deviating heavily from source material, though we've seen this in the gaming industry with disastrous trainwrecks like FF6 and FF7, the rampant censorship of Earthbound and fiascos like Angry Kirby and Kid Icarus. Do research on any sub groups you follow for your foreign media.
I'll start with the easiest.
To me, Dragonball Z is formulaic in several ways. First of all, it has formulaic direction - constant cuts to filler content to bloat season length. These cuts are irritating and are the single most problematic portion of the production. I haven't looked at the so-called revised version that is or was in production that claims to have cut down a lot of filler content for the production, but I do know a lot of people centralize DBZ on "multi-episode power ups" which is hardly a problem compared to the constant 4-5 minute cuts to side characters doing nothing interesting "just because" during big fights. Cuts away from the action are the #1 most problematic design faults of these kinds of productions.
A pattern that shows up as fast as the Freeza saga is the fight dynamic and how characters are swapped in and out to serve as "displays" for how powerful an antagonist is which forms a stepladder until the saga's completion. Not necessarily a bad design in itself, but the dynamic becomes almost comical right off the bat. The antagonists are universally unintelligent, and the fight choreography is very bland, with the same types of attacks recycled ad infinitum based on an "invisible" battle rating number that doesn't really apply to real-world expression. A one-million battle power Freeza deals significantly less ambient damage than Vegeta or Nappa in the earlier saga with a fraction of the power.
DBZ is very simple and childish because of its target audience. However, I noticed immediately upon watching the Japanese subbed version rather than the American dubbed version that the dialogue was very different. Without knowing Japanese I cannot say how different, but when I decided to step back and recall the American version again, I noticed a trend I would have found in every game within the last ten to fifteen years - America's love for buzzwords. Not only is the dialogue for the American version really immature compared to the Japanese version (which in itself is intended for a young audience), the American version is filled with a slew of very short one-liner comments that, for lack of better words, are hyper-American. It's like the localization team struggled hard to make the production feel catchy for America's youth and felt obligated to fill it with concise but distracting commentary from the characters.
However, the Western version of DBZ has one advantage almost no other foreign animated localization I've seen has. The voice actually is considerably superior to the Japanese version. It's bad, but the Japanese version is one of the few foreign productions I've watched that I find it painful to endure the voice acting. Goku's voice in particular is a terrible, high-pitched shrill that not only doesn't fit the character but sounds like it was recorded on a cellphone. That said, the exertions from the Japanese actors are generally much more believable, though some of them just leave me laughing.
I will treat DBZ as a baseline for reviewing other productions. Overall I feel like it's something you should watch if you haven't, but don't be afraid to track past some of the filler. Take the JP version over the American version if you can get it at a lossless audio quality to reduce the harshness of some of Goku's lines. The American version is a decent dub and has decent music, but the pacing is totally off-key compared to the developer's intentions and that alone is reason to avoid it.
There's a variety of Gundam's out there and I'll keep this one pretty simple. Gundam has several universes and if you just blindly watch different series it's going to get confusing as fuck in a hurry. Coach recommended Stardust as probably the best Gundam production and I feel inclined to agree. Unicorn is okay, but I feel like it misses a lot of opportunity. Gundam 00 was copy pasted to make Front Mission Evolved which is a very, very shitty American ripoff amongst a sea of shitty American ripoffs.
Most Gundams fall hard into the "tryhard" sections trying to identify with whiny, reluctant pre-teen male protagonists who are incredibly irritating to watch. They compensate for this with generally very good audio and visual and sometimes some pretty decent fight choreography. Unicorn is worth looking at, 00 isn't necessarily horrendous, but I'd say start with Stardust Memory. Gundam Wing is a nostalgic experience if you can sit through its sillier moments and the Western dubbing isn't terrible, but I found Seed to be painful to watch.
Aldnoah is very much a Gundam clone in a more modern tense. Without getting too deep into it, the soundtrack and style are very Attack on Titan, but both feel a lot sloppier. The first season is fairly solid, but the second is a writing trainwreck with plot devices and convenient junk everywhere. The animation quality isn't as good as Attack on Titan and the 3d scenes are kind of ugly in my opinion, as the gundams have very little surface detail and look extremely fake. The fight choreography is okay but kiddy. At least the male protagonist isn't a bitch. If you're a big mecha/gundam fan or want to try gundam without gundam, Aldnoah is only two seasons and is pretty easy to get into. The few vocal tracks are really good and some of the instruments that blend techno elements are really nice, but there's a lot of AOT copy paste choral tracks that don't feel even comparably as well composed or cleanly processed. Some of the Gundams have interesting designs, although a lot of them are very curiously similar to some of the Stands in JoJo.
Blade and Soul
I don't know about the story behind this, or how much it's actually related, but there's an anime related to the Blade and Soul Korean MMO. At first it looks pretty promising with decent visuals and an established setting, but it gets sloppy in a hurry, lacks really noteworthy fighting, and tries too hard to get you to like the heroine with a tragic past. I remember some of the dialogue being okay, but I wouldn't recommend it over any of the big mentionables in my list. To me, this feels more like filler than Aldnoah, and I ended up not finishing it for a long time because I just wasn't interested.
Sword Art Online
I don't associate with online communities outside of CC, but just from reading Mucky's twitter I'd noticed repeated references to people not liking SAO (which I presume is Sword Art Online). Also, after reading summaries of some other anime, the trend of productions being based on individuals playing (or being stuck in, in this case) MMO's decidedly seems to be picking up pace in Japan. Probably because of Asian culture and trending productions to tailoring to their intended audience. In itself it comes off quickly as a very strange idea, but I am open enough to give it a try. I'm not actually sure where the anime draws a lot of western hate from, but probably the same reason I didn't really like it - filler and filler and filler and binary characters, and how shitty the second season became.
SAO is based on a lot of long shots in terms of how it gets players stuck into this MMO world, but I sat with it throughout and I didn't really find it to be all that bad until the second season where it felt like they really grappled for filler by resetting the world and environment and then blazing through it as fast as possible. SAO tended to trend into plot device material and filler far too much for the huge, untapped potential of its overarching subject manner, the same issue American productions had. I feel this is because although they had a great starting point they didn't know how to actually grow from that point in a meaningful manner.
Unfortunately, as things have a habit of going, sloppy direction means the rest of the production got sloppy too. At the end of the day the only thing I felt is noteworthy about SAO is Yuki's soundtrack, but it is basically impossible for her to disappoint me so that's a given.
I've heard Log Horizon is better, but I've only watched a bit of it, so I can't comment.
A summary gave Gantz considerable praise for being a bridge between 2d and 3d which, for the most part, I think it does really well. The scenes involving the ball, done with mostly or entirely 3d, however, look like shit. Visually, Gantz is like a cleaner older style and the choreography is clean and very nice to follow. However, the writing tries a little too hard to be edgy and, worst of all, Gantz seems to just end in season 2 at a horrible cliffhangar and, according to wikipedia, the Manga it's based off is not only extremely different but continues on for quite a time afterwards. For that reason alone I don't consider Gantz worth recommending. The soundtrack was pretty good, but it seems to be unavailable. The pacing of the action-oriented areas preceding the finale felt really well done and natural, not forced like Aldnoah or some other productions. However, the developers tried too hard to make the viewer pity the characters while others basically served only as throwaways, to the point the suspension of belief is easily broken in many ways. It's also pretty predictable.
TTGL is basically what DBZ should have been. There's a bit of filler, and the animation gets really sloppy at places, but it's comparatively short and has a ton of similar action themes throughout it. It's not long enough to take itself seriously, but has enough direction to do so despite its increasingly ludicrous subject matter. It is not quite stupid enough to break the camel's buck and twist into its own anus like Americans do, but it treads the line very carefully. That said, I don't think people who can't take Japanese humor very well would enjoy it, and I probably wouldn't recommend it right off the bat to someone just getting into Anime - if only because some of its grace might be lost on them.
Kill la Kill
This is a production created by the TTGL team or at least some of its members, but it lacks the character of TTGL and overstays its welcome far too long. Beyond the theme of fanservice, KLK offers some good humor and another Sawano soundtrack, although much like Aldnoah it feels off-key and there wasn't nearly enough tracks recorded for as long as the anime was.
KLK came with a behind the scenes video set that offered much insight into the manner in which these productions were created. Relying very heavily on outsourcing, the studio that "made" KLK only made storyboards and outsourced nearly everything else in relations to the animation. They focused on an "older styled" visual theme, but failed to approach any of the other anime I could recall despite the immense resources at their disposal. Given how harshly the project was running against the schedule and how it was often stated that animators were handed revision orders because their work was too high quality goes to show how silly the direction behind such productions really is.
At the end of the day, KLK is an action anime with very little in the way of functional action animation, cuts tons of corners to meet its deadline and swells with ridiculous amounts of filler at inopportune times. It is generic at best, and dated itself heavily without reaching the standards set forth in the classics it tried to pay homage to. At least the protagonist was more well-designed than most anime I've watched, so it didn't entirely feel like a slog. It just felt like the developers threw away the opportunity to make it good rather than generic.
Very simple large-scale Mecha anime that is quite short and had a lot of budget problems. Perhaps the most interesting part about this anime is how it tries to follow realworld science a bit more closely than other, similar anime. Diebuster, the sequel so to speak, is a lot less graceful and makes a lot less sense although being visually more advanced, and is still worth a watch if you really liked the first - though they have very little similarity to each other on the surface. Neither of them can really be taken seriously but the setting is pretty well done for Gunbuster I feel.
Space Battleship Yamato 2199
This anime has some of the most consistent and solidly done graphics, especially in the scifi genre. The 3d portions are pretty well done and the fights and everything look really good. The sound is really, really solid and the music stays pretty close to what I know about the classic version. Although a bit kiddish in some parts I would definitely recommend this.
Knights of Sidonia
Knights of Sidonia has one of the most interesting settings of scifi anime that I've seen so far. It is an entirely 3d styled production; even if other anime are using 3d exclusively, they use it as a means to an end like Futurama, while KoS is very much embracing its 3d style. It takes a long time to get used to but I think it's ok. The second season again gets pretty sloppy and chugs way too hard on the filler bong, but the weakest part of KoS is definitely the audio. The music and everything is good but the sound effects commonly get hyper compressed into insane volumes - something we also see in some other anime, like JoJo and Psycho-Pass, and in all cases it is extremely annoying and often times painful. I also had a very, very hard time finding episodes for KoS that were synced properly to subtitles. I would recommend it despite its shortcomings, but not before my upper tier stuff.
If you're okay with cliffhangar endings that get resolved in magna then there's no reason not to watch Berserk.
Stay away from the reboot unless you want to discover the origins of CLANG. It's unbelievable how such a beloved production got the shittiest production imaginable for motion picture.
I know a lot less about this, but it's one of those fantasy anime that I feel gropes for existential content by the end. Unfortunately, like Beserk, it kind of ends on a cliffhanger note. I would recommend Berserk over it if this isn't a point of contention, because I feel Berserk is a lot more mature of a written form and execution.
Pheo told me about this when I really started getting into anime (along with TTGL) and now I tell everyone to watch FLCL if they are just getting into anime as a form of passage to becoming a man.
Ghost in the Shell & Psycho Pass
Admittedly, some of the script was a bit lost on me in some portions of ghost, but I feel both GitS and Psycho-Pass do the same job pretty damn solidly, as they are both very similar in setting and prose and both manage to avoid turning into cliche social commentaries. In the same sense, I recommend them both in the same group because of how similar they are, and how good they are. God help us with the fucking American reboot of ghost in the shell, though.
Psycho-Pass is very light on the action, but it managed to keep my interest despite that. The pacing for everything related felt extremely good and there was very little filler. The soundtrack is also strong and memorable.
Appleseed has a few different installations including an extremely high-quality CGI movie in recent times. It has similar themes and settings to Ghost in the Shell but tends to follow different paths so to speak (without getting too far into spoiler territory). Not overly spectacular but fairly solid all around.
This one took a few watches to really get the full gist of it, because some of it didn't really present itself to me wholly during my first viewing. It's a CG production that tries to cellshade, so that automatically makes it inferior to productions like Futurama or Appleseed, but the action scenes are pretty reasonable. I'd say it's worth a watch, given it's just the one movie.
Attack on Titan
AoT gained a lot of popularity in the west from what I've seen. I'm not exactly sure why, because to me it seems like a Gundam spinoff with a lot of Seed elements that I really find overbearing - a shitton of filler (how on earth did they manage to fit so little into 25 episodes? Filler!) and a lot of attempts at being overly dramatic. AoT compensates for these design weaknesses by having really strong audio and visauls with pretty solid fight choreography, though the believability of a lot of it come into question if analyzed even for a moment. I wouldn't recommend it as an outlier to someone not in the genre, but I don't consider it really terrible.
The second season was alright, but the filler got to be over the top, and I've heard the third session is all backstory building, so I've steered clear of it since the Anime hasn't given me a reason to care about any of the characters yet. I doubt I'll return to the series, at least not anytime soon.
Other than some waifus this anime doesn't offer that much that is interesting besides some world concepts. The final battles felt rushed and the animation quality heavily varies. The writing for the protagonist is unbelievable at times and schizophrenic at worst. The Sawano soundtrack is alright, but the only part of it that isn't really forgettable.
If you liked TTGL, JoJo, and other anime with over the top characters and fights, you'll probably love this one, too. I am not exactly sure how close it tries to follow its source material, but the various fights and character designs are too great to pass up. The soundtrack also has some really great tracks in it, some of the vocal ones I believe may share vocalists with those from Aldnoah/Attack on Titan and are amongst my favorite in anime.
While this anime has a pretty solid start it quickly loses steam and ends up becoming quite a chore to sit through. It also has a cliffhanger ending. The visuals and audio are pretty solid, but I feel like they struggled to fill the episodes they were budgeted. Again, a pretty solid setting and foundation, but to expand felt like they bewildered the developers and they kind of flounder throughout it. Not necessarily bad, but doesn't reach into my average recommendations unless you prefer slower paced stuff. You'll probably feel this anime shares some things with Knights of Sidonia if you watched the both of them - the things I mention are exhibited in a number of anime productions, actually (along with things like demon contracts and servants). I am sure there are reasons for this, but I don't know enough about the culture or history to comment further. Curiously, Western productions tend not to copy these aspects of the East.
I felt like going into One Punch Man that the setting wouldn't offer a lot for viewer engagement, and I was completely correct with this prediction. Although the humor can be good at points, there isn't a lot for me to get attached to despite the impressive visual quality. I hope it gets more seasons and has actual fights in it by the end, but I don't think that was ever the intent for its design, so it feels kind of mediocre in the end. Just not my cup of dicks I guess. Visually speaking the last fight of the first (only?) season is one of the most well-done fights in modern anime I can think of despite the subject matter. I really, really hope to see more stuff like that.
To be honest, I found it hard to sit through the first half of Trigun because it felt so episodic and mind numbing. But once I gave it the chance to go through the second half it really picked up and shaped together. I still don't think it's a super great anime, but it's not really bad, either. The detail in some portions is really great and shows off old school Japan art quite well.
Honestly, I feel like this anime is super overrated. It's not bad, and there are a couple really good episodes, but most of it just didn't really feel like it had a reason to stand out in the Western crowd. Maybe I don't really "get it", or maybe it's related to the vocal minorities who fawned over stuff like Firefly (which, from my limited perspective, shares some similarities with Bebop). The character design and everything is pretty solid, though, and one of the episodes with Ed and a certain fridge is probably one of my favorite episodes in anime despite my generally serious tastes.
Fate - Fate/Stay Night, Fate/Zero, Fate/Stay Night UBW
Fate is the child of Nasu, a Japanese writer whom I've come to both respect and find comedically bad all at the same time. The unfortunate part is I don't know how much I can really fault him for the bad points because Fate's translations are probably amongst the most questionable in the mainstream, and some of the personal translations I was given from a Japanese native were far stronger than anything I'd otherwise read. But, I digress.
Weirdly enough, Fate seems to be adopted from some hentai game and somehow that spawned a ton of non-hentai material including some extremely good anime. The various Fate animes follow different arcs from a game or visual novel I'm not familiar with, and Zero is a prequel. Zero feels rather tryhard at many points but not nearly as much as AoT. UBW cleans this part up, but unfortunately a lot of the things surrounding the protagonist, especially his ability to fight god-like servants, completely kills a lot of engagement I had for the anime and is one of the main reasons why I felt the writer was not simply incompetent but had no idea how to actually close that arc. Despite this, overall I feel Fate is exemplary of audio and visual abilities of the East and has extremely strong production quality all around the board. Some of the character themes feel forced and there are details I would change here or there, but overall it is hard to complain about the productions as a body.
The same can't be said for Fate/Stay Night, the original anime that aired some time ago. Most combat is sloppy, the dialogue and writing is extremely forced for much of it, and it lacks anything memorable except for Gil's minute-long laugh track. Furthermore, it's the worst of the series for convenient plot devices. However, it does make some of the things later observed in UBW a bit more understandable.
At the end of the day, Fate has interesting world design and some utterly terrible execution and a complete disregard for consistency. Naus is an excellent world builder with strong exposition wordplay, most of which you'll never see in the anime, but a generic writer and plot designer at the absolute best of times. I recommend the series, with FSN least so but still worth a watch, but be prepared to turn off your brain and enjoy those unmistakable Source Engine metal clang sounds.
A grand-scale Fate anime with more pointless romance bullshit shoehorned in. Any time there's combat, especially with Karna, Amakusa or Mordred on the screen, the anime shines. Any time we're pushing canned social commentary or the extremely forced protagonist the anime puts you to sleep. The production value varies heavily, with one of the fight scenes being a straight-up storyboard copypaste, but the music and other production values are what you expect out of Fate by now. It's worth a peak, especially for Astolfo.
An anime adaptation of the mobile game's first chapter. Having played the mobile game I can say it had more effort placed into it than the anime did, and that wasn't much effort. Some of the combat is pretty good but the rest of it is poorly choreographied and somewhat cringey at times especially during the end battle. If you're a Fate fan you should give it a whirl, but don't expect Apocrypha levels of effort placed into it.
Fate/Extra Last Encore
I'm not entirely sure on the origins for this, probably a JP only software release. I haven't finished it, so I'm holding my reservations, but it seems very low budget and very rushed. I group it in the same boat as Grand Order; I haven't finished it because I lack interest and I consider myself a Fate fan.
Kara No Kyoukai
Another Nasu production with very similar appearance, setting and characters to UBW and Fate/Zero. As a result it looks and sounds pretty decent and you'll feel right at home if you're familiar with those. The world seems to be extremely similar if not outright identical to much of the world in Fate with many similar terms and concepts shared between them, but the core concepts are different. There's no grail, no Servants or heroes, but the underlying designs of mages and their pursuits is virtually identical, though we see very little of them in the end. Unfortunately those similarities do little to make much of the world coherent, though unlike Fate this particular anime doesn't require coherency for general watching. I watched it in order against the recommendations of several articles because the time skips and reverse contexts in the original production the developers intended make perfect sense and it was very easy to follow. Typically one episode presents a question and the next episode ends up answering it. Watching it out of order to fit the chronology actually works against the developer's intents and would skew your view of the production unfavorably because it actually works against the chronology of how the developer intended for you to learn certain things. This sublety is something you come to expect out of writing, so I don't know why I saw so many mentions about it.
This anime is a series of movies, most of which are ultimately fairly generic with heavy emphasis on exposition, but the few that stood out to me did so memorably. The few fight scenes that exist are quite reasonable, but unfortunately a great deal of the anime is held back by what I would regard as needless masturbation on behalf of the writer's expositioning pseudo-psychology. I feel like much of the original intent for the writing was probably lost in translation, since the end result was coherent but tiringly mundane, especially in the finalle. When the writing does step out to try to justify certain actions, especially in regards to certain interactions of "magic" in the apartment complex, it quickly slips up its own asshole into total incoherency - again, potentially due to translation.
I feel it's a stronger setting from Nasu than Fate in many respects, and the plot and development is more mature, but it tries much too hard to be emotional and deep and complex when it most certainly doesn't need to, and this overbearing attitude is ultimately what turns me off from it - much like many similar anime.
Fate/Heaven's Feel - Presage Flower
A series of movies on the third arc for FSN. Only the first is available to me at the time of this writing. We finally get to see screen time devoted to Rider and Assassin and other side characters in this time period, and with high production value. The pacing is stronger in the movie than any of the anime, though some time skips take place due to the constraints of the platform and the similarities to the other arcs. Watch Fate UBW at the least before this one.
JoJo's Bizzare Adventure
I didn't think I would find an anime I would find more enjoyable than Fate, especially so soon, but Mucky and Raxyl both told me to watch JoJo which I had never previously heard of. Now I have to say this is probably my favorite anime, and not by a small amount. There are so few things I can find flaw in with this production across its multiple seasons, mostly related to some pacing. It's just the right ridiculousness, seriousness, and believability with some great, original fight design, superb visuals and audio built in. Again, like Knights of Sidonia, there are parts they use some overly loud sound cues that deafened me, so watch out for those (especially in the later seasons). Beyond that, I have nothing to say. I would recommend this above all else on the list for anyone.
JoJo: Diamond is Unbreakable
The new JoJo season is fairly decent, but I think until the later episodes I liked stardust crusaders better. The strange color palette takes quite a bit of getting accustomed to this time around. You can tell they are really pushing around with different ideas here. You'll definitely want to watch the earlier seasons before jumping into this one. Once it got going it keeps improving more and more and it's really started to grow on me. The climax is pretty good. There's no reason not to watch this if you've watched the previous seasons.
Record of Lodoss War
The old anime that inspired characters like Alucard in Castlevania. You can see a ton of things in this Japanese classic that influenced a lot of similar themes in other related content down the line. It does show its age in some parts, particularly in many of the battle scenes. Fairly short and sweet, definitely worth the watch especially for its historical significance.
Basically Attack on Titan with less budget that fired its writing staff halfway through. Devilman is comedic for many wrong reasons, including complete disregard for coherency or valuing its own plot development. Partway through it begins to completely throw away everything it built up and the finalle is one of the laziest outings of such an anime I've seen in quite a while. The combat fails to entertain and the tryhard edginess coupled with repeated attempts to grab at emotions without grounding made me laugh more than anything.
Other than DBZ, Escaflowne was a childhood production I was able to see when it was still new, but only in small pieces. I recently rewatched the entire thing and have to commend the soundtrack as it has thoroughly endured the test of time and still stands tall over almost all modern Anime productions. The writing is very weak with far too many plot devices and convenient bullshit, but the visuals are pretty solid. I recommend it, but don't expect super amazing things.
This anime was mentioned in a "suggestion" list. The reviewer said it was "impossible to understand but very pretty". Lol, Americans. Nothing difficult to understand about this very short series. Visually, nothing spectacular either, but its deployment and presentation is pretty interesting and it takes some existing Japanese ideas and twists them in noteworthy ways. Pretty decent choreography. The audio is pretty weak, though. I feel like this was something of an experiment in storytelling by a director and it really rhymed with a lot of the themes I had going about in Retribution's visual elements.
An anime that, from what I've read, has very little relationship to the origins of the franchise. Some of the character actions and decisions are pretty unbelievable, but the plot, despite its juvenile nature and clear fanservice, was a worthwhile break from the standard superhero fare. Given how dated the production is the lack of budget clearly held it back. Some of the comedy was fairly genuine. I'd give it an average rating, and would have preferred the soundtrack to have been explored a bit more. It really begins to fall apart towards the end as is common with these kinds of anime, with recycling scenes and coherency quickly slipping.
I didn't learn this was an anime until within the last few years even though it's one of the few shows I've forgotten and rediscovered several times since my youth. Cybersix didn't originate as a Japanese production which makes it rather unique, but its criminally short animated bout is offset by then-modern Westernized production value and reasonable designs across the board as well as having reasonable soundtrack and American dubbing. As a typical superhero production it doesn't leave much to the imagination but some of the execution is noteworthy. I recommend it even though the Anime allegedly removed a lot of the mature elements from the original concept.
Devil May Cry
DMC actually does, in fact, have an Anime. I'm not quite sure where the timeline places it, but it avoids all of the main arcs of the productions and sticks to a self-contained side-plot sometime after Dante opens his demon hunting business. This both plays to its strengths and its weaknesses - we enter a One Punch Man scenario in which it's pretty expected that Dante won't actually lose any fights, but we avoid taking any potentially disastrous plot points out of context. I wouldn't recommend it, but I wouldn't say it was absolutely atrocious. The other caveat is that it's very short, but this probably plays to the aforementioned advantage anyways.
I've watched both the original and the OVA. While I liked the OVA better, I think both are worth watching. The problem with the OVA was that I was watching it when it was still being made, and the insanely long time between episode releases was really bad. However, I often felt like the anime was kind of rushed, like there was a lot of room for exploration in the content and condensing down into only 10 episodes or whatever wasn't too healthy for it. Some of the ideas in it are pretty neat. A lot of the "humor" felt extremely forced and there's lots of offkey and poorly thought out cuts to chibi garbage in the later half of the production. Pretty good soundtrack to round it out.
Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress
This anime had a great premise to start with and really loses its footing fast. Also, zombies are boring and overdone, so my main hope for it rested on them exploring the concept more than they did. I was hoping they would divulge more about the monster that supposedly created the zombies and we'd have some more interesting fights, but it never happens. The conclusion episodes for this anime utterly demolish any hope of it standing out and being unique, rendering it dull and forgettable at the best of times. The only thing you really think about when recalling this anime is "Oh, it was supposed to be about trains...? I wonder why they didn't do that?" I hope this isn't a reflection of what's going to happen to Attack on Titan, because other than the soundtrack this was a pretty disappointing flounder.
Mudazumo Naki Kaikaku -The LEGEND of KOIZUMI
I don't know if this is just the one episode or not. But you should really watch it. This is as mandatory to watch as JoJo is.
Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei
A significant break from the average media I pursue, this recommendation came at the behest of Pheo an extremely long time ago. An episodic anime two seasons in length which follow a teacher and his loli disciples in comedic adventures involving stalking, suicide attempts, and random yuri. The humor was surprisingly fresh, as normally these sorts of projects do little to surprise me. If you're looking for a less serious, simple production, this one may be worth a peak. It also has some great music.
Sentou Yousei Yukikaze
A short series following a pilot fighting """aliens""" in atypical anime flare. Partially psychological with a good deal of meaningful action, this is a highly recommended production with strong audio and visual aspects end to end. It was an inspiration in helping me design aspects of Retribution's audiobook. Some parts of it are hard to follow without actually paying attention and it ends inconclusively, but I recommend it nonetheless. This is easily in my top 5.
Having not seen the originals, I've read somewhere that this anime is supposed based on the writer's dreams and is disjointed and confusing as a result. Well, it's sure disjointed and confusing. While I've pieced together many hypothetical pieces of plot theory over time of rewatching pieces of it, I feel like we've entered deep into a AoT/Nasu minefield of "it's vague and sappy just because the writer sucks and not because it's deep and epic". It has great visuals and that's about it, with a typical forgettable reluctant whiny protagonist and uninteresting social commentary constantly diverting us away from stuff that's actually interesting. Weirdly, this anime (and the Berserk reboot) had many of their Choirs sing in English which makes for an alien and unwelcome shift in tone for the soundtrack at some points. Despite its high production value I wouldn't recommend this for anyone who doesn't have an interest in preteen romance stories and can't turn their brain off at a whim. Maybe the original production makes more sense, but I've heard contrary.
Typical DBZ-era superhero anime visually with many similarities to JoJo in how the superpowers work stretching over convenient plot devices and predictable plot "twists". Overstays its welcome and shows its age. I wouldn't recommend it, but I wouldn't recommend against it either.
Fate: Heaven's Feet
The second movie came out.
As expected of a series adopted from an eroge, there's very little to speak of in terms of writing quality for Heaven's Feet. The first movie set us up but the second doesn't do anything with that setup besides embarass itself. The visuals are pretty solid and the audio is better than UBW, as expected of a movie budget. So far the series is better than the previous FSN arcs if only because it has kept plot devices to a more reasonable level. However, there's still a lot of really silly mary sue incidents and of course Gilgamesh's resolution is more and more facepalming and cringey the more you know about his character.
Watch it for the visuals and turn off your brain.
Fate Grand Order: Babylonia
A game to anime adoption. Very rarely does this work out. It didn't work out here, either. The first movie for FGO turned out slapstick but it was watchable for the fight choreography. In the actual game, though, FGO effectively ended at Camelot and the rest of the main arc was laughable at the best of times. The decision to jump from the first Grand Order all the way to the last is baffling, but the result is that you're left wondering how Mash has made it through all of these missions while still being largely clueless and inexperienced, why the protagonist is even more daft and airheaded than he was when the series began, and where the fuck all the writing went if it didn't go into the first or last Grand Orders.
Whereas Heavens Feet has budget to offer the action scenes, Babylonia does not. In fact, a lot of what should be extremely basic choreography is muddied by their attempts to skirt around the extremely limited budget, making almost every action scene extremely clumsy looking. The audio quality is pretty bad, following the loudness war initiative to the T and repeatedly hurting my ears even with the shitty crushed audio modern web services deliver. In short, a lot of the action scenes in Babylonia look worse than the straight up storyboard cutout during the final battle in Apocrypha. It's pretty bad.
Babylonia has the worst writing of most of FGO. I just knew when we started the anime we'd eventually see Lahmu getting 1shot left and right by Ishtar's quick and arts and lo and behold we aren't even at the end and it's already happening. Meanwhile, most of those were Lancers in the actual game and they actually got significantly more difficult to kill since their HP reached insane levels by this stage. There's no intensity in the anime and no sense of danger as a result. It's a failure of a story to begin with, but the transition of the game to cinematic elements is also a failure. Incidentally, Ishtar is one of the only characters that remains somewhat faithful and interesting. Gilgamesh is autistic and changes his mood depending on what the sleepy wants the one-dimensions protagonists to feel like and Quetzalcoatl should have been explored more but isn't. The entire thing is just a string of gotchas, plot devices, convenient bullshit and sleepy heroes. Nasu is a bad writer and everyone who has followed into his footsteps seems cursed to follow his awful examples.
Watch it for Lucha Libra, nice butt and the soundtrack. Be prepared to predict every single "plot twist", cringey "deep meaning reflection" on shit that you don't know anything about as someone who never played the game and be confused why action turns into two shades of colors on extremely badly rotorscoped textures for the background. Also be prepared to cringe at the default goldwave flange they use for big bads.
Not Fate. Actually better than fate by a considerable margin despite its many flaws. For the first half this anime is actually pretty geat despite being extremely low budget. Solid pacing, almost no filler, interesting content. The politicians all make extremely weak arguments and a lot of the overarching premise is difficult to believe, but the character-level stuff is pretty interesting for a while. Then it tries to get bigger scale and slips and falls right up its own asshole like every other project that makes the exact same mistake. Then it seems to end on a cliffhanger and buzzkills the entire experience. Great.
Vinland is the only anime I've watched in a long time that really kept me coming back. It has a lot of slow points and tries way too hard in some areas, but overall it's a pretty solid 5/10 as far as I'm concerned, which is way more than most projects I've watched in the last few years. There's a disappointing lack of action scenes and many that do show up are cut too short or cut away from. But the writing is fairly solid. Budget constraints do hit this anime quite often which is weird considering how little motion there is in most of the scenes.
Attack on Titan: Season 3
I bit the bullet and watched this out of boredom. People said it was bad and focused mostly on character backstory with little action. Well, people are fucking dumb.
This is actually the strongest season of the entirety of Attack on Titan. No only does it cut less to stupid background shit than the other ones, the pacing overall is a lot stronger and a lot more things make sense. There's less groping for pearls and less fuckery overall. I can't say I like the direction they decided to take the world since they humanized titans and removed all the teeth from the setting, but the anime as a watching experience was way better than the first two seasons. If they could have combined the superior pacing and writing direction of Season 3 with the setting of Season 1 they'd have had a pretty solid anime.
I've since read some synopsis on the rest of the manga thus far and it seems it plunges into absurdity, but I'll give it a chance if it shows up in anime form.
Good start, turns 180 degrees into terrible halfway through and ends on a predictable note just like Kabaneri. Another series with good potential ruined in a typical fashion.
Godzilla (3x CGI movie series)
Okay, there's 3 CGI Godzilla movies and I don't know what really to call them as. So I'll just call them Godzilla. Not to be confused with the western Godzilla shitshow that came out earlier with insane amounts of unnecessary cuts to random stereotypical "there's a saying in my country" diversity inserts and brain bleaching white people "family moments" cringe.
The CGI series is a lot better, but the audio is actually terrible. This loudness war shit is absolutely out of control.
As a whole, the series seems solid but seems to end on a completely nonsensical note. It makes you wonder why even bother to have the series to begin with if they decide to actually do nothing with the story at all. Most of the writing feels confused and aimless. Seeing Godzilla from a futuristic standpoint was kind of interesting, though.
Watch it for moth girls and lasers but prepared to ask some really basic questions that never get answered throughout it.
Psycho-Pass Season 3
I felt very skeptical coming back to the series to see they not only started over from scratch they added a bunch of new weird shit to the world out of nowhere, but I gave it the chance and it delivered. It took about halfthrough the series for it to really feel like it was working out but it ends on a pretty solid note. How they decide to proceed with this setup will ultimately determine if Psycho-Pass really succeeds as a series or if it's doomed to the same destructive cycle so many other Japanese products seem to follow.
I say give it a shot but keep your expectations in reserve for the future because Season 3 is inconclusive.
I recently rewatched the entirety of the Spawn animated series. It isn't anime in that it's entirely western in design, but I'm putting it here anyways because I feel it's probably one of the strongest Western productions I have ever watched. Voice talent we'd never see the likes of in a video game, solid pacing despite its episodic nature, and meaningful content. Towards the end it's clear they were put on a deadline of the project getting discontinued and it starts to get really rushed and sloppy, then abruptly cuts off since it was cancelled. Other than that it was a pretty solid watching experience.
One Punch Man: Season 2
More of the same, but without the production quality and without any interesting fights. Definitely a big step down from the first season in both quality of humor and quality of fights. Ends on a weird cliffhanger.
Neon Genesis Evangelion + End of Evangelion
So, a Mongolian girl convinced me to finally pick up the earlier Eva series and gave me a bunch of answers to questions I had regarding them at the end of it, knowledge fostered from tons of research.
This series inadvertly reveals that the OVA is both superior and inferior in many respects, but the most significant part is that it is similar to Fate in that the OVA/Rebuild is a separate Arc (like Heaven's Feet vs Fate/Hentai Night). Unlike Fate, though, the OVA does nothing to keep any degree of sense or synchronicity for anyone whom watches it first.
With this in mind, even my source wasn't particularly sure about many of the things in the Rebuild. She figured that, perhaps, a bunch of rules had changed.
With all of this context in mind, I settle on my review for Evangelion with a greater appreciation for both productions.
It was said that the writer was depressed while writing these, but I don't really feel that while watching it. NGE is much more social commentary heavy than the movies, but its paced in a manner where it isn't very obtrusive until the last two episodes (which the EoE movie redoes with more attention). Most importantly, a large number of questions are answered in the original series that weren't brought up in the OVA at all even though they should have been. That said, it still took the source's research to really piece together much of the underlying plot. I suspect most of the information was there but took a few watches to really absorb (even though I binged it in a big string).
Evangelion is a nice example of the hard surface details typical of anime at the era, and for a 1995 production it puts most modern Anime to shame (looking at you Kill la Kill and Aldnoah). However, the special effects, fight choreography, and pacing of battles was much better done in the OVA, though the OVA ended up dropping a few fights probably due to their irrelevancy.
Evangelion is something of a softcore bridge between traditional anime and adult-themed VN's built mostly for shock value. The finalle, EoE, begins with a scene that would have gotten it shot down in the states if it aired today. But the anime is filled with a variety of bizarre sexual references that all eventually climax in the movie, complete with vagina hands. In many cases I felt the director was trying much too hard to be shocking or crude, but clearly didn't want to cross a line. Combined with a great deal of psuedo-intellectualism and a genuinely frustrating protagonist and the series feels more like an observation of social commentary rather than an attempt to approach social commentary or the byproduct of depression.
While the writer does his best to break down every protagonist and shit all over them, this tragedy fetish is hardly unique to Eva and I felt that Berserk did it much better. That said, Eva predates Berserk, and many themes between them are similar. In fact, a great deal of what became the tragedy fetish in modern anime probably came from Eva as a source. In many cases, Eva's tragedy fetishism is more comical than impacting, and often times the protagonist just seems incoherent and inconsistent just for the fun of it. Misato and the other side characters are considerably more believable, however, though their ultimate fates feel forced at the end of the series, ultimately leaving Asuka as the most retalable character to me and the one whom felt the most believable and coherent.
As an end result, Eva's product feels more whole and complete to me than the majority of anime I've seen even though it ends on something of an unfinished note. The manner in which it ends and the circumstances it leaves the world in are something I felt was both noteworthy and a likely reason why a Rebuild was being built altogether. I suspect that the director or writer wanted to end the series or handle the later half differently or simply had a better idea prop up. The deviations start fairly early in when the fourth child is changed and the results of the battle with the klanman angel is what sparks a massive shift in the world, and for reasons that may not be obvious without the kind of research my source made.
The biggest mistake I made coming into Eva was thinking it was scifi when really it's a fantasy production.
With so much potential information far outscaling a micro review, I conclude this section feeling pretty alright about the anime overall. With the answers on subjects I looked for, it feels pretty complete and logical to me. The pacing is pretty reasonable, but the subject matter sometimes gets very slow and distracted. There's a lot of trying too hard, and sometimes not trying hard enough. But the measurements of that aren't nearly as severe as more modern spinoffs trying to recapture Eva's legacy.