How many shows have you passed on because you figured they “weren’t worth your time?” What were the factors that contributed to that impression? Was it a lack of interesting marketing? Was it the style? Or did you buy into the narrative being thrown around that a show was “trashy”?
In 2015, I watched YouTuber Demolition D+’s video on the Spring 2015 anime season and delighted in his humorous appraisal of that quarter’s entertainment. The headliner for the video was Is It Okay to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?, or, DanMachi as it would come to be abridged. Demo called it an SAO clone and I didn’t so much as bat an eye because I was laughing so much.
But then the second season aired in 2019 and friends who watched it told me about the show’s world and how it was actually pretty fun and that I should give it a chance. By this point, I’d already accepted that SAO wasn’t as bad as we all thought it was, so who was I to turn down an opportunity to prove my misconceptions wrong.
After watching all three seasons of DanMachi, not only am I shocked as to how anyone could have compared this to SAO beyond the leads sharing the same VA, Yoshitsugu Matsuoka. The art styles aren’t even that similar. More than anything, I’m angry that I didn’t watch this sooner.
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No convention has been a greater boon to animation as a whole than the anthology. Granted, I love anthologies in most mediums. A collection of short stories from a slew of diverse, creative minds can expose audiences to all kinds of stories and genres they wouldn’t normally see or seek out themselves.
In terms of animated anthologies, works like Batman: Gotham Knight, The Animatrix or recent experiments like Love, Death, & Robots are perfect examples. They expand upon established works and introduce their own lore spanning myriad genres and subject matter, all while experimenting with myriad art styles.
The best part is that you can hook the audience with at least one story and they’ll surely be curious enough to see how the others fare. Maybe they don’t love all of them, but even one or two great stories can make the entire collection worth it, especially if the whole package is an hour and forty-five-minute film with three stories.
In 1995, Madhouse and Studio 4°C collaborated to create Memories, a collection of three short films based on short manga stories written by Katsuhiro Otomo, the man who created Akira. Since Otomo seems to always be involved in the animated adaptations of his work, he was the executive producer for Memories and even directed the third and final short himself.
Together with Darker Than Black director Tensai Okamura, Studio 4°C co-founder Koji Morimoto, and legendary director/writer Satoshi Kon, Memories was an ambitious fusion of three very different kinds of stories. If the objective was to make something that would stick in your mind, then they certainly picked a fitting title.
The entirety of Space Dandy came and went in 2014, getting all kinds of buzz for all the right reasons. It was even fairly historical given that it premiered on Adult Swim in America before it even aired in Japan, with the English dub and everything. This was the beginning of the era of simulcasting and simuldubbing This show was a big deal.
Maybe about a year or two later I got the blu-ray of the complete series. And like any rational person who got a Blu-ray of a show, I watched a few episodes and then didn’t finish it until 2020… Seriously what the fu-
With Shinichiro Watanabe as Chief Director and Shingo Natsume as director, Space Dandy was a high-point for Studio Bones that despite the praise seems strangely absent from conversations about classics in the medium in recent years. It has the kind of recognition that assures that it will be referred to fondly, yet I feel like after watching, the expectation greatly differs from the actual product.
It says a lot when I can fall in love with a director after just one of their works. Rie Matsumoto stole mine and many others’ hearts after season one of Blood Blockade Battlefront. While at times her chaotic direction could produce scenes difficult to parse, I defend that she has a way of conducting a narrative unforgettably.
I’d always heard that there was one other show that she directed but I never got around to watching it. One day while walking through a movie store, I found a copy of a series that immediately caught my eye. Something about the art and its dynamic composition spoke to me and I thought it looked familiar. Sure enough, when I looked it up on my phone, there she was.
Kyousougiga, a Toho Animation series directed by Rie Matsumoto. Just recently I took the time to dive into it and get a sense of what an original work of hers looks like. Additionally, today I want to look at Matsumoto’s career past and present to get a better sense of her style and where she comes from.
In my review of season one, I praised how ONE manages to make overpowered characters likable and their stories tense through sheer emotion. This story about self-betterment and the discussion permeating the spectacle made battles ones of ideology in addition to super-powered flair. With a sequel, how does one continue this discussion without becoming repetitive?
Sequels can often succumb to a temptation to be like their predecessors, but bigger and better. Doing something different, even radically so, can be remembered better, but it is far more risky. That being said, you don’t have to be radical in order to make the sequel interesting in new ways. Sometimes it simply requires a change in focus.
In American superhero culture there is an often annoying discussion about power-level in regards to fictional characters. The logic of any shonen action series or superhero story steeped in thematic morals is that the hero with the strongest will and heart wins specifically because of those components.
Yet still people will get all up in arms, partly because suspension of disbelief is often integral to the balance needed to keep audiences entertained. The other reason is that characters who are overpowered are often criticised because their power seems unearned, their victories seem illogical, or that there is no tension. It is the same reason why Superman is such a divisive character.
Funnily enough, the works of manga artist ONE seem to avoid these issues in discussion surrounding the works. It could be because the very nature of characters being overpowered are the point of the story like in One Punch Man, but there is more to it than that. After finally watching Mob Psycho 100, it is apparent that ONE’s talent comes from his ability to tackle complex themes and to produce tension and stakes through character drama rather than simply through the power levels of the characters.
Now that I have finally watched it, One thing is for sure, and it is that I am even more angry that Mob Psycho 100 did not win best animation back in 2016.