The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is one of the best RPGs I’ve ever played. A rich yet depressive fantasy epic spanning multiple nations plagued by monsters and war. It’s a story about prejudice and choosing between greater and lesser evils. Amidst all of that, it remains a world that players couldn’t help but get lost in.
After the release of the live-action Witcher series on Netflix, the game saw a resurgence in interest from fans new and old. I should know, I was replaying it too. It was a quirky and often epic show that had its highs and lows, but despite it all, I loved it. News of new spinoffs and films were only natural, but was the franchise biting off more than it could chew?
If I had any concerns, they were minor, because Nightmare of the Wolf, the first of these spinoffs, was a film I highly anticipated. It came from Studio Mir, the studio behind Legend of Korra. Everything looked in place for this to be an enjoyable prequel centered around Vesemir, Geralt’s mentor.
And somehow, this film surpassed every expectation I had.
The anime community is wide, varied, and growing all the time. Every couple of years a significant tentpole anime comes out that brings in a whole new crop of fans to the medium, whether simply to visit or make a more permanent stay within its bizarre and inviting lodgings.
And yet for as diverse as anime’s following may be as, you know, a medium, people are quick to resort to mob mentality and pretend as if the community can be divided evenly into two halves, or worse, that the “other” is so minuscule as to not even really be worth mentioning.
But if that were all that was needed to be said, I wouldn’t just be oversimplifying anime discourse. In all likelihood, I’d be oversimplifying humanity. No, anime is no stranger to controversy. Just as frequently as a new tentpole anime comes out to bring in new people, some shows kick all kinds of hornet nests.
[TRIGGER WARNING: The following post contains analysis of sexual assaults and other topics related to sexual violence depicted or hinted at in the shows that will be discussed.]
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.
My good friend, “Sad Scientist,” is an awesome writer and two years ago he wrote a short story called Scorpion Grass. It was a supernatural mystery set in Japan following two high-schoolers trapped in their school during the holiday break of Oban.
For two years the work went unfinished. Sci had made some changes on a whim and ended up erasing the original ending (happens to the best of us). Thankfully, I still had a saved copy of the original story, so he got to work editing it and perfected it. And now he’s created his own WordPress to publish it.
We all have our inspirations and Sci’s are works of modern fantasy such as Monogatari and the works of Kinoko Nasu (Tsukihime, Garden of Sinners). My love for modern fantasy is well-documented so I was all on-board. I encourage anyone looking for a good read to check out his work. Fans of Monogatari will surely get a kick out of it, and it has enough of an identity on its own that you’ll be itching for more when you’re finished.
Video game adaptations are almost always bad. The best of them excel only on the condition that you overlook large caveats, be they performances, the script, or how faithful the project is to the original. Video games are hard to adapt. You’re either trying to appeal to fans and alienating movie-goers or vice-versa. Both can fail depending on what is being adapted and how.
In the mid-2000s’, Warren Ellis wanted to make a direct-to-video animated film based on Castlevania. While the script was approved by Konami, the work ended up stuck in production hell for years. Adi Shankar, a producer who went viral with his “Bootleg Universe” series of fan-films, eventually was approached about producing an animated series based on Ellis’ script. While he turned down the same idea for a live-action film, believing live-action wouldn’t fit, he was more than happy to work on this one.
So eventually, Netflix adapted Ellis’ script into an animated series produced by Powerhouse Animation, an American studio. The first season – all four episodes of it – came out in July of 2017 and took the internet by storm. Everyone, myself included, was instantly clamoring for more. With the release of the second season in the fall of 2018, the show revealed even more of its potential with a longer season, more character drama, and even better animation.
With the recently released and certainly shocking third season fresh in our minds, it might be good to look back on the series as a whole thus far. It’s certainly the best video game adaptation, but is that saying a whole lot? Is Castlevania more than just the sum of its gorgeous animation?
At the beginning of 2019, I wrote: Rising of the Shield Hero is 2019’s First Must-watch. It was a pleasant surprise to start the year, given how apprehensive I typically am about the Isekai genre. I was quite adamant about my excitement for this show after the first several episodes and despite the controversy, I believed it would be a total hit. I wasn’t wrong. It became one of the most-watched anime of the year and after its 25-episode run, a second and third season was confirmed.
Nearing the end of the year, as people begin reflecting on the best of the year, it bears asking if Shield Hero was worth the praise. Did it live up to its strong start?
Worldbuilding is something I get unusually excited about when it is done a certain way. I’ve often ranted about shows like Kekkai Sensen, which depict the supernatural chaos, yet systems of government designed to efficiently counter the chaos. There is a multitude of minor elements of world-building that excite me but it is exceedingly difficult to put into words why. The closest I get is saying that I love the idea of order applied to an unnatural society
Kinoko Nasu, the creator of Fate/ Stay Night, Garden of Sinners, and Tsukihime, has written works tailor-made to cater to me. He has created a modern fantasy universe the complexity of which rivals the works of Rowling and Tolkien. In fairness, the Nasuverse is bloated, with so many alternate universes and different creative minds, but there is still beauty in the chaos.
This past summer, studio Troyca’s Lord El-Melloi II’s Case Files gave me this episode-to-episode joy built entirely on showing off how cool the world is. What I thought would be another misfire in an already packed franchise turned out to be one of my favorite shows this year.
Having watched RWBY since the beginning, I would consider myself a fan, despite how much I rag on it. It’s always been “good” but there was always some sort of caveat attached to any praise I could offer when the volumes were airing.
Volume One – It’s good, except the episodes are sometimes too short, which made it a pain to watch week-by-week. Ultimately, the only episodes I felt really satisfied with were one, eight and 16.
Volume Two – It’s great, except the ending ruins it and Ruby’s biggest opportunity for growth is thrown out the window in exchange for more characters that will never matter.
Volume Three – It’s good, except it sucks. More depressingly, we lost Monty.
Volume Four – Looking back, the narrative was pretty good (compared to what came before), but there is a lot of time wasted. I look on it fondly now, but at the time it aired, I hated it.
Volume Five – It’s terrible. There’s no excuse for this one.
Up until around Volume four, people would also make the excuse that Rooster Teeth was a smaller company, but that doesn’t really fly anymore, especially when they are getting nominated for awards and shit. This made the problems stick out more because their status demands they be put up to a standard befitting of their aspirations.
For this reason, I’m delighted to say that Volume Six of RWBY is the first truly good entry in the series. I know right? Surprised the fuck outta me…
I almost never watch Isekai anime, the genre centered around characters transported to other worlds. In recent years, the medium has been so oversaturated with shows like this and my few forays into the genre tended to be more negative than positive.
Today’s show is one that I never had any intention of watching out of a lack of interest. Truth be told I didn’t even know it was an Isekai, and upon learning that I was even less interested. And yet… The Rising of the Shield Hero has become one of the most surprising shows I have fallen in love with.
The most shocking twist RWBY has delivered is that volume four was actually good. It only took a lesser product to make me appreciate what I had. When volume five started airing, my excitement was dwindling. Over one divisive volume, I went from optimist to pessimist and was only giving this volume the grace period as a hope that the problems could be solved.
Rewatching volume five with a more balanced critique may have allowed me the same clarity that I went into my review of volume four with. Sadly, even the clairvoyance of one willing to forgive couldn’t excuse what volume five did wrong. Even amongst those who may have enjoyed this season, I can’t imagine that this is perceived as anything other than the worst of the series.