Rarely does a show come along that makes me rethink what I want from a story. Across any number of genres I’m interested in, there is an expectation of how the story will explore “drama. The numerous action shows I watch explore their drama through physical interchange, be it spectacular or grounded in realism.
Even adult dramas with a sparse number of action scenes will present other, more personal forms of violence as well as confrontation through dialog. Slice of life dramas or comedies may have lighter tones, but they may culminate in some dramatic climax where the tone changes.
This week, I’m exploring a show that approaches its story in a far more relaxed manner. It presents its political theater in a captivating way unlike any other show I’ve watched, and made me reassess how I look at what makes a drama “mature.” From director Shingo Natsume and Studio Madhouse, this is ACCA 13 – Territory Inspection Dept.
Sometimes a show comes on your radar that just seems impossible to fail. There are just the right people attached to get you hyped by their pedigree alone and the prospect of a joining of those parties only makes you more excited. Unfortunately, hype is a gamble. No creator is perfect and no matter how good one work is, it doesn’t guarantee that the writer or director can’t fumble with another project.
Kouhei Kadono’s novel series from the late 90s, Boogiepop, is – according to fans I’ve talked to – one of the most influential light novel series out there. It paved the way for meta works like that of Nisio Isin’s Monogatari Series. It was a psychological, supernatural drama about otherworldly entities preying off of the anguish of humanity and the angel of death that released people from that anguish: Boogiepop.
In the west, the novel series and manga didn’t get official translation until the mid-2000s and even then it became mired by low sales and dropped. It wasn’t until 2019 that the fourth and fifth novels were finally released in English when a renewed interest in the series was stirred. A byproduct of this was last year’s animated adaptation.
Madhouse would be producing the new series. Back in 2000, the same studio made Boogiepop Phantom, an original story not based on a particular novel entry. Directing would be Shingo Natsume, famous for Space Dandy and One Punch Man, among other things. The music would be composed by Kensuke Ushio, whose aesthetic talents have captured hearts with A Silent Voice and Devilman Crybaby. Even Yoshiaki Kawajiri was credited for the storyboarding.
From the staff to the promotional PV (seen above), everything was promising. And then after 18 episodes, almost none of what was in the promo was in the final series. What I got ended up feeling like a fraction of what the universe of Boogiepop had to offer. Was there a silver lining or was Boogiepop and Others another adaptation to be forgotten.
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.
Here comes Matthew again, leaping to review another anime by Bones. I suppose that’s all I’m good for, isn’t it? And it’s directed by Masahiro Ando, no less…
Is Masahiro Ando my favorite anime director? He’s certainly up there with blokes like Takuya Igarashi. After all, Ando directed Snow White with the Red Hair, a show that I consider to be an empowering masterpiece of feel-good fantasy romance. Be it a drama or an action show, he is a talented director… though not without some missteps.
What I watched of Canaan never gripped me and reeked of a show whose potential was hurt by low-denominator tropes and poor writing. Under the Dog was an average pilot to a series that will never come out. And Sirius the Jaeger? More like Serious Disappointment (don’t hit me).
I would call Masahiro Ando the Brad Bird of anime. He makes some legendary stuff that will stick with you for ages, but he also tends to bat 50/50. It’s hard to tell why. Maybe it’s the source material on certain shows, maybe it’s other staff members, or maybe Ando is just inconsistent depending on the project.
I’ll cut through some of the snark and assure you of one thing, though. Blast of Tempest (or, Zetsuen no Tempest: The Civilization Blaster) is certainly on the good side of Ando’s batting average.
It’s the end of Pride Month and I’ve somehow managed to waste another one not talking about any gay anime. Mostly because my review of Given went up like a week before June, just missing the cutoff. Because I haven’t seen any other gay anime since then, I’ve no choice but to review the second gayest thing: Fate/Grand Order.
Depending on your priorities, or patience, or standards, Fate/Grand Order is either one of the coolest or stupidest things. The highly successful mobile game based on the world created by Kinoko Nasu and Type-Moon is a multi-arc saga almost as dense in itself as the Fate Universe is normally.
An overabundance of adaptations, spanning novels, visual novels, and comics is nothing new. Alternate universes, alternate timelines, slice-of-life comedies, cooking shows – Fate has something for everyone. Much like there is no definitive Ghost in the Shell, there is no definitive Fate (huh, it’s almost poetic when you phrase it that way).
I love the world Kinoko Nasu created. Just read my review of Lord El Melloi II’s Case Files and you can tell how much the universe resonates with me. On the flip side, I’m not the biggest fan of Grand Order. I think it lacks the substance that made other stories like Fate/Stay Night, Zero, or Garden of Sinners so incredible.
The short version: Grand Order, to me, feels like Fate trying to be Doctor Who or some other show about time travel. It indulges in some of the franchise’s less commendable habits all while feeling like a vehicle for fan service. And the biggest surprise… is that I didn’t hate this show.
There’s something about a detective story that just immediately brings up a story’s score for me. Maybe it’s my childhood obsession with Batman or my fondness for men in long coats, or that time a Columbo-looking motherfucker brought my sister and me back home after we walked a little too far from home as kids.
Any story willing to abandon even one ounce of its seriousness for the sake of introducing some grandiose “brilliant detective” immediately earns style points in my book. And this week’s review is of a show that never ceases to hype up the brilliance of its detectives to the point of shameless self-aggrandizement.
Id: Invaded is a sci-fi mystery show from the studio that brought you DRAMAtical Murder and that one Pharrell Williams music video It Girl… I can’t believe I’m privileged enough to get to type that sentence. Having come out at the start of the year, it’s one of several cool-looking shows that lulled us into thinking the year would be “pretty alright.” Getting around to watching it now, I think it’s safe to say I shouldn’t be too disappointed that I didn’t hop on the bandwagon earlier.
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.
Early in 2014, when I was just getting into anime, I decided to watch Free! Iwatobi Swim Club, the now-famous sports anime by Kyoto Animation. Being in the closet at the time, I went into it with the kind of ironic half-interest that wouldn’t tip off my friends that I was hella gay (which didn’t work anyway).
To put it bluntly, Free helped me come out of the closet. Granted, the characters never canonically became boyfriends or stated they were gay in the show. Regardless, the characters were all content in their masculinity and displayed a level of intimacy and emotional expressiveness that was really meaningful to me. I will always have a soft spot for that series. I talked more about this in my tribute to Kyoto Animation that you can read here.
Ever since then I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the Boys Love/ Yaoi genre of manga and anime. There are great stories that have been told, especially recently. Yuri on Ice hit the mainstream with gayness like a nuke and we’re still waiting for that fucking film. Sarazanmai went even harder, though I can’t say it was too memorable. The romance in No. 6 was the saving grace when the rest of it was a rushed mess. Finally, dated as it was, Banana Fish was the action drama infused with gay romance I always wanted and I should really finish it.
For every decent to great gay show that has seeped through the cracks, a lot of yaoi shows have turned me quite cynical towards the genre. The trash-tier of yaoi can be downright infuriating. Shit like Junjou Romantica and Love Stage too often treat non-consensual sex as the starting point to a relationship. There are a lot of really unhealthy tropes that have made it hard to get into anime with gay romances.
There is a lot of garbage out there, but recently, anime with gay characters are being produced more and more. Hell, half of the good examples I mentioned before came out in the last couple of years. And today I want to talk about a show that broke through a lot of that cynicism for me and left me a lot more hopeful for future stories like this.
I finished watching the conclusion to Psycho-Pass 3, titled “First Inspector,” just before writing this. After eight 45-minute long episodes, the story concludes with a “film” meant to wrap up the season’s plot threads that had felt unfinished. My thoughts were a mixture of “ok, cool” and “what the fuck even was that?.”
I should address a mistake on my part right out of the gate. Back in the final part of my Psycho-Pass retrospective, I claimed that First Inspector would be a recap film. I was incorrect. Info at the time led publications to believe that was the case but, no, they wrapped up the story in a neat little bow, which I appreciate.
However, I don’t think I’ll be referring to this as a film so much as a delayed finale. For some reason, Amazon divided the story into three episodes, despite it being marketed as a film and even given a limited theatrical run in Japan. Though, if I’m honest, judging by the production quality, I can’t imagine being impressed by the visual quality magnified on a theater screen, save for maybe the final episode.
If the snark was any indication, this may not be the most positive review. Far be it from me to spoil the verdict before you’ve even scrolled down or clicked “read more,” but if you weren’t the biggest fan of season three, the ending probably isn’t going to make you change your perspective. Regardless, here are my thoughts on how the film tied up one of the most ambitious sequels to Psycho-Pass yet.
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?