The original title for this review was going to be “The Right Soul For The Wrong Source.” My thinking was that Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop, a 10-episode live-action series from Tomorrow Studios, had an enticing presentation and soul, but ill-fitting for the material it was adapting.
After all, Cowboy Bebop is a certified classic. I can’t really call it a cult classic because if you know anime, you know Bebop. It carries a cultural footprint and critical acclaim in the anime sphere akin to the likes of Breaking Bad or The Sopranoes.
In 24 episodes, Shinichiro Watanabe created an eclectic character study of some of the most lovable, deep, and iconic bounty hunters in fiction. They might suck at their job, but they’re good when it counts. How could anyone adapt this show and NOT come under fire?
And really, why adapt a series like Bebop when it itself is inspired by the cinema of the western and noir genres, with a healthy balance of martial arts for good measure. It’s the same reason that people are boggled by a game like Uncharted getting a movie adaptation. Why make a movie out of a game that’s literally Indiana Jones.
Regardless, I watched the live-action Bebop, even after early reviews damned it early on. I got spoiled on the Ed reveal that EVERYONE knew was coming (more on that later), and my Twitter feed was angry people pulling out the Voldemort tech and not even saying the show’s name.
But something fascinating happened after watching three episodes the day it was released.
My Hero Academia is the only long-running Shonen anime that I have watched since its beginning and that I’ve kept up with since. Most other shonen are too long for me to get past the barrier to entry, so getting in on the ground floor was a great feeling. It helped that Bones was producing it and that its premise was so appealing.
80% of the world’s population has superpowers except for our protagonist? And we’re promised that – somehow, despite that – he will become the world’s greatest hero? It’s a great premise with a classic long-term promise of what’s to come. Funnily enough, despite that premise not being entirely accurate, it captured people’s attention in no time. By 2017, it was one of the biggest anime in the world.
… And for some reason I’ve never formally reviewed it until now. And with each passing season, the prospect of rewatching previous seasons to go over them seemed rather ambitious given my already inconsistent binging capabilities. So I had resigned myself to never reviewing the series. But now, five seasons and two movies strong, with the third film in theaters at the time of writing, I find myself tempted to say “screw it” and do it anyway.
So here is my review of all of My Hero Academia before the new movie comes out!
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.
I’ve spoken about my thoughts on LGBT anime in the past. I’ve grappled with my thoughts on how homosexuality is portrayed in Japan and my feelings with shows that I’ve loved in the past that had queer-coded elements or queer-baiting. But in the last year especially, I’ve started to look on the brighter side of things. I’ve started to appreciate what my earliest exposures to queerness in anime gave me, regardless of any flaws.
Representation can only get better with time and with more diversity in the room when stories are being crafted. With studios like Blue Lynx producing higher quality gay cinema, gay representation in anime reaching new heights. And after delaying it for FAR too long, I’m happy to say that Studio Hibari’s The Stranger by the Shore is the best gay romance I’ve seen yet, but for very particular reasons…
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.
It’s the end of 2020… nearly. For December, I’m taking another hiatus to do some fiction writing. While I wouldn’t call it a grand finale, given how rough the year has been for many, it’s still worth celebrating that it is still ending. To celebrate, why not shout out the stories that know how to conclude the best.
Glass Reflections on YouTube often has said that “the ending is paramount” and despite my disagreements with him, I can’t disagree with him on that one. The ending of a story can make or break it. The conclusion of SAO: Ordinal Scale made the plodding narrative leading up to it all worth it. On the flip side, the last five minutes of Black Butler II ruined an otherwise exciting season in retrospect.
So here are a few of my favorite endings that left on a high note, redeeming lesser qualities or acting as the culmination of greater ones. They made me cry, they made me giggle uncontrollably, or they left me without the will to speak.
I find it amusing that the Project Itoh films adapted Itoh’s novels in the reverse order of when they were released. While that wasn’t the original intention, as the release schedule was different before The Empire of Corpses‘ announcement, it nevertheless became this way.
Empire was a mere concept of a story never completed by Itoh himself before he lost his battle with cancer. Next, Harmony, the tale of medical dystopia, was written amid Itoh’s cancer treatment. Genocidal Organ might not have a clear parallel to Itoh’s plight, but it was his first and most prominent written work. Through this film project, it’s almost like Itoh was becoming alive again.
That said, the film was hardly as optimistic as such a claim would imply. Genocidal Organ is a militaristic sci-fi drama that dissects the mind of soldiers in a future where they can be made to feel nothing. The influence between Itoh and the works of Hideo Kojima is plain as day and this story arguably goes even harder in portraying the horrors of modern warfare than MGS4 did.
This film was also delayed from late 2015 to late 2017 as Manglobe went bankrupt and production resumed under a new studio. The production problems combined with the long wait meant that the film project lost steam while the expectations grew larger for those still anticipating it. When all was said and done, was Project Itoh a success?
Rarely in discussions of book-to-film adaptations am I in a position where I’ve read the book. Most times I come at those discussions from a neutral standpoint, weighing the deviations vs the quality of the work. Additionally, the difference between the two mediums has to be accounted for. Some things work better in a book and some things work better in a movie.
The only work by Satoshi Itoh that I’ve read is Genocidal Organ, his first and most famous novel. I read it in anticipation of the delayed animated film. Part of me felt like I should indulge in the original material after the second film in the Project Itoh trilogy left me disappointed. From Studio 4°C, this is Harmony.
I’ve only ever read one of the works by the late Satoshi Itoh. It was his first novel, Gyakusatsu Kikan, or in English, Genocidal Organ. It was a stirring sci-fi novel depicting a future in which first-world countries became surveillance states out of fear of terrorism. Once you’ve read some of his work, it isn’t surprising that he was great friends with Hideo Kojima, the writer/ director behind the Metal Gear Solid series.
Itoh wrote three published novels in his time before losing a battle with cancer in 2009. Genocidal Organ was followed by Harmony in 2008. In the same year, he penned the novelization of Kojima’s grandest work yet, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. Before losing a battle with cancer in 2009, Itoh began work on another story, The Empire of Corpses.
That final story would go on to be finished by Itoh’s friend Toh Enjoe and published in 2012. In 2014, a film project was announced, adapting all three of his original stories to animation. Genocidal Organ would be animated by Manglobe (Samurai Champloo, Ergo Proxy). Harmony would be helmed by Studio 4°C (the Berserk: Golden Age Arc movies, Mind Game). Finally, The Empire of Corpses would be helmed by Studio WIT (Attack on Titan, Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress).
This ambitious project would be simply titled: Project Itoh.
Back in 2017, I wrote briefly about Itoh’s history in anticipation of Genocidal Organ‘s theatrical release in the US. However, I missed an opportunity to truly explore the merits of these films. It’s been three years and I haven’t seen much attention given to these unique science-fiction stories. It’s time to consider whether or not this project truly did justice to the works of a talented author who passed away too soon.
From director Ryoutarou Makihara, this is The Empire of Corpses.
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.