Review-Roundup: Zankyou no Terror 03, Sailor Moon Crystal 02, Tokyo Ghoul 02-04

[C12] Tokyo Ghoul - 03.mp4 - 00001Apparently humanity’s solution in their battle against ghouls is to hire humans who are even creepier than the ghouls.

Just as a heads-up for those few who weren’t already aware of it: Nickelodeon has cancelled the last five episodes of Legend Of Korra’s third season. I will review the last episode to air tomorrow. The creators of the show have already announced, though, that the series will continue on Amazon or whatever other site is desperately chasing the future of digital Internet-Streaming-TV these days.  But now as for the series I will review here:

Zankyou no Terror 03: Nobody so far seems to have an Oedipus-complex but Nine and Twelve still pose riddles to the police-force like they’re the Sphinx. Only now Shibasaki is the boss. After all, his smartness has never brought him anything but trouble anyway, so it’s no wonder that he gladly chooses to get involved.

Sailor Moon Crystal 02: Education is brainwashing and smart girls have no friends – The Sailor Mercury Story.

Tokyo Ghoul 02-04: Kaneki hates being a half-ghoul and all the drawbacks this existence brings. But it’s not like he can change back and so he has no choice but to learn how to live with this burden. But even as a superstrong ghoul shit doesn’t happen less, actually shit happens now way more often in Kaneki’s life since he had become a ghoul.

Zankyou no Terror 03

[HorribleSubs] Zankyou no Terror - 03 [480p].mkv - 00003I wonder how relevant this specific issue will become as the story progresses. Japan DOES have a bit of a history when it comes to nuclear stuff, so Nine and Twelve as terrorists having a nuclear bomb should be an issue the story needs to take really serious.

This series is REALLY ambitious. Much like the two teenagers who play terrorist at the centre of the show, the show itself tries to communicate a message. It’s a slow-moving train and if I was harsh on the last two weeks’ episodes it’s only because they didn’t make clear what this series is going for and how far down the rabbithole it actually wants to go with its premise.

So, first of all, the pacing hasn’t improved. This is still a very slow-paced show that has incidental culminations but overall there’s still this sense of mystery surrounding the two teenagers who are at the centre of the show. Or, well, at this point I actually begin to doubt that the first episode did a good job of establishing the show’s rhythm. At this point I believe this is a series of Shibasaki fighting against Nine and Twelve’s terrorism while he uncovers the truth about them. At least, that’s what it seems like right now. It’s really only a guess.

There’s still this weird lack of momentum to the events of the episode. As it still isn’t clear what exactly motivates Nine and Twelve to be these terrorists, the story lacks any sense of tension. Dramatically the stakes in this series are still mostly a mystery and due to that, scenes that should be impactful don’t seem convincingly relevant.

The thing that surprised me that instead of going for action or visceral stunts with the premise, this show actually spends a lot of time showing people talking. And the general lack of apparent drama in the show gets only heightened by most dialogues being these detached affairs where characters hide their emotions or avoid actually having a dialogue (in the case of Lisa). There’s this sense of inevitability and imprisonment again as most of the policemen-talks happen indoors and the only time we really see noteworthy characters going outside it’s Lisa and Nine and Twelve. And whenever they are outside the sky is a really important part of each shot that heightens the sense of space while being outside. Meanwhile, the police seem completely helpless and passive as they can only watch what their decisions lead to. Normally you would see such characters run through the whole town in order to stop a bomb but here they just assemble around a screen watching how their decisions play out without being able to directly influence the events depicted on the screen.

Zankyou no Terror tries to keep the story alive with its atmosphere alone at this point. And this sort of slowly developing tragedy could work but I feel like it’s more suited for a movie without interruptions. Since the series doesn’t really use tension as a plot-device, the end of each episode feels more like an untimely interruption than a small episodic conclusion supported by the series’ narrative structure.

As for a moment that seemed significant but is also quite mysterious, there’s Shibasaki’s fascination with summer. Although, it’s more like he hates it. But it really seems like there’s some sort of generational conflict going on in this story. I mean, Shibasaki talks about these summers where he was outside as a young boy – while all the older people stayed indoors leaving him completely alone outside. And much in the same way the policemen and Lisa’s mother are almost exclusively shown being indoors. For now that’s only speculation, though.

Another important element of the story is the Oedipus-story. At this point it’s mostly used as a key to solve the riddles from Nine and Twelve’s videos. It will probably be used to make some bigger point, I assume. But if that’s the case I have no idea how this story can be turned into an allegory for what happens in this series. I mean, who’s supposed to be Oedipus? Shibasaki? Like many other things in this series, it’s more of a mystery.

I don’t hate this series and I enjoyed this episode more than the second one but I still don’t know where this show wants to go with its story. Especially with stuff like nuclear bombs, the series better has a good plottwist ready to give this story-bit adequately meaningful. Instead of unburdening itself and sharing some of its story with the audience, the series continues to build up a sense of mystery while driving the plot with its atmosphere. This series cares less about what happens and more about communicating a specific ambience for these events. Not only is the series ambitious, it’s also very self-confident in delivering a conclusion to this narrative format that will deliver the necessary emotional pay-off.

Episode-Rating: 8.0/10

Sailor Moon Crystal 02

 [C12] Sailor Moon Crystal - 02.mp4 - 00003She’s talking about the cat. A cat landed on her and she thinks she has seen an angel. And she says it out loud – to a person she doesn’t even know. Yep, this series isn’t big on self-awareness.

Innovation is Sailor Moon Crystal’s biggest enemy. For all its charms that justify the success it had back in the day, it also serves as a terrible reminder just how outdated the series feels and how ignorant it is of what has happened in the anime-world since then. In the end, Sailor Moon Crystal is really nothing more than a polished up relic that offers nothing more than the profound predictability of something already seen with the hope that nostalgia will prevail.

It’s been a while (like Stained would say) since I’ve seen the original Sailor Moon series but this is a remake, right? If anyone wanted to see some sort of abridged version of the original with somewhat-polished animations and mostly different voice-actors, then you’re a fucking moron who created more work than necessary. I still don’t know why this series exist. Sailor Moon Crystal is a series trapped in its own past instead of being liberated and updated by this remake. At no point during the last two episodes the series established some sort of vision that extends beyond lazily reproducing the original series’ efforts. There needs to be more! And I know there are those fanatic fans who would be outraged to see any of the character change somewhat to seem more like a person living in the 21st century, but artistically I don’t see any point not preferring that to just repeating the same old formula.

There’s this phrase ‘jumping the shark’ and in many ways that’s exactly what Sailor Moon would’ve needed to do at the start of this series. This series has nothing to offer other than the rudimentaries of what made it so popular back when it originally aired. But in this day and age series from a few decades ago don’t get lost, so why not watch that? Especially since Sailor Moon was so popular, I really don’t know why this show doesn’t seem to exhibit any sort of care or updated vision. You want to bring back a popular formula? Then you better have some witty deconstruction ready to make it worthwhile!

None of that is present in the second episode, though. It’s clear why Sailor Moon has been a success as Usagi, while somewhat obnoxious, makes for great plot-pusher while also doing a slapstick-routine 24/7. And her total lack of subtlety and complexity makes it easy to sell her virtuous side as well as it’s impossible to imagine Usagi as a conniving person. So when she goes into Sailor-Moon-Mode and spouts whatever cheesy lines seem appropriate (well, at least when she’s not showing off her general stupidity), it’s clear that she means it. Just look at Batman being haunted by his parents’ to fight crime when he never can undo the crime that caused his parents’ death or Superman trying to prove his place as ‘human’ by protecting them all as Superman and disguising himself as an average person. There’s always this little bit of insanity to these idealistic portrayals of heroes but those two examples I mentioned verge more on the gritty side of things. But Usagi also works in the same way, although she’s a more cheerful interpretation of that sentiment. And you can do a lot of situational comedy with Usagi’s character as well, so it’s easy to make Usagi seem sympathetic as she’s part of all these self-deprecating jokes while also being the heroic Sailor Moon.

This episode introduces Amy and while the episode uses Usagi well as a plot-pusher, it suffers from its lack of time as there isn’t enough time to show off Amy as a character. Granted, by the show’s standards it did enough. The whole point of the Sailor-Soldier-team is to array this assortment of various character-types the audience can individually identify with. This isn’t a show driven by deep characters or drama. It’s very straightforward and formulaic in its approach – except of course, with some luck it also got very popular. But underlying that is the notion that it’s enough to create character-types for each person in the audience. Some like the smart one, others like the strong, dependable one and so on. This series uses very simplified character-tropes to characterize the Sailor-Soldiers.

But even by those standards, this episode didn’t really devote a lot of time to characterizing Amy (Sailor Mercury). It’s a bit childish to show off her smartness just by implying just how good she is at school-work. There’s a bit more to a smart person than just getting good grades. And yet, it’s this simplistic notion this episode seems to be satisfied with.

Ah, and there’s the fact, of course, that the smartest girl in the school… doesn’t have any friends. Sure, as if the lack of depth hadn’t been hurtful enough, now this series also uses the most tiresome stereotypes imaginable. Also, the series’ villain-arc ties to Amy attending this special extracurricular course to help with her studying and it’s just presented as brainwashing. It’s just there. The smart girl does hard work that justifies her smartness beyond just being “naturally smart” and what happens? It turns out to be a brainwashing-program of the bad guys! And nobody talks about it…

Look, Sailor Moon Crystal doesn’t even have to deliver deep storytelling. It’s okay to make it formulaic as long as there’s enough stuff that entertains the audience. But this format of releasing only one episode every two weeks and condensing this series-juggernaut of the old days into a 2-cour-series is just idiotic. Not that everything in a 40+-episodes-series is essential but even with filler there’s a certain rhythm to the episodes. So, if it’s condensed into a tinier schedule you have to seriously restructure the plot to make it work. Or, like this episode, the whole thing will feel like a heavily abbreviated version that can only rely on Sailor Moon’s formulaic story to make these episodes work.

Episode-Rating: 6.0/10

Tokyo Ghoul

[C12] Tokyo Ghoul - 02.mp4 - 00003I’m really not sure what to make of this part: Is he just taunting Kaneki or does he really smell like a female ghoul now? Because later on, Kaneki is described as having a human smell.  So, I guess, it’s just taunting…? It’s REALLY weird taunting, that’s for sure.

I didn’t really like the first episode. A lot of the characters seemed too one-note for me to care about and the whole existential fear of Kaneki while having a good direction just sounded whiny. Also, the way Kaneki became involved in the supernatural world of ghouls was far too contrived for my tastes. After that, though, the series took this weak start and turned it into a solid story that offers both horror and action.

The first thing that becomes apparent when watching these last three episodes is just how many plot-points this series already has introduced. Tokyo Ghoul is one of the few series that actually has taken on the challenge of juggling multiple plot-points at the same time. While it may seem like something that takes away focus from a series’ story, this kind of plot-multi-tasking can actually make the storytelling feel more dynamic. By having multiple things happening at once, competent script-writing can create plot-twists far more easily. When the story is too singleminded, it becomes obvious very quickly that each plot-point is either a distraction or part of the main-story but by creating this dynamic net of interwoven plot-points, you can’t make this kind of distinction. And because of that, the story is able to feel more immediate. The protagonist doesn’t even need to be active which Kaneki obviously isn’t. By creating this sense of that Kaneki’s problems could come from any direction, the plot can convincingly create these scenarios where he’s hurled into danger without having to seek it out for some reason. Tokyo Ghoul doesn’t really have an overarching story right now except that Kaneki has to deal with him having become a ghoul. But the series doesn’t focus on his plight and interestingly chooses to let that be only one plot-point among many that push the story forward.

Like many series with a supernatural community hiding among humans, the focus of the story is mostly on those supernatural beings. Tokyo Ghoul is kinda interested in the differences between normal humans and ghouls but it’s mostly an intellectual issue talked about by the ghouls. There isn’t really a sense of Kaneki continuing his normal life, even though the series claims that Kaneki is unique in that it’s easier for him to pass as a normal human. The series uses Kaneki rather as a stand-in for the audience to present and characterize the ghoul-community in Tokyo.

What sells this part is that this series has done some really solid world-building in those last three episodes. For one thing, the series has introduced a large cast of characters. It’s not enough to be overwhelming and there’s enough characterization to make those characters somewhat distinguishable but what makes the existence of these many characters so valuable is the way this leads to show off various elements of the series’ supernatural setting. The world really comes alive with so many different characters obviously serving different functions within that community.
The horror-elements of the show mostly come into play through its thematic use of duplicity. It takes the paranoid notion that if push comes to shove any person could potentially do something horrible and heightens it with the hunger of the ghouls. Now there are all these people who are appearance-wise nearly indistinguishable from humans and yet they hide these very inhuman urges. But the whole theme also becomes relevant in the case of Kaneki’s best friend Hideyoshi is also kinda duplicitous. Even if he acts in the interest of his friend, he strangely thinks that keeping his suspicions from his friend is the right thing. Instead of confronting him, he hides behind this mask of happiness.

The other important element of the series is naturally the gore. And it’s hard to miss because the goriness of some scenes is only outmatched by its obstructive censoring. The whole purpose of having THAT much gore in a scene is to drown the audience in these visuals. Naturally you can’t show that on TV, so I guess, the creators of the show hope that this will help sell the DVDs/Blu-rays and whatnot. But the gore-stuff doesn’t really offer much beyond just being there. It’s extreme but not really stylish. The censoring doesn’t help either. Overall, it may help to make the duplicity-theme of the story more shocking but it doesn’t really add to its meaning.

But overall, Tokyo Ghoul has turned out to be a way better show than I’ve had anticipated after watching the first episode. Kaneki certainly could use some character-development to become a more interesting character – and I don’t mean the part where half-ghouls are conveniently way stronger than normal ghouls. As long as the series doesn’t fuck up too much, this certainly could become one of my favorites from this season.

Episodes-Rating: 8.0/10

 

About M0rg0th

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

Posted on July 25, 2014, in Anime, Reviews, Sailor Moon Crystal, Tokyo Ghoul, Zankyou no Terror and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. “Nickelodeon has cancelled the last five episodes of Legend Of Korra’s third season.”

    Do some more research

    Like

    • Wait, what do you mean?

      Like

      • Hold your horses. The series will continue to air, just not on television. It will be moved to a digital format (probably nick.com). So, season 3 will be finished, and it appears that season 4 will also be completed and aired. But, no… this is not a happy moment for the series. I imagine the network just wasn’t making enough money off of ads to justify it having a Friday night prime-time slot.

        That’s too bad. I know there’s a lot of Korra haters out there (ahem, M0rg0th), but I actually enjoy the show. I think that it is at least as good as the majority of anime series out there.😉

        Like

      • @Kelfio: Uhm, yeah, there’s already an announcement that the series will be streamed on most streaming-sites, including nick.com, too, I believe (except Netflix). And I do mention that. Davis just quoted the part talking about how Nickelodeon doesn’t want to air those. I still don’t really know what he’s talking about.

        > I imagine the network just wasn’t making enough money off of ads to justify it having a Friday night prime-time slot.

        The second season already didn’t make enough money for the network, so this third season was LoK’s last chance to make enough money. And like you’ve mentioned, that friday-slot came with far too demanding expectations for how many viewers Legend of Korra could attract at that time.

        Like

Please Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: