Review-Roundup: Akatsuki no Yona 01, Okami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji 01, Sora no Method 01
Ah, what a romantic thing to say! I bet, girlfriends would just love to hear their boyfriends tell them that! It’s right up there with romantic comments like “You’re my girlfriend. Shut up and cook.” and “You’re my girlfriend. Shut up and wash my clothes.” for example.
This time around I review the following series:
Akatsuki no Yona 01: A princess meets the man of her dreams – except the man of her dreams is a murderer. What will she do…?! Well, apparently, if the opening is to believed, she will start a war. But hey, that’s just the usual wacky environment of politics back then! After all, war and murder are nothing but a continuation of diplomacy by other means, right…?
Okami Shouji to Kuro Ouji 01: A certain girl is a bad liar – but because of that she meets her true love. Except her true love turns out to be a total asshole. Hilarity ensues! Also, the tough dude in that relationship finally has a chance to show off his vulnerable side to the woman he secretly loves!
Sora no Method 01: A girl comes back to a town after several years. Before she left that town previously she did a thing that did a thing and met some people who helped her do this thing do a thing and also there was a girl with glowing hair. Naturally she remembers nothing of this. It’s like Total Recall but without any sci-fi or action… actually she just has a bad memory and there are a bunch of kids who take this shit way too serious.
Akatsuki no Yona 01 Review:
After all, being a king is all about warfare naturally.
This could’ve been a solid, straightforward, enjoyable girl-centered adventure but in this case the direction of the whole thing is misguided and badly paced. It’s like someone made this first episode with all the ingredients at hand but no recipe that would tell him how to mix the whole thing. Pacing, structure, the soundtrack – all the stuff surrounding the actual story simply fails to offer any support.
The first episode is used as a bit of a prologue and I assume the actual series will be a little bit different…? It’s only an assumption because this series starts with a sort-of flash-forward telling us that the princess who’s the main-character would be involved in a battle and she would lead an army into that battle. These kinds of flash-forwards are on the same level as time-jumps in that they are very drastic storytelling-devices. You need to have a very good reason to use something like that. If all you’re going to say with a flash-forward like in this case is “Hey, there’s some action, too!” then forget it. Seriously, if you don’t have the confidence that the prologue is entertaining enough on its own, then simply animate something else. It’s a waste of time to flash forward to show that the series will change its tone at some point. And especially in this case it’s a waste of time because of how little time the series devotes to the flash-forward. Here the flash-forward is basically just a spoiler of future events. Then again, it’s also a little bit vague so all we know that shit gets really serious later on and the princess leads an army into battle. But why does the audience need to know that?
Well, it could be because the princess is portrayed like a total dunce in this first episode. And that’s totally fine. The series wants to portray her as a sheltered, naïve princess and they succeed in that. The episode does a good job of showing how immature and inexperienced she is while hinting at a strong will. It’s clear that this is a bit of a coming-of-age-story where the point of the story is basically a character-arc showing how this sheltered princess grows as a person. So, it should be clear that this prologue is more about her flaws than her virtues since ultimately her journey will be about overcoming her flaws. Considering that, though, it’s strange how the episode still tries to focus on her. It may be that she’s supposed to be a very flawed character at this point but by needlessly focusing on her the series just makes her seem flat and obnoxious. Her being the main-character doesn’t mean you can’t play with the perspective of a story and offer some detachment that could make the flaws of the main-character a part of the story instead of a problem for it.
Even aside from characterization-issues this episode simply fails in establishing its atmosphere. Nothing about this first episode is immersive. The episode rushes from scene to scene with the main-character’s petty problems as the only connection. But at no point does it feel like the characters are at court. Sure, there are many moments where characters would do stuff nobles at court would do or what would happen in a palace. The series never establishes a sense of grandeur or drama during its episode. It all plays like a cheap theater-production where a couple characters spend time in the same place and do their lines. The script simply isn’t pompous enough to sell those moments because here’s an annoying fact this series simply hasn’t realized: Its story is fucking cheesy as hell. And in that situation you never downplay anything or act coy for the sake of some bullshit-plottwist. There should be 200% more drama, like, all the time actually. This is a series that should seem epic and needlessly meaningful and there should be romance of the most tragic sort and battles that are egoistical struggles between passionate people and so on… There’s SO much campy shit this series could be doing to sell its cheesy premise and yet it acts as if it’s telling a serious story. Spoiler: It doesn’t.
I mean, if some misguided understanding of what kind of story this is would be the biggest problem then, yeah, shit happens but it gets words. The sound-direction is atrocious. This episode had the most tepid soundtrack I’ve ever heard for a dramatic plot-twist. And the script-writing… For fuck’s sake! Why the hell is there a scene of the bodyguard relaxing and thinking about how he’s friends with both the traitor-asshole and the princess since they were children? And then there’s an abrupt cut to the princess being dragged by guards around with the traitor-asshole there but then the bodyguard suddenly appears and protects the princess before she would get killed? The pacing here doesn’t make any sense. And the episode also ends right fucking there! The episode utterly failed to sell the dramatic moment and yet it ends with that very moment!
So, yeah, it’s a story with potential squandered by an incompetent direction and sound-direction. Also, the script, or I guess the original manga in this case, isn’t that great either. This series simply fails to understand, it seems, that it will never tackle any meaningful subject, what it should be going for is larger-than-life-shit instead. But maybe when the princess starts to play warlord this will change maybe. Like I’ve said, the ingredients are there, all it takes is just a good recipe to make something out of this that’s delicious.
Okami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji 01 Review:
I seldom talk about the animations and art of a series but if it’s that bad, I just have to point it out. Just for example look at this picture and figure out where the sun is currently… You can’t, because the shadows in this image are fucked up. Also, I feel like the dimensions of the background aren’t right as well. This is simply a shoddy piece of work visually speaking.
Girls are idiots.
Without guys around to protect them, that is. This series may want to romanticize love like most romance-series but it absolutely hates women. And yet, this is a series that actually aims to appeal to a female demographic. It’s a bit of a mystery but then again looking at all those shounen-series where it’s all about a hero-figure always having the biggest dick in the room, I guess, it’s no wonder that there would be shoujo-series out there which want to tell us that a good heterosexual relationship begins with the submission of the female.
Look, I get it, a part of this series wants to be a comedy. The girl is dumb, does stupid stuff that serves as a plothook for various bits and punchlines. And the guy’s an asshole (which is part of the joke) but the romantic element is that he turns out to not be an asshole at all. You know, beneath the surface he’s actually a good guy. Sure, he’s still a real dick to her and all that, but occasionally he reveals his gentle side – to her, and ONLY her. Isn’t that romantic? After all, it’s okay for a woman to put up with a ton of bullshit just so that she can witness a cool dude’s more vulnerable moments.
Then again, girls do a lot of bullshit, too. So, let’s talk about the plot of the series. The main-character of the series is really conscious of her appearance and her image. She NEEDS to be part of her social environment, more than that she wants to be the center of attention as well. There’s this moment in the first episode where her cool, best friend sits alone in her new class and worries about her friend. Meanwhile the main-character sits also alone in her new class and she’s panicking. So, the main-girl does the thing she always does when she’s emotional: She makes up an extravagant lie. And you know what? She’s not even very good at lying! It feels like the need for a joke totally undermines the logic of why she would lie in the first place. Her lies always range from slightly to totally preposterous. She does the sort of idiotic lying one would usually associate with grandpas who are worried about whether their grandchildren will respect them. It’s half-assed, hokey writing to just use this detail about lying as a sort-of joke-jukebox. “Oh, this scene is a bit dry… Let’s let her lie about the sexual habits of her boyfriend!” is the obvious thought-process for one of the scenes and a scene should never feel so manufactured. A series should work as a cohesive whole and it should never feel like it only throws various bits and pieces of it at the audience at different points during the story.
Well, there’s the dude, of course. He’s supposed to be a sadist but naturally deep underneath he’s a gentle soul that simply needs a good woman that would coax it out. The biggest problem of this series’ story is that I don’t buy the dude’s willingness to help the main-girl. I already said that the main-girl is actually a bad liar but considering how fast the dude proposed his stupid deal to the girl I don’t think he quite understands how lying works either. It’s pretty plot-convenient that we never get to see the dude in his social environment, but by helping the main-girl he’s accepting to start lying to HIS friends about who his girlfriend is.
Actually, rather than this series being generally bad at understanding how lying works, I would say this is a series that has a cheap plot-hook that the author is unable to see through to the end. After all, the whole lie-thing? Complete bullshit, all of it. It simply doesn’t matter, it’s just a stupid plothook and a way to do various little bits. Instead, the story of this series is closer to a preposterous romantic fantasy, you know, like an arranged marriage that turns out to be true love. And underlying that are notions of gender that are SO conservative the series is unable to say anything interesting about its characters. A romance-series relies on character-work, this is the deciding part! But this series concentrates on cheap jokes and dull romance without ever thinking about exploring the characters as individuals.
Sora no Method 01 Review:
Even the side-characters can’t help but be fixated on that specific event in the past. Also, instead of just showing how different things are, most of the time this episode just wants to bludgeon you with the fact that things have changed – except that it never even bothers to make clear what exactly has changed.
You know you’re in for the kind of series where moe fries people’s brains when the opening shot is a young teenage girl asking his father whether they are there yet. And the father replies “We’re there pretty soon.”, so the girl replies “That’s what you said the last time!”. Get it? It’s like all those times kids get on their parents’ nerves during a car-ride. Sure, movies do it all the time – and it’s still a stupid thing. First of all, why does the kid always have to ask in this vague manner as if it’s incapable of determining how much longer they have to drive? It’s like the kid is incapable of understanding how travelling works. And then the parent should NEVER respond with an equally vague “We get there pretty soon.”. Just tell the kid the fucking time it takes to arrive at the destination! Time can actually be measured! Why are parents and kids having these stupid exchanges time and time again? “Oh, here we go again, the kid is bored and the parent tries to put up with it… that’s just the kind of VERY general character-moment everybody wanted to see, I bet!” – that’s the kind of dumb trope-thinking bad writers have!
In general, this first episode rarely even bothers to do anything worthy of note. It’s just one trope after another barren of any sort of originality. When I see episodes like these, I’m really wondering whether anyone really gave a shit whether this series was made. There’s simply nothing in it, NOTHING! The drama is SO rote that it’s simply trivial and the characters are bland to the point of being dull.
Look, I get it, sometimes we do shit in the past, forget about it but later the past comes back to haunt us. It’s a common story in fiction. What I don’t want to see anymore, though, is this misconception of how to structure the timeline of such story-conceits. The thing that always bugs me about these kinds of stories is that the writer clearly only thought about two things: The plot of the present and the plot-relevant moments of the past. But the time between those two points in time is seldom used to move forward. Instead there are only ever those two states of being. Change is such a drastic and blunt thing in these stories. It’s always a clear “Before” and “After” distinction between what the present is like and what the past was like. There’s no sense of subtlety or individuality. Change always gets pinpointed to specific dramatic events and that’s all the past you get to see. Nothing about this form of change is spontaneous or is spurred by the simple passing of time. There always needs to be this forceful chain of cause and effect to explain everything.
When the girl with the headphones approaches the main-girl, it’s not to say she didn’t like what happened back then or that she had forgiven her or something. No, she basically told her that she still holds a grudge because of what happened back then. First of all, it’s ridiculous that a little kid would hold a grudge for THAT long. She might as well have said something like “Oh, the gall you have coming back here after all these years…”. That’s WAY too dramatic! And it’s also plot-convenient. Like I’ve said, the notion of change is SO blunt in these types of stories that a bad decision of the main-character has made everyone who was hurt by it hate her. Or maybe the headphones-girl is the only one who hates her but the problem isn’t the hate, it’s the fact that it’s focused on this past event. Change should be shown as a process that happened over time but instead it’s all about this one specific thing that can be later shown in a flashback.
And yeah, here’s the other annoying thing about this: The main-character has really bad memory. It may not be amnesia but it’s coming VERY close to it. Seriously, I don’t think you can forget THAT much about something that has only happened a couple years ago – even if you’re a child. The main-character is completely oblivious to her past. Not all of it – just a LOT of it. Seriously, this series wants to say that a girl would forget meeting another girl her age that behaved weirdly and had glowing hair?
Also… the drama in this episode is SO overwrought and pointless. It all starts with the typical scenario where one character somehow reminds another character of that latter characters’ bad past and so the latter character becomes REALLY angry. So, naturally that latter character would just lash out at the former character that brought it up in the first place. Except the catalyst for that scene in this episode is so trivial that the “lashing out”-part feels completely unjustified. Main-girl enters the room, weird-girl holds the picture of main-girls dead mother with a broken frame. So, weird-girl’s like “Hey, thought I would give ye a hand with unpacking.” and main-girl’s like “Get out of my fucking house, you little shit!”. That’s the dramatic ‘conversation’ they have in this episode basically.
And later on, main-girl FINALLY remembers having been friends with weird-girl. Also, why is it that when characters who don’t remember the past meet people who do remember the past, the forgetful characters NEVER believe a word they are told by the people who remember their past. Here, weird-girl’s like “You and I were friends back then!” and main-girl’s like “Nope, can’t remember, so it can’t be true!”. Normally you would inquire and try to verify the other person’s stories since you don’t remember those but in animes it’s always just immediate distrust. Anyway, the main-girl remembers weird-girl and also hears from her dad that the frame was already broken before weird-girl had touched it. So, main-girl runs through the whole little city until remembering where they had always met, runs there and everything’s fine again.
The series’ actual attempt at story is a thingy floating over the city and it’s hinted at that main-girl and her buddies way back when did a thing that also involved weird-girl which led to the creation of the floating thingy. Yep, it’s as boring as it sounds. “Oh my god, those kids did a thing that did a thing but the main-girl doesn’t remember all of it! And then stuff happened! But now the main-girl is coming back and has to deal with all this stuff that has happened and is happening!”: It’s the dullest pile of horseshit imaginable, really. This first episode is the perfect example of a series doing nothing wrong – but nothing right either.
Posted on October 7, 2014, in Akatsuki no Yona, Anime, Okami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji, Reviews, Sora no Method and tagged Akatsuki no Yona, Anime, オオカミ少女と黒王子, Celestial Method, reviews, Sora no Method, Wolf Girl & Black Prince, Ōkami Shōjo to Kuro Ōji, 天体のメソッド, 暁のヨナ. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.