Review-Roundup: Isuca 01, Koufuku Graffiti 03, Death Parade 03
Maybe someday every anime will understand the difference between sexiness and blatant fanservice. Until then we get shots like some woman showing off her naked body… FOR NO FRIGGING REASON! If you don’t have a story to tell, just do fucking Hentai please. I give zero shits about a thinly veiled hentai that tries to be a fucking average shounen-series.
This time I review:
Isuca 01: Even boobs and nudity can’t save this one from being a piece of shit… Go figure…
Koufuku Graffiti 03: Ryo has a bad day. Kirin tries to change that. She’s successful (to NO ONE’s surprise). The End.
Death Parade 03: A dude and a gal are dead this time around. Turns out they know each other – but their history together is a little bit more complicated than the two expected.
Isuca 01 Review:
Ah, good thing, we have series like Isuca to tackle the real issues of today’s economy! And naturally the ultimate problem isn’t the economy itself but the dude’s parents who just don’t give him enough money. Fucking millenials, right?
Cold open: It’s night. A boy is walking through a park. He’s alone. His appearance tells us that he’s remarkably unremarkable. Suddenly a woman approaches him, blocks his way. The woman is supposedly good-looking. She wears a trenchcoat. The boy is confused. The woman opens her trenchcoat. She’s naked. The camera lingers on her naked body for a few moments. The woman seems amused. The boy reacts with an aghast expression on his face and doesn’t have a boner. The woman approaches him and turns into a monster. She embraces the boy, turning more and more into a monster witch each second. She tells him that he will feel immense pleasure while she’s sucking his life-force out. The boy doesn’t question it since deep down he knows that this doesn’t make any sense. That’s when arrows start to hit the monster. The boy is surprised it’s arrows. It’s the 21st century and nobody fights with bow and arrow anymore… except Hawkeye and the Green Arrow of course. The one who shot the arrow is a girl not much older than the boy. Also, the moon seems awfully close to the earth that night.
Really, that’s all you need to know about this series to form an opinion about the whole thing. It’s Hentai. Yeah, it isn’t even trash since average trash at least doesn’t try to be a hentai. This one does. And it tries to hit all the right notes: Nudity, sexual innuendo, cleavage, fetishes like girls in their gym-class-uniforms and the romantic element of embarrassing a tsundere who’s obviously in love with the main-dude. This episode had it all and wasn’t sensual or sexy in ANY WAY!
Just take this opening-scene I’ve described. This adult-woman appears and does that whole exhibitionist-thingy – except she’s a lady and not a creepy dude. So the camera stares straight at her naked body… and nothing happens! That’s it! There are porno-movies with a more complex setup than this! This episode’s level of softcore-hentai is so lazy that it just ends up being dull and boring. That laziness and lack of energy are really the things that dominate the episode.
The characters are paper-thin of course. And naturally the series is more interested in showing off female nudity than anything else and so the only dude beside the main-dude is his pervy best dude-friend. There was a time when they just made the main-chara the pervert but these days the main-dude has to be somewhat “pure” of course and so we’ve got this stereotype of the male best friend who’s a total pervert. That guy appears and as quickly disappears in this episode. The scene is a gym-class and the direction… oh god, it’s SO bad! You only see girls in the various shots of the gym-class for the longest time and only at the very end of the scene you suddenly see more dudes in the background.
Also, the writing of the story-stuff is just SO lazy. Naturally the main-dude lives by himself and the episode lazily attempt to turn the absence of his parents into a joke. Since the series is very lazy, though, that whole bit ends up sounding more terrifying than anything else: His parents have travelled to Europe while leaving their son behind to fend for himself and not giving him enough money to even pay the rent. He’s a frigging teenager! That’s not funny to see him struggle with his finances in the absence of his parents!
In general, the direction of this episode sucked and made the episode feel even cheaper than it obviously is. By using these sort-of smash-cuts, the episode really just sprinted through its plot without actually acknowledging stuff like coherence and pacing. One moment there would be a sunset outside and then following a sudden flashcut the sky is pitchblack, every student has disappeared and it isn’t clear how much time has passed. It would be confusing – except the setting of the episode reuses a lot of background-stuff and the whole school looks very same-y after a while so keeping track of the temporal as well as the spatial coherence has become a useless task.
And maybe with something as bad as this you may think that it’s one of those “so bad, it’s good”-cases – but this isn’t the case. This episode just limps through its poor excuse of a story without any energy or self-awareness. I would call the fanservice in this episode calculated if it’s presentation hadn’t been this lazy and lifeless. There are farts out there with more charisma than this show’s first episode.
Koufuku Graffiti 03 Review:
Only Japan would equate national pride with (somewhat) Japanese cooking.
I assume that if you’re still watching this show you haven’t fallen asleep during any of the previous two episodes. Don’t get me wrong: The animation is good, there’s some thematic stuff connecting the slice-of-life-parts and the direction is fine as well. But all of that still doesn’t amount to anything that lasts longer than the duration of the episode. This series clearly lacks the ambition to do with its characters and setting more than just present these pleasant slice-of-life-stories with low-stakes-drama.
This series began with low-stakes-drama and it was mostly its pleasant atmosphere that sold it. I’ve mentioned before, though, how those stakes never seemed to result in consequences. And it’s episodes like this one that establish this series’ actual goal: to be somewhat pleasant fun. The story of this series is very light and it has gotten lighter with each new episode. What are left are its characters and their rapport.
In this instance, the third episode, this means comedy (and I assume that this will become a trend for this series). There’s a story only in the lightest sense present as in that there’s a setup, a conflict and a resolution. The episode never really explores any kind of deeper dramatic notions here. Instead it fills the time with sketch-stuff like callbacks, puns and running-gags.
There’s one other thing of course that connects this episode with the other two and that’s the cooking. Well, to be specific, it’s the eating of said cooking which has become the series’ core-theme. What’s strange, though, is how the series has explored that theme already in its first time – and seemingly that’s all the series has to say about that. It seems a tad early for the series to already have covered such a thing but if this series primarily wants to do nothing more than lighthearted comedy then I guess, that was the right step to take. It isn’t like this episode has added anything new to this little theme. Like usual it amounts to the message that good food is best enjoyed in good company (which is compared to the notion of family).
Let’s talk about the comedy of the episode a bit. So we start with the setup of the main-girl having this drawing-exam which she’s nervous about. The gag they use is one of her awkward behavior as she repeatedly slaps her cheeks while muttering some encouraging words. The real joke, though, is that she continues doing that even during the exam. And the punchline is her getting the third place – from the last. There were some shots added like when the main-girl is doing the thing during the exam, the shot is showing the teacher and other students staring at her confused. Even before that when she’s sitting surrounded by her classmates she’s doing the thing and in this instance the befuddlement is verbally expressed. And that’s the problem here: That very first moment where the main-girl is doing the thing and her classmates react to that already telegraphs the reacting from the second moment during the exam. The moment during the exam should heighten the absurdity and I assume the thought is here that the situation alone would be enough. But the thing is: The essential reaction stays the same. The situation may be heightened but the reaction isn’t. In fact, the actual motivating-herself-bit doesn’t go anywhere after that moment during the exam. The punchline is still there but it’s a weird decision how that bit gets suppressed by another one: Ryo thinking about the food she wants to cook with the ingredients on the table rather than drawing the assigned object. That bit starts during the exam and becomes the more important element and punchline when the punchline to the motivation-bit is delivered. I guess, the idea was to link those two bits but the motivation-bit didn’t really have much of an impact and the connection to the hunger-drawing-thingy only lessened its impact even more. But that’s how most of the comedy in this episode worked: Multiple bits got thrown into the air and then the episode dealt with each one without giving every one of those its due.
The comedy in this episode just feels too fast-paced. It just sped through a lot of bits because other bits had been going on at the same time. The series needs more focus in such endeavors and link the bit to the episode instead of making those bits an almost random thing. I mean, the story of this episode was already very broadly written with the “Ryo is sad – let’s cheer her up – now she’s happy again”-plot.
It has to be mentioned that the direction shows some decent attention to detail in this episode. Ryo holding her drawing so that nobody could see what she had drawn was such a nice little detail and the series about an ex-office-worker rediscovering his passion through food was either a reference I didn’t get or it just connected to the reverence this series holds for food. Then there was the whole shtick about Ryo cooking stuff and presenting it to the viewer first. A very meta moment for sure and I guess the idea is here to make the audience feel included in the happy gathering of the characters of this series. Also, there’s the VERY witty and meta story-conceit of Kirin visiting Ryo each weekend which is seemingly the period of time we’ll get to see each episode – and the series is airing around the same time each week as well. None of this stuff is exactly impactful but at least it makes you feel like someone gives a shit about this series.
Death Parade 03 Review:
The rapport between Kurokami no Onna and Decim is already pretty solid at this point: She’s the passionate, empathetic one and he’s the rational, literal one. It’s like Spock and Kirk from Star Trek but without spaceships.
I didn’t really like the first and second episode of this series but maybe it was more of an introduction-thingy. The series was more invested in showing off the setting and the premise. But even then the second episode had indeed shown a willingness to break conventions when it comes to these “supernatural judgement”-series. I think, the most interesting idea you can take away from these first two episodes is that the judges of these “games for the dead” are fallible. This changes the dynamic of these episodic sties immensely. If the judges aren’t acting from a moral high ground (for some supernatural reason), then the actual judgment becomes more of a mystery than a straightforward moralistic tale.
This third episode shows that the series is prepared to go even further with its premise and it’s a sign of what may turn out to be a great episodic series. The thing about this third episode is that it isn’t about punishment. Moralistic tales that involve supernatural judges usually go the route of “Who’s the real bad guy?” when they try to subvert the formula but this series not only subverts that formula with having fallible judges but also with having cases like the one in this episode that actually isn’t about punishing someone. In fact, this is a bittersweet episode all things considered.
More than that, I feel like the pacing and “character-development” (well, it’s a sort-of artificial one considering how memories work in this series) of this episode are more straightforward but also more focused. There aren’t any sudden changes in personality due to the episode’s character-developments (which is in itself not a bad thing but you gotta be REALLY subtle to pull that one off – and the first episode wasn’t like that). This episode was able to be far more poignant thanks to how it could focus on the two dead people.
Essentially what this episode wants to be is a tragic love-story. You got the usual Romeo-Juliet-conceit of two lovers who fall in love with each other but can’t be together for some reason. The romance in this episode is a bit more complex than that but that’s the general direction of the whole thing. And the whole thing actually becomes a bit of a plot-twist, an effective one as well. It’s an unexpected development and it does let us see the episode in a new light.
Okay, now for the more problematic part of the episode: The actual plottwist. Sure, it’s a bittersweet love-story in the end but… yeah, the message of the whole thing seems a bit… weird. Usually I wouldn’t spoil plottwists when I think they’re good but in this case the plottwist is also somewhat problematic. Here’s the thing: The dude thinks he has found his childhood-friend who had moved away when they were still children. Turns out, though, that the girl isn’t that childhood-friend, she’s the other female childhood-friend of his – and that girl REALLY loved the dude. In the following years, though, she drifted apart from the dude and so she… well, underwent plastic surgery while STILL BEING IN HIGH SCHOOL in order to get the dude’s attention. And a COUPLE years later he does notice her! Even despite knowing what she did (which is hardly something you would describe as “the right thing to do”) he decides to talk to her and ask her out. The dude looks good in this – and you’d think: Hey, the girl finally got the love she wanted. But here’s where things get complicated: The episode makes it seem like that plastic surgery had been necessary in order to win the love of the dude. And that’s… that isn’t exactly a good message to deliver as subtext.
The second episode had already established that Kurokami no Onna would always be the optimist when it comes to these candidates while Decim would do his best Spock-impression with his literal and emotionless reactions to his environment. But the third character is sorely missing here. Ginta should be there as a counterpoint to Kurokami no Onna as the cynical one who generally presumes the worst as far as intentions go.
Unless that’s the point, of course… While watching this series as it’s still airing it’s hard to figure out what the unifying theme of the series could be. The two cases this series had so far had a few unifying elements. First, there’s the personal relationship between the two dead persons. In both cases they were theoretically in love with each other. The second thing is that those two haven’t been honest with each other – and that isn’t only because of the “memories”-thing. So maybe being honest with yourself and being honest with each other will be one of the driving themes of this series. The third aspect is of course one of the two being worse than the other. Since the judges in this instance are fallible, though, this doesn’t mean we’re talking about black-and-white-judgements.
With an episodic series like this one it really depends on who much gas it has in its tank and how far it will get with that. I have to say, though, the second episode and this one certainly have made me more interested in following this series than the first episode had done. These supernatural judgements should never rely on anyone being a jerk. Even if jerks exist in reality, the thing with that is… they simply aren’t very subtle. So, turning someone into a jerk for the sake of drama and whatnot just takes away from the dramatic value of the whole thing.
Essentially you’ll just have to wait with this one and see how the individual episodes fare – and of course how those influence the series as a whole. The characters, Decim and Kurokami no Onna, aren’t particularly compelling but they do the job as a constant for these episodes. I certainly want to see more cases that are less about punishing someone and more about two dead people having to tell a story which will decides who the more virtuous one of the two is.
Posted on January 25, 2015, in Anime, Death Parade, Isuca, Koufuku Grafitti, Reviews and tagged Anime, イスカ, death parade, Happy Cooking Graffiti, isuca, Koufuku Graffiti, reviews. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.