Review-Roundup: God Eater 02, Akagami no Shirayukihime 01-03, Rokka no Yuusha 01-03
Yeah, audience, GOT IT?! We all need to know, of course, what buttons need to be pressed for rapid-fire! Maybe the next time someone uses a coffee-machine or a copy-machine in an anime, someone should go into detail about what buttons to push in what order to make the damn thing work…
This time I review:
God Eater 02: The fight continues – but the new guy with his special Newtype-abilities fucks up. Naturally he lands in a cell and it takes a LOT of talking for the authority-figures to understand what kind of peanutbrain the main-character truly is. And just as it obviously becomes clear that they can’t let a potential fighter sit around in a cell when they desperately need one, the episode already ends… What a cliffhanger!
Akagami no Shirayukihime 01-03: Girl with red hair (!) has trouble with a prince. Another prince rescues her. And then she gets into even more trouble – which she also gets rescued again from by that second prince… It’s all very romantic and innocent.
Rokka no Yuusha 01-03: The world’s about to end – again. And six heroes must kill the ultimate evil – again. But nothing’s ever as simple as it seems, is it?
God Eater 02 Review:
Case in point: Eric! … Oh, no, wait… he died… Nevermind…
It’s one thing to adapt a videogame as an anime but it’s another to use the adaptation as a marketing-tool for the source-material. Unlike Light Novel, Manga or even Visual Novel adaptations, the difference in the medium between the videogame-franchise God Eater and the anime is big enough to demand some original ideas from the anime in order to make the transition work. But here’s where the need for marketing is keeping the anime on a tight leash and from getting too individualistic with their interpretation of what the series’ themes and setting is like.
For a series that clearly cares a lot about action, it’s strange how subdued the tone has felt so far. The second episode shows the tail-end of the fighting from the last episode, then spends A LOT of time on the aftermath of that and then the last couple minutes are devoted to ramping up the tension again just to quickly cut the built up excitement short with the ED-credits. In a lot of ways this is a transitional episode that doesn’t quite find something worthwhile to do between resolving the cliffhanger from the first episode and setting up future events.
Story-wise the series merely repeated a lot of beats from the first episode: The main-character being this special Newtype, battles being very brutal and even the conflict between authority and just trying to do the right thing for your comrades in a battle is brought up again. It isn’t surprising for a second episode to think it necessary to reiterate a lot of the points the first episode has brought up in case someone is watching the second episode on TV while not having seen the first episode yet.
Structurally, though, this episode is a real clunker. At the beginning you see the continuation of the battle but at some point the main-character falls unconscious and waked up in a cell (since he was ordered not to join that fight). He doesn’t know what has happened after he fell unconscious and there’s a lot of back and forth where he talks with that other veteran about why he did the things he did and he argues with that lady-commander about whether he was right to disobey his orders like that. At the same time, though, the veteran is piecing together what had happened before he joined the battle and it’s only a couple exchanges later that he tells the main-character how the injured dude sacrificed himself to save him. The setup and structure of those exchanges is annoyingly convoluted as instead of getting one meaningful conversation it gets broken up into various tiny ones in this episode and the biggest reason for that is that both the main-character and the two characters who talk to him aren’t very straightforward.
The amount of dancing around and obfuscation that is going on here is completely unnecessary and just seems to be there to drag out a rather simple conversation about all the characters openly telling each other the plot. Something like that is already in dire need of some wit and charm to become bearable but this episode manages to make an already very boring thing become very annoying. There’s an actual scene where the veteran overhears other characters talking about what happened in the fight before he arrives and he stops them to ask for more details – which would be fine except he talked with one of the guys who actually had been there moments earlier and he wasn’t that curious then. And after that the veteran even goes back to the main-character to ask him if that had really happened! The audience already knows this happened and here we got the series just rehashing that information multiple times! There’s absolutely nothing exciting about characters saying “Listen, did you know this dude did that?”, then some other character says “Wait, did you mean THAT dude did that?” and then the second talks with said dude asking him “Is it true that you did that?”. All this just to make a character aware of a minor plotpoint! Why didn’t the script just include a line from the main-character just telling it to the veteran himself right from the beginning?!
The world-building is still pretty much a bare-bones-affair that lacks a real sense of immersion. There are evil monsters, there are super-hero-esque soldiers defending humanity against them and there’s some weird science behind the whole thing. A lot of the worldbuilding is soulless exposition ranging from interesting but useless (that Doctor-dude reminiscing about his past) to just simply being a waste of time (someone explaining the buttons on the God-Arc-gun). Rather than concentrating on making the world seem alive, this series is more interested in how it works. The mechanisms are more important than the spark that makes those mechanisms come alive.
Rather than adapting the videogame this is based on, it starts to feel like the series is actually emulating them. Especially in the fighting-scenes at the beginning of this episode, you can’t help but think of the videogame while watching how the various characters circle the monster and do their respective attacks and as the creature does an AOE-attack, everybody jumps back and waits as if it’s like in a game where you have to sit through the animation while you’re waiting out of range of the attack. Whenever a character struggled in the battle or when you get a non-standard-scenario like when the monsters attack those planes, you start to feel again like you’re watching an anime. But what this series seems to think the fighting SHOULD look like is following the mechanisms of the videogame instead of a lively, dynamic choreography.
The two episodes so far have been a weirdly stolid affair. Even though both episodes had their share of action and drama, nothing about it seems too impactful. A big thing of these two episodes is the back-and-forth of whether Eric would survive the battle or not but of course the audience isn’t attached to the guy and in general the show is very hung-up on just telling the audience what it thinks rather than showing it. The series would rather run a few laps of verbal sparring than to just show a poignant summary of the whole thing. And it doesn’t help that the series has yet to reveal even one compelling idea that would arouse interest. Hopefully now the series has ended its prologue the series will be able to offer more exciting action and drama that the audience can actually relate to.
Akagami no Shirayukihime 01-03 Review:
More like it’s the color of annoyance! The amount of trouble Shirayuki gets into just because she has red hair actually makes a good case for her going bald or coloring her hair!
Stereotypes have their uses because at the roots of their existence aren’t the mindnumbing versions of lazy writing we always imagine when we think of what stereotypical means but instead potent tropes and images which we can all very easily relate to. One of those kinds of stereotypes are fairy-tales. These days in Hollywood it’s all about offering a darker version of well-known stories or retelling those old stories with a new perspective. This idea that “reinventing the wheel with a new design” is more worthwhile than to just retell an old fairy-tale in an efficient way may therefore more popular these days but it does have the pleasant effect of helping you appreciate those stories about doing the best they can on a well-tread road.
Story-wise Akagami no Shirayukihime is right there with all those other “retellings” of fairytales as it not only invests time in doing some simple worldbuilding (which is already more than what fairytales traditionally do) and it switches the script on how the story goes. It’s certainly better to think of this series as a fairy-tale-esque series as its own thing (although it does occasionally hint at the Snow-White-tale).
This series describes the life of a red-haired girl named Shirayuki (or Snow-White if you will) and in this story she’s a competent herbalist. Due to her unusual red hair she attracts the attention of a rather petty and selfish prince who tries to force her to become his concubine. Fleeing the city she meets Zen and he not only tries to protect her but clearly has romantic feelings for her as well. And as it turns out Zen is a prince as well. After that, the second and third episode is about the two maintaining their relationship despite their difference in social status and Shirayuki still gets into precarious situations Zen has to rescue her from (or at least help her deal with).
After Shirayuki meets Zen, the series quickly becomes a shoujo-romance that’s idealized to the point of being quite schmaltzy. But in how earnest and straightforward the pure scenes of romance are, you get a tonal consistency here that really helps this series to become surprisingly immersive instead of off-putting. When Zen doesn’t die because of the poison because “he had trained his body over the years to build up an immunity to poison”, then rather than offering a jarring excuse for a plot-convenient event it seemed right at home among the usual ebullient writing of this series.
Where the series goes from just being okay to actually being good is how it characterizes Shirayuki’s goals. She’s getting really close to the prince but while she returns his affections, she’s proving to herself and the world that she has earned that place. Instead of showing a female character who gets overwhelmed by her emotions and seems restrained to passivity, Shirayuki both is aware of her feelings for Zen and acts on those but equally also thinks of herself. In the third episode when some high noble had a problem with the prince courting a common like Shirayuki he hired a ninja-type-character to dissuade her from meeting the prince again. But instead of fleeing in fear and despair (for example you can easily picture the female character getting forced to become a heap of angst and despair after secretly hearing guards talk of some new command from the prince himself that she shouldn’t be let through the gate anymore), she not only immediately figures out what’s really going on but also is ready to risk her life to confront that high noble by herself.
This series won’t win any awards for complexity, depth or deconstructing some trope or other but so far this series has proven to be an enjoyable ride (as long as you’re in the mood for some shoujo-fantasy-romance). While the characterization is idealized to a large degree, the sentimental interactions growing out of those seem earnest and relatable. After all, which girl wouldn’t like a boyfriend who drops everything to be by his beloved’s side and always is just right there when things seem to get hairy and what guy wouldn’t like a girlfriend who just comes when summoned and is always understanding and trusting, not to mention the part of her literally being special. Seriously, the characters in this series just can’t seem to shut up about Shirayuki’s red hair… Jesus, it’s just hair! Well, I hope the series actually has an actual arc for the characters in store beyond what’s been established already so far. It certainly has laid a great foundation for that with these three episodes.
Rokka no Yuusha 01-03 Review:
What would be a shounen-series without a protagonist with some ridiculous goal he can chase after and use as an excuse to be the most heroic person in any situation…?
Epic adventures are all about scope. Sure, you can make it all about the fate of the world and some fated one rescuing said world but truly epicness is about making even the most heroic figure seem small compared to the world he lives in, so that when such a character does something meaningful you can understand just how much of an impact this would have on the world. So you get a big, varied world, you get a huge cast of characters and you get a quest that will decide the fate of the world and you’re set.
Certainly that’s all this series can claim to have done when it comes to its ideas. Rokka no Yuusha is about six chosen heroes who every few hundred years have to venture out and win a fight against the demon-king, so that he would slumber again for a couple hundred years. The series does go to some lengths to introduce all the six chosen heroes (of which we have seen four so far) and while the heroes travel west to enter the Demon-King’s land, they gradually gather together in one spot.
Considering how simplistic the premise is (six chosen heroes, one demon-king and you pretty much can guess the rest), the series is surprisingly slow-paced. With such a premise you’d think the series would more or less just stumble upon the logical conclusion of this premise within a couple episodes but the series draws out the inevitable conclusion. That isn’t very surprising since this series needs to fill enough time for 12 or so episodes and so the question becomes what this series uses its time for instead. So far a large portion of it has been worldbuilding.
The setting of this series is some sort of island whose culture is inspired by Mayans and Aztecs mostly, it seems (although technologically they seem to just have invented gunpowder) but the setting is also fantastical as certain girls are Saints (apparently the gods equip certain girls with divine super-powers in this setting) and the opponents are demons and monsters. What actually helps with this sort of world-building that seems to go for the nuts-and-bolts-version of magic is a character like Adlet whose super-power seems to be always being the smartest guy in the room when it comes to figuring out the nuts and bolts of supernatural stuff. With such a character commenting on the setting, the series has a nice excuse to really get into the nitty-gritty of why a certain power isn’t as powerful as you’d think.
So far the cast consists of broadly defined and written characters. On one hand that makes it easier to understand what each character’s deal is but it does take away from the complexity and depth of said characters. Where the series is winning points right now is in setting up the serious mood of this kingdom getting completely overwhelmed by the awakening of the demon-king and there’s a certain sense of mystery surrounding the details of what exactly the six chosen heroes are supposed to do and Fremy’s attitude towards other potential chosen heroes.
It’s a fun little adventure and a lot of its appeal will depend on how many plottwists it has in store. This certainly seems like the kind of series that starts with a simple premise and then things just become more and more complicated as the heroes find out more about what situation they really find themselves in. The series is off to an interesting start, albeit a slow one, but its quality comes with the promise that there will be some sort of payoff for all the worldbuilding and exposition this series has indulged in so far.
Posted on July 22, 2015, in Akagami No Shirayukihime, Anime, God Eater, Reviews, Rokka No Yuusha and tagged Akagami no Shirayuki-hime, Anime, 赤髪の白雪姫, God Eater, review, Rokka no Yūsha, Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers, Snow White with the Red Hair, 六花の勇者. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.