Review-Roundup: Aquarion Logos 04, God Eater 03, Ranpo Kitan 04
Sure, bad puns are one way to deal with high-concept story-ideas…
This time I review:
Aquarion Logos 04: Love is in the air! Obviously the upcoming Tanabata-festival is a big chance for the shy girl to confess to the dude who considers himself to be the savior of the world. And… that doesn’t go anywhere really. Instead we deal with three people finding out that synchronizing with three people for an Aquarion-gattai-formation feels MUCH better than doing it with two persons. And shy-girl confesses… that she has a traumatic past she now has managed to overcome somewhat! Truly, it’s exactly what you would call a victory for love!
God Eater 03: There’s a special kind of Newbie on a plane. She’s surrounded by monsters. Newbie-dude and two veterans come to her rescue. Things work out in the end. … The End.
Ranpo Kitan 04: Someone who calls himself Twenty Faces has been killing off criminals which haven’t landed in prison or exited it early for some reason. The best solution genius-kid and girly-boy come up with is to just release a very evil criminal as bait. Turns out when you secretly help an evil criminal to avoid prison, some vigilante-like killer shows up! And after the killer who tried to kill the dude from the last episode gets revealed we’re supposedly very anxious to hear his excuses for the whole thing.
Aquarion Logos 04 Review:
Glasses-guy hyping up something without any story-value whatsoever…
Thinking of Aquarion Evol, it’s apparent what a difference a different director makes with a concept that is seemingly just as outlandish while being generically melodramatic at the same time. It’s hard to pin down just how serious one is supposed to take this series. A lot of the events in this series so far have been pretty outlandish and the characterization has been generic in a heightened way – but overall the series has less flair and stylishness than you would expect. Once you get past the high-concept-word-stuff and get acquainted with the cast, there isn’t a whole lot to get captivated by here. After 4 episodes it already feels like the series is settling into a comfy but dull routine.
This time around it’s all about love. Shy-girl has realized that she has fallen in love with the savior-dude and (of course) she’s too shy to confess to him. Coincidentally the Tanabata-Festival is happening soon and the Verbalism-club is supposed to do their usual radioplay-thingy on stage. Also, coincidentally (again!) the evil guy has chosen to corrupt the word love this time around. Things get awkward during a sleepover but then everybody’s busy with fighting – which is of course the perfect moment to resolve all personal problems because talking with each other without a fight happening around you is FAR too stressful compared to that!
A really big part of the episode is concerned with how shy-girl is gonna confess to savior-dude. There are a ton of moments spent showing just how much she’s in love with the guy but strangely in the final battle against the word love (!), the whole thing becomes about something tragic that happened in shy-girl’s past and how she has to find her courage to move on and start trusting people again. It’s like a shitty version of the typical “will they, won’t they”-spiel complete with tantalizing moment where the two would-be lovers come THIS close to confessing their love (or in this case one of the two would confess her love at least). The way this episode presents it, though, it does feel like a betrayal as the episode does a switcheroo-trick at the last minute to avoid addressing shy-girl’s feelings for savior-dude.
It gets worse when you look at the rest of the episode which therefore essentially becomes a nothing-episode. The writing in this episode is so much lacking in substance and thematic guidance that it ultimately feels trivial. There’s a huge section at the beginning about how great the Tanabata-festival is, an unnecessary explanation about why Tanabata is happening around August and a discussion of how romantic the background-story of the Tanabata-festival is. Then to shove it down your throat what this episode wants to talk about, there’s also a scene of shy-girl meeting three admirers who want to date her (and who also appear in the flashback later on). There’s also a whole thing about a sleepover because the Verbalism-club has to prepare for the reading and then savior-dude has to go with shy-girl to get her underwear which she had forgotten but because of the corruption of the word shy-girl is about to kiss savior-dude but they get interrupted at the last second and so on and so forth. It doesn’t really matter because none of this goes anywhere! It’s all about incidences without any consequences.
The flashback that further characterized shy-girl could’ve been meaningful but it just added a generic context to a broad characterization. Just someone saying some small line about how shy-girl had become this way because of a traumatic event would’ve enough. What the episode did in the flashback was so blunt and predictable that it was questionable why this information had to be told in that way. When something that should illuminate a character feels like something nobody in the audience needed to see, then you know that you’ve just experienced the meaning of triviality.
For a series that has such crazy ideas at its core, it’s amazing how boring those become after being worked into this series’ story. The series isn’t just getting duller with each new episode, it’s also getting more boring. Usually you start out with some big mystery that will take the whole series to resolve or there’s some REALLY epic issue that takes a lot of time to be dealt with and this series has done that – but not only was what the series had done in that regard not very intriguing, what it had done with that stuff since then has been even more boring. This series plays a lot of flat notes for what it is at its core. And the series has achieved the rare feat of making stuff that seemed flat and one-note even flatter. Right now it does feel like you’re watching white paint dry and what the series considers plot-advancement is some dude throwing new white paint at the wall you’ve been staring at for hours. Sure, it will take longer to watch that paint dry but it’s still just a white wall in the end, it’s the perfect impersonation of being trivial and boring at the same time.
God Eater 03 Review:
Of course the heroic thing to do is to just run into a dangerous situation and hope for the best.
This isn’t a bad series, if anything this is a series with very humble ambitions in terms of story and character. In theory, action and a general sense of stylishness is what this type of series would try to sell itself with. But for that Takayuki Hirao is definitely the wrong director. The least you could do is what the director of Arslan Senki did in the 16th episode as he simply stole a lot from the movie Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King (the arrival of the Rohan-army during the siege of Minas Tirith in particular). But even if borrowed (that’s the nice word for it) you at least got some nice stylishness out of that direction. Here, though, you got a direction that is completely counterintuitive in how it paces itself and what stuff it lingers on.
At least, you can’t complain of a lack of action in this episode. Newbie-dude is about to meet newbie-tsundere who’s in danger as her transport-vehicle is getting attacked by a lot of monsters. Veteran-dude and veteran-girl are also there to offer their usual “I’ve seen some shit, so I’m not baffled by anything in this stressful situation.”-banter. And the episode is all about fighting with the only plottwist being that first they were only trying to save the newbie-tsundere but after finding out that she’s protecting hurt civilians they decided to save the whole plane. Of course, they manage to do just that.
Takayuki Hirao’s direction-style may not have helped this series so far but it has to be said that the script is garbage as well. Ignoring what a director would do with the script, this episode’s script is SO bland that it’s hard to see how it was even enough to fill a whole episode. Aquarion Logos’ episode this week was truly trivial but at least it had a story and a plot that accompanied it. Here you have a whole episode about how three warriors help another warrior protect civilians from the numerous attacks of monsters. That’s what it boils down to and with that I mean, this is basically all this episode has to offer story-wise. Whereas the second episode was all about dancing around the various scenes between newbie-dude and whoever talked to him, this episode was all about the battle against monsters on that plane.
And despite how great ufotable’s animation is in this episode, I don’t buy that this is what a battle on a flying would look like. For the most part the strong wind is just there as part of the atmosphere (meaning the characters’ clothes flap in the win and occasionally the series remembers newbie-tsundere’s hat should be blown off by the wind for example) instead of the hindrance it should be. It’s actually less about the physics but more about the feel of it. Making the wind and the fact that the plane is moving a hindrance would add a special flavor to the battle but the way this episode presents the whole thing, it might as well be just another battle on the ground. The way the action gets handled here is dull and bland. There are no standout-moments in this battle if you don’t count the laborious introduction of another ability Newtypes can use where their weapons turn into monsters that eat up other monsters (and naturally this is actually a feature of the game this series tries to promote). The battle-scenes do their job of telling the audience what is going on but they do so without finesse and the characters’ lame characterizations don’t invite you to care about them either.
If anything, it’s a testament to how much this series is missing its mark so far that its best moment is when the characters see that giant monster in the distance. Even if you look at Monster-Hunter-like games the challenge of tackling a giant monster is what you strive for generally. Of course there’s a certain amount of busywork attached to that in such a game but there are ways for a game to make the busywork entertaining and there are ways for a series to make this entertaining and in this regard the series has failed so far. The characters remain as one-note as ever and the story remains bland as well. And all these flashbacks about the nature of the Oracle-gene… Why should I give a shit?! Actually, you could ask the series in general just that. So far this series really just seems like a somewhat cheap marketing-ploy (I imagine ufotable didn’t do their usual beautiful animation for nothing) for the new God-Eater-game that is about to come out in Japan.
Ranpo Kitan 04 Review:
Ranpo Kitan being as classy as always.
I tried avoiding his but with this episode it’s clear this series won’t let it go. This series seriously want to talk about politics, society and culture. It’s strange because at the same time this series is SO bizarre that I can’t imagine anyone looking at this series as reliable commentary for present-day-issues. This series certainly raises questions but they aren’t about what happens in reality but what the deal is with this series’ setting and its characters.
In a way this starts to feel a weirder version of Psycho-Pass’ first season with how it focuses on weird, grotesque crimes pursued by characters who themselves are a bit weird. But where Psycho-Pass did it in a sci-fi-context (with a sci-fi-y conceit at its heart), this series instead presents a heightened reality of a present-day-setting. It might as well happen in a fantasy-realm that shares a lot of references with our known reality and looking at TV-series like Hannibal for example, it tells you that it’s all about style and thematic consistency that sells a heightened reality. Like with other setting that would seem alien to an audience on paper it’s about making it more immersive which doesn’t necessarily mean that you need relatable characters but that you need to build an entrance-way to the world you’re presenting to the audience. And I get the feeling that the creators of this show oversimplify what the audience would find attracting about this show in their estimation.
This show operates on a level that would like to believe people liked the Saw-movie-series because they liked to see people die. It’s that sort of simplistic motivation that leads to all these disturbing elements in this series that are partly disturbing because of how absurd they are but are also disturbing because of how naïve they are. When the series wants to say something, it shouts – and it never offers moral grey areas for the complex topics, it’s tackling. At the same time, the series has no problem with appearing amoral if it seems convenient for the good guys. That’s what makes this series grotesque: The good guys are good guys at the beginning and at the end of the day but between these times, they’re seemingly allowed to do anything they want (which isn’t what the law and ethics are about).
In this episode the criminal Twenty Faces is the subject of the investigation. Apparently he has killed a bunch of “criminals” that the legal system hasn’t punished at all or not enough in the eyes of Twenty Faces. And all murders mirror the crimes said criminals have got convicted for. Girly-boy and detective-boy come up with a trap for the killer and said killer falls for it and the episode ends with a reveal of the killer’s true identity.
Like usual, the investigation is wittier than pragmatic. The good guys come up with a trap as they release the creep from the last episode as bait (which is… not a move deserving of sympathy considering what that guy has done). Of course, they catch the killer with that as he tries to kill the creep – and nobody mentions how the good guys have approached a VERY special prisoner for help (don’t ask me how that whole thing is supposed to make sense…). But basic stuff like actually trying to find a pattern among those crimes and deduce shit from that is simply absent here. Like usual, the capture of the criminal depends on a lot of assumptions and luck.
Aside from that, I can share my own guess: That Twenty Faces is actually a group of people using the mask of Twenty Faces to kill criminals they think deserve to die. After all, there are only two kinds of groups who would have the relevant information to become the type of vigilante to avenge only specific crimes. One are the people who investigate the crime and the other are the victims (or someone close to victims). Naturally to be sure what is happening you need to know how far-reaching Twenty-Faces’ activities are which is easy to put together as he announces every one of his crimes. If victims did it, it should be more widespread but if it’s constricted to a certain region you know that it’s someone within the police who has access to this information. Of course, there’s also the bizarre version of that: That Twenty-Faces is a cult-like operation of vigilantes and when cult-leader announces via a youtube-video he will kill someone, all the cult-members have to do their best to kill that person in an ironic way. But that cult would need to be massive to get away with that for long. But then again, this isn’t a series that can be praised for its internal plot-logic.
This show works neither as a mystery-series nor as a drama-series. It spouts a lot and accordingly its plot and story is all talk and no show. At this point its stylistic, theatric plot-devices seem more like a miserable shortcut for the story to cover up awkward plot-holes instead of offering a stylish version of a coherent story. What makes it bizarre are less its virtues but its shortcomings which the series embraces actually. But that’s exactly why it’s a must-see-series actually. No one would believe that a series would do what this series is doing unless you watch it. This series is just THAT crazy.
Posted on July 27, 2015, in Anime, Aquarion Logos, God Eater, Ranpo Kitan: Game Of Laplace, Reviews and tagged Anime, Aquarion, Aquarion Logos, God Eater, Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace, review, 乱歩奇譚 Game of Laplace. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.