Review-Roundup: Young Black Jack 02, Subete ga F ni Naru 01, Valkyrie Drive: Mermaid 01, Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans 02

_C12__Young_Black_Jack_-_02.mp4 - 00001You know, a drug-addict… It’s that… thing some people do apparently when they aren’t feeling right. The series seems to never tire or reminding you that he’s a drug-addict while also never making it seem like he’s an actual drug-addict. He assisted in an operation again for God’s sake! And he gave a frigging speech about morality, too! What does this series think being an drug-addict is like?!

This time I review:

Young Black Jack 02: Way back when doctors were real numbnuts and couldn’t figure out how to transplant a heart. Turns out if you’re a genius-doctor and evil enough you could do it already. Because of some weird coincidences Jack finds himself in the position to do such an operation but his druggie-friend saves him from himself. So instead of killing that one person with the operation, he kills the other person with the operation and it’s all fine because he gives the dead person’s identity to the other person! Isn’t that heroic?!

Subete ga F ni Naru 01: A girl wants to fuck her teacher and some reclusive genius-scientist-lady is getting between her and that goal. Out of jealousy she urges the teacher and the rest of his class to visit said genius-scientist-lady.

Valkyrie Drive 01: Some innocent schoolgirl lands on an island where girls fuck other girls in order to battle each other.

Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans 02: The situation stinks, nobody’s happy but there’s a frigging Gundam in the middle of all of it, so this means more fighting is going to happen. Really, it’s just a bunch of orphans trying to fight for their survival and there’s some girl trying very hard to say something relevant but failing to do so this far.

Young Black Jack 02 Review:

_C12__Young_Black_Jack_-_02.mp4 - 00005No, he’s just killing the villain and giving this random stranger the villain’s face without the stranger’s consent – because that’s MUCH better, right…?

At the heart of Young Black Jack lies a whole hoard of stupidity, it seems. What is the point of this series? Telling an origin-story is one thing but after two episodes I still don’t quite see how this series plans to add anything to the story of this franchise. Both this episode and the first one have stories that feel like they’re about how the main-chara almost didn’t become Black Jack. What kind of origin-story uses the obviously inevitable process of becoming the hero as a stake in the drama of the show? This series seems to want to define Black Jack by what he ends up not doing instead of explaining why he does what he does.

Nor does it help that this show’s writing is incredibly tonedeaf. These two episodes so far have some of most jarring dialogues and scenes imaginable. For fuck’s sake, there’s a character running around who’s an addict and EVERYBODY knows it and remarks upon it constantly – but at the same time except the bags under his eyes he doesn’t seem like a drug-addict AT ALL! You know that being a drug-addict is a rather heavy-weight-hook for a character but to mention it all the time while also completely ignoring it at the same time is simply baffling. It simply becomes banal!

At least this episode’s story is already closer to what you should do with the formula of Black Jack than what the first episode. Explaining why Black Jack has such a mercenary-process for choosing who to help could’ve been an obvious plot-hook for an origin-story but instead the first episode immediately launched into the usual Black-Jack-spiel while also doing an origin-story at the same time. This being an origin-story you’d think that Young Black Jack would try to deconstruct the typical formula of the Black-Jack-franchise by resetting the stage. But what we got here instead is a bizarre series that so far hasn’t found its footing yet and instead just stumbles from one storypoint to the next without ever establishing depth or style.

The writing is the largest hurdle so far and this episode has a better hook than the previous episode but all the incidental stuff is pretty much a shitshow. So, Black Jack gets kidnapped by a shady guy together with a couple other dudes, one of them his old buddy with a drug-problem. They all have debts to their kidnappers. Black Jack has debts because he failed to fulfill his promise to save someone (which sounds like a way more interesting story than what is about to unfold in this episode). There’s a shady guy explaining that they need a donor for a heart and a certain “Dr. Joker” would come and do the operation – despite the fact that (as a voice-over explains) the only successful heart-transplantation had only bought the patient a couple more weeks to live.

And that’s when only Black Jack and another dude get chosen as suitable donors while the rest are freed (which is dumb). But it turns out that the other guy who got chosen alongside Jack actually wants to be chosen because the money he’ll get from this will help his daughter who has leukemia. Then Doctor Joker doesn’t turn up and Jack has to do the procedure – but he doesn’t because it would be murder (since the nice guy would die). But instead he kills the old guy and just exchanged the two guys’ faces (you know, like in Face-Off). Of course the dude with the sick daughter who’s now the new leader of the sect (oh, did I mention that this was all about a leader of a sect?) gives his wife and daughter the necessary money and the old evil guy is dead. It’s a real happy ending, isn’t it?

What you immediately notice is how overstuffed this episode feels. Of course, it’s hard to notice that when the actual story becomes incredibly shallow as well due to that. There’s the matter of the heart-transplant, there’s the matter of Doctor Joker, there’s the matter of an old, evil sect-leader running around kidnapping people and then there’s a flamboyant yakuza-guy who’s also involved. There just is TOO much stuff in this episode! Add to that tonedeaf writing without any sense of self-awareness and you get an episode that makes you question what the creators wanted to do here. It’s like the episode is everywhere and nowhere at once. As an aside it’s offhandedly mentioned that the old guy is leading a sect and the fact that the two sect-people often speak together in synchronicity isn’t remarked upon. And what’s up with this harebrained scheme to find a heart-transplant. And for a series that makes a big deal out of medical history while talking about heart-transplants, what Black Jack’s doing is more or less magic.

Bad writing keeps being the bane of this show’s existence. After two episodes of subpar writing and lackluster storytelling, it’s doubtful that this show will suddenly become better in the next episodes. You could think that this series is trying to be kid-friendly with its obvious lack of blood and its general lack of realism but at the same time it deals with very heavy topics and complex questions of morality. Of course, it also doesn’t help that the bad writing keeps you from empathizing with the moral conflicts of the show so in the end the show is neither kid-friendly nor mature enough to appeal to a specific group of people. I certainly don’t want kids to think that the father was the only bad guy in episode 01 and most adults probably will question whether Jack really ended up being a hero by simply giving the father the sect-leader’s identity. This series either needs to become more complex (in a self-aware way) or it needs to streamline its ambitions for more straightforward morality-lessons. Of course, a great series would manage to do both at the same time but I assume after having seen these two episodes that this isn’t a series that will ever reach greatness in any regard.

Episode-Rating: 5.5/10

Subete ga F ni Naru 01 Review:

[C12] Subete ga F ni Naru - 01.mp4 - 00000With Yasuyuki Kase voicing the character the character seems older than he actually should be, I would say. It isn’t bad voice-acting but you definitely can hear that he’s voiced by a 40-year-old and with Nishinoso’s chara-design looking more girlish as well, the whole romance seems a tad more creepy than it should have to be.

So, Keiko made me aware that this series has gotten a live-action-adaptation before. It’s a very recent one as well. Since this is a mystery-series we’re talking about I was a bit worried that knowing the solutions to the mysteries would impact my judgment. So I’ve seen the first episode of this series and after that the first two episodes of the live-action-version. Now you would think that between the 90 minutes of the live-action-series and the 25 minutes of the anime-episode you would get a lot of differences but actually the differences are either very big or so small that I assume that it’s calculation on the individual creator’s part.

The most obvious difference between the live-action-series and the anime-version is that the former immediately starts the usual mystery-series-routine and sets up a murder-case that the girl and the professor have to solve. I will talk about the live-action-version in detail in another review but let’s just say that the anime is doing way better by immediately focusing on the mystery of Dr. Magenta. The conversation between the girl and the Magenta was the most fascinating element of the live-action-version, especially because it felt more like some sort of “urban sci-fi”-scenario (meaning it’s like urban-fantasy but the hidden world is full of sci-fi-stuff instead of wizards, vampires and shit). So it’s no surprise that this is also the most interesting element of the anime’s first episode. Of course it’s kinda weird to hear the same conversation twice (which means it certainly was lifted from the source-material) but there are a few differences between the live-action-dialogue and the anime-version. I assume the anime wants to treat the stuff it left out as a plottwist for later, so I won’t talk about it here but I certainly can say that so far I like this series more when it’s sort-of sci-fi.

Well, in the case of the live-action the problem is a formulaic mystery-structure in the first two episodes and in the case of the anime it means that the first episode was too talky for its own good. Although I have to say that I despise half-baked mysteries like the ones in Beautiful Bones more than having a first episode with a mostly non-existent plot. This episode mostly is concerned with setting up its plothook while also introducing the central cast. If you ignore the framing-device of the old guy narrating the story, the characters simply have a change of scenery to have lengthy conversations about stuff.

Romance is a big part of the series and so far neither the live-action nor the first episode of the anime have sold me on the romance between the teacher and the girl. First of all, the girl is the only one who’s trying to make the possibility of a relationship work while the teacher is just sitting there with a smug expression spouting all his smart lines. There’s nothing equal about the dynamic between the two and the anime-version actually goes to some lengths to make the girl seem even more like an infatuated teenage-girl. Meanwhile, the professor can remain aloof and only has to occasionally show an interest in the girl.

The problem is that what the anime’s first episode does is good, really good. In terms of character-introduction this episode is nailing it – but the episode does little besides that. One of the major weaknesses of this episode that it does so little, even though what it does is pretty good. One can only hope that the anime has some plans for a thematic arc at least that would connect the rest of the series with this slow-paced first episode. It will be pretty interesting what the series will do with its second episode.

Episode-Rating: 6.5/10

Valkyrie Drive 01 Review:

_C12__Valkyrie_Drive_-_Mermaid_-_01.mp4 - 00002That’s moeblob-talk for: “Please consider me a waste of space that only exists as an incentive for other characters to do stuff and that lacking any sort of humanity will just continue to spout moe-like sounds for the rest of the series.”

When I see series like this, you know, series like Queens Blade or Seikon no Qwaser, I always wonder: How does this series plan to convince me that I’m not watching Hentai with better production-values but less erotic gratuity? Usually the answer is “They don’t.”. Thinking that “Sex sells.” is a plothook you get series with REALLY dumb worldbuilding that “explains” why there’s constantly fucking going on (or something that comes close to that, I guess). And this series’ first episode does little to dissuade me from thinking “Oh, it’s another one of those…”.

The most irksome part of these types of series is that they don’t take sex serious. They really don’t. People become primal sexbeasts and the complicated relationship between a mundane life and sex never gets explored. And I mean, if you just want the sex that’s what pornography is for. What’s the point of creating a setting where lesbians have to fuck each other to combat when you don’t talk about sex? And what happens if playing out sexual fantasies (with the consent of everyone involved, of course) most of society would find distasteful is a norm on this island? There IS stuff to talk about here but there’s the mature way to deal with sex and then there are series like this.

Of course, the worldbuilding can be described as flimsy as best and the whole script feels like someone tried VERY hard to find the barebones of a story in a wasteland of not-quite-Hentai-ambitions. The red-haired main-chara is more or less a moeblob and the tall girl is mute for most of the episode for some reason. There’s fighting going on and it’s quickly over because what the series is more interested in are the moments where individual fighters make their weapons-to-be girl-partners cum in whatever fashion they desire.

For a yuri-series you got the usual trapping of an all-female-cast and the three pairs shown in the first episode follow a shtick in each case: Of course, the main-character-pair’s shtick is “love at first sight”, while the shtick with the girls in swimsuits is exhibitionism, I guess, and the last pair is obviously in an S/M-relationship. And you know how mature the series is when one of the running-gags is that when you read the main-girl’s family-name a certain way it says “virgin”. Get it? It’s funny because getting on first base is right up there on the teenage-to-do-list together with sleeping overnight in a haunted house and drinking yourself into oblivion.

I mean, if a woman making another woman cum in order to get a weapon for a fantastical battle-scene is what does it for your tingleberries (or whatever your personal name is for what you have down there), then sure, maybe you’ll get something out of this series. But other than that it’s a snoozefest, simple as that. The comic-series Sunstone or the movie Shame with Michael Fassbender for example offer far more interesting perspectives on sex than the trite bullshit this series has delivered with this episode.

Episode-Rating: 5.0/10

Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans 02 Review:

[C12] Mobile Suit Gundam - Iron-Blooded Orphans - 02.mp4 - 00001One of these few shounen-series that actually takes the topic of children in war-like situations serious. I mean, it really IS fucked up how often teenagers get thrown into serious conflicts in animes without anyone questioning the need for their involvement.

If the series keeps going like this, Iron Blooded Orphans might just become one of my favorite Gundam-series ever! The second episode continues to impress with a mix of great character-moments and an engaging plot. It gets even better once you realize that for once we’ve gotten a Gundam-series that isn’t in a hurry to just tell us how horrible war is followed by some brat using a Gundam to kick enough asses to end the war. Here you got a Gundam-series that is actually interested in the minutiae of war for once and cares about everyone involved (without turning them into sockpuppets for its message).

The best way to show what’s interesting about this series so far is to look at the Bernstein-princess who’s staying with the Orphans and got targeted by political enemies. A lot of the Gundam-series have a princess-like character preaching peace but it’s nice to see how the series almost immediately has acknowledged how naïve and pretentious the princess’ ambitions have been by hiring the orphans to protect her. While the attack is happening none of the Orphans are fighting to protect her but rather are just interested in winning the battle/staying alive.

And that’s where it gets interesting because the orphans aren’t interested in the big stuff like Martian independence but simply want to be free. The idealistic stuff that would usually fuel the plot of a Gundam-series becomes something that’s implied rather than getting shouted from the rooftops with cheesy speeches. What the orphans are doing is far more immediate and relatable than the speeches the Bernstein-princess gives and it’s also far more gratifying to see the orphans fight their way out of the hole the world has pushed them into.

Relatable characterization in general is what’s driving this series. While a lot of the characters have flaws, you actually get some characters as well who aren’t idiots and realize what’s going on. There’s Crank who’s quick to announce that he dislikes the idea of fighting child-soldiers and his boss at Gjallarhorn isn’t even a bad guy but is more like a frustrated guy whose simple plan has become a lot more complicated all of a sudden. He even expressed distaste for the father of Aina who sold her out to Gjallarhorn for the sake of his own safety. Even though these characters are the direct opposition of Mika, Orca and so on they actually become interesting characters with these little touches. And then when you get these characters in comparison who flaunt all these big ideas like peace with Earth, the independence of Mars and even simple stuff like superiority in rank allows dominance over others: You get the sense that most of the people in this series aren’t even interested in creating a conflict but the actions of a few dumb people and these big ideas are just creating one conflict after another and this time it’s simply this Orphan-army who got caught in the crossfire.

It’s this extra touch of self-awareness that sells it. Aina immediately realizing that her father has probably betrayed her, Mika rebuffing Aina’s sympathy with some hard truths and a Gjallerhorn-lieutenant actually finding the idea to fight child-soldiers distasteful: What makes this relatable is how the story doesn’t get too precious with its pretentious messaging. Especially when the message of the series is supposed to be very serious, any sort of self-important stupidity just undermines it. And yet what these Gundam-series are usually going for is operatic melodrama as if selling the message becomes easier if you hit all the story-beats with deafening intensity. Stubbornness in service of a straightforward path to more action is what fuels a lot of Gundam-series. What makes this series so far one of the better ones is its attention to detail as far as characterization is concerned. Especially when you get a sense that a couple of people are locked in a conflict nobody of them even wants to fight you actually get far more complex depictions of war than you would expect. Instead of just saying that war is bad, this series seems to have the far more nuanced theory that only idiots want to fight in a war and the rest does it because they’re sort-of “don’t have a choice”.

Episode-Rating: 8.5/10

About M0rg0th

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

Posted on October 13, 2015, in Anime, Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans, Reviews, Subete Ga F Ni Naru, Valkyrie Drive -Mermaid-, Young Black Jack and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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