How many movies have you seen that go something like this: humanity is facing extinction, its back against the wall, fighting an implacable alien invasion, when it mounts a heroic, last-ditch effort to defend its very existence? I can think of at least five Hollywood movies off the top of my head that fit that description perfectly, and some of them weren’t even directed by Roland Emmerich.
In those movies, their attempts inevitably succeed, the enemy is defeated, and everything is fine in the end. There’s plenty of courage, daring, and heroism to go around, implicitly inspiring the audience, raised on tales of wartime heroism, to go and do likewise. These are the kinds of tales people have told for as long as war has existed.
The 4-episode 1999 OVA Blue Submarine No. 6 begins with humanity in just such a situation. A sociopathic geneticist named Zorndyke has flooded the Earth’s coasts, killing billions and turning the planet into a watery wasteland. He now wages war on the last remainders of humanity with an army of aquatic creatures, seemingly bent on wiping humanity off the map.
What’s one thing I’ve been constantly concerned about with Bakuman? How it depicts its female characters. What’s the part of the plot I think is the weakest, or at least the most improbable? The relationship between Moritaka and Azuki. Bakuman is great at understanding and depicting the dynamics of male friendship and youthful dreams; from my impressions thus far, the best thing its done with its romance is to limit contact between Moritaka and Azuki as much as possible.
So imagine my dismay to discover that this week’s episode focuses primarily on how Takagi’s act of violence last episode triggers a confrontation with not one but two girls trying to win his affections. The entire set up reveals some of the worst romantic tropes commonly used in anime; to the show’s credit, this episode does avoid the parallel tropes in its conclusion. The end result is, obviously, mixed, but by getting the conclusion generally right it provides a good opportunity to move forward.
Basically since the end of Kaoru’s arc I’ve been looking for something, anything, to justify my continued interest in this show. Since then Amagami has convinced me that it can vary up its formula, and present different types of stories. What it hasn’t convinced me of is that it can tell interesting stories, or tell them well.
I should avoid sounding trumpets and declaring that the series has finally left its slump, because I did the that at the onset of Ai’s arc and it proved premature. But, like that story line, the one revolving around Tsukasa Ayatsuji presents us with at least two necessary pieces for a good romance story: an interesting male lead and an interesting female lead. That’s twice as good as we had with Rihoko.
It seems with every episode of Shiki as of late, I go in thinking, “Well, at least things can’t get worse.” At this point, with only six episodes left in the series, I figured that they have to let the good guys win at least a few battles here and there, if only to keep their ultimate victory realistic. I don’t know why I keep thinking that. If there’s one thing Shiki proves time and again, it’s that things can always get much, much worse.
Last episode revealed that Natsuno and Ozaki were going to play a waiting game. The forces against them were such that they needed to delay, whatever the cost, until the vampires lowered their guard. I thought that their resolve would be tested this episode, forcing them to make hard choices regarding the fates of Akira and Kaori. Instead, they are given no choices at all.
We at antiotaku wish you all the best. We won’t be posting on the holiday, but we have updated the About page. Look forward to a new review tomorrow.
Regular readers of antiotaku will have figured out some things we don’t like. These include plots addicted to the status quo, comedy that isn’t really funny, and—most relevant to our discussion here—characters who seem like they came from a made-to-order fetish shop for the viewer’s enjoyment. Of all the ways where anime descends into cliche, hackneyed and done-to-death character tropes prove the most common, a consistent refuge for writers who are out of ideas or simply want to jump on the latest bandwagon of popularity. This is a particular problem with romantic comedies.
With just a cursory look, Toradora would seem to fit that bill nicely. The female lead is Taiga Aisaka, who manages combine the spoiled rich girl trope (she’s even sort of blond) with an increasingly popular trope from light novels and their anime adaptions: the loli tsundere. Bring in a girl who seems really underdeveloped for her age, give her a major chip on her shoulder, and watch her inexplicably fall for male lead, even as she violently denies it.
It’s a trope which J.C. Staff had already done (at least) three times before, with the same voice actor, Rie Kugimiya, playing the role of the pint-sized brat in each show. She’s been so stereotyped into such roles since the debut of Shakugan no Shana that sometimes its hard to remember she’s done anything else, and there are entire fan communities devoted to her as the “queen of tsundere.” But she is, in fact, quite good as an actress, and one would hope that eventually she would be given a chance to show it.
That chance came here. Toradora is a show that proves that just because you start with formulaic characters doesn’t mean you have to limit them to being nothing more than their formula. And just because you know how a story is going to end doesn’t mean you can’t have a great time going along for the ride.
I complained continually in yesterday’s review about Amagami wasting months of narrative story time to no purpose, so it’s ironic that I’m about to praise Bakuman for burning through its own internal chronology at a similar rate. There’s a reason for my difference in reaction, however: Bakuman manages to balance the advancement of several different plots developments, often with a single scene or two. Amagami couldn’t even advance one.
In the waning months of fall, Takagi and Moritaka successfully complete their Tezuka prize entry. They then agonizingly wait for a response, only to learn that they stalled out at the final round of judging, missing out on the prize or even a ranked spot. To worsen matters, it’s clear from their editor and their ranking that the fault was in Moritaka’s art, not Takagi’s story.