The BEST Anime of 2018!

Four months into 2019 and I’m finally making a top 5 list?
That’s right! I hope you readers are ready for the most considered and well thought out top 5 list you have ever seen! (of anime)

5. Mahou Shoujo Site

You know how cool it is these days to say that Madoka Magica is bad because it’s “edgy” and “pandering” because girls suffer in it? Well, nothing will make you seem cooler than saying that you had ambivalent feelings about Mahou Shoujo Site! There’s bullying, and suicide, and every character that isn’t one of the protagonists ends up being a psycho rapist-
Related imageTruly phenomenal character writing.
Like another anime on this list, it has earned its place by having a first episode that is emotionally distressing because of gross sexual content, followed by eleven episodes of mediocrity! Though this one actually has some interesting artistic choices, like having Youtube star Kizuna AI do the voice of a supporting character, and adapt the horrific faces that made the manga memorable in the first place…
So this is clearly the far inferior anime of the two!
But with that being said, how about some trans representation?
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Trans *clap* girls *clap* are *clap* magical *clap* girls!
And representation makes a story great!

4. Tokyo Ghoul:re

The opening animation of the second cour of the TG:re anime contrasts the first opening of the original Tokyo Ghoul anime.

Obvious AOTY potential, save for the limited animation, freight train plot progression, revolving door of undeveloped characters, even worse animation and constantly off-model (to the point of being almost unrecognizable) character designs in the second cour.
For these rather trivial reasons, I have placed it lower on the list so that I could insert my obligatory reminder that the “manga is better.”
However, don’t let my criticism distract you from a rather half-baked shounen, “savior archetype solves all the injustices in the world by being the chosen one” kind of narrative. At least it distracts you in the first season by pretending to care about themes of oppression and racism, so you can still pretend it’s a very smart piece of media!

3. Fate/Extra: Last Encore

You’ve heard of the ultra-popular Fate/ franchise, right? Well, sometime after the original Fate/Stay Night visual novel was released, the creators decided to use their smash hit to create a rather simple video game. Fate/Extra was released in 2010, before the Ufotable adaptation of Fate/Zero began the dominant reign of Fate/ in the following year. Perhaps it was because of this timing that the game was rather unserious at times.
It was a video game inside of a video game, which also happened to be a battle royale. And like the worst battle royales, there were many bosses who felt like “filler”, some which even seemed to contradict the rules of the world for the sake of intertextual fanservice! And maybe that’s why Fate/Extra‘s anime adaptation was such a shit show!

Do I mean that it was an awful trainwreck?
Well. The ending theme is by Sayuri, and there were some moments where you could just turn off your brain and stare at the pretty Studio Shaft pictures– so it’s really hard to say that I honestly hate it! The narrative also tries to tackle heavy existential themes and make the most out of translating a protagonist who was designed to be a self-insert game character…
Oh wait, I’m supposed to be joking here. Uh…

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Hajime Ueda steals the show!

Nero is worst girl, so I can’t rate it any higher on this list! Tamamo or Nameless would have been the way better options!
Nero = riot!
I rest my case!

2: Goblin Slayer

Ah, don’t you just love mediocrities that attract a lot of attention by becoming the rally cry for people trying to shove the “SJWs” from the anime community? I sure don’t!
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The best thing in this series was the lizard guy who wanted cheese. Cause, ya know, endearing character traits are better than character arcs.
(crap, I watched 10 episodes of this anime and I can’t even joke about liking anything else! I can’t even make jokes about how bad this one was!)

1. Violet Evergarden

You hate anime, don’t you? Despite really liking animation and the “foreign” feel that subtitled anime gives you, you really feel that anime is inferior because it doesn’t mimic more respectable mediums like Hollywood movies. So here you go, an anime made just for you!
Image result for violet evergarden beautiful
See, I always liked to assert that medium was an essential part of storytelling. The problem with adapting Fate/Extra was that its protagonist was made explicitly to only work within the context of a video game. But ya know… I was obviously very wrong, because Violet Evergarden is sooooo pretty looking. (if you like oversaturated colors)
I mean, the narrative of Violet Evergarden is basically a less complex version of 2016’s Trickster anime (with less yaoi)… but at least the visuals are so painstakingly poured over that you can interpret the entire 13 episode narrative arc of Violet from a single episode.  It has a level of detail that brings out all the subtleties of– a really obvious, plain to see emotion. Now before you call it melodramatic, or needlessly overproduced…
I would like to point out that some of the standalone storylines really benefited from the tedium of detail! There is more heartfelt effort put into a single episode of this anime’s animation and direction than a few 12-13 episode cours! It totally succeeded at the vision it tried to convey, no matter how self-defeating I feel that vision may be! And though the presence of complex machine limbs in an early 20th century style world still seems totally out of place…
Violet Evergarden is the best anime of the year!


Alright, everyone bought into all that?
Good! Now I have a midterm to finish before 11:00 AM tomorrow, and now I have the opening theme of TRICKSTER stuck in my head. Like, just great! One of these days, I’ll get over my headache and finally get back to posting serious! I owe y’all a serious top anime of 2018 list, after all. (and I also owe WhoamI a collab!)
It’s a really simple, but also really complicated story. Complicated in the sense that I can’t really tell anyone about it, but simple in the way that everything resolves itself if I ever end up explaining myself honestly. I’ve sort of made a knot out of myself…

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But for now, Happy April Fool’s Day!

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The Looooooong Prologue – Great Manga Moments

How a story begins is far more important than how it ends. I’m typically a “whole package” kind of consumer, but I realize that there’s a lot of thought that can be put into the initial set of characters, settings, conflicts and themes. There’s a certain skill required to make everything come together, in the act of telling the story, but it’s hard to evaluate an idea that was executed poorly. My go to example is Sword Art Online, where the plot and setting is actually really cool and thought provoking, but the author lacks the ability to build up to any conflict. However, the most interesting ideas to me are structural in nature. The Evangelion rebuild movies are infamously divisive for leaning into the theme and message over an immediately engaging plot.
So, with all that said, let’s talk about Tokage no Ou: The Lizard King:Read manga Tokage no Ou 001_ Chapter 001 online in high quality - Google Chrome 3_2_2019 6_13_34 PMIt’s a very short manga, only adapting one of a 5 book light novel series. 14 chapters are a prologue, while the final chapter jumps ahead to function as a hook. It’s only function is to advertise the light novel it came from-
But besides having humorous chapter titles like “The Loooooong Prologue” and “The Loooooong Prologue”, I was initially attracted by the cool looking guy characters!
Like, c’mon. You can’t tell me that Kingfisher doesn’t look great!
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Like, a lot of manga have sexy looking girls, but I can’t shake the feeling that guy characters are seriously ignored! But I’m not here to write about why I sat through this pointless manga…
But instead, to say that this manga presents a series of events from five different perspectives, but in an order that is not linear. See, the actual chain of events goes something like this- A psychotic stripper girl drags her not-boyfriend to an abandoned building, ditching him after they hear screaming and run into a bloody person with red eyes. Afterwards, the girl teams up with the bloody person, Kingfisher, to steal the eyeball of the boy she likes- who just so happens to be in the building as well. The protagonist runs into the dying man that had been left there earlier by Kingfisher, and after being attacked by a different assassin and escaping through a combination of luck and wits through the use of his super power, turns back around at the stairs, scared by the two strangers waiting on the floor below him.
Stairs.pngNow, when you’re reading this manga, you think that these two perspectives, Stripper girl + thug dude at the bottom of the stairs and protagonist guy, are happening simultaneously. However, as I just explained, that’s not the case. These are chronologically distinct events. The couple look up to see Kingfisher carrying the body of one of his victims, while Tokage looks down to see the stripper psycho with Kingfisher.
And this is not the only time when this screwed up chronology changes your understanding of events. Tokage initially becomes involved in this mess when climbing down an escape ladder that snaps unexpectedly. However, Kingfisher seems absolved from involvement, since he appears to arrive midway through the event at the building. Of course, as we’ve established that Kingfisher was present in the building before Tokage, so it’s pretty easy to see how he would’ve been able to cut it, given that his power involves cutting things with his mind.
But what is ultimately the point of confusing the chronology, besides to appear smart and fail? After all, the two chapter long exposition dump after the climax feels like shit, and it detracts from the weight of the minisode from a casual perspective. It’s revealed that psycho stripper girl was really just 900 IQ manipulating literally everything, and all the random stuff that happened was basically according to plan, and it just strains your disbelief. What was the point in having all those perspectives, and furthermore, what was the point of this prologue if the rest of the narrative seems like it won’t be similar in tone or setting- and if over half of the introduced characters died as soon as they appeared?
Image result for tokage no ouWell, I’d argue it’s about the feeling that the prologue aims to create. You see, the reveal of Ms. 900 IQ yandere might suck in a lot of ways, but it actually has the interesting effect of making every other character- even the ones like Kingfisher with superpowers- feel helpless by comparison. Helpless and confused… maybe even scared.
So, allow me to backtrack. What is the premise of Tokage no Ou?
Well, the main character has chuunibyou tendencies and the ability to change the color of his eyes! While it’s clear that he could make a killer Code Geass cosplay, it seems even more obvious to me why he spends most of his free time trying to will himself into developing some extra latent power. His family practically abandoned him, and the guy clearly only keeps his distance from people because he fears separation. The only character he has chemistry with is the trained killer Kingfisher- because Kingfisher has power and charisma. Kingfisher is who Tokage wishes he could have been.
Instead, he just gets hurt repeatedly. Slashed in the face, stabbed through the arm, eyeball ripped from his socket, before his fingers on one hand are all ripped out before being surgically reattached- the guy goes through hell in one night. He suffers intensely, because he is powerless. And when he finds that the power currently opposing him is linked to the woman that he finds responsible for taking away his parents…
It’s no wonder he wants power! He thinks that power will erase the uncertainty and fear he feels interacting with other people! Tokage is trying to live out the purest idea of a power fantasy possible!
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And you understand his emotions because of the structure of the series, feeling his vulnerability, rather than just being told that he is relatively powerless. He really does feel like a delusional underdog because of this prologue!
And I think that’s kinda cool, yeah? I’ve been trying to get back into reading light/web novels, and I keep coming away totally unsatisfied. I swear a good 3/5 protagonists are defined more by the gimmick by which they level up, rather than any character conflict. The pacing in these series is spastic, often rushing to make the protagonist capable, and slow to have them do anything with their newfound power!
Even though Tokage no Ou is an edgefest, at least it was a mildly entertaining one while it lasted… although all the girl’s designs were kinda eh-
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Two words:
Middle school.

Great Anime Moments #1

Y’all ever just watch a show that sticks with you because of just one thing?
You ever see an opening that was better than the rest of the anime it was attached to? How about a particular scene that was well-directed and emotional to the point where it made the remaining scenes feel like a flat line? Maybe some sweet animation that just really stuck out to you?
See, I normally focus on stuff at a series-wide level, trying to evaluate a piece of media as an interconnected whole. But while that is a fine approach and all, I don’t think that some people even realize all the little things that can add up to an overall impression. For instance, while I overall agree that Violet Evergarden is mostly gorgeous, there were a few scenes that made me really hate the way they handled lighting. The way sunlight was used to blur out a scene and mimic real life cameras felt overused and was annoying for me to look at and drew me away from the scene- which is to say that I felt like Violet Evergarden‘s visuals had moments of going “too far” and therefore I dislike them.
It is a bit of a hot take, I realize. It’s much easier to just say that you like a show or dislike it, rather than taking a stance on what you feel is so good or bad. Some people might like how Violet Evergarden goes out of its way to feel like a live-action melodrama, complete with lens flares and an emphasis on the beauty of nature, yet dislike it for some other reason. To me, the reason has always mattered more to me than a vague feeling placed somewhere between the spectrum of “this thing is the worst thing to ever exist” and “this thing is the meaning of all existence” – and at the risk of people disagreeing with me, I’d like to talk about specific things that I really enjoy, regardless of my actual feelings on the media itself.
So, first up: Antimagic Academy 35th Test Platoon!
episode_5
Surprise, surprise.
One of the usual suspects on the list of anime that leave me emotionally conflicted, the infamous Taimadou Gakuen. I’m still sitting on my analysis of the many things that are wrong with it…
But as I’ve tried to point out many times before, there’s a couple cute creative decisions in here that I feel would be swept away if my perspective stopped at, “I hate this series because the plot is contradictory to its core themes because it is afraid to empower its characters or have them face real conflict.”
So. The scene I’d like to highlight is the final scene in episode 7:

After being on the run, the protagonist and the quirky scientist end up in a hotel room together. After a half episode of confusion and chasing, followed by a flashback involving child experimentation, the series risked losing the bumbling ecchi gimmicks that defined the tone of its earlier plot arcs.
So, in order to add balance, the episode ends with Ikaruga clarifying, very explicitly, that she wants to have sex with the main character. Kusanagi, ever the straight man, begins to repeat her words in shock-
But is cut off by the ending theme. (full episode link here, timestamp 21:56)
I wish there was more of this!
I wish there were more anime that didn’t just use the animated medium, but abuse it and its tropes! Ending an episode of difficult to swallow melodrama with a sex joke, with impeccable timing, is just so- so right! One of the coolest things about Taimadou Gakuen, whether through intentional design or not, is the way that its contrasting sexual tone undermines the viewer’s ability to suspect the deeper workings of the fictional world. The undercutting of the absurd child experimentation backstory with the almost equally absurd hard cut from “I want to experience sex” doesn’t let the viewer ruminate on what they just learned.
And you know, if it weren’t for the anime contradicting the themes of the story to deliver the worst anime original ending I’ve seen yet… well, I think someone else might have been able to enjoy how the contrasting tones were used for effective world building and characterization! It’s also always refreshing to see characters in anime who aren’t totally stuck just making goo goo eyes at each other, and actually have some sexual ideas that don’t stop at hand-holding!

And that’s that! I’ve got a few more anime moments I really want to focus on, and I really don’t care to review entire series just for their sake. Although, I’m actually thinking about breaking formula already to talk about a manga…
Image result for tokage no ou
It’s by no means a good manga, and you can practically feel the light novel structure that it was directly adapted from, but it was an entertaining experiment. But more on that next time…

43770!

Ever played with a calculator to type out hello before?
Yeah? Well so has someone at Studio Shaft!

So the time has almost arrived. The first memes band reaction images have begun to spill forth from the newest season of Monogatari finally being released on blu-ray. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been translated yet…
My estimate is two days, but I hope that enough people are on top of it that it’ll be out by tomorrow! My Zoku Owarimonogatari hype can only be contained so long-!
But hopefully I can get back to posting pretty soon. This anime season is already way more entertaining than the ones before it, and I might finally get to write about Sword Art Online!

What? You don’t expect me to sit on such a good song, do you?
I’m so disappointed that so many people are sleeping on ReoNa, just because most of her anime related songs have been tied to Sword Art Online! She sounds like a mix between Yui and Aimer most of the time…
But holy shit! This insert song for the latest episode of Alicization blew me out of the water! It’s really is like ‘Ichiban no Takaramono’ from Angel Beats! Seriously, give that song a listen! ReoNa seems like a singer worth keeping an eye on…

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Not even yuri bait- just lesbians!

Especially since she basically used SAOA:GGO as a launching point for her singing career! Totally justifies the twelve episodes I sat through!
Now back to camping the r/araragi subreddit until someone gives the notice that Zoku Owarimonogatari has been subbed!

I’m Glad I Lived This Long

There was a time when I didn’t think I would live to get to middle school. Then it was high school. Then there was even a time when I didn’t think I would make it through high school…
It’s not that my body is in poor condition, or that I’ve lived a dangerous life. It’s more the opposite- I’m very talented and very devoted to denying myself anything which could bring danger into my life. Whether it was driving without a license, underage drinking, going to suspicious parties, or even having friends, I knew that I was perfectly capable of surviving without those temptations. It’s not that I am terribly minded towards the long term either- it’s just that I have a tendency to care very little about myself. At least the me in the present.
I’m used to hating myself and I’m used to denying myself. While some recount their high school life as a comedy or a tragedy, full of vivid highs and soul-crushing lows, mine was much more of an emotional flat-line. While on a good day I might manage to fool myself into believing that I’ve recovered from my stint with depression, it doesn’t take much more than me embarrassing myself to remind me that it’s impossible to have a clean break with one’s past. There are some times when I can laze around writing a blog post, and there are other times when I fault myself for needing to sleep. I am very much aware of my own failings, especially the fact that my time could be used in ways that could be more effective in the long run!
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It’s an issue of comfort.
If comfort or enjoyment is non-productive, axe it and do something else.
Of course, the way I define productive has changed over time. For instance, a friend I made playing Smash Ultimate is a fellow Computer Science major who I might be able to glean professional information from. The 20 minute naps I have taken habit to help reduce my headaches, therefore increasing my ability to retain information while studying or doing classwork. The anime I watch mentally stimulates me and reminds me that getting a job will allow me to be happier one day…
But I feel like since I entered college, I’ve been doing a little better with indulging myself as I am right now. I’ve taken up eating lunch with the other Comp Sci majors, and they are pretty entertaining. One guy uninstalled Windows on his computers because he’s afraid of corporations and only eats with chopsticks because plastic is bad! It’s been fun, even if I’ve been burying myself in classwork.
My basic model for happiness has also taken on a bit more dimensionality, because while I still sort of prioritize my future over my current desire to have fun and be lazy- I’ve realized that I’ll have less fun memories to look back on when I’m older. To be really be happy and to really have pride, I want to be able to look back on myself without too much pity. I want my future self to be able to say to me-

No matter my regrets and missed opportunities, my past actions led me to where I am now. I’m proud of the life that I’ve lived!

In the end, I think that’s not a terribly twisted wish to have.
… Well, I don’t have a cake with me right now, but consider that my birthday wish!
I’m 19 years old today. This means that I’m nearing the time where I can’t call myself “Edgy Anime Teen” anymore. A name’s a name, but I’m not entirely sure what I’d change it to- I mean, I really like thinking about it as “EAT”, because food is a fine reason to keep on living!
Instead of living for anyone else, instead of living for some ideology, living for a simple love of life is something that I can’t deny my admiration for. It’s something I aspire to, and while I may hopelessly oscillate from self-loathing to self-gratitude in my day to day life, I feel like I’m making headway. Winning the war, so to say, against the worst parts of myself for the sake of best parts of myself. Working to find the things of value buried behind my edgy adolescent intuitions, and working to discard the damaging remnants that hold me back from living the best life I can.
In a way, that’s the utility of fiction, once again.
So while my bit is over, I’d like to share some of my favorite lines from my favorite book, Nisioisin’s Zaregoto Book 2: The Kubishime Romanticist

“Now imagine an innocent young girl. Imagine the first time she ever looked into a mirror. Surely, in her perfect innocence, she didn’t know that the image before her was a mere reflection of the light. Instead, she imagined. She created something more: On the other side of the mirror, she saw an endless world….”
“But as soon as that dreamer of a girl reached out her graceful hand and placed a finger on that mirror, all she could feel was a void. Nothing but nothingness. The thing she had allowed to exist, someone else had not. Moreover, the thing she had allowed to exist didn’t mean anything to anyone else.”
“For that girl, in that moment, without any exaggeration, a world had been destroyed.”
– Prologue (pgs XIII, XIV)

Atemiya Muimi: “Akiharu! What did I tell you about pushing your bullshit opinions on others!? I’ll fucking kill you!”
(Also) Atemiya Muimui: “Mikoko and I have been friends since we were just little brats,” “If you hurt her, I’ll never forgive you.”
– (pgs 62, 70)

“I wanted you to save me.”
“I had just one response to that. A single phrase that I wanted to send.”
“Don’t be so spoiled.”
– (pg 343)

I really love the themes of self-projection and “altruism” that really come to a head in this book. Also its take on apathy is the perfect contrast to the Monogatari Series‘ theme of “people can only save themselves.”
In the end, it seems like a lot more people were interested in the murder mystery wrapping of Zaregoto than I was. Maybe the difference in our perspective comes from me being primed with the expectation of heavy themes and endearing dialogue typical of Nisioisin. Maybe it was that I couldn’t help but compare the way that Nisioisin crafted both the protagonist of Monogatari and Zaregoto to use the first person perspective to shape audience expectations and deliver the hard hitting thematic payoffs that make me love media. And maybe more than that, it might be because (unnamed) protagonist of Zaregoto embodies my greatest fears.
10486674.jpgThe sense of fatalism, the feeling that no one can understand other people, the apathy, the self-loathing that has taken the form of self-restraint… it’s what I see when I look into that mirror sometimes. That person that I could have become, given some awful turn of events. It’s existential horror for me, in the greatest sense of the word!
And to think that projection onto others is the core theme of the book…
You know I just had read it again for my birthday! Best book I ever read! And the corners aren’t even as frayed as my slightly newer copy of Kizumonogatari! That’s a plus!

So uh, yeah.
I like being alive, big whoop.
I had a birthday, double whoop.
But I dunno, my perspective is changing a lot recently. I’ve been thinking about the utility of language and the weakness of applying concepts to reality. At what point does the idea stop being useful, and become pointless sophistry? For instance, a thought experiment I had was “biological pronouns” versus a transgender person who was fully transitioned. I’ve seen people say that pronouns refer to chromosomes, and I’m just like- what’s the point in that? If they are socially and biologically ___, then why treat them as [    ]? What’s the use? Why even defend a term that has no utility in daily life and use that as a weapon to control individuals?
I mean, ideas and words have always been weapons and tools, so maybe it is a moral or social question. Do you believe that the value of individuals is greater than that of tradition? Do you believe that the objective meaning of some made up word (because all words are made up) is worth more than more precise or useful alternate definitions? The idea of good has been changed greatly over time, but people somehow think that more tangible traditional beliefs are somehow less fallible? People are weird in the way they hold themselves back, but I’m much the same.
But that’s enough of that for one day. It just passed 11 PM where I’m at, so chances are you wouldn’t even be reading this on my birthday! Oh well!

I exist.

Not dead yet.
Disappointing, I know. I feel it too.
Despite having a super easy schedule this semester, I’ve been surprisingly pressed to find time for writing. My Taimadou Gakuen post is trapped in limbo while being 80% completed- Along with about half a dozen other writings, including my belated analysis of Suruga Monkey!
(sorry Yomu, EAT Monogatari will make a comeback one of these days!)
If you’re wondering why I didn’t just take the plunge and complete that post, I’ve been strongly advised against streaming anime on the laptop I brought with me to college. Something to do with bad software or something. And no Crunchyroll/Hulu equals no screenshots. Imagine trying to write about a forgotten show like Taimadou Gakuen without using your own screenshots!
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Inconceivable! 
The only anime I’m bothering to keep up with on my phone is Kaguya-Sama: Love is War
And you know, I can’t help but feel it was a good choice. Some people are bemoaning the disappointing Boogiepop anime, others are trying to decide if Dororo is living up to its hype, and a few are losing steam on Reincarnated as a Slime. But here I am with a smiling face everytime I think about this show that I had zero expectations for. Innocently awful people are surprisingly endearing when the creators actually know when to call them out on their facade.

Also, this random ending sequence from episode 3 is ridiculous.
So ridiculous that some people have asked if it’s CG…
In an anime season with shows like Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka, I can totally understand why we weebs have instantly forgotten what it’s like to have a framerate measured in seconds-
Ahem-
That’s a rant for another day. Not because it has the worst visuals ever, but because I’ve seen a few people say that they like the look of Spec-Ops Asuka. It reminds me quite a bit of the animation of Divine Gate specifically- In so far as having characters that are styled to look a billion times worse in animation than any singular screenshot. Since this specific approach to animation gives me a headache, I can only explain my stance and hope that good, artistic edgy anime wins over the bad, low-effort edgy anime trash that I’ve seen so much recently.

Anyway, that’s basically all the anime stuff bursting out of my head! What a relief! I don’t have any seasonal weebs to rant about stuff with! They’re almost all the types to watch anime movies over anime series! Though we’re totally all going out to see the new Fate/ Heaven’s Feel movie BAYBEE! (we got the tickets today!)
Besides that, I’ve been spending a lot of my time thinking about what I’ve labelled as “things that are like Christmas” and playing Smash Ultimate with my weeb friends. I’ve also been researching Twitch streaming to see if it could work as a form of artistic expression, and I’ve been considering the craft of episodic narratives. So it’s not like I’ve been totally wasting my time…

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While I say I don’t have a main- Dedede’s my main.

I just don’t have much to show for it besides a 8-8-7 record loss in a three person free-for-all in Smash! I lost with literally all my good characters for the first 8 rounds straight, before almost making a comeback! Almost.
I should be back to posting in about a half a month…
Given that no one deciphers what “things that are like Christmas” refers to in this specific circumstance! It’s a bit of an odd relation, but it’s one that is pretty intuitive to me as a proud devotee of the one true holiday. And that’s as much of a clue as you’re getting from this edgy anime loving teen!

Anti-Magic Academy – A Jarring Mess

The anime of Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai was a mistake. From the abysmal sales numbers, to the director’s apparent area of expertise, that is the only conclusion I can make. I would like to keep this succinct, so stay with me here.
The director of the anime Taimadou Gakuen is a man by the anime of Tomoyuki Kawamura. He has two other credited directing roles in anime according to MAL, Mistuboshi Colors and Kamigami no Asobi. Looking at both anime in comparison to Taimadou Gakuen, I can see his relative strengths and weaknesses. Brightly colored characters that are appealing to the eye…

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A lolicon anime that doesn’t sexualize children and only takes advantage of them emotionally… yay!

While the settings are, as with most anime, underdeveloped.
And you know, that’s okay. With most anime, that’s excusable. With comedy, you can totally just focus on the characters doing character things without worrying about how they move in space. You don’t have to make a space appear lived in if your characters are blank slates to begin with. Believability is not a virtue every anime needs to possess-
However, Taimadou Gakuen is an anime that sorely needed it. To make use of the edge inherent to the series, to really create a strong and effective contrast between the disparate tones that define the series, the biggest failure from the production standpoint is Taimadou Gakuen‘s unbelievable world.
I have stated repeatedly that I like the way this series looks during its slice of life scenes. However, almost all the action is awful. Beyond that, the series has many scenes that should be dark and gorey- yet the focus of the shot on anything but the violence is so jarring, that the viewer is left confused rather than distraught or disturbed.
The violence is distracting. But why is violence common in this story? In other words, what is the premise of Taimadou Gakuen?

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Can I buy some contrast? The usually colorful characters just become less colorful at night, and it’s an eyesore to look at!

Well. In some sort of post-apocalyptic world, magic exists and there are witches who are born with the innate ability to control and use magic. To oppress the witches and eradicate magic, presumably so that magic like the one that rendered the majority of the Earth toxic and uninhabitable is never used again, the Inquisition was founded. They use technology and heretical magic tools, nicknamed “Relic Eaters”, to achieve that task. To oppose the Inquisition, the witches have formed Valhalla, and execute acts of terrorism.
Within the Inquisition is Anti-Magic Academy, a school where the next generation of Inquisitors is trained to hate witches, magic, and follow the instructions they have been given. The students are organized into test platoons to tackle petty crime in preparation for the day they will fight to eradicate magic once and for all, the journeys of one such platoon being the focus of the narrative. However, among these platoons of child soldiers, the 35th Test Platoon is a bit odd. A collection of social outcasts, failures who didn’t quite fit the mold, the 35th Test Platoon is more than likely to fail out of school unless something radical happens to change their recorded number of zero successful missions.

So, you can see the disparate tones from the description alone, yes? The talk of witches and the Inquisition followed by a group of outcasts struggling in school? Each arc, typically taking between two and three episodes of the anime, follows one member of the main cast as they get over their personal hangups to become more confident and trusting individuals. They become better at their role on the team…
You know, the team of teenagers which is supposed to fight terrorism oppress a race of people?
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It’s off-putting. When a character is gleefully enjoying their anpan and milk during one scene, only to find a gang trafficking the carcasses of human children a few scenes after…
You can’t help but feel like there’s something that doesn’t line up in this world. When a witch transfers into the academy in the third episode, the race that the Inquisition claims to hate, alarm bells should be sounding in every viewer’s head. The conflicts of each arc derive increasingly from the war between Valhalla and the Inquisition, and the viewer is ultimately left questioning the lengths to which Inquisition, the supposed good guys, will go to eradicate a people that perhaps aren’t intrinsically evil.
And then in the final arc of the anime, it is revealed that Valhalla may (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) be conducting sadistic human experimentation on the witches that they capture alive…
Well, big surprise! It’s not subtle commentary on the effects of hate and the ways it can be manipulated. I think Taimadou Gakuen‘s solution to its proposed problem, taking control of one’s own life through genuine and mutual trust with other people, is rather clever and empathetic.
But it all hits with a rather muted effect, because the world of Taimadou Gakuen is so muted and samely directed, save for a few moments in the second episode (a flashback) which was the one decent trade-off for the anime axing the development of the most important side character. The horror doesn’t feel like horror, so the whole thing just feels confused.
Taimadou
And speaking of confused, I already wrote quite a bit about how the first arc totally botches the characterization of both its lead characters. Basically, Takeru is a validated yet schizophrenic Jesus-like, and Ouka has been reduced to a similarly schizophrenic tsundere who is liable to just cry and spill her entire past to a man she has zero chemistry with-
Which makes zero sense because her whole struggle is rooted in the fact that her situation led her to become closed off towards other people! It makes her seem weak! In the light novel, this was all fixed, because Ouka never became so hysteric, and actually opened up to Takeru on her own terms- because she recognized his sincere efforts to reach out to her, which contrasted the prejudice that everyone else had towards her. It’s such a surprise that an anime production directed by a fanservice director reduces its women characters to incoherent victims, despite the story being about individuals trying to break down and overcome the circumstances that make them such.
And while I’m mentioning the writing, I have to explain that this anime goes so far as to contradict the message about growing from mutual trust… because the main character is a guy, and guys can’t rely on anyone. Guys can do anything if they just try and believe hard enough! Although girls still need to do that trust thing, so it makes sense for women to be dependent on men!
Seriously.
I am not kidding. This is the only analysis I can come to from looking at the changes to characterizations between the anime and light novel.

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Even though the entire rest of the story contrasts this message…

Fuck this anime.
I love the slice of life moments, and I also love the opening and ending songs. Kanako Itou songs are just great! I like the voices of the characters, and it makes me happy to see these characters that I love being happy. But it’s a serious shit show and a mistake of an anime. It takes talent to marry two disparate tones. In that way, even if the writing of the Taimadou Gakuen anime was fixed to be like the light novel, it still would fail to capture the emotions of the light novel. The darkness fails to really be dark or at least comprehensible, so the eventual victories of the protagonist feel unearned. The battles are unbelievably ugly and ineffective at provoking emotion or hype.
There are some clever things, like the perfect comedic cut at the very end of episode 7, or the way that the opening and ending themes occasionally bleed into the animation. But I think that the result of me giving the anime of Taimadou Gakuen one last chance to redeem itself in my eyes has lead me to an uncomfortable conclusion. There are no immediate or obvious ways to fix the fundamental flaws that prevent this series from success. It was a failure on multiple layers from its very conception. This was not the conclusion that I wanted to reach.
I love the Taimadou Gakuen light novel series. It can be corny, the way everyone shouts out their attacks is campy, and the story has several clear flaws- such as the noticeably weaker second half which is in some ways comparable to the much reviled Great Ninja War arc from Naruto
But, damn! The ending of the fifth volume, right where the anime reaches its anime-original conclusion, is one of the best cliff-hangers I have ever witnessed in story telling! By screwing up basically everything this arc stands for, the anime tears apart its own themes, characters, and introduces an unnecessary deus ex machina ending which fails to resolve any of the plot threads that the series devoted its entirety to setting up. So yeah, next post I want to discuss that disaster!

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Thanks Silver Link! Can’t wait to stare at more of your worst CGI to date!

I want to discuss this horrible deus ex machina which made Taimadou Gakuen the single worst anime adaptation of a light novel I have seen to date. Communicating what was lost in the translation from light novel to anime will be my last post regarding Taimadou Gakuen‘s anime. But if you want to check this either versions for yourself, the anime is watchable on Crunchyroll, while a fan translation has been posted online.

 

https://www.crunchyroll.com/anti-magic-academy-the-35th-test-platoon

https://krytykal.org/antimagic/

Now, time for me to go read a good light novel!