If we don’t stop it soon, it will fester and swallow us whole until anime like this don’t exist.
Recently, I’ve been re-watching The Book of Bantorra and for some reason, I’m enjoying it a whole lot more than I did the first time to the point I think it’ll go on my favorites list once I’m done with it. Like most anime that have a hard time clicking with me despite doing so much right, this may be due to the fact that I’m not rushing it like last time and allowing everything to sink in. It easily surpasses Jojo in terms of David Production’s best anime in terms of enjoyable characters and fight choreography and is also quite frankly the best thing that Mari Okada has ever written. Aquarion EVOL never had the guts to go as crazy as this beauty.
But whilst there are a lot of things to like about Bantorra, what I like the most, and what I wish would happen in more anime nowadays, is how they don’t bother to really flesh out the characters beyond what’s required to understand the story. Hell, they never even really grow or change too much, living as they always have, detached from the audience just like they started. And that’s just how I like it. No making you get emotionally attached to the characters. No preachy messages attached to their personal journeys. Just entertaining ideals that do their job without going too far into the opposite direction like fucking Devil Survivor 2 did.
Too often these days, it feels like anime need to develop their characters, sometimes excessively, to the point of tedium and it annoys me. Don’t get me wrong: character development is great and if it’s necessary to make the character interesting, then I say go for it. However, the big problem I have with a lot of anime that they tend to sacrifice the plot in order to make the development happen (oh hi there Kanon, Wolf’s Rain, and the more recent Galilei Donna), making me feel like nobody really cares about anything, and thus I see no reason why I should either. Maybe that’s fine if you’re a huge character person like Joey, but whilst I kind of was one in the past, those days are behind me now. When I watch anime or other fiction, I want things to feel like they’re going somewhere, whether it be by the writing or the characters themselves.
What makes it even worse is that the development usually either takes too long to happen when you could have easily done it in a quarter of the time or it doesn’t actually develop anything in the end. Did Renton really change in Eureka Seven? What the hell was up with all the character stories in Robotics;Notes? And do I even need to mention the KyoAni adaptation of Clannad? Seriously, what’s the point in devoting all that time to powerful character moments (that mostly fail with me) if you’re not going to make them important to what’s going on? It’s just a waste of my time and the animators’. Yes, I know that the episode limits being as strict as they are (13 or 26 episodes without anything in between) is a huge problem and not every anime can be Haibane Renmei in melding character moments and powerful themes with plot, but that’s no excuse to not use up your episodes effectively. You only need to look at the entire middle section of Occult Academy in order to get lessons regarding how to fill up time effectively (Shut up you haters. Those episodes were awesome and I will not hear anything to the contrary).
Why is caring about a character a requirement in order to enjoy something anyways? I understand them detracting from the experience by being too annoying, especially when the plot relies on having to care about the cast (I couldn’t stand Princess Jellyfish because of how the story tried to make me sympathize with those awful Amars). And I understand having an emotional connection to characters you truly care for and how it helps ground you into fiction and all (main reason I love Hyouka). But it shouldn’t be required to actually care about a character in order to find them interesting. Especially when you look at how many people love anything by Urobuchi, who can’t write characters worth crap, or the praise regarding Tatami Galaxy despite the fact that the main protagonist is basically an unnamed entity.
Hell, my three favorite shows of the season so far are Kyousogiga, Samurai Flamenco, and Kill la Kill (as is most people’s) and aside from maybe the first one, I don’t really give too much of a damn about the cast in there other than to see what they do. Yes, I think they’re interesting, but certainly not because they speak to my heart or whatever. I think they’re interesting because of what they represent. And as long as they continue to keep on representing, my stance on them won’t change.
Book of Bantorra falls under the same vein as those shows. I want to see the plot control these characters and make them dance for me. If it makes me relate to them along the way, fine. If it kills them off to further the story, even better. But right now, it’s how mysteriously cryptic someone like Hamyuts Mesata is or how I don’t know the past of Millepoc and her real relationship with Volken that keeps me into the thing. And by not devoting much time to answering my questions regarding these individuals, the show is able to deliver impressive climaxes whilst keeping my attention far better than most of the stuff that comes out these days. Again, EVOL’s method is fine due to how it plays with the character formula and all, but Bantorra is where it’s at in the end.
Yeah, let’s see your favorite anime pull off shit like this before you attempt to dissuade my stance on the matter.