So very very false.
Ugh, I really don’t want to review this one. Follow-ups failing to actually follow up on their promising first seasons is nothing new, but I don’t think any of them did it with as much of an identity crisis as Knights of Sidonia’s did. And the fact that there are people who will vehemently defend the crap Battle For Planet Nine descended into despite the fact that said crap actively prevented the story from advancing is just mind-boggling. It’s quite funny how people will overlook the very shit they so actively hate about modern anime when it belongs to a genre they enjoy, isn’t it? Doubly so if these people are the same ones who write overly-long articles bashing Optimus Prime’s hypocrisy in those Transformers movies.
Nevertheless, I’ve been putting this off for too long and don’t have anything else I can look at, so let’s get to it. So one year after that bland sentient lifeform we humans called Tanikaze became recognized as best rookie pilot and Harem King of the third millennium, we return to the far reaches of space where…
Hey, you want to know an anime taking place throughout the far reaches of space that I recently returned to? Redline. I’ve been pruning down my favorites anime list recently, taking out things to ensure that only the best of the best stayed on, and I was curious about whether I’d still enjoy Madhouse’s visual popcorn masterpiece – as oxymoronic as that may sound. So I popped in my Blu-ray a few days ago and here we are.
For those of you who haven’t seen it, Redline is the result of Madhouse founder Masao Maruyama practically bankrupting his former studio before his move to Mappa and the result was a visually spectacular anime remake of Wacky Races that astounded many anime fans with its “UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ” soundtrack. When I foolishly blind-bought the DVD rather than pay for the blu-ray at half the price online and watched it on my brother’s PS3, I was spellbound by just how much of an “experience” the thing was. It was like nothing I had ever seen before in anime or animation in general with anime tropes having their own alien species and sexiness leaking through every tense well-animated second of it. But most of all, those racing scenes man. I’m not a fan of racing in real-life or in video games, but watching it through an anime filter cranked up to the max was something else.
That said, the story is pretty popcorn, even in comparison to some other “style as substance” movies I can name (Drive, Jackie Chan movies, and even the live-action Speed Racer), and rewatching the film again made that fact clearer than a sculpture at Seattle’s Chihuly Garden and Glass. It’s about this guy with a giant pompadour named JP who was inspired by a young girl to take up racing, but in order to secure good parts, he and a friend got involved with an alien mafia and ended up having to participate in fixed games in order to clear their debts. Unfortunately, JP really wants to win the Redline tournament as well as impress fellow female racer, Sonoshee, so you get a bit of classic Hollywood romance thrown into the mix along with the fact that said race is apparently run by an organization that makes FIFA go “you’re fucked up, dude”.
Why? Because the race is willingly held on an alien planet run by a bunch of military nuts who make no effort to hide the fact that they are opposed to the tournament’s existence, and not just because they’re crafting secret weapons underground, although that doesn’t help. I know racing in general is a dangerous sport, but there’s a difference between evolution and holding the Olympics in Nazi Germany…oh wait. So in addition to the alien mafia stuff, JP’s two main driving (harhar) motivations for the story, and objectifying women at levels that Fast and Furious wouldn’t touch, you’ve got a potential military force planning to commit Galaxy War II and the only thing threatening them is a race hosted on their planet. Bit overstuffed for a simplistic narrative that isn’t even two hours long, isn’t it?
Said overstuffing became more of a problem for me than it did in my previous years. I found myself nodding off whenever that alien military stuff reared its ugly head because it was barely connected to the story or any of the characters that mattered, and it got in the way of their development to the point that JP’s underdog story wasn’t all that engaging. It’s a pretty simple narrative sure, but it could have been bolstered with strong character interactions rather than the serviceable Hollywood-style ones we ended up getting. The only time I ever felt the story became more than it usually would be under normal circumstances was in the last ten or so minutes when JP and Sonoshee were neck-in-neck with some giant metal jackass towards the finish line, with the determining factor for who wins coming down to an explosion and ending with a hyper version of the “romantic hand-holding whilst flying in the sky” scene that most people associate with Eureka Seven. And by hyper version, I mean there’s some actual tongue used.
So whilst I can still enjoy Redline for the visual execution alone, it’s not up there in terms of the best Hollywood blockbusters, or even the live-action Speed Racer, and I don’t particularly feel the need to watch it ever again, bar maybe those last ten or so minutes which I wish we got more of through the film. What can I say? I’m a romantic guy at heart, and whilst the main couple in Redline isn’t particularly great, it’s better than any of the romance in Knights of Sidonia. But that’s not saying much, because a romance between an ugly small person with herpes and Miley Cyrus would be more tolerable to watch than Sidonia’s…which I’m supposed to be reviewing now, so let’s get back to that.
Sidonia has always had a problem with balancing serious sci-fi action and harem comedy, but by god did it dip its hand way too far in the unfunny this time. You know what is funny though? Community.
I recently got to acquiring the first two seasons (as there aren’t any more) on DVD and it was actually a lot funnier than I remember. I’m usually not a fan of meta-humor and giant reliance on pop culture in order to convey laughs, but going back to it, I was surprised at how Community executes its comedic tropes in a way that’s both tongue-in-cheek and respectful of what it’s paying tribute to. You know, unlike some other comedies that just take the piss and call it satirical despite falling into the same traps as the things it’s taking the piss out of – namely not being funny. Feh, what a bunch of pots.
There’s not really much I can say about a comedy that doesn’t have much real-world grounding, but I do want to say that the reason why it’s a funny show, good execution of pop-culture tributing aside, is because Dan Harmon understands how much real-life to insert into each episode (for the most part) whilst understanding that sitcoms are inherently fictional and thus are never actually going to be real life. It’s kind of like how School Rumble (when it was working) knew just how much to play its anime school comedy tropes straight whilst preparing to throw its characters into a survival game that levels the entire school. However, unlike School Rumble, the show is 95% ironic and borderline mean at the same time (School Rumble achieves 50% of that quality at best), which is pretty much a winning formula for me in terms of laughs. The characters are fun and you want to root for them, but you also want them to suffer a ton of problems whilst getting to their happy endings because being good-natured doesn’t equal being Buddha. And whilst we all can relate to a personal vacation with friends, very few of us would go to a Western setting where we’re actually shot at.
On the whole, I was glad to come back to Community and realizing that my previous distaste for it was due to the later seasons souring me. To be fair, I haven’t watched its final season before Joel McHale decided that it was done – bar a franchise movie – but I don’t really want to despite the good word I’ve heard. Maybe it got back to being funny, but I’ve had my fill of the show and it’s best to keep my good memories rather than risk further tainting. You know, like Battle From Planet Nine did to my memories of its first season. Not that I was a big fan of said season, but it had a lot of potential that was wasted to the point it never ranked on the top 5 during APR despite it being a decent runner last year. And despite said taint the 2nd season gave me, I’m still going to watch more. It hasn’t exactly lost everything that was interesting about it and as long as there’s something I can ground myself onto, I will watch said anime regardless of personal feelings.
Anime like Akira, which I finally got to rewatching and yes folks, it still holds up greatly after all these years. In fact, this is an anime that gets better the more you watch it. Whilst it definitely has a lot of complex themes regarding post-apocalyptic society and youth rebellion as well as a wicked sense of humor and awesome animation that still looks great after all these years, I just like the movie because it’s really really cool – which is a rarity amongst my favorites. I don’t exactly use anime memes for anything other than insults, but I still take every opportunity to yell “Kaneda!” whenever someone brings up the film – which admittedly isn’t often. Because whilst it’s commonly known as the anime that brought the stuff to the States and you’ll be hard-pressed to find someone with baseline knowledge of Japanese animation (bar maybe hardcore manga fans who can’t separate the source material from their mind whilst watching this) who didn’t watch the movie let alone like it, I don’t really see it brought up anymore. Maybe it’s because of all the moe/mecha fans I hang out with now, which Akira has none of.
Not going to talk about the story because if you don’t know what Akira’s story is by now, then you obviously stumbled onto this blog by accident. But trust me, everything about this movie is still good after all these years. The characters are good, the writing is good, the animation is good, its take on superpowers is good, and all-in-all the movie is damn good. Not enough to make me double-dip for the blu-ray unless it sells for ten dollars or something, but let’s not hold that against it. Previous watches, I’ve always felt that the film climaxed too early and that the final act with Tetsuo turning into a giant bloated blob was pushing things a bit. Nowadays though, I understand how it fits into the overall story and ultimately makes it special. And that’s one of the main reasons why Akira is so good: I’m always finding something new to like about it with each watch. And personally, I find any film that accomplishes that to deserve all the acclaim it’s given.
Confession time: I never actually watched the movie in either its original language or its original Streamline dub. I always watch the new dub with Johnny Young Bosh and Wendee Lee, and I don’t think I ever will. Normally, whenever I hear the black power ranger in a role (Lelouch from Code Geass, Renton from Eureka Seven) it becomes impossible for me to hear as him voiced by anyone else. Despite the hate he gets from certain fandoms, I think he’s fine. Certainly better when he’s voicing psychopaths rather than bland nobodies like Sidonia’s Tanikaze (which I haven’t actually heard) and…oh crap. I was supposed to be talking about Sidonia 2 and how it disappointed me, but all I’ve been doing is talking about recent rewatches of far more interesting products to the point that I don’t even know where I left off or where to start again.
You know what? This post is getting long enough as is, so I’m just going to fire a few short thoughts. Ahem…
Y’know that new Mad Max game that came out on the same day as Metal Gear Solid V? I was thinking of reviewing it for the blog, but I found the gameplay to be too repetitive (whilst being restrictive at the same time) and the story to be incredibly lacking, so I got bored and returned the thing not even three hours after renting it. Goodbye three dollars.