Kyoukai no Kanata: Mirai-hen & Spec Ops: The Line Review — Delving Into Unfamiliar Territory Yet Again

Pity I don’t get anything for it other than a bunch of people wanting to kill me.

Well this is a bit of an awkward combination of subjects to review, isn’t it? A KyoAni movie and a war game? What the fuck do these two have in common? Well if you must know, the thing they have in common is that they both belong to areas of fiction I usually don’t touch with a ten-foot pole: sequel film to an anime I didn’t really care for and modern military shooter respectively. However, people informed me that Mirai-hen was meant as some sort of apology to the author for fucking up his light novel, and Spec Ops: The Line is supposed to be to military shooters what Madoka was to magical girls. And whilst I took those words with a massive amount of salt, they were both short so I figured I wasn’t losing much by giving them a try, especially if I can write about them. But since I couldn’t think of enough to write about either of them to justify their own post, I’m combining them instead. Let’s start with Mirai-hen.

So sometime after that atrocious ending to the series, it turns out that Mirai is suffering from memory-loss and thus lost all her memories of Akihito and their incredibly sexist relationship. But unfortunately, her body remembers because she just can’t stop thinking about the guy and tries to run into him at every opportunity like a little girl suffering from Stockholm’s Syndrome. And whilst Akihito tries his best to distance himself from her so as to not cause her any more pain, that soon becomes all but impossible when the bad guy from the series returns to cause trouble, along with the Mitsuki siblings’ older sister – who I can’t recall being introduced before and honestly nobody cares either way. So he and the other characters join forces to stop them whilst Mirai does her best to struggle with her internal conflict. It’s about as basic a plot as you can get to the point that it might as well be one of those Shonen Jump franchise movies. You know, the ones that try to exist in their own sphere so as not to fuck up the canon, but is absolutely impenetrable to people who’ve never seen the original source?

Mirai-hen is an improvement on the series in that the fetishism is incredibly toned down and when it does show up, it’s usually as a coping mechanism to deal with the characters’ personal sorrows rather than for bad stand-up comedy. And whilst the action still isn’t great, it’s nowhere as improperly directed as the poorly implemented flashes from previously. That’s where the good things end though. My personal main problem with Kyoukai no Kanata – and pretty much every LN adaptation/flashy show/Kawamori anime ever – is that it always feels like I’m watching an outline whose details have been fed to the resident crocodile. And I don’t like outlines. I like my stories to be full of characters with interesting flaws whose arcs drive the story; and if you’re going for camp, I like my camp to be a little dirtier full of ironic humor and some jack-off putting holes into people or putting his people into a hole, if you get what I mean.

No one is going to get that from Shonen Jump franchise movies, and Mirai-hen fares no better in trying to avoid the stagnant mediocrity that plagues them or the original series in terms of adding meat to its going-ons. It’s too reliant on having seen the original series to stand on its own, and even if you did, very few of the characters get much to do. For example, Nase (the male best friend in case you guys forgot) is now head of the family and is facing some issues due to that, but that never really leads anywhere. It’s just a failed attempt to give him some struggles that actually matter to the story, not unlike how the also mediocre Tiger and Bunny: The Rising failed to handle Fire Emblem’s internal struggles properly. And aside from maybe the way the film’s ending is executed (and that’s a big maybe, because the ending isn’t so much original as much as it’s “kind of surprising for this property”), you’ve seen everything Mirai-hen has to offer before in much better anime, films, and all that good stuff.

So overall, the movie was a wash. As far as sequel films go though, it isn’t the worst since most of the annoyances are handled a lot better and it provides a more satisfying conclusion whilst not betraying expectations or doing whatever the fuck you call the shit that happened in Steins;Gate: Loading Area of Deja Vu (written by the same writer as this, FYI). But unless you just want to watch some pretty animation, I can’t really recommend Mirai-hen outside of sheer curiosity regarding if KyoAni’s apology was good enough – and that’s a whole different matter entirely, because I very much doubt that light novel was good to begin with. I mean it’s called a “light” novel for a reason, and I don’t do light reading in general. Best to hope for a Euphonium sequel instead whilst crying that the director is working on yet another goddamn in-house adaptation of something that didn’t even win first place.

Let’s move on from prettily animated emptiness to gritty HD deepness with Spec Ops: The Line. This October, I vowed to play as many horror games as I could in order to simultaneously clear up my video game backlog and come off as less of an embarrassment to the horror fan cult. And whilst Spec Ops doesn’t belong to the horror genre, it’s a game about the horrors of war and making the player feel like shit, so I say it counts. Plus, I can’t find anything interesting to say about Amnesia: The Dark Descent or Limbo this late into their lives, so you’re going to have to make do with this.

Spec Ops: The Line was a game that really surprised certain people upon its release, but it’s been three years since then and by that time, I had already read up on all its twists, turns, and even the multiple endings. But I figured that shouldn’t matter too much if the actual storytelling is good because if a product can’t hold up even when you know what’s going to happen, then it’s generally crap. However, it turns out that I didn’t read hard enough. You know that twist where the game unwittingly makes you kill all those innocent civilians? Yeah, it turns out that it takes place halfway through the story rather than a quarter or a third like I had initially assumed. It was an effective moment I’ll admit, reminding me of when Luke in Tales of the Abyss destroyed an entire mining colony due to his carelessness except the player personally controls the trigger rather than just walk to it and let the game take over for you. But do you think Madoka would be nearly as popular if Episode 3 had been Episode 6 or 7? I personally doubt it.

Everything prior to that moment was fucking tedious as all hell, and it didn’t get much better after said moment either. My dislike of war stories and soldiers is well-documented at this point, but one thing you probably don’t know about me is that I also really hate cover-based shooting. It’s fine in small doses, but when your entire gameplay revolves around it, it’s just an incredible chore that will date any previously acclaimed game in about a year (looking at you, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune). And it doesn’t help that Spec Ops plays the entire modern warfare story straight up until the turning point, after which it just plays the opposite side of things straight. Since I don’t like either side of the war story spectrum, the game would have wore me down either way. Nevertheless, I would have at least managed to finish it if it wasn’t trying to force repetitive cover-based shooting fucking everywhere. At least Drake’s Fortune had platforming sections, solving puzzles that seem to come from the Dan Brown school of writing, and those awkward jet ski sections with the world’s most fragile exploding barrels in-between all the one-man army action.

The game is only around six or so hours long, and yet it felt like fucking twelve because I kept dying due to having to save my teammates or because the game chose to spawn more enemy soldiers at an inopportune moment and make me restart at the very beginning of the fight all over again. Ammo is also scarce in Spec Ops, so you’ve got to be really good at aiming or else you’re going to spend half-an-hour trying to just get past this one section only for a stray bullet to hit you at the final second and call it quits. Oh and don’t try convincing me that I missed out on anything that’ll blow me away. I looked up the full story on Wikipedia and watched the parts of the story I didn’t get to on Youtube. You know what I saw? The same old “war turns you into a monster” and “no one is a hero on the battlefield” shit that bores my brains out every time I see it.

It is kind of amusing how they integrate Walker’s delusions into the gameplay itself, but you can only really appreciate it if you have an interest in modern military shooters and…well…have you been reading this article at all? Not to mention, I’ve never been in favor of those sorts of twists where the person you think is real actually isn’t, the idea to make Konrad the “bad guy” didn’t make sense to me even with context, and that multiple ending thing might as well have not existed since it’s entirely dependent on last minute decisions and there’s very little difference in-between the endings aside from the type of death. It’s really quite a shame because the game does have its moments that elevate it above the usual war story schlock.

I like how Nolan North voices the main character in this because he’s pretty much the video game equivalent of Yoshitsugu Matsuoka (the guy who voices Kirito in SAO and Tomoya in Saekano) and seeing him play a downbeat soldier that’s the complete opposite of his usual smarmy rogue roles is kind of surreal. The Radioman taunting you with appropriate pop music reminded me of how the Mickey Mouse theme was used in Full Metal Jacket. I found it amusing how you mostly kill American soldiers in this game rather than the usual foreigners. And what I read about the game put in mind Gundam 00: War in the Pocket if Chris found out she killed someone dear to her and there was a sequel OVA series where she grew more delusional over time trying to follow orders. Would have made War in the Pocket a lot more fun at any rate.

If there’s one thing I can give Spec Ops: The Line credit for, it’s that it did get a sickening reaction out of me in regards to war. Because after playing it, I am more than convinced that I should stay away from this fucking genre forever.

PS: Mind you, that Wolfenstein: New Order thing looks interesting solely for the idea of killing Space Nazis on the moon.

PPS: Other war/military games I have enjoyed include Valkyria Chronicles, Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, and Metal Gear Solid.

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