It’s like to qualify as an anime fan, you have to have a high tolerance for it. Well, not just anime.
I make it a policy never to read other people’s reviews until I do my own, because it can (and has in the past) taint my own opinion – making me hate an overpraised anime more than necessary or turning me into a bland hive mind follower – so I wasn’t aware that Kizumonogatari: Part 1 – Tekketsu-hen was a film whose sole purpose was to lay the groundwork of what was to come until I actually got to seeing it. Some people have complained to me that I shouldn’t be watching a film based on a series I don’t enjoy, but I call bullshit on that because movies are supposed to stand on their own regardless of whether you’ve seen the series and I’ve liked plenty of films that has its roots based on products I don’t enjoy in the past. Resident Evil is a fucking awful video game series, and yet the fourth entry is probably my favorite horror game of all-time. As it should be clear by now, I don’t really have favorite genres, franchises, or studios (although I do have favorite directors, and unoriginal choices for them at that). I have favorite anime, and I’m only interested in judging the anime on its own terms.
And on its own terms, Kizu fails because – as the positive reviews flat-out admit – it’s nothing but a setup film that I was charged fifteen dollars to see! If you’ve read all the dirt I’ve consistently thrown at visual/light novel anime or those Marvel movies in the past, you’d know how much I HATE watching setup. I hate world building and character building on its own terms, and I hate it even more when you can see the writers dangling the potentially interesting plot out of reach like it’s a car key. It’s ALWAYS boring, and no amount of visual eye candy – that gets ruined when Shaft has to keep reminding me that they made it – is going to change that! If the movie had actually given an insight into some serious subject matter through its truncated vampire plot line similar to how True Blood explored discrimination, religion, the media, and such with its vampire stuff, I might have given it a pass. I’ve been watching Sense 8 on Netflix recently and whilst the plot moves slowly, the heavy issues the characters go through and how it adds to their characterization kinda make me uninterested in seeing the actual superpower conspiracy stuff (in a good way).
But no, Kizu’s problem is that the only thing to what we see of the vampire story as of now is a bunch of plot beats that aren’t even resolved like Iron Man would have done at the end of its film. There’s no Tekkonkinkreet-levels of the ongoing battle between light and dark told through the visuals. It doesn’t say anything interesting about vampires unless there’s something about Shinobu aka Kiss-Shot having a different size depending on how much blood she’s sucked that I’m missing. The only thing the initial conversation between Arararagi and Hanekawa did in regards to “meet cute” was explain the logistics of it then do it anyways (with the later twist that Hanekawa turns into a catgirl not even showing up in the film). This is stuff that I could say on this very blog or Twitter or whatever. Why does Monogatari get to say it?
That’s why Kizumono-snot-ari can eat my unworn shorts. Because last I checked, paying full price to see what was ultimately only one-third of a movie is not a business model you’re supposed to be supporting – even though I have to for the blog. And I have every right to attack Shaft in my review because that experience was all on them. Plus, I still don’t understand why it had to be a movie in the first place. Someone said it was because of the levels of blood would make it unsuitable for TV audiences and I just had to laugh. What blood? The stuff that the grown Shinobu was showing? That stuff is chicken-feed compared to what broadcast anime has shown in the past. Of course, we are living in a more censored world these days, but it still doesn’t justify a theatrical format for. But this is Japan, the guys who put that Durarara thing where the characters just talk about their past on the big screen because…I dunno.
Let’s move on from Monogatari for now and talk about the live-action scene for a bit. As you’ve probably noticed, I’ve been making more of an effort to get into live-action television as a medium thanks to those Marvel TV shows being to it what Case Closed and Ranma were for anime in my experience. It helps to raise my standards/criticism skills regarding what I expect from anime since I’m a firm believer that anime has to give me something I can’t get from movies, video games, or other television (with the reverse also being true), and I need to make use of my Netflix/Amazon Prime accounts somehow. I’ve generally enjoyed all the critically acclaimed stuff I’ve checked out so far (and didn’t enjoy the six episodes I saw of Fuller House) but I haven’t found one that’s really impressed me since Hannibal as of yet.
The reason for this is a combination of the comedies I’ve watched not being all that funny and the dramas I watch spreading their intriguing stories too thin with a few too many breaks from the main story line in order to focus on (what else?) building up the setting and characters. Whilst the ones I’ve seen haven’t been nearly as bad as your average light novel adaptation, I still don’t see why stuff like The Americans isn’t just a movie instead. And that show in particular really suffers from it because it could easily have been the gritty version of The Incredibles if the writer would stop showing off that he worked for the CIA.
For those who don’t know, the show is about two KGB officers posing as an American family to spy on the States for their Mother Russia with the main story being how difficult balancing work and family is, especially when your job involves being wanted by the police. The main couple is likable and the supporting cast pulls their weight too, but as I marathoned the three seasons, I honestly found large sections of the show to be a real drag. You see, what I liked about Hannibal was how the episodic cases and web of lies surrounding Dr. Lecter and Will Graham were constantly full of strong religious metaphors in some sort of Haibane Renmei by way of Psycho-Pass manner, right down to each victim being the most disturbingly beautiful corpse art you’ve ever seen. Even when the plot takes a break, it never loses focus on the story and thematic progression.
The Americans, by contrast, has trouble sticking to its story of the internal battle between public, private, and family. Now don’t get me wrong: I do like the show when said story shows up, and it appears enough to keep me into it. However, large sections of the episodic/arc-length missions throughout each season just consist of the Jennings struggle with the Russian tasks assigned to them without any relation to the family stuff whatsoever besides obvious/repetitive contrast. The enemies they have to face are mostly throwaway, with the one person who they contrast with greatly (their neighbor, Stan Beeman) barely interacting with them on the job. And until it approaches season end, they don’t really suffer any long-lasting consequences for their actions either – which incidentally is the main reason why I never got into Dexter growing up. Yes, they’re well-realized missions, but if you’re not using them for something vital, it’s just well-constructed buildup on its own terms so you can end your season on a strong note. And as we’ve just established earlier, I think blatant buildup is a fundamentally flawed writing technique that you can’t polish no matter how much you try. Not with great direction. Not with accurate representations of real subject matter. Not with anything but attaching a story or laughs to it.
It’s the fact that so many live-action shows use this technique in order to produce a large number of long seasons that’s prevented me from getting into the scene for so long. Sure, anime is even worse at it than live-TV – most of them not having enough material to even fill six episodes of your standard western drama – but the trade off is that you don’t have to watch much to finish your average series in that medium. You know how long NYPD Blue is? 261 episodes, all around 50 minutes long. Now I haven’t actually watched that show so I can’t talk about how it handles pacing there, but the point is that when you use this sort of buildup that I’ve ragged on in this post in order to better your story’s future potential, you have to be aware that the story isn’t going to be progressing whilst said buildup is actually happening, there’s a limit to how much an audience can wait before expecting results (mine is like five minutes, tops), and there’s no guarantee the resulting story will even be good. So if you expect me to stick around for that long, I want consistent results.
As I’ve said in the past, characters have to drive the story. And in order to do that, there has to be a story for the characters to actually drive. Otherwise, it’s like taking a trip to the middle of the Sahara desert – a whole lot of money and effort to end up fucking nowhere. And you’ll probably get burned in the process.
- Still, I think Pixar doing a movie version of The Americans could work wonders.
- I never actually watched True Blood, but I do know that its last two seasons are utter shit.
- Rewatched the first episode of Mad Men last night since I thought of giving it another try. Man, that premiere is more substance-less than I remember.