When Has Setup Ever Been Interesting To Watch? — A Kizumonogatari & The Americans Post

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 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.

Minor Quips

  • 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.

17 responses to “When Has Setup Ever Been Interesting To Watch? — A Kizumonogatari & The Americans Post

  1. Fate/Zero Season 1 was like a “set-up” season as well especially the 1st episode. I would be hard pressed in believing anyone saying it was better than Season 2.

  2. Review grade (F). Incompetent pretentious review with a internalized condescending blue print whom when fails to fit exposition you loose your shit.

    This review is 0% objective, based on how you compare to irrelevant movies you don’t understand what you’re reviewing but will write out of your ass to ride a possible popularity COCK to go against what this movie really is. A stroke of genius whose ground work not only compelling but demonstrate a never before seen synergy between dialogue and visuals.

    The Monogatari franchise dialogue, narrative and inner monologued are a staple yet this movie despite having removed the 2nd and 3rd displayed a masterfully well done visual narrative that for the first time on a Monogatari installation the dialogue looks complementary, Normally it be a bad thing but the synergy of those be it auditory, visual and/or lines do not overpower each other.

    The movie didn’t turn out to be 64 mins but was allocated at that much to bring the best out this artistic medium.

    Anyone that knows businesses specially on Japan know that your remark is unfounded and invalid as for this film gross income has already paid for the next two films and the upcoming one will be nothing more than surplus.

    Tekketsu-hen was most arguably a teaser of what the fans are presented of what has been done on regards to the adaptation of the novel, basically an add to create momentum to add to that Japan has no streaming sites and a lot of Japanese haven’t seen as much anime as us the western counterpart.

    For this reason Bakemonogatari re-aired a little before the films screening. To add to that Koyomimonogatari APP has not only evaded the use of advertising but 100% secured the viewer to inform them of SHAFT plans.

    When you objectively take a look at the bigger picture, Shaft doings are ingenius stragetegies that will surely bring bigger gross income on the next two films.

    If you don’t know this much and can’t perceive as much you have no business reviewing anime. As your opinion is as valuable as dried dog shit. You’re a phony and I call you out on your bullshit.

  3. This is a lot of why I dropped Dimension W (and others like it). Besides not bringing anything new to the table, all of the episodes I watched seemed to be building up to something else that the show will probably never deliver.

  4. Meh, Monogatari has always been set up set up set up with bouts of fanservice every 6th frame without any real pay off.

    People like Bobduh like it for whatever character development there is. Others say they like it because of witty dialogue and creative animation but they really just like it for cute girls.

    • Agree with Monogatari, for what little I’ve seen before tossing it away as not only an harem but an harem that was trying to sell itself as some intellectual artsy piece.

      About the setup thing… I mean, *every story* has setup. It may be just the first ten minutes, half an hour, couple episodes if it’s a show… but setup is always there. Sometimes in big franchises you get entire shows/movies that are in themselves setup for more stuff. It’s just a matter of proportion. I don’t think the issue is “can I stand setup” but “how MUCH setup can I stand”. I get Flawfinder’s argument about how works should be self contained but I mean, it’s not like you’re normally going to see a Monogatari movie without expecting it to be intrinsically tied to everything else in the franchise (yes you did but you’re clearly masochistic). And I don’t think even an entire movie worth of setup is an issue – as long as it’s clear enough from the get go what I’m getting.

      • One show that just won’t stop setting up is House of Cards. I tried marathoning the last two seasons so I could watch the fourth one (which I heard is a return to form), but they were so tediously dull in how meandering they were I just watched the first and last episodes of each season and read the rest on Wikipedia.

      • Haven’t watched that, so I wouldn’t know. Well, as I said, it can be okay, it depends on your tolerance. Of course what is unequivocally bad is set up for the sake of gaining some time when the writers actually haven’t even planned the pay off to begin with. One atrocious example of that in manga and anime is Bleach, where Kubo clearly understood that “throwing ominous hints at future developments” was a strategy that sold well without realizing the second half of the equation – that one day people would get pissed and start demanding ANSWERS, which he clearly didn’t have in the least, having woven a web of random unplanned set up so tight he couldn’t make sense of it any more. Hence his manga being the only one of the Big Three that got an anime cancellation before the proper ending (a dubious honour even freaking NARUTO managed to avoid).

      • I don’t think I’m going to bother with the fourth season of House of Cards anyways. The reviews say it’s just more of the same only better executed. As I said regarding Dexter, there’s only so much execution can carry me if you’re not moving things forward.

  5. I am pretty sure I would have fallen asleep with the Monogatari film given that I am not hot with the characters who are in the screen. For me, Monogatari lives and dies with the characters that’s why I love Koimonogatari and the first half of Owarimonogatari. Araragi alone with some random vampires? No. Just no.

    I remember drifting to sleep during the Monogatari Second Season. Not that I hate the series, but I do not get the jokes beyond Bakemonogatari.

  6. We shall not find fault in the setups young grasshopper, but how the setups are run.

    The Seven Samurai is more or less around 1hr 30 minute plus of set up for a 1 hr battle.
    The Killing of a Chinese Bookie is one hour of set up for a slow strangulation at the end
    Drive is around half set up too (although it has the first 10 minutes).

    Arguably Mulholland Drive is 75% set-up.

    Ozu or Koreeda dramas also tend to be supremely long extremely subtle set-ups. Actually I don’t even know if there are direct conflicts shown usually.

    Of course with arthouse you get into even stranger territory. Is Tarr or Tarkovsky set-up, art, climax, whatever? etc…

    In terms of Literature, arguably Dostoyevsky’s Karamazov is more than 50% set-up. That’s like 400 pages before the main murder mystery, and yet the set-up also includes the Grand Inquisitor speech. If my set-up includes an intense rumination on the existential nature of a godless world, then I’ll dig into that set-up like a humongous ham sandwich.

    I would rather look at a film that was 90% set-up and people meandering around doing the most banal things if said set-up was 1000% more subtle about sketching out human character than an action film that had super good action but a lackluster (or even a good, but not good enough) set-up. Which is why I particularly care about Monogatari, because they blatantly don’t give a shit about catering to that need of giving a solid narrative. Give me my movies about infinitely human (or even blatantly artificial but well sketched) characters shooting the shit or give me death.

    • There’s a difference between the setup in those things and Hannibal than there is in something like Monogatari or The Americans. I even elaborate on why Hannibal’s setup works in the second half of this post.

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