How Much Is Good Execution Allowed To Excuse? — An ERASED Post

There’s something to be said about it of course, but you’ve got to realize what exactly it’s going towards eventually.

It’s been explained to me that the disappointment of ERASED when it came time to actually wrap up its plot increases the more into the show you were, so I guess my “it’s not bad, but…” attitude towards the thing really saved me, huh? I wasn’t exactly immune to the execution, but in no way was I blind to the fact that its actual story was lacking. Ignoring the fact that “time travel thriller” is in no way a new concept, ERASED always came off to me as a product where the writer imagined the characters and tone first, and then wrote the story around them regardless of whether or not they were actually important to it. When you devote so much screen time to little kids bonding with each other over any of the actual social analysis that made Life is Strange so fun, that’s a pretty good indicator that you don’t know how to write proper characterization, let alone a goddamn story. I can’t even remember when Satoru’s personal background as a struggling manga artist with regrets ever came into focus after the first episode (and it wasn’t even important to learn in said episode either), and don’t think I didn’t notice that all the other future murder victims like Aya Nakanishi just had their plotlines dropped after “that episode” whilst having absolutely no storyline significance whatsoever.

As this interview flat-out admits, the creators were more concerned with having the show resemble a Western thriller and showing off Kayo’s cuteness rather than being like Sho Aikawa when he stated he wanted to create a Watchmen-like story about superheroes and the government. They never once said in that interview what the story would actually be about, and whilst it’s possible to not care for a story if the the way it’s told (aka the plot) is too paper-thin, just because exploitation is my favorite genre doesn’t mean I enjoy simplistic stories told in an “entertaining style” by themselves. The good exploitation stuff – whether they be pure sweetness like Drive or pure madness like Meet the Feebles – still have to make me think, make me laugh, or make me feel like total shit like almost all fiction I interact with (only with violence and nudity). And sure I don’t mind putting mindless entertainment like Tokyo Tribe on once in a while, and it’s fun to watch Vinyl just to see Bobby Cannavale rip into people, but that doesn’t mean I think they’re quality stuff.

But of course, the creators’ intentions worked for the most part. ERASED became super popular to the point that it nearly took a spot in MAL’s top three anime of all-time, and people still to this day claim to me that the first four episodes were perfect (they weren’t) and the rest of Kayo’s arc was great too (what, that arc that was just kids hiding in a bus for the most part and getting resolved by a deus ex grandma?). Even though there wasn’t much in the way of intelligence or laughs, and I can’t imagine any of the drama making you feel like total shit when the evil characters act that cartoonish, people still loved the shit out of it because they just loved the presentation too much (or in Bobduh’s case, liked the small community themes a lot more than I do) due to its ability to make them feel. It was only when the presentation didn’t have feels to hone in on that things unravelled. And it wouldn’t be so much of a problem if it was just ERASED since like I said, I kinda enjoyed myself as well (those arcs I just slammed were okay in my opinion). But remember the initial response to Rolling Girls, Blood Blockade Battlefront, and Dimension W before people started realizing they were shit? I still don’t understand how people didn’t get they were going to be awful right away.

Sure they “looked” cool at first, but how much “looking cool” am I supposed to let a show get away with before it has to start actually being cool, fanboys (answer: two minutes at max)? Rage of Bahamut: Genesis “looked cool”, but it also ground its “style as substance” into characters that actually have arcs within the first episode – something very important to a big “character” dude like me. Ushio & Tora took longer to get to that point than I would have liked, but it still got there relatively quick as well. And Rakugo didn’t just become the big elitist hit of the season for its visuals you know. What the fuck did Rolling Girls have? What did Dimension W and BBB have? Hell, what did the second season of Daredevil – a sequel to one of my favorite TV shows of all-time mind you – have? And whilst it did actually have plot within its premiere, what did ERASED have in terms of character? Kayo wasn’t introduced until the second episode and Satoru never “once” in the premiere showcased any real character flaws or gave me any sort of hint that he would come out of his time travel experience a changed man because of how much plot he had to handle. Did the cinematography really blind people to the fact that the main characters from Mind Game and Paprika run circles around him in the character department?

I guess it particularly annoys me when I see that because I used to be a part of that “presentation and fun and everything else Robert Rodriguez’s actions films exemplify are the most important thing to have in your product” hive mind myself, and people who’ve been a part of it way longer than I have and have continuously gotten burned by it are still falling for it. How many times can you get punched in the balls by a visual novel writer trying to go anime-original before you start taking the hint that only Urobuchi has been able to do it, and he’s only hit-and-miss at best? Too many as far as I’m concerned (incidentally, try defending Romeo Tanaka when Rewrite inevitably sucks given he’s actually writing for the anime). And how many times can you watch Marvel’s stuff before you realize they’re the same witless, story-less, tension-less, character porn about a hero defeating some random villain that you nevertheless accept because they’re so “fun”? Well there is a backlash going on in regards to that right now, but if the reaction to Deadpool is any indicator, people are still onboard that train despite the fact that nothing has really changed in regards to Marvel’s movies since the first Iron Man. And that was almost a decade ago.

Speaking of superhero stuff, I’ve recently been informed that the upcoming Suicide Squad film is going through a few reshoots in order to make the movie more “fun” due to the critical backlash that Batman v Superman got for being so dour. Apparently, everything that was shown in the trailers were all the funny moments that were going to be in the film. I was never really hyped for Suicide Squad because it’s David Ayer directing and I don’t even like his good films like Training Day or Fury – although they’re not bad – but whilst I’ll reserve judgment until I see the movie, I’m sort of against the idea behind this practice.

Of all the criticisms I’ve seen regarding Batman v Superman, saying it took itself too seriously and lacked joy/levity is by far the worst one I’ve ever read. For starters, are you going to deny everything about the film just because it’s not presented in a joyous way, the same way people initially accepted everything about Rolling Girls just because it was the opposite? Are you going to ignore the fact that Batman and Superman’s conflict was based on powerful differences in ideologies despite their similar personalities because it was based on a misunderstanding that seemed easy to clear up? Is having a sense of humor just a requirement to find a character interesting these days? This article isn’t exactly the right place for me to defend Batman v Superman and why I think Zack Snyder’s/David Goyer’s seemingly utter hatred for the comic book fans is a good thing, but let me tell you something I’ve learned throughout my years of blogging: if you have to (and I can’t exaggerate enough that you should only do this if it’s a requirement) sacrifice “fun” in order to convey a story properly, you fucking do it! Because “fun execution” cannot carry a product if there’s nothing actually fun to execute. Leave that sort of stuff to the plotless comedies and tell a story for god’s sake.

But of course, I don’t know what Suicide Squad’s story is like. Maybe the more “fun” tone will blend into it well and not interfere with the original intent – assuming the original intent is good I mean. Maybe said tone change actually will turn shit into gold. Certainly can’t be worse than Kat Dennings not being funny in Thor. However, if the final product ends up being just another flavor-of-the-week superhero…er…villain film that sacrifices meaningful storytelling in order to portray the characters faithfully whilst having them do meaningless shit that the fans will eat up because “at least this film gets it”, I will not be kind to it. I like Harley Quinn as much as the next person and all, but I like her even better when she’s in a story that has the weight and “status quo”-breaking power of Arkham City rather than a story where Superman is evil (again) in a parallel universe (again), thus ensuring that the status quo of the Justice League’s original world will never be threatened.

Minor Quips

  • Seriously guys, Injustice’s plot was retarded.
  • Also, I could take or leave Satoru’s mother despite the love she gets from the community. Kayo was the (only) one who actually had an arc in that show, and thus is my personal favorite.
  • Really? These “funny” scenes from the trailers were all the comedy we could originally expect from the Suicide Squad film?

10 responses to “How Much Is Good Execution Allowed To Excuse? — An ERASED Post

  1. “I guess it particularly annoys me when I see that because I used to be a part of that “presentation and fun and everything else Robert Rodriguez’s actions films exemplify are the most important thing to have in your product” ”

    Then why do you like exploitation in the first place? Having a “smart exploitation” movie is kind of pushing it anyway (would it still be an exploitation movie then?) although personally for me, exploitation as a genre is a pretty broad term.

    • You do realize you could ask the same about anime, right? Why should I like anime when I hate the shipping, the humor, and all that other baggage that’s been bringing it down even before moe and shit was a thing?

      And yeah, exploitation is a pretty broad term in of itself. However, I am completely against the idea that exploitation can’t be smart (especially when Tarantino exists). Just because it doesn’t “look” academic doesn’t mean it can’t “be” academic.

  2. I think what you want out of media and what most people want out of media are completely different.

    The successful blockbuster movies must be inoffensive to be successful. Great fictions are always controversial (the opposite is often not true, though). That’s why MAL ratings is so stupid. Most anime ,films, or TV watchers want something simple and fun. Something to discuss with friends. As much as I like Solaris, I don’t expect others to watch a 3 hour dry movie and think about human nature.

    However, you need to be extra careful when saying a show is meaningful or not. There are more than one type of fictions. Every one has their own biases. There is a reason why many fanboys actually believe that Fate Stay Night is deep. And also many haters believe that Penguindrum is pretentious.

    • I think what you want out of media and what most people want out of media are completely different.

      That’s a good chunk of the reason I made this blog to begin with.

      However, you need to be extra careful when saying a show is meaningful or not. There are more than one type of fictions. Every one has their own biases.

      I didn’t exactly say people should judge meaning the same way I should (otherwise, they wouldn’t be able to enjoy Breaking Bad or Rakugo, and why would I want to deny good stuff that’s just not for me?). That’s why I mentioned Bobduh and what he interpreted to be ERASED’s themes in the paragraphs above. I didn’t agree with him that the community stuff were enough to carry the show since I find those to be pot-shots any half-decent writer could come up with, but I’m not going to fault him for liking that stuff the same way I won’t fault people for not liking romances where the characters split at the end.

      However, if you read the forum thread for when he covered ERASED (I wouldn’t recommend it though), alot of people just let themselves get swept in the moment without thinking about the points Bobduh brought up. And in regards to Marvel’s stuff, the only argument I hear regarding its themes is that it “gets the hero”, and most of the time the positive word forgets to say that and just use that weak “it’s fun” excuse.

      Great fictions are always controversial (the opposite is often not true, though).

      I might write something in the future regarding how even the controversial stuff that I hate has more merits than the middle-of-the-road. Of course, there’s a difference between controversial and just flat-out bad (Seltzerberg films).

  3. Well, thing is, sometimes people are okay with style over substance, but then the show fumbles even at keeping up its own style. ERASED was certainly a plot driven show and I definitely always was wary of it; while I DID like it enough, I realized it was definitely spending far too much time and attention on the whole Kayo business and just building up this emotional attachment through moments of cuteness to actually resolve its time-travel thriller plot decently (a kind of plot that is already risky if you tell it tight, let alone if you just squander half of your run on a single arc). So let’s say I was prepared for the impact of a rushed finale – though the whole “laughing maniac villain” thing definitely came out of the blue.

    But take your own example of Rolling Girls. That show definitely never looked like one that would have a serious, complex plot. More like an episodic romp with a thin thread connecting the season and probably resolving in the finale. But that can be fine as a formula – just look at Samurai Champloo – so that wasn’t the issue. Certainly the visual creativity helped for me, because I like it for its own sake, but that was mostly in the first episodes and then sprinkled here and there (like in the concert one). The problem is, the show simply got boring. It didn’t necessarily need a complex plot – those of us who were still tagging along by the end didn’t need one to stick to it, evidently – but it needed to make something that provided a proper climax to the series in its own style. True creativity takes some effort, and visual tricks only go so far. By episode 13 the aesthetic of the series is established, so if you want to pull forward based mostly on stylistic and visual appeal you need to pull off new tricks, not just double up on the existing ones. And this is probably even harder than writing a good finale for a plot-driven show.

    • I think Samurai Champloo’s first episode is in the same league as Rage of Bahamut’s rather than Rolling Girls. Yeah, the stuff in-between the awesome intro and awesome finale was a mixed bag – hence why I eventually took it off my favorites list – but I think it at least started off with a strong grounding for its execution to handle.

      • Yeah but that goes into matters of personal taste. I genuinely liked episode 1 of RG – not because of vague promise but because I enjoyed what I saw. I knew that it was not going to have much substance but that alone I was okay with – par for the course. It disappointed me not because it didn’t give me substance, but because even what had been entertaining fluff stopped being entertaining.

      • For another example – look at this season’s Space Patrol Luluco short. First episode: amusing and completely bonkers fluff. Will stick with it. It may disappoint me but not for lack of complex characterization and overarching themes.

      • I “did” say leave that “style as substance” stuff to the plotless comedies. Plus, whilst it’s not quite a favorite as of right now, I think Luluco is funny.

    • Well, Rolling Girls was sort of a comedy, or at least introduced itself as one. It was sort of slice-of-lifey inoffensive comedy but there you go. The only thing I mean is, you didn’t like it from episode 1 because you don’t like the genre. But even for those who do, the show had a dip in quality even with respect to its ability to stay faithful to that genre.