I wonder how much of Anitwitter is watching the latest season of South Park, because Trey and Matt are basically attacking everything they hold dear this year.
You know, I wonder if there’s any way to inject freshness into the gangster genre at this point in time. It’s pretty much accepted that most, if not all of the good ones, end with the message that “crime doesn’t pay”, but that’s generally because there’s no story to the alternative. I mean you can’t make meaningful conflict out of “damn it feels good to be a gangster” unless you’re one of those idiots who think that “damn it feels good to be retarded” is an acceptable method of storytelling, and while there is some merit in the idea that people take to the gangster lifestyle because the alternative is a lot worse the same way One Piece deals with pirates, you’d need to set your mafia stories in an alternate world for that to pass (and that’s just a starting point). You can’t tell that kind of story in a real-life time period like the Prohibition era (unless your name is Quentin Tarantino, I mean), and unfortunately, a lot of gangster stories of the mafia variety seem to be in love with a time period where alcohol was outlawed, probably because it gave the stuff more of a hard-edge than it already has.
But you know what? Good storytelling is all about surprising your viewer with something they didn’t know they wanted, so even with the huge handicap that Prohibition stories have nowadays, there’s no excuse for 91 Days to be as fucking tedious as it ended up being. I mean my god, this show sucked real hard. It was basically one of those bland Hollywood crime movies stretched out into a full-length series. And yet, I’m finding out more and more that I’m in a small minority in regards to my stance on it. Okay, I’m not exactly a gangster nerd, but I’m not a shonen action nerd either, and I could still recognize the life that Mob Psycho 100 injected into the formula with its relatable main protagonist, quirky sense of humor that got better over time, and impressive visual style. 91 Days’ visual style is technically good but emotionally dead, its revenge story is boilerplate, and its characters have less life to them than Kuromukuro’s cliched cast.
Speaking of Kuromukuro, I’m reviewing it along with 91 Days because A) I can’t find enough to say about it to give it its own separate post B) it pretty much has the same problems as 91 Days, only with more personality at the expense of more filler. Whilst not quite as popular or recognized due to its Netflix situation, Kuromukuro has its fair share of fans, mostly from the mecha nerds who have been starved for quality robot storytelling due to the extensive string of shit that’s been coming from the genre for more than half a decade now. I mean yes, there was Macross Delta as well, but that’s a show you can really only appreciate if you’ve seen the other Macross series, and a surprising number of my nerd friends don’t seem to have it on their resume. Kuromukuro is easily accessible to everyone and has none of the deal-breaking WTFs that have sent many of its more recent robot companions into the dark abyss of suck, but that’s only because it doesn’t do anything different from every well-received mecha anime in the past thirty years.
But in addition to taking inspiration/ripping off every popular mecha anime around, Kuromukuro also manages to take large chunks of its plot from the popular anime, Inuyasha, right down to the main female protagonist being an everyday school girl, the main male protagonist being a jackass with a sword stuck in the past who confuses the main female for a previous love, and said love coming back to life as an evil shell of her former self. Oh and there’s some plot points regarding multiple worlds combined with time travel, but you’re going to have to talk to a fan if you want the details on that, because I can’t summon up enough interest to bother dissecting how that works. They even just rip off anime in general by having the characters participate in swimming events or school festivals for no reason other than “because that’s funny”. Yeah, about as funny as anything that happens in Thor, maybe.
However, I’m getting ahead of myself. Cliche gangster story first, please. The story of 91 Days centers on a young man named Avilio, whose family of two sentences was killed by a mafia family called the Vanettis when he was just a kid, causing him to grow up into an emotionally-deprived young man bent on destroying his family’s murderers from the inside-out. After infiltrating their ranks by turning in his resume as a professional killer/bootlegger/driver/whatever, Avilio must deal with an overly long series of betrayals and gangster politics as he ends up getting close to one of the members, protects his only “real” friend who has a death flag on him larger than the Sahara Desert from the moment he’s introduced, and gets screen time taken away from him by other characters who are no better than him in terms of getting an emotion out of me because all of their character traits are defined as either “badass” or “wannabe badass”. Unless you’re a woman, but even then they find a way to make the female characters shoot a gun and still not be interesting because “oh wow, you shot the man who was going to kill your brother. Nice job standing out, lady.”
I’ve written quite a bit in the past about how 91 Days fails to own its cliches and scenes from the much better movies it heavily borrows from, and after finishing the show, I can confidently say that my viewpoint has changed about as much as Trump’s view on women since then. The story can basically just be summed up as “Oh my god. Revenge is bad!” or “Oh my god. I have become the exact monster that I am hunting!” Except it’s hard to care that Avilio is turning into those he hates when those he hates have about as much charisma as a lobotomized Marvel villain, and even if they weren’t, these are some of the most unoriginal lessons in fictional history. It’s pretty much the same bullshit that Hell Girl tried to showcase for seventy-eight agonizing episodes, and it works just as well here as it does there.
On top of that, the world-building in this show is awful. At no point is the Prohibition era actually important to the story, mostly just functioning as a style point to have the revenge story behave certain ways, and not even a visually interesting one at that. I can’t think of one time this show played to the biggest strength anime is capable of: the animation. No visual metaphors. No complex emotions. In fact, the production falls apart a bit during the middle section, although it does recover in time for when Avilio experiences some actual internal conflict in regards to his plans near the end, which would have been nice to see about ten episodes earlier. I won’t spoil the actual details of said conflict, but let’s just say if the show had focused exclusively on it, I might have given it a kinder review. At least then it’d be somewhat on the level of something like Boardwalk Empire or Peaky Blinders, even though it’d never justify why this show needed to be animated in the first place. When I said a long time ago that my tastes were very western, I think the producers of this show read said statements and missed the point entirely.
Fuck it, I’m bored just thinking about 91 Days by this point. Let’s switch to Kuromukuro. Um…actually yeah I’m not sure what I’m supposed to say about this show. It’s sort of like that Disney movie, Big Order 6, in that it’s completely “fine” in all the ways that the general audience wants it to be, but if you were to ask someone who didn’t like it why they feel the way they do, it’d be hard to explain in a way beyond “too paint-by-the-numbers”.
In fact, I can’t even remember what the plot of this show was. Even going through Wikipedia and reading the summaries on Netflix does little to jolt my brain. I remember finding the romance between Yukina and Kennosuke kind of weird the same way I found the one between Kagome and Inuyasha kind of weird. I remember the mecha fights being serviceable, although nothing really outstanding. I remember the attempts to be funny being not funny. I remember the fans going nuts over stuff that I wouldn’t praise with a ten-foot pole because it’d never translate into a five sentence paragraph. I remember the characters mostly being anime stereotypes who could never escape being defined by them despite the show trying its damndest to do so.
Actually, I think that’s the main reason why Kuromukuro (and 91 Days for that matter) never drew me in: because whilst I’m not against using stereotypes to create a character that audiences can find familiar, said character can’t be defined by said stereotype. And I consider Mob from Mob Psycho 100 or any of the characters from the Danganronpa series to be sort of the baseline for how you can make an engaging anime cliche, whereas Yukina is obviously no Mob, and not even Kagome from Inuyasha ever managed to get on the level of any of Danganronpa’s characters. One, I should point out, mostly just existed so he can say lines that he thought were a lot cooler than they actually were and get turned into a robot halfway through the second game because robots are AWESOME. Why? Because these characters built on their initial personalities through the conflicts they faced and the relationships they shared, occasionally getting judged for them, but never letting them be the sole reason for existing. They all had conflicts and goals that dealt with the direct nature of their personalities.
Yeah, the actual intensity of said conflicts and goals may have been inconsistent depending on who was actually driving the plot and who existed in order to cark it, but the point is that even Teruteru’s random spouting of celebrity names is more noticeable than anything Kuromukuro brought to its cast. Aside from a few twists related to their backgrounds, which I found to be as arbitrary as most of the protagonists’ in the American-developed Silent Hill games, I can’t think of anything that really allows Kennosuke or Sophie or whoever the main villains are to stick out from the base stereotypes of gruff dude stuck in another time period, rich girl, and the main villains respectively. All I remember of Kennosuke is that he’s an idiot who looks too old to be in high school, thus the uniform looks hideous on him. I can even remember what these evil aliens from another world look like anymore, let alone the mecha they pilot. Did Sophie and Yukina have any meaningful character interactions? I’m sure they interacted, but were any of their conversations memorable? Did Yukina herself do anything memorable besides sharing naked time with a clone of that person who resembles her (or cloned from her. I forget)? You might blame my lack of memory of what actually happened in this series on my short attention span. I blame it on the show not trying hard enough to get my attention because it relies too much on cliches to guide its direction rather than using it as a tool to create its own direction.
Obviously it’s not on the same level as Spectre or Argevollen in terms of uninspired rehashes, and the visual style is consistent from what I remember. But at the end of the day, an anime can’t be good if the moment you finish it, all you remember are the much better products that it took inspiration from and why you couldn’t have just been watching them instead. I only remember 91 Days more because there was more to complain about, and I didn’t even get into some of the show’s weirder moments like the juggernaut Mexican. When you get down to it, both shows just exist without anything particularly good or particularly bad to focus on regarding them, with 91 Days having a little more bad and arguably a little more good since its final few episodes did get some things right that I can remember (keeping the final resolution of the revenge scheme ambiguous was the right decision IMO). I guess I could recommend them if you have a real hard-on for the genres they represent and want something new rather than just rewatching your favorites all over again, but chances are most of you guys have already moved on by now, just like how people forgot ERASED and Re:Zero within a week after they aired. Okay, maybe not so much Re:Zero since I still see Subaru and Rem getting referenced in several places, but it’ll be forgotten soon. Hopefully. Maybe.
What exactly was the plot of Re:Zero anyways?
- Not gonna review Macross Delta for that matter. All I remember from that is the idol girl won, some bullshit war stuff, and pretty much every Kawamori cliche ever.
- So how many Anitwitter folk equate “quitting Twitter” to “death” anyways?
- Have you guys seen this making of Kennosuke’s sword? It’s pretty cool.