Thank god this show finished early. Because until now, I’ve been racking my brains trying to find something to review. I’m no stranger to taking breaks on this blog, but I haven’t reviewed one thing this month. And it wasn’t entirely by choice, mind you. I just can’t find anything interesting to say about the rest of the anime this year. I mean what do you want me to say about the rest of the anime this year that I haven’t reviewed?
For example, Megalo Box. What am I supposed to do with this? It’s well-made. It was popular whilst airing but ended up getting forgotten real fast afterwards. It’s set to become another standout in Toonami’s anime line-up around December. The story and characters were cliched as all hell. Yeah, I’m sure most of you noticed that most reviews of this show talk about how well it nails the boxing formula and how much effort was put into the retro-style animation, which means there isn’t anything actually unusual about the series that I can get four thousand words out of.
Revue Starlight? Not even an option, as I try to think about the actual story of that show and it keeps killing my motivation because I’m not even sure there really was much of a story to begin with. Girls want to become the best in theater through theatrical duels. Had some nice characterization. Had some nice set pieces. I don’t really think there was much more to it than that. Might as well try getting me to review the new Castlevania.
And speaking of Castlevania, I thought about reviewing that or some of the animated shows on Netflix given how enjoyable they’ve been. Seriously, Hilda is really great and I highly recommend it. But no, I’ve come to realize the importance of sticking to anime on this blog, especially since I’ve got other much more popular sites to screw up for me and understand that spreading myself too thin is tantamount to public suicide. Technically, Castlevania could count given how popular it is on the anime community. But I’ve seen The Anime Man’s review of it and honestly there’s not a whole lot more to the show than what he described, which is mostly basic stuff to begin with. Decent if sometimes janky animation. Decent characterization. Amazing action. Nice dark narrative. I’d recommend it.
I suppose I could have just done some straightforward reviews of the anime films I’ve been watching throughout the year like Maquia and Liz and the Blue Bird. I’ve seen other anime folks giving them publicity with early screenings and while I don’t exactly have that sort of privilege, there’s nothing wrong with me joining it for no money. But no, I’ve done this before with other movies and honestly did not like how they turned out. Let’s not repeat our mistakes ten thousands times again on this blog, shall we?
Maybe I could bash some recent articles that are justifying the need for #AnimeGate to happen? Yeah, how about I not contribute to another goddamn hashtag movement that’s never going to work and will just make both sides look like idiots? Although I heard #ComicGate is actually kind of successful.
Yeah I’ve seen some of my colleagues churning out posts on a regular basis and such with much more fanfare than I’ll ever get so there’s no real excuse why I’m not writing more stuff, but honestly none of the things they write about is a good fit for the blog. I don’t want to talk about anime as they’re airing weekly. I don’t want to talk about anime that’s more than a year old and gush all over topics that have been discussed to death at this point (do we really need that many articles on the Jungian philosophy in Madoka Magica?). I don’t want to talk about fandom in general unless you want me to thrash all the articles on the VRV blog. I still plan to focus more on anime movies in the future, but right now I’m busy getting the blu-rays for them and not watching the actual films in general.
…Okay, that one I have no excuse for, but everything else still stands.
With such a dearth of things to write about, I’d like to give a special thank you to Yoshitoshi ABe. Thank you for coming back in the limelight after more than a decade with a new series for me to give attention to, and one that finished one month before the rest of the Fall anime at that. I mean it’s terrible. In fact, I don’t think many people actually watched this show, and the ones who did ranked it lower than Eromanga Sensei, so I dunno how many people will bother reading this thing. But it’s okay, man. Everyone has a dud once in their life, plus you’re an old-school guy trying to be relevant after so long. And unfortunately, even at your peak, you weren’t relevant in a way that was very sustainable, but you are relevant in a way that gets me pumping thousands of words for the first time in a while.
Okay, so I probably should clarify who Yoshitoshi ABe actually is before I go any further with this, especially given how we live in an age where people hardly recognize Clannad anymore despite After Story’s continued high ranking on anime sites. He’s basically an artist and character designer in the anime industry with a unique drawing style that has achieved significant acclaim because…well look at the art for yourself.
The value of art is obviously going to be subjective, but I think most people who look at this are going to consider it beautiful. And it is in a very haunting manner that toes the line between hope and sorrow. I don’t enough about art to really describe its appeal, but to me, it’s the way he draws his environments and characters as tortured yet beautiful that really makes me love the guy. And the same is true for the anime he’s worked on as well. Serial Experiments Lain. Haibane Renmei. Texhnolyze. Niea 7…actually I never watched that and heard it was pretty bad, but the other three are pretty good anime even to this day.
Although he only really had a direct role in Haibane Renmei and otherwise mostly did the character designs for them, ABe’s influence was definitely felt in everything he touched. The narratives that he was attached to had a similar vibe to his drawings: haunting yet beautiful. Plus, they always had a lot of interesting things to say with their tone, from Renmei’s powerful religious metaphors and subtle questions regarding what it means to sin and be redeemed to Texhnolyze’s stance on nihilism and how living a failed life can be laudable depending on how you look at it. Sometimes the presentation can come off as overdone and I know a lot of people who call his work pretentious as a result, but at least it’s refreshing. At least it’s a creative niche, and it just happens to be a niche I’m in support of.
And it’s a good thing these narratives were so powerful, because while his actual artwork is good, ABe has always had a problem translating his work into actual animation. Compare how this character looks in the original artwork…
…to how they look in the show…
…yeah, the contrast between images in dating profiles and the person in real life have nothing on ABe’s characters. While he’s still a name to respect in the anime industry even today, when it comes to the actual anime, he didn’t contribute a whole lot to its visual appeal, and that’s unfortunately a massive understatement. Don’t get me wrong, Lain and Texhnolyze did have a very unique visual style, but they were completely independent of ABe in question. And while the people who have brought his anime to life are still around, they haven’t been all that active so to speak. The last thing I saw of the Texhnolyze director was Orange from two years ago, and the guy who directed Lain isn’t around anymore on account of being dead.
Given how we’re currently living in an era of anime where animation quality is more important than ever (unless you’re A-1 Pictures and even then people can’t seem to make up their minds regarding what’s acceptable from them visually) if ABe doesn’t team up with someone who’s visually talented for any future projects, his visions can very easily get mangled into a Lovecraftian reject that the developers of recent Cthulu video games would throw you out the window for for even suggesting. And this year, we have seen that happened with his newest work, RErideD. Hoo-wee, this anime was a stinker.
The premise itself was dated before it even came out. It’s yet another post-apocalyptic story about robots going rogue due to flaws in their AI, because I’m guessing this anime was put into production before NiER: Automata came out and massively evolved the means on how to convey that tale. Although it does shake things up by introducing time travel, a storytelling device where apparently I’m the only anime fan who’s sick to death of it because of how overexposed it’s been since 2009. Our main character is Derrida, a young engineer who is being hunted by his employers after discovering a flaw in the AI he helped develop that will caused the robots in the world to turn on humanity. Apparently the employers want said flaw to exist, although why that’s the case I’m not clear on.
In the span of one episode, Derrida’s friend is killed and he’s put into cryogenic sleep in a ridiculously contrived way that I think breaks the laws of physics, waking up ten years later to a barren future where the robots are rampant and his friend’s daughter, Mage, is missing. He teams up with a grizzled mercenary, said mercenary’s young daughter, a talking car, and a camera girl he knew in the past named Yuri in order to find Mage, expose the truth, and stop the robots from killing everyone. Have you guys ever watched Casshern Sins? That post-apocalyptic anime that aired on Toonami around the same time as Deadman Wonderland and wasn’t nearly as popular despite its unique visual style and insightful outlook on machines despite being twice as long as it needed to be? Well RErideD’s setup reminds me of that, except Geek Toys isn’t exactly Bob for Toys when it comes to pleasing my eyes.
Remember when I reviewed Steins;Gate 0, I complained how its post-apocalyptic world looked like baby’s first dystopia? Well, RErideD’s vision of a wasteland looks like something the baby would throw away for being too boring. People literally do not exist unless they are convenient for the plot, the colors are too muted, and there’s no sense of dread or foreboding at any point in the narrative. Gone are the visual metaphors and unique settings that pervaded previous Yoshitoshi ABe anime. Now it’s just barren roads and generic office buildings that are all in service of creating a post-apocalyptic world for its own sake and not doing a very good job of it. Even the robots that supposedly wiped out most of humanity barely show up unless it’s convenient to annoy the main characters.
And as is usual for a Yoshitoshi ABe anime, the transfer from still art to moving art is absolute ass. Except while his previous anime with maybe the exception of Haibane Renmei had his characters retain unique designs after said transfer, RErideD’s characters look like they could have come from any anime ever. While you’ll probably recognize the glasses girl from the artwork at the top of this review when you see her in the anime, I fail to see how Derrida and Mage look anything like they do in said artwork once you discover them in the anime. I’ve discussed before how animation is just as much of the story as the writing. Thus, when I see such hauntingly beautiful art getting outright murdered as it is here, I can only describe RErideD’s animation as a hate crime against all artists.
Of course, even if ABe had worked with Kinema Citrus for the production and got Kevin Penkin to score his works, it wouldn’t change how utterly lackluster the story is. It didn’t make me overlook how retarded Rising Shield Hero’s premise was, so there’s no way it’d get me through the show hitting plot point after plot point without any sense of progression to carry it. It’s kind of amazing how the show makes a lot of things happen plot-wise from the characters sneaking into an office in order to retrieve a chip, to Yuri getting kidnapped and having the others rescue her only to realize that nothing has actually progressed in terms of momentum. What did the kidnapping add to the story? Nothing but a short scene where the characters show off their smoke-bomb capabilities. What did getting chased by an army of robots accomplish in the grand scheme of things? Not a thing. Did Derrida discovering the ability to time travel
(oh yeah, that’s in the show) (in a very lazy manner no less) tell us anything interesting about him? If it did, the show wouldn’t be nearly as awful as it ended up being.
Derrida does not go through any characterization or growth throughout the entire series. Not one ounce of it. We learn that he’s a talented programmer who’s in love with his best friend’s daughter and we eventually learn throughout the show that he has daddy issues as well as being incredibly stupid at times. Literally none of that factors into the show’s conflict as anything other than convenience. He doesn’t stand for anything strong and he never changes throughout his experiences, so why on earth should he be the glue holding things together?
And even though the supporting characters are better than him, they’re still pretty weak on their own. You know the mercenary type is going to warm up to Derrida and help him out for free despite numerous accusations to the contrary, and he has more characterization than Yuri, who near the end of the show mopes about how she’ll lose her experiences with Derrida if he changes the past, but I can’t recall one experience they’ve shared that was notable in any way. You meant that time you watched him nearly get shot? Or how about that time you hung out in an abandoned building to talk about how Derrida is in love with a girl he hasn’t seen since she was eight years old?
The antagonists are similarly lacking as well in both threat and a means to steer the conflict. The main bad guy is a cartoonish buffoon who looks somewhat like our current president, but to be fair, he’s not in the show very much so I can easily ignore him. However, he employs some recurring mercenary lady to kill Derrida that the show tries to give a psychological background to regarding her true identity in order to make her interesting. It might have worked too if RErideD’s plot had anything to do with identity, but this was like inserting an Ingmar Bergman-like subplot in the middle of The City of God.
Do you remember my last anime review when I stated how I didn’t understand what Girls’ Last Tour was actually about due to the lack of a clear direction? Well RErideD has that, and yet ironically it’s even more of a mystery regarding what the show is supposed to be about because all of its individual elements are stitched together so lazily. The two big plot points of the show are the evolution of technology and time travel, and they go about as well together in this story as Eminem and Bruno Mars did back in 2012. After discovering his ability to change the past about a quarter of the way through the series, Derrida mostly just uses it to change the present with varying degrees of success with no attempt to actually talk about the consequences of his actions, flesh it out as anything more than a means to get a happy ending, or have it relate to the robots in any way. Not since ERASED have I seen such a plot convenient usage of time travel. It’s like the anime somehow figures “hey it has quantum physics. Somehow it’s going to be interesting”.
And the robots themselves are just there. Apart from when that mercenary chick somewhat lost her identity due to being the robot clone of a human woman, I can barely recall anytime the show actually examines what it means to be AI. I think we focus more on Derrida’s daddy issues than we do anything interesting about the world, and it doesn’t help that said daddy issues are freaking boring during its limited time in the spotlight as well. Actually, I think the mystery behind Mage is the closest thing the show has to an important plot point that’s spread out throughout the narrative. Where is she? What has she been doing? All basic questions that might have been intriguing if the show bothered to give Mage any interesting characteristics.
When we first meet Mage, she’s just a little girl with a precocious crush on Derrida. After the time skip, Derrida is searching for her because she has the item that will save the world. Aside from occasional discussions on how she’s fighting the enemy, we don’t learn anything more about Mage. She’s less of a “goal point” than a shallow love interest, right down to a very heavy-handed role in the finale that makes no sense and calls to mind Sleeping Beauty. I think the story was trying to make her some sort of Christ-like figure in dark times, but given how little detail was put into making that character role standout, you might as well have made her an Algernon-like rat.
Oh, and I can’t fully review RErideD without talking about this other girl who looks like Mage and randomly shows up surrounded by a cheap flame effect to help Derrida throughout his quest like a tutorial character who wandered into the wrong game. Her name is Ange, and she’s pretty much the definition of a plot device used to make the characters go somewhere when they don’t know what to do. Similar to Mage, the show tries to make the mystery surrounding her part of the reason you’d want to continue further, but let me just tell you right now that the answer is incredibly lame. The story in general runs on conveniences and deus ex machinas, and while I’m sure Ange is supposed to fulfill a similar role to Ran in Texhnolyze, since she can just appear without rhyme or reason with nothing stopping her or any attempt to understand who she actually is, she’s basically as much of a character as Mage is in this show.
I don’t know what Yoshitoshi ABe and his colleagues were hoping to impart with this story and these characters, but if it was something meant to be profound, it failed to materialize due to poor production values, generic character development, an uninspired combination of two very distinct themes, a lackluster setting, and a plot that seems to be allergic to the very notion of progression. The ending is also a stinker as well. Without spoiling anything – although it’s a time travel story so you probably have an idea of what I’m about to say – something happens in the finale that made me question why the hell I had to sit through four hours of this series when you could have easily reached this conclusion in a quarter of the time.
You could make the argument that it was because then there’d be no story, but considering how literally none of the characters go through any meaningful growth or experiences during their journey that sticks by the end, you might as well have just not made this show at all. In fact, I don’t think anyone would have minded if RErideD was never made. It adds nothing to anime as a medium. It doesn’t do anything you haven’t seen before in this kind of story. It doesn’t fail in any spectacular way. No one is going to cosplay Derrida anytime soon.
RErideD is honestly one of the worst kind of anime out there in that it’s bad because it’s lacking rather than just being outright offensive. At least that would inspire some memes, fanart, or maybe even a cult fanbase that’s cool to hang out with. Everything just seems to be on autopilot with this show. It’s a black hole of entertainment that’s wiped out from collective consciousness as soon as you finish it. Despite having a trusted name on the show, literally nothing that made the guy a trusted name in the first place is apparent in the actual product. I honestly don’t know who was constantly updating the Wikipedia episode summaries for each episode given how much better anime don’t even have episode summaries, but hopefully he or she didn’t end up with their brains oozing out of their ears upon completion. I’ll be honest and say that I didn’t have too much trouble powering through the show compared to some other bad anime I’ve watched, but I definitely made liberal usage of Youtube during my time with this show.
Simply put, this is one of the most limp-dick comebacks from an old anime name I have ever seen. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong and all I have left for the series at this point is pity. Not really sure where the creators go from here, but if they can fully erase this anime from existence in the future like how Made in Abyss fully erased…well…everything else Kinema Citrus has made, that’d be nice.
- RErideD can be streamed on Crunchyroll.
- I know RErideD has a full title, but I saw how lengthy it is and immediately blocked it out of my mind.
- Still think Barakamon is terrible and I have not seen any evidence provided to change my mind.
- Now let’s see if I review anything at all in December.