Thursday, January 14, 2021

Anime Roundup: Second Chance Edition

I'm a firm believer in second chances. My band Second Player Score - the second major musical musical project I've been involved with - is an example of that. And, as I've mentioned before, sometimes with anime you just have to stick with a show before it gets good. A few that I've revisited that have paid off big-time include Fullmetal Alchemist, Saiki K., and Seven Deadly Sins, and so for this roundup I decided to go back and check out a bunch more, such as:

Kill la Kill
I starting watching this show back in the summer of 2018, when I was still a relative anime noob. I think it was because I was a noob that I was kind of caught off guard by its quirky and, yes, racy nature, so I stopped after three episodes. But now that I am a grizzled anime veteran, I know that quirky and racy are standard operating procedure! So I revisited this one and, well, I fell in love with it. Deeply. What starts off as a simple revenge tale quickly builds into something far more deep, epic, and unique than I could have ever expected or imagined. Even the raciness, instead of just being there for so-called "fan service," is actually an integral part of the overall plot! The pace is fast (they even call this fact out in a fun meta moment), the action is intense, the writing is amazing, the twists are twisty, there's drama, humor, suspense, intrigue...I just can't say enough good stuff about this show. They even made it so that when there were relatively long passages of expository dialogue, instead of feeling bored, I hung breathlessly on the characters' every word - and sometimes even replayed those sections to make sure I got everything. Oh, and if you watch this show, trust me - you will never look at your own clothes the same way again.

Gurren Lagann
After finishing Kill la Kill, I discovered that its writer (Kazuki Nakashima) and director (Hiroyuki Imaishi) also did another show called Gurren Lagann a number of years earlier (they also did Promare, which I watched and talked about in another post). As it just so happens, I had also tried watching Gurren Lagann back when I was an anime noob but gave up after only three episodes thinking that it was a dull and generic mecha show. But so, since I loved Kill la Kill after giving it a second chance, I figured I would try this one again, and...boy, was I wrong about the "dull and generic" thing. Sure, it does start off a little slow and at first it seems like just a bunch of big robots fighting each other, but if you stick with it, it does the same thing as Kill la Kill (although I guess I should say Kill la Kill does the same thing as Gurren Lagann, since the latter came first) and evolves into so, so much more, complete with a few shocking twists. Also, a lot of the stuff that happens near the end will definitely provide inspiration for the sixth and seventh volumes of the Joel Suzuki seriesOtsukaresama deshita, Imaishi-san and Nakashima-san, you guys are brilliant geniuses.

Violet Evergarden
Another one from the summer of '18 that I had given up on, this time after only two episodes. What the heck was I thinking? Sure, it starts off a little slow, and the overall tone of the show is pretty melancholy, but if you stick with it, it gets really powerful, poignant, and heartfelt. Oh, and the artwork is fantastic - probably among the best anime art I've ever seen (and by now, I've seen a lot). It's also kind of neat that the protagonist - a young woman named Violet Evergarden, naturally - is similar in a lot of ways to Gloria Sin from my own comic book series, Glorified. They both have backgrounds as emotionless soldiers who had the ability from a young age to take out entire troops singlehandedly (the show never explains how Violet got her training, but it doesn't matter) along with prosthetic limbs (Gloria has one to replace a lost hand, Violet has two mechanical arms that reminded me of the automail from Fullmetal Alchemist), and both of their journeys involve them trying to gain or regain their respective versions of humanity.

Children of the Whales
In the fall of 2018 I watched this one and said in this previous post, "I watched the first few episodes and couldn't figure out why it was rated TV-MA. I believe I stopped right before I was about to find out." Sure enough, in episode three, I found out (Netflix has since changed it to TV-14, but - spoiler alert - there are some pretty intense scenes of violence). It's hard to pin down how I feel about this one because the tone of this show is kind of all over the place, bouncing from gentle and reflective one moment to dark and grisly the next with moments of standard anime-style levity sprinkled in between. The world-building, while unique, is also a little confusing, although that's probably my fault for not paying better attention (there were a few times when I said out loud to my TV, "I have no idea what's going on here"). Still, though, it was very watchable the second time around, and the twelve episodes (which - spoiler alert - only adapts part of the original manga) went by pretty quickly.

Inuyashiki Last Hero
I actually started on this one fairly recently after seeing it appear on some best-of lists. Then, for whatever unknown reason, I stopped after one episode. I have no idea why. Was I distracted by some bright and shiny object? Was I put off by the slightly-uncanny-valley computer-generated art style? Who knows. Anyway, after seeing it on yet another best-of list, I decided to give it a second chance. Which was a very good decision. I mean, you have to love it just based on the premise alone - a middle-aged man (he's 58 but looks 78 or maybe even 88) who has terminal health issues and is treated with utter contempt by his kids is accidentally killed and then turned into a superpowered cyborg by extraterrestrials (who had apparently taken a wrong turn) and then he goes off to save people before eventually facing off with a teenage dude who had gained the same powers but uses them to be a mass murderer instead. As a middle-aged man myself, I approve of this concept. Even the teenage guy - named "Hiro" with obvious on-the-nose irony - says at one point (mild spoiler alert), "wait, you mean I'M the villain, and this old guy is the hero??" Bonus points awarded for the hilarious meta moment when the teenager makes an offhand comment about what a terrible manga Gantz is (the writer of Gantz is also the writer of this show).

Anonymous Noise
This was not one I had to give a second chance to, but I'm just including it here anyway. It's a rom-com/dram with rock bands and love triangles and all that sort of stuff, so it was right up my alley. And at only twelve episodes, quick and easy to get through. One of the lessons learned from it is: beware, because random students at your local high school may actually be secretly moonlighting as famous rock stars in their spare time (while also engaging in immature and melodramatic romantic attachments typical of that age).

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