Thursday, May 2, 2019

Anime Roundup: Following The Wave Of Fate Edition

Believe it or not, it's time for another edition of Anime Roundup! This time, I managed to wait a whole ten weeks since the last one. Anyway, hajimemashou!

I had noticed that there were a bunch of different shows with the "Fate" name, so I decided to jump in and check them out. The first thing I did was look up answers to the age-old question, "which series should I start with?" The majority opinion I ran into on the Internet was to start with this one, because it's sort of a prequel to the entire franchise (even though, in Star Wars-style, it actually came out later in our-world-time). Normally, I actually prefer to be introduced to characters first before seeing their backstories (e.g., Obi-Wan Kenobi) because it makes for cool nerdy moments of easter-egg recognition, but I decided not to argue with the wisdom of the Internet masses.

So anyway, I found this one to be pretty slow going at first. I mean, for the first few episodes, there are a LOT of scenes where the characters basically just stand around and talk to each other at length. On top of that, it felt like many of said characters were tall dudes with spiky hairdos whose names all started with the letter "K." At times it was hard to keep track of who was who, to be honest.

But, as I learned, you need to have patience when watching anime. Madoka Magica was also a slow burn, but then it turned into probably one of my top three all-time favorites. And so I stuck with it, and was eventually rewarded with what turned out to be a pretty cool show. The real reward, though, was that it led into...

Fate/Stay Night (Unlimited Blade Works)
Now, this show was fun to me because, while the prequel series was kind of dark and grim all the way through, this one had a good dose of humor and action (and even some romance) to balance out all the serious stuff. I always say that the best stories are the ones that make you feel a whole range of emotions, and this show did a good job of that. There was even a cool twist that I didn't see coming (although I probably should have), so, well done, writers. But then why does - spoiler alert - Sakura disappear for most of the series after it had been strongly hinted that she was a Master? I know that there's another series that shows her story in a kind of parallel-timeline dealio (apparently these shows are based on a visual novel where Sakura or Rin or Saber play bigger roles depending on the player's choices), so maybe I'll have to dig that one up.

The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.
Another one where patience pays off. If you recall, I had previously lumped this one into "Category B: Tried To Get Into Them But Just Couldn't For Some Reason; Might Try Again Someday" back when I used to use such categories. But boy, am I glad I came back to it. Once you get used to the mini-episode format, it is so much fun. The humor is witty and very meta, often using Saiki's psychic powers as an in-universe explanation for typical cartoon inconsistencies like why the characters don't age even though years pass by in real (and show) time. It wrapped up pretty neatly after two seasons, so when I heard there was a third season in production, I was kind of like, "eh...I don't know..." But, well, yes. Third season, please.

Black Butler
An unconventional and slightly quirky show, it combines a pretty dark storyline with moments of traditional anime slapstick, making for an interesting (and sometimes jarring) contrast. It also does something that a lot of other anime shows do, which is to make demons and reapers and other normally "evil" beings into somewhat sympathetic characters. Somewhat. Anyway, I didn't really love it, but it did contain some of the best catch phrases I've ever heard in an anime show.

Last Hope
The art in this show was absolutely gorgeous (especially the cityscapes). And the food scenes never failed to make me hungry, even if I'd just finished eating. The pseudoscience was also very cool, dealing with alternate realities and timelines and other such geeky stuff. There were some slow stretches, but also some pretty epic moments, including the climactic battle scene.

This show is a plot tease. It makes you think it has a plot, and then it digresses into long periods of time where nothing happens except for two impossibly large and indestructible gentlemen beating the living daylights out of each other, kind of like pro wrestling without the laws of physics. I'm serious - several episodes can go by without the title character appearing even once (except in the opening and closing credits). Maybe Part 2 (which was just released on Tuesday) contains more of an actual storyline?

Rilakkuma and Kaoru
I enjoyed this one a lot. You may think, because of its cuteness and TV-PG rating, that it's aimed at kids, but it isn't, really; the overall tone is actually kind of wistful and melancholy, and it spends a lot of time simply portraying the mundane aspects of life as a single twenty-something-year-old going through a quarterlife crisis. As mundane as life can get, I suppose, when your roommates are two bears and a bird who can hold down jobs and summon UFOs. It was kind of like Aggretsuko without the sugar rush. Oh, by the way, the stop-motion animation is absolutely stunning.

Continuing with my trend of catching up with at least one classic anime movie per roundup, I managed to get a hold of this one, which I'd heard is widely considered to be the film that paved the way for anime to break ground with Western audiences. And after watching it, I can see why. It wasn't really what I expected, but it blew me away. Highly recommended, if you can find it.

Well, that's it for now. Tune in next time, when the roundup will probably include things like Ultraman and Gunslinger Girl as well as more Fate titles. Until then, mata ne!

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