Hey guys, I just wanted to take a second and explain what’s going on this week…  Normally, I like to have my work done way in advance, I’ve told you that before, but I do my editing the day off.  I get home Saturday morning, bring up whatever post I have planned for that weekend, and I give it a thorough once-over before publishing it.  Unfortunately, I’m very, very sick this week, so I don’t really have the stamina or focus to do an editing job on a long project.  Instead, I’m going to post a song parody that I wrote back in 2014, and I hope you can enjoy that while I work on getting better so I can provide you with a good review next week, which may or may not be RWBY volume 4.  It’s honestly still up in the air at this point.

In any case, if you enjoy today’s post, I’ve done two other song parodies, which I’ll link below.

A Parody of Wreckingball by Miley Cyrus

I watched, I tried, to find out why
They said, that it was the best
The art was bland it’s pace was bad
I must get this off my chest

Don’t you ever say I’m set in my ways
No, I tried to be fair.
It will never be as good as ‘03
It can’t even compare

I’m not a fan of Brotherhood
I sat through every episode
But I guess I understand the hype
Cause the end was much more.. Happy
So what, it’s happy?

The writing sucked it was too blunt
There was, nothing underneath
It made me yell “Show and don’t tell”
I can’t take it seriously

Don’t you ever say I’m set in my ways
No, I tried to be fair.
It will never be as good as ‘03
It can’t even compare

I’m not a fan of Brotherhood
I sat through every episode
But I guess I understand the hype
Cause the end was much more.. Happy

I’m not saying that it was bad…
But they say it’s a masterpiece
I mean I guess it was pretty good
But it’s softer and it’s not very deep
No it’s not very deep

The sight gags were all poorly timed
They didn’t have the same effect
They used them on the heavy scenes
And all the drama thus was wrecked
The new cast mates were kind of cool
I just don’t believe in Ed and Win
Or how the plot just let him win

Don’t you ever say I’m set in my ways
No, I tried to be fair.

I’m not a fan of Brotherhood
I sat through every episode
But I guess I understand the hype
Cause the end was much more.. Happy

I’m not saying that it was bad…
But they say it’s a masterpiece
I mean I guess it was pretty good
But it’s immature and not very deep
No it’s not very deep

Now please… Please don’t hate me!


Let It Go: The Elfen Lied version
The God of Your World(Death Note)

Once upon a time, there were two young women who couldn’t be more different. Despite the fact that they were both teenagers going to the same high school in Saitama prefecture, Japan, almost nothing about them was similar. Konata Izumi, a petit bluenette with the attitude of a slacker, and Kagami Hiiragi, a responsible honor student with little tolerance for nonsense. One of them comes from a single parent home, the other from a large and closely knit family. One of them devotes her entire life to distractions with little time set aside for academics, the other devotes her entire life to academics with little time set aside for distractions. One of them is rooted in the present, the other one keeping a healthy eye on the future. Ordinarily, two people as drastically different as these two would go their whole lives without crossing paths, but against all odds, Konata became close friends with Kagami’s little sister, having daringly saved her life from a foreigner who was trying to ask her for directions to a thrashable car. And thus, these two individuals who should have never met, met.

Yeah, yeah, I know that’s a reference for a different show, but I’m never going to review that show, so I figured I’d use it here. Anyway, the fact that Tsukasa and Konata are in a different class than Kagami leads to the latter being drawn into the former’s world, avoiding what could have otherwise been a major power struggle. She already knew her younger sister Tsukasa, the soft spoken, clumsy and air-headed girl who often depends on her slightly older twin to get by, and while these three make up a troublesome trio all their own, a fourth girl joins their group… The smart, well-mannered and mature(in more ways than one) Miyuki Takara, who Konata and Tsukasa like to bring their cultural questions to. Together, these four unique high schoolers form a friendship that will last them a lifetime, as they share their joys, their frustrations, their lives and their dreams with one another… Or just constantly mess with each other and ask inane questions about candy. Honestly, it could go either way. But maybe, just maybe, they can band together to answer one important question; How DO you eat a chocolate coronet?

I’ve talked about Kyoto Animation quite a few times before, but if you’re worried about me saying the same things I said before, don’t be. I know they have a consistent style, and while it’s evolved over the years, most titles they release do look more or less like they could exist in the same universe. There are a few exceptions to this rule, and while one of them is the far more popular Nichijou, the first departure they made from featuring relatively normal human anatomy was Lucky Star, which is quite possibly one of the most extreme examples of anime where absurdly large “Moe blob” heads are stacked on top of smaller bodies. Well, you know, if you don’t count chibi shows. In any case, the fact that it’s so different from their usual output is probably due to the fact that they chose to produce it as a supplement to their previous smash hit, Haruhi Suzumiya. The two titles are mainly related through fanhood, as Haruhi Suzumiya is a popular series in the Lucky Star universe, and one of the main characters(Konata) is obsessed with it. Sgt. Frog is also big in it, but hey, they took what they could get.

In any case, when I talk about low budget anime using it’s money wisely to look just as good as a more expensive show, you’d have a hard time finding a better example than Lucky Star. It may be one of the black sheep of the Kyo-Ani family due to it’s somewhat cartoony style, but that translates incredibly well to budget-cutting techniques. Background characters are usually frozen and covered in blue paint-bucket filling as they loiter in the background, a move that would feel cheap and lame in any show with characters who are too weak to distract you from them, so it’s worth noting that for at least three-fourths of the time, you’ll barely notice them. The dialogue heavy nature of the series also gives the animators a perfect excuse to hold on a key frame while the characters talk to each other. There are a lot of high school anime that do this, and I can see where it might wear on the patience of most viewers, most examples of this are anime that are inconsistent, suffer from occasional quality drops, and feature movement scenes that look out of place among the rest of the material.

What separates Lucky Star from this lot? Well, the money that the animators saved with their budget saving techniques is put to exquisite use. Every single movement in this series, at least from featured characters, employs just enough movement to capture and portray the mood, intent and gravity of the shot that it’s in, no more, no less. Because of this, every single movement, from huge reaction shots to the smallest wave, features the exact same level of fluidity, unless of course the style has to change for the sake of a parody sequence, such as the “Legendary Girl A” material. Rather than waste their time and resources on weird angles and filters to keep you amused during long bouts of talking, Kyo-Ani decided to cut the bullshit and make the dialogue quirky and entertaining enough so that the slow, heavily conservative animation wouldn’t bother you… To mixed results, I’m afraid to say, but we’ll get to that later. I’d also like to say that whenever they do execute a parody from another series, the animation style they switch to is normally fairly accurate. The moefication of the characters may be a sticking point for some, but I think it was handled rather well.

As it happens, this is one of the rare anime that I’ve seen in their entirety in both languages, and for the most part, I can say that Bang Zoom managed to represent the original Japanese acting faithfully. Wendee Lee is a bit of a departure from Aya Hirano’s Konata, mainly because… As I mentioned in my Haruhi review… She doesn’t have quite the range of Aya-chan. Thankfully, she does much better with this character than she did with Haruhi, employing a sort of rolling rasp to imitate Konata’s gruff, good-humored delivery. This unfortunately doesn’t always work, such as when she sounds excited or needs to raise her voice, at which points she sounds so much like Haruhi that it’s honestly distracting. Still, the rasp is different from Aya’s performance, but it suits the character just as well. Karen Strassman, on the other hand, is spot on with her version of Aya Endo’s character, Miyuki Takara. It’s not identical, but it’s a very close ringer for the polite, aristocratic-sounding character.

Michelle Ruff is something of a chameleon(in a good way), and can play a wide roange of characters, so it might be a shock to your system if you hear her in bleach or Haruhi, and then see her listed in the credits under Tsukasa, the younger Hiiragi twin, a space cadet with an overly soft, shy sounding voice. She doesn’t sound as child-like as Kaori Fukuhara did, which is probably for the better, because her dialogue mainly alternates between innocent musings and woe-is-me whining, and it would have sounded annoying in English had Ruff not aged it up a bit. Out of all the main cast, however, Kari Wahlgren probably had the hardest job with Kagami, a tsundere-type of character whose vocal patterns and inflections don’t really exist stateside. Not only that, but Kagami is probably the most nuanced and complicated character in the cast, and while Emiri Kato was amazing in her native language, Kari knocks it out of the park by playing it down to earth, but with a more snarky, confident edge.

Rebecca Forstadt gets a heart-warming cameo that I won’t dare spoil, Bridget Hoffman is hilarious as Miyuki’s dependent mother, and Kate Higgins plays a quirky teacher that Luci Christian would be proud of. Hynden Walch is unrecognizeable as Konata’s cousin, and among her friends, Michelle ruff puts her talents to work playing double duty, the prolific Philese Sampler plays a small role, and Patericia Ja Lee… Well, she’s probably the only sour note in the group, keeping her performance as close to the Japanese as possible, when she really… Really… Shouldn’t have. But my favorite has to be Stephanie Sheh in the role of Akira Kogami, one of the two hosts of the episode ending segment Lucky Channel, and while I’ve preached the gospel about her character range before, she puts it on full display here, playing a character who’s sugar and spice personified. She flip-flops between a sweet, happy-go-lucky idol and a crude, bitter behind the scenes personality who, despite being 14, has seen it all and won’t take any shit from anybody. I personally recommend the dub, but you can’t go wrong with either choice.

There’s a certain brand of comedy anime… Which I believe was popularized by Azumanga Daioh… That takes the slice of life concept and moves it into the confines of a Japanese high school, so the viewer can observe the daily lives of a group of friends as they interact and develop both as individuals and as a group. Not only does this brand bank on the childhood nostalgia of older viewers, but it also leans heavily on the strong personalities of it’s characters to deliver jokes, humorous situations, and the occasional heartfelt moment. This brand gets criticized for being plotless, but is that really fair? Is a plot really necessary for a comedy, or can it stand on it’s own just by being funny? It’s true that most American TV, both animated and live action, is devoid of overarching plots, as they’re most often carried by strong writing and strong characters, but they still have individual episode plots. For more than a quarter of it’s run, Lucky Star doesn’t even have that. So, are the characters and comedy strong enough to overcome this disadvantage, like they were in Azumanga Daioh?

I’ll admit, the show doesn’t get off to a great start. It’s never been made clear why Yutaka Yamamoto was fired as series director after the first four episodes… Especially since he was the person who created the viral dance sequences that made the ending theme of Haruhi and the opening theme of Lucky Star so explosive… But rumors and speculation have been made that it was his approach to the series was far too close to the manga, adapting the small, four panel comics one after another, leaving little room for interesting stories and forward momentum. Personally, I didn’t entirely mind these episodes, as long as Kagami and/or Konata were on screen. The four main characters have a very strong dynamic made up of several smaller connections and interactions, such as Konata perving over Miyuki’s moe potential, Kagami and Tsukasa being polar opposites, Tsukasa and Miyuki… You know what? No. Those two alone just don’t amount to anything noteworthy. They need the other two characters to function.

Right in the early stages of the series, Lucky Star goes out of it’s way to show what happens when Tsukasa and Miyuki are left to their own devices, having a conversation so banal and fraught with unutilized set-ups that Kagami, sick in bed for a surprisingly unrelated reason, is begging one of them to just reach the punchline already. They need Konata to exploit their quirks, or Kagami to call them out, or it’s ultimately like leaving jokes on the table. That’s not to say Konata and Kagami don’t need the other two… They’re fairly versatile characters, and different interactions can bring that out in them… And Tsukasa can be fairly funny on her own, what with her constant airheaded mistakes… But the series is at it’s absolute best when Konata and Kagami are working off of each other. There’s a reason I based my plot synopsis off of their differences, and it’s not JUST the fact that I had to think of a gimmick just to give this show a plot synopsis in the first place. Out of the four supposed main characters, those two carry the series.

In most of their interactions, those two are the dominant forces… Konata making references and shocking people with her weird reactions, Kagami making sarcastic remarks and brutally biting observations… And it’s rare for anyone else to dominate them in an interaction, but they meet their matches in each other. The bickering that takes place between them is easily one of the highlights of the series, as you can’t always tell who’s going to come out on top of each encounter, most of which just end in stalemates. While Miyuki is probably the weakest of the four, they still come together to form the foundation of the series. Actually, they’re more of a trunk, as the comedic strength of Lucky Star feels like something of a tree. Together, they’re strong, sturdy, and have a great dynamic based on the chemistry that they have with one another. The reason I’m comparing them to a tree is that, when you talk about the rest of the cast, it does start to create a weakening effect, just like how a tree becomes more difficult to climb the higher up it spreads.

When the cast starts branching out, we get a group of supporting characters for the main cast to work off of outside of each other. Miyuki gets some support from her mother, an entitled slob who appears to take advantage of her brainy and responsible daughter in some cases, which is really when she’s at her best. Kagami and Tsukasa have their family for support, including their mother AND father(Both of whom are alive… weird, right?) as well as their four older sisters, their conflict with whom helps to develop their characters as well as highlight the special bond that they, the twins, have with one another. Konata, and I don’t think her bevy of fans realize this, has THREE characters supporting mainly her, including her pervy father to explain her upbringing, her cousin in law enforcement to highlight the illegal sorts of activities that her upbringing has led her to, and the homeroom teacher, who attempts to drag her kicking and screaming back to reality when she tries to escape to a game. She gets her shots in on all three of them, but it still goes to show just how dependent she is on the rest of the cast.

The branches of the support characters are strong enough to do just that, but they become significantly weaker when you move to the next group, the underclassmen, a group of younger characters who start to appear in the second half of the series, when even the comedy between the main four is strting to get tired and predictable. Unfortunately, these characters aren’t strong enough to hold a story for very long, with only one of them… Konata’s cousin, Yutaka… Being even slightly above one-dimensional. This group of friends is more stereotype than people, which is sad, because the characters on the lower branches do, to their credit, feel like fleshed out and complex characters, at least to a point. Yutaka’s friends, however, are direct archetypes, and Yu herself doesn’t even DO anything with her quirk, being the sickly girl. Her friends include the pervy mangaka, the ignorant foreigner, the boyish breast-envy girl… And that’s it, and the story seems to give them far more credit than screentime, as they play a major role in the ending. Also appearing at the ending climax are friends from Kagami’s class, poised not as branches but as sub-branches that aren’t strong enough to hold a freaking apple.

So in terms of characters, the comedy does get weaker as the show goes on, but that won’t matter if they grow and move through important events and situations, right? Well, yes, there are a few. There are a few moments that take the cast out of their comfort zone to explore them in new ways. In a later episode, with the main four taking a field trip together, contains a bunch of great moments in it, like Tsukasa being attacked by deer, Kagami getting a love letter, and Konata cheering her up afterwards. The episode soon after, where Konata’s family gets a secret visit, is surprisingly poignant. Some of the best episodes include the beach episode, the Comiket episode, the Christmas episode, Konata’s birthday… Episodes where something noteworthy actually happens, instead of just a chain of jokes and gags, and that’s setting a pretty low bar. There’s no point in getting invested in any of the characters, because unlike Azumanga Daioh, they have no arcs, and their futures beyond high school are left completely unresolved. Yeah, there are some enjoyable moments, and good jokes here and there, But I was never bored watching it… Even if I am in the minority.

I am part of a very specific demographic that this show caters to… I was an otaku in the mid-2000s. That’s it. That’s why I can enjoy it, while most new visitors can’t. find it anything but boring. People who enjoy it the most are the ones who watched it when it came out, or in the few years immediately following, but if you came into it after 2010, it probably comes off as one of the most dated anime you’ve ever seen. That’s not to say you won’t find the characters interesting, the casual tone relaxing, or element of friendship welcoming, but you’re watching anime that was created to be a reflection of it’s time, in it’s time, and a lot of what it chose to represent isn’t relevant today, unfortunately meaning that it hasn’t aged well. It relied on gimmicks and otaku pandering rather than story-telling and real emotion, and that fact along with it’s moe design kept it from having any chance of being as timeless as that other slice of life show I keep bringing up. It gets a lot better after episode 4, but it just doesn’t stand the test of time.

Lucky Star was originally available from Bandai Entertainment, and the DVD sets from then are still available online in both individual, limited edition and complete collection formats, although the DVDs that were produced by Funimation after they rescued the series are far more affordable. The OVA is available on DVD, but it’s also included in the Funimation release, and I think you already know how much I love it. It’s the same series, but with much more fluid and well written stories. The original manga is available stateside from Viz Media. Beyond that, there are a ton of light novels, mangas and games that are NOT available stateside.

Calling Lucky Star an acquired taste is probably being a bit too generous… It’s one of the most esoteric series I’ve ever seen, as it seems deliberately designed to appeal to a small demographic, which I happen to be a part of, and even I think the series is overrated. It’s appeal is small, but it’s still precious to the people in it’s demographic, and I still enjoy it as well, even at it’s worst moments. I love the main cast, and there’s a lot about them that I find relatable. Does that mean I’d recommend it to a high number of people? No, but if you know someone who was an anime fan during the previous decade, or if you know someone who plays a lot of online games, or if you just know someone who has a mischievous sense of humor, this might be a good title to suggest to them. To anyone else, tread with caution, because the phrase ‘culturally impenetrable’ doesn’t even begin to describe it. It’s worth checking out, but if you’re not into it by the fifth episode, try out Azumanga Daioh or Nichijou instead. Otherwise, this adorkable title has just enough going for it to make up for it’s weaknesses. I give Lucky Star a 6/10.  

Once upon a time on a certain bow-shaped archipelago, there was a young man who had become jaded and cynical towards the world around him. Known as Kyon to his friends, as well as his relatives and anyone else he ever meets, this young man once believed in the wildest things, from aliens and the supernatural to superheroes and the evil syndicates that they battle. He’s mostly given up on such fantasies, and although he does think about them from time to time, he’s accepted reality as it is… Unfortunately, that reality is so boring and tedious that he’s settled into a deep pit of ennui, shuffling through each day in a cloud of gloom as he lets his annoying friends, his bratty sister, his fellow classmates and the punishing climb up to school up a steep hill fly right by him. Does any of it matter? Is there any point in resisting convention, going against the grain, when it will just get him branded a weirdo and a social outcast, dealing with a day to day life that’s even more underwhelming than it was previously? For the most part, Kyon had resigned himself to reality, and a long life of blase blandness. That’s when he met her.

Standing proudly during first day introductions, wearing a stern expression and speaking directly with no room for misunderstanding, Haruhi Suzumiya proclaimed to her entire class that she’ll only waste any of her time on them if they’re aliens, time travelers, or espers. This could have turned out to just be an inconsequential blip on the radar of Kyon’s life, if it wasn’t for the fact that while absently picking her brain, he winds up inspiring her to start her own school club, and use it to bring the weirdness of the world to her. Kyon winds up dragged into this plan, having sealed his fate the minute he’d decided to poke the pretty-looking bear. This club is named The SOS Brigade, a name that impressively makes less sense than it sounds, and Haruhi winds up dragging three more poor souls into her mess. They turn out ot be interesting people, but as Kyon will soon find out, they might be just a little too interesting, and the supernatural phenomena that Kyon had once given up on may have been easier to find then he or Haruhi had thought. With the boundaries between reality and fantasy becoming more blurred by the day, will Kyon ever be able to get his normal, boring life back? Or will this bizarre new routine dominate his life forever?

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is part of what I like to call The Golden Age of Kyoto Animation, and yeah, a few points of this review are going to focus on the time frame of which it was released. In any case, this golden age occurred between 2005 and 2008, after their inaugural effort Fullmetal Panic Fumoffu, but before they’d switch to a cheaper visual style with Clannad Afterstory. The second season did fall victim to this change, but thankfully, Haruhi did not, and is a shining example of the kind of visual quality that it could put out back then. Movement is fluid, with a lot of inbetween work being done to keep everybody looking as crisp and graceful as possible, and I’m not just talking about the people in the main section of the foreground. you’ll lose track of the amount of background people, surrounding crowds and random cutaway figures there are who were given independent movement of their own, sometimes even just as good as what the main cast is getting. It does slow down in parts, but aside from a few odd choices, it all blends together well.

There are some short-cuts here and there… We get one extended segment where a character is just sitting at a chair and reading silently to herself for at least a minute or two, although you don’t have to reach very far up your ass to find an excuse for it. That aside, Kyoani is generally very clever at disguising their budget cuts from view, often using camera angles and cinematography techniques that, at the time, were easily considered avant-garde, before Studio Shaft stole them and ran them into the ground. Characters are almost realistically proportioned, and while the facial constructs lean towards moe, you wont find very many anime expression cliches in this title. If I recall, there aren’t very many if any upturned eyes, sweatdrops, anger lines, etcetera to be found. Instead, characters deliver their emotions through highly diverse and intricate facial expressions and body language. This can be pretty useful for people trying to track the true feelings of the show’s more duplicitous characters, seeing through their nuances.

Backgrounds are exquisitely detailed, down to the very smallest objects that can be pointed out in the SOS Brigade club room. On the very rare occasions that the budget seems to be dropping, it’s normally indicative of an intense visual happening soon, such as Haruhi singing as the frontman in a school rock band, or an all-out, no holds barred action scene, because yes, this slice of life title has some serious action in it. I won’t go into spoilers, at least not too deep, but when this series busts out the CGI, it’s time for jaws to start hitting the floor. Even outside of the action, which may or may not involve space fleets, alternate dimensions and a giant cricket monster, even something as menial as flowing water in a river can wind up looking beautiful. It’s a good looking show, way more-so than any title of it’s ilk has any business looking, and Kyoto Animation clearly put a lot of care and effort and good old fashioned give-a-damn into making it one of the most visually appealing titles they could.

The music isn’t quite up to par with the visuals, but it’s serviceable enough. There are several tracks that feel like they were ripped directly out of a dating game, considering how repetitive they are, but they’re still pretty fun to listen to, and a few of them have even become relatively iconic. Even when creating tunes that are just going to fade into the background and get skipped after a few repetitions in the soundtrack, Satoru Kosaki does not skimp on effort. A lot of different instruments are also used, from acoustic guitars to drums, trombones to bells, keyboards to full on electronic orchestrations, and it all comes together rather nicely. The best tunes tend to pop up during action scenes, including one of the major electronic tracks, whose very name would be a spoiler of the pivotal scene it accompanies. The climax of the series, which will happen either at the end or in the middle, depending on how you’re watching, even goes as far as to have a greek choir playing over the action and heightening the effect.

Of course, that’s just the background music. In all fairness, it probably wouldn’t be so easily taken for granted if it wasn’t for just how overwhelmingly the themes and insert songs stick out. The reason you won’t come away from this series humming Oi Oi or Nanika no Okashi is because you’ll be too busy trying to get the Live Alive songs out of your head. There’s a moment in the series when Haruhi and club-mate Yuki Nagato step in as subs for a couple of absentee members of one of the school’s biggest rock bands, and the two songs she performs… God Knows and Lost My Music… Are awesome. Not only does this scene feature some of the best animation in the series, as Haruhi is so viscerally articulated on stage that she’ll make YOU feel exhausted afterwards, but they work just as well in stand-alone for as they do in context. I’ve even heard from some people that they’re meant to be metaphorical for her relationship with Kyon, but I personally don’t see what they’re getting at.

But who are we kidding? The real stars here are the opening and closing themes, both of which can easily be counted among the best of all time. Much like the rock and roll tracks, the opening and closing are sung by Haruhi’s Japanese voice actress Aya Hirano, who both is and was a famous singer, and that talent is put to spectacular use in character. The opening, Bouken Desho Desho, which basically translates to “It’s an Adventure, Right? Right?!” Is beautifully animated with imagery that keeps pace with an incredibly catchy song, chronicling aspects of both Haruhi’s everyday life and fantasy life. The closing theme is by far the most recognizable of the bunch, Hare Hare Yukai, which translates to Sunny Sunny Happiness, and it’s notoriety can be drawn directly to it’s usage in a one-time viral video that set it to a full length, elaborate choreographed dance sequence, which was clearly designed to be addictive on both audio and visual terms. That dance is used partially in the ending theme, but they still featured all the best bits to entertain anyone who doesn’t feel like skipping ahead.

The English dub, an effort by Bang Zoom Entertainment, is a mixed bag to say the least. The writing, while nowhere near the worst effort I’ve ever heard, can occasionally sound forced and unnatural, as though the turn of phrase that they use to match the lip flaps doesn’t always sound like actual human speech. It’s not easy to describe, but for a handy example, imagine the line “Like a cat” were extended to “Like some kind of high-strung pet or something.” That’s an extreme generalization, mind you, but hopefully it will give you an idea of just how awkward the dialogue can get at times. Normal sounding words are swapped out for longer versions that don’t sound quite right, and entire sentences are sometimes rewritten for seemingly no reason at all. It gets pretty cringey when Crispin Freeman decides to ad-lib, because while his penchant for it may have resulted in a great line or two in .Hack, there’s something off-putting about a fifteen year old calling his friend “Sport.” I’m probably being too harsh, as these moments are relatively rare, but they do happen. Of course the writing is at it’s worst with the two Live-Alive songs, which don’t translate nearly as well to English as the songs from Beck do.

The acting, thankfully, is leagues above the writing, which I guess you could call serviceable over-all. First off, the name in the title may be Haruhi Suzumiya, but the main protagonist is Kyon, and his combination of snarky commentary and exasperated reactions make up about a third of the over-all dialogue. He narrates the story, doles out the occasional exposition dump, and plays the part of the audience cypher, albeit with more than enough personality to stand up as a fully realized character. Crispin Freeman is borderline perfect for this part, and while he may sound a little too old for the part, he sells every bit of it flawlessly. He’s said at a panel that he tries to play every part with genuine sincerity, and he proves it here. Wendee Lee plays the titular character, and while I hate to say that she sounds a bit miscast in the beginning, as she sounds a bit too tame and controlled to really live up to Haruhi’s spark of insanity, she does grow into the part as the series progresses, eventually standing on equal footing with Kyon.

The other actors… Well, it’s a little difficult to talk about them without going too far into spoiler territory, but I’ll try my best. Out of the characters that gravitate towards the SOS Brigade, for their own purposes of course, they all talk in fairly standard, almost stereotypical ways… This is very much intentional, for reasons you’ll come to understand, and it really takes multiple viewings to catch all of the little nuances and secret meanings that all three actors were trusted to convey. For example, johnny Yong Bosch plays the laid back, eager to please Itsuki Koizumi, and while he’s rarely seen without a smile, an astute viewer can pick up on what he’s really feeling, with a little bit of context to go with the small changes in Bosch’s delivery. Stephanie Sheh is playing very much to type, but she’s played her fair share of duplicitous characters, and the slight changes she makes in a particular episode are significant. Michelle Ruff almost feels wasted playing the monotonous role of Yuki Nagato, although in her case, she doesn’t show much variety until the second season. Perhaps the most impressive of these comes with Bridget Hoffman’s turn as a Class Rep character who’s sweet smile takes on a whole new meaning in one of the show’s climactic moments.

When The Melanchoy of Haruhi Suzumiya came out just over ten years ago, it was like nothing the anime medium had seen before, and it changed the landscape in ways we’re still seeing to this day. You may think that’s a compliment, but this series serves as living proof of how an entity can be too influential for it’s own good. First of all, taking a look at it’s most obvious contribution, Haruhi proved that a light novel adaptation can be a serious financial success. No, it’s not the first show of it’s kind to enter the public consciousness, what with titles like Read or Die and The Twelve Kingdoms being modest successes, but the vast majority of light novel adaptations that have come out did so after 2006, and you have Haruhi to thank for it. One of the ways it did this was by using odd camera angles and framing techniques to keep the viewer’s attention during long stretches of dialogue, an avant-garde tactical style it used sparingly, but was soon picked up by Akiyuki Shinbo, a Shaft director who would run it into the ground with the various Monogatari and Zetsubou Sensei titles that he put out, as well as other various properties, ultimately making the technique feel so cliched and pretentious that you really can’t look at Haruhi the same way anymore.

And it doesn’t stop there. The very premise of the series, which I won’t spoil, has been copied and twisted around over and over again by people trying to one up the original product and make their own little profit off of what they see as a proven trend. Some of these titles include Sasami-San@Ganbaranai, Kotoura-san, and Haganai, each of which take a different approach to recapturing Haruhi’s proverbial lightning in a bottle. On a more simple note, the premise of a socially unacceptable person forming a school club with unclear motives that has to find the necessary member count to stay open while filling itself up with odd characters and generally proving to be a nuisance for more people than not… Yes, all of that… Has become a very popular trend in and of itself thanks to Haruhi. Worst of all, this premise has been adopted by the harem genre, and is often used to sell merchandise based on color-coded characters from said clubs. That’s not even all, because it also proved how successful a series can be if it panders to otaku in just the right way, offering both a tongue-in-cheek parody and a sincere love letter to otaku culture, in a very for-the-fans, by-the-fans kind of way.

Where Haruhi Suzumiya was once one of the most popular and interesting shows around, It’s inspired so many copy-cats over the last decade that it’s kind of difficult to look at it with the same sense of awe that it originally inspired. What was once one of the most popular anime on the block is barely mentioned by contemporary audiences, and it’s all due to just how poorly the series has aged. Watching it in 2017, without that nostalgic context to back it up, it can get a bit cringey. I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing, I’ve been guilty of turning up my nose at older anime in favor of newer titles that managed to surpass them before, but I really don’t think any of the anime that Haruhi inspired have really managed to surpass it… They’ve instead drove it’s best qualities into the ground, and while I don’t think that’s entirely fair, it does become easier to see the flaws in the material with all of those distractions taken out of the way. This includes a certain weakness in characterization, as aside from our two leads, none of the characters really impress outside of their gimmicks and relations to the plot(at least not this season), and this lack of depth can be a serious flaw if you’re not totally engulfed in what you’re watching.

One of the biggest problems, however, is the story structure. This season of the series was released out of order in Japan, and while that may not come as a surprise to anybody who regularly watches the Fox network, it’s a rarity among anime. It was done this way because when you watch the season in chronological order, the climax of the series happens in episode 7, followed by a bunch of loosely related episodic stories. This is partially because of the fact that it follows the first few volumes of the light novel to an almost religious degree of accuracy, and the first book really is the main story, with every following novel expanding and continuing the universe. I’ve read the books, and yeah, once the first novel’s over, you don’t really get anything resembling a major plot until the Disappearance story several volumes later. Because of this, the first season peaks early, and while that never bothered me for the first few years after my initial viewing, I did start to get what people were complaining about upon my recent rewatch.

It turns out the solution they came up with, and that I alluded to earlier, was to air the episodes out of order, giving you a jumbled and confusing experience, but hey, at least the peak is near the end, and the spoilers aren’t given away early! I’ll be honest, I’ve never watched it this way, but I’m also pretty sure it would only work for you if you were coming into the series blind and for the first time. Either way, this does make for a damned if you do, damned if you don’t kind of experience, neither method really offering a complete, satisfying experience. Even when I was trying to expose one of my friends to the series, all I showed him was the first seven episodes, three episodes of season 2, and the movie. The rest is largely unimportant from a plot standpoint, pointless fluff that’s geared exclusively towards people who are in love with the style and characters and just want to see more of them, which I am, although I know that I’m in a vocal minority in that respect. And if that were it’s only problem, I’d be a lot more forgiving of it.

Aside from the innovations I mentioned earlier, the only trope that this series actually manages to subvert is the Manic Pixie Dream Girl one, as we’re initially led to believe that Haruhi will be filling that role, but no, Kyon winds up filling that role for HER. That’s really clever. But every other trope that appears in this show… Every cliche they used, every character archetype, every story convention… They just exist. They appear, someone mentions the fact that they’ve appeared, and that’s about as much effort as it puts in. This is a very self-aware series, to be sure, but self-awareness does not equal depth, nor does it qualify a story to call itself smart or satirical. You can’t even really call it mature, as even with the show’s biggest secret revealed, the premise ultimately boils down to humoring an insufferable brat to keep them from throwing a world-ending tantrum. Kyon and Haruhi are one of my favorite anime pairings, as I really do feel that they complete each other, but that dynamic is still pretty questionable, almost as much so as the self-insert stuff that’s going on, but don’t even get me started on that.

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya was available from Bandai Entertainment, and while that company did go under, it’s been rescued and redistributed by Funimation. The entire series can be found on DVD and Bluray in countless different collections and formats, very few of which are actually expensive. A second season, as well as a movie called The disappearance, are also similarly available. Spin-off series Haruhi-chan and Churuya-Chan are also available. Several different written versions, including the original light novel series by Nagaru Tanigawa a handful of manga adaptations are also available stateside.

Well, I did it… I went into this review as honest and unbiased as I could, and as a result, I wound up saying much worse things about it than I originally intended. I’m still not sure I’ve scratched the surface of it’s issues. It’s nowhere near as smart or well written as it pretends to be, and while that does fall well within the definition of pretension, it never really goes as far as to feel pretentious. It is, as another reviewer once pointed out, to moe what Evangeleon is to Mecha… An awesome blast of fun when taken at face value, but puddle deep at best, and it just gets more and more shallow under scrutiny. Now, with me saying all that, you probably think I’ve turned my back on this show, and that I wouldn’t recommend it to modern viewers. You’d be wrong. Not only do I still love it, not only is it still number three on my top ten favorite anime list, but I still believe that even with all of it’s problems, there are still very good reasons to watch this show, even in 2017. In addition to offering a look back at one of the biggest shows of the 2000s, and setting up it’s more modern analogues, it’s still just as fun and entertaining as it ever was, but don’t expect anything too profound from it. I give The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya a 7/10.

By this point, we’ve all had a chance to see the newest DC Universe animated movie, The Judas contract, the second movie in their reimagining of the Teen titans property. It’s the second movie, which also means it’s the second time they’ve taken on a popular storyline from the comics and old cartoon… Last time it was the Trigon arc, this time it’s the Terra arc, which you already know I wasn’t too fond of in the cartoon. They did a pretty solid job with the first movie, despite placing the popular story arc in the hands of a brand new team and timeline and changing a lot of details, and in my opinion, they did even better with The Judas Contract. They combined the comic and cartoon versions of the arc in a way that added depth and conflict to the former, as well as reason and logic to the latter, and it was pretty funny to boot. They used the popular story to create their own mythology and canon, and if you consider just how “of the times” the other two tellings were, that’s really the right way to go.

But now that we have two good Teen titans movies, it’s time to look back at the FIRST Teen Titans movie, Trouble in Tokyo. One of my readers, Owen, asked me to write a piece on it, and while I originally promised to write a full review, but now that I’ve rewatched it, I honestly don’t have a strong opinion on it. I don’t like it, but I don’t hate it. It’s just a dumb movie full of dumb shit. and what do I do with dumb movies that are full of dumb shit? That’s right, I do Inconvenient questions posts on them! And okay, fine , I know I just did one of these last week, and that’s a little tacky, but hey, I work for myself, and I’m not exactly going to fire myself. I mean, unless I start investigating my own ties to Russia, in which case I’ll HAVE to fire myself. Man that would be an awkward meeting.

For those of you who are new to Inconvenient question, I go through a movie or mini-series and ask every single question I can think to ask, in sequential order. I’ll also be giving out time-stamps for each question, so if you’re watching the movie while reading, there’ll be no question as to what each question is referring to.

What more can I say, except… Go!

1: 00:00:16 How is there room between two busy lanes of traffic for one car to straddle the line, let alone a large truck?

2: 00:00:27He was driving on the line a few seconds ago, now he’s wedged right between two lines? How are the separations that close together, and how much has he moved since stopping?

3: 00:00:35 Weren’t those lanes busy a second ago?

4: 00:00:40 how are the lanes already busy again, despite an explosion, a man lying in the middle of the street, and that giant truck still stuck there? And speaking of which, how did a truck like that one come to such an abrupt stop without losing control of it’s trailer?

5: 00:01:00 What are they standing on?

6: 00:01:20 They were clearly standing on a stone surface before, now they’re on the back of a bus?

7: 00:01:40 Instead of Robin wasting rockets, wouldn’t it have been more sensible for Raven and Starfire to hit him with their powers?

8: 00:01:53 how hard is that Turtle Shell?

9: 00:02:27 Raven normally flies like Starfire, more or less. She’s never flown on a disk before, that I know of. Is she doing it now JUST for the sake of an unfunny joke with Beatboy?

10: 00:02:45 Okay, so, remember Green Hornet? It was awful. One of the worst moments was when Seth was fleeing the scene of a crime, so a police officer drives up alongside him and tries to shoot him through his window. It was obviously done to show us that the windows are bulletproof, but that doesn’t change the fact that an officer of the law… Presumably trained for his job… Tried to kill a petty thief who was driving a heavy motor vehicle. If the window WASN’T unbreakable, his car would have turned into a fucking missile of destruction and death. It’s the example I always come back to when talking about lazy, contrived writing, and the consequences of having a “The ends justifies the means” attitude towards your story. No matter what your goal is, you have to be mindful of the implications you’re making, if you give two shits about what you’re writing. For example, the writers of this movie want to show us that this villain can rematerialize lost limbs, but what they’re really telling us is how willing Cyborg is to FUCKING MAIM PEOPLE.

11: 00:02:49 This fucking movie… Cyborg’s window isn’t broken, and he has no sunroof. How did that bomb just land there without breaking through anything?

12: 00:03:03 In what universe did Starfire think this was a good idea?

13: 00:03:20 how did the extra weight of catching Starfire not throw Robin off balance on his motorcycle?

14: 00:04:00 And how did he get his motorcycle on top of the train? Wouldn’t that train also mess with his speed? He’d go too fast or too slow, depending on it’s direction!

15: 00:04:35 Why is the power of his bombs so inconsistent?

16: And if the tower has windows looking outside, why does the outside surface just look like a solid, rocky plain?

17: 00:04:45 Why couldn’t we see all the damage he’s done so far in the shot behind Raven?

18: 00:05:45 He flew down the surface of the tower, throwing energy blasts through it. The damage he did looks nothing like the damage we see in their living room. And shouldn’t they be used to their home being destroyed by now? It happened so often in the series!

19: 00:05:54 Hypothetically, would Beastboy be so obsessed with the idea of going on a vacation if the story wasn’t leading there?

20: 00:06:00 Can’t they just buy a new sofa? And why can’t he build one, if he’s able to build a car? Or is he just rubbish when it comes to upholstery?

21: 00:06:24 Shouldn’t the removal of larger debris come before dusting? and with the windows broken inwards like that, is it really such a good idea to dust on your knees?

22: 00:06:32 Okay, I don’t recall the titans taking a vacation, but they traveled to other countries all the time, and Beastboy never called any of THOSE trips vacations.

23: 00:07:06 You had to be expecting me to comment on this one. How the hell does that translation computer work? Is it like that ear thing from Hitchhikers Guide? does it change the air in a way that speech is altered to English in mid wave? And Japanese isn’t just made of different words from English, it’s structured differently, as well. How does it know what words to translate before those words are even spoken in the untranslated sentence? for crying out loud, Starfire learning languages by kissing makes more sense than this.

24: 00:07:45 Considering what we learn later, is Psychotek putting on an act right now? And wouldn’t it make more sense for him to just tell Robin “If you want answers, go to Shinjuku?” I have more questions about this, but I’ll get to them later.

25: 00:08:23 And maybe this script wasn’t idiot-proof. Seriously, was this thing adapted from a church play? you know, where parents write lame jokes for their kids in order to exploit how cute they are saying them?

26: 00:08:43 Why does robin pick Tokyo, out of all of Japan?

27: I’m going to ignore this musical title sequence. Not because it makes sense in some kind of way… I mean, not only do none of the things they pack show up anywhere else in the movie, but they never pack for any other international mission, and only one of them is seeing this as a vacation… Personally, I believe in the “One reality principal,” which I may have made up, that states that every single thing that happens in a fictional universe is canon to that universe regardless of tone or intention, so I’m not writing this off as an excusable comedy sequence either… I’m skipping it to preserve both my time and my sanity. To summarize, Starfire’s clothes should be covered in alien bile, Cyborg has a sentient extra head, they’re flying in aimless circles, and there’s an island with portapotties on it. None of it’s funny, let’s just move on.

28: 00:10:53 Okay, one question: How is Beastboy moving into other peoples’ pods to take pictures of them?

29: 00:11:00 That’s not Mount Fuji, is it? Fuji’s in Honshu, not Tokyo, which generally isn’t a mountainous city. Unless that’s Mount Takao, I’m calling bullshit.

30: 00:11:24 A left at Hawaii? That would mean they were traveling North from South America!

31: 00:11:28 Has Beastboy seriously never heard the full name of the great wall? Because it’s popularly known as “The Great Wall of China.” Has it NEVER been referred to as anything other than “The Great Wall” in his presence?

32: 00:11:40 Where to begin… First of all, if you’re doing a tribute to Japanese culture, don’t treat the viewer like an idiot, just call it Manga. Second of all, there are a ton of MANGA manufacturers, what makes this one so important to him? And what does he hope to get out of taking a tour in Japanese? What’s he expecting to see other than a bunch of offices? There may be artwork on the walls, sure, but are they franchises he likes?

33: 00:12:12 What are they walking on? The surface of the Death Star? And how do they not know they’re being filmed? I mean, it’s from behind, but there’d have to be some kind of floating camera following them, and at the very least Robin or Raven would notice it.

34: 00:13:28 i’m pretty sure the area he’s referring to is Kabukicho, a legitimately dangerous red light district in Shinjuku… But would a brochure really advertise that,though? And if so, how did he read it? Raven couldn’t findanything in english later on.

35: 00:13:57 I like the rare burst of continuity we’re seeing here, but even “alien logic” doesn’t explain how Starfire can do this.

36: 00:15:00 Despite some inaccuracies, the portrayal of Japan has been mostly respectful up until this point. Do we really need a giant monster attack? And why would any Japanese person, who doesn’t have the same perspective of Japanese culture as Americans do, resort to such a cheap cliche?

37: 00:15:18 And with all those wires down, shouldn’t the rest of the movie take place in the middle of a widespread black-out?

38: 00:16:14 If the villain made this thing out of ink, why wouldn’t he make it move faster and do more things to make it a legitimate threat? He’s not very imaginative, is he?

39: 00:16:19 how does the amount of gas a car consumes dictate how much damage it will deliver as a projectile?

40: 00:16:39 Is that seriously the best it can do? Shoot ink? Why not acid? Why not fire? The last villain they fought could create explosions, so don’t tell me that a giant monster should only be able to shoot ink! He shouldn’t be limited to the threat level of a Nickelodeon game show.

41: 00:16:48 One of my only complaints about The Judas Contract was Cyborg’s unexplained absence, but he looks so stupid in this scene that I don’t care anymore.

42: 00:17:06 Not that Starfire looks any smarter here…

43: 00:17:16 Wait, is that monster made of ink, or electronics?

44: 00:17:33 You know, it would have been funnier if she insulted his shirt by saying “Just pretend it’s part of the design.”

45: 00:17:55 How big is the deathtoll in this sequence? Those can’t all be abandoned buildings.

46: 00:18:06 The monster was slow moving. How did it catch up with where robin was on a speeding train in time to smash him with it’s tail?

47: 00:18:19 Where did that ring of green fire go?

48: 00:18:30 Are those clown cars? How many soldiers can fit in each one?

49: 00:20:11 THIS is their portrayal of Japanese law enforcement? Did the writers do any research? Any, whatsoever?

50: 00:20:24 I have to ask, how much of this police building’s architecture was inspired by Evangelion?

51: 00:20:34 How does it not cross the titans minds that a police force full of hundreds of identical silent, masked minions might not be on the up and up?

52: 00:21:00 HEY DUMBASSES, you can increase something by whatever percent you want, but it doesn’t work that way for decreasing. Once something’s decreased by 100 percent, it’s gone. To decrease something by 200 percent, you’re talking about it being twice ZERO. You’re either lying through your teeth, or you’re dealing with imaginary numbers. Who runs your operation, Donald Trump?

53: 00:22:10 Oh, the balls on these writers… Yeah, Robin’s the one who’s ignorant of Japan’s culture. Brushogun’s a myth, but giant fucking dinosaurs are such an everyday occurrence that soldiers are specifically trained to deal with them. Your permission to use our equipment is now revoked, young hero! And why the fuck would the news of Brushogun being based on a fictional story dissuade robin? He has evidence that Brushogun exists from his encounter with Psychotek, and oh yeah, for those of you who are ignorant of American culture, Robin used to work for this one dude who fought characters based on fictional stories on a regular basis. How many fucking Alice in Wonderland villains has robin encountered by this point? Is the idea that someone might be basing their actions on an old story so impossible to him? Fuck this movie.

54: 00:22:26 If Robin needed a computer to translate Japanese for him, and Starfire had to kiss someone to learn it, and Raven struggles with the language barrier later on, then why the hell are there so many characters in this movie who speak English without provocation, and even to each other, despite both being Japanese? It happens a lot in this movie, but i’m isolating it here, because… Mr. Mayor? Seriously? Is that something a Japanese person would EVER say?

55: 00:22:35 They travel to other countries as heroes on a mission a lot, so it never feels like an issue, but if a member of the local government is calling them tourists, then I’d like to remind you that they’re there illegally…

56: 00:23:13 did she just tell Robin not to blame Robin?

57: 00:23:40 Why does Beastboy keep dragging his friends to that building? Why can’t he just go by himself?

58: 00:24:00 You know, this might be the place in the script where someone, likely Cyborg, actually tries to reason with Robin about taking a little bit of time off, instead of just throwing out another unfunny, loud, shouting sight gag. It might even help Robin, and even the whole team, to have an arc outside of “DURHURHUR let’s make the main couple kiss!”

59: 00:24:13 *Sigh* Where’s the camera recording them, why is he saying this out loud, why is he speaking English when he’s alone. I’m going to be repeating the same complaints a lot in this piece if I’m not careful.

60: 00:25:06 Am I to understand that Cyborg understands a bit of Japanese? I mean, it makes sense, since his brain is part computer, but why didn’t he employ this knowledge elsewhere? Or did he just memorize the words “All you can eat” in every language just in case?

61: 00:25:33 Why doesn’t Beastboy just, you know, go to a manga store or something?

62: 00:26:47 Okay… Jesus Christ… It’s a combination of Dance Dance Revolution, Guitar Hero and Whack-a-mole. Not entirely unfeasible, but what the hell’s the helmet for? Wouldn’t it prevent her from seeing the screen that she’s supposed to be paying attention to?

63: 00:27:40 how does Raven know Latin, a dead language, but not the classic second language choices like French, Spanish and Japanese?

64: 00:27:56 you probably feel like he’s still out there somewhere because you’ve still got at least two brain cells working, and they just happen to occasionally bump into each other.

65: 00:28:30 The will-they-won’t-they dynamic between Starfire and Robin was always the weakest element of the series, to me at least. I could never piece together why there was anything between them, outside of the fact that Robin’s the central character and Starfire’s slightly more traditionally attractive than Raven. That’s not to say it was never good… There was some nice developmental dialogue between them in Stranded, after all… But it always felt forced and shallow, and the George Lucas romantic dialogue they get to spew out during this movie doesn’t help.

66: 00:29:14 “Fear? No way, my brain cells bumped into each other again! I just remembered something I already knew that just happened to be one of the only details I had to go on in the first place! Brushogun MUST be real, he MUST be! Captain Fucking Obvious, AWAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYY!”

67: 00:29:16 Oh, and poor Starfire… She’s learned so many languages through lip contact, and she was just about to finally learn to speak in tongues.

68: 00:29:35 There’s nothing fun about WATCHING it, either.

69: 00:29:56 You know, I love how this whole story arc began when Robin got jealous of Starfire casually kissing someone, and now Star’s the one acting thirsty while Robin acts cold. These two are are all over the place.

70: 00:31:00 Do Raven and Cyborg have anything important to do in this movie? I’ll get to Raven in a moment, but did they really have to pull the old “Hungry character can eat too much for an all you can eat buffet” cliche just to keep him active in the story? They basically turned him into a “yo mama” joke.

71: 00:31:05 And if every English speaking Japanese character that we’ve seen so far has spoken accented but perfect English, why does THIS one speak in stereotypes?

72: 00:31:27 Wouldn’t live squid have been more of a challenge?

73: 00:31:30 Oh and by the way, Beastboy, if the girl you’re chasing has been running so long that the sun’s gone down, maybe this is more of a blurred lines situation than you think.

74: 00:31:42 Yelling that you’re an otaku will probably not convince a girl to stop running away from you.

75: 00:32:15 For real, I actually do like this scene. It really does capture how weird Japanese song lyrics sound when translated directly. Well, at least anime themes. also, random Ganguro girl in the audience, but would she really be hanging out with a bunch of normal girls?

76: 00:33:43 More of a Japanese guy monologing to himself in English. Whatever. But is that really what rbin’s next idea was? to change locations, but continue to examine the weapon he stole?

77: 00:36:00 I’ve got nothing against this fight, but why is Brushogun sending goons after the Titans in the first place? They’re at a dead end! They’ve got nothing! The only clue they have to go on is the fact that a villain they fought back home came from Japan. They don’t even know what that villain’s motives were, and since he started off by attacking cars and didn’t try to fight the Tower until the Titans attacked him, they don’t know he was sent for them. They have no idea what the situation is, they have no idea what’s going on, and if they weren’t attacked by ink-based minions, they never would have even scratched the surface of Brushogun’s crimes. This whole situation, and I mean every part of it, was just a lazy, half-assed scheme to put the Titans in Tokyo, so the studio could exploit the anime fans who were pissed about the series being cancelled. Prove me wrong. Prove to me that even an ounce of passion or creativity went into this shit.

78: 00:36:43 If Robin were under some sort of mental duress, it would make sense for him to go ham on his enemy like this. If it were an actual person who could be killed, he would have rolled him over and pinned his arm behind his back, or something. For him to fight murderously against someone he thinks is human who attacked him out of the blue while he was of a relatively even state of mind… t feels completely out of character, am I right?

79: 00:37:30 Why doesn’t he mention that he did it in self defense?

80: 00:37:31 Does nobody seriously notice that the blood stains are pink? I feel like that would be a huge thing.

81: 00:38:26 And yet you did. sorry, robin, but the way you were punching him, any regular human would be dead.

82: 00:38:46 Wait, Tokyo does not tolerate vigilantes? Then why didn’t they get arrested for fighting Klodzilla? Why did you almost let them use your station for their investigation?

83: 00:39:20 Why is the book-keeper speaking to her in English? I know a lot of Japanese people can speak our language, but how can he tell at first glance that it’s what she speaks?

84: 00:39:50 Think about it… Do we really need Raven’s reveal about Brushogun not being a myth? What does knowing that accomplish? We already knew that, and they’re going to find out anyway. If this is supposed to be a game changing reveal, you’re giving it to the wrong character for it to have any impact.

85: 00:39:53 You’ve gotta be kidding me… Beastboy has an army of girls surrounding him, and he’s going to run away from them to pursue a girl he’s never spoken to and just met that day? What’s so special about her that you can’t get from an army of chicks?

86: 00:40:25 Why not just give him the chilled monkey brains while you’re at it?

87: 00:40:33 Why can that chef breathe fire?

88: 00:41:00 Does Starfire have anything better to do than to walk around wistfully and mope over her crush?

89: 00:42:00 Oh come on, now you’re just fucking with me! Why is he talking to reporters, on TV, in English?!

90: 00:42:04 What justification does he have to make robin’s partners turn themselves in? Is guilty by association a Japanese thing?

91: 00:42:48 And how is Brushogun listening in on their communicators?

92: 00:43:30 how was that big yellow robot able to stay hidden all this time?

93: 00:43:47 Couldn’t Beastboy turn into a cat BOY is he wanted to?

94: 00:44:45 how was robin able to survive an explosion he was less than a foot away from that flipped over the truck they were inside of?

95: 00:44:52 And considering what we find out later, how can that driver be injured?

96: 00:45:06 Yes, Robin. Brushogun is real. Great job. Are we done with this now? Are we convinced? We’re not going to second guess this anymore? Good boy.

97: 00:46:00 How did Cyborg reassemble himself after that?

98: 00:46:34 Well, you could always go racist. Not a classy move, I admit, but if you’ve got nothing else to work with, there’s nothing wrong with working blue. Or, you know, green.

99: 00:46:40 Also, that cat girl’s kinda hot. She does look a bit underaged, but she’s made out of ink, so… What would that be? Stationery rape?

100: 00:47:53 Yeah, don’t you know you’re supposed to tap people on the shoulder and make sure they’re aware before you hit them?

101: 00:48:30 So, were the writers aware that only the police in Japan are allowed to carry guns? I mean, I guess it could be an illegal gun, but this movie was produced largely in 2006(released in 2007), when there were only two gun related homicides in the entire country. Even the Yakuza tend to avoid them, so where’d this random thug get his hands on one?

102: 00:49:55 Targeting Shinjuku is one thing, but how did he know what the worst spot in town was?

103: 00:50:16 So how long ago was Brushogun alive, exactly? I forget if this was established in the film. It must have been recent, from the way this barkeep is talking about him. A bit too recent to become mythology, right?

104: 00:51:00 Wait, how did the troopers find Robin?

105: 00:51:55 Oh, for the love of… They know he’s Robin? What the fuck was the point of the disguise? What purpose did the alleyway thug scene serve, if they were able to track him to the first place he went, mobilize an entire task force to pursue him and block him in on the highway, and… Why was that scene necessary? Nothing would have changed if he’d done all of this while dressed as Robin!!!

106: 00:52:20 Can’t the helicopters go after them? Huh? Hey! Hey movie! Can’t the troopers helicopters just go after them? They have helicopters! Did you forget the helicopters?!

107: 00:53:30 so the blood was ink. Considering the body robin left behind is with the cops, and this hasn’t been discovered in time to halt the investigation, that must mean the cops are ignoring or suppressing evidence, meaning it’s very likely that the chief they met earlier has something to gain from the Team being framed and the ink thing not being revealed. That must mean he’s behind the Brushogun attacks! well, that and he’s the only other named character in the movie. It’s obvious now, but hey, let’s hold out a little while after the youngest possible viewer has already figured out your big shocking secret, huh?

108: 00:54:10 There’s about a hundred different ways this reveal could have gone down, but I’m glad they used it to give Raven a purpose in the movie. Not much of a character arc, though.

109: 00:55:08 Wait a second… I won’t say rip-off, but was this backstory inspired by the episode Spellbound? It’s not an exact match, but there are some parallels.

110: 00:55:10 Who recovered robin’s clothes?

111: 00:55:20 you know, there’s something disturbing about a bunch of fictional animated characters talking about the ethical bullet-dodge of killing someone who’s only made of ink. I mean, if they ever became aware in a meta sense, they’d deeply regret this conversation.

112: 00:55:33 Did he just change clothes in front of them? Is that why Starfire looks so star-struck?

113: 00:55:50 Why is everyone in Tokyo out to get them? Were they hypnotized, or did “Mr. Mayor“ offer a reward for their capture? I mean, not for nothing, but I can distinctly remember being told that Tokyo doesn’t tolerate vigilantes.

114: 00:55:57 How did the ink monsters find them?

115: 00:56:14 I’ve been trying to hold back on saying this for a while, but there wasn’t a lot of money available for this movie, was there? The fight scenes were kinda lame, especially with robin in the bar and the little snippets of action we got from the other team members in their fights, but now we’ve got THIS scene, and yeah, low budget, huh?

116: 00:57:13 This extended chase sequence could really use some actual Japanese music. I mean, you’re gonna have a scene like this in Japan, you could play something more appropriate and less generic, right? Oh well, at least it’s eating up time on the clock.

117: 00:57:38 And HOW does Robin know the trail leads there? I mean, the more likely scenario would be that Beastboy takes them all the way there, and gets accused of lying to bring them there. And WHO’S TRAIL IS HE SNIFFING, EVEN?!?!

118: 00:59:40 With a whole world of superheroes out there, how did Brushogun know about the titans, and why did he send for them? Batman could have handled the situation a lot quicker. And why did he send a henchman that spoke Japanese? did he know they had a translator machine? And how did he know they’d make the extreme leap of logic that he’d be in Tokyo, let alone in Shinjuku, on the incredibly vague clue that the henchman was Japanese?

119: 01:00:14 Why does he have to beat them to make copies of them? Why not just do it?

120: 01:00:25 The villain was really… the only other named character in the entire movie? I haven’t been this shocked since the sun rose yesterday!

121: 01:00:56 So if the only real criminal the Chief ever caught was Brushogun, what happened to all the other criminals? I mean, with 200 percent crime reduction…

122: 01:02:03 Wait, Robin got treated like a criminal for pursuing an investigation against a corrupt authority member? well shit, if he ever hangs up his hero boots, he’d make a great FBI director.

123: 01”01:-7 Yeah, about nobody believing Robin’s story… Having all of those soldiers made out of ink with no real identities, pasts or families must already be a nightmare in terms of insurance, taxes and payroll.

124: 01:04:40 Yeah, Chief’s body just got crushed, and now he’s dead. There’s no way he could survive that, right?

125: 01:05:12 Nah. Too easy.

126: 01:07:25 I dunno if that was intentional, but sick Akira reference. But more to the point, how is Robin gonna breathe in there?

127: 01:08:00 How did he detatch Brushogun’s tubes while working blind?

128: 01:09:40 Yay, they kissed. So what now? Is tightly-wound Robin gonna loosen up so they can go on dates and stuff? Is he capable of that? I mean, once the initial passion’s gone, I don’t see this ending well.

129: 01:10:30 So is Beastboy gonna get laid now? Or are they just gonna swarm him and make bird noises until he leaves the country?

130: 01:11:05 how did that happen again? She picked up the gum once, in front of a seller. Not a CEO, but a seller. Couldn’t her finished arc be that she bought a bunch of manga, and is going to put forth the effort to learn Japanese now?

131: 01:11:20 Is that a Japanese thing? Heroes getting medals in public? That’s not even an American thing, it just happens on TV a lot.

132: 01:11:32 And again, why is he addressing the Japanese crowd in English?

133: Out of all the show’s loose plot threads… Slade, Terra, the identity of Red X… All things a sequel to the series SHOULD have been focusing on… Why did it have to be the Robin and Starfire romance? Who even cared about that?

All right, that’s all. I’m done. No more questions. I’m going to bed.

I’ll get back to doing actual reviews next week, starting with one I’ve been meaning to do for a while, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya!

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I haven’t done one of these in a long time. And I’m not talking about Inconvenient questions, oh no, I do those all the time. I’m talking about doing an Inconvenient Questions post with a brand new Disney movie. I’ve done one for an old Disney movie, namely The Shitmare before Pissmas, but in terms of new Disney movies, I haven’t done one of these since Big Hero 6. Why? Well, Inside Out and Zootopia made too much sense. Yeah, I had some questions about the fundamentals of their worlds, butt I didn’t have any confusion over the story or characters of either. Also, I’d rather eat a dirty sponge than see The Good Dinosaur.

I rented Moana out of Redbox, and within five minutes, I had so many question that I knew one of these posts would be inevitable. So here I am, less than 12 hours later, watching it again with the benefit of hindsight. So for those of you who are new to this format, here’s what’s going to happen… I’m going to go through the film, from start to finish, listing every single question I have with the material, with a special focus on questions I don’t think the writers wanted anyone to ask. It’s kind of like Cinema Sins, but a different approach from a different perspective, so the similarities aren’t strong.

Oh, and this time around, I’ve decided to include a new feature: A timestamp on every question! That way, if you don’t want to watch the movie while reading this, you can just skip to the exact time of every single question I have! Isn’t that convenient?

Let’s go!

1: 00:01:00 In the universe of this movie, is there a world outside of the Polynesian Islands, or are they the only humans alive?

2: 00:01:06 Where did Te Fiti come from?

3: 00:02:10 Why was that tiny stone so important? Why does Te Fiti need it to function? Is it… Holy shit, is it an infinity stone?

4: 00:02:22 Okay, it’s her heart… Why is her heart on the outside of the body, instead of the inside?

5: 00:02:50 If Maui can turn into animals, why did he need a boat to reach Te Fiti?

6: 00:02:58 This is a spoiler, so I’m sorry to give it away, but if Grandma knows so much about Maui’s assault on Tefiti, how does she not know who the lava monster is?

7: 00:03:40 How does Grandma get the stuff she’s spilling on the parchment to move like that?

8: 00:03:58 How does she know there’ll be a chosen one?

9: 00:04:10 Why does her accent not match her son’s accent?

10: 00:04:12 Haven’t we had enough stories where the main character’s parents/Guardians want to keep them secluded somewhere safe, but they’re obviously wrong, and the main character has to break free? The Croods, Tangled, Hunchback of Notre Dammes, Finding Nemo, Hotel Transylvania, Little Mermaid, Zootopia, Frozen, Raising Gazorpazorp… The list goes on.

11: 00:04:32 Is exposition really a better thing to say here then “They’re just posters?”

12: 00:05:18 I actually really like how the water choosing Moana is set up… She shows herself to be brave and curious, then she saves a baby turtle, it’s really well done. But wouldn’t those birds kill her? She’s a toddler saying Shoo, and they’ve got eye-gouging beaks.

13: 00:05:30 Also, isn’t that baby turtle remarkably similar to the ones from Finding Nemo? Shared universe confirmed!

14: 00:07:27 Playing on the beach in ankle-deep water is too dangerous? His entire clan lives right next to the beach, what did he expect was going to happen?

15: 00:07:40 What the hell prompted this random discussion about her future?

16: 00: 07: 42 Jesus Christ… Try to play on the beach, and you get lectured about your proper place. What a weird family.

17: 00:08:21 What’s the deal with that bird? No, seriously, I dare you to say it. What’s the deal with that bird?

18: 00:08:31 It’s established that Daddy won’t let anyone go beyond the reef, but he won’t even let his kid TOUCH the water. Why?

19: 00:08:57 Now that they’re singing about coconuts, I have to ask… how accurate is this movie in regards to Polynesian culture? It’s watered down for kids, isn’t it?

20: 00:09:04 We know the chicken doesn’t feel pain… Either that or it’s suicidal… Still no explanation?

21: 00:09:50 Mostly asking for the lulz, but… Why does it look like Moana’s grandma is teaching her water bending?

22: 00:09:55 Okay, about this ‘father’s daughter’ crap. I’m glad that there’s a rising demand for and supply of strong female characters in media, but why are so many of them tomboyish? I’m not saying that’s a bad way to be, but after Brave, The Last of Us, Inside Out and others, it’s starting to seem like there are a lot of writers who can’t put a female in a starring role without giving them traditionally male interests to make them feel more relatable and easier to write. Hey, Hollywood, want a challenge? Make a feminine lead female character, and try to write them in a strong and relatable way. Just one. I dare you.

23: 00:10:05 Also, stubbornness and pride? These would be nice character flaws, but everything she does that’s stubborn is in pursuit of saving her people, and pride? Forget about it. She does nothing prideful, and hell, she’s more tenacious than stubborn.

24: 00:10:04 Was her father just waiting there this whole time?

25: 00:10:15 Why does she have even less of an accent than he does?

26: 00:10:35 Why is he just now giving her the ‘everything the light touches’ speech?

27: 00:10:49 Okay, I’m getting the impression that this village is traditionally patriarchal. Did the position of village chief just go to the first born of the family, who just happened to be male for the last three generations, or was it a long line of men that he just decided to ignore for his daughter’s sake?

28: same Also, wouldn’t it give the movie’s ‘girl power’ element a lot more heft if she wanted to be chief, but her father refused to let her, instead waiting for either a male heir to be born or for someone in the village to marry into the family? That would give her something to prove, as well as adding more personal stakes to her quest, wouldn’t it? Feels like a huge missed opportunity.

29: 00:11:30 If nobody leaves this village, and nobody crosses the reef, how inbred are they?

30: 00:12:14 How long has that pig been alive?

31: 00:12:15 If tomboyish female leads wasn’t enough of a cliche, does she have to have awkward speech patterns, too? That’s just as cliched! It’s also based heavily on modern American vernacular, which I guarantee is going to make this movie dated!

32: 00:12:38 Okay, I’m trying really hard not to jump on the whole “Mary-sue, she’s way too perfect” shit, but she can climb like an expert, fixes household problems, teaches dance to kids, has a male character whining while getting a tattoo put in front of her to make her look stronger… I’m just asking, at this point, what are her flaws?  don’t say stubbornness and pride, because BS.

33: same Also, where did that kid learn non-traditional dance moves?

34: 00:12:48 I’ve gotta say, I’ve been doing Inconvenient Questions since 2014, and I have never felt compelled to look up the lifespan of a chicken before. Now, he was alive when Moana was a toddler… We’ll lowballing by saying she was three… And according to Wikipedia, she’s sixteen now. That chicken was an adult 13 years ago, which isn’t entirely impossible, but even the chickens you take the best possible care of rarely make it past 10, and he eats rocks. Why is the old dude criticizing this chicken, who’s technically a medical miracle?

35: 00:13:25 Why did they bring him all the baskets of coconuts, when only one or two samples would have had the same effect?

36: 00:13:45 She’s doing great? Her solution to dying coconuts was to plant a new grove. That’s not going to happen overnight, ya know.

36: 00:14:55 He’s gonna give her shit for bringing up an obvious question, so here’s my question: What is HIS big idea for finding more fish? She should ask him that.

37: same Couldn’t they just hold a council and brainstorm as a tribe, to see if anyone can figure out a solution to the fish problem? She could probably find some support there.

38: same: At least, couldn’t she go around her dad and talk to the people directly, telling them about the fish shortage and winning them over with the threat of starvation vs. the unknown? This paranoid douche can’t possibly say no to the whole island, and besides, riling up a crew is a lot more feasible than going out by herself, which she tries later.

39: 00:15:24 This really bugs me. Moana’s idea to fish beyond the reef isn’t personal, it’s for the survival of the island, but the movie seems to immediately push this little detail aside. If they don’t find somewhere new to fish, they starve, and Daddy’s refusal and accusation should put the weight of the world on her shoulders, along with the growing discontent of the island on his. But no, this is all abandoned so a Let It Go clone can be set up. Fuck this movie.

40: 00:15:50 Similarly, his mistake when he was younger cost his friend’s life, but his decision now will kill his entire village. Also, he’s trying to save Moana… By starving her? This would make a lot more sense if he had some plan he was holding out on, or was waiting for their deity to provide for them in their period of need, but no, he’s got jack shit other than being afraid and staying put. He’s putting his entire village in danger of starvation, has no fucking plan to prevent it, but we’re not supposed to think about that, because it’s a Disney movie and we know the hero/heroine is going to make the right decision and save the day, making the consequences of this asshole in chief irrelevant. Fuck this movie.

41: 00:16:36 Speaking of which, how many Disney songs is this ripping off? Let It Go, Go The Distance, Reflection, Belle, Colors of the Wind… Am I missing any?

42: 00:18:30 What was her plan? Go out alone and without any supplies?

43: same And why bring the pig?

44: 00:18:55 how was she planning on proving this without any fishing equipment?

45: same It just hit me… Why did the fish disappear? If the curse lies beyond the reef, wouldn’t they more likely be living around them to escape the violent waters?

46: 00:19:33  Those reefs should have shredded her skin like a cheese grater, right? Didn’t she get off a little leniently from that?

47: 00:20:50 There’s no fish, but there’s Manta rays? Can’t they eat those?

48: 00:21:09 I love how self aware this portion of the dialogue sounds.

49: 00:22:28 The designs on that wall look suspiciously like modified swastikas.

50: 00:22:55 Okay, I’m confused about this timeline. Granny talks about their ancestors being wayfarers, and these boats are the remnant of those days. But Moana’s Dad knows about them, and makes a remark about why he didn’t have them burned. Is he the one who sealed them up? How long ago was this? How has this knowledge faded with time, if it happened so recently that the current village chief was alive for it? Also, didn’t the curser happen over a thousand years ago? Look, I’m not saying none of this is feasible, but I’m seriously going to have to see some kind of timeline on it.

51: same Also, going to drop this in here for good measure… Parent’s want to protect their curious kid from the sea that they’re drawn to, and lives right next to. It’s a Little Mermaid 2 rip-off.

52: 00:24:07 Also, where did her vision come from? It made sense in Tangled, since Rapunzel was having a series of repressed memories awakened, but how is a picture of a boat suddenly giving Moana flashes of her ancestors?

53: 00:26:25 Why are there no sea monsters in the rest of the movie? You can’t break the law of Chekov’s gun, lady. You said sea monsters, I want some fucking sea monsters. The giant crab doesn’t count.

54: 00:27:30 I’m sorry, but I can’t look at that sky hook and not laugh. I can’t decide if it looks like a testicle, or a boob from the side. I want to find a copy of this movie where they edit that hook, making a copy of it, flipping it, and making the complete nutsack.

55: 00:28:20 I can’t help but think there’s a better way Moana could have approached this confrontation. One that didn’t make her look like a lunatic.

56: 00:28:33 Why didn’t he burn them? No, seriously, why didn’t he? And that’s once again ignoring the issue of how he even knows about them.

57: 00:29:05 I’ve gotta little bit of history with watching elderly relatives health fail as they approach death, and I’ve never seen one of them suddenly become sick and bed after walking around on their own just ten minutes prior. They don’t go south that quickly. They’re not fucking cats.

58: 00:30:00 nobody else is noticing the dying woman telling Moana things they definitely don’t want her to hear? They’re oblivious to this?

59: 00:30:50 I feel like this moment would mean more if Moana’s mother had, like, any development. At all.

Thank god they’re out of the village. Questions should be scarcer now.

60: 00:32:36 How’d the chicken get there?

61: 00:32:45 Most normal chickens wouldn’t realize they were on a boat in the middle of the ocean and freak out about it. A 15 year old chicken with a brain defect, however, is perfectly aware and able to grasp the situation. Cluck this movie.

62: 00:33:26 What’s her attachment to this chicken? Did she never eat chicken growing up? She ate pork, so we know she’s not vegetarian, so why is this particular chicken so special to her?

63: 00:34:25 Why is the ocean such a dick to her?

64: 00:35:40 I don’t really mind HER surviving the wipe-out, but how did the chicken?

65: 00:37:38 Why isn’t that bird’s neck breaking?

66: 00:38:23 Why doesn’t the stone give Moana any special powers, like what Maui’s describing?

67: 00:39:30 Is Maui aware that there’s no factual basis for anything he’s bragging about?

68: 00:40:30 If The Rock is such a bad singer, why is this my favorite song in the movie?

69: 00:41:30 Why has it taken this long for the chicken’s purpose to be realized?

70: 00:41:49 How did… THIS WHOLE SEQUENCE… Happen? None of this is believable. The ladder being conveniently there, Maui being able to knock over a huge statue and parkour her way up that hole… This is all bullshit.

71: 00:42:36 How did she go from a dive to a belly flop?

72: 00:44:00 How come he never acted afraid of the stone before? He grabbed it, sat up with it set right in front of him, never had the fearful reaction till now.

73: 00:45:20 I’m not even gonna question the existence of coconut pirates, but I will point out how lucky it is for Moana that they’re not human, so she can defeat them without having to get blood on her hands. Talk about a sterile threat.

74: 00:46:05 No magic powers? Didn’t he speed away from the island at first, when he was trying to leave her behind? Can’t he speed again?

75: 00:46:54 If we’ve established that the stone doesn’t have any power, why are the Coconutsies trying to obtain it? And better yet, how did they sense where it was?

76: 00:47:00 Having the two doors on the boat be connected seems like a bad idea. You wouldn’t be able to reach anything stuck between then.

76: 00:48:15 How does poison affect a coconut person? Does it have a bloodstream?

77: 00:48:45 I have a feeling Moana would do decently in a death battle.

78: 00:51:10 I feel like we’re missing a scene. You know, the one where Maui realizes that the stone didn’t give humanity magic powers, and is instead cursing it. If I just missed it, let me know where it is.

80: 00:51:21 Actually, now that I think of it, if the water can carry Moana on it’s own, why not just do that? Rush her there through the water, with breaks to breathe?

81: 00:52:35 How can poison affect an immortal demigod?

82: 00:55:05 That chicken joke was awesome. Why did his banter with his tattoo have to kill it?

83: 00:55:28 Why doesn’t the speed that we SEE her climbing at not match the amount of progress she was able to do when we DIDN’T see her?

84: 00:57:33 How did that fall not kill her?

85: 00:58:03 How did THAT fall not kill her?

86: 00:58:44 what does the rest of that spiny giant monster look like? I have to know!

87: 01:00:20 How did he cover his own shell with treasure?

88: 01:01:20 Was that switch in tone supposed to fool anyone?

89: 01:03:55 Why does the crab know Maui’s backstory?

90: 01:05:35 Yes, I did quite like the song.

91: 01:06:27 Bupkis is, I believe, a yiddish word. How does Maui know it?

92: 01:09:20 What about him made his folks ditch him? Was a weakling born in Spartan-esque society?

93: same I mean, the last time someone rejected Maui for not being good enough, he just took his destiny into his own hands, cut an epic heel promo and became the peoples’ champion.

94: 01:09:43 Okay, so, his folks threw him into the ocean as a baby, the gods turned him into his current form. Did they magically age him up by thirty years, or did he just grow to adulthood while drowning?

95: 01:10:00 He did all that for his parents, and they still rejected him? What the hell was so wrong with their infant that becoming a freaking Demigod didn’t make up for?

96: 01:12:02 Can Maui turn into other humans?

97: 01:14:40 I really want to make a Lord of the rings joke here, but I can’t think of a good one.

98: 01:15:20 Couldn’t Tekah just destroy their boat, or set fire to the sail?

99: 01:16:00 Is he really going to give up after one attempt? not strategize, or something?

100: 01:16:40 If Te Fiti is on the other side of Tekah, couldn’t they just go in from the opposite direction?

101: 01:17:45 Could the fact that he’s going to return like Han Solo be any more obvious?

102: 01:19:10 I’m not going to make the Mufasa comparison… I don’t think that’s a fair criticism, to be honest, and bringing the Grandma back at this point was a really good choice… But I will ask, how does a ghost have enough physical presence to hug someone?

103: 01:19:26 She kinda did, though. She had to put the salvation of the island on Moana’s shoulders, not only to counteract her parents’ brainwashing, but oh yeah, for the salvation of the island.

104: 01:23:45 How did Tekah sense she was coming?

105: 01:26:10 how did Tekah’s skin burn Maui’s lizard feet, but not his shark mouth?

106: 01:31:40 How’d she fix his hook?

107: 01:34:00 The island heals, then Moana immediately shows up. There’s no way they’d accept the connection so quickly, as stupid as her father is. She would more likely have a ton of explaining to do.

108: 01:34:40 Seriously, how has the chicken survived this long?

109: 01:36:00 I know I was saying Fuck This Movie earlier, but to be more specific, fuck the first act. The rest of the movie is more or less fine.

Hey… You ever wonder why we’re here?

Well, I don’t because I happen to know that we’re here to talk about Rooster Teeth, the online production company that’s been putting out entertainment media for almost fifteen years now. It started off with some scripted shenanigans in Halo, utilizing a letterboxing effect and a fledgling technique called machinima, and has since expanded into a small media empire so successful that retail chains have been clamoring to carry their merchandise(which a few of them, like hot topic and select FYEs now do). There’s been a lot of outside influence on their storytelling and general writing styles, and as such, they’ve carried a lot of video game and pop culture references in their more popular titles, but what I find vastly more interesting is their penchant for anime references, which largely began with the hiring of the late Monty Oum. Today, we’re going to run through the ones that I’m personally aware of. Cuddle up next to your alien son, slather on some elbow grease, and quit monkeying about as we take a look at the anime references in Rooster Teeth!

While there are a lot of titles under their belt, we’re going to be sticking mostly to RWBY, since Red Vs. Blue is mostly full of video game references, and X-Ray and Vav is too awful for me to watch more than one episode. RWBY, on the other hand, is clearly designed to be as much like an anime as possible, so it makes sense that it would borrow heavily from the medium. It even has it’s own Chibi spin-off, which, to it’s credit, was funny about one tenth of the time.

Starting off with the concept and plot of the series, it really feels like a mix of Naruto and Soul Eater. The series features dozens of unique teenage characters cohabiting at a school that’s going to teach them how to grow up to be warriors, and like Soul Eater, it’s extremely vague on what the students are actually learning. The student/weapon dynamic is heavily emphasized, although in RWBY the weapons can’t turn into people, which is going to make Ruby vs. Maka into one hell of an unfair fight if it ever happens, and the students are basically learning how to use their individual skills to battle and destroy demonic creatures. This is all very similar to Soul Eater, but then the Naruto elements come in… The students are paired up in groups, they’re forced to complete a mission in a dangerous forest early on, and a major plot point revolves around a fighting tournament that gets sabotaged by foreign competitors, causing irreparable damage to the school, including the death of the principal/Hokage, and one character from the main group runs away afterwards, splitting up the team and breaking up a popular same-sex fan pairing(Sasuke/Naruto, Blake/Yang.)

So yeah, it’s Soul Eater meets Naruto, and that even extends to the main character, who’s based on Maka Albarn. She’s a spunky, socially awkward scythe-weilder, although their personalities are way different. Weiss isn’t visually based on any existing characters that I know of, although her personality type is reminiscent of the age old Tsundere archetype, and Blake is a catgirl, because whenever Americans try their hand at creating anime, there has to be a cat girl. Yang’s influence is a little more on the nose, as her ability to absorb damage and grow stronger from it is taken directly from Dragonball, and hell, even her theme song makes mention of her being a Super saiyan. Ruby’s dog Zwei, introduced in volume two, is such an obvious reference to Cowboy Bebop that in addition to being the same breed as the best dog in anime history, he even follows the same naming convention. Ein is German for 1, and Zwei is German for 2, a fact that’s clearly not lost on Rooster Teeth. I’m also reasonably sure Boarbatusks are based on Pokemon’s Donphan, and Yugioh and Samurai Champloo also get a couple of amusing nods.

A few of my favorite examples occur in volume 3. Right off the bat, Ruby visits the grave of her mother, which is situated at the edge of a cliff. While this isn’t an absurdly common occurrence in anime, there are plenty of examples of anime characters being buried at the edge of a cliff, with two quick examples being Battle Athletes Victory and Akame Ga Kill. Towards the end of the volume, there’s a pretty intricate reference to Neon Genesis Evangelion thrown into the mix. After Ruby fails to save her friend Pyrrha’s life, and happens upon the scene at the last possible minute, she goes presumably berserk, losing control of herself and blacking out, only to wake up in bed a few days later wondering what she did. The only way this particular scene could be any clearer about it’s origins is if she woke up saying “An unfamiliar ceiling…” But if you’re looking for an even bigger Evangelion reference, look no further than Red vs. blue, or more specifically, the Project Freelancer storyline, which ripped it off pretty much wholesale.

Now, I know what you’re thinking… It’s a story arc about spartan warriors fighting for a super secret organization that wants to steal artifacts and create artificial intelligence for them to weird. What could that have to do with Evas battling Angels? Well, just take a look at the who’s guy running the operation. Director Leonard Church is an older man with a cold heart who’s motivated by the possibility of being reunited with his deceased lover. He treats his subordinates like commodities, ranking them by ability and putting them through the risk of
emotional and mental torture by pairing them up with artificially created humanoid beings. He creates a soldier from his wife, whether it’s a literal clone or a robot controlled by an AI, and one of his soldiers is his own child, who joined to gain his approval, and is now competing with their own mother, who is just as clueless about what she is as their pseudo-child. Oh, and did I mention that Church is operating against orders from higher up, and has them constantly breathing down his neck about the ethics of his actions, as well as who’s benefit it’s serving?

This plot synopsis is so close to Evangelion that I’m honestly starting to get a bit of a stalker vibe from it, and I’m sorry, this isn’t just a reference anymore. References are meant to be noticed and appreciated. This Evangelion connection, along with the Soul Eater/Naruto plot of RWBY, the cliff thing and the Evangelion ending of volume 3, aren’t references. They’re rip-offs. They’re ideas that were straight up stolen from other works and put to use by Rooster Teeth. But is that a bad thing? It’s hard not to think about once you’ve started noticing it, but still, you could argue that most of these thefts made the product better, so do the ends justify the means?

Oscar Wilde once said that Talent Borrows and Genius Steals, but that doesn’t always feel like the case. There are plenty of anime titles that stole ideas from other anime, and wound up feeling all the worse for it. Take Sword Art Online, for example. I alluded to this in my review of the series, but for a refresher, Kirito is a lone, wandering mercenary who’s earned the name The black Swordsman for being generally superior to everyone he fights, and he fights alone because of a traumatic experience from his past. He loses a fight against a faction leader and winds up joining that faction, has to win the second fight to earn his freedom, and oh yeah, that leader turns out to be a massive villain. At different points, he falls in love with a female rival, obtains a fairy companion, and is pinned down in great pain while he’s forced to watch his love interest get sexually assaulted in front of him. The timeline’s a bit skewed, but he’s basically a scrawny version of Guts from Berserk, which brings about an inevitable and not too kind comparison between the two shows.

A lot of Harem anime not only recycle character archetypes, but sometimes steal entire characters wholesale from other anime. Taking the bafflingly popular Haganai for example, the main character is a nice guy with a mean face that’s garnered him a bad reputation(Toradora), and he unintentionally inspires a socially awkward girl he forgot he knew in the past to start her own club to meet weird people(Haruhi Suzumiya) which is joined by a scientist who’s lost all sexual inhibitions(Tenchi), a popular blonde girl who’s perfection is a hard-earned front for her true personality(Kare Kano), an offensive transgender stereotype(Don’t get me started), a loli little sister who cosplays(can they be more transparent?) and an even younger loli who dresses like a nun(How’s it going, Index?), and the whole thing just reeks of laziness. That’s still better than Maken-Ki, which stole two characters from Lover Hina just to reverse their ages and give them weird powers.

Guilty Crown… Oh boy, have I been waiting to talk about this turkey… Is very much an imagining of what would happen if CC had given a Geass power to Shinji Ikari instead of Lelouche, and yeah, it’s basically a marriage of Code Geass and Evangelion, with just a sprinkling of Eureka Seven on a few of it’s elements/characters, most notably it’s cringey love triangle sub-plot. I won’t go into just how much of it’s premise is ripped directly from Geass… Check out Glass Reflection’s review of the series for the main break down… But I was floored by how many events from the story seemed like they were taken from Evangelion for no reason other than to advance the plot. Spineless main character gets pushed around as a member of a rebellious organization? Check. Comes home one day to find a female member has abruptly moved in with him? Check. Even Gendo and Fuyuki’s backstory gets ripped off at one point, and the phenomenon of people getting turned into orange goo in the End of Eva movie is replaced by rock candy here! It’s like a middle schooler tried to combine these titles, but had no idea how to fit them together!

Now, having said all that, you might think I consider stealing from anime to be a cardinal sin, but on the contrary, there have been some great examples of shows putting their thefts to good use. Just over a year ago, I praised the 2013 iteration of Rozen Maiden for stealing ideas from Chobits, adding a new level of depth and maturity to what was previously a silly fantasy show about dolls fighting each other. Yuki Yuna is a Hero stole a bunch of ideas and plot points from Madoka Magika, and while the series as a whole was dumber than a box of dildos, it still wound up being incredibly likeable and fun to watch, with characters I actually cared about. I talked about how much Panty and Stocking stole from Excel Saga in my review a few years ago, and while it’s not one of my favorite anime, I do have to give it credit for how unique, and hell, even artistic it was. Bleach stole a lot from Yuyu Hakusho, even more than most shonen action series already do, and for the first few seasons, I actually wound up liking it better than Yuyu.

And if you want another example of a series that stole it’s central plot from Evangelion, I’ll point you in the direction of one of the most popular and well known anime to come out since Naruto, Attack on Titan. In this title, giant humanoid creatures are appearing out of nowhere with little explanation, and with the apparent intent of ending humanity, which is already on the brink of extinction. We get pushed right to the edge, and are battling for survival, with our only hope for defense being a series of underaged warriors who’ve been specifically trained to deal with the threat. The main character watched his mother die before the current timeline, his father is connected to the threat in a confusing and mysterious way, and when he goes giant to battle said creatures, he does so while he’s located in the back of his own giant’s neck. Get it? The dummy plug? The neck is a weak spot? How have people not noticed this?! And there’s also Battle Athlete’s victory. In my review of Gunbuster, I talked about how BAV stole the concept of it’s first episode and expanded it into a full story arc, that realized the full potential and unreached depths of the themes that Gunbuster had been taking for granted.

So why are some anime rip-offs bad, but others good? What’s the difference between all of these titles? Well, for one thing, when it comes to the bad examples, the things that are stolen are a lot more blatant. Outside of the things he stole from Guts, Kirito doesn’t have much going for him aside from being a chick magnet. The scenes that Guilty Crown stole aren’t camouflaged at all, they were just copied and pasted with the names and details changed. The harem titles I mentioned, as well as most of the ones I didn’t mention, feel like what was stolen was just lazily taken so that they could fill in holes in the product without putting too much work into it. Actually, that’s what all the examples feel like… They didn’t do anything interesting or thoughtful to the ideas or themes they took, they just threw them in so they could avoid having to write out characters and scenarios for themselves. It’s like getting writers block, and just taking something that they didn’t think of out of desperation… Or just taking archetypes and characters that are popular and successful in order to leech off of the previous incarnations.

In the examples that I gave of positive rip-offs, the exact opposite is true. Panty and Stocking, Yuki Yuna, Bleach, Attack on Titan and Battle Athletes Victory weren’t blatant about what they took… Okay, maybe BAV gave away a few too many clues… But they didn’t do it for lazy purposes. They took the most basic of templates from the previous series, and used them as the foundations that they’d build upon and branch out from, forming their own identities and paths from there. As a matter of fact, the latter two actually kind of improved on the shows they stole from! It’s kind of like Family Guy; Yeah, they ripped off the Simpsons, but they took what they stole in such a different direction that you can hardly call them the same product. BTW, that’s pretty much the only good thing you can say about Family Guy these days. In any case, while Rozen Maiden Zuruckspulen didn’t steal an entire template like the others I mentioned, it did manage to use the ideas it took from Chobits respectfully, and with well defined purpose.

I know my main question was whether Rooster Teeth stole too much, but I don’t really think that’s the issue. It doesn’t matter how much you steal, or even WHAT you steal… What matters is what you do with it. Between the titles I mentioned earlier, what side of the coin does Rooster Teeth fall on? In my opinion, it falls into the second slot. Even in it’s worst season, RWBY’s use of Naruto and Soul Eater in it’s plot was one of it’s greatest aspects, especially since it managed to tie together a flowing narrative out of two very different shows. Ruby is nothing like Maka, Weiss’s tsundere beginning lead to some great development, Blake being a catgirl is a huge part of her personality and arc, and when you really look at Yang’s powers, they don’t really work in the same way Saiyan powers work. Putting a damper on things, however, is the dog, who could have been written out of the series entirely, and feels like he was only added in for the sake of being a reference, and to ‘casually’ remind the viewer that the writers do, in fact, watch and enjoy anime. Seriously, Zwei sucks.

The opening scene of volume 3, with Ruby visiting her mother’s cliff-grave, is quite possibly the best moment in the series. In addition to providing a nice, emotionally satisfying tribute to the recently departed Monty Oum, it gives Ruby a sense of vulnerability and relatability that she’d been sorely missing up until then, which makes her displays of courage and strength in the latter half of the volume feel so, so much more emotionally resonant. She feels more like a main character by the end of the volume, especially after she survives her little Evangelion climax moment, which just makes you want to learn more about her as a character. And yes, the Evangelion plot that Red vs. Blue stole was a HUGE improvement over Evangelion, and not just because Tex and Carolina are way more awesome than Rei and Shinji. It also elevated the series to brand new heights in terms of plot and enriching the lore at the same time.

So in conclusion, Oscar Wilde was right, but… Just not all the time. It’s entirely possible for an unoriginal anime to feel like a cheap imitation, but at the same time, it’s also possible for the anime in question to ultimately surpass the material that it’s ideas came from, or for it to just reimagine, subvert or deconstruct those ideas and breathe new life into them. Harkening back to Red vs. Blue, remember it’s opening joke? “You ever wonder why we’re here?” That was stolen from the Monty Python movie The Meaning of Life, and yet Red vs. Blue ironically gave it a meaning and life of it’s own. That’s because Rooster Teeth, for it’s many failings, has always been really good at this.

Well, for the most part.

Screw that dog.  

It’s finally here!  I promised it, you’ve been waiting for it, and now that my fourth annual Studio Gainax month has concluded, it’s time to see almost 170 pictures of cosplayers from my local anime convention, Tora-con!

All of these photos were taken with permission, as well as a promise that they’d go up online for the individuals involved to get their copies.  Having said that, if you’re in one of these, and you’d like to have it removed, contact me through whatever method on my Contact page appeals to you the most, and I’ll take the photo down, no questions asked.

Also, I’m in the process of labeling the pictures, but I’m ashamed to admit I don’t know all of the characters, so if you could comment under an “Unknown” photo who the character is, I’d appreciate it.

As for the rest of you, get ready to see what kind of awesome costumes these true anime fans were able to come up with!

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