So, I just saw The Disaster Artist, and it was outstanding. It’s the second best movie I’ve seen this year, right behind Get Out, and I’ve been looking forward to it for at least a year. I’ve read the book twice, with the announcement of the movie happening inbetween my read-throughs, and yeah, they made a lot of changes for the movie. These were mostly good changes, with the only negative effect being that it painted Tommy with way more sympathy than he allegedly deserves, but they were mostly in the interest of tightening up the pacing and telling a good story, so I can forgive them.

But I’m still going to name a few of them, because if I have this knowledge, then as a christmas present to all of you, I’m going to share it!

These are 25 of the biggest changes from the book to the movie!  Oh, but for this post, however, I’m going to assume you’ve already seen the movie, and want to know how things went in the book.  Just wanted to let you know up front.

1: Tommy and Greg did the scene in class, and it wound up being a beautiful trainwreck that the class enjoyed, but the teacher didn’t.

2: Tommy didn’t immediately move in with Greg, he just lent out his unused apartment to him.

3: Greg actually landed a few roles in LA before The Room. He was a featured extra in Patch Adams(meeting Robin Williams), he had a brief recurring Soap Opera role, and he starred in Retro Puppetmaster.

4: Greg and his mother are french. Greg speaks both languages, and can use a flawless French accent, which is how he landed Retro Puppetmaster.

5: Before Tommy and Greg leave, his concerned mother says “No sex.”  Tommy is bewildered by this, and says “What a story!” after they’ve left.

6: Tommy hired another actor to play Mark, and then bullied him out of the part through convoluted means.

7: Tommy and Greg’s friendship was already badly strained before he wrote The Room, what with Tommy becoming jealous of Greg’s limited success and becoming toxic over it.

8: Juliet Simmons got the part of Lisa because she was willing to make out with Tommy for it. I’m not making that up.

9: Tommy was emotionally devastated after seeing The Talented Mr. Ripley, which Greg considered a metaphor for his creepiness.

10: It wasn’t a conversation with Amber that convinced Greg the movie would be bad… He knew it from his first glance at the script, and tried to get out of it.

11: Dan Janjigian had to threaten Tommy to get his paycheck and expense coverage.

12: Tommy didn’t pretend to be Greg’s age. He pretended to be 28.

13: The Birdman story, which served as a potential backstory for Tommy, was not included in the film.

14: Greg wasn’t trying to keep his beard for a Malcolm in the Middle episode. He was trying to wait until after filming to shave, so he could have a better chance of getting work after the film with people not recognizing him from it.

15: Tommy blatantly lied about trying to get air conditioners. He didn’t just refuse to do it.

16: When Claudette’s actor fainted, Tommy actually drove her to the hospital.

17: The costume designer Safowa Bright was a black woman.

18: Sandy and his team left way before production was completed. The movie ultimately had three production teams.

19: At one point while still looking for work, Greg was almost seduced by a male producer, whom he did not name.

20: Tommy attacked Greg for using his french accent, not for asking too many questions.

21: Tommy promised to buy Greg a car after filming. When he showed up with a new camera crew to film some scenes around the city, that was Greg’s new van he was driving.

22: “Hi Doggy” was improvised. Afterwards, he asked the shop owner if the dog was a “Real thing.” Similarly, “How about your sex life” was not in the original script.

23: When Greg is telling Mark’s story about Domestic abuse, he improvised the ‘on Guerrero street’ line to try and piss Tommy off so he’d do a take without laughing, as that location was supposed to be one of Tommy’s secrets.

24: Tommy got his SAG card by filming a commercial for the mysterious company Street Fashions USA.

25: The Room being enjoyed as a comedy wasn’t so immediate. It took the efforts of the first two fans, who fell in love with it after reading a scathing review.

Advertisements

For as long as mankind has enjoyed the tradition of telling stories, one of the most popular and long-lasting subjects has been the story of the hero… Average, ordinary people gifted with powers and trusted with the responsibility of fighting for justice, defending those around them, and proving what the average person… AKA the reader… Can accomplish if given the chance. Usagi Tsukino, however, is not what you’d call an average or ordinary teenage girl. No, even if we don’t consider the crushing expectations of Japanese society, she’s the pinnacle of below-average. Unlike most 14 year old middle school students, Usagi doesn’t have very many hobbies or interests, and even the things she enjoys, like video games, she’s below average at. She has no ambitions, she has no real talents, she can’t cook, she’s not athletic, she hates to study, she avoids responsibility at every turn, and no matter how low you set your bar, she’s not the first person you’d expect to be granted the powers of a hero. She’s probably not even your last pick.

However, as is often the case, along came a talking cat. Baring a strange crescent moon-shaped bald spot on her forehead, this matronly feline revealed Usagi’s true calling to her… With destiny at her side, and the mysterious Queen Beryl bringing chaos to her small Japanese town, Usagi was tasked with becoming Sailor Moon, the pretty guardian of love and justice! With only her wits and a few pieces of cosmic weaponry standing between her and defeat, four other Sailor Guardians would soon join her cause. The brilliant Sailor Mercury wields the power of water. The furious Sailor Mars wields the power of fire. The strong Sailor Jupiter wields the power of lightning, and the experienced Sailor Venus, who had been acting on her own as Sailor V long before Usagi obtained her power, wields the power of… Something. Combined, they form the Sailor Guardians, and it’s up to them to battle and defeat every single threat that Queen Beryl and the Dark Kingdom throw at them in their vague quest to turn the world dark, or something, and they can only do that by finding the missing Moon Princess and returning her to the throne!

All right, folks, it’s time once again to visit the nineties, a time when animation standards had to be low enough to accommodate the technology that was available, with very few exceptions managing to break through, but trust me, Sailor Moon wasn’t one of them. This series, and every single Sailor Moon title that would follow it(as far as I know, at least) was animated by Toei, one of the most long-running and prolific companies in anime history. Their legacy stretches back to the sixties, and they’ve had some noteworthy hits such as the One Piece, Captain Harlock and Dragonball franchises, and I’ve actually discussed them before in my review of the 1975 Little Mermaid movie, but one of their biggest names is arguably Sailor Moon, a franchise that began in 1991 and continues to this day in countless variations. I’ll be perfectly honest, here… I never saw this show during it’s allegedly embarrassing run on American TV. I only saw SuperS growing up, and looking back at the OG, yeah, it really doesn’t hold up too well.

That’s not to say Sailor Moon is one of the worst looking anime I’ve ever watched, but considering the amount I have, that’s not saying much. People coming into the show blind without a lot of experience with the medium would probably call the animation awful right at first glance, and while that’s an understandable reaction, people who are used to watching older anime would more likely be able to tell that for it’s time, Sailor moon isn’t that far below average. The budget was obviously low, even by early nineties standards, but everyone stayed on model, with very rare exceptions. At it’s worst, movement can be stilted and static scenes can go on way too long, but honestly, for a magical girl show from 1991, it’s competent enough. Freezing characters who aren’t talking and reusing animation for the show’s infamous transformation sequences can also go a long way in conserving animation costs, and this is going to sound really weird… Even I don’t fully understand it… But as far as bad animation goes, this one is on the higher end of the scale.

There are two elements of the artwork that stand out to me the most. The first is the watercolor aesthetic, which… for the most part… gives the series a very soft and lighthearted feel, and the reason I say ‘for the most part’ is because that same watercolor art style is surprisingly versatile. This goes for more toned down backgrounds like the interiors of bedrooms and classrooms, where there’s enough detail to give the environment life without distracting from the character inhabiting them, but what’s even more impressive is just how dark and ominous it can get whenever we enter the realm of the Dark Kingdom, where they use just the right blend of colors to give off a sinister feeling without overdoing it. The other element that stands out is the character designs. Outside of the main cast and a handful of featured extras, the majority of the people on screen look normal enough for the Japanese setting, giving Usagi and the other Sailor Scouts the perfect backdrop to look unique against, with their assorted hair colors and alternate uniforms.

I do have a few gripes with the design conventions, of course… Since this is an old show, I can’t really get too mad at it for following old cliche trends, but I’m still waiting for someone to explain to me why old people in anime are always portrayed as little people. Do Asian people shrink with age, or something? And of course, if you’ve read my post about Astrid and Other Love Interests, you’ll be able to tell just by design which of Usagi’s two crushes she’ll actually wind up with by the end of the first episode. Not that it would have been hard to figure out otherwise. And finally you have the villains, which are every bit as crazy as the Power Rangers episodic baddies, but with the benefit of animation to explore just about every imaginable possibility. Some of them look more ridiculous than others, and I still haven’t managed to remove my palm from my face over seeing a priest turn into a boxing monster named Boxxy, but there are more than enough cool and memorable monsters to make up for it, disposable or not.

The music is a bit generic, but not in a bad way. It’s the kind of music you’d expect from a show about heroes of justice protecting the innocent, and even the tunes you have to listen to ad nauseum are at least catchy and memorable. Sailor moon’s transformation music never wore on my nerves, with it’s heart-pounding beat calling you to action. The whole orchestration is epic, even if it blends into the action way too well to be noticeable in context. Even the background music that plays in school when there’s no real action going on, which would be annoying and repetitive in most anime sounds pretty cool in this show, with a kind of jazz-like swing to it. I actually noticed that there are a lot of tracks in this show were kind of like analogues of the opening theme, either played in different ways or with different instruments, and can you blame them? With an opening theme that good, who wouldn’t want to get more use out of it? The animation for the opening gets a lot better in season two, of course, but they keep the same song.

Fun fact: I actually bought the soundtrack to Sailor Moon classic on Ebay, and not for a cheap price, just so I could have… Well, let’s avoid spoilers and just say “A certain violin track from the later episodes.” If you’ve seen it, you know what I’m talking about. It’s to die for.

There have been two English dubs for this series, and I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve never seen the old Dic one. I’ve seen some clips of it, and if I’m being honest, none of it really inspired me to check out more. As I’ve said, my initial exposure was SuperS, and I distinctly remember the actor for Sailor Moon in that show being unlistenable, so for me, Stephanie Sheh is nothing short of a step up. I’ve gushed about her talent and range in previous reviews, but her abilities may have been a bit too good for this role, because Usagi is supposed to be an annoying and childish character more often than not, and of course, Stephanie delivers a childish and annoying performance… I’m not saying it’s not accurate, but intentional annoyance is still annoying. She does capture all of the characters positive attributes too, of course, which goes a long way in portraying the character’s growth, so props to Sheh on doing a solid job that does, occasionally, backfire in unavoidable ways.

The rest of the main female cast is rounded out by industry veterans, and while Kate Higgins and Cherami Leigh don’t have that much to do in their roles as Mercury and Venus… I’ll talk more about them later… They still do fine jobs with what they were given. Amanda C Miller hasn’t done as much anime work as her peers, as she’s only really been active since 2011, but she is fantastic as Sailor Jupiter, evoking strength, compassion and vulnerability on par with Christine Auten’s portrayal of Sakaki-san in Azumanga Daioh. She’s also not afraid to get whimsically goofy when her character gets lost in another boy-crazy fantasy. Cristina Vee is a name I always look for in a dub, and she doesn’t disappoint here with the character of Sailor Mars, which easily could have been written off as a stereotypical tsundere. Even with these names in the cast, however, my favorite performance is from Michelle Ruff as the herald of the Moon Kingdom, Luna, a talking black cat whose motherly tone conveys both the endless patience and long-suffering good humor that living with someone like Usagi would inevitably breed in someone.

Of course, Johnny Yong Bosch also plays a cat, the male named Artemis, and he does fine despite not having as much screen time. The rest of the cast is made up of both veterans and newcomers, with the most noticeable extras being Vic Mignogna as a boy with ESP, Wendee Lee as Princess Serenity’s mother, and a handful of appearances from Veronica Taylor in small roles. speaking of newcomers, Robbie Daymond had his official anime debut in this show as Mamoru Chiba, who would eventually be revealed as Tuxedo mask(If that’s a spoiler, then you’re too young to be reading my work), and he’s had a major career boom ever since, which he fully deserves. He plays both a normal sardonic teenager and a heroic boy-scout just fine, but he especially shines as a villain in the latter story arcs. That’s no easy feat, of course, when the villains of this show are being played by experienced VAs like Todd Haberkorn and Liam O’brien. The writing of the dub is also extremely faithful, from what I can gather from the subtitles, so it’s a dub I highly recommend checking out.

So, this is normally the part of the review where I’d start getting into things like the depths and themes of the writing, but Sailor Moon is a little different from the shows I’d normally tackle, as there really isn’t any depth of theme to it. Instead, I’m going to start off by addressing a very recent criticism of the series… That it exploits the sexuality of teenagers. If you haven’t seen the Nostalgia Critic’s review of the series, he talks about the ethics of using 14 year old characters for fanservice, and uses that as a platform to discuss the issue of underage sexuality in Japan. Don’t get me wrong, that IS a topic worthy of discussion, and he does a really smart job of it, but I can’t help feeling like Sailor Moon didn’t really deserve to be the focus. It’s practically a rule that in order to get deep into anime, you have to come to terms with the sight of underage characters being displayed in revealing outfits, or even less than that, sometimes full-on nude. That doesn’t mean you have to be okay with it, although it’s kind of easy to rationalize them as fictional characters drawn by the hand of an artist, or you can just get used to condemning and criticizing it. Your reaction is your own to discover and own.

Having said that, I’m sorry, I don’t get why Sailor Moon was the anime chosen to lead this discussion. Maybe it’s my asexuality talking, but I really don’t find anything sexual about this series, let alone it’s underage characters. Nothing sexual ever happens or even gets alluded to. I’ve seen a ton of anime that featured underaged nudity, from tasteless examples like Strike Witches to surprisingly tasteful examples like the last episode of B Gata H K. Okay, the transformation sequences kind of count, but they’re just featureless outlines, no more explicit than the Tempur-Pedic logo before it had it’s ass crack removed. Aside from a relatively tame beach episode, the girls never shove cleavage in our faces, and only once or twice shown bathing in G-rated fashion. I get westerners finding the sailor outfit sexy, but they’re just ordinary schoolgirl uniforms in Japan, and their actual hero-versions of those uniforms go one step further by being leotards, so even a skirt-flip like the one that freaked Doug out are no more revealing than watching a ballerina dance.

There’s a LOT worse out there in the anime world, but more to the point, there’s a lot worse in America, too. Let me just try out my cringeworthy Joker impersonation here… “When 14 year old Morty gets buck-naked, nobody panics because it’s all part of the plan. When the Simpsons movie shows us a ten year old’s uncensored penis, nobody panics, because it’s all part of the plan. But put one 14 year old girl in a sailor suit with a short skirt, then everyone starts losing their minds!” I’m really sorry if you actually imagined the voice for that. Anyway, rather than sexuality, it would make a lot more sense to use this show as a jumping-off point for a discussion about sexism, which isn’t a HUGE problem in this show, but it does exist. In a lot of cases, Tuxedo Mask does have to step in when Usagi starts to fuck up, and while I don’t think the writers intended to insult an entire gender here… They were probably just building up to the future reveals about the two, and Usagi does start to become much more confidant and self-sufficient down the line… It can get a little annoying, and understandably offensive to some viewers.

Honestly, the sexism in the series is at it’s worst when the writers seem conscious of it, and try to subvert it. The first really great episode of the series(And to be fair, there are no shortage of really great episodes) took place on an enchanted love cruise, and not only did it feature some of the best character writing for everybody present, but the girls managed to save the day all by themselves in spectacular fashion. And yet for some reason, one episode later, they aired the worst episode of the series, where they have their final encounter with Jadeite, and they actually TRIED to be non-sexist in the most blatant and on the nose way possible. Not only is the episode brain-breakably stupid(Seeing the sailor guardians running away from planes instead of turning around and taking advantage of their bulky size was pretty hilarious, IMO), but they had Jadeite call out the ineffectiveness of female heroes, despite never showing any signs of sexism, just to set out a very vocal girl power message from the heroes, who wind up rescuing Tuxedo Mask, who didn’t even need to be there in the previous episode.

And yeah, the show is really fucking stupid. It’s usually not too obvious a problem… lapses in logic in a show like this are largely forgivable… But there are exceptions. People not recognizing Usagi as Sailor Moon despite her face and hair always being the same is something you get used to really quickly, but when they do a story arc where the villains are trying overly-complicated methods to find out who she is, you start to wonder why her frisbee throwing skills and clumsy dancing are considered easier targets than literally everything going on above her neck. You do not solve problems by calling attention to them, especially problems we were already ignoring. But the biggest crime that the show’s stupidity causes is with the introduction of Sailor Mercury, who was supposed to be the smart character in the group, but then again, you need to have smart writers to write smart characters. Usagi may have grown as a character throughout the series, but the other characters were still needed to pull the series along.

Sailor Mercury has the same problem that Maka from Soul Eater had… She was brought in to be the smart character, but since the series itself wasn’t up to par on writing intelligence, we pretty much have to take their word for it. She spouts exposition, operates technology to reveal more exposition, gets good grades and studies a lot, but she doesn’t add any intelligence to the show or the dynamic of the group. Honestly, in practice, she’s more brave and self-sacrificing than smart. Rei, on the other hand, instantly makes the show better with her introduction. She’s meant to be the passionate character, and she does add some resolve to the group, and since passion conflicts with Usagi’s easy-going nature, she provides a desperately needed foil for her. She also brings perception, which is MUCH easier to write than intelligence, as her communications with spirits and ability to sense auras help the group to avoid threats and identify traps more often. She doesn’t always save the show, just look at that Jadeite episode, but she does way more good than harm.

Sailor Jupiter doesn’t really add anything specific to the group, at least not that’s obvious. She’s characterized as the Strength girl, and yeah, the group does subtly get stronger with her in it. Even if you don’t notice this, she’s a very well written and fleshed out character, much like Sailor Mars and Sailor Moon. From the research that I’ve done, her and Mars are the most popular characters out of the main five, what with Mars being mature and responsible and Jupiter being the gentle giant with a heart of gold, both having distinctly unique identities outside of the team, and also having unique relationships with Usagi, so it makes sense they’d be at the top of the list. But then you have Sailor Venus, who you THINK is going to have a major story surrounding her on account of her posing as Sailor V and technically being the first active guardian, but no, she’s just dropped into the cast and immediately absorbed into it, and I cannot for the life of me describe her in any way other than a little bit of plot relevance.

Almost everything I know about her, other than her hair color and length, and the few scant facts mentioned above, I had to get from outside sources. Apparently she’s the empathetic character and her element is Metal, none of which was ever made apparent to me in the show. Yeah, she gets developed a lot more in other media, but that’s beside the point. You can’t have that much filler and tell me you didn’t have time to make me care about one of your biggest characters. And of course, speaking of filler, we’re about to dive head first into one of my biggest problems with this series… Not how formulaic the episodes are, oh no, I can deal with that. I’m so far beyond used to that kind of thing. My problem is with the structure of the series. I don’t know this from personal research… I actually learned it from another reviewer… But apparently, the first three volumes of the manga are represented by the first 66 episodes of the anime… Which is all 46 episodes of this series plus 20 from it’s sequel series, Sailor Moon R.

I have no problem believing this, because my God do they take their sweet ass time with the story. Before I even learned this tidbit, I had formed a working hypothesis that they planned out the episode length of the series, picked out where each special event or plot development would happen, and filled the empty spaces with repetitive, formulaic filler, each stretch of episodes having it’s own basic plot idea. This is why unlike most shows, where there’d be a couple of bad episodes… Even Cowboy Bebop had one… Sailor Moon has bad STRETCHES of episodes, about three of them by my count. The first stretch began with the first episode, and ended with the introduction of Rei. The second stretch began with the final Jadeite intro and ended when Nephrite finally became interesting, and the final one happened between Venus’s introduction and when they gave up trying to figure out who Sailor Moon was. But honestly, out of 46 episodes, that’s not the majority of the series. Far from it.

If you can get over the repetition and formula, there’s a lot of good material here. While some of the characters fall flat, like Sailor Venus in particular, the rest of them are well written and fully realized. Usagi may not be as likeable as a main character and leader like Luffy, but she has just as many personality-based weaknesses that keep her from ever feeling like a Mary Sue or an over-powered badass. I loved the villains in particular… Well, at least the ones serving as Queen Beryl’s henchman. Yeah, they were definitely evil, but they were also three dimensional, with personalities and motivations of their own, as well as their own connections and relationships beyond their job. Nephrite’s story arc in particular was one of the main reasons that I was able to have such a major soft spot for this series, allowing me to forgive all of it’s obvious problems. It’s also perfectly safe for younger viewers, although the younger male demographic might not get as much out of it. I’d say at the very least it’s worth checking out.

Sailor moon is available from Viz Media. There have been various home video releases in the past, but to my knowledge, this is the first one to present the series the way it was intended, so I don’t think those ones count. There have been countless sequel series and OVA and movie spin-offs and I dare not name them all here, but they’re easy to look up. A side manga called Codename Sailor V, which carries the bulk of Sailor Venus’s character development and identity, is available stateside from Kodansha Comics. A recent remake of the original series called Sailor Moon Crystal is also available from Viz, and features the same cast, but I’ve heard it’s not as good. What a surprise, a more manga-accurate retelling of a previously successful anime isn’t as good. The live action series is NOT available stateside, but the original manga is.

Getting into this anime 25 years after it’s release, and watching with the eyes of a 31 year old man, I was expecting it to be the cringiest thing ever. I was expecting something along the lines of a ghetto super hero version of Super Gals! Which was the last anime I can remember dropping. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Even the bad stuff, of which there was a considerable amount, was campy and awkward enough that I could get a good laugh out of it. I’ll admit that I went easy on it, compared to other titles that have crossed my path, but that’s because I was having too much fun to focus on nitpicking. It could get dark and serious when it wanted, and thankfully it did so at all the right times, taking a shockingly Wolf’s-Rain-esque turn towards the end. I don’t know if I’d be willing to watch it a second time, but I’m glad I watched it once, and I’d be happy to watch the sequel series, in order to see what happens next. I am Naru the Narcissist, lazy guardian of sloth and pretension, and in the name of the moon, I give Sailor Moon a 6/10.  

It’s been a while since the last one…  Probably not the best timing, all things considered, but hey, I’m grateful.

 

I was nominated by Yahari Bento, whom I am now following.
You can find this blog HERE.

Now, let’s see what I have to do with this honor…

Rules

  1. Display Award
  2. Thank the person who nominated you, and post a link to their blog on your blog. Try to include a little promotion for the person who nominated you.
  3. Answer questions they’ve written for you.
  4. In the spirit of sharing love and solidarity with our blogging family, nominate 8-13 bloggers and asks them 3 questions.

Three Combo Questions

  1. In your opinion, when does noon become afternoon?
  2. Does you wuv?
  3. How many asses have you kicked?

My Nominees.

  1.  Little Monster Girl
  2.  100 word Anime
  3.  Anime Girls NYC
  4.  I Drink and Watch Anime
  5.  Dailyamanga
  6.  Anime Gauge
  7.  The Otaku Judge
  8.  Bestestcat
  9. Fujinshei
Review requested by Greyam Moorcraft.
“Why hello there… I’ve been watching you for quite a while. You work so hard, balancing your responsibilities at work with your responsibilities at home… I can’t imagine having to deal with the crippling irony of spending so much time pulling overtime for extra money to support your children, only to have them complain that you’re not home enough to spend time with them. What’s that? Oh, right, I forgot. My name is Masakaki, and I’ve come here to offer you a wonderful opportunity. How would you like to have all the money you could ever need? You’d never need to work a day in your life again… Well, maybe a little, to keep up appearances. If you’d like to solve all of your problems and improve your quality of life once and for all, then come with me to the Financial District, a world where an ambitious soul such as yourself can earn as much money as you want with little effort… Oh, but of course, there’s a catch. You’ll have to succeed at the expense of your peers, putting your money up against theirs… And offering up your future as collateral. So, my new entrepreneur… What will it be?”

Now, if I were you, I would think twice before taking Masakaki’s offer, because this entrepreneurial El Dorado really isn’t what it seems at the outset. As a resident of the Financial district, a separate plane of reality whose influence on our plane is disturbingly obvious, you’ll be gambling with more than just your net worth, or even just your life. You’ll be given a small fortune right at the start, along with an asset… Your own personal battle monster to fight other entrepreneur’s battle monsters on your behalf. They’ll be the ones taking a Stand for you as you encounter a wide array of both entrepreneurs(called Entres for short) and their Assets as well. One such Entre is Yoga Kimimaro, a college student who works himself to the bone to support himself, paying for tuition and rent with his wages.He seems to have developed this weird idea that Assets are people too, and he has a hard time making decisions as he seems compelled to do the right thing, and yet he’s proven himself a force to be reckoned with. Will he be able to defend Japan against the District’s secret threat, or will this Entre receive his just desserts?

Today’s anime offering is brought to us by Tatsunoko Production, a company that’s somehow been around since the sixties without making much of an impact along the way. That’s probably an exaggeration, seeing how I’m not personally up to date on the history of Japanese pop culture, but with the exception of Speed Racer, Irresponsible Captain Tylor and the Gatchaman franchise, I haven’t heard of almost any of their properties. Maybe it’s all just too obscure for me, and for that reason I really can’t get a grasp on what their work tends to look like on average, but C is one of their more high-profile titles, even if it’s name makes it really frustrating to look up online. At the very least I’ve seen Gatchaman Crowds, so I feel like I do have some idea of what their modern works look like, and that’s a good comparison to make, as the visual aspects of Crowds were one of it’s major redeeming factors after it started to get bogged down by all of it’s deeper problems.

Much like Crowds, C tries out a blend of two-dimensional and three-dimensional animation and art styles, The traditional animation is your standard fare… It’s a little above average, the animation is just smooth enough to please the eye with clever editing to act as a crutch whenever it can’t. There’s a lot of attention to detail in the characters’ movements, and while I couldn’t really point to any of it being flashy, it carries a very subtle level of quality. Tatsunoko clearly know how to utilize shadows, and they seem to have a gleeful time proving it with a lot of smart lighting choices. As for the 3D animation, it’s really going to come down to a matter of personal preference. I’ve heard some people say that CG animation in anime is really jarring, and it makes the characters look really creepy, but personally, I love it. I loved it in the dancing scenes in Love Live, and I especially love it here.

Specifically, the divide between 2D and 3D animation is drawn very deliberately, to highlight the differences between the real world and the financial district. When we see Masakaki talking to someone to entice them into signing over their futures, you can immediately tell that he’s not of this world due to the uncanny valley effect of his animation. It’s a little stilted, but that just adds to the effect. It’s also a little inconsistent, but not to a majorly noticeable or bothersome degree. There are some shots in the Financial district that look a little odd, but for the most part, the visual effects in this alternate world are stunning, like the slow pixelated dissolves and the digitized action sequences. Don’t get me wrong, the backgrounds and set pieces in the real world are highly detailed, but the interior of the District is immaculate and brimming with creative design, even though I personally didn’t see any big drops in quality to compensate for it. I haven’t seen very many shows that offered such a seemless blend of the two styles, which is pretty impressive considering this show came out in 2011.

The music, composed by Taku Iwasaki, is a bit hard to pin down, and from what I’ve heard, that’s pretty common for his work. That’s not to say C has a bad score, but it can get pretty distracting when you have techno effects in a track that also includes a greek choir. The worst part is probably when he tried to emulate his previous success with the soundtack to Gurren Lagann by including English rap tracks… Yes, actual English… But even though it doesn’t sound like it has any translation issues, it still sounds pretty bad. The opening, Matryoshka by Nico Touches the Walls, is a lot simpler and easy to listen to, although that doesn’t necessarily make it the best track in the series. Is’ a traditional J-rock track with beautiful visuals that depict not only the plot and characters of the series, but the importance of currency throughout the history of humanity and our culture. The closing theme, RPG by School food Punishment (Seriously, how do they come up with these band names?), is more true to form for the series, even though the visuals are a bit bland.

The English dub was produced by Funimation, and since it had a good writer on staff, the apt Monica rial, it’s a pretty damn strong one. Brina Palencia and Todd Haberkorn don’t have that much to do in the main roles of Yoga and Mashu, as they really don’t have to tweak their voices or anything strange like that, with the exception of all the voice effects for battle that they had to do. For the rest of the show, they keep to a grounded and subtle register, and it isn’t until the stakes are raised in the second half of the series that they really have to do anything dramatic, and of course, being seasoned veterans, they’re more than prepared for this. They’re likeable and speak naturally for the remainder, so I really don’t have any complaints about either of them. Far more impressive is J Michael Tatum, playing a veteran entre with a dark past motivating him to some mysterious goal. We get the standard Tatum performance, that sly, smooth voice that’s almost enchanting enough to make an exposition dump sound palatable, but there’s also a barely disguised sense of malice and righteous vengeance lying under the surface.

Much like Brina and Todd, Cherami Leigh doesn’t have much to do, but she’s still perfectly likeable as Yoga’s initial love interest, and while you won’t be expecting much from her, there are dark turns she has to take towards the end, and Cherami portrays it all flawlessly. Monica rial does her Monica Rial thing, and it is of course nice as usual, and Sonny Straight has a lot of fun sliding into the slithery shoes of Takedazaki, a bat-shit crazy information exchange broker. The star of the dub is… Well… Fuck, I really don’t want to talk about this guy again, but it’s Scott Freeman. I remember praising this actor before in Yamada’s first time(the DVD of which he actually autographed for me at a convention), and I’m sure I’ve mentioned him in some other reviews I don’t feel like looking up, but all of that was BEFORE he got arrested for possession of child porn, a charge he plead guilty to. It pains me to say this(but not as much as the fact that I actually shook his hand), but he put on an undeniably solid performance as the otherworldly Masakaki, playing him as a sort of joker-esque fop. Yeah, if you don’t want to have to face the moral dilemma of enjoying the work of a pedophile, stick to the sub. Otherwise, the dub is pretty awesome.

If you’ve heard of this anime, who’s full name is actually C: Money of Soul and Possibility Control(even though Edgy Digimon would have been easier to google), you’re probably aware that it doesn’t have the best reputation. That’s one of the reasons I was wary to try it out, until it was requested by a friend of mine in a roleplay group. Honestly, though, I thought it got off to a pretty good start. It doesn’t take long to realize that this is a concept anime, one that’s built around a central idea, and to it’s credit, that concept is pretty strong. In an alternate plane of existence, specially selected people are given fighting avatars and are able to take control of a secret economy that directly effects that of the real world by letting them both win and lose massive amounts of what might be the world’s most well-disguised counterfeit money. There are a lot of rules that go along with this game, as well as a lot of details, conditions and repercussions, and I had a lot of fun learning about all of it. If you’re going to explain a concept in a story, it’s best to have a cypher character to stand in for the audience, and this was done pretty well.

You can draw a lot of metaphors out of this concept, although I doubt very much of it was intentional. The stock market comparison isn’t a subtle one, but it’s still pretty smart and insightful with how it’s used. You could also draw out an allegory for the temptation of magical solutions over hard work, but if I’m being honest, Key the Metal Idol did this way better, and that was just in a single scene. If you were to REALLY stretch it, you could also draw some comparisons to bitcoin, but that would mostly be for fun, as I highly doubt they had that in mind. It’s not dripping with depth, but it has just enough substance to make the concept feel appealing, and of course all of the action and fight scenes don’t hurt either. The details we’re given about this world are given out at a nice, pleasant pace, even as the series goes to some darker places than you were expecting, and several of the assumptions you’d been making about this world and it’s rules turn out to be disturbingly incorrect. When you first get a glimpse of what happens when someone’s collateral future gets taken away from them is crushing to say the least.

Well, it SHOULD have been crushing, but the lack of impact you’ll feel over it is almost as disquieting as the lack of impact the characters feel about it. The major drawback from focusing so much time and story on the inner workings of the Financial district turned out to be a distinct lack of emotional resonance, part of which is the show’s underwhelming characterizations. The most obvious example of this is the main character Yoga, whose usage as a cypher never really evolves into anything else other than good-guy boy scout who wants to do the right thing. The only interesting element of his character is his frugality, as he takes every opportunity to save his money in order to invest in his future, but this element fades after only a few episodes. His asset is even worse, as she pretty much plays the egregious female role of love-interest-doggy, her entire character revolving around growing more trusting and bonded with Yoga over time, which is a common archetype in anime, but it’s particularly awful here.

Much like Asuna from SAO, whom I also compared to a dog, Mashu’s only defining characteristic is her relationship with a more important male character, but it’s even worse here because she also took a dose of magical girlfriend fluid to the arm. “Master, what is food? What is taste? What’s a kiss? Master, I think I love you!” Yeah, they tried to do a romantic sub-plot for these two, and it’s about as painful as the tsundere vibes between Rika and Renamon would have been if they’d been fully realized and not just hinted at. Yoga does nothing to earn Mashu’s feelings other than bring her a cup of instant noodles, because apparently it’s SO weird for Entres to be nice to their assets. Not only is the evidence for this really weak, but hey, not everyone has an Asset that looks like a half-naked teenage girl. Nobody’s flirting with their ogre and giant wolf Assets, but that doesn’t make you a hero for having a sexy demon to talk to. Oh, and I don’t want to spend much time on this, but the reveal involving her and Yoga’s Dad goes absolutely nowhere.

“Oh,” but I hear you say, “what about Soichiro Mikuni?” Well, what about him? Everything about him, from his motive to his plan, was fucking stupid. We’re given his backstory in the worst possible way, as he dumps a ton of exposition on us, talking to literally us to explain everything, which is lazy and unimaginative at best. I get that his father was being a dick, and that the nature of his dickishness COULD give somebody a cynical attitude towards the economy, but his story honestly feels weakened by the fact that his sister doesn’t actually die… She’s just in a coma, but Mikuni’s attitude is so vengeful it’s like he already lost her. You would think that with all the money he’s making in the district he’d be happy just to use it to keep her on life support and in the best conditions possible in hopes that she’d wake up someday, but no, that’s not what he’s doing at all. Get this: The last thing she said before going into her coma was that she wished this moment could last forever, so his idea is to destroy the future and stop time. Except no, that’s not how time works. Tomorrow is still tomorrow, and shouldn’t sacrificing decades of your future work against the idea of your sister waking up?

Okay, I don’t recall if that’s exactly if that’s how everything went down. I did finish this show way back in… Three fucking days ago. All things considered, I’m surprised I remember as much as I do. You can’t really blame me, though, as this anime goes completely off the rails about halfway through, raising it’s stakes to unbelievable levels that you will literally not believe. Yeah, someone losing their future might make their children disappear, or ruin their friends’ lives, but as an economical crisis begins to loom in the last few episodes, people begin dropping like flies, disappearing into digital nothingness. Their ties to the futures of different Entres pretty much turns them into vaporware. I found a lot of this hard to follow, so it might be my fault for not being smart enough to piece everything together… I’m no economics expert, after all, and a lot of the more important details about the Financial District are left intentionally vague, but there was something that happened towards the end that makes me think I’m not actually mistaken.

For a while, I was planning to look up a detailed explanation of how everything worked, how the ending was built up, what was happening with the money, etc. It couldn’t all be superfluous made-up bullshit, could it? But then I realized that yes, yes it fucking could. Not only do people and buildings start getting erased from reality, but also ENTIRE LAND MASSES. We see a few island countries getting erased from the map… Nothing that exists in our world, of course… But the logic of this is just mind-boggling. So the Financial District was able to alter the geography of the planet? How? Did it add water to fill in the voids left by the land it took? Did the sea levels change? Did the entire history of those land masses dating all the way back to Pangaea get rewritten? Did the prehistoric creatures that roamed them get erased from the fossil record, also erasing anything they evolved into? And hey, why not take away any land-locked countries? Didn’t want to stretch the suspension of disbelief too far?

C: Money of Soul and Possibility control is available from Funimation. You can watch it for free on their website, as well as for a decent price on Amazon as part of the S.A.V.E. collection.

I’d just like to take a moment to once again emphasize that this show did get off to a fairly good start. I could tell right from the beginning that it wasn’t destined for greatness, but it was at least interesting when it wasn’t trying to do anything other than provide a Digimon rip-off with a cool backdrop. Unfortunately, it’s ambition far outpaced it’s brain. It’s biggest problem is easily the fact that it wanted you to think, but it was way better off if you didn’t. The laws of cause and effect are thrown out the window in favor of increased stakes, and if that’s not bad enough, I haven’t seen a main character that was this disconnected from the tragedy they were supposed to prevent since Evangelion. It’s a nice enough looking show, and I did enjoy it for a little while, but at only 11 episodes, I feel like things could have been set up and developed to the point where I could have actually cared about it. As it is, it’s pretty bad, but it’s a unique enough idea that I can understand why people still remember it six years later. It’s just too bad that it lost control of the positive qualities it had. I give C: money of Soul and Possibility Control a 4/10.  

It’s summertime in Japan! No more pencils, no more books, no more senseis dirty looks… This is especially true for seventh grader Mirai Onozawa, who’s elected not to take any summer classes, and as a result, she gets to have the whole vacation to herself! Unfortunately, her parents aren’t so lucky, and they still have to spend that time working, meaning that there are no plans for the Onozawa family to take a fun trip this year, like several of Mirai’s classmates are. Her newfound freedom comes back to bite her in the ass when her mother assigns her to take her little brother, first grader Yuuki Onozawa, to a robot exhibition in Odaiba, which he’s been looking forward to attending for months up until then. Poor Mirai trudges her way to Odaiba, carrying her little brother in tow while lamenting just how lame her life is, and while she does manage to have a little bit of fun there, she’s all to happy to get out of there when it’s finally time to leave and go home. She lets her brother go off unsupervised to use the bathroom and pick up some drinks, and she waits outside for him, tweeting about how much she wants the world to just break apart.

No sooner does she post this message than the legendary city of Tokyo is hit by a massive magnitude 8.0 earthquake, shaking the convention center to it’s foundation and causing a catastrophic amount of death and destruction to the city. By hanging onto the guard rail outside of the center, Mirai is able to safely get a clear birds eye view of the damage, but her brother is still inside! With the help of gold-hearted motorcyclist and struggling single mother Mari, Mirai finds Yuuki, and the three of them get out just in time as as the first of many aftershocks hits. They’re out of the convention center, but they’re not out of the woods yet, as they’re still miles away from home, blocked off by seemingly endless destruction. Together, the three of them must traverse the ruins of a great city, encountering people who have lost everything as they strive to hold onto what little they have left, but with danger at every corner, aftershocks striking when they least expect it, and no means of contacting home, do they even stand a chance?

Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 was produced by Studio Bones, and it was a pretty solid effort. I honestly don’t have anything to complain about with the animation here. There’s a lot of walking and talking which really doesn’t require that much money to keep up in terms of quality, and the extra money clearly got poured into the heavier action scenes and a few very beautiful art pieces, none of which last nearly long enough to truly appreciate their eye candy potential. There are a few moments that feel a bit undercut, like they had to go cheap to compensate for a more complicated visual down the line, but they’re few and far between, and they never really last long enough to matter. The bulk of the budget was most likely spent on the earthquake itself, which often looks so viscerally realistic that you could swear you were actually there, trying to survive it alongside our young heroes. The running animations, along with all of the practical effects like rubble falling, dust flying through the air and people bracing themselves against each impact lend the series a truly harrowing feel.

I’ve never been to Tokyo, and I don’t know much about it’s geography or infrastructure, so I can’t really speak as to how accurately it’s portrayed in this series, but the level of detail in the architecture is breathtaking. It’s almost a shame to see these buildings collapse and crumble, because it feels like they put a ton of time and effort into drawing them as intricately as they did. They took great strides to make everything look as realistic as possible, so not only are the buildings themselves thoroughly designed, but the destruction as well is truly awe inspiring, creating an appropriately post-apocalyptic mood that I normally only see in video games that actually DO take place in a post apocalyptic setting. There were parts where characters would be poking around inside of a building, and I was half-expecting a zombie or even a Clicker to pop out. This makes the sense of devastation and isolation feel real, bringing a heart-pounding level of immersion to the ravaged wasteland that Tokyo’s become.

The characters are about as realistic in proportion as Bones characters can possibly get, with the only real fantasy element being the giant eyes of all the children in the story. Aside from that, characters are believably proportioned, with heads the appropriate size in comparison to their bodies, uniformly dark colored hair and normal, almost boring looking clothing. They do look a bit cartoony when juxtaposed against the more realistic backgrounds, but that’s a nitpick. The lighting changes noticeably to match the time of day, at times hitting a beautiful twilight glow, and there are certain moments where the color mix is just exquisite. A few of these scenes are strongly tied to some heavy spoilers, but the one example I think I can give you is when Mirai, Mari and Yuuki stop by a shelter, they sit by the edge of a small pool, and the reflection on the surface is a blend of colors that Mirai compares to stained glass windows, and she is not even slightly exaggerating. It’s very good looking show all around, but you might want to watch this particular scene a few times through.

I don’t really have a lot to say for Koh Otani’s musical score. It blends into the show so well that you barely notice it unless you’re deliberately listening to it, and when I play it out of context, it just comes off as a little generic… Not bad by any means, just the same kind of score that I’ve heard in a million other anime. My personal disconnect with the material might be why I have such a hard time feeling any emotional impact from his work on this project, and if so, I guess that’s on me. It does it’s job. I had a very similar reaction to the opening theme, Kimi no Uta by Abingdon Boys School… Weird name for a band, unless it’s actually a music class that’s responsible for this song… Played over what I’m assuming were production sketches from the developmental stages of the series. Once again, it’s fine, but doesn’t really stand out in any way. I actually strongly preferred the ending theme, M/Elody by Shion Tsuji, which had a really Indie feel to it, even though it’s visuals were just photographs of Mirai and Yuuki walking.

The English dub is a little on the mediocre side, too. That’s not to say it’s bad, I mean, I actually think Luci Christian pulled off an exceptionally strong performance as Mirai, all things considered. The character does very little but complain and act like a sourpuss for the majority of the series, and Luci’s grounded, subtle performance made her sound like a long suffering teen who thinks she’s over the world, even though she clearly cares about her family, and she managed to bring a deep sadness to the character whenever she needed to. Tiffany Grant played the younger Yuuki, and while she proved she could be just as unrecognizable in a child role as Christine Auten has in the past, she didn’t have much to work with out of unrestrained happy-go-lucky loudness and the occasional crying. I’ve never found Shelley Callene Black to be the strongest emoter… Unless she’s playing a really strong or cold role, I’ve always found sort of a wall of insincerity in her way… So I think I would have enjoyed better casting in her role as Mari. Greg Ayres and Brittany Karbowski also pop up here and there, playing extras and one-shot characters, but they’re hit and miss.

So here’s the thing. There are a lot of things we anime fans have in common in the way we judge anime, and there are a lot of values and standards that most of us share, but if there’s one that I’ve found to stand out in particular, it’s that we all seem to love a good tear jerker. I always see people giving exuberantly high ratings to any anime that gives them that incurable emotional illness, “The Feels.” If an anime makes you cry, it’s an instant masterpiece, regardless of whatever problems it may have had throughout. I know I’m not the only person who’s noticed this, because there are a lot of anime that have taken advantage of it to compensate for other major issues in their stories, effectively using shameless tragedy porn to grab people by the hearts and string them along for an easy 10/10 score that’s pretty much guaranteed to them, and if you complain about the logical or ethical fallacies that people have missed or just straight up ignored, they criticize you for nitpicking, saying you’ve gotta watch the series with your heart and not your head, or that you’re thinking too much, just turn your brain off and have a good time.

The backlash for some of these titles can be devastating, like for people who saw through the epic romance of Sword Art Online, but for most shows, emotional manipulation can lead to large and highly defensive fanbases. Clannad makes them cry, so who cares about the blatant harem aspects, or the fact that it all centers around a reprehensible deadbeat asshole? Who cares about the fact that the characters whose deaths you’re crying over are written so badly that you feel worse for the person losing them than you do for them in the first place? Who cares if stories like Angel Beats and Steins Gate don’t make any sense, and are full of game breaking plot holes? It’s the feels, damn it, the feeeeeeells! Which is why, when I get around to watching a show that’s been touted as heart breaking and emotionally powerful, I normally approach with caution, lest I be tempted and eventually let down by another predictable, cliched title that confuses tragedy with drama. So where does Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 fall in my rankings?

Well, unfortunately, talking about the lauded ‘big tragic twist’ at the end of this series is gonna take us to some heavy places, so let’s instead start by talking about something more basic, the story and characters. This series is about three people trying to survive a natural disaster, and pretty much nothing else. There’s no real depth, there’s no real message, it’s just a straight journey through the devastated town to get back home. That’s not necessarily a bad thing… I mean, I loved homeward Bound as a kid… There’s really nothing wrong with a simple or shallow story, and it does have a strong concept, even if it’s not really trying to say anything with it. Even the worst concept can be carried by great characters, so let’s see who we’re working with on THAT front. We only have three major characters, with plenty of other named roles popping in an out of the story before being ultimately forgotten, and since those main roles consist of two children who we presumably wouldn’t want to see die and an adult risking her life and chances to make it back home just to watch over them, we could easily form a serious bond with our survivors.

Our main character is of course the tween-aged Mirai, with her little brother Yuuki serving as costar, and they’re total opposites as far as one being extremely positive and the other one being extremely negative, and the story treats them both like crap because of it. Mirai is the negative one, and she is constantly getting shit dumped on her as a result. She’s sour, she’s poutty, she’s ungrateful, and it feels like she’s constantly getting punished for it. A note to any aspiring writers out there… If you don’t like your main character either, then either develop them or make them likeable, don’t splatter hot food on them. You probably think I’m exaggerating, but the most development or nuance she gets is that she occasionally shows concern for people, which, congratulations, you’ve just surpassed the bare minimum of not being a sociopath. You’ve proven you can stop bitching long enough to cry and worry about people, that doesn’t give you a free pass to be the less interesting version of Grumpy Cat.

And then you have her little brother, the happy go lucky Yuuki, who takes things to the other extreme, being positive and acting upbeat for at least 95 percent of his screen time. In fact… Wait, how mean do I want to get with this? Screw it, no holding back now. He has all the personality and emotional range of a puppy. The only thing about him that makes him even remotely relatable beyond the bare idea of childhood is his love of robots, but aside from that, he’s more of a McGuffin than a character. I can’t really talk about my biggest problems with him without giving away some very heavy spoilers, so instead, you know what I’m going to do? I’m going to spend the rest of the review just calling him Mirai’s puppy, just to see if it ever becomes a problem. Mirai has a puppy that she took to Tokyo for some reason, it walks around making unimportant barking noises, feeling way too joyful for the situation, worrying about his other humans that he hasn’t seen in a while, and constantly running off and causing trouble. He’s a fucking puppy.

And then you have Mari, who… honestly, I really wanted to like her. She’s saintly, mature, responsible, she takes two children into her care without a thought for her own well being… But I can’t, mainly because I don’t believe her. No, I’m not calling her a liar, I just don’t believe in the existence of a person like her. I don’t think I’m stretching things too far when I call her a Mary-Sue, and if you think I am then PLEASE, tell me what her flaws are. Even if you can believe in her as a person, and that she basically adopted Mirai and Yuuki for their trip home, why stop at them? Why form this three person group, and then just stop there? What makes those two kids so special that she doesn’t want to invite anyone else to join? They meet other people on their journey. They meet other CHILDREN on their journey, but no, it’s the three quakesketeers, because the idea of a single mother joining forces with two unaccompanied minors in a fight for survival is more marketable, I guess. And yes, I seriously wish they’d added more people to their group, because obviously their dynamic as it is does not work for me.

If there was ever an anime that badly needed a larger cast, it was this one. Rather than just three characters and a bunch of small cameos from other people, I kinda thought we’d get a much stronger exploration of the earthquake and it’s devastation if the series were more of an anthology piece, switching back and forth between different characters whose paths would occasionally converge. I’ll admit that I cared a little about Mari getting home to her daughter and mother, but when it came to Mirai and her puppy(See? I told you I’d do it), I honestly found myself wondering what it was that made them so much more important than anyone else, while I couldn’t stop thinking about the elderly couple who lost their grandkids, or the woman with a stuck stroller, or Mari’s scavenger friend. Mirai gets depressed over her inability to talk to or console her friend Megu, so how about just letting her do it? It might have actually been interesting to see. And of course there’s Kenta, the boy Mirai’s age which obviously means he’ll briefly serve as a love interest. I could have seen more of his exploits, although like the others, we never see him again after his appearance, meaning he might as well have died offscreen.

And as far as the story goes, all I can really say is that stuff happens. The earthquake itself is probably the only thing that’s ever foreshadowed(Aside from the tragic twist, which we’ll get to in a minute), and the rest of the anime is just the three main characters either moving in one direction or resting, all while being shaken by aftershocks so plot-specific that they honestly wound up being predictable more often than not. Even my first time through, I called about half of them a second or two before they happened. That’s not to say that there aren’t some scary moments, or that I never felt my pulse race, but even the most terrifying moment, the collapse of a certain monument that’s been featured in a ton of anime before, is ruined in retrospect by the realization that Mirai and her puppy clearly graduated from the Prometheus School of Running Away from Things. It’s a story about survival at it’s core, and while the characters are weak, it does at least manage to tell a story about survival, which is just about the least that was required of it.

So, the story is bland, it doesn’t live up to it’s potential, and the characters we’re supposed to be rooting for are less interesting than the one shot characters we never see again. If there’s anything that can save this anime, it’s the big tragic twist that everyone and their mothers praise the gospel about, right? It’s that element to the story that makes it emotionally powerful, heartbreaking, and a true masterpiece of anime tragedy, right? Well, okay, let’s examine this, and I’ll try to do so with as little spoilers as possible. I will admit that yes, the tragedy is set up really well. The catalyst is subtle, most people either won’t notice it or will just forget it over the course of the next few episodes, and there are just enough clues that I can safely say that someone on the writers team was at least trying to respect the viewer’s intelligence. As the clues get bigger, that unsettling feeling of dread creeps in, and the big reveal is built up, and when it’s finally time to lift the curtain, the other shoe drops… or does it? DUN DUN DUN!!!

Yeah, I’ll be honest, I was actually feeling very forgiving of this anime right up until they tried to make a plot twist out of it. They made so many bad decisions surrounding it, at least from my perspective, that I’m honestly not sure how to start, or how to even broach the subject. I guess I could start with the fact that they made a twist out of it in the first place, adding a layer of smugness to it that kinda takes away from the sting of it. I can’t really get emotional over it, because I can’t stop seeing the faces of the writers, saying “Hah hah! You didn’t see that coming, did you? Look at how smart we are! We totally got you, didn’t we? We made you think it didn’t happen, but it totally did! You fell for it, didn’t you?!” Honestly, no, I didn’t fall for it. Even my first time through, I saw through their act right from the start, because I’m not an idiot. I’ve seen this exact plot twist before, and I’ve seen it done so much better. Shyamalan did it better with The 6’th Sense, Goosebumps did it better with The Ghost Next Door, Scrubs did it better with Brendan fucking Frasier, and From the New World did it so well that the reveal hit me like a punch to the gut.

If burying the tragedy under a plot twist doesn’t telegraph to you just how manufactured this tragedy actually is, well, this part’s going to be REALLY hard to talk about without spoiling anything, so instead of talking about it directly, I’m going to talk about some heavy spoilers from Clannad Afterstory and the Studio Ghibli film Grave of the Fireflies. In both of these shows, the emotional highlight involves the death of very young children, but while one is considered an enduring masterpiece by audiences and critics alike, the other is considered by at least half the people who view it as shameless tragedy porn. Keeping this in mind, what separates the emotionally manipulative from the genuinely poignant? Well, in Clannad, the characters we lose… Both Nagisa and Ushio… Aren’t characters we’re supposed to identify with. We identify with Tomoya, so when he loses these characters, we’re supposed to feel their loss through him, and that’s just about the least dignified reason to kill off a character… A death where they aren’t even the focal point. To make matters worse, she just died so she could be brought back to life, like Brian Griffin. Thanks for nothing.

To be fair, Setsuko’s death in Grave of the Fireflies is also in service of another character, her older brother, but the point isn’t to make you sympathize with him, nor is it to draw cheap tears just because it wants to. They’re not trying to make us feel bad for him, so we’ll ignore all of his flaws… We know her death is his fault, we know HIS death is his fault, and it carried a powerful message that Japanese youths at the time needed to hear. This isn’t a fireflies review, and I’ll let you do your own research about the Japanese crime wave of the late eighties and the bubble economy that wound up popping, but suffice to say, Setsuko and Seita didn’t just die because people remember tear jerkers… There was an actual point to it. There was no point to the tragedy in Tokyo Magnitude 8.0. There was nothing in that story that warranted a sad ending. A story has to earn a tragic ending when it’s characters are struggling against fate, but they ultimately fail due to their own flaws and the harshness of reality.

The tragic ending in 8.0 ultimately comes across as false because the characters, and by extension the story, never earn it. They don’t struggle, they don’t grow, they don’t have arcs, and the constant bad luck getting thrown their way often just feels like pointless cruelty from the writers, who have nobody but themselves to blame for writing a story that features little more thought than moving game pieces from point A to point B. It feels like a drama or action series, right up until it swings into Tragedy territory because it damn well wants to, and the fact that it has to hide under a hallucination gimmick so ridiculous that the hallucination has to tell the person having it that they’re a hallucination, we’ve officially entered territory so pathetic that I honestly would have taken a ‘ghost’ reveal more seriously. So did this big, tragic twist tug at my heart strings? No, but I’d be lying if I said I felt nothing throughout the series. It had it’s moments, and while I found that oh-so-celebrated twist to be pointlessly cruel, I did get a little choked up at certain scenes that took place AFTER the reveal was over. Like I said, it at least did the basics of a survival story competently enough.

Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 is available from Maiden Japan, a child company of Sentai Filmworks. It can also be viewed on Hulu.

Despite my griping earlier, I don’t hate this show. It’s tolerable enough, even if I take some serious issues with it’s writing and it’s pathetic attempt at an undeserved sad ending. Do I think it should have had a happy ending? Well, it might not be as popular if it had gone that route, but it would have at least felt more true to itself. Of course it would have had to consist of much greater character writing to support this change, and for those of you who think I’m asking too much of a show whose cast is mostly comprised of children, I could point you towards plenty of titles that featured well written and interesting child characters… There’s Lilo and Stitch, pretty much every incarnation of Fullmetal Alchemist, the aforementioned Grave of the Fireflies… Actually, you know what’s the perfect example of this? If you want to watch a series about two young siblings, one positive and one negative, facing danger and uncertainty as they try to make their way home, but both of them are fleshed out and have definitive personalities, check out Over the Garden Wall. For now, though, I give Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 a 5.0/10.

So around this time last year, I posted a sort of experimental project called A Series of Tubes, where I went over the many different ways a certain anime… Azumanga Daioh, for that one… Had been represented outside of the official release. I promised that I’d do another installment at some point over the next year, but unfortunately, this has never happened, as whenever I’d feel some sort of inspiration to start putting a list together, something else would come up, be it other projects or real life issues. Not gonna lie, the low number of views has also put a bit of a damper on my enthusiasm for a follow-up.

I did, however, have one planned The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, and while I might jump on that idea somewhere in the future… The list of videos is floating around SOMEWHERE in my stockpile… I was able to form a much more interesting idea out of the material I’d collected, and I started piecing together a much simpler and far more interesting idea for an alternative series: Instead of waiting for an anime’s assortment of AMV’s to entice me the way that Azumanga Daioh’s did, I could instead take a much more focused look at the weird little oddities that different anime have attached to them!

Thus, Anime Analogues was conceived, and for the first installment, we’re going to be looking at something I’ve always had a particular fascination with, live action content! now, to clarify, I’m not talking about J Drama adaptations, although I might look at a few of them in the future. I’m also not talking about interviews or studio tours. And no, because there’s a God and I generally like myself and my life, we’re not looking at American movies like Dragonball Evolution or Netflix’s Deathnote movie. Specifically, we’re talking about scripted live action content produced and directed by dubbing companies to supplement their dubbed DVD releases!

Are they all bad? Is there some good in them? Let’s take a look at a few of my favorite examples… Not that there are a lot to choose from!

1: Bento Brawl, from Bento

Ah yes, the anime about starving teenagers battling it out Mortal Kombat style for marked down bento boxes. I like this show, despite it’s noteworthy flaws, but I just don’t feel like there were enough Bento fight scenes in it. Well, funimation must have heard my cries, because on the special features section of disk 2, we get to see a bunch of real life actors… Including one legit voice actor, Joel Mcdonald. The other named fighter? Justin Rojas, a Funimation employee. My research says “Director of Social Strategy & Development,” and I have not the faintest clue what that means, but hey, he’s our other featured fighter.

This three minute clip begins as a bunch of Funimation employees(I’m assuming, I can’t get any names aside from the two) standing around an empty area of the office… Or who knows where… With half of them interacting with a couple of magazine racks and lazily-put-together merchandise shelves, all while a VERY American looking interpretation of a Bento box sits on a pedestal. They were clearly trying to make this food look like Japanese food, but does any of it look appetizing? Those hot dog octopi look about as faithfully adapted as Yugioh was. Anyway, some random guy comes out with a $1 sticker from either the stationary or hardware department, depending what Walmart they went to for supplies for their last garage sale, and the fight commences!

Right off the bat, I’d just like to say how confused I am over what the hell they thought they were making with this. Based on the attitudes of the actors, it clearly had the relaxed, low standards, ‘criticism is inherently negative’ approach that their writing’s been under lately, but they clearly wanted to shoot and edit it with some sense of quality. The action is terrible, and while the editor used constant cuts to make the central fight between Justin and Joel look at least barely watchable, the action going on behind them looks so fake that it makes WWE look like UFC. The kind of fighting happening in the background keeps changing from shot to shot, and I swear to God there’s a part in it where two of the female actors are just standing around laughing at the main fighters. Call me crazy, I don’t think that was planned.

They clearly had ideas for this fight, but whether it was budget restrictions or safety concerns, some factor led to it constantly looking like they were never able to reproduce those ideas, and just said “Fuck it,” trying to get as close as possible to their vision. This is perhaps the most clear when the chopsticks come out as a weapon. The way they’re used is just kinda dumb and confusing looking, like they wanted to add special anime-style effects to the footage, but wasn’t able to, or they just didn’t bother.

There are bloopers, too, which is how they were able to stretch this concept to 3 minutes, but honestly, the whole video just feels like a blooper. All I’m saying is, if something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right… So this thing clearly wasn’t worth doing.

2: The Adventures of the ASOS Brigade! From the Haruhi Suzumiya. franchise.

I won’t say there’s no cringe factor in this item, but at least it’s easier to watch than the Bento Brawl. In 2007, which was ten long years ago… Trust me, you’ll feel the years with every Myspace reference they make… A live action spin-off of the Haruhi concept was released to promote DVD sales in the US. I don’t know anything about that, as I didn’t see any of this until I started watching the DVDs, so I can’t say whether or not they were a hit, or if they helped DVD sales, but I can talk about whether these sequences were garbage or not. I… Well, maybe I can’t, because even at it’s worst, I can still find something to laugh at in this thing, and I genuinely can’t tell whether or not the unintentional comedy was intentional or not.

For starters, let’s talk about the cast. The eponymous Haruhi is played by Patricia Ja Lee, former pink Space Ranger(As she’s quick to tell us) and occasional voice actor. Maybe it’s just me, but she doesn’t come off as a very strong actor. I got kind of a subtle vibe that she didn’t want to be there, she felt really awkward on camera, and there were a lot of moments where it sounded like she was trying to remember her lines one word at a time, and playing around with pitch and enunciation to cover it up. I don’t want to be too mean, but there were elements of William Shatner in her performance. Her costar, the rosy cheeked Haruka Inoue, felt a lot more comfortable and natural in front of the camera, even if she didn’t have as many lines, although having them both speak their native languages while ignoring the barrier did feel quite jarring.

Yuki Nagato was played by two actors, the first of which wore the weirdest looking purple bob wig to try and utterly fail to mimic Yuki’s hair from the show(Hint: It’s disturbingly similar to Kyon’s, color aside), and this must have upset a lot of fans, because she was replaced by someone else in the third episode. That, or she quit over the fact that she had to do a send-up to the even THEN outdated “ORLY? YA RLY!” Meme. WAI. The first girl played the role exactly as a robot would, and the second one slightly improved upon this by just sounding bored. Honestly, Patricia Lee’s ability to sound both wooden and hammy in the same sentence doesn’t sound so bad now.

They stuck to original scripts at first… They did some classroom/clubroom stuff, which benefited hugely from the precedent the series set about Haruhi being a terrible director, so all the production issues… At least some of which were likely on purpose… Didn’t feel so bad. They announced their intentions, who they were, and then they took their message to the world! They visited the Bandai HQ building, usurped someone’s office(His reaction was comically awful, like he was about to do the underpaid office equivalent of hulking out), and then Haruhi stumbled through a passive aggressive speech about anime pirates paying for the DVDs to support the show. The message must not have gotten through, because Geneon USA would famously file for bankruptcy and go under later that same year. following this, they’d visit the Bang Zoom offices for a reveal of the cast(which anyone watching on DVD would already know about), and a studio tour. What’s noteworthy about this? Eric Sherman’s an even worse actor than Patty.

Then we get a much more interesting scenario, as the girls visit a mysterious warehouse called “Area 42…” Even the most hardcore Douglass Adams fans will be rolling their eyes at that one… and they investigate it looking for Aliens! They explore for a while, actually taking some time to have fun with the concept, like having an alien machine that changes your clothes. Haruka winds up wearing a sexy bunnygirl outfit, as if she wasn’t already the bright spot in the show. I also love how she has to pretend to be as shy as Mikuru when she is so clearly not. Anyway, they meet a costumed monster, and after battling it, they realize they’re on a movie set… No, they’re on a green screen… No, it was all a dream! This was all meant to sell the volume 1 Limited Edition series box, by the way. I have it, and it was totally worth buying.

One of my favorite moments in this series is when they visit the Bang Zoom recording studio to walk in on Crispin Freeman recording for Kyon, and they have some fun in the booth, and you know what? If Crispin Freeman wasn’t improvising his lines, then he was taking the lines they gave him and actually making them sound natural. It HAS to be one of the two, because everything he said sounded genuine, but Sherman still sounded like he was reading off of cue cards. I don’t think they put the line Patty read into the show, but she did get a line in one of the later episodes, and it sounds like a precursor to her performance as Patricia Martin. Yeah, it’s that bad. The visit with Crispin turns into an interview, which was their attempt at evolving the show into english cast interviews, which I’m not going to talk about too much, but Crispin’s interview is hilarious, and seeing two former power rangers unite in Johnny Yong Bosch’s interview is also kinda cool.

Finally, after a bunch of interviews with the shows original Japanese seiyuu, Haruhi takes Mikuru to a Japanese maid cafe to learn more about her own job, as well as to interview the maid there, and along with the Crispin Freeman one, I actually recommend you check this one out. It’s really informative about how maid cafes work, they show you the fact that each maid working there gets represented by a cute chibi plaque that was drawn by a famous manga artist, and it’s a pretty pleasant little visit. This is capped off with one final video where the girls dance the Hare Hare Yukai, and just like every single attempt at it that I’ve ever seen, it looks way too restrained and poorly rehearsed. Paricia looks like she’s doing her own thing for most of it, but at least her footwork is fun to watch.

Oh, wait, did I say final? Because there’s a second season of this. There’s not much to it, as only four episodes were placed on the Season 2 DVDs, and even then, one of the episodes was just repeated with slight alterations(Yeah, yeah, funny. Remind us of Endless 8). The characters have been recast, with Christina Vee taking the role of Haruhi. Not only is she a much more prolific voice actor than her predecessor, but she’s a much better actor on camera as well. It’s a shame to not see Haruka Inoue, as Mikuru and Yuki are played by English speaking actors, which is a pretty jarring change, if I’m being honest.

Outside of the first episode, where we get to see the three of them being scouted by the Haruhi producer for their respective roles(He has the stage presence of a fucking log, by the way), we get to see them visit the Bang Zoom studio again, where they had a pretty clever idea of using Christina Vee’s desire to audition for a part as a lead-in to the announcement of the original cast returning, and then she interviews Eric Sherman, and… That’s about it. We’re told about Asosbrigade.com as the place to go for more of their antics, but that turns out to be a dead website, and a search on the Wayback Machine doesn’t really bring up anything noteworthy or impressive. You can scour it yourself if you like, let me know if anything worth mentioning pops up. I was able to find a youtube video of the new cast dancing the Hare Yukai, and it’s slightly better than the original, but not by much. It’s a hard dance to get right, I know.

And that, as far as I’m aware, is it. Despite the step up from Patricia Ja Lee to Christina Vee, I actually like the first season better, just for purely so-bad-it‘s-good novelty. There was also clearly a lot more effort and imagination behind it, while the second season just felt kind of like an obligation.

Onto the final item!

An Entire Behind the Scenes Story Arc, from Super Milk Chan!

Throughout our exploration of live action anime sketches, we’ve seen something bad, we’ve seen something good-bad, so now, how about we take a look at something genuinely good?

I guess I can’t blame you if Super Milk Chan’s not your cup of tea. It was a really weird, unique anime that didn’t really fit into any established mold, it was abrasive and was populated by unlikeable characters, and that’s BEFORE it got dubbed by Steven Foster, a historically bad writer and ADR director. But to a voice chaser, the live action segments that were woven inbetween the animations are worth their weight in gold.

Yes, for this anime, the ADV studios team filmed a series of vignettes and short interconnected stories set in their offices, and featuring several big names from their voice acting talent pool. This includes the actual actors from the show, like Hilary Haag, Shelley Calene-Black, newcomer Taylor Hannah, the legendary Marcy Bannor, and the company’s three comedian talents, Rob Mungle, Tommy Drake and Mike MacCrae. It also featured appearances from other fan favorites like Monica Rial, Luci Christian and Christine Auten, who, like Hilary Haag, were all playing parts that fell in line with their real-life duties behind the scenes.

The first disk plays out like a normal day at the office, obviously exaggerated, with many interactions between characters that were meant to flesh out both their actual and fictionalized personalities, as well as offering an introduction to who they are for people who normally never look such things up. The second disk has an actual plot, with a power outage randomly happening while the new security system is testing it’s emergency feature, sending the offices into lock-down, and the actors being stuck in confined spaces together. The third disk features one single set that the actors have to keep walking in front of, having their interactions in front of it, with the gimmick being that one of the engineers lost the sound effect footage, and they all have to personally recreate the sound effects for the series with their own voices.

Some of these sound effects include Hilary Haag voicing eggs being whisked and fried, Rob Mungle doing a door being opened and closed, Taylor Hannah doing a gas stove, and pretty much the entire cast doing cat impressions. The best part about it is that when the sound effects happen in the animation portion, their faces actually appear in the corner of the screen as they perform the effect. They aren’t all great… Ben Pronsky’s helicopter blades effect noticeably didn’t hold out all the way through the helicopter’s appearance… But for the most part, I was surprised at just how much these talented people could do with their voices. Monkey and bird calls, sure, but a car crash? I know this all happened in 2003, when the minimum wage was a lot lower than it is now(Believe me, I would know), but still, these people were not getting paid enough. Luci Christian has to put on an act of freaking out from claustrophobia at one point, and it’s pretty sick how convincing she is.

Some of my favorite interactions from these sketches include David Matranga being stalked by three fans on a studio tour(played by Greg Ayres, Chris Patton and Mandy Clark), Hilary Haag’s grandmother being offended at the language she’s using in the booth, Christine Auten just generally being a troublemaker(at one point she randomly opens a door where you can hear Princess Tutu being recorded, which I thought was awesome), Tommy Drake wearing a dress and blonde wig for nearly the entire shoot(At his suggestion, according to the commentary), Hilary Haag hating on Taylor Hannah to the point that she had to hire a bodyguard, Taylor exploiting this for monetary gain to get back at her, Mike MacCrae accidentily flirting with a fifteen year old model, Marcy coming in hungover, Christine Auten hooking up with the security engineer, and so on, and so forth.

Also, don’t ask what’s hidden in Christine Auten’s desk.

Sentai Filmworks, or ADV Films as it was known back then, has always had a penchant for hiring actors who have experience in live theater, coming from stage backgrounds, and it really shows here. The camerawork isn’t always great, it can get pretty shaky at times, but all of the actors do fine jobs, looking perfectly comfortable and natural on film. These vignettes are a great way to familiarize yourself with a bunch of amazing actors, even though quite a few of them aren’t active in the industry anymore. Seriously, Taylor Hannah’s been gone for so long that she doesn’t even have a wikipedia page. In spite of this, I really hope you find a way to check this series and it’s live action content out, even if you have to go a little out of your way to find it.

Oh, and speaking of which, I’ll bet you’d like to know what happens in the fourth disk, don’t you? Well, join the club, I couldn’t find a copy that didn’t require me to buy the entire set for more than 100 dollars. It’s hinted at the end of the third disk that they’re going to be visiting a convention overseas, and that does sound interesting, so hopefully I’ll find a way to watch it someday. For now, I’m glad you stuck around with me for this unorthodox post, I had a lot of fun writing it, and I’ve already started prepping for the next one.

I’m not going to tell you what the next Anime Analogue is, but I will give you a clue.

BB. QQ. BB.

See you guys next time!

The evils in this world are inescapable. No matter where you look, no matter where you go, there are people out there who seem to do nothing but hurt others. They take advantage of them, preying on anyone they can get even the smallest leverage over, letting their own ingenuity do the rest. Rapists, murderers, thieves, all of them are nothing but soulless vampires hurting the people around them with no thoughts towards anyone’s feelings but their own. There’s no escaping it. God made a mistake when he granted man free will. This world… It’s rotting. These are the thoughts plaguing a brilliant young Japanese man named Light Yagami, a bored genius with a chip on his shoulder the size of the entire world’s criminal population. We’ve all wondered what we’d do if we could kill whoever we want with little more than a thought… We could take care of that bully who’s been harassing us, that singer we can’t stand, or that politician who doesn’t agree with us… But one day, as Light is moving between classes, he actually gets the opportunity to do just that.

Out in the courtyard, he finds a Death Note, a notebook that was dropped into the human world by a Shinigami, or God of Death, who’s just as bored as he is. It doesn’t take long for the industrious millennial to realize the kind of power he’s been given, and he very quickly decides to create a new world free of crime and evil, with himself lording over it as the new God. His ruthless genocide on the wicked doesn’t go unnoticed, as he attracts the attention of copycats, worshipers, and a mysterious detective named L who wants nothing more than to end his reign of justice. They say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, but as the body count racks up, and the deadly game of cat and mouse between Light and his nemesis L wages on, with Light’s true intentions becoming more and more questionable with every single twist and turn of the plot, it’s worth asking: What is true justice? Where is the line between good and evil, and at what point does a vengeful God cross it? If power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, then then the lines may not be as clear as Light, or anyone else, realizes.

I’ve always been annoyed by people who state that there’s an ‘anime style,’ because when you actually back up and take a look at the medium as a whole, there just might be more individual art and animation styles in the anime medium than there even is in America. It’s easy to say that all of the Hannah Barbara cartoons of the seventies were designed to look like Scooby Doo, or that there are too many modern cartoons that look like Adventure time, or that CG Disney ladies just look like identical dolls with different hair and faces added on, but you can’t really say the same for the anime medium. Even anime released by the same studio around the same time will rarely ever look that close to each other, aside from a few recognizable studio quirks. I’ll admit that Studio Madhouse has released a handful of titles that look like Death note, but with Death Parade allegedly taking place in the same universe, it’s a smaller number than you’d think. Other titles like Monster, Black Lagoon and the Marvel Anime come close, but ultimately stray in one form or another.

But Death Note is one of the Studio Madhouse anime that lean more towards actual human realism rather than the big-eye, small nose giant head designs that people often attribute the anime “style” too. Characters are designed to be almost lifelike, with everyone sporting appropriately sized eyes, save for a few token weirdos who’s eyes are slightly larger than they should be, like Misa and Near. There’s really nothing about their anatomy that’s exaggerated, and none of them are drawn to be inhumanly attractive like bishounen or moe girls would be, everyone just looks human, which not only sets the tone of the series, but it also provides the perfect opportunity for Shinigami, the other-worldly observers who started this whole mess, to stand out as the grotesque humanoid monsters they should be. The level of imagination that went into them is astounding, as even the ones who only show up in one or two scenes look like nothing you’ve seen before. The human characters are also designed in such a way to inform their personalities in some clever ways.

As for the animation, this is a dialogue heavy show, so there really isn’t much to speak of. A lot of the series is just talking heads, but they took just enough of a cue from Akiyuki Shinbou to use interesting framing and shading to keep things visually interesting without ever going overboard and looking pretentious. They save their money for big movements, and I don’t just mean action scenes like fights and chases, although those do exist, and they look gorgeous. This is an extremely over-the-top show, to the point that even the act of eating a potato chip can be made to look every bit as epic as Moses parting the red sea. They go the cheaper route when events like these aren’t happening, and while I wish to say they managed their budget well, I can’t. This show isn’t just a dramatic rollercoaster, oh no, the animation is just as inconsistent, because for every breathtaking high, there’s an egregiously painful low when they try to portray fluid movement on a low budget, and it looks embarrassingly bad, and it’s just as noticeable as the good stuff, if not moreso.

The animation is a mixed bag, but in terms of the music, Death Note might just have one of the best soundtracks in anime history. The first thing you probably think of in terms of Death Note’s ost is the loud, epic greek choir that fires up for all of the show’s biggest moments, Low of Solipsism, the most memorable song in the series and easily one of the most iconic themes of all time. It’s right up there with the Azumanga Daioh eyecatch music, being instantly recognizable, maybe even to people who haven’t even seen the series. As much as I’d like to praise it for it’s overall use throughout the series, it’s the individual character themes that really take the cake here. Light and L are generally represented by the guitar and the piano, respectively, with the former representing youthful revolt and(probably unintentionally) deliberate insincerity, with the former representing order and the return to the classic world, IE the one Light’s trying to change. Appropriately, each theme has the instrument representing the opposing character creeping into it at some point.

This is taken even further by a later character named Near having a similar theme to L, albeit with a less conventional instrument for a less conventional detective. Their themes go a lot deeper than this, with the progression of each track representing the course of the plot, and trust me, every character gets a similarly descriptive theme, but you don’t want to hear about that. You want to hear about the openings, and how awesome they both are. They’re both artistic, high energy and visually stunning, and they’re every bit as representative of the plot and characters as the musical themes are. Musically, the first opening, The World, is a lot more conventional, which by no means is a bad thing. It’s the catchy hard rock song a show like this should have, with a ton of religious imagery and every major character getting their time in the spotlight. The second opening, What’s Up People, has become notorious in the medium for being entirely balls-out insane. Switching from hard rock to Death metal, it symbolizes the chaos of the world and Light at that point in the story.

The English dub was an Ocean effort, and while they’ve produced some less appealing dubs in the past, this one is surprisingly solid. There aren’t a lot of Canadian anime dubs out there, so the ones we do see don’t really feature the actors or directors we’ve gotten used to through the American ADR scene, and the different sound plays up how different this entire show is really well. The only problem you might have with it is the uncanny valley effect of hearing so many past and present My Little Pony actors lending their voices to such a serious show. The two main actors in particular are outstanding, with Brad Swaile matching every beat of his Japanese counterpart, and Battlestar Galactica veteran Alessandro Juiliani actually surpassing his. Swaile is able to play every side of Light Yagami, from the good-natured innocent he pretends to be to the heartless killer he hides under the surface, and he even manages to sound just as crazy and psychopathic as Mamoru Miyano, effortlessly passing the bar at every opportunity. Juiliani went above and beyond with giving nuance to L that frankly wasn’t there in the original sub.

I don’t know how Brian Drummond was able to do Ryuk’s voice, but I feel like I’d offer him a lozenge if I ever met him in person. He plays the character like a combination of Wolverine and Harvey Fierstein, which makes sense, as he’s played Wolverine in more than a few adaptations. He’s had a long and prolific career in both anime and western animation, doing everything from My Little Pony and Bratz to Cardcaptor Sakura and Gundam, but he’ll always be Ryuk to me. Shannon Chan-Kent hasn’t done as much anime as Drummond, having less than ten credits to her name, but she does her best to keep up with the sheer insanity of her own Japanese counterpart, and while she doesn’t quite match up, the simple truth is that I’ve yet to see anyone match the inflections of Aya Hirano. If Wendee Lee couldn’t do it, then the singing voice for Pinkie Pie could only be expected to do so much. She does a fine job, but still kinda misses the mark, taking an annoying character that Aya saved and just playing her as annoying anyway.

The rest of the cast is also at least fine, with the only other obvious stand-outs being the characters of Mello and Near, whom I can’t really talk about for spoiler reasons. Kirby Morrow, the original Goku himself, goes absolutely crazy as the justice obsessed character Teru Mikami, and his performance goes about as off the rails as anyone else I’ve mentioned thus far. I don’t think character actor Chris Britton has done any anime aside from this one, but he plays Light’s father Soichiro as grounded and authoritative, showing the age of the character very clearly through the fatigue of his voice. Vincent tong,Trevor Duvall, John Murphy and a disappointingly small role by Brian Dobson(But not as disappointing as the screen time that Tabitha St. Germaine got) make up the other officers of the NPA, none of whom battle the main cast for your attention, but all of whom do a solid job in more grounded and realistic parts. The writing is on point and as accurate as possible, and I honestly recommend watching both versions at least once, as it sounds amazing in both languages.

Death Note is one of those few anime that really don’t need an introduction. If you know what anime is, you’ve heard of it. It’s not quite as recognizable as Dragonball Z or Pokemon, but if those shows are Hulk hogan and the Macho Man, then Death Note is at the very least John Cena… There’s no guarantee that you’ve heard of it, but it’s still pretty damn likely. To this day, it’s the most recently released anime to receive an American remake, and I’m not just talking about that Netflix movie that I’ve been putting off watching… I am thoroughly convinced that Breaking Bad took more than a few notes from it. Oddly enough, for an anime this popular, the backlash hasn’t been as severe as it has been for a lot of other titles that blew up as big as it did… Most critics and audiences have at least a generally positive opinion of it, it’s broken a lot of cultural barriers, and it’s even managed to inspire a number of real life murders. Is it worth all the hype? Does it really deserve it’s spot in the public consciousness?

Well, we’ll start with the negatives. I didn’t really notice it until I was rewatching the series for this review, although it is pretty obvious now that I think of it… This story was, more likely than not, written as it went along. It has to have been. There’s very little material on display that feels like it was planned out in advance, or at least it wasn’t planned very far in advance. I’ve read comments from the manga’s mysterious author that at least two of the side characters’ deaths were decided spur of the moment, in one case because the character was learning too much too quickly, and the second because he happened to be the most expendable option out of those available at the time. Now writing a story this way isn’t always a bad thing… Stephen King is exceptional at it. The problem is that you have to know how to make it work, and Death Note kind of doesn’t. Outside of the music and openings, there was NO foreshadowing in this series, which makes a lot of plot twists feel jarringly out of nowhere, but there are much more obvious examples.

Take, for example, the booby trap Light builds to conceal his death note early on in the series. Light goes into great detail about how he built a secret compartment to house his notebook, telling us not only how it works, but how it was set up to destroy the book if anyone were to get too close to discovering it. this is all well and good, but for the amount of screen time it takes up, it never actually comes up in the story again. It never plays a part in the narrative, except for covering a potential plothole down the line, but that alone isn’t good enough to justify the attention that went into it. There’s a rule called Chekov’s gun, stating that if something gets mentioned in the story, it has to play a part later in the story. You don’t mention a gun if nobody’s gonna get shot by it, and you don’t go to extreme lengths to avoid something if that thing’s never going to either happen or almost happen. We don’t need to know how he hid the notebook, we know he’s smart enough to do it. We don’t need to know how paranoid and careful he is, the door trick tells us that just fine on it’s own.

Sure, maybe it was PLANNED to come up again, but I’m pretty sure the only reason they did that was so nobody would question why the people putting up surveillance cameras in his room never found it. Even for that purpose, simply having him say “Nobody will ever find it” would suffice, because we would have taken him at his word. It’s especially strange because as meticulously as this was described, the author was still perfectly happy with never explaining how Light was able to sneak a tiny television inside of a SEALED bag of chips, which he was somehow able to clearly watch while writing down the names being broadcast on it, all while never actually looking into the bag itself. Kind of a weird for us to just take on faith when you’re explicitly describing a fail-safe that never actually gets used. But this is also emblematic of another huge problem that writing like this can cause, and that’s the fact that the author often wound up writing the story into a corner and having to pull out complete bullshit in order to get out of it.

My friend Karandi over at the 100 Word Anime blog pointed out in her review of this series that it relies heavily on coincidence, and yeah, this is a really good point. Death Note is damn near Shakespearian in the amount of deus ex machina asspulls it uses. Coincidences aren’t just conveniently used, they’re deeply ingrained in the plot, and I’m not exaggerating that. This entire situation began on a coincidence, with Light just happening to find the notebook, and it ends on a coincidence, because spoilers. I know coincidence on it’s own isn’t the end of the world, I mean there are a ton of heroes who constantly have to save people that coincidentally happen to be their loved ones, but the sheer amount of it in Death Note is astounding, and it works really hard against the reputation the show has built for itself around being smart. On top of that I can’t count the number of times that characters made stupid or ill advised decisions for the sake of the plot, and I’m not just talking about canonically stupid characters like Misa.

But since Misa’s been brought up, that’s another criticism the series keeps having lodged against it, and it’s pretty damn valid… Death Note is skin-crawlingly sexist. With very few exceptions, and I can not stress the word very hard enough, male characters make up the entirety of the police force, politicians, business heads and major players in Light’s death game, with those few exceptions I mentioned either being pawns with limited agency or having extremely limited screen time. Women are portrayed through their relationships to male characters, playing the roles of mother, sister, grieving lover or obsessed stalker, and the only two exceptions to this that I can think of are Wedy and Halle Lidner, who certainly had agency and lives of their own, but were used far too scarcely to make an impact. I had high hopes for Naomi Misora, who was really likeable and interesting, even though she was giving up her career to become a housewife and was out to avenge her dead fiancee. She was a smart and proactive character, which is why it’s profoundly insulting how her sudden brain fart led to her downfall. Trust me, there’s a good reason she’s one of only two characters to get their own light novel spin-off.

Misa Amane gets close to top billing, which is progressive by his series’ standards, but it comes with a pretty harsh trade-off… She is canonically the dumbest character in the show, motivated entirely by infatuation(also canonical), and while she does get a few moments to shine here and there(like her manipulation of one certain business head), her screw-ups and terrible decisions way overpower anything good she brings to the series. Yeah, she’s devoted to Kira for avenging the death of her parents, but she would die for Light and happily be used by him just because he’s good looking and smart. I’ve already covered their terrible relationship in my ‘top ten worst romances’ list, so I won’t dwell on her here, but there’s still the matter of Light being a certified chick magnet, with countless female characters getting charmed by him, including a girl who wants to continue their date after watching a man die, and a certain otherwise promising character playing right into his hand despite knowing better from the details of her husband’s death. The only difference between him and Kirito is that he’s acknowledged as being a dick about it. The ladies still be cray thirsty, though.

But even with these issues being very pronounced, my biggest problem with the series is something I don’t think I’ve heard anyone else complain about… I hated the voice overs. It was just too much. I know what you’re saying, that’s just a part of the experience! It’s how they portray the mind games between the hero and the villain! Yeah, well, you could say the same thing about Yugioh, and that show gets ruthlessly parodied for it, while Death note somehow gets a pass despite being even worse about it. I kept waiting for Light to reference the heart of the cards, or something. It’s true that these sequences could sometimes be useful, like when Light was freaking out about Naomi Misora and his thought process helped to amp up the suspense, but I would honestly say that just over half of it is unnecessary. I don’t need to hear Light say “40 seconds…” to get that he’s waiting forty seconds, and I don’t need to have every one of his schemes explained to me, before OR after they happen. This is how stories are written when the writer thinks that you’re too stupid to figure things out for yourself.

That’s admittedly a lot of negatives, so what’s positive about this show? how has it survived so prominently in the public consciousness, music and character designs aside? well, there are two elements that I think give it staying power, and the first is the dynamic between Light and L. And no, I’m not just talking about the whole ‘genius vs. genius’ appeal, it goes deeper than that. While they’re polar opposites all the way down to the computers they use, they also share some stark similarities. They’re both obvious sociopaths, L by accident and Light by design, and they’re both drawn to each other more for the challenge of it than through any sort of moral sincerity. They both justify their actions through moral superiority and altruism, but at the end of the day, it’s more a matter of ambition… Light wants to be god, L wants to tackle an unsolvable case. They both put on acts to inspire people to side with them, albeit with different intents, and they both seem to exhibit fear rather than remorse when they do something wrong… L for fear of punishment, Light for fear of being caught.

I don’t think I have to explain how juicy a premise that is… Two characters that just happened to land on opposite sides of the law due to their circumstances, both valuing personal success over actual justice, and they’re going at each other’s throats while pretending to be friends. This interplay alone kind of makes up for the fact that there are less than five characters in a giant cast that get any development. Everyone is a player in the game of Light and L, two bored geniuses who will stop at nothing to obliterate each other… They couldn’t be more similar, but they also couldn’t be more different, and they both have pretty much every anime fan in existence gravitating to one side or another. Life even kind of imitates art, because while Light was designed to have the social skills to manipulate people in ways that L could never dream of, that also wound up being the majority consensus of the fanhood, who tend to side overwhelmingly with Light, despite the fact that he was explicitly designed to be evil and unsympathetic, but they’re drawn more to the passion of his cause and his slick, slimy charisma than to his actual actions.

Even when this dynamic disappears thanks to a certain plot twist that happens about two thirds of the way into the story… A twist that most viewers loathe, but that I personally never minded… The show is still able to at least be interesting and engaging, and that’s due to it’s other major saving grace; Death note has an absolutely brilliant sense of pacing. There is not a second wasted in this series, nor does any part of it ever drag. Death note does not fuck around. Every moment of screen time is spent furthering the plot or the story in some way, and the high, energetic tone only ever slows down when it damn well wants to. It’s all plot, plot, development, spectacle, plot, reveal… I mean, yeah, there are moments that probably could have been cut without affecting anything, but more often than not, those are the really fun and memorable scenes like the tennis match, and you don’t want to skip scenes as entertaining and full of levity as that. Even at it’s worst moments, and let’s not kid ourselves, there are some serious qualifiers for that title, Death note is a roller coaster you just can’t bring yourself to get off of.

Death Note is available from viz Media. It’s been released in numerous different formats, including individual 4-episode disks and the more recent thinpack bluray release, none of which are that hard to find. There have been several movies based on it, including two animated films that retell the story through Ryuk’s eyes, three Japanese live action movies(only one of which I’ve seen, and it was barely watchable) and an American movie on Netflix that I’ve been avoiding like the plague. The original manga is also available stateside from Viz Media, as are both Light novels, which I highly recommend checking out just for the awkward translation issues alone.

So after all that, is Death note worthy of it’s reputation? does it deserve to be so popular, and stand the test of time like it has? I can’t believe I’m saying this, but yes, it absolutely does. I’m not saying that it’s myriad of problems don’t matter, or that they should be ignored, but the final product is way more entertaining than the sum of it’s parts. For example, I may have complained about the author just making things up as he went along, and it probably would have been better if he’d had some grand scheme in mind so that he could fill it with depth and meaning, and symbolism that wasn’t just pretentiously chosen for aesthetic purposes, but it wouldn’t be so heart-poundingly unpredictable, so this really is a matter of execution ultimately trumping substance and content. Death note is a high energy detective thriller that, despite it’s many asspulls, never loses sense of the basic rule of cause and effect, and is able to be as campy and over-the-top as you can imagine while still taking itself completely seriously. It’s got a lot of problems, sure, but I can’t think of anyone who I wouldn’t recommend it to, and I think everyone should see it at least once. I give Death note a 7/10.

YAHARI BENTO!!

In Depth Anime/Manga/LN analysis & some reviews in one blog/box. Which one would you like to eat in Yahari Bento?

I drink and watch anime

Anime drinking games pretending to be reviews

Manga Toritsukareru Koto

"We are not obsessed. We just need anime and manga in our life."

Anime Girls NYC

Anime all day everyday!

100WordAnime

Reviewing anime in 100 words (approximately)

The Fullmetal Narcissist

Your home for in-depth anime reviews!

Otaku Nate's lost worlds of Anime

Taking you to Realms unknown in the anime spectrum!

Jennifer Paetsch

I write and draw and sometimes people like it! Wow!

Fujinsei

Embrace Your Inner Otaku

The Houston Aspie Blogging Collective

We're aspies and we know it.

LMG comic updates

Find the webcomic at lmgcomic.com

nolazyway

Anime, Manga and Reviews

watchmemakestuffs

My site about cosplay

Lily Art

Where Imagination Runs Free

Classic Anime Blog

This WordPress.com site is the cat’s pajamas

The Daily Post

The Art and Craft of Blogging

The WordPress.com Blog

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.