Update: Hey, guys, not sure how my email to Barnes and noble got stuck in here at first, but it’s gone now. Also, links have been added for each entry. Enjoy!
Hey guys, Naru here, and I kinda hit a roadblock in the latter weeks of 2015. I normally churn out work for my stockpile on a regular basis, completing the posts you see on this blog weeks or even months before you see them, but through the month of December, I instead wound up helping take care of my elderly grandparents. My Grandfather(or “Poppy, as we called him when we were kids) broke his ankle getting out of the car, and had to go to the hospital. My grandmother wasn’t doing very well living by herself, so my brother and I took turns looking after her for about two weeks… Me from 9AM to 3PM, my brother from 5PM to 7AM. This took up the majority of our time, at least until they were finally able to move into their room at a very nice retirement home.
I love my Grandparents, and I’ve been continuing to happily escort Grandma to places like the bank, post office and doctor visits whenever she asks, as it’s the least I can do for them… But unfortunately, that didn’t leave me much time to write, so for the month of January, I’m going to be posting a few things that I wrote on VERY short notice, at least until I can get caught up. You know, like last week. One of the ideas I had that stood out to me the most was a top ten list of my personal favorites out of all the posts I published this year. I’ve done a lot of them, and with your help, I’ve had a lot more encouragement and support than the previous two years, so I’m going to be picking out the top ten that I look back on with the most fondness.
I guess for an honorable mention, I should point out the WakuWafu award, and the only reason it’s not making the list is because I wasn’t directly responsible for it. It came to me as a complete surprise from our new friend Krystallina, and it(along with an endorsement deal from a fledgling otaku site) caused my viewer count to skyrocket into numbers I’d never seen before. Thank you Krystallina, and thank you Wakuwafu.
Onto the list!
It’s been several years since I bought Seventh Moon from an independent publisher at an anime convention, but I’ll admit, I didn’t immediately read it. It took me a few years for my curiosity to over-power my apprehension, but when I finally did read it, it turned out to be one of the most enjoyably awful things I’d ever read. I’m serious, it was written so poorly, but I couldn’t put it down. I ordered his other big release, a paranormal romance called Red Ellen, and I’ve gotta tell you, it’s the first book I’ve ever read that made me laugh after reading just the first two words. This is the kind of material that I could imagine Tommy Wiseau writing.
I happened to bump into his account on Gaiaonline.com, at which point I realized that I just had to pick this guy’s brain. I had to know what kind of person would put this much passion and energy into a story that reads like the kind of bad fanfic that bad fanfics make fun of. Also, how many authors am I ever going to meet who live in my home town like he does? The interview turned out to be surprisingly interesting, and it’s one that I still like looking back on once in a while, which made it a shoe-in for this list.
When it comes to the reviews that made this list, you may notice a certain pattern in what I have to say about them… They were all, in some way, significant challenged for me, and I felt that overcoming these challenges would help me to grow as a critic. Kiss X Sis, as it so happens, is a show that wasn’t just a challenge to review, but a challenge to sit through, as well as something a friend of mine challenged me to watch. So I tried for the second time to sit through it, watching all twelve TV episodes with what I’m sure was a look of horror and disgust on me face, until it was finally time to put my thoughts down on paper.
It may have been one of the most painful anime I’ve ever had to watch, but I can’t remember the last time I had that much fun insulting something. I let loose on that review, criticizing every little thing about it, and even accusing it of being porn… something I hadn’t done since my review of Blood C. The satisfaction that I felt after giving this series a -4/10 was almost post-coital. All in all, I look back on it pretty fondly.
Have you ever been so frustrated in something that you couldn’t take it anymore, and you just had to speak up? I have, and look no further than Watchmojo.com if you’re looking for the culprit. Watchmojo has spent a lot of effort on being the anime list people, despite the fact that they’re all clearly casual fans at best. What’s even more frustrating iis that they seem very intelligent and well read, but they still only have one list pertaining to novels. So why wouldn’t they stop pretending to be otaku,. and write about what they know? Books? Literature?
Well, if they weren’t going to refocus their attention, then the only thing anybody could really do is try to make their voices heard, but how to do that? The comments section, where everything you say will inevitably be ignored? With the uploading of their top ten underrated anime video, I’d had enough, and decided to take matters into my own hands. I wrote that long open letter to Watchmojo’s new anime guy, the one that would eventually become one of my most popular of the year, and I have to say, I still like reading it over from time to time. I’d like to think Watchmojo read it, but even though they stopped relying so heavily on votes shortly after I posted it, I don’t find it likely.
A passion project doesn’t have to be successful to please it’s creator, regardless of the amount of work that went into it. While it does kinda bother me that I went out of my way to watch every piece of visual Negima media that was available at the time, and yet nobody seemed to care about the finished product, I also recognize that I knew about Negima’s lack of modern popularity when I decided to dedicate 3/5 of August’s post on it. I love all three relevant posts that were made, and with the Retrospective in particular, I still enjoyed having a reason to go back and refresh my memory on the history of my favorite manga series while finally soldiering through alll of the stuff I hadn’t seen yet.
If nothing else, I can’t possibly not include this post after all the time and effort that I put into watching every single episode of the live action series… I’m not sure if I went into it in that post, but for the record, watching it involved some intense searching, terrible English subtitles, and having to sit through episode 23 with another computer on google translate so I could understand the french subtitles. Much like the Kiss X Sis review, I had to suffer for this one, leaving me feeling like I had a bright, red, profusely bleeding badge of courage on my chest.
I put this one in as a tie, because to me, they both feel special for the same reason. See, you have to have been writing reviews for a long time before you can start to understand, decipher or otherwise interpret the depth and meaning of an anime, and especially if you want to dig into complex metaphors and symbolism. This time last year, I wouldn’t have had the ability to review either of these shows, and I honestly wasn’t planning to review either one until like a week at the most before I started. I originally watched both shows for different reasons: I watched Utena to break in my brand new copies of the special edition box sets, and I started watching Kill La Kill because I had been lucky enough to find the whole series online for an affordable price.
Now, depth is kind of a buzz word… When a show seems smart, or like it’s trying to say something, people who hate it will call it pretentious, and people who like it will call it deep, but neither one will normally be able to back up their claim. I wanted to know what the hell I was talking about before taking my own approach, and while Kill La Kill clicked for me more or less right away, I had to do a lot of research to figure out the general idea of Utena just to get a general idea of what I could say. I don’t think I’ve become a master at deciphering tough anime, and I’m sure I’m still a long way off from being what people call an intelligent reviewer, but these two posts are still proof that I’ve been showing improvement.
I’ll be honest, this post would probably just be a runner-up if it weren’t for how damn popular it turned out to be. When I watched EF: A Tale of Memories back in 2014, one of the three main romances in the story struck me as odd, and my problems with it stayed with me for months before I realized there was anything I could do about it. If I reviewed it, then my biggest problem with it would have to be hidden under a spoiler tag. Eventually, I decided to throw spoiler caution to the wind, and do a top ten of some of the most terrible anime couples ever.
I mulled my options for that list over and over again in my head before my hands actually touched the keyboard, even though I knew from early on who EXACTLY would be number one. Ironically, my number one and ten picks wound up on Watchmojo’s best list on the exact same topic, but whatever. I still find it funny that people will message me asking how the hell I thought Edward and Winry from Brotherhood belonged on the list, when I’m pretty sure I left my very specific reasons in the post. I stand by every item on that list, and I still like to show it off to this day. also, I got to make an awesome plug for Bennet the Sage.
So, if you’re new to this blog, I don’t just do reviews and lists. I’ve also done quite a few fanfics. Some of these fanfics are never going to see the light of this blog… Such as a couple of lemons, as well as a very recent Watamote fanfic that I wound up hating and deeply regretting afterwards. Hell, the only reason I haven’t taken it down is because of how popular it’s been since release… I’ve had about ten positive reviews for it, and several requests for a sequel, despite the fact that it’s ugly, badly written, makes no sense, and featured a ridiculous amount of errors. I’m never posting it here, so don’t bother asking.
And what makes matters worse is that a few months prior, I wrote a fanfic that I actually DO still love, and it’s received barely any attention at all! The fanfic was called The Tender Trap, and it was set in the Batman universe, and featured a villain that I’d come up with and had a lot of fun developing in my head. It was my first time experimenting with things like foreshadowing, symbolism, and themes, with the theme of choice being hubris… My new villain was one hell of an overconfident woman, and to create a sort of gritty film noir tone, I listened to Sinatra and Lana Del Rey the whole time I was writing it. I love how it turned out, but it only received one review on Fanfiction.net, and to this day, only one view period on my blog. It doesn’t matter, though… I still love it.
I said earlier that writing about depth is a difficult thing to do. Well, it’s not the only thing that’s hard to write a review about. Namely, it’s incredibly tough to write a review about a series you love without sounding like a biased fanboy. And to be fair, I am a Toradora fanboy… It’s my second favorite anime of all time, and appropriately, it was the only anime I gave a 10/10 to in 2015. It’s also incidentally the most fun I’ve had out of any anime I’ve ever rewatched for a review. So with that much love in my heart for it, how did I manage to go through an entire review without sounding like a groupie?
Well, for one thing, I wasn’t universally positive about it. I criticized it’s occasionally ugly looking animation, even though it only really happens in scenes where the emotion is powerful enough to distract people from it. Instead of gushing about how much I love it, and how happy it makes me whenever I watch it, I spent a disproportionate amount of time discussing the characters, their histories, their motivations, and why the obvious tropes they feed into make perfect sense when compared to who they are and what they’ve been through. I was able to praise it from almost every angle while keeping a consistent balance of fanboy and critic, and to this day, it’s almost as rewarding to read as it was to write.
To quote the intellectual wordsmith Drake, this blog started out most definitively on the bottom. When I began, I didn’t have a fanbase, I didn’t know anyone on WordPress, I didn’t have any experience with anything, and yeah, it was rough going. Around spring of 2014, it started to really get to me, until my review of Avril Lavigne’s Hello Kitty gave me a small boost in views. Towards November of that year, I started to see regular ‘like’ notifications for the first time ever… And to make matters better, it was the same person liking almost every post I was putting out. Her name was “Little Monster Girl,.” and while I never returned her kindness back then… I’m not a very active member of the community, remember… I did check out her blog, which was pretty cool. Overall, just having somebody following my work in any way was a huge boost in morale for me.
Fast Forward to last summer, when out of nowhere, I got nominated for a Blogging Award called WakuWafu. It told me to pick three people to nominate in turn, so I picked a few people that were kind to me, one of whom was Little monster Girl herself, and with her response, an appreciated reader turned into an actual sort of friendship. Since I found her body of work interesting, I retooled my interview format from the Michael Joy post, and asked her on twitter if I could do an interview with her. The post went up in November, and with help from her reblogging it, it became the most ‘liked’ post I’ve ever done, with 29 bloggers having liked it to this day. I was also able to expand my audience, all thanks to the very person who kept me going almost a year before. That post doesn’t just hold a special place in my heart, but it’s also probably one of the most essential posts in my blog’s history, setting it perfectly at #2.
For those of you who were expecting that interview to be my number one favorite post of 2015, I’m sorry, but I have to be honest with myself. Out of all the posts I did that were smart, challenging, or had some kind of special significance to the growth of my blog, the number on spot is going to have to go to a pair of dumb, easy posts that I wrote on the same day, but still released months apart. Those two posts are my Knights of Sidonia posts, which I still think are two of the funniest things I’ve written since a certain Lucky Star fanfic that you’ll never see.
Originally, I watched Netflix’s original anime dub for Knights of Sidonia the same week that I wrote my Kiss X Sis review, and for the same reason: I was on vacation, and a friend challenged me toi watch it. After watching one of the worst pieces of miserable shit I’d seen in my life, I got to watch a sci-fi series so incredibly stupid that I found myself constantly laughing at it, and actually enjoying it as a result. I’ve shat all over a lot of anime that I hated, and I take pride in doing so, but with Sidonia, I genuinely felt inspired to try something different. Not something original, mind you, but something different. I remembered how Jesuotaku had applied Doug Walker’s BUM Reviews format to her Gurren Lagann review, and with that spark under me, my favorite review of all time started brewing in my head.
While channeling Chester A Bum as best I could, I summarized Knights of Sidonia as though I really loved it, while pointing out every single thing about it that felt stupid or nonsensical. I made jokes, I pulled in popular memes, I changed the title to Nights of Sit On Ya, and I took the rare opportunity to write a comedic post… And it worked! I posted it on Myanimelist, back when you could actually use that site to gauge crowd reactions, and it took off in popularity almost instantly before getting deleted for being a gag review. My bad.
It hasn’t been doing quite as good in my blog, but it’s not doing too badly, either. Neither is the other post, where I replace the main character with someone much more inquisitive, as I rewrote one of the scenes that actually bothered me on some levels… The idea that aliens on the Sidonia ship aren’t assigned genders until they fall in love with somebody, thus they grow the genitalia of the opposite sex to said individual, wasn’t just stupid and ridiculous… It was kind of offensive, in a very hetero-normative way, and I knew they were just going to use it to add the genderless character to the main harem. I had to pick it apart, and I’m pretty proud of how both of these posts came out.
Will I write anything in 2016 that I wind up being as proud of? Will I be able to build up my stockpile enough that I can work at a relaxed pace? Only time will tell, so please, stick with me and The Fullmetal Narcissist blog for another year!
See you next week with the first full review of the year: My review of the comedy series Kill Me Baby!