Darling in the FranXX: an autopsy

(it was shit)

Today, I happened to look at the MAL page for the show, and the four top reviews give it 3/10, 1/10, 1/10, and 1/10. I don’t want to say “look, told you so” because there’s no point to that – everybody already knew it. The thing that confused me for the longest time, though, was how the weekly episode threads on reddit had so many supportive and optimistic comments.

I feel like the lesson to be learned here isn’t that DitF was a great show with a bad ending, but rather that the opinions on reddit threads are totally biased towards the most ardent fans. After all, what could a critic say except “wow, that was shit again.” The only “valuable” discussion around such weak, shitty writing would come from people who think it actually means something.

The popularity of DitF itself is bizarre, actually. Originally, people saw that Studio Trigger was making it and expected a Gurren Lagann or Kill la Kill. But… it was made by basically everybody who didn’t work on that stuff. The F team. Nobody really cared about that, though, because it was TRIGGER + MECHA. In a season with no big name shows besides Violet Evergarden (which was also carried solely by studio name), the masses needed something to fanboy about – and more importantly, characters to make waifus.

Darling in the FranXX reminds me of Guilty Crown, back in Fall 2011. That wasn’t mecha, but it was… mecha-lite in its sci-fi vibe. But it was mysterious waifu girl meets boy and blah blah the world, just like DitF. Back then, it was stupidly popular too, but got its fair share of hate from the start. I can’t imagine how bad the senseless fanboying could have gotten if Guilty Crown didn’t have three giant series in Fate/Zero, Hunter X Hunter, and Future Diary looming over its head.

…actually, I guess I now can.


Challenge for Antarctic 7-9

So some of the concerns I had in my last post are getting worse. The conflicts in each episode feel more and more fake and contrived, to the point where the (forced) sense of closure doesn’t really satisfy me. Instead, it feels like everything is getting trivialized. The girls’ feelings of uselessness on the ship? Bam. Resolved. Shirase’s lifelong awkward relationship with the expedition leader? Bam. Resolved. (sort of)

Related to this is how besides the main conflict of each episode, everything else is pushed aside. In episode 9, Shirase took center stage while the other three girls melded into one emotionless unit, with no personality to speak of. Instead of showing the fun and varied personalities of the girls (like in the OP and in the first 4-5 episodes), the show has basically made them act and talk the same.

For example, maybe instead of focusing on Shirase’s reaction on getting to Antarctica, there could have been some inner dialogue from each girl. Nothing much, maybe just 5 seconds/one line for each of the three. Mari could have touched on how she’s finally doing something cool. Yuzuki could say how glad she is to have made it with her new friends. And Hina could say… something? I dunno. But instead, we got:

Mari: We’re here!

Yuzuki: We made it!

Hina: Goal!

It’s the same damn thing! Even though the episode focused on Shirase, it doesn’t have to be all Shirase all the time. In such an overdone genre, it was the small refinements that made the girls so likeable and unique early on in the show, and that’s slowly getting sucked out.

Anyway, it’s still a 9/10 for me overall. These last few episodes have lost the magic that made it a 10/10, but it’s still great.


“How much did you like this show?”

A month ago, there was the “Anime of the Year 2017” vote on reddit. At the time, I (obviously) voted for Made in Abyss, but there were many people out there trying to drum up support for a handful of other shows (Houseki no KuniRakugo S2). One comment in particular really stood out:

Rakugo [for anime of the year], and it’s a testament to the quality of some of the other shows that this is even a bit close. Houseki and Shoujo Shuumatsu are my second and third favourite anime of 2017, but Rakugo was the first anime in a very long time that legitimately scared me. There were several times while watching Rakugo that I thought to myself “this might not only be the best show I’ve watched, but it might very well be the best show I will ever watch.” I think that great yet terrible realization is the dream of any dedicated anime fan – I can’t think of any higher praise for this show than that. (source)

In all the tens of thousands of blog posts, reddit comments, and MAL reviews I’ve read, I’ve seen the same few phrases fans use to describe good shows (and I’m no exception!!). Words like “masterpiece” are thrown around and beat up like a punching bag. There’s always people writing disclaimers (relevant? post) about how “harsh” their scores are, or how few 10/10s they give out.

But it’s understandable, right? While a bit of thinking and a lot of writing can answer the question “why did I like this anime?” (and thus propel you to the top of the MAL reviews), it takes different skills to answer the question “how much did I like this anime?” It’s a never-ending search of synonyms like “great”, “fantastic”, “amazing” to “masterpiece”, “magnum opus”, and the worst one of all, “classic.” But do you see what I’m doing? I’m trying to hype something up here, exactly like the people who say how “harsh” their criteria are. I’m no better!

But this guy on reddit is going a little too far, I think.

As I’ve watched more and more anime, I have come to believe that “the best thing I’ve ever seen!” is not at all good praise (though I always end up writing it, even recently). The effectiveness of this statement scales with how much anime I’ve watched, and how varied my anime history has been. Unless I’ve seen everything to date, saying “Nichijou is the best thing I’ve ever seen!” may only say that I haven’t seen much.

Going one dozen steps further is “the best thing I will ever watch.” Not only does this carry the same implications that I said about “the best thing I’ve ever seen,” but it confidently says “there’s nothing else out there that’s better than this, and there never will be.” It sounds good — like the redditor said, it’s the highest praise possible — but it also sounds naive and arrogant. I don’t think I would ever be able to write this, because I know it can’t possibly be true.

It’s not that “the best thing I will ever see” is not high praise. It’s just not good praise.

All that said, Rakugo was really, really good.


the problem with violet evergarden

…is that I don’t give a SHIT about Violet Evergarden. After writing my last post on Sora yori mo Tooi Basho (which, by the way, has a stupid-as-hell English name so I’m going back to Japanese), I went and watched episode 5 of Violet Evergarden.

I had Violet Evergarden in mind as I was ranting about how Antarctic Girls is falling into the pattern of a “conflict-of-the-week,” and it’s pretty obvious why: it’s an episodic show with a microscopic overarching plot of Violet becoming human. I’m using “microscopic” because so far I haven’t been able to detect any meaningful change in our beloved robogirl. And while the conflict-of-the-week is sometimes interesting, everything revolves around KyoAni trying to make me feel sorry as I watch socially-inept Violet drawing pity as she takes off her gloves.

I don’t give a shit about this character. There’s nothing remotely appealing about a main character who has no emotions, and it’s even worse that every interaction and dialogue has to do with how she has no emotions. I could bear with it for the first few episodes, but now it’s just KyoAni flexing their animation skills and puking out a European Endless Eight where the only thing everybody talks about is how Nagato has no emotions.

you suck

 


A Place Further Than The Universe 4-6

From this point on, I’m switching from weebanese to English. Why use “Sora yori mo Tooi Basho” with basically arbitrary capitalization when I can use the actual English title?? Related to this: I noticed the other day that “Boku no Hero Academia” sounds pretty dumb in English compared to “My Hero Academia,” but I guess I just get used to whatever I see first… usually on reddit discussion threads.

Anyway, these past few episodes have been excellent. They’ve taken this genre, whatever it is, and perfected it. There’s one point in Episode 6 where Hinata loses her passport, and then there’s a shot of the hotel wall. I was half expecting/half dreading the stereotypical shriek of panic, and then a scene of Hinata frantically looking through her stuff. But as always, this show doesn’t fall prey to the tropes. The next scene is actually all of Hinata’s stuff on a bed, with the girls looking at it. I don’t think it’s very realistic that they’re not panicking, but it’s better than the over-the-top scene I was picturing.

ギガプリン!

I do have a gripe with the show, though. It treats conflicts like the monster-of-the-week. Every episode is a neatly wrapped bundle of conflict -> resolution -> next episode. I’d like a bit more continuity in the character development instead of the current formula of focusing on one character at a time.

The worst offender of this is actually what I thought was the best episode so far: episode 5. This episode focused on Mari’s glasses-wearing friend Megumi. Her annoyance at Mari and passive-aggressive attitude was spot-on and I felt so uneasy watching her try to hold Mari back. But then the end of the episode felt like such a cop out! I can understand why Megumi would want to break her ties with Mari: Mari can then enjoy her time in Antarctica without worrying about her friend back home who doesn’t get to have such fun experiences. But it felt more like the friendship was ending conveniently, to both wrap up the episode neatly and to have the audience enjoy watching Mari in Antarctica without worrying about Megumi.

If this was the only instance of this sort of conflict-of-the-week, then I’d be fine with it. But episode 6 strolls along and presents another one-episode minor conflict. Without a big, multi-episode goal like “trying to get on the expedition,” it seems like this show is floundering a bit. I’d much prefer just a fun episode about the girls having fun in Singapore, or multiple episodes in Singapore to make the conflict seem… important. In the end, it’s all resolved with a few cheap laughs. I hope this isn’t the end of Hinata’s character development, but it sure feels like it.

Still, this stuff is all minor. A Place Further Than The Universe is the best show of the season so far, miles above bigger names like Darling in the Franxx and Violet Evergarden.