Anime World Cup – Summer 2014: Week 2, Group E

Inspired by this year’s World Cup, I’ve broken 24 different series into six groups of four, each group roughly representing a different genre. Each series will go head to head with the other three series in its group over the next three weeks, a letter grade for each episode used as the deciding factor. At the end of the three weeks, the two episodes from each group that have fared the best, will move on to the next round. Now into our second week, we’ll see which shows are practically kicked out by losing two weeks in a row. I’m looking at you Fate/Kaleid liner… etc.

Check out the preview page for an overview of all the groups.

Group E: Mystery/Horror/Thriller

1st Match:

Images of Kaneki ready to pass out and Yosuke looking intense

Tokyo Ghoul: A-

I could understand if Tokyo Ghoul wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea. The show is both gruesome and bizarre–I need to get my hands on the uncensored version of this episode–as well as rather melodramatic about Kaneki’s condition. All of that considered, something about Tokyo Ghoul stands out for me in a way that other anime series this season just don’t. I think its subject matter alone pushes it out of the realm of anime mediocrity, but it also captures a tone that’s particularly suitable for what the show is going for. Add to the fact that this episode ushers in some more common action series tropes in a unique way, and you’ve got a winning formula.

This second episode in the series basically works to push Kaneki further into the world of ghouls, with him getting to know Toka better–the ghoul who saved him in the last episode–and meeting Yoshimura–the owner and leader of Anteiku, an organization that helps to keep ghouls in the area fed, but doubles as a cafe to quell suspicion. Yoshimura looks to help Kaneki understand what it means to be a ghoul, as he feels for Kaneki’s circumstances. Kaneki is reluctant to except the help and the fact that he is now at least part ghoul and must adhere to the realities of that lifestyle. Eventually, whilst walking around and thinking on his circumstances, Kaneki is caught by Hide who questions where he’s been. Mainly Hide is just happy to see his friend–eyepatch or no eyepatch–and he quickly asks Kaneki to come meet someone his recently made friends with. When, this friend ends up being Nishio–the same ghoul who attacked Kaneki at the end of last episode–Kaneki naturally feels frightened for Hide and decides to tag along with the two back to Hide’s place. When the inevitable occurs, Kaneki must take on Nishio to protect the life of his best friend.

The universe created in the show–which almost exists as a hidden underground to the rest of reality, since these ghouls must hide themselves away–is well fleshed out here, reminding me in some ways of the better aspects of other supernatural shows, like True Blood here in the states. We come to understand this hidden world as just as complex as our own, with ghouls that have bad intentions bristling at those with good intentions. It’s not the black and white world that one assumes of monsters, but instead an environment where survival butts heads with right and wrong, at least for some of the ghouls. By the end of the episode, Kaneki reaches a moment where he hits right up against against that wall, losing control of himself to what’s left of Rize in his subconscious. We watch Kaneki turn from the sweet and selfless kid who’s starving himself on principle, to the greedy ghoul who set him on his current path. It’s a rather chilling scene, and could be seen as a call for the audience to confront our own inner demons, instead of letting them overtake us in our weakest moments. Alright, so that’s a little melodramatic, but it’s in line with the show, with which melodrama plays perfectly. This is the kind of drama I would expect from someone who feels out of control of their own body and even their mind, from time to time. It’s the level of access we get to Kaneki’s own feelings about his transformation, that still gives me a Cronenberg vibe when I watch this show. And that’s no small compliment.

It’s possible to overlook Tokyo Ghoul. In fact, it’s a show that doesn’t seem interested in trying to appeal to any particular fanboy niche, which is a blessing for the audience and–possibly–a curse for the show. Tokyo Ghoul is just here to tell its story and give the viewer the perspective of a young man in transition from an average high schooler to a savage beast. Or maybe not. Maybe the final transition is up to Kaneki, after all.

Persona 4 the Golden Animation: C

Man, what a let down. Not only did last week’s episode of Persona 4 the Golden Animation blast through some of the most interesting parts of the game, but this week’s episode had NONE of those elements in it, AND took its pretty time. Maybe I’m holding this show to too high of an expectation to be just like the game–which isn’t particularly fair–but that aside, this episode is pretty lame.

The episode starts with Marie meeting Yu’s group of friends before Yuu and Yosuke have a conversation about picking up girls on motorcycles that is FAR too long. This leads to them getting licenses and scooters and making plans to cruise certain parts of the town to pick up girls. But wait… Chie, Yukiko and Marie expect Yu to join them on the same day for a shopping trip. AND Nanako is expecting Yu home for dinner by 5. What’s a boy to do?

So yeah, the rest of the episode plays out like a bad 80’s sitcom episode, with Yu having to trade time between trying to get some digits and judging a fashion contest. Didn’t the last episode involve these same flippant characters walking into a blood-drenched room in some kind of alternate dimension? What the hell are these people doing with their time? I’m willing to accept that maybe this series represents a different storyline–and tone–than the Persona 4 the Animation series that came out a few years ago–similar to Full Metal Panic! and FUMOFFU–but then why have the “Midnight Channel” storyline at all? It makes this episode feel eerie since these kids have this newfound power which they are taking NO responsibility of–or even interest in. Anyway, take away all the expectation from the game, and this episode really doesn’t go anywhere, say anything interesting or even grow its character. In the game, Yosuke, Chie and Yukiko all grow to become interesting individuals, mainly because we get to see their dark side in the “Midnight Channel” world, which fleshes them out and exposes their fears and insecurities. Here they just feel like set pieces and reminders of the intellectual property that the show is based on.

Wow, I really ranted there. Well, there’s no doubt how I feel about this show. Stay away. Stay far, far away.

Winner… Tokyo Ghoul
Image of Toka prepping to defend Kaneki

No contest. Tokyo Ghoul‘s dynamic universe all the way, over Persona 4 the Golden Animation‘s complete and utter waste of an interesting otherworldly space. The next episode is supposed to be a beach one, too. Guh.

2nd Match:

Images of Aoba looking confused and Shibasaki tracking down the terrorists

Dramatical Murder: C

Dramatical Murder will end up being the kind of show that fades from my memory shortly after I watch whichever episode happens to be my last. The characters aren’t particularly memorable, the plot isn’t particularly memorable and the action scenes aren’t even particularly memorable. It’s a bland show, to say the least. At best, Dramatical Murder gets points for not springing gratuitous fanservice on us, guy or girl–though there is a very short shower scene–but that’s about the sum of what it has going for it. Oh wait, I guess that shower scene means it has nothing going for it. Hmmm.

The episode starts off immediately after the last, with Aoba and Ren–in his human-shaped form–battling against some guy in a creepy bunny costume in the virtual game, Rhyme. Aoba shouts out commands to Ren and is able to blow the enemy away, but not without knocking himself and Ren out. When they come too, Aoba and Ren–now back in his dog-shaped form–have no clue what exactly happened to them in the game. The rest of the episode plays this out, with Aoba openly questioning what happened to him. He eventually finds out that the delivery he was making before he was sucked into the game world, ended up being a prank, meaning that someone planned for him to be sucked into the game. And that’s really the bulk of what happens. Oh, we also see that Aoba has a somewhat unhealthy relationship with his robotic dog–that’s Ren, if you didn’t catch on–which has to have some ramifications in a future scenario where Ren is in his human-shaped form, battling beside Aoba. I’m just happy that I’ll be far from this series by the time the BL relationships get hamfisted into here, if they even do.

I feel like a slacker of sorts for not having more to speak to about Dramatical Murder, but my complete lack of feeling says more than any contrived emotion could possibly say. The show even has its creative moments, but I feel like everything is executed with a complete lack of style or substance, by the end of the day. Harsh, but true.

Zankyou no Terror: A+

Zankyou no Terror pulled it off again this week, focusing more on the police force and the national reaction to the terror attack than on Nine and Twelve–though they are still pivotal to the storyline.

The episode starts with Lisa returning home soon after the bombing from last episode. She’s confronted by her mother, who’s worried about Lisa’s safety but almost to an unhealthy degree–stating that Lisa is going to leave her, just like Lisa’s father did. We get some quick cuts of Nine and Twelve prepping some sort of phone-controlled bomb, before a scene at some type of federal headquarters, where many agents have gathered to discuss the bombing. Soon they’ve tied the viral video that Nine and Twelve released last episode to the bombing, though they can’t say for certain how closely tied the incidents are. Soon, however, Nine and Twelve release another video where they offer up a riddle to the police force to give them a chance to halt the next bombing that they’ve planned. The police take the riddle’s answer as a reference to the bomb being placed in a DNA laboratory, but meanwhile, Shibasaki begins to piece the riddle together himself and figure out a different solution. He phones the chief of police–Kurahashi–to inform him of the other solution to the riddle, but it may be too late.

While this episode doesn’t go as deep into the characters of Nine and Twelve, the few scenes with Lisa help us to better understand her home life and her relationship to Nine and Twelve–such as one scene where Nine threatens her if she tells anyone about the bombing. We also get a better look at Shibasaki and Kurahashi, seemingly the two agents who will play the biggest part in trying to catch Nine and Twelve. Shibasaki represents a nice opposition to the worst cop trope–the highly skilled, loose cannon–by coming off as an officer broken down by the mundanity of his job–similar to the brilliant Lester Freamon from HBO’s The Wire. He lounges around his office doing crossword puzzles and not even pretending to be doing work, yet when the second Sphinx video–another name that Nine and Twelve refer to themselves by–is released, he quietly steps up to the task and involves himself by contacting Kurahashi. In this way, Shibasaki is directly related to the terrorist attacks, as they give his life–and his work–some kind of meaning. The show is clearly geared now for Shibasaki to figure out the truth and bring down Nine and Twelve with the help of Kurahashi, but what will happen to him after that? Will he go back to his lackadaisical days without challenges? This makes the genius whose talents are being wasted far more interesting than the hot head who can’t obey the rules.

Giving us a reprieve from the passenger seat of Nine and Twelve’s machinations, helps to ramp up the tension and mystery of Zankyou no Terror. The first episode asked us to trust in the two young men–much like Lisa was forced to do–but two episodes in and we still don’t understand their motivations for the bombings, which keeps the audience at arms length from the show’s–arguable–main protagonists. In stark opposition to most of the other series this season, Zankyou no Terror feels endlessly watchable, and in this day and age of plot lines that write themselves from the first episode, you have to appreciate that accomplishment.

Winner… Zankyou no Terror
Image of Nine and Twelve posing in Sentai masks

Another no contest match between a very good show and a very bland one. Zankyou no Terror deals in an economy of words and shows us–versus telling us–the kind of people its characters are. Meanwhile, Dramatical Murder is both talkative and expository, while never being able to form engaging characters in the process. It would seem that Watanabe has done it again.

We’ll close out the second week next time, with Glasslip slipping to the time of Kuroshitsuji: Book of Circus and Space Dandy S2 meeting its rival in the crazy department, in Tokyo ESP.

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