Anime World Cup – Summer 2014: Week 3, 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 in the third week, we’ll figure out which two shows from each group will be making it to the weekly review column.

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

Group E: Mystery/Horror/Thriller

1st Match:

Images of Mado looking deranged and Twelve looking decidely happy with himself

Tokyo Ghoul: B+

The third episode of Tokyo Ghoul, is a relatively quiet one that generally acts as a reprieve from the intensity of the last two. Though it slips in quality simply due to a lack of action, the story here keeps the show consistent in its pacing and begins to build a frame for a much larger narrative.

A woman and her child–Ryouko and Hinami Fueguchi–show up at Anteiku for shelter and solace after being hunted by a mysterious and violent ghoul. Yoshimura is quick to take them in–as is the custom of Anteiku–and requests that Kaneki travels with Yoshimura’s helper, Renji Yomo to get food for all the ghouls. Kaneki is unaware of where the ghoul food comes from and is shocked when he and Renji wind up on a cliffside where people are known to commit suicide. Renji collects the body and they head back to Anteiku. Amidst all this, we get glimpses of two Doves–Amon and Mado–two ghoul investigators whose goal–through their organization–is to wipe out all ghouls throughout Japan. That begin to make inroads as they attack and kill several ghouls in the 20th ward, all the while getting closer to Anteiku. Back with the ghouls, Kaneki eventually meets up with Touka, who takes him to get a mask so he won’t be as easily identified by the Doves. Will such minor precautions be enough against the two cold-blooded men, hot on the trails of Kaneki and the rest of the Anteiku crew?

The third episode of the series never hits the same quality as the last two, mostly because it lacks the action that’s propelled the show forward in those episodes. Still, we get a solid storyline here and get an idea of Kaneki’s growth as a ghoul, as he slowly comes to terms with his own condition and the actions of those ghouls whom he now considers his allies and friends, to varying degrees. The cliff scene–wherein Kaneki realizes how he and the other ghouls have been getting their food–especially stood out, as it showcased Kaneki’s lingering fear and reservations about ghouldom, while allowing him to come to terms with it later on, as he’s slowly had to do with his situation overall. Through his melodramatic reactions to the ghoul lifestyle, Kaneki is still able to adapt–with help from Yoshimura and Touka, of course–which should prove helpful, as a conflict with Amon and Mado draws closer. Kaneki’s interaction with Hinami later on in the episode, is another indicator of his growth. He initially walks in on her half-way through a meal and is disgusted–she’s a ghoul, if you’ll recall–quickly hightailing it out of there. After a short discussion with one of the worker’s at Anteiku, Kaneki is encouraged to re-approach her, this time without interrupting her feeding. He’s shy at first, but soon opens up to Hinami emotionally and regards her with compassion and empathy, listening to her concerns and trying to soothe her spirits. Kaneki’s ability to see Hinami as a person, rather than as a monster, seems to greatly effect her mood, making her chipper and almost hopeful. If he has one strength, Kaneki’s ability to humanize those who most feel don’t deserve it, may be it.

Tangent time, everybody. Recently on the Anime Addicts Anonymous podcast–one of my favorite anime related review shows, along with the seldom released Anime World Order–the reviewer Kram took Tokyo Ghoul to task in a big way. He called the show dumb, took issue with various plot elements and was generally spittin’ vitriol in the show’s direction. Alright, I just wanted to say vitriol, but he was hating to be sure. I want to state first, that I highly respect Kram’s opinion and his reviews in general. He has a way of breaking down a show to its core message–both literal and metaphorical–that speaks to my love of media studies. He’s also thoughtful in his reviews, never quick to dismiss a show just because it has a few bad elements mixed in. However, he got Tokyo Ghoul completely wrong. Let’s tackle a few of his points–I’m recalling this from the live broadcast last Saturday night, so forgive me and point out any inaccuracies found in my portrayal of his argument. He called the show dumb, pointing out things like the show’s focus on coffee as the sole food item that the ghoul’s can drink, as well as “magic” edible cubes, which serve as a MacGuffin to sustain the ghouls without much narrative explanation. Speaking directly to the cubes issue, I expect that this point will be explained more in a future episode. If not, at the very least we can assume that it contains ground up or powdered human remains in it, which keep the ghouls nourished. Not particularly dumb. Nor is the coffee. It doesn’t serve an immediate purpose, sure, but both the coffee love and the magic cubes work to flesh out the universe in which Tokyo Ghoul takes place. One could make the argument that a writer shouldn’t include a gun in the first act if they don’t plan on having a character use it by the third act, but to be fair, we’re barely out of the first act of the series, so there’s no telling how coffee or the magic cubes may come into play in the long run. Next, Kram complained that the series brushed over Kaneki’s negative reaction to and all-around inability to cope with becoming a ghoul, instead of taking a chance to show the conflict that would come with such a transformation. I’ll point out that the show does this largely in the first episode–to melodramatic effect, no less–and the second episode still deals with his conflicting sides–his desire to eat his friend, by the end of the episode. Earlier in this review, I clearly stated how the third episode handles Kaneki’s transformation and slow acceptance to his fate. All that aside, if the series was simply about Kaneki’s conflicts with becoming a ghoul, there seemingly wouldn’t be nearly enough time to devote to the rest of the world and its characters. Perhaps I haven’t been watching anime long enough to find everything but Kaneki’s metamorphosis cliche, but I want to see more of Amon and Mado’s investigation against the ghouls of the 20th ward. I want to understand what sets Yoshimura and the Anteiku crew apart from the ghouls of the other wards, and what those particular ghouls are like. Kram seems to think that Kaneki’s current pace of acceptance limits the impact of Tokyo Ghoul but I would argue the opposite. Really, this one comes down to taste though, and what the viewer is expecting out of the show. Lastly, I’ll hit on a really specific annoyance that the AAA crew had; Kaneki and Hinami’s relationship. Having thrown huge fits over the moe perversion and incest leanings of a show like Fate/kaleid liner Illya etc., I feel like I’m ready to pounce on such scenes like a watchdog, cutting series to the quick for an ill-begotten “onii-chan”. While Hinami does call Kaneki “onii-chan”, here I truly believe that it is an indicator of the two characters bonding ghoul to ghoul, both in emotionally draining states and able to appreciate that fragility in each other. Being younger, maybe Hinami gives off an air of still coming to grasps with being a ghoul, something that Kaneki can quickly relate too. Either way, there’s nothing sexually charged about their relationship in the few scenes we see of them together, so such thoughts–at this point, at least–are looking for a problem that isn’t there. On another note, to his credit, Kram’s railing against the ridiculous censorship in the show, is spot on. It’s fun to watch the show in real time, but the scene in the second episode where more than half the screen was blacked out due to the apparent graphic violence therein, caused me to consider waiting until the uncensored DVD/BluRay is released. It’s not even that I need the graphic gore scenes, but more that half the screen being blacked out, is incredibly distracting.

Alright, that’s enough point tackling. No disrespect, to each his own and all that. If you aren’t listening to the AAA podcast, definitely check it out. Some shows lean on the silly side, but they are DEFINITELY one of the more adult anime podcasts out there–and not in a pornographic way, though sometimes…–and their reviews go much deeper than a discussion of which sword the protagonist chose to fight with this week, etc. Back to Tokyo Ghoul, it certainly isn’t a perfect show, but I’d definitely recommend what’s been broadcast so far to most people, horror fans or not. The show builds an interesting enough world that it doesn’t have to rely on those horror elements to intrigue its crowd. Well, at least most of them. 😉

Zankyou no Terror: A

While the plot between nine & twelve and Shibazaki & the Tokyo police thickens this episode, another week passes where Lisa feels slightly underutilized. The cat and mouse game may be rich, but this episode’s inability to juggle all the pieces in play, brings the entire episode down somewhat. Fair warning, Zankyou no Terror is probably the only show this season worth watching without being spoiled, so do with that as you will, knowing that the rest of this review gets pretty spoilery.

In the wake of the second terrorist attack on Tokyo–this one aimed directly at the Tokyo police department–Shibazaki moves up to the division that’s investigating the terrorist attacks, due to his too-late understanding of Sphinx’s riddle at the end of the last episode. Meanwhile, nine and twelve plant another bomb and seemingly hope for someone to catch on to what they are after. Back at police headquarters, the man who caused the Tokyo power outage in the first episode–by “accidentally” knocking his crane into some power lines–is questioned by Shibazaki and other police officers until Shibazaki is able to get some answers out of him, ones that allude to the crane driver getting paid a lot of money for his “accident”. When the detectives find an easily traceable e-mail to the driver–one that gets back to a fake account–Shibazaki posits that the Sphinx group are purposefully leaving clues and hints for the police to find. Just then, the next Sphinx riddle goes live and the detectives gather round to take it in. While Shibazaki puts his analytical mind to work, elsewhere, Lisa has to deal with even worse behavior–compared to the last episode–from her overbearing mother, and decides to quietly run away. When we jump back to the police department, Shibazaki makes a direct challenge to the terrorists, but will his words work only to incense and justify nine and twelve’s actions?

First off, to get the few negatives out of the way, the use of Lisa in the last two episodes has been a let down. After playing a vital role in the premiere–and practically standing in for the viewer, allowing us to better understand feelings of empathy or closeness to nine and twelve in the aftermath of their diabolical decision–it feels as though the writers are slowly biding their time with Lisa, keeping her around only until she is needed for the plot. We see her going to school and the message of “nothing will ever be the same again”, comes out loud and clear, though it’s not something the audience really needs handed to them. Later on, Lisa has to deal with the crazy mother that we were introduced to in the last episode, except now she has gotten drastically worse to the point of the melodrama being almost comical. An argument for the inclusion of these scenes with Lisa–and how slow it took for her to begin to get reengaged with nine and twelve–would be Watanabe and his crew trying to hit a level of realism in looking at what situation would cause a smart girl like Lisa to get more involved in nine and twelve dangerous games. In the long run, that’s not hard to swallow, but time will tell if that’s the real issue here or not.

Aside from whatever problems exist with Lisa’s storyline this episode, things between Shibazaki, nine and twelve couldn’t be more interesting. The riddles that the two young terrorists set up and Shibazaki solve, begin to tap the viewer into nine and twelve’s backstory and the reason’s they have for committing the crimes that they do. So far, the last two riddles have dealt with Oedipus, a character whose own father ordered his execution for fear that Oedipus would one day murder him because of a prophecy that proposed such a thing. Obviously, nine and twelve are fascinated with the tale–wherein Oedipus survives the ordered execution and does end up killing his own father, through no knowledge of his own–so one has to consider what the story of Oedipus has to do with the two attacks. In addition to that, Shibazaki tells his boss–Kurahashi–about what it was like to be a kid in a town with mostly adults; during the summer he felt alone and abandoned, while all the adults chose to stay inside. While the meaning behind the show is open to interpretation, it could be argued that Zankyou no Terror is a reflection on the current state of Japan and its focus on the older members of society rather than its young. Much like Oedipus, nine and twelve–representing their generation–feel left out in the cold, abandoned by a society with a particularly high unemployment rate amongst the younger generations, whilst the typical wealthy Japanese business man is known to be in his later years. Taking the interpretation further, maybe the writers are making a statement about Japan’s willingness to continue on in this direction, potentially because its own leaders–those older business men previously spoken of–are worried about being ousted or bettered by the younger generation. The similarities could go further, but honestly, many other possibilities could also go hand in hand with the allusions to Oedipus, making this interpretation just one of many.

At the end of the day, whether it’s an accurate interpretation of Zankyou no Terror‘s own clues to the viewer or not, the fun of trying to piece together the show’s ultimate meaning says much about the overall quality of this series. A scant scene here–showing us just a peek of nine and twelve’s background–points to the Oedipus analogy being slightly more literal than previously stated, but that doesn’t take away from the intimate experience the show creates. The audience is on two journeys here; riding the wave of riddles and tips with Shibazaki in order to figure out where the terrorists are coming from, both physically and mentally, and trying to uncover the true sides of nine and twelve with Lisa to understand if siding with them makes us morally bankrupt. It’s a show that fires on all cylinders, and even in its slightly off episodes, Zankyou no Terror is about as good as they come.

Winner… Zankyou no Terror
Image of all the police computers watching the Sphinx attack videos

While the week’s Tokyo Ghoul was a great watch, Zankyou no Terror was able to easily put it down, even on a somewhat off week. The show’s handling of its characters and subtle tone stand out as the best of the season, bar none. Tokyo Ghoul has a long way to go before it can take a bite out of Zankyou no Terror. See what I did there?

2nd Match:

Images of the gas mask man with an umbrella for some reason and Yosuke at a loss for words, finally

Dramatical Murder: C-

Dramatical Murder‘s third episode is potentially the most boring of the lot, though the competition is certainly stark, as far as that goes. Storyline aside, the art here is pretty egregious, backed by the fact that the production team officially apologized for the rushed animation.

Things start directly where they left off last episode, as the young guy who was ominously reaching for Aoba’s face simply reaches past him to grab a store product. Later, Aoba comes home to find that the same young man has broken into his place and things start to get tense just as the gas-mask guy and the hair-dresser guy show up to stand in Aoba’s honor. The tension escalates until Aoba’s grandma pops up and forces everyone downstairs for some homemade pie. Eventually, the young guy–now known as Noiz–shows back up at Aoba’s work and kisses him, soon followed by Aoba’s grandma hurting her back and Aoba having to carry her home. Oh, and Aoba’s grandma might be evil, or something.

And that’s the weekly Dramatical Murder round-up. Apologies for the brevity, but one can’t take too much time with the thing they are working on creatively. Nitroplus–the production team behind this series–taught us that. Ice burn. Alright, enough with the dumping on the animation team, you may be thinking. Sad to say, that is simply the most interesting thing about the episode. Take away the drama of an anime production studio publicly apologizing for their work, and Dramatical Murder is one of the least dramatic, most boring and pointless shows of the season. Nothing really ever happens–save for that Rhyme battle at the end of the first episode, but two episodes later…–and even the core fan interest for the show hasn’t been represented yet. After all, the show is based on a boys love game and so far we’ve gotten two characters kissing awkwardly. Don’t mistake me. I’m not knocking down the doors, screaming for someone’s head until I see some hot guy-on-guy action. What I am getting at, is that even the worst shows of the season–Fate/kaleid liner Illya etc., Jinsei, Rail Wars!, Sabagebu!–are aware of why the people tuning in for the show are there. Dramatical Murder doesn’t seem to have an inkling of an idea of what it wants to be, hoping that the badly written characters can somehow overcome the badly written dialogue and story lines to foster something interesting. It was obvious to me–one of those people tuning in in hopes of a cool storyline, void of too much BL action–that I was bum out of luck with this show, part way through the first episode. Once they’ve lost that wider audience–due to the work being subpar, at best–the least they can do is tap as hard as they can into their base audience. Maybe the show is going in that direction, after that kiss between Aoba and Noiz. Either way, I’m just glad to be checking out of this one.

The less said about the art the better–you’ve heard it all, but yes, the designs are that inconsistent and generally bad throughout–but really, even if the art was outstanding, this show would be nearly unbearable to continue watching, simply because it is the definition of bland, mediocre storytelling. It’s pretty ridiculous how many series this season have presented a semi-interesting premise in the first episode, only to completely throw it away in the subsequent episodes. Dramatical Murder isn’t the worst culprit of these, but the fact that we saw the Rhyme world for the last 5 minutes of the first episode, followed by our characters emotionally and physically farting around for the last 50 minutes, tells the viewer everything they need to know about the series. It’s a bore.

Persona 4 the Golden Animation: C

If you’re a fan of the original video game series, Persona 4 the Golden Animation is sure to incite you, if only because it seems to have very little interest in bringing along the central plot elements of its parent game or even the characters, really. Sure, they exist in this anime, but half of them feel completely different than they do in the game. All that considered, sometimes you have to look at a property on its own, removing from it the chains of whatever it may be adapted from. I personally railed against this series in both reviews I’ve written so far, but now that it’s on its way out, maybe the time has come to accept its differences from the game and review the show simply on its own merits. And what better episode to judge a show by, than the beach episode?

The episode starts as simple as it is contrived, with Yosuke standing in front of the rest of the group and yelling “Let’s go to the beach!”–subsequently a character voices the thought of the sane viewer, “Where did that come from?”. Seriously though, after a pre-opening segment that has nothing to do with the rest of the episode, Yosuke’s exclamation is how things start. At least we know what we’re getting ourselves into. The rest of the first half of the episode takes place at the beach–Marie’s swimsuit is too small, thanks to Yosuke’s thought-out pick, it looks like Kuma somehow escaped the Midnight Channel to come frolic on the beach and Kanji loses his tiny speedo in the ocean, forcing him to use Kuma as a human covering for his personal bits. The second half of the episode attempts to make up for the shenanigans of the first half by having Marie go around and ask each character philosophical questions.

That last notion, that Persona 4 the Golden Animation would attempt to ponder over the meaning of life in the same episode where Yosuke does a fist pump after seeing the busty, scantily clad–thanks to him–Marie, is a microcosm of how ridiculous this show is. In fact, it’s interesting that both the Golden Animation and Dramatical Murder suffer from attempting to me more thoughtful and deep than they ever are. Admittedly, the second half of the episode gets into some interesting character parts because of Marie’s navel-gazing questions–like Yosuke coming clean about his semi-vapidness due to the fact that he’s in the prime of his youth–but it never feels appropriate with the other tone set in the first half of the episode. Speaking of youth, you have to laugh at the number of times a character says, “Ah, youth”, or something similar with an appreciative sigh. I just don’t think high school kids inner-monologue in that way.

It would make sense to tackle the beach segment here, but oddly enough, it’s what comes after the beach that feels tacked on and targeted. The second half was the writers bad medicine to the first half’s double fudge sundae. The show’s gone so off the rails though, why not just swing for the fences and do all beach all the time, or whatever it may be that gets the writers/creators excited. The beach scenes are annoying in their inanity, but it’s obvious that someone had a good time working on them at least. Marie’s philosophical digging? Not so much.

So by now, hopefully one can see Persona 4 the Golden Animation as bad on its own accord, no matter the travesties heaped upon the brilliant PS2 game. By the way, don’t let a goofball show like this one deter you from the game itself. It is insanely long–I MIGHT be a tenth of the way through–but it far outweighs a series like this in almost every way, especially tone and mood. Persona 4 the Golden Animation, on the other hand, loses itself by being the dumb kid in the class that’s trying to sneak words out of the dictionary and plop them into regular conversation. It’s just embarrassing.

Winner… Persona 4 the Golden Animation
Image of the cast gazing inward and outward... so deep

Putting away my intense annoyance over Persona 4 the Golden Animation‘s willful omission of many elements of the game, helped to make the show slightly more watchable, but only slightly. Either way, Dramatical Murder‘s insanely boring plot and dialogue, mixed with the notably bad animation, put it under the bus and let Golden Animation sneak through a win. Make no mistake. I wouldn’t wish these shows on anyone. I think of a future where criminals are forced to watch Dramatical Murder and Golden Animation–their eyelids held open and their eyeballs spritzed with saline solution–in order to reenter society anew, and I shiver. A dystopian hell, if ever there could be one.

Group E ended up being the least contested of the AWC–that’s right, we’re cool enough for acronyms now–with Tokyo Ghoul and Zankyou no Terror running away with the wins. Those two shows will be included in my weekly review post, while the lesser two series will slink off to the corner and die, as should be the case. With the next post over the final results for Group F, we’ll be bringing this season’s Anime World Cup to an end. The failing Glasslip will tackle the superpowers of Tokyo ESP and Space Dandy S2 will showdown with Kuroshitsuji: Book of Circus.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.