Fall 2016: Week 2

*Note: Due to the production committee removing the first two episodes until a later date, Occultic;Nine will not be discussed at this time due to not wanting to resort to piracy. The coverage of that series will resume when the show is back up normally on Crunchyroll, at which point I’ll discuss each missed episode at once.*

DRIFTERS

The first episode left me a little cold with it’s emphasis on lame humor and history trivia at the expense of the show’s biggest strength: the violence. So, allow me to celebrate, as this episode is the grand, violent spectacle I expected the first one to be, and it is as glorious as I hoped.

The elves who helped save Toyohisa are now in trouble, as the humans who control their village have discovered that they have went into the forest and interacted with a drifter, two things considered forbidden to demihumans and punishable by a village-wide massacre to “cull the population”. Our three heroes hear about this and spring into action to save the village. Along the way, we get more information about what is going on plot-wise and who that man in the corridor is.

While the lame humor from the last episode is still present, it’s not nearly as much of a roadblock as last episode, if only because it’s placed as an occasional tone change to keep the atmosphere from being too grim (which is an actual possibility in this episode), as opposed to being concentrated in the second half where it accompanies a lack of action. It is a good thing, because the tone that this series, at least when it doesn’t have those comedic breaks, the tone is almost excessively grim and dark, as opposed to the over-the-top, almost campy ridiculousness that Hellsing was able to reach. This is a great episode for violent spectacle, but it’s too dour and self-serious to lend itself to being fun like it predecessor (at least, it is now).

On the topic of this series as a violent spectacle, I need to emphasize how good this series looks. This series is animated by Hoods Entertainment, who is best known for smut and not-good harem series (they are the studio that animated the adaptation of Seikon No Qwasar, afterall), despite a single fluke good show with the off-putting Mysterious Girlfriend X. What I’m getting at is that this studio is not known for action, or animation for that matter (none of their previous series were particularly well animated), so the animation on display here, both in terms of realizing the notoriously hard-to-animate character designs of Kouta Hirano and in giving us such a visceral depiction of this violence. If you like animated blood, this is probably the best place to find it and I’m glad the series has finally begun living up to it’s potential.

YURI ON ICE

Okay, I need to say it, the fat comments towards Yuri are a little too much. I get that he’s out of shape, out of practice and depressed from losing, but the detail of him getting fat, as well as everyone constantly reminding him of it is a little too much. This is especially notable because Victor joins in on it and, if anything, is more cruel about it than everyone else. I mean, at least he loses most of the weight in this episode, but dear God, that is just a little too much.

I bring that up because the episode is much more subdued and low-key than last episode, with more of a focus on establishing Victor’s presence in the story. You see, there’s a well-known story cliche or trope called the manic pixie dream girl. For those of you who don’t know what that is, I have two things to say. First, congratulations on finally leaving that rock you live under. Secondly, the concept involves stories in which a depressed or unsatisfied guy meets a super perky and hyper girl who turns his life upside down, he usually falls in love with her, and then the girl either dies, moves on, or completely changes him (for examples, see 500 Days Of Summer, Ruby Sparks, Haruhi Suzumiya, anything from Hank Green, Mysterious Girlfriend X, Garden State, Enchanted, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Amelie, the list goes on). For the record, there is nothing that says that that gender dynamic has to be present for this story or character type to work, nor that it necessarily needs to be romantic (I tend to include the film Mary Poppins as a non-romantic example of this story type, personally). I bring this up because this episode is setting up Victor to be a manic pixie dream guy for Yuri (and a romantic example at that). So, because I know there are people who have an aversion to those types of narratives due to how often they’ve been done in the 2000s and 2010s, here’s your warning: I think this is meant to be a gay manic pixie dream guy story.

Other than that, this episode also firmly introduces the Russian Yuri (or Yurio, as people begin to call him). He is a snot-nosed little punk in personality and probably my favorite character. As a contrast to the introverted and depressed (and fat) Japanese Yuri and the quirky, free spirit Victor, Russian Yuri is just refreshing because he just barges into the story and begins acting like he owns the story. His presence easily overshadows the other Yuri (your milage may vary if that’s a good thing or not) and finally gives another strong personality to compliment Victor. I can hope that Japanese Yuri can begin to stand out more, because otherwise, he’s easily the least interesting aspect of his own show.

While this series is continuing to impress from a writing and visual perspective, I’m starting to get antsy. While the more subdued character approach is not a bad move by any means, it’s doing the show no favors. Hopefully, with Victor making the two Yuris compete against each other, we may finally get something exciting to grasp on to besides the expectation that there will be a gay romance occurring. Still good, but I’m more interested in where this will go than where it currently is.

IZETTA: THE LAST WITCH

This episode seems to exist to prepare the primary character conflict for our titular witch: she has no sense of self-worth, seeming to only equate herself with how she can help the princess. For the record, this isn’t a unique conflict, as it’s been done many times. In fact, it’s also the main conflict in this season’s Yuri On Ice, which is also equating that relationship with a somewhat homosexual context (although Yuri On Ice makes the gay context actual text at points, while this series is keeping it firmly as subtext for now). However, this lesbian subtext is not necessarily a strength. While I don’t need every series with this subtext to fulfill it, what bothers me is that this subtext is coming from Hiroyuki Yoshino, who has dabbled in lesbian subtext before and did so poorly.In fact, my problems with him writing this series stem from his past non-adaptation work (Code Geass, Guilty Crown, and especially his manga Seikon No Qwasar), all of which include varying levels of lesbian subtext that is closer to watching girl-on-girl porn meant for straight guys than actually creating a series with lesbian characters. As I mentioned, the existance of Seikon No Qwasar (a manga that I have unfortunately read and regretted reading) makes his attempts at this slightly unpalatable and is making me expect the other shoe to drop regarding this subtextual theme the show has (when is the man going to show up that will make one of these girls fall for him, or when is Izetta going to go crazy because Yoshino can’t write a lesbian who isn’t psychotic?).

Anyway, that last paragraph was necessary because I’m still not being drawn into this series. I’ll freely admit that making this series Alternate History WWII (combining two themes I don’t care about) makes it difficult for me to be invested in this, but other than focusing on Izetta having little-to-no self-esteem, this episode is focused on the aftermath of Not-Germany beginning an invasion of Not-Austria (and yes, I looked it up and Eylstadt is based off of Austria), with Not-Germany’s presence in Izetta’s past being represented by imagery which is not Nazi imagery, but seems reminiscent of it. And I still could not care less, as I don’t want to see how this war is going, I want to know how the princess will cause Izetta to reach the tragic end that the OP, the ED, and basic foreshadowing is stating will occur. Your Not-WWII isn’t interesting. Don’t bore us, get to the chorus.

Mostly, I’m still waiting to see how the series falls apart. This episode at least tells me that we will get something that might be interesting (the relationship between Izetta and the princess), but I can’t get into this series beyond waiting for Yoshino to crap the bed like he does in all of his original ideas (for the record, he’s generally fine as an adaptational writer, but that’s because he doesn’t generally add any of his ideas to thise adaptations). It still feels like a big-budget action movie, so it has that going for it, but I need more in order to put my concerns about this series to rest.

KEIJO!!!!!!!!

I mentioned last week that this show is about exactly what it looks like, with a screenshot of a stupid moment to solidify it. Well, the same is true here. For anyone trying to justify watching this, just know that there is no justification beyond that famous Sir Mix-A-Lot lyric.

Our heroines are now in a regimen to prepare them as professional keijo players, in a regimen that includes squats, laps, rolling tires with their butts or breasts, butt walks, and taking classes such as boobology and asstronomy (disclaimer: I’m not making any of this up). The main action of the episode involves a team exercise to bounce a beach ball between four people using only their butts (again, I’m not making this up) and the girls trying to get Aoba, the quiet girl, to finally talk in order to work together better.

I could try to talk about how ridiculous this premise is, or try to talk about the way that the direction contorts to capture the “good bits” but only during the action, or I could discuss those “good bits”. But instead, the big take-away from this episode is, above all else, the tone. While fanservice is the show’s primary focus (and it is really good at it), the show is unabashedly a goofy comedy, which is refreshing, given how many other fanservice shows are not. Most I can think of are either harem shows that are either light novel adaptations (otherwise serious action fantasy/sci-fi stories that features women in alluring positions) or in the Love Hina “Oh, you saw me undressed, well thaTSNOTOKAYILLFUCKINGKILLYOUWHYARENTYOUDEAD!?!?!?!???!!!?” model, or it’s in a series that is otherwise innocent series that ends up coming off as voyeuristic and creepier than the other ones (most works by KyoAni, for example). It seems that the last few years, however, have created a string of fanservice shows that are at least aware of their status, in on the joke, and gladly having the girls, for a lack of better way of phrasing, putting on a show for the audience. These are shows like High School DxD (whose serious moments are all tied to the titillating aspects in a way that comes across as “we know this is stupid, just enjoy the boobs”) and Monster Musamune (a show whose female cast is all to eager to disrobe and perform for the male lead and, by proxy, the audience), shows where every aspect is directed to getting the audience to the next scene of nudity and titillation as opposed to creating a serviceable story and having fanservice act as a distraction.

My point, with that, is that this show is goofy. Even when not discussing how best to use one’s butt to hit other women’s butts, the show is keen to keep the tone as upbeat and joyful as possible. I bring this up because the episode’s main conflict, Aoba not talking to everyone, is the result of our lead, Nozomi, making a comment on someone else’s accent (her bluntness and insensitivity towards others’ insecurities is meant as a comedic trait, if you couldn’t tell). The episode’s plot could’ve been avoided if Nozomi didn’t reveal her insensitivity, making this episode feel like a complete comedy of errors. Even with other stupid event in this episode (Miyata groping Nozomi’s butt to state that there’s more muscle on it, the butt walking, that beach ball exercise, the fact that there is a maneuver called “Vacuum Butt Cannon”) helps in establishing this almost excessively upbeat tone. This tone is the key for the series to work, as otherwise the fanservice would feel out of place and tacky.

This show is still great fun and so long as you are not turned off by a show whose primary purpose is showing off the butts of it’s female cast.

FINAL SCORES:

DRIFTERS: A

YURI ON ICE: A-

IZETTA: THE LAST WITCH: C-

KEIJO!!!!!!!!: B+

These shows are all available streaming on Crunchyroll.com
Drifters, Yuri On Ice, Izetta: The Last Witch, and Keijo!!!!!!!! are all licensed by Funimation.
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Author: criticoffilm

Amateur film and anime critic, animation enthusiast, hopeful writer

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