Tag Archives: Ecchi

Perverted aspects. Doesn’t apply to shows where it is a minor aspect.

FLCL – Anime Review

Japanese Title: FLCL

 

Related: FLCL 2 (TBR)

Similar: Excel Saga

The Tatami Galaxy

Kill la Kill

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Science Fiction Action Comedy

Length: 6 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Good animation.

Negatives:

  • LOL random!
  • Haruko is annoying.
  • So bloody boring.
  • All noise, no substance.
  • The dub is the worst. THE WORST!

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I put off FLCL’s review for the longest time, but with the sequel announced, I guess death is inevitable now, so best get it over with.

Naota’s dreary life turns upside down when the mother of all annoyances, Haruko Haruhara, crashes her scooter into him and bats him with her guitar. It’s not long before a horn grows from his forehead and a robot bursts forth. Haruko and the robot take up residence in his home, against his wishes, but that’s the least of his worries with the battle over his power yet to come.

It’s hard to get a sense for FLCL without watching it. The comedy is best described as ‘LOL random’, the action as flashy yet pointless, and the metaphors as trite. FLCL masks its meagreness by throwing everything and the kitchen bin at you. With one episode’s worth of substance stretched across six, it is no wonder they filled the time with random humour and weak imagery. The inconsistent tone with no throughput line to tie it all together delivers a disjointed anime. Haruko’s sole purpose seems to be to yell spontaneously some idiocy or other, just in case coherence is trying to take a foothold. She is a contender for worst character of all time.

You will hear viewers talk of how hard it is too follow FLCL. Don’t confuse this for complexity. They refer to the lack of cohesion, not depth of ideas. Anyone would be forgiven for getting a headache from all the noise. The Tatami Galaxy is far weirder, yet has leagues more cohesion and sense.

The genius depth fans claim to find in FLCL comes from the metaphors. I hate to break it to them, but these metaphors couldn’t be more obvious. A girl slamming into (love at first sight) and giving “mouth-to-mouth” to a guy, which makes a horn (boner) grow from his forehead doesn’t take genius to figure out. Oh wow, he’s attracted to her and has a hard-on for her against all sense later, just like every other teenager – colour me shocked. My mind has expanded…

The defence for all these shows is “You don’t get it.” I don’t know why people think that any story is hard to ‘get’. I think they confuse their fascination of an art piece – often a piece that showed them something new or a new way of thinking – as some hidden genius, and if others don’t find it deep, then it must be because they haven’t seen it yet, they haven’t been enlightened to the secret genius of the artwork. No, everybody saw it, everybody got it – they had simply seen better before. “You don’t get it” is the worst defence you can use. It makes you look like a simpleton unable to justify your stance on a critique. (I’m not referring to the “It’s not your type of art” meaning of “don’t get it” – just the “you are too stupid to understand it” version. We really need to start using two different phrases.)

Even setting all the above aside, a good metaphor doesn’t require understanding to succeed. The subtext simply adds to the effect, similar to an Easter egg or a subtle call back to a previous series. If you read Moby Dick and think it’s about hunting a whale, then you can still enjoy it as a great book. See the metaphor, and it gets even better. The best metaphors enhance your experience without your knowledge. You’ll find that the way a story came together, the narrative resonance from start to finish, is brilliant yet not realise it is because of the overarching metaphor. Then a friend happens to mention it years later and it all clicks together like that final Lego piece. You didn’t see the metaphor, but you subconsciously got it.

An easy technique to analyse the weird and zany is to strip it down to the basics, to the characters and story. Do they still have complexity? No? Then all the world’s weirdness won’t save them. Yes, weirdness adds to the style, presentation, enhan— it’s the difference between some monotone bloke versus Stephen Fry narrating an audiobook. It makes a difference, perhaps enough to be entertaining, but it doesn’t fix underlying problems. The best CG doesn’t save a bad film, does it?

FLCL certainly has good ideas. You can see the same ideas of teen sexuality in Neon Genesis Evangelion and the action style went in Gurren Lagann later on. If you want the weirdness executed with control and thought, look no further than Kill la Kill. Brought together like this is just a mess, however.

Even at a mere six episodes, FLCL was a chore to finish – took four sessions. I found it boring all those years ago and I still think the same today.

Art – High

Good animation and clever shot compositions are FLCL’s only redeeming features.

Sound – Low

The script is nonsense accompanied by weak acting, and yet the dub is infinitely worse. Avoid it!

Story – Very Low

A kid’s life turns upside down when a crazy girl with a guitar hits him in the head and a robot grows from his forehead soon after. FLCL’s reliance on random humour to fill time between plot moments marks it as a show lacking in confidence and substance.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: Skip it. If you must watch FLCL, don’t subject yourself to the dub.

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Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive:

Fluid Animation

Negative:

IncoherentNot FunnyRubbish Major CharactersShallow

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Saekano: How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata

 

Related: Saekano: How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend .flat (sequel – included in review)

Similar: The World God Only Knows

Welcome to the NHK

The Pet Girl of Sakurasou

 

Watched in: Japanese

Genre: Harem Ecchi Comedy Romance

Length: 25 episodes (2 seasons)

 

Positives:

  • Episode 0s.
  • Proper challenges in creative professions.

Negatives:

  • Can’t focus.
  • Too much harem filler.
  • Becomes what it parodies too often.

(Request an anime for review here.)

It’s no secret that trash overwhelmingly populates the harem genre. It’s also common knowledge that harem is mainstream among anime fans, as a harem entry hits the charts each season. Fans also forget them just as quickly when the next season throws a new batch of waifus to pick from.

Harem anime is the easiest genre to make and thus floods the new release list every few months. To stand out from the orgy, studios select series that can bait the reader in, whether through an all-monster-girl cast, picking up girls in a dungeon, or making every girl be the guy’s teachers. A-1 Pictures’ gamble to go meta-harem with Saekano: How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend paid off, wedging it between the breasts of fellow harems The Testament of Sister New Devil (what is this name?) and Absolute Duo in that season’s top 10. Parodying the genre elevates you above the genre, yes? Well, let’s find out.

Saekano follows high school otaku Tomoya in his dream to make the most compelling harem visual novel. To this task, he recruits illustrator Eriri, bestselling author Utaha, and boring girl Megumi as model for the main character. However, to tap into the emotions required for a compelling visual novel, he and his ‘super team’ must experience these emotions themselves.

So, the excuse for a harem this time is the creation of the visual novel, where 99% of harem anime come from, which is a better excuse than most. The characters comment on the harem – get down with the meta – in the process of crafting the game characters, writing the story, and designing the illustrations, often to comedic results. Episode 0 is full meta, as it assigns each character a role in the harem anime – think of a harem LARP. This Episode 0 deceptively sets up the idea that Saekano is a meta harem, which is not the case, as it’s more of a workplace anime like Shirobako and New Game before it then becomes an ordinary harem.

Giving the characters jobs that drive their progression is a nice addition. (Ever notice how most harem characters do nothing in life?) Even so, Tomoya isn’t much more interesting than your average harem protagonist. He’s about light novel protagonist level. The greatest missed opportunity lies in Megumi. It would have been much more interesting if she were nothing like the ‘boring girlfriend’ archetype required for the game. Instead, make her the opposite but have to act like the generic harem main girl. What we have is an unironic bland girl with no arc, whose main purpose is to create the clickbait title of the anime.

The third act of season one introduces Tomoya’s cousin, a musician, whom he recruits to compose music for the game. Up to this point, most episodes focused on each character’s role (Saekano still uses the harem structure of ‘let each girl have their turn’). When the cousin enters, it’s her turn to jump Tomoya and there’s nothing meta or ironic about the cousin-cest. The usual accidental flashing, towel drops, no boundaries, and shallow titillation fill the screen time. Saekano becomes the cliché it’s supposedly parodying. Season one is a bore.

Funnily enough, season two opens with new meta about the first season, mocking it as boring and clichéd. “How did such a generic anime get a second season?” And Saekano sees a marked improvement from there. Work takes centre stage with serious conflict. The team struggles with finding the answers to what will make for a compelling game in the face of deadlines. Eriri and Utaha also receive an offer to work on a professional project. This creates Saekano’s best moment, when Tomoya has to face the reality that he isn’t cut out to lead a team of professionals. Eriri and Utaha aren’t amateurs, yet he treats them as such, not demanding of them the same quality as you would of a professional. For the first time in a harem, the protagonist is punished for being too nice. Progress!

You may be asking yourself about what happened to the meta. Saekano’s core failure is a lack of focus. Is it a harem parody? No, it’s a romance. Wait, no, it’s about finding success in life. Saekano needed to choose one and relegate the others to subplots instead of giving each one main plot time in turn (ironically, just as harem does with its girls). A symptom of this failure is no more evident than when Tomoya fades as protagonist in season two. He becomes a supporting character in his own story! (Not a great loss, if I’m honest.)

Saekano is still above most harem, but only average by other standards, which is far better than anyone should expect.

Art – Low

Saekano uses the style of coloured lines instead of black for character outlines – as seen in Bakemonogatari – but at random, giving characters an off-putting neon glow. A-1 Pictures tried copying Shaft without purpose. Bad CG intrudes at odd times, such as when the author is typing. No artistry either. It really wants you to find these girls sexy with how it pans across anywhere but the face.

Sound – Medium

The acting is fine with nothing outstanding. Music is forgettable.

Story – Medium

A visual novel aficionado convinces a bestselling author, a respected illustrator, and a random girl to join his project of creating the best harem visual novel. A lack of focus holds this story back, though still succeeds in parts.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: For harem fans only. Saekano’s meta humour and effort at conflict make a more interesting anime than the usual harem. Its faults still confine it to the genre.

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Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None

Negative:

Incoherent

Video Girl AI – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Den’ei Shoujo Video Girl Ai

 

Similar: Ah! My Goddess

DNA2

Chobits

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Ecchi Romance Drama

Length: 6 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Remote control of the video girl.

Negatives:

  • No foundations to the infatuation.
  • Dumb as bricks characters.
  • Little happens.

(Request an anime for review here.)

I feel like a broken record at this point – when you write a romance, you must give reason for the characters to love each other. Starting with lust is fine, common even, but if you want the audience to believe in the ‘true love’ your characters profess, there must be more. Video Girl Ai is yet another romance without foundations.

Homeward bound after a heart-breaking rejection, Youta stops by a video store to make a purchase in the hope of a distraction. He gets more than he bargained for when a video girl called Ai emerges from the TV. He can control her with the remote – slow-mo, rewind, frame-by-frame, and even adjust boob size. He flattens them. She’s supposed to be meek, but damage to the VCR gives her a feistier personality than intended. Even so, she promises to help him find love.

Youta’s object of obsession is Moemi, a girl at school who only has eyes for the popular Takeshi. Really though, the key player in this relationship is Youta. He will do anything for Moemi, even help with a gift for Takeshi. He has the classic “nice” guy mentality. “If I do everything she wants, eventually she’ll break up with her boyfriend and realise I’ve been beside her the whole time!” Thankfully, Ai makes fun of him for it and Takeshi calls out Moemi’s selfishness, which points to the writer almost getting it right. Had the story been one of a wimpy guy realising he’s acting the loser, clinging to a bimbo with no interest in him, it could have been interesting. As is often the case with wimp romances however, this isn’t meant to reflect reality. It wants to give false hope that having no spine will make you attractive.

The cringe reaches new heights when he confesses to her loudly in public, but she thinks he’s just practicing to tell someone else… Really? Forget him having no spine – why would he be interested in such a dimwit?

To no one’s surprise, the twist is that he should have realised he had a loving girl in Ai beside him this whole time. Gasp! And he sure jumps into her arms quickly after it fails with Moemi. What a nice, considerate guy. After this, the finale involves a test of true love decreed by the villain in a visually creative setting. But remember what I said about foundations? Well, when you have no foundations, the audience is unlikely to make an emotional connection with the couple in a life or death struggle. Youta is screaming about his love for Ai, yet his words are hollow. He never showed us he loved her when he had nothing to gain.

Did he once get to know her?

Did he ever do anything selfless for her?

Did he share an interest with her?

Anything?

He’s so obsessed with doing frivolous favours for Moemi that he ignores Ai until the end, where – if realistic – would have made her little more than a stranger, not the object of true love.

Never forget your foundations. There is more emotion to be found in a man asking a woman how she has been lately than in a grand stunt off the Eiffel Tower to impress her. Yes, the stuntman is more impressive, but emotional resonance is about more than being impressive.

Art – Low

Video Girl Ai looks the same as DNA2, down to a girl cloned across both series.

Sound – Medium

The acting is average either way, as is the music.

Story – Low

A heartbroken teen thinks that watching a video will get his mind off things, only to have a girl emerge from his TV. What should have been a fun anime devolves into a romantic drama with no foundations.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: Don’t bother. Video Girl Ai needed a lot of work in the draft stage – more chemistry, conflict, and complexity. DNA2 is so much more fun.

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Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None

Negative:

Lacks Conflict

Scum’s Wish – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Kuzu no Honkai

 

Similar: Rumbling Hearts

White Album

Watched in: Japanese

Genre: Romance Drama

Length: 12 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Beautiful art and shot composition.

Negatives:

  • Immature view of sex, masquerading as maturity.
  • So much ‘almost sex.’
  • Boring lead.
  • Everything is a few beats slow.

(Request an anime for review here.)

You want a messed up love polygon? Hanabi is in love with her brother and teacher, but he’s interested in another teacher. Meanwhile, Hanabi’s classmate is in love with that other female teacher. To cope with the heartache of unrequited, forbidden love, Hanabi and the guy date each other for sexual and emotional comfort. They are each other’s replacements. However, another girl is in love with Hanabi, while the pretend boyfriend’s loli sister is also in love with him. Got all that? Lesbian -> Hanabi -> brother/teacher -> co-worker/teacher <- pretend boyfriend <- little sister.

Despite the messed up premise, my first thought was to question if Scum’s Wish would go far enough. The crueller the setup, the more likely an anime drama will chicken out before the end and not deliver the promise. When Scum’s Wish revealed that the brother wasn’t Hanabi’s real brother, I knew how this would end.

Scum’s Wish engaged me with its beautiful cinematography and emotional weight. Hanabi latched onto her brother and father figure, thinking they’d be together forever after the lack of a real father left her with emotional issues. It’s tragic.

Then the classmate’s little sister enters the picture, breaking the tone. She feels like a character from a trashy harem, not a tragic romance. Throw in the lesbian best friend with the hots for Hanabi, and the love polygon goes from tragic to comical. The teachers and students were enough. These extras comes across as characters meant to distract you from the shallowness of the main threads.

The ‘doesn’t go far enough’ problem is no more prevalent than in sex scenes. There’s a lot of almost sex. The artists put their all into animating each sex scene with smoothness and detail to maximise sensuality and eroticism. (Just imagine One Punch Man’s action scene animations, but for characters feeling each other up.) Yet, someone always backs out at the last moment.

Scum’s Wish was pitched to me as “the anime most mature about sex in years.” Now I don’t know what to think of the people who told me this – they were adults, too. Look, just because you censor less than a shoujo romance, it doesn’t make the sex any more mature. Almost every sex scene is “Gyaaah! Not there! Don’t look at me. Nyaaah!” They sure use the ‘one character on top of another, when the top starts crying and tears fall on the other’s face’ scene five times too many. It’s no different from any other immature relationship anime.

The villain of this story is the female teacher, surprisingly enough. She is aware of Hanabi’s desire, as well as all those who are after her, and she loves it. The teacher thrives on how much people want her – if she’s taking away someone’s crush in the process, then all the better. A unique villain, to be sure. Sadly, even she doesn’t go far enough. Her arc – hell, everyone’s arcs – resolves with the tension of wet toilet paper. Scum’s Wish simultaneously puts its characters in cruel scenarios while treating them like fragile ornaments that can’t suffer the slightest nudge, lest they break.

The fragility also weakens any emotional impact. March Comes in Like a Lion conveys emotion much more effectively, all while using a quarter of the words – silence instead of the excessive internal monologue found in Scum’s Wish.

The story has nothing beyond the relationship drama – no one feels like a real person with a life, even if a miserable one. Hanabi is worst of all. She is a passive, feeble character that rarely takes action. The plot doesn’t move forward at her behest. Someone else takes charge while she lies there going, “Gyaah! No…”

Maturity? Look elsewhere.

Art – High

The art is gorgeous, soft and elegant – I love the eyes. The shot composition is great at conveying multiple perspectives and emotions at once. Editing could be quicker. Character heights are oddly inconsistent – in the first scene, Hanabi bumps into a guy, coming up to his chin, but then two shots later, she is half a head taller than before!

Sound – Medium

Decent acting and calm music.

Story – Low

A love polygon of ridiculous dimensions messes with the emotions of every student and teacher involved. Scum’s Wish tries to be mature about sex, but devolves into immature melodrama that stretches reason beyond intrigue.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: Skip it. Scum’s Wish won’t be for you unless you love sexual melodrama.

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Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None

Negative:

Shallow

Hand Shakers – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Hand Shakers

 

Similar: Kiddy Grade

Get Backers

Big Order

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Supernatural Action

Length: 12 episodes, 1 OVA

 

Positives:

  • None that I can imagine.

Negatives:

  • The CG. That awful, awful
  • Camera won’t keep still.
  • Meaningless action.
  • Predictable in every way.
  • The music loops.
  • The whole handholding gimmick.
  • Amounts to nothing.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Jesus. Christ. Welcome to CG hell.

Hand Shakers doesn’t even try to ease you into its septic tank; it shoves you in with the opening scene, where a kid ties a girl in bondage with the worst CG chains as he demands more power of her (by stomping on her crotch), unleashing more hideous chains across the duel arena. Maybe if they spent less time on the boob physics and more on the animation, it wouldn’t haunt the audience for life. One scene, that’s all it takes to know you are in for some grade-A slop.

In the world of Hand Shakers, designated couples can summon powers known as Nimrods by holding hands to duel other such ‘Hand Shakers’ in the alternate plane, Ziggurat. The couple that defeats all others will earn a meeting with God to have a single wish granted.

Where these powers come from exactly, how they work, why God would have this absurd tournament, or how these people got chosen, aren’t questions for which you should be seeking answers. Hand Shakers will give you nothing. Its true desire is to shove that CG down your throat until you’re gagging out of every orifice.

People think Berserk 2016’s CG is bad – it is – but it has nothing on Hand Shakers. Why do these CG-heavy shows treat the camera like a dog toy, throwing it about everywhere as though angles, shot composition, and timing don’t matter? Hand Shakers’ camera cannot seem to keep still. Just because you don’t have to redraw characters when changing angles, does not mean you have to swing the camera around like a drunk. One early scene has Protagonist Kid talking to some girl in class and out of nowhere, the camera circles around the pair (now in full CG) in a sweeping motion as if to suggest something grand is happening. You want to know what they’re talking about? How much he concentrates when tinkering with electronics. Woah, easy there! There’s no need to leap out of your seat with excitement. I know this camera just blew your mind, but keep it in your pants, please.

When filming the action of meaningless nonsense, the camera is jittery, flying all over the place with no rhyme or reason. The artist’s graphics card also needs an upgrade to hit more than 15FPS. Hand Shakers looks even better with the random use of fish eye lens and this screen filter that darkens the bottom of every shot. Is the ground supposed to be darker? Who cares!

The greatest, the crowning glory of this eyesore graces our eyes in episode six. Now, those chains looked bad, Protagonist Kid’s cogs (yes, his power is controlling cogs) are eye cancer made manifest, and characters changing to CG on the fly is as jarring as pickles in a sealed glass container, yet none of these come close to episode six. In this episode, Protagonist Kid and his dead-loli partner fight against the Children’s Card Game Kid and his big sister (she wants to bang that shota dingle-dangle – what a shocker). Card Kid’s power is summoning monsters from his TCG. When he summoned that Flame Emperor Dragon, I pissed myself with laughter. My expectations were already at the bottom of the cliff – I couldn’t go any lower, and then Hand Shakers proved me wrong. My expectations were now falling towards Earth’s core.

All the ugliness could be tolerable if the story and characters were good. No. None of this anime is good. The entire gimmick is that the main couple must hold hands for everything – the girl will die for some reason if he lets go. Could you be any lamer? I swear this is the author’s fetish, expressed by self-inserting into this nonsense. It’s the only explanation for this handholding obsession. Oh, you know those powers called Nimrods? Nimrod is an archaic insult, meaning idiot. Fitting.

Hand Shakers is also predictable. See two people together – one male, one female – in an episode? They will be the next opponents. (Do try to act surprised when they reveal themselves.)

None of the dialogue says anything throughout this story and the characters are equally empty, no more so than the loli girl Protagonist Kid enjoys going to the bathroom with (“The rules say we must hold hands at all times, so you must let me watch you tinkle!”). She has no personality. Like with all characters in this rubbish trope, this is by design because it makes her “mysterious” and “deep.” When she does show emotion later on, it makes no difference.

Remember the ‘never let go’ rule? Well, it doesn’t matter, for he does let go several times to no consequence. In one instance, he’s so distracted by a conveyer system at a restaurant that he doesn’t realise she’s gone, somehow vanished in an open area with few people around. The writer was too lazy to include a crowd to add some believability to this shallow conflict.

So, like every aspect of Hand Shakers, it all amounts to nothing in the end.

Art – Very Low

Ugly CG permeates every scene. The camera swings about wildly because it can. Fish eye lens. Shading filters. More boob physics than any other animation. Jittery camera. Some imagery is nice, but the list of artistic problems never ends in Hand Shakers.

Sound – Very Low

Was this truly successful enough to warrant localisation? No actor could make this script sound good. I swear to you that each track loops the same twenty seconds of music.

Story – Very Low

People who gain power by holding hands as a couple fight each other to gain a wish from God. Hand Shakers is a predictable mess that results in nothing.

Overall Quality – Very Low

Recommendation: Avoid it. Hand Shakers is only for those with a morbid curiosity of the worst CG anime can offer. Not even ‘so bad it’s good.’

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Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None

Negative:

Awful DialogueHollow World BuildingHorrendous ActionIncoherentMary SueNo DevelopmentRepetitiveRubbish Major CharactersShallowUgly Artistic DesignUseless Side Cast