Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Watashi wa Anime ga daisukidesu-Sword Art Online

I find the Love It or Hate It debate over this anime hilarious, but I also REALLY get it. On the one hand, this anime is beautiful. The art and sound production is fantastic, especially from a smaller studio. The action is (overall) very well done. They have a really good pace, and they feel frenetic and exciting. It doesn't just excel at action either, there are many genuinely touching moments in this series.

Of course, I can also see the hate. While they do a lot of little design things with the MMO concept, they don't do much in the overall story. The first season is full of time skips that make you go, "Wait what! All of that intervening time!" The second season has excessive fanservice, and a change to the game makes it much less dramatic or intense. The show is very mixed, character-wise. On one end there's Suguha, who is easily the most developed character in the show, while still managing to be sympathetic, likable, and engaging. (Even if her subplot does give me the oogies.) Near the middle is Asuna, who starts off interesting, disappears for a while, reappears and is kinda meh, before growing into something better. But then, there are the problem characters. First off is the protagonist, Kirito. He feels REALLY inconsistent. Early on there's his loner thing, there's the people dying complex he develops, and there's his romance. Besides that...his personality seems to completely change depending on the episode, or sometimes scene, he's in. And the season two villain! My friend who got me into this show used to rave to me about how evil he was, and how much I'd hate him. He's half right. Dude's definitely evil, but after a while I gave up hating him. He's a cartoon. He's a silly caricature of what "evil" is. His motivations are weak, and he has absolutely no redeeming qualities. In other settings with different styles, that could work, but this show's tone clashes with that. You can only add so many Villain tropes to one character before they stop being empathetic, and once you can't even empathize with a character, your ability to like or dislike them is sorely diminished.

Overall, I liked Sword Ass (I mean Art) Online. I'm glad I saw it. It's pretty flawed, but the emotion and drive it presents combined with the fantastic action makes me enjoy it regardless. To me it feels like Gurren Lagann wearing a really shiny .hack/sign suit. That leads to the problem, however, that Gurren Lagann works as well as it does because it doesn't give a rat's ass about how it looks, or the believability of it's story. SAO lacks that quality to make up for it. What it really needs is to be dubbed and put on Toonami. Put it in with that crowd, and it's going to stick out, and in a good way. If you know you're someone who can't get over logical or character problems in a show, this isn't for you. But if you can dip yourself into this world and enjoy the emotional roller-coaster, it comes recommended.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Why Comics are infuriating and you should read them

This little post is at people who do not read comics. The American superhero comic industry is easily one of the oddest mediums, for several reasons. The goal of this is to effectively show why it's a freaking infuriating medium to become a fan of, and why you should do it anyway.

The first small problem lies with team changes. The most common I've run into is when the artist changes, either from issue to issue, or sometimes withing the same one. It's noticeable, off-putting, and occasionally makes it harder to enjoy the comic. The bigger problem lies in the 'betrayals.' So you've got the artist and writer, turning in comic after comic every month, developing subplots and carrying out story arcs. Out of nowhere, the bosses come in and say, "Hey, you're main character dies in the upcoming crossover. Your book is getting cancelled." Sometimes it's not nearly as dramatic. Maybe an important side character dies, or the book is getting cancelled for low sales, or the editors are demanding a dumb plot point (One More Day) or tonal shift. It still hurts. No matter how many times they do this to you, it's still fresh and raw and makes you want to storm their headquarters and bust some heads. That isn't going to change. That is the medium we're dealing with. Doing things like that overall increases sales, and if it ruins a good title, so what.

So why should you like comics then? For almost the exact same reason they're infuriating. While shared universes exist in other mediums, they're rare. Superhero comics ARE a shared universe. This allows for amazing crossovers, and interesting events. (Blackest Night) Not only that, but the ever changing status of the universe allows for growth on established characters, and the birth of interesting new ones. There are several points in Batman and Spiderman's histories where they had grown in very unexpected and intriguing ways. Sure, they were destroyed later, but those comics from that era are still fantastic. Guy Gardner has been developing as a character almost since his inception, though he kinda hit his peak of depth about 5 years ago. The whole idea of Legacy characters have allowed Tim Drake, Jaime Reyes, Cassandra Cain, and Mayday Parker to exist, and be awesome. Sure, they're get screwed over later, but for some time they're there and you love them. Basically, the superhero comic medium is about change, good and bad. Try it out.