Friday’s Feature – What Do You Mean Spoiler?

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I’ve been wondering this for awhile; how much information can you give in a write up or a review before you enter spoiler territory? And even if you do tell people what something is about, or what happens in it, does that actually spoil the watching of it?

Keep in mind, I’m not discussing murder mysteries where telling someone who the villain is would kind of defeat the purpose of the story.

And if you want to avoid any spoilers I’d recommend stopping.

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If we look at the fantasy genre specifically, there are a lot of quest stories. Joe ordinary has his life turned upside down by some sort of extraordinary event and has to begin a journey. Somewhere in the early stages he’ll meet someone who can act as a mentor character and point him in the right direction (so at least we don’t spend half the story with no clue about what the end goal will be). Then there is usually the rushed attempt to succeed whereby our ordinary Joe loses something of value and in the process learns some valuable life lesson before he rallies again and we get to the real confrontation whereby Joe employs all of the skills he has learned (usually in short montages) and defeats the whatever and succeeds in his quest. Then he may or may not return home, sometimes with a girl, and sometimes he’ll choose to go on questing.

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It’s the plot of Star Wars and Lord of the Rings and Katanagatari and Bleach and about several thousand other fantasy based stories.

So does telling someone that the mentor dies count as a spoiler for most of these shows? I mean, they don’t in every single one, but it is certainly a consistent theme. The act pushes some emotion into the early stages of the story, gives our protagonist a reason to grow up or a personal investment in the challenge (if they weren’t already), and also usually provides a reason for an early fight that is awesome but not quite as awesome as the final one will be because that would ruin the climax.

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Likewise, does saying our protagonist wins count as a spoiler? Really, they are either going to win or lose. It seems unlikely that in a finished story they are going to compromise or  walk-away (though I guess that is possible). If the show feels like it is setting up a tragedy, be prepared for the protagonist to die. If the show feels like your typical fantasy, prepare for the victory march. You can’t spoil basic plot elements because most people will have already seen where things are going.

Then what about the details? If the basic plot really can’t be spoiled because there’s only one or two ways it can end anyway, can we ruin some of the fun of the journey by giving too much information about the details?

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So Ichigo has to save Rukia from Soul Society and he does it by mastering… Is that spoiling or simply engaging in a discussion about the plot?

I’m going to admit, I’m fairly indifferent to whether I know the details of a story before I watch or read it. This is probably because I read a lot of classics (as well as a lot of pulp fiction) and to be honest I usually know everything that is going to happen in a novel by the time I actually get around to reading it. Does that make it less enjoyable? Not really. The way it is written and the way it delivers that story is what will make me love it. Knowing where it is going usually just heightens a sense of anticipation.  However, if I don’t know, as I usually don’t with anime because I don’t read all that much manga, it is still enjoyable. Seeing how things unfold and trying to work out what will happen next is also pretty fun. It’s a different kind of pleasure from a story but still perfectly pleasurable.

So here is where I’d like to open the discussion.

  1. What’s the worst spoiler you’ve ever been given? (Dumbledore’s death doesn’t count.)
  2. Do you care if you know what’s going to happen in a story before you begin?
  3. How much information do you consider too much?

The Morose Mononokean Episode 13

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Review:

The episode is called ‘The End’ and while it certainly ended the crisis with Ashiya’s vision it didn’t really offer any other insight or resolution. That and they kind of just gathered every character together and used their emotions to solve the problem. Really? Anyway, the final episode ends much the way the show has gone all the way along. It’s as if we are just continuing to skim over the top of a much more interesting story but at the same time being given enough that we keep coming back. I haven’t heard any news of a season 2 at this stage so I guess we’ll just have to be satisfied with a ho-hum story of two human boys learning to find the balance between human and yokai.

The Morose Mononokean is available on Crunchyroll.

Cheer Boys Episode 12

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Review:

While I liked that the focus of the episode was on self-reflection and the journey travelled rather than winning a national tournament after less than a year as a team, the note book gimmick fell kind of flat. It just felt like if they actually tried this someone would have grabbed the book and walked off and the team would have had a few more falling outs and misunderstandings the day before the competition which just isn’t productive for generating team spirit. I am disappointed that we didn’t get to see the routine uninterrupted and instead we had flash backs and quotes from the note books over the top. For a show about cheerleading we’ve seen litter (thankfully, because otherwise it would get dull) but we’ve now watched the final episode and still not really seen a full routine. All and all, this series has maintained its tone and ended satisfyingly enough but other than being reasonably enjoyable to watch it has also remained reasonably forgettable.

Cheer Boys is available on AnimeLab.

D Gray Man Hallow Episode 13

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Review:

As a season end this was kind of lame (assuming 13 episodes is season end). Nothing is resolved and we have one character on the run, another one returning from being on the run but not really re-joining the team and two characters still in enemy hands but then again, I never expected anything to be resolved in 13 episodes. It’s been a long running series and nothing has ever happened that fast so the fact that the Kanda and Alma story was wrapped up as quickly as it was surprised me earlier in the season.

This episode as an episode was really enjoyable. Seeing Allen and Cross after they first met and getting some more hints about Cross’ involvement with Allen becoming the Fourteenth was interesting. Actually being reminded that Lavi and Bookman are still in the hands of the Noah and the Noah being their usual callous selves was entertaining (though, they hurt Lavi so now they have to die – sorry). Lenalee being her usual overly emotional self before Kanda’s return felt really nostalgic and the crystallisation of Mugen (while downplayed within an already packed episode) was something I’d kind of been waiting for given the enemies just keep getting stronger so eventually our exorcists are going to have to catch up or die.

By the way, is Link actually dead? I know we saw his gravestone but it just seems really kind of anti-climatic for him to have died then.

Alright, whole season review of this is going to be tough to write but look out for it. If you are still deciding whether to watch Hallow, basically don’t bother unless you have watched the previous D Gray Man. While you might catch up on the storyline, without the emotional connections to the events, it is going to be pretty flat. That said, if you have watched the original, while there are definitely stylistic difference, from a story point of view this is a great continuation, we just need more.

D Gray Man Hallow is available on AnimeLab.

Momokuri Episodes 25 + 26

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Review:

This went much the way you would expect, though the scene change to a hot spring was kind of out of left field. While we had already done pool and beach it didn’t seem like the show had any way to contrive a hot springs visit. How I underestimate anime sometimes. Apparently you can always find a way to send a group of unaccompanied teenagers to the hot springs. Anyway, the romance is nicely wrapped for the main couple and the other characters get as little development as always and it all ends sweetly (if a little creepily) ever after so the show maintained it’s consistent tone throughout.

Momokuri is available on Crunchyroll.

Hitorinoshita Episode 12

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Review:

It is very hard to take an episode seriously when it begins with a character being attacked by and then being up a panda. Sorry, but after twenty more minutes of old dying guy telling story I was still stuck on the whole fact that the best way they could show us Houhou toughing it out in the mountains was to have her attacked by a panda. Regardless of anything else that happened, MAL tells me this is the final episode and yet almost all of it was flashback and then Soran decided he’d participate in the tournament thing that was mentioned many episodes ago. The end. Okay, no answers at all and almost no forward character progression. This show hasn’t been as bad as Taboo Tattoo but whether they ever make a part 2 or not, I’m done.

Hitorinoshita is available on Crunchyroll.

Post Number 500

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It really doesn’t seem plausible but I just hit post number 500. So I invited some friends to celebrate with me.

Actually, I’d like to invite all my readers to celebrate with me because without you there really isn’t any point to any of these posts.

So a big thank you! And hopefully we’ll all still be around come post number 1000.

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Kimi ni Todoke Series Review

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Overview:

Sawako has been isolated for most of her school life. Mistakenly called Sadako (like the character in the Ring), rumours of her being able to see ghosts and generally be weird have forever circulated, not aided by her strong introverted nature and fairly creepy demeaner when in social situations. Noticed by the class’ Mr Popular, Kazehaya, Sawako slowly begins to integrate with her classmates and is very thankful to Kazehaya. But are her feelings those of appreciation or something more?

Review (Don’t read if you’re worried about spoilers):

Okay, if you’ve watched this you know that it takes 37 episodes for a girl and guy, who both like each other and have the means and opportunity, to actually end up dating (for real dating with both of them aware that it is happening rather than just meeting up and talking which is of course totally different). This is the absolute frustration of this show in that our leads deserve the prize for absolute densest human beings to ever appear in a romance anime. And yet, it is so worth watching all of those episodes to see these two really sweet people end up together.

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A while ago I did a Top 5 Romantic Anime and Kimi ni Todoke topped the list. It did this for good reason. Sawako is an incredibly stilted character at the start of the series after years of social isolation. While Kazehaya likes her he wants her to be able to stand on her own so instead of taking her by the hand early in the series and guiding her through all her troubles, he generally takes the role of the quiet support and mentor but that means his romantic intentions are frequently derailed. From a romance point of view it means they only take very slow steps forward, but in terms of getting the audience to respect both of the characters in the relationship this is actually really affective.

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In addition to the romance itself, the story also examines the friendships Sawako develops through the series. This is also really sweet (though at times cliché) and we end up with a fantastic core cast involving Kazehaya’s friend, Ryuu, Ryuu’s friend, Chizuru, and Chizuru’s friend Ayane. Throughout the series Ayane drifts from boyfriend to boyfriend (always older) and this gives her a fairly skeptical view of love but also makes her the more observant when it comes to Sawako and Kazehaya’s relationship. Ryuu has had a long term crush on Chizuru but for most of the series she’s hung up on Ryuu’s older brother. All three of these support characters feel genuine and have something to offer to the main plot while having their own lives and goals unfolding. While the end of the series definitely takes on a cheer on Sawako tone, throughout the series these characters are treated fairly respectfully.

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But just before you think this show is all sweet and no drama (outside of the does-he-like-me kind), we also have Kurumi and a whole bunch of Kazehaya fan girls. The fan girls get dealt with early on (thank-goodness because that was irritating) but Kurumi has held a torch for Kazehaya for a very long time. As a character, she is golden and we even get a recap of the first season from her point of view which is actually really refreshing and a nice way to recap events without making it feel too repetitive. Kurumi has a lot of personality. She schemes and manipulates and does everything she can to win her guy. And when things finally fail she actually confesses outright and openly. What follows after that is one of the best character developments that can be found in romance anime. While Kurumi still declares that she is a rival of Sawako, it is quite clear that for the most part Kurumi has accepted defeat and she’s finding a new way to deal with things. That doesn’t mean she loses any of her edge as a character though and her interjections in the second season are some of the more entertaining moments as they break up the otherwise mostly serious drama.

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From a visual point of view it’s okay. It isn’t overly detailed and there isn’t a lot of action to be animated, and the colours are a little washed out looking, but it works. The chibi version of Sawako that shows up from time to time is a little off as are some of the moments where the characters are basking in something sweet and all of the setting just vanishes in a pastel background. However, this show is carried by the characters so the visuals work well enough and aren’t intrusive into their story.

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I really love both opening songs, though the first one gets stuck in my head and drives me a little crazy. It can have me humming it days after watching the show. The visuals during the openings are also really good at setting the tone and themes of the show.

Mostly, if you like a good romance and you aren’t opposed to a slow story (different from no story), Kimi ni Todoke is definitely for you. I’ve never come across an English dub of it, even the DVD only came with subs, but I really like the voice actors and actually couldn’t imagine Sawako speaking English as I think a lot of her misunderstandings wouldn’t work and you’d just think she’s a bit slow.

What did you think of Kimi ni Todoke? Did the slow pace drive you crazy or did it work to tell a romance that felt a bit more thought out? Let me know in the comments below.

Tales of Zestiria the X Episode 12

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Review:

Well, aren’t we all glad of second season announcements. Except that it leaves us with pretty much no resolution. Okay, Alisha is fine. A bit too fine given how much blood she lost. You would think it would take her longer to be up and bouncing around but at least she didn’t die.

Actually, my main complaint coming out of this will be the Lord of Calamity. Clearly he has never read a story in his life because otherwise he would know that any villain that lets the hero go (in order for them to become hope before being crushed) has just raised their own death flag. To be honest, it is a lame reason to let someone live and doesn’t make any sense from a self-preservation point of view no matter how arrogant a villain is supposed to be. The only purpose of such declarations is to delay a confrontation the hero can’t yet win and why would any self-respecting villain give the hero a chance to win?

Tales of Zestiria the X is available on AnimeLab.

Tuesday’s Top 5: Supernatural Anime

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I am a big fan of horror and supernatural stories in general and I do love a good horror or supernatural anime (for the sake of this list I’ve excluded stories that deal with Japanese folklore as that is going to be a whole other list at some point). So this list is my top 5 favourite supernaturally themed anime. I’ll definitely do a horror one at some point and there may be some cross over.

Please Note – There are spoilers below. You have been warned.

Honourable mentions this week go to: Baccano (more gangster than supernatural), Dance in the Vampire Bund and Black Blood Brothers (while both would appear on a list of vampire anime they just didn’t stand up here), Ao No Exorcist (feels more action than supernatural), Fruits Basket (romance more than supernatural), Ghost Hunt and Another (lost to another ghost story), Death Parade (other than the characters being dead didn’t have a lot of supernatural going on) and Inu X Boku (focus on Japanese folklore so will probably show up on another list at some point).

Yes, that is a lot of honourable mentions and that’s the cut down list. As I said, I’m a big fan of the genre.

Number 5: Dusk Maiden of Amnesia

While I get this isn’t the single most amazing anime in the world (and a lot in my honourable mentions are actually better as stories), this one made my list because the supernatural is at the front and centre of every single episode. Yuuko also made my list of characters with convenient missing memories.

The characters form the Paranormal Investigation Club and the club president is literally a ghost with amnesia. Also, the story doesn’t fit any genre except supernatural. There is romance, there is coming of age, there’s some detective and mystery work, there’s some horror, but it isn’t any of these. It is just a good supernatural story and that’s why I put it on the list.

Number 4: Kokoro Connect

This one starts with a group of friends who are literally jumping into one another’s bodies and have no idea why. Even when the culprit appears, they are no closer to figuring out why or how. When that phenomenon finally stops (in a manner that I will not spoil, watch the anime), it isn’t too long before another challenge awaits them. Kokoro Connect is heart wrenching, funny, touching, and generally just a great character piece even while it plays with most of the common tropes of highschool kids in a club doing not very much. While the supernatural element is never really explained that actually makes the story work because it kind of makes sense for beings that can do the sorts of things that are being done to these kids to not bothering to explain them.

Number 3: Angel Beats

Another heart break anime. Okay, there really isn’t a way for this to not break your heart given the characters are all young and all dead and really haven’t got anything left except for this insane desire to fight against god who they aren’t even sure exists. What drives Angel Beats are the characters and the way each of them dealt with tragedy in life and deal with their own tragedy and the tragedy of their companions in the afterlife. Yeah, there’s also a lot of high school hijinks and the usual running about doing silly things but ultimately the situation these kids find themsleves in is tragic and the final episodes place that tragedy front and centre and make you embrace it even while offering hope.

Oh, what’s supernatural about it other than the characters being dead? Just a possible angel, guns being made out of dirt, hypnosis, an inability to die, and having your personality overwritten by a potential computer virus.

Number 2: Death Note

An excellent combination of mystery, crime and the supernatural, Death Note is kind of all of my favourite genres in one. A death god drops a notebook on earth and it is picked up by Light, who it turns out wants to change the world by killing every single criminal and now he has the means to enact this. It’s a great story with some really compelling characters and the entire thing is driven by the fact that Light is able to commit crimes without leaving any physical clues because all he is doing is writing names in a notebook.

Number 1: Black Butler

Making a deal with a demon? It doesn’t get more supernatural than that and Black Butler does it superbly. Even though Ciel’s story of revenge (being enabled by his demon butler) sits at the front and centre, there are a host of other mysteries and supernatural beings to be found. From the peculiarities of the servants, to the mysterious Jack the Ripper case, to the story of the missing girls, and then demon hounds, every episode delivers something fun and tragic simultaneously.

I know I have missed a lot of great supernatural anime when I made this list (even with the honourable mentions) so feel free to add your choices in the comments below. What would you have included and your list and why?