My spies inform me that a new season of anime has begun, and I’ve been asked if I’m watching anything from it. Initially I wasn’t planning to: I do watch anime from time to time, but I certainly don’t try to keep up with current events in the field. Frankly, I usually have enough to do working my way through specific recommendations without trying things on a whim. On the other hand, I thought it might be interesting to take my usual uninformed state and see how some of the latest shows looked from that perspective.
Upon looking at the anime chart, I was immediately struck by just how much of it there was. There was no way I could sample more than a couple of shows. I immediately removed from consideration anything that was a continuation, which reduced the numbers a bit. After that, I arbitrarily decided that I was going to try two shows: the one which looked the best, and the one which looked the worst. I also deliberately didn’t do any research about the shows, relying solely upon the short descriptions and small pictures given on that list.
Most Promising: Arslan Senki
“Best” is a word struggling for meaning, given the selection of shows on offer, but this looked like it had potential. A young protagonist, wrestling with self-doubt, tortured by tragic events and nonetheless faced with a heroic task. It’s been a while since I saw anything which fitted into this fantasy mold. I have to admit that I was looking forward to seeing how it turned out.
What I actually got was a hefty helping of prologue. The tiny synopsis on the chart told me more about where the show was going than watching the first episode did, but I don’t feel upset about that. If nothing else it serves to give the audience more reasons to become engaged, since they’ve seen what things were like before the story proper started ( <#include world_changing_event.h> ). In this particular case there are two things that really stand out for me: the art and the setting.
The art is good – not fantastic, but very good – and at times it looks a lot like that from Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood. That’s praise, by the way. In fact at one point I was surprised to see a character that I thought I recognized from FMA:B, and I couldn’t work out what they were doing in this setting.
Speaking of which, the setting itself is nicely handled too. From my admittedly limited perspective, anime seems to have three default times/places it can be set: modern Japan, historic Japan, or a slightly odd take on medieval Europe. Arslan Senki is set in a thinly-fictionalised version of Persia, which is a really refreshing difference, and I very much enjoyed it. I hope we get to find out more about it as the show goes on.
At this stage there are only two minor quibbles I have with the show. The details of the setting – geography etc – are glossed over very quickly, which I found a bit unsatisfying. I expect to learn more later, and they might not be central to the story in any case. But this is a world I found myself being drawn into, and perhaps it would be nice to have another episode learning more about it before Everything Changes ™.
The other thing is that we still don’t know very much about the titular character, Prince Arslan. The events of the first episode revolve around him, but even by the end he still seems like something of a blank slate (the same goes for most of the other characters as well, incidentally). Perhaps I’m not used to subtle displays of characterisation. I’m sure this will develop as things progress, and waiting to see how it all goes will be no hardship.
In any case, I’m looking forward to seeing more of this. Watson’s Verdict: recommended.
Least Promising: Triage X
My initial thoughts on this, before I had watched it, did not bode well. Hmm, let me see… high-school boys and improbably-endowed nurses form a group of mercenary assassins. This looked like every stereotype about dubious anime had been rolled into one throbbing, heaving package. I expected it to be an absolute trainwreck, a wall-to-wall parade of the worst tropes anime has to offer. But it got made somehow, so I took it upon myself to give it a try and see just how bad it could get. After watching the first episode… well, I am man enough to admit when I have made a mistake. Sometimes my first judgements are in error. And when I discover that, I have the humility to stand up, put my hand on my heart, and say simply “I was wrong.” So with that in mind, I want to take this opportunity to say that my initial opinions about Triage X were absolutely and completely correct. This show is TERRIBLE. But don’t for a moment think I’m going to be focusing my criticism on all that mindless titillation to make horrible puns. Oh no. I’m way classier than that, and in any case I have a genuine grievance to nurse.
I’m not talking about the way it’s a disgraceful titstravaganza of sexualized displays, although it is most certainly that. In fact it is almost unbralievable the extent to which jiggling female flesh is pushed up. It seems to be have been pulled off the rack and used as an enhancement or substitute for characterisation, beginning in the opening few seconds.
Nor am I talking about the dialogue which sounds like it came from an early-90s Capcom game (“You are a very bad man!” “MUAHAHAHA! I am a very bad man!”). Trying to keep abreast of this caused my usually perky self to start sagging, especially when the oversized use of medical terms budded (again in the first few seconds, and supported more or less continuously). By the end of the episode I was deep in my cups.
No, what really gets on my tits is the central gap between what could have been an intriguing show and the clumsy, jugheaded way it gets knockered around. If Triage X has one redeeming feature – and it indeed has only one – it is the underwiring conceit of the show; that there are some criminals who cannot be affected by the usual processes of law but for the good of society are still deserving of death. The idea of this sort of vigilante justice could be the basis of an interesting show, since it brings with it a host of questions: who makes the decisions, and how? Who does the killing? What does this do to the parties involved? How do others respond? Other shows have tackled similar themes, so it’s not impossible to have something that stands up firmly and proudly without requiring titsproportionate levels of bouncing and heaving chesticles to keep the viewers’ interest from flagging.
But to do justice with this you have to approach it in a thoughtful way, and Triage X really doesn’t appear to be doing this. There’s a massive cleavage between the size of the ideas lurking underneath and the breastacular displays of scanty clothing and ridiculous gymnastics employed to flaunt everything that is even remotely flauntable. I really feel like it was a mistake to serve so many adolescent fantasies while the core subject matter points in a different direction, and quite why the creators chose to nipple-and-dime us to death with a constant barrage of boobs, assplosions, guns, motorbikes and so on while they had other possibilities available will forever remain a pantalising mystery.
The bottom line is that this show will undoubtedly be wildly popular with whoever its target demographic is, but at least so far has little to offer anyone else. Watson’s Verdict: run, do not walk, in the opposite direction.
Question of the post: What looks best and worst from the chart? Have you seen either of these shows, and if so what did you think of them? What will you be watching this season?