Posts tagged 'shonen'
After all these years, I still love watching Naruto. I’ll place it on hiatus every now and then, but it still is, and always will be, one of my biggest favourites. This past weekend marked the end of my latest break from Shippuuden, but already, here I am again; writing away. I couldn’t let this feeling pass without trying to convey it, this sense of being an anime fan and seeing something so great it can’t be contained by just me alone; I have to share it with you.
It’s been a long time since my last foray into Soul Eater. Too long, really. And it’s easy to forget just how fun it is, how exciting, how damn awesome.
I mean, there are certain things that will always stick out, launch it above other series, and these two episodes were no different. Consider the dark, gothic architecture of Shibusen. The landscape has a palpable character, the shade and colour emphasizing a constant, lively feeling. An emotional container for these bizarre eccentrics, this is a world I can feel a part of, along with these characters and their adventures, so colourful and thrilling.
I suppose I’m really just in awe of this show, as the bright sparks fly and the awkwardly dressed kids dance. In that moment. Memories. These episodes, in particular, just really capture that feeling for me, that transient, simple, joyful sense of being young and stupid. If just for a dozen or so minutes, it’s fun, and happy, and perfect.
Then Medusa attacks.
Sometimes it’s easy to take Soul Eater for granted because every episode is so consistently and stylishly animated. But like I said above, I’ve been away from this series for too long. When I finished these two episodes, I really had the urge to just race through the rest right there and then. But you see, I want to savour it, this feeling, this excitement. It’s wonderful, and rare.
There is no denying it; for Soul Eater and me, it was love at first sight. Bursting with an adorable “look-at-me” style and eccentric attitude, it’s probably the coolest looking anime I’ve clapped eyes on since Gurren Lagann. 6 episodes in and every single one of them has been weird and wonderful, just one surreal trip after another, and naturally, being such a shameless action junkie and all, I’ll never tire of seeing such beautifully animated battles. Considering its over-the-top, scythe-swinging choreography and fun-loving attitude, there’s no denying I’m extracting some immensely good, hot-blooded entertainment from Soul Eater, but still, and it’s important to note (because I know this is a big issue for some), this series is (traditional) shonen fighting anime. There, I said it.
It may look unconventional, but if you can’t enjoy the likes of Naruto, Bleach, One Piece or D.Gray-man, you won’t last long with this either. Soul Eater could be construed, at least at first, as a parody of those other anime; Black Star is probably the most blatant joke; he is a complete rip-off of the original noisy ninja, Uzumaki Naruto. But it’s clearly a loving parody, like Stephen Chow’s Kung Fu Hustle, because as much as it is knowingly poking fun at the cliched ‘shonen fighting’ anime, it obviously wants to be taken seriously as ‘shonen fighting’ anime too. Interestingly, this is another point of comparison with Gurren Lagann, because, early on, it was just as self-aware and over-the-top, being so referential of the mecha (super/transforming robot) genre. Starting a story with these archetypal ‘raw materials’ is very much akin to planting flower seeds and waiting for them blossom, as with every passing episode, the archetype, by virtue of its own experiences, takes root and grows into a unique personality. Already, Black Star is Black Star.
Soul Eater is, in many ways, very superficial. At this point, it has been looking great, the jokes are quite funny and the characters are likable, but there has been no real conflict. What I really love about a lot of my favourite shonen anime, like One Piece, is the heart-warming, strong bond of friendship shared by the characters, and we see, time and time again, that they will sacrifice everything, or die trying, to protect that bond. I’ve been looking for signs like that in Soul Eater too, something that suggests these relationships between meister and weapon amount to more than just plot convenience, and indeed, when pushed to their limits, I think there is definitely that kind of sentiment between Maka and Soul. I’m reflecting on a certain moment in episode 5, when the defeated Soul senses danger and covers Maka’s body with his own, growling “I won’t let you lay a hand on my Technician!” It just goes to show that there are deeper feelings there; that Soul Eater isn’t just parody and action, but has something quite inspiring to say about comradery and sacrifice too. I think that’s important, or at least, it is for me.
If MyAnimeList has taught me anything, it’s that for every merely-good new anime series airing right now, there are many more excellent but old (and therefore, forgotten) gems just waiting to be found. Since I joined that site, I’ve spent countless hours trawling through their hefty archives of anime, trying to build up a well-structured list of everything I’ve ever wanted to see. And now, as of speaking, there are 87 TV series, movies or OVAs on my official back-log; scary, but as long as I’m an anime fan, the list will never drain.
Building such a resource is a daunting task, but at the same time, it provides me with a useful reference for the future. If I’m looking for some comedy, or action, or drama, all I need to do is consult my list. For example, I doubt I’d even think to watch something as obscure as “Animation Runner Kuromi” had I never bothered to note it down on MAL, but I’m glad I did, because it turned out to be an entertaining little comedy about the anime industry, helmed by one of my absolute favourite directors, Akitaro Daichi, he of “Fruits Basket” and “Now and Then, Here and There” fame. Discovering that, amidst everything else that’s supposedly vying for mine anime-viewing attentions, was well worth the effort.
I found the anime of this blog-post, a certain Great Teacher Onizuka, for the same reasons. I’ve often read mentions of GTO, but up until the end of 2007, I’d always ignored it. However, since the dawn of the new year, I’ve been feeling tired after work and regularly struggle to keep my eyes open long enough to get through even one episode of so-called thinking-man’s anime (because, you see, thinking is too much effort). I suppose big, dumb Great Teacher Onizuka looked like the perfect antidote, and indeed, I was right; light entertainment for the win.
Great Teacher Onizuka’s real name is Eikichi Onizuka. He often introduces himself as a 22 year-old bachelor looking for lurrrv, but his blonde hair (quite rare in Asia, apparently!) and hot-blooded, aggressive attitude fails to conceal his history as the legendary leader of one of Japan’s most violent motorcycle gangs. Indeed, he only starts teaching because of the many “hot girls” at school, but quickly realizes his passion for setting straight an abusive class of misfits; themselves more than willing to squish his fledgling career.
That’s all you need to know about the plot of GTO, it’s that simple. Onizuka isn’t like other teachers; he isn’t up-tight, strict or serious, he’s the opposite. He’s a punk, irresponsible, easy-going and up for laugh; consider that he wins the admiration of one student by asking him for porn, while he punishes bullies by hanging them upside-down from trees.
So much of the fun is in seeing how Onizuka’s lack of regard for social boundaries (e.g. spanking a female student) knows no limits; the bemused reactions he forces from parents, teachers and students alike are priceless. You know they’ll never defeat Onizuka, but the bigger the bastard, the harder they fall. Of course, there are the obligatory slips into serious drama too, but it’s apt, and in some cases, heart-rending. In one particular arc, there is a rather-weak boy that’s being bullied by a group of girls; he considers suicide. It ends when he strips down naked in front of a packed hall of PTA members to reveal the extent to which his body has been battered and bruised.
With the animation from Studio Pierrot, the studio behind the likes of Bleach and Naruto, GTO is a fairly standard looking anime from 1999, but some of Onizuka’s facial expressions are hilarious; it’s like he suddenly tenses every muscle on his face to emphasize the sense of embarrassment or confusion he’s started feeling. It’s really unique and amusing to see, and was apparently based on the actor who played Onizuka in the live action drama.
Talking of Pierrot, they also curse GTO with their other major affliction, ridiculous random filler episodes. It’s not as bad as Naruto though, well, not as obvious, anyway, considering Onizuka proves himself capable of sitting an exam with a gun-shot wound to the stomach; no-one even notices until he passes out! You can’t really get more ridiculous than that, right? Besides, GTO has no plot to speak of, it’s just Onizuka rescuing the hearts and minds of a group of kids who, at some point or another, lost faith in school.
Though it’s low-brow and stupid, Great Teacher Onizuka is entertaining and likeable. Sometimes, that’s all I need; nothing too intelligent or opaque, but just wholesome, good-hearted fun. I doubt I’ll ever watch it again, but I’m glad I did. Now, back to the back-log, any suggestions?
As insane as it may sound, the last two episodes of Kiba were actually quite good! If you then stop to consider that they also didn’t feature its main character, there is something undoubtedly wrong.
To keep me interested, a show has to have an interesting, involving and immersive story; Kiba doesn’t have that. Likeable and unpredictable characters can also help too; no such luck for Kiba here either, we gleaned some of these elements in the previous two episodes, but now we are back to Zed’s gladiatorial timeline any semblance of potential has flown out of the window.
Mindless, derivative action is about the only way I can describe this episode. As much as I wanted to see Kiba retain last week’s promising conclusion, I can’t hide from the fact that Zed and his general story is so incredibly cliche, predictable and hollow that watching Kiba is good for only one thing; reminding me how important genuinely innovative and creative anime actually is.