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Bateszi Anime Blog

Anime fans fornever

Unspeakably beautiful

A belated new year’s resolution for me is to publish more posts this year than last, but rather than try to come up with a bunch of boring editorials, I went through MyAnimeList and picked out twelve anime that I want to try and write about, bringing me first to Devilman (both The Birth (1987) and The Demon Bird (1990) episodes,) the closest that anime has come to replicating the feel of an H.P. Lovecraft story, that of aeons-old demons and lost civilisations.

Like one of Lovecraft’s most famous stories, it even begins with an ill-fated scientific expedition into a distant mountain range. The children of those scientists, Akira and (the totally insane) Ryou, are the protagonists, with Ryou leading Akira towards his fate as Devilman, mankind’s only opposition to the hordes of demons hell-bent on reclaiming Earth for their own. There’s nothing remarkable about that premise and there are dozens of other stories just like it, but Devilman has some fascinating, deeper hues to it than most.

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Ghosts in their own ghost stories: Shokuzai

Shokuzai episode 3

“If it cannot break out of its shell, the chick will die without ever being born. We are the chick-The world is our egg. If we don’t crack the world’s shell, we will die without ever truly being born. Smash the world’s shell. FOR THE REVOLUTION OF THE WORLD!”
–Revolutionary Girl Utena

Shokuzai (Penance) is a story of people dying without ever being born. Exposed to a tragedy at a young age, it’s like they were frozen in time and encased within a shell of adolescence as they grew into adulthood. They were five girls in their school’s playground when one of them was abducted right in front of their eyes and murdered. 15 years later, we return to their lives and find them still struggling to come to terms with what happened. Stunted, empty, cursed; they could never break out of their shells. Thus began the 5 episode series Shokuzai, a 2012 Japanese TV drama directed by the horror maestro Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Cure, Pulse, Tokyo Sonata.)

When I began investigating Japanese film in 2008, Kurosawa fast became a favourite of mine. Like a Japanese Tarkovsky, his style is calm and atmospheric, using background noise and image to convey a strong feeling of alienation and disquiet. If you’ve ever seen anything from the anime directors Ryutaro Nakamura (Serial Experiments Lain, Ghost Hound) or Hiroshi Hamasaki (Texhnolyze, Shigurui,) you’ll know what to expect. Kurosawa’s made a lot of horror, but in a genre renowned for its visceral qualities, his films are unusually meditative and artful nightmares that play with the strange and surreal to emphasise an ugly and desperate reality. When even Martin Scorsese is a fan (the excellent Shutter Island owes a lot to Kurosawa,) you realise this is a filmmaker worthy of note.

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The anime-fication of Attack on Titan

Attack on Titan

This season, I’ve found myself in the fun position of having two of my favourite manga series adapted into anime. We already know how things went with Flowers of Evil, but there’s still the case of Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin) to consider. Produced at Wit Studio and directed by Tetsurō Araki (of Death Note and Kurozuka, amongst others,) it’s the adaptation I was hoping for back in 2011. So, is it any good? Going by this first episode: hell yes.

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The shrinking of Attack on Titan

Attack on Titan

Back in 2011, I wrote two posts about the manga series Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin) and since then, it’s only grown in popularity, and in addition to a live-action movie, now has an anime series starting in April, too. I can’t wait to see how it turns out, but in the meantime, I figured I’d catch up with the latest chapters, and, man, is it still good or what? But there’s something else I have to note too, in that by beginning to explain many of its mysteries, Attack on Titan is shrinking.

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Broken Apple: Shin Sekai Yori

Many of us are optimists and like to think there’s an innate sense of goodness within us all, but given a God’s power, how would we react? Shin Sekai Yori (From the New World) answers that question within its first 3 minutes: upon the discovery of psychokinesis, civilisation regresses into a thousand year-long dark age, where Man is subjugated by an immense, supernatural power.

One such power, the Emperor of Great Joy, marks his coronation by burning to death the first 500 people to stop clapping. It’s said they clapped for 3 days and nights.

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Liking Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse? See also…

One of the biggest surprises of the summer season has been Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse. A name as bad as that is enough to scare away most, but that this is both a mecha anime and a bloody brutal one at that is stranger still. Whether it can live up to the intensity of these first two episodes is another question entirely, but right now, it’s just nice to reflect on a job well massacred! The root cause of it all? Aliens, of course! Earth’s invaded, humanity’s out-matched and Japan’s moe legions are our first line of defence. Would you feel confident?

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The girl who became a zombie

I’m utterly torn by Sankarea. It has beautiful art direction and some fascinating ideas, but it’s also about as exploitative as anime gets. There’s just so much to like about it though, starting with the girl who became a zombie.

Of course, to become a zombie, one must first die. Sanka commits suicide because her father is a massive creep (and, I would argue, a moe otaku,) so obsessed his daughter’s innocence that he’s stopping her from setting foot in the outside world.

There’s a twisted logic to the metaphors being spun here, where a decaying body and spilt guts is symbolic of a girl’s coming of age. She’s happy to be damaged and sew-up the gaping tear across her stomach if it means being able to live a normal life.

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Because you need a little violence in your life: Dr. Mohiro Kitoh’s fabulous depression

One thing we may deduce about author Mohiro Kitoh from Bokurano and Narutaru is that he probably had a few bad experiences growing up.

It’s otherwise very difficult to understand why his stories about children are quite so fucked-up. Case in post, Narutaru, of which I just finished watching the anime adaptation.

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We offer up our heart’s blood: Courage and spirit in Shingeki no Kyojin

Since writing my first post on the manga series Shingeki no Kyojin (the official English title is apparently Attack on Titan,) it’s been licensed for an English-language release by Kodansha USA, whilst a Japanese live-action movie has also been announced for 2013. With the inevitably small film-budget it’ll receive, I’m not convinced it’ll look good enough , but then again, it still sounds better than the forthcoming Akira film!

Last night I finally caught up to volume 5 of the series and, man, I just want to keep going. For those that haven’t read my first post on it, Shingeki no Kyojin is a large-scale survival-horror manga about a future-Earth dominated by man-eating giants (known in the series as Titans.) With humanity on the brink and walled up in one last city, the series begins as the Titans break through the city’s first line of defence.

Imagine any zombie film you’ve ever seen, and then replace the zombies with giants. Mankind’s fucked, right? It’s lucky then that the main character, Eren, can transform into a Titan, too!

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Blood-C: one long descent into chaos

Series like Blood-C catch my eye. At some point during its airing, I got the impression it was bad: the weekly reviews at Sea Slugs and Moe Sucks say as much and more, but since finishing, I’ve also read takes at chaostangent and S01E01 that say the opposite. Having now seen it for myself over the last week, I agree more with the latter blogs. Like all series that seem to require a little patience, Blood-C has ended up being quite underrated.

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Eaten by giants!!

Apparently, Shingeki no Kyojin can be translated to ‘Advancing Giants’. It’s a new-ish, still on-going manga (began serialisation in 2009) that I started reading at the weekend. In it, humanity has been brought to the brink of extinction by an unstoppable wave of man-eating giants. Where did they come from? Nobody knows! And why do they eat only humans? Again, nobody knows! The giants don’t feed on us for sustinance, they do it because they can!

Mankind somehow survives by sealing itself within a city, surrounded by 50 metre-high walls to keep everything else out. 100 years later, it’s an era of relative peace, but suddenly, this guy appears… More than double the size of any giant ever seen before, he (literally) kicks a hole in the city’s previously impregnable defences and unleashes the horrors outside waiting to get in.

And so, the real story of (the award-winning) Shingeki no Kyojin begins.

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Feel like being scared?

I’ve been going through a lull in blogging lately. Although I’ve been trying hard (and succeeding, surprisingly!) to keep up with a certain trio of currently airing series, I’ve also been feeling quite passive, too. Even still, the desire to trudge on with this whole writing thing has never left me, so, thank you if you’ve been persevering with me for a few years now. I honestly wish I could be a more consistent blogger for you, but let’s forget all that for now, for I have finally found something ‘new’ to write about!

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Can anime do horror?

Truly good horror anime is hard to find. Anime tends to use many elements of horror, but it rarely adds up to something that’s scary.

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Horrible fun / Exhuming Ga-Rei -Zero-

If just because there’s something exciting about proving yourself wrong every now and then, I’m trying to watch a bunch of recent series that I’ve snubbed or otherwise ignored in past. This all started when, on a whim, I began watching the kendo anime Bamboo Blade and felt stupid for ignoring it for so long.

Ga-Rei -Zero- is another amongst those I’d passed over in recent years, and, well, it’s a violent story about monsters and stuff, too! If nothing else, I knew I’d get to see some weird creatures breathing fire and crushing people underfoot!

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The harsh beauty of Tsutomu Nihei’s Biomega

Looking out on Tsutomu Nihei's new world

Happy new year, everyone! Time sure flies and it’s now looking likely that this blog will live to see it’s fourth anniversary on the 4th of March, which is just… surreal!

This time of year also provides me with the rare opportunity to immerse in some new worlds of fiction. Last year I fell under the spell of Legend of the Galactic Heroes, but this time it was to be Tsutomu Nihei and his six volume Biomega that caught my eye.

Nihei is probably my favourite mangaka. It’s not like I’ve read a lot of manga, but this guy has held my admiration for a long time, ever since I stumbled over his first series, Blame!, where the dialogue is sparse, action is rapid and landscapes are wide, sprawling stretches of textured emptiness.

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When all that’s left is dust

Boogiepop Phantom

When I think about Boogiepop Phantom, I’m also reminded of other recent Madhouse anime, like Shigurui and Casshern Sins. Each has a strange aesthetic; seductive yet tinged by an under-lying sense of sadness and desolation.

It would be easy to categorise them as dark and depressing, but they are more complex than that. It’s not horror merely for the sake of mindless chills; it’s horror to serve a purpose, to weave a spell. Boogiepop Phantom is disorientating, Shigurui is grotesque and Casshern Sins is desolate, but each conjures an atmosphere potent enough to provoke difficult questions.

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Why Boogiepop? You wouldn’t willingly escape into a nightmare, right?

Haunting darkness in Boogiepop Phantom

The coolest thing about Boogiepop Phantom is that it’s just really fucked up. Too often in anime are teenagers romanticised. Everything’s so sweet, so melodramatic; no permanent damage. It’s just easier to watch something like Toradora, where everyone’s so cheerful, ready to communicate and fix their problems.

Nothing festers in your typical anime high-school; feelings, conflicts are all out in the open, ready to be tended. It’s false bullshit, but we watch it because it’s happy and safe, because there’s always an answer, and the characters will always turn out okay, smiling in the end. We know it’s coming and that’s fine, but it lacks an edge; seems to be more like a dream than reality.

And you wouldn’t willingly escape into a nightmare, right?

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Fullmetal Alchemist is overlooked as horror

Ed, after doing a bit of grave-digging

Something that ‘outsiders’ probably don’t realise about Fullmetal Alchemist is just how grotesque and disturbing it can be for mainstream shonen; it has never been a story that shys away from death, even when the victims are cute little girls and their pet dogs!

This lurched back into focus during episode 20 of Brotherhood, when Ed, in-between bouts of throwing up, exhumes the remains of what was supposed to be his half-transmuted mother. While the act of digging up a long-buried grave is, in itself, a stomach-turning thing to do, after Ed looks at the remains, a plot twist even more disturbing is revealed, that the body they pulled back from ‘the other side’ wasn’t their mother’s at all!

Who’s body was it? And why did it appear in place of his mother’s? The story continues to raise these dark questions, and with no comforting, morally-sound answer in sight, I really think that FMA is overlooked as horror. Scenes like these, as well as the twisted fate of characters like Martel, are as cruel and disturbing as anything I’ve seen in anime.