Zankyou no Terror – 9

Had every episode SRS.TRAGEDY-COULD-HAVE-BEEN of Zankyou no Terror been like this, it would have been a great series. There was tension, drama, cinematography, compelling choices, solid exposition, and real character development. In particular, I highly enjoyed the slow, careful pace the episode took with the bomb sequence, adding weight to it while simultaneously allowing both the viewer and characters to step back and consider what was going on among Nine, Lisa, and Five. Instead of turning this into some mind-numbing, last-minute-disarm-the-bomb action trope, we got to see some character development finally deliver on its promise, with each player, even Five to some degree, revealing new things about themselves. At last, the series sets itself up for its finale and throws the characters into their final confrontation.

Amazing how it failed to do this effectively for the past nine episodes, wasting all that time to accomplish so little. You might as well watch the first episode, maybe the fifth, and this one, and you’d end up at the same point as if you’d watched all the others in sequence. We just found out that Japan might have been developing a nuclear weapon, a shocking thing to say the least, given the country’s geopolitical position, popular sentiments, and the Japanese constitution that forswears the right to wage offensive war ever again. This single idea carries more substance than everything else that’s happened in the entire series, especially the cliched Unit 731 shit about savant children that was telegraphed into the ground. Why didn’t it just capitalize on this concept? Seriously, does anybody still remember those stupid Oedipus plots? Or the references to the Apocrypha? Or the fucking airport sequence? Anybody still care about those elaborate plots to blow up buildings? Nope.

I don’t think you could have asked for a better lesson on the importance of execution. Zankyou no Terror had all the trappings and foundations of a good series, but missed the forest for the trees. Characterization and drama are more about potentially small, yet deep moments between characters that you set up over time, rather than flashy sequences to get the adrenaline flowing and the brain shut off. Moments like what happened between Nine and Lisa here make a series memorable, not clever nods at obscure texts to make things seem revelatory to the dull-edged mind. The framing, the pacing, the simple-yet-impossible challenge presented to Nine, Lisa overcoming her insecurities somewhat, and Five revealing she cares way more about driving a wedge between her two rivals, the only two people in the world she has any connection to, than the legitimate concerns of the American government–all of that was light-years ahead in quality compared to Clarence the Henchman locking Lisa away on an airplane in some cockamamie scheme. And we didn’t even need Five grinning and painting her nails to make it serious and threatening.

God, kids, maybe this series might have a decent conclusion. It’ll still be a disaster, but we might be able to salvage something out of this trainwreck. No putting the breaks on the Crazy Train now. Only two more stops.

I (Don’t) Suck at Vayne – 2


Verdict: don’t.
Sentence: Victory
Reason: Solid play by me and my Karma support, along with the whole team.

You might have seen it on the stream, but I had a pretty bad day as far as League matches went. I think it ended up being 1 – 5 or something horrible like that. I believe four of them were to due to bad teammates or shitty teammates. When I say “shitty teammates,” I’m referring to their character. I had one match where every role except support/adc fed 10+ kills, but no one made a fuss about it. The three other losses were due to just terrible people: raging idiots blaming others for their bad performance or experiences. I have been there myself, but I’m making conscious not to fall into that trap again. By the way, I report you for being an awful human being, not because you played poorly. We all play poorly, kids. That’s not an excuse for poor sportsmanship.

My one win, though, was thanks to an excellent Vayne match I had v. Lucian, who is now finally somewhat under control, albeit still annoying to play against. I had a Karma who knew what she was doing–my suspicion is that she was a mid main, but whatever the reason for it, she knew exactly how to handle Karma in lane: poke back and forth and make Lucian’s short-ranged life a living hell. It’s so refreshing to be able to punish him for mistakes now after a year of that being almost impossible. We zoned him hard after a bit, and for once I didn’t suck at CS’ing: I ended up 50+ CS over him by the time laning phase ended. He managed to tag a kill or two on me, but never enough to overcome the massive gold deficit he acquired. The new buffs to Vayne and nerfs to the other ADCs have made my life in that regard much easier. I don’t feel back about taking Vayne into ranked anymore. Laning phase no longer feels hopeless, and her power spike feels more real. I think with some of the other slight nerfs to Kog’maw and such, Vayne will be in a solid place.

I’ve also been having some more consistent success with Jinx, whom I’ve come to enjoy as an ADC, something I didn’t think I’d ever say. I didn’t like Jinx when she first came out due to her ridiculous state at the time, but A) her character is not a misogynistic caricature, B) her playstyle is very rewarding and well-conceived, and C) I don’t feel like it’s a walk in the park. She’s almost the exact opposite in Vayne in that she’s incredibly immobile, but she has ways to overcome that weakness. On the minus side, I can’t aim her ults for crap yet. 😦

Also, surprise: everyone’s playing Talon now. Sigh at the LCS.

Sword Art Online II – 3

SRS.GUN-BARRELWell, this episode entertained me much more than I expected. We’re only three episodes into the season and I find myself enjoying this one far more than the previous iteration of SAO. In fact, I had to eat some of my own words on character development. This week the writers took a break from all online vidya game action and plunged headlong into the mind of Sinon, our new heroine, an surprising and successful attempt, I might add. Although the pace of that character development was too quick for my tastes–they could have drawn it out into the rest of her character arc had they played their cards right–it was nice to see Sinon possess depth to her character, as opposed to just being a token member of Kirito’s Harem. This girl is playing this game for a very good reason that resonates with her psychology and experiences as a human being? Lies! Someone must have gotten drunk in the writer’s room one night.

Now, to be fair, I don’t expect this glimpse of maturity in the series to sustain itself for very long, since next week’s episode is entitled “GGO.” Kirito Sue the Magnificent doth rise as the sun. Nevertheless, SAO2 has passed my scrutiny: I’ll keep watching the series for the whole season. I think it’s unlikely the writers won’t give us a decent payoff on this character on some level or another. Even if Sinon eventually succumbs to fawning over Kirito in the end for Literally No Reason, I’ll be at least pleased to see a character arc played out in a proper manner. If only that could be said for everyone else in this anime, but you have to count your blessings. My only gripe here is that Asuna is being sidelined faster than you can say “Count Dooku,” a crying shame. The author of this series can’t stick with one strong female character and invest in her: he/she has to keep tacking on new ones. Meh. Still, that’s been happening for a whole season now, so it’s hardly news. Hooray for casual Japanese misogyny.

Besides that, Episode 3 gets a thumbs up from me. Not much else to say without spoilers. Well played, SAO2. Let’s see what else you can do.

Sword Art Online II – 2

SILLY.PONY-SNIPERGood job, SAO2. You managed to hold my interest for a second episode. Most animes fail to do this, as they spend all their budget, time, and effort hooking you with the pilot, leading right into a loss of quality appropriately compared to the Cliffs of Insanity. What made this episode fun for me was that it showcased the l33t skillz of someone other than Kirito Sue the Magnificent, using rather intelligent (until the very end) gunplay that made the scene tense and exciting. See, writers? If you give your characters some sensible constraints and have them overcome them through their own wits and capabilities, it’s much more satisfying in the end. Anyway, Sinon or whatever-her-name-is is being telegraphed as some textbook PTSD-afflicted, brooding gunslinger girl, but I’ve given up on “character development” in this franchise, so it doesn’t faze me. My only demand for this season is for Sinon to contribute substantially to the plot apart from her sheer existence. You know, unlike Asuka, who was quickly sidelined into the Helpless Princess in Another Castle to make room for more bullshit glory for Kirito.

The next episode will probably have Kirito enter the hardcore world of Gun Gale Online and somehow catching up to everyone really quickly. Asit tal-eb. Keep the animation pretty, the action fun to watch, and Sinon not a female stereotype, and I’ll keep watching, SAO2. I know it might be hard, but you can do it. Just put your back into it.