Back from Blizzcon

Had a wonderful trip. One of the best of my life. Met many of my guildmates and other awesome people. I’ll write up some impressions later on, maybe.

I will be streaming tomorrow. Don’t know what exactly, though. Season 4 in LoL ends tomorrow, so maybe I’ll do some practice matches on the new Summoner’s Rift update. Who knows.

The normal anime posts are incoming as well.

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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.

Sword Art Online II – 7

This image sums up thSILLY.SEX-IS-GROSSe entire status of Kirito and Asuna’s relationship. It’s been seven episodes and I still don’t know why these two attractive young teenagers aren’t fucking like rabbits in a meadow. It probably has something to do with Japanese culture and its severe, crippling allergy to all things mildly related to realistic physical and emotional intimacy between people, opting instead to harp on the same three or four tired lines we’ve all heard before. Meanwhile, thousands of miles away: Sinon, you might want to kinda give the guy who obviously really cares about you a mature answer. No, you don’t have to like him back, but you could at least address the elephant in the room head on instead of doing what every other female anime protagonist has ever done, i.e., brush it off with an embarrassed chuckle. You don’t have many friends; it’s probably not a good idea to treat your most dedicated one like crap. Can’t you hear the red alert sirens going off? This is going to come back and bite you in the ass. The anime you’re in isn’t exactly pushing the bounds of creativity here. Jilted companion + mysterious group of villains = bad mojo.

Sigh. I really am sick to death of this aspect of Japanese culture. Really, I am. The stereotypes and cliches are more worn down than Asuna’s vibrator. Sure, occasionally we get something like 5 cm per second that depicts the Japanese perspective on relationships, but I’ve never seen some popular Japanese media actually criticize the way the Japanese deal with the topic of sex and physical intimacy. Believe you me, it is beyond twisted and monstrously unhealthy. Before ye mindless Japanophiles prate on about how the Japanese aren’t as prude as Americans and blah blah blah and how refreshing that is, I’m going to break this down a little bit with a giant sledge hammer: you are fucking wrong. The Japanese are less prudish about depicting nudity, that’s true; at everything else relating to sex and physical intimacy between human beings, they suck balls. Japanese culture makes a goddamn profession out of being terrible at depicting realistic relationships with realistic challenges–be they physical, mental, emotional, etc.–that occur in them. Due to its culture’s debilitating obsession with saving face for no good reason whatsoever, Japanese media shies away from this more vehemently than Ebola.

Let me drive this point home. When was the last time you saw in an anime any of the following:

  • A normal, stable couple depicted without any cliched romantic stereotypes, off-the-wall mental problems, or other horrible conditions used to fuel a plot about them?
    • When was the last time you saw such a couple have sex?
      • Was that sex actually shown onscreen?
      • When was that sex merely hinted at or disguised with some really thin euphemism that was played straight nevertheless?
    • When was the last time you saw that couple fight or discuss problems in a straightforward, mature manner? Dramatic elements are not the issue. Did they actually directly address what was going on between them?
  • A couple go through a breakup that was depicted onscreen?
    • Did they discuss this in a mature way? Even if it were comedic, did the anime try to touch on a few themes or elements seriously? (Something that happens regularly even in the most shallow American TV.)
  • Young protagonists with parents that are both alive, active in their children’s lives, yet dealing with troubles that do not include severe mental derangement or some other horrific conditions?
  • Gay people.
  • Gay people depicted as normal, healthy individuals? (Stop laughing.)
  • A gay relationship depicted in detail as normal, healthy, and praiseworthy? (I mean it. This is serious.)

In comparison, when was the last time you saw in an anime any of the following:

  • Boobies.
    • But no actual tits or vaginas.
  • Highly sexualized school girl uniforms.
  • Swimsuit episodes.
  • Harems.
  • Magical girls.
  • Any female over thirty that isn’t a total bitch or otherwise a terrible person.
  • Highly effeminate yet-totally-not-gay people who are insulting stereotypes.
  • Lecherous men whose noses have more blood than the rest of their bodies.
  • Extremely shy guys who have to eventually blurt out their feelings to a woman who just doesn’t get it because women are stupid. (See above.)
  • Asshole men with hearts of gold who can’t admit their feelings about a woman ever.
  • Oblivious men who take two hundred fucking episodes to figure out they really like the female protagonist, but only to get married to. (I’m looking at you, Rurouni Kenshin.)
  • Women who say no, but really, really, really mean yes.

Weigh those on a scale. See what happens.

Oh, right. Back to the actual episode. Ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, that’s it. It was typical SAO filler. Kirito, you did the right thing. We’ve already been through this part of your emotional development. You killed people in SAO. You got over it. Let it go. Let it go. Can’t hold it back anymore…

(The moral of this post is that Japanese culture is really fucked up.)