Sword Art Online 2 – 5

This episo4a8f83ec-52e8-4b22-b1ad-75290759422ede was not as bad as last week’s, but it wasn’t as good as the three before that either. Only the abrupt resolution of the gender confusion subplot, something no experienced online gamer would find shocking in the slightest, surprised me. I had thought they would drag that out for a good while longer. In retrospect, this ruined the episode for me, as it just wasn’t believable that Sinon was so naive about guys using female avatars. This would be like being astounded at finding out that online gamers cuss or something. The nerve!

The rest was smooth, predictable sailing on a balmy sea. Kirito had his first match and won; it was the opposite of gripping. Really? A hardcore MMO hasn’t figured out how to make melee weapons work? You don’t say. To add insult to injury, Sinon got little screentime, because “fuck feminism,” says Japan. Death Gun finally showed up, confronting Kirito mask-to-face and implying he’s someone he’s met before. How did Kirito discern this from a sterile video game avatar? Why would Death Gun have an obscure tattoo to identify himself with? Seems kinda problematic.

Anyway, not very exciting, but not boring. Whatever.

Zankyou no Terror – 4

“We haven’t a sSRS.HACKINGingle clue about the perpetrators!”

Except the not-Youtube video clearly showing many of their physical features, unscrambled voices, and personalities. You know you are looking for at least two, unlikely more, young teenagers, one with black hair, one with brown hair, of X approximate height and weight. You have a fucking police sketch that people out in the sticks recognize, for God’s sake. Man, these police fucking suck. Oh, and apparently Bitcoin is a thing now even though the Japanese government doesn’t accept it. In fact, why would the Japanese government approve a request for gunpowder under such suspicious circumstances? Holy shit. Do these people not read what they’re writing? Meanwhile, downtown in Stupidburg, hacking is done through DOS and two teenagers with a fucking laptop can hack the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department with such ridiculous commands as “/attack” and shit. Also, I haven’t forgotten how the writers completely glossed over the many innocent deaths their bombing of the police station racked up. Other bloggers have done so, being so easily sucked in by this C-grade hack prose, but yeah, not a single word of that has been mentioned in any of the police department’s briefings. I know why, though: these two sociopaths have a real moral code, unlike all the adults out there who’ve forgotten what it is to be human, especially those responsible for their terrible childhood. Stop feeding us this high-school freshmen social criticism. Your plot is not deep, Zankyou no Terror. It is the exact opposite of deep. It is so shallow the water doesn’t even cover my pinky toe.

Blah blah blah, Hazuki Nagisa the Insane rescues Lisa as we knew he would. Man, I was so on the edge of my seat for that. I had no idea that’s how the plot would go. No, seriously. Took me completely by surprise! Gasp! Can we move on now? It’s been four fucking episodes; stop telegraphing this shit and get on with the plot. Oh, and Lisa finally gets the psychological release she’s been longing for because of her TERRIBLE FAMILY AND BULLYING JAPANESE SOCIETY AND BOO HOO HOO. Whaa. There, I cried. Done? Didn’t think so.

Blah blah blah, Shibazaki uses his head and solves the crime on his own, but the CORRUPT INCOMPETENT MINDLESS STUPID SOULLESS OLD UNINNOVATIVE STALE BOORISH (insert a thousand more scathing adjectives for good measure, since we can’t squeeze enough commentary into this show) police department can’t recognize an obvious trap and goes in guns blazing, resulting in their embarrassment in front of the public…instead of an actual bombing, which would make me care and give the terrorists some weight behind their words. After all, we can’t have the viewers thinking bad things about Aizen Sousuke the Younger, can we? We can’t let them realize these are just two terrorists putting the lives of untold people at risk with their antics? No, we’ll embarrass the police department instead of making them suffer real consequences for their stupidity. It’s more anvilicious that way!

I guess have to say this again: I DON’T GIVE A SHIT ABOUT THIS CONFLICT BETWEEN THE TERRORISTS AND THE POLICE. There’s been no sense of risk or danger to them. They’re just a thousand steps ahead of everyone because MAGICAL REASONS. They are two 17-something teenage boys. They do not have the logistical capabilities or expertise to take on the fucking Japanese government. Or any government. Or any semi-competent agency interested in doing its goddamned job.

It’s like the writers just keep throwing whole kitchen sinks at you labeled “COMMENTARY ON CONTEMPORARY JAPANESE SOCIETY” at the viewer and hoping you don’t think about it because YOU’RE TOO BUSY DODGING GODDAMN KITCHEN SINKS.


Sword Art Online II – 4

SRS.WILDSTAR-TELEGRAPHJust dodge the damn telegraphs, Sinon. Haven’t you played Wildstar? Anyway, I really don’t have too much to say about this episode, other than it’s the worst of the season so far. Kirito did some bullshit because reasons, while Sinon stood around explaining gameplay mechanics that aren’t likely to ever play any significant role again. This is what I don’t like about SAO: the writing is far too lazy. Instead of using the gameplay mechanics it goes out of its way to demonstrate and establish in order to create compelling constraints for the characters to overcome, the series just plays the Deus Ex Machina card as much as it can. It felt like they copy-pasted an episode from season 1. Likewise, I hate how Kirito doesn’t have to worry about the stat mechanics and shit in this “hardcore” game. You might want to withdraw that adjective, as no “hardcore” game I know of allows that kind of nonsense. Whatever.

I was delighted by the fact that they hired a native English speaker–or at least someone who knows how to pronounce the language–to voice the gunman NPC. “I’m gonna shoot you from here to the Moon!” You’re getting there, Japan. Keep trying. Go for it with gusto. Moreover, I didn’t buy how somehow the game offers melee weapons but makes them completely useless. MMO players are notoriously good at optimization and min-maxing. If someone figured out how to pull off a melee build with success, it would’ve been done long before Kirito Sue ever showed up.

Yeah, kinda of a letdown compared to the last two episodes. We saw the seeds of Sinon falling for Kirito too at the end there. Blaaaaaaaaaaah. I’ll be a little bummed if this turns out to be the season’s peak. Let’s hope not.

Zankyou no Terror – 3

ZSILLY.GRATZ-OBAMAankyou no Terror finishes its third episode without heading back into Stupidburg! Hooray! Nah, not really. This has been the least offensive episode so far though, I’ll admit. It was entertaining and didn’t take so many blatant liberties with logic and practicality that I didn’t absolutely hate it. 1 for 2 there, series. You really gotta do better than that. I did roll my eyes more times than I would care to count. Let’s do that now, in fact:

  • The police recount their general incompetence, thus reminding the reader how everything in this series could be stopped by the use of grey matter. Aizen Sousuke the Younger is also taking some huge risks, here. How could he ensure the cameras in the police station wouldn’t catch a clear glimpse of his face? Everything he’s done to this point is risking the viability of whatever Grand Plan he has. I also like how the writers just conveniently forget to mention how many scores of innocent people that bombing undoubtedly killed. Yep, just slides under the radar to create deliberate sympathy for these terrorists.
  • The terrorists managed to get a crane worker to cut the power by giving him money through dummy accounts. How do they know how to do this? Do they have someone on the inside able to manufacture fake accounts and make money transfers through them? Because that’s the only way you could do that. And if they did, the police could just, you know, trace the person who did. Follow the fucking trail, police. Do your goddamn jobs.
  • Aizen Sousuke the Younger somehow faked an identity in the government and worked at a nuclear waste facility for three months. …………no. Just no.
  • Aizen Sousuke the Younger is deliberately trying to draw people out. Probably someone from within the government who’s responsible for terrible, terrible things.
  • Aizen Sousuke the Younger has tinnitus and doesn’t want to tell anyone about it. Boooooooooooooring.
  • Yuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuup, the two terrorists really were raised in some Unit 731-type environment. My eyes took a vacation with my optic nerves when I heard “for those of you who have been abandoned, love does not exist.” Like, way to strap a bazooka to the anvil you’re brandishing and go to town, writers. Subtle.
  • Oh, the fat nerd helps solve the riddle conveniently with a timely video game reference. What if he had just been playing Candy Crush at the time? There goes another bomb. By the way, do you know how insulting this would be if it were on an American TV show? Yeah, it’s just as insulting here too. But no, the otaku won’t care. I’m sure of it. Because it’s anime, and anime always gets off scott-free.
  • Lisa has mother issues. WEEP. Hey, maybe you should devote some actual screentime to this main character of yours? I heard that’s something stories do, you know: develop their characters beyond cardboard tropes. We get it. Lisa’s life is fucked up. Her mother also likes to violently shake her. We don’t need another episode showing us this in anvilicious detail, okay? That’s what happened last episode.
  • Once again, we have an elaborate riddle that only Shibazaki can solve that’s again related to Oedipus. I really hope Oedipus is just a thing the writers have a boner for and it doesn’t play a part throughout the whole series. Like having Lisa being the offspring of incest or something. That would be dumb. They probably won’t do that, but given the scripts I’ve seen so far…
  • So yay, the terrorists lost this time. Too bad there was no consequence for them whatsoever. Like something that might lead back to them.  You know, a mistake? Something that might get the tension going? No? No. Okay. Yawn.

Some good points for this episode:

  • Shibazaki is a second-generation hibakusha, an atomic bombing survivor. That’s a nice touch to his character. By the way, I’ve been to Hiroshima: it’s not filled with old people. Looked like a normal town to me.

Yeah. Yeah, that’s it. This episode was bad; it just wasn’t as bad as the previous two. There are just so many things wrong with this series that I can’t possibly go into them all without killing many innocent virtual trees. This is the hellhole where serious anime go to die, kids. I can only commend the series for, as of yet, having no fanservice or other magical girl shit that just offends my soul in every way, but if this mess is the best “mature” anime can do now, I’m just going to cry in a corner. Even Death Note was better than this, and its plot made no sense either. It worked because the characters were interesting and the series really focused on them at heart; the plot was just a means to get Light and L to do crazy things and fight each other. There was tension and drama of some kind there, a conflict that at least tried to pull you in. On the other, lonely end of the spectrum, Zankyou no Terror has nothing. It’s so fucking boring and dull. It can’t even be pretentious like Death Note.

See you next boring time.

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.

Zankyou no Terror – 2

SILLY.AIZEN.JUST-AS-PLANNEDSo after last week’s comedy of a plot, Zankyou no Terror tries its best to avoid veering off the rails into the City of Stupidburg. In Episode 2, it succeeds…barely. As far as I can tell, the crazy train has stopped only about a kilometer or two out from the city and is hanging out until the engineer-writers can fix its brakes so they never function again. We start off the episode with some dry, yet intelligent scenes about the aftermath of last week’s bombing. It turns out that, somehow, nobody died. Only 28 were injured by this explosion. Mildly. In downtown Tokyo. Population density: 6029/square kilometer. Uh huh. Yeah. Bullshit. I can kinda suspend my disbelief and accept nobody in the building died, but you can’t get me to accept the notion that somehow no passers-by were seriously hurt by the falling debris at the very least. Even if we accept all that lunacy for the sake of argument, that can only be attributed to sheer dumb luck, not wizard-hacker planning on the part of these teenagers. But of course, that’s what the plot implies. Nope. Not buying it.

Anyway, the writers go through explaining how these terrorists were able to make some basic thermite bombs and predict the chemical reactions that would occur if water were to fall on it. Yes, these supergeniuses flex their intellectual muscle because they paid attention in the high-school chemistry classes they never attend or because they found easily available material on the Internet. Magnificent. I’m pretty sure the issue with bombmaking is less about the basic chemistry involved and more about building reliable devices that actually work. Whatever, I’m sure they were trained in Unit 731’s backup facility that they grew up in. An aside: VoN probably stands for something like “Voice of N,” where N is some inappropriate English noun. Not that it really matters.

All right, so here we go with their next evil plan: these two terrorists post another video on Definitely-Not-Youtube in which they don’t bother to disguise their voices or appearance. Way to give the police some pretty crucial information on you: they now know your numbers, general age, appearance, basic psychological profiles, and that you like to make weird puzzles about obscure versions of Oedipus. The episode tries to then make this seem like a pretty deep plot with the supergeniuses stringing along the dumb adults for the whole ride, but again, fails to get me to care. Aizen Sousuke the Younger goes off to a police station, making himself look like a delivery guy so he can plant his bomb without suspicion. ‘Cause that’s exactly what police stations do: let delivery guys wander off into the station unaccompanied instead of just taking the food right then and there. You know, like normal people. Nor do police officers ask themselves questions like “who is this person walking around in the back of the station without an escort or any form of identification? What is he doing with this large metal canister that doesn’t smell like food? Aren’t we all supposed to be on high alert after a major government building was just bombed a few days ago?” Of course not. I stand by what I said last week: if there is no risk or sense of danger to the protagonists whatsoever, I do not give a shit about anything they do whatsoever.

Meanwhile, the plot’s setting up this Shibazaki guy as a reluctant hero. Don’t care either. He just did some basic detective work based on a riddle billions of people already know off the top of their heads because they read things. What makes him so qualified? Is it because he has a surname? Meanwhile, Hazuki Nagisa the Insane talks to Lisa about being an accomplice and killing her if she makes a move right in the middle of a crowd of teenagers. Oh, and he just happens to look and sound like the guy on the video the terrorists posted on the Internet, a place teenagers tend to frequent. I guess he used blood magic to make sure nobody saw him. That’s as reasonable as any other explanation.

God, this anime is a piece of crap. But at least it gives me something to write about.

PS: Lisa has family problems. Now be sad.

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.

Zankyou no Terror – 1

Finished watching the first episode of Zankyou no Terror. Several initial impressions come to mind. First, it’s very refreshing to see a serious-minded anime these days, one that at least tries to tell a story that concerns mature themes. On the other hand, the material itself was flawed and fell into a lot of typical anime tropes, starting with the outlandish opening sequence, where two mystically prodigious teenagers somehow steal nuclear waste from a processing facility as if it were the easiest thing in the world. Beyond the typical literary handwaving, I know how this scene is supposed to work: there’s significant hostile public sentiment in Japan (not to mention the world) regarding nuclear power after the Fukushima incident, so many viewers watching this won’t ridicule the idea that the security and people in a high-priority facility such as this could be so incompetent. Like the script, I’ll just gloss over how absurd it is that one of the terrorists even got past the front gate without proper identification, which is precisely the amateurish type of subterfuge these places excel at preventing. Whatever. More insulting was how the writers blatantly exploited viewer ignorance and fear over nukes by having one of the main characters point a gun at the container of nuclear waste he’s stealing to ensure the security guards watching don’t just lock down the whole facility and stop the series from happening within the first three minutes. When I beheld this scene, I laughed out loud. Spent nuclear fuel is not a hydrogen bomb waiting to go off; that’s not how that stuff works. But since everyone else thinks nuclear power is this Pandora’s Box waiting to kill us all–despite the small fact that radiation or nuclear materials from the Fukushima plant has killed no one–the series will get away with this pretty easily.

We move on to Tokyo, six months later, where our favorite terrorists are somehow fitting into a new high school with identities that jackshit-nobody has bothered to follow up on. Crafting new identities and inserting them into a bureaucratic system actually takes some work, kids. Eh, fuck it. They’re geniuses, right? It all makes sense. Then we find out through flashbacks that these two terrorists are escapees from awful institution that did something to children. What a completely new plot I’m seeing here. And the cold, serious one remarks about how the children who didn’t escape were weak and blah blah. Yawn. The other terrorist is a happy, giggling, carefree psychopath like every other Happy Psychopath the Japanese are obsessed with. Sigh. Finally we get to someone we can sort of relate to: Lisa, a girl victimized by the pernicious culture of bullying in Japanese schools. Yay, this series might actually have something interesting to discuss. But enough about deep social problems the Japanese are always too scared to tackle: there’s terrorism in the capital! Shocking!

Late that very afternoon, the terrorist duo somehow manages to arrange a power outage to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, which allows them to place bombs in strategic locations in the building within a 26-minute timespan, something absolutely no one notices them doing except Lisa. Are you fucking kidding me? A) everyone would’ve been evacuated immediately due to the power outage and security would’ve taken over; B) schools have this practice called “accountability” wherein they keep lists of the students who go on trips and would naturally know to make sure everyone was where they were supposed to be; C) they have these bombs in little bright pink toys they place in perfectly conspicuous areas. So I’m guessing the thousands of people who work in this incredibly important government building didn’t notice these highly out-of-place toys that just appeared randomly as they were leaving right after a sudden power outage that was predicted by teenagers in creepy masks in a Youtube video that aired the previous day. Hmm. This really looks suspicious to me, Yousuke-kun. Maybe we should call someone.

And so, predictably, the plan succeeds. The bombs blow up the building and nobody does anything about it, even though this whole thing would have been prevented by the most basic security measures. How exciting. You know, it’s really hard to care about a conflict when one side is manned by inexplicable geniuses blessed with divine omniscience and the other is made up of morons who have the IQs of hamsters. If there’s no risk to these teenagers whatsoever, there’s nothing to give me pause.  This the precise reason why I never got into the Death Note anime. The conflict and plot were both just so one-sided and contrived that I just couldn’t be bothered to care. And for the love of God, Japanese writers, stop trying to pull heartstrings so blatantly. I really don’t give a shit about whatever cause they’re fighting for or whatever tragedy these two teenagers went through. They just blew up a government building in the middle of one of the most densely populated centers on earth, probably killing hundreds of people and putting tens of thousands of more at risk. I really don’t care if the Japanese government (fifty bucks says a highly Americanesque power is involved too) was experimenting on children for shiggles. If you can’t figure out a modern national government is an entity staffed by millions of people all serving completely different functions instead of this monolithic scapegoat you want to vent your frustrations onto, you’re just idiots who need to be shot.

I’ll stick with this for a few more episodes, but the material really needs to get its shit together if it wants to hold my interest. Meanwhile, I’m going to go visit Twitter and some anime blogs to watch people ogle over how deep and profound this crappy writing is.

Sword Art Online II – 1

Watching the second season of Sword Art Online, which appears to be precisely the same plot as the last one: someone’s killing people in a virtual MMO and Kirito has to find out what’s going on, eventually triumphing through his Mary Sue status or Indomitable Will that overrides the very function of computer code somehow. Blah. You’d think the manufacturers of this kind of VR gear would do extensive testing to ensure their devices cannot be used to kill people under any circumstances, especially after four thousand people were essentially massacred in precisely such an incident. Of course, the writers are careful to state that they’re not sure what’s happening and it could be some trick, but who cares? The result is the same, not that I’m actually expecting this show to maintain any sort of internal technological logic after the past season. LOL.

I think I only watch this show for the mindless entertainment value and banal curiosity, as there’s really nothing special to distinguish the series from any other anime. (No wonder it’s so popular.) On another note, I’ve always been exasperated that SAO, in typical Japanese fashion, has never capitalized on the admirable dedication that Kirito shows to Asuna despite being surrounded by an inexplicable harem of girls who are all functionally indistinguishable from each other. This is pretty much his only unique and redeeming character trait that I like him for. Instead, it takes the shallow, repressed Japanese route of showing two married people acting super secretive in public or something. After all the shit these two have been through, why haven’t they moved in with each other? Why aren’t they fucking like rabbits? Being young less-than-twenty somethings, I’m pretty sure that’s on both their minds.

Also, why is Kirito bringing a lightsaber to a hardcore exclusive, gun-based MMO and somehow making it work? Oh, right.