Oct 052012

Three series, all airing at the same time, about teenagers/young adults beating the shit out of and/or killing one another in stylized ways.

That’s how every teenager should be forced to live their high school years.

Might as well talk about K, Tempest, and Btooom at the same time. Sure, they’re playing at different angles and all, but they have enough similarities to take them as some sort of universal anime hive mind subconscious trend. Kinda like Bodacious Space Pirates, Symphogear, and Lagrange from this past winter season.

It’s that fantasy any daydreaming teen longs for– being thrust into some world-shattering, dramatic, violent scenario where you’re the focal point. These series are living out the wishes of the two main kids in Chuunibyou. Something bad happens to you that’s out of your control. With K you’re some hapless dork who may or may not have murdered someone while claiming to be some urban street gang King. In Btooom you’re a jobless twentysomething thrust into a scenario straight out of your favorite Halo wannabe. In Tempest your sister/girlfriend gets murdered and you’ve made a pact with a mage or some shit to get revenge on the world. The particulars are different, and the tone of each series is as well, but the gist is the same– I wanna be that guy. Typical, generic stuff, but it sticks around because it’s that sort of universal daydream to which any geek can relate.

So it’s all gonna come down to how well each of these series tackles that fantasy, and given the first episode of each series I gotta say that K’s pulling it off better than the other two.

Yeah, K.

What struck me the most about this thing is how quiet it is. There’s no running monologues. There’s no overexplaining of what’s happening, as if we can’t follow the actions of moving pictures. The action is allowed to breathe and events transpire without slowing down to explain to the huddled, idiotic masses what we should believe. The first couple of minutes was downright shocking, as there was absolutely no dialogue. We just get a picture of this gang of super-powered kids strutting down the street, each one of them with their own distinct look and quirks. No bantering. No main character narrating their origins or actions. No onlookers commenting like spectators at some sporting event. Everything’s told to us visually, and it was pretty awesome. Even when the action starts and people start talking, the dialogue doesn’t bog things down. Things were a little talky once they got to the school, but that was about it. I genuinely liked that.

The same can’t be said about Btooom. The way the main dude and his first antagonist spoke every little thing that was in their head was fucking annoying. Not that their narration was excessive compared to the norm in anime, but it was still pretty pointless. I do like the premise behind it, though. I get the feeling this is some sort of punishment for people deemed irredeemable in some way. This kid’s wasting away his youth playing this game, outright refusing to get a job that’s waiting for him if he just went to the store and applied. He isn’t some guy down on his luck who’s unable to find a job, he’s flat-out refusing what’s being offered in exchange for a dream that’ll never come true. The way his mother looks at him is that of someone downright afraid. It isn’t just his future she’s afraid of, or the potential physical violence at the hands of her son– when she’s talking to him about this job offer, she seems to know that something’s going to happen if he refuses. I can’t help but suspect that this guy and all the others banished to this island are there because of their inability to conform to reality. It’s kinda like how the government in Battle Royale conducts these murder games as a way to punish the youth for rising up and questioning its authority. I’d wager that something similar’s happening in Btooom, except replace youth as a whole with the NEETs, unemployed, and other “unwanted” groups balking at society’s rules.

Or it could just be some evil corporation grabbing the top players and forcing them to fight for their amusement.

Tempest is the middle ground here. It’s the most conventional of the three. It doesn’t have the sleazy exploitation vibe of Btooom, and it doesn’t have that faux street-hip bit of K. What it has over the others is good, old-fashioned revenge.

Girl gets murdered. Her brother wants revenge for her senseless death. Fate just so happens to conspire to have him find a message from a banished witch. He makes a pact with this witch to gain super powers and get revenge. The government’s involved. Cult-like organizations, too. Strange diseases are turning people into metal statues. There’s vague yet glaring Shakespearian references. It’s more of a mess compared to the aforementioned series, but it also has the most potential out of the three. K looks to be the inheritor of Durarara’s urban anime gang warfare shtick. It might be cool if stuff actually happens, unlike Durarara itself, but it also looks like it might get bogged down by high school antics. Btooom’s first episode was alright, but the next episode preview is more than a little worrisome. Tempest looks to be following in the same mold as a lot of their recent 13 episode series, like No 6 and Un-Go. While I didn’t really get into No 6, I loved Un-Go, and if Tempest is the latest in this series of similar shows, I’m down for that– weirdness sprinkled with political and conspiratorial shit and super powers. Yeah, I’m game.

One more thing about K: I find it the complaints about it trying too hard to be “cool” pretty amusing. Not that I don’t think it’s trying too hard– it is– but that I didn’t hear similar complaints leveled against shows with a similar vibe. Durarara and Persona are just as guilty of this quasi-hip-hop thing, but I don’t remember hearing much about it when those series aired. And then there’s Steins;Gate, which came off as someone trying to desperately channel that Akibahara chic vibe. That series came off way more like a show straining to be relevant and cool than K.

And K’s “blueness” doesn’t really bother me that much. I’m more annoyed by its washed-out Photoshop-ness, but the same can be said about a lot of anime out there.

Yeah, I dug the first episodes of each of these series. K > Tempest > Btooom, at least for the moment.

But JoJo was better, even if I watched it unsubbed.

Also: So long as that cat stays in cat form more often than nekkid human form, it’s awesome. Love those whacked out, on-a-catnip-high eyes.

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