Dec 302012
 

2012 was a bit of a weird year for me as far as anime goes. Most years I can narrow down my top choices to 10 or so pretty easily. This year, I found myself struggling with my choices once I got past the first six entries. I only had four or so slots to go, but I had at least ten series I considered worthy. So I went ahead and made this thing a full 15 series long this year.

In the end, the best two series are something of an Alpha and Omega. One is here to destroy everything we hold dear while the other wishes to build anew and create something from the ashes of otakudom. Yeah.

15. Daily Lives of High School Boys

High School Boys was cathartic. It took the piss out of the “high school kids doing nothing of consequence” genre by showing said kids being the sort of mean-spirited, dumb jackoffs they are in real life. That capacity to be a mean-spirited, dumb jackoff was the only thing that made those awkward teenage years tolerable, so anime’s tendency to shove a gallon of bleach down adolescence’s throat and wash away all of that small-minded pettiness does youth a great injustice. Problem is, that’s about all High School Boys has going for it. It’s a great takedown of  modern anime trends, but it doesn’t quite have the same mad brilliance of something like Milky Holmes. They’re both doing the same thing, but Milky Holmes takes everything that much further. High School Boys throws a punch while Milky Holmes launches the proverbial tactical nuke. Still, High School Boys is a funny little show. Also, it has one of the most horrifying endings in all of anime.

14. Aquarion EVOL

If Aquarion EVOL was a Hollywood actor, it would be Nicolas Cage. It’s batshit insane, cranking up the melodrama and mega-acting in an attempt to turn a pretty damn mediocre story into something better. Blahblahblah robots blahblahblah kidnapping women to repopulate blahblahblah something about love and being positive and stop trying to make me barf with all these positive messages. Had EVOL played everything straight, with your stock mecha show characters, it’d probably be a yet another shiny piece of shit with a Yoko Kanno soundtrack. But then we get all this shit about donuts and digging/filling holes and murderous music and permanent opposite days and, yeah, a dull show is made pretty damn amusing in the process. It’s like how Nic Cage made Johnny Blaze like Red Hots and 70s monkey movies in Ghost Rider or any other little touch he adds to a lot of his roles that make otherwise crappy movies watchable. But Aquarion needed to be a bit crazier to make up for its faults. It’s more Ghost Rider 1 than Wicker Man.

13. Thermae Romae

More anime series need to be like Thermae Romae. It has its high concept: Roman bath architect magically travels to modern-day Japan and appropriates modern bath designs in the past using ancient technology. That concept’s absurd. It’s hilarious. It’s clever. It’s also a concept that doesn’t really need the usual ~12 episodes to get its point across. Thermae Romae works because it gets its jokes in and doesn’t overstay its welcome. It’s pretty damn elegant in its execution. Please use this as some sort of template, Dudes Who Make Anime Stuffs.

12. Hells

Elvis runs a school in Hell. A cute girl dies a meaningless death and is damned just because. Abel wants revenge for being the first being with a soul to die. Frankenstein is moe Jesus. Hells is insanely fun shit. Check out this post for more insanity.

 

 

 

11. Poyopoyo

Poyopoyo’s based on one of those comic strip manga things. Peeps like to call them 4-koma, but that’s just an otaku term for “something like a newspaper comic strip that always has four panels, so let’s give it a new name and pretend it’s something new.” The term kinda cheapens and limits stuff like Poyopoyo, so I won’t be using that term. Poyopoyo’s pretty much a direct translation of these things, slapping together a few gags in a three-minute time span. What makes Poyopoyo work is the rapid pace at which said gags are delivered. There’s no lingering here, much like how you’d read one of these gag strips and move on to the next. It replicates the process of actually reading this sort of thing in the newspaper of manga magazine or whatever. Poyopoyo also nails what it’s like to “own” a cat. You think they’re doing something all cute and shit when they’re actually doing something predatory and disgusting. “Aww, he’s playing around with somet… oh, he’s actually eating some bug and toying with it at the same time.” Fun stuff.

Psycho-Splosion

 Anime, Psycho-Pass  Comments Off on Psycho-Splosion
Oct 112012
 

When that dude exploded at the end of the first episode of Psycho-Pass, my heart went all a flutter.

That’s the very sort of ultraviolence for which I long. It’s absurd. It’s unnecessary. It’s beautiful. You laugh not because it’s silly, but because it’s awesome. That’s pure love right there.

So this is a riff on the “predict crimes so you can stop them before they happen” thing. Some computer or system or whatever unseen thing can “read” a person and determine their potential to commit a crime. Hit a certain point and you get “rehabilitated.” Hit a point further down the line and you’re deemed unworthy of life and can be shot on the spot. Alright, cool, that’s a decent set-up. Of course, where you run with that set-up is what matters, and that’s where Psycho-Pass is a little hazy.

I’m liking the implications of this system because it doesn’t seem to take into account intent. We have the main perpetrator of the episode. He hasn’t committed a crime. All we get is that he’s suppressed urges over the years. He’s well aware that his urges make him a potential target and he’s able to measure them using whatever this calculation may be. This isn’t like Minority Report, where psychics actually see the crime happening in premonitions. They see you murdering someone in the near future and cops go out to stop you before it happens. The intent will be there according to the rules of that story. With Psycho-Pass, it doesn’t matter whether you intend to harm someone, all that matters is that the potential is present.

The way I’m seeing it, this formula or whatever can measure one’s stress levels, past experiences, desires, and all of these other factors and calculate the potential risk of an individual. You may be well aware of these risk factors like this guy, and you may go out of your way to not act on that potential, but that’s irrelevant. The same happens to the woman the guy victimized. Before this happened to her, we’re assuming she wasn’t at risk. Once he assaults her and rapes her, her own stress levels have drastically increased. It’s totally natural for a human to want to strike out at someone who assaulted them. She may very well want to do to him what he did to her, or even worse. In a situation where another human is present to judge her intentions, she wouldn’t be deemed a risk. In fact, even if she carried out some form of vengeance, it’d likely be considered self-defense. Some people would even hail her as a hero for carrying out those urges to strike down a rapist and potential murderer.

The system in Psycho-Pass doesn’t take into consideration that human element. In one way it makes the system impartial. Whatever pseudo-scientific reason behind this system is considered fair in this world by the establishment since it only takes into consideration the elements that can be objectively measured. In its eyes, the potential for violence inherent in the assailant is no different from the potential for violence developing in the victim– violence is violence regardless of cause.

This world seems to have traded the capacity to take circumstances into consideration in favor of a system that, in theory, stops crime before it can happen. All of the characters present seem aware of why this woman’s readings are escalated, but they’re in favor of perpetuating a system they believe works over calling it into question.

And that makes using potential criminals all the more interesting in this scenario. They have an incentive to not break these rules because their commanding officer can turn around and take them down at any given moment. They don’t question the system through action because said system can turn on them at any time. That might lead to the system falsifying records in order to create potential recruits or something like that.

It’s a messed up system rife with potential to be even more corrupt. It’s a sort of nightmare scenario where your very thoughts and emotions are policed. And I wanna see this play itself out. It’s fucked up, but it’s awesome in that regard. I don’t want this to become a story where someone tries to buck the system and change it. It’s a lot like Judge Dredd in that regard. Yeah, the idea of Judge/Jury/Executioner isn’t something we wanna see in real life, but the fun of that character comes from seeing his world’s rules play out without outside morals influencing them. I don’t wanna see someone come along and question Dredd. I don’t wanna see the story end with him accepting a more tolerant way of life. That might be what we want in reality, but reality’s morals don’t have to interfere with an interesting story.

That’s why I’m kinda weary of the main girl in Psycho-Pass. Despite being a product of the world’s educational system that makes the very sort of cops who understand and uphold these laws, she comes off as unrealistically naive and questions the system in ways more like an outsider or dissident than a rookie cop fresh from the academy. If we had some hint of her being someone with such a rebel philosophy that wouldn’t be too bad, but her character comes off more like that “voice of reason” who’s meant to be the audience surrogate. She’s appalled by the idea of punishing the victim, but all of her training should have prepared her for this scenario. This should be a textbook case, especially considering the idea of these criminal thoughts being “contagious” is well-known. I’m not buying her attitude as anything but a blatant attempt to shoehorn our morality into the cast when it makes far more sense for these characters to not think like the audience.

Seeing her question and defeat the system won’t be an interesting path to take, so I’m hoping we don’t go down that path. We don’t need to see her broken or anything like that, but I’m not interested in seeing this become her story. I want this to be the story of this world and all the strange things that can come about when you can literally calculate one’s potential for evil.