There’s a point at the end of a series, the final episode receding into memory, when you wonder why you kept watching it. Akame ga Kill is exactly that series. It is staunchly, even startlingly mediocre in just about every regard, but because it hovers just above that baseline of entertainment - not offensively dumb enough to abandon but not good enough to sing its praises - here I find myself twenty four episodes later.
There wasn’t the remotest of hints that it was ever going to be better than average. From the off the story of Tatsumi, a swordsman from the boonies whose compatriots are killed and he falls in with the band of assassins, Night Raid, is about as nuts and bolts as it comes. Chief amongst the group though is Leone with a ferocious blonde mane and a fiery attitude. No wait, maybe it’s Sheele the demure, bespectacled scissors wielder. Or perhaps Bulat…
First released: October 2012 Version reviewed: BluRay
The first scene of the first episode of K is an animatedslideshow of castnames in English, each set with a different font. It’s definitely an odd way to start the series, given that as a fresh viewer, the names mean nothing, but the lingering sentiment is that, as with the clash of different fonts, this is a series that is fighting desperately for a personality of its own. There’s no question it has style, but rather than having too much of it, it has too many.
eternally trapped building its world rather than getting on with telling a story within it
There’s the main story, for instance, of Yashiro Isana, a mysterious boy who has been framed for murder. Then there’s the other main story of Mikoto Suoh, the Red King, and his street gang battling against the Blue King, Reisi Munakata. Or the other main story about Kuroh Yatogami attempting to hunt down the Colourless King before he ascends to power, and the relationship he may have with the all powerful Silver King. There’s an awful lot going on but in spite of this, the series manages to be almost unceasingly boring.
A review of the first Attack on Titan anime series
First released: April 2013 Version reviewed: TV
I’m going to jump right to it and say that I enjoyed the first series of Attack on Titan.
With that out of the way: the dilemma when talking about something as popular as Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titan) is that at a certain point you start talking around it, probably about things that can be prefixed with “fan”: be that art, fiction or just vocalness. This isn’t a problem specifically with the anime itself but that the series became an event. It reached critical mass with hype and viewer numbers meaning that if you watched it and were online at the time it first aired, chances are you were taking part in the grand event that was Attack on Titan rather than just watching the show.
looks like a GI Joe doll mated with an angry Christmas elf
The vociferousness of the series’ fans, depending on your viewpoint, is balanced with those rallying against it. Condemning it along with other popular series (Sword Art Online is a common partner) as “baby’s first anime” or for people who don’t know “good” anime. Reductivism would be the easiest retort: oh these sounds and images being interpreted by my brain regress my intellect? But when it comes down to it, I don’t much care about the intelligence of the gladiators on display, as long as they put on a good show. And, for the most part, Attack on Titan does.
First released: July 2009 Version reviewed: BluRay
A lot of media start right in the thick of things, in media res, but Canaan is the only series I’ve seen that seems to start at the end of things, ad finem. As if all of the interesting development has already happened and this is the epilogue where the elves are sailing west. Wikipedia informs me however that Canaan is in fact a sequel to a Japanese-only Wii game and “conceptualised” by Type-Moon (of Kara no Kyoukai and Fate fame) co-founders Kinoko Nasu and Takashi Takeuchi. Whether having played that game helps in understanding the series is unknown, though unlikely given it shares only a few characters, one of whom is secondary at best.
everything scrapes against each other like rusty clockwork
The broad strokes though: photographer Maria Osawa and journalist Minoru Minorikawa travel to Shanghai to cover an anti-terrorism summit. Maria reunites with an old friend, Canaan, who is a mercenary for hire and possessed of the gift of synesthesia, allowing her to see odours and hear colours (amongst other things). A fine setup, but proving the exception to the rule that anything Type-Moon touches turns to gold, Canaan as a series is like the parade in the first episode: colourful, chaotic, and thoroughly unintelligible. How could it go so wrong?
Won’t someone please think of the children? Because that’s really all Black Bullet thinks about. Right at the heart of its world, ravaged by the giant insects known as Gastrea, is an employment structure that partners young men, “Enforcers”, with pre-adolescent girls, “Initiators”. Those children are of course genetically altered so to complement their red eyes they have phenomenal speed and strength, enough to fight the rampaging insects.
the high fructose pairing of Rentarou, serial loli magnet and perpetual do-gooder, and the sparky orange-haired Enju
You might just sigh and slowly shake your head at such a set up - it’s peculiarly original yet feels overused, tapping into the same buddy-cop dynamic that innumerable other shows, anime or otherwise, have used. What’s worrying is that in between all of the bad CG, B-movie style monster bashing is a worrisome, suggestive undercurrent that slowly, insidiously, creeps in. There’s maybe just one too many bath scenes, a few too many expressions of unflinching adoration, and too many children saying things that can be misconstrued as sexual.