A review of the second Sword Art Online anime series
Some way into this second series of Sword Art Online I found myself thinking that it was quite brave. Taking the clown-shoed silliness of the first series and slowing everything down, focusing on characters and setting, seemed like an odd decision. Like so many other aspects of Sword Art Online II though, I was disappointed. It’s not being brave, just invoking standard shounen-esque time wasting. Meaning if you watched the series as it aired you will have spent several weeks watching wunderkind Kirito and newcomer Sinon sit in a virtual cave in the middle of a virtual desert.
Imagine a character that is part Jesus Christ and part James Dean and you get the idea
I shouldn’t really have expected anything else really. I liked the simplicity of the first series’ bifurcated storyline in a schlocky, intelligence-lite way, but the spark of that first storyline - trapped in a virtual world, die here and you die for real - was gone. Alfheim, the fairy filled fantasy funfair that occupied the second half of that series and is now the staple MMO for the core cast, was bright and cheerful but lacked the tangibility of Aincrad. It’s disheartening then that this second series kicks off by plunging Kirito into the grimy, gunmetal grey world of Gun Gale Online.
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.
A review of the Bayonetta: Bloody Fate anime movie
I’m not the best person to be objective about the Bayonetta anime movie, Bloody Fate, or anything to do with the franchise to be honest. The amount of time I spent on the first game was more extensive than any other I have ever played and I was halfway through a ridiculously difficult challenge (a Pure Platinum run) when either through circumstance or willpower I dragged myself away from it. I can’t look at the movie with fresh eyes and comment on the blatant ridiculousness of it all because for better or worse, it has lifted the game’s style, attitude and story directly from the first game.
How about a muscly tattooed guy in shades playing the organ?!
The former two of those points are where the meat of a debate is, the latter though will undoubtedly be the biggest issue for newcomers. The titular Bayonetta is a witch with guns strapped to her high-heels and clothing made out of her own hair who fights against masked angels. Having been awoken from a centuries long slumber without any knowledge of her life before her torpor, she is strangely drawn to the reclusive leader of a religious order while being pursued by the tenacious journalist Luka. That’s the set up, the execution involves a motorcycle chase, a chainsaw three times longer than Bayonetta is tall and a whole lot of incongruous, barely censored nudity.
Anthropomorphisation in Japan is a time honoured tradition and part of its global exportation of "cute". Some view it with indifference, others disdain. In anime culture it has a long history beyond the days of "OS-tan" with different females representing the different available computer operating systems. Nowadays you'd be hard pressed not have had a run-in with such characters: trains, browsers, planets and vehicles to name but a few have been transformed into anime characters or, to use the vernacular: moefied.
This season of anime has popped up two shows notable for their anthropomorphisation: Haiyore! Nyarlko-san and Upotte! The former taking creatures from the stories of H.P. Lovecraft, the latter guns from the around the world. So in an attempt to compare apples to oranges:
Jörmungandr - the world serpent, Jormungand - a Black Lagoonknock-off? Not quite. The parallels seem all too blatant from the first episode: a female lead, explosions and a fastidious attention to detail when it comes to guns. Black Lagoon though started utterly bonkers and was content to stay there, all the while mediating on the choices its characters make and the nature of its underworld setting. Jormungand tries to be rooted in reality with less boat-jumping and samurai versus shooter nonsense but instead laces every action bubble with endless monologues, rife with inappropriately timed observations and introspections.
That aside, it's closer in spirit to Gunslinger Girl with its insistence on eschewing an overarching story for a mostly episodic and character driven plot. The comparison is also helped along by the child soldier protagonist who is evidently a graduate of the Rei Ayanami school of emotionless. Koko, the leading lady and human descendant of a fennec, is pitched as a shrewd businesswoman but a benevolent leader which wouldn't seem so incongruous were she not a prolific arms dealer.