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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Sun Dec 09, 2018 3:57 pm 
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I promised an essay.


Can a work recover from living in its prececessor's shadow?: Neon Genesis Evangelion versus Darling in the Franxx

I want to say this at the very outset: there is not a contest as to which show (Neon Genesis Evangelion or Darling in the Franxx; Puella Magi Madoka Magica or Yuki Yuna is a Hero) is better. In terms of objective quality, as much as objective quality can be measured in media analysis, the answer is that the original was not matched by its imitator. If you were looking for a surprise upset, you won't find it here. Instead, what I want to analyze is if there's any element of the imitator that surpassed the original, or any reason to watch the newer show when you could be viewing its greater predecessor. Franxx and Yuki Yuna may be the lesser spawn of greater sires, but I don't think that necessarily means they're without merit.

I've discussed Madoka versus Yuki Yuna before, when reviewing the latter show on MAL. The link to the review is here: https://myanimelist.net/reviews.php?id=285665. The short version is that while I found Yuki Yuna to largely be an inferior copy in a lot of ways, it did have a very different point, and introduced new elements that made it very watchable in its own right. That is, there were things in Yuki Yuna that were well done, and that you wouldn't find in Madoka. However deeply the show lived in its predecessor's shadow in other areas, it justified its existence and its running time by coming out of that shadow and creating something new in a few important areas.

Is that the same for Darling in the Franxx?

First, I think I need to address just how much Franxx homages, alludes to, imitates, or downright steals from Evangelion. There's a lot to get through here, and some of it is freakishly specific. The setup, where emotionally unstable teens have to pilot giant robots (or otherwise acquire cool powers that somehow function as a cross to bear), fight monsters, and save the world is kind of Evangelion's wheelhouse, but Franxx would hardly be the first show to use some or even all of these elements, it's practically its own little genre overlapping with the grab-bag of Mecha, Sci-fi, Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, and trace amounts of other Speculative Fiction in Anime, possibly even outside it. I'm not even sure the setup originates with Evangelion, though Evangelion doubtless did a lot of work popularizing and codifying it. Franxx goes a step or more farther; it has a different visual style, but like Evangelion it's very much set in a post-apocalyptic future world. The child protagonists have to deal with a mysterious, repressive, and possibly backstabbing High Command, and so on. Then things get more specific – for instance, Franxx will sometimes go so far as to copy iconic images from Evangelion. Did you like the moment in Episode 1 of Evangelion where Shinji, in Unit 01, stabs the attacking Angel in its core, shattering it? I hope so, because the creators of Franxx sure did, and incorporate the look and feel of that attack into a lot of the Klaxosaur fights. Or perhaps you experienced a little deja vu when shown the interior of the Plantations in Franxx... which would stand to reason given their resemblance to the Geofront and Tokyo-3. Longer moments may also seem to be repeated at times – Goro's struggle, isolated and gradually running out of power while engulfed by the Gutenberg Class in Episode 9 of Franxx, for instance, read pretty well until it was clear that it was just a less poignant, less esoteric version of the arc in episode 19 of Evangelion where Shinji and 01 are swallowed by the shadowy angel and trapped in the Sea of Dirac pocket dimension, isolated and gradually running out of power.

And past that, you have the truly ludicrous; five episodes before the end of the show, there's a flashback episode, following the history of a character who could be described as a Mad Scientist, showing how our modern-day world became the post-apocalyptic future in which robots and monsters do battle while, theoretically at least, exploring the motivations of the show's antagonists. Of course, when Evangelion did it we got to know Gendo Ikari, and plenty of adults around him who we had already met and could like, dislike, or fear. Characters that had a relevance to the plot and a presence in the show. In Franxx, the mirror episode follows Dr. Werner Franks (later Doctor Franxx) and, in theory, the main antagonists at APE. The problem is, Franxx is a bit character at best, and while his machinations ultimately set up the resolution of the story, he doesn't have a well-defined enough character. APE, meanwhile, is very poorly explored, and that's not even getting into their nonsensical twist in the next episode that invalidates most of the setup they did have with its out-of-left-field nature or the laundry list of problems with the continuity and timeline of the future in Franxx. I think that, aside from being one of the most clear examples as Franxx as a degraded clone of Evangelion, this also does expose one of the biggest weaknesses of the show, even taken on its own: Franxx needed an interesting, compelling, connected, and present villain like Gendo Ikari to actually carry the main story they wanted to tell. Without a powerful and meaningful enemy, the show's final act starts to come apart at the seams. It's one of the few cases where Franxx might have been better off had it been MORE in Evangelion's shadow.

It's very clear to me, having now seen both, that Franxx wanted to be the new Evangelion, and in a sense that finally explains to me why it sometimes turns the pretentious filter WAY up... it wants to evoke that same sense of being epic and meaningful the way Evangelion did. The thing is... Franxx isn't Evangelion. It could never be Evangelion. The pretentious moments are artificial fakery, and the things that want to seem philosophical and important, fall flat because it is first and foremost (in my mind) a character drama or even a love story, not an epic like Evangelion. Franxx is at it's best when its being unpretentious and playing to its strengths. In Evangelion, the extremely esoteric moments (especially those that occur before the final two episodes) are earned because it's spent much of its time establishing an uncomfortable atmosphere with deeply wounded characters. In Franxx you quickly understand most of the characters, and even those that get deeper exploration and into whose psychological torments the show decides to delve are written to be more personable and relatable. Some of the best moments in the show are really small things, like Hiro and Zero Two's brief talk overlooking the plantation city in episode 3, their escape in episode 4, or the talk between Hiro and Ichigo while Hiro is hospitalized in episode 14, or the scenes of the kids learning to farm and rebuilding society in the final few episodes. I still think those scenes (among others) are pretty great scenes, and all of them are fairly unfiltered interactions where characters speak (or act on) what's on their mind – something that pretty much never happens in Evangelion, because the characters there are all too wounded, depressed, and/or closed off.

Which, I suppose, brings me to my thesis... having watched Neon Genesis Evangelion, and accepting that it is, on the whole, the better product... I still have some affection for, and belief in the value of Darling in the Franxx, because there are things it does differently, or arguably even better than Evangelion

One of the big differences is the action. In both shows, the fully detailed fight scenes are amazing, some of the most potent and dynamic displays I've seen in anime. But quality, oddly enough, is where the similarities between the two shows end. The action is good action involving mechas battling against unique and interesting giant monsters, but within that it would be hard to find two styles that are more different. Evangelion is dark and brutal, sometimes slow and methodical, building an atmosphere of danger and menace. Franxx is bright and colorful, and keeps the action largely fast and flashy. I don't think this represents a difference in quality between the two, it's just a matter of different styles, indicating where the shows actually diverge. When Eva-01 engages in a triumphant attack, it's shot like the monster in a horror movie, whether through the extreme gore when it tears itself free of the Sea of Dirac in Episode 16, or the deep shadows and glowing eyes in the darkness as it consumes the angel in episode 19. By contrast, when Strelizia gains the superstrength to overcome its enemies, that's always a triumphant moment, such as in episodes 6 and 15. There are moments of menace, but they occur when Strelizia is in Stampede Mode and losing, if not against the Klaxosaurs then against Zero Two's inner demons. Over all, I would say I think the action is a little better in Evangelion... but that's mostly because it's given more time and focus there.

That brings me to what I believe to be the biggest underlying difference between the shows, that underscores both where Franxx falls short and where it shines: it has a different focus than did Evangelion. In some ways, you could even see it as the inverse. Take the structure of a “middle episode” of either show, the kind of episodes that maybe didn't matter all that much, but that formed a decent backbone of the viewer's impression the first time through. In Evangelion, the episode will typically begin and/or end with the psychological turmoil of one or more of our leading characters. Between that, while there will still potentially be those psychological threads woven in, the the focus will be on the battle against the episode's angel, or the cloak-and-dagger intrigue running behind the scenes with Misato and Kaji. That's the meat of the show: battling angels and attempting to uncover the dark truth behind NERV, SEELE, and Gendo Ikari. In Franxx, the structure is the other way around. The middle episodes typically begin and/or end with a fight against a Klaxosaur, and while some of the weaker cloak-and-dagger material between Dr. Franxx, Nana and Hachi, and APE might be woven into the middle of an episode, the focus is on the emotional turmoil of our cast (or emotional experiences – in Franxx, it's not dominated by turmoil where as in Evangelion even the humor is often underscored by how hurt and broken the characters are, like Asuka whimpering for her mother in her sleep after unconsciously crawling into Shinji's bed; a funny scene on its own, but one that comes back to bite her later). The meat of the show isn't the story in Franxx, which explains but does not excuse why that story is ultimately poorly told; it's the characters, and the drama between this group of teenagers who have been placed in an exceptional scenario, rather than the exceptional scenario itself.

In some ways, I have to admit this is a weakness for Franxx. It didn't have to be – if the show had fully owned up to what it was, rather than struggling to be Evangelion, it probably would have turned out a stronger product, or at least a more consistent one. In other ways, the difference highlights the show's greatest strength, and the one point where it (perhaps) pulls ahead of Evangelion: the cast.

Evangelion doesn't have a bad cast. Most of the characters are ones that, if you've watched a good deal of anime, you've seen elsewhere, probably because they were in greater or lesser degrees lifted from the versions in Evangelion... and it's easy to see why. Often, when encountering the original of a frequently-pillaged element (as happens when investigating genre cornerstones or the works of Shakespeare), you find that the imitations can't match up – you take a surface read of a character like Shylock and move them out of their native context, into the realm of the stock character, and they lose something. They might even lose quite a lot, because the original was great and people wanted to imitate it because of how deep and complex the character actually was... so fakers based only on a surface read will never match up. Other times, even when the source material is good, the original character is... not markedly superior to the imitations. Essentially, the character, or at least what intrigued people about the character, is surface enough to make the transition from individual to stock archetype without a lot of loss. Later imitators in the same archetype may develop the character in different ways, or possibly even better than the original.

I find that most of Evangelion's characters, especially the most often repeated characters (Rei and Asuka) fall more into the second category than the first. They're not bad, but they're not so good, deep, or interesting that they remain the pinnacles of their sort against a sea of copycats trying to take them down. Rei in particular, I actually found to be a kind of weak character to start with, most of her screen time being predicated entirely on what she is, rather than who she is as a person. Yuki Nagato (from the Haruhi Suzumiya series) and Supreme Throne Hecate (from Shakugan no Shana) are pretty clearly a couple clones of Rei (pun intended), but in their own ways they are more interesting and better studied characters than Rei was. Nagato in particular stands out as interesting and complex in her own right, no matter how much she has in common with Ayanami, while Hecate's role as a major inhuman antagonist casts her in a very different light than Rei or most Rei knockoffs.

The other originals do fare a bit better than Rei. Asuka has a ton of tsundere badasses to square off against, some of which, like Rin Tohsaka (Fate/Stay Night), left their own impacts on the huge archetype... but Asuka's surprising vulnerability is a unique spin. Is it the best unique spin? Maybe, maybe not. Out of all the characters in Evangelion, I found Asuka to be the best constructed. Unlike Rei she's extremely watchable, and unlike Misato, who seems to get a little garbled towards the end, her vulnerability feels like the natural consequence of a consistent portrayal. She's the one character I can say without reservation that I liked the writing of throughout, but then the show goes and abandons her entirely at her lowest moment, without hope of recovery or redemption. It's a move that's quite consistent with the tone and themes of Evangelion's final episodes, but it also means that even Asuka kind of let me down in the end.

Shinji, on the other hand, is probably Evangelion's most unique character, in that the characters that are theoretically his imitators... really aren't. He can be hard to watch at times (though in the middle episodes, he shows he can hold his own in a scene now and again), but he's a unique cluster of dysfunction on which a good deal of the show's drama is predicated. In a way, he's more a reflection of an older and deeper archetype: the relative normal pulled into an exceptional scenario. Yukiteru Amano (Mirai Nikki) or Yuji Sakai (Shakugan no Shana) may share a lot of traits with Shinji Ikari, but I feel like, rather than having Shinji at their roots, they share deeper and more basic roots with Shinji.

Briefly, I've touched on Misato already – her breakdown at the end didn't feel consistent the way Asuka's or even Shinji's did. It wasn't wrong enough to reject it, but it also felt like something of a disservice to a character that had spent most of the show being competent and collected (if a little goofy, living like a stereotypical bachelor). The other side characters (Ritsuko, Kaji, Shinji's school friends, Gendo's second-in-command, the other control room people, and basically any other minor speaking role I haven't called) are mostly just there. And that's not necessarily a bad thing or a wrong choice; stories need extras as much as they need more dimensional characters.

On the whole, I'd probably describe Evangelion's cast of characters as existing on the good end of serviceable. And that's fine for what the meat of the show actually is; with a few small notes of exception, the show needs more out of its cast about as much as it needs a musical episode. Sure you could throw it in, but how much would it really add?

Then there's Darling in the Franxx. Not only are the characters one of the few things NOT copied from Evangelion's playbook, but the Parasites, at least, represent a very impressive ensemble cast in their own right.

Right off the bat, you have the main trio – Hiro, Zero Two, and Ichigo. And... they're all great characters. More than that, they're dimensional characters who get a lot of running time dedicated to their struggles, both their strengths and triumphs and their foibles and failures. Franxx spends a lot of its running time making sure you know these people, inside and out, and understand them both at rest and under pressure in a way that Evangelion isn't interested in doing with its own cast. The girls in particular are a couple of the most compelling characters I've seen in a while, with how their personal drives set them at odds with each other and their society in different ways, and I enjoyed getting to know them and watching them, both in their moments of triumph and when they made deep mistakes.

The Franxx cast, however, is just getting started. Kokoro and Mitsuru are also impressive as a pair of characters. Despite being, at best, part of the B-list, they carry a lot of the weight and emotional investment of the show's final arcs. I will admit that Kokoro is, on her own, not the most interesting or impressive character; like most of the Evangelion characters she's not badly written or particularly uninteresting, but she is a broad strokes sort. For her part, she does at least get a note of strong conviction, and flavors the otherwise obvious “meek, pretty wallflower” portrayal by the fact that, however soft-spoken and easily flustered she may be, she's also the character willing to initiate and force the issue when it comes to opposing her superiors and their culture.

Mitsuru, on the other hand... there's a lot to be said about Mitsuru. I'll be honest, for a lot of the run, I hated this character's guts. However, I hated him because of who he was, not because he was poorly written or insultingly inconsistent, so in some ways that hatred has its own value, because it means the writing for the character did evoke a strong emotional response. And yet, as we delved into his present situation, and his reactions to Kokoro and everything around his arc with her... by the end he managed to redeem himself from a pretty black pit of distaste. It's not difficult to make a character likable to begin with, but it is very difficult to make a character the audience hates and then redeem that character without it feeling forced, and it's a task that Darling in the Franxx actually pulls off with Mitsuru. This is especially interesting because he's not a villain or even an antagonist at any point in his arc. We don't hate him to begin with because he does evil things that he just has to renounce or worked with “the bad guys”, he's hated because he's a very human and recognizable selfish jerk, and in order to be redeemed we have to see him grow out of that legitimately.

Beyond them, we have the rest of the B and C list characters, most of which are also surprisingly rounded and developed for what they are. Goro, for instance, has an important role as Ichigo's foil and alternative love interest. In a lot of shows, a character with the role of, basically, acting as a spare love interest to a more important character would typically be very flat, and we wouldn't really need to know who they are as a person outside of the character they're interested in. Kazumi Yoshida (Shakugan no Shana), for instance, can be a pleasant enough character, but what we really know about her begins and ends with her interest in Yuji Sakai. Away from Yuji, Yoshida is a very vanilla presence. Again, stories need extras as much as they need leads, but this is very much a weakness for Yoshida, even if it's one that's easy to fall into. Goro, on the other hand, has enough of a definite personality that you can clearly tell what he'd be like and what he'd do if he were removed from Ichigo. Franxx didn't have to go the extra mile with his character, to make him interesting and well-defined in his own right, but they did.

Zorome is another character that would have been so very easy to leave utterly two-dimensional, but despite his first and most apparent note being very loud, even he gets some time dedicated to giving it a lot of meaning and depth, weaving him into his setting and giving his character a little depth as well, because we come to understand him not just in a few words, but in terms of how he interacts with his world. Futoshi and Ikuno are somewhat more thinly sketched, but even then, at least some time and attemtion is given to their struggles. Indeed, out of all the Parasites we meet, only one, Miku, is really permitted to remain a flat character. Developing as many characters as Franxx did, as well as they did, is an achievement on its own. While some of the characters beyond the central ten are weaker or more thinly sketched, especially the antagonist Papa and the theoretically critical Doctor Franxx, the expansive cast and the development they go through is, in my mind, reason enough to recommend the show itself, despite its critical weaknesses in other areas.

As I said at the start, this doesn't make Franxx the better show, not even close. If you're going to watch just one anime about teens in mechas fighting monsters, watch Evangelion. But Evangelion is not all things to all people, and in its most standout difference, that well developed cast, Franxx finds the justification for its existence, and the biggest reason to come back to it both in general and when placed against its venerable predecessor. There are other differences – Franxx, for instance, is significantly lighter and softer, which isn't always a bad thing, and it comes to an optimistic and positive point (if in some ways bittersweet and honest for it), while Evangelion is clearly a product of the dark pits of depression in the end, and while it certainly and mercifully isn't devoid of fun, it's a heavier work. Sometimes you might be in the mood for one that way, sometimes the other.

Speaking of 'in the end', there's one more note of Neon Genesis Evangelion and Darling in the Franxx that I feel has to be addressed... the similarities and differences in how both shows fumble their endings.

And yes, I do mean fumble. Some may consider the original ending of Evangelion to be a masterpiece of art, but I don't agree. For a desperate attempt to put together two episodes – a final two episodes, no less – when it's fairly clear that the animation department had a budget sufficient to borrow crayons from local schoolchildren, you could consider it impressive in how it attempts to salvage the bad situation of the production... but there's a very good and in my mind very clear reason why the creators have tried to tell this story three more times (in Death and Rebirth, End of Evangelion, and the Rebuild series) in less than twenty-five years: The first time around might have impressed some as an art piece, but it doesn't exactly work as a conclusion to Neon Genesis Evangelion because it doesn't successfully communicate a story through its words and visuals, much less the last part of a story that had been so strong.

The ending of Franxx I feel I will face far less protestation in condemning as weak or mishandled. The critical failure with the final episodes of Franxx is that the plot has to step up and carry the day; when not concerned primarily with the feelings of the cast, the storytelling in Franxx had always rated as 'C' material. At best. To the show's little credit, it managed to disguise this fact for a while between the competent drama and smokescreen of pretentious airs, but it's fairly evident by the end that not a lot of thought or effort went into constructing the world the characters live in, or the dynamics of the struggle that world faces between Humanity, Klaxosaurs, and VIRM. Instead, it feels like the writers just saw inspiration beyond Evangelion – namely Final Fantasy VII and Pacific Rim – and pillaged those sources just as brazenly and possibly even less effectually. The production of Franxx didn't hit the obvious, glaring problems that Evangelion did, but the one thing the story had done well in its early stages was set up everything that paid off (however well or poorly it paid off), but towards the end we get elements that are never established or explained the way the show had liked to establish or explain. Evangelion's animators ran out of time and money. It feels like Franxx's writers just didn't care after a point. Not about their universe or the story of aliens and battles that they had to tell in order to wrap things up, at least.

At first glance, while both these endings are deeply flawed, they would seem to be polar opposites. In Franxx, the table scraps of a lackluster story are served up, and all the gorgeous animation in the world can no longer disguise what's actually underneath, and where it fails. In Evangelion, the visuals collapse almost completely, but there are still strong ideas underneath, struggling to be heard and understood through the limitations imposed on them.

However, I believe that there is a basic failing that underscores both endings, and another point of similarity between them. First, the basic failing: in the end, both shows play to their weaknesses, rather than their strengths.

In Neon Genesis Evangelion, you're drawn on by the dynamic battles against the Angels, full of both incredible action and desperate tactics. They've been fights, with few exceptions, of both brains and brawn, where every character needs to step up over their failings to contribute to ensuring the survival of humanity. Along with that, you have the draw of the conspiratorial dealings of NERV and SEELE; it's a dark and twisted rabbit hole, and venturing down it with Misato and Kaji is interesting because of how their search reveals newer and newer layers of truths, and what those truths mean for the world they live in. The ending relies entirely on Shinji's self-worth and social anxiety issues; elements which had been present, but which had seldom, if ever been in the limelight, and which seemed more as temporary obstacles on the road to defeating the Angel of the week. Recall, we saw Shinji overcome his doubts and fears in in episodes 4 and 19 (the two times he attempts to quit NERV), and throughout the middle episodes, when he has Asuka as a foil to work off of, he seemed like he might be a downer of a person but never really to the point of all-fearing nihilism that we see in the ending.

In Darling in the Franxx, the greatest draw to stick with the show is found in the relationships of the characters. You watch on because of Hiro, Zero Two, Ichigo, and Goro; or because of Kokoro and Mitsuru. The action was very good on its own, but the reason for that action was typically pretty flimsy. The characters mostly fight because they're told to, or because there's a clear and present threat to their home. The fighting is interesting because the characters can work out their issues with each other during those scenes (and because the choreography is usually excellent). The greater, overarching 'Why?' to the battle between Klaxosaurs and humans isn't answered for a very long time, and when it is you can understand why, because unlike Evangelion there's not really a compelling motivation for anyone or anything involved in it. We never really understand what the Klaxosaurs want the way we can understand the Angels and Third Impact, and there's no good replacement for Gendo Ikari to give a human reason for these characters, in particular, to fight these battles. They're child soldiers, so the long-term motivation is weak. And it has to be weak, because ultimately taking those blinders off is part of what the Parasites have to do in order to grow as a group, but it means the stage is not set for that overarching motivation to take over. We don't know enough about VIRM to really feel invested in taking the fight to them, especially given how nonsensical some of the answers we've gotten to that point are, and the Space scenes in the last episodes don't do a lot to help, because they also dial back the action, leaving not a lot of visual wonder to cover for that problem.

As far as the similarities go... neither ending is entirely godawful. Both of them do have strong points, even brilliant points that might have hit masterpiece levels if they'd been woven into a stronger complete package.

In Franxx, for instance, there are a lot of scenes that aren't the space battles, and aren't attempting to add drama back to the Hiro and Zero Two arc that was finally sewn up in episode 21. There are the scenes on Earth, of Mitsuru and Kokoro coming together and trying to understand one another despite being robbed of the memories they made together, or of a civilization essentially of children having to rebuild from the ground up. The parts of episodes 22 & 24 that take place on Earth, with the Parasites, are (along with the earlier scenes in 16-18 that set up their capability with how they dealt with their stay in Mistilteinn without help), are some of the show's strongest material, especially its strongest material that isn't predicated on Hiro and Zero Two. And the epilogue, how life returns to earth and the former parasites adapt to their existence, with the creation of a new civilization, can be legitimately moving. Though very quiet, the visuals are powerful and the ideas clean and well considered enough that the 'B' side of the ending, the denouement rather than the technical climax, does play to the strengths the show displayed.

Meanwhile, Evangelion can't say exactly the same – without a story to have the intrigue pay off, or animation to have the action pay off, it can't possess a hidden fraction of the ending that actually does play to its strengths... but that doesn't mean the ending is without value. While I, personally, do not really appreciate the whole package of the final two episodes, even I have to admit that its core concepts are solid, interesting, and potentially even compelling or thought-provoking. I don't know how much of the ideas and symbolism in Evangelion's ending were things that the creators honestly wanted to portray; the nihilistic or solipsistic philosophy, or the comparison of Shinji's existence in the final episode to the Ain Soph Aur state of God in Kabbalistic tradition. Certainly, some of it was already established in the themes of the show (the opening doesn't show off the Sephirot for nothing), but even if a decent amount was affected in order to smooth over the rough patches caused by the failure of the ending's presentation, it does feel very honest. Compared to a work like The Matrix, that relies on repeating several different lesson plans from Philosophy 101 without necessarily even understanding them, I do believe that Evangelion is operating on a higher level where it's actually realized and kept consistent and honest the view it's cobbled together for its universe and characters.

Overall, I think I dislike the ending of Evangelion more, but respect the ending of Franxx a good deal less.

And, in a way, that reaction (specifically to Franxx) can kind of sum up how I feel, looking back over the series now in possession of a very important touchstone for actually understanding the show and especially the show's failures: I can still enjoy it, particularly the good elements that I find in it, but at the same time I can't really respect it. For Evangelion, I'm glad knowing that End of Evangelion and Rebuild of Evangelion exist – I'll be examining them eventually, and there was absolutely room to recover the series from its faults. For Franxx... I don't know what I want. There's good material in it, but is there really enough for me to say I'd like to see “Rebuild of Franxx”? Yuki Yuna is a Hero eventually spawned an entire Yuusha de Aru series, a series that I'm very open to following up with even given how much Yuki Yuna lived in the shadow of Madoka Magica. But as much as Yuki Yuna was clearly dominated by the themes and tone of the prior work, it didn't have whole-episode pillaged plots the way Franxx worked “Splitting of the Breast” (Evangelion 16) into “Triangle Bomb” (Franxx 9) or “He was aware he was still a child” (Evangelion 21) into “Inhumanity”(Franxx 19). Even when the new version works on its own in theory (as in “Triangle Bomb”), it's hard to say that Franxx could really stand on its own when it's used Evangelion so aggressively as a crutch.

But the material that's both original and good in Franxx leaves me still desiring a whole that's something more – something that I wouldn't have to see as knockoff of Evangelion. I've heard the Manga adaptation is doing some good things, compared to the show, but I haven't read it myself (to my knowledge, it hasn't been translated to English yet) and even if the rumors are true I don't know how much freedom an adaptation would have to really fix what was wrong with the show and invent new material that takes advantage of its strengths. An alternative version or remake could work, since theoretically the creators of such an endeavor would have total freedom to take it in a different direction, and either know to focus on the characters and their personal struggles, give it a new and unique compelling meta-plot, or both... but at that point, would I really want to see the new thing as Darling in the Franxx, or do I just want to see some creator get inspired by what Franxx did well and create a much stronger work that just happens to owe its genesis to that deeply flawed show? I'd be less torn, and just want to see a new thing entirely, if it weren't for the fact that the deep and complex yet very likable characters are what I enjoyed, and would be the hardest thing to replicate without literally remaking the same cast and suffering the copycat problem as badly as Franxx itself did, or even worse.

In the end, what I'd wish for isn't as important as what I have. Right now, that means a high-quality original with a couple of deep faults, and a newer product that's mostly an uninspired copy with a couple of very impressive heights. The perfect Teen Drama Mecha Fighting show doesn't yet exist so far as I know, and it's possible that it can't even exist because no show could be all things to all people any more than Evangelion could.

But could I at least get one with a satisfying ending some day? Seriously.

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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Sun Dec 09, 2018 6:48 pm 
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I'll always respect Yuuki Yuuna for doing slice of life long enough to where you second guess yourself into thinking it's not like Madoka, and then it reveals itself to be even worse.

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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Sun Dec 09, 2018 8:21 pm 
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Congratulations

Also, check this out. It's the english voice actor of Shinji rambling in an outtake of the ending episode.
https://youtu.be/1xXe46xi-wQ?list=FLq1h ... KxYnmS6XxQ

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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Wed Dec 12, 2018 1:57 am 
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Mown wrote:
I'll always respect Yuuki Yuuna for doing slice of life long enough to where you second guess yourself into thinking it's not like Madoka, and then it reveals itself to be even worse.

I think I kind of agree. And the slice of life is pretty good. I remember really, really enjoying the beach episode because the girls were getting this much needed breather, and it was nice seeing them recover after the previous harsh fight, but there was still this really interesting dark undertone that made it not seem like just fluff.

YingLung wrote:
Congratulations

Also, check this out. It's the english voice actor of Shinji rambling in an outtake of the ending episode.
https://youtu.be/1xXe46xi-wQ?list=FLq1h ... KxYnmS6XxQ

That's hilarious. Thanks for sharing!



Other anime related material: 20 episodes into Kaze no Stigma and I'm still not totally sure what to make of it as a show. In some ways, it feels like it's Shakugan no Shana's table scraps seasoned with character writing that didn't quite make Trinity Seven, but in other ways... it's still kinda fun to watch? I'm tempted to call it junk food, but I'll want to wait and see if the last arc is actually a step up or down in a marked way.

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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Tue Dec 18, 2018 3:41 am 
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screw anime

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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Wed Dec 19, 2018 1:32 am 
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Other anime related material: 20 episodes into Kaze no Stigma and I'm still not totally sure what to make of it as a show. In some ways, it feels like it's Shakugan no Shana's table scraps seasoned with character writing that didn't quite make Trinity Seven, but in other ways... it's still kinda fun to watch? I'm tempted to call it junk food, but I'll want to wait and see if the last arc is actually a step up or down in a marked way.

Finished Kaze no Stigma. It flew too close to the sun on wings made of poorly written characters. Something had to give, it either had to not take itself as damn seriously as it did for the final arc, or it had to have a better backing.

Do not recommend.

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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Fri Dec 21, 2018 6:21 pm 
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I have to say, while I was disappointed that Zombieland Saga didn't continue the trend of non-pop music for performances, the show still was quite enjoyable. I genuinely teared up at several episodes, and the entire cast was surprisingly likable. Tae had a nice arc, with noticeable progression over episodes. Sakura's reverse-half-amnesia kinda dragged a bit, but the contrast between her initial zombie-self and her personality when she was alive was both striking, and added depth to her character. She has inspiring amounts of determination, which can only be dulled by a lifetime of last-minute failure. I do wish we could have seen more of Yugiri, but I can understand needing to take more time for Sakura in this season.

Saki best girl, but they are all great girls, including Necroducer.

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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Sat Dec 22, 2018 10:14 pm 
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So, right now my lineup is Star Driver and Magi: Labyrinth of Magic.

7 Episodes into Star Driver... I'm not sure it's technically good, indulging in a lot of cheesy repetition and surprisingly little mecha fighting (though it's not bad when it shows up), but it has been pretty fun so far. I am also weirdly invested in the captive Shrine Maiden's story-within-a-story.

3 episodes into Magi and I'm already seeing why this came so highly recommended. I mean, it has to sustain it, but so far so good.

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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Fri Jan 11, 2019 2:46 am 
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Close to the end of Star Driver now, and I'm SURE it's not very good. Some parts have been fun (particularly Mizuno/Marino and Kate) but the giant robot fighting isn't great, the plot doesn't make a lot of sense and has seemed to wander off at times, while too much effort each episode is spent with the Kiraboshi Order of Team Rocket for it to really have morphed and become a character study of the leads (who have thusfar been fairly static characters anyway) or anything like that. It's not a failure on the order of Hundred, Elfen Lied, or Kaze no Stigma... but while I'm going to watch the last few episodes I can already say I wouldn't recommend it.

Magi on the other hand is continuing to be awesome. The Balbadd arc was kinda long, but I don't mind, we explored our characters AND got kickass action scenes.

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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2019 7:41 pm 
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Finished Star Driver.

This was, in the end, a show with a lot of good pieces put together absolutely wrong. They spent too much time on some things, and not even remotely enough on others. There were alright ideas, but they were almost all botched by sloppy executions. And while of the three Teen Drama Mecha shows I've watched "lately", Star Driver has the least flawed ending, the BS pacing scars the final episodes more deeply than any other individual episodes. And of the three, it's by far the weakest, having plenty of flaws (its own flaws, not related to Evangelion's or Franxx's flaws) and no really amazing strengths. Can someone please do the genre mashup right the whole way through?

I also finished Magi: the Labyrinth of Magic, but I'm going right on to season 2 of Magi (Kingdom of Magic). I have no real complaints.

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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Mon Jan 28, 2019 9:01 pm 
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Finished Eden of the East... well, the show at least. There are two movies to get through but... I'm excited for that. I really liked the show, and even though it was open-ended the climax was actually pretty good so I don't feel like, if there wasn't more, I would be too peeved. It had good intrigue, some interesting action, and decent characters. It wasn't perfect by any means, but it was pretty darn strong. Would recommend.

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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Thu Jan 31, 2019 1:24 pm 
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I'm really enjoying this season. Promised Neverland is really tight, Karakuri Circus is an off the rails experience I haven't had in a while, Kaguya-sama's comedy format is fairly entertaining, and I really enjoyed Mob Psycho and Kakegurui, so another season of those two are also a boon. JoJo seems like it might stop being agonizingly slow as well, which is nice, because the current arc has felt pretty weak because of it.

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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Sun Feb 03, 2019 3:59 am 
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Just rewatched Satsuriku no Tenshi with a friend, and had some more stuff I wanted to say about it. It's a really good examination of depression, shame, and suicidality disguised as a cheesy slasher/survival horror show.

Spoiler

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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Mon Feb 04, 2019 12:59 am 
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my friends are i are watching kaguya sama

it's real cute

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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Tue Feb 26, 2019 2:15 am 
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Finished Occultic;Nine

It was kind of a mess, but I've seen a LOT worse. There was at least some intelligence in the story structure and while a lot of the characters delivered a lot of their lines machine-gun quick like they'd learned how to not breathe, the show did at least occasionally take a second to build some atmosphere. Not enough, but some.

Still in the middle of Magi. Still appreciate its ability to have bright heroes, black villians, an optimistic tone, and a bitterly cynical grey-on-gray world and make it all work.

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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Tue Mar 12, 2019 8:46 pm 
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So, I finally finished the second season of Magi. It was... really good. Al Tharmen was a smart and cool evil string-pulling organization, and it balanced incredibly well a dark take on the world and society, while having most individuals being basically good, or at least starting out that way and being redeemable. The action was solid; maybe a little more static than something like DitF or Shana but still visually creative and decently paced, and the characters are well explored and overall rounded, except maybe for the True Villains.

About halfway through Girl in Twilight. So far it's... actually pretty good. I wasn't expecting that, at not exactly. True, the characters started out a little flat, but it's clear the structure of the show is that each of them gets two episodes dedicated to her development in the Dystopian Alternate Universe of the Week.

Just started Bakemonogatari. This is a weird one. Like, in every way -- its visuals, its storytelling, its pacing, everything's just a little off. I'm digging it so far though.

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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Tue Mar 12, 2019 9:48 pm 
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> Bakemonogatari
I'm pretty curious to see what you make of it, and yes, it is rather oddly stylized. I think all the head tilting the characters do is a eccentricity of the animation studio, but I rather enjoy it for some reason.

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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Thu Mar 14, 2019 3:56 pm 
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I'm about 10 episodes into watching Psycho-Pass with a friend.

The show is good. Like, seriously good. I like how the show is willing to actually take its villains to task for their hypocritical and solipsistic worldviews/motives instead of glamorizing them as transgressive aesthetes.

For example, the handful of scenes during the plasticization arc where they just show the victims in their daily lives as people plays a role in framing the later scene where the villain describes how she sees them as objects. The show is actively showing you how wrong her worldview is.

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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 1:08 am 
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YingLung wrote:
> Bakemonogatari
I'm pretty curious to see what you make of it, and yes, it is rather oddly stylized. I think all the head tilting the characters do is a eccentricity of the animation studio, but I rather enjoy it for some reason.

I'll let you know when I get back to it. I was two episodes into the second arc and enjoying it a lot, but it vanished off Amazon Prime Streaming.

I feel like Shaft, as a studio, is kind of like the filmmaker Robert Rodriguez. Rodriguez is (or at least was) known for usually working with a shoestring budget, and usually doing a LOT of work on projects himself. He also typically had a very distinctive style to his films, using inventive creativity to cover for the fact that the production was pretty cheap. That's sort of how I feel about most Shaft productions I'm familiar with. Some had more budget to actually put up visuals than others (such as Madoka Magica), but they all rely on these very stylistic choices that lens how you see the world presented. The wide shots of these vast, empty spaces and cuts to tight focus on characters making odd expressions like the iconic head tilt are things that could be done very cheaply, but even if I can recognize it's cheap, it never feels cheap, because it typically helps to establish an atmosphere (Typically a weird, uncomfortable atmosphere because Madoka, Mekakucity Actors, and Bakemonogatari are all kind of weird, uncomfortable Urban Fantasy tales). Because of that, they can get away with a lot.

Started Familiar of Zero. I'll see if Bakemonogatari's disappearance is a hiccup when I finish Girl in Twilight (Which I will probably want to talk about at length, because it's poorly rated on MAL but I've been enjoying the heck out of it) and decide what to do about it then.

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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Mon Apr 01, 2019 9:15 pm 
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Bakemonogatari doesn't seem to be coming back in a timely fashion.
Commentary on Girl in Twilight... I'm just going to link my review on MAL. If anyone wants a more in-depth or spoileriffic discussion, just ask.
I finished Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka. There was some good stuff in it, but the exploitation material was kind of over the top. Can't recommend, but if you're into it there is something worth watching somewhere along the line.
Familiar of Zero is going strong (On season 2). It's not really challenging fare, but it's entertaining.
I'm going to be starting Noein. I'm excited.

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