Re:Zero Cheats Its Audience

I have never been that high on Re:Zero. When it first came out I watched the first episode on the basis of it’s psychological tagging on MyAnimeList. I got bored about 10 minuets in and dropped the show. Then I saw it gain considerable praise throughout it’s run, gaining a rather high rating on the aforementioned MAL. So I picked it up again and this time I actually finished the thing. As I got further into it I felt like the show picked up steam before it dropped it all again right at the end. In the end I gave it a 6/10. Even though the start and end were shaky I had felt that the middle of the show had been enjoyable enough that it merited at least a 6. T

hat was about a year ago and given the amount of time that had passed I was interested in giving the series another watch after hearing an acquaintance of mine gush over it. And I did rewatch it. or rather I tried to rewatch it. I only made it 10 episodes in (9 if you count 1a and 1b as one episode). The show is incredibly poorly written to me, I don’t know if this is an adaptation issue or if the problem lies in the source material but regardless Re:Zero starting life in another world, is a bit of a clusterfuck.

This is evident from the first episode by which I mean episodes 1a and 1b. We open with our Main Character Subaru in a convenience store reading some mangos. After some way too on the nose humour and a remark about how it’d be cool to have one of them girl thingys he steps outside and is transported into another world. This has all been inter-spliced with scenes of his death later on in the episode.

Now in a vacuum there’s nothing particularly wrong with this scene. It shows us our main character, sets him up a bit and then thrusts us into what should be our hook, the alternate world. Except the alternate world is not our hook, by episode 9 we have been to roughly 4 locations in this world, the center of the city, the slums, Roswaal’s mansion and the village nearby. If Re:Zero’s main goal was to create and explore an alternate world then it does a very poor job of it. We will learn bits and pieces about the world throughout these first 9 episodes but it never seems to be the main focus.

The show isn’t trying to be that though, at least I don’t think it is. It’s an examination of Subaru’s character or more accurately what if a gamer was transported to a world with game like situations and real consequences. The Return by Death power is central to this as it is reminiscent of checkpoints in video games. At any rate this Return by death mechanic is not revealed until the end of episode 1 b. In a Movie your 2nd act would be well underway at this stage, this is 40 minuets into your story and only now are you telling us why we should be interested in the first place. This is why I dropped it the first time, nothing grabbed me early on. I’m convinced if it weren’t for the anime community’s 3 episode rule far less people would have Re:Zero under completed instead of dropped.

And the Return by Death mechanic is a pretty strong hook, I don’t know why they didn’t start with that or get to it quicker. From a story telling standpoint it would’ve made sense to focus more on establishing Subaru’s character though. Maybe we could of had a scene with him at home before he heads to the Konbini. But if you wanted to have a really grabbing opening at the expense of that then why wouldn’t you put your actual hook front and center. It boggles me.

Anyway if you were able to get past this initial part then you’d be in for a pretty mediocre ride. Whenever it’s not trying to push boundaries it does adequately. Conversely it almost always fails when it tries to do something interesting. Throughout the first part of the series we will see Subaru trying to get back Emilia’s emblem and the disembowling lady from murdering everyone. The characterization provided throughout these episodes is fine so I won’t touch on it too much. Emilia telling Subaru her name was Satella makes little sense in my mind but it’s not a big deal.

The biggest issue with this arc is the villain. She’s just not intimidating. Re:Zero’s villains tend to turn the ham up to 11 without providing enough juxtaposing sinisterness. Elsa here just doesn’t scare me in the slightest. She doesn’t seem like an insurmountable challenge. I guess it’s the equivalent of overacting except it’s written right into the script. Those wide Norman Bates eyes don’t scare me they make me laugh. I remember thinking a similar thing when I saw Beetleguese on my first watch, I wished that he was more restrained but not having gotten that far my second time around I may have thought differently on a rewatch.

Apart from that the opening episodes are OK. They drag on a bit because, of course they do. That’s the problem with the Return by Death thing, Subaru rarely changes his plan up signifigantly enough to make things interesting. I wish he’d either changed things more drastically or we’d spent less time on this opening loop. ANd in the end the only reason Elsa is defeated is circumstantial and not due to anything he conciously did. Because he happened to run into Reinhart in this timeline they win, that’s not a particularly satisfying conclusion to me.

Then we get to the arc in Roswaal’s mansion. I dropped my rewatch in the middle of this arc because it was just too annoying to me. Basically we have Subaru trying over and over again to survive in the mansion and get closer to Emilia and the mansion staff. The idea is fine I guess but in execution it falls very flat. This arc is where we should be getting most of our character and relationship building done so that we can care about our cast going forward. Subaru doesn’t know any of these people so he’s starting from scratch. The problem here is that in a time loop you cannot establish character relationships. You can give characters like Rem and Ram some characterization and background because these are things that are only pertinent to the audience in most cases. But every time Subaru dies his relationship with them SHOULD go back to square one but it never seems to.

Emilia seems awfully pally with someone whom she has literally had one conversation with up to this point. Remember all those conversations in the first episode never happened for her. All she knows of Subaru is that he was in the place her insignia was stolen and fought with her against Elsa. This is enough for her to take him to Roswaal’s sure but not justifying the closeness she displays (something she herself calls out at one point). It’s the same with Rem and Ram it always felt like they were warming up to him ever so slightly throughout each loop although it was nowhere near as prominent as with Emilia. The problem is that because we have spent so long with these characters the relationships feel earned even though they haven’t been. It’s basically cheating your audience in this regard. You want to torment Subaru with these time loops but you also don’t want to reset everything else like you should.

It also leads to some blatant plot holes. At one point after one of his many deaths Subaru asks Beatrice to protect him, threatening to tell Puck if she doesn’t help. In a conversation in another timeline he sees her talking to Puck and showing fondness for him. It is then that Subaru realises this fact (obviously). So when he says this to Beatrice she should be wondering how he knows that would get to her since for her that conversation never happened. Then there’s the case of Rem’s death in this same timeline. She dies because she receives the curse Subaru got last time. But how would she have? We see Subaru only gets the curse when he goes up to pet the puppy at the behest of the children. Rem has been shown to, up to this point, not have been at all close to the villagers something that Subaru will try to remedy in later episode/timeline. So how did she get bitten? She wouldn’t have gone near that dog if she went down to the village. It makes little sense and could’ve easily been fixed by having a scene showing the dog attacking her. It’s not strictly speaking a plot hole but it really stretches thing. There are plenty of things like this in just the first 9 episodes, again in the final battle with Elsa Subaru calls out to Puck to shield Emilia. In their minds Subaru should not know of Puck’s existence, it should’ve at least been questioned by them.

I could go on for quite a while complaining about these sort of things but you get the point. I could talk about how Subaru’s effective immortality diminishes the shows stakes and how it could’ve been altered to fix this but that’s an entire video unto itself. Instead to close this out I’ll talk about the plot point that made me drop my rewatch.

In episode 9 Subaru and Rem go down to the village and find out the kids have dissappeared. Then they go to the forest to find that the magic barrier keeping Mabeasts out has been breached. This. Is. Retarded.

We know the dog has been in the village for at the very lest 2 days, probably more considering how close the children are to it. That means that this barrier was left unchecked for multiple days! These people don’t fucking patrol this barrier to check if it’s breached? If it’s compromised EVERYONE IN THE VILLAGE COULD DIE. Why isn’t there someone who’s job it is to patrol this thing. Or even a rota of people checking at least twice a day. WHY ISN’T THERE A 50 FOOT WALL KEEPING OUT THOSE MEXBEASTS?

AT this point I audibly said “Fuck this” to myself and went off to do anything else.

 

Re:Zero has plenty going for it but it never finds a way to utilize any of them in a way that would keep my interested. I really like the character designs for instance but when best Girl Rem keeps getting reset to her first meeting with Subaru I just lose interest. Anyway, let me know what you thought of Re:Zero and about the issues I mentioned specifically below.

 

And thanks for reading,

Psychime

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Criticism and Analysis As A Part Of The Western Anime Fandom (rant)

You know what I personally love about Anime as a medium? The variety. It seems to me that there are a wide spectrum of shows with massively different messages. I would posit that this is partially due to the heavy amount of adapting when it comes to ANime production. Only one or two people have to work on a Manga or Visual Novel or a Light Novel and as such it’s much easier to keep a singular or maybe dual vision intact in the core of your project. This is unlike cable television where getting a singular vision on any project is a rarity.

Like anything there are advantages and disadvantages to this. On the one hand artists have less people interfering with their vision and this can lead to great things like Steins;Gate. On the other artists shit ideas can be left unchecked, think the Star Wars prequels as a rarer western example of this.

Along with this wide range of shows comes a wide range of criticism and analysis. This is a natural thing for any artform, people know what they like but often want to know why they like what they like. Those who don’t possess or use analytical skills on what they watch or those who wish to hear another perspective will flock to critics. And usually critics have a big effect on how things are made. If a number of big critics pan a movie like Batman v Superman and praise the Marvel cinematic universe it leads to things like the Suicide Squad reshoots that added in more humorous scenes. Movies and TV are a collaboration between art and business in which almost always the business takes precedence.

So with this power these critics can dictate to a degree what entertainment is like, by proxy the audience dictates the sort of stuff that comes out. Sure not every movie is good but there’s a reason we get 3 marvel movies seemingly every month. It’s because people go to watch them.

But when it comes to Anime there’s a bit of an issue with this, specifically within the western fanbase.

Western Anime critics have almost no influence on Japanese entertainment trends. Studios have to cater to their main demographic which 99% of the time is Japan. So what do critics do in this situation?

At this point their role is not to shape the Anime that come out but to try and shape people’s opinions about anime only. Think SAO and it’s perception before and after DIgibro analysis. It really doesn’t matter what westerners think of the show for the most part, as long as it’s popular in Japan it will continue to be made and make it’s way to us for the foreseeable future.

Digi’s analysis showed what was wrong with the show. It gave people who didn’t like it but didn’t know why a reason and ability to vocalise negative opinions on it. Those that still liked the show now had to defend their stance on it. At a certain point there was nothing anyone could do to change the new split perception of the show, an analysis of the second season was for the most part pointless. It wasn’t going to change people’s opinions about the show all that much nor was it going to impact how the show was made. This isn’t about whether Digi was right or wrong in doing this, I honestly don’t care but it’s more about this mob mentality this can create.

When attacking a studio or show makes little difference the audience turns it’s attention to the critics. Because we can see real results in doing so. People seem to subconsciously try to align their tastes with their favorite anime critics even when their tastes may not fully align. I can attest that I myself have done so in the past. I latched on to Digi because of his ultra positive reception of Psycho-Pass but now I realise I don’t even fully agree with his analysis on the show itself let alone everything else he reviews.

But when you idolise the opinions of others like this any attack on them becomes an attack on you and as such you strike back. I’ve seen countless arguments in comment sections where it is clear neither side has even watched the show they’re arguing about.

Analysis should be about finding both the good and the bad in any given show. I have negative things to say about Psycho-Pass and positive things to say about Eromanga Sensei. It seems however that Anime discourse is at a stage where a show is either amazing, awful or just OK and not much inbetween. It’s less and less an actual discussion about what makes a show good or bad but more so a competition to see who has superior taste, something that’s itself pointless due to the subjectivity of it but I digress. Instead of trying to come to understand why our peers like or hate something that we don’t we just naturally assume they’re wrong.

For ages I thought that those who didn’t like Psycho-Pass just weren’t thinking about it hard enough or were at least seeing something different in it than I. But people can see exactly what I see in something I love and hate it for those exact reasons. It’s hard to come to this conclusion and even now when someone hates on the show my instant reaction is “What is this idiot talking about?” and I have to try and catch myself.

I really don’t care that we criticize critics or that people engage in pointless bickering, you do you. But what I hate is that this sort of stuff comes in between the ACTUAL FUCKING ANALYSIS OF ANIME.

Why are there so few taking a scalpel to numerous Anime and trying to explain why they’re so great? Someone like SuperEyepatchWolf does this fantastically. His content is mostly about trying to get people to watch stuff that impacts him and potentially have it affect them in the same way. When it’s negative it’s usually from a place where he wants to like something but can’t, his videos on Berserk for instance. Of course negative criticism is important but I think that it only works when it’s used in conjunction with positive criticism.

You see critics blatantly ignoring positives in shows they don’t like or glossing over problems in their favorites because their favorites can’t be flawed. Instead of making things so black and white why not talk about why an issue that plagues a show you like and a show don’t destroy one and not bring down the other?

Again I don’t really care what anyone does but in my perfect world anime analysis is, you know, about anime analysis. For every time a critic has pointed me towards a great show I can only imagine how many times I missed out because they couldn’t make a video or blog post about a certain show because of the potential back lash they would get. Once one person says a show is bad it becomes so much harder for someone to say it’s good.

I don’t even really know where I’m going at this stage, this is all just stream of consciousness. I should wrap it up here.

This isn’t meant to be an indictment of anyone but more of a personal observation. I want the fanbase to be about analysing things but that doesn’t mean everyone does. Time will tell what people want from their anime critics.

Thanks for reading,

Psychime

Nobody Should Be A Ghost In A Shell

I don’t want to be Motoko Kusanagi. Or more accurately I don’t want to be a ghost in a shell. I recently watched a video by The Jorlosopher titled Everyone Should Be A Ghost In The Shell. He makes a compelling argument for why he wishes to become a cyborg like Motoko. His arguments are well founded, the extensive list of benefits he touts (including heightened durability and interchangeability) seem great. He also refutes several arguments against the idea of cyberization before they can even be brought up. He makes a great case for why humanity should embrace cyberization.

But here’s the thing. I am not humanity. I am me. What is in the best interests of humanity may run counter to my own ideals. Ultimately Jor’s reasoning for wanting to become a cyborg is this: he as an entity is made by his memories and not by his body. This is something I agree with, logically then by extending the lifespan of those memories you can continue to exist for a longer period of time.

I don’t think this is a good thing. You see while pseudo-immortality would indeed be soothing for humanity I think it takes away the most important thing a human is capable of conceiving. Meaning. A life without limits is inherently a life without meaning.

To quote Nietzsche: “Without Music Life Would Be A Mistake”

This is a sentiment I wholeheartedly agree with. Art is something that only humans are capable of creating, no other species we know of is capable of creating art. We can convey emotions and complex ideas through it, I personally believe that it is our defining capability.

I think immortality would kill great art. A prime motivator in creating art is our impending mortality. It extends our life artificially by making our ideas into something non-perishable like music or film. Without such a motivator much art would be wiped out.

I think their is a fantastic example in the history of Queen for this. By 1984 the band had nearly broken up and were in the midst of one of their least critically and commercially successful spells ever. Freddie Mercury was partying his life away and just having fun. Then he was diagnosed with AIDS. Instead of wasting away however this bombshell actually made him MORE productive. He got back in the studio with Queen and the band went on a run with multiple No.1 albums and their first solo number one single in the UK since Bohemian Rhapsody with Innuendo. The period between those two songs spanned a staggering 16 years, a second no.1 after that length of time is unprecedented.

Mercury is noted as having said to his bandmates regarding his illness “I want to make music till the day I fucking die” and he stuck to that promise, downing shots of vodka to record through the pain and recording up until he could no longer get out of bed to get to the studio.

Innuendo is my favorite Queen album and it would not exist without the inevitability of death. Am I willing to trade it and so many other great works for a shot at psuedo-immortality? The point is to keep yourself, your memories omnipresent but without those works I am not me. They have shaped me. Death is ultimately the at root of almost all art because it is our only constant.

Psycho-Pass deals with a very similar concept to GiTS in that Senguji is almost fully cyborg bar his brain. He shares a very similar sentiment to Jor in regards to cyberization. The SIBYL system as well preserves the memories of it’s inductees for what could potentially be an eternity.

So when Makishima, a man who champions his own individual characteristics, who prizes his ideas is offered a chance to join SIBYL what does he say?

He refuses. He acknowledges that it may be “fun in it’s own way” to become some from of omnipotent but he refutes the notion that he could simply become to world’s umpire. He says that he can’t enjoy “the game” unless he is participating.

“And I love this game people call ‘life” from the bottom of my heart”

“I want to keep playing forever and ever”

And there it is. What is the point in living without death? In fact what is the point of anything if it does not end? You wouldn’t start a race without a finish line. You wouldn’t watch a movie without an ending. You shouldn’t start a life without it one day ending.

Conclusions to things are important, they give us resolution, closure. Without them there is no point in having the points between the start and the finish. Who would want to watch Jojo if it was just the gang traveling to Egypt forever and never reaching Dio? Without an ending the middle has no meaning, by artifically stopping death you inherently rob yourself of ultimate satisfaction with life to me. It is not a matter of being human or not it is a matter of being alive, what it means to exist and how that is different to what it means to live.

Thanks for reading,

Psychime

Tsuki Ga Kirei’s Fatal Flaw: The Overabundance Of Coincidence

Tsuki Ga Kirei is a good show. It’s also a very flawed one. While the artstyle is very appealing it’s actual animation was often lacking just as a singular example. I however feel a show can overcome it’s flaws if it plays to it’s strengths often. Tsuki Ga Kirei does exactly that crafting likable and realistic characters and giving (what I would consider) a pretty realistic depiction of a functional middle school relationship in the 2010’s.

Azumi does a lot of shit I might have done a few years ago, Akane reminds me of people I used to know. The characters created were very realistic, no quirks or gags were included that removed them from reality, this could’ve just as easily been a live action show. The show almost always feels natural and that’s it’s biggest strength. Unfortunately the key word in that previous sentence is “almost”. It’s time to talk about the one flaw that kept popping up in the show, detracting from it’s biggest strength.

Coincidence.

What do I mean by this? The problem the show has is that despite creating such realistic characters it could not find a way to have them move the story forward by themselves and as such it was almost always pushed forward by coincidence. A really good story should be moved forward by it’s characters not by external forces (in most cases). Akane and Azumi like each other too much for there to be consistent issues with their relationship and as such external factors cause those problems, think Akane’s phone shutting off just as she’s about to message Azumi, Azumi’s phone getting taken off him by the teacher after he has to wrestle it back from his friends, Akane dropping her stress toy, things of that nature. Individually there is nothing wrong with these scenes but when they start piling up on each other it wears my patience thin.

This is one thing in which fiction has a disadvantage in relation to reality, to stay believable it sometimes can’t be as crazy as reality can get. You’ve heard the saying before, truth is stranger than fiction and it certainly holds true here. I’m sure far more coincidental things have happened in order for actual middle school relationships to occur but that doesn’t mean I don’t question it in fiction. The problem being that every coincidence after a certain point made me remember acutely that what I was watching was in fact fiction and in a show where believable character relationships are it’s strength this is a major problem. I want to be consistently invested in Azumi and Akane’s relationship, not questioning the absolute perfect timing with which things happen for the benefit of dramatic tension. Every time Hira and Akane are together it seemed to be timed to perfection for maximum effect.

I know this is obviously what a show does and is meant to do but Tsuki Ga Kirei didn’t do a good job masking that fact. A good show usually has one main coincidence, it’s set up, from there the story should arise in a way that feels like it’s the result of the characters decisions. One or 2 coincidences are fine but too many stretch one’s immersion beyond repair. Unless fate or external influence is explicitly implied to be a thing in any given shows universe (think Kokoro Connect) then I can never get behind a show where coincidence is as big a narrative influencer as the entire cast.

I do think the show does a hell of a lot right, if you watched it at a certain age I could even see it being your favorite show, I’d say it connect on a real level to kids of similar age to the cast. But not me, maybe I’m too much of a cynic. As good as this show was at one particular thing I don’t think it fully made up for the rest of it’s shortcomings.

Expect a more personal response to the show in the future though because even the parts which I thought were good were pretty unenjoyable to me, this show was a pain to watch exactly because of what it did well. For another day though.

Thanks for reading,

Psychime

World’s End (Suka Suka) And The Importance Of Tonal Consistency

Setting the tone of your TV show, movie, Anime etc. is one of the most important things you have to do in order to make it good. Setting the tone is a foundational tool from which the rest of your show is built off. Setting the tone was something the show World’s End from last season did very well and very poorly. Let me explain.

Setting the tone is important because it provides the basis for what can be considered abnormal and shocking in the context of a show for the audience. If the tone is lighthearted then any moments of darkness would provide juxtaposition, in a dark show any jokes would provide that same sort of contrast.

Having the audience know when moments are meant to be juxtaposing is crucially important and thus one wants to try and set the tone as early as possible. In TV shows I tend to find that most shows set their tone in either the first episode or over the course of the first 3 episodes.

Think of Attack On Titan, it’s tone is set from the get go, the colossal titan destroying wall Maria and the numerous deaths paint a very bleak picture. This is so that when Eren plugs up the hole in wall Rose later on it runs counter to the general hopeless tone.

Then take Madoka, it takes 3 episodes to establish it’s tone. It begins off lighthearted but unnerving becoming increasingly so until *slight spoiler* the death of that character in episode 3. That death confirms to us that that uneasy feeling lining the show was not just in our imagination, that the show is actually much darker than it may have first seemed.

It can be difficult for Anime to set a tone so early on because of the limited runtime, 3 episodes of Anime = about 1 of Game of Thrones for instance. I think this may be part of the reason so much importance is placed on Anime OP’s you can set a shows tone through them without having to do it straight away in the show itself. It allows time for other things to be focused on like character introductions or world building, whilst assuring the audience of how the show will eventually feel. A cold open will do the same sort of thing.

So this is why World’s End surprises me. It sets it’s tone fantastically in it’s premiere, it felt grandiose and cinematic in a way to me. Even though I didn’t really know what was going on the show felt like it had something going on. And thus I continued to watch it, when something feels like it’s meant to be good I find one is usually more receptive to the idea that it actually is.

The show then proceeded to jump all over the place tonally. Often jovial and often serious with plenty of fanservice in between. It left me very confused, what was the show meant to be? A drama with lighthearted moments? A comedy that would get serious and dark on occasion? A fanservice show with a plot? I had no idea.

And this is a problem because it takes away from anything the show does well. Whenever something serious happened (like that little girl hitting her head) it was often not too far removed from a scene of Wilhelm giving a girl a naked massage. I was always thinking how poorly the scenes fit together even if individually there was nothing wrong with them.

Look end of the day, tone is bloody important, without tonal consistency your show can become a mess.

 

 

Attempting To Define “Psychological” Anime

If you go onto the “Anime Search” function of MAL you’ll be presented with a list of genres to choose from, with the purpose of narrowing down your search. Most of these are straightforward like “Drama” or “Action” one should know exactly what they’ll get from shows with these tags. Some are a bit more loosely defined, especially the Anime specific ones like “Seinen” or “Shonen”. These tags tend to describe the target demographics (Shonen means boy, for instance) and as such one can expect certain things from that.

Look across the list though and there’s one tag that stands out. Psychological. The tag stands out to me for a reason. What the fuck does it mean? In this context specifically, what does Psychological refer to?

The definition of Psychological is as follows: of, affecting, or arising in the mind; related to the mental and emotional state of a person.

How would one apply this to a show? It’d be a very difficult thing to do. Take it too broadly and you could use it to define every show that attempts to make you think (which is basically every show). Going too narrow though and it’d be a very subjective tagging, being only for shows that make you question your fundamental beliefs, which of course would differ from person to person. The real problem though is the lack of a middle ground.

Let’s use comedy as an example. Not every show with a joke is a comedy but it is not a tagging one ascribes to specifically to things they found funny. There are such things as bad comedies. We strike a middle ground here, shows with a distinct emphasis on making you laugh are comedies, whether or not they succeed at doing so. There’s a reason notoriously bad films like “The Room” are not classified as comedies, because all the humor comes from it’s ineptness at being a drama.

So where do we find this middle ground with Psychological? Where does one draw the line for how much a show has to affect your mind to be classified as Psychological? The more casual definition of a Psychological show would be “a show that gets you thinking” but that is of course way too broad.

I ruminated on this for a while to attempt to come up with a definition. The reason being that when I look at MAL’s “Psychological” line up, I strongly disagree with the classification of many shows with that tag. But I didn’t exactly know why.

Here’s the 10 most popular shows with that tag followed by whether or not I consider them worthy of such a tagging:

  • Death Note (Yes)
  • Mirai Nikki (No)
  • Tokyo Ghoul (Mostly No)
  • Elfen Lied (Yet to watch)
  • Psycho-Pass (Yes)
  • Madoka (Yes)
  • Evangelion (Yes)
  • Kisejuu (No)
  • Erased (No)
  • Re:Zero (No)

Basically 4/9. What is it that separates those shows though? What unifying feature do they have that the others lack?

Ambiguity.

The conclusion that I’ve come to is that a Psychological show is not one that only makes you think about crucial moral issues but offers no one definitive answer to the questions posed.

I’ve talked about utilitarianism in Madoka and how no one answer is presented to the audience. Psycho-Pass is a show I constantly praise for it’s use of multiple viewpoints on any given issue. Death Note asks the question of whether or not we should kill for good and presents this as neither right or wrong, you could conceivably side with or against Light (at least at the start). Eva, from what I have seen of it, presents multiple different ways of dealing with depression through metaphor.

The other shows lack this unifying lack of a concrete stance. In Erased it’s obviously a good thing that the girl was saved. Re:Zero is much more of a character study of Subaru than anything else. The idea of Mirai Nikki having any consistent thematic purpose is nearly laughable unless of course the question being posed is whether or not it’s OK to have a Yandere girlfriend (The answer should be a universal no).

I hesitate to outright say Tokyo Ghoul isn’t, it has hints of open ended questions about it in regards to what makes one human, but they are so often overshadowed other elements that I feel that the show isn’t Psychological.

To me a Psychological Anime is one that presents the audience with moral questions and lets them decide for themselves what the answer is.

 

This one’s been on my mind for a while. I’ve always had a general sense of what a Psychological show was but was never able to pinpoint exactly what made one Psychological until I really thought about it.

The definition I gave is not definitive, I’m very open to other interpretations, I just feel that the current definition (if there even is one) is way too ill defined to be functional. Anyway let me know what you think below.

Thanks for reading,

Psychime.

Why Visual Novels Don’t Tend To Make For Good Anime

Visual Novels are a very interesting form of media to me. Why would anyone make one? It’s not as easy as making a light novel from a man power standpoint but at the same time it doesn’t allow for the visual experience a full anime would. It seems to exist halfway between the two.

So in my mind Visual Novels are almost always made because the story they tell can only be done so through the medium. I think this is the general reason anime adaptations of VN’s tend not to be very good. There are exceptions of course but even most of them come with asterisks. The Fate franchise, even when some installments are praised, is said to pale in comparison to it’s source, Clannad really only becomes good in After Story.

Let’s take a look at why VNs don’t translate well to the small screen.

 

Length

This is the most obvious reason one could give but I’ll mention it anyway. A 12 episode anime series gives a total of about 4 hours of content, this is paltry compared to the 30-50 hours a lot of Visual Novels can take up. There’s only so much that you can convey visually to shorten that time and as such many adaptations can feel rushed or might be missing crucial info that drags the series down.

A particular instance of this would be in The Fruit of Grisaia. *slight spoilers* In the anime version Amane’s backstory is told in three episodes. This might seem like a lot but the story is about her and her classmates starving to death in a ravine over the course of 2 weeks, every day told in painstaking detail. It’s so long that it could’ve been a 1 cour series unto itself. It should have been one in fact. This part of the story works because of the long and detailed descriptions building up the sense of dread. Even though the show took far more time with it than I thought they would, it still felt far less impactful than it did in the full novel.

This extends to the medium in general, many stories don’t have that same impact when they are stripped of the extra detail they possessed and no amount of visual storytelling can make up for that.

Censorship

This really applies to a certain type of visual novel, the “dating sim”. Really any game where the goal is to meet a cast of girls (or guys) and to choose to be with one of them. This usually ends with sex although not always. Clannad is a good example of one of these games that has no sex, I think it’s part of the reason why After Story translated so well. You see, when you take out the sexual aspect of ones relationships with these people, you fundamentally change them. By taking away the sexual aspects of a story you change how it’s characters are viewed and in cases like these, where sex is a major (if not the only) plot element it can lead to very bland and uninteresting anime.

These games stories are about the relationships between characters, take away part of those characters and you may be left with almost nothing.

The Main Character

This one can be a difficult one to overcome. In most VN’s the main character is not given too much of a personality and almost never are they given a described or visible appearance. This is so the player can project easily onto that character.

When translating to anime however not having a visible main character is not really an option. You have to bring that character to life in a way they may not have been meant to before. You could leave them as a blank slate but that wouldn’t make for very good TV.

This does leave most VN protagonists as very boring when they are adapted into anime.

Focus And Choice

Visual Novels’ big distinction from regular old novels are the fact that you can influence the events of it. This of course makes you really feel like you’re the protagonist of said story but also presents two major problems when one tries to adapt them.

Firstly, you have to try and fit all of the branching story paths into one in most cases. This again fundamentally changes the story and trying to fit differing paths into one can leave a confusing mess. Typically one can see this in harem adaptations. The main guy has to have moments with all of the girls on offer because people want to see their favorite characters from the game come to life. Obviously however having this guy go out with 7 odd girls simultaneously would make little sense, a problem which is often ignored. School Days has parodied this in the past but the real problem it presents in my mind is the lack of focus that come with it.

I talked before about Amane’s route being too short in the anime and this is partly because the show has to fit another 4 stories into the run time. By trying to fit so many stories together, you can end up robbing them of what made them work in the first place.

The other problem this brings up of course is the absence of choice. VN’s are hard to gauge when attempting to analyze them as you are in effect getting multiple different stories. A game I might love because I chose one route might be despised by someone else because they chose a different route. Combining all the routes dilutes the quality of it’s best one by default.

Just think about it, a writer isn’t going to write stories that are equally good all of the time. Some may be good, others may be decent and some may even be alright awful. Think about it this way, take the Animeography of Urobuchi Gen. Let’s pretend his works are routes in a visual novel.

If you choose the first route you watch Psycho-Pass, the 2nd you watch Madoka and the third you watch Aldanoah Zero. The first 2 are well regarded but would appeal differently to different people and the 3rd was not so well received. Any given person would have a 33% chance of experiencing a bad story.

This is why Clannad After story works so well. The story focuses on just one love interest, Nagisa, and as such we get the focus required to fully flesh out the story. When adapting shows can dilute quality when mixing routes and lose focus on each individual story in the process.

Many Of The Good Ones Will Never Get Adapted

This is the most disappointing one to me. The above points are all challenges faced by any VN lucky enough to get adapted many VN’s will never get an anime adaption, even if they deserve it.

Most of the popular dating sims will get an adaptation but they almost never have fantastic stories to begin with. The Steins Gates’ of the world can get an adaptation because they are not too offensive.

But there are a whole plethora of fantastic stories out there that will never get adapted because the content would not be deemed suitable for a wide audience. Sharin no Kuni is a story about a dystopian society that will never get an anime because it’s protagonist is can be a pretty shitty person. Euphoria is a game that few people would have the stomach for and will never get an adaptation because it’s sexual content is far too grotesque. Even though it’s narrative is actually quite interesting, the sexual content is so intrinsically tied to the narrative that it could never be made into a TV broadcast anime. We don’t get many good VN adaptations because most of the good ones aren’t suitable for adapting.

This of course brings me back to my original point, the reason VN’s ultimately don’t translate is because the stories told in them only really work as a VN. Content that is too “offensive” or is built upon the choice mechanic. There is a reason they were written as a visual novel and not something else.

It’s a shame to see that VN’s aren’t receiving much attention or many adaptations as of late as there are some great stories out there in VN form. Hopefully one day they can reach a wider audience some way but until then we are left with a lot more misses than hits when it comes to Anime adaptations of VNs.

Thanks for reading,

Psychime