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Hey Spitz, What’ve You Been Watching? July 2017

August 7, 2017

おっす!Anime monthly time!
Something I’ve spoken of before, awhile ago now, is how ostracizing something as conceptually petty as being drawn to cuteness can be as an adult male. I’ve received offhanded insults from coworkers, been accused of being a lolicon, have had people I do not know and who do not know me shake their head at me in dismissal, and I’ve had people snidely ask my age as reaction for things such as talking excitedly about a particular character or another, or knowing more than I suppose someone is supposed to about PVC figures. It’s one of those things which over time discourages you from initiating conversation with others, and leads to self-deprivation. Very unfortunate.
I had a slate for July, but then things came up. What I found time for might make this an interesting anime monthly:
 

Ghost in the Shell (2017)-
In a future where cybernetic enhancements have become commonplace, yet the expansion and development of technology sees no signs of slowing, Mira Killian is a young woman who, after being victim of a terrorist attack, has her brain transplanted into a completely synthetic body to save her life.
Hanka Robotics, the corporation responsible for this transplant, and the leading developer of augmented technology desires to test her ability, and enlists her into the counter-terrorism bureau Section 9 to do just that.
A year later, a new cybernetic threat arises, and Mira, now a member of Section 9, and still struggling to cope with her new body battles a faceless adversary hellbent on destroying Hanka Robotics.

What I thought-
Ew, a Hollywood adaptation of Ghost in the Shell? But where else would I talk about it if not here?
While I wouldn’t be as audacious as to say I’m an avid fan of Ghost in the Shell, having only seen the first film and a large chunk of Stand Alone Complex, I will say that I have enjoyed every morsel consumed, and that when this film was announced I instantly dismissed it as a waste of time. When the (as the kids these days say:) “whitewashed” cast was revealed, my original thoughts were reinforced.
But, a fan of the series I am, so even if I knew I’d hate it, I couldn’t help but check it out.
And… it’s not terrible* (*as a sci-fi movie).
There are numerous directions one might come when attempting to attack this film critically, whether it’s the sometimes egregiously bad visual style of its future setting, that old excitement-killer that is slow motion in action scenes, the prodding of the source material for no apparent gain, or its been-there-done-that narrative. The problem with Ghost in the Shell though, is that yeah, as an adaptation of the work from which it was drawn from, it fails to live up to or expand upon the concepts presented in the original in interesting ways, but as a science fiction film taken on its own terms, you can certainly do worse.
Characters are rearranged slightly or presented slightly differently than their originals. Togusa for example, is an Asian dude with a mullet, and no longer uses a revolver. It is instead given to Aramaki, who has some of the best scenes in the film. Batou acquires his cybernetic eyes during the course of the film, and I thought the casting of Pilou Asbaek, and his performance in the role was wonderful. Batou is one of the things this film gets right.
The narrative lacks the weight of the original, and while much of that can be attributed to the poor writing in the dialogue, more of it comes from this film’s failure to ground the viewer in the world. The original Ghost in the Shell film, and Stand Alone Complex as well, had very tangible, solid future settings by terms of technology and visuals. The visual designs in this film sometimes offered awesome looking cityscapes, but left me scoffing at character designs of the individuals inhabiting those cityscapes, as their designs from one to the other came off as though they were designed by two artists trying to “out future” one another’s work. It’s an interesting movie to look at, but it is also exhausting.
There are fun characters found in this film’s narrative, but the narrative itself offers none of the introspection or philosophy or worldview of the original. Rather, the plot feels closer to a one-off episode from Stand Alone Complex, with some of the Major’s brooding tossed in here or there.
It was a valiant effort, and there were clearly people who love the series somewhere in the cast and crew for this adaptation, but Ghost in the Shell not only fails to properly remake the original, but it also fails to offer anything all its own. As a fan of the series, I’ll consider it a guilty pleasure.
If you have not seen the original Ghost in the Shell animated film from 1995, I highly recommend you do so instead of this one. If you’re a fan of that film or the tv anime series which followed, check your expectations on your way into this live action adaptation. There are things to appreciate found within, but it is a tremendously flawed movie by comparison.


 

Castlevania-
It is 1400’s Wallachia, and an innocent woman has been burned at the stake. Her crime? Witchcraft. The root of her accusation? Scientific equipment found in her home.
Unknown to those responsible for such a senseless act, this woman was Lisa Tepes, the wife of Vlad “Dracula” Tepes, and in ending her life, they have sealed the fate of all of humanity.
Inspired by Caslevania 3: Dracula’s Curse, Castlevania tells the tale of Trevor Belmont, the current line in a family of monster hunters, as he battles the forces of darkness unleashed by Dracula.

What I thought-
Where it’s easy to say the Castlevania series is every inch worth its devotion by gamers around the world, it would be interesting to ask any number of them what the narrative is all about in any given game. Whether it’s needlessly convoluted or totally non-existent, the series has never had especially great stories as a backdrop to its excellent gameplay. This is seemingly where the Netflix Castlevania series is attempting to pick up the slack.
The set up is decent, and offers a brief humanization to Dracula which helps slot him into being a good villain, and the pace and dialogue throughout are solid enough.
The issues I have with this series, is one of the issues I have with a great deal of Western television or created media in general, which is that this is a series trying desperately to be accepted as an “adult” feature. The gore, the grit, the profanity – it’s all here, and it almost always feels unnecessary. While it’s a ramble for another time, I believe a series can be enjoyed to its fullest by adults without these things. While it’s okay for a series to be profane or exhibit nudity or show off excessive gore, there is a fine line between a series which use these things with purpose, and one which leans on them a little too heavily simply because it’s a series for “adults”, especially when the series from which your story is based off of didn’t do the same. This is the core of my disappointments with Castlevania, which is that it is at odds with its source material by terms of both tone and style.
Which leads into another problem I had with this series, that being the music. Caslevania games have almost always had top notch soundtracks; arguably some of the most recognizable and appreciated among gamers. And not only is the music in this series lacking the sort of gothic rock style from the games, but thematically the audio backing the on-screen action just doesn’t fit at all. The words “Mass Effect” came to mind numerous times.
Where the games were all about slowly making your way across a map and discovering a seemingly endless array of enemies (and in more recent games, becoming more and more powerful over time), Castlevania the Netflix series has its profanity and its violence and its drunken, aloof representation of Trevor Belmont, and left nothing but a bitter taste in my mouth after its viewing. We can do better.
 Castlevania is a series severely lacking in style and poise, and it fails to properly depict the concepts of exploration and discovery which made the video games so terrific to play. As such, it is very difficult to recommend, even with its short run of four episodes.


 

I haven’t had much free time over the past few months (as maybe is evident), so I intentionally only picked up a few Summer series anime, one of which I haven’t had the time to start yet. (You can’t see it right now, but I’m making a disappointed face.)
As far backlog, the short list currently consists of the Girls und Panzer movie (I recently watched through the OVAs which were great, but not substantial enough to talk about to any real length), and Love Live! Sunshine!!, which has done nothing but impress me with its new group of characters and their individual stories.
I have recently discovered a workaround to eke out a small amount of free time on workdays, so hopefully this will make writing up monthlies a bit easier. One can hope…
(This month last year.)
来月までね。

From → Anime

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