As Inuyashiki’s antagonist was busy massacring an entire police
precinct, midway through the show’s eighth episode, I realized why the
series had been giving me an incredible sense of déjà vu. The arc of
events was basically indistinguishable from a player’s boredom-induced
wanton murder streak in Grand Theft Auto. On a lark, the killer offs a
couple of random bystanders. When the cops get involved, they find
themselves no match for the killer’s walking munitions depot. Maybe a
couple of cheat codes get deployed. Hundreds of nameless, faceless
extras die in the carnage. It’s less a story than a fill-in-the-blank
exercise: “Unstoppable, remorseless murderer claims ______ lives
in latest spree,” with the numbers going up exponentially each time
until the killer loses interest and quits.
To reach these tedious depths, Inuyashiki has to thoroughly squander
an actually intriguing premise. The title character, a late-fifties
salaryman who goes unappreciated by everyone in his life except his pet
dog, is out for an evening walk when an errant alien spaceship crashes
nearby, killing him. As a mea culpa, the E.T.s build Mr. Inuyashiki a
new, cosmetically identical mechanical body before hurriedly going on
their merry way. It turns out that the new skin has a couple more
features than the old one, like flight, bullet-proofing, and an
autonomous missile defense system. Mr. Inuyashiki, a kind soul at heart,
quickly sets out to use his newfound powers for good. The catch? Someone
else also got upgraded in the accident, and contrary to his name “Hiro,”
this one is a nihilistic teenager who cares little for innocent lives.
It all seems like the perfect setup for a titanic clash of wills,
underpinned by some rumination on what it means to be human. A bit of a
cliché, sure, but Mr. Inuyashiki is in a refreshingly different stage of
life from the typical inadvertent superhero, or even anime protagonist.
And Hiro, his foil, takes his sociopathic mantle in a chilling
ten-minute sequence where he breaks into a Tokyo family’s home and
methodically disposes of its members one by one. He is so unbothered by
what he’s doing that he can casually ask one of his terrified victims
who her favorite One Piece character is, seconds before killing her.
Before long, however, the script loses interest in developing either
hero or villain. Inuyashiki’s middle section is little more than a
river of blood, as the plot gives Hiro progressively flimsier reasons to
escalate his rampage until all of Japan lies in his sights. (Like Grand
Theft Auto, though, the show ultimately pulls its punches when children
are the ones in danger.) Mr. Inuyashiki himself, meanwhile, gets
essentially written out of his own series, leaving us to wonder what the
hell he’s doing while Hiro’s genocidal acts blanket the news. The two
don’t get around to sparring until the penultimate episode, just in time
for a deus ex machina conclusion that renders moot what little
advancement we see in either character.
The animation, while not nearly as bad as the plot, can’t fully decide
what it wants to be. Early episodes use 3D heavily for Hiro and Mr.
Inuyashiki’s machine forms, a nice hint that they’re a little different
from everyone else, but this doesn’t remain totally consistent through
the rest of the series, and the models don’t have the detail they need
to hold up in high action scenes. The 2D work on some of the side
characters, too, is sketchy enough that I found myself wondering what
they were intended to look like. But how much would improving the
visuals really have helped? After all, if video game graphics suffer
from diminishing returns, it’s hard to see how Inuyashiki, with all of
its resemblance to a mediocre gaming stream, would benefit that much
A quantitative reckoning of Koyomi Araragi’s effectiveness as a
protagonist, by ‘Monogatari Series’ arc
So one day I was sitting around, thinking that Monogatari Series seems
to have one of the most useless main characters, well, ever. In terms of
making his friends’ lives better, at least, even if he is a premier
source of banter and horrifying losses of bodily integrity. In fact,
Araragi seems to be the source of his friends’ troubles more often
Well, what better way to test this hypothesis than with numbers? We’ll
give Araragi one point for every arc where the solution wouldn’t have
happened without him, and take one away in each case where the problem
et cetera as above. I’ll go in anime order.
Araragi introduces Senjougahara to Oshino. Let’s give him some credit.
None of the arc would happen without Araragi skulking around the park
trying to avoid his family, and Hachikuji finally gets home and stops
being so angry. Yes, Araragi isn’t very helpful when it comes to
actually finding the place, but let’s not nitpick.
Not only would there be no problem in the first place but for Araragi,
but his new girlfriend also has to save him from literal disembowelment.
You could loosely argue that Nadeko’s infatuation with Araragi is an
indirect cause of the conflict, but it’s not essential.
See Suruga Monkey, above, except replace “new girlfriend” with “new
vampire shadow familiar.”
Araragi doesn’t do much here.
Eh, well, Araragi kind of solves the problem with his sword fuckery.
Jealousy again, but at least Araragi shuts this one down hard.
Fucks up the world, then unfucks it.
Definitely number one on the list of Araragi fuckups.
Araragi’s basically the sole reason Hachikuji sticks around for so long,
and he refuses to let her pass on until the very end. Big minus.
This arc is just the tail end of Nadeko Medusa. Though it’s tempting,
it’s not really fair to penalize Araragi for the same thing twice.
No, Araragi’s little pep talk in the middle doesn’t count as essential.
I barely even remember what happens in this arc, but I do know it’s
I guess Araragi could have spoken up, but why put that responsibility
solely on him?
You were supposed to notice sad Oikura in the corner!
Araragi doesn’t solve the problem. Really, nothing gets solved. This is
a pretty tragic, difficult arc.
Jealousy yet again! Araragi really knows how to step on some toes, but
at least he’s learning how to fix things.
This arc is a pretty clear victory for Araragi. Well, if you ignore
Hanekawa getting kidnapped, which he solves, so let’s call that part a
Hm. Uh… well, guess I was right.
The back-end theory
Video games have more than their share of, let’s say, unrealistically
well-endowed female characters. The common refrain invoked in defense of
these character designs is that the depictions of men as tall, trim, and
muscled are no closer to the truth. Usually, the counterargument then
proceeds to how the physical traits given to male characters are
reasonable in most settings, while those given to females are have no
such justification and can only be explained by sexual objectification,
and so on.
I’d like to present Keijo!!!!!!!! as a different sort of rebuttal. It
takes the “T&A is just the feminine version of buff” line of thought to
its logical conclusion, by putting on shounen calling-your-attacks
fights that exclusively use those breasts and buttocks. In this world, a
woman can launch an opponent dozens of meters in the air with just her
butt and the right training. This is, however, clearly not the case in
reality. It follows that the aforementioned depictions of men and women
are not unrealistic in the same way, at least not in the world we as the
viewers live in.
So, yeah, QED or whatever.
Japan Statistics Bureau: Nearly 100% of Anime Voice Actors Without Obviously Accented English Remain Jobless
CHIYODA, Tokyo, Japan — Employment opportunities for anime voice actors
with native-sounding English continued to hover near zero in the month
of October, according to figures released Friday by the Ministry of
Internal Affairs and Communications. Jobs numbers remained stubbornly
low in spite of government initiatives targeted at the hiring of
competent English speakers, including the addition of characters who
“basically screamed for someone with better English than a potato,”
according to an anonymous source inside the Ministry of Economy, Trade,
In one prominent failure, the role of Kouki Saiki, a Japanese returnee
from an English-speaking country in this season’s WWW.Working!!, ended
up going to voice actor Yoshimasa Hosoya, whose English has a distinctly
Japanese flavor. “For this to happen when Saiki’s native language was
explicitly changed to English, from the Web manga’s original Korean, is
nothing short of a complete repudiation of the program. It’s as if no
one in the industry cares,” said Kenzou Takamiya, professor of labor
studies at Tokyo University.
The Statistics Bureau expects the hiring of VAs who don’t need a
katakana reference for English text to remain low in the coming months,
especially given the now-likely demise of the multilateral Trans-Pacific
Partnership trade agreement, or TPP. Provisions in the TPP would have
lowered barriers to work visas for Japanese Americans seeking voice
roles in anime, but the election of the staunchly anti-trade Donald
Trump as president of the United States has effectively closed the
possibility of the deal’s ratification.
Reaction from English-speaking anime fans has been muted, with some
expressing disbelief that voice actors’ Japanglish was ever a concern.
“I don’t think I’ve ever noticed,” said 33-year-old Kent Wentworth of
Toledo, Ohio. “I mean, it all sounds like Japanese to me. I’m too busy
reading the subtitles to really pay attention to their voices anyway.”
Shows I thought were cool in 2015
It’s been too long, but I don’t really have much to say, so let’s have
another list like I did two years ago.
Maybe this time with some more words.
In approximate order from best to even better.
Your Lie in April (Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso). The premise invites
comparisons to Nodame Cantabile, which I think do this show a
disservice — it never professes to be as mature or as musically
rigorous, and holding it to that standard is rather unfair. While
the dramatic turns do sometimes get predictable and circuitous, the
show’s most beautiful moments make up for that. Yes, the intense
swells of the score help.
Prison School. On the flip side, this is a series that no one in
their right mind would take seriously at first glance. If you can
get over its unabashed attachment to the lowbrow, though, you’ll be
floored by how tightly the narrative is constructed, how the
characters play off each other, and how the lewd, lurid, and
juvenile actually fit into a plot where everyone seems to be a
chessmaster. Prison School is the sort of work that lulls you into
low expectations before proceeding to ambush you with competence.
Or, as I put it on
some anime are junk food, this is Alton Brown teaching you how to
Noragami Aragoto. Where the first series is overly focused on the
whiny teenage rebellion of Yukine, played a bit too pitch-perfectly
by Yuuki Kaji, the sequel gives us the shounen battles of wills
that we waited a whole season to see. The evolving rivalry between
Yato and Bishamon serves as the foundation for the rest of the
show’s events, and it gives us a great sense of scale as other
conflicts around them get broader and nastier. My only
disappointment is with the ending theme, which isn’t quite as good
as the last one. Alas, you can’t win ’em all.
My Love Story!! (Ore Monogatari!!). It’s what love would be like
if love were about being as masculine as possible while
simultaneously being as shoujo as possible. This sounds clearly
self-contradictory, but much like with Monthly Girls’ Nozaki’s
anarchic approach to shoujo clichés, it’s why the show works. The
more ridiculous moments, like the protagonist saving his girlfriend
from a literal falling I-beam by just holding it up, give the
romance room to breathe without suffocating on an excess of
self-seriousness. At the same time, My Love Story!! never stoops
to mocking its characters — it really is just love, with a good old
infusion of very hot blood.
Shirobako. It’s an anime about anime, which could have been a
horrible exercise in navel-gazing, but ends up being the closest
thing to genuinely fun edutainment that the medium has given us
since Moyashimon. (If only the word “edutainment” didn’t sound so
stupid.) We get an only-moderately-exaggerated sense of how the
sausage is made, while P.A. Works gets in a sly wink and a nod about
the foibles of themselves and their competitors. Seriously, did
anyone not immediately think of Akiyuki Shinbou and Madoka?
Working!!! Just as fun as the first two seasons, except things
actually happen. I’d ordinarily shy away from spoilers, but come on,
we all know who’s finally shacking up. The important part is that
the warm, fuzzy moments come without betraying the adorably neurotic
personalities of the characters we’ve come to love. Or at least
laugh at in twenty-four-minute increments.
Owarimonogatari. I’ve mentioned before that my ability to
objectively evaluate the quality of any Monogatari Series
installment has probably long been compromised, but this installment
really does strike me as another high note, after the mildly muddled
mess that is the Tsukimonogatari miniseries. Marina Inoue, mostly
known for playing boisterous characters like Minami-ke’s Kana,
balances out her performance as Sodachi Oikura with a remarkable
vulnerability and nuance. The show’s second arc doesn’t shine quite
as brightly, but still brings enough twists and turns to keep us
wanting more — and, of course, that typographically-endowed flair
isn’t going anywhere.
See you in 2017! You should watch Erased, because unless it totally
squibs its ending, it’s going to be on this list then.
Also, I guess I lied about not having much to say.