Roving Thoughts

2017-11-12

On Princess Principal's ending

(There are some spoilers here.)

In my retrospective on the summer season, I said that Princess Principal wound up as more of a prequel than a story and waved my hands a bit about why that was so. Today I want to write more details about that. The first question to ask is if Princess Principal has a conventional ending. Usefully I can answer that based purely on story structure, without having to talk about the specifics of what happened.

There are two ways to have a conventional ending to a story; you can resolve a significant ongoing plot issue or you can move some dramatic characters significantly forward in their character arcs (or you can do both). If you're ending an entire work you wrap up the big things (for characters and/or the plot); if you're just ending a season, you just wrap up a medium-scale plot or move characters forward but not all the way to the end of their stories. Looked at purely through this structural lens, Princess Principal does neither. The show had no large scale plot as such (although it did have an overall situation that created the fundamental story conflict), and while the protagonists were all dramatic characters, none of them resolved their character arcs or ostensibly made dramatic changes.

At the same time, things very clearly happened over the course of Princess Principal; the protagonists all wound up in a significantly different place than they started out. The show is not simply an episodic collection of adventures where at most we find out character backgrounds and then get a brief two-episode 'climax' at the end. That these changes happen and what they are is why I call Princess Principal a prequel.

In the very first aired episode of Princess Principal, Dorothy and Chise have what is in retrospect a crucial conversation after Dorothy casually lies to some normal students:

Chise: That was a bold move.
Dorothy: It's best not to sneak around with these things.
Chise: I see Ange isn't the only one with a knack for lying.
Dorothy: Spies are all liars. You're lying to me now, Chise.
Chise: As are you.
Dorothy: So what do you say we try being honest with each other?
Chise: The idea has its charm. But if we stopped lying, we wouldn't be able to stay friends.
Dorothy: Is that really friendship?
Chise: Even parents and children lie to each other.

This deliberately sets up the usual genre atmosphere for spy stories where all of the characters have their own interests, trust is purely temporary, things aren't as they seem, and betrayal may lurk around the corner at any time. All of the protagonists have their characteristic roles in this atmosphere; Ange, Dorothy, and Chise are outright spies with their own interests and secrets, Princess is the mystery, and Beatrice is the naif outsider. In fact the entire first episode is there partly to establish this overall atmosphere, since the episode's plot is a classical spy story of deception, hidden motives, and betrayal.

Over the course of the rest of the series, all of that changes. As all of the protagonists undergo character development, we see them quietly transmute from a collection of spies thrown together into a group of comrades. This reaches its climax in the ending of the show, where over the course of the show's only real plot arc, one by one all of the characters deliberately choose to turn their backs on their previous associations and instead choose the people who've now become their friends. By the ending epilogue, these people have stopped being a group of spies thrown together and become a team that happens to work as spies. It's to Princess Principal's credit that all of these decisions feel inevitable in the light of everything we've seen the characters go through together. Of course Chise is going to come back. Of course Dorothy is ultimately going to quietly choose the people who've become her friends, and to let Ange know that.

In other words, Princess Principal is the origin story of a team, the prequel that explains how they came to be before they go on to have thrilling adventures together (if Princess Principal ever gets another season). It's not a whole story in and of itself, because it doesn't really go anywhere or resolve anything (either in plot or in character development), but the characters themselves change in important ways; they end as different people than they started and they've made real decisions in the process.

anime/PrincessPrincipalEnding written at 21:36:24; Add Comment

2017-11-05

Brief impressions of the Fall 2017 anime season so far

I'm now anywhere from three to five episodes into everything I'm watching, which is long enough for most shows to show their cards and for my opinions to firm up. So, as usual, here's how my views of this season have shaken out, to follow up on my first episode reactions.

Excellent:

  • Girls' Last Tour: This is beautiful and touching and funny; it makes cartoony character art fit into its scratchy desolate setting art, and has very good use of background music. I called this 'slice of post-apocalyptic life' initially, and it is that but it's also much more. It's also quietly sad and tragic, because this is life after life has stopped and periodically Chito and Yuuri will have conversations that remind you that their lives are startlingly desolate. I keep hoping for a good ending for the two, but I don't think we're going to get it.

  • Land of the Lustrous: Above all, what makes LoL great is the characters and their interactions, especially Phos. There are plenty of excellent things in the rest of the show; it's beautiful (in an unconventional way), the setting is full of interesting and intriguing questions, the building they live in is great, the show makes excellent use of CG and integrates it wonderfully with conventional 2D animation, and so on. But none of them would matter half as much without the compelling characters.

    (Following my standard views, I hope that the show never tries to explain the mysteries of the setting. It's based on an ongoing manga, so I suspect that this is a good bet.)

Very enjoyable for me:

  • The Ancient Magus' Bride: I love the manga and this is very much my kind of thing, so I can't possibly be unbiased here. With that said, this is a good, solid anime version of the manga, but there's nothing so far to elevate it over the manga or add much unique to the manga. It's beautiful but not stunning, and if you've read the manga I don't think this is essential to watch (although you'll probably enjoy seeing Ancient Magus' Bride animated well, in a solid adaption). People who haven't seen the manga are apparently enjoying this, too.

    In a side note, I continue to think that AMB's periodic brief digressions into superdeformed comedy are a mistake in animated form. They work in the manga, but I think that's because manga panels are more isolated from each other than moments in a TV show are. In the animated version, the SD moments undercut the mood and impact of the beautiful regular animation. The comedy would be just as good without the characters going so SD.

    (The realities of TV anime production were always sort of tilted against AMB being stunning in the way I wanted it to be. But then, Flying Witch arguably managed it, although the manga was sparser than Ancient Magus' Bride.)

As good as always:

  • March comes in like a Lion: On the one hand, this is still the same show it was before it paused. On the other hand, I'd like things to be moving more than they are; the first few episodes this season have mostly been fiddling around with small things.

Okay:

  • Blood Blockade Battlefront & Beyond: This second season is a perfectly acceptable and decent episodic action/comedy show. It's competently directed, with decent production values, animation, background art, and so on. But it's not anything more, and the first season definitely was more, for all that it was also flawed; the first season had Leo learning about his powers and an overall plot arc.

    I'm watching BBB & Beyond this season as my empty popcorn action show watch, which it's reasonably decent at.

  • Kino's Journey: At first I thought that this had some interesting editorial things to say about Kino through its choice of which stories to adopt (and when). Then I discovered that the stories it was adopting had been chosen by an audience vote. A popularity contest is not the way you get a good adoption that has something of its own to say, or even one that illuminates the characters to people who aren't already familiar with the material.

    If I was a smart person, I might drop this and use the time to watch the original Kino's Journey series, which didn't suffer from this issue and apparently does have things to say.

Probably being dropped after the next episode:

  • Children of the Whales (#4): I can't do better than my Twitter summary:

    I would have to describe Children of the Whales as some combination between 'lethargic' and 'tiresome'. But it's very pretty so far.

    I'm watching the next episode only because I want to find out some secrets about the setting and they're probably going to explain them next episode. Otherwise, this has turned out to be an essentially empty and flat show, one that is paced far too slowly for its own good (some of the character dialog is also pretty painfully direct and obvious).

Paused and probably dropped as not for me:

  • Recovery of an MMO Junkie (#2): This is charming but I haven't found it particularly compelling. Perhaps some parts of it also cut a little bit too close to the bone for me.

Dropped:

I keep hearing good things about Just Because!, so I may look at it at some point despite what I said in my first episode reactions, partly because the season is slowing down for me (I've basically dropped three shows at this point).

anime/Fall2017Brief written at 15:10:40; Add Comment

2017-10-14

My (Twitter) reactions to the first episodes of the Fall 2017 season

As before I'm collecting here all of my tweeted reactions to the first episodes I've seen (in the order that I saw them).

  • Kino's Journey episode 1: That was solid as an exercise in setting and philosophy, with a reasonably appealing viewpoint character.

  • Girls' Last Tour episode 1: That was a nice mood piece, full of great little moments & willing to be quiet. Slice of post-apocalyptic life.

  • Land of the Lustrous ep 1: That was a solid and interesting start, even if I don't entirely like one of the character archetypes on display.

  • The Ancient Magus' Bride ep 1: A good solid adaptation of a marvelous manga. It's not as exceptional as the original but it does a good job.

  • BBB & Beyond episode 1: That was a perfectly okay adventure story that said little beyond itself. Basically a reintroduction of everyone.

  • Garo - Vanishing Line episode 1: This was decent popcorn action, with some nice touches, some teeth-grinding bits, and not the best fights.

  • Code Realize episode 1: An unexceptional implementation that doesn't exceed its genre and thus is not for me.

  • Children of the Whales ep 1: That was reasonably nice and reasonably pretty, but it sure had a lot of exposition narration & infodumping.

  • Recovery of an MMO Junkie episode 1: That was okay, but probably not good enough to get me to watch what's going to be a romance show.

  • March comes in like a Lion episode 23: A solid restart, emphasizing the positive growth in Rei's situation and probably setting things up.

I've decided to skip Inuyashiki for various reasons (and Crunchyroll has the manga if I feel interested in skimming at some point). This season is probably too busy for me to look into Just Because!, since I've mostly sworn off shows set in high school, although it's getting good reviews. Finally, Juni Taisen is just not my kind of show.

(High schools and especially high school romances are basically played out for me at this point; I've seen so many that a show has to be exceptional to keep my interest. March comes in like a Lion is an exception (in the non-romance category); Toradora was an exception in the romance category.)

anime/Fall2017FirstEpisodes written at 18:30:54; Add Comment

2017-10-11

Looking back at the Summer 2017 anime season

Once again it's time for my traditional look back at what I watched in this past Summer season, to follow up on my early impressions and my midway views. Overall I would call this a decent season with one clear stand-out show that is far ahead of everything else I watched.

Excellent with an amazing finish:

  • Made in Abyss: While the show wasn't flawless, it was always beautiful and full of the strangeness of the Abyss (and often tense), and it built up to a jaw-droppingly stunning and emotional final episode. I have no words. The last track of Kevin Penkin's beautiful soundtrack is going to stay with me for a long time.

    (In both its last episode and an earlier episode, Made in Abyss managed to achieve the kind of genuine emotional power and impact that very few shows can even approach.)

    I would love to see a second season of Made in Abyss that was as well-made as this one, but if we never get any more, the send-off we got was everything I could have asked for. It is and feels like a real turning point and transition point in the story, and that's a good place to stop.

Pretty good once the dust settled:

  • Princess Principal: The show's overall execution was very good, but in the end I stand by my view that it's more of a prequel than a story, and that somewhat lessens the impact. It's not as simple as there not being enough story and plot; the very short version is that while everyone is a dramatic character and they all had character development, none of them went through a full character arc.

    (The character who comes closest to having no development is Beatrice, but the show goes out of its way to show that she's working to change herself.)

  • Senki Zesshou Symphogear AXZ: By now you're either on board for the Symphogear experience or you're not. If you are, this was a fine installment, full of all of the elements that make the show itself. I liked how the show was spared the need to give things a big ending and wrapup due to there already being a fifth season on the way. See also Evirus's writeup.

Enjoyable:

  • My Hero Academia: I enjoyed the show overall and I do generally like hanging around with the characters; I'll probably miss them while they're gone (there's yet another season coming, of course). I'm not really happy about the cast being pulled into epic, world-spanning plots and stories; I would rather see them living a high school life and occasionally being on the periphery of greater events. But this is a Shonen Jump title, so we get what we get.

    (I continue to be happy that MHA didn't try to give Bakugo any sort of tragic backstory.)

Fine popcorn watching:

  • Knight's & Magic: It was very earnest and did what it set out to do pretty well. It was also surprisingly forthright about the fundamental irrationality and unreality of giant robots, and in the context of the show I don't object that romanticism won out because the thumb of the plot was clearly on its side; the plot has been on Ernesti's side all along.

Survived to the end of the season by the skin of its teeth and then dropped:

  • Fate/Apocrypha: I finished out the nominal season and turning point (episode 12) and then stopped because there was very little about the show that I was interested in. I think I may finally be done with the Fate ride as a whole; it basically always ends the same way and I can read about the plot twists and the spoilers on my own if I want to.

By the end of the show, Made in Abyss single-handedly justified this season (to the extent that seasons of anime need any justification). I'm generally happy with everything else that I watched except Fate/Apocrypha, and continuing to watch that past the first episode is my own fault. I knew what F/A was from the start, but I let myself be talked into continuing with it for the splashy animation; by now I should know that that doesn't work for me.

anime/Summer2017Retrospective written at 23:15:06; Add Comment

2017-09-16

Made in Abyss and characters going through brutal things

So what happened is that I saw someone on Twitter wondering if they should catch up on Made in Abyss, because they'd heard (and seen from screenshots) that some brutal and unpleasant things happened to the characters and were partly wondering if the show was being gratuitous with them. This sparked a stream of thoughts on Twitter:

Made in Abyss's latest episodes are wrenching and powerful, but are they necessary? And is this a question that matters?

I don't think MiA's events were gratuitous or overdone & things mostly focused on the emotional impact. The body horror was probably needed.

'Body horror' is not quite the right description for 'people getting hurt badly', but Twitter has length limits. The show definitely presented the situation in a way that was intended to make it wrenching; this was not pleasant, pretty, antiseptic stuff, it was visceral and cringe-inducing and painful to watch. Within the context of the episodes I don't think the show dwelt on things in a way that would have made it torture porn or pain porn; the focus was very much on how all of these horrible things affected the characters, especially Reg. The horrible things got shown to give Reg's reactions context and weight, and the show framed things claustrophobically to focus on this (cf, which has spoilers).

(See Nick Creamer's description in his week in summary post for more concrete stuff, but note that it has spoilers. He calls episode 10 'viscerally excruciating' and I would have to agree with that.)

As for the overall necessity, we have to wait and see how the story develops. I think there are early promising signs based on Nanachi.

That the events in the episode are non-gratuitous doesn't necessarily mean that the episode itself (and those events) are actually necessary. We won't know how necessary the events were overall until we see the story and the show's themes develop more. However, I think there are already clear promising signs, because the course of the story has clearly shifted after the events of episode 10.

Story elements don't necessarily have to have a point; they can be there for emotional impact. But terror and pain are empty w/o a meaning.
Made in Abyss certainly delivered emotional impact. Whether it used too much terror & pain for that is still open and also a personal call.

This is the question of whether the question in my initial tweet even matters. If Made in Abyss episodes 10 and 11 evoke such a strong emotional reaction from us, do they have to be 'necessary' in the larger scale of the plot? After all, stories are in large part about the emotional reactions they evoke and episode 10 certainly did that.

I don't have an answer but I do have an opinion, which is that some ways of evoking emotional responses are cheaper, easier, and more shallow than others. Kicking a puppy is a bad cliche for a good reason. Tormenting characters just to get a reaction from the audience is lazy and unappealing, and in the process it lessens the impact of the entire work. I personally don't think that Made in Abyss has crossed this line, but then I'm a jaded anime watcher.

(And I will admit that there are caution signs in some things in Made in Abyss, things that came up in passing that I'm not sure really needed to be there. Some of these questionable bits have been there from early on in the show.)

anime/MadeInAbyssAndPain written at 00:29:37; Add Comment

2017-09-04

Checking in on the Summer 2017 anime season 'midway' through

It's time once again for a much of the way through update on my earlier impressions of this season. By this point both my views and my expectations have solidified, although I'm still hoping for a surprise or two.

Still excellent:

  • Made in Abyss: I recently characterized this as a quest without active opposition (so far), where the obstacle in the way of Riko and Reg is the Abyss itself, with its creatures and its very nature. The show is doing extremely well at portraying this and making things feel real, and it's been a very enjoyable ride despite the fact that we keep being told that Riko is never coming back from the journey she's making.

    With that said, I have no idea where the show is going and how it's going to come to a satisfying ending point. But the ride is so interesting that I don't care.

Very good, surprisingly:

  • Princess Principal: The show has remained fully committed to its core nature and as a result has delivered a whole series of episodes with pretty solid impacts (and a few that were just fun), even if they're nothing novel in terms of plots. I've been particularly taken with the writing, which is often (although not always) willing to let things be indirect and count on us to get it.

    This has turned out much better than I would have expected from the premise.

Good:

  • Senki Zesshou Symphogear AXZ: It's more Symphogear and it's being very itself by leaning into its over the top stuff and building on bits and pieces of past seasons in a way that makes its world feel real and lived-in. It's absurd, of course, but Symphogear has always been an absurd show.

  • My Hero Academia: The show continues to move along pretty well, mostly avoiding the pacing pitfalls of the first season and the tournament pitfalls of the first part of this season. MHA isn't great but I do like watching it. It has charm.

Popcorn watching:

  • Knight's & Magic: This remains more or less pure-hearted fun, although in the long shadow of Gundam it's hard to have the cheerful reaction to a war between two groups of humans that I think the show wants me to have, especially when it kills plenty of people on screen. For now I'm ignoring the cognitive dissonance and enjoying it anyway.

  • Fate/Apocrypha: This has mostly delivered on a stream of reasonably spectacular fights with only a few diversions into annoying attempts at philosophy and character development and so on (all of which Fate is generally terrible at). Unfortunately, while I enjoy Astolfo and Mordred goofing around, my actual investment in any of the characters is almost nil so all of the action mostly feels empty and pointless.

Dropped:

  • A Centaur's Life: I wound up feeling that the only thing the show had going for it was its gimmick, and with the show's bland and so-so production, that wasn't enough to keep me watching. I have some theories about why this material worked much better in manga form than animated, but that's for another entry.

  • The Reflection: After watching a number of episodes I realized that I was only interested in it as a peculiar and interesting artifact, not as something to actually watch. I wasn't particularly invested in either the characters or the plot and the writing could be painful.

I've got enough shows that I want to watch that I've felt no particular need to seek out more or dig into my backlog (the latter is kind of a pity, since I have some good stuff I want to get to someday). More shows and more good to excellent shows would be nice, but I'm okay with what I have.

anime/Summer2017Midway written at 17:18:02; Add Comment

2017-08-02

Brief impressions of the Summer 2017 anime season so far

I'm somewhere between three and five episodes into everything I'm watching, which is long enough for most shows to show their cards and for my opinions to firm up. So, as usual, here's how my views of this season have shaken out, to follow up on my first episode reactions.

Excellent but alarming:

  • Made in Abyss: This is clearly the best show I'm watching and everything so far has been pretty much universally excellent, but it has been building up an increasingly ominous atmosphere and there's all sorts of rumblings that the manga version goes unpleasant places (and if the anime does too, I'm probably going to drop the show). It's also simply an impressive show, in art, animation, writing, and directing.

Good:

  • Princess Principal: This is a limited taste, because the show mixes completely serious material side by side with stuff that it's impossible to take seriously. But the show is fully committed to this (in the same way Thunderbolt Fantasy was) and has made it work so far. Not everything has been completely successful but it's solidly entertaining anyway.

  • Senki Zesshou Symphogear AXZ: After a bit of a quiet start where the show did not, say, slice a chunk out of the middle of a mountain in the first episode, AXZ has been steadily ramping up its stakes. It is and remains very Symphogear, which means that it's both over the top and sincere.

Decent to okay:

  • A Centaur's Life: This is basically slice of life in a science fiction setting. I read a bit of the manga several years ago and felt that it was both charming overall and reasonably well done, with an interesting mix of genres that could be nicely subtle. The animated version is a little bit less impressive because it's periodically kind of plain and flat in aesthetics and directing.

    Unlike some people, I think that the anime is overall reasonably well done. It's not flashy or 'strong' in some senses, but I've enjoyed elements like some nice character acting. On the other hand, I'm sort of feeling that I'm not going to keep watching the show for its entire run, so maybe I'm fooling myself about the overall production quality.

Popcorn watching:

  • Fate/Apocrypha: I'm not watching this for the plot or the Fate lore; seeing as this is a Fate show, both are likely to be stupid or irritating, and in any case both are far too complicated and require far too much background reading for me. Instead I'm watching this for a certain amount of nice animation and a few characters who are amusing and interesting, and so far it has delivered on enough of both to keep me watching.

    (I was actually pleased by a certain plot twist in episode 4, because I found the character involved to be kind of a wet blanket. Of course, Fate shows usually leave me irritated at almost every character.)

  • Knight's & Magic: This is what I will call 'competency porn'; you have a character who is very good at something and they do that something a lot, ideally in interesting and amusing situations and with some obstacles in the way. As I've said on Twitter, the show is so earnestly enthusiastic about things that it's charming, despite the basic story-telling limitations. See also this interesting post on K&M's heart-on-sleeve appeal by @iblessall.

    (I've realized that K&M quite reminds me of Rick Cook's Wizardry series, especially Wizard's Bane, the first book.)

In ongoing shows, My Hero Academia continues to be enjoyable to watch, although it has recently started to slip back into the excessive padding habits of the first season. I have tacitly dropped Re:Creators as not sufficiently compelling to make me care enough to watch another episode.

I recently saw the first episode of The Reflection and had some reactions on Twitter. I'm not sure what I feel about the show but it's interesting enough that I'm going to watch the second episode at some point. One way to put my longer term reaction to The Reflection so far is that I'm not sure it really feels like an anime show instead of a show about American superheroes that inexplicably happens to be in Japanese. Not that there's anything wrong with the latter, if it's well done.

anime/Summer2017Brief written at 22:33:14; Add Comment

2017-07-22

Looking back at the Spring 2017 anime season

Once again it's time for my traditional look back at what I watched in this past Spring season, to follow up on my early impressions and my midway views. I could say that nothing really changed from the midway, but that's actually not quite true; I think that two shows actually picked themselves up at the end (WorldEnd and Alice & Zoroku).

Pretty much excellent:

  • Eccentric Family second season: Okay, however painful it is for me to admit this, I will; Eccentric Family's second season is not as compelling as the first season was. That doesn't make it bad; the show was still great, beautiful, periodically both touching and scary, and funny, and it's clearly the best show of the season for me. But however intellectually interesting I found what I think is its broad theme, it's probably not going to stick in my memory and my heart the way that the first season did.

Very good:

Alice & Zoroku is probably objectively better than WorldEnd, but WorldEnd is more my kind of show than A&Z is so it's got a slightly higher position in my heart.

Good:

  • My Hero Academia: The second season of MHA has handily eclipsed the first one, not necessarily because the material is better but more because the show has worked out how to make its relatively slow pace work for it instead of against it. Since the basic material has always been compelling, removing this road block has turned a show that I liked despite itself into one that is genuinely interesting (despite structural problems like a sports tournament, which is fortunately over now and the show's moved on to more interesting stuff).

Still on the edge and maybe dropping off:

  • Re:Creators: Each episode usually is just good enough to get me to watch the next one, but it pushes closer and closer to the edge almost every time. It doesn't help that some recent events have made me feel that a room full of smart characters are missing one obvious thing, and that I'm even thinking about plot holes means that the show isn't fully engaging me.

I solidly enjoyed the first four shows here and found myself pretty much satisfied with the season as a result. Would I have liked more good things to watch? Sure, but unlike in some past seasons I didn't feel sufficiently bored to go searching out other things for popcorn watching and so on.

anime/Spring2017Retrospective written at 17:58:21; Add Comment

2017-07-17

Some different ways that story endings can be satisfying

I've said before a number of times that what I find satisfying in the endings of shows isn't necessarily what other people do. Today I want to write a bit about that and about some different ways that endings can be satisfying.

As humans, we have a natural desire for our stories to make sense. We can tolerate a certain amount of not understanding things during the story, but by the end we would really like to know what happened and why it happened and so on; we would like to feel that there was cause and effect, not just randomness. A satisfying ending is in part an ending that makes the story make sense (and makes sense given the rest of the story). However there are different ways that the ending can make things make sense and be satisfying, or perhaps a better way of putting it is that there are different things that an ending can make sense of.

A narratively satisfying ending is one that tells us what happened; it resolves the important open plot issues from the story and answers hanging questions, all in a way that makes sense. It gives us narrative closure. In a traditional mystery story, a narratively satisfying ending tells us who did it, how, and why; it is the master detective explaining everything to the audience and the criminal being led off in handcuffs. In an action show, it is the final confrontation with the villains and the victory of the heroes. In a show with important previously unexplained mysteries, a narratively satisfying ending explains them well enough to pacify us (shows often have trouble here, though).

(What is an important unexplained mystery varies from person to person.)

An emotionally satisfying ending is one that answers the emotional, character centered questions raised by the story, giving us emotional closure. When you have dramatic characters in a story, an emotionally satisfying ending resolves their character arcs and says that yes, they changed, grew, dealt with their issues, found the answers they were looking for, and so on. In stories with romances, an emotionally satisfying ending is often one that answers the question of whether the ostensible couple is going to get together.

It's entirely possible to have a story ending that's narratively satisfying or emotionally satisfying without dealing with the other side at all. An extreme example of this is the Neon Genesis Evangelion TV series, where the last two episodes were at least an attempt at an emotionally satisfying ending that said absolutely nothing narratively. The resulting fan clamour allegedly led to End of Evangelion, where Anno shoved a grotesque 'narratively satisfying' ending down everyone's throat. We wanted to know what happened? Anno would tell us, even though we weren't going to enjoy it in the least.

It's relatively common for romance-focused shows to have an emotionally satisfying ending that doesn't attempt narrative closure. Here the core question of the show has always been 'will they get together', and the ending says 'yes they will' without showing us the details of how that plays out. This is the ending with the couple finally kissing for the first time and we shift to the end credits. The first season of Nodame Cantabile ended this way; the core emotional question of the show was always if Chiaki would come to love Nodame, and the ending of the first season said 'yes', even though it didn't cover the actual process of them getting together as a couple.

For me, Concrete Revolutio is an example of a show with a narratively but not emotionally satisfying ending. CR's ending told us exactly what happened and how, and in the process explained the big villain and so on. But it didn't really feel like it resolved many of the character issues, and instead dropped some of them on the floor. An older example is the ending of Eureka Seven AO, and if I want to go to a really extreme point there is the ending of Gilgamesh.

As an anime watcher, what I generally care about are emotionally satisfying endings. The story has to more or less make narrative sense by the end and I don't like gaping plot holes, but I don't demand to know the narrative details of what happens next and how everything resolves itself if the broad outlines are clear from the emotional closure. For instance, I thought that the first season of Nodame Cantabile was perfectly fine on its own and didn't really need any sequels (and I eventually lost interest in said sequels). This is not a universal position by any means; there are plenty of people who care a lot more about narrative closure than I do (and they are not wrong; this is a taste issue).

(Nor do I need all the mysteries to be addressed, even relatively important ones, cf Shingu and some of its unaddressed ones, and also. What mysteries need to be addressed and which don't is something I'm going to wave my hands about for now.)

anime/SatisfyingStoryEndings written at 23:56:03; Add Comment

2017-07-16

My (Twitter) reactions to the first episodes of the Summer 2017 season

As before I'm collecting here all of my tweeted reactions to the first episodes I've seen (in the order that I saw them).

  • Hina Logic ep #1: A perfectly competent but uninspiring episode in the 'girls have adventures at school' genre. It lacks any great spark.

  • Katsugeki Touken Ranbu episode 1: The action is decent but the writing comes across as pedestrian and merely functional. It's kinda empty.

  • Knight's & Magic episode 1: This is goofy popcorn fun, even if it's not deep or complex. Sometimes I like competency porn shows.

  • Fate/Apocrypha episode 1: One incoherent battle plus a ton of exposition, minus any interesting or attractive characters. Nope, pass.

    (Then I changed my mind.)

  • Symphogear AXZ ep 1: Really it's the same as it ever was. The show's wisely not tried to top the start of last season & just gone straight.

  • Made in Abyss #1: On the one hand, this was a great starting episode; it had fun, great characters, solid writing, great animation, etc.
    On the other hand, I keep hearing that Made in Abyss's story goes really grim & dark. I guess I'll keep watching until things get terrible.

  • Princess Principal ep 1: Yes, this is a bit absurd. But it's also great; it's an excellent genre piece with lots of smart & beautiful bits.

  • A Centaur's Life episode 1: This has a certain amount of charm, but it's mostly being carried by the manga & its visuals are only decent.

  • Guru Guru episode 1: Too manic and didn't particularly tickle my funny bone. This isn't for me; I don't have the 8-bit RPG love necessary.

In the end I've decided to skip Welcome to the Ballroom, especially after the sakugablog article on it carefully threw cold water over people who wanted it to be anything more than 'a well-made high school sports show about an unusual sport'. High school sports shows almost never work for me these days.

There are a few other shows that look potentially interesting if I was really wanted more things to watch, like Restaurant to Another World and maybe Altair: A Record of Battles, but so far I'm fine with only watching this much. As usual I'm skipping all of the shorts, especially since none of them sound particularly attractive.

anime/Summer2017FirstEpisodes written at 17:02:27; Add Comment

(Previous 10 or go back to July 2017 at 2017/07/14)

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