My tweets in the aftermath of SSSS.Gridman's last episode
In the spirit of not doing my blogging only on Twitter, I'm copying what I said about SSSS.Gridman's ending and it as a whole to here. The actual tweets start here, and there are interesting discussions with people who replied to me that I'm not copying here.
There are some spoilers here, but that's how it goes. Some expansion on bits of the tweets that involves spoilers is hidden behind HTML abbreviations.
SSSS.Gridman episode 12: Oh wow. Certain portions of that were kind of as expected, parts were pleasant surprises of the Gridman 'no beating around the bush' variety, and then the extended ending was really something else (something great). The final coda, too. Good work, Anti.
In the end SSSS.Gridman made the extremely smart choice of basically not explaining a lot of things, which I am perfectly fine with. It nailed the emotional and practical landing, and in retrospect it was carefully never framed as having mysteries.
To expand on this, SSSS.Gridman had things that it didn't explain, but it never presented those things to us as mysteries. No one ever asked 'why X' or 'how did Y come to be' or 'where did Z come from', and since those questions were never asked and were never part of the plot, it was easy to not answer them without letting people down (or at least I didn't feel let down). If a show is going to have things it doesn't answer, carefully keeping them in the background is in my opinion the best approach. Call this the anti Checkov's gun principle; if you don't want to have to shoot the gun, don't put it on the mantelpiece.
I still think the SSSS.Gridman OP and ED are probably saying some interesting things, but I'm not sure about it and the final episode didn't provide clarity. But they probably are strongly talking about the show's overall theme.
Before the last episode, I increasingly came to think that SSSS.Gridman's OP and ED were pretty meaningful; they not just had things to say about the show itself, but also gave us hints about what was really going on and had happened before the show started. In light of everything in the last episode, I no longer think that this is literally true. For more on the ED specifically, see Emily's great article on it.
Also, I know just enough about the surrounding context of the overall Gridman series of shows to know that the very ending of the show is perfectly fitting and a great callback. (I actually wondered earlier if the show would go that way and yep.)
Oh. I suddenly realized the obvious reason and meaning for why Anti stayed behind in the end of SSSS.Gridman, given what Anti is. Well done, show. And I bet he's going to hang out with Rikka to a certain extent, which ... really makes sense and casts another light on him & Rikka.
The expansion of this, which involves a more detailed spoiler:
It's strongly implied that Anti is effectively a piece of Akane's heart. Akane had to leave her dream world, but at the same time she loved it and sort of wanted to stay in it with the people there. So, with Anti staying, a piece of her heart is staying in the dream.
Back to my thread:
In fact, looking back a whole lot of Anti's interactions with Rikka are now really quite interesting if you look at them from the right angle. Poor Akane, in a way.
Another SSSS.Gridman thought: Alexis Kerib could be a metaphor or it could be real, and in fact it could be a mixture of both at once. Certainly as a metaphor, Alexis is eternal, as it said. And you cannot just beat it up; the real fix is something else entirely.
As a metaphor, Alexis Kerib is clearly the whole cocktail of depression, self-hatred, isolation, and so on, a cocktail that is eternal and cannot be directly defeated, only banished from the current sufferer. SSSS.Gridman did amazing work in showing us how much Akane hated herself and suffered from this cocktail all on her own.
In light of the very end of SSSS.Gridman, I think we have to rule out certain interpretations of the OP and ED. They now seem at least unlikely to be portraying Akane's real pre-series life, although they can be metaphors touching on it.
Also, the show gave us the meaning of SSSS, and it was well done. SSSS indeed.
Also, another important thing to note about the ending, from a Twitter conversation thread:
I choose to believe that the ending shot implies that there is, since Rikka's present is there in Akane's room as she wakes up. (Perhaps that present is in fact the trigger, lingering in Akane's subconscious all this time.)
You can read this many ways, but if nothing else the show wants us to know that the transit pass case Rikka bought as a present for Akane and finally gave her lingered into Akane's new life. It is very explicit about showing it as the first thing visible in the final scene of the show.
(And, in light of SSSS.Gridman's unusual soundscape, it strikes me as potential interesting that this final scene does have a background music track. Of course this might just be for practical reasons, in that there's no particularly appropriate basic environmental noises to use and dead silence would feel wrong.)
Update: Sakugablog's episode 12 coverage has a nice rundown on what we can reasonably piece together about the narrative from clues and allusions in the show, and also the things we have no idea about (of which there are any number).
SSSS.Gridman's unusual soundscape
It's no secret that most anime is generously slathered with background music. Unless characters are talking, and sometimes even if they are, there's almost always BGM running in the background, a constant soundtrack for what's going on in the show. It's even a cliche than when the BGM cuts out, something serious is going on. Sometimes this BGM is used to communicate mood or comedy or the like, but often it is simply there.
SSSS.Gridman is an exception. From the start, one of the quietly unusual things about the show has been how little it uses background music. Rather than BGM, its passing moments and full scenes are filled with incidental environmental sounds; things like little noises of things thumping and squeaking, people's footsteps, the warning bells of railway crossings, the flapping and cawing of passing birds, doors opening and closing, rain falling, thumping machinery in the distance, the natural noise of busses humming along, and insects. Even when the show fills a silent time with background noise, it's not music; it's with, say, a quiet drone.
(There are times when music crops up in Gridman as diegetic sound, which is to say that it exists in the world and the characters hear it too.)
SSSS.Gridman does have background music, but it's rarely used. When the music starts up, things are about to happen, usually the kaiju fights or other climactic events touching on them. And generally the moment the fight is over, the music cuts out too. If there is music and it's not a fight, something important is happening and the show wants us to know.
(And Gridman generally considers fights over, at least for BGM, once the decisive blow has been struck. There is an explosion afterward, but the BGM does not continue through it in the way it might in another show.)
I'm sure that this is a deliberate decision on the part of the production. If nothing else, designing and putting together this soundscape has to be a lot more work than commissioning some BGM tracks and mixing them in underneath the vocals and any important foley sounds. But I don't know enough to guess why the show handled its sound this way. Perhaps it's for the same reason that the show had its animators draw a lot of what would normally have been background art, which is apparently to make the show's world feel more alive and real; see the Sakugablog discussion of this in their coverage of the first two episodes.
(Without knowing enough about anime production to be sure, I suspect that the prevalence of BGM in anime in general is because it is the simplest and cheapest way to fill in what would otherwise be completely dead silence (or voices talking in otherwise dead silence). Live action works can at least do scratch recordings during filming to have a basic 'bed' of background noise, but anime doesn't have that unless you deliberately go collect field recordings. Dead silence is somewhat unnatural in real life, which is probably partly why it's used for emphasis in anime.)
Looking back, one of the surprising things about this is how little I consciously noticed and notice both sides of BGM usage. For SSSS.Gridman, I didn't realize just how little BGM was used and how soon it cuts out. For other shows, I didn't realize how pervasive BGM usage was until I was spot-checking things as part of writing this and discovered, for instance, that it seems to be not unusual to continue BGM underneath even people talking, which is something I wouldn't have expected to need or use BGM. On the other hand, how pervasive BGM is seems to vary from show to show; I encountered others that had significant sections with only ambient noises and no BGM, although none that went anywhere as far as SSSS.Gridman.
(This is part of the 12 Days of Anime 2018.)
Daiba Nana gets her day in Shoujo Kageki Revue Starlight
I may have a muted and mostly intellectual reaction to Revue Starlight as a whole (per my summer comments), but there is one character that the show completely sold me on and got me emotionally invested in, and that was Daiba Nana. And whatever else I may feel about the show, episode 7, her focus episode, was an excellent and amazing thing. For me, it was unquestionably the highlight of the entire show.
At one level it's not surprising that I like episode 7, because one of my things is episodes that reveal a totally new perspective on events and force you to completely re-evaluate everything you've seen so far. I'm predisposed to love them unreasonably wherever they crop up, whether it's in an otherwise ordinary show or in generally excellent works such as Madoka Magica.
(In general I'm all for unusual narrative tricks, from this through non-linear storytelling to all sorts of things. Just do them well.)
Beyond what it revealed, "Daiba Nana" (really, that's the episode's title) was really well put together and presented, like much of Revue Starlight overall. Given something to emotionally connect with, all of the show's technical work paid off for me, as everything built up over the course of the episode to really pack a punch. The show's understated presentation with drip after drip of unwelcome, unpleasant change sold me on Daiba Nana's mindset and on why she felt the way she did and reacted as she did. Her ultimate choice was not a surprise but an inevitability, and in the process it ripped off her mask to reveal the person underneath.
(In retrospect, the episode also sold me on why she was the winner of the Revue. Out of all of the competitors, she was the one who had a concrete goal that she understood, not an abstract desire or vague target. It's fitting that Hikari was the one to defeat Nana, because Hikari too had a very concrete goal that she was aiming for.)
In the end, Daiba Nana got what she wanted but not what she needed, and on top of that what she wanted was slowly turning to ashes in her mouth. In a single episode, Revue Starlight transformed her from a cheerful cipher to a quietly, desperately lonely girl who broke our hearts and so very much needed a hug.
(If you want to read more about episode 7, I recommend Emily Rand's writing.)
As a side note, looking back, my experience of Revue Starlight as a whole was definitely interesting even if it wasn't necessarily engaging. I don't often have the experience of watching a show while knowing that things are definitely flying over my head and there's an entire layer of things going on that I'm barely grasping the edges of. Here it was Revue Starlight's entanglement with the Takarazuka Revue (part of which is its multimedia nature, where the full Revue Starlight experience extends well beyond the anime alone). In that respect I'm reminded of watching Joshiraku.
(This is part of the 12 Days of Anime 2018.)
Sidebar: Another little impressive thing from the episode
One of the little things that episode seven showed us (at least as I remember it) is how Daiba Nana's collection of mannerisms and habits seems to have evolved over the course of her many loops. In the very beginning, Nana wasn't really 'Banana', although she clearly liked bananas. It was only through relentless repetition and refinement that Nana boiled herself down to a cheerful supplier of a stream of banana themed foods and so on, with all of the foods (and many of her mannerisms) carefully honed through far more practice than any of her classmates had any idea about. The authentic, imperfect, uncertain Daiba Nana was far in the past by the time of the first six episodes of Revue Starlight that we saw; we saw only a polished front, the person Daiba Nana had made herself into for the sake of her goal and her classmates.
The seventh episode quietly showed us that the Daiba Nana we'd seen in the first six episodes was a polished, rehearsed role, and it showed us how that had come about, how Daiba Nana wound up playing a role instead of being herself, because she had to in order to keep everything going.
(I suspect that all of this is in part something the show wants to say more broadly, about the Takarazuka Revue and other things. But even just as a character piece, it was beautiful and wholly convincing.)
Some shows that didn't work out for me in 2018
Last year I wrote about some shows that didn't work out for me, and this year I've decided to do it again for my own reasons. As with last year, these are shows that I started with high hopes, shows that by all rights should work for me, and then things didn't work out. I'm almost always sad when this happens, because I want to enjoy everything I watch and I want to have more things to watch that I enjoy. As with last year, this is not to condemn these shows, it is to create a little memorial to them and to what could have been. That these shows didn't work out for me can say as much about me as it does about the shows.
(To a certain extent, these shows teach me something about my own tastes, which is part of why I want to write all of this up.)
In the order that they aired and that I walked away from them:
- Katana Maidens - Toji no Miko: It's been a
pretty long time since we had a show like this, but sadly the show
we got had pacing issues that I eventually got tired of. I really
do want to like action/adventure shows that revolve around women,
because they're relatively rare, but this one didn't work out
despite quite a lot of initial promise.
There was a time when I'd have kept on watching this despite the
pacing, but not this year. There's a part of me
that still regrets not powering through to watch all of Katana
- Violet Evergarden: This is a beautiful and
well crafted show, one that by all rights I should have been more
fond of than I actually was. I have theories about why I wound up
failing to really be pulled in emotionally, but they're at best
hand-waving over the fundamental reality that this is yet another
KyoAni show that didn't work for me.
- Lupin III Part V: Lupin is a classic series
and has been doing its general action and adventure thing for a long
time, with a well honed stable of characters and a bunch of movies that
I've generally enjoyed and so on. It definitely feels like I should
enjoy Lupin TV series, and it also feels almost like an obligation
as an anime fan to do so. But I keep bouncing off the actual TV
series, with the notable exception of The Woman Called Mine Fujiko.
Apparently I don't love these classical characters quite enough to
follow them around for six or twelve hours or so at a time, even if
that time is spread out over one or two cours.
- Full Metal Panic! Invisible Victory: As I put
it, the magic leaked out for me somewhere over the past decade (or more)
since the last time there was any Full Metal Panic!. The good news
is that the old FMP lives on in my heart,
no matter what.
(It's odd, but this hurts less than Little Witch Academia did last year. I think it's because I already have the pleasant memories of the original Full Metal Panic! series.)
- My Hero Academia: MHA is pretty good shonen
action and all of that, and I stopped watching it just before a
climactic arc or two that were apparently very good. My feelings on
dropping it is that this says something about the pacing issues endemic
in a long-running shonen series and also something about how long I'm
willing to watch one series these days. I look back on the days when
I could watch a hundred episodes or more of something and wonder how
I did it.
(Possible the answer is 'less other things to eat up my time with'.)
Then there's some shows that I'm more mildly let down and sad about, where it doesn't hurt as much that I and the show didn't work out.
- GeGeGe no Kitaro: There's a lot of nice things
about Kitaro, and it would be a perfectly wholesome show to follow
on a regular basis (with some great characters). I just don't have
any real interest in following a kids show, because some of the things
inherent in its nature leave me too unenthused.
Sadly this is a bad omen for me ever really enjoying any of the Precure iterations, because they're fundamentally kids shows too.
- Golden Kamuy: This is an acclaimed action and
adventure manga with some great characters and a well realized anime
version (bears excepted), but I wound up not really caring about what
was going on.
Looking back over everything that worked for me and didn't work for me this year, I suspect that this is a sign that I'm losing my interest in straight action stories. Over and over again this year, I've passed or dropped shows where the primary appeal was action and intricate cunning plots going on. It's not just Golden Kamuy, it's also things like A.I.C.O., Angolmois, Sirius the Jaeger, Legend of the Galactic Heroes, and Persona 5 The Animation (and Full Metal Panic! Invisible Victory to some extent).
(On the other hand I definitely enjoyed B - The Beginning, for all that it was very firmly planted in this genre. It wasn't anywhere near high art, but B knew full well how to be both entertaining and compulsively watchable.)
- Darling in the FranXX: I said way back when that I didn't have high expectations for DarliFra, which is why I'm not more let down when I decided that it wasn't interesting enough to continue watching. When you don't expect much to start with, there's not much letdown when it doesn't work out.
(I don't list Hinamatsuri here simply because comedies failing for me is the routine state of life.)
Writing this up has helped me clarify and put into words some things that I was already feeling in my gut. For instance, it seems pretty likely that Vinland Saga is not going to be something that I enthusiastically watch in 2019, since it falls straight into the general genre area of Golden Kamuy and other similar things.
As with last year, I'm deliberately excluding shows that I finished, even though I have things I could say there (and I may do so in another entry). This is for shows that didn't work out to such an extent that I stopped watching them.
(This is part of the 12 Days of Anime 2018.)
A moment where SSSS.Gridman exploits distorted camera perspective and superdeformation
(There's a bit of a spoiler for SSSS.Gridman here.)
One of my ongoing interests is things around the anicamera, the imaginary camera that 'films' anime, and along with it the various deliberate artistic distortions animation uses (including in CG), such as smears and super-deformed things. Studio Trigger is of course no stranger to any of this, as anyone who's watched their shows like Space Patrol Luluco or Kill la Kill knows, and so it is not surprising that various aspects of both of these show up regularly in SSSS.Gridman.
So, for example, there's this beautiful shot from episode 10:
This isn't just beautiful, it's also full of deliberate anicamera artifacts, including lens flare, veiling haze, and the wide angle lens effect of putting curves on horizontal and vertical straight lines.
But the case I really want to talk about is from SSSS.Gridman's sixth episode, where Yuta meets a little kid who wants to talk to him (and yes, this is kind of dim, as they're in an alleyway; the kid is on the right):
She really wants to get Yuta's attention and Trigger winds up giving us this classical looming, super-deformed shot:
Ha ha, no. That's not super-deformed. She's a kaiju.
To be fair, she told us that she was, and there was some advance visual warning as the scene unfolded (eg the shadow here). Trigger didn't spring this on us by complete surprise, however funny and startling that might have been; instead they built up the atmosphere for an unsettling moment. But it was still a pretty startling moment for me, and probably for a lot of viewers. Everything in our anime viewing pushed us towards a reading of that first looming shot as being exaggerated and super-deformed, not literal. And then SSSS.Gridman cut away to confront us with the unsettling reality.
That's why in the title of this entry I used 'exploited' instead of 'used'. Trigger did not actually use superdeformation here; instead they deliberately exploited our expectations of it in order to give us a startling moment.
(There is probably a bit of implicit wide angle distortion going on in the looming shot, for impact, but in a comedy SD moment it would be exaggerating the SD looming.)
PS: The revealing side shot is unrealistic in a normal cinematographic way, because the characters are nominally in a pretty narrow alleyway. In real life there's no way you could back the camera up enough to get that sort of normal perspective shot from the side without running into the side of the alleyway, so you'd have to do this on a soundstage. Which is of course routine in films.
(This is part of the 12 Days of Anime 2018.)
On watching a lot less anime this year
Looking back on this year in anime for me, one thing that definitely stands out is that I've watched a lot less shows than I usually do. It hasn't been because I'm out of time, or because I have some limit on how many shows I want to watch. Instead it's because I've become a lot more willing to listen to my gut, to mostly not watch things unless I'm actually enjoying them, and to drop shows that I've stopped being interested in even if they're quite late in their run (and I thus have a lot invested in watching them, in a way).
(It would be snappy to say that I'm watching less but enjoying it more, but that's not true. The shows that I'm enjoying are not magically better than they ever have been, it's just that I'm not watching much else.)
Looking back, things here have probably been building for some time (cf my Winter 2014 grump), but this year is evidently when my feelings quietly boiled over and I started cutting back pretty drastically. I dropped or didn't even start a lot of perfectly decent or okay shows this year that I probably would have watched in past years, and I've mostly not checked out shows that are outside of the areas that usually work well for me, even if they're getting a lot of praise (this season, for example, there's Bloom Into You among others).
When I started watching less, I think that I wondered if I'd feel idle and bored and wind up just coming back to fill up my time with anime again, especially since in the past I've used various shows basically to fill the time over a cup of coffee or the like (cf, and also). It hasn't worked out that way, for all that there's a part of me that wants to feel the urge to watch more. Although I sometimes think 'a year ago I'd have been watching anime at this point in my week', I've not wound up short of other diversions to fill up my time with (if nothing else, there's always my technical blog).
This all feels like a vaguely unsettling big change of some sort. I've been watching anime for a fairly long time, and usually a fairly decent amount of it, much more than I currently am now. When you suddenly get less active in a fandom you were previously pretty active in, well, it's natural for certain thoughts to spring up in your mind. Is this a sign that I'm about to quietly slide mostly out of anime fandom entirely, as I've slid out of other things in the past? I don't think it is, but then I probably didn't think that about the other fandoms either, not at the start.
(On the other hand, my past dropping out of fandoms has generally been pretty abrupt, even if I didn't do it deliberately. This is not that kind of 'doing it one day, stopped almost entirely the next' that those have often been.)
However, this also doesn't feel like something that's going to reverse itself. I don't look around and feel that there's spare time I could watch more shows in if I wanted to (perhaps old classics, or things I have fond memories of, like Stellvia); instead I feel that I'm basically watching as much anime as I have both time and interest for.
Who knows. Maybe I've just gotten a little too jaded and worn down about anime, and it'll wear off in a while. There's certainly a part of me that wants it to, that identifies as an anime fan who watches fairly voraciously, that wants to go back to four or five shows a season the way 'it should be'. Or maybe I've finally stopped feeling like I should watch everything just because I started watching anime in an era when we grabbed for whatever scraps we could get because they were so rare. Anime today is a feast of simulcasts and available shows that we can pick or choose from, and that's a great thing.
(These personal ramblings and reflections are part of my contribution to the 12 Days of Anime 2018.)
In appreciation of Gun Gale Online's band of sisters
There's a lot of reasons that I like Gun Gale Online, starting with it being great fun to watch, but certainly one of them is that it is a very exceptional show in a couple of ways. To put it simply, Gun Gale Online is an action show that's all about a bunch of women, and it's almost completely free of fanservice (and romance). Gun Gale Online is about a bunch of women gleefully having fun together shooting each other up in a game, and sometimes shooting men who make the mistake of getting in their way.
(There are some men, and a couple of them matter. But mostly not.)
But the show's not just about the action, not really. It's also about the things that happen outside of the Gun Gale Online game, in the time when Karen and others aren't playing. It's about how these women interact with each other in their real life, how they connect, how the strands of their friendship and fellowship entwine. Gun Gale Online is an action story about GGO the game, but it is also a story about people. GGO would not be half the show it is if it didn't make us believe in those women and their connections. The show is not high art, but it makes everyone come alive; everyone is pretty much a real person. And in the show, almost everything that really matters, almost everything that has real character, is interactions between women (on the battlefields of GGO or off it).
I don't really have words for how rare this is in anime. Shows with all-female casts are almost entirely confined to a small slice of genres, and when they do escape they must almost always come with fanservice, romance, or at least the prominent and important presence of some men. On top of that, in action shows with women, only infrequently do they get to simply be people. In anime, male characters get to have plenty of shows with bands of brothers (it's the default state of ensemble action shows); women so very rarely get shows with bands of sisters. Gun Gale Online is a very welcome exception, gleeful pink rabbit and all. Especially our gleefully murderous pink rabbit, having a great deal of fun in a game that she enjoys a lot with her friends.
(As a long-term anime watcher, it is very hard for me not to be cynical about anime in some ways, whether or not what I am seeing is actual reality, and I think I'll leave it at that.)
(This is part of the 12 Days of Anime 2018.)
Netflix versus the discourse (on Anitwitter and elsewhere)
I usually think of myself as someone who watches anime as a pretty solitary activity. It's not really true, as I've understood for some time (for instance, I know I face the tacit pressure of conformity), but most of the time I can not really be conscious of the social side of my watching; it's just sort of there, as something that happens. This year, Netflix provided an interesting reminder of that social side.
With a weekly show, there's always a current episode, the most recent episode that aired and then became available here, and that's what most people are watching and reacting to and talking about. While the discussion is generally at its most intense the day the episode becomes available, not everyone watches it or reacts to it right away. And even if you watch it later in the week (as I often do for some shows), there's still people to talk to about it or read current reactions to it in various places. This whole environment enables a discourse that is focused on that episode; it's the obvious thing about the show to talk about, to react to, and to frame a discussion around.
Netflix shows did not work this way. Netflix released most or all of the anime shows it funded this year in the same way that it releases other TV series, which is to say all at once, with every episode immediately available. In particular, it released Devilman Crybaby that way, with all episodes available January 5th. Some people burned through the entire show in the next day or two; some people burned through it in a week; some people took much longer. One of the results was to distinctly attenuate the discussion about Devilman Crybaby, because people who wanted to talk about it lacked the common ground of a 'current episode'. If you were an early watcher, you might avoid discussing things because of spoilers, or have only limited other early watchers you could talk about things with. If you were a later watcher, you might have to carefully not look at early discussion in order to avoid spoilers and in any case your current episode might be old news to a lot of people.
(And even if you didn't deliberately avoid spoilers, you had to go find old discussions, or have them already bookmarked and saved; they weren't on top of Anitwitter, feed readers, Animenano, and so on.)
I don't know if this lack of fan buzz hurt or even helped Devilman Crybaby, either to get more viewers or to get people to think about the show more independently than they might have in the discourse's usual echo chamber. I do know that it made my own experience of Devilman Crybaby feel distinctly different from watching weekly shows, and I likely didn't discuss it half as much as I would have done if it was a normal show.
(Also, of course, the experience of burning through something as intense as Devilman Crybaby over a short period of time is definitely different than it would have been seeing it at a one episode a week pace. I don't know if a forced weekly pace would have made Devilman Crybaby more or less powerful, but it certainly would have made things feel different.)
I suspect that Netflix's mass episode drop also lead to less blog entries and so on about Devilman Crybaby than there would otherwise have been. Certainly I expect it led to less episode by episode analysis, because there really wasn't much point unless you wanted to do a close reading of the whole show or record your reactions and thoughts on an episode by episode basis. But with that said, Shin Mecha Guignol did a very interesting series of articles on each episode.
I also watched Netflix's B - The Beginning and some of A.I.C.O. - Incarnation, each of which was made available all at once and each of which didn't get too much discussion that I saw, but with both of them I think there are what you could politely call other factors at work as well. Violet Evergarden is an odd case, because it was available week by week everywhere except in the US, where it was available all at once at the end of its weekly run; as a result, I experienced it week by week as a normal Winter 2018 show.
(This is part of the 12 Days of Anime 2018.)
The moment when Laid-Back Camp's Nadeshiko won me over
In the beginning of Laid-Back Camp, Nadeshiko comes across as mostly your typical progatonist for these sorts of shows; an energetic but ditzy newbie, all full of both enthusiasm (to drag us along) and ignorance (so we can have things explained to us). She had her moments, but in the beginning I was worried that I'd get tired of her.
In the fourth episode, Nadeshiko and the other two members of the Outclub head off to a campsite in what turns out to be a longer walk than they expected. The other two turned up at the starting point with reasonable modest amounts of stuff, but Nadeshiko had a significant load and as they started walking, what I was expecting was the obvious cliche that Nadeshiko had made a newbie mistake in her enthusiastic loading up.
Laid-Back Camp didn't do that. Instead, Nadeshiko walked the other two into the ground; as Chiaki and Aoi were slowing down, she was still cheerfully going along, load and all. Nadeshiko hadn't made a mistake at all. Instead, she was just that strong, untiring, and capable. That was the moment that sold me on Nadeshiko as a great character, not at all the genki maniac airhead that I had expected and been afraid of.
Looking back, there had been flashes of that even before the fourth episode. For instance, in the first episode Nadeshiko had biked all of the fairly decent distance from her home to the campsite, and didn't seem any the worse for it. But the fourth episode was where it became clear to me, and that moment in the fourth episode is what clinched it.
(This is part of the 12 Days of Anime 2018.)
So, yeah, I watched Devilman Crybaby. It was an experience.
Before I started watching, what I knew was that this a Yuasa adaptation of a famous early 70s Go Nagai manga, funded by Netflix and so without broadcast content restrictions. The first episode pretty much delivered what I expected in that regard; as I said on Twitter, it was very over the top in Go Nagai's usual way, and gleefully and faithfully rendered by Yuasa (eg). I also said something that I didn't intend as foreshadowing, but:
I didn't get emotionally pulled into Devilman Crybaby because many parts were absurd, but that's probably the best way to consume Go Nagai. To be actually in the show would be terrifyingly intense even in this episode; distance helped a lot.
Yuasa's Devilman Crybaby turned out to be very good at kicking you in the feels, to put it in the modern idiom. It became nothing like it had started out as, mutating from an over the top operatic exercise in excess to something very powerful by the end. I went into Devilman Crybaby expect to get interestingly executed pulp. I wound up getting far more, with real emotional impacts.
(In retrospect, the mood of the striking and compelling OP was also foreshadowing. That's not a pulp show's OP, in either animation or music.)
To talk of whether or not I liked Devilman Crybaby seems almost beside the point. Devilman Crybaby is not here to be liked; it's here to put you through the wringer, and what you make of that experience is up to you. My own ride through Devilman Crybaby was quite the rollercoaster, even though it didn't entirely pull me in (also).
After I'd finished the show, I read Wikipedia's article on the manga, which covers the metaphor Go Nagai intended for the whole story. I see where and why Go Nagai was going, but only intellectually and I have to view it as very much a product of the early 1970s and the Vietnam war. It's not something that resonates with me, for all that it feels like Go Nagai had to have been very passionate about it when he created Devilman.
(Although I don't know if it's the case, it certainly feels like Devilman has to be an angry work, with Go Nagai railing against one aspect of the world and people. But this is all me reading things into Go Nagai's central metaphor.)
Devilman Crybaby is in some ways a messy show, one that feels abbreviated in spots; I suspect that people who've read the Devilman manga will have a deeper appreciation of the show than I do. I'll probably never rewatch it, and I certainly don't love it; not only was it wrenching, but Yuasa's version stays faithful to the manga's downer ending (which is apparently famous and iconic). But I'm not going to forget it any time soon, and I have no regrets about watching it. It is, very definitely, a powerful work. And a very Yuasa one.