Requiem for the Phantom is based off of a Visual Novel by the same name, featuring three assassins who each struggle with their identities as dealers of death. The anime fleshes out the different philosophies these three have in dealing with their darkness, and shows the relative success of each person.
The plot of this show is nothing particularly special, it's fairly typical, and for the cynical they know exactly where this show is going from the very start. If you're not so cynical you get a chance to interact with the characters themselves. I found that, once I'd accept where I thought the anime was going, that the characters were appealing. Zwei (the "main" assassin) keeps his voice of conscience throughout the entire of the anime, a fact that intrigued and repulsed me. Here was someone who genuinely hated the fact that he was killing, and yet had no way of stopping, and so sunk into despair. He attempts to give up his conscience like the other assassins and totally fails to do so. Ein and Drei are very interesting in their own rights as well, as each of them represent a different archetype of why people do the evil that they do. Story
Truth be told, it's hard to pinpoint why I liked the story as much as I did. Nothing was very original, but it all worked in it's proper place when it needed to, and while the show did what was expected it did its job so well that I could only applaud.
While the openings and endings are nothing special, the actual music in the anime is very good. Themes are present and evolved throughout the storyline, making for an interesting and (at times) beautiful soundtrack. The later episodes have especially good music, and are almost worth watching just to see how the music is used. I say almost because the later part of the show is where it gets especially good.
This Anime's a Bit Slow
I'll admit I wasn't very enthralled of the first 11 episodes, but it wasn't the type of "eh, this is OK" that leads to boredom and giving up on the show. I wanted to see what they were gonna do with the ground they were laying, so I stuck around. And while I was sorta rewarded for my patience (see below), the fact remains: the first 11 episodes are strictly build up for the latter half of the show.
Why in God's green creation are there two clip shows in this anime? They're the bane of any anime watcher's existence, and I really do despise them. That being said, you can't skip these clip shows, because they slightly change things up and show you occasional bits of original footage, and then horribly twist the story at the very end with some original footage, so you have to watch what's essentially the entire show in twenty five minutes with some additions to get the major plot twist that you need to understand the rest of the show. While I like the idea of going over another character's perspective and doing it quickly re-using footage just automatically turns off my brain as I wait for them to do something new. GAH!
Contrary to how it sounds, I really liked this show. It set out everything it was set up to do, did a damn fine job of having good characters and music, and had a rather meaningful story.
Until the last minute and a half of the anime. Dead serious, last minute and a half they manage to take everything and (from a Western viewers' standpoint) completely destroy everything they did. Now, before people who have watched the ending and liked it tell me that I'm being too close-minded because I obviously don't appreciate other cultures, I say... well.. what is there to say? You're right in this instance. I don't. I'm not saying that American and Catholicism and mom's apple pie are the only things to consider, but the ending just put a sour taste in my mouth that I really can't deny, and actually goes against the Visual Novel that it's based upon (if reports are right, that is).
No, I"m not giving it away. It's just that dumb of an ending, all cultural difference counted in!
I'd say watch the anime, but just ignore the last minute and a half.
'Without a summer job boredom comes quite easily, and when one is bored one watches anime. Apparently the folks over at Anime Season were thinking of poor saps like me when they designed a random "picker" of anime on their site. So I decided to test it out. After a few anime that just looked too damn gross for me to seriously consider viewing I stumbled upon Akane-Ino Ni Somaru Saka, and learned my first lesson of random anime viewing: RESEARCH YOUR ANIME BEFORE VIEWING IT!
Gaaaah.... where do I start? Akane's an anime that's based on an adult visual novel where the main character, Junichi, rescues a girl only to find out that they've been arranged to marry. From here starts the weirdest attempt by a shallow anime to be a lot more. Don't worry, I won't keep you in suspense.
It fails. Epically.
This isn't to say that the anime has all bad points, it's just that the good points are so shallow and unoriginal that it really doesn't matter how funny it is that Junichi's nickname is Geno Killer because of a spot of bad behavior in his youth. The whole idea of a nice guy that's got the identity as a delinquent is done to death, so why do it again? The girls all fall prey to the same tropes used in romance anime (the harsh but actually insecure girl, the incredibly beautiful sister the main character lusts after, you know the drill).
Use of tropes isn't a bad thing when they're used well and moved beyond. My favorite show, Clannad, is stereotypical from start to finish, so being stereotypical really isn't the trouble. It's the fact that not one single stereotype is moved beyond in a way that's satisfying. The guy is attracted to his sister, and he decides that he's going to date and screw her, instead of the main love interest they've been setting up the entire time? But it's not really his sister, as we find out. So what? He doesn't know, and so in his mind he's committing incest.
Overall, the show left me with a feeling that it could have been so much... more. Instead of actually looking at the effects and consequences of growing up and leaving your family to start a new one the show degrades into senseless and repetitive tropes and fan service.
It's essentially Clannad gone wrong. Which is painful.
So last night I ran the first part of a two part Star Wars story, The Fall of Ossus, which (as I told my players) is the Jedi equivalent Halo: Reach. The Sith descend upon the planet Ossus and thoroughly torch it. It's a much maligned day in extended universe history and I thought it would be cool to play out what happened that day.
In case you couldn't tell already, I'm a huge RPG nerd.
So the night goes pretty much as planned, at least at first. The attack happens, the players get pretty badly messed up, and they head to the medical center, which is one entire floor of the Jedi Temple. There's tons of people already there, in varying degrees of wounded and dying. They look out the window and there's hundreds of red lightsaber blades outside, an unprecedented number of Sith! The Wookie Jedi who plays WoW (yes, he wanted an MMO to be in the game. Figures) had knowledge technology, so he decided to look around the medical floor to see if he could weaponize some of the medical equipment, and he found a CAT scan machine. It took an hour and a half, but this genius level wookie rigged the CAT scan machine to vent all of it's radiation at the push of a button, making it a huge bomb.
A voice boomed in through the windows "My name is Darth Krayt, leader of the new Galactic Empire! Surrender and we'll kill you quickly". The response from the med bay was to throw every little thing that wasn't nailed down out the window, forcing the Sith to deflect all of it. As they were distracted the jedi wookie force shoved the jury rigged bomb out the window with a Force shove and activated it right above Darth Krayt, who was instantly vaporized, along with a good portion of his army. Change Star Wars history much? I do believe so.
I'm always asked why I play paper and pencil RPGs, and why I don't just stick to video games. Because video games, by the very nature of their design, can't allow us to do whatever we want. There's always a limitation that's part-and-parcel of it being a video game. Even in Bioware games like KOTOR, Dragon Age, or Mass Effect you are limited by the game. While the amount of limitation is much lower because it's designed to emulate a paper and pencil RPG it still has limitations. You can't player Joker in Mass Effect as the main character, for example. You actually do play Joker for a few minutes, but not in anything anywhere near the level that you play Commander Shepherd. I've played plenty of perfectly fine games (Castlevannia: Lords of Shadow as an example) where you literally can't just over the edge because the programmers don't have something planned for what happens if you do besides death, so they don't let you do it.
An RPG, on the other hand, allows us to do all sorts of nutty things, like punch the guard in the face because he looked at me wrong, or hit on any random girl at the bar... or completely change the course of Star Wars history with one hastily constructed radiation bomb. There's an appeal to being able to do what you wish with friends around to help you do it that can't be (and won't be) matched by anything else. I mean, where else can you literally make up whatever you want, with whatever backstory you want, to throw into a world constructed only by you and your friends? People talk about personalizing technology, while that's really all we needed in the first place.
Now this doesn't mean I'm ripping on video games. Some video games can be a blast to play, because while they're limited they do their one shtick extraordinarily well. I doubt that an RPG can be better than Smash Bros. or Halo at competitive play, for example. And that's the way it should be, because that's really not what I'm talking about in this impromptu blog post. I'm just saying that for allowing people to do whatever their imagination dictates RPGs of the paper and pencil variety really are the best.
Because how would a programmer expect someone to jury-rig a CAT scan machine to make a bomb?
All images are from Google Imagesearch. No copyright infringement intended.
Honestly, this is looking pretty good. They've certainly gotten Peter's "look" (that of a thorough nerd) down, as well as certain elements of Peter's backstory that weren't handled in the previous films, such as the disappearance of Peter's parents. Tied into Peter's "look" is their apparent mastery of why people treated Peter poorly, that maybe Peter was a bit weird to begin with, and him getting bitten by a spider was just sealing the deal.
I usually have an issue with dictionaries. They manage to say exactly what the word is while ignoring what the word's about, and the dictionary manages to botch it up yet again. Yes, all three of those definitions are true, and are even satisfactory. But they're just not cutting it for me at the moment. They're too cut and dry.
The last few weeks have been filled with a lot of "what am I going to do?", far more than I 'd like to admit to anyone. For the last six years I'd sought being a professional iconographer as my vocation. I worked my rear end off on doing icons, and I had one particular place in mind: Eikona Studios. I love their work, and thought that maybe I could be one of them. So when I managed (by sheer dumb luck) to get an internship to Eikona I should have been excited. And I was. Sort of. Somewhere, deep down in my heart, I was terrified. I knew that I wasn't a very good artist, and that I hated turning my work into a business. While the money was nice it was the actual act of making contracts and doing the things that are necessary for making a business that repulsed me. I also hadn't been able to take an art class until the Spring Semester of this year, and I knew that was going to show up. But everyone around me encouraged me and told me I'd do just fine, my girlfriend in particular. She encouraged me passionately, telling me that I would do really well. So I swallowed my doubt and believed in her belief, as you sometimes have to do in this world. I went out to Cleveland to do the best job I possibly could.
Unfortunately things didn't go as well as I'd hoped. Within two weeks it was obvious that I didn't have the proper training to help people who were 30 year veterans in the field. I also had doubts that I could actually live the life that these people were living. To them Church and art was their life. The artists seemed to have nothing but each other and their art. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking that kind of life. If you can do it then by all means do so, because that's a very rewarding and awesome life. But for me? I wasn't so sure. I'm dating an awesome girl, and I have a policy about letting people whom I love and are good for me go: I don't. It's as simple as that. Words and ideas are not the most forgiving things, nor the most loving. Unfortunately I find the same applies to art. Can art be there for... whatever? Nope, and it's not supposed to be. Ultimately it all boiled down to my wish to be with this girl.
The combination of my lack of training and "drive to live the life" stressed me out, and so when some of my friends from Steubenville traveled up to visit I jumped at the chance to hang out and be a nerd for awhile (much to the chagrin of half the group, oops!). Saturday night came, and we drank a bit, which I swear is the male equivalent of getting a pedicure. I mean, what do you do? You sit around and talk and be stupid because you're getting drunk, much how women sit around and talk cause they're getting their nails done. It was pretty obvious that I was depressed, and so after a couple of attempts to get me to talk about what was going on I told them what my concerns were. Fortunately these friends have nothing short of common sense. They told me that if I really doubted I could live the life that my idols lived then I shouldn't, but should find something else to do. After thinking about their advice I told them they were right. I would finish out the internship and find something else to do.
The morning I went back to work was a good one. I'd called my girlfriend, assuming that she'd be up, and wound up waking her up. We had a really good talk, and I walked to work very happy. The sun was out, and that day was one of the most beautiful I'd noticed in a very long time. It was something out of an impressionistic painting, what with all the colors and the swirls and the movement and the vibrancy of life. I walked into the studio, and talked with a few people, cracking joking and enjoying being around them.
That's when I was reminded of my two-week evaluation.
Now, to be fair, it had completely slipped my mind. So my surprise really wasn't warranted; I'd been told about it in the contract I'd signed and everything. It wasn't something that I should have forgotten about. But I had. So I sat downstairs and waited for the judgment, a bit of a pit in my stomach. I knew what decision I'd made if I was in their position: I'd let me go, on the basis of not having enough training. That put a bit of a lump in my throat to go along with the pit in my stomach. I liked being around these people, and I liked the work. I didn't want to leave. But if I was them I'd fire me.
And they did.
I've met some bosses who were absolute jerks about firing people (not that I'd been fired before, understand). This was just the opposite. They were extremely gentle and kind, and sent me off as if I was going away for a long trip that they expected to see me come back from. It was all very humbling , that these people would show as much consideration as they did for me was nothing short of awe-inspiring, and I shan't forget it anytime soon. Hell, they even offered to pay for me to get back to Chicago! They also told me to not take this as a failure, that as soon as I had more training they really wanted to work with me again. That I shouldn't give up, and they wanted to see me again.
But I wasn't giving up. I had seen what vocation was, and I knew that professional iconography wasn't it for me. What is a vocation? Hell if I can put it into words. As verbal as I am I know that some things take years to fight and deeply love to put into words, and the concept and soul behind vocation is one of them. But I know this: it's something far simpler and complex than the definitions from dictionary.com.
Welcome to the third part of the review, The Ugly. Some things that I review create a very strong reaction in me, such as Evangelion. The Ugly examines my response and why I reacted the way I did, and questions my own motives, because all forms of media are a relationship between the creator and the receiver and it's important to ask why certain things have the relationship that they do. It's my meager attempt at transparency and honesty, and it's my hope that in examining myself others will ask themselves the same (if not tougher) questions.
Evangelion is (as you could surmise) not one of my favorite shows, not by a long stretch. A few of my friends have commented on certain traits that I share with my least favorite character in the series, Shinji Ikari. They make the case that my dislike for the show is embedded in my hatred for my "shadow", a Jungian term. And you know what?
They're absolutely right. And here's why.
My childhood had a lot of hardship, same as anyone else's. At the age of seven all the kids that I had hung out with for about a year walked up to me, holding sticks. They said that the sticks represented my friendship with them. They all broke their sticks. What followed was 6 years of shunning and bullying for an offense that I didn't even have knowledge of, and found out later never existed. Most of my childhood was spent trying to reconcile with these people, to understand what I had done, and to get them to stop hurting me. For reasons that are not hard to understand this didn't work. These kids were not willing to deal with me anymore, and the only pleasure they seemed to take in life was to torment me and my siblings. I had learned karate, but still couldn't bring myself to hurt the people who had hurt me, no matter how much I hated them. And make no mistake, by that point in time I did. But I couldn't stand hurting people, and so I let them continue to abuse and misuse me.
At twelve my mother had enough, and put me in Muay Thai, a full contact martial art, in the hopes of toughening me up so I could finally resist and perhaps even get a bit even with the people who wouldn't leave me alone. I hated the idea, and protested quite a bit. Muay Thai was undignified, hurtful, brutal, and unreasonable. Why the hell you'd want to teach anyone that elbowing someone to the head was a good thing was beyond me. I refused to hit anyone, although I did participate in the drills. My instructor was very tough on me, and tried to goad me into striking him. What followed was three months of training that I only barely remember, except for its effects. I was worked so hard that I couldn't sleep because I was so tired, sometimes for weeks. And still (as far as I remember) I didn't strike anyone. Sure, I'd tag them in the face, but there wasn't any heart or emotion put into it. I just existed.
One day my teacher had enough, and put me "in the ring" with him. We started sparring and I refused to put everything into it, as usual. My teacher stopped after about a minute of sparring and said something. To this day I still don't remember what he said. All I remember was that I wanted to hurt him, rationality and cowardice and kindness be damned. I don't remember if I made any noise as I attacked him (I probably did), and started kicking his legs as hard as I could. I was going to make him pay for what he'd said, I was going to hurt him. My instructor smiled and stuck out a leg, and let me kick. After the match was done I was as aggressive (if not moreso) than expected. I fought like a madman, bashing and kicking down the rationality that I'd used to keep myself restrained for so long.
What followed was revenge. I made it a point that I wouldn't hurt my aggressors unless they specifically attacked me, but that nothing would keep me from attacking them psychologically. And I did. I told them everything I wanted to tell them, that they were so fat that I found them repulsive, that they were the dumbest and most loathsome children ever, and that God would punish them far worse than I ever could, and that I hoped that He did. I told them that I wasn't pathetic like them, that I didn't wobble when I walked, and that I hoped quite a few of them burned in Hell. I told them that I'd have the last laugh, and that if they ever touched my family again I would kill any of them that I wished (as someone who had knife training I was reasonably confident I could carry out my threat). When they attacked me for my abuse I would do just enough to show them that I was better, and always had been, and that I was only toying with their pathetic lives. I had tried to be merciful and, because they wanted nothing to do with my attempts at peace, that I would punish them for the simple reason that no one else wanted to.
By the time I left that town, a year later, I had my wish. I was alone. Except that I found that I didn't want to be alone, that being alone meant that all I had to remember was the awful things I'd done and said to my persecutors, and that quite a few people had gotten hurt unjustly because of my unleashed shadow. I've spent the last ten years trying to figure out what exactly I'm supposed to do instead of taking revenge and ignoring rationality.
How is that not Shinji's story, especially with what we've seen in the Rebuilds? Shinji actually pulls an almost identical stunt at the end of 2.22, a stunt that I detested because it reminded me of what I did and hated so many years ago.
Does the fact that Shinji reminds me so much of myself and I hate him for it make my opinion invalid? That really isn't up to me. I wrote my opinion, and backed it up with some rather reasonable points for you guys to read about. With this last piece of the puzzle you can decide to blow me off for having such a poor reaction to one of the most popular anime of all or decide that I have some good points despite my flaws or decide that I'm the Messiah*(I don't recommend the last option, being Catholic). Regardless, this is my opinion and why I hold to it. Take it or leave it.
*For those of you who, despite my best attempts, still wish to treat me as the Messiah and the savior of the world please mail money in $100 increments to:
Nathan the Messiah
123 Kitchen Sink Blvd.
7th Level, Heaven, 77777
Your generous donations will be used to further my well-being as well as make things like saving the world possible. Please donate, you're helping a good cause.
All images are a result of Google Imagesearch, and no copyright infringement has ever been intended.
... but here's the list of what I'll be working on.
Icon of Saint Luke (Sometime this week, probably tomorrow and Friday)
The School's Trees (Sometime this week, probably Thursday)
The Trolling of Evangelion: The Ugly (Next Monday)
Review of The Conquest of Nerath Board Game (Sometime next week)
Review of Mortal Kombat 9 (Sometime next week)
All of this is subject to change, dependent on my schedule and laziness. But all of this assumes that you care. If you don't, this blog post was clearly for nothing. Oh well. Only took me a few minutes to write, so not that bad of a loss.
Before we start this extremely late post, take a look at what I wanted in the previous review: Asuka being awesome!
Say you're welcome to Taylor, who made the cuts for us.
That being said, as good of execution that Evangelion has, it has some serious problems. They're myriad and quite irritating.
All these problems really have one root trouble: Hideaki Anno, the writer/creator of Evangelion.
Hideaki Anno, it's said, wrote a lot of his four years of depression into Evangelion, which(let's get real) is a courageous and noble thing to do. In an age where people
write crap for a check this man obviously had something to communicate and did his level best to do so. However, there's a level of detachment that's required for a writer. The more personal a project, the less personal you have to be about it. With the little experience I have of writing I've found that if you get too personal in your writing it suffers, which Anno definitely has. He's made the statement that Evangelion is the only truly original thing in anime, and that his remake is one of the most necessary things of our time.
Come again? Really? No wonder you picked the name Evangelion, which (assuming that they picked the name correctly, more on that below), means good news (which is what Gospel means, BTW's). He really appears to think that this is the honest to goodness truth. He focused on telling the truth, as opposed to a story. And I can guarantee that when people do that the story suffers, because they're no longer telling a story but preaching from their self-made pulpit. When G.K. Chesterton did it back in the day it wasn't cool then, and I can assure you that it's not cool now.
Before all you Evangelion fans say that I'm being unfair, read the rest of what I've written. Honestly, you guys bicker and troll as badly as Twilight fans.
The Symbols Don't Mean Anything
You remember this funny little sign?
If you don't you obviously weren't paying attention to any of this show. The constant use of crosses, the references to Original Sin, the Lance of Longinus, and (possibly) Adam, Lilith, and Eve?
Admitted to be thrown in for the hell of it by the creators to make shock and make Evangelion seem "edgy". Now this might work on a Japanese person, whose culture isn't pervaded by these symbols, but it's a damn shame that one of the strongest visual symbols in any anime wasn't actually supposed to mean anything! This entire time I was watching the anime and trying to piece together what in the hell was going on with the crosses. What a let down, what wasted potential. Instead of saying something, they said something worse than nothing: pretending to say something. The same applies to the Lance of Longinus. No reason it was there, it was just a name to shock people. Why one earth do something like that? At least they were consistent, right?
Jeez, you can't think about this show too hard, otherwise you get a blood clot to the brain, the symbols don't line up. But that's what happens when the writers are sloppy and rely upon hype instead of substance to support a show. If you want to communicate that in order to get past depression you need to stop running back to the impression of the mother that we all have in our brains and to rely upon where we are in the present instead then do so, but DON'T USE LILITH! That says some rather nasty things about humanity that I don't think the writers of the show would have wanted to say, if they were thinking.
On the other hand, having Lilith, the evil mother figure, being the "you can't go back home" person is pretty apropos. I just think they could have picked someone who wasn't a demon, or became a demon, whatever version of the myth you're using. All involve her being evil to the core, regardless.
The Main Characters
I can't begin to tell you how much I hate Shinji Ikari. This character is so beyond pitiful, so... Baka-Raptor is more eloquent than I. Far more. Obviously Shinji represents Anno in the strictest way possible. A 14 year old boy is a pretty awkward age, and I can tell you that being depressed is a pretty damn awkward thing to experience. How're you supposed to tell everyone that when you say fine you actually mean that you'd rather the entire world go burn in a hole, yourself burning the worst?
The problem is that Shinji is so unlikeable and pitiful that he doesn't come off as a real person in the slightest degree, because he's not complex enough. Every person has good and bad points, and when it's obvious that your main character has no good points to speak of you have a flat character, not a deep and complex one, which is what Shinji could have been. If they'd shown that Shinji had redeemable qualities his shortcomings would have become relate-able. I mean, I like Simon from Gurren Lagann, I like Peter Parker, and those guys can whine like none other. I mean, really, you ever read a Spider-Man comic by Paul Jenkins? Spidey can whine. But that's balanced by Spider-Man being an awesome hero who really is trying to do the right thing. Same with Simon.
But Shinji? He's just a sack of crap. No one likes a sack of crap.
And then there's Gendo, the father. It's the exact same problem. There's literally nothing to sympathize with inside of him, not even his love for his wife. Because if someone is willing to burn the world so his beloved can come back it's obviously not love but selfishness to such a degree that I find it disgusting. Again, if we saw that Gendo actually had a good bone in his body somewhere I wouldn't have minded his flaws. But instead the character becomes a stand-in for Anno's foibles. And that's disrespectful to the story, which would have been better if they'd actually thought about giving the main characters qualities worth looking at.
I'd start talking about Rei, but I think I'm screwing a dead horse that I beat to death ages ago.
So the three main characters of the show are as unlikable as the supporting characters are likable. Wonderful.
The End of Evangelion
Y'know how a lot of people wanted to see what actually happened at the end of the show? I didn't. I liked the ending of the anime as it was, and understood that the show was never about the plot. It was about Shinji turning from caricature to character, and so I was happy that they openly addressed what the show as actually about. Those last two episodes were my favorite of the entire series.
So when the movie turned out to be an overblown, convoluted, and spat on everything that I enjoyed about the final two episodes I was appalled. Watching the movie I had this feeling that the creators were telling me "Ho ho! We're Evangelion and we're awesome! You're going to accept whatever we do because we are the best thing ever!" Oh wait, that's what Anno believes. Oops. Maybe that is what they're saying. I wouldn't doubt it.
See how this all interrelates? It all goes back to the writers doing the one thing they shouldn't: believing their own hype. If they just told a story without trying to make statements then this wouldn't have happened. But they believed their own legend, the poor bastards.
And that's why I don't like Evangelion. It's arrogant, over-convoluted, and not written well enough. If they'd taken the time to tell us that Shinji and Gendo were worth watching as opposed to hoping that they'd wow us with their "deep" imagery (which it isn't) and their awesome pyschology (which is even less so) then I would have liked it. But they got sloppy, because they thought the message that you can't go back to mommy is more important than the story itself.
The story always comes first. Always. No exceptions.
All images have been found via Google Image Search. The Youtube video was provided by my friend Taylor, who's emergency was taken care of, thank goodness. I'd also like to thank the Evangelion fans who have patiently put up with me thus far, on Facebook and off. Obviously the messsage reached you, thank goodness.
Come back next week to see the last part of this review, The Ugly! That's where, after trolling what's considered one of the best anime of all time, I troll myself. It's only fair, and I hope it's entertaining to all of you.