Tag: Dragon Ball Z

Anime Pet Peeves

inuyasha

I’ve recently had the opportunity to watch more anime and it’s been good for the soul. It brings me back to simpler times in college when I had only $133 to my name but no real expenses to speak of after food. Hence, anime was the flaming garbage can I chose to dump a lot of my money into.

Over time that sort of lifestyle started to become increasingly unlivable. I mean, there was more and more money after I graduated (for reasons entirely unrelated to the diploma I received, I assure you). But the idea of spending three-quarters of my available funds on buying anime started to become more and more pathetic as I started making larger and larger amounts of money.

Not to mention the huge amount of debt (for reasons very much related to the diploma I received) I had to pay off every month.

But now anime is pretty much free to stream. (Cough, plug for Crunchyroll, cough.) So aside from that small cough, things are good here.

On the other hand, anime is a bit of an emergent property – a larger whole that isn’t obvious from its smaller pieces. Adorably stupid characters become infuriating after thirty episodes. Overpowered characters are obviously going to be the solution to any problem after you see them do just that for the tenth time. In short, you may want to think twice about binge-watching anime. Like cheese, what’s pleasant in small chunks might become essentially indigestible in large enough amounts.

Anyway, you know the drill by now. Bold first sentences. Supporting evidence. Let’s do this.

Relationships that never progress. Pretty much every series feels obligated to have a relationship these days. Even in cases where an ancient evil is on the verge of breaking out of its magical seal and bringing about the end of the world. I mean, we need to reach the top of the Mountain of Spirits in the next four hours or else fire will rain from the sky until the end of time, but you know…let’s have a filler episode where the girl takes the hero shopping and she’s not sure whether it’s a date or not.

I’ve made my peace with these, no matter how tacked on they feel. But you’d think there’d occasionally be some sort of resolution. Nope. For the most part, any time a couple seems to actually be progressing there’s some misunderstanding or a one-episode villain who steals a kiss or a fog that gets everyone drunk and they’re so embarrassed of confessing their true feelings that it sets them back again. And we’re stuck in a holding pattern until the main character’s undead ex-girlfriend dies all over again.

I actually started that paragraph speaking in a general sense, but by the end, I’m pretty sure I was just talking about “Inuyasha.” Wow. Through almost 200 episodes and four movies, the closest thing we got to romantic progress was a non-canon movie kiss.

Granted, depending on your interpretation of the ending, Inuyasha and Kagome eventually got married, but that was a pretty long walk for a thirty second payoff.

And speaking of not knowing how to resolve things…

Series that don’t know how to end. Maybe they knew how in the beginning. Maybe they had a good idea where they were headed. But by episode 800, it’s pretty clear that their actual intent is to wait until the Sun goes red giant and vaporizes the Earth, thus ending it all for them.

I don’t mind long series. In fact, I’ve rather enjoyed a number of series with an upwards of 26 or 52 episodes of very rewarding story. Both the “Fullmetal Alchemist” series were over 50 episodes. “Yu Yu Hakusho” was pretty great, too, and that was well north of 100.

“Case Closed,” on the other hand, is currently sitting around 832 and is as close to ending as it was fifteen minutes through the first episode. (The creator mentioned having an ending in mind, but that was in 2007 so I’d take it a grain of salt.) Even if it ended tomorrow it’s build itself up so far that no outcome could be worth the wait. It would be like your parents giving you nothing for Christmas for 17 years in a row. By that point you’d probably just give up on the whole mess or (more likely) assume you were Jewish.

Series with a perfectly good ending and then they just kept going. I get it. Money is a thing. And writers and artists tend to get more by continuing a series than they would by stopping and holding out their hands to random passersby on the street.

The classic example was “Dragon Ball Z.” Depending on who you ask, it was originally planned to end earlier or much, much earlier. As a result we slogged onto a few different planets, through a few more enemies who absorbed people to become stronger and what felt like seven or eight years of “Dragon Ball GT.” And say what you want about the material that followed, it’s always best for a series to end on its own terms on a high note than to be run into the ground.

A more recent example (specifically of the “running into the ground” variety) was “Bleach.” Despite having a perfectly good ending after our hero gave up his powers to defeat the enemy-turned-god-turned-butterfly-turned-god-again, they decided to head into another long training arc where he regained his power on the way to continuing his adventures. Only…he didn’t. Sure. I mean, he got his powers back, but with the sudden end of the series immediately after, it was a lot of run-up for a very short jump.

Or, maybe more accurately, a stumble directly onto its face.

Oh, and this crossed my mind while I was writing this, so consider it a bonus. It’s not technically a problem with anime itself. But it did come up an awful lot while I was trying to finish a few of the longer series that hadn’t finished getting dubbed yet.

Starting a series in one language, then switching to another. This isn’t a question of whether the original Japanese or English voice actors are better. Like the reddish stream running behind the local Pepsi bottling plant here, that’s an argument I just don’t feel like wading into at the moment.

(For me personally, it depends. Having a kid means it’s nice to watch subtitled anime when he’s around during the occasional flurry of f-bombs. And other times, well, if I wanted to read I’d get a book. Or, more likely, I’d get an audiobook so history’s most pleasant British people could read it to me.)

In any case, there’s something just fundamentally wrong with the characters switching voices in the middle of a series. Recently I tried watching “Cowboy Bebop” in the original Japanese. After listening to Steve Blum nail Spike Spiegel over the past twenty years, it’s weird to hear some other guy’s voice coming out of his mouth. It would be like your mom suddenly having a new voice when you woke up one morning. And also, she was speaking Dutch.

Unless she started out as Dutch and…well, you get my point.

Since I’ve been watching a lot more new anime as it comes out recently, I tend to watch more of it in Japanese first with English subtitles. And yes, it’s just as weird the other way. I tried watching some of it translated and it feels like everyone is talking in slow motion or something.

Also, people scream differently in English versus Japanese. You’d think being terrified would have the same sound no matter where in the world you were. Then again, you’d be just as surprised looking at one country’s list of animal sounds compared to another’s. What does the rooster say? Kikiriki? Like hell he does.

In the grand scheme of things I realize it’s a minor nitpick, but aren’t they all, really?

Abridged Series Where Less is More

Author’s Note: Yes, I realize “Abridged too Far” was low-hanging fruit so far as pun-based titles go, but it sounded like the opposite point I was trying to make here. And no, that doesn’t take the sting out.

a-bridge-too-far

Author’s Note 2: I’m still using it for the title picture, though, because Sir Sean Friggin’ Connery.

For those not in the know, an abridged anime series is more or less what it sounds like. You take an existing series and shorten it in one of two ways. The first of these is to cut out filler strictly for the purpose of streamlining it. (The only two examples I can think of were both done by the same studio as a means of fixing a broken series – “Evangelion” and “Dragon Ball Z.”) The second, objectively better way is to cut the show in such a way that it’s essentially a different, more hilarious show.

An abridged series isn’t just a very short series, like “Krod Mandoon and the Flaming Sword of Fire.” Although, that show was very short. And frankly, hilarious.

But as I’m so fond of saying by way of teasing future columns, that’s a whole other thing.

For the sake of completeness, I’m going to talk about four here – half of the first variety and half of the second. Of course, there are many more than just four of these, but you should understand that these are almost exclusively fan works. Thus, their overall quality often varies somewhere between the low end of mediocre and the lower end of MS Paint.

Dragon Ball Z Kai. Despite getting into other anime in high school, I didn’t watch Dragon Ball Z until about two years into college. I still remember to this day the conflicted feelings I had over watching Vegeta and Cell scream at one another for two entire episodes on the way to Vegeta’s ultimate decision to stop fighting entirely.

As far as places to get into Dragon Ball Z go, it was probably the worst imaginable. It showcased the worst flaws in the fight scenes while accomplishing nothing at all, all with essentially no outcome. And given that it was an episode central to the main plot, I couldn’t even give it the “filler pass” I tend to give scenes where Goku wants to learn to drive or when Gohan wants to date some random girl just to pad out time.

When I heard about Dragon Ball Z Kai, I was cautiously optimistic. It offered a tighter story presented with more modern animation techniques. What could possibly go wrong? Well, as it turns out, the voice actors could realize they’ve been doing the same voices for roughly eighty years and totally phone it in.

Okay. So I realize that’s both harsh and untrue. These are people who love the series, I’m sure. Nobody was just coming in for a paycheck, at least as far as I know. But after so long of yelling the same attack names (and just plain yelling), it’s understandable that their performances (and vocal chords) would start to get a little tired.

Especially when this was literally Dragon Ball Z again – just shorter. No new plot points. No new anything. It ended up being more or less exactly what was promised, delivered in such a way that almost no one was happy.

DBZ Abridged. I didn’t discover this series on YouTube until about a year ago, but trust me when I say it was well worth the wait. As much as the creators of the original series might hate to hear it, I honestly consider this the definitive way of getting from one end of the series to the other with you interest still intact.

Most of the plot points are actually untouched, meaning you could watch the entire series in maybe a quarter of the time and still know almost everything that happened. (Almost as if it’s some sort of abridged series. Gasp!) Sure, Goku is an idiot, Vegeta is constantly furious and Krillin is just plain pathetic, but most of the character changes are exaggerations rather than outright changes.

Except for Popo being a vaguely racist masochist, which in my opinion is an improvement over his bland, forgettable performance in the original.

The dialogue is snappy and memorable. It’s infinitely quotable. And except for its nasty habit of being hit with legal claims by the original copyright holders every few weeks, it’s probably one of the best things not on television right now. Like, seriously, top three. You need to go watch it right now whether you like anime or not.

In an extremely meta joke, here’s Dragon Ball Z Kai Abridged – an abridged abridged series.

Rebuild of Evangelion. For those of you who haven’t watched the original Evangelion series, I want to spoil this for you. And no, that wasn’t a typo. I would love to spoil this for you. The only trouble is, nobody knows how the hell it ended.

Evangelion is essentially the anime version of an Olympic runner falling in the home stretch after absolutely dominating the competition. Or it would be, if that Olympian failed so badly that his greatest fans went on to petition for his execution the next time he tried to run a race. It starts out as a coming-of-age story involving teenagers dealing with their own problems. Also, they save humanity from giant monsters-of-the-week by piloting equally-giant mechs. And if anything, it’s even better than it sounds…until it just crumbles before your eyes.

There are a lot of rumors about what happened with the last two episodes. Money problems. Studio meddling. The director wanting to create a giant middle finger to the fanbase that would live on long after his mortal flesh decayed. Either way, it was about fifty minutes of flashing pictures and giant naked girls in space while the main character loses his mind and everyone turns into puddles of orange liquid.

Interspersed with some admittedly awesome mech battles, but still…

Many people were thrilled when they heard the series was being remade in four  movies that condensed down the plot. Finally, it meant we could put all the ugliness behind us and see the story we’d wanted to see from the beginning. And then it fell apart again. In exactly the same way.

The first two movies are admittedly gorgeous. And I think I prefer them to even the solid original work. But episode three starts in a weird dystopian future after the world ended and nothing quite makes sense anymore. Episode four seems to be on indefinite hold and may or may not ever be released. Either way, the sudden shift of the narrative in exactly the same direction as the first time it got screwed up suggests it doesn’t really matter. Jesus Christ giving a piggyback ride to Hayao Miyazaki couldn’t save it at this point.

After all these years, it seemed a remarkably odd choice to tear down the wreckage of the original, shrug and then rebuild the same pile of wreckage all over again.

SAO Abridged. There are a lot of ways you could compare SAO Abridged to DBZ Abridged. Both are fan remakes of popular shows. Both were tweaked to offer a more humorous take of their original source material. The main difference between them was that Dragon Ball Z was good, whereas Sword Art Online was a dumpster fire.

It’s one thing to take a good series and make it better. It’s one thing to take a good series and make it worse. But turning Sword Art Online into a pleasant watching experience is nothing short of lead-to-gold-level alchemy.

This, however, does come with two small caveats. The first and worst of which is that I think you actually benefit from watching the original series beforehand. It’s certainly not mandatory. I just feel like I gained an entirely new insight from watching them one and then the other. Of course, your mileage may vary. I fully understand if watching twenty-six episodes of the original is a bit too much of an investment to squeeze a little extra enjoyment out of the abridged follow-up.

Especially when it starts to slide into weird slug hentai around episode eighteen for no particular reason whatsoever.

The second caveat, though it may go without saying, is that it’s a far less faithful adaptation of the story. The overarching stories are the same, though the characters and episodes are just plain different. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, especially when the dull, half-dimensional characters from the original didn’t give them much to work with. I’m just saying that they’re essentially two different series that just happen to have the exact same footage.

In the best possible way.

I should also note (as caveat two point five) that SAO Abridged does have the same problem when it comes to copyright holders. Despite Fair Use being fairly clear on parodies, each and every episode has been taken down thus far for as long as month while Sony Music (of all copyright holders) files suit. But as long as you catch it immediately after uploading each new episode or don’t mind a little wait, it’s not much of a problem.

Since I don’t have anything shorter to preview…I don’t know. Just watch the first episode.

There’s no real conclusion to this, though it kind of has me wondering if there are any other quality abridged series out there. I may have a look around. Assuming I find anything worth posting, I’ll be sure to include them in a followup.

Suggestions, naturally, are welcome.

Where You Go, I Cannot Follow…

Game Dice

I don’t want to get into the whole argument as to whether one is born a nerd or it’s a choice they actively make.

I lean towards the former, if only because as far as my memories go back, I was doing something I would have probably hidden from my wife (if she hadn’t also been a nerd). There was the obvious stuff, like being a little too into video games. Or anime. But there were earlier signs, like channeling my early writing energies into so, so much Sonic the Hedgehog fan-fiction. (I might still hide that one from my wife, actually.)

Or possibly teaching myself how to read just to spite the teachers who said I couldn’t be taught by reading every book in our house. And consequently reading the first Wheel of Time book at the age of eight because it had the coolest cover.

People would assume, then, that I like anything and everything that’s even remotely nerdy. And for the most part that’s true. But even I have my limits.

I’ll start with probably the nerdiest thing I’m involved in and then move on from there.

Subtitled anime. I’ve actually never understood why some people just couldn’t watch anime in the original Japanese. I sort of get the argument some people make about not wanting to read while they watch a movie, but only if that’s how they feel about everything.

If you refuse to watch “KonoSuba” (arguably one of the funniest anime series ever made) and then turn around to watch “Les Miserables” (not arguably just really, really boring) in the original French then you, sir (or madame) are a filthy liar.

Japanese Pop Nightcore music. Okay. I realize I was supposed to start the list of things too nerdy for even me here, but I just remembered this one, and it’s probably a bit worse than subtitled anime.

In my defense…well, I don’t need a defense. Nightcore music is awesome. And some English song lyrics are cringe-worthy, at best. (That’s a whole other column, though. Stay tuned.)  Musical lyrics attained perfection in the Queen era and, to a slightly lesser degree, during William Shatner’s on-again, off-again interest in spoken word albums. In short, I’d much rather have no idea what anyone was saying than hear them say something really, really stupid.

Okay. Seriously. Now we’re starting the list…

Tabletop games. Let me preface this by saying that I really want to enjoy these. I should also explain that a good part of why I never got into them was because I’ve been perpetually isolated from other nerds that might even play them with me. I’ve had exactly one real experience playing Dungeons & Dragons, and it didn’t go well.

I was playing as the typical rogue/thief character and exploring the depths of one ancient ruin or another when I found a door that was locked and couldn’t be opened. I later learned that this was “flavor text” by the dungeon master just meant to flesh out the scenery. I took it as a challenge. And, after a streak of rather uncanny luck in my dice rolls (three 20’s in a row), I’d managed to pick the lock and wedge the door open so it didn’t fall again. The dungeon master promptly conjured up some chest to be in that room and told me to just loot the thing and stop derailing his story.

I then proceeded to bash my skull open on the door because I didn’t crouch low enough and died due to a rather uncannily bad streak of dice rolls.

It’s certainly not something I’d mind trying again. But for the moment, it’s not something that’s really feasible for me. And it’s probably the one item on this list I honestly regret not getting into.

Live Action Role-Playing (or LARPing). Basically, you take tabletop gaming, remove the tabletop and then go outside instead.

Sometimes you dress up in cosplay first.

I have nothing against it, strictly-speaking. My only real issue is that its one of those things that requires all the individual gears to be moving in the same direction. All you need is one person who decides they’d rather never be hit and it turns into a bad day playing pretend at recess. “I throw fireball! It hit you and…” “Nope. You missed.” “Um…I throw a lightning bolt! It paralyzed you.” “Nuh-uh. It made me stronger!”

My problem with this is, I had too many friends at recess who were “that kid.” If we were playing superheroes, they were Superman. Oh, and kryptonite couldn’t hurt him. Also, he had a gun for some reason? It made my Batman infected with the Venom symbiote look downright reasonable in comparison.

Latching onto some scrap of nerdy territory and then judging everyone who wanders by. When I grew up, being a nerd wasn’t socially acceptable like it is today. You had to do that sort of thing on the down-low.

So I understand why some people who have defended comics, anime, etc., for decades being a little annoyed that now everyone and their kid dressed as a stormtrooper is getting involved. These people put a lot of hard work into being part of a counter-culture that everyone hated them for. It’s like driving in the slow lane for miles and then having someone cut over at the last moment to skip all the waiting – except replace “miles” with “thirty-six years.”

And “waiting” with “having goat blood poured on you at prom.”

I don’t believe in judging people as being “true fans” or “real gamers” or the like, because I want these things to be welcoming and hospitable to newcomers. Because as much as some people might hate people not as devoted as they are getting involved in their interests, they should just be happy that this is something they can openly enjoy now without being stuffed into a locker. That or, you know, the goat blood thing.

Not to mention, there’s always someone nerdier out there. So before you go judging someone for only watching Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z, remember there are people out there who could just as easily put you to shame. Only they won’t, because they’re too busy actually enjoying their lives.

Anime Cliches – Missed it by That Much

That’s right. I’m pulling out the Maxwell Smart quotes. For all six of you still alive to remember that, you’re welcome.

Wait. For that matter, why do I know about that? I was born a good decade or so after that show. And trust me. It never came up in conversation. Ever.

Anyway…

Dodge.jpg

I remember spending a good portion of my college days defending anime. I was one of two (and a half) people who liked it, whereas the other eighteen guys were pretty much all productive, useful adults. Well, I’m still watching anime. And where are they? In productive jobs, being a meaningful part of society. So who’s laughing now?

Still them. Always them. It haunts me.

Anyway anyway…

One of the major issues (with various sub-issues) was that anime was riddled with cliches that made it unwatchable at times. When it comes to cliches, I’m probably more forgiving than most – in large part due to the fact that cliches appear in literally every single entertainment medium from movies to manga to crude bathroom stall jokes.

But I will acknowledge that some can be annoying. Today, in particular, I’ll be discussing how attacks in anime and manga never actually land. Ever. Go check. If you’ve ever read anything where an attack connected, it was probably a bootleg issue or something.

For those unfamiliar with the genre, I can understand your disbelief. “How can an anime last hundreds of episodes and be almost fifty percent battles and hardly anybody is actually getting hit?” you might ask. “I just saw that one guy shoot a laser out of his hands that blew up the actual moon. Like, in the actual sky. And then it was gone.”

Well, it happens a few ways.

 

First off, flash-stepping (or whatever it’s called in your anime of choice) is garbage. If you don’t know what that is, it’s how most anime and manga show movement happening faster than the blink of an eye. And whereas actual dodging requires preparation, tensing the muscles and leaping out of the way, a well-used flash step can just move them eighty feet away.

Often with a smug look on their face as they taunt, “Oh. Were you trying to hit me?”

I’m not a fan, mostly because it seems to work under mathematical principles I don’t really get. I mean, why aren’t they doing that all the time? Couldn’t you just vanish and reappear with your fist through your enemy’s face?

And while we’re at it, why does it make that sound? You know, the one that should sound like someone moving at the speed of sound but instead sounds like shuffling through a stack of papers really quickly.

 

Regular dodging isn’t much better. It’s a nice way of letting the audience know someone is out of their league in a fight. But when it goes two or three episodes that way, ugh.

Or sometimes they let attacks hit them when they could have dodged, just to show their opponent that things are about to get real.

 

But the worst dodge cliche is Naruto’s substitution jutsu. Okay. I watched that clip (and the weird clip after it for some reason). Kakashi is dead. Like, super dead. They held a short funeral for him a week later that was attended by friends and family. Proceedings began on the disbursement of his property and assets according to the wishes in his will. On the one-year anniversary of his death, the gang gets together to share drinks and talk about the time they spent together and…oh. Wait. No. It was a tree that died.

But if that’s the case, where did all the blood come from? Did that tree bleed? For that matter, did that tree scream in a thoroughly convincing impression of a dying person?

I appreciate creating tension by making us think a character is dead, but when the reveal equates to “nuh-uh,” it loses a bit of its punch.

Anime battles are very dusty. Another popular method of just screwing with viewers is having a barrage of attacks land, throwing up dust. In my experience watching maybe two or three hundred different shows, the person in the dust or smoke has only actually been hurt once. One and a half counting the time a character self-destructed holding onto an enemy, killing themselves but leaving the enemy unharmed.

Again, I feel like it’s meant to build tension. Did they get him? Is the battle finally over? But pattern recognition means we already know the outcome. If it’s a bad guy, they don’t have a scratch on them. If it’s a good guy, maybe he’s breathing hard and his shirt is sort of torn but he’s otherwise unharmed.

And then, I don’t know. He launches into a speech on the power of friendship or hope or some crap.

Conclusion: I realize it’s a bit of a turn-off for some people…but honestly, it’s not as bad as it seems. In a real world bound by regular physics it makes sense to be realistic. When characters can punch through mountains, though, I understand that dodging is sort of a necessary mechanic. Otherwise fights would be over in twelve seconds and “Dragon Ball Z” would’ve lasted about as long as a blowout college football game.

Besides, for every fight where you get annoying cop-out dodges that just seem to prolong a fight, you’ve got one of these:

 

Yeah. When’s the last time someone on “Law and Order: SVU” pulled off one of those? No. Seriously. I’m asking. I haven’t watched in a few seasons and I think the planet-cutting episode would be a good place to hop in again.