The Good, the Not Great and the Totally Confusing
I mentioned that I was forcing myself to watch anime. I made it through a handful of shows and figured I would share my thoughts on three. Choosing what to watch was difficult. It is crazy to see the selection of anime available these days. When I was younger, the only way to watch anime was buying expensive DVDs. The selection was sparse compared to now. It blows my mind that shows are simulcast in the west on the same day it airs in Japan.
Attack on Titan
The first show I watched was Attack on Titan. Due to its immense popularity right now, I figured it was a good place to start. Over the course of a few weeks, I watched the first season on Netflix. In the show, humanity is stuck living behind three giant walls due to an attack from mysterious titans a century ago. No one knows where the titans came from or what they are. The titans take on a large humanoid shape, but have no genitals and feed on humans. In the wake of the initial titan attack, the military formed different divisions to protect the population and learn more about the titans in the wild. The show follows Eren and his adopted sister as they join the military and fight against the titans.
The story and the mystery behind the titans is great. I want to know more. With each plot element progressing and new twists introduced, I was drawn in more. The cast is large and made me feel connected to many of the characters. Many of the action scenes are great. The military has awesome equipment that allow the scouts to swing around the landscape. The effects on screen are excellent. The first season takes place over many years, and the writing jumps ahead in ways that tell important information without feeling like the audience missed something. Unfortunately, the pacing drags when it comes to the big battles. Some of the fights take place over several episodes with little happening to progress the narrative. It was frustrating. In most situations, the pacing would be enough to turn me off from the show completely, but Attack on Titan has enough cool elements to make me stick around. The show is not great, but it is far from bad.
Next on the playlist was Psycho-Pass. Also available on Netflix, I watched through the first season in a couple of weeks. Psycho-Pass takes place in a future where the government controls the moods and life of everyone through a monitoring system. The system tracks the psycho-pass levels of the population and determines those who are potential criminals before any crime occurs. There are some similarities to Minority Report both in theme and questions of morality that the show brings up.
The series follows new Public Safety Bureau inspector Akane Tsunemori and Shinya Kogami, an enforcer at the PSB. Enforcers are latent criminals given a chance to do good with their violent, criminal tendencies. They handle the most dangerous criminals and are first to go into deadly situations. Despite the job they are doing for the betterment of society, they are disposable assets. Both enforcers and inspectors use special guns called Dominators to diagnose the level of criminals and dish out justice in the form of incapacitation or death.
Psycho-Pass had me hooked from the start. I was drawn to the dystopian setting and immediately wanted to see how the morality of the Sibyl System played out with the characters and their place in society. Though certain episodes focused on a criminal of the week style format, the overall arch presented a satisfying story. The action was solid, often gory and fit the mood of the show. I recommend checking it out.
Persona 4: The (Golden) Animation
While finishing Psycho-Pass, I decided to watch a show that was simulcast during its current season. Having heard a lot of great things about the game, Persona 4, I figured the anime was worth a shot. Persona 4: The Golden Animation was being simulcast, so I started watching through Crunchyroll. The anime follows a group of high school kids brought together through mysterious deaths in their town and the existence of a strange program that appears on their televisions at night, the Midnight Channel.
After a few episodes, I felt completely lost. The story jumped around frantically. New characters were introduced with no warning and acted like they had been a part of the show for a long time. By episode eight, I was completely baffled. The show made no sense. Though I liked the characters and thought the story had potential, there was no way I could keep watching.
Feeling confused, I did some research online. Turns out there was another show that aired a couple years before called Persona 4: The Animation. In the current “Golden Animation” version of the show, the main story jumps around to feature a new character introduced in the Vita remake of the game. The show does not try to tell the complete story, but instead fills in gaps where the new character, Marie, now exists and interacts with the characters. No wonder I was confused. Why the hell did I not look this up sooner?
With this new information, I began to watch Persona 4: The Animation on Hulu Plus. Things began to make sense. The story followed a linear path and filled in the things that I thought I had missed. I began to enjoy the show. The characters were fun to watch interact, the personas were cool looking and the murder mystery was fleshed out. Unfortunately, I had the story spoiled by watching too many episodes of the Golden Animation version.
Despite being spoiled, Persona 4: The Animation was a fun ride. There were a couple characters that annoyed me, but the relationships between the cast helped me to overlook the faults. After finishing the original series, I went back and finished Persona 4: The Golden Animation. The choice to retrofit a character into the story was a weird one, and despite watching the original, it did not add anything to the story. Watch the original series and skip the new one. If they cannot take the time to tell a whole story, why should the audience waste theirs watching it?