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April 14, 2012

Why Anime is Amazing: An Addendum...

...and other things to follow.  But first, what you all came here for:


If I have one regret in this world, it's that I didn't get into One Piece back when I had a fairly reasonable chance.  I opted to become a Bleach fan, and at the time the path served me well.  It was a road filled with swords and spirits, souls and samurai; it taught me the glory of bankai.  Before the Great YouTube Crackdown of 200...whatever year that was, I watched entire seasons of Bleach in the original Japanese, and would watch the episodes again when they came to the States in English via Adult Swim.   I was an impressionable teenager; when I said (to confidants so close you'd have an easier time spray-painting The Noid across the walls of the Oval Office) I loved Bleach, I meant it.

Now?  Now my passion's cooled.  I still like it, mind, but I'm never in any rush to catch up on the latest happenings.  I've stopped watching the TV broadcasts entirely, outside of one or two isolated incidents. I'd hardly call it my favorite anime anymore.  Maybe it's because I'm growing long in the tooth, and Bleach offends my old-man sensibilities.  It's very possible, I think.  Or maybe it's because Bleach has some really freaking stupid developments at times.

I know it's par for the course for shonen, but it seems like far too often the only way to beat the bad guy isn't through ingenuity or planning ahead (unless you're Shikamaru), but by how much bullshit level-grinding you've done beforehand.  Bleach's lead has had no less than five separate training arcs of varying length, yet his tactics haven't evolved past "move super-fast" or "shoot sword lasers."  There have been one or two points in the series -- early and late -- where he's actually taken note of enemy attack patterns, which is awesome...and then other times it's just a matter of blowing them away with raw power and steely-eyed resolve.  It creates an endless cycle of "I'm not strong enough!  Now I'm strong enough!  I'm not strong enough!  Now I'm strong enough!"

But it's okay, because he's beautiful.

The second problem with Bleach -- and a lot of anime, by extension -- is that too often they go out of their way to introduce character after character, and then try to manage them all at once.  Fans will latch onto the most obscure character they can find sometimes; they need to know who's doing what, and when, and how early they'll be available for some "close-quarters combat" with the lead.  Bleach started off with about five core characters, a few side characters for comic relief/development, a mascot character, and a few nasty monsters.  In the next arc, a bare minimum of twenty-six characters were introduced.  In the next arc, there were twenty more new characters -- and make no mistake, that's not including cannon-fodder enemies and henchmen that take multiple installments to dispatch.  In the next arc, there were another nine introduced.  Now in the latest (and final) arc, there's undoubtedly going to be some new characters.

The problem is that out of the fifty-plus characters now gallivanting about, most of them are just placeholders, exhibitions for cool designs or powers, or -- again -- just cannon fodder.  That won't stop Tite Kubo from trying anyway; when (if) he focuses on characters, it's the latest ones, and shallowly at that.  It's hard to get a feel for far too many characters, and the attempts that fleshing out/molding opinions are either contradictory fluff or rammed in like a rhino shoving its face into a Prius.  Meanwhile, characters that have been around since the beginning and have either unexplained, untapped powers and backstories continue to grow less and less important -- a fault only multiplied by one character going into god-mode against another god-mode villain while the others get to faff about and go on cheerleader duty. To say nothing of fans begging to see their favorites return.

More popular than reality itself.

This is why I should have gotten into One Piece.  As far as I can tell, it's the strongest and most competently written of the Big Three (alongside Bleach and Naruto, in a spot once occupied by Dragonball).  It's also got a MASSIVE cast, but focuses more heavily on a core few, and even minor characters and details make reappearances.  (As the meme goes, Oda never forgets.)  While it's no stranger to tear-jerking scenes, the amount of comedy and levity is almost staggering compared to its brothers.  Most of all, even at a cursory glance it offers a sense of fun and adventure that neither Naruto nor Bleach have even tried to match; invariably, it's a series featuring superpowered/skilled individuals duking it out, but the places they visit and the experiences they have are more important than fights you can set to Linkin Park and post on YouTube.

Supposedly, liking One Piece in Japan is synonymous to liking water.  You just do, and no one bothers questioning why or how.  And I feel like I'm missing out big time.  I made my choice -- and if I want to bounce back, doubtless I'd have to go through some six hundred fifty chapters, or some four hundred episodes, or spend hours upon hours reading wikis and summaries and oh god I'm having a panic attack just thinking about it.

And you know what?  The worst part about it is, even if I spent every hour for the next month catching up, even if it meant losing sleep, I know it would be absolutely fucking worth it.


Well, that's enough of a rant for now.  Anyway, a few things!

1) I'm working on a few things right now outside of Cross-Up, so if updates seem a little thin for a few days, that's why.  In the meantime, why not enjoy some delicious hot dogs of the other posts I have on the site?  They're just as lengthy and rambling as you desire.

2) In spite of that, my plan is to write the darkside version of "Why Anime is Amazing" very, very soon.  Just because anime CAN be good doesn't mean that it always is -- and trust me, if you don't know much about the medium and/or its faults, you will.  Also, more Final Fantasy XIII hate analysis.

3) Go buy Xenoblade Chronicles if you haven't.  It's great.

4) I like the number four.

Thank you, and good night.  

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