Let's discuss Avengers: Infinity War -- a movie BOUND to make you feel so good!

September 27, 2013

Let's discuss Devil Survivor 2: The Animation.

Hey guys!  Did you know I like Devil Survivor?  Bet you never would have guessed, considering how I like working into any possible conversation I can.  And I AM the chief authority on the games, considering that I’ve beaten exactly zero of the hidden bosses.  (Beating the late-game Bels of DeSu1 was hard enough.)

In any case, the DeSu2 anime is a thing that happened not that long ago.  And the mere announcement of it made me excited; after all, the creation of an anime meant newfound recognition and promotion.  More people would get exposed to the anime, and more than likely get excited about and ultimately try the (dope-ass) game.  That was setting aside the fact that the anime, in its own right, could make a good case for itself.  The game laid the groundwork, and the anime would capitalize on it with its own high-quality, demon-busting, cell phone-brandishing adventures.  Awesomeness would ensue on all accounts.

Or so I thought.  But on the plus side, the main theme is pretty cool.

Incoming spoilers.  Hope you’ve got Shield All equipped, because you’re going to need it to protect yourself from a Maziodyne’s worth of revealed plot points -- for both the game and the anime.

Also, get ready for a crapload of bias from someone that has played the game too much to be healthy.  If you’re looking for a more balanced look, head over here to this blog instead.  It’s much less insane.

I want to start this post by stressing two things.  First off, DeSu2A is not the worst thing ever.  It’s all right, and I would say that if you decide to hunker down and watch every episode, chances are you’ll be in good hands.  With that in mind, I think that it’s a massive disappointment, especially for fans of the game.  Whatever potential it had, and whatever connection it has to the games beyond surface elements (names, the framework, things like that) end up completely bungled.  The point of the game has been completely missed…which wouldn’t be so bad if the series offered up something in exchange, but it doesn’t.  But with that in mind, there is still a hidden benefit to DeSu2A…but I’ll get to that later.

In any case, I hope you watched the opening up there.  Incidentally, the problems with this show are revealed before that swanky song is even over.  Or if not that, there was a detail in there that made me raise a red flag.

For those of you that haven’t played the game (which you should do immediately), here’s the gist of the story.  Everything is fine and dandy in Japan when three teenagers -- goofball Daichi, prim and proper Io, and of course the main character Hibiki -- use the “dead face delivery site” Nicaea to see clips of their impending death via subway crash.  They survive, but shortly thereafter they’re attacked by demons -- and as if that wasn’t bad enough, when they emerge from the tunnels as newly-christened demon tamers, Japan is a wreck.  The cause?  Demons have begun running amok, and worse yet, there are even nastier monsters -- the Septentriones -- coming down to put mankind through its potentially-final trial.  If the world is going to survive, Hibiki and pals are going to have to team up with other demon tamers to fight off the invaders.  But as these things tend to go, the greatest threat just might be the humans they’re trying to protect.

I said as much in earlier posts on the game, but the battle between the humans and demons isn’t necessarily the true conflict of DeSu2.  Rather, it’s more about the humans and the factions that arise as a result of extreme circumstances and differing ideologies.  It’s a struggle between order and chaos, with lines blurring in accordance with each leader’s actions.  On one hand, there’s the rogue detective Ronaldo, who wants to use the destruction as an opportunity to build a world of unflinching equality, even if he has to resort to terrorism to do it.  On the other hand, there’s the chief of the government organization JPs, Yamato -- a teenage prodigy whose forces get results, but are doing their best to help him create a meritocracy.  (Daichi also steps into the fray as a leader, but he’s got the cop-out “can’t we all just get along?” mentality that’s not nearly as interesting as the others.)  Both ideologies had their strengths and weaknesses pointed out; both leaders and their followers did both noble and heinous things to make it to the next day.  Like its just-as-good predecessor, DeSu2 was -- and still is -- an intellectually stimulating game that asked you questions, withheld the “right” answers, and let the player come to his/her own conclusions.  Just thinking about it makes me stiff in the trousers want to play it a fourth time. 

Conversely, I can’t bring myself to complete DeSu2A even once.  It’s at the point where, if not for this post, I would have long since dropped the anime.  Or to be more precise, I DID drop it, but picked it back up so I could fully comment on the series.

Let’s go back to the opening.  Here’s the immediate problem I had, and a sure sign that something would be amiss for the series.  The three key players in the game are Yamato, Ronaldo, and Hibiki.  That’s to be expected, considering that two of the “routes” telegraphed long before the endgame relate to Ronaldo (espousing order) and Yamato (espousing chaos).  Hibiki may be a silent protagonist in the game, but as the player’s proxy -- and in his own right phenomenally important to the story -- he’s almost on the same level as the others.  Almost.

The anime, on the other hand, would have you believe that the three key players are Yamato, Hibiki, and The Anguished One.  But The Anguished One -- who I’m going to call Alcor for the rest of this post -- wasn’t THAT big of a presence in the game.  True, he did make a few appearances and put the crew through a few trials (for whatever reason), and it is true that he has a route you can follow under special circumstances, but he was never a real player in the story.  The most he did throughout the game was A) fill in gaps about the otherworldly struggle, B) speak cryptically, and C) be a bitch-ass boss.  Unless you specifically sought him out, his struggles weren’t even close to integral to the game at large.  Yet the anime would have you believe that he’s a key advisor and confidant to Yamato, while doing the same for Hibiki on top of confiding in him about the nature of life.  Given that this is a story featuring battles against geometric invaders, I don’t give a shit about Alcor’s heart-to-hearts.  And yet they’re everywhere, interrupting the flow so they can talk about junk that doesn’t really matter -- especially since if you played the game, you know how Alcor’s story ends in most cases.

But as problematic as Alcor might be, Yamato is significantly worse.  It’s safe to say that he’s the one character (besides Hibiki, but I’ll get to him) that gets the most focus in this show…and he’s the one character that shouldn’t get the most focus in this show, especially since they kill off Ronaldo.  Yes, that’s right -- one of the driving conflicts of the game and the source of some of its most engaging topics is given the boot.  And not just Ronaldo -- everyone that supported him gets unceremoniously axed.  Joe, Otome, all of the survivors…all of them are either killed off or dropped from the plot.  (It’s worth noting that Airi survives until later, but I’m going to take the high road and assume that it’s not because the writers wanted to keep a loud, small, vaguely-tsundere little girl on screen for as long as possible.)

Going back to Yamato, at times I feel like the game version of him and the anime version of him are two completely different characters.  That might just be because I have a rosy view of the game, or a hazy memory, or outright misinterpretation given the DS’ limited capabilities, but it seems like every time Anime Yamato is on-screen, I can’t help but think to myself “Who the hell is this joker?”  In the game, Yamato isn’t exactly the nicest guy, but I get the sense that he’s the leader for a reason beyond just being chosen by blood.   He has charisma.  He has confidence.  He’s dedicated to his goals, but as long as the people around him do good work he’s more than willing to recognize that effort AND respect it.  That’s a key element of his meritocracy; the men closest to him -- those that have proven themselves -- are those that deserve to see the world he plans to create.  He plans to rule from the top, but he’ll gladly welcome any challengers as they try to prove themselves in the new world.  There was something about him in the game that made him worth following, not just for the sake of 100% completion.

In the anime?  Ugh.  This guy.  I’m sorry, but I just can’t bring myself to like this guy.  He doesn’t care about anyone but himself, which means that if his meritocracy plan were to succeed, it’s likely that he’d be ruling a world with a population of one.  He flat-out states that he has no need for emotion, and goes on to prove it in nearly every scene he’s in, because that sure makes for an interesting character.  He’s a blockhead that has no emotional depth and no tolerance for anything but his own ideals (admittedly a quality his game counterpart shared, but here it’s taken to an absurd degree); I can understand his dedication, but here I can’t shake the feeling that every conversation this guy has with another character -- and there are plenty of them, boy howdy -- goes something like this:

“Hey, Yamato!  Are you crazy?  Stop being an asshole!”

“Silence, fool.  Everything is going according to plan.  I will create the perfect world.  Follow me or die.”

Forgive me for thinking that he doesn’t exactly make for the most compelling character.  But remarkably, it gets worse than that.  Setting aside the fact that a character without an emotional response to anything or an intellectual rebuttal to dissent might as well be a bishie version of Master Chief, I’m not wholly convinced that Anime Yamato is very smart.  His primary tools outside of the occasional extra demon-summoning are A) throw waves of JPs agents at the enemy until something good happens, and B) solo whatever’s coming his way with brute force.  One of those robs his fights of any agency.  The other makes him comparable to Zapp Brannigan.

I guess what I’m getting at here is that Anime Yamato is stupid and I hate him.  But to the credit of DeSu2A, I like Anime Hibiki a lot more, and certainly the most of the show’s three pillars.  His goal is to use his power to help and protect others.  He’s earnest about that goal, and while he (inevitably) gets slowed down by moments of heavy contemplation, there’s never a doubt that he’s a main character, and putting forth his own ideas for the viewers.  (It’s worth noting that the anime seems to support my theory that kindness -- via a dedicated individual -- is the key to making the world a better place, but given the execution of DeSu2A I don’t exactly feel proud about being right.)  That all said, Anime Hibiki has to be a major reason why DeSu2A came out the way it did…which is to say, not all that great.

See, in the game Hibiki, Daichi, and Io are all “in this together” in the most literal sense.  All three of them have the same general death clip, all three of them survive the subway crash, and all three of them become demon tamers at the same time.  Barring unique stat growth (Daichi prioritizes physical power and speed, Io prioritizes magic power AND physical power, and Hibiki -- as the MC -- has his stat growth decided by the player), all three of them start off at the same level and grow into powerful tamers in their own ways.  It’s true that with the proper stat/skill manipulation you can make a Hibiki that’s better than all the rest, but from start to finish every party member has more than enough juice in them.  Everyone is on equal ground, in terms of humans and demons.  The demons acted as bodyguards and wingmen, but the tamers could learn and equip any offensive or support skills their stats would allow.

Not so in the anime.  Whereas Daichi is stuck summoning demons whose levels are in the single-digits, Hibiki’s primary demon is Byakko, the White Tiger and one of The Four Gods.  That’s a disparity that never really gets bridged over the course of the series, and the cast at large suffers because of it.  The only ones with a surefire chance at defeating the enemy du jour are Hibiki and Yamato, and Yamato is content with glowering at screens until he has to take action.  The only time characters can regularly stand up to an opponent is when they follow the ripe old anime principle “get angry, get powerful”, which in this case lets them summon uber-powerful demons.  Then again, that just raises a point that could have completely transformed DeSu2A into something special: if emotional stress is the key to summoning the most powerful demons around, what if JPs took advantage of that and forcibly put demon tamers under engineered emotional duress?  Wouldn’t that be much cooler than arbitrarily making some characters weaker than others (and yes, that IS explicitly stated in the series)?  Would someone care to explain to me why Yamato can shoot energy blasts and fly?

I’m serious.  If Yamato can shoot energy blasts and fly, why does he even need the demon summoning app? Why does he need anyone?  And no, it’s not that he can only fly in one specific location because that’s where his power-boosting Dragon Stream is; when he and Alcor have their big whompin’ punch-up, he specifically leads Alcor from a place untold dozens of miles away back to the Dragon Stream, which means that in order to get there in a reasonable amount of time (i.e. via a scene transition after the opening), he HAD to fly there, otherwise Alcor could have -- and should have -- just nailed him right there and gone on his way.  Furthermore, if Yamato had even stronger demons lying in wait for just the right moment, why did he wait until the last day of the conflict to reveal them when his men were dying by the hundreds?  Why does he need an army if he’s a one man army

I’ll be honest.  There was one thing that the anime needed to do that the game couldn’t due to hardware limitations: explain how the tamers were attacking.  That’s it.  That’s all I needed to see.    So when Hinako used a skill like Power Hit, I wanted to know if she was shooting a non-elemental burst of energy out of her phone, or if she was physically attacking with a heavy strike.  The anime reconciles this by just making the tamers completely powerless without their demons -- and frankly, I was fine with that.  I would have gladly accepted that.  And then they decide to dramatically increase the disparity by making Hibiki and Yamato the only ones with surefire, reliable demon-killing capabilities while the others stumble randomly into power…sometimes offscreen.  (You know, unless they’re named Joe, Otome, Ronaldo, Fumi, Keita, Makoto, or Jungo -- and Jungo wrecking shit was what he was famous for.)  The framework, the rules of the anime are violated repeatedly for no reason other than to advance the plot; that’s the only way Hibiki is suddenly able to use the Dragon Stream, AKA something unique to Yamato’s bloodline, just because he gets mad and gets powerful.  Actually, I think there’s a word for that, but it’s on the tip of my tongue… 

Hibiki’s power -- and Yamato’s power, and the cast’s occasional yet sudden boosts of power -- doesn’t do anything to enhance the story.  If anything, it very nearly breaks it in two.  I get that the idea was to make Hibiki struggle with the weight of his power and the responsibility that entailed (i.e. who to use it for, in this case being Yamato or himself), but there’s a problem with that: everyone in the main cast is a demon tamer.  They didn’t need to make certain characters significantly more powerful to make that a concept to wrestle with; merely being able to summon hell-beasts to fight on their behalf was something that the characters could have wrestled with on their own, in relation to the people -- tamer or not -- around them.  Making Hibiki overpowered gives him a burden, yes, but it removes the possibility of other characters having a burden, and certainly one that Hibiki can relate to.  Then again, in order for that to work, DeSu2A would have had to make other characters (named or not) even remotely important, and it threatened to stop doing that around episode 2.

I always got the sense that the game, in spite of being on the DS, had a farther-reaching scope than most games released this generation.  A small game, without question, but compensated for with big ideas.  Survival was a key theme, but so was reconstruction; concepts were explored, and nobody was ever cast in too negative a light -- only questioned, with answers offered by those questioned.  With the anime, it’s like they pared it down for all the wrong reasons.  The only reason I can think of for Yamato’s re-characterization (and similarly, Ronaldo getting the boot) is because the anime wanted to paint Yamato as the full-on villain. 

That’s not entirely a bad thing, because it could have been handled well; depending on which route you choose in the game, Yamato, Ronaldo, or even Daichi could be called the villain.  And to be fair, even the game did a little broad-strokes imagining of meritocracy and egalitarianism for the sake of pacing.  But the broad strokes imagining of the anime is significantly worse; instead of just simplifying for the sake of pacing, they flat-out rewrote parts of the story that didn’t need to be rewritten.  The anime gives no good justification for Yamato’s worldview, and no reason why anyone should follow him besides blind loyalty or fear. 

By setting aside his ability to conflict with others -- besides Hibiki -- and reducing his justification to him saying the same old spiel, getting in someone’s face, or outright dangling someone off a podium by the neck, the only thing that’s really accomplished is making a compelling character into a commonplace one, at best.  And if you’re going to add a straight-up villain to the story -- which, again, the source material never did in spite of having a conflict with what is essentially God -- you have to put in a lot more elbow grease than this.  Also, don't make your MC wear this and play it dead straight:

But let’s set that aside for now (because it’ll be good for my blood pressure).  Pretty much everything the series does wrong can be spotted in episodes 9.  To the credit of the anime, it manages to translate the menace of the Septentriones fairly well, and at times does even better than the game.  Game Merak can fit comfortably in a city street, and uses an Ice Beam to take down some redshirts in its way.  Anime Merak is the size of a spaceship, and obliterates redshirts by the dozens, if not hundreds.  That’s cool…but the problem is that it makes for some lopsided fights.  These baddies spend huge swaths of time being invincible until they’re suddenly not -- usually in accordance with the “get mad, get powerful” principle -- and/or fall prey to the regular one-shot attack.  Or if not a one-shot attack from our heroes (and Yamato), then from the secret weapon of the day. 

In the game, figuring out how to beat three out of seven Septentriones was a key part of each day.  In the Alioth fight, for example, they had to figure out a way to take the big baddie out of the sky -- and that was because if they didn’t they’d not only have to deal with its regular poison bombing runs, but also the poison it was leaving in the atmosphere.  Game Yamato had to take to the field himself to gather samples, fighting alongside his men and -- more importantly -- struggling to survive in the midst of Alioth’s poison attacks.  After that, the samples had to be analyzed, and the teams had to be dispatched in order to find the means to bring the out-of-range Alioth down.  In this case?  They had to take advantage of Hindu mythology -- the relationship between Shiva and Kama -- and summon both of them to shoot Alioth down. 

Which they did…and then they had to go and fight Alioth’s core, AFTER the JPs team had developed a device to temporarily neutralize Alioth’s neurotoxin.  (That’s not just handled in a cutscene, by the way; you have to guide the MC to a spot on the map and set down the device, otherwise Alioth will spam an attack that’s effectively an instant kill.)  It was a rough fight that had your party practically enacting a Death Star trench run making use of every member of your four-man squad to prevent poison bombs from exploding, fighting off additional enemies, setting up the neutralizer, and of course fighting Alioth’s core.  Losses were had, of course, but the damage was minimized to the best of JPs’ abilities…up to and including the evacuation of Sapporo beforehand, AKA the place they projected Alioth’s massive outer body would fall.  Basically, the team/JPs had to figure out what the Septentrion of the day was capable of, find the proper countermeasures, minimize/accept the risks, enact the plan, and then have a squad charge in to finish the job.  A lengthy process, but a meaningful one.

In the anime, Alioth is dealt with in a few minutes in one episode.  Everything goes according to plan without a hitch; Hinako and Airi summon Shiva and Kama -- and the anime does jack-all to explain the relationship between the two demons -- and Alioth is killed instantly.  The key difference is that Alioth’s outer body crashes into Sapporo without it being evacuated, presumably because Yamato couldn’t be arsed to care.

So as you can imagine --

Hold on, I need to go smoke Hawaii’s weight in cigarettes.

So as you can imagine, the conflicts leave a lot to be desired in DeSu2A.  That really is unfortunate, because by and large the fights are slickly-animated.  It’s just a shame that the series is more interested not only in reducing the impact of each fight, but the importance of them from one episode to the next.  The game made each Septentrion fight a desperate affair, not just with the fight itself, but more often than not the events leading up to it.  The only thing that anyone -- even JPs -- knew about the Septentriones before their daily appearance was that there would be seven of them, one for each day, and that they’d do everything they could to wreck their shit.  In the anime, they know pretty much everything about the Septentriones prior to their attack.  They know about Alioth’s core and how to stop it.  They know about Mizar’s replication.  They know about Benetnasch’s demon de-summoning echo.  JPs feeds the others information and acts on it immediately WITHOUT giving that information merit. 

And that just starts raising bigger questions; if JPs knows about the capabilities of every Septentrion beforehand, why is its organization full of chucklefucks helplessly lining up for the slaughter?  If they know they need the help of bigger and better demons, again, why aren’t those guys on speed dial?  If their goal is to create a new world, why would they burn so many bridges with the old one?  Even if they plan to use Polaris to hit the reset button on the damages (with some tweaks), what’s stopping an angry mob or even a single vigilante from sniping Yamato -- especially since in the anime they don’t bother to explain the harmonizer effect that lets the tamers take more hits?  If JPs has the means to teleport Hinako and Airi out of danger, as they explicitly state in the Alioth episode, why couldn’t they teleport out Ronaldo, or Joe, or Otome, or any of the other JPs members? 

Oh.  Right.  There are only three characters in this show.

From the perspective of someone who’s played the game (too much), DeSu2A is baffling.  It’s worth noting that in the game the Septentrion battles aren’t the sole focus of every single day, even if multiple steps have to be taken to stand a chance in a fight.  The core cast tried to find their bearings in a ruined world.  JPs sent them out on additional missions, either to curb the demon outbreak, help restore contact with the other JPs branches, deal with rioting survivors, collect supplies, and clash with Ronaldo.  And that’s setting aside all the side stories you could take on to develop the cast. 

In comparison, DeSu2A almost methodically cuts out everything that made the games compelling.  Killing off Ronaldo and the Egalitarians was a deathblow for the series at large, but by that point I’d argue that they were dead-set on their path to inanity.  Character development -- or rather, importance to the story -- is crammed in, to the point that the only reason I care about these characters is because I recognize them from the game.  Pretty much everything that has to do with survival (i.e. not just fighting demons) gets dropped at around the halfway point, if that.  Even the Septentrion fights -- especially in the latter half of the show -- are a little anemic, which you’d think is impossible given their place in the series.

I would say that there’s a lack of understanding of what made DeSu2 so good in the first place -- and while that’s probably true (even if I WANT to give the benefit of the doubt), I’d say the bigger issues here are an overlarge scope and poor focus.  The animation studio had their work cut out for them with the wealth of story elements to shove into DeSu2A, so it’s only natural that a lot of it gets left out.  If I remember right, a run through the game will last about twenty hours.  Comparatively, the anime doesn’t even have a fourth of the time to get through everything it needs to.  I’d argue that they shouldn’t have even tried unless they made DeSu2A twenty-six episodes instead of thirteen, but I don’t think it’s impossible to tell a good story with thirteen.  Not the same story, obviously, but there are ways to get something out of a compressed tale with the tools on hand.

DeSu2A in its current form isn’t it.  The anime could have focused on any number of things -- or one solid thing -- but for whatever reason it showed off all the wrong things.  Alcor yammering on. Alcor having go-nowhere conversations with Yamato.  Yamato being awful.  Hibiki lamenting.  Hibiki and Yamato having circuitous arguments and…subtext.  The stuff that’s worth caring about gets shoved aside, in exchange for the stuff that really didn’t need to be shown…or in some cases, extended.  Come on, guys.  Did we really need to see a drawn-out version of the physical exams?  You already found a way to abuse the rule of thirds to have Daichi’s head framed by Io’s left boob and Hinako’s right boob.  Did Crunchyroll pass me to a completely different series for a few seconds?

Stuff like that -- and more -- magnifies the anime’s two biggest faults.  The first is that, like I said earlier, the only reason a viewer might have to identify with these characters is because they appeared in the game…and even then, those that appear here are bizarro versions of their normal selves.  It’s a consequence of making Hibiki and Yamato the only ones that can (reliably) take out enemies; the balance of power turns everyone else into Krillins and Yamchas.  Daichi and Io took the hardest hits here, with the former becoming virtually useless in all but a couple of scenes, and the latter stripped of everything that made her cool (or even a character) in exchange for bein a fragile hanger-on to Hibiki’s leg.  Joe and Otome have their personalities painted in broad strokes and their backstories mentioned in a single breath.  They didn’t even try to do anything with Fumi.  Keita might be the luckiest of the cast in that he got killed off early.  I’m not wholly convinced that giving Airi more screentime was a good thing.  Hinako is…ehhhhhhhhh (and as it turns out, animating her outfit raises questions no mortal could begin to answer).

At least they didn’t ruin Jungo.  Or Makoto.  Though that just begs the question of why Makoto isn’t the leader of JPs, given that she’s far more mature and responsible and concerned for the populace than Yamato.  Seriously, if it were up to me I would have had her declare Yamato unfit to lead.  But I’m sure that has nothing to do with me declaring her as mai waifu one of my favorite video game characters eve-

Oh, fuck off, show.

But the biggest problem with this series --

Seriously, just go fuck off for a while.


...But the biggest problem with this series -- one contributed to by all the other problems -- is that it just comes off as cold and detached.  You can blame a lot of that on Yamato and his too-cool-for-humanity persona saturating everything, and to a lesser extent you could blame the subdued color palette.  But whatever the source, there’s a severe lack of color, humor, and even fun to the proceedings that makes this a serious departure from the game.  I admit that at times the game could be TOO flippant, but DeSu2A takes it in the complete opposite direction for no reason, to the point where when they try to add in humor it’s A) not very funny and B) tonally jarring.  It’s a shell of the game, which wouldn’t be so bad if it offered a bit of energy on its own merits.  But apparently, it would rather offer the prospect of Airi’s revealed belly button. 

Nowhere is this coldness clearer than episode 9, when Yamato decides to offer the cast a feast.  This was in the game, but there it was a moment that helped to establish camaraderie -- and to some extent, even the stiff Yamato got involved a bit.  In the game, he was thankful for the team’s efforts, and genuinely wanted to reward and thank them for a job well done.  In the anime, Yamato is ice-cold.  It’s like he’s throwing a feast at them so they’ll leave him alone -- and it’s barely even a half-minute before Hibiki starts arguing with Yamato, Yamato tells him off, and everyone just sits around looking sad.  And then they get completely left behind so Hibiki can argue more with Yamato until the latter decides to violate his personal space and -- say it with me now -- tell him off.  It's like every episode after the first two or three is trying harder and harder to troll me.

Also, let’s not talk about the ending.  It makes me sad and tired. 

…All right, let’s talk about the ending.  Because I’m dumb.  But we’ll do it fast, because I’m not that dumb.

*takes a deep breath and prepares the proper music*

So what exactly is Hibiki’s motivation going into the final battle and the episodes prior to it?  Was he ready to kill Yamato?  That’s what it sounded like, but if that’s the case, why did he act like Yamato was his closest friend in the final battle?  Why would he break down in tears -- TWICE -- over a guy that only helped him out once, and then proceeded to curb-stomp all his opinions and attempts at kindness?  Why would Daichi declare that he can’t keep up with “monsters” like Yamato and Alcor when in the episode prior (and chronologically a few hours later, AT MOST) his he BSed his way into summoning Black Frost, which was specifically stated to be the most powerful demon anyone in the cast had summoned yet?  Why did Hibiki need Daichi and Io to hold off Yamato’s demons when all he had to do to reach the teleporter was ride past them on Byakko?  Why would Alcor’s self-destruction leave Yamato -- who was forced into a suicidal hug by Alcor’s tentacles -- with nothing more than a few cuts and a now-exposed chest?  HOW DO YOU SURVIVE A BLAST THAT LARGE AT POINT BLANK RANGE?

*deep breath*

Why would the anime choose to bring in demon fusion and SDTP (sending demons to party members with space in their three-man team) in the LAST episode, and give one of those abilities to Yamato?  Why would SDTP work when Hibiki barely even had a conversation with most of the people -- his “friends” -- that sent their demons?  Why would Makoto’s demon get sent over when she willingly sacrificed herself for the sake of Yamato’s goals and Hibiki now stands in direct opposition of said goals?  Why would Yamato keep the ability to fuse demons a secret from JPs?  Why would Hibiki or any other member of the cast not be able to discover demon fusion given that their cell phones are the only things keeping them alive, and Hibiki was shown in an earlier episode to be explicitly trying to game the system?  How does Hibiki learn how to instantly use demon fusion?  How does Hibiki learn how to instantly use SDTP?  Why would the anime offhandedly rewrite Makoto’s backstory to make her a government agent from the get-go when the game made her a swimmer pining for Olympic gold, given that they missed a prime opportunity for fanservice and they already showed that they have no problems sliding it in at their leisure?

*another deep breath*

Why does Hibiki try to reason with a character that has utterly rejected friendship with an appeal based on friendship?  Why does Yamato’s version of Satan have six gigantic uncovered breasts that in hindsight remind me of udders?  Why does Hibiki’s version of Lucifer wearing nothing but a loosely-applied and tactically-censoring scarf, if not to show off how bishie he is?  Why do the two strongest demons in the series end their climactic fight with a nuclear hug?  Why does Hibiki reset the world and abandon his newly-revived friends so he can find Yamato and cry over the fact that he’s alive and well and has maybe learned his lesson, but is also still a complete asshole? 

*drinks a gallon of water, and then takes a deep breath*

Are we seriously ending on the notion on the idea that Yamato is not only a VIP, but a tactical commander who’s the best man for the job?  Didn’t those now-theoretical days prove to him and to us that if he had his way, everyone around him would die?  Wouldn’t that end up making him immensely more vulnerable in a world where meritocracy reigned supreme and he’d have to worry about being assaulted from any angle WITHOUT an army of trained soldiers to fight on his behalf?  Even beyond that, how does he expect to enact change on the world without the demon summoning app OR Polaris’ power OR the wreckage of Japan that would usher in a new era of change and reform?  Is he just going to lure all of Japan’s politicians to the Dragon Stream so he can blast him?  Wouldn’t that effectively made him a terrorist, or at the very least a traitor of the highest caliber to be punished severely?  Why is the ending narration suggesting that humanity still has a long way to go and that everyone needs to work hard to improve themselves and then go on to show Ronaldo being a morally-upstanding agent of justice?  Why didn’t Ronaldo get the screen time needed to remind the audience that and the cast that humanity isn’t so flawed?  WHY DIDN’T JUNGO GET TO SMASH ANYTHING?


Oh god.  Oh…oh…oh, I think I’m gonna…I need to wrap this up before I hurt myself.

I guess what I’m getting at here is that DeSu2A isn’t very good, to the point where I’d almost revoke my cautious disclaimer at the start.  It’s not the worst thing I’ve ever seen, but it’s not nearly as good as it could have been -- or even good enough for me to want to sit through in its entirety.  And this is coming from someone that idolizes all things DeSu; if I have to force myself to watch an anime just so I can do a post on it, then something has gone severely wrong.  Take that as you will.

With all that said, I think the existence of DeSu2A is a good thing.  It’s a reminder of the fact that the game exists.  I’m not going to be so bold as to claim that anyone that likes DeSu2A is wrong for liking it, nor am I going to say that the studio behind it is full of fools that deserve to be flayed on a pike.  The anime isn’t very good, but if nothing else it gets the name out there.  Maybe that’ll be enough to convince people to give the game a look.  Which they should, because this is one of those (frequent) cases where the adaption is vastly inferior to the original product.  Hopefully they haven’t been so turned off by the anime that they swear off all things DeSu; maybe they’ve got a pal that has played the game, and can offer a testament to the quality.  If anything, the anime just makes DeSu2 retroactively look even better...to the point where I pretty much bump it into my personal top ten.

So, bottom line?  Watch the anime at your own risk.  But if you have the chance, do yourself a favor and play the game.  As it stands, I can’t think of a lot that can redeem DeSu2A.

Oh wait.  Didn’t Makoto have a shower scene in an earlier episode?



  1. I have been for a long time for you review of this show. Once the series have ended, I was like "I know for SURE Voltech's gonna hate this show!"

    Honestly, I despised how Hibiki was characterized in the show. In the game, he was a reliable and powerful COMEDIAN. To me, the humor was essential to the game. I was hyped to see my favorite scenes animated and laugh out loud. When I heard the news it was going to be 13 episodes long, I was silent. Most of the hype was gone so fast that people thought i had went to a funeral. I thought it was weird because this is the same producer who made Persona 4 an anime (I actually liked P4 anime, but then again, I never played the game). I, too, also believed that DS2A needed at least 25 episodes, and probably additional OVAs to show off the different endings.

    I was about to drop the anime at Episode 3 when they killed off Keita. I was distraught because in the game, that meant no Triumphant ending. But then I reasoned, "You know? Many of us first-timers have killed off Keita because we didn't fully understand how the death clips work." And continued watching. Personally, I wouldn't care what ending they choose, but killing off Keita left a nagging feeling in me that the anime is going downhill and not gracefully either (if there is such a thing). But I continued to have hope.

    After a while, I started to hate Hibiki and it is because of something I call the Edge Maverick Syndrome - or at least the Edge Maverick you're stuck with during your stay in Roak. I feel as if Hibiki was in a constant state of Heroic BSOD except during the physicals. I hated that with Hibiki holding all the power, Daichi and Io could barely stand on their two feet and they come off as inconsequential sidekicks instead of being part of the Three Musketeers.

    The thing that bothered me the most, though, was the glance at Hibiki's backstory. From what I gathered from the flashback, Hibiki was just like Yamato if Yamato led a normal life. They were expected to be the best and little to no love what given to them. It made me angry that all those time Hibiki argued with Yamato, he could have easily just take a step back and try to sympathize with him. But it took him until the final episode to do that. Some friend you are, Hibiki! I didn't mind all those time Hibiki tried to reach out to Yamato through friendship, but it's like he was only doing it because all the other animes were doing it.

    Because of what they did to DS2, I refuse to watch anything produced by Seiji Kishi (even though I did try to watch the Dangan Ronpa anime, which is another great game given the 13 episode treatment). I don't know what's with turning video games into anime nowadays. It's as if they ran out of ideas, so they decided to take the idea from elsewhere and bastardize it. Just uuuuggggghhhhh!

  2. "Once the series have ended, I was like 'I know for SURE Voltech's gonna hate this show!'"

    *spits water all over screen* What the --? You mean you were actually thinking about me and my blog without provocation? Oh wow. Thanks for that. This must be what any number of significantly more popular and handsome internet celebrities feel like on a daily basis!

    Ahem. Anyway, you pretty much guessed right on this one. I don't know what the hell happened with DeSu2A; it showed so much promise at the start, but it just got worse and worse as it went on. It was like the higher the episode count, the more the writers forgot how to write. They forgot characters, they forgot themes, they forgot plot points...they even forgot to make the fights against city-smashing alien invaders anything more than a mild inconvenience. Screwing that up takes a very special sort of talent.

    "The thing that bothered me the most, though, was the glance at Hibiki's backstory."

    Oh jeez, that's a good point. I didn't pay it much mind, seeing as how by that point I was grinding my teeth through every episode, but in hindsight that is a pretty important detail. The one thing they added in that could have made for a better product, and they don't even do anything with it? No! Bad anime! That's a BAD anime! You establish connections using the points you set up beforehand and throughout! Don't make me get the newspaper!

    "I don't know what's with turning video games into anime nowadays. It's as if they ran out of ideas, so they decided to take the idea from elsewhere and bastardize it."

    I wouldn't be so against it if the end result was something that added to the game. I mean, the Phoenix Wright movie was pretty damn cool, capturing the spirit of the games while giving it a (for lack of a better term) realistic bent. And it worked, remarkably so. One would think that an anime would be the perfect place to take the failings of a game -- in DeSu2's case, the dearth of anything even resembling animation -- and adapt it with style and grace. And yet, here we are. It's enough to make me swear off game adaptions until the end of days.

    ...Let's see how the BlazBlue anime turns out. Because I'm dumb and love sorrow.

  3. TheImperfectDarkOneNovember 10, 2013 at 6:02 PM

    Rant mode: On.

    One day, while the anime was still running, I was talking about to a friend who was also a fan. I told him my favorite characters of the game were Hinako, Fumi, Jungo, and Airi. Guess which four got killed in the span of five minutes in the episode that premiered THAT EXACT DAY?!

    At that point, I lost hope. The only character I liked even a little was Daichi, and at least Black Frost made me laugh and smile through the tears. THEN HE DIED THE VERY NEXT EPISODE BECAUSE ONLY HIBIKI IS SPESHUL ENOUGH TO FIGHT YAMATO!

    I didn't like the anime at all. They dropped the ball so hard with this project. What the hell? We go from P4: A to this? The best parts of the game for me besides everything else was the humor and the fate links. "Well, herpa derpa doo, we don't need that shit!"

    Another thing really wrong with this anime is the lighting. I can't SEE anything in this anime. Everything's too dark. It's like I'm wearing a blindfold while watching this. Actually, scratch that! A blind-fold would be better since I wouldn't have to sit through these killings of some of my favorite characters...and Keita and Ronaldo!

    The only deaths should've been Keita's and Io's. Maybe Otome's if you want to balance out the Neutral, Lawful, Chaos groups. You shouldn't kill off over 90% of the cast and then bring them all back in what seems like a half-assed ass pull (did this anime seriously force me to type that sentence?). Where is it explained that Polaris restore the past? In the game it's explained. In the anime, "fuck that shit, we don't need explanations."

    This REALLY should've been 26 episodes. Or at least 20. The battles took about five minutes each, so there would've been PLENTY of room to get the plot and character development in. Hell, maybe even expand on the story and even the battles too! Alioth should sue for what they did to it. Mizar too!

    Also, one-second flashback to Dera-Deka that no one who didn't follow his sub-plot completely would even understand and skip over Airi's development? FUCK YEAH, WHY NOT?!

    It's even worse because DeSu2 is nowhere near as long as Persona 4, about 90 hours compared to DeSu2's 20-25, so an adaption should not have been that hard to make. Then they shoot themselves in the foot, then the heart, then the neck, and then each of their eyeballs with every single poor decision.


    Ugh. This whole thing was also meant to advertise Break Record, but with its repeated delays, this fails at that too.

    Anyway, nice rant. You really tackled most of the problems with this anime. And yeah, it's not the worst thing ever, but man, what a let-down.

    BTW, best opening and ending ever, I must say.

  4. I have an idea of why they'd make everything so dark: it's because if they didn't, the audience would never understand that this is a very dark and very serious story that should be taken seriously. I mean, it's not like the audience is smart enough to figure out that this is a dark story without dialing down the color and bathing everything in shadow, amirite?

    At this point, I have to wonder if there's anything else left to say about DeSu2A. They dropped the ball. You know it, I know it, and I'd bet that even those that haven't played the game know it. It's bad enough that they tried to do so much in such a short amount of time, but it's even worse when what they decided to do -- what they thought was absolutely vital to the show -- is almost entirely a complete waste of time. It's as if they started and stopped developing most of these characters with their designs.

    I'm in total agreement with you here. If there was one character that they should have killed off (while sparing at least a few others), it should have been Io. She meant the most to Hibiki, and the show at least tried to establish her as a presence...however poorly that went. It would have been a catalyst for the Hibiki/Yamato rivalry the show couldn't get over, be the start of the group's darkest hour, and more. But they didn't. And like the show at large, it just comes off as a missed opportunity.

    DeSu2 deserved better. It may have the games, but The Animation could have been so much more. So much more.

  5. "Heck, remember the one scene when Daiichi was sent with a bunch of medics in one battle? Why couldn't they make him a lousy fighter, but excellent medic?"

    Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand you just proved that you're a better writer than the guys behind DeSu2A. Not only because that's something that could have worked in the series, but it's actually a key part of Daichi's character in the game. Even though he's a competent fighter in the game, he's not exactly gung-ho about it, BUT he understands that if he doesn't act, people will get hurt, suffer, or die. So instead of taking to the battlefield, he works with other JPs members to deliver medicine and supplies -- and he's happy to know he's contributing something without putting himself in harm's way. It's stuff like that that not only makes for a stronger character, but a stronger (and larger) world; DeSu2A just couldn't handle the scope of the game, and you just pointed out another way that it stumbled.

    "But back to the battles, I was annoyed with the over-powered leads the very moment Hibiki first summoned Byakko. In the 'Persona' games, you can only use him when the protagonist is at least level 60."

    That's a very true point -- but in DeSu2, Byakko isn't exactly what I'd call an end-goal demon. It's powerful, sure, but it's a stepping stone for other, stronger demons shortly thereafter (and you can start getting it when you're around level 53 or so). To the credit of DeSu2A, it does have Byakko using a lot of physical attacks to beat enemies, which was its specialty in the game...but then I have to take that credit right back when Byakko uses Ziodyne to wreak havoc -- and it's got a pretty weak Magic stat. Two steps forward...

    "Yamato was indeed a colossal jerk. But I think we can agree that no one else really has enough going for them to talk about for a long time in a positive or negative light."

    Very true. And that really is a major failing of the show. I wouldn't have minded if the characters were reimagined and repurposed, but A) I wanted them reimagined well and B) I wanted them repurposed to begin with. Trying to give a dozen-strong cast an equal measure of importance isn't easy, but it's like they didn't even try here. The only reason I really care for or know anything about Anime Jungo is because I liked Game Jungo; if not for that, all anyone would have to go on -- and all anyone would think of the game -- is that it could very well be renamed "The Yamato Show Starring Yamato and the Yamato Squad" without much trouble. And that's what really pisses me off.

    *remembers Makoto's death*

    I...think I need to go stare at the sky and contemplate the meaning of life for a little while. Be back soon...ish.