There’s a quote out of the Simpsons and though I’m probably getting it wrong, it’s quite fitting for today’s topic.
“I used to be with it, then they changed it and now I don’t know what it is…”
So anime, you know I’m a big fan of anime, right? Many of my childhood cartoons were secretly anime even if they were not divulged as such (I’m looking at you Moomin’s) but it was around age 15 that I really got into anime.
Friday nights on Channel 4 were something else for a young geek like me, from about 1am you would have shows revolving around videogames, films and in order to watch these I would set up the VCR to record.
It wasn’t long before I realised that the next show on my ancient video cassette was an over the top and violent cartoon entitled Fist of the North Star.
It quickly became a favourite and remains so to this day.
But that’s a brief introduction to my finding anime.
Fast forward a few years and I now have the internet, I’m no longer spending £15 on a film to see if I like it, I can find information from all around the world, and my ability to discover anime only grew further.
Now I won’t say that I’ve liked every popular anime series, honestly I haven’t but one thing I’ve always noted is why a show was popular, I could look at a show and say “Well, I don’t like this, but I can see why other people do” which to me is an important step in things.
But that doesn’t hold true any more.
You see with modern titles, and here I am specifically referencing Attack on Titan and Sword Art Online (from here known as AoT and SAO) I can’t look at them and see what makes it popular.
We’ll start with SAO, a series in which at the launch of a new MMO, players find themselves unable to log out.
So they’re trapped in the game, some players go full stockholm and enjoy their new surrounding and go total player killer.
It’s typical for this genre really, but what gets me is the time frame set in SAO.
You see, within about three or four episodes the story has progressed about two years and the main character has already built a reputation, built relationships, but as a viewer we do not see any of this, we see the sudden change, we see him running around and suddenly people know of him, he’s special.
But you never see a reason why, you never get a reason to connect to him.
Now SAO could have been okay if it had been spaced out over three or four years, with a logical progression but instead we go from 0 to 60 in no time at all.
And then to top it all off, the ending is so very weak, with the story concluding, the “power of love” being programmed into the game and the bad guy turning around and saying he doesn’t even know why he did all this in the first place.
I don’t get why this is popular at all.
Then we have AoT, set in a world in which humanity has been almost wiped out by giant dumb humanoid monsters, with the last survivors holed up in giant walled cities.
The story follows a young kid who enlists in the army (or the local equivalent thereof) after his mother dies, but here’s the kicker, he can turn into one of these monsters himself, only he didn’t know.
Things get weird when one of the giant dumb monsters isn’t actually dumb and by the end of the season she’d rather die than divulge any information to the protagonist.
What I don’t get about the show, is though the concept is interesting, the main character is whiny and unrelateable, in almost every anime we have a moment where the protagonist bucks up and starts fighting back and where the tables turn, I can understand why the tables can’t be so easily turned here, but you never see that pivitol moment where the main kid goes from someone who has bad things happen to them, to the hero of the story.
The entire run of the season lacks something I feel is important in the first run of a show, answers.
I walked away from season one knowing nothing and caring nothing for the characters.
What really got me though, the first thing I saw of AoT was about 30 identically attired pretty girls all in identical AoT costumes at a convention.
If you’ve ever been to a comic con, you’ll see people as the same character but the build and quality of their costumes vary wildly, so when I saw a couple of dozen girls, in identical outfits, all high quality costumes do you know what I think? I think it’s an advertising opportunity, especially when I research that very title and find next to no footprint about it online.
Maybe I’m just getting old, but both of these shows seem to be popular now and yet they only have a good premise, they the rest of the things I would look for in any decent story seem to be lacking.
Where is the character development, where is the logical plot progression, where are the answers.
I guess it’s time to take a step back and just enjoy what I enjoy, but I still wonder why things like this are so popular.