I’m back again to talk about the next episode, Episode 2 is called: This is a Cockroach! As a quick recap, this is the story about a socially awkward girl who feels like she’s different than everyone else and can’t have fun, but then she…
Whhhhhat, there’s a board game Anime out there! And not only that, it uses actual board games in it. So, I could just write a review of the series, but it’s board games and I want to talk about the anime in a little bit…
Time to talk about the newest Netflix show, this time the anthology series, Love, Death, + Robots. It’s an interesting experiment in show making an anthology series, but not just an anthology series, but a completely animated one.
Let’s start out by talking about what an anthology series is, since the term might not be familiar to everyone. When you think of a television show, you generally think of something that has the same characters throughout the whole season or series, and possibly there will be a plot going through the whole season. An anthology series is just short stories with completely different characters, completely different plots and settings, and in this case, completely different animation styles. They do, however, tend to be around a similar subject matter, in this case, love, death, and robots.
So how does it work to watch a show?
I think that it’s an interesting idea for a series. There are some of the episodes that are extremely well done, there are some that are just okay, and there are some that a pretty poor. However, in all of them, the animation is very strong, even in the more basic animations, and they tend to match the animation style very well to the story for the episode. Some of the stories have hyper realistic animation, while others have a more stylized feel or a sillier feel. And that’s the case with the subject matter, some of the episodes are silly, some of them are just lighter feeling, while some others try and be extremely heavy.
For me, that’s the issue with some of the episodes. They try and act like they are deep and clever, and while they might have very good animation, they tend to actually be pretty flat and heavy handed story telling. Overall, I would say that the anthology suffers a fair amount from that, there are just enough scattered throughout that you feel like it’s trying to beat you over the head with an idea, that isn’t particularly well presented, in hopes that it will be considered smart. This is often a weakness in the short film/short episode format though, because you don’t get a chance to develop characters, and you’re trying to condense an idea into a short period of time. And that’s something that short films really lean into.
But with the storytelling, there are a number of the episodes where I want to see more of what is going on. There are some worlds that are created which are very interesting and you feel like there is a lot more to the world to be explored. This is a positive and a negative, because you know you aren’t likely to get more ever, but you definitely want to have more, and those stories feel the strongest. I guess the best way to describe it is that the those episodes felt like they had a living world around them versus just this one static slice of the world that was cut out to make the point they are going for.
I do want to add in a disclaimer that while this is an animated series, it is not a kids series. It’s not even the Simpsons, it’s much more adult than that, and there is a lot of sex, nudity, language, violence, and gore throughout the show. So be careful when you watch it and who you watch it with, because, it does use a pretty heavy hand on some heavy subjects.
So what do I think of the show?
It’s a hit or miss show for me. There are some worlds that I definitely want to explore more and stories that captured me, there are other parts that are too heavy handed. I can recommend it for appreciating the various animation styles as some of the animation is amazing, and all of it works with the stories being told. But there are a number of the stories that are just too much and feel a bit like a waste of time to watch, because you get the point they are beating you over the head with at the very beginning, and after that it’s just the stuff in the disclaimer.
I’ve been writing a lot of articles focused on products, games, shows, and things like that, and this one will mention a number of them, but I wanted to write an article more about a concept that popped into my head last night. It has been something that I’ve noticed while Kristen and I are watching shows or movies or if we are reading the same books. I often figure out the twist, solve the mystery, make the connection before she does. That got me thinking — how does that affect my enjoyment of a story, and do I enjoy it less because I’ve figured out the twist?
To answer that question immediately — no, I don’t think I enjoy it less. There’s a sense of excitement about figuring out a twist in a story before it happens, to connecting two things that seemly loosely connected but then really matter. Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency is a show that is built on these loose connections, and connecting those dots before the characters do is fun, because the show does a good job of keeping these things somewhat hidden from the viewer. So, making those connections is fun, and it doesn’t take away from the story.
However, I do think it can for some people. When I’m watching something like Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency or Dark, I’m not what I would consider actively looking for these clues. The shows are built around twists, turns, and mysteries, so as I think about the show, I naturally think about those things. And if you’ve read some of my board game reviews, you know that I enjoy puzzle-y type games, and that I love trying to figure out what clue to give in Hanabi or what cards to play in Gloomhaven to get a perfect score or beat the dungeon. I just naturally think about these patterns.
On the other hand, I know people who actively are searching to make these connections. Their enjoyment is often fulfilled, like mine is, by figuring out these connections, but figuring them out too early or not figuring them out at all can ruin their enjoyment of a story. The hunt is what is enjoyable to them, and once that has passed, it isn’t enjoyable anymore, and conversely, if they can’t figure it out, they don’t enjoy it as much because they felt like the story tricked them or didn’t give them enough to figure out the secret, and they could feel like they are slow because of that.
Finally, there is the type of person who isn’t wired for figuring these clues out, and I think that this can be split into a couple of ways as well — those who don’t care, and those who simply enjoy the story. When Kristen and I watch Dirk Gently, it isn’t as if Kristen is getting less enjoyment out of the show because she doesn’t figure it out ahead of time. She enjoys it as much as I do; I’m just bouncing up and down on the couch because I’m pretty sure I figured something out, and she’s shaking her head and laughing at my antics. That is how it should be — being able to enjoy the story as a story, even if you aren’t picking out all the twists and mysteries as soon as the other people you’re watching it with are.
However, there’s an opposite side of this as well, where someone might feel like they are missing out because they can’t figure the story out as quickly as other people. This shouldn’t be the case, because stories are worth enjoying on their own even if you don’t pick up on the secret before it’s revealed. A fine line can be drawn as to how someone can “help” in this situation, as there are some chance that a person could make it worse. If you are figuring out what is going on before someone else, it can come across as patronizing if you try and say that it is just okay that someone else didn’t figure it out. A better route would be to, when talking about the story, focus on the story itself and what it meant to you, not when you figured out the twists and turns, so that everyone can enjoy the story.
As I started out this post, this was an interesting concept to me. There isn’t a right way to engage with a story as long as you are enjoying it. Remember — even if you figured out the twist in the first scene, don’t spoil it for the rest of us, and let everyone enjoy the story in their own way. To quote what the RPG Academy says (they’re talking about RPGs and how to play them, but I think it’s very appropriate here, too) – “If you’re having fun, you’re doing it right.”
So, I recently did a review of Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale. In that I said that Kristen and I had just started watching the anime so we knew a little bit about it since she got free tickets from her anime writing at Twin Cities Geek. So we wrapped up just about a week ago the first season of Sword Art Online.
To recap a little bit about what I said on Ordinal Scale, this anime as a whole seems more like a popcorn anime. It doesn’t have a ton of depth of the bad guys, the good guys develop some depth, but it’s not a very important focus. There seems like there should be because of the theme of getting trapped in a video game and having to beat the game in order to survive. They should have been able to really delve into the psyche of the players in the game, and while they do some of that, it doesn’t really build too much upon that. I do appreciate though that the show has never been about the boss fights, and while there are fights, it’s never drawn out that long.
Now, there are some weird things about this show as well, the first being the lack of motivation for the first bad guy. He seems to have created this world simply because he could and there doesn’t seem to be any more reason than t hat. The second being how it switches in the middle when the new bad guy takes over. Without getting into spoilers, it goes to a creepy dark sort of place and feel, all without really being all that creepy or dark still. It’s just kind of weird how it changes. It almost has a George RR Martin feel to it (not in terms of killing everyone) but where in book four he seemingly decided, I’m bored with these characters, let me write about new ones for no good reason and introduce magic. Sword Art Online kind of has a similar feel to that about half way through the first season. If it weren’t for the fact that you were invested into the story at that point, say this had happened in the first four episodes, I’m not sure I would have continued with the anime. But I think if you are forewarned about the change, it’ll be easier to watch and keep into the story.
With all of that out of the way, the basic premise for the show is that there is an awesome new MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role playing game) where you get into the game as a full dive. This full dive technology basically allows you to feel like you are 100% in the gaming world. So when 10,000 players who get the first copies log in, they are super excited to start killing monsters, hanging out, and killing boars because obviously you have to kill boars to level up faster. Things change drastically when everyone is teleported back to the city of beginnings (where you spawn to start the game) and they all find out that the creator of the game and the full dive system has locked everyone into the world so they can’t log out, the only way to escape the world is to make it to level 100 of the world defeating the bosses along the way and if you die in the game, you die in real life. We follow our main character, Kirito as he battles by himself through the world and finds out that while he can’t save everyone, he needs to try to save them.
It’s an interesting premise, like I said, and it doesn’t focus on the boss battles, in fact they maybe show a handful of snippets of them throughout the show. This show focuses in on the people who are in the world and how they react to being trapped in the world. It takes a fairly light approach to it as there seems to be less concern about being the game than one would expect, but as relationships develop, characters die, and it’s been a long time in the real world, it creates an interesting dynamic. If it had gone darker than it did, I think I’d have a fairly different view on this. Often when I’m watching anime I want something that is enjoyable, makes me think some, but I don’t generally want something that weighs on me too much.
Sword Art Online (Season 1) is one that I’d recommend to people. While it is light and doesn’t go to the depth that it could, and has that swerve in the middle to a different sort of story, it’s enjoyable, it doesn’t seem like a long show. It’s the light beer of anime (as I said in my review for Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale ) I don’t think that is really a bad thing in this case. I’d say that I’ve seen better Anime shows, such as The Devil is a Part-Timer! (expect a review on that later), but Sword Art Online is worth the time watching it and most people will find it enjoyable.
P.S. I know that Sword Art Online is kind of fun to hate on for a lot of people because it’s lighter. If you go into it knowing it’s light and decide that you hate on it because it’s light, get a job.
P.S.S. (Forgot to put this in the first place) – This is also an anime that you can probably watch either dubbed or subbed without missing all that much.
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