Saturday, December 28, 2013

Anime: Little Witch Academia

Little Witch Academia was part of the Young Animator Training Project. It was made for Anime Mirai 2013 along with Ryo, Death Billiards(no really), and Aruvu Rezuru - Kikai Shikake no Yōsei-tachi. It was made by Studio Trigger, and was their first actual anime(as opposed to whatever we can call Inferno Cop).

The story is as follows: Akko is inspired by a magician named Shiny Chariot to become a witch, so she enrolls in a magic school. Shiny Chariot is not at all taken seriously, and even hated by the magic world. Especially by the popular girl Diana. During one of those "magic school makes kids do dangerous things parents wouldn't approve of", Diana accidentally wakes a magic eating dragon that goes after the school's Sorceror Stone. Akko finds the rod used by Shiny Chariot, and along with her friends Sucy and Lotte, save the school from the dragon. Akko uses Chariot's "Shiny Arc" spell, which Diana asks how she knew how to do. This is meant to indicate she actually likes Shiny Chariot, since she knew about the spell. I'm also pretty sure the teacher is hinted at being Chariot in secret.

Basically, the story is about as cliche and generic as you can get. I'm certain I've seen this exact story several hundred times already. Because of that, it's also highly predictable. I literally knew almost everything that was gonna happen, was gonna happen. It also feels like it was supposed to be much longer, as there are really only two acts that are sort of structured like it's three.

The characters are also highly generic and cliche, with very little character building and almost no development whatsoever. We have "plucky stubborn heroine", "reserved bookworm", "weird chick", "stuck up girl", and "glasses wearing teacher". Oddly, it's the rival who is developed, learning she can sometimes make mistakes and should use more discretion, as well as learning to accept Akko at the end. The characters aren't bad, but they're very bland and don't make the story more interesting. A story can be very cliche, but if the characters are good it can be saved from mediocrity. Sadly, this is not the case here. Because the plot and characters are so cliche, it certainly isn't forgettable as I could recite it in my sleep, but that's the problem.

Now, the animation is where this really shines. The animation certainly isn't the greatest I've seen, but it's got a lot of flair and pretty fluid scenes. It looks very pretty, and was nice to watch. It also has this lovely style to it, seeing as the animation direction was done by Yoh Yoshinari, who did so for Gurren Lagann and Panty and Stocking. Yes, it's very stylized and stylistic, and no-one can take that away from it. The action is certainly nice and well made, so at least I can give it that. It's got bright colors and is very flashy.

Overall, it's easy to tell that it was made by amateurs. The writing is definitely a first try, as it isn't bad but isn't ambitious at all. While it certainly looks good, I feel as if that was because of it being directed by Yoshinari and not because of the actual animators. Since it was nice to look at and watch, I won't give it a bad score. It's all style and no substance, but since that style is pretty good I give it:

3/5 Ridiculously Flashy Magic Spells. If it hadn't had that flair too it, it'd certainly get a 2/5.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Why Railgun is (Way) Better than Index.

Every time I thought of doing a review of Index, I kept thinking "Nah, I'll just endlessly compare it to Railgun.". It really would have been me being all like "Index sucks because Railgun did all this shit better 3/5 because it was still pretty enjoyable for the most part." So, rather than do that, why don't I just talk about why I feel this way and cut out the middle man?

1. Better Setting: Index is also set in Academy City, but it also goes into the "Magic Side" of things. The magic side of things doesn't get interesting in the least until that whole "New Testament" series, where the intricacies of it get explained better. Even then, the Science Side is just way more interesting. Until later on, the Magic Side wasn't anywhere near as compelling or fleshed out as the Science Side. We got a cool pseudo-science explanation for how esper powers work(it's basically Spiral Energy), but none for how magic works beyond the generic pre-established-by-fantasy stuff. Oh, he uses magical runes, big deal. There's a reason I call it a "watered-down version of the Nasu-verse". Nasu would spend time explaining what runes are and how they work, and how they're similar to contemporary magic. Kamachi is just all "Runes n shit".

2. Better Characters: There are a few recurring characters in Index I like. Stiyl Magnus, Tsuchimikado, Heaven Canceler etc. But even then they aren't developed often, and sometimes not at all. Railgun has no characters I don't like at least a little, and they're almost all developed in some way, usually through character building moments of which Index has very few. I think the big problem is that there are way too many characters in Index, and they all fight for screen time. This is the bane of any shounen series: Too many people. Bleach suffers from it, and so does Naruto(among other things). One Piece is a lot better because you have pretty much the main cast and then some guys who'll be there just for that arc. Index has too many characters which they just can't focus on. Railgun has such fewer characters, so they end up being better and more focused on. Heck, most of the characters in Index end up being boring and generic because of that lack of focus... or worse, just plain stupid and annoying(like INDEX!). Speaking of focus...

3. Better Focus: Index is long and every volume is an arc(two volumes if you're lucky). There are shitloads of characters, shitloads of plots, shitloads of shitloads. There's just TOO DAMN MUCH. Railgun on the other hand tends to spend about 2 1/2 volumes on each of its arcs, and there is a lot less stuff to deal with in it. It focuses on characters. And all in all, since it's a much smaller thing, it's a lot more focused as a story. Index has THREE protagonists right now. How many does Railgun have? ONE! I wonder which story is less messy and unfocused, hm...

4. Better Plots: Fuck me with a pogo-stick, Railgun has way better story arcs than Index. They range from above average to really good, whereas Index's plots range from uninteresting to about as good as the not-as-good arcs in Railgun. Usually though, they're meh and okay. In addition to having more arcs(seriously, in between Silent Party and Daihaseisai, Touma has does like 3), Index has less interesting arcs. In Index I, the Sisters arc was the best, and the Last Order arc was good, the rest were blah. In Index II, the Remnant arc was phenomenal, and the Academy City Invasion arc was also good, and the rest were blah. Not to mention, several of Index's arcs just seem like total filler. I mean, yeah Gabriel got set up to appear later in Angel's Fall arc, and so did Kazakiri in her arc, but it really didn't serve much purpose to the story other than "just wait until they're ACTUALLY important!". In Railgun, even the "filler" adds something. Kiyama's kids getting saved, Nunotaba not just dropping of the face of the Earth, backstory and character building, etc. etc.!

5. Better Writing: I don't really know how this happened, aside from the things I mentioned. It may have something to do with the artist, Motoi Fuyukawa, giving him input on the plot. I don't know when he started writing it, but I'm sure it was after Volume 8 which was pretty well written. I think what happened was simple: He got a bit better at writing. It would make sense, while Index as a whole still is lousy, it's better written now than it used to be from the bits I've read. It still has the same problems, but it's not quite as groan inducing and is better executed. Hell, Touma's even less of freakin' Jesus figure than he used to be, and even made some mistakes and ended up screwing the pooch. Regardless, Railgun is still much better written, and the anime more so. Inb4 angry manga fans saying some shit about how much J.C. Staff sucks. (I also have a theory that Kamachi doesn't actually care about Index and instead actually tries with Railgun) EDIT: New theory, with evidence, suggests Kamachi probably does story outlines and then Fuyukawa fills in the rest. That would explain everything.

6. Better Humour/Breather Episodes: Okay, so this one is very very personal. I think Railgun is funnier and has better cool down chapters/episodes after arc climaxes than Index. Index has pretty much the exact same joke every time: Touma does something perverted on accident, gets hurt, yells "Fuko da!". Every single comic relief moment, I swear, is that. Oh, and maybe an "Index doesn't understand modern people" joke, which is actually kinda funny. I know Railgun has tons of "Kuroko tries to molest Mikoto and gets hurt" jokes, but it tends to be a lot less predictable how these things plan out, and not every single comic relief is that. They have nice, slow, fun SoL episodes to wind down so you can be ready and raring to go for the next one. It's one of the reason's I'm glad I marathoned Index, as I could just shotgun it instead of trying to sit though it all without any sort of down time from the "Gensou Bukorosu!"(I actually do like how he says that though).

7. Better Mikoto: The Mikoto in Index, at least for a large part of it, is almost like a different person and isn't nearly as good as the one in Railgun. I think this is because initially Kamachi meant for her to just be a side character and didn't even know he'd be writing a spin-off about her. She was basically a generic tsundere, and high and mighty "child prodigy"(at least in the beginning). Because I love Mikoto I was able to deal with it and enjoy her somewhat, but she's just so much better in Railgun. I could go on about the little things, like what she said in the opening scene, how she regarded the other contestants in the Daihaseisai, and stuff like that but I'll just say this: In Railgun, Mikoto treats everyone as equal(unless you piss her off) and is very down to earth and friendly. Index Mikoto just doesn't seem that way. She's not a bad character, in fact she's the best one there, but mostly she just feels a lot more meh with a few exceptions. It's very much the problem with Index: They're crappy characters except for this and that scene. Index keeps scraping up against "Good" but ends up falling back into "Okay". Or worse: Bad

I can't really think of much else besides these things. All in all, Railgun is just more enjoyable. When the Sisters arc was going and I just couldn't wait a week at a time to see my lovely Mikoto, I decided to try watching Index again in order to see her few appearances. And then later the Railgun manga because I though, "why not?". I got really hooked on the manga, but I had to force myself to like Index. That shouldn't happen. I got into Railgun because I saw some silly fan art of Kuroko being Kuroko and asked a friend what she was from, thinking it'd be a hoot. Well, I was instantly enthralled by it and ended up liking it for much more than Kuroko's parody-of-a-yuri-anime-character antics. Index I tried watching afterwards, hoping it'd be like Railgun... it wasn't. I thought it was REALLY stupid. If I recall correctly, I got about 8 episodes in... how did I get that far?

Railgun is better than Index. Several times in fact. End of story.

EDIT: Oh wow, I totally forgot!

8. Better Antagonists: Some of the antagonists in Index are okay, but more often then not they're generic and cartoony(in a bad way). The most egregious example is probably Vento of the Front, who is not only cartoonishly villainous, she has a really shitty motivation that makes her what I call one of "Touma's Strawmen". Touma's Strawmen are villains that have obviously flawed points of view and ridiculous motivations, so that Touma can be in the right and seem like more of Jesus figure who knows all about how the world works. Some are less so, like the woman who attacked Academy City because her friend was killed for trying to bridge the gap between Mages and Espers, but most of them are just lousy and flimsy. The villains in Railgun however are much more interesting, well written, and can even make you realize Mikoto doesn't have all the answers. Such as Kiyama Harumi, who may have done some wrong things, but did them in order to save her students. Kiyama was a large part of Mikoto's growth, I think. How many antagonists are THAT in Index? None, because Touma doesn't grow. And even when they're cartoonish villains, they're still a lot better done. Therestina feels like someone who's just gone totally insane and doesn't have any compassion left in her. I don't even need to explain why Accelerator is a good one. Hell, even the poorly characterized STUDY were better, because at least they made you question whether or not Mikoto and friends were really right(I mean, it more or less dropped it and said "Yes, they are.", but still). And holy balls is Kihara Gensei a good villain. I'm glad they decided to make this guy essentially the main villain of Railgun. Pretty much all the bad shit that happens to them is in some way his fault. Not to mention, he's just so creepy, so unscrupulous, so without humanity that even though he's just an old man with a science fetish, he's somehow really damn intimidating. He works as a villain because he stands for all the things Mikoto doesn't, lacks any sort of compassion, and cannot be reasoned with because "There are no sacrifices" in his experiments. The best part about him is that, while he's a mad scientist, he isn't an over-the-top one. He's the "scientific advancement shouldn't be tied down by things like 'morals', 'ethics', or 'human decency'" type of mad scientist. He's also the best kind of villain for a Sci-fi series, really, because he's a reminder of the bad side of science. The main villain of Index is so lame by comparison, and even worse highly questionable. I mean, he and Sousuke Aizen could have a serious battle for who is the most far reaching, Xanatos Gambit-ing, Chess Master villain. For example: Did you know he planned for the Level 6 Shift Project to fail? Yes, he somehow planned that it ABSOLUTELY would get shut down prematurely. And why? For something he could have done without that: Sending the Sisters all over the world. Couldn't he have just said "Yo, make me some clones of Misaka Mikoto and send them to the various Academy City affiliates"? He's got complete and total dictatorship level control over the city and everyone in it. What's stopping him? Lazy writing.

/rant

EDIT 2:

9. Better Execution: I think this should probably go without saying, but Railgun is much better executed. In Index, Kamachi has great starting idea but ends up screwing everything with how poorly he handles things. Sometimes there will be well executed scenes, but they are few and far between and when they come it's a big relief. But then it ends up being all edgy and grimdark, or Touma just sucks as a lead, or it's just not funny, or the characters are just bland, or the villain's motivations are highly questionable. Sometimes, he even puts in stuff that creates plot holes. Railgun, on the other hand, actually pulls through with it's ideas and concepts, and makes me legitimately care about it's plot and characters. The story tends to be solid with very few obvious plotholes, fun characters, and a lot of care placed into it. Just compare the Sisters arc in Index to the one in Railgun for the best example of this. In the end, that's why Railgun's good and Index isn't, because it actually feels like he knows what he's doing. It really is similar to Bleach, in that some of the characters and ideas are really good, but it's ruined in where they are taken(or their lack of being taken somewhere). I think the biggest example I can give is that Mikoto and Touma are both very similar types of heroes. The problem is, Mikoto has actual depth to her character while Touma feels like self-insert most of the time. This is because Mikoto's well executed, and Touma is not. Mikoto is interesting and fun, Touma is bland and boring.