Anime Vice News

A Super Special Watch & Learn Update

Take a seat. Let's talk "fan service," discuss which pilot episodes have been good or bad and look over what's coming next for the column.

This is where I evaluate all talkbacks.
This is where I evaluate all talkbacks.

So, my post on SEKIREI incited a heated discussion and that’s awesome - - the point of these posts are to start discussions. I started a response in the talkback, but it grew in the writing, and I quickly figured it’d be best to parlay it into a “state of the column” as this latest sampling period draws to an end. Anyway…

Anybody who thinks I'm a prude based on that review has a real short memory, because I've raved about CLAYMORE, PANTY & STOCKING and any number of unwholesome shows that push the envelope with sex and violence. T&A (which is what "fan service" is code for, 95% of the time) can be funny, sexy and, yes, even titillating if it's done well. My objection to SEKIREI is that it was seemed to be entirely about T&A, at the expense of other storytelling concerns, and I didn’t find that T&A to be particularly funny, sexy or titillating.

There has never been any pressure, nor even influence, from the rest of Whiskey about what shows I should praise, criticize or "support" on this site. My opinions are my own.

"Tricky" is MY term for this show. It&squot;s not in the official lexicon.
"Tricky" is MY term for this show. It's not in the official lexicon.

WATCH & LEARN is all about snap judgments, yes. It’s less a proper review column and more a record of a viewing experience. If you want measured and collected takes, look at my "Final Thought" videos and my longer reviews (like the one I just did for BADLANDS RUMBLE.) Is it brusque to dismiss a show after one episode? Yes and no. If I have as many options as I do regarding what shows I can follow for this column (close to twenty already in this latest sampling period,) then I simply can't watch them all and I'll express my reasons for why I'll pick certain shows over others. Sometimes you'll agree with me. Other times you won't. That's the fun of an opinion column.

However - - and I bring this up a lot - - but the notion that I need to stick with a show for several episodes before "it gets good" is really cocked up. It makes the viewing experience out to be like some charitable giving-of-time where I'm having to entertain whatever the show is trying to do, for however long, when it's supposed to be entertaining me. Are you going to buy an album if you don't like the single? Will you subscribe to a comic if the first issue turns you off? Of course not, and the same logic applies here.

Serialized entertainment competes in a ruthless fray for viewers’ free time and if a show doesn't put its best foot forward first, then it hasn't done its job and I won’t hesitate to pick another show that “gets good” in the first five minutes instead of the first five episodes. Even a tranquil, patient, show like MUSHI-SHI was still able to grab my interest from episode one. These are TV shows, after all, and I’m making a decision that’s the same as deciding not to tune in next week. If that’s dismissive of a show that needs time and space to properly unfold, then it shouldn’t have opted for a serialized format.

Hit the ground running, or hit the sky sailing... but hit something in that first shot.
Hit the ground running, or hit the sky sailing... but hit something in that first shot.

With that out of the way, here are the shows on the plate, with links to my respective thoughts.

Really Want to Watch

THE MYSTIC ARCHIVES OF DANTALIAN

EUREKA SEVEN

RAINBOW

USAGI DROP

NO. 6

Maybe Want To Watch

SACRED SEVEN

GOSICK

SPEED GRAPHER

KAMISAMA DOLLS

DURARARA!!

AFRO SAMURAI

BLACK BUTLER

Don't Want To Watch

NURA: RISE OF THE YOKAI CLAN

BLUE EXORCIST

SEKIREI

NEEDLESS

DEVIL LADY

READ OR DIE

I'll be posting on LAMB, WANDERING SON and REBORN! coming up before the sampling period ends. We'll see what brackets they fall into. I'll finally get around to long-form reviews of the two EDEN OF THE EAST movies, as well.

I'm also doing video reviews for the DVD's of CORPSE PRINCESS, SOUND OF THE SKY and the second season of DARKER THAN BLACK . If you have any questions about those series which you'd like to me address in the videos, fire away with them in the talkback. You know I'll address them. You know it.

Tom Pinchuk’s the writer of HYBRID BASTARDS! & UNIMAGINABLE. Order them on Amazon here & here. Follow him on Twitter: @tompinchuk

Lurkeroon Oct. 23, 2011 at 7:48 p.m.

Surprised you put Black Butler in the maybe list, but I would say Eureka Seven should be a go.

I don't understand the "you have to watch through the bad part to get to the good" either. As much time as I waste on a daily basis, I don't want to waste time doing that. I've actually done the opposite with a few series. I watched the first half of Evangelion and recommended someone to watch and as I sloughed through the 2nd half I quickly had to rescind my recommendation.

Little_Socrateson Oct. 23, 2011 at 8:29 p.m.

Usually, if I've specifically been recommended a series, I try to give it a few episodes and make a decision at that point as a courtesy to the person recommending the series. However, something that seems worthless after one episode (or something with which I am fully satisfied after one episode) will have to stop there.

Darker Than Black actually might be the latter with me; I thoroughly enjoyed the first two episodes, and I'm not sure if I need to see any more.

zaldaron Oct. 23, 2011 at 8:41 p.m.

hmm lurkero you didn't like eva when it got even weirder and became philosophical I enjoyed that more actually. I think there are some shows like some books that are worth going through even though the first episode/chapter isn't good. But as this is entertainment as opposed to self improvement. I mean when I read war and peace it isn't going to be for fun...

Of the shows, happy to see all the ones I am interested in from your thoughts are the ones you really want to watch...except for read or die. Have you done a "comedy" yet for this column? Anime columns are really hit or miss for me. Excel saga...incredibly bad...puni puni poemi..anyone involved in the making of should die. Read or die, and El Hazard..unbelievably hilarious. Read or die, does take a bit to get good...but it didn't start with a serialized format. The movie comes first and should be watched first.

Who in the heck said you were being influenced by whisky staff where in the heck did that come from?

You should have directly pointed at the elephant in the room. T and A is good except for one instance, obviously prepubescent characters. Moe didn't mean this original at all and really is not a sexual term, but it has come to be used that way. I have said it before and I will say it again. If you enjoy looking at obviously prepubescent girls or girls who LOOK prepubescent in sexual situations I do not understand you and you worry me. The idea that Lewis Carrol was taking picutres of naked children to celebrate their innocence is as preposterous as the idea that our drawings are the same. Japan of course is the country that gave us Jr. Idols...videos that make our child beauty pageants look wholesome.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9j66_6VNVXg

and the above is tame compared to some

SoldierG654342on Oct. 23, 2011 at 9:14 p.m.

@Tom_Pinchuk said:

However - - and I bring this up a lot - - but the notion that I need to stick with a show for several episodes before "it gets good" is really cocked up.

As with most thing, Wolpaw's Law is a sound mode of thought. "It get's good later" is complete nonsense. Why can't it be good now? That's not to say everything needs to be exciting or action-packed from the start, but if it get's engaging later, what's stopping it from starting that way other than ineptitude?

@Tom_Pinchuk said:

So, my post on SEKIREI incited a heated discussion and that’s awesome - - the point of these posts are to start discussions. I started a response in the talkback, but it grew in the writing, and I quickly figured it’d be best to parlay it into a “state of the column” as this latest sampling period draws to an end. Anyway…

Anybody who thinks I'm a prude based on that review has a real short memory, because I've raved about CLAYMORE, PANTY & STOCKING and any number of unwholesome shows that push the envelope with sex and violence. T&A (which is what "fan service" is code for, 95% of the time) can be funny, sexy and, yes, even titillating if it's done well. My objection to SEKIREI is that it was seemed to entirely about T&A, at the expense of other storytelling concerns, and I didn’t find that T&A to be particularly funny, sexy or titillating.

A think the flak you caught for your comments of SEKIRIE speaks more to the state of affairs in the current American anime/manga culture. Since the American (and worldwide) anime bubble burst, there's been a sort of separation of the wheat and the chaff, so to speak. When people realized that the shows that brought them into the fold (Cowboy Bebop, Ghost in the Shell, Samurai Champloo, etc...) were the exceptions, not the rule. Some chose to leave and others chose to stay and dig deeper. It seems that in those that stayed, a mentality has grown that you cannot judge anime/manga against other forms of media and that doing so just shows that you don't "get it." It's almost defeatist the way people just shrug and say "this isn't books/movies/television, this is anime and that's how it works, take it or leave it." That, or you get accused of being a Japanophode for leveling any criticism against the mediums, from calling out the overabundance of unvarying archetypes and fan-service to the bullshit rationalizations that get thrown around to justify the sexualization of, if not minors, characters that are underdeveloped to purposefully evoke minors. The community is becoming very closed off and defensive, partly because of constant (and mostly unwarranted) harassment from the outside, but also because it's becoming harder to ignore the fact that anime is not special and that, just like everything else, 99% of it is shit.

sotyfan16on Oct. 23, 2011 at 10:06 p.m.

My votes are for Speed Grapher, Afro Samurai, and Rainbow. Each are of a different style and very enjoyable. Also, though Afro would have less to discuss, there is plenty to talk about with the other two.

Marshal Victoryon Oct. 23, 2011 at 11:17 p.m.
"However - - and I bring this up a lot - - but the notion that I need to stick with a show for several episodes before "it gets good" is really cocked up." 
Yup this is true. Buuuuuuuuut heres the thing.Some shows start slow an develop into something great.Just as some shows start strong an die with a whimper.Some shows i give the 3 shows an decide .Some shows are just good enuff to string me along for bit longer. 
 
Kinda reason i like anime is because of its different plot pacing an story telling methods .Which since it has a different beat to it may take a bit more to see where its going an if you want to go their as well. 
 
The whole fan service thing is kinda a moot point.Were on the internet.. theirs better things to see than drawn t&a.But if the story is funny or it fits pokemon harem gota cach them all .Really who is hurt?Sane people in general do not plan their lives off of anime ,video games,books,movies or even comic books.Most are just really saying "this is not the fan service i like".
 
Which is fine .But its nothing to be proud of either.
ZombiePieon Oct. 23, 2011 at 11:18 p.m.

I bit the bullet and decide to start watching Sacred Seven and am thinking about doing a blog series for the show. It's a great case study for some things I want to talk about anime in general. If you wanted to know I'd put it down as one of the most exceptional mediocre shows I have seen in a while.

takashichea moderator on Oct. 23, 2011 at 11:54 p.m.

Gosick is one of those animes that doesn't grab you in the first few episodes (due to the 1st episode's flaws), but it blossoms into a great anime and instead of mystery, it becomes romantic.

I'm hoping you do Gosick. I'm not an avid anime fan, so I have watched a few anime. (I only worked a few series' wiki pages which bogs me down to try something new) My partners HalberdierV2 and Auron570 will do a better job than me to advertise Gosick to you.

**Hopefully, I didn't spoil you.

Edit: I know Blue Exorcist is a slim choice since you don't like it; I already did weekly reports on the latter half of the series for my beloved teammate, Anna. It's okay.

ComicMan24on Oct. 23, 2011 at 11:59 p.m.

Eureka Seven was good, yeah. I liked Durarara and Black Butler were quite good and I know that a lot here didn't like Sacred Seven but I did. Not anything great, that's for sure but it is somrthing nice to pass the time. And I think you are being a bit too hard about Blue Exorcist. It was a nice show.

Roldanon Oct. 24, 2011 at 2:23 a.m.

I'm gonna go with Eureka Seven, if you want something similar to FMA: Brotherhood and Rainbow because i think it can spark some interesting discussions because of the themes it brings up.

sickVisionz moderator on Oct. 24, 2011 at 5:24 a.m.
Serialized entertainment competes in a ruthless fray for viewers’ free time and if a show doesn't put its best foot forward first, then it hasn't done its job and I won’t hesitate to pick another show that “gets good” in the first five minutes instead of the first five episodes.

You can't fault him for this. I've always found this to be an interesting (not good, just interesting) thing about comparing anime to other forms of US media. While in the US there is this idea of putting your best foot forward to grab the viewer, many anime seem to be ok with loading the worst episodes at the beginning of a series and making a pretty terrible first impression. Making a good first impression is so ingrained in my psyche that when I see a terrible one, I still assume that the creator is trying to make a good first impression and that what I'm being presented with actually is as good a first impression that the series can make... meaning that it will be pretty horrible all the way through.

I don't need an action sequence to start things off, but some sign or hint that a series won't be terrible should be in the first episode and ideally, it sets up tonally how a series is going to be. Evangelion is my favorite example of a good first episode as it touches on all of the core features of the series:

  • Shinji's strained father-son relationship,
  • Shinji's often conflicted reasons for piloting an Evangelion,
  • the direness of the Earth's situation,
  • and the fact that the show is going to have monster-mech's beating the crap out of each other.

Whether you like those elements is up to each person, but the first episode does present you with the good elements of the series and more importantly, why you should continue watching it. Compare that to Sekirei where it seems like, according to Tom, the first episode just sets up and presents all of the crummy generic elements of the series (are these the reasons why you should be watching it?) while episodes that come much later, according to others, finally present you with the good elements of the series. Why put your worst foot forward?

DocHauson Oct. 24, 2011 at 7:58 a.m.
@SoldierG654342: Rather than Wolpaw, I think you're more describing Sturgeon's Law: 90% of everything is shit, 10% is worth dying for (or at least defending). But yeah, anime like any other medium is not exempt from this law. Cowboy Bebop and GitS really were exceptional anime and not the rule, and there are few anime out there that I would even consider close to that level of amazing (though they do exist, but that's another topic).   

The business of anime is still just that: a business. Based on an outdated model that refuses to accept new realities and technologies in the market, but still a business. To say I should feel obligated to support that business even when it produces a product I don't like is bullshit, but apparently some otaku are willing to make that argument. Which is why the vast majority of recent stuff is tailored to these otaku who buy figures or is based off a manga/light novel franchise that already has a built-in fanbase ready to be exploited. That's why so much anime is "guy with harem wish-fulfillment" instead of "meta-look at the future of our species."  It's why the guy who directed Fractale swore off anime when his show bombed compared to whatever it is that Akiyuki Shinbo gets away with (disclaimer: I still love him for it). It's why Ikkitousen keeps getting sequels and Nichijou is doomed despite all the cash KyoAni poured into it. 
 
Then again, is it really all that different from the current movie or TV business over here: where the networks play it safe with one boring sitcom after another that are nigh-indistinguishable? Where the only ones who can push for a unique story are famous directors or actors, and even then the place you'll probably find them are on cable networks like AMC or HBO where they're more willing to take a chance on a crazy story.
 
I forgot where I was going with all this. I guess the tl;dr version is that anime producers pander to the lowest common denominator like any other entertainment business, and while that doesn't mean you should swear off the whole medium, it also means you shouldn't feel obligated to defend a show solely because it is ANIME. Under Sturgeon's Law, they are just as likely to suck as any TV show or movie.
SoldierG654342on Oct. 24, 2011 at 8:26 a.m.

@DocHaus said:

Then again, is it really all that different from the current movie or TV business over here: where the networks play it safe with one boring sitcom after another that are nigh-indistinguishable?

In reality, no, it's not any different. But that realization was a huge blow to the Western anime/manga crowd because the exceptional shows that they cut their teeth on engendered this sense of anime's inherent superiority to other mediums, which was the foundation for many peoples large investments of time and money. They didn't realize then that only the good stuff was making it overseas.

I know a few people overseas who claim to love American television because their only exposure to it has been HBO series. They think all American shows are that sophisticated and well produced. It's the same thing; only the notable series get exported and create the idea of inherent superiority. The only diffrence is that (I hope) there arn't any people with shelves full of The Sopranoes figures.

MrASSH0LEon Oct. 24, 2011 at 8:43 a.m.

Eureka seven FTW

metalsnakezeroon Oct. 24, 2011 at 1:08 p.m.

Going to watch DtB season 2 without finishing season 1? May not be a good idea.

And I definitely agree with you on fan-service when it goes wrong.

I know it is tough to watch some series that aren't good in the first few episodes but you may want to look carefully at those episodes as it is build up to something good.

I really don't want you to watch the EDEN OF THE EAST movies when you haven't finish watching the 11 episode series since lack of information does hurt the show.

Makoto_Mizuhara_Sakamotoon Oct. 24, 2011 at 1:40 p.m.

More shows to either continue or not, but there's never any mention of The Slayers anymore. It's almost upsetting that one of the better D&D-style fantasy anime out there is being GROSSLY overlooked for the Watch & Learn series on here.

EganTheVile1on Oct. 24, 2011 at 2:36 p.m.

It's weird to me that I agree with you 90% of the time Tom, I am not someone who bothers acting like I like something that I dont, that said some of the series people say, "Wait, it gets better" really dont. The action, stories, and what not may improve, but with the same unlikable characters and predictable writing. Eureka 7 was one I enjoyed, I thought the world the characters lived in was interesting, and the whole high tech surfer rebels who happen to have the most bad ass mech in existence was almost like a modernized Voltron with more real characters. (Voltron meets Point Break)

Thanks for throwing LaMB on the list of things to come, I first heard of that as being mentioned by Gia on a news article on the animax page right here on Animevice and watched it on Hulu, nice to see a follow up years later in the form of a W&L

blaakmawfon Oct. 24, 2011 at 5:04 p.m.

Just some fanboys gettin' miffed 'cause you wont give them the pat on the back that they desperately want for liking certain shows. This whole internet thing is so chock full of babies.

sickVisionz moderator on Oct. 24, 2011 at 5:12 p.m.

@DocHaus said:

It's why Ikkitousen keeps getting sequels and Nichijou is doomed despite all the cash KyoAni poured into it.

To be fair, Nichijou is a comedy that is completely unfunny 90% of the time. That can't be ignored when discussing its failure. I'd also say that a super cute school girl comedy isn't exactly the best example of a show that's not pandering to otaku.

PenguinDuston Oct. 26, 2011 at 7:47 a.m.

An interesting read and I respect your position, Tom even if I disagree on a few points. To begin with, I don’t believe that Whiskey Media would ever encourage any specific review from any of their writers. I was a frequent listener of Gamespot’s podcast under Jeff Gerstmann before the controversy that led to his dismissal and followed him over to Giant Bomb. I understand their stance on free criticism. However, I don’t believe it’s a mistake to say that the staffs across the Whiskey sites I visit share very similar viewpoints on controversial subjects. And why wouldn’t they? There is nothing wrong with a company wanting to present itself in a particular way and one way they do that is through their hiring practices. No one is going to confuse Fox News with Free Speech TV because their respective journalists approach each story from an outlook that coincides with that of management. Dissent doesn’t exist not because of editorial pressure but because the employees all share the same opinions. Again, there is nothing wrong with that since you want everyone to get along in their work environment. For me, I expect a certain perspective on controversial topics from Whiskey Media articles and have rarely been surprised.

Next, I agree that Watch & Learn is about snap judgments. I think the “watch” part of the title should be emphasized because each of us will have a different perspective to the shows featured. I would hope that differing opinions will continue to appear in the comments of each post. Reading what everyone has to say is part of the fun. The postulation that everything is crap these days is a bit worn for me, but I don’t begrudge others for having that belief.

Finally, I firmly do not agree that sticking with a show is “cocked up”. There are several shows which I stuck with despite finding their initial episodes uninspired and I am happy I did. Lucky Star is irritatingly verbose in its look at the mundane through the first four shows. It wants to be clever but comes off as pretentious, but then the scripts dial it all down a notch and the pacing improves. At that point it transforms into a worthwhile slice-of-life comedy. I found the first few shows of Captain Harlock Space Pirate dull and tedious; however due to the main character’s reputation within anime history, I forged ahead. The series has since become one of my all-time favorites. There were several times during the early episodes of shows like Legend of the Legendary Heroes, Star Driver and Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo where I asked myself if I should bother pressing onward. For each of those, I am thankful that I did. I have the patience to give a show more than one or two episodes to hook me and rarely will I abandon a series entirely. In fact, Divergence Eve is the only show I can say I actively despise and I made it through all of season one. I don’t see it as a “charitable giving of time” but an education in addition to entertainment. When some tells me, “it gets better”, I am intrigued. If a show improves the farther I get into it, I’d like to experience that for myself. Goodness knows, I’ve seen enough that fall apart toward the end. If a downturn can occur within a series, I see no reason why the opposite wouldn’t be equally plausible.

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