With the vast amount of genres of anime that exist on the market these days, it becomes honestly hard to pick a good title. Sure, the classics are there and more than likely will be revisited, but there is a finite amount of times that you can watch Cowboy Bebop before you can call out what a character will say three seconds before the line is uttered. With the task of finding new anime to watch comes with it the way to actually get new titles. There are reviews in a good deal of media (from magazines to internet shows), podcasts, blogs, and from time to time the occasional panel in an issue of the New York Times. However, to me, I have always found recommendations from friends to be one of the more reliable forms of picking new titles to view. Sure, sometimes we just watch whatever comes on adult swim and Anime Network or pick up a new title at an anime convention, but the opinions of your friends hold more ground that going to the Funimation booth at Anime Weekend Atlanta and playing Eenie Meenie Miney
But while recommendations from friends are good, they are not always right as of course your friends will have different tastes than you not to mention what they may call “amazing” just ends up being “annoying” to you. And with this comes the topic of this edition of Anime Mistakes: The Exploitation Anime.
To give a brief explaination as to what I mean by Exploitation Anime, simply look at the definition of the exploitation film. Excuse me while I quote Wikipedia for a minute. “ Exploitation film is a type of film that is promoted by "exploiting" often lurid subject matter. These films then need something to exploit, such as a big star, special effects, sex, violence, romance, etc.” And while most movies need something to exploit, most of the time movies that fall into this category are ones with a ton of gratuitous violence, gore, death, and anything that looks cool and would make a high school kid put down Grand Theft Auto for five minutes.
The purpose of this blog entry is to examine three anime shows/films that I consider to market how violent they are while glossing over any form of story, plot, or character development that could very well exist in the actual show itself. Now before anyone gets all defensive of their favorite anime, I would like to point out that I have a final opinion of the things I am criticizing and that will come at the end of the blog post. With that said, let’s get into the list.
Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni (aka When The Cicadas Cry)
What happens when you take five cute girls, a new male student moving to a small town and the girls being attached to him in one way or another? This sounds like the recipe for a harem anime but that would be far from the truth. Add a makeshift bomb, axe murdering, conspiracy, suicides, torture, and deaths by bludgeoning and that fully completes the picture of this show. Quite literally, the first scene of the show has the main lead beating two girls to death with a baseball bat, a descent into madness the audience gets to see over time. When I first got a glimpse of this show back in 2007, the whole premise of it was pitched as a massive trip into chaos and insanity. I didn’t believe them until I saw a girl stab herself in the neck and I was convinced they were right. Actually getting to sit down and watch the show made me even more confused with how things were operated. Granted, the second season entitled Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni Kai is supposed to answer the questions, but the amount of crazy behavior and sheer mind probing make the twenty-seven episode anime a trip that even Hunter Thompson wouldn’t want to be a part of.
This film is a nonstop action packed adventure with a quest of a ninja and a sword for hire samurai trying to stop the villain from stealing a massive amount of gold for himself. While that is a simple synopsis for the uninitiated, there was a lot more going on in the ninety minute film. While not relying on the cute tactics to paint their characters likeable and such, the events of the film really illustrate the whole exploitation of the show. Body parts flying everywhere, The Thing from the Fantastic Four with a giant boomerang and more violence make this resemble a Quentin Tarantino film. Hell, the main female lead gets raped a total of four times in the course of an hour and a half (yes I counted). Granted this is slightly unfair since the film did not market the graphic portions of the film to grab the audience, it is scenes like this that stick with the watchers when they are done. For example, I remember a ton of the more violent scenes than the actual plot of the movie and the last time I saw the movie was in 2007 before I re-watched it for the purpose of the blog.
If you’re still reading, I think you probably know what the epitome of the exploitation anime is going to be.
Is this really a surprise that I am including this on my list? The show is thirteen episodes and so full of dismemberment and death that most will forget the plot in favor of getting to see the main female lead decapitate someone and use their body as a shield (that happens actually). To prove a point, I went back to watch the first episode again to do a body count. Not counting the minute and a half for the introduction, there was a total of twenty-four on screen deaths in the course of six minutes. I can not recall a scene with so much death in an anime. With all the body parts and blood everywhere, I am under the impression that if Quentin Tarantino watched this, he would consider it to be too much. Granted things die down after some time, but events escalate back and forth with bloodshed occurring in massive quantities and sometimes for good reasons too…although the one scene with four kids and a puppy still leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
So, after putting these shows on the chopping block, I must have some sort of opinion of them. Why else would I watch them if I didn’t? Well, the answer is divided. I thought Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni and Ninja Scroll were excellent. Yes, the gratuitous amounts of violence are a bit overdrawn, but I found myself hooked to the two and thoroughly enjoyed them. Elfen Lied not so much. Its not that the show was bad, it’s just so much more could have been done. Not to mention there were other possibilities that could have been explored that were present in the manga, especially how Lucy and Kouta’s relationship did a complete 180 from it. All and all, it’s something you go to watch for the experience and to see how graphic it is. Its like The Human Centipede…the premise sounds somewhat ridiculous but you go for the graphic nature.
In conclusion, anime series can do whatever they please just so long as they do not sacrifice plot for the thing they marketing as the main selling point of an anime. Which is a perfect segue way for the next edition of Anime Mistakes: The Harem Anime.
(As a side note, if you actually like these blogs I am doing, I encourage you to leave a comment explaining what you like and do not like. I also can take requests for future topics…possibly)