Thoughts on Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex

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(Possible spoilers)

Can you believe that as a guy who calls himself an anime fan, I’ve only just watched Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex? Even worse, I’ve never watched the movie (the original one). Please reserve all of your judgement for me until the end of this post as I continue to share my thoughts on this series and not explain in any way, shape or form why it took me so long to get around to this. When I first heard about GITS:SAC one word came up and that was philosophical, that led me to believe that this would be one of the most philosophical anime I’d ever get to watch in my lifetime and… I haven’t lived long enough to confirm this so I’ll get back to this in about 30 years. There is a lot of philosophy in this anime and it does cause deep thinking which is always good, in fact I’m pretty sure that a few episodes touch upon topics that go over my head. Moving on, the series follows section 9 as they track down a hacker known as the laughing man, this isn’t the only thing though as they also go through many other situations which gives some insight into specific characters.

The first thing I have to say is that I feel as if I might not have understood the series and characters as well as I could have given that I haven’t watched the film. Only time will tell if this is true, anyway I did manage to see that it was an interesting plot and I didn’t know what to expect from it. There are two types of episodes: standalone episodes and complex episodes and in my opinion it was a lot easier to be invested in the complex episodes because those were the ones that made up the story. I didn’t really mind what the standalone episodes had to offer because a lot of philosophy took place in those episodes and it allowed for thinking without paying any more attention to the series than needed since standalone stories were limited to one episode. Due to the nature of the standalone episodes, I felt that the season was unnecessary extended especially when considering that most of the episodes in the series are standalone episodes. The complex episodes clearly show that the story requires 100% concentration, it’s not one of those ones where you can doze off during a few lines and still have a general idea of what’s going on, YOU WILL GET LOST! The truth is that you should be paying attention when watching anime anyway but because of the layout of the series, it was hard to keep track of the story. The complex episodes were split amongst the standalone ones and most of the story took place in the final few episodes, which for me made a task of remembering what happened and piecing everything together. If I had to guess why it was like this, I’d say that it made for a way to insert more philosophy in the series as it would have most likely been confusing if there were too many topics being tackled in the main story.

I wasn’t very invested in any of the characters, in fact you might have noticed that I didn’t write the names of those in section 9 at the beginning of the post like how I usually do when writing up my thoughts on anime series. The truth is that their names frequently escape my mind, I only remember the major (whose real name wasn’t revealed until a couple of episodes in), Batou, Togusa and Aramaki without much trouble which is because they get most of the shine in the series. The characters mostly seem like they’re standard get down to business people and I’m assuming that because of the nature of their work, much isn’t meant to be left in terms of personality. It’s not a problem that I didn’t connect with the characters because I don’t think that the series ever intended for that and this isn’t the first time that I haven’t connected with characters when watching an anime (Kurozuka and Shaman King to name a couple). I know that there’s a second season so maybe that might provide some character development, if it follows the same formula as the first season.

If I still engaged my philosophical side, or even engaged it regularly then I might say that this anime is one that I’d be calling a masterpiece a couple of years down the line. It doesn’t mean that I can’t see some of the greatness that was displayed, in fact, I had to go back and rewatch the final conversation between the major and the laughing man to understand what was going on in terms of the laughing man as a character and a concept. I liked the critiques that the show had on individuality, to think that a group of robots who constantly synchronised with each other became more individual with each sync was interesting, not to mention it led to a conversation about what makes them individual, I felt like it was a reminder that no two people can ever be the same, even if both go through the same things. I know that the meaning of the conversation was even deeper, given that they also talked about things such as experiencing death and if it made them any closer to being like a human. The laughing man was a lot deeper than I expected and in the end, his purpose seemed to be non-existent pretty much due to the involvement of other people who added their own meaning to what he stood for in order to fit in with his narrative (kind of like feminism on social media).

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Deep Jeffrey is trying to come back

If it wasn’t obvious before, then I can say that I’m not used to watching anime like this, I usually see loads of fighting and moments that make me shout ‘jheeze!’ however I can appreciate when an anime makes me think.

Outside of the individuality subject, I did see that there were plenty of wisdom nuggets and a few of those things stood out to me. The major telling a villain to change himself if he had a problem with the world was one purely because it goes against what I think but when thinking about it, it’s a lot easier and more realistic than trying to change the world. There was something said in the twelfth episode which I don’t remember too well, however it was along the lines of disagreeing with vicarious living and detaching yourself from reality and it’s something that I agree with because I don’t really see the point of treating somebody else’s achievements as my own.

I think because of the layout of the episodes, my impression was ‘ok, so this is happening’, if the standalones were put together and the complex episodes were put together, or if there were less standalones, I would have appreciated this series more. It wasn’t as if the layout did any serious damage to the series, especially considering that the first three episodes were standalone episodes. I also didn’t know how to feel about the ending if I’m honest, I don’t think it was crappy, just convenient. Shit really went down in episode 25 and then in the final episode, it turns out that it was all planned. A lot of characters started getting added closer to the end of the series which I felt could have been developed on earlier at the expense of the standalone episodes and I felt that because of the amount of antagonists that were there, it was easier to remove the laughing man from that role and in the end, I felt that the antagonist who was punished was unworthy of the role.

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What the show might have well said to me about the antagonist who got in trouble

The series had me feeling that I have to watch the movie because I’m curious to see what it’s about (I mean the original, not the Hollywood remake, I heard Scarlett Johansson and everybody else in it sucks… Scarlett Johansson is still a very respectable woman and on the off chance that she reads this, I want her to see that I want to spend a day with her, respecting her).

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Fist bump of Scarlett Johansson respect

Other thoughts:

  • The soundtrack for this series is amazing and I’m hoping there’ll be more to enjoy in the 2nd Gig
  • Aeria Gloris!!!
  • When I watched the opening credits for the first time, it made me wonder if I made the right choice giving up the drugs.
  • The plot of some of the standalone episodes were a bit complex (yeah, I said it)
  • Maybe it’s me but I thought the drawing for the major was inconsistent.

Thoughts on Black Lagoon: Roberta’s Blood Trail

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(Possible spoilers)

After watching Black Lagoon, I had to watch Roberta’s Blood Trail and to be honest I should have watched it a lot sooner. I wrote some thoughts on Black Lagoon and the second barrage earlier in the year if you want to check that out as well. The OVA is aptly named to be honest and it follows the lagoon company, mostly Rock and Revy as they help Garcia Lovelace and his maid Fabiola Iglesias search for Roberta when she goes missing after the death of his dad. There’s more to the story than the goose chase as it brings the political nature of Roanapur into the light as well as Rock’s descent into the lifestyle of the city.

The first thing that stuck out to me was how much more story based these episodes were than the previous set of episodes. There was the occasional story arc however they didn’t last very long, not that you’d expect them to, given how many episodes were in each season; I reckon it could have gotten away with being a character of the day type show if it really came down to it. I felt like I craved some character development because Black Lagoon has an interesting cast of characters and Roberta was without doubt one of those characters. I’d be lying if I said that the OVA didn’t deliver on that front because I got to see the side of Roberta that she at all costs didn’t want to reveal to Garcia and I also got to see a different side to Rock. I feel like I should have seen the direction that Rock was going in but I didn’t which made it better.

This group of episodes might have been based on Roberta but I found that I was more interested in Rock’s story and his mindset. I feel like he had a less active role in the OVA as opposed to the series yet the focus never really stopped being on him; he gambled the lives of everybody on what came across as a game of chess (I’m still trying to figure out if it was an ego thing or not. He’s also starting to sound more like Light Yagami every time I read this) and you could see the lack of regard that he had for everybody since he seemed to be desperate to win. Yukio Washimine’s words about Rock really held some weight in this arc, at the start of it I thought that Rock was being the moral compass, especially because he seemed apprehensive when it came to helping as he knew that it wouldn’t end well but that really wasn’t the case. Rock really proved that he’s the guy that stays in the twilight zone between being normal and completely messed up and I thought that there might even be a case to argue that Rock enjoys the lifestyle.

I had no problem with the dark direction of the OVA, I felt like Black Lagoon and the second barrage were dark but it kind of creeped around the fact that it was dark if that makes sense. Since this wasn’t Rock actively comparing the morals of Roanapur to his own, it looked as if there was more leeway to show how dark the series could get. In all honesty I felt that the way these episodes were presented made everything better; I feel like I said that in Black Lagoon it was clear that everybody had skeletons in their closet and if those secrets were going to be explored then it only made sense that the series would go down a darker path. I will say that there were some moments that honestly made me scratch my head, I really didn’t expect to see some things and I tried to ask myself if they held any significance which I’m struggling to figure out; namely when Garcia kissed Roberta and when Garcia watched Roberta dry hump a soldier.

Even though five episodes were dedicated to this story, I still feel like I didn’t see enough episodes (or at least they could have made the episodes an hour). One thing that I’ve accepted about Black Lagoon is that it leaves me wanting more, luckily it’s coming back from hiatus so I’m looking forward to seeing the anime come back eventually and seeing the direction that Rock and Revy’s relationship goes after what Fabiola said.

Other thoughts:

  • A couple of the rebellious types I see on social media would like Roberta
  • When the series comes back I want to see more of a story involving Benny and Dutch
  • I wish they didn’t remix the opening theme song

Favourite anime moments 2

(THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS)

Last time that I wrote about anime moments, I talked about Rock Lee’s fight with Gaara being a standout moment for me and now I think about it, maybe that’s what I should be writing about today. I say this because one moment came to my head and I feel like I’ve disrespected my favourite anime series by not starting the series of posts of with this.

Anybody who’s watched Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood knows what it’s about and if you haven’t then go and look at a synopsis on Wikipedia, I’ll even give you the link. Moving on, one of my favourite moments from FMAB is the scene where Alphonse sacrifices his body so that Edward can get his arm back. This scene is so emotional because there’s a lot to consider; Alphonse sacrifices himself for the greater good as you’d expect from a hero but so much more is added to it because Edward sacrificed his arm to put Alphonse in a metal body otherwise he would have lost his brother for good. It seems like the sacrifice is made for nothing when Edward kind of ends up back at square one but at least he’s got someone to take his anger out on.

The music really gets you in your feels as well because it’s so depressing, not to mention Edward’s background. I don’t know how I would have felt if this was how the story ended, because there are a lot of things that I like about the characters in FMAB that I don’t really see of other characters in the same genre. For a story that I feel really played up its emotional moments, I’ve got to say that this really hit the nail on the head.

Favourite anime moments

I’ve asked so many questions about anime, so I might as well ask another one. What’s your favourite anime moment? I have to admit that I’ve got many so this kind of post will be continuous and if you’ve got many then I’d like to see them (I’m always looking for new anime to watch).

One anime moment that immediately comes to mind for me is Rock Lee vs. Gaara in Naruto, to this day I still get excited watching that fight. When Lee was first introduced, he faced off against Sasuke and I didn’t expect him to win because he looked like a gag character but when he won, he made things interesting given that it was obvious that he hadn’t shown his full potential and he admitted that there was someone stronger than him.

In my opinion Rock Lee vs. Gaara was easily the best match of the chuunin exams (even better than Shikamaru’s match with Kin Tsuchi), during this match, Lee showed more of his potential and I don’t think I’d seen so much action in Naruto up until that point, in fact the show had been kind of emotional (not to say that the end of this fight wasn’t emotional) so seeing that change really caught my attention and the music could have gotten my blood pumping if I was more excitable.

I love seeing fights in anime (that’s probably part of why I love watching it) and this will forever stand out as a memorable one.

Thoughts on Black Lagoon (and the second barrage)

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This was going to be a quick thoughts post but I just kept on writing…

After a long while, I’m back with one of my quick thoughts; if I’m honest, I was slacking when it came to anime which isn’t a good look. I have no idea why either, I looked at the manga and anime section of this blog to see when the last time I wrote up some thoughts and it’s been a year. This year I’m going to try not to slack (as much) and with that being said let’s actually get to the point of this post.

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My inner self telling me to watch some anime

So as the name of the post tells you, I’ve been watching Black Lagoon. This is something that I wish I watched earlier (at least I got there in the end right?). The series is about the lagoon company which is made up of Rokuro Okajima (Rock), Revy, Dutch and Benny who are a group of pirates that take on missions from various clients and always end up getting into some crazy shit. The crazy shit as I’ve decided to name it is pretty much a result of the fact that they live in a crime infested city called Roanapur which also houses a lot of scumbags.

When I watched this I didn’t know what to expect, I just knew that it was highly rated but after watching a couple of episodes the first thing that came to mind was the action. If I had to guess, I’d say that the action was the main draw of the series and I can see why, it’s just so in your face with guns, guns and more guns (this shit is actually cool when you watch it). It pretty much got to a point where I’d watch an episode asking myself, how and when is it all going to kick off and it felt like the episodes were moving a lot faster when the action scenes were on screen. Outside of the action, I liked the characters but at the same time I feel like there could have been more done to explore the characters.

Don’t get me wrong, the characters are interesting without the exposition but at the same time I always like to know a decent amount of background information about the characters in question because that’s what really gets me invested. I’ll say this, I felt that all of the characters were captured well, due to the fact that Rock is the moral compass in the series; he’s the only one that has morals whilst everybody else has thrown theirs away. What’s interesting about this is that it seems like everybody else wants to have some kind of a conscience but they just can’t find a reason to because the world has messed them up that badly.

Something that caught me off guard was the portrayal of the female characters. I was really impressed with all of them because when I watch anime I’m used to seeing female characters that have abilities but are ultimately useless. For me the change was refreshing to see, as some of the most intimidating characters were female and on top of that they were actually good at what they did which is something that I’d love to see more of (at the same time it might just be that I’m watching the wrong anime). For me it’s rare that I see a female character portrayed like she’s terminator or I see a group rely on one the way that the lagoon company relied on Revy.

One of my favourite scenes:

It’s a shame that Black Lagoon was the length that it was because everybody clearly has skeletons in the closet that haven’t been cleared out. When watching the two seasons I liked the first season’s focus on the lagoon company and what they were getting into, I’d even say that the most interesting scenario in the series happened in the first season (I won’t spoil of course). The main cast of characters is probably the reason why I really liked the first season, I felt like some of the scenes were manufactured to bring out the best in the main cast which is something I’ve never said for any anime or show in general. The second season wasn’t bad, I could see that the series wanted to bring more of a focus to the other characters and it did reveal a little bit of information which once again I wish they would have gone into more detail on. The thing is that given the amount of secondary characters that there are and the length of the series there wasn’t enough time to focus on them.

The series is deeper than the action that it shows and I’m going to admit, it flew over my head. There are a few instances which involve Rock and other characters comment on his morals and the life that they live in comparison to Rock. When watching those scenes I had to watch them all over again I could only come to one conclusion which was that Rock can’t really take such a moral high ground which was interesting to me (I can’t be sure if this was the conclusion that I was meant to get or if it’s open to interpretation). This is another reason that I wish that there was more exposition in the series and that the length was longer.

Other thoughts: Usually I like to watch anime where the story moves along and then you get the big climax but after watching this and a couple of others, I can see that my tastes are slowly developing. I think I could have possibly packed some of the stuff I wrote about into this section but, you’ve read up to here so there’s not much point now. Roanapur is the most fucked up city I’ve seen in anime so far.

Shoutout to anime

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I’ve watched anime for a long time but as much thought as I’ve given to it, I’ve realised that I’ve not given any thought to it (if that’s makes any sense). Having read ‘10 reasons why it’s awesome to be an anime fan’ I realised that I’ve never given anime the shoutout that it deserves which is weird given that there are a lot of phases that I’ve been through and forgotten whilst anime has gone on to help form the person that I am today.

From before I knew what anime was, I was already watching it; shows like Dragon Ball Z, Pokemon and Beyblade formed huge parts of my childhood and even though I didn’t understand what was going on, there was always something about it that was appealing. A little while later I found what I would describe as my true gateway anime, Bleach. I could go on about how amazed I was by the art style and the fights but the truth is that it did way more than that, it made me open to watching Naruto and Reborn! From there the anime kept flooding in.

The first scene I was ever exposed to in Bleach:

During my schooldays, my friends and I would constantly talk about anime and it was honestly like we watched nothing else (come to think of it, on my sick days I’d just watch anime all day long). I can’t say that it’s always been plain sailing because there have been people in my life who have tried to make me feel pathetic for watching anime and for a while it worked. The thing is that as much as I tried to push it down I just couldn’t hide it, as if deep down I didn’t want to and I’m glad for that.

I do like to watch anime as a relaxation activity but at the same time, I’ve noticed that I’ve picked up mannerisms from shows that I’ve watched and whilst it’s not done anything for me socially, it’s still cool to notice that I pick these things up given that I don’t really tend to pick things up from shows. Anime has shown me that it can encourage critical thinking, something that I feel I’ve slightly benefitted from and I’m not sure how to explain it, but it’s taught me more about writing a story than anything else I’ve ever paid attention to. I’m someone who likes to imagine a lot of things and the way that I see some things, makes me realise that at my age, my imagination is still kind of wild and I love that; without anime I don’t think that would have been possible given that there are so many things that I see in my mind that I’m sure I’ve seen in anime.

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Me realising the influence that anime has on my thoughts

These days I can’t lie, I’m not the type of guy that makes it immediately obvious that I like anime (other anime fans are able to easily tell though) but I don’t feel like I need to because of what I know it’s done for me and what it will do for me in the future. One thing that I haven’t mentioned is the confidence that’s come from being comfortable with watching anime, it’s another thing that I can’t explain but an inner confidence has come from watching anime and knowing that one day I’ll be able to show to my children (when I have them of course).

I definitely have to give more shoutouts to anime, the ideas, the mannerisms and pretty much everything else that helps to form myself, especially my creative side would not exist without it!

Is there a deeper meaning to DBZ?

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A while ago, I had a conversation with somebody who had just finished re-watching the Dragon Ball series and this person in all of their super infinite, absolutely undying, eternally present wisdom said that they could see deeper into meaning of the Dragon Ball series (this person said this for every anime series that they watched) and so I decided to bite and asked what the meaning behind Dragon Ball Z was.

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Me waiting for the answer

I was told that Dragon Ball Z is about more than just finding the dragon balls (which is true because it’s also about guys getting beaten up), DBZ is a deeper story which is meant to represent the inherent greed in human beings because of how the dragon balls are (occasionally) fought over and the lengths that characters go to, to find the balls shows what humans are like in terms of benefitting themselves…

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Now when I heard this, I won’t lie, I thought ‘WOW! How did you come up with that!?’ it sounded deep and it kind of made sense until I started thinking about it. When I gave it some thought and applied what I knew of the DB series to what I heard from Profound-Sama-Sensei, I thought ‘wow, how did you come up with THAT?’ (Read this sentence in a confused voice). All of a sudden it just sounded so stupid and it felt like Doctor Deep was trying too hard to sound smart. I have my thoughts on trying to sound smart but that’s for another post (I say this but never follow up).

If I’m correct, I’m pretty sure that the only characters who knew about the dragon balls were the Z fighters, Frieza (and all those associated), the Kai’s, the Namekians and I think Babidi (really not too sure on that), there were a few others but not any that would prove this point.

From what I remember, the characters who were the most relentless in their pursuit of the dragon balls were Frieza and Vegeta and they weren’t even good guys so of course they were going to play dirty to get them. I’m also pretty sure that when the Dragon Balls were used in DBZ, they were used to perform selfless acts (restoring Namek, bringing back dead allies, etc.) Is there more that’s being said here? Are most humans evil with the capacity to care for others and perform extreme acts of kindness? It’s really confusing to me. Despite the series being named after the dragon balls, I thought that as the series progressed, they continued to take more of a backseat until they came back as the (ugh!) Black Star Dragon Balls (You know what, I’m sorry for bringing that up, it wasn’t even DBZ).

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WHAT QUESTIONS AM I MEANT TO ASK?! WHAT’S GOING ON!!!!!

Maybe it’s me, because I didn’t see much to Dragon Ball Z other than beating bad guys up, friendship and more beating bad guys up (you know, typical shonen shit).

Is there a deeper message that you can see? Can you see the message that Johnny Insight claimed to see? Or am I paying this more attention than I should be? Let me know your thoughts.

What’s your favourite anime?

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Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, my favourite anime

Given the amount of people that there are on wordpress (and in the world) who love anime, I find it weird that I haven’t asked the most basic (and maybe essential) question. What is your favourite anime? (and why?) I’ve read about so many different anime series and even given some a watch purely based of what the review said, but I don’t think that any of the anime I’ve read about comes across as the favourite anime of those bloggers. Everybody in the anime blogging community has got a deep love for anime which is what makes me wonder which anime it is that stands above others for them.

My favourite anime is Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. I feel that it did everything right from the beginning to the end. I loved the story and how every part of it made complete sense and when I finished watching it, I had no questions left to ask because I felt that they were all answered. The show had the right amount of comedy, seriousness and emotion and nothing seemed out of place or forced. Whenever characters were drawn differently for comedic effect, I always laughed which is something I don’t do too often when watching anime.

There were a fair amount of fights but it felt like fighting didn’t form a huge part of this anime and on top of that I was still hooked on every fight, I also loved the dialogue (Edward’s words to Rose about finding her own path are probably some of the most profound words I’ve heard from a show). To this day, it’s the only anime that’s made me shed a tear which I find amazing considering that it was one of the first anime that I watched and I’ve watched a lot more since. I didn’t feel a connection with every character but I still felt like I had a reason to care about every character and despite the fact that not all of the homunculi were killed in cold blood, it was still so satisfying to see them defeated (Even Envy).

To be honest there’s a lot that I could go on about but I wanted to make this post short, so I’ll leave you with this scene that I always think about when it comes to this anime.

One of the benefits of reading posts of the anime blogging community is the exposure that I’ve had to different anime and the views that people have towards them and it’s something I look forward to reading more of!

An important question on anime

 

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I thought I’d just write a short post today on anime. When it comes to anime I have so many questions but I think that there’s one question that has to come before all of the other questions that I have. What makes it so amazing to watch? Everybody has something that they love about it but I assume that there must be a drawing point that everybody agrees on. For me this has been one of the biggest questions that I don’t think I’ve ever really gotten an answer to, anime can be one of those things that you’ll find yourself watching religiously if you’re not careful but that is also one of the most beautiful things about it, the fact that it’s so immersive. Just in general anime is an amazing thing and personally I’d love to have more to do with it in the future.

If there isn’t a definitive answer, I’d still like to know what makes people watch it as I find it interesting to try and see things like this from another perspective.