Anime Review

Akame Ga Kill; My Thoughts on Its Aesthetics. What Kind of World is This!?

So, I have written a couple of posts before this one on Akame Ga Kill, as I was watching it, which are to be found easily on my blog site, but they were basically very general posts on simple concepts to be found easily within the show. While I like those posts, and they are sincere, I realize that I have neglected to actually write about the specifics of what is good or bad about the show itself, for example: What do I think of the Art Style? Are the Characters well developed? How is the world-building? How well done is the plot progression? My first post, “I’m Watching Akame Ga Kill; Is It a Classic Fantasy, or Just Another Over-Hyped Anime?” was specifically about Akame Ga Kill’s place in popularity, and whether or not I think it deserves it by my viewing of its first few episodes. The next one, was about the killing off of side characters, and how mad I was that a certain character was killed off just to bring the viewers emotions to a boil. Now that I’ve already done that, let me backtrack a bit, and allow me to tell you just exactly how I like or dislike Akame Ga Kill for its actual specific creative specifications. Yes, I know, specific specifications is a bit redundant, so sue me. First off, lets start with the visual aesthetics of the show’s characters. As I’ve said elsewhere, I think that the character design and overall aesthetic of the show is simply iconic. Everyone has an instantly memorable look; simple enough to remember or recreate, and detailed enough to satisfy the avid fanboys/girls. For example, according to my imperfect memory, Akame has long black hair with messy bangs, a black, sleeveless school-girl’s outfit complete with skirt, with a red tie and gloves, wielding a katana with a red grip. A more detailed observation will yield also a white collar with red vertical stripes, her tie has a metal boss on it, there is a red satchel attached to her red belt, which has a black line down the middle, she wears black knee-socks with brown slip on shoes, and more importantly, she has crimson irises. This applies to all characters, and everyone has this same sort of dual aesthetic, of high-school uniforms, with medieval or traditional Japanese accents, such as minimal armor or weapons. This is a look which I simply adore, and while the art style is not exactly the most detailed or strikingly mature in nature, (it still has that very rounded and clean looking cell shading look) the overall look and feel of the show is enhanced by the incredibly unique look and feel for each character. The variety is to be admired. Nobody uses a similar weapon, nobody has a similar hair style, and it seems that almost every character is sporting a different primary color. The main character carries a Roman Gladius, Akame has a Katana as I mentioned, the loli girl Mine has a sci-fi looking sniper-rifle/cannon, Sheele carries a giant pair of scissors, etc. etc. It is, to me, artistic genius.
Now, all this is well and good, but if you were to read this description without any context or knowledge of what this story is about, you might think Akame Ga Kill to be a modern story, set in present day, or perhaps the future, where the high-schoolers in question are caught in a Hunger Games, Battle Royale, or Mirai Nikki styled situation, where they are all forced to pick up weapons specific to their style of combat from different eras throughout history. Right? Wrong. This is a fantasy world, a world in which there are medieval castles, half timber houses, Middle Eastern palaces, and Victorian Villas, all within miles of each other, all within a single country of this planet. This is a jumbled up world of different eras in Architecture, jammed together to make a completely incomprehensible conflagration of disconnected visual flare, and no matter how nonsensical this construction of visuals is, it is by no means set in the present day.
This brings me swiftly to my next point, that of the world building itself. The show starts off in episode one, with a covered wagon caravan being driven by what looks to be ninja monks, what with the whole Naruto style metal forehead protector things on their hoods, on a path through some country woods. A giant, humanoid, spiky, brown Danger-Beast (yes, that’s what they call them) rises out of the ground and attacks them. Before it does any damage, Tatsumi, the main character, slices the living daylights out of it in one swift airborne attack, all before he hits the ground. When he hit the ground however, and he turned around to talk to the caravan-ninja-monks (that’s what I’ll call ‘em) I had to pause the show, and take stock of what I was seeing. There before me, in this world where there are wagon trade routes, feudal cities and subsistence farmer peasants, all wearing period appropriate dress, stands a young boy in a button-up shirt with a sweater vest and blue jeans, wearing some leather greaves and bracers for armor. Do you see my hang-up here? They’ve introduced the nature of this fantasy world as being in the past, or at least in a parallel medieval world, well before introducing the characters I talked about before, all of whom have incredibly varied but predominately modern garb.
Now, with a satisfactory explanation, or reasoning behind these aesthetic choices, there would be no problem here. The fact of the incredibly disparate gap between the style of dress, technology, and architecture, could easily be explained away by a history of some form of doomsday event, wherein an apocalypse brings the whole planet into another dark age, with vestiges of modern clothing and technology remaining, or something along those lines. This would be eminently interesting information to explore. I actually have a sneaking suspicion that this is actually the backstory of this world, but this is never explained, and the type of world-building which would clear up the mysteries of this world and its visual cues, simply is nonexistent. There exists no such explanation or history and while there was indeed a great war in the world’s past, one in which the highly advanced Imperial Arms weapons were lost, you are given enough contextual flashbacks from before that to know that such intermingling of eras existed from before the war. The show simply continues on with its plot about rebellion and fighting the evil authority without even addressing these inconsistencies. I am glad however that weapons such as Mine’s gun are definitely addressed as forgotten technology, being one among many Imperial Arms created by the good king of the capitol before the war, which were lost in the fighting. This is enough to explain the strangely creative designs for the Imperial Arms, but not for the existence of sweater vests, mini-skirts, and headphones.
To make a very necessary qualification, I must say that I have not yet finished the series. There may indeed be a satisfactory explanation for the strange fantastical yet modern imagery by the end, but the fact that such striking visuals as guns, dragons, and school uniforms, all occur continually in the same frames, and is not explained for 14 episodes, leaves much to be desired when it comes to maintaining the suspension of disbelief. There were many, many times, when I was enjoying the show, and just had to pause and think to myself, “What on earth is going on with the visuals in this show?” Because I have heard it said, “aesthetic is narrative” and I definitely believe that, but as regards this show, aesthetic SHOULD be narrative, but unfortunately is not…at least not yet…I don’t even want to address the fact that one of the characters is a were-tiger woman, who wears nothing but a strapless black tube for a bra, and white pants that have a perfect cut out in the crotch to show her black bloomers beneath visible in the banner picture above. It makes absolutely no sense, but to make that character a walking piece of fan-service. It is despicable and I wish it did not exist. I don’t mind the character herself, but her choice of clothing is absolutely ridiculous, and completely unreasonable. There is more that I could say about that, but that would be a whole other post on fan-service and morality in anime.

Anyway, to sum up, I love the character designs, (most of them) at least in concept, but I greatly wish and desire for the aesthetic choices in any show, to tell me something significant about the world. I would say any story needs that. So, I shall indeed continue to watch this show, and let you know if that ever actually happens. Thanks for reading. God bless.


My Continued Thoughts on Akame Ga Kill, episodes 4-8; Death As A Plot Device; I Am So Triggered!

So, now that I’ve continued watching past the first few episodes, I have happened upon the episode which has finally made the reasoning behind the anime’s reputation as a gut wrenching death show, clear to me. For those who have not seen the show, I shall leave the names out of it for the sake of spoilers, but throughout the first six episodes, a certain character was being slightly developed, with a sudden spike in development in episode 6, which was well received by me. I liked the character, and the development given her. In episode 6, this character is shot, bisected, and dies suddenly, and sacrificially, an event which would increase the motivation of the revolutionary faction which the main character is a part of, which is called Night Raid. This character who died protecting another Night Raid Member, was my very favorite character in the show til then, due to the amount of pathos written into her. The fact that this character was finished off so quickly, suddenly, and without showcasing her full powers, or even fulfill her full story arc before dying, seemed like such a slap in the face to me, that I am tempted to think that the writing of Akame Ga Kill is less than exemplary, rather it is somewhat to be deplored after a certain fashion. It is taking a viable favorite character of many people, and making her an “expendable crewman,” to make people understand that the situation is serious. I understand that this death gives the plot a bit more weight, and adds one more reason why the main characters should bear a grudge against the antagonists, but having more character development, and even just a bit more screen time for this person would have drastically improved the emotional impact of their death later, and left me satisfied with her death. To prove this point, another member of Night Raid dies some episodes later, yet that was not anywhere near as traumatic to the viewer, nor such a smack in the face, as the death of the previous member, owing to the fact that this next character got at least 8 episodes worth of character development, each with active screen time in each episode to give them depth. (Sigh) It may be that my liking the character that died in episode 6 somewhat clouds my judgement, but I also liked the second character who died, and yet I was OK with it. They both were really interesting, lovable characters with cool designs according to my taste; the one just got a cool, mournful, noble death while the other got a sudden, disruptive, and somewhat humiliating one, being too quick for me to really appreciate what’s happening, and too bitter for the audience to be able to actually move on from their death. This is what I would call, a cheap way to engage the audience. “Introduce a really interesting, lively character with a backstory which could be awesome when fully revealed, but only reveal a tiny bit of it, get everyone interested, and then kill them off before anyone knows what hit ’em. Yeah, that’ll get the viewers cryin’. I can hear the money just pourin’ in.” Well, I can hear some television-mob bosses quoting those words even now. But if one were to take one quick look on IMDB for episode 6, entitled “Kill the Absolute Justice,” ( by the way, yes all the episodes are entitled with “Kill the-” at the beginning,) one would quickly find that this episode, where a lovable character is killed off too quickly for us to appreciate them, is rated at least a whole point higher than the episodes immediately before or after it! This ploy, which I know from American television is an old, tired, and despicably cliched plot device, is one which invariably works. Lost did it, Breaking Bad did it, and now The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones are doing it. Now, the thing is, this tactic definitely immediately freezes that scene, that episode, the characters, and basically the rest of the show in your mind, making the show immediately a memorable one, if for the wrong reasons. I must remind myself that this tactic is not always a horrible one. If done right, it can cause a show to feel truly perilous, like no one has plot armor, and who knows what might happen next. I feel like Attack on Titan, which I actually really like as one of my favorites, (that tells you something about me) actually did do this plot device justice, because while people continuously died left and right, there was always a disturbing reason for it, and the fact that people died did not always serve the plot, but it served the reality of the world. It gave you the feeling that this is a place and a situation where humanity, while safe for the moment, is being put in the position of imminent extinction by horrible monsters, and no-one knows why or how it is happening, so sudden, meaningless deaths are a matter of course, just like in real war. Also, another thing these quick-emotional-deaths have going for them in AoT, is that all of the characters who die are secondary characters who you are immediately able to empathize with, no matter how much development is given them, and also, if they are given development, then it is always enough for you to be able to properly feel like you’ve known the character long enough now to let them go. You are never forced to accept the sudden death of a close companion of the main characters, and I have not yet had to accept the death of my dear glutton Sasha, at leat, not yet. But, for that character that just died in Akame Ga Kill, I’m still burning with anger that I was not able to see much more of her in the show as she so desperately deserved and needed as a character. Now, while all that negativity has been said, I still was not put off by this death enough to make me want to quit watching it, it did not disgust me to that degree. I immediately understood the type of show that this would be from here on out, one which murders its beautifully crafted characters with extreme prejudice for the purpose of plot convenience and quick thrills, and if they can use this trope more effectively, then I am still up for the ride. Indeed, in the very next story arc there was another death of a very close member of the cast, and yet that one was done with elegance and grace, giving you at least two more episodes to prepare you for what was to come. Will this show be able to keep up that elegance and grace? We shall see, next time. Thanks for reading and joining me on my viewing experience.

I’m Watching Akame Ga Kill; Is it a Classic Fantasy, or Just Another Over-hyped Anime?

So, this post in-particular should indeed be shorter than is my wont. That is due to the nature of it being about the fact that I am just watching Akame Ga Kill, right now, and little else. We’ll see how that goes by the time I stop writing it. I decided to watch Akame Ga Kill on a whim recently, as I usually do with anime, and not because of a review I watched, or a recommendation I listened to, which does sometimes happens but more rarely. As I slowly grow the amount of blogs I write, and attempt to become more aware of my tastes and decisions, I realize that I have been mainly watching fantasy anime as of late. This has not always been so. I had finished Sword Art Online, and Log Horizon almost three years ago, and felt a little burnt out by the RPG, Fantasy, Isekai genre in general. Since then I have remained in the realms of supernatural thrillers, mysteries, horrors, and comedy, without any further dives (SAO reference) into another fantasy world. That was until what I might term another “SAO killer” came along to put a shot in the already holey and steroid ridden arm of fantasy anime called, Re:Zero. After finishing that first 2016 season, which is useless when it comes to plot conclusion or emotional closure, (at least for me) I craved even more of this Fantasy genre, this thing which I did not know I had been starving for. That is when I actively began searching out more anime like Re:Zero, and ran across Danmachi, and then Konosuba, and you can read my thoughts on those elsewhere on my blog site. Now, I know for certain that I am a very mystery oriented person; any Sherlock Holmes story is my favorite short story over anyone else’s, and I have watched almost every iteration of Holmes in cinema that I could, so I did enjoy myself while taking a hiatus from fantasy to focus on the more dark and mysterious side of anime between Log Horizon and Re:Zero. To be honest though, I am so much more happy analyzing and agonizing over points of logic or plot when it comes to fantasy themes than I am with mystery when it comes to anime. Maybe it is because of the supposed lack of big mystery oriented anime in the medium, I don’t know. Now I’m kind of caught up in the whirlwind of second rate but enjoyable fantasy shows, which I am thoroughly enjoying while also able to thoroughly enjoy criticizing heavily. I also watched an exorbitant amount of Fate/Zero while in this mindset, and even that show was enjoyable for me to watch, while being one of the most vacuous stories I have ever seen. This is the state of mind I am in, OK. So now, while sitting on the couch, waiting for another episode of Attack on Titan 2 to come out, I stumble across an anime that My Anime List has been recommending to me ever since I told it that I liked Mirai Nikki and Tokyo Goul, that being Akame Ga Kill. The main things which drew me to the show when I first came across it were the facts that it was a thriller type, something like Mirai Nikki, which I liked for its plot and action. I liked that it had cover art and character design which I viewed (and still do) as being incredibly interesting and beautiful according to my tastes, and yes, that it was a fantasy. (I do always get sort of excited when I see the cover art for this show, even now, and the design for Katana Wielding Akame is absolutely brilliant.) This is a show however that I had sort of unwillingly decided to avoid based on reviews alone, because almost all of these reviews had nothing but negativity with which to describe it. “It’s a harem anime, don’t be fooled by the action. It’s so bloody no normal person should be able to stomach it. The animation is so inconsistent it might as well be Fate/Stay Night,” and so on and so forth. All of these things hit home with my perspective of morality I bring to anime, which states that the reasons to not watch shows are determined by them being too sensual and fan-servicey, being too gory or violent, or having a very shallow or meaningless plot. So, I hesitantly turned a blind eye to Akame Ga Kill, believing it to be another over-hyped, over-rated crowd-pleaser show, with no depth. That is, until now, and to be honest, I still don’t know if I will like this show in the end, because I am only a few episodes in, but I can tell you right now, that two things it is not; badly animated, or shallow plot-wise. Yet again, I must stress the importance of expectations when it comes to entertainment. If I had jumped on the bandwagon of hype and marketing which surrounded it in the Summer of 2014, declaring it the apparent savior of anime, I might have been disappointed with the somewhat obvious direction which Akame Ga Kill goes in, in its first arc. But hey, that first episode, while bloody, illogical and ridiculous, was still incredibly enjoyable, strangely enough, as well as fascinating, and by the third episode, you are finding depth you never expected to find in a show of this sort. Is it a classic? Well, again, I don’t know, but I am not put off from the idea that it might be, even if it is a bit like pulp-fiction for the masses. The fact that something is flawed does not preclude it from becoming a classic. So, the titular question of is it a classic, or just some more over-hyped anime trash, is one that I hope to answer by watching, and blogging. So far, I am liking it, despite its obvious flaws, and if you care to follow along in the ride of my thoughts on the subject, I shall be posting more of those thoughts as they come, and as I watch. God Bless!

Is it Inappropriate for Christians to Enjoy Konosuba?!

Greetings friends! As always, I shall be going on a long rant about morality in anime, so bear with me. The last thing I wrote about was an isekai trope in DanMachi, so I might as well continue the tradition with just about the most popular isekai anime show of twenty sixteen, “Konosuba, God’s Blessing on this Wonderful World!” Immediately after the first season aired, and perhaps even during its run, I was already seeing memes, videos and clips of it everywhere on the internet, largely based on the more interesting of the secondary protagonists, Megumin the Mage. The amount of praise is overwhelming, and even critics of it gave surprisingly positive scores across the board. Online praise for anime is a strange beast; sometimes a show will get high scores just because it is a huge fan-service show with good animation quality, and sometimes a show will get low scores for the exact same thing.
Every show in the isekai (other world) genre usually receives fair to mixed reviews, with large constituents on both sides arguing how bad or good a show is. This seems to infer to someone like me that this genre is dominated by shows which ride on their premises or popularity rather than more critical or technical considerations. Each show is unique though, so such generalizations are a bit vulgar, but at the same time, the argument should be made that shows in the fantasy genre over all, get pretty mixed reviews these days. People still love Sword Art Online, and Ordinal Scale is making a killing, but the critics usually tend to pick this series apart til little left can be seen of it than the shreds of charisma, wonder, and simple, thoughtless emotion that birthed it. Konosuba however, being a simple comedy and not even a serious fantasy drama, the first isekai show to be a comedy only, blows that generalization out of the water, taking home scores of nothing less than 8/10 most of the time, even though it does not take itself seriously in the slightest.
This overwhelming positivity was enough to peak my interest for a while, but I could never get around to watching it until now. Within five minutes of viewing, I was surprised to find its killer charm tugging me into it. The characters. The characters are what carry Konosuba, like a high level tank champion character, who is able to take all of the damage which a low-level team of adventurers would otherwise be destroyed by. The development of the shut-in NEET (Not in Education, Employment, or Training) Kazuma and his off the wall, unexpected and unsatisfying journey to another world, was pathetic just as it was hilarious, being an extreme parody of all the MC tropes isekai has ever given us. Meeting the seemingly graceful and self-absorbed goddess aqua, and seeing her transform into a weeping mess of helpless chibi when in a pinch, was reminiscent of the brilliance which came of Umaru’s otaku-tantrums in “Himoutou! Umaru Chan.” Megumin’s incredibly iconic chunibyo obsession with explosion magic, and finally Darkness the knight girl’s literally sadomasochistic desire to take punishment for the team, was all kind of magical adventure in well done character study.
Everything else however, during and after the first five minutes of the first episode, left me confused and disturbed when trying to justify the sensual overtones of its comedy. So, in any anime in which a character goes to a world of RPG fantasy, one should always know that some amount of fan-service is expected, right? Well, Konosuba takes that fact and runs with it in such a blatant and in your face way that the comedy goes from innuendo, to straight sex jokes and incredibly bouncy animated breasts, in the blink of an eye. This anime is not listed as a harem show, yet the main character attracts a large retinue of exclusively female adventurers, all of which either have some strange sexual fetish, or are scantily clad. All of this comes from the desire to mock the subliminal and offensive fan-service in other isekai shows, by having fanservice which is even more over the top.
If you know me, and if you have visited my My Anime List profile, ( you will know that I base the score for any anime I’ve seen off of a Biblical, Christian ethic, with a large chunk of the score being dedicated to moral considerations. Every show I watch, I watch it both for my own enjoyment, but also to analyze its moral implications, and what it tells me about the human race and psyche of modern people groups. This is what interests me about Anime in general, since Japan has such a different moral and ethical background that it makes this kind of analyses even more interesting.
I’m usually pretty capable of figuring out the overall moral of a story and whether or not young’ins or old’ins should be watching them, but when it comes to things like Konosuba, I find myself conflicted, because while I intensely enjoyed its characters and satirical treatment of the isekai genre, I could never imagine myself recommending it to anyone whom I respect as having a gentlemanly sense of humor. Questions such as, “What is OK to watch, and what isn’t?” tend to become rather simple to answer when given a Christian worldview, and especially with the Scriptures to help along in that regard. “All things are permissible, but not all things are beneficial,” says the preacher, and based on the wealth of knowledge the Lord gives us through the Bible for daily living, we can easily divine which is which in any situation. There is still the issue of subjective personal conviction, and only God can judge in that department. One Christian may have no qualms watching all seasons of the Walking Dead, an incredibly graphic and violent series with little to recommend it to conservative audiences but for extremely intense relational drama, but at the same time utterly condemn the low-key iyashikei (healing) show Mushishi for being too demonic, morally neutral, and spiritually dark.
This type of situation is pretty much a matter of very specific delineation between morally gray boundary lines which are completely relative to a person’s walk with God. What this comes down to in the end is, like I said, personal conviction. Your conscience will always tell you if you begin to watch something displeasing to God, but it is your choice as to whether or not you listen to Him. This is what is meant by Paul in Romans when he speaks of Christians with stronger/weaker faith. One may eat meat and feel guilty about it and condemn themselves, another may eat meat and be completely justified in themselves because of the blood of Christ. The one condemns themselves because they felt convicted about it yet chose to eat anyway, and the other is free from condemnation, not because they didn’t consider the situation, but because their conscience was not telling to not eat it under the Grace and freedom of God.
All of what I just said is to explain differences in dealing with very morally subjective situations which are matters of detail, like eating meat sacrificed to idols or not, but when it comes down to something like fan-service, the line is a little more clearly drawn than. “But Charles!” I hear you say, “You’re a Christian, and yet you watched Konosuba! If you had such objections to it, why’d you keep watching it, huh?” When it comes down to how I feel about Konosuba, it has to do with the fact that I actually enjoy it. The reason I get conflicted about it, is that I know that it is not an appropriate show for Christians or gentlemen to watch, and yet I did enjoy it, not because of the fan-service or innuendo, but in spite of it, because of all the other good things in it.
The only other reason I can justify having watched it, is that I was not necessarily tempted by its displays of sexuality, merely disgusted by it, and I know that many indeed would be tempted by it, even if I was not. It is, I would say, an objectively enjoyable anime; that is to say, that if you love anime, and are familiar with the anime sub-culture, you will indeed enjoy this show, whether you are a Christian or not. There comes the rub, that according to the Christian ethical code, it is unhealthy, and defiling to indulge in such smutty entertainment. The problem with sexual innuendos and sex jokes, is that they dehumanize people; mankind, womankind, and the human body, in a way that makes fun of that which brings forth love, life, and intimacy, as well as the image of God itself. So when it comes down to thinking about healthy sexual embarrassment and what sex is, it means nothing but a joke to the secularist, because according to the them, we should not be embarrassed about sex, and sex and gender roles can be casual nothings, swept into the dust bin of history as something outdated and obstructive to human freedom. The atheists will always advocate for free love, even the intellectual atheists, and that in itself is degrading to inherent human nobility, given only by God. That in itself is what secular people like about sex jokes, and what people would like about Konosuba’s humor, it brings down the common denominator between people, and makes anything that is taboo out to be basically a joke.
I feel I must explain the sort of subculture of person I’m talking about more specifically, because saying that people will like Konosuba for its smuttiness is obvious, but also an oversimplification. So, in example, admitting that pornography is a proud part of your life, is an embarrassing and shameful social suicide, and very well should be. However, in the secular otaku world, admitting that you visit porn-sites regularly seems to be a rite of passage for the community. So, to the worldly, Konosuba is quite a step forward in advocating for that sort of accepted state of unembarrassed perverseness they all desire. Again, I feel I must qualify, that not all otaku or secular people have this mindset; there are definitely anime lovers who have a more nuanced moral code to their anime viewing, even if they are not Christians. That being said, Konosuba is not written for those type of people, but the former, who love the idea of coming out of the proverbial closet to express their sincere feelings; that they are people who are sexually perverse.
This is why I will not recommend Konosuba to Christian audiences, and to answer my question, while it is not inappropriate to enjoy Konosuba’s plot or characters, it IS inappropriate to enjoy its humor unequivocally.
Something that a friend commented to me about this blog when I mentioned it to him, was the fact that two out of three of the anime blogs that I’m going to have written once this gets out will have been negative diatribes about anime that are examples of the perverted stereotypes I always thought anime to be, because for a while, I thought anime was just for children or perverted adults. Now, I want to prove that stereotype wrong by talking about the fact that my past stereotype of anime as perverse is an over-generalization which brushes to the wayside a whole crowd of morally acceptable, great anime which actually exist out there, and bring these to Christians online.

There are always bad or immoral parts or additions to any given medium, and it is the duty of the discerning consumer, and especially the critical thinker, to find and praise the best, and to find and warn the world of the worst. The funny thing about these particular anime that I’ve been criticizing, is that all of the more fan-service focused shows, are Isekai shows. SAO was a fan-service-like show, Re;Zero was a mildly fan-service show, DanMachi is a certain kind of fan-service show, and Konosuba is definitely a fanservice show, and it definitely does not help my case that Konosuba definitely fulfills the perverted stereotypes. The common denominator among all of these isekai shows, is that they all share a negative problem with anime in general; fan-service. The world may say, oh sexual fan-service can be good if it is done the right way, but for upright, self-respecting, morally minded people, especially Christians who have their reasons for moral standards given to them by God, fan-service is never right, and no amount of enjoyable content can make blatant sexual objectification OK.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading, I am impressed by you. Keep on keeping on, watching anime in the goodness and grace of God.

Is DanMachi a Sword Art Online Clone?

danmachi_hestia_and_bell_wallpaper_hd_by_corphish2-d8rqymfGreetings friends! As you can see by the title, the question I shall be addressing is this, Is DanMachi a Sword Art Online Clone? Throughout this rambling blog, I shall be making comparisons and contrasts between these two shows in order to discuss in detail my answers to this question. So after many months, and several years of being turned off to the prospect of watching DanMachi by the humorously long title, DanMachi being a shortening of the full title; Danjon ni Deai o Motomeru no wa Machigatteiru Darō ka which translates to, “Is it Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon?” I finally watched the stinking show after reaching a show hole in my life, a fit of boredom after having finished some phenomenal anime series, (such as Code Geass, Hunter X Hunter, andHaibane Renmei,) and feeling like I had little more to watch of any good anime. I was of course wrong about this, but that is the feeling that I had at the time. It can be a fairly discouraging thing. After watching the first few episodes, I found that, while the title definitely seems to be a cringeworthy hint that the show is a shameless ecchi harem fan-service show, which I am adamantly averse to, it is actually not a shameless ecchi harem fan-service show, as the title suggests. It has it’s harem elements, and some pretty blatant fanservice, but that is not a focus, just as it should not have been the focus of sword art online. Compared to Sword art Online, DanMachi is somewhat tame in it’s fanservice, not because it has less fanservice shots in it, but because of the type of fanservice is shown. In Sword Art online, they shoehorned it in, and not to beat about the bush, adorned an otherwise enjoyable show with upskirts and breast shots that have no part of the show; in Danmachi, the only fanservice which exists, which mainly consists of characters with large breasts, and some sexual innuendo, are simply a part of the character designs and personalities. There are characters that are more modest, and characters that are less modest based on who they are, which although I wish there were absolutely no fanservice whatever, I can appreciate when a show does not go out of its way to make a big deal out of sexualizing its characters, but rather makes it a part of the character’s in-world choice, much as it happens in the real world. This is something I kind of Like about DanMachi, and to be honest, expecting that it would be a dirty harem show and being pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t, was much more digestible than expecting little fanservice, and the opposite happening, as did with SAO. Many of the less modest females in the show are actually goddesses based on Greek mythology, some of them even with genders changed from their original mythical identities from male to female for the show, so you can expect what I call some pagan Ludeness in this series. That being said, it is not for teens, whom it is aimed at, and slightly inappropriate even for discerning adults. As a Christian, I would only recommend this show with some moral cautions; it is in the end not truly worth wading through the fanservice here and there to watch the show all the way through. Even from the beginning, this show is less than fantastic, and you can immediately tell that all of its thunder is built off of the success of previous shows in its genre. It smacks of unoriginality is what I mean, but the essence of this show is found in its action, its comedy and its simple prioritization of plain ol’ fun. The fanservice puts a damper on this though, and that is definitely unfortunate, because without the fanservice, I could recommend this show as a fun fantasy romp about a boy becoming a man and falling in love in an RPG setting with gleeful abandon, but for shows like this, regular fanservice is basically par for the course, the course of Isekai shows, and If you know anything about anime, you know who we have to thank for that, Sword Art Online. If you are looking for a fanservice free video game world series based on an RPG, I heavily and strongly suggest Log Horizon. Its presentation is fun and clean, its characters remain un-sexualized and sincerely interesting, and its plot remains intellectually focused on a hard sci-fi perspective throughout.
If you are still interested by Dan Machi however; I encourage you to read on, and give it a chance for yourself. For a mature person, the fanservice may not be that much of a hindrance to you, and is definitely less than many anime I could name in this genre. I’m talking about you, No Game No Life. Now then, to continue laying the foundation of why I think DanMachi may be called a Sword Art clone.
There are many Isekai shows which DanMachi is similar to, but it isn’t technically an Isekai, because by definition, Isekai is an anime genre in which the main characters are transported suddenly to another world from their own. In DanMachi, the main character is a native peasant boy, who must learn to become an adventuring beast hunter and dungeon crawler in order to support himself and pay homage to the lesser Goddess Hestia who gives him shelter, and who “levels his stats” for him in a very RPG reminiscent way. The story is about his having stumbled into an elite tiered swordswoman Aiz Wallenstein in a dungeon with a level much higher than his own, and being thereafter rescued by her from a rampaging minotaur. He immediately falls in love with her after escaping death through her intervention, and he then determines in his heart to become a master swordsman as well, in order to catch up to her, impress her, and steal her heart like he stole hers.
This plot thread is ironically an interesting twist on the expectations that the title of the show gives you, those of DanMachi being a show in which the main character is some meathead who is constantly hitting on girls while fighting through dungeons, or perhaps saving the life of a damsel in distress, and successfully forming a romantic relationship with her. Instead, he is the dummy in distress who falls in love with his savior, and she is the steely eyed heroine who doesn’t really notice him whatsoever at first. I think that this concept is brilliant, especially when combined with the confusing title, as it immediately improves upon your easily formed bad expectations. This tactic however, is also a very poor one though too, because it drives audiences away before they can even watch the first episode. Instead of hooking the audience with a catchy title which gives them a sense of mystery or interest about what might be in the show, it gives you a long, confusing sentence which makes you think the worst of a show which is actually sincerely trying to subvert a couple of popular fantasy tropes which usually show up in anime.
For conservative people, such as myself and my friends, I could imagine them passing up watching DanMachi indefinitely just based on the bad taste which the title gives you, and I know for a fact that many others have done just that. I’m not saying that all Christian or conservative people should or shouldn’t watch this show, but just that the creators somewhat hamstrung themselves when it comes down to the audiences that they could have drawn in by having a simpler name. Just sayin’. So now, to the nitty gritty. The nuts and bolts, the core of this message, and why I wanted to write and talk about this somewhat obscure show from 2015. So, early on, though the show is not set in an alternate dimension, nor a man made video game world, I immediately began drawing comparisons in my head between this show, and Sword Art Online. The main character, Bell Cranell (a wonderful name) is a loner, with but one friend in his Goddess and no skills to speak of, who is struggling to become a master swordsman. He meets and befriends dozens of attractive female characters, all of whom form some sort of crush for him which he fails to acknowledge or recognize, something which all male light novel protagonists must do. Sure, all of these things are small trifling similarities, which mostly have to do with it being a larger budget show, with beautiful animation much of the time, and a very romance oriented plot, but it was not until episode 7 or 8 of Danmachi that I realized that there was one element which made the comparison all too real to not be made. Now, what I am about to say is actually the plot shift on which the show is based, which is meant to give the show it’s second wind to propel it to it’s first season’s climax, so if you despise all spoilers, and wish to see this show unspoiled, do not read the rest of this diatribe, because this is what it has all been about. All throughout the series, the Goddess Hestia has been withholding the truth of Bell’s special skill, and his true level from him throughout the season, for fear that if she were to tell him of his true potential, he would leave her and become a grand dungeon master with someone else, leaving her alone. In the 7th episode however, his special skill is revealed, and Hestia is no longer willing or able to keep the truth from him. This is the clincher. This is meant to be the part that excites and thrills you to exalting heights before the season’s climactic end. What is the skill he has which is so mysterious? I’ll tell you. He’s invincible. Yep, he can do anything, and can never die. This is what got so under my skin in such a strange way that I felt compelled to spend my time writing this and recording it. Here is where the comparison comes in. Now, in Sword Art Online, Kirito is a strong, silent type who has dozens of hours of experience to give him an edge over everyone else at the beginning of the show, but he still has to work up from scratch in order to become the Black Swordsman he would become, but the one plot point that I think broke Sword Art Online’s plot for me, was the fact that he secretly was holding a super powered duel-wieldable super sword, with which he could basically defeat any threat before him, stowed invisibly in his back pocket throughout multiple fights in which he could have saved others by using it, but didn’t. Not only that, he has so many levels on everyone else in the game that the best attacks that five player-killers can use to kill him do not even put a scratch him. Kirito was invincible in SAO, with the perfect example that death itself could not keep him from winning, due to his incredible plot armor in the last episode of the first arc. The reason this broke the plot, is that his invincibility and ascendancy is established in the first 12 episodes, taking away any fear or threat of defeat for him in the rest of the both the first and second seasons, and also precluding any personal betterment, because he’s already too perfect. For many, this made the rest of SAO a boring slog through obligatory plotlines that would stretch out several damsel in distress stories so that kirito would be forced to bring out his ultimate power in the last few episodes to defeat the monster who threatens to deflower his waifus. Now, the similarity I am about to draw between this and DanMachi is not one of perfect reflection but rather a similarity of form, meaning it’s not a perfect comparison but basically….the same freaking thing happens in DanMachi as in blessed Sword Art Online! The main thing, the main problem with SAO, which took away all danger from the characters, and destroyed all semblance of suspension of my unbelief, happens in DanMachi. In the seventh episode, it is revealed, that Bell Cranell, the Cinderella story underdog, has the skill to level up faster than anyone else for one, and also has the ability to defeat any threat that faces him for two. The show doesn’t even attempt to hide it! They literally make him invincible in the 7th episode and say it to the audience unapologetically, and everyone stands around the arena awed and amazed by his glory as he beats a Minotaur which far out-levels him. This is the point at which I, sitting in my bed, with chips in hand, which I dropped, my mouth agape, stared at the screen, and said to myself aloud, “It’s a sword art online Clone.” This phrase is meant to define when a fantasy, Isekai or rpg themed anime plays off of the same plot points, themes, tropes, and qualities of what Sword Art Online was; an enjoyable but incredibly flawed RPG fantasy aimed at general audiences, which has a lot of pandering appurtenances such as consistent fan-service, highly polished light-novel styled animation, simplified sci-fi medieval designs, and tons of female followers of a boyish, clueless and all powerful main character. This generally has a derogatory meaning to me, since there are so many issues with SAO as a pop-culture piece of media, but this is not always the case, as in the case of RE; Zero, a show which is very flawed, but a lot of fun to keep up with, and even to critique, at least for me, a person who is a very critical thinker. In any case, an SAO Clone will have an overall tendency of pandering to the masses with super emotional action focused stories, which always have a huge amount of their value into attractive and marketable visuals. This does not necessarily always mean that the show cannot maintain a suspension of unbelief, but unfortunately, with all three of these shows, the originator of this dilemma, SAO, as well as its clones, DanMachi and RE:Zero, all have issues with Deus Ex Machina, illogical harem elements, idiotic main characters, (to some degree or another) and plot breakingly unbelievable contrivances. Now, to be precise, my idea of this is solely based on my own experience of these anime, and nothing else. There are far more additions to the fantasy rpg-world isekai genre than the anime that I have seen, or even have heard of, and there are probably reasons why RE;Zero, and DanMachi were originally created by authors and creators who were not influenced by SAO and are therefor not SAO clones, but if a person is to be critically minded, and sees SAO, RE;Zero, and DanMachi in chronological order, one cannot help but draw comparisons, and make the comment that these new additions were highly influenced in their animation and story design by SAO, which is to this day the most popular isekai series in animation. The next question is, is this a bad thing? Is being an SAO clone automatically a bad thing? Well, many may emphatically just make the quick judgement that it is based on personal a dislike of SAO, and others may make the judgement that it is rather a good thing based on their enjoyment of it, or of those later shows. The fact that these popular animes came out after SAO, probably means that it inspired writers to write, creators to create, and that cannot be a bad thing, since now we have so many different additions to the genre which all made it big. This I understand and agree with to a degree, but when the original show was not that great, and its most popular successors do little to nothing to improve on the model it originated, I must say that there is definitely something wrong with being an SAO clone. To be more objective about it, one would have to make the statement based solely off of what it is that was copied in the potential clone; was it a positive piece of the original work that was copied in the newer show? Or was it a negative error? That is what determines the value of the show’s later identity in my mind as being an SAO clone. This discussion does seem quite self servicing, in that all I’m doing is talking about this new term I came up with and explaining it in detail, but it’s just my way of expressing this phenomenon of taking an older isekai show which garnered great popularity over the years, and copying many of the tropes found therein for the purpose of creating a similar cash cow. Now, I must qualify that DanMachi, and even RE;Zero, which I think is much more derivative, both have heart and soul of their own to recommend them to the average viewer, but when I see a show with heart and potential suddenly make the exact same mistake in the exact same fashion with the exact same end goal in mind that a more famous series did in the past, I must sit up in my chair and try to make sense of it. All that being, said, I have yet to finish DanMachi, being so overcome with emotion that I had to write this before continuing, but when I finally do finish the show, another shorter rant may be expected. I hope this has been an enjoyable rant, and that it possibly stirs up some further thought and discussion as well. If you have any further comments, questions or counter points to this discussion, please do so in the comments.
God bless!