Friday, May 23, 2014

Some anime recs: Fate / Stay Night, Fate / Zero, and Sword Art Online

こんにちわ皆さん!

すいません, one of the issues I encounter when I immerse myself in anything Japanese is my brain disconnects and starts thinking in 日本語. Unfortunately, since I haven't really been studying Japanese formally since 2004, that means that half the time my brain basically shuts off because I don't have the vocabulary necessary to think in language when I'm thinking in Japanese.

So I'm a bit behind in my reading list (ごめんなさい!), I have a couple books that were sent to me that I feel especially churlish over, but I've been unexpectedly swamped in my day job every single week, to the point that all I have the energy for is television. Hopefully, I'll rectify that sooner than later, so if you've been waiting on me to finish something, well, hang in there お願いします!

There are a couple anime I'd like to share with everyone today with quick impressions.

First, Fate/Stay Night (フェイト/ステイナイト) hits all of the right buttons for me. Legendary characters that are initially a mystery with named weapons and other hints to their identities fighting in a battle for the holy grail under the command of modern day mages. Shiro is a fantastic heroic spirit that is always willing to sacrifice himself (which is a good thing for my heroes IMO).

Note: the blu-rays are a bit overpriced and there are two of them, while the single DVD set is more than reasonable. Currently, I haven't seen this on Netflix or Crunchyroll. 

The prequel, Fate/Zero (フェイト/ゼロ), although possessing a great name is not as good as Fate/Stay Night, but has some excellent bits, shedding a lot more light into everything that came before (obviously) without sucking anywhere near as much as the other obvious prequels that explained everything in today's zeitgeist (*cough* Star Wars *cough).

Still, whereas I found myself loving Rin and Shiro a lot in Stay Night (ステイナイト), I did not fall in love with any of the "masters" in Zero (), even if they were sympathetic. The "servants" on the other hand were even better than in Stay Night (ステイナイト).

Note: Zero is currently on Netflix and Crunchyroll.

Sword Art Online (ソードアート・オンライン) is another series I've watched recently. The first season is a masterpiece. I could not possibly say enough positive things about it. I only wish we could have seen even more about their adventures.

They cover two years in 13 episodes, but it never seems rushed or lacking, it only seems like we are seeing the highlights and points in the characters' lives that develop them past what we know. Surprisingly, both the male and female leads are strong characters and their developing friendship is a true delight to watch. It was incredibly satisfying.

The second season castrates Asuna into a damsel-in-distress unfortunately, but it almost seems like this is meant for us to have a gut-reaction to it. Having such a strong character brutally stripped of power is abhorrent and certain scenes will have you white-knuckling in impotent rage. Leafa is the true female lead of the second season, although she is always inferior to Kirihito whereas Asuna always approached Kirihito as an equal from their very first battle in Season 1.

I don't know what the future holds (season 3 starts this summer), and I was glad to discover Leafa's story in the second season, but it is definitely a drop-off from the first. The first season is self-contained enough that even though there are lingering questions at its end, they do not need to be answered. By the end of the second season, and indeed, even with the "extra episode" "movie", the developments of the first season have backtracked somewhat. It's...unsatisfying.

Asuna doesn't even reclaim her role as a frontline fighter in the extra. One of the two instrumental characters in defeating SAO, and she's relegated to a support caster? WTF? I'm very concerned for the future and am currently wondering if it would not have been better to leave the series after Season 1. 

でも, that first season is amazing.

Anyway, please check these anime out!

Again, the first season of SAO is one of the best single seasons of anything, and it's only 13 episodes.
Next, Fate/Stay Night is really great if you're interested in history and myth.
After that, if either of these two shows have piqued your interest, then please consider the second season of SAO and the prequel to Fate/Stay Night.

I haven't gotten a chance to watch the movie, "Unlimited Blade Works" that goes along with Fate/Stay Night, and I also haven't seen the spin-off that follows Illya as a magickal girl.

Back to work for me. じゃあまた!