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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Wed Aug 08, 2018 6:59 pm 
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Episode 18

I liked this episode better than the last – it had some good bittersweet moments to it. The main meat, of course, is kicking off “Versus APE” in earnest: Squad 13 may not have a lot of leverage to act out right now, but if they just sort of let this whole thing slide and get distracted by messing with the Klaxosaur Princess now, something is terribly wrong and so far the show has not been terribly wrong – not in that way, at least.

I feel like the scene with Ikuno and Ichigo in this episode is to an extent the “antidote” to the potential negative read of the debate in the last episode, because Ikuno's unrequited feelings are handled with the same weight as any of the other one-sided pairings in the show (or more weight than Futoshi's), and a decent amount of grace and decorum. I like that while Ichigo didn't “accept her feelings” she did accept Ikuno for who she is, and despite showing more shock in her expressions than in Goro's confession, managed a much better response. Maybe it's because Ichigo (explicitly) saw herself in Ikuno, which is a good way of displaying that Ichigo can really grow as a person and a leader (which I think she has. I was proud of her this episode) while retaining the core I've talked about before.

Zero Two's nightmare was also pretty great. The last two episodes were something of a honeymoon for her and Hiro, and it's nice to see that while their romance is incredibly solid and the time in the fading wreck of a plantation has done a lot of good for Zero Two's mental wellbeing... yeah, she's got a dark past and an uncertain future, so she still has issues. On the other hand, I found myself oddly loving the scene with Zero Two and Hiro among the Sakura. The pretentious filter comes way back up, letterboxing the scene and putting the lines on screen, but I think with how the rest of the episode goes down it was a needed moment – something simple and purely happy, the fragile dream that we see get wrecked when the Nines crash the wedding. But while the Wedding is wrecked, we get to have the sakura scene, for what it's worth.

As to the wedding itself... It seemed odd when it was first brought up and Zorome asked who this would be for that it wasn't Hiro and Zero Two but... I don't think the two of them need a ceremony to reaffirm what they've promised to each other, and I think they're better served by their relationship being more intimate and private, especially given Hiro's Saurification. Kokoro and Mitsuru, on the other hand... oddly do make a good couple. I'm torn on Mitsuru. I feel like I shouldn't like him, like what little he's done shouldn't be enough, but at the same time I can't help but feel for him. Having Kokoro's support and now an extra spike of tragedy basically floats him on extra credit. Call him 10/12 labors of Herculean Effort into his redemption: in some ways it should be enough, and you kind of know he's going to make it, but he just needs a final push over the top. I think that's what it is... he's kind of been lead by the hand by Kokoro, he needs to step up and do something for himself.

The wedding preparations were really good. I liked the ad-hoc nature of it all; it's charming in a way that a refined production wouldn't be, and also shows the resourcefulness that Squad 13 has learned. I can't help but feeling that the pre-wedding group photo is going to come into play with the inevitable struggle to restore Mitsuru and Kokoro's memories – we know APE's mind wipe tech is imperfect, and when Kokoro looks at the sakura blossoms at the end of the episode you can already feel it slipping. And the APE idiots let them keep the rings. As far as the crashed wedding itself, the scene was well-handled, with the right cuts to the approaching assault force, back to innocent fun, and when drama hits, it hits. Really, no one is spared at that wedding: Zorome gets a rifle butt to the head, Hiro is wrestled to the ground, Futoshi... well, he's probably lucky to be alive. And Zero Two? She decides to get the Worf treatment courtesy of the Nines. Granted, she's on foot here, not piloting with Hiro, but she gets smacked down fairly quickly without being able to land a hit on anyone. Compared to the performance versus professional soldiers we saw in episode 4, this is clearly supposed to help build up the Nines as a real threat rather than just as tattle-tale pawns of Papa. Does it work? Eeeh, jury's still out on that. They've got some good moves, but after Wing Strelitzia and especially Red Strelitzia it would take a lot for me to believe them comparable in a Franxx.

I neglected to mention the appearance of the Klaxosaur Princess last episode, but it bears on a small scene in this episode so... attempted negotiation turned into attempted (and very failed) assassination, and it seems like not all of APE's high council is on the same page. It's probably supposed to make Papa look sinister, but really it makes them just look incompetent. I don't care if he does have some agenda more messed up than the one we already know, if he can't get his own high council on board with it, something is wrong.

APE again talks about freeing people from their bodies/shells. Yeah, if they didn't seem like a messed up cult before, they really should now. I think they do have some literal brain-uploading, but they probably need people to be emotionless before they can be dataforms? You know what, I probably shouldn't speculate too much, I'm probably overthinking it.

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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Thu Aug 09, 2018 1:31 am 
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No! I want you to speculate!
From here a good place for the show to go would be demonstrating that Zero Two can still wreck the Nines in mech combat, and then ask, "And then what?" Does it matter if she and Hiro have the best robot? Can you really take on a whole army? Who do you fall in with when you're fighting the only source of food and shelter you've ever known?

Up next is a big episode, so get your speculations in now!

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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Thu Aug 09, 2018 7:07 pm 
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Episode 19

Another one where you can count me mostly different from TPmanW's assessment – I remember he called out this flashback as one he hated, but I think it was... serviceable. I didn't like it the way I did Episode 13, but I feel it accomplished its aims, revealing a reasonable solve to the history of this world. It wasn't groundbreaking, but I didn't feel like my expectations were betrayed. Maybe I just came in with lower expectations: while I enjoyed the heck out of a lot of earlier episodes, either because of my sense or because I was warned I wasn't expecting anything new or earth-shattering.

And I like that this episode exists. It would have been easy to not give us the transition from basically the world we know to the world of this weird dystopian future. The details have a logical structure and flow to them, and basically answer, as Steins;Gate put it, “How exactly does [...] a benign research organization, end up becoming a tyrannical oligarchy?” In typical Darling in the Franxx fashion, each step is individually natural, if uncreative: Shinra APE introduces a miracle new energy source: Mako Magma Energy. This gets them a lot of influence, as would be natural from obsoleting fossil fuels and presumably cornering the market on the replacement. Of course, harvesting Lifestream Magma Energy has some nasty side-effects, like making the surface world not a very nice place to live. Meanwhile, a giant monster known as a Kaiju Klaxosaur appears and devastates a coastal region, showing off conventional military as ineffective against this new threat. Giant robots known as Jaegers Franxx are developed, and after multiple deaths attempting to get them to run it's worked out that they need two pilots. The battles are hard at first but eventually humanity and our big robots start winning. On the third path, we have a slightly less flagrantly stolen arc for the development of this future: global immortality. People can live forever, and despite the fact that it costs them their reproductive functions, the human population initially soars seeing as death is no longer a 'thing' (I guess people breed and then get treated for a while, before the Sterile Immortality becomes a global thing). Of course, immortals can't pilot the big robots, but I guess we can still clone humans (cloning was listed as the Doctor's specialty), possibly even new people by doing some mixing/matching/recombining.

If you haven't guessed, I find that it's like somebody smashed Final Fantasy VII into Pacific Rim with extra Ringworld parts. If I was expecting some true unique greatness out of this backstory, I would be pretty disappointed right now, but as it is, that's still leaps and bounds more original (and sensible) than James Cameron's Avatar. It's the 'C' Answer backstory, but that's still a passing grade, and I wonder if we could have gotten an 'A' answer in the space allotted for it.

As to the bad stuff... I didn't really feel for Werner Franks/Doctor Franxx much throughout the episode that should have been his time in the sun. He's a kind of inconsistent character: his early days as a daring Mad Scientist and his interactions with his wife line up with his present, as does his desire to not take the treatment, preferring to go for cyber-replacement. They clash with the Franxx we see in Zero Two's memories of torture, and the one that interacts with the Klaxosaur Princess. The problem is that he seems to be a nice(r) Doc Brown/Okarin sort of mad scientist on both sides of his time spent as more of a Hojo/Bondrewed sort of mad scientist, and while there's a clear catalyst or progression for his slide into the darker pits of Mad Science – the death of his wife and bearing witness to humanity becoming ever more pathetic in their immortal stagnation – there's no catalyst for his turnaround back into, for lack of a better word, goodness to create the Doctor Franxx we see today. As such, it's hard to get a sense for who he is as a character. His best moments were his crazy ones: meeting with the Klaxosaur princess, finding he had held on to a fistful of her hair, and creating Zero Two (or one of her predecessors? She might not be the first attempt at a hybrid) to the tune of maniacal laughter. I liked that he became enthralled with this human-like but inhuman creature. It has all the right notes of hope and insanity that I want to see out of a Mad Scientist – looking to the future, finding beauty in something that might frighten others, and pursuing a dream of questionable utility with terrifying tenacity. But that's all there is of it, that note. The Franxx we've seen throughout the series, except perhaps his “admiring the monster” moment in Episode One, hasn't had that mania. I think I may have done a disservice to Doc Brown and Okarin: Franxx is far too calm and low key in most of his appearances.

As to the good stuff... I did just mention his really mad science moments, but I also want to point out dinner with his (then future) wife. This was the Doctor Franxx I could believe “grew up” into the Doctor we see throughout the majority of the episodes – calm, kind of a downer, not totally in tune with humanity, but still something of a decent individual. The other good parts were, in my mind, the little stuff we got in the present. First, Futoshi. Futoshi was perfect. Still not Goro's calm and suave and cool, but doing the right thing and being the bigger man, fighting, even against what you might call “his best interests”, to see something beautiful restored. Second, the meeting with Papa.

When the Parasites meet with Papa to ask for the restoration of Mitsuru and Kokoro's memories, it's a good scene. The fact that they thought to make that request shows how much faith they had in Papa, and how much work he's had to do to lose it. The actual confrontation puts in jeopardy the restoration of the lovely couple, though I don't have any reason to believe that the technique they used on the pair was different than the one that was recoverable from for Hiro and Zero Two. Zorome stepping up, especially after his earlier talk, was perfect. This was the breaking point for him that I'd wanted to see all the way since Episode 5 (or 7, where I called him out as the one who will be hurt most of all). It had the right emotion, and the APE council's response of dead silence was the perfect reply, not admitting their wrongdoing but still answering more than enough what the truth of the matter is. Lastly was Hiro's request to be set free, and the response to that. For a while, these kids have needed to DO SOMETHING. We've been setting up the probability of a revolt for a while, but Squad 13 and Doctor Franxx had just been dragged along until now. Of course, APE won't honor their word. But, on the other hand, they might go out of their way to technically not violate it, and the expectation of that sets the scene for what comes next: Squad 13 is almost certainly going on a suicide mission.

My personal guess is that they'll be sent to eliminate the Klaxosaur Princess, and the Nines will be sent in behind them to wipe out whoever wins the Squad 13 v. Klax Princess battle. The Klaxosaur Princess will probably take extreme, emphatic note of Zero Two. She doesn't seem very friendly, so I doubt she'll be welcoming her not-quite daughter. And if the Nines are used to attempt an ambush assassination of Squad 13, that puts them in a position where I can totally believe they'd have the upper hand, entering battle fresh and in a deliberate manner against an exhausted and disorganized Squad 13 that... might be down Strelitzia. I could see the Klax princess managing to wreck Strelitzia (especially if she jumps in her big slappy hand thing from Episode 15. I bet she drives that) and I could also see her being interested enough in the hybrids to take Hiro and Zero Two hostage, which would leave the rest of Squad 13 against the Nines. Perhaps the Princess proves willing enough to listen to the two weirdos that she intervenes against the Nines? But that's just how the next movement would go down if I magically took over writing from here

Also, does Dr. Franxx know about Hiro's Saurification? That still seems to be kind of a secret. I think he'd be ecstatic to learn that his ultimate form (Zero Two) of life can propagate, creating a partner for itself. I also think based on Episode 15 that he may have expected it...

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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Thu Aug 09, 2018 11:40 pm 
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I thought episode 19 was the worst of the whole series. The show's main draw for me was always the sense of mystery. And it gets solved in the least dramatic, least interesting way possible.
We get a whole episode about Dr Franxx's past and I still couldn't tell you what makes him tick. The show play's up his rejection of god, legal authority and the natural order. But then he balks at the unnaturalness of the immortality process and becomes a cyborg instead?
I guess his wife was introduced to showcase just how impersonal and cold he is. That works, but playing her death up for drama falls flat. Oh no, the wife he never seemed to care about died a contrived death. Meh.

The Klaxosaur Princess is a much better "screaming lizard" than princess. What kind of policy is that? Her idea of diplomacy is to ask questions first and then attack before she gets her answers. Then she berates humans for being belligerent and kills their diplomats. Never mind that the Klaxxosaurs were the first to (intentionally) draw blood.
Nobody in this episode acts coherently.

We all assume magma energy is the planet's life force or something because that's the only real way it could make sense, but if the secret's already obvious, why not fill us in on the details? The details are the juicy bits! Or why not show us the characters' reactions when they find out? And why the heck is it called "magma energy"? It sure isn't magma... I think. (See what I mean about those details)


I have no idea how the plantations are supposed to fit into anything. They were a response to desertification and solve this problem by... moving around? They don't actually seem to y'know leave the desert at any point, so I don't see how it helps. This was all explicitly before the Klaxosaurs showed up and started wrecking cities.

Dr.Franxx built a robot, but didn't understand how it worked? Do the writers not understand how building things works? Did he just mash robot parts together randomly until he found a combination that produced favourable results?
And if the thing flies out of control, why not restrain it? Heck, why is it even built in such a way that the pilot can kill themselves like that. They're still working on booting up the OS, but they're trying to field test it simultaneously?

The timeline of events is also... pretty agressive.
2030- Immortality is developed. Only the rich benefit from the fruits of magma energy and the class divide widens. To combat the rising population, nations begin to tax child birth.
2036 - 70% of humanity has undergone the immortality process. "The rest were scheduled to complete their procedures within 2 years"
2042ish - Humanity must resort to cloning to produce children. They only bother to try after it's discovered that people who have undergone the immortality process can't pilot Franxx. Kids born the day immortality was invented (not even debuted publicly) would still only be 12 at this point. They couldn't even find orphans from an impoverished country that weren't immortal by this point?
The pace of events seriously strains my suspension of disbelief. And I can't think of any way the story benefits from happening so quickly. It just smacks of lazy storytelling.

Why is the emotion-hating omniscient council of vagueness called "APE"? Aren't apes the opposite of the direction they took humanity?

Just how do marriage certificates work? You have to sign them at a particular time? It doesn't matter if both people sign them?

If this was just a dumb action anime then I could shrug off the sloppy backstory. This show however, spent way to much time building up the questions to fail on the payoff.

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*"To YMTC it up" means to design cards that have value mostly from a design perspective. i.e. you would put them in a case under glass in your living room and visitors could remark upon the wonderful design principles, with nobody ever worring if the cards are annoying/pointless/confusing in actual play

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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Fri Aug 10, 2018 12:17 am 
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TPmanW wrote:
The show's main draw for me was always the sense of mystery. And it gets solved in the least dramatic, least interesting way possible.

I think this, more than anything else, is probably a big difference between how you and I view the show. Even my first time out, the sense of mystery wasn't foremost for me; I regarded the show as being essentially character-driven. So it meets success when the characters are going through good movements that highlight, play off, and utilize their emotions, and falls flat when the motivation and emotion of the characters doesn't work out. I like "The City of Eternity" while "Partner Shuffle" falls flat not because one indulges in the mystery of the world (though it helps), but because Zorome's arc and stakes are much better established than Mitsuru's. Right now, my favorite moments in the show are probably Hiro and Zero Two getting together in Episode 4, their reunion in Episode 15 (especially the actual reunion in Strelitzia's cockpit, but also the whole sequence including Goro, Ichigo, and Doctor Franxx's parts to play), and Ichigo's confession in Episode 14.

I don't know if I was clear, but I do find this to be one of the weaker/bad episodes, along with "Partner Shuffle" and to a lesser extent "Boys x Girls". But for me it's because, as you say, I still don't know what makes Dr. Franxx tick and nobody seemed to act coherently. There were moments that worked, like Zorome's confrontation with Papa, but by in large... I think I've basically been treating the show as more of a popcorn-muncher sort of affair.

I could try to logic through some of your complaints (not all of them, I sustain probably most of them), but honestly... you're right. It doesn't all quite fit and if you were looking at the show as a mystery this episode basically destroyed everything. I'm not going to defend it.

At this stage I'm thinking, maybe hoping, that the rest is just sort of going to go on cruise control. I can take that. I've got 5 more episodes covering the "final mission", busting APE, and some Denouement where the Children inherit the Earth. As long as the show doesn't try to throw a "2003 Full Metal Alchemist"-level curve ball at me I can handle that, and will walk away thinking that it wasn't a great show, certainly not one that earned it's pretentiousness, but at least I wasn't truly devastated by the weaker finish. As such I'm kind of terrified that they WILL try to sock us with a curve ball, and somehow screw it up entirely because that would be drastically playing against their strengths, which have thus far been clear characters and a solid structure

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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Sat Aug 11, 2018 1:12 pm 
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Was out with family yesterday, so no episode! But I got one today!

Episode 20

Alright, so we start this episode with the Parasites. Kokoro and Mitsuru have shed their rings and...

SON OF A BILE URCHIN!

Hold on a minute, there's something I need to do...

Quote:
Dear Vingulf (Evil Witch-creating Lab from Brynhildr in the Darkness),

I write this letter to retract and apologize for previous statements. When discussing “Brynhildr in the Darkness”, I vocally considered you to be a poorly managed Omniscient Council of Vagueness, and may have used words indicating a superlative in that category, such as 'the most moronic' or 'the worst'. While I do stand by some of your methods and actions being worthy of at least some criticism, it has come to my attention that such remarks, particularly any that indicate that no worse could be done, are themselves unwarranted and/or in error. I had not known when beholding your efforts that APE existed, nor the depths of that organization's incompetence. By comparison, you now fairly appear as a group both dedicated to and able to achieve your villainous aims; both in attempts at grasping power and control over individuals and in premeditated misdeeds, your behavior was logical, rational, and effective next to that of APE. I apologize for my earlier remarks and humbly request that if the opportunity should present itself to tutor and organization such as APE in the ways of 'Omniscient Council of Vagueness'-style villainy, you seriously consider lending your considerable knowledge and experience because really, they need all the help they can get.

Sincerely,
Tevish Szat


Okay, now that that's out of the way, where was I? Oh right, Kokoro appears to be pregnant. Because apparently having her under medical scrutiny for weeks (as they said at the episode end) while you tampered with her is not enough to detect and eliminate that. You knew they did it. You had footage. Nine Alpha showed it off! What kind of reproduction-forbidding tyranny are you? Has this seriously never happened before? If it's never happened before, how would Nine Alpha had known to call it forbidden/outlawed? And even if it hadn't, did nothing in the goddamn biometrics tell you that one of the biggest and most critical hormone cascades possible in a human body was going on?! It wasn't Doctor Franxx intervening on her behalf, he has not the means nor motive nor opportunity, so who was it?! What is going on here?! WHO IS CALLING THE SHOTS HERE THAT IS SO MIND-NUMBINGLY STUPID?! WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS?!

Image

… Right, thanks Koopa. Whew, I was kind of losing it there. I mean, that's a really stupid twist but in the end it doesn't change much except providing Mitsuru and Kokoro a conduit to get back together right. Deep breaths. We're going to get through this.

So, anyway, we have the setup for the next grand battle: Seizing control of a superweapon known as Star Entity that's presumably the slappy hand thing from before since it's a superweapon lodged in Gran Crevasse, and they need Zero Two to operate it. Naturally once the battle is joined, the Klaxosaur Princess intervenes, and there's actually some good stuff here. I like Hiro and Zero Two's conversation on the elevator. It's sappy as hell but basically establishes how the final arc of this story is going to go – which is basically like the other two arcs, but with different stakes: something gets between Hiro and Zero Two (Death tried in Episode 6. Ichigo, Zero Two's own impulsive nature, and an army of Klaxosaurs tried in episodes 14/15. Now it's the Klax princess) and the two of them have to go through their trial by fire, even if it's hell itself, to get back together at which point the dramatic music plays and all the ass gets kicked. That's cool, I liked that stuff, I'm fine with more of that. I like the Klax Princess' reunion with Franxx, even if he's still inconsistent at least he's in fun mode gushing over her. And she doesn't kill him, so I wonder how well their 'relationship' could have been done if we got more time and attention devoted to the weird dynamics of the fact that Franxx clearly loves her more than he ever loved humanity or even his wife and that she seems... intrigued enough to actually dialogue with him rather than slaughtering him even if there's a lot of disgust. And then there's the Princess with Hiro and Zero Two. She immediately establishes her threat both in a technical and emotional sense by how she thrashes the lovebirds – physically mauling Zero Two and... the kiss with Hiro is a great scene, I love how savage and brutal it is compared to the most passionate moments we've seen. She also says she's going to devour him but... yeah Zero Two made quick work of a lot of Stamens in the break between episodes 14 and 15 but the Klax Princess doesn't seem too inclined to do so. Plot armor, I know, but when she's the last of her kind maybe a partner stopped sounding like a bad idea?

Speaking of which, the secret history of the Klaxosaurs and the... Klaxosapiens? Heck with it, I'm just going to call them Klax if I have to. This is, in my opinion, a lot like the previous episode: it doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but because I'm not watching this show for the mystery, I kind of accept it as being a 'C' answer: Magma energy is lifestream, specifically the living essence of Klax. Meanwhile, the 'saurs are degenerate piloted biomechs that lost their intelligence, and the Princess is the last of the 'original' species. OK, this checks out, basically back to episode one.

… seriously what was that one Klaxosaur from episode 8 built to combat?

We also find out that Franxx aren't just based on the Klaxosaur template, they actually incorporate Klaxosaur (presumably more than just running on Magma Energy) into their construction. This seemed... unnecessary, since the Doctor's admiration of the very monsters he was meaning to fight could have been enough to carry their bizarreness, but not entirely unwelcome. So, great, Klax Princess is taking over Star Entity dragging Hiro along for the ride, stage is set for our climax, right? Have to get Zero Two (Great moment: Zero Two, bloodied and dragging herself forward. I wanted that determination and struggle out of her) in there before she kills all humans and...

Invaders?

Space?

That's a good question, random member of the APE council, what the hell is this talk of Space about?

Also good for you, Zorome, what the hell is going on here?

Oh you have got to be kidding me...

SON OF A BILE URCHIN!

ALIENS?! YOU ARE SERIOUSLY PULLING ALIENS AT THIS STAGE?! PAPA IS AN ALIEN?! NO! NO! THIS DOES NOT HAPPEN! THAT IS NOT WHAT YOU BUILT, SHOW. Up to this point, you'd been using what you built! Everything stacked on top of earlier foundation! This show had built itself up, with every piece being fully supported and supporting those that come after, from foundation to pinnacle, and now you come in and push it over like the Tower of Babel? ALIENS?! ALIENS!!!! ARGH!



Koopa can't save me this time.



So, I'm only passingly familiar with the filmography of Studio Trigger (and yes I know Trigger is only partially responsible for this), but tin retrospect this does seem to be like something Trigger would do... except handled poorly. Mind-numbingly, idiotically poorly. Because, you see, I do know Kill la Kill, and I do know Little Witch Academia and both of those shows had the latecomer “out of left field” villain. They just did it in a more natural, smarter way than this twist.

The thing is, those shows didn't just dump an essentially new, completely game-changing baddie on you right at the end, making it feel like the story up to that point was moderately meaningless. In Kill la Kill, Ragyo Kiryuin first appears in episode 6, and it's pretty obvious that even though she plays a bit part for quite some time, she's probably actually the big bad. You might not guess what her plan, or her real relationship to Stasuki (the starting villain apparent) is, but it doesn't take a psychic to see that she's at least as bad as her daughter and acting on a broader scope; the Emperor to Stasuki's Vader is the least she could amount to. Professor Croix is a bit more of a latecomer, showing up in Episode 13 of Little Witch Academia. But while her appearance kicks Little Witch Academia into a new phase, you still have close to half the show left to develop her and deal with the problems she causes, and until Croix came onto the scene Little Witch Academia had been more of a Slice of Life sort of arrangement, and going from having no villain to having one is a lot easier to swallow than going from having a clear goal with a clear antagonist and then switching tracks to another.

APE, as humans, would have been fine as the “Surprise” villain of Darling in the Franxx. True, we met Papa and his cronies (at least sort of) all the way back in episode 1 and the fact that they're probably actually sinister should be apparent to anyone who's paying attention (from the Wedding Arc, if you were about as trusting as Zorome), but it would still be a game changer to have the Parasites actually turn against them, as we were setting up to do. It wouldn't be surprising, but neither was Ragyo or really Croix; it would have been the game changer that the show was building up to. The Klaxosaur Princess would also have been fine. She isn't (much) set up before appearing around the halfway point, and she could have been presented in a way that made her both a powerful antagonist and an interesting twist, especially given her relationship to Zero Two. Actually, she was kind of doing it, I would have liked to get three more episodes largely focused on her. You could even have run both of them, creating a twisted climax where two factions, both with legitimate points and good characters we want to like, (Klax Princess as a well-intentioned extremist on one side; Franxx, Hachi/Old Nana and miscellaneous Parasites on the other), are locked in this deadly struggle and it's up to the leads to find some sort of resolution. Papa being some sort of damn alien herald along with reedy-voiced APE guy is unnecessary. This story didn't need aliens, humans could have done enough.

I guess it really is kind of the same trap as Kill la Kill where the Life Fibers/Original Life Fiber were the real enemy, an alien race with evil designs to destroy and/or absorb Earth and all its population that had secretly been backing the actual villain and combated by the apparent villain from the start, but there are a few problems with this. For one, in Kill la Kill, Ragyo is still very much a character, and while her motivations seem to suffer a decay in reason as the Life Fiber stuff kicks in, she was still personable and entertaining, and had deep ties to the other characters. They didn't try to give the Original Life Fiber a personality and make it step up, they knew to rely on Ragyo and Nui, and the human elements of those characters that had been developed up to that point. Papa is devoid of that kind of character and charm. He has never had a personality, and making him half an alien doesn't create one or make the emotional, character-driven (as Darling in the Franxx has been) conflict with him any better.

Second, the Life Fibers had always been part of the story of Kill la Kill. We weren't told that they had a will or agenda until very late, but given what we knew about Kamui and Goku Uniforms from the very start, the world that Kill la Kill built was one where it was easy to accept that this 'twist' could happen. It made sense from the perspective of the narrative. By contrast, we were never made privy here to the idea of extraterrestrial manipulation, the world presented was one of humans and Klaxosaurs. I can buy all the reveals about the Klax, because it still stays in the same environment. It's germane to the ideas in the show, and the setting that was created here. An attacking space fleet of aliens is NOT. They just seem to have stumbled out of another show, blundering blithely into this one and not caring that they don't belong. The Alien assault fleet and Alien Papa belong in Darling in the Franxx about as much as a Witch would. In fact, it might have been LESS jarring if the final enemy of the show just turned out to be Walpurgisnacht, fresh from Madoka Magica!

Imagine if in Kill la Kill, “Life Fibers” was never mentioned until the point where everybody's clothes take them over and become monsters. It would be terrible, and that's kind of what happened here.

Third, while there's a lot of debate over whether or not Kill la Kill is actually a parody (and if it is, of what and whether that makes it better or worse), it's undeniable that at least some of the material there is firmly tongue in cheek. You're not supposed to take Kill la Kill totally seriously at any point, and the narrative was never one that didn't invite the MST3K Mantra “It's just a show, I really should relax”. By contrast, Darling in the Franxx has been played 100% seriously. Even if you don't think it was set for greatness – and I for one kind of don't – it wasn't something that wanted you to totally switch off, either. It's been pretentious, it has aspired to be meaningful, and it seems to be a narrative that wants you to get engrossed in it and treat it as something worthy of at least mild to moderate scrutiny, even if it couldn't stand up to a harsher, more precise view. It wasn't always successful, but it had the ambition. Kill la Kill wanted to be fun, and it could just throw this stuff at the wall and make it stick with a conflux of comedy, action, and maybe character drama holding the story together like duct tape. Darling in the Franxx wanted to be great, but to achieve that ambition it needed to have a solid foundation, and hold together on every level. No duct tape allowed this time.

This was EXACTLY the sort of bullcrap I was fearing, praying wouldn't happen. I wanted this climax to go on autopilot, which is a rare response since usually the lazy autopilot way isn't the engaging way, but it would have been safe. Now I just have to hope it hops back on the rails. There are four more episodes and one of them could be denouement, so call that three episodes of material: the bomb has to be stopped before earth explodes, possibly by Hiro and the Klax Princess willingly cooperating rather than trying to fight and coerce each other. Zero Two has to get back to Hiro, either with Hiro convincing the Klax Princess to put her faith in the massively stronger bond between what are effectively her successors (Hiro and Zero Two: by how the Princess treats Hiro, the potential rebirth of the Klax race), and then Hiro and Zero Two have to take Star Entity/Ultimate Strelitzia, punk the alien second wave, make Papa-Alien blow up, and return safely to the earth for that whole 'rebirth of a species through the power of love' thing that would fit the themes of Darling in the Franxx way too well to not go with at this point. In the meantime I guess the non-main characters have to do something, so maybe the Nines act as alien Quislings (or part-aliens, seeing how they talk down to humans) and Nine Alpha can die as the Final Boss for Ichigo & Co.

But this was terrible. There was good material in the episode, but it started and ended in the most moronic ways possible. Really, it started in the most moronic way possible and went beyond the possible to what should have been impossible for that end.

We didn't need Aliens. We shouldn't have gotten Aliens.

And the Dark Tower draws ever closer.

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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Sat Aug 11, 2018 4:37 pm 
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Fair to see we're firmly in Tommyknockers-level territory? You described it as "Aliens! It's just aliens. This is an ending that throws away a potentially interesting setup with lazy twists and uninspired answers." so I'd say we're there.

I gave the pregnancy thing a pass since the whole memory wipe was probably overseen by uninventive, unresponsive drones of human beings. It's still hard to swallow, but I've swallowed- oh wow, I really set up a euphemism there didn't I? Er-hem, it was not as dumb as some other things.

Franxx are Klaxxosaurs!?! Yeah, we all saw that one coming. Which makes the revelation kind of pointless doesn't it?

The elevator scenes were indeed the episode's strong point. I too wish we got more Klaxx Princess/Dr. Franxx interaction.
With as much of a segue as I'm going to get here, I'd like to mention that the Klaxx Princess skeeves me out. Between Franxx's adoration for his ideal life form, the prolonged kissings scene and the fact that she appears to be 8 years old... yeah, it's pretty questionable.

If the Klaxx had this huge army in reserve, then what exactly were the cast off fighting this whole time? The army's castoffs? I guess APE/VIRM made sure nobody knew about the other 99% of the enemy forces?

Still waiting on the mystery of the giant hand that came out of the earth to smash stuff.
Actually there are a lot of loose threads to wrap up. "Infected" parasites, yellow blood cells, what happened to the "backed-up" people? Is humanity itself even relevant to the archplot of the series? Is all life dependant on Klaxx fossil fuel? If so, where did the Klaxx come from? IF not, then did they steal earth's original life force then revert it back to magma energy? What does VIRM actually want? Do non-hetero pilot pairings work if you're not half Klaxx and also androgynous? (Honestly I thought this would be a major element since way early in the show)

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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Sat Aug 11, 2018 5:43 pm 
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Yeah this one knocked the situation from Langoliers to Tommyknockers for me, funnily enough with the same stupid twist (Aliens!) that The Tommyknockers essentially used. That's a pretty big break point, if you couldn't tell, as while I don't care for Langoliers I'll sort of take it if everything else still works out. This is... I feel insulted, because it's worse than having this amazing setup and doing nothing good or inventive with it, it's having this amazing setup and doing something actively bad with it. Like they had to go out of their way to screw up this much rather than just following the path of least resistance.

All the same, I don't think there's anything at this stage that could make me regret watching the show entirely. While I didn't uniformly enjoy all of the first 18 episodes, I will say the show is was solid about to the end of episode 18 (since the Werner flashback in 19 really kicks off this arc). That's, rough estimate, nine hours of time I really can't begrudge. And I really like a lot of these characters (Zero Two, Ichigo, and Zorome in particular). Erasing all that good will entirely, so that I honestly regret watching (and not just finishing) the show, would mark it as the most pronounced Dark Tower letdown I've ever experienced, to the point where I'm not refusing to speculate on what it would take, I honestly can't say because I cannot yet conceive of a scenario that would be that bad. The last four episodes could star Alpacaman and I'd say "What the heck?" but I wouldn't regret 1-18.

The timeline of Gran Crevasse doesn't make a lot of sense. APE has had months between Squad 13's isolation in Mistleteinn and their time post-wedding in the Parasite Camp, so the "Earth go boom now, it's obstructing our view of Venus" (Villains with more personality than Papa/VIRM: Marvin the Martian) countermeasure I buy, but... what were the Klaxosaurs doing this whole time? Even if they needed some time to regroup after their defeat at the Gran Crevasse Dome, you'd think that they could push in and take back something so desperately important to the Princess well before the dramatically critical moment, or at least that there would be incomings for the Parasites to defend against rather than just sitting around waiting for the final battle. I don't know about "the other 99% of the enemy forces?", it didn't look like a bigger army than the one that was initially defending Gran Crevasse...

Honestly the Klax Princess having a child-like model didn't even register to me, because she's usually savage, vicious, and/or given a low-angle shot that makes her look bigger and more powerful than she probably actually is. I think the only point where she seemed anything but a frightening inhuman (if human-like) entity to me is where the show cares to point it out by cutting to Hiro's memory of Zero Two in pain when she's getting overtaken by the purple crud right at the end. I also don't *think* she has child proportions (that is, she probably has a 7.5-8 head body like a teen or adult), though I admit I could be misled by the cinematography when guessing that. But maybe she has more moments that make the "lolita" vibe more noticeable coming up.

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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Sun Aug 12, 2018 1:26 pm 
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Episode 21

Every time I think this show has, to quote The Right Stuff, Screwed the Pooch, it reminds me why I liked it in the first place. This episode was really good overall. Zero Two's stuff with Doctor Franxx was great. The explanation of her existence we basically already knew, and seeing her react to it was great. Hiro's connection with the Klax Princess, that was great too. It basically reaffirmed everything about the show being about “Life finds a way” and the Power of Love. I wish we'd had more time with her as an actual character – like, Doctor Franxx seemed to know a lot about the secret history because he's telling Zero Two basically that story at the same time Hiro is getting it from the Klax princess, couldn't he have been a prisoner for some real time in his backstory? I guess that's asking for a lot. The material with the Nines was dynamite, I loved how they were breaking down with Papa's betrayal, just unable to take reality. And Squad 13 was really reaching the culmination of their arc. Everything they did this episode showed just how much they'd grown from their unique situation and the time in Episodes 16-18 where they learned how to stand on their own. Every movement is right there. I especially love Ichigo – back in the early phase of the show I called her out, repeatedly, for being a terrible leader but by this episode, she's grown into a great one, able to make difficult decisions even though they're difficult and see what needs to be done through to the end. And I don't feel like it was a sudden flip, I feel like she's really grown, and I've been privileged to see that.

Really, what more is there to say for this one? I liked the death of Doctor Franxx, going out reveling in the glory of his ultimate creation. I loved Hiro and Zero Two's reconnection, in that it reversed the dynamic we saw in episode 6 and episode 15 (Zero Two having to struggle to reach Hiro, both physically like he had to do in 15 and emotionally through the veil of death itself like he had to do in episode 6) which is exactly what I wanted out of the next time the two of them had to do that. And I liked the Klaxosaur Princess willing the future of Earth to them. They made the impression I wanted them to make on her, and I think her final faith was not misplaced. In some ways again we get a paralell between her and Franxx, when Franxx talks about miracles and hope in taking control of Star Entity and in answering why he brought Zero Two to Plantation 13 at the beginning, and the Klaxosaur Princess in her last moments, deciding to believe in hope one more time.

I think what I really want to say about this one is... it should have ended here. Everything was contained. If you just cut this episode when the title card came up, before the last shot of Zero Two extremely out of sorts (some kind of comatose, I think), it would have been a fine end for the series. Sure, we still would have endured the stupid alien dataform hive mind twist (While the show hasn't spelled it out, with the orange light flying from the plantations I assume “backed up” adults were those ready to be absorbed by VIRM), but they fled into the depths of space screaming “I'll get you next time, Gadget!”, we saw all the Squad 13 parasites alive and well, and Hiro and Zero Two are back together and in possession of the ultimate power... it would have been ending that left the door ajar for continuation with a return of VIRM or the shattered Nines making trouble or the trials and tribulations of building a new civilization out of the Children... but that's fine, leave the door open, but close this chapter. Close the book. I'm worried that this end run is just going to be a roller coaster for me, because dealing with Zero Two's state isn't going to be pleasant given we JUST DID the big dramatic reunion and frankly I don't want to do it. Put this on record as a prediction: In the event that I find the ending to suck, the “For You, My Love” title card, is where to cut to have a satisfying finale. VIRM and everything about them (like the details of the old Klax civ) will still be stupid, but will have little enough screen time to not really matter.

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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Sun Aug 12, 2018 4:34 pm 
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Multiple Episodes today. Don't know how many it's going to be, but somewhere between two and "all of them"

Episode 22

I'm a little torn on this one. It was a good low-key episode (though not one of my favorites) but... I still don't think we needed this arc. It was nice seeing the Parasites put the skills they learned in their time alone to use, and seeing them tend the fields and the harsh but potentially manageable problems of a new world – freedom and all the terrible burdens that come with it.

But we didn't need it.

As a side note, I did like the Cold Storage. I wrote off Naomi as dead way back in episode 2, and thought that was for the weak payoff in Episode 12 about how no, she didn't go back to the garden. I had also been wanting the apparent machinations of Doctor Franxx to amount to something, which I assumed was done with his last couple episodes being a true mad scientist, his death, and Strelitzia Apus. Instead we find out that he stashed information gleaned from the minds of adults (presumably piggybacking off VIRM's “backup”) as well as, in a fairly massive if the map is to be believed Cold Storage facility, all the hundreds, maybe thousands, of biologically viable children discarded by APE. I'm pretty sure he was planning insurrection, and also setting up to hand the keys to the kingdom, so to speak, over to the Children. His use of Emotional Nana may have been more opportunistic, but I feel like he was setting this up for a long time. I also somehow doubt Papa really knew about the cold storage, I have a feeling there would have been some objection.

So, Zero Two's mind is still in Strelitzia (not a hard call to make after the last episode) and fighting VIRM. So presumably we're not going to settle for driving them off Earth and will instead take the fight to them and wipe them out for all time. I still don't think this was needed.

The scene between Goro and Hiro was great. I especially like that it was Goro to call out Hiro for being selfish about his path in life and hurting all of them (and by implication Ichigo) by deciding unilaterally on a course that could be throwing his life away. I'm not going to claim that Goro is right, but when they're coming from such an authoritarian society with such a strong (and lauded, even by the Free Parasites) focus on interdependence, I like that someone stepped up and spoke for that side. And I liked that it wasn't Ichigo. The camera cuts back to her a couple of times while Goro is talking and I think she knows she wouldn't have moral high ground to stand on in this topic after Episode 14. And I think she's matured to recognize that and understand when she wouldn't be right to say or do something about it.

I also liked the turnaround, where the Parasites (Less Kokoro and Mitsuru) come out to support Hiro. I don't think that needed the Nines, but we'll see how the show uses them going forward. I think the scene between Goro and Ichigo was a good turnaround, and the reasoning they give for coming to help him after they'd not supported his initial declaration is good reasoning. It feels like they're making their decision both in character and for the right reasons – that the problem wasn't so much that Hiro was willing to offer up everything to keep his end of the promise with Zero Two, but that he was, in his plan, going to be doing it alone. And it had to be that way, because he couldn't really ask them to abandon their own lives.

But we still didn't need this. We didn't need any of this. We kind of needed more after Gran Crevasse because the victory there hadn't held a ton of meaning when it was won, we still didn't know why everyone fought. We didn't need more after “For You, My Love” because the day was won and that win had meaning.

I feel like the show could have been stronger if we got more material between the current 18 and 20 to set up the history of Franxx and the Klaxosaur princess, and maybe even properly clue us into the possibility of VIRM being a thing in that setting. If 22-24 were cut and 21 became New 24, that could be three episodes worth of “why are the Klax war machines? There is an ancient enemy.” and so on. We didn't need the great space chase.

But all the same, I'm still enjoying the characters. I'm enjoying it for the characters. VIRM was a hell of a huge letdown compared to the possibilities of working with a human-derived APE, but what the show does well it hasn't abandoned doing well.

Though... are they taking Zero Two's body with them? If you want to put her back together that might be a good idea. I mean, I guess you could just bring Strelitzia Apus back to Earth...

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The Coalition/Phyrexian War Game Rises Again


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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Sun Aug 12, 2018 5:26 pm 
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We're finishing this.

Episode 23

This final arc is... really lackluster. It's worse than just going on autopilot from 18 would have been, and this time just about everything fell flat. The parting and promise to return was alright, as was the Earth stuff, but everything else... This show's strength had been the ability to make me feel, and express the emotions of the characters, but they didn't work this time

Hiro and Zero Two are reunified again (Rule of threes, guys. This is time number 4, it's getting old) and... all three of the other reunion scenes (Hiro fighting through death in episode 6, Hiro and Zero Two making up in episode 15, and Zero Two reaching Hiro and calling him back from beyond in Episode 21) were dynamite scenes. This one is done in picture book art that doesn't carry it, it's interspersed with much less powerful imagery of the battle around them, and the emotions feel like two steps back. Zero Two's Picture Book Self getting in the way felt like pre-episode-15 Zero Two, and a bad version of her at that. And when she came to as Ultimate Apus (a silly design, though I'll accept it along with talking in space. The bridal gown look is kind of cool.) we didn't get a lot of her character, she was just sort of there.

The fall of Nine Alpha (and presumably the remaining nines, talking about their blaze of glory) weren't very effective because they'd been antagonists up to this episode, and while I guess I was glad that the little POS was going out doing something right, it didn't feel germane to what had been his antagonism. He should have at least died spitting in Papa VIRM's eye, loudly choosing to fight and die for himself rather than for a nebulous cause. In fact, the space battle as a whole was weak because it was so static.

All the fights on earth, throughout the series, had been dynamic affairs. Even when Red Strelitzia is rampaging in episode 15 and just sort of making Klaxosaurs vanish into spherical explosions, there was a sense of motion, of speed and power, and of scale. When they ram through the Super-Lehmann Class Klaxosaur and skeletonize it, the episode so far had gone a long way to emphasize its size and strength. In the final battle for control of Star Entity, when the VIRM soldiers show, they're brutal and savage, taking hunks out of things in a way the Klaxosaurs were never shown to, and the Franxx action is similarly brutal. Nine Alpha's Franxx, standing atop a mountain of slain Klaxosaurs, blood running down its plating against a dark sky... it's a powerful image, even if the laser guns had come out. Here, the VIRM and Klax fleets just sort of float there while lines dart between them and sphere explosions show up. Now and again there'll be some good moves but even the up-close Franxx-on-VIRM fighting is largely quick and still. Everybody goes basically one speed in straight lines firing lasers, which is way less engaing then when they're speeding up, slowing down, clashing, showing off martial arts, and so on. The big fight episodes kept feeling stronger and stronger, but this one falls completely flat because it's lacking everything that made Franxx action fun from episode 1 on up.

Mitsuru and Kokoro's reunion was good. By initiating it, especially how he did, Mitsuru has achieved his 12th labor and ascended into the ranks of good characters with the rest of the Darling in the Franxx cast. I'd call that the highlight of the episode since the space battle and picture book stuff went so poorly by comparison, and Zero Two's ascension into Ultimate Apus while her earthly body turns to stone so bizarre and baffling that it couldn't land. Hachi and Nana's interplay (and their commentary on VIRM's speech) wasn't terrible, and it played off the brief shot we had earlier of Hachi clearly having a crush on Nana back when they were both parasites with emotions, but it got a little ham-fisted, even for Darling in the Franxx. I'd pass it, but the episode as a whole is down there with “Inhumanity” and “Partner Shuffle”. But there's only one episode left! One final climax, and we should know what it has to do. They have to defeat VIRM with the Bomb of Doom and return safely to the earth, no matter how long it takes (and it could take a long time. I have this image in my mind of a final scene where Ichigo is an old lady on her deathbed, living in some exalted but rustic place in the New Civilization, perhaps even Mistleteinn Manor. One of what are presumably her numerous offspring comes in and say there are two visitors her for her, she asks if it's Kokoro and Mitsuru again. No, granny, they're strangers. And in walk Hiro and Zero Two, the latter restored and both looking just how we left them because take your pick of time dilation from relativistic travel and/or cryosleep. And Old Ichigo cries tears of joy and says she never lost hope.)

Bring it on.

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The Coalition/Phyrexian War Game Rises Again


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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Sun Aug 12, 2018 6:47 pm 
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FINAL EPISODE

This is... Wow. I have no idea what to say. I'm not going to be able to contain my thoughts. This is going to be a long one. A long, long, long one.

This episode was wrong. Like critically, amazingly wrong.
But at the same time it was really effective, even powerful.

Since I'm going to be talking about endings, and theory of endings, there will be unmarked spoilers for other media I've consumed. I'll try to pick works that should be familiar to most people, at least on the thread, but still...
Zero Two wrote:
If you want off this ride, now's your chance.


I'm not opposed to bittersweet or even tragic endings, but here's the thing: you need to have the ending that your narrative has earned. If you want the “Broke your arm punching out Cthulhu” ending you had better be in a Cosmic Horror Story, or something else similarly bleak in its genre or concept, a story that's about facing down forces beyond what humans should or even can actually take on so that winning some success, no matter how fleeting and no matter the cost, is probably more than you could have expected. If you're telling a certain kind of story, the Happy Ending is wrong, because you haven't earned it.

Watchmen has an ending where characters and innocents alike die, nothing is truly accomplished by the leads, the “villain” wins (though one could argue for good reason), and we leave not knowing if there was a right thing, much less if it has been done, nor do we know if all that was accomplished, and the good in it (however tainted by the means by which it was achieved) will come crashing down. And that's OK, because Watchmen is about complexity, a lack of right answers, and questioning the typical dynamics of 'heroism'.

The Call of Cthulhu ends with everybody dead or soon to be, an ageless cult and impossible monster still biding their time for the inevitable ruin of reality, and no achievements made by the seeker of knowledge, and the delay of armageddon only achieved in ignorance and near total sacrifice... but The Call of Cthulhu is about positing a malefic entity impossibly beyond mankind, so the fact that the snooze button was hit (even if the stars weren't quite right so he was going back to bed anyway) is pretty impressive. It's the ending the story earned.

On the other side, Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works ends not just with the survival of the world, nor even just of Shirou Emiya and Rin Tohsaka – it ends with the survival of Shinji Matou, a character who probably deserved to die, who the viewer would want to die, because one of the big themes of the show is what it means to be a “Hero of Justice” and how it can be worthwhile or even necessary to save everyone to truly embody that ideal (and comes down, unlike Watchmen as firmly pro-hero).

At the end of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (Movie, not Manga), the titular character is healed from lethal wounds (or resurrected, if you prefer) by a mechanism that was essentially not foreshadowed. But even though those technical events are normally something you'd reject as a poor showing, they don't come off as such in Nausicaa, because the themes of that story earned the scene, with how much Nausicaa had to strive and suffer to establish a peace. She earned her life, and it fit that the show had redemption as a possible theme.

Witch Craft Works ends with a resurrection or near-resurrection as well: Ayaka Kagari is brought back from having offered up her life and the town is restored along with the possibly destroyed lives of its inhabitants in a world-healing wave... and you don't mind, and in fact totally accept it, because the show is far too silly to have real concequences. It knew, Joker-as-a-witch doomsday villain in the last arc or no, that it was a show that had a giant mechanical rabbit fighting a giant teddy bear, and it had not earned any sort of darkness sticking around. It earned everything working out, and everything not working out would have been bitterly unearned. Because that's what Witch Craft Works was about: goofy magical antics with maybe some good action and/or drama thrown in.

Even Dusk Maiden of Amnesia, a show where I'm badly torn on the ending, earned what it did. It earned both the heart-wrenching goodbye that it almost left us on with its effective character drama and a serious treatment of pain, suffering, and regret. And it earned the joyful, “everything is ok” snatching of happiness out of the jaws of bittersweet tragedy with its long-standing comedy and charm. The show earned both endings, and though it could only have one of them in the end and I might have liked road not traveled, I can't say that the ending we got was undeserved. That's what Dusk Maiden was about. That's what it was building up to.

So, when you get down to it, ending excluded, what is Darling in the Franxx about? It's about Love. It's about Hope. It's about saving, protecting, or even recovering things that are precious to you. It's about life (uh) finding a way. It's about an indomitable will to succeed. It's not about Loss or Misery or Sacrifice or Hubris or the limits of human achievement. It gave up any right it had to a tragic ending in Episode 6 – way back at the climax of the first arc – when Hiro told the reaper to suck it and pulled himself back from death with nothing but the power of Heart for Zero Two's sake and their mecha sprouted magic wings because they believed in each other and the gods-damned Jian was whole. It doubled down on that in Episode 15, when after a harrowing journey that saw both Hiro and Zero Two falter and strain the bonds they made the shadow passed and their connection shined out the clearer to win the day. Those moments established what kind of story we were in, and it wasn't the one that would earn an ending where those same characters who defied death and destiny would give up and let themselves be done in just because it was “impossible” to escape their situation. How did that line from the start of Pacific Rim go again?
Pacific Rim wrote:
There are things you can't fight - acts of God. You see a hurricane coming, you get out of the way. But when you're in a Jaeger, suddenly you can finally fight the hurricane. You can win.
Heck with 'acts of God' like that, when Zero Two and Hiro are in Strelitzia, they could fight God and win. The VIRM, war fleets, planets, their condition, even the vast impossible gulfs of space standing between those two and Earth all felt like surmountable obstacles. There was nothing in their way they couldn't overcome if they fought hard enough, and no reason to believe either of them would ever give up on the other, life, or the love they shared. Would they have to suffer on the path there? Would it take a harrowing trial and a hell of a lot of Heart in the end? Hell yes, but they could do it.

It was wrong, completely wrong, that they had to die to... I think they liberated most of the souls that VIRM contained, leaving just Papa's weird star-ghost as the whole of VIRM having to start again from square zero? But it's hard to tell. They blew up a planet and there were a lot of other red and blue sparks, so I assume they did real, meaningful damage to the VIRM. That wasn't what the story up to this point had earned. Especially when they come to, thanks to everyone praying together for the two of them (itself a really powerful scene, showing the strength not just of a SINGLE romantic bond, but of the combined will of all humanity and all the bonds the two of them had made in the show), that should have been the trigger not for a bittersweet sacrifice, but for a true victory.

And yet... And yet I find myself more offended on principle than in actuality. What can I really do? Do I scream to the Plot Cops, tell them that Darling in the Franxx is illegal and is going to jail? What DO you do when a story violates the laws of storytelling? Especially, I ask, what do you do when it's moving despite this?

Not because of it. Stories that are moving because they broke “the rules” and did it smartly get lauded. That's not what Darling in the Franxx did here, and everything they did, during this episode and maybe even before, is weaker because of it. The rule break was absolutely a bad thing. But I'm torn, because they provided an intense, impactful, worthy death-of-the-hero(es) scene – basically the entire episode dedicated, beyond everything, to making that scene land – they just did it in a story that is nothing but worse for that scene existing.

I was tearing up during that ending, yet I hated it. I was furious at that ending, yet I loved it. Oddly, it was the scenes after Hiro and Zero Two exploded that threatened to start the waterworks, and I think only my numb shock over the fact that they went “cycle of reincarnation” rather than “come home” that kept me from actually crying. In some ways, it was everything that Darling in the Franxx wanted to be, a celebration of life and humanity as we know it. All the scenes of the overgrown Franxx, the return of the Klaxosaurs, the offspring of the Parasites and their lives – happy and beautifully imperfect – that the sacrifice won for them to live in peace. The regrowth and restoration of civilization, around the Cherry Tree that sprouted from the shattered statue/body of Zero Two (I was thinking mistletoe, but cherry works too). It's so right. For the first time, the very first time across all twenty-four episodes, I was willing to look at Darling in the Franxx as something more than a silly action show with a dumb philosophical bent, as per The Matrix. One shining moment, where it actually reaches for the kind of greatness you see in the end of Princess Mononoke, bittersweet but hopeful, a triumph not for any character but for life and goodness. For once in its entire run, this show meant more than badass fighting robots, cringe-worthy innuendos, and surprisingly fun characters. For once I actually felt moved.

But this was not the ending Darling in the Franxx deserved.

And my brain is aching just trying to put together whether that's a good thing or not. Do I want this ending capping off a better show? Do I want a more fitting ending, that might not have been as independently powerful?

I don't know. And that's both awesome and unsettling.

I think everything right and wrong with that ending is established in just the last couple of seconds, with that reincarnation stinger. Here's the thing – I've seen other endings like this, and they EARNED the ending and the redemption alike. In Mirai Nikki, Yuno Gasai breaks the laws of space-time to be with Yukiteru again. It's a tiny little stinger; we don't even see her in the main show (though the Redial OVA reveals fully how and why we got there), we just hear her voice and understand from the last Murmur segment what must have occurred. But Mirai Nikki set up her death: there could be only one winner in the Survival Game, so ultimately, unless there was some sort of Miracle, which the last few episodes spend their running time busting the notion of, either Yuki or Yuno had to die for anything to end. But we get the 'stinger' for two reasons. First, we were left with an open door (in the form of Murmur/Third Yuno's Murmur Phone Charm) to the idea that while Yuno's life is ended her existence, in an absolute sense, might not be. Further, we bring them back together as obviously the same characters. True, Yuno may have gone through some changes, but the single line she says, with the exact inflection she says it, tells us she's the Yuno we grew to love over the course as the show as much as Yukiteru is still our main character. The change in the diary also goes a long way to establish this as a true redemption, not a case of identical strangers.

Then there's In Search of the Lost Future. This one didn't actually earn its ending (at least, it didn't earn both of them because Suo x Yui was poorly handled), but it did earn its vain attempt to recover its dignity. We had been made privy to the idea of multiple timelines, and that the world of might-have-been doesn't just cease when something changes. So when Kaori wakes up in the “Adult” timeline, rather than being an inexplicable event, it's the culmination of what Adult Suo and the endlessly looping Yui had been working for. We never see a timeline in which the couple works out and Kaori escapes her date with that bus, but we can accept a timeline in which all the efforts of saving her in the past do pan out to saving her in the future. Meanwhile, the show is smart enough to not try to re-insert Yui into the “Child” timeline despite the fact that she was the romantic winner there. We're given some hope, by implication, that Suo will someday re-create her in that timeline the way he did in those that came before, but going all the way there would have just muddled things. In Search of the Lost Future knew when enough was enough.

Angel Beats has a more exact reincarnation stinger, but again, whether you like the show or not, its themes earn every element of that ending. After all, the entire premise is that everyone in the show is already dead and in purgatory. Though some things aren't explained except by hand waving “the rules of purgatory are screwy” (like why Angel had to wait for the boy who has to have died before her, potentially even LONG before her, to manifest in Purgatory so she could complete her Unfinished Business of thanking him), the ideas behind the actions that take place are all set up properly. We know this show only really ends with all the characters reaching Obliteration, and while we know this is a Purgatory show we don't actually know what awaits the characters who disappear from the world in which we find them. Angel and Otonashi can't stay, that's been hammered home time and again. Once they find happiness, they move on to the next step. But for the two of them, doing that caused them to form an unbreakable, even romantic bond. Angel Beats doesn't use the cop-out on love versus Unfinished Business that Dusk Maiden of Amnesia does, and so the characters have to ultimately face up to stepping into the unknown. When we see a brief moment of the two of them, clearly in some new life, meeting each other again over a faint, probably unconscious, memory of something from their time in Purgatory, we accept it because the idea that they would be reincarnated to be together is absolutely within the canon of things that Angel Beats could have been building towards. It's entirely, 100%, germane to the themes and ideas of the show, which are theological in nature, where Darling in the Franxx isn't. Reincarnation is something that seems like it could exist in the world of Angel Beats, but in Darling in the Franxx it really has no business being addressed. True, the VIRM are sort of said to be a bodiless hive mind, and the word “soul” did come up a couple times in the last few episodes, but frankly it's just as badly out of left field as the VIRM showing up in the first place in Episode 20. The setting was one of science fiction, even if it was as soft as cream cheese, not quasi-religious fantasy. We shouldn't have had to accept reincarnation here.

And yet, when Zero Two and Hiro died, it absolutely had to happen. They made the promise to come back and be together no matter how much it takes, and as I mentioned before, talking about why they shouldn't have died, this show spent nearly all of its 24 episodes making you believe that absolutely nothing could stand between them or against them. They wanted to fulfill that promise to each other and the gang in the end, and so come what may they were going to do it. The ending was not complete until they did. Leaving them off, dead in the misty depths of space, their reunion unseen, would have been infinitely more wrong than seeing them resurrected, even when that reincarnation is not germane to the show in the least. You see them meet again, their hands join, and... everything has finally worked out. The pretentious text says another story begins and... I'd watch it. I'd see the world that Ichigo and the others made, with Hiro and Zero Two (by whatever names they now go by) in it.

I've compared this show to Mekakucity Actors before, and in a lot of ways, I feel like they're reflections of each other in funhouse mirrors. They don't look a lot alike, Darling in the Franxx being a gorgeous mecha/action show while Mekakucity Actors is a surreal urban fantasy/drama, but they actually share a lot of creative DNA. Both shows have two main draws: an engaging mystery and an amazing cast of characters. The casts have a lot of similarities, parallel characters that I've described before, but Darling in the Franxx has a very powerful lead (Zero Two), and every other character is either secondary (Hiro, Ichigo) or tertiary while Mekakucity Actors is a true ensemble where, true, Shintaro and Ayano are probably a wee bit more critical than Hibiya or Kano, but everybody gets about the same weight and time in the sun. Both shows feature a villain who comes out of the woodwork as a complete game-changer right at the end, but while VIRM is horribly not germane to the show, the Snake of Clearing Eyes is perfectly germane to the point of being the cornerstone on which you didn't know the show was built. Both shows feature a romantic pair that are divided at a critical point by death, yet ultimately reunited. In the case of Hiro and Zero Two, death is mostly just a suggestion for the majority of the show, but the ending forces them to pay the piper while in the case of Shintaro and Ayano death was a solid barrier but when it was overcome in the end they reached each other and achieved their happy ending. The ending of Darling in the Franxx is bittersweet. It's deliberately paced and potentially powerful, but doesn't fit the show its in and suffers for that. The ending of Mekakucity Actors is truly and fully happy. It's rushed and chaotic, with not a lot of explanation unless you dive into the original KagePro songs and side material, effectively reading the show with a gloss, but it is an absolute perfect fit for the show and all the characters involved and is redeemed utterly by that fact.

Both are shows that I probably rate somewhere in the 7/10 band overall, but that only average out to that from amazing, soaring heights and calamitous, bottomless-pit lows. Both are shows I enjoyed immensely, yet have serious problems with and totally understand anyone not getting into, or even hating.

And while I think, if forced to choose between them, I'd say I prefer Mekakucity Actors, both are shows I'd recommend.

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Last edited by Tevish Szat on Mon Aug 13, 2018 1:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Sun Aug 12, 2018 11:40 pm 
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TevishSzat I edited your post to put the image in a spoiler tag. It was just too big. It stretched the forum layout on my PC and probably did much worse for mobile users.


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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Sun Aug 12, 2018 11:41 pm 
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Sorry. I guess I just use a big ol' desktop where that many pixels is well behaved.

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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Mon Aug 13, 2018 11:40 pm 
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With Darling in the Franxx done, I've started Kiznaiver. I won't be doing episode-by-episode logs, I don't think, but this was a fun project.

So, TPmanW, did I mostly end up echoing your sentiments?

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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Tue Aug 14, 2018 12:43 am 
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Largely, yes. My overall opinion was a little more negative though. I placed more emphasis on the mystery aspect and certain themes which didn't get followed through on very well. I felt the aliens weren't the worst part really. By that point I had resigned myself to the fact the show was not going to go in a good direction.

I was left with a great many questions. Many of the "what was the point of that?" and "was there a particular reason the characters did it that way" variety.
How does that big arm thing fit into it all? That seems like something that should've come up again.
So VIRM's deal is collectivism? It doesn't seem like they did well by mankind, but neither did the Klaxx. I'm not convinced they were the bad guys. At least, I don't see much fault with their essential philosophy, and I think the show wants me to.

Revisiting the show has tempered my dislike. Now that the disappointment has faded, I can look back and say it wasn't bad. It just wasted a lot of potential. Stuff like that bugs me, but it doesn't make the show as awful as I might have made it out to be in the aftermath of certain plot developments.

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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Fri Aug 17, 2018 6:47 pm 
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So, every now and again I decide to just binge a show. 12 episodes isn't too much to get through in a day.

I did that today. I watched Hundred.

Here's my review: Don't watch Hundred.

it is unbelievable how totally the show manages to fail. It's never insulting I guess, but absolutely every part of it is inadequate. There is nothing right about it. I feel like I should apologize to other shows I've made complaints about, like Clockwork Planet and Darling in the Franxx, because whether I liked or disliked them in the end, they weren't as lazy and ineffectual as Hundred.

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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Sat Aug 25, 2018 2:29 pm 
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I finished Kiznaiver.

It's a show that I don't hate... but it could have been a lot more. Most criminally, it's a character-driven show and the most important characters aren't developed or explored very well at all. It's not all bad, like when they actually use their premise it hits pretty well, but it's not exactly good either.

I'll be starting Elfen Lied tomorrow. (Shakugan no Shana is still going strong)

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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Sat Aug 25, 2018 4:13 pm 
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I'll be starting Elfen Lied tomorrow. (Shakugan no Shana is still going strong)

*arm outstretched*
Tevish, NOOOOOOOO!

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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Sat Aug 25, 2018 9:26 pm 
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I was going to express great concern, but it turns out that I can't actually watch Elfen Lied right now anyway, since the episode videos on MAL are down, so I'll be going onto something else.

I am kind of troubled as to what could prompt such a reaction. I've been warned that there's a lot of gore, but I took Mirai Nikki and Brynhildr in the Darkness, the latter based on a manga by the same author...

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