Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Anime Summary: June 2015

Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma


Firstly, before I launch more deeply into the delicious many layered onion that is Food Wars, I must stress that this is the best anime I have watched all year. It categorises itself as a series focused on cooking the most delicious food dishes, which I don't dispute for reasons I'm about to explain.

At first glance, there's not much that sets Food Wars apart. It follows the familiar pattern of many other similar series which have come before it - such as Eyeshield 21, Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple, Yumeiro Patissiere and even more mainstream shows like Yu-Gi-Oh, Naruto, Fairy Tail and One Piece. Except of course, Food Wars doesn't have the raw physical brawl potential of half these other series, and therefore has to make up for it... in other ways.
Let me paint a portrait for you: 

- The main character is some ridiculously talented kid descended from an incredibly awesome father who used to be really important. For some reason the father is now retired/deceased/drinking himself into an early grave somewhere and his kid now has the monumental task of surpassing his old man.

- The protagonist has only one focus. To be the very best [insert focus of the anime series in question here].

- If you never cared for [insert focus of the anime series in question here] before, you sure as Dragonite will now. That kid has to succeed! Eventually! Or this whole thing isn't worth watching.

- There must to be struggles, hardships and challenges! Battles to lose, rivals to defeat, new skills to learn!

- The artwork has to be good. And by good, I mean pretty. I can't tell you how many times I've read a series summary which sounded interesting, only to be put off by the thought of staring at unattractive characters and artwork for so many hours.

- There will be little to no romantic development, because by the will of Arceus, we need those fangirls to be constantly fighting over speculated pairings for every possible character all the time. This is to keep them talking and engaged in the series long enough for it to run a few seasons, or until the interest otherwise dies out.

- You gotta have some allies, some enemies and some in between. Sometimes you may have to join forces, sometimes you might have to punch a bunch of them in the face. It's all good. A range of characters makes it more interesting. Also, more opportunities for fan service (I'm looking at you, Free!).

So that's a typical formula which produces a popular anime series. It sounds pretty simple, and you'd probably never think that it would still work on an audience who has experienced it so many times before. 

And yet, why do I own enough Yu-Gi-Oh cards to plaster a house with?
Why did I religiously watch the whole of Eyeshield 21 despite having zero interest in football?
Why did I watch Free! at all, knowing that I do not possess the ability to swim, and would likely drown and die a terrible death if I tried?

Every successful anime has something a little special and unspoken about it that draws you in. I have no idea what that something is with Yu-Gi-Oh, as looking back on it, there wasn't really much character development or substance to that whole series. Maybe I just have a natural affinity for children's card games.

In the case of Food Wars, the ace up the butt-naked sleeve is foodgasms. Whenever anybody cooks up a tasty dish (which is nearly all the time), the tasters of that meal have a rather odd, other-worldly, suggestively orgasmic experience. This exaggerated reaction to the food's taste can go on for a significant chunk of an episode's run time, much like how a connoisseur of fine wine can ramble on for hours about the properties of fermented crap while everybody else in the vicinity stops listening after the first 5 seconds. 

And this may sound like a bad thing, but when a Food Wars character has one of these foodgasm experiences, the whole thing is far more hilarious than it is ecchi. I mean, I doubt many viewers would genuinely find some random guy dressed in a duck suit singing an aria erotic. No-Siree-Bob. Thus, this series confidently walks the fine line between inappropriately funny and distastefully indecent. I'd say it's more on the inappropriately comical side of the line. Most of the time. Just don't watch this show if there's a chance somebody might walk in on you, or you may have to answer some awkward questions.

For example, the first time Satoshi Isshiki appears with no pants, it's a bit of a shock. Which is naturally understandable. But soon after that, you just accept that Satoshi Isshiki always wears no pants (apparently that's just a part of his fan service duty), and so it's only logical that the next time you see him wandering around outside in the nude, you just go about your business as usual. Which is exactly the reaction all the characters in the show develop to the same situation.

Besides all the impromptu nudity, Food Wars is actually about learning secret new cooking skills, so you might actually learn a few tricks or recipes here and there to try out for yourself. And if you somehow find yourself offended by all the largely comical foodgasms, just skip through them or plant your face firmly into the back of a cat until they pass.

"Soma Yukihara & Erina Nakiri Humming"

You know you can't stop listening to Yukihara's off-key humming. Resign yourself to it.

La storia della Arcana Famiglia


I can only tell you how... Vexed? Irate? Incensed? Exasperated? Infuriated? Livid? Yes, I can only describe to you how absolutely livid I feel about this series. Stay a while, and listen.

La storia della Arcana Famiglia can be summed up totally in one simple phrase: Wasted potential. So much of it in fact, that I could probably write the characters into a better story if I wrote the script for this whole series myself. Which I may actually do someday, depending on how many cats I can acquire before slipping into complete madness.

This series had so much going for it, but for some mysterious reason which I cannot compute, nothing ever came out of it. Just look at all the exciting themes we had to work with here. Mafia wars. Magical powers. Tarot cards. Fighting tournament. Good characters. Great art style. Cat. This could have been bigger than pirates, ninjas and wizards combined. Yet, it quite literally went absolutely nowhere. Sorry, no comprendo.

La storia della Arcana Famiglia started off rather promisingly, with the introduction of the Mafia Boss declaring that he would hold a battle tournament to crown the new Papa. He also adds that he will be marrying off his daughter (Felicità) to the victor, much to her dismay.

So now everyone in the Mafia wants Felicità as their bride because... well, this is an otome game series. Centuries of otome tradition dictate that there are no other brides around for any of these mostly ridiculously attractive Mafia guys to choose from. That and marrying the current Papa's daughter grants immeasurable power by association.

Anyway, Felicità is only 16 so realistically she has a choice out of two of the Mafia guys - Liberta or Nova. Well actually, Liberta is 18 and Nova is 15. Also, Nova is Felicità's cousin. Okay, I take it back. From this, I deduce that the obvious correct choice is Liberta. He certainly seems like the canon love interest judging by the anime series.

Of course, for no apparent reason, none of this ever goes anywhere. Despite the increasing pressure on her to just choose one of these two guys, Felicità decides she doesn't actually like either of them in any romantic sense. Instead, she wins the tournament herself (somehow) because her Papa is weak/dying, thus preventing anyone from marrying her. Liberta and Nova conveniently draw, knock each other out of the tournament, and the original Papa continues his reign of terror. Like nothing ever happened in the first place. Now I just want to smash a desk repeatedly with my fists and forehead. Excuse me for a moment.

Ergh. In conclusion, other than finding out a bit of background and past information on a few of the characters, nothing actually happens in this series. Zilch. Zero. Naught. Nada. It's a bit like Starry Sky in that way. Don't even get me started on the final episode of La storia della Arcana Famiglia - it is quite possibly the worst thing I have ever seen in all my years of watching anything. And not in the so-bad-it's-good way, either. You really have to see it to believe it. I have no words. And even less brain function after all that vigorous desk to forehead smashing I was forced to partake in earlier.

Otome series writers take note - Just pick a canon guy for the protagonist and let the rabid fangirls deal with it. Come on. You know if they get angry and vocal enough, you might get to make another season. Why not just feature a different guy each season with a new protagonist each time? Don't you want to cash in? Sure you do! That's why you even created an otome series in the first place! Someone, please do Tokimeki Memorial 1st Love as well as Minami-Ke so I can recover from this traumatic episode. Thank you in advance.

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