Saturday, November 10, 2012

This Can Only End Badly

This is a project that I never thought I’d try to do. Not only is it over a subject that I feel mostly ambivalent towards, but it’s also something that’s guaranteed to frustrate me as much as it will entertain me. Before I watch or review anything here, know that I’m not going in looking for a fight or hoping to be another one of the “angry reviewer” archetypes that seem to populate this weird gooey webworld we live in. People who devote themselves to this role either wind up having a complete mental breakdown or get so full of themselves that they’d drown in a lake trying to make out with their own reflection. I just want to entertain and be entertained. This is a hobby.

My name is Jake O’Jack, and I’m not an anime fan. I just want to say that straight out, because this fact is the core thesis behind this project I’ve decided to undertake. That’s not to say that I dislike anime or people who call themselves anime fans, it’s just that I can’t claim to be one myself. If that causes me to lose credibility to my target audience, moreso than would the act of starting an anime blog (of which there are roughly twenty bazillion on the internet) in the first place, then there’s nothing I can do about that.

I definitely used to be a fan, though. In fact, I can still remember spending weeks scrimping and saving, pinching pennies of my allowance to try and save up for an overpriced anime DVD with only four episodes crammed on a disc (dual audio). That was in middle school, and it was an unreal time. Before then, my exposure to anime was limited to Dragonball Z, Sailor Moon, Digimon, and the rest of the usual suspects that most people who grew up in the 90s still remember. How many of you can still quote the Sailor Moon theme song by memory? Sing it with me:

Fighting evil by moonlight
Winning love by daylight

Okay, stop it. You sound ridiculous, seriously. Anyway, the point is that the new millennium was a crazy time for me. It was the dawn of the digital age, and more and more series were starting to make their way across the Pacific. All of a sudden, the amount of anime available to watch jumped from the four or so shows that I’d had since early grade school, to dozens of series that I could choose from. It started seeping into Saturday morning cartoons, and before I knew it, those big eyes and tiny mouths were impossible to escape from.

I didn’t watch my first sub until high school, mostly because I had an Apple computer from the mid 90s that absolutely couldn’t play high quality .avi files without exploding, wiping out my entire neighborhood in the process. Fallout 3 was actually based on what happened when I tried to torrent Gundam SEED on a 266 MHz PowerMac G3 through a DSL connection and wound up wiping out a city block.

I see you're trying to open a gif. Let me belch smoke to show my appreciation.

I kept going, well into high school, and I consider that the height of my enjoyment of the medium. It was a more accepting place, and I didn’t really have to hide the fact that I knew what a “Haruhi Suzumiya” was or that I still had VHS tapes of Outlaw Star from back when Toonami was still playing every weekday afternoon. I finally got a new computer (Mac Mini G4) that was nothing special, but it played video and ran my Myst games without crashing. It was perfect. I was torrenting, browsing for new shows to check out, and I was always happy to catch a peak at what was out there before it could have a chance at making it to the States. Hey, I’m not proud of it, but legal streaming options were limited back then.

And so was the amount of quality fansubs.

Unfortunately, it was having free-range access to that volume of content that led to my falling out with the anime industry. There were still shows that I greatly enjoyed. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Black Lagoon, the aforementioned Gundam SEED, and plenty of others, but the more time I spent around the forums the more I realized that for every Outlaw Star and Big O there will always be ten Negima!s and fourty Girls Bravos.

Then Lucky Star came out.

Pictured above: Despair

I can’t point to any clearer example as to why the whole “not an anime fan" is something I want to make abundantly clear. It was a show produced by Kyoto Animation, the company behind Haruhi Suzumiya, and I was interested just because of the name behind it. Haruhi is still one of my favorite anime series, and another show in the capable hands of KyoAni would make for a summer worth remembering, right? Right?

Pictured above: Rich, compelling storytelling.

It was clear to me that effort had sailed right out the window. It was as if someone had seen Haruhi and thought that the only thing people liked about it was the parts with Mikuru being cute and the girls dressing up in costumes and decided to base a show around that concept. I watched NINETEEN episodes of that atrocity, hoping that something was going to happen. Praying that there was a story that was going to go somewhere, characters I could care about, anything that followed an established narrative structure. Did I get that?

Quick! If we talk about a better show, people will forget how secretly terrible this is!

The writing on the wall was clear. Companies had now taken to licensing manga for anime production for the sole purpose of shilling other anime DVDs made by the same company. It’s the equivalent of having only a college alternative station (or whatever kind of music you like) to listen to for the first seventeen years of your life. For those seventeen years you think, “Hey, this music stuff is pretty awesome. I could really get into this,” and then you change the station and hear a Kelly Clarkson song about how much she likes Pearl Jam.

No sooner had I made this revelation then I decided to step down. My last sub was the second season of Hayate the Combat Butler in 2009. I still watched the odd DVD here and there, but it was mostly shows I already owned and had a vested interest in. Really, I hadn’t watched a new series since I got burned by Lucky Star back in ‘07.

I saw which way the wind was blowing and jumped ship.

I milled around a lot since then, studying chemistry and physics with an emphasis on education in between going out with friends. A couple of my friends I made in college wound up being sort of into anime as well, and it’s that contact that’s pushed me to make this blog. A lot has changed since 2009, and now I’m an outsider when it comes to anime. It started to make me think that maybe I wasn't being fair. Perhaps there were terrific shows that I'd missed over the years. Instead of complaining about shows I don’t watch, mumbling about the good ol’ days through rose-tinted glasses, I’ve decided to step back into the ring once again. I want to find out what I’ve been missing after all this time, ever since I severely culled my anime intake five years ago.

So after all of that, I’ll finally explain what I’m doing here. This is called Anime breakfast buffet because I’m bringing the concept of Saturday morning cartoons back into my life. Every Saturday morning, I’ll watch an episode from three different anime series. Then I’ll post my thoughts on what I’ve watched, occasionally revisiting shows to give more complete reviews. Breakfast because I watch the shows early in the morning. Buffet because I pick and choose what I put on my plate. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.
To be fair, though, I usually am.

TL;DR I’m going to watch an episode from three different anime series each week and review them because I used to watch anime and I want to start again. But remember, I’m not an anime fan.

All episodes that I watch will be viewed entirely through legal means. I will not be endorsing or supporting fansubs or other illegal distribution means.

Okay, after that long introduction, I hope you’ll stay with me. I promise I won’t be so serious or wax nostalgic nearly as much as I have so far. Here's the first batch of shows and episodes I'll be watching next Saturday.

  1. Working!! -- Episode 1
  2. Aria the Scarlet Ammo -- Episode 1
  3. Umineko No Naku Koro Ni -- Episode 1


  1. Umineko is like if you could kind of follow Higurashi a bit more with more gorey bits and you have to read the VNs if you ever want a fulfilling ending.

    1. I have the first chapter of the VN, but since that's a question arc, I doubt I'll learn anything from that. When I start making grown-up money I intend to purchase the rest of Umineko. Having loved Higurashi, I'm anxious to see how it is.

  2. Okay I know you had an image of it, but how did you not mention more of Geass? We were on that stuff like it was Persona Opium. And that was after 2007. (April 2008 to June 2009 for USA)

    1. Yeah, but Code Geass was more of a docu-drama. It was the exception and not the rule.