Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto – Short Review

Decent

Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto is predominantly a satirical comedy anime, born from the extension of a one-off gag.  This makes it very hit-and-miss in the execution of its gags, since each gag is derivative of the main premise.  As such, it struggles to find its voice until it’s about 3/4 through.   While you do get to know the characters a bit, ultimately, they are still caricatures.   There are some really good moments, which make the misses less memorable.  That’s not to say we wish it was a more serious anime – judging Sakamoto against other satire-based comedy anime, it still comes out a little weaker than average.

Purpose: Decent
Characters: Good
World: Decent
Plot: Decent
Storytelling: Decent
Pace: Good

 

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Himouto! Umaruchan

Good

Himouto! is a fairly solid comedy suitable for easy viewing.  The humor is fairly varied, and has its ups and downs.   Unfortunately, some gags end up being belabored a little too much, taking them from funny to obnoxious.  Even though this is a comedy-genre anime, there is actually a surprising amount of depth going on in the background, when the other characters take the spotlight.  Overall, it’s a good watch, but not a must-see.

Purpose: Good.  Himouto! is a little difficult to classify.   About 70%  of the anime is gag-oriented pure comedy.  The other 30% is more of a blended slice of life comedy.   The pure comedy portion is further split between sister-brother gags and sister-everyone else gags.  The oddest thing about this anime is that it’s at its weakest for most of the sister-brother gags.  They become generally predictable because they all involve the same subject matter.  In a lot of ways, the anime is about every character other than its namesake.  Most interesting is that Himouto! actually seems to use the older brother as its center-point, around which almost everything revolves.  He’s also the viewer’s point of entry into the anime.  While not the main character, he ends up becoming something like the star of the show, not to mention a strong candidate for brother of the year award.

Characters: Good.  Again, this is mixed.  Most of the characters had strong potential, but in unexpected ways.  The viewer’s understanding of just about every other character grows throughout the anime.  For most of the main girl cast, they all had some sort of issue or hangup that prevented them from being normal.  Not that that’s a bad thing – they ended up becoming endearing in uniquely different ways.   Oddly, only one character remained mostly static – Umaru, the show’s namesake.  We saw little bits of perspective on her only through her interactions with two of the other characters.  The entirety of Umaru’s character is dependent on the dichotomy between her “outside” and her “at-home” lives.  This resulted in a fairly shallow character, especially in comparison to the rest.  Moving beyond the girls, the brother ended up being a really well done character, so much so that he kind of steals the show.  He’s a strong counterpoint to his sister’s character, or lack thereof.  He demonstrates a powerful balance of serious and silly that the other characters can work off of to great effect.

World: Decent. While generally plain and uninteresting as a backdrop, it’s used in an odd way.  For much of the anime, it’s almost done to compartmentalize and isolate character pairs into situations.   In other words, the create several worlds that really only exist between combinations of characters.  As the anime goes on, they slowly start to blend these separate worlds together, which starts to add some life into the world as a whole.  Unfortunately, they added the history and depth to the world at too late of a point – had it been much earlier, the world would be rated more highly.

Plot: Decent.  Frankly, there isn’t too much plot to be found.  The plot can be separated into the Umaru gags and character building categories, although character building is few and far in between.  Normally, I wouldn’t really even be talking character development in a comedy genre, but they decided to use some plot time to develop characters, in addition to making it funny.  The main problem with the plot comes from the complete dependence on the “Umaru personality” for much of the comedy’s plot, stifling the variety of comedy.  While entertaining at first, it slowly loses its flavor through over-use.  Putting Umaru aside, they do a solid job of providing steps and situations for the viewer’s understanding of the other characters to grow.

Storytelling: Good.  In spite of the weaknesses belabored above, the storytelling manages to mitigate some of the weaker points.  The humor’s a little bit hit-and-miss, with the misses coming mostly in the middle.  The brother-sister gags were more than enough to carry the early stories, but it wore thin.  They started to pick up the humor again when they started playing with other characters and characters’ relationships.

Pace: Good. Basically, the comedy was selected in such a way that it ultimately mitigated the Umaru gags, preventing them from becoming completely tiresome.  Aside from that, the pacing felt somewhat on the slower side.

Hellsing Ultimate

Good

Hellsing Ultimate is notable for its ultra-violence and… a couple of other scenes that many would find disturbing.   This anime is a remake of Hellsing that more closely follows the manga, or so I have heard.  It’s worlds better than Hellsing, although not particularly spectacular in any way.

Purpose:  Decent.  The purpose of this anime isn’t really to explore the greater mysteries of mankind and it’s not about sending a profound message.  At its basest, it’s really little more than stylized and flashy blood sport.  Actually, you could probably liken the series to a vampire in that it revels in excesses of blood.  That said, they don’t exactly disappoint.  There are certainly many over-the-top displays of violence and gore and they are varied, to a certain extent.

For the narrative side, there is a definite story going on in the background.  The first third of the anime seems like it has nothing to do with anything, but is eventually, loosely, tied into the overall happenings.  Although this is both a strength and a weakness, the various aspects of the story are really vehicles to increase the scale and scope of the body-count.  Literally.  It’s a strength because that’s the whole point of the anime.  However, they take some odd and unnecessary detours that end up damaging the mood they were building.

Characters: Good.  The characters were, for the most part, insane.  Part of this, though, was that the characters were mostly one-dimensional – very singular in personality and purpose.  For the most part, the characters’ personalities were their purpose in that the two were inseparably blended.  In Hellsing Ultimate’s case, this wasn’t a bad thing since it didn’t get in the way –  it kept in line with crazy, ultra-violent nature of the world.

If it were just the above, the characters would be merely Decent.  However, they did attempt to go into some character depth later in the anime.  Though the developments came late, they gave many characters a second dimension.  In other words, they had multiple goals or motives for acting that occasionally put them in cross-purposes with other characters.  They also touched on some characters’ backstories as well, adding bits of depth.  Unfortunately, for the ultimate villain, the development actually weakened him as a character, because it added an ulterior motive that took away from the scope and scale of his actions.

World: Good.  Sadly, we didn’t really get anything approaching a full development of the world.  We got hints and glimmers of a massive, and scary, supernatural world.  Vampires, werewolves, other fearsome immortal-type monsters to name a few.  They were set-pieces to add interesting new twists and powers to fight with and, ultimately, shed blood.  We knew of several organizations acting, but they were mere serving trays to deliver bloodshed.  It’s perhaps more of a personal preference to know why everyone wants to kill each other.  As it was, the world set the stage for odd and interesting ways to shed blood.  That’s why the world is Good – it faithfully serves its purpose, but doesn’t really explore the field.

Plot: Decent.  Rather simplistic, to put it plainly.  The overall plot was to beat the bad guys, similar to most fighting-type anime, actually.  There were a few character-related sub-plots floating around here and there, but they ultimately didn’t go too far.  There were a couple of spoon-fed plot twists and broadcast trajectories.  Don’t get me wrong, the plot did its job.  It provided an appropriate pretext to exponentially increase the scale of bloodshed and show off the main characters’ skills.

Storytelling: Good.  Here is where I’m most conflicted, wavering between Good, and Not Really Good.  For the most part, the storytelling was very ham-fisted and blatant in execution.  Everything was pretty much telegraphed and in-your-face.  One one hand, it does match the tone and nature of everything else – over the top, simplistic, yet flashy, bloodletting.  However, what I’m conflicted about is whether it needed to be that way.  Rather, whether it was “stupid” or “intentional and purposeful.”  Perhaps the best example is the fact that one opponent is a bunch of vampire-Nazis commanded by a warmonger Nazi.  Now, in the west, America especially, just mentioning that a character is a Nazi is sufficient “development” to tell you he’s a bad guy.  It certainly doesn’t really require a monologue about how much and why our bad guy loves war.  In Japan, it may not be enough.  I remember being shocked that most college-age kids I met in Japan were barely aware of World War II, let alone that the US and UK were at any time enemies of Japan.  And yet, textbooks increasingly don’t mention it or mention something to the effect that there was a war that Japan lost.  In fact, the significance of even the anniversary of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima seemed lost on the youths there.  It seemed to be more about a “peace day” than anything else.  So it makes sense that the director might need to “shock away” that notion in the most direct way possible.  That’s what makes it a conflict.

What makes me lean towards Good, in line with the “shock away” theory, is that the violence wasn’t exactly glorified in any way.  Yes, the bad guys were doing ugly violence.  But so was the Vatican and so were our heroes.  No one was pretty while committing all the bloodletting, even the series “darling,” Seras.  Perhaps that was the overall point of the storytelling – all violence is ugly and can be shocking, even “necessary” violence.   The last little bit may shed some light on the issue – it was talking about monsters appearing human and humans appearing to be monsters.  The takeaway is that everyone’s a monster to a certain extent or another.

PaceGood.  There wasn’t really a problem, overall.  The earliest parts of the anime go the slowest, though it smooths out once we hit the London… incident.  Actually, much of the earlier portions were flown over, so that ended up affecting the depth.  Some weird decisions affected the pace, especially throwing in some silly scenes, with animation change.  When they did it, it often brought the pace to a screeching halt.