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Three Kinds of Awesome

After finishing up Durarara!, in the process of roughing out a proper review I had one of those moments where I found neat, oversimplified boxes into which to artificially categorize the world, which is a personal hobby of mine. In this case, my tidy categorization is one prefaced by “There are three kinds of awesome things in anime:”

Note here that I’m talking about the colloquial kind of awesome, as in “Dude, that was awesome.” Whether you talk like that or not, you probably know the feeling I’m talking about here.

This does not count, of course, many things I love because of their artistic vision or unbridled imagination and craftsmanship—most works of Miyazaki, for example, or films by Makoto Shinkai. Those are great artistic works that tickle a different part of my brain; I’m talking about the things that  get my fanboy love of anime going, and make me want to buy cels or rant to friends about how much fun they are.

So, my three categories: Things that give me exactly what I want, things that give me what I didn’t know I wanted, and things that make me ask for the unlikely (or impossible), then give it to me.

The first group is obvious—anime that give me exactly what I’ve always wanted to see. For example, I’ve often mused that it would be awesome to have a story in which the mastermind villain was a good guy. Code Geass: Boom, awesome (leaving aside R2 sawing its own legs off). Or, being an avid paper-and-dice role player, I’ve long loved the idea of a character with the stats of a barbarian but trained as a mage (a friend of mine actually played one once). Rune Soldier Louie: Boom, awesome.

The second group is sort of the opposite of that—shows that give me something I didn’t think I would be interested in, but turns out to be awesome in execution. Spice and Wolf tops this list. Fantasy about a wayward wolf god and a merchant wandering around a mundane fantasy world? Might be interesting, but sounds boring and depressing at worst and melancholy at best. In reality? Awesome.

Daphne in the Brilliant Blue: Oh, great, yet another sci-fi show about a bunch of overarmed, over-violent, over-endowed women doing odd jobs and blowing stuff up. With an amnesiac protagonist for bonus generic anime points. Probably not even worth a shot. In practice, so mercilessly vicious it’s awesome.

And then there’s that third category, which I hadn’t put my finger on until Durarara! Specifically it’s when a show—good or bad—introduces some character or concept that causes you to muse “Wouldn’t it be awesome if that happened?” while in no way expecting the writer to actually go there, because that’s just too wacky or uncommercial or against-cliche or whatever. And then having that be exactly what happens.

Ultimate case in point: Celty. “Okay, there’s a headless harbinger of death riding around Tokyo on a possessed motorcycle doing odd jobs, and she’s a good guy? That’s pretty sweet, but wouldn’t it be awesome if she were a main character?” With the implied follow through”…but no show would actually do that.” Bam: The closest thing the show has to a main character through the whole first season. Awesome.

Other, less-extreme examples (these are pretty much all big spoilers, by the way):

Mission E. Code E was pretty entertaining, but somewhere in the back of my head was the musing “Wouldn’t it be awesome if Chinami went on to become a superhero?” I of course would have expected some sort of transition, but regardless, Mission E: Chinami, badass superspy. Whatever else the series did right or wrong, that’s pretty darn awesome.

Full Metal Panic, which had me saying, “Fun, sure, but it would be awesome if they just cut out the drama entirely.”  Fumoffu—bingo, awesome. Ghost Hound—creepiest therapist ever, who seems strangely helpful. “Wouldn’t it be awesome if he turned out to be a good guy?” Answer: My favorite character in the show.

Of course, that last category overlaps a little with the other two, but whatever. There are also dozens of examples I can think of of things that have me thinking the same thing that don’t follow through on it, but I suppose that’s what makes it so satisfying those rare occasions when something does.

10 Responses to “Three Kinds of Awesome”

  1. Chainclaw Says:

    Interesting. I’ve never thought too much about different catagories of awsomeness.

    For your first one, I’d include anime like Iria, Eyeshield 21, Crusher Joe, Street Fighter 2, Ninja Scroll, Record of Lodoss War, Dominion Tank Police, and the best Lupin III films. Great action, good story, classic fantasy, and wonderful characters. That’s what I was looking for with those films and tv shows, and they all delivered.

    For the second catagory, I would also include Daphne in the Brilliant Blue. A more recent example would be Taisho Baseball girls. Oh gee, a series about girls trying to compete with boys athletics on the same level. That hasn’t been done about a billion times already in every form of media. Heck another series used the exact same plot involving the same sport (Princess Nine). Furthermore, it’s a series clearly not ment for my age group or gender, about a sport I don’t particularly care about. Honestly if it wasn’t for the 1925 setting, I would never have even bothered, since that was an era I didn’t know much about and was interested in learning.

    And yet, it was awsome. The characters were great, the story was well executed and superbly paced, it was remarkably believable by anime standards, and they even managed to make a sport I usually find boring pretty exciting to watch. I’ll go into more detail when my review of this is posted, but I gotta say this was one very pleasant surprise of high quality.

    For the third one I really can’t think of anything. I guess the closest would be Rune Soldier, since I’ve always liked the idea of mixing up all the traditional classic fantasy classics and accompanying personality traits, but never expected anyone to do it, let alone the maker of one of them the most traditional fantasy series in anime history (Record of Lodoss War). Other then that, nothing comes to mind. I guess most of the things I’ve been hoping for but not expecting havn’t happened yet, or at least I’m not aware of them if they have.

  2. Ghostwriter Says:

    What anime I’d like to see is something like the demon fighting genre,but set in modern-day America. Basically,it would be a Japanese girl and an American boy who join a secret organization to put a stop an invasion of demons from another demension. And some of the demons would be based on the different mythologies and folklore from around the world since America has people from different countries,why shouldn’t it have demons and things from those countries. What do you think?

  3. Chainclaw Says:

    It could be good, but I think your asking for something a bit too specific.

  4. Ghostwriter Says:

    Well,I once saw a series called “Chrono Crusade.” It had a girl and her partner fighting demons in 1920′s-era New York. There’s also a series called “Red Garden,”that was set in contemporary New York. It had a group of girls fighting demons as well. One of it’s inspirations must have been “Gantz,”because…well,the girls are dead to start with.
    They could easily fit this type of idea into already established series like “Bleach.” Also,what I’m hoping for is that they make my imagined anime series lighthearted. So,what do you think?

  5. Chainclaw Says:

    Could work. You know if you’re really into American based anime, you should check out Eyeshield 21. It’s about a Japanese Football team, but a huge portion of the series takes place in America and the team plays a few games against American teams.

    It’s interesting to see a Japanese perspective on a predominantly American sport, and amusing how there is no language barrier. Everyone in the world just magically speaks Japanese, kind of how everyone from foriegn nations somehow knows english in some American movies

  6. Matt Says:

    I’ve seen Chrono Crusade, darn good show, but I haven’t had a chance to watch Red Garden yet. I’d recommend Read or Die, it’s a series set in Britain that involves agents/spies with super powers. I’m working on a review of the OVA, which is fun, but the TV series is where Read or Die really pays off.

    You may also want to check out the Witchblade anime. I’ve noticed you ask about anime storylines set in the U.S. or western parts of the world. Witchblade is a bit of a reversal because it’s an interpretation of the popular American comic set in Japan with a Japanese lead.

  7. Ghostwriter Says:

    One of the main reasons I ask about anime set in the U.S. or have American characters in them is that I once saw an anime called “Gunsmith Cats.” It was set in Chicago and it deals with a group of women who run a gun shop and do bounty hunting on the side. It was done well and mainly done respectfully. It didn’t treat it’s American characters as jerks or anything like that. On an Anime News Network review,it said that it was like seeing our pop culture through foreign eyes and that’s what really fascinated me.
    Ever since then,I’ve tried to collect anime that are set in America or have American characters in them. I tend to go for positive or bizarre portrayals of this country and it’s people. I avoid the negative portrayals because I don’t want to see my country bashed. I’ve heard about America bashed in Hollywood movies,I don’t want to see it bashed in anime.

    As for “Eyeshield 21,”I would see it if it had an English language dub. They did dub a number of episodes into English but they didn’t do the whole thing. And the most recent release of it was subtitled-only and I tend to not watch subtitled-only anime. The subtitles are too distracting for me,so as much as I would like to see it,I’d like it better with an English language dub seeing that a good deal of it is set in America.

  8. Chainclaw Says:

    You might want to consider re-thinking your policy against subbed anime, as it’s going to cut you off from a lot of really good shows.

    Some outstanding anime tv series’ and films are done only in subbed form, including Eyeshield 21, Taisho Baseball Girls, Tokyo Godfathers, and Transformers: The Headmasters

    I too prefer dubbed anime, but I’m totally okay with it subbed if that’s the only option. Once you get used to it, it’s really not that big a deal.

  9. Matt Says:

    Yeah, Gunsmith Cats is another good one. Since you mentioned Chrono Crusade, I’d say give Baccano a watch if you haven’t all ready. It’s set in the prohibition era and the characters are American and European. It’s just a damn good show, Marc’s review is pretty much dead-on. (It’d only quibble that the dub is more than just reasonably good. Not to the exclusion of the Japanese version or anything, but the English dub really brings a lot to the show.)

  10. Ghostwriter Says:

    Well,I have yet to see “Baccano!” Maybe I will. Someday.