I’ve been under the weather for the last couple days, so I’ve been doing what any right-thinking anime fan should do — I’ve been watching anime.
Specifically, I’ve been catching up on my insane backlog of stellar shows that I have not watched during the last decade and change.
It’s not all during the last week, one of these shows I finished up last week I believe, but I wanted to share some thoughts about 91 Days, Concrete Revolutio and Dororo.
91 Days is a special show.
There is a handful of anime outside of romance shows that try to stay within the bounds of realism. The ones that come to mind are either come from a time where cinema and animation shared a tighter bond ( i.e. Grave of the Fireflies) or are largely forgotten (i.e. Kaze no Yojimbo.)
I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen a seinen show that was hemmed in by realistic physics.
It’s also a rarity for anime to venture onto U.S. shores. While this is no midwestern landscape I’ve ever seen, it’s not nearly as bad as how Hollywood tries to transform Vancouver into U.S. locations.
91 Days does both of these things to varying levels of success. While the realism worked in the show’s favor, it was occasionally undermined by scene-chewing maniacs or settings that felt more inspired by Dickensian England then 1920s Illinois.
That said, I find Avillo Bruno’s revenge story compelling.
What is funny is that despite the obvious comparison is to American mobster movies, I felt more like I was watching a Kurosawa film with different window dressing. I’m not sure if that’s because of how closely related Kurosawa is to the hard-boiled storytelling, or if this is actually just an adaptation of The 47 Ronin.
The story is brutal and often uncompromising. People die in ways I was not expecting. If you pick this show up, just remember that revenge stories rarely end happily, and this one is no different.
I am struggling a bit with the show’s final message. I mean is it really saying that Avilio would have been happier if he was dead. That is true, but it does seem like a strange message for the story to have.
In the end, I enjoyed the show, but I don’t know who I would recommend it to. The closest analog I could come up in U.S. cinema is the Coen brother’s Miller’s Crossing. I’m not even sure that’s a fair comparison.
It’s a show that I’m definitely going back to. Maybe in six months, I’ll sit down with a notepad and a screen capture program and try to be profound. I’m not sure how well I will succeed, but I will definitely try.
Talking about shows that I’m not sure are good, let’s talk about Concrete Revolutio.
But first, I need to talk about my love for Watchmen. In spite of Watchmen’s plot being an unholy mess, and in spite of Alan Moore being a wackadoo who can’t string together three coherent thoughts, I love Watchmen.
It’s a story I go back to often, and that I think about a lot. I even like the movie, because I think it’s the best adaptation you can make of Watchmen.
So when MagicConan suggested that Concrete Revolutio was like Watchmen, I was in. I spent most of this week watching the show.
And I’m not sure where I fall down on it.
Here’s my problem. This is a show that you need to watch while taking notes. It is nearly impossible to follow who all of the characters are. It doesn’t tell you that this takes place in an alternate Japan during the 1960s and 1970s.
Not to mention the constant flipping around in time.
Calling this show hard to follow might be an understatement. It’s as hyperactive as a 5-year-old child left alone in a sugar factory.
This isn’t really Watchmen, but I understand the reference. There are obvious analogs to characters from the time period. There is the Astro Boy analog, the Ultraman reference and the magical girl.
The thing about Watchmen is that it is so obviously criticizing the idea of superheroes, and I’m not seeing that here. This is more like J.J. Abrams re-imagining of Star Trek. It’s largely the same, just different enough to be interesting.
The creators are people who grow up on Ultraman, Go Nagai, Godzilla and a dozen other shows I don’t recognize, snorted a bunch of cocaine and then made an anime.
But I found myself strangely drawn to it. See there are hints of depth here, which seem to be obfuscated by me not understanding the source material well enough. There are criticisms of U.S imperialism and of marketing, but they seemed muddied by characters with unstable motivations and confusing agendas.
I know I’m going to watch this show again, and I might even buy it, but I’m still not sure if I love it.
Now on to a show where I know exactly what I think.
I love this show, or at least the 13 episodes that I’ve watched. I could spend days gushing about all of the things I enjoy about this show.
Dororo should be annoying. Talkative young characters who fill in the silence alongside super quiet samurais are something akin to nails on a chalkboard for me.
Instead though, she seems genuine. She gets frustrated when she should. She gets excited when she should, and when she talks up Hyakkimaru it feels like a younger sister bragging about her older brother rather than forced dialogue.
And Hyakkimaru comes off as alien, childlike and a rage-filled beast alternatively. His growing affection for Dororo is fun to watch.
Even the fundamental concept of the show is fascinating. I mean it’s an ethics problem. Do you sacrifice one person so that many might live?
I even love the opening for the first half of the show.
Honestly, I might say that this is my ninth favorite anime of all time. I still have another half of it to watch, but gosh darn, I really like this show.
So what were your thoughts on these shows? What am I missing in Concrete Revolutio? Do you know of a good write-up that might help me sort it out?
As always, thanks for reading.