Fuuka, and the nature of bad anime

In which I talk about an anime being awful but still tell you to watch it anyway.

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Fuuka is incredibly stupid. I’m opening with something that strong because it’s true, this show (for now) is as deep as a puddle with the brief glimmers of originality drowned in a play by play of the romance/harem anime tropes. And yet I find myself fascinated by it. It’s a clear train wreck 3 episodes in, and worse, it’s a predictable train wreck but there a times I’ve laughed out loud at the sheer audacity it shows.

For example the main characters arrange a date and both arrive at the meeting place, but can’t find each other as one is stood on one side of the statue whilst the other is sat down on the opposite side. Various POV shots set up the idea that neither can see the other. So I thought to myself “I bet there going to walk around the statue and completely miss each other”….

Two seconds later they did exactly that, it was oddly beautiful. There were a few times this same line of events played out. They set up a scene, I guessed what would follow and it happened to the letter. This isn’t be petting my overinflated ego either, it’s just so generic that anyone who’s had a passing look at romance shows in general would know what’s coming. So I find myself wondering if this is going to be the next in the long line of genre deconstruction shows the Japanese seem so found of making now a days after the success of One Punch Man, Konosuba and Madoka Magi.

And after a bit more thought, I’m thinking it probably isn’t, this is show is just what you get on the tin, a generic anime with little to redeem it for now. But I’ll still watch it this season, because as stated before there is some perverse joy to be gained from watching something bad attempt to be good and only get half way. Now should I be applauding it for being a bad show, probably not, in theory the industry would only improve with well-balanced critique, I think I am not providing right now. But I would also argue, that you need to keep the bad shows around, to further reveal the greatness in other shows. I spent all of 2016 comparing every film I saw to Batman VS Superman, something I really try to avoid doing due to inherent differences between movie genres but it made everything just seem better. It’s healthy in a media landscape to have a broad range of quality, we have to take the good with the bad and several years from now no-one will remember Fuuka. So whilst it’s here, why not enjoy the fact that shows like it exist? as long as we still recognise the fact that it is bad.

The Problems With Adventure Time

The second in a trilogy, in which I bring some heavy criticsm to a favourite show of mine

Okay, so now I’ve proved to myself I do like Adventure Time it’s time to tear it a new one. Or at least put into words a few obvious problems it has that plague its most recent seasons which should serve as a primer for further discussions. It should be noted, that Adventure Time is not the only one guilty of these problems, it’s just that it set such a high standard and did kick off that wonderful cartoon renaissance I talked about a while back. Adventure Time is so far the cartoon of the decade. And if it’s to keep that title all its warts should be given just as much scrutiny as its best parts.

Characters are not punished:
Jake is a god awful Father and Princess Bubblegum is a cruel dictator. To name the two most obvious issues here. So starting with the latter, Princess Bubblegum constantly experiments, abuses and belittles her people. Once they finally wise up to the fact they can depose her, it doesn’t last long and she returns declaring them idiots. There is no change there, she hasn’t learnt a lesson, it’s framed as if the candy people have. That lesson being you shouldn’t self-govern and leave it all to Bubblegum. Which from an outside perspective is frightening but she gets away with it.

Now Jake being an awful father. He ignores his children until he is forced to interact with them or when they appear in his life. He effectively runs away from that responsibility and it never comes back to bite him. His partner welcomes him with open arms whenever he appears, only one of his children ever calls him out on it, and that’s resolved within that episode with the child being put at fault. It’s another horrifying think that just seems to be pushed aside to hold some form of status quo.

Both of these behaviours are normalised in the context of the show by presenting them as funny, we are expected to laugh at these characters when they do these things, but are given no narrative payoff to their actions, they simply are this way, and won’t change and other characters won’t ask them to change.

Relationships aren’t believable:
As a tangent, why are Lady Rainicorn and Jake a couple? With Jake practically ignoring her for large spans of time, ignoring their children. Leaving literally a day after they’re born. I don’t even really think they set up how they met, even in passing. And when they are together it seems a little forced and well, sterile. It’s a little depressing to think about in hindsight.

Plot points are not dealt with or expanded:
This one has a very obvious example. Remember when Finn lost his arm. And everyone was congratulating Adventure Time on the cleverness of its visual story telling as it had been implied several times before the episode that he would lose his arm due to some perverse fate. And then everyone was hypothesising about the new status quo Finn would have to adapt too, with a very obvious disability and how that wou…… or a bee could have sex with his arm 4 episodes later and void the whole thing. Adventure has this issue that it can’t sit still, or think through one specific idea, it is there for 1 or 2 episodes, if you’re lucky it’s 2 right next to each other, if you’re unlucky there was 5 episodes of filler and sometimes it just never appears again or is even recognised by the characters later down the line.

It’s a shame that after basically any large development, the show will inevitably return to a status quo with the characters vastly unchanged from the experience

The world doesn’t progress around the characters:
Everything in Adventure Time appears to happen in a small bubble, all on it’s lonesome. Events from one episode never seem to have a dripping effect on other people and often aren’t bought up again. It’s almost as if people forgot previous adventures leading to a disjointed overall narrative. I could take whole chunks of recent adventure time, reshuffle the episodes and you would never know they were out of order.

And now I think I’m out of gripes, probably because these are all fairly big gripes, and I’m loathe to spend another 1000 words just repeating what I’ve already said so to finish……

It should be noted that, yes, all of these issues raised are non-issues in various episodes, for example whilst Jake and Princess Rainicorn’s relationship is alien, Marceline’s and Ice Kings is incredibly well done.  What I’ve done here is point out that Adventure Times biggest issue is its inconsistency, one episode will be stellar, the next will fall flat and the next will be inconsequential to anything. And it’s obviously not that it can’t be done, as next week I follow up this post with, the more I think about it, my favourite cartoon, Regular Show and how it deals with all these issues.

A Pickle of A Peanut

“The Next Episode will be better” – Pickle and Peanut S1E1

First Impressions of Pickle and Peanut

Pickle and Peanut is a currently airing show on the Disney ‘XD’ channel about two “Small town teenage boys and best friends Pickle and Peanut” created by Noah Z. Jones and developed by Joel Trussel. Each episode is 11 minutes in length and broadcast in pairs, so nothing out of the ordinary there, and for the purposes of this I sat through the first 4 episodes, ‘Greg’, ‘Gramma Jail’, ‘Cart Rustlers’ and ‘Swim lessons’.

I’m going to get this out of the way very quickly (although I can guarantee i’ll return to this notion later on) Pickle and Peanut desperately wants to be Regular Show. This is clear  from the very first moments of the opening episode as the two leads, Pickle and Peanut are slacking off of work and messing around.. The setting, mirrors REgular Shows as well as it is a vague representation of a normal world but with anthropomorphised characters in the form of walking food and animals. The show also seems to emulate the same story trends of setting up standard characters and putting them in very out of the ordinary situations. But it does a terrible job at this.

This is a bad cartoon, a very very bad cartoon, and it is for several reasons and it took all of about 2 seconds into the first episode before warning bells went off in my head and the first consistent issue rears its hideous peanutty head. The show lacks any form of focus and the opening theme displays this point wonderfully. It is one of the worst things I have ever heard with the visuals to match (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qRlKrlB0Pq8) go ahead and listen to it (a fun exercise I found was to play just the audio and then show the visuals to accompany it)The lyrics are entirely the things Pickle and PEanut like set to a beat and just comes off as trying to hard to grab a young audience. The phrase “Hip to the kids” came to mind as soon as I saw this.

The next massive problem with it is that I find Pickle and Peanut interchangeable. Over the course of four episodes I learnt the following things about them, presented in a handy table:

Pickle Both Peanut
Is a pickle They Rap/beatbox Is a peanut
Is nicer The ideas one

Pickle seems to be presented as the stupider one in the partnership, not knowing how to swim and being distracted easily when guarding a shopping cart. Peanut is also just as reliable, seen though falling asleep when he was supposed to be watching the shopping carts. My point here being that a good dynamic duo relies upon the two leads having chemistry together often created through their differences. The only difference I can garner between these two characters is there I.Q, other than that they seem almost identical and their lines could easily be interchanged with little impact to their characterisations.

The other giant issue with this cartoon is that it doesn’t know when to stop a joke. A consistent thing seen throughout the first 4 episodes is single word narration that appears on the screen to match with various buzzwords coupled with slow motion. I presume it’s supposed to be amusing but more comes off as distracted and stale after the second or third use. Partly because it is used far more than once in each episode.

I suppose i should atleast try to find a positive in this mess though……

Hm…. There’s Wayne, Waynes great. A side character seen in the 4th episode who is a young boy taking part in the swimming lesson with Pickle and Peanut. His parents leave him at the pool every summer to give themselves time off. Looking like something out of a tim Burton illustration and never blinking, his appearances on screen are emphasised with a narrow close up of his giant’s eyes. For some absurd reason i found this funny enough to laugh out loud at the first 4 or so times it happened…… although then they kept doing it, bearing in mind these episodes are 11 minutes long i thing it becomes clear this cartoon feels the need to use the same punch line to pad out it’s run time and I’m already back to grumbling about this show……

wayne
This is Wayne, I shared that same expression whilst watching this show

Hm, another good point…..

It gave Brad Breeck more money, so i guess that’s good, although that fact does tear me up inside due to his previous work on Gravity Falls, We Bare Bears and Star vs the forces of evil (all of which i will undoubtedly discuss in a later post), having compused Openings of all and in the case of we Bare Bears a large chunk of the score all of which are great, making this opening an odd decision and a disappointment on his record.

So in conclusion, don’t watch this show, watch regular show instead. It does everything this show tried to do but actually succeeded at it thanks to great characters and good writing. It’s an incredibly enjoyable watch from the very beginning and I can’t think of any part in its 7 season run (with an 8th on the way) that struck me as showing fatigue via a drop in quality, if anything it improves with age as these consistent characters grow and form meaningful and positive relationships in there little soap opera of a life.

And now if you excuse me I need to go watch the season premier of Star vs the Forces of Evil to remind myself that disney’s animated television excursions have not died with the end of Gravity Falls.