On Survival Anime

Recently, I finished High-Rise Invasion on Netflix. Netflix has some great anime, though certain other programs with blasphemous depictions of Christ make it hard to recommend the service. If it were not for the kindness of a family member obtaining it for me, High Rise Invasion might have remained permanently off my watch list. At the same time, there are plenty of arguments that the pros of having a Netflix account outweigh the cons. One can note that they might just not be in the business of discriminating against content on religious grounds. (Plenty of Christian films play on Netflix also.) Others say that boycotting Netflix in a monolithic fashion does not effect them, so enjoy your movies. At any rate, follow your conscience.

My first exposure to High-Rise Invasion came in the form of the original manga by Tsuina Miura, who is also known for Ajin. I think of Ajin as a masterpiece, so there is little surprise that I enjoy High-Rise Invasion. Having written that, the two stories could not be more different. Ajin has characters who can’t die. Death stalks the characters of High-Rise Invasion at every turn. Most of the characters in Ajin are male, while females take the most important roles in the other one. Ajin eschews fanservice. High-Rise Invasion embraces it. On a final note of difference, Ajin‘s greatest character is the villain, Sato, while the heroine of High-Rise Invasion, Yuri Honjo, stands above the rest of the cast. It is almost as if the mangaka decided to reverse everything except the use of gore in order to make this more recent story.

Though I greatly enjoyed the manga, I let High-Rise Invasion fall by the wayside. It’s too easy to forget about a manga one reads online while waiting for the next chapter to come out. The twelve episodes of the anime cover more than I read of the manga. I look forward to seeing whether the heroine can fulfill her dream of ending the twisted battle royal of the cityscape into which she has been abducted. By the way, for those of you with diverse linguistic tastes, the French dub is great.

That said, I find something irksome about the genre into which this anime falls: the survival anime. I have seen different definitions for what constitutes a survival anime, but they generally feature characters being killed off one after another. They combine elements of action and horror to form a distinct category from the two. The mood of the setting exudes brutality and sometimes cruelty. Attack on Titan and Future Diary also fall into this genre.

For a survival anime to keep the audience entranced, the main characters must be likable. The annoying thing about that is these characters are liable to die at any moment. This generates a ton of suspense, and Attack on Titan dragged me along for nine episodes with its suspense alone. At that point, I came to the realization that I felt no sympathy for the world or its denizens–except for Mikasa anyway. So, I stopped watching. Strangely enough, the same people behind this anime created a survival anime which I love: Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress. The great difference between the two lies in how much I cared about the characters.

But, suspense itself can carry a viewer very far. It got me through nine episodes of Attack on Titan. Suspense managed to get me through all of Future Diary. However, when I look back at anime which rely on suspense and surprises, part of me feels like watching it was a waste of time. (I am still glad that I got to see the iconic yandere, Yuno Gasai, in action. I will admit that.) Concern for the fate of the heroes pulled me along. Now that I know their fates, these anime have nothing left for me to enjoy, save perhaps to watch a friend’s reaction to seeing it for the first time. In essence, they provide no fuel for thought, except for some egocentric castle-building concerning what oneself would do in a like situation.

On the other hand, High-Rise Invasion strikes me as more substantial. It has some interesting themes on how far one can suppress another’s free will and the lengths to which one would go for a friend. There is also the mystery of what the organizers of this sadistic competition deem godlike, as personalities as varied as Kuon, Yuri, and the villain are all “God candidates.” I find this anime quite interesting beyond the carnage and fanservice. Has anyone else watched it? What are your favorite survival anime?

2 comments on “On Survival Anime

  1. Gaheret says:

    Hum… “Now and then, here and there” may be my favorite “survival anime”, harsh and full of heartbreaking deaths, but also strangely hopeful. In a way, I think Madoka would also fit this mold. I wholeheartedly agree about Attack on Titan’s characters. The first season was excellent, but at a point, it just lost me. I heard that the mangaka’s original plan was to had everyone die and the mistery go unexplained, and it would not surprise me too much. I think the show was suggesting that humans and Titans are not so different, not so much because of moral corruption, but in a naturalistic way. In the end, the show doesn’t believe that its characters are all that different from animals or plants devouring each other and striving to reach the light, and that’s why I stopped caring. I have yet to see Kabaneri.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Now and Then, Here and There is a classic. That the characters could retain so much hope in a terrible world is part of what makes it great. I also love that style of animation and the bleak desert landscape for the setting. I really should watch it again soon.

      There’s a good chance that you will like Kabaneri more. The zombies are just monsters, and no one would suggest that the zombies are just part of the food chain. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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