Favorite Anime of 2013

Well, the year 2013 is now past.  It offered many fun and interesting shows, and bloggers are writing about their favorites–either by genre or overall.  They are also looking at some of their favorite moments.  In my own case, I shall limit myself to declaring my favorite anime of 2013.

1gRzbE6pRIuS31kkVnppBP

The best anime Japan produced during the past year was Psycho-Pass, running from October 2012 – March 2013.  I love dark stories if they are done well and found the villain particularly fascinating.  (In case you were curious, Makishima Shogo also provided probably my favorite scene *spoiler alert* this year when he turned down the Chief’s offer for him to join the Sybil System.)  The writers also succeeded in adding many gray areas to the story which rendered it more intriguing: one wonders at times whether the society or the villain are more evil.  Then, the series’ allusions to literature rather than merely other anime and the way the characters question their current society make for an intellectual treat.  Finally, the characters all seemed rather unique, and the story shrouded itself with enough mystery that it kept the viewer on the edge of their seats wanting to pierce this veil.

psychopass3

In brief, the above reasons make Psycho-Pass stand head and shoulders above all the anime produced last year.  Shin Sekai Yori also gave us a unique vision of a dystopia, but the characters are hardly as interesting and certain episodes almost bore me to tears, which explains why I have stalled at episode 10.  (But, it has an awesome ending song–I’ll give it that.)  I also thought about giving Majestic Prince or Dog x Scissors this honor.  (Yes, I enjoyed the latter show more than is healthy, but everyone needs a guilty pleasure or two.)

Happy New Year to all my followers!  May the new year offer us many new great anime!

Advertisements

Shogo Makishima: the Villain who Should be Hero

 

Psycho-Pass stands as one of the greatest shows to come out among the recent seasons. I say this despite having read several reviews claiming it to be an average show. No doubt the current philosophy which advocates greater government control and regulation in people’s lives is partially to blame for such poor reviews of the series. For example, my brother has told me of people reading Huxley’s A Brave New World raving about the perfect society therein. Of course, one may argue that my own political philosophy of liberty under the law and limited government make me blind to how much happier people could be under the totalitarian systems of both A Brave New World and Psycho-Pass.

foundingfathers1

At any rate, before I consider Shogo Makishima’s merits and demerits, let me delineate the deficiencies of the society in which he lives. First, it limits the freedom of what kind of career one wishes to pursue. Of course, this has the benefit of reducing unemployment and people’s angst about what career they should pursue. Also the findings of the tests may very well indicate one’s true vocation. Mikhail Botvinnik, the brilliant World Chess Champion of the 50’s and early 60’s, may indeed have wished to become both a scientist and a chess player; but, ought he not have had the freedom to merely pursue chess if he wished instead of the U.S.S.R. telling him that he must be a scientist? Test scores are a good indicator of talent; yet, had the Catholic Church relied on test scores alone, St. John Vianney, to our great loss, would never have become a priest. Then, who would have become the patron of parish priests?

mikhailbotvinnik Vianney_Szent_Janos

 

Besides the loss of freedom in choosing one’s career, this society has also lost its sense of justice and courage. The most fortunate people are the very enforcers who may be eliminated at will! One of the most telling scenes occurs when a man murders a women in the middled of a crowded street as the mob merely rubbernecks. One is reminded of a story in modern Britain where an old man was nearly beaten to death on a bus as the passengers looked on. In both cases, the onlookers would have been punished for assisting the victim. Only the police have the right to self-defense and defending a third party. Is it me or do not the majority of the citizens of Psycho-Pass seem little better than swine?

Few scenes have induced such a feeling of rage as this one.

Few scenes have induced such a feeling of rage as this one.

 

My final objection to this society lies in its destruction of the moral imagination. (Yes, Albert Camus and Russell Kirk have caused me to start viewing practically everything under the theme of the moral imagination. I promise to eventually beat this horse to death, but my dear readers may have to wait a while.) Man has essentially been reduced to their economic and carnal sides. The evidence of this lies in that literature is no longer considered essential to schooling; though, books do seem to be readily available. Society believes that the psychic part of man must merely be mollified, not nurtured.

Psycho-Pass-Episode-21-Makishima-blade

 

Oddly enough, the most literate and artistic people in this series tend to be the killers. What so drives this anti-social behavior? Surely not the humanities! I would have to say that the killers’ very literacy, especially Makishima’s, makes them outcasts from society. And between the level of outcast and wild beast stands only the mountain man—as the friend who helped Inspector Shinya Kogami’s investigation may be considered. People need society and other minds who are capable of relating to them. Otherwise, isolation builds mistrust and finally malice against one’s fellow men leads to the darkest depths of misanthropy—unless one has received a special mission and grace from God so as not to need the society of other men anyway.

Psycho-Pass-episode-15-screenshot-026

 

Indeed, the only person with whom Makishima could relate to was Kogami, who wished to kill him. Therefore, one impetus for Makishima’s crimes would be to form a connection with Kogami! Talk about killing for love!

Psycho Pass 1

 

But, in the idea of killing for love lies the reason for Makishima being a villain instead of a hero. Good acts must be accomplished through good means and for a good end. If either the means or the end is evil, the whole act is wrong—a sin. It is obvious that Makishima wishes for a better society than the present one; however, encouraging heinous crimes in order to reveal the flaws of such a system hardly counts as heroic! Better was his attempt to infiltrate police headquarters in order to expose the real nature of the Sybil System; but he ought to have found a different method of depleting the building of personnel than by instigating mass riots!

PSYCHO-PASS.full.1447619 psycho-pass-1105

 

Makishima’s one shining moment (Major Spoilers ahead!!!!) has to be where he turns down the Chief’s offer to join the Sybil System himself. Who does not love how he turned down the temptation to become a cog in a semi-omniscent machine? That he told off the Chief as the Chief was so certain that he would leap at the chance to exchange his humanity for a purportedly superior existence? I almost cheered when he called up Kogami to inform him that he was still at large.

Psycho-Pass-Episode-21-Kougami-phone

 

Makishima could easily have been a hero if he did not resort to crime in order to achieve his ends. If only he had taken a page from Lelouch Lamperouge in using just methods for ousting a tyrannical authority! But, just methods always are the most difficult and are undertaken with the most risk. One wonders whether Makishima could have been successful. After all, if the Soviet Union could send someone to the gulag after a trial having found him insane for believing in God, how much more easy would it have been for the Sybil system to have executed Makishima as an extreme malefactor sans a trial? Then again, when the majority of the citizens’ mental states have been reduced to that of cattle, could he really foment enough dissension to induce peaceful change? Especially when society discourages literate and intellectual activity?

psycho-pass-review-3

 

I rather find myself at a loss to suggest methods of reform. Perhaps the last method Makishima devised to destroy the Sybil System was the one which he ought to have attempted first. I really wanted him to succeed. The Old Testament prophets had a more receptive audience than Makishima met in the society of Psycho-Pass! Others who hated the Sybil System limited themselves to blogging complaints among their inner circle online. Perhaps the most one can do in a society more oppressive than any tyranny in recorded history is to shake the dust off one’s feet and leave. In exile, one can imitate Solzhenitsyn in writing novels and short stories about the evils of this system, hoping to change people’s minds and hearts or do something more effective: pray.

Solzhenitsyn

 

Attempting to reform such an emasculated, gutless, and heartless society seems impossible for any being less than God Himself. Violently attempting to bring such a society to its senses can only lead one to villainy—as was the fate of Makishima.

PSYCHO-PASS.full.1337084

 

Where’s the Anime Gone?

Some of you may be wondering whether I still watch anime or if I have become disenchanted with modern anime and started to focus solely on manga, like xxxHolicWing of Chronical Holic.  May she find reasons to get excited about anime again, since I have always enjoyed reading her articles–though I admit having to catch up.  Fear not, my dear readers!  I have a tidy list of shows which I happen to be watching on and off.  You may expect some reviews in the near future.  Also, a few more for manga: Bartender, Break Blade, Fuyu Hanabi, Guardian Dog, Gunka no Balzer, and Hinekure Shisho no Mikaiketsu Jikenroku have caught my attention in particular.  I might have reviewed Break Blade already though.  I’ll check later.

My favorite current manga for its dynamic characters, period detail, and political intrigue.

My favorite current manga for its dynamic characters, period detail, and political intrigue.

At any rate, Girls und Panzer and Future Diary provided excellent entertainment with the later raising some interesting moral questions.  I rather enjoyed both, though I admit to Future Diary being somewhat of an acquired taste.  At least, the points where I disagree with it furnish apt material for editorials.  Unfortunately, I can’t write anything else about Girls und Panzer besides what people have already written: it’s a unique show which excels at action.  Watch it!

Who knew that a show combining high school girls and tanks could be so fantastic?

Who knew that a show combining high school girls and tanks could be so fantastic?

Having been intrigued by a review of Dusk Maiden of Amnesia written by Marlin-sama of Ashita no Anime, searching for a good comedy yesterday finally led me to watch it.  Three episodes into the show, the comedy has remained spectacular, the fanservice not over the top, and the overall tone wonderfully touching.  So, you can expect an article from me on the show in the future.  On a friend’s recommendation, I have started to watch the Break Blade movies.  As a fan of the manga, I was happy to see that they have kept the story faithful to the original story and that the animation is quite stunning.  Then, there are a couple of other shows which bloggers’ articles have led me to watch: Charles of Beneath the Tangles recommended Kotoura-san, and John Samuel of Pirates of the Burley Griffin’s series of articles on Bodacious Space Pirates drew me to watching that show.

Another surprisingly good show led by high school girls, the ambassadors of Japanese culture.

Another surprisingly good show led by high school girls, the ambassadors of Japanese culture.

Then, there are a few others which I’m currently enjoying: Gintama, Hunter x Hunter, Inuyasha: the Final Act, Psycho-pass, and Ys.  Gintama rates highly among comedies, as its six season run attests.  It’s a rather frenetic show, going everywhere from high-class, dramatic series of episodes to episodes of low-brow toilet humor.  Sometimes I wonder whether a different show has insidiously taken Gintama‘s place.  I’m watching the original Hunter x Hunter, and just can’t seem to find the time to finish it.  If I did, I’d probably turn to the remake, which has received a lot of good press.  Inuyasha: the Final Act shows remarkable improvement from the original show in regard to animation quality, and I can’t wait to see the demise of Naraku in color.  Psycho-pass has frequently horrified me by the bloodiness of the crimes, and, in the last episode I watched, outraged me with the scene showing a brutal murder in a crowd with the onlookers merely spectating.  Yet, it offers an interesting view of human nature alongside its utopian society.  I should pen an article for it pretty soon.  Lastly, the fantasy Ys deserves a very harsh, mocking review.  It proves that not every anime from the 90’s is as good as I’d like it to be.  The characters’ actions are so artificial that it makes me feel like I’m watching video game cut scenes!

Psycho Pass_09

Oh, and I have also been watching Shin Sekai Yori.  That sums up my anime watching history over the past few months.  Look forward to some nice reviews!