Welcome to our first opinion piece by Jeremy Paton. Each opinion piece we run on Forge Gaming Network reflects the thoughts and feelings of its author(s) and as such will be biased and subjective, you have been warned. These pieces are our writers attempt to rationalise and make sense of a game, a piece of news, movies and anime or an ongoing trend in the world of video-games. Our opinion series will occasionally have two authors discussing and debating a topic however, today’s post is a single authors opinion.
Each season brings a multitude of new anime titles as well as sequels and I often find myself struggling to choose what to pick up. Though I’ve always enjoyed watching anime I don’t consider myself a massive fan and neither have I watched even a fraction of what’s out there. Traditionally I stick to the three episode rule, if I’m not intrigued after that I don’t continue the anime. Yet recently I’ve become more critical about what I start watching, doing more research into what the anime is about before I pick it up. I’m looking for anime with complex stories, which engage me as well as those that are simply exciting and visually impressive.
The last couple of seasons have been decent with a handful of standout shows, yet this has lead me to backtrack the last couple of seasons for anything I’ve missed. Here is a collection of what I’ve watched and think you should too.
Psycho Pass: Season 1
Psycho Pass was an anime I mistakenly looked over, it premiered in 2012’s winter season, so not all that recently however, the anime does have a second season which aired in 2014. Psycho Pass is crime-thriller executed exceptionally and is a genre of anime which I’ve found disappointing since the end of Death Note. Produced by Production.IG the anime’s visuals are good, characters and environments are well detailed and action sequences are smooth and gorgeous.
The anime’s setting is that of an authoritarian future dystopia Japan, or at least that is the way the viewer and a minority of the citizens view the country. Actually city would be a better description, as the majority of the anime takes place in an unnamed megalopolis. In contrast most of the city’s inhabitants consider the city as a utopia, a place where crime is literally an impossibility and your life is pre-planned including schooling and job placement.
This is made possible by constant omnipresent public sensors which scan the Psycho-Pass of every citizen in range. The sensors measure mental state, personality, and the probability that the citizen will commit crimes.
Psycho Pass’s setting is by far one of its strengths however, later it starts to hamper the second season’s story, almost blackmailing the story to simply go nowhere in order to not fundamentally break the story’s setting. However, Psycho Pass’s setting is not what carried the first season for me but rather character progression, back story and the series’s social commentary.
Our story’s protagonist is the young prodigy Akane Tsunemori, who joins the Public Safety Bureau’s Criminal Investigation Division. Where she joins Shinya Kogami, and other members of the Bureau’s Unit One. Akane, along with veteran Inspector Nobuchika Ginoza and the unit start investigating a string of bloody murders and incidents which finally lead to the series conclusion and as well as a shocking secret regarding the true nature of how the city’s “super-computer” processes a citizens Psycho-Pass.
The series’s story follows a generic crime-of-the-week style, but adds legibility and intrigue into each crime by carefully tying each crime to another. Psycho-Pass is not afraid of blood and gore and has plenty of over-the-top moments which personally I felt lost the viewers immersion. Yet, its visuals and story still managed to shock me and make me question the nature of morality in the world of Psycho Pass. Each murder has elements of mystery which engage the viewer and the plot at times is complex, its an intelligent anime. Possibly one for a slightly more mature audience, its cast are not school children for starters!
During the series I found myself asking, what is the nature of Psycho-Pass? A society in which a victim of a crime is considered equally criminal due to their now damaged state of mind and potential to be a danger to society. This is the world of Psycho Pass, one in which being involved in a crime as a victim often leads to ones own demise. Inhabits daily lives are filled with absolutely no stress and the anime questions what happens to humans when their lives have no challenges or hardships.
Again this is an anime I initially missed and discovered a few months ago. Season one aired in the Winter 2013 season whilst season two is currently on air. I’m not going to be discussing Sword Art Online in this post, you either enjoy it or you don’t and you have probably seen it anyways. However, if you enjoyed or even if you did not enjoy SAO I would strongly suggest you give both seasons of Log Horizon a go. Log Horizon is a more traditional MMO style anime, think .hack//Sign yet it has some similarities to its contemporary counterpart, Sword Art Online.
The story follows the events of an incident involving the release of the twelfth expansion pack of the massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) Elder Tales which has seen global success, with a user base of millions of players. Think World of Warcraft. The incident follows the release of the expansion pack named the Novasphere Pioneers, which sees thirty thousand Japanese gamers who are logged on at the time of the update unexpectedly transported into the game’s assumed-virtual world and donning their in-game avatars. The players are provided no explanation, no mastermind antagonist steps forward to claim responsibility and the players are left to face this predicament themselves.
In the midst of these events we are introduced to our protagonist, Shiroe, who along with his friends, Naotsugu and Akatsuki team up to face their new reality.
Log Horizon’s greatest weakness is character and environment design quality, its not absolutely unbearable but compared to Sword Art it is disappointing. The setting of Elder Tale is a half-scale model of Earth, but with an overgrown appearance, not that different from The Last of Us. It looks abandoned, yet, the environment lacks detail and finish and so do character models which have particularly bad hairdos and to be frank are just bland.
Log Horizon’s redeeming characteristics are its story and characters, at first it is not the action packed adventure many may be expecting. But rather it builds itself up establishing a believable premise to the situation all these characters find themselves in. Our protagonist Shiroe, identifies the need for order in this new world without any. What we get is a reasonably drawn out diplomatic progression, resulting in the formation of the Round Table Alliance a governing body in the anime’s primary city, Akihabara. The anime continues to progresses in this manner with our protagonist investigating, plotting and planning before charging into battle.
By progressing in this manner Log Horizon is able to build up to stunning group action scenes which are immersing and meaningful. Action scenes are different to what one has come to expect from this genre and are closer to a traditional MMO battles; strategy and an understanding of your and your opponent’s weaknesses are key as well as understanding the mechanics of the game. A task which our protagonist is chillingly proficient at, thus gaining him the title of “the villain in glasses.”
What I particularly enjoy about Log Horizon is its subtly questioning about the difference between a virtual world and a real world, when one is forced to live in the former. Unlike Sword Art death in this world is not permanent, but it would appear that a player loses memories pertaining to their real world existence. Along with this is the nature of the non playable characters (NPCs) which inhabit the world, they now appear to be individuals with lives, families and troubles. The players, known as adventurers can no longer overlook their well being.
Personally I find Log Horizon similar in nature to that of The Mentalist and our protagonist, Shiroe, the equivalent of Patrick Jane.
I will leave you with this quote, “Shiroe, the nicest and most kind-hearted ruthless-mastermind-anime-anti-hero ever.”
No Game No Life
Fanservice be damned
You have got to be kidding me, No Game No Life, seriously, YES!
No Game No Life aired in the Spring Season of 2014 and the moment I read its synopsis I was certain I was going to drop it after three episodes. Well never have I been so wrong about an anime before. No Game No Life has plenty of issues but at its core it is an insanely fun anime, mixed with some crazy puzzle games.
The series follows the story of two young siblings (Not related by blood!) Sora and his younger sister Shiro. Both are gaming prodigies whilst being social recluses, hidden away in their room, where they compete together as one player named Blank in many online games. Yet everything changes after the two are challenged and win a game of chess and shortly after are transported into a reality which is centered around games. Finding themselves in a world where disputes are resolved through playing games Sora and Shiro are practically gods and decide to further their reputation as the undefeated gamers by earning the title of god, by eventually challenging the existing deus namd Tet.
Honestly there is not much more to No Game No Life, we have protagonists you know can’t lose and a weekly battle royal style series. But what makes No Game No Life worth watching is the enjoyment each episode delivers, the quality of the anime is superb, though the entire thing is bleached a vivid pink overtone which I got use to fairly quickly. The anime is filled to breaking point with fan services, it’s difficult to compare it to an anime such as Kill la Kill. The fan service is blatant but less ridiculous and it attempts to tie it into the episode’s story now and again.
No Game No Life is not a complex anime nor is it a thought provoking one, yet it is an immense amount of fun and each episode is an exciting yet satisfying cliffhanger.
Unfortunately this post is now a little long and there are still a few more anime I would like to talk about, maybe I will write a follow up piece to this. For now I will leave you with a list of a some of the anime I’ve watched but have not managed to cover in this post.
- Golden Time
Please feel free to share your thoughts and opinions on the anime I’ve talked about, I’m sure not everything here is everyones cup of tea but thats a good thing, I would love to hear about what anime you’re currently watching or any suggestions you have for me.