Anime commonly really fucking sucks with dialogue, it’s a consistent problem and it’s a key cause to why I usually am forced to read annoying subtitles to watch Japanese cartoons. The usual issues with anime dialogue relate to the dismissal of a fundamental element of mature storytelling, ‘show don’t tell.’ Anime dialogue is usually laced with exposition that would be unacceptable in any self-respecting American drama. Another common element that incorporates the lack of ‘show don’t tell,’ philosophy is the rampant use of internal monologues in anime, having a character just exposit their emotions to so blatantly is considered extremely lazy writing. But expositional dialogue isn’t inherently bad, but it’s the way its delivered in Dubs that create this disconnect with me about anime dialogue.
English Dubs are usually terrible, because the majority of voice acting in English speaking countries are for children cartoons, wherein the over-the-top nature voice acting fits for the younger demographic being targeted. But when these voice actors are tasked with trying to give a believable and serious performance, they are outwardly terrible. The meme about Dubs having the same 7 fuckbois in every single show is patently true, I’m sick of hearing the same untalented over-the-top idiots in every show. Animation is naturally a more expressive medium and therefore it courts audiences that need basic human characteristics and emotions repeatedly explained to them, that’s why the anime community is filled with autists. This may be why the scripting of the shows even in Subs is, so exposition orientated, these feel their audience can’t understand subtly. This definitely contributes to anime’s fundamental issues with dialogue.
However, there is one show that stands out amongst its contemporaries with dialogue, and that’s the Black Lagoon Dub. This show’s Dub is objectively so much better than the Sub, because the script was entirely re-written by the English produces to be appropriate for an older demographic. All the uses of bastard in the original script were replaced with more mature language like, ‘fuck’ and ‘motherfuck,’ and it’s unbelievably fantastic. The dialogue does fall into dumb anime speak every once and a while, but the more melancholic and slower moments of the show are highlighted by the great script writing and more relatable language. Black Lagoon’s Dub is a prime example of what Dubs could be if the English producers got more creative and worked a little harder. Other examples of Dubs that I think are worth watching include, Steins; Gate, but not 0, the Dub is not as good there, and Neon Genesis Evangelion, only because the awkwardness entirely fits Anno’s thematic elements.
Sasha recently died in the Attack on Titan manga, and had a moment of reflection… No one ever dies in Attack on Titan! The internet narrative and reputation surrounding this series is that death is a series constant. Attack on Titan is commonly compared to Game of Thrones (Spoilers for Game of Thrones) in terms of quantity of deaths. Let’s run through the major character deaths in Game of Thrones, Ned Stark, Rob Stark, Catlin Stark, Tywin Lannister, Joffrey Lannister, Robert Baratheon, Stannis Baratheon, Magarey Tyrell among others. All these held significant value to the plot and died shockingly and seemingly out of nowhere. Attack on Titan’s major character deaths include, Sasha Blouse, Erwin Smith, Berthold Hoover, Kenny Ackerman, Hannes and Ymir; that’s it. Every other character death is of a nameless background character or is someone the audience never really cared about and had little impact on the plot. Marco’s death has relevance to the characters in the story, but the audience didn’t remember Marco when Jean found him. (Don’t lie)
This reputation Attack on Titan has is misleading, but it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Attack on Titan isn’t afraid to pull the trigger on a meaningful character death when necessary and Isayama doesn’t go over-board with his itchy trigger-figure. Every character death feels earned and occurs tastefully, unless you’re a useless background character, in that case you brutally chomped on by a hideous titan. The purpose of this write-up is to share my absolute frustration whenever I hear this talking point online. No Attack on Titan doesn’t kill characters like Game of Thrones, stop being an idiot.
Griffith’s actions in the Eclipse to a point, were completely forgivable and justifiable. In this instance the ends Griffith went to did justify the means all until the rape. RAPE IS BAD PEOPLE. It’s literally the worst thing that can be done to a human being, worse than murder, worse than theft, worse than anything. Sacrificing the Band of the Hawk is justified by the narrative itself, we spent multiple chapters wherein Ubik explains to Griffith that his life will be horribly mediocre if he refuses the sacrifice and everyone that ever followed him will have died in vain, that’s thousands of people that will forever be on Griffith’s conscious will he wastes away for the rest of his life. Characters that have mercilessly killed other characters the audience cared about have been forgiven in media before; Vegeta was responsible for killing nearly all of the Z Warriors and then just joins them, Magneto is always doing crazy shit and ends up teaming with the X-Men against an eviller and threatening being. Griffith could have been forgiven in a similar way… until he mindlessly raped Casca.
But the rape of Casca was pointless and gratuitous. Griffith had nothing to gain from raping Casca, he did it simply to torment Guts. For chapters and chapters before the Eclipse, panel after panel conveyed his unhappiness and jealousy of the relationship he can see has developed between Guts and Casca since his capture. Maybe he believes they’d forgotten about him and that’s why it took them a year to come and rescue him, who knows and who cares; Griffith must die. For the crime of sacrificing everyone Guts cared about, for tormenting him by cuck-raping his wife Griffith has earned a death sentence. Griffith did only one thing wrong, rape Casca and for that one thing he must die…
Attack on Titan’s immaculate attention to detail perplexes me, even contemporarily, but it shouldn’t. Isayama has demonstrated time and time again that he doesn’t forget any details, no matter how inconsequential they may seem initially, everything in the story is relevant and he doesn’t forget anything. Chapter 109 demonstrates this attention to detail better than any other single chapter in recent memory. The dumb kid with one line of dialogue from Episode 6 of Season 1 is now a legitimate call-back character, that’s insane! And it shows appreciation for those of us that pay attention to the intricacies of the manga, perhaps more than we should. Another example is the child that Sasha saved in Season 2 is now a real character, with motivations and a personality, it’s unbelievable and Isayama should be properly praised for this outstanding achievement.
But even further than that is how seemingly impossibly perfect coordination between the anime production and Isayama is. Zackery has been a prevalent force in the recent episodes of the anime and therefore Isayama reintroduces this refamiliarized character into the manga storyline. This isn’t the first instance of this, Nile was reintroduced last month when his influence of the anime was increased, and his character was being highlighted. Season 2 was no different, right after the Beast Titan initially appeared in the anime, Isayama finally explained how the whole incident occurred by explaining that the Zeke could control and create certain mindless Titans, in that month manga realise. But the most effective example of this strategy and coordination was with the reveal of Ymir’s backstory. The anime reintroduced us to Ymir and reexplained why we originally cared about her and then in the accompanying manga realise that month we got an explanation of Ymir’s backstory through a note she had passed from Reiner to Historia. If the anime hadn’t refamiliarized the audience with Ymir I doubt the emotional resonance of that scene would have been as effective.
The preplanning and coordination that goes into Attack on Titan is outstanding and whatever critics may say about Isayama’s illustrations and the anime bombastic presentation, credit must be given to the hustle of these fine boys and their dedication to the series. Isayama has given us a reason to comb over all past, present and future seemingly insignificant details for clues about upcoming events and characters. I have the greatest respect for Isayama and his rewarding narrative style and am glad I’m along for the ride.
You have the internet and have absolutely no excuse to be bored, everything is available, and everything is free. There are countless YouTube channels making quality content for you to consume, for the last hundred and fifty years the world has been creating movies for you to enjoy, listen to some fridge contemporary music, listen to podcasts while you endlessly grind away on your favourite game. You have infinite possibilities at the tips of your figures, more power than anyone in human history ever has. Are you feeling meaningless well there are hundreds of niche communities for everything you can imagine, you belong in at least one of them.
Watch Neon Genesis Evangelion if you haven’t, its necessary for your development as a human. Have you caught up on Berserk recently shits getting real? Oh, you haven’t even started your Berserk journey well then you have 39 volumes of wholly worthwhile manga to catch up on, binge it you’ll be a different person afterwards. Finished Berserk read Vinland Saga. Want to know how Japanese nihilistic media came to be? Go back and read the original Devilman manga or if that turns you off watch Devilman Crybaby for a more contemporary version. ALL THIS CONTENT IS FREE, why haven’t you consumed it yet? YOU HAVE NO EXCUSE TO BE BORED.
Have you seen the Godfather? How about the Godfather Part 2? These are necessary, must watch cinema and will alter the way you see atmosphere and tone in media. What in particular did you like about those movies, are you intrigue by what cinema can do from here? Or are you more enticed by the mafia elements of the Godfather and interested in exploring those elements further? If you want more integral cinema surf the Quinton Tarantino catalogue of films; start a Reservoir Dogs and make your way to The Hateful Eight, it’ll change the way you think about dialogue in media. But if your more interested in the depiction of the mafia in other media, the natural cinematic progression is to watch Goodfellas, for a more grounded and realistic take. But then you have a long form 70+ hour philosophical drama, the HBO original series to watch is The Sopranos. It’s a sprawling story about a nihilistic, depressive mob boss and his journey to get his life in order, it’ll alter the way you think about long-form storytelling. ALL THIS CONTENT IS FREE, why haven’t you consumed it yet? YOU HAVE NO EXCUSE TO BE BORED.
This is but a sliver of the possible media for you to consume if you follow the natural progression of the content trail. Ultimately my message here is you have limited sacred time to be conscious and to be thinking, don’t waste it on boredom, you have more options than anyone ever has, don’t waste it. YOU HAVE NO EXCUSE TO BE BORED.
Original Dragon Ball is best Dragon Ball. I think we all understand that (or at least we all should). But a criminally underrated element of the original Dragon Ball is the music, more specifically the Opening and Ending themes. Even more specifically I’m talking about the English versions of the Opening and Ending themes. Mystical Adventure and I’ll Give You Romance are mainstays on my phone always, due to their outwardly bombastic expressions of what Dragon Ball used to represent. What’s almost most impressive about these songs is that they were crafted initially in Japanese, so the instrumentals and visuals for the songs were meant to be compatible with the original Japanese vocals, but these English performances capture the feel of the originals and build off them to create some of the most memorable Dubbed anime openings and endings.
Mystical Adventure is an opening theme that evokes a sense of adventure, believe it or not. The visuals and vocals both pump me up with equal cheese and excitement. It’s a great tone setter for upcoming episode and is so damn quirky and catchy. I’ll Give You Romance is the driving force behind the creation of this write up. I love this ending so much it might just be my favourite endings of all time. This song is weirdly sombre and sad for a comedic Shonen action series and it works so effectively. This song used to depress me as a child and it was causing me to skip this song every time, but like a fine wine it has grown on me over the years. The visuals depict a melancholic and thoughtful Bulma reflecting on her standing in life on a rainy day. The vocals accompany this by conveying Bulma’s wishes for a connection with someone, which Bulma later will with Vegeta. These lyrics to me are enrichened with the knowledge that Bulma will end up with Vegata. Ultimately, this song is a personal nostalgic lookback on the charm and versatility of original Dragon Ball, the best Dragon Ball.
Naruto is downplayed by the more ‘sophisticated’ members of the anime community, largely because of it Shonen demeanour and its failings in its penultimate moments. But on reflection Naruto has some unrivalled moments in the medium of Shonen animation. Naruto excels in fight scenes, it’s a Shonen after all, and a Shonen without interesting fight scenes is set out to fail. Several fight scenes standout out famously from Naruto’s long run in Weekly Shonen Jump, the fights between Rock Lee and Gaara, both fights between the primary characters: Naruto and Sasuke among many others all live on in the Shonen zeitgeist. However, I would like to bring your attention to two standout fights both in creativity and choreography that had me in disbelief on initial viewings: Madara’s introduction destroying the allied Shinobi Forces and Kakashi’s penultimate battle with Obito.
Madara’s reckoning on the Ally Shinobi Forces is an introduction to a new character (one that been teased since the beginning of Shippuden) and it’s the best in the series. Madara appears and the tone immediately shifts, by the presentation alone the audience immediately understands that this is a bad motherfucker and shit’s about to go down. The army of Shinobi roar with nervous fortitude and charge at Madara and he just pulverises them entirely with only named characters we are familiar with getting any counter-offence in at all. (there’s a neat moment from Tamari and Gaara shines here as well.) But after carving through hundreds of soldiers, with standout animation and creative Ninjutsu choreography, Madara cements this moment as unrivalled with his comet commanding technique after his awakening the Rinnegan. The massive rock amazes the viewer, we haven’t seen anything at this level yet, and now in his introductory fight Madara is outclassing everything we’ve ever seen. But the true climax of this fight is after the heroes manage to stop the first sky-blocking boulder, and Madara delivers a terrifying line by asking Onoki what he’s going to do about the second one? With a quick cut to the appearance of a second boulder just as gigantic as the first the audience realises they’ve been introduced to one of Naruto’s strongest characters. This is a moment were the audience vicariously freaks the fuck out through the characters in amazement. Additionally, to all the ongoing action, this scene is also laced with intrigue because between attacks and testing his abilities he’s also questioning Kabuto and exposition is tangentially leaked in the subtext of their conversation about the plan of the masked fake Madara that we would come to know as Obito. This is a quintessential way for an overpowered character to make an ever-lasting first impression.
Whereas Madara’s battle was an introduction to a character, this fight between Kakashi and Obito was the climax of both characters stories. After this Kakashi doesn’t really contribute to anything (until he’s shoehorned in at the last second) and Obito isn’t really Obito anymore. This fight has the weight of a long-term story, intrenched in both characters very foundation, they are intertwined with each other, and that is reflected in the uniqueness of their fight. This fight has two predominant elements; the friendly, flashback childhood duel between the two of them and the battle to the death happening in present time. These two elements distinctly juxtapose each other while also contributing emotional weight to each other. The flashes between the two ongoing battles creates a direct connection between them; moves are being repeated from their previous fight and reflected in the present one. Therefore, the audience is treated to 7 minutes of nothing but owe-inspiring Match Cuts between the battle in the past and the battle in the present. This is highlighted most proficiently by the parallel use of the fireball technique from Obito and the corresponding mud wall technique from Kakashi. This combination of Jutsu occurs in both fights one different scales and is portrayed through both lens. But the moment entrenched into my mind, and the clinical reason for my bewildering love for this fight is when the two fights finally address each other. The battle in the past has concluded and Kakashi has won, Minato gives the order for the two comrades to give the commemorative union sign, but before this can happen and before Obito can do the right thing, the contemporary version of himself pulls the past Obito back from past Kakashi and goes for the kill and contemporary Kakashi appears saving past Kakashi to deal the final blow with the fight ultimately ending with both intertwined Ninja impaling each other with their techniques. All this combined allows for the best fight in the entire Naruto franchise and an unrivalled moment unmatched in the Shonen medium.
Fundamentally, Naruto has unrivalled moments that shouldn’t be largely downplayed by the anime community because of the series shortcomings in other areas. Maybe overall the bad outweighs the good in Naruto or Vice-Versa but the bad things shouldn’t undermine the legitimately exceptional elements of the series and those elements should be praised for their creativity and execution.