Attack on Titan and the Avatar Effect

Note: At the time of writing this analysis, I have not yet watched the premiere of season 2.

The second season of Attack on Titan is finally upon us. Although there are plenty of diehard fans donning their scout regiment hoodies and celebrating, the common consensus is a pungent apathy. A second season that would have been welcomed with open arms just three years prior is now faced with an overwhelming wave of indifference. I call this the Avatar effect.

In late 2009, James Cameron released a film that many at the time considered to be one of the greatest movies ever made (including myself). Avatar was treated to critical and box office success, working its way up as the highest grossing film in the history of the medium. When Avatar 2 was announced, fans and the general population alike were ecstatic. Years have passed, and here we are without a sequel. Walt Disney World, however, wanted to cash in on the Avatar mania, and is finally opening Pandora- The World of Avatar later this spring. The problem is that this mania that Disney is trying to take advantage of no longer exists. If they wanted to cash in on a craze, they needed to do so in the small amount of time that the phenomenon would have still been prominent. I probably can’t find you a single person out there now who is taking the trip to Disney World for the opening day of this sub-park.

Attack on Titan had its “mania” period from the second half of 2013 through nearly all of 2014. Hell, Attack on Titan stars were still being featured as guests of honor at conventions well into 2015. There was plenty of wiggle room for Production I.G to get themselves in gear and pump out a second season. Whatever the reason for the delay may have been, here we are, nearly halfway through 2017, and we are finally getting this sequel season. Yet the remaining fans are still wondering why nobody is excited?

You may be asking yourself, if something is a timeless classic, then why would it matter if it took so long to get a sequel, everyone would still be excited, right? Here in lies the issue with Attack on Titan. It is entry level shlock trying to disguise itself as a masterpiece.

I first watched the show in January of 2014, a time in my life where my interest in anime, manga, and otaku culture in general was virtually non-existent. I had been a diehard fan of Naruto for most of my life prior, but even my love for that manga had died out almost a year before. This was also at the height of my tumblrcore phase, where colossal titan and scout regiment memes ran rampant through the site.

I’m not going to sugarcoat it, I fell in love with Attack on Titan upon my first viewing. I was enamored with an animated work that felt as mature and sophisticated as most of the adult television I was consuming at the time. There was this sense of mystery and intrigue, all presented through gorgeous animation and crisp action.

I considered Attack on Titan to be one of my favorite shows for a large portion of 2014. I bought all of the merch I could get my hands on, spent hours in line waiting to meet voice actors from the english dub of the show at conventions, and posted about the series constantly on Tumblr. I did not, however, take the leap into further anime consumption.

Then my friend showed me Mekakucity Actors. Then I watched Kill la Kill, immediately followed by Madoka Magica. By the time I had watched Gurren Lagann, constructed my MyAnimeList account, and eventually quit Tumblr altogether, that initial anime about kids killing monsters was just a speck in the back of my mind. Still, whether it be out of stubbornness, or sheer denial, I continued to claim it was a masterpiece.

It was not until around mid-2015 that this claim came back to haunt me. After all of my praise, my friend Zack finally decided to give the show a watch himself. Note: At this time, he had also seen the slew of classics I listed above. Zack could not get through a single episode without either zoning out or falling asleep. The show was just boring to him, plain and simple. He did end up finishing it, but only under my excruciating insistence that it got better as it progressed. He did not agree with this sentiment.

It was at this point that I decided to read the manga that the show is based upon. I not only started from the beginning, but surpassed the season 1 content, chugging through what will probably account for all of season 2 and an early chunk of season 3. With atrocious art, bland and non-differentiable characters, and a story that never goes anywhere, it was one of the worst manga I had read to date (and I’ve read a substantial portion of Bleach). It was when I made the decision to drop this ghastly manga that everything came together for me.

The Attack on Titan anime is, to put it quite simply, not very good. However, I can’t deny that it is astoundingly smart. Production I.G knew exactly what strings to pull to craft the perfect entry level anime. In other words, AoT is the metaphorical gateway drug into otakudom. Once you work your way up to LSD and cocaine, do you really see your self regressing back to cheap marijuana? With its gorgeous animation, attractive character designs, and mystery-centric story, it is bound to draw in many on a base level of appeal. However, once you consume other anime that share in all of those properties, but actually execute them masterfully, there is really no point to Attack on Titan. When you can watch Mekakucity Actors, a show with stellar animation, unique and memorable characters, and an intriguing mystery that actually progresses and resolves, why would you bother with the exact opposite?

Avatar drew in such a mammoth crowd with its groundbreaking visual effects and allegorical story. Then you watch Dances with Wolves. Then you watch Princess Mononoke. These are two films that take the same premise as Avatar, but handle it masterfully. What is the point of going back to a bland and uninteresting version of an intriguing premise, when you can consume masterpieces that apply that very same idea?

My autographed poster of Eren Yeager, signed by dub voice actor Bryce Papenbrook, now sits in the recesses of my closet, collecting dust.

I will be watching the new season of Attack on Titan. Who knows, I may end up writing some pieces about it if I have anything interesting to say. The point is, I hope I helped current diehard fans understand why there is virtually no hype around their anticipated sequel season, and why there will be nowhere near as large of a community to share in their enthusiasm this time around.

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How I Will Be Covering Rick and Morty Season 3

If you are currently unaware, Adult Swim hosted an April Fool’s Day stream in which they looped the long-anticipated season 3 premiere of Rick and Morty. Although we will tragically have to wait until summer for the remaining nine episodes, I thought now would be an appropriate time to discuss how I will be covering the upcoming season.

If you remember back to late summer/early fall of 2015, when season 2 was in its prime, I was writing weekly episode reviews. Similar in style to my current One Piece chapter reviews, I would analyze the episode, and speculate its implications on the overall narrative.

For season 3, we are going to be doing something a tad bit different. I will still be covering each episode, conducting the same thorough analysis. It is the medium, however, that will change.

Over on my YouTube channel (the link to which you can find under the YouTube Channel section of this blog), my friend Zack (123zc1) and I have been podcasting for almost an entire year. Our main show is The Two Fine-Looking Brothers Podcast, in which we discuss whatever we wish to on our own schedule. When RWBY Volume 4 debuted, I was working in Washington, D.C. I would not have had the time to write weekly episode reviews. In order to still cover the show, I decided to create a spinoff podcast titled The Fine-Looking Brothers Talk RWBY. Along with our friend Alberto, Zack and I covered each episode with the same level of detail and care I would have used in my text reviews. This podcast blew up in a sense, quickly becoming my most popular creative product to date.

In order to fill the void on my YouTube channel that the RWBY hiatus has created, we have decided to start a spiritual successor podcast. That’s right, The Fine-Looking Brothers Talk Rick and Morty is on its way! In other words, I will still be sharing my opinions on a weekly basis, just not on this blog. If you’re sick of hearing just what I have to say, the opinions of my co-hosts Zack and Alberto should tide you over. Feel free to subscribe to my YouTube channel in order to ensure you don’t miss an episode.

The premiere podcast on S3, E1 will be uploaded this week, while the rest of the series will coincide with the airing of the remaining episodes this summer. I hope you all enjoy this change of pace, and I look forward to hearing your feedback.

Rick and Morty: S2 E10- Review

Season 2 of Rick and Morty has come and gone. While it definitely has had its ups and downs, theres no denying that this finale was not only the hands down best episode of the entire series, but one of the best season finales in television history. With major plot developments, character reunions, and the strongest emotional core of a Rick and Morty episode to date; theres no denying that this episode was a masterpiece on every level.

Due to the sheer amount of important content in the episode, this will be a spoiler filled review. Therefore, if you have not already seen this episode, I would highly recommend watching it before reading this review. However, make sure you have seen the rest of the series up until this point before watching, or else you will be very lost.

With the most important episode to the main narrative since season 1’s Close Rick-Counters of the Rick Kind, it is clear that this was a game changer for Rick and Morty. Rick, Morty, and the rest of the Smith family are invited to the wedding of Birdperson and Tammy on Planet Squanch. Rick, despising weddings due to his own failed marriage, does not want to attend. However, after Jerry is accidentally transported to said wedding, Rick must endure, and suffer through the event.

After intense hesitance, Rick finally decides to open up and enjoy himself after having a deep conversation with Morty. However, the second he does so, Tammy reveals that she was an undercover agent for the Galactic Federation the entire time, and assassinates Birdperson on the spot. The rest of the episode follows the Smith family, and their attempts to find a new home due to the newly forming Galactic Federation presence on Earth.

The episode concludes with what is hands down the strongest character development for Rick in the series to date. This also doubles as the most emotional scene in the show. Rick turns himself in to the Galactic Federation in order ensure the safety of his family. The episode ends with him being imprisoned for life, accompanied by the emotion triggering song Hurt, by Nine Inch Nails.

This episode not only developed Rick to an extent we have never seen before, it revealed a massive amount of previously unknown backstory. We now know that Rick, Birdperson, and Squanchy were part of some sort of failed rebellion against the Galactic Federation during their younger years. This explains why Rick was never there for Beth when she was growing up, and might explain why his wife left him. We also see Rick, an extremely self centered man, sacrifice himself for the safety of his family. Rick has truly changed as a character; this was a major turning point for Rick and Morty.

However, what could be either interpreted as hilarious nonsense, or the single most important scene of the episode, is the post-credits scene. Mr. Poopybutthole is sitting in an apartment of sorts, still healing from the gunshot wound inflicted on him earlier in the season. It is revealed that he is watching the episode we just finished on a TV. Once it ends, he turns to the camera, and explains how much he loved the episode we just watched, and how he is still healing from Beth’s attack. He then assaults a pizza delivery boy attempting to give him his dinner, due to the sheer amount of excitement he has for the episode. Left to twitch on the floor in a pile of pizza, he makes one of the best jokes in the series to date.

This scene could be scene as a random event used just for laughs, in typical Dan and Justin fashion. However, I think it has much larger implications for the series. I believe that Mr. Poopybutthole is some sort of overseeing figure, serving a similar role to the narrative as the Concierge in Bravest Warriors. This could be a major development for the overarching plot, and change the game that is Rick and Morty for good. Although this scene isn’t enough to make any grand conclusions, it is a major hint to the puzzle of deciphering this complex and dense narrative. Take this scene as you will, but I believe it will have major relevance to the end game of the series.

Evidently, this episode was a flawless masterpiece of a finale. I never expected an episode of this caliber, and almost never expect to see one again. It raised the bar for an already almost perfect series. I don’t think I can handle waiting a year and a half for new Rick and Morty content, but it is something I must do. This actually concludes my first completely reviewed TV season on this blog. I loved sharing my opinions of this show with you all, and I look forward to returning to the series in 2016.

Rick and Morty: S2 Eps 6-9- Mini Reviews

Update:

Due to my laggard pace with regards to reviewing television content, as well as season 3 of RWBY having started this past weekend, I have decided to prioritize catching  up on reviews of Rick and Morty, Steven Universe, and Doctor Who. However, with regards to Rick and Morty specifically, I will be quickly reviewing episodes 6-9 of the season below, only giving a full length review to the finale. Again, I apologize for the hiatus of sorts, and hope this somewhat satiates your appetite.

Episode 6- The Ricks Must Be Crazy:

To my knowledge, this is the first episode of the series to not contain a B plot. I was happy about this; the A plot needed 22 minutes to reach its full potential. The episode explores the concept of micro-verses, or smaller universes within your own. However, in this instance, Rick has created a micro-verse, a entire civilization, just to power his car. A trickle down effect begins to occur when Rick discovers that scientists in his micro-verse have created their own micro-verse in order to get their energy and stop producing for Rick. One step further, the scientists of that micro-verse are on the cusp of creating a micro-verse of their own. Conflict arrises when Rick and one of the head scientists of his micro-verse begin to fight over the concept. I found this episode to be much stronger then its predecessor, Get Schwifty. It had unique and original concepts, some solid jokes, and was not bogged down by a forced B plot. While it wasn’t the best Rick and Morty has to offer, it definitely was a strong episode. Be sure to stay after the credits for a laugh out loud treat.

Episode 7- Big Trouble in Little Sanchez:

If you are looking for a slightly off-putting and creepy episode that subverts your expectations, this is the Rick and Morty episode for you. I do not want to go deep into the literal plot of the A plot, for you must watch it for yourself to truly appreciate it. However, I found the B plot, while entertaining, to be somewhat frustrating. It seems that Beth and Jerry are falsely solving their relationship issues at the end of each episode, bonding over some event and gaining arbitrary satisfaction. However, there is no progress with this development, for the next episode always begins with them in conflict with each-other, back to stage 1. Regardless, the A plot is the true meat of this episode. Disturbing in that just slightly off way, while leaving enough open for viewer interpretation leads to a truly eery episode overall. The episode also expertly subverts your expectations, building up a strong conflict, and solving that almost instantly, focusing the episode on an offshoot conflict instead. While not flawless by any means, this is definitely the most off-putting and creepy Rick and Morty episode, and I can see myself coming back to it many times in the future.

Episode 8- Interdimensional Cable 2: Tempting Fate:

Rixty Minutes, the first Interdimensional Cable episode, is unanimously considered to be one of the greatest Rick and Morty episodes of all time. Praised for its improvisation, variety, comedic timing, and surprisingly strong morals; it’s no surprise why it gained such popularity. Cashing in on that popularity, Dan and Justin had to have gotten really drunk or high one night, and attempted to write a sequel episode. That must have been the case, for thats the only logic that can explain the sheer garbage that was this episode. This was hands down the worst episode of Rick and Morty to date, and the only one I can confidently consider to be genuinely bad. The comedy was extremely stale, only one joke being satisfactory. With nearly none of the TV programs/commercials being interesting, funny, or cleverly improvised, it is clear that Dan and Justin put no effort into this episode. Justin even apologized for the episode on Twitter, proving its horridness. This episode doesn’t even manage to fall into the so bad its good category, it has almost no redeeming qualities. Final verdict: while there is one stand out joke, just YouTube search it, there is no point to watching this garbage.

Episode 9- Look Who’s Purging Now:

This episode was a return to true Rick and Morty form after the hands down worst episode of the series thus far. A direct parody of the Purge series of films, Rick and Morty end up on an old-west like planet inhabited by humanoid felines. The people of the planet are about to engage in their annual purge (all crime legal for a single night). A series of events causes Rick and Morty to have to stick around. Together, they must survive the night, and the viewers are treated to the hilarious situations they get into along the way. The episode introduces a great minor character in the form of Arthiricia. While she doesn’t have a massive amount of substance, she is interesting, well designed, and well acted enough to be engaging. This episode also takes a deep look into Morty’s psyche, revealing a side of him that we have never seen before. In other words, we get some of the strongest Morty character development in the series to date. While this episode was not perfect, and definitely not top tier for the show, it was still great. Honestly, anything could have been better than the previous episode, and this filled those shoes perfectly.

Rick and Morty: S2 E5- Review

Preface:

Due to a somewhat cluttered college schedule, my reviews are starting to fall a bit behind. However, I plan to work extra hard to provide you with fresh content multiple times a week.

Review:

This episode of Rick and Morty was my least favorite of the entire show. However, that doesn’t make it a bad episode by any means. Get Schwifty, while being the weakest overall episode, is still a great one in its own right. The fact that I could still find a massive amount of enjoyment in my least favorite episode of a show proves that Rick and Morty is one of the greatest TV shows of all time.

The plot revolves around a race of giant head aliens gathering planets from throughout the universe to “show them what they’ve got” in a musical competition lampooning American Idol, and other shows of that nature. As I am not a big fan talent competition shows, or pop/hip hop music, I did not connect with the A plot of this episode as much as I would have liked to. Don’t confuse my lack of connection with a lack of appreciation, I could see that it was still cleverly written.

However, this episode was able maintain its quality status amongst its predecessors with its B plot. It takes a dive into religious cultism, as well as the illegitimacy of certain common religious practices. It provides an interesting commentary on the influence of religion throughout history, as well as in modern society, without mentioning any real religions. This B plot definitely has a plethora of material that can be deeply analyzed not in terms of show theory, but with regards to social commentary.

The best part of this episode was the post-credits scene. It was hands down the best in the series to date. Upon my first viewing, I laughed so hard that tears came out of my eyes. The simultaneous absurdity and imaginative nature of the scene created a perfect juxtaposition. There was also a surprising amount of buildup to it throughout the episode; it wasn’t uncalled for in any way. 

Evidently, I don’y really have much to say about this episode. While it was strong, it was still my least favorite episode of the show. I don’t enjoy talking about it as much as the rest, and, aside for the the B plot and the post-credits scene, I wasn’t deeply invested in it. Therefore, this review will naturally be shorter than usual. I appreciate the writing and messages it tries to get across, but it definitely could have been stronger overall.

Rick and Morty: S2 E4- Review

After the previous episode of Rick and Morty became my favorite of the series thus far, I wasn’t looking forward to this one. I knew that nothing could top the emotional and comedic high of it’s predecessor. However, what I failed to remember is that there isn’t a bad episode of Rick and Morty to date. Every single one is fantastic in its own right. Going in with that perspective, this episode did not disappoint.

While this episode was filled with outstanding humor, it was also terrifying. The concept of an alien race being able to transform themselves, enter a host’s home, and manipulate the host’s memories to make them think that they had been a part of their life for years is extremely unsettling to me. While I was laughing throughout the entire episode, a sense of fear and tension really began to hit me after the credits rolled.

While the topic of the episode was approached hilariously in the show, I came to the realization that this could easily be happening in reality, and I wouldn’t know any better. I don’t have an grandfather who travels the multiverse and knows all about different aliens and their cultures. I just have myself, and my personal beliefs about a massive universe that humans have yet to explore. Believe it or not, I actually had a hard time falling asleep after watching this chilling episode. Whether it be fear of the potential reality of its plot, or the existential crisis regarding the vastness of the universe that it caused, this episode really got to me.

While the twist ending was somewhat predictable, it still came off as clever. However, it ended up leading to more confusion than it did comedy. The only reasonable conclusion I could come to to explain this turn of events is somewhat farfetched, but ill do my best to help you readers understand it. Rick and Morty takes place in a multiverse. In each individual universe, there is a different Rick and Morty, and in some cases, a different Beth, Jerry, and Summer. This episode tips the theory that each individual episode, episode cluster, or even season may take place in a different universe in the Rick and Morty multiverse. However, knowing Dan and Justin, the twist could just be for laughs, and be completely forgotten about in the overarching narrative of the show.

Evidently, while this episode did not surpass its predecessor, that doesn’t matter to me. I connected with episode 3 of this season on a personal level. Therefore, I have unintentionally formed a bias; somewhat harming my critical perspective of the show. However, my reviewer’s eye is not even close to being destroyed in any capacity. I still found this episode to be well written, laugh out loud funny, and even disturbing. If an episode can pull off all three of those seemingly contradictory things with complete ease, it is truly a masterpiece.

Rick and Morty: S2 E3- Review

It is episodes like these that really make you realize how much of a masterpiece Rick and Morty is. When an extremely foreign and over the top concept can conclude with such a down to earth and emotional ending, you know Dan and Justin are doing something right. Not only did this week’s episode surpass the first two in humor, drama, and writing; but it has cemented itself as my current favorite episode of the entire show.

During a casual drive through space, Rick, Morty, and Summer follow a distress signal that takes them to a ship. The crew complains that the people of their planet have been taken over my a hive mind known as Unity. From this premise, you would think the episode would go in the generic route; the heroes helping the band of survivors defeat the consciousness and save their people. However, it completely diverts from that path, leading to one of the most unique and original episodes of a science fiction series to date.

I found this episode to be a clever satire of classic episodic science fiction shows, namely Doctor Who and Star Trek. If this were one of those shows, it would be very easy to predict the entire plot of this episode from the get go. However, this episode makes a sharp divergence, showing how unique Rick and Morty truly is.

The B plot in this episode was also very strong. Although we were treated to character development from Jerry, the true treat was Beth’s development. We really learn about her inner psychology, namely why she keeps Rick around in the first place. This gives the viewers a more three dimensional perspective of her character, without changing her base personality in any way whatsoever.

The strongest element of this episode, however, was the ending. I have never come close to crying in a Rick and Morty episode, until now. Although there have been emotional moments in the show before, none have even come close to this in impact. If you thought Beth had amazing character development in this episode, it doesn’t even hold a candle to the look we get into Rick’s psychology in the last few minutes.

Evidently, this was both the technical best episode of Rick and Morty, as well as my personal favorite. Its episodes like this that prove the genius of Dan and Justin, cementing Rick and Morty as the best adult animated comedy on American television. My only worry is that, despite their high quality, future episodes of this season wont be able to live up to this one.