Additional Thoughts: My Experience Watching No Game No Life Zero

So, as mentioned in my review of the film, I actually went out to the theater to watch it with a friend. I thought it’d be interesting to document how our experience at the theater that night went down. This was my second time going out to a theater to watch an anime movie, my first being The Boy and the Beast.

Going to see The Boy and the Beast in theaters was really cool, because the theater was packed with anime fans who were probably all watching this for the first time. There was a lot of emotion; laughter during the funny parts, and “awws” during the more sweet part. It was exciting and a lot of fun.

My experience here, though, was pretty different.

Of course, I watched The Boy and the Beast at a theater at an anime convention, rather than at some theater in my hometown. There’s bound to be a lot of anime fans interested in the film at an anime convention; meanwhile, No Game No Life Zero was playing at the theater here without any bigger event tied to it, and no physical marketing or even mentioning of it excepting for on the showtimes board inside the theater itself.

I went over this in my review, but my friend and I had gone and pre-purchased our tickets to the movie online. My friend had a bit of a weird snafu because she ended up getting charged for like 4 tickets or something? So that was something that needed to be resolved when we actually arrived at the theater. It was only maybe 45 seconds of waiting at the front counter (it’s interesting how slowly time seems to move while you’re standing and waiting for something), and then we were all good.

Anyway, we go and grab some food (I almost never get popcorn because I’m just not much of a popcorn guy, honestly), and then head off to the theater where the film will be showing.

It was around 35 to 40 minutes before the film was to start, so we weren’t exactly expecting the place to be filled when we walked in, but still! No one was in the theater at all. We sat down in the seats that seemed just right for us (everyone has their preferences), and just… sat there. There was nothing on the screen, so my friend decided to whip out her phone and began playing “This Game”, the OP from the TV anime.

A few minutes in, a man suddenly appeared on the screen, and his voice boomed over the speakers. He said something to the effect of “Welcome to this film sponsored by Fathom Events. It’s 30 minutes to show time, so get comfortable!” and then the screen went blank again. This just scared the ever-living daylight out of me (I’m so easily startled), so my friend started laughing. It was about then that – finally – the next two people appeared in the theater.

They were two guys from a local technical college, and because there was nothing else to do, we began talking a bit. One of the guys was a big fan of the TV anime, and so he decided to drag along his friend, whom had never even watched it, so they could enjoy the movie together. We gave this friend a short crash course on what No Game No Life is like, thanks in part due to a video by Gigguk.

We saw maybe two or three more small groups walk in during this time, but even by 6:50 – 10 minutes before the show was to start – the theater was still mostly empty. Around 6:45 or something, the screen turned on again, the same guy greeted us, and then this rotating slideshow of images and short ads began playing; one of the slides was this Q&A question, and despite it being labeled “Q1”, we didn’t ever see a “Q2” or anything else… they only showed Q1 over and over. (It was something related to the snack Shiro ate in the beginning of episode 1.) While this slideshow was playing, there was this crowd-murmur sound that’d play in the background; it kind of creeped us all out, but luckily the YouTube video did well to fill the soundscape instead.

At around 6:52 or so, I decided to get back out and grab some more food (they sell these pretzel nugget bite things and I love them!). By this point, long lines had formed though – something I should’ve expected, but totally didn’t. So I got into a line and resigned myself to the fact that I probably won’t make it back by 7.

Finally, though, I got my pretzel bites, and quickly zipped my way back to the theater. As I come back in, I notice the special “pre-show presentation by actors and staff” that was promoted for the event playing on the screen. I sit down and my friend whispers, “Don’t worry; you only missed the recap.” Something I didn’t need since I rewatched the TV anime recently.

This presentation went on for twenty. five. minutes. (Including the time I wasn’t there.)

(I should also mention that by the time I came back, the theater had quite a bit more people in it. Certainly wasn’t a full house by any means, but I’d say about half the seats were filled.)

I came in as the interview with Sentai’s ADR director began, saying things like “I’m excited I was able to come back to work on the film” and things like you’d expect him to say. A tiny bit of his southern twang came in at times which definitely amused me (Sentai Filmworks is based in Texas, after all).

They then progressed into small interviews with each of the main English voice actors, being the ones for Riku, Schwi, Jibril, Tet, and Izuna. (Izuna barely made an appearance in the movie, by the way, so having her voice actor come in was kind of amusing.) These interviews were structured pretty similarly; the first part of each one focused on each voice actor’s role in the original TV anime (Riku and Schwi share the same VAs as Sora and Shiro, respectively) and the second part focused on their role in the movie.

Looking at these interviews wholly on their own, I’d say they’re probably okay.

However… the thing is, they played before the movie started. For what seemed like forever, we’re sitting here and watching people talk about the movie rather than watching the movie itself. And not only that, but each of the voice actors were also open about their roles and the world they’re in; I’d say at least half of the entire movie was spoiled by these interviews before the thing itself even started. Half of the entire movie.

The only voice actors who didn’t spoil anything were Tet’s (who said something to the effect of “I won’t say when he makes his appearance, but when Tet makes his appearance, it’s super cool”) and Izuna’s (whose character was only in the film for two scenes). Both of these characters barely made any impact on the film, and so their voice actors didn’t spoil much because there wasn’t much to spoil about them.

If these interviews had either played after the movie, or simply have been edited down for time and to remove so much of these spoilers, it would’ve been a lot better. The thing finally ended with the ADR director and all the voice actors on the screen, saying “Hope you enjoy the film!”, and then they all raised their hand and said “Aschente!” before a cut to black. It was super cheesy; my friend and I just looked at each other and were like “… really?”

(It also amused me that despite us going to see the subtitled showing of the film, it showed the English ADR director, voice actors, and played clips of the TV anime and film with English audio. I wouldn’t have expected Sentai to have gone and interviewed the Japanese staff/cast, but still, it amused me.)

So finally, at 7:25, the film began playing.

My thoughts about the film are all in the review I posted alongside this piece, so if you’re looking at a spoiler-free look at the film, go there. From this point onward, I’m going to be talking about events in the film itself, without regard for spoilers. So consider yourself warned!

The theater was pretty much entirely silent throughout the whole film. The amusing moments in the early part of the film (while Couronne was misunderstanding Riku and Schwi about to “get it on”) got a few chuckles from the audience, but that was about it. The romantic heartfelt scene in the middle got no reaction, none of the big dramatic stuff that happened afterwards got no reaction. There was just nothing.

Like I said in my review, my friend got up and left during that romance scene. It went on and on as Riku was like “I want us to get married” and Schwi just kept rejecting the idea. Finally, she revealed to Riku that she alone was the one that destroyed the village the human colony had started in, effectively killing off half of the entire human race. She looked right up at him and said “you probably think poorly of me now, don’t you?”. Riku, this stupid guy, looks back at her and essentially says “Yeah, that sucks, but I don’t care. Let’s get married anyway.” This was about when my friend left.

Really? Really?

Half of your entire race just died to the actions of this one person standing right in front of you, and you – the one that was beating yourself down earlier for how many people you had indirectly gotten killed – just brushed it off like it was nothing? REALLY?

I’ll admit that I had a pretty “meh” reaction to this movie thus far. At this point, though, that’s probably when I really started to dislike it.

After a long enough time, the movie finally moved on to the climax, which is where Jibril made her appearance and began fighting Schwi. My friend, who is a super huge fan of Jibril, walked back in after this battle already started; she ended up kicking herself in the back later because she missed Jibril’s entrance.

I talked about the battle in my review. I’ll just move on to the last scene of the film.

This very last scene jumped back to present time; Sora and Shiro appeared, with Steph and present-day Jibril, and they talked for a tiny bit about how much the people of present day remember the events of that time – which is to say how much. I will admit it’s a tad emotional to see that these two people (Riku and Schwi) which played a huge role in ensuring humanity’s survival and making Disboard what it is today, are both just forgotten to time. Even Tet, who was actually narrating this story, says that he doesn’t know what happens with certainty.

Anyway, Sora and Shiro proudly declare something to the effect of “it’s time for the next phase.” We see them move to some cliff, standing proudly on the edge of it with all of the TV anime’s characters, and saying “Let the game begin!”

And then it cut to black.

During that moment of blackness, I turn to my friend and whisper, “I hope there’s a teaser or something for a season 2”. Instead, nope, the credits began rolling. The Japanese credits, I should clarify, including the ending song, “There is a Reason”, and some relatively simple animation of water ripples and the wedding ring.

While the credits played, the TV anime fan whom I mentioned well earlier in this piece loudly chanted “Where’s Season 2?” and got the rest of the theater to mutter in agreement. However, the credits finished, they replayed a section of that marriage scene (ughhhhh) and then it faded to black again. You could feel the entire audience exhale as their anticipation just evaporated.

There were yet again a few more moments to blackness… and then suddenly, more words began appearing. It was now the credits in English. I just laughed; I turned to my friend and said “Okay, let’s go, there’s nothing more.”

The fan guy responded to me, “You never know, they could’ve put something more after these credits.”

“These are the Sentai credits. There’s nothing more,” I laughed.

Sentai Filmworks, about 95% of the time, doesn’t modify/translate the ending credits for their anime DVDs, like Funimation and NIS America do, and instead just put the credits after each episode’s included credits run: white text on a black background, repeating everything the Japanese credits did (and adding the English staff), but with no ending animation or audio whatsoever. It’s cheap and kind of boring, but for Sentai, it’s par for the course.

I was not expecting, however, Sentai to do the same exact treatment to the films they show in theaters. I knew once the Sentai credits started rolling, though, that was the end.

Regardless, my friend and I found ourselves staying to the end of the Sentai credits as well, as did most of the people in the theater. When they finally finished and the screen went black again for the final time, I just shook my head, stood up, and said “we’re outta here”.

My friend and I drove back home, complaining about the film the whole way. One of our other friends was planning to watch the dubbed showing on the 8th, and we decided to tell him that it wasn’t worth his time to go.

I went home, made a disappointed tweet, and just moved on with the rest of my night.

So that’s my experience. Did you go to see the film? Or are you still interested in watching it at all? Let me know your thoughts in the comments! As for me, I’m looking forward to seeing A Silent Voice; I’m hoping that’ll be more worth my time and money than this was.

Space Patrol Luluco – One Year Later

To be honest, in the past few years, it’s been harder for anime to really reach out and grab me, draw me in, and get me whole-heartedly invested. I’d say there’s a couple reasons as to why, but that’s another discussion for another time.

One of those exceptions, though, was Space Patrol Luluco. It caught my eye in April of 2016 due to it being a new short-length series created by animation studio Trigger, the animation studio that had recently gained fame for its work on Kill La Kill (and Little Witch Academia, to a lesser extent). When I saw that first episode drop, I was like “sign me up!”

The first episode did really well to draw me in that day due to its fascinating background work, its highly-cartoonish character designs and animations, and its sense of timing for its comedic moments, with a small dosage of overdramatization on top of it.

The series as a whole is hyper, chaotic, dramatic, and aware of all of it.

I wrote my review for Space Patrol Luluco relatively soon after I had finished the series, and even wrote an accompanying piece for it talking about the forces behind the show’s creation (although I feel that’s of my lower quality pieces on this site). It’s been a full year since the release of that final episode, and four days short since the release of my review. I rewatched the entire series today to somewhat celebrate and commemorate the anniversary, so the big question is… what do I think of the show now?

(Warning: since this is my reflection on this series, I’m not going to be devoting paragraphs to explaining the plot/setting, and my discussion is also going to be pretty spoiler-laden. Soooo… yeah.)

Honestly, the show is a lot of fun. If you simply let yourself just get caught up in the action, drama, and the quick, snappy flow from one scene and episode into another, you find yourself in a storm of excitement as everything falls into place in the final two episodes. If you sit down and give thought to everything happening on screen too, the show did its job well enough for things to make a relative amount of sense, although the fast pacing may muddle that.

For my first watch-through last year, I didn’t notice (or give much thought to) Nova’s indifference to everything throughout nearly the entire series (due to him being a Nothingling). Thus, I sensed Luluco’s frustrations with his mixed messages and such as just her “being a flustered teenage kid”. This led to me being a bit more confused as well when the plot twist occurred in episode 10 where his double agentry was unveiled.

This show revels in being dramatic, over-the-top, and ridiculous. This all lended itself well to the comedy of the first episode, and also to quick pacing and tone of the overall series. Indeed, Space Patrol Luluco seemed to be at its weakest point at episode 10 (and also episode 8), which was basically the plot dump episode. The show quite literally had the characters all sit down so the main villain could spout backstories and explanations at them, instead of their usual antics of action-explosions-justice! that was present throughout pretty much the rest of the series.

I could sense the show was trying to add some levity and silliness to it with Midori’s moments in that episode and the Blackholeian’s long-winded descriptions of middle schoolers. As well, honestly, the plot as a whole isn’t nonsensical either. It didn’t seem like it was pulled out of their you-know-where, and the show gives you just enough time for you to think yourself “Huh, I guess that does make sense” before ending the episode or whisking you off to another thing. The plot isn’t the most deep or groundbreaking, and it ends on this “love conquers all” thing we’ve seen many a time before, but it’s overall not bad. For the show’s purposes, it does fine enough. You can tell the creators have more fun with the action-explosions-justice! though.

Thus, after Luluco goes through the essential character development scene in episode 11 and comes back from Hell, the show basically says “okay, back to the fun stuff” and it becomes hyper-awesome-action for the final two episodes. As I said a number of paragraphs ago, though, the hyper-action and overdramatics of it all is really exciting and a lot of fun. To be honest, I think that’s mostly what this show strives to be, is just super-fun, super-action, and over-the-top, and it very well succeeds in that regard.

It also sets up Luluco as Trigger-chan, basically the mascot for the entire animation studio, so that’s cool, I guess. I honestly don’t really fully understand the idea of a company mascot (such as Super Sonico), but hey, whatever.

My feelings towards the episode-long cameos to other series are not as negative as they were in the past. I’ve still yet to watch any of the shows that got cameoed here… Anyway, the cameos, although they definitely do serve to give fans of those shows a wink and a nod, also usually tie in fairly well into the main plot, overall (if not in somewhat contrived ways). Like the rest of Space Patrol Luluco, the cameo episodes are all intense, quick-paced, and usually full of action… with the exception of Episode 8, “The Trap of the Mystical Power”. This episode was slower paced, and everything in it seemed to drag just as much as well. It’s a relatively important episode to the overall plot (although, again, the situations in it are fairly contrived), but it still feels like this show’s other weak point.

All in all, though, I have a lot of positive feelings about this show. Rewatching it all today was a lot of fun, and it got me motivated and excited enough to want to come here and write this reflection!

My biggest hope, now, is that Crunchyroll/Funimation will go ahead and release a physical copy of this show. Since Crunchyroll is on the production committee for this show, they assumedly have all distribution rights outside of east Asia. Short-length anime usually don’t see a physical release, however, but I’m still going to hope for this one!

What are your thoughts on the show, one year later? Has it brought you as much excitement and enjoyment as it brought me? Or maybe you got other feelings out of it? Let me know in the comments!

Additional Thoughts: Attack on Titan Season 2

Attack on Titan Season 2. It’s happening.

I didn’t really mention “Season 2” at all in my Attack on Titan review. There are a few reasons:

  1. Season 2 obviously hasn’t happened yet (as I write this). I wouldn’t exactly have much to say about something I haven’t seen (unless I wanted to write speculations or what I want to see).
  2. My Attack on Titan review, I felt, was pretty long, and I didn’t want to make it any longer.
  3. If I were to write speculation about it, I feel it would involve spoilers for the first season. And I keep my reviews spoiler-free.
  4. Honestly, you probably already knew it was happening.

So, let’s talk about it a bit now.

Today, the day after I posted my review, Funimation actually translated a Japanese promo video and posted it on their YouTube channel. That’s a weird coincidence… The video clocks in a bit under 2 minutes, so if you have a free moment, go take a look!

The first thing, of course, that will probably grab your attention is that weird-looking giant-eyed Titan (fish-eyed?) walking among the crowd of Titans. I’m not really going to be doing a second-by-second overview of the entire video, but I just wanted to point it out. It’s weird looking, and not even in the same way the Moe Titan was. It’s just… weird.

Anyway, now that I spent a paragraph on that…

From what we can tell with this video, there seems to be more of a focus on Titan-vs-Titan fighting. I’m not surprised, as this seems to be the next logical level, especially after the two last major battles in the first season incorporating a lot of Titan-vs-Titan fighting. There does still seem to be some human-vs-Titan fighting still, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that isn’t as prevalent.

It seems the second season may also talk a bit more about the squabbling military factions, about the three walls (which will be rather intriguing, actually), and about Titans themselves. I wonder how much the series will bog itself down from its main staple of high-intensity action.

The visuals seem to be on par with the first season. The coloration seems to be just a tad darker from the first season, but not drastically different. It seems the character outlines aren’t quite as thick this time around though. The background music piece sounds really cool, of course, and still fits right in the style of the first season’s soundtrack (I actually first thought they just reused an OST track from the first season). It’s nice to see a lot of the same staff returning for this second season too.

All in all, I’ll be interested to see what this second season will have in store for us. Of course, not too much can be figured out from a two-minute promo video, but it’s probably safe to say that the show won’t be veering off in an completely weird direction (at least, not at first).

Finally, I should also note that I’ve never read the manga. I honestly very, very rarely even look at the manga for a show. I can’t exactly pin down one specific reason as to why that is, but a big contender is probably the fact that I’d rather spend my time on other things other than just reading.

Switching gears to another topic… April 2017 is 4 years since the first season aired. That’s kind of a long time between two seasons, I feel. I know a notable part of the reason for the long wait is because they wanted the manga to advance further, but I do wonder how this second season will do, sales and viewings-wise, in comparison to the first.

Between the end of the first season and now, we’ve seen a number of other shows, including action shows like Tokyo Ghoul, One Punch Man, and My Hero Academia, more than satisfy fans. I know there is still quite a fanbase for Attack on Titan, and something as big as it was certainly doesn’t have to worry about its name disappearing that quickly; however, I feel it’s more than possible that some people have lost interest in the show since that time.

This being said, there’s also been the show Attack on Titan Junior High, two anime films and two live-action films, and a crapton of manga and light novels, to try to keep the public interested in the show. It’s not like fans have been completely dry of new material while they wait.

But still, I just don’t hear people talking about Attack on Titan so excitedly anymore. When the first season aired, you would hear conversations about it all of the time. People would constantly talk about how cool Mikasa or Armin was, or about Titans themselves, or about Marco’s death (to be honest, I enjoyed the puns that came out of that though). While I still see people in cosplay for the show at conventions, and I see merchandise still moving for it, it’s not as… everywhere now as it was then. The first opening song isn’t being blasted all over the place anymore. Like I said, the excitement seems to have worn off.

Only time will tell how this second season will go, I suppose. I just hope that the show creators haven’t shot themselves in the foot with such a long pause between the first season and now.

I’m curious to hear other peoples’ thoughts about the second season, about what it might contain, and about how much excitement there really still is for this show. If you wish to share, I welcome you to write a comment below. Do give a spoiler warning if you’re going to be talking about something from the manga that we haven’t seen in the first season.

Additional Thoughts: Space Patrol Luluco’s Production Committee

I won’t always do this “Additional Thoughts” thing, but in this case, I felt there were a few things about this show that I wanted to talk about, that wouldn’t have fit too well in the review (without making it super-long). To that extent, allow me to dump some of these words here.

There is one big thing I want to mention. For those of you who paid close attention to my review, you’ll notice I used the animation studio’s name, Trigger, more than I usually do for a review. This is actually intentional. Trigger’s co-founder, Hiroyuki Imaishi, not only directed this series, but also wrote it too. As it’s an original series, he had more control over what direction this show could go than one would for an adaptation; thus, the presentation of this show fell more onto Trigger’s shoulders than it usually would for an animation studio. Thus, I felt justified in using its name more in my review. This is not a common occurrence for me.

Trigger, though, despite animating and writing the show, still does not have full control over the series; everything they do still has to get approved through the other members of the Production Committee.

What is a Production Committee, you ask? For every anime series out there, there is a Production Committee. A production committee is made up of various companies that come together to make a particular show: the essential members are a music production company (such as Lantis or Aniplex) to provide the music for a show, and a publishing company (such as Pony Canyon or Aniplex) to handle the intellectual rights of the show and generally work to bring the show to the public. Usually, for an adaptation, the book/video game/whatever publisher is on the committee, but not always. Each member company of a committee puts forth a certain amount of money to help produce the show, and in return, they get partial ownership of the show, and get to promote it in their own way.

A music company gets to make and promote the show’s music, a merchandising company gets to make and promote merchandise for the show, a DVD/BD authoring company gets to make and promote the show’s DVDs, and so on. However, in many cases, the production committee does not contain the animation studio. In this case, the animation studio is simply contracted to draw the anime, in the same way that you would contract someone to remodel your kitchen for you.

(Also, another thing to mention is that just as an animation studio is not a must-have for a production committee, a TV station isn’t either. If an animation studio is on the committee, we know that studio will be animating that show, and likewise, if a TV station is on the committee, we know that TV station will be airing that show. If a TV station is not on the production committee, this means the production committee has to shop around and find a TV station to air their anime on.)

So, let’s look at the Production Committee for Space Patrol Luluco:

Good Smile Company (merchandising, leader of committee)
Flying Dog (music production, branch of Victor Entertainment)
Crunchyroll (international rights/publishing)
Bilibili (Chinese online distribution)
AT-X (Japanese TV station)
Ultra Super Pictures (publishing company, joint company held by various animation studios (including Trigger))

The first thing I’m going to be bringing attention to is Ultra Super Pictures. This is the (joint) company behind the ULTRA SUPER ANIME TIME block, which Space Patrol Luluco aired as a part of. Trigger is one of the owners of Ultra Super Pictures, and thus, it was one of the various companies that helped bring Space Patrol Luluco to fruition. However, as Ultra Super Pictures is at the very bottom of the committee, this means that all the other shows contributed more money to producing this show, and also get a bit more of a say in the show’s direction.

Thus, despite being the animation studio behind this show, employing the head writer for it, and being one of the various companies that even helped produce this show, Trigger still doesn’t have absolute control.

However, there is another thing I want to bring attention to in this production committee list, that you probably noticed too: Crunchyroll is on this committee.

For those of you who have never heard of production committees for anime before, you may be like “So? What’s the big deal? Crunchyroll is streaming this show in the West, so doesn’t it kind of make sense their name get put somewhere?” However, that’s not actually true.

I’ll be talking more about the roles of Western anime distributors some point later, but the big thing to know is that, up until 2015, all these Western companies ever did is just license a bunch of Japanese anime shows, and bring them to the United States (or Europe, or Australia, or elsewhere). They don’t actually own the rights to anything in the show (including the dub), they just have the permission of the Production Committee to sell the show in their own region. When it came to making an anime, that was always just something that occurred in Japan, without the say of non-Japanese companies.

This is no longer the case, and Crunchyroll is one of the companies making this happen. By being in Space Patrol Luluco’s Production Committee, this means that Crunchyroll is actually one of the various companies that helped make this show. They didn’t just simply license the show to bring it to the rest of the world, they were with this show from the very start.

It’s actually pretty exciting to see Crunchyroll and Funimation (who is on the Production Committee for My Hero Academia) going to Japan and getting involved with creating anime. These two companies are no longer just licensors or anime streaming sites: they’re now anime producers, they help actually make the stuff. There has been a growing trend within the past year to get Western companies more involved in anime and manga production (as Crunchyroll and Kadokawa has also made an anime co-production deal earlier this year, and Kadokawa bought a 51% stake in Yen Press).

As a Western anime fan, I think it’s pretty cool.