What’s In An Adaptation?

Well it’s official! A change.org petition to redo the Chainsaw Man anime got over 2,000 signatures, so you know what that means: We need to have discourse about it. Not that the kind of ground this covered had to wait for an inciting incident like this; Entitled nerds on the internet are always going to be entitled nerds on the internet, and an adaptation with the magnitude of Chainsaw Man was always going to garner a magnified response from those disappointed by its inevitable adaptational indulgences. When something you were looking forward to lets you down, one inevitable element in responding to it is going to be that sense of “What could have been”, especially when what could have been is staring you square in the face in the form of the original source material you feel was ‘unfaithfully’ adapted in the first place.

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Top Five HasLab Transformers Projects I Think Could Work Or Not

So HasLab Deathsaurus achieved its funding goal, avoiding being consigned to the same Shadow Realm as its failing forebears in that HeroScape set and the Ghost Rider car. That’s three-for-three on these big, crowdfunded Transformers, between Unicron and Deathsaurus’s BFF Victory Saber. It means we can probably count on more of these things going forward, and also means that future is ripe for that age-old nerd pastime: Predictive lists! Yes, the only thing more compelling that excitedly anticipating a quantifiably-demanded project like Deathsaurus is skipping past it entirely and getting excited for the theoretical Next Thing. To that end, I of course have my own Transformers opinions, and can compose a bit of a list of what I think the next HasLab TF project could/should be. Here’s the five of them:

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A Very Dignified And Humane Murder

What happened to you, The Simpsons? You used to be cool. If you’re one who got to come up watching the immortal animated sitcom when it was actually in its ‘golden age’, I think any assessment of your favorite outings probably has to include at least a segment or two from the show’s ‘Treehouse of Horror’ Halloween specials. In fact I can anecdotally, personally confirm this, as a discussion of what we felt were the series’ most quintessential episodes saw one of my friends near-entirely referencing bits from those seminal specials. It makes sense when you think about it, the canon-non-compliant cartoony elements of the ‘Treehouse’ episodes pretty well made to stand out more to younger viewers growing up on the show compared to its usual (still outstanding) stories relatively more rooted in reality (as much as plots about musical monorail swindlers or selling your soul to your best friend could be, comparatively). 

So with contractually-obligated allusions to the show’s glory days out of the way, it might seem easy to take shots at modern Simpsons for its well-documented slide into irrelevance. Yeah, ha ha (Nelson Muntz laugh) this series decided to parodize The Babadook, Death Note, and Westworld in 2022, really seizing that pop-culture zeitgeist, right? But I mean, the movie version of The Shining was already fourteen years old when the ‘good’ version of The Simpsons riffed on it in 1994, and that turned out great! Standing on the cutting edge of culture isn’t necessarily necessary for potent parody, and lord knows this sort of regular riffing is more preferable to seeing The Simpsons swerve into trying to stick it to the SJWs or whine about Bernie Sanders. So it goes that this thirty-fourth season’s ‘Treehouse’ promoted that fully-anime-style Death Note parody, which got promoted around my anitwitter circles, and after a three-hour car ride in the middle of the night last night, I found myself just morbidly curious enough to want to wind down watching it before I went to bed.

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Kowloon Generic Romance Manga Preview

Another Manga Guide has come and gone with this fall over at ANN, with plenty of contributions from yours truly. And as with last time, there was a straggler in the mix: A manga that didn’t make the cut for preview posting due to its release date, but for which that wasn’t clarified until after I’d already written it up! But my loss is once again your gain, least of all because I liked Kowloon Generic Romance so dang much that I feel compelled to let everyone know about it. Read on!

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Short Cat Is Short

Some people could seemingly bitch for longer than the length of Stray about how much they felt shortchanged by the length of Stray. You wouldn’t think a cute little cat game could ignite such a dense discussion about the value of art as defined by how many hours of your time it eats up, but here we are. It’s funny for me, of course; Barely able to get my malfunctioning attention span to commit to games as I am, I was quite happy to hear that this neat little game I was interested in wouldn’t take me months to get through, and even then I still ended up needing this discourse over the game’s length to inspire me to get to it in a timely manner just because I was interested in writing something about it. There’s an irony in that case, in that I probably have more to say about Stray as a springboard for discussing time/value proposition in entertainment than I do about Stray as a piece of interactive entertainment itself.

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Putting In The Work To Put New Characters Over: Morfonica in BanG Dream

Adding new characters to an established franchise ensemble can be hit or miss. You don’t want to oversell how amazingly cool and great they are out of the gate, lest you wind up invoking the Poochie Effect and turning the audience off, especially if said audience sees said coolness as effectually showing up the established favorites they were here for originally. But you also can’t make the new characters too understated, too unimpressive, or they’ll have no reason to exist as an exciting new element for your audience to latch onto, or to draw in new fans. BanG Dream, being a character-driven franchise that primarily subsists off getting fans to draw virtual gacha cards and buy merchandise of its veritable horde of characters, knows that new faces are essential, and thus far has been able to thread the needle. Raise a Suilen was a relatively easy expansion, appearing as characters within the anime with a specifically antagonistic bent originally, letting them play off the established cast in ways that sold their inherent coolness without asking audiences to let them wholly overshadow their favorites, before settling into their own spotlight storyline for the show’s third season. It gives that group a solid arc to build off of, a framework of familiarity to look forward to when they were made playable in the central mobile game.

But the other ‘new’ Bandori band, Morfonica, faced a much simpler struggle in the debut of their characters to the cast. Morfonica, after some preview concerts and MVs, had its members appear first in the Girls Band Party mobile game, not showing up in anime form until later. Unlike the anime’s spun-out story connections like LAYER and Tae’s childhood friendship, or CHU² instantaneously challenging Yukina, none of the Morfonica characters had any immediate connection to the broader Bang Dream cast which the audience might use to project understandings onto. They were brand-new, cast as something of a ‘New Generation’ of Band Girls who saw all the other characters as aspirational, Mashiro and pals pointedly becoming inspired to musical pursuits by watching the Girls Band Party concert the same way Kasumi had her own desires incited by seeing Glitter Green perform all those years ago. In this way, the writing behind Morfonica’s story in Girls Band Party makes the band, fresh as they are, appealing in seeing how they come up reflected against the successes we’ve already seen our other favorites attain. 

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Is It That Deep?

There’s this little meme edit I’ve been meaning to make for a while. Mostly as a dig at myself and the kinds of analyses and interpretations I know it can be too easy to default to.

I mean it’s definitely fair to presume that artists laboring under the exhausting death throes of such a system may be inclined to comment on said system. But like the depths of an unexplored dangerous labyrinth, there are layers to interfacing with that idea. On that note, there’s the subject of Made in Abyss, specifically its recently under-way second season which sees its adorable moppets of protagonists stumble into a bizarre-even-by-the-standards-of-this-series community of ‘Hollows’. And I admit it’s easy to look at this portrayal of an economic ecosystem where everything including peoples’ lives and bodies is determined to have some kind of market value, itself based entirely on vibes, which will charge you a literal arm and leg for besmirching that system and determine, yeah, might be a little bit of a broad commentary on capitalist systems going on there. But I also feel like jumping straight to that categorization might not be getting the full picture, as I see this story, so far, as tying more granularly into a subject Made in Abyss has analyzed through its whole run: Transactional relationships.

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Don’t Be A Stranger

I liked Stranger Things 4. It honestly had some of what I think were the strongest parts of the series, especially in terms of idea exploration. After seeming to realize around the end of the previous third season that they might be seeing diminishing returns at treating the centralized kids of the cast as kids in the story, the Duffer brothers and their crew have, in this fourth outing, wisely decided to focus on the awkward teenage transition to adulthood, and the sometimes seemingly-sudden changes that can result in. It’s heartening for a series very pointedly stuck in the nostalgic, 80’s-tinted past, to spend a ton of its lengthy latest season interrogating the fears and questions we have about changing, arriving at the point that such personal shifts are not only possible, but necessary and good. I was among the many who previously (with admittedly little basis) thought this might be the final season of the show, before being proven wrong with a fifth season left to go. But that emphasis on depicting changes, making this feel like a transitory chapter for the cast and plot, actually works in its favor, and the shocked status quo and character evolutions we’ve left on leave me all the more excited to see where that fifth finale will forge forth to.

But that doesn’t mean getting there was a particularly even road, and for all the great bits Stranger Things 4 has along the way, there are a bunch of elements that make me worry they might still be beholden to their older compulsions. I’m one of those whiners who was complaining about episode length before the show even started, but then just by the first episode I realized why the extended runtimes were necessary: The cast of Stranger Things has absolutely ballooned by this point, and circumstances from the previous season have left all these characters spread out across the actual world instead of contained to the simple set of Hawkins. So just covering all of them within that space presents an issue of practicality solved by simply having more show. The problem then arises when the actual plot participation by everyone is so blatantly lopsided that it sabotages not just the overall structure, but several of the concepts the narrative is otherwise working with.

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Panty & Stocking With Guarded Expectations

Unlike Made in Abyss, a series with enough sincere interior elements and broad emotional appeal that some people will take issue if you refer to it as ‘problematic’ on account of all the problematic shit in it, I don’t think anyone would disagree with me referring to the original Panty & Stocking as a problematic fave. It’s a series that wears its offensive elements on its sleeve, half the overall joke being its Cartoon-Network-stylings containing characters who swear and fuck a lot. And part and parcel to that offensive agenda is, well, offending people. As time has moved on and critics in the progressive sphere have looked back on Panty & Stocking, there’s that understanding of how of its time it was, contemporaneous with the kind of comedy that was powering cartoons over here in Family Guy and South Park, the so-called ‘equal opportunity offender’ which still somehow always seemed to prioritize offending all those who were already regular targets by the non-equal-opportunity rude comedies; Those who, you know, were the groups who could actually be harmed by such offenses. 

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A Just-Okay Love Live Is Okay

Back around the time Love Live! Superstar!! was getting ready to premiere, I remarked that it felt like every successive anime entry in the now-unavoidable multimedia music empire felt like the best one yet. That wasn’t exactly a hard hill to start hoofing it up, of course, given that I thought the first season of Love Live! School Idol Project itself was mostly just okay, and it wasn’t until the stronger character work and comedy stylings of the second season that I wound up genuinely hooked on the franchise. So it makes sense that the even more tightly-constructed Love Live! Sunshine!!, able to play around with series establishments and take another turn at tonal aspects from that first one, would wind up as comparatively stronger. And so by then, firmly entrenched in the series as I now found myself, it made sense that the self-congratulatory franchise party of Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club‘s first season would be something I was totally down for: A trip through Love-Live-World that didn’t even need to go to the Love Live, its knowing playing with character archetypes and structural shake-ups powering it just as well as those further subversions (and gorgeous presentation) would propel its own successor in Love Live! Superstar!!.

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