Snap Discussion is the weekly round table discussion on a topic relating to Japanese pop culture as selected by the almighty Snapodile. Each week the SnapThirty team will weigh in with their thoughts on that week’s topic all with the hopes of providing some interesting and perhaps even conflicting view points on the matter at hand. This week’s topic is The Original Was Better: Anime That Didn’t Need a Reboot or Sequel.
For this topic we each looked at series that were better off ‘one and done’ rather than being remade or given the sequel treatment. After all, you don’t always strike gold twice and these are some times where anime should’ve known better.
There are a lot of cases where a fantastic anime series evolved into a ‘franchise’ when it probably shouldn’t have, but one that sits very fresh in my mind is none of than Eureka Seven, which holds a place in my heart as one of the all time best.
Now if you have ever watched Eureka Seven you’d know that it ends rather conclusively and in a way that is wholly satisfying for viewers who had followed all 50 episodes of the mecha epic. So when I heard there was a sequel in the works, it was only natural I felt a little perplexed as to why anyone really thought it was necessary.
Eureka Seven AO is not only an entirely unnecessary sequel to a masterpiece of the mecha genre, but it flat out contradicts several key plot points and elements of the original series, seemingly retconning the original series in several ways or simply ignoring the events that actually transpired. What we have instead is a series that feels truly confused. It never plays itself as an alternate reality of the original or a completely disconnected story, in fact it makes great strides to try to connect itself with the original series when it was honestly better off being its own standalone story.
The original Eureka Seven is a genuine masterpiece of modern anime that is unfortunately painfully underappreciated. The series was a hit with critics at the time of its release and it got a decent level of fanfare despite the fact that many in Japan didn’t watch it because they wrongly took it as a Evangelion rip off, without even giving it a chance. Blending emotional story telling with innovative surfing mecha concepts, astonishing animation, genuinely meaningful themes at play involving environmentalism and the exploration of the nature of love, Eureka Seven was a near perfect 50 episodes of anime.
There was no real dire need for more Eureka Seven yet BONES studio thought it was only appropriate they revive the series for the not even half as good sequel Eureka Seven AO. There is a dozen things wrong with AO but none more so than the fact that it actively contradicts or even damages the original series story through its canonical retconning and baffling misunderstanding of Dai Sato’s original vision.
Comparing both series side by side, if there wasn’t countless plot elements tying them together you would wonder if they were related at all. One is an emotional character driven journey that values garnering pathos out of its characters interactions more than it does having things blow up and the other is a formulaic shonen action series that seemingly ripped its plot from any number of Shonen Jump series all the while haphazardly tried to tie it in with its predecessor to no avail.
Ultimately I feel that Eureka Seven AO was the Battle Royale 2: Requiem of anime, it took something truly smart and emotionally impactful and pretty much went against everything the original stood for in favor of big dumb action and big flashy explosions. What a shame they couldn’t just leave Eureka Seven well enough alone as the modern classic that it is.
I’ll admit, this was a little tough for me. Whether it is a case of my standards being far too pliable for the criticism market, or the simple fact that I tend to draw the minute positives out of a mediocre series in an attempt to justify the time I spent watching it, my mind was not flooded with examples of reboots and sequels that should not have been. I am, after all, a strong believer in the fact that no amount of terrible additions can ruin the original if you love it so dearly. However, after combing through the archives of my oh-so-chaotic mind, I have landed on a series that I think did not need to continue past its initial run. Thus I give you my thoughts on Psycho Pass 2.
First things first, let’s start with the sequel to one of Gen Urobuchi’s works that makes you question your place in society and, as a result, the overall place of society within the world. In a world ruled by a system believed to possess nigh-omnipitence, known publicly as the Sybil System, people are judged on their crime coefficients, a number said to represent their emotions and overall ability to break the law. Dystopian culture at its strongest, like Big Brother, but with a better PR campaign. Regardless, society lives and dies by the whim of this system, a system who is eventually revealed to be an organic super computer formed by the brains of those dubbed asymptomatic, as in they cannot be judged as criminal because they do not consider their actions wrong. They cannot see anything they do as anything but the right thing. So not the best group to be running the world, but that’s kind of the point. Though the revelation itself revs up the engine, it avoids jumping the shark in its execution, its explanation that only those left unencumbered by the fear of judgement may judge the world. Again, frightening, but plausible in such a context. However, this manner of thinking is not carried over into the sequel series, hence my perhaps too long explanation of the first.
With the arrival of a villain who cannot be seen by the Sybil System, a startlingly new occurrence, the Japan of Psycho Pass future is thrown into turmoil. Who is this mysterious being? How can they exist? Why is everyone who cannot be judged by Sybil such a chaotic toolbag who wants nothing more than to see society crumble? Solid questions. However, as you may have guessed, they are ones that lack solid answers. Blasting into full on spoiler territory, we discover that Kamui, the villain in question, is an amalgam of 184 different people, all victims of a horrible plane crash. With one barely surviving passenger, the surgery to end all surgeries was performed and Kamui was saved utilising the organs, limbs and whatever else you can graft of those that perished. Now, I’m all for sensationalised media, I’m writing about anime after all, but I’m pretty sure that’s not how surgery works. Okay, there have been cases where organ recipients have noted strange changes in themselves, such as cravings they never had before, but full blown hive mind transformation? That’s a little far fetched, at least it is in a world trying to present a more realistic vision of the future. Scoff if you will, but apart from the Sybil System itself, society at large is relatively the same. Personally I would’ve suspended my disbelief a touch more if he was possessive of multiple personalities as some form of coping mechanism, but the inherent implication is that the body parts themselves where the cause of this new state of mind. Which is kind of weird. That being said, it is far from my largest gripe with this series, no, the ending takes that particularly prestigious honour.
Having tricked, plotted and straight up killed his way into the heart of the Sybil System, we come to discover that Kamui wishes to be judged. Of to an good start, a real curve ball. However, through a series of unprecedented events, the Sybil System finds itself on the receiving end of its own judgements. Now, whilst this may sound interesting from an outside perspective, what with the almighty ruler being reduced to the position of its subjects, it is a direct contradiction of the entire first season. The Sybil System cannot be judged, that is its self believed strength and overall flaw. It is a mass of brains who think they know best, enacting their will upon the populace. It’s unfair, it’s insanely biased and it’s the whole goddamn point of Psycho Pass. Hell, we saw multiple times in the first season that the Sybil System can break its own rules in the pursuit of what it believes to be justice, why is it that judging itself was the only recourse? Why represent the system as being in need of its own judgement? It is not beholden to its own rules, we know this, we have seen this. Unfortunately, we were also forced to see this undermined.
Look, Psycho Pass 2 is not without merit, within it lie some truly interesting concepts that could have expanded on the world established throughout its predecessor. However, the series most prevalent message is one that directly contradicted the rules from which it was formed. Answers are good, they are something everybody seeks out instinctively, attempting to understand their place in a world which is ever changing. That being said, there are some questions better left unanswered and some possibilities better left unexplored.
I loved the Rurouni Kenshin live action films, they were great adaptations that took reasonable liberties with the source material to fit the entire saga across three amazing films. Unfortunately, the movies were accompanied by an anime OVA called New Kyoto Arc, which was a mere shell of the original anime epic. Lazy animation and art style, combined with a highly condensed and inaccurate retelling of the original tale, made this a disappointing viewing experience. If you’re a fan of the original series, you’re going to regret watching New Kyoto Arc like I did. The live action films? They were brilliant, the manga reboot? Somewhat fine… but New Kyoto Arc anime? Wish it was never made.
The theme of this here roundtable, alongside that which was made clear in the title, is “necessity”. Of course, when an Anime series is popular it is going to continue…long after it should. It’s near insane to expect something that makes a company so much money to humbly end when it should. No, a series that has hit it’s popularity peak is one that will only end once people no longer enjoy it, eliminating the idea that some of the most memorable Anime in existence are the ones that, well…you’ve been given time to remember. It’s a little hard to do that when lacklustre iterations of, essentially, the same thing are thrown at you year after year.
Based on a Light Novel series of the same name; Durarara!! hit Japanese “prime time” television in 2010. It was, for all intents and purposes, an immediate success. Some audience members loved it because it was a faithful adaptation of their favorite Light Novel, others loved it because of it’s witty dialogue and charming vibe yet had never heard of it prior to it’s Anime release. What I’m getting at is that this was a series loved by all types of viewer. Personally, I adored the series’ soundtrack: Jazz fusion mixed with a little funk and some smooth beats is all it took for me to get hooked to Durarara!!, but that was just the thick icing on a cake so delicious it was almost too good to eat in one sitting, because, you know…full cakes should be eaten as a whole.
In 2016 something happened; Durarara!! landed itself a second season. Durarara!!x2, at first, had me delighted. Without pondering whether or not this follow up Anime would be any good, I was delighted simply thinking about the upcoming Anime season…but then the series began airing, and I quickly realised that this was not the same Durarara!! that had me so enthralled all those years ago. Next came introspective thought; why aren’t I enjoying this as much as I did the original season? After a contemplative while I finally discovered why it was that Durarara!!x2 simply did not live up to the legacy of the original series, and it has a lot to do with it’s execution as a whole.
The story, which was once again taken directly from the series of Light Novels, was more of an issue than I imagined it would be. All of our favorite characters were still involved, albeit not in the exact capacity that they originally were, but that was seemingly fine because the series introduced more characters to fill out the roster. Unfortunately, Durarara!! being a series that relies heavily on it’s characters rather than it’s overarching story, these new faces didn’t feature personal development arcs polished enough to carry the story from point A to point B and further points beyond that. It felt as though they were introduced only to challenge the original character cast, and in the process of doing so they came off as second-rate; something that no character from the original storyline did. Obviously I didn’t write the series so I really wouldn’t know what the true intention of these characters were, but that’s the way in which they came across to me specifically, and it’s not something you can simply ignore.
The series still retained it’s great soundtrack, and despite it’s clear drop in visual quality, it remained a great series to physically watch, but as far as story experience goes; it was just poor. Fact is; Durarara!! had an almost perfect ending, even with it’s loose ends. I’m a firm believer that a story should not have to divulge every iota of information, that a writer should always leave room for speculation and theorising as somewhat of a gift to those willing to spend their time meditating on a tale that has had them enraptured for hours on end. While Durarara!!x2 doesn’t deal with a lot of the questions that went unanswered in the course of the first season, it does reintroduce a world of mystery to an audience that, for the most part, was enjoying their time doing whatever it was they can to piece it all together which, in turn, made them fell a profound bond with the series. At least…that’s how I feel about it, as well as many others like it, and I get the impression that many feel the same way.Durarara!!x2, I felt, was an unnecessary continuation of the Anime adaptation, and considering the fact that people are still talking about the first season despite the fact that the second has also come and gone surely means that most people out there do agree. Surely.
What series do you think should never have been rebooted or given a sequel? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below. Next week’s topic is ‘Second Chancery: Pop Culture That Deserves a Second Look’.