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 Second Chancery: Pop Culture That Deserves a Second Look.
For this topic we each looked at instances where we originally rejected something in Japanese Pop Culture only to later come to appreciate it on a second go round. Sometimes things do deserve a second chance, here are some of our own personal experiences.
My choice for series I am glad to have given a second chance is actually quite a more recent one, that being The Heroic Legend of Arslan also known as Arslan Senki. When I had first heard about the recent adaption of the legendary book series, I as excited to discover the involvement of Hiromu Arakawa of Fullmetal Alchemist fame. It was a big name like this that had me waiting with bated breath for the first episode of the anime to air.
However upon watching the first episode, I found myself bored, disinterested and unable to connect with the story or characters in the slightest. I was truly disappointed and considering the hype I had built in my own head I was feeling quite deflated. I gave the second episode a go and unfortunately felt the same level of disinterest and decided to write the series off and cut my losses.
Now while I had cut my losses and ultimately forgotten about the series, after a trip to Japan and realizing that the series was immensely popular, perhaps more so in Arakawa’s manga adaptation of the original source material, I felt obliged to give Arslan one last chance, this time through a different lens. Rather than going back to the anime, I decided to pick up the first volume of the manga and it was almost like being thunderstruck. It as one hell of a page turner and I finished the volume in no time flat and was left wanting more.
Perhaps seeing the series through Arakawa’s framework and design helped me engage more with the series, at least it opened the door for me to let it back into my life because having now revisited the anime I get a different feeling. Maybe I was too hasty to write it off, maybe I had hyped myself up too much over it only to set myself up for disappointment when nothing could live up to the imaginations in my mind, whatever the reason I am glad to have given The Heroic Legend of Arslan a second chance because it is an utterly fantastic epic tale the likes of which are rare these days.
Yet again, I find myself the recipient of a rather difficult question. Be it that my first impressions are generally true to my overall nature, or simply that that which I do not enjoy does not receive a second chance, I am discernibly stumped when it comes to franchises which have seen my opinion perform a 180. Nevertheless, an answer has been demanded and thus I present the series which earned my interest on the second attempt: Fullmetal Alchemist…let me explain.
Okey dokey, so Fullmetal Alchemist (FMA as it is colloquially known) is one of the most well known and revered manga/anime series of all time. Thus, the fact that I was nonplussed by the series may come as an affront to some, specifically those who stand in the fandom area of this discussion. However, rather than a comment on the plot, or a dislike of characters, my lack of enjoyment came simply from the fact that I was not used to anime when I first saw it. Though I share many a similarly aged person’s experience of having liked anime before knowing that the term existed, via channels such as Pokemon and Dragon Ball Z, I was not a consistent viewer over the years. Alas, in a period best described as the Dark Ages, I was firmly planted outside the loop of weirdly awesome animation that is born from the Land of the Rising Sun. So, when FMA graced my occulars for the first time, I was…thoroughly confused. I didn’t hate it per say, I just didn’t get it.
The most glaring trait of this series my first time through was that tone was less of a building block and more of a trampoline. From meandering painfully through a blazing hot desert, death knocking ever so loudly on the door existing just a few minutes into the future, our protagonists immediately broke their woes with a hyper energetic comedic confrontation, before returning to dying as per the program already underway. From an outside perspective, my former perspective, this is a completely nonsensical turn of events. Those near death seldom possess the energy to rant and rave and kick their hollow suit of armour brothers in the chest, resulting in a deluge of sand. Admittedly, that last part should’ve clued me in to how anime was….unique, but what’s done it done.
However, the second time around was different. Having cut my teeth on a few different series, the all too well known Cowboy Bebop leading the fray, I came to understand what anime provided and on what foundations it lay. It wasn’t just weird anymore. Okay, it was still weird, but in a way that I understood, a way that I didn’t tilt my head at, a way that I liked. Hell, that’s probably the reason that the opening sequence of FMA is burned into my brain, it exists in both forms. I recall it as both a barrier that kept me from anime and a barrier that I overcame. Sure it isn’t the same as disliking an anime internally before having your mind changed by a second attempt, but it’s the closest experience I’ve got. For that reason, I can say that Fullmetal Alchemist is one of the most interesting anime series I’ve ever seen, for reasons both within and without. It also gave me a little perspective when it comes to those who don’t watch anime…especially when I have to explain to them why a 15 year old, accidentally self amputated boy and his disembodied brother makes for a compelling narrative, rather than an impossible to comprehend bundle of nonsense. Which is seldom an easy conversation…
A lot of video games come to mind when I think about things I didn’t enjoy the first time but then eventually grew to enjoy them. Sometimes it’s more of an age thing where a lot of games are intended for an older audience, not so much because of the mature content, but more so because of the technical/mechanical aspects of it. For me it was largely the Japanese Strategy RPG genre, I just couldn’t digest the likes of Final Fantasy Tactics or Shining Force, just the basic premise looked so boring to me. It wasn’t until my foray into Real Time Strategy (RTS) genre late 1999 that I basically went into a bootcamp for strategy games, playing the likes of Star Craft, Command and Conquer, and Commandos… and I was absolutely miserable at them, hopeless. I haven’t tried playing a RTS game since that year.
But what that foray into RTS did do was that it got me to appreciate the Japanese Turn-Based Strategy genre a lot more. It wasn’t until my mid twenties that I really started to appreciate games like Shining Force and Final Fantasy Tactics a whole lot more, even getting into obscure titles like Wachenroder on the SEGA Saturn. I really enjoy the pacing of the story and the chess-like calculated nature of the battles. One series I never got into was Fire Emblem, and maybe that’s going to change with the new pair of games having just been released for the 3DS
Truth is; not every Shonen Manga needs an Anime, but the reality is that every Shonen Manga WILL become an Anime sooner or later. It’s called business, and stuff like this makes money, so Shonen Jump are never going to stop granting studios the adaptation licenses to their best-selling Manga. For the most part, I try my best to avoid it, sticking to that of the original Manga publication knowing full well that I wont be slapped with filler arcs, lacklustre animation, and story paraphrasing the likes of which you’ve never seen before. Unfortunately this was the case for 2014’s World Trigger; an Anime I thought I’d give a chance thanks to it’s good-looking pre-release promotional images. You know, they say never judge a book by it’s cover. I never thought that saying could be applied in the reverse way, but thanks to my book cover judging I thought the World Trigger Anime was going to be great…oh boy, was I wrong.
The first episode, despite only going for 24 minutes, I felt as though went on for an eternity. It was ill-paced and, for the most part, was made up of mostly still images. That is, until the very end of the episode wherein which I discovered that all of the early budget of the series was spent on one short but well-animated fight scene. As you can imagine, I didn’t bother going back to it. I thought the story was odd, and I imagined that it wouldn’t feature anything that would appeal too much to me in the coming episodes, so then and there I decided to drop the series as a whole. Months later, the first volume of the Manga’s English edition was released across Australia and New Zealand, and Madman Entertainment offered it up as review material. I though to myself; “probably not worth trying this one again, even if it is the Manga”, but then the song Second Chance by underrated alternative-rock band Shinedown echoed throughout the corridors of my mind. “Yes, sometimes goodbye IS a second chance”, I thought to myself, and decided that I would, once again, try to take on World Trigger, albeit this time in it’s original format.
What I got from the first volume was something a never expected; an interesting Manga. As it turns out, the first episode of the Anime covered only a portion of the first chapter, which didn’t feature very much at all. That alone was enough to turn me off, but accompanied by terrible animation and less-than-perfect voice acting, I was forced not to watch, but the Manga didn’t have that! Oh, and the story I thought would feature nothing of interest? Well, as it turns out, had the Anime continued a little further on into the contents of the first chapter, I would have been captivated! Kids, the content of a first episode can make or break a series, it has to be done right, remember that.
Now, I know what you’re thinking; “You didn’t really try out the same thing twice, Frank! The World Trigger Anime and Manga are two different things!”. This I understand, but I still feel as though it counts, because what you’re experiencing in the end, a factor that is shared between both pieces of media, is a worthwhile story, and when that story cannot be told properly it essentially destroys the series. True, I only watched the first episode of the Anime so, chances are, I could have missed out on quite a lot, but when you’re experiencing it with two other grown men who, without a word being spoken throughout the episode, come to the same conclusion by the end of it, there’s a great possibility that your judgement isn’t without a sturdy foundation.
The World Trigger Manga has quickly become one of my favorite contemporary Shonen Jump titles, and a series I consider to be one of the few that mark a new age of brilliance for the publication. Fact is; without me first cringing at the Anime adaptation’s first episode, this series would never have truly appeared on my radar, and thanks to Madman Entertainment who supported us with review copies of the series up until recently, I would have never had my eyes opened by it’s absolute brilliance. In the end, World Trigger, for me, had be to tried out twice, and by the second time I knew that this would be a series I could wholeheartedly sink my teeth into, unfortunately it’s Anime simply doesn’t do the Manga justice.
What series do you think should be given a second chance? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below. Next week’s topic is ‘Fandom Of One: Obscure or Unknown Anime You Cherish’.