Thank GOODNESS it’s Anime Sunday!
I was just perusing Crunchy Roll and thinking about how I probably miss about 98% of the new shows that come out. So I popped something on. It was, not to put too fine a point on it, derivative mediocrity. Been there, done that, standard, no unique flavor or voice to the show. A cookie cutter episode of a cookie cutter anime. After that, I didn’t feel so bad that I miss out on most of the new stuff that comes out every season.
But then I remembered how much I was enjoying Haikyu(I know, I’m pretty late to the party) and so I decided to press on. There had to be some gems I was missing…
That was when I came across Death Parade. Name was interesting. I liked the title card… no giant breasts, no multi color haired women surrounding some half naked guy, no high school in the back ground, no one in school uniforms, seemed darker in tone, I liked how the colors blended together… WELP, LETS GIVE IT A SHOT!
Immediately….. I got some MAAAAAJOR “Hell Girl” vibes. And that’s a GOOD thing. This mysterious group that’s in cahoots and responsible for judging the new arrivals of the after life. The extreme circumstances yield extreme emotional responses from the newly deceased. I like what I’ve seen so far! I think I’m gonna see this show through to the end(even if it takes awhile). The spontaneous, episodic style is right up my alley.
There is, after all, something to be said for spontaneity. So much of life can, by necessity, become a kind of routine. That isn’t inherently a bad thing but it can invite stagnation and complacency. This is probably rooted in our most archaic, primal foundation. If you had been doing something for awhile and you were alive, well something had to have been working. Right? But the unknown? Might be a death sentence!
Even so, going into something with little expectation of what will happen… that’s pretty refreshing! I think that’s why I like my job. Some days I do paper work and audits. Some days I chase people through the store. Some days I just talk to people having a rough time. And if I’m lucky, someone MIGHT even pull a knife on me! There is nothing like being reminded of your own mortality to make everything look prettier, smell nicer, and taste better.
And I have the same approach with a lot of the anime that I enjoy. I have a real soft spot for episodic shows.
Hell, some of my favorites EVER:
Samurai Champloo(a lot of Shinchiro Watanabe on here!)
I LOVE THOSE SHOWS! In part because of how different each episode is but also the convenience. In being a series of self contained episodes, there is always a narrative packed with development and satisfying closure. There’s isn’t any “filler” as every second of every episode is precious. The fragmented structure of episodic shows doesn’t lend itself to the type of story telling that can afford to waste time or drag out the plot lines or milk anything.
There aren’t any seven episode story arcs where one character charges up an ultimate move as the villain monologues or disposes of the cannon fodder characters no one cares about. In episodic anime, everything matters and is done with a purpose.
Episodic shows are also more friendly to people who may only have a little bit of time on their hands but who also enjoy squeezing in an episode here and there. Mostly because there isn’t any pressure to regularly watch episodic anime like there is with anime that features a linear, sequitur story line and relies heavily on the cohesion and flow between episodes to deliver an impacting experience.
With episodic shows you constantly get new ideas, fresh themes, and tight narratives packed full of well executed plot devices. PLUS, it all gets tied up nicely with a pretty little bow before the ending credits roll.
There is also a tendency for these shows to focus on the human condition. Since episodic shows can’t lean on complex story arcs, the shows are compelled to lean on the relationships between the characters, a dynamic which can often be plenty complex in it’s own right! This is, of course, the big draw for me. To see this broad swath of the sea of human emotions… it’s utterly intriguing.
However, there is still, USUALLY, an over arcing story interwoven between the fragmented episodes that helps tie the whole thing together. It leaves a large figure looming in the back ground, just out of sight, and this enigma leaves you hungry for more, and right before you start getting cantankerous, a crumb gets thrown your way. Think Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo and Hell Girl.
These shows, even Nichijou and Mushi-Shi, employ a kind of frame story, not unlike Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. We the audience can tell that we aren’t going in endless circles, that there is a definitive direction… AN END. It’s just that there’s some detours along the way. And these detours help us realize something important about life.
That the final destination isn’t what makes the journey worth while.
It was on the detours that Spike befriended the rest of the Bebop crew.
It was where Mugen and Jin and Fuu became a family.
Even though it’s not why they started the journey in the first place, the memories they made and the bonds they created, between point A and point B, THAT is what they will reflect on in the end, NOT the end itself.
And THAT is what episodic anime is all about. Seeing what makes these people tick, their hardships, regrets, mistakes, and how they persevere. Broken people connecting with other broken people and finding solace in the friendships that they develop.
THAT is what life is all about.
Welp, until next time… Space Cowboy!
“You’re gonna carry that weight.”