Category Archives: watching wednesday

PCP: Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure – Phantom Blood

Watching Wednesday #10 – Wallowing Weirdness

This is about the first arc (well, the first half arc) of the 2012 anime adaptation of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. 

The short of it: True to its name, this weird saga starts with a relatively calm story of boy and his adopted brother. The next 40 or so episodes add in the bizarreness that makes this series so endearing and captivating. 

It really is hard to beat this series’ own description. It’s a bizarre adventure. It’s Aladdin finding the lamp, Gulliver finding the island, Ishmael boarding the ship.

JJBA creates this aura of intrigue, where sense is tossed to the side, absurdity is the new normal, and every step forward opens up three more paths.

Oddly enough, the first few episodes seem to be spot-on parodies of most anime/manga tropes with how generic they seem. I’m still not completely sure if it’s JJBA’s influence or its earnestness that makes these (possibly) unintentional parodies so funny. They’re not boring by any means, but they are far more grounded than the rest of the show.

And keeping with generic starts, it’s premise is simple enough. A boy, Joseph Joestar, finds a brutal rivalry with his recently adopted brother, Dio Brando. This manages to slide into a centuries long blood feud that claims the lives of thousands, thanks to a mysterious mask that turns its wielder into a monstrous immortal vampire.

Dio’s unflinching evil is by far the most compelling part of the series, followed by Joseph’s unyielding goodness. I mean, there’s a reason Dio’s an Internet phenomenon.

JJBA is like the world’s greatest roller coaster. It starts with this slow standard roll up to the top of a massive hill, taking the viewer along these benchmarks of insanity. As the viewer gets accustomed to these spikes of weirdness, they’re introduced to a new one, and then a new one. Every step up normalizes this impossible world.

And then, once it reaches the stratosphere, it comes flying down in this exhilarating exhibition of gravity’s weakness.

Plus, JOOOOOOOJOOOOOOOOO.

 

PCP: Two Best Friends Play Silent Hill 2

Watching Wednesday #9 – Friends Forever

Two Best Friends Play Silent Hill 2: 2 spooky, 2 gud

The short of it: Although a bit less silly and a lot more informed, this playthrough demonstrates the other side of TBFP. While failing playthroughs of horrendous David Cage games are hilarious, the Best Friends have their brainy moments too. 

What’s that, imaginary inner critic that’s never satisfied? Upset there’s another Best Friends playthrough on PCP? Well suck it, this one’s also fantastic.

Silent Hill 2 can almost indisputably claim the crown of Greatest Survival Horror Game of All Time. This playthrough can do the same for the Best Mostly Serious TBFP Playthrough title.

Pat’s the star here, taking point on both the controls and the discussion. Years of admiration and research are evident as he manages to both informative and hype about the brilliant designs in the game.


The Best Friends have genuinely made me appreciate games a lot more. Whereas other channels kinda make me annoyed that I wasn’t recording for a funny moment, these guys make me like the little things I didn’t used to notice. Subtle gameplay nudges to direct the player, cool character designs, the concept of hype in general. It makes the medium so much more enjoyable.


The game alone is immersive, and the commentary’s almost hushed tone make this playthrough atmospheric. The deep fog and creepy environments add to this level of tense fascination. The guys’ resolution to keep quiet during the cutscenes amplifies the utter bizarreness of it all- the stilted performances and weird pacing of the conversations make it unsettling in a hard to nail down way. Of course, having Pat explain why certain actors sound they way they do or what certain things mean in the Silent Hill mythos answer the dozens of questions that are inevitable in a playthrough of this game.

It’s like watching a puzzle being put together with narration. Every step is another, “Ah!” as the picture gets clearer and clearer. Sure, occasionally they’ll force a wrong piece in it, but the explanation works well enough that it’s either interesting or funny enough to pass.

PCP: Inside Gaming’s Chaser

Watching Wednesday #8 – What a Whiff

Inside Gaming’s Chaser:

The short of it: Before evolving into Funhaus, Inside Gaming provided some of the best tightly edited gameplay on YouTube. Add in an overdose of humor of both the dark and fart variety and a godawful game, you’ve got one of the enjoyable trainwrecks on the web.

The current-Funhaus-former-Inside Gaming’s history is kind of funny, bouncing from a Halo specific show into a gaming news show into a mix of news and brief gameplay to a primarily gaming channel with a hint of news. Fortunately, all these shifts have had little impact on the quality of their content, whatever it may be.

Every few months, I find myself looking back at some specific playthroughs and silly videos that genuinely made me laugh. Top among those videos are Inside Gaming’s playthroughs of the best worst games of the mid 2000s. And the top of those is arguably their playthrough of Chaser, a mediocre game that somehow manages to surprise players with how many ways it can be bad.

It’d be amusing enough to watch the game quickly devolve into a mess of bad design and worse implementation, but with Bruce and James behind the mic and Kovic behind the controls, it’s a downward spiral of game with the peak of game commentary.

Sure, their style of editing cuts out all the bits that are unfunny or boring. Instead of minimizing the strength of the overall commentary though, this strengthens it. By distilling it to their high points, the guys’ indirectly challenge the commentary of any other gameplay channel on YouTube. Yes, we know how brilliantly funny they are, but their condensed and cohesive playthroughs reveal the weaknesses of most other commenters.

PCP: YouTube Live

Watching Wednesday #7 – Weak Watching

YouTube Live: Live, Die, Replay

The short of it: It’s the fast food of media consumption: easy, quick, and someone else does it all for you. 

Alright, this is gonna be a weird one. Well, maybe not weird, but unorthodox. It’s not nearly as weird as my lame clause comma statement format, but still.

So I’ve become a huge fan of this whole creepily-automatic, “24/7 LIVESTREAM TV SHOW PLAY NOW” that pops up on YouTube Live. It’s everything from Fox News to Animal Fights to Family Guy. And it’s that last one that’s been occupying my free time.

It’s a bit of a twofold guilty pleasure. For one, it’s all pretty much garbage in terms of content (at least, for me, there’s like Nat Geo and fancy learnin’ stuff I ain’t clicking on). And it’s like lazy pirating, where I don’t like the content enough to seek it out on my own.

Look, I love Family Guy. Season one is absurdly good for a pilot season, and season two continues that trend. Although season three reveals that petering off into absurdity (c wut I did thur) that derails the next decade, it’s still a fantastic collection of humor and character.

Then it got worse.

But somehow, it got better. Despite a lack of a showrunner or truly funny character, the show reclaimed itself as a staple of network humor with its grasp of absurd and classic humor. Something as simple as one character greeting a background character is complimented by an extended meta-humor joke, resulting in a show that manages to both laugh with and at itself.

The end result is some random YouTube channel under an obnoxious name, either John Smith or PETER GRIFFIN LOL LIKE FAMILY GUY, streaming the latest episodes of the show. Despite being a chronological deposition of Family Guy’s humor, these channels end up being the most enjoyable background noise available. It’s like white guy white noise– there’s a cutaway you can chuckle at before the show cuts back to some trite “Character X discovers they can do Y” plot.

Basically, this is the best way to enjoy a show that started as both a copy of and modernized rival of The Simpsons.

Watch season one of Family Guy. But also watch the latest as a testament to how unimportant thinking is between laughing.

 

PCP: Injustice: Gods Among Us

Watching Wednesday #5 – Wowin’ Whacks

Injustice: Gods Among Us: God Among Storymodes

The short of it: Injustice manages to do what Warner Bros. and DC couldn’t do with billions upon billions of dollars and dozens of stars. It gives classic characters that have been done to death life again with its character-driven story. 

There’s lot of stories under the DC banner– some are brilliant studies of what it means to be human, some are flopping insults to fans. After the lukewarm  Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, it seemed like DC’s fighting games were doomed to mediocrity. And then a God was born.

That’s overly dramatic, but a metagame/metahuman joke wouldn’t have made as much sense. The point is, with the release of Injustice: Gods Among Us, Netherrealm and DC created a new standard for fighting games. Whereas Mortal Kombat X created an devent story by killing off old characters and introducing interesting new ones, it could hardly be considered character-driven. Injustice dedicates itself to the description.

The game (and preceding comics) comes up with a plot that manages to turn both Superman and Lex Luthor into more than the Flanderized forms of themselves in most other media. It’s the familiar story of the fallen hero. After being tricked into committing the Herculean crime of killing his wife and daughter (triggering a nuke in Metropolis in the process), Superman turns to judge, jury, executioner for the world’s criminals– and heroes. The heroes that try to stand up to Superman’s domination of democracy are brutally cut down by the god-emperor. Batman is the sole living opponent to Supes’ iron-fisted rule; he uses an interdismensional transporter to pull Justice League members from a universe where the League stopped the plot/nuke.

The game does lack of characterization for the typical villains; fortunately, its depiction of struggles of the former heroes turned to villainous pawns is enough to satisfy the bad guy side of things. Sure, Sinestro is still kinda lame, but The Flash’s growing uncertainty about whether or not he’s on the right side is fascinating. And it’s fun– the wit and charm from the animated series is present in the game’s burner lines after matches conclude.

Now, of course, being that this is a video game, it should go into Fun Fridayz. But I’ve never played Injustice. Hell, I’ve haven’t played a Netherrealm game since MK9. And I was bloody terrible at that; combos and timing escape me. I watched the game’s cutscenes in movie format thanks to some YouTube heroes.

Check it out:

This vidyagamemoviewhatever is super. It’s like a league of justice. It’s Batman. Whatever, it’s just dope.

PCP: Big Quint

Watching Wednesday #4 – WOOH WOOH

BIGQUINT INDEED: Big Ain’t Big Enough

The short of it: Big Quint’s genuine reactions manage to amplify and simplify the high and low points of albums. His emphasis on what sounds good is a different kind of review with the same value as the kind that picks apart ever snare. 

Big Quint’s a murderer.

Two chairs lost their lives trying to support Quint’s ample frame as he bounced along to the newest hip-hop– Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. is the latest to snap the legs of a chair.

Quint’s channel is a pretty straightforward reaction channel– not my favorite kind of content, but it’s one that has its place in the annals of YouTube. He gives an intro, reacts to the music, cuts about halfway for a snack break/monologue, then resumes, before giving his final opinion on the album or track.

Fortunately for us, Quint’s truly just a fan of music. He’s honest with his opinions and genuine with his reactions; his reactions are often his first time listening to an album. Unlike other reviews or reactions from more technical critics, Quint lets his ears do the thinking for him. If it bangs it bangs, if it doesn’t it doesn’t.

Every month or so, I revisit his reaction to J. Cole’s 2014 Forest Hills Drive, an album I already loved before watching Quint’s reaction.

 

I do the same with Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo; every once in a while, I use Quint’s videos to remind myself of how damn good these albums are. I enjoyed them when I listened to them, sure, but for Ye, I had trouble digesting it after all the Taylor Swift nonsense and some of the worse lines on the album (bleach).

But then there’s Quint, bouncing along, chuckling at the dumb stuff but still vibing out to the beautiful production and braggadocious lyrics.

I guess it’s just a reminder of how wrapped up in ourselves and society we can get, and how we can subconsciously make ourselves enjoy things else. Yeah, we need critical analysis and discussion about the finer points of music and artists. But at the same time, man, why can’t we just lose it when we hear that drop on G.O.M.D or Father Stretch My Hands? Thankfully, we got Quint to remind us to snap and shout along with dope music.

PCP: Assassination Classroom

Watching Wednesdays #3 – Watch Out for the Whack

Assassination Classroom: Do ‘Em In + Do Dope

The short of it: Man, this is Freedom Writers in anime form. For a show about middle schoolers murdering a world-destroying monster, it’s pretty basic. Kids forgotten by education system become the most significant people in the universe, and, more importantly, find value in themselves thanks to their ultimate weapon of a teacher.

After destroying 70 percent of the moon, a tentacled monster requests (don’t even try to joke about the premise of Japanese tentacles) to teach a specific class at a prestigious Japanese academy. This class is the bottom of the bottom, in both grades and social standing.

The monster, capable of traveling up to Mach 20 in seconds, will teach the class in both regular subjects and in assassination techniques to kill it. If the class cannot kill him by the end of the school year, he’ll destroy the world. The world governments agree to his terms, concealing his presence and the students’ true goal in exchange for the monster’s cooperation in training these would-be assassins.

Oddly enough, the students find themselves actually learning under the monster’s optimistic tutelage. His efforts, though odd, are the first time they’ve had someone genuinely interested in their well being. He takes prides in their successes, even in their attempts to end his life. This inhuman monster capable of planetary destruction is more than the ultimate weapon– he’s the ultimate unkillable teacher: Korosensei.

With a premise as bizarre as a classroom for monster assassination, the show’s got a pretty standard way of warming the viewer’s heart. Children that have given up on their future despite possessing talent and potential find that there’s more to life than grades and social standing. They find friendship in the schoolmates and role models in their assassination teachers.

It’s hard not to have a smile on your face during the show– Korosensei’s goofy, goodnatured attempts to help his students coupled with his fierce desire to protect and foster their future makes him immediately lovable. The various personalities of the classroom all shine beyond their standard tropes, from the chaotically violent student, Karma, to the lovingly-nicknamed Bitch Sensei, a foreign spy and assassin teaching the students English and killing tactics.

Admittedly, it’s a little unnerving to think about when you realize that the only possible conclusion is the assassination of Korosensei; from the very first episode, he seems to good to lose. But as the show moves forward and the students grow, at least his time in the classroom will have taught the kids more than how to kill. He’ll have taught them how to live.

Shoot it: Crunchyroll

PCP: One Punch Man

Watching Wednesday #2 – When Watching Works

One Punch ManONE PUNNNNNCH

The short of it:  Beautiful animation and wry humor combine in this internet sensation of a webcomic-turned-anime. It’s got the epic fights from nostalgic shonen animes mixed with the self-awareness of a well-done parody. Most importantly, it allows itself to be as deep as the viewer wants– consider a villain a metaphor for something grander or just a sweet looking alien. It works brilliantly either way.

With Bill Burr’s recent mention of One Punch Man on his podcast, I figured it’s a good time as any to bring it up on PCP.

Every villain on OPM has their traditional villainous monologue– the evils of pollution, the corrupting nature of luxury and excess, and so on.  Each of these monologues is met with a thunderous single punch from the mild-mannered Saitama.

Saitama, a typical salaryman who decided that he could no longer be weak after being forced to fight a crab monster, trains every day for three years with basic jogging and bodyweight exercises. This results in him becoming the ultimate power in the universe, effectively able to end any monstrous foe’s life with a single blow.

Arguably the highest point of the show is Saitama and how he handles himself. He’s not self-deprecating or vain; he isn’t a martyr for humanity or out for some grand revenge.

He’s just a dude. He does his best. He’s nice to others. He likes his food.

When the monsters show up and humanity seems to be facing its doom, with civilians running and screaming, he scratches his chin and deals with it. No speeches, no tense standoff. He’s much like a casual viewer; sure he’s invested, but he’s not in any real danger or threat.

It’s why OPM, and other shows like it, is so satisfying. It knows what it is and it doesn’t step out of those lines. It’s got meta-humor and non-silly moments and all, but it wears its brand proudly. Here’s a dude who punches the hell out of stuff. Of course, the top-tier animation on all of the fights helps make this so consistently gratifying.

Much like JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, OPM embraces their ability to be wholly outlandish while grounding it in a world that accepts that outlandishness. They create a reality that allows for unreal moments, either for action or humorous purposes. This established world has a whole cast of characters that possess their own backstories and histories; these stories and characters are often chock full of tropes. While JoJo can claim to have pioneered some of those tropes, One Punch Man parodies them nearly perfectly.

Characters will monologue about their glory and history, replicating the tiresome filler that plagues most action-oriented anime. Much like a bored viewer, Saitama just skips right past that and gets to punching.

There’s a lot of ground for the show to be examined as commentary on anime and tropes, but that’s not nearly as fun as taking the show at face value. And it’s a beautiful face.


+ Amazing fight scenes and animation
+ Funny as the fights are vicious
+ As deep as the viewer wants it to be

Punch it: Netflix

PCP: Kiznaiver

Watching Wednesday #1 – Watch Without Waiting

Kiznaiver: Anime Taught Me that I’m an Asshole

The short of it: Kiznaiver is a short, beautiful ride that asks why and how relationships exist. It twists tropes and doesn’t cheap out on any of its characters. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better, purely character-driven show that looks this good and works this well.

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We’re plagued by the phenomenon of ghosting– slowly losing contact with someone else and dodging any attempts at a connection. The reason I feel strongly about this strategy of evading others is because I do it, a lot. It’s this thought that avoiding a response is the equivalent of delaying a conversation, that it’s not an outright, “No.” that could offend someone. There are two main reasons for ghosting:

  1. I don’t want to respond.
  2. I can’t respond.

The former is easy– pants are off, the next episode’s already started, pizza’s in the oven, something I’d rather do is happening. The latter is less easy. Generally, it’s, “I can’t find the energy or motivation to face another person.” My apathy overcomes social expectations and the entire concept of politeness.

Katsuhira, the protagonist of Studio Trigger’s Kiznaiver, is the model of pure apathy– he can’t feel pain. He’s got one faint memory from his childhood where someone tells him he’ll get his pain back one day, but other than that, he’s unsure why he doesn’t feel anything. But he doesn’t care enough to really question it. His best friend tries her best to keep him active and alive, but there’s only so much you can do for a friend that’s constantly stepping away from you.

That’s it. That’s the anime protagonist; he’s not the chosen one or got some secret family power. He’s a kid who doesn’t have feelings. As the show goes on, it becomes clear that the struggle isn’t for Katsuhira, it’s for his friends and loved ones that have to deal with his apathy.

Katsuhira and six of his classmates, each of which represent one of the modernization of the Seven Deadly Sins (that is, the Seven Deadly Tropes), are kidnapped and quietly forced into the Kiznaiver Experiment. In an attempt to bring about world peace by making humans feel the pain they inflict on others, the experiment makes all participants share their pain. The seven Kiznaivers are linked up and given three months to understand one another; in the meantime, anytime one of them feels pain, it’s evenly divided between the group. A jump off of a roof becomes survivable, but it does a good bit of damage to the other six members.

The initial premise is a little lame– world peace through sharing is a pretty fluffy concept that’ll earn more than a few eye rolls. Thankfully, it’s the most minor of the motivations on the show.  Within a few episodes, it breaks down to being wholly character-driven, giving each one of the Kiznaivers fully-realized lives and relationships.

Watching the show made me realize a lot of things about myself, my relationships, and how my actions impact those I care about– like Saturday morning cartoon level of teaching me a whole new degree of emotional maturity. Yeah, maybe I am a manchild who overindulges in his passions, but this beautifully animated Japanese show made me realize I’ve been a huge asshole to people that care about me.

Beyond all that, Kiznaiver just does so many things right in its brief 12 episode run:

  • A sexual deviant who doesn’t have a traumatic backstory to explain their deviance
  • The depiction of an adolescent’s struggle with sexuality and confusing feelings with fetishizing or demeaning
  • How tropes, and, by extension, stereotypes, succeed and fail as narrative and interpersonal devices

If all this rambling hasn’t it done for you, do me a favor and just watch the opening. It’s by far my favorite opening of a show in recent memory.

Watch it on: Crunchyroll


On The Topic of Emotional Openings

The opening theme song is “Lay Your Hands on Me by BOOM BOOM SATELLITES, a Japanese duo composed of Michiyuki Kawashima and Masayuki Nakano. Soon after the opening song for Kiznaiver was announced last year, Kawashima’s brain tumors grew worse and left him partially paralyzed. The song and four-song EP that contained it was his final works. He died in October 2016.