Date A Live

datealive
Everybody knows that great record with great ideas that the record label choked with cliches. Date A Live is that record. It takes influence from Evangelion both in terms of style and purpose. It wants to be a fun, humorous story while also have engaging characters and challenge its format a little. Whenever it does that, it succeeds. Whenever it dabbles in Harem cliches, you reach for some funeral music.

The premise is nonsense, but not without hope. The why’s are unimportant. The premise forces a non-violent solution to defeat an enemy, and one that relies on character interaction. This forces the creators to make the Spirits into actual characters instead of an ‘unknown enemy’. It also means they have to write actual character interactions, instead of just making a light show of explosions.

It does work, for the most part. The Spirits are all vastly different, and quirky in their own ways. Some of them may seem cliche on the surface, like Yoshinon’s shy girl antics. They do make them weird and silly enough to make them memorable. There are plenty of fun fish-out-of-water moments with Tohka. There’s also Tokisaki, who’s a great antagonist with a weird modus operandi and an atmosphere of real danger.┬áThe show also has some moments which satirize dating sims, and they’re brilliant whenever they appear.

Date A Live also has a unique relationship to violence. There are some explosions for the hungry, but its view of violence is very different. In most action films, we’re encouraged to cheer for violence and to enjoy seeing people get hurt. It’s not that we’re told to enjoy the suffering of others. We’re told to ignore it, so we could enjoy a beautiful, violent dance.

Date A Live acknowledges that violence is pretty awful. It’s not just in Origami’s dull, “My parents were killed so know I’m an avenger”. Characters are afraid of killing others. Characters can’t remain indifferent to violence. Evangelion created alien enemies which looked nothing like us. It was easy to look at their deaths. Date A Live admits that enemies are humans and asks if there’s a better. It’s a pretty uncommon response to the aestheticization of violence in media. It’s even less common in shows like this.

That’s pretty heavy. Don’t mistake Date A Live for more than a light-hearted romp. Nevertheless, this attitude towards violence sure helps raise the series a little, and makes it more fun.

Just as its willing to turn that format upside down, it’s also neck deep in Harem cliches.

Why do series’s like this create a fun, quirky cast of female characters only to have the male lead dull? Shido’s given a little more to do. It feels like he can be a good character. Yet, has no personality to speak of. He does what is right just because it’s convenient to the plot, but that’s it.

There were so many things you could do with him. He could have been a megalomaniac who enjoys the attention. He could be a neurotic, like Evangelion’s Shinji. He could be a White Knight who’s overdoing it. All of which would have added plenty of more comedic moments. Yet, he’s just a convenient tool to move the plot with less depth than an FPS character. This is one series that deserved so much.

Since the male lead has no personality, the romance is also not that exciting. Seeing a man having to juggle three girls could be fun. It’d work here because the series gives them a little more to do, but Shido is nothing. The girls fall for him mostly because it’s convenient. If love was so convenient, it wouldn’t be a staple in the arts. There was also no reason for Origami to be a part of the harem. It added nothing.

Date A Live falls too much into cliches to be great. When it’s good, though, it’s better than another anime where the only effort is in the character design. It’s a lot bolder than it looks, and turns the nonsencial premise to more than a punchline. If you can stomach the occasional cliche harem, there’s good entertainment to be found here.

3 dates out of 5

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Isaac Asimov – Foundation

Isaac Asimov_1951_Foundation
Foundation is another novel where two styles clash. Unlike others, though, Asimov manages to make them merge. It’s especially impressive because these are two styles which shouldn’t work together. Asimov is a much better writer than people give him credit. He may not understand human beings, but few authors are so bullshit-free. Despite not even trying to create characters, there’s nothing that hides what works.

You can dub it ‘Space Opera’ all you want, but if you read a Robot book then you’ll settle into the format just fine. Asimov’s style consists of creating a puzzle and have the characters solve it. This is a pure intellectual exercise. There is no emotional weight there. There’s not even Saw’s cheap, either solve it die cliche. It’s as humane as a Rubik’s Cube.

The puzzles have pieces that sound profound, sure. Asimov just doesn’t try to explain why they’re profound. Among the pieces Asimov plays with include whole civilizations. There are video games that also deal with whole civilizations. Chess seems to tell the story of one kingdom conquering another. If you were an individual in those kingdoms or civilizations, you would care. Yet how much do players care about a single soldier in Warcraft III?

That’s Asimov’s weakness. He puts different names on the pieces, but they’re just pieces to play around with. Since there is no real character depth, not even one-note characters it’s hard to get to the bottom of Asimov’s ideas. Asimov has a lot to say about big things, like history and religion. Such a profilic author should have a lot to say, but the novel isn’t a good form for him to deliver his ideas.

They show you Asimov is smart and knows a lot, but that’s it. His treatment of religion is especially interesting. He confronts the claim that a lot of people believe scientists like they believe religious figures. A scientific theory, after all, is supposed to predict results. Doesn’t that sound close to being a prophet? The idea of a man seeing into the future, and then guiding humans how to cope with it is found in the Tanakh.

What is he trying to say by showing this common ground between religion and science? Science works, but the only people who are aware it’s science and not superstition are the scientists. Should scientists be a majority rather than a minority to prevent this? He doesn’t say. The Foundation survives because it’s a minority and keeps important knowledge to itself. It is the future of humanity. There doesn’t seem to be much criticism of it in the novel.

The novel doesn’t fail, again, thanks to Asimov’s bullshit-free writing. For a man who’s known to be important in ‘hard Sci-Fi’, he’s a great storyteller. He lays his interesting puzzles and finds interesting solutions to them. Even if they are shallow, Asimov’s puzzles are unique enough. Even when it’s clear there’s no depth and he’s just writing ‘civilization’ on a game piece, the illusion its important is entertaining enough, in and of itself. He doesn’t put anything else there but the bare bones, and so he lives to the promise of any good pulpy novel. It does weaken a little in the end, where Asimov gets more ambitious and the stories get bigger. They also get less coherent.

Foundation isn’t much of a great novel in terms of depth, but it’s a very entertaining story. It’s odd how the attempts at being profound neither elevate nor ruin the novel, which they often tend to do. It’s not the brilliant classic people say it is, but good, bullshit-free storytellers are rare. Asimov deserves some fame just because of that.