First look: Accel World, Space Brothers

So here comes the next season, and there are two decent shows that I can give a first impression of. (I also watched Zetman, and Ozma, they were bad. I’m not a snarky writer to entertain you with elaborate explanations of how bad they were, others said it better).

Space Brothers

Space Brothers, (or Space Bros, if you are one of those people who still think that the word “bro” is inherently funny”), is by far the most popular series of the season so far, and it’s not hard to see why. It’s the kind of series that could have aired on Noitamina-That-Was:  Adult males! Realism! Mainstream! Actually, as a fan who actually cares about the cultural significance of anime and understands why circle jerking is bad for the fandom, it takes conscious effort to  separate this show’s own merits, based on what actually pappened in the story, from the joyful reaction to the promise of a show that tries appealing to the mainstream, rather than directly to us. “I want to be an astronaut” is a dream that is shared by millions of children, including me when I was one. Older brothers trying to be the first in everything, is a familiar theme for everyone with siblings. “So hooray for Space Brothers, the down-to-earth  realistic anime, that understands my soul. ”

I’m a firm believer of quality based on execution, rather than on gimmicky “originality”. For example, on it’s own, the fact that this time the protagonists are adults, is one such gimmick. I once wrote about how most anime can manage to have almost any plot type executed with it’s nominally teenaged “anime-folk” filling in adult roles. That’s also true for space travel. For example, Rocket Girls even had a rather clever justification for it: With space travel, every pound counts, so it makes perfect sense to use middle-school girls as pilots. 😛

Of course, i’m not complaining about Hibito and Mutta being adults, for example, Mutta’s mid-life crisis in this episode used his age well as a tool. But on the long term, it will inevitably end up being more of a superficial icing on the cake, than something that makes it interesting, and gives me a reason to continue watching it.

The other unique part of the premise, that has a chance to actually influence the plot, and contibute to a new story that has never been told before, appears to be a lot more mundane and uninteresting at first: They are brothers. Well, that’s more interesting than the typical single child Yuuji, but still, it sounds like nothing groundbreaking. How many anime had two brothers as protagonists already? I can’t know that, but I looked through the 126 anime in my MAL that I watched, and out of them, actually there are only three:  Mawaru Penguindrum, Kimi to Boku, and Infinite Ryvius. 

Three. How crazy is that? It’s not like I only watched harem shows with a single guy in the universe, either. Even in a complete sausage fest like Legend of the Galactic Heroes, with it’s dozens of male protagonists, I couldn’t think of a single brother-brother duo. Not in Fate/Zero, not in Bakuman, nothing! How crazy is that?

Accel World

If Space Brothers received high expectations based on a first glance at it’s premise, the same first glance lowered the expectations for Accel World:  Teenagers! Boy-meets-girl! Light novel adaptation! The protagonist’s introduction wasn’t exactly convincing, either. Bullied unattractive anti-social loser. Obvious wish-fulfillment for otaku.

That was a rather large first mistake for Accel World. Even if it will have unique plotlines and surprising twists in the future,  it will never quite wash away the feeling that it’s pandering to us. And while obviously everyone loves getting pandered to, no one wants to notice that they are being pandered to. It feels insulting to our intelligence, to spell it out that clearly that we are using anime for escapism.

Beyond that one mistake, I believe that the first two episodes of Accel World promise an interesting series. The female lead, for one, seemed to be intriguing. Compared to the typical “magical girlfriend” in this, so called “Shana-clone” fantasy light novel subgenre, that is either a direct Shana clone, or a featureless idol, she seemed to be a rather complex, active character, with her own agenda.

Too bad, the first two episodes spent all their time on setting up the setting. I really can’t see what will happen in the rest of the series. Slice of life spiced up with some online fights? Saving the cyberworld from something evil? Emotional drama between the characters introduced so far?

I don’t know. And I like this.

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