To be fair, I don’t hate Naruto thaaaat much. I mean there are some good plot elements, some decent action and the main character turns into a giant energy spitting fox kaiju (this appeals to me). It just drags soooooooo much. The timing on the series, particularly in the latter years, is just awful. Plus, if you can think of an element of the shounen ubergenre that annoys you (long arcs, character revision, “the redemption of the bad guy”, characters being forgotten or side-lined arbitrarily etc.) you’ll find it in spades somewhere in Naruto. It’s been a very long time since I checked the series out in any detail with my interest in it being “dropping in when someone tells me they just had a giant monster fight”. But there is one character, one element, one concept in this series that pushes it into a proper rage fest for me. Sasuke. Effing Sasuke. The poster boy for how to write an absolutely dire deuterogonist/anti-hero/antagonist. Sasuke is introduced as the classic darker shounen rival to the light hearted protagonist. He’s dour, moody and better than Naruto at literally everything. An orphan whose family were executed by his own brother, his goal is to be flat as a piece of cardboard while occasionally talking about his vengeance. Cursed by one of the Naruto early arc villains, he decides to go evil so he can have the power to exact his vengeance. Sasuke then spends the next four or 5 years (at least) moping in the background, doing da evulz and having the feels. He then kills his brother, learns his brother murdered everyone cause his boss told him to and decides to kill all the bosses, become the new boss, and bring peace through evil moping (for an infinitely more expert and engaging version of this, I highly recommend checking out Kamen Rider Gaim and Kumon Kaito). Then he joins Naruto for a fight that lasted 2 years, then he’s evil again. Then the series ends and he’s an official good guy, and still moping.
Sasuke pisses me the HELL off. For most of the second half of the series, he’s the focal point rather than Naruto. While Naruto is on screen far more, most of the protagonist actions beyond base heroics are about redeeming Sasuke, or being in love with Sasuke, or killing Sasuke or…you get the picture. Naruto goes on about how Sasuke was his best friend and he wants him back. Female “lead” Sakura goes on about how she was in love and wants him back. The bosses go on about how he’s the greatest badass alive and they need him dead. The thing that pisses me off though isn’t the way the show seems to worship him but it’s worshipping him for things he doesn’t actually have or do. Finally, Sasuke pisses me off because…the fandom loves him. To an irritating degree. Whether it’s musing on how gay he is or how moody he is or how Sasuke Did Nothing Wrong!, this awful flat stereotype of a person is worshipped. I can only assume it’s the same mentality that led Edward Cullen to be seen as “Dreamy”. Sasuke does a HELL of a lot wrong, and no amount of brooding can make me not see him as a drain on a series that really didn’t need any more momentum sucked out of it.
Attack on Titan: Eren
Attack on Titan is one of those shows where I feel like That One Guy. Easily one of the most popular animes of the last 5 years it tells the story of non-descript relic human population, probably somewhere in Germany, trapped behind walls and surrounded on all sides by titanic deformed humanoids whose sole purpose is to devour humanity. The series focuses on a catastrophe where titans break a layer of the wall and slaughter the humans inside. The product of this is Eren Jaeger, a survivor who dedicates his life to hating and killing said monsters. Attack on Titan is a popular series that I just don’t like. Undeniably pretty, it is also shallow, repressive in its tone, mutilates the concept of natural selection and the biggest crime, quite possibly the single most predictable anime I’ve seen in years. I’m not talking predictable based on genre tropes. I’m talking that within…5-8 episodes what you think is happening (and what I’m told wasn’t revealed in the manga until this year) is happening. And I mean pitch perfect. Within my first few weeks I had accurately predicated years of story reveals and plot twists. Signposted is not the word. I can’t deny it is an exceptionally pretty series but for me that’s literally all it’s got going for it.
So what’s the issue with Eren? Well you’ll be happy to know I don’t have as many issues with Eren. Mostly because there’s almost nothing to him to have issues with. The big problem with Eren is how he encapsulates the shows approach to character and therefore it’s investment. Eren is a blank slate. Entirely. Introduced as an angry child, after his tragic event he grows to be an angry teen. And that’s it. Eren’s character is that he hates titans. Yes, he gains super powers and becomes a key weapon, but a weapon doesn’t have a personality, it has a function. With Eren as the focal point, the series becomes incredibly bland as you just stare at this nothing of a character, saying his lines then yelling at people and killing. And this wouldn’t be SO bad if there was someone, anyone in the secondary cast to bolster, to draw your attention away and make you go “Yes, yes I want to look at her or him”. There are other characters, and they do perform badass things, but they are absolutely not characters. There’s the same as Eren, blank slates defined entirely by a single quality. The only difference is that 99% drift into the background after their initial appearance whereas Eren just stays there, hogging air time.
So that was brief and fairly unvitriolic…why could I be trying to save space…what possible reason could I have to want to have as much room as possible for what is to follow…
Neon Genesis Evangelion: Shinji
Oh my yes.
Neon Genesis Evangelion. Depending on your camp, this is one of the greatest examples of symbolism and psychological analysis ever committed to the screen or it’s a hyped up experience devoid of real depth that is desperate for you not to see it as a ridiculous pile of crap.
Can you guess which category I’m in?
I preface the following with the fact that this is simply my opinion and I judge not those who love this show. I genuinely don’t. But I absolutely despise Evangelion. A show full of religious and spiritual symbolism that the writers have flat out admitted was put in to be cool not meaningful. An off the wall mecha show with a cool “robot” concept that the series goes out of its way never to use effectively. An approach to psychology and real issues (the director was in a severe bout of depression at the time) that feels like such an attempt to treat everyone around you like crap (ESPECIALLY women, we’ll get to that) that the viewer will be more sickened by the narcissism of it all then the issues it tries to raise. And a character roster where everyone exists to be shit to each other and you with no actual depth (and a penguin. For some reason).
I hate this show. I hate its tone, it’s approach, it’s attitude, the sheer arrogance that surrounds both it and the approach of a lot of the creative team to the effect they feel they should have had on the mecha genre. I hate the movies. I hate the reboot (if it is a reboot. We’re trying to be pretentious so you’ll never know!). The only thing I can say is the opening is cool and the animation studio really showed how good you can make things look. It’s a technically beautiful show…one I desperately want to punch in the balls. And everything I hate about this show can be summed up in one figure
Shinji is the protagonist of the series. A 13-year-old boy whose mother died during the early days of the Evangelion program, he is brought in by his neglectful (and entirely paedophilic) father to pilot the test model of the new super weapon, the Eva units. See the world is being attacked by strange creatures with an unknown goal. For reasons only semi-divulged in series but discussed outside of it, only young teenagers can pilot the Evas and so Shinji’s bastard father puts him through 24 episodes (don’t ask about ep 25-26, people don’t like to talk about them…oddly my favourite eps in the series) of torment, only for his ultimate goal to be revealed to be as bad as the bad guys, but with more touching naked 13-year-old girls.
Shinji has a rough time, with a horrible family life, surrounded by people who should ALL at least be having regular psychiatry sessions. So you can forgive him for being trouble. I’m less inclined to forgive him for being a selfish, passive aggressive, whiny, self-obsessed moron who does almost nothing actually decent in this entire series. Shinji has vocal settings. Quiet and depressed and telling you that he’s a sucky human being who doesn’t deserve your love but its ok because you all suck too, or screaming high-pitched insanity all while crying and telling you that life sucks he sucks you suck we all suck. Shinji is a black hole, energy is sucked out of the series into him, circling at his core for all time with no way to escape. Now there is nothing wrong with a fundamentally unlikable protagonist. Many series build themselves around someone you just don’t LIKE as a person. Berserk has Guts, Code Geass has Lelouch. The difference between these characters and Shinji is that even if you don’t like who they are as people you are compelled by them. Whether it’s their overall goals, their morality, their drive, their influence on others, these unlikable individuals can grab you and interest you as much as the most joyful and loveable Shounen badass. Shinji repels you. Nothing he does has a meaning to it that can hold my attention, none of his interactions (both giving and receiving) are not abusive, he has no goals, he has no drive. He’s just…one man’s physical expression of where his brain had ended up. If you want to really sum up my feelings on Shinji, I have to refer to the infamous scene in the quite terrible End of Evangelion movie where Shinji follows ol’ Dad’s footsteps and sexually abuses a hospitalised and unconscious girl (and please do not try and frame that as anything else people). Shinji is not the first protagonist to do something like this but he might be the first where 1) it’s completely under his own power and 2) NO ONE EVER MAKES A GOD DAMN DEAL OF THIS AGAIN! Shinji is scum, horrible uncompelling scum and I desperately hope the culmination of the Rebirth series is his getting crushed by the heel of the Evas.