Wednesday, April 4, 2012

First Impressions - Zetman

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It really does seem sometimes as if I’m destined to never get a break.

Zetman wasn’t prominent on my radar screen as we headed into a crowded Spring season, but if the first ep is any indication of how good it’s going to be, it looks as if I’ll have no choice but to watch it at the very least.  I don’t know too much about the manga except that it’s loaded with graphic violence, and the first episode doesn't disappoint in that regard.  In many ways this seems like a classic setup for a grim superhero tale, American-style, though there was a stylish flair to the writing in the premiere that I rather liked.  The visuals were impressive too – though the fight scenes weren't spectacular, I like the character designs and the shot composition.  There’s a veteran team behind this adaptation, and it shows.

Of course, there’s also the matter of this being a rushed adaptation – a long manga being crammed into one cour – and the breakneck pacing is the biggest narrative flaw in the opening episode.  There’s also a major timeskip coming, and thus no guarantee my affection for the series will be sustained in full force – but I’m curious to find out.  We got what was apparently a fairly substantial prequel arc crammed into one episode, telling the story of young Jin (Romi Paku, great as always) who was apparently spirited away from a kind of fight club for mutants known as “Players”  when he was a baby by Gorou Kanazaki (Senda Mitsuo) some sort of scientist working for the people responsible for this travesty.  Gorou raises the boy as his grandfather, living in a kind of Hooverville for the homeless, but is killed when one of the mutants goes on a killing rampage, apparently with Jin as the target.

The scenes where the hopelessly naïve and sheltered Jin, who has no idea what death is, wheels the dead Gorou around in a shopping cart and the grieves for him in the company of call-girl with a heart-of-gold (and apparently a son she’s lost) Akemi (Hayamizu Risa) are pretty heartbreaking – especially when she’s later maimed and nearly killed by the same beast.  Jin also has two friends who live on the other side of the tracks in a huge mansion – Kouga (Kaida Yuki) and his little sister Konoha (Hanazawa Kana), whose father prohibits them from seeing Jin again.  He’s also connected to the evil corporation behind the Players, it seems, though I sense the web of connections – if we were supposed to grasp much of it at all yet – was swamped by the sheer volume of action in the episode.

Given that what we’ve seen isn’t the “real” plot yet, just the setup, I’m withholding judgment on Zetman until I see how I like these characters as young adults.  Presumably the series is going to get even more violent now that the hero has been aged several years.  Jin obviously has extraordinary powers even by Player standards – he’s the “Charisma” – which seems to make him a target for interested parties on all sides.  I’m also interested in seeing whether the now grown-up Kouga will be an uneasy ally or an enemy, and assuming that Konoha will be a love interest.  In any case, what’s clear in the first episode is that the folks behind this series have serious skill, the artwork is interesting and the writing is smart and witty – or can be, anyway.

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OP: "dots and lines" by You Hitoto & Mummy-D
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18 comments:

  1. There's a clear split in the audience in MAL. Manga readers said that this was a butchered first episode where a lot was cut out and rushed considerably.
    Anime only viewers liked it for what it presented.
    Obviously I belong in the latter group. It was done pretty well even if things aren't all clear at the moment. The art reminds me of one of the Marvel Anime by Madhouse.
    I'm eager to see how the relationship of Jin with the siblings will play out with them being all grown up next time. Plus about Kiritsugu in white who took care of lizard man and the deal about the Charisma and these Players.
    I'll read the manga after the anime seeing as how butthutt they are about this.

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    1. >Plus about Kiritsugu in white

      Yes! My brain made the Voice-Character connection way too fast and I got shocked for a moment there. His voiced took me into a watching F/Z mood almost instantly. xD

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  2. The anime looks amazing, I was impressed by the visuals. But maybe I was a bit delusional to expect a 1:1 adaptation of the work of god-mangaka Masakazu Katsura.

    What I can say for now is that this anime is putting the focus on action, plenty of character development was left out (Konoha and her mother's doing charity works, Konoha's admiration for Jin) or just completely changed (Jin and Kouga don't know each other in the manga and we see how Jin and Akemi adapt to each other over the span of a couple of years).

    This will disappoint many of the manga die hard fans because the anime does a pretty damn good job with the emotional parts (bath scene) and it's a big let down that we won't get to see Katsura's masterful work on the drama aspect of Zetman. The author is known on a world-wide scale, he's the motherfucking father of modern high school romance/comedy manga! SO WHY U DON'T FOCUS ON DRAMA!!!. (I'm not even mad)

    Still, the source material is so good that I'm sure many of you enjoyed this first episode and are being surprised by it right now. I liked it too and with the changes being so big I'm sure this is going for an original ending. Pacing should slow down a bit in the followin episode.

    Rest assure, and ignore the incoming hate. This anime will be great.

    Oh, and read that manga. It's GOD TIER stuff (like Vagabond or Gantz).

    BTW, Enzo, Katsura also helped with the production of Tiger and Bunny. He was the character designer :)

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  3. I did not know that about Katsura and T/B, interesting.

    Belat, I definitely thought of Madhouse with the artwork - I was reminded a bit of Rainbow, actually (another Romi Paku series).

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  4. Actually, I really enjoyed the episode, and I am a HUGE fan of the manga.

    Here's the thing, the complaints regarding he breakneck pacing are the most prevalent amongst both groups of viewers. That is after all, the main issue that's readily apparent. It's just more apparent to the manga fans who know exactly what was left out.

    I'm going to ignore the fact that Jin and Kouga were already friends by this time (which was most certainly not the case, although Konoha still knew him) as that's completely original, provides interesting possibilities for later episodes, and overall has very little impact on the introductory arc (Kouga's main introduction arc comes later).

    The main problem when comparing the anime with the manga is that it is missing a ton of content that strengthens the characters' relationships and makes them something that readers can invest in early on.

    The well-conceived scenes between Jin and Kanzaki (especially a scene where he goes to buy him clothes), the extra time spent with Akemi (since it was basically a two-part introduction in the manga), and the reality of the two main conflicts that result in these two parts really help flesh out Jin's character early on and make him very likeable from the start (not that he isn't likeable in the anime, but much moreso in the manga).

    In the anime, which plays out very much like a dark superhero story, heavy investment in the characters isn't something that the audience is necessarily focused on. So, while people only viewing the anime notice the frantic pacing, it's not as big a deal since the connection to these initial characters wasn't something that action fans typically expect from the genre (and obviously don't recognize the connection as "missing," which further spurs fans of the manga to action).

    So yeah, I very much understand where the manga fans are coming from, but I was largely happy with the episode. The action was gorgeous in its chaotic and messy style, and it did hit all of the main points in the opening arc. Plus, the adaptation seems to be taking an anime original approach (at least with regards to how it will end), so I'm interested to see how the changes they are making will affect their version of the story.

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    1. Thank you, Goro, very thoughtful comment. I wonder why this wasn't considered to have enough potential for a multi-cour adaptation. The manga is pretty damn popular, isn't it?

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    2. Very much so.

      It's very much THE example of seinen tokusatsu done well. A lot of time was spent fleshing out the characters (especially the main ones), and the overarching story is simple enough that it doesn't get too convoluted and allows for a greater focus on the characters (even though there is a part in the manga where the pacing/focus is a bit hectic, since Katsura was trying to jump around between individual characters a bit too much).

      And, of course, it's best known for its gorgeous artwork.
      http://img220.imageshack.us/img220/726/zetman2990769.jpg
      http://img404.imageshack.us/img404/9144/zetman774737.jpg

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    3. Among seasoned manga readers, yes.

      It was Katsura's dream to make a "western-style" Super Hero manga and you can feel his passion while reading Zetman. It may be end up being his masterwork.

      It's a similar situation with Takehiko Inoue (Slam Dunk mangaka) and Vagabond (his masterwork).

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    4. This page here shows how Konoha and Jin were to each other. No Kouga yet.
      http://i.imgur.com/7x7kE.png


      And this is one of the (now skipped) scenes between Akemi and Jin.
      http://i.imgur.com/PBbcI.png

      The faces are just godly. It's amazing how easily it is to read their feelings.

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  5. I'm not a die-hard fan of the manga but I like it quite a bit. That being said, I don't think this episode was bad. The manga is certainly better but given how they are trying to cram so much content in just 13 episodes, it was to be expected.

    This episode covers 13 chapters of the manga and although it does have some serious flaws, I think the end result is fairly decent. What I think it lacked is subtlety and most importantly, emotional attachment to the characters and more time to flesh them out.

    Now, on to manga comparisons:
    - Kouga, Konoha (the rich siblings) and Jin were never childhood friends. Konoha did admire Jin though, and they met once (see xRichard's post).
    - That scene the anime starts with (explaining what Players are) and the bad guy with the weird hair aren't revealed until much later in the manga.
    - The anime killed off Kanzaki off-screen whereas in the manga, he was the one who fought and killed the lizard guy (in a badass way, if I may add). He got his arm chopped off and Jin tried to attach it to his body as if he was a clay doll. Kanzaki's death in the anime was almost laughable and lacked any impact whatsoever.
    - Akemi was never attacked by the monster in the middle of the street, but by her ex-boyfriend in her own appartment.

    For some more comparisons with manga images check the MAL first post.
    I'd recommend anyone who really liked this episode to give the manga a chance as it's clearly better.

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    1. For me, the changes are so many that comparisons are almost unfair right now and we should forget about the manga for a bit.

      We shoul take the anime as an Alternate take on Zetman. Anime-only viewers are loved what they saw.

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    2. The thing is I think they are still trying to do a faithful adaptation here. They are keeping all the characters and major events. They are just modifying certain aspects to make everything fit in a very short time. Events have been altered but their end results are the same as in the manga. Dialogues are faithful too. Even most scenes are a panel-by-panel copy of the manga. The PV also shows events that happen in the manga (albeit way later in the story, which has me worried).

      So far, I'd say the studio hasn't taken huge liberties. The biggest one is arguably having the Amagi siblings and Jin be childhood friends, but I can see how this might be a way to bring more Jin-Kouga conflict in the short term.

      tl;dr: I think they want to make a faithful adaptation, not an alternate take on Zetman. Things are just very rushed.

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  6. The pacing was hard to handle and the Jin needed a little more time to be fleshed out. It's one thing for a 10 year old, "sort of human" to not understand death. It's another to have 0 conceptions of it. That came off really, really flat. Which robbed moving his Grandpa around in the shopping cart a little strange. That should have been a brutal moment that came off a bit too close to humorous.

    But, there was a whole lot of good here. The action scenes hint at brutal, violence and wonderful action to come. It's got a Claymore/Berzerk type vibe. You don't get that too often in anime. Plus, you can feel a whole lot of depth to the story that you just don't know yet. There's a whole lot going on in the background and the first episode was rushing through it. Rather than rushing so you didn't notice it.

    The bath scene should probably be used as an example for how that type of drama works. Brilliant bit of storytelling in a 90s sequence. Said so much with saying much of anything. Alone that was worth watching the first episode.

    So, rushed quite a bit but I will continue. There will probably be a bit more bumpiness and complaining, but I think there's a good chance for a really solid anime here. Though why this didn't get 26 episodes is beyond me. You could at least get through the first 1-2 major story arcs while establishing the characters.

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  7. Watched this episode about 30 minutes ago. It was absolutely amazing. Realistic characters, great production values and instant reward pacing. Harsh and intuitive, like few series manage to be. Loved every second and couldn't wait for the next episode.

    After contemplating the greatness, i went to MAL to set Zetman as currently watching. Then i saw the complaints there. Wow, just wow. And i thought people hated Mass Effec 3's ending. The amount of hatred per post was far worse in the Zetman board.

    I am going to continue as an anime only watcher, at least until it ends. I hope that, at least this time, the adaptation complaints and comparisons from source material readers are right (they were right about Gantz and Deadman Wonderland for example, but wrong or exaggerated most of the time).

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    1. Negativity on MAL? Impossible, I say!

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  8. This episode reminded me a lot of deadman wonderland.

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    1. A bit, yeah. Both seinen, anyway, and that's yet another Paku Romi series...

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    2. And me having the weird reaction when hearing Hanazawa Kana because a dark Seinen is not where you'd expect her to turn up.

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