The Babymetal Problem

I am a Babymetal fan. I have been since I first heard them back in 2015. I love the music, the visual aspect, and, perhaps most importantly considering recent events, the girls. Babymetal has seen enormous success not just for an idol group, but as an international metal band over the past few years, selling out arenas and festival dates with every tour. Fans of the group have had the pleasure of watching Su, Moa and Yui grow and develop as musicians, and thus have built a strong connection to them. It should come as no surprise to anyone that the absence of one of the three figureheads of Babymetal, Yui-Metal, would spark outcry from fans.

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Before I get into anything, yes, I know that Japanese idol groups work differently than western metal bands. I know that idols are only really idols when they are still young, so replacing them isn’t anything new. But it’s the way in which Koba and the other minds behind the group have gone about current events that is making fans so angry. It started in December of 2017 when it was announced rather abruptly that Yui would not be performing in the band’s shows in Hiroshima due to health issues. This in itself isn’t anything to get worked up over. Fans wished Yui a quick recovery and that was that. Questions starting rising after the death of guitarist Mikio Fujioka in January as to who would replace him and how it would affect the group.

But then the group’s marketing team went silent, only announcing new merchandise or tour dates. Not once did they address Mikio’s passing or the state of Yui’s health. Then a few days ago the band released a music video for their new song, which didn’t show the girls at all, and lacked Yui and Moa’s backing vocals, which got fans speculating even further. So, naturally, when the band played the first show of their 2018 world tour in Kansas without Yui and with two unnamed backup dancers, the fanbase collectively lost their shit.

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I’m not going to speculate as to whether or not Yui is out of the band or if she’s simply still sick, which, judging by the band’s relentless shcedule over the past few years and her apparent loss of weight may very well be the case, but I want to address the complete lack of understanding of western media and music that Babymetal’s team has been displaying. It would have saved the team a lot of trouble to simply announce at some point over the past FIVE MONTHS that a change was being made, or that Yui is still in poor health. If Yui isn’t performing for personal reasons, simply let the fans know that she won’t be performing. I don’t follow idol culture that closely, but I know that groups change over time, swapping out old members for new ones, and that’s perfectly fine if that’s what Babymetal is doing. But this band isn’t just an idol group. They are a full-fledged metal band, like it or not, with a massive western following. A following who cares about these girls, and many of whom don’t follow idol culture outside of this group. Of course they are going to get upset when a change is made without them knowing.

This stems into the backlash that the group’s team has been receiving from fans in Kansas who bought their tickets to see the three-piece that they know and love; not two members with two backup dancers (and from what I’ve read, Moa-Metal didn’t sing in the show at all). This isn’t to shit on the backup dancers, who from what I saw did a good job, but if I payed money to see a once-in-a-lifetime performance put on my one of my favorite bands, I would want to get what I payed for. This once again falls on the lack of communication from the team.

Not a word has been said yet about what has been going on with the group. All across social media the group has been silent, which is only ading fuel to the fire. Amuse’s stocks have been dropping rapidly because of this, and the whole fanbase is in a frenzy. I think this whole thing is the result of a simple lack of communication. Western fans like to know when major changes are made, especially a change as drastic as this. And, as I said before, if it simply comes down to Yui still being ill, it is Babymetal’s team’s responsibility to let the fans know.

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We will all see what the hell is going on with the group when they have their next show on May 10th in Austin. Hopefully, Babymetal’s team will release some sort of statement before then, but with the way things have been going over the course of 2018, that seems very unlikely.

If Yui is sick, I wish her a fast recovery. If she’s left the group, I wish her a bright and successful future. Either way, the fans deserve to know.

-Daniam

 

Don’t drop Darling in the Franxx after Episode 14. Drop it after Episode 15.

Saying that Episode 14 of Darling in the Franxx was controversial is like saying Hitler was controversial. I haven’t seen a reaction to a single episode of an anime quite on this level in a long, long time. I found myself in the dead center of World War III on the subreddit, and the shit-slinging became so ridiculously over-the-top in such a short time that the subreddit was essentially shut down for a short period of time. Not only did the western community lose their collective minds, but the Japanese community seemed just as divided, if not more so, going so far as to send death threats to the cast and crew behind the show (I thought this part was a meme, but this actually happened).

I’m going to be completely transparent here, I’m following this show more out of morbid curiosity than out of an actual investment. I think the characters are pretty run-of-the-mill, save for Zero Two, who even then seems to me to be the classic tragic heroine onto whom the protag throws himself because he hasn’t seen any other remotely interesting women. The story this far is shaky at best, only occasionally riling up enough intrigue to keep its core audience interested for another couple weeks, and the action, though good when it happens, rarely rears its head for long enough to keep me interested in this kind of show. With all that being said, I find myself wondering why I haven’t dropped the show yet, and I think the reason is that I knew with Trigger behind the wheel we were bound to get an episode like 14, but I had no clue how huge of an episode it would be.

I wanted to discuss something that I had seen a lot during the 24 hours after the episode aired, aside from the massive Zero Two fanboy circle-jerk happening on Reddit and 4chan; that something being a rather large amount of people claiming that they would be dropping the series after this episode. And between all the memes showing up and shitposts being thrown around like armies exchanging musket volleys in the middle of the Civil War, I had to ask myself, do people wanting to drop this show after this point even really enjoy anime?

Think about it for a second. We’ve been sitting around for three months now waiting for something big to happen in the story or to the characters. Every week I would read comments begging Trigger or A1 to do something to spice the show up. Now that they have done something, people are losing their minds, and not in a good way. I’m not going to go into very much detail on episode 14 or any others, because if you’re reading this that means you must have already seen it. But I will say that it was the most intriguing episode of the series by far, and left me with a feeling that maybe, just maybe, this show can pick up where it’s been lacking.

But fans don’t seem to think the same.

Why, after all this time, are people wanting to drop? Obviously the main culprits are those in the “my Best Girl is sad, so this show is bad” mindset. Yes, I made a rhyme. Fuck you. Zero Two has been the main driving force in this show since episode one. She has gotten more backstory and screen time than anyone, save for our generic protag, Hiro, who wants to pilot a Franxx more than anything. Or wants to bang Zero Two more than anything. Or wants to die more than anything, as made clear by my previous statement. Anyway, in episode 14, Zero Two is kept from seeing Hiro by Ichigo, the childhood friend, and the rest of the squad. In the end, she ends up getting sent away to work with her previous squad, the Nines (9’s?). Ichigo kisses Hiro, Hiro is sad, Goro is sad, the community collectively shits itself, and now we’re in the middle of a blog that no one gives a shit about.

So why in the FUCK would you want to drop this show now? Is conflict something foreign to you? Do you not like your characters to have any semblance of depth or internal turmoil? Do you only care about whoever you think Best Girl is until someone better comes along next season to take that spot? This is a problem with the anime community today. We seem to have forgotten that anime is a medium in which emotions and ideas can be expressed in new, exciting ways. Just because this show did something off-the-wall for once in its 14-episode runtime doesn’t make it a suddenly unwatchable show. That’s like riding a bike because it’s faster than walking, but getting off to push it because you think pedaling is too much work. People who seriously consider dropping a show for that reason are idiots, period. And this doesn’t just go for DitF. Plenty of times people have dropped shows en masse for equally dumb reasons, and people like this confuse me on so many levels. If you are a fan of anime, you are a fan of conflict and emotion. If you aren’t, then why do you watch anime? For the art? For the music? If that’s the reason, fine, but you can find similar quality in other mediums as well. Only anime evokes the feelings and ideas that it does in the way that it does. DitF is far from the most thought-provoking anime out there, but still, people are losing their minds over some real conflict.

I suppose this leads into the title of this blog. I’ve been ranting about the idiotic nature of this show’s fans over the past couple days, and I should say here that I DO NOT HATE THIS SHOW. I am still watching it, so that means something. However, if you or someone you know is considering dropping it because of this last episode, please, stay for just one more, and depending on how episode 15 goes, decide then if you should drop it.

But don’t drop it if Zero Two and Hiro don’t get back together.

Drop it if they do.

Trigger and A1 have managed to finally incorporate some real emotional stakes into this show after the constant teasing that they’ve been putting their viewers through. The community is split, and fans are demanding that the writers bring the MC’s back together. But I will say this right now; if Zero Two and Hiro get back together in the next episode, Darling in the Franxx will become one of the worst shows of the season, and I will be dropping it.

Why should we care about a show that after 14 episodes finally decides to up the emotional stakes, only to resolve them the next episode, leaving eleven more without that tension? Conflict like this is meant to stew until it boils over, i.e. Steins;Gate, which throws its driving curve ball at us almost halfway through, and doesn’t resolve it until the very end. We, as anime fans, deserve more than a stupid, cheap, one-off attempt at making us give a shit. I appreciate that episode 14 happened directly after the previous episode’s character-building between the MC’s, but if that’s all for nothing, then why did it matter at all?

The main characters need time apart to really show us who they are as people. We’ve seen them together, and seen glimpses into their past. We’ve seen them work together and experience trauma together. Now we need to see how they act when they are really, truly apart. We need Hiro to try to ride with someone else. We need to see Zero Two go through more stamens and lose her mind. We need to see how the situation between Ichigo and Goro plays out. If we don’t see this, then this show will immediately drop off into mediocrity. Ending the episode on a cliffhanger like they did was a great way to wrap it up, and set up a lot of questions and interesting discussion points that people who want to now drop the show are completely ignoring. And they aren’t the only problem. Another huge problematic faction that formed out of the ashes of the community are the ones who claim that the show now sucks because of this. I mentioned before that this show was never great, but they think it sucks now? People like that are people that need to be avoided when trying to have an objective, analytical argument, because they are incapable of doing so. And also probably smell bad.

I guess the point to all this rambling isn’t so much to shit on the show as it is to shit on the community’s ridiculous behavior over these past couple of days. I understand that it may not have went the direction you wanted, but if you liked this show as much as you claim you did, dropping it wouldn’t cross your mind for even a second. I am disappointed in the community right now, to say the least, and I am hoping beyond hope that Trigger and A1 don’t give a shit. I want nothing more than for this to be a major turning point in the show, and not just a little speed bump like so many people are demanding. I want DEPTH, people. DEPTH. But I suppose for now I’ll have to wait until Saturday to find out how this will all play out. Hopefully people get their heads screwed on tight and open their eyes.

Conflict in anime is good.

Always getting what you want in anime is not good.

-Daniam