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thoughts on ataru: the first love and the last kill – initially watched 12/6/16

(content warning: mentions of suicide)

mimi’s brief summary: the crew is back at it again and this time, due to a brand new confusing mystery, our favorite chokozai is accused of some pretty bad stuff.

so, this is an unhappy review. if you liked the movie and/or you also dont want to read me bashing it, then it’s all good. what does it mean for a movie to be bad? it’s all subjective… but anyway, this is about my feelings. here we go!

god, i dont even know where to begin with this movie. i’m just gonna flat out say it: i really, really didnt like it. i may as well even go as far as saying “i hated it”. there were some wonderful little bits here and there, but it wasn’t enough to save the poor thing.

perhaps the addition of the new character (madoka, played by maki horikita) added a whole new layer to the series in general and would add more insight to what the hell the ~primary antag~ of the story was up to, and add more development and backstory stuff to chokozai, and overall add more development to the world of ataru in general. i didn’t particularly have my hopes up for this movie, and i was certainly right in feeling that way.

Screenshot from 2017-05-06 22:05:36.png

things i liked: maiko and chokozai’s reunion. it was so nice to see them happy! their friendship matters a lot to me, so at least this made me smile. i loved it, but i specifically loved this:

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(really, nobody unconditionally loves chokozai more than maiko unconditionally loves chokozai. what’s sweeter than her bursting into an official meeting, screaming in excitement and cuddling her best friend? basically nothing, especially in this disaster of a movie.)

also this:

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(sawa’s body pillow of himself. this got a chuckle out of me. what a guy…)

things i disliked: geez, where do i begin? first of all, it wasnt enough time to actually establish a fondness for this new character. second of all, even if we *did* have time, the new character is just… written so poorly that i couldnt feel for anything that occured throughout the movie. this entire movie was just so weirdly written that i couldn’t enjoy it. what the hell?

i’ve had my fair share of “bad movies that i sincerely, unironically enjoyed”, so i have a taste for what it feels like to like a bad movie. but this… this is ridiculous. the writing is so confused. what is “evil”? what does it mean to have a sense of morality and justice? why is chokozai suddenly treated like he’s incapable of having a sense of morality? why is the ~primary antag~ suddenly treated as being a part of the main crew? why is he sympathetic again?! why are his actions considered good? his actions are literally what caused the entirety of this absolute disaster!

the addition of madoka’s character really feels like a retcon overall, and i dont feel like it was an interesting or necessary addition to chokozai’s backstory. there is a certain sweetness to their friendship in the flashbacks, but the fact that the main antag ~tore them apart~ for his own reasons, along with it essentially becoming a toxic friendship just left a horrendous taste in my mouth.

also what’s with the claim that chokozai can’t tell the difference between “good and bad”, and the implication that he doesnt know anything about empathy and sympathy? what’s with the heavy dehumanization? the point of the show was to highlight that chokozai takes on these cases and solves them *because* he wants to help on his own accord, rather than him doing things just because he was trained to. the point is that he learns to do what he wants… he wants to help people, he feels strongly about his family and friends, so what the hell?

*spoilers incoming*

i just feel so, so weird about the way this movie played out, and how strangely this madoka character was written. first it’s her wanting revenge on chokozai, pinning all kinds of crimes on him. then the big secret is revealed, that she had used him as a scapegoat, and suddenly he’s very determined to comfort her again, just like old times. then there’s this really weird and unsettling “together forever”ness that’s suddenly thrown in, followed by what can probably only be described as the writers essentially thinking “oh, its so sweet that she wants them to be together forever, let’s have her plan to kill themselves together in the place where they first met. that’s proof that their friendship is super important, right?” like… she was very obviously doing terribly after the two were separated, and i guess the ending is nudging you towards sympathizing with her and not getting upset with her actions. in the end it’s only her that dies, and she had rigged the gun chokozai had, so that he wouldnt get hurt at all. what the hell?

so who’s left to get angry at? the guy who messed them both up in the first place, right? yet, there he is crying his fake tears over madoka’s death, saying that he regrets it… when even here now, and even in the show, he regretted absolutely nothing that he did and only sees them as tools for his own gain. so if i’m not supposed to get mad at him either because hes ~mourning~ who’s left? the writers, i guess. good god, this grey morality and fake regret nonsense was already tiring in the show, and it’s even worse in the movie. it really makes you wonder how you couldve better spent your time instead of watching this. honestly!

*end spoilers*

the continuous use of chokozai as a prop and a tool, combined with madoka and the further proof that neither of these characters should be used as props or tools, followed by very obvious proof that being treated like that is detrimental to their mental health (as if to rub it in your face, force-feed it to you – “it’s bad! what was done to them is bad!”), and then suddenly pulling back and saying (through sawa and maiko, and their acceptance of this entire thing) Well Actually, This Antag Shouldn’t Be Held Accountable Because He’s Sad About It Now…. i dont even know what to say, honestly.

essentially, to have this intense drama about chokozai wrongly being accused of all these crimes, then to have the truth unfold, and then to have a supposedly-heartwrenching death of a character that we barely even had time to feel for. it’s just angst fodder.

the reason *why* i enjoyed the show was because it felt like chokozai was in a safe and happy environment where he truly learned what it was like to feel loved and to learn what it means to have autonomy and freedom instead of being treated like a lab rat, but for the show (and the movie) to suddenly be back in square one, to have him being spoken about as if he were an experiment just infuriates me. this entire movie was a complete mess.

tl;dr: literally watching paint dry is a more heartfelt story and emotionally satisfying ending than whatever the hell this movie was, or was trying to be. yeesh.

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thoughts on ATARU – initially watched 12/6/16

mimi’s brief summary: hyperintelligent man with savant syndrome and a mysterious past (he calls himself chokozai, played by masahiro nakai) teams up with a hotheaded + empathetic detective (maiko ebina, played by chiaki kuriyama) and her jaded self-obsessed coworker (shunichi sawa, played by kazuki kitamura) to solve the various mysteries that have other people completely stumped.

i initially watched this show in december of last year. as a big fan of ko takeuchi’s art, i wanted to know who “chokozai” was, and what all the fanart was about. what was that little stuffed animal? what’s with the curry soup? who are the other characters?

so, this was my first experience in jdrama murder mysteries… an interesting first choice, now that ive watched other shows and can compare them. now, i want to say right now that i am terrible at writing non-spoiler reviews since i always ramble on and on about the specifics, but i’ll do my best here.

i’ve noticed as i watch more and more of these types of shows, it always starts off as a mostly-fun quirky little show about a team solving daily mysteries, and then it starts to twist itself into a bigger plotline, until ultimately throwing you the ending along something big to ponder. while i like that pattern, there are many things about this specific show that didn’t sit well with me.

things i liked: the friendship development of the 3 main characters, the twists of each case, the ways in which chokozai’s backstory is revealed, the humor of it all (maiko’s hotheadedness, the interactions between the three of them), and the final case is ultimately very emotional and feels like true closure…

things i disliked: the actual ending-ending. it felt completely pointless. the writers’ treatment of chokozai as a character (primarily with the ending), the weird wishy-washy indecisiveness of whether or not the “main antagonist” of the show is ~truly a bad person~ (again, primarily with the ending). it feels like the writers weren’t quite certain if they wanted this character to be seen as sympathetic or not (he shouldn’t).

*vague* spoilers begin here

while it feels like ending-ambiguity is a common theme in a lot of jdramas, the way it was done here feels like a complete waste of time. in the vaguest sense: making the ending of the show very similar to the beginning is a fun callback moment when done correctly, but here it feels like all the development that chokozai got in the 11 episodes were essentially for nothing. for a character to gain a newfound sense of autonomy and then take it away at the end simply doesnt sit well with me. the antagonist character is very obviously extremely manipulative, and uses chokozai for his own gain, but the characters (and by extension, the writers, for writing them that way) seem to wholeheartedly accept that as okay in the end and ultimately chokozai’s sense of autonomy is completely ignored. it was… really unsatisfying to watch. in fact when i initially saw it, i got so angry that i got a headache. incredible

end *vague* spoilers

overall i have rather mixed feelings about the show. the cases itself, and the way they were solved, were interesting. the friendship that develops amongst the main 3 is interesting and sweet. funny, heartfelt, and brings a gentle sense of familial love. the blend of humor within the intensity of each case in the early episodes, or the nice amount of emotions in the logic behind each case and each perspective makes for something truly fun to watch, but the execution of the plot itself was very shaky.

additional thoughts: the development of the main 3 was really what made it for me, specifically in that we have flashbacks for the veteran of the group, sawa, and how he acted very similar to how maiko does in the current time. formerly a hotheaded rookie detective who was the pinnacle of comic relief, he is later promoted as chief and accepts that he “must put aside his emotions for cases” – thus creating the jaded sawa we know and love today.

maiko, being hotheaded and stubborn as she is, wholeheartedly takes on every emotion she feels for each case, and uses them to guide her. sometimes this doesnt go so smoothly, but in the end there’s always a solution to the case, all thanks to chokozai. as the story goes on, and the three of them become closer, sawa learns to have more passion in each case, determined to find the truth. however, he’s still cynical, which is a balance for maiko whos empathy throws cynicism and doubt straight out the window.

with maiko, she’s always motivated for the most part… but when she’s not, it feels realistic. she gets burnt out, and it takes her a bit to recover. it’s nice to see that realistic-feeling portrayal of feeling discouraged and taking a bit of time to spring back into that motivated and determined mindset, and that’s one of the many things i love about her. her determination to find out the truth behind her mother’s case, and the pain she experiences due to that weighing on her family’s shoulders, maiko’s empathy for those seeking the truth in every case truly packs a punch! she refuses to quit until the answer is found. while sawa encourages her to question things more as the episodes go on, she in exchange teaches sawa to feel strongly about these cases as he did in the past. there’s something really wonderful about that development. overall however, the two developed this way thanks to chokozai, who has his own line of development involving gaining autonomy and doing what he wants for the sake of wanting to do these things.

TL;DR: love the characters, the mysterious cases, and the humorous interactions amongst the main cast. hate the suddenly-shaky, wishywashy treatment of the antag (and protag, too!), especially near the end

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first post – 4/23/17

whew, so i guess i started this. i guess i’ve got a few reviews i can polish up and then add to this blog. i hope i can actually keep it running instead of forgetting about it existing, huh.

thanks for reading. heres to more in the future.