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ViVid Strike – It’s the Characters, Stupid


Have fun getting the bugs out of your hair later on.

While ViVid Strike could have benefited from tighter plotting or a few more script revisions, it never forgot one thing that so many anime do forget: it’s not about the plot. It’s the characters, stupid.

To being with, let’s go over the elements I didn’t like. The first is something that chaps my bum, and I started sputtering curses every time I saw it: if you’re throwing up when you’re training, you’re doing it wrong. Same with fainting or working yourself to the point of utter exhaustion. That’s not you “working harder.” That’s you going past the point where you body is saying “You are harming me!”, and not stopping because you’re thick. Over training hurts your body’s ability to recover and will get you WORSE results! So don’t ever let me hear any of y’all endorsing that nonsense. It’s stupid, and I’ll Sky-Severing Knuckle you upside the head.

The other thing that annoyed me was—okay, actually two other things. I’ve never liked the “talent vs skill” plot, but that one was adequately confronted by Nove at the end.

“Don’t you think talent is something that’s only mentioned after the fact? If you succeed, you’ve got talent. But if you fail, then they say you didn’t have it.”

Yes yes YES! Talent is justification after the fact for people who want to believe you had some innate reason why you succeeded, when the real reason is usually that you worked hard, were interested in it, had a good teacher/a smart plan, and were lucky. Jill saying that denigrated Rinne’s hard work! But Nove took that head on, and shredded her argument. Good on her. So not a real complaint there, since the show and I are on the same page. I just wanted to back it up on that theme.

The other part that I didn’t much like was the extended flashbacks into Rinne’s past. This is where I said the script could have benefited from a few more revisions or tighter plotting, because they did better in twenty seconds with an unexplained flashback at the end of episode three (when Rinne and Fuuka were confronting each other after Rinne’s exhibition match) than they did in one and a half episodes of detailed flashbacks during episodes four and five. That short glimpse of Rinne, with a valuable piece of jewelry tossed in the toilet and three girls looming over her, did more to emotionally convey what she was running away from than her blow-by-blow trauma report. Though, to be fair, her destroying her bullies the day after her grandfather died said something that small flashback never could have, and fortunately it didn’t glorify her actions. If it had, I would have stopped watching, instead of just wanting to after seeing little girls getting so brutally beaten.

What I liked, and liked very much, is that the focus was always on the characters. Fuuka and Rinne were not just the main characters, they drove the entire story, and it was their character flaws—mostly Rinne’s—that were the impetus for everything that happened. The tournament never took over the plot, because it wasn’t the point, as shown when the entire last match took place off-screen. The point was to see Fuuka and Rinne reconcile, and unless that took place during the tournament, the tournament wasn’t important.

Which is the other thing I really liked: their final match didn’t take place in the tournament. That would have been an uncomfortable place to set a heart-to-heart battle, so I’m glad it didn’t go that route. Which feeds into the (other) element I seriously liked: the tournament matches didn’t proceed how I expected.

Going into it, I expected that Rinne and Fuuka would fight. They had to, right? And working off the assumption that they’d do it in the tournament, because we were already there and why wouldn’t they, that would mean that Miura and Vivio would need to lose. In the Rinne vs Miura match, they did a good job of making us doubt, but it all turned out as expected . . . and then Vivio came along, and in true Takamachi fashion she befriended the fuck out of Rinne. (Okay, the befriending happened later off-screen, you know what I mean. Like mama, like daughter.) Vivio’s match versus Rinne is what took the series from going largely according to plan, with a side of loli ultra-violence, to something I hadn’t precisely expected.

In the end, ViVid Strike was pretty good. Had I more free time, I probably would have kept up with it instead of marathoning it all this past week, and had I even more time than that, I might have blogged it. (Though there were a few in its way, hi2u Girlish Number—yes, that will be getting an END post, though not from me.) With tighter plotting and a quicker pace, allowing it to up the stakes another time or two and really throw us for a loop, it could have become something outstanding, but as is it never lost sight of what’s important. This was a character story, about two friends who had to punch the fuck out of each other until they understood each other again. We got that, and the happy ending it provides.

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December 21, 2016 at 1:02 am
18 comments »
  • December 21, 2016 at 2:41 amNex

    I’ve been wondering if this would get any more coverage for the ending, glad you were able to give the show a full watch.

    As a longtime Nanoha fan I’ve got some pretty mixed feelings, in a way it’s still hard to get over the fact that this, well, isn’t technically Nanoha. I tend to super agree with putting the characters first, part of what has kept me so attached to the franchise, but in ViVid Strike’s case that was part of what let me down.

    Fuuka completely won me over and I’d love to see more of her, especially since she felt slightly lacking in screentime in her own show. Rinne though… Honestly just dragged the show down for me. Her entire backstory and even the use of school bullies felt totally at odds with what we’ve seen of the Nanoha universe, and yeah that’s mostly my personal hangup, but I just didn’t buy the way it completely consumed her character. She still lives a pretty damn idyllic life with loving, supportive parents, but is so hung up on the fact that someone died through no fault of her own, that we don’t get anything else from her. It just wore thin after a while. And then, to nobody’s surprise, everything gets fixed after one good fight, her nearly murdering three girls is totally fine because she hates herself too, and now she’ll slot in with the rest of the cast like nothing ever happened.

    There was still a lot to like, I’m not dismissing the show entirely, but several aspects of it really did feel mishandled. If nothing else I’m curious about ViVid Strike’s future, it’s such a weird situation, being a spin-off but also basically impenetrable to new viewers. I’m sure Fuuka and Rinne will show up again in some fashion, at least.

    • December 21, 2016 at 10:13 amStilts

      The Nanoha series has always had a tendency to get more serious than you’d think it would, so I don’t think that was out of character. They might have gone too far, and like I said, if it had glorified her actions, I would have stopped watching. Though also, since I marathoned, I got to sprint on past that one rather than dwelling on it for a week, so that might have helped too.

      I think the thing to bear in mind is that people’s emotional hangups can be completely illogical. What matters most is, when they’re established, do they remain consistent? Which Rinne’s largely were. Though whether her plot annoys is still subjective, and marathoning probably helped me there as well.

      This isn’t just a spin-off—it’s a spin-off of a spin-off of a spin-off. What a journey it’s been to get here!

      • December 21, 2016 at 9:33 pmNex

        Yeah, it was more or less consistent and we saw what we needed to, but I still wish her actions hadn’t been swept under the rug quite so much. I think it just bugs me that one of our main protagonists was SO CLOSE to literally being a murderer, omitting any consequences feels like quiet approval. To me she came off as clearly unhinged and dangerous there and even some present scenes (Like choking Fuuka early on), but that was more or less abandoned to make the audience feel sorry for her.

        At least in Nanoha, where yeah later good characters actually did kill people, they were in situations with life or death stakes. Trying to milk the same drama from school bullies and magic sports kinda fell flat for me.

        At least for whatever comes next, that’s all over with, I guess.

    • December 21, 2016 at 2:04 pmOliviaven

      At the rate we are going in the manga, It’s going to be years before we get to see them again since it has only been 2-3 months since Show Spoiler ▼

  • December 21, 2016 at 8:36 amdewgong

    Never was a fan of Vivid series as I didn’t really buy the whole “Mahou Shoujo + MMA” premise.

  • December 21, 2016 at 12:48 pmVyseLegendaire

    Im a long time Nanoha fan and watched everything. I still had trouble differentiating the massive cast of similar looking hair-color swap moe charas. Damn this show really needs to reinvent itself with an adventure plot or a save the world premise like StrikerS because this whole MMA tourney thing is getting way long in the tooth. I did genuinely care about the rivalry between between Rinne and Fuuka and thought it was well handled for the most part. Please make the next show about something else guys, please please….

    • December 21, 2016 at 1:55 pmOliviaven

      Vivid was never intended to be the main story, it was supposed to be a side story. The main story line, Force from the original creator got axed (long hiatus for years) and Sound Stage X never got a anime/ manga adaptation.

      • December 22, 2016 at 8:11 amVyseLegendaire

        it sure as hell looks and sounds like the main story right now to me. That is where i’m coming from. Maybe it started different but that’s where it went.

  • December 21, 2016 at 5:04 pmVortigen

    I actually really liked Strike as a whole, but there were things I wish were better handled.

    How should I say this… it kind of defeats the point of confronting the unhealthiness and unhappiness of a character’s way of dealing with her guilt and suffering if it turns out she just needed to realize she liked it in the end, in contrast to what everything in the surprisingly well-done development showed throughout.

    I certainly /get/ what they were going for with ‘Oh Rinne does actually like martial arts, but she was obsessively disallowing herself from being happy and attributing it to the world still blaming her and being inhospitable’. But, much like a great part of the extended flashbacks (and I completely agree with your judgement on what was worthwhile in that part of the series, Stilts), it wasn’t executed in a satisfactory manner. It was lacking in coherency with the forward ideas that were being explored and elaborated. Like, I’m not going to claim she doesn’t get to feel disproportionately guilty and weak over the death of a dearly beloved family member in the coincidental proximity of all the other things going wrong in her life, but the time spent focusing on that made it seem like he’d gotten shot physically protecting Rinne or something instead of passing away quietly. The burden of personal responsibility she was putting on it was unconvincing to the viewer.

    All in all it somewhat felt like the writers went three quarters of the way there, then pulled back a quarter of the way because they wanted everyone to already have happiness grasped and they didn’t want the other side to seem unambiguously right about things. And they weren’t entirely, but they already had their bridges to burn and their perspectives to widen (Vivio and Einhart and Nove way before Strike, and Fuuka in the first third of the show). And throughout the show, the points of view which were being questioned and had the most room to be disputed and indeed were fraught with problems of single-mindedness were Rinne and Jill’s.

    Speaking of Jill, her arc was much the same, where they doubled back at the end and it felt like they justified her projecting onto Rinne and absolute certainty in her own judgement and sometimes repetitive beating of the “talent is definitely superior” button by, well, making Rinne accepting of it and mostly moving on. It’s not difficult to see what the point was with Jill, that she has a complex because of her own insecurities and where she came up short in the past and was disappointed, and even though she was projecting she was also taken in by Rinne because she empathized with her feelings. The troublesome things she did or said and the character flaws she showed also did not feel completely addressed at the very end in relation to the focus they occupied over the series.

    But at the very least, as mentioned, Nove put a really good, very pertinent end note on that theme.

    • December 21, 2016 at 6:03 pmStilts

      Pretty much all of your points are why I said the script could have used a revision or two. A lot of the right elements were there, they just weren’t there ENOUGH, or weren’t followed through with well enough, or they needed to be tweaked slightly to go from cringe-worthy or troublesome to something grand. It may well have been a failure of the last mile—they ran all this way and did all this work, but didn’t put the necessary effort into refining the script until it could have been an absolute gem. Close, but the realm of legend is beyond their reach.

      Still a fun show, though.

      • December 21, 2016 at 6:24 pmVortigen

        Definitely still fun! I’m particularly critical because they got so much *right* in the foundation and basic structure of the show that I feel like some higher productions values would’ve flubbed on (such as, of course leaving Rinne and Fuuka’s fight outside of the tournament, while handling the rising of the stakes and the tension on both sides very climactically in Rinne’s victory against Miura and her gripping, uncertain, but ultimately gritty and satisfying defeat by Vivio).

        And, this is not really noteworthy praise so much as satisfied acnowledgement that they didn’t go for something that would’ve been on the nose, but I am glad that the show didn’t answer the questions posed by Rinne’s personal misery in comparing herself to Vivio and Einhart by blatantly showcasing all the actually difficult things they went through to get the happiness they have today.

  • December 22, 2016 at 12:27 amewok40k

    I loved how Vivio’s heartfelt enthusiasm and dedication overcame limits of her body…

  • December 22, 2016 at 6:12 amJeffers

    Rinne’s teacher is like that bitch in aokana anime who pursues “perfection”… When vivio beats teh crap outta Rinne I was like laughing sadistically, and I said there goes your perfect hahaha…

    Good thing,this anime went to the best ending.. That is they became friends again and also nakajima and Rinne teacher teamed up. Now imagine a einhard-vivio tag team or rinne-fuuka, one could say, NERF PLEASE.

  • December 22, 2016 at 10:25 amEnan84

    liked Vivid strike, too. The drama was ok. Rinne’s backstory felt a bit constructed, but watching cute girls punching each other in the face was great.

  • December 23, 2016 at 12:41 amFlareKnight

    I agree with the idea that the characters are what should be important. When I care about the characters, then I care more about the show.

    However, I disagree that Vivid Strike understood that. It absolutely forgot that. The show forgot that Fuuka was a character, much less the main character. She basically disappears from the story in any important sense from episode 4 to episode 9. She was at the level of a side character if not below that for a little under half the show. The failure with Fuuka is the critical flaw for Vivid Strike.

    Fuuka starts out pretty well. She makes a good first impression in the opening episode and has potential. Though they pretty quickly simplify her down. Her own orphan background, her temper, getting into fights with gangs, some issues with the wealthy, all of that is pretty pushed off after the first episode. Even her relationship with Rinne is at times utterly ignored. It never felt like the writers knew what they wanted to do with her. Her fairly calm response to Rinne’s background could have worked, but then we see in the last episodes how much Rinne’s tortured mindset does bother her.

    The show needed to cut to Fuuka more. Cut to her during the flashbacks, cut to her during Rinne’s fights against Miura and Vivio. When the show gets to the Fuuka vs Rinne fight, we don’t even really know how she feels at this stage. It almost feels like a bully picking a fight because she doesn’t like Rinne’s attitude, not that she cares about her on any level.

    During Vivio’s fight against Rinne…she stole main character status. Sure she should matter in her own fights, but Fuuka was basically a ghost at that point. The only focus she had was being impressed at Vivio’s skills.

    What they did right and basically focused entirely on was Rinne, Rinne, and Rinne (and Jill). Basically from episode 4 onward (and arguably episode 3) Rinne took over main character status. Not simply sharing it, taking the whole darn thing and running with it until the very end. Even the fight between Fuuka and Rinne….was about Rinne. Fuuka being able to push her and be dangerous was simply there to have Rinne deal with her own problems herself. There was no befriending. Rinne literally tapped into her own skills, found a revelation on her own, and recovered from her trauma on her own. Fuuka being an old friend was a factor. But nothing Fuuka really said or did actually lead to Rinne’s breakthrough.

    So I think while the story could have been done better, it was the characters that was a bigger issue. They mishandled Fuuka terribly. Maybe they should have made Rinne the sole main character from the start.

    • December 23, 2016 at 1:50 amEnan84

      Wait, I’m sure the Fuka of episode one was another person from the Fuka we have seen in the rest of the show. How you mix the two up?

    • December 23, 2016 at 5:54 pmVortigen

      It didn’t strike (heh) me to point this out before, but that’s actually a very pertinent point. I was expecting Fuuka’s personal, internal issues to have more time dedicated to them and take longer to unravel, and in hindsight I have to say that much of what they spent laying it on thick with Rinne could’ve been distributed to a more balanced and well-paced exploration of Fuuka.

      Granted I didn’t feel we were missing anything with Fuuka, but with Rinne the additional investment was clumsy, and the time dedicated to both of them really should have been better distributed.

  • December 23, 2016 at 11:56 amLonghaul

    I felt Strike did an okay job handling the large cast of characters, Ixy standing out the most as a “who?” to anime viewers.