「襲撃・ESPガールズ」 (Shuugeki Esupu Gaaruzu)
“Attack, ESP Girls”
A rough adaptation gets worse. I’m losing hope.
Worst. Father. Ever.
I thought a certain butler had the worst parents, but the Professor takes the cake. Not only is he a horrible human being, a delusional, mass-murdering terrorist, but he’s actively driving his own daughter down the path of evil in his own misguided and ultimately doomed attempt to remake society through violence. I’m sorry, how often does this work out well for everyone? I could pull out the history books, but I hardly have to. It’s not working well enough in plenty of places in our world today.
Yet what he has done to Minami is worse. Those boys – okay, not great. You can argue it was in self-defense, though the response was perhaps disproportunate when she could have just teleported away. (Though she got her powers three seconds earlier, so who knows if she realized that.) But to convince her that she’s no longer human, and to blame that completely on her… A father is supposed to protect, guide, and nurture his children, not send them down the path of darkness!
I have seen many contemptible villains, but this manages to surpass most of them. He’s the only one who’s an inhuman monster, and I will enjoy seeing him go down.
Rinka is Dead
Killing off characters is tricky. Killing off important characters is even trickier. But killing off the main protagonist is trickiest of all, because we tend to not believe they’ll really go through with it. Rare is the story that will let its protagonist remain dead, whether through Superhero-style resurrections or by never showing the body (trope!). Rinka’s “death” was the worst of all possible worlds. I wouldn’t have believed it normally, but here I knew she wasn’t actually dead because of that damn first episode! So I was still thinking “How are they going to make it so she’s not actually dead?”, but without that little sliver of worry that maybe they wouldn’t. Without that, there was no power in her apparent demise.
Just Kill Her Already!
Then they didn’t even let her stay “dead” for two minutes! GAH! I’m tired of these idiot villains who won’t finish the job. If they’re going to make an example – and do I need to drag out the history books and show how often the bloody-head-on-a-spike tactic works in the long-term? – then just do it! Seriously, when will these idiot villains learn? If you have your enemy in your clutches, kill them! Don’t bask in it! It reminds me of a line from one of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books, which I’m going to reproduce here because I love it so much:
If you have to look along the shaft of an arrow from the wrong end, if a man has you entirely at his mercy, then hope like hell that man is an evil man. Because the evil like power, power over people, and they want to see you in fear. They want you to know you’re going to die. So they’ll talk. They’ll gloat.
They’ll watch you squirm. They’ll put off the moment of murder like another man will put off a good cigar.
So hope like hell your captor is an evil man. A good man will kill you with hardly a word.”
But they didn’t even have the decency to finish the job when it appeared they had. Letting Kyoutarou live I can understand. Minami isn’t a monster yet. Letting Peggy live I can understand as well. That shark thing will probably go to something else if Peggy dies, so they want to keep it under their control. But Rinka? I love Rinka. I don’t want to see her die. She’s the best part of this shoddy adaptation. But I can’t take villains seriously when they don’t follow through.
Blame the Victim
People blaming Rinka for the attack on the school is atrocious. It’s like blaming a rape victim for being raped. It is not her fault. No part of it is her fault. It’s the terrorist’s fault. It’s the criminal’s fault. Yes, if she wasn’t there some particular people would have lived, but they would have attacked her somewhere else. It is not her fault, and this Esper Detainment Force asshole blaming it on her makes me damn near lose it with this .
It’s a difficult trick to stack the odds against a protagonist properly. It feels like all you have to do is ladle on the misfortune and stack everything against them, right? Wrong. There’s a line which, if crossed, turns tension into apathy. When so much is against the protagonists that it seems too unfair, like this world isn’t even worth saving, instead of being thrilling, it becomes disgusting. Where that line is depends on the person, but the Tokyo ESP anime crossed it for me here. When the villains attack you personally, and the people you tried to protect not only take you and everyone you love into custody, but blame you for this tragedy? Fuck it.
Here’s an example. Take the Lord of the Rings movies. (Spoiler alert, if you somehow haven’t seen them.) Denethor’s madness (which was only in the movies, if I remember correctly) worked because there were still many people fighting on the side of good. The protagonist’s desperation worked because there were still people who had hope for a better tomorrow, still people they were fighting for. Frodo’s journey was much more bleak, but because there was still that hope for a better tomorrow, we yearned for the light to come again. When the very people you’re trying to protect turn against you… Ugh.
Look, it can work. The X-men have made it work many times. But they have these great powers and steadfast allies, whereas the protagonists here are like the X-men C Team, B Team at tops. Everything feels so unfair, and while the knowledge that Kobushi, Ayumu, and the others are out there saves it for me, I’m awfully close to the line.
When So Much Is Bad, The Little Things Look Worse
I prefer to damn with faint praise rather than lambaste; it’s the RC way, and it’s the kind of blogging I prefer to read. What good are haters? But the sad fact is that the more that goes wrong in this adaptation, the worse it makes everything else seem. Things I would brush off at other times – Kobushi-chan breaking through the window, for instance – annoy me now. Why wasn’t she shredded up? And I would let that pass other times, but after watching Wolverine Papa leap from the sixth story and land running, without even having him use his powers to justify it I…ugh. I remember saying about Hataraku Maou-sama and No Game No Life that if you do most everything right, I will gladly give you a pass on the rare mistakes. Tokyo ESP hasn’t earned that, so the little things annoy.
It’s been clear for a while now that Tokyo ESP is a failed adaptation. It has done one thing well, though – I want to read the manga. I don’t usually have time to read much manga, but Rinka is such a great character I want to see her story told properly! Maybe I’ll make that my treat after the anime is done.
Note: Next week’s post will likely be delayed. I’m going to be out of the country, and while I’ll try to jump on this ASAP, the post could appear as late as next Sunday. I apologize for any delay. Check my Twitter for updates.
tl;dr: @StiltsOutLoud – Villains attack Rinka’s school, don’t bother to finish her, & then people blame RINKA for the attack. Failed adaptation gets worse #東京ESP 09
- The fight between Rinka and the punching girls was lame. It was a curb-stomp (trope!), but it lacked any power behind it because the pacing and animation was so shoddy. The animation was shoddy throughout the episode, though.
- The title was “Attack, ESP Girls”. There was one guy too, you know. No respect. Or wait, does that mean he’s really a–!? Ugh. Now that idea is in my head.
Check out my blog about storytelling and the novel I’m writing at stiltsoutloud.com. The last four posts: Vacation, & a taste of what’s to come, Life or death, Just plain fun, and Don’t have enough time.