Mr. Tines wrote:
I felt this to be one of the few times the anime was better than the manga it adapted. The original manga was a disappointing mess compared with Appleseed
; Human-Error Processor
felt like a warmed-over Appleseed
side story and Man-Machine Interface
suffered from being post-Kobe earthquake.
I disagree, basically because I consider Appleseed to be way too straightforward (along with Orion & most of Shirow's other stuff). Shirow was firmly in the wheelhouse of guns-robots-science-and-hot-girls, and then produced the GitS manga that sort of accidentally was a lot deeper and more interesting (and on top of that, also kind of hid the semi-fascistic tendencies in the rest of his work). He built a world where robotics and AI had made international politics more complex in a variety of interesting ways, and then gave us a main character who embodied those complexities and a set of stories that explore them. Appleseed, on the other hand, was a series of stories that had been told better in other manga and that didn't have nearly as much justification for all the wanking over robots and scantily clad women.
I agree that the GitS manga was thematically and stylistically incoherent. However, I feel like it's justified and adds to the world-building -- that it's a positive rather than a negative -- because I see GitS as a story about the complexity of the world and how new technologies have strange interactions with existing social and cultural constructs when they are layered on top of them. (Compare to Shirow's other stuff, which doesn't take place on earth or takes place so far into the future that you can't really connect it to current trends.) GitS isn't about cyborgs -- it's about what happens when the UN gets cyborgs, and what happens when south american terrorist groups and yakuza and police forces and rotary clubs get cyborgs. It's about layering the future on top of the past. And, when you layer the future on top of the past, you get a mish-mash of nonsense that's as funny as a three dollar bill and as serious as cancer.
My problem with the movies, and to a lesser extent SAC, is that they make everything thematically and stylistically coherent. Kusanagi no longer gets flustered; Bateau is no longer accused of being a pervy old man -- after all, despite being grey-legal superhuman mercenaries working for a secret part of the Japanese government with a license to kill and little oversight, they're the good guys and no longer get to have flaws of the silly kind. All their flaws must be serious and weighty. Kusanagi is no longer openly bisexual -- in fact, we never see her show any kind of sexuality (and in the film she's basically entirely sexually and emotionally frigid because Oshii had very different ideas about what cyborgization does to human beings).
Shirow often adds to the complexity in the manga by science-wanking all over the place and adding copious footnotes about manufacturing processes, water displacement by submarines, the mechanics of visual rendering in cyborg eyes... His footnotes add a great deal of missing detail to an already very detailed story, and the show doesn't make any attempt to reintroduce that the way that (say) Monogatari did. If Shirow worked with Shaft to produce a new adaptation of GitS, it would probably be better because we'd at least have footnotes. Instead, we get the pared-down minimalist dialogue of somebody trying too hard to be Neuromancer-era William Gibson. Which doesn't fit with the material, because it leaves no room for exploring and worldbuilding.
Travelling hopefully can be better than arriving (I'm looking at you, Z Gundam). And episodic/short-arc shows measure on a different scale (I'm thinking things as diverse as Mushishi and Zettai Karen Children here).
Yeah. Let me revise my statement a little bit: basically any show is good if you're marathonning it, while you're marathonning it. When I say 26+ episodes, I really sort of mean per season -- if there are clear season breaks along arc lines, wherein you can reasonably call something a sequel season, then it doesn't count. I have a big problem with long-running shows because they are often very amusing while I'm watching them, and two days after I stop watching them I realize they were utter crap. If I stick to 26 episode increments, that particular problem is mitigated -- 26 episodes is a little more than half a day of marathonning. Furthermore, I feel like people have a hard time planning beyond 26 episodes -- once you get too much futher you tend to end up with absurd plot constructions. Even Cowboy Bebop, which was absurdly episodic, wasn't able to extend itself later on -- the movie is absolute crap compared to even the worst single episode.
Long manga can be turned into short shows, because long manga often have exactly the same problems as long shows (needlessly convoluted filler arcs, stupid decisions that are retconned later), and when they are being adapted the worst decisions can be removed -- usually resulting in a shorter show.
When you create a show and you produce it in 1-season chunks with a year or two inbetween, arc-aligned, you have just enough time to come up with a good plan about how to construct each season so it'll be satisfying. (As the number of seasons grows it becomes more difficult to do this, since the complexity of every element grows. Anthology shows like American Horror Story and True Detective prevent themselves from becoming Buffy, and maybe more anime should do this if they want to avoid becoming Bleach.) If you try to make new episodes continuously, particularly if the show isn't particularly episodic, the result is very fast degradation.
With regard to Durarara x2: the original did focus on some characters that were uninteresting to a lot of people, and the new show focused on more interesting characters, sure. And the new show has interesting bits. But the first one, despite being quite complex, fit together really well as a unified whole; they did an excellent job with telling a story in pieces and making the viewer assemble them. I'm not convinced that the new season will link together nearly as well, and if everything doesn't link together, the addition of new pieces just comes off as gratuitous. (That said, when I complained about it yesterday morning, I had just watched the second-to-most-recent episode, which basically came off as an anti-drug PSA. A yakuza enforcer with a huge body count who has plucked out his own eye claims that he hates 'drugs', without specifying what kind or indicating that he distinguishes between addictive and non-addictive, and hints obliquely to an event in his past involving 'drugs', and then we see an event with no drugs involved which we're supposed to believe is related; and then, we proceed to completely screw up the continuity by changing the context of important established events. For a show that traffics in complexity, nuance, manipulation, and casual gore, having an otherwise intelligent and sympathetic character have a comically un-nuanced position breaks suspension of disbelief.)