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Maru’s always quick to lose his cool. Yeah, we updated, WHAT OF IT?? Expect more, you know, updates, on update days moving forward.

A while ago I backed a kickstarter for this independent animation Under the Dog, maybe you heard of it. They released a ‘pilot episode’ for a potential series. I watched it, it was gods awful. And, I mean, I looooove Sword of the Stranger, and this is the same director. But Under the Dog is devoid of any of the charm or heart of SotS and filled to the brim with garbage anime tropes. SPOILERS INCOMING!

So the plot of Under the Dog (or at least this pilot episode) is that there are, like, monster people, and the Japanese government, or some organization that I think is part of the Japanese govt, basically makes teenage girls hunt for ‘the chosen one who will bring hope to the world’. Don’t ask me why they’re looking for HOPE, as there’s basically not elaboration on this point. Also, the girls are special in that they seem to have monster-person abilities, which basically amounts to glowing green eyes and above average/superhuman strength and speed.

Anyway, 80% of the episode is from the perspective of a teenage girl, Hana, who’s got to evac this teenage boy, who her handlers think is potentially ‘THE ONE’, out of his school and back to her handlers before he gets captured/killed/whatever by a bunch of American marines. Hana is actually being coerced into this mission because the organization giving her orders will kill her family if she fails a mission. Why is this? Dunno. For an organization searching for LITERAL HOPE, they’re pretty freakin’ ruthless in their tactics. ANYway, Hana is depressed and upset throughout the whole episode. She not-quite-Matrix-style fights some marines in the highschool lobby, and eventually gets shot up a bunch, it’s all VERY GRIM. Meanwhile, it turns out the marines aren’t there to hunt the boy, instead they’re after the boy’s father, who is also at the school for reasons I can’t remember or was never given. The marines, speaking laughably corny Engrish dialog, find and shoot the dad to death. But daddy turns out to be a monster man, transforms into a nearly unstoppable Evangelion-looking creature and proceeds to wipe out the marines. But Hana’s organization wants to stop the monster also (I don’t understand why these organizations aren’t just working together since they seem to want the same darn thing), so they send in BLONDE TEENAGE BADASS GIRL.

This girl, I dunno, she’s the character featured in the Kickstarter pitch trailer, and the website labels her as ‘the main character’, and yet she is literally just the Terminator. She comes falling into the school from a plane in this HALO pod thing, shoots a bunch of missiles at the remaining marines and monsters. She pops out of the pod, finds the dying Hana, and, shoots poor Hana in the head (this show has NO JOKES, people, this is some SERIOUS STUFF). I’m still unsure WHY this happened since Hana and blonde girl seemed to be coworkers, and Hana had not actually failed her mission and was still alive. Anyway, because the mopey, depressed Hana dies, Hana’s parents then ALSO DIE (such sad wow), and then blonde girl goes to fight the monsterdad on the school roof. She pulls out a big scifi gun, shoots monsterdad a couple times, and then monsterdad EXPLODES WITH WAVES OF ANIME ENERGY, ripping blonde girl’s shirt half off so we can get an underage boobie in there thanks. The ‘chosen one’ boy is on the roof too, surprise, and the monsterdad attacks him, at which point chosen one’s arm turns into a giant monster blade and pierces monsterdad, turning monsterdad’s head back into a human shape. The ‘chosen one’ boy realizes he just killed his dad with a giant monster arm that he’s never had before and FLIPS THE FREAK OUT (which is totes understandable considering the circumstances). Unfortunately for the ‘chosen one’, it turns out this wasn’t what boob-exposed blonde girl wanted, as it means the boy isn’t actually the chosen one (Apparently monster blade arms are a BIG NO NO if you want to be THE CHOSEN ONE). So blonde girl shoots the boy in the head (seems to be her signature move). FADE TO BLACK ROLL CREDITS GIMME SOMMA DAT SWEET SYNTH GUITAR.

One thing that bugs me about this whole kickstarter is that the original pitch trailer, while not exactly filled with ‘jokes’ or ‘character depth’ does show a lot of slick action involving scifi motorcycles, and gunplay while jumping off skyscrapers and shooting at helicopters. It’s very Ghost in the Shell and I would’ve been fine with a mindless half hour of beautiful action schlock, but the final product has nothing from the trailer. Its animation also never looks as cool as the trailer’s. Granted, the animation in Under the Dog is still very good, but it lacks anything visually memorable. It’s all ‘generic military guys shooting up a bland looking high school’, and ‘rampaging generic monster man’, and the world setting and character designs are forgettable. There’s so little here that doesn’t feel like it’s been done a thousand times in other, more memorable series that it feels like they shouldn’t have even bothered. I mean if you’re going to create such a drab, depressing world where all your characters act hopeless and melancholy, then at least make the main character ANGRY about it, make them EMOTE. Cold, silent badasses are one of my favorite tropes, but if everyone else in the story is sad and depressed, the lack of emotional contrast is numbing. And maybe don’t kill your narration character three quarters of the way through the story of your pilot episode for your cool new action show. Also, NOT EXPLAINING THE MOTIVATION BEHIND WHAT’S HAPPENING DOES NOT MAKE ME WANT TO KNOW MORE, especially when you have two organizations that seem to want the same thing! Anyway, I could keep going on about why I found Under the Dog distasteful, but I also need to update the comic so I’ll stop!

Maybe I’m just annoyed because my name is in the credits of this turd.

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  • SKy

    Wow, that sounds like a first rate forgettable garbage anime. I’m sorry to hear you lost money on that… :(

    • Kid Chaos

      And people complain that Evangelion is hard to understand. 😜

      • http://www.nn4b.com suburban_samurai

        Evangelion’s plot is incoherent, unless you’re watching Digibro’s analysis videos. But as a stand alone work without the context of the production cycle and the creators involved, Eva’s total nonsense!

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D6O-id9uLvU&list=PLw6UBKuaMyFA2iVd1eubB_AOp-C8jvp0T

        • SlugFiller

          The first cour actually makes sense as a standalone story. And even contains hints of the genre deconstruction angle right from the first two episodes. It’s the second half, especially the ending, that gets weird. This is why people find excuses for it to be non-canon, and even Rebuild drops the original at the end of the second movie.

    • SKy

      Okay, I watched it. I don’t think it’s as bad as your comment makes it. I even think I’ll continue watching it – at least for a few more episodes. Maybe that’s just because this anime is made for people like me who go through every minor detail, interpreting the given information without explicitly being told the specifics – or if that habit is just trying to make it better than it actually is…

      Anyway, here’s how I understood it (with only the information given in the episode):

      Spoilers!
      Apparently there’s some kind of superhumans created to be the “hope of humanity” – aka higher, better, faster, stronger – that are split into two groups: The “White” can control their abilities and are mostly like normal humans except for the abilities the “Flower” agents show (superhuman agility, strength, regeneration, some kind of telekinesis). The “Black” are the failed versions. They can barely control their powers and constantly run the risk of turning into monster-like feral things, called “Pandora”. In this state their powers appear to be far greater than the usual Whites’. The change seems to be triggered by extreme stress and/or injury (not sure yet). Albeit it seems to surprise the authorities Whites can apparently also turn into Pandoras under certain circumstances – as seen on the boy, Hana and 03 (the blond badass girl). An interesting future plot point…

      Speaking of the boy: He’s never explicitly called the Chosen One or Hope of Humanity or something. When Hana calls him “our hope” I think she means a far narrower “we”: Her family. The way I understand it, Whites are very rare, but since they’re the only ones who really stand a chance against a Pandora (we saw one survive a large scale bombing), Flower – needlessly poetic name is needlessly poetic – forces them to cooperate by threatening their family: If they don’t manage to find and recruit another white in a certain amount of time, their family will be killed. Suicide is no way to save your family either, because then they’d not only not gain another member, but lose one. And with subjects as powerful as these you better pull through with your threats – you wouldn’t want them to turn on you when they find out you were bluffing, would you?
      So yeah, he’s her family’s hope to survive and a potential Flower agent.

      Now why did 03 kill Hana and the boy? Hana was about to turn into a Pandora herself. We see 03’s HUD for a few seconds and it displays a “Pandoralization rate” of 80+%. You wouldn’t want to fight two of these things at the same time, so better get rid of her now. Same for the boy – although his case is a bit more curious… He only turned partly and seemed to stay in control – something that apparently hasn’t been observed before. But: No risks! He’s still easily killable, so better do it now and not take the risk of him turning completely – especially since your best agent isn’t the most stable White either right now…

      And about working together with the marines: Apparently they want any whites they come across for themselves too. So they kind of were rivals for the same thing – even though the marines didn’t know at first. Also Hana screwed that up. With this being her last chance to safe her family she couldn’t just let them take him, so she used force to try and keep him/take him back – effectively forcing the others to help her…

      All in all I think while not the most original and innovative anime, it can become a pretty deep and consistent story. It doesn’t make it easy to follow the story, that’s true – and I hope what I interpreted into it isn’t just wishful thinking…
      The animation is decent I think. Maybe a bit flat, but overall good. They could have used better voice actors for the Americans, but props for not going the boring way and letting them speak Japanese.
      On the exposed boob: It’s rare to see something like that even in western media – even more so in a Japanese production. But apart from the “that’s unusual” factor I think it’s better than just going with the “modesty rags” trope for the thousandth time. I mean… It doesn’t look like it was supposed to be erotic and doesn’t get much focus, so I’m just gonna go and view it as a bit added realism.
      About the mood and characters: Yes, there’s mostly depression, fear, coldblooded killing etc. But most of the episode is set in a battle and the preparation thereof. They’re painting a realistic emotionally jarring scenario I think. I just wouldn’t feel right to have someone not being down there – or we’d go Ken and have one psycho character who has fun killing… But that again wouldn’t fit into an organization like Flower… Yes, they’re all very flat at the moment and the only one with a bit of character got killed off, but there’s still hope I think. 😉

      Man did that turn out to be a long text…

      • http://www.nn4b.com suburban_samurai

        Ha, SKy, you were clearly paying more attention than me! I have to concede, the plot was more clearly stated than I realized, but I was too busy hating everything to notice. Granted, I didn’t go into the episode wanting to hate it, so my own personal dislike of Under the Dog is legitimate, and I think it just comes down to not liking any of the characters. I just love ensemble casts and colorful personalities in story telling. I can get tripped up on baffling, incoherent plots, but if the characters are a lot of fun, I can forgive a lot.

        If Hana had been making sarcastic comments the whole episode, being fed up with her situation, and if blonde girl had come in with an exuberance for battle, and if the high school boy had been a stammering idiot who didn’t know how to speak to girls and gave us some awkward teen comedy, and Hana was super over it and they were bantering and giving amusing exposition while evading the marines, then her death would’ve hit me hard because I would’ve liked her.

        Either way, I did a disservice with my plot analysis, yours is far superior!

        • SKy

          Yeah, in the end it probably just comes down to preference. The character traits you describe would have made it worse for me personally. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

          • http://www.nn4b.com suburban_samurai

            You have a very high angst tolerance threshold!

          • SKy

            I’m mostly just annoyed by the standard anime stereotypes. And that to a point where even a series with nothing but angst-ridden depressed no-ones seems better then yet another installment of tsundere X loser-turned-hero…
            I LOVE deep, realistic and consistent characters. I’d even watch an anime with no story whatsoever as long as the characters are good. 90% just give you flat puppets though. Sometimes they have some (makeshift) reason to act that way or develop from one archetype to another (or even – god forbid! – gain another dimension!), but only very rarely you find a character who feels like an actual person.
            I don’t expect Under the Dog to go that far, but since the first episode seemed to mostly focus on introducing the world and setting I still don’t rule out decent characters. We barely know anything in that regard yet.

            We’ll see in a few episodes.

          • mwm

            I watched the episode too, and I have a few things to add to the conversation as a whole. Firstly, yeah; it’s alright. It did everything it needed to get done, I guess. Animation was fine, the action worked, the direction made sense, yada yada. Rather than those, I wanna talk about these three things: The implied conflict between group decision-making and the individual’s responsibility to carry those out, a couple details about the father-son relationship, and how this show has no idea what a military is.

            First off, the show actually put in some (I would argue) pretty clever and consistent nods to the irrationality and emphasis on survival that comes when you’ve got an organization making decisions. The HUD you see during Hana’s death does say that her Pandoralization (ugghhh) is close to 100%, yes, but it also says “DESIGNATED FOR DISPOSAL”. That designation wasn’t placed by Anthea when she realized how dangerous Hana was; it was placed by someone far, far away, with far less information. Now, any sane coworker would, under this situation, say a few encouraging words and then slip her some Ambien. Boom, crisis averted. But that wasn’t Anteha’s choice to make. Some point earlier, some general had seen Shunichi being huddled by Marines with Hana nowhere to be found; It *looked* like she had failed, so she was punished. Then, we’ve got anthea left in the middle of an obviously wrong decision that she has to follow and the correct option that she isn’t able to pursue. Sucky spot. Organizations don’t try for the most hopeful option, or spend time gathering facts to make the best decision; they try for the safest option.

            Well, that’s my take on it anyways, who knows if it was intentional. I’d argue there’s a couple other nods to the irrationality of groups in this episode, but, let’s not make this comment *too* bloated.

            Next up, the father-son dealy. Shunichi, when confiding with Hana, reveals that his father left him when he was young, and that his mother always believed that the dad was doing something really important. At another point, we find that the dad is an escaped test subject, and the marines are here to retrieve him. Boom. Daddy’s been sitting in a cage for all these years, and he’s broken out to meet up with his long lost son. Tragedy set.

            At various points, we see Daddy-EVA retrieving his son, protecting him from a minigun, and shielding him from the SCUD launch. We also see that Daddy-EVA makes no attempt to attack Anthea until Anthea rips his arm off; in fact, Daddy-EVA consistently attacks only those people who are trying to kill him or actively in between him and his son. Shunichi never realizes that Daddy-EVA is his daddy, and so mistakes his Dad’s attempts to protect him as an attack and so kills him. Tragedy complete, job well done production team. And here again, we see that the decisions made by organizations are felt as tragedies by individuals.

            Lastly, this show has no clue how a military works. There’s some iffy stuff in how these Marines are using either borrowed Army Blackhawks or borrowed Navy Seahawks, but that *would* make sense if this unit was a bunch of XCOM style badasses that needed the long-range transport capacity that a Blackhawk provides. Using TOW humvees in a direct fire support role is kinda sketchy, but it’s not *wrong*. the Marines using an Army Apache over their own Cobra is absolute horseshit though, and so is posting an MLRS on the football field. Well, Iunno, maybe the best place for a long-range artillery platform is 100 feet from its target.

            And these guys clearly *are* marines, probably Marine raiders, minus the skull patch, and the glorious, glorious beards. Because hand-picked special forces operatives having served several years of high intensity frontline service make the best disposable mooks. I don’t remember Ghost in the Shell ever treating any of its antagonists as cheap fodder; even the untrained panicky militia guys were dangerous and had to be treated with very careful, very agile tactics. But, here? Hana just keeps walking in front of their guns and can barely be hit because… mooks. The squad tactics are a little too convenient, the radio communication is nonsensical, and everyone’s walking around with the exact same gun, instead of, y’know, having an automatic riflemen, or a couple grenadiers, maybe someone with a breaching shotgun, or anything that makes these guys anything more than mooks.

            Now, the part I really wanna talk about is, there’s a shot at 24:30 where the Blackhawk is shooting at Daddy-EVA WITH A GUN THAT DOES NOT EXIST. The Blackhawk in that shot is firing directly forward, something the side-mounted machine guns can’t do. The tracers are literally being spawned in mid-air, adjacent to the chopper. It’s the best thing about this episode. (inb4 someone tells me it’s an MH-60M DAP. No, no it isn’t,)

            Now, I know I’m being banal, but I do think it’s important for a work like this to be grounded. With Ghost in the Shell, there’s innumerous examples of realistic combat making the work more that much more interesting.

            Would the climactic fight from the first movie have been as interesting if the Major just ran around tantruming a while before remembering she had a grenade to beat her opponent? Or was it better because she simply had nothing that could penetrate its armor, yet forced herself to beat it, even to the point of ripping her own arms off?

            Would it have been more interesting if, when trying to hold off a competing Special Forces unit, the opponents walked down a corridor and died one after another? Or was it better for the protagonists to admit that they weren’t going to beat a superior number of similarly trained soldiers, carefully giving ground in a way that bought themselves as much time as possible?

            Would it have been as interesting if the Major used her rifle to smack around her armored opponent? Or was it better that she was shooting a high-powered rifle that couldn’t (quite) penetrate her opponent’s armor, but progressively dented it to the point where he couldn’t breath?

            Under the Dog might be able to pursue an emotional story about individuals using the aesthetics of Ghost in the Shell, but it clearly is not capable of being Ghost in the Shell. So, yeah, basically on the same page as you SKy.

          • http://www.nn4b.com suburban_samurai

            More Stand Alone Complex, now THAT I could get behind!

          • Kid Chaos

            Have you seen the “Arise” series of OVAs? They’re kind of “SAC” prequels, and they’re pretty good! 😎

          • http://www.nn4b.com suburban_samurai

            Oh, you mean the Microsoft Tablet commercial starring GitS characters?

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g4hXADk6BQU

            I did watch Arise. Aside from being bemused by the hilarious product placement, I was initially really excited for it, but it disappointed me. It was clearly done by a different team than Stand Alone Complex. It felt like it was echoing the best parts of the franchise without adding anything new or memorable. It also wasn’t a prequel because the timelines had too many incongruencies and contradictions. It was definitely a reboot, and on the same level of the Star Trek reboots, sort of missing the point while still looking similar to the original.

            I can’t even remember the plots of them a few years after having watched them. I do remember they gave the major a love interest, which must’ve made some sort of impression since I can remember it happened. The Major, in general, was completely different character how she’s portrayed in Stand Along Complex and the films. I didn’t hate her, but I didn’t care much about her either. What I love about GitS is that it’s a bunch of hyper competent people doing their near impossibly difficult job extremely well, even in the face of very morally dubious scenarios. I also love it when intelligent people wax philosophical. Mostly I just wish we’d gotten Stand Along Complex Season 3 instead of Arise.

            Also, I definitely recall that Motoko loses her arms A LOT in Arise. It’s like they stopped making super durable android bodies or something for that series. It was one of those things where the franchise established that when the Major loses a limb, it means shit just got real, because it was a very rare situation for her to be in. But in Arise it happened like every episode, so it lost all impact immediately.

      • Xinef

        So… it’s yet another story about racism, good “whites” and bad “blacks”?

        • SKy

          Why yes, it’s racism as soon as you apply “white” and “black” to distinguish between people who can control their abilities and those who can’t… 😛

        • http://www.nn4b.com suburban_samurai

          good shiro, bad kuro

      • Kid Chaos

        You had me at “needlessly poetic name is needlessly poetic”. 😜

  • Xinef

    On the topic of governments not wanting to cooperate… you really expect governments to act rational? REALLY?

    • http://www.nn4b.com suburban_samurai

      What was I thinking??

  • IDPounder

    Eh, Tanaka’s no worse than most senior officers I’ve ever known.

    • http://www.nn4b.com suburban_samurai

      Story time!

      • IDPounder

        Heh not much of a story, I guess. I did some time in the Army, so I’ve had a lot of exposure to military command structure. Despite what the movies tell you (and a few outliers like Patton who wouldn’t be allowed to exist today), a senior officer is first and foremost a career government employee, which means they’re a career bureaucrat. They didn’t get to their position by initiative and doing the right thing, they got there by being patient, not taking chances, having a high bullshit tolerance and never questioning orders. They’re very conservative people, although usually competent people managers. In this I think (whether on purpose or not) you two really pegged Tanaka’s personality as a senior military officer.

        If you’re looking for the heroic types you need to look at the more junior officers (who haven’t been there long enough to have their spirits crushed by the system), and the occasional really good mid-to-senior NCOs, particularly if they’re combat arms. That’s not to say there aren’t a lot of the bureaucrat-type NCOs out there (still by far the majority), but because NCOs are closer to the consequences of decisions, they tend to be more mindful of poorly-considered orders.

  • Flaming Squirrel

    Genchu’s like.

    • http://www.nn4b.com suburban_samurai

      Maru’s never had a friend like Genchu,

  • Falling Star

    Well, this is awkward.

  • SlugFiller

    I checked out the trailer, and it mostly made me think of Noir. Which was crap. So maybe that’s the exact sort of crap they were going for?

    Honestly, it sounds awfully similar. Shadow organizations making trained girls kill people. Tons of faceless soldier people being slaughtered by a main character little girl. Everything is sad, and characters are introduced basically to be killed off. And everyone betray everyone, and someone’s parents are killed.

    Yup, it’s basically Noir.

    But with blood (WOW, Noir was crap, when you think about it)

    • http://www.nn4b.com suburban_samurai

      I really like Noir when I saw it all those years ago, back when I ‘d watch any anime I could get my hands on. Upon subsequent viewing I totally agree, it’s just a bunch of bad anime garbage. Still a great soundtrack, though! (I’m pretty sure that was the main reason I liked it back in the day)

      • SlugFiller

        I wouldn’t call it “anime garbage”. It’s not trope/moe ridden. Just bland and silly. If anything, it’s closer to “Hollywood garbage”.

        And yeah, Kajiura is Noir’s saving grace. I think that without her, no one would have even heard about that anime, let alone recommended it. I think the reason I watched Noir in the first place is because of how good Kajiura was in .Hack//Sign.

        But between all the invincible heroes (At least in Andromeda, the shot deflectors were canon), the pointless repeated flashbacks that tell you nothing, and the overly forced “You should feel bad about this character because there’s an apex in the music”, not to mention the waves upon waves upon waves of redshirts that we’re somehow not supposed to care about, it’s really one long facepalm.

        But at least, at the end, I wasn’t as sad that the heroes survived, as I was when SaiKano ended. It was more “Why did I watch this?” and less “Someone shoot them in the head! PLEASE!”

      • Kid Chaos

        So much Noir hate! It makes me sad, because I really liked that series. 😥

        • http://www.nn4b.com suburban_samurai

          I remember liking that first episode where she flips over a nameless grunt stops herself from falling off a building by holding onto his tie, while at the same time choking him.

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