Kappo / Utsu Musume Sayuri

Before we actually talk about either of the two shows listed here, I’ve got a bit of explaining to do. This is hardly the first time I’ve watched something expecting it to be bad, but intentionally deep diving into some of the worst rated anime of all time on MyAnimeList is a whole nother story entirely. To be fair, Kappo had a global rating of 4.20, which isn’t terrible, and honestly I don’t think Kappo is terrible either. The point, though, still stands; the primary reason why this kind-of thing falls outside of my usual comfort zone is because these aren’t traditional shows and can’t really be critiqued in the same way as something like, say, Domestic Girlfriend for example. Both Kappo and Utsu Musume Sayuri are anime on a purely factual level; Japanese animations sharing nothing in common with what most people would describe as “traditional anime”. In terms of watching something I know is going to be terrible, on the one hand I always try to give every show I watch a chance, but on the other I think there is something to be gained by deconstructing really terrible pieces of media and taking away lessons from them on what not to do and what could have potentially been done better. That said, saying it’s difficult to try and give a coherent and in-depth criticism of either Kappo or Utsu Musume Sayuri would be an understatement. Let’s start with Kappo since I mentioned it’s not terrible and we might as well save the worst for last; Kappo is a 4 minute long avant-garde film depicting abstract artwork of long legs and high-heeled shoes being animated in a number of weird ways. That’s literally it. There’s almost nothing I can really say about the show in and of itself, but let me at least try. The very first question that comes to mind when watching something like this is “Why?” No matter how hard I try, it’s difficult to understand what caused this to be made, and the honest truth of the matter is that the whole thing is deeply uninspired and hollow. And that’s not to say the makers should be ashamed of themselves or anything, in all honesty it wouldn’t surprise me if the creator was one dude who got bored one day and decided to kill time by animating a bunch of abstract legs and feet. By contrast to traditional anime-style artwork, whether or not abstract art is good is a subjective matter of perspective. I think that at the very least there was some small amount of effort put in here by the creators, but the art itself doesn’t warrant the attention that it demands from the viewer. People who enjoy modern and abstract art tend to talk about how it breaks conventions and lets the artist depict something outside the scope of reality without trying to imitate things which already exist, but there’s a fine line between genuine creativity and laziness. Giving me a pedestal and telling me to imagine the sculpture sitting upon it is not creativity; and in the same vein, showing me a bunch of weirdly animated long legs and telling me to decide for myself the scope of their true meaning is not creativity either. If anything, it’s leeching off of the creativity of those who are supposed to be appreciating the art, telling them that they need to finish it for themselves and be a part of what makes it complete. I’m sure some people see that as being a good thing, but I think it speaks to the utter lack of creativity from the original artists themselves. Anyways, now that I’m done critiquing modern art, I’d say the moral of the story here is that Kappo is just boring, meaningless and I don’t think I could possibly feel more apathetic about it than I do. Let’s go ahead and move on to the real star of the show here, Utsu Musume Sayuri. Bear with me here; essentially, Utsu Musume Sayuri is a short 3-minute movie about some weird ass creature called Sayuri, the Striking Daughter, whose sole purpose in life is to perform a ceremony in which she strikes some dude’s ass with an antenna-like whip protruding from her head. If you were expecting more of an explanation, you’re not getting one; this is just what we have to deal with. If you’re expecting me to critique the quote-unquote “story” here, that’s not happening either because it is utterly nonsensical and unintelligible, I had to look at the show’s synopsis on MyAnimeList to even try and begin to understand what the fuck happens in it. Actually, you know what, I at least have something to say about it; Utsu Musume Sayuri is a great example of how “bold” and “different” do not equal “good”. We create shows in specific genres and following particular guidelines because good writing is formulaic in much the same way language is formulaic; and when you deviate from the formulas defining both well-spoken language and well done writing, you get something like this—utterly unintelligible and unintelligent. We have a bad habit of ascribing “formulaic” as a bad label onto shows that are uninspired and shitty, but the truth of it is that those shows fail because either they’re taking really bad advice from source material that does things wrong in the first place—the professional equivalent of copying off the test of the stupidest kid in class—or because they try and change the formula they’re emulating to be “theirs” (how many times have you heard bad directors making shitty adaptations say things like “We didn’t want to be chained down to the source material and instead tell OUR story”, case and point being the new Halo TV show). Sometimes that can work if the writer is legitimately talented and creative, but oftentimes it results in them completely missing the point of what they’re trying to copy. Moving on, by far the worst part of Utsu Musume Sayuri is how god damn unsettling and uncomfortable it is to watch, and there are a lot of reasons for that. The basic concept, dialogue and voice acting are creepy as hell, the designs are downright terrifying and give off the vibe that the creators were overdosing on numerous psychedelic drugs, and worst of all the animation is absolutely offensive to the eye. And you know, some might argue that stuff like this derives value from being so intentionally and overtly offensive, but the difference between the work of the director responsible for this and, say, the director responsible for The Bathroom (which we’ll talk about in a bit) is that The Bathroom is clever. If I had to give an example of what I mean, Utsu Musume Sayuri is like the anime equivalent of saying “Among Us” and expecting people to burst out laughing, whereas The Bathroom is like a video from AM64; intentionally crude humor that’s actually funny and doesn’t rely purely on being offensive in order to elicit a reaction. In general, the experience of watching Utsu Musume Sayuri is similar to that of watching an old really creepily animated kids show as an adult and realizing how fucked up it actually is, questioning whether or not you might’ve been unconsciously scarred by it as a child. Part of me thinks the writer tried to intentionally turn this same concept up to 11 in a failed attempt to create legitimate surreal horror, but the logical part of me thinks that doesn’t add up and the whole thing is the deranged ramblings of a psychopath who’s probably better off in an asylum than making anime. And look, I actually really appreciate good horror—this simply isn’t it.

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