Apparently being evil means you lose 80% of your vocal range

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Apparently being evil means you lose 80% of your vocal range

Post by jonty »

I was going to put this in the W forum, but I guess it's broader than just the one show, so I'll put it here.

I've very much been enjoying Kamen Rider W this year, as I'm sure many else have. I enjoy the style, music, and look of the show, as well as the hard-boiled detective theme. But towards the latter third or so of the season, something that's been bugging me about tokusatsu in general has really been testing my enjoyment of the climax of the season: the "turning" of Wakana and the introduction of Foundation X/Kazu Jun.

So, here's my problem: why does being evil automatically make you monotone? I think this happens every year in Kamen Rider (probably occasionally with Sentai), and it bugs me every time. It usually manifests itself in the introduction of the "big baddie" near the end of the season. For some reason, we're supposed to believe that since the final monster is so evil and devoid of humanity, he/she/it must also be unable to raise or lower the pitch of his/her/its voice beyond a range of like 4 notes. Yes, the final baddie is so powerful that a single look or wave of the hand can send our poor Rider flying, but for some reason its vocal cords are stuck in the same range as a just recently post-pubescent adolescent teen doing a bad impersonation of Darth Vader (except without the breathing thing. But, for those young toku actors reading this, maybe that's something you can throw in there!).

I've been trying to think back to past KR seasons to see if I'm imagining this phenomenon; I don't think I am. Off the top of my head, I remember Kitazaki from Faiz, and Mio from Kiva (there's another character whose season I can't quite place. She wore all black with a black veil over her face. I want to say she was one of the Category Queens in Blade, maybe?) I'm sure there are more.

Here's my theory on this: in general, the actors in KR are young and relatively inexperienced because, let's face it, they're largely hired based on their looks*. A more forgiving interpretation would be that the producers are just trying to give young actors a chance to break into the business. A more cynical interpretation would be that these actors come cheap (though I have no idea if this is true or not). I suppose the truth lies somewhere in the middle. In any case, inexperienced actors are (probably?) more likely to cling to more cliched (traditional, if you want to be forgiving again) notions of "evil". "Well," they think, "evil people have lost their humanity, right? So they don't have emotions? Well, I'll just drop my voice down a couple of octaves and keep my face in a constant state of not-smiling-but-not-really-frowning-either."

*That's not to say that that is necessarily "wrong" (however you define that word in the context of filmed entertainment). I fully accept that people tend to enjoy watching a good-looking person over an... other-kind-of-looking person. And, yes, this includes children. I know a lot of people think KR producers like to hire pretty boys to please the moms who watch these shows with their kids, but I tend to think that even children learn to discern "good looks" and like/trust/cheer on people who are good looking. It's not even a gender issue, I don't think. Don't you think good-looking people tend to give better (non-verbal) first impressions than other people, regardless of his/her (or your) gender? And, trust me, this is not coming from someone who's all about good looks.

And here's some evidence to back up my theory: when KR shows actually find it necessary to hire older actors (who I assume, perhaps incorrectly, are more experienced actors), they tend to add more... nuance to their evil characters. The freshest example in my head is Ryuubee from W. He's probably not my favorite bad guy, but I felt like he at least showed a decent range of emotion. Here's the thing, though: apart from his last few episodes, his range of emotion was all still within the evil spectrum. Here's my central point on this: evil doesn't have to be a one-note song.

What really brings home the point for me, though, is when you look at evil kaijin characters. What I mean is, I tend to enjoy bad guys that are really just stunt actors (who, to be honest, are sometimes better actors than the regular "human" actors) in a suit and professional voice actors in a studio. This could be a whole other rant, but I'm never really disappointed in the caliber of voice work in toku (aside from, unfortunately, the ADR work done by the main actors post-henshin). I don't know much about the seiyuu world, but I get the impression that it's a group made up of people who have either been working for a really long time or are young but really serious about their work. "Serious" is sort of unfair since I don't mean to imply that regular actors are just a bunch of pretty faces without talent. All I mean is that I would imagine voice actors, on the whole, tend to be hired more based on their voice talent, rather than how they physically come across on the screen. I think maybe part of the reason I like Sentai villains more is because they tend to more often be voice-overed without a human form. My all-time favorite villain is probably Kitaneidas, but that's not really a fair example here since he was so silly. If we're going to go for actual evil baddies, I guess I would have to go with Aburera from Dekaranger as a well-done villain.

See, I'm not even asking for the bad guy that's really a misunderstood tortured soul or whatever (I actually really hate those kinds of bad guys). Sometimes a bad guy is just fine as just a bad guy. I just don't see why a bad guy has to always talk like a robotic butler. One of the reasons I enjoyed Asakura from Ryuki so much is because he was A FREAKING LUNATIC, but he at least varied his craziness from quiet seething to all-out yelling.

Side note: my second least favorite bad guy is probably the raving lunatic than only ever shrieks, yells, and does that horrid, really unbelievable evil laughter thing all the time. To be honest, I think this type of character is usually always female. These characters, I feel, are usually the creation(read:fault) of the writers more so than the actors. "We need a bad guy here. Oh, let's just use the crazy harpy character again."

So, turning back to W, how would I have liked the bad guys to turn out? I dunno... as an Internet denizen, I reserve the right to complain about anything I want without offering any sort of constructive suggestions.

Seriously, though, wouldn't it have been slightly more interesting if Wakana, after turning evil, still had that whole dual-personality thing (happy, energetic radio idol and spoiled rich kid with a verbal tick)? Better still, what if after turning evil, she was ALWAYS like the Wakana-hime personality? I honestly don't know if any of those would really be better, but the whole deep-voiced Wakana thing got old for me really fast.

Saeko, too, sorta bugged me as a character. Aside from her constant fluttering between men (one could write a REALLY long essay on the misogynistic implications of Saeko's character), she does the deep-voice evil thing a lot, too. I guess it's sort of tempered by the fact that she loses and sulks so much, but she's still far from my favorite evil character in toku history.

But Wakana's transformation and Saeko's lack of interesting character depth was nothing compared to the introduction of Jun from Foundation X. ARGH, he makes me so angry. I can't stand the staying-really-calm-all-the-time thing. It's just so uninteresting. I'm sure the goal was for the viewer to be left uncomfortable at his apparent utter lack of humanity (despite declaring his love for Saeko and whatnot), but I just want to punch him in the face and take some lawn shears to those horrible set of sideburns. Oh, and the whole dropping stuff on the floor thing is really annoying, too. It's like giving him some ridiculous character quirk is supposed to make up for the fact that he might as well be a cardboard cutout.

So, I don't mean for this to sound like a crazy rant from an impossible-to-please fanboy; it's just something that I've thought about after watching toku for a few years. The funny thing is that I tend to prefer my Kamen Riders to be more (but not completely) one-dimensional; I like the heroic, nice-guy types like Hibiki over the tortured, conflicted, always speaks cryptically, kinda-sorta evil for like half the season types like almost every secondary rider ever. But, for some reason, even though I like the simple good-guy protagonist archetype, I really dislike the simple, bad-guy antagonist archetype (at least how toku defines it). Go figure.
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Re: Apparently being evil means you lose 80% of your vocal r

Post by takenoko »

>She wore all black with a black veil over her face

Are you thinking about the middle act villain from Kabuto? If so, would you say the same thing about her character during the episode where her past is revealed?

I get what you're saying, sometimes a stereotypical character is easier to portray than a character with a lot of depth. I mean, aren't 90% of toku heroes just zealous young men who make up for their shortcomings with good intentions and spirit? A stereotype is easy to fall into, it's a quick go-to thing as a writer. But that's kind of why when an exception is made, they stand out more, since it's that much more deep

Me and Cheetah were talking about W yesterday, and he noted that one thing he loves about this series is the focus on the villains. Sure, Saeko and evil Wakana are pretty two-dimensional as characters, but it's still more characterization than from villains past.

I actually really like your proposal for a Wakana-hime evil character. The twisted form of her happy-go-lucky personality. But does it really fit? Whatever the reason for her change, Wakana's choice to join the family business marked a change in her attitude. Like before, her father and sister would probably character her Wakana-hime thing as childish and naive compared to their grand schemes. Now that she's in her adult stage, sometimes adults are sullen, angry, etc. I agree that evil Wakana is kind of a bit much with no explanation, but not being a writer myself, I'm not sure how I would portray an evil Wakana in a more satisfying way

Speaking of Kazu Jun, I'm surprised you didn't bring up the guy from Den-O. Either no emotion voice or giggly goofy face dude.

Kitazaki was just a poorly written character in my opinion. And I always felt that Mio's actress had a limited acting range. Speaking bluntly, you're right in that sometimes actors are chosen by how pretty they are and not so much for the depth of their acting ability. But that's never really bothered me too much if the acting isn't as polished as it could be

I wouldn't compare them to voice actors, whose careers are made by focusing on how to best put emotions into their voice. I wouldn't say their job is easier than a live actors, but they are basically doing their job behind the curtain and into a microphone. I definitely feel like VAs get better at their work more easily than live actors
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Re: Apparently being evil means you lose 80% of your vocal r

Post by jonty »

takenoko wrote:Are you thinking about the middle act villain from Kabuto? If so, would you say the same thing about her character during the episode where her past is revealed?
Yeah, that sounds right. I had forgotten about her back story. Here's the thing about that, though: having some sort of reason for her being really annoying and uninteresting to watch isn't an excuse for her being really annoying and uninteresting to watch, particularly when the "payoff" of her backstory doesn't come until much later (if I'm remembering it correctly). I guess this was more about the actor's performance than the writing.
takenoko wrote:I mean, aren't 90% of toku heroes just zealous young men who make up for their shortcomings with good intentions and spirit? A stereotype is easy to fall into, it's a quick go-to thing as a writer. But that's kind of why when an exception is made, they stand out more, since it's that much more deep
Yeah, but like I said before, I kind of like the earnest hero with good intentions (which is why I generally liked Ryoutarou). I actually think I may have put my finger on what I'd like in a villain: either an interesting one, or a REALLY one-sided one, like from classic westerns or something. I think maybe my problem with the monotone villains is that I get the impression the actor is thinking that he/she is being unique and fresh with his/her interpretation. Of course, that really puts a wrench in my whole cliched portrayal argument, which just goes to show that I have no idea what I'm talking about.
takenoko wrote:Me and Cheetah were talking about W yesterday, and he noted that one thing he loves about this series is the focus on the villains. Sure, Saeko and evil Wakana are pretty two-dimensional as characters, but it's still more characterization than from villains past.
I agree on the focus part, but not on the characterization part. I feel like W is guilty of the same thing a lot of other KR series is: dithering on its villains. Spending more time on the dithering doesn't really help matters much, I don't think. But, yes, now that I think of it, it was sort of nice that the villains had slightly more to do. Of course, they kind of ruin it by bringing in Foundation X at the end.
takenoko wrote:Speaking of Kazu Jun, I'm surprised you didn't bring up the guy from Den-O. Either no emotion voice or giggly goofy face dude.
Yeah, I kinda hated him, too, but less so in retrospect. I think I just really dislike every character that gets introduced in the final act of a KR series. Do not get me started on the final-act useless female characters like Renge from Kabuto. ARGH I hated her so much.
takenoko wrote:Kitazaki was just a poorly written character in my opinion. And I always felt that Mio's actress had a limited acting range. Speaking bluntly, you're right in that sometimes actors are chosen by how pretty they are and not so much for the depth of their acting ability. But that's never really bothered me too much if the acting isn't as polished as it could be
I know I shouldn't expect much from the acting from the toku repertory, but I dunno, maybe they could get creative. From a broader perspective, you can be a less-than-stellar actor but still decide to not play your character like everyone else does. To be honest, I'm having trouble discerning where the line of fault lies between the actors and the writers. If the character description reads, "Bad guy. Monotone voice. You know the type" I guess I can't really blame the actors.
takenoko wrote:I wouldn't compare them to voice actors, whose careers are made by focusing on how to best put emotions into their voice. I wouldn't say their job is easier than a live actors, but they are basically doing their job behind the curtain and into a microphone. I definitely feel like VAs get better at their work more easily than live actors
I guess my response to that is why can't live actors spend just as much effort putting emotions in their voices (and, while we're at it, facial expressions)? Are they too busy making their hair look appropriately disheveled? Really, though, it really just comes down to the fact that tokus can demand top-quality voice actors more often than it can demand top-quality live actors. Just the nature of the business, I guess.
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Re: Apparently being evil means you lose 80% of your vocal r

Post by Phoenix512 »

I think it's mostly part that they aren't human. There's monsters that have human skins like Fangire or the Worm but they aren't Dopants which are human that become monsters. So the actors playing Fangire think that they are monsters and don't need to express emotion. As to W, it's easier for Dopants to express more emotion since they are human to begin with. I have a different point of view with Saeko that I actually like her characterization. I'm not going to explain why I do until the end of the series along with why I think there are ways to make Wakana a more interesting villain.

As with Kazu Jun, I think with him it's more of Foundation X giving him his personality and quirk as with the Foundation X woman. But seeing W 47 with the Foundation X woman, it makes me believe that his characterization is defined by Foundation X.
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Re: Apparently being evil means you lose 80% of your vocal r

Post by takenoko »

Mamiya Reina (the lady from Kabuto) never really bothered me. She was just kind of a throwaway enemy until her back story was revealed

>which just goes to show that I have no idea what I'm talking about

I wouldn't say that. People have conflicted emotions about stuff. That's perfectly natural

>W is guilty of the same thing a lot of other KR series is: dithering on its villains

Yeah, but I think W is a lot more interesting to watch because that dithering built up this back structure. It's a lot more meaningful than say blowing up the leader of the invading alien race or something, since there's that connection between the villains to the heroes, as well as the villains to each other.

Let's go back to Saeko. She's a stereotypical black widow character. You can pretty much characterize her as being constantly angry, which makes sense for her role. I'm not really sure what situations arise within W's story to allow for her to display a different side of her character. Like if all the parts are "show up, mock the enemy, scheme, get beaten up and swear revenge" I can't really blame the actor for their part being what it is

>To be honest, I'm having trouble discerning where the line of fault lies between the actors and the writers. If the character description reads, "Bad guy. Monotone voice. You know the type" I guess I can't really blame the actors.

Yeah exactly. I feel like actors can rise to the expectations of the director if you have a good director whose good at directing. Kind of reminds me of the PGSM background stuff where the actress is talking about always doing things wrong and the director correcting her and stuff and how shots have to keep being redone. Some of the acting in PGSM is pretty jarring despite all that effort. Maybe it's an age thing. Anyway, I'm sure there's blame to spread all around

As a side note, do you know what's really jarring? Video game dubbing. On the Idle Thumb podcast they talk about how the actress for GlaDOS from Portal really likes working at Valve because they give her good direction when she does her voicing for their games. This kind of guidance for the actor might not be in existence as prevalently in other game studios if most of the video game dubbings I've seen is any evidence. It really all goes back to having someone with a vision of what something should be and taking the time (and money) to redo something until it's actually good

>I guess my response to that is why can't live actors spend just as much effort putting emotions in their voices (and, while we're at it, facial expressions)? Are they too busy making their hair look appropriately disheveled? Really, though, it really just comes down to the fact that tokus can demand top-quality voice actors more often than it can demand top-quality live actors. Just the nature of the business, I guess.

Heh. To be fair, for a lot of actors for toku, it's their first time acting. It's never been a big deal for me since I'm not expecting Shakespeare on stage, but I can see how it would bother other people. But people do learn. Take Tendou for example. When you see flaws in his acting, they're pretty obvious in Kabuto. When I saw him playing the same character again in Mei-chan no Shitsuji, he's a lot more polished and has a bit more range. Like you say, it's probably just the nature of the business
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Re: Apparently being evil means you lose 80% of your vocal r

Post by jonty »

Phoenix, I think you might be missing my point. I'm not saying there's no in-universe explanation for the way they talk; I'm saying it's incredibly boring and annoying to watch.

As far as the whole not-being-human thing, I still think that the characterization/acting of the baddies in human form is lacking. There are plenty of kaijins in toku that don't have human forms that convey ranges of emotion (and actual variance in their voice pitch).

As far as Saeko goes, I don't want to read too deeply into the whole thing, but I feel like she's sort of a stereotypical evil-witch, hyper-sexualized (as hyper-sexualized as a toku character can be) female character. It's like we're expected to find her intriguing because she's the ideal woman (sexy, has a deep voice, has a lot of boyfriends!), but she's evil!!!! Also, the whole relationship with Weather was creepy and oozed of weird clinginess.

Again, I'm reading too much into it, but I just sort of generally dislike those kinds of characters, I guess.
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Re: Apparently being evil means you lose 80% of your vocal r

Post by Catastrophe »

I don't know. Perhaps they don't want to give them a vocal range in an attempt not to humanise the villains. Most of the time in a Rider series, the characterised villains aren't usually presented for a good while, and then they only have a short amount of time to present themselves as asses.

Although, it would be good to have a well characterised, well established villain that is able to convey emotions. I can't think of any off the top of my head that have been in so far.
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Re: Apparently being evil means you lose 80% of your vocal r

Post by GraveZero »

Y'know, while Kai from Den-O annoyed me with the purposeful 'I have no emotions, how evil am I?' stuff, it never really grated with Kazu in W cos they lamp-shaded it. The characters are aware that he flat out isn't expressing emotions which makes him a little creepy, mainly when played off against the Hopper girl given how just about everyone else had a reaction but all he did was *drop*.

I think the evil Wakana being flat thing might have a fairly good explanation... I dunno yet because I can't remember them stating it directly in the series, but she's acting a bit like Phillip in Begins Night, goal orientated and not concerned with outside actions which made HIM act like the emotionless 'my voice has no range' thing. I got nothing for Saeko, other than she rolls through boyfriends pretty quick.

I think Kanzaki and Ryuubee are probably, in my opinion, the only major villains who've been presented from the start and had any kind of displaying of their motivations that weren't shoe-horned in at the last minute. Seriously, we always knew Sonozaki was planning something involving the Gaia Memories and that the distribution was part of his plan, who thought that Smart Brain were looking for their messiah?
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Re: Apparently being evil means you lose 80% of your vocal r

Post by takenoko »

>played off against the Hopper girl given how just about everyone else had a reaction but all he did was *drop*.'

Oh yeah. I totally forgot that his deal is that he just drops things. It's so subtle, yet he does it so often. You're right though, at work I realized that the characters pretty much are aware that Kazu is kind of this emotionless dude and that was intentional

>I got nothing for Saeko, other than she rolls through boyfriends pretty quick.

Now I kind of want to see Jonty or someone else do a article on women's roles in Kamen Rider or toku shows in general. It certainly would be something with a lot of potential for discussion (although would probably just boil down to, men like seeing sexy women)
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Re: Apparently being evil means you lose 80% of your vocal r

Post by kokowaks »

i think its good for the villains to be more or less related(especially emotionally) to the main guys... it add a more impact on the characters emotionally... having them face some deep decision making would more likely makes them mature(or atleast look like one)... this is one of the main reasons why KR black became epic with his dealings with shadowmoon...

and while it never hurts to see some villains who has nothing but bad intentions to create destruction being blown apart, having some villains which we can sympathize helps us to be more attached to the show... as mention kanzaki and ryubee gives a more deeper aura to their characters with their respective background...

but there are guys that despite being bad, i just can't help but root for them... the best example of it is ouja and probably kick hopper... i don't know whether its their characters or just their actors good portraying that makes them look cool to me... heck starscream is more famous than some autobots joining with prime...

as for wakana... i don't have any qualms to what is happening to her character as long as it result to some awesome episodes we are currently having... before, i always thought that "memory break/maximum drive" would save the main guys from having conflicts within themselves but these recent episodes proved me wrong...

concerning the newest W villain right now... i had been amazed on how the ryubee arc was put into closure and i hope to see a more larger scale ending with the new guy (which i can already feel in this recent episodes)... there's already much greater conlict happening with Phillip and the rest of the guys to carry on the already good flow of the story... having the villain getting more involved could mess up the build up already...
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Re: Apparently being evil means you lose 80% of your vocal r

Post by Skiks »

Kazu Jun is actually a very interesting fellow. I think his acting was intentional and established by the director. While he is monotone he has that vibe of creepiness in him that can still make him enjoyable as a villian. They are pretty much doing this on purpose.
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Re: Apparently being evil means you lose 80% of your vocal r

Post by Anime_freek22 »

I think a good part of it boils down to that Kamen Rider and Super Sentai are kid's shows. My little brothers could care less about the characterization of a villain and are more concerned about what he does and how evil he is. I feel that the villains in Kamen Rider are supposed to be one sided or at most a little deep. Look at Kamen Rider Spirits. That's a manga for the adult fans of Kamen Rider and the villains are deep and well characterized.
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Re: Apparently being evil means you lose 80% of your vocal r

Post by yumenotenshi07 »

All that darkness on the inside really restricts vocal expression.

Honestly, I don't know. From a writer's standpoint, I would say it's either poor execution, lazy writing or possibly an attempt at keeping the villain unrelatable. I actually tend to agree with Phoenix512's "not human" standpoint. Many of the villains we see in kamen rider and sentai are "monsters," so perhaps they're meant to be free of pesky human emotion.

Sadly I haven't seen that far in W, so I can't offer my opinion on that specific instance.
jonty wrote:Phoenix, I think you might be missing my point. I'm not saying there's no in-universe explanation for the way they talk; I'm saying it's incredibly boring and annoying to watch.
Yeah, it does get old quickly, no argument.
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Re: Apparently being evil means you lose 80% of your vocal r

Post by jonty »

Okay, so I see what everyone is saying about Kazu's character being an intentional decision (is that a redundant phrase, by the way?); I guess my problem is I just think that intentional decision is overdone and boring to watch. I feel like I've already seen the emotionless villain thing so many times. Yes, I get it; he's creepier than a regular bad guy because not only does he do evil things, HE HAS NO EMOTIONS WHEN HE DOES EVIL THINGS.

From a purely aesthetic point of view, the monotone voice is just grating and annoying. Again, I know it was a conscious decision to make it unsettling, but I just find it so much less interesting than a character with a spectrum of anger/evil. Hell, maybe all I want is for him to show any emotion period. Like I said, I enjoy "classic" villains like from Westerns and stuff. It just seems to me that the whole emotionless villain thing was an attempt to be different from the villain arche/stereotype that has itself become its own stereotype.

EDIT
Okay, so as far as taking away emotions to show that they're monsters: at the very least, shouldn't monsters express anger/greed/other stuff that Kevin Spacey would use as a motif for killing you? I think yume hit on a good point that it may be an attempt to make the character unrelatable. That's fair enough; I don't necessarily need really deep villains.

I don't think I even have an issue with this from a high-level, artistic, cinematic point of view. I just think it's really boring to watch Kazu Jun walk around in that ridiculously collarless suit when it could just as easily be a laptop with a text-to-speech function in a ridiculously collarless suit. Though the latter may actually may be more fun to watch.

Here's a thought: what if we had an "emotionless" villain that made attempts to show emotion to blend in with humans (y'know, because we've cornered the market on the emotion thing). Sorta like Kai from Den-O, but good. Like he/she literally does not react to situations (good or bad) and instead has to look up how to react. AND THEN, what if he/she couldn't actually express the emotion, so they had to program some proxy to express it for them. I'm imagining something like a vaguely human-shaped giant amoeba with a massive computer screen that has various emoticons (or emoji!) displayed on it depending on the situation.
...Actually, that sounds like a really bad anime character. Forget that.
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Re: Apparently being evil means you lose 80% of your vocal r

Post by Zefonse »

Spoiler
Well I do like it sometimes if they pull it off right with a monotone villain but lately that’s all we seem to be getting now in anime, manga, and live actions shows like Kamen rider, but lately things try to seem so flashy now, and for some reason the more flashy a for the more monotone they get, where are the true villains like from JoJo’s bizarre adventure Dio Brando, he made the first Jojo like miscible and when he gave up his humanity to become a vampire(just read the manga it make sense) he never became monotone but rather show’s his true colors and a smart villain as well he is mention in nearly all the parts on the manga (7 parts all good READ IT) or involved, but he is what today’s villains should be like if you understand him and he was made in 1987! GOD and he still a great foe, I gotten off track for a second sorry, but why can’t villains have that feel you know there smart and powerful and they show it in power and voice, but lately I seen mainly kamen rider after re-watching some eps we did have different types of villains, Kuuga Big bad a laughing mad man, Agito A “God” haven’t finished that, I cant speak for Ryuki haven’t watch it yet, Blade final villain was one of the main characters which I like how they pulled it off, Kabuto was odd, Den-O a Emo? Kiva a vampire king? What was that I cant figure it out. Decade Not going there. And is Kazu the final foe in W if so he more in lines of Kai of Den-O in tone of voice but heck I WANT A DIFFERENT TYPE, sorry for the caps I want a foe like dio!



I’m putting that in a spoiler tag just in case
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