Ask John about Kara no Kyoukai, and he will give you actually a fairly balanced view of things, if a little too retail oriented.
I don’t know if he is right or wrong about the nature of American otaku and how the Rakkyo series fits it. I personally believe that he is probably spot on to compare Rakkyo with Oshii, but how many times did he use the word pretense? I mean who am I? Some self-titled anime expert? Who doesn’t even know ‘Rakkyo’? I mean it’s on freaking Wikipedia. Not a lot of people liked Innocence, as far as I can tell. Basically, I think it’s too off the beaten path even in America. What sold in the 80s and 90s was not what ROD OAV was.
He dotes on Chapter 3, which is the MAGARE episode in which Shiki performs an appendectomy. Well, actually, she kills the infection, not the appendix. Which sums up my opinion of episode 3. Certainly however I can see why someone would like it; the episode itself is well put-together and unlike Chapter 7, the viewer is not left in some kind of overwrought suspense and Mamiko Noto carries a strong performance both as victim and villain.
However obviously Aniplex thinks Chapter 5 is the one that everyone will like, as demonstrated at Anime Boston last year. I don’t blame them, Chapter 3 is a little bit too “otaku-poi” in a similar vein as Chapter 6 (which John also likes, besides the lack of epic fights). Chapter 5 features bleed-through pretentiousness, all the way down to its nonlinear narrative and strange showdown in the last 30 minutes of the movie. But when we’re watching cartoon porn instead of realistic porn, I think pretension is a sought-after quality and we shouldn’t make any pretense about it. The only difference is how one executes such pretentiousness so that critics like John will reach for another page in their biological thesaurus.
Perhaps the bigger issue with this that I’m trying to say is more about our perception (heh talking about perception in a Rakkyo thread) of what anime ought to be. I mean I think what I said applies to a lot of ambitious works, that at some level those works have to pretend. So why get stuck on that? Talk about execution instead. And I think good anime always executes. Those shows talk the talk but also walk the walk.
Which goes back to my assertion about what American fans like–I think a lot of the time we like shows that do neither talking nor walking. Because that’s the least pretentious of them all, and maybe that is the root problem. And when you get someone taking down on shows that aspire to be better as inferior to those who don’t even try, it’s just incredible.