Warning: This review contains potential spoilers for various anime titles critiqued by Charles Solomon. These were included for the sake of being able to elaborate on why I think Solomon's opinions are false.
I've only known about animation critic Charles Solomon for only a few years, but after finding out about him, most of his opinions on animation (anime especially) has rubbed me the wrong way. At first, I thought it was just disagreements in tastes and opinions. However, after doing some deeper analysis of his editorial reviews on Amazon for various anime, I've come to realize that his opinions and reasoning for them are a joke. I'll be posting his editorial Amazon reviews so I can easily elaborate on my points.
Here's his editorial review for Doomed Megalopolis.
“The four-part OAV Doomed Megalopolis (1991) is more notable for its misogynistic violence than for its coherent storytelling or skillful animation. In 1908 the ghost-demon-sorcerer Kato tries to resurrect Masakado, a historical figure who has become the unofficial guardian deity of Tokyo, by offering Yukari as a human sacrifice. Masakado rejects Kato's offering, but the evil sorcerer keeps trying, tormenting Yukari and her daughter, Yukiko (whose father is Yukari's brother Tatsumi). Kato causes the devastating 1923 Tokyo earthquake at the end of episode 2, after which the plot simply collapses. Violent imagery--collapsing buildings, the repeated rape and torture of Yukari--alternate with stretches of leaden dialogue, long Morris-the-Explainer scenes, and pretentious narration. The animation is crude at best: the characters change appearance from scene to scene, and the artists try unsuccessfully to draw the human figure from weird angles. The most striking feature of this jejune gorefest is designer Masayuki's flamboyantly bizarre use of color. (Rated 17 and older, but unsuitable for viewers under 18: graphic violence, violence against women, rape, incest, nudity, grotesque imagery, profanity, tobacco use) --Charles Solomon”
Link to original review (always a good thing to cite sources):
First of all, he says “repeated rape and torture of Yukari.” I'm wondering if he even watched this anime, because last time I checked, Kato only tried to magically-impregnate Yukari in the beginning of OVA 2, and an off-screen scene where Tatsumiya commits incest upon Yukari. The way Solomon worded this, he acted as if there was a gang of vicious men waiting to rape Yukari at least twice in each OVA. He also says this is loaded with “misogynistic violence.” I'm not saying this is a good thing, but Japan, compared to the United States, is a pretty misogynistic culture (especially during the time Doomed Megalopolis took place). In relation to the animation, yes, it's a little crude, but it was a low-budget title. Rintaro and the folks at Madhouse didn't have the vast resources that Disney or Warner Bros. had, so he should take that into consideration. For a low-budget anime, I think the animators did a good job with what resources they had at their disposal. Solomon even says that the plot collapses after OVA 2. He can't be more wrong, since everything came together almost perfectly.
What I find funny is that Solomon seemed so angry about DM having misogynistic content, now look at his editorial review for Akira.
“After Tokyo was destroyed in a mysterious blast in 1988, the elaborate city of Neo-Tokyo was built on its ruins. By 2019, Neo-Tokyo has been divided between a powerful and wealthy upper class and the violent punks and motorcycle gangs who haunt its slums. When the members of one gang attempt to strike back at the arrogant lords of the city, they unleash a wider and more destructive conflict than they anticipated. Neo-Tokyo is destroyed in another conflagration, but a new city will arise on its ruins, like a phoenix from its ashes.
It's not always easy to tell the thuggish characters in Akira apart, but the emphasis is on expertly cut motorcycle chases and violent gun battles, rather than nuanced performances. The striking, dystopic designs reflect the influence of Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, an interesting example of cultural cross-pollination. Akira defines anime for many Americans and is the object of an extremely loyal cult following. Uninitiated viewers may find the two-hour length of this animated epic a bit daunting and choose to watch it in sections. --Charles Solomon”
As you can see, he has a far more favorable review of Akira than Doomed Megalopolis, and he willfully ignores the fact that Akira has its moments of blatant misogyny, and I would even say that these are even worse than those featured in DM.
I think the above have given enough detail about Solomon's inconsistencies in his critiques, but it's also worth mentioning that his stance on bad tonal shifts are as consistent as a bad game of Russian roulette. He's rightfully given flack to lesser popular titles like Burn Up Excess for their bad tonal shifts while praising fan-favorite anime titles like Trigun, despite the fact that Trigun has a ton of bad tonal shifts as well. It's too clear that most of the time, Solomon makes up shitty excuses to praise bad anime that's heavily-praised by fans.
It's worth noting that sometimes, he's lying right out of his ass about things a 12 year-old would know isn't true. For example, he even said the following about the content in Ghost in the Shell:
“The minor nudity, profanity, and considerable violence would earn Ghost in the Shell at least a PG rating.”
I first saw Ghost in the Shell when I was 14, and even being an impulsive kid driven by hormones at that time, I knew that Ghost in the Shell is NOT “at least” PG material, this is strictly R-rated stuff if it were to get a rating from the MPAA (as of writing this, it doesn't have an MPAA rating).
While the following may be a totally subjective point, I still feel like mentioning it. Solomon called Rocko's Modern Life “rock bottom” and “a tasteless attempt to capture the Ren and Stimpy audience.”
My response is that while Solomon didn't have to love the show, he should have been able to see the “under the rug” adult innuendo and reserved use of “gross” content, hardly anything I'd consider “rock bottom” since crap that's “rock bottom” requires no effort to make, while the content in Rocko had a ton of effort put into it.
Sometimes, Solomon makes it unnecessarily difficult to determine whether or not he likes something. This is extremely annoying right here. Here's his editorial review for the first season boxed set for Batman: The Animated Series:
“Warner Brothers' Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1995) remains a striking, stylized program that helped to revitalize the familiar comic book hero. Drawing on such diverse influences as Frank Miller's graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns, the Fleischers' Superman cartoons of the early '40s, and contemporary Japanese animation, the filmmakers stress interesting designs and cinematography. The Caped Crusader prowls a sinister, Art Deco-styled world of tall verticals, sharp angles, silhouettes, searchlights, and grid-like shadows cast by window frames. Its visual pizzazz eclipses Filmation's pallid kidvid, The Batman/Superman Hour (CBS, 1968), which ran off and on in various incarnations through 1981. Many of the same artists worked on the Batman animated features (e.g., Mask of the Phantasm (1993), Batman Beyond--The Movie (1999)), which display similar strengths and weaknesses.
Ironically, Batman: The Animated Series looks better in stills than it does in motion. The artists fail to stylize the movements of the characters to match the dramatic settings, as Genndy Tartakovsky and his crew did in Samurai Jack. Batman uses sophisticated computers to combat the well-known villains--the Joker, the Penguin, Mr. Freeze, Catwoman--as well as some less celebrated baddies: Manbat, Clayface, The Mad Hatter. The bad guys cram a lot of plotting and scheming into each 22-minute episode, but the violence is kept to a broadcast standards minimum.
The Dark Knight's First Knight easily ranks as the most interesting of the extras. Producers Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski recount the genesis of the series, and show their mini-pilot, which is more violent and more fully animated. If the complete episodes had matched the pilot, the series would have been much more exciting. (Unrated, suitable for ages 8 and older: violence, mild grotesque imagery) --Charles Solomon”
I'm guessing from his criticisms of the show, that he finds it disappointing, but it would have been more satisfying if he was far more clear about his opinion of the show.
As much as I hate to say it, sometimes Solomon does get it right in terms of reviewing animation. He's rightfully smashed Elfen Lied while praising Paprika. I'm not singing praise to Solomon for the fact that I agree with him on said titles, but for the fact that he's smashed EL and praised Paprika for most of the right reasons, such as dismissing Elfen Lied as a tasteless mixture of gratuitous gore, treacly sentimentality, and fan-service nudity.
If you're scanning the internet for opinions to determine whether or not to watch certain anime titles, take Charles Solomon's opinions with a HUGE grain of salt. In fact, I think he's like the animation equivalent to the horribly irrelevant, inconsistent, and wrongfully acclaimed film critic Roger Ebert (who is another kettle of fish).
I can't wait for the day that Solomon's status as the “wise critic of animation” crumbles.
Charles Solomon is like the Roger Ebert of animation, his opinions are held to really high regard, yet sometimes, he has the stupidest reasons for liking or hating certain animated titles, and not to mention that his reasoning for rating certain titles is inconsistent (such as scolding Burn Up Excess for its tonal whiplash, yet praises Trigun, which also suffers from that detestable aspect). Take his reviews with a HUGE grain of salt, as there's quite a few animated titles that he hates (for bad … more