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Old 2012-07-10, 02:02   Link #41
Lord of Fire
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Going by the definition of shows I never expected to be as good as I found them to be, I'd say:

Madoka Magica – When I heard about it being made, I only hoped that SHAFT could deliver me a Magical Girl show that wouldn't disappoint me, given how I got pretty tired of the genre at the time. When I watched the first episode, I thought it looked good, and had the typical weirdness I expected from a SHAFT work. it wasn't till much later on that the show really hooked me in, especially when fan speculation kicked into high gear. At the very least, episode 3 showed me that this wouldn't be your average, cookie-cutter Magical Girl show I've come to expect, but that it would be something much more serious.

Steins;Gate – I went in, expecting a typical sci-fi show and till about halfway through the series, I still didn't really think it was brilliant. Sure, it looked good, had likable characters and such, but when the show took a far more sinister tone, I knew this would be something I hadn't seen before.

Dusk maiden of Amnesia is a borderline case. Though I thought it was excellent, I already had high hopes for it before I started. I think it's because it has a similar element the aforementioned shows have: a somewhat laid-back, or even humorous surface, but underneath lurks a serious issue that becomes focal point halfway through, and it raised my expectations accordingly.

There are probably others, but these three stand out the most for me right now.

A lot of other shows I rated as high as these were great because of other reasons, and I wouldn't really call them masterpieces, just shows I really, really liked (like K-ON!! or Haiyore! Nyaruko-san).

Note that I don't call these shows 'perfect' (because I believe there is no such thing), but (to me) they are as close to perfect as humanly possible. There is usually at least one element I don't like (usually one or two characters), but if the sheer enjoyment I get from the show can make up for them, a show (despite its flaws) could still be a masterpiece to me.
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Old 2012-07-10, 05:00   Link #42
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Originally Posted by Eragon View Post
The answer to this question is very subjective and will vary from person to person. The only objective point that can be discussed is how you define a masterpiece - which has been laid out quite elaborately in the previous posts.

The problem with naming shows as masterpieces is, when someone holds an anime in high regard its very hard to have an objective perspective on it. You are emotionally attached to it whether you admit it or not.
Nonsense, I'm perfectly objective in my support for Porco Rosso.
Only things I would do to you for disagreeing with me consist of beheading, spitting at the headless corpse, and decorating the yard with the said severed head on a pike.

Utterly reasonable and objective.

Jokes aside, any discussion of undefined perception of quality is going to be subjective.
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Old 2012-07-10, 07:36   Link #43
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For me a masterpiece is a defining and recognizable work of an artist(s) that establishes/recognizes his or her status as a master of the profession.

In case of an anime this definition makes certain demands:
- The anime needs a particular style in art, animation,writing and/or directing that can be linked to a particular creator or group of creators (i.e. studio).
-The creator him or herself is already an established name or has become one after this work.
- The anime itself needs to be regarded as a quality work*.
- The anime needs to stand out amongst the other works of this creator.

*Anime are (usually) collaborative efforts sometimes elements can be considered masterpieces of for example animation, art or screenwriting. This however does not make the anime as a whole a masterpiece.
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Old 2012-07-10, 08:30   Link #44
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bri View Post
For me a masterpiece is a defining and recognizable work of an artist(s) that establishes/recognizes his or her status as a master of the profession.

In case of an anime this definition makes certain demands:
- The anime needs a particular style in art, animation,writing and/or directing that can be linked to a particular creator or group of creators (i.e. studio).
-The creator him or herself is already an established name or has become one after this work.
- The anime itself needs to be regarded as a quality work*.
- The anime needs to stand out amongst the other works of this creator.

*Anime are (usually) collaborative efforts sometimes elements can be considered masterpieces of for example animation, art or screenwriting. This however does not make the anime as a whole a masterpiece.
Hmm, good attempt at trying to set down standards, but I'd argue that they don't seem to capture the essence well. For instance, a no-name can put out a film via an unknown studio, and have it be considered a masterpiece. M. Knight's first film or two tends to fall into this by some subjective accounts, but he simply got worse as time went on.

I'd expand upon one of my previous criteria, that a series/film must have a story that has a broad-based appeal; that is, it must be a story that everyone can recognize and relate to. Thus, things like Nanoha and Madoka wouldn't be masterpieces, since their narratives are generally confined to a specific genre.

As I said before, relative "goodness" isn't the basis for whether something is a masterpiece. And one can only tell if a story gets that broad-based relation over enough time. So anything recent, even within the past 5 years, probably wouldn't qualify just yet anyway.
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Old 2012-07-10, 08:59   Link #45
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bri View Post
-The creator him or herself is already an established name or has become one after this work.
[...]
- The anime needs to stand out amongst the other works of this creator.
I think these two points are really not necessary. It implies that a masterpiece must have an equally famous and important creator with several other works done.

I can't think of an anime example on the top of my head, but in literature "Gone with the wind" is most certainly a masterpiece of american narrative, but it really came out of nowhere. I'm sure you all heard about it or you've read it or you've seen the movie adaption, but how many of you can name the author? And how many of you can name any other work done by her? (without looking in the internet, cheater!)

Sure being an established name helps, but it is entirely possible for someone to create his masterpiece with his very first published work and then failing to do anything even remotely as good.
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Old 2012-07-10, 09:25   Link #46
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Originally Posted by Kaijo View Post
Hmm, good attempt at trying to set down standards, but I'd argue that they don't seem to capture the essence well. For instance, a no-name can put out a film via an unknown studio, and have it be considered a masterpiece.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jan-Poo View Post
I think these two points are really not necessary. It implies that a masterpiece must have an equally famous and important creator with several other works done.
It depends on your definition of masterpiece. The term originates with craftsmen who had to create a quality piece that showed off their skills which, upon approval of their peers, would allow them to join the top professional rank of master.

For me it's therefore linked to a creators body of work, to prove he or she is a master of the craft, as mastery implicitly assumes repeatability. That sets it apart from a once in a lifetime achievement that is never repeated. That does not mean that a single success cannot be equal or better than a masterpiece.
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Old 2012-07-10, 09:31   Link #47
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Oh My Goddess OVA
One of my fav, a nice little love/comedy story

Air
Top music and story, not too many anime that made me cry

Full Metal Alchemist
Overall quite good

Evagelion
One of the best original masterpieces

Last Exile
Other original series

thats my pick for masterpieces, series that doesn't rely on "fanservice" but a solid plot/story, music and artwork all in one
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Old 2012-07-10, 21:07   Link #48
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I've watched a lot of animes in my 17 years(I think lol) in this hobby but right now the only anime that comes to my mind that I can confidently rank as a masterpiece would be Madoka Magica and to some extent Gankutsuou.

For Madoka Magica... I am simply amazed at how carefully and well crafted the whole series is. The overall direction(music, battles, scenes) of the series seems perfect. In my opinion the only downside Madoka had were the Meduka moments and even then the overall animation quality of Madoka is still a beauty. And well not only did Madoka Magica achieve excellence in terms of technical and directional aspects the story itself was very good and something I liked very much.

I find Gankutsuou to be similar in those points... Overall i found it's animation and overall direction to be quite excellent. The story... well... it is an adaptation of The Count of Monte Cristo... although there were quite a lot of liberal changes I still enjoyed it a whole lot.

Edit: raaage stupid ipad deleted my post...

Anyway... Keeping it short... I think a lot of people here are mistaking classics for a masterpiece. I find it ridiculous how Madoka Magica despite all the honors and awards it won and all the critical praise it receives cannot be considered as a masterpiece just because it is 1 year old? I mean hey: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masterpiece
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Old 2012-07-11, 01:52   Link #49
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For all of its wonkiness, I would say Evangelion was a great anime. But the masterpiece point comes with End of Evangelion, which helps resolve the loose ends of the tv end in a rather umm, explosive conclusion. It really has its all-- A stirring soundtrack that slowly but surely gives off a sense of impending doom, visuals that could rival anime today, and the most fucked up imagery involving a sick, sick mind. And contrary to popular thought, it was not all bullshit, sans the religious stuff.

But this isn't really why I could claim it's a masterpiece. What's the point of writing, saying, or even thinking anything? To communicate an idea or an emotion to an audience. The audience can be just yourself, or it could be the whole world. But with EoE, all these ideas and emotions just came spilling out. Anno's depression and frustration with the nature of the otaku lifestyle could really be felt, and the concept of "running away" became much clearer (using entertainment to escape reality). It was really a message to the very fandom that supported him, and it wasn't a "fuck you" either. And honestly, it's one that's easily misinterpreted too.

To transmit these ideas in such a strong and clear fashion-- I think I could call it that.
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Old 2012-07-11, 08:01   Link #50
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Time of Eve is an ONA that deals with the pseudo-scientific question of what would happen if robots were more like people. What it lacks in the originality of its idea is more than made up for by excellently written characters. Actually, I'm not even sure if characters is the proper word to describe anyone because they're realistic to the point where calling them people is more accurate. This believability helps with the robots in the series because you'll never know who is human and who isn't until they tell you. And truly, if you don't know, there's no difference. It's short, sweet, and provocative.
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Old 2012-07-11, 08:51   Link #51
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Originally Posted by cyth View Post
One Piece is pretty much the only anime/manga I can safely proclaim as masterpiece grade.
I am inclined to agree. Even as someone who is not a fan of One Piece, I acknowledge its broad appeal, creative energy (Oda just never seems to tire) and even the enthusiasm from the anime staff is contagious to affect first time viewers or people who have not been much into anime. Its messages may never be as complex as some, but they are simple and strong enough to reach up to anyone.
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Old 2012-07-11, 08:58   Link #52
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Personally: Fullmetal Alchemist and the reboot Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, The movie The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, and of course, Madoka Magica.
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Old 2012-07-11, 13:20   Link #53
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Originally Posted by Triple_R View Post
Gen Urobuchi hyped up Madoka Magica Episode 10 quite a bit before it aired, and you can tell that the man was aiming really high with Madoka Magica. He wasn't just trying to make something good. He was trying to make something great.

I don't think that this kind of "aiming for greatness" is something that creators and writers should be discouraged from doing. It's probably good to say "Aim to be good first before you aim to be great", to ensure writers get the nuts and bolts of good storytelling down. But once a writer has developed a good idea of how to write something good and solid, I see nothing wrong with that writer intentionally aiming for greatness.
Of course every creator should aim for greatness. If not, why the heck should he bother creating? But just because he thinks his work is great doesn't make it great — it only makes him vain, an ugly quality not becoming of any artist who sincerely wishes to create something beautiful.

No, you don't get to make a "masterpiece", simply because that's not your call. The decisive judgment comes instead from your professional peers — and your ever fickle audience.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kaijo View Post
Time.

Only by letting a decade or two pass at least, can we objectively look back and see if a particular piece held up. There are quite a few series I initially liked, but when I go back to look at them now, I can see the cheesy parts, and parts that make me wince (and not in a good way). Essentially, I see the holes pop up.
Time is indeed an important factor, because it grants us the emotional distance to make detached assessments of any work of art, far removed from the contemporary hype that distorts "objective" judgment.

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Originally Posted by Kaijo View Post
So far, most of what has been listed, would only be qualified as "anime I like" rather than masterpieces. I could list off some of my favorites, but even if a lot of people agreed with me, that would merely be populist fanboyism.
Yes indeed. To be sure, I find the word "masterpiece" bandied around way too often. It cheapens the value of the word. If everything is a masterpiece, then nothing is. It becomes a meaningless label, worthless as a measure of greatness.

Though it may seem like mere semantics, I find it helpful to distinguish between "milestone" or "landmark" anime and the so-called "masterpieces". Anime like Astro Boy, Akira, Ghost in the Shell, Princess Mononoke and Neon Genesis Evangelion were all important "landmark" productions, because they left an indelible imprint on the minds of creators and audiences alike, significantly influencing the way all later anime were conceptualised and produced.

Even with such a definition, I hesitate to call Cowboy Bepop a "landmark" production. The series made an impact, true, but mainly on overseas audiences, particularly those in the West. Within Japan, it's arguable if the Japanese consider Cowboy Bepop that special, if at all.

As for "masterpieces", let's be brutally frank: Most anime feature far too awful animation to be truly considered masterpieces on a technical level, regardless of the anime's popularity. It's not an issue of differences in style — any student of animation, let alone a professional, can easily point out the many shortcuts used in anime to cut costs. The anime industry may have made a virtue out of necessity — in the process creating an aesthetic that is uniquely their own — but that doesn't make the technical deficiencies of its products any less glaring.

There is an important reason that Hayao Miyazaki is so greatly revered as a master animator: He has not just established a style that is recognisably his own (to the extent that "Ghibli" becomes almost synonymous with top-quality animation), but is also one of the few Japanese animators capable of expressing weight and movement through hand-drawn art alone.

So long as the anime sector remains essentially a cash-strapped cottage industry in its native land, the chances of a "masterpiece" appearing in the next few years will remain close to zero. The breadth and depth of the stories themselves are there — to be sure, it's the complex and innovative subject matter that draws so many of us to anime — but, to me, they are mostly prevented from achieving truly universal, iconic status, because of practical, real-world limitations.
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Old 2012-07-11, 14:25   Link #54
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Is a show considered a masterpiece if remakes and tons of merchandise are spawned? (ex: Nanoha, Evangelion, Gundam, etc.)

Or if it wins tons of awards (Madoka, keep em coming. Urobochi compels you *turns into Godoka*.... or not)
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Old 2012-07-11, 16:33   Link #55
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Originally Posted by TinyRedLeaf View Post
As for "masterpieces", let's be brutally frank: Most anime feature far too awful animation to be truly considered masterpieces on a technical level, regardless of the anime's popularity. It's not an issue of differences in style any student of animation, let alone a professional, can easily point out the many shortcuts used in anime to cut costs. The anime industry may have made a virtue out of necessity in the process creating an aesthetic that is uniquely their own but that doesn't make the technical deficiencies of its products any less glaring.

There is an important reason that Hayao Miyazaki is so greatly revered as a master animator: He has not just established a style that is recognisably his own (to the extent that "Ghibli" becomes almost synonymous with top-quality animation), but is also one of the few Japanese animators capable of expressing weight and movement through hand-drawn art alone.

So long as the anime sector remains essentially a cash-strapped cottage industry in its native land, the chances of a "masterpiece" appearing in the next few years will remain close to zero. The breadth and depth of the stories themselves are there to be sure, it's the complex and innovative subject matter that draws so many of us to anime but, to me, they are mostly prevented from achieving truly universal, iconic status, because of practical, real-world limitations.
I don't know if technical quality should play such a large role in rating animation. For example is Van Gogh any less revered as a painter than say Rembrandt as his technical ability is not as good? Or is James Joyce a better writer than Shakespeare because his prose is more complicated to read?

Limited animation is a defining characteristic of anime, even Ghibli can't match Disney on animation quality. On the other hand, it's rare that a Disney story has much artistic merit. With such a strict definition no animation except maybe Fantasia or Spirited Away could qualify as a masterpiece.
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Old 2012-07-11, 16:34   Link #56
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Grave of the Fireflies qualify (the highest chance of being a masterpiece)
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Old 2012-07-11, 18:18   Link #57
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bhl88 View Post
Is a show considered a masterpiece if remakes and tons of merchandise are spawned? (ex: Nanoha, Evangelion, Gundam, etc.)
No. That's just marketing. Mecha and Magical girl shows are notorious for supporting themselves on merchandise alone (the two biggest things otaku latch themselves onto for merch). That's why shows like Bleach and Gintama ultimately died out; because they don't have the merch to support themselves.

Quote:
Or if it wins tons of awards (Madoka, keep em coming. Urobochi compels you *turns into Godoka*.... or not)
I'd say no again. Populism does not a masterpiece make. As per the definition I mentioned earlier, a masterpiece is something skillfully crafted. If something has many flaws, then it is not a work of skill. Madoka has numerous things about it that are, like Evangelion's religious symbols, just odd things thrown in that make no sense in the context of the narrative. It's like giving an award to a piece of art, that consists of someone randomly splattering things onto a whiteboard; it may end up looking good and impressing a crowd, but there was no skill involved. Especially if the artist was simply glancing at another painting and trying to replicate some of its aspects. And numerous pieces of "art" have won such awards in the art world. I remember a crucifix in a bottle of urine, and a ashtray of cigarette butts that were considered high art pieces at one time...

One reason I brought up Mai Hime as a masterpiece, is that the subtle things reinforce and reflect the main themes. Sometimes you don't even notice them. To illustrate the point, Mai Hime has a song sung in English called "It's Only The Fairy Tale."

Spoiler for Mai Hime spoilers:


That's skill; the twisting of various audio/visual aspects to reinforce and enhance a scene, as well as subtly foreshadow what is to come.

Certain shows like Madoka and Evangelion certainly did things differently, to the MG and Mecha genres respectively. As such, they might be referred to as "landmark" series as someone mentioned above. They are useful to chart where a certain genre has taken a turn. Just like Sailor Moon is a landmark for the turn it gave the MG genre, but yet is not a masterpiece, either.

But populism can't be a useful metric to determine a masterpiece, otherwise you'd have to award one to Twilight. :P
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Old 2012-07-11, 19:09   Link #58
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bri View Post
Limited animation is a defining characteristic of anime, even Ghibli can't match Disney on animation quality.
Indeed. Have you ever heard Hayao Miyazaki or his close colleague, Isao Takahata, claiming that they've matched Disney in terms of animation quality? It's not about false modesty — they wouldn't make such a boast because they, or Miyazaki at least, have acknowledged their considerable debt to Disney animation, particularly to the earlier movies like Snow White, one of only a handful of animated features that could possibly qualify as a "masterpiece".

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bri View Post
On the other hand, it's rare that a Disney story has much artistic merit. With such a strict definition no animation except maybe Fantasia or Spirited Away could qualify as a masterpiece.
Of course, we would all have our own lists of groundbreaking animation to nominate as masterpieces. My personal shortlist would comprise Snow White, Bambi, Fantasia, The Secret of NIMH, Grave of the Fireflies, Princess Mononoke and Millenium Actress. Special mention goes also to The Prince of Egypt. There may one or two I've missed, but that's effectively it. There really aren't that many animated works that stand well against the test of time.

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I don't know if technical quality should play such a large role in rating animation. For example is Van Gogh any less revered as a painter than say Rembrandt as his technical ability is not as good? Or is James Joyce a better writer than Shakespeare because his prose is more complicated to read?
By technical quality, I don't mean to compare the "skill level" of artists across different countries and eras.

There shouldn't even be such a need to compare. Rather, it's more a matter of judging an artist by his body of work, and picking out the pieces that best mark the pinnacle of his craft. That is less controversial, though no less dependent on subjective judgment. Michaelango has his ceiling mural for the Sistine Chapel, for example. Leonardo has the Mona Lisa. Shakespeare has The Tempest. Beethoven has his Ninth Symphony. These works of art are universally acclaimed masterpieces. Some may have different opinions but, by and large, most would agree that they are among the most representative pieces for the respective artists.
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Old 2012-07-11, 19:29   Link #59
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Originally Posted by Kaijo View Post
As per the definition I mentioned earlier, a masterpiece is something skillfully crafted. If something has many flaws, then it is not a work of skill. Madoka has numerous things about it that are, like Evangelion's religious symbols, just odd things thrown in that make no sense in the context of the narrative. It's like giving an award to a piece of art, that consists of someone randomly splattering things onto a whiteboard; it may end up looking good and impressing a crowd, but there was no skill involved. Especially if the artist was simply glancing at another painting and trying to replicate some of its aspects. And numerous pieces of "art" have won such awards in the art world. I remember a crucifix in a bottle of urine, and a ashtray of cigarette butts that were considered high art pieces at one time...
True, a masterpiece is something done with skill, a display of craftsmanship. No so much inventive, as doing something known really well.

Evangelion is a different beast altogether though. While deeply flawed, it altered the very nature of the industry, revolutionized animated characterization and storytelling. It confronted creators how they went about their trade. Still controversial and discussed to this day, only one word comes to my mind to describe it: art.
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Old 2012-07-11, 20:07   Link #60
Akito Kinomoto
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Originally Posted by TinyRedLeaf View Post
Of course every creator should aim for greatness. If not, why the heck should he bother creating? But just because he thinks his work is great doesn't make it great it only makes him vain, an ugly quality not becoming of any artist who sincerely wishes to create something beautiful.

No, you don't get to make a "masterpiece", simply because that's not your call. The decisive judgment comes instead from your professional peers and your ever fickle audience.
I think he was only saying that an author should aim for greatness instead of considering his or her own piece to be fantastic. Yet if the final call on the work's quality is largely outside the writer's control then what's the point of striving for excellence? Someone regarded as a great creator will probably aim high again but could end up failing while an unambitious director might suddenly be the life of the party.

It goes back to being an accident again regardless of whether or not it was the author's intention. Huh.
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