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Wednesday: [w] On the other hand, it could just be that the show is nothing special.

I thought I'd figured it out yesterday, while walking up to the Tesco for brisket and tisane. I'd stuck the opening and ending themes to Kannaduki no Miko on the iPod, amazed at how similar they were. ("Gosh," I thought, "it's nice that anime-oriented J-pop has finally made it into the mid-nineties.") The infectious marketability of "Re-sublimity" reminded me of a conversation I'd had with someone earlier in the week.

I watch Kannaduki no Miko with some friends, one episode every week or so, because it's an utter trainwreck of dismal giant robots and bisexual love triangles. Between the two, there's something to horrify everyone in the room; if that doesn't work, the earthbound characters are overseen by a battery of spirits drawn from the otaku fetishist's checklist (combined as much as the law will allow; I assure you, there is an underaged catgirl nurse/maid).

Most of us really enjoyed Revolutionary Girl Utena, which warped as many seventies shoujo tropes as possible into a magnificent synthesis of derivative pseudosymbolism. It meant nothing, by the producer's own admission, but you could read all kinds of things into it. It didn't make the slightest bit of sense, but it felt like it ought to. KnM, meanwhile, throws the selling points from its genre-spanning contemporaries into a focus group's stone soup pot. Assigning even a semblance of meaning to the sound and fury is beyond this show. Lacking a strong market for choose-your-own-itch-scratcher hentai games in North America (and I'm positive that the anime, recently announced by Geneon USA, was made chiefly with the English-language market in mind), KnM splatters every available fan-kink across the screen.

I turned this over in my mind for a couple of minutes, then wondered when I'd gotten so blasted cynical. Somewhere down the line, the line between mediocrity and disaster had shifted. I couldn't tell whether my standards had changed or the market had. The aggressive marketing was certainly nothing new for any sort of anime or manga (when your subtitle cherry pops on Sailor Moon and Bubblegum Crisis, you've no right to complain), so the mere fact of its existence in a disaster like KnM wasn't the only thing getting to me.

I did know that the harem and magical-girlfriend models had ground me into fine dust, from that perspective. From Tenchi on down, the personality-free, sweet and hapless lad (or, after Fushigi Yuugi, lass) had become a vampire. I'd stopped caring which of the (three? five? seven?) carefully honed, crafted and targeted possibilities landed the self-insertion vehicle. At some point, I began wondering why the creators were passing up such perfect opportunities to draw attention to the social problems each show embraced. Why wasn't Love Hina a useful springboard to the discussion of domestic abuse? Heck, after years of reading Dan Savage, I'd have been happy with Chii's on-switch in Chobits serving double duty as an anatomical chart.

But I couldn't figure out what the straw on the camel's back had been. Perhaps there hadn't been one; no matter how delightful your trashy pleasures are on their own, once crushed and overwhelmed by their cumulative damage, enjoying any particular example becomes hard.

Posted by Wednesday Burns-White at August 6, 2005 5:18 PM

Comments

Comment from: JediLora posted at August 6, 2005 10:25 PM

See, I've been watching Kyou Kara Maou. On the one hand, it involves the main character being adored by all who surround him when he is transported to a new fantastic land, love triangly whatnot, so on and so forth.

On the other hand...well, first off, nearly every character is male. Second, the female characters are all slashers. Third, the first episode involves the main character getting FLUSHED to his new kingdom. And promptly getting himself into trouble because he doesn't speak the language! They fix this with magic, but it's a grand few minutes where the audio turns to gibberish.

Fourth, within the first twenty episodes are cross-dressing pirates, carnivourous koala bears, a stoic knitter, a mad scientist(who is also one of the few female characters), MORE cross-dressing, random acts of comedic nudity, and a general sense of parody and fun.

Fifth? Around episode twenty, it suddenly develops a pretty decent PLOT. Which continues to parody your typical fantasy quest, but also adds its serious moments.

Oh, and did I mention that the humans are, in a way, the bad guys? As Yuuri says(he who is the main character) "What do you mean, DEMON king?" For you see-that's what Kyou Kara Maou translates to: "Today, I am the Demon King!"


I'm fairly cynical about my anime these days. KKM? Just joy.

Comment from: miyaa posted at August 7, 2005 3:36 AM

As the much law will allow? In Japan, that's pretty much darn near everything.

I saw an episode of Tsubasa's Chronicles. And there was Mokona, you know that annoying bunny-like "puu!"-ster from Magic Rayearth Knights. And there was also Sakura, yes the Sakura from Card Captora Sakura. If Clamp continues to recycle anime characters like this, I should expect an episode where Sakura wakes up in bed and realizes Detective Conan is on top of her, while Tsubasa tries to figure out what kind of a car he is.

To me, Utena is the kind of anime you wonder if what exactly were these on when they thought this one up. But, I keep hearing that Japanese humor is an acquired taste.

Comment from: Zaq posted at August 7, 2005 4:35 AM

I wouldn't call it an acquired taste per se; there's a handful of cultural stuff that's hard for the average non-Japanese person (like, say, me) to grasp even if you actually know about it, because so long as the knowledge is in the "top" of your brain and not the "bottom" of it, that is, it's something you were taught and recall more than something you know simply from a lifetime of exposure to it, that can kinda destroy the humor (after all, the best gut-reaction humor comes from playing with your second-nature reactions)... but if you can steer around that, I find that most people I know who have a sense of humor in the first place find Japanese humor no more nor less funny (inherently, anyway. Like anything else, there's good Japanese humor and bad Japanese humor) than any other breed.

Of course, then you stumble across something like Cromartie High School, which is easily the single funniest show I've ever seen.

Comment from: RoboYuji posted at August 7, 2005 4:55 AM

Well Tsubasa is essentially "Crisis on Infinite CLAMP Worlds", so recycling is to be expected. Though I kind of like the way they tie together their various comics through little cameos here and there.

Comment from: miyaa posted at August 7, 2005 6:27 AM

Wednesday, I think I've figured out an answer of why Japanese anime doesn't try to tackle more hardcore real-life social concerns.

One is they tend to overtly address real-life issues in more of a full-length movie style. Witness the very popular Nausicaa: Valley of the Winds, and the more obvious Please Save My Earth. Even Princess Monoke dealt with some real-life social issues (all three are environmental). The Japanese in general are some of the most introspected people you'll ever meet. They are aware of their own problems and would even be the first ones to admit to their defaults. They love to scrutinize themselves.

There isn't enough time to go over all of the possibilities that a television series would allow you to examine various facets of a particular issue. It's not that anime producers do not try, many feel they need the freedom of time to make their points across.

Also, just about everything about Japanese society and culture since World War II is heavily modeled after the United States, and there's a bit of a lag. I don't think American cartoons started to devel into social issues until probably the 1970's.

The other thing is that with all of the insanely intense pressure Japanese youth (children, teens, young adults) have in getting into the proper schools (kindergarden, elementary, high school, college) it's probably wise that anime doesn't bonk them on the head too hard either (or other Japanese shows in general).

Comment from: Mechaman posted at August 7, 2005 8:55 AM

It also depends on the series and intent. Harem animes? Uh, yeah, that one's more or less a safe (and way way way drawn out) one. I ht over the line rather quickly, as Infinite Universes of Tenchi and El Hazard did me in. On the other hand, it's not the ones I look for mainstays.

Current 'guilty pleasure' is Bleach, which has been _smart_ on a lot of it's characterization, even despite being classic cockroach saint anime mold.

I'm not sure if I'm wanting social commentary in what I watch (though I don't mind it if it's not heavyhanded), but I do prefer it to have some punch without being pointless. Nadia of the Blue Waters and Full Metal Alchemist spring to mind. Zeorhymer and Eva for the most part can check their bags at the door, for all the latter's quality.

Comment from: Wednesday posted at August 7, 2005 11:25 AM

A couple of things, scattered. Yuji's right about Tsubasa. From what I've read of the manga, it's quite a cunning attempt at that sort of thing, too. (That said, it didn't get my attention as hard as it might, but I'm following the parallel/counterpart series xxxHolic slavishly. Why that one didn't go to television is beyond me; I'll be ecstatic for the film when it's released in R1.)

I know about the anime which do go in for the introspection. Not really my point. (I am the only one in the world who found Nadia tedious and predictable.) The harem and magical-girlfriend anime (related and overlapping, but not identical, which is why I bring them both up) in particular strike me as so very overripe for blatant subversion, and the right point to do that would have been circa Love Hina. Instead, we got Ai Yori Aoshi.

I'm still cringing at the idea of He Is My Master, which should end with those two girls joining a union or starting a co-op sex toy shop.

I don't look to harem/m-g for mainstays either (that's what the more enthusiastic Go Nagai remakes/reworkings and stuff like Haibane Renmei are for -- I'm really, really enjoying what I've seen of Kamichu, and I'm brokenhearted that there wasn't more Panda Z or Mazinkaiser). But that cluster's problems have thumbs in so many other types of shows that the poison shows up all over the place, and I'd like for my trainwrecks to be bad for other, new reasons.

The other way Love Hina could have gone, say? Lifetime TV-movie.

Comment from: Wednesday posted at August 7, 2005 11:27 AM

Oh, and: Cromartie's a work of genius.

The live-action version of that should be fascinating, given that the mangaka said, "I don't care about it, so do whatever" and the director took the mangaka at his word. But there's Mechazawa Beta, so it can't possibly suck.

mecharatta.

Comment from: Zaq posted at August 7, 2005 2:10 PM

There's a live-action Cromartie? And nobody told me? That should be interesting.

Just the thought of the "humming" episode done live-action is making me laugh already.

Comment from: Connor Moran posted at August 7, 2005 2:56 PM

I haven't yet had the chance to see the Cromartie anime, although I've been devouring the manga as it comes out. One of the few positives to come out of my otherwise somewhat frustrating effort to read one volume of every manga we have in the comic shop where I work.

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski posted at August 7, 2005 5:07 PM

That was weird. I got several paragraphs into this post without having noticed the prefixed [w] on its title; thinking to myself, "Did Wendesday turn Eric onto anime the week she was over? Did he fall for it this hard? Then why didn't he say anything before now? You think you know a blogger..."

Comment from: gwalla posted at August 7, 2005 7:03 PM

A bunch of anime clichés squished together haphazardly to make a buck? Sounds like Outlaw Star. God that sucked.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at August 7, 2005 7:52 PM

She's the anime expert of this duality. I'm a duffer -- I know Star Blazers and the movies, and I've seen some Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z. I love me that Cowboy Bebop something fierce, as well, and Gatchaman and the like is as much a part of my history in all its bastardizations as it is everyone else.

Oh, and Voltron. Dude, Voltron.

But when we get into the hardcore stuff, there's the stuff my friends Beth and Walter showed me, and stuff I've run into randomly, and a few odd episodes of Bubblegum Crisis, and... well, yeah. I'm pretty much a nobody in this scene.

Comment from: Wednesday posted at August 7, 2005 8:29 PM

Dude, Jubei-chan isn't hardcore. It's not level one, but it's not hardcore. None of the Daichi shows are particularly hardcore, especially if you already have a firm grounding in manic surrealism.

Neither is BGC, really. If anything, that's entry level just from the extent to which it was informed by Western sensibilities and source material (I'm being generous here. ^^)

I'm trying to think of anything I've got which could be classed as hardcore. Possibly Excel Saga. I'd say FLCL if it hadn't already demonstrated how accessible it was, although it does freak some people out. Maybe Idol Project?

Comment from: miyaa posted at August 8, 2005 2:20 AM

FLCL didn't so much as freak me out (Metropolis did, though.) as wonder if Cartoon Network used this to show that there is something even more weird than Oh! Super Milk-Chan.

Either Excel Saga is one of those 80's Robotech clones or did someone really did an Anime about the early days of Microsoft?

Comment from: RoboYuji posted at August 8, 2005 2:53 AM

Excel Saga is basically a parody/satire of everything that's ever been in anime ever. And some other stuff too, since I think there actually WAS a joke about Excel at some point . . .

Comment from: Meagen Image posted at August 8, 2005 5:16 AM

I'm a lapsed anime fan. I've been downloading Great Detectives Poirot and Marple, just for the Agatha Christie content, but aside from that I have very little interest in what comes out of Japan these days.

Also, I seem to notice sexual content in the manga I read a lot more than I used to. Some Polish publisher just released the first volume of Tokyo Mew Mew, and the scenes of a 14-year-old girl being held in suggestive ways by much older boys just seem *wrong*. One of my friends showed me He Is My Master. I might have been able to enjoy the show for what it is - stupid cheesecake - if not for the fact that the girls are so young.

The Japanease are a sick, sick people.

Comment from: RoboYuji posted at August 8, 2005 12:56 PM

Ha ha, I've learned to totally disregard the made up ages assigned to moving drawings a long long time ago. This may make me a bad person, but it also allows me to enjoy my anime without any guilt.

I also rather liked the first episode of He Is My Master, especially since it seemed to be intentionally exaggerated and over the top, being a Gainax show and everything . . .

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at August 8, 2005 3:06 PM

I'm a semi-serious anime fan myself. I keep up mostly, to be honest, to have something to chat with friends about when we aren't chatting video games. However, because gaming takes up most of my time and budget, I'm restricted to one or two series at a time. Currently, that's Azumanga Daioh (which is like animated cotton candy to me) and Midori Days (which has so far made me avoid feeling like an utter creep for watching).

Actually, I always was disappointed that the series I found most entertaining were considered more "hardcore." I'm proud to say that the first anime I owned was Dragon Half, and insist that everyone I know watch it. It's only an hour, and worth it for the end theme alone - bonus points if you find the VHS version with the hilarious subtitles (heh, Godslayer of hit points...). Excel Saga is also in this vein, although longer and more obscene (I'm still trying to cope with the existence of Episode 26).

Also, I'd just like the record to show that Voltron's Princess Allura was the first female I was ever attracted to. Velma, from Scooby-Doo, was second. And I'm somehow married today.

Comment from: miyaa posted at August 8, 2005 3:16 PM

Speaking of Voltron...

There was like three versions of Voltron. There was one where made up of like fifteen cars that could split into three divisions for air, land and sea. That was in a near earth universe. There was a far earth variant with the five cats, everyone has seen that one.

There was a "middle earth" version that I've been told was something of a combination of the other two, or something like a transistion state between one Voltron and the other (as if Voltron went from a solid to a gas, or something like that). Has anyone seen this Voltron? (I mean actually watched it. I've seen stills, but I've never seen this version of Voltron.) Or am I just plain crazy?

Comment from: Wednesday posted at August 8, 2005 3:16 PM

See, episode 26 struck me as being pretty mild. Then again, Excel Saga disappointed me across the board (don't get me wrong, I liked it very much, but it wasn't the OMGWTF-fest I'd been led to believe it was) - I'd seen Puni Puni Poemy first.

Comment from: Wednesday posted at August 8, 2005 3:22 PM

Dairugger^WVehicle Voltron is still the best Voltron. Fucking GoLion. They're making a live action version? It's fucking GoLion.

The third Voltron was planned, but never aired; it's an adaptation of Albegas. There was a toy of Gladiator Voltron, and he shows up once in the recent comics.

Comment from: gwalla posted at August 8, 2005 9:04 PM

I remember some sort of space Voltron. I think it was shown before the lion Voltron started.

Azumanga Daioh > *

Comment from: Wednesday posted at August 8, 2005 9:06 PM

Yeah, that's Vehicle Voltron, or Voltron of the Near Universe. The Dairugger one with the Galaxy Garrison and the big explory ship and the three teams.

Y'know, the good Voltron.

Comment from: RoboYuji posted at August 9, 2005 12:10 AM

Ha ha, yeah, you're supposed to watch Excel Saga first and THEN Puni Puni Poemy! The way around is like starting with the hard drugs FIRST!

And oddly enough, I'm a huge anime fan to this day, and yet I always rather disliked Voltron. Especially the super lame lion one. Give me a Go Nagai based robot show anyday!

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