Wednesday, January 30, 2008

In My View: What's the Moe?

In all of fandom there are arguments that seem to stretch across the span of time. Subs vs. Dubs. Eva vs. RahXephon. Fansubs. And now it's moe.

To be honest, I don't get it. I mean I don't get any of it. On a basic level, I understand what moe is, I understand that there's supposed to be these cute, lovable girls that I, the viewer, just want to protect. They're anime's equivalent of the teddy bear or the picture of the puppy dog.

Now I've watched the first four episodes of Air and all I have to say is, um... what's the problem? All of the people who froth in the mouth about how bad moe is seem to go on about how these characters are spineless drones that pander to an audience that wants an ideal little sister, who'll do all those things that stereotypically have been the woman's province.

I have already said my piece about stereotypes in fiction, but I'll say it again. The actual stereotype doesn't matter. It doesn't matter if Harriet spent all day smiling over a sink full of dishes. It doesn't matter that a character enjoys filling a role that has been classically designated by one's gender. Anymore than it matters that Rambo likes going out and kicking ass and taking names.

What matters is what the show/movie/book says about the stereotype. The reason why Harriet or June Cleaver might be offensive is that they are lauded as the ideal. They don't have bad days. They don't have hopes and dreams or fights. The plot and world says that they're happy filling that role and that everyone who fufils that role is happy. Just because a character is moe, doesn't mean they're the ideal.

And considering how borderline unhappy these people seem to be I don't think it's sending a positive or negative message either way.

But again, that's just me.

I mean it's not like all of the female characters live off of their husbands, smiling that they get the extreme joy of being dependent on their man. It's not like they need the guy to solve all their problems. In fact the main character in Air is at best a vagrant, at worst he's a loser.

The female lead might be cute and yes, a bit ditzy, but it isn't like she can't make up her own mind without going to the male lead. So how is this a horrible stereotype that classifies women.

And to top it all off, and I hate to say it, but aren't these all harem shows to begin with. Even though someone's sure to launch themselves at me for this one, but when were harem shows great to begin with? I don't see people holding up Ai Yori Aoshi or Love Hina as the height of anime. So instead of random girl going crazy once an episode, now we have random girl being cute once an episode? What's the big deal?

And will I ever know?

Friday, January 18, 2008

In My View: Hemingway and Joyce, some thoughts on pretentiousness

So iknight's got me thinking about language lately. Thanks. Just thanks, because all I needed was my mind churning around in semantic circles like some car where the wheels on the right side have gone out.

Okay, so it's not his fault. But I've been thinking about the word pretentious. Doesn't that word just sound like what it is? Pre-tent-ious. And while I don't think the anime reviewing circles have totally mashed that word into a bloody pulp, I do think it's really really overused.

The problem I have with it, is that it's a gut reaction word. On top of that, it's a word that holds all of it's meaning in the connotation and a little bit in the denotation.

The denotation of the word is:

" characterized by pretension: as a: making usually unjustified or excessive claims (as of value or standing) b: expressive of affected, unwarranted, or exaggerated importance, worth, or stature "

At least according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. (Yeah, it isn't the OED, but it's good enough for me.)

So really, it isn't about the show at all. The word is reflective of claims that are made about the importance of the show. What I think it's come to mean is a story that seems to think too highly of itself without actually delivering. The problem is that I don't think it's really reflective of what people are actually reacting to.

How Joyce and Hemingway relate to anime

Okay, so a long time ago I was forced to read "Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man" (now that's a pretentious title if I've ever seen one). During the lead up to reading it, I learned Joyce mainly wrote for a small group of his friends. Now all of them really liked what he had to say. In all honesty, I think that's what people are reacting to when they say a show is pretentious.

Essentially, there is this show (take your pick, but I'll take Lain), that is directed at a particular audience (people who like theme heavy science fiction with a broken narrative). Now the target audience is going to love it. While the rest of everyone else is going to sit around scratching their heads going, "Huh?"

In Literature, the supporters would call it art. They'd sit around discussing the various implications and talk like this is truly the most important piece of writing that has come along for the last decade or longer. The same thing happens in anime to a certain extent, but mostly because anime in general doesn't attract the same culture.

The type of culture that is attracted is a Hemingway culture. Now I use Hemingway in specific because he stated that he wrote for a mass audience. He wanted people to understand what he was writing. He didn't doll it up. He didn't obfuscate what he was trying to say by fooling around with form or language. He just said it. Now that doesn't mean he couldn't be subtle. But he focused on the story first and the rest of the stuff second.

In general, that's the type of culture that anime attracts. We usually want more Hemingway and less Joyce type of stuff, because it's geared at a mass audience. (That's why something like Lain will never have the commercial success of something like Cowboy Beebop.)

So which one is better?

Okay, so I've kind of hinted at my feelings on the subject. But I think there's two general trains of thought that go through anime. There are the storytellers and the artistes. Now the storytellers focus on story first and theme second. In fact, I think the perfect example of that is Paranoia Agent, which while it had a pretty big theme that was overtly important to the plot, it didn't forget that the characters needed to go through arcs, that there needed to be a build in tension, that people were watching this show for the show and not for whatever the creators are trying to say.

Whereas artistes are dedicated to art-form. They don't care about the audience that "doesn't get it". They only care about the people who will admire their brilliance. And on general audiences, that doesn't work. For the most part, their message gets lost somewhere in the broken narratives, the symbolic discourses and the bizarre twists. The artistes are doomed to be misunderstood and derided. And they should be, because they don't give enough of a damn about their audiences to really make a story.

Related Link

Just to prove how unoriginal I am, Michael over at AnimeOtaku wrote about a similiar thing a while back concerning ErgoProxy

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Hidoshi Q&A: That's Not Kanon

(Okay, Blogger is doing weird things. If any of the words are run together it's the machine's fault and is not reflective of the intelligence of the interviewer or the interviewee. Well it could be reflective of the intelligence of the interviewer, but I'm not going to admit that.)

Name: Mark P Tjan

Age: 24

Location: Toronto area, Canada

Occupation: Professional illustratorworking in the technical field. Graduating in April.

Q: What was the first anime you watched? When did you start watching anime? And how were you introduced to it?

A: I probably can't remember at this point. I come from a mixed background that includes Japanese, so I've been exposed to things I didn't know were "anime" throughout my childhood. I suppose the first time I realised something was anime was at my local Blockbuster back when I was 13, and they had subtitled copies of the original Guyver OVA, Genesis Survivor Gaiarth, and Doomed Megalopolis, amongst others. Gaiarth was really the one that hooked me, and I've looked back fondly on it ever since.

Q: I've noticed quite a range of shows discussed on your blog, anything from Lucky Star to Gundam 0083. Is there a particular genreyou gravitate to? What type of shows do you enjoy? Is there any show you'd be embarrassed to admit that you like?

A: I'm not much of a genre guy, to be honest. In this day and age I seeeverything becoming more and more meta and cross-pollinated. Even backin the day though, I think genres have always made us less aware of what something is. Take for instance Gundam 0083. Sure the predominant feature is mecha, but it's also a political story, a drama (both romantic and wartime), and has its funny moments. If we look at Zeta Gundam, it's actually easier to classify that as a drama-tragedy than a big mecha show. So for me, genre is irrelevant. I tend to see it asa marketing ploy that we've all become too comfortable with and need to wake up and escape.

Shows I'm embarrassed at liking? Not many. I'm very straightforwardabout things. Some people have a guilty pleasure like Dragonball Z,but I'm usually quite pig-headed and forward about my opinion of such things (it sucks!). I guess if I had to pick one, it's probably Love Hina. As long as you take away the Spring Break special and the"Again" episodes, Lova Hina was a product I really enjoyed, but don't always feel justified in doing so. It is really heavy on the gags and it's not particularly well-written, but it's fun damnit. It's one series I can just throw my cares out the window about and watch for the hijinks.

Q: And do people really pretend that FF VII wasn't their first RPG? (I just read a rather old post).

A: Ahahaha, see, now you've asked me a loaded question! If I say it wasn't, I'll probably be called a liar. I think a lot of people do though. It's embarrassing for some folks to be part of the mainstream. I personally have no problem with mainstream products, I think it's really childish to be such a hater. I mean, I talk about maturity and such all the time, and I think a part of being taken seriously is accepting that you do like mainstream things and just going with it.If some hater comes up to you, just go "so? Whatever" and leave him or her alone. FFVII wasn't my first RPG, I was into them long beforethat. I think my first was probably Secret of Evermore or one of the early Japan-only Fire Emblems (my uncle gave me a copy he'd sawed the extra pieces out of so I could play it on a regular SNES).

Q: I notice that you talk about fandom quite a bit. How long have you been part of fandom? I've also noticed that you talked about the convention circuit. How many conventions do you go to and what do you cosplay as? What do you like about fandom what do you dislike about fandom?

A: "Fandom" is hard to define. Online I've been part of the fandom since probably 1997-1998, possibly a year or so earlier depending on when it was that I got the internet for the first time. Back in the days of 56kbps! Wow, I feel slightly old now. I went to a pretty sports-oriented high school so not many people gave a crap about anime or anything. Except for two kids who I used to hang around with, both Asian and really into Gundam. It was always fairly validating to think that someone else out there knew what I was talking about. I'd seen0080/0083 by then. My local friends were more into video games (I was the guy with the PSX and Saturn back then), so that also wound up leading to anime fandom. Golden Boy was a big OVA for us. Big.

For conventions, I started back in 2001 with Anime North. I'd been to a comic book convention once before, but it was pretty dull so I didn't really think much of it. A friend on a chatroom I used to frequent told me about AN and said she was going, so I figured I'd drop by and meet her. In the end she and I lost track of each other, but I kept going! I also went to CN Anime (a portion of FanExpo) that year as well. 2002 was the year everything exploded for me though. I met someone who introduced me to her cosplay group and told me about performing in the masquerade. It sounded like fun so I joined in, and the group's been together ever since. We recently dissolved the old name and united with another sister group of ours to form the Ontario Anime Society.

I tend to hit up quite a few conventions. Not as may as some, butenough to satisfy me. Anime North and FanExpo here in Toronto, AnimeBoston down in Massachusetts, Otakon in Baltimore, Otakuthon in Montreal (come see me! I'm a guest this year!), and I've been to a few others. I don't like overdoing it because then I feel worn out. Plus I'm broke after all that! I tend to cosplay as whomever I see fit. I'm not really that versatile as a cosplayer, so I stick to "safe"costumes. Recently my role has been organising things for the OAS,which means I have less time. I've done things like Miroku from Inu-Yasha, Jiraiya from Naruto, and Shigure from Fruits Basket. This year I might be doing someone from Macross F, probably Ozma since I have a chinstrap beard now.

Wow this is a big question... Uh. What do I not like about fandom? That's a very broad spectrum. I don't like "cultural idiocy" as I put it on my own blog. I think a lot of people get overexcited about mundane things and treat them as special (ie: the Japanese language orany non-English words period). I mean, I understand it. Been there, done that. But as a community I think the fandom needs to move forward. I'm also very against the sexualising of everything. Yaoi, yuri, general hentai... I think there's too much now. Way too much. I know I'll probably get a few angry e-mails about that, but my point is that I don't really like the oversexualising we do. I think it's unnecessary and immature. But hey, that's me. At the very least, I'd prefer people kept it to themselves. Heaven knows I don't need anymore fangirls waving yaoi doujins in my face.

Other than that, I also don't like the unethical downloading offansubs. I don't think fans realise they're hurting their own industry, and that needs to be made clear. I'm a DVD buyer, but I realise companies need to respond to that situation too and make things available online for cheap. There are ways to solve all this,but it has to start with us. Write letters to companies asking for digital distribution options. Tell your friends to stop downloading or watching on YouTube when a series has been licensed, etc. It starts with us.

Q: If you had to pick a top five favorite anime, what would they be?

A: That's easy. Macross Plus, Twelve Kingdoms, Genshiken, Genesis Survivor Gaiarth, and Princess Mononoke.

Q: Is there anything about you that you think would surprise your readers?

A: I'm not white? Hahah, no, but all joking aside... I don't really think so. I'm pretty clear in who I am in my writing, so I don't feel the need to hide much. I suppose if anything, that I have a very strong spiritual side and that I'm a Theosophist (think Buddhist-Hindu-etc sort of thing, but not in a hokey way). To me, my spiritual life is the most important aspect of my existence. It's where I find a lot of my ethical grounding and where I begin to base my opinions.

Q: So I'm curious is "That's not Kanon" a statement like "Hey, you aren't talking about Kanon." or is it an accusation like "That's not Kanon!" or is it a play on the word Canon?

A: A play on the phrase "that's not canon", really. I thought it was kindof cute. I never meant to keep it or continue writing the blog (most such experiments have ended in failure), but somehow I just kept going. Glad I did!

Q: I noticed that your blog started as a cooperative effort and then it became just you posting. I'm a little curious what happened there?And more generally how did you get into blogging?

A: Actually, it still is a cooperative effort. Shooichi is my co-authorand he posts every so often. He's less motivated I suppose? But he always comes out with something quality when he does put in a word. If anything, he's much, much funnier than I am. I've always appreciated that.
I got into blogging largely as an experiment. I had started reading blogs on BlogSuki (we miss you), and then followed it up with AnimeNano (we love you!). I figured I wanted to try my hand at it, so I did. A couple of months in, Owen from Cruel Angel Theses linked me and it's been an uphill jog ever since.

Q: If you had to classify your blog as a "type" what type would that be? What types of blogs do you enjoy reading? What types of blogs doyou not enjoy?

A: Probably subcultural anthropology or some convoluted name like that. I'm across the spectrum really, because I prefer social commentary over reviews but still do the latter anyway. I enjoy reading blogs that give me an opinion on something. The End of the World blog is really good for that, as is Cruel Angel Theses and Mistakes of Youth (though wildarmsheero sometimes scares me with all the body pillows). I feel blogs that just do giant image posts or recap episodes are a waste of time. I mean, why bother? No one wants the spoilers if they haven't seen it anyway, and if they have, what's the point of a recap? And while images are all good and fine, we've got Danbooru and 4chanfor that. Open a gallery instead!

Q: On a side note, it almost seems like there's two types of posts I've seen - the angry rant and the longer argumentative one - whichone do you prefer writing more?

A: I tend to write both at once. I suppose the angry rant is easier and it provides more immediate rewards (visitor rates jump for drama), but the argument -- if well thought out -- is that much better in the long run. It gives people a lot more to talk about in an intelligent manner, rather than just squawking like a duck that was kicked in the sphincter. It's important that communication be emotional, but not out of control. The same goes for the intellectual component. Too often people can justify anything, and if you can't feel what right and wrong is in a moment, I don't think you can establish much of a moral compass about anything. I've found that I tend to do the latter and then write it all out because of frustration, but then it's just an angry rant disguising itself as something intelligent. It's one of those pitfalls we need to avoid.

Q: If you had to pick three posts that you think are your best what would they be?

A: Hm... Probably the first that comes to mind is "Claymore and the Samurai" ( It's a bit of a culturalanthropology study I did and while short, frames everything nicely. I might return to it one day in more depth. Then there's "My Life and Macross Plus" ( which was mostly a small biography of my relationship with Shoji Kawamori's best work. Lastly,and perhaps most importantly, "Considering the Whole When Reviewing"( is something I feel every blogger should probably glance at. Hemingway taught us that "writing is re-writing", and I think a similar concept needs to be applied to reviews. I'm guilty of betraying this concept a lot, but I still try to keep it in the back of my head. You have to get away from the material before you can really review it, otherwise the entire affair can be doctored by excitement, either positive or negative. That skews your opinions and makes your review ineffectual. We could probably phrase it as "reviewing is re-viewing", to be perfectly succinct.

Q: Any closing thoughts?

A: I'd like to thank you for your time and this opportunity for an interview. I think site-to-site blogging and conversations are very important so that we can all share in ideas more often, even if we disagree. I hope everyone enjoys my blog (even if you dislike what I'm saying), and please feel free to call me on it. I'll always respond.

Blog in Review: This is Kanon

A while back I started a blog post (that I'll finish one day) trying to lump various blogs into rock music types. Mostly because I like music and I like blogs and of course there has to be a way to combine the two into some sort of cohesive whole.

Now granted, that kind of fell apart, but "That's not Kanon." still reminds me of NOFX. Occasionally loud, usually angry, but always with an interesting point. Overall, the blog touches on a little bit of everything, and a whole lot about fandom and the people in it. It takes stabs at cosplay, the entire nipponphile culture and commercialism at conventions. In a lot of ways, it is an examination of the people surrounding anime than the shows itself. And that's not a bad thing.


To be fair, I have to divide Hidoshi's posts into two categories - the quick and dirty rant and the longer argumentative essay. Now the quick and dirty rants are generally more accessible. First of all, he has a great voice in these posts. It flows naturally and I don't find myself having to go back and re-read what he said earlier to see if I missed something. They aren't so long that I find myself skimming through to see what was said later. And to be honest, his points are cutting, insightful and very opinionated. All of which are good for a blog. Really, I could pick out one or two, but his most recent posts all have these same qualities.

On the other hand, his longer argumentative essay posts tend to be a bit dense - both in subject matter and in language. Now I don't want to say that it's a bad thing (because honestly, I don't want to be the guy to say, "Make it more stupid, so I can understand it.") But I think sometimes it does hurt his point. For instance, his post "On Being Filled with Stereotypes" is a really interesting examination of how some people relate to characters. But when I hit the line, "The disinterested variant will pay the original character more courtesy and only siphon a portion of the experience, without wearing the comparisons too blatantly. In my own experience, I’ve had this done with Genshiken. We pick and choose and pick and choose, but because none of the characters are outstanding winners or losers in the series, it doesn’t goad anyone to say “such and such is me” with any affronting certainty," I had to stop and reread it. And then stop and reread it again before I got what he was saying.

Now in all fairness, this is I'm guilty of as well. And I don't think that it's necessarily bad to be smart. But in all honesty, the voice that makes the angry rants fun to read is lost right here.

And I do have to make a note about Shoochi's posts, which are much less frequent and no less enjoyable. Again most of his commentary seems to be aimed at exploring the fan element of fandom rather than anime itself. Although Shooichi's funny posts do tend to be funnier than Hidoshi. Hidoshi handles the angry rant better.

They also do talk about anime at least somewhat. Although, I tend to think that those posts aren't necessarily the ones that draw me to read the blog. They also don't drive me away from it. I tend to be pretty indifferent to them.


That's Not Kanon is easily the one of the prettiest blogs I've ever read. From the banner to the layout, it's very easy on the eyes. (I'm not surprised to learn that Hidoshi works in illustration). Some of the things I want to highlight would be the combination of sections, a chronological listing and a category listing so that you can search the posts three different ways.

And while I think the banner and design are deceptively flowery, considering the nature of the blog, it is a really great layout. To be fair, I'm kind of jealous.

I don't even have any problems with the pictures he uses. Even if they aren't astounding, he definitely uses them well and I don't have any problems scrolling through them. And to be honest, he rarely uses pictures anyway.

One of the things I did want to point out about the layout of the page is that the font seems a bit on the smaller side. While still readable, it makes the posts feel shorter than they might actually be. And when you combine that with Hidoshi's usual voice it makes for a good read that feels quicker than it might actually be.

Oh yeah, and I have to mention the poll, which is neat as well.


In all honesty, it's hard not to recommend That's Not Kanon. When it's rocking, it's really rocking. When it's not rocking, well it still plays a pretty interesting tune. There isn't anybody who wouldn't have an opinion on the subjects that Hidoshi or Shooichi brings up. Well unless you're not interested in fandom. Or are way too sensitive about the subject.

List o the Weak: My top five favorite anti-heroes

Okay, so I'm going to take a pretty liberal definition of anti-hero here. Traditionally the anti-hero actually has to be the main character of the story, but I do have at least one character in here that is a ally of one of the protagonists. And one that is briefly allied with one of the protagonists.

That said, there's something about an anti-hero that just appeals to me. Whether it's their twisted sense of ethics, their self-delusion or just the fact that they're an out and out jerk. I can't help being interested in how they're going to play out. And I certainly can't help hoping that they'll either grow up or get what they deserve or at least get their revenge.

So here it is, my top five favorite anti-heroes in anime.

Number Five: Kei Kurono, Gantz

There's something about a jerk. It isn't that they're likable, although I do have to say that Gantz is stocked with fairly likable characters, it's that they can say what the audience is really thinking and get away with it.

And Kurono is exactly that character. He starts off simply thinking about how miserable he is, and how the world treats him unfairly and when it starts REALLY treating him unfairly he reacts in a backlash. To be honest, he does do some pretty heroic things, but in general they're out of a sense of wanting to fit in rather from an actual desire to do good things.

The only reason he ended up so low on the list is that his whining does get a bit annoying occasionally. And towards the end, he actually does play the hero.

Number Four: Paul von Oberstein, Legend of the Galactic Heroes

Ahh... what a Machiavellian countenance. To be honest, he looks a lot nicer in this picture than he actually is. (He's the piebald guy in the background.) Generally, the type of anti-hero I enjoy the most is the type who has the best interests in mind, but his methods are a little bit suspect. And while Reinhard von Lohengramm is starting down the road to being an anti-hero, he's being lead there by Oberstein.

Case in point, he allows an entire planet to get nuked so he can use it as a propaganda tool. Granted it worked. He also cuts Reinhard off from his sister to pull him out of his moping. Again, the sensible move, but also the nasty move. He is what Machiavelli meant when he said, "It is better for your subjects to fear you, then to love you."

Number Three: Saito, Rurouni Kenshin

And of course, I couldn't let an anti-hero list go by without mentioning one of my favorite abberant characters. What makes this guy so much fun is his twisted sense of justice. I mean how couldn't I enjoy a character who is a spy, police officer and executioner all rolled into one. Probably what I enjoy most about him, is that he doesn't have any angst about what he's doing. He truly feels that he's acting in the best interest of the nation by eliminating the world of it's scum.

Now, I know that it's always in vogue to rip on the popular character. But I think Saito holds up well even on repeated viewings. And how can I not like a guy who says, "I'm glad he's gone, so now I can kill you." or at least something like that.

Number Two: Guts, Beserk

I had a hard time deciding whether or not Guts should really go on this list. Overall, I think it's a testament to Beserk that it doesn't overtly offer up Guts as a classic anti-hero. But overall, his values ARE pretty warped (he just wants to fight, because he enjoys fighting.) Also he's friends with Griffin, who is a whole different type of anti-hero.

And really, not only is he an interesting anti-hero, but he's also and interesting character. Just watching his arc from where he joins up with Griffin to the point where he leaves to the point where he comes back. He is a character who learns to accept his inner darkness, but ends up not being able to accept what that cost him.

And my number one all time favorite anti-hero is:

Ryu Soma

Like I said, there's just something about a jerk and Ryu Soma is the king of all jerks. He starts off the series as a self-involved scientist, who gets caught up in his own pity party. At times he has moments of understanding and while eventually he gets it, he does remain an anti-hero throughout the course of the show.

Probably the best part of it though, is that he doesn't buck the plot. Unlike other anti-heroes *cough* Shinji *cough* we aren't stuck with hours of "Do I really want to do this? Why doesn't my daddy love me?" Instead, we get someone who's trying to figure out how to take revenge on the actual hero.


Agree or disagree? Leave a comment or e-mail

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Importance of a Dog: What I wish every anime would do

I've been rewatching Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex for about the third time straight through. It's been a while between viewings of the series mostly because I've gotten into this rut of watching three or four series at once.

But I came across an episode in the middle of the show called "The Day of the Machines" which I'd always kind of half watched. First because it mostly focuses on the Tachikomas (which were never my favorite characters) and second because I always thought it was just another of those, "Here's a lot of explaining stuff so we can look smart" episodes that are really prevelant in Japanese cyberpunk (and to a lesser extent William Gibson).

Okay, so that might just be Oshii and Innocence, but I might get to that in a bit.

The whole episode always struck me as a throwaway episode, until this time when I actually watched it. I'm going to go into some possible spoilers, so if you haven't watched this show, please do. First of all because it's awesome. And second of all because it's awesome.

The Micro Structure of the Episode and the Macro Implications

The first thing that struck me is that this episode actually has a plot. The whole episode centers around what Major Kusinagi is going to do with the Tachikomas. And their discussion about how to make the major like them. Now granted there is a little of theme tossing in here, the writers weren't particularly subtle about discussing the nature of the interaction between man and robots.

But they also weren't particularly heavy-handed either. While it does watch like the later chapters of "Snow Crash", it doesn't get worse than that. And while the tension is pretty low key between the tanks and the Major, it's still there.

As I was rewatching it though it dawned on me. This is the Standalone Complex in reverse. Namely, it's a bunch of individuals, who are supposed to be uniform, who spontaneously develop unique personalities and view points. So that the discussion of the nature of the interaction between man and machine becomes less important. Really the discussion is there as a medium to convey the macro implications. Basically it's the fact that they're HAVING the discussion that becomes important.

The Importance of a Dog

Something I have to point out about the episode is that the dialogue flowed naturally. While the discussion they were having might have been high-handed, the language they used was very much in line with their characterization up to this point. There had been several instances where they'd displayed curiousity and a social nature, so hearing the Tachikomas discuss this never seemed like the creators talking through the characters.

One of the times they'd displayed that curiousity happened in an earlier episode where one of the Tachikomas had escaped and helped a girl named Miki try to find her dog.

Needless to say it comes up in the "Day of the Machines" episode. Now it comes up in an off hand way as they're all standing around discussing the nature of machines in society, when one of them says, "I'd really like to see her again." and they all chime in that they would too.

Bang... it's the Standalone Complex in microcosm. Essentially it's a group of individuals who all think they had the same experience because they were all sharing information through a common link.

When I realized that, I sat back and said, "Wow." First because the whole scene is a throwaway scene. Or at least it's set up that way. No special importance is placed on it. There isn't any dramatic music to let the viewer "know" that something important is coming. Essentially there's no real reason to pay attention to it.

And secondly because it arrived so naturally. There wasn't anything forced about the way it came up. The writers didn't need to expound on it, or bring in Satre and Socrates to point out how brilliant they were. It just appeared and then it was gone.

And that's what I wish every anime could do.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Why I like Shakugan no Shana (even though I probably shouldn't,)

(Okay, I'm done writing about heavy stuff for a while. I'm going to actually write about anime.)

To be fair, I thought about titling this "Why Not Shana?" but Shana isn't a title that should be in anyone's top ten. And it never was a contender for my number nine spot even from the point when I popped in the first disk. Or even after I saw the first episode at Otakon.

Really, there's nothing about this series that really shines. The artwork is all right. It isn't anything horrid, but the character designs aren't all that surprising. And the inclusion of Willemena (or rather her maid outfit) sent shudders up my spine as soon as I saw it. The story is pretty much sucked straight out of it's predecessors. It's just the current spiritual sucessor to shows like 3X3 Eyes, Chrono Crusade and Blue Seed. Right down to the bombastic, big breasted, exorcist or should I say flame haze or whatever this iteration is calling it.

But all that said, I really like this show. And a lot of it has to do with Shana and Yuji Sakai. Now sure, you could toss Shana into the tsundere basket and say that she's just another character. But I think that's doing the show a disservice. What I actually find compelling is that the creators decided to make Shana a woman at all.

When I compare it to Blue Seed, the roles are completely reversed. The tough competent lead in that one is a guy, who treats the female lead like a obligatory nuisance. In Shana, it's the female lead who treats the male lead as an obligatory nuisance.

And the male lead, isn't the normal milquetoast, "Oh does she love me or hate me?" character. He actually has morals and values and compassion for his fellow man. He actually does stuff (which is always a big thing for me and protagonists). He tries to understand Shana, and yes, he does try to change her. But for the most part, he remains a thoroughly interesting a compelling hero.

Topping all of that off, there was something about this series that actually elicited an emotional reaction. For instance, I was actually concerned that he might actually fade away even though I knew that there was another four disks in the series and they weren't going to kill off the main character. I'm not sure if it had to do with killing a character off so early, or if it had to do with a well-used soundtrack. But to be honest, to get any kind of emotional reaction out of me when it comes to a series like this is like squeezing blood from a stone.

So while, it might just be more of the same. It was definitely a good "more of the same".

Seviakis vs. Smith : My opinion

(Okay, this is the hardest part, which is why I've been putting it off.)


I know calling Mr. Smith wrong is a harsh way to put it. In all honesty, I feel for the guy. He's putting out a product that he thinks is worth selling and people are just coming along and taking it, putting it on the Internet and thumbing their nose at the whole capitalist ideal.

And in a large part, I do want people to buy anime. I do want people to support the industry. But on the other hand, the capatialist paradigm is changing or rather has changed. Gone are the halycon days when a few brick and mortars controlled a very local market and you had to go to them to get your stuff. That was obilitarated when Amazon and eBay proved to be workable business models. Long past is the times when you had to have a physical medium to enjoy copyrighted material. That disappeared with mp3s and the rise of Napster. And quickly disappearing are the days when even ISPs can control the flow of intellectual property through their lines. That vanished when Comcast couldn't close down BitTorrent. (Granted from the sound of it, it might have been more of a case of truth in advertising then anything else.)

So while I feel bad for Mr. Smith on a personal level, I have to say that he needs to wake up and smell the 21st century and the new brand of capitalism. A capitalism that isn't controlled by a few brick and mortars in a very local area. A capitalism that is controlled by the consumer.

And downloading intellectual property without paying for it has become a consumer choice.

Why I think Seviakis's argument is right.

To be honest, perhaps tj_han is correct, and I'm merely mimicing someone else's opinion, but I have worked in retail a long time. And if there is any one rule in retail it's: The customer might not always be right, but they're still the customer.

And in the end, the job of the retailer and the businessman is to meet the customers need. Never has this become more important than in the world of intellectual property, which unlike furniture or shoes or drugs, is not an actual physical item. You can't force customers to come buy from you. You have to offer them either exceptional customer service or a really cheap price.

Seviakis's argument acknowledges this. That it doesn't matter why people are downloading. And while he does indulge into proving that it is hurting the industry, he also points out that trying to guilt people into buying isn't going to work. Essentially the industry has to wake up and deal with the fact that they're not meeting their consumers needs.

And the consumers are taking it for themselves.

(Again, I could spend and entire post talking about whether this is good or bad, but hopefully I've argued that it's a non-point.)

So if the industry wants to compete with fansubs, it has to do exactely that. Compete with fansubs. It has to offer the same service that fansubs do. If they don't then they'll continue to lose money to them.

To be fair, I'm not entirely sure I did his argument justice, but that's what I took away from it. And it's Mr. Smith's argument that scares me far more.

Why I think Arthur Smith's argument is wrong.

Like I've said before, I feel bad for the guy. I will give the man credit. He did start off by saying that the industry is evaluating different options to provide anime quicker to the market. But... and this is a big but... I have a serious problem with the tone of his response. His first two points were much like the beginning of Seviakis's letter. He's simply trying to prove that fansubs are indeed hurting the industry. Now I could spend all day poking holes in his numbers, but I don't think it's necessary. What is necessary is to point out why he's doing it.

He wants us, 'the fans' , to be concerned about the industry. My initial opinion about his tone hasn't changed. The first section of his letter is a plea for people to worry, to give money, it's a pity party told in four part harmony. It's a call to give and give and give some more because you're local neighborhood anime company needs your support. It's not the words of a business man, it's the words of a beggar. Essentially he's turned the anime industry from a business into a charity. Where we "should" give money, rather than "want" to give money.

What disturbs me the most is his third point, where he says why they can't do what Seviakis suggested. Now I do have to give him credit, he does say that he's going to "work to shorten this length of time" but the problem is that he has to make it much quicker than six months. Granted, I've gotten less angry about this as I've read it, but it still seems, like a question of , "Oh we'll try." rather than "Yes, I'm going to do that."

And that's what I want to hear from Smith. I want to know that he's doing everything he can to save his business. I want to know that I'm not wasting my support on an industry that isn't working to support itself.

Because otherwise, why should I waste my time.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Never Ending Cycle: The Fruitless Arguments about Fansubs

This is the second part of my three-part examination of the fansub debate. If you want to see part one it's here.

Now, I'll admit when I started this I made a pretty audacious claim. I said that I'd end the fruitless debates that circle through the fan community on the subject of fansubs. Hopefully, people will agree. If you don't that's fine too. But these are my thoughts anyway.

The reason why this subject is so divisive is because the arguments have become circular. If you assume X, Y and Z then A must be true. And then someone else comes along and says well X, Y and Z aren't true, so A must not be true either. On top of that because anime is such an emotional topic and with the collapse of Geneon, the arguments themselves have become more emotional. To the point where people call each other names rather than form real insightful arguments.

The problem is that the arguments themselves don't really mean anything.

Fruitless argument 1: If you're a fan, then you'll buy the show.

Man, if I had a dime for everytime I heard this one. The problem is that it's complete bull. It makes the assumption that enjoyment of a show and spending money on said show are the same thing. Not only are they the same thing, but you're a morally bad person if you don't spend money on said show.

This is blatantly false. Case in point: I've had a lot of friends borrow my anime (which by the way is perfectly legal), and they've watched it and enjoyed it. Now they haven't spent any money on said shows. They haven't put any money into my anime buying fund. But nevertheless, they enjoyed the show.

Now the classic counterpoint to that is, "Well you should." or "Well BitTorrent means that you can loan that same show to 10,000 + of your friends." The problem is that these arguments are both unrealistic and dangerous. First they're unrealistic because obviously people aren't spending money on X shows. Second they are dangerous because they set up two camps of people. Those who hold the "moral high ground", and who try to guilt trip the fan community into supporting the industry. And the rest of the people, who resent the first group.

The problem is that it doesn't have an obvious solution. If people could be guilted into supporting the industry then they would have been. So all it does is create two groups of people scowling at each other like teenagers on the schoolyard.

Fruitless argument number two: "Fansubs hurt the industry."

This is one of the crux arguments in this entire debate. The problem is that it doesn't matter whether fansubs help the industry or hurt the industry. More to the point, we as fans don't have access to the resources to prove this argument one way or the other.

Even Zac Bertschy, arguably one of the biggest pro-industry advocates out there, stated that he thought fansubs might have helped Fullmetal Alchemist, where they hurt Haruhi. So it's never going to be a cut and dry issue.

What IS important is that the industry thinks that fansubs are hurting it. In fact, probably one of the most astute comments I've heard about it came from Anime Roundtable, when one of the commentators stated, "It makes a good excuse." And it does.

But it doesn't make for a good debate, because whether or not fansubs help or hurt the industry, the industry will continue to claim that fansubs are bad. And no matter how much people say otherwise, it won't change their minds at this point.

Fruitless argument number three: "People download fansubs because of X"

In the end, it doesn't matter why people download fansubs. What is more important is what fansubs represent - a first view of the series. As I've stated before entertainment has a limited shelf life. Several studies have shown that the more a person views a particular piece of entertainment the less they enjoy it. This is something I've expirienced personally. I have to have a cooling off time before I rewatch a show, even if I enjoy it more on the second viewing, there is a certain sense of tension that is lost now that I know how the show ends.

The reason why this argument is fruitless is that without a massive study we'll never know why people download fansubs. And to top it off, even with a massive study, people are just as likely to lie.

So the way around this argument is to understand, that no matter why people are downloading they ARE downloading these shows.

The question remains why do we need to stop the fruitless debate? The answer is simple, because it polarizes the anime community. On top of that, they increase the resentment between the people who purchase anime, the people who purchase and download and the people who just download. In essence, the community can't speak in one voice, to say what they want.

Which is obviously - Anime now, when it comes out.

Blogging the future: The role of blogging and the fansub debate

So I've decided to take up the whole fansub issue one more time, or rather, I've been thinking a lot about it for the past couple months and I finally came to some conclusions. This discussion will come in three parts. First, it's necessary that we take a look at the role of blogs both in general and in the context of the fansub debate. Second, I'm going to try to end some of the useless arguments that have gone around the fansub community for the past three or so years. And lastly, I'm going to try to prove that Justin Seviakis' is right, while Arthur Smith is wrong.

Part One: Why am I even bothering to do this anyway?

About a month and a half ago, I came across Arthur Smith's interview on, which started my irratation with this topic. Now, I won't go into all of the details of why, but I'll leave it at that it left me with a bad taste in my mouth. So I wrote about on this blog and I left it be.

When Justin Seviakis released his open letter, I participated in the debate over on the ANN forums, but only enough to say that he was right. In fact, I figured that this debate really didn't have much to do with me. I mean I did my part, didn't I? I bought all the DVDs I could afford. I've gone to the ADV site and clicked through on their ads. There simply wasn't any reason for me to say anything more on the subject. Mostly because Seviakis had said everything I'd wanted to say and said it a lot better and with more credibility than I could.

When Arthur Smith replied, I chose not to respond again. Because why bother? I'd already said my peace, and I don't think Smith handled himself any better this time than he did the last time. For reasons I'll get into later. But I still didn't respond on this blog because I figured it really wouldn't make any different. And I didn't have much to add to the argument.

So why am I writing about it now? Because after a month, I haven't seen any real reaction from the Japanese side of the industry and because I think blogs (and podcasts) hold a special position in this debate.

Shortly after Seviakis's letter, tj_han wrote this blog post about the blogging scene. Stating that most bloggers (including himself) are bandwagon hoppers, who come along after the "wise old men" have made their prognostications, and largely bandwagon hoppers, "don’t have the nous, life experience or wisdom to create an intelligent, original view. What they always think is their view, is actually the views of others whose works they have read. Read enough of others’ opinions and you’ll think it’s yours."

Perhaps he is correct. Perhaps debating this subject is merely rehashing old arguments made by people who are smarter than we are. And I do think he has a point that there are a lot of poorly constructed arguments that don't really get at the heart of the debate.

But, the debate is still important because of the nature of fansubs. Because fansubs are the one thing that we "the fans" control, any decision about the future of fansubs has to come from us, the fans. In fact, the point of Smith's bluster is not to simply convince us that fansubs are a problem, but that we need to do something about it.

Because let's face it, if the RIAA and the MPAA and Comcast can't stop BitTorrent and piracy, how does he think a few rinky-dink companies halfway across the world are going to.

So what role do blogs play in the fansub debate? First and foremost, they provide a forum for reasoned debate. In essence, they create Milton's "Marketplace of Ideas" in a way that Milton himself couldn't have imagined. Now some people might argue that the signal to noise ratio is too high to really provide a good sense of the debate. I would argue that the "noise" is also an important part of the debate mostly because those irrational and often stupid arguments are perhaps the most true. They may truely believe that they are right, or they might simply want to keep getting their anime for free. But even a bad argument adds to the debate.

Also blogs, in general, are different from forums because mostly forums attract a certain type of person. In fact, after viewing the homogenity of the ANN forums for more than three years, I can honestly say any debate in the forums is generally a bunch of people (who all agree with whatever one of the "wise old men" said) shouting down the one or two dissenters who happen to wander into the forums.

Even more than that, even that dissent happens in shades of gray. So you rarely see any truly radical voices wandering into the middle of those debates. In general, they may say something like "Oh, I like watching fansubs, but not after the series has been licensed in NA." They certainly don't say, "Dude, I'm not paying for that crap. And I want to know if it's crap before I buy it." Again because those forums attract like-minded individuals.

Not as much with blogs. Because of the nature of an attena like AnimeNano, I can see opinions that are scattered across the spectrum, from the radical to the extreme pro-industry.

Also the nature of forums, is to wait until the other person is done talking. In fact, those arguments tend to consist of people just waiting to flame someone else because they might of said something untoward, even if the said person didn't say what they're accused of saying in the first place.

Because blogs are one person speaking (at length) they avoid this pitfall. Now, I agree with tj_han's general idea, that there are wise old men, I disagree that the purpose of that second tier is to merely repeat the ramblings of those wise old men.

Yes, the wise old men tell us what we should be debating. But bloggers set the tone of the discussion. They say whether they agree or disagree with those wise old men. And because of the nature of the fansub debate, that could make all the difference in the world.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

A little diversion

Normally I don't talk to much about AMVs, mostly because a majority of them look like what they are - amatuer music videos. But occasionally, I come across one that's good. This isn't mine. The song is by Jonathon Coulton and it's from a series I'm going to buy now called Legend of the Black Heaven.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Why not Now and Then, Here and There?

Sometimes there are just shows that push the boundaries of what anime can and can't do. And I don't mean in a technical aspect, but in a storytelling aspect.

Now and Then, Here and There is one of those shows. There are plenty of those types of shows in the history of American television - NYPD Blue comes to mind - that do things that make the average viewer squirm. They take a subject throw it in the viewer's face and say, "Now deal with it because this is real and if you can't deal with real then you're living in a fantasy land."

Now and Then, Here and There does that. It takes all the horrors of war and men and mashes it into 13 episodes. Much like El-Hazard or Escaflowne, the show follows the story of a boy named Shu who is transported far into the future into the middle of a war. Initially he's trying to save the life of this mysterious girl named Lala-ru, but he ends up getting imprisoned, conscripted, beaten and otherwise abused. All through it, he mantains his optimism that somehow, tomorrow will be better.

This show is brutal, really brutal. It's so brutal it makes Elfen Lied looks like corn syrup with red food coloring. It makes 24 look like a walk through Main street, USA. And that's what makes it good. It doesn't shy away from the violence, from what people might call the "reality of the scene".

So why not? I like shows that take risks. I like shows that take the expected and twist it around and give me something bleak and horrible and yet hopeful. This does all of that.

Except that Shu simply falls flat. Yes, his optimism is what pulls the story along, but it feels forced, like someone in the planning stages said "Wait, if we have a character who's dark here in this really dark world then people are going to tune out."

And they're right. Most reviews I've read have touted Shu's optimism as one of the reasons that they kept watching. But over the course of 13 episodes it doesn't change. He never waivers. Never has a crisis of conscience. Let's face it, the guy gets hung outside for three days, and he doesn't feel bitter about it. He's given a choice between killing to stay alive and not killing, and he chooses not to kill. The guy has absolutely no moral gray area.

This doesn't just mean I have to suspend disbelief. No I have to take it out back and shoot it in the head. Because no one who goes through what he goes through and could come out saying, "Yes give me another."

And not only that, but he ends up just being a catalyst. Essentially because all of the other characters give into bitterness and despair, he's the one who's there to provide conflict. He's the one who's there to tell their stories. And having a main character who's not really the main character, while an interesting device, doesn't make for the most involving storytelling.

And no amount of blood and guts can fix that.

Agree or disagree? Leave a comment or e-mail

In the middle of a crisis

So really I wasn't quite sure what I wanted when I started to write this blog. To be truthful, it all started at two o'clock one morning when I thought, "Oh hey, I should start writing an anime blog."

And I just jumped in, feet first without clue one about what I was getting into. I figured after a month, I would get tired of it and wander off to do something different. Especially after I'd signed up for AnimeNano and wasn't getting on there. And I'd signed up from the anime blogger antenna and didn't get on there.

But all of that changed in the middle of November when I got on the AnimeNano antenna. There's something about seeing more than 100 people visit your site, and even if they aren't reading your crap, they are at least setting foot on your dominion.

But I'm still not sure where I want to go. Now I certainly haven't run out of topics to talk about. I have an idea for a post about classifications and whether they're helpful or not. I've got a pretty detailed idea for a post on fansubs, blogs and the marketplace of ideas. Not to mention there's at least a few more classics I could pick apart.

In the end, I really want to know what other people think. What is it that made you click on this link to begin with? What type of stuff do you want to see? I mean I need to be in the business of bringing in readers rather than distancing them. And I feel that I haven't done that as well as I could.

So... anyways. Please leave a comment or e-mail

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Initial Impressions: Macross Frontier ep 1

A long time ago, back when I was a kid, I watched Robotech. Now I mention that because for a long time, Robotech was largely the holy grail of anime. I never saw enough of it to know exactely what the show was like, but I'd read the artbooks and I played the roleplaying games. I even studied the schematics for the SDF-1.

So I have a special place in my heart for Macross. Or at least the Macross arc in Robotech, which I've heard is a lot like the show (sans protoculture). Then again, it's not a show that stands the test of time. It's horribly cheesy (there are times when the entire city is destroyed and then it's magically put back together). The plot drags more often than not. All in all, it isn't that great.

So I started watching Macross Frontier with a bit of trepidation. I may be nostalgic for the original, but the logical part of my head says the original wasn't really good enough to be nostalgic for.

And Macross Frontier does have all the traditional Macross elements. One teenage boy who wants adventure and excitement. A city traveling through space. A bizarre alien race that appears out of nowhere. And planes that transform into giant robots. In fact, the entire show watches like Macross in the 21st century.

Which is good. In fact, the slightly angsty main character might prove interesting. At the very least (as iknight pointed out in his blog) he isn't overcome with indecision. Only time will tell if he falls into the the "war sucks, why am I doing this" rut, but for right now he's at least moderately interesting.

What the update on the traditional story does do is take away the cheese and make the battles much more kinetic. The use of CG in space has gotten to the point where I don't notice it, so the fairly long space battle actually is a lot more fluid then the original. Also I get the feeling that the city isn't going to get rebuilt in a day. (I doubt today's anime fan would buy into that.)

And I do have to make a note of the music. It's awesome. And that is something good that they carried over from the original. Even underneath the hero's introductory scene, there's a rock beat playing, which peps up what otherwise would have been an otherwise stereotypical scene.

If they manage to drain the cheese away from the original, and don't descend too heavily into the tropes that I expect from the traditional war epic. Then I think this one might actually be a winner.

But we'll see.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

In My View: Brought to you by the land of suck, the new wave in releasing anime

So recently I came across two seperate yet equally disturbing pieces of news. First, Sony is finally going to release Blood + on DVD in March. It's planning on doing this in a single disk retailing at $24.96 (containing five episodes) and a box set retailing at $119.95. On a side note, I'd just like to say how really excited I am about finally getting this on DVD.

But the other piece of disturbing news is that Viz will be releasing Busou Renkin in a box set containing the first 13 episodes, retailing at $49.99. Oh yeah, and they're probably going to do it with Hikaru no Go and MAR. Now, I'll admit I don't really have much intention of picking up either of these series, but I'm starting to see a trend.

The Box set from the land of suck.

Now, I know that some very smart people have been advocating this move for a while. But I don't think those very smart people have really thought this through. Perhaps even more than that, I think those very smart people really need to figure out the economics of the average anime fan.

Okay, so I might not be the average anime fan. But at least I'm one anime fan. So let's take the Busou Renkin release as an example. I have $40 every two weeks to spend on anime. Now if that $40 isn't spent on anime, it will get spent on something else. But if I spend full retail picking up BR, then I'll probably end up spending an extra $5 to $13 after tax and shipping. And that's assuming I can get it on the cheap.

Also box sets devalue slower. So it's less likely that I'll be able to find a break on the price that will put it into the affordable range. If you want proof of that, the non-bootleg version of the Trigun box set is still more than $100 on Amazon Market place. This is for a series that came out almost a decade ago. Whereas the first disk of Eureka 7 is going for just under $10 for an actual R1 release. Granted, I could save the money, but if this trend continues what would I spend it on? Because it wouldn't be anime.

And the Blood + release is even worse. The economics for that release work out that even if somehow I managed to have $120 to spend on the box set, how much money am I really saving? Six dollars. So where I can afford the single disk release, the box set is set so far out of reach it's ridiculous.

I realize that anime distributors are trying to innovate and respond to the changing market climate, but this isn't the way to do it. If they're really concerned about average folk buying their DVDs, then they need to price them in a range where average folk can buy them.

So to the very smart folks who are advocating this, phooey on you.

Argentosoma vs Evangelion - an analysis

(So I'm going to throw all of my credibility out the window here, so hold on.)

Argentosoma is better than Evangelion.

There I said it, let the flaming commence.

But really, if you haven't seen Argentosoma, you should. But I'll give you a bit of a run down before I get into the heart of this discussion. The basic story behind Argentosoma follows this kid named Takuto Kanashiro, who's a brilliant scientist. Now Kanashiro is dating this woman named Maki, who's just about as socially awkward and inept as Kanashiro is. Very early in the series Maki dies ressurecting this giant robot (and robot in the classic sense of an autonomous machine, think Iron Giant). During the accident, Kanashiro is injured and disfigured.

Now the robot makes friends with this girl, who actually looks a little like Maki, and she and robot are taken off by the military so that they can fight aliens. Meanwhile Kanashiro, now using the name Ryu Soma also joins the military in hopes of destroying the robot to avenge his girlfriend.

That all happens on the first disk, so trust me I haven't spoiled much.

The reason why Argentosoma begs comparison with Evangelion is the use of the anti-hero. And this is where Argentosoma completely owns Eva.

On the nature of Shinji

Again, I'm likely to say something that is going to hurt my credibility. Shinji is a transparent character. Meaning that his motives are pretty clear, he wants to be loved and accepted by other people. In fact, I'd go as far to say that Shinji isn't much more than a vehicle to transmit the central message of the series. He provides a touchstone for the series to go back to when everyone starts being like Shinji.

Also when he reacts to other characters, he reacts in a way that is in accordance with the stimuli. If someone is trying to tell him how great his father is, he gets angry or broody or both. I don't really want to say Shinji is a flat character, because he does have some limited amount of growth and he does have more than one emotional state. But overall, I'd argue that he's stunted.

How is that different from Ryu Soma

Now with Ryu Soma, we already start off with a duality. First he's Kanashiro, and no matter how much he tries to throw that part of himself away it still sticks. He mourns for the loss of that part of his youth (at least at first). And on the other hand, he's Ryu Soma, this avatar of revenge.

I've kind of hinted at the big difference in that first paragraph. Shinji doesn't lie to himself. He might act like he doesn't really need his father, when he does want his approval. But he doesn't believe it. However, Ryu Soma right from the get-go believes that those halycon days with Maki were destroyed by the giant robot. Even though Soma is wrong, and his own social ineptitude caused more pain to his girlfriend then anything the robot did.

Also Shinji is a wuss. I don't really blame him. In fact, I'd say it's more because of the nature of his particular brand of anti-hero than anything else. But it's an easy out as far as anti-heroes go. Because he never really tries to change anything, nothing really changes. Whereas with Soma, he's an asshole. Sometimes he's a crazy asshole, sometimes he's just a jerk. But more than anything else, he pushes the story forward.

And in fact, that's the biggest difference between the two anti-heroes. Shinji is passive. More than anything else, the story happens TO him rather than because of him. However, Soma is an active anti-hero. He causes the story to move forward, and while things might happen to him, it's his reactions that are important rather than the impetus.

And that's why Argentosoma is a better series. Because like Beserk, we have someone who might have twisted morals, but does have a goal in mind. Instead of spending the entire series waiting for the hero to actually act.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

What a novel thought: On adaptations - An Analysis

So recently, I've been watching a couple of different anime that were adapted from novels, Seirei no Moribito and Legend of the Galactic Heroes. On the surface of things both of these shows are pretty different. SnM (if I can shorten it that way) is a classic coming of age story and LoGH is a war epic.

But I've noticed something about them that they avoid one of anime's largest failings. They're paced well. They start out with a good hook: in SnM it's the opening hunt for Balsa and Chagum, in LoGH, they start out in the middle of a battle. They add onto that hook. SnM is a little weaker on this point, but it still manages to build on it's foundation. And they both work out the relationships between the characters and the fundamental plot threads start to emerge.

The funny thing is that I also saw that in Twelve Kingdoms, another novel adaptation. I'm starting to wonder why all of these shows are honestly paced so well where so many other shows fall flat. It certainly isn't the length. While Twelve Kingdoms does have 39 episodes, the main stories are divided into three different arcs which gives each section between 10 to 20 episodes.

So all of this begs the question, why? Why do novel adaptations seem to work where manga adaptations fail? Why would they work better than original works, where the creative team can control the pacing without any constraints.

On the nature of novel adaptations

Now, I'm going to propose that there are two factors that make pacing successful: a prior knowledge of the story arc and knowledge of the length of the series. Basically the creators need to know where the story's going and how long it's going to take them to get there.

With a novel adaptation, this is pretty simple. They have a pre-set story laid out for them. Now they may take some liberties with it. For example, the Yoko's two companions at the beginning of Twelve Kingdoms were later additions because just having her wander around would have made for some pretty boring television. But in general, they at least have an outline of events that will occur.

And to be fair, they have 12 hours to tell the story (in a 24 episode series). It also seems, at least to the lay person, that they have more freedom to tell the story. While there may be fans of the original source material, those fans aren't necessarily the same fans they're trying to attract with the anime.

In general, this means that there's less room for failure. Now granted there's been some pretty spectacular failures (Kiddy Grade comes to mind), but general I would blame that more on a lack of planning and foresight, then on anything else.

On the nature of original and manga-based series

Again, this begs the question why does a novel adaptation work consistently, where these other types fail, just as consistently. With a original story, I've found the pacing issue to be really hit or miss. As other people have pointed out on previous blog entries, it's largely a question of how good the creative team is.

Now a strong creative team can usually put out a generally well-paced show, but more often than not there seems to be a strong tendency for series that shoot off really quickly, fade off and never really restart. Or even worse, shows that just don't start at all. Mostly I blame this on a lack of planning. Essentially they don't know where the story's going and once they run out of story they're left with a bunch of space to fill. Nadia: The Secret of the Blue Water comes to mind as a really atrocious example of this. But I do cut Gainax a little slack for it because they had a bunch of space to fill that they weren't intending to fill.

But why manga-based series? They really should suceed just as well as novel-based series. Honestly I blame it on two things. First is a failure of the source material itself. Manga simply doesn't have to be structured like a television series. The reason for this is the length of time between books allows the manga-ka the luxury of having self-contained stories that don't build on each other. Hellsing is the perfect example of this. Among it's other problems, the series introduces what would seem like the beginning of an arc, just to have that arc stop and then go onto something else.

Now Kouta Hirano doesn't have to worry about people going "Hey wait, why didn't you do X." because it's a year between books. (And I could go into the whole nature of Hellsing, but I'm saving it for a later post.) I find this frenetic, almost disjointed, pacing to be a tried and true staple of manga.

There are some notable exceptions to this rule. First Nobuhiro Watsuki is the man. Kenshin is so well paced that even without reading the manga, I could tell where the creators had added on to the series. The second is Beserk, which suceeds simply because it doesn't try to squash the entire series into a 24 episode series. (I've also heard good things about Fruits Basket, but I haven't seen it.)

The second problem in adapting a manga to anime is the nature of adaptations themselves. Where a novel adaptation doesn't have to worry as much about the fans of the book, a manga adaptation is largely judged by the manga. It's an inevitable and often sad fact, that people are going to say, "Wait that didn't happen like that."

And to be honest, adaptations that move away from the source material, or at least don't cling to it, are by and large better. Both Fullmetal Alchemist and Trigun come to mind. Now you could argue that in both of these cases the manga-ka worked closely with the studio. But I read the manga for Trigun. If they'd tried to make that into a show, it would have sucked. A lot and often.

In fact for a manga adaptation to work, the animators need to have some level of creative control and they have to realize that television is a completely different medium then comics. That the disjointed pacing that a manga can get away with won't work for a television show that is aired every week.

Otherwise, the manga will get them everytime.

The hits don't stop coming: ADV's latest announcement

So I just came across this piece of news on ANN. It seems that ADV is going to cancel the 24/7 service for The Anime Network.

Now really, I'm of two minds on this one. At first, I'm thought, "Well shoot, there goes another pretty fan friendly service right down the tubes." And really the article does paint pretty dramatic tones as far as the troubles for broadcasting anime. It seems that the field is shrinking for broadcasting anime.

And how can we bring new fans into the fold without these type of services. I mean we owe at least a portion of the current fanbase to Adult Swim and Toonami. So losing a 24/7 broadcaster of anime is a pretty significant hit.

Except that it really isn't. Let's face it, they've just opened up a better 24/7 portal on their Website. (Except that I've only gotten it to work twice on my computer, I'm not sure if that's my computer or the site). And they're working on catering to their existing customer base rather than a maybe customer base, that might actually get their programming.

In fact, the entire idea of a 24/7 anime channel seems a bit silly when I really think about it. Granted, I'm sure there are people who love to sit around and watch whatever ADV decides to put on there, but in reality, those aren't the new customers. And it wasn't widely availible. I couldn't even get it, even though I do get their VOD service. (Which I use pretty frequently.)

So while, I do have the urge to run around screaming, "Oh no, what's going to happen next?". I'm not entirely concerned.

Now if I could only get their online site to work.

The CCY Q&A: Having a conversation with Eternity.

Occupation: High school student, which explains why I'm not mentioning my name or age.

Location: San Jose, California

Q: I noticed that you've mentioned that you started watching anime with Card Captor Sakura, what was the next anime series you watched? How long have you been a fan?

A: Ah, my second series I think was D.N.Angel, a typical action/romance show that I think was female-orientated. But those two shows lasted me for a few years (I first watched CCS around 2001-2002); the first anime of my 'true' fan phase, which began around January this year, was Tokimeki Memorial ~only love~, a bread-and-butter harem/romance. Very tasty bread, though.

Q: So how much do you watch in a week? Do you have a particular time of day that you watch anime? Any kind of rituals that you perform before watching it?

A: I watch an episode (or two) or anime every night as the last activity of the day; I probably average 10 episodes a week. As for the rituals, finding pigs to sacrifice got a bit tedious, so I usually just sit down in front of my computer (I'm a fansub person) and start watching.

Q: I've noticed that you've said you like to watch shounen harem shows and magical girl shows on your blog, what is it that draws you to them? Do you think the harem show is an overlooked genre? If so, why? If not, why? What type of show do you avoid like the plague? Is there any show that you're embarrassed to admit that you like?

The harem genre is kind of a mixed bag to me; it's like what I picture the shonen action genre as: something that has both a lot of really good content and a lot of really base, boring tripe. The harem shows I watch are usually adapted from visual novels and don't feature a lot of fanservice; what I like about them is the wide variety of likable (in both personality and looks, but mostly the former) characters and the vast stories that such shows have. There are some pretty neat twists that keep you watching; plus, I'm kind of a romantic, so that quota gets filled too.

Magical girls shows, admittedly, I talk about a lot, but I've only dabbled in a few: CCS, NanaDrops, and Shugo Chara being the ones I remember. I do like how the female leads are surprisingly complex and entertaining characters, and how the feel of the anime is usually pretty heartwarming and relaxing.

The harem genre, as a whole, I'd like to say is overlooked because a lot of people think it's fanservice and pandering central, but to be honest, a lot of it is. I think some of the harem-types that focus more on the characters and the romance deserve attention and a serious look rather than being dismissed as 'moe crap', though, so I guess I do think it's overlooked. It's like going to a flea market; a lot of stuff is uninteresting and unappealing, but there are a lot of gems hidden if you look around.

What shows do I avoid? I've had a bad stereotype against shonen action for years; I don't know if things like Naruto and Bleach are really bad, or just hated for being popular, but I've never found out. Also, I'm usually pretty harsh on anything that's overly fanservicey without a reason.
Any show that I'm embarrassed to like? Well, I'm a guy that admits he likes harem shows and magical girl shows, I think that answer is clear! :P Seriously, however, Shuffle! might come the closest, since the first half is, in the words of the main character, "breasts [among other exposed things] everywhere I look", but the second half is very dramatic, very different than the norm, and completely justifies the show in my view.

Q: What type of things do you enjoy about fandom? Do you go to conventions? Do you cosplay?

A: What I like about fandom is that we're all crazy in a sense. The extent to which we go to analzye every last detail out there means that I can always find a good discussion on something, whether it be of the symbolic references, character justifications, or just plain merit of some show.

Although, occasionally, we're a bit too crazy (although I probably am too), which leads to your next question: I haven't gone to a convention (and thus, haven't cosplayed) yet, but I am considering doing both for the first time to the local Fanime in 2008.

Q: If you had to pick your top five anime, what would they be?

A: Kanon (2006) and Cardcaptor Sakura for sure. I'd like to circumvent the rules and pick the Tsukihime visual novel as number three - it may not be anime specifically (although there was a pretty poor conversion made) but it's one of the most gripping and emotional stories I've seen.
For the last two...I've seen a lot of 'really good' anime, but none that I would for sure call one of my 'favorites'. I'll go with (Gambling Apocalypse) Kaiji, which is still airing, actually, for manly mindgame fun, and School Days, which, while maybe not a 'fun' anime, was an extremely attention-capturing one that broke all the rules of harem as we knew it.

Q: What is the one thing about you that you think would surprise your readers?

A: Well, I'm not really a blogger. I'm actually an astral projection of my former self who is...

Man, if I had a penny for every time they used that trick in the anime I watch, I'd have...four cents. But seriously, this is a tricky one; I don't talk a lot about myself on my blog, preferring to discuss what they came here for - anime - but in terms of that, it might be that I've never really seen anything shonen past my dubbed Pokemon days.

There's been so much hype about newer shows like Gurren Lagann, Code Geass, Death Note, and whatnot that I begin to wonder if I missed something. Maybe when I have more time and less romance anime I'll find out.

Q: When did you start blogging? And why do you blog?

A: I started blogging in April of this year (2007), to make funny jokes about Kanon and other shows I watch, since I didn't know of a lot of the anime community at the time. I've continued to blog to sharpen my writing skills, and to have kind of a soapbox for whatever rants of anime that I come up with.

Of course, I do enjoy a good discussion about anime (especially the conspiracy theories) with my readers, or on other blogs.

Q: If you had to classify your blog as a particular type of blog, what type would that be?

I'd call mine an 'argumentative' blog. I tend to shy away from episode recaps unless it's something really shocking that deserves to be talked about. Instead, I like ranting about various meta-style parts of anime. The merits of a specific genre, the logic (or lack thereof) behind the use of a specific anime stereotype/cliche/event/etc, that kind of thing. I also enjoy writing about 'old' anime series (early 2000s, not current season, etc), to bring back some titles into the spotlight that deserve it.

Q: Where does the title, "What is eternity doing tonight?" come from? And what is eternity doing tonight anyways?

Ooh, thought I'd hear this. XD

The short answer is 'Engrish'. The title is actually a wildly misquoted lyric from the OP theme to Kanon (2002). I was looking for something other than "Name's Anime Blog", and I decided upon this random question as my title. I'm not fully sure what I meant it to mean (perhaps some contrast between the longevity of 'eternity' and the immediacy of 'tonight'?), but it sounded cool at the time.

Unless some readers are really attached to it, I plan on changing it to something that rolls easier off the tongue next time I renovate the blog.

Q: What type of blogs do you read? What type of blogs do you avoid?

A: I read blogs that I like. I don't read blogs I don't like. XD

Anything that's particularly analytical, I can usually enjoy; I like seeing how deep people can dig the rabbit hole, and reading a good deconstruction of a show's inner meaning is really interesting, especially when I can't figure it out.

Humorous episode recaps are a favorite of mine too, providing the jokes are good.

Episode summary blogs aren't my thing unless they fall into the above category; blogs that take 90% of the post as the summary and 10% as the impression don't usually appeal to me, since I only read these posts after I watch the episode. Spoiler watch, and all.

Also, internet drama and lots of flaming / swearing isn't particularly interesting.

Q: If you had to pick three posts that were your best, which ones would they be?

A: Hmm, that's a tough one. I'd rather someone tell me, since all my posts are structurally the same; think of an idea in advance, sit down, write in one continuous block, post.

Well, for humor, I'd go with my fall 2007 season half-time review post, which was a lot of fun to write and covered a lot of series.

For argumentative, I like "Why Watch Harem?", since it's something that I felt strongly about, and as such, hopefully turned out well.

And for series review, kind of a subset of the above, I'd say the one I did for School Days didn't turn out too bad. It was an emotionally charged series, and I think that fueled me to write a pretty in-depth post on it.

Q: Any closing thoughts?

A: Yuki Nagato for life!

Uh, no, wait...thanks for the interview, and I hope that I'll be able to work for you in, still wrong.

Well, first off, in case you couldn't tell, I like to be funnier than perhaps my serious style above insists, it's just that I typically write Serious Business analytical posts.

But really, I'm looking forward to having my blog torn apart or whatnot, so we'll see how this goes. I don't get much reader input on the blog outside of the posts, but I don't know how much emphasis is placed on this stuff.

Also, this Q&A session is about 1.5 times the length of an average post of mine. Wow.


Blog in Review: Eternity is having dinner out?


Now there are blogs that do short recaps about what is going on in the industry. There are blogs that do episode summaries. There are even blogs that have funny dialogue between the various members of the blogs. There are even blogs that disect every series with the seriousness of an academic paper.

But I can count on one hand the amount of blogs that I've found that take on harem and magical girl shows the way that CCY's "What is eternity doing tonight?" does. In fact, just taking a look through his participation in the Anime Blogging Collective's 12 (or 18 in this case) days of Christmas, we get a look at Kanon, Da Capo, Tsukihime and Shuga Chara.

So let's take a look through Cameron's eyes about What eternity is doing tonight?

(In the effort of full disclosure, I do suscribe and read this blog frequently).


So what's so appealing about a blog that pretty much solely focuses on magical girl shows and visual novel adaptations? The answer is a whole lot. Now I'll admit, I don't really watch the same kind of shows CCY does. The whole thought of a love tetrahedron sends me into hives. And the what passes as comedy in harem shows makes me shudder. But CCY usually can pick a topic and disect it down to the core.

In fact, let's take one of my favorite posts of his, "The Survival of the Moest". Now this post tracks about about 1,000 words, which is pretty average for one of CCYs posts. In comparison, this is generally on the long side at most sites. We start with a pretty general introduction about Marmalade Boy, leading into a discussion of genre. What's astounding about this post is the fact that he leads in with a thread, takes a turn in the discussion to talk about the shoujo genre in general and closes on that topic.

That general structure holds true for most of the posts. They start with general (seemingly unrelated) statement connect it with the real point he's trying to make and then fleshes out that point. What's amazing is that most of the time that thread holds.

The problem is that it doesn't always hold. CCY's strength is that he can take a thread and expound a good point from it. Where his posts start to dip is when he loses that focus. For example, his 12th day of Christmas post about Myself;Yourself weaves in and out, but doesn't have a solid point. Now some of this might be an expectation that the reader has seen the episode he's refering to and some of it might be that he's trying not to spoil it for the reader, but in a lot of ways it doesn't stick together.

But in all honesty, it's pretty rare for his posts.

The other thing is he does focus on magical girl and harem shows pretty much exclusively. Which isn't neccesarily a bad thing. I'm all about a blogger blogging about what he or she wants to blog about, but it can limit the enjoyment of some of his jokes. Which for blog posts like his physics related, Schrodinger's cat post, can be a bit of a killer. But if you keep up with the same shows that he does, you will be fine.


To be honest, I was going to complain that he didn't have access to his archives on the front page of the site, but he's got it now. Although mostly, it's through tags. I'm still a little unsure about the usefulness of tags myself when it comes to blogs, but I would like a date archive. That's just me though.

As far as the readability of the site, it's pretty much black and white, no frills. Which in all honesty is a good thing. He does incorporate a good deal of visuals, which in some cases is helpful if they're related to the text. But in some cases they do slow down my browser enough when I'm scrolling through to be a little bit annoying. So I would say that's a wash.

What I really like are the changing banners. Again, these are somewhat in-jokes, but they do give the page some personality, and it's pretty easy to distinguish what the blog is all about right from the get go.


Somebody else, who runs a better blog than this, said about What is eternity doing tonight, "I don't know what it is about this blog, but CCY can take apart a harem show like no other." And I think that's the best way to sum it up. While you may not get all the references, even if you don't care about the shows, it's an interesting blog to read anyway.

The only people who might not like it are people who actively hate the shows CCY pulls apart. In fact, those are the people that may want to stay away from this blog. But other than that, I'd say Whatever eternity is doing, it's sure doing it right.


Agree or disagree? Leave a comment or email

List o' the weak: Famous Last Words

In almost every anime, there is a moment right before a character dies when I know that they're dead. Now sometimes the mortality rates for these moments aren't always that high, but these are the five most notable times when I know that someone's going to kick the bucket.

Now these aren't in any real particular order, because a lot depends on the tone of the series. But any time the series skews dark and one of these shows up, especially if they show up repeatedly, you can be pretty sure that some's going to join the choir invisible.

Number Five: Remember when...

Oh the flashback, you've taken some of my favorite characters. The mortality rate for flashback episodes later in the series is pretty high. Generally this holds true for lesser characters or later in the series. Last Exile comes to mind when I think about this trick, but it also pops up in X and to a lesser extent Blood +.

Now, I have to differentiate this from the recap episode in longer series. Usually this flashback episode will contain new information the viewer hasn't seen. And generally is a trick for the creators to build up some kind of connection between the viewer and the character before they off the character.

Number Four: You're getting pretty good at this.

Any time a mentor character says these words, you can almost always expect them to be dead in the next few episodes. This one is a favorite trick of "real" robot shows, particularly of the Gundam variety. Mostly, this one has started to fade into the background with the newer shows. In fact, now it's become more popular it seems to have the mentor be a flawed character in their own right. Or even a main character in their own right.

But it still holds true enough for me to put it on the list.

Number Three: When this is all over...

When a character says this there's at least an 80 percent chance that they're dead, especially when they say it more than once. And if it's combined with the flashback episode, then it's sure to spell the death of the character.

Although sometimes it isn't the character that I might think it is. Blood + pulled a switchup on this one with the death of one the characters. So I'd have to say, that it's the character who'd most likely cause the largest emotional impact if they died. Cute, funny characters are usually the first on that list, followed by noble, long suffering sidekicks.

Number Two: For Glory and Honor.

What's that saying, "There's no such thing as an old hero." Now mostly this holds true with war epics or any time there's a character who is willing to sacrifice themselves for a higher cause. But any time I hear a character say something like, "I won't run away." or "For the glory and honor of X thing" I know that they're dead.

Now granted, this doesn't neccesarily hold true for the main protagonist, unless it's toward the end of the series.

And the Number One all time famous last words are:
Revenge is all I live for.

Ahh, yes. The character who's sold his life for revenge will always die. But only after they have a chance to complete their revenge or at least attempt to complete their revenge. Now whether they suceed or not really depends on the tone of the series, but you're almost guarunteed to get blood from this statement.