Sunday, February 24, 2008

In My View: Why are the Anti-fansub people making my head hurt?

Once upon a time, I only thought the radical anti-industry segment was the only group to come up with really stupid arguments. And don't get me wrong, but they've produced some doozies. My favorite is the, "Fansubs should be protected by the First Amendment" argument. But there have been a whole laundry list of them ranging from "the companies charge too much" to "but they get to see it free in Japan". All of them were unconditionally and unilaterally missing some fundamental fact.

It used to be that I could have a good chuckle and move on, comfortable that only the anarchists and socialists were rearing their ugly head.

And then I read this in a recent "Hey Answerman!" column:

No, just no. The industry working with fansubbers would be like the UN negotiating with terrorists.

Um… exsqueeze me? Fansubbers are terrorists now? When did this happen. There are so many things wrong with this statement that I don't even know where to start. First terrorists have become the new "Hitler". Essentially it's an overused, often misused, term that basically translates into X group are horrible people. And once you've made that comparison you've lost your point. Second fansubbers are not terrorists, because that assumes that they're doing it to destroy the industry. Now from what I can tell, there may be some out there with those aforementioned really lousy arguments, but there are just as many that seem to want the notoriety that comes from releasing shows. So a more apt comparison would be fansubbers are thieves. And they are. And following the whole chain of logic, the government does negotiate with criminals, it's called plea bargaining.

Now I'm not going to tear apart the rest of that argument. Basically because it's so ridiculous and contradictory that it makes my brain hurt. (In the next line he admits to downloading fansubs, so I guess that means he's aiding terrorism). But I'm starting to wonder if reason is dead, or if we're starting to see the rise of a whole new group of crazy people: a pro-industry/anti-fansub faction.

In some ways I can understand where it's coming from, with Geneon collapsed and ADV seemingly on indefinite hiatus, there's a lot of people who are starting to get desperate for the industry to succeed. They've been fed the company line that "Real fans don't download. Real fans buy." Because it would be impossible for fans to both download AND buy. A while back both Death to Zippermouth (over at WTF!) and HardCheese at Zenime had wrote a couple of posts about the nature of fansubs and purchasing from legitimate sources. So I'm not going to repeat anything that was said there, mostly because they already said it. But I will say, if I had a legal alternative to fansubs, I'd take it in a heart-beat. At least if I had a legal alternative that didn't take more than a year to come out over here (and at the rate the US distributors are going it's not even likely to finish).

The thing is there are plenty of good reasons for the industry to not work with the fansubbers - quality level being the biggest one. Just like there are plenty of good reasons for the industry to work with fansubbers – established knowledge base, distro routes and brand recognition being some of those. But what we don't need in this argument are empty invectives that in the end don't mean anything.


Agree or disagree? Leave a comment or e-mail

Thursday, February 21, 2008

From King of the World to Kaneda?

So I picked up this little gem off of the SciFi Wire (the news service for the SciFi channel) that Leonardo DiCaprio might be teaming up with Warner Brothers to produce a two-part Akira movie. Somehow the thought of DiCaprio being involved just invokes images of him yelling “Tetsuo!”
Not that it’s really going to happen that way, right?

In My View: Why Bandai Visual concerns me

(This is my slightly less informed opinion based on this post and these

Ahhh… Bandai Visual, you crazy, crazy company. To be fair, I haven't really spent a whole lot of time thinking about Bandai Visual. True tears and Shigofumi haven't really been on my radar much. Not because I hate the series, but simply because there's a whole lot of stuff that I want to watch more. I know that their pricing scheme isn't going to work in the States. Whether it's reasonable or not, there isn't a retailer in their right mind who'd put a $30 disk on their shelf that has a half hour of content. Especially considering that the majority of them are actually decreasing the amount of space they give to anime or at least not expanding it. Of course, they could always return the item to BVUSA and then nobody makes money. But how likely are they to race out and scoop up that next disk.

And as much as BVUSA's distribution method reminds me of Print on Demand books, it also reminds me that once a product is out of sight, it is largely out of mind. But… none of that bothers me. Sure there are a few series of theirs that I'd like to see, but nothing I can't live without watching.

No, what bugs me is something that shows up in Don's first post on this subject:

"As a matter of policy, I don't download series once they're licensed. I don't need to worry any more about Shigofumi or true tears. In fact, I probably will never see them at all, unless Bandai changes its insane pricing."

Essentially, here's a guy who's exactly what the anime industry wants. Someone who doesn't download once the series is licensed. Someone who follows the "rules", and he's saying that BVUSA's pricing structure is driving him towards the fansubs. Is it me, or is there something wrong about all of this? The anime industry has been whining for at least the last six months about how fansubs will be the death of them (including executives from BEI) and here comes a company that is implicitly making a case for downloading.

And if you're already ticking off your core audience, I can't imagine what you're doing to your fringe audience.

Granted, I realize that we're still talking about BVUSA. In the end, it's a business model that deserves to fail. And it's likely that most of the fans are smart enough to distinguish between BVUSA and ADV, BEI or Funimation. But I do think they're sending the wrong message. And what's worse is that they're sending the wrong message while they are doing the right thing.

Because the whole reason why these series are already licensed is because they're planning on having a simultaneous release in Japan and the States. So they're doing what anime fans have wanted for a long time (albeit a couple years too late), but they're doing it in a way that won't work. What concerns me more than anything else, is the chilling effect this could have on an industry that is already trying to play catch up. I can already hear it now, when the next person asks, "Well why don't you try to get it to the States faster?" and the industry official looks at him and says, "Well look at Bandai Visual, it didn't work for them."


Agree or disagree? Leave a comment or e-mail

The Otakusphere: Downtiming on the Nightside in the Way Back Machine

Recently, I reached my 100th post, and I got to thinking that the nature of blogging seems to be to keep putting new stuff out there, but it's pretty rare that we go back and look at the older stuff that people have done. Mostly because there's usually a huge backlog and because usually we've been keeping up with our favorite bloggers. So in this edition of the Otakusphere I figured I'd step back into Mr. Peabody's Way Back Machine and paw through some older blog posts from some of my favorite bloggers.

I'm not really sure how to categorize this one from far away no where, other than to say, "Oooo teenage girls are scary." And spending an awful lot of time on YouTube, I've found that to be the case. If you think anime fans are prone to some rabid fanboyism then you should spend some time trawling through the comments on that site.

And one for the "stuck in the anime rut" pile, Michael at Anime| Otaku had at great post about feeling refreshed when he started watching School Days. I completely understand the sensation that the shows that I've been watching start to feel recycled. But on the other hand, I haven't been there in a while. I don't know if it's just the fact that I watch a lot of stuff, or that I really have low expectations.

Speaking of my low expectations, I ran across bateszi's listing of reviews for the end of the 2007 season. And I couldn't help thinking, "Man, am I missing something here." I really liked Claymore. I mean I didn't think it was another Beserk. Honestly, I'd put it more in the category of Gantz. But even then, it got me clutching my sleeve and biting my knuckles. And I'm liking Code Geass. Is there just something wrong with me? Or am I just easily amused?

However, I can always trust CCY to say what I think, only better. Here's an editorial post about how people tend to judge a series by its first episode. And that it might be more because of the serial nature of anime, rather than the fact that the first episode is really bad.

And because I couldn't find Martin's argument about whether anime is deep or not (a discussion I really wish I could have joined in on, but I kind of figure my opinion would have ruined it), I picked out this one on the "Hoo-hah" factor in anime. If you've watched "Scent of a Woman" then you probably know what that means. I'm not sure if I entirely agree that a show can be too manly. I think it depends on how it applies that extreme. This in essence is his argument here.

And last, but certainly not least, here's a figure review from Happy Soda. I can't ever get enough of these. I don't know if it's the photography or the figures themselves, but that plastic sure looks sexy. Man it makes me dirty to say that.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Case for Koi Kaze

So a few years ago, I watched a Johnny Depp movie called "The Secret Window." Really there wasn't a whole lot special about the movie. It was just another, "Guy on the rocks, has something strange start going on with his life, has to figure it out" type of movie. Even the twist wasn't really all that spectacular, I caught it early on, but mostly I kept watching the movie because a) I bought it at Blockbuster and b) to see if I was right.

Okay I'm going to spoil the movie. But throughout the show, the audience is fed that Johnny Depp's character is largely the victim of everything that's happening to him. He's struggling back, struggling to write, struggling to get his wife back, etc, etc. For the most part we're painted a sympathetic picture of his character. So when he kills his ex and her new beau, I found myself cheering.

And then I stopped, paused the movie and thought, "Shit, am I cheering for the psychopath to kill a couple of innocent people who just want to help?" The entire movie had lulled me up till that moment when someone did something that I should have been disgusted by, but it did it so well and subtly that I didn't realize I was cheering him on until after the fact.

And that's why I like Koi Kaze.

On the characters and expectations

What has always struck me about Koi Kaze is that both characters in isolation from each other are likable. Koshiro is a corporate drone, who loves his father, contributes to society and in general is a pretty nice guy. Nanoka is a bright, energetic girl, who has her own mind and is, much like most people her age, trying to figure out her place in the world. She loves her mother and is nice to her friends and in a lot of ways is a pretty admirable character.

That's why I want them to be happy.

Just not with each other.

The thing about this entire story is that there are places that it just made my skin crawl. I honestly had to skip over at least one scene because I couldn't watch it. And it wasn't that it glorified the relationship between these two characters. Far from it. The infamous bra sniffing scene comes to mind here. The lighting is kind of dingy and Koshiro pauses and even admits disgust with himself after it. All of this added to my own cognitive dissonance. I mean the characters are set up so that I want to like them, but I don't like what they're doing, but I want them to be happy, but they're only going to be happy if they're with each other. And I keep asking myself, why is this bothering me so much?

And then I figured it out. It's because this is supposed to be a romance. Everything about the show screams romance from the pastel artwork, to the laconic pacing, to the two lonely people finding each other, to the monologue Koshiro gives at the beginning of the show. In fact, this couldn't scream romance any more if it had Fabio half naked on the cover. And if there's one rule to a romance show, it's love conquers all.

Amor vincit omnia

The expectation of any audience when they sit down to watch a romance is that the hero and the heroine will get together at the end. And that if they really love each other, then nothing (including anterograde amnesia or death) will keep them apart. Really this idea has crept into our popular conscience like a plague. It's got songs written about it (I got you babe), it's got books written about it and arguably every American romantic comedy has this concept at its core. That no matter how hard life might be, no matter how much society might step in, that love will save you.

What Koi Kaze does is challenge whether we really believe that concept. Much like "Secret Window" we have an expectation for these characters. We want to cheer them on. But I can't.

And much like "Secret Window" leaves me asking, "Is there something wrong with me that I'm cheering on the crazy guy?" Koi Kaze leaves me asking, "Is there some fault in me that I can't let these two people be happy?" And even more than that it leaves me wondering, "Does love really conquer all?" And do I really think two people who love each other really should be together.

And that's why I like this show. Not because it excited me, but because it disgusted me. And by disgusting me, it forced me to question my own morals and beliefs. And sometimes that can be a good thing.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Impressions: On a bunch more stuff

Claymore: So I finished up this series the other day and after a lackluster first four episodes, all I have to say is: AWESOME. Seriously, this isn't a show that does anything really all that novel. It's got a pretty classic shounen fighting show format. The characters meet badass monster. Badass monster powers up. Characters power up and beat badass monster. But the combination of powering up and "beware when you hunt monsters, lest you become one," made a lot of the fight scenes more tense, especially towards the end. I don't even mind the loose ends it left laying around. Although they do scream sequel. All in all, I'm glad Funimation decided to pick this one up.

Le Chevalier D'Eon: I finished this one too, and… I'm not sure about it. It isn't bad, but the ending kind of left me scratching my head. It almost felt like there were about six or so episodes missing somewhere between the time the characters were in England and when the came back to France. Also there were quite a few deaths that just seemed awkward, like the creators needed to plop a Deus Ex Machina into the show so that they didn't need to explain stuff later. Although overall, I do think it's an interesting show and worth watching again.

Legend of Black Heaven: I watched the first disk of this one so far, and I have to say it's pretty good. But the dub is horrible. Honestly half the laughs it got from me were those squirmy "oh my god it sounds like they aren't even watching the screen when they recorded this". And that's saying a lot. But on the other hand, I haven't really seen the likable loser archetype in anime too often, so it's nice to see it here. And it has some interesting conflict between trying to re-live your glory days and being happy with where you are right now.

Code Geass: Okay, I broke my rule here and downloaded it. Mostly because I wanted to see what the fuss was all about. And I have to say, the first three episodes are good. I do kind of hope they work "a year and a day" somewhere into the anime, although I doubt they'll go that far into the mythology that they're borrowing from. But Lancelot is an appropriate name for the mech. And Lelouche is interesting. I'm not sure how much I like him yet. It does feel like we get thrown into the middle of his story.

Saiunkoku: So I'm about four or five episodes into this one, and all I want to know is why does it get compared to Twelve Kingdoms? Why? I mean on the one hand we have a series that spans countries and details the rise of a queen as she learns to rule by walking among her people (among other things). On the other hand we have tea ceremonies, pretty boys and a pretty standard love story. It's not a bad series, don't get me wrong. But comparing the two seems like comparing Lord of the Rings to Dragonheart.

Anyways, that's everything I've been watching recently. Well except for Twelve Kingdoms, again. But it's pretty obvious how I feel about that show.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Democracy, Kings and citizens – an analysis

Ha… bet you didn't expect for me to go here. If you haven't been following this series check out these
three posts.

(Note: For all of you political wonks out there, I do know the difference between a Democracy and a Democratic Republic. But for the sake of expediency, I'm not going to spend all post writing Democratic Republic. And I'm hoping not to touch too much on the trustee/delegate issue, mostly because I'm not entirely sure where I stand on it.)


It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried. – Winston Churchill

Now I'll admit that I starting thinking about this subject while I was watching LoGH. And it came with the realization that the war epic (and by extension mecha shows) is probably the best way to examine governmental systems. Primarily because it is the clashing of two governments and two sets of values. And sure there are shows that look at the nature of society, or the nature of pop culture and a lot of shows that examine the human condition. But very few shows outside of war epics examine the nature of government. Perhaps that's because the scope of an epic is big enough so it can encompass those questions and perhaps because those questions are particularly tough questions.

On the nature of Democracy

Before I get into how both citizen soldiers and Arthur-type heroes and how they play out on the background of democracy, I have to address Churchill's quote. There are a lot of ideals trapped in the word Democracy. You have freedom, justice, equality, etc. etc. And they all play a part in what makes the governmental system arguably the best out there. What a lot of folks don't seem to realize though is that the system preserves those rights by not doing anything. Because the system is largely a clash of various ideals, it's ineffective, inefficient and arguably inept. In fact, I'd go as far to say that the more it is those things; the better the Democracy is working.

That's because the fundamental principle of any functioning Democracy is compromise, which means that no one should get everything that they want out of any particular piece of legislation. Where the system thrives is in mediocrity. And where the system fails at is generally decisive top down action. (Now arguably there are grass roots movements in the United States that have lead to good pieces of decisive legislation, but just as many have lead to bad ones. And really the only time I've seen it work is when it specifically deals with issues of equality, but even then the legislation is still fairly moderate.)

And just like compromise is that fundamental principle of the system, rigid idealism is the enemy of the system.

Why Arthur hates Democracy

So if rigid idealism is the enemy of Democracy and if an Arthur type character is a visionary trying to bring about a utopia, then an Arthur character must hate Democracy. And they do. Now in all fairness, most anime side step this issue by making the enemy of the Arthur character monolithic, and/or making the system of government that the Arthur character is creating monolithic. But that in and of itself would seem to hint that Democracy is an anathema to the world of the archetype.

But when it does appear, it at best comes off as a bunch of bumbling bureaucrats who don't understand the enormity of their situation (Macross). This hints at the fact that Democracy in an Arthurian world is at best a convenience for pacifying the masses. And at worst, it comes off as an inefficient (and often corrupt) organization that does not represent its people (Gundam Zeta). Either way, in this world-type the worst aspects of the system are shown. Now like I said, they are true, but often they're the cause of freedom not the reason it's taken away.

Now probably my biggest issue with this isn't the fact that they abhor Democracy, because just by their nature they're going to do that. But the fact is that shows don't take this far enough. They don't let us see the utopia the hero creates and see how it falls apart. What makes Gundam shows interesting isn't the fact that the individual shows are good, but the continuum that they create. So that we can see the effects that these Arthurian characters have, and how their vision and ideals are undermined by the fact that it's not feasible to live in their ideal society.

Why citizen soldiers are ambivalent

Now to be fair, the case surrounding citizen soldiers is a lot harder to solve. In a sense, while a citizen solider serves the ideals, he often realizes that the ideals and reality are often different. Second, the citizen soldier's ideals don't necessarily need a Democratic system. Arguably, Mittemeyer from LoGH is another example of the citizen solider. Often you'll find this type of character on either side of the battlefield.

So when looking at them it becomes important to focus on ones that specifically serve Democratic systems. In that case, I would say they occasionally make the case for the system. Their primary problem is one of oversimplification. The majority of the time the creators will pull out one macro ideal from the positive pile (i.e. freedom or equality) and then apply that to the character. It's a rare show that shows the problems inherent with the system and how those problems actually help the system function.

To be fair, there are shows that do make the case for Democracy better. But even in LoGH, the creators don't take the central question far enough (at least in the 50 or so episodes that I watched.) Instead of asking whether a wise dictatorship is better than a corrupt democracy, they could have just as easily asked whether it was better than a functioning democracy. (Now I still hold with Yan's answer on this that the dictatorship lacks sustainability.) In fact, the only show I've seen push the envelope that far is Infinite Ryvius, which gives both the reasons for and the reasons against it. Starship Operators also does a good job of showing the relationship between the government, the public and the media, and sort of touches on the idea of the Democracy. But there's only so much you can do in a 13 episode series.

One final note

To be honest, there is one thing I'm still not sure of. Whether Camille Bidan's ending in Gundam Zeta was punishment for his hubris in thinking he could change the world. Or if it was more like Arthur succumbing to the hordes of evil at the end of Camelot. To be fair, I want it to be the former, but it's most likely the latter.

More on Adam’s epiphany – another pretentious analysis

(Note: All of this is probably going to sound pretentious. And arguably it is. But, I'm going to write it anyway, and this is actually going somewhere, but not necessarily in this post.)

Adam's epiphany and how it applies

When I started thinking about this subject, which I've been doing off an on for about the past couple months, I had a hard time coming up with a framework to look at the different types of mecha pilots. (Incidently, my thoughts started on the last post in this series and worked backwards from there.) And like I said, Adam's epiphany isn't exactly uncommon. I mean you have this character going along and boom suddenly they're seeing that the world is pretty dark and scary where it wasn't before.

The thing about any epiphany is that it's largely internal. It ushers in a new way of seeing the world. But if you take a look back then I've said that both the citizen soliders and Arthurian heroes are largely external archetypes. In particular, they generally relate to how the character relates to the world. To plunge into that further, they specifically deal with how the character relates to the government.

Which leads me to question, how do you internalize what is arguably an external archetype? What exactly are the thoughts and values that both of the character types that make them who they are?

On the citizen solider

So I started with LoGH, which is the longest treatise on the interaction of the military and the government that I've ever seen in anime. Now I do think that it's important to compare Yan Wen-li to Rheinhard. Like I argued before, Yan is the prototypical citizen solider. He may disagree with some of his governments actions (or all of them), but he argues that the military should be a branch of the government, under the control of the people. And that if the government is corrupt (which it is), it's not his job to fix it. That has to be left up to the people themselves. That's not to say he doesn't see the problems with the current administration, just that his ideals don't allow him to act.

When this is compared to Rheinhard, we get a pretty striking distinction. Here he sees the problems with the current system and is compelled to act. In his mind, he has a vision of what society should be like and works to carry out that vision. (On a side note, I don't think Rheinhard is an example of an Arthurian type character. In fact, I'd draw a closer parallel to Julius or Augustus Caesar or a much more value laden name that I won't repeat.)

So I would say that a citizen solider at his core is a man of ideals. He believes for whatever reason that the government serves those ideals and so he serves the government. Essentially the central question for a citizen solider is "What type of government do I want to serve?"

Because the citizen solider generally has some kind of experience with life already, Adam's epiphany has already come and gone. At the very least, in cases like Starship Operators and Infinite Ryvius the epiphany occurs early in the story. The thing is that question is rarely explored at any length. Instead most creators tend to grab a macro concept like "a free one" or "a secure one" or "a just one". (Although all of this reminds me that I need to watch Infinite Ryvius again.)

In general, Adam's epiphany doesn't affect the citizen solider much because usually those ideals are pretty firmly cemented by the time the show opens. But when it does show up, the central question it raises is, "Do the ideals of the government I'm serving match up with my ideals?"

When the answer is no, the citizen solider will turn on his government. A case in point on this one is Roy Mustang in Fullmetal Alchemist. Once Fuhrer King Bradley orders him to kill civilians, he decides that the government isn't worth serving. Arguably, he becomes a man of vision at least for a short time, but he does turn down the crown.

On the Arthur-like hero

Now one of the reasons I wouldn't argue that Rheinhard is an Arthur-like hero is that he isn't morally just. In my mind, the function of Arthur is to help create a government. And because of that reason, he usually starts the story as a champion for justice. He acts as a moral compass for the rest of the story to revolve around.

Camille Bidan does make a really good example of this. He starts off wanting to liberate the colonies from the oppression of Earth. He, much like Rheinhard, has a goal of creating a brighter and safer tomorrow (although Rheinhard is more realistic in his approach.) I would argue that the Arthurian hero is a man of vision. Essentially making his central question, "What type of government do I want to create?"

In the purest form of the archetype, he may have ideals, but they're rarely tempered with experience. Essentially at the beginning of the story he (or she) knows what right and wrong is and is bound and determined to make sure that things go for the right.

Where Adam's epiphany comes up is when it challenges the hero's vision of what right and wrong is and by extension challenges his vision of the government he wants to create. Generally this occurs when either his allies or enemies do something despicable, or if the hero does something despicable.

The traditional reaction to this is to incorporate a wider array of values into his vision. In fact, I'd go as far to say that the character does not become more morally gray, but ends up staying fairly pure. Now if he committed the act, then he might end up regretting it, but he also will try not to commit the act again.

Because of the plethora of Arthur-like heroes (especially in mecha shows), Adam's epiphany can get a bit hard to spot. What's important to note is that the epiphany has to change how the character sees the world. For example, Camille Bidan knows that the Earth government is oppressive, but he doesn't know that they're creating Newtypes, who are people too.

And there are some variations on this theme as well, Roger Smith from Big O comes to mind. He is a rake, but he also has a vision of justice. His epiphany comes when he learns that there may be other countries outside of Paradigm city.

A Final Note

Again, I haven't watched Code Geass or TTGL, so I'm not sure how they fit into all of this. But I still have to say the citizen solider's internal question has the potential to be more interesting because of the division between the ideals and the reality of the government offers more of a chance of potential conflict. Granted, this rarely happens because the ideal is generally too vague. Either a government serves freedom or it doesn't, etc. And the potential for conflict between the ideas of security and freedom are generally ignored.

Whereas the Arthur-like hero doesn't provide that same type of conflict. In fact, you could argue that the Arthur-like hero is trying to come up with a utopia. Now that in and of itself can be an interesting question (because I know I'm the only one who's seen Land of the Blind I won't bring it up), but again it's a question that's largely ignored.

In My View: Why I love and hate romance shows

So this here is a Valentine's day piece. One day late.

And I've said it before, I have a soft spot for romance in shows. As much as I pick apart RahXephon, what keeps pulling me back to the show is the love story between Ayato and Haruka. (And Futagami, that guy kicks ass). Even with the fact that it tried to do too much in too little time, I really enjoy the central relationship in Paradise Kiss. And even with its meandering, Kare Kano is an excellent show.

If you're noticing a trend here, I wouldn't be surprised. I like shows about human relationships. Call it the literati in me. Call it the politics wonk in me. Hell, you can call me a sissy, right-wing, gun-toting hippie if you want. But there's something fascinating in watching how people relate to each other. How they judge each others foibles and are either doomed by them or uplifted by them or both.

But I hate courting.

Okay, so I don't hate it. But courting offers such a limited range of emotions and reactions. In essence, the ending is already written in the audience's mind. The hero gets the girl/guy and they ride off into the sunset. The problem is that much like that first blush of love, we're not presented with fully developed characters in a relationship. In fact, I'd go as far to say the average show that takes twenty-six or so episodes for the hero and the girl to get together is really the same four episodes repeated again and again.

First, hero meets girl/guy. Second, hero and girl/guy figure out that they like each other. Third, hero and girl/guy have a complication in their budding relationship. Fourth, hero and girl/guy resolve the complication. If you repeat steps three and four about 20 more times you have the average plot of any anime romantic comedy I've ever seen. The fact is that the two characters never have a relationship. What they have is a stunted farce of a first date again and again and again.

And that's why I actually like ef-tale of memories. It actually assumes that courting itself is a relationship. And that even with the false starts and occasional overuse of tension, the characters change and adapt to their partners. It doesn't introduce new possible love interests so it can keep a tired storyline afloat. Because let's face it, that went out of style with Ozzie and Harriet. And if they didn't smother it with enough nuclear family love, than the Cosby show most certainly did. It doesn't try to stretch it out, so it can drag every possible ounce of tension from it. (I'm looking at you Ranma.) The storylines start where they should. They end where they should.

And now if only every romance could do that.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Importance of Being Adam – an analysis

So I'll admit that in my last post RahXephon and Eva gave me some trouble. First they seemed like Arthurian heroes. They were sure thrust into greatness. But on the other hand they didn't have divine right. And in neither of the cases did they want glory. This is why I largely ignored them.

But then I figured it out. They weren't either Arthurian heroes or citizen soldiers. In fact, they were a third breed that was injected into the mecha genre.

They were Adam.

On the nature of Adam

First of all, I want to say that I'm not referring to any of the theological aspects of Adam. But if you merely look at Adam's story, it really starts with biting the apple. That is the first decision that Adam truly makes himself. Prior to that he was largely a child, who was doted on by a loving parent. Now, I'd like to say that the act of rebellion is part in parcel with how this plays out in fiction, but I don't think it does.

But what is important is the story starts with an epiphany that the world is a much more dark and sinister place than the hero first imagined. If you take a look at either of these two shows they start off with the hero being introduced to the fact that there is more to the world then they previously thought. In Shinji's case, it's with learning about the Angels. In Ayato's case, it's learning about Tokyo Jupiter.

Now the fact that it starts with an epiphany is important, because the nature of these stories and this hero is more about finding out how they fit into the world. And part in parcel with that idea they must be ethically neutral and naive. For the sake of this argument,
I'm going to say that ethics and morals are two separate things. While they may have been taught about what is wrong and what is right (morals), they don't have any idea why those things are wrong or right (ethics). This proves especially true when you start looking at Adam type heroes that travel from one culture to another culture. Again here, both main characters had a set of social mores that they were given, but over the course of the series they have to construct a new understanding of what's right and what's wrong.

The fact that they're naïve of their new surroundings and that they must learn to understand them, leads to another factor. They are connected to society, but they're separate from it as well. I would argue the function of an Adam hero is that of the observer. Both Ayato and Shinji stumble throughout the story, trying to understand their world and their place in it, which means that they both have trouble relating to people. Now in Ayato's case it's not nearly as violent as it is in Shinji's, but it still stands. But because of the fact that they're the center of the story and arguably the most important character in it, they're also connected to society. The society depends on them for something.

Finally, an Adam hero must be special. This is pretty similar to the divine grace aspect of the Arthurian hero, but a little more general. Arguably divine grace only applies to main character's combat skills, whereas with an Adam it applies to anything about their character that separates them from the rest of society.

Now, it's important to note here that the central questions for Adam are inherently internal. They're more along the lines of, "How do I relate to society?" or "What do I think is right and wrong?" This is because the Adam is a stand in for the audience, leading the viewer down the road to the answers that they find. Second, to truly be an Adam hero, the story must start with that epiphany. Without it there wouldn't be any reason to keep journeying.

A note on Gasaraki and Full Metal Alchemist

Now I know I said that Yuushiro is a citizen solider. And for at least one part of the show, I believe that he does exhibit those traits. (Specifically when he's called on to defend Nishida). Although he arguably also exhibits the traits of an Adam as well. I think the reason for that is Gasaraki has two separate storylines. In one he's an Adam. In the other he's a citizen solider.

Edward Elric also presents a difficult challenge in classifying him (although not as hard as Gasaraki). But I think he's largely an Adam type character, although one with the fatal flaw that he wants to remake Eden.

The problem with Adam

So I'm probably sure that some smart person out there has already figured out the reason why I didn't bring this up when I was talking about Arthur-like characters and citizen soldiers, and that's because Adam's epiphany is not exclusive to Adam characters. Now in the case of either of these other two archetypes that epiphany comes later on in the story or before the story actually starts. And second, the effects of that epiphany are internal, while the majority of traits for either of the other two character types are external. (Or at least involve how the character relates to those outside of them.)

In my next post on this subject, I'm going to deal with the effects of Adam's epiphany on both citizen soldiers and Arthur-like heroes.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Otakusphere: Vote Anime, a little cultural jet-lag and a big happy love fest

Vote Anime! Vote now! Anime Academy is looking for your vote as the only anime candidate running in this election season. The choice is yours. Do you want four more years of moe hate? Are the "mecha-porn" haters getting to be too much. Well Anime Academy is a true bridge builder. Just read his post, it told me it's true.

And for other people looking for your help, Anime Genesis looks like it's in trouble. Personally I kind of have mixed feelings, but I thought I'd throw this out there, so more people know about it. Because people read the Otakusphere because they want to know. Right… Yeah.

And just in case you need a little educated drama in your life check out this post from wildarmsheero and this post from animanachronism (I always have a hard time writing that) about the relative greatness of TTGL. Of course this is another reason why you should vote Anime Academy.

Seriously though, I don't link Drastic My Anime Blog enough, so I'm going to point out that it just turned a year old today. And Hidoshi's back (yay!) with a really great post about how anime blogging can become a way of life, but more in a kick myself in the face kind of way, rather than as an apologetic kind of way. And I never link Michael over at Anime|Otaku enough either, just because this guy can make anything relate to anime, or rather anime relate to anything. This time he's got a post on subtlety and the movie Lust, Caution.

And while I'm on this big love fest, I should point out Omo's latest post on collecting as an obsession. To be fair, I'm not much of a collector of merchandise. I like reading Happy Soda for his pictures of figurines, but to me the idea of getting the super-ultra-edition with the limited edition figurine, well, just not my thing. I guess I'm a pragmatic obsessive.

And last but not least, End of the World has got a post about Ghibli's version of Tales of Earthsea. What hit me about that is that it just feels odd to have an anime company adapt something that is from the United States. I had a similar feeling when I saw there was going to be a Witchblade anime. It's like seeing something reinterpreted through another culture that started off in yours.

And just as a friendly reminder for those Americans out there. Remember to register! Remember to vote! Because us, otaku need a candidate that will pull us together as a nation.

Why we need more citizens and fewer kings in mecha anime– an analysis

"Did you not see on the Lupercal where I thrice presented him a kingly crown and he did thrice refuse? Was this ambition?" – Marc Anthony "Julius Caesar"

Ever since I read the Postman, I've been enamored with the idea of the citizen solider. (No, I never saw that godsforsaken movie.) In the book, they use the example of Cincinnatus, a farmer who assumed the role of military dictator to help fight off the Aequians. Once his defeated them, he returned to his farm (sixteen days after he was appointed.) Essentially he came to his countries call and he returned to him farm once he did what needed to be done.

It's not really surprising that this idea has crept into fiction, especially fantasy. Off the top of my head, I can pick out about three or four, but this is an anime blog, so I'll stick to anime.

The rules of a citizen solider


While Julius Caesar wasn't a citizen solider (he was far more concerned about advancing his own career and taking over Rome), Marc Anthony's quote reflects the spirit of the citizen solider. Which leads to the first rule, they're not interested in glory. Yang Wen-li in LoGH is a perfect example of this. In fact, he's a perfect example of all of them, but I'm only going to use him for the first point. When he's called "the hero of El-Facil" or "Miracle Yang" he scoffs, deferring the attention to other people. While he may not live a Spartan life, it certainly isn't ostentatious either.

All of that is part in parcel with the second rule, they're apolitical. Now that doesn't mean they don't have a political view, but they don't have political aspirations. Kenshin Himura ironically is a good example here. Fairly early on in the series he gets offered a post in the Meiji government. He turns it down because his country doesn't need him to do it, or rather his country needs him not to be in a position of power. Even when he goes back to work for the government, he's doing it because they don't have anywhere else to turn. And he doesn't have any political motives.

Which leads to the third point (and arguably the most important), they are the best men for the job, sometimes the only men for the job. One important point to make about citizen soliders is that they're always qualified to do whatever they're going to do. That doesn't mean they're not outnumbered (in Yang's case) or outgunned (in Kenshin's case), but there is no where else for their country to turn.

And the last rule of the citizen solider is: when the job's done, they go home. This kind of goes hand in hand with the first two rules, but the citizen solider is very rarely the political leader of a country. They might be the strongest warrior or a military genius, but they either don't want the responsibility or don't have the talent to run a country. Again Yang's desire to just "retire" is one example of this.

As I've been thinking about this subject though, I've made a realization. There's one citizen solider in mecha anime: Yuushiro from "Gasaraki". And that's only for one brief moment towards the end of the show that it comes up. Granted throughout most of the show he's still a citizen solider.

Which begs the question, what allusion fits most mecha pilots? I'd argue they're Arthur-like heroes.

The rules of an Arthur-like hero


Okay, so I wanted to avoid the word Arthurian, mostly because there's entire books dedicated to studying Arthurian legend and these are just my observations. But in fact, most mecha stories (yes, even TTGL) have Arthur-like heroes. The first thing that defines this type of hero is: they're not born great, but they have greatness thrust upon them. Much like when Arthur pulled the sword out of the stone, he wasn't prepared for what would happen, most mecha pilots (even in war epic anime) aren't prepared for their first encounter with greatness. Take the first episode of Macross Frontier as an example. The main character doesn't have any training to use a Valkyrie, he's just an average high school student who happened to come across a sword sticking out of… err… a giant robot in a time when he needed to take action.

Which leads to the second rule of the Arthur-like hero, they have divine right and divine grace. What's important to note here is that Arthur-like heroes are never the best men for the job when they get the job. They're novices, but they're been imbued with something special that makes them inherently qualified. In the case of the Zeta Gundam, you have Newtypes. In the case of Eureka 7, you have the Omega drive. This gives them the ability to be the lynch-pin in any defense or offense the heroes might take.

And because they have both divine right and divine grace, they're inherently political. Like the old saying goes, those who have the guns, make the rules. Because they're the most powerful characters on the heroes side, they're almost always involved in the larger plots of the nation. If they disagree with what their government is doing they'll fight against them. But even more often they rise to a level of political prominence and become both a military and political leader.

The fourth rule is that their job is never done. Much like Arthur they'll set up their Camelot and die there because they're building a utopia.

On a side note


If anyone's paying attention, or still reading by this point, they'll probably notice that I haven't mentioned Eva or RahXephon. To be honest, I don't think Ayato Kamina or Shinji Ikari are either one of these archetypes. Instead, I'd put them closer to Adam when he ate the apple. But I'm not talking about that, so I thought I'd leave that can of worms for another time.

Why Arthur needs to retire


The thing is that almost every mecha pilot follows the Arthur mold. They start out wretched. They come across big robot. They learn to pilot big robot. And they go on to be heroes. The thing is that all of them tout being heavily political, but generally they aren't. And that's simply because whoever the Arthur happens to be, they're in the right. Now a citizen solider might also be in the right, but there's an inherent tension between them and the powers that be. What makes Yang interesting is that realization that he isn't the government and he doesn't want to be the government. And the clash of ethics of what is good for the country right now versus what is good for the country in the long term.

To be fair, there is more that anime could do to play around with the Arthur theme, and I haven't watched either Code Geass or anything more than the first episode of TTGL, so I can't really comment on them. But for the most part I haven't seen them do it. Also it would mean no more whiny boy pilots.

Agree or disagree? Leave a comment or e-mail

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Anime Blogs as Rock Genres: Punk

So a while ago I started a post trying to classify blogs as particular rock genres. Mostly it fell apart because I didn't have enough experience with anime blogs and bloggers yet. But I'm starting to get a handle on it. I thought it would be fun to give it a shot. So here it goes. I'm not going to name names here, mostly because I don't need that drama.

Anyways here we go.


Punk blogs all have some similar traits. They're loud. They're angry. And they're right. Even if they're wrong they're right and nobody better tell them otherwise. That's not to say that they're trolling for flames, but they'll use whatever wording they see fit. Generally you can count on one inflammatory remark per post.

They differ from heavy metal blogs though because their anger is generally directed by reason though. Often interspersed between the bullshits, the fucks and the other cuss words, there is a good point. Now some are lighter than others, and some are better than others, but no matter which way you go, they're always angry.

Oi Punk: Oi Punk Blogs are always the easiest to spot. They're the ones waving around the rebel flag, yelling about how the industry is dumb, other bloggers are dumb, the whole world needs to collectively pull their heads out of their asses. Generally their posts are not made for the eyes of readers. They tend to be lengthy and dislike the idea of capitalism, or society in general. They're the most likely to open up a can of hate on you if you disagree with them.

Sometimes as they get older they can start to mellow out and write a little more understandably. But they'll always tend to be on the angry side.

Skate Punk: Where oi punk says fuck you, skate punk says "whatever". They're still angry about the stuff that they care about, and can make remarks poking fun at the wholes in the system. But they're still a bit angry and they're usually loud. But so much easier to understand. For that reason, skate punk blogs tend to be more popular. Generally the blogger responds to hate with a quick kick to the nuts, and responds to like with a self-effacing sure.

Now don't make any mistake, skate punk blogs still hate capitalism, commercialism and society in general. But they're just as likely to let it keep doing whatever the hell it's going to do. They may cross over into pop punk occasionally or as time goes on, but most of the time they don't need to.

Pop Punk: Much like skate punk blogs, these ones are even more mellow. In fact, they could almost pass for a top forty song some of the times. Of all the punk type blogs, these are the most likely to be episode review blogs rather than editorial blogs. They're usually funny, a bit irreverent, but rarely angry, well unless it calls for it. There is a ska variant on this which tends to be pretty similar except they play trumpets. Or they don't.

Now pop punk blogs can occasionally get a bit emo, but they make up for it with some good one liners and a whole lot of funny commentary.

Emo: Emo blogs are the easiest to recognize because no one understands them. Generally they're a mix of personal posts about how much life and people suck, and diatribes about how much other fans suck. Often they do troll for attention. And when they get it they wonder why everyone's picking on them. That's not to say that they don't have good points occasionally, if you're willing to wade through the whining. They always take themselves too seriously and as a result take everyone else too seriously as well.

But we all love them anyways.

Okay so that's all I can think of. If you have any additions or think I missed any of them please leave a comment or e-mail

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Checklists and Flowcharts: Another post about Genre

*Note: I hope I'm not covering ground that's already been covered. But I probably am. And you can be angry down in the comments.*

Okay so after reading iknight's recent post about genre, I wasn't going to post anything else on the subject. I mean largely Owen is standing on the moral high ground here. We shouldn't judge a series as lousy before we watch it. It really isn't right. I've argued it with moe and I've argued it with classics. Assumptions and half-truths aren't really the way to go when looking at any body of work.

But I also think it's inevitable and normal.

How we talk and think about Genre

Most of the time when we talk about genre it's in checklists. You take X show, it has Y plot traits, Z character traits and Q world traits. It might also have differences in tones and differences in voice, but all in all they're simple, denotative meanings. This is largely where its communication aspect comes up. The genre allows us to get a lot of information quickly. Now those words in and of themselves don't really carry any value judgment. For example: a sci-fi epic will most likely contain a spaceship, a young hero, a dark and sinister foe who's bent on destroying the galaxy, so on and so forth. If we can check enough of those off then it's most likely a sci-fi epic. Now a sub-genre might develop when we can check most of those things off the list, but it also incorporates other things from other lists (iknight's point about NGE comes to mind here.)

Now if that was just the case there wouldn't be any problem. No one disagrees that the use of genre as a descriptor is a useful tool. But iknight brings up a great point; words carry meaning beyond the words themselves. So the question becomes why is that? Well I'm going to drag out my psych minor again and throw out schemas. Okay, so if anyone's taken Intro to Personality they probably know what I mean here. If you haven't then here's a quick and dirty and probably horribly oversimplified way of looking at it. Essentially if you take a word or an action, like say sci-fi epic and apply anything that is related to your thoughts, feelings, experiences and those checklist definitions then you have the schema for a sci-fi epic. So not only do you have the checklist definition, but you also have the memories of watching Doctor Who growing up, or the first time you saw Star Blazers or Robotech, or the fact that your girlfriend dumped you when you were just about to pop in the last disk of Battlestar Gallactica, or the fact that your best friend told you that only geeks watched sci-fi stuff. So you have all of these associations with a phrase that don't necessarily have anything to do with the phrase, or could be hearsay, or really anything.

What's important to note here is that schema don't change easily. Once they're created new information that contradicts the schema will be ignored first. If the new information can't be ignored then it's more likely someone will make an exception rather than change their schema. If they have to make enough exceptions then their schema might change.

On why Shounen Romance gets a bad rap

So there are three questions here that have been brought up separately, but I think all are important questions. First and foremost was a question brought up in the comments on Owen's post, "Who's to blame, the genreist (the person who only watches one genre) or the labeler (the person who put the show into a category in the first place)?" And I have to say both and more. The thing is from the inception of the show it's designed to appeal to people who have positive associations towards shounen romance. Ironically, the problem could start from the inception of the piece. Once they pick a genre then their schema of how a shounen romance is put together kicks in, this includes what elements they like or don't like, and what they think their audience will appreciate. This is the first problem is that load of mediocre stuff is a direct result of playing it safe to the audience. Now if someone already has a negative connotation linked with shounen romance, harem show X is unlikely to change it. In fact, it'll only reinforce the schema.

Second, we don't live in a vacuum, we get opinions from friends, authority figures, bloggers and reviewers and based on our schema of them we either take their opinions into our schema or we dismiss them. And this is where a LOT of the bad associations with shounen romance comes from. When people think of the average shounen romance fan, they think big, sweaty otaku surrounded by body pillows. Is this unfair? Yes. But it's also persistent. I would argue a lot of the moe hate that's going around comes from this association. It also comes from the fact that people who love these show usually do talk about them in the highest terms, which according to Cameron's curmudgeon to hype formula would mean all of the curmudgeons out there would likely turn up their nose at said series. And the Internet is full of curmudgeons.

Third, it's the fault of the genreist. Who's making a decision on a show without actually seeing it. Now it's all well and good to say that you might not like a show because of its content. But I'm not on the side of saying it's a horrible show because it might feature content that you don't like.

The second question is does it deserve the bad rap it gets? And the answer is yes and no. The problem with a schema is that they don't come out of thin air. There has to be some information that came in at some point to set it up. The old saw about stereotypes comes to mind here. The first association that I get with shounen romance is harem. Why? Because there's a whole slew of harem shows out there. And in my mind, I've never heard of a harem show that sounded plausible. The second association I get, which is even more unfair, is from the words themselves – boy's romance. Now when I think of boy and romance, I think porn. (This is arguably where the bad connotation for moe is really coming from.) A lot of that is from a lack of cultural literacy, and if CCY's blog has taught me anything, it's taught me that there's more in the land of shounen romance than wish fulfillment. The third association I get from it is that creepy, sweaty otaku who's got the body pillows because for every five or so reasonably well-adjusted adults or teenagers who watch shounen romance (or anime in general) there's one scary guy.

Are these all fair? No. But are enough of them true often enough to reinforce the schema? Probably.

All of that leads to the third question, "How do you change it?" I think bateszi's got the right on this one. Fans of a particular genre aren't necessarily going to convince people who aren't fans to change their mind. But they are likely to convince fence sitters like myself to give them a shot. Perhaps I need to propose a corollary to Cameron's curmudgeon to hype formula. And that's to say, hype from a perceived neutral source actually weighs the formula the other direction. Well at least some of the time.

Also invectives never help a situation. I've never known an argument to be solved by yelling. Sometimes you have to accept that not everybody's going to love the stuff you love. Hey, I've accepted that I'm the only person in the world who likes GONZO stuff. Now that doesn't mean don't speak up about a series you like or don't like. But a civilized manner is always nice. And support shows you like that break the mediocre mold. Hell all the talk about ef got me to watch it and most likely buy it (if it comes out over here.)

And I think as iknight pointed out, it's a factor of time. After a certain point, shounen romance will become more than just harem in the minds of the out-group. But that's not going to happen overnight.

If at all.

Agree or disagree? Leave a comment or e-mail

Friday, February 8, 2008

The Otakusphere: News, Rumor and Hearsay

Okay all I have to say is that I didn't start the fire. It's always burning since the worlds been turning. But anyways, enough of the cheesy music references, because this is going to be the quick and dirty listing of the interesting posts I've run across during the last few days.

The posting of a press release about the 12th episode of AnimeTV on Manga Maniac's page reminded me why I hate press releases. In particular, "The new episode has been eagerly awaited and features an array of compelling segments sure to delight fans." Really? I didn't know that it's been "eagerly awaited." And wow, it has "compelling" segments. Oh my. I'm starting to wonder if the anime industry needs some new PR people. Like ones that can stick to the facts.

And on the subject of rumor, Heisei Democracy is reporting that Moon Phase is reporting the manga Sekirei might be getting a anime adaptation. Okay, two things on this, I read the description of this and it sounds bad. I mean it's generic guy A meets mysterious girl B who is actually either 1) a robot 2) an alien 3) a robotic alien or 4) a mystic who must do battle with one of those first four categories. So I'm kind of wondering why I should care, but I might be totally wrong. This could be the most awesome thing since bread and butter.

But on the note of some real news, a geek by another name had a post about an ICv2 article that Funimation might pick up some of Geneon's catalogue. Oh please, tell me it'll happen. Can I have an actual copy of Seirei no Moribito. Okay that might be too much to ask, but Hellsing and Black Lagoon season 2 might be nice.

On a more anime related note, Hige vs. Otaku had a post on the inadvertent comparison of two similar shows (in this case Shigofumi and Boogiepop Phantom.) Now I'll admit I haven't watched either of the shows although I have played around with the idea of buying Boogiepop Phantom, but I think the idea is fascinating, especially when it comes to some certain giant robot shows that will remain nameless.

And finally, read this post on T.H.A.T anime blog. I don't know how to sum it up other than to say, it's probably one of the most heartwarming posts that I've seen in a long time.

What is in a moment: On the semantics of Moe and GAR

Okay so I won't lie this post is largely inspired by this post and this post and this post, even though that last one doesn't really have anything to do with the topic it got me thinking about this subject. I'm also not entirely sure if I'm right here, but I'm interested in what people think.

On Defining Moe and GAR

When it comes to defining these two words, I'm often reminded of the quote about pornography, "I know it when I see it." That's because both of these phenomena are defined by the viewer's perception of the character. Even how people use the words is generally referring to themselves (i.e. "I'm GAR for Archer" and "I get so moe for X character."

The problem is that as Will pointed out in his post on Criminally Weird (the second link), and iknight and CCY have both stated, there's a definite set of characteristics that go along with these characters. A moe character has to seem to be weak and innocent (or have moments where they need to be protected) and they have to look frail and small. A GAR character has to do something heroic and possibly self-sacrificing. While they evoke these emotional responses from the viewer, the characters have to perform actions to evoke these emotional responses.

Which is why they become so hard to define. What might evoke a moe or GAR response in one viewer may not evoke the same response in another viewer. So in the end we're left with conflict about what really constitutes the character attributes that lead to these emotional responses. Essentially we know moe or GAR when we see it, and sometimes everyone will agree that a particular character is worth the label, sometimes some people will agree, sometimes nobody will agree.

But I'd like to propose a distinction anyway, perhaps a way of seeing both of these phenomena. Because I do think they link, or rather they present a similar problem.

In the Moment

I'm sure people will disagree with me on this one, but I don't think a character is either moe or GAR. I think the characters actions at a particular moment are either moe or GAR. Any story is made up of a series of moments and in any good story those characters could be in any of several emotional states. So even a character that's designed to elicit a moe reaction, such as Chuhiro in ef, can have a moment where she's angry or decisive. All of which are particularly un-moe moments. Or a character like Misato from Eva can have moments where she's particularly un-GAR, such as when she's pining over Kaji or her Dad.

Now if a character has a series of GAR or moe moments, then we might define them as either GAR or moe, but I don't think it's really the character, so much as the action or emotion in that particular scene. Granted, if a character only had GAR or moe moments then we could define them as either GAR or moe, but I don't think it's necessarily the character, but the consistency of the character's reaction.

On the counter-argument

Now I'll admit, there is a counter argument to all this. It would be easy to say, well the character is necessary to carry out those moments. So it must be the character's traits that allow the character to do that. Yes, I do think the character is necessary to carry out these moments, but if the character solely consisted of GAR or moe traits, then they become a less appealing character.

For example, take Aragorn from Lord of the Rings – when I first read the books, I thought "blah this guy is boring because all he does is epic stuff," but when I say the movies and it has moments where he shows weakness and longing, he suddenly became a more appealing character.

Another example would be Alex Rowe from Last Exile. Yes, when he offed those five guards in about three seconds, I felt really GAR for him. But when he was pining over his lost love, well it wasn't really all that GAR. But it did show a side to the character we hadn't seen, and it provided some depth. Arguably not a lot of depth, but at least more than he would have if he consistently had GAR moments.

A sliding scale

So I guess where all of this is leading to is proposing a sliding scale of GAR or moe. In fact, I'd say that whether a character is GAR or moe is determined by the amount of times they do GAR or moe stuff.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Why not ef-tale of memories

Warning: I will not use the words pretentious or overrated in this post. If you're expecting them, well I don't know now what to tell you. But they won't be here.

Okay, so that's out of the way. Now I have a confession to make, I've always had a soft spot for a good romance. For all of their faults, I do like Paradise Kiss and Kare Kano a lot.  I'm comfortable enough admitting that and ef is a good romance show.

In fact, the parts people would complain about (the crazy artwork, the overly dramatic, heavy-handed theme) all worked in the course of the story. Now, I will say that ef didn't really do that much that Paradise Kiss and Kare Kano didn't already do. They essentially had the same themes of following your dreams and the perception of self versus the perception of others. In this case, the show used memories as a way of dealing with those themes (go figure the thing is called "a tale of memories.") But unlike those shows, ef was the perfect length. It is an exceedingly rare thing when I find a twelve episode series that should be twelve episodes.

I would say that the visual symbolism for the most part worked for the show. Granted there are parts that I'm still not sure that I understand, and parts where I think the creators just ran out of money. But the symbolism is consistent with the characters and except for a couple situations isn't completely over bearing. (The stained glass window bit got really old.)

(Spoiler Alert!)

But good lord, the pathos. This show had enough angst to power an entire emo city. Now, I realize that this is part and parcel to the entire romance genre. (What would a romance show be if the main characters didn't whisper each others names three or four times an episode.) But there are several moments in the show where it pushed it too far. For instance, there is a scene where one of the love interests is calling this guy she was supposed to meet. Now she's in the process of getting stood up, but we get privy to the messages she's leaving for him.

All of the messages she's leaving for him.

All twelve or thirteen messages she leaves for him.

One or two would have been alright. It would have been heart-rending without being over bearing. Three would have been pushing it. I could have accepted five, but after that I started thinking about fast forwarding it through the scene. Simply because it felt like a trick so that I would feel bad for the character.

Oh yeah, and then there's Chuhiro, the girl who loses her memory every thirten hours, who is essentially a Teddy Ruxpin playing a Country-Western tape. Oh yeah, and she's lost her eye too, because she didn't have enough going against her. Her storyline is nothing BUT angst. Granted, it's not bad angst. It is understandable. But the one moment in the show where she stops being the little angst-girl who could was like a breath of fresh air.

But it didn't last long.

But enough about the angst.

Because I have to talk about a film student.

Now, I give the show credit his name didn't come up enough for it to stick in my head, which means that his dangerously self-referential remarks only have a face to pin to it. Honestly, when I heard the line, "I want to make the film that I want to make." I just about shot out of my seat, grabbed a copy of "In Our Time" and smacked the computer with it.  Come on SHAFT, you don't need to tell us to go screw ourselves if we don't like your show.

Really, we can figure that out all by ourselves.


Agree or disagree? Leave a comment or e-mail

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Why Monster is a great thriller


I want to gush about Monster. Really, I do. But… I can’t. Right now I’m 12 episodes in and in a lot of ways the plot is pretty predictable. That doesn’t mean it’s a complete waste of time, the show does do a decent job keeping the tension up. Still, plotwise it’s the equivalent to watching an action movie. You know what’s going to happen, the only question is how.

Okay, so there’s going to be some spoilers here, and if you haven’t watched this show, then go, go right now to wherever it is that you download shows from and download it. Now if you don’t believe me that it’s predictable, take a look at the general structure of the plot for this first part.

First, you get introduced to the protagonist, who is Dr. Tenma. The doctor gets confronted with a problem – he’s feeling like the people around him aren’t living up to his ideals. He gets a choice – to save or not save the life of a young boy. Now the show is called Monster, so it’s pretty safe to assume that since the boy has been shot in the head and the girl is in a coma that the boy will end up being the “monster”.

These patterns keep emerging throughout the show. Now they aren’t necessarily bad, and I would say the show can be enjoyed as a good, if conventional, thriller.

But like every good thriller, it does have more to offer than just that.

On the nature of thrillers

I’m going to say something that quite a few people will disagree with, but great thrillers will leave you asking questions. First, I have to talk about the general plot structure of a thriller though. First you take an Everyman, they can be some joe off the street, they can be some low-level functionary, they just have to be someone who is not in power. Then you thrust them into a situation where the powers that be are all turned against them. They have to run. Eventually the situation gets resolved, the bad guys get punished, everyone lives happily ever after.

Now, what differentiates the enjoyable fluff from the great stuff is the situation that gets them into trouble in the first place. Take Minority Report as an example. The questions are raised because the psychics predict a murder that hasn’t happened yet. That raises a whole set of questions about guilt and innocence and whether committing the act is the same thing as someone who is going to commit an act.

To take that a step further, it opens up a lot of questions about eugenics. Is it right to judge someone by what they’re predetermined to do? Should criminal tendencies be bred out of people because it will make a better society? And so on and so forth. So while the plot is simple the questions it raises are important and interesting.

On a side note a great thriller is a lot like a great dystopia novel/movie. It leaves the viewer questioning their own beliefs and which side of the argument they’d be on.

Why Monster surprises me

The thing about Monster is that it rises above a movie like Minority Report because it doesn’t offer an easy answer. Whereas Minority Report states pretty much categorically that the future shouldn’t determine the present, Monster’s central question, “Is all life equal?” gets an even better and more gray treatment.

Case in point – In the beginning of the series, the bureaucrats running the hospital are shown as heartless and greedy. At one point Eva, the daughter of the hospital director, even states, “Not all lives are equal.”

More than anything else, this is the statement that drives Tenma into making his fateful choice. Now a normal thriller would stop here, or at the very least make the main conflict be between Tenma and the hospital staff.

But Monster takes it a step further, instead of simply answering the question, “Yes all life is equal” it pits Tenma against his own decision. Essentially reversing the answer to that question and stating, “No, all life is not equal.”

And then proceeds to try to form a system by which you can judge the merit of a human being. Is it by good acts? Does one good act make up for a history of bad acts? Does one bad act negate a history of good acts? All of these are interesting questions, which I don’t know how the series will answer, or if it will answer them at all.

And that’s why even though Monster is a thriller at its very core, it’s a great thriller. And that’s all it needs to be.


Agree or disagree? Leave a comment or e-mail

The Otakusphere: Pacing problems, cultural literacy and the evil that is Bandai Visual

So I'm back with another roundup on my thoughts on some of the big posts I've come across. Or at least posts that I thought were important. Well... maybe important is to big of a word. Perhaps, interesting?

Anyways, lets get on with it.

To be fair, I've had far away and no where bookmarked for a long time, but after reading this treatise on cultural literacy, I'll definitely be checking back more often. I'm kind of torn on the whole thing though. To be fair, I've always been fascinated with how groups define themselves. Although I do have a sense the next post is going to contain references of how we as a subculture create our own myths and then create an in-group/out-group dynamic.

Also, it seems that reddit has an anime section. This seems like an awesome way to both build the community (if you're one of those people who believes in community), or just get more hits on your blog (if you're an attention starved blogger like um... yeah anyways.)

Only the Bitch Knows had a pretty fascinating post on Shigofumi (and Bandai Visual's release on it). The first part brought up an interesting point about pacing, stating that slower shows are more complex. It's not something I really agree with. I think slower shows have more of a chance for interpersonal drama and reflection, but if dot Hack is a horribly complex show, then I'll stick to my "mecha-porn fests" (as Owen called them in this post)

All of that said, the real meat of the post revolved around Bandai Visual's release of the show. Now in all fairness, I'm still not a fan of the idea of "buying to support the industry". I'm a much bigger fan of the idea of "buying because you enjoy the show." And while I don't really like BV's pricing structure, I have to say "not buying to punish the company" isn't a really sound idea either.

And to finish it all off a man that needs no introduction, Owen S. wrote a really long diatribe on true tears. Now I haven't seen the show. I don't really have any intention of seeing the show. I'm still trying to catch up so that I'm even with all the people who've seen all of these show, and am a bit concerned about talking about stuff that is two or so years out of date.

That said, he made an interesting distinction about eliminating taste from judging whether a series is good or not good. Now since I agree that you have to take taste into account, I don't think it's a factor that can be eliminated because on some level you have to make a judgment about whether you think a show went far enough, did enough, was dramatic enough.

And that in the end is all personal taste.

Agree or disagree? Leave a comment or email

Or if you like wordpress better, you can check out the wordpress version of this page at

Monday, February 4, 2008

Ethics, fansubs and the Geneon collapse - an analysis

So for right now I'm going to post on this blog and the other blog until I can move AnimeNano over. Thanks everyone.

But onto the show.


I must be the last person on the fansub train. To be honest, I enjoy buying DVDs. I don't do it to support the industry, although I do. In fact, I disagree with the entire idea of buying DVDs (or anything else) so you can support the industry. To me that reeks of charity.

No, I buy DVDs so I can watch the show and over time, I've amassed quite the collection. I've never been part of the fansub scene until recently, and then mostly stuff that will never come out in the US (like LoGH or Galaxy Express 999). I read reviews to find out whether I might like a show, and then I buy the show if I was pretty sure that I'd enjoy it. I might rent the show if I was a little less sure, but up until a few months ago I never had to wonder about the ethics of downloading fansubs. Because well, I was walking the moral high road and all I had to do was be patient and I could trust that my anime companies would provide me with all the anime I could ever want.

All I had to do was be patient.

But Geneon's collapse ruined all of that.

On ethics and this Brave New World

Up an to now there has been one ethical rule when it comes to downloading fansubs: Do as little harm as possible. It's simple and pretty Liberatarian. Essentially while downloading a fansub of Legend of the Galactic Heroes might be stealing, the person isn't hurting anyone by doing it. Now the occasional hardcore capitalist might throw out a categorical imperative (i.e. You can't say everyone should steal anything without leading to anarchy), but for the most part their arguments are flawed.

Now there is a gray area in that Liberatarian rule when it comes to series that are currently airing in Japan, but haven't been licensed in the United States. Now while I'd like to say that the majority of people have really thought out why it's okay to download a series that might be licensed, but it's not okay to download a series that has been licensed, I think it's become more of a maxim then anything. And if they buy said series when it comes out in the U.S., then overall it evens out. Essentially, they have the choice to have a zero-impact, or they have the choice to have a negative impact.

But what becomes of a show like Seirei no Moribito. Ethically, at the moment, it's okay to download it. I mean it's in limbo. Sure it's been licensed, but the company it's been licensed by is defunct.

The problem is that it has been licensed which means at one point there was at least the intent to bring it to this county. So while I downloaded it, I just had a negative impact. And it's not an ethically clean negative impact. It's not like I didn't have a choice. I could have waited. But I didn't.

But wait, it gets even more twisted. Because sure with Seirei no Moribito, it might be a justifiable argument to say, "Well, I can't make a decision based off what might happen." And there aren't any disks in the U.S. to buy.

What happens when we start talking about Saiunkoku? There's a series that I have a definite choice with, but not all of it is out in the States. But some of it's out. So am I obligated to puchase those disks (even though it's an incomplete series) just so I can come out to a ethical neutral.

The problem and solution

The problem with the convential maxim is that it assumes that there is an industry that will continue to produce disks. Which leaves me in a quandry, "Am I ethically better to wait and see whether or not these series will be resurrected? Or am I okay in assuming they won't?"

The thing is that I don't see any easy solution. Sure, I'll buy them if they come out. Honestly, it won't be out of charity, but because I want a dubbed version on DVD. I suppose that ethically I'll come out even.

But it still makes me a little uneasy, and wondering whether in this Brave New World, if I'll have to make that decision again. Especially since I really do want to see Gurren Laggan and Code Geass.


Agree or disagree? Please comment here or at or e-mail And yes those are my anime shelves, but not necessarily all of my anime.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

A New Site?

So after three months of blogger, I think I'm about to cave in. I set up a wordpress blog over at I'm wondering what you all think. And does anyone know how easy it is to move a RSS feed over there?

The Otakusphere: ADV, ADV, ADV, the end of an era and some more ADV.

So a while back I tried writing this column called Anime Bloggers Unite! It didn't last too long. Well I resurecting it and giving it a name I actually liked (and stole from a much better blogger than me). And it makes me feel like singing, "I've been around the Otakusphere and I can't find my baby."

Okay enough of that, onward and forward.

So ADV's news has been the biggest thing that's hit in the last week. The mysterious pulling of several of their titles from their online store, and the even more cryptic letter they sent to ANN about it. Well there's several opinions floating around out there, probably the most positive coming from Nigorimasen! which basically says everything that I would say about it. That it's a good thing that they're trimming the fat. It also mentions the canceled IcV2 article over on Robert's Anime Corner Store.

Now I want to point out two things here. First, it's a damn shame that we get one part of the information as hearsay and no information from the PEOPLE WHO ARE SUPPOSED TO BE GIVING US INFORMATION! I'm a little ticked at the people over at ANN for running with the first article without having any actual facts other than they pulled the titles. Granted, someone could come along and say they'd be irresponsible for not writing about it. But writing about it without the facts, is in my opinion, just as bad.

Of course, if you want to stock up on some ADV titles before whatever shit hits the fan, there's a fire sale going on over at RightStuf. And to top it all off, ADV has made their choice as far as the format wars: BluRay. Oooo who... Yet another format that I probably won't start buying until it's been out for about five years and they force me to switch over. CuteProxy had an interesting editorial about whether it's a good thing or not. Personally, I can hope that it'll drive the price of DVDs down. But personally I don't think it will. At least not until it's almost the end. I mean I remember the clearances in VHS right up to a couple of years ago when the movie companies said they would stop producing them.

On a more general note Nakama Brittanica had an interesting post about there being a golden era of anime from 1995 to 2003 (basically from Eva to Fullmetal Alchemist). In part, I want to agree that there was a lot of creative stuff that came out of Japan during that time frame. And there is a lot of current anime that is having to live up to the pretty high bar set by shows like Cowboy Beebop and Fullmetal Alchemist.

But on the other hand, I think it's a bit heady to call it a Golden Age. I mean from what I've seen and heard there have been series like Welcome to the NHK!, Monster... even Beck that seem to live up to and even surpass some of those earlier shows. In part I think there's a halo placed around some series that really shouldn't be.

That said, I do think that there needs to be another series that would have wide Western appeal (among non-anime fans), because that is what series like Cowboy Beebop and FMA had. They appealed to audiences that didn't usually watch anime. The industry is ripe for it. But sadly, it might be a couple more years before we see it.

And that might be a couple years too late.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

On analysis, editorial blogging and why I bother - an analysis


If you took ten different anime fans and said the word Gonzo to them, about three-quarters of them would grumble, one or two would shrug and one would whoop uncontrollably until his arms fell off.

In a lot of ways that's something I expect because anime is an entertainment source. And part of being entertained is what the viewer brings to the show. It's the same with books. It's the same with movies. And personally, I think that's a good thing.

A while back CCY posted a paragraph from the now-defunct Like Water that's always stuck me a little sideways.

" In the end, anime is a hugely personal entertainment medium. It caters to individual fantasies, and makes you believe that you are the center of the fantasy (exemplified by harem anime). This makes it very difficult to "dialogue" on anime the way you might a good fiction novel, or the way you would a great movie. You wrap so much of yourself into the story and the characters that you feel like you have your own private world with these people, and it's something that others can't take from you. This is why anime is so addicting, and why people who enjoy it tend to watch so much of it. Who doesn't want their own special world that others can't even comprehend or touch? We can share it to the extent that we say what characters we like, or what particular moments touch us, but we can't really share the depth of feeling that draws us to anime because it's something that lies deep in us, something that we let few people touch."

Now granted, I'm taking the paragraph a little out of context here (he was talking about why anime has stagnated for him), but I think it raises an interesting question. Why do editorial bloggers even bother?

On the nature of entertainment

I'll be fair here. Anime first and foremost IS entertainment. It's meant to be a distraction from the day to day life. The characters are designed so that the viewer can insert themselves into the place of the main character and vicariously experience the show. More than any other medium other than books, it allows the viewer to break the fourth wall, enter into the story and experience it on a level that is both intensely personal and inherently individual.

And every viewer does take something to the table. Personally, I love epics. I love mysteries. I love intrigue. If any show or book or movie has all three of those then I'm there. And I bring to the table all of the fantasy I've read, all the hard-boiled detective novels and all of the movies I've watched.

Also when I sit down to watch a show, I do have a certain set of expectations. If I'm watching an action show, I expect to be on the edge of my seat. If I'm watching a comedy, I expect to laugh. And so on and so forth. So not only is it an intensely personal experience, any opinion on it comes from an unique background of likes and dislikes.

But all of that said, I think it's still a good thing to analyze.

Why I bother

Again, the question remains, why do I read and write editorial blogs? To be honest, I'm not an academic. My education in literature mostly comes from learning how to write a story. And considering that I'm not published yet, that doesn't seem to be going very well. But still, I find commentary about anime fascinating.

And that's because I disagree with this line, " This makes it very difficult to "dialogue" on anime the way you might a good fiction novel, or the way you would a great movie."
Because honestly if you got ten lit students into a room and mentioned Hemingway, you'd get three people who'd grumble, at least one person who mentioned his treatment of women, a few people who gave you a blank stare and at least one person who cheered wildly until their arms fell off. All entertainment on some level is a personal experience.

But that doesn't mean it can't be analyzed. In fact, I'd argue the point of analysis is to present an argument and try to make it as sound as possible. Maybe it'll be devisive. Maybe it'll be just plain wrong. But if it gets people to think long enough to tell you why you're wrong then it's done it's job.

And part of that analysis is taking that initial gut reaction and exploring why you had it, what type of themes or visuals appealed to you and why you had the reaction you did.

And that's why I bother reading and writing editorial blogs, so that I can see what people were thinking when they watched a particular thing and so that I can somehow verbalize that personal experience.