You Can (Not) Watch Anime

See, there's this crab... oh nevermindTo be frank, this site started as a depository for my Kingdom Hearts FAQ posts, and the Fustian Game Challenge was merely an excuse to generate new content. Now, fifty FGC posts later, I’ve found I really enjoy the parameters of the FGC, as it encourages me to replay any number of games I could have likely ignored for the rest of my life. Super Mario Land is up next, and, spoilers, I really enjoyed replaying this game that I likely would not have touched otherwise. Super Mario Land is fun, but there are literally ten other Mario games I can name that I’d be more likely to play before it, never mind the glut of excellent NES platformers that at least have color, and then never mind the last thirty years of video games that have been released in the median. But, hey, the robot said to play the game, so I did, and I enjoyed it, and that’s about how this whole project has been going. From the beginning, I always knew there would be a point where I’d stall out and give up… like most every “hobby” project I’ve ever started… but the way things are going, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were another fifty posts. Maybe even a whole 52.

But, as I was saying, the FGC was just one of many ideas I had for what to write about for this site, and second runner up was basically the same concept, except with anime. Same basic rules: with streaming and other such services nowadays, it’s easier than ever to cue up a random show and view a random episode. So, watch an episode of any given series (whether I’d seen the series before or not was irrelevant), digest what I’d seen, and then write about it. Pretty straightforward.

Now I realize that, had I gone with that concept, I would currently be insane.

I’ve mentioned it before, but I like anime. If I think about it, I’ve always like anime, starting back before I even knew my own last name but knew the name of the defender of the universe, a mighty robot, loved by good, and feared by evil. Anime, though, is like any other entertainment medium: there’s about one good show every couple years, and the rest is a pile of nonsense either pandering to the lowest common denominator or mindlessly imitating whatever was popular last year. Sometimes both! So, as a result of there being a lot of trashy anime, I watch a lot of trashy anime. It’s not a matter of “wanting” to watch any anime that is 90% fan-service, it’s just a matter of the television is right there, it’s easy to try out any given weird show, and then watch five hours of it while grinding out EXP on the 3DS. I can do two things at once!

So, in memory of the fact that this blog could have been dedicated entirely to anime, I’m going to write a skosh about a few random animes I’ve watched over the last few… years? Seems like it’s been a while.

Infinite Stratos

This is the most recent thing I’ve watched, so it’s getting covered first. Also, it might be the most anime-anime I’ve ever seen. Boy is the chosen one, and he’s the only XY on Earth that can pilot (kinda) giant robots. So he’s sent to an all-girls school where he’s relentlessly pursued by the entire student body, particularly six main girls that cover the standard range of harem archetypes.
It’s pretty terrible.

Bunny ears, maid costume, yep.My main takeaway from the show is that, while I’m not usually one to think “oh man, I could do this so much better” about professionals who have likely been in their industry for years, I could probably write an entire season of harem anime in about a week. Episode one: introduce boy and main girl and general conflict. Following ten episodes: introduce a new girl and her new quirks once per episode, and have it continue into the next episode as their issues are resolved by Boy just in time for the next girl to arrive. Obviously, have each new girl bounce her “quirky” personality off of Boy and each of the established girls. As of episode eleven (well, the finale episode ten), introduce a major threat that you can claim was foreshadowed the whole time, threaten Boy or Main Girl, and then the whole gang pulls together to eliminate Threat. Episode Thirteen: Everyone goes to the beach!

Oh, and when I said each of the girls would have different quirky personalities? If rushed for time, just replace that with different bra sizes. No one will notice.

Good Luck Girl

I always find it hard to say this, but I don’t understand humor. I realize this is like trying to dissect a beloved pet to understand why “petting” is so soothing, but any time I try to analyze why I find X funnier than Y (or, more likely, I try to figure out why the likes of Everybody Loves Raymond or Monkey like bananaThe Big Bang Theory are apparently the most beloved comedies of the century while, say, early Community was treated like a dissected beloved pet), I come up empty. I find some things funny, I find other “funny” things atrocious, and I think I’ll live longer if I just don’t think about it too hard. This is likely why I’ve taken to writing about video games, because there have been six deliberately funny video games in the last three decades.

Good Luck Girl is funny. It makes me laugh. I have no idea why this anime, over the many others I’ve watched, is that much better at being a comedy, but there it is. I do have to admit, the central concept of the show, that one girl has nothing but good luck, while her rival has nothing but bad luck, is pretty much the same concept as, say, every Roadrunner short ever, but modern Looney Tunes can’t seem to make me crack a smile, why does Good Luck Girl succeed?

From an objective standpoint, it’s even basically boilerplate anime, complete with the two female leads constantly squabbling over breast size (and every random guest star commenting on their physical differences). There’s a “bath episode” to take the place of the traditional “beach episode”, and there’s even a “serious” subplot about finding romance that does absolutely nothing new, original, or even interesting.
But I think I laughed out loud at least once during every episode so… good job?

Maken-Ki: Battling Venus

See Infinite Stratos.

RAWRLove Bullet Yurikuma Arashi

And this is maybe my favorite thing I’ve seen all year in any medium.

By all accounts, this should be terrible, as it’s an examination of society’s treatment of / individual’s own acceptance and reactions to homosexuality… coming from a culture that is still very much in the Dharma & Greg stage of homosexual acceptance. But Love Bullet actually comes through and tells not only an amazing story (and given the strong ties to Revolutionary Girl Utena, I shouldn’t be surprised), but one that makes it abundantly clear to even the more ardent homophobe that “othering” people and attempting to “build a wall” to keep out undesirables hurts not only the “others”, but the “ruling majority” as well. And it’s subtle enough that… wait… is that official art of two teenage girls licking honey off of the third? Okay, maybe the lesbian overtones are a little… superliminal. But I stand by my assessment that even people that would normally be frightened away by the gay can enjoy this series and maybe even learn something. It’s got bears, after all. Bears are macho, right? Or am I thinking of something else?

Absolute Duo

See Infinite Stratos.

Persona 4 The Animation &
Blazblue: Alter Memory

Ever play these video games? Good, then there is absolutely no reason to watch these shows. Next time you complain about a movie not being faithful enough to its source material, remember that there’s a terrible universe where that “movie” is five hours long, and offers absolutely no additional insight or ideas.

Steins;Gate

And speaking of adaptions, here’s an odd one. Steins;Gate is another damn harem anime, but the reason I paid it any real attention is that it contains a season-long time travel plot, and, seriously, you could shoehorn time travel into a porno, and I’d watch it attentively with notebook in hand (“Hm… so he’s traveling through time to make sure she’s not a virgin in the future when… wait… How does the pizza delivery fit in to all of this?”). The boy of this show is Okabe, a fairly detestable creature that, forgoing the “purity” of his harem star He ate her yogurt or somethingfraternity, is easily the least likeable member of the cast. This isn’t a matter of the main character being a boring protagonist, no, this is a matter of it being established early on that this is a “hero” who has essentially kidnapped two friends from the start, and has a third victim by the end of the first episode. He’s narcissistic, transphobic, misogynistic, and women seem to fall for him when he shows the tiniest glimmer of humanity.

But, seriously? I don’t give a damn, because I can deal with an unlikeable protagonist if the story is interesting. This is no Breaking Bad, but the science of the show coupled with its pacing and the fact that we’re basically dealing with a “time travel whodunit” is enough to hold my interest. It’s okay that Okabe is a jerk, because he’s supposed to be an eccentric genius, not Sir Galahad. He’s one unpleasant character in a cast of, what, eight or so? Doc Brown, godfather of time travel, was neat to watch, but I wouldn’t exactly trust him with my car keys. No big deal.

And then I discovered that Steins;Gate was all based on a video game. And that game is of the “visual novel” variety. And Okabe? That’s you. You are Okabe.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the scariest hell imaginable.

Watch. Do not play.

Upotte!!

I have no idea what this is, or who it was intended for, but if you ever find someone raving about this being their favorite show, please, please tell an adult.

Monogatari
Or whatever they’re calling it this week

There are some significant reasons to never watch this show. Among them:

  1. The fanservice is constant and unflinching. This is a series that opens with a thirty second panty shot. I know this because they literally put a clock on the screen as it happens.
  2. Two of the characters are Starfire-level exhibitionists, so, no need for a beach episode, you’ll see them near-naked before their introductions are over. A third character is prim and proper and reserved… but has a split personality that causes her to strip to her unmentionables. The most reserved character winds up with a malady that just happens to cover her body, so she’s gotta get naked for the investigation. This is not very subtle.
  3. There’s a thousand year old vampire… who is “influenced” by the (male, duh) main character into appearing like a preteen child. See any of my posts on Kingdom Heart’s Xion for details on how much I love the trope of “woman whose appearance is exactly what her man desires”. See also Meggan of the X-Men, assuming you believe this to be an exclusively Japanese thing.
  4. Perhaps worst of all, the protagonist has a pair of younger sisters that are confirmed to be sub-high school age and… you can guess where this is going, right? Yeah, they’re sexualized like hell, rapidly graduating from unfortunate camera angles to full-on partial nudity, with a particular emphasis on the youngest of the two. Unless you’ve got a… sister lolita complex? Is that a thing? Unless that’s your specific kink, there’s pretty much no way you’re making it through these scenes without being grossed out. Hell, I’m nauseas just typing it.

All that said? I’ll watch every episode of this show.

A long time ago, like, back in the age of Shakespeare, directors realized that watching two people converse was about as interesting as watching a puppy nap (“Aww, that’s cute… Okay, let’s go do something else now.”), so various tricks and techniques were developed to create the illusion of forward momentum even when nothing is technically happening. Fastforward to the age of television, and you’ll see even more refined methods for masking boring conversations. Consider that any one of the thousand procedural shows now on the boob tube are just a series of experts talking to each other about an event that already happened before the opening credits, but that illusion of momentum is maintained through camera angles and actors unnecessarily walking down hallways and through labs. I’m certain that every single episode of Law & Order could actually be produced using two sets and four actors.

Also note that the majority of video games ever produced do not understand this simple fact. Please enjoy these two static characters standing parallel while text scrolls along.

90% of Monogatari is just two characters having a conversation that is at least tangentially related to the central problem, but, rather than employ Smexyany of the old standbys of traditional drama, Monogatari seems to have opted for allowing the animators to go wild. The first I ever saw of this series was two characters sitting on a bed discussing the concept of love for fifteen minutes, which, by all accounts, should be the most boring thing ever produced; but, no, it was an interesting mix of styles and text and all sorts of crazy things. It really shouldn’t work, it shouldn’t be fun to watch, but it is, and it occasionally strikes an excellent emotional chord by flashing images of what the speaking character is clearly thinking, but doesn’t have the guts to say. It’s a neat trick, and does an excellent job of making each episode distinct and remarkable.

And the other chief reason I keep watching Monogatari? I haven’t seen a show that made me feel for teenagers this much since FLCL. Look, I’m not one to romanticize my own teenage years. When I was living it, I could nary believe some people refer to that age as “the best years of your life”. If anything, I consider high school to be the absolute worst time of my life. Not that it was that bad, mind you, simply that it was the first time in my life that I really felt like I deserved to be steering my own ship, but had absolutely no freedom to do so. When I really think on it, high school is likely the time period in my life I’d like to relive the absolute least. Do-over, yes, but not reexperience on its own terms.

But in some strange, honest way, Monogatari makes me actually feel nostalgic for being a teenager, and particularly the concept of teen romance. Maybe it’s a side effect of the animators so frequently, almost subliminally dropping into the protagonist’s head, but there’s a sincerity to relationship interactions in this series that is completely absent from the likes of shows like Infinite Stratos. So many harem animes claim their heroes are pure and good and the center of so much female attention because of their nobility, but all they ever do is save people when they’re in danger, which, congratulations, dude, you didn’t watch another human being die, here’s your damn medal (and six girlfriends). Mix that faux-nobility with a character that seems to be either wildly sexually repressed or downright asexual (despite being a straight teenage boy), and you’ve got the recipe for a boy that seems more mythical than giant robots and magic powers. Monogatari is wall-to-wall male gaze, but that’s exactly what that male is gazing at, and he makes no excuses for his own behavior, simply a, “I’m a teenage boy, what did you expect?” And, if I’m being honest, I envy that. I covet the time when relationships were new, when you didn’t fly into every new relationship with more baggage than could ever be stowed overhead, when it was just, “hehe, I like your boobs.” Yes, it’s wildly immature and problematic, but that’s exactly why I miss it. I will literally never feel that pure, animalistic lust about a woman ever again, and that’s a good thing for everyone involved, but that doesn’t mean I can’t miss those simpler, hormonal times. I wouldn’t want to go back, but I can feel for that lost feeling.

Monogatari makes me feel, and I feel like that’s important.

Highschool DxD

See Infinite Stratos.

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