By way of the May status report for this blog…
It’s been more than a month since I made it back from Japan and I have found scant material that really, really got me fired up; fired up enough to grind out one of my usual TLDR essays. Have I forgotten how to write? No biggie; I should absorb someone else’s writing style, perhaps something that is more reader friendly and sympathetic. Also, shorter and easier to read. I should also plug a new theme into this WordPress, one of the catchy modern ones that throws honking big widescreen pictures across the top of the articles and lets the text slide over them as you read. I think they look really good on smartphones and tablets.
Mark that down on a list.
I am a creature of habit, I even avoid composing posts on the new WordPress online editor. I force the old one because it is less distracting. On the laptop, I write on Notepad. I like 14 point Arial. I like my 2011-looking blog layout. It’s easy to read and It loads over crappy connections – the first 3 years of this blog were written, I shit thee not, on dial-up. I maintain my $3/ month dial-up account as a backup. Long blocks of text found their way onto the pages of this blog, even at 44k/bpm. Long blocks of text (and a few rigorously re-sized jpgs) rendered out across the pages as the nights crept toward dawn. Naught but the soft white glare of the page background and the words lay before me. Nothing save patience stood between me and the fancies I conjured to cast out into the void. I knew my redeemer and I knew my redeemer worked.
But just in case, I have made sure archive.org regularly scrapes this thing. I also keep backups.
Not at all the worries about forgetting how to put words together to make thought stuff, I am. Duhh!
Sometimes I find it maddeningly difficult to read posts on some of those snazzier-looking blogs. I wonder it is just me (inevitable, creeping decline, mortality) or the newer themes were designed for visual appeal and just so happen to be stupidly hard to read. Is reading, beyond 140 characters now obsolete?
140 characters remains the limit on SMS/ mobile phone text messages, in case you forgot why Twitter is so stuck on it. Not a lot of phones did data/ internet back in the Cretaceous era. I wonder if anyone still uses SMS messages to tweet?
I have been watching too much anime and reading far less manga. For some reason, anime feels more time-bound and ephemeral to me. A scanned manga is either always out there, and/or proceeds at a monthly pace; sometimes, as the Genshiken and Spotted Flower, for a decade or more. There is time enough for love. An anime cours comes and goes like cherry blossoms. Mono no aware. Sure they remain, out there, somewhere but the rush of chasing the car hubcap as it slowly motors past is lost. The stupid car just sits there. You can bark at it, even gnaw on the rubber but it just ignores you. Maddening. I find its refusal to acknowledge my challenge a deliberate provocation.
A reviewer has 12 ,13, perhaps 24 weeks to mull over a current anime and engage with other fans caught up in the viewing. With the slower pace of manga releases, one may even entertain the delusion that the mangaka or someone at the publishing house might read your impressions, make note of them and then set loose the contracted outlander hounds to chase down whatever misguided enthusiasts are messing up the chances for an official translation and publication. Two points for Crunchyroll anime then. Three when they put Karaoke romaji and english subs up for the OP and ED.
With these scattered threads in mind, a notes:
Little Witch Academia draws to a close.
As of this writing, only four episodes remain un-aired. I have thoroughly enjoyed this anime, not only for what it avoids – which seems to be part of the greater problem with anime and Japanese Visual Cultural artifacts of late – but for what it joyfully re-affirms. The story line is engaging, even as it puts a new spin on the hoary old Magical High School setting. No moe-blobbery or fanservice.
Faves so far:
Ep 3 Broom Race
Ep 8 Mushroom Samba
Ep 17 Amanda’s Taka sword fight
Ep 18 Giant Robot
Not dismissing the other eps: you know nothing really bad will happen. That might make the episodes tame, but it also makes them a balm in troubled times.
If you get bored you can try catching all the shout-outs and tributes stuffed into the show. Did you catch the line Diana Cavendish muttered in episode 19: “It is our way to leave quietly, without being seen.”?
Holy effing wobbly halos and grey feathers! How did that sneak in there?
Good shows bring forth noteworthy blogging;
Among the many, Wave Motion Canon is having a lot of fun with the cinematography in LWA, Studio Trigger‘s past efforts and it’s Gainax legacy. The essayists are even managing to get some of them Sakuga-ish ideas across to me. See: https://wavemotioncannon.com/tag/little-witch-academia/
Atelier Emily on LWATV: I like the writing and the insights, I really appreciate the gentle style, and the approaches taken in the reviews.
I am half way through my own long-stalled grind on LWATV. I’m stuck in mud. Must keep slogging. Writing is hard. I have a antic conceit; a compare-and-contrast against something else that will annoy fans of either. This one could go full ass-over-tea-kettle Antarctic south, so don’t hold your breath.
Other writings of note:
I don’t do games and visual novels but I could not help but notice how the Twitter-verse was all over NieR:Automata. From what I could make out, it looked like doomed fan-service fetish-androids wandering around post-apocalyptic ruins killing each other while slowly getting emotionally wrecked. Plenty of boob-window, garter and thigh flashing from the tall femalish android. A shorter shota or boi-droid. It made very little sense until I read:
YOKOO TAROU’S ETERNAL RECURRENCE: TRANSHUMANISM IN NIER: AUTOMATA by Kastel, March 21, 2017
Blog: 墓碑銘の楽しき混乱 A FUN DERANGEMENT OF EPITAPHS
Also of interest is that some of the lewd fan-art that is being created around NieR is inventive and touchingly sensitive. I think the artist is Korean. Feel free to Twitter-search.
Addenda: And some is not. Plenty of Cosplay too. Go Nuts:
It would be way kewl if the essayist hove about and turned their guns on Tanya, the Evil. Jest of God tales, especially murderous sardonic ones set in para-European settings require in-depth familiarity with the western philosophical canon and its attendant chestnuts. I don’t have the ammo for that kind of bombardment.
I still won’t play NeiR: Automata. I have no inclination to spend the first 10 hours walking the babe-droid into the first ruin wall after the intro, over and over and over again. Me + games: not working. I am back on Prince of Persia’s first screen. I can’t jump that. I will now do an interpretive dance and the orc-thing will stab me. Then I down another shot and pass the controller over. Repeat.
Seikai Suru Kado/ KADO: The Right Answer.
Ok; that’s what this thing does. At first it looked like one of those weird anime movies commissioned by wacky Japanese cult religion political parties.
[http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/buried-treasure/2013-05-29/pile-of-shame-rebirth-of-buddha] [http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=7406] Here’a good roundup of ’em: https://animesolstice.wordpress.com/2016/11/01/happy-science-and-their-relationship-with-anime/
As for Kado; I am not too taken with the male or male-ish alien leads. The genki young woman scientist is fun. Give her another bowl of Skittles and a 6 pack of Red Bull! The military-politico crisis room scenes borrow from Shin Godzilla without the former’s redeeming ironic critique. I have nothing against stylish 3D CGI in anime, just don’t wave it around all over the place. On the plane back from Japan I had a chance to watch the painful Marvel Doc Strange movie. Those rotating cement- mixer sideways skyscrapers! Druggie flick for Cumberbunnies? Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
“Why aren’t you watched Seikaisuru Kado? There is a naked CGI bishounen making whale sounds in that anime.”
— Twitter, kousora @Imoko, April 15, 2017
I don’t think it is fujoshi candy, it’s too weird. Will keep watching.
Alice to Zouroku has slightly less CGI. No notable blog reviews found. Will keep watching
Sakura Quest. I really like this, even as I recognise – as has been pointed out – that it’s a continuation of the studio formula that worked so well in Shirobako. The women are adults, only a teeny bit service-y (Did studio have to make them walk knock-kneed?) As outlanders, we miss a fair bit of the desperation of the small-town tourist revival effort. The reality is far, far more bleak. The ED theme is catchy, I like that the five protrags lip-sync it.
Charas lip-syncing the song lyrics during an OP or ED seems to be a new thing. I swear I could hear the words omoide and kaze in there somewhere. Krrrrching! Most definitely will keep watching.
Kabukibu: CLAMP designed the charas. Admit it: it plods even as it deploys every high-school sport / club trope in the book, with the dial set at 4 out of 10. CLAMP designed the charas. It is good-hearted and watchable and what the heck, gives the viewer a teeny tiny peek into the world of Kabuki. Rakugo Shinjuu raised the bar too high. The OP song is suck. The ED song is only slightly better. I keep forgetting who the tall character without the glasses is. CLAMP designed the charas. Oh right, a big guy dancer who is worried that some consider him effeminate. Did I mention?
Will keep watching.
Natsume’s Book of Friends: An exception to the time-bounded-ness of most anime. This I can watch any time. I can watch it again and again. Years from now I will be occasionally snacking on back episodes from the prev 5 years. Will watch forever.
Tomica Hyper Rescue Drive Head Kidō Kyūkyū Keisatsu.
No, really! I must watch one or two episodes just to see the newest iteration of a venerable form. How to sell die-cast metal toy cars to mostly male grade school children. Pokemon originally started as something like this. So far the OP music has made me hard power-down my laptop every time it started but I will eventually build up a resistance to it. I expect to find hidden well-springs of shonen tropery in their most annoying natural state. From what I can can gather, the kids get to drive cars, then these cars slot into bigger rescue trucks (I hear you liek cars, so we put a car on top of your car so you can drive while you drive) and then the combined thingies turn into giant robots. One is called White Hope.
The announcer intoned without a hint of irony…
We’ll take a few seconds for a pause here.
Uchoten Kazoku: I am supposed to love this, but the uncomfortable, dread feeling that comes over me whenever the Friday Fellows appear has hit again and I am avoiding it. Yes; I am susceptible to having my mood and emotions jangled by fictional narratives. Other than that, Benten, on whom the whole story hinges is fraying at her cardboard edges. She is too thin, her capricious, enigmatic isolation and her concealed sadness (I presume she had some kind of happy family when Akadama snatched her away as a child to become his somewhat tengu protege) is threatening to cause her to drift away on the wind. Capitalise: The Enigmatic Female Character. Having her tussle with the Nidaime simply reveals his gauze-thin character as well. And I don’t like that dangerous climbed-out-of-hell fucktard either. Strange; I usually like Kōji Kumeta-designed charas.
The tanuki might all celebrate their Idiot Blood but their lives are worth squat and they know it. And now we know it. For all of its charms, Kyoto begins to feel like a refugee camp in a war zone. Horrible pointless tragedies to ensue. I don’t care if the effing Ebichunk twins misbehave any more. Their lives are all too precarious and the story, wrapped up in sweet sweet touristy trappings is too jarring in shit times like this. On the back burner.
Eromanga Sensei: Mebee later.
Saekano S2: ditto. I sometimes read the manga(s) – it is hard to keep the stories in order. The property is my go-to example of the ‘If not for the harem, this fool would have no friends, anyone to talk to, female or male at all.” effect. The conceit in the full title is obnoxious. Oh wait, it shares first place with the manga Shin Seitokai No Ichizon No Friends Female Male Or Even Pity From Familiar Animals, which I only read because I have a bet with myself on how long noted yaoi/ otokonoko pr0n-meister Suemitsu Dicca can keep drawing it before shota otokonoko bondage scenes sneak in. Good throat-slashing by psycho girl so far.
Haine: Never made it to ep2 . Fujoshi diabetes. Haine is coincidentally the french word for hatred, though I doubt the producers planned this. They were probably going for Heine.
Rokudenashi Majutsu Koushi to Akashic Records: Notable that it was used as a straw man to ‘prove‘ that anime was crap (in comparison to something western, whatever, who cares) by a hack New York Times writer. Cue the predictable anitwitter outrage. Gawd; those idiot outfits. Fanservice made painful, not sexy. I will still watch it if I am bored and can’t get to sleep, just to see how a grade D filler show plods through its paces.
Moyasimon: Tales of Agriculture Manga and Anime:
I finally sat down and went through both seasons of the anime and caught up on extant chapters of the manga available to my comprehension. Sadly, the manga concluded in 2014. Some have called it the Agriculture School Genshiken. Close but no kewpie doll. It remains a long-running, serviceable and enjoyable university slice-of-life comedy. Perhaps it was started to ‘sexy up’ Ag colleges in Japan.
The woman characters are the most interesting, although their formidable natures are bent towards fanservice. The main chara’s dodgy male upperclassmen sometimes redeem themselves. The childhood best friend who vanishes and then reappears as a gender-confused goth loli crossdressing booze store clerk feels forced but is tolerable so far. The conceit that the main character can ‘see’ and ‘talk’ with microbes – which his senses process as cartoonish avatars – doesn’t really get in the way of the story and is not used as too much of a story crutch – which is one heck of a writing trick. I recommended both seasons of the anime and the manga.
Himegoto – Juukyuusai no Seifuku is ending, amidst horrible and dire events, as expected. At least it did its smutty melodramatic genderfuck tale of ruin as true to its intentions as it could. Tomboy girl escapes, all else walk back into the flames. Something like The Terminator, only with desperate sex instead of killer robots. For all its faults, it remains miles above and ahead of Scum’s Wish, in internal consistency and faith to its premise. It “Does what it was born to do.”
Shimanami Tasogare: The understated tale of queer adolescence set in a small inland sea cost town continues. The casual stupid cruelty of an interloper mouthing off as she volunteers with the abandoned house collective that serves as a drop-in center and safe space for the town’s queer community is devastating. Anonymous/ Someone (another Benten-ish character, though better realised and deployed – translations of her name vary) is temporarily missing. The young guy MC is having no luck dealing with his sexuality or helping another member of the group come to terms with theirs.
Jitsu Wa Watashi Wa: After some powerful emotional chapters as the cohort faces graduation, the story has gone back to goofy time-travel hijinks that promise to deliver teeny doses of moralizing. Think Kids in The Hall try to re-do Auntie Mame as a highschool romcom. And now my capsule review module is officially broken and slinging pasta at the wall.
Where is Kizumonogatari Part 3: Reiketsu when I need it ?
Promises to keep and miles to go:
Where the heck are my Genshiken Nidaime wrap up essays?
Genshiken Nidaime and the imaginary Fujoshi Homosocial in Contemporary Japanese Visual Culture
Conformity, Cowardice and Privilege: The Luck of Harunobu Madarame.
Becoming Fujoshi, becoming adult: the fearsome project of Kenjiro Hato, the fearsome project of Kio Shimoku.
I really really really need to do a full participant-observer consideration of fanfiction writing. Not just the burlesque thing I did a few years back on machine generated and analog versions of crapfic. Not all fanfic turns into shmex scenes with the One True Pairing; which is a relief if only because (pour moi) smut-fic leads to ennui. Boyo Wilde (or was it Slavoj?) nailed it when they noted that “friendship is far more tragic than love – it lasts longer.” Still, any analysis of fanfic writing must gaze deep into solitary wells of shame and embarrassment. Is this some kink thing? Then there are those self-inserts, which even without Mary or Marty stomping around, are unavoidable. I learned never to put myself into my art because my pet Id-monster beat me to the parking spot every fucking time. Why do you think so many artists are geeked on Procedural Generation?
Out out damned spot!
NO! Avoid the easy way out of referencing to machine-generated fic!
At the same time, if someone is going to spend hours, days, week writing fic on a property, they must love it, love the characters and the situation and the setting and simply, honestly and with great purity in their hearts, want more… Want it never to end. The hunger for the narrative is frightening. Stories end. Then you move on. Unless you are 2 years old, in a car-seat on a long long ride and the driver has put the 10-hour mp3 of Diggy-Diggy-Hole on the stereo to distract you. (this works by the way)
“wait for it…”
There is something fearsome, even tragic and yet exalted-ly human here: Schmex und Tod. Happy Endings. To go back and fix things, To repair the things that have been broken. That wind.. Gedicht und Grab… Ver haff I heard dis before? I blame visual novel-style games. They blame fanfic. The world-snake devours all.
Only the sky remains.
An Industry Awaiting Reform: The Social Origins and Economics of Manga and Animation in Postwar Japan by Oguma Eiji, Translation by Yokota Kayoko
An important primary source for the Japanese popular discourse on “Herbivore Men”, ca 2005. Now translated and open source on the author’s web site:
“Confessions of a Frigid Man: A Philosopher’s Journey into the Hidden Layers of Men’s Sexuality” by Masahiro Morioka
Not a survey this time. The proprietor of the Otaku Journalist blog is collecting fan ‘origin stories’; testimonials from fans on how they got hooked on CVJC. See: http://www.otakujournalist.com/whats-your-anime-origin-story/
Stories end up here: http://www.animeoriginstories.com/blog/
Earlier takes on the same theme:
Oh goodie! I made it. It is still May.
Added: I consider a few more manga in the comment section…