The Hero and the Spider Girl | A Dark Souls Fanfic

Management: A little 6,000+ word fanfic something that I was inspired to write playing Dark Souls and watching Re: Zero on the same day. I remembered getting angry at something the game made me do. I also remembered thinking about how high fantasy escapist narratives usually treat the concept of heroism. And then the story idea about a romance between a hero and a spider girl hit me.

A big thanks to @frog_kun and @captain_taira for being my editors, effectively.

Dark Souls 2

Artwork by @Mantisarts from ingrum.

The air felt heavy to the Hero as he made his way down this slightly descending tunnel. The swamps of Blighttown were their own kind of heaviness. They were a dampness and muckiness that was nauseating to the Hero when he first ventured into them, the decomposing sludge of civilization’s discardings and unravelings, human excrement and hollow remains. Yet even as he left those swamps behind him, the new sights that he encountered made his stomach churn. Rather than dead and decomposed, his environs were alive with precious life. Precious and pulsating.

The walls were webbed in a white and thick cake. Only once did the Hero brush past them. They were soft to touch, and they beat back. Like the chambers of a heart, the tunnel walls pulsed to a regular rhythm. Adjoining these walls were mutants of men, barely distinguishable people crawling on the ground like lame arachnids sucking spilt meal. They treasured on their backs sacs, equally precious and pulsating. Whatever these men were preoccupied with, whether it be their sacs or their feed, they paid no attention to the Hero as he ran walked past them, his arms raised in anxiety as his mind imagined him in them.

The Hero thought of killing them. They might attack him once he got distracted. But then again, the walls could very well burst open, enveloping him in a skin-crawling embrace of whatever made their surfaces and crevices their abodes. They may as well lean over and swallow him whole before breaking him down into food. Or maybe the ceiling would spew digestive fluids, dissolving his being for the men with sacs to lick clean. It made no difference. The Hero looked up. Sure enough, there was cake above…

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Re: Zero – Starting Life in Another World-: The Star of Kararagi, and the Race for Capital

Management: While my opinion of the show is generally positive overall, this essay, by no means, is meant to serve as a comprehensive review, but rather, as an articulation and analysis of some of what I feel is this series’ most integral and interesting themes.

Re Zero 8

Of the numerous tangential things an anime could inspire me to write something extensive, Re: Zero’s possible showcase of environmental storytelling is one thing that has. I don’t know whether or not the creator of Re: Zero -Starting Life in Another World- actually intended to comment on this obscure point of political economy theory in his narrative, but hell. As much as it may irk the political leftists I know online, I’m not going to pass up the excuse for talking about a positive about capitalism and meritocracies, by extension.

It’s a theoretical positive, mind you. I’m fully cognizant of the blurring that tends to occur between free markets and free-for-all markets in the absence of government regulation. To quote Alexander Hamilton, men are not angels. To quote myself, men  don’t always act as rational actors. The people who’ve first acquire a disproportionate amount of power to distort the market and media to suit their own profit and prejudice. They can engage in monopolistic practices to crowd out competition from small business outsiders in the workforce by threatening price wars, and set up normative barriers to crowd out competition from minority outsiders in the workplace by enabling the continued propagation of toxic stereotypes. I’ve already spent some time and type making the case for Railgun’s critical attitude towards meritocracies in practice. So in using a narrative element of Re: Zero as a springboard, I want to talk about how capitalism (via the precursor merchant form of it in this medieval fantasy) was theorized to function in the ideal. And it starts with the Fang of Steel, Anastasia Hoshin’s merry band of demihuman mercenaries.

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Girls und Panzer and Stella Women’s Academy: High School Division Class C3: The Moe-Military Anti-War Complex and The Death of the Engineer

Management:  While my opinion of the show is generally positive overall, this essay, by no means, is meant to serve as a comprehensive review, but rather, as an articulation and analysis of some of what I feel is this series’ most integral and interesting themes.

Girls und Panzer 1

So I was having a chat with Frog-kun one day about politics in anime. The conversation ended up veering away from Gate: Thus the JSDF Fought There and towards the question of military moe, how both this kind of show and that kind of moe is the cultural product of, maybe, a growing sense of nationalism in Japan. For the longest time since the end of WWII, there was this disconnect between many Japanese leaders and much of the Japanese public over the question of revising/repealing Article 9. Imposed on Japan by the US during the American Occupation, Article 9 is a provision in the Japanese Constitution that effectively prevented Japan from waging wars of aggression ever again. For the most part, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), the party dominating politics for the better part of the post-WWII era,  favored Article 9’s revision or repeal. The public,  in keeping with memories of the horrors of war on their homeland, for the most part favored keeping Article 9 as is. The leadership featured a continuity of wartime leaders who wanted to normalize the country (starting with its military).

C3-bu 2

It’s been many decades since the end of WWII, and emerging from the intervening period of a belligerent past and the peaceful present is a budding subculture of military history and military hardware enthusiasts. They love guns and fawn over tanks. Is this enthusiasm by these Japanese enthusiasts for things military evidence that the Japanese public is becoming cooler to their previous pacifism? Is military moe evidence of this trend? I can’t answer the first question, but I can provide a response to the second. I will do that by analyzing the following moe military shows, Girls und Panzer and Stella Women’s Academy, High School Division Class C3 (henceforth, C3-bu).

Military Moe

Are Girls und Panzer and C3-bu examples of moe military promoting military revival? Just the opposite.

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Male Otaku Paraphilia

Management: Another anthropological research paper I’m working on investigating male otaku paraphiliacs, the otaku subculture, and the larger Japanese society. I managed another pretty decent grade on this paper, but my anthropology professor is, again, ultimately just one (albeit highly knowledgeable) person who’s critiqued my work. I’d welcome more if you guys are willing to provide feedback.

Introduction

The label otaku did not always refer to men who like anime. Otaku once referred more broadly to enthusiasts of any particular interest. Now, however, the otaku label increasingly describes those intensely enthused by anime-stylized interests. More specifically, otaku refers to those enthralled by manga and Japanese video games, in addition to anime (Kotani, 2004, p. 23). Coming out of the otaku community is the assertion by some male otaku that there is this kind of love. There is this kind of love – romantic, emotional, and sexual – that some male otaku preferred over all others and transcended the bounds of convention. That love is 2D love, or love for the anime-stylized character. It was exemplified in real life through the marriage of “Nintendo DS user Sal9000 and a game character Nene Anegasaki from Love Plus (Stasieńko, 2015, p. 80).” The preferential eroticization of the 2D over the 3D constitutes a paraphilia, defined by King and Regan (2014) as a sexual disorder “in which repeatedly engaging in or fantasizing about unusual behaviors is the preferred way of obtaining sexual arousal and gratification (p. 370).” This eroticization, however, does not preclude the development of romantically and emotionally intimate dimensions in a 2D relationship as felt by paraphilic otaku.

I will use socio-cultural and socio-biological explanations to explain why male paraphilic otaku behave the way they do. I will then use these explanations to make comparisons between male paraphilic otaku and objectophiles. Whereas the latter’s objects of obsession tend to consist of non-human looking objects, the former’s objects of fixation are distinctly human-like characters. Among the human-like characters available for male paraphilic otaku to fixate over are prepubescent female children. The anthro-centric, or human-like, appearance of 2D girls raises questions concerning the potential criminality of male paraphilic otaku toward committing sex crimes, especially on young girls. It also raises questions regarding the contested legality of creative works, especially lolicon, produced and consumed by both a dedicated otaku industry and the otaku community itself.

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Noragami: A Prayer for Forgotten Gods

Management:  While my opinion of the show is generally positive overall, this essay, by no means, is meant to serve as a comprehensive review, but rather, as an articulation and analysis of some of what I feel is this series’ most integral and interesting themes.

Noragami 3

The intimacy present through farming professions and small communities, the close proximity of it all, characterized many a Japanese village. At the geographical heart of these villages lay the shrine. Manned by a regionally itinerant or locally designated cleric, these sacred spaces lay at the communal, spiritual, and cultural heart of village life. Priests were more directly accessible to the locals for consultation and guidance. Festivals of catharsis, reflection, jubilation, and gratitude were practiced on religious grounds. As people had ample and easy opportunities to engage regularly with their faith on a variety of facets and devotions.

Devotion to Shinto since then, and even general interest, has seen better days. Many Japanese drained from the countryside and flooded into the cities. Having lived all their lives within concrete jungles, generations became removed from the pastured plains their ancestors once tended and tilled. Unsurprisingly, men and women within these more recent generations have become more distant from the religious  traditions their ancestors fervently practiced.

Because of its distinctly Japanese origin and focus, inextricably tied to Shinto is the accumulated knowledge, or culture, of Japan of centuries-to-millennia past. The majority of Japanese now live busy lives in crowded metropolises, with less time, less space, and less priority to approach the priests or celebrate the festivals. When the shrines are occasionally visited (on holidays, exam days, and extraordinary circumstances) the rituals performed are far from demanding. A coin is thrown, a charm is purchased, and a short prayer is muttered in the hope that requests will be somehow fulfilled, as though wishes are like cheap transactions at a convenience store. Many Japanese today partake in Shinto activity with only the vaguest notions of this religious tradition’s richness. When the older generations of the countryside step aside and the newer ones of the cities take the reins, Shinto will seem vaguer still.

Noragami 2

And so, invoking the sort of forces I covered in this post that turned KanColle fans into history buffs, the setting and characters of Noragami are rich in the stuff of tangential learning. In its own way, the show is an updated, contemporary, “hipper” anime attempt for the youth that will inherit the country to preserve their cultural heritage. Continue reading

AKB0048: Work, Play, and Life Fulfilled

Management:  While my opinion of the show is generally positive overall, this essay, by no means, is meant to serve as a comprehensive review, but rather, as an articulation and analysis of some of what I feel is this series’ most integral and interesting themes.

AKB0048 1

Idols doing battle in space. It’s not as though this eccentric premise is especially unheard of in anime history (See: Macross). However, its eccentricity seemed to demand something thorough explication of its setting’s cosmology. I demanded one, anyway. The show’s backdrop is one of conflict between the forces of play and the forces of work. At the vanguard of the forces of play is the idol battle group, AKB0048. The armed guard of the forces of work are the Destroy Entertainment Soldiers, DES.

While the audience during the show was treated to insider information  about the motivations of the idols and the mission of idols’ organization, the DES was treated, more or less, as this large, amorphous, and ambiguous force that sought to destroy singing and dancing and idols and entertainment. Why? Because EVIL? Because the show treated them as clear EVIL,  AKB0048’s mission would be seen all the more as GOOD, because the alternative is EVIL? Is play all good then, and work all bad? Musing on the show more, I would say the answer is neither.

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One Punch Man and Paranoia Agent: Between Histrionics and Heroics

Management: While my opinion of the show is generally positive overall, this essay, by no means, is meant to serve as a comprehensive review, but rather, as an articulation and analysis of some of what I feel is this series’ most integral and interesting themes. The essay references One Punch Man’s Episode 8, “The Deep Sea King,” and Episode 9, “Unyielding Justice,” as well as Paranoia Agent’s Episode 11, “No Entry” and events from Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. Speaking of Paranoia Agent, the essay also borrows from musings I’ve written on Paranoia Agent before, linked here.

One Punch Man 10

What makes a hero? A flurry of inquiries comes to mind related to the aforementioned question. What makes strength? Do heroes have to be strong? If they do, what kind of strength or strengths should they possess? In the context of a show like One Punch Man, or perhaps any media or literature that prominently feature superheroes, we may be tempted to say that heroes have to be strong, and that superhero strength has to be of some destructive kind. But are these assumptions true? Perhaps there’s a distinction between superheroes and heroes? And if there is a difference, are heroes the lesser in value for not being all super?

A look at One Punch Man, Episode 8, “The Deep Sea King,” and Episode 9, “Unyielding Justice,” asks these questions. While these questions were mouthed a bit on the nose, they certainly had me thinking of a post I wrote a while back on Paranoia Agent, Episode 11, “No Entry.” I staked a less obvious definition of strength then, of what it means to be strong, and who the strongest person was in that show. For this piece, I want to expand on that definition.

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