Danganronpa: War Guilt, Anti-sociality, Asociality, and the Animator’s Despair

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.


To temporarily relegate the Danganronpa franchise’s rather passionate, colorful, and often on-the-nose discourse on hope and despair to the background, there was a starring Danganronpa character during  the Danganronpa 3 anime whose actions and circumstances caught my attention. He stimulated my mind cogs like trigger pictures coupled with brain prods. Okay, maybe that was an exaggeration, but it prompted me to write. With his status as the “Ultimate” Animator, Ryota Mitorai possessed not only the capacity to make media generally,  anime specifically, that people could enjoy. He also possessed the ability to create propaganda could brainwash the masses. Willingly, in the name of hope, and unwittingly, in the name of despair,  he appropriated his skills and had his skills appropriated to compel people to act.

To qualify, Danganronpa 3 rather oversimplifies the power media has at shaping viewer psychology. Animation is a type of media, and where influencing other people’s behaviors are concerned, the power animation has over our thought processes are limited and conditional. The show automatically assumes that it’s possible that media creators generally, and animators specifically,  can brainwash other people at a  smartphone and TV monitor glance if they’re “Ultimate” enough. The brainwashing mechanisms themselves weren’t enough to get me to muse. What did get me to ponder were the references and parallels Danganronpa 3 seemed to be subtly drawing between Ryota and Japanese artists, cartoonists, and yes… animators from that channeled their skills, willingly and willingly, wittingly and unwittingly, to create propaganda for their causes.

As I recount Ryota part in the story as  the propagandist for both despair and hope, I’ll make some self-interjections in strategic locations to draw connections between two parallels in animated media to have made their notorious mark in Japanese history: war-time Imperial Japan and guilt, and asociality, anti-sociality and the Aum Shinrikyo cult.

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John Wants to Be Him | A Collaborative Story Concept

Management: I do other things outside of occasionally watching anime and writing blog posts about them. I also occasionally participate on podcasts. The podcast below is “Words, with Friends,” hosted by RogerMcSexington. During Roger’s podcasts, he and a guest (such as myself) come up with a story concept based off of two random story genre cast from a digital card deck of 9.

So after humbly accepting an invitation to Mr. Roger’s digital neighborhood, we did a podcast… after several attempts. Scheduling conflicts came up, my hardware was being uncooperative (the result of my previously dying and now very dead laptop), and there was a lot of workplace drama. We were finally able to nail a new date, I finally realized that my phone was smart, and I was able to negotiate my way to a better working arrangement. We sat down, we recorded successfully, and the audio was published without serious issue.

“Words, with Friends” is a creative writing podcast, of sorts. Out of a deck comprised of 9 genres of Roger’s construction (yuri included), upon command, a computer program would draw 2 genres at random. From those 2 random genres, we would create an original story concept, complete with plot, characters, setting, theme, and title. After making a mental declaration to myself in the voice of Dan Green, the 2 genres we ended up drawing were “Romance” and “Sci-fi.” They weren’t altogether bad genres to build out from, but I didn’t have any experience beforehand writing science fiction. So after a moment of brainstorming on Roger’s part, he suggested that come up with something inspired from an Overwatch short.

The Overwatch short he had in mind was “Alive Animated.”

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Thunderbolt Fantasy: A Mockery of Mastery

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.


There are tales in every culture where strive to cultivate an art or trade to the point of perfection. While it might simply be due  to a personal lack of worldliness, I feel like that the Japanese have a particular fixation for crafting inspirational narratives around self-serious journeys to artistic and trade-based mastery. The  lines between profession and purpose in these stories blur in many cases, and become indistinguishable in others. Jirou Dreams of Sushi is a documentary of a master sushi chef’s work ethic. Various sports stories in anime and manga, whether they be about baseball or cooking , star their main protagonists honing their craft to performative excellence, if not total perfection. The Japanese government literally designates the masters of certain culturally significant vocations as “Living National Treasures.”

Gen Urobuchi has a few things he says about this obsession over mastery, several words to those self-serious egotists who strut around like the world and its people should slit their stomachs to purify the ground they stand on. He does it through the context of one of Japan’s flashiest cultural artifacts: swordsmanship. He mocks it. He basically mocks the idea of people placing so much of their substance, so much of their self-worth in achieving it and maintaining it, and he imparts this mockery to audiences through a show so visually and audibly campy that it can be easy to miss: Thunderbolt Fantasy.

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Re: Zero -Starting Life in Another World- ~ A Rant About Why The Ending Was Problematic

Management: Unlike more formal entries, this post is just me kind of freewheeling some hate I’ve worked up on something or other. I intend they be civil, but they are rants. They are demonstrably more passionately accusatory towards something or someone, but the points I’ll make will at least be coherent. I won’t do these on a regular basis. They’ll just spontaneously spring to mind one day in a conversation, and I’d rather at least the reasonableness, if not the rhetoric, of my sentiments remain etched somewhere for other people to read and reference.


Let me at least partially clear the potentially poisonous air that might settle around this post when I say that I’m a fan of Re: Zero. I’m not opposed to watching otaku-targeted shows heavy with otaku commentary. In fact, I quite enjoy them. I enjoy otaku characters engage in contemplation. I enjoy otaku creators creating critical discussions about themselves and their subculture. Commentary from shows have motivated me to do a decent amount of independent research on these matters. The conclusions that I’ve arrived at this research are as follows:

I see a subculture of otaku that are simultaneously problematic in some of the things they like and pitiable in some of the reasons why they like them. Subaru Natsuki is a fictional example of one of those otaku sights. He’s toxic in certain respects, kind in others, with deep insecurity towards himself connecting these two aspects of his character. His behavior can dip into sometimes questionable, sometimes deplorable, and many times frustrating depths. And yet, I find him relatable enough that I can’t help rooting for his self-improvement and happiness.

In that specific order of self-improvement and happiness. While I personally think the act of humanizing otaku is a worthy goal to pursue, I also personally think that some of the values otaku profess holding are dehumanizing. They are values that I believe we should avoid and protest. We should avoid and protest them even when those values seem to be presented to us unintentionally, if not deliberately. After all, media shapes the thoughts of those consumers unaware or ill-informed of certain values. Media also reinforces and hardens the held-values of people whenever they consume like-valued media. We shouldn’t praise Subaru or any other character whenever they believe something problematic, because there are some people may begin internalizing or further internalizing those problematic values as something they should mentally fetter and fasten themselves to as well. We also shouldn’t praise an anime when it frames elements of its narrative problematically. It’s a shame because of how otherwise self-aware Re: Zero happens to be when it comes to the benign and malignant aspects of the male otaku.

So it goes that, without a certain spoiler-ridden cliffhanger that would have occurred probably minutes after the end of Re: Zero’s Episode 25, “That’s All This Story Is About” is problematic on two fronts and are demonstrated via the show’s treatment of Rem. These two fronts are ones that delve into the harem set-ups and fridge stuffing that feminists have been critical of in fiction. Together, they undermine the thematic unity of the anime adaptation, a thematic unity of self-improvement alongside self-awareness that remains intact in the original source material.

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ReLIFE: Graduation and its Distinctions

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. This post mainly references ReLIFE Episode 11: “A Trip to the Past.”


Anime is already inundated by show after show of high school settings. It can get tiring after a while. I therefore couldn’t help but be intrigued by a 27 year old male protagonist looking for full-time work.  Expectations were betrayed somewhat when, one contract and one pill later, he got enrolled for high school looking ten years younger. I enjoyed it though. The show has its combination of high school shenanigans and old man jokes. I graduated from university recently and my back sometimes hurts. Needless to say, I found humor in both.

As a fellow recent graduate, I found the male protagonist’s career troubles in ReLIFE relatable. I’ve felt the pressure of finding and working a job that’s financially sustainable and spiritually rewarding. The job I had until recently neither of those qualities. It was long hours of grunt labor from a demanding boss for menial pay and the expectation that I’ll eventually work my way up. And in the brief time that I’ve been employed line of work, politics specifically, there’s no shortage of people from the other camps undermining each other, suspecting each other, gossiping about each other, saying mean things towards each other.

It’s the kind of pettiness and nastiness that you expect of people, having graduated from school and/or aged enough, would have grown up and out from. Depressingly, exhaustingly, and perhaps even maddeningly, that’s not necessarily the case in either political America and corporate Japan. Kaizaki learns that lesson very harshly. To shake him out of his funk and find steady employment, he re-lives his high school life one more time for some healing… except that as it turns out, high school life can also get pretty petty and nasty. And so, from a less than original premise, we get a somewhat novel perspective: high school life from a struggling salaryman.

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Samurai Flamenco: Cynicism, Society, and Stolen Umbrellas

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. This post mainly references Samurai Flamenco Episode 2: “My Umbrella Is Missing.”

Samurai Flamenco 4

One of the moments I found most memorable in Samurai Flamenco didn’t involve any of the steadily spectacle-creep superhero battles. My evaluations of these battles ranged from tediously cliche (The Flamengers versus From Beyond) to absolutely ridiculous (Samurai Flamenco versus The Prime Minister). I would suspect a lot of people who watched the show from start to finish had similar reactions. But from moment-to-moment, the parts of the story I found the most emotionally resonant was the parts that were relatively mundane. They were slow moments, characters talking with each other, arguing with each other, sharing their ambitions and motivations, dreams and goals.

Getting back to the point, a moment that struck me was one about umbrellas. Hazama Masayoshi and Goto Hidenori are in a restaurant, eating, drinking, and talking about Hazama’s latest antics as Samurai Flamenco. That discussion leads back into a discussion of Hazama’s motivations for being a hero. Up to that point, Samurai Flamenco’s illustrious career thus far consisted of scolding people for not following the small laws: salarymen smoking in non-smoking zones, housewives putting out their trash too early, kids littering and staying out past curfew, and people swiping each other’s umbrellas from the public stands. These violations are misdemeanors at worst, and nuisances at best.

Most of the people who will read this post will be Westerners, and I’m an American. I can’t really argue with certainty how much of an issue government overreach happens to be outside of the US, but inside the US, there’s a deep distrust by many Americans of anything associated with the “nanny-state.”  I can’t help but be skeptical of it myself. They’re little, albeit formal, violations that the system lets slip under the cracks, because they’re not worth enforcing compared to other priorities. And indeed, the inevitability of them happening, the frequency by which they occur, and costs  of enforcement are deemed by policeman Goto as not worth the trouble for him to actively seek out. Hero Hazama disagrees. He disagrees, and he explains why by discussing the meaning behind his small-time crime fighting. Far from trying to invade people’s privacy and controlling their lives, what he wants to fight is cynicism.

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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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