The Monster Within | Bakemonogatari, A Review

Management: This is a comprehensive review of own devising, where I go over a pro and con analysis of the material in an attempt to convince people to watch the show-in-review. Hopefully, in encouraging people in general to watch things I think are interesting, they’ll at least somewhat know what to expect while watching.

I suggest clicking the “SHOT” links in order for novelty effect. For other Monogatari related reading material, I have a couple of other pieces I’ve written, Of Epistemological Positions: Monogatari and the Death of Gods and Monogatari: Is She My Sister?

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He runs up a spiral staircase that’s seemingly never-ending.

He sees a girl falling in slow-motion from the top of the stairs, the radiance of her skin accentuated by the radiance of the light.

Falling.

Floating.

Falling.

Floating like a feather.

Dropping his things, he reaches out to catch her.

Catching.

Caught.

Their eyes meet.

She was light as a feather.

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SHOT.

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Monogatari: Is She My Sister?

Management: While I overall hold a positive opinion of the Monogatari Series, this piece in no ways serves as a comprehensive review of the series, but rather an articulation and analysis of an interesting set of ideas brought up.

I’ve also written a response to this. Check it out.

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A Peculiar Adult Threesome 

A particularly enduring presence in a lot of recent anime is the lack of presence of a certain, rather important demographic of the human race… adults. Much of the time, if any adults are present, they’ll appear in limited numbers, with limited screening time and limited spoken lines.

Monogatari plays a bit with this trope, a demonstrable lack of any adults appearing in the show at one time, not because the show itself only seems to fleetingly recognize the existence of the adults in the everyday. It’s because the main protagonist, Koyomi Araragi, only fleetingly recognizes the existence of adults in the everyday. In fact, it’s a habit of his not to realize anyone aside for himself and his immediate circle of loved ones, his sisters featuring rather prominently. Karen and Tsukihi, after all, people that he would protect and, if it comes to it, die for.

The lense we, the audience, look through when watching the show comes not from a impartial third party, but rather from an unreliable narrator. Everything we perceive in Monogatari Series: First Season (Bakemonogatari, Nisemonogatari, Nekomonogatari: Kuro, and Kizumonogatari, whenever in the far future it comes out) and parts of Monogatari Series: Second Season (Kabukimonogatari and Onimonogatari), in other words,  is what Koyomi perceives, and perceptions are something that tend to be colored by the perceiver. Whenever we watch a story in Monogatari with Koyomi as the narrator unfold, we aren’t seeing the story on its own unfold before our eyes. We’re seeing the story unfold through Koyomi’s eyes, who tells us the story as he sees it. And what he sees may not match up with other people see, such as adults. Something like that is immediately apparent upon beginning Monogatari Series: Second Season.

The exception to this peculiar world view of his comes from three even more peculiar adults who happened to be colleagues from university. They’re adults, sure, but they leave such an impact on Koyomi that he has really no choice but to acknowledge them. Well, that might not be entirely true for one of them. One of them’s a friend of his, Meme Oshino, that he spends the better part of Bakemonogatari working with.

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The other two, on the other hand, leave indelible marks on him from limited contact.

The con-man, Deishu Kaiki…

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…and the hero of justice, Yozuru Kagenui.

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Edge of Tomorrow and All You Need Is Kill ~ A Rant About Why Hollywood Sucks

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 life one day in a conversation, and I’d rather at least the reasonableness, if not the rhetoric, of my sentiments aren’t forgotten.

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Initially, my impressions of Edge of Tomorrow after having watched the film were fairly positive. For a plot that revolved around a time loop, it’s always a congratulatory thing for such media to avoid demonstrable tedium, nicely paced and balanced between epic action spectacles and hilariously morbid slapstick.

The two main characters were affable, if a tad simple in archetype, and I felt, while there was chemistry between them, the limited on-screen intimacy (less making out and sexy times and more sharing interests and memories) between them, outside of montages and references to intimate moments that occurred in some other loop we haven’t seen, hurt my ability to identify emotionally with their plight and drive the drama to a higher tier, with the limited amount of run-time allotted to movies, I think this one was a job well done.

Edge of Tomorrow also enjoyed financial and critical success upon general reception. It made me excited, considering the movie was adapted from a light novel, from Japan, of all things. What with (at the time of this post’s) the recent theatrical releases of Pacific Rim and Godzilla and an upcoming Western live-action adaptation of Monster, I was excited. I fervently hoped it opens the door for more mainstream Western acceptance of the medium of anime. Having said that, my feelings towards the film, or rather, the people who produced the film, who I will generally refer to collectively as Hollywood, are now a lot more ambivalent after reading the manga for All You Need Is Kill, which was also adapted from the same light novel.

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Of Epistemological Positions: Monogatari and the Death of Gods

Management: While my overall opinion of the Monogatari Series, is quite positive, this essay is, by no means, meant to be a comprehensive review. It is rather an articulation and analysis of what I feel are its most integral and interesting themes. Much of this essay draws from elements of Sigmund Freud’s and especially Friedrich Nietzche’s thoughts. That being said, the inclusion of those elements are not meant to be a total affirmation of everything they believe.

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The Truth That Matters

When it comes to epistemology, broken down to its etymological roots as the study of knowledge, we ultimately end up having to ask or being asked some derivative of the question… What is truth?

What is it? It may be useful to inquire first truth’s opposite, namely, falsehood. Falsehood, in layman’s terms, are lies, and lies can be characterized as deceit, deception, and delusion. I’m asked why the sky is blue, and rather than answer “because it’s the oxygen in the atmosphere,” I reply “because it’s an ocean propped up by an invisible dome erected long ago.” That doesn’t work like that, or that never happened, or that is not. It isn’t real. So what does that mean for truth, and how is that meaning relevant to us, no less to a show like Monogatari?

Because what matters to us, boiled down, what we tend to say, what we tend to do, how we tend to lead our lives, is what’s real. It’s what’s is. Whether we are conscious of it or not, people orient themselves to the fulfillment of some meaning or purpose, of how we ought to live our lives. It’s the objective way of living. It’s what we feel will make us happy. It’s what’s natural. It’s what’s proper. It’s what makes us feel whole. In many organized religions, that means obedience and/or communion with some sort of deity or deities, constituting in sum things such as omnipresence, omnipotence, and omniscience… the highest rungs of what can be considered fulfillment or wholeness. It is the absolute, ultimate truth, and being part of that truth, theoretically, is supposed to make us happy. Philosophy trims the divine aspects of theology, but nevertheless leaves the theological concept, in function and even name, intact. Our absolute, ultimate truth is our god, and there is no god but ours. Truth’s naturally exclusive that way.

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War Specters and Former Soldiers | Chaika, The Coffin Princess, A Review

Management: This is a comprehensive review of own devising, where I go over a pro and con analysis of the material in an attempt to convince people to watch the show-in-review. Hopefully, in encouraging people in general to watch things I think are interesting, they’ll at least somewhat know what to expect while watching. For clarity’s sake, I should mention… the review isn’t meant to be so much holistic as it is coverage of what I believe is of core importance to the show.

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One morning, a  man is out in the woods, gathering nuts and berries and things from the ground that are edible and not poisonous, minding his own business. Then one evening, he’s surrounded by the governmental equivalent of peace officers, renouncing peace, by the way, and declaring he would bring war to this peaceful earth, if it comes to it.

An irresponsible statement to make, perhaps, but it’s doubly irresponsible to simply deride him as simply villainous if all he was doing earlier was minding his own business. So what compels him then to risk himself and risk war?

Chaika?

Yes. Chaika.

Chaika.

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A Cyborg, an Assassin, and a… | Gunslinger Girl, A Review

Management: This is a comprehensive review of own devising, where I go over a pro and con analysis of the material in an attempt to convince people to watch the show-in-review. Hopefully, in encouraging people in general to watch things I think are interesting, they’ll at least somewhat know what to expect while watching.

I strongly recommend clicking the link a little further below. Just click it. Please.

Girls with guns. Girls on guns. Plying with them. Playing with them. Toying with them. Touching them. Kicking ass. Showing some as well. Skirts so short flipped up from the gusts of grenades. Breasts scantily clad baring through the air as the rest of their curvaceous figures hit the floor. Bodies, barrels, bullets highlighted to the finest set of orgasmic ecstasy.

Was that your first impression? If it was, it’s a bit far from target.

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On The Move | Knights of Sidonia, A Review

Management: This is a comprehensive review of own devising, where I go over a pro and con analysis of the material in an attempt to convince people to watch the show-in-review. Hopefully, in encouraging people in general to watch things I think are interesting, they’ll at least somewhat know what to expect while watching.

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Curiously enough, the show takes a relatively short, but also relatively sizable amount of time chronicling the back story of Cadet Eiko Yamano leading up to her last mission, the sort of equivalent to one’s life flashing before one’s eyes.

When it comes to work, she’s an incredibly self-serious individual. She graduated to cadet school a midst the cheers of family and friends in the small neighborhood she grew up in. It’s from those expectations, in part, that’s made her to become as self-serious as she is, dismissive of everything and everyone except in cases related to defeating Gauna and defending Sidonia. She would not have anyone holding her back, and certainly no upstarts making a mockery of her hard work.

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And despite her attitude, her convictions, and her history, she gets killed, eaten by the Gauna she’s vowed to kill several times over, in a rather sudden and unceremonious way. Granted, her portrait does get her day on the sterile-looking, minimalistic enclosure that is the war memorial, but only for a day. Her portrait needs to make room for the countless others that’ll follow hers. She’s forgotten afterwards.

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This puzzled me at first as to why the show felt it should offer so much of this character other than a mere name and face, which is already pretty generous, if she was slated to die so soon in the series. I was about to chalk it up to emotional manipulation when I realized. How much of this kind of back story could be applied to the named and nameless, face and faceless others in the show that would fall in the line of duty. Others supposedly with dreams they would be sacrificing, and loved ones they would be leaving behind.

And yet nothing more for them is afforded than a day on the wall and a mention grave stones that they existed, in grave plots that don’t even house their bodies. It’s more convenient to offer them to the organic reactor converters instead, if their corpses aren’t already lost to combat or space.

Sidonia moves on because she has to. Sidonia moves on because it’s war.

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A Love That Cannot Be | White Album 2, A Review

Management: This is a comprehensive review of own devising, where I go over a pro and con analysis of the material in an attempt to convince people to watch the show-in-review. Hopefully, in encouraging people in general to watch things I think are interesting, they’ll at least somewhat know what to expect while watching.

While White Album 2 shares namesakes with the earlier White Album, outside for a same universe, same songs, and some nods, White Album 2 is its own separate story. As such, the quality of the latter’s narrative has no effective bearing on the quality of the former’s. There’s a link after a certain point in the essay where there’s a video sample of some of the music and cinematography that I recommend listening to and screening.

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“Are you pretending to be alone? But why, why are you on my mind?
Before I knew it, I was drawn to you more than to anyone else.”

“What should I do so my heart could be reflected in this mirror?”

I know I’m going to antagonize a lot of people when I say I dislike shipping…

…but I dislike shipping.

Shipping, of course, usually entails the romantic pairing of one character to another. With the exception of anime that stylize themselves around the whole affair, I dislike it because it kind of tends towards imperialism of the viewer. When it comes to shows that even whiff of romance, never mind why a certain couple end up together towards the end, if they end up together towards the end, or even if the romance was crucial to anything within the narrative, people will get mad because their ship didn’t succeed. I’m not saying all shippers are invested enough in general about the ships they invariably end up supporting each new show to get upset, but shipping itself tends to breed strong feelings of what “should be.”

And if what “is” doesn’t match up to their expectations, some end up frothing vitriol and perhaps other obscenities at their victorious shippers peers and, for that matter, the rest of the community at how much the show sucked, or at least was significantly worse off for them personally, with minute, if any, regard toward its craft or message.

So it fills my heart with a sort of derisive pleasure to see a romance like White Album 2, a love triangle, no less, produce such a sobering consensus among its shippers by the conclusion, regardless of which ship officially won. It goes something like…

…not like this.

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Higurashi: Between Worlds Perfect and Not

Management: This essay is an analysis of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Rei (the last, serious installment) of the (original) animated Hirgurashi franchise, specifically Saikoroshi, or the Dice Killing Chapter, which comprises Episode 2 to Episode 4. While my opinion of the show is 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.

 An Offer Too Good To Resist?

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It’s a bit maddening that people either dismiss or adore Higurashi for of its supposed under-aged bloody psycho girl spectacles. That isn’t to say that label isn’t applicable to some degree, but it’s rather reductive about a series that’s, foremost, one grand narrative about friendship. Friendship, of all things. And while I suppose dismissing Rei, the last serious sequel to the TV series, as third-string material for its Episode 1 and 5 silliness and lack of gore is understandable, it’s nevertheless saddening when it’s the series, specifically Saikoroshi-hen, or the Dice Killing Chapter, at its most philosophically dense.

While I wouldn’t be one to discourage more shows approaching  friendship as something integral to their thematic base, friendship’s still a rather common theme, and one that, in a sea of shows inundated by this subject, it takes a lot to separate it as something special from the fold. While Higurashi seeks to do just that for its first two animated installments, Rei addresses another theme that, in my opinion, is rather ambitious to present in any way to audiences in general ever. The Dice Killing Chapter asks Rika Furude and its audience an existential question. Between worlds perfect and not, which one is preferable?

The answer seems self-explanatory. It’s got to be the former. It’s got to be perfection. After all, if perfection is something that is possible to achieve… No no no, let me rephrase. If perfection is merely something that can be chosen and adopted, then this shouldn’t even be a matter of debate. Of course, unless there’s a catch.

What’s constitutes perfection, according to Higurashi? What constitutes imperfection? We want to make sure we don’t make any Faustian bargains.

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Sound of the Sky: War’s Intangible Scars

Management: While my opinion of the show is positive overall (I’m sounding like a broken record, aren’t I?), 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 essay, in particular, is a breakdown of Episode 7 of Sound of the Sky. I recommend clicking on the link provided in the essay whenever you get to it.

There’s Fear, and then There’s Spirals

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Probably since mankind has perceived conflict, and especially as long as humanity has perceived war, people have suffered, physical wounds as well as psychological ones. So long as people have endured traumatic experiences, they have also endured stress in the form of anxiety.

Anxiety’s different from fear. Fear is something natural and recommended for people to have. In response to situations of fight and flight, fear produces within our bodies biological hormones which, in acute, or momentary instances, activate our reserves to achieve robustness of energy and sharpness of thought. Stimulation in moderation is beneficial, necessary even, for one’s good health.

Anxiety is unnatural. It is not acute or momentary. Something about our psyches tricks our bodies to keep tapping our reserves, which, by the definition of “reserve,” is a counter intuitive process. Our regulatory networks fail to work as they normally should and our life-support systems become taxed. There are few, if any, secondary reserves for our primary ones. Our mental states deteriorate, our immune responses weaken, and the liveliness that might have characterized our previous lives are sapped to exhaustion in our current ones.

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Rest and relaxation would be enough for the average office worker to find respite from his or her malaise, but the same cannot be said for a soldier who’s seen shit. There are situations found on battlefields that are so stressful that such stress ends up embedded deep in one’s subconscious. Anxiety becomes a disorder. The fight and flight of shell shocked warriors never truly end, even when the need for fight and flight has ceased. The pain of the experience. Perhaps even the guilt of surviving it when so many others didn’t. The malaise from the physical strain may be sapping enough, but the mental debilitation of reliving traumatic experiences over and over until the past begins blurring against the present is enough to drive a man or woman into a seemingly damning spiral.

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Shell shock is an antiquated term. A more appropriate label for a common anxiety disorder among soldiers would be Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD for short, and it’s a disorder that a Felicia Heideman deals with in Sound of the Sky Episode 7: Showing Sound of Cicadas: Spirits Down the River.

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