Management: Management here. You may be wondering what the difference is between the Management me and the non-Management me. I don’t strive to be extremely formal when it comes to blog posts, but the Management me does try to write most of them with a certain level of polite sophistication so I can be all authoritative and whatnot. The non-Management me, the one you’ll see much more often goofing off on Anitwitter, could care a lot less. I feel like the nature of this post demands the non-Management me’s eccentricities more than the Management me’s niceties, so I’m just going to be a sadist. I’ll try to be interesting with this post, as always, but I’m going to have fun with it too.
I’ll be disappointed if you back out later.
I hope you know what you’re getting into.
So without further ado.
“You bastard. I’ll do it, but you bastard.”
In sum, I promised to do it. So now, I’m supposed to write responses to the following eight questions:
1. When was the last time you went to a store containing anime?
2. Do you usually watch anime online? On what website?
3. First Japanese word you learned from an anime?
4. Best animation style in your opinion?
5. Best anime pet?
6. What is the longest anime you’ve ever watched?
7. What is the shortest anime you’ve ever watched?
8. What is your favorite anime couple?
How was I going to answer them? Some anitwitter folks ended up beating me with their responses before I had time enough to really work on them, and yet I was left at a loss at what to do when I finally opened up my blank draft document. Frog-kun decided to respond with pictures. iblessall penned his in poetry, and whemleh wrote a freaking fan-fic. I confessed to whemleh after he Internet poked me about this about wanting to be a lazy shit.
“Damn it, I was thinking I’d be a lazy shit about this. I might still be a lazy shit about this, but I’d feel the tiniest pang of guilt about it now.”
I’d feel slightly shitty now leaving it at that after all the admittedly admirable effort they put into it, so I thought about what I could write to compete. I thought, I ate, I thought, I slept. My brainstorming came up empty. I decided to do some soul-searching. My recourse was an appeal to heaven, so I prayed. I prayed, and I had a revelation.
First, I couldn’t actually get in touch with heaven. Second, I didn’t want to answer these questions. Why did I have to answer all these eight inquiries in particular? I could answer all except maybe the last one (if I added a conditional “Why?” at the end). They’d all be relatively trite sentences, and they’d reveal nothing about me, nothing deep, nothing shameful, nothing wonderful. They’d hardly do the same for other anibloggers unless they decided to share more than they have to while doing something particularly creative. It’s not like American court proceedings, after all, where people being questioned on the stand are told to shut up and only say what the attorneys ask you of, but damn it, I want this to be a trial. I want people to say profound, provocative, interesting things about themselves. I want people to bare their bodies so I can nail wood and string into your limbs and make your souls dance.
“I’m talking about seeing the naked splendor of people’s souls. I want to see our precious lives play out on the stage of our world.”
I want to glimpse people’s souls at their brightest and bleakest. I want to see peoples’ humanities at their fullest.
I love humans. I love them. I love them all so much, and because of that, and also because I want to be different and fresh, I’m going to be a rebel. I’m a sadist. I beat Inspector Green into some other color (the title reminded me of frog-kun), and replaced the previous eight questions with eight new questions-ish that I think will be more revealing about the people who answer them, sincerity withstanding. I’ve keep them all relevant to anime though:
1. What’s a show you’ve watched that you absolutely hated and regretted seeing? What parts of these shows did you hate that made your opinion of the show turn bitter? What was it about these shows throughout the entirety of the run that brought our your loathing? Elements or assumptions the show made and/or imposed? Why did you despise them?
Rin: Daughters of Mnemosyne, and to explain why I hate Rin: Daughters of Mnemosyne, I’ll compare it to Elfen Lied, not a great show either by any stretch of the imagination, but there are crucial things that Elfen Lied does with more taste.
For instance, Elfen Lied may have had the wherewithal to make the majority of its numerous mutilation scenes fit the context and flow of its tragic narrative, Rin: Daughters of Mnemosyne has a guaranteed scene, if not several, within each episode where the plot comes to a screeching halt just so it can entertain its audience with torture porn.
Alongside torture porn, both Elfen Lied and Rin: Daughters of Mnemosyne feature both nudity and gore, often juxtaposed to the other, but whereas the majority of Elfen Lied directs both in a way that served as a desecration of innocence, Rin: Daughters of Mnemosyne shoots both in a way that’s clearly meant to be sexually charged and completely fetishistic.
The way Elfen Lied incorporates women might be dubious due to some of their characterizations plus the frequency of them being mistreated by the plot, but the way Rin: Daughters of Mnemosyne uses them is downright abhorrent, and that’s not just exclusive to the torture porn. The premise revolves around a pair of immortal women detectives who’ve consumed the eternity fruit or something, being hunted by man beasts that seek to eat immortal women such as them and extract this fruit which, surprisingly enough, looks like semen when you squish it. Oh, and the women get sexually aroused to the eventual and involuntary point of wanting whenever these man beasts happen to be nearby. You’d think it’s a plot you’d only find in a doujinshi, but I shit you not, people spent money animating this in Japan. People also spent money licensing this in the US.
I’ve heard people argue that the show was just mature, that it was edgy. Among other things that can be said about the show, two words: torture porn. It’s exploitation of the lowest form. Why on Earth would I watch this dreck? Because I thought the premise of time static immortals in a time dynamic world was interesting enough for a watch. Poor me didn’t quite know what I was getting into.
2. Consider there being parts of hypothetical shows you liked or loved and parts of the same shows you disliked or were disgusted with. Would you hate shows more for featuring elements and/or assumptions you loathed after featuring things you appreciated? Would you hate those shows less? Would it depend on context? Would it depend on the nature of those elements and assumptions? What are they?
A mixture of both the context and the elements and/or assumptions in question. I consider myself somewhat tolerant about certain anime excesses, though as I’ve mentioned to people before, I’m also a rather self-serious person. I tend to watch shows with strong dramatic or tragic components about them, and I particularly like them when they attempt to say something about a particular them I find resonant. I don’t have anything against dramas or tragedies using lighter material during to provide pacing to a series, but I don’t like my serious times derailed. I don’t want my serious narrative distracted.
Story-breaking spoilers in my “serious narratives” includes anything that distracts from the show’s serious aims, its characters and its themes: artificial dialogue, solution cop-outs, and overly indulgent fan service. I suppose I can talk more about fan service.
Fan service, as how I define it, is usually associated with something lewd, but it can be used to describe general gimmicks, or tropes, used by shows to “service” people who are “fans” of them. I don’t typically watch shows that made with fan service in primary mind, but I don’t find anything wrong with those shows existing. They aren’t pretentious, after all. They don’t try to be something more than they are. So when I watch dramas and tragedies I do my best trying to shelve them aside for the sake of more potentially engaging material and/or make excuses for them with the hope that the show might be either instead or also using what we might see or is fan service for some grander scheme. I can tolerate some fan service in moderation, and I can even enjoy some of it, but it should never be a distraction.
Your Lie in April is a show that, from what I’ve watched at the very beginning, is filled with so much fan service in the form of juvenile humor inter-spaced with its attempts at melodrama that the former sullies the experience of the latter. It’s a tonal dissonance jarring enough to me that has discouraged me from watching any further. It doesn’t help that I don’t find any of the juvenile humor funny, and it also doesn’t help that none of it serves any larger purpose than making the characters look dumb, and that’s a disservice to those characters.
The Monogatari Series, on the other hand, features copious amounts of fan service in the form of sexual harassment, loli and incest undertones included, when the perspective of the story is shot through the male protagonist’s lens . It is different, sometimes radically so, from the other character perspectives the show features, where lewd perversions, if they are not entirely absent, are kept to a minimum. The difference in perspective fits extremely well with the Monogatari Series’ prevailing theme of the subjective, dynamic fluidity of identity. There’s some fan service that I find amusing, some fan service I’d much rather not be part of the series at all, but I can both tolerate the latter enough for the interesting parts of Monogatari and accept it as part of Monogatari’s grander scheme.
3. When was the last time you decided to watch a show you knew or thought you knew you’d dislike or hate? Why did you watch it?
I don’t hate watch. I’ve been entertained watching shows before, and I’ve sought out the occasional show looking primarily for entertainment, but I watch shows primarily because I want to learn something from the stories they tell. I don’t find hate watching informative, enlightening, or inspiring, and I’m not particularly entertained seeing them in and of themselves.
I don’t find enough joy picking it apart or complaining about it to myself or other people, so no.
4. What was a show you watched that either disturbed and/or horrified you? If not the whole show, what part of the show made you uneasy? Why did it make you uneasy? How did it make you uneasy? Would you watch it again? Why or why not?
I suppose I’ll answer this two ways.
Outside of Rin: Daughters of Mnemosyne, the most recent show to memory that comes to mind that disturbed me was Sabagebu!, cute girls and military-replica airsoft. Anime has other shows that I’ve watched and really enjoyed that juxtapose cute girls and military hardware, so I have no problem with this relationship per se. Girls und Panzer was a celebration of WWII tank history in a safe space. KanColle is able to have fun with its Imperial Japanese Navy ship girl concept while avoiding past historical issues of chauvinism and paying due reverence and gravity to present anime losses. C3-bu sets up a clear distinction between treating airsoft as a game and airsoft as war. Sabagebu! doesn’t make that distinction. It conflates it, and it revels in it. The first airsoft match has everyone imagining they’re in a live firefight, and the very end of it has one of the girls running towards another for the final kill. She shoots, she jumps, she lands, and there’s copious amounts of real-looking gore coursing out her opponent like jets as she collapses lifeless. It’s shot as awesome. It’s supposed to be awesome, this crowning moment of awesome, but it broke me into a cold sweat. It didn’t sit well with me, and I decided after Episode 1 that the show just wasn’t for me.
Sabagebu! was something that disturbed me in the worst of ways. ef — a tale of melodies was something that horrified me in the best. Episode 6, wasn’t it? I wrote a essay once about it.
The scene of my reaction:
Titled “flection,” or “the action of bending,” the name hardly does that scene justice. To be honest, it seemed more breaking than bending. I screamed at my laptop screen. I pulled the strands attached to my scalp. I punched my pillow, then my bed, and then the wall until my knuckles went red. It was bad. Not in a qualitatively painful way, because that scene was spectacular. Bad in a frightful way. I found myself shaking, cringing, clinging to the sheets that earlier I was trying to rend. I hurried to see if anyone stationed outside my door overheard anything (thankfully, they did not), furiously wiping the sweat off my face all the while. My mind was a mess, and my body, out of sorts, but as soon as I could get the slightest semblance of composure, I began asking myself over and over like a child whose parents so perfect suddenly split up. What in that damn scene could have reduced me to this pathetic state?
The scene to the scene of my reaction:
We have stained glass that presents her in two unflattering ways: once where her image is on the glass itself, glass which cracks and shatters, and twice, immediately after the shattering, where the stained pattern, disjointed and perverse, is overlaid on her body, indicating a reminiscent psychical trauma. Then there is the matter of the stained glass itself, which is a regular fixture of Christian churches. Next we have tarot cards, the representation of paganism, which suggests she, by contrast, has become unholy. After, we see this taint in the form of chains encompassing her body, obscuring her once presumably porcelain figure. She describes in loving detail, in chain after chain after chain, how she lost her virginity and consequently, her innocence. Then we have shots of this shackled pale form traced by her hand, color erupting and spreading like a plague, velvet infecting white. Lighting illuminating the hall, with every shot, dims, mirroring the change of color occurring in her eyes. From without gray, to gray, to grayer, to gray black. From blue, to purple, to red, to velvet. From hope, to fear, to despair, to hate. Then we are presented with the look of utmost loathing, the manifestation of a witch’s face; witches are pagan: unholy and unclean. And like the signs required for a witch’s incantation, her body fills, with each increasingly desperate and insane utterance, symbols of red, one succeeding the other, until the climax is reached, until white kanji, then kanji and hirugana, then hirugana appear, frothing about in a previously black background like a cauldron under a violent broth boil, until the color of pain takes over her entire form. Red characters appear once more in another black background, writing over the abyss and each other until the mark of suffering subsumes everything. We see her completely red, and then the scene concludes with her satisfied smile. She has suffered. She is the cause of suffering. She is suffering. She is…
What she is is something you should find out on your own.
5. Between a show guaranteed to incite your disgust and fury and a show guaranteed to cause you boredom and disinterest, which show would you watch over the other? Why?
I think it’s a curious thing to read when critics condemn these two kinds of shows, yet continue watching the former. I try to gauge why, and somehow, I always end up asking questions to myself pertaining to their character. Are they masochistic? Did they watch it because it was popular? Did they watch it because it was controversial? Did they felt they wanted or needed to in order to entertain their readers or viewers? Did they feel like it would engage or entertain themselves in some way? Do they want to feel important deconstructing it? Do they want to feel empowered shitting on it? Do they want to feel accomplished watching it?
Or is it something else entirely? I’d rather watch the latter for reasons I’ve already stated, but I really am curious.
6. What show or shows do you admit are narratively well made but you dislike or hate regardless? Why?
I’m going to throw out Black Lagoon. It’s a show that glorifies violence and abhors it at the same time. You can have one arc where the show peaks with the most ridiculous and explosive action movie moments you can fathom out of a PT boat and an attack helicopter, and another arc that drops the show into the most depressing scenarios of nihilism you can scrape off gore-dried bottom of a tall, dilapidated building.
Its narrative tries to be profound, and yet its disconnect is just so frustratingly tasteless. I also have a personal loathing for nihilism.
7. What tropes that come to mind that you’d consider particularly controversial within anime culture? What tropes among them do you like looking forward to? What tropes among them do you absolutely despise? Why?
I’m partial to the tsundere and dandere tropes. I’m aware how much hate they, and particularly the tsundere one, can get from certain sections of the anime fandom. I can appreciate how these tropes can be used as a diving board for deeper characterization. The more extreme versions of those kinds of behavior aren’t particularly associated with socially adjusted people, you know? I’ll also enjoy them when they’re used en lite, though I’ll get annoyed at them as much as any obnoxious gimmick if they become obnoxious and gimmicky.
For ones I dislike, I suppose ones of the more directly wish-fulfillment variety. Harems and magical girlfriends come to mind, but I’ve seen rather creative examples of both that have been animated that you can argue utilize and comment on those tropes in interesting ways. Monogatari for harems is one. Chobits for magical girlfriends is another. Katawa Shoujo, however, has inoculated a rather seething prejudice for the white knightism trope.
8. What is your favorite anime couple? Why?
For the moment, Yukino and Hikigaya. Despite the title of the video, I’m not going to play shipping or best girl here. I legitimately believe that Oregairu’s narrative has meticulously laid itself out for a relationship for those two that just doesn’t exist on the same level with any of Hikigaya’s other “love interests.” He might be on good terms with Yui and Iroha, and he might think both of them are pretty, similar to how I think some actress on TV is good-looking. But in the end, it ends there. His fascination with Yukino is something else. Yukino is the only person Hikigaya has personally asked to be his friend. In the anime, Hachiman blushes at the sight of Yui in a revealing two piece, Hikigaya is momentarily transfixed at the sight of comparatively modest swim attire. In the cultural festival arc, he is furious at his otherwise self-absorbed self for attaching the wrong set of expectations to Yukino’s character. In the later light novels, his inner monologue predominates with thoughts about Yukino. As egotistically unmotivated as he is, many of his more ego bruising actions he ends up undertaking regardless is because of Yukino.
I like Yukino and Hikigaya by themselves, but it’s when they’re together, when they’re flirting with each other’s egos and working together toward some design. They’re both very similar characters, and yet very different at the same time. They both are very intelligent individuals with very inflated egos that share cynical worldviews about people, society, and life that have been shaped by very lonely upbringings, alienation brought about by circumstances that were both beyond their control and within their power to change.
Yukino is excellent at managing people, albeit she lacks the warmth of being able to relate to them. Hikigaya is excellent at reading people, albeit he earns cold derision when he decides to voice them. Yukino has committed herself to the ennobling goals of helping people under the assumption that it’s what should be expected of her. Hikiyaya has committed himself to the demeaning objectives of helping himself under the assumption that nothing should be expected of him.
They interact with each other, and while they deprecate each other, they grow to have a begrudging respect that transforms into awe for each other’s talents, awe that escalates at several points into an overestimation of each other’s true abilities and a confusion of each other’s true selves. They gradually change each other, pulling each other ever so infinitesimally from their extremes. Yukino begins to think more for herself and her happiness while Hikigaya begins to believe that his happiness is not exclusive to himself.
And yet they aren’t a couple, nor actively attempting to forge a romance. Why? Personally, I think it’s because I don’t think they’re ready for a romance. They’re too socially maladjusted. They’re too busy trying to figure themselves out. I think Yukino got at when she (half-)jokingly dismissed Hikigaya’s second attempt to formally reach out to her as a friend, that there’s a special connection. It’s a connection between them that transcends friendship.
Those are my questions, and those are my answers. They could be more provocative, but at the very least, I think they’re more profound. They’re a better reflection of who I am. All of this now written, I turn to the readers. What are your responses to one, some, or all of these questions? Will you answer them to alone to yourselves? Will you answer them online in text?
In any event, I’m giving Novasylum, Redcrimson, and Lemur-kun less of an option to choose between the two. I suppose I can be nice and end it with me, but misery loves company, and I like causing other people pain. I challenge you to answer my set of inquiries as opposed to the ones that originally circulated to me, but the choice is yours.
I’ll just be… disappointed.