Why I Can’t Stop Myself from Shipping

Management: Originally an idea for a Crunchyroll post, I ended up translating it into a piece for my personal blog.

A part of me has always struggled with the idea of shipping characters, especially if that shipping involves a non-canon pairing. There’s this half part of me that wants to refrain from projecting myself onto a story, especially if it’s by a creator I respect. The other half of me can’t help mentally picturing characters as perfect together, even when I refrain from stating those hopes aloud. I usually end up rationalizing that tendency by shipping characters whose relationships seem all but certain to form based on narrative trajectory: Hikigaya Hachiman and Yukino Yukinoshita from My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU, Aki Tomoya and Megumi Kato from Saekano, Ryuuji Takasu and Taiga Aisaka from Toradora!, and many more.

But then there are those stories in anime where one potential couple is all but initially certain, another is expressly spurned at a pivotal moment, and one where the romantic match is something that will never be officially recognized: Naruto Uzumaki and Hinata Hyuuga in Naruto, Subaru Natsuki and Rem in Re:Zero, and Nanoha Takamichi and Fate Testarossa from the Nanoha franchise.

To an extent, I think fan shipping and fan fiction writing share a lot of things in common, and as someone who has caught the shipping bug and has written fan fiction in the past, I have one theory to explain why some people ship non-canon relationships. To put it simply, sometimes we as fans aren’t completely satisfied with everything the canon story gives us. We might find holes or loose ends in the stories that we otherwise enjoy. Writing fanfiction or shipping characters is a way for us to address the issues we have with stories, adding in our own own ideas of how things maybe should be.

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[Podcast] 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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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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How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend: A Commentary and Love Letter

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.

Saekano 15

Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata. How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend. Saekano henceforth, because the last two show titles are a bit long and indicative of LN titles these days. What’s also somewhat indicative of this show’s relationship with the LN trend (besides being adapted from a series of LNs) are the myriad tropes that people, familiar with LN narratives (as well as narratives in VNs, anime, manga, Japanese video games, or basically anything seen as moe… what I will henceforth call “otaku culture”), are likely to nod to/groan to/are sick of. Whether one is entertained or annoyed by these tropes in any given show will depend on the person watching, what they is entertained by, and what they want out of shows in general.

Saekano’s head stands out from the thicket as a show that’s absolutely, energetically, unabashedly shameless in its presentation of otaku tropes. The show doesn’t necessarily stand independent of these tropes however. It’s feet are firmly hidden within the trope thicket, with almost all of the recurring series characters unambiguously characterized according to a combination of tropes. The show’s premise are three unambiguously attractive and talented young women vying for the affections of one male otaku protagonist. It all seems like blatant otaku wish-fulfillment. To a degree, it is, based on the set-up. This pristine setting of otakudom, however, is blotted by a couple of things that makes the show just as much a commentary on otaku as it is a love letter to them.

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A Certain Scientific Railgun: A Tale of Which True City

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 essay covers material from the “Level Upper” and “SisterS” arcs, found in both seasons 1 and 2 of Railgun.

A Certain Scientific Railgun 9

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. She made the best of friends. She met the worst of enemies. She fought with the best of them. She was beat by the worst of them. She saw her dreams fulfilled. She watched her aspirations shatter. She experienced elation. She experienced despair. She felt powerful. She felt powerless.

She loved. She lost.

The gleaming skyscrapers that line the urban canopies. The vandalized streets that strewn the urban dirt. Where the iconic windmills turn. Where windmills still iconic don’t. A place where aspirations come true and people become extraordinary. A place where dreams die and people struggle being ordinary. It is the fount of achievement. It is the source of resentment and exploitation.

Two sides of Academy City. Which side is the true Academy City?

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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.

White Album 2 1

“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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