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.

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To temporarily relegate the Danganronpa franchise’s rather passionate, colorful, and often on-the-nose discourse on hope and despair to the background, here’s a character in the Danganronpa 3 anime who caught my attention. 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 unwillingly, 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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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.

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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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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.

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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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School-Live!: A Tale of Living Off of Moe Slice of Life

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.

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One of the things I admire about anime narratives are their potential for creativity. Now, some people might accuse the medium nowadays of being inundated with show upon show centered around  moe, peddling moe in the sense people generally seem to associate that feeling with: “cute girls.” Doubly so if the moe happens to be situated within the slice of life genre: “doing cute things.” While experiencing moe or declaring something to be moe isn’t limited to moe slice of life, or “cute girls doing cute things,” there certainly seems to be a consensus among anime otaku that “cute girls doing cute things” is one of those things that are typically designed to embody or arouse moe. There also seems to be a consensus that there’s an awful lot of anime featuring “cute girls doing cute things” nowadays.

In the midst of so many shows featuring this trope, you might ask what’s so creative about a show as seemingly redundant as School-Live! Moe slice of life can be considered a tested and tired thing. Simply put, this show uses the language of moe, the language of slice of life to re-frame how we experience familiar scenarios and inspire reflection on larger themes. The scenario is psychological survival in a zombie setting. The theme is living in spite of that. That theme extends both literally to the characters of the show and figuratively to the characters in the audience watching the show.

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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.

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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 he/she 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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Sasami-san@Ganbaranai: Religion, Tradition, and the New Age

Management: While my opinion of the show is positive overall (broken records all around), 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. While this piece will reference other parts of the show, this essay will primarily break down the events of Episode 6 “I’m Troubling Only My Parents” and Episode 7 “I Forgot How to Speak.” I will also mention the related thematic resolution to Episode 9, “It’s Not That I Can’t Do It.”

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On the surface, Sasami-san@Ganbaranai is a strange concoction of battle spectacles, religion, and eccentric and risqué behavior brewed out of a Haruhi-inspired cauldron. The premise is a riff off of a Haruhi-inspired archetype, a girl who subconsciously  alters the world using god powers stored within her person. Inspiration is not imitation, however. While I’m not going to deny the influence The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya has had on Sasami-san’s narrative, I’m confident in expressing this: Sasami-san’s is more ambitious than Haruhi’s, if not quite as well-written. It’s willing to talk about controversial issues in contemporary Japanese society that the Haruhi series is not really equipped to discussing. The show combines its fight scenes with its universe’s mythos, not unlike Monogatari, to craft a social commentary on Japanese religion and spirituality, as well as culture and lifestyles, in the New Age.

While this piece will reference other parts of the show, I will primarily focus on the events of Episode 6 “I’m Troubling Only My Parents” and Episode 7 “I Forgot How to Speak” and how these events culminate into a physical and ideological clash between Juju and Tama. I will also mention the related thematic resolution to Episode 9, “It’s Not That I Can’t Do It.”

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[Award] Liebster Award Questionaire, or A Great Excuse to Tease Matcha

Management: Apparently I’m popular enough that anibloggers are consigning me to more blog work. Anyway, if you’ve either yet to read or entirely forgot the opening lines of my last self-reflection questionnaire post, I’ve set myself up to do these kinds of super editorializing posts in a super editorializing manner. These kinds of posts are a lot less formal, polite, and reserved than my usual Management content. I’ve subsequently labeled their style and persona as Non-Management.

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