A Silent Voice: The Adults Aren’t There

Management: This essay is meant to be less of a review and more of analysis of the show being examined. It contains spoilers for both the anime and manga of A Silent Voice.

A Silent Voice begins with a flashback way back in elementary school, an insensitive thrill-seeking Shouya Ishida bullying a meek and deaf Shouko Nishimura.  Flanked by his pair of male childhood besties, the anime gives audiences a concrete illustration of Shouya’s escalating campaign of harassment:

screaming loudly into her ears; aping her tone-deaf nasally speaking; saying nasty things about her behind her back; writing nasty things about her on the blackboard; scribbling nasty things about her on her desk; stealing her school materials; ditching her school materials; stealing her expensive hearing aids; destroying her expensive hearing aids; making her ears bleed while ripping them off her ears; getting into a full-on scrap

All the while, the rest of her classmates grew distant from her, annoyed by the accommodations they’re asked to make for her special needs, afraid of being targeted for being seen as too close. A few  even join Shouya and pals in some of the lighter harassment.

Missing in this flashback and my description of these elementary school days are the adults. Well… more literally in my description and less literally in the flashback. A music teacher does make a brief appearance, a homeroom teacher with more frequency. More precisely, what’s actually absent here is responsibility, the responsibilities we expect adults to model for kids: parents and teachers especially. At the end of the day, school is more than just making kids absorb academic information. Much of that information ends up not being relevant and useful to most anyway, later discarded and forgotten. More than teaching kids math and science, school is also a socialization agent; it teaches kids how to live and get along with others in society.

The adults at school who fail to guide the kids they’re in charge of set those kids up for terrible failure as they grow up. Bullying between kids goes on in A Silent Voice in part because the responsible adults fail to notice or care enough to step in properly. The bullied develop debilitating social anxieties and crushing self-esteem issues. The bullies grow up with warped personalities and thought processes. The bystanders learn to be cowardly or callous, in huge part because of the homeroom teacher’s example. While this homeroom teacher maintains a significant role at the beginning of the movie, important scenes of his in the original manga story unfortunately didn’t make the film cut. His presence is that important to the themes of A Silent Voice that his actions and attitude in the anime and manga still bear addressing, regardless.

Now, at the moment of this writing, I’m also a teacher, and to a lesser degree, I’m afraid that fiction is being reproduced in reality with several, insensitive, thrill-seeking boys.

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Danganronpa: Guilt, Propaganda, Asociality, and Despair in Anime

Management: This essay is meant to be less of a review and more of analysis of the show being examined. It contains spoilers for Danganronpa. This essay is a re-write of an earlier article on the same subject.

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In Danganronpa, there is Despair and her Remnants. In addition to the Ultimate Despair Junko Enoshima of Dangaronpa 1, there are also the Remnants of Despair of Danganronpa 2. In the Danganronpa universe, the Remnants of Despair are  Junko’s agents: sewing chaos, mayhem… mass Despair, generally. According to the Danganronpa lore, most killed themselves after learning Junko was defeated. Several managed on to justify living on, causing trouble for our heroes. Some of these Remnants genuinely believe in despair and worship Junko. Others were brainwashed or manipulated into becoming Remnants. The  Ultimate Lucky Student and Hope Fetishist Nagito Komaeda was persuaded by Junko to become a Remnant. Junko convinced that if Hope prevails at humanity’s darkest hour, he’ll experience his best… release yet. All he has to pursue his agenda of hope is… help make things super dark for humanity. Nagito’s weird.

In the Danganronpa 3 anime, Former Hope’s Peak Academy Headmaster Kazuo Tengan masquerades as a Remnant, in hopes of winning an ultimate victory for… well, Hope. He organizes a terrible new killing game, hoping it will make things so bad that it will convince the Ultimate Animator to unleash his talents on the world. You might ask what’s so terrifying about an animator, and the answer to that would be because it’s Danganronpa, at least in part. Ultimate Animator Ryota has not only the capacity to make engaging and compelling anime. His animator skills also give him the ability to outright brainwash and mind control people. In his quest to craft the ultimate anime capable of moving everyone who watches it, Ryota’s talents were manipulated  by Junko to cause the apocalypse through mass hypnosis mind control. Kazuo is now trying to utilize his talents to reverse it… by also using mass hypnosis mind control.

As an arguable, albeit unwilling, Remnant of Despair himself, his skills have the power to change people for the kinder and for the terrible. To be clear, while effective propaganda can influence how people behave in certain situations, Danganronpa 3 is not an accurate example of how propaganda actually works. It oversimplifies the power media consumption have at shaping viewer psychology. Animation is a type of media, and where influencing media consumers are concerned, the power animation has over how people think is conditional. The show unrealistically imagines that it is possible that media creators in its universe, the Ultimate Animator specifically, can brainwash other people through a glass reflection’s glance if they’re “Ultimate” enough. Despite what’s possible in Danganronpa and what’s actually possible in real life, the anime nonetheless got me thinking about real-life parallels. For me, Danganronpa 3 seemed to be subtly drawing a connection between its Ultimate Ryota and Japanese creators such as cartoonists and animators. Willingly and unwillingly, wittingly and unwittingly, these artists channeled their skills into creating propaganda for certain causes, like World War II-era Imperial Japan and the cult of Aum Shinrikyo.

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Getting Out of Your Headspace with Mob Psycho 100

Management: This essay is meant to be less of a review and more of analysis of the show being examined. It contains plot spoilers for the Mob Psycho 100 anime, especially Season 2’s Episodes 3-5.

I don’t use social media as much as I used to, and in some ways, my decision to step back has improved my stress levels. It was around maybe the beginning of college when I created a Twitter account. I was looking for sharp and animated discussion on the anime I liked. I was also looking for an easier way to keep up with political news. I’m a political scientist, after all, and I’m also an anime fan. I followed a lot of anime critics. I turned my social media feed into a news aggregator. The two spheres of Twitter that I joined ended up overlapping each other in key areas. I found myself among  politically conscious anime fans, and at the beginning, I enjoyed being a part of that community. I owe my outlook towards art and life to those critics, to minds who stressed how both areas intersected with the other. They were also silly and fun, and I felt that I could let loose with them. I’ve made some great friends during those dog days of college.

The dogs were let lie and eventually put down, and my relationship with social media changed for the worse. Change marches onward regardless of our wants, and people are angrier than before. Laying alone in bed with nothing but a Twitter app, I could feel myself slipping into misanthropy. I’ve been cynical about things for as long as I could remember. I’ve always known articles to prioritize scandalous and sensational headlines. In many respects, it’s a great thing that people are more critical and skeptical about the status quo. But in remaining hooked to social media IVs in its new tenor– its drip-feed medley of terrible news and violent rhetoric — I could feel my mind wasting . My body felt heavy with the futility of existence, possessed by entities whose names in legion mean The World. I noticed it crouched over my shoulders, and I felt its weight with my own.

What with my tendency to look at events from a macro-scale (studying history does that to you), I began to see every moment of living as this tragic microcosm in the larger story of human suffering: cyclic, ceaseless, immutable, inevitable. “Bad People are a mistake,” my motto began, and then I started cutting out the “Bad.” But then I started distancing myself from the larger Twitter discourses. My headspace started clearing like god rays breaking through clouds. My career as a cloistered student is past, the me of present now teaching English to kids. There’s a joy in watching mouths gasp in understanding, in seeing eyes sparkle while tiny arms clutch black-dyed jeans during “Black!” Color Touch. There’s a sanity in working with people who know the struggles of managing children, with colleagues who want to small talk with you and invite you to their outings. The morning sun began feeling crisp everytime I stepped outside, and the mountain trees that greeted me on every drive started glowing warmly with color.

What happens to a person when he gets stuck in headspace like that for too long? How does a person get out of it? I had a choice to cut back on Twitter. Mob doesn’t when a villain traps him in a negative headspace. The villain is determined to to turn him into a raging misanthrope, and like Joker and Gordon of Batman fame, he attempts this by trapping him in an nigh-real simulation of his perspective. It lasts six months.

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ReLIFE: Graduation and its Adult 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.”

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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.

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 satisfied 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 in this line of work, politics specifically, there’s no shortage of people from the other factional 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 that 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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Paranoia Agent: Strongest

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, in particular, is about Episode 11 of Paranoia Agent, “No Entry,” though it does contain some elements of Episode 13, “The Final Episode,” towards the end.

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“Paranoia” is a term that could be described as seeing daggers in shadows where there are none. It’s a mental state where minor suspicion of the intentions of people and things, whether or not those people actually know who you are and whether or not those things are actually sentient, degrades to the point to a neurotic obsession. It becomes a plot against your life, a conspiracy where certain people, certain things, or all people and all things, are out to get you, to be cruel to you, to make you suffer.

“Agent” is a term could be described as something or someone being the perpetrator of something else.

The perpetrator of paranoia. The neurotically suspicious agent. For the first half plus of Paranoia Agent, the show plays around with who or what is beating everyone in the head with a bat. Or is there even someone out there like that? Is there a ‘lil Slugger? Is there a shounen bat? There wasn’t, and there is, and before where people were simply sent to the hospital, people are now being sent to the morgue. Shounen Bat has become the iconic equivalent to certain death in the show as the grim reaper is in pop culture (the bat’s bent in to parallel the bent nature of the scythe). It now kills everyone it ends up appearing to.

Episode 11, “No Entry” , pitches along, and it appears in the midst of this woman who you would think would be the easiest target to bludgeon into a crackly and pastey oblivion, at least compared to its previous victims. A woman with a fragile constitution and a weak heart, and yet alone she managed to survive, even when her house didn’t. It wasn’t luck though that she was able to make it out.

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I Have No Friends and Must Win | Stella Women’s Academy, High School Division Class C3, 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’ll emphasize this: 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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From the surface, Stella Women’s Academy, High School Division Class C3, or C3-bu for short, looks like it’s going to be K-On! with airsoft. It could also turn out to be Girls und Panzer, but with airsoft. Maybe Upotte!!, but instead of real guns, airsoft. Sabagebu! Its name translates from the literal Japanese equivalent of “airsoft.”

Not quite. Unlike all these aforementioned shows, C3-bu’s not treating girls with airsoft as fun and games, or airsoft as fun and games, or even airsoft as war as fun and games. It’s treating airsoft as war. And it’s treating war as war, and war is zero-sum. For the player of fortune, for fortune of victory, the fighting ends and fortune’s achieved only when one side wins it all and the other falls to hell. Other conditions notwithstanding, victory’s assured when the enemy side has been all shot. It is imperative that at least you must survive. It is imperative that you survive. You must survive. You are the player of fortune, after all. The player of victory… victory… victory…

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…believes Yura after a certain point. It’d be closer to the mark to say that C3-bu’s more like Evangelion.

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Serial Reason | Denpa Teki na Kanojo, 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’ll emphasize this: 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. 

Elements  of this essay take from some of Sigmund Freud’s ideas. That being said, the inclusion of those elements are not meant to be a total affirmation of everything they believe.

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Occasionally, news organs will report a sensationalist spate of grisly crimes with the perpetrator caught or the perpetrator at-large. Well, bombings, rapes, murders, etc. aren’t sensationalist per se, because when they happen, they can happen with all the perverse gruesome details people can imagine and probably more. What is sensationalist about this whole business is the “pundits” it spawns that attempt to make sense of all this, and of those “pundits,” there are many that say it’s futile to make sense it all, to make sense of the perpetrators’ motives and mindsets. No one in their right minds would perpetrate these these kinds of actions.

What’s less extreme, but still abnormal are individuals that we may more commonly encounter, in schools perhaps, that, nonetheless, exhibit very pronounced idiosyncrasies, ingrained beliefs and habitual behaviors beyond what could be considered conventionally shy, forward, etc.

Whether extreme and dangerous or strange and inconvenient,  by conventional, societal views, these people are beyond reason people defy reason.

Or they seem to. Denpa Teki na Kanojo serves to demonstrate, some of these people might actually be comprehensible, but in a different way.

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Hair and Hana | Hanamonogatari, 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’ll emphasize this: 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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When it came to the Monogatari Series, Shaft seemed to have this unspoken rule designating atmospheric shifts in mood with color coding. The show also seems to have a similar preoccupation with hair styles, most notably hair length. Someone from the creative staff may or may not have a hair fetish, but there’s a point to it. It’s a marker of character development having taking place, and Hanamonogatari makes that explicit, with flowery words as well as flowers.

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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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