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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ReLIFE: Graduation and its 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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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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