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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The Hero and the Spider Girl | A Dark Souls Fanfic

Management: A little 6,000+ word fanfic something that I was inspired to write playing Dark Souls and watching Re: Zero on the same day. I remembered getting angry at something the game made me do. I also remembered thinking about how high fantasy escapist narratives usually treat the concept of heroism. And then the story idea about a romance between a hero and a spider girl hit me.

A big thanks to @frog_kun and @captain_taira for being my editors, effectively.

Dark Souls 2

Artwork by @Mantisarts from ingrum.

The air felt heavy to the Hero as he made his way down this slightly descending tunnel. The swamps of Blighttown were their own kind of heaviness. They were a dampness and muckiness that was nauseating to the Hero when he first ventured into them, the decomposing sludge of civilization’s discardings and unravelings, human excrement and hollow remains. Yet even as he left those swamps behind him, the new sights that he encountered made his stomach churn. Rather than dead and decomposed, his environs were alive with precious life. Precious and pulsating.

The walls were webbed in a white and thick cake. Only once did the Hero brush past them. They were soft to touch, and they beat back. Like the chambers of a heart, the tunnel walls pulsed to a regular rhythm. Adjoining these walls were mutants of men, barely distinguishable people crawling on the ground like lame arachnids sucking spilt meal. They treasured on their backs sacs, equally precious and pulsating. Whatever these men were preoccupied with, whether it be their sacs or their feed, they paid no attention to the Hero as he ran walked past them, his arms raised in anxiety as his mind imagined him in them.

The Hero thought of killing them. They might attack him once he got distracted. But then again, the walls could very well burst open, enveloping him in a skin-crawling embrace of whatever made their surfaces and crevices their abodes. They may as well lean over and swallow him whole before breaking him down into food. Or maybe the ceiling would spew digestive fluids, dissolving his being for the men with sacs to lick clean. It made no difference. The Hero looked up. Sure enough, there was cake above…

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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 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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My Teenage Romantic Comedy SNAFU : An Angel and her Knight

Management: Covering the plot and the character work of the last two seasons of My Teenage Romantic Comedy SNAFU, otherwise known more pithily as Oregairu, while my opinion of the show is generally positive overall, this essay is, by no means, is meant to serve as a comprehensive review, but rather, as an articulation and analysis of the complexities of a couple of the show’s characters. It’s a good show though, so you should watch it if you haven’t yet.

A link to a previous mini-analysis of aforementioned two characters can be found in the beginning of this piece as well as here.

rsz_my_teenage_romantic_comedy_snafu_16

“I’ll go searching…”

A post a few months ago had me answering at length: What is [my] favorite anime couple? and Why? It’s My Teen Romance Comedy SNAFU’s (or Oregairu’s) Hikigaya Hachiman and Yukino Yukinoshita, and the explanation is in the embedded link. But wait, they aren’t an official couple as of yet. Wouldn’t pairing them together be considered shipping?

For those who aren’t in the know about this particular factoid about me from either my comments on anitwitter or the opening paragraphs of my White Album 2 review, I don’t ship. In the event that characters are reasonably well-written, that their hopes and fears, insecurities and desires relate, resonate, with our human us, with our human selves, with humanity, with what it means to be human, I want to avoid imposing my wishes on characters as much as possible.

These characters are fictional, but fiction are reflections of reality. Beyond any convictions of essentialism (of which I hold few to none), I’m loathe to deprive humanity of its agency. I believe character agency is tied to character respect. I do end up wishing certain developments for characters I become attached to anyway because my own hopes and desires for these characters leak out. However, I draw a line when it comes to shipping. For their sakes, something intimate as a romantic relationship is no business of mine to matchmake just because I’m God.

“Filling in the blank space,

I thought this theorem I posed was correct,

But it ends up just treading air.”

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Kokoro Connect: A Glass Half-Empty

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 Kokoro Connect’s final arc, Michi Random, though the show does contain specific references to its first arc, Hito Random.

Kokoro Connect 5

As much as viewers of Kokoro Connect such as I may exclaim from the top of their Internet lungs Himeko Inaba being “GREAT SO GREAT WHY IS INABA SO GREAT” forever infinitum eternity etc, in truth, I don’t personally find her the most relatable character in the show. To be friends or even more-than-friends with someone like that in real life (if not with Himeko exactly) would likely be a dream come true for many fans of her character. Consensus-wise, the character that I found most relatable is decidedly less liked, not in the least due to her to her rather souring behavior in the show’s last animated arc, Michi Random. A girl so considerate, even-tempered, and sweet suddenly making an about-face and turned into this really sullen, angry, nasty bitch.

A lot of viewers felt disgusted by this newest attempt at “forced drama” gone too far. They felt betrayed that this bright and social character they liked or tolerated suddenly become bleak and anti-social. They couldn’t understand where her shift in attitude came from. They turned their backs to the story, deeming it contrived even in light of the show’s premise. They turned their backs to her. They might have gone back to waiting for Himeko to be adorable or awesome again, except this girl’s raining on Himeko’s freaking parade too.

So why do I find her relatable?

The simple fact is that Iori Nagase’s me.

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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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