Otaku In The Mirror Part 2

Kyun Kyun Kyun Kyun, boku no kanojo wa migite!


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Fall 2010 Audio Preview

Ray and I did an informal, unedited summer season preview a few months ago…and now it’s time for the fall 2010 one! In this edition, we run down almost every show in the order of Scamp’s season chart (version 1). We looked at trailers whenever we could and express our hopes and fears for the upcoming season. I, for one, am waiting for surprises.

Reminder: this is raw and unedited, unlike our much more polished Anime Diet Radio podcasts (which will return soon)! Enjoy.

Anime Director Satoshi Kon Has Died

Apparently, it has been confirmed that famed anime director Satoshi Kon , director of such works as Perfect Blue and Paprika, has in fact died at the age of 46. Initial statements were made over twitter by founding member of Gainax Takeda Yasuhiro earlier today, followed by an apparent confirmation from Madhouse president Masou Maruyama. Details are still unclear but apparently he died this morning around 2 a.m. in Japan. More details to be posted as they are released.

*Updates:

According to Anime News Network, Kon’s widow wrote on his website on Wednesday about his death.

Satoshi Kon passed away due to pancreatic cancer on August 24 at 6:20 a.m. He was 46.

His funeral service will be held for family members only.
We are respectfully and deeply grateful for your kindness during his lifetime.

Furthermore, MADHOUSE had this to say,

Satoshi Kon,  the director of numerous works at MADHOUSE including Paprika, Paranoia Agent, Tokyo Godfathers and Millennium Actress, passed away due to pancreatic cancer early in the morning of Tuesday, August 24.

He was 46.

With regards to funeral services, a private service will be held for family members only.

We are respectfully and deeply grateful for your kindness during his lifetime.

Finally, pre-written statements were also posted to Kon’s website on his behalf

May 18 of this year, an unforgettable day.

My wife and I received the following prognosis from a cardiologist at the Musashino Red Cross Hospital:

“The pancreatic cancer is terminal and has metastasized to the bone. You have at most a half year left.”

As to the fate of his final film, Yume-Miru Kikai Kon relates this conversation with Masao Maruyama.

When I conveyed my concerns for Yume-Miru Kikai to  Mr. Maruyama, he said, “It’s fine. Don’t worry, we’ll do whatever it takes.”

I cried.

I cried aloud.


His statements were ended with these word’s


With feelings of gratitude for all that is good in this world, I put down my pen.

Well, I’ll be leaving now.

Satoshi Kon

Legend of Legendary Heroes 08 is a toss up

I was supposed to publish this one yesterday, titled “legend of Legendary Heroes has deep stufff and fucks it up”, based on my first viewing through the episode. But after thinking it over for an hour and watching it again last night, I’ve decided to simply discuss my thoughts.

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First Look Fair—Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad

It’s perhaps a measure of how caught up in the Now that I’ve gotten as a blogger when I say that Beck (2004-2005) is the oldest anime I’ve watched in a while. It’s also one of the most fascinating and frustrating too, at least so far; it’s one of those shows that is at once low-key and ambitious, quietly doing something different than everyone else without drawing attention to itself.

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First Look Fair: Seirei no Moribito

Crunchyroll recently made the first four episodes of Moribito available to premium subscribers, so I took a look. How did I miss this one after all these years? Seirei no Moribito (aka Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit) is the sort of anime I want to watch nowadays.

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Kuttsukiboshi OAV 1 Review

Primastea, the anime studio that created and distributed Training Together and Sleeping Together, has released a delicious yuri title, created by one guy (of course it’d only be a guy). The story is about the risky adventures of two high school girls during summer. The story has one twist; one of the two girls has the ability to move things with her mind (THE FORCE).

A good story has devices that work; a medicore story has conveniences that just happen; I believe this story is the latter. Buuut, whoever’s reading my article is not looking for an in depth and detailed analysis of story plots, devices as well as the merits of using them in the right places without failing (wut). So let’s get to the goodies.

You can get the characters’ names by searching through ANN or Wikipedia so I’m not going to bother with them. When I first set my eyes on the show, it struck me that the shapes of the heads of the girls looked oddly shaped; kinda squashed, in fact. I could tell it was a one-person-effort on a good computer, because the drawing is consistent. But the production value is also low, hence the odd head shapes as well as the not quite harmonious eyes and facial features. But there was nothing particularly unpleasant about them. Eh.

Nothing is wasted on any elaborate setup; the story gets the girls together right away. We get some nice girl on girl action with plenty of kissing, saliva swap and all that. Did I mention that the body proportions were kind odd? Oh and yes, the Force. The Force to break apart the necklace that consists of two star-shaped metalic things locked together. Of course, you know that’s going to come apart at the end of this episode, right? Since it’s a two-part OAV.

Captain Obvious has been screaming his/her lungs out miles back. Being a Yuri fan, this passes my test just fine. But other than that, I can’t remember anything that would earn high merits from me. Check it out  if you like.

P.S. Oh and yes (YES), one of the girls wears nothing underneath her school uniform skirt! Wonderful! Except we don’t get to see ANYTHING!

P.S. 2 – I didn’t realize that this show counts as a fall 2010 show.

My Dear Loser: Abandoning The Romantic

With the recent release of Edgar Wright’s live-action adaptation of Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, it looks like an old disconnect has come back in some respects to haunt fandom once again. Whether or not this was a factor in the film’s lackluster performance at the box office, it is clear that beyond the film’s niche leanings, there is also the phenomenon of not having the most “heroic” of central characters. Scott is jobless, stays in an enclosed studio apartment, and shares a bed with his too-cool roomie, Wallace(who owns practically everything in said apartment) , and clearly has no plans in the long term. In fact, aside from video games, having an underaged girlfriend, and playing bass in his little garage outfit Sex Bob-Omb, there’s really little to our hero that makes him such. And this is what we are essentially stuck with as love at first sight hits the mind cycles like an N2 mine. And yet this is all by design, to the detriment of many. The tendency to take a central character, and to shape them into something less than a clearly sympathetic lead is often a risky proposal in any medium, but when executed with style and balance, something can indeed be savored. And how does this apply to the worlds of anime and manga? Well, it can almost easily be said that the origins of many such stories can be traced here with equal ease.

Looking over the decades, and seeing through the often parodied cliche of the ever-unflappable hero with a desire to be “the best”, it can also be said that a saturation of such types has its very own shadow counterpart, the loser hero. Not merely comfortable with the moniker, anti-hero, these types, while having goals of their own, are often far too shortsighted, too easily distracted, or focused elsewhere to ever truly be considered heroes in any common sense of the term. They don’t take on enemy after enemy in a protracted battle royale for ultimate glory, nor do they completely embrace the power of change toward a brighter future. In fact, very often, they aren’t very heroic at all.

So why is it that they continue to have large followings despite the glares & sneers of disapproval of so many? Well the answers can be both traced to both contemporary society’s own reception of the so-called “least of us”, as well as a deep seated need for recognition of the simpler, quieter defining moments in the lives of certain individuals. It’s a quasi-response toward feelings of alienation, and disaffectedness akin to those of a young Holden Caufield, uninvolved, unimpressed, and aching to be heard regardless of the direction of the winds. Taking the time machine back to the early days of Gekiga manga, where the pratfalls of ordinary folk, with their own internal strife often enveloping their fates with the power of a black hole. Daily life, inner city dregs, and the smoky skies of industrialized society rule intersecting lives without heroes, but many interesting lives with which to explore. Whether Tatsumi knew what kind of mutations would come from his then fresh battle cry against the ever numbing assault of super robots, detectives, and action heroes or not, the influence upon later works can be seen in many well-known central characters.

Can one imagine Go Nagai’s iconic Akira Fudoh without the influence? Heck, in Japan, even Spiderman had his share of problems.(as beautifully captured here in Jason Thompson’s amazing new post.You thought Peter Parker had it bad.) A land recovering from such dramatic changes over recent decades naturally needed an outlet for them that didn’t exclusively float away into mere flights of whimsy & easy answers. Something truly had to give in regards to those less regarded, the reluctant, the daily warriors aching to see it through for another day. Which is why when Gundam first landed in Japanese homes, the very nature of Amuro Ray was something unprecedented, even for a Yamato-era series. A hero nowhere near as interested in the fate of those around him, but of those closest. There was a scrappy, everyboy feeling to the proceedings that helped pave the era of realistic mecha anime, naturally leading to the ultimate expression of this disaffected archetype, Shinji Ikari.

And for years, it came to be long debated right at the gate. Many viewers to this date cannot watch Shin Seiki Evangelion merely because the lead character is so caustic, and incapable of reaching beyond himself. And yet it spoke to so many in an unprecedented manner, exposing a spirit not only reflective of post-bubble Japan, but of a general societal malaise. To see the sheer number of international fans (US fans included) recept to the characters of this series in such a manner, even as it takes a page from Tatsumi’s book of urban isolation is telling. Many wished to not merely see the boy pilot’s evolution from troubled introspective, and into a more classic hero, only to be denied by design in an even more unprecedented move by the show’s director. But the aim remains the same, to begin a character’s arc at the lowest point is a classical method in genre fiction. But in Evangelion’s case, it is less an arc than a case study. That one of a kind look into the mind of one incapable of seeing the world in a pluralistic sense, and more longing of some unseen, ordered universe, which jibed well with many fearing the coming millennium, and a potential cerebral meltdown ala Pink Floyd’s The Wall.

And yet it is a stunt that can only work so many times, which is why the loser hero is often more suited to be a comedic lead where the stakes are lower, and the fan service can be high! When the loser hero gained traction in the late 70s, it only took one mangaka’s central pervert to pave the way for an entire generation of lucky zeroes. Ataru Moroboshi, the insatiable, aimless lowlife son of the average Japanese family became the prototypical harem lead with Urusei Yatsura. And what makes this particular character so unique in this pantheon of service is that his unrepentant nature is rarely to never deterred. Even with the ultimate prototypical alien girlfriend, it isn’t enough. And even as the whole town had had their lick at beating this boy to a bloody pulp, it never seems to be enough. It is practically a metaphor for sexualized Japan’s own inability to grow past it’s own middle school period. And yet, the fans clamored for more as Takahashi continued to refine the loser hero with Yusaku Godai from Maison Ikkoku.

Almost setting up what will likely be the final mold for the harem lead, struggling student, Godai while not dealing with a vending machine selection of potential mates, has direction issues that continue to deter him from being a typical seinen hero. Whether it be school, or his landlord, Kyoko Otonashi, Godai’s choices are often more base, and not as concerned with the greater struggles of a would-be college student. The manga & anime’s leanings coalesce into realms unexpected, and side less with what most would expect regarding the initial setup. A bittersweet set of choices makes Ikkoku into something truly brave in the gardens of anime love geometrics, and has yet to be executed with as much sensitivity or irony.

The Takahashi Loser Hero Evolution Scale:

Which leads us to where it can all go wrong. When the loser becomes so unyielding, so childish, so incapable of sympathy that it can only end in bloody histrionics. That’s right. There’s just no other way for these folks to end their journeys but in the requisite bloodletting and screams one saves for a slasher free-for-all. Now without getting into titles, we are talking about the loser heroes who usually and up becoming yandere bait, and sometimes even targets due to their indecisive, unconscionable actions. Now where this comes from internally, I won’t get into here. But I will say that it is a pretty desperate place, and will likely take a strange place in the echelons of otaku museums for future investigation. Maybe then we can all look back, and ask exactly what it was we were drinking back then.

Ahem.

And so the often kneejerk reaction toward protagonists that happen to be less than ideal comes off as not only a little strange (after all, where would Golgo 13, Taxi Driver, or Fight Club, or even Charlie Brown(!!) be without this complex viewpoint?). To not see the connection between our own fallible selves and the at times borderline massive battles of the mundane seems a little shortsighted, and more than a little unfair. To each their own of course. And of course, there has been a recent tendency to allow characters to start from this point, only to wallow in it without an ounce of likeability, nor hint of reprieve from their childish natures,which is also telling of artists & readers. But to see a non-hero from the perspective of those around them can be a rewarding experience (as best expressed in Bryan Lee O’Malley’s comic version of Scott Pilgrim and well implied in the film. To see this expressed stateside is something of an interesting reflection on classic Japanese tropes of these sorts, making it a fascinating counterpoint.). When writers are fully in control of where a protagonist begins, it is vital to consider the placement of it, and in the case of the film in question which owes a great deal to Japanese video games, as well as anime, has a great amount of kinship with many elements of the more comedic loser hero with a tinge of the urban disconnect prevalent in so many classic characters.

Your mileage? Can’t say, but it is a most welcome swipe at the already tired comic book movie format. Now if only other live action anime adaptations would be so lucky.

Big acknowledgments to the works of Antonia Levi.

Otaku In The Mirror/watashi no kare wa hikikomori

Kyun Kyun, Kyun Kyun, watashi no kare wa hikikomori!

Continue reading Otaku In The Mirror/watashi no kare wa hikikomori

Legend of Legendary Heroes has deep stuff

(Oh god, in order to let the search engine find this article faster, I came up with such a lame ass title! XD)

Yes, I can hear your screams; “DEEP STUFF? NO, REALLY?” I guess I’m being Captain Obvious and you heard this one coming a mile away. But yes, this show is deep and interesting.

I was skeptical as first regarding the mix of comedy and seriousness, which works well for Gintama. But for this kind of show with fantasy elements, it would be very easy to go over the edge into silly humor, or become way too serious by taking itself too seriously. One of the most successful fantasy shows that I watched was Scrapped Princess (what a title, eh). It was serious, tightly paced with a focused plot that was slowly unraveled. The characters and plots were interesting enough. I don’t remember any of the seiyuu names but I remember they had good chemistry. I enjoyed the show a lot. It did take itself too seriously.

As for this one, it’s certainly got emotional depth. The stuff about exploiting kids is a sure draw for sympathy but it’s not over done. As for the 3 main characters, I find Sion the most interesting of the 3.

As the political center, he needs to master enough trickery to fend off these nobles while keeping himself in power. He’s partially controlled by a clan that eye’s the situation from afar but really holds the most power in the empire – the clan can kill him if he fails to meet its expectations. So there is a sword above his head, which creates tension within him. He’s desperate for good but he has to be crafty and constantly work with evil. He keeps secrets from all his advisors and friends in order to perform his balance act and pretend to be supportive of the nobles. However, as the reality sinks in, he blames himself more and more for any failure, including the death of a trusted servant and friend (that was quite heart-breaking to see). Hiring the guy who controls the shadow could very well be his first step into doing evil. He’s struggling with how much he wants to control. In order to bring good to all citizens of Roland and not have to worry about other nobility-controlled nation invading, it seems that he has to try to take over the entire land, after all. But that would ultimately put him in the same place as many dictators and nobles before him. He set out not to be like them.

He sends his friends on a secret mission but allows the dark advisor to clash with them. He then hides the truth about the identities of either side from either side. Things untold often becomes the downfall of good friendships.

Make no mistake, what Sion faces is a vastly tangled situation set in the mire and there are enough temptation to walk into and stay in the darkside. Perhaps it’s necessary, after all, he has talented people who will help him either way. Or does he? His promise to Ryner is to do good for the people. But as his domain as well as the amount of trouble grows, will he stay true to his promise or will he take the dark path for the sake of achieving the goal in his life time?

Like Captain Obvious said, this is deep stuff. I’m simply surprised that they schedule something so intelligent and intriguing in the summer line-up. I say it’s a must see if you like intrigue and all.

You could watch this on Funimation or Hulu. See opinions on it in the Crunchyroll forum.