Archive for the ‘Anime’ Category

Why do I watch anime?

27. July 2017

Why do people do anything that they don’t need to do? Because it makes them happy and I suppose anime makes me happy. Different anime make me feel different things but I suppose that what I am seeking for through all of them (even through sadness) is pleasure.  All of this is self-evident but I wrote it down just to be thorough. That said how does anime make me happy? Through:

  1. Sexual titillation. Sometimes there can be too much of it, but then I stop noticing it when I see too much nudity I stop noticing it (like in Kill La Kill) but some things like the occasional boob-bounce never get old. Some people say they find panty-shots in action-scenes distracting, I barely notice them until they are pointed out to me and I am not displeased in any manner to the sexy and cute female characters in anime. Of course, I prefer it when there is something more but the reason that I find some of Hayao Miyazaki’s works like ‘Spirited Away’ to be snore-fests is the lack of sexualization (and the lack of tension, you know you are going to get a happy ending, the good characters are always right). Fan service for the win!
  2. Humour. Anime is often chastised for being edgy and full of gore and violence and so on, but another characteristic is that most anime series have some comedy in them, true a lot of this humour is repetitive and after I had seen the same jokes for the first hundred times or so it got a bit boring (like the guys getting beat up by tsundere in Rumiko Takahashi’s comedies) and sometimes the humour can be misplaced right like in ‘Full-metal Alchemist: Brotherhood’ or in ‘Hellsing Ultimate’ breaking the immersion but occasionally you do get shows like Konosuba, Zetsubou no Sensei and even ecchi shows like MM! appeal to me.  I like dark humour but the cheerful humour that you find in anime is a nice counterbalance to the violence IMO when used correctly.
  3. Aesthetic Appreciation/Beauty, this is much harder to define, okay I like the large anime eyes, the silly high pitched voices of some characters even when they are annoying especially when they are annoying(Tututuru from Steins; Gate), it’s hard to describe but there are certain scenes like the battle scene of Asuka vs. the Eva series in the ‘The End of Evangelion’  and the last thirty minutes of that film that just look beautiful.
  4. Plot – I mean storytelling. Modern anime especially light-novel adaptations are notorious for screwing up good creative premises by forgetting that execution is what matters the most, still when they get the latter right that’s when you get masterpieces.
  5. Anime Characters – ‘Inspirational’ is a word that is being thrown around so much that it doesn’t mean anything much and in the cynic’s mind it sounds like a euphemism for its antonym, ‘let me show you this very very rare phenomenon which proves that the general rule will be suspended in your case’, well let me tell you a word that is also overused but hasn’t lost its meaning, that word is ‘cool’. Many anime characters (excluding almost all self-insert harem protagonists with broken powers) are cool. Characters like Yang-Wenli from Legend Of Galactic Heroes, Ueki Tylor from The Irresponsible Captain Tylor, Hikigaya Hachiman from My Youth Romantic Comedy is Wrong as I Expected are cool. And you may have a different opinion from mine but of course you would be wrong.

But why anime and not some other form of storytelling/art? As a matter of fact, I do sink in enough time in other forms of entertainment not from Japanese otaku culture but I admit that I find it easier to enjoy anime even when the quality of the storytelling isn’t that high whereas I am more strict when it comes to other forms of entertainment.  I think that the reason for this is two-fold, on the one hand, I have been habituated to watching anime from a very long time but if I am allowed to speculate and be pretentious I would say that for me it reaches the nadir between distancing itself from the real world but also not being completely unrecognizable and alienating as I found most stuff from Hollywood and all the crime fiction on TV to be. I don’t know a lot of the stuff on TV felt too self-aware that there were people watching it(like the Simpsons) and the lines they spoke and the way they acted made the whole thing seem fake. Another thing that undoubtedly first got me into anime was that I didn’t feel I was being condescended to as most TV programming for children seems to do. If anime were made in South America or in England I would still watch it if it would still be the same it is today which it wouldn’t but that’s not the point.

My feelings towards anime have not remained constant over the years that have passed and over the hundreds of hours I have spent(or wasted, your pick) on this hobby, at first I was overwhelmed by the sheer diversity of stories in this medium but at the same time felt very attracted to the stereotypical bashful, stoic and honest characters which were set in stark contrast to the reserved manner in which people act in real life. I have never been a ‘weeaboo’, I have never wanted to go and live in Japan and so on and for a long time ‘Japan’ and ‘Anime’ had nothing to do with each other in my mind, that is until I started reading the manga series ‘Detective Conan’ which was firmly set in Japan, as opposed to some fantasy world, in some historical period in Europe(as many anime series for kids on Italian TV like ‘Heidi’ were set), in some urban setting that may have as well being in Europe and even though I watched ‘Ranma’ somehow the slapstick humour and the colourful characters made me unable to concentrate too much on the setting as I was focused on what other shenanigans the characters would get themselves into. The colourful hairstyles and large-eys didn’t really help me to identify it with Japan but that too is a matter of no importance. Anyway, my focus shifted strictly from the characters to the themes and the ideas and so I watched many of the classics and retro anime, Evangelion et al. And right now my focus is on the storytelling and the artwork, composition, script and to a small extent the directing.

Recently I have been watching almost exclusively old anime because the new stuff feels a bit samey – you know there’s the Sword Art Online clone, the Fujoshi bait show, the yandere/loli show  every season and so on, there are a lot of shit-shows from the past too but it’s easier to pick up the good ones when the hypes surrounding the old series has mostly subsided. Watching anime has sort of become a group experience when it comes to ongoing anime, you know watching anime and then commenting and reading blogs and watching youtube vids about it, on the one hand this is good as I get to see what others think but it doesn’t feel as much a ‘special’ hobby anymore and to be honest I have started to have less respect as to what others think of my anime whereas in the past I was very eager to talk to people to share views about anime and see if they matched. That said that communal feeling has certainly helped me keep up with the new anime whether I want to or not and it makes everything easier as far as accessibility to anime is concerned, there is so much info about anime online, sometimes sharing my views seems like a drop in the ocean. Sometimes I wonder how it must have been in the early anime community when there weren’t so many sites about anime and the few people interested visited the same times to talk with the same people to discuss anime. There are plenty of anime blogs with regular content but seemingly no readers taking into account the few comments they get (like on this one).

Having said all this it is impossible to avoid the subject of escapism. Well, I could say that anime is one way I try to enhance reality rather than detract myself from it but that would be sophistry or at best pedantry, the criticism levied against anime, and more specifically those otaku who watch anime is an unambiguous one that we have disconnected ourselves from the obligations and pleasures to be gained by actively engaging with others by instead spending our time and money on fiction. I don’t have a counter-argument to this point. IT IS SPOT ON.

A Personal View of Femininity

30. June 2017

“If the truth is a cruel mistress then a lie must be a nice girl. And so kindness itself is a lie.”

– Wataru Watari, Oregairu

“And yet who can fail to feel a sort of pleasure in seeing that fraud, feminine delicacy, exploded for once?” – George Orwell, Politics vs. Literature – An examination of Gulliver’s travels

The character traits most closely associated with femininity are kindness and empathy although the latter does not necessarily imply the former. After all, empathy is necessary to practice targeted cruelty to inflict the maximum amount of pain.

I often hear online about how feminists attack masculinity on the basis of it being toxic but despite this in effect women have adopted the same ideals and value systems of men while those of men have by and large remained the same. Is there such a thing as feminity in such an environment anymore? I think there is. In an earlier post where  I laid down my thoughts on masculinity, I said that I don’t think that masculinity is much of a way to differentiate men from women as much as it is a way to tell apart the men from the boys. The reason that I said this is that many traits which are considered to be masculine are also found in women and obviously traits like kindness and empathy are also found in men (and also not found in some women). What purpose does femininity serve then? To differentiate the girls from the women? Partly.

Are femininity and masculinity supposed to complement each other? Yes, but I see it more as something that happens within the mind of an individual and not necessarily between a man and a woman. One may be more one or the other but then what warrants the use of a gendered term like femininity then? Couldn’t kindness and empathy just be called kindness and empathy and not be associated with a specific gender? I think the answer to that is found in the way that courting works but it may lie elsewhere I don’t really care, the point I have been working up to is that femininity is fraudulent because its primary component, kindness is fraudulent.

“Our consciences take NO notice of pain inflicted upon others until it reaches a point where it gives pain to US. In ALL cases without exception we are absolutely indifferent to another person’s pain until his sufferings make us uncomfortable.” – Mark Twain, What is Man?

 

 


On an unrelated note I found this interesting discussion about anime backgrounds on youtube. Some of you may find it interesting, some of you may not. It discusses some of the history and changes in the way anime backgrounds are made and some of the types of anime backgrounds and goes a bit into how they are made too. I find discussions like these interesting but I often feel that they are not enough.

On Holocaust Deniers, Lolita Hentai and Censorship

23. June 2017

I think that those who advocate for censorship ought to be given a taste of their own medicine and be censored into oblivion until they will squirm and beg for freedom of speech. I am afraid unless this is done they will never be able to grasp such a simple point.

What I like to point out to those moral busybodies is there are those find their tripe as harmful as they think that pictures in a comic book are harmful and many who find their beliefs just as if not more disgusting than lolita-themed hentai or holocaust denial.

I know that this may sound ridiculous to those seeking to censor others when public opinion is against that thing that they want to ban but if I were them I wouldn’t rely on the mob as much as the mob will turn on you. This is the reason that freedom of speech is there to protect the minority opinion no matter how reprehensible the majority finds it.  And if an artist is deprived the freedom to draw little children in sexual situations or a writer denied the right to pen an article denying an historical fact then the gates are opened for public opinion to simply decide which things can see the light of the day and it might just so happen that something you think will be unpopular unless if you have any individual opinions.

I am not saying that you should support Holocaust denial or that you should draw lolita-themed pornography but both of those things should be tolerated, people should be free to do these things.

Abenobashi Review

1. June 2017

abenobashi

A show with too much referential humour without a point to make. This is one of Studio Gainax’s weaker shows.

I had high expectations for this series and was dissapointed I only found the humour in the later episodes to be funny and the conclusion was pretty weak and the resolution contrived. All the characters excluding the two main characters continually get reset to fit the new setting of each episode so there is little to no development. Even the growth of the two main characters gets reset completely finally. Don’t expect any conclusive romance you will only be teased with it, this is just a wacky referential comedy that tries and sometimes succeeds to make fun of anime tropes. To be honest I was expecting more from a Gainax show. The subtitled version I watched was woeful for example it replaced “moe” with “charm” as if they mean the same thing, I think you might be better off watching the dub at least its in English.
The animation looked okay, the characters sometimes looked off model but its mainly for comedic effect in hectic animation scenes. The art style changes in some scenes throughout the series to match the varying settings, all of which reflect the fantasies and wishes of our twelve year old protagonist. In the end however this series ends up celebrating what it is mocking as the main character is chosen by fate to change and undo events in a convenient manner using his newly acquired broken powers while giving out a standard shounen coming of age emotional monologue.
If you like referential comedies which are occasionally self-ridiculing then you might like this. I didn’t like the humour too much as the lines given to the characters in each episode were too repetitive and sometimes they spent a whole episode making fun of the same thing until it got boring, towards the end however especially in the “Hollywood” episode it was quite funny seeing all those references to shows and films like Robocop, Knight Rider, Titanic, Indiana Jones, Back to the Future etc.. all coming and going one after the other with an extra dosage of sexual innuendo.
My main gripe with this series is its ending where the boy is able to win the argument against his father purely out of plot conveniences introduced at the very few last minutes of the show. A very different show with very similar themes called Tatami Galaxy managed with its ending to redeem its otherwise clunky humour and characters with an excellent ending. The opposite could be said about Abenobashi. As a certain anime reviewer used to say “the ending is paramount.”

Well, if nothing else I have to say that the girls look pretty cute in this one and it has got the perverted anime tropes that I love.

Tylor’s Plan: An Analysis of The Irresponsible Captain Tylor; or the Japanese Diogenes

14. December 2016

the-irresponsible-captain-tylor

Can’t you see, this is all part of Tylor’s plan? – Captain Don, The Irresponsible Captain Tylor, episode 23.

“Tylor, what is your plan!?”(angry) Captain Don

“Do your best and believe in your destiny.” – Tylor

“It was fun”- The Empress to Tylor

A lot of truth is said in jest in this show. I like to see it as a parody of Legend of Galactic Heroes, I mean what if the genius tactician was just a lucky idiot who was irresponsible enough to do his best and believe in his destiny. It’s as happy go lucky as Gunbuster though it doesn’t quite catch There isch Gunbuster’s scale. There is too much irresponsibility and too much luck to take the show seriously but the show is self-conscious of that, to the point where characters themselves point how much dumb-luck they have had. And the fact that it does so in my opinion places it a bit higher than Great Teacher Onizuka in the scale of honesty, in that it doesn’t pretend that what happens in the show is plausible in any way and so doesn’t become what it makes fun of.

So what was Tylor’s plan? Tylor often confidently says that he has no plan. Was he deceiving everyone while secretly being a genius? Unlikely. I don’t think the point of the show was that stupidity is a virtue. The protagonist reminded me a lot of Onizuka from Great Teacher Onizuka. Onizuka and Tylor do not try to hatch little plans to get near to other people, they wear their emotions on their sleeves and honestly pursue their desires. Tylor’s actions do not have negative consequences and neither do Onizuka’s however The Irresponsible Captain Tylor is more honest than the Great Teacher Onizuka because Tylor is not presented as a saint while Onizuka most certainly is. GTO preaches responsibility but doesn’t practice it. The Irresponsible Captain Tylor doesn’t preach responsibility and doesn’t practice it.

What if Tylor is deceiving everyone including the audience? However unlikely this may seem it is worth considering. The whole point of the show seems to be honest expression of one’s feelings is more effective to touch people’s hearts than hatching plans and playing by all the unwritten rules of social ascension. One of my favourite moments in the show was when Tylor looked disappointed about the medal he was awarded by the military for destroying an enemy fleet but exalted about the hot nurse that became part of the crew. Tylor could see the medal for the chunk of metal that it was. I confess I know little about Diogenes beyond what I read on reddit on a thread about “Who is the Greatest Troll in History” and some articles I read on Wikipedia. Tylor doesn’t care about rank, he only cares about substance.

 

“What is the captain thinking?”- Mr. Yamamoto. The captain thinks about what he wants and tries to get it, the plot works so that he will get it, that is all there is to it.

Tylor’s first order to his crew is “Do whatever you want” shows just how irresponsible he is. But is he really wrong? There is a basic principle that Tylor follows which goes along the lines of, people should be free to do what they want: Even an enemy Empress who has been captured should be allowed to go if she wants. Tylor seems to believe that people will act reasonably morally if only there wasn’t any overarching authority to dictate to them how to act and live. It is a principle worth defending at least some of the time.

“You only live once, so live the way you want to.” I think that the aim of this series is two-fold: make the viewer more proactive and warn them about the danger of living vicariously to someone else and their rules, “life will seep through your fingers” is Tylor’s warning. What I don’t find convincing however is the assurance implied by the improbable events in the plot that things will be all right if you do what you think is right, isn’t the whole reason that we tend to depend on other people’s morals as a reference for our own because that is the most convenient and risk-free? “When it’s time to lose, you will lose no matter what” is Tylor’s answer to that.

“Do your best and believe in your destiny” It is because of simple certainties like this that make The Irresponsible Captain Tylor easy to be dismissed as blindly optimistic and indeed this is where the show lacks substance, it doesn’t show the grimy parts of life enough, if it did so the show would suffer from some kind of personality disorder (which is what happens in the sequel OVAs). However many of these phrases are platitudes and since we live in a world of platitudes they will seem right at least some of the time. Take Rudyard Kipling’s “If” poem for an example of this.

“Rules are not everything” Freedom is, for Tylor. Ultimately there is something that makes the show feel very human, even when it’s characters are borrowed from many other sci-fi anime. It resonates a lot with me and I think it will resonate with other young people too. It’s a masterpiece to me, and Taylor did not “fool us all” we did that to ourselves. As Taylor told his crew “snap out of it life is seeping through your fingers.” Plans are useful but at some point someone has to do something, Taylor took the initiative and as he would say- everything else followed. I think that people are too obsessed with tactics and trinkets when it comes to human relationships, too obsessed with the strategies and rules to follow which they believe will get them to their desired outcome, human relationships are not IKEA furniture that you can build by following an instruction manual and IKEA furniture is never as good as it looks in advertisements. The trinkets they are too obsessed bring no pleasure in and of themselves and therefore have utility or substance in and of themselves, they are merely symbolic like the military medals Tylor couldn’t give two shits about.

In episode 25 and 26 when Tylor leaves the military, Tylor’s first order as Captain’s final order “Do what you want, the way you want to.” echoes his first his first order, actually it is pretty much the same.

The direct lesson of The Irresponsible Captain Tylor is “Don’t live according to someone else’s rules” but the indirect one is not to live vicariously through someone else’s life. I think this was also the point of Neon Genesis Evangelion, the mood in both series is very different because while in Eva everything that can go wrong goes wrong, in The Irresponsible Captain Tylor everything goes right. Tylor claims that once he has abandoned something(or someone) he will have no regrets whatsoever, when commander Yuriko questions his decision to leave his crew, this is not due to a lack of attachment, after all Tylor came back to his ship the Soyokaze whilst having this conversation, it is a lack of neediness that underpins Tylor’s behaviour, he loves himself already so he has no need to put down, or to put anyone up on a pedestal in order to worship himself. When people worship someone else- the military in Mr. Yamamoto’s case, the Empress in the Ralgan Empire’s case- they are really just worshipping themselves, when the object of their adoration is respected by others it brings them prestige. However this has as much to do with the plot as it has to do with the characters, just try imagining the characters in Eva being replaced by those in TICT the whole mood of the series would be inversed. The same goes if the characters in TICT were to be replaced by those of Eva, just imagine Tylor piloting Test-type Unit-01. One of the good things about TICT over Eva is that it is devoid of the constant whining of characters. At some point the characters must realize that their whining is useless and annoying but instead the whining intensifies as the life of the characters lives seep through their fingers. Tylor is not afraid of rejection and he is not afraid of love though I am not sure he is not afraid of death, he just goes for what he wants believing truly that “things will work out” somehow. There is certainly a lot contrived in The Irresponsible Captain Tylor but so it is in Evangelion. They are two extremes, most people’s fortune lies in between. Sometimes more towards one side than the other and at other times… so it is is possible to accept both.

The opposite of a Tylor would be a Tobe (from Oregairu) – A loud mouthed moron whose only talent is to make noise in the hopes it may get him some attention. Tobe is a failed Tylor. He acts like he is a fun-loving, social person because he thinks this will get him some social currency. Tylor doesn’t care about any kind of social currency, he just does what he thinks is right and what he wants to. Another failed Tylor is the protagonist of American Beauty, life had already seeped through his fingers.

Yang-Wenli from Legend of Galactic Heroes is the first character that comes to mind when I watch TICT. Yang-Wenli is just more responsible than Tylor but their belief in human liberty and trust in the individual over authority makes them virtually indistinguishable at heart. I think that Tylor’s existence begs a very important question: What is the point of living a responsible life? Yang Wenli is correct on many of the political points he made, but in the words he himself considers to be the most powerful in the universe and history, “So, what?” I am not complaining about there not being a reward for doing good, this is clearly not always the case, the right thing is often though not always done in informed self-interest. I am not saying that good things ought to be done because they are self-serving rather than because they are good (although good deeds are often done because they are self-serving and there is nothing wrong with this as long as people are honest about their motives). What I am trying to point out is that once people have done what is right there needs to be something else for people to live for, or in one word their needs to be pleasure, fun and happiness. Doing what is right will not always stove away pain, boredom and sadness and this is why people ought to have something to live for beyond doing what is right. Of course what is right comes first because it is what ought to be done but their needs to be something that comes second and that thing is what people want. Otherwise you will get sad people whose only pleasure is to convince themselves that they are always correct, self-righteous, illiberal saints who cannot see any value in Liberty. After all if man is a fallen creature, if this world is nothing but a vale of tears, if man is not a noble creature neither are any of his wants good or worthy of consideration. If this is so, then the only thing that would make sense would be to create a totalitarian theocracy where everything is prohibited unless it is mandatory. The only way to make sense of a need for human freedom is to accept that his pursuits can be neither evil nor good but merely for his own satisfaction. Anything less than this will negate human freedom and remove any moral agency by removing choice.

This something that we must want has to come from within ourselves and not from other people’s fickle approval. Or in other words this thing must not be other people. Other people include women too obviously. Tylor is a case in point, he didn’t hesitate or have any regrets about leaving his crew, his ship, the women who were fawning on him and all of the status he had gained within the military. The only thing that can come true trying to live vicariously through other people is that you will treat them like objects or put them up on a pedestal or worship them or all these things at once and maybe even hate them for not granting your wish. Tylor is vulgar and materialistic and greedy but not as much as those who present themselves as the opposite; just like people every material in this world is temporal, every talent, everything that is pure and lovely, therefore it is those who are not satisfied with this and seek and hunger for something that is not there and therefore settle for nothing who are the ones who more self-indulgent, more greedy and more vulgar. Irony abounds when it is those behaviours of those who seek and hatch plans to gain others approvals that make them nay, us, shifty, dishonest, manipulative and ultimately as Mark Manson is so fond of saying in his book Models, “unattractive” and boring. There needs to be something else, not an obsession, but an easy going, irresponsible, natural, active, honest and therefore healthy willingness to fall into decadence. Decadence in itself is an evil thing. The platitude that it is always easier to do evil than to do good can be easily disproved by looking at the lives of the most infamous tyrants in history but I shall not go into that. Evil is a petty ambition (and so are happiness and pleasure) but the loneliness it brings to its pursuers is a symptom of the sad truth, the sad but alas true condition of all of us – we each and one of us are alone. So what does this mean in practice? Well it means giving up on all those little schemes at appearing good, cultural customs and rehearsed propriety both in our personal and political lives.

Most of the other characters are passive and only the villains and Tylor seem to be doing something, though Tylor’s unusual reaction to everything is the attraction to the show, just like many find Diogenes reactions to everything hilarious. The luck that Tylor has on the battlefield is a breath of fresh air from the simple military tactics in LOGH where everyone’s intelligence needs to be lowered in order for the genius main characters to show off their brilliance and the seriousness of Battle Ship Yamato (I wonder whether I have done too much name dropping in this essay but they are all relevant points). Captain Tylor An Exceptional Episode is an excpetion because it contains the necessary cynicism which if it wasn’t there, then sooner or later the viewers will infuse it into the series in excess. It’s true if there was too much cynicism in the series it wouldn’t fit in with the rest of the series but given that the series is over and that An Exceptional Episode is as long as a full feature film it worked. It was not nice not to see Tylor succeed through sheer luck but some suffering too and a lot patience. My favourite scene in this OVA was when Tylor showed that he is self-conscious about his personality by demonstrating how out of character he would be if he had been angry at his crew. He may have fooled us all after all. The Irresponsible Captain Tylor is first and foremost a comedy that makes fun of Japan’s values before and after the war but it has also got an anarchist/libertarian strain that I wouldn’t trust any person if they did not have it. It isn’t an ode to hedonism because it assumes that most individuals will act morally when left to their own devices because they care about another and that authority is sadistic, hypocritical, hedonistic in its enforcement of kindness and therefore finally unnecessary. Tylor’s western name (well ostensibly American) is essentially an individualistic simple-minded American stereotype set against the Japanese Empire inspired social order. Most of the other human characters are Japanese. If you are going to watch this, do yourself a favour and watch the English dubbed version.

tylor