November 20 is the birthday of Ogiue Maniax, and while I’ve forgotten it before it was never quite to this extent. All I can say is, whoops! It’s not really that big a deal in the grand scheme of things, but an annual look back is one of the traditions of this blog, and it’s one I like to keep up. So, here we are.

Of course the biggest change this year for me and the blog has been moving back to the United States. In light of this, I’ve considered maybe doing something new for it. Perhaps a new banner? Maybe a new series of posts? Then again, the Gattai Girls and Fujoshi Files are still going on, and especially with the former I can only get a new post out once every few months. I also tend to drop a lot of ideas after bringing them up for no other reason than lack of inertia. Switching back to the old daily posting schedule is also a possibility, but at this point it might not be so feasible like it was four years ago.

At the same time, I’m still devoted to posting at least twice a week, though this has come with its own challenges. A few years back, in an effort to not fall behind when I was extremely busy, I started writing a number of posts in advance so I could keep up a consistent schedule. It’s worked, but one side effect is that often-times I’ll have ideas that I should be posting sooner when a show or whatever is fresh in people’s minds, but then I delay it because I have so many. What happens then, if I have a huge archive of drafts such that I don’t have to write anything for a while, is that I start to feel a bit disconnected from anime, manga, games, and even myself. It’s a weird feeling, like somehow I’m engaging less with this stuff (even though I’m still watching and reading plenty). However, if I start posting all of them at once, I get nervous about running out of a supply. I still have posts from like two years ago that I finished and just never published because the timing never seems right, and some I’ve gotten rid of because they just didn’t feel right.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get rid of this feeling, even if this blog magically became my job and I could live off of its profits (fat chance). In fact, that might make me feel even more pressured which might result in Ogiue Maniax losing some of its identity. That’s not always a bad thing, but still something I probably wouldn’t do. I know it sounds like I’m not enjoying the blog anymore, but that’s not the case at all. It’s still my favorite place for talking about the things I love.

To end off, I want to use this post to give a eulogy to my old Tenhou account. Though I managed to reach 4-dan a while back, my own neglect resulted in me failing to log in during the 3-month grace period, and so it’s been suspended with no way to bring it back. I now have to start again from the bottom, though of course that’s not actually the case, seeing as I’m re-starting with a lot more experience behind me.

Name: Kanamori, Hakata (金森 羽片)
Alias: N/A
Relationship Status: Single
Origin: Ebiten: Ebisugawa Public High School Astronomical Club

Information:
Kanamori Hakata is a high school student and a member of Ebisugawa Public High School’s “Tenmonbu,” or “Astronomical Club.” A cosplayer in addition to being a fujoshi, she is often teased and sexually harrassed by the club’s president, Todayama Kyouko. Kanamori is also extremely clumsy, and is a fan of a variety of series, including Saint Seiya.

Fujoshi Level:
Hakata is regularly seen carrying around yaoi doujinshi even in class.

This past season I’ve begun participating in the revived “Anime Power Rankings,” which polls anime bloggers for their top 5 shows each week. It’s not super serious or anything, and people can choose whatever criteria they want for their favorite anime of the week, but doing it myself has made me aware of how much judging something on a per episode basis can differ from one’s assessment of the show as a whole.

I’ve noticed that within the weekly parameters I’ll often find that the shows I enjoy and look forward to the most don’t necessarily take the #1 or #2 slots every time. For example, I’m really into Tribe Cool Crew and Gundam Build Fighters Try, but when judging the merits of individual episodes, in terms of their story, excitement, ability to captivate, interesting ideas, animation, etc., often something like Rage of Bahamut Genesis will win out instead. And yet, I can’t say it’s my favorite show of the season.

Probably the show that suffers the most in my rankings in Selector Spread Wixoss, the sequel to Selector Infected Wixoss. I’m enjoying it a great deal, probably more than Bahamut even, but it almost never makes my weekly Top 5.

This isn’t to fault the Anime Power Rankings system itself; it works for what it’s supposed to reflect. However, it does reinforce in my mind the idea that some series are more than the sum of their parts.

souther-curry

The magazine Comic Zenon has recently announced a special Fist of the North Star-themed curry based on Souther, the strongest of the various practitioners of Nanto Seiken, the Sacred Fist of the Southern Cross. Souther, who uses the “Nanto Houou Ken” or “Southern Cross Phoenix Fist” style, is known for fighting without stances, having his heart on the right side of his body instead of his left, using child slave labor, and riding a three-wheeled motorcycle with a throne on top (sometimes affectionately called a “thronercycle”).

More specifically, the curry is based on the recent parody manga of Fist of the North Star titled Fist of the North Star: Strawberry Flavor. Fist of the North Star is considered one of the most significant, influential, and popular shounen manga series of all time, making it a prime target for parodies both official and otherwise. In this case, Souther is specifically “Supervising Director Souther.”

Fans of Souther and Fist of the North Star will notice that the pyramid shape of the rice is a direct reference to the character. In the original manga, Souther uses his child slaves to build a pyramid in honor of his dead master, which then becomes the site of his and Kenshiro’s final battle.

The curry is available at Cafe Zenon in Tokyo and Kichijouji until January 15th. Other foods include Supervising Director Souther’s Strawberry Sweets and Hyui’s Blue Hawaii Lassi. Stickers, metal badges, and other products are also available.

souther-badge

Name: Sakuraba, Midori (桜庭緑)
Alias: N/A
Relationship Status: Single
Origin: Gakuen Polizi

Information:
Sakuraba Midori is a student at Hanagaki All-Girls’ High School and a long-time member of the undercover inter-school student police force “Gakuen Polizi.” Having transferred from another school, Sakuraba is paired up with a new agent named Sasami Aoba. Though often exasperated with Sasami’s enthusiasm and rookie mistakes, the two work to solve various issues pertaining to the student body. Cool and reticent, Sakuraba is also a member of the manga club and often draws BL manga in her spare time, though she tries to keep it a secret from others.

Fujoshi Level:
Sakuraba’s manga appears to be solely dedicated to yaoi. Though she argues that BL manga is just a hobby for her, she also devoted a considerable amount of attention to it.

Raraiya_mondayGundam: Reconguista in G continues to be the kind of whirlwind experience that I love in a Tomino anime. Part of that feeling comes from the show’s tendency to throw around a lot of terms without explanation that everyone but the viewer understands, only to gradually peel back the layers over time. Among these many terms are clear references to the Universal Century timeline of the original Mobile Suit Gundam that Tomino directed back in 1979, and I’ve noticed that there are a couple that relate strongly to the character Lalah Sun from that first series.

The first and most prominent reference is the G-Reco character Raraiya Monday. Not only does she have dark skin like Lalah and appear to exhibit some connection to the G-Self, the “Gundam in everything but name” of the series, but characters will sometimes even refer to her as “Rara,” which sounds mostly similar to Lalah in Japanese (ララ vs.  ララァ). When looking at their last names as well, a connection forms: Lalah Sune -> Lalah Sunday -> Rara Monday -> Raraiya Monday.

The second reference comes from one of the terms being tossed around by characters that has yet to be seen: The blueprint of the “Rose of Hermes.” In Japanese, Hermes is pronounced “Erumesu” (エルメス), which is the exact same pronunciation as Lalah Sune’s Mobile Armor, the “Elmeth.”

(By the way, I learned about the pronunciation thing from watching Densha Otoko, which has as an important object in its story, Hermes-brand tea cups.)

What does this all mean? While I don’t know if these are thematic references or actual plot points, if I were to assume the latter it would mean a few things. First, Raraiya is probably a Newtype (maybe even a Cyber Newtype given her personality?), and the reason nobody is aware of this possibility is because the concept of Newtypes has been buried with time (we also see the protagonist Bellri have occasional Newtype-like flashes). Second, the blueprint of the “Rose of Hermes” might actually refer to design documents for the Elmeth’s bits. If that were the case, whoever joins Raraiya with the Rose of Hermes would gain a powerful weapon, which would also connect to the criticism of militarization that is a central plot point in Reconguista in G.

As Hato and Yajima struggle to make more manga, Kuchiki announces that he’s finally finished his senior thesis and wants to have a club trip in celebration. Though Kuchiki would prefer to travel abroad, the other members can’t afford to do so and they ultimately decide on going to Nikkou, and to stay at Yajima’s parents’ house, which is close to Nikkou. However, the club soon finds out that not only is Madarame coming along but so are some of the girls interested in him—Angela and Keiko. Moreover, Yajima somewhere deep inside sees this as an opportunity to get closer to Hato.

I feel a bit sorry for Kuchiki at this point. Think about it: Genshiken is the closest thing he has to friends, and all of them barely tolerate his existence. They have good reason for treating him that way, of course, but even what’s supposed to be a farewell vacation in celebration of Kuchiki finishing his senior thesis is secretly a “finally Kuchiki will be out of our hairs for good” adventure. On some level, I respect Kio for keeping Kuchiki around all this time, even if he’s rarely present. I feel that with a character this grating, most manga would have jettisoned him for the sake of popularity, but there Kuchiki was, being “that guy” after Haraguchi graduated long ago. It’s as if there’s a need to remind people that being a dork isn’t always endearing, but that the issue comes less from just being socially awkward and more from lacking consideration for others in your words and actions. The only question is, if this manga continues, will someone new and equally irritating eventually take his place?

As for the real meat of the story this month (sorry Kuchiki but you’re a side note even in this chapter), it looks like the feelings of jealousy (?) expressed by Hato towards Yajima and her superior manga-making skills are blossoming into something more. Though, to be accurate, it’s more like Yajima is trying to passively seize this opportunity to get closer to Hato in a way she never could, as an equal (or perhaps even a superior). It wasn’t so long ago that Yoshitake was barely able to get Yajima to admit that she has feelings for Hato, and to see her begin to sort of, kind of make a move is nothing if not impressive. I think the idea being expressed through their interaction is that, for Yajima, being able to see Hato as imperfect boosts her own confidence and thus her ability to see Hato as a “possibility” in her life. This comes across clearly when Yajima gives Hato advice on his manga, saying that it’s only half-done. Yajima has never acted like that around anyone, let alone Hato, the closest being when she acts as the “big sister” (or maybe something more?) to Mimasaka, or when she’s looking to strangle Yoshitake. There’s also something very real about the creator’s blocks that Hato and Yajima are experiencing, as Hato is struggling to get his story out in a cohesive sense while Yajima’s brilliance came from a lot of pent up emotion and a situation that is just difficult to replicate.

One of the main factors in the trip to Nikkou is Madarame and the Girls Who Love Him, which is not only a cruel joke against Kuchiki but also evidence that, despite some traumatic experiences with them, Keiko and Sue’s stories aren’t over yet (Sue isn’t mentioned but I’m sure she’ll be a part of the trip somehow). On top of that, it’s now Angela’s turn to have her chapter, and the fact that the setting is a trendy tourism spot makes me wonder if it’ll be Angela’s flirtation cranked up to 11 (especially if she catches wind of what Keiko attempted), or if she’ll go for a more subdued approach in her (mostly accurate) assessment of how to nab an otaku boyfriend.

As a final, Ogiue-related note, Ohno’s comment on the Karuizawa trip being the start of Sasahara and Ogiue’s romance made me realize that, probably much like Ogiue herself, I had always associated that whole thing with trauma and pain. You can even see Ogiue’s reaction to this when Kuchiki mentions Karuizawa and she’s the only one with a sweatdrop. However, Ohno has a point, and it really is the turning point for Ogiue, her sense of self, and her happiness. Karuizawa is when she managed to finally let it all out, whether in a long and sad drunken rant to the other girls, or to Sasahara as they were walking. It’s kind of amazing that the meaning of such a significant moment in Genshiken, for Ogiue, and by extension for this blog Ogiue Maniax, could still continue to change.

 

Name: Fujiyoshi Sakurako (藤吉桜子)
Alias: The Virgin Mary (聖女マリア)
Relationship Status: Single
Origin: Hebi to Maria to Otsuki-sama

Information:
Fujiyoshi Sakurako is a high school student attending St. Otaku Women’s Academy. A closet fujoshi, she maintains an outward image of innocence and purity to the extent that she is referred to by fellow students as the Virgin Mary. The only people who initially know her secret are her mother, a famous romance novelist, and her best friend (and otome game otaku) Yori. Sakurako has experience drawing doujinshi as well as reading plenty of it.

Initially blackmailed by two high school boys who discover her hobby, Sakurako discovers that the two are actually the true identity behind “Maria Megu,” Sakurako’s favorite BL artist. She begins working as an assistant for them.

Fujoshi Level:
Sakurako kills two birds with one stone, maintaining her image as a refined lady while reveling in her own fujoshi ways by hiding her BL inside of fine literature books.

When Disney announced that they had purchased Marvel, they opened themselves up to three things: jokes, cross-promotional opportunities, and new material from which to create new stories. The first two have been well in supply, while the third has just made its debut in the form of Big Hero 6, a 3DCG film loosely adapted from a Marvel comic series of the same name. The result is a movie that wears its lineage as the offspring of Disney and Marvel upfront, and which for the most part benefits from combining the raw, simple excitement of superheroes with the old Disney desire of creating family-friendly and uplifting animated films.

Story-wise, Big Hero 6 is an overall strong affair. The film centers around a 13-year-old boy named Hiro Hamada, a young robotics prodigy from the awkward portmanteau of “San Fransokyo” who mostly squanders his talents. Due to the influence of his older brother Tadashi, as well as Tadashi’s own creation in the form of a gentle healthcare robot named Beymax, Hiro is set on a path that leads him to not only pursue his ambitions but become a full-fledged superhero in the process. Big Hero 6 balances humor with action and a bit of tragedy, and it’s amazing how much can be done with a simple fistbump joke. On top of that, though, there are two qualities in the film, or I should say the protagonist, that stand out to me.

First, Hiro is an Asian protagonist in a field that is classically connected to the image of white heroes. At first, this might not seem that important because both Disney and Marvel have histories with Asian characters. Disney has Mulan and American Dragon Jake Long, and if we’re counting the Middle East as part of Asia as well, then there’s also Aladdin. Marvel has numerous superheroes that are ethnically Asian, such as Sunfire and Jubilee. However, I what’s special about Hiro is being able to see an Asian hero at the center of a big, important Disney + Marvel movie as someone whose abilities are not derived from his “Asian-ness,” especially because of how both companies have historically projected an image of “whiteness,” intentional or otherwise. Both companies have most recently shown a greater concern for diversity in characters (see Princess and the Frog and the new Ms. Marvel for a few examples), and while Big Hero 6 may not be the first, it is a clear and concerted effort to further show heroes of all kinds. To have powers derived from some mystical East Asian aspect is not inherently a bad thing, but it is quite overdone. While there is the risk of the association of Japan with technology and thus a kind of Techno-Orientalism, it never comes across that way even as San Fransokyo greatly resembles a Disney-fied Blade Runner Los Angeles.

The second important aspect of hero, which I’ve already mentioned, is that he’s a nerd. At this point nerd chic is old hat, and we’re at a point where so many people play video games that there’s little of the stigma that used to be there, but I think this is still important because of the portrayal of nerds in media, especially in Disney and Marvel properties. Again, both companies are not inherently against hyper-intelligent characters; Phineas and Ferb, a comedy about two genius kids, is one of Disney’s most successful properties in recent memory, while Marvel has characters like Professor X leading the X-Men. However, in both cases the go-to formula for hero vs. villain primary conflict has been some form of brawn vs. brains, where intelligent characters are scheming connivers: Scar to Mufasa, Jafar to Aladdin (who granted is more clever than anything else, but it’s a different type of smarts), Captain America vs. the Red Skull, Hulk vs. Leader. Big Hero 6 doesn’t just flip this into a good brains vs. evil brawn scenario, but actually makes it brains vs. brains. At the climax it’s a matter of pitting intellects against each other (albeit intellects redirected to look a whole lot like brawn) which are doing battle.

Of course, the brainy Asian who’s good at math is still a prominent stereotype, but this is mitigated by the fact that many different characters, Asian and non-Asian, are shown to be intelligent and into robotics. The rest of the core cast, which is mostly comprised of Tadashi’s college friends, are Asian, Black, White, etc., who are all so enthusiastic about developing technology that they went to college to accomplish that. Additionally, these characters have not just ethnic diversity but also a kind of physical diversity as well. While it doesn’t go as far as to include, say, handicapped or transgendered characters (which is still probably a risky step for a company like Disney and so unlikely to happen), the characters have a wide range of body shapes and sizes. Compare for example the difference between the tall and thin Honey Lemon and the shorter and rounder Gogo, both of whom are portrayed as beautiful in their own ways without their beauty being their most defining features or their primary functions in the narrative.

Speaking of diversity, the character Wasabi, who in the context of the film is the nickname for a black character, was originally a source of some controversy because his name was “Wasabi-no-Ginger” for an Asian character. I can see why this got a bad reaction, but I do wonder if it was supposed to be a reference to how manga characters are sometimes named. Most famously, Toriyama Akira, creator of Dragonball Z, names most of his characters after food (Vegeta), food-related products (Freeza), or underwear (Trunks). Here, the choice to change a Japanese character with a potentially offensive name into a black character might in a vacuum be considered on the same level as turning a non-white character into a Caucasian, but I think the contexts are different. My opinion on this is still undecided, but I think it’s the result of both an increasing awareness of cultural sensitivity and how important that can be, along with Disney responding to a market that increasingly cares about this issue.

This being primarily an anime and manga blog, I also want to mention all of the references and similarities to anime and manga that litter the film. From Hiro’s not-Mazinger Z wall clock to the fact that his superhero outfit looks awfully similar to Priss Asagiri’s hardsuit in Bubblegum Crisis, there’s much love paid to mecha in a way similar to Pacific Rim and even anime like Robotics;Notes which are also love letters to robot shows. Having seen it only once in theaters I couldn’t go over it with a fine-toothed comb, but attention is paid to Japan and its own history of animation. Given Frozen and its enormous success in Japan, I wonder if Big Hero 6 with its Japanese protagonist can perform similarly

Overall, Big Hero 6 is a strong first step in a lot of different areas. It’s good as the true debut of the Disney-Marvel alliance, and even better as a product of both companies’ increasing efforts to represent and inspire a multicultural environment. There’s clear intent at franchising this film, so I’ll be curious as to where it all goes.

Note: As is evidenced by some of my recent posts, I’ve been quite into the new Super Smash Bros. as of late, and have been participating in online discussions more because of it. Rather than keeping those posts in forums or on other sites, however, I’ve decided to also include them here as “supplemental” blog posts.

Taken from Smashboards:

I’m not competitive on the level of anyone in this discussion thread, but I wanted to post in here just because the direction of this conversation is one that I’ve seen fought a million times over in multiple competitive gaming communities. I’m not a game designer so I can’t say firsthand what works and what doesn’t, but what I mainly want to say is that it’s very easy to take a firm position on how competitive games “should be” but it risks inadvertently accusing others of making or even playing games “incorrectly.”

Sirlin usually comes up in these arguments because of his emphasis on yomi and how polarizing it can be. To simplify Sirlin for a bit, he believes that execution barriers are the devil and if we could all play with purely our thoughts and intentions games would be much better. Essentially, Sirlin wants games to answer the question, who is the superior thinker? It makes sense, but mainly if you see games as “brains over brawn.”A number of years back Sirlin took a class on Starcraft Brood War that was being given at a university, and from his perspective one of the issues with Brood War is how tedious the game is in terms of things you have to click to even play the game at a remotely decent level. I can’t remember the exact words, but he basically suggested something like a maximum cap to APM so that who presses buttons faster wouldn’t be a measure of skill. Instead, it would be about using your actions wisely instead of simply some people getting more opportunities than others. Naturally, the Brood War community disagreed. It loved the idea of APM as an execution barrier, or more specifically the combination of speed and precision needed to use it effectively. It separated chumps from champs, and when a great player is able to build his army so perfectly because he never misses a beat in his production cycles, it’s viewed as a thing of beauty.

We’ve heard it over and over again that fun is subjective. It’s the rebuttal that competitive Smash players use against the argument that they’re playing the game wrong because they don’t embrace the free for all chaos that Smash advertises itself as. It applies here too: different people get satisfaction out of games differently, and this includes competitive gaming as well. In other words, while Sirlin views games as a domain of the mind, some people like the idea of being able to defeat brains with brawn even in games. They like the idea that they can train up their “muscles”, and that, by being bigger, faster, and stronger too, even the most brilliant tactical mind in the world wouldn’t be able to keep up.

For some, mastering a frame-perfect 50-hit combo in an anime fighter sounds like the most tedious thing ever. You sit around, committing things to muscle memory, hardly a showing of your mental skill. However, for others, improving your ability to read the player and to think more critically in a match is too abstract a reward. Others still might believe that the true test of skill comes from managing luck and taking advantage of uncertainty, as in games like mahjong or Texas Hold ‘em. Depending on where you fall between those two extremes, different games appeal to different people because of what they believe “competition” means. Bobby Fischer famously promoted a version of chess where starting positions were randomized because he believed that chess was becoming too reliant on memorizing openings, but it didn’t stick because, most likely, people on some level liked being able to improve by having superior memorization compared to their opponents (inertia from years and years of tradition was probably a factor as well).

I think the implicit disagreement as to how games should be competitive is what creates such tension within Smash Bros. itself. You have this massive clash of philosophies within a single franchise, and even within a single game. Putting aside the fact that Melee is more mechanically difficult than Smash 4 (as far as we know), and that this has created some dissatisfaction for players who believe the Melee way is the best, even Smash 4 itself has different philosophies behind its characters which can cater to different people’s idea of “competitive fun.” We’ve seen the argument that Sonic’s gameplay is degenerative because it forces the opponent to have to guess where he’s going to be and throw out moves in the hopes of catching Sonic, but there are people who love the idea of games as gambles, of having to shoot into the darkness because there’s a thrill in being able to more effectively navigate uncertainty. This isn’t to deny the frustration fighting Sonic can create, nor is it an argument that Sonic or any other character is balanced or imbalanced. Rather, it’s about the fact that different characters in Smash end up embodying different concepts of competitive play, and when they clash there’s always the chance that arguments of a character being bad for gameplay for being too simple or complex or whatever. It’s important to think beyond our own conception of competitive fun and to be able to see from the perspective of others.

Official sources for Genshiken Second Season

Twitter

Archives

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,716 other followers

%d bloggers like this: