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In the second episode of the Video Game Championship Wrestling series spinoff, “Extreme Dudebro Wrestling,” Lucina from Fire Emblem: Awakening made her way to the ring. Just as VGCW makes the chat itself part of the viewing experience, so too does EDBW, and Lucina’s arrival brought with it some powerful (text) chants.

“LET’S GO CINA!”

“CINA SUCKS!”

Anyone who’s familiar with the WWE over the past decade is likely familiar with the origin of these dueling chants. Loved by kids, reviled by adult fans who grew up with The Rock and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, John Cena’s popularity splits the audience in two whenever he wrestles. Naturally, VGCW fans did not pass up an opportunity for some wordplay.

Of course, this is to be expected, right? It’s a constructed wrestling universe based on popular video game and occasional anime characters, so this type of crossover should lead to cross-demographic jokes. And yet, when I watch and participate in any of the VGCW chats, I feel like I’m being exposed to a group which I normally don’t interact with otherwise. Somehow, even though I’m friends with anime fans, gamers, and smarks, I’ve never found myself in the middle of their convergence as much as I do in VGCW. That’s what makes all the Table-san jokes work, where the announcer’s table is jokingly viewed as a shy and meek anime girl whose day always get ruined when Wrestler A decides to powerbomb/suplex/elbow drop Wrestler B on top of her.

The connection between anime fandom and wrestling is a lot stronger in Japan, where you had series like Kinnikuman which continue to get referenced even today, as well as real life wrestlers based on anime like Jushin Liger and Tiger Mask. It’s sort of like if Zeus from No Holds Barred turned out to be one of the best, most beloved wrestlers ever when he made his WWF appearance.

As for Lucina, she fell behind the entire match, barely missing out on being pinned for the 3-count over and over. Then, as if the entire match was simply an opportunity for her to mount a comeback, she landed a DDT and a devastating finisher and won the match. The chat exploded, realizing that Lucina was even closer to John Cena than expected.

As they say, Hustle, Royalty, Respect.

I’ve been trying out Manga Box lately, an official manga app for some more obcure titles. One of the titles I keep up with is NadeNadeShikoShiko, a bizarre 4-koma gag manga about a boy and the time-displaced cavegirl who loves him. It’s not the funniest thing in the world but it consistently gets a chuckle or two out of me.

The latest joke to get a laugh out of me involves one of the teachers. In the story, the boy attends a school with a “yamato nadeshiko” major where girls learn how to be traditional Japanese beauties. Part of the yamato nadeshiko thing is to contrast the cavegirl’s attitude, while another is to have kimono as school uniforms (which reminds me of Taisho Baseball Girls and its depiction of the transition between kimono and sailor uniforms). However, when we see the head teacher for the yamato nadeshiko department it turns out that she indeed embodies a more “classical” idea of Japanese beauty.

The joke of course is that she looks like stepped straight ouf an ukiyo-e print, and how this contrasts so utterly with the typical manga bishoujo style used for the rest of the characters. More than just being funny though, it really got me thinking about illustrated perceptions of beauty because neither the manga style as we know it nor this classical style of depicting women are “realistic” in the most common sense. They both make specific decisions on how features should ideally look (small eyes vs. big eyes), and while there are some overlapping points namely in the valuing of pure tones for skin, their differences really bring out the way culture plays into what we see as beautiful and how this builds upon itself.

Honestly, I can’t quite comprehend how that’s supposed to be beautiful. In realizing this, however, I realize I’ve been somewhat hypocritical when I question how younger or newer anime fans have trouble watching older shows. After all, if I can’t quite appreciate this older conception of beauty, am I all that different?

Over yonder, beyond the horizon, is the Saki individuals tournament arc. It’s been referred to frequently throughout the series, and though at this point the manga is a long, long way from reaching it, it does give me the joy of speculating who might face whom as they go through the brackets (or round robin system, not sure which they’re using). One I’ve already mentioned before is Amae Koromo vs. Oohoshi Awai because of how their strengths lie at opposite ends of the game, but there are plenty of others.

Minor manga spoilers, by the way. Remember though, these are not actual matches but just ones (in no particular order) that I’d like to see.

1) Kataoka “Tacos” Yuuki vs. Usuzumi “Hell’s Gate” Hatsumi

I think this one is pretty obvious. Imagine Yuuki as dealer in the East round (meaning she’s double East) versus Hatsumi in the North position. To whom do the East tiles go?

2) Oohoshi “Double Riichi” Awai vs. Anetai “Undertaker” Toyone

Awai’s insane Double Riichi vs. Toyone’s Pursuit Riichi. Who overpowers who?

3) Matano “Fisherman” Seiko vs. Inoue “Strategic Pon” Jun

Both have a tendency to call for tiles but for very different reasons (winning vs. control). Seeing them in the same match would likely make for a very aggressive game.

4) Funakubo “Osaka Data Girl” Hiroko vs. Sawamura “Nagano Data Girl” Tomoki

Two characters who specialize in gathering information on their opponents. Who is the better strategist?

5) Aislinn “New Zealander” Wishart vs. Hao “Chinese-Style” Huiyu

Aislinn is capable of envisioning the perfect scenario in her mind and having it play out to her advantage. Mako ruined her day by disrupting the discard patterns that Aislinn had set out, but then Huiyu tends to prefer closed, quiet hands. At the same time, Huiyu’s Chinese-influenced play style is highly unorthodox and could disrupt Aislinn possibly without any effort on Huiyu’s part.

If you’ve watched all of Samurai Flamenco you’ll know that even though the show has humble beginnings and then progressively gets into increasingly more outlandish territory. It’s the kind of thing that you try to keep your mouth shut about so as not to spoil the uninitiated (by the way, SPOILER WARNING), partially because it’s obvious how intentional the whole thing has been.

The main character Masayoshi goes from tryng to be like a Kamen Rider-type to actually being a Kamen Rider-type, to being the leader of a Super Sentai team (with giant robot) and eventually even an Ultraman-style giant (and that’s not even mentioning the final genre shif at the end). The changes are so abrupt and swing so heavily from one thing to the next that I can only interpret the show as poking fun at the mid-season corporate meddling that can happen to a tokusatsu series and yet genuinely embrace it as a part of tokusatsu history.

I have to wonder, did Samurai Flamenco hint at this from the start? Perhaps Samumenco was always projecting an aura of neverending incongruities. Just think about the name “Samurai Flamenco.” What gimmicks or powers would a guy with a codename like that have? He’d maybe have some rhythm or dancing abilities (like Cure Lovely in Happiness Charge Precure) and probably a costume based more on a Japanese suit of armor. Real tokusatsu series do similar things, like how Ressha Sentai ToQger currently features trains, and even the fake in-universe shows of Samurai Flamenco like Red Axe features… a guy with an axe. Samurai Flamenco, however, is neither Samurai nor Flamenco, and when he finally gets a set of effective weapons his gimmick of all things turns out to be “weaponized office supplies.” In that respect suddenly getting a giant robot that’s a mix of Combattler V and Dancougar isn’t so odd.

Perhaps Samurai Flamenco was always about the hodgepodge, the elements that don’t quite fit together so you have to smash them all in and enjoy what comes out. After all, it does start with a guy dressed like a superhero getting beat up by kids, who then forms a friendship with a cop where they sit around and watch children’s television.

Name: Kondou, Mayuka (近藤繭佳)
Alias:
Mr. X (ミスターX)
Relationship Status:
Single
Origin:
Onii-chan no Koto nanka Zenzen Suki Janain Dakarane!

Information:
Kondou Mayuka is a model high school student and class president who in contrast to her pristine reputation secretly goes out at night to buy BL magazines. When she accidentally bumps into her classmate Takanashi Shuusuke one evening while the two are on their respective porn runs, she winds up making Takanashi into her “pet,” an errand boy who has to buy BL for her in exchange for food and pats on the head. While she at first she keeps him around by way of threats, the two eventually develop an actual friendship.

Kondou is adept at cooking and studying. Her most noticeable feature is her black pantyhose, to the extent that she singlehandedly induces a black pantyhose fetish in Takanashi. Mayuka has feelings for Takanashi, though they appear to be tied to her fondness for yaoi and wish to see him in equally dire situations. Her alter ego, Mr. X, is her personal name for when she wishes to disguise herself and her fujoshi side.

Fujoshi Level:
The reason Mayuka turns Shuusuke into her errand boy is that while she desires more extreme yaoi titles she is too embarrassed to buy them on her own, showing that while her imagination is vast she has limits based in reality.

!!!SPOILER WARNING!!! THIS POST ASSUMES YOU’VE SEEN ALL OF KILL LA KILL

Kill la Kill has been a fairly controversial show since its start. Back in the early episodes I remember seeing a great deal of questions suspicious of what I’d call the anime’s “integrity.” Does this story have any legs or is is just a random assortment of wacky and violent things? Is there a solid sense of character development at work, or is it all style and flash? Are the ridiculously skimpy outfits there to titillate or to make a point?

In other words, is the show smart or stupid?

For those who’ve watched through to the end, I think the answer is pretty clear: much like the question of whether Ryuko and Senketsu are human or clothing, Kill la Kill is neither smart nor stupid, yet it’s also smart and stupid.

I’m oversimplifying the point in the hope of expressing my thoughts succinctly, so let me elaborate.

A lot of features of Kill la Kill simultaneously buck and conform to convention. Traditionally, when we think of narrative in anime, we think of it as the visual style serving the plot, but in a lot of cases Kill la Kill shifts between which facet, narrative or style, takes priority, and sometimes they act as equals. In this last regard, I think one of the best moments to showcase this in Kill la Kill is Satsuki’s apology to Ryuko, where her characteristic blinding aura takes on new meaning.

Kill la Kill also encompasses both of anime-as-animation’s dual personas. Is anime a detailed and expressive medium which breathes life into its characters, or is it a series of creative money-saving cheats honed through decades to become a craft all of its own? In Kill la Kill, while it’s easy to tell which moments are which, often the scenes which exemplify the latter quality of anime are so smart and effective that I wouldn’t be surprised if people preferred them to be “static” shortcuts.

When it comes to anime and pop culture references, the series is rife with them. Yet, there’s no need to “get” them to enjoy the show, or to take meaning from it. I’m 90% sure that Ryuko and Senketsu’s decent to Earth is a reference to the ending to Zambot 3, only the show takes the extremely bittersweet conclusion of Zambot 3 and turns it into something more sweet than bitter.

(Pay attention to the last 6 minutes or so. Also, Zambot 3 spoilers of course).

What about the theme of clothing? Did it truly serve the show in the end? When Senketsu burns up in the atmosphere and tells Ryuko that all girls stop wearing their school uniforms eventually, while it doesn’t explain everything in the show, it does highlight one of the consistent themes of the series, which is that it’s about girls growing into women. The moments of embarrassment, the rebelliousness and desire to make up for lost time, there are a lot of different threads at work here (pardon the pun), which may not be entirely consistent, but it doesn’t feel like the ideas presented by the series are any lesser for that. Ryuko’s motto, that she’s all about not making sense, comes to the fore here. While what she says is true in a sense, her ability to embrace nonsense, to swing wildly in terms of her emotions, and to come to conclusions which are less about solving problems and more about coming to terms with things in ways which fit her, all of that has its own logic.

What works, works, and who’s to say anyone has to follow the template laid out for them? Though, even that isn’t wholly consistent because the “purpose” of Senketsu has a clear arc, at least in terms of utility. Of course, the real purpose of Senketsu was to bond with Ryuko in more ways than one.

As for one of the main controversies, that of the show’s depictions of female characters, I find that we’re left with a surprisingly complex situation as well. All of the major female characters in Kill la Kill are strong in significantly different ways, and they each bear their own distinct personalities and personas which celebrate their broad archetypes but also encourage viewers to think about those differences as more than just “uniqueness points.” Ryuko’s strength is her passion, Satsuki’s is her indomitable will, and Mako’s is her relentlessness. This extends to a certain degree to the rest of the cast as well, for both men and women, notably the Elite Four. With respect to the tendency for the series to dress its central characters up in absurdly revealing outfits, it’s a curious thing that often the way that Ryuko and Satsuki carry themselves drives attention away from their curves and towards their intensity. It’s not even entirely a matter of personality over looks, as Senketsu and Junketsu themselves also sometimes help to, in a somewhat contradictory fashion, put the focus on themselves and not on the bodies to which they’re clinging.

kamuisenketsu-small

 

While I find that the initial criticism of Kill la Kill came from a place of fear (oh boy, it’s anime at it again!), I think those who were initially wary of Kill la Kill also had every right to be. There was no definitive sign that the differences and the “stupid” elements wouldn’t transform the show into an Ikkitousen or some other show where the girls are action figures placed into awkwardly sexual poses. There was no definitive sign that its setting would be any different from Baka and Test or any number of series where the idea of “high school” is pushed to the “extreme.” What Kill la Kill manages to do, however, is give these inclinations teeth. It shows that these tropes and “vapid elements” have more power in them than simply their ability to distract and excite, that they can be engaged and utilized to express something I would dare call truly artistic.

 

Episode 1 of Space Dandy made an impact by killing off its main characters. In episode 2 they were back, and I think everyone (including myself) took this as a sign of the show not treating death or continuity very seriously. Supporting this is the fact that many episodes after this had odd, seemingly irreversible turnouts, like the zombie takeover of the universe, or the Redline-esque galactic race leading into time travel.

At the end of every episode there’s a catchy ending theme (by the singer of the Mawaru Penguindrum openings) which talks nonchalantly about the quantum physicist Hugh Everett III and the confusion caused by his theory of… parallel universes.

PARALLEL UNIVERSES.

DAMN IT.

Mako in Episode 23 of Kill la Kill gives a speech where she exclaims, “But I can’t be beaten here! I have to protect this ship!” The visual accompaniment actually consists of a rapid-fire sequence of puns, which I thought I’d break down here.

1) “But I can’t be beaten here!”

Koko de taoreru wake niwa ikanai mon!

killlakill-makopun-taoreru

Taoreru can mean ‘”to be defeated” but it’s also used when saying someone has fallen ill or worse. Mako is posed as if she were a corpse.

killlakill-makopun-wa

killlakill-makopun-ke

Wake is broken up into its syllables: wa (輪) means ring, hence the loop made with her fingers, ke (毛) means hair.

killlakill-makopun-niwa

Niwa is represented by Mako dressed as two birds because niwa (二羽) is how you count two birds.

killlakill-makopun-ika

Ika means squid (烏賊), a familiar pun for all you Squid Girl fans.

killlakill-makopun-nai

Nai is used as a negative conjugation in Japanese verbs, so we get the familiar image of Mako shaking her head. Ikanai means cannot, but more in the sense of “I musn’t.”

killlakill-makopun-mon

Mon is a way to emphasize one’s emotional investment. Mako is posing in the shape of the kanji 門, pronounced mon, which means gate.

2) “I have to protect this ship!”

Kono fune mamorenai to

killlakill-makopun-kono

Kono means “this,” Mako is pointing down at “this.”

killlakill-makopun-fune

Fune means boat, Mako is in a sushi boat, simple enough.

killlakill-makopun-mamore

killlakill-makopun-naito

Mamorenai to means “have to protect,” which is split up into mamore, “protect,” and nai to, which is also how you pronounce “knight” in Japanese.

Hope you learned something!

This post is about a week late to the “Kill la Kill episode 22 was awesome” meeting, but Kill la Kill episode 22 was awesome. As far as I’ve seen, this has been the general consensus among fans of the show, and it’s no surprise given the fact that many of the show’s narrative threads reached their turning points in this episode. While 22 was packed with a ton of impressive moments (like the Evangelion reference with Ryuuko hunched over and covered in blood like EVA-01), I’d like to talk about ones that I enjoyed in particular.

1) The Glory of Mako and More

The return of Fight Club Mako will forever be one of the glorious highlights of Kill la Kill, but in that triumphant return there is also a serious Ira x Mako moment. I’ve been a fan of that particular pairing and of course as the show has progressed it’s turned very real and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. While people will talk about the fact that Gamagoori eats Mako-shaped croquettes in the episode as the Ira x Mako moment of the episode, I actually turn to Fight Club Mako’s appearance instead.

At the end of the episode, the heroes are attacked by a giant COVERS monster when out of a sky drops a dresser. As we know now, Mako in her banchou outfit is in there, but how does she introduce herself? Mako’s over-sized fist comes flying out of the dresser door and socks the giant monster, a feat of comedic spatial distortion the show normally associates with Gamagoori.

You can keep your croquettes.

2) Satsuki’s Radiance

In episode 22, Satsuki finally comes clean with her entire plan, and how she intended to use Ryuko as an x-factor in her rebellion against her mother’s global domination scheme, but realizes that manipulating others to serve her needs was the wrong way to go about it. Satsuki then apologies and takes a deep bow (the lower you go, the more humble and respectful you’re being, see Barack Obama), and then begins to emit a blinding light.

One of the visual icons of Satsuki throughout the series has been her literal radiance. When Satsuki appears, a blinding light shines forth from her, as if to say that she is simply that much more amazing than everyone else around her. It is as much a part of her character as her indomitable will and her giant eyebrows, but when you think about it, it hasn’t been around for quite a few episodes. To have the moment where Satsuki sets aside her pride also be the point at which she is at her most brilliant encapsulates the character so wonderfully that in an episode of great things it’s an absolute high-point.

In other words, to see the visual style of Kill la Kill match up so well with its narrative is just a rewarding experience.

I finished watching Sengoku Majin Goshogun recently. It’s notable for being an earlier work from the director of the early Pokemon anime, though overall it’s an okay show at best with a kickin’ rad opening. There are, however, a few things about the show that really stand out, and make the show fairly memorable.

Warning: Spoilers

Goshogun is abouta mecha-loving boy named Kenta  who, along with the crew of the mighty robot Goshogun and their teleporting airship the Good Thunder, fight against an evil organization bent on world domination. While the episodes are often kind of bland and episodic, the ones which explore the pasts of the main characters tend to be quite interesting. It’s one thing when the lead pilot Shingo is a generic do-gooder type, but it’s another when you learn that his past was full of danger and tragedy and that he actively chooses to be the Good Guy in spite of all that.

Actually, the show in general has amusing characters. Remy Shimada is the fiery female character of the series, and while she often talks about not being able to get married and settled down due to her giant robot work, it’s clear that she doesn’t really mean it when she actively chose her path. The villain Prince Bundol is a handsome blond who plays classical music when he goes into battle and cherishes beauty so much that when someone tries to betray the heroes he dismisses the guy and doesn’t follow through on his tip because “betrayal is ugly.” One of the other villains, Kerunaguru (pictured above), a guy whose name basically means “Kick and Punch” and who owns a robot designed specifically to be beat in fits of anger. In one episode, he opens up his own fried chicken joint without any ulterior motives. The guy just wants to sell some good fried chicken on the side while assisting in global domination.

By far the most fascinating reveal of the show however is the secret behind Goshogun’s ultimate attack, the Go-Flasher Special. First, it answers what the “blue button” mentioned in the opening does. Second, as it turns out later in the series, the Go-Flasher works by allowing the normally non-sentient enemy mecha to gain self-will, which causes them to override their controls and then voluntarily explode because they don’t like being used for violence and evil. Basically Goshogun’s greatest weapon is to give the enemy robots an existential crisis which makes them commit suicide. Now that’s an attack.

Oddly enough, the best way to enjoy the character interactions of Goshogun is to watch the movie Goshogun: The Time Étranger, which curiously does not feature the robot at all.

Official sources for Genshiken Second Season

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