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Hato is back home in order to try and sort out his feelings. Kaminaga and Hato’s brother Yuuichirou are there too, and though Kaminaga (who now insists of being called “sister”) does her best to give advice to Hato about Madarame, her fujoshi brain interferes with her words and intent quite a bit. Eventually, thanks to a meeting with Konno and Fuji, Hato realizes that his feelings for Madarame mean he doesn’t want to leave Genshiken, and resolves to head back to Tokyo.
Chapter 94 is the first time in Genshiken that we’ve actually seen a character’s hometown life elaborated upon to this extent. Sure, there have been flashbacks, like Ogiue in junior high or Madarame discovering doujinshi for the first time, but ask yourself this: how many of the characters’ parents have we seen? The answer is just Hato’s.
Hato’s thought process shows that part of his turmoil is his desire to try and justify his own feelings, to try and compartmentalize everything internal into a consistent emotional map. It doesn’t appear to be a matter of latent homophobia, and if I had to venture a guess it might have more to do with trying to defy his past reputation when gossip spread about him reading yaoi and his classmates constantly made reference to how gay he is. It reminds me of a documentary I watched recently where a girl raised by two gay men talked about how she spent most of her life strongly insisting she was 100% heterosexual as a way of fighting back against the people who assumed that gay men would inevitably raise gay children, but eventually realized she was bisexual. Of course, I don’t know if Hato’s situation is quite the same, but I sense similarities. Kaminaga’s advice to essentially not sweat the small stuff, albeit filtered through her fujoshi self, is perhaps the moral of this chapter.
Kaminaga has grown on me more with this chapter. Her new hairstyle (did she dye it or un-dye it?) gives her a real “classical Japanese beauty” look reinforced by panels like the one above, which then clashes heavily with her ever-”rotten” personality. It’s an interesting contrast, and when I think more about it, the fact that Kaminaga is the way she is but has married (or is about to marry? it’s not entirely clear) a super normal guy in Yuuichirou speaks to something a bit different from the other relationships in Genshiken, even Kohsaka and Kasukabe’s. I think it’s because Yuuichirou and Kasukabe are different kinds of “normal.” One is a straight and narrow type, the other is socially successful, and it speaks to how “normal” is a kind of spectrum in itself.
Being Konno is suffering. Her own feelings for Hato turn this into a kind of love triangle, but Hato doesn’t even realize she likes him, and the fact that her advice of “if it’s causing you so much suffering, why not leave the club?” actually helps Hato realize that, yes, he does like Madarame after all. Not too long ago I wrote that a common form of moe we see is a normal life filled with a series of tiny tragedies, and I think that describes Konno’s situation quite well. I can only imagine how Konno would slide further into despair if she knew the person Hato likes is a guy. After all, when Konno originally learned about Hato’s crossdressing, she assumed that her responsibility as the root of all the gossip that had spread about Hato in high school had actually turned him gay, in turn sabotaging her own chances at romance. Of course, this isn’t resolved yet and Hato x Konno might actually become a thing in the end.
The best moment of the chapter in my opinion comes at the very end. We find Kaminaga drunkenly watching Yuuichirou and his old judo club buddies grapple each other under the influence of alcohol, clearly enjoying the fantasies inspired by reality. It’s unclear to what extent the redness of her face is due to alcohol versus perversion. Juxtaposed on the page next to a reference to a Whisper of the Heart reference (for Hato) and a Samurai Troopers reference (for Kaminaga’s own entertainment), it encapsulates her character pretty much perfectly, the manga panel equivalent of a bumper sticker saying “801 Fujoshi 4 Life.”
For any enterprising business folk, that one’s for free.
Speaking of business, Kio’s comments this month are about how Sue is a DLC skin for Akihabara’s Trip, a game where you search through Akiba and find witches by stripping them. Questionable qualities of the game aside, Sue is somehow incredibly appropriate for this, and would probably make the proper Those Who Hunt Elves and Doki Doki Majo Shinpan! references to boot.
With the recent conclusion of season 2 of Avatar: The Legend of Korra, I’ve seen a number of complaints that a lot of the finale seemed to come from “out of nowhere.” Notably, the two aspects fans appear to take issue with involve Jinora and Korra herself. While I have my own issues with the writing, characterization, and pacing of the series, I find that Korra set up the pieces in fairly obvious ways which make me find it so surprising that people are accusing the show of employing Deus Ex Machinas.
Before I go on, obviously there’s a spoiler warning here.
First, in regards to Jinora, she was shown throughout the second season to have a strong connection to the spirits. When Tenzin rescues her, she disappears as a spirit separated from her body, then reappears during Korra and Unalaq’s fight still as a spirit, and uses her strong affinity for the spiritual realm to locate and draw out Raava’s diminished being from Vaatu where Korra (who is not as spiritual as Jinora) could not. There’s no need for an elaborate explanation as to “how she did it,” except perhaps that one needs to remember that neither Raava or Vaatu can truly destroy each other and that there must always be the tiniest fragment of one in the other. Yin and yang and all that.
Second, when it comes to Korra I find that people think that Korra as a giant blue spirit somehow didn’t make sense or work as a part of Korra’s narrative. When Tenzin explains to Korra that before people bent the elements, they bent the energy within themselves, it’s a callback to the The Last Airbender and how Aang learns how to energybend from the last lion-turtle. Korra’s spirit has become imbued with that very same energy, and it’s no coincidence that the shade of blue that Korra’s spirit becomes in order to fight Vaatu is the same blue that can be seen within Aang when he takes someone’s bending away.
The other crucial component of Tenzin’s explanation is that Korra needs to find within herself not Raava but her own spirit, the very core of who she is. This giant spiritual form of Korra wears her standard outfit instead of the coat she came in, showing that this is her default self-perception, but what’s even more notable is the way that Spirit Korra fights. Rather than doing any sort of elaborate bending moves or showing any signs of formal training, Korra is a brawler at her roots, and there’s probably nothing more indicative of this than the fact that giant blue Korra performs an Argentine backbreaker on Vaatu/Unalaq. Korra from the very beginning of her show is portrayed as a very direct, confrontational individual, and though her spiritual side is lacking, by the end she is able to connect to it in a way that suits her, a way which strengthens her identity.
I think the other elements of The Legend of Korra Season 2 are more contentious, but I hope that people critical of those two aspects of the show look back and see that they were not so sudden after all.
Chousoku Henkei Gyrozetter is about a world where everyone can drive, including 8 year olds. Cars can also turn into robots called Gyrozetters. This technology comes from a prophetic tablet known as the “Rosettagraphy” which also contains a list of “chosen drivers,” kids with the attitude and will to drive the most “wicked cool” Gyrozetters in order to fight evil or corrupt fuel companies or whatever.
If it wasn’t clear from my summary, I think Gyrozetter is an odd show, but what I think is really strange is how typical it is without veering towards tedious or amazing or even average. Its mostly episodic format gives off “standard kids’ anime” vibes in spades, but it neither comes off as a refreshing take on the formula nor so rote as to be unentertaining. I find it difficult to talk about if only because I definitely enjoyed the show in a way which would have me looking forward to more, but it doesn’t feel quite special. People say that the hardest shows to talk about are the ones that are utterly mediocre, but when it’s “better than average, though not great,” a show like Gyrozetter poses its own review challenge. The robots/cars are fairly well-designed , the characters are fun and expressive, and both the episodic elements and the overarcing plot work well enough together. I think the best I can do though is to talk about some aspects of Gyrozetter which I found fairly notable.
First, is the endings which are pretty much Precure-style dance sequences but done with giant robots. It’s eye-catching if anything.
Second, even though it’s a kids’ show it spends a lot of effort on attractive ladies. Apparently in some interview the director or producer said something along the lines of wanting to make the show “erotic” but I don’t know how seriously to take that.
Third, the villains are an appealing part of the show, and though they start off fairly serious they get increasingly Team Rocket-ey as the series progresses. Curiously, as this is happening the plot is also getting more dramatic so there’s this almost schizophrenic feel to Gyrozetter which isn’t offputting but gave me pause every so often.
Fourth, it’s a boys’ show which develops the relationship between the main character Todoroki Kakeru, who’s very much of the Ash Ketchum-type (or Satoshi if you prefer) and his would-be girlfriend Inaba Rinne to a surprising extent. He’s 10, she’s 12 (or somewhere along those lines), and it’s actually really close to if Pokemon had spent more time overtly pushing Ash x Misty as a thing instead of just giving the vaguest of hints. Maybe that’s what’s oddly refreshing about the show even though it’s so formulaic.
Fifth, Mic Man Seki, who is literally voice actor Seki Tomokazu. His job is to hype up everything ever, and he certainly does a good job of it.
Sixth, the Valentine’s Day episode.
Gyrozetter is a bit different from other giant robot anime because it’s not based on a toyline or pushing sales to nostalgic older fans, but comes from an arcade game where you’re supposed to drive around for a while collecting powerups and then transform into a robot for a 3-on-3 battle. Apparently the anime didn’t do well, and I wonder if it was partly because the show’s format (children of destiny use their car robots to save the world!) was too different from the actual game, and I did notice that towards the end they tried to actively foreground the arcade gameplay in the actual anime. However, it seems like the arcade game itself wasn’t terribly popular and is going away, so maybe there’s plenty of blame to go around.
From what I’ve been told (by Kawaiikochan author Dave), the arcade machine is the embodiment of rad as the giant cockpit-like arcade machine will literally transform into a battle mode as you shift gameplay modes and do so in the flashiest way possible. I have to wonder if maybe the game was too much, as a lot of the popular arcade games for kids seem to be the super automated games where characters dance or fight on autopilot based on a special card you use.
In terms of favorites, the best robot design in my opinion Rinne’s second Gyrozetter, Dolphine. Its curved design makes for a pleasing sillhouette and its figure skating gimmick reflects Rinne’s own interests (her dream is to be an Olympic skater) in an interesting fashion. I can’t pick a favorite character but I was fond of Kotoha the bridge bunny (the one in green and glasses), Haruka, who is shown in the shot of the villains above, and the secretary character Kouno Saki.
If I stretched even further, I think I could say some things about how the show addresses the concept of destiny through the later developments concerning the Rosettagraphy, but I’ve said a lot more about a show I find to be “not bad” than I was expecting. With that, I’ll just end with some final screenshots.
Out all Japanese foods there are two I feel particularly attached to. The first is curry rice, which is an extension of my general love of curry. The second is the more divisive fermented soybean product known as nattou. I ate it a lot when I lived in Japan, and it’s a food which I find fulfilling in a way few others are.
Nattou is often times considered one of those culture shock foods, the thing that’s served to scare foreigners away, and although it’s not on the same level as, say, durian or surstroeming (SPELL CHECK), nattou is indeed generally an acquired taste. The problem with that, of course, is that, even if people want to try it and potentially grow to aprpeciate nattou, there may not be many opportunities to do so. In the Netherlands there are Japanese communities such as the one in Amstelveen, but it may be inconvenient to travel there.
Amazingly, I’ve discovered a company which produces and delivers nattou in the Netherlands. Nattodan is a company interested in spreading nattou as a health food, and is actually capable of shipping nattou directly to your door step (provided you live in a Dutch town or city of course). I just recently received my first delivery, which costed me 32 euros for 900 grams’ worth. It’s fairly steep, especially compared to prices in Japan or even a larger city with a decent Japanese population like New York City or Los Angeles, but it does have that delivery convenience in its favor, and it does come with a freezable gel pack which I’ll probably keep for future use for other things.
In terms of taste it’s definitely nattou. I’ve been told that I’m a poor judge of whether an exotic food is safe for normal people to consume, but if I had to describe why I like nattou it’s because it has this combination of a savory and nutty flavor which mixes tremendously well with rice. It’s somewhat known for its smell, being a fermented product and all, but I know that Nattodan has taken efforts to make it less pungent compared to the nattou you’d normally be able to find in Japan. I enjoy the smell so it doesn’t bother me either way, but keep in mind that the scent isn’t entirely gone. The delivery also didn’t come with the bit of spicy mustard and soy sauce which usually accompany Japanese-made nattou packs. It’s not necessary, but it’s one of those things that can make eating nattou more pleasant for some.
If you’re living in the Netherlands and you’re just curious about nattou and its many mysteries, give it a shot. Due to delivery costs it’s not “worth” it to only buy one or two packs, but of course it’s not a food people are guaranteed to like. So, my advice is to hold a party or something, possibly themed around Japanese foods, and just order some so you and your friends can all try it out. Call it a dare, call it a culinary adventure, but see if nattou is right for you.
It’s winter break. After the old guard of Genshiken (+ Kuchiki) discuss Madarame’s sudden romantic prospects from their old school otaku perspective, Madarame finds himself being visited by Yoshitake and Yajima. Of the four potential partners (Hato, Keiko, Angela, Sue), Yoshitake recommends Keiko for Madarame due to her similarities with Saki. The chapter ends with the image of Hato visiting home, where he meets his brother Yuuichirou and Kaminaga, who are pretty much married now if not already so.
A lot of previous chapters have been some sort of closure, whether that’s with Madarame and Saki, or Hato’s feelings, but this one feels like a transition. Between the mention of Yoshitake’s sister Risa taking college entrance exams and Ogiue and Hato visiting back home on top of everything Madarame is going through, it gives me an impression of a change coming almost on the level of Ogiue’s appearance and the shift in focus over to her. Given how many chapters Genshiken II has run already this kind of makes sense, as Ogiue appeared at a similar point.
I’m really impressed with how the manga portrays Madarame handling suddenly being the center of romantic attention, because I find that his concerns and his thought process make complete sense for his character. When given time to dwell on the idea, he imagines a simultaneous arrival of all four at his doorstep, like a scene straight out of Infinite Stratos, because anime and manga are his primary “harem” imagery even more than just straight up pornography. When Madarame hesitates in choosing, his explanation is that it is such an unfathomable situation because he expected attracting even one member of the opposite sex to be a miracle, and given his self-image his words rings with the familiarity of truth. At the same time, I don’t think he’s being entirely honest because if he was really okay with any girl, he would have had some wild times with Angela (who’s gone back to America) already.
In Madarame’s situation I think we can see both the exploration of the otaku or geek mind when it comes to romance, as well as an investigation of the harem genre. Madarame’s attitude towards women is initially a kind of passive desperation, a case of “anyone will do” because just that prospect of romance is so out of reach based on his self-image. When given a choice, however, his mind has to adjust because desperation is no longer the driving force because now he has to take the others into account, as well as what he really wants. Obviously he doesn’t really want a harem ending or just sex based on his actions (or more accurately inaction), and I think he’s realizing that there’s more to consider about a love life than just whoever says “yes” first.
If you’re having trouble relating to Madarame, imagine that it’s about being unemployed (which Madarame is!) rather than about romance. In a situation where someone is unemployed for ages, there’s an increasing desperation for finding a new job, to the point that eventually anything will do. Then, one day a bunch of job offers appear and they’re all actually good jobs. Instead of it being about getting paid, there are now a bunch of new variables to consider. Which job pays the best? Which job seems the most enjoyble? Which one is best for long-term planning? Which one is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity? If not unemployment, then college also works. Which is the best school? Which is the most affordable or convenient? Which has the subject you want to study the most? There’s a lot more to think about, and of course it’s literally impossible to choose all of them.
All of this puts the typical harem or pseudo-harem anime complaints into a different light. You might hear people say, “Why is the harem lead such a wuss? If I were him, I’d have a go with everyone.” Although many harem leads are generic and neutral characters and that lends itself to that ambiguity, I think generally harem series deep down operate under a moralistic frame which some see as over-valuing virginity or passivity, but which I find to be about not being able to fully escape a sense of empathy (this is why fans tend to have a “favorite pairing”). In order to maintain the fantasy in harem series this aspect typically isn’t terribly prominent, but with the greater realism of Genshiken it comes more to the forefront.
The rest of the chapter reinforces this feeling as well. When the guys are huddled in Madarame’s apartment reading doujinshi, Kugayama brings up the idea that even most otaku who are all into the 2-D girls and such aren’t actually against being with real women, which references an older conversation back in the earliest days of Genshiken when Saki asked about this same topic. Being between all otaku men who are aware of this, however, the conversation becomes more about that otaku image in flux. The battle lines drawn a few chapters ago between virgins and non-virgins comes up again here, as Tanaka with his steady relationship and Madarame with his new circumstances seem to flutter beyond the horizon where otaku are not supposed to reach and yet clearly have. Genshiken has become about how the concept of otaku is in flux, but we rarely get to see it from the older generation’s perspective, so I appreciate this.
Although the chapter is mainly about Madarame, it’s also a Yoshitake chapter in that she’s very prominent in the latter half of the chapter. Yoshitake’s nerdish vibrance is on full display here, whether that’s obscure history references, her now-familiar knowing glances at Yajima, or the fact that at the end of the day she’s still that girl who ignored the opposite sex in favor of debating history from a fujoshi perspective with her friends in high school. Her reaction towards Madarame’s decision and assuming he really wants a harem is maybe the highlight of the chapter as her head tilts all the way back in shock. This chapter also made me realize how differently Kio uses Yoshitake’s glasses compared to, say, Madarame, as their variable transparency helps to give Yoshitake that sense of energy and slyness.
I sometimes see people complain that Genshiken spends too much time on Hato and not enough on Yoshitake and Yajima. While I think it’s a valid criticism for the most part, I find that one of the reasons this is an issue is because even though the other two don’t get as much focus they’re still portrayed extremely well in their moments and interactions. For example, one of the most significant parts of Yoshitake’s advice is strongly hinted at in this chapter, which is that she’s watching out for her friends in suggesting Keiko as the right choice for Madarame, as she doesn’t want to hurt Yajima. Moments like these make you want to learn more about them, because if they were boring or uninteresting no one would care. Nobody ever asks about Kuchiki’s backstory, after all.
As for Yoshitake’s recommendation, I know there have always been fans of Madarame and Keiko, even going back to the days when the original Genshiken series hadn’t even finished and there was no real inkling towards this pairing. I gave my thoughts on this pairing previously, but Yoshitake’s logic that Keiko is the most like Saki in that she’s able to talk candidly is pretty interesting, especially because from what little we’ve seen of Keiko’s love life (in that she has one at all), her communication with her boyfriend at the time was pretty poor in comparison to how she talks with “Watanabe.” Madarame’s mental mix-up of Keiko and Saki aso makes me think that it may not only be a matter of personality but that she also resembles Saki in the way Keiko carries herself. If that’s the case, I wonder if this is simply down to “similarity” or if Keiko is supposed to be someone who’s actually emulating Saki. Kio’s mention of his other ongoing series in the side bar then makes me wonder if indeed Keiko x Mada is the Real Spotted Flowers.
As for Hato, he strikes an impressive figure at the end of the chapter as he works to shovel the snow off of his family home’s rooftop. There’s something about him exuding such a “masculine” aura that feels unfamiliar due to the fact that most of the time the manga shows him as crossdressing. Hato’s interactions with his brother and Kaminaga will be the focus of the next chapter. We see that Kaminaga’s changed her hairstyle, and I wonder if it has anything to do with finding out that Hato basically has a wig matching hers.
In all honesty though, what I really want to see is the other visit home mentioned this chapter, which is that Sue has accompanied Ogiue back to (I assume) her hometown in Yamagata. Not only is there something potentially wonderful about Sue interacting with Ogiue’s family, but we’ve never actually seen Ogiue’s relatives at all. The best we’ve gotten is that Ogiue once mentioned having a little brother, but it was part of a hasty explanation after being outed as a fujoshi, so we don’t even know if this little brother actually exists.
I hope we find out.
When it comes to manga oriented around a fujoshi main character, there are two big trends. First, they tend to come from pretty unknown authors in fairly obscure magazines. Second, the story typically revolves heavily around how their love of yaoi impacts the heroine’s relationships. Often there’s a romantic bent to this, where the girl’s fantasies directly impact her interactions with the guy she’s into. Even titles I adore such as Genshiken and Fujoshissu! possess these qualities in part, and while the fujoshi heroine subgenre is not exactly big, it’s produced a lot of similar works.
This is why Tora to Ookami is such a fine oddity. Having ran in Betsuma, which has been home to other popular titles such as Lovely Complex and Aishite Knight, what’s even more interesting is its creator, Kamio Youko. Fans of shoujo might recognize her as the author of Boys Over Flowers, a title which is spoken of in the same breath as other big shoujo works such as Nana, and has been adapted not only into anime but multiple live-action dramas around the world in different languages. In a certain sense, this title is quite a leap for fujoshi-themed manga, skimming along the mainstream even if not directly a part of it.
What I find especially impressive about Tora to Ookami, however, is how it addresses the second trend. A lot of times fujoshi characters, whether they’re in the spotlight or on the sidelines, are fujoshi first and foremost. Their hobbies revolve heavily around anime and manga if not yaoi outright. They’ll throw out random lines from an anime, most often Gundam or Glass Mask, or just have a one-note gimmick (constant pairings or glasses, for instance). They either have, or have had in the past, personalities and appearances which tend towards the image of the shy and nerdy girl. With Mii, the heroine of Tora to Ookami, however, you get a stronger sense of a well-rounded individual where she’s certainly into yaoi but it doesn’t dominate her life, nor her approach to interacting with others.
While Mii writes BL fiction, she’s also a chef who works at her family’s small restaurant, and that aspect of her plays a much more significant role in Tora to Ookami than her googly eyes over seeing her two love interests interact with each other. She may be a fujoshi, but she’s also a strong-willed person who’s more than willing to sacrifice her social life in order to help her grandma maintain their restaurant because it’s what she cherishes. Liking BL is just a natural facet of her among others, and because Mii’s fujoshi identity isn’t the central focus of the manga, her romance is able to develop in a way where the outcome isn’t simply determined by who can accept her for being a fujoshi. Although her fandom pops up occasionally in her interactions with her love interests, especially the titular Tora and Ookami, it’s pretty much never about wanting them to act more like characters from BL manga, nor does it involve confusing fantasy with reality.
I don’t know how well Tora to Ookami did in Japan, but six volumes is a fairly decent run, and at the very least it shows that fujoshi heroine manga don’t have to be limited by the fujoshi “gimmick.” As much as I enjoy the stories which do utilize the recurring fujoshi manga trends, Mii’s character is rather refreshing because of how she has more to her than yaoi, but also doesn’t trivialize that aspect of her. She’s believable as a fujoshi, but also believable as a human being.
Kill la Kill, the new anime from the creators of Gurren-Lagann and Inferno Cop, is pretty much living up to the huge amount of hype surrounding it. For me, there are a few areas pertaining to the visual element of the show which really stand out.
1) Kill la Kill excels at creative sight gags.
When it comes to works that are humorously absurd, often times we say they succeed despite themselves because the humor is because it takes itself seriously and doesn’t realize its own power. In contrast, we then say other works fail to capture this glory because they tried too hard. I find Kill la Kill generally hits that sweet spot where the humor is clearly intentional, but doesn’t go overboard in extending its jokes, so it’s even more possible to appreciate its cleverness.
Two scenes from episode 3 stick out in this respect. The first happens at the beginning of the fight between Ryuko and Satsuki, when their combined willpower literally blows away the surrounding bystanders. It’s a pretty typical sight in anime which wants to establish the sheer power of its primary characters. Then, in the next shot, Kill la Kill extends that sequence to the point of absurdity by having the bystanders’ bodies continuously flying through the air. The shot lasts for about 5 seconds, and during that time it’s easy to wonder if there are more bodies being blasted away than were actually standing there moments before.
The second is after the battle, when Satsuki says to Ryuko that in order to fight her she’ll have to go through her goons, her goons’ goons, and her goons’ goons’ goons. Kill la Kill sets the image up in a somewhat abstract fashion, much like one of those old dramatic Dezaki Osamu painted stills (which I just found out recently is called a “harmony” shot thanks to Anipages). Then, as the show switches to a bird’s eye point of view, you realize that Satsuki and all of her minions are actually standing there like they’re posing for a group photo.
These sight gags stretch their conventions just far enough to pull you out a bit, but neither of them overstay their welcome. Both of them use the screen to create strong images, which brings me to my next point.
2) Kill la Kill has strong image composition.
The series uses a lot of the extreme poses key to a Kanada Yoshinori-style animation, but even in still shots and pans Kill la Kill exhibits a lot of intelligence and creativity which both enhances the mood of the show while also encouraging an appreciation in the animation (or lack thereof).
This shot of Ryuko and the tennis club captain from episode 2 literally consists off two figures sliding and changing size against a background. There’s little to no animation, and yet the moment helps to create tension because the initial image of the two standing away from each other on the tennis court gradually turns into a face-to-face confrontation with the net acting as a visual separator between the two. I find it really impressive because it was able to do so much with so little, and it’s a trend you’ll see throughout each episode.
In the same episode, Ryuko confronts Satsuki. Satsuki begins to swing her sword and she grows to massive proportions on-screen to convey the idea that she’s a massive threat and that she’s much more powerful than she looks. Obviously from the context of the show she’s not actually getting bigger, and this sort of visual representation reminds me of two things.
First, is an American football manga mentioned in Fred Schodt’s Manga! Manga!, where a tiny Japanese player blasts through a massive American roughly five times his size. Second, is Fist of the North Star, and I don’t just mean the giant mohawk thugs. That series often exaggerates the size of Kenshiro’s foes yet shows them to be relatively even in size moments later, just to transmit danger.
3) Kill la Kill makes a lot of anime references but doesn’t overdo it.
This point relates heavily to the first.
Kill la Kill makes numerous references to old anime each episode, but doesn’t depend on them for success. In episode 1 Mako can be seen performing a Kinniku Buster from Kinnikuman on her little brother, but it’s never referred to by name, and there isn’t any sort of big fancy scene where she jumps from the air and lands with an impact. They save those moments for the actual fights.
A lot of the anime and manga references involve Mako, which makes me think that this is part of her purpose as a character. In episode 3, she goes to “shield” Ryuko but more to give a strange speech about how Ryuko should get naked. During that lively sequence this shows up:
That’s right, Kill la Killi threw in a Space Runaway Ideon reference (see 14 seconds into the video). Evangelion is known to be inspired in part by Ideon, and to have ex-Gainax employees bringing it out doesn’t surprise me too much. Again, the reference doesn’t linger too long, is more about the ridiculousness of Mako as a character, and is actually a little easy to miss.
There’s also the recurring use of stars blinking in and out in Kill la Kill. It reminds me of the opening to Evangelion, right before the title logo appears, and I really suspect that it’s intentional.
Actually, I think Mako herself is an anime reference, as her hairstyle and position as the main character’s best friend immediately reminded me of the character Maki from Aim for the Ace! Ryuko’s messier hair even somewhat resembles Aim for the Ace! heroine Hiromi’s style relative to Maki’s. That Mako’s first name is written in Katakana like Maki in the Aim for the Ace! anime, that she is a tennis club member, and that her membership sets up the conflict in episode 2 all point towards this being likely.
In each case the references aid the show but do not dominate it. If someone fails to get certain references (and given the amount it’s going to happen to pretty much everyone, including me) then it doesn’t unravel the humor or make the series any less visually strong. If a reference does get through, it is capable of becoming not only a matter of spotting the homage but also considering how Kill la Kill relates to that older work. For instance, there’s this interesting relationship between Kill la Kill, Gurren-Lagann, Aim for the Top! Gunbuster, and Aim for the Ace! that I’d like to unravel in terms of how these shows approach similar ideas.
I also have other thoughts about the narrative and thematic elements of the show, but I’ll save those for another time. If you want to check out Kill la Kill though, it’s being simulcast from a variety of sites: Crunchyroll, Hulu, and for international audiences, Daisuki.
This month’s Genshiken provides what may be the best use of a pool/bath/hot springs chapter that I’ve ever seen.
As a bunch of the guys take Madarame away to get his hand treated, the rest of Genshiken (and company) go to a public bath to relax and air things out. Angela and Keiko make their intentions regarding Madarame clear to each other, beginning a strange rivalry of sorts between the two. Meanwhile, Hato finally admits out loud that he has feelings for Madarame, while Sue continues to contradict herself every step of the way.
I get the feeling that this chapter plays a lot with standard anime and manga tropes, especially in the fact that it manages to fit in both an extended bath scene and a festival-like environment, but does so in a way which actually leaves the guy at the center of all this drama literally at home. Obviously with a chapter that takes place almost entirely in a bath there’s bound to be an element of fanservice, but I found it also to be quite enlightening. This isn’t just referring to Hato finally coming to terms with himself, but just the way everyone involved communicates so openly. It’s as if the abundance of nudity this month is a metaphor for simply baring it all: no boundaries, no restrictions, just the truth from the heart (at least in most cases).
There’s actually a lot of information and development this time around, and it’s presented in a way that I think has become characteristic Kio Shimoku, more refined than ever as he continues to improve his storytelling ability in manga. This page above caught my eye in particular, because of how well it conveys not only the fact that Ogiue and Keiko’s have gotten a bit closer (by virtue of Ogiue being Sasahara’s girlfriend) just through the page composition and their positions within it, but also how the panel with Angela gives the impression that you’re seeing her from Ogiue and Keiko’s point of view. The height and the angle of the “camera,” as well as the panel following it give this impression. The way you can see Keiko’s confidence falter as soon as she sees Angela is also a nice touch. This is only the second time that Genshiken has done one of these bath scenes, and the last time around the relationship between Ogiue and Keiko was quite a bit more antagonistic, so it’s interesting to see them getting along in a similar setting.
Similarly, Yajima, though she doesn’t do a lot this chapter, actually says a lot. With the way the manga focuses on her at key moments, it really does give the impression that she feels something for Hato, even if it might not be strictly romantic. When I think about it, the fact that Yajima isn’t being particularly body-conscious despite being around Ohno and Angela must mean that she’s so distracted by Hato’s situation that she’s ignoring her own normal worries. I also have to point out that Kio actually drew her naked, and not in a way which is directed at appealing to a chubby lady fetish.
It’s been quite a journey with Hato, and when I look back at my own musings about him from chapter to chapter, it’s interesting to see how my own views have gone. At first, I took his self-assessment in regards to things like his self-image and his sexuality at his word, but over these few years it’s become clear that even Hato himself didn’t quite understand, though it wasn’t as simple as “Hato’s BL obsession was a sign of a closet homosexual/bisexual all along.” I think there’s enough evidence so far to say that his gender, sexuality, and fantasies don’t all perfectly correlate with each other. Last chapter, I wrote about how the “Stand” versions of the female Hato and Kaminaga are meant to be two separate aspects of his psychology, and here it’s made plainly obvious by the fact that both appear simultaneously. The way I see it, the female Hato represents Hato’s fudanshi side, or rather the image of a fujoshi in his mind who can communicate with other like-minded individuals, while the Kaminaga relies on Hato’s view of the real Kaminaga as someone who is always true to herself. This is why it’s the Kaminaga who has made it impossible for him to deny his own feelings about Madarame, whereas Hato has been easily able to brush aside the female Hato’s fantasies. Though having them float above Hato just has me thinking that the two are having a “conversation” in the men’s bath the whole time. It may also be of interest that none of Genshiken takes issue with Hato on this whole matter.
I honestly don’t think there’s going to be a Hato x Mada (or Mada x Hato) ending, and Madarame’s going to be in a position where he’s not just been rejected by someone but had to reject someone himself. Overall, if this is the case it’ll be a serious change for the otaku among otaku.
At this point in Genshiken we’re already familiar with the fact that characters like Angela and Keiko don’t prescribe to the true love romance mantra that appeals to otaku so much, but it’s still kind of refreshing nevertheless. Angela is provocative in more than one sense of the word, and the more I see of her the more I get that she’s actually quite intelligent. Angela’s insistence that Madarame needs “help” after buying “all that doujinshi” and that Keiko “wouldn’t be able to satisfy him,” ends up coming across as measured and calculated. Obviously Angela knows that Madarame is not some studly he-man with an unquenchable thirst for womanly conquest, and so the idea that Keiko wouldn’t be enough for him is clearly facetious. She’s just trying to get a rise out of Keiko, though what I find funny about all of this is that I can see a definite friendship forming between the two. They both want to win out, but at the same time their smiles and even the way they decide that Sue should be the one to go visit Madarame means that neither of them are especially bothered by the idea of losing. There are more fish in the nerd sea, and a bitter competition this is not.
Speaking of Sue, for all of the attention Hato and Madarame get, I feel like in the end it’s Sue who really steals the show this chapter. Her expressions are amazing, even more than Ogiue’s (which I enjoyed immensely).
Though her own emotional turmoil is played for comedic purposes in contrast to Hato’s, I do wonder what’s in store for her. Her development throughout the new series has come in fits and starts, but it’s undeniably there.It’s interesting how Sue is normally immune to embarrassment but here it overwhelms her to the point of violence and frustration, and I feel like I want to say more about her, but I don’t know where to start.
So, I think I’ll save it for the future.
One of the most visibly obvious trends in anime in recent years is the extremely long and descriptive title. My Little Sister Can’t Be This Cute. Baka and Test: Summon the Beasts. More accurately, it’s the product of a tendency in the current light novel industry from which many anime are adapted, and with that verboseness comes a blessing of sorts. For those who want what a particular title has to offer, they need only look at the name, and for those who want to avoid specific shows at all costs it becomes equally useful. You can indeed judge these books by their covers to a certain extent, which is why I initially set aside My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU, considering it a low priority.
I have nothing against teen romantic comedies or SNAFUs, but the original Japanese title, Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Come ga Machigatteiru (translated also as, “My Youth Romantic Comedy is Wrong as I Expected”) seems to imply a lot of things which don’t exactly excite me. First, it seemed to hint at this strange cooler-than-school cynicism which you find in a lot of light novel protagonists that I find unappealing, a sort of counter-elitism of the same variety as “the geeks will inherit the Earth.” Second, even though it says the romantic comedy is “wrong,” it still implied some combination of harem/love triangle. When I finally got around to watching SNAFU, I realized I’d been wrong all along. While it contains some degree of the two elements I’ve described, it’s also a clever series which has at its core not so much a good ol’ harem comedy but a closer look at the combination of social and sef-perceptive tensions which can make life as a teenager mentally and emotionally taxing, especially for those who don’t quite fit in, and the help that can come from those who simply understand.
SNAFU centers around Hikigaya Hachiman, a cynical guy who quickly acknowledges how low on the social totem pole he is and how much he prefers to be there. Hikigaya is forced to join a club whose purpose is vaguely to help people out, acting as a last-ditch student-run guidance counseling of sorts. In the club, Hikigaya is joined by two girls with equally Stan Lee-esque names, Yukinoshita Yukino and Yuigahama Yui. Yukinoshita is extremely observant but a little too sharp-tongued for her own good, and Yuigahama is energetic and a little ditzy with a greater desire to try and fit in with her peers compared to the other two.
Just from my basic plot summary I think it’s easy to see why I was a bit wary (and potentially weary) of the show, but there are a number of things which give this anime some solid legs.
First, although Hikigaya is indeed quite the pessimist, and he does have the “screw the popular kids” attitude to an extent, he also shows that he’s aware of what he lacks. He knows that if you have the right attitude you can accomplish many things and reach out to a lot of people, but he doesn’t have that attitude and probaby never will. What his perspective does for him, however, is that it allows him to find people who are similar to him, and to figure out solutions that wouldn’t work for the “average” teenager, but are perfect for those who are below the bar. Similarly, Yukinoshita’s astute assessments make her able to understand a given social situation quickly, while Yuigahama’s propensity for tact and cheer becomes the grease to move the wheel where Hikigaya and Yukinoshita’s personalities would otherwise stifle it. SNAFU really does focus on the theme of helping people who feel ground down by the pressures of their social groups, and at places goes to some fairly dark (though not morbidly or horrifyingly dark) places.
Second, even though there is a love triangle element to the main cast, with Yuigahama clearly having feelings for Hikigaya due to a small event in the past, and Yukinoshita can be seen as gradually developing feelings for him as well, the friendship between the two girls is just as if not more important than the romance. Yukinoshita has no friends, while Yuigahama would traditionally try to ingratiate herself with other girls just to not be caught outside the circle, and so their growing bond becomes an important factor in developing them. It’s to the extent that, even if the series ends with one “winning” over the other by dating Hikigaya, it is highly doubtful that it would destroy the friendship they’ve built up.
Third, when it come to determining who might indeed end up with Hikigaya, the show gives a fair case for both of them. It doesn’t come across as woefully lopsided like in, say, Love Hina. And actually, when you look at the hormonal responses Hikigaya has to those he finds attractive, the strongest reactions seeem to come not from any girl, but from the incredibly effeminate male tennis club member Totsuka Saika. I’m pretty sure this is just another case of a Hideyoshi from Baka Test, a character so feminine in appearance that we’re supposed to take it as a gag, though in this case I suspect he also functions as a way to show how much deeper the connection Hikigaya makes with either girl will be.
I honestly think that this series ended up with a name as excessively long as Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Come wa Machigatteiru because someone told the author that everybody’s doing it. As a title, it’s actually quite deceptive, and somewhat ironically doesn’t help a person looking at it to understand what’s beneath the cover. I don’t think it’ll start any trends of intentionally obtuse light novel names, but at the very least it gives hope that if you’re willing to squeeze that lump of coal hard enough that it might turn into a diamond after all.
No guarantees with any other shows though.