Wl3MssK

One of the talking points of the new anime Gundam: Reconguista in G, related to the fact that it’s the return of Gundam creator Tomino Yoshiyuki in a directorial role, is that the dances performed by the characters in the eyecatches were choreographed by, of all people, Tomino’s youngest daughter Yukio. According to Japanese Wikipedia, Tomino Yukio is a modern dance choreographer living in the Netherlands, and as it turns out, some of her performances are available on YouTube.

Be warned, these videos contain some nudity.

I’m not really into dance, so I can’t comment in depth on the performances or the choreography, but I find it interesting that both of his children went into the performing arts (his oldest daughter Akari is a theater director in Japan). Obviously I have no idea about their family but I do feel that Tomino’s own work in anime reflects a kind of performative spirit in itself (his dialogue often sounds like it comes from a musical or play), and I wonder if this has influenced his children in any way.

 

Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun was one of my favorite anime of last season, only I never got around to talking about it. Fortunately, I’ve gotten a second chance thanks to one Mr. Bradley C. Meek, who has started up a new show, the Anime Now! Podcast. You can listen to us talk about one of the funniest shows in recent memory, where perpetual misunderstandings make would-be romances even more charming at the same time that the series riffs on shoujo manga tropes.

Anime Now! Podcast Episode 1

I’ve been playing quite a bit of the new Super Smash Bros., first for Nintendo 3DS and soon for Wii U. In both cases I waited in line along with millions of other folks with the intention of playing the game until the cows come home. In celebration of the true beginning of the 4th generation of Smash Bros., I’d like to talk about the idea of using “inferior” characters.

Whenever I see a comment that X or Y character is garbage, something compels me to try that character out. I don’t consider myself an exceptionally talented player, nor am I going to win any tournaments any time soon. Even if i were, I also definitely don’t think I will be responsible for revolutionizing any character’s style or for defying tier lists in a major way, like Taj did for Mewtwo or aMSa has done for Yoshi in Melee. Instead, I think what prompts me to start delving into seemingly weaker characters is that when I see others so strongly deny a character’s ability to compete, it makes me genuinely curious.

Is this character really as bad as they say? Is there perhaps some aspect to the character that may have been overlooked? While in the end they might very well be right and a certain character could end up being the bottom of the barrel, often times I feel as if there is some incompatibility between a player’s preferred style and a character’s attributes that could lead to a bit of wasted potential (even if that potential might not be particularly high). For example, I often see “this character has no combos!” on a character not built for combos, or using a very aggressively oriented character defensively or vice versa.

It’s like there’s something peculiar at work in the minds of players, at times unspoken philosophies which dictate how an individual approaches their game. Case in point, when players/commentators Scar and Toph discuss why Melee player Hax is not a Captain Falcon at heart due to his preference for perfect, impenetrable technical skill over relying on reading the opponent. I want to try and adapt myself to different frames of mind for different characters.

My current project is Meta Knight. He’s had something of a fall from grace since Brawl where he was the undisputed best character, but there are all these little aspects of the character that make me feel as if those who regard Meta Knight as terrible are perhaps missing something vital to the character. Of course, now there’s a patch and Meta Knight has gained some extra tools, but even before that I felt that while I wasn’t going to wow the world with my Meta Knight, as I practiced and saw more of his ins and outs, I honestly felt that it was possible to put all the pieces together and create a formidable opponent, or at least one who would put up a decent fight against all opponents. Now that he’s been augmented in certain areas (notably killing power), things will probably be easier.

This is less a point of pride for me and more a learning process. If you read this blog and are familiar with my anime and manga content, I think you might see this approach applied there as well. Of course, unlike anime and manga in Smash Bros. there’s really only one criteria for how strong something is (how often it wins), but I think that difference is sort of inevitable.

I’ll see you online!

Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is coming out this week. While a lot of the fun of the franchise is its sharp gameplay and visual nsotalgia, one thing I find fascinating about Smash Bros. as a celebratory game is the fact that many of the sound effects are taken from the original games. When Mega Man shoots his Arm Cannon, it makes that characteristic pew pew noise. When Mario does his Super Jump Punch, he has that classic “boing” effect. If you know the sounds, they’re pretty nostalgic, and if you don’t, they probably seem as if they come from a bygone era.

Smash Bros. is certainly not the only game to do this. In fact it might very well be the Dragon Quest series which does this the most, as the same sounds for spells since the original game are still being used in every sequel. However, what’s interesting is more than just the use of those classic sounds, as there are also clearly decisions to not use those sounds as well.

For example, when Charizard uses its Flamethrower, it’s just the sound of fire spewing forth, and not the original Game Boy games’ crackling noise. Its nostalgia, arguably, is not located in that aspect. In contrast, Duck Hunt’s special moves are loaded with audible NES references, whether it’s the sound of a falling duck or a wild gunman shouting, “FIRE!” while garbled by primitive voice digitization. Here, it’s as if Duck Hunt is there to represent the NES Zapper line as a whole, and because the existence of the Zapper is tied to a specific era in video games, most of its sounds have not been updated, unlike Charizard’s. It’s also notable that the Pokemon have their voices from the anime, as it implies that their cartoon is the primary way by which Pokemon characters are associated aurally.

Of course it doesn’t mean much for gameplay whether the sound effects are modern or retro, but they do give a lot of flavor to the characters and the game as a whole. It’s easy to get the sense that, ah yes, this is the character I remember from my childhood.

Name: Kuroda, Chouko (黒田蝶子)
Alias: N/A
Relationship Status: Single
Origin: Kyoumeiseyo!! Shiritsu Todoroki Koukou Tosho Iinkai

Information:
A member of the Todoroki High School Book Committe, Kuroda Chouko is the perfect student, skilled in both academics and sports, reliable, and blessed with good looks. Unknown to most, however, Kuroda is also an extremely rotten fujoshi who is particularly fond of super sentai. Fantasizing over pairings of imaginary characters and fellow club members, Kuroda has also created some BL doujinshi herself.

Fujoshi Level:
While most fujoshi are satisfied with thinking of pairings in terms of the traditional “Character A x Character B” or “B x A” scenario, Kuroda has come up with a whole system of pairings using additional mathematical symbols to represent different concepts. These include A ∞ B, A ≠ B (which creates something of a tsundere relationship), and A ≡ B.

mgx-bondofdrool2

Note: This post contains spoilers.

When you look at the manga Mysterious Girlfriend X, it’s hard to believe that it lasted for over eight years. Sure, it’s not much compared to  Ah! My Goddess, which also ran in Monthly Afternoon but for an astounding 25+ years. Yet the everyday romance of a boy and a girl connected by, of all things, a literal swapping of saliva, feels less like it should have been a consistent presence in manga and more an odd one-off (which it originally was). But last Mysterious Girlfriend X has, getting over the years not only an animated adaptation that is available both streaming and on home video in the US, but even seeing the actual manga itself available in English.

Given its long publication history, I’ve found that my life has naturally progressed since I began reading it all those years ago, and that when I come back to the title it’s from a different place. Yet, I still remember my feelings towards Mysterious Girlfriend X from back then, and it’s interesting for me to compare both the feeling of reading it one month at a time versus all at once, and from a person about 8 years younger to where I am today.

Mysterious Girlfriend X is the story of a young couple. Tsubaki Akira one day meets the eccentric Urabe Mikoto, and on some bizarre impulse decides to taste some of her drool that had been left on her school desk. Afterwards, he finds himself ill in a way inexplicable to doctors. Eventually, he learns the cause from Urabe herself: he’s having withdrawal after not being able to taste her saliva after a few days. The reason? Love, simple as that. According to Urabe, Tsubaki has fallen in love with her, and their only choice is to become a couple, especially given how Urabe herself reciprocates his feelings. However, their relationship is an unconventional one, and though they won’t even kiss or hug, they’ll taste each other’s drool. For some strange reason, this “bond of drool,” which allows them to communicate unspoken thoughts and feelings with each other, is a connection beyond typical human comprehension, brought about by love and desire.

mgx-boysareperverts2

Given this description, it would be very easy to assume that Mysterious Girlfriend X is some kind of saliva fetish manga, but in that regard the title is often misunderstood. What I described above is the initial premise to get things moving, and rather than having the manga consist of different ways to present drool lust as some sexual deviancy, it’s more a means to an end to explore various facets of their relationships, from Tsubaki learning about Urabe, to Urabe understanding her own feelings better, to the growth of their relationship in comparison to others’. In Bakemonogatari, the character Senjougahara comes up with a word to describe the main character Araragi’s feelings towards her: not moe or whatever, but captivation. Tsubaki’s view of Urabe is a similar phenomenon.

Having re-read the entire series recently, I noticed that marathoning it results in quite a different experience. This is obvious to a certain extent, but what I mean more specifically is that when I originally read the series month to month, it was easier to notice long trends (some might even call them ruts) that the manga was going through. However, reading it all at once made me aware that Mysterious Girlfriend X has rough arcs and turning points for Tsubaki and Urabe. I doubt the series had some kind of intricate forethought behind it (Legend of the Galactic Heroes this manga is not), but some seeds were sowed along the way, and by the end they bear fruit.

mgx-pantyscissors

At the start of Mysterious Girlfriend X, the narrative is mainly about Tsubaki trying to learn about firstly what it means to have a girlfriend and secondly the utter enigma that is Urabe. Here, both he and the reader get to see for the first time not only the bizarre “bond of drool,” but also Urabe’s superhuman skill with a pair of scissors that she tucks into her underwear, her willingness to swap spit but not kiss, her refusal to ever let Tsubaki have a photograph of her smiling, and other eccentricities that separate her from others. She comes across as alien both literally and figuratively, perhaps even occult, especially when compared to the relatively normal relationship between Tsubaki’s best friend Ueno Kouhei and his girlfriend Oka Ayuko. We also learn about Tsubaki’s family, particularly his very motherly sister.

Gradually, the layers of mystery surrounding Urabe are peeled back. The first major turning point comes amidst this relationship between Tsubaki, Urabe, and the reader, as we learn about Tsubaki’s late mother through the fact that Urabe can read his latent memories from when she passed away (through his drool of course). Though Tsubaki is unmistakably a reader-insert character to some degree, here he becomes an individual of his own, and the connection between the two deepens.

mgx-hug2

From there, we get to see how Urabe herself changes, how she sees the relationship from her perspective. In particular, the manga begins to present Urabe’s own character flaws, such as her possessiveness (which turns out are also shared by Tsubaki), as well as her own growing desire to be with Tsubaki. Here, she becomes more human, and while still an unusual person is less mysterious by virtue of how much time the two spend together. The most notable events in this part of Mysterious Girlfriend X occur when Tsubaki’s bond with Urabe is put to the test. First, an old crush of Tsubaki’s comes back to try and seduce him. Second, an idol who bears a striking resemblance to Urabe (and thus a source of jealousy for Urabe when Tsubaki begins to secretly collect magazines of her) trades places with Urabe. When I first read these storylines, they felt like mini-arcs much like what came before, but now I realize that they are more or less milestones for Urabe and Tsubaki, the points at which their feelings resonate more strongly than mere appearances or past loves.

mgx-urabevsmomoka2

At the same time, the introduction of the Urabe look-alike, Imai Momoka, also signals another turning point for the series, towards what might be the most meandering and out-of-control part of the manga. Here, Mysterious Girlfriend X begins to enter a realm of fantastic occurrences and even stranger fetishes. While Mysterious Girlfriend X is not exactly a realistic series in certain key aspects, it starts off feeling somewhat grounded in an almost palpable sense of intimacy and desire between Tsubaki and Urabe. In early chapters, the dark attractiveness of Urabe is expressed in moments such as this, which are weird but understandably are thrilling for Tsubaki:

mgx-scissortanlines2

In contrast, immediately after Imai Momoka we get, of all things, “eating bacon while wearing cat ears”:

mgx-catearsbacon2

Other questions from this part of the manga include “Wouldn’t it be great to count the moles on your girlfriend’s body?” and “What’s more attractive, droopy eyes (like Nozomi from Love Live!) or slanted eyes (not in the racist sense, but like Ogiue)?  Eventually the series is able to parlay this into some forward progression between the two, introducing another rival for Urabe in the competition for Tsubaki’s affections (the aforementioned “droopy eyes”), but when you’re reading from month to month it can feel like a kind of narrative limbo. I do want to point out once again though that all of this has more or less nothing to do with saliva, further reinforcing the fact that the drool in Mysterious Girlfriend X is more a kind of means to an end, and representative of many more things than simply a fetish. It’s a substitute for kissing but also much more, a way to access each others’ feelings and to capture the otherworldly feeling of being young and in love.

Even with the holding pattern that the series suffers, one thing that becomes especially clear during thatmost unusual section of Mysterious Girlfriend X is the evolution of the creator Ueshiba Riichi’s art style, which becomes less round and cute as was his way in his previous manga, and a bit sharper and more angular. Whereas his characters looked shorter and roundrr, by the second half of the series they begin to look not only more mature but more expressive as well, especially with Urabe’s cat-like eyes. Even Ueshiba himself points out this change when he discusses how his changing art style might make things difficult for the character designers.

mgx-artchange

Another clear indication of Ueshiba’s improved character drawing skills is Oka, who physically is supposed to be as small as an elementary school student but with the body of an adult. The way this is originally portrayed is rather jarring, as Oka looks more like a human being who was hit by a shrink ray, but as the series progresses she ends up looking more properly like a girl who’s simply really short.

mgx-earlyoka2

mgx-lateroka2

Eventually though the series begins to wrap up, and I think the most telling thing about Mysterious Girlfriend X and its motivations as a bizarre romance come from how it builds up towards its conclusion. The most significant developments at this point are not characters taking the next step physically so much as them sharing more information with each other. We learn how Oka and Ueno became a couple. More and more characters learn about Urabe and Tsubaki’s relationship, notably Tsubaki’s sister, who throughout the series has run into Urabe multiple times under the pretense that she is merely one of Tsubaki’s classmates. As Urabe reveals the truth about her connection with Tsubaki (conveniently leaving out the drool thing), there is a passing of the torch as Tsubaki’s sister, who has pretty much been a mother to Tsubaki all his life, acknowledges Urabe as the one who will become the most important woman in his life. Whether reading on a monthly basis or altogether, the way in which Mysterious Girlfriend X heads towards its ending is somehow surprisingly tame yet still quite appropriate for how the series has been throughout.

There’s a bit of controversy surrounding the ending to Mysterious Girlfriend X, as the manga throughout its 92-chapter run has teased a kiss between Tsubaki and Urabe while also showing many other couples kissing. Even in the final chapter a kiss never happens, as while Urabe finally asks for one, Tsubaki refuses upon learning that it would mean the end of the ritual that has defined their relationship up to this point (kissing is basically exchanging saliva, so there would be no need to do it the other way). Instead, Tsubaki asks if they can’t just keep doing their routine as they always have, at least until they graduate high school. For some readers, this ending is the ultimate denial of what the series had building towards, and indeed the series appeared to be working its way towards their first kiss. However, I find that it’s clear, given how much their relationship grows over the course of the manga, that their first kiss will happen, they will have sex for the first time at some point, but these events will happen off the page, in a future that the manga does not allow us to witness except in our imaginations. By keeping their kiss away from readers’ eyes (but at the same time showing plenty of other characters kissing throughout the series), it is the final emphasis the bond of drool as representative of their strange love as indicative of not just how love looks when you’re young, but also how it feels. Following that, one might say that the point of those almost-kisses is purely in the tease and enjoying that tease is fun in its own way.

The final chapter also has a number of callbacks to significant events throughout the series, including Tsubaki’s late mother, and the excitement that sparked Tsubaki and Urabe’s relationship in the first place. The example below also of course shows off the difference in art mentioned above.

mgx-firstsecret

mgx-lastsecret

Ueshiba writes at one point that he never had a high school romance, let alone something as unusual as the one depicted in Mysterious Girlfriend X, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve begun to find that the quirks that were seemingly brought forth through sheer fantasy on Ueshiba’s parts are closer to reality than perhaps he even realized. Moments which seemed ridiculous five to eight years ago are not so far from actual reality as I’ve witnessed it. Sure, I haven’t seen anyone stick their finger into someone’s mouth and eat their drool, but the meaning and intent behind those actions also exist in reality, or at least the “realness” of one’s emotions.

Naruto final chapters SPOILERS.

As an anime fan, I don’t have a lot of character pairings to which I’m super devoted. However, the closest I come to having a true “ship” is Naruto x Hinata. Based on how their relationship began and has developed over the course of Naruto, I find that it makes the most sense, and had hoped that Hinata would have her happy ending. After all, Hinata saw before anyone else how hard-working Naruto is, and was the first to understand his pain, wile Naruto is the catalyst for Hinata’s own growth.

Now that the final chapter of Naruto all but confirms that Naruto and Hinata not only end up together but even have a couple of kids, all I can say is…

WE WON!

That said, I never actually participated in any “shipping wars” or whatever. However, I finally understand on some level the joy that more dedicated shippers feel when their desired pairing ends up being canon. There’s a strange satisfaction in knowing that all of the little moments that caught my attention as a reader ended up bearing fruit.

Now all that’s left is for me to someday feel the agony of defeat, but for the time being:

Oh, and for all of the confusion and convoluted plot developments, it looks like Naruto ends just fine.

 

In preparation for the American bluray release of Genshiken: Second Generation (aka Genshiken Second Season, Genshiken Nidaime, Genshiken II), Anime News Network and NISA are accepting questions from fans for an interview with creator Kio Shimoku. Keep in mind that Kio has historically given very few interviews even in Japanese, so this is a very rare opportunity for anyone who’s a fan of Genshiken and the man himself.

I of course will be submitting my own question, and it will most likely be Ogiue-related. Also, I may have bought the Japanese blurays already, but I definitely plan on picking these up as well.

(Thanks to Patz for telling me about this.)

I’m not a dancer. In fact, I don’t have a single rhythmic bone in my body, and the only reason I can or will ever dance is because I’m fairly shameless when it comes to humiliating myself. That’s why it might come as a surprise that my favorite anime out of the current season is Tribe Cool Crew, a show about street dancing. Though only a few episodes have aired, I find myself looking forward to Tribe Cool Crew every week because of how it combines the best of boys’ anime and girls’ anime for children.

The thing that really drew my attention to Tribe Cool Crew from the very beginning is the dynamic between the main characters, a boy named Tobitatsu Haneru, and a girl named Otosaki Kanon, both of whom love to dance. The two complement each other well not only in terms of personality and style, but also because they’re essentially the typical morning boys’ anime protagonist and typical morning girls’ anime protagonist who have met up in a single show. Haneru is small but energetic with a constant in-your-face attitude, and his burning desire to be the best and to meet his idol, Jey-El, wouldn’t be out of place in shows like Mushiking or Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal. Kanon is shy but comes alive while dancing as the anonymous internet celebrity “Rhythm,” utilizing her great height and long limbs to accentuate her moves. In many ways she reminds me of Hanasaki Tsubomi, the main heroine of Heartcatch Precure!, especially because the show takes time to focus on her gradually building confidence.

Essentially, I find that it combines the ambition of the boys’ anime with the care and consideration of the girls’ anime. Though Tribe Cool Crew is still incomplete, it gives me the same general vibe as anime such as Battle Spirits: Shounen Toppa Bashin and Ojamajo Doremi, both of which I consider to be among the best of children’s anime. As the dances are all done in motion-captured CG, it’s also clear that the show is a response to popular CG dance anime such as Pretty Rhythm and Aikatsu!, taking what was previously solely the realm of idol anime and giving it a bit of a hip hop twist. It’s the kind of expansion of a genre or trend that I can really get behind, even if I don’t quite understand dance.

One aspect of the show that might be difficult for people looking for more plot-centric or character aesthetic-focused shows is that Tribe Cool Crew is still a show meant for kids at the end of the day. For example, the show sometimes features lessons for young, aspiring dancers on topics such as isolation. That said, the anime does feature some characters that an older audience might relate to better.

The look of the show might also take some getting used to, as the character designs are somewhat unusual for anime. They appear to take lessons more from Disney or other American cartoons that emphasize heavy variation in silhouettes to a heavy level of caricature, which can be a bit jarring. It has its own charms, however, such as in the case of Kanon, who is portrayed as an awkwardly lanky girl that perfectly fits both her personality and age, looking as if she just hit puberty and is beginning to feel conflicted between how she believes her upper-class family wants her to be and her inner passion for dance.

You can watch the show on Crunchyroll. Overall, I think Tribe Cool Crew is a really solid show and perhaps the sleeper hit of the season. It has a lot of potential, and I look forward to seeing where it all goes.

Although I watched the original TV series of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, only recently did I finally see the movie trilogy. I’ve already laid out quite a few of my thoughts about the series including its status as a magical girl show  and how I felt about its ending, but revisiting Madoka has prompted me to contemplate certain aspects of the series some more.

Back when the Madoka Magica TV series first concluded, I remember kransom mentioning to me that one of the reactions from the Japanese fandom was this idea that Madoka was essentially the bookend for the era of anime that began with Neon Genesis Evangelion. That sounds pretty lofty and exaggerated, but when I was watching the movie I was reminded of the amount of indecision that goes into Madoka’s character. One of the questions throughout the anime is whether or not Madoka will indeed become a magical girl, but when she doubts and hesitates it’s shown to actually be to her advantage, while for Shinji it’s considered a clear sign of his weak, pathetic nature. The notion that lacking resolve can in some sense be a good thing because it means you think more carefully about the consequences and those around you is something that can be easily swallowed up by a society that tends to prioritize “getting things done no matter what.”

Another thing that struck me watching Madoka again was the presence of the abstract, mosaic-like qualities of the Witch realms by Gekidan Inu Curry. I was already familiar with his work from the Goku Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei intros, but when I thought about the fact that this bizarre yet beautiful work has been utilized in shows like Madoka, it made me wonder how many people have been exposed to this more unorthodox artistic style that would not have given it the time of day otherwise. I think it’s often easy to criticize SHAFT as a studio for taking on shows that frantically emphasize otaku tastes, but that very quality of “moe” (or “captivation” if you will) has also been the door into a higher level of artistic expression that isn’t quite as bound by the conventions of anime, if only temporarily.

Anyway, I might do a review of the movies, especially the third one, but no guarantees on that.

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: