When it comes to the anime Sabagebu! Survival Game Club!, a show about girls in a high school airsoft club, one of the more surprising aspects of the show is that it is in fact a shoujo manga. The anime even acknowledges this, pointing out how it runs in Nakayoshi, the same magazine that has featured series such as Cardcaptor Sakura.

As true as this may be, it is still easy to get the impression that the show still doesn’t quite look or feel particularly shoujo even when putting aside the whole survival game aspect of its premise. As it turns out, this is because while the show is indeed adapted from a girls’ comic, there are actually a number of differences between the manga and anime that result in a fairly different product in certain ways. This is not an argument for which is better or worse, merely a laying out of just how these two iterations are set apart from each other.

I find that there are three elements in particular, at least when looking at the early chapters and episodes, where the Survival Game Club! anime and manga differ significantly.

1) The Anime and Manga Simply Look Different

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Both versions of Sabagebu! depict cute girls using fake guns, but they each take unique approaches. With the characters, the anime designs appear closer to something from a more male otaku-oriented work. The manga, on the other hand, utilizes character designs that appear flatter and more in line with the flowery aesthetic of a typical shoujo manga.

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This contrast is also evident in how the anime portrays the girls that are meant to be more attractive, giving them a kind of round, three-dimensional curvaceousness that is not present in the manga. In the comparison image above, the anime version of the character Maya has a gravure idol-like quality to her, whereas Maya in the manga has a look more akin to a fashion model, or perhaps even a fashion drawing.

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To be fair, most shoujo manga adapted into anime try to go for a more “neutral” look compared to the particular and well-known stylizations of shoujo manga. One need only look at the original Sailor Moon anime and compare it to its manga (or the designs of the recent Sailor Moon Crystal anime). Sabagebu! is no exception in this respect.

2) The Anime Pads Out Scenes from the Manga

In their review of the first episode, the Reverse Thieves mention that the anime feels like it’s adapted from a 4-koma (panel) manga even though the original Survival Game Club! comic does not utilize that format at all. While one could argue that this is just a matter of having so many 4-koma manga adapted into anime, I find that the real culprit is the fact that many of the scenes in the manga are extended in the anime. The result is that the connective tissue that carries one moment into the next in the manga is obscured by the added animation.

So far, this is often done by creating elaborate gun fight scenes where the manga ends up either showing less (or nothing at all), but this padding also comes from increasing the amount of mean-spirited behavior or by adding more cultural references. For example, here is a scene where the character Urara is acting upon her jealousy over the club president’s fondness for the protagonist Momoka by using a stretching exercise as an excuse to place Momoka in some painful wrestling holds. The manga and anime, however, approach things somewhat differently.

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While in the manga the joke is supported through the characters’ dialogue (Urara falsely claims that she “doesn’t know anything about armlocks!”), the anime just piles on further wrestling techniques. The two gags are similar, of course, but the expansion seen in the anime is more akin to how shows like Azumanga Daioh have been adapted in the past.

The venomous behavior of the characters in the anime also ties in nicely to the next point.

3) The Protagonist’s Personality is Nastier in the Anime

In the anime, after Urara fails to separate Momoka from the club president, she goes off to cry by herself. Momoka follows her and offers her hand, only to do this:

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This causes Urara to fall in love with Momoka instead, becoming a masochist for Momka’s sharp jabs, both literal and metaphorical. While in the manga Urara also ends up with a strange crush on her, Momoka does not engage in any sort of physical retaliation at all. In fact, whereas Momoka in the anime has a general philosophy of “payback” that heavily defines her character, in the chapters of the manga I’ve read this is not prevalent at all. Perhaps it’s a change that came over time, and was retroactively added back to earlier portrayals of Momoka when it came time to adapt the manga into anime.

sabagebu-makeupThis is not to say that Momoka is entirely a fair and meek shoujo heroine, but her personality in the manga is somewhat closer to what one might expect out of a girls’ romance comic… only without any real romance and with lots of guns.

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Overall

Whether animated or on paper, the basic appeal of Survival Game Club! is how it brings a type of crass humor that is rare in the demographic/genre of shoujo, and does so through subject matter that is rather unusual. The key difference between the two is that whereas the manga juxtaposes its shoujo visual style with the content and its characters’ behavior, the anime takes the roughness of the cast to the extreme and changes the designs to be more in tune with other cute-girls-doing-things shows. Personally speaking, I think I prefer the manga’s approach more because of how bizarre it looks within that shoujo aesthetic, but I do have to say that there is some appeal in Momoka’s vindictive behavior in the anime.

 

 

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Unlike the previous characters I drew movesets for (King K. Rool, Princess Daisy), Great Puma is much more obscure. He’s the final boss from Pro Wrestling for the NES, and notoriously difficult, if only because all the button mashing you had to do to defeat him would hurt your thumbs (unless you used a turbo controller).

The reason I decided to draw Great Puma over the other wrestlers is because he 1) is a villain/antagonist 2) represents a popular retro series 3) has that final boss characteristic of knowing all of other wrestlers’ moves, which allows him to represent the full repertoire of Pro Wrestling. Kirby is depicted as the victim because I wanted to get across how the moves would look on someone distinctly non-humanoid.

As a Smash character, Great Puma specializes in holds and throws. He not only has more throws than any other character in the game, but he has two special moves that also facilitate grabbing the opponent. His Rope Bounce is sort of like a pseudo-wavedash in that it allows him to quickly retreat and then spring forward into a grab animation. His Reversal works like Marth’s Counter but it activates only when the oppoonent tries to grab him, which causes Great Puma to grab the opponent instead. Even his Running Neckbreaker is considered a throw, which overall makes him a difficult opponent to shield against. His Flying Cross Chop is surprisingly powerful but is only mediocre in terms of stage recovery.

His Final Smash, Wild Roar, allows Great Puma to link up to three throws together. This isn’t quite the same thing as a chain grab, as that involves grabbing the opponent immediately after a throw and then repeating. Rather, this allows him to do things like Grab -> Pummel -> Backbreaker -> Piranha Bite -> Piledriver before the opponent goes flying. Also not pictured are most of his moves, such as his back-air being Fighter Hayabusa’s Back Brain Kick (Enzui Giri) and his forward smash being Giant Panther’s Iron Claw.

I changed his tights because I think they just look better this way.

 

Four years ago I arrived in the Netherlands. In a few days, I return to the United States. I don’t know exactly where this post will go, but I feel it is important to say something about my time in Europe, both as a person and as a fan of anime and manga. I apologize for the rambling that’s about to ensue.

I’ve lived outside of the United States before, having spent a few months studying abroad in Japan (almost 10 years ago at this point!), but never had I been in a foreign country for so long. I can’t say I ever truly acclimated myself to this environment (I never even got fluent in the language, after all), but I managed a comfortable existence. Even putting aside amazing culinary cultures such as France and Germany, food has been an (often deep-fried) adventure. I’ll miss the Indonesian cuisine and the herring especially.

I could go on forever about food, though, so I’ll speak mainly about things that are more directly pertinent about being an otaku. One aspect that I had been somewhat aware of in the past but that had rarely entered my mind was that different countries have unique relationships with Japan, and this is certainly the case with the Netherlands. Famously the Dutch were the only foreigners allowed in Japan for a long time, and they stayed exclusively on the island of Deshima (or Dejima). So what does a Dutch group dedicated to bringing Japanese music to anime conventions in the Netherlands call itself? Deshima Sounds. It makes sense.

It was fascinating to see a different anime con culture compared to the US. The conventions certainly never even approach the massive attendances of an Otakon or an Anime Expo, but they have their own charm. From my first convention experience here, one aspect that really stood out to me was how the Artists’ Alleys greatly emphasized the production of full-on comics (one might even call them doujinshi) over individual images. While I don’t know if this is truly relevant, I do know that the Netherlands historically has been considered a strong country for book-publishing, allowing things that could get one in trouble in other countries (and I don’t mean pornography). It’s actually something I wouldn’t mind seeing more of in the US.

Speaking of fans, I must apologize to the folks over at Manga Kissa in Utrecht for never really going, but I am fully behind their endeavor to provide an actual manga cafe with a wide selection. If you’re ever in Utrecht, I recommend you check it out, as it’s a nice place to relax.

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While my focus has been on anime and manga for a long time, I was also presently surprised to find out that the Netherlands has its own comics culture. Whenever I went to a new city, I often looked around for a comic store, and while many of the comics were simply French or Belgian comics translated into Dutch, even that was interesting because of how the Dutch preferred less expensive paperbacks over the elaborate hardcovers one would find elsewhere. It was actually amazing to be able to attend an event and just walk straight up to some of the biggest names in the industry and get a sketch at no cost and without a significant wait in line.

Around 2009 or so, I began to get into Japanese mahjong after having watched shows such as Akagi and Saki. Having originally played online, I eventually found a group to play with in real life, but it wasn’t until I lived in the Netherlands that I had the opportunity to actually attend tournaments and to compete for pride and glory (there were never any cash prizes but that’s okay). This country is small enough that even a tournament at a fairly obscure location was never too difficult to get to, and to find a fairly thriving riichi mahjong scene makes me incredibly grateful. I’ve met people from all over the world at these tournaments, gained some nice friends, and it’s even legitimately improved my mahjong to boot. Many of the Dutch players had originally come from a different style of mahjong, and so when playing them I had to learn that my style, which was built from playing the Tenhou online ladder, simply did not work. I had to re-evaluate how I looked at the game, and this experience is something I’ll never forget. I leave being fairly satisfied with my own performance, having attended three European tournaments and having placed 10th, 20th, and 6th.

Then there’s the rest of Europe to talk about! I wasn’t able to go to every country I had set my eyes on (Sweden, Luxembourg, and Switzerland I’ll perhaps regret not seeing most of all), but of the places I did have the pleasure of visiting I actually discovered quite a bit about geek fandom in general. I visit New York’s “Forbidden Planet” regularly, but it pales in comparison to the one in London. The comics museum in Belgium was a blast and made me want to read European comics more than ever.

Paris is, perhaps predictably, the most notable of all. While I had heard that the French were big into anime, it didn’t hit me until a simple trip from the hotel to the city center involved passing by not one, but multiple cosplay shops, in areas that didn’t even necessarily show signs of otakudom otherwise. Upon entering the toy and comic stores, I was continuously greeted by the ubiquitous presence of one UFO Robo Grendizer. I was already aware of the fact that Grendizer was a big deal for the French (and the Italian), that it was basically to them what Voltron was to the US, but in a way it was so much more. At the time, I suspected that the French benefited from the fact that Japan still continuously produced new Grendizer merchandise, and I think that theory still holds today.

I also got to attend a few Starcraft II events, which was wild.

Thank you to everyone who helped me out while I was living in a continent I had never even visited before. You’ve made my life that much richer, and I hope we can meet again someday. And yes, I am now aware of Alfred J. Kwak.

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In a few days, I head to Otakon in Baltimore, which itself is undergoing a big transition with its eventual move to Washington, DC in 2016. Otakon is familiar territory at this point, yet I can’t help but feel that there will be some strange kind of culture shock for myself.

As suggested in the last chapter, Madarame and Kugayama visit Keiko’s cabaret (i.e. hostess) club. Though Keiko at first turns up the charm typically expected of a hostess, she quickly reverts to her familiar, sharp-tongued self upon finding about Madarame’s recent inner conflict over receiving Valentine’s chocolate from Hato. When it comes time for Keiko to switch out with another girl, however, Madarame asks if Keiko can stay because in spite of being a girl Madarame feels like he can talk comfortably with her. Many hours later, Madarame wakes up from a drunk stupor only to find out that it’s 3am in the morning. Madarame goes to find a 24-hour internet cafe to crash at, but Keiko suggests he come over to her place.

The Almost-Romantic Misadventures of Madarame (If They Ever Begin At All) is such a strange place to be at when you think about how Genshiken began and Madarame’s original role as alpha otaku. Obviously the awkwardness around women was there from the start and has persisted to even this most recent chapter, but now Genshiken is actively presenting Madarame pairings for people to ship and feeding solid arguments for each. In the case of Keiko, we see Madarame able to actively argue and interact with Keiko in a way that looks natural. Not only that, the fact that Keiko herself quickly reverts to her true self instead of continuing her performance as a hostess means that this attitude is reciprocal. Perhaps if this were a different manga, Keiko would say something like, “I can’t help but be myself around you!”

I bring this up not to board the Keiko x Mada train, but in order to preface something I’ve felt about the past two chapters. I find that, perhaps more than ever, the manga gives the impression of a sense of “progress.” In other words,  while obviously many characters have changed in major ways throughout the series (Ogiue most of all), the smaller developments in Madarame feel potent because of how relatively small they are. To some extent, this has to do with the fact that these chapters have concerned characters from the older generation like Madarame and Kugayama, but what’s even more significant is that, even though these conversations feel comfortable, there’s a new context around them in the form of Madarame’s girl troubles that also tinges it with just a bit of exciting unfamiliarity.

Having never been to a host or hostess club, anything I know about them comes from media (anime, written articles, etc.), so I was a bit surprised to find out about all of the little things they do to get your money. While I’ve heard that people spend lots of money on their hostesses, what I didn’t know was that they actively switch every 15 minutes or so and that the only way to keep talking to your preferred girl is to spend money on them in the form of drinks. It reminds me a lot of how contemporary free-to-play games work, giving the customer a small taste and using the allure of continued immersive entertainment to lighten their wallets.

In that sense, the cabaret club is not that different from cute girl-oriented games such as Love Live! School Idol Festival or Kantai Collection, especially when it comes to all of the tricks the girls use to keep a guy enticed. School Idol Festival presents little “stories” where the girls talk about their favorite things, and there’s always the implication of an ambiguous romantic attraction to you the player (“Maybe next time, I can wear other outfits for you!”). Similarly, in this chapter, Keiko demonstrates a number of tricks of the trade. Showing a bit of cleavage is an obvious one, as is presenting a cutesy and demure persona through her attitude and posture, but it didn’t even occur to me until she dropped the act and crossed her legs that her original way of sitting with legs pressed together is clearly suggestive. This doesn’t mean that bare, uncrossed legs are always about sending signals, but in the context of a cabaret club and its employee it’s pretty clear what the true motive is.

I believe that Keiko’s familiarity with the use of a persona to attract men, perhaps not only due to her current profession but possibly also due to the circles she’s run with in the past, is what makes her so skeptical of Hato. Seeing Hato act so girly while knowing that he’s really a man (and sees himself as a man), most likely Keiko thinks that Hato must have some kind of ulterior motive or is not presenting his true self. After all, she fakes her personality for work every day, and knows what will get a guy to pay more attention (and money).

Of course, as established previously, Keiko does have some degree of attraction towards Madarame, and so this changes the dynamic of their hostess-customer relationship in this chapter. However, I find that her approach to getting Madarame, while comparable to her hostess strategies, is still significantly different and perhaps even closer to Angela’s approach. When originally trying to get with Madarame, Angela told Ohno (in the between-chapter extras) that she had intentionally emphasized her dynamite body around him so that her image would linger in his mind (Angela specifically says that he wanted Madarame to masturbate to his memory of her). Although Keiko doesn’t utilize the same sledgehammer method as Angela, it’s also clear that Keiko knows exactly what her words imply when she invites Madarame over to her place at 3am in the morning, and that this has instantly planted a seed into Madarame’s imagination. Keiko the hostess nudges and winks, Keiko the person presses the issue.

Even though he doesn’t have much of a presence in this chapter (or well, ever), there are these little things the chapter presents about Kugayama that I find interesting. After Madarame wakes up, Keiko informs him that Kugayama paid for everything, and that it looks like he makes more than a decent wage. While we’ve seen Kugayama employed for a long time now, this gives me the impression that he’s become a true otaku salaryman, in the sense that while he may not have much time anymore he’s able to devote his earnings to continuing his fandom. Additionally, while Kugayama is secretly praying that Madarame won’t buy an expensive drink for Keiko with the expectation that he’ll be treating Madarame to it, Madarame himself doesn’t even consider the notion that he’s doing this on Kugayama’s own dime (or 10-yen coin ha ha ha ha please don’t kill me). There’s just something there that makes me really feel their friendship even though we don’t see it too often anymore.

The last thing I want to mention is that the next chapter preview reference this time is actually from Marvel Disk Wars: The Avengers, the bizarre anime where Captain America and friends are kind of like Pokemon. Kio frequently makes both obscure and recent references, but this one actually caught me by surprise more than any other.

Name: Ootsuka Meiko (大塚芽子)
Alias: N/A
Relationship Status: N/A
Origin: Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches

Information:
Ootsuka Meiko is a student at Suzaku High, and was at for a period one of the legendary “witches” tied to the school. Her ability was telepathy transmitted through kissing, which she used to get around her own shyness and to cheat on tests with the help of other students. Her “inner” personality contrasts heavily with her image, and is in fact much more commanding and authoritative. She lost this ability when Yamada Ryuu removed all of the witches’ powers in a ritual. Meiko also draws her own manga.

Fujoshi Level:
When Yamada found a way to read Meiko’s thoughts, he found out she was mentally writing a dirty fanfiction pairing him with the student council president Miyamora Toranosuke, using the fact that Yamada had become his secretary as fuel for her imagination.

While at this point we have an understanding of the concept of a “weak” protagonists in giant robot anime thanks to characters like Ikari Shinji from Evangelion, rarely are main robots allowed to exude an image of weakness and vulnerability as well. If we even look at Shinji himself, while he’s known for being passive and lacking in will, the actual EVA-01 looks monstrous and acts even more terrifyingly.

In most cases when there is a “weak mecha,” it ends up being a joke character’s ride, whether that’s Boss Borot from Mazinger Z or Kerot from Combattler V. In terms of actual main-focus giant robots, the closest this concept gets its maybe Dai-Guard the almost-literal “budget robot,” or perhaps the perpetually incomplete Guntsuku-1 from Robotics;Notes. Maybe the Scope Dog from VOTOMS counts because it’s so disposable, but like Dai-Guard it still at least looks strong.

Of course it only makes sense that mecha tend to be on the powerful side; they’re giant mechanical humanoids after all. It’s just something I’m starting to consider a potential limitation of the genre and an interesting space to explore.

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Following up the concept drawing I made for King K. Rool in Smash Bros., here’s Princess Daisy from the Mario series.

While Daisy’s most prominent appearance over the years has been in the multiplayer games, for the most part I thought it’d be cooler if her attacks referenced her debut game, Super Mario Land. Each special attack is based on one of the four worlds from Super Mario Land. One notable thing is that most of her attacks have a small added effect that gives them different properties if they hit close or mid-range. Birabuto Sand does solid damage if the actual kick connects, whereas the sand portion stuns the opponent. Muda Torrent works similarly, where the uppercut hits hard but the water has something of a FLUDD effect. Easton Ganchan can transition from recovery move to bouncing projectile. Her Chai Hop, based on the Pionpi enemies from World 4, is a fairly basic move but varies her recovery options alongside her Side-B.

Ideally, this means using her would involve deciding whether or not in any given situation to fight up close or at a slight distance, and what is the best way to transition back and forth between the two ranges.

Daisy’s Final Smash comes from the Super Mario Strikers series and grants her boosts to speed and offensive power. Additionally, many of her attacks will launch flurries of mechanized soccer balls.

While “clone” characters tend to look different but share similar moves with their base counterparts, Daisy is sort of the opposite, bearing obvious resemblance to Princess Peach but having significantly different attacks from top to bottom. Daisy is often described as being more of a tomboy than Peach, and so I thought it would be cool to have this come out in her attacks. Hence, she does things like throw hooks for Forward Smashes and kicks sand in opponents’ faces. Though not pictured, I see her small animations and jumps being more athletic as well. Of course, her taunt would be “Hi I’m Daisy!”

Selector Infected Wixoss (pronounced “Wicross, not “Weak Sauce”) is Highlander meets Yu-Gi-Oh! meets Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Girls are chosen to become special battlers in a card game, with the goal of becoming the mugen shoujo, or “eternal girl,” and having their wishes granted. However, if a girl loses three times, she loses that opportunity. Of course, as one might expect given the constantly foreboding atmosphere of the show and even its opening, there’s a twist or three.

It’s actually really hard to avoid the comparison with Madoka Magica, not simply because it makes for a convenient point of reference, but because the strengths of Wixoss—its exploration of its characters’ wishes, and the way it incorporates the “Wixoss” card game into its narrativeare best explained relative to the popular magical girl anime. The main character Kominato Ruuko is, like Kaname Madoka, an innocent and cheerful girl with no particular wish of her own despite being thrown into this scenario where one’s heart’s desire is the most important thing, but as the series explores Ruuko’s character and her lack of “motivation,” she also reveals herself to be clearly different from Madoka.

Whereas Madoka’s hesitation is more because she keeps seeing the horrors and consequences of being a magical girl, Ruuko realizes that deep down she needs no reason to play the cruel game that is Wixoss other than that she simply enjoys it. Ruuko thus ends up exhibiting shades of Ryu from the Street Fighter video games, someone who lives for the thrill of the fight. However, because people potentially sacrifice their happiness when playing “Wixoss” as a means to an end, Ruuko feels immense guilt from the fact that she derives such pleasure from the game itself. Just the fact that the pure joy of playing is put into question, albeit not in an especially deep manner, gives Wixoss an interesting platform to think about this whole wishing business. Additionally, the show is a bit less concerned with the aftermath of wishes gone wrong and looks more at the pain of trying to fulfill one’s wishes.

The scriptwriter Okada Mari (Aquarion Evol, The Woman Called Mine Fujiko) can often be a divisive figure as her tendency to challenge social and sexual taboos in her work (in this case incest) while showing a penchant for the melodramatic can come across as heavy-handed. In this respect there’s a clear similarity to Madoka Magica, where writer Urobuchi Gen regularly has his characters announce their feelings and the despair associated with them. One noticeable difference between the two, however, is that Okada clearly has a better understanding of how girls behave and interact with each other. I’m not a girl so I can’t speak from firsthand experience, but in talking to girls about their experiences, the sort of underhanded and subtle tactics of exclusion are closer to how girl bullies operate. This alone gives Wixoss a sense that it treats its characters less as vessels for ideas or specific personality types as Madoka Magica does (which is not to say that the characters in Madoka are bad, just that they serve different purposes), and more as different manifestations of worries.

I believe this is the first show to specifically mix the TCG anime genre with a primarily female cast, and what I find especially surprising is the fact that “Wixoss” is actually a real card game, which makes me wonder if its marketing is successful or not. Most accompanying media for collectible card games in Japan present their TCGs into the most exciting and wonderful experiences ever, something that will help you make friends and cherish competition., and while Wixoss does this to an extent, the decidedly dark bent of the anime highlights the fact that players tend to suffer tragically when playing. It’s clear that the actual mechanics of the card game play second fiddle to the characters and their narratives, especially because the show doesn’t do much to explain how the game works, but in the end the actual real-life game is still there, and while it would be unreasonable to call players of the official TCG masochistic or anything like that, I’m sure the concept of the show is something quite a few keep in mind as they play.

There’s a strong sense of a yin-yang relationship in Selector Infected Wixoss between pleasure and pain, joy and tragedy, gain and loss. Strangely enough, however, though the anime definitely pushes itself as a “dark” series, I find that enjoyment of it doesn’t necessarily require a fondness for heavy works or an interest in deconstruction or subversion. The experience of watching Wixoss is not so much about horror as it is introspection, and the light that exists within the series is worth paying attention to as well.

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This is how I imagine King K. Rool (from the Donkey Kong Country series) would be if he were in Super Smash Bros. I’ve got at least a couple more of these on the way, so if readers are interested then they’ll have more to look forward to.

For King K. Rool, I made it so that each of his special moves references a different game in the Donkey Kong games produced by Rare, so Krown Toss = DKC, Blunderbuss = DKC2, Helicopter Pack = DKC3, and Punch Flurry = DK64. I’ve seen lots of other people come up with similar ideas, but what can I say? It makes complete sense.

While King K. Rool much larger than Donkey Kong in a lot of the games, I wanted to make them roughly equal in size so that it comes across as more of a rivalry between two powerhouses, as opposed to the David vs. Goliath feeling of Mario vs. DK or Mario vs. Bowser. K. Rool is not quite as strong or as quick as DK, and his movements are a bit awkward, but makes up for it with some nice ranged attacks.

Krown Toss is for space control and bits of damage, while the Blunderbuss is for KO power. The longer you charge the Blunderbuss, the more (randomized) projectiles it shoots out. Helicopter Pack is highly controllable but very slow and thus an easy target for edgeguarding, while Punch Flurry is good for clearing crowds but exhausts K. Rool afterwards. He doesn’t actually punch all that much in DK64 but I figured having yet another ground pound character would be overdoing it.

His Final Smash is based on the giant leaps he takes in DKC; I imagine it being fairly similar to PK Starstorm only that K. Rool himself is also a “projectile” in this case. Of course, he would have his running attack from the first DKC.

 

In discussion of anime online, it is not entirely uncommon for someone to say that a certain anime is “made for autistics” or that “autistics dislike this show because they’re unable to pick up on the subtleties of human expression.” While there is a clear problem in terms of turning the term “autistic” into this general sort of insult, I would like to set that somewhat aside and to honestly consider what the following idea: what if anime (or other forms of media) were intentionally made for autistic people?

This post has actually been in the back of my mind for a few years now but I’ve always felt uncomfortable enough with the idea of writing it. My worry has been that, in bringing up a serious topic such as autism that I know very little about, I wouldn’t be able to do it proper justice even within the very limited scope of what I want to explore. However, after recently reading a post by Alain from Reverse Thieves about how the desire for “good” narrative pacing in anime among different people is more of a “horizontal” structure of preference than a “vertical” hierarchy of superior vs. inferior taste, it prompted me to move forward. In part, this is due to the fact that Alain launches his argument from a video of a talk given by Malcolm Gladwell, and in watching more videos of him, I came across this video where Malcolm talks about the strengths and weaknesses of making snap judgments, where he explains that everyone has periods of what he calls “momentary autism,” or points at which people are incapable of “reading minds,” something most non-autistic people take for granted.

As far as my personal experience, while I am not autistic myself (though I’ve of course been accused of it as some point in my internet life), I did have a roommate who was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, and he made me aware of what this concept of being unable to pick up on emotional cues really means, and how difficult it can be to deal with it in everyday life. While he explained that he himself had high-functioning autism/Asperger’s, which meant that he could participate relatively well in society, he also was unable to participate in the humorous banter common among our group of friends at the time. This was partly because of the difficulty in picking up social cues, but it was also because surprise and moments of improvisation can be downright frightening. Instead, he would read up on jokes and prepare them in advance, so that he could contribute to the laughter.

This idea has stuck with me for years, and over time it’s transformed into the question I asked at the beginning. Imagine what a true “autistic anime” would be, something that does not assume the ability to infer people’s intentions as a default, but says, “this anime/cartoon/movie assumes its main audience to have autism and attempts to be as fulfilling for them as what is expected of the majority of entertainment for non-autistic people.” Here, the horizontal structure of different preferences as equal would include those with the inability to pick up on others’ emotions easily. Or, perhaps to take it further, what if the majority of the people in the world were autistic and as a result most of our entertainment had to cater to such an audience if it wanted to be successful on a larger scale?

Of course, this is the point at which I should be presenting various conceptions of what such anime would possibly look like, but I’m at somewhat of a loss. I don’t remember if I actually read this somewhere or if I’m making it up in my head, but I recall seeing somewhere the idea that anime as it currently exists can often be appealing to autistic people because of the fact that in so many works characters announce their emotions very directly. I think the idea is that, when Naruto shouts that he won’t forgive Sasuke and his cartoonish face has all of its features exaggerated for instance, there’s little ambiguity. Perhaps there could also be something more structural in terms of narrative, so as to foreground surprises or even be designed to encourage multiple viewings such that the content becomes increasingly familiar but also has more to explore each time. I do not meant to encourage the stereotype, but I have to wonder if the way works such as Star Trek, Doctor Who, Gundam, indeed even Naruto have created fanbases that work off of re-watching these shows and delving into their tiniest details (often regardless of the context of character motivation) results in a similar appeal.

I think it’s easy to tell that my own ideas in this regard are kind of rudimentary and lack extensive research and familiarity with the subject of autism, but I wanted to express my own simple ideas in the hopes that someone more well-versed in the subject either personally or professionally might be able to tackle this subject better.

 

Official sources for Genshiken Second Season

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