Name: N/A
Alias:
Student from Warm Watch Group (見守る会の生徒)
Relationship Status: 
N/A
Origin:
Mayo Chiki

Information:
This girl is a student of Roran Academy and a member of the “Subaru-sama Warm Watch Group,” a fan club for the butler of the Suzutsuki household and Roran student Konoe Subaru. Their group, comprised mostly of fujoshi, are in favor of Subaru’s friendship with a male classmate named Sakamichi Kinjirou, which puts them constantly and secretly at war with a rival group opposed to that relationship, “Shooting Star Subaru Sama,” aka S4. This member is one of the few in the Warm Watch Group other than their leader Narumi Nakuru to interact directly with Kinjirou.

Fujoshi Level:
After rescuing Kinjirou from an S4 member’s attack, she asks him if he is the “seme” (top) or the “uke” (bottom).

Introduction: “Gattai Girls” is a series of posts dedicated to looking at giant robot anime featuring prominent female characters due to their relative rarity within that genre.

Here, “prominent” is primarily defined by two traits. First, the female character has to be either a main character (as opposed to a sidekick or support character), or she has to be in a role which distinguishes her. Second, the female character has to actually pilot a giant robot, preferrably the main giant robot of the series she’s in.

For example, Aim for the Top! would qualify because of Noriko (main character, pilots the most important mecha of her show), while Vision of Escaflowne would not, because Hitomi does not engage in any combat despite being a main character, nor would Full Metal Panic! because the most prominent robot pilot, Melissa Mao, is not prominent enough.


Juusou Kikou Dancouga Nova, the 2007 sequel to the 1980s anime series Choujuu Jishin Dancouga, can be considered in some ways the epitome of an “average” anime. A more accurate description, however, would be that it’s a show that is overall somehow fun and satisfying despite not living up to a lot of the ideas it presents, which is evident in not only its narrative but also its sense of characterization.

The basic premise of the anime is that four unrelated people in Japanese society are summoned to pilot the mighty super robot Dancouga Nova, which intervenes in battlefields around the world in order to aid the losing side. However, rather than simply aiding the weak, this mission of Dancouga Nova’s is quite literal, as it will defend a military force one day and attack it the next, depending on that force’s relative strength in any given scenario. It’s an interesting idea to be sure, and Dancouga Nova even takes some steps to explore its consequences (a journalist character actively questions whether or not Dancouga Nova’s actions are merely creating stalemates that perpetuate war, for instance), but given the obvious question of what this will all possibly lead to, the series responds by more or less dropping the issue like a hot potato and shouting, “aliens!!!” Then they fight the aliens and it’s fairly exciting, but it leaves one wondering where the rest of the story went. As an aside, for some reason I find this less disappointing than how Gundam 00 transitioned between similar plot points despite being a stronger work overall.

Given these issues, it would be reasonable to expect the show’s treatment of its characters to be equally inconsistent. This is indeed the case to a fair extent, as the members of the Dancouga Nova team are all defined by sets of traits that seem destined to lead jokes about their personalities that fall pretty flat, (though they don’t come across as unbearable). Dancouga Nova gunner Tachibana Kurara for instance does the Golgo-13-esque “Never approach me from behind” thing, but the fact that she says it every time the situation calls for it turns it from an interesting character trait to a catch phrase that wears out its welcome (like most of the quips in the series). Main character and team leader Hidaka Aoi has the fewest of these qualities, which makes her lead position more enjoyable than if anyone else had as much of a spotlight.

However, whatever weakness in plot and characterization that exists in the show, it’s worth nothing that its portrayal of the female pilots is for the most part neither putting them on a pedestal above men nor subordinating them to supportive roles. A number of series that focus on groups of female characters both inside and outside of the mecha genre have a tendency to be about how beautiful and wonderful the girls are, a setup which has its place, but here the team of four is divided between two men and two women, all of whom contribute in battle evenly.

(It’s also interesting that all of the pilots are adults, rather than teenagers).

An additional female character is added later, but is shown to be just as effective as the others (and for a while is even their rival). Aoi herself is more or less a solid if underdeveloped character in terms of her portrayal, and while one possible criticism might be that she lacks agency in that she’s thrown right into the thick of things with little say in the matter, that’s more a problem for all of the characters in the show regardless of gender. In fact, the only point of “inequality” might be that the female characters (Kurara is a narcotics officer, Aoi is a professional racer and model) are more glamorous than the guys’ (salaryman and hobo). However, beyond this, neither male or female characters are rendered useless, and even the sole situation that might be considered a “damsel-in-distress” situation is more a matter of a female character staying to fight knowing that she’s at a clear disadvantage due to a number of factors wholly unrelated to her gender.

This is not to say that this series is aiming for a strong sense of feminism. On some level, all of the girls in Dancouga Nova are clearly supposed to be attractive feminine ideals, albeit in different ways. Fanservice, or more broadly the overt sexualization of its female characters, is certainly present in the series in quite a noticeable way. However, while creatively positioned camera angles and bouncing breasts appear throughout the anime, at the same time they are also not so prominent that fanservice becomes raison d’être for Dancouga Nova unlike a number of other similar series. For the most part, the anime keeps the “cheesecake” separate from the fighting, so battles do not consistent of prominent T&A shots while the female characters are being tossed around in their cockpits. Some revealing shots do occur in the action scenes, but they’re usually brief and fairly mild, and instead the summoning of weapons and the destruction of enemy mecha comes across as powerful and mostly gender-neutral.

When it comes to Aoi in particular, I do find it notable that while she is a fairly hot-blooded type as befits a super robot protagonist, she still comes across as relatively subdued as far as passionate yelling pilots are concerned, especially when compared to the hero of the original Dancouga, Fujiwara Shinbou. In contrast, there is a similar character in Dancouga Nova, Kamon Sakuya (the homeless one), but his attempts at playing the role of the 70s super robot hero are, like Kouji from Godannar, mostly a source of comic relief. A part of me wonders if this is making some kind of statement, that the old school nekketsu inevitably makes way for a newer type to fit modern times. I must admit that my impression of Dancouga comes mainly from its appearance in Super Robot Wars and just a little bit of the actual show, but even from this partial view Dancouga is famous for its passionate yelling and a dynamic visual style that makes even standing still an exciting assault of flashing lights and colors and crazy exaggerated proportions courtesy of Obari Masami (animator on Dancouga, director of Dancouga Nova).  Perhaps in light of this, the look of Dancouga Nova is not as exaggerated either. I would have chalked this up to “digital animation,” except Choujuushin Gravion, also directed by Obari, proves otherwise.

Dancouga Nova is a simple show that presents a female mecha lead who, while not exactly at the forefront of feminism, is strong, confident, narratively significant, and passionate enough that it’s easy to wonder why more characters aren’t like Aoi. It’s not so much that she’s a shining example of a great protagonist, but rather that she (or a character like her) should be the base line of what is minimally required for a heroine in this type of show. Aoi can be a bit simplistic, but in that way that defines a generation of male heroes in giant robot anime. Of course, as Dancouga Nova shows, being able to portray a female character well doesn’t necessarily mean a show itself is going to be amazing or that it won’t have its fair share of problems, but all the same Dancouga Nova is made better for having a lead like Aoi.

orbitalbombardment-small

I’ve been living outside of the United States for the past few years, though funnily enough I’ve spent every 4th of July in the US. This year is an exception, but at the same time I will also be heading back home soon. So at least for the foreseeable future, this is my first and last Independence Day in Europe. What better time then to talk about America? I haven’t done that in a few years either.

Specifically, there are a bunch of thoughts related to Americans and anime fandom that have been whirling around in my head as of late, and I’m using this opportunity to try and organize them into some cohesive ideas. Not sure if I’ll succeed or not but that’s part of the entrepreneurial spirit or somesuch. AMERICA.

Two pieces of news that caught my eye over the past few weeks have been the announcement of a sequel and animated television series for Pacific Rim, and the fact that the recently revived Toonami block on Cartoon Network is doing better and better. In the case of Pacific Rim, one of the biggest talking points concerning the first movie’s release was that it didn’t do well in the United States, but in contrast found some success nternationally, especially in China. The idea permeating Pacific Rim and its “failure” was that it needed to do well domestically for it to have any real hope of continuing, but this news has shown otherwise. Scott Mendelson over at Forbes argues that this is the first movie that has received a sequel despite of its lack of success at the American box office, and may hint at the increasing importance of that overseas market. Various arguments have been made for why Pacific Rim didn’t click with American audiences, from idea that “mecha” isn’t a popular genre in either the US mainstream or among its anime fandom, to the opinion that it was just a bad movie, but there’s something intriguing about the idea the US is not the epicenter of this property’s future.

In contrast, it looks like anime is in a certain sense “rediscovering” its American fandom through Toonami. For a long while anime looked like it was on its way out of the American geek culture, as the presence of Japanese cartoons on Cartoon Network faded from their heyday in the early to mid 2000s. The “Toonami” concept itself, a block dedicated to anime and anime-like cartoons, even went away in 2008. And yet, whether it was because the folks in charge smelled profit in the air from anime once more or there was just some personal desire somewhere to bring anime back to the fore of Cartoon Network, Toonami has returned and is doing quite well.

Historically, anime has not needed its American fanbase. Sure, there have been a lot of viewers, but anime’s domestic market is Japan, and it also finds success around the world, in Europe, South America, and Asia. The US certainly has an online presence when it comes to anime discussion and enthusiasm, but over the years it’s been easy to get the impression that this fandom is a paper tiger, especially when it comes to popular shows among the internet fandom not translating to home video sales. Of course, this also has something to do with how expensive anime was for a long time (and still kind of is relative to other forms of media), but overall it wouldn’t be surprising if people perceived American audiences of anime as just somehow lacking. Now, however, not only are American viewers tuning in to catch Toonami and its latest anime, but the shows people are most interested in are also the ones that have developed large fanbases online as well.

It would be remiss of me to minimize the importance of the actual shows themselves, as I think regardless of anyone’s opinions of these anime, it’s fairly easy to see why series such as Sword Art Online (MMORPG plus swords and sorcery), Attack on Titan (violent post-apocalyptic world with large cast of interesting characters), and Black Lagoon (guns and action) would do well with an American audience even if all three are significantly different from each other. One thing that I find interesting, however, is that at least for the first two their Japanese fanbases are also quite substantial. In this situation, you have the support of a hardcore Japanese fanbase, a mainstream Japanese audience (especially for Attack on Titan), a hardcore international and American fanbase, and a relatively mainstream presence in the US as well. It’s as if the division between fan and casual has been collapsed, and interests that are often viewed as mutually exclusive now overlap.

So on the one hand, you have a property in Pacific Rim where the American audience turns out to not be as important as originally thought, and on the other hand you have in Toonami the rediscovery of an American audience that is, while arguably not significant, still good to have. I feel like there’s some connection or relationship here but I’m not exactly certain of what it is. One thing that might help is that I recently read an academic article from 1998 on Sailor Moon, which was written during the time that Sailor Moon was already a runaway hit in Japan and was beginning to air in the US. Though Mary Grigsby’s “Sailormoon: Manga (Comics) and Anime (Cartoon) Superheroine Meets Barbie: Global Entertainment Commodity Comes to the United States” is more about arguing how the series is influenced by cultural hegemony (essentially the continuous and subconscious reinforcement of how things are in society) yet somehow defies it, what caught my attention is the fact that a note at the end mentions how by the time this article was published Sailor Moon had already been a commercial failure in the US.

Sailor Moon was not the profit machine that the various companies supporting its US distribution had hoped, but in light of a new  Sailor Moon anime in celebration of its 20th anniversary and the clear continued significance it has to American anime fandom, it’s clear that the show has had an impact, and possibly that what was seen as a failure of the show at the time may have been more a failure of marketing. To some extent, this may have had to do with the cultural landscape of the US in the 90s. After all, in contrast to the revising of Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune from lesbian lovers to cousins back then, currently more and more people in the US are accepting or at least tolerant of same-sex relationships. However, there’s another important point to consider. In the Pacific Rim article, Mendelson also writes that “The deciding factor separating Pacific Rim 2 from Robocop 2 may be the passionate fan base of the former. It’s easier to talk financial parties into a sequel to a somewhat under-performing original if paying audiences actually liked said original.” Sailor Moon grew a powerful fanbase that the models for success at the time couldn’t properly account for. As the American anime fandom grows once more, now may be the time for both old and new fans to find some common ground.

 

 

 

Since the last chapter, Madarame has been mulling over Hato’s Valentine’s chocolate. Feeling a sense of happiness over receiving them yet also confused and alarmed by this very reaction, he seeks the advice of Kugayama, who is the only other guy out of the old Genshiken crew to not have a significant other and thus won’t spill the beans to the girls. As the two get increasingly drunk over some barbecue, Madarame reveals where he believes the confusion lies: to him, Hato is a man and therefore someone Madarame can relate to, whereas women are so foreign to him that he doesn’t know how to even begin dealing with their affections. Kugayama suggests going to a soapland to help him get over his fear of women, but realizing that it’s probably too big a jump for either of them they consider instead going to a cabaret club, more specifically Keiko’s.

For a chapter basically consisting of two scenes and a brief look into Yajima’s attempt to improve her figure drawing with the help of Yoshitake, there’s actually a whole lot to unpack. At this point, it’s something I expect from Genshiken even putting aside my own tendency to analyze the series in depth, but the more I thought about the simple events and topics of this chapter, the more complex the exploration of otaku sexuality and its perception in the otaku mind becomes.

Although I’ve had to re-assess the manga’s messages when it comes to attraction and sexuality a number of times, at this point one thing continues to be certain: Genshiken presents the idea that one’s “2D” and “3D” preferences neither overlap entirely nor are they truly separate. It wasn’t that Hato was in denial when he originally said his preference for BL existed purely in the realm of doujinshi and the like, but that he honestly felt that way. However, as we’ve learned, even the distinction between “2D” and “3D” is tenuous, as the characters of Genshiken ship real people (or at least imaginary approximations of real people). I would argue that BL was not Hato’s realization of homosexuality, but something which made the idea a distinct possibility in his mind that helped him to clarify his feelings for Madarame.

While I don’t think Madarame is having the same thing happen to him, I do think his actions in this chapter reflect a similar semi-disconnect between his 2D and 3D desires. Consider the fact that one of Madarame’s warning signals was that he began re-playing his otoko no ko eroge. One would expect the situation to be that ever since Madarame received the chocolates that he began to look into those games, but he in fact had them for a while. While Madarame maintained is self-identity as heterosexual, he was playing those types of games the whole time, and as implied in the chapters where he first discusses his experience with those games, it’s less about being into guys 2D or 3D and more about the use of sexual expression coded generally as “female” in otaku media that appeals to him. Hato, who similarly performs “femininity” looks to be hitting the same triggers in Madarame, and the very fact that this deliberateness in the end positions Hato to be male is also what makes Madarame feel as if he can relate to Hato better than any woman.

The female sex is something Madarame has viewed his entire life as a realm of distant fantasy, only barely entering his purview of reality when Kasukabe suggested that maybe they could’ve had something if circumstances had been different. This, I think, is why Madarame has trouble deciding what he feels in reaction to Sue and Angela (via Ohno) giving him romantic chocolates as well. Madarame has expressed interest in 2D characters similar to Sue, and there’s no doubt that he finds Angela attractive on some level, but they’re a foreign existence, both figuratively and literally. In that sense the anime girl and the real girl are equally “farfetched.” This is also what makes the Chekhov’s gun that is Keiko’s heavily photoshopped business card so powerful. Not only is it the case that Madarame’s refusal to visit the cabaret club back in Chapter 59 potentially overturned the next chapter, and not only is Keiko one of the other girls into Madarame, but Keiko herself plays a “character” at her workplace. Even firmly within the realm of “3D,” the line between fantasy and reality blurs.

Another thing I find interesting about this whole notion that Hato’s feelings are easier to respond to because Madarame can relate to them as a fellow guy is how this somewhat mirrors one of the reasonings touted for why people get into BL of shounen manga. Traditionally, female characters and love interests in battle/sports/competition manga have been on the sidelines, and most of the displays of fiery passion consist of male rivals and enemies confronting and antagonizing each other, which leads to more time and effort to devoted to those relationships than the ones between the hero and his would-be girlfriend. While this isn’t quite the same as what Madarame and Hato have, what is similar is this concept of guys being able to understand each other on some deeper level (or with girls in yuri), whether it’s intrinsic or something that’s developed over time. In the case of Madarame, it’s perhaps an inevitability given his inexperience with women. In a way, Kugayama’s solution of breaking the “mystique” of the opposite sex through the use of a “professional,” while extremely typical in various cultures (there was even a King of the Hill episode on the subject) is itself also a breakthrough for the otaku-minded, as it involves a desire to get away from the ideal of sexual purity and enter “reality,” though even that conception of the world is fueled by a fantasy. There’s a more I could say about Kugayama as well, but I’ll leave it alone for now except to say that Kugayama in some ways occupies Yajima’s position.

As for the scene with Yajima, Yoshitake, Hato, and Sue, although it’s fairly short, it is notable that Yajima is actually trying to improve her drawing despite being previously resigned to suck at it forever, and Hato’s mention that he’s been drawing manga lately is likely going to mean that he’s gotten past his previous dilemma of only being able to draw BL when dressed as a girl and a rather bizarre style when as a boy. The “disappearance” of the two voices that accompanied Hato (his other self and the other Kaminaga) were likely a prelude to this development. I suspect we’ll see more in the next chapter.

Also, Ogiue does not appear in this chapter but is at least mentioned twice, once when Madarame believes Sasahara would definitely tell her if Madarame were to divulge his secret struggle, and once when Yoshitake states that it was Ogiue’s suggestion for Yajima to do some rough sketches.

 

Name: Narumi, Nakuru (鳴海ナクル)
Alias:
Narunaru
Relationship Status:
Single
Origin:
Mayo Chiki

Information:
The cat-eared high school student at Roran Academy with an extreme fondness for glasses, Narumi will go as far as to dive out windows to save a pair. She, like many of the girl at her school, is a big fan of fellow student and butler Konoe Subaru, and is even the president of the “Subaru-sama Warm Watch Group,” one of two major Subaru fan factions in her school. The Warm Watch Group is constantly at odds with their rival group, S4 (Shooting Star Subaru Sama), though neither is aware that Subaru is actually a girl.

Narumi and the rest of the Warm Watch Group are mostly fujoshi, and thus support the friendship between Subaru and “his” male friend, Sakamachi Kinjirou. Narumi herself goes as far as to write BL novels starring thinly-veiled analogues of the two which are so lengthy that they require someone with superhuman strength to staple the pages together, and then acts out the scripts. Owing to the popularity of her doujinshi, she has a loyal fan club of her own.

Fujoshi Level:
Narumi once turned down a boy who had confessed to her, for the reason that she has dedicated her entire high school life to creating BL.

stripmuseum-franka

After years of wanting to go but never finding the opportunity to do so, I decided to finally visit the Stripmuseum in Groningen. “Stripmuseum” means “Comics Museum, so don’t get any funny ideas. Then again, I feel like there’s a greater acknowledgement of nudity in Dutch comics compared to especially American comics, and so maybe the joke isn’t too out of place.

stripmuseum-mother

stripmuseum-donlawrence

The museum is fairly small but it’s easy to spend a few hours there. The first exhibit that greets visitors is the work of Don Lawrence, a British artist who drew the fantasy comic Storm before passing away. Apparently it has always targeted a primarily Dutch audience, to the extent that the later artists who continued the work have all been Dutch. Another early introduction is artist Don Kriek, creator of Gutsman, not to be confused with a certain Robot Master.

stripmuseum-suskeenwiske-chinese

There are a lot of comics samples to look at, going from the earlier days of Dutch comics, such as Tom Poes to ones that have been around for ages such as Suske en Wiske, Agent 327, and Franka, as well as more recent works like Dirkjan and Sigmund. It also touched on properties that may not be “Dutch” or even “Dutch-language” necessarily but have left a mark such as Tintin and Donald Duck. As I can’t really read Dutch, I’m sure that my experience was somewhat limited (though remedied to an extent by an English-language pamphlet), and I can only imagine that people who are literate in the language could spend an even longer time there.

stripmuseum-corneliscoot

stripmuseum-manga2

One thing I found interesting was that there was a small section dedicated to “Dutch manga.” Given some of the arguments and disagreements that people get into in terms of what “is” or “isn’t” manga, it’s kind of fascinating to see the Stripmuseum just outright state that, yes, there can be such a thing as Dutch manga, and that it operates under a somewhat different visual grammar. Though my experience with Dutch comics history is pretty shallow at this point (most of the museum information was new to me), I wonder if this ability to accept native-produced material as “manga” is but the newest step in a long line of appropriation, and I mean that in the best way possible. Not only is there the example of Donald Duck (where the magazine named after him is the longest-running Dutch comics magazine ever), but Dutch artists even took the American comics character Perry Winkle, renamed him “Sjors,” and paired him with a kid from Africa, essentially turning it into an entirely different work.

stripmuseum-sjorsensjimmie-early

stripmuseum-sjorsensjimmie-later

I also thought it was notable that Sjors & Sjimmie has been drawn by a number of artists over the years, especially because Sjimmie’s design started off as quite racist but was changed significantly over time. Another interesting fact I learned is that Mark Retera, the artist of Dirkjan, was inspired by Gary Larson of The Far Side. Seeing as The Far Side is one of my favorite comics ever, I feel like I should give Dirkjan a shot.

stripmuseum-dirkjan

If you’re ever in the Netherlands, give it a shot, though I must warn that the train ride can be pretty long if you’re traveling from one end of the country to the other. It was also my first time in Groningen and that city is beautiful. Maybe I should stop by there again just to take a look. It reminds me a bit of Los Angeles mixed with Amsterdam.

stripmuseum-bars

stripmuseum-fokkeensokke

 

stripmuseum-frankabw

stripmuseum-gutsman

stripmuseum-manga

stripmuseum-giraffe

stripmuseum-olga

stripmuseum-superman

stripmuseum-frankahammock

A few years ago I went to an event at Japan Society in NYC where Satou Dai of Cowboy Bebop and Eureka Seven fame was a guest. In the lobby, they had design materials from shows he’s written for, and among the works on display was something unfamiliar which caught my eye. This anime was Battle Spirits: Shounen Toppa Bashin, a show whose character designs by Shimogasa Miho (probably best known for Demashitaa! Powerpuff Girls Z) stayed with me for years. Having finally decided to take a look, and it turns out that Shounen Toppa Bashin is actually a show that’s surprisingly strong in the categories you wouldn’t expect a trading card game-themed anime to even take into consideration, such as personal psychology and portrayals of parent-child bonds. It’s one thing to be an anime like Selector Infected Wixoss, which tries to mess with the conventions of this genre, but this very first Battle Spirits doesn’t subvert so much as challenge and uplift.

The basic premise of Battle Spirits: Shounen Toppa Bashin is about as standard as it gets: kids (and adults) love a trading card game, and they somehow are able to access another dimension and battle with 3DCG monsters. They challenge each other, enter tournaments, form friendships. It basically sounds like a Yu-Gi-Oh! clone. What is notable, however, is that  the character relationships in Shounen Toppa Bashin really stand out in a way that I would expect more from a Satou Jun’ichi magical girl show (Ojamajo Doremi, Fushigiboshi no Futagohime) than a TCG merchandising engine. I guess I shouldn’t be that surprised that the man responsible for the series composition of Eureka Seven would also give an impressive showing here.

For example, when you see the extremely straightforward, shounen fighting spirit main character Bashin Toppa talk to his mom Hayami (both pictured above), you get a real sense that his energy and attitude come directly from how she’s raised him. Rather than ignore or deny that familial connection as is often the case with anime, the show uses it to give a real sense of personality to Toppa, to show that his simple-mindedness is also surprisingly deep. After all, what does it really mean to always look ahead, to always want to “Break through the front,” as Toppa often says? It sort of reminds me of Sei and his mother in Gundam Build Fighters, though it also doesn’t hurt that Hayami is not only a classy lady just like Rinko but a taxi driver famous for her Initial D-level driving.

There are a lot of other examples too, but I’ll only mention one more. Another source of delightful interaction comes from the fact that the devious ace player Suiren is actually the popular idol My Sunshine, and Toppa’s inability to see through her disguise in spite of how much time they spend together is pretty hilarious. At the same time, however, it’s also the impetus for Suiren to open up to others and to form friendships with the rest of the main cast. The character designs by Shimogasa really shine here, which reminds me somewhat of Chousoku Henkei Gyrozetter and its own strong character designs and personalities. Speaking of character designs, they’re probably at their best when looking at the show’s ending videos.

Seeing all of these characters with really simple yet vibrant personalities interact with each other in clever and entertaining ways while sporting those strong character designs just makes the show a joy to watch to the extent that it pretty much overshadows the card battling aspect of the series, which almost feels intentional given how much the show rushes through the matches. Usually, when it comes to TCG anime like Yu-Gi-Oh!, the drama is mostly focused on the card game, seeing step by step how the hero overcomes his opponents, but Shounen Toppa Bashin is different. In fact, in most episodes it generally skips a lot of turns to get straight to the climax of a match. The result is that, like Yes! Precure 5, the “fights” seem supplemental to the characters. Maybe not the best for selling the “Battle Spirits” card game, but purely as an anime I would rate it higher than most other shows in its genre.

There is one TCG-relevant aspect, however, that I do find unique to Shounen Toppa Bashin, which is that the anime makes an effort to show how the characters gradually gain experience with the card game they’re playing in a way which is easy to follow. Toppa is head-strong and prefers a straightforward approach of busting through his opponent, for example, but then loses a match early on because he doesn’t take into account strategies which more directly counter his deck type. By the next battle, you see this weakness made up for it to an extent, and then strengthened further in a following match. It’s a nice touch to show that the characters are learning, instead of just seeing them bust out a new deck with “all-new secret strategies!!!” (though that happens sometimes too). What also helps is that a lot that both male and female characters are considered strong players, and everyone will take games off of each other fairly regularly so there are no real “weak links” in the core group, and even those who start off that way improve over time.

I’ve only watched 26 episodes so far, but I definitely look forward to seeing how the show continues to unfold. It’s the kind of show I wish more morning boys’ anime would be.

I was unable to go to AnimeNEXT this year, but thanks to the Reverse Thieves and their con report, I’ve learned that the Studio Trigger panels were fantastic and I’m totally jealous of them for being there. Obviously I can’t write about the experience, but there are two points in their post on Trigger that I find interesting to look further into.

The first aspect I want to talk about is in regards to them having an initial version of Kill la Kill with five episodes already planned out in full, but decided to scrap it and start over again with something they felt was stronger. Back when I wrote my review of Kill la Kill I got some comments from a particular poster that criticized Kill la Kill‘s writer for making numerous revisions to the script, as if it had hacked together haphazardly, but with this clarification it’s now obvious that the drastic changes came from the planning stage and were less about cobbling together a frankenstory and more about trying to find the right direction no matter what.

The second little factoid that caught my attention is the fact that the staff at Studio Trigger is really into American superhero comics, which is sort of obvious if you’ve watched all of Inferno Cop. What I find funny about this is the fact that for American comics, superheroes are increasingly seen as this bland, boring, mainstream yet niche thing that we need to move past, while Studio Trigger has this reputation for being a new and cutting-edge anime studio, and they take inspiration from superhero comics.

It’s kind of a curious experience watching Love Live! School Idol Project because the more I see, the less the “idol” aspect matters to me. Sure, the songs are catchy and the dance sequences can be quite fun, but I find that it’s actually the show’s sense of humor that really stands out for me.

There are many different ways in which anime does comedy. There’s the slice-of-lifey approach of K-On! or Hidamari Sketch, where the idle moments provide grounds for chuckles. There’s the wild and wacky form of something like gdgd Fairies or Sakigake!! Cromartie High School, featuring one absurdity after the other. In many cases, the characters themselves are not only important to the jokes, but the jokes are subordinate to showing off the characters and how crazy/cute/sexy/rad they are. Love Live!, especially its second season, often feels closer to a classic sitcom than a typical gag anime.

Episode 7 of Season 2 is probably the best example of this so far. When Hanayo is happily chowing down on her over-sized onigiri as Honoka complains about her diet, there’s both the humor of Hanayo inadvertently rubbing it in and the humor of Hanayo’s increasing hubris leading to her inevitable downfall (carbs, man). Later in the episode (10 minutes, 30 seconds), Honoka and Hanayo are jogging when they come across a restaurant. The sight gags and the way they communicate with only excited grunts reminds me of an I Love Lucy skit like the chocolate factory, or maybe something from The Honeymooners. There’s even sort of a similarity between Yazawa Nico and Ralph Cramden.

That’s not to say that the characters are not a focus of the anime, as it is in the end a show about idols designed to have you become a fan and buy all of their merchandise. Despite their looks, however, I often find that the humor isn’t simply about “moe” even when it comes to highlighting their personalities, or if starts out that way then it becomes something else over time. Hanayo, who I describe as “a G Gundam character with the volume turned down to 10%,” essentially has a soft scream that sets up or supports a lot of the jokes in the show. Perhaps the most prominent example of the show doing more with its characters is Sonoda Umi, who in Season 1 is sort of an Akiyama Mio from K-On! type—a cool-looking and responsible girl who is easily embarrassed and writes cute lyrics. However, while she retains those elements to a degree in Season 2, she also begins to show a kind of hilarious intensity that is best summed up by the gif below.

umi-angryface

Another aspect that works in the show’s favor is that it will sometimes take episodes to set up a joke and reward those who’ve been paying attention. In Season 1, it’s when they get a club room (or something, my memory’s still a little shaky), and you can see Hanayo just casually using a rice cooker in there. It’s not the focus of the scene, and no one really makes mention of it, but then when they have their training camp, you see the fact that Hanayo has this gigantic bowl of rice piled so high that it looks like a snowy mountain. When someone finally asks about it, Hanayo’s rsponse (“Don’t let it bother you”) comes and goes so quickly in part due to her soft, high-pitched voice that somehow it just gets funnier.

In Season 2, episode 1 shows Honoka yelling at the sky to stop raining. When rays of sunshine start peaking through the clouds, we’re supposed to think of it as Honoka showing that people can do anything if they set their hearts on it, an inspirational moment for the characters. However, a few episodes later Honoka, Umi, and Kotori get trapped in Okinawa because of a typhoon, and as the weather gets increasingly bleak, we can see Honoka trying to stop the weather again, only this time to no avail. I actually think that little moment in the first episode was partly done to pave the way for this punchline a little down the road.

I find that humorous anime tend to attract a particular audience because it isn’t quite the same as what you’d find on television, and the fact that Love Live! often veers towards the latter may either be a welcome aspect or the very thing that they ran away from when they discovered anime in the first place. The “idol” aspect may also be a turn-off for some, as the concept implies a certain desired level of maniacal devotion, even more than other anime that rely on the charm of its female cast. With Love Live!, however, there’s some real meat to the comedy, utilizing the characters’ personalities but not being solely in service to them.

By the way, my Love Live! top 3 are Hanayo > Nico > Nozomi. 4th is actually A-Rise lead Kira Tsubasa.

Official sources for Genshiken Second Season

Twitter

Archives

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,601 other followers

%d bloggers like this: