50% anime analysis, 50% Ogi
I finished watching Sengoku Majin Goshogun recently. It’s notable for being an earlier work from the director of the early Pokemon anime, though overall it’s an okay show at best with a kickin’ rad opening. There are, however, a few things about the show that really stand out, and make the show fairly memorable.
Goshogun is abouta mecha-loving boy named Kenta who, along with the crew of the mighty robot Goshogun and their teleporting airship the Good Thunder, fight against an evil organization bent on world domination. While the episodes are often kind of bland and episodic, the ones which explore the pasts of the main characters tend to be quite interesting. It’s one thing when the lead pilot Shingo is a generic do-gooder type, but it’s another when you learn that his past was full of danger and tragedy and that he actively chooses to be the Good Guy in spite of all that.
Actually, the show in general has amusing characters. Remy Shimada is the fiery female character of the series, and while she often talks about not being able to get married and settled down due to her giant robot work, it’s clear that she doesn’t really mean it when she actively chose her path. The villain Prince Bundol is a handsome blond who plays classical music when he goes into battle and cherishes beauty so much that when someone tries to betray the heroes he dismisses the guy and doesn’t follow through on his tip because “betrayal is ugly.” One of the other villains, Kerunaguru (pictured above), a guy whose name basically means “Kick and Punch” and who owns a robot designed specifically to be beat in fits of anger. In one episode, he opens up his own fried chicken joint without any ulterior motives. The guy just wants to sell some good fried chicken on the side while assisting in global domination.
By far the most fascinating reveal of the show however is the secret behind Goshogun’s ultimate attack, the Go-Flasher Special. First, it answers what the “blue button” mentioned in the opening does. Second, as it turns out later in the series, the Go-Flasher works by allowing the normally non-sentient enemy mecha to gain self-will, which causes them to override their controls and then voluntarily explode because they don’t like being used for violence and evil. Basically Goshogun’s greatest weapon is to give the enemy robots an existential crisis which makes them commit suicide. Now that’s an attack.
Oddly enough, the best way to enjoy the character interactions of Goshogun is to watch the movie Goshogun: The Time Étranger, which curiously does not feature the robot at all.
Kio Shimoku, the author of Genshiken, is an elusive individual. Portraying himself as a kind of ape, he so rarely makes public appearances that he is sometimes mistakenly believed to be a woman. In fact, when he appeared for an event to celebrate the Genshiken Nidaime (Second Season) anime, it was kind of a big deal. Thanks to Brazilian Genshiken enthusiast Diogo Prado, however, I’ve learned that photos of Kio do exist.
Apparently Kio had attended an event in Taiwan in 2010, where he promoted the release of his manga Jigopuri (also known as Digo Puri). His desire for privacy is respected here, as none of the photos actually show his face, yet it’s still pretty cool to see the man himself. Obviously I don’t know how he is as a person, but the fact that he looks like a nerd who knows how to clean himself up and dress nicely is a trait also demonstrated by the characters in Genshiken over time, namely Ogiue and Madarame. In fact, he looks pretty similar to Madarame from behind, while in the old Publisher’s Weekly interview with Kio he said that Ogiue is somewhat reflective of his own experiences.
By the way, I wonder how Jigopuri ended up doing in Taiwan.
Name: Hoshino, Rei (星野 れい)
Alias: 801-chan (801ちゃん)
Relationship Status: Dating
Origin: Tonari no 801-chan: Fujoshi-teki High School Life
Hoshino Rei is a girl who in middle school has been overweight and the subject of ridicule. Encountering a handsome high school student from Jion Academy named Akai Sui, Rei underwent a rigorous dieting and exercise regimen to slim down. Upon entering the same high school, Rei at first tries to hide her fujoshi side from Akai, but Akai is too oblivious to know what that is.
Hoshino is a big fan of various works, but is especially fond of the Gundam franchise. She has a couple of close friends, namely her male childhood friend Kamiyu Shoutarou and a comrade in fujoshi activities whom Hoshino refers to as her “Elder in Life.” Her rival in romance, Kurotsuki Luna, tries to use her identity as a fujoshi against her, but ends up only bringing Hoshino and Akai together.
Like her namesake, Hoshino Rei manifests her fujoshi side in the form of a small furry green creature. She approaches history class by thinking of famous figures in “seme” and “uke” categories.
In response to recent shows such as Kill la Kill and even Dokidoki! Precure I’ve been seeing a particular criticism thrown around lately:
“These characters are bad because they have no character development.”
In a way, it’s pretty much the go-to question for a lot of things, because when we traditionally think of a character-driven narrative, a character starts off in one place and ends up in another. Sometimes it’s a physical displacement, sometimes it’s an emotional one, and often times the two go hand in hand. When it comes to basic storytelling, it’s about as reliable a structure as it gets.
Reliable, yes. The formula by which all characters should be judged, no.
I understand that character development can be a powerful thing, and seeing a character grow can be a tremendously satisfying experience, but when “character development” is bandied about as doctrine it comes across as a Beginner’s Guide to Criticism. People end up being so eager to establish the “right way” to construct a story that they effectively throw out the baby with the bath water. “Static” characters, or even static elements of characters, have their own place, and are capable of being part of great stories. However, the narrative arc need not be about them in particular.
There are many ways to portray characters, and not all of them need to have the hero go through the typical kind of character progression. Does anyone watch Akagi asking, “Where’s Akagi’s character development?” Is Kenshiro an issue because he doesn’t have “character progression” beyond getting angrier and sadder as the series goes along? Raoh’s “development” is more a retcon which turned him from just an Evil Guy to someone who wanted to bring order to chaos. Yet all their characters work for what they are and what they need to be. That’s not to say that character development shouldn’t ever matter at all (and both Kill la Kill and Dokidoki! Precure have more character development than either Akagi or Fist of the North Star), but it shouldn’t be held up as holy doctrine that a story can only succeed if its character progression is sufficient.
I think this is why people are so often eager to point out that some character is a “Mary Sue.” This character who is on some level larger than life or a product of wish fulfillment is assaulted by the big book of how narrative tropes are “supposed” to work, and the attackers don’t care about anything but the idea that stories should adhere to it.
Chapter 97 of Genshiken II has quite a few significant developments, but they appear almost when you least expect them.
Yoshitake and Yajima decide to check out Hato’s new apartment, which is closer to the university. As they relax together, Yoshitake persists in trying to get Yajima to make a move on Hato or at least do something. The conversation goes to the topic of Madarame (who’s been looking for a new job), who then turns out to have a cold, prompting a visit.
While Hato uses his spare key to check up on Madarame and returns it, Yoshitake finally gets Yajima to admit that she has some feelings for Hato. As they discuss the fact that there’s actually an open apartment in Madarame’s building, Sue pulls up in a moving truck revealing that she will be living next to Hato (edit: not Madarame like I previously thought) from now on.
I find this chapter fairly difficult to process because it progresses so deceptively. What appears to start out as a Hato-centric chapter slowly reveals itself to be actually more of a Yajima and Yoshitake story, while the idle chit chat of the beginning eventually transforms into probably the most serious conversation about sexual orientation seen thus far in Genshiken. This unusual pacing makes it so that when Yajima finally quietly and grudgingly admits that she has some feelings for Hato (“…I don’t not like him”), it’s so subtle yet upfront that at least for me personally it feels like there’s a delayed response, like I’ve been hit by Kenshiro and am just waiting for my head to explode once it fully processes all of the implications.
Yajima’s moment plays out in the page below, and just the juxtaposition between her face and Yoshitake’s delightfully beaming face over getting her friend to finally come out with what Yoshitake herself has known all along is probably the highlight of the chapter. I know that manga sometimes gets ragged on for focusing too much on faces and not trying to draw more anatomically realistic characters or backgrounds, and then that the common response is to whip out something with really nice rendered art like Berserk. However, I think it’s important to appreciate skillfull use of faces in terms of creating a strong sense of flow and composition, even when it’s just two panels.
There’s also this sense of a narrative passing of the baton as while Hato has come to accept his feelings for Madarame, now it’s Yajima’s turn for conflict and confusion. In Yajima’s case it has nothing to do with her own sexual orientation. Instead, as far as I can interpret things, it has a lot to do with her own poor self-image mixed with some guilt over how she’s treated Hato and the realization that Hato feels something for Madarame. More than her appearance or her fondness for Shounen Jump analogues, it’s moments like these, where Yajima diminishes the value of her own romantic affections in favor of what’s already where, that makes Yajima feel really and truly like an awkward otaku.
As an aside, as much as I like Kinnikuman myself, I’m always a little surprised to see it referenced so readily in anime and manga, a reminder of how popular and beloved it really is. In this case, it’s Yajima using the Hell’s Guillotine, a signature move of the villain Akuma Shogun when she retaliates against Yoshitake’s antics.
When Yoshitake discusses sexuality, she mentions the idea that the fujoshi fantasy world of BL pairings is far different from the reality of a homosexual relationship and that there are (social) challenges awaiting anyone who accepts being part of a sexual minority. Not only is this rather poignant and serious, but together with the fact that she considers the likely reality that someone is going to get hurt in this no matter what, this chapter really highlights the fact that Yoshitake really thinks a lot of her friends. That said, she also kind of brushes aside her high school friends in a comment to Yajima and Hato, thought I take that as her having different types of friendships with different people. Even her friendships with Yajima and Hato individually aren’t quite the same.
As for Sue, the comedy potential for her living next to Hato is obvious, but it casts an interesting context in retrospect on Sue’s appearance in Chapter 95. While Sue being surrounded by mountains of merchandise epitomizes her as a mighty otaku, it also gives off this stark image of loneliness and isolation, which might explain in part the decision to move.
The last thing I want to do is go back to the faces, because this chapter has some of the best I’ve ever seen in Genshiken. You can already see in the Yajima-Yoshitake image above. The series has always been pretty good with the expressions, especially with the old Ogiue’s intense glares and Yoshitake’s general aloofness, but I feel like they’re on a whole other level here.
Seeing this Ogiue face below fills me with a strange kind of glee. In it, she’s basically refusing to get anywhere near a beauty salon. It’s interesting but also completely in character for her to be especially uncomfortable going to that sort of place even though she’s become much more fashionable over time.
Back when JManga was still alive, Soredemo Machi ga Mawatteiru, aka And Yet the Town Moves, was one of its most popular titles. While that didn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things, it’s clear it did have at least something of a fanbase. When JManga went under, it was a big loss in my opinion, but fortunately Crunchyroll Manga has brought it back.
Soremachi (as it’s called by fans) is a manga ostensibly about a maid cafe, which is better described as “a coffee shop which happens to have maids.” Its main character is a teenage girl named Arashiyama Hotori who has a love of detective fiction and a knack for thinking outside the box but is otherwise dumb as bricks. The humor is clever and varied, and it shares a number of qualities with Yotsuba&.
As far as I can tell, it’s the exact same translation as the one that was on JManga. Also, though it doesn’t really matter that much, one casualty of the switch to Crunchyroll is the original Japanese version. JManga originally allowed readers to switch back and forth between English and Japanese text, and it was fun seeing what certain jokes or puns were originally. Hotori mishearing “calculus” as “calculator” was, in Japanese, confusing “bibun sekibun” (calculus) as “sebun irebun” (Seven-Eleven).
That said, I’m willing to make that “sacrifice” for Crunchyroll’s more sensible pricing structure.
I made this just for this post
Twitch Plays Pokemon is a fascinating social experiment. Through the magic of streaming video and live chat, tens of thousands of users try to collectively play a single game of the original Pokemon Red by inputting simple commands such as up, down, and a. The result is inevitably chaos as our hero Red looks to be religiously checking his items, pacing back and forth, throwing away valuable items, and never ever being able to walk in a straight line. Fans have lovingly crafted a lore around the whole endeavor, taking the idea of active participation to arguably another level.
If you’re reading this, you probably don’t need me to tell you about it, because Twitch Plays Pokemon has absolutely exploded in popularity, getting coverage on a number of major sites. Given this, I do have to wonder to what extent the popularity has to do with Pokemon itself? Pokemon is one of the best-selling video game franchises of all times, and inevitably many people have experienced Pokemon in one form or another, even if they haven’t played the original game. This is why you can get anywhere between 40,000 to 100,000 people on the stream simultaneously 24 hours a day, because much like the British Empire the sun never sets on Pokemon fandom.
I’m no exception as I’ve inputted a few commands myself. I’ve watched in horror as the convulsing young Pokemon Trainer threw away two of his most valuable Pokemon, and witnessed the serendipity of Digrat, the Rattata who keeps resetting the progress of the game by digging back to the beginning of caves and secret hideouts. What I’ve also learned is that Pokemon Red is still really fun in and of itself. While the latest games in the series, Pokemon X/Y, are by far the best Pokemon games ever in terms of level of refinement, things to do, and even ease of finally creating that competitive team to beat down your friends/people on the internet, the enjoyment that the first-generation games brought was not simply a matter of nostalgia. Nostalgia is a huge factor for me personally, as the familiar tunes are ingrained deep into my psyche and I realized I could recognize that a Drowzee was sent out just from hearing it cry, but the elaborate yet ultimately forgiving sense of exploration you get in Pokemon Red/Blue just feels right.
This isn’t to say that the collaborative aspect of Twitch Plays Pokemon is subordinate to the game itself, as it’s being part of a greater crowd that is (for the most part) trying to aim towards success but often unintentionally stifling it that gives the whole experience much of its charm. With the Pokemon games, you’ve always had an environment where success feel great, but with Twitch Plays Pokemon failure often feels just as satisfying. Either way, it makes for great stories to share.
Name: Suzuki, Ikuyo (鈴木イクヨ)
Aliases: Edajima Simone (江田島シモーヌ), Ikuyocchi (イクヨッチ)
Relationship Status: Single
Origin: Hanaukyou Maid Tai
17 year old Suzuki Ikuyo is one of the dozens of maids working for the Hanaukyou household and head of the Technology Department in the mansion. Ikuyo is a mechanical genius who invents a variety of complex contraptions from hypnosis guns to cloaking devices, and is known for her general sense of mischief as well as her lack of physical talent. Her favorite food is eel pie.
Ikuyo is talented and diverse in her otaku hobbies, creating not only doujinshi but also figures in addition to cosplaying. Her preferences in yaoi lean towards older, tougher men, but she also draws male-oriented doujinshi as well. Ikuyo sees her fellow amateur artists as rivals, and attends Comic Manga Market with that ruthless attitude in mind. At Comake, she gets along with Kabukicho resident and mahjong player Gen’ei Ryou.
Ikuyo is more of a generally powerful otaku than exclusively a fujoshi, though her fujoshi side is definitely always present.
Galilei Donna is an anime which knew very well how it wanted to begin and end, but it’s clear there was not much forethought put into the middle. There are elements in the first episode which pay off satisfyingly in the end, such as the condition of the Ferrari sisters’ mother, but the length of time in which they went largely unmentioned compromises the impact. The amount of meandering that happens in the show (and I’m not against meandering per se, it’s just that it often seemed to contradict itself), certainly did not help, and it made the whole thing feel like it should have been 5 episodes shorter.
Given this, I really feel like Galilei Donna would have benefited from being either a film, or an OVA, or something along those lines. I think one of the key issues is that the beginning and end feel too far off from each other (even though it’s only 11 episodes), and the fact that the way they go about finding the Galileo sketches seems abrupt and without much conflict around the actual objects. This is the kind of thing that would be more forgiving in a movie or maybe 1-3 episode anime where the act of searching for the sketches could be done in montage and would not lead the series to feeling like the sketches had no true narrative weight to them. Also, when the conclusion is only 90 minutes away, it would not feel like the middle was largely wasted.