In the second episode of the Video Game Championship Wrestling series spinoff, “Extreme Dudebro Wrestling,” Lucina from Fire Emblem: Awakening made her way to the ring. Just as VGCW makes the chat itself part of the viewing experience, so too does EDBW, and Lucina’s arrival brought with it some powerful (text) chants.

“LET’S GO CINA!”

“CINA SUCKS!”

Anyone who’s familiar with the WWE over the past decade is likely familiar with the origin of these dueling chants. Loved by kids, reviled by adult fans who grew up with The Rock and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, John Cena’s popularity splits the audience in two whenever he wrestles. Naturally, VGCW fans did not pass up an opportunity for some wordplay.

Of course, this is to be expected, right? It’s a constructed wrestling universe based on popular video game and occasional anime characters, so this type of crossover should lead to cross-demographic jokes. And yet, when I watch and participate in any of the VGCW chats, I feel like I’m being exposed to a group which I normally don’t interact with otherwise. Somehow, even though I’m friends with anime fans, gamers, and smarks, I’ve never found myself in the middle of their convergence as much as I do in VGCW. That’s what makes all the Table-san jokes work, where the announcer’s table is jokingly viewed as a shy and meek anime girl whose day always get ruined when Wrestler A decides to powerbomb/suplex/elbow drop Wrestler B on top of her.

The connection between anime fandom and wrestling is a lot stronger in Japan, where you had series like Kinnikuman which continue to get referenced even today, as well as real life wrestlers based on anime like Jushin Liger and Tiger Mask. It’s sort of like if Zeus from No Holds Barred turned out to be one of the best, most beloved wrestlers ever when he made his WWF appearance.

As for Lucina, she fell behind the entire match, barely missing out on being pinned for the 3-count over and over. Then, as if the entire match was simply an opportunity for her to mount a comeback, she landed a DDT and a devastating finisher and won the match. The chat exploded, realizing that Lucina was even closer to John Cena than expected.

As they say, Hustle, Royalty, Respect.

Name: Azumi (あずみ)
Alias:
Azumin (あずみん), Mikoten Trio (みこてんトリオ, Manken Three (漫研三人組)
Relationship Status:
Single
Origin:
Fudanshism: Fudanshi Shugi na Seikatsu

Information:
Azumi is a teenager attending Kentei Academy and a member of the school’s manga club. She is the de facto leader of the Miko x Ten faction in the club, or the group which prefers the pairing of Omakase Tentel mascot characters Mikoto x Tentel, the opposite of Ten x Miko. Similarly, she pairs the manga club president Matsumoto Atsumu with his best friend Kiyokawa Atsumu in specifically that order, the opposite of fellow fujoshi Konishi Nozomi.

Azumi and her best friends Nakajima and Takaide typically gather every week to watch the newest episode of Omakase Tentel, looking for Miko x Ten moments that they can use, as well as watching to see if Miko x Ten prevails over Ten x Miko that episode. Azumi also draws.

Fujoshi Level:
Little is known about Azumi’s fujocity, other than that she actively pursues Miko x Ten along with her friends.

I’ve been trying out Manga Box lately, an official manga app for some more obcure titles. One of the titles I keep up with is NadeNadeShikoShiko, a bizarre 4-koma gag manga about a boy and the time-displaced cavegirl who loves him. It’s not the funniest thing in the world but it consistently gets a chuckle or two out of me.

The latest joke to get a laugh out of me involves one of the teachers. In the story, the boy attends a school with a “yamato nadeshiko” major where girls learn how to be traditional Japanese beauties. Part of the yamato nadeshiko thing is to contrast the cavegirl’s attitude, while another is to have kimono as school uniforms (which reminds me of Taisho Baseball Girls and its depiction of the transition between kimono and sailor uniforms). However, when we see the head teacher for the yamato nadeshiko department it turns out that she indeed embodies a more “classical” idea of Japanese beauty.

The joke of course is that she looks like stepped straight ouf an ukiyo-e print, and how this contrasts so utterly with the typical manga bishoujo style used for the rest of the characters. More than just being funny though, it really got me thinking about illustrated perceptions of beauty because neither the manga style as we know it nor this classical style of depicting women are “realistic” in the most common sense. They both make specific decisions on how features should ideally look (small eyes vs. big eyes), and while there are some overlapping points namely in the valuing of pure tones for skin, their differences really bring out the way culture plays into what we see as beautiful and how this builds upon itself.

Honestly, I can’t quite comprehend how that’s supposed to be beautiful. In realizing this, however, I realize I’ve been somewhat hypocritical when I question how younger or newer anime fans have trouble watching older shows. After all, if I can’t quite appreciate this older conception of beauty, am I all that different?

Over yonder, beyond the horizon, is the Saki individuals tournament arc. It’s been referred to frequently throughout the series, and though at this point the manga is a long, long way from reaching it, it does give me the joy of speculating who might face whom as they go through the brackets (or round robin system, not sure which they’re using). One I’ve already mentioned before is Amae Koromo vs. Oohoshi Awai because of how their strengths lie at opposite ends of the game, but there are plenty of others.

Minor manga spoilers, by the way. Remember though, these are not actual matches but just ones (in no particular order) that I’d like to see.

1) Kataoka “Tacos” Yuuki vs. Usuzumi “Hell’s Gate” Hatsumi

I think this one is pretty obvious. Imagine Yuuki as dealer in the East round (meaning she’s double East) versus Hatsumi in the North position. To whom do the East tiles go?

2) Oohoshi “Double Riichi” Awai vs. Anetai “Undertaker” Toyone

Awai’s insane Double Riichi vs. Toyone’s Pursuit Riichi. Who overpowers who?

3) Matano “Fisherman” Seiko vs. Inoue “Strategic Pon” Jun

Both have a tendency to call for tiles but for very different reasons (winning vs. control). Seeing them in the same match would likely make for a very aggressive game.

4) Funakubo “Osaka Data Girl” Hiroko vs. Sawamura “Nagano Data Girl” Tomoki

Two characters who specialize in gathering information on their opponents. Who is the better strategist?

5) Aislinn “New Zealander” Wishart vs. Hao “Chinese-Style” Huiyu

Aislinn is capable of envisioning the perfect scenario in her mind and having it play out to her advantage. Mako ruined her day by disrupting the discard patterns that Aislinn had set out, but then Huiyu tends to prefer closed, quiet hands. At the same time, Huiyu’s Chinese-influenced play style is highly unorthodox and could disrupt Aislinn possibly without any effort on Huiyu’s part.

If you’ve watched all of Samurai Flamenco you’ll know that even though the show has humble beginnings and then progressively gets into increasingly more outlandish territory. It’s the kind of thing that you try to keep your mouth shut about so as not to spoil the uninitiated (by the way, SPOILER WARNING), partially because it’s obvious how intentional the whole thing has been.

The main character Masayoshi goes from tryng to be like a Kamen Rider-type to actually being a Kamen Rider-type, to being the leader of a Super Sentai team (with giant robot) and eventually even an Ultraman-style giant (and that’s not even mentioning the final genre shif at the end). The changes are so abrupt and swing so heavily from one thing to the next that I can only interpret the show as poking fun at the mid-season corporate meddling that can happen to a tokusatsu series and yet genuinely embrace it as a part of tokusatsu history.

I have to wonder, did Samurai Flamenco hint at this from the start? Perhaps Samumenco was always projecting an aura of neverending incongruities. Just think about the name “Samurai Flamenco.” What gimmicks or powers would a guy with a codename like that have? He’d maybe have some rhythm or dancing abilities (like Cure Lovely in Happiness Charge Precure) and probably a costume based more on a Japanese suit of armor. Real tokusatsu series do similar things, like how Ressha Sentai ToQger currently features trains, and even the fake in-universe shows of Samurai Flamenco like Red Axe features… a guy with an axe. Samurai Flamenco, however, is neither Samurai nor Flamenco, and when he finally gets a set of effective weapons his gimmick of all things turns out to be “weaponized office supplies.” In that respect suddenly getting a giant robot that’s a mix of Combattler V and Dancougar isn’t so odd.

Perhaps Samurai Flamenco was always about the hodgepodge, the elements that don’t quite fit together so you have to smash them all in and enjoy what comes out. After all, it does start with a guy dressed like a superhero getting beat up by kids, who then forms a friendship with a cop where they sit around and watch children’s television.

XY_Diantha

In the world of Pokemon, Diantha (Carnet in Japanese) is not only the Pokemon Champion of the Kalos region and the final boss of Pokemon Xbut also a movie star with renowned beauty. It shows in her character design, but there’s something I find interesting about Diantha’s attractiveness. As far as I can tell, rather than being the perfect woman for guys, Diantha appears to be closer to women’s general perception of the ideal feminine beauty.

I’m not especially well-read on the differences between how men and women view beauty except to know that there is at least some appreciable difference between the sexes. From my own experience talking to others about this, if you were to look at the female chefs on the Food Network and ask who is the most attractive, men often prefer Giada De Laurentiis while Claire Robinson appeals more to women. A lot of it seems to do with the men and women focusing on different features, though I can’t say for certain which is which. When I look at Diantha’s design she leans closer to Claire than she does Giada in terms of facial structure, and her pose and overall stature exude less of an alluring, sensual quality, and more a powerful, statuesque grace. It also might be the eyebrows.

Of course, tastes between individuals can vary even within the same gender, and there are also cultural differences to account for. In this sense I’d say that Diantha is more of a European ideal than an Asian one, but as with all of this it’s more my own impression than anything else. Obviously I can’t speak about how women perceive beauty firsthand, and if there’s something you think I’m overlooking or just plain wrong about, don’t hesitate to leave a comment.

Though, if we’re talking about ideal Pokemon girl for guys, I imagine it’d be either Cynthia (Shirona) or Flannery (Asuna).

Name: Kondou, Mayuka (近藤繭佳)
Alias:
Mr. X (ミスターX)
Relationship Status:
Single
Origin:
Onii-chan no Koto nanka Zenzen Suki Janain Dakarane!

Information:
Kondou Mayuka is a model high school student and class president who in contrast to her pristine reputation secretly goes out at night to buy BL magazines. When she accidentally bumps into her classmate Takanashi Shuusuke one evening while the two are on their respective porn runs, she winds up making Takanashi into her “pet,” an errand boy who has to buy BL for her in exchange for food and pats on the head. While she at first she keeps him around by way of threats, the two eventually develop an actual friendship.

Kondou is adept at cooking and studying. Her most noticeable feature is her black pantyhose, to the extent that she singlehandedly induces a black pantyhose fetish in Takanashi. Mayuka has feelings for Takanashi, though they appear to be tied to her fondness for yaoi and wish to see him in equally dire situations. Her alter ego, Mr. X, is her personal name for when she wishes to disguise herself and her fujoshi side.

Fujoshi Level:
The reason Mayuka turns Shuusuke into her errand boy is that while she desires more extreme yaoi titles she is too embarrassed to buy them on her own, showing that while her imagination is vast she has limits based in reality.

!!!SPOILER WARNING!!! THIS POST ASSUMES YOU’VE SEEN ALL OF KILL LA KILL

Kill la Kill has been a fairly controversial show since its start. Back in the early episodes I remember seeing a great deal of questions suspicious of what I’d call the anime’s “integrity.” Does this story have any legs or is is just a random assortment of wacky and violent things? Is there a solid sense of character development at work, or is it all style and flash? Are the ridiculously skimpy outfits there to titillate or to make a point?

In other words, is the show smart or stupid?

For those who’ve watched through to the end, I think the answer is pretty clear: much like the question of whether Ryuko and Senketsu are human or clothing, Kill la Kill is neither smart nor stupid, yet it’s also smart and stupid.

I’m oversimplifying the point in the hope of expressing my thoughts succinctly, so let me elaborate.

A lot of features of Kill la Kill simultaneously buck and conform to convention. Traditionally, when we think of narrative in anime, we think of it as the visual style serving the plot, but in a lot of cases Kill la Kill shifts between which facet, narrative or style, takes priority, and sometimes they act as equals. In this last regard, I think one of the best moments to showcase this in Kill la Kill is Satsuki’s apology to Ryuko, where her characteristic blinding aura takes on new meaning.

Kill la Kill also encompasses both of anime-as-animation’s dual personas. Is anime a detailed and expressive medium which breathes life into its characters, or is it a series of creative money-saving cheats honed through decades to become a craft all of its own? In Kill la Kill, while it’s easy to tell which moments are which, often the scenes which exemplify the latter quality of anime are so smart and effective that I wouldn’t be surprised if people preferred them to be “static” shortcuts.

When it comes to anime and pop culture references, the series is rife with them. Yet, there’s no need to “get” them to enjoy the show, or to take meaning from it. I’m 90% sure that Ryuko and Senketsu’s decent to Earth is a reference to the ending to Zambot 3, only the show takes the extremely bittersweet conclusion of Zambot 3 and turns it into something more sweet than bitter.

(Pay attention to the last 6 minutes or so. Also, Zambot 3 spoilers of course).

What about the theme of clothing? Did it truly serve the show in the end? When Senketsu burns up in the atmosphere and tells Ryuko that all girls stop wearing their school uniforms eventually, while it doesn’t explain everything in the show, it does highlight one of the consistent themes of the series, which is that it’s about girls growing into women. The moments of embarrassment, the rebelliousness and desire to make up for lost time, there are a lot of different threads at work here (pardon the pun), which may not be entirely consistent, but it doesn’t feel like the ideas presented by the series are any lesser for that. Ryuko’s motto, that she’s all about not making sense, comes to the fore here. While what she says is true in a sense, her ability to embrace nonsense, to swing wildly in terms of her emotions, and to come to conclusions which are less about solving problems and more about coming to terms with things in ways which fit her, all of that has its own logic.

What works, works, and who’s to say anyone has to follow the template laid out for them? Though, even that isn’t wholly consistent because the “purpose” of Senketsu has a clear arc, at least in terms of utility. Of course, the real purpose of Senketsu was to bond with Ryuko in more ways than one.

As for one of the main controversies, that of the show’s depictions of female characters, I find that we’re left with a surprisingly complex situation as well. All of the major female characters in Kill la Kill are strong in significantly different ways, and they each bear their own distinct personalities and personas which celebrate their broad archetypes but also encourage viewers to think about those differences as more than just “uniqueness points.” Ryuko’s strength is her passion, Satsuki’s is her indomitable will, and Mako’s is her relentlessness. This extends to a certain degree to the rest of the cast as well, for both men and women, notably the Elite Four. With respect to the tendency for the series to dress its central characters up in absurdly revealing outfits, it’s a curious thing that often the way that Ryuko and Satsuki carry themselves drives attention away from their curves and towards their intensity. It’s not even entirely a matter of personality over looks, as Senketsu and Junketsu themselves also sometimes help to, in a somewhat contradictory fashion, put the focus on themselves and not on the bodies to which they’re clinging.

kamuisenketsu-small

 

While I find that the initial criticism of Kill la Kill came from a place of fear (oh boy, it’s anime at it again!), I think those who were initially wary of Kill la Kill also had every right to be. There was no definitive sign that the differences and the “stupid” elements wouldn’t transform the show into an Ikkitousen or some other show where the girls are action figures placed into awkwardly sexual poses. There was no definitive sign that its setting would be any different from Baka and Test or any number of series where the idea of “high school” is pushed to the “extreme.” What Kill la Kill manages to do, however, is give these inclinations teeth. It shows that these tropes and “vapid elements” have more power in them than simply their ability to distract and excite, that they can be engaged and utilized to express something I would dare call truly artistic.

 

Episode 1 of Space Dandy made an impact by killing off its main characters. In episode 2 they were back, and I think everyone (including myself) took this as a sign of the show not treating death or continuity very seriously. Supporting this is the fact that many episodes after this had odd, seemingly irreversible turnouts, like the zombie takeover of the universe, or the Redline-esque galactic race leading into time travel.

At the end of every episode there’s a catchy ending theme (by the singer of the Mawaru Penguindrum openings) which talks nonchalantly about the quantum physicist Hugh Everett III and the confusion caused by his theory of… parallel universes.

PARALLEL UNIVERSES.

DAMN IT.

Sue’s moved in next to Hato and the awkwardness is palpable. The rest of the Genshiken girls pick their horses in the Madarame race: Yoshitake believes in Keiko x Mada, Yajima is for Hato x Mada, Ogiue supports Sue x Mada, and Ohno picks Angela x Mada. Meanwhile, Sue and Hato visit Madarame to take care of him while he’s still recovering from his illness. There, the harem-like scenario prompts Hato to make his intentions clear and obvious.

I find the discussion between the girls about who they think would work best with Madarame fascinating for a couple of reasons. First, you can tell that each girl’s pick has different degrees of idealism and pragmatism. Yajima and Ohno are kind of longshots because of gender and distance respectively, while Ogiue for example thinks Sue and Madarame are a good match and Yoshitake’s preference for Keiko, as she’s explained before, has to do with trying to keep all her friends. Second, I find that it calls back to one of the basic questions of Nidaime, which is what would this club be like if it were mostly girls? Here, we can see how the act of pairing common to female otaku extends beyond simply the realm of BL and into the possibility of heterosexual relationships as well. It’s also interesting seeing them blur that fantasy/reality line, especially with Yajima who digs Hato but is a sucker for the Hato x Mada pairing.

The main topic of the chapter, however, is the rivalry between Hato and Sue. Hato’s begun to make some serious moves, like learning how to cook better so that he doesn’t disappoint Madarame, dropping as many lines as he possibly can to make his feelings all but crystal clear (“I’d like to cook for you again, Madarame, but without Sue around”), and outright mentioning the “harem” atmosphere. Yet, Hato finds that he doesn’t mind being a part of this harem, something which I can only attribute to the very staticness that is at the core of harem manga as a genre. In this state, Hato gets to express his feelings without there being any commitment one way or another, allowing him to participate without the consequences of having “winners and losers.” In other words, Hato probably thinks this is the closest he’ll ever get to really being with Madarame.

If there’s one thing about this chapter that really stands out visually, it’s the intensity of the blushing. Sue, Hato, and Madarame seem to have this reciprocal relationship where when one person’s face turns red, the other’s goes one step further, like they’re having an arms race using their cheeks. The blushing possesses an almost three-dimensional quality, like it fills the very room I’m sitting in, and I can’t tell whether or not I should be blushing as well. I think the key to this is how Kio successfully communicates the escalating sense of embarrassment that the characters, especially Hato, experience in this chapter.

Seeing Sue go wide-eyed over Hato’s soup, for a brief moment, I thought Sue might actually start to fall in love with him instead. Of course, that’s not what happens,  and instead you get this sort of grudging respect from Sue for Hato. As stated in the chapter, Sue mainly only eats convenience store bentou (I think the reference she makes in this episode is actually to Ben-To!), and while those things tend to be quite tasty (seriously, they’re really good), it doesn’t match up to the level of a proper home-cooked meal. As Sue becomes increasingly prominent in the manga, I wonder if she’ll begin to express self-doubts similar to Yajima’s to go with her perpetual shyness around Madarame.

Probably the most interesting topic in this chapter for me is the way Madarame feels that he simply cannot rely on harem anime and manga to navigate this situation. His reason is not simply that it’s unrealistic, but that the tendency for harems in shows to keep everyone at arms’ length so that everybody can be happy and the protagonist can have fun without any real repercussions doesn’t work when it comes to real people. Even indecisiveness has its consequences, and as we’ve seen already, it’s a topic where Madarame is surprisingly thoughtful.

Next chapter is the return of Yoshitake’s basketball-playing little sister of questionable tastes, Risa. I’m actually pretty excited, as I’ve been hoping for Kio to do more with her, especially because she had a few plot threads left from last time. There’s no telling if any of them will get resolved, but I’m just curious how she might factor into this whole complex relationship web, given that she also may or may not be interested in Hato.

One last thing: I can’t believe how good Ogiue looks in this chapter. I feel like Kio over the course of Nidaime has been working with somewhat unfamiliar territory when it comes to Ogiue’s character design. It’s substantially different from her old look, and I feel like he’s been gradually getting more comfortable with expressing Ogiue’s character as she currentlyexists in a way which properly captures where she’s been in the past and how she’s overcome all of that. In a way, she almost gives off a Kasukabe vibe, but in a way which is unmistakably Ogiue. The hoodie/dress shirt combination doesn’t hurt, either.

Official sources for Genshiken Second Season

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