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This is an interview with director Takamatsu Shinji from Otakon 2015. Takamatsu as worked on many anime including Gundam X, the Brave (Yuusha) series

First question. Most Gundam series had romance but didn’t have it as a strong focus. Gundam X is a series that put the romance at the very forefront, and it was in some ways the main focus. Why was this decision made for this series?

It’ll be a long story!

I wanted to make something that was Gundam but not Gundam. One rule of Gundam X was to get out of Gundam and to be meta about Gundam, to do things that were not like “Gundam.

Before that, about a decade prior, you worked on Z Gundam and Gundam ZZ. What was your director Tomino Yoshiyuki, and how would compare his style to yours?

Well, I did grow up watching Gundam myself, and by the time I started to work at Sunrise Mr. Tomino was in the position of being a great director, so it was a scary prospect working with Tomino.

During Z Gundam I was production management, so I reported directly to him, and I was scolded by him every single day. There were days when I was scared about everything.

Romi Park is also at this event, and she gave a similar description of Tomino that is not inaccurate compared to yours.

However, Ms. Park worked with Mr. Tomino much later than I did, and if you look at Mr. Tomino at the time of Z Gundam, he really was off the wall.

You’re also very well known for your work on the Brave series, and you worked on many of them. What was the main reason you returned to the Brave series for so many years?

The first director of the Brave series, Yatabe [Katsuyoshi], brought me onto production for the show, and I worked on a little bit of Gundam in between. So, there was a hiatus for me, but otherwise I started from beginning to end for the entire series. And I got my debut as a director from the Brave series, so I am very much fond of the Brave series.

Might Gaine was my debut as a director, so I am particularly fond of it.

In that case, I have an interesting question to follow up with.

The Brave series is known for being very toy and merchandise-heavy but also having good storytelling, as well as in some cases the staff resisting the merchandising aspects of the Brave series. Two famous examples I know are a hidden cel in Goldran which sarcastically talks about it’s supposed to be a robot that’s easy to make into toys, and how Might Gaine’s ending is a criticism of the toy industry.

What were your and the staff’s feelings at the time, and how did the toy companies such as Takara react?

That’s a very deep and vexing question!

So when I was getting started with Might Gaine, I was told that there’s just supposed to be good and bad, and all I had to do was to have toys that featured good guys and bad guys who would just battle. The staff really felt we need to show some kind of resistance, and that that wouldn’t just be the end of the show. And by staff, I mean myself.

You did not work extensively on Gaogaigar, but I have to ask this question. Do you have any details you can share as to why Project Z never got off the ground?

That I don’t know about!

That’s okay! Moving on, another similar series you worked on was Chousoku Henkei Gyrozetter, which was based on an arcade game. How would you compare working on Gyrozetter vs. working on the Brave series?

Gyrozetter was based on a video game, so while the look and feel of the show may be similar to a giant robot show, production of the show was otherwise completely different.

Unlike previous shows, the robots came from video games, so it wasn’t really needed as a tangible object, and I thought we could have done more with that.

I did grow up watching toy merchandise-based shows and I did think about what if the robot were a toy, but that wasn’t reflected in the show. That would be my regret. I talked about the resistance to merchandising intent of the toy companies for your earlier question but I actually love toys.

Last question. In regards to Cute High Earth Defense Club Love!, people have talked a lot over the years about the idea of a magical boy series. Whenever anyone brings up magical girls, someone asks, what about magical girls? What was the motivation behind finally putting that into reality?

The producer pitched it to me, and I thought, wouldn’t it be fun to work on something no one’s ever done before? And it turned out to be fun. (laughs)

Thank you!

Thank you.

This post was sponsored by Johnny Trovato. If you’re interested in submitting topics for the blog, or just like my writing and want to be a patron of Ogiue Maniax, check out my Patreon.

This month I received the following topic request:

“Keeping interest in your hobbies through the trials of life.”

I wonder if it’s more than coincidence that I would get this at a point where life is busier than it’s ever been. I used to think I understood what being busy meant, and that keeping up with your hobbies is simply a matter of carving out time, like watching shows during mealtime, or playing a game or reading a manga while commuting. That still applies to some degree, but I realize now that sometimes it’s not possible to carve out bits and pieces of time if your spirit isn’t up to it.

Everyone’s day is a bit different, and if the issue is being too busy for your hobbies, the first question that I think needs to be asked is, does your hobby help you mentally/emotionally? What I mean is, when you’re done working through the day or week, whether that’s at a job or in school or taking care of your family, does watching anime, playing games, etc. make you feel better or worse? I don’t mean this is a narrow way either, like the way “healing anime” is meant to provide stress relief, though there’s nothing wrong with that genre. Rather, there are many different ways that your hobbies might motivate you.

Maybe you want to constantly refine your tastes and experience the best of the best. Maybe you need a good laugh. Maybe you see it as an opportunity to bond with friends. Whatever the case may be, it shouldn’t feel like a burden more than anything else. Even if it’s “work” to keep up, there should be some level of satisfaction associated with it. If you have a completionist mentality, then make sure it provides you more joy than disdain, and if you’re the type who enjoys watching shows you hate so you can make fun of them, at least make sure that it provides energy and doesn’t drain you, whether you see it as a form of stress relief or because you believe you have some responsibility to tell others to avoid bad things.

It might also be possible that you’re so busy that you can barely do one thing, and you feel terrible for not being able to keep up with as much as you like. Not being able to watch or play as much as you’d like is why you’re losing energy and motivation. In that case, I think it’s still useful to prioritize in the way I mentioned above, but to think of your lack of time as an inspiration. Look at all of the things you haven’t done or watched or played, and how satisfying it’ll be when you get to it. If it turns out that it’s not so fun after all, maybe put it on the back burner or drop it entirely if that’s your style. Sometimes not finishing something doesn’t mean you didn’t love it enough, it just means you didn’t finish it. That’s all.

The reason why I’ve spent so much time emphasizing this idea of getting energy from your hobbies is that, if you don’t at least prioritize the hobbies that actually drive you forward or give you strength, then the busy days will feel even longer and busier. The problem of not having enough time to follow all of your hobbies isn’t quite the same issue as the problem of burnout, but they are similar in that they can make the day feel longer, and in fact the former can become the latter if those “hobbies” drain your strength. Again, strength in this context can mean many things, and how you define that is a personal matter.

 

I’ve been recently reading the book Passionate Friendship: The Aesthetics of Girls’ Culture in Japan by Deborah Shamoon, which looks at the culture surrounding and created by girls in the early 20th century, which includes magazines that were basically the precursors to the manga magazines of today, and bridges the gap between that period and modern shoujo.

One aspect it talks about that was common at the time was “Class S,” where female teenage classmates had close, intimate relationships with each other, and which became a common subject of fiction for girls’ magazines at the time. These could be interpreted as lesbian but at the time were considered an innocent substitute for male-female relationships (which were so forbidden at the time even seeing boys and girls together was scandalous), with the idea that these “S” relationships would be outgrown as girls became adults and married.

When it comes to more recent anime and manga portraying girls together in early 20th century Japan, the first series I think of is Taisho Baseball Girls, which is a series about girls living in the Taisho Era (1912-1926) who learn to play baseball in spite of the fact that girls weren’t supposed to engage in athleticism. It’s an excellent series, and even after reading Passionate Friendship I still hold that opinion, but it does prompt me to look at the series in different ways.

One aspect that Shamoon talks about is how some of the popular images of the “Class S” relationship would frequently portray one girl dressed in western clothing, and one in Japanese clothing. As Taisho Baseball Girls is set in a specific time period, school is portrayed as an environment where some where the sailor uniforms that are ubiquitous today while others wear kimono, but with “Class S” in mind I have to wonder if there’s supposed to be a bit of subtext in that general direction. The opening to the anime leaves it open enough that it looks like it might be just a close friendship, or something more.

Another plot point in the show is the fact that the main character, Suzukawa Koume, is betrothed to a boy who works at her father’s restaurant. In fact, one of the things I really like about Taisho Baseball Girls is that it contextualizes its feminist angle by showing how the characters both defy and are a part of their culture at the time, and that arranged marriages are one face of that. Koume and her future husband are shown to get along and even have feelings for each other, and yet at the same time there’s this idea that this is Koume’s fate, even if it looks to be a fairly happy one. Compounding the complexity of this situation as well is the fact that the idea of romantic or spiritual love (ren’ai) was only recently introduced to Japan at the time (also mentioned by Shamoon), and so there’s this mix of duty, desire, innocence, conformity, defiance, and more, with a great deal of hindsight.

It really makes me want to watch through Taisho Baseball Girls again every time I learn more about Japanese history and the Taisho period.

Anime is no stranger to characters crying. Whether it’s Kenshiro in Fist of the North Star or the entire cast of Alien Nine, tears are fairly ubiquitous. Over the past 10 years, however, there’s been one studio that’s stood at the top of the salt mine, and that’s Kyoto Animation. When they animate characters bawling, the tears are so physical, so three-dimensional that they practically become characters unto themselves.

Kyoani’s new show, Sound! Euphonium is no exception to this trend. Particularly in the penultimate Episode 12, the main character Oumae Kumiko has a scene where she just cries her eyes out. However, while on a technical level this is what we’ve come to expect, within the contest of the narrative itself the tears in Euphonium they take on a new meaning compared to their old works.

[Spoiler warning]

What makes Kumiko’s tears different and indeed special within the greater works of Kyoto Animation is what they represent. In prior shows, tears generally came from some kind of deep trauma or suffering, as if the characters were so overwhelmed by their particular circumstances or the horrible truths of their existences that crying often meant a kind of cathartic, primal action. Reason gives way to sheer passion, so to speak, and the result is a very Key game-esque scenario, not surprising given how many Key games they’ve adapted.

Screen Shot 2015-06-27 at 11.01.04 PM

However, in Sound! Euphonium, Kumiko’s tears are specifically tied to her reason and logic. They’re not caused by her simply being overwhelmed by emotion, but are also tied to the fact that she knows exactly what’s causing them. At that point believing that, despite all of the time and effort she poured into improving, that she would be denied the opportunity to play as part of the ensemble in one of the most important points for a Euphonium in their competitive recital, Kumiko’s tears are frustration towards inadequacy. In doing so, those same Kyoani blobs of liquid gushing out the character’s eyes transform from this generally moe trait to actually conveying the sheer weight of failure, or at least the self-perception of failure.

In a way, in older series from Kyoto Animation, the tears were about being not in control of one’s own life. In Sound! Euphonium, there’s still that sense of lack of control, but it’s paired with a character’s earnest attempt to master her own destiny, and to fall short in the process. Sorrow through action, rather than inaction, is what defines that moment in a series that already places more active motivation in its characters than many other similar series.

Hi Score Girl is the story of a beautiful romance where a young gamer who meets a girl who’s even better at Street Fighter II than he is. Though antagonistic at first, they begin to develop a friendship, and eventually something more. If you ever get the chance to read it, I recommend checking it out, as does my good friend Dave of Kawaiikochans fame. It’s a shame that the anime adaptation (and a lot of other things) got cut down at the knees due to SNK arguing copyright shenanigans.

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I noticed a few things about the girl in the story. First, she has long, thick black hair. Second, when she plays Street Fighter II, she picks mainly big, bald, and/or burly characters: Zangief, Dhalsim, E. Honda. In fact, when she plays Final Fight, she selects Haggar. Third, her name is Ohno.

Hmmmmm.

I don’t know if it’s just a coincidence or what, but I’m looking forward to the possibility that one Ohno might cosplay as the other. Also, now that I think about it, the Ohno in Hi Score Girl is more like a cross between Ohno and Sue, given her violent and eccentric temperament.

A couple of days ago Google had a Doodle celebrating the birthday of the creator of Ultraman, Tsuburaya Eiji. I wrote a post over at the Waku Waku +NYC Blog talking about the influence and impact of Ultraman. It talks about the Australian Ultraman, Evangelion, and more.

Over the past month, Ogiue Maniax finally hit the $100 mark on Patreon. I think that’s a pretty great milestone, and I’m thankful to everyone who’s helped out. I would consider this one of the more important events as of late, except that I actually also recently received my PhD and that kind of trumps everything else. Looking back, my academic achievement is a direct extension of a route that began with Ogiue Maniax all those years ago, and having my writing be appreciated on multiple levels fills me with a sense of wonderful pride (that’s also fleeting because I’m kind of self-doubting).

This month’s special Patreon sponsors are:

Ko Ransom

Alex

Johnny Trovato

Anonymous

Both Patreon-sponsored posts this month had interesting topics, I think. Touhou, Kantai Collection, and the Idea of the Controlled Fandom Experience is a post that came out of a request to talk about Touhou in general, but because Touhou is in such a different place compared to where it really began to make a mark in the English-speaking fandom, and because there’s so much competition in the mental space of otaku, I had to make it about Kantai Collection as well. For the other one, Miyamoto Ariana, “Japanese-ness,” and Black Cosplay, I’m not someone who normally thinks about beauty competitions or even cosplay, but the achievement by Miyamoto I think inevitably ties to a lot of ideas about identity and identity politics that even extends to the cosplay community.

This past month I also went and replaced my old Patreon milestone, the internet meme post, with a new challenge. At $150 I will now write a genuinely negative review of Genshiken, focusing mainly on its flaws (and not fake mascots ever). As my favorite manga ever, and because I tend to be positive overall with the blog, I see this as a challenge for myself. If you’re interested in seeing me squirm, this is your chance.

I still want to think about the whole Skype conversation reward, but it’s more a time concern than anything else at this point. I also am not sure how valuable talking to me actually is. Maybe once I get myself a silky smooth baritone voice, I can bump it up something fierce.

 

Cutie Panther is one of my favorite Love Live! songs. It’s intense, has a catchy beat and melody, and stands out from most of the other stuff that comes out of that franchise. When you actually listen to the lyrics though, it ends up sounding like something a stalker (or maybe a yandere character?) would be thinking.

Below are some of the choice lines. Translation is taken from this School Idol Festival wiki.

(Who are you with?
No way, you’re not allowed to be with anyone besides me)

I love you! You should be falling in love with me
I love you! That’s the right thing to do

Icy words, a gentle gaze… The prize at stake is you!

The rules of love are so hot
They exist to be broken

I miss you! It’s not wrong if it’s out of love
I miss you! That’s what intense love is like

Again, I don’t think this ruins the song, as it’s still my #2, but it sure does make them sound like stalkers! Also, there’s a history of catchy yet creepy-sounding songs, including a lot of old denpa songs (is that still a thing?) from visual novels. The most famous stalker song is probably “Every Breath You Take” by The Police:

If you’re curious, my ranking for Love Live songs is 1) After School Navigators 2) Cutie Panther 3) Shocking Party

 

tribecoolcrew-kanongrowth

Tribe Cool Crew doesn’t get a lot of attention, at least in English media on anime. Sure, it runs on Crunchyroll, and I won’t deny that every time I tweet about the show I do get a few responses. I know my fellow fans are out there. However, because I mostly tend to talk about a particular series only a few times (the main exception being, of course, Genshiken), I often find that I’m not contributing all that much to the general awareness of a series until it’s, in a sense, too late. While I also strongly believe in giving a show a fair shake before passing a thorough judgment on it (snap judgments are okay if acknowledged as such), Tribe Cool Crew has also hit a point that reminds me more than ever of why I got into the show in the first place. So, I want to talk about it.

In Episode 33 of Tribe Cool Crew, the female lead Otosaki Kanon is having a problem. Even though she’s at this point more than established herself as a skilled and talented dancer, something feels off, as if she’s being weighed down. Over the course of the episode, Kanon is informed by multiple people that she’s not getting worse at all. Instead, she’s getting so good that, in an effort to keep in sync with everyone, and to maintain the presence of the “group” in terms of stage performance, she’s subconsciously restricting herself.

Kanon’s becoming too talented so to speak, but it isn’t jealousy that lies at the heart of the conflict of the episode, but rather Kanon’s own desire to keep everyone together. She feels herself to be the outlier in this situation, and as someone extremely self-conscious about her height (yet at the same time cognizant enough of it to use her long limbs to accentuate her dancing), the fact that she’s grown even taller and thus has even greater potential to become a “star” (what Tribe Cool Crew calls individual performers rather than dance crews) is frightening to her. What I find fascinating about all this is, then, is that it’s something of an unusual problem to have in anime.

There are plenty of anime and manga where characters have to overcome personal challenges that are defined by their own history and development within an activity. For example, Masumi in Swan, despite her talent, has to re-learn the basics of ballet because she was taught incorrectly and thus has to undo all of her bad habits before she can progress. Amuro in Mobile Suit Gundam begins to outperform the Gundam itself, but that’s more man overcoming machine. In fact, he closest thing I can think of that resembles Kanon’s predicament in recent memory is actually Aomine Daiki in Kuroko’s Basketball, who finds that his skill level becomes so overwhelmingly untouchable when he puts in actual effort that it makes the opponents give up, thus making the game of basketball itself less enjoyable. However, I find Kanon’s plight to still be unique, because the competitive aspect of street dancing doesn’t play so much into it.

In saying that Kanon might be better suited as an individual dancer, it does make me wonder if the series would ever make her the center of the team, as opposed to the main character Haneru. That would be quite the daring move indeed.

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I wrote a post for the Waku Waku +NYC blog about the potential significance of the word “Insight” in the sequel to Gatchaman Crowds. What’s funny is that if I never became a part of Waku Waku I probably would have never known or even thought of this.

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