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Digimon Adventure, known around the world as simply Digimon, is an anime that helped to define a certain generation of fans. For many, it was either the anime, or the the other anime, relative to its thematic rival, Pokemon. Where Pokemon was about traveling in a world where monsters and humans co-exist, and the stakes were generally about winning tournaments, Digimon was about traveling to an alternate digital world of monsters and saving the world. Where Pokemon generally had a core cast of three, Digimon had over twice that amount. Perhaps most important for our purposes, where Pokemon‘s characters seem to remain eternally young, Digimon‘s characters would age.
This brings us to Digimon Adventure tri., a direct sequel to the original two Digimon anime. Taking place with its main cast now older and in high school, main character Yagami Taichi (Taichi Kamiya in English) and the others have long since lost contact with their old Digimon friends as they transition from childhood to adulthood. Suddenly, Digimon start appearing in the real world, prompting the old team to reunite with the Digital World.
Digimon Adventure tri. is very intentionally a more mature series than its prequels, though not in the sense that it’s supposed to be “darker.” Rather, between the more subdued character designs, a general aesthetic that’s closer to the Hosoda Mamoru-directed Digimon movies than the TV series, a new version of its beloved theme song Butterfly featuring hints of melancholy, and just the portrayal of the subtle turbulence that comes with being of high school age, Digimon Adventure tri. is aimed towards the young fans who are now adults themselves (or close to it). The series says, “We’ve grown up with you, and we know what it’s like.”
For example, Kido Joe, the straight-laced and responsible one, is now being consumed by college entrance exams, and Taichi himself feels like he can no longer charge ahead like he used to when he was the de facto team leader of the Chosen Ones (“DigiDestined”). This is not to say that the new series is a total downer, stripped of any of the joy and wonder of the original anime. What I think they’re going for, instead, is a kind of rediscovery of those simpler and more magical times, while grounding that kind of experience in the process of becoming adults.
Digimon Adventure tri. actively works to maintain a strong connection with the original series, and a lot of attention is paid to continuity as a result. Whereas Taichi and the older kids have their original DigiVices, the portable tools based on the original hand-held Digimon virtual pet, the younger Hikari and Takeru (“TK”) have different ones, a nod to their continued battles in Digimon Adventure 02. Somewhat similarly, the story is set very intentionally not in 2015 but somewhere in the mid-2000s, as reflected in the technology. Most cell phones are flip phones with number pads, and no smart phones are in sight. It’s not like failing to do these things would have made it a worse series, but it shows that, to a large extent, Digimon Adventure tri. aims to evoke strong feelings of nostalgia for both for the franchise itself and for those who know what it’s like to be a teenager.
There are a couple of notes that I feel the need to point out for the die-hard fans (I know you’re still out there). First, if you watched this series dubbed in English (or perhaps other languages, I’m not sure), the lack of dialogue and constant banter might seem unusual or even off-putting. The original Japanese versions of Digimon had a lot more “dead air,” that is to say long moments of silence, and adding music or dialogue to fill space is an old American television tactic that you could also see in the dub for Pokemon. Digimon Adventure tri. uses even larger periods of silence and its unsteady atmosphere (perhaps all the better to convey that feeling of becoming adults), so it’s something to expect going in.
Second, you should know that the plains of the shipping wars are revived and more serious than ever. While the previous series had some hints of romance (or maybe more if you count the controversial time-skip ending of Digimon Adventure 02), relationships are nearly front and center in Digimon Adventure tri. There’s a clear love triangle between Taichi, Sora, and Yamato (probably the site of the most fierce battles). Koushirou (“Izzy”) clearly has a powerful crush on Mimi. Takeru and Hikari tease each other about their mutual popularity among the opposite sex. If you had any stake in these old battles, the series might very well draw you in like honey.
As of this first movie (split into 4 episodes on Crunchyroll), it’s clear that Digimon Adventure tri. won’t give viewers the same experience as the original anime from over a decade ago. Unlike Pokemon, which tries its best to maintain the same constant feel (though to be fair there have been subtle changes in that series over the years), Digimon Adventure tri. wants you to know that the characters have grown, that their inner and outer (and perhaps even digital) worlds have changed as a result, and it’s inviting you back to take a look. The next film/batch of episodes won’t be out until March 2016, so you’ll have plenty of time to catch up.
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As a long overdue follow-up to our discussion on Brave Police J-Decker, I was invited along with the Reverse Thieves‘ Kate to talk about King of Braves Gaogaigar on Space Opera Satellite’s “Cockpit” series. Many have called it the best show in the Brave franchise, and it’s been 10 years since I first finished Gaogaigar, when that sentiment was at its strongest.
For your reference: Silverion Hammer
The real question is, why are there so few King J-Der toys?
Daidouji Tomoyo from Cardcaptor Sakura is one of my favorite characters ever, from one of my favorite anime ever, and if you’re not a fan of Tomoyo… what’s wrong with you? Whereas normally I would hesitate to buy even some of my most beloved heroines, Nendoroid Tomoyo was a no-brainer. Upon seeing it go up for pre-order, I hit purchase and looked back with zero regrets. Sakura merchandise is common, but Tomoyo much less so, and I couldn’t let this sort of thing pass me by.
I don’t own a lot of Nendoroids. In fact, my first one was a Kinomoto Sakura (seen above) that I received as a birthday present. Quite smartly, my friend purchased it because he (correctly) expected that I would not hesitate to pick up Tomoyo. Thus, I don’t have a lot to compare to, and I’m extremely biased, so I’ll call this less a review and more of a celebration.
Nendoroid Tomoyo is mostly based on her anime design, as opposed to the softer shoujo look of the Cardcaptor Sakura manga. However, one thing that they did bring from the manga was a hint of Tomoyo’s lavender hair; in the anime it’s more of a gray. When I think about it, rarely do figures try to replicate the look of shoujo manga, likely due to how complicated and not designed for 3-D they are. At least with anime, you can rely on more solid colors.
Tomoyo comes in a standard Tomoeda Elementary school uniform, and has a choice between a hat or a hairband, as well as smiling and ecstatic faces. I’ve gone with the hat + sparkly eyes combo for these photos in order to achieve maximum radness, but what really takes this figure over the top is the inclusion of her signature camcorder.
Remember kids, this anime was made in the early 2000s, before mobile phones could take HD-quality video. Back in her day, Tomoyo would have to walk 20 miles uphill both ways in the snow in order to film her lovely Sakura-chan and add to her massive archive of Cardcaptor Sakura footage in her private viewing room inside of her mansion, under watch by her squad of lady bodyguards.
It’s supposed to have a swing-out screen, but a small missing part makes it impossible to attach. I’m not sure if it was defective or if I had simply lost it while taking it out, that’s how tiny the connecting piece. The other flaw is that the giant head is rather unwieldy, especially with the hat, and sometimes moving it around can cause Tomoyo’s noggin to fall off.
Overall, it’s a fine addition to the collection, and when I think about it, I am fortunate that the characters I like tend not to get a ton of merchandise. That’s what I would say…if I didn’t get into Love Live. That’s for next time.
Wordplay has always been important in the Aquarion franchise. Generally set in a world where love reincarnates thousands of years in the future, many solutions across both the original Genesis of Aquarion and Aquarion EVOL literally come out of transforming words in order to access a plethora of elaborate giant robot attacks. Even as far as those series go, the latest incarnation, Aquarion Logos, takes this love of language manipulation to a whole new level, positioning it as the most prominent factor. For a lover of puns such as myself it makes for a fascinating series, not only because it’s often quite clever, but because Aquarion Logos looks at the very way in which people perceive words.
In the original Aquarion, the Japanese title was Sousei no Aquarion, where sousei (創聖) means “construct” and “holy.” Hence, its English translation is “Genesis.” When characters combine their robots, they say, “Sousei Gattai,” or Genesis Combination. Already this is where Aquarion Logos takes a different angle. In that series, sousei is written with the Japanese kanji for “construct” and “voice” (創声). Translated into English as “verbalism,” it represents the fact that the main pilots in the series all have a talent for bringing words into reality. Whether they’re aiming to be a politician, a comedian, or indeed a “savior” as the main character Kaibuki Akira does, they believe in the power of language, and can almost literally walk the walk by talking the talk. When characters shout “Sousei Gattai” in Aquarion Logos, it thus takes on a completely different meaning.
The ways in which words are used becomes the central conflict of at least the first half of the series. The villain, a man named Kenzaki Sougon, is able to travel into the very world where words exist and transform them into creatures called “M.J.B.K.” Pronounced mojibake (literally “word monsters”), these enemies of the week (again, giant robot show) devour the words on which they are based, manipulating their presence in reality. Because of the way kanji works, many other ideas are eradicated as well. For example, in Episode 1 the M.J.B.K. is created from the word maki (巻), which means “roll,” causing things to get twisted into knots, but it’s also the word used to mean “volume” as in “volume 1 of a manga,” which causes that concept to disappear as well.
Sougon believes that people have sadly lost their connection to the origins of words, that the power of words comes from the desire to communicate what exists. Words are in service to reality, and forgetting that means words become useless. In contrast, Kaibuki Akira goes the opposite direction. He draws on the creative potential of words as a way to construct reality. The key example of this is the fact that Akira frequently refers to himself as a “savior,” and tries his best to just constantly save people. When asked why he’s a savior or why he’s so hung up on the idea, it turns out that there’s no particular reason. He takes the meaning of the word itself and makes it into reality through his actions, fulfilling its potential. The Japanese word for savior, kyuuseishu literally means “one who saves the world,” and that’s what Akira aims for.
In Episode 13 the team fights a particularly dangerous M.J.B.K. that represents Mu, or nothingness. Written as 無, perhaps people might recognize it as the symbol used by Gouken in Street Fighter IV. Sougon uses it because the power of nothingness is able to consume other words and concepts, but Akira responds by saying that nothingness also means endless possibilities. At this point, he and his co-pilot Maia utilize the signature attack of the Aquarion franchise, the Mugenken, or “Infinite Punch.” Mu is one half of the word for infinity. At another point, as the world risks being reduced to that nothingness, the word “savior” carries the potential for recovery, as it consists of the characters for “help,” “world,” and “person.” What else is needed to start over other than these concepts?
Aquarion Logos is both a powerful and silly anime, and intentionally so. It’s potentially a difficult series to watch because of how prominent kanji is, making it a bit obtuse for those unfamiliar with Japanese, particularly because English and other languages don’t necessarily utilize symbols in the same way. So far, many of the references are to the original Aquarion, but Episode 13 drops a possible callback to Aquarion Evol, so it’ll be interesting to see how things develop now that the second half has been under way.
I recently picked up Volumes 2 through 5 of one of my favorite manga in recent years, Mogusa-san. Featuring a girl who eats anything and everything and has developed seemingly superhuman skills in order to get as much food in herself as possible without anyone noticing, it’s basically a series made just for me. One question that arises from reading Mogusa-san is, how do you keep this premise going? What kinds of characters do you introduce as complements or foils to Mogusa herself? The answer is, a closet picky eater who has some of the qualities of a tsundere without necessarily falling squarely into that archetype.
Taira Chigumi is the president of Mogusa’s class, and a seemingly strait-laced, no-nonsense individual. However, she harbors a deep, dark secret: she has the palate of a 10 year old. That means hamburg steaks and gummy candies are in, tomatoes and fish are out. Of course, she has an image to uphold, so she’s learned to basically keep gross foods in her mouth without swallowing them, and then force them down with a helping of coffee milk.
It makes sense in a way: opposite a girl who eats anything is a girl who eats almost nothing, and the added twist of giving her the taste buds of a child makes her rather endearing. When Koguchi (the male POV character) discovers her secret, she responds by violently attacking him. On the surface, this appears to be the stereotypical tsundere reaction, but it’s a little too active and conscious for that to be the case. Tsundere characters are usually based around having an almost involuntary reaction to embarrassment and having their true selves revealed (as parodied in the manga Mozuya-san Gyakujousuru, about a girl with tsundere as a form of clinical disease). Also, rather than having her priorities be love or the denial thereof, Chigumi simply wants to be friends with Mogusa because she sees how Mogusa just seems to love food more than anything else, and maybe, just maybe, if she spends enough time with her, that this quality will rub off on Chigumi as well.
Chigumi isn’t the only character who adds to the world of Mogusa-san, as it also features a little sister who eats character-shaped foods as if she were a Titan from Attack on Titan, and even an eating rival. Suffice it to say, I recommend this series 110/10. No, that’s not a typo.
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My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU was a pleasant surprise I had originally written off. In spite of its excessively light novel title and its school romance setting, the series exhibited a great deal of maturity. I recently finished the second series, and while I won’t go too into detail about it (my first review still applies in a lot of ways), I did want to talk about what I find to be the most notable aspect of My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU TOO!, which is the willingness to let its main character, Hikigaya Hachiman, grow.
You might be thinking, “What’s so special about character development? That’s what stories typically do.” In a way, there is indeed nothing impressive about how Hachiman changes. However, given his personality, that of the cynic and outcast who observes human interaction in order to point out all of the unnecessary niceties that people throw out in their daily lives, I would have assumed that he would forever remain in that capacity. However, the second series really shows Hachiman being affected by the different people he helps out and interacts with, to the point that he begins to question how he approaches solutions and how he categorizes people, allowing bits of optimism and consideration for others to seep into his way of thinking.
The most fascinating to me about this change in Hachiman is how he processes these small changes in his values through his hyper-logical, hyper-pessimistic outlook, and has to struggle with where it seems to contradict his preconceived notions. What really hits home is the way he realizes that his actions potentially hurt not only others but himself as he increasingly values his friendship with Yuigahama Yui and Yukinoshita Yukino, the other central characters of the series.
The fact that there’s no clear favorite in the love triangle is also really notable. How often does that happen?
As New York Comic Con has come to rival San Diego Comic Con and become its east coast counterpart, the scope and demand of NYCC are constant points of consideration for any potential attendee. While the convention pretty much improves every year and little can be faulted for how it’s run, the guests they bring, and just the amount of stuff there is to do (aside from perhaps the inevitable over-emphasis on professional and industry panels), I find that there’s a certain evaluative process I notice my friends and me going through every year, which all boils down to the simple question: should I attend next year?
First and foremost, as an anime and manga fan I have to say that NYCC delivered, and in ways I hadn’t expected to affect me so deeply. This year, they most notably brought Naruto creator Kishimoto Masashi and Uzumaki Naruto voice actress Takeuchi Junko and premiered Boruto: Naruto the Movie for the first time outside of Japan (see my review here). Aside from some hiccups in terms of the Hammerstein Ballroom venue—the overly strict no food policy went so far as to ban bottled water, and the concert-oriented seating obscured the screen for significant portions of the viewers—it was the most memorable part of the convention for me, and it brought me back to 13 years ago when I was at the height of my own Naruto fandom.
On top of that, the announcement of a Tiger & Bunny film helmed by Ron Howard was the biggest surprise by far of NYCC, and the opportunity to get a personal drawing from Attack on Titan animator Asano Kyouji was a rare treat. While I was unable to get Asano to draw Holon from Real Drive like I hoped (to be fair that show is 10 years old), this image of Sasha from Attack on Titan is the coolest thing I brought home from New York Comic Con:
However, my experience with NYCC made me realize just how disconnected I am from a lot of current fandoms. This isn’t to say that I disliked New York Comic Con, or what it does. I’ve always enjoyed the mix that New York Comic Con brought, between the opportunity to meet professional artists, the focus on entertainment media that has extended out from the superhero movie boom, and just the general celebration of nerd culture. However, partly because I was out of the country for four years, and partly because of my own general taste for things, I haven’t been as deep into certain popular works in recent years as I might have been in the past.
What really brought this point home to me was how much I enjoyed the Justice League Reunion panel. Seeing Carl Lumbly talk about bringing his cultural heritage to the role of the Martian Manhunter as an immigrant with a traumatic past, finding out that Justice League Unlimited was a clever and creative compromise with a soulless marketing engine that wished to use the cartoon purely as an action figure commercial, and hearing Kevin Conroy sing “Am I Blue?” flooded me with so many fond memories of what made that series great. It made me recall the character of A.M.A.Z.O. and how incredibly deep and interesting his story was, and the “Ask the Justice League” portion was downright hilarious, especially Martian Manhunter’s greatest enemy being “a villain made of flaming Oreos.” It made me want to find this feeling again within more non-Japanese works.
This is certainly not a criticism of the current state of animation; many fantastic works have been and are still being created. Rather, it has made me aware of just how much a connection to the “nerd mainstream,” as it were, fuels New York Comic Con. NYCC is a for-profit convention backed by the entertainment industry, and it will aim for the works that hit the widest audience, or at least the widest audience within a niche. This is what fuels the decision for a Firefly panel, or indeed inviting a manga megastar like Kishimoto. Rather it fuels my desire to expand my interests further than where they are currently, to get a better sense of the zeitgeist of current American (and non-American!) fandoms.
Exhibitor Hall, Artist Alley, and Panels
Again, when it comes to the actual con, there was much to enjoy. In the Exhibitor Hall, I got the chance
to try Street Fighter V, say, “Domo” to Ninja Slayer, and get that cool Sasha drawing from Asano.
The Artist Alley, as always, was a great place to meet artists, find out about new works, and see the trends that fuel the creators. Superheroes are a no-brainer, anime is less prominent but if it is it’ll be something that captured the imaginations of American fans, such as Dragon Ball Z or Sailor Moon. Stylistically, I made just one purchase at Artist Alley this year, issue 1 of a comic called Henchgirl by Kristen Gudsnuk, the premise of which is exactly what it sounds like. The Artist Alley filled with everything from amateurs to industry veterans, with talent abound. However, I tasked myself with a challenge, which was to find something that spoke to me, that didn’t rely on name recognition, and that wasn’t too tempered by my own preferences for specific types of characters or heroes. Gudsnuk’s drawings resonated with me the most because of the humor and soft, cartoony style. If you’re curious, you can read the comic online for free.
The other highlight of the Artist Alley might have been seeing a small kid, probably no older than 6 or 7, hand a copy of Days of Future Past to Chris Claremont.
As for panels, it’s no secret that a for-profit con like NYCC will have a different flavor from a fan-oriented endeavor such as Otakon. I generally enjoy the latter kind more when it comes to programming, but NYCC has a pretty consistent track record of quality, possibly because it’s such a big deal now and encourages industry hosts to bring their A-Game, as seen with the Justice League Reunion.
The Kishimoto panel was a rare opportunity to get into the mind of one of manga’s most successful creators. While the questions were curated, the host did a great job of opening up Kishimoto, and I’m sure that him no longer having to keep deadlines or worry about how his answers might influence sales of Naruto allowed him to give responses that were a bit more candid than what is usually seen from Japanese guests. Probably the best thing I found out from the panel was the friendly rivalry shared by him and One Piece‘s Oda as Shounen Jump‘s two frontrunners, as well as the titles that influenced him most. That said, I hope the audience that was mostly silent after hearing Kishimoto mention Tezuka Osamu’s Phoenix get the chance to find out more.
“Push Boundaries Forward: Gender, Diversity and Representation in Comic Books,” featuring Marjorie Liu, Darryl Ayo, David Brothers, Amber Garza, Jeremy Whitley, Joey Stern, and Shannon Waters was one of many panels over the weekend that focused on addressing the changing dynamics of comics creators and readers. Both the audience questions and panelist answers showed a strong desire to move forward, to learn, and to understand that greater diversity in comics is a multifaceted challenge that never ends, and is ultimately beneficial to comics as a whole.
The Felicia Day panel was pure Q&A, and that’s exactly what the audience wanted out of it. Incredibly charismatic in that awkward way that appeals to geeks most, Felicia Day genuinely engaged her audience with an attitude that was both deeply caring and kind of flippant, bringing a realness to her answers. The best moment was when she complained that you couldn’t have sex with her character in Dragon Age 2, which her manager had ordered the studio against.
The Sunrise panel showed once again that they’re one of the direct-from-Japan studios to really get what it means to throw a panel. In addition to the surprising news about Tiger & Bunny, their announcements were varied and spoke to different portions of their audience. By the way, if you heard a couple of loud guys cheering for Giant Gorg, that was me and Patz from the Space Opera Satellite Podcast. We were serious, too. Giant Gorg is a rare series directed by the character designer of the original Gundam, and had been in licensing hell for years.
Yo-kai Watch is also a thing.
Finally, I decided to attend a screening of a Love Live! concert, partly to satisfy my curiosity about this particular aspect of Love Live!‘s media mix, and to see the fan reaction. What I got out of it is exactly something I mentioned in my review of The School Idol Movie: the series is extremely malleable by fans, going from a warm, inspiring story full of interesting characters to a mountain of instant memes at the drop of a hat. As people shouted at the character Ayase Eli, “DON’T LET YOUR DREAMS BE DREAMS,” I wondered if that could somehow be parlayed into the slogan of Love Live!: “Make our dreams alive!”
As with most con reports at Ogiue Maniax, I’d like to leave off with some cosplay. Truth be told, I wasn’t digging a lot what I saw, but Sunday really turned it around.
This review is part of Ogiue Maniax’s New York Comic Con 2015 coverage. Major spoilers for the Naruto anime/manga and minor spoilers for Boruto: Naruto the Movie are included.
Once upon a time, I was a huge fan of Naruto. Having both read the manga and seen the anime from the very beginning, I can still remember what got me hooked onto the series in the first place. The rich world of competing ninja villages provided the space for elaborate and creative battles. The fact that every character, hero or villain or somewhere in between, had their own stories and their own pasts that shaped who they are made it so that Naruto could be so many things to so many people. I wanted explore their society, to imagine what powers and characters would appear next. I have many fond memories of Naruto that can be best summed up by the fact that, even if he was never among my favorite characters, Uzumaki Naruto himself embodied not only a sense of tragedy but also the drive and empathy to move forward and help those who are similarly lost.
At some point, however, I fell off the Naruto fan wagon. Sure, I still enjoyed it to an extent, and I more or less kept track of what was going on, but I found that the continuously escalating power creep of shounen manga and the ever-growing and unwieldy cast just made Naruto feel as if it had lost focus. I don’t mean that it didn’t know where it was going, but rather that when the series became chapter after chapter of gigantic, virtually city-sized attacks, those humble beginnings of Naruto and his companions trying to navigate their world got lost in the shuffle.
This is why I actually enjoyed Boruto: Naruto the Movie so much. It felt like a return to the foundations of what made Naruto great, yet also does not deny all of the artistic and narrative development that happened since then, power levels and all. It encapsulates Naruto and eternal friend/enemy/rival Uchiha Sasuke’s growth by showing how they pass their experience on to the next generation.
At the start of the Boruto, it’s been many years since Naruto saved the world. Naruto’s son is Boruto, whose mother is Hyuuga Hinata (who is my favorite Naruto character). Unlike Naruto, who was an orphan and shunned by his community due to housing the fox spirit, Boruto must deal with the fact that his father is the world’s greatest celebrity. Naruto, who has since fulfilled his dream of being Hokage, is so busy that this leaves little time for Naruto to be a father, and Boruto lashes out against that. Understanding between father and son, as well as the value of hard work, are ultimately the main themes of the film.
When I say that Boruto feels like a return to the Naruto of old without shunning what it became, what I mean is that it really captures a sense of the inner struggles of its characters within their elaborate world of ninja fantasy, while also communicating the passage of time perhaps better than the manga itself ever did. For the younger generation, it gives a strong sense of what motivates each and every character, while remaining sharp and complete as a story. For the older generation, one can feel the developments, through their interactions and especially through the fighting, that brought these familiar faces to where they are now. Rather than being in the haze of hundreds of chapters or episodes, the movie conveys just how much these characters have grown over the years, both within their universe and as characters in a work of fiction. When Naruto harnesses his ultimate powers, what jumps out is the sense of hard work, pain, and joy that led him to this point.
While Naruto has always been a story of generations, particularly the young both surpassing and learning from the old, a story dedicated to exploring the relationship between father and son is something new to the series. Sure, there was the arc where Naruto finally meets his father, among other examples, but for the most part Naruto is generally a manga and anime where parents’ legacies are more important than the parents themselves, who are either dead or in the background. Naruto was an orphan, Sasuke’s parents were murdered by his own brother, Sakura’s folks were still alive but hardly relevant. Now, not only is it Naruto and Hinata with children of their own, but most of the rest of the characters as well, and it’s a joy to see the direct connection between generations play out in greater detail.
I watched Boruto as part of the 2015 New York Comic Con, which, much to the delight of Naruto fans, invited Naruto creator Kishimoto Masashi and Naruto voice actress Takeuchi Junko as guests. During his first interview of two, Kishimoto mentioned that he had remained true to his vision for the ending (which he came up with back in 2009), one where Naruto ultimately saves Sasuke from himself. Looking back, it made me realize just what Kishimoto had been going for at a point when Naruto as a story seemed to be getting crushed by the perils of long serialization (Naruto ran for 18 years). There was a point in the manga when it seemed to transform into the Sasuke Show, that it was it turn doomed to a fate of meandering and directional changes. Now, I realize that it was meant to show Sasuke’s descent into darkness so that Naruto could be the light that guides him out of it, but again, within that long weekly shounen struggle it’s all too easy to lose sight of the overall context.
In contrast, Boruto suffers no such issues, and that helps it stand out in a significant way. The movie keeps at a fine pace in spite of the gigantic cast of characters. It would be all too easy to falter by showing too many characters doing too many things, but this is really Boruto’s story in the end, and it’s a satisfying and heartfelt one.
The last thing I want to say is that, at certain points in the movie, I was on the verge of tears. Thinking back, I recall the same thing happening upon seeing the tragic story of Zabuza and Haku, Naruto’s first real antagonists, play out beautifully. It was at that point all those years ago when I realized that Naruto was something special, and Boruto feels very similar. A part of me, the part that remembers what it was like to first discover Naruto and to be fascinated by its world, would like the story of Uzumaki Boruto to go on, but overall I would be fine if this ends up being Naruto‘s swan song.
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Warning: Some spoilers for Gatchaman Crowds Insight, many spoilers for the original Gatchaman Crowds
Gatchaman Crowds was an incredible work of fiction. Even going beyond the immediate realm of anime, Tatsunoko’s remake of their 1970s classic was incredibly clever, intelligent, and challenging. Presenting a story and world that asked how an age of social media, crowd-sourcing, and gamification might affect the very ideas of heroism and altruism, the mix of sociopolitical commentary and vibrant visual presentation made it unforgettable. Back when they announced the sequel, Gatchaman Crowds Insight, I was excited but also skeptical as to how they could possibly follow up on the original. After all, this isn’t the kind of series where you can just set up a new villain to fight or upgrade the characters’ powers, and the finer details of its philosophical ending was such that further scrutiny might benefit its messages less than just leaving it open ended.
Whether or not Gatchaman Crowds Insight is an improvement on the original is debatable, it turns out to be a worthy successor, taking the ideas of the original series and expanding them into, of all things, an examination of the danger of overvaluing a “harmonious” society, as well as an exploration of the conflict between the concept of direct vs. indirect democracies.
Gatchaman Crowds was a series featuring five unique transforming heroes who use their special powers to defend Japan, but the arrival of a program called GALAX that could enable ordinary citizens to gain superhuman abilities and help out in times of trouble changed things. By the end of the series, GALAX had gone under trial by fire, its strengths and weaknesses forcefully put on display, with a controversial decision based in faith in human decency being the outcome.
By the start of Insight, GALAX creator Ninomiya Rui has joined the Gatchaman team, allowing his perspective to influence the team, but soon after arrive two important individuals: a new Gatchaman member named Misudachi Tsubasa, and an alien named Gel-Sadra. A being that can sense mood, Gel-Sadra believes that, if everyone’s minds are united and in agreement with each other, then conflict would end. Underlining all of this is a new attempt to bridge the modern age with democracy, full-on popular voting via smartphone, which inevitably has both its advantages and problems, including fostering conversation and the threat of mob justice.
Altogether, the series takes that idea of social media and heroism and pushed it further to examine the challenges of political power and reform. What makes this anime especially impressive is that, similar to the first series, the solutions that come out carry a great deal of nuance that encourage you to think. In fact, that is probably the core value of Gatchaman Crowds Insight, to step back and really consider how words such as peace, harmony, and more embody so many meanings that are capable of both empowering and manipulating people, even if there is no conscious intention.
As with the original Gatchaman Crowds, the linchpin of this series is its main heroine, Ichinose Hajime. She is perhaps even more important to this newer series even as she seems less prominent overall. One potential criticism of Insight is that it goes overboard with positioning its characters as representatives or mouthpieces for various beliefs (the series goes as far as to have characters recite lines of philosophy on occasion), but Hajime’s inquisitive nature that amazingly combines both skepticism and optimism presents her intellectualism in a way that is fun and accessible. While intellectualism is usually thought of as being wordy and philosophical, in the case of Hajime it’s the way she employs the Socratic Method through her fairly limited vocabulary that becomes that ray of light in the shadow cast by the tyranny of the majority. The visual emblem associated with Hajime and only one other character in the series, a gray speech bubble derived from Gel-Sadra’s alien powers, and the truth of its meaning, are key to understanding Gatchaman Crowds Insight and its critical nature.
Nowhere is Hajime more representative of the series’ values than in her relationship with the previous series’ terrifying antagonist, Berg Katze. At the end of the first Gatchaman Crowds, it is revealed that Berg Katze is now inside of Hajime’s body. Every other person was consumed by their doubts because of how Berg Katze brought out their very fears, but Hajime is somehow able to keep him in check. In this situation, many works would have had her suffering at his constant and unyielding presence as the most dangerous kind of devil on the shoulder. Alternatively, they might have made it a metaphor for some internal conflict. Instead, Insight uses it to show just how powerful Hajime’s way of thinking is. Rather than ignore Berg Katze, she is willing to engage in dialogue with the alien, somehow gleaning useful information from someone who’s actively antagonistic towards her and shutting down the conversation when she needs to. To a lesser extent, she can be seen doing the same thing all of the other characters, especially Tsubasa, whose “get-it-done” attitude contrasts with Hajime’s nature, and it overall shows how much Gatchaman Crowds Insight values that questioning of not only established norms but the very formation of them as they happen.
Given Japan’s history with internal propaganda from World War II (deliberately mentioned in Insight) and the more recent controversy over the decision to expand Japan’s military applications on a global scale (a vote made by Japan’s parliament in spite of polls showing that over 50% of the Japanese people were against this), Gatchaman Crowds comes out an especially relevant time. It has a lot to chew on, and I would hope that not just anime fans but people of all backgrounds and interests take a look at this series. Its views are complex and perhaps difficult to digest as a result, but its overall theme, encouraging us as people to think and understand conflict and harmony as being both beneficial and harmful depending on the circumstances, is not to be missed.
The truth comes out in more ways than one in this chapter of Genshiken. Not only does it turn out that this entire trip was an elaborate way to help Madarame towards finally making a decision about his love life (much to Kuchiki’s chagrin; it was supposed to be his graduation trip after all), but now Yajima knows that Hato is aware of her feelings for him. Within all of this is… the potential for yuri?!
I should be clear about that last point. Thus far in Genshiken outside of Hato and Madarame and the magical fictional world of BL, same sex relationships haven’t really been a factor. The closest thing we’ve seen is Sue being very attached to Ogiue in a way that makes it unclear whether she’s using otaku and manga references to assert her friendship with Ogiue in an odd way (Ogiue wa ME no yome!) or if there’s something more. Sure, there are yuri fans who ship certain pairings (Ogiue and her old middle school classmate/friend/bully Nakajima for example) but here even I who normally forego donning a pair of yuri goggles saw a few things that caught my attention. One was of course intentional by Kio, when Ohno comes onto Ogiue to make Kuchiki jealous (it’s complicated), but then you have a moment like this:
Actually, it almost feels like a “yaoi” moment using female characters. Has anyone done a study of how interactions are portrayed in yaoi vs. yuri? There’s also significantly more Ogiue in this chapter compared to the previous ones, but more on that later.
What I find especially fascinating about this whole Nikkou trip as a way to move Madarame forward is just the idea that he (and perhaps anyone) should not be able to let his relationships stagnate. As Evangelion has taught us, staying in the same place unable to move forward can be a crippling experience that appears comforting when it is seen as avoiding pain. While it could be seen as them pushing Madarame unnecessarily, his passive personality likely means that nothing would ever happen, and it would hurt everyone on all sides if it persists. Of course, there’s still a chance that Madarame will probably still come out of it indecisive because that’s just how he is, but the very fact that Genshiken is having its characters try to constantly prevent the “series of misunderstandings” that can occur when too many secrets are kept gives me the sense that everyone wants the best for each other.
Probably the biggest surprise of this chapter is everyone’s accepting attitudes towards Sue potentially ending up with Madarame, including the other girls interested in him. I mentioned in the previous chapter review that Yoshitake’s comments about Nikkou being a fake-out meant to draw attention away from Tokugawa’s real grave might be meta-commentary on the statuses of the others gunning for Madarame, and it looks like it’s panned out. Hato and Keiko have gotten so much attention, and Keiko even commented on how Sue is unlikely because of her personality, but here Keiko is in Chapter 116 saying that she won’t interfere with Sue like she does the others because that’s the one other person she’s okay with.
Given the cunning with which Keiko has competed, does this mean that she sees something special between Sue and Madarame that doesn’t exist with the other potential partners, including herself? Perhaps the fact that no one wants to interfere with Sue x Mada is because they understand both of their personalities, and that Sue in particular has her own battle to fight regarding her own feelings. Maybe it’s the fact that everyone other than Sue appears to be using wits and charm to pull Madarame towards them (or at least Keiko believes Hato to be doing this), and that if Sue turns out to be the one, that she’s “won” in more than one sense of the word. Again, suddenly Sue looks increasingly likely when she had previously been dismissed, turning everything upside down.
Kuchiki, in his jealousy, argues a version of a point that I’ve mentioned before, that Madarame has shown how his 2D and 3D tastes don’t necessarily line up. While he has mentioned that Sue is exactly the kind of person that matches his favorite anime archetype, there’s also no denying his lost love for Kasukabe. At the same time, Genshiken Nidaime plays significantly with the blurring of real and fictional interests, or rather the reveal that the difference between them is possibly fairly porous even if the two aren’t the same. However, there’s another possibility, which is that Madarame and Sue’s connection goes well beyond looks, and that, other than possibly Hato, Sue is the only one who match him blow for blow when it comes to otaku power levels, creating a truly ultimate “otaple.”
As I mentioned above, Ogiue has gotten more attention in this chapter than every other one in this “Nikkou Arc,” though not enough to make her a particularly important character for this story. However, it does give us many glorious Ogiue faces.
A lot could be said about Hato and Yajima, but it seems like they’re saving the big guns for next chapter, alongside Sue & Madarame’s Excellent Adventures. Until then…!