You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘thought exercise’ category.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Touhou is an interesting phenomenon. Beginning as a passion project for a game developer, this ostensibly “amateur” shmup in the tradition of R-Type and Ikaruga replaces spaceships with cute girls, introducing a wide variety of characters with distinct yet generally simplistic personalities. This has given fans plenty of room to position and interpret the characters in their own way, using the barest scraps of evidence as the catalyst for imagination. While not the first franchise to encourage this, with Touhou it’s particularly noticeable given its popularity at doujin events and the like, but it’s also interesting to note what has come in a post-Touhou environment. In particular, I feel like Kantai Collection has to be viewed within this lens, and so this post is mainly about a comparison between Touhou and Kantai Collection from an outsider’s perspective.

On a personal level, outside of Magic: The Gathering, the biggest nerd fandom that I’ve barely scratched the surface of is probably Touhou. Sure, I’ve drawn a crossover fanart between Cirno and Esports personality Day[9], and I’m a fan of bkub (particularly his New York Comic Con special featuring “the Deadpool”), but I’ve never played any of the actual games. In fact, the only Touhou game I’ve ever played is the doujin game Mega Mari, which is more of a Mega Man game than anything else. However, I’m well aware of Touhou‘s presence, if only because my surrounding environment is “other geeks,” and inevitably among hardcore anime fans there will be Touhou fans as well.

The same goes for Kantai Collection, a browser-based strategy game where battleships are personified as cute girls, except I arguably know even less about it. I’ve watched a few episodes of the anime, I know which character design I like best (Tenryuu), and I know that the game plays with supply and demand because you have to win a lottery to even get to play it in the first place. I’m also aware that it’s become Touhou‘s rival in terms of popularity, with a big difference being that Kantai Collection actively employs popular and professional artists, whereas Touhou‘s official art is famously lacking in refinement.

The relationship between Touhou and Kantai Collection is therefore a tricky one in terms of how these respective series have prompted fan production that hinges on interpretation in their fanbases (which also have plenty of overlap).  Whenever I see the two, I feel as if Touhou is primarily this product that just had an intentionally simplistic presentation that fans took and expanded into their own world. Kantai Collection, in turn, with its voiced characters, better artwork, and overall presentation invites that sort of activity from fans, and revels in being able to provide that space.

In other words, it’s as if Kantai Collection saw how Touhou inadvertently had its characters transformed into commodities through the efforts of its fans, and actively sought to replicate that through careful planning and razor-sharp marketing. That means actively trying to appeal to what fans want. Whether that’s a good thing or not is personal opinion, of course, and I’m hesitant to label it as “David vs. Goliath” in the traditional sense, especially because the border between an amateur and professional artist in Japanese games, anime, etc. can be so nebulous. However, I feel like perhaps part of what made Touhou appealing to its fans in the first place is that “amateur” environment, even if it’s indeed populated by professionals. There’s a rawness to it, a kind of unregulated frontier that’s continuously re-shaped compared to Kantai Collection with its carefully measured attributes, that makes more room for the fan to be in a sense also a creator.

 

CEffvoCVAAAtQyp

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.

This is a sponsored post. 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.

Miyamoto Ariana is the 2015 Miss Universe Japan, and the first to ever be half-black. In an ethnically homogenous society, she has become a figure of both hope and controversy, defying and reshaping how people see the concept of being “Japanese.” One common question to her from reporters has been what she considers about herself to be most Japanese, and her response has been, “But I am always Japanese.”

Setting aside in this instance the legitimate criticism of beauty pageants and the like, I want to focus less on the issue of judging people, especially by women, primarily on how they look, and more about how people perceive the way others “should” look. In particular, I want to focus on another less well-known controversy within fandom from a few years back, which is the idea that black girls shouldn’t cosplay white or “white-looking” (i.e. anime) characters.

This has justifiably received a great deal of blow-back from fans and cosplayers of all ethnicities, with people arguing that cosplay is something that transcends race. After all, it’s not necessarily about replicating the character perfectly in reality. The cosplayer is just as important if not more than the costume itself. However, while not wrong in any way, such an argument still comes from the idea that one is defying the presence of race through cosplay. With Miyamoto Ariana’s victory though, something even more fundamental to this idea of “cosplaying the wrong skin color” enters the equation.

Essentially, when it comes to anime characters especially, black cosplayers are working from the perspective that Japanese-ness doesn’t matter, and they’re basically right. What Miyamoto does is attack this at an even more base level: what does “Japanese-ness” even mean? You can look black, be Japanese, and neither is a compromise of the other, even if the surrounding culture (or subculture) tries to make it seem that way.

Of course, when it comes to both beauty queens and cosplayers, on some level image is important, but efforts by both black cosplayers and Miyamoto Ariana show how the very assumptions that go into how we see things, how we see the relationship between reality and fiction and at what point one appears to be the other, can be challenged and potentially transformed on a societal level. At least, that’s where I hope things will go.

seo

I wrote a post about my favorite anime and manga characters from New York City. You’ll notice that many of them are orphans or something like that.

I made a post on the Waku Waku +NYC Blog based on the idea that, in the media, cosplayers are the first people to get attention in reports on anime conventions and other geek gatherings, and that this potentially gives cosplayers a great deal of responsibility. Do you agree or disagree?

Interested in Supporting Ogiue Maniax?

Twitter

Got anything to say?

Archives

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,858 other followers

%d bloggers like this: