Butlers X Battlers, Episode One

You know, I like to think of myself as a pretty generous anime viewer. I don’t write off shows just because I’m not in the target demographic, and often find surprising substance in shows that others won’t even give a chance. I don’t get as caught up in things like animation quality and voice actor name recognition as a lot of fans do, and I don’t care much about studio pedigree; I judge a show based on whether I’m interested in it or not, regardless of who makes it. And on the rare occasion when I do think a show is really poor, I make it clear that’s just my take on it; I don’t try to make a case for why it’s objectively terrible because a)you can’t and b)that’s insulting the fans of the show for no good reason.*

However, even as a generous viewer I have…certain expectations. One of them is, if the show is called “Butlers,” it should be about butlers, and not just a bunch of obnoxious high school students doing their typical student-council nonsense. We find out that main guy J is a Butler, but in this universe that seems to mean that he’s some kind of magical armed guard, and not a butler in any traditional sense. The other main character, Hayakawa, acts a little more butler-like in his role as a coffee shop barista, but that’s not saying much.

Really it’s just a boring episode. The mystery of who J is, and why he’s looking for Hayakawa, is uninteresting because neither of them are interesting characters. The surrounding characters are bland as well, and there’s a ton of them; this show seems to want us to get to know the name of every single student at this ridiculously posh academy. Why? Why do I need to know the names of all these people? Why does it matter when they’re all boring?

By the end of the episode, when J’s mysterious past has been semi-revealed, then everything that’s come before makes even less sense. Why would J take on the role of student council president, when he’s trying to investigate something that happened 100 years earlier? Wouldn’t he want to keep a low profile to keep other students from finding out about the Secret Order of Not-Butlers or something? It seems like everything has been contrived so the show can have a typical high school student council setting/plot, even though it doesn’t work with the rest of the story.

If you want to see a bunch of pretty guys talking to each other, than maybe this is the show for you, but so far, it doesn’t seem to have much to offer beyond that. I really hesitate to call shows boring, because too many shows try too hard to grab the viewer in the first episode and end up feeling forced and frenetic; I respect the decision to let the story develop at its own pace. However, when I don’t care about any of the characters, and the whole thing seems wildly disjointed, slow pacing is just another nail in the coffin.

I’m disappointed, because I thought this might be a fun, time travelling butlers show. So far, it’s just incredibly tedious, and even if you’re into it for the “pretty boys hanging out” angle, you’d be better served by watching Yotsuiro Biyori, which has cute guys that I don’t want to punch in the face. This is the first real dud of the season for me.

*That’s my stance now, anyway. You can find articles from, say, 2010 when I was a less generous viewer, but seriously, does anyone care? No one cares.

Food Wars, The Third Plate, Episode 13

The OCD part of me is annoyed that I’m starting off here with Episode 13 of this season. Plus, I only blogged part of The Second Plate back in the day, so really, to appease the OCD Gods, I should go back and blog every episode, starting with the first season. However, I’m going to choose to believe– despite a complete lack of evidence to the contrary– that my time is too valuable for that.

Anyway, whatever, Food Wars! is back! No more tiding ourselves over with oddly specific stuff like Miss Koizumi Loves Ramen Noodles, it’s time for the show with copious, multi-disciplinary food porn! Currently, the perky culinary students of Polar Star Dormitory are busy fighting communism, or whatever this stupid arc with Erina’s Dad is about, but let’s gloss over that and focus on what matters: people eating delicious food and then hallucinating vividly.

Today’s food porn is a classic egg-over-rice dish, with a twist. Can I just say I have a love-hate relationship with the Asian habit of serving dishes with a runny egg on top? I get the appeal of the creaminess of the egg yolk mixing with the other flavors, but err, food poisoning is a terrible risk. Back when I ate eggs, I ate those suckers cooked to hell and back, let me tell you.

Actually, to go back to the political aspect, I do kind of get it. The original model of Totsuki Academy functioned as an extreme meritocracy, where only cooking quality mattered and anyone who couldn’t cook to a certain level on their own was immediately expelled. So, kind of an extreme capitalist model, the kind of thing that would give Ayn Rand the warm fuzzies. Nakiri Azuma, main girl Erina’s evil-ish daddy, wants to change the system to something more forgiving of failure, but also incredibly authoritarian and anti-creativity. So it’s a pretty classic political struggle, and I suspect we’ll eventually end up somewhere in the middle, since the original Totsuki “one mistake and you’re GONE” model was pretty cruel. It makes sense to me, but I think asking why Food Wars! felt the need to get political in the first place is a valid question; it feels a little pompous.

“ATTENTION: No authoritarianism allowed at this cooking school anymore! Now all of you do as the God Tongue tells you! Fresh, seasonal ingredients good, communism BAD!”

Oh and also, Nakiri Azuma apparently wants to destroy every restaurant in the world (or at least Japan) that doesn’t feature white-tablecloth fine dining. How many economics classes do they have at Totsuki Academy? Clearly, not even one, or Azuma might notice all 14 million practical problems with this approach. Erina’s mom must have been the brains in this family.

Speaking of Erina, this is really her episode, giving us insight into what it’s like to grow up as the girl with a world-famous palette called “the God Tongue.” First, since she’s been working as a culinary consultant since she was barely out of diapers, she’s essentially had her childhood stolen from her. Second, having hyper-sensitive taste buds has got to suck when every upstart chef wants you to taste their edgy new fusion dish, possibly with sheep offal. Third, a brief encounter with Soma’s dad changed her life, because for one meal, she was able to enjoy food just as a diner, and not as a judge.

The relationship between Erina and Soma’s dad has been hinted at before, but it’s kind of surprising how limited it actually was; it seems like she was only in his company for a few hours, once. The way the show has been foreshadowing it, I thought he had been clandestinely tutoring her for years or something. Nevertheless, her connection to his father strengthens the bond between Soma and Erina, which gives Erina the courage to do something she’s always been terrified to do: stand up to her insanely domineering father.

I don’t think anyone looks to Food Wars! for great character development, but this has been a solid arc for Erina and it’s satisfying to see her fully emerge as one of the good guys, after playing sometimes-antagonist to Soma and friends for so long. Now Erina is going to be helping the Polar Star kids pass an Advancement Exam, where the judges are going to be gunning for them because they’re rebels who openly disapprove of her father’s agenda.

I’m curious how this is going to play out. It could be a simple as Erina using her experience and palette to help coach her dormmates to make food so delicious that the judges can’t eliminate them in good conscience, but I kind of hope they go another way: that she starts throwing her weight around as The God Tongue.

Like, imagine the judges are trying to evict Megumi, and they say her Salmon en Croute tastes “bland and uninspiring,” then Erina walks in with her entourage, tastes Megumi’s dish and says “ACTUALLY I think this is some delicious salmon, and I’m the God Tongue; go fuck yourselves.” Then the judges go off to a corner to cry and Megumi slowly backs out of the room, wondering what just happened.

Except only the highest quality, Grade A eggs with spiky red hair and an attitude problem.

This episode also features what may be my favorite Foodgasm thus far: Erina being assaulted by tiny chicks who all look like Soma. He feeds her an innovative egg-over-rice dish, and her resistance to calling it delicious is countered by a million tiny Soma-chickens who nibble on her extremities, or something. I want the Soma mini-chickens to be the new norm for foodgasm scenes, even if he’s making something totally unrelated; diners takes a bite of Soma’s chocolate pudding, suddenly they hallucinate a flock of Soma mini-chickens poking their belly buttons, because why not?

So yes, a fun episode with fun food that manages to work pretty well despite my lack of engagement in the larger plot. If the show keeps this up, maybe I’ll keep covering it weekly for the whole thing, and not getting distracted halfway through like I did with the second season.

 

Golden Kamuy, Episode One

Wow, what an incredibly well-done episode of an anime that I will never watch any more of.

I was excited for this preseason because of the opportunity to learn about Ainu culture, but the violence is just too much for me. When a single episode includes a battle from the Russo-Japanese war (with bayonets), cutting a person’s skin off, and killing multiple bears, that’s past my limit for dark stuff.

Granted, I think with the themes Golden Kamuy seems to be dealing with here, it should be visceral and dark; I’m not disputing that. I just have minimal tolerance for violence and gore, and that’s my problem. I am intrigued by several aspects of the story though, so I could see myself reading a summary of it after it’s aired, or something to that effect; it’s just, if I try to watch any more, I’ll be watching through my fingers.

So I give this show the weird recommendation that if you have a tolerance for something that I absolutely do not, you will probably enjoy it. And hey, all you guys out there who love to say that “moe is killing anime?” That modern anime is too fluffy and cutesy, and you want to go back to the good old days when it was all hyper-violent OVAs, like that part with the dog getting ripped apart in Battle Angel Alita? You guys had better watch the hell out of this. Watch it, buy the Blu-Ray, cosplay as the Immortal Sugimoto at cons, whatever it takes to show your support.

Because this is the kind of anime that a huge chunk of anime fans keep claiming they want, and if it doesn’t end up being successful, I’m going to have to wonder what the fuck you’re all talking about.

Amanchu! ~Advance~ Episode One

This show outsmarted me, dammit. I was saying preseason that I would only keep up with Amanchu! S2 if the show actually showed the girls scuba diving, instead of just talking about scuba diving a lot and doing random, unrelated things. This episode contains not one, but two dives, only we see each of them on screen for about ten seconds.  So technically, there is a lot of diving going on, we just don’t get to see most of it.  The lion’s share of screentime is used up by Pikari accidentally going topless, surprising amounts of food porn, and perhaps the most unnecessary love confession scene in the history of anime love confession scenes.

I feel so used.

This was a lovely three seconds of animation.

Okay, so Amanchu! gamed my requirements just like films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe game the Bechdel Test; I can be salty over it or I can just get over it like an adult blogger. All that aside, this was a pretty good season opener. It could have used more scuba diving (which is always true), but it covers a lot of ground in further fleshing out the relationship between Teko and Pikari, which is the core of the show.

However, before talking about stuff that relates to plot and character development or whatnot, can we just take a moment to appreciate the return of Pikari’s Awesome Troll Face?

Oh my God, THIS. This is what I wanted from Amanchu S2, even though I was too stupid to realize it at first: Ridiculous chibi Pikari. When Pikari makes this face, all is forgiven.

I don’t really know why, but seeing Pikari’s face like this always makes me incredibly happy. Maybe it’s because it’s the closest we’re ever likely to get to an animated Yotsuba, and we all could use more Yotsuba in our lives? Possibly.

Anyway, after establishing that Teko really, really loves Pikari (duh), we get a plot where she seemingly pulls away from Pikari, and Pikari misinterprets it. Turns out that Teko is aware that all the joy in her life comes from Pikari, and she’s afraid that when she and Pikari are inevitably separated at some point in the future, she’ll have nothing left. Teko is trying to find a way to enjoy life even on her own, demonstrating a surprising amount of foresight for a high school student. Pikari’s wrong (but completely in-character) solution to this problem is that, while she can’t deny their time together might be limited, they can get around the time limitation by having “Infinite Fun!” during the time they do have. Because Fun is an infinite resource.

Oh Pikari…that’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works. But I kind of love your optimistic cluelessness, it matches your ridiculous face.

Two of my favorite things in the universe are a)curry and b)Pikari’s Insane Troll Face, and this screenshot has both. BOTH! I told you this episode was a winner.

This episode also focuses quite a bit on the Amanchu beachside restaurant, something I barely remember existing in the previous season. Later on the girls (and one boy) have a barbecue together, and the quantity of food porn begin to approach Food Wars! levels. Come to think of it, aren’t Amanchu! and Food Wars! both JC Staff shows? I like to think that some of the Amanchu! staff went over to the Food Wars! department and were like, “We need to make a simple bowl of pork soup look insanely fucking delicious,” and the Food Wars! animators were like, “Bwahahahahaha you’ve come to the RIGHT PLACE!!!” Then they all went out for yakitori and beer afterwards.

Yes, I’m aware that the anime industry probably doesn’t work like this, with shows being made in adjacent rooms and whatnot. Still, it’s nice to think about; don’t disabuse me of this notion with any real information about how JC Staff operates, I probably don’t want to know.

Okay, it’s normal to make beef and curry and stuff look delicious in anime, but when they go to this much effort to show the perfect char on a piece of corn, you know this shit has to be deliberate. They were determined to make sure even the vegans were salivating during this episode.

All in all, I’m more excited to be watching this show again than I was expecting, and that bodes well for the future of this season– although I am fervently hoping that we’ll get a few episodes that are solidly devoted to scenic underwater dives, instead of barbecues and other silliness. Of course, if Amanchu! decides to take this new penchant for excessive food porn underwater, that would be the best possible scenario. Those tiny little fish swimming around during all the underwater shots are probably delicious as sashimi.

Stop posing, you only have ten seconds of underwater screentime and there’s no call for this silliness. Practice ballroom dancing with an octopus, or something productive like that.

Sword Art Online Alternative, Episode One

This episode was well done overall– the atmosphere was almost palpable, the action was exciting, we’re left with some intriguing questions about the characters. and so on and so forth. I have a fundamental problem with the Gun Gale Online setting though, and it’s kind of a deal-breaker.

Think about it: in the SAO continuity, in the post-“death game” world, there are a nigh-infinite numbers of MMORPGs people can play. These games have magic, fantastic creatures, beautiful scenery of the kind that it’s very difficult, if not impossible to find in real life, and even amazing features like fully-VR flight. I don’t understand why, when presented with this buffet of scrumtious RPG delicacies, people would choose to play GGO: the game where you get to experience what it was like to be fighting insurgents in Fallujah circa 2007. It’s just a dank, depressing setting, and I don’t know why anyone would spend time there if they didn’t have to.

I guess it comes down to the allure of playing around with guns for people who never get to play around with guns; after all, I was already bored of hanging around the rifle range by the time I was 14. Nevertheless, whatever the reason, I just don’t see the appeal.

LLENN’s winning strategy is to be so much shorter than everybody else that they’re usually not aiming down far enough to hit her. I wonder if this is going to keep working as she gets more notoriety in game? You’d think eventually, GGO players would just be like “when in doubt, aim waaay down.”

And yet, despite my lack of interest in the game world, there are things that make me want to keep watching. It looks like LLENN’s player, Karen (woo, that’s my name!) has a very different lifestyle than you would expect of a hardcore PVP MMO player, and I’m interested to learn more about her. Plus, I have no idea why LLENN and her teammate were competing as a duo when everyone else in the Squad Jam seemed to be in groups of six, and that’s intriguing. Then there’s LLENN’s super-speed, which, according to the reaction of the other characters, isn’t a normal thing in GGO and may be the result of some secret behind the LLENN avatar that she might not want her fellow gamers to know about.

It’s just, if they were going to make an SAO spinoff with this much potential, why did it have to be centered on Gun Gale Online? What’s wrong with Alfheim? I like Alfheim. You can tell Alfheim is better than GGO, because Sinon was huge into GGO, then she was invited to play ALO and was like “it’s been real, fellas” and booked out of there. Trust Sinon, she is a smart young lady.

Oh well. Looks like I’m interested enough to keep watching this show, at least for now, but whether or not I do anymore pontificating about it on this blog probably depends on how they develop Karen, more so than LLENN. Maybe it’s just narcissism on my part, but I’m really curious to learn more about her, and if her real life is interesting, that might cancel out my general antipathy towards the setting.

Comic Girls, Episode One

Despite how excited I was for this show in the lead-up to this season, I find myself with surprisingly little to say about it now that it’s started. It’s doing the right thing in that it’s actually about what it says it’s about, girls drawing comics– it’s not just a generic “cute girls in high school” show with a thin layer of manga-styled window dressing, which was my fear for it. The fact that the girls spend about half the of the first episode actively working on manga together makes that perfectly clear.

Here is Kaos, our protagonist. It’s like someone took Nadeshiko from Laid Back Camp and made her even cuter, which should not even be possible. I just want to hug her, feed her delicious cookies, and tell her that drawing comics is a beautiful dream that only ends in terrible emotional pain.

Plus, the challenges the girls encounter in their manga efforts (like drawing in proportion, learning to draw both sexes equally well, etc.) are things that anyone who’s ever tried to draw comics can probably relate to, but haven’t come up much in anime. Bakuman was a great show about creating manga, but in that story, Mashiro started out as such a competent artist, we never really saw him struggle with beginner problems like “Is this character’s head waaaaay too small for her body?” It’s nice to see comic artists who kind of suck at drawing, I can relate to that.

Yup, I relate to this. I don’t know why it’s so darned hard to draw people in proportion, you’ll go back the next day and the mistake will be glaringly obvious, but it never looks that way while you’re at the drawing board. WHY?

The more successful artists, Ruki and Tsubasa, have accomplished the dream of having serialized manga series in high school, which is pretty much the dream of every kid who doodles comics in their notebook. Appropriately though, the two serialized artists are too stressed out by deadlines to fully appreciate what they have, and it’s only through Kaos and Koyume’s eyes that we can really see how awesome it is to have gotten so far in the field at such a young age.

No, no no get this OFF my screen! I sat through like five seasons of Hidamari Sketch, I do not need to see even one more scene of an artistically inclined girl taking a bath. MAKE IT STOP– oh wait it was only a short scene, I guess that’s alright then.

Surprisingly, we even get some character development this early on; the episode starts with Kaos hearing bad feedback on her manga and nearly disintegrating in despair; after getting acclimated to living in the comics dorm, she’s able to accept similar bad news without getting discouraged. The fact that she’s already showing growth makes me optimistic that she (and Koyume) are really going to improve their manga over the course of the show, which will be much more interesting than if everyone just stays at the same level. I’d especially like it if Ruri and Tsubasa start hitting some walls in their careers, but that may be due to my being stupidly jealous of their success, rather than hoping for interesting plot developments. Yes, I just admitted to being jealous of fictional characters, today is really not a great day for me.

“Someday, young Comic Girl, you too will master the art of drawing characters in proportion; seriously, their arms will be the same length and everything. It’ll be totally awesome. If  you’re lucky, that might even happen before you get a repetitive stress injury in your drawing hand!”

So uh, yeah, Comic Girls: it has a nice premise, it’s funny, the characters are likable, and all that good jazz. I recommend it, I’m just hoping I start to feel a bit more passionate about it as it goes on. Because right now this show is in this weird category of “I think this is pretty good, so why don’t I care?”

Spring 2018 Anime Season Preview

It’s been almost three months; time for a deluge of new shows, and to kiss your dreams of catching up on your anime backlog goodbye for at least another season.

Now, the intelligent, useful way to do one of these season previews is to peruse the source material for the upcoming shows; research what other anime members of the staff have worked on; learn the history of the studio, and cross-reference all of this disparate information to make some educated guesses about what kind of experiences the upcoming shows will offer. I’m not going to do that (mostly because it sounds like a lot of work), but also because I don’t want to have to download anything. Checking out the source material for anime usually means reading scanlations, and whenever I try anything like that, I end up with 14 new malware-infested browsers on my laptop that all look like they came from 1998.

All that is a roundabout way of saying that this preview is mostly research-free, and it’s only real value is highlighting what shows I’m excited for this season. However, I would like to do some episodic blogging this spring (something I haven’t done for quite a while), so I’m also going to be using this to try to figure out what I might want to cover. If you see a show listed here that you’d like to see covered in the coming months (or if I totally leave out a show you’re psyched for), please let me know in the comments. I’m not going to blog a show I have no interest in just because someone requests it, but I’ll certainly give something a try if it wasn’t on my radar previously and see what happens.

Oh, and by the way, this season looks absolutely insane. The number of popular series with continuations and spinoffs airing is way above normal, and a lot of fans are probably going to have trouble keeping up. In fact, this is probably a really bad time for me to dive back into anime coverage just for that reason, but oh well, here we are somehow.

Full Metal Panic: Invisible VictoryAfter hibernating (and haunting fake anime charts) for about a decade, the fact that there’s a new FMP series coming out now is a miracle only slightly less impressive than the Biblical Parting of the Red Sea, so I should probably take notice. I’ve never been able to get into Full Metal Panic!; I don’t dislike it, but the episodes I’ve seen never quite sucked me in. However, my husband is a big fan, and if I’m not watching FMP, our dinner conversation might get awkward, so I’m probably going to catch up on the earlier seasons before the premiere if I get a chance.

Chances I will blog it: High, because it might win me brownie points with my husband, which I need; I make him eat a lot of tofu.

Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online

I like Sword Art Online. Always have. *dodges rotten tomatoes.* No seriously, I do. Sometimes it’s juvenile and silly, but then they’ll throw you a Mother’s Rosario arc and you realize you’re actually watching a warmer-and-fuzzier Ghost in the Shell with lovely colors, and it’s really cool. Gun Gale Online was not one of my favorite parts of SAO thus far, so I don’t know if I’m going to be able to get that caught up in a side story that takes place in that particular game world. Still, my general positive disposition towards the franchise means that I plan to give it at least a few episode to impress me.

Chances I will Blog It: Medium. Really depends on whether or not the characters grab me, because GGO isn’t much of a draw in and of itself.

My Hero Academia Season 3

I watched the first episode of MHA when it came out and it didn’t do much for me; like Full Metal Panic!, I thought it was perfectly competent, but it didn’t seem like my cup of tea. Fast-forward a year or two later and everyone’s ridiculously psyched about this series, so it’s possible I missed something here. I’d like to go back and catch up on it before the third season premiere, but I’m already doing that with FMP, so I might not have enough time. I’m tempted to give it a shot anyway though; despite my general contrariness, for once I feel like it might be nice to be on the same hype train as everyone else.

Besides, this is the series with the frog girl, right? She’s cute. I want to know what’s going on with frog girl.

Chances I will Blog it: If I devote the time to actually catch up on it before April, then I’ll pretty much have to blog it to justify the time investment. Yes, I know that’s an example of the sunk-cost logical fallacy, but I never let logic get in the way of my aniblogging.

Card Captor Sakura: The Clear Card Arc (continuation)

I’ve been enjoying the return of Sakura, even though the show seems to lack a sense of urgency. It’s basically a pastoral slice of life show, then something weird will happen and Sakura will say “Oh right, magic exists,” she’ll capture a card, and then go back to lazy slice-of-life fun. It’s also very consistently repeating events from the original series, in a very self-aware way, which leads me to wonder what the point is.

It could just be, “Hey, remember the aquarium episode in the original series? Remember how cute it was? Well here, have another one!” but I think the show is doing something more sophisticated than that…like some magical entity is purposely making Sakura relive her card capturing adventures in order to mold her into something. So I guess it does have a sense of urgency, after all, but in a kind of odd, roundabout way?

Chances I’ll blog it: Low. If I wanted to blog this show I should have started with the winter season anyway, and as much as I love CCSak overall, I don’t know if I’d have much to say about these episodes. They’re oddly vacant….

Food Wars: The Third Plate (continuation)

I’ve been tiding myself over with Ms. Koizumi Loves Ramen Noodles, but I’m happy for the return of Food Porn: The Anime. There’s all sorts of drama now with Erina, Erina’s Evil Dad, Soma’s Absent Daddy, and so on and so forth, but I honestly don’t care as long as they keep preparing amazing food in ridiculous levels of detail. I’m sure some time this season will be dedicated to the plot, but honestly, the worst thing Food Wars! could do would be to start taking itself too seriously and forget that what it really is, at heart, is the show you watch when you’re trying to decide what you feel like having for dinner.

Chances I’ll blog it: High, because I’ve done it before and had fun, and because somewhere inside me is a frustrated food blogger. That frustrated food blogger usually wants to kill me for going vegan, by the way, so I should probably give her some kind of expressive outlet for my own safety.

Hoozuki’s Coolheadedness: Season 2 (continuation)

I feel guilty about this one. I really liked the first season, but when the first cour of S2 aired, I was preoccupied and didn’t get around to it. Then Sentai Filmworks decided that Amazon wasn’t their friend anymore and took all their shows off of Amazon video, and now I don’t have access to it. I guess I really need to sign up for HIDIVE one of these days.

Still, I’m excited that this show’s coming back, and I’m definitely going to catch up soon (possibly after giving myself a migraine from shotgunning FMP and MHA back-to-back?). There just isn’t any other show that meets the description of “Like Japanese Dilbert, only in Hell, with fairy tale characters and talking dogs and stuff.”

Chances I’ll blog it: Low, because I don’t feel qualified. This show draws pretty heavily from Japanese mythology, and I feel like you’d have to be pretty knowledgeable about all that rich lore to be able to do the show justice. I mean, I guess I could do actual research to write about it…waitaminute, I hate doing research…but it’s Hoozuki! I’ll do research if it’s for my darling Hoozuki…possibly? Kind of on the fence here.

Steins;Gate: 0

It’s weird: as much as I enjoyed Steins;Gate, I’m having a hard time convincing myself that I want any more of it. The other shows in the Science Adventure series that I’ve tried haven’t impressed me, and the fact that the original series was as good as it was may have been something of a fluke. It’s one of those situations where I feel like the original 24 episodes are in a perfect little world of their own and I don’t want anything else to besmirch it; a snobby opinion, perhaps, but sometimes that’s how I feel.

But I do like Okarin and Kurisu, and if I like the characters, then I should be interested in seeing more of them, right? I’ll give this a try, but if I’m not feeling good about it from the word go, I’m prepared to drop it and pretend it doesn’t exist. Seriously, if you try to talk to me about Steins;Gate 0 and I’ve stopped watching it, I’m going to play dumb and pretend I have no idea what you’re even talking about.

Chances I’ll blog it: Unless I fall in love with Okarin all over again, low.

High School DXD Hero

I’ve seen a few bits and pieces of this series here and there, but never sat down to watch it seriously. It’s a fanservice-heavy show, which isn’t an immediate bar to my watching it, but it just never seemed quite in my wheelhouse. That said, I do tend to like stories about demons and their ilk (I write about them after all), and since this series clearly isn’t going away anytime soon, maybe I should get on board?

This is what though, the fourth season of this we’re up to now? No way am I actually catching up on this the diligent way. I think I’ll watch the first episode, then read episode summaries on a wiki or something and pretend I watched it all. Only you need ever know the truth, dear readers.

Chances I’ll blog it: Low, but you never know.

Persona 5: The Animation

I really enjoyed Persona 3 Portable and Persona 4:The Golden (and come to think of it, I should do some blogging about them one of these days), so I’d love to play P5. I just don’t know when I’m going to get around to it; it’s hard to find a spare hundred hours for a meaty JRPG these days, you know? Especially when you’re spending all your free time shotgunning anime you should have already watched years ago.

I’m probably going to put this on hold until after I’ve played the game, because I want to experience the story through the game itself rather than letting an adaptation spoil that experience for me. That said, I don’t know if I’ll be able to work a P5 playthrough into my schedule until about 2033, so it’s within the realm of possibility that I will never watch this. Sigh.

Chances I’ll blog it: Low to the point of nonexistence.

Amanchu! Advance

The first season of Amanchu! was fun at times, but here’s the annoying thing about it: in a show ostensibly about scuba diving, they didn’t go scuba diving until the last episode. It made logical sense that the newbie diver needed to learn the ropes first, which is what most of the season focused on, and the show was just charming enough to get away with it, but still, it felt a little cheap.

Now, with Season 2, I don’t want to see any pussy-footing around. Those girls better get suited up and get their scuba on from the first episode, because the show is all out of excuses for lollygagging. I want to like this, but I swear, if they give us another one of those boring episodes where the kids play Red-Light-Green-Light in the school parking lot because they have nothing better to do, I’m dropping this hard.

Chances I’ll blog it: High, because if they do go scuba diving a lot I’ll want an excuse to talk about scuba diving, and if they don’t go scuba diving, I’ll want an excuse to complain about that some more– because apparently, this is a very big deal to me. I don’t know why either.

Binan Konkou Chikyuu Bouei-bu Happy Kiss

I watched the first season of this, which is about 11 more episodes of it than I should have watched. Once you get used to the idea that the show is a gender-swapped parody of Sailor Moon, there’s really not much else there; it’s basically just telling the same joke over and over again.

This is the third season, with new characters, so there’s potential for something different to happen, but I’m not expecting much. I’ll give the first episode a shot, but if it’s still doing more of the same, I see no reason to continue. Maybe it’s worth watching if seeing the guys prance around in tights works for you as fanservice (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but I can’t think of another reason to watch this.

Chances I’ll blog it: negligible.

Comic Girls

For many years, I wanted to be a comic artist. The idea of being able to go live in an all-girls comic artists’ dormitory was pretty much my dream life as a teenager, so I’m more psyched for this show than just about anything else this season. If it’s good, there’s a chance it will dredge up long-buried memories of manga-drawing ambitions and I’ll be reduced to a sobbing mess on the floor by the time the credits roll, but maybe that will ultimately be good for me. After all, if you’re crying, that means you’re growing as a person or something, right?

Anyway, I hope they focus more on the manga aspect and less on the general “bunch of cute girls living in close proximity” humor, which I can get elsewhere. I’m going to be disappointed if a lot of the run time is taken up by the girls taking baths, borrowing towels, exchanging bath salts, or doing other bath-related activities. I’ve watched Hidamari Sketch, and I know how this kind of thing tends to go down.

Chances I’ll blog it: Oh, it is on like Donkey Kong. Expect 5000 word write-ups on the regular; am I kidding? HA HAH I don’t even know

Tachibana-kan to Lie Angle

This is another show about girls living in a dormitory, only without the manga angle. So this is ideally where all the bath-related plots should take place, instead of on Comic Girls’: if they want to spend the whole show bathing, making curry and dressing each other up, I’m alright with that. Everything in its right place.

That said, “girls live in dormitory, wacky hijinks ensue!” isn’t much to go on. At best we could get another HidaSketch or Kiniro Mosaic or something like that, or we might end up with something like this season’s Slow Start, functional light comedy without really standing out. Right now, all over the world, the 12 people who really like Slow Start are shaking their fists at me through the screen, I can feel it, but I will continue on, uncowed and unrepentant.

Chances I’ll blog this: Really low, unless Comic Girls pisses me off by being too generic, in which case I’ll switch to blogging this show entirely out of spite.

Uma Musume: Pretty Derby

Okay so, let me get this straight…this anime is about girls, who are horses, so they have cute horsie ears and tails. And they also race, what being horses and all, and they also sing and dance and get all dressed up in pretty dresses because why not?

That’s…that’s just My Little Pony. They just re-invented My Little Pony from this weird sideways direction, but that’s what it is. Now, you could protest by saying “but My Little Pony isn’t sexual like this!” in which case you would be demonstrating profound ignorance of today’s MLP fanbase.

Shows like this usually aren’t half as outrageous as the premise makes them sound, and they’re usually the worse for it, but I’ll give it a try anyway. Maybe I’ll spin it that because I feel alienated in modern MLP fandom, this is the level I’ve been reduced to; watching adaptations of cell phone games about two-legged horse girls.

Chances I’ll blog this: Medium. It’ll be worth doing if the show actually embraces it’s own ridiculousness and really goes for it, instead of just doing the kind of lukewarm, not-really-naughty humor that could be done anywhere.

Hisone to Masotan

I saw “Air Force” in the description and figured this was going to be another one of those military girl shows, like Kantai Collection or High School Fleet. However, this show is adding a dragon to the mix. That sounds…like a really good idea, actually. How has no one thought of this before? Game of Thrones has been on for like 8 years, and it seems like writers are still kind of waking up to the idea that viewers really, really like dragons.

This one is written by Mari Okada, which might be a useful bit of info for some people, but it tells me absolutely nothing. I’ve seen Okada stuff that I thought was great, yet some of the most painfully awful anime I’ve ever seen has been Okada-penned, so she’s a wildcard. I don’t know if it’s that her quality is wildly variable, or if it has more to do with how some of her scripts have been directed, but her presence on the staff just increases the “wtf is this even and where did it come from?” factor that this show has for me.

All that aside, the art style looks reminiscent of decades past rather than the 2010s, and that intrigues me. I think they’re trying to invoke the Ghibli-classic feel here, and I’m curious to see if they can live up to it.

Magical Girl Ore

This is the first show that Crunchyroll announced for this season, so if nothing else, it’ll be easy to find. It’s a magical girl show, with a twist that the magical girl transforms into a muscular guy when she powers up. My gut feeling is that it’ll be amusing for about one episode, then become dull in the same way Binan High did. There’s something about idols and yakuza thrown in here as well, so maybe it’ll have enough zany appeal to stay fun after the premiere episode.

I have mixed feelings about these gender-bending magical girl shows. I get how they’re a natural progression of the genre in a lot of ways, and how they can be incredibly refreshing for people who are tired of traditional gender roles, and that’s all good. I just never find these shows as interesting or funny as I feel like I’m supposed to. Maybe I’m just not the target audience, and that’s okay.

Mahou Shoujo Site

This sounds a lot like Magical Girl Raising Project from a few years back: an incredibly dark, gritty magical girl show where love and children’s dreams go to die. I don’t have a problem with the recent trend of “dark and gritty” magical girl shows on principle; diversity within the genre is good, after all. But I’d be lying if I said I found any of those post-Madoka Magika shows particularly watchable. Madoka aside, which is an exceptional case on a lot of different levels, my taste in magical girl anime tends more towards the sweet and fluffy; I want to be reminded of my childhood, not convinced that my childhood was all a lie and the only way forward is the sweet release of oblivion, you know?

Still, I’ll give it a try. Maybe this show will have some element that MGRP didn’t have that will hook me.

Chances I’ll blog it: Very low.

Devil’s Line

Vampire show. I’m tempted to say “look, it’s anime Twilight!” except that would be closed-minded, right? I mean, the concept of vampires existed long, long before the Twilight boom, and to call every new property with a romance between a vampire and a human “like Twilight” is ignorant and reductive, right? Vampire literature is a broad sub-genre with it’s own tropes, and that should be respected.

Except this vampire dude saves a girl, and forms a bond with her…only, being close to her might test his stern resolve to never, ever drink human blood…

Yeah, it’s goddamned anime Twilight. Not that that’s a bad thing; this could be a lot of fun, repurposing old gifs from the Twi movies, photoshopping Robert Pattinson’s head on top of the main dude in every screenshot, etc. This could be the most fun I’ve had blogging since taking the piss out of Wizard Barristers every week. But should such behavior really be encouraged?

Chances I will blog it: High, for the wrong reasons.

Golden Kamuy

Historical; takes place shortly after the Russo-Japanese war, in Hokkaido. I had no idea this was coming out until five seconds before writing this post, but now I’m intrigued. First, you’ve got the Hokkaido factor, and once A Place Further Than the Universe completes, I’ll want another show that takes place somewhere cold and snowy. Second, the female character is Ainu, and despite many references to the Ainu and their culture, I don’t think I’ve ever watched an anime with an explicitly Ainu character; I feel like I MUST have, but I can’t think of one off the top of my head.

So it’s historical, it’s winter-wonderland-zoned, it’s an opportunity to learn, what more could you want? I usually hate categorizing shows into anime for smart people and dumb people (because lord knows, I am a HUGE fan of some dumb, dumb shows), but like Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju, this kind of sounds like anime aimed at a more cerebral audience.

Chances I’ll blog it: High.

Piano no Mori

There’s an old piano in the forest and a poor kid plays it, then a rich kid wants to play it but the magical forest piano doesn’t like him as much, maybe? I’m a little unclear on whether the piano is magical or not. I’ll confess, my main interest in this show is the fact that the preview describes one of the characters as “practically breast-fed by the piano as the son of a family of prestigious pianists,” and now I can’t stop wondering what it would look like for a Grand Piano to breastfeed someone. Would you put the baby on the keys, or…?

At the very least, this show will probably be really interesting for people who have experience playing piano; how much appeal it’ll have beyond that, I wonder. Supposedly the manga is highly-regarded and it’s already been adapted into a successful film version, so there’s probably something interesting going on here. I feel like this one is easy to overlook among all the flashier stuff this season, so I’m going to try to give it a proper chance to hook me.

Chances I’ll blog it: low.

Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzuashii

This covers a romance between two otaku, a fujoshi and a gamer. My immediate thought is that it’s in friendly competition with Recovery of an MMO Junkie for the title of sweetest romcom between two nerds, but maybe sweetness isn’t even what it’s going for; we’ll see. On the plus side, unlike MMO Junkie, chances are the director of this one isn’t an absolute raging anti-Semite, so that’s a step in the right direction.

I want to be excited for this, because it could be really entertaining if done well, but something inside me is urging caution. I mean, I’m an otaku who married another otaku, so it would be nice to see that dynamic explored, but I don’t know if this is going to be the series to properly do it.

Chances I’ll blog it: Medium-high, since I can probably use posts about this show to rant about the otaku stuff going on in my own life and make it seem like I’m staying on topic, almost.

Alice or Alice

This is the show this season for people with Lolita complexes, because there’s always one. It’s only relevance to me is that it’ll act like a black hole of negativity, drawing all the self-righteous contempt and vitriol of the entire anime blogosphere to it, like moths to a flame, then hopefully I can watch the shit I want to watch in relative peace.

Okay, maybe that’s not fair. Just because the show has lolicon doesn’t mean it has nothing else to offer; a lot of shows appeal to the loli-loving demographic while providing something else to a different audience (Non Non Biyori immediately comes to mind.) But the fact that the show also appears to be an incest fantasy makes it hard for me to imagine that it’s going to offer much outside of taboo sexual situations.

And don’t get me wrong, if that’s your thing, that’s fine; I know a lot of people enjoy depictions of taboo situations because they’re taboo, and it doesn’t mean they condone the same behavior in real life. But this show is targeted at a specific audience that I am not a part of.

Chances I’ll blog it: Low, unless a secret lolicon billionaire gets involved and pays me to document the exploits of the two Alices. C’mon, Mark Zuckerberg, you know you want it.

Kakuriyo no Yadomeshi

I feel like I’ve already seen this show about fifteen times, probably because I’ve seen so many shows that take place in and around Shinto shrines. This seems like a Shinto shrine show crossed with The Ancient Magus Bride, meaning it’s creepy, and we’re all kind of on the fence about whether or not it’s creepy in a good, self-aware “we are examining the psychological ramifications of this creepiness” way, or just plain regular creepy. I have a feeling the fact that one of the neighborhood demons wants to take the main girl as his bride isn’t going to come up much after the first episode, but that plot point is going to effect how a lot of people judge this show early on.

Forced marriage aside, I tend to like these kinds of supernatural shrine-hijinks shows, so I’m cautiously enthusiastic for this one. With any luck it’ll be a slightly more adult version of Gingitsune, because I’ll watch anything that’s similar to Gingitsune.

Amai Choubatsu: Watashi wa Kanshu Senyou Pet

Wait, I was wrong before: THIS is the show that’s going to draw all the vitriol of animebloggers. Because unlike Alice or Alice, which at least deals with a specific fetish of a relatively small group, this show looks like it actually deals with female sexuality, and nothing scares culture bloggers half as much as female sexuality.

As the “pet” of a sadistic prison guard, the protagonist of this story is being dominated by a handsome man, which is a fantasy for many, many women. However, rather than acknowledging that this fantasy exists, and has logical reasons for existing, people are going to freak out that the show is “teaching” young girls that they want to be dominated. That is bass-ackwards, but whatever, let’s just pretend this is a problem with the mass media brainwashing girls. Never mind the fact that Wuthering Heights was a pretty big thing back before there was a lot of media around, and all of this stuff is ultimately derivative of Wuthering Heights and other gothic romances from that era.

To be honest, the show itself sounds like it’ll probably be pretty boring, unless you’re really into this particular fantasy; I doubt I’ll watch past the first episode. But it bugs me a little that it’s probably going to get critically crucified for the wrong reasons.

Chances I’ll blog this: Low, unless other anibloggers absolutely lose their shit condemning this show, in which case I will begin waving a flag of support just to be a pain in the ass. Sometimes, I can be a petty person.

Butlers: Chitose Momotose Monogatari

I have mixed feelings about this. It’s a show about handsome butlers, one of whom is a specialist in cafe latte art(!), but they also travel through time and fight supernatural battles and stuff. It’s like, can’t I just have a show about handsome butlers working in a cafe, serving delicious coffee? Why do they have to have superpowers and shit? You’re trying too hard!

Hopefully the show will win me over to the point that I actually enjoy the supernatural aspect and don’t just see it as a wasted opportunity to explore the refined world of handsome men in nice suits making latte art. I want to make some sort of comment here about how a show about butlers being butlers should be enough, but then again, the last anime that focused on maids was also about giant dragons fighting each other with god-tier magic, so maybe this is something about anime that I just have to accept.

Chances I’ll blog it: High. This wasn’t something I was really anticipating until just now, but something tells me this might be a lot of fun to cover.

Rokuhoudou Yotsuiro Biyori

…Oh. Here’s another show about handsome men serving drinks, so maybe I shouldn’t be so upset that Butlers won’t spend all it’s time on coffee shop life.

It’s four hot guys working in a tea shop, so due to the Immutable Law of Karen that I will watch any anime that takes place in a coffee shop, I am contractually obligated to watch all of this (and yes, I know it’s a tea shop and not a coffee shop, but c’mon.) I’m expecting a soothing, healing anime with a healthy side of food porn, and I’ll be a little miffed if I don’t get exactly that.

Chances I’ll blog this: Low, because I’ll probably have more to say about Butlers and doing both could be redundant.

Waka Okami wa Shougakusei

A young girl loses her parents and is forced to move into her grandma’s hot spring inn, where she learns to take over the family business. This sounds a lot like the premise of Hanasaku Iroha, a very pretty and extraordinarily tedious show from a few years back that I watched all of, for some reason. The art style leads me to believe that this show is going to be a bit more energetic than Hanasaku Iroha, which can only be a good thing. It also has ghosts, which is probably a plus, assuming the ghosts bathe in the hot springs at some point.

It seems like there’s going to be a lot of overlap between this show and Kakuriyo no Yadomeshi, with this one targeted a little younger. That said, the two shows could be very different tonally, so the similarities may be superficial.

Chances I’ll blog it: Low. I’m actually looking forward to watching it, but I don’t think it’s going to lend itself to posting. We’ll see.

Tada-kun wa Koi wo Shinai

“Mitsuyoshi Tada, a boy who has never known love, is taking pictures of the cherry blossoms in full bloom when he meets Teresa Wagner, a transfer student from Luxembourg. Upon arriving in Japan, she got lost, separated from her travel companion. Mitsuyoshi helps her and brings her to his grandfather’s coffee shop.”

COFFEE SHOP!? I’m on it!

It looks like a really cute romance story. Now, the question is, will it be centered around said grandfather’s coffee shop? Or do they just go to the coffee shop once or twice? I have no way of knowing yet, but I know I need to find out.

Chances I’ll blog it: Medium. I didn’t have plans for it before checking out the PV, but it just looks really pretty and soothing.

Jikken-hin Kazoku: Creatures Family Days

Crazy-abusive scientist parents turn their kids into demi-humans, and after they get arrested, the one normal kid has to try to teach the others how to integrate into human society….

…well. That’s a premise you don’t see everyday.

I would say this is just another show in the Cute Monster Girls subgenre, except one of the kids is a monster boy, so that’s novel. I’m kind of intrigued by the parents: what was their motivation for experimenting on their own children? Why did they think they were justified in doing so? Unfortunately I think the parents are going to be shuffled off into a dark corner (which, to be fair, is where they belong) while the monster-kids take the spotlight, so I’ll probably never get answers to my questions.

Chances I’ll blog it: Low. It could be a perfectly fine comedy/slice of life with supernatural characters, but the stuff I actually find interesting about the premise is probably going to be ignored on the show. I will be happy to be proven wrong about that, however.

Caligula

A virtual idol gains sentience based on feedback from her users, decides humanity is suffering, and traps humans inside a dream world to save them from their suffering. *sigh*

No, I’m not sighing because that sounds bad. Actually, I think the premise is intriguing and has a lot of potential. It’s just that ambitious, high-concept anime always seem to disappoint me lately, and the stuff that really resonates with me has a super-dull premise like “four girls hang out in the country” or “two MMO players form a relationship.” Girls Last Tour was high-concept, but that’s the odd exception.

I’ll try it to see if it has anything to offer, but I’m expecting it to feel pretentious and kind of boring from early on.

Chances I’ll blog it: So low.

3D Kanojo: Real Girl

An otaku ends up dating a gorgeous girl, mayhem ensues. Sounds innocuous enough, except for the references to “rough waves that beat the otaku out of him.” I really hope they’re exaggerating there, because I do not want to see otaku get beat out of anyone. Also, the capsule description includes “This is sure to be THE comedy program of 2018 that you won’t want to miss!”, which makes me want to snub it on principle.

I’m hoping the show is actually good and it’s just the people responsible for marketing it that are getting over-zealous. In a way, I think I’d prefer it if the MC gave up his hobbies to please his girlfriend, because that would be wrong, and the wrongness would make the show stand out; right now I’m expecting a painfully generic romcom with copious references to “save points” and “flags.”

Chances I’ll blog it: Only if it’s so horrible that so-bad-it’s-good applies…which means there’s a decent chance, actually.

Koneko no Chii Ponpora Dairyokou

I love the anime for Chi’s Sweet Home, and I own the manga in its entirety. To be honest though, I’m a little weirded out by Chi in 3D. It’s still really cute, but for some reason I don’t find myself wanting to watch it anywhere near as much as the original. This is the second season of Chi-in-3D, and I’m still not caught up on the first season, so it’s not high on my priority list.

That said, this is one of the few anime my daughter is familiar with, and will even ask for specifically by yelling “Kitty Cat!”, and for that reason alone, it has a prominent place in my life right now. I’m probably not going to watch it as it airs, but you can be pretty darn sure it’s going to be playing in my house eventually.

Chances I’ll blog it: There’s a better chance that my 2-year-old will write about this one, but don’t count her out; she knows all her letters and everything. She’ll probably be taking over this blog by next year.


So, what do you guys think? Does it look like a good season, or just a bunch of hype that isn’t going to amount to much? Is anyone mad that I totally ignored all the sports anime? Please tell me you’re not mad, I know sports anime is important and stuff but it’s just, this post was getting SOOooo long and just looking at pictures of people kicking soccer balls and stuff was making me feel really tired.

Winter 2018 Anime and Wholesome Masculinity

One thing I’ve talked about before is that while today’s critics love to talk about “toxic masculinity,” in popular media, no one ever seems to call attention to it when we get the opposite of that. Now I guess it’s nice if a show doesn’t have toxic masculinity at all (depending on what that even means.) But let’s go one step further: what if a show not only avoids toxic, evil, ugly masculinity, but instead has wholesome, healing, warm-and-fuzzy masculinity? Is that even possible?

Because, it could just be me– or more specifically, it could just be the shows I’ve chosen to watch this season. But it feels like, this anime season, there are a whole lot of male characters who are portrayed as masculine while still being allowed to be compassionate, vulnerable, nurturing people; furthermore, these traits are seen as being part of their masculine nature, not exceptions to it. I can’t be the only one who’s noticed.

Before we go any further, important disclaimer: I haven’t been watching everything this season. Maybe if I watch DARLING in the FRANXX, it’ll turn out to be a bunch of shirtless dudes beating their chests and firing machine guns or something? (I admit, I have no idea what that show’s about.) I’m just calling attention to a pattern, not claiming that it covers every anime airing.

With that out of the way, here’s a list of shows this season that feature “wholesome masculinity;” a term I coined because “wholesome” is an antonym for “toxic.” The fact that I had to invent a term for it is kind of interesting by itself.

March Comes in Like A Lion— You could probably talk about masculinity in relation to almost every arc on this show, but I’m going to focus on the recent bullying arc. When one of the Kawamoto sisters is bullied in school, main dude Rei takes it upon himself to help her, only to confront his own powerlessness. At first he thinks of ripping apart the bullies “limb from limb,” but realizes that even if he were actually to do such an absurd thing, it wouldn’t help Hina at all; just present her with a different kind of problem. He then considers using his money (since, as a pro Shogi player, Rei has a lot more cash than a boy his age typically would), only to realize his mistake; even if he were to give Hina money for a private school or private tutors, she wouldn’t accept it, and he’s not going to try to trample her pride. Basically, he soon realizes that force, in any form, won’t solve anything.

While the failure of his early attempts at helping Hina do frustrate him, instead of letting that frustration fester, he eventually comes up with another solution; to simply be there for Hina, as much as possible. He’s there for her in a very physical sense, showing up while she’s on a school trip in Kyoto just to say hi and give her some medicine. But he doesn’t shadow her, doesn’t overstep his bounds; simply lets her know that he’s there for her, and demonstrates it repeatedly. When the bullying situation is eventually resolved by the school administration, Rei is left feeling like he didn’t do enough for Hina; naturally, she knows better.

I don’t want to say that serving as a pillar of support for someone else is a uniquely masculine trait, because that’s clearly not true. However, there is something masculine to me about Rei’s way of going about it; what he primarily offers is his very presence, his physical constancy. He can’t really help Hina by talking out her problems with her (he doesn’t know what to say), but he can help by simply being there when his presence might offer some comfort. That kind of silent vigil, as though saying “I won’t interfere in your life because I know it’s not my place, but I will ALWAYS be there for you, even if being there is literally all I can do,” is a way of using your power to help protect someone while making sure that they won’t ever feel like they need protection from you. It’s the “toxic” idea of the controlling/dominating male turned inside out.

It’s driving me crazy that I can’t find a reference to the quote anywhere now, but I could swear I remember reading that Kentarou Miura, creator of Berserk, once said that March Comes in Like a Lion was one of the “manliest” manga around. It seemed like an odd take at the time, especially considering the source, but I think I’m beginning to see what Miura meant.

Sanrio Boys–As an advertisement for Sanrio products, I’m not sure if this show is working out so hot; we don’t learn a whole lot about the different brand characters, and the episodes tend to fall on the dull side. The show’s overall quality aside though, it makes a few important points about masculinity, and does so repeatedly.

There’s the most basic message, which is that males who like cute or “girly” things don’t have to be any less masculine than males who don’t; an appreciation of something traditionally feminine does not cancel out masculinity, and boys should not carry around any fear that it somehow might. However, the situation is complicated by the fact that all of the Sanrio characters represent points of vulnerability for the main characters. For Kouta, Pompompurin represents his bond with his grandmother, and his fear that he let her down before she died; for Seiichirou, a driven overachiever who is pushed hard by his father, Cinamoroll represents the care-free childhood he was forced to abandon too fast. Each boy has a similar story.

The Sanrio charms the boys carry around aren’t just cute tchotchkes they collect as a hobby, but constant reminders of their vulnerabilities. Once you get past the “it’s okay for a dude to have a Hello Kitty keychain” level, the show really seems to be about how becoming stronger is about accepting and embracing your vulnerabilities, not running from them; that you don’t truly become strong until you stop being afraid of weakness.

Appropriately Ryou, the least traditionally masculine looking of all the boys, has the most problems with accepting this, because he has the most to lose. As a beautiful boy who gets babied by his older sisters, he feels like he has to fight for every shred of perceived masculinity he can get; he doesn’t think he can afford to admit to liking cute mascot characters the way the muscular guys can. When Ryou finally admits to and accepts his love of Sanrio, it seems like he’s become more mature and more manly in the process, because he’s exploring his vulnerability instead of running away from it.

As I said above, it’s probably not a great show. But as a delivery vehicle for the message “Masculinity doesn’t have to be what you always thought it was,” it might just be peerless.

How to Keep a Mummy–This show is mostly just an adorable little ray of sunshine, to be enjoyed and not really thought about much; really, I think trying to analyze this show too much would be doing it a disservice. However, that said, I don’t think I’m being too analytical by pointing out that the male characters on this show are portrayed in caretaker roles; they’re not changing diapers, exactly, but taking care of the little monsters that fall into their lives requires a fair amount of nurturing. Some are more nurturing than others, but there’s no question that they’ve been assigned caretaker roles.

Now that I think about it, it’s actually kind of surprising that this wasn’t a “cute girls doing cute things” series; seeing cute girls take care of cute little monsters sounds like it would be very marketable. In any case, I’m glad the series turned out this way instead. Mummy isn’t didactic about breaking apart old-fashioned ideas about masculinity the way Sanrio Boys is, but just by putting the boys in caretaker roles– in a rather casual way– it challenges negative masculine stereotypes. There is one female main character, but considering the fact that she isn’t treated differently at all, I don’t feel like there’s anything to add about her.

School Babysitters–Now in this anime, boys are changing diapers. Again, we have boys in nurturing caretaker roles. However, one interesting wrinkle that Mummy doesn’t cover is we get to see how the boys are perceived by their classmates as caretakers. Despite the fact that he chases after toddlers and sings lullabies all day long, Ryuuichi is considered one of the hottest guys in school by his female classmates– and the other boy in the babysitting club is a close second (although Hayato isn’t such a great babysitter, but that’s a topic for another time.)

So, not only does taking care of babies fail to hurt Ryuuichi’s chances with the opposite sex, it seems to be helping; the implication is that the girls like him in no small part because he’s so demonstrably nurturing. I don’t know if it’s fair to say that the girls consider him more masculine, but they certainly consider him a nicer and more interesting person than a lot of his classmates. I don’t think the show is really trying to say “take care of babies and chicks will totally dig you, because kindness trumps toughness in manly appeal,” but hey, there are worse takeaways.

Today’s Menu for the Emiya Family– This show is an odd-duck, the oddly bucolic food-porn spin off of the Fate/Stay Night franchise. I don’t have a lot to say about it other than the fact that main guy Shirou is constantly cooking for the other people in his life; primarily women, like Rin, Saber, and Illya. Sometimes the girls cook as well, but Shirou is clearly the main chef.

Being a chef certainly isn’t anti-masculine (as watching any amount of celebrity chef television will show), but it is notable that Shirou’s whole role in this show is to provide food for the ladies in his life. Rin could be all like “Bitch, get in the kitchen and make me a sandwich!” and he would just shrug, because he’s already in the kitchen making her ten sandwiches.

Laid-Back Camp– Now we’re getting into shows that don’t even have much of a male presence, but what presence there is has some significance. There are barely any male characters in Laid-Back Camp; the only one who makes much of an impression is Rin’s grandfather, the man who gave her her first set of camping equipment. So Grandpa decides to inspire his granddaughter not by getting her some cutesy little present, but a tent. So she can go out and camp, alone, independent, in the wild.

Apparently the concept of trying to limit his granddaughter’s autonomy for her own protection has never occurred to Laid-Back Grandpa. He must have missed that day in Toxic Masculinity class.

A Place Further Than The Universe– Another show with a minimal male presence, but that absence is interesting in and of itself. The Antarctic expedition is led by women, but while the civilian expedition is considered controversial in the world of the show, the gender of the leadership seems to have nothing to do with it. People take issue with the fact that it’s a civilian expedition, or that the finances are too tight, but it doesn’t seem to have occurred to anyone to be worried that the leadership is all-female; it’s just a non-issue. You would think there would at least be that one token dude who’d say something like “In a tough place like Antarctica, you need a MAN’s strength!”, but the show doesn’t even bother with that.

I like this show, in part because it’s one of the relatively few shows where having the leads be four teen girls actually accomplishes something other than ticking a demographic box. It doesn’t have much to say about masculinity, but I think it’s worth noting that it doesn’t feel a need to, even in passing.

Ms. Koizumi Loves Ramen Noodles– Okay, including this here is really a stretch, since it’s only tangentially related to the theme of this post; maybe I’m trying to justify to myself the fact that I’m still watching it. However, I do think it’s interesting that the kind of stereotypical “dim guy who just doesn’t get that the pretty girl isn’t interested in him,” character is another girl. All of the creepy behavior targeted towards Koizumi is from Yuu, her female classmate; even when it seems like a guy is after Koizumi, it’s a false alarm and they’re more interested in the ramen she’s eating.

There is some creepy, arguably even toxic behavior on this show, but pretty much all of it comes from Yuu; the guys are pretty blameless. I think guys are sometimes surprised by how much ramen Koizumi can put away, but that has more to do with respect for the laws of physics than gender stereotypes, probably. Anyway, it’s not that this show has anything particularly meaningful to say about toxic masculinity, wholesome masculinity, or otherwise, but it’s kind of cool (in a weird way) that Yuu is providing us with some rare toxic-femininity. How’s that for representation?


So yeah. The next time I hear about how anime is just chock-full of toxic masculinity, I want to hear an explanation of this season. Like, did a whole bunch of anime writers just wake up and forget to be toxic one day? Something in the water? I need to know.

Being an Anime Fan is Too Easy Now; Let’s Make it Harder

At a local comics store recently, I found something totally unexpected on the shelves: a used copy of Anime: The Berkeley Journal of Japanese Animation, Issue II. It’s a magazine from 1991, published by a Berkeley-based anime fan club, with a lovely picture of Gainax’s Nadia on the cover. The book is mostly comprised of episode scripts and summaries for Nadia and other contemporary shows, so it doesn’t have a whole lot of value as a magazine (no fascinating articles on anime from an early-’90s perspective), but it was such a cool little piece of anime history that I had to pick it up.

I’m assuming the reason why the book is mostly scripts is because the fans who read this journal were watching Fushigi no Umi no Nadia on raw VHS, taped off of Japanese television, and needed the scripts and/or summaries to follow what was happening on screen. That got me thinking about how much danged work it was to be an anime fan back then; anime didn’t show up to your house, you had to go to it. You had to go to club meetings, to watch grainy copies of a show on a tiny screen in a foreign language with no subtitles, and the only way you could understand what was going on was if you followed along in your guide, which needed to be specially designed and printed by other fans.

And the fans who made these zines and attended these viewings were the lucky ones, because at least they had access to something; in most of the country (basically anywhere that wasn’t NYC or California), the only option was to buy tapes for $34.95 for anime that had come out years ago. This was one instance where geographic privilege was very powerful, because only people on the coasts were likely to even see a show like Nadia anywhere near the time it aired on Japanese TV.

Compared to now, obviously it’s like night and day. I can load up Crunchyroll or Netflix and gain access to more anime than I could possibly watch; not just the old classics that have gained popularity in the West, but most of the same shows that are airing in Japan now. If for some reason you don’t like streaming media, you can buy anime box sets on DVD and Blu-Ray for a fraction of what anime used to cost decades ago, and the visual and audio quality is vastly superior. We are living in an Otaku Paradise…okay, the fact that CR now has something close to a monopoly on anime streaming is not good for consumers, but nevertheless, compared to 1991 we are living like royalty.

And yet, I can’t help feeling we’re missing out on something. When you have to work that hard to do something, you invest in it more, and therefore get more out of it. The Berkeley journal era was before my time as an otaku– I was still into original My Little Pony and She-Ra: Princess of Power back then– but later on, during my teen years, there was still a much higher level of risk involved in being a fan. Anime tapes cost $29.99 or $34.99; when I went to the store, I could only afford to buy maybe one, and it was a serious decision. And if I bought an anime I didn’t like, well, by the time I’d finished watching the tape to death, I would have found something I liked about it. I’d invested way too much in anime to just watch the tape once and throw it in a drawer somewhere.

Still, when I did buy a tape and bring it home from the mall, there was that bubbling excitement; I got a new anime! A whole new anime, maybe even with multiple episodes on it! My anime collection was increasing! There’s nothing like that excitement today; partially because I’m old and jaded, but even young fans don’t feel that same sense of excitement that I once did if they have access to nigh-unlimited streaming anime, I don’t think. I don’t see how they could.

I need to be careful here…it’s true that when you have less, you appreciate it more, and that’s the phenomenon I’m talking about. Yet that comes dangerously close to saying “things were better back when they SUCKED,” which is just stupid. I wouldn’t want to go back to the time when I spent $30 for one episode of the Oh! My Goddess OVA, no matter how excited I was to bring that tape home. No, things are better now, but I don’t think any of us are quite as invested and passionate in anime as fans were circa ’91, or even 2000; it’s just not possible. It’s become too easy, too automatic to watch new brand-new anime.

What I’m wondering now is if there’s any way we can somehow nurture the same passion fans had back when anime was a scarce, precious resource, but without making people jump through ridiculous hoops to cut off access. I mean, I suppose you could make some kind of “Old School Anime Challenge,” where people could opt-in to try to live like an old-school fan for a while and only watch one (raw) show per season or something*, but that seems more like a silly exercise in masochism than anything else. Unless some cataclysm destroys the internet and sends us back to the VHS-and-Betamax days, we can’t return to that time.

I was kidding in the title of the post about how we should make it harder to be an anime fan; obviously, we don’t really want to do that. But I think we should maybe be less forgiving of those who take anime for granted; those “fans” who talk about how every show sucks, how in general anime sucks, how people who are really into anime suck. Obviously, these people have the right to watch anime if they want (although why they even want to, when they apparently have such a low opinion of it, is an open question). But we don’t have to take their opinions seriously either, which is what we’ve been doing for the past 15 years or so.

I don’t really have a plan here. I’m going to be thinking about ways to be more passionate and appreciative as a fan, the kind the Berkeley Anime Club would have recognized, without going to another extreme and becoming a completely non-critical anime zombie. If opening your browser to watch all the latest anime from this season has started to feel more like a chore than a privilege, maybe you should give it some thought too. It could be that you’d be better off watching less anime, only spending time with the stuff you really love, or maybe you could try to have a different perspective on what you’re already watching.

All I know is, this feeling where anime is cheap and disposable is icky and I don’t like it. I’m not going back to hoarding VHS tapes, but I’m going to try to act a little bit more like the person who thought that spending all of her babysitting money on anime tapes was a good idea.

*Only if you live in NYC or California though: if you live anywhere else in the world, you will watch reruns of Golden Girls and you will like it.

Are Video Games Art?, Part III

Let’s take a look at some of the arguments for why video games can’t or shouldn’t be art. These are only the arguments I’ve personally encountered, so I could be missing a lot here. Feel free to provide other arguments in the comments (either in the spirit of “This is why your whole series of blog posts is wrong,” or “This is what my idiot cousin from Philly says,” either is fine with me.)

  1. Video Games Can’t Be Art Because They Are Items of Consumer Electronics and Must Be Judged on That Level

This is, by far, the most sensible argument against games being art, and the one that’s creating a lot of friction among gamers right now. We’re dealing with clashing paradigms that don’t play nicely together.

An example: You can look at the Mona Lisa for a couple of seconds, and unless you’re a real art buff, at that point you’re done with it. Still, despite the short engagement time, that image will probably be ingrained within your mind for the rest of your life, you’ll see references to the Mona Lisa for the rest of your life, and the painting’s value is considered priceless, beyond rubies. If you only engaged with a $60 game for a few seconds, when you were expecting 20-60 hours of gameplay (or even several hundred hours, if you just bought an in-depth SRPG like Disgaea), you just got ripped off.

In theory, someone could make a game that was five seconds long and have it be priceless, but due to the differences between the visual arts and interactive media, that’s highly unlikely. This whole idea of judging something based on how much time it occupies relative to it’s price is something that doesn’t gel well with art appreciation as a concept. No one ever goes to a museum and complains that the exhibit sucked because they only stood in front of each painting for a moment.*

And yet, other mediums have been dealing with this for years, and that somehow doesn’t disqualify them from being art. Films are judged in part by how they use their runtime, and whether they’re an entertaining or informative use of 2 or so hours; a film that seemingly wastes 2 hours of your time is considered a rip-off. However, just because films can be judged in this manner, and are judged that way more often than not, no one then counters that cinema can’t be art. It’s simply different ways of judging the same thing; you can judge film as a consumer product, but that’s not the only viewpoint there is. If this works for film, why shouldn’t it work for games?

One thing fairly specific to games that I don’t believe applies elsewhere is the fact that a game has to be a functioning piece of software. If the X button is jump, the character better jump 100% of the time, not 75%, and the graphics better not bug out every time you enter a new room. A game could have the most brilliant artistic ideas imaginable, but if the controls don’t work, it fails as a piece of consumer electronics, and therefore as a game.

There’s some wiggle-room here; some games with slightly wonky controls and bug issues are often given a partial pass if the content they feature is otherwise high-quality. But in general, a game has to work as software first.

The problem is people think that a game can fail as software, but then use “art” as an excuse to completely avoid responsibility for its failures. “Oh the game is buggy as hell, but what a wonderfully nuanced look at a romance between two one-armed seamstresses in the 1730s!”

And you know what? That happens (not the seamstresses game, although now I’d kind of like to see something like that). Games can fail either in controls or amount of content and use art as an excuse. Sure, it’s a five-minute long walking simulator that costs $60, but dammit, it’s art! You can’t put a price on art!

Actually, you can, and being classified as art isn’t some magical Get Out of Jail Free Card that makes everything okay.  Because you see, bad art exists. If your five-minute long walking simulator isn’t interesting to play and is overpriced, it’s still art; it’s just bad, terrible art that isn’t of much consequence.

Basically, once you accept the premise that art can be bad, you lose the problem with art becoming a failsafe justification for anything. An “art game” can be artistic and also bad, and the idea that priceless art only requires a few seconds of active engagement simply does not apply if the art in question is not good. You can judge games as consumer electronics, and you can judge them as art, but if it fails on the first level, chances are it’s going to fail on the second level too, because the medium is the message. If something has great artistic value in regard to music and visuals or whatnot but fails as a piece of interactive media, chances are it shouldn’t have been made as a piece of interactive media.

2, Video Games Can’t Be Art For STRUCTURAL REASONS Having To Do With Authorial Intent

I first read this in a newspaper, in a film critic’s column. It was a small, regional paper, so it wasn’t like this was coming from a famous critic whose name would mean anything to you. The argument was basically that film directors make choices, these choices create certain responses in the audience, and within these choices we find the art of cinema. In video games, people make their own choices, so games aren’t art; they are simply entertainment.

Okay, so…where do we even start with this? It’s contingent on the idea that game creators don’t make choices. Like, someone just starts making a game, throws the telephone-book sized design document out a 100-story window, and says “let’s do whatever, no big.” I could say that this might be true if you’re just screwing around in RPG Maker, but I have screwed around in RPG Maker a lot, and I’m pretty sure it’s not true even then. This argument is just complete, utter nonsense.

The problem is that it uses intelligent-sounding terms like “structural” and “authorial intent,” so people still get snowed by it. I find most of the ‘intellectual’ arguments against games being art are all very much like this; they might sound logical at first, but they make less and less sense the more you think about them.

3. Video Games Can’t Be Art Because They’re Addictive

Video games can be very addictive, but if you don’t think reading good books can be addictive too, man have I got a nice bridge to sell you. It’s not exactly the same thing; games tend to create more of a dopamine rush than reading does, making them more addictive for many people. But so what?

Video game addiction can be a real problem, and it’s something we’re going to have to grapple with more and more as virtual worlds become more important in our lives. But it’s irrelevant to the question we’re trying to answer.

4. Roger Ebert/Hideo Kojima/Insert Famous Person said that Games are Not Art

I have a lot of respect for late Roger Ebert, and many people doing media criticism today could learn a lot from him. That said, his medium was film, not games, and he freely admitted that he didn’t play games or know much about them. You can have all the respect in the world for Ebert as a film critic without thinking that his opinions on all other media were equally valuable.

Hideo Kojima though…man, that kind of gets me. I mean, the only excuse for most of Metal Gear Solid 2 is art; if you’ve played it, you know exactly what I’m talking about. So I don’t really understand where Kojima’s coming from there, but what’s more important is, no one person– no matter how famous, no matter how talented– is qualified to be the sole arbiter of what is and is not art.**

5. “I Don’t Need Games to Be Art.”

I’ve heard this one from several people lately, and I think I know what they mean, but the logic has already struck me as a little odd. I mean, I don’t NEED for Van Gogh’s Starry Night to be art either; some snooty agency could put out an international bulletin, “Starry Night NO LONGER ART!” and it wouldn’t cause me to think that my needs had been compromised; my needs are pretty irrelevant to the whole situation.

What people mean when they say this, I think, is “I don’t need the intellectual validation of games being considered art; it’s okay with me if games are just entertainment.” This viewpoint depends on believing in the art/entertainment divide, and I already explained in Part 1 why I don’t buy that. So in essence, while I think I know what people mean when they say this and I see the validity of those feelings, the reasoning itself is irrelevant to the question. You might as well say “I don’t need Nutella to be a sandwich topping,” or “I don’t need Die Hard to be a Christmas Movie,” (yeah, I went there.)

Sometimes people say this because they find the whole debate tedious as hell and want to move on, and given how these discussions tend to go on social media, I can’t say I blame them. But the debate doesn’t stop existing just because you happen to be tired of it, you know?

6. Games Can’t Be Art Because [Insert Bad Game] Exists

“LOL, you think games are art? Look at this screenshot from Custer’s Revenge, and try to say that with a straight face. Oh and Superman 64 LMFAO CHECKMATE.”

As we’ve already covered, bad art exists. I would bet money that right now, there are at least 10 nearly-blank canvasses hanging in museums all over the world, with one tiny dot of black  paint the only point of interest. And the titles are something like “The Overpowering Oppression of Whiteness,” or “White Supremacy, Visualized,” or even “Unbearable Loneliness No. 8.” Chances are, if you’ve ever been to an art museum even once, you have seen this sort of thing. Lots of it.

This is terribly lazy, cynical art, but it doesn’t invalidate painting, or the visual arts more generally, as an art form. It may lead you to wonder about the motives of some museum curators, but that’s a different problem.

————————————————————————————-After going through it all, the only genuine area of concern we seem to have is the one about the expectations for consumer electronics and the expectations for art being different things at this point in time; that is changing, however. Every other argument against games being art seems to depend on some kind of false technicality, an appeal to authority, or pretending that bad art is something that doesn’t exist. I don’t see how you can be a logical person and find any of these arguments convincing.

And yet, after all this, I’m not entirely without sympathy for those who don’t want Tetris included in the hypothetical World Pantheon of Art. There’s something special, something refined about sitting down with a 19th-century novel that I don’t get from a JRPG, no matter how good the game is. There is something special about the texture of paint on canvas, the sound that comes out of a beautiful brass instrument, the mesmerizing nature of classic film. These are all special things.

I think people are afraid that if we allow games to be classified as art, we are somehow making all of the above less important, less special. And if you’re worried about that, games qualifying as art can seem extremely threatening. But we have to face facts; there is no good reason why games aren’t art, and if that makes us have to reconsider the value of other art forms and how they stack up against the interactive version of themselves, then that’s a challenge we’re going to have to grapple with whether we want to or not. Right now, I think a lot of people are running away from that challenge, and we can’t afford to anymore.

*This does somewhat work with music, because if you went to a concert and it was only five minutes long, you’d probably feel pretty cheated. That doesn’t mean the one song that the orchestra played during that five minutes wasn’t priceless, though.

**Well except for me, obviously. I wrote these blog posts and everything.

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