This time around, Keijo!!!!!!!! and Yuri on Ice!!! continue to earn their exclamation points, Izetta: The Last Witch and Magical Girl Raising Project leave us with some doubts, and this season of Uta Pri continues to be stultifyingly boring. In other news, we have now confirmed that Drifters‘ Jesus is a bad guy (what?) and none of the monsters in Kaiju Girls are ever going to have a cool fight (WHAT?)
This time around, we discuss March Comes in Like A Lion and how we would all like to either a)Have an Akari-figure in our lives or b) Be Akari. In other news, Magical Girl Raising Project surprises everyone, Keijo!!!!!!!! treats the Vacuum Butt Cannon issue with the seriousness it deserves, and Gakuen Handsome is…there is no describing what Gakuen Handsome is.
Oh, and Drifters featured the Second Coming of Christ and apparently only 1/3 of the audience even noticed. Maybe religious people should be concerned?
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This time around, we jump down the rabbit hole with Flip Flappers, discuss the hidden meaning of the cats’ dialogue in March Comes in Like a Lion, and ponder the proper diet for a modern Keijo player. Additionally, is Girlish Number annoying, or is it just so brilliant in its recreation of workplace incompetence that it’s just painful for anyone who has ever held a job to watch? These questions, and more, answered* on this week’s** episode!
*To be perfectly candid, we don’t really answer these questions. But they are posed, and that should count for something, right?
**Our podcast timing has gotten weird and I have no idea if saying “this week’s episode” makes any sense, but whatever, I’m not getting into “fortnight” or what have you.
This week, we survey the full range of fanservice available this season by examining both Yuri!!! on Ice and Keijo!!!!!!!!, which have, between them, 11 exclamation points. I think between this overabundance of exclamation points and the unnecessary semicolons that the Occultic;Nine people love using, we may need to implement some kind of punctuation tax; this is getting ridiculous. Oh crap I just used an unnecessary semicolon, now I’m part of the problem ><.
In other news: Hamburgers, a bi-coastal survey, and Magical Girl Raising Project turns LB into this:
If I have any reputation at all in the anime blogosphere (which is optimistic), it’s for being critical of feminist criticism when applied to anime. So, when a site crops up that’s all about applying feminist criticism to anime, you might think I would be against it on principle, but that’s not true; in fact, it’s the opposite.
I don’t plan to support AnimeFeminist on Patreon, but I don’t have a problem with what they’re doing. A site by feminists, for feminists? Sure; that’s not my jam, but so what?
So why talk about it at all, when it has nothing to do with me? Mostly just because I see anime fans demonizing the site right from the getgo, which– in addition to coming off as just mean-spirited–implies that they don’t understand what the most dangerous problem is with current anime criticism. The problem is not the fact that feminist criticism, as one particular lens through which to examine media, exists; it’s when it’s treated as the default for ALL criticism, and anyone who doesn’t agree with its usage is in serious danger of being branded a misogynist.
Let’s look at AniFem: it’s clearly by feminists, for feminists. It wears what it’s doing 100% on it’s sleeve. There is the whole Patreon angle, but the only people who are going to contribute are people who genuinely want to read this kind of criticism; no one else is forced to pay one red cent. If you don’t find value in feminist criticism, you can simply not visit the site and it will never effect your life.*
Now let’s look at other sites, like Anime News Network and other sites that want to be Anime News Network. These sites use terms like “toxic masculinity,” “male gaze” as though they’re completely accepted mainstream terms, with no indication that these terms are associated with a certain ideology. Typically, fans who ask inconvenient questions like “Is masculinity really toxic?” and “Why are you using the original form of gaze theory, and ignoring how the concept has evolved?” are ignored at best, branded misogynists at worst. There’s a generally unspoken rule (although some people take care to make it explicit) that if you have any issue with the terms of academic feminism being engaged in pop culture criticism, it’s because you’re an anti-feminist, a.k.a. misogynist.
Perhaps worse, in this environment, anime criticism that doesn’t use feminist theory is seen as not doing its due diligence; it’s basically taken as an article of faith that a review MUST come from a feminist perspective, or else it’s lacking in intellectual rigor.
Now let’s compare ANN and to AniFem. If ANN were say, Anime Feminist News Network, it would be one thing, but it’s not: it is THE anime news network. You can ignore it if you want, but then you’re kind of shooting yourself in the foot; ANN provides a valuable service in terms of providing otaku news from Japan for English- language fans, and you’ll have a hard time keeping current on anime (and several related fandoms) if you refuse to use either ANN, or sites that source at least partially from ANN. Basically, it’s a hotbed of feminist criticism that you literally cannot avoid if you want to participate in the fandom.
Everybody is allowed to do whatever kind of criticism they want; if a bunch of Marxist fans want to set up a site to review anime from a Marxist perspective, they’re welcome to do that; wild horses couldn’t drag me over to read it, but that’s beside the point. If mecha fans want to build a site that critiques anime solely based on the inventiveness of a show’s mechanical design,** they’re welcome to do that. Many people feel burned out by feminism because of the feeling that they can’t escape from it on major outlets; that doesn’t mean that feminists don’t have the same right as absolutely everyone else to make sites, with their own labor, that cater to their own interests.
TLDR: Even if you have no interest in patronizing AniFem, and even if you blatantly disagree with the show’s approach to criticism, for me it’s still part of the solution, not the problem, because engaging with feminist theory via the site is 100% a choice.
I think the anger of the fandom should be directed at those situations where we don’t really have a choice.
*Of course, you might see references or links to it in your Twitter timeline, but if you’re such a special snowflake you can’t even handle THAT level of engagement with views you disagree with, then you’re just being a hypocrite. After all, one of the best arguments in favor of letting all kinds of shows exist, no matter how ‘offensive’, is that if you don’t like it, you don’t have to watch it; similarly, if you don’t like an anime criticism website, you don’t have to visit it.
**I’d kind of like to see more stuff like this, although I can’t guarantee it doesn’t already exist and I’m just ignorant of it– for better or for worse, I spend more time watching anime these days then keeping track of anime fan projects online. I’m sure I miss stuff.
Otakusphere Weekly is back for fall, the perfect accessory for your SuperCool Autumn Otaku Life. This week, we take on the beginning of the fall season’s offerings including Magical Girl Raising Project, Izetta:The Last Witch, Magic-Kyun Renaissance, Uta no Prince-Sama Maji Love Sparkle Sparkle Legend Star Sparkle Sparkle Whatever, Scorching Ping Pong Girls, and many more. We also discuss which shows from last season we watched until the bitter end, the dangers of scuba diving, and the fact that my neighborhood is lacking a Denny’s.
Why can’t I have a Denny’s? Is that really so much to ask?Sometimes you just wake up and want a Grand Slam Breakfast, know what I’m saying?
Back in the summer, when we put the podcast on hiatus, we had two episodes recorded that never got edited and posted. Now, stopping the podcast with no warning and leaving finished episodes in limbo is obviously not a good way to do things and not how I like to operate, but to paraphrase the wise Kero-chan:
“A lot of stuff happens in life!”
Yeah, so that happened, but here’s episode #16: Tales of Lemon Zest:
Obviously this is from a while ago so we’re still discussing summer shows like Sweetness and Lightning and Amanchu! and stuff, but probably worth a listen if you’ve enjoyed the show thus far. Episode 17 is still being edited, but I’ll update this post with it as soon as it’s done.
I was a bad girl and didn’t keep up with blogging Food Wars! episodically for most of the season. Part of this was because I discovered Chef’s Table on Netflix, and I was so enraptured by the most pretentious cooking documentary I had ever seen that my quota of food television was temporarily filled. I mean, how can poor Soma hope to compete with chefs who say things like “I won’t let my plating canvas be limited by the profit motive of plate manufacturers?” How can he compete with people who think that they are CHANGING THE WORLD with their approach to root vegetables? It’s just not fair.
However, since I did finish watching the cour, I felt I may as well do a bit of wrapping up here. On the whole, I enjoyed The Second Plate, but it had a few problems:
- The Stagiaire arc was much more interesting than the Autumn Elections, so it was a shame that it took up only a third of the screen time. It featured the show starting to veer away from the shonen battle format, and as someone who hasn’t read the manga, that was a pleasant surprise to me.
- I’m not sure I’m satisfied with how Soma finally experiencing a decisive loss played out. Sure, just about every protagonist in a shonen story loses eventually (so they can reassess their strategy and come back even stronger, then win a million more times), but something about it just felt…off. They made such a big deal about Soma promising his Dad that he would never lose to anyone else before he could beat him, I felt like he should have apologized to his Dad or something after he lost to Hayama. Not because any sane person should feel the need to do that, but because it would have felt thematically appropriate for the show. I don’t know, I can’t quite put my finger on it, but something was missing there.
Of course, there were good things too. Erina has gone from a stone-cold bitch to a stone-cold bitch who likes shoujo manga; Megumi is gaining more and more confidence, even without Soma there to back her up; Soma has learned some humility, and even more importantly, realized that his family’s diner was never just a diner; The judges occasionally refrained from using the word “umami” 47 times when critiquing any one dish.
I don’t have much else to comment on though. I think Food Wars! is going to take its place next to UtaPri as one of those shows I always watch and enjoy, but don’t expect anything new and different from. That’s probably a weird thing to say, since I just pointed out that the Stagiaire arc was an example of the show branching out, but my gut tells me that was an anomaly; manga readers, feel free to butt in and tell me I’m wrong. I just feel like, for whatever reason, at one point I was really invested in the whole idea of shonen battles being fought with cooking instead of violence (not that that in and of itself is an new concept, but it is still somewhat unusual), and now I’m just kind of over it. I still like the show, but if they never made a new season ever again, I’d be okay with it.
Now I feel like I’m ending my coverage of the show with a downer, which is a shame because it really was an enjoyable season that I don’t regret watching in the slightest. I think I’m realizing I can be surprisingly fickle in terms of what concepts I’m into, though.
July: “OMG they’re fighting with burgers instead of their fists, that is so fun and neat and novel and I get to use lots of food porn vocabulary if I write about it!”
Normally, when I want to write about a show, I have something in mind that I’d like to say about it. This is the exception: I am writing about First Love Monster in the hopes that by writing about it, I will figure out what I just watched. Considering the fact that I’m admitting up front that I have no plan, and this is more a form of attempted therapy than analysis of said show, I will not blame anyone for bailing out at the end of this paragraph.
Preamble covered, just what the hell is First Love Monster? When I watched the first episode three months ago, I was confused about who the show was targeted at. Now, after catching up on the 11 remaining episodes, I’m still asking the same question. This is somewhat unique in my anime-viewing history.
It’s ostensibly shoujo, right? It’s a rom-com, and the guys are pretty much all tall and all handsome (with a few token moe boys who’re more cute than hot), and one of the really tall handsome guys has a thing for pushing the heroine up against the wall, and there’s even an episode where the dudes get shirtless. But most of the guys are also elementary schoolers who happen to be in fully adult male bodies for no reason that is ever explained, meaning they constantly talk about poop and wieners– especially poop. And even though Kanade and his friends are said to be in fifth-grade, to me they act more like second-graders, making the whole thing even more ridiculous.
So the premise of the show is that a high school girl, Kaho, ends up dating a fifth-grader, Kanade, because he looks so mature that she assumes he must be her age, if not older. However, since the constant potty-mouth antics make Kanade seem even younger than a fifth-grader, it feels like a high school girl is dating a developmentally delayed fifth-grader.
If you want to just write the whole thing off as ridiculously offensive and not spare it a moment’s more thought, I’m certainly not going to blame you. The whole show should really be five minutes long: Kanade saves Kaho, Kaho develops a crush on him and asks him out, he says “actually, I’m still in fifth grade,” and Kaho responds “Oh wow, I had no idea, why don’t you go back to the playground with your friends.” Of course, since Kaho’s social cluelessness is almost as overpowering as Kanade’s immaturity, she agrees to date him, and we have a situation.
The thing I can’t get past is just who the audience is supposed to be. Usually, when a show is pretty dumb in concept and just exists on pandering to its audience, at the very least, you know who’s being pandered to. But how does that work with this show? Sure, the guys are hunky-looking, but the constant potty humor is bound to be a turn-off for a lot of girls. It’s hard to think of a guy as hot when he’s talking about how he hurt his pee-pee when he sat down on a swing. I mean, I reckon there’s some girls somewhere who have that fetish, but there can’t be that many of them, right?
And since the boys are wearing elementary-school clothes that are way too small for them, I guess you could argue that the guys are showing lots of skin, hence pandering-to-the-ladies. However, tall anime guys squashed into tiny short sets and knee socks don’t look sexy; I’m hardly the arbiter of female sexuality, but I have to assume this is closer to fan disservice for many girls than fanservice. It just looks ridiculous, which is the point of course, since the show’s a comedy. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen a comedy where the style of the humor has the side effect of rendering the fanservice unpalatable.
Maybe I’m looking at this the wrong way, and it’s actually very simple: First Love Monster is a comedy, and the fact that it’s also shoujo is more or less incidental. Maybe the entire appeal of the show is supposed to be the contrast between these guys who look like typical anime dreamboats acting like little children, and the target audience is “anyone who finds that funny.” Of course, it’s basically the same joke over and over again, but whatever.
Taga thinks he’s a character on Diabolik Lovers and treating his love interest like garbage will result in her falling in love with him. However, because this is not Diabolik Lovers, he’s going to lose to a guy who still believes in Santa Claus. So that’s something.
Still, it’s clear that Kanade is actually supposed to be taken seriously as a romantic lead. He sometimes sounds wise beyond his years (which is why Kaho has a thing for him in the first place) when he parrots things his mother once said to him– something that, if you ignore what it’s surrounded by, is kind of touching. And the last episode has a pretty amazing sequence where the premise is basically “What if this were a normal shoujo, and Kanade was a proper romantic hero because he wasn’t 10 fucking years old?” Said episode also contains Kaho having an epic meltdown about how her show makes no sense, which is probably worth watching in and of itself (I could say “it makes the show worth watching,” but let’s not get carried away.)
So it’s just a silly comedy that’s not meant to be taken seriously as a romance…except for those times when it’s explicitly presented as a romance. Throughout the show, I kept expecting a twist that would give the show some further identity beyond “hot guys say the word poo.” For a while, since they say that Kanade is in fifth-grade but never give his actual age, I was sure that Kanade and his buds were actually in a coma for a few years after a bus accident or something, making the boys older chronologically than they are behaviorally. Whether that would make Kanade’s relationship with Kaho much less inappropriate is debatable, but at least there would be something for the writers to explore there. Alternately, I thought that maybe Kanade had regressed to a childlike state after the death of his mother, but was actually the same age as Kaho.
If there had been some twist like the ones I was speculating about, then the show could explore the idea of a high school student dating someone with childlike tendencies without literally being a child. Then maybe something would happen to help Kanade start acting more like his chronological age, and Kaho and Kanade would become viable as a proper couple. But no: that is not this show. This show really is about a high-schooler dating a fifth-grader, with no mitigating circumstances.
The show isn’t entirely without, err, charm; it’s at it’s best when it becomes a total screwball comedy and ignores the romance angle entirely, like when Kanade befriends a crab that the crew is supposed to eat for lunch, names it “Crabita,” and starts using it like a Pokemon. And the aforementioned sequence in the last episode works pretty well as a parody of standard shoujo cliches.
One other thing that’s kind of interesting is the character of Taga, who tells Kaho that she is “lower than dogshit” and treats her in the same fashion, despite the fact that he clearly likes her. He acts like the romantic leads in shows like Diabolik Lovers, only instead of being seen as desirable, he’s pretty much cast aside as irrelevant. If you want to be generous– and I do mean incredibly, almost unreasonably generous– you can interpret the show as a critique of a certain kind of masochistic shoujo. The tall, hot guy who treats the heroine like dirt ends up alone and lonely, because he’s a massive asshole and the fact that he’s really hot doesn’t mitigate the fact that he’s a massive asshole, while the heroine falls for the genuinely nice guy. Of course, in this case, the nice guy happens to be 10, but let’s not quibble on details here.
So, yeah…First Love Monster is a show that doesn’t work as a romance, features leads that are largely unappealing to women, and only occasionally works as a comedy. Who bought enough copies of the manga for this to get made into an anime? What was Studio DEEN thinking when they adapted this? DEEN makes Super Lovers, so they’re clearly not afraid of salacious material, but what’s the point of a show being salacious if it’s so thoroughly un-sexy?
I just…I just don’t get it, guys. I’m not even saying the show is bad, because I don’t think of it a TV show so much as some strange science experiment, imposed by some mysterious alien intellect with motives I cannot begin to comprehend. I just wrote (checks) 1400 words and no, I still don’t know what I just watched. You win this round, Japan.
I’ve been pondering the same political question for about a decade now, and since I can’t avoid political talk whatever I do these days, I may as well get it out of my system. Short version: How do we make third parties viable (and thus make candidates actually compete for votes from moderates like me) without electing a string of “Greater Evil” candidates?
Now perhaps I’m wrong about this, but taking a long-term view, I believe the best way to reform the American political system should be to make third-parties more powerful. At least in theory, if people had a choice beyond Democrat or Republican in major elections that was even semi-viable, the major parties would have to compete for these votes; they wouldn’t be able to get away with simply pandering to a slowly dwindling base of true believers, year-in and year-out, while everyone else stays home in apathy tinged with disgust. More parties, more choices, more competition, yaaaaaay USA.
The problem is, I see no way of getting there that doesn’t make everything much worse before it gets better– and “getting worse” includes the very real possibility of “ending the world as we know it.” Basically, the more moderates who choose to vote for the Naders, the Johnsons, etc. the more people like Dubya and Trump get elected; the millions of moderates who used to vote for the “lesser evil” candidates out of a sense of grim duty start directing their votes elsewhere, and Greater Evil wins the day. Arguably, this already happened in the 2000 election. Where America, and the world in general, finds itself now– with ISIS and all the other brands of apocalyptic, atavistic bullshit– is at least partially a consequence of American moderates neglecting their duty to vote for the “lesser evil.”*
Trying to think realistically, even if people start making the effort now to bolster third parties, it could take multiple elections– even decades– before we really started to make a change. There’s no guarantee that the devastating nuclear war that we’ve been doing our damndest to avoid for 70 years won’t happen while we’re trying to ride out the “bottoming out” phase of this reform process. There’s also no guarantee that when that process ends, if it ever does, that the country we have left will even be anything we want to save.
So what else can we do? Campaign finance reform is sometimes touted as a potential silver bullet, which it could be in theory, but it has it’s own Catch-22 problem: if we were in any danger of electing politicians who were legitimately interested in passing effective, powerful, paradigm-shifting reform measures, and at liberty to do so, we wouldn’t need those reforms in the first place. My personal experience is that the only politicians who talk about campaign finance reforms in good faith are local politicians who couldn’t attract big corporate donations if they wanted them; once you get above, say, the county level, any reference to campaign finance reform is a cynical rhetorical ploy and nothing more.
To speak more personally for a moment, I still don’t know what I’m going to do in November. I think Hillary is a terrible candidate, but she’s terrible in most of the same ways candidates for President are usually terrible, so she definitely counts as “lesser Evil” in my book. She will probably be bad, but I doubt she’ll be sufficiently bad that she could end Western Civilization, unless she decided to try to do that really hard. Trump to me sounds like a delusional orange man with less than a third-grade education, and I simply cannot understand how anyone can listen to him and think he’s qualified to be captain of an elementary school kickball team, let alone President. He also seems like the kind of person who would order a nuke because some world leader criticized his footwear, which makes him more likely to be a candidate who could end this whole American experiment we have going on.
But how can I vote for the Democratic Party, the party so inept that they are somehow managing to lose an election to a less articulate Oompa Loompa with delusions of grandeur? Do I vote for Gary Johnson in the interest of at least trying to bolster third parties; should I do that even if I don’t agree with a lot of his proposed policies? Do I step into the voting booth, close the curtain, and vote for no one, solely because for the sake of my conscience, that’s one minuscule step above not even dragging myself to vote at all?
Maybe I’m wrong for even thinking that third parties could be a way out; maybe the fundamental problem is that the people who are best suited to wielding political power on that scale, are the least likely to be attracted to the process of acquiring it. Maybe there really is no getting past that, and we get the leaders we deserve; they’re just getting worse because we’re getting worse, and everything else is irrelevant.
So yeah, this is what I’m thinking while pundits talk about poisoned Skittles or Pepe the frog being a secret Mossad Agent, or whatever the latest peak in stupid is. I could try to be cute and wrap up with how I’m voting for SMOD (Sweet Meteor O’ Death), but A)the idea of Earth being destroyed by a meteor absolutely scares the shit out of me and B) I’d rather just be honest and say I’m in despair right now, without any misplaced attempts at humor. When I try to think about politics, I’m in a place of complete despair.
*I’m certainly not saying that ISIS or something like it would never have existed were it not for the actions of the Bush administration; we’ll never know. But I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the actions of the American government in the early 2000s were a significant contributing factor to the current situation in the Middle East.