Now that we’re past the halfway point, how is this show being received, anyway? I don’t see much talk about it online (other than the quasi-pathetic group that cropped up when the show started to say that it was not cool enough for them, for they must be so, so cool), yet according to analytics, a lot of the visitors to Otakusphere seem to come here looking for more about this show. Also, I do tend to avoid the corners of the internet where the comments would annoy the hell out of me, which is 99% of the internet, so I really don’t know what’s going on anyway.
Not content with merely deconstructing (by which I mean, ripping the guts out of) its own genre, Puella Magi Madoka Magica is sort of deconstructing the culture that has grown up around anime fansubbing as well.
For those that know about Otakusphere but somehow don’t yet know about Madoka (a group that probably contains all of two people, but hey, I aim to please), fansub groups have been keeping the Japanese commercials for the beverage “Morning Rescue” in their cuts of the popular dark magical girl show, and the commercial has become internet-popular. Due to demand for the actual product, Jlist (and possibly other retailers I’m not aware of) have started carrying the drink for people outside of Japan to order. I don’t know the numbers, but Peter (owner of Jlist) has tweeted that the drink is selling well.
Fansubs of unlicensed shows are considered more or less morally neutral; while digitally downloadable versions of licensed shows can be considered theft (and let’s just leave it at that, without getting into the whole piracy/theft/copyright infringement definition quagmire), downloads of unlicensed shows don’t really do anything; you’re seeing something that isn’t meant for you, since you won’t be viewing the advertising the way the targeted market will (or have access to the product even if you do see the advertising), but you aren’t finding a sneaky way around an actual purchase, either, because there’s no actual product available for you to buy.
However, when fansubbers start leaving in commercials, and those commercials lead to actual sales of the Japanese products that companies paid the TV station to advertise, doesn’t that end up becoming a net positive?
Don’t get me wrong; I don’t mean it’s a net positive in financial terms. For every one person who orders a bottle of Morning Rescue from Jlist after watching a fansub of Madoka Magica, there are probably about a thousand people who will just watch it and do nothing- not enough to make the company that makes the drink a lot of money.
Still, you have to wonder; if the world has become flat enough, thanks to global retailing and shared interest in different subcultures, that the commercial is creating the same desire for a product that it was meant to inspire in the targeted audience, doesn’t the once-lowly fansub watcher therefore become part of the targeted audience? From Morning Rescue’s perspective, they don’t care if Madoka fans live in Japan or China or Timbuctoo; they want people to watch the show, see their commercial, and buy their product. If someone in the U.S. orders a case of Morning Rescue based on the commercials they saw in a legally “gray” fansub, are they any less valid as part of the target audience than a person in Tokyo who bought one? It’s still advertising dollars well spent.
I haven’t been covering Madoka Magica on a regular basis, mostly because my recaps of individual episodes would end up being a .WAV file featuring the sound of my jaw hitting the floor continuously. But I think the Morning Rescue phenomenon that spawned from the Madoka fansubs has really interesting implications for the future of digital anime distribution, legal and otherwise- I mean, I’m not sure what they ARE yet, but they’re certainly interesting.
With episode #4, Tokyopop’s quest to get me to consume more sushi continues to pick up momentum. Seriously, that seems to be the underlying goal here, because after each episode I may not feel particularly keen on buying any Tokyopop products, but man do I want some sushi.
This episode had what could have potentially featured the most interesting challenge yet- finding a mentor to teach you an otaku-related skill- but it was kind of rendered moot by the fact that only one member of one team (Dom) actually participated. Now, I would call out the other teams for not doing the challenge, but it’s hard to tell how much time anyone had from the way it’s edited; I get the impression they may have been seriously pressed for time in Oklahoma City and Nashville to make more time for Otakon and New York later on, in which case I can’t really blame them (yeah, I’m biased towards the east coast, not gonna lie.)
However, bonus points to Dre of some variety for pointing out to Stu Levy that Team Mangaloids were perhaps better equipped to tackle their challenge at San Diego Comic Con versus his team in Oklahoma. However, I don’t blame the show for this; it seems to be a reality show staple to stack the deck really unfairly like that. Remember that episode of Top Chef: Just Desserts where they took all the chocolate out of the kitchen, and the one guy who wasn’t planning on using chocolate in his dish anyway was just like “Screw y’all!” No? I have to find other humans who have actually watched that show.
Viewing SDCC was probably the most interesting part of the episode, in part because you could actually SEE it; New York Comic Con/Anime Festival was so packed this year, all you could see when you looked straight ahead was the freckles of the several people invading your personal space in front of you. If SDCC was as nicely un-crowded as it looked from this episode, I’m seriously jealous of west-coast con-goers right now, because I feel like the ridiculous crowding ruins the NY conventions for me.
The other interesting part of this episode was meeting AGO contender Selene’s entire otaku family, complete in cosplay with anime wall-hangings galore. I’m slightly disappointed we didn’t find out more about the parents, however; are they really otaku as well, or do they just play along to make their kids happy? In a way, wouldn’t they be the most awesome parents ever if they cosplayed as Bleach characters for the sake of familial harmony even if they’ve never seen Bleach?
On the next episode, the group goes to Otakon 2010, so I’ll probably spend the entire episode looking for a glimpse of myself in the background because I was actually there, plus Washington D.C. (whatever) and New York (yaaay!). Now, Team D&D may be my favorites, but if Diana and Dre can’t find anything suitably otaku-ish to do in NY, there will be words.
I’m getting sushi tonight, I don’t care what anyone else says. Even if they’re all like “Oh, we’re going to Outback, you can get a Bloomin’ Onion for your main course if you like,” I’ll stand my ground, because that’s how badly I want sushi right now- Bloomin’ Onion badly.
In which we learn that Japanese dolls are pieces of art, and American dolls are just “Meant to be played with.” Um, it’s rare that I get to say this, but if that’s the case, then I’m on Team America here.
This week’s episode was kind of let down after the actually-quite-good cosplay romp that was last week’s, but still watchable enough. The main problem was that the competitive eating contest didn’t seem to have much to do with being an otaku, or the theme of “Personality” either, really. Yeah, there’s that one famous hot-dog eating Japanese guy who’s way more attractive than anyone who shoves hotdogs in his face for a living has any right to be, but I don’t see eating contests as being a big part of otaku culture- am I wrong here? Plus, eating contests just look kind of gross in my opinion.
I do however like the trend of Dre and Diana winning hands down while Team S&S does unbelievably badly at everything, despite the fact that Stephan seems to be the most intelligent co-host; I guess being smart doesn’t help much when your quest is to imbibe lots of ramen and frozen yogurt (?) at a rapid pace. I guess the winning team doesn’t actually win anything, since this was the second time the same team won the weekly challenge but there was no mention of a prize.
Once again, the show is elevated by the guests, who are a batch of interesting folk who probably wouldn’t get a chance to star on an internet TV show if AGO never came to be. The contestants weren’t as memorable to me this week as last week (which is no insult to them personally; I just didn’t think they made strong cases for being the ‘greatest’ otaku, as opposed to several previous contestants), but the guests from academia and business were interesting.
Actually, the people at the Kansas City Art Institute didn’t say anything terribly interesting, I just know I would have killed for a kids’ manga-drawing class like that when I was that age. Kids these days don’t know how good they have it, back in the day we needed to walk fifteen miles in the snowpocalypse to get the lastest derivative How to Draw Manga book, etc. etc…..
Best: The segment with Dr. Laurie Brau about culinary manga- once again, Dre and Diana get to do the best stuff, and I’m so glad that someone in academia is doing something that actually seems different and interesting and not the redundant, masturbatory exercise that most academic study appears to be. Seriously.
Worst: Watching people stuff food into their mouths- wasn’t gross enough to put me off the show, but still general-purpose gross, not to mention kind of random and unnecessary. I’m also kind of annoyed by the food choices- a chance to eat five times as much of something as usual, and Team Mangaloids picks Kix cereal? Ladies, did you forget that chocolate exists? It should have at least been limited to foods with an otaku connection, like Pocky or something.
Next, the show apparently goes back to California, because spending the first week there apparently wasn’t enough (?), and I see if the other AGO co-hosts can find a way to stand out from the mini-golf playing, pancake-annihilating shadow of Team D&D, who seem to win everything.
Okay, before I do anything else, what is up with that Hulu commercial with the Adrian Brody lookalike with the huge nose singing in the bar while all the women cry? I have now seen that commercial three times in the process of watching and getting a few screens from this episode, and I still have no clue what’s going on there. Are we supposed to gather that the wine is what hideous-yet-inexplicably-sexy French people drink or something?
Anyway, I thought this episode was a massive improvement over the first one. Not only did the Otaku 6 show that they do in fact have personality (once their boss isn’t looking over their shoulder), but some of the people interviewed were just really interesting, even more so than last time. An Iraqi woman who was exposed to anime through Arabic dubs and now studies Japanese and publishes her own adorable doujinshi? A Japanese Aikido instructor with a sense of humor who also works as a chef at the restaurant next door, serving “country style” Japanese food of yore? Those are the kinds of characters I would perhaps make up for a story and then say “nah, too unrealistic,” so I think it’s awesome that these guys actually exist.
Meanwhile, since I wrote about the first episode, the manga-focused internet has seemingly exploded with hate for Tokyopop after some recent layoffs. I don’t know what to make of it; as far as I can tell, the people who are irritated with the company have some valid reasons for being that way, but there seems to be an element of people projecting any sort of dissatisfaction with Tokyopop that they have ever had since the days of Mixxzine in the ’90s onto AGO, and that doesn’t seem very fair to the people on the show, most of whom do not have much to do with Tokyopop.
I’ve seen a lot of comments to the effect of “How dare Tokyopop make this show that I have now decided to hate when they should be finishing my favorite series/not laying off people/re-translating that one title I think they screwed up ten years ago/ etc. etc.” and it’s like, guys, that’s like forty different issues that the contestants and Otaku 6 have nothing to do with. Once again, I’m not saying that the concerns about the way Tokyopop does business aren’t valid (and I’m not enough of a regular manga buyer to feel like I have an educated opinion there, honestly), but that’s an awful lot of baggage to saddle a little otaku-culture show with.
I was kind of wondering what would happen if the cast ended up in a city where there wasn’t much otaku stuff to do, so it’s good we’ve gotten that out of the way with Salt Lake City. Personally I was kind of hoping that they would end up in North Dakota, just because I think the idea of traipsing around sparsely-populated North Dakota looking for cosplayers or something is hysterical, but that’s just me.
The cosplay challenge took away the biggest problem that I had with this show initially, which is that the Otaku 6 seemed pointless- the theme and challenge gave them a reason for being other than as automotons to ask questions in Stu Levy’s place, and Dominique certainly looked much better as Sailor Mars than Levy would have. However, I’m still confused about the structure of this show somewhat- so team D&D “won” the cosplay challenge, right? I know they’re not the AGO contestants, but it seems like they should have won SOMETHING for the challenge, even if it’s only a box of Pocky. I think the benefit of winning any of these things should have been described from the beginning.
As far as the contestants go, as noted above I thought Shireen from Salt Lake City was awesome, and Di-Khiem from Denver certainly had the enthusiasm aspect down pat. I wasn’t too impressed with his song, but then he got the part about just wanting Ichigo and Rukia together and hating SasuXNaru, and then I decided he was a cool guy.
As far as Todd is concerned, I’m not sure if it’s fair to be including professional voice actors among the contestants. It seems that everyone we’ve seen so far is mainly a hobbyist, so including professionals seems to be skewing the focus of the show a little bit. That said, some of the contestants do seem to do art professionally (Di-Khiem mentioned that he has clients for his shoes), and it would stand to reason that some of the biggest otaku around would pursue anime-related professions. So I don’t know- it’s less that including a professional strikes me as strictly wrong, as I wish I had a better idea what their selection criteria was in the first place.
Best: Next to the whole story of Gaku Homma, who was just an all-around awesome guy who is not above slicing onions with a katana, Dre and Diana’s whole segment was the best. Watching them walk around the temple talking to otaku Mormon nuns and playing whacked out, Dada-ist mini-golf while in full cosplay was unique, but the two had sufficient chemistry that they were still watchable even when they were poking around behind dumpsters and basically doing nothing. Dre’s steadfast refusal to believe that they couldn’t find any otaku weirdness in SLC was amusing.
Worst: Sully’s cosplay. Really, if you’re going to be a Pocky Elf, you have to explain where the elf part comes from, or at least what inspired the costume. We sorely needed the origin of the Pocky Elf, and we never got it. Plus, it just looked like he was too lazy to dress up like a proper anime character. Stephan’s half-Persona, half-whatever cosplay wasn’t much better; yeah it’s hot, SO WHAT? Do you think Dominique enjoyed walking around town in that itty-bitty skirt? If you can’t take the heat, dress like Luffy.
Also going to call out the Funimation segment, not because it was bad but because it looked like they were dubbing Sora No Otoshimono, and that’s just a waste of absolutely everyone’s time.
Next time: The Otaku 6 visit more cities that are not in North Dakota (boo), and maybe I’ll get closer to nailing down whether or not the Otaku6 actually win anything for having to be weird in public repeatedly. Seriously, I am really curious what venues they’re going to pick when they get to my neck of the woods in NY.
Just so you know, the last reality show I watched was an episode of Top Chef where Cookie Monster, Elmo and Telly showed up to judge a baking Quickfire, and Padma totally talked to the Muppets like they were real people. For me, this was the pinnacle of reality television; they can stop making it now.
Nevertheless, I decided to give Tokyopop’s new reality show (or whatever it is) a shot, and while it certainly wasn’t stellar- five minutes in, I was considering turning it off out of boredom- it was better than I expected. I decided that I wouldn’t blog about it if it was really bad, because then all I’d end up doing is mocking the show, and that’s kind of a horrible thing to do when real people are involved. It turned out that it’s good enough that I can talk about it without mocking it, but not good enough that I’m not tempted to at points.
Right now, the biggest problem with the show is that the so-called “Otaku 6” have no personality, other than perhaps Stephan. That’s not to say they don’t actually have good personalities; maybe if I knew them, I would think they were the most charming, sparklingly effervescent otaku shut-in con-goers I knew, but that’s the problem- I don’t know them. At all.
I used to snobbily avoid all reality TV, but lately I’ve softened to some of the shows that have actual content other than “watch these people live in a house.” After watching many episodes of Top Chef, Cake Boss, and Next Great Baker (notice a theme?), I know that the one thing you can usually say about reality shows is that you get a strong feeling of the personalities of the various contestants- sometimes, you hate their guts, but you definitely know who they are, even after only an episode or two. The main thing the Otaku 6 did in this episode was stand around and try not to look too awkward when host (and Tpop founder) Stu Levy asked their guests questions. What’s the point of having them, if we’re not getting to know them?
Of course, the Otaku 6 aren’t the contestants- the four people in this episode who are in contention for the “Greatest Otaku” title are, and the interviews with them were actually interesting. Supposedly, the Otaku 6 are going to come into their own next episode and start doing more interviews, but I don’t know- as of right now, I would be having pretty much the same experience if Levy were just walking around and interviewing people single-handedly.
Also, the five or ten minutes at the beginning of the show spent introducing the 6 were by far the most boring part- I almost turned it off in a until they started interviewing the guy with the massive toy collection. Speaking of which…
A Definition of Otaku After My Own Heart
They seem to be using a rather inclusive definition of otaku- one contestant’s American comics collection is counted as part of his otaku swag, and some of the venues aren’t strictly Japanese or J-culture related; I couldn’t figure out what the otaku connection with that game company was, other than the fact that the art in their games was MAYBE a little anime-inspired.
This doesn’t bother me- the girl who puts Tomb Raider analysis on her otaku blog- but expect J-culture snobs to bitch and moan about this like there’s no tomorrow. At the very least, I promise that if I stop watching it, it will be for a much less stupid reason.
The last thing of note is the fact that the show seems to be somewhat ambivalent about whom it’s targeted at. Every otaku-related term is described in an on-screen post it, which I suppose is nice for people who don’t know squat about otaku culture, but how many of them are actually watching this? Furthermore, how many people who know about this show really need WoW explained as “a popular online role-playing game”?
If it was just the post-its I could let it slide, but it seems like everything is over-explained just on the off chance that someone grew up in some wasteland where even Pickachu’s adorable face never graced their TV screens, and it’s annoying. I thought this was supposed to be a show by-otaku, for otaku, at least in theory- why are they catering to the 1% who discovered this site through something other than an enthusiast website?
Best: -The interviews with all four of the Greatest Otaku hopefuls. Not only was it fun seeing those massive collections, but they seem to have tried to pick people who have some kind of talent in addition to just buying everything under the sun.
-That little moment when Levy picked up that girl’s Nia dolfie, and though she was smiling you could tell she was thinking “if he breaks my $700 doll I will absolutely set the Tokyopop offices on fire.”
Worst: The really poor play-acting Levy and the guys did a few times. If you’re going to do an obviously rehearsed “hey, what are THESE doing here?” sort of bit, you have to go so far over the top that it’s hilariously cheesy, not just kind of throw it out there and hope for the best. Those were perhaps the only moments when the show started to cross the line into “I can’t believe I’m watching this” territory.
Overall, it was definitely not a total waste of 40 minutes of my life. But would I bother if I didn’t have a blog called Otakusphere? I’m really not sure at this point, but I’ll give it another episode or two at least.
I like this new policy; rather than actually watch a whole bunch of first episodes to determine what’s good, I wait a few weeks into the season until it’s been determined what the one show everyone absolutely cannot shut up about is, then just watch that one. Obviously to anyone who’s been on Twitter in the last month, that show currently is Madoka Magika. Beware, those who have not seen through episode 4; spoilers abound.
I’m hesitant to call it “The Evangelion of Magical Girl shows,” because that somehow sounds awfully pretentious, but it’s certainly an apt comparison. Mami’s last stand in episode 3 reminded me very much of Asuka’s final battle in The End of Evangelion; both fought in a state of kinetic euphoria, realizing for the first time that they were no longer alone, and the end came as an extremely brutal shock. Also, the soul searching Sayaka does before deciding to become a Puella Magi reminds me of what Shinji would be like if he ever took his head out of his ass for the five seconds it would take to think about somebody else for a change.
It probably is doing a disservice to the show, however, to just keep pointing out the Eva parallels, so I’ll just leave it at that- I think the show is ultimately going for something different. The deconstruction of the genre is obviously similar, but I don’t think the themes necessarily are.
Madoka is currently the weakest link in the show, which would bother me were it not for the fact that I think it’s very much intentional- I’m wondering if the fact that she’s actually considering using the wish she gets by becoming a magical girl, in order to become a magical girl, will create some interesting divide-by-zero sort of situation, hence the “potential” everyone keeps talking about.
I hope her potential isn’t just latent magic power that she was born with or something, because that’s REALLY boring; I’m interested in the idea that she could end up being the best magical girl because there’s nothing else in her personality to compete with it.
Also loving the ultra-modern aesthetic of the architecture on this show, it makes the “real world” look strangely cold and sterile compared to the reality marbles, complicating the good/evil dichotomy. I’m not going to say the witches are good- last time I checked, making people inhale chlorine gas is rather bad- but don’t you think it’s funny that those creatures in the reality marbles are so cute, and the colors are so warm? Meanwhile, Madoka’s house and school look like they’re part of the same giant, impersonal hospital. I’m not sure at this point whether or not that’s the result of the art direction going off and doing it’s own funky thing, or if it’s something deeper; I look forward to finding out.
2. On the Durarara!! Dub
With the first Durarara!! DVD collection hitting shelves now, the normal reviewer-type thing to do would be to say whether or not I recommend it. However, I’m currently sitting here surrounded by my full set of Durarara!! mini-figures, sipping coffee out of my Shizuo-emblazoned mug. I also have my very own “Certy” pencil case, and have written one of the wordiest blogs about the show ever. I think it’s safe to say I’m a fan of this show: do I think you should buy it? Hmm, y’think?
If you’re actually unfamiliar with the show and and are genuinely wondering whether or not to buy it, then I would direct you to Mr. Huber’s review. What interests me, and what I’ve been curious about ever since this show was licensed, is the English dub.
I was initially going to write up some impressions of the dub based on a five-episode screener, generously provided by Aniplex, but my first watch of the dub left me so ambivalent, I didn’t know what to say for a good while. Now that the show is actually, well, RELEASED, I think I’ll wait until my copy arrives and I can watch the full nine episodes properly before I get into analysis-crazy mode.
From what I’ve read, the general consensus is that the younger cast (Mikado, Masaomi, and Anri) are poor and/or miscast, while Celty, Shinra, Simon and Shizuo are good. Generally speaking, I agree with this- although I think there’s something interesting going on with Bryce Papenbrook’s performance as Masaomi that some fans may not have picked up on. Anyway, I think the problems with the dub are indicative of what happens when a dub is made for a hyper-specific, enthusiast audience; they let Izaya say “Shizu-chan” because they know everyone watching knows what honorifics mean, but he has to call Rio “Ms. Mazenda” in episode 2 because GOD FORBID he use her first name; Japanese people just don’t do that! Even though he’s speaking English!
Meh, I’m getting ahead of myself- more dub musings after my copy arrives.
3. Otaku USA Conclusions
Remember last time, when I was trying to decide whether or not to continue subscribing to Otaku USA? Well, I think I have my answer; the latest issue has a cover story about Evangelion by…RevolutionofEvangelion.org. Really? Without getting into my concerns with that particular site, they’ll just run an article that a fansite sends them? More importantly, they run it as the cover story?
Dropping a magazine because of one article is silly at best, but I haven’t really been enjoying it in general; their article on Excel Saga was of little interest to me, because I’d actually seen the show, and too much of their stuff seems to be like that- either “Hey, this anime exists-check it out!”, or something critically suspect like the Evangelion article.
I wish I could remember whether Animerica, which I loved to pieces, was actually much better back in the day, or I just wasn’t completely spoiled for otaku coverage yet. Rightly or wrongly, I certainly remember it being better.
4. Zettai Hero Project- Dropped, sort of
Dropped for now- currently replaying the early Tomb Raider games on my PSP after getting them through PSN. I do plan to eventually get back to it, but I also want to eventually play Disgaea 2 and Persona 3 Portable, both of which I have yet to touch in their console iterations. I don’t dislike ZHP, but it may be hard to get back to it with that kind of competition around.
Welcome to OtakuBites, the first of a feature I will probably be getting a lot of use out of here- comments on various things that may be of interest to you, without going into ridiculously huge essay-lengths (hopefully.) See, I have way more ideas for stuff to blog about than I can usually get to, so rather than letting them go to waste, I figured I’d periodically do a kind of round-up post of this nature.
1. Otaku U.S.A.
I’ve gotten the last few issues of Otaku U.S.A. (it was Shinji’s Deal of the Day on Crunchyroll, woo), and it leaves me scratching my head. At this point, I’m getting it more because I want there to be at least one print magazine remaining that covers anime- for the principle of the thing- than because I actually want to read it.
One could make the argument that, as an anime blogger as well-ensconced in the interwebs as I, a print magazine is a hard sell for me- however, there are certain things I want from a print magazine that Otaku U.S.A. does not seem to deliver. In theory, the features should be more meaty and in-depth, but instead they’re numerous and spartan.
Who are they targeting here, new, young otaku- the kind who are even less likely to buy a magazine- or those of us who have been anime fans for years, if not decades? A feature on Durarara!! in the most recent issue is presumably meant for those who have yet to see the series (perhaps, those who don’t know about this whole Crunchyroll thing yet), but also contains spoilers- rather non-specific spoilers, but spoilers nonetheless. While I agree with the author’s contention that yes, Durarara!! IS as cool as it thinks it is (and then some) I don’t understand who this article was meant for. I don’t understand who most of this is meant for, except for “Fujoshi USA,” which seems like it would probably be pretty cool if I actually read yaoi.
I got one of those “please renew” cards- should I? Just for the principle of the thing? I’m honestly not sure.
2. Card Captor Sakura, Omnibus Volume 1 by CLAMP
I got the first omnibus volume of Card Captor Sakura for Hanukkahmass (or whatever), and uh…it’s fantastic. It’s wonderful. However, it’s kind of frustrating that I have nothing else to say about it, but that’s just it; there’s nothing to criticize. I could wax poetic about how great it is, but I’m probably better off doing that when all the volumes are out and I’ve actually completed it. I will say though that the lack of Mei Lin is noted and appreciated.
3. Butterflies, Flowers by Yuki Yoshihara
Speaking of manga, Butterflies, Flowers is the first manga I can remember impulse buying…in English (I’m not counting those “1 for a $1” manga they have at Book-Off.) I have the first five volumes, which I think is all that’s been released so far. What’s interesting about it to me is that it basically has the premise of Hanamaru Kindergarten– a man falling in love with a child- and shows the logical conclusion that HK was too wimpy to touch. The sexual encounters in the book are between consenting adults and non-icky (well, mostly- that probably depends on who you ask), but it’s made increasingly clear that Masayuki fell in love with Choko from childhood. Hopefully, when I finish the series I’ll have something more interesting to say about this.
I should note that it’s actually a little different from HK, since Masayuki was technically a child himself when he fell in love with Choko (although much older than her), but honestly, I don’t think it changes things much. He changed her diapers, for crying out loud.
4. Zettai Hero Project
I seem to recall gushing about this game on an episode of Japanator AM when the trailer came out. Well, ZHP was another lovely Hanukkahmas present, and I’m a little more than halfway through the story, I’d wager. It’s not bad in any way, but it doesn’t seem to have that addictiveness that the Disgaea series does. For example, the other night, I had my PSP (with ZHP ready to go) and Marcel Proust’s Time Regained next to each other on my night table, and I picked up Proust. This usually does not happen with RPGs; in fact, RPGs have ostensibly been the reason that I hadn’t finished Proust (until yesterday- thanks, ZHP!)
Also, I don’t find it as funny as everyone keeps saying it is, but that could be because I’m listening to the Japanese track. I like roguelikes, but there seems to be something missing here I can’t put my finger on. Anyone else feel the same way?
6. Arc Rise Fantasia
I’m not actually playing this- I’m peeping over Rangoric’s shoulder while he plays it. As traditional JRPGs go, it looks pretty good, but I defy anyone to understand what the holy hell they are saying in this game without having played/watched it for the last twenty hours, and even then it’s questionable. You know how they make up their own terms in Final Fantasy games, or give standard terms new definitions, like “Fayth” and “Sending” and “Focus?” Well, imagine that, only in ARF they have to say at least three of them in each sentence, and the voice actors apparently haven’t been told what any of it means, whatsoever.
I guess that compares rather favorably to FFXIII however, where I got the impression that the voice actors knew full well what they were saying, but kind of wished that they didn’t. The fact that the voice acting was uniformly good just meant that the dialogue was generally beneath the dignity of everyone involved.
Also on the plus side for ARF, the voice actor for the evil (I think?) Prince Weiss appears to be Adam West. I don’t believe this is confirmed, but the character talks with a certain cadence that is definitely reminiscent of him. Your mileage may vary, but hearing Family Guy’s crazy Mayor West as a typical JRPG villain is pretty amusing.
Also: They are conducting a War on Pronouns.
7. Winter Anime Schedule:
Where is Durarara!! Season Two already? That is all.
Well, actually I plan to watch the second season of Kimi ni Todoke, and check out that magical girl show everyone’s talking about. To be honest, I thought about picking shows to cover weekly as I went along, like a proper anime blogger, but on second thought I decided to leave that to Japanator and other intrepid anime bloggers, and do more of my own thing. I reserve the right to change my mind if anything this season actually turns out good, however.
So, I’ve been out of this anime-blogging thing for a while. Obviously, I should herald my return by doing something highly topical, like a proper academic-type analysis of the soon-to-be-concluded Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt– well, actually I’m probably never doing that, but if any of you decide to, by all means send me the link; that sounds promising (and probably, no longer strictly legal in Tokyo.) Alternately, I could ponder the deeper meaning of Ika Musume; can the squid truly invade us, if the squid is so adorable that we want to be invaded by the squid? Aren’t we, at that point, a world of dedicated squid-enablers?
But no, I laugh in the face of concepts like “topical”, and instead will compare the main character of a low-budget British TV show only partially known to otakudom at large, with the heroine of an anime that has now been off the air for thirteen years. Seriously, ever since I realized that a lot of the same tropes applied to both the Doctor and Sailor Moon, I haven’t been able to get it out of my head, and if I’m NOT going to care about being topical, I suppose it’s as good a place to start as ever.
Hell, all you need to do is put the Doctor in a skirt and he is Sailor Moon (insert your own Scottish kilts joke, I have enough to do here), and in case you’re not immediately convinced, here are my top ten reasons why the two are practically the same person. Keep in mind, these are only the TOP ten; I didn’t even have room for Cute Daughters that Are Nevertheless Deeply Wrong, Skydive First-Think Later, and several other more meta observations best left unsaid…well, better left unsaid just because I don’t want Eleventh Doctor fans too mad at me.
1. The Whole Damn Universe Revolves Around Them
He’s just so important, he can’t go anywhere without a massive source of light emanating behind him. Seriously, what is that? There’s this mysterious field of light behind him in every single DW promo image.
True, on television the character who lends their name to the title does tend to be important as a general rule, but this is just ridiculous. Both characters are the most important person in their respective universes by a ridiculously wide margin, which wouldn’t even be so bad if we weren’t constantly being hit over the head with it.
I mean, is it not enough that Sailor Moon was the Princess of the Silver Millenium? Does she really have to be the prophesied Messiah as well? And I thought “The Oncoming Storm” was a fitting sobriquet for the Daleks to give the Doctor, but then they started adding “Destroyer of Worlds” and stuff, and it just started getting silly.* Actually, it was always silly, but it crossed a certain threshold of acceptable silliness.
Let me put this another way: I’m cool with the fact that the two characters basically stand in for God in what would otherwise be godless universes (it’s part of the charm), but I could do without the big neon sign that says “Look, it’s our idealized version of God!” The Doctor is a particularly bad offender in this category; at least Sailor Moon only has unspoken dominion over the solar system, not the entire universe/multiverse.**
*Seriously, Series Four of DW makes SO MUCH MORE sense if you just assume the Doctor’s name is Yahweh.
**I just remembered Sailor Cosmos…fuck. Well, I guess they’re even more alike than I thought.
2. If it’s Wednesday, I Must Be Psychic!
Either both characters can’t be bothered to remember what superpowers they have at any given moment, or their abilities really are only available on alternate Tuesdays or something. Can Sailor Moon fly? Well, sometimes she can when she has wings, but not always.
Can the Doctor read minds? Apparently, but for some reason, he never remembers that he can do that when it’s time to solve a murder mystery. Instead, he prefers to let multiple people die and figure out who the murderer is by process of elimination. Oh, and come to think of it, Sailor Moon can do the whole Professor Xavier thing too, but only when she’s possessing the body of her past self from the future, or whatever was going on at the end of Sailor Moon R.
As frustrating as this is for me from a continuity standpoint, it’s gotta be extra annoying to the kids these shows are supposedly targeted at- can you imagine? “Who’s your favorite superhero?” “Sailor Moon!” “Cool, can she fly?”, “….sort of?”
3. I Liked You So Much Better in the Future
Both characters are constantly being told how much smarter/better/more awesome future versions of themselves are; Sailor Moon hears it from her future daughter, and the Doctor hears it from his future wife, River Song. I’m going to keep assuming River Song is his wife until they do that inevitable “Gotcha! You didn’t see THAT one coming!” story where it turns out she’s actually the love child of Amy Pond and the heart of the TARDIS or some such bullshit.
Now, in Chibiusa’s defense, she’s a kid; we would probably all be a little non-plussed if confronted with the ditzy tween-aged version of our own mothers. But what’s River’s excuse? All she does to the Tenth Doctor is tell him what a disappointment he is compared to his future self, and I would totally know what she was like with the Eleventh Doctor if a powerful sense of not-caring didn’t stop me from zoning out during half of Series Five.
Wow, that’s a lot of people! Quick, divide the number of characters by everyone who has ever done anything useful that Sailor Moon couldn’t have done herself; I’ll wait. I hope you remember your fractions….
Both are surrounded by huge teams of people who are unfailingly attractive and charismatic, and even try to be helpful, but are usually pretty damned useless when push comes to shove. Really, what do the other Sailor Senshi really accomplish after about the second season of Sailor Moon? What has any companion ever accomplished on Doctor Who, other than keeping the Doctor from going insane with boredom?
Well, actually after The Waters of Mars we know that the Doctor needs his buddies around to keep him from giving into total megalomania, so the whole idea of there being a sentient warm body around him is valid and all, but individually, they’re all still pretty useless.
There are exceptions to every rule: Sailor Moon has Sailor Saturn, who can destroy the world if she feels like it- always a good trump card to have- and the Doctor has Donna, who is just general-purpose awesome. And Amy, who occasionally experiences flashes of Highly Scripted Insight, which I guess still counts for something even if it makes me groan.
5. In the Name of the TARDIS Love Justice Blah Blah Blah
Both tend to stand around making highly impractical speeches and expect all opponents/monsters/etc. present to stand at attention and listen to them. In both cases, I think the opponents/monsters/etc. only listen because they simply cannot believe the amount of sheer chutzpah on display.
Sailor Moon has the same basic thing that she says, with minor variations; the Doctor uses a larger variety of bigger words, all the while basically saying the same thing: “I’m the Doctor, and you’re going to listen to me because if you don’t, I’ll SCIENCE! up a super-ray to destroy you, which doesn’t count as using a weapon because I had to make it out of toothpicks and spit.”
Speaking of which….
6. Eat My Pacifism
Both characters are so horrified by the thought of even one person dying, they will allow for the deaths of millions of people to stop the unbelievably horrible thing of even one person dying. Sailor Moon was willing to risk the entire world dying for the sake of Hotaru, since she simply couldn’t believe that one little girl could have to die for the sake of the universe, and the Doctor routinely causes the deaths of tons of people due to his refusal to not carry any weapons, because life is just so precious. Never mind that his buddies often decide to turn themselves into human bombs for lack of other options.
Admittedly, Sailor Moon hasn’t committed xenocide (that we know of…although that Neo-Queen Serenity always did strike me as a take-no-prisoners type), so the level of hypocrisy is not quite the same order of magnitude, but it’s definitely there. In all seriousness, part of my problem with post-Journey’s End Doctor Who is that they really haven’t dealt with all the issues they raised about the Doctor’s Pacifism-that-isn’t: They’ve exposed it all as a convenient fiction, and now we’re supposed to watch while he makes his “I don’t use weapons” speeches like we don’t know?
7. Oral Consumptive Tendencies
On a lighter note, both characters have an odd habit of continually shoving things into their mouths- Sailor Moon because she’s a glutton, and the doctor because he’s always using his taste buds as tools for scientific analysis. The reasons may differ, the visual effect is much the same.
8. Snazzy Transformation Sequence
Transformation sequences get increasingly complex (and well-animated!) with each successive form in both cases; Sailor Moon’s are more visually appealing, involving figure skating moves, but the Doctor’s transformations have been known to light things on fire, which is much cooler. Of course, adding a few layback spins to the transformation sequence from Ten (David Tennant) to Eleven (Matt Smith) is quite possibly the only thing that could have made The End of Time even gayer, and I mean that in the best possible way.***
Of course, there are differences- Sailor Moon transforms constantly, whereas the Doctor only transforms whenever the lead actor gets a yen to perform Shakespeare and star in every three-hankie drama featuring Scottish folk with cute accents the BBC can crank out, but now that they’ve gotten rid of the limit on his “allowed” regenerations, that may change. Furthermore, Sailor Moon transformations have partial nudity- although if you include the “transformation” of a severed hand into MetaCrisis Doctor (who formed quite noticeably without pants of any kind!) this requirement is met as well.
***Considering the fact that all the homo-eroticism was the main thing that story had going for it.
9. Magic Wands are Magic
Both use wands (and if you don’t think the sonic screwdriver is a magic wand, I really don’t know how else to describe it), except while Sailor Moon’s wands are only useful for specific things in specific contexts, the Doctor’s wand can pretty much do anything the writers need it to do at any given moment, making it even more magical. Needless to say, both get periodic upgrades, which generally involve getting bigger.
10. I Feel a New Me Coming On
As far as different incarnations/forms go, Sailor Moon has Usagi, Prism, Crystal Cosmic, Super Sailor Moon, Eternal Sailor Moon, Princess Serenity, Neo-Queen Serenity, and…I think there are more, but let’s leave it at that. The Doctor has incarnations 1-11, as well as MetaCrisis Doctor (also known as Hand! Doctor), DoctorDonna, the Valeyard, the Dream Lord, and probably many more I would know about if I’d watched more of the really bad classic series episodes that just exist to make the new series look better.
Of course, you can make the argument that the Doctor’s incarnations have different personalities and mannerisms, while most of Sailor Moon’s forms are all basically the same thing with a fresh coat of paint. But so what? How much more evidence that these two characters are two peas in the proverbial pod do you need, exactly?
Next time: something at least somewhat more topical. It would kind of have to be.
Note: This was written before the releases of episode 12.5.
You know, I kept meaning to do this academic-type analysis of Durarara!! It would be all deep and brilliant and stuff, and I’d win all sorts of awards for literary analysis that exist solely in my mind, but the more time I spend thinking about it, the more I’m confused about what to make of the show. What I’ve realized is that I can point to a lot of themes in the show that I find interesting, but I can’t cobble my analysis of those themes together into anything terribly coherent. Rather than continue to wait for that magical day when I truly start to “get” Durarara!!, I figured maybe I should just share with fans of the show the things that I find so darned fascinating.
Themes of Durarara!!:
1. Real power pales in comparison to virtual power
One of the things that makes Heiwajima Shizuo so endearing is that, despite his overwhelming strength and the fact that he’s made of about fifteen buckets of liquid sex, the guy is kind of a loser. He’s constantly complaining about his own cowardice, and seems to be stuck in a rut in his life; being an enforcer for a loan shark may be fitting work for a man of his talents, but I don’t think it’s exactly what Little Shizuo (of the brown hair*) was hoping to be when he grew up. While he has what characters on the show call “overwhelming power,” what exactly does he use it for? More often then not, the vending machines and garbage cans he throws don’t actually hit anybody (although I still think it’s kind of bullshit that Izaya didn’t bite it on the spot the one time he nailed him with one, but I digress.)
Mikado, at first glance, appears to be more the lovable loser-type. However, over the course of the show, he proves to be more powerful than Shizuo. There’s obviously a hard power vs. soft power divide (Shizuo moves things; Mikado influences multiple people to move multiple things), but it actually goes beyond that.
Shizuo’s power is predictable; he knows that when he picks up a vending machine and throws it, it will indeed travel a certain distance. Mikado’s power is much more nebulous; if he tells the Dollars to do something, they might just do it. They might also misinterpret it and do something else. They also might subdivide into smaller groups, some of which will do what he wants, and some of which will do the opposite.
Anri thinks that she has total control over the Saika army, and does; Kida thinks he has far more control over the Yellow Scarves than he does. Still it’s Mikado’s nebulous, pretty much completely unreliable power, in the form of the Dollars, that proves the most effective, and gives the show it’s name.
The easy summary is that, in a world of constant, instantaneous communication, an idea is the most powerful thing in the world-okay, fair enough. However, what is the key idea behind the Dollars? There really isn’t one; it’s the idea of having an open-ended idea. It’s an ideology based solely on the idea of not subscribing to other ideologies. So, perhaps, the most powerful thing in the world is the idea of people sharing a group identity that changes according to each person’s individual needs; people join in the belief in their right to carve their own identity. The desire to find the perfect balance between community, belonging, and independence.**
2. In a world of constant communication of ideas, real identities and mythic identities become interchangeable.
One thing that continues to puzzle me is Celty’s relative normalcy compared to the other characters. In the second half of the show, the mysterious faerie creature from Ireland becomes the closest thing we have to a POV character. Early in the show, it seemed like the exploration of Celty’s background in episode 4 marked the descent of the series from a solid, meat-and-potatoes drama with a hint of magical realism to a realm of supernatural hijinks galore. However, rather than dragging the show off to magical la-la-land, never do we feel more grounded then when Celty is there, being her sensible, likable self.
To use Mikado as a point of comparison again, both characters have a kind of mythic status on the internet; Celty more literally, as an urban legend whom people actually refer to as an urban legend, and Mikado in a more general sense. People believe that there is a “leader” behind the Dollars, but no one knows who he is, or if he really is just one person; he’s an urban myth in his own right. Now, Mikado is actually a flesh-and-blood human, while Celty is something that logically shouldn’t exist, yet as far as the show is concerned, it doesn’t seem to matter. If both of these characters are “myths” in the opinion of the majority of the characters that populate the world of the show, how much does it matter that only one of them is actually a creature of the faerie realm?
Yes, it’s one of those annoying “if a tree falls in the forest” questions; even though Mikado is an average, everyday human, if the grand majority of the people in the world see him as otherwise, does it really matter that he doesn’t have cool Dullahan powers like Celty does? Is he any less a myth because he happens to have a pulse?
To return to Shizuo, he doesn’t have mythical powers- there’s a quasi-plausible explanation for his feats of Herculean strength. I’m honestly not sure what to make of this; the framework of the show certainly allows for him to just have magical powers without needing any sort of half-assed, ‘realistic’ explanation. He could have just been born really strong for no apparent reason, and it would not be remotely strange in the world of the show.
To be honest, I’m confused to what extent Shizuo is a mythic figure, which is probably appropriate considering that that’s how characters on the show feel- the reporter certainly does. Maybe it’s as simple as that.
3. Even when they are distinct, choosing between myth and reality is a matter of choice
Honestly, I was wondering what the hell the point of Walker and Karisawa was for a while. Constant otaku in-jokes? Really? Is that all there was to this pair?
It wasn’t until late in the series, when Erika Karisawa revealed her doctrine of reality-by-choice; things that happen in reality have equal value to things that happen in your favorite fictional world, and you can choose which ideas you subscribe to at any moment- that I started to see a point to them.
They don’t reject reality in favor of fantasy worlds like complete otaku shut-ins do; no, the part I find fascinating is that they give them both equal value. They don’t run away from reality, but their reality is subjective; they shape it to their needs. That’s how the seemingly harmless Walker can become a bad-ass supreme when necessary; he just channels a little bit of verve from his favorite manga hero, and suddenly the whole enterprise feels different and he’s a different person.
It may seem irresponsible to live like that, but how else to respond to a world where an Irish faerie and a normal high-school kid are both equally mythic figures, because the shared consciousness of mass communication has destroyed the traditional divide between myth and reality? If reality has gone screwy, are they wrong to make sure it goes screwy the way they like it?
The Dreaded “in summation”
Okay, I think all I’ve really done here is confused myself more, however, I have ascertained this much; in a world where so much of one’s identity is determined in other people’s minds via the accessibility of mass-communication, it almost doesn’t matter who you are behind the keyboard, the iPad or the phone. The only difference between the world of Durarara!! and our own is that we still have that ‘almost’ in there. The show has taken the idea to it’s logical extremity- it might be a high school kid behind that handle, or it might be a centuries-old Dullahan; in the end, it’s all the same, because no one really knows who anyone else is anyway.
I’ve just realized that I wrote this much about Durarara!! and didn’t even mention Celty’s head. Oh dear; maybe next time.
*By the way, I think the implication is that Shizuo dyes his hair blond to a)break with his past and b)make himself look more distinct from his brother. He’s certainly not doing it to get attention from the ladies.
**I mean, I think the idea of finding a balance between losing oneself in a community and staking out one’s own identity is at the heart of the show, but summing it up in that sentence doesn’t really do it justice. I think there’s more going on.