Category Archives: Reaction

Posts in response to anime, manga, or other media. We would call them “recaps,” except we’re not that diligent.

OtakuBites 1: January Edition

Butterflies, Flowers

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.

Clearly, the Doctor is Sailor Moon

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.

4. I Get By With (So Little) Help From My Friends

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.

Durarara!! and Identity

Mamamamamamamamamamamamamamama

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

Grrrr! Throwing this vending machine doesn't actually buy me anything, but grrr I want to anyway!!!

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.

I AM MYTH...also, I cook stuff.

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.