I just updated this season�s �Shorts Sequels and Kids Stuff� entry with a look at the very first (very raunchy) episode of Gokujyo.
January 2012 Archives
I�m just updating quickly to mention that I have a close relative in the hospital, so updates may be spotty until the situation calms down. Thanks for your understanding.
So what has everyone been watching so far this season?
Number of Episodes: 12
Production Company: Studio Sakimakura
Brief Overview: Nami is a shrine maiden who becomes the victim of an assassination attempt. Her shrine was also destroyed by Tokugawa Ieyasu's men in the process. In the meantime, Lord Sanada Yukimura has been gathering ten warriors who might just have the power to change history. As these brave men join together, Nami's power begins to awaken.
Note: This post contains spoilers for the series Puella Magi Madoka Magica. If you haven't seen the series and care about being spoiled, it's probably better to skip this.
This post is dedicated to my friend LT, a passionate Mami-supporter.
In my previous entry, I talked about some reactions to Puella Magi Madoka Magica that described the characterization of the cast as, to put it politely, lacking in depth. I've seen the term "moeblob" bandied-about, which is at its heart a description of characters who lack personalities beyond what's required to provoke a reaction of "moe" in their audience. While this is a term I'd usually reserve for series that have no other purpose than to present cute characters to an otaku audience (unlike Madoka which actually has a fairly rich story to tell), I don't completely disagree with the term's use in this case - the characters in this series really aren't what I would call fully fleshed-out. That, however, doesn't mean that they lack stories worth telling.
Tomoe Mami is a character known primarily for having been killed three episodes into the anime's broadcast. While her death marked a startling turning point in the series, as a character she wasn't around long enough for the event to have the same kind of emotional weight as some of the events which occur in later episodes. She's become the target of a lot of posthumous speculation, and there have been theories that speculate that she was somehow working in conjunction with Kyubey to help entice innocent girls into becoming contract labor for his energy machine. Her death became a meme and her character remained a mystery. She's easy to overlook in lieu of characters who had more screen time and yet, like the other girls in Madoka, her existence serves as a strong symbol of something much bigger than the struggles of one character in one anime.
Mouretsu Pirates (Bodacious Space Pirates)
Number of Episodes: 26
Production Company: Satelight
Brief Overview: High school student Kato Marika lives in a future where space travel is commonplace. One day she's informed that her father was once a space pirate, and that because of laws set down during a conflict a century ago his ship, the Bentenmaru, has now been passed to her.
Inu x Boku Secret Service
Number of Episodes: 12
Production Company: David Production
Brief Overview: The high-security living quarters of Maison de Ayakashi are rumored to be haunted, when in fact the home is a specialized place for human beings with non-human ancestors to live. Shirakiin Ririchiyo decides to live in the house for the purpose of self-improvement, and at her beck-and-call is Soushi, who asks only to be her "dog."
Knight in the Area (Area no Kishi)
Number of Episodes: TBA
Production Company: Shin-Ei Animation
Brief Overview: Aizawa Kakeru doesn't believe that he has the skills to make it as a soccer player, so he keeps to the sidelines and manages his school's team. His brother Suguru who's skilled at the game thinks that Kakeru might have some hidden abilities that he's not accepting, which causes arguments between them.
I wanted to post a short update just to mention that the Shorts, Sequels and Kids Stuff post for Winter 2012 has been updated with a review of the first episode of Busou Chuugakusei Basketarmy under the "Shorts" header. I'd also like to mention that my lack of "Women in Anime" posting this week is due mostly to being unexpectedly busy, then deciding to wait until the following Wednesday to continue onward (for the sake of consistency). I did mention that the column's posting might be spotty until the season has calmed down a bit, so consider that my excuse.
Ano Natsu de Matteru (Waiting in the Summer)
Number of Episodes: 12
Production Company: J.C. Staff
Brief Overview: Summer vacation becomes the beginning of a film project when Kaito gets caught in an explosion that he can't remember. His friends decide to join him in a Summer of movie-making where they learn about each other and their relationships to one-another.
Winter 2012 is noteworthy for being jam-packed with short-episode series and boasting quite a few sequels (some to series which haven't been on the air for a while, like Prince of Tennis). Here I'll preview the majority of them to determine which shorts are worth following and which sequels might inspire one to go back and pick up previous seasons. Just a few notes:
-The most recent Pretty Cure series doesn't start until February. If I see anything noteworthy about it at that time I will most likely just edit this post.
- Danball Senki is an ongoing kids series that I can't really find current subs for, so it may not get any coverage because of it.
- Daily Lives of High School Boys is actually a full-length series, rather than a series of shorts as I had first been led to believe, so it will be covered separately.
- Basketarmy doesn't appear to exist anywhere obtainable on the internet, so coverage may be forthcoming. Update: barely a day after this entry was posted, a video showed up, so a first episode review has been added.
- Gokujyo, which I'd previously dropped due to lack of any news, apparently is being broadcast this season, and it's a series of shorts; the first episode was reportedly not broadcast for reasons of self-restraint (which I assume means that it was too risqu�).
Edit: The first episode of Gokujyo is finally available. Check out the review below.
With all those qualifiers out of the way, let's get to the shows!
Number of Episodes: 13 3-minute episodes
Production Company: Seven
Thoughts: (Based on episodes one and two) Atsushi is a fifth-grader who has the appearance of being in his late teens, while his older sister (who's in high school) looks like she's in elementary school. This, of course, causes all sorts of problems that lead to comedic situations.
The premise for this show is silly and its execution ends up being a little bit light on the laughs. The iffiest bits for me to deal with were the jokes that poked fun at Atsushi's physical maturity; one of Atsumi's classmates seems to have a crush on him, and Atsushi gets mistaken for a pervert at one point. While I'd say overall the show seems fairly innocent and, despite some misgivings I had about the premise at first, I think that it'll probably stay that way, something about these kinds of jokes rubs me the wrong way. (Also, doesn't it seem odd that Atsumi's friend has no idea that the large boy talking to her is her friend's younger brother? It seems like it'd be something worth mentioning to others).
I do have to give a shout-out to Kugimiya Rie, who turns in a subdued (and therefore more convincing and less annoying than normal) portrayal of Atsumi. I can only hope that this is a trend that continues into the future.
All-in-all, the first couple of episodes are pretty cute and inoffensive, but I'm not sure that I'd really call this a straight-up comedy. At best, the chuckles it provides are subtle, and it short run-time doesn't give the show enough leeway to set-up many extended jokes or running gags (aside from the main one, that is).
I got several comments on my Rinne no Lagrange first episode review, not so much pertaining to the show itself but in relation to a paragraph I posted about my thoughts on the term "Mary Sue" and how it did/didn't apply to the main character of that series. Those thoughts were based on a blog post that I linked to in the review. There was some discussion about the accuracy of the blog post and the use of "Mary Sue," as well as the choice that the author made to use the character Batman as a male comparison. I thought it was an interesting discussion that might better be addressed and clarified out in the open rather than multiple times in the comment section of that review, so here I am.
The primary point that I took away from Comic Book Girl's examination of Mary Sues is that we generally have different ways of examining and critiquing female characters than we do male characters. I wouldn't say that everyone is so-inclined - I'd argue that a good critic is someone who's equally critical of a poorly-written male or female character - but as far as casual criticism goes, what I have personally witnessed is that it seems much easier for people to jump on a dopey, poorly-written female character and criticize her freely, while ignoring or deliberately avoiding Johnny-goody-two-shoes in the other corner. It doesn't help that there really aren't a lot of lead roles for women, period, but that's a whole other post.
As at least one commenter mentioned, the term itself comes from a particular character from a particular Star Trek fanfiction from way back in the day. It came to refer to a very specific type of self-insert, one who is mysterious, unrealistically-talented and/or unnaturally beautiful, and beloved by all of the canon characters. I don't necessarily have a problem with the term as it describes these kinds of characters (since they are pretty one-dimensional and uninteresting), but what I do have a problem with is what I see as its widespread use to describe any sort of female character who's any measure above the norm. This isn't a crime committed by most critics that I'm familiar with, but poke around forums for a while and you're sure to see the term flung around in this way (and it's even listed as one of several relevant definitions of the term on the TV Tropes page for Mary Sue. Apologies in advance for the link, which will trap you within a TV Tropes time warp that may last for several hours). I don't mind being corrected about the definition and technical use of the term, but I do believe in semantic shift, especially in such a quickly-changing environment like online fandom. As a fan who doesn't passionately follow fanfiction but who pokes her head in once-in-a-while, this is my experience; we have different standards for judging original characters from fanfiction, and those standards often extend to "official" canon characters. And no, the existence of a male version,"Marty Stu" or "Gary Stu" (depending on your preference), does not imply that the male use of the term is nearly as common, or that the extensive use of the female version is somehow free from criticism.
This was the reason I applied this line of thinking to my review of Rinne no Lagrange's first episode; my immediate urge was to call Madoka a Mary Sue character mostly because of the time the episode spent showcasing her extraordinary skills and the devotion towards her as demonstrated by the girls in her class. I caught myself, though, because that's not fair; Madoka is an idealized hero character with skills to match. She might not be the type of character I care for (I prefer more regular, everyday people), and the series in which she stars doesn't appear to be anything special, but to knock some characters for being improbably brainy, physically strong, or talented means to criticize several lead characters from stories that span all media (which often doesn't happen). And that is where the term's semantic shift has proven to be the most detrimental to the expression of women's power fantasies an heroic ideals. One step out-of-line and she's a Mary Sue as judged by the layperson fanbase, whereas her male counterpart may not undergo the same scrutiny. Likewise, despite Batman/Bruce Wayne's adherence to many of the profile quirks of a traditional Mary Sue, it can be argued that he's not one, so it's a label that should be applied just as carefully and thoughtfully to women who are attractive, powerful and/or mega-rich. Being a fantasy doesn't make her a Mary Sue. Being unrealistic in certain ways doesn't make her meritless as a character.
In closing, I'm no Mary Sue apologist and I am aware of where the term comes from and what it means, but the point I'm trying to make is that its use is out of control. Even someone like me, who prides herself on trying to be conscious of race, gender and sexuality, can internalize this kind of fandom baggage, and that makes me feel a little ashamed of myself. My only regret in this specific case is that I made a big deal out of the use of this terminology as it relates to a series that doesn't seem as though it'll be worth talking about any further, but them's the breaks.
Number of Episodes: 24
Production Company: Xebec
Brief Overview: Madoka is the lone member of the "Sweat Suit Club," though her extraordinary abilities in almost every sport allow her to help out with the other school clubs whenever she can. One day she's recruited by a mysterious stranger named Lan to pilot a robot called "Vox" and to defend her fair city from invasion by hostile robots.
Welcome, everyone, to this season's compilation of some of the most noteworthy (for being garbage) opening episodes. Just as a reminder, I'm doing this as a service to myself to make sure that I manage to complete these episode reviews with my sanity intact. I'll be giving these series as much coverage as I deem necessary - if that means a couple of paragraphs outlining how the show is just like every other show within its genre, then so be it, but if it turns out to deserve a thorough thrashing, that's what it will get. My hope is that this will get most of the junk out of the way so I won't have to sit and dread it for weeks.
As a note, Papa no Iu Koto o Kikinasai! a.k.a. Listen to me Girls, I'm Your Father! is being bumped to this section due to some early reports of it being just as trashy as I had hoped it wouldn't be. Also, I can't seem to find any info on Gokujyo so I assume that it's not being released this season as the chart states. If I update this post with any additional series, I'll be sure to post a note on the front page.
Well then, shall we?
Number of Episodes: 12
Production Company: TNK
Thoughts: While the whole thing was bad, perhaps the worst thing about this episode is that the protagonist came close to death twice but didn't actually snuff it, saving us from having to hear about his preoccupation with women's breasts.
This series has your typical ecchi harem setup, wherein one guy ends up surrounded by women. This time around that guy is Issei, a second-year student at a recently sex-desegregated former girls school. His one goal over the past year has been to get a girlfriend and grab some breasts (as he states often), but he's thus far been unsuccessful. The tides seem to turn when a cute girl from another school asks him out, and Issei boasts about it to his friends. The situation turns negative quickly when Issei's new flame turns out to be a female devil, who promptly kills him for reasons so far unexplained. Luckily for him (and unluckily for those of us who are sick and tired of this stuff), a beautiful upperclassman named Rias saves his life, turning Issei into her loyal servant in the process. An encounter with a fallen angel demonstrates that Issei has been blessed with some unexpected bonus powers as a result of his revival.
I thought long and hard about how I wanted to kick off this column. I had considering sharing some more information about myself and some opinions about anime fandom and where I think I belong within it, but that's something I could write about any time. I thought about beginning at the beginning with, as someone suggested, examining Princess Knight. I thought about dusting off one of my favorite series, Mononoke, which is a collection of supernatural stories that primarily revolve around women, and giving that a well-deserved re-watch. In the end, though, the subject that I kept returning to was a series that concluded less than a year ago - a little magical girl series called Puella Magi Madoka Magica.
Why Madoka? Well, it all has to do with moe.
Every year ANN does a "best-of" post for the anime that's released in some form in region 1 (either on DVD or streaming) during the year. While I respect their methodology and understand their reasons for sticking to official releases, I can't help but thinking that the delay between release (which can be months and sometimes even years) gives the list a feeling of "been there, done that." With all due respect to their reviewers, Carl Kimlinger and Theron Martin, who are both very experienced, I can't help but feel like the list is missing a female perspective (or at the very least a little bit of diversity). As someone who watches anime as it's broadcast, whether that be via streaming methods (which have become ubiquitous lately and which I attempt to utilize as fully as possible) or other means, I take pride in rooting out hidden gems and enjoying popular favorites as they're being released.
These are my thoughts primarily on the anime that was broadcast in Japan last year. In some cases, alternative choices may have been overlooked if I didn't feel like I'd seen enough to feel confident in the decision. Some of the categories are meant to be less serious than others (I'm sure you'll be able to tell the difference). Feel free to mention some of your favorites in the comments!
My Favorite Series of 2011
Runners Up: Kimi ni Todoke Season 2, Natsume Yuujinchou San, Tiger & Bunny, Usagi Drop, Wandering Son, Puella Magi Madoka Magica
All right, I realize I didn't do a very good job of narrowing the list down, but I can't help it; there were several series that aired in 2011 that I really loved, and for varying reasons. I loved Kimi ni Todoke's portrayal of social anxiety, for example, and Wandering Son gave me hope that anime's portrayal of gender and sexuality wasn't entirely doomed to be terrible. What made me go with Penguindrum over the others is the fact that it managed to combine many of the things I love about anime. The show is colorful and strange, it has a great soundtrack, and the director managed to incorporate surrealism and symbolism in the best ways. It may not be quite as good as its director's most well-known (and loved) work, Revolutionary Girl Utena, but I just finished it and already I'm looking forward to watching it again.
Because I was so late with the Fall Season shows, I'll be doing their follow-ups whenever I have the time. Before that, though, I wanted to get a jump on the Winter Season. As I mentioned in an earlier post, this season I'll be switching things up a little bit. Before I write any reviews, I'll be dividing the season's shows up into high, medium, and low priority, and I'll be mentioning which series are sequels (that I haven't seen the source material for), shorts (series with very short episodes), shows for kids, and one-shots, because those will all most likely go into one large compilation post.
The reason for this, as I've mentioned, is that I think it will be helpful to organize everything beforehand and go into these reviews with a purpose. My desire to spend a lot of time simply reviewing first episodes has waned and I'd like to give myself the time to expand this blog's focus. I have also found that spending too much time reviewing shows that make me angry only makes writing feel like a chore. This attitude might be unprofessional, I'm not sure; what I do know is that I'm confident that I can provide the coverage required to mention my specific dislike of certain series without spending so much time on them that my soul feels like it's going to leave my body and go on vacation somewhere.
In any case, if, for any reason, you happen to disagree with my categorization or reasoning, feel free to chime in in the comment section. I can't guarantee that my mind will be swayed (often I have very specific reasons for avoiding something so I could probably only be convinced if those reasons actually don't come into play), but I'll most definitely take comments into consideration.
For this exercise, I'll be using the most up-to-date version of the anime season chart that I could find. Click on the small version above to see the full-sized chart. I'd like to note that, while I have very few series classified as "high priority," that doesn't necessarily mean that I'm pessimistic about the season. It's more that most series have too many unknown factors for me to anticipate them confidently. I also didn't include the Gundam Seed HD Remaster because it's not a new series.
Number of Episodes: 11
Production Company: Studio Bones
Brief Overview: Detective Shinjurou Yuuki solves mysteries with the help of his assistant, Inga, in near-future Japan which has been ravaged by war and terrorism. Unfortunately, the credit for their solutions often instead go to the so-called "Super Detective," Rinroku Kaisho.
Number of Episodes: 22
Production Company: Production I.G.
Brief Overview: Ohma Shu is a boy with psychic power in his right hand which he's able to use to extract weapons from his friends. Things become stranger when he meets a member of a resistance group whose members pilot mecha in opposition to the government.
Anime is a medium that uses the freedom that animated images provide to explore every sort of social issue, classic story and character. Naturally the types of characters featured in anime run the gamut from young heroes to elderly providers-of-wisdom, from frilly magical girls to princely young women in drag, from the manliest of mecha anime protagonists to those who are mysterious and androgynous. In spite of this variety, though, I've sometimes found it difficult to find anime characters that I've felt I could relate to; women abound in anime and there are numerous ones who can match their male counterparts shot-for-shot, but skillfully shooting a gun or being able to bust out martial-arts moves doesn't really speak to how well-rounded, how true-to-life a character is portrayed. Considering how many series there are that can, in the same breath, feature a woman's physical skill and turn her into a fetishized object, the task of sifting through anime series in search of admirable women can seem like an impossibility.
Beneath the surface, though, there are several great series that do happen to give women the spotlight or that speak to issues that concern many of us with two X chromosomes (or those of us who care about social justice and being inclusive). As hopeless as it may seem sometimes, there are a few shows that really get it right. Whereas I normally spend a lot of my time chastising the shows that deal in misogyny, racism and homophobia, in future I plan to use this space to discuss those that give us characters we can root for and admire, as well as those which might make some missteps but which still convey some valuable ideas. I also plan to talk about the peculiarities of being a female fan is in such a male-dominated (perhaps not numerically, but as far as subject matter is concerned) fandom.
Going forward, I plan for this to be a Wednesday column. Why Wednesday? In the working world (assuming that you work a normal Monday-Friday work week like I do), Wednesday is "hump day" which marks the week's halfway point and the steady movement towards the weekend. Sometimes anime and the fan culture surrounding it can feel as tedious as a work week, and it's the real gems of anime that help to get me over that hump so that I never end up staying too frustrated. Or, maybe I just decided Wednesday was a convenient day because I have the house to myself most of the time. ;)
So look forward to this new column. I hope I'll be able to make it something to be proud of.
*note: updates may not be weekly until I'm caught up with things from the previous and current anime season, but I'll try my best*
Hello again, everyone. Since I had a pretty enthusiastic response when I mentioned doing another session of the anime book club, I thought that it might be about time to start thinking about both a time frame and another series to watch. While I really enjoyed watching and analyzing Windy Tales, there have been requests that the series we pick this time be a bit more plot-focused, as well as more available to those who don't torrent anime while still being lesser-known and/or unique or artistic. This reduces the potential candidates quite a bit! I think, though, that there are still plenty of anime series that would fit the bill. I've got a few suggestions here, but please feel free to contribute your own in the comments.
Number of Episodes: 13
Production Company: ufotable
Brief Overview: Ten years before the events of Fate/Stay Night, seven magi convene to summon seven magical servants to battle in the Fourth war for the Holy Grail after three previously unsuccessful attempts.
This subject is very "Internet 101" but considering some of the super-geniuses who've drive-by trolled me in the last week or so, I thought I might touch on the subject of leaving comments on this blog.
First of all, I really enjoy receiving comments. I'm not always the best at replying, but comments from people who visit this blog are what keep me going even when I'm feeling depressed and I'm not really in the mood for writing. Despite what one might assume I even enjoy receiving comments from people who disagree. Sometimes comments to this effect help point out logical flaws of mine, sometimes they reveal another perspective that helps to round out my own opinions. Sometimes, though (and this has been a more recent thing), I get disagreeable comments that are borderline abusive which use name-calling to try and make some sort of vacuous point. Since some people seem to think this is an okay way to initiate discourse, I thought I'd explain the commenting process here and how futile juvenile name-calling is.
I screen all of the comments that come through here. This may seem like overkill considering that I also have a captcha in place to catch most of the detritus, but you might be surprised to know that some of it still gets through. This is why your comment may not appear on the site right away; I may be away from my computer or phone and be unable to approve the comment in a timely manner. I'm sure no one else would be interested in reading spam for penis-enlargement, though, so I consider it a necessary evil. The secondary reason why I screen comments is to avoid having the truly abusive, vile comments go live. I've been lucky enough that no one has yet threatened me with sexual violence (or any other kind of violence), but I suspect if I ever manage to gain a larger foothold my low tolerance for sexism in entertainment might attract the sort of troglodytes who voice their dislike in the form of abusive threats. I've seen it happen to several other female bloggers (and some male bloggers as well) in the video game world ([Trigger Warning] I've seen some really nasty people crawl out of the woodwork just to tell these authors that they "deserve to be raped and/or murdered," so I'm not just being afraid of the boogeyman here [/Trigger Warning]). In any case, I don't hide comments of people who disagree or those of people who are generally disagreeable in their internet etiquette, so don't worry. Most of the time if someone is being generally stupid, someone else here will set them straight pretty quickly anyway.
Obvious though it may seem to most of you, here are a few commenting guidelines and some helpful information.