Cheerfully, jauntily, one-sidedly – There are too many female characters in modern anime

Remember when anime casts looked like this?

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Have you noticed that for the last ten years or so, anime casts have been looking cheerfully, jauntily, and one-sidedly female-centric?
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Wotakoi

Anime romances typically involve 15-year-old virgins.  That is not just idealistic; it also simplifies the story a great deal. The boy doesn’t have to worry about catching venereal disease from the girl’s previous partners, for example.

Wotakoi breaks the mold by introducing a female character who is not a virgin as the romantic heroine. It is not clear how much sex people have in this show; Japanese fictional characters are considerably harder to figure out than real live Japanese people.

For the most part, this show relies on the gawkish, innocent tropes of romance between virgins, but these people are not virgins.  They just seem to have acquired some sexual experience without acquiring much emotional maturity.

 

It’s fashionable to say that the friendzone is not a thing, or that the friendzone is just a bad rephrasing of “unrequited love,” but that’s not exactly true, and this show explains the complications.  The heroine treats the hero as a reliable friend first and foremost, regardless of whether they are sleeping together.   The heroine doesn’t have any trace of that dewy-eyed feminine vulnerability that makes a sexual relationship truly romantic – not with the hero, anyway.

So rather than saying that the “friendzone” exists only in the imagination of jilted boys, I would say that a one-sided lack of sexual chemistry is typically what makes the “friendzone” a reality. However, back in the days before easy divorce, there were lots of marriages with barely-functional sex lives that managed to produce children even though neither the husband nor the wife was very satisfied with the sex.

 

As far as I can tell, Japan currently has a problem with sexless marriages. There are apparently quite a few middle-aged married couples who have given up on sex. I get the impression that the hero and heroine could get trapped in a sexless marriage quite easily.

 

The characters are a little bit likeable and a little bit unlikeable. They are very much flawed people.

Cutie Honey 1973: kitsch overdose from a more innocent time

 

 

According to urban dictionary:

As an art movement, lifestyle, or literature and film genre, kitsch is pleasingly distasteful. It’s melodramatic, overdone, gaudy and tacky or sentimental and folksy. It’s so bad that it’s cool. Your cat might attack it, but it’s hot.

Have you ever watched “Urusei Yatsura” and thought, “This is a little bit kitschy, and silly, and sexist, but what if we turned the kitsch dial up to 11?”

It turns out that it was done in 1973. They hit levels of kitsch that should not have been possible.

It was like a visible, tangible form of autism made out of sheer kitsch.

You probably won’t be able to watch more than a few minutes of it without needing to hit the pause button and breathe into a paper bag to avoid hyperventilating.

According to urban dictionary, camp is:

1. something that provides sophisticated, knowing amusement, as by virtue of its being artlessly mannered or stylized, self-consciously artificial and extravagant, or teasingly ingenuous and sentimental.

2. a person who adopts a teasing, theatrical manner, esp. for the amusement of others.

3. An affectation or appreciation of manners and tastes commonly thought to be artificial, vulgar, or banal.
4. Banality, vulgarity, or artificiality when deliberately affected or when appreciated for its humor: “Camp is popularity plus vulgarity plus innocence”
adj. Having deliberately artificial, vulgar, banal, or affectedly humorous qualities or style: played up the silliness of their roles for camp effect.

So if I have got my definitions straight, Cutie Honey was not camp when it was made, just like Jerry Anderson’s UFO was not camp when it was made. It was only after the culture moved on from 1973 that the kitsch of 1973 could become entertaining to later people who look back on it; the act of looking back is an exercise in camp.

I am not sure how many convenient fantasy combat tropes Cutie Honey acquired from earlier TV shows. I imagine that wildly unrealistic live-action heroes must have contributed to the mindset of the writers. The famous live-action show Kamen Rider apparently debuted in 1971, so I suspect that it had an impact.

At every minute of this show, one must stop and gaze with awe at the tremendous camp. The writers were familiar with ideas like chivalry, but they are very much locked into the materialistic fashions of 1973.

So an inexplicably rich scientist builds a superpowered robot and raises her as his daughter – but doesn’t bother telling her that she has superpowers. This doesn’t seem to slow her down when she decides to use whatever superpowers seem convenient to the writers at any given point. (If you are a superhero theorist, you might speculate that Cutie Honey is roughly as powerful as the Green Lantern, because her powers are essentially limited by the writer’s imagination.)

If you like rigidly logical speculative fiction, this show is going to leave you with some questions.

Cutie Honey can transform into any sexy female form – sexy flight attendant, sexy girl reporter, sexy rock star, sexy fashion model, sexy motorcycle girl – in a fraction of a second. As with the Green Lantern, her superpowers are essentially wormholes into the Plot Convenience dimension. Thus she doesn’t have to undress from her motorcycle gear and laboriously put on her sexy journalist outfit – it just happens, in defiance of any laws of physics, in a split second, exactly when she wants it to happen.

But she calls herself a “warrior of love,” which doesn’t make much sense. If you are a warrior, you’re not loving. If you’re loving, you’re not functioning as a warrior. Even career soldiers put their families somewhere far from the battlefield when they fight.

The show’s sense of perspective seems to screw up a lot. A bladed glove that should have blades less than one meter long seems to have blades that are more than two meters long.

Enemies explode because the writers can’t be bothered to slow down the story and explain dead bodies.



And apparently the writers are going to make her go back to a Christian school, just to produce unrealistic character melodrama.

(At its best) Anime combines escapism and art house cinema (but sometimes perfectly watchable anime is just competent television)

panicHallucination

Art films are aimed at small niche market audiences, which means they can rarely get the financial backing that will permit large production budgets, expensive special effects, costly celebrity actors, or huge advertising campaigns, as are used in widely released mainstream blockbuster films. Art-film directors make up for these constraints by creating a different type of film, which typically uses lesser-known film actors (or even amateur actors) and modest sets to make films that focus much more on developing ideas or exploring new narrative techniques or film-making conventions.

Furthermore, a certain degree of experience and knowledge are required to understand or appreciate such films; one mid-1990s art film was called “largely a cerebral experience” that one enjoys “because of what you know about film”. This contrasts sharply with mainstream “blockbuster” films, which are geared more towards escapism and pure entertainment. For promotion, art films rely on the publicity generated from film critics’ reviews, discussion of their film by arts columnists, commentators and bloggers, and “word-of-mouth” promotion by audience members. Since art films have small initial investment costs, they only need to appeal to a small portion of the mainstream viewing audiences to become financially viable.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Art_film
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Matoi Ryuuko versus Chitanda Eru, or, Not all woobies are moe (萌); not all moe characters are woobies

Thesis: A character cannot seem sexy to me if that character is not interested in sex.

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Ryuuko, the protagonist of Kill La Kill! is a young lady whose father was brutally slain. She came home one day to find his rapidly cooling body as he bled out. This hardship immediately transformed her from a normal girl into a violent woman who will stop at nothing to get bloody revenge.

I have seen 12 episodes of Kill La Kill! so far. At no point has Ryuuko struck me as sexy, mostly because at no point has Ryuuko showed any desire for sex.
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Shows with unusual charm: Gen’ei Takeru Taikyou – magical girl squad meets Catcher in the Rye

Some shows embrace traditional stereotypes but manage to have at least a few truly fresh twists.

In the case of Gen’ei Takeru Taikyou, the angst is pretty well-written, both for the villain and the heroines. Aside from the angst it’s a pretty standard mass-marketed entertainment product.

First, let me praise the angsty villain. If he didn’t have any superpowers, he would be a pretty standard teenage rebel, channelling Holden Caulfield:

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Various criticisms of Yozakura Quartet: Hana no Uta

Yozakura Quartet – Hana No Uta is remarkably nuanced. It has a lot of unresolved sexual tension, some of which serves to underscore some of the bizarre conventions of anime.

Ao is a catgirl, not a human; she is theoretically supposed to be 15, but in some ways acts much younger or much older (which might be understandable if her psychology is more feline than hominid). She shows no sign of going to school, and while she demands a lot of cuddling from friends of both sexes, she shows an unrealistically small awareness of sex. She is as receptive to caresses as a lonely kitten, but frequently cares for the heroine as if Ao were a mother and the heroine were Ao’s daughter.
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In particular, she allows her 16-year-old best friend to lick her nipple through her swimsuit and then carries on as though nothing had happened. If such a thing were to happen in a realistic character drama, there would have to be some social resolution.

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Shikabane Hime

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<a href=”http://myanimelist.net/anime/4581/Shikabane_Hime:_Aka”>http://myanimelist.net/anime/4581/Shikabane_Hime:_Aka</a&gt;

is a fairly strong series.

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The Action Girl can get into serious combat because she can’t be killed by normal means – she’s undead. She’s superhuman, but not especially strong, so she has to fight with weapons. It’s a somewhat gloomy series, because she doesn’t want to die, and she doesn’t want to be undead, and she doesn’t even enjoy fighting a whole lot – she would rather have had a normal life and a normal death.

<a href=”http://myanimelist.net/anime/5034/Shikabane_Hime:_Kuro”&gt;
http://myanimelist.net/anime/5034/Shikabane_Hime:_Kuro</a&gt;

wraps up most of the major questions, but leaves a big space so that the writers can do a final story if the get funding.

Damn it, Japan.

All I ask for is a story that is coherent and complete within itself. If you keep making stories with more room to grow, you get the ideology of the cancerous tumor that always wants to grow and never acknowledges its limits. Shikabane Hime did an excellent job of committing to its characters and its setting. The writers are obviously capable of committing to the plot. The producers should give the writers an opportunity to make that commitment.

Pupipo~!

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I normally hate to recommend particular anime series, because most of them are 24-minute merchandise commercials, and I would hate for someone to come to me and say, “Look, I watched 12 episodes of that on your advice, and now I demand that you give me those 288 minutes of my life back.” (And I have made some terrible recommendations in the past. When <a href=”http://myanimelist.net/anime/56/Avenger”>Avenger</a&gt; first came out, I was convinced that it would be the most awesome show ever, and I told all my otaku buddies to watch it. As is too often the case, the first episode promised much more than the story could ever deliver. After a few mediocre episodes, it ran out of good ideas and flailed around purposelessly until its time was up.)

In the case of <em>Pupipo~! </em>however, it seems that the author takes a fairly well-informed approach to paranormal issues and delivers a coherent story within a time limit of 4 minutes per episode. So you could watch six plot-packed episodes of this in the time it would normally take you to watch a single episode of slickly-produced-but-story-poor giant-robots-and-fan-service.

I have high hopes that <em>Pupipo~!</em> will turn out to be a <a href=”http://vultureofcritique.wordpress.com/scholarship/quotations/g-k-chesterton-on-the-novel-with-a-purpose/”>story with a purpose</a>. Empirical evidence suggests that <a href=”http://vultureofcritique.wordpress.com/obvious-observations/stories-that-change-behavior/”>all stories tend to change their audiences’ behaviors</a>. If I can find stories that elevate the overall level of anime from fan service to philosophy, I should do what little I can to promote them.

Blassreiter Episode 14 transitions from bad writing to bad cliches

I really wanted to like Blassreiter. Early on, it was obvious that the Japanese writers liked selling pale-skinned European characters to Japanese audiences. That was fine by me.

Then the writers introduced the main conflict as driven by cruel natives who hated the outsiders. The outsiders had Muslim names like Malik, but were pale-skinned just like the natives. Thus having obfuscated the racial hatred that motivates Muslims to attack Germans, the writers felt free to unleash their favorite cliches.

Premise:

Long-Lost Sibling Cliche:

Tedious, politically correct attempt to whitewash muslim invaders in Germany as pale-skinned, victimized outsiders:

Penultimate cliche:

The supervillain was a pure-as-the-driven-snow altruist before her mad science research was perverted by evil white men:

The writing isn’t entirely horrible, it’s just super racist against white people. The cliches are solid old classics, and I don’t doubt that they will carry a story suitable for eight-year-olds who have never read any literary criticism.