Archive for August, 2010

August 23, 2010

OGT on Post-modernism, or Post-post-modernism, or Post-post-post-modernism

Original Post: Adventures in Criticism: Otaku 2


18 August 2010 at 10:57 am


it’s less that the grand narrative*, with all its glorious Meaning, has died out, to be replaced by a vacuous, empty database that transforms itself simply to create more consumer goods (which is what Azuma means, I think, by his “database animals” concept), it’s more that the database is newly operationalized and split off from the grand narrative.

Which means that rather than having preferred means of revealing Meaning (formalism), creating a hierarchy of culture (high-middle-low), we now have the understanding that Meaning is not inherently tied to a particular form and that you can utilize elements from any given form(s) to point at a Meaning beyond the shuffle of forms in the foreground (c.f. Scott Pilgrim OH YEAH I WENT THERE). Of course, now we also have pleasure taken just from the shuffle of forms in the foreground (and damn any extrafictional Meanings), so it’s a double-edged sword here.

What seems to be happening in culture in general, as a result of this, is that you have all sorts of differing forms competing with one another, trying to assert themselves as the new “high culture” (SF is Important Philosophical Literature for the Modern Age arguments, Anime is the Vanguard of Groundbreaking Revolutionary Animated Narratives arguments, and so on). This gets so bad that many seem to get much more concerned with whether or not their favored form(s) are considered high culture (or upset that they’re considered low culture, or pissed off at the arrogance of other claimants to high culture, or embarrassed about their enjoyment of low culture, or whatever), which links status not to societal position, but to which forms of fiction one enjoys.

*Surely to God we can think of a different word to phrase that concept as so that it stops sounding so terribly confusing.


August 17, 2010

Chan on the Characters of Macross Frontier

Original Post: Did Macross Frontier Open a Frontier for the Macross Franchise


August 17, 2010 at 4:29 pm


I do believe that whenever a show tries to change itself for a new generation it also stands the chance to lose their older fans, and in some cases there are shows that don’t really have to change their formula, not only because what they came up with was timeless, but also because their series might not be as aged as they think. There is also a problem with following new trends in that it dates a work, if by looking at it you can tell exactly when the work was made it might not make it as enjoyable to future generations, especially after the trends change. There are certain characterizations that one can get away with depending on the type of series it is.

For instance while the inclusion of Klan Klan’s character who was both the loli-moe type character and also the mature female character was a twist on a old trope, and she also validated the previous installments of Macross in regards to the Meltrandi and can be seen as the end product of that Meltrandi that have been fully integrated into society. Yet Klan Klan’s appearance and tsundere attitude in her macronized form also follows today’s trends, but everything else about her is not dated.

The same can be said about Sheryl as well, Sheryl is pretty much a normal young woman. I have seen a little bit of Sheryl in many strong and proud females who have ever survived a brush with death (read: cancer). Or even her haughty personality and ego in people who have come from nothing and worked their asses off to become successful. Sheryl may in fact appeal to a lot of people especially women (she has a lot of female fans both on both sides of the Pacific) because of this, because some women recognize that strength or her struggles and they like her because she overcame it. Sheryl could be a person you know, and that appealed to the new generation who wanted someone they could identify with.

Alto is one where made a mistake. There is such a thing as being too reserved, thing is to make a character likable they have to be somewhat accessible to the average viewer. The time they spent showing him yelling battle cries in the cockpit is the time he should have spent showing us his inner thoughts. Actions speak louder than words true, but words are also very important, we wouldn’t have the skill to communicate with one another if it wasn’t needed after all. The inability to show his inner thoughts (which they novel rectifies) makes him seem wishy washy and frankly inaccessible. Its sad because if the novel is anything to go by Alto is more interesting than the anime and his issues far more complicated than shown by the anime. Alto has a bit of an identity crisis in terms of being a male this was revealed in the novel, and when one stops to think about it was shown in the anime in the form of Alto being upset about being mistaken for a woman but it was never elaborated on. To go into context for this when Alto at one point in time in the novel Alto refers to himself using different pronouns: Ore- masculine male way to refer to himself, then Boku- more polite way to refer to himself, Watashi- gender neutral way to refer to himself. He does this in his own mind when referring to himself. With this it makes more sense why Alto would want to get away from his home, not only because he wanted to be a pilot but also because he realized that he was going through a gender identity crisis. His relationship with Sheryl later on helps him get over this. The fact that Alto has also played a female for most of his pre- and post- pubescent life is also why he knows the female psyche better than most males. He is also pretty good at telling what a girl’s personality is from talking to them (he pretty much defines Ranka’s character to the audience with frightening accuracy in the novel even though they haven’t known each other for very long at that time). Alto could have been the male version of Klan Klan made for fanservice but much more than meets the eye, instead though Kawamori went the symbolism route which alienated Alto’s personality from the audience. The series would have been a lot more interesting if Alto got more focus, it should be known that even though Alto is the main male of the series he is not the main focus.

Bobby was just an amusing character. Elmo was also very interesting and like Klan represented the successful integration of the Zentradi race into human society. Ozma was a character that could also speak to the new generation in his status of young unprepared surrogate parent. He with his guilt as a reasoning spoiled Ranka, and shielded her from the harsh realities, while making her the center of his world. Him doing this destroyed his relationship with Cathy who he had planned to marry. The problem with him making Ranka his entire world was that Ranka became used to being the center of attention for everyone, and in a way expected it from others. Its sad that Ozma worked his ass off to provide for her only to have Ranka step all over his hard work. Its sad because Ozma marrying Cathy would had not only made him a happier man it would have also would mean that Ozma wouldn’t be able to spoil Ranka as much. Cathy was the typical character who was stuck in a relationship with a guy she didn’t really love it was really the typical story I’d seen in many movies (minus the my fiance assassinated my father part of course).

Grace was interesting and the more I learn about her the more interesting she is. Her worth as a villain is only proved in terms of her duping Leon, infecting Sheryl with the V-type virus, raising her into a pop sensation, then dropping her for someone better (its worse if you’ve listened to the audio drama or read the manga special about it A lot of what happened to her she blames on the Mei family (and the Nome family simply because of association) because she tried to convince Ranshe Mei to learn how to control the Vajra, not only to save Ranshe’s life but also because of the possibilities it offered in terms of communication with loved ones and then Ranshe lets Ranka sing which then enrages the Vajra and gets their fleet destroyed on the same day mind you. She’s a bit like Alto though in that her story is never told in the anime, but in the novels and the CD dramas. It does make you think negatively about the Mei family because its members have made others suffer so much for their own bad decisions. The more you find out about why she has her vendetta the less sympathetic you are towards Ranka. She is the personification of hell hath no fury. This is a new type of villain for the Macross series, which would have been much better for the series had we known more about her, it doesn’t stop her from appealing to fans both new and old though.

Ranka is a character that would have been better off in another series, or playing another role. The problem with her in this series was that the society she lives in makes no room for being childish and immature especially during dire situations. It doesn’t help matters that she doesn’t behave like a normal teenager (or look like one) in her world, and her selfish personality which rears its ugly head at the worst of times where a normal person would be more worried about their loved ones rather than their own feelings. In other words she is trope Spoiled Sweet minus the fact wealthy parents. She is a sweet girl as long as things are going her way. She’s not used to being told “no” has has a total disregard for the rules which maintain life in Frontier. What’s ironic about her is that her disgretions would not be so obvious if she wasn’t the main focus, and therefore the main character (she has the most screen time, and the appears in the most advertisements), she is the first person people see before they watch Frontier. She would be better off not in the one sided love triangle with her resembling a younger sister who has a crush on her older sister’s boyfriend. It also doesn’t help that the writers chose to use Alto to validate her character, made even worse by the fact that Alto only pays attention to her when she asks for advice or needs to be saved. She was actually made to appeal to the same people that make up most of Sheryl and Klan Klan’s fandom but alas not many people bought into it. She is the opposite of the other characters in that the more you find out about her the less interesting she seems. She was inaccessible to both new and old fans.



August 9, 2010

Baka-Raptor on the Cost of Understanding

Original Post: We Remember Love Editorial Folio Vol. 3: Meditations on Fandom


August 9, 2010 at 4:51 pm

Understanding should cost you if you’re serious. Anyone can drop a show after a few episodes and say, “I understand that different people have different tastes. This show just isn’t for me.” That kind of superficial rationalization doesn’t qualify as understanding. If you really want to understand why other people like something you don’t like, you need to get down and dirty. The more you dislike it, the dirtier you need to get.
To discuss a show meaningfully, you need to watch enough of it to develop a meaningful opinion. Then when you’re discussing the show, you need to reflect on all the parts of the show you didn’t like and try, often repeatedly, to see them through the other person’s eyes. This can be very painful. Think Poo-tan from Cromartie High School.
I want to like everything I watch, but I don’t try to like everything I watch. I believe it’s the show’s job to make me like it. When I actively try to like a show I instinctively disliked, I more often than not end up disliking the show even more. When I dwell on it to try to understand it, I end up hating it. I do come away with some understanding and appreciation, but it doesn’t make me happy.


August 8, 2010

Kadian on Characters in Anime Doing Each Other

Original Post: The Feat of “In-universe Parody” & What it Does for Shows (e.g. K-ON!!, Genesis of Aquarion)


August 7, 2010 at 5:34 pm

Body Swaps: a variation of the in-universe character parody, and a common trope in comedy manga/anime. Maybe not true caricatures, but the displacement of personality and body makes us notice the individual quirks more. There’s usually a rule about the characters having to hide the switch for the duration, so they have to try being the other person.
– Utena: Utena and Anthy for a day
– Excel Saga: Excel and Hyatt in the last episode
– Cardcaptor Sakura: Syaoran and Kero for a day
– Dragonball Z: Captain Ginyu with others

Possession: like body swaps, only one-sided. Through ghosting or mind control someone acts out someone else in that person’s body. Sometimes a hilarious exaggeration, sometimes completely off.
– Kamichu: Yashima regularly possesses Mitue to communicate with muggles
– Yu Yu Hakusho: While he’s dead, Yusuke takes Kuwabara’s body
– Le Chevalier D’Eon: D’Eon’s sister’s soul cohabitates in his body
– Inuyasha: does this a fuckton

Imitation: the most basic form of mimicry, sometimes aided with disguises.
– K-ON!: Ui impersonates Yui
– Fullmetal Alchemist: Envy impersonates others
– Lucky Star: Konata caricaturizes her friends frequently
– Infinite Ryvius: the DVD extras caricaturize the cast
– Ouran Host Club: in mocking or for a punchline
– Turn A Gundam: of course

Of special note was Asatte no Houkou, whose entire premise was two characters swapping age which entirely changed the dynamics of all their relationships.

Not nearly an exhaustive list, but one that gives a wide variety of in-universe impersonations, how they do them, and the impressions they make.


August 3, 2010

Executive Otaku on Why Bad Guys are Made to Look More Awesome

Original Post: Operation Valkyrie: the Gihren Zabi Assasination Plan (He’s Hitler, Get it?); Why Do Bad Guys Seem So

Executive Otaku

August 2, 2010 at 4:04 am

Not just in anime I think there’s a lot of common threads in regards to making the bad guys cool in fiction. There seem to me to be three main elements of this, sometimes a series only uses one, sometimes it uses a combination of them.

Romantic notions of chivalrous aristocrats/knights vs indifference to or even disdain for standardized, modern armies.

Legend of the Galactic Heroes is definitely a series that uses this in creating much of the appeal of the Reich (as well as Reinhard’s personal dynamism.) Despite wars being just as brutal in previous eras, there’s a lot of fondness for the supposedly gentlemanly way wars were fought when leadership was determined by high social standing. Since the officers (or in even older eras, knights) all came from the aristocratic class they brought their social habits with them to the battlefield and let things like honor and personal temperament get in the way of combat at times. Contrast that to the modern army where everyone wears the same uniform, carries the same weapons, and doesn’t have time for such uptight manners. It’s an issue of warriors vs soldiers, and warriors are much more romantic figures in fiction even if they’re nowhere near as effective in warfare. What did aces like Johnny Riden and Anavel Gato do for Zeon compared to a squadron of GM’s who worked together on the EFSF side? What did a few 100+ kill aces who stayed on the frontlines until they died accomplish for the Luftwaffe compared to squadrons of decent pilots trained by lower-kill count aces who were rotated back to be instructors for the USAAF? Not much. (Hope I’m not laying it on too thick there, but grounded as I am in military history it’s a favorite sport of mine to tear down the romanticism around the warrior myth.)

Machine perfection.

Going away from the previous element’s disdain for modernity, this one embraces it and polishes machine like standardization to an unrealistic but impressive level. Star Wars was big on this, making the Imperial Navy and Army chilling but impressive with just how perfect their standardization and coldness was. And when the army is machine like, it makes the one or two leaders like Darth Vader and the Emperor stand out even more as they command those forces.

A superior, overwhelming enemy.

This tend to cut both ways depending on a viewer’s preference, since it can make the bad guys seem impressive or make the good guys seem all the stronger for having to be such underdogs. All the series you mentioned in the post have this in them, and as it relates to making the bad guys cool it does so by making their accomplishments seem unstoppable or in some cases effortless. It inspires an admiration for just how capable the enemy is, for instance when Char would beat up on Amuro (though he had a small element of underdog to him since he didn’t have the vastly superior Gundam in 0079.)