Year in Review: United and Live

So why am I talking about Manabi Straight besides I like it a lot? I don’t know.

Manabi Straight is a subtle thing. Sometimes I fear that the more I talk about it, the more it gets cheapened. And a good joke explained is rarely funny anymore.

Maybe I can say something about UFOTable. Manabi Straight is an interesting organism in that it is not produced by the same process your typical TV animation is. For starters, it is something conceived by some folks at UFOTable and serialized as manga at first. It also utilizes a team of directors that rotate on working on each episode, breathing life into the work but also mirroring that team spirit told within the show.

But like other UFOTable works, Manabi Straight shares some similar shortfalls. Or perhaps, it salvages itself from them? I’m not sure. One example that comes to mind is the realization of Manabi Straight’s inter-character dramatic potential. In just 12 episodes there have been a lot of character development and realization. Episode 4 and Mei showed how it was possible, but unexpectedly we didn’t really do a round robin of character expose. In fact we started at Mei, then Mikan…and stopped at Mikan, at least formally. Even if we take into account of the OAV episode we’ve only scratched the surface of the massive potential. If you look at Futakoi Alternative or Coyote Ragtime Show, there are a lot of subtle stuff they play with but also hide. In fact in FutaAlt that’s part of how it drags the series down–UFOTable spent way too much time trying to show you something subtle without telling you what it was.

Back in Manabi Straight, Mucchi especially was a subtle character that glowed with realism and its matching subtlety that made her easily my favorite out of the 5 if not for Mikan’s overpowering cuteness and Momo’s equally subtle but totally unreal characterization.

Being the fanboy that I am, I am probably a little too much to ask for to review the ins and outs of an UFOTable title. Also I just think a lot about these kinds of stupid things, the things just out of reach but not out of sight. In a pastel-color world with gradient hair and happy-go-lucky carebears, subtlety can only be detected as far as it is put out there to be seen. It could be a criticism or a praise, but it’s irony either way.

Irony. Yes, that was what I was thinking, about Mucchi, while she was eating her ice pop in that summertime episode. (And also “just how much lolicon pandering was this suppose to be?”) But that’s a prime example of a very real moment. Sometimes, when you are with friends, it’s just silence. Some of my friends talk about themselves, others don’t. Sometimes you have to pry, other times you’re just being annoying. It’s totally cool when you drop by, with a pretext of checking out some harmless video game, and drop a line that you know will do something to poke a friend who’s down. Or maybe it will not do something, but you’ve done what you think works the best.

And that’s Momo’s entire basket of gags in all of Manabi Straight. You know how Kyousuke said about observing wild animals and the camera not interfering? Well I think Ms. Odori will take that and shove it up someone’s behind while screaming some dadaist reference to off-the-air sitcoms. (Imagine if Momo shot a documentary about penguins…well I guess you can do that with Hatsune Miku now?) That’s journalism (and, oddly enough, film making) in a nutshell, the power to change the viewers by giving us the right perspective, even if they’re all reinventing that perspective. In the anime she’s a bit of a deus ex machina, but at the same time she’s the punchline. Plus cockroach-tan is just pure awesomeness all around, of course.

In retrospect, Manabi Straight is an incredibly subtle series. Or rather, in good anime form, it makes an exaggeration of a lot of subtle things (or at least as much exaggeration as you can get with them). My favorite example is where we see what Manabi sees when she shows Taka-chan her vision of the future. Maybe that’s why Manabi Straight had such a big impact on me. When I saw her in that scene, I think “vision” rather than “hallucination” or “plan.” But that’s the only way to explain why she acted as if things have already came to being. It is a prophecy, but not really so pre-ordin-ary? LOL. She’s just working to fulfill her dream, I guess. But I like my interpretation, because it would explain why UFOTable gone the distance to stretch that simple scene for, like, 4 minutes. And with the softball, and water dripping, and of course, those ominous clouds. They were being subtle at being not so subtle to point out a subtle concept. What the hell, right? In real life, those moments come at us at light speed. You blink and it’s gone!

And in some ways 2007 ended at light speed too. Personally I’ve gone through a lot this year, some good, some bad. One really great moment was when I went to this rock concert and jumped around a lot (tip: see blog title). What was good at the show was not just the music and performance, but it was also fun jumping around with a few thousand other people (…and a lot of other things). The same feeling is the summit of the “Year in Review” serialization I’ve been posting–I want to share it with you why anime and all this related stuff like blogging or fandom or cons or music, and hopefully some of you will also share with us the same.

Speaking of jumping around, Jeff Lawson may not be a religious man, but I am not one either at least by the Christian sense. Or maybe I am, just one in disguise as your prototypical Asian-American anime fanboy blogger. But I am religious in the sense that I know to cross reference his ending comment with the parable of the mustard seed. Jesus is subversive, oh yes. And even if you are somewhat versed in the allegory, I recommend you to check out that Wikipedia link for the full picture of what it means.

In other words, what’s inside Manabi Straight is an authentic slice of life. It describes a simple but profound concept, that those who are fortunate enough to experience it in their own lives will likely to recognize it when they look for it in Manabi Straight. It’s not just a rainy afternoon or “going to high school.” It’s subversive, it’s not something you can bottle and sell, or teach and follow from a plan. It’s the fundamental essence of happy living. That’d make Manabi Straight the ultimate iyashikei anime–it not only makes you feel good, it gives you a road map to achieve happiness.

This is the 8th entry about 2007 highlights and awesomeness. まっすぐ Go!! And remember folks, even if my favorite anime is better than your favorite anime, you can まっすぐ Go!! too!


7 Responses to “Year in Review: United and Live”

  • TheBigN

    So why am I talking about Manabi Straight besides I like it a lot? I don’t know.

    Of course that’s perfectly fine too, though I’ve refrained from posting a lot about it myself. I’m not sure if people want to hear me talk more about why I think Manabi Straight is good, since I think it’s my most referenced series on my blog already (and probably for a while to come :3). And you’ve already touched on points that I’ve been thinking about (How Mucchi’s great, how Manabi’s “greater” in a way), so I have to shake my fist at you, sir. :P

    I do feel that I probably wouldn’t have “got” the message (or a message of the show) if I wasn’t watching the show during the last couple of months of college or so. Or rather, the message wouldn’t have been driven home quite as much if my real life didn’t coincide with Mikan’s to some extent. Either way, it’s one of my favorite animes of this year, as well as one of my all-time favorites regardless, so there were more factors than just まっすぐ Go!! in play. :)

  • Link

    Manabi Straight has one of the best endings ever. That puts it down in my book. Forever. What’s better than one of our girls growing up and realizing what matters most in her life, yet moving on and becoming better for it? It has more substance than 99% of anime endings out there.

    It also has the most underrated soundtrack this year. Clap ftw.

  • digitalboy

    nono, I’m glad you keep talking about it, because Manabi Straight is an important show to me, and I’d say the most moving experience I had all year (after all, I had a nervous breakdown after watching it) I’m glad to see deeper into it.

    And indeed, one of the best endings of all time.

  • wildarmsheero

    “That’d make Manabi Straight the ultimate iyashikei anime”

    Oh so that’s why I hate it. All iyashikei anime that’s not Bartender sucks :V

  • chami

    まっすぐ GO!

    Manabi Straight was seriously the most heart-warming show I’ve seen all year.

  • EcureuilMatrix

    I think I appreciate GUMS! even more after reading that post. Thanks!

    Long live hazmat suits of dubious origin and the girls who wear them. Momo~

    まっすぐ GO!

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