FREE Willy, the Swimming Anime

I think I can make 99 jokes based on FREE, the newly announced Kyoto Animation project. This TV anime will hit the airwaves in July 2013. It’s roughly the same anime people have been clamoring for since the Animation Do KyoAni commercial of the same subject matter aired a couple months ago. Today, the characters have names, voice acting, and are part of some story.

I don’t know, really. After Tamako Market I’m definitely skeptical about another original Kyoto Animation work. I still like/am biased towards original works, so I’ll definitely be watching it when it comes out, even if the visual signals are clearly saying it’s not for me. And it isn’t as if Tamako Market was not fun to watch; just nothing special short of that one episode.

As for the ongoing discourse, to put it broadly, it’s all about Kyoani putting their foot down on female-targeting fanservice. There’s a lot of different reactions out there actually, but what is kind of amusing and bothersome at the same time is the meta-ness of it. There are probably more blog posts and reactions about people who might be against this manflesh anime pandering than actual complaints about the anime, let alone complaints about the anime being manflesh pandering. I’m sure there’s a healthy contingent of whiners, those so-called moe otaku or whatever, but isn’t that true for just any other anime out there? Shouldn’t all this complaints be characterized in a way where it’s normalized against some average? At this point it feels like people are just having fun against a strawman, and yeah, arguing against a strawman is pretty fun.

The way I see, it’s a simple formula of KyoAni fanbase clashing with the truth that there are probably a helluva lot of girls actually working at Kyoto Animation, slaving away at your Hyouka or Chuu2Koi, and now they are doing a project that flies their flags, so to speak. That goes against the typical work Kyoani has produced, so naturally some people are kind of irked. Like all those people hoping for a Full Metal Panic work. (Funny thing is you can’t even really make fun of these guys (at least not full bore) because FMP is at least a cut above, say, an eroge adaptation). I like this–this flag flying–because people tend to draw their best when they draw stuff they like. But, really, just how many girls are working at Kyoani today? Why do I get the impression there are a lot of them?

To take even a bigger step back, I feel this is just an anime hipster kind of thing to do. It’s like there’s this overarching dialog over there in the video game scene about women and sexism, and anime peeps are just making their own version up, in a monkey-see-monkey-does kind of way. I mean, it’s too¬†disingenuous¬†to even call it prosecution. It’s just silly. It doesn’t even address any of the core issues, or real issues involved.

For one, this is about fanservice. It’s clearly not about moe (or anti-moe or whatever). Yet moe gets flagged, why?

Second, more people need to watch Tsuritama. Or KimiBoku. It’s not otaku entertainment if it doesn’t have discourse, and without familiarity of the discourse I don’t know if you can really make sense of it. Like a good doujinshi, it needs context, it’s from fans, to fans. You really get a nice dose of it in the promo material for FREE. In fact I think that’s part of the problem–so far the various promos offer little in terms of what the show will be like besides the fanservice part. There are high schoolers swimming, and…?

To circle back about fanservice and moe, I think maybe it’s more about misidentifying Kyoani fandom? There was all this hoopla about Little Buster and Air and Kanon, after all. I think it’s just yet another chapter in KyoAni’s varied history–from Munto to the Kanon remake to Haruhi-isms to Yamakan. Now this.

And like every misleading narrative, it distracts attention from real issues, like the regularly-issued bomb threats for Kuroko’s Basketball events, or, well, Kyoto Animation hasn’t been able to do an original anime to make a living off of. Will whining about whiners whining about the homoerotic undertones or manflesh or whatever of Free, change any of it? Or improve the lives of women interacting with anime? Doubtful, unless you count the good feels those tumblr campaigns or laughing at internet strawmen bring home. It’s normal for guys (especially nerds) to get squeamish about the naked body; it’s not normal for BL doujin events to get canceled because of bomb threats. I think it’s just sad when people can’t get that straight.

TL;DR – just another day on the internet.


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