Year in Review: I Feel You, (Wo)Man

Life moves on and year after year I inevitably introspect into my own agenda and how anime fits (or more often than not, doesn’t) it all. I guess I’m one of those people whose brain keeps going at all times of the day, so I might as well grind those extra grey-matter FLOPS on something. Few years back there were some words on the street about healing and Hikkikomori/NEET-oriented anime making waves in the late-night time slot. Perhaps that’s what those typical viewers needed. Perhaps that’s what people wanted. But they were there.

On the flip side of the coin, characters like Belldandy–a Goddess literally and figuratively–always had a role in the landscape of anime idols and icons. It’s an archetype, but one not oft tread since perfect characters rarely have a role in human drama. The Belldandy-types are popular both out of the set of characteristics that painted an idealized female that rubs some western sensibilities the wrong way, and also because those are likely the only sort of fictional characters that can deal with the tragic problem of loneliness. After all who would spend time with miserable lot that is otakudom, save a God?

But that has nothing to do with my notion of “Srsly, WTB Notokawaiiyonoto” …or does it?

Now that I’ve beaten the bush long enough, be assured to know that this post is just about Sola, and in some sense, Touka Gettan 21. And about characterization. And I think it’s sort of fair to only spotlight the one show this year which was about just one character.

With that said, there are some disclaimers–Matsuri is not the only character in Sola, of course, nor is she the best in 2007 or anything like that. I’m not even sure if she is my favorite (probably not) of the year.

But her character concept, acting, and role exemplifies loneliness to a tee. It carried the show. She’s a rainy weekend afternoon–the projection of an intricate set of feelings. And just because Sola made me say that, it wins. It’s like Kyousuke’s Marble Phantasm–chase strange girls with a camera and observe the depth of their souls and of those around her. You might not care how the plot resolves around some silly mysteries about vampire, but we care because we feel for her.

Just like the one other anime this year obsessed with the sky, it managed to do something out of ordinary to express those feelings. And that’s one of the main ends to artistic expression.

I’ve alluded to this repeatedly lately, but in an anime the story is one of the weaker mean to convey feeling. Writing, animation direction, artistic direction, and voice acting make up the bulk of characterization. It’s those things that give shows of good production quality a better chance at impressing me, because they can “afford” better writing, direction, and voice acting. The same principle is exemplified with Touka Gettan. For those of you who’ve seen episode 21 you probably would know exactly what I mean: writing, animation direction, artistic direction, voice acting… who cares about the story? It’s a charming tale about a girl meeting a….boy, but that’s really it story-wise. Yet it’s how everything else that comes together and that delivered one of the best episode of anime this year.

Sola certainly does not have the best in everything, but when it comes to Matsuri they’ve nailed it pretty good.

To bring this post back to its bushwhacking introduction, it’s hard to forget that the holiday season and the end of the year is a popular time to think of the poor. Western sensibilities cherish the notion of charity. Unless my pile of donation solicitation junk mail or that subtle pricking sense of irony involving talking charity with an expensive hobby hits me on the head silly, anyways. Today’s anime give us answers, and give us characterizations that share a voice with us in that loneliness of a modern, first-world civilization. With that in mind I’ll end this post with a quote from Mother Teresa: “Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.” Let’s befriend a Japanese animator today :)

This is the third part of a series of blog entries highlighting some of the memorable and remarkable points of 2007 in review. Sola is a quiet and subtle note in the soundscape of the otaku fan chatter spectrum, but all the more worthy to highlight…


4 Responses to “Year in Review: I Feel You, (Wo)Man”

  • Kojioe

    Yeah, I need to get around to watching Sola.

    Out of the other bloggers that seem to be doing this end of the year business. Omo, your’s seem to be about the more lesser known shows of the year overall. Yay for underrated anime!

  • wildarmsheero

    “I’ve alluded to this repeatedly lately, but in an anime the story is one of the weaker mean to convey feeling.”

    I think we can link this all back to Kazuo Koike. Koike has said in the past that he writes characters, not stories. This is why his stories tend to make no sense at all. Koike has trained some of best and brightest in manga, so clearly his influence has bled into every section of the industry.

    Or it could just be an inherent aspect of Japanese storytelling, I dunno.

    I don’t know how you and Jeff are doing this, since I found this year to be mostly poo. But what do I know? I’ve only been watching anime as it airs for 2 years now so I have no perspective at all. That and maybe I just watched all of the wrong shows.

  • omo

    I don’t think Koike deserves all the credit. Character-driven stuff are quite common even in the west. It’s just that a lot of anime suck at doing it. But you might be right that manga tend to lean that way, and thus follows the anime that adapt from manga (as it is the bulk of anime out there).

    I don’t really know if one can compare year by year with any real meaning because what we’re all doing is just comparing show by show. If year X has more shows you like than year X+1 then year X is better, it’s pretty simple. But obviously I don’t really care about shows I like so much, rather it’s about shows that are worth watching. So far in this “Year in Review” thing I’ve only talked about 1 show this year that I liked, and that is 5cm. And maybe Touka Gettan 21 (but that’s just 1 ep).

    But there is space for someone to do a “year in review” that talks about the year in terms of what has happened. For example this year is a lousy year for Japanese otaku in two areas: government censorship and corporate self-censorship. Someone could also talk about this year’s trends, like the rise of the yandere. There’s a lot to talk about.

  • dm

    Reading your and Jeff’s years in review, plus all the open letters to and from “the industry” and such prompted a sober reflection on my part. This year, I saw maybe three new anime series that I would consider getting on DVD (Manabi Straight, Dennou Coil, ef and maybe Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei).

    This is not to say that I didn’t enjoy a lot of what I watched (and actually, I watched very few new series this year), it’s just that I have a hard time imagining wanting to watch much of it again. Sola is a good example: a lovely little series, and Matsuri was a tremendously charming character. But watch the series again? Probably not. I’d be more inclined to scratch that itch by watching Hantsuki again — Rika is just as lonely and sweet a character as Matsuri, in many ways, and for me, the two series settle in the same niche.

    I might add a fifth title to my list after I rent German Lager or whatever that drill show was called that ADV licensed.

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