A couple things.
Monthly Archives: January 2013
It takes a lot of effort to know what is not popular–what is big and exciting for a niche is often invisible from anyone outside of it. In the rare case, a passer-by can walk around a sprawling and diverse neighborhood and spot a poster at a local theater saying something like this. But I struggle to think of some other means in which someone who is not actively seeking to know a very niche subculture can come to know about it.
On the other hand, everyone knows about the big, mainstream, truly popular stuff. It’s what is on TV when we turn it on, or big video or banner ads at major sites that we read online. It’s what my coworkers talk about during lunch. That stuff is, again, truly popular. Even if what is truly popular often comes across not so different than the very niche when examined purely on content. I mean, what’s special about K-drama or anime versus American soaps and TV serials? I’m not entirely convinced, but some people do consume one or another interchangeably. Maybe for someone who watches a lot of TV shows and is familiar with anime, s/he might miss watching anime after a long sabbatical. You know, the people who watch anime very occasionally (5 IP or less a year) who occasionally asks another friend about what’s good or popular these days.
Even in this case, there’s a wide gulf between anime and even the trashiest trash Hollywood mass markets to the world. It’s not to say a 20%-scoring film on Rotten Tomatoes is any good, but a work like that is infinitely more “mainstream” entertainment than all but the most remarkable anime. By the same metric we could say that sort of crap is popular. Did it gross $10M in the box office after a month? Yes? Well that’s like, 4 1-cour TV anime series worth of money. It’s just a matter of time Happy Science gets a TV show.
Joking aside, I think I’m just trying to build the case to explain why asking anime to be more “mainstream” is basically asking it to do the impossible. It’s just nostalgia talking. I think if Pretty Cure can last another 10 years it would’ve truly achieve “mainstream” even if it is already mainstream by most definitions. Isn’t this what these people are asking for (admittedly now more strawman than ever)?
Or is it a fanservice-oriented, late-night, adult-only sort of fair like OreImo I mean Game of Thrones? Oh they’re different? Yeah, 50-60 million dollars different. Okay, it was a joke, but I think the core point stands. Call me jaded but what makes mainstream is merely either a delusion in terms of some rosy old-lens of a time when you didn’t know any better, and a lot of money. The most expensive anime TV series ever made only goes up to 10M or so, and I’m not sure if it was considered mainstream by any empirical means.
If we just simply delete the notion that things could be mainstream and boil it down to simply an exercise of finding out how big of a demographic you can get to watch your show, anime in the 21st century comes across as something not so much regressive, but forward-thinking. Let’s set aside the fundamental problems with anime and the way it’s funded–isn’t the current model of anime basically the shotgun vertical approach? You have a bijillion IP going live every year (there were over 200 anime TV and movie titles last year), each title is comparably inexpensive to produce, and sold to niches. It’s like cable and satellite TV in the US–given its capability for great number of channels simultaneously, it encourages programming diversity.* (Here is a list of all TV shows/movies/miniseries that returned and debuted in the US in 2012.) It makes you wonder: a similar list in Japanese would mean ~half of new/returning/ending/reruns of 2012 are anime, wouldn’t it?
Of course, I’ve also ignored all the problems with this model and its limitations. But from a commercial speech diversity/proliferation perspective, anime is really good as a platform. I mean, again, Happy Science? OreImo and the proliferation of the light novel drivel adaptation? Is this what “anime is a medium not a genre” really means? It spans from the highest high-brow creators (see: Yuasa’s Kickstarter) to the most base stuff you can find in a porn shop (joke: maybe see: Yuasa’s Kickstarter). It stretches from high budget, multi-million Ghibli stuff to independently made stuff on Youtube (as thin as commercial speech gets). Because it is made so cheaply on average, it employs cheap looks to tell its stories, and thus enable more people to use these cheap techniques, and enables more people to be able to churn it for profit. It’s a separate question if people actually do make a profit or not, I guess.
In a sense, anime’s distribution problem overseas in the last 10+ years also has to do with that until the west copes with New Media (caps), there wasn’t a stable distribution channel for anime, at least a truly sustainable one. This is why when Suncoast and Borders blew up, or when Best Buy scaled it back, things went to hell. Today retail is heavily online focused, and the rest is being picked up by streaming and digital services–not all that different than other niche programming. And maybe that’s how it is suppose to be. Things like Toonami coming back only signifies that diversity (and to its credit, the anime niche as well) has only increased in the net aggregate on cable television, enabling Cartoon Network to expand back to the future of first-world-focused, for-profit media.
* I think in an earlier post (now in the ether) I’ve written about why increasing number in channels increases diversity, but if you want to know about how it works please ask in the comments. Or any other questions really.
I’m not sure how to feel about this week’s Sasami-san. On one hand, it looks like I was more correct than I thought I was last week about week one. On the other hand now that the ruse is up, what is next? For a largely “what is this I don’t even” sort of anime, I suppose that is the best way to go about anticipating, but the lack of choice in the matter might ruffle some feathers. Well, it’s an adaptation anyway, so I guess that is no big deal. It seems like we’re “done” for the pilot portion of the series.
But still, I can anticipate something: incest. This anime already has a lot of it, versus the average garden variety. Even with the classic Shinto creationist tale from the first weeks we can see it as a theme between not just Sasami and Onii-chan, but also the strange things that brought the two of them together, into existence, and the stuff around them.
The whole reveal with god-robo Kagami and baby god Tama doesn’t seem to fit in the overall narrative. All we know from Tsurugi is that Sasami is safeguarding the power that once belonged to her, and now Tsurugi is safeguarding Sasami for safeguarding Tsurugi’s power. Seems not only convoluted, but redundant. Okay, it’s a little cute in the emotional sense, that Sasami no longer needs to deny herself to safeguard the stuff, because Amaterasu will safeguard Sasami’s sense of self so Sasami can safeguard the stuff.
The more I try to write about it the more stupid I feel. I guess it could be worse: it could be a ring where someone wants to throw into a lava pit.
Okay, so back to the fanservice angle. The story is hopefully going to resolve around that romantic relationship and Sasami’s personality. I half-suspect we have the Yagami sisters just to spice up the thing; an anime can only “ganbaranai” for so much and for so long, and Onii-chan is no tsukkomi. The ending songs (and the proper ending sequence) are one way to make this up, I guess.
There’s another creation tale evoked in this week’s episode, that makes Sasami into a bunny. The myth goes as more or less as told by the anime, except in this case the shark got beaten up, which is a funky twist. More importantly, it kinda alludes to the Ninigi thing that Tsurugi and Sasami talked about. The god that saved the Inaba bunny ultimately is replaced by Ninigi-no-Mikoto, the grandson of Amaterasu, who’s given the Imperial Regalia. I guess Sasami recognizes him in some special way.
The fight scenes is pure fanservice, I think. I guess it’s something to break things up and set up the pacing for this episode (which is incredibly similar to the previous two). Tama and Kagami also appeal the best when they’re cutting things up or doing what (robo)gods do.
With the way the episode wrapped up, maybe the pilot part is over? You would think so. There still are two major wrinkles left, besides the main story: what’s up with Sasami’s 3rd arm? She sealed it with a talisman that she continues to wear; is it metaphoric about her alter ego? Does that ego ultimately controls the power of Amaterasu? Also, what’s up with the “evil god” that kept her indoors? I guess that one could be explained easier if it is a consequence of her innate wishes.
Even on rewatch I found the scene when Onii-chan checks for her arm a lot of fun. Maybe something’s wrong with me.
PS. I just want to take this time to both thank and reprimand TAN: thanks for streaming Sasami-san@ganbaranai legit! But if you do it a week and a day late, it really takes all the air out of it. Imagine all those people who saw episode 2 when they saw episode 1 and spoiled themselves silly. smh.
PPS. Really dig the end card.
I had my hangups about Love Live, but one thing I actually do like is the Asako Nishida-signature character designs. In a word, I like it for being glittery. Nishida comes across to me as a good illustrator with an innate sense to express emotion through character artwork. In fact sometimes I prefer her fanart over the original character artwork for certain IPs. In her works I can see a wide variety of feeling expressed, even if a lot of it tends to be the usual, fujoshi-tilting, fanart-style stuff. It’s often girly but yet compiled in a way that has uni-sexual sensibilities and can appeal in the same way, say, how young, girl-next-door style idols can appeal both to girls and to guys.
This season it feels like there are a ton of short anime. It feels…kind of like this.
Last time I mentioned I’m putting gdgd on the to-do list. Now it’s off the to-do list: somehow I managed to watch all of season 1 and caught up to season 2 during that time span. It’s not super hard, given it’s 13 minutes or so each episode and a quarter of it I was watching with my eyes closed (blame food coma). I think however I managed to get the gist of at least why there are some pretty loud fans of it. Well, the ultimate reason why comes down to the fact that it is not really anime, right? And by that I mean anyone who would watch this via some categorical basis would’ve dropped it on contact of its Red vs. Blue (season 1) visuals? The jokes (as good as they are) are totally besides the point why it would be in this discussion.
I’m not the first or last person to talk about anime as a way to deliver the laughs. I love comedy in my anime, but it’s also an often ignored sort of thing. It’s hard to talk about. It’s also hard to watch, I guess, because comedy in anime this season means 3 minutes long and probably full of in-jokes. I think this might be why I will look forward to Kotoura-san every week (plus, it’s got potential to be darkly humorous, which is quite rare). I guess it will have to do. In some sense, the past few years have been pretty solid for comedy anime, it’s just that what’s good has been hard to find. You’ll have to look all over the place to find something. It means looking at things like gdgd. Or Infernal Cop. Or whatever.
So, consider this sort of an attempt to talk about comedy and point out what you might (not) be missing. I’ll list one good point and one bad point for each show. Most of them have at least one of each.
Osaka Okan – Asumi and Shiraishi make an okay combo, but Asumisu carries the show as per her usual routine. Yuka Iguchi does a funny job being the third wheel when the occasion calls for it. Good: It is a moe. Bad: All the jokes are the equivalent of “you might be a redneck.”
gdgd fairies – If you loved season 1, you should watch season 2. If you didn’t watch season 1, don’t bother with season 2 until you finish season 1. But the one thing special about gdgd is that it is more radio show than normal anime and it’s stronger than ever in that front. Good: Random. Bad: Too long.
Ishida & Asakura – Even sketch comedy play by build-up, character development, and viewer investment rules. But this one… Good: It reminds me of Cromartie. Bad: It’s way, way, way worse than Cromartie.
Mangirl – It’s about manga and education. It also makes you wish it was actually about girls who are men. Good: It’s educational. Bad: Punchlines are optional.
Ai-Mai-Mi – Possibly Teekyuu’s spiritual successor. Also no Strawberry Eggs. Good: It makes sense. Bad: Much worse than Teekyuu.
Senyu – Condensed gamer humor by trope inversion. Good: Creative (for people who don’t read nerd webcomics). Bad: Whiny.
Puchim@s – 4koma comedy comic but is serial. It’s kinda simulcasted on Youtube, which might be the first time we see a daily simulcast for any anime ever. Good: Daily. Bad: Low new content per episode.
Encouragement of Climb – If you overcame the adversity of its Engrish titling, you will not find a sketch comedy within. Good: It’s just an ishashi-kei anime, so it’s kind of experimental and new in this form factor. Bad: It’s not a sketch comedy.
Infernal Cop – Web-only indie animation from Imaishi, published via Comix Wave. I haven’t seen anything like this since the last time I saw Bevis & Butthead. Good: Very good direction. Bad: It’s got not much else going for it.