Monthly Archives: July 2013

A Wall-top View on Reference Humor

So, in Watamote ep2, there’s an elaborate Whisper of the Heart reference. You can see some of it here. I want to look closer at it.


The scene starts at around the 13:10 mark. For the unfamiliar let’s just say that our naive protagonist had a run in with a strange boy and she suddenly got into the frame of thought, a frame that becomes possible after several repeated viewings of Whisper of the Heart. The trigger is that Tomoko mouthed off a chain of “jerks” not unlike when Mr. Concrete Road sang along earlier on in Whisper and threw its female protagonist in a similar fit of consternation.

Suddenly, Tomoko realizes that she can make a Whisper of the Heart reference.


Please bear with me if this is obvious to you (in fact, please tell me so in the comments if this is the case). The joke, here, is not so much that Watamote makes a reference to a classic Ghibli flick. Well, that is a big part of it–the animation reproduces the lampoon accordingly. That in itself is humorous. The fact that it is a reference is also humorous, much like those Genshiken Nidaime viewers feel about Sue, assuming they enjoyed Bakemonogatari and Nisemonogatari. Or insert whichever reference of reference humor you prefer.

The funniest thing about this scene, for some, is that how Tomoko is self-aware about the reference in a way similar to how the audience finds such a reference coming across something they’re watching. In reality she is just daydreaming about some idealistic romantic encounter (thanks Ghibli) because of her own disposition. She isn’t actually making a joke (like Sue, again). However the joke-ish daydream Tomoko makes is natural, and the one Sue makes is superfluous to the plot and story.

So to diagram it–you have the joke/reference, you have the level of actualization of the reference, and you have the degree of self-awareness of the reference. It’s rather complicated once you take a serious look. We know reference humor runs the gamut from chalk drawings on a blackboard to shaping an entire episode to match, so in 2013 terms there is a wealth of things we can draw from analyzing these sorts of references. In Watamote’s case, it clearly speaks something about people like Tomoko. But what does it say about people who watch Tomoko enjoy herself? Do I (or anyone) want to think about this?

PS. If you haven’t seen Whisper of the Heart yet, do make time. It’s probably my favorite Ghibli movie, although 18 years might not be long enough of a test of time  yet? It’s neck and neck with Porco, which is my default answer when asked about my favorite Hayao Miyazaki movie. Here goes hoping that Kaze Tachinu topples Porco.

Determining Determination: C^3

Yachiyo Hinata

I was reading the internet and someone made a comment about Stella Jogakuin C^3-bu and how it talks about having determination. The end of episode 2 featured our timid girl stiffening up and joining the club of weirdos, fearing that she wouldn’t fit in. Well, the easiest place to fit in is in the midst of weird people, right? To the extent that you can tolerate them–and I think Yurayura will be just fine.

But on the other side, when is airsoft this serious? Or an airsoft club? Are they going to Koshien too? Are you kidding? It’s fun to play and roleplay but this is not some kind of identity crisis as far as a plot device goes. Rather, C^3-bu is calling on the oft-played, timid-girl cliche where it takes a considerable amount of determination to overcome that barrier–comfort zone or whatever you call it–so she can make some friends.

I wonder how much I can twist and turn this little device and squeeze it in thematically. After all, airsoft is not quite like paintball. It probably hurts less if you are properly dressed. I mean you probably want to play either sports wearing as much covering as you can comfortably put on, plus the goggles and headwear. Do real hardcore otaku dock points when Sonora jumps out of the shower naked but without any “badges of honor”?

Did you? Because like, this is cartoons, so we are going to not take this so seriously? Are you kidding?

Aside: There’s an another show that is largely about determination this season. It has a line like “Show you guts cool say what” or some such. In that story determination is framed as an adult quality, that some grown-ups do not have.

To take it to the next step, homework would be compare and contrast with Girls und Panzer.

PS. Maybe I should write about moe English. Maybe by Thursday.

Summer 2013, < Three Episodes After

The anime blogging ritual continues.


Overall I thought this season yet again features a lot of solid shows. Even questionable entries like Fantasista Dolls or Inuhasa (for different reasons) give me reasons to want to watch it week after week, even when I wish just the opposite. The problem, if there is one, is that the shows with the most potential, the ones I like best, can only be engaged at an arm’s length.

By that I mean it’s hard to cheer for them. Let’s take Genshiken Niidame or Watamoe or the Monogatari series as a counterexample. These are pure otaku fodder. I can sleep with them in bed, carry it with me and read it on the train, what have you. That’s the typical case for late-night style anime. But entries like Gatchaman Crowds and Uchoten Kazoku, both fascinating pieces of work, require a level of rigor in order to engage them fully. It feels wrong, for example, to indulge in making dirty doujinshi of, say, Benten (but maybe not Utsutsu). Not that it won’t be done, of course, but there’s just something off kilter about theses two works. Maybe it’s the visuals? Maybe it’s just me? Probably it’s just me. It makes me want to watch them in theaters, or talk about it at cons with like-minded people. Or blog about them in a way to distinguish them.

I can’t say how it feels to engage all these works from a distance further than that, though. It must feel kind of ordinary and boring when, at a large enough distance, invariably everything seems to be the same thing, day in and out.

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Monogatari Series Episode 2 Girl Talk, About Random iM@S Notes

I don’t want to dwell on it, but it basically boils down to:

Oh Japan?

I think the chit-chat between the co-stars of the Monogatari series in episode 2 is not only an excellent fanservice vehicle (in the way boys like to see two girls get it on in the way Senjougahara explicitly inferred for what Araragi likes), but also it’s just exhibition of Hanekawa when we take a known value that is Senjougahara and put them side by side. It’s character development. But yes, the two girls did talk about the guy, since it is a point of reference as a foil device. Is it Bechdel compliant? Is it problematic that we are thinking it in terms of compliance to Bechdel? I think that is more so the case.


Mayako Nigo, Festival of Winter 2013

Some Idolm@ster info:

From Exciel-P, who rolls his own blog. Basically, it’s a touching story about a man who loves Azusa and then went on to become a legend.

Here’s some fan translation of a guide on how to do the iM@s 8th Anniversary tour. It’s noteworthy because I think it’s a good intro guide to people who have never done nerd concerts in Japan before. At least the big ones. This ain’t how it rolls if you want to attend, say, underground idol lives or CooRie’s shows, lol. What it gracefully and unfortunately leaves out is how to get tickets. Getting tickets is still the most difficult barrier one has to overcome to do such a show, especially for foreigners.

Lastly, some caps from Mayachan’s Big Jump. A bit of background: this past February there was a 2-part concert and during the first show, Mayako Nigo’s first solo act had a tumble and fall. Basically she’s catapulted from the rising stage a little too … fast, let’s just say. While she continued on like a champ barely missing a beat, it was a (somewhat slight) shock for a lot of people watching it. Now I get a shock from watching the concert on home video.

Kick Heart Is Vanilla Kickstarter

I remember there was a charming brute from Kaiba by the name of Vanilla. He’s basically the essence to Kick Heart. It’s about as cheesy as what I told Yuasa when I saw him during AX.

Me: I just want to tell you, you’re a genius!

Yuasa: Oh thank you!

Me: Also I am a backer for Kick Heart. Just wanted to let you know I backed it because of that. [This is a paraphrase because I had to work it out with the interpreter.]

Yuasa: LOL you got good taste!

I’m not sure if it came across right but hey.

"A project like this would not get made otherwise."

It’s the same salty-but-sweet, like saltwater taffy (a NJ special lol) or the general mid-scale cuisine trend of using sea salt on your chocolate/caramel dessert combo, kind of a characterization in Kick Heart. The main character is, really, a tsundere. Except in good o’ Hentai Kamen style, the more he is down, the stronger he gets.

It’s also exactly the kind of project that Kickstarter is best designed for. I don’t mean this in an “indie police” kind of way but in a “this is how businesses do business” kind of way. KH was plug-and-play for the most part–one shot, animated short, primed as theatrical release material, stretches/rewards into DVD/BDs, original and made from scratch, limited funding options, etc. We’re not blazing new trails here, besides that Production IG is a new player and this is anime we’re talking about. Still neither Japan nor its animation are exceptional in this sense. If it fits all the right criteria, it’ll work fine. Especially with a genius animator as the “看板娘.”

Small and sweet Kickstarter yields short and sweet animation. It delivers on the dot. And maybe that’s all that matters.

Plus it’s nice to wake up to an email saying “click here and put in this password to get ten eighty pees, baby” that does not involve penis enlargement spam, or anything illegal.