More Things Change

The more they stay the same, right? I read this and I’m like, so Nadesico is not really all that different than anime today, except:

  1. It’s still a breath of fresh air because if anything, liberal narratives are a lot harder to find in the lost generational gap.
  2. It’s a good benchmark from another era.

From a story construction and character development point of view, Nadesico’s formula is no different than most anime of its ilk today. We are still copying Ayanami Rei [Eva 4 notwithstanding]. We still have single-character eps. I daresay if anything we’ve came a long way since Nadesico. There’s more slick and style to how character intros and introspections are done today. Even just this season I can think of a couple oustanding examples, such as the really straight-faced showa comedies this season or even the make-an-eroge show.

I call them the Neru Twins

Come to think of it, Utaware False Mask is really just a 90s anime fully rebooted into 2010 sensibilities.

The “deconstruction” aspect in Nadesico is arguably its strongest suit, so I don’t know what the guy who wrote that OUSA article a few years ago was smoking at the time. I mean let’s not forget the shadow Eva TV casted in its wake, for easily 10+ years…

Let me take this time to write more about my favorite anime of all time a bit, like how Nadesico has a clearly anti-right lean. This was 1996. In 2016 we are having our 2nd cour of GATE already, which is as right-leaning as anime probably gets these days, and for some time? I can’t think of something even more right. Paving the way up to this point are things like Strike Witches, Arpeggio, the MuvLuv franchise, and even Girls und Panzer. It’s not to color the military aspect of anime fandom as one thing or another but times like this it makes you wonder what sort of stories are told in those series.

Oh, and we cannot forget the various Yamato reboots after all! So very instrumental to Nadesico’s narrative.

[And since I already mentioned the 3-letter-word earlier, consider Evangelion’s treatment on militarism and otaku who fancy that.]

And it wouldn’t be fair, too, to not include the other side of the coin, the SAOs or the Mahoukas of anime world. I mean there’s some pretty outrageous material thematically and in terms of what sort of philosophy they perpetrate. Those shows are the jokes in Nadesico. In 2016 they are actually being taken seriously.

Too bad they’re not outrageous enough. I guess we still have things like Library Wars or Shimoseka, but those are not the kind of show that gets traction. Maybe this is why Vividred didn’t get as much love? I don’t know. Playing for the Magical Girls audience is like playing for the mainstream audience–it doesn’t really pay you back.

I guess it’s like what Akatsuki said to Akito about watching anime for diversity, versus the nature of the Jovian’s single-mindedness. There’s some middle ground here. Like Osomatsu-san, is this why that show is so popular? I don’t know.

7 Responses to “More Things Change”

  • NegativeZero

    “I can’t think of something even more right”

    Kantai Collection? Doesn’t get much more right in Japan than WW2 revisionism and glorification of the Imperial Japanese Navy.

    I always wonder if I should go back and give Nadesico another go. It was one of the first shows available in English here in the wake of Evangelion and got hyped up as being ‘better’ so went in pretty fresh to the medium with high expectations and didn’t really get it. Suspect I’d enjoy it a lot more now.

    • omo

      I watched 4 episodes or so of it and it didn’t strike me as bad as GATE. Maybe it is in that it glorified actual WW2 aggressors? Didn’t get to those parts yet.

    • NegativeZero

      To its detriment IMO, the KanColle anime followed the major naval conflicts of the Pacific war fairly closely. If you paid attention to the characters involved then the first episode contains a re-creation of the attack on Pearl Harbor, and then they moved into recreations of Wake Island, taking over the Solomons, the Doolittle raid and the Coral Sea. The series ends with a revised version of Midway where Japan turns the tide of history and completely crushes the can’t-believe-it’s-not-the-US fleet after unexpected reinforcements turn up.

      Amusingly the game itself had shifted away from the implied Japan vs Allies narrative by the time the anime happened and this year they’re adding US shipgirls to the game.

    • omo

      I understand they were using historic battles as the plot devices, but giving it the benefit of doubt in terms of swapping names as with events and actual warships, it didn’t seem to press on the points of the battle as much as using them to drive character development.

      Yeah I am aware of the Iowa’s nod in Kancolle, guess we’ll see how that happens.

  • jpmeyer

    I think a lot of people get disappointed with the ~DECONSTRUCTION~ in Nadesico because I think in general people that want to see that stuff want to see it in a super obvious, ham-handed way, like haha, they made fun of this super boring annoying cliche that I see a million times rather than something like how Gai’s death isn’t really a “twist” since it’s actually an homage to Roy’s death in Macross (note: this kind of stuff is why I loooooooved Scream.) Think stuff like how people squeal about how Madoka is a ~DECONSTRUCTION~ because their conception of magical girl shows begins and ends with Sailor Moon so anything different from that sticks out.

    As much as I like Muv-Luv, Total Eclipse is one of the most racist shows I’ve ever seen. If there’s a Mount Rushmore of racist anime, it’s up on there along with Angel Cop, Momotaro’s Divine Sea Warriors, and promising upstart Terra Formars. So that’s way up there when it comes to right wing stuff.

    The thing that will always make me laugh with KanColle is that it should be offensive as hell, but it’s gotten so abstracted from the source material. I like to joke that you could take the character designs and clone them indefinitely for any and all concepts that you want to personify, so yeah your waifu personifies some ship where everyone on it was executed for war crimes because they machinegunned down the lifeboats from a hospital ship or something, but there’s no actual link to this waifu and that historical actuality. Someone could just as easily claim that it’s also a personification of uh, anarcho-syndacalism (“Well you see, she has black hair and uh, there’s a red stripe on her skirt yeah that’s it)”) or something based on post hoc interpretations. I remember reading the wikipedia article once and it tried to rationalize this with stuff like “breast size is supposed to correlate with displacement (except for all the times when it doesn’t)”.

    I’ve always wished I could see Konpeki no Kantai because that’s got the most out-there WWII wish fulfillment of all, like “let’s take all the ‘good’ stuff from the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere without any of the bad, then beat America because our pride requires it, but then ally with America afterwards because they were really the good guys in that war, then beat Germany because they were the bad guys in that war.” That’s a 90s show though.

    As I’ve mentioned a few times, my favorite “Why didn’t I notice this before?” weird politics is the unexamined yellow fever/white blood disease in Infinite Stratos. I feel like almost every time when there’s sci-fi settings in anime everyone is either Japanese (like Nadesico) or an indeterminate sci-fi nationality (think most Gundams), so here it was funny because everyone explicitly represents nationalities, and THE ONE GUY is Japanese while most of the girls are white.

    Oh wait, OF COURSE the worst anime subtext ever is Cross Ange’s subtext of: “women ruin everything (even the most bestest perfectest woman alive will still ruin everything) so they need to be raped into submission”.

    • omo

      At least in Cross Ange the subtext is somewhat addressed by the fact of what happens in it.

      I concur with Total Ecliipse (and to some extent Schwarzesmarken), except I don’t know how much I buy the racist=conservative thing. It’s probably too progressive to hold that against Japan because it goes beyond politics.

      I don’t know how much analysis of IS holds water when it comes to the nationalities of its heroines because… well. It would be interesting to see someone attempt it though.

      Maybe with Iowa finally blowing up on the nets someone might write something.

  • Sarapen

    Zipang was about a modern Japanese warship being sent to WW2, wasn’t it? I never watched it but I always got the impression that it leaned rather rightward. Also there’s High School of the Dead, the author of which I understand got into trouble for his rightist views.

    Regarding left-leaning anime, Night Raid 1931 specifically addresses Japanese militarism. It would be a good example if it weren’t for the fact that the show is boring. It’s about spies in 1930’s Shanghai fighting a shadow war with supernatural powers, how do you make this boring? And yet that anime did it.

    I just tried googling “left-wing anime” and didn’t really get anything. Now, if I’d been looking for left wing manga I would have been a lot more successful. I would venture that the nature of the anime industry (its relations of production, as it were) are such that the money men who have the final say in what gets greenlit are unlikely to approve of anime that specifically criticizes them as a social class. Manga can be more politically out there because there are less structural constraints on the artist, but anime cost more to make, which means that the people providing the money exert more influence on the final product.

    Or not. I could just be talking out of my ass here. Although we could compare anime to video games and point out that there are also no leftist JRPGs.

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