Category Archives: Bakemonogatari

Nisemonogatari Is All Fanservice, All the Time

Back in the day when I served Google ads on my own blog hosted elsewhere I wrote about the nature of pornography and at some point Google flagged me. Probably because there’s bots for those things. But if you read my posts from back then, I don’t do anything that the word implies on my writing here.

The same can be said of Nisioisin’s animated Nonexistent Youths in Nisemonogatari. Actually we should be talking about Bakemonogatari, because that show is also similar in that there’s all this porn. Maybe not all the time like Nise, but Bake has several moments where I have to wring my brow and consider what I was truly watching.

Unlike people who shy away from the source material, Nisioisin’s treatment of his characters is key to understanding what actually is going on in Bake and Nise from the perspective of the anime adaptation. Granted, all I had was a few books translated into English, but Nisio Isin is pretty much writing like the database animal was living on his sleeves. JP mentions that so far the scenarios and set pieces in Nise are all like what you would find in a doujinshi for Nise, and it’s painfully obvious once we reduce the scenes to what they really are. What you all should know is Nisioisin’s works are all like this, or at least every one that I have looked into. I think the naming scheme he has adopted for the whatever-monogatari stories says as much about the interchangable, mash-up set pieces of his works.

By focusing the plot on these well-understood scenarios, it allows the director to do whatever the hell he wants in the mean time. That allows the story to highlight these quirky characters that live like pixel-perfect, graphed conical equations sharply focuses on the stress points that these well-curated tropes–the word trope seems woefully inadequate here–and their intended effects. It is the difference between showing you a picture of a snake and showing you the word “snake” instead, but both the image and the word behave the same. It’s like, who cares about what the snake is actually? You know what it signifies and you know how it is in your mind, you just want to get to the money shot (which in this case, for readers of Nisioisin, the animated versions of their favorite things).

Oh wait, that’s an actual SHAFT trick isn’t it?

[Next up: SHAFT draws a shark and writes SAME a hundred times in a cut in the same episode.]

When Nadeko went full-frontal in Bake I was pretty uncomfortable. I understood all the stuff that was going on (perhaps too well). But when Shinobu enjoyed her bath with Koyomi I was nowhere nearly as queasy. I think I was suppose to react to it not unlike the way he harassed Hachikuchi. Am I suppose to react to it the same way when Kanbaru got naked and wrestled Araragi? Or when Nadeko tried to seduced the same? What does that say about Karen and Tsukihi?

Well, I don’t really think how we reacted to those things are important. It’s more important to note that we reacted to those things, and not to the fact that 4 episodes in we have barely started on the arc’s main story. To me it says nobody really cares exactly what those plot events are like (unless it accumulates into some awesome fight scene that SHAFT couldn’t animate in time), but we want to see Senjougahara tilt her head or Nadeko play Twister. So here we are, full of it in Nise. That is fanservice. And if you watched Nise episodes 1-4, every episode is full of fanservice, from start to finish. It’s by far the most fanservice-y thing on the air right now.

So when we talk about the discomfort some felt when Shinbo revisits one of his favorite subjects–the aged loli vampire–we have to take that into perspective. Is fanservice expected in a fanservice show? Is this fanservice somehow different than other fanservice? By what measuring sticks are you relying to make that distinction? Is that stick one that retracts or extend upon arousal? Do we even want to know? Can we couch our hard-ons with some, well, context? I really don’t want to go and read people’s valid objections and come away with “man these people are prudes and hypocrites.” Because that’s not who you really are.

I suppose there’s always a lack of dutch angle porn on the internet, and SHAFT works hard to remedy this.

Pimping for Haikasoru, Talking about Butt-Kicking Girls, Talking Trash on Moe

Japan loves their badass chicks. Kuudere or tsundere or just a pretty face with a good head on her shoulders, there are all types and it comes in all forms and shapes and sizes. Even if they tend to be small and yet larger than life.

So I decide to spin this essay topic out in to a blog post, partly because I don’t feel ethically 100% about applying for a freebie (dudes Viz send Jtor some review copies?), but also because I am going over 200 words. (Plus I am going to buy a copy of Mardock Scramble anyways.)

The immediate thought that came to mind is how these girl protagonists run the gamut from cardboard pinup to full-blown mind-virus that consumes the audience. It’s like Satoshi Kon’s Chiyoko, the Millennium actress herself. It’s that feeling of wonder and adoration and moe a person has with his or her idol. She is gender unspecific in a way that she both is adored but she is also a force of nature, a perfected understanding of womanhood, the ideal that is somehow also mono no aware. You can empathize with her, and you admire her because she is your better and she makes you aspire. These things are universal, not limited to a heterosexual orientation.

Chiyoko is probably simply a polished version of another SF heroine, a personal favorite: Priss literally fights with tooth and nail against the things holding her back. But more like a punk rocker than someone driven by universal love, her rebellion is one that highlights human hypocrisy and failing rather than to extol some virtue universal. To me she’s timeless, having survived the 80s, 90s and the 00s. She puts on an act, as in her music gig, but it’s just an extension of her persona.

Which is to say that is yet entirely different than, say, Harmony’s instigators, who are more victims and pawns than human beings capable of their own wills, or are they even such things to begin with? Like puppets in a puppet show, I think that is quite all right. The storyteller has a story to tell, and I paid the admission fee expecting that.

Yet different still is Ibis, who is more robot than a girl, and I mean it in gender terms. The funny thing here is exactly how Ibis (and more pertinently, Ibis’ AI friends) are of originally fancies of otaku. It is through their masters’ drive to fulfilling their wishes that they were born. (As to what I mean by this you can load up a video of Dead or Alive Beach Volleyball for an example.) They bear the shapes of the fancies and fantasies of their masters, even to their personality and desire for non-conflict (although at that point we’re talking about something more Asimov-ish, rather than late night anime or galge). Somewhere between the space, lack of a better term, from the words and ink on a page to the abstraction in the mind of the reader, we’ve inflated these simple ideas like balloons, and injected feelings as if we perceive these characters as some kind of, well, girl, or whatever. Helium or Xenon or what have you, whatever floats your pickles.

Which is still to say that there are a group of people out there, you know, that seek this feminine protagonist, that these protagonists may kick butt in more ways than one, and that is that. And that is the moe problem in a nutshell. It isn’t that these cardboard-cutout characters are deep, insightful, and reflective of the human condition, but their collective existence upon the mind of the otaku social consciousness is notable and profound. They are art imitating life imitating art, except there is no master storyteller here; there are just tens of thousands of storytellers, each seeing the scene with his or her own eyes, each telling his or her own story. It’s a metaversial harem.

Thankfully when we have few substitute for words when it comes to written prose, rather than a flash of a pair of panties or a longing look back with her long blond mane flowing in the wind, pondering about that Distant Avalon that never comes, but kinda should have already given how much money they’ve made on PVC alone. Such simple but indestructible barrier to human communication safeguards, to some extent, the ever-cheapening nature of the database animal. In as much as you can write a book about these 2D cardboard cutouts, it still stands with more dignity than an anime of the same put together. After all, a picture of a butt-kicking girl is not the same as the words “butt-kicking girl.”

[As an aside, I more or less kept my resolution in 2010 about talking about moe. I ought to continue, but it feels right to use the term here. You will have to forgive me.]