Category Archives: Haifuri

The Meta Game: 2017 Spring Edition

It’s sort of well-understood that otaku TV anime play to the meta. By this I mean it’s about defining, deconstruction, reconstruction, spins, and swapping of existing/known genres and archetypes. It’s a continuous cycle of creation where frameworks that are successful are reused with modification to create something similar but new. New ideas that work often gets grafted into other existing frameworks for added effect. Things also don’t always work out as intended.

What’s interesting about this season’s meta (like a new expansion of M:TG or Shadowverse, as the comparisons may be) is that there are more attempts at misleading or misdirection by giving off generic vibes than not. Last season I think the biggest “gotcha” was in Fuuka, but the most successful misdirection was Kemono Friends, where the audience were treated to this borderline “so bad it’s good” CG animation as a means to help us engage the right part of our collective consciousness in order to parse the surprisingly sincere and nuanced story. Two seasons ago the well-received buttocks anime, Keijo!!!!!!!!, also has this sort of a play to it where viewers go in expecting one thing, but got something quite different. Even original anime projects like Haifuri played this trick via marketing, and it’s unclear to me if it actually fooled anyone. The oft-panned Mahouiku is sort of the victim of not reading the meta correctly, which was using this baited setup to provide a very traditional story, ultimately kind of disappointing the audience. I think this season we will see a few others play out this way as more shows pick up on the meta.

To clarify and disclaim, by “misdirect” I don’t want to imply that there was some kind of intent behind the process. It may be intended or it may not. There are some cases in which the marketing material or the production style was done to give people contrasting expectations, but some cases are not. I think Kemono Friends is a good example where there isn’t an intent to do quite that. Sure, media mix projects often do employ marketing to manage our expectations and solicit interest to a degree, but I want to highlight the shows in which these things get into the “art” of it, as it were, enough that you want to sideboard your deck against the meta, as the analogy goes.

Year in Review 2016: N-listing

I’m putting this out first because the other post can stand by itself, introspection or not. Hey, it’s not March yet.

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Distance On the High Seas

Such paint

It’s a good point.

At the same time, it’s also a failure as a “Cute Girls Doing Cute Thing” show, in that there’s not enough levity or enthusiasm to make this “K-On! on Boats” for example. Not being much of a fan of “Cute Girls Doing Cute Things” shows to begin with, perhaps I’m not the best judge in this respect, but the constant reminder of the pseudo-serious issues at play sort of kept me from feeling as if the characters enjoyed what they were doing.

This all changed with episode 10, a straight-up filler episode dedicated to an equator-crossing festival. Nothing of much consequence happened during the course of the episode, but the important part is pretty much every character had a good time. It’s tautological, but in order for a “Cute Girls Doing Cute Things” show to succeed, it needs (a) cute girls who (b) do cute things. Regardless of how you feel about Haifuri’s success or lack thereof with regard to the first point, I think you have to agree it wasn’t doing too hot on the second part.

I think there’s a fundamental difference in the way people appreciate “Cute Girls Doing Cute Things” sort of stories, based on my own observation (warning: anecdote). One way is summed as “I enjoy happy people by observing and sharing in their happiness.” Alternatively, it’s more like “I enjoy watching people doing what they do.”

To that end, I disagree with Evirus completely on the point about Haifuri lacking levity or enthusiasm. It’s pretty much on par with Girls und Panzer, except in that story there is the levity of an afterschool activity, and not a life-and-death activity (save certain plot points later on). There is the attitude of students participating in an after-school club. In Haifuri, these kids, well, are doing actual school. Some people take their extracurricular activities seriously, but others do the opposite–the average is somewhere in between. It is not the case when it comes to what we are suppose to do in school, where our collectively-institutionalized souls feel the weight of coursework in the girls’ high sea adventures as assumed as Blumers-in-training.

In that sense Evirus is right on in terms of the core difference; one is about tea and pet turtles, the other is a class that lasts all season long. It actually sounds daunting.

However I think the other school of thought, which is to say, we have a bunch of high school girls acting out the fantasy of some military otaku, as they operate some older-than-your-grandma warships while shooting huge ordinances. (Nerd fantasies always have large ordinances, right?) The routine and spectacle aspects of the concept of girls-on-warships are collectively taken into the character’s weekly activities. In that sense it’s no different than K-ON or Bakuon or whatever-on-whatever-else. The Cute Girls are merely a vehicle. [Is there a meta genre of plot vehicle made up of meta of actual vehicles, kind of like Mad Max where the automobiles are actually driving the plot points?] The thematic points Haifuri drove through the latter half of the series are blow-by-blow by the book, as the matsuri episode sort of marks its climax as a CGDCT narrative. It never wanted to be K-ON, but a story about juxtaposing two contrary things while catering to the Admirals and military nerds out there. The unnatural circumstances are part of what is enjoyable, along with all that tension (as part of the unnatural circumstances).

I mean, ever wonder why there is no token otaku on the Harukaze? And why were there all these yakuza film impersonation going on? Because Haifuri is not about girls on a boat; it’s about girls in a war film. The conceit is precisely about silly young women acting out a story typically reserved for craggy older men as sailors. I guess in such a setup they could playfully make fun of equally troped yakuza flicks. It just wouldn’t work if Mii-chan and Koro-chan were the same actors as the films they portrayed.

Is this why the Fleet Admiral is a fat cat? Or why the girls get nicknames reserved for cats, too? I have no idea. But was Koro-chan funny? Yeah? Guess what.

Maybe it’s a mistake to say Haifuri is CGDCT, because it’s Cute Girls Re-Enacting a WWII Flick, which is actually a comical thing to do, not per se a cute thing. I think that’s kind of cute, but if it fails to make you laugh then the problem is wholly elsewhere. Maybe they were all just Re-enacting the movie Battleship, which would describe the sweet-sour reactions some may have with Haifuri.

PS. Things on the high seas happen both very slowly and all at once. There’s a great deal of lag between some events in Haifuri and they really didn’t exploit those opportunities for the more mundane things. I thought that was the one aspect they could’ve played out more, but I guess not if they want to mimic a more movie-like experience.