Category Archives: Last Exile

Year in Review: N-Listing

So, the tradition continues. 12 lists of 12 things. Some are ranked, others are not. One this year is not ranked but merely numerated.

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On Guilt, On Glorifying Needs in Popular Media

And by Popular Media I mean super niche late-night TV anime. Right.

But I do feel kind of guilty of doing:

  • Eating a bento while watching Ben-to.
  • Walking in circles while talking…and in general.
  • During an engaging discussion, suddenly think of OTPs (and the discussion has nothing to do with that topic).
  • Thinking the anime I watch is better than the anime you watch but I don’t watch.
  • Being confused about Horizon.
  • Thinking Haganai is actually funny.
  • Trying to get people to stop using “bokutomo” as a shorthand. This honestly made me feel kind of bad about myself, but please don’t.
  • Thinking Chihayafuru is more titillating than any anime this season. Maybe tied with Guilty Crown, maybe.
    • For that matter, thinking about the poor passengers on the train having to deal with two loud teenagers. Even during those touching-sobbing scenes.
  • Looking at a fanservice-y character’s boobs as the protagonist do the same, at the same time.
  • Being confused about the characterization of Fam.
    • Confusing Fam with Inga.
  • Seeing shows like Persona and Last Exile getting their dues, but not feeling really warmed up to them.
  • Making fun of Fractale.
  • Unfortunately, the list probably doesn’t stop there. What is actually unfortunate about that is I don’t even get a silly crown to go with!

    Do I get it now? Was that bad enough?

    ===

    I was going to talk about the nature of Ben-to and the underlying notion of glorifying those half-priced leftover dinner boxes that can be found in some Japanese supermarkets and convenient stores. But it isn’t something words can fully describe. Rather, I think during the coming-of-age of all healthy middle-class individuals, at some point you will experience something similar in person. And that is the tie that binds us to Ben-to as an intense, personal experience.

    I mentioned it before, but Ben-to is an intense anime. It plays the jokes off intensely, and it is very much reminiscent of Air Master, which too had intense animation with intense jokes that don’t always make sense. (Only if Kanetomo-sensei will make an appearance!)

    I think ultimately that intensity is magnified when the story can establish some kind of visceral connection with the viewer. For example, Initial D was able to do this with aplomb and those who can connect to its autocross and high school romance roots often find the experience rewarding and well-justified the silly animation production (at least in season 1). Ben-to does more or less the same, although it plays the competitive fighting aspect in a way that is probably most similarly described as some kind of pro wrestling thing. But unlike live acting, you can easily suspend your beliefs in an anime!

    Perhaps also unlike pro wrestling, I think Ben-to carries a fundamentally sound and healthy message. Because it is with sincere gratitude that I thank and bless the hands that made my meals every morning and every evening (except mine I guess). This is the origin of giving thanks, regardless if you are Shinto or Catholic. I mean, yeah, food, water and oxygen, right? And I can talk about this because it is the central “joke” to Ben-to. It is almost like a self-suggestive way to hypnotize the way you taste food. And if that means my meals are more delicious and those who feed me are more blessed, why not?

    So, to go back to the title of the post: I think there is something to be said when we create fun and enjoyable popular entertainment that help glorify the way we meet our needs. It’s like learning to cherish your janitor or dishwasher or some other forgotten, lower-class cog in the machine of modern, first-world society. They are a much harder sell than starving African children. They are burdened with political baggage. But they are no different than anyone, if we subscribe to the notion that all man are created equal. It’s easy to fish out all these semi-social/political messages from a show like Ben-to, and I believe that is where a particular sort dialog occurs under the current of popular culture. And sometimes it’s interesting to look into that.


    Anime That Saves Anime

    I think it’s a small exaggeration to say that this season is the season where anime saves anime. By that I mean while as an avid viewer like myself might find, at any given season, a good dose of TV anime that are worth the time watching, it’s rarely the case that I can pick up a show and recommend to the average anime-aware nerd who may even be keen on a few titles of their own. When such a show appears, those rare viewer types perk up to listen for it, and goes to fetch it.

    I suppose part of this thinking came about because I have friends who may have liked certain thing (like Final Fantasy 7, for example) but would have otherwise find the offering slim pickings out of what anime output OTA to the tube in the last 10 years. It’s without any irony that I can offer Fate Zero or Guilty Crown to these guys. Okay, maybe with a sliver of irony.

    The more interesting thing is shows like Hourou Musuko and Madoka Magica were pretty good, to pick something else in 2011, but they are much harder to access by those guys. It’s like the average video game/anime overlapping demographic of over the age of 28 or something tend not to lean in that direction. I am even wondering if Redline falls in that category (or not). But then again, 28 is pretty old for this stuff. The younger crowd would have had a better tolerance for a much more fancier chuunibyou material that didn’t have that backbone Steins;Gate demonstrated, or that sense of lighthearted adventure you can find in anime back in the 90s.

    Is this why Kenichi is getting an OAV?

    There’s just something, an intangible way that it makes you feel, that shows like Guilty Crown gives off. It’s like sinking your teeth into FF7 and spending your first few hours into that landmark game.

    The thing is, despite the mind-blowing fabulousness that is Mawaru Penguindrum, I’m not so sure that even fits. Cute and funny penguins do go a long way to break down that barrier. It’s as if the show just wasn’t written for that oversea audience, though.

    Which is to say, while I am much less critical of the new Last Exile than some, that intangible feel is definitely running thin in the pilot episode. Perhaps it’s just a case of nostalgia being less accurate of what it was, but it would be the first time I find Maaya Sakamoto not the most welcomed vocal in a show. I mean, great song, but it just doesn’t fit the show. That’s not to mention the way how the animation turned out.

    TL;DR: Having boobs is great, but it’s how you use it that makes all the differences.