Category Archives: Maoyu Maou Yuusha

Year in Review 2013: N-List

So, the usual.

kirino new years

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Year in Review 2013: The Junior High Second Year Bridge Across Escapism, New World Disorder

When I was watching episode 10 of Yuushibu the thought dawned on me: this is about a new world order. If we take the narrative about the lost generation of Japan to heart, the young adults of Japan has to prime themselves to a new reality where job security is an unicorn and living the life their parents do 40 years earlier is just how things not going to be–until they find the wind beneath their wings. It’s the reality today’s Millennial are dealing with in America, but things are trickier out in Japan.

The big picture view is that Asia, on the whole, are still banging out explosive growths. You can say China may have “landed” but it’s still growing hella fast. India is probably going to get caught up. On the other hand Japan is like the edge of a Red Giant, where fusion go beyond helium and into the heavier elements, eventually crunching back into something more suitable for a dying star. I guess things may go to hell if China and India crash hard enough? I guess that’s kind of a grim analogy.

But that’s exactly how it feels for our protagonists who had to swallow their dreams and go live a part-timer’s life working in a big-box electronics store. And in some ways this is what is truly adult about that sort of a story, it’s not about people living their dreams, doing anything they can. It’s about finding out about yourself as you find a place for yourself in the world. Like a good football defense: bend but not break.

In Hatarake Maousama, the story plays itself out differently but the concept is the same. A fantasy big shot learns to be a great McD assistant manager. But here’s the thing: if you make it as a shift manager at a Wal-mart or Best Buy, you can surely make a decent living? It’s a real salary, although you may have to work a lot of off hours. It’s like Yuusha’s job doing customer service for DoCoMo. I don’t know, but some of these jobs are not entirely terrible.

It’s a much more telling story for All A, I guess.

Here’s exactly the thing. Torn between, say, an inaka narrative, where we always give a lot of face for farmers, doing service jobs or even blue-collar type jobs in today’s cities and suburbs just don’t get the same kind of respect, even if said jobs are often much better and preferred than farming. Or any of the traditional arts of the land–brewing sake for example. Unless you got electron microscopes for eyes? I am not sure what makes the disenchanted feel better. However as far as head tricks go, you can do worse than Yuushibu and Hatarake Maousama. You can do worse than Kyon in Haruhi or Goto in Samumenco. You can do worse, only because it’s like everybody is doing it. Log Horizon? Outbreak Company? LOL Maoyu?? Maybe this is me looking like a hammer because everything seems to fit like a nail, but in 2013 everything looks like it.

All of this just goes and point out Yet Another Reason Why SAO is problematic. It’s the difference between a new world and an old one: it’s a world where the meek conquers the strong as lion rest next to the lamb. As far as fantasies go, it’s a classic, and herbivores sure eat it up. And this is also why nobody is procreating; it’s some new world order. (Versus just jamming it in as if you haven’t done it for two years. Virtually.)

And of course, unless you’ve seen Yuushibu up to episode 10, you might not know what I’m even talking about. Let’s just frame it real-quick-like–domesticated devil queen heiress decides to apply big box retail to the demonic world in a stereotypical fantasy hero-versus-maou setting, people think she’s a fool, but the idea comes across brilliantly.

Makio

And this is why Love Lab is one hella good anime that y’all should watch.

Year in Review 2013 Index:


Maoyu’s Dangerous Fantasy, Or I Want a Story About Coffee Next

A recent Gizmodo story about the first webcam kind of put the final spin on this Maoyu post. Supposedly the first webcam invented (I guess this is subject to some controversy) was made for the purpose to monitor a coffee machine, to see if it runs out before some U of Cambridge guys head to the kitchen. It’s a humorous story, but I think this is not the first time that I heard the dark beans driving technological progress.

Coffee has a hand in a much bigger event–the Renaissance. I suppose this is why Italians still set the standard for this cursed but magical drink (and its derivatives)? But it’s commonly thought that it was no coincidence that Europe’s caffeine intake went up as people switched from drinking stouts and ale to coffee, in correlation with the historic outpouring of cultural and scientific development of Europe in the 15th and 16th century. [Read more here, but it’s still just speculation.]

At the same time, coffee is one of those trade crops that can only be grown in the tropical zones. It’s a part of the economic motivator driving colonialism in the, well, age of colonialism. In some ways, today’s global coffee trade is not all that different than the patterns that were beginning from the 17th and 18th century.

Compare that with Maoyu’s super crop: Potato.

[Or for bonus points, LOL, Hyper Oats. And I’m not even fully joking.]

From Sakuracon 2013

In a lot of ways that’s where the magic happens in Maoyu. Simple but fundamentally revolutionary technological advances in agriculture can transform a world, bottom up. Actually the whole bottom-up approach to change is almost heart-warming to see. People no longer starve to death, and can thus spend more time engaging in education, civics, arts and trade. It’s the key formula to prosperity and the starting point of today’s socio-economic baseline.

How Maoyu paints this pretty image is done with a lot of magic, in the literal sense. Maybe that’s well and good. The cover that Maoyu’s magic flies under is that traditional sword and sorcery don’t cure societal ills–those things give a man a fish, but don’t teach him how to fish. The transformation of worlds in Maoyu gets a barometric representation in the life of the Big Sister Maid, who had to start learning from the point that she doesn’t know that she doesn’t know. It’s a convenient way to show us what society needs next.

This is where I kind of wish the story takes a turn and Maid Ane gets romantically hitched or something, in order to illustrate how complicated the sort of socio-economic changes just the Southern Kingdom has to go through to get to where it is at the end of the TV series.

I say this because in a lot of ways, from hindsight, Maoyu is too fantastic. It’s as smooth as the illusion of solutionism but framed in the fantasy of a nonexistent history. Of course it makes sense and everything works–because it’s built from the ground up by reverse engineering popular nerd hypotheticals. That is partly why I think Maoyu is brilliant otaku entertainment.  But mankind’s history is not some neat and bootstrapped magical adventure. Watching Maoyu do the magic pill to solve the problem of “third worlds” feels like it simply fails to tackle all the hard issues, and instead only go for the things nerds are comfortable in talking about.

It’s the things like how open-minded other educated elites in the human worlds are, or that the winter king (and his son) happens to be “good guys.” Or how the role of churches in Maoyu is barely a shadow of the role of churches in Europe during the 12th to 18th century. It’s all just too convenient.

My biggest pet peeve in this game is racism. I actually don’t blame Maoyu for basically sidestepping this issue, because I don’t really expect Japan to be able to handle it at any level of competence. What gets me is how people who actually think racism is a theme in the story. I mean, sure, it kind of is, but they never really deal with it. If there’s anything to take away from Maoyu about racism, is that it’s kind of the awkward, invisible gorilla in the room.

Anyway, being the solutionist nerd that I am, I quite enjoyed Maoyu. It’s definitely a feel-good piece. At the same time I feel it’s exactly the comfortable trap that too many people don’t realize that it can be. Maoyu is a fantasy in a post-modern sense, in every way. I just hope those who enjoy the show know that it’s all an illusion. You can’t have a story about potato revolutionizing the world without a great potato blight (and that’s your Psycho-Pass quiz answer). Just like how you can’t have a story about coffee changing the face of the world forever without talking about colonialism or fair trade or any of the subsequent issues. Until magic can turn villains into heroes, Maoyu’s application to reality is largely novel and questionably practical, much like how the Demon King … stopped being one.

Chief Maid is awesome!

PS. When I saw this scene in Maoyu 11, I felt like the two kids at the end of every Space Bros episode: Kakkoiiiii!


Winter 2013 on Short Attention Spans

Maybe it’s because there’s almost a dozen short form anime this season that is getting unrivaled amount of attention, but there are not too many things keeping my attention, speaking purely from an anime perspective. Here are a few things that I’ve been gnawing on mentally. Bullet-bolded style?

I really enjoy Maoyu, but somehow it falls short of compelling. I guess it wouldn’t be right to say it is not compelling, as after each episode I wish I had the next one queued up ready to go. To me this is the #1 healing anime this season, partly because it models this really romantic take on a couple whose lives are driven by what they do, not by the romance between them. It is illustrated best by Maou’s hug pillow, both in a literal way but in a way where you actually see what’s going on. In my own experience interacting with people like this, it’s not always obvious. It’s kind of how two working couples can stand their time apart but really treasure when they are together, and the hug pillow is a short hand for that togetherness. It is also some other things, but Maoyu can speak to that itself. I also love how it’s just straightforward, unabashed plot and setting crap 80% of the time.

However it’s not compelling in a way where the Zettai Karen Children spinoff is–that’s just some solid anime. If there’s a quotient for “anime-ness” in anime, this show is full of it. The direction is competent and the plot, while somewhat veering into the path of way-too-familiar, stands enough between the ZKC references and that the setting does have some meat to it. It’s a great primer for people who want to engage the franchise and story without their skeevy-radar go off too much. Not that is a real problem for me anyway. It’s one of those rarely-sung title that somehow pops up on my to-do list every time a new episode comes out, and I make the time to watch it as soon as I reasonably can. For the record, I watched all of 2 episodes of the original Zettai Karen Children.

The Infernal Cop skit where they’re shooting underwater is still the best.

Is it me or Osaka Mama is actually a really serious moe anime? I mean it is serious about moe, not that it is serious.

Magi on CR seems uncensored. Magi on TV, maybe not?

There is no fog layer

That’s some choice words, Alibaba, for your animator-gods. That got me wondering–if we were to treat Crunchyroll (and by extension TN and FUNi) as channels of their own rights, shouldn’t fansubbers actually care more about raw sources? A Girls und Panzer with and without Katyusha is a world of differences. The broadcast’s calls impact these things, things that can drastically impact the viewing experience  (besides givens like the translation).

Cancer watch: I mean, is there some kind of cancer that is killing anime this season? Vividred Operation? Oh hey. I think if people actually cared about “moe cancer” they would’ve long figured out that it’s just the same handful of people making all this stuff they’re supposedly peeved about.

I thought Sasami-san episode 4 was wonderful, as usual. But I have no words for it this time because there wasn’t any room to talk about it outside the meta. Unless you got a creation tale or some legendary myths about Amaterasu’s body splitting into two or something. You would think given enough time, Shinbo’s work might actually approach that FLCL-esqe sensibility where it only makes sense because you’ve seen the anime in this exact way. This might be the closest he has gotten to that, yet. I mean, it made sense, right? I think another reason why I had little to say about Sasami-san episode 4 was because it is full of fanservice.

Anko mochi is the sweetest. And by sweetest I don’t necessarily mean taste. Tamako Market made sure of that, although in the end it may still sell short of its universal status as the default combination between mochi and filling.

Confession: I was never a Yukarin fan. Outside of Galaxy Angel I just never had anything to latch on. Her solo performer act is a spectacle but for me it was more relatable as an incubator of wotagei moves and an area of study of 2.5D culture than the content. I was still impressed at her moves in Oreshura though. As for Oreshura, unfortunately besides the Jojo references and how the girls may be cute, I’m not sure what else it has going for it. Oh, right, I love the color designs in the OP and ED.

It’s just the me who wants to play Ni no Kuni talking. He knows there’s no way I can watch all this anime and finish the game before 2014. The other me says that Kurousagi deserves my time every week. I’m inclined to agree. It’s not just that she’s a, well, bunny girl in the purest sense. She also is a very alpha-female kind of character that fanfictions would ship for protagonists and self-inserts. I mean, perhaps, if SAO had her instead of Asuna, I might have actually finished watching it. Maybe that’s it–I like girls who are treated like guys by the story (as opposed to the narrative)? I would ice her any day (speaking of games).

It’s kind of like, when people compare Maoyu with Spice & Wolf, I would say, “Horo would’ve eaten the two serfs.” I am kind of glad I skipped on Dog Days completely to go to that camp with Mondaiji. Maybe it is for the best.

Vividred Operation: Vivid Green is Miku, Vivid Blue is Kos-Mos, and Vivid Yellow is Mami (with a hint of Saber). I think that is really cool and I am almost shocked, after the fact, that it took this long for an anime to pull it together.

And that’s the end of my blogging attentions span. Maybe playing long, grinding JRPGs help to grow that. Somehow I doubt it.

PS. I’ve got to stop reading Peter King on Mondays. With the American foosball season over, maybe I will.


Bookcover Scratchpad #1 Winter 2013

Two very important things that shouldn't be missing

 

Just to keep track what I watched:

Maoyu – The only new anime that piqued my interest that I wasn’t already interested in. I think it has more to do with the presentation than anything at this point, but let it be said that when it comes to animation, getting the presentation right is perhaps the best thing you can do in the first episode. The future is dicey because I think there’s some kind of genre warfare going on. I smell a post.

Love Live – Totally lukewarm. Might be because I haven’t really watched the live shows much. Approaching 2.5D is tricky, I guess. It’s one of those cases when we break Love Live down by element, it checks all my boxes but the finished product doesn’t do anything for me. But because it checks all my boxes and does nothing for me, it intrigues me in some weird way. Maybe I should just watch some live shows first.

Senyu – P. alright. Yamakan notwithstanding. I think there was something about short anime said by some people that is slowly becoming a thing. I guess this is why I am still planning to finish Poyo and Wooser. And Kuromajo-san ga Toru. And maybe Yurumates. LOL.

Mangirls – I think I got over the language joke in the first 5 minutes of seeing this title. Sadly that was funnier than anything in the show. But it’s short, I don’t think it hurts to follow.

Yama no Suzume – The Encouragement of Engrish is pretty strong with this one too but it presents a slightly more otaku-friendly atmosphere.

Amnesia – It could be worse. I guess I’m about as interested in it as I was with Hakuouki. Which is to say…well, the OP/ED were nice. To recap a conversation I had elsewhere, the whole otomege adaptation genre is still developing, so expect mediocrity for some time. It would help to have a good otome game first.

Oreshura – It’s a good example of how this “genre” evolved to be slightly more interesting on each subsequent iteration. At the very least there are some meat on this dry bone, versus shows like Oniai. But maybe some people prefer that instead?

Ai Mai Mi – Not Strawberry Eggs. I think I prefer Tekyuu slightly more.

Da Capo III – Well, really no opinion at this point. Besides that, man, Ms. Charles “Ruru-nee” Yoshino sure is…Ruru-nee-esqe.

THE UNLIMITED Hyoubu Kyousuke – It’s fun, but I can see if you go into this show expecting something else,  you might not like it. Me?  I had nothing against Zettai Karen Children, but I dropped that for a reason. So when I started Hyoubu Kyousuke I was expecting something a lot worse, and didn’t get it. It’s certainly more fitting of its Manglobe association.

Osaka-Okan – See above comments about short anime that I would watch but haven’t. Actually this one might be the one to beat in 2013 winter. And still wondering why the Osaka native is not voicing the Osaka immigrant and we’re left to see Asumiss trying her hand at something lols.

Bakumatsu Gijinden Roman – Bakumatsu Lupin is wholesome fun, but unless it does something interesting soon it’ll get tiring real quick. I don’t know, I’m not usually big on era pieces.

Ishida & Asakura – Ha. Well, it wasn’t really funny. It also reminds me that I didn’t ever get around to finish Cromartie (what is this with short anime and I), to its credit.

Minami-ke Tadaima – I remember why I stopped watching this show. Not bad though.

Tamako Market – It’s cute and fuwafuwa and made of gohan. There is no curry. The bird is really the one redeeming feature to this show–he’s like the lotus filling to some mad expensive wagashi. This anime is bleeding sakuga kyun-ness. Well, it’s an original, and I’m weak against originals. Not expecting much but I’m sure at the worst it will be overindulging. At best, Dera might rival the legend that began in the 12th century…

Sasami-san@ganbaranai – Probably my most anticipated anime of the season. Probably my favorite. It’s all too early to say, but in traditional Shinbo style he checks all my fetishes boxes. Only problem is that all I hear is 765pro Shacho voice every time Onii-chan speaks.

GJ-bu – You know what? It’s okay. But I can’t imagine you’ll miss out on much if you didn’t bother. I don’t know if I will bother.

Kotoura-san – The emotional whiplash aside, it makes a strong statement. I can argue with how it did things but at this point I’ll just enjoy the light-hearted comedy.

Vividred Operation – Too bad this isn’t SUNRISE making an anime that gives SUNRISE a new meaning. Also, best magical pet concept yet.

Mondaiji tachi ga Isekai kara Kuru soudesuyo – Also known as “Problem Children are Coming from Another World, aren’t they?” I uh… let’s just call it Mondaiji. It’s okay, I guess. Maybe it’s because of the bunnies, but I find myself liking the show more when I’m not watching it. Which means I might not bother with it either.

PuchiM@S – I’ll probably marathon this, but sufficed to say it’s exactly the kind of crap anime for sad folks like me.

I will surely try the other stuff, too, like 2GD2GT. Except maybe AKB0048.

PS. I pseudo-dropped Koichoco half way in. I ought to finish it.