Interesting vs. Charming Prince


Image credit: @24_mango

So, almost like every other person with access to a movie theater, I’ve become infatuated with Frozen, though you’d more likely to find me humming the “Snowman” song as opposed to the worldwide sensation of “Let It Go.” For those of us living in the US East Coast, the scenery of the movie oh-so accurately reflects what we’ve needed to put up with these past couple of months — that is, piles of snow and bitter, unrelenting freezing winds.

Anyway, if you’ve seen the movie, you know that scene with Hans and Anna in the castle. Yes, ‘that’ scene… I don’t know what happened in your theater, but when that scene happened, there was an audible gasp in the crowd, with one brave soul loudly crying out, “asshole,” not caring that the audience was 2/3 children. I don’t know how many of them have seen the movie before and are still reacting that strongly to that scene… I was, unfortunately, spoiled for it weeks earlier (thanks tumblr!) but I kept hoping that I misunderstood; there was no way that charming Hans could be that much of a douchebag, could he? Continue reading


Free’s Guide on How to be Successful

Step 1: Have a stellar bod that should technically be illegal for a fifteen/sixteen-year old.

Step 2: Have talent, or not. Doesn’t matter.

While I’m not totally serious about step 1, I actually have been thinking a lot on how Free! approaches the idea of talent and hard work. I actually think the whole part about the breakdown and re-establishment of friendship is the subplot — for me, the series is primarily about how this scrappy little swim team, made up of four swimmers of varying skill, will fare against the powerhouse of Samezuka Academy and Rin. I realize this is a “no duh” statement, since Free! does belong to the grand tradition of the sports genre, where it’s essentially expected that the unlikeliest team will be the one gutsy enough to take on the team everyone’s expected to win.

So you have these four guys. Haru’s the strongest, the most naturally-talented swimmer, but he has a bit of an attitude problem and he only chooses to swim freestyle. Makoto’s a good leader, well-liked by everyone, but he’s an average swimmer, if that. Nagisa makes up in enthusiasm what he lacks in height and skill. And Rei, their newest member, didn’t even know how to swim til he joined and can barely do the basics. It should not be a surprise to anyone that they didn’t go far in their individual events, even at the regional level.

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Of Mobile Suits and Alien Bugs: A Starship Troopers Survey

Starship Troopers is one of those “classics” of sci-fi that’s continued to inspire various interpretations ever since its publication in 1959. So far, there’s been three movies, one CGI animated movie, a 6-episode OVA, a cartoon series, a couple of video games, and comics. Not too shabby for a fifty-year old teen novel.

Starship Troopers is the story of Juan “Johnnie” Rico and his experiences as part of the MI, Mobile Infantry, the military’s unit equipped with powered armor suits. Johnnie comes from a pretty well-off family, so joining the military wasn’t part of his parents’ life plan for their only son. But partly because of peer pressure and partly out of a rebellious nature, Johnnie decided to sign up at the military recruitment office with his friend Carl, not knowing how much this spur-of-the-moment decision would change his life.

In the spirit of Sci-Fi November, I decided to read the novel that started it all and see how the movie and Japanese OVA adaptations fare in comparison.

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Yura vs. the C³-bu

stellahtchartThis was one of the two shows which I watched this summer (the other being Free!, to no one’s surprise). The boyfriend suggested this, even knowing that I’m not a Gainax nor Airsoft fan. He thought it was cute and quirky, and possibly something that I’d enjoy. He was correct, I enjoyed it.

If you’ve been keeping up with my reading preferences lately, it should also come as no surprise to you that I felt for Yura. I didn’t think of her as a jerk or a douchebag; she made poor decisions, but is her personality overall screwed up? Nope, absolutely not. In many ways, I’d say that her bad choices were as much as fault of the C³-bu as Yura herself.

Yura enters Stella Academy with the intentions of making a fresh start. It’s hinted from the first episode that things didn’t go too well at her previous school, and Stella is her chance to have her ideal school experience. But within minutes of entering school grounds, Yura already makes her first social faux-pas, and even though most people would probably recover from this incident, for Yura, it’s almost a sign that things aren’t going to go well again.

Let’s be real here: Yura is socially awkward. She doesn’t seem to know how real people, real friends work — hence explaining all her made-up fantasy situations each time she finds herself caught up in a high-stress or high-pleasure situation. It’s easier to dream up of a scenario where’s she’s the heroine of her own life movie rather than face the sad, brutal reality where she’s a nobody, where she’s the girl who isn’t noticed.

Big fat deal, right? Every other lead character in manga or anime is socially awkward. Most of them are friendless and lonely until, one day, they discover that special something in them that makes them the hero. Yes, and for Yura, that special something was Airsoft. It was something brand new for her, and I liked that she wasn’t good at it from the beginning. I liked that Yura had to practice and work hard (mostly) and keep on practicing even after she mastered the basics. Yura may have been an above-average Airsoft player, but she’s no genius, and I like that.

The anime could’ve ended there, but that wouldn’t have been any fun. So, even though we see Yura gain friends and skill through the C³-bu, we also see a darker aspect of what happens to her because of her obsession with the game. Instead of becoming more empathetic to her teammates, the same group of girls who’ve taken her into the fold, Yura fixates on the “me” part of “game.” Yura thinks that if she levels up even higher in their survival games, her status in the group hierarchy would improve; she doesn’t realize, until too late, that the other girls aren’t as focused on the game inasmuch as they are about each other. She’s branded as an asshole because she cares more about winning instead of her friends, and doubly so when she doesn’t think it was such a big deal to worry about her friends since the others would take care of it.

Is her behavior a criticism of the otaku mentality? I’m not referring to anime/manga otaku specifically, but otaku as a catch-all for the fanatical, highly-competitive person in every known hobby or sphere. This is the person who doesn’t care about sniping you in auctions, cutting in front of you in convention lines, yelling out spoilers to a popular tv show/movie in a crowded room,  taunting you for not having the latest gadget, etc. This otaku is the person who’s more obsessed about the things instead of the community that love the things. (Though if I wanted to be accurate and technical about it, a true otaku wouldn’t care about the community anyway.)

Was Yura just a latent otaku and all she needed was the spark of Airsoft survival games to get her going? Maybe. But, as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, Yura’s anti-social behavior (the psychiatric definition; as opposed to prosocial) wasn’t helped by the rest of the club either.

Understandably the C³-bu needed just one more member to remain intact as a club; none of them would’ve realized that their newest member would become such a fanatic when she could barely hold a gun in their first game. The rest of the club sees Yura spiraling into an Airsoft fanatic, but they didn’t call her out until it was too late. They all wanted to play “nice,” but weren’t so nice themselves when it came to ganging up on Yura. They pressured her for days to join the club, and probably so excited to see how fast she excelled in their game, but nobody wanted to take responsibility to tell her when she was starting to get out of line. Isn’t that what true friends would do, isn’t that what we would expect? If you’re my friend, I expect you to call me out on my bullshit and I wouldn’t get upset by it, because I know that you’re doing it for my own good and because what I’m doing is hurting myself and/or other people.

That’s why, out of all of the C³-bu, I like that Rento took the time to go see Yura and talk to her. Rento played a big role in getting Yura into the club, as well as taking the time to making Yura feel like a friend, not just another cog in the survival game machine. As much as Sonora and Yura had a special bond, I think that, without Rento, Yura wouldn’t have wanted to return anymore.

Another Gainax anime completed, and this one wasn’t so bad.

Remembering Love: Kiyomaro, Gash, and Chichi wo Moge

I think when I’m asked to name my favorite anime, I usually come up with a group of titles that I’d think would make me give a good impression to the person who’s asking. So maybe I’ll rattle off Rahxephon, Twelve Kingdoms, Fate/Zero, One Piece… those are solid titles, well-known enough, and firmly establishes my otaku cred.

But I’m not going to write about those anime today. Because the anime that first came to mind when I saw the announcement for this year’s Remembering Love project is Konjiki no Gash Bell.

I was introduced to Gash Bell by my friend/then-roommate T. She told me it was funny and that the little demon kid Gash was cute. Initially, checking out the images for show, I was half-inclined to question her taste. I mean, look at it!? The character designs look rough, and I don’t think Gash was cute. What’s with the crazy eyes?

So, it wasn’t love at first sight. Very few things are.

It took me actually watching the episode and literally laughing my head off to firmly cement this show as one of the titles that I reliably watch and re-watch each time I’m down.

The appeal of Konjiki no Gash Bell primarily had elementary kids in mind, the same kids who would laugh at penises and breasts because they’re funny and you’re supposed to laugh at them at that age. There’s nothing sexual or perverted about Gash. He’s too young to think of penises or boobs that way. He’s a polite little kid who found himself partnered with this sullen teenage boy. The highlights of Gash’s day revolve around playing with Vulcan, his toy made out of a Pretz box, and maybe eating yellowtail.

And oh yeah, he has to battle other demon children in a tournament to become king of the demon world.

In contrast to Gash, his human partner, Kiyomaro is a teenager with an attitude. He’s smart — maybe too smart — and he’s not afraid to call out insanity when he sees it. In a way, he’s almost unfit to play the tournament. He relies too much on logic and sense, and in this game, that’s not necessarily going to give him an edge. What he needed to do was to accept it, learn how to play, and be the best partner that he could be with Gash to win.  Eventually, he and Gash get in sync and start playing well as a team, but when they first start out, their growing pains as a fighting combo made for some of the best comedic moments of any series that I’ve seen.

Kiyomaro and Gash work as a team because they’re the missing parts of each other; Kiyomaro needs Gash’s playfulness and innocence, while Gash needs Kiyomaro’s good sense and discipline. When they’re out of sync, one of two things could happen: it could make for comedic gold (with Gash doing something he thinks is innocuous yet it would make Kiyomaro flip out), or they would get themselves in trouble. I think that’s why I prefer Konjiki no Gash Bell‘s team dynamics a lot more than Pokemon, for instance. Gash is as equal of a partner in their team. He can (and does) disagree with Kiyomaro, he’s not just a fighting animal battling for his master’s fame and honor. In the end, actually, it’s Gash who will benefit when they win, so his stake in the tournament is just as big.

I also can’t end this post without talking about “Chichi wo Moge,” the theme song of Parco Folgore, one of the other masters. If you’re not as weaboo as I am, the title translates to “Groping Breasts.” Yes, a kid’s anime featuring a song that talks about the pleasures of groping breasts. It’s funny because it’s not dirty; it’s innocent and cute and it’s something that you’d expect a six-year to think is the most hilarious thing in the world. For me, on my worst days, I would just play a clip of the song and instantly feel better. It’s just so silly that I can’t stay grumpy for too long.

And that’s why I, even if it’s not the coolest show, still love Konjiki no Gash Bell.