Female Power/Portrayal in Gargantia’s Dystopia

There’s been plenty of visual eyecandy in each episode so far, but the visual gimmicks that I love the most in Suisei no Gargantia are the sunburned cheeks and shoulders.  It’s such a small detail, but it makes so much sense; Amy is a courier, running and flying around, while Bellows works on salvaging machinery from the ocean floor. They’re out and about, so yes, they would be tanned and sunburned.

Other than a “throwaway” incident in episode 2, it appears that the females in Gargantia possess sufficient influence and agency as the males in the fleet. Bellows is respected and valued as a leader, Ridget appears to be the XO of the fleet, and even the pirates have their queen in Lukkage. Maybe I’ve just been reading too much young-adult fiction where they treat the women merely as breeding animals, but for a dystopia, that’s not too bad…

Of course, three episodes in may not enough time to provide a comprehensive worldview. These four women could just be the stand-outs, maybe all the other female crew do nothing but scrub decks and catch fish, who knows. And, as I mentioned, when the pirates boarded Bellows’ ships, one of them tore the top off one of her crewmates. Maybe it’s a throwaway incident, or maybe it’s just a way to emphasize how pirates continue to rape and pillage even in a dystopic sci-fi Earth; yet the fact remains that oppressive and chauvinist attitudes still persist.

The pirate empress Lukkage was an interesting addition to the mix. She’s dressed like a Carneval performer, has two female slaves in chains, yet operates a destructive mecha like a pro. (Though, really, it’s hard to take a mech called the Surfing Lobster that seriously.) Her defeat to Ledo, while inevitable and feeling more like a comedic effect more than anything, just drove the point across that he’s essentially undefeatable. Lukkage had a fleet of thirty pirate ships, plus submarines with underwater mecha; that’s not something that great boobs alone will get ya. Lukkage’s smart and wily and fierce. If there’s one thing I learned from One Piece, you don’t get to be pirate queen that easily.


Impressions and Dealbreakers: More Thoughts on Spring Anime

More navel-gazing. I have a few older series that I want to write about, but I’m currently more curious about figuring out what makes us, the anime fan community, tick. And now, just as we’re all making our decisions on what to follow and what to write about, seems as good a time as any. I’m not sure if this really qualifies as a ‘meta’ post, but I also don’t want to start another category for random thinky/process pieces like these.

So, you’re done reading all the first impressions or spring preview posts, now it’s time to get down to business. You fire up your browser, click on a few places (legal or not, whatever, I’m not judging) (at least not today) and you’re watching the first episode of XYZ anime. Twenty-two (or thirteen or three) minutes later, you have to make a choice: continue or end?

The three-episode test, personally, is only helpful for series that (a) I was already excited about anyway, having been familiar with the material because of the manga or video game or novel; or (b) have the potential of being great but just suffered from a crappy first episode. If I’m on the fence about deciding whether to continue viewing a series, yes, then I’ll give it three episodes. Yet, this isn’t a particularly black-and-white scenario either; sometimes if it’s a short series, I may just continue watching it anyway. What’s another seven or eight more episodes? If the rest of the season is going to be longer than 12-13 episodes, then I’m sorry, but sayonara.

As I mentioned previously, I’ve been trying out several of the anime that just premiered, figuring which would ones be a good fit for me. It’s easy to write about the ones that I’ll definitely watch, but not as easy to rationalize why I decided not to watch the others without sounding like a picky, prudish jerk. I’ll try anyway.

This is supposed to be a comedy? I’m not laughing.

Making one person laugh isn’t too hard, but making a entire group laugh is torture. Humor is relative: what you and I find funny may be the same, but most probably it isn’t.  Don’t get me wrong, I laugh hysterically at slapstick and physical jokes, and I appreciate wordplay and wit, but there are some things that some people find outrageously hilarious that I find just annoying.

For instance, there are some bits in Hataraku Maou-sama that were kinda funny… if I’ve never seen a fish-out-of-water series before. Of course they wouldn’t know what katsudon is, I’m actually surprised that they know of meat in the first place. Aren’t they demons? Don’t they just feast on the souls of their foes?

I actually thought the most interesting bit in that first episode was how Satan calmly managed all the bureaucracy and paperwork that they needed to do in order to function in Japanese society. It’s not often that they explain that bit of detail when they have an alien/fantasy being arrive in Tokyo. He’s certainly much smarter than Kobato; he figured out that he needed to get a realtor and find an apartment. Satan ain’t living in no playground.

I had some hopes that Yuyushiki would be the girl’s version of Nichijou, a series that I thought was generally stupid…but in a good way. Yuyushiki started off innocuously enough, but when Yuzuko asked Yui to lick her face, I had to end it there. I don’t find that kind of behavior funny, in real-life or in animation. I’m not going to continue watching a series if the characters do things that gross me out. Talk about boobs or lesbian sex all you want, it’s fine! But if you start going into scat territory, then I may not be friends with you anymore.

it’s a good thing you’re pretty

I’ve had some peripheral knowledge on Karneval, friends of mine liked the manga and I’ve seen enough cosplayers dress up as the characters. So yes, I was hoping that I’d like the anime. My impression: it’s fine, it’s pretty and some of the action scenes look great — but it’s somewhat boring, I don’t really care for the uber-naive white-haired shota, and I’m tired of anime that have to be so ~mysterious~.  I don’t think I’m outgrowing my preference for pretty boys in anime, but I know I’m definitely getting more selective. It’s no longer enough just to have a pretty face, you gotta show some smarts too.

And yes, these statements are funny considering that fangirled madly about UtaPri, a series that relies soley on its good looks and shaking its moneymaker. And here is where context and classification comes into play. Karneval is an action/mystery, playing it serious and straight, whereas UtaPri knows that it’s fluffy and tongue-in-cheek. Does that explain why I’m okay with UtaPri having a shallow plot and generic characters? Sure. Because when you take away the pretty parts of UtaPri you really won’t have too much left, maybe not so much in the case of Karneval. I think Karneval has a higher potential for greatness, whether it deserves or not, and like a parent, I’m a little disappointed it’s not living up to these expectations. For UtaPri, I’ll be happy if it graduates high school and doesn’t end up barefoot and (m-)pregnant.

Brand loyalty conquers all?

Of those series that I’ve sampled, the one I’m definitely watching is Suisei no Gargantia. To which many of you would reply, “of course.” Of course because it’s visually interesting? or because you know I have a soft spot for mecha/sci fi series? or because it’s written by Urobuchi so it’s inevitable? I’m not sure, really. Maybe all of the above? I don’t really worship at the altar of Urobuchi, though I admit to really enjoying Madoka and the one episode of Fate/Zero that I’ve seen. Do I want to watch a series primarily because a big name is involved in it and therefore most of the community would be discussing it? No, and the involvement of a big name is generally the least of my concerns. Most of the time I would watch an anime not really knowing who’s involved and just check the credits later.

Though again, my manga past comes back to prove me a hypocrite. For Arata Kangatari, the primary reason I even bothered is because of the Watase legacy. Like I posted on twitter, every babyfangirl (of a certain age) had to have gone through the Trial of Fushigi Yuugi. It’s like a trial by fire, except instead of walking through coals, you had to go through endless episodes of Miaka screaming “Tamahome” and see if you would end up on the other side unscathed (and with a properly working eardrum). For Arata, I’m certainly getting nostalgic feelings, what with both Arata angsting and hesitating; omg it’s like 2003 all over again.

So, in my typical roundabout way, those are my impressions of some of the new shows. I am curious what your own process is like. I mean, if you’re not the type to watch all of the shows unconditionally — what are your criteria? do you have any dealbreakers as I do? and would you be willing to set aside certain criteria if your favorite writer/director/seiyuu is involved in the project? Share your thoughts, even if it’s to tell me that I’m full of crap.

Picking Your Spring Anime, aka Anime Blogger Groupthink

image credit: zerochan

I enjoy the beginning of each new anime season (or cour, if you wish). Every aniblogger gets that new shiny anime love glow, leading us to post more often, even getting the old and crotchety of us to dust off the cobwebs off our WordPress accounts to write again. I confess to refreshing Crunchyroll’s website a couple of times an hour, sending them psychic messages from my brain and willing them to release a new episode of anything quicker.

I’ve watched several of the new series over the weekend: Devil Survivor 2, The Severing Crime Edge, Zettai Bouei Leviathan, Hataraku Maou-sama, Suisei no Gargantia, Muromisan. From that selection, it’s a mixed bag; I enjoyed a couple, still on the fence on one, and dropping the rest with no hesitation. There’s a couple of series that haven’t been released on CR or other legal streaming sites so I’ll hold off on my opinion till they’re available.

One of the more interesting quirks of anime bloggers (and this is a very sweeping generalization) is the race to be the first one to write about a show. The advent of simulcasts has changed the landscape a bit, but I still recall downloading the raw files, despite my elementary knowledge of the Japanese language, just so I wouldn’t be spoiled by bloggers who’ve written about that episode hours ago. I’m not sure — and I’m certainly not picking out bloggers who still do this — but I had a feeling most of the people who downloaded the raws didn’t know any more Japanese than I did. It was just that important to be the first person to make the screencaps and to summarize the episode based on what they think happened. If they made a mistake in the summary, it was easy enough to back and revise the post. There you go, no problemo!

The anime adaptation of Flowers of Evil, in my opinion, has certainly suffered from this initial bad PR. When screencaps featuring the character designs started showing up, I had a feeling that it turned off a lot of people who were initially excited about the series. It had seemed that some weren’t even going to give the anime a fair viewing; they knew that the anime wasn’t going to match their expectations from the manga so why waste their time? I’ve read a couple of volumes of Flowers of Evil last year, it didn’t appeal to me so this show was a definite pass anyway — nonetheless, I still find it interesting to look at aniblogger group behavior and influence and to watch how quickly an opinion or idea spreads and how the group interprets and filters it.

How much does the opinion of the anime blogging community affect your own choices?

I’ll only speak for myself since I’m the only person for whom I can speak with the most certainty, but I do think I mostly follow the crowd when judging on what series are worth watching. I would scan Animenano, pick out a few random posts about the series in question, maybe go to MyAnimeList and see what the mean rating score is. I sometimes also go on twitter and scroll through people’s first impressions/liveblogs of certain shows — that’s definitely trickier but I can get a lot more opinions faster that way, so… Most importantly (maybe), I have a handful of blogs whose tastes and opinions I value — I visit their sites and see if they’re recommending it or not.

For these “node” blogs, I selected them based on the quality of the author’s writing, their similarity with my own personal tastes, heck even the background and personality of the author. (That’s why those ‘About’ pages are so important!) There are no hard and fast rules, and the node blogs could change at any time.

I’ve flitted in and out of the anime blogger community over the years, and while the individual players may have changed, the game is still the same. We are all here and we all do this because we are opinionated individuals who care about anime enough that we’re willing to spend our time watching anime and then writing about it for other opinionated individuals who think and act the same way. I’ve always thought that was cool.