Raging Rant: Stop Turning “Strong Women” into Waifu Bait

So one of my favorite anime Youtubers, Digibro, started a video series called The Asterisk Wars Sucks recently.  The videos are great but there was one thing that came up in one of the more recent ones that caught my attention.  It caught my attention because other examples of this had caught my attention already.  Namely Digibro described how there was a new trend in light novels to have the main character date women who would be the strongest fighters at their schools/in their guilds/in the game if not for the presence of the main dude.  The appeal being that the audience can project themselves onto the main character and still feel like manly alpha guys without falling into the cliche of saving the poor damsel in distress, because that cliche has become less popular for a number of reasons.  Now that scenario in and of itself doesn’t bother me, if nothing else it is better than just having the main guy save the helpless womenfolk.  But I don’t like way I’m seeing light novel adaptations create such a scenario.  Before I really get going on this there is another aspect of this trend.  That is, in addition to making the women powerful, that some of the women will have more feminine qualities that they only show to the main guy since they have feelings for him.  So why do I have a problem with this?  Well… (there will be spoilers ahead)

Well in concept I don’t, both aspects of the current trend are fine.  However the execution is bugging the hell out of me.  See I first took notice of and umbrage to this trend with Asuna.  Yeah, that Asuna, from SAO.  In my review of SAO, I mentioned how I didn’t like that Asuna was a master chef.  This was for two reasons, one because I just felt it made Asuna into waifu bait and two, her taking the time to master cooking was totally at odds with very serious “I must clear this game ASAP” personality.  If Asuna had started to learn about cooking after hooking up with Kirito it would have been fine, but because it happened before then, at a time when it seemed out of character for her to do so, I called bullshit.  Both of these complaints are largely applicable to all the girls who fit into this new trend, however there is a third complaint both of these feed into, it seems cynical.  This light novel trend bugs me so much because it feels cynical and artificial, like the characters are being made this way not as a result of the narrative or as an extension of the setting, but are just manufactured without regard for narrative and setting just to appeal to their audience, i.e. they’re made this way for younger teenage boys.  Now I get it, appealing to the audience is very important, especially in niche market shows, but there’s a difference between appealing characters that feel organic and those which don’t.  More to the point it’s not actually all that hard to make women who are genuinely strong women that occasionally need help and have a more feminine side.  So let’s look at how that’s done.

You know you don’t need to be some deep, mature show to nail this type of character because fucking Fairy Tail can manage it.  Yeah, Fairy Tail, one of the shows I see most widely panned across the anime community.  Specifically Erza, Mirajane and Cana, though it can be applied to some extent to all the main girls.  See since the new trend is all about appealing to teenage boys, fanservice is a part of the package.  Now I have nothing against fanservice, but I don’t like it being superimposed on characters and a narrative that isn’t necessarily sexual.  Here’s an example, Kirito and Asuna having sex was fine because the story and characters had progressed to a point where that was a natural outcome, but when Kirito accidentally groped Asuna in episode 7 or 8 it wasn’t fine because that had nothing to do with the story or characters, it was just there because it was a typical harem anime trope.  Which brings me back to the Fairy Tail women.  Most of the major women on Fairy Tail look like typical pandering female characters at first glance.  Mostly stacked, often exposing a fair amount of skin, a couple token loli’s for men who are into that, and you get the idea.  All of the main women also have moments of vulnerability, or times when they need saving, as well as feminine traits.  But you know what they also have?  Confidence, power and agency.  Looking at Erza and Cana specifically, as the women who show the most skin, you can see the difference.  Unlike Asuna or the girls of the Asterisk War, Erza and Cana are not embarrassed when they wear something revealing and sexy.  Sure that seems like a minor detail but it goes beyond the fanservice.  Erza and Cana are always confident, ok they do have moments of weakness, vulnerability and femininity, but most of the time these women are confident in themselves and in their skills.  In Erza’s case she’s earned it because she often terrifies the men by being stronger than them, she’s a major force in the story.  And it is because of this very strength, this confidence and agency, that the scenes where she is vulnerable and feminine feel not only genuine but make her far more endearing, which in turn make her way sexier than any fucking tsundere panty shots or jiggling boobs could ever hope to be on their own.

This is what bothers me perhaps more than anything else.  I mean I hate the cynical, artificial feel of this new trend, I think it hurts the artistry inherent in character creation, because I love artistry and character creation.  That is a big part of my anger towards this trend, but at least it seems more like a justifiable business idea.  But the fact that it results in characters, storytelling and fanservice that is weaker than fucking Fairy Tail is just pathetic.  Look as far as long running shounen go I love Fairy Tail, well before the 2014 shit happened, but I’m not going to hold up as some great work of art.  I will argue that it is a good long running shounen series and that it has some artistry worthy of note, but come on, I don’t think anyone is going to claim Fairy Tail is a hallmark of quality where anime is concerned.  Hell it’s aimed at an audience that is even younger than the shows featuring this cynical trend, though there is overlap.  Which is the thing that pisses me off, this trend makes for scenes and characters that are less endearing and sexy than the genuine article.   Again I’m not talking about the girls who fall into this trend not matching up to characters who stand as the paragons of strong female lead, I’m talking them not measuring up to Juvia Lockser who constantly obsesses over “Gray-sama” or Lucy Heartfalia who is often characterized as only having tits that brings some boys to the yard.  Yea I know I didn’t talk about them above, they are messier examples that don’t highlight the traits I wanted to talk about as nicely as Erza, but they are still better than the girls who fall under this new trend.  I don’t even particularly like Lucy or Juvia when compared to the other girls, but even they have moments that do endear me to them.  They have some of the agency and power Erza and those like her have, enough so that they can fight most of their own battles and even have their moments of badassery.  Both Lucy and Juvia need to be saved from time to time, but they also have fights where they save the male characters every once in a while.  Which brings me to my next point.

This trend feels off to me for a number of reasons.  And one of them is the disconnect I feel with the appeal it’s going for and the actual result.  As mentioned above this trend is about striking a balance between making the women of the story seem strong and valuable while still allowing the male lead to overpower them all.  In short it’s about giving teenage boys their power fantasy while trying to avoid appearing sexist or chauvinistic.  And to me it fails in both aspects.  I mean it’s nice to see women who don’t stand back and let the men do everything, hello there Sakura, but at the same time to me it feels wrong.  It feels wrong because I don’t get the sense that these women are actually powerful, just that they are given the pretense of being powerful but lack the heart of the notion.  It feels almost duplicitous to me because it’s trying to sell the women as strong and important characters while delivering the same old damsel in distress after she’s been touched up a little.   Again the lack of sincerity, the lack of organic, genuine characters that this trend spawns cheapens the whole thing for me.  In fact I found Asuna and Sinon to be more maligned than the old useless girls like Sakura.  Because at least Sakura never pretended to be anything else, never showed promise as a strong female character.  I mean that in and of itself, is pretty pathetic but I find it less offensive than what happened to Sinon and Asuna.  Both Sinon and Asuna looked like they would be strong female leads and in Asuna’s case she was, at least for a bit.  But as SAO wore on Sinon fell apart to the point where she not only told Kirito to protect her forever but also had him tell her what to do when they fought Death Gun, and Asuna was forced to play the helpless damsel in a fucking cage and even after she was saved from said cage she faded into the background until the Mother’s Rosario arc.  And in even Mother’s Rosario Asuna was more of a medium for the audience to experience the story through than the hero who saved the day.  Basically both women were given the pretense of power and agency early on so that they appeared better than useless damsels in distress, and then were robbed of it later to the point where they embody the same ideas that the damsel in distress is built on.  It’s fucking bullshit, and even if new girls that come from this trend don’t end up this way, I’d have a hard time believing they would ever become genuinely strong characters.  Now onto that male power fantasy.

I admit I may be something of a weirdo when it comes to the male power fantasy and power fantasies in general.  Every now and then I do follow the traditional patterns of thought associated with the phrase, wanting to save the girl and be a manly man.  But the thing is, almost all of those male power fantasies take place here in our world, where I imagine myself doing something defined by more realistic expectations.  If I’m watching a story that takes place in another world or way in the future why the fuck would I want to project myself on anyone in that story?  And even if I wanted to do that why would I focus on the male power fantasy specifically?  For example let’s pretend I’m projecting myself onto Saitama from One Punch Man, I’m not projecting myself onto him because he’s the main guy, because he’s a guy or because he gets all the women (he doesn’t), the only reason I would ever want to project myself onto Saitama is that his power is fucking ridiculous and it would be awesome to be able to have said power.  Most of the time I don’t even do that though.  Rather than project myself onto a character in a story, my preferred mental exercise is to write for myself a totally fictional character that logically and organically fits into the world of the story and is ideally relevant to the narrative, who is hilariously overpowered more often than not because that’s how I do my power fantasies thank you very much.  I told you I’m weird.  Hell half the time these characters I make up are women not because I understand being what it’s like to be a woman but because strong women are infinitely more attractive to me than weak women.

Which is where I’m left feeling off by the women in this trend.  Because these women are not genuinely strong, them being feminine adds nothing to their character and has no added bonus to a male power fantasy.  I admit that teenage me might have been into this kind of stuff, I can’t really say for sure though, but as I am now this is just off-putting.  Even if I were inclined to indulge in the type of male power fantasy this trend is trying to create, then it would only work if the women were genuine in in their strength.  Maybe teenage boys just want to pretend they could swoop in and solve the problems of their dream girl and win her over without breaking a sweat, but I’d feel much more accomplished if the character I was projecting myself onto was helping some who usually didn’t need his help, someone who was of equal or maybe even greater strength, and that only after significant effort did he win this girl’s affection.  I guess the point of this long, disjointed and rambling paragraph is basically that I don’t see the value in making “strong women” characters if you’re going to have the male lead outclass them by insane margins.  If the main guy is so powerful he can swoop in and solve every girl’s problem effortlessly then why try and make them strong at all?  If he occasionally swooped in to save them during a fight where they were made vulnerable for some reason, like when Natsu defeated Jellal in Erza’s stead, then this dynamic would work well.  Because that way you still have the male power fantasy but you get it without diminishing the strength of the women or cheapening the story. But when the male lead outshines all the girls without much effort and solves all of their problems all the time, then why even pretend the girls were strong to begin with?  At that point they are following in Sakura’s footsteps despite ostensibly begin strong women.  And seeing women who should logically be strong, forcibly relegated to Sakura status, damsels-who-do-nothing-but-stand-back-and-let-the-men-handle-things, is even more offensive to me than a girl who was always a weak female character, because at least that is honest in its chauvinism or lack of ability to write a good female character.

So that’s where I stand on this trend.  Cynically making women who appear competent and strong, before making them irrelevant by introducing a protagonist who is better than all of them combined several times over, is shit.  It feels artificial and off-putting, it’s less powerful than having a man save a woman who actually is strong, and in the end I think it’s even more insulting to men and women alike then just plain old weak damsels in distress.  And what well and truly pisses me off about the whole thing is how easy it is to make it better.  You don’t have to be some kind of literary genius to make strong women who have feminine aspects and moments of vulnerability and who may need saving on occasion but still feel organic.  I’m not asking anyone to make a perfectly realized female character that truly communicates the all the aspects involved in being both strong and a woman, I’m asking people to fucking try and write a character that is designed to be a character first and a teenage fantasy second.  Is it really possible for people who write for living to be so incompetent as to fail to grasp that, in order for the kind of appeal this trend is going for to work, the characters should feel organic?  Or are the people doing this really so cynical that they’re banking on the intended audience being too young, stupid and/or horny to care?  I’m honestly not sure which scenario is the more deplorable.  What I am sure of is that this trend is a pathetic attempt at character creation, resulting in characters so lacking in heart and soul that their creators ought to bow their heads in shame.  Fuck this trend, fuck fake “strong women” and most importantly fuck us all for allowing anime to reach such an abysmally low standard in the art of creating compelling stories and characters.

Hopefully you enjoyed this, next up, a post about how to make real strong women and why those women are hot.

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Season’s Greetings: Winter 2016 Follow-up

Ok so I didn’t bother to watch too many shows this season, which means I had no idea just how many CG only, or CG heavy shows came this season.  Usually I think only 1 or 2 shows per season will go for the only CG look, but this season has least 4 I can think of at the moment and I’m probably forgetting a couple more.  So not only does this season not have many original series that sounded interesting, it has a lot of shows that look awful.  Also the show that most of the anime reviewers I like think is the best show of the season, Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, doesn’t interest me in the slightest, but you might want to check it out.  Anyway let’s run down the shows I actually watched and see hoe they did in their first three episodes.

Ajin:  Ajin only has two episodes out but it’s been pretty interesting so far.  I’m not a fan of it being all CG, but I will concede that the CG is better than most CG I have seen, so it’s a bit more bearable.  The characters are in dire need of development at the moment but at least the show has been compelling after the main character is revealed to be an Ajin.  The special effects have mostly looked like shit due to the CG but I kind of like the way the weird shadow form of the Ajin looks.  So far it hasn’t been great but it has the most potential to be great of anything this season.

Boku Dake ga Inai Machi:  Boku Dake ga Inai Machi, or Erased, is arguably the best show of the season.  The story is interesting, the dialogue is solid, and so far the character interactions bring a lot of life to the story.  Since the story is mystery in genre not a lot has happened in the first few episodes, but it has not been boring the slightest because even if the action on screen is slow the main character’s mind is always racing and I commend the voice actor’s performance because he really does convey the blistering speed of the main character’s thoughts with his narration.  I have hopes for this show and so far it has not disappointed.

Dimension W: Dimension W is the other contender for top show of the season.  The scifi tech is mostly nonsense so far but it doesn’t really matter since the main character is the one mostly carrying the show so far and he doesn’t like the newfangled gadgets.  Mabuchi Kyouma, the main character, is amazing so far, he’s basically a mishmash of Jet, Hei and Kogami.  It has been a while since I’ve seen good “grizzled veteran” type of character so I’m happy with this guy.  The action is very fast paced and engaging, while the mysteries of New Tesla and the robot girl, hint a much bigger story than we’ve seen so far.  It’s a bit too early to say if this show will congeal into a compelling narrative or not, but either way it has my attention.

Divine Gate:  This show sucks.  I made it through three episodes because I liked the character designs, but I’m just fucking done with this show.  The all CG environments look fucking atrocious and when the characters use their powers they also go full CG, which looks hilarious because their movements are way too stiff and robotic to look natural.  The characters are boring, the supernatural elements are a nonsensical mess of mythology and random stories like the Wizard of OZ.  Normally I would find that interesting but it has no coherence at all and no overarching explanation that makes me buy into it.  And last but definitely not least is the sheer abundant edginess that makes the whole thing so unrelatable.  I mean for fuck’s sake I liked Akame ga Kill, which a ton of people hated for being too edgy, and this show is too edgy for me.  Do not pick this one up if haven’t started watching already.

Gate Season 2:  I initially said that this season of Gate was just like the first season and I hate myself for doing so.  So far this season has pissed me off more so than entertained me, and some of the new characters are such one-note stereotypes it fucking hurts to watch.  Granted Gate was never exactly a high quality show but at least it used to be consistently entertaining, now it’s trying to add more dark and gritty elements to the story and it’s almost hilarious how badly they fit into this show.  If the show doesn’t improve a lot int he few episodes then I will drop it

Luck & Logic:  Luck & Logic will not be a great show.  Unless it has some serious tricks up it’s sleeves, I doubt this show will become anything noteworthy.  That said it is one of the more entertaining shows of the season and I have no plans to drop this one.  It should also be noted that this show has possibly the best CG in TV anime, and it’s not super heavy on the CG anyway.  The story leaves needs to start going somewhere soon because if we spend more episodes developing characters without moving he narrative forward, it could get boring.  I do have to congratulate the creator though for at least making the invincible main character a defensive type instead having him go full on Kirito style and just overwhelming all his enemies with swords.  I don’t expect much from this show but I don’t expect it to ever get really bad either.

Musaigen no Phantom World:  This show worries me a bit.  On the one hand the first two episodes were entertaining, and while I still don’t think the show will ever be great it looked it was going to be fun.  Episode three though was mostly pretty boring because even though it brought up an interesting concept, the character interaction just wasn’t there, the weren’t enough gags or character development to justify dedicating an entire episode to the concept of memories and how they define us and change.  Now I can see this show either trying to congeal into a narrative or just sticking to an episodic adventure and working either way.  That said I can see it failing either way too.  If the episodic episodes are not consistently funny/good, like episode 3 wasn’t, then this show will fall apart.  If, on the other hand, the show tries to tell an engaging story I would hard pressed to imagine the story would anything other than generic slice of life romcom with a supernatural slant because that’s what the show looks like.  I’m not saying it can’t be done, this is the same studio that did Kyoukai no Kanata, which looked roughly the similar to this show and still had an engaging story, but my gut says this story should stay away from any kind of serious narrative if it wants to succeed.

 

Understanding the Importance of Setting: Concrete Revolutio & The Rolling Girls

Recently two shows that caught my attention were The Rolling Girls and Concrete Revolutio Superhuman Phantasmagoria (which is an awesome name).  What caught my eye as far as these shows were concerned was the art style.  In recent years I feel it’s been harder and harder to find shows that look bad.  Bad CG is getting more common each year but very few shows use a lot of CG, though the current season is a major exception, and more traditional animation styles are generally looking about as pretty and clean as they have ever been.  Mind you pretty and clean are do not necessarily make for good art per se, but at the very least you don’t find as many ugly characters and shows as you used.  Most animation today is what I would call safe, regardless of how well it or poorly it’s used it generally looks good enough that very few people complain about.  This is why I’m was so interested in The Rolling Girls and Concrete Revolutio.  In a time where so many anime were settling for pretty, clean and safe look, these two shows went for something more bold and original.  Unfortunately the shows also share a similar drawback, arguably the biggest drawback of both shows, a weak setting.  From here on there will be spoilers, you have been warned.

Now the setting is not the only problem either show has, there are inconsistencies or plot threads that are left unresolved to the detriment of the show.  However I’m of the opinion that most, if not all, of the problems in both shows’ storytelling stems from the overall weakness of their respective settings.  So what’s wrong with the settings you ask?  Well above all else the transition from our world to the world of the setting is never explained.  Both stories take place in our world, but both are also so wildly different from our own, that we the audience have a lot of gaps to fill in.  In Concrete Revolutio the appearance of aliens and other monsters helps fill in the gaps somewhat, but only in the broadest strokes, meanwhile all the details are left vague and unexplained beyond references to a war and aliens and whatnot.  In contrast, The Rolling Girls is worse about informing us how Japan came to be the way it is in the setting but it is ultimately more relatable and intuitive because basically every city becomes centered around one or two gimmicks or crafts that exist in our world today.  Imagine if every city became one giant-ass convention for one or two things and you have any given city in The Rolling Girls.  The real issue is that in both settings there are a lot of questions, questions about fundamental rules and events in these respective worlds that we have no satisfying answers to.  This is a problem because not only does it leave people like me constantly wondering what the fuck is going on in a big picture sense but also because this vagueness bleeds into other aspects of the stories.  Typically when a world is completely different from ours a good author will link together bits of world-building, character development and plot progression so that all of them build off each other.  But when the setting is so vaguely defined outside some radical new changes you can’t do that, instead the lack of information from the world-building starts to affect the character development which then affects the plot.  From here on I’m going to look at each show’s separately before hopefully tying them back together in a neat little bow.  Let’s start with the Rolling Girls.

Picking up right off the last point I made, one of the main characters is really hard to explain because we have no idea how she can achieve her goal because we have no understanding of the fundamental mechanics by which the world functions.  Hibiki Ai is one of the Rest, basically a normal person, trying to become a Best, a person with superhuman capabilities.  In order to do this she is literally told to level up and at one point in the story a giant 1 is superimposed over her which then changes to a 2… ok what the literal fuck is going on?  It’s explained that the Bests have received their powers from these sparkling pink heartstones, though later in the story they draw on their powers without the stones but whatever, so I can at least understand why the Bests have powers and why Ai is after heartstones.  But what is going on with the leveling thing?  May I remind you that this is not a game world, but a weird future version of our world, why do people have levels now?  And how exactly does this leveling up work, all of the main characters put in a fair amount of effort into something at some point so why does only Ai level up?  Is there some kind of basis of effort or courage or something that causes someone to level up?  Or do they somehow gain experience through some unknown means and then level up?  And the information we do have doesn’t make a lot of sense.  So the first two Bests we meet are crazy strong and have this amazing fight in beginning of the show, but after the fight they lose their heartstones and are stuck with normal human abilities.  But at the end of the show, without them doing anything besides travelling to find the main characters, they can suddenly use their full power without the stones.  What the fuck’s happening there?  I mean if the powers were never required the stones to work then how come the Bests got weaker after losing the stones?  But if the stones are required to make their powers work then how did they manage without the stones?  The only reasonable explanation I could think of was that the stones only acted as an amplifier while the power came from the girls themselves and that once they believed they no longer needed the stones, they could use their powers without them, but even that seems like a stretch to me.  Moreover what has caused this world to be so different from ours?  Like I know there’s a pair of giant robots standing over one of the cities and there was some period of total chaos not too long before the story started, but what happened that both our society and physical capabilities have gone through such an extensive redesign?  And what’s up with the aliens?  I thought the whole point of Misono Chiaya’s story was for her to reconnect with the alien dude who is in all likelihood her father.  But then she leaves in her spaceship while he stays behind, so what was the whole point of including aliens in the first place?  I know it looks like I’m tearing this show to pieces and to be fair I kind of am, but I want everyone who made it this far to know I actually liked The Rolling Girls, in fact I liked it quite a bit, and it just frustrates me to find this flashy, bold and interesting series that leaves me with so many questions I have hard time just sitting back and enjoying it.  Anyway how does Concrete Revolutio fare?

Concrete Revolutio is actually not as bad about it’s setting as The Rolling Girls.  The riotous array of monsters, technology, and aliens, the transition from our world to this one is more intuitive, not to mention more interesting.  In an old post about making adventure stories, I said one of the keys to adventure was diversity and Concrete Revolutio has diversity in spades, with beings from space, ancient beasts from earth, magic and technology all rolled up in one colorful show.  The sheer ridiculous and outlandish combinations of all these monsters and powers, actually helps because if they were more constrained or logical then, one of the questions I would have would be “well how did that come to be?” or something to that effect.  As it stands I don’t really care much about how humans developed superpowers, or where all the beings running around come from because it would such a chaotic spread of answers I can’t see it being helpful or pertaining to the narrative and it’s themes in any tangible way.  However there are some major things about which bother me.  For example, I kind of want to know what year the world of the story takes place in.  All the dates are like the “41st of the Shinkawa Era” or something like that which tell me fuck all, the only time these dates are useful is when a different part of the episode happens in say the “47th of the Shinkawa Era”, but even then I don’t know the exact length of time between the dates so it doesn’t help very much.  More importantly I want to know about the war and the arrival of Master Ultima.  The show is constantly making references to some terrible war where superhumans were experimented on and maybe used as weapons, that occurred roughly one generation prior to the start of the show.  And while the show does dig up into some of the experiments and nefarious behaviors of the war or which arose from it, the show doesn’t tell us the big picture stuff.  Like who all was fighting the war?  Who, if anyone, won the war?  Japan seems to be marching almost in lockstep with US as far a foreign and possibly superhuman policy is concerned, how did that trend get started?  What does the balance of power look like in this world?  What kind of geopolitical consequences does the rise of large and potentially dangerous superhuman populations have on the world?  Do all nations take a similar approach to Japan when dealing with superhumans or do they all deal with them differently?  Who is Master Ultima exactly and why does his counsel carry so much weight in international policy?  It can get frustrating to see a story that explores the consequences of all kinds of events extremely well in the small scale of the Superhuman Bureau and other notable parties but leaves us with no answers as to what they mean in a large scale perspective.  Because much like The Rolling Girls I liked Concrete Revolutio, and I’m looking forward to the next season of the show, but it irritates me to see a show that does something interesting have some glaring weakness like this that drags my overall experience down and changes what ought to be a great show to a merely good one.  Let’s wrap this up.

In summary both The Rolling Girls and Concrete Revolutio were shows I ultimately liked and was excited about when they aired.  Both shows are still pretty good and I would recommend them to anyone who is on the fence about watching them.  But the shows have a major weakpoint which may ruin and/or dampen the experience for some.  In stories like these, where the world is at once the know we know and so wildly different from our own it appears almost unrecognizable, the setting is just as much a part of the story as the plot.  We the audience need enough setting details to help us get our bearings and ground us in the show’s world so we can then get really invested in the actual plot.  I understand not all setting details will be relevant and striking a balance between exposition on the setting and advancing the plot is not an easy task, but I think these two shows highlight the importance of trying to strike that balance.  Because these shows stuck almost entirely to plot and made little effort to bring us into the setting.  In a generic universe like a high school anime or some bland medieval fantasy universe a show can get away with that, but in shows with such wild and creative worlds that just doesn’t work, and to be honest I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around a mind which is creative enough to make worlds like this and then fails to appreciate that it needs to explain them.  Anyway, thank you all for reading, I hope you enjoyed it and I’ll see you in the next one.

 

Season’s Greetings: The Different Dimensions of Winter 2016

It’s that time of the year everyone, we’ve all been forced to say goodbye to the shows we loved from last season and are moving onto the nex…  oh shit.  I know I ragged pretty hard on the last fall season in that first impressions post but it had nothing on this season.  In contrast to last season this winter has fewer sequels, but sadly most of the new IP coming do little to encourage.  Of the shows on the chart, only a whopping 3 shows really caught my attention before they aired.  Now to be fair I’m betting a lot of people are looking forward to the Shirayukihime season 2 or more Durarara and I’m not, so that makes this season a little better for some.  But most of what I’m seeing is frighteningly unimaginative at first glance.  There’s another music based cutesy moe show following the buzz about Hibike Euphonium, which I  haven’t seen yet I admit.  There are 3 special high school for special teenagers who fight monsters shows, which ironically enough have been better than I expected so far.  Including those 3 shows there are 4 shows dealing separate dimensions, one of which looks like one of the best shows this season.  There are 3 magical girl shows, though I think one is actually about cyborgs that just so happen to look like magical girls.  We have what looks like another Infinite Stratos that may also be an idol show in Ao no Kanata no Four Rhythm.  Oh and there’s a BL anime or two because it seems like every season needs at least one of those these days.  Then there is Bubuki Bunraki which sounds like an edgy scifi version of Soul Eater, wonderful.  And there’s also a show about famous statues forming an idol group which is one part hilarious and one part WTF in its very conception.  But that’s enough bitching for now, let’s just look at the first episodes I’ve seen thus far.

Ajin:  This one has aired an episode yet but it was one of the only shows that really jumped out at me, so I’m looking forward to it.

Boku Dake ga Inai Machi:  This show had a very strong first episode that managed to cram a ton of information into an episode with a mostly relaxed pace.  It was an episode that was relaxed and introspective, while also having moments of explosive movement and loads of dramatic tension.  Even more impressive, it provided enough information to help us really get into the characters while presenting enough questions to setup an engaging mystery narrative.  This one is off to a good start, and looks to be one of the highlights of the season.

Dimension W:  Dimension W is one of the other shows that caught my attention right off the bat and damn did the first episode support my intuition.  The vibes I’m getting from this show is one part the early parts of Comet Lucifer and one part Psycho Pass.  The main guy in particular reminds a bit of Kogami from Psycho Pass with maybe a splash of Jet from Cowboy Bebop or Hei from Darker than Black.  Anyway the first episode had well animated and choreographed violence, introduced us to a scifi world that looks like something we might actually head in theory as the world we live in today is trying to lessen our reliance on gasoline.  I know scifi generally doesn’t catch my attention very often so I’m not the most qualified to make comments on the genre but this one looks like it might be one of the next big scifi hits.

Divine Gate:  Divine Gate was a show I was initially not even going to try because it didn’t seem all that creative.  Episode one was passable at best, though I admit I’m loving the way the characters are animated.  I’m still pretty uncertain about this one, I can easily see it being formulaic and boring, but it could also at least be decent.  I have hard time seeing this one being really good and can only really recommend it if you like the concept or if you’re like me and are looking for interesting animation, though the CG I’ve seen this far is so atrocious it’s almost funny.  I’ll be keeping an eye and this one but I don’t expect much.

Gate 2:  I know a lot of people don’t give a shit about Gate, but for whatever reason I found it to be fun enough to keep watching.  This episode was mostly par for the course with the series, it was just ok but looked nice and I had enough fun to keep watching.  If you liked the first season you probably already watched the first episode and if you didn’t like it, this one is not going to sell on the idea you should.

Luck & Logic: I was going to skip this one for sounding just like Divine Gate.  The first episode reminded me a bit of Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance or Mujin no Fafnir, in its cast and the way the main character is handled.  I may still drop this one for being boring and unimaginative, at best I have hard time seeing this show being anything more than just ok but fun.  Right now the main thing holding my attention is how it’s character design kind of reminds me of the Rolling Girls whose visual style I was big fan of.  My opinion of this one is mostly the same as Divine Gate because the concept is almost the same as Divine Gate.

Musaigen no Phantom World: This show actually has two episodes out and while it falls under the special school for special students archetype, I’m liking this one so far.  The character designs are good, and the action is engaging.  So far there are already a lot of varied powers and monsters which is good.  It does remind a lot of Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de, but I like this more than that show already.  The main guy in particular is fun because he’s huge history and folklore nerd, which is so my thing.  Thus far I also like the silly humor especially when it breaks the fourth wall or makes references to other anime.  There is some silly fanservice as well, fanservice that isn’t revealing but are generally used well as situation humor gags that makes more funny than sexy or frustrating.  Overall I’d say this will be the series that is the most fun this season, not by any means the best show of the season, but one I will look forward to each week.

Understanding Appeal: Shingeki no Kyojin, Black Bullet & Owari no Seraph

So a few months ago I did a post explaining the core difference between the three shows mentioned in the title using episode 1 as a basis.  Now that discussion had very little to say about Black Bullet in particular, but more to the point it doesn’t really point out the appeal of each show.  So with Owari no Seraph season 2 over, I thought it was time to dig into these shows a bit further.  There will be major spoilers for all three shows, you have been warned.

Ok lets get this out of the way first and foremost, Shingeki no Kyojin is by far the highest quality show among these three so I’m not to talk about it too much.  There are a lot of reasons why of course, some of which are explained in the linked post above.  But the point of this post is not about comparing the shows with regards to animation quality, characters and so on.  The point of this post is to look into the minute differences between each show, which feature many similar traits, and what elements they have that are good.  You see one of the biggest issues with Black Bullet and Owari no Seraph, is that as they are dismissed out of hand for being “AoT clones” is that most people don’t seriously consider their positive aspects.  This is understandable of course, neither Black Bullet nor Owari no Seraph is remotely near the top of my favorite list, or even shows I consider good, but they do incorporate certain elements of storytelling that would be worthwhile if used in a series with better direction and characters.  And it is these elements I want to focus on today, if for no other reason than to bring them out in the open.

Let’s start with Shingeki no Kyojin since it is the most popular.  I already explained the show’s emphasis on psychological terror, though that mainly is true of the first 1/3 of the show and rapidly drops off later, and how that made it engaging.  The other thing that made it engaging, besides the action and animation which was good but was more a of a bonus than a real selling point to me,  were the mysteries.  There is a lot of information we don’t know and while that is often a flaw, Shingeki no Kyojin places a strong emphasis on unraveling the mysteries towards the end, and even as early as episode 3 or 4 the show lets us know that the people of this world are indeed learning about the titans and keeping record of their knowledge.  Now I will admit the final battle is awesome and I would count that as a selling point of the show, but during the excruciatingly slow middle chunk of the show the thing that really convinced me to keep going were the mystery aspects.  What are the titans exactly?  Where do the come from?  Why do they eat people if they don’t have a digestive system and don’t even need to eat?  How come there are humans who can turn into special titans and why do these special titans have totally different abilities and attributes?  All of these questions are things I very much want to see answered, but in a way that intrigues rather than frustrates, that sparks interest to see more rather than to bore while waiting for answers.  This more so than the action or characters is what kept me invested in the later part of the series and looking forward to a sequel.  So how do the other two measure up?

Let’s do Black Bullet first since it aired first.  For those who don’t know the idea with Black Bullet is that this weird virus called the Gastrea Virus has mutated the animals of the world into huge monsters creatively called Gastrea.  This virus is contagious can can turn people into monsters as well.  Now there are two weapons with which humanity fights the Gastrea, Varanium and Cursed Children.  Vanarium is a black metal that repels Gastrea and shuts down the unnaturally high healing capabilities of Gastrea, so people can kill them.  Cursed Children are what happens when pregnant women get infected with the Gastrea virus, instead of becoming monsters they give birth to special humans, all of whom are girls for no particular reason.  The Cursed children have heightened physical abilities and powerful healing much like the Gastrea.  Curse Children are then paired with Inspectors who are both Gastrea hunters and handlers for the Cursed Children.  Anyway what scuppers Black Bullet is twofold, how the Gastrea are shitty CG monsters that look terrible and uninteresting, and the overall direction the story takes and missed opportunities with the characters.

The odd part about the story is that the characters aren’t that bad.  Sure most of the side characters are one note and uninteresting but the main ones are ok.  Hell, Kagetane the masked guy who appears as villain in the first arc, was actually pretty interesting.  The thing that really gets me as far as the characters are concerned is Kisara and Rentarou.  At the end of the show Kisara flips from a champion of law and justice to murdering one of her elder siblings while laughing about how justice accomplishes nothing.  Mind you that change in mindsets is not necessarily bad nor unwlecome and of itself, but the implementation of it was shit.  Also it makes more sense for Rentarou to be the one who gives up on justice.  He faces far more trauma than Kisara, and there is a point where he was about to lose faith in justice.  Just before the last arc really kicked off Rentarou was teaching a bunch of Cursed Children in an informal school and some asshole essentially left a Varanium claymore in the school one morning, killing all of Rentarou’s students.  And ironically it was Kisara who convinced Rentarou to have faith and remain true to his sense of justice.  Why the fuck would they do this?  If you’re like me the question you’re asking is why did they bother with Aldebaran arc  at all?  Wouldn’t it have made more sense for Kagetane, who consistently shows contempt for civilization as it currently exists and an interest in Rentarou as a fellow mechanized human, to leak the identity of the bomber/bombers to Rentarou, let him make the choice to kill or spare them for himself and build an arc based around the violence within the city that is slowly killing this society instead of the external CG threats?  That would’ve made a much more interesting dynamic than having Kisara convince Rentarou to keep being the good guy before she herself gives up on law and justice.  But anyway what really is the appeal of the show?

Well I count Kagetane as an appeal in and of himself because he has a creepy mask, a snappy red suit and is voiced  by one of my favorite voice actors.  He’s also the person my personal views on the society of the Black Bullet align with.  Because frankly this society deserves to die.  Even if we ignore that one former royal guard who actively sabotages Rentarou’s battle strategy against a giant monster that has broken through the Varanium barrier and is in the city, these people still need to die.  The thing is this society has a lot of people who hate the Cursed Children because they were born of the same Gastrea virus that fucked the world up.  This is understandable, however the amount of Cursed Children who get killed by average Joes is not.  Keep in mind that the Cursed Children are the most effective fighting force the humans have, even if they were discriminated against you’d think the government would try and protect their supply of Cursed Children and prosecute anyone who killed them, because even if they personally hate the Cursed Children, those little girls are vital to humanity’s survival.  None of that happens though, instead authority figures from street cops to prime ministers seem to be content to attack Cursed Children out of hate for all things Gastrea related.  And it gets even worse when the overwhelming majority of people either fall into this camp of violent, hateful people or just let it happen.  There is no mass movement of any kind that tries to stop this unabated violence even though the Cursed Children are the primary means of protection when monsters invade, as happens from time to time.  This is a world that can well and truly hate, and by God is it cathartic.  It also helps that I prioritize individuals over society as a whole, so seeing a society where the individuals were so right and the society was so fucked was somewhat gratifying.  If you want feel anger at people or want to feel angry at people, this series does provide.  This is reinforced by some of the flashes of realism found in Black Bullet.  There isn’t much but when it shows up it does wonders.  For example I really liked how Kisara’s older sibling, whom she killed in the final episode, made one of the Varanium barriers on the cheap, which is why the Gastrea could destroy it during the final arc, and then pocketed the extra money from the budget used to build it so he could advance his own position.  This in turn justifies Kisara’s hatred for her own family, this doesn’t save the terribly abrupt transition in her character but it does at least serve as a backdrop for said transition.  To sum this up, Black Bullet is a show that has a number of good pieces that were put together badly, resulting in a story which doesn’t live up to full potential of all it’s elements. Which brings me to Owari no Seraph.

Owari no Seraph has the almost the opposite problem of Black Bullet, surprising as it may sound the overall direction the story has taken is actually really good.  In fact were I to rate the three shows in this discussion solely based on their narrative progression, Owari no Seraph would be in first.  This is not to say Owari no Seraph is a good show, because it isn’t, but taken on it’s own the narrative it’s trying to tell is quite engaging.  I know, if some random stranger on the internet told me what I just told anyone who reads this, I’d call bullshit too.  And in all honesty even I have a hard time reconciling the gap between all the creative elements that form the interesting story and the bland, uninspired characters who drive said story into the fucking ground.  The single biggest problem with Owari no Seraph is the characters, I mean the whole humans vs vampires in a manner similar to Shingeki no Kyojin premise doesn’t help, but it doesn’t kill the show either.  The characters are so one note and cliche it hurts.  Not to mention the voice acting is thoroughly mediocre and the dialogue is cringeworthy, which really puts the final nail in coffin labeled characters.  I have a hard time putting into words exactly how bad the characters are, because it’s not just one thing that’s wrong with them, instead there’s something wrong with them on almost every level.  Most of the character designs alone will tell you exactly what kind of person the character is, all the characters stick closely to pre-established archetypes and have very little in the way of uniqueness to them, and they all put on disappointing performances thanks to the lackluster voice acting and horrific script.  This would almost be funny as a parody, a satire about how not to do characters, save for the fact that they occupy a story and world that are interesting.  I like the variety of monsters and/or sources of power that inhabit the world, from vampires, to demons to angels.  I like the use of Biblical lore, especially towards the end of season 2 with the appearance of Abbadon and the King of Salt.  But most importantly I like this because it is a story where both the humans and the vampires are the bad guys.  I was able to predict that humanity fumbling with powers it should leave alone was what caused the world to collapse with ease, but unlike most stories that use that particular premise, in Owari no Seraph it’s not suggested that the vampires are any better.  Usually when humanity, or really anyone we typically expect to be the good guys, either fuck or end up being the bad guys, the story will then cast the opposite force as the good guys.  Not so with Owari no Seraph, life under conniving, arrogant and pettily cruel vampires is no better than life under the tyrannical, ruthless and power-hungry upper echelons of the Imperial Demon Army.  This is a rare approach, and while it was predictable as fuck in the broad strokes, the minute details of the situation shows an unexpected level of care in craft in their construction.  I guess what I’m trying to say is that, Owari no Seraph is a good story, set in an interesting world, and even if it’s characters had just been average, it could’ve been a good show.  But the characters are just thoroughly shit that they turn a show that by rights should have been at bare minimum a decent show into something terrible.  Taken on their own the world and narrative of Owari no Seraph have serious merit, and deserve some scrutiny so that people who want to write a similar story can see how it works.  It’s just a shame that the full package that is the show is spoiled by it’s rotten characters.

Thank you for reading, this was a long post by my standards, and while I’m certain there is more to talk about on this subject, I think this is good enough for now.  Hopefully I will see you in the next one.

Hidden Gems: Rin: Daughters of Mnemosyne

So since my last post was all about relaxing, light-hearted fun, I decided do a total 180 and bring up one of the darkest and most graphic shows I know.  Rin: Daughters of Mnemosyne is one of the few anime shows I would say is made specifically for adults.  To get an understanding of where I’m coming from, here’s a brief and not at all comprehensive overview of the industry.  Most anime shows fall into one of two categories, niche shows and broad appeal shows.  Niche shows typically pander to the stereotypical otaku, banking on the kind of customer that buys tons merchandise and so on.  Broad appeal shows on the other hand try to sell dvds and children’s toys to enough people that they can recoup the costs of making the show.  But back in the day niche shows were usually not actual 12 episode shows, they were typically OVAs ranging from 1 to 6 episodes like the original Black Rock Shooter or Gunbuster.  And it was in these OVA’s that the creative and experimental works thrived, because their limited run time allowed much more creative freedom than the larger, safer shows which occupied the broad appeal space.  Rin is such an OVA, containing 6 episodes and safe is the last fucking word I’d use to describe this particular beauty.

Rin: Daughters of Mnemosyne is a pretty weird series right from the outset, for starters each episode begins after a time-skip, not including the first episode obviously, and these time skips can range from a single year to decades.  Now ordinarily most shows have to stick to much shorter or infrequent time skips because too many time skips fucks with narrative coherence and pacing, as I explained in my review of SAO.  But Rin doesn’t suffer from this issue because it’s main characters are immortals, left unchanged by the passage of time even as the world rapidly evolves around them.  In fact one the things that makes Rin so interesting is watching how the immortals deal with massive changes in society, mainly because the show’s approach to the issue is atypical.  Immortals rarely get examined closely in most works of fiction, most of the time they just get cast as having been made either bored and/or insane by their long life, they tend to be characterized as though they aren’t truly a part of the world of the story.  Instead they are distinctly apart from the world of the story due to their own immutable nature, often they seem so world weary they don’t register as active participants of the world or are so broken by their long involvement with the world that they actively seek their own death or the death of the world, in sharp contrast to the rest the world which wishes to survive.  With Rin the immortals adapt.  Part of what makes Rin, the titular character not the show, as compelling and engaging as she is how she is at once a constant and also able to adapt to the point where very few individuals are aware of her immortality.  See that’s the thing with most fiction, the immortals are clearly different from the mortals and they do a poor job of hiding that difference, if they even bother to try hiding it.  With Rin we have a character that is intriguing for her unchanging presence and yet feels like she belongs regardless of the type of world she inhabits, be it 1990’s Japan or 2050’s Japan.  That’s not just an example by the way, the show in total spans roughly 60 years to the best of my memory.

But what makes Rin: Daughters of Mnemosyne an adult show goes beyond it’s odd and interesting presentation and narrative.  For one thing Rin the character is an adult, as is almost every important character.  This helps add to the realism and maturity of the show as I discussed in a previous post, and while that is not necessarily hard for the younger crowd to comprehend or appreciate, generally I always found those things more rewarding once I got older and more mature.  There’s also gore, metric fuck-tons of gore.  See in Rin the immortals are not the “live forever until they are killed vis a vis elves and vampires in fantasy” immortal but rather the “no matter how many tiny pieces you turn them into they will regenerate regardless” immortal meaning the wounds inflicted on the immortals, and by extension the gore we get to see, reaches the level of straight up torture porn or can at least be met with a hearty “Holy Fucking Shit!” from viewers.  Additionally there are some pretty dark elements and characters in the show that turn the WTF factor to Evangelion levels of weird, and I mean that as both a  warning and a compliment, and who really take advantage of the immortals’ regenerative ability to dish out loads of gruesome punishment.  And Rin doesn’t censor this shit either.  This is blood and guts at a level of intensity most anime don’t match, especially since these are not the generic blood pinatas and arterial fountains of blood most edgy, gory shows go for but is instead more down to earth so we can see the organs and bones and so on that the blood pinatas conveniently hide.

The final element that really seals the deal for making me see Rin as an adult show is the sexiness.  Now I’m not just talking about sex scenes though those totally happen, I’m talking about the way Rin the character handles sexiness relative to the typical anime girl.  This is somewhat true of most girls in the show, but Rin is an adult woman who totally owns her sexiness.  While she is certainly attractive in formal business clothes, Rin doesn’t feel like she’s had sexiness transposed upon her by outside influences.  In my first Raging Rant, I spoke at length about the problems of all the busty anime girls and to a lesser extent the objectification of these female characters.  What didn’t really get a chance to talk about was how women could be sexy without being sexualized, and that’s what Rin does.  With Rin the impression I got was that while she was never hard on the eyes, she was never truly sexy until she wanted to be seen as sexy, that she had the agency to choose when she wanted get guys to pop boners and when she wanted to be taken more seriously.  Keep in mind most of the time Rin is a like a private detective type character and is more of a force to be reckoned with than a love interest to be won over.  In fact she’s the one who initiates the romantic and sexual advances rather the dudes she encounters.  But to sum this up, what this meant to me was that Rin was a compelling heroine who I appreciated as an individual, which only made her even more attractive when she did want to appear sexy.  I’m going to leave a photo (it’s the same one you’ll find from the WordPress Reader) of Rin being sexy at the bottom to see if it helps communicate my point, because in the photo to me she looks like a woman in full control of herself and her sexuality and that is a rare trait indeed.  Please let me know what you all think after seeing the photo or the show, as I’m interested in other perspectives.  Anyway time for the conclusion.

All of the stuff mentioned above comes together to tell a very memorable and unique story.  Because Rin deals with immortals the way it does, not only do its immortal characters stand out from basically any other immortal characters, at least among the myriad I’ve seen, it allows the story to be told effectively in totally different way than most stories can, see lots of time skips above.  This makes for an engaging and memorable watch because it’s so unique, and not just for anime either I’ve yet to see film or literature that lays itself out like Rin does.  This is one of my favorite things about the anime medium, it’s ability to go places other mediums can’t or won’t go.  But even among a medium as experimental as anime, very few shows get as unique and experimental as Rin.  And that does wonders to the show in my mind.  I highly recommend this show to anyone, though I encourage anyone squeamish to give it a pass, and also encourage people to wait until they are college students at least to watch because I think you will appreciate it more that way.  Thank you for reading, and I hope to see you in the next one.  Now onto that photo…

 

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Understanding Moe: Why Cute Anime Girls Doing Cute Anime Girl Things Works as a Show

I should make this clear here and now because the title could be misleading.  If you are here to try and wrap your head around how moe culture works and what it all entails, then this is not for you.  I can’t answer that question because I’m not very big on moe myself, for the most part I don’t really get why it blossomed into this huge part of anime culture and saturates the market with tons of cute girls shows, tons of slice of life shows with moe influences and the general explosion of moe merchandise.  Instead I’m going to discuss why I think moe shows work and why I think they got popular from the perspective of a relative outsider, based on the few moe shows I have enjoyed.  There will be scattered spoilers throughout this post, you have been warned.

Let’s start with the basics, anime is a visual medium so naturally shows that look pleasing to the eyes will get some attention.  Moe really got big in the mid-2000’s around the same time some studios were finally starting master newer animation techniques and technologies.  Shows like the Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya exploded onto the anime scene, showcasing what at the time was some of the best use of the cutting edge animation methods.  I personally hated the character of Haruhi Suzumiya and by extension the show, but compared to what was airing at the time it looks really good especially for shows in the hum-drum high school slice of life genre that so thoroughly saturates anime today.  Going beyond the mini-history lesson, moe shows tend to place a lot of emphasis on pleasing visuals, and I’m using the word pleasing deliberately.  Unlike say Gurren Lagann or the Monogatari series, which try to shock the world with their amazing quality and/or style of animation, moe shows tend to settle for a level of animation I would describe as upper-middle quality.  Moe shows don’t ever really look bad, but I’ve never thought they were ever the best looking show in any given season either, they just seem to settle for like the third or so best looking show of the season.  But more importantly moe shows always have a light and cheery color scheme, lots of bright colors with environments that are almost exclusively full of light, save for star-gazing and camping episodes.  The effect of all the aspects of the visual art are shows that, and I have no other way to describe this, look soft and soothing.  It’s like looking at early Impressionist art, it’s bright and blurred to the point where it looks soft and vaguely relaxing, though moe shows obviously aren’t blurred.  But it is a similar effect, and I think the goal is to give the show a relaxing atmosphere, which brings me to my next point.

As a man who deliberately avoids the vast majority of most slice of life and moe shows due to the sheer volume of such shows released, one thing that does attract me to these shows every now and then is how relaxing an experience they are.  I spend a lot of time thinking critically, be it watching anime or movies, or reading books or playing video games.  In addition to all the fun critical thinking, there’s all the stress of life and long work days.  What this means is that as much as I love to be critical and thoughtful, I need a fucking breaking every now and then.   And moe is one of several places I can take a break in.  Gochuumon wa Usagi desu ka? and Non Non Byori, the shows that really got me to put all my thoughts on moe down, are soothing, relaxing experiences.  The drama is silly when it even exists, there is never any real tension and literally nothing important is ever at stake.  Moe shows, or at least the type of moe show I enjoy, are shows where I can just shut my my brain off and get caught up in the silly cutesy adventures of some moe girls.  Again, the overall experience is a relaxing one, one where the viewer can just go with the flow and enjoy.  But more than simply relaxing, I would call moe shows soothing.

While the fact moe shows give me an opportunity to relax my critical mind is a huge boon, the thing that really makes moe attractive is the innocence.  See the thing that puts off a lot of people towards anime in general is the fact grown men will obsess over cute, very much underage girls, from anime to figures to body pillows.  Granted I’m a bit uncomfortable with some of that myself, however as an adult with a full time job, I can understand to some extent the love of innocence.  There’s this book you may have read or heard about called Catcher in the Rye.  In it the main character wants to save children from leaving the fields of innocence and charging into adulthood.  Now I fucking hated both the main character and the book as a whole, but now that I have to deal with rent, insurance payments, long commutes and all the other headaches of adulthood, I kind of see what that guy was getting at.  There’s a certain joy to be found in seeing innocence at work.  For lack of a clearer explanation seeing innocence, with all its cuteness, goodness and distance from the problems most us enjoy today, is good for the soul.  There’s something soothing, cleansing even about seeing such purity in action, untouched by all the flaws and frustrations of real life.  It serves as an escape from reality but not in the traditional power fantasy or harem fantasy sense because with shows like Non Non Byori and Gochuumon wa Usagi desu ka?  I can remember doing things sort of similar to what they do.  I remember getting worried over silly things that had no consequence, of trying to be the reliable older sibling, of living in the middle of nowhere and constantly hanging out with the same few friends and so forth.  In a sense what makes moe special is that serves as an escape from reality while also invoking feelings of nostalgia to some degree, both of which are powerful on their own but made even more so by their combined effort.

In summary though what allows moe, the mild adventures of cute girls doing cute things, to work is precisely how little is going on in the story and how much that benefits the mind of the viewer.  Because there is nothing really at stake, no great weight to the drama, and not even much of a story really, the viewers can just go with the flow and immerse themselves in the silly, cute story unfolding before us.  This in turn allows the viewer to really buy into the relaxing atmosphere, to sit back and bask in their own nostalgia, to escape from reality in its purest form.  This to me is the source of moe’s success, aside from just looking pleasant, it provides such a simple, pure and powerful escape from reality, that it makes for an appealing experience, especially for people for whom reality is proving very tough for whatever reason.  And given the general negativity aimed at otaku, an escape from reality can be most welcome indeed.  And that about wraps this up.  Thank you for reading, and I hope to see you in the next one.