Understanding Storytelling: Can You Spin Gold from Generic Garbage & Re:Creators

40748-Re_CREATORS-PC

Before I get into this let me just clarify that I don’t think Re:Creators is generic garbage, that label applies to a specific aspect of the show and not the entire show.  This was inspired by a recent YouTube video from Mother’s Basement, who I rarely watch because I so often disagree with him and his endless schilling is a new style of cringe to me.  The video was making the argument that Re:Creators has the potential to become an anime classic citing it’s status as relatively high profile original anime, excellent meta-commentary on storytelling and how that is woven into the story, and strong character writing.  Of the three claims the last by far the most contentious where the audience is concerned, with many people openly hating the male lead Sota and just being skeptical to the idea these characters are well written.  This is to be expected though because most of the characters look and act like generic ones.  I mean we have two light novel princesses one from a scifi world and the other from a fantasy world, a magical girl, a teenage mecha pilot, an NPC that probably functioned like the player’s index and quest guide based on her position, what looks like a Persona character, the false-ish character Altair and Blitz Talker whom I have no generic equivalent for because he’s had like 5 lines and 1 scene so far.

However that is kind of the point, and Mother’s Basement sort of address it with regards to one of the best characters Magical Slayer Mamika, but I don’t think he put in enough time with the other characters to really get this across.  One of the main conceits of the story as it continues is that while the characters were initially defined by whatever text their author ascribed to them, they either have changed, are changing or have the potential to change.  Mamika is good case study for this.  Mamika comes from a world with no nuance whatsoever, a kid’s show which has obvious villains and no concept of pain or damage.  This is a problem for a few reasons.  Mamika is easy to trick, is herself an incredibly simple and generic character (at first), and has no qualms attacking people because again no concept of pain or death.  She’s also among the outright strongest characters in the show and she demolishes a business park before she’s realized what her power is capable of and that oh shit violence has consequences.  Perhaps because she is the simplest character she is also the one who evolves the most.

After realizing that her opponents were not in fact villains Mamika becomes much more aware of how much more complex our world is than hers and takes significant steps to understand the world, her opponents and her allies.  She spies on and eventually confronts Altair when she finds out Altair is really a villain masking her true intentions.  She secretly meets with Sota to try and get a better understand of both sides in the conflict.  She breaks up the major fight in episode 5 because she recognizes that both sides have good people on them and doesn’t see why they have to fight.  This also represents one of the in-universe shortfalls of her character, Mamika is still colored to a great degree by her character setting.  As Aliceteria puts it, Mamika’s ideas are often naive but Mamika is a good person.  As fast as Mamika is changing she still has a long ways to go before she turns into someone really special. However I agree wholeheartedly with Mother’s Basment’s sentiment that the idea of having a generic character evolve due to exposure to a more complex world is a great one and Mamika’s evolution is an absolute joy to watch.

Now let’s confront the elephant in the room, Sota.  I have seen a lot of hate for Sota and I don’t think it’s entirely undeserved, I too constantly wish he’d fucking grow a pair and just tell his allies what’s up.  I want him to communicate like a human being instead of stumbling through all of his goddamn sentences and doing his damnedest not to the point across.  However, I don’t think he’s badly written, certainly not based on the latest episode, though I do find it retarded he didn’t recognize Altair immediately since a, he made her and b, she’s a pretty distinct character.  His critics are calling him the new Shinji Ikari and to some extent I agree, which is why it almost baffles me that people think he’s a bad character.  Shinji is often mocked for being weak and wimpy but while that is true Shinji’s weaknesses are central not only to his character but to Evangelion as a show.  If Shinji were a badass then Evangelion would suck, the kind of story Evangelion is only works because everyone in it is broken to some extent and they’re still trying to do an important job.  Shinji’s weakness come for reasons we clearly understand, so him learning to overcome those weaknesses or fall to them is important to the story.  How Shinji is punished for his weakness also plays a major role in Evangelion and Evangelion is a classic anime.

What I trying to say is that Sota has the potential to be a great character.  He may be unlikable as shit, as Shinji is to many, but so long as his weakness has weight in the story and he has to own up to it somehow I think Sota will do just fine.  Based on Magane’s (BEST GIRL) observations and Sota’s stupidly roundabout hypothetical he asked Meteora it appears that Sota and Setsuna, the author Altair’s story, co-created her.  But we figured that out by like episode one.  What was more recently revealed was that Sota was the less talented of the two, or that’s how it seems based on how he framed the aforementioned hypothetical, and his frustrations with the gap in talent between the two led to them having a falling out, after which Setsuna committed suicide.  The timeline for this is somewhat unclear but it is clear that Sota knows Setsuna is dead and that is why he’s struggling both as an artist and a person.  He can’t come to terms with the fact that he sort of caused Setsuna to commit suicide and it’s crippling him, especially in the last few episodes as it becomes increasingly apparent that he will have to face what happened and he isn’t ready for that, so he does his best to hide it.

What Sota doesn’t realize though is that Setsuna committing suicide is not his fault.  Even if Setsuna blamed him for her hang ups and committed suicide, the fact is that she’s the one who chose to give into whatever pressures she was feeling and end it all.  He may feel responsible for it, which explains his behavior and his look of horror when Magane makes it clear she knows what’s up, but he’s not.  Knowing this only adds to him though because it makes sense for a teenager, well anyone really but teens especially, to feel as though they caused some to commit suicide and beat themselves up over it even though the responsibility for that decision lies with the suicide.  What Sota’s age prevents him from understanding is that the world doesn’t owe anyone anything, because at this stage in his life it’s expected that he’s owed certain things like an education, shelter, food, etc.  Setsuna may have felt lonely and rejected enough to commit suicide but that’s her problem, and if she had chosen to continue fighting the problem she might have found what she was looking for.  But she didn’t.  Which brings me to my next point.

Altair is a horribly unjustified villain and while the reveal of her motivations made me super mad, after some reflection I think it might turn out for the best.  Altair wants to destroy the world because it rejected Setsuna and Setsuna committed suicide.  It’s also implied Altair may be able to directly feel what Setsuna was feeling before she died.  Altair doesn’t give a fuck about anyone, she’ll destroy all of the worlds in existence just to take vengeance for her creator.  Because while she is inexplicably good at masking her intentions early on, when Mamika confronts her she basically becomes a Sasuke-by-proxy whining about how Mamika could never understand Setsuna’s pain, and Altair hates everything and she goes into a rage.  However as discussed above the world owed Setsuna nothing and Altair seems blind to that fact.  This has some interesting implications.  Altair claims that what she’s doing was her own choice not her character setting but despite her oddly formal style of speech and apparent levelheadedness she is apparently the only character who has not engaged the nuance of the real world at all.  She is acting like a child and while that does bother me because it seem inconsistent with her earlier appearances, the prospect of seeing a Sasuke-type character get the beatdown they deserve is something I’m hype for.

What Mother’s Basement’s video didn’t address, because it appears to have been written following episode 5 is the case of Magane.  Magane is a character who has refused to choose a side and instead thrives on her own.  For example it takes the whole team of good guys to come with the idea to try and give Silesia a new power via her author and artist, Magane on the other hand gets the same idea all on her own and is savvy enough to find her author and try the idea, and when it fails she kills him but says the fact that this experiment failed to change her was interesting in and of itself.  She’s also running around doing a fine job of collecting information without any assistance and she’s more or less cornered Sota because she figured him out.  Magane is a bit overblown and she follows a pretty distinct archetype but she also appears to be the most creatively written character out of the gate and this gives her a huge head start on everyone else.  While the good guys have to muddle their way through the information they have and the bad guys are basically in the dark, Magane navigates the world with ease and despite having only been a around a few episodes she seems to know more about what’s going on than anyone else already.  Also I think she might be a reference to Bakemonogatari because her power comes from lies and wordplay and her “Peace. Yeah!” scene was very reminiscent of how Yotsugi changed her language to a faux American style after dropping the “I said with a posed look” line.

Basically what I wanted to say is that I think Mother’s Basement is onto to something.  Re:Creators is suffering somewhat from being very exposition heavy and how unlikable Sota is, but given time and vision those could be turned into advantages.  The way this show handles character growth is really fucking interesting in part because it’s so meta, a story full of characters from stories coming together in a new world.  It leads to some great stuff like how Meteora goes from an emotionless info-bot like her NPC role to someone who can properly express joy, kindness and warmth after playing the game she’s from and deciding the “creator” really cared about his story because of all the detail and how good the game was.  That’s some cool shit.  And just everything about Magane is fucking gold, seriously for all the moments Sota drags the show down by beating around the bush she lifts it up by cutting through all the bullshit.  I think Re:Creators has been pretty good so far and has the potential to be really good.  I’m looking forward to it and after reading this, hopefully you are as well.  See you in the next one.

PS: Fuck whoever wrote the fucking show synopsis for Re:Creators it sounded like the most pretentious light novel bullshit I’ve ever heard and it caused me to skip the show for weeks until I saw a good AMV and decided to try it.  Seriously I had no idea this was an original anime until yesterday because the synopsis was so bad I thought it had to be a light novel.  It would have been a thousand times better if you just said it was a show about a bunch of anime characters from different mediums and genres coming to together to fight each other.

Anime Trick-or-Treat 2016: A Bag Full of Yanderes

Since this year’s Anime Trick-or-Treat was another colossal failure I’m reworking it into an in-depth analysis of the one subject that was actually requested, namely Gasai Yuno, and her archetype, the yandere.

Since the actual request was just about Gasai Yuno, let’s start with her.  Yuno is easily the most iconic yandere and could easily be credited with popularizing the archetype.  Additionally she completely carries Mirai Nikki, which does have a lot of fans, however misguided they may be (read prior post for context if you like).  That said she’s not exactly what I’d call a good character.  Gasai is more or less defined by three traits, the core components of the yandere, obsessive love, extremely violent tendencies, and of course a firm binding of crazy to wrap up the whole package.  Of the three traits her insanity is probably the most believable and well thought out, Mirai Nikki does show that Yuno’s mom was kind of insane and abused Yuno by locking her in a cage and whatnot.  This is a cut above the truly awful crazies who are insane because plot, like the villain from the Alfheim arc of SAO, but it’s not that good either.  As discussed in an old post on crazy characters the best crazies typically have their entire lives colored by their insanity, they don’t just have an inciting incident like Yuno.  Now you could make the case that since Mirai Nikki takes place in a second world, the Yuno we see there has lived an entire life of insanity already and thus makes sense, but that still doesn’t really explain how she became so insane in the first world beyond the inciting incident.

The abuse also does make Yuno’s violent tendencies more believable as abuse victims sometimes become abusers later in life.  However it doesn’t explain how extreme her violence is nor why she’s good at it.  It’s one thing for the a kid who gets beat his whole life to beat others when he becomes an adult but it’s a lot less believable for that person to become a full blown serial killer, especially one that’s insanely good with knives, axes and guns.  But even setting aside the potential issues of Yuno’s violence there is one glaring hole in her character, her love for Yuki.  It’s clearly shown that the Yuno’s of both worlds fall for Yuki but it’s not ever explained why.  Now I get that love isn’t necessarily logical but come one what’s Yuki got?  He doesn’t appear particularly good looking, he has no social skills, and he’s done nothing for Yuno that might make her fall for him.  So what gives?  Why is he so damn important to her?  Because plot apparently.  Ultimately though I think Gasai Yuno symbolizes the inherent problem with yanderes, they are such comically overboard characters at the conceptual level that playing it straight is shooting yourself in the foot.  It would take a lot of work to make a believable person who was also a full blown yandere and frankly most yandere creators don’t put in that effort because their shows are kinda shit.  Off the top of my head I’d say the only genuine yanderes are the main girl from School Days, which is infamous for being a dumpster fire, Gasai Yuno from Mirai Nikki, which as previously discussed is pleb tier anime and the orange haired girl from Shuffle!, which was a pretty subpar harem show that I’m honestly wondering how many people currently watching anime even really know about since it came out in 2005.  Most people also include one or more of the girls from Higurashi but there’s so much else going on in Higurashi that I think labeling them yanderes is grossly oversimplifying their characters and is wrong.  Lucy from Elfen Lied is also often called a yandere but I don’t think that quite fits either.

In my opinion the best use of yanderes are as gags, and given the prevalence of the gag I think most Japanese creatives agree with me.  Off the top of my head, Medaka has a yandere gag in Medaka Box Abnormal, both Tsukihi and Senjougahara have a couple yandere moments throughout the Bakemonogatari franchise, Ayase from OreImou has a few yandere scenes, Rin from Kanojo ga Flag wa Oraretara has several yandere moments, the black haired girl from Baka to Test has a bunch of yandere scenes, Chocolat and Yuragi both have yandere scenes in NouCome and the real star of this post, Anna Nishikinomiya of Shimoneta, has a few yandere scenes too.  There’s probably more if I thought about it but I think I’ve made my point, yanderes as gags outnumber actual yanderes, because yanderes are so conceptually goofy that they make way better punchlines than characters.  This brings us to my favorite yandere of all Anna Nishikinomiya of Shimoneta.

Anna is a great yandere because A, she’s not a yandere 24/7, B, because the world of Shimoneta is inherently ridiculous and full of ridiculous characters so a yandere fits right in, and C, the narrative has done a better job explaining why she exhibits yandere behaviors than most if not all other shows.  For those unaware, Shimoneta takes place in a future Japan where porn and all things sexual have been banned and censored by the government.  Anna is the daughter of two major proponents of this censorship and as such is a ridiculously sheltered and pure girl even by woefully sexually unaware standards of the people around her.  During the story she is kissed by the main guy during a sting operation where he saves her from some stalkers and she falls head over heels for him, therefore explaining her deep love for him.  It’s also established early on that Anna is insanely physically competent, both due to plot and due to the fact she’s a cream of the crop elite who works her ass off to fulfill her parent’s expectations.  So she has good foundations for being good at violence.  The final and most important touch though is how sheltered she is, she has no concept of the difference between love and lust, between what are acceptable ways to show affection and what’s not ok, so she engages in both extremely violent and extremely sexual acts and believes herself justified in doing so because she’s acting out of love, which she only has a vague idea of but believes is a pure and righteous thing.  She also has no idea how to calm her body’s now awakened sexual urges and only seems to succeed in doing so when she’s performing her most perverse and extreme activities

To make a long story short, the reason the yandere succeeds as an archetype is because it’s incredibly stupid and out there.  Everyone likes to talk about the great animes, the ones that everyone knows about and which left a long-lasting impression on the fandom and even the medium, but most of the time anime isn’t that, it’s stupid and weird.  I say this as a compliment, stupid and weird can be a ton of fun and most of the time I want fun, not the next big classic which reshapes the medium.  Stupid and weird are also core elements of camp, which is something most people absolutely love despite the negative connotations surrounding the word.  The yandere archetype plays into the crowd’s love of camp, a character taken to such extremes and whose behavior is so overblown you almost can’t help but laugh at it.  Because of this it’s vital that the yandere in question not be taken too seriously because serious and camp tend to butt heads.  This is where Gasai Yuno both succeeds and fails, the character herself is ridiculous enough to be kind of awesome, even of you hate Mirai Nikki like me I still think Yuno herself has some appeal as a gimmick or a concept, but at the same time because Mirai Nikki plays her role straight and serious it weakens her character and the show itself.  Ultimately Yuno is the face of yandere and I doubt anything will change that, and in fairness she does embody the extreme nature of the archetype quite well and by extension showcases the archetype’s appeal rather nicely.  But in the context of being played seriously, shes not a good character, and she’s used poorly because again Mirai Nikki is pleb tier anime.

Over the top violence and love taken to creepy, crazy extremes is fun and funny, which is why the yandere should be a gag, because it works so well that way.  Alternatively it makes sense for a yandere to be played fairly straight in a world and story that are already so ridiculous that nothing is to be taken too seriously.  Yanderes, despite their dark reputation, are actually really fun and they are good making us laugh in the “well this is sort of fucked up but it’s still funny” sense.  And if nothing else Yuno performs the crazy violence and twisted love we come to yandere for, it’s just too bad she’s in a show that doesn’t use her properly.  So if you like the yandere, or maybe just want to see what all the fuss is about, go watch Shimoneta instead and let Anna show you how it’s done, because to me she should be crowned as the real Yandere Queen.  Thanks for reading I hoped you enjoyed it, and if you have other characters you think make for good, or bad, yanderes do feel free to share in a comment.  I’ll see you in the next one.

Anime Trick-or-Treat 2016

Hello everyone, it’s time to return to a (mostly failed) tradition.  Halloween is traditionally a time when everyone starts making videos, blog posts, and AMVs about horror anime.  So in the spirit of being different, I’m not going to talk about horror, at least not by choice.  Instead I’m going to do a bit of community outreach, which is a fancy-pants way of saying I’m taking requests.  The plan here is to take around 20 requests and compile them into one giant Halloween post, to make an anime candy basket if you will, for all of you.  If you want to get an idea of what this will look like, you can look at last year’s post as a short example.  The rules are below:

Rules and Regulations:

  • I will take requests from the time this post is published until 11:59 10/30/16, any requests made after this time will not be addressed. If I have not reached the 20 request limit by this time you may be able to sneak in a request during the wee hours of the morning on 10/31/16 before I get up and start working, I make no promises though.
  • For those of you making requests: ask of me whatever you like, I’ll do an entire series, or any scene, battle, character, group of characters/organization, weapon, spell, magic/superpower, physical ability or literary/anime concept; basically anything anime related you can think of. I will analyze these things in medium-sized blurbs as opposed to writing full reviews of 20 entire shows because that would be really hard to do in 24 hours.
  • You’re free to make as many requests as you like, however I’m going to cycle through everyone who makes a request and take their first request before addressing extra requests, so I may not get to all of yours if I get enough people making requests.
  • To make a request go ahead and leave a comment on this post and this post only. Any requests made on other posts will be treated as a separate thing and I won’t get to it until later.