Raging Rant: We Need More Attractive Mature Women

So after a whole bunch of posts bitching about pandering body types, waifu bait, the need for strong women and the like, I feel it is finally time to argue in the opposite direction for once.  Anime needs more hot milfs.  Now I’m being facetious insofar as the milf moniker is concerned, but in all seriousness I do feel that having some more hot adult women is something anime could benefit from for a variety of reasons.  Let’s start with the basics of the situation.

Anime is incredibly high school-centric, we all know this.  Hell I’ve even bitched about it before.  We need more shows that go beyond high school, and by extension we need more attractive adult women to go with them.  Anime has a habit of filling as many shows as it can with as many cute, attractive characters as it can, and on the whole that’s fair enough.  I might disagree with the methods used sometimes but I’m not against a cast full of hot women.  But like many stereotypical anime Youtubers, I’m a twenty something white guy, and I think we need more attractive female characters in the 20s-30s and even 40s range, because frankly I’m starting to outgrow the high school bullshit and with every passing year I get more removed from teenage girls.  This is not to say no attractive adult women exist, they certainly do, it’s just that there are so few of them in comparison to their 15, 16 and 17 year old counterparts.  Now I’m not so “mature” that I can’t find fanservice shows full of hot young women appealing, I’ve yet to outgrow that appeal by any stretch of the imagination.  But while some new teenage fanservice romps do catch my eye every now and then, those kinds of shows just aren’t as appealing to me as they used to be.  Part of that is on me for watching a lot of those kinds of shows, but another is just that I’m ready for something new.  In my rant about the abundance of high schools shows, I mentioned that I thought Golden Time made Toradora unwatchable to me, not because Toradora was bad, but because I could better relate to the characters in Golden Time, having been a college student myself when it first aired, and as a bonus I didn’t have to put up with Taiga’s tsundere bullshit.  Sure Koko is her own mess of crazy like Taiga was, but shes a different and much less explored kind of crazy, which would make her more interesting by itself.  And like Koko, hot adult women are relatively fresh compared to high school girls.  Part of this ties into making anime for an older crowd to enjoy but I’ve explained that before.  The problem with a many of the hot older women anime already has is that they usually aren’t focused on at all.

In To Love-Ru and Monster Musume for example, Rito’s mom and Mrs. Smith are both fairly attractive but they aren’t given much focus, or in Mrs. Smith’s case much of the focus put on her paints her in a negative light that makes the overall character less attractive despite her physical appearance.  This is not to say I want to see older women objectified or being forced into moe roles for the sake of the audience though, I was inspired to write this after watching this random Rokka no Yuusha AMV like a hundred times and thinking to myself over and over “you know I vaguely noticed this back when I was watching the series, but goddamn Maura’s hot.”  In case you never saw Rokka no Yuusha or have since forgotten it here’s a reminder.  Maura is the oldest of the Six Braves, the one who often assumes the position of authority based on her age, I think she’s in her 30s, her status as the leader of All Heavens Temple, which makes her the leader of all the Saints, and her power as the Saint of the Mountains.  The point I’m getting at here is that Maura is not some objectified girl with cartoonishly big breasts (though she does have those) and some kind of stupid moe quirk, she arguably has more agency and decision-making power than anyone else in Rokka no Yuusha and is kind of a badass to boot.  Also she’s really hot.

Anyway besides me understanding how hot one particular character is, the important thing I realized while watching that AMV was just how few characters like Maura I knew about.  Off the top of my head the women closest to Maura (by which I mean older, has agency and someone I found attractive) I could think of are, Rin from Rin: Daughters of Mnemosyne, Tsuruga Meisai from Katanagatari, Kikyo from Inuyasha (she might be younger than I remember but either way she certainly seems older than Kagome or Sango so that counts in my book), Re-l from Ergo Proxy, Karula from Utawarerumono, Iga Oboro from Basilisk, Ren Hakuei from Magi, and Emma from Garo: Hono no Koukuin and that’s about all I’m coming up with at the moment, thought I’ve surely seen more.  I should also note this list is shrunken somewhat by my personal tastes, Balsa or Kusanagi fit a role similar to Mauras for example, I just don’t find those two attractive even if I love the characters because I am a flawed and shallow human being.  By comparison if I tried to list every attractive high school girl in the shows I’ve seen, even if all I did was list the name and show, that list would probably be one of the longest things I’ve ever written.  Incidentally most of those characters I just listed are the among the characters I find most interesting in their respective shows, and am interested in in general and there a few important reasons why.  Mature women have more going for them than just being fresh and new compared to the onslaught of high school moe girls.  See the thing about mature characters is that they tend to be a lot more complete, fully realized characters, hence the descriptor mature.  They also just usually have a more interesting life story by virtue of having lived longer and by having more interesting years of life to look at.

Society loves to romanticize the magic of youth and adolescence and that is totally fair, you really start to appreciate the freedom and fun of youth and adolescence after you start working 9-5, paying taxes, paying rent and dealing with all the other headaches of adulthood.  But this romantic portrayal forgets a couple of things.  For starters life before adulthood is far more uniform than life as an adult.  Sure there is a lot variety between individuals based on where they’re from, their race, religion, financial situation, interests, personalities and so on.  However, barring the difference between first and third world countries, we all follow the same basic template for the most part, we go to school from 8-3 five days a week and often do an extra-curricular activity like playing a sport or an instrument.  Within that broad generalization is plenty of potential for variety, but adulthood doesn’t even follow those same broad generalizations.  It’s expected for you to get a job in most places in the world, maybe you can still be a housewife if you’re a woman but women have been moving into the work force in growing numbers for decades, save when cultural and/or religious rules dictate otherwise.  But unlike kids, who are required to attend school or be home-schooled, adults don’t necessarily have to get a job, it just means you’ll likely end up homeless and will die sooner.  Likewise the idea of the 9-5 being the only job available is rapidly vanishing as Youtube and other internet related careers are providing people with all kinds of new job opportunities, in addition to more traditional non-9-5 jobs like self-employment and being an author.  More important than all of that though is agency.  In the real world children have limited agency in a strictly legal sense, whereas adults are allowed to do as they please within reason.  But what does all this have to do with anime?

One of the benefits of anime, for young people anyway, is that generally gives it’s high school characters the same kind of agency as adults and often removes adult oversight from the story by just having the kid live alone.  But even with that agency there are limits relative to adults, teenagers living on their own can’t legally walk into a bar and get wasted on sake for example.  Adults can do that kind of shit and that quite believably lends itself to character archetypes you can’t have in teenagers, like the alcoholic.  So adult characters can have a bit more variety without straining suspension of disbelief by mere virtue of being adults, this is a bonus.  However the true beauty of adult characters is the variety of life experiences I was describing in the above paragraph.  High school kids come with certain expectations that adults just don’t.  That’s why so many high school characters seem the exact fucking same, while adults can vary more.  Sure there are plenty of generic Caring Parent A type characters in anime, but get beyond those and you see a world of possibilities.  You can have literal hobos as main characters like in Tokyo Godfathers, you can have adults who feel lost and adrift despite having a normal job like the teacher from Kotonoha no Niwa (Garden of Words), you can have self-employed private detectives like Rin, you can have professional race car drivers, mad scientists, generals, fucking just about any kind of character and occupation you can think of.  This is half of what makes adult characters more interesting, their life stories can be totally different once they are out of school, hell even when they get out of school can be a difference between them.  But with high schoolers, even though they can have a lot of differences between each individual, they also have enough shared traits, activities and experiences that they can get stale faster.  And given just how many high school characters anime has already, for a lot of people, many kinds of high school kid characters are getting old and cliche.  By contrast adult characters have all the space in the world to be free and grow and we don’t have anywhere near enough of them.  But variety of characters is only half of the story.

More so than the variety of character types which adults can play, it’s the depth such characters can have that makes them truly appealing.  You can have some well realized and detailed high school kids too, but it doesn’t happen often.  But adult characters who do get a lot of focus usually are.  For example, earlier I mentioned a character called Tsuruga Meisai from Katanagatari.  Now I’m a huge fan of Katanagatari so it shouldn’t be big a surprise that I like a character from that show, but the reason I mentioned her specifically is because of her backstory.  Like many characters from Katanagatari, Tsuruga Meisai is only around for one episode but I found her to be the most interesting of Shichika’s (the main guy) opponents.  She practically radiated authority, had developed a strong philosophy that she dedicated herself to, ran a shrine that helped women who were victims of war and sexual assault, and had what I consider to be some of the most interesting conversations with Shichika in the entire show and it all came from her backstory.  Unlike the average high school character who has usually has one major event, person or hobby that defines most of their life and character, Meisai had a decades of experiences to draw from that turned into the person she is when Shichika meets her.  In fact, her story only really begins after she’s done being a “normal” teenager and starts living life with the agency and freedom of an adult.  When you put all of Meisai’s backstory under the spotlight and see how it weaves together and defines who she is in the story, what you have is a rich tapestry the likes of which a high school kid can’t really match up with.  Even the really cool and interesting teens like Layfon from Chrome Shell Regios or the Elric brothers from Full Metal Alchemist, just don’t come with the same kind of depth and detail that Meisai and characters like her have.

Look, the main reason I’m bringing this up is because to me, the ideal hot character is not someone who has a sexy design, huge boobs, moe or otherwise very feminine traits and  clothes that showcase her “assets.”  Now having any or all of those things can be a bonus and they can make a character look great, but for me the absolute priority is making the girl someone who I can appreciate as an individual, someone whose life, actions and relationships I can get invested in.  For me a truly gorgeous female character are the kind of women I was talking about in the long post about strong women, women who register to me as people first and foremost, and ideally as totally kick ass people.  Yes because I am a shallow and imperfect being (and therefore a normal human being), the trappings of big boobs, revealing outfits, and feminine traits do add to the appeal of characters.  There’s a reason I find someone like Maura a bit more attractive than someone like Balsa (you might be thinking it’s the difference in cup size and that is part of it, but it’s mainly the lips, I just can’t handle the Balsa-Kusanagi lips).  And the reason I want to talk about older women specifically in this this context is because I believe they have greater potential for being characters I can appreciate as people when compared to the average moe high school girl.  Not that high school aged characters can’t be drop dead gorgeous, I think Erza Scarlet pre-Fairy 2014 is one of the hottest anime women of all time for example.  But all the same I find myself impressed by adult women characters far more often than I do teenage girl characters despite their relative rarity.

So in conclusion, anime needs more hot milfs.  I think it would benefit the anime industry to be willing to try more original, nuanced, adult shows instead of making a SAO or AoT clone every season.  And in that same spirit I think we need attractive adult women to populate these new adult shows.  Or even if they just showed up in more traditional shows more often to shake things up, I think that would be good too.  I mean one of my favorite parts of Garo: Hono no Koukuin was when Leo and Emma hooked up after they both overcame their respective emotional traumas.  Even aside from the fact that we actually saw a show where the main character had sex, which happens way way WAY less than it should, it was just satisfying as fuck to see the two come together and heal each other’s emotional wounds.  And I think we can get more scenes and relationships like that, if we have more adult women involved.  It will be good for the medium from a creative standpoint, to work on new kinds of scenarios with a mostly untapped type of character.  It will be good for pandering fanservice too, I know I’m not the only twenty something anime fan wishing we had more hot adult women to appreciate.  And lastly, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say it will be good for anime’s image.  There are a lot of non-otaku people in the world who are uncomfortable with and/or look down anime’s apparent love of little girls, made worse by merch like seuxalized full body pillows of said girls.  And while I like to have a “I don’t give a flying fuck about what other people think about me or my hobbies” attitude,  couldn’t we maybe, just maybe get some people to change their minds from “anime is weird and perverted” to “anime isn’t that weird or bad” or even “hey maybe I want to check anime out” if we had more adult women characters involved in making up anime’s image?  But whatever, having more hot adult women will be good for anime as an art form and may even contribute to sales for a certain niche audience, and in my book that’s a win.  So let’s have more milfs please.  Thank you for reading and I hope to see you in the next one.

 

 

Raging Rant: Can We Stop Making Half-Baked Shows for Teenage Boys Please

Ok so in direct opposition to how I handled strong women, where I bitched first and then presented good examples, with OP male leads I already talked about some of the ways you cam make them good in my last post.  Now it’s time to rail on the shit ones.  There will be scattered spoilers, you have been warned.

Before I really get going on this I need to do a brief preface.  OP male leads, taken individually, are fine.  Even if they are not well written, I can appreciate the appeal of appealing to a young fanbase and illustrating the male power fantasy.  It’s a smart business decision and it can be fun to write, animate and watch.  I don’t hate the OP male lead, not even the bad ones (well there are some exceptions), if for no other reason than seeing one in action can be fun every now and then.  But the key is moderation.  Sure OP leads can be fun from time to time but fuck do they get boring when they appear over and over.  Which brings us to the last few years.  Since the massive success of SAO there has been an onslaught of Kirito-clones, generic teenage swordsmen who steamroll all of their opponents.  Sure the character type has existed long before SAO, but things have gotten worse since it’s success.  Back in the day OP dudes were more varied, and weren’t released as steadily.  Now every single season has at least one, usually two, sometimes even as many as three.  Much like some of my other Raging Rants (you can read them here and here), the abundance of this character type is a major part of my issue with said character type.  However, this case is a little different because I’m more pissed at how consistently this exact same type of character is pumped out in a short span of time.  I mean OP teenager with sword is a pretty specific character type when compared to say busty women in anime, because at least there are a lot of different kinds of busty women.  I have four gigantic problems with the new onslaught of Kirito-clones, how often they are being pumped out, their relation to women characters in their shows, how they limit storytelling, and how fucking cynical they feel.

Just off the top of my head SAO, SAO 2, Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance, Seiken Tsukai no World Break (these are not related despite how cut and paste the two titles seem), Kuusen Madoushi Kouhosei no Kyoukan, Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry, Dan Machi and the Asterisk War all have a generic, dark-haired, OP swordsman for a lead (except Dan Machi where the lead has white hair but is otherwise the same as the other dudes).  There’s also Jujin no Fafnir, Trinity Seven, Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei, and arguably Walkure Romaze, all of which feature ludicrously OP male leads who aren’t swordsmen.  All of the shows I just listed have been released after SAO (except SAO obviously), and I’m probably missing some since I skip many of these shows on pure principle.  Now I’m not saying I hate all of them individually.  I already praised the parts of Tatsuya’s construction in Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei, and against my better judgement I actually kind of enjoy Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance and some parts of Trinity Seven.  But goddamn is that a lot of shows with the almost the exact same hero.  Even if all of them were well written, and very few of them come close to well written, it would get tiring to watch all of these shows.  But when you pile on that most of these dudes outright suck, it becomes insurmountably so.  I can’t stand how homogeneous all of these guys are, especially consider how all of these shows are released in close proximity.

Maybe, theoretically, they might be ok if these shows only showed up once or twice a year.  Once or twice a season however, is much too often.  Like how can these shows be popular at all?  Do the people who enjoy these types of dudes more than I do just not care that all of them seems the exact fucking same?  Do the fucking copy pasted powers, appearances, character relationships and half-assed plots surrounding these guys not bore the audience to tears?  Can anyone really need such a steady stream of male power fantasies to the point where these shows don’t bother them?  I mean for fucks sake, I understand about appealing to a niche and making fans happy and why that’s a smart business decision.  But to do so at such a consistent and rapid pace seems more like it runs the risk of over-saturation than anything else.  Not even harem shows go this far, I mean most of the shows with these dudes are harem shows, but the harem shows that aren’t any of the ones I mentioned so far have a lot more variety all things considered.  Just using major examples, there’s Zero no Tsukaima, a show set in a magical universe along the lines of Harry Potter but medieval, To Love Ru has a massive harem of humans and aliens of varying ages, many of which have all kinds of tech, abilities, or quirks to give their position some relevance, Date A Live has a bunch of spirits from another dimension with gorgeously designed outfits and rad superpowers, and Monster Musume fulfilled everyone’s wild dreams about dating monster-girls.  How can anyone defend this shit if the fucking harem genre, which has been considered the trashcan of storytelling for fucking years, is bringing more originality, creativity and quality to the table?  It’s frankly embarrassing, to see this many shitty characters and shows being pumped out full force with no end in sight, to see such blatant disregard for creativity and artistry and/or such blatant lack of talent enjoying such popularity.  Sadly this is only the beginning of why these characters are shit, it gets much worse from here.

Anime has something of a complicated relationship with women characters.  On the one hand some of the most empowered and interesting strong women in fiction come from anime.  And on the other there are a lot of objectified teenage girls.  I’m not going to get into the complicated pros and cons of this odd relationship, I’m going to explain why these OP male leads following in Kirito’s footsteps encourage sexist storytelling and characters.  The biggest problem with these OP dudes is how they are all about that male power fantasy.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, however all of them seem to pandering to the exact same kind of power fantasy.  There are of course many kinds of power fantasies, the same way there many different kinds of heroes.  For example, my best friend is a big fan of Rock Lee, because he finds the idea of a nobody becoming a force to be reckoned with by sheer virtue of hard work very appealing, its a power fantasy he likes.  By comparison my little brother prefers truly unstoppable characters like One Punch Man’s Saitama, because he finds that ridiculous power more fun.  But with Kirito and his clones the fantasy is always the exact same, it’s about being an unstoppable badass and getting all the hot chicks you want without much effort.  I personally don’t see the appeal of that fantasy, I can enjoy being unstoppable sometimes, but I’d rather earn the affection of a woman character after serious effort.

But that’s beside the point, the real issue is how this power fantasy treats women.  Because it rarely treats them as people, as actual characters, instead it goes down a check list of different fetishes and gives each fetish an avatar with no real heart or soul poured into their construction.  They have little to no character traits beyond a rough outline that sticks strictly to pre-established archetypes.  I mean these stories treat the dudes the same way, but at least the men are self-inserts, the women are just trophies to obtain and add to the collection.  And I don’t care that these shows are wish fulfillment for immature teenage boys, there’s fucking porn that treats women with more dignity and as such I refuse to accept that this is ok.  Besides which, wouldn’t it make for a better fantasy if you, the OP main character, were winning over genuinely powerful and interesting women?  Apparently the anime industry sort of thinks so, because as I detailed in my post about turning strong women into waifu bait, it is trying to create the illusion of the OP male lead winning over a harem of strong women.  But it’s an illusion and thus far the authors farting out these generic and unimaginative stories and characters lack the skill to make the illusion convincing, let alone show the talent needed to make the genuine article.  Ok so thus far, we have slew of generic copy-pasted OP dudes making harems of vapid, useless, generic women they collect like action figures or trading cards.  Can it get worse?  Oh yes it can.

The abundance of generic characters, coupled with the lack of attention detail in said characters, results in basic, broken and mostly boring stories.  You will notice that most of the shows listed thus far all feature school-based battle tournaments as major parts of the show.  For those that don’t the rest almost all are about special high schoolers fighting giant monsters.  The only show on that list that doesn’t fall into these categories, ironically, is SAO, which if nothing else had a decent premise even if the show did a terrible job delivering on said premise (see my post on SAO for details).  This is not to say that some of these tournaments and monster battles aren’t good.  Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei’s tournament arc was a lot of fun for example.  But it’s an issue of volume again, this time compounded by a lack of quality and imagination.  I love a good tournament arc every now and then, but not all the fucking time.  And even worse there a other shows out there with infinitely better tournament arcs  like HunterxHunter, and these shows are just going to end up looking bad in comparison.  But this goes beyond any specific premise or type of arc, that’s just a common side effect of a larger issue.  These stories lack imagination and flair, they are so dedicated to appealing to paint-by-numbers formulas they have a hard time being interesting, or in some cases working at all.  I mentioned in my review of Mahouka Koukou that it’s magic was simultaneously interesting and problematic, this was because the show did a terrible job of explaining how it worked, what the differences between modern and ancient magics were, and basically all the fundamentals of spellcasting.  In spite of the interesting variety of magic on display, so little of it made any sense or had any explanation that it was easy to get distracted and bothered by the lack of detail.  And detail is incredibly important when your show’s premise strains suspension of disbelief.

A typical high school slice of life romcom doesn’t need a lot of setting details because we are already familiar with said setting.  But once you start introducing magic, monsters and the like we need some kind of explanation, even if the explanation is just, well this show takes places in a game/fantasy world.  But half the time these shows don’t, they are set in a normal everyday modern, or slightly future, Earth but now some kids have super powers.  A great example of these problems is in Asterisk War, I recommend checking a video series call the Asterisk Wars Sucks by Digibro on Youtube, it’s amazing.  Anyway in the Asterisk War the kids have superpowers, but there’s no explanation as to why everyone has mostly the same powers, why the people who have special powers have special powers (beyond them being special), how exactly the superpowers work, and how it is that some super power kids are naturally so much stronger than others.  What’s the fucking point of making a superpower teenager tournament battle series when the foundation it’s built on, the superpowers, are so ill-defined and poorly explained that they aren’t interesting?  How can any creator using this rough, generic kind of premise expect to make genuinely interesting and inventive works of fiction if the core of their creation is so lacking in heart and craftsmanship?  These narratives of the shows listed above are basically fucking dead before they’ve even gotten started, even the one or two shows I enjoyed had bland and uninteresting stories, that they survived my judgement at all is hard for me to fully grasp.  But enough about me, the point is that in addition to bland and boring characters these shows have laughably incomplete settings and the combination of the two contribute to their bland, flaccid narratives and the frankly incompetent delivery of said narratives.  Which brings me to the final, and most damning, sin these shows all suffer from, fucking cynicism.

Cynicism is not something I inherently hate.  I myself indulge in cynicism more than a bit, and that’s fine.  However, I take issue with cynicism  when it’s injected into the creation of, and by extension sale of, art.  I go to anime to get away from the cynicism that is so prevalent in the real world, not to see more of the same.  I should stress that I don’t dislike characters who are cynical within the world of the story or cynicism that is relevant to the in-universe world and lore.  That shit can be interesting as hell.  But when our real-world cynicism bleeds into the creation of anime I get frustrated.  Art and craftsmanship is important, and sure I get that not all anime are going to be made for the sake of the art, their will always be more cynical shows being made to make money with as little risk as possible.  But there’s a difference between creators that actually try to make interesting worlds, narratives and characters,  while imitating popular shows and those that don’t even fucking bother.  In my last post I explained at length why Layfon Alseif of Chrome Shelled Regios was such a good OP male lead.  And ironically enough he appeals to the same kind of power fantasy that Kirito and all his clones do, in a show where the superpowers aren’t well explained and the setting had some issues.

So why was Layfon so good if Chrome Shelled Regios suffers from some of them same problems I have with the new slurry of OP male lead shows?  The long answer was in that post, but the short answer is that Layfon and world he inhabits were made with care, with attention to detail.  All the women Layfon could end up with are people, with goals, desires and feelings independent of Layfon, who have backstories, relationships and character traits that have nothing to do with Layfon.  Because the setting, for all it’s problems, has at least enough thought put into the lore and how people would survive in the world to make a cohesive story.  These new Kirito clones, and their attendant shows, don’t have that, they don’t have any of that most of the time. Because the people making them aren’t trying to create a cohesive work of art, they are giving us shells that look like other works of art but are full of nothing save blatant pandering to teenage boys, in the hope the dvds will sell well.  The dudes are self inserts, they aren’t really characters even, they are shells of characters that wear appealing traits.  The women look pretty but they too are hollow shells.  The settings and stories have all the originality and cohesion of plagiarized essays.  This is why I hate cynicism in art, because it apes the style of genuine art but delivers material that treats the audience as idiots (and to be fair some are) and showcases a total disregard for its own medium.  Anime is full of weird and some times off-putting stuff, stuff that scares a lot of more “normal” people away from it.  But I have to say the only times I felt ever been well and truly embarrassed by my love for anime, is when I see these miserable, cynical cash grabs making it big while shows that deserve attention for their artistry get left by the wayside.  Fuck cynically produced anime, fuck Kirito and all his clones, and most importantly fuck any creator who shows so little regard for his own medium of choice that he would make these shows and stories willingly.

Thank you for reading, I hope you all enjoyed it, and I hope to see you in the next one.

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.

Raging Rant: It’s Time to Graduate from High School

Anyone who’s been a long time fan of anime has heard this complaint before, assuming they haven’t uttered the words themselves, “there are too many shows set in high school”.  It is so easy to roll your eyes as every new season brings a fresh wave of high school kids and their adventures out for our viewing pleasure.  Even when the show isn’t about high school explicitly, the vast majority of the time our protagonists and almost all the important characters are high school-aged.  “But so what?” you might ask.  “Even if it’s annoying it’s not like it’s bad.” you might say.  Well I’m about to tell you how and why the anime industry’s excessive reliance on high school kids and campuses is bad, for everyone.

First things first, shows set in high school or set elsewhere but starring primarily high school-aged characters is not inherently a bad thing.  Much like my first Raging Rant, this is less about the concept/practice and more about how it oversaturates the market.  There are plenty of high school shows that do not in any way earn the sneering contempt so many people, myself included, often pour upon them out of sheer annoyance with the prevalence of the setting.  I mean I just finished watching Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun and I had a great time with it.  My last Unpopular Opinion was about a show set in high school, and it was a positive review.  And more famously we have shows like Clannad and Toradora which are loved by a sizeable portion of the anime community, both of which are set in high school.  Similarly, there’s nothing wrong with a cast that leans young.  Hell in some shows an older cast would actually be worse.  Take Magi for example. In Magi the story has to be about younger people because that’s part of the adventure, it’s a big wonderful journey that will eventually lead to our characters growing up after they’ve taken in all kinds of new experiences.  Likewise Inuyasha would not have worked out as well if all the major characters were adults, because much of the humor played on the immaturity of the characters, as did many of the major plot twists.  My issue has never been with the high school setting nor a cast that is made almost entirely of high school-aged people.  My issue is with how infuriatingly common both scenarios are.

I’ve complained about the issues of overusing certain elements in anime before.  Shows set in common settings stand out less than those with unique settings.  Relying on over-used character archetypes without adding your own unique flair makes for bland and often unmemorable characters.  Prolonged exposure to something makes the thing less powerful.  This is true of anything even outside of anime.  For example we just had this awesome lightning storm that had flashes of lightning for hours on end, and lightning is awesome to watch.  But after seeing fifty or so bolts one after the other the appeal and awe starts to wear very thin.  I could go on but this isn’t what I really want to focus on.  In my mind it’s the lesser problem of the several major ones I could think of.  One of the bigger issues is a sales one.  I’ve no doubt that many anime fans come from a younger demographic and as such keeping casts young is in the industry’s interests.  However, anime had major hits internationally during two notable time periods, Toonami’s release of DBZ and others back in the 90’s, and the mid-2000’s, especially 2007.  How many of those people are still teens or younger?  I mean if you got hooked on anime back in the 90’s you are at least 20 by now.  Even if you only started back in 2007, it’s been eight years, so unless you got started very young, odds are you are in your late teens or may be 20 or older.  What I’m getting at here is that even if anime has a sizable young fanbase, it also has a sizable older fanbase, and right now that older fanbase is not being given proper attention.

I’m going to give you guys an example.  I mentioned that Toradora was one of the high school romcoms that has won mainstream approval from the anime community.  When I first watched it I thought it was worth putting up with all of Taiga’s tsundere bullshit, because it was cute and touching and blah, blah, blah.  Now I’ve tried rewatching it and I can’t.  This is not because my tsundere tolerance is lower, or that the romance is somehow worse, it’s because of Golden Time.  Golden Time was another romcom that won mainstream, and my, approval but unlike Toradora it was set in college.  That may seem like a minute difference in the description, high school versus college, but it made for a world of difference in the storytelling.  Golden Time had more drama, more impact and more realism.  It’s narrative was more interesting, it’s characters more nuanced and it’s comedic and romantic scenarios were more refreshing.  Now that I have Golden Time at my fingertips, I have no reason to put up with all things I hated about Taiga, I can go watch Koko instead because she’s much easier to bear.  It’s also because I can better relate to Golden Times’ characters, having been through college myself and seeing all different kinds of people it brings together, whereas I never met a real tsundere in high school nor had class with a model in high school, that did happen in college though.  When I look at Golden Time and Toradora side by side, I see one as world of new possibilities while the other is the poster child for so many of the tired tropes and archetypes we keep getting more of.  This example is extremely narrow but it highlights some of the problems the industry has as a whole.  A lot of fans are outgrowing the high school-centric casts and shows, we want to see stories that are more mature, with more adult characters and more nuance.  The problem is that the industry standard is still stuck in high school mode, there are only a handful of shows a year that cater to an older, more mature crowd and that isn’t a good thing.  I think one of the things that makes anime such a great and engaging medium is that it offers the magic of all kinds of possibilities, the likes of which most other mediums can’t or won’t touch.  But the innumerable high school shows and casts take away from that magic, they take away from that sense of wonder and new possibilities.  Now that I’m well into this rant, I think it’s time for me to admit that there are many types of stories which lend themselves to younger casts or high school settings.  And because of this we are going to have a lot of high school shows or adventures following an adolescent cast.  But there needs to be more mature and adult shows because a lot of people are really looking forward to those.  We’ve seen enough high school slice of life, romcoms.  We are ready for something new.

I’m also of the opinion that more mature stories allow the craft of anime to flourish and shine through.  For example, SAO vs Log Horizon.  Now SAO is super popular and all but if you dig into its craftsmanship as I have here, here and here, you will find that it’s of embarrassingly low quality in almost every facet of its makeup.  Then there’s Log Horizon.  Log Horizon is one of my favorite shows in recent years, and while it wasn’t the smashing hit SAO was, ask anyone who has seen both and isn’t some rabid SAO fanboy and they will tell Log Horizon is a much better show.  Now there are a lot of reasons why Log Horizon is so much better made but I think it largely has to do with the characters.  The main characters are college students or even older as opposed to SAO where our main hero is 15.  And you can see right away how differently these people respond to being stuck in a game.  Kirito goes onto to crush everything he fights and makes a harem.  Meanwhile Shiroe and company carefully explore their surroundings, gathering information before they make their moves, stepping up to guide and protect younger players.  In SAO you have a teenage power fantasy that has all kinds of narrative problems because the little details are a secondary concern to the flashy action.  In Log Horizon, the show expects a fair amount of the viewer’s intelligence, and treats us to a less action-packed but ultimately richer world, character and story than SAO could have ever hoped to achieve.  This isn’t the only series that shows huge differences just from making the cast a bit older.  Fate Zero was leagues ahead of the recent Unlimited Blade Works series, I have a bunch of reasons why found here.  But the main difference between the two is that one is full of adults fighting on roughly equal footing while the other is about a bunch of high schoolers who are blatantly different in terms of skill and power.  But even if you get away from comparisons, you can see the ways more mature shows encourage craftsmanship to shine through.

Black Lagoon is a deal in the anime community.  A lot of that has to do with the awesome gun fights and action.  But another big part of Black Lagoon’s success has to do with its characters and setting, both of which fall under this whole mature thing I’ve been going on and on about.  More specifically, both the characters and the setting are more realistic than the high school shows.  Some of you might be wondering how that’s possible since high school and high schoolers are real while there is no Roanapur in the real world.  It’s because I’m talking about literary traditions not literal realities, though in retrospect how many tsundere’s have you met in real life?  In realistic stories the events on the page, or the screen, don’t have to depict stuff that only ever happens in reality, they have to make everything they showcase feel more real.  In practical terms it means adding lots of nuance to the people and places of the story, making everything messy enough to make us believe that such a place and such people exist.  A lot of the high school shows don’t have that.  The characters are generally unrealistic, they are too one-note to seem like real people, or they are too capable to be young teenagers, or they are designed to be sort of ridiculous for one reason or another.  Compared to so say Nozaki, of Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun, I think Rock of Black Lagoon is a much more realistic character.  Or for a more extreme example, I find Roberta infinitely more believable than Gasai Yuno, the queen of Mirai Nikki.  That’s because Roberta’s story is messy and nuanced, it lends her more credence and gives her a reason to be the unstoppable fighting machine she is.  By comparison Yuno makes almost no sense when actually think about her, I guess she’s just good at killing people because she’s crazy and a yandere, because that’s almost the entirety of her story and characterization.

There’s nothing inherently better about a realistic, mature story compared to less realistic, childish one.  But as your audience gets older they will want more mature stories and those are sadly rare in anime today.  Us otakus already have plenty of pandering to our niche and plenty of high school shows to go around.  Now it’s time to broaden the appeal a bit and give the older fans some love.  I’m tired of seeing premises that sound interesting but end up being formulaic because the cast is yet another uninspired group of high school kids.  I’m tired of checking off so many shows from “anime to watch this season” list because they are just more of the same high school bullshit.  It’s time to bring back the magic and spice that comes with variety.  You can keep making those high school shows or mecha shows full of young teens, just make some more Black Lagoon’s while you’re at it.  Because the industry has been oversaturating one particular genre for a while now, it’s time to mix things up a bit before people start finding the high school shows to be completely stale.  Anyway, that’s enough ranting for one post.  Hopefully you all enjoyed it and I’ll see you in the next one.

Raging Rant: Stop the F***ing Split Cour Series

I once mentioned in one of my early posts, found here, that one of the things I wanted to see less of were split cour series.  In case you don’t know, split cour series refers to a series that airs about 12 episodes in a season, takes a season off, and then airs another 10-13 episodes 3 months later.  Now I said I didn’t like them because I didn’t really see the point of them, and that whatever dramatic effects they might have been going for in a few major examples, didn’t really work out.  However I had never considered that split cour series would be too damaging, I always considered them a minor annoyance, a small sacrifice to the business practicalities of airing anime.  But then this season happened.

In case you haven’t read my last few posts, almost all of them say the same damn thing over and over, the ending was botched somehow.  The examples I mentioned in the old post linked above generally have the same problem.  But while I always expect some shows to screw up with their endings in any given season, this season in particular has been atrocious on that front.  Almost every major release this season ended up being a split cour series and in turn almost all of them have shoddy endings.  Because of this, I have given the split cour series some more thought and realized I may have missed the worst aspect of all in my old post, they make people lazy.  Bear with me here.  The trend I’m seeing with this season reminds me of the all of the unfinished, broken video games that have been coming out over the past few years as pre-ordering games is pushed harder and harder.  Split cour series may not be the same as pre-orders, but think about how they operate from a sales standpoint and the similarities between both practices become more apparent.  The primary goal of a pre-order is to entice people to buy the game early because that helps companies predict their sales and know their incoming income.  The problem arises when companies, seeing as they already have our money, decide to give quality control the middle finger and hand out broken, shitty games, because again, they already have our money.  And while it might not be as intuitive, split cour series follow a similar path.

A split cour series’ primary goal is to get us fans hyped for the second season.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  But look at it this way, in the past these shows likely would have been double cour (24 or so episode series).  What that means is that where fans used to be able to buy the whole show in a single dvd collection, they are now divided into two separate releases, each with their own price tag.  Ok, you might say, that looks a bit sleazy but how is that like pre-orders?  Well if someone buys the season 1 dvds, then odds are they will buy the season 2 dvds so they can have the whole series.  In this way it helps companies predict their sales to some extent.  That’s not the part that bothers me though.  What bothers me is the disregard for quality.  Remember the idea is that the companies selling the shows want us to buy the dvds.  If we have all the dvds at our fingertips we can marathon the shows and any problems that may result from a split cour ending.  For example, Gangsta had a fucking terrible ending.  But if you have the dvds for season 1 and 2, you could watch it all back to back and poof, the problem goes away.  But what happens if you don’t have the dvds?  Well then it sucks to be you because you get to see a pair of disjointed series that were clearly designed to be a single larger release, split in two because of the business advantages of doing so.  Essentially the businessmen are tapping into the simple desire to see a story from beginning to end to get more money.  That in and of itself is kind of problematic, but my issue is less with the greed and more with methods.  Because their aim is to make money, they are choosing a method that encourages dvd sales.  Which is fine, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be paid for good work.  But the key thing here is “good work”, and split cour series are showing with frightening consistency that quality is a secondary concern, if it’s a concern at all.

This is what really worries me.  I mean I don’t like seeing companies get greedy but I admit that so long as the means are decent the ends are less important to me.  But with split cour series I see a process, or perhaps it would be better to say a philosophy, that cares not about the means, only the ends.  This setup is designed for failure from both a business standpoint and an artistic one.  If the idea behind split cour series is that we will buy both sets of dvds, let me ask you a question.  Who will end up not buying either set of dvds because each set individually is a lower quality product than the total of both?  Not all of your customers are going to be forward thinking artistic types who see that the value of the show is in the sum of both parts.  Instead many people who might have bought the dvds will remember the low quality of an incomplete season 1 and quite reasonably choose not to buy any of the dvds.  Furthermore some of your customers may not be able to afford both seasons and will be forced to give your show a pass whether they want to or not so that they can buy something more worthwhile for their money.  This is a valid concern.  Even in a dedicated niche market, the customer will generally look for the best deal and when you start doubling the price tag to get the whole story, my guess is it will hurt your business long term even if it succeeds, and I don’t think it will, in the short term.  Look I’m no expert when it comes to the business of selling anime but I can say this, look at the video game industry.  Pre-orders are at an all time low, because the customers have been burned too many times.  I don’t think the anime industry, which has never been the most secure financially, can afford to have a similar thing to happen.  For all of my complaining I want anime to succeed and grow and with split cour series I see a short-sighted plan that might cause it to shrink or even fail altogether.

The other major concern is what it means for the art.  I mentioned in my first Raging Rant, that I wanted to see more approval and appreciation for the craft of making anime.  And split cour series shit all over that craft.  In my experience almost every split cour series would have worked better as a double cour series, which makes me think that’s what they might have been all along.  Call me cynical but I would not be overly surprised to learn that the split cour series we have been seeing were originally pitched as double cour series and then forcibly wrenched in two parts by sales guys or businessmen.  I mean shit, Hollywood’s been doing that with movies for a few years now.  But that cheapens the artistry of the whole process when you force the story to stop where it naturally shouldn’t.  I mean how else can you explain the unmitigated string of abrupt, shitty endings that have been so widespread this season?  This has never happened before, at least not since I’ve been watching anime.  I’ve never seen quite this many bad endings during a single season.  I’ve also never seen so many split cour series in a single season, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence.  If you think you can get better sales by sabotaging the art that makes your sales happen you are wrong.  Oh sure you might get by for a while, but look at the gaming community.  People are pissed at the DLC whoring, the pre-order bullshit and all the lies.  Gamers mistrust game publishers more than ever and those greedy, short sighted publishers have earned that mistrust, not to mention the sales they have been losing, and they have been losing sales.  I don’t want to see the anime industry to suffer a similar backlash.

To all the people who made the split cour series a thing, you’ve made a mistake.  And mistakes happen to everyone.  This one season full of fuck-ups will not see me stop watching anime.  Because mistakes can be fixed, and I want to see this mistake corrected.  But please understand that there are no winners as far as split cour series are concerned.  Already fans are getting pissed at the current string of bad endings.  I know I was talking a lot of doom and gloom and it probably sounds ridiculous because it hasn’t happened yet.  But if you keep this up until it does happen it will be too late, the damage will have been done.  Which is why I’m bitching now, as a warning for the terrible fate which lies further down the road.  I know you need money to keep going whether you care only about your shows as a business or if you care about the artistry in them too.  But you can’t damage your artistry and expect sales to suddenly skyrocket, because your artistry is what attracts so many people.  Oh sure pandering, merchandise and other stuff brings some people in.  But in my experienced opinion, the things people really respond to are the stuff you find in the craft and artistry.  You break those to make money and you will break off a sizable portion of your fanbase.  In a business that’s all about creativity, you can’t replace quality with quantity.  The game industry thought it could do that back in the day and it caused the gaming market to crash.  The dangers and consequences of short-sighted greedy plans are all over the internet staring you in the face, do not repeat those mistakes or you will suffer the same consequences.  Anyway I think I’ve raged long and hard enough for one post, hopefully you all enjoyed it and I’ll see you in the next one.

Raging Rant: Beauty vs Pandering

I’m going to preface this by acknowledging that beauty is by its very nature something that is different for everyone.  I’m not going to try to lay down rules for making things beautiful as I would in other posts because that would pointless.  Instead I’m going to bitch and moan about how there are so many ways to make characters beautiful or appealing that either get overlooked or don’t get proper attention so that we can make room for more big tits and lolis.  Let the ranting begin.

Let’s begin by setting the record straight as clearly as possible.  I’m no newcomer to anime and it’s love of pandering.  I have a pretty high tolerance when it comes to ecchi and fanservice and sexualized character designs.  I’m also well aware that a certain sector of the industry is literally based around using pandering as their main sales point, either by way of figures, body pillows or uncensored dvds.  I’m not asking for any of these things to go away or even become rare, I’m asking that animators use them all a bit less and experiment a bit more on other facets of character design to make a different kind of beautiful character.  Also I’m a guy so this post will be about female characters, sorry ladies I will not be discussing hot guys much in this post.  Ok so why do I think we need to move away from pandering a little?  Funny you should ask, I conveniently have a list of reasons why.

First and foremost it’s about creativity.  Pandering body types be it lolis or busty maidens are kind of the default body types in anime.  And sticking to the default is bad for a few reasons.  It gets stale, you know maybe back when I first got into anime I was all for the big bouncing boobs, but if that was ever the case that time has long since passed.  Now when I look for beautiful character designs big breasts is something I rarely count as appealing, not because I’ve lost my sex drive but because they are so commonplace that they don’t jump off the page like they used.  If you want to really get my attention you’re going to have to focus on the other aspects of character design like skin, hair and eye color, facial features, hair style, over-all body shape and so on.  Big boobs or a conspicuous lack thereof simply won’t cut it.  I’m not saying either is inherently bad, just that they are so common they don’t count for much to me.   The other issue is challenge and what that means for creativity.  Most of the time I’m at my most creative when I’m being challenged, and when I’m doing formulaic default work I basically feel like a machine, just plugging new variables into the same old equation.  So when you’re making an anime, the last thing you should want to be is default, because just sticking to formula robs the effort of much of its creative challenge which generally leads to weaker shows.  I’m not saying creative and innovative approaches will always work or be better than all formulaic ones, but in my opinion creativity is the key to the truly great shows.  Not necessarily the most popular shows, but the great ones.  Scale it down a bit to encompass just character design and I’d say the same is true.  If you want your female lead to stand out from the rest having a big pair of jugs isn’t very helpful, but using you creativity to make the other aspects of the character appealing is much more so.

Let me give you an example.  If you happen to look at the title picture for this post in the WordPress Reader, I’ll put it at the bottom of the post as well, you may recognize the subject as Kurokami Medaka of Medaka Box.  In case you’ve never seen the show, Medaka is a generous G cup or so.  But the picture I’m using focuses only on her face because I’m trying to make a point.  Because I find the picture of just her face far more beautiful than a full body shot.  This is not because I dislike Medaka’s breasts, but because they distract attention away from her other notable features.  In the picture Medaka is in her War God Mode, which is very dangerous.  She also looks extremely beautiful, the contrast of the ebon black hair, her pale skin and the vibrant reddish-brown makes for an excellent use of colors.  Add in the shape of her eyes, her hair style, face structure and small frown and she looks both imposing and more than little bit statuesque.  Combine all of that with the knowledge that she is incredibly deadly at the moment and she has a particular kind of beauty, the alluring kind.  Alluring beauty is something we usually associate with vampires or demons, beings we know are dangerous and may destroy use but are striking all the same, perhaps even more striking than any safe or normal  beauty can be.  It’s akin to the attraction many have with the taboo, the desire to possess something we are not allowed to have for one reason or another.  A similar example, this is for you ladies who made it this far, is Sebastian from Black Butler.  Let me ask you ladies a question, would Sebastian be as attractive to you if he were human?  My guess is that the answer for most people is no, because his demonic nature is very important aspect to his character and it’s loss would weaken him even if his looks were unchanged, but I’m not a woman so I may be wrong, please let me know in the comments if you feel up to it.  Going back to Medaka , I find Medaka attractive in full body shots in her normal state of being but that attraction pales when compared to the allure of her darker and more striking War God Mode.   Now let me ask the dudes reading this a pair of questions.  If I had included Medaka’s boobs in the picture would she be any more or less attractive?  And, if I had included the boobs would you have paid as much attention to the rest of her features?  Please comment with an answer to each if you feel up to it.   Because to answer my own questions I would say Medaka doesn’t look any more or less beautiful if you see the tits but the tits do distract attention away from her other features.  Why would we want to support a model where the most conspicuous traits of default body types distract attention away from their unique qualities and other design strengths?  I just don’t see how the current behavior of placing hefty jugs on most ladies as a matter of course is helpful to anyone involved.  Which brings me to my next point.

Men do not want to be pandered to all the time.  I suppose there may be a small subset of dudes who disagree, but contrary to internet beliefs, men aren’t horny all the time nor do we want to be.  There plenty of places where I can see women pandering to my male gaze or receive other stimuli that can set off a boner.  But what if I want to relax?  Do I really want to be staring at something intended to give a boner when I’m just kicking back?  The answer is no, there are times when I want to enjoy my entertainment at my own relaxed pace and mega melons are not conducive to such an experience.  Keep in mind most of the time I can tune out the boobage or am not at all bothered by it, but every now and then I want a more mature story with more mature characters and all the fat titties ain’t helping.  To reiterate, my issue is not that this stuff exists, it’s that it exists so much more than characters who are beautiful because they are designed well because more attention was given to creating them as unique characters.  Let me do another example.  In Kill la Kill we see Ryuuko’s naked body all the time.  And I have an undying love for Ryuuko, but not because of her nakedness.  No I love Ryuuko because of her attitude, her voice and how it meshes with her way speaking, how her hair colors and style reflect the punk aspects of her character.  In short I love Ryuuko because everything about her character works together to convey her nature, her dedication to her core characteristics go beyond her words and actions and encompass even the way she looks and sounds.  She’s a character who has been perfected, because if you change a single element in her makeup she comes together slightly worse.  This is something most characters don’t have, and it shows a rare level of craft in Ryuuko’s character, craft that  so often gets ignored because people are concerned by/bothered by/distracted by the amount of time Ryuuko spends naked or scantily clad.  Are my frustrations starting to make sense now?  This is my medium of choice and I want it to grow and succeed, I want to see it gain some recognition for the artistry involved in the creative process of making anime, because that’s more important than all of the pandering in the world.  And it’s freaking hard to see when anime is so inundated with big jiggly boobs, sexualized merchandise and so on.  I love seeing craftsmanship come to life and there is no craftsmanship in big tits or loli bodies, it takes nor creativity to incorporate those things into a character’s design so there is no craft in adding them.  Instead it just makes for more of the same pandering in a medium that already has tons of pandering.  Speaking of craft…

There are a lot of ways to make characters look beautiful.  There so many features to work with and not all of them are even physical.  Some people I know in real life are attractive not because they are hot but because they have an appealing personality and/or behavior.  The number of anime characters who fit into this category is pretty small though, too small in fact.   There are so many facets of character design that can make an individual beautiful.  And there are characters who are beautiful because attention was put into facets of character design other than their breast size and body type.  But there should be more.  I don’t think I’m being particularly unreasonable when I say that a little more variety in character design would be better for everyone.  Maybe it could lead to a new character archetype that get popular, maybe it lead to a new consensus on character traits that deserve more attention,  maybe it will give some new animator a shot at making the next big thing in character design, and maybe it just means I can find more characters that I can enjoy in my relaxed viewing experience.  Point is I see no negative consequences for the industry if it tries to break away from the big pandering boobs a bit more often, I see only opportunity.  This reliance on pandering bodies as the default is something of an industry-wide bad habit, and I’m not asking for it to be go away.  However I do think it would be in everyone’s best interests if the industry tried to break its bad habit more often.  There are plenty of people who want nothing to do with the pandering and sexualized characters in anime.  If they had a wider selection of shows to watch, and therefore may be more likely to get into anime, where’s the downside?   I’ll say it again, breaking the bad habit of pandering as a matter of course more often offers nothing but opportunity for creators and fans alike, there is no reason we should not pursue or support it.  And that about wraps this up.  If you made it this far, thank you for putting up with all my whining.  I hope you enjoyed it and I’ll see you in the next one.  But as a reward for your patience and fortitude, here’s that alluring picture of War God Mode Kurokami Medaka, please take a moment to enjoy.

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