Commencing the 14,567th “This Month’s Genshiken Was Great” Discussion.

Chapter Summary

It’s time for Kuchiki’s graduation, and the members of Genshiken have gathered to celebrate . They haven’t really put much effort into wishing Kuchiki well, but their half-hearted gifts (flowers and a signboard with messages from everyone) move him to tears. Kuchiki, meanwhile, reminisces about his time in Genshiken, and how one of his greatest memories is seeing the Madarame Harem crumble in person, only to find out the news that Madarame and Sue are dating, which ruins his schadenfreude.

With graduation comes time for a new president, and Ogiue chooses Yajima. In spite of her misgivings, Yajima is eventually convinced to do it, especially thanks to support from Hato. The chapter transitions to a new spring, and Hato visits the club room, eager to spend time with his friends.

And So It Goes…

If anything stands out in this chapter, it’s the artwork. While I’ve felt the quality of Kio’s drawings have been fantastic these past few chapters, I can really feel that this finale wasn’t rushed at least in terms of the TLC put into it. Ogiue is beautiful. Hato is beautiful. Everyone is beautiful

The conclusion to Nidaime pretty much came about Chapter 126, so this one feels much more like an epilogue. In many ways, it mirrors the original ending of Genshiken: a graduation, a transition in power in the club, some delightful nerd moments, and then a positive look into the future for the club. In fact, both series all but conclude after the establishment of a romantic relationship, with a lot of “falling action” following.

The big difference in feeling is that one involves the graduation of Sasahara and Kasukabe, two very vital characters central to the Genshiken narrative, while the other involves… Kuchiki. While he’s been with the club for a very long time, even the characters themselves treat him as an afterthought. They’ll treat him with just as much respect as they think he deserves. As Kuchiki points out, they didn’t even bother dressing up for his graduation (and if you recall, their graduation trip was more of a “Kuchiki is going away” celebration excursion).

Kuchiki is Human Too

The big exception here is Hato, who in general tries to look good when he crossdresses, but I wonder if he has a soft spot for Kuchiki. It wouldn’t be anything remotely resembling romance, and might lean more towards pity than anything else, but he seems to treat Kuchiki with noticeably more restraint and tact than the others. This might just be in virtue of the fact that he’s also a guy, so even if Kuchiki pictures Hato as part of his potential “harem,” it doesn’t faze him as much. Kuchiki also inadvertently instigated a number of Madarame/Hato moments.

It might also be that Hato can kick his ass.

In a way, it feels weird that the series would end on Kuchiki’s big day. I think that many readers of the series wouldn’t even mind if he fell off a cliff. At the same time, he hardly ever got any real attention, and had nary a sense of character growth. Now, at the finish line, we see a rare moment of Kuchiki being genuinely happy. I’d like to think that, somewhere deep down, he realizes what a terrible person he can be, and the fact that the other members put up with him is something he can appreciate. Granted, that’s only one heartfelt moment in an otherwise incredibly awkward display of how not to behave as a human being. It doesn’t help him that he loudly declares in the middle of campus that he spent the prior day masturbating furiously to his favorite doujinshi.

I do find it kind of interesting that, when Kuchiki mentions that his desire is to create his own harem, he doesn’t exactly include Yajima and Yoshitake in it. It makes me wonder if there’s something to the two of them that puts him off.

Passing of the Torch

With graduation comes a new president, and this transition always provides plenty of delightful reflection and insight in terms of the characters. Seeing prior presidents fidget and their newly chosen successors doubt themselves is the kind of tradition I can support. After all, it once provided one of the best moments in Genshiken: Sasahara and Ogiue’s racy near-kiss. No such thing happens this time, but there’s still plenty to chew on.

In the past, new presidents were chosen because they either seemed likely to carry on the spirit of the club or because the alternative (Kuchiki) would have been far worse. Ogiue picking Yajima makes sense in this regard, because she always appears to be the most stable and grounded member out of all the new generation. What’s more, Yajima’s careful personality and the way she doubts herself often is indeed quite Genshiken-like, and the way that she feels caught in the transition between generations of otaku makes her able to understand a range of potential newbies. I also do love the fact that Yoshitake agrees that she would probably abuse any power given to her, and the role of advisor/confidant is about as perfect as it gets for a lover of history.

I also only just realized after reading this final chapter that Ogiue likely abolished the doujinshi honeypot trap tradition, where current members spy on new recruits from outside and then bust in on them while they’re in the middle of revealing their tastes. Being a victim of it herself and also not being a fan of embarrassment, I could see why the secrets behind this would not be passed on to the next generation, especially one with Yoshitake in it.

Speaking of movements between generations, it’s notable that Madarame does not show up in spite of his prominence in Nidaime. Granted, none of the former members show up at all, so I imagine that the goal was to focus on the current iteration of Genshiken for the final chapter.

Thanks from other Manga Artists

Accompanying this final chapter in Monthly Afternoon are a series of congratulatory images from 30 other Afternoon manga artists, including Yoshikazu Yasuhiko (Gundam: The Origin), Samura Hiroaki (Blade of the Immortal), and Suenobu Keiko (Limit). Fun for all, and I really hope it’s included with the packaged volume release. Samura clearly drew Madarame with the wife from Spotted Flower, so I think we know where his ship sails.

Final Thoughts (This is actually as long as a regular Chapter Review!)

I discovered Genshiken many years ago, back in my college days. I can’t quite remember if I discovered the manga or the anime first anymore, but I remembered how real it all felt: these characters reflected to a scary degree the thoughts, behaviors, and mannerisms of me and my fellow nerds. It was an enjoyable series to be sure, but then a study abroad semester to Japan would elevate the series to the apex of my love for anime and manga, for it was there that I discovered Ogiue. With her came a number of realizations, such as my extreme(ly strange) fondness for “dead eyes” characters, but also an overwhelmingly powerful emotional connection with her fear that her passion would hurt others. By the time I came back to the United States, Genshiken was actually gearing up for its first ending, but it and Ogiue would remain with me.

Ogiue Maniax originally began well after the Genshiken manga had ended. At the time, I felt I had so much more to say about Genshiken and Ogiue, so I kept writing about it. I followed the second TV series. I gave testimony as to how I became such a fan of the series. I started the Fujoshi Files. Gradually, this site became much more than a Genshiken blog, though it wasn’t quite ever entirely one in the first place. I was content with the overall direction of Ogiue Maniax, and my own fandom.

Then Chapter 56 happened.

One of my long held desires was to see how Genshiken would be like under the leadership of President Ogiue, and this one-shot (at the time, no one knew it would become the precursor to a new series) provided just that. Two things stick out in my memory about Chapter 56. First would be the art style. Back then, Kio had been coming off of doing Jigopuri: The Princess of the Hell, and it showed in how much softer and cuter the character designs were. Second would be the mostly female cast. If you look at the original end of the first Genshiken, it clearly shows a very different kind of club with male members, a natural extension of what Genshiken was like back then. This was a retcon of sorts, but it set the stage for a more thorough exploration of the changing landscape of otakudom. Where once the female fan was seen as this rare gem in terms of characters, Chapter 56 went above and beyond to show that things were different, and the presence of female characters as otaku and fujoshi would not only be normalized but dominant.

When the announcement that Genshiken would be getting a full-on sequel hit, I was ecstatic. It provided me with a feeling of renewal, but also an opportunity. Chapter reviewing Genshiken on Ogiue Maniax hadn’t been possible, and I thought it wouldn’t ever be. But now, if ever there was a series for me to analyze every month, it had to be this one.

At the time, I could look back and go, “Wow, it’s been seven years since I discovered Genshiken, isn’t that wild?” Seven has now become 12. I began as a college student who saw himself in Genshiken, and now I’m in a dramatically different place, with a well-respected (if obscure) anime blog, a degree from studying manga that required me to move to another continent, and many good friends whom I met not only through my love of anime and manga, but also because the fact that Ogiue confronted and conquered her own fears encouraged me to do the same. Both I and the world around me have changed, and the fact that Genshiken has also shifted to reflect this made it a constant source of fascination for me.

It was truly unusual for this series to spend so much time exploring the Madarame harem, but I think that it became the focus inadvertently because it overlapped so much with Hato’s own development. You had these two tracks of characterization, one from the old guard and one from the new, and the result was that it pushed the classic otaku question of 2-D vs. 3-D into new and unfamiliar territory. In the end, any of the pairings would have worked for me, and while relationship drama was probably the last thing people expected out Genshiken, the series defied even those newly created expectations at every turn.

While it would have been all right for Genshiken Nidaime to have been more of the same as its predecessor, I’m happy to see how different it became. It confronted a new world of and around otaku, it tied up one of the vital loose ends with Madarame’s unrequited love, and explored topics concerning gender, sexuality, and self-image that went even beyond Ogiue’s plight in the first series.

What’s Next?

Now that Genshiken is over, that means the end of Ogiue Maniax’s monthly chapter reviews. That doesn’t mean it’s quite the end, though, as the supplements included in the collected volumes usually provide more insight and a true epilogue. And who knows? Maybe there’ll be more someday. I wonder where I’ll be in life at that point.

I’ve also been considering going back and reviewing the first series.

And please create that series I want where Angela is the main character.

So with that, I bid you adieu. OG(iue) 4 life.

Kio saying thanks and lamenting that he never got to do another beach chapter.

Name: Yokoyama, Mitsuko (横山みつ子)
Alias: Pythagoras Dojikko (ピタゴラドジっ娘)
Relationship Status: Complicated
Origin: Prison School

Information:
Yokoyama Mitsuko is the secretary of the Student Council at Hachimitsu Academy, a high school that until recently was an all-girls’ school, and which treats male students like dirt. Her nickname, Pythagoras Dojikko, comes from her immense intelligence combined with her clumsiness. As part of the Student Council, she works under Student Council president Takenomiya Kate and opposes the Underground Student Council headed by Kurihara Mari. Her sister Anzu is part of the Underground Student Council.

A big fan of Romance of the Three Kingdoms (her name is a reference to Yokoyama Mitsuteru, famed manga creator who drew a manga version of the classic Chinese tale), Yokoyama befriends another history lover in Morokuzu Takehito (aka Gakuto), one of the few boys in the school. However, Yokoyama is also a fujoshi, and her love of Three Kingdoms also extends to her pairing its legendary historical figures. When Gakuto creates a misunderstanding with his friend Joe, Mitsuko begins pairing them as well.

Fujoshi Level:
Yokoyama is particularly fond of the pairing of Romance of the Three Kingdoms characters/historical figures Guan Yu and Zhuge Liang.

paworks

This interview is part of Ogiue Maniax’s coverage of Otakon 2016. While the interview was with multiple staff members at P.A. Works, only the producer, Horikawa Kenji, gave responses. I’ve reflected this in the answers.

It’s a pleasure to have this interview with you. My first question has to do with True Tears. It was your first work as a studio, and from what I’ve heard the anime is quite different from the visual novel. What led to you choosing to adapt this series for your first project, and what led to it changing from the source material?

Horikawa: So the producer at that time, Mr. Nagatani, had said, “Let’s work on a few projects together!” And out of those choices was True Tears. We thought that it was perfect for what we could do at that time. We also thought it granted us lots of freedom, too, because as long as the theme was “tears,” we could do what we wanted.

Hanasaku Iroha is a series that shows the charm of the countryside and Japanese tradition. It seems that more and more anime are focused on the promotion of tourism to regions of Japan. You created the Bonbori Festival in Hanasaku Iroha, but was the promotion of a region of Japan a part of production from the very beginning?

Horikawa: When we made Hanasaku Iroha at first, we didn’t intend for it to empower tourism, quite the opposite, actually. Recently, there are many cases where anime fans go to the locations where their favorite anime take place. Some people call it going to “holy sites” or “investigating the show.” But while it can be a good thing, the act of fans going to these sites might not always be positive. When the fans gather, they might take pictures of, say, average houses and it might be very troublesome and disruptive. When I make select a location for a work, I think about how to have it so that even if fans visit it’ll be okay.

So when we were making Hanasaku Iroha, it was part of our thoughts that we would base it in a hot spring city that would be okay with having some volumes of fans coming. We also took care that the residents of that city would be notified when a large number of fans would come.

In regards to the Bonbori Festival, it originally wasn’t there, but it came up during the making of Hanasaku Iroha. We thought that, if it was a festival that the people could continue—not in the anime sense but that of a legitimate festival—that would have a much bigger, long-lasting, and positive impact. While an anime might be forgotten in a few years, a festival is part of Japanese culture and won’t be forgotten.

In Hanasaku Iroha, the grandmother is a very important character. In Shirobako, most of the characters are career women or out of high school. Tari Tari has one of my favorite characters, which is Takakura Naoko. Do you feel that there is a better market for series starring older characters, perhaps similar to the series you make now, but with people in their 20s and 30s?

Horikawa: As much as I would like to make something centered around older characters, there is such a thing as monetary value associated with characters. In Hanasaku Iroha, the characters were supposed to be out of school already and working, but due to those complications they became high school girls.

Since Shirobako, however, we took that step towards making the characters people who are actually out of school and working. That was a great adventure for us. Since we found out that Shirobako was indeed a success, we have shown that the girls don’t have to be in high school for fans to be interested. So, it was great to find out that fans like mature women as much as high school.

There are a number of characters in Shirobako based on real creators, for example Maruayma Masao and Anno Hideaki. Did you consult them in your portrayals, and did they have anything to say afterwards?

In terms of the people connected with those characters, we did ask them for their acknowledgement. The director knew Maruyama-san, so he probably asked Maruyama-san, while I asked people I know. But some seem to say that they never received the requests for acknowledgement.

Thank you.

Horikawa: Thank you very much.

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paworks-stands1

Right after Otakon, I joined in on an impromptu post-mortem podcast on Ani-Gamers along with the Reverse Thieves and Anime World Order. See what we had to say!

Actual con report coming soon.

 

yukitheater

This was originally supposed to be a post about my time with Yukitheater, a program that allows people to watch anime together in a virtual movie theater using their own in-game avatars. Unfortunately, Yukitheater doesn’t work terribly well with Macs, so I often found myself staring at blank screens. The result is that, as I write about Yukitheater, I can only largely talk about it in a conceptual sense, so take my thoughts with a grain of salt.

One of the classic dilemmas of the internet (or communication in general, one might say), is that the more convenient it becomes, the easier it also becomes to avoid actually interacting with others. Where once anime clubs and gatherings at friens’ houses became the default way to watch something, streams and downloads are right at out fingertips. Of course, I’m hardly the first person to write about this, nor do I think this is the fall of civilization. If that were the case, we’ve been falling since the dawn.

Fans of anime and other media do not necessarily just take this lying down, and so the idea of the “simulwatch” was born, where people will each individually load up a movie or an episode, synchronize their watches Parker Lewis style (am I dating myself?), and then use voice chat, Twitter, or some other social platform to talk. Twitch thrives on this model as a streaming platform, and Nico Nico Douga with its scrolling comments is exactly in this spirit as well, except that it plays with the idea of “real-time.” Yukitheater, as well as its predecessor, Garry’s Mod’s “Cinema” mod, are examples of trying to transform the simulwatch into a more immersive experience by creating a visual setting (the theater), and allowing for virtual avatars to run about and hurl popcorn (or whatever) at each other.

As someone who was an avid internet user in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the days of web rings and fifty billion search engines, Yukitheater seems like something of that era. More specifically, it feels like the kind of program people would have dreamed of back then amidst aspirations of “virtual reality” and the simple wonder that was talking to people on the other side of the world. If this were 14-year-old me, I would have been downright addicted to something like this, and indeed I spent many hours talking with people I never knew in real life about video games, anime, or whatever topic interested me.

While this might seem like an argument against Yukitheater as a kind of resuscitated relic, the relative anonymity it provides is something that I believe is sorely missing from today’s internet. When I grew up with the web, I saw it as a place where I didn’t necessarily pretend I was someone else, but I could step away from my life in school and with family. I could explore, and I could get away. Currently, however, the internet is more often than not an extension of one’s own existing reality. Facebook just gets you talking to people you already know. Rather than escape bullying by going online, the bullies can now follow you there. Although I have not used Yukitheater extensively, it appears to me to be an environment from an older time when one could indeed use the internet as an escape.

Yukitheater isn’t exactly a new idea. In many ways, it feels very much like Second Life or other similar online environments. I’m also likely projecting a lot of my own values onto Yukitheater, and so I’m aware that much of what I say is both subjective and subject to personal experience. A lot of things can go wrong with something like it, and I’m not even talking about the semi-frequent crashes (perhaps a symptom of Mac incompatibility). Still, I do find it fascinating that, in an age where the anime club no longer provides a “necessary” service (showing anime that is hard to find) with the communal aspect attached to it, now fans are actively seeking ways to connect with each other. Maybe this, more than anything else, is what defines one of the great generation gaps in anime fandom.

This post was sponsored by Johnny Trovato. If you’re interested in submitting topics for the blog, or just like my writing and want to support Ogiue Maniax, check out my Patreon.

IMG_2010

Weekly Shounen Champion has a new series, a harem where all the girls are delinquents. I wrote a review about it, so check it out.

leseanthomas

I had the pleasure of interviewing LeSean Thomas at Otakon 2016, where he was debuting his new animated short, Cannon Busters. Though we didn’t talk much about Cannon Busters itself, I was pleased to find out about his life as an artist, his philosophy on art and anime, and even his family.

Ogiue Maniax: So you grew up in the Bronx, and I assume that you had some sort of arts education. Could you describe what it was like to grow up as an artist?

LeSean Thomas: It was fairly okay. I stayed indoors quite a lot. I used to sketch a lot, sketch in school. You know, I grew up when hip-hop was growing up, and so a lot of stuff happened in the 80s in New York City. I thought it was cool. I had a lot of colleagues, a lot of friends in my apartment building, who I’d sketch with from time to time. I had a lot of friends in class who I could sketch with. I was into video games and sketching.

I think I decided to make it a career when I became a teenager. I moved to upstate NY for a period of time, to Middletown, and when I came back to the Bronx I decided to become an illustrator. I enrolled in a school that focused on the arts.

OM: Which high school?

LT: Julia Richmond High School. It was in Midtown Manhattan.

That was sort of my circle, and by the time I got back after I graduated high school I decided I wanted to become a comic book artist. But it was tough because there was a lot of competition in New York City—Marvel and DC. But I was also really influenced by animation, Japanese animation.

I landed a couple of opportunities that led me to work in animation production, and one thing led to another. I got onto a couple of big shows, and I was able to use that to build up momentum to work on more shows and create opportunities for myself.

OM: More and more young kids, teenagers, college students, are embracing anime and manga as part of how they get into art. I also know there’s concern that anime and manga are teaching the wrong lessons.

LT: What kind of wrong lessons?

OM: Like it’s teaching people to draw the wrong way or look at art the wrong way. And I’m sure already from your question to me you probably don’t agree with me.

LT: Yeah, I don’t.

OM: So I’m wondering, what would you think is the best way to use anime and manga in an arts education?

LT: I think you should do whatever you want. I haven’t ever heard anyone say to me that copying Picasso or Michelangelo, or Italian or French artists perfectly, is wrong. We get into this really weird, shaky territory where we start becoming ethnocentric towards specific countries and their art history. I think a lot of that is based off the fact that the US was a European colony, and our history is based off of European history, and our art history is European. What’s wrong with India? What’s wrong with Mumbai? What’s wrong with China. I think that, respectfully, it’s just the way it is, but I don’t think that a lot of thought is given into how we judge children who copy the styles of other countries, as opposed to what our curriculum forces us to teach, which is European art history.

I know a lot of graphic designers who are brilliant who don’t study European stuff, they study Japanese art. When you’re in a school, you’re programmed and taught to be an employee and not an auteur, and I think that plays a big role in how teachers choose to enforce their ideals onto students, who are very impressionable at a young age. I’ve also noticed, in my experience, that a lot of teachers are graduates who couldn’t find jobs themselves. You have this cyclical dynamic happening where teachers who don’t have a lot of experience are telling kids what they should and shouldn’t draw.

How did Murakami learn how to draw? When you’re telling kids how to draw, you’re telling them how to interpret art. It’s not right. When you’re telling them how to respond to art, you’re robbing them of the privilege of interpreting art themselves, and interpreting how they learn. So I respectfully disagree with the logic that a child shouldn’t learn how to draw anime because of the historic implications behind that.

OM: You worked on The Boondocks, and it’s clear from the comic strip that Aaron McGruder is also very influenced by anime and manga. Is your mutual interest in how you came onto the show?

LT: Certainly my drawing style played a big role in choosing me to help him develop the early designs with the crew.

OM: The Boondocks as a comic strip was pretty forward thinking, advanced, and progressive, but the comic strip medium is a pretty conservative place. So when moving the series over to Adult Swim and an animated setting, was it a very conscious decision on your part and the staff’s part to push the envelope much further?

LT: No, that was actually Aaron’s mandate. I may be wrong, but I remember a rumor from around 2004, 2005—from someone in our circle—that Mike Lazzo, the head of Adult Swim, played a role in having Aaron push the envelope. So when I came on board, that was already a demand that came from on high. I was pretty detached from that. I was more focused on the visuals. A lot of that envelope pushing was in the writing. That was the stat quo on the production; we knew what we were getting into.

But as far as the decision from Aaron going from the conservative comic strip to the extreme in the animated form, I’m not privy to that. But there is a rumor that Adult Swim was encouraging that as well.

OM: You worked on Cannon Busters, and you mentioned previously about your friendship with Thomas Romain. You come from different cultural backgrounds, but you seem to have a lot in common. So what’s it like working with him?

LT: Well, Thomas is a westerner, whether we want to admit it or not. He speaks English, and while there are some things he doesn’t get about American culture, he’s still a westerner. That’s part of our common bond, as is our need to collaborate internationally. I think we’re kindred spirits. I told him that that, because of him leaving France to go to Japan and me leaving America to go to Korea for pretty much the same reason.

I like to use Thomas’s phrase, “world animation.” It’s not anime, and it’s not American animation. It’s world animation because of the nature of how it’s put together. I really respect Thomas. I like him a lot. I think he’s one of the most talented guys. He’s an incredible draftsman, and one of the most incredible thinkers. I’m going to see him next month when I go to Tokyo. He’s one of my favorite people.

OM: You worked in Korea, you’ve worked with the Japanese studio Satelight [on Cannon Busters], and you’ve worked with American companies. What’s it like working with different studios in different countries?

LT: In America, it’s pre-production and post-production, and that’s it for most shows. There are a lot of shows that are being animated in Flash in America, but most daytime animated shows are done in Korea.

Korea doesn’t do pre-production or post-production, so they’re just main production, largely. And Japan does all of it. And that’s the difference, at least in my personal experience. I could be wrong, but that’s the gist of what I got.

OM: You spent time in South Korea in the animation business. I know that Korea doesn’t create a lot of animation in pre-production or post-production, but I know there is a desire by South Korea, by the government and the animation business, to be known as an animation powerhouse.

LT: It’s mostly service work.

OM: Do you think there is a strong potential for them to break out and become their own thing?

LT: I think so. I don’t know if the problems that were there when I was in Korea are the same as the ones now, but I know the trick is to find venture capitalists who are interested in and see value in animation production beyond government funding and subsidization. I’m not sure if that’s something they’re risk-averse towards. When I was there back in 2009, 2010, there was a massive aversion towards taking a risk on animation over video games. And I’m not sure if that’s still an issue, but I definitely think they have the potential to stand out. I mean, why not? They animate most of our shows, and I think a lot of it has to do with just finding alternative revenue streams to finance original properties and projects.

It seems like there’s a slow coming back at the feature level, but it seems like everything sort of fizzled out once Wonderful Days aka Sky Blue died. I think that scared the industry in general, made everyone say, “Well, we’re not going to take this risk anymore.” I’m just waiting for a resurgence.

There are a few animated feature films that have come out in the past one or two years, like King of Pigs. It’s like, wow, they’re doing features now. They’re in film festivals.

Overall, do I think they have the potential? Of course. If they can do Sky Blue, they can do anything. I just think they have to figure out internally within the industry, within their government and culture, how to create a platform for creating original content. And they also need to motivate young kids. A lot of kids are going into game design instead of animation because of work labor and pay and all that.

OM: My last question is this: Your little brother is Sanford Kelly, the fighting game pro. Growing up, did you notice that he had a talent for fighting games?

LT: Yeah, he learned all his gaming from me [laughs].

Me, him, my older brother Kelby, and my two sisters Valtvaia and Shavon, we all lived in the same apartment with my mom and my grandmother. So we all came up, and video gaming was one of our major bonding aspects. We gamed hard. We played everything, PlayStation, Dreamcast, Turbo Grafx-16, Super Nintendo. That’s all we did. So by the time Sanford turned 18, we were so hardcore into it, we would go to the local arcade shops—back before there was only Chinatown Fair, in the mid-90s—and hit the sticks.

He just got really good, and he built up a circle in Chinatown Fair, in that area. I kind of moved on to animation and left the city to move to LA. I used to get on him about it. “You need to focus on other stuff.” But then when I started seeing him winning money and awards and stuff like that…

Gaming culture’s still relatively brand new. Talking about the early 2000s, where there were legit funded tournaments, he came up in that circuit where the Justin Wong and Daigo era was pretty much coming up. Now it’s a big thing. It’s on ESPN.

When he was coming up, I was a bit nervous about it, but then when I saw how well he was doing, and how he was creating a name for himself, I embraced it.

I get that quite often. “Oh my god, you’re brothers with Sanford Kelly, that’s so cool.”

OM: It’s kind of unlikely—well maybe not unlikely, but it’s interesting to have two different, talented brothers in two very different fields.

I’ll be honest, I’ve been forced over the years respect the game circuit. Because, like many people, if it’s not sponsored or it’s not on TV, then it’s still a subculture. And now it’s a major thing, so now it’s common for kids that I run into to say that they love Street Fighter and that they know who Sanford Kelly is. It’s still kind of weird, but it’s still really cool.

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Ume_Shiraume

I’m generally not a fan of yandere characters, but I feel that I can understand why some people love them.

In a lot of my favorite characters there is a kind of intensity that emanates from them. Whether it’s Ogiue from Genshiken‘s withering stare, or Urabe Mikoto’s eccentric behavior in Mysterious Girlfriend X, it’s like their very beings pierce my soul and linger there for a while.

From there, it’s a hop, skip, and jump towards tsundere, and then eventually yandere as well. In other words, yandere characters exist on a spectrum where powerful emotions (sexual or otherwise) are valued, and their feelings are so overwhelming that it warps their minds. “Deep love” they call it.

This intensity has gotten me to think more broadly, past the typical labels, such as yandere, genki girl, Kansai native, etc. What I’m beginning to form is a theory of character attraction that takes a lot of these categories and places them into two distinctions: “push characters” and “pull characters.”

houkagoplaymaniax-cover

Push characters are like many of the ones stated above. It is as if the characters’ attitudes, visual look, and other qualities invade your space. They pierce and break down the barriers in your heart. Kurosaki Rendou, creator of Houkago Play and other racy titles, specializes in this type of character for both guys and girls. Akashi from Kuroko’s Basketball is also what I’d call a “push character.” They can perhaps be called aggressive characters as well, but I don’t think that it fits entirely neatly. Rather, in shounen terms, it’s more like they’re the “strong fists” of Rock Lee from Naruto or Raoh from Fist of the North Star.

teppei-smile

Pull characters, then, are more like the “gentle fists” of Hyuuga Hinata (Naruto) or Toki (Fist of the North Star). Rather than striking actively, their auras are passive and receptive. It is as if they have a gravity or magnetism that draws you to them. Softer, kinder characters would fall into this category, such as Daidouji Tomoyo from Cardcaptor Sakura, Maetel from Galaxy Express 999, or Teppei from Kuroko’s Basketball. It’s as if their warmth envelops your being.

Now there are a few aspects I’m thinking through as I bring out this half-formed way of considering characters. The first is that, many characters probably don’t fall into one category or the other. Sort of like a Myer-Briggs personality test, the “lesser” quality still exists. For example, I’d consider Koizumi Hanayo from Love Live! to be a “pull character” because of her typically shy personality, but the excitement of her two main loves—rice and idols—is enough to transform her into a “push character.”

hanayo-glare

Second, perhaps this distinction is actually entirely subjective, and one person’s “push character” is another person’s “pull character.” Does this render the terms meaningless, or is it more like moe where a broader understanding exists but the minutiae can get incredibly personal?

Lastly, to what extent do these terms match up with the idea of “seme” and “uke” characters in BL. Would “push characters” be those who tend to be seme, while “pull characters” are more commonly uke? If that’s the case, could this be a way to translate those terms to other types of relationships, such as heterosexual, yuri, or whatever other combinations can exist?

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aikatsu-allgirls

Though I was originally asked to write about Aikatsu! through my Patreon, I quickly found myself hooked on the show. Despite the sheer length of the series, I finished the first 50-episode season in less time than I usually take to watch shows half that size. Thus, I want to give an update to my previous post to talk about some of the later developments that I enjoyed.

Summary

Aikatsu! follows Hoshimiya Ichigo on her quest to become an idol. She enrolls in Starlight Academy (a school specializing in idols) with her best friend and idol fan, Kiriya Aoi, and over the course of the series they climb the ranks and make many friends. While girls’ shows such as these tend to not work in dramatic narratives, the lack of a very concrete goal leaves the series without any continuing driving force other than the sheer personalities of its characters.

However, with respect to those characters Aikatsu! is immensely entertaining. Though none of them are particularly complex, the way they bounce off of each other and the way that even the most gimmicky characters exhibit a great deal of heart and vibrancy in their personalities helps the show along immensely. When the show is being episodic, it’s still entertaining. When it allows its characters to grow, Aikatsu! is home to a number of memorable moments.

Great New Characters aikatsu-kaedesushi

There are three major changes since my previous post that make the show better overall. The first is the growing of the cast into something rather enormous, and yet Aikatsu! is able to keep it from being unwieldy. Of the later additions, I think Ichinose Kaede and Kitaouji Sakura are fantastic. Kaede is a scene stealer with her constant Engrish (she comes from America after all), ability to make sushi appear out of thin air, and just the way she represents the idea that, at least in the Aikatsu! universe, being an idol in the US is rough business that requires you to be on your A game at all times. For Sakura, I love how her running gag, the fact that she will just break into Kabuki-style talk when discussing important topics, is weaved into moments and then quickly transitioned out of back into normal conversation.

If there’s one thing that I think was a lost opportunity with Sakura, it has to do with the fact that she originally appears as Ichigo’s fresh-faced freshman (whereby Ichigo is supposed to guide her), but Sakura is already way more talented than Ichigo in a variety of ways. What Ichigo is meant to teach Sakura is the sense of exuberance that Ichigo is known for, and I think they could have directly developed that more.

Improved CG

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The second upgrade is the improved 3DCG dance sequences. CG at the start of Aikatsu! was pretty bland, something it shares with rival series such as Pretty Rhythm. But it gets better as the show progresses, and with both more natural-looking movements and better camera work the dance numbers go from tedious to pretty entertaining. The only strike I hold against them is the fact that they’re often meant to be competitions but no differences are really shown in regards to how each character is dancing (they do the same moves at the same time all the time), with the exception of the “Special Appeals,” which are essentially fanciful cut scenes that act as special moves (this is based on a game, after all).

As someone who is neither a dancer nor rhythmically inclined in general maybe I’m not getting it, and I also don’t expect a show for little girls to cater to my adult sense of continuity, but I think this is exactly the sort of thing anime and manga tend to be good at. It’s hard for an ignoramus like me to enjoy ballet, but when it’s ballet + shocked expressions + exposition, even I can enjoy Swan Lake.

Hoshimiya Ringo, an Awesome Mom

aikatsu-masquerade

The third improvement is the way that they build up Ichigo’s mom. When the series begins, Ringo is shown owning a simple bento shop and having no connections to the idol world. Over the course of the series, it blatantly hints that she’s not what she seems, and while it’s quickly made obvious to the audience that Ringo was a member of the most famous idol group in history, Masquerade (along with Starlight’s headmaster Orihime), seeing Ringo hint at her past in conversations with Ichigo by dispensing advice only when necessary, or exchanging knowing glances with Orihime kept me wanting more. In the end, the payoff for this little plot thread is well worth it.

The show actually hints at this right from the opening, as Ringo is shown pretending that her rice scoop is a microphone and posing for her son Raichi’s camera. What is supposed to be a mom playing at being an idol is actually Ringo very briefly delving back into her past.

Final Thoughts

It’ll probably be a while before I watch the second season, but I can easily see now why Aikatsu! garners such a loyal fanbase. It’s a genuinely entertaining series that never really has any low points, and stays consistent throughout even if it doesn’t have any kind of massive involving story arc. Let’s look back in a year or two and see if I’ve come back to the world of Idol Activities. Alhough, I feel like I’ll miss the first opening and ending themes; they really were the best.

aikatsucards

By the way, I spent a bit of time in Japan recently and got to play the actual Aikatsu! arcade game. What stood out to me most about the game is that the awkward idol poses in the anime are just there to directly reflect the game elements. Without the visibility of success and failure in those sequences, however, some of the impact is lost on TV.

I also got a couple of sweet cards for my trouble, and I rocked Kaede as my character. While I was indeed playing a game for 5 year olds, the only other person playing was a salaryman in a suit and tie. Perhaps Idol Activities truly are for everyone.

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kiminakare5-jirou

It’s the aftermath of a love scandal in Kimi Nakare Chapter 5. How will Hayato and the rest of his band mates deal with it?

Summary

Jirou, one of Hayato’s fellow members in the idol group WARP, was discovered with a girl. In this chapter, we learn that it isn’t just any girl, but the love of Jirou’s life. Resolving to choose love over his career, Jirou decides to quit WARP and marry his longtime girlfriend.

Hayato in the meantime finds that his school has now become a target for paparazzi, specifically so that they can catch him in the act. Ironically, Nobuko’s “ugly but passionate admirer” gimmick works out in their favor, as she’s able to chase off a gossip mongerer.

However, despite Hayato’s protests and even his own threat of quitting the band to chase love himself, it turns out not to be necessary. WARP is disbanding.

Young vs. Old Idols

The topic that I found most fascinating in this chapter is the distinction between younger and older idols. At one point, Hayato points out that there are idols that have gotten married without any backlash, and their manager responds that only established idols can do that. As a group, you have to reach a point where you basically become a fan’s first love, so even as those fans grow and perhaps get married themselves, the idol will always have a special place in a woman’s heart (and the woman in the idol’s). In other words, a relatively new group like WARP hasn’t built up the cache.

Most of the time, the thought over idols is that love is forbidden because they must forever be locked away as long as they indeed hold the status of “idol.” However, this implies that idols are a kind of evolving phenomenon that can choose to either stay as they are or grow with their audience. At the same time, the path to the “married idol” is fraught with danger, and appears to be only the domain of the true veteran.

It’s still kind of weird that Japan’s most famous idol manager ended up marrying one of his idols, but I digress. I’m also perhaps being unfair; if Celine Dion could find happiness with her manager, why not?

Not Enough Hayato and Nobuko?

kiminakare5-clingynobuko

While I previously mentioned being curious over the side characters, and Hayato’s scene with Nobuko protecting him from a prying photographer is rather charming, I do feel like I didn’t get enough of the two of them this chapter. I think that speaks a lot to how appealing they are as main characters, but perhaps I’m not giving the rest of the cast a fair shake. Jirou being a sweet guy is a welcome surprise, as is his decision to choose his girlfriend over his job. Not to say that it would be the right decision in every case, but I was convinced that it was what he personally should have done.

It also made me aware that there are two different love conundrums at work in this series: the career-based one, and the psychological one. Even this brief interaction lets the two sides play out beautifully.

Last Thoughts

I wonder if the loss of WARP might spur Hayato to begin a full-fledged career as a comedian, so that he can stand by Nobuko’s side. Wouldn’t that be nice?

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