Chouchou and Body Confidence in Boruto

I’ve been enjoying Boruto: Naruto Next Generations quite a bit, even to my own surprise. The series is quite different from Naruto, akin to how the transition from Avatar: The Last Airbender to Avatar: Legend of Korra involves fundamental changes to the world. It’s a new era in the Hidden Leaf Village, and this is reflected in not just the setting, but how the newer generation of characters behave. One of my favorites in this regard is Chouchou, especially because of her body positivity.

As a daughter of the Akimichi clan, Chouchou is a heavyset character just like her father. However, unlike Chouji in his younger days, who was extremely sensitive about comments to his weight, Chouchou barely bats an eyelash to those who would call her fat. She’s confident in her lifestyle, and to anyone who points out how much she eats, she responds that it’s necessary for an energetic girl like herself. She may be larger than her peers, but it’s anything but a negative for Chouchou.

One of the biggest indicators that Chouchou is not meant to be your stereotypical fat character is that she lacks a “fat voice.” It’s very common in anime for overweight characters to have a rounder, deeper voice that is meant to accentuate their size. Instead, Chouchou sounds perky and fun to be around.

That being said, the “fat voice” does appear in an episode with a different character, a film actor who was fired because he put on too many pounds, so it’s not as if Boruto is entirely without fault in regards to its portrayal of fatness. Even so, Chouchou is still a step in the right direction.

 

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Why the Term “Toxic Masculinity” is a Double-Edged Sword

“Toxic masculinity” is an extremely useful term. It describes a recurring problem with men and boys, which is that the societal pressure to appear and act “manly” can often harm not just others, but the guys themselves. Even the most naturally hyper-masculine individuals can benefit from awareness of this concept because they can at least know that crying, or not being confrontational all the time isn’t a sign that they’re not men. It’s also good for pointing out when media, be it films, video games, anime, etc., reinforce harmful notions of what being a “man” is. Unfortunately, the men who suffer most greatly from toxic masculinity, are likely least receptive to it. I believe the reason for this is that, ironically, the term “toxic masculinity” doesn’t sound masculine enough.

Many phrases that have come out of feminism, or have been embraced by feminists, take on a certain tinge that brings feminists to mind. This isn’t inherently a problem, but whether it’s due to association of just the word choice, it can come across as something concocted in a feminist lab (whatever that might be); perhaps it’s a little too clinical and, well, “feminine.” Part of coming  across as a “man’s  man” is one’s vocabulary, and I believe that the perceived feminist quality in “toxic masculinity” as a phrase prevents more men from using it.

On some level, I want to say, “Get over it and just embrace what the term is trying to say,” but I also understand that it’s not always so easy. Masculinity, toxic or otherwise, is tied to one’s identity. That being said, I think there already exists a phrase that embodies much of what “toxic masculinity” implies that is, for better or worse, more palatable to men concerned about maintaining their image of manliness: “When keeping it real goes wrong.”

Coming from an old Chappelle‘s Show skit, “When keeping it real goes wrong” is used to describe people who refuse to back down in even the most trivial or disadvantageous scenarios, which then leads to dire (and hilarious) consequences. Essentially, it communicates the idea that trying to be “real” 24/7 is a recipe for disaster because the need to have the world see oneself as a proper man who won’t take guff is going to, at some point, end in tragedy.

Do I think “When keeping it real goes wrong” should supplant “toxic masculinity” as the dominant phrase to describe the harmful aspects of male performance? Not really, as it’s kind of unwieldy and doesn’t match 1:1, but I think it has its place. The irony would be that using it could help more men understand the notion of toxic masculinity while also subtly reinforcing it.

[APT507] Doremi’s Unexpected Successor: Why You Should Watch Little Witch Academia

It’s likely you already know and love Little Witch Academia, but I went and wrote a post over at Apartment 507 about the positive similarities between it and Ojamajo Doremi. Check it out!

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The Precarious Balance of Tradition and Progress: Sakura Quest

For years, the raison d’etre of the anime studio P.A. Works appeared to be creating intetesting settings as a pretense to showcase cute female characters. Whether it was True Tears, Hanasaku Iroha, Tari Tari,  or something else, they appeared to focus on personal relationships above all else. A more careful look, however, will reveal another major theme permeating many of their works: the declining population of rural Japan, and the complicated effects of tourism on this situation. Now, P.A. Works has doubled down on this idea in their new anime, Sakura Quest.

Koharu Yoshino is a young woman struggling to find work, when she’s been asked specifically by name to come work in the small, virtually forgotten town of Manoyama. Desperate for employment, she takes the offer, only to discover that it was a mistake. But the contract’s been signed, so now Yoshino—along with a group of other young women—are tasked with helping to revive Manoyama.

Much like one of their previous hits, Shirobako, the main cast of Sakura Quest is notably all adult-aged women as opposed to high school girls. When I interviewed P.A. Works at Otakon 2016, they expressed that they’d been wanting to do that as early as Hanasaku Iroha, but trends and the need to make a profit pushed them to stick with the reliable teenage formula. Now, with two series bucking that trend, it looks like they’re eager to challenge that status quo—at least in part.

The use of attractive girls to anchor Sakura Quest means that the series does not fully escape the market forces of young, attractive heroines, but in many ways it also does not pull its punches. Yoshino and the rest of the core cast, consisting of both those new to Manoyama and life-long residents, are confronted with difficult decisions that often leave their best plans only half-formed and arguably doomed to failure by the many considerations they must account for.

Central to this conflict is the contrast between valuing the traditions of Manoyama and its people, and when those traditions stifle the potential for the town to adapt and evolve. Trying to make tourism and local promotion work in a long-declining town is portrayed as a struggle where the gains are few and the solutions are rarely cut-and-dry, if available at all. The series is not necessarily a cynical one, but any progress comes in small steps.  This can be frustrating at times, but it grounds the show in more realistic expectations. After all, if the solution to the rural decline of Japan were easy, we’d probably have seen it by now. It also highlights the idea that, while gimmicks can boost tourism, this is a serious double-edged sword.

Sakura Quest is not one of those gripping anime that keeps you in suspense, or has you falling in love with the girls so hard that you feel compelled to buy their merchandise. It’s a pretty slow burn, and the characters will repeat their mistakes on more than one occasion. However, it’s a very satisfying work in its own way, as it challenges viewers to think about one of Japan’s major problems today, and the myriad factors that complicate it.

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Changin’ My Life: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for October 2017

October is going to be a special month for me from this point forward.

That’s because something big has happened, something I once thought impossible: I got married.

Seriously.

I won’t go into too many details, but I’ll just say that my wife is a very special person to me, who’s stuck with me through thick and thin. This even includes my time abroad in the Netherlands. I actually met her thanks to Ogiue Maniax, though I wouldn’t recommend writing anime blogs as a way to find relationships.

So I want to give a very, very special thanks to my Patreon members this month, because your continued support lets me pursue this blog as a passion project.

General:

Johnny Trovato

Ko Ransom

Alex

Diogo Prado

Viga

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Yoshitake Rika fans:

Elliot Page

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

 

In other, non-matrimonial news, I recently did a series of manga recommendations on Twitter. Check out the thread!

Also, here are my favorite posts from last month:

Tomino Yoshiyuki’s “Big Picture”: WHy the Gundam Creator Can Be So Hit or Miss

Recently, I got to thinking ahttps://ogiuemaniax.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=16417&action=editbout Tomino and all his eccentricities. Here’s my hypothesis on the “Tomino style.”

Fighting Evil By Moonlight – Heartcatch Precure!: The Novel

I reviewed the Heartcatch Precure! novel, which ostensibly focuses more on Cure Moonlight than the anime.

Beyond the Brokeback Pose: Don’t Meddle with My Daughter

A look at the idea of superheroine sexualization and fetishism as a kind of cultural export, through the lense of the manga Don’t Meddle with My Daughter. It actually got retweeted by the author!

Return to Genshiken

Return to Genshiken: Volume 5 – Pride and Fujo Justice

Part 5 of my Genshiken re-read. Ogiue starts her journey here, but it’s Sasahara who really grows.

 

Patreon-Sponsored

My Favorite Light Novel Anime

Self-explanatory, but a fun topic all the same.

Closing

Here’s to an exciting new life!

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“Every Game Has to Be Entertaining”

I’m happy to live in a time where large numbers of people can watch competitive video game competitions. I love that fans can appreciate the skill, effort, and thought that is present in both the games themselves and the players who are vying to be #1. I’ve even grown fond of Twitch chat as the English equivalent of Nico Nico Douga’s scrolling text, for the way that it can provide a shared experience for esports enthusiasts. However, there inevitably comes a time when whatever is on streams is deemed “boring” by its viewers, and the chat starts to turn against the game. If done often enough, it can drag down the spirits of others, including those invested and excited in what’s going on who might start to be convinced by the Twitch chat that what they’re watching is indeed better suited for chronic insomniacs. What I find is that it creates this culture of expectation that demands that all competitive matches be super entertaining or else.

To be clear, some games are less exciting than others, or at least do not require as much investment into a game to get hooked on or appreciate its adrenaline-pumping qualities. Some games are more prone to slower paced matches. Almost all games will at some point have bad players fighting against other bad players, and when two players clam up and don’t do anything, then it becomes boring. However, I find the need for constant excitement to be rather unfair to esports as an entity. If we look at traditional sports, even big, exciting things like basketball or soccer, not all games are going to be nail biters, or have people jumping out of their seats.

In some cases, I think the demand for immediate gratification in terms of excitement also causes viewers to actively prevent themselves from enjoying what might be an interesting and engaging match that’s not as overtly electrifying. The Simpsons once even made a joke about this:

Compared to high-pace, high-scoring games common in the US, soccer might seem slow and full of people doing “nothing,” when in fact the strategy, as well as the ebb and flow of moving the ball back and forth across the field is something that can appeal to soccer fans who understand the game. Of course, some soccer games will also be more or less exciting than others, especially if you factor in the personal investment or national pride of something like the World Cup, but I still don’t believe that people expect every single game to be action-packed.

I think good commentary can play a significant role in helping people to appreciate both those games that are actually just boring, and those that are exciting provided you understand what’s going on. For the lower-level matches where the players aren’t quite skilled enough to show a game at its best, commentators can (and the best often do) highlight the depths of these games that these inexperienced competitors could be accessing if they brought up their skills. For higher-level matches where two titans (or groups of titans in some cases) are coming up against each other, conveying the fast-paced, involved decision-making and physicality of a match can only do good things.

Fighting game commentators should be praised in this respect, because I find that the best have been able to accurately convey tense situations that might not appear to be exciting on the surface. The best example I can think of is Grand Finals of Ultra Street Fighter IV at Canada Cup 2015. Commentators UltraChen work to emphasize that the simple act of walking back and forth in Street Fighter at the highest levels is filled with intensity:

That said, people will think what they want to think, and trying to convince them that a game is actually exciting might not necessarily mesh with how they view the very idea of “excitement.” At the end of the day, this isn’t inherently a bad thing—people should be able to hold opinions of their own on what they enjoy and don’t enjoy. This also isn’t to say that commentators should just fake hype all the time in the hopes of deceiving someone into believing that a game is exciting all the time, and in fact I believe that potentially adds to the culture of demand for excitement. Rather, what I simply want to see is everyone who loves a game, from fans to commentators, strive to grow appreciation for a game in various forms while resisting the ravenous need for action and excitement (without necessarily abandoning those factors).

Gattai Girls 7: Shinkon Gattai Godannar and Aoi Anna

Introduction: “Gattai Girls” is a series of posts dedicated to looking at giant robot anime featuring prominent female characters due to their relative rarity within that genre.

Here, “prominent” is primarily defined by two traits. First, the female character has to be either a main character (as opposed to a sidekick or support character), or she has to be in a role which distinguishes her. Second, the female character has to actually pilot a giant robot, preferrably the main giant robot of the series she’s in.

For example, Aim for the Top! would qualify because of Noriko (main character, pilots the most important mecha of her show), while Vision of Escaflowne would not, because Hitomi does not engage in any combat despite being a main character, nor would Full Metal Panic! because the most prominent robot pilot, Melissa Mao, is not prominent enough.


This Gattai Girls entry is a bit unusual because I’ve already posted a review of the series before. Moreover, with a series like Godannar, I’ve already written extensively about the the portrayal of female characters because it’s all but unavoidable. If the prevalent fanservice wasn’t enough, there’s the fact that over half of the cast is women. While I’ll inevitably retread some old territory, this time around I’m going to focus more heavily on the main heroine of the story, Aoi Anna.

Godannar follows 17-year-old Aoi Anna, who’s engaged to burly, veteran robot pilot Saruwatari Gou in a May-December romance. Years ago, he rescued her from a monster attack, and eventually their feelings blossomed into love. But while she’s no slouch herself when it comes to mecha—she’s a prodigy who’s dreamed of fighting in a robot since childhood—Gou forbids her from becoming a full-fledged defender of the Earth. The reason? That’s how he lost his previous lover and trusty co-pilot. Still, Anna and Gou are humanity’s greatest weapons, as their robots combine into the might robot, Godannar Twin Drive, the “marriage of god and soul.”

From a characterization and narrative perspective, Anna’s story stands out in a way capable of overshadowing even the infamous double decker cheesecake of Godannar. Romance traditionally takes a backseat in many giant robot series, and when it does show up, such as in Macross, the two sides are often from different worlds, either metaphorically or literally. In Godannar, however, not only are Anna and Gou equal partners, but they have to work together as a team both personally and professionally. The cockpit becomes a second home of sorts, as they iron out their differences and fight the enemy. The series literally has relationship plot and mecha action resolve simultaneously, as if the two sides are permanently fused together, and it’s glorious. In a way, this is the story about the power of love, but it’s less “love defeats everything automatically” and more “love opens them up to resolve problems they couldn’t otherwise.”

In a certain sense, this heavy emphasis on relationships plays into the stereotype of girls only caring about guys, and one might even feel that Anna’s character is directly tied to her connection with Gou. While I think there’s some truth to that, I also find that Godannar‘s direct focus on its main couple (as well as many other couples throughout the series) is a big part of its, and by extension Anna’s, appeal. It’s basically a story about newlyweds who are also co-workers, and having to navigate that tricky interpersonal landscape. Through it all, Anna’s inner strength stands out. When Gou first tells her to stop piloting for her own sake, her response is that they have a duty to take care of each other as husband and wife. At one point, she feels herself unable to fight as Gou’s equal, but is able to find the motivation within herself to not back down in the end. By the end, due to unfortunate circumstances, she’s actually the one having to do the lion’s share of the work, to make up for what Gou can no longer do. Her strength, perseverance, and caring make her one of my favorite characters ever.

I’ve already made mention of it a couple of times, but when it comes to how women are depicted in Godannar, the series heavily sexualizes on a level where few other series can compare. To say otherwise would be disingenuous. When the girls, including Anna, are piloting their robots, they’re in ultra-form-fitting suits that leave less than nothing to the imagination. During combat, their breasts jiggle to and fro as if made from some alien substance. Even when they’re in regular clothing, the fabric hugs every curve as if holding on for dear life. The camera angles can also be extremely voyeuristic. Even if I wanted to say, “You should really just ignore all this,” that’s pretty much impossible whether you’re into heavy fanservice or not. There’s an incredibly good series with some strong, well-written characters both male and female there, but it requires either an acceptance or tolerance of just a non-stop barrage of sexual imagery.

One last aspect of the series I want to talk about is the interesting way it addresses the topic of gender roles. In the second season of Godannar, the enemy monsters begin to utilize a different tactic. Instead of just trying to out-muscle Earth’s giant robot forces, they also evolve to spread a virus that specifically targets hot-blooded, macho men—the very people who are supposed to excel at being mecha pilots. As the men become increasingly unable to fight, the women, led by Anna, have to take a stand. On the one hand, this plays into the idea that men are supposed to be strong and tough (though it should be noted that a more masculine girl gets hit by the disease while a more effeminate playboy guy does not). On the other, it brings up the notion that hyper-masculinity can become a weakness to be exploited.

Godannar is a contradictory anime. Its unrestrained sexualization of the female body makes it seem like a series all about pure objectification of women, but at the same time its female characters, notably its main heroine Anna, are fully realized characters who have goals and dreams and a desire to stand on their own feet. They’re fleshed out as human beings, but also practically the embodiment of “temptation of the flesh.” But if marriage is a union of separate yet compatible beings, then Godannar is an unlikely marriage of disparate elements that somehow, some way, work to make something beautiful.