“We’re Just Like You!”: The Empathy Scam of the Alt-Right

Internet memes and image macros have become increasingly associated with the alt-right and white nationalism, a connection that has been very intentionally fostered. As seen in The Huffington Post’s recent release of The Daily Stormer’s style guide, internet gags and self-deprecation are used to intentionally obfuscate the sincerity of their racism. This simultaneously camouflages their true purposes from those not in the know, communicates with those in their movement, and potentially entices edge cases to slip further and further into indoctrination. While all of this is highly alarming, that last point concerns me in particular because I believe it to be part of an very intentional and long-standing scheme to target and slowly brainwash confused, scared, and vulnerable men.

4chan has had an enduring reputation as a cesspool of human interaction, where posters under the guise of anonymity are unafraid to pull punches or go for ad hominem attacks whenever possible. At the same time, as sexist and caustic as it could and can be, it didn’t always act as a haven of extreme right-wing thought. What has persisted through this transformation is that emphasis on self-deprecating internet humor as seen in image macros, purposely stunted and incomplete English, and posts written as series of actions, e.g.:

>Went to the store
>Saw a girl
>She gave me a look

Another example is the now-antiquated internet phrase “pee in her butt.” I’ve seen articles and people unfamiliar with that 4chan culture have trouble parsing its meaning or taking it literally. However, it does not mean “urinate in her butthole,” it means “ejaculate in her vagina.” The word choice is basically implying that the user is so unfamiliar with how sex works that they’re confusing the liquids and physical parts involved; it’s a jab at one’s pathetic self. That’s the sort of obtuse humor that can block outsiders, and failure to understand that mentality means they remain defensive.

While I don’t visit the 4chan anymore, in my earlier years I did browse it fairly often and noticed that examples of this toxicity often were cries for help in disguise. These posters should not go without criticism for their language and slurs, but their choice of vocabulary also would function as a defense mechanism to keep outsiders away, allowing only those of a similar mind or spirit to commiserate with them or even give advice. This, I suspect, is the hole that the alt-right has exploited. By speaking the language of memes, they falsely present themselves as friends and kindred spirits.

As much misguided anger that exists within places like 4chan, 420chan, and the defunct reddit incels board, on some level the posters who might potentially turn to extreme sexism and racism are simply looking for people who understand them. The abrasive presentation and the willingness to “outrage” others is a way to protect the scared little boy deep inside, and to only allow in those who can empathize. The insidiousness of the alt-right’s adoption of meme culture is that they can come across as brothers in arms, but are possibly more like an abusive drug peddler eager to get their victims hooked on their own frustration and pity.

So where is the other side, those who try to pull people away from such harmful thinking and towards more benelovent and inclusive ideas? The answer is that many have run away, myself included, and this has created a void that’s increasingly filled by questionable philosophies. It used to be that 4chan had many different people with different views clashing with each other, but only those who can still maintain themselves in that space and not get subsumed by the monster can thrive. In other words, one needs to fit into the 4chan environment (or places similar to it) without succumbing to the same close-minded mentalities frequently seen there.

This isn’t blaming anyone who decided to step away from places like 4chan for their own sanity, nor those who haven’t dared try to enter in the first place. Part of those environments is indeed trying to make them as inhospitable as possible for perceived outsiders. Again, it’s a defensive measure, to attack before you’re attacked, and people just generally don’t like being on the receiving end unless they’re the rare sort that thrives on conflict and arguing. It’s also not like those who gradually turn more extreme-right-wing should be absolved of responsibility, nor that existing prejudices and misguided beliefs should be ignored. But it still means that there’s precious fewer individuals providing an alternative viewpoint to the alt-right in those spaces. Excessive compromise and concessions aren’t necessary, but patience and compassion are vital.

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The Emperor’s Abdication: ZeRo’s Retirement from Smash 4 and the Fate of the Tier List

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From the looks of things, an age of competitive Smash 4 has come to an end. With a new Smashboards Smash 4 Tier List, seen below, the reveal of the Top 50 PGR-ranked players, and the announced retirement of ZeRo—far and away the greatest Smash 4 player to date—the likely dawn of a new age is filled with questions. The ones most on my mind are “Can anyone ascend to ZeRO’s empty throne?” and “How will Diddy Kong be perceived by players in the years to come?”

ZeRo hasn’t just been the best Smash 4 player; it’s just so indisputable that no one who knows anything will disagree. In the early days of the game, he went on a tear that looks nigh-impossible to match, winning 53 tournaments in a row before finally falling to one of the other Smash 4 elites in Nairo. Since then, ZeRo has looked increasingly mortal as the other players have continually improved, but his ability to claw and scratch his way back to the top is rare. He even won the very first Nintendo invitational before the game was released!

ZeRo has an enormous influence on the meta. In fact, we saw a mini-version of this planned retirement a couple of years ago. In 2016, ZeRo ran into a medical issue that forced him into a small hiatus. During that period, many challengers rose to the occasion, such as the Japanese player Abadango. It was during this period that Abadango won his first major tournament, Shine 2016, off the back of his surprising and enchanting Mewtwo play. But then ZeRo returned, and he and his trusty Diddy Kong became a thorn in Abadango’s side. This elite Japanese player has never been able to take a set off of ZeRo, and he’s not alone. In fact, only 34 players have ever been able to accomplish that feat. Now, imagine how much this affects tournament brackets and placings.

ZeRo is a phenomenon. To take his place means not just being #1, it means holding onto that placement with an iron grip. And in a game with plenty of viable characters and a huge pool of skilled players, we might just be entering the Warring States period of Smash 4. I think it’s possible for a new king to emerge, but it certainly won’t be easy.

Now, let’s look at the newest Smash 4 Backroom Tier List:

The categories might seem excessive, but as the explanatory post mentions, the different letter rankings can also be broken down as: S-A = Top Tier, B = High Tier, C = Upper Tier, D-E = Mid Tier F-G= Low Tier. If we define mid tier as characters that can, on occasion, make it fairly far (top 16 or so) at major events, then that’s a whopping 44 characters (out of 54 listed) that can do damage at tournaments. A Japanese Link player named T got 3rd at one of the biggest tournaments of the year in 2GG Civil War. Mii Fighters were not ranked due to lack of input from judges (which is a shame, but I digress).

It’s notable to me how just much tier lists in general, as well as audience perception, can be affected by top player results, as opposed to being judging the characters by their abilities alone. This is especially the case in the Smash communities, where top player reverence can border on worship. According to this tier list, Diddy Kong is the third best character in the game. Obviously, it’s not just about results, as that would make every tier list place Diddy Kong as #1 due to ZeRo. At the same time, there’s no way ZeRo isn’t the biggest argument in favor of Diddy being a top-3 character. After all, it’s happened before with other characters. When Kameme got 2nd at EVO, Mega Man was instant high tier. Ranai is by far the greatest Villager in Smash 4, but him attending fewer tournaments and doing somewhat worse drops Ranai from high to upper tier.

The next best-ranked Diddy Kong player is Panda Global’s MVD, a very strong competitor in his own right…but nowhere near the caliber of ZeRo. Over the next six months, I see people still remembering what Diddy Kong is capable of, but memories will fade. The world of eSports often has an incredibly short memory, with even one year being perceived by fans as a lifetime and a half, and I predict that Diddy Kong’s position will slowly recede as people only read of ZeRo’s accomplishments instead of experiencing them. As the meta shifts, fans might even say, “Sure, ZeRo did all that back when people didn’t know how to play the game as well, but now players know how to deal with Diddy.” It happens to virtually every other top tier in Smash 4, and it’ll happen here.

Of course, this is all provided ZeRo has actually retired (until the next Smash game). The pull of competition can be irresistible.

Kino’s Journey: The Ubiquity of the Light Novels vs. the Scarcity of the Anime

How do you end a series about observing humanity’s foibles with an action sequence involving a flock of angry sheep?

The answer is, “Who says it’s an ending?”

The 2017 anime of the light novel Kino’s Journey: The Beautiful World is garnering mixed reviews. This is partly because the series seems to be less focused on atmosphere and consistent theme compared to the 2003 version, despite them taking from more or less the same source material. One major point of contention with the newer series is its choice of final episode, adapting the story “Field of Sheep”—a story that borders on Schwarzenegger-in-Commando-esque antics featuring a ring of fire, driving through sheep in a jeep, and a dramatic lone gunman standoff with the woolly foes.

Because the anime clearly skips around chronologically from episode to episode, I decided to take a look at which episodes come from which chapters. Out of a currently 21-volume light novel series, most are taken from around volumes 7 through 9. “Field of Sheep” is by far the newest story, coming in as the final chapter of Volume 20. It’s likely even the latest chapter at the time the 2017 anime went into production.

It seems unusual to end a series on such an odd note, but that’s only within the context of the anime. Kino’s Journey rarely gets new adaptations. There’s the 2003 series, the 2017 one, and two films in 2005 and 2007 in between. It’s been 14 years between TV series and 10 years between animated versions. It’s possible that it’ll take another 10-15 years to get another one, perhaps leaving fans scratching their heads.

But for light novel readers, it can’t really be considered an end by any stretch of the imagination. Even though it’s the last part of Volume 20, the sheep story is yet another entry into the world of Kino’s Journey, which shows no signs of stopping. A new volume has come out pretty consistently (about once or twice a year) for the past 17 years. Volume 21 just came out in October of 2017. In other words, to the anime viewer, “Field of Sheep” is an unusual curtain call. To the light novel fan, it’s just another stop in Kino’s travels.

I have to wonder if the point of adapting that sheep episode last is just a way to say, “Read the light novel!” Except, it only works in Japan (or if you can read Japanese). For those abroad who rely on anime to get their Kino’s Journey, they’re left in an arguably baaaad situation.

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Dagashi Kashi Confuses Anime Fans: Pre-Season 2 Hype (?) Post

With the new season of Dagashi Kashi starting up, I wanted to tell my readers about one of my favorite activities as of late: reading reviews of the first Dagashi Kashi anime on MyAnimeList.

The reason is that I take an odd pleasure in seeing innocent anime fans grapple with Dagashi Kashi. While the show has its fair share of positive comments, it also sports around a 6.7 rating—pretty low for the site. Many of the reactions from MAL users involve a combination of puzzlement and frustration over what Dagashi Kashi is. These reviews are typically along the lines of, “I thought this was going to be some epic fanservice romance but all they do is talk about snacks for 25 minutes!!” Those viewers wanted 90% rom-com, 10% snacks. Instead, they got the opposite.

Dagashi Kashi is clearly not a show for everyone, given its odd premise and eccentric cast of characters. But as the new season coming in the next few days, I’m looking forward to more flabbergasted expressions from people who decide to jump in for the hell of it.

As for me, I can wax poetic endlessly about the show, and I voted Shidare Hotaru “Best Female Anime Character of 2016.” To say I’m looking forward to Dagashi Kashi S2 is an understatement.

The Moment I Waited For: When Love Live! Sunshine!! Acknowledged Mari’s Love of Industrial Metal

One of the small but perhaps inevitable issues I’ve had with Love Live! Sunshine!! is the incongruity between the characters from one medium to the next. This is even noticeable when looking at different side stories in the School Idol Festival mobile game, where character behavior in the early ones are more subdued and safe compared to the later ones or the anime, as if the actors and writers were trying to feel out the characters. While I largely prefer the anime due to its overarching story and the chance for more character interaction, there was something missing from Love Live! Sunshine!! Ohara Mari’s official profile describes one of her interests as industrial metal, but the show made no reference to it at all.

Fortunately, that changed in Love Live! Sunshine!! season 2.

In an episode focused on the personality clash between the introverted first-years and the extroverted third-years, Mari’s music pops up as an illustrative gag. When they try to write a song together, they look for influence from the music they enjoy, and Mari plays a favorite from her collection that knocks the first-years off their feet. It’s not an entirely throwaway joke, but rather a way to emphasize their personality difference and increase the conflict of the episode.

Beyond the simple fact of it happening, I also enjoy the acknowledgement of Mari’s musical tastes because it brings into the world of Love Live! a very different music genre from what’s typically expected of a series focused on pop-y idol music. Love Live! as a franchise has some songs that go off the beaten track, like “After School Navigators” and “Suki desu ga suki desu ka?”, but they’re a rarity—much like men in their world.

Mari’s metal is actually one of many cases where season 2 of Love Live! Sunshine!! started to reflect the characters’ personalities from other mediums more, while also pushing those characters forward. Kanan seems specially serious in the first season because they had to develop the backstory of the third-years and it requires some tension between them. In the second season, she’s more balanced between jokey and stern, turning up one or the other when necessary. Similarly, Hanamaru’s personality has gone from shy bookworm to gluttonous memelord, and it feels like a natural progression because of how much she hangs out with Yoshiko. In a way, it’s fascinating to see a franchise find its feet over time, and I wouldn’t mind seeing another form of Love Live! go through this again.

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The New Year Isn’t Just For Show!: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for January 2018

Happy new year to all! Amidst a topsy-turvy year, what have been your favorite shows? 2017 might go down as a surprisingly robust year for anime, and I hope to see an industry that allows creativity to rise to the top. After all, the better anime is, the more there is for this blog to talk about.

Going into 2018, I’d like to thank my Patreon sponsors, especially the following.

General:

Johnny Trovato

Ko Ransom

Alex

Diogo Prado

Viga

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

New Year’s is of course the time for resolutions, and while I tend not to make them, I want to hold myself accountable this year.

As I’m interested in improving my language skills, most of my resolutions are focused in that area. I want to have true Japanese literacy. I’m fairly fluent overall, but I’m still not technically “reading newspapers without help” proficient—which is how Japanese literacy is officially defined.

I also want to improve my Cantonese, learn Mandarin Chinese, and/or reach a greater level of Dutch. I’ve been practicing the last one in the Duolingo app for a while now, to try and make up for my lack of true fluency when I lived in the Netherlands. My goal is to be able to read Dutch comics. Ik wil lezen Nederlandse strips.

I know they say not to try and learn more than one language at a time, but I just want to do everything, I guess.

My favorite posts from December:

Gattai Girls 7: “Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars” and Moriyama Nayuta [Anime Secret Santa]

A combination Gattai Girls entry and Secret Santa review! Shingu is really good; you should watch it.

Spotted Flower and the Role of the “What-If”

This story about an alternate Genshiken took on some crazy twists recently. But how does its proximity to Genshiken affect our perception of it?

Japanese vs. English Yu-Gi-Oh!: How the Two End Up Being Almost Different Shows

Inspired by the recent Yu-Gi-Oh! marathon on Twitch.

Patreon-Sponsored

Aikatsu Stars! Christmas 2017 Thoughts


“We wiiish you a merry Christmaaas…”

Closing

2017 was a tumultuous year for many. I hope you stay strong. I look forward to a world where reason and compassion defeat hatred and bigotry.

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Kaze ni Nare: Why “Irony” Doesn’t Explain Suzuku Minoru’s Entrance

I’ve been hooked on a certain song lately, called “Kaze ni Nare” by Nakamura Ayumi. The song describes the endless path of someone who fights to achieve their dream, who aims to fly into the storm like a bird and become the wind (kaze ni nare). It’s both inspiring and moving, conveying the idea that the path of a fighter is a lonely one.

It’s also the entrance theme of Suzuki Minoru, a legitimately tough-as-nails pro wrestler who’s been described to me as the Akuma of New Japan Pro Wrestling. Fans of Japanese wrestling love his theme, but on occasion you’ll find people confused as to why such a hardened fighter would come out to such a sorrowful tune. One article, while praising the song overall, even writes that the song is meant to be “ironic,” its incongruity a tactic to disorient opponents.

But irony is the last thing “Kaze ni Nare” is meant to convey, and that’s because the idea of a badass warrior being accompanied by forlorn, emotionally wraught theme music is familiar territory in Japan. Beyond pro wrestling, one need only look at anime for examples.

On a list of greatest action series ever, Fist of the North Star is always in the running. Its hero, Kenshiro, defends the innocent by pummeling ruthless thugs to death by using a legendary martial art. Kenshiro also cries at the plight of victims, and it’s in fact his ability to feel true sadness that allows him to unlock his school’s ultimate technique. Theme songs for Fist of the North Star include “Ai o Torimodose” (about the power of love) and “Heart of Darkness (about a melancholy journey of no return). In a similar vein, the final battle in the Street Fighter II anime between Ken, Ryu, and M. Bison (or Vega, if you prefer) is set to Itoshisa to Setsunasa to Kokorotsuyosa to, a soulful ballad that’s also the best selling anime-related song ever.

Granted, there is a major difference between Kenshiro and Suzuki: the former is a hero among heroes, while the latter is often considered the ultimate villain in his world. He’s a strong fighter, but also willing to cheat. In Fist of the North Star terms, Suzuki is like a cross between Raoh and Jagi, with a bit of Souther thrown in. But “Kaze ni Nare” doesn’t really talk about honor or respect; it’s about ambition and dreams, and even scoundrels can have those. In it, you have the power to fight, but also the sense of powerlessness that comes with an aspiration which stretches beyond human grasp. It fits Suzuki Minoru, not in spite of his ruthlessness, but because of it.

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