Aikatsu Friends! Choreography Has Won Me Over

I generally enjoy the AIkatsu! idol anime, but one aspect of it that never really hits me the way I think it’s supposed to is the idol performances at the end of each episode. As I watch Aikatsu Friends!, however, I feel like that’s finally changed for me.

I’m no expert in song and dance choreography, but the impression I get is that Aikatsu Friends is better at integrating those performances into the show itself. To some extent, I think this has to do with the improvements to the 3DCG that have happened to the franchise over time, but I don’t think it’s just about technical progress. Instead, I find that the performances themselves give a far better sense of who each character is, and what makes them tick.

Yuuki Aine

Protagonist Yuuki Aine is new to being an idol, and it shows. She’s not the best singer, and her dance moves are pretty simple, but they highlight her natural authenticity, and the friendliness that is her most outstanding quality.

Minato Mio

Minato Mio, her partner, is known for a kind of perfectionism that isn’t overly obsessive, which is reflected in the subdued music that accompanies her performances, as well as her simple yet graceful movements.

Asuka Mirai

Where it stands out to me most is the fact that Asuka Mirai, one of the top idols in the series, performs differently alone compared to when she’s a part of the duo Love Me Tear. As one half of a whole, she and her partner Kamishiro Karen exude elegance and maturity. When she’s by herself, however, Mirai is all about a kind of wry playfulness—the quality she exhibits when she’s trying to help Aine get comfortable acting for television.

The song and dance routines in Aikatsu Friends! encapsulate what we’ve learned about the character, or what the characters themselves have learned during the episode. Somewhat similar to how a different kind of show might take all the lessons presented during the episode and boil them down to a conclusion by the end, these performances leave a lasting impression about who these individuals are and why they strive to be idols.

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.

 
 
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Highlight Clips and the Loss of Context

On the internet in the early 2000s, the short, 5-second-at-most animated gif reigned. Before high-speed internet became ubiquitous, the gif was a low-commitment way to share snippets of your favorite show. While gifs are still used frequently, things have changed with the advent of YouTube, Twitter, the webm format, and more. Where once gifs were ideally super short, super-optimized for size, and often made to loop smoothly, now clips can go for minutes on end to showcase exactly what’s necessary to impress and astound. But as fandom and even online cultures in general have grown into an environment of instant gratification and moving snapshots, I find that it can influence how people view a given work or performance.

Highlight reels are nothing new, and I think they fulfill a useful role. Speaking from personal experience, they help me understand things that I can’t quite make time to fully delve into. For example, I’ve never been a big basketball fan, but seeing highlights of Michael Jordan’s famous “flu game” (where he managed to lead the Chicago Bulls to victory despite being incredibly ill) helps to drive home to a novice like me the sheer significance of Jordan’s feat. However, not everything boils down easily to small, digestible clips, and there’s increasingly a risk that people will judge the clipped version as if it speaks for the whole product.

Here are three examples that I think encapsulate this dilemma:

On the wrestling subreddit /r/squaredcircle, one fairly common topic is the WWE wrestler Finn Bálor. In multiple instances, Bálor is criticized for being a boring wrestler whose offense lacks weight and pizzazz. However, I’ve seen another sentiment in response: Finn Bálor is impressive when viewed over the course of an entire match. His moves might not leave a deep impression individually, but he weaves them together into a story. Every dropkick, every stomp from the top rope means something, and viewing the moves in isolation fails to tell the whole story.

Starcraft is a series of competitive video games known for pushing players to the limits. Occupying the real-time strategy genre, it will have the occasional flashes of brilliance that can be captured in highlight clips, but more often what makes people fans are the stories told over 20-60 minutes of adversaries trying to outwit and out-muscle each other. It’s often the case that written essays more accurately capture the strength and tactical brilliance of a player than a minute-long Twitch clip. As a result, games that are conducive to highlight reels, like fighting games or MOBAs, tend to go viral much more often.

On a personal note, when creating the “Precure Party” panel for AnimeNEXT 2015 with Alain from Reverse Thieves, I tried to find the best clip to convey the quality of my favorite, Heartcatch Precure! In my opinion, the show’s greatest strength is how it delivers very profound and considerate messages using the depths and quirks of its characters. What I ultimately decided on was to combine two clips: one showing Kurumi Erika (Cure Marine) being jealous of her older sister, and then another showing her older sister Momoka being jealous of Erika in contrast. The point was to show how it threads together those two episodes two make a stronger point about how Erika’s sense of inferiority isn’t the entire story, but the short highlight reel didn’t hit as effectively as I’d hoped. It just wasn’t as effective as showing transformation sequences, dramatic character development scenes, or easy-to-understand gag scenes. If I were to do it over, I would pick something with a lot more impact, but I’d still be a bit sad that I couldn’t properly convey in that instance the X-factor of Heartcatch.

I care little for complaints about shrinking attention spans; I’ve been hearing them since I was a kid. While there is a lot of desire out there for immediate satisfaction (see commenters online who write gigantic replies based purely on the title of a video or article), I can only put so much blame on the viewers and readers when it’s the people making the ads and videos to exploit their customers’ tendencies. What’s more important to me is that I hope people who see short clips or highlight reels for more complex subjects understand it’s just a taste of whatever they’re looking at, and that it’s not always the best or most ideal representation.

The Fujoshi Files 181: Momose Narumi

Name: Momose, Narumi (桃瀬成海)
Alias: N/A
Relationship Status: Dating
Origin: Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii!

Information:
Momose Narumi is a 26-year-old OL (office lady) who comes to date her childhood friend and co-worker, Nifuji Hirotaka. Cheerful and hardworking, she supports and is supported by Hirotaka through their mutual understanding and love of otaku subculture (Hirotaka is a gamer while Narumi is a fujoshi). Narumi is also friends with her co-workers Kabakura Tarou and Koyanagi Hanako, the latter being a fellow fujoshi.

Fujoshi Level:
A closet fujoshi at the workplace, Narumi was once so visibly shaken by the fact that her favorite manga character had died unexpectedly that it affected her ability to concentrate on her job.

On Loli Vampires, Morality, and Fiction

Anime and manga are full of relationships with large age disparities, ones that would assuredly get people arrested in real life. While fiction isn’t reality, and therefore doesn’t necessarily reflect what people desire or are willing to do in their actual lives, the fear of harm is founded in a simple and important value: adults having physical and romantic relationships with kids is wrong and impossible to justify in reality.

“But why is it wrong?” Generally, when presented with this question, people react that it is just morally repugnant, that it should cause disgust in all people. But what often isn’t taken into account is that there are two components to this answer that are conflated into a single response: the physical disgust and the moral disgust.

The Power of Fiction for Breaking Down Ideas

Before getting into the subject at hand, I want to emphasize some of the strengths of fiction: it can introduce ideas not easily found in reality, working alongside imagination to help people envision a world different from their own. It can also dissect and decouple concepts we believe to be either inextricably tied together, even those multifaceted ideas thought to be a single entity. This aspect of fiction enables people to reflect on its assumptions, and to further clarify how we think as human beings.

Take the example of being transgender, that one can potentially appear as one sex on the outside, but feel they are truly another gender on the inside. Thousands of years of social reinforcement emphasizes that the outer appearance dictates the inner mind, so for many someone being transgender is still a difficult concept to grasp. They cannot divorce sex from gender.

Yet fiction helps make this comprehensible. For instance, the old manga and anime Ranma 1/2 stars a boy who, due to a curse, changes physically into a girl every time he’s hit by cold water (hot water reverses the transformation). The more recent and wildly successful anime film, your name., features a boy and a girl who switch minds and have to live in each other’s bodies. In both works, the idea of “a girl on the outside but a boy on the inside” becomes more easily relatable. One need only watch these works, then think, “If I was in their shoes, how would I think? How would I feel?”

Physical vs. Logical Morality

Adults having relationships with minors is morally wrong, but in order to illustrate the complexities of this idea, I’m going to reference two characters from the company Arc System Works’, which specializes in fighting games. First is Dizzy from the Guilty Gear series. Second is Rachel Alucard from the BlazBlue series.

Visually, Dizzy appears as a fully-grown adult. Tall and voluptuous, she holds zero physical appeal for anyone who would be into much younger characters. However, in her first appearance in Guilty Gear X, she’s stated as being a mere three years old. While it’s more the case that she emerged fully grown like the goddess Athena, the conceptual contrast is still there: young in age, but old in appearance.

Rachel Alucard is the opposite. Having the appearance of a child, Rachel is actually an ageless vampire with the maturity and wisdom to go along with it. She’s very intentionally designed to follow that old lolicon trope of “she looks 10 but she’s 1,000 years old!” that often comes across as the flimsiest of excuses.

If you were to apply real-world laws to Dizzy and Rachel, you’d get two different results. If an adult had a sexual relationship with Dizzy, they’d be breaking the law 100%, but at first glance no one would find anything amiss. If an adult had something with Rachel, it would be legally justified but they would get pulled over by the cops every day for the rest of their lives.

Being bothered by Rachel’s design reflects a physical, visceral disgust—that one should not perceive her appearance as sexually attractive. On the other hand, being disturbed by Dizzy’s situation has more to do with the logic of morality. Even if someone appears fully mature, that does not mean they are mentally or emotionally ready. Age of consent laws are designed to protect minors from the inherent power imbalances that exist in adult-child interactions, even if she “looks like an adult.” The two sides of this argument can and do join together, but they’re fundamentally separate ideas.

So What About Those Stories?

While there is a clear immorality to having an underage relationship in reality, I do not believe that fiction is beholden to the same rules. Putting aside the fact that fiction, in and of itself, causes no harm, what ultimately makes those large age gaps morally problematic is the power dynamic. Adults inherently hold authority over children, even if those kids could pass for adults themselves, and the excuse that “she looked 18” doesn’t take into account the psychological harm that can occur. In stories, however, “power” comes in many different forms, and a story can be all about seeing how two individual characters can join together as equals. This doesn’t mean that people should never feel disgust at what’s depicted in fiction, especially because what goes on can potentially be used as an excuse or justification for bad behavior in real life. But it still, in the end, highlights how we perceive equality (or lack thereof) in fictional portrayals of romance.

Crazy Rich Asians: A Transcending Asian Experience

I am not and likely will never be even remotely as wealthy as the characters depicted in Crazy Rich Asians. So, when I first approached the original book by Kevin Kwan, I expected on some level to be repulsed by the story. I assumed it would some kind of materialistic fantasy ready to show the common folk how glamorous being in the most upper of crusts could be, and while that still holds true to a limited extent, the Crazy Rich Asians novel (first in a trilogy) feels very real to me and my experience growing up Asian, even if my family bought more Ferrero Rocher than actual jewelry. Now, having seen the film adaptation, I’m generally pleased with the outcome, as it captures much of what makes Crazy Rich Asians feel authentic, albeit in a simplified/condensed manner owing to differences in medium.

The premise of Crazy Rich Asians is largely the same in both book and film format. Rachel Chu is a young Chinese-American professor living in New York City with her boyfriend, Nick Young. Nick is going to be the best man at his friend’s wedding, and he asks Rachel to come with him to Singapore to meet his friends and family. Rachel understands that meeting Nick’s parents is a big step, but what she doesn’t realize is that Nick’s world is so glitzy that it almost seems like a fairy tale. However, with high wealth comes high standards, and Rachel gets to see how people of all stripes handle money and prestige while also dealing with not being good enough for Nick’s mom.

When I first read the novel, one thing that struck me was that even though the amount of money being tossed around was so beyond anything I’d ever experienced in my life, it still felt very close to home in terms of my own Asian family, Asian childhood, and interactions with Asian culture. Whether it’s dealing with my parents comparing me endlessly to my cousins, the pressure to do the responsible thing to support and uphold the family, or feeling like the old values and my values could never fully reconcile, what Crazy Rich Asians says to me is, “Even though the scale is different, these characters are people like you who have gone through the same ups and downs in life.”

It reminds me of another work about a Chinese-American protagonist, The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew. In that comic book, the main character’s mother embraces the notion of her son becoming a superhero with the zest that many an Asian parent has about classically reliable professions like doctor and engineer. In a similar vein, Crazy Rich Asians doesn’t just show Asians being high rollers, it shows how Asian values interact with wealth, and how different types of people within that sphere are affected by the consequences.

In that regard, I find the book’s ability to delve into the minds and hearts of its colorful cast to do a better job of depicting those contrasts and perspectives. Readers really get to see how each and every character handles wealth differently, and it really reinforces the idea that there’s really no “one way of being Asian” in the end. The film version carries that sentiment as well, but focuses its depiction of the pressures of being crazy rich Asians (and the social pressures that come part and parcel with that status) mostly on Nick Young. It gets the point across, just not as deeply.

There’s one scene in the book that’s absent from the film whose presence I sorely missed, which is when the reader learns about Nick’s grandfather. I don’t want to spoil too much, especially in case a sequel addresses this omission, but one of the important takeaways is that the goodness of Nick’s grandfather transcended wealth—a quality that Nick himself possesses.

Crazy Rich Asians is a milestone. As mentioned all over, it’s the first mostly-Asian cast for a Hollywood film since 1993’s Joy Luck Club. While I believe the book to be the more rewarding experience (because of how it allows readers to dive into the depths of its world, its characters, and their complex relationships with both money and Asian culture), the film strikes the right tone overall. As an Asian, and as someone who loves visual media, I am proud that this movie is a symbol of the Asian experience.

Have Beer, Will Travel: The Night is Short, Walk on Girl

The Night is Short, Walk on Girl adapts Japanese novelist Morimi Tomihiko’s work into an animated film where magic, fantasy, and reality blend together seamlessly into a pleasant yet frenetic experience. Directed by Yuasa Masaaki, whose credits include Devilman Crybaby, Ping Pong and The Tatami Galaxy (also based on a Morimi novel), the work fits Yuasa’s strengths to a tee.

The Night is Short, Walk On Girl follows two unnamed characters: a Japanese college girl referred to as “the black-haired girl” (kurokami no otome) and her upperclassman/senpai. The senpai has nursed a crush on the girl for ages, and has engineered a life where he “coincidentally” keeps running into her in the hopes of sparking something more. Unfortunately for him, it has yet to work. The girl, for her part, is more focused on enjoying life at night, which involves a lot of drinking and looking for the next adventure.

The story progresses in various unpredictable directions, touching on the supernatural in ways that make it difficult to tell who’s more bizarre: the humans or the gods. Following the girl’s exploration of the night, her pursuit of the next interesting drink, and the senpai’s continued attempts to get her to notice him feels like being on a winding path whose seeming meandering is actually welcomed rather than shunned. Yuasa’s signature style allows the nebulous mix of the real and fantastic to shine through.

The film was distributed in the US for two nights by GKIDS, and the showing included a recorded interview with Yuasa, where he discusses the on-again, off-again nature of a heavily delayed production. Another notable thing mentioned is that the film takes what is essentially a story told via vignettes over all four seasons and combines them into a single dramatic evening. Thus, the film and the novel provide substantially different experiences, making it more worthwhile to experience both. Fortunately, the novel itself is coming out in English courtesy of Yen Press.

Gangplank Galleon All Day Every Day: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for September 2018

The summer is coming to an end, but here I am still feeling jitters from the August Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Nintendo Direct. I was stoked when they announced King K. Rool, especially because the official version matches my fan concept version pretty closely!

As for my Patreon and Ko-fi, I’m thankful to all those who continue to support Ogiue Maniax. Thanks to the following!

Thank you to…

General:

Johnny Trovato

Ko Ransom

Alex

Diogo Prado

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

The past month has been quite comfortable overall for Ogiue Maniax; even the strange Patreon non-payment issue didn’t affect me too much. Instead, what I’m struggling with (though “struggle” is a bit over-exaggerating) is trying to strike the right balance between how much I write about anime and manga and how much I actually engage with the stuff. I’ve been spending a lot of time recently watching and reading more than blogging, and it’s helped to refresh my mind and inspire new ideas. However, if I write less than I usually do in a given week, I can feel myself getting a bit lazier, and wanting to put things off more and more. It’s as if there’s a groove that I can ride to putting out lots of good content, but staying with it for too long can wear me down.

That said, here are my favorite posts from August.

Kio Shimoku’s Kagerowic Diary and Its Influence on Genshiken and Spotted Flower

Some of Kio’s old manga is getting new special-edition releases! Here’s a look at an early work of his, and the footprints it has in his more recent titles.

Otakon 2018 Interview: Kawamori Shoji

My one-on-one interview with the creator of Macross, Aquarion, and more!

Tatanga for Super Smash Bros.

After about a two-year hiatus, I’ve gotten back to drawing Smash Bros. character concepts in celebration of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate! So far, I’ve done Tatanga and Turrican.

Hashikko Ensemble

Chapter 7 of Kio’s new manga has some introducing new characters. Among them, one awesome mom. 

Patreon-Sponsored

The Big O and Loving Robots

A look at artificial intelligence, love, and agency.

Closing

I of course am also stoked for Castlevania being in Smash. Let us celebrate with some fine tunes: