Healin’ Good Precure and the Age of Coronavirus

In recent weeks, many of the anime that were on hiatus due to COVID-19 have begun returning, and one question that arises is how these series might be affected by the delay going forward. Many, like Demon Slayer: Mugen Train and The Millionaire Detective, are adaptations, and so wouldn’t be affected content-wise. Similarly, historical fiction like Appare Ranman! can easily ignore current events. But there is one series I’m looking at as potentially being deeply impacted by coronavirus on a story level, and that’s Healin’ Good Precure.

The main motifs of Healin’ Good Precure are healthcare and the environment. The girls essentially act as doctors trying to heal different Earth spirits when they fall ill, their interactions with their fluffy mascots take a veterinary angle, and their magical dresses briefly resemble physician lab coats during transformation. It’s an incredible coincidence that this would be the Precure series we have in the middle of a global pandemic, but here we are.

The Precure franchise as a whole does not have any source material—the anime are the original works. Everything else, from manga to video games, are subordinate to it. What this means is that there’s no source material to reference or adhere to, so it likely has a degree of flexibility in terms of potentially changing its story. The fact that Precure shows are typically around 50 episodes also means there’s plenty of time to pivot and try to take into account current trends and real-world concerns. Also, while the series was on hiatus, the official Precure LINE channel actually had videos featuring Precure stuffed dolls talking (via the voice actors) to kids and playing games with them, so i think there is an awareness that children are feeling the effects of self-quarantine and the like.

While I don’t think Healin’ Good Precure is going to do anything as drastic as explicitly introduce coronavirus into the show, I do wonder if they’re going to try and incorporate some of the good behavior into the girls’ special moves or equipment. For example, what if one of the mid-series upgrades are special magical masks that give the Precures enhanced powers? What if the girls learn a special attack that requires them to stand six feet (or two meters) apart from one another? Of course, it’s also possible that the show will keep ignoring the environment created by COVID-19 in the hopes of giving young kids an image of how things are “supposed to be.”

Regardless of how far Healin’ Good goes to address current events, Precure’s general positivity and supportive messages are very welcome. I’m just waiting to see how far it goes.

Breaking Convention: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for August 2020

Time starts to blend together as I stay at home, but there’s a new summer anime season to help get us energized. So far, the series I’m enjoying most is Deca-Dence, but I have to give a shout-out to Appare Ranman!, which is back from a COVID-19-related delay. I wish the best for everyone working in anime.

Incidentally, it’s been one year since the Kyoto Animation arson attack, and Kyoani has announced that they’ll be getting back into animation. It gives me hope.

Thank you to my Patreon sponsors, who support me even as I deviate from the main topics of this blog at times.

General:

Johnny Trovato

Ko Ransom

Diogo Prado

Alex

Dsy (NEW PATRON!)

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

I like to think that everyone who follows Ogiue Maniax knows my passion for anime and manga is genuine, even if there are times when more important things are at stake.

Blog highlights from July:

Kio Shimoku’s First Audio Interview Is with a Virtual Youtuber!

I took extensive notes from the most in-depth Kio Shimoku interview ever. A must-read for all Genshiken fans.

Our Better Angels: Superman Smashes the Klan

A review of the classic Superman vs. the KKK story told from a modern perspective.

AnimEVO Online and My Return to Mahjong

The AnimEVO Mahjong Soul tournament is this Saturday!

Hashikko Ensemble

Chapter 30 is where Hasegawa shows her true power. An emotionally charged chapter.

Patreon-Sponsored

The Infinite Potential of Japanese Pudding in Anime

Jiggling and wiggling and crossing class boundaries.

Apartment 507

Discover the twiiist ending of MILF manga Ookumo-chan Flashback.

Closing

Yesterday was Otakon Online, which rose out of the ashes of the canceled Otakon 2020. Otakon has been an annual pilgrimage for Ogiue Maniax, and I’m glad I was able to continue the tradition in some capacity.

May there be an Otakon 2021!

The Sincerity of Tokusatsu

I have watched a lot of anime, but it comes to tokusatsu stuff, I’m far less experienced. When Toei launched their official worldwide tokusatsu channel on Youtube a few months ago (despite a major hiccup where they accidentally banned themselves), I originally saw it as a way to legitimately watch more obscure giant robot anime such as Lightspeed Electroid Albegas and Space Emperor God Sigma. However, thanks to the sheer range of shows available—stuff leading back to even the black & white era of television—I thought it was high time I made a more concerted effort to watch tokusatsu and form my own opinions.

What I’ve come to notice is that I enjoy these series a lot more than the adapted tokusatsu works I’ve seen over the years in the US—Power Rangers, VR Troopers, Super-human Samurai Syber Squad, etc.—and I think I know why. When it comes to Japanese tokusatsu, there is a greater degree of earnestness that makes these shows more enjoyable overall. They might not have much of a budget, as shown by their threadbare special effectss, but everything feels somehow more sincere.

Sure, the localized shows have their own merits, and there have been memorable storylines over the years that lend at least an air of seriousness and compelling storytelling to their worlds. In Power Rangers alone, there’s the original Green Ranger storyline from Mighty Morphin’ and the bond between Astronema and Ecliptor in Power Rangers in Space that revealed the two more than just evil villains. However, they feel more like exceptions to the rule—-chances for otherwise very non-serious stories to reveal an edge.

With Japanese tokusatsu, on the other hand, even the very first episodes feel like they’re working hard to get viewers emotionally invested. They’re also still ultimately kids’ shows as well, but their presentation is such that they expect the young viewers at home to enjoy drama and tension in their entertainment. When you hear the ending theme to Janperson, even if you don’t know Japanese, there’s a strange yet heartfelt sense of passion. It’s definitely cheesy, but it’s a convincing kind of cheesy. The difference is akin to the kind of pro wrestling that easily makes you suspend your disbelief versus the kind that takes you out of the magic.

Anyway, if anyone has recommendations, I’m all ears. A part of me wants to check out Space Ironmen Kyodain and Akumaizer 3 just because of Konata’s fiery karaoke from Lucky Star, but I’m down to keep exploring.

Idiots: Hashikko Ensemble, Chapter 30

Emotions run hard and Hasegawa gets to the heart of the matter in Hashikko Ensemble, Chapter 30.

Before we get into the review, I have a couple things to share, for those that missed previous blog posts:

The final episode of the anime Wave, Listen to Me! features “Miagete Goran, Yoru no Hoshi o,” the song that the Hashikko characters have been singing and practicing up to this point. I talk about it here.

Also, I took extensive notes from a recent interview with Kio Shimoku by Virtual Youtuber Luis Cammy. It’s long, but I recommend you all check it out! There’s a whole lot of insight into Kio’s life and career, and it’s his first ever audio interview! If you ever wondered where Akira’s ultra-deep voice comes from, it’s a reflection of the author himself.

Summary

Shion is lost somewhere in the woods, but Orihara manages to be the one to bring her back to safety. The image of him carrying Shion on his back haunts Akira to such a degree that he dreams of the two in a loving embrace. This awkwardness persists through breakfast the next morning.

Later, Hasegawa tries to get all four of the Chorus Appreciation Society’s singers to resolve the question of whether to do an a capella performance for the school festival (Jin’s stance) or to involve Shion on piano (Akira’s stance). In order to coax Jin’s true motives out, Hasegawa brings out a live video chat of Yumerun, Jin’s condescending childhood friend). Her casual conveyance of the dismissive words of Jin’s mother causes Jin to reveal the truth: he wants to do something musically impressive to show his mom up, knowing that she’ll be watching. 

However, just as it seems consensus has been reached and a capella is the way to go, Hasegawa turns around and declares everyone to be idiots. She explains that Jin is so caught up in trying to prove his mother wrong, he’s forgotten their actual goal: to attract new potential members in order to graduate from appreciation society to full-fledged club. With everyone now on the same page and their eyes on the prize, Hasegawa is poised to reveal the popular, catchy, possibly anime-related song they’ll be doing next.

It’s Ghibli, Isn’t It?

In Chapter 14, Hasegawa goes ballistic when she discovers that multiple members don’t know Studio Ghibli and its famous music. GIven that their goal is to try and do something that’ll have wide appeal to students at a technical high school who likely don’t know much about music, this seems to be the natural choice. 

The question, then, is what song (or songs) has Hasegawa decided on? I have my own favorites (“Carrying You” from Laputa: Castle in the Sky, “Hikoukigumo” from The Wind Rises, “Always with Me” from Spirited Away), but what’s tricky is that most of the Ghibli songs are performed by women. One hint might be Orihara’s interest in harmonizing, but given my limited musical knowledge, I don’t think I’d know what a “good song for harmonizing” would even be.

Hasegawa is the Saki of Hashikko Ensemble

By cutting through all the reticence, the veiled reasonings, and the personal hang-ups, Hasegawa fulfills a role akin to Kasukabe Saki in Genshiken. She’s direct, keeps her eye on the prize, and seems more insightful when it comes to human relationships compared to the others. Granted, she doesn’t seem to have the social grace of Kasukabe. In that sense, Hasegawa reminds me of something akin to Hikigaya from My Youth Romantic Comedy is Wrong, as I Expected (aka My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU)—good at finding solutions but willing to play dirty in the process. I wonder if her contacting Yumerun is just for this, or if she’s actually formed a friendship with the strange girl.

Jin himself comments on Hasegawa’s effectiveness, telling her that he’s glad she’s on board as their conductor. Jin also uses Hasegawa’s first name—Kozue—for the first time, which she herself points out is quite the milestone. Jin calls people by their first name extremely easily (including Orihara!), so it’s interesting in the first place that he had previously avoided doing so with Hasegawa.

Love Triangle Man

Everything seems to be pointing towards both Akira and Orihara liking Shion on a romantic level. A part of me still suspects that Orihara’s and maybe even Shion’s reactions are being misread by Akira, but it could really be that obvious. Whatever the truth may be, the important thing is how self-conscious Akira is about the whole situation, and that it’s likely going to get worse. Akira’s overactive imagination even comes into play a second time (the first was with Shion and Shunsuke). There’s a chance Hasegawa (or maybe Kanon?) will find some way to untangle this mess, but I think it’s going to get crazier and crazier.

I still want to hear from Akira at some point what he likes so much about Shion. I know people shouldn’t necessarily have to articulate their feelings, but I’m genuinely curious.

Songs

No songs this month.

Final Thoughts

I’m looking a few chapters ahead and thinking if any new faces will join the appreciation society after the upcoming school performance. I’ve still got my eye on Kurotaki Mai, the deep-voiced girl who helped Akira, and the possibility of a girls’ vocal group starting up. If Yumerun somehow ends up at Hashimoto Tech, that would be wild.

Kio Shimoku’s First Audio Interview Is with a Virtual Youtuber!

Kio Shimoku has historically been a very private person, not even revealing his face until 2018. Shockingly, the Genshiken author had his very first audio interview, and it was by a Virtual Youtuber to boot! Luis Cammy is apparently a big fan of Kio’s work, and talked with him for a whopping 80+ minutes.

Translating the whole thing would be a whole endeavor in itself, but you’ll find all the notes I’ve taken from the interview. There’s a lot of it that’s all-new information and insight into Kio’s creative history.

Note that Kio has a remarkably deep voice. Personally, he reminds me a bit of Kugayama from Genshiken.

Also, as a final disclaimer, it’s possible I misunderstood some of the things spoken about. If anyone has corrections, feel free to leave comments!

Introduction and Miscellaneous

Luis has been a fan of his work since Gonensei (“The Fifth Year”), an early Kio manga and dark sequel to his prior work, Yonensei (“The Fourth Year”).

As part of their collaboration, Luis sang a cover of the Kujibiki Unbalance opening, and Kio provided drawings of Luis cosplaying as Ritsuko Kübel Kettenkrad for a music video. The video

Is meant to resemble late 1990s to early 2000s galge/dating sim intros. Luis looks like Saki from Genshiken/Ritsuko already, so it was a challenge to differentiate her.

Kio learned about VTubers from manga author gatherings. He doesn’t watch YouTubers much, let alone VTubers.

When asked if he knew how popular his work was at the time, Kio said he didn’t really look at comments online, but felt he rode the wave of the era.

The very beginning of Genshiken was Kio wanting to draw otaku as normal people. He want to madk what he himself wanted to read.

Luis mentions that otaku and their status have changed drastically since the days of Genshiken (when otaku were picked on and persecuted), like how there are light otaku now. Kio says his daughter is in middle school right now, and to her, she doesn’t get the whole otaku-as-negative thing. A group of popular kids in her class have Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba merch. Kio responds, “Times have changed, huh?”

Luis talks about how even regular folks say they like her, and it’s like the wall between normies and otaku isn’t there. Madarame has become a popular representative of otaku (to the extent that he’s Kio’s visual stand-in for this interview).

Genshiken

Luis mentions how fans by Nidaime love Madarame, and that he’s like a dating sim protagonist in Genshiken Second Generation/Nidaime.

Kio talks about how, in the very earliest planning stages, the first idea he sent to editorial was about the relationship between Madarame, Kousaka, and Saki. The love triangle was inspired by Ping-Pong Club, the nose-hair chapter in particular. That scene was thought up very early on, back when Genshiken was a mere chick. In a sense, Madarame and his romantic relationships were a part of Genshiken from the start.

Luis talks about her mahjong teacher, Saito Go (a professional player and mahjong VTuber), likes Genshiken. He especially remembers that scene with Madarame and Saki eating sushi together, and then not talking afterward on the train ride home.

Luis points out that Kio likes to use silent panels, which Kio agrees with. However, he thinks it’s overdoing it with those types of panels isn’t good either. The nose-hair chapter ends in silence too. Luis says a lot of information can be conveyed in such panels. Kio says it can convey a sense of realism.

Luis points out that the recording was the day of Saki’s birthday!

When creating character profiles for the compiled manga volumes, Kio had to come up with birthdays. He actually used Gundam Horoscopes to think them up. [This has been mentioned in other sources before, like the Japan-only Genshiken Official Data Book.] Actually, it was sort of like a backwards horoscope, in that he picked a mobile suit that would fit Saki well, and decided the birthday based on that. Sasahara is a Ball.

Personal Questions and Family Life

Kio is into Gunpla. He got into it when he was a 6 thanks to his bigger brother. Plamo-Kyoshiro (the 1980s precursor to Gundam Build Fighters) was his “bible.” He would categorize himself as a plastic model otaku above all else. He still wants to continue it as a hobby, but he’s busy. In Plamo-Kyoshiro, the way they used cardboard boxes in the manga really sparked his imagination as a kid.

Luis asks if Kio’s daughter ever says, “Why is our home filling up with more [otaku] stuff?” Kio says that his workplace is different from his home, so it’s his workplace that gets filled up instead. Doesn’t think his daughter is an otaku, but can’t say for sure. Luis jokes about Kio’s daughter showing up on the live recording and telling him not to say so much. Kio mentions that she doesn’t know about this, so Luis responds that she could come in saying, “It sounds like you’re doing a broadcast with someone from Nijisanji.” Kio comments that she might actually know what VTubers are.

Kio’s daughter has always walked in while he’s drawing manga, so she’s been reading manga for a long time. Kio still reads current manga. Luis says that manga has become like a “communication tool” these days, like, “What? Do you know this title?” as a conversation starter.

Genshiken More In-Depth

Luis describes the first Genshiken as being about ancient otaku. She asks Kio, if there was a Genshiken Third Generation, would it have VTubers and stuff in it? What kinds of characters and what sort of content would it include?

Kio concurs that they’re ancient otaku. His thinking was, “If I try to draw something totally new, it’ll quickly date itself. But if I make them feel older, than it’ll age better.” He doesn’t consider himself to be on the cutting edge. Genshiken came from whatt he personally wanted to draw. As it continued, it progressed into fujoshi stuff.

As for VTubers, once they become old, maybe then they’d show up in Genshiken. Kio says that plenty of current manga have VTubers in them already.

Luis asks if Kio is happy to have ended Second Generation when he did, and Kio says yes. “It felt like, ‘That’s about where it should stop.’” He explains how the sequel started out as a one-shot, but he’s not good at doing extra stories and the like, so he kept on working on it. Kodansha editorial (the publisher of Genshiken) said he should do enough to fill one volume. It was originally supposed to be a short serialization. 

Kio began with the thought of “How would Ogiue and the others continue the club?” and of course, it would end up with a bunch of fujoshi. But would it be all girls? What about guys? Hence, Hato.

Kio really went back and forth about whether or not to include a character like Hato. When he was drawing the manuscript, he kept having the feeling of “Is this really okay?” Coming up with the idea of Hato purposely using a more feminine voice is when he finally thought he could make it work. Fujoshi and otoko no ko (boys who dress convincingly as girls) are the main aspects of Second Generation. Kio didn’t want to put Hato through so much hardship, but as the story progressed, he felt that’s what should happen—though he did worry over it. 

The original Genshiken was supposed to be in real time, and things moved quickly. But it stopped being that way during the Ogiue story at Karuizawa. At the time, Ogiue was a “problem child” when it came to drawing the manga, as he didn’t know if he could resolve her backstory.  It’d be difficult to do that and still maintain the “real-time” thing, and he would’ve selfishly wanted to end the series in the Spring if it had stuck to being in real time. But it took multiple months to get through the Ogiue story. 

The series was supposed to end at Volume 8, but then there were plans for the second special official doujinshi [the first one was included with Volume 6]. Because of that, they decided to continue the series up to Volume 9. The original Genshiken features Ogiue’s turmoil, and Second Generation features Hato’s turmoil.

Luis comments how there are the Ogiue fans, and then there are Hato fans. Kio responds, “The Ogiue fans really are somethingl…” and then trails off. [Ogiue Maniax note: I feel attacked.] 

Spotted Flower

There are things that were hard to put into Genshiken, like sexual stuff. That’s where Spotted Flower comes from. From here, the two jokingly pussyfoot around Spotted Flower’s similarities to Genshiken.

Luis talks about how Spotted Flower is a different world (tongue-in-cheek), but it has kind of a crossover feel. Kio responds that they’re ostensibly different characters. Luis replies that the series is like a “what-if” universe (if-sekai in Japanese).

Kio says it’s not supposed to be them, but through it, he can do what he couldn’t in Genshiken.

Luis says, “What-If Madarame has a ‘Why youuuu!’ feeling.” Kio laments the husband as well.

Spotted Flower was supposed to be just a few short pages for Rakuen: Le Paradis magazine. The resemblance to other characters was originally not planned, but is actually something he noticed after the fact. He didn’t explain the meaning of the title to them when he submitted it [madara means “spot” and saki means “bloom”], so they probably didn’t realize at first. So he figured, “Why not keep going?” and it developed along the way.

“And now there are four volumes,” says Luis..

Kio’s feelings: “It’s not a book that comes out often, but if it interests you, I’m grateful.”

It was one thing when it was just the husband and wife, but then he added the Hato-like character, and the Kousaka-like character, and so on. He still can’t really say for sure that it’s them.

Hashikko Ensemble and Kio’s Overall Career

Luis finds the Hashikko Ensemble main character Akira cute. Kio says that he began with the idea that Akira would have that gap between his very deep voice and his shy personality.

Volume 5 of Hashikko Ensemble should be coming in September. 

Kio says he’s been in the manga business for 25 years. Luis thinks all his works are great, in terms of information provided, emotion, and atmosphere all being wrapped up in them. “It’s no small stuff.” To Kio, he sees all the things she mentioned as his shortcomings Luis comments that she enjoys seeing Kio reflect on his work.

Kio is the type to regret not saying this or doing that. Luis remarks that this is a live broadcast—is Kio okay?

Kio doesn’t recognize his own voice when recording. Luis said she never thought of her voice as anything special but the fans would say it’s cute. Luis compares Akira’s voice to Kio’s. Kio never had any experience with singing or choruses, but figured, why not give Akira a deep voice like himself?

He thinks people who can come up with characters purely from imagination are amazing.

Hashikko Ensemble a story of the passion of youth, but Kio didn’t originally plan it that way. Like Genshiken, he wanted the story to be something ridiculous and fun, and landed on “chorus club high schoolers.”

Luis loves stories about the passion of youth (seishun), like Yowamushi Pedal and Big Windup. Kio replies that he’s never drawn manga in that vein—like Chihayafuru—but thought, “If I put all I had into it, could I draw one?” The characters in Genshiken are all pretty mellow. He wasn’t that good at drawing the kind of youthfulness that appears in Hashikko Ensemble, at first.

Luis makes the argument that the original Genshiken is a “passion of youth” story, because it’about figuring out what club to join and what to do? Like, Kugayama’s waffling on whether or not to draw, or Ogiue’s decision to go, “I guess I’m gonna draw.” 

The kinds of “passion of youth” stories Kio enjoys are a little strange—not so much “hot-blooded stuff.” Luis describes Madarame as a hot-blooded otaku. As for being a passion of youth story, what about that story with Saki mentioning Madarame looks good in his new glasses?

Originally, Genshiken was supposed to be a club that doesn’t put anything out. One of the things that made Ogiue tricky is that she wanted to draw herself, so Kio had no choice but to make a story about her trying to get into Comic Festival [the Genshiken in-universe equivalent of Comic Market].

Doujinshi???

Luis says Genshiken is what made her want to attend Comic Market as part of a circle. She asks Kio if he ever participated as an artist. Kio says yes!

Kio released a doujinshi at Comic Market in 2003 (Luis points out that 2004 was the year of the first Genshiken anime, which Kio totally forgot about).

Kio did not use the name “Kio Shimoku” for Comic Market. He sold 200 books, which impresses Luis. For reference, Luis says that 100 is considered a lot, and she herself sold 50 copies of her own doujinshi at a Comitia [a major doujin event primarily dedicated to original, non-fan works].

The doujinshi was indeed pornographic, and an original work. It bears resemblance to Kujibiki Unbalance and Genshiken.

Luis talks about how big sister loves Kujibiki Unbalance, to the extent that she put out a pornographic doujinshi starring Ritsuko. Luis helped her a lot with it, including stapling it together. 

“Putting out a Kujibiki Unbalance-esque doujinshi yourself is like actually being in Genshiken,” says Luis.

Kio also participated at Comic Market a second time—in 2010. It was a doujinshi based on a “certain space opera that uses Episodes,” flipping around the genders of the character roles involved. The inspiration was that with some wordplay, the title resembled the phrase “Sister Wars.” He drew what was supposed to just be a manuscript based on Episode 1, but it ended up being 350 pages. Kio wanted to draw up to six.

“Please complete it!” Luis says.

“But I wouldn’t be able to sell it!” Kio replies.

[Ogiue Maniax note: One of Ogiue’s characteristics is prolific output, just like Kio here.]

Luis asks if there’s anything he’s watched lately, old anime or new anime. Kio doesn’t have anything, and Luis says his free time to just sit down and watch without moving must have decreased. Kio agrees.

Kio wants to absorb more shows, but just doesn’t have the time.

Questions from Kio for Nijisanji

As future reference for manga, Kio asks if VTubers wear sensors to track movement. Luis responds that it uses 3D tracking. She quickly “corrects” that the animated figure you see is the real her.

Luis says that Kio’s participation in Comic Market makes his manga feel more real.

The two talk more about the Kujibiki Unbalance music video they collaborated on. Kio says it’s like a doujin-style fan work. Luis talks about how she has Genshiken and Kujibiki Unbalance merch. Luis has the Kujibiki Unbalance Ritsuko school swimsuit clear file drawn by the light novel artist, Yagumo Kengou. Kio mentions that the image was a request from him [Ogiue Maniax note: Not 100% sure about this last sentence].

Kio mentions that he gets some harsh comments, but others will say “That’s the kind of author he was all along!” But he doesn’t want to remember himself from the Gonensei era.

What an Interview!

There’s a lot to unpack in this interview. I hope to follow up with an analysis.

Also, I can’t believe there’s a Virtual Youtuber who’s into Genshiken, Kio Shimoku, and mahjong! It’s like someone designed a VTuber especially for me.

I guess the Ogiue Maniax VTuber pantheon is now Sugomori Tenkomori and Luis Cammy.

The Infinite Potential of Japanese Pudding in Anime

f you’ve watched even a small amount of anime, Japanese pudding is incredibly hard to miss, specifically in the form of a caramel custard flan generally known locally as purin. If I had to say why purin is so popular in anime, my guess would be that there are two reasons. First, its ubiquity in Japan means the food is familiar and comes in many forms, which allows it to traverse class and social status, allowing it to fit into a variety of narratives. Second, its jiggly consistency and unique appearance are ideal for both elaborately detailed animation as well as simpler and more limited animation.

Purin Across Strata

According to the website for Kakeien, a Japanese purin maker, the dessert came to Japan in the late Edo to early Meiji period. Since then, it’s become a staple of Japanese sweets, and depending on how it’s made, it can be a humble treat to decadent, high-class dessert, or somewhere in between. This also means that purin can show up in multiple situations and be a source of conflict, whether it be in the context of drama or (especially) humor.

Pre-packaged versions can be found in the thousands of convenience stores all across Japan, making it a quick and easy snack. This is the purin seen above in The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, which becomes a prime target for time travel shenanigans so that its heroine, Makoto, can savor it over and over.

Purin can also be made at home for cheap, and this can lead to either mishaps or mildly absurd developments. Minori in Toradora! takes this to an extreme by making a gigantic and self-explanatory “bucket purin,” scaling the small and simple snack into an example of hilarious excess.

High-quality versions of purin can also exist, with expensive patisseries making them in limited quantities. In anime, this “premium” quality can create tension between characters, either by highlighting a class difference or by positioning the purin is an exceedingly rare treat. In Magia Record, Rena buys expensive purin as a reconciliation gift, but all the girls get stomach aches because Rena took too long to make up with her friend before giving it to her. Different “levels” of purin can signify a lot about characters and their places in their worlds.

Purin as the Animation Ideal

In addition to the cultural aspect, the very physical qualities of purin lend themselves to animators and visual artists. It usually has a very distinct contrast in color between the custard and the caramel topping. It wriggles to and fro under the slightest bit of force, and when you scoop a little up, the spoon slices through its pale yellow body, leaving its mark. There’s a three-dimensionality to purin that makes its distinct features all the more appealing.

The recent series Princess Connect: Re-Dive demonstrates the strength of purin as an object in animation. It has an entire episode dedicated to purin, entitled “Flowers in Eternal Darkness ~Cursed Pudding~.” Numerous renditions of purin show up this episode to comedic effect, and are mostly portrayed in very simple 2D animation where the two-tone contrast is a clear identifier of the snack. However, at the end of the episode, one of the characters makes a large deluxe pudding, its gelatinous makeup conveyed through the use of 3DCG. Whether you’re dedicated to the craft of animation or merely need it as a visual device, purin has a role to play.

In Short

This is mostly my conjecture, but to me, purin is everywhere in anime because it is everywhere in Japan—both literally and metaphorically. It can be found in stores of all kinds, and it can play the role of the humble snack or the rare treasure. Its physical appearance means that it can be rendered simply and easily, while its wiggly nature means the potential to creatively portray its qualities through motion is tremendous. In other words, writers and artists of all kinds can utilize purin to their own advantage, and they’ll know the viewers will instantly recognize the delicious treat.

This post is sponsored by Ogiue Maniax patron Johnny Trovato. You can request topics through the Patreon or by tipping $30 via ko-fi.

Kyoto Animation One-Year Memorial

The coronavirus has made days feel like weeks and weeks like months. It’s been one year since the Kyoto Animation arson tragedy, and yet I could swear it was eternity ago. While COVID-19’s effects are far greater in scope, the tragedy of what happened to KyoAni still hits hard. It was a shining beacon of the anime industry in so many ways, from the quality of its output to the way it treated its workers. 

Those who follow me on Twitter may have noticed that my icon since last summer has been Hazuki from Sound! Euphonium. She’s my favorite character in that series, to be sure, but the other reason I’ve left it unchanged is as a quiet memorial to Kyoto Animation. “Twitter identifier” is so insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but regardless of what anyone else thought or how they’d interpret my icon, I wanted to remember what happened.

There is going to be a memorial livestreamed on YouTube by Kyoto Animation on 7/18 at 10:30am JST. That would be 7/17 9:30pm EST/6:30pm PST, which you can find below.

AnimEVO Online and My Return to Mahjong

It’s been about a year since I last written anything related to mahjong, and much longer since I last played on a regular basis. However, now that AnimEVO Online is planning to include Mahjong Soul, a free-to-play internet-based riichi mahjong game featuring anime-style characters. I’ve decided to enter the Mahjong Soul tournament on August 8th.

This means dusting off the old metaphorical mahjong gloves and diving straight into the game I loved (and loved to hate)—only on a relatively unfamiliar platform in Mahjong Soul. Fortunately, there is no “pay to win” here, but mahjong is arguably already enough of an inherent gacha-esque gamble, that I’m not sure anyone would benefit from that. Also, it’s available to play on browsers and on its own app, so there’s a nice convenience factor.

Because I’m just starting out in Mahjong Soul, I’m in the lowest-level rooms, and it’s a stark reminder that riichi mahjong becomes a very different game as you go up against better and better players. Against absolute beginners, as well as those coming in from other forms of mahjong (I’m looking at you, MCR players), the tendency to go for extremely aggressive hands with little regard for defense makes for big crazy swings that are difficult to account for. Against more internet-oriented players who specialize in calculating the odds and knowing the mathematics of mahjong, you can go a bit slower, but this puts you at a disadvantage against the “occult” players who rely on sense, intuition, and deception.

Playing against newbies is somewhat similar to playing Smash Bros. Ultimate online, where the inconsistent environment throws in an element of randomness and chaos that changes how you play the game. There are certain things that you know should work, but lag makes a mess of that notion. In riichi mahjong, three opponents blindly aiming for toitoi (all triplets) simply changes what’s considered optimal play. And one must not forget that mahjong has a heavy luck element, so even the best-laid plans can go awry.

According to my old riichi mahjong panel co-host, Dave, it takes a long time to get out of the lower-level bronze and silver rooms in Mahjong Soul—you simply have to grind it out, no matter your skill level. A part of me worries that I might end up being too accustomed to dealing with low-level play, and thus ill-prepared for the real monsters inevitably entering the tournament. However, as stated above, different degrees of players can drastically alter how a game of mahjong looks, and remembering what it’s like to fight in the Pon Palace can be valuable. Perhaps, in this environment, being able to quickly assess your opponents’ skill levels will be of paramount importance.

For all of you readers who still get hit by that mahjong bug, I hope to see you online. You can register for free at smash.gg.

Refreshing Noodles: Min Min in Smash Bros. Ultimate

A lot has happened in the Smash Bros. community over the past two weeks, with multiple instances of sexual abuse and assault among its competitive scene coming to light. This is a serious problem, and its exposure is ultimately for the better, especially for the victims and those who would have been potential victims.

This has also overshadowed some of the happier Smash news—namely the reveal of Min Min as the new DLC character—so I want to focus on that. Hopefully, we can embrace the good without looking away in willful ignorance as to what needs to change.

Min Min

When an ARMS character was announced as DLC for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate two months ago, the online reaction felt less than enthusiastic. Although ARMS is a fairly successful Switch game, the previous DLC pack had hardcore fans craving for more outlandish choices in the vein of Hero and Banjo-Kazooie. Amazingly, I think the developers and Nintendo have managed to turn opinion around with their reveal of Min Min as the winner, and it’s thanks to a combination of factors. 

First, ARMS just has fantastic character designs that ooze personality, and Min Min is one of its best. Second, she brings a unique fighting style that gives players something new and different to try out. Third, she happens to be associated with the Etika, the gaming Youtuber who tragically died by suicide almost one year ago. All three worked together to make a perfect storm.

Character Design

Min Min looks cool when she probably should look ridiculous. She is a ramen shop owner with noodles for hair, a ramen bowl hat, a dragon for an arm, a somewhat stereotypical Chinese outfit, and she does kung fu. Yet, somehow, it all works together. She comes across as fun and lighthearted, yet serious and strong. Her martial arts animations are impressive, and they lend her a lot of flavor.

The trailer itself also did a great job of conveying her personality. As the other ARMS fighters battle to obtain a coveted Smash Bros. invitational letter, Min Min is at her shop watching Captain Falcon and Kirby eat ramen. It’s only after Captain Falcon has completely finished his bowl with utter satisfaction that Min Min leaves to fight for the Smash spot. This shows how important her restaurant and customers are to her, that she would on some level prioritize them over what is arguably the ultimate prize. Min Min just comes across as charming and powerful in the best ways, even to those who have zero familiarity with ARMS.

Min Min is also the first playable Chinese character in Smash Bros. history, giving her a unique factor. Because she speaks Mandarin Chinese in the trailer, I was curious as to who her actor is. It turns out the voice behind Min Min is Takutsu Haruna, a Japanese performer who studies Chinese as a hobby. I appreciate the fact that they chose someone who has put in that much effort, even if all she’s saying is, “I love ramen!”

Fighting Style

Min Min might very well become the bane of online play with her long reach and dual-arm game mechanic. Zoners and projectile specialists are the bane of many Smash players, and it seems like Min Min is only adding fuel to the fire. But Sakurai’s video demonstration makes her look more exciting than one might have expected, notably because she controls differently from pretty much every Smash character before her. Whereas most characters have a clear delineation between their normal “A-button” moves and their special “B-button moves,” for Min Min, they control her left and right ARMS respectively. Moreover, she can move while her attacks are coming out. Thus, she’s able to deliver long-range one-two combinations at a player’s chosen timing or send them in different directions to cover a wider area. 

The closest comparable character is Mega Man, who’s able to move and attack in a similar way thanks to his pellets, but even that doesn’t fully prepare players for the Min Min experience. Just from using her for a few days, it feels like you’re playing a completely different game—my fingers stop knowing what to do with other characters when I try to switch back. She’s someone who will take time and dedication to use at even a functional level, which also means she’s offering something you won’t find in other characters. It’s unclear as to how strong she actually is, but it will take time to figure out regardless.

As an aside, while not related to ARMS, this left-right setup could also be the perfect way to add a Tekken character to the roster. Heihachi is probably out given the Mii costume they just announced, but who knows? Maybe we’ll get Kazuya MIshima or Jin Kazama instead.

Etika’s Legacy

The late Etika was one of the most visible figures in online Smash fandom, and was probably the very face of “Smash reaction videos” thanks to his genuine passion towards character reveals. While he would invite controversy constantly, it became sadly clear in the end that he suffered from mental illness, and every one of his fans wishes that things turned out differently.

Etika also happened to be a big fan of Min Min, though not always for the purest of reasons, as his LEGS t-shirt above makes clear. Regardless, when Min Min was first shown in that trailer, those who followed and knew Etika probably all had the same thought: the man would have loved this. It’s even possible to imagine how he would have reacted—with an expressiveness few can ever match.

In the End, Nothing’s Wrong with First-Party Characters

Min Min’s announcement had it all: a strong character aesthetic that can make new fans instantly, a showcase of interesting gameplay brought by her, and an online presence that goes beyond the familiar borders of Nintendo in the form of Etika. What’s just as important is that it showed how you don’t need an off-the-wall unpredictable pick to create excitement and hype. “An ARMS character” is something probably anyone could have predicted, but what they perhaps couldn’t account for is having the whole package executed so well. My hope, however futile it might be, is that fans can appreciate the characters that are coming, even if it’s not necessarily the ones they want. They might be able to win us over, just like Min Min.

The Importance of the Song in the Final Episode of Wave, Listen to Me!

Wave, Listen to Me! is a great manga and anime about a woman who unexpectedly becomes a radio host—a mature comedy that is about five genres away from author Samura Hiroaki’s most famous work, Blade of the Immortal. I recommend everyone check it out. For those who have recently finished the anime TV series, I’m here to point out that the song played in the finale has a special kind of relevance to the episode.

SPOILER WARNING, of course.

In episode 12, an earthquake hits Hokkaido, causing blackouts. As the characters look up at a starry night sky, a song plays: Kyu Sakamoto’s “Miagete goran, Yoru no Hoshi o” or “Behold the Nighttime Stars.” This song originally came out after the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, and it responded to the fact that the lack of light pollution made the stars more visible than normal. A common interpretation of the song’s lyrics is that the stars are also the souls of those who died in the disaster. In short, having “Miagete goran, Yoru no Hoshi o” play was an active choice with a specific meaning to Japan.

Incidentally, I actually only learned about the song and its significance because I’ve been following Kio Shimoku’s current manga, Hashikko Ensemble. The tune has a central role in the narrative up to this point, and one of the characters goes as far as to explain everything I mentioned above. I find it a little funny that these two streams dovetailed so nicely together.

Both Wave, Listen to Me! and Hashikko Ensemble run in the magazine Monthly Afternoon, so maybe this synergy isn’t totally out of the question. Most likely, however, is that they’re both referencing the same major moment in Japanese history.