Darling in the NYCCs: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for October 2018

New York Comic Con is this week. I’m hoping to see Nozawa Masako (the legendary voice of Goku) at the Dragon Ball Super: Broly film showing. I wish she had a signing—she plays Tetsurou in my favorite anime ever, Galaxy Express 999—but alas.

Thank you as always to my supporters on Patreon and Ko-fi, especially the following!

General:

Johnny Trovato

Ko Ransom

Diogo Prado

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

My favorite posts from September:

On Loli Vampires, Fiction, and Morality

A complicated topic I’d been wanting to write about for a while: the complexities of morality when it comes to large age gaps in fiction.

Akira Yuki (Virtua Fighter) for Super Smash Bros.

My interpretation of how Akira would work in Smash!

Please Tell Me! Galko-chan and Portrayals of the Nerd/Bombshell Romance

How does the uniquely insightful, uniquely horny Galko-chan handle one of the classic romance tropes?

Hashikko Ensemble

Chapter 8 puts the spotlight on Koizumi Himari, a childhood friend who’s more than meets the eye.

Patreon-Sponsored

Aikatsu Friends! Choreography Has Won Me Over

The dancing has improved in Aikatsu! and notably so.

Closing

This month is actually my first ever wedding anniversary! It’s crazy to think that I’ll have been married for one whole year. Here’s to love.

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Beyond Expectations: Planet With

Imagine a long-running anime series that finally hits its climax, and winds down with an incredible conclusion. It seems like the perfect place to end the story, satisfying and complete yet somehow making you feel like you’d like to dive back into that world someday.

Now imagine if this anime received a follow-up. You love this series, but feel trepidation. After all, sequels are notorious for often failing to live up to the original, and you want your memory to remain untainted. Still, you give it a chance…and it’s even better than the first one! How is this possible? While you’re reeling from having your faith rewarded, you find out that, once again, this isn’t the end. Another sequel has been announced! And another. And another. Each time, you worry that something might go wrong, but it never does. Before you know it, hundreds of episodes have passed, and you can’t help but feel that the world is a different place.

Except you realize it’s only been twelve episodes. All of those years you swore had passed you by were contained within three months. That feeling is essentially what it’s like to watch Planet With.

Based on a manga by Mizukami Satoshi (Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer, Spirit Circle), Planet With is rare among anime adaptations because the original author actually specifically created the storyboards for the animated version. While the anime and manga apparently do diverge, there’s a certain level of consistency that can only be achieved through such hands-on involvement. If it wasn’t clear from the opening paragraphs, the value this provides comes across in the final work in spades.

Initially, Planet With feels “unstable.” It’s difficult to establish a foothold as a viewer. What are these bizarre, giant totems flying through the air? Who is this seeming hodgepodge of people declaring that they’re here to defend the Earth? Where did they get their mysterious-looking armors from, and are they science or magic? Who is this kid who’s clearly supposed to be the main character, and why is he living with an overly cheerful maid who translates for an eerie bipedal cat that looks related to Chiyo’s Dad from Azumanga Daioh? Who’s a good guy and who’s a bad guy?

The answers come, with time. As the story moves forward, the scope and the stakes expand exponentially, but Planet With never feels emotionless or distant. There’s something very personal about the series, but rather than fighting with the increasingly grandiose scale, those two sides feed off of each other. It’s a work that feels both impossibly large and unfathomably small, as if it took some of the best parts of Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars, Brigadoon, Gurren-Lagann, and (of course) Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer and mixed them all together.

The most pleasant surprise about Planet With is that while it seems to go to the ends of the universe and back both literally and metaphorically, it never stops being an uplifting piece of science fiction. Somehow, it takes even the wackiest possible moments and contextualizes them into gripping scenes that ignite both heart and mind and asks the two to harmonize. From beginning to end, it can practically feel like a lifetime, and I mean that in the best way possible.


Please Tell Me! Galko-chan and Portrayals of the Nerd/Bombshell Romance

When the anime for 3D Kanojo (aka Real Girl) first started airing, my review of the manga by Nanami Mao would see an influx of hits. The story of an otaku boy who ends up in a relationship with a girl with a reputation for dating around, it’s a charming romance where two people genuinely connect on a deeper level. However, in response to that review, I’ve been getting the same question over and over again: “Is the girl, Iroha, a virgin or not?!” The answer is “most probably not,” but the fact that viewers feel so strongly about Iroha’s virginity saddens me a little. Part of the appeal of 3D Kanojo in the first place is that it eschews that whole obsession with virginal purity and the girl having to be someone’s “first,” something that permeates not just Japanese society but much of the world too. The message that audiences of 3D Kanojo should be taking away is “it doesn’t really matter if Iroha’s a virgin or not if they love and care for each other.”

It’s my hope that the idea gets across to viewers and readers, especially to those who judge a woman’s worth by their sexual behavior. But if it isn’t clear that virginity isn’t the be-all, end-all, a different (and perhaps unexpected) manga provides an interesting perspective on this type of virgin nerd/experienced babe relationship: Please Tell Me! Galko-chan by Suzuki Kenya.

Galko-chan is primarily known for its attractive female characters talking frankly about sexual topics which they actually have no idea about, but there’s at least one character who’s extremely, unabashedly sexually active: Galko’s big sister. College-aged unlike the teenage Galko, the big sister isn’t afraid of getting down and dirty, to the extent that she’ll even “borrow” Galko’s school uniform for some guy she’s dating. However, while she’s comfortable sleeping with lots of guys, the most recent storyline in the manga concerns a burgeoning romance between Galko’s sister and the otaku brother of Galko’s best friend Otako.

What starts out as Galko’s sister wanting to rock some nerdy virgin’s world for kicks turns into something greater. Galko’s sister agrees to go on a date with Otako’s brother, and during it makes her intentions crystal clear. She directly brings up the topic of sex and even nibbles on his ears during dinner. But as much as Otako’s brother wants to sleep with her so very badly, he doesn’t want to be treated like a mere conquest. Instead, he wants their relationship to be something special, and if he’s just another tally for the “virginities taken” box, then he wants no part of it.

This hits Galko’s sister harder than she expects, because she genuinely began to fall for him, and realizes she took the absolutely wrong approach. Which is to say, lust and love certainly overlap, but they’re not the same thing.

And then Galko’s sister tries to show her feelings for Otako’s brother by letting him in on a secret—that she has athlete’s foot—which in turn causes him to get visibly turned on. Romance successful! That’s Please Tell Me! Galko-chan for you. I said it provided an interesting perspective, not that it’s ultra-classy.

I think the big takeaway here is that the struggles between Otako’s brother and Galko’s sister on their date don’t come from the idea that Galko’s sister should have been a virgin, or that virginity should matter all that much for men or women. Instead, it’s about what sex means to each of them, and coming to a mutual understanding of what it takes to make their relationship potentially work. It’s sweet, it’s hot, and it displays something unique for this classic nerd/beauty trope.

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.

 
 

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.

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.