Dang, Spring Anime Is Really Good: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for May 2022

I know I’m probably not the first person to say this, but the Spring 2022 anime season has been rock-solid. I can’t watch every show, but the sheer amount of quality made for quite an enjoyable April, even as the world continues to teeter between hope and despair. Spy x Family, Ya Boy Kongming, Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club, Birdie Wing, and a whole host of other series are just knocking it out of the park.

Thanks again to all my followers on Patreon!

General:

Ko Ransom

Diogo Prado

Alex

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

Blog highlights from April:

Navigating Your Cultures: Himawari House

My review of a comic about living in Japan as an Asian expat and searching for identity.

Super Robot Wars 30, Gaogaigar, and J-Decker: The Compromises of a Composite Narrative

Thoughts on the combining of two different Brave anime in SRW30.

The Art of Love: Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop

A great little movie that went under the radar.

Kio Shimoku

Kio Shimoku’s Twitter was full of design drawings for Hashkko Ensemble. There’s a lot of insight into his early decisions for the manga!

Closing

One other piece of big news from April was the announcement and release of the final DLC for Super Robot Wars 30. I still can’t believe Shinkalion made it in! It makes me want to draw giant robot fanart…

Mou Mantai: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for April 2022

Mou mantai is Cantonese for “no problem.” It’s also a signature phrase of Hong Kong native Zhong Lanzhu from Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club, whose second season started today. The new anime season is upon us (again!), and I’m feeling positive about new shows, including seeing Lanzhu and the other Monster Girls in Love Live!

Of course, to say that there aren’t any issues is not entirely truthful. April Fool’s, I guess?

Life is good, but not perfect by any means. There are things we can’t control, like the unexpected twists and turns of international affairs. But there are things I can affect, and because life is personally busier at the moment, a part of me wonders if I should reduce my output for Ogiue Maniax. Right now, I typically do 2–3 posts a week (which I’ve kept up for the past 11 years or so), and the new result would be 1–2 posts a week. This would obviously make things easier for me, but then I feel like my Patreon might not be worthwhile anymore for those who still follow me.

A part of me also wonders if the reason I’m feeling this way is because Super Robot Wars 30 is so danged long. Enjoyable, but I think only now (months later) am I reaching the final third of the game.

Speaking of Patreon, my patrons continue to support me. To them, especially those below, I say: Thank you.

General:

Ko Ransom

Diogo Prado

Alex

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

Blog highlights from March:

Kizuna AI, Uruha Rushia, and the Search for Authenticity

A philosophical look at how we engage with Virtual Youtubers.

What’s the Justice, Indeed—Cyborg 009: The Cyborg Soldier

My review of the amazing 2001 retro-style retelling of the classic manga

What Drives Them—Mobile Suit Gundam Reconguista in G Part III: Legacy from Space

Thoughts on the third G-Reco movie, and a realization about the best way to follow the story.

Kio Shimoku

Kio Shimoku’s Twitter has a nice countdown for the final volume of Hashikko Ensemble.

Closing

March 28 was Ogiue’s birthday! I’m glad people are still holding the torch, even a little bit.

The Heat Is On: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for March 2022

I’d be lying if I claimed I wasn’t full of fear of where the world is going. While violence is nothing new, there’s something about these particularly brazen lies we’re seeing used to justify a takeover of a sovereign nation that has me worried that the world is going to scary places, if not already there.

That said, while I sometimes would like to more fully disconnect my fandoms from the world at large, it’s a great deal harder than one might expect. Case in point, I started watching 2001’s Cyborg 009: The Cyborg Soldier, which is about people who were kidnapped and forcefully integrated with machines, who then rebel against the massive warmongering arms dealer that made them who they are. Even an adaptation of a classic action manga has dimension. That’s not in the same ballpark as, say, a harem series, but I think it’s ideal to discuss both the anime and manga that embraces every level of political engagement to those that are more passively political. Heck, isn’t the biggest anime basically Attack on Titan?

Here are the special Patreon members who continue to show me their generosity. While the lack of new members might be viewed as a sign of stagnation, the fact that so many continue to stick with me is something I appreciate.

General:

Ko Ransom

Diogo Prado

Alex

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

Blog highlights from February:

Rise of the Dojo Dojikko: Mabataki Yori Hayaku!!

My review of a cute-girls-doing-karate manga I’ve been really enjoying.

Summer Cure Makes Me Feel Fine: Tropical-Rouge! Precure

This Precure’s full of energy and avenues for change!

Power and Truth: Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn

It’s been a long time coming, but here are my thoughts on Gundam Unicorn at last. Speaking of political anime…

Kio Shimoku

Kio Shimoku’s Twitter was pretty light in February, but I expect that to change in March with the final volume of Hashikko Ensemble.

Closing

I’m impressed how well Cyborg 009: The Cyborg Soldier holds up. It feels just as fresh today as it did when I’d catch episodes on Cartoon Network back in the day, and the focus on diversity, peace, and criticism of warmongering feel more relevant than ever before. I hope the ideals that anime brings can be something we can reach in our lifetimes.

Is Loving a Genre Like Supporting a Local Sports Team?

I’ve been mulling over something lately: Is it safe to define a genre or trope preference in fiction as a case where you’re more accepting of less-than-stellar results? Much like supporting a local sports team through thick and thin, is being a genre fan about enjoying even the mediocre?

I’m ready to admit that the analogy falls apart under close scrutiny for a whole host of reasons. There’s no clear metric for winning vs. losing with something subjective like fiction. Supporting a player or a team, something made up of real people, is very different from being into a particular fiction genre—a more fitting comparison might be a favorite animation studio or book imprint.

But when I think about a genre I enjoy—giant robot anime for instance—there’s something about my appreciation that feels like it goes well beyond considerations of quality. When Good Smile Company announced a ton of new model kits for their Moderoid line, the sheer variety and obscurity of the line stood out to me. Some of the excitement came from the representation of series I consider personal favorites: Godannar!!, Reideen, Granbelm, Rayearth, The BIg O, and more. But it also came from seeing new or relatively obscure things get the spotlight, like Daitei-oh (the Eldoran series that never officially got an anime), Zeorymer, Promare, and iDOLM@STER: Xenoglossia. Not all of these series are genre-defining heavy hitters, but that they exist as merchandise fills me with warmth.

In contrast, I’ve watched a good amount of idol anime at this point, but I still don’t see myself as a fan of the genre. I appreciate the titles that stand out, though.

Perhaps, however, supporting your local fiction genre also comes with being able to recognize that you have a bias towards the tropes and expectations that come with it, because sometimes having a truly disappointing instance stings extra hard. But I also wonder if, like how you have sports fans of consistent winners and those of perennial underdogs, there’s a difference between the fans of a genre that’s seeing the limelight and one whose star has faded a bit—or, for that matter, a genre that may have once been big versus one that has never really ascended in the first place.

Diamond City Lighting It Up: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for February 2022

Happy New Year (again!) to all who celebrate the lunar calendar and the Year of the T-T-T-T-Tiger.

As the Omicron variant (hopefully) peaks at varying times, I’m naturally spending a lot more time indoors—even more than usual. A new anime season has made things easier, with returning favorites like Attack on Titan, Demon Slayer, and Princess Connect! Re:Dive, as well as interesting new stuff like The Kodama’s Lazy Life and Tribe Nine. I’m also catching up on Ranking of Kings, which I’d heard such good things about, and there are still a few shows like Slow Loop I’m planning to check out.

I’m also delving into the world of Webtoons a bit more with Higashimura Akiko’s A Fake Affair (perfect for Valentine’s Day maybe) as I also read through her autobiographical series Blank Canvas. Her stuff is amazing, and I will almost always recommend Higashimura works. I’m relatively inexperienced when it comes to Webtoon stuff, so I’m open to suggestions.

My webspace is still down, and the administrators appear to be MIA. It’s kind of a pain, but this blog is old enough that trying to find every image I uploaded during my earlier years and switching to new hosting might not be feasible. If I get to the point where I’m supposed to renew, well, that’s another matter.

In the meantime, here are my biggest Patreon members, who help keep Ogiue Maniax going.

General:

Ko Ransom

Diogo Prado

Alex

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

Blog highlights from January:

Shining in the Sea of Stars: Hakaioh – Gaogaigar vs. Betterman Part 3

My review of the final Gaogaigar vs. Betterman novel. Especially worth a read if you’ve played Super Robot Wars 30.

Monsters Growing: Rokudou no Onna-tachi Final Review

A full-series review of one of my favorite manga in recent memory, a delinquent harem manga that rises well above its premise.

Encanto is Too Real

Disney’s latest feature film hits hard on a personal level.

Hashikko Ensemble

Chapter 48 is the final chapter of Kio Shimoku’s high school music manga series! See how it all ends.

As a result, Kio Shimoku’s Twitter in January was a lot of talk about Hashikko Ensemble.

Apartment 507

Thoughts on the new season of Demon Slayer.

Closing

Every so often, I think about revamping my Patreon, as it’s been kind of stagnant in terms of approach for quite a few years now. One issue is that this is not my full-time job, and I don’t know how much I could actively devote to running it, so I’m hesitant to promise or aim for anything big. Would people be interested in Patreon-only content?

The Winter of Our (Dis)Content: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for January 2022

Happy New Year! As I say that, 2022 is off to an unusual start.

On the blog side, there’s been an issue with many of my older posts because the web hosting I used for many of the images has been down for the past month (and possibly more). I hope I can get it fixed sooner rather than later, but the hosting has been unresponsive. Fortunately, most of the content is primarily text, so even as many of the illustrative pictures are not displaying, there’s still plenty to read, if you want to check out the archives.

But of course, any and all web space woes pale in comparison to the unprecedented level of infection that the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has brought. Last month, I wondered if I might have to temper my expectations about seeing loved ones in this environment, and that has turned out to be a pretty big understatement. For those living in places with record spikes in infection, I hope you can stay safe and well. Please, please get vaccinated (and boosted if you can), wear a good mask (N95, KN95, KF94, FFP2), and exercise discretion (especially indoors). We can still live our lives, but we should cherish the health of the people around us. While Omicron seems to have a greater ability to infect vaccinated people, it can still be the difference between an unpleasant day and your final one.

I order my masks from Bonafide Masks, but you can get KN95s at a Staples or equivalent shop.

Thanks to my patrons here in 2022, especially the following.

General:

Ko Ransom

Diogo Prado

Alex

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

Blog highlights from December:

Going Beyond Limits, for Better or for Worse: Anime NYC 2021

My review of Anime NYC 2021 and all its ups and downs. Also check out my convention review of Pompo the Cinephile!

Daitetsujin 17 and the Wonderful Clunkiness of Tokusatsu Soul of Chogokin

A preview of the next Soul of Chogokin figure turns into an analysis of how the toy line handles live-action series.

Fan vs. Fandom

Thoughts on the difference between being a fan of something and participating in a fandom, inspired by someone close to me.

Hashikko Ensemble

Chapter 47 turns out to be the second-to-last! Can’t wait for next month.

Kio Shimoku’s Twitter in December saw him reminiscing about older times.

Closing

In much lighter news, the winter anime season is starting up! I’m still trying to finish stuff from the fall, but in the meantime, I’ve decided on my favorite characters of 2021. Who do you think reigned supreme?

Fan vs. Fandom

Recently, someone close to me revisited one of their favorite TV series of all time: Burn Notice. They can talk forever about how they love Michael, Fiona, and the rest of the cast, as well all the things that make the show stand out from its peers. However, something occurred to me in discussion, which is that as much as they’re fond of Burn Notice, they never felt the need to actively engage with other fans of the show. In other words, they’re a fan but not part of the fandom. Increasingly, I find myself in a similar boat about the things I love.

I still try to emotionally and critically engage with the media I enjoy (or don’t, as the case may be). I might even strike up a conversation with people through social media, including (but not limited to) those I would genuinely call friends. But if there’s one major difference between me today and the young me from decades past, it’s that I’ve since mostly stepped away from being a part of communities. I sometimes get a glimpse of a certain discussion or trend from within those communities, and if it’s interesting, I’ll check out what exactly is going on. Yet, I often don’t feel that strong pull to search for camaraderie through shared hobbies whereby I end up keyed into all the in-jokes and prominent discourses. 

What I’m doing isn’t inherently better. I cherish my past experiences with chat rooms, forums, and messageboards—I even still participate in a few. What pushes me to engage less with fandom is that whenever I get into a new show, comic, anime, etc., a part of me worries about my initial perception being overly shaped by the particular beliefs and biases of whatever the most vocal hardcore parts of fandoms obsess over. 

There are plenty of fandoms that grow “beyond” their targets of obsession, e.g. My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Voltron: Legendary Defender, pro wrestling. While it’s a mistake to assume that these groups have been monolithic in their thinking, certain assumptions of what’s good or bad about a given aspect—characters, stories, staff—tend to ossify in at least parts of the community and end up getting taken as gospel. Often, I find that they overshadow other potentially interesting discussions or explorations, and I seek to avoid getting sucked in. 

Disengaging with fandoms at large comes with a potential drawback: ignorance. For example, I could watch something with certain assumptions and not realize I’m dead-wrong about a vital piece of info—perhaps a show’s audience is expected to know about it because it’s considered common knowledge in another culture—but I’d rather be mistaken at first and adjust my views afterwards than to just be given the “proper fan” way of seeing something right off the bat. I will not accept fan consensus as gospel, but it doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll ignore it entirely.

I sometimes see certain anti-fandom sentiments expressed: “the fandom makes me hate the show” or “I love the series but hate the fandom.” Often the counterargument is that these things shouldn’t impact your enjoyment of a work—what does it matter who else is a fan or what they do within the fandom? However, like so many instances of trying to go against the tide, it can be draining. You might want to engage with the things you love without having an interpretation already in the back of your mind, acting like experiential spoilers. You might want to talk about why you think a show or movie is your favorite without people automatically assuming you think or feel a certain way. And if part of the fun of being a fan is the communal aspect, what happens when you can’t find a community that suits you? 

It’s why I think the geek social fallacies still apply to this day: geeks understand what it’s like to feel like they don’t belong, and they overcompensate by trying to connect everyone through a fandom even if there are people within who are fundamentally incompatible. But because of that desire for community, it can also lead to attempts to control fandoms whereby it becomes a requirement to justify one’s fandom tastes or accept certain established fanon in order to remain a part. 

It’s okay to be a fan without a fandom. It’s okay to be a fan with many fandoms. It’s even okay to be a mix of both. What it comes down to isn’t simply about likes and dislikes. Rather, when you peel back all the layers, I think fan vs. fandom reflects how we choose (or not choose) to engage with communities, but are nevertheless still indicative of the same human social dynamics that dictate everything else, even if the exact contours and who’s in power are different. The important thing is to not forget yourself. 

Minmaxer Fiction: The Intersection Between Dungeons & Dragons and Isekai

I saw a tweet recently from someone complaining about isekai series that introduce and highlight stats and numbers the way an RPG would despite ostensibly being set in non-game fantasy worlds. 

In response, I  wrote the above tweet to give my two cents on the appeal of such an approach. However, it also got me thinking in another direction that takes this RPG fantasy game genre all the way back to one of its roots—good ol’ Dungeons & Dragons—and I realized something: these game-esque light novels feel like they’re written by what tabletop RPG players call “minmaxers.”

I was introduced to playing D&D thanks to Alain from Reverse Thieves, and after years of playing with him, I’ve come to learn firsthand that roleplaying is a very different experience compared to prose fiction or a television show. Essentially, it’s more like collaborative interactive storytelling compared to other mediums, and one aspect of this nature is that many different people with different goals come to the same table. You might have someone who’s more into exploring the world. You might have someone who wants the glory of slaying the monster and saving the day. You might have someone who wants a dramatic narrative. Because this dynamic is so important, many people have devoted many hours to categorizing the various D&D player types and thinking about how to best cater to them or even deal with their worst excesses.

Among these player archetypes, a common one is the minmaxer: the person who’s all about designing strong characters from a statistical perspective by minimizing certain scores and maximizing others, often prioritizing power over all else. There are also less extreme versions of this, such as someone simply interested in game systems and how different stats interact with one another, but it falls in the same general space. However, whereas a Dungeon Master running a game might have to take into account all the potentially different priorities of their players, a web novelist or light novelist can write the stories they want without necessarily taking into account an audience composed of varying tastes, and instead tell a story where the “game mechanics” are front and center. Adding to this intentional rigidity is the fact that many of the light novels that fall into these minmaxer worlds are clearly more inspired by video games such as Japanese RPGs and MMORPGs, where mechanics mastery is often highly valued and encouraged by the games themselves—sometimes even over storytelling.

When you look at the typical trends of protagonists within these game-style fantasy worlds, this angle becomes all the clearer. Many isekai heroes are able to peer deeper into the inner workings of the world (So I’m a Spider, So What?), have some kind of special ability that lets them defy stat restrictions (Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?), or just know that there are game-like qualities to their world (My Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!). What these features have in common is that they “break” the rules, and it’s even easier when the rules are just numbers and calculations. If you’ve ever been or seen someone who wants to be praised for an interesting build or stat investment in a game (“Check out how I combine Helmet A with Sword B to deal with Situation C!” “I gave my monster 248 speed instead of 252 so I could add 4 to defense!”), it’s that same energy. When you combine it with the glory-seeking player type, you get the overpowered perfect light novel protagonist who masterfully exploits the mechanics, defeats the villains with ease, and gets the harem.

A picture of the four personalities of Kumoko from So I'm a Spider, So What? All of them are excited in different ways.
So I’m a Spider, So What?

Which isn’t to say that the minmaxer approach to writing stories is inherently bad or incapable of making for good stories. Rather, where I think the disconnect between those who want more classical fantasy stories and what light novels are offering today is that the minmaxer is traditionally very much not the kind of person who gets into writing or reading fantasy novels. To be that way, you have to come from an environment where numbered stats are even a thing in the first place, and that can only be the result of a world where Dungeons & Dragons popularized the notion of codifying fantasy-genre elements into stats with pros and cons for the purpose of gaming—a quality that then became the basis for many of the JRPGs that have influenced a generation of Japanese people, among them the writers of web novels and light novels. It’s a far cry from Lord of the Rings.

This contrast actually reminds me of an episode of the sitcom Home Improvement, of all things. In it, the mother character, Jill Taylor, is asked by her father (a retired colonel) to review his autobiography manuscript. But try as she might, Jill finds it incredibly boring and sleep-inducing because her father mostly writes about battle strategy and military formations, as opposed to dramatic exploits or anything emotionally resonant. Her father clearly values the mechanics of war, but what he wants his book to convey is not appealing to those with little interest in such things. Given this example, it’s also worth noting that D&D itself is descended from a miniature wargame called Chainmail, and one of the ways that D&D would eventually expand its audience was by adding elements that would appeal to those who care about things other than combat.

So while fantasy traditionally caters to those who want to witness a world of swords and sorcery where the sense of the mysterious and unknown is paramount, the minmaxer fiction that is so ubiquitous in fantasy light novels over the past decade or two is almost the opposite. In these worlds, all surprises can be overcome with deeper or prior knowledge. It’s no wonder why the latter approach can be so bothersome to those who seek the former, and there’s no Dungeon Master who can try to cater to both in real time.

The Perfect Storm of Virtual Youtubers

As the days go by, I increasingly find myself looking into the world of Virtual Youtubers. I watch the clips and highlights that go around, and I sometimes tune into the live streams of my favorites. I wouldn’t consider myself a devotee of the whole concept, but I’m entertained. I know I’m not alone, as the increasing success of VTubers is a sight to behold—Gawr Gura, one of the first members of the Hololive agency’s push into English-language streaming, hit one million subscribers in just a little over a month and has since surpassed two million.

The more I think about it, however, the more I realize that the success of Virtual Youtubers shouldn’t come as a surprise. They’re in many ways a perfect storm of things that appeal to people on the internet, bringing together different groups who tend towards obsession and converging them onto this amalgam of elements.

The first group is weebs. I generally avoid the term, preferring things like “anime and manga fans,” but I feel that its usage is accurate here—it’s not just about being into the media but being into that strain of Japanese pop culture. With few exceptions, Virtual Youtubers go for that anime aesthetic, recruiting famous artists and character designers to create these avatars. In a sense, they’re anime characters come to life, and that gives them a certain charm and universality that comes with being less realistic in terms of appearance. And while VTubers now exist across the world, they’re firmly rooted in that anime/manga/light novel realm, and expectations derive from the tropes found there. 

The second group is gamers. While streaming has had some presence on the internet for decades now, gaming has become one of its absolute pillars. Between the transformation of Justin.tv into Twitch, the prevalence of esports, the enduring popularity of Youtube channels like Game Grumps, and the rise of speedrunning as a spectator activity, there’s no denying the draw. Live streaming your play session is just an easy and reliable way to connect with potential fans, and while streamers usually need some kind of physical or personal charisma to get things going, the sleek designs of VTubers help bridge that gap.

The third group is idol fans. While it’s like every one of them eventually gets their own original songs, what attracts people to idols is that they feel somehow distant yet accessible, and Virtual Youtubers greatly exaggerate both sides of the fantasy by their very nature. The use of character avatars means there’s no mistaking their visual appearances for being the “real” individuals, but that also means being able to project onto them an idealized version. At the same time, unlike Hatsune Miku, they’re real people interacting from behind the curtain. Depending on what level of performativity vs. seeming authenticity a viewer wants, or popularity vs. obscurity (what’s more exciting than seeing your favorite personality grow from small-time to wild success?) there’s probably a VTuber for them. What’s more, the concept of superchats on YouTube allows fans to get instant gratification by giving money to have their messages read and acknowledged.

The fourth group, and there’s plenty of overlap with the other three, is those who are into celebrities. This is a more vague and generalized group, but it’s the same energy that fuels people to follow the goings-on of their favorite movie stars and singers.

A weeb might love all things anime-adjacent but dismiss Western-style game aesthetics. A fan of first-person shooters might love watching anything and everything related to their favorite games but think anime stuff looks weird as hell. But then a Virtual Youtuber who looks like an anime character come-to-life might play Apex Legends, and so now the weebs get their real-life anime girl and the Western-focused gamers get to connect to her through their favorite game. At the same time, even if she isn’t particularly good at what she’s playing, that gives her a kind of element of relatability that an idol fan might be drawn to. And even if someone isn’t an idol fan, seeing someone suffer through a game has an established history of bringing in eyeballs. The crossover appeal is hard to deny.

Thus, when the VTubers branch into areas other than gaming, they can bring all those different groups together. It’s why they can karaoke Japanese, English, and even German songs, all to praise and fanfare. When they do something completely out of the realm of entertainment, like cook, it doesn’t seem out of the ordinary even if the results can range from bizarre to horrifying. The fact that their fans don’t just come from one place also gives the VTubers the flexibility to try new things and see what sticks. Non-virtual streamers who get popular because of one game can sometimes have a hard time playing others because they might not get the viewer counts they normally would, but what makes people want to see Virtual Youtubers goes beyond specific games or titles. 

I think the concept of the VTuber allows it a certain degree of freedom that flesh-and-blood streamers do not. By virtue of their virtual natures (pun intended), they invite viewers into a kind of alternate reality. From there, the ability to take that anime character identity and apply it to various domains or interests means that even activities that normally might not appeal to a person can suddenly seem interesting. It’s a lot like how manga can make certain topics more appealing to those who are unfamiliar, but with Virtual Youtubers you get both the slice-of-life hobbyism and the gutsy competition at the same time. And unlike in manga, the wins and losses are real—even if everything is ultimately made up and the points don’t matter.

God Mars and the Legacy of BL Fan Shipping

There are two success stories to tell about the 1981 giant robot anime Six God Combination God Mars. The first is about a combining giant robot that was better as a toy than as an animated figure in motion: toy sales were strong enough to extend the series beyond its first year, but the awkward stiffness of the titular God Mars itself is something of a running gag (as seen in the YouTube comments here). The second, and I think the one that should get more attention among English-speaking anime fans, is about the tremendous influence of God Mars on Japan’s female anime fandom and doujinshi scene. In a time when pairing same-sex characters from your favorite series was not yet the full-on cottage industry it is today, God Mars was a cornerstone title alongside Captain Tsubasa.

I personally came to know about God Mars twenty years ago, although knowledge about the two aspects of the series came at different times. It was a collection of giant robot anime openings around 2001 that introduced me to the show and its impressive-looking mecha, but it was actually 2004’s Genshiken Official Data Book (of all things) that first brought to my attention God Mars’s popularity with women. Years later at Otakon 2010, voice actor Mitsuya Yuji mentioned among his most popular roles a character from God Mars named Marg. Now, I have the entire series on physical media thanks to Discotek (with 25 episodes up for free on TMS’s Youtube channel), and I’ve finally come to understand what made God Mars one of the granddaddies of fandom pairing in Japan.

Simply put, it’s Marg. Once you know about him, it becomes crystal clear why a female fandom around God Mars developed.

Marg is not the main character. That honor goes to Myoujin Takeru, a guy with psychic powers who discovers that he is actually an alien named Mars sent from the planet Gishin to destroy Earth. However, Takeru manages to defy the evil Emperor Zul and use the very weapon originally meant to eliminate Earth to instead form God Mars and beat back the Gishin Empire. Along the way, he discovers many truths about his original home world, including that he has a long lost brother—Marg—in Zul’s clutches. The dramas that emerge from their familial relationship include attempts to reunite, the pain of separation, and even the crossing of swords due to various plot contrivances. 

Marg is ridiculously beautiful both inside and out. He has lush locks of long green hair, and eyes that can express the deepest kindness but also the most fervent passion. His voice is gentle yet powerful, and his forlorn communications with Takeru express a longing and desire to see Takeru—unless he’s being brainwashed into being the enemy, of course, at which point his anger is spine-tingling. Whenever Marg shows up, he becomes the most captivating figure on screen.

Given that we’re talking about shipping and coupling, it’s not entirely accurate to pin it all on Marg. The popularity of a series among female fans traditionally hinges on the relationships between characters rather than singular personalities, and Takeru himself is no slouch. Not only does he look like a more handsome version of many a 70s robot protagonist, but he is perhaps the angstiest hero ever to grace a giant robot anime. Sure, Shinji from Evangelion is traumatized and depressed, and Heero Yuy from Gundam W is dark and brooding, but they don’t angst the way Takeru does. Naturally, more often than not, that anguish has something to do with Marg. And yes, they’re brothers by blood. Whether that was an additional awakening for fans in 1981, I’m not sure. I wouldn’t be surprised.

Even before God Mars, there were plenty of good-looking and charismatic secondary characters in mecha anime. Between directors Tomino Yoshiyuki and Nagahama Tadao, they all but cornered the market: Prince Sharkin (Reideen), Garuda (Combattler V), Prince Heinel (Voltes V), Richter (Daimos), and both Char Aznable and Garma Zabi (Gundam). The key difference between these major rivals and Marg is that the latter is so many things in one. He’s an adversary at some times, but at other times he’s basically a damsel in distress.

There is something I need to make clear: Unlike so many later anime, which could be constructed from head to toe with a female audience in mind (or at least pay regular lip service to that side of fandom), God Mars is still built on the foundation of a toy-shilling kids’ anime. It is 65 episodes long, and not every episode is exactly compelling. There’s an unsurprising inconsistency in terms of the show’s quality with respect to storytelling and animation quality. In addition to the notorious stiffness of God Mars the robot, the anime is rife with fights between characters with psychic powers that revolve around dramatic poses in still shots in lieu of actual movement—a style of action scene the book Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga mocks for its laziness. And dashing canon hopes of brotherly love, the series pairs Takeru with a female character, albeit one with a connection to Marg. In other words, back in 1981, fujoshi had to walk uphill both ways to get their BL shipping fix. 

Even so, a girls’ fandom emerged out of God Mars, and plenty of evidence exists that the creators became aware of this audience eventually. The TV series keeps finding ways to bring him back in different forms. A 1982 movie recap of the first 26 or so episodes reduces the screen time of other supporting characters in favor of more Marg, and the poster advertising the film even features him prominently (see above). A later OVA released in 1988—well after God Mars’s heyday—centers around Marg entirely. A look at God Mars merchandise reveals both official and unofficial works where Marg takes up a lot of real estate.

When I was going over my own prior history with God Mars, I omitted one thing: the game Super Robot Wars D for the Gameboy Advance. God Mars is one of the titles included, and in the game, you can manage to not only recruit Marg to your side but also have him pilot an alternate God Mars from that 1988 OVA in which he’s the star. Once together, Takeru and Marg can perform combination attacks like the “Double Final God Mars.” I can’t help but wonder if there were both kinds of God Mars fans working on this game, bringing together the hopes and dreams of those whose lives were changed in some part by God Mars and its two successes.