OGIUE MANIAX

Anime & Manga Blog | 50% Anime Analysis, 50% Ogi

Push vs. Pull: Thoughts on the Attraction of Characters

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I’m generally not a fan of yandere characters, but I feel that I can understand why some people love them.

In a lot of my favorite characters there is a kind of intensity that emanates from them. Whether it’s Ogiue from Genshiken‘s withering stare, or Urabe Mikoto’s eccentric behavior in Mysterious Girlfriend X, it’s like their very beings pierce my soul and linger there for a while.

From there, it’s a hop, skip, and jump towards tsundere, and then eventually yandere as well. In other words, yandere characters exist on a spectrum where powerful emotions (sexual or otherwise) are valued, and their feelings are so overwhelming that it warps their minds. “Deep love” they call it.

This intensity has gotten me to think more broadly, past the typical labels, such as yandere, genki girl, Kansai native, etc. What I’m beginning to form is a theory of character attraction that takes a lot of these categories and places them into two distinctions: “push characters” and “pull characters.”

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Push characters are like many of the ones stated above. It is as if the characters’ attitudes, visual look, and other qualities invade your space. They pierce and break down the barriers in your heart. Kurosaki Rendou, creator of Houkago Play and other racy titles, specializes in this type of character for both guys and girls. Akashi from Kuroko’s Basketball is also what I’d call a “push character.” They can perhaps be called aggressive characters as well, but I don’t think that it fits entirely neatly. Rather, in shounen terms, it’s more like they’re the “strong fists” of Rock Lee from Naruto or Raoh from Fist of the North Star.

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Pull characters, then, are more like the “gentle fists” of Hyuuga Hinata (Naruto) or Toki (Fist of the North Star). Rather than striking actively, their auras are passive and receptive. It is as if they have a gravity or magnetism that draws you to them. Softer, kinder characters would fall into this category, such as Daidouji Tomoyo from Cardcaptor Sakura, Maetel from Galaxy Express 999, or Teppei from Kuroko’s Basketball. It’s as if their warmth envelops your being.

Now there are a few aspects I’m thinking through as I bring out this half-formed way of considering characters. The first is that, many characters probably don’t fall into one category or the other. Sort of like a Myer-Briggs personality test, the “lesser” quality still exists. For example, I’d consider Koizumi Hanayo from Love Live! to be a “pull character” because of her typically shy personality, but the excitement of her two main loves—rice and idols—is enough to transform her into a “push character.”

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Second, perhaps this distinction is actually entirely subjective, and one person’s “push character” is another person’s “pull character.” Does this render the terms meaningless, or is it more like moe where a broader understanding exists but the minutiae can get incredibly personal?

Lastly, to what extent do these terms match up with the idea of “seme” and “uke” characters in BL. Would “push characters” be those who tend to be seme, while “pull characters” are more commonly uke? If that’s the case, could this be a way to translate those terms to other types of relationships, such as heterosexual, yuri, or whatever other combinations can exist?

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Do! Do! Do! Dreaming Again: The New Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card Saga

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There’s a new Cardcaptor Sakura manga in town—Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card Saga—and I practically tripped over myself in excitement to get it. The series is one of my favorite anime and manga of all time, and its charming characters, light yet dramatic story, and cute aesthetic make it a classic of the magical girl genre. But it’s been a long time since we last saw Kinomoto Sakura and the rest of the cast proper (meaning no weird Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle alternates!), and CLAMP, the creators of Cardcaptor Sakura, have also changed a lot since the late 90s when the original manga debuted.

Thus, while reading I had two questions in mind: in what ways does this new iteration try to capture the old CCS charm, and to what extent does it reflect a more contemporary sensibility?

The Story of Cardcaptor Sakura

The original Cardcaptor Sakura follows Kinomoto Sakura, a 10-year-old girl who is tasked with collecting mystical cards known as Clow Cards. As she retrieves them, the cards give her magical abilities such as flight, and command over the elements. Eventually obtaining all of them, Sakura soon discovers that she must also transform them into her very own “Sakura Cards” and become their new master. After much hardship (and a developing romance between her and Chinese rival/friend Li Shaoran), she succeeds, leaving her to be quite possibly the most powerful magician on Earth.

The Clear Card Saga takes place during the same timeframe as the epilogue of the original manga, when Sakura is in middle school and reunites with Shaoran, who has transferred back from Hong Kong so they could attend school together. In this chapter, we see many familiar faces, including Sakura’s family, her best friend (in fact the best friend in all of anime and manga) Tomoyo, and her magical guardians, Kero and Yukito. The first chapter is mainly there to re-introduce the cast and to set up a reason for Sakura to take up her magic wand once more, and in that respect it is a welcome homecoming.

No Pasta

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One of the most immediately notable aspects of the new series is that it lacks any signs of current CLAMP’s “noodle people” style that has permeated their works over the past decade and change, wherein characters have unusually long and distended-looking proportions. All aspects of the series seem to be geared towards reviving the original Cardcaptor Sakura look, albeit refined with many more years of experience.

One Card Girl

In one scene, Sakura mentions that she hasn’t had to use magic in a long time, and I find it to be a striking moment for a couple of reasons. First, while it’s impossible forget that Sakura is indeed a magical girl series, I almost didn’t notice that there was little mention of magic prior to her staring fondly at her old wand. Cardcaptor Sakura is well grounded not just in its fantastic elements but also its human relationships (both platonic and otherwise), and the series draws much of its strength from them. Second, while she doesn’t state it herself, she can indeed be argued to be the strongest magician there is, but she still behaves like an innocent young girl with a heart full of love and energy. Would it be strange to compare her to Saitama from One Punch Man?

Tomoyo: Return of the Queen

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I don’t think I’m alone in saying that, as fond as I am of Sakura herself, Daidouji Tomoyo is the one I’ve been most looking forward to seeing again. For years, she was my favorite anime and manga character, and it actually wasn’t until I discovered Ogiue that this changed. Even so, Tomoyo is still my #2 because of her warm heart, support of Sakura, and series of minor eccentricities. Her grand return is nothing short of spectacular, and I look forward to seeing more of her and her ridiculous wealth (and bodyguards).

Her role in this first chapter is mainly to get Sakura to blush profusely as she takes candid video of Sakura reuniting with Shaoran. Tomoyo is the kind of person who wouldn’t mind just recording Sakura in her daily life, but I’m confident that she’s going to be the most excited of all that Sakura’s going to have to sling some magic again. I can just picture the inevitable stars in her eyes in the coming chapters.

Another interesting point concerning Tomoyo is that she’s no longer in the same class as Sakura. While most of the old Tomoeda Elementary crew has gone on to Tomoeda Middle School, many of them have been split up into different classes. It’s actually a common technique to try and mix things up in a number of series that take place in school.

This means that Tomoyo will possibly be interacting much more with other characters. While it’s not like Tomoyo only ever showed up when Sakura was around, or didn’t talk to other characters on her own, it’s still a significant shift in the dynamics of interaction in Cardcaptor Sakura.

A Premonition for the Future

I want to mention that I probably won’t be chapter reviewing this new Cardcaptor Sakura just because I’m already doing two different series now (Genshiken and Kimi Nakare), and I think three series starts to be a bit too much. However, I might make a post every month or two as a way to look in and see how everything’s going.

Thus far, it’s a great start, and even if this chapter mostly treads familiar territory it does so in a way that gives me faith that the series will turn out well.

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As a final side note, there’s a character poll at the beginning of this issue of Nakayoshi, to vote for who should appear on the cover, and Sakura is #2. While there’s no indication that placement equals popularity, I have to wonder, or perhaps hope. After all, #3 is Momoka, the morally bankrupt protagonist from Sabagebu!

If the young readers of Nakayoshi are fans of Momoka, I am both looking forward to and dreading the future. Sakura might be a safer bet overall, though I wonder if she is still as timeless as she seems.

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Nendoroid Tomoyo, Champion of the Universe

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Daidouji Tomoyo from Cardcaptor Sakura is one of my favorite characters ever, from one of my favorite anime ever, and if you’re not a fan of Tomoyo… what’s wrong with you? Whereas normally I would hesitate to buy even some of my most beloved heroines, Nendoroid Tomoyo was a no-brainer. Upon seeing it go up for pre-order, I hit purchase and looked back with zero regrets. Sakura merchandise is common, but Tomoyo much less so, and I couldn’t let this sort of thing pass me by.

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I don’t own a lot of Nendoroids. In fact, my first one was a Kinomoto Sakura (seen above) that I received as a birthday present. Quite smartly, my friend purchased it because he (correctly) expected that I would not hesitate to pick up Tomoyo. Thus, I don’t have a lot to compare to, and I’m extremely biased, so I’ll call this less a review and more of a celebration.

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Nendoroid Tomoyo is mostly based on her anime design, as opposed to the softer shoujo look of the Cardcaptor Sakura manga. However, one thing that they did bring from the manga was a hint of Tomoyo’s lavender hair; in the anime it’s more of a gray. When I think about it, rarely do figures try to replicate the look of shoujo manga, likely due to how complicated and not designed for 3-D they are. At least with anime, you can rely on more solid colors.

Tomoyo comes in a standard Tomoeda Elementary school uniform, and has a choice between a hat or a hairband, as well as smiling and ecstatic faces. I’ve gone with the hat + sparkly eyes combo for these photos in order to achieve maximum radness, but what really takes this figure over the top is the inclusion of her signature camcorder.

Remember kids, this anime was made in the early 2000s, before mobile phones could take HD-quality video. Back in her day, Tomoyo would have to walk 20 miles uphill both ways in the snow in order to film her lovely Sakura-chan and add to her massive archive of Cardcaptor Sakura footage in her private viewing room inside of her mansion, under watch by her squad of lady bodyguards.

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It’s supposed to have a swing-out screen, but a small missing part makes it impossible to attach. I’m not sure if it was defective or if I had simply lost it while taking it out, that’s how tiny the connecting piece. The other flaw is that the giant head is rather unwieldy, especially with the hat, and sometimes moving it around can cause Tomoyo’s noggin to fall off.

Overall, it’s a fine addition to the collection, and when I think about it, I am fortunate that the characters I like tend not to get a ton of merchandise. That’s what I would say…if I didn’t get into Love Live. That’s for next time.

 

The Intertwined Histories of Magical Girls, Idols, and Science Fiction Anime

Magical Angel Creamy Mami

I recently learned (thanks to Japanese popular culture scholar Patrick Galbraith’s new book The Moe Manifesto) that Magical Angel Creamy Mami is not only an influential magical girl anime but the very first anime about an idol. In other words, idols and magical girls have been conceptually tied to each for decades now. You can see this not only in the the fact that you’ll get the occasional idol + magical girl still (Cure Lemonade and Cure Sword in the Precure franchise, for example), but the fact that the latest competitors to magical girl anime have been idol-themed shows, such as Aikatsu! and Pretty Rhythm, both of which feature magical girl-like transformation sequences. I think Creamy Mami is especially significant here because the majority of magical girls prior to it were more “witch girls,” characters who already have magical powers without the need for transformation and use them for mischief.

Of course, the common trait of magical girls and idols is that they both feature cute girls, and with idols especially they’ve always occupied a position where they are innocent yet sexual, and I don’t mean that necessarily in an “idols are creep magnets” way. Both men and women respond to idols for a variety of reasons, and a lot of it is tied to the image they present. They can be somewhat literal idols for girls and targets of affection and desire for men, and this can be seen in how idols are used in anime. While Creamy Mami built an unexpected older male audience, for example, Superdimensional Fortress Macross reveled in it by combining the idol with the extremely prominent aspects of science fiction and giant robots. The 1970s brought forth a lot of giant robot anime, and the 1980s saw the time when those who became fans of robots and SF began creating their own works, as seen with Kawamori Shouji and Macross and later Studio Gainax and their Daicon III and IV animations. Many of these creators said, “I like SF, and I like cute girls,” and created a defining combination of anime where mecha and other forms of fantastic technology are mixed with cute girls.

Daicon IV

It can also be argued that the girl in the Daicon animations is herself a magical girl, but the connection between magical girls and science fiction is especially evident in the 1990s and the advent of the fighting magical girl, most notably with Takeuchi Naoko’s Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon. While Sailor Moon does not feature giant robots, it’s undoubtedly influenced by the Super Sentai (i.e. Power Rangers) franchise with its own transformation sequences, color-coded costumes, and monster of the week fights. Super Sentai is not only traditionally marketed at boys (though this too changes as they eventually start trying to appeal to the “moms” market), but it’s also more broadly tied to tokusatsu, the costumed fighters and rubber monsters genre that more or less literally means “special effects.” What I find significant here is that when it comes to categorization of genres in Japanese, you often see “SF/tokusatsu,” tying things back, at least somewhat, to science fiction.

Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon

Moreover, the manga group CLAMP have been fans of titles like JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Saint Seiya, and Galaxy Cyclone Braiger, and have produced titles such as Magic Knight Rayearth, which features magical girls in a swords-and-sorcery world who also gain the power to summon giant robots. “Rayearth” itself is the name of a giant robot, thus making the title itself reminiscent of the naming scheme of many mecha anime such as Mobile Suit Gundam or Super Electromagnetic Machine Voltes V. It’s as if these female creators have taken the works that were made “masculine” by Kawamori, Gainax, and others, and in a sense re-feminized them in a process that created something new and exciting.

If we’re talking influences though, Sailor Moon and CLAMP works such as Cardcaptor Sakura are huge in and of themselves, and their shadows can be seen in a number of anime from the 2000s on. Sailor Moon basically transformed magical girls to such an extent that many assume that fighting magical girls have always been the norm, and Precure has come up as a spiritual successor that has lasted even longer than Sailor Moon. The protagonist in Sunday without God practically is Cardcaptor Sakura protagonist Kinomoto Sakura, and Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, which has as its primary audience older men, clearly takes a lot from Cardcaptor Sakura as well. In the case of Nanoha, it also incorporates an increasing level of science fiction from one series to the next, as the franchise goes from technology-based magic staffs that shoot lasers in battles reminiscent of Mobile Suit Gundam to spaceships and interdimensional travel. Once again, the magical girl as cute girl is tied to SF. As for idols, they not only haven’t been forgotten, either in real life or in anime (as seen with series such as Love Live! and the aforementioned Aikatsu!), but Kawamori makes his return in the form of AKB0048, a series that not only features idols as magical girls of sorts both piloting and fighting giant robots in a story that spans a galaxy, but is directly based on one of the biggest real-world idol acts in Japan today.

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It’s as if magical girls, idols, and SF have been doing a song and dance for years and years, changing partners along the way but always being drawn to each other. They’re seemingly tied together by the fact that just a few tweaks to either appeal to a male or female audience more, while the fact that people will not necessarily stay within the genres or types of entertainment that they’re “supposed” to remain with. Cuteness is a versatile tool that at times reinforces societal and gender norms while other times becoming a tool to defy them, and this continues to influence anime to this day.

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Now I Know What It Feels Like to Be Cardcaptor Sakura

Cardcaptor Sakura is by far one of my favorite anime, and I am quite fond all of its characters, which includes its main heroine, Kinomoto Sakura. Back when I first watched the series though, one thing about her struck me as rather odd. In an early episode, Sakura decides to treat herself with some money she’s saved up. You begin to think, is she going to get a doll, or maybe some kind of dessert or candy? How about a nice dress? But no, Sakura’s gets pancakes. And not even pancakes at a restaurant or something, but pancake mix, and she actually gives away some of her pancakes.

I remember thinking, wow, Sakura, you sure have no idea what it means to indulge yourself.

But recently, I’ve been feeling a bit pressured by impending deadlines, and as I struggle a bit to get my work done, I sometimes think of treating myself. Do I go to a restaurant, maybe get a nice bowl of noodles? Or maybe take a trip out to another city, perhaps even another country? No, instead I say to myself, “I’m going to buy some ground beef!” which as you know is like pancake mix, only made of cows. Sometimes it’s chicken breast.

So there I am, thinking that a delightful reward for myself is food which takes time to prepare and even more time to cook, though thankfully I don’t have an older brother’s friend whom I have a crush on who’d be getting like half of my cheeseburgers.

Sorry, Sakura. I understand you a little better now.

Seeing the Darkness of Madoka Magica

Ever since episode 1 of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, many bloggers have been making confident statements about how the show looks to be a dark subversion of the magical girl anime. While that is certainly accurate on some level, it seems to be the case that a lot of people don’t quite understand how exactly Madoka Magica is a subversion, simply because they don’t understand the subject itself. In other words, a good number of people writing about Madoka Magica don’t actually know the magical girl genre, despite the broad statements being made. Thus, I am going to address at least a few misconceptions.

Misconception #1: Magical Girl Anime Are About Good vs. Evil

Correction: Magical girl anime are about “before” vs. “after.”

While there are some shows which pit our heroine(s) against a dark force, the vast majority of magical girl anime and manga do not even factor in the good/evil dichotomy. Instead, they will focus on how the magic changes their own lives or how it changes the lives of those around them. Those shows which do have a good deal of fighting often have it in service to something else; in those instances, it’s generally more about protecting others than it is vanquishing villains. So when someone says that Madoka Magica is different because it doesn’t have “Good vs Evil,” they are basically incorrect in the sense that magical girl shows were never really about good and evil in the first place.

Misconception #2: Magical Girl Anime Say, “You Don’t Have to Change a Thing!”

Correction: Magical girl anime say, “the magic isn’t as important as who you are!”

Yes, the “Be Yourself!” message is fairly common in magical girl shows, but there’s a distinct difference between this statement and the misconception. One implies a static existence, while the other points to an active one. The self-improvement thus happens with the help of magical powers, but it is usually the catalyst for change, with the real reason coming from within.

Misconception #3: Sailor Moon/Nanoha is a Typical Magical Girl Show

Correction: Sailor Moon is more of a typical fighting magical girl anime and Nanoha is an atypical fighting magical girl anime, while a typical magical girl anime is more along the lines of Ultra Maniac or Fushigiboshi no Futagohime.

This ties in directly with misconception number 1 and it’s fairly understandable why people make this mistake. Sailor Moon is a very significant show in the magical girl genre, and for many anime fans the very first mahou shoujo anime they ever watched (myself included), but it wasn’t really typical for its time. Certainly it has had its influence on later series, probably most notably Pretty Cure, but Sailor Moon combined the magical girl anime with the team dynamic popular in live action tokusatsu and to a lesser extent giant robot anime, and used that as a platform to deliver action-packed fights, but don’t confuse what Sailor Moon added to the genre with what the genre is fundamentally about.

Similarly, Nanoha is a show made for otaku, taking the magical girl formula and targeting it directly towards an older male audience–much like Madoka Magica itself–but it draws a lot from Sunrise action and mecha shows and adds a cup of moe. It’s also understandable why this might be an anime fan’s main exposure to magical girls, as fans who might have avoided the genre as a whole may have been pulled in by what Nanoha did differently, but that is the Nanoha formula, not the magical girl one.

“So what exactly is Madoka Magica subverting, then?”

To understand the answer to this question, we have to know the basic theme of the magical girl anime, which is how magic can make your wishes come true, or let you do things you couldn’t before. This can be portrayed by having a character, generally a normal girl, come across their magical abilities, or it can directly target the audience (which it generally assumes to be young girls) and have a girl who already has magical powers from the start. Either way, a magical girl show typically says, “Wouldn’t it be great to be a magical girl?” You can see this in pretty much every magical girl show aimed at girls, be it Cardcaptor Sakura, Majokko Megu-chan, Shugo Chara, Minky Momo, Ojamajo Doremi, and yes, even Sailor Moon. If the show is geared more towards male otaku, then the theme might turn into “Wouldn’t it be great to know a magical girl?” but the opportunity magic gives you to change/better your life is the crux of it all.

On some level magical girl anime are about the exploration wish fulfillment, and when you keep that in mind the true nature “dark” element of Madoka Magica becomes clearer. The dreary aesthetic of the witch realms, the violence, and the ambiguous morality in the characters play a role, but the most important point to consider is how the magical mascot Kyubey offers the chance to make your wish come true at the “price” of becoming a magical girl. The fact that the wish-granting comes with some sort of unknown, unquantified, and unqualified cost is where the direct subversion is strongest.

“How much are you willing to sacrifice to make your wish come true?”

Conflating Fists and Faces

Continuing on from yesterday’s post about an anime-related dream, here’s another one I had recently. It’s actually longer than this overall but most of it makes no sense, so I decided to just focus on the anime-related aspect of it. Let’s just say it involved a gangster who wanted to propose to his girlfriend by singing the rap/reggae opening from some video game.

I was at some anime convention that  had Tange Sakura (voice of Kinomoto Sakura)  as a guest. We were in an auditorium and we somehow convinced her to speak in her Sakura voice (which was way different from her normal voice), but then I decided I wanted to take a picture of her. At first I realized I had no camera, but then remembered my cell phone. When I took the picture Tange Sakura exclaimed for me not to, but it was too late.

On my phone there ended up being three pictures. Two of them had her mid-expression so she looked ugly in them, the kind of thing that happens when you photograph someone while their eyes are blinking and such. The last picture I thought turned out well, until I realized that her “face” was a digitized and pixelated black and white fist of Ken from Street Fighter doing a shoryuken from a poster behind her. She said that camera phones were different in Japan and that in Japan if people were making funny faces at each other you knew that they were about to take pictures of each other but America was different. I said, “Ah forget it,” and just shook hands with her. It was a very satisfying handshake and I told her I’m a big fan.

As she left, she told me that the one problem she had with the con was that the genders were not separated in the hotel. I told her that it was indeed a problem with American cons and that the staff would try to fix it.

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