Whack Chin: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for April 2021

It feels like I blinked and now a new anime season is upon us. There are plenty of shows that are catching my eye, including 86: Eighty Six, SSSS.Dynazenon, NOMAD: Megalo Box 2, and of course, Thunderbolt Fantasy Season 3. I hope everyone is doing well, and in a place where they have something that can provide them joy and comfort in trying times, whether it’s anime, manga, or something else entirely.

COVID-19 vaccines are in full swing at the moment, and while I’m not sure I should be the one to say it, everyone should get vaccinated when they can, and continue to practice safety measures like wearing face masks. I look forward to the day we can comfortably see our loved ones and maybe even attend an anime convention or two without fear.

Thanks to April’s Patreon sponsors:

General:

Ko Ransom

Diogo Prado

Alex

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

Blog highlights from March:

Wellness for the Self, Wellness for the World: Healin’ Good Precure

My review of 2020’s Precure anime.

The Perfect Storm of Virtual Youtubers

My thoughts on how Virtual Youtubers unite different groups on the internet.

Thought on Anti-Asian Racism in the US

Something more personal, and less anime-related. I hope you’ll read it.

Apartment 507

I tried out Joy Sound Karaoke on the Nintendo Switch, and it’s a decent way to get in your karaoke fix.

Hashikko Ensemble

Chapter 38 features Jin’s mom, and she is ammmmazing.

Closing

I hope that we remember that pitting the poor and minorities against one another is exactly what powerful bigots want. It keeps us divided and unable to see the systemic problems that keep people oppressed. Do not let the racism foisted upon us control our lives. Do not misdirect your anger.

Thoughts on Anti-Asian Racism in the US

The recent mass shootings at Asian-owned massage parlors in Atlanta brings to the forefront of our consciousness the increase in hate crimes and violence towards Asians in the United States since 2020. As an Asian-American myself, I have been thinking every day about both the anti-Asian racism that has always been around and the current crisis we are seeing. It forces me to realize how easily sentiments toward people who look like me can flip, as if the respect I’ve experienced has always been paper-thin.

A lot of the attacks against Asians have been against women and the elderly, and it’s clear why: they’re presumed to be easier targets. While there have been stories of Asians fighting back, including a 70-year-old woman who beat her assailant with a cane, the fact that she was assaulted in the first place is cause for concern. I am lucky to be a fairly large cisgender man, and thus not an ideal target for those looking to exact some vague sense of revenge on Asians for supposedly bringing COVID-19 to the US, but I do remember what it was like to be small and a victim of bullying. Before I hit a growth spurt in my teen years, I was perpetually one of the smallest kids in class while living in a neighborhood that was not predominantly Asian. I don’t think the kids who picked on me back then were filled with the exact same mix of emotions as what’s going on today, but it’s pretty close, and I do think that the bullying mentality is still a significant factor in what we’re seeing now. Ultimately, it’s a form of control, and rarely have we seen times where people feel less in-control than during a pandemic that has altered how we go about our lives. That’s not to excuse such behavior, of course.

The rise in anti-Asian crimes also has me thinking a lot about that veneer of respectability that Asians in America supposedly have, and how easily it seems to fall away—as if it’s something granted to us by those in power rather than something we own ourselves. I’m not so naive as to think that courtesy and genuine compassion and love can’t exist in those who are racist. To do so would be to ignore the racism that exists within Asian communities against outsiders, let alone the racism inflicted upon us. But what all this has made me realize is how quickly a little bit of fear of the unknown or an act of othering can quickly swell into a full-blown hatred. Star Wars is not exactly the go-to entity for robust philosophical discussion, but Yoda’s classic line seems to ring true here: ”Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” That small negative feeling is just looking for an excuse to burst forth, which is why all evidence to the contrary that Asians are somehow primarily or uniquely responsible for COVID-19’s spread can be ignored, and all it takes is a simple association of “China = Chinese = Asian” to trigger deadly violence.

It’s not so much that fear is inherently bad, but even the small amount of fear in one’s heart, especially towards another group, has dangerous potential if that fear is fed a steady diet of scapegoating. And lest it be assumed that I’m primarily criticizing individuals for not behaving well or daring to have negative thoughts, I place much of the blame on both the systemic racism that affects all people, Asian and non-Asian, as well as the foul rhetoric of the previous bigot of a president who sought to give his supporters a target to direct their hatred. His stubborn insistence on referring to COVID-19 as the “China virus” is largely responsible for inflaming anger and resentment in people, and the result has been both tragic and clearly intentional. Hate is a potent unifier, and those in power are insulated from the price we all pay for encouraging it.

If you’d like to learn more about what you can do to help, go to Stop AAPI Hate.

Sun Guts: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for March 2021

Here we are: roughly a year since coronavirus basically forced the world to change course. I seriously could not have imagined all that has happened since, and it feels like ten years have passed in the span of one. I’m losing my grip on time a bit, but this makes me wonder if doing these monthly blog updates actually helps in some way. I can see the days and weeks go by.

In happier news, the Blocker Corps IV Machine Blaster crowdfund to digitally archive the series was successful! I talked about it in a post to drum up support, and it actually didn’t make it until literally the 11th hour by crossing the finish line with only 11 minutes left in the all-or-nothing campaign. It’s not going to be on anyone’s list of best anime ever, but knowing I helped to keep an anime alive makes me feel good.

After all, I know what it’s like to have the support of others. Thank you to March’s Patreon sponsors:

General:

Ko Ransom

Diogo Prado

Alex

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

Blog highlights from February:

God Mars and the Legacy of BL Fan Shipping

A look at the giant robot anime that is foundational to the fujoshi fandom in Japan. Gundam Wing before Gundam Wing, you might say.

That’s Ruff, Buddy—Nichijou: My Ordinary Life

My long overdue review of one of the funniest manga ever.

Otakon Needs Our Help

My favorite anime convention might not survive another year due to the Coronavirus. Consider supporting them!

Hashikko Ensemble

Chapter 37 has the most intense musical performance yet.

Closing

The 2021 New York International Children’s Film Festival starts this Friday! Unlike previous years, it’s a virtual festival this time around, and the $40 two-week all-acesss pass is an incredibly good deal. If you live in the US, it might be worth checking out.

Also, how about that Pyra and Mythra in Smash Bros. Ultimate, huh? I’m thinking about writing something in regards to fanservice in character designs, hopefully providing a nuanced perspective.

Stay safe, get vaccinated. I wish you good health.

Teleport Them Chocolates: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for February 2021

We are on the other side of a terrifying four years, and I am glad to be here with you. Though we don’t know what the future holds, I feel somewhat optimistic.

However, we still have COVID-19 killing thousands of people a day, so I hope for the safety of you and everyone you hold dear. Also, I hope this is obvious, but please do not attend any anime conventions while we’re in the middle of a pandemic. Seriously, don’t. Stay home, and enjoy anime from the comfort of your TV or computer. The new anime season is in full swing, and Valentine’s Day is around the corner, which means plenty of talk about giri and honmei chocolates.

Thank you to the following Patreon sponsors for their support in the month of February:

General:

Ko Ransom

Diogo Prado

Alex

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

Blog highlights from January:

The “Blocker Corps IV Machine Blaster Crowdfund”: Help Preserve a 45-Year-Old Giant Robot Anime!

Mecha history is anime history, and I’d hate to see this show not get a proper digital preservation.

Chainsaw Man and Women in Refrigerators

A spoiler-heavy look at how one of the hottest current manga tackles a problematic old trope

Rookie Veteran, Veteran Rookie: The Gymnastics Samurai

How does this gymnastics-themed anime handle its “older” protagonist?

Hashikko Ensemble

Chapter 36 is the long-awaited debut of Jin’s mom! Spoilers: She probably got teen pregnant.

Closing

If you’ve got a favorite anime of the season so far, I’m all ears. I’ve been enjoying the return to form that is Show by Rock!! Stars! and the strange and irreverent Back Arrow.

There’s More to Life: Pixar’s Soul

Soul, the latest CG animated film from Disney and Pixar, speaks to me on a very deep and personal level. It’s not just that it’s about an older minority protagonist who chafes at family pressure when it comes to doing what’s safe and expected. Nor is it that the movie is set in New York City, where the familiar sights and sounds make me oddly nostalgic in a time when stepping foot outside can be a stressful decision in itself. What really hits home is one of the core messages of Soul, which is to be aware of how we as people often confuse inspiration, passion, purpose, and fulfillment—and how doing so can hold us back in life in fundamental ways.

The story of Soul follows Joe Gardner, a black middle-aged middle school music teacher who still dreams of being a professional jazz musician (the long overdue first black protagonist in a Pixar film). When a rare opportunity to play with one of the greats comes knocking, an ecstatic Joe gets caught in an accident that causes his soul to leave his body. Desperate to avoid the afterlife and get back to the land of the living (and his gig), he winds up as the mentor to 22, a soul that for thousands of years has failed to find the spark to become a full-fledged living being, and who sees her pre-life to be much more appealing than life on Earth.

Whether it’s Joe’s firm belief that his purpose in life is to play jazz, or the pre-life system that brings history’s greats in as mentors to guide those like 22 to begin life, Soul highlights the way people often think about what it means to live a great life. We celebrate those who follow their passion and transform them into monumental discoveries and achievements. We think having a greater purpose is the key to reaching greater heights. But just as Joe throughout the film is often so obsessed with his life-long aspiration that he fails to see the positive influence he gives (and receives) from those around him, it’s all too easy to feel like a failure when we focus only on destinations and not journeys.

Although I don’t see myself as being in a completely similar position to Joe, Soul made me realize something: for whatever reason, I often feel a lingering sense of guilt over not accomplishing more than I should have, or was supposed to. On a certain level, it can feel ridiculous. I’m at least fairly proud of the things I’ve managed to see and do in my life, achievements that I know took intelligence, dedication, and maybe even a bit of courage. Yet, I still see myself as rarely having ever gone the distance that can leave myself without any regrets. A career switch may have truly turned out for the better on a personal level, but still leaves me feeling that I left some potential unfulfilled. Even in the context of this blog here, I sometimes criticize myself for not having improved my writing as rapidly as I should have been, and for not having the drive to force that change upon myself. This guilt is in some ways internal and in other ways external, but the result is the same. 

Thanks to Soul, I realize now that I do indeed get caught up in conflating inspiration with passion, purpose with fulfillment, and so on. I haven’t resolved what exactly this means for me, or what it is that I ultimately will feel once I’ve sorted out these feelings and the degree to which I value them, but it has me on a long road of introspection. Not every film can do that, which makes having watched Soul all the more worthwhile.

On De-platforming

As someone who has traditionally valued online discussion, I’ve long believed that de-platforming is something of an extreme measure. However, as multiple social media platforms have banned Donald Trump for inciting further violence akin to the attempted coup on the United States capitol, one thing that’s clear to me is how de-platforming is not about robbing someone of their freedom of expression. Rather, when used properly, it’s about protecting those who would wish to engage in honest discourse from those who seek to use the facade of debate and social interaction as a Trojan horse to further causes that seek to oppress and diminish others.

In far too many cases, “change my mind” ends up simply being a smokescreen. It’s become a running joke. Often, those who throw such statements out are not actually open to ideas but are performing images of strength and indignation in the presence of those who are potentially vulnerable to their posturing. The use of bots to spread disinformation and make an outlandishly dangerous opinion have greater support than is actually there only contributes to this weaponizing of public discourse. To leave social media open to such actors is to invite them to continue to bamboozle people through demagoguery.

I do have concerns when it comes to de-platforming. I fear is that if it’s taken as too default an action, then it can become incredibly easy to label anyone with whom you disagree as “arguing in bad faith” without it necessarily being the case. One of my core beliefs is that people grow at different rates. While there are those who never let go of their hatred, anger, and/or ignorance, there are also those who need the right person or people to communicate with them, and to encourage a level of change that doesn’t meet self-resistance or induce a backlash. I worry that people may be so perpetually drained both mentally and emotionally that they push anyone and everyone into the “bad-faith” category to spare themselves both the pain of having to engage a potentially disingenuous person on the other side and the stress of constantly trying to discern whose minds can be changed and who are lost causes.

But while I encourage people to give others the benefit of the doubt initially, once someone has revealed themselves to be a snake, you don’t let them crawl back into your nest. It might seem like a game without stakes, but it has become painfully clear that there are deadly consequences: COVID-19 is ravaging the world and especially the United States at an unprecedented level that can only get worse, and we just had a mob try to take over the US federal government in order to re-install their hate-filled savior figure. How many lives could have been saved if we had not let Trump and those like him keep their online megaphones for so long?

If anything, the skill that I think needs to be developed most robustly for human beings going forward is being able to discern between those who come to the table actually open to an exchange of ideas and those who are simply pretending to be. In the meantime, while freedom of speech is an inherent right of all Americans, there should be consequences for those who seek to abuse it—especially for the leaders who play games with lives.

Today is January 20, 2021, and a new US president is being sworn into office. I hope that the lessons of these past four years are not in vain.

Oxen, Free: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for January 2021

A part of me understands that years are really just arbitrary designations of time, but I still feel a sense of relief that 2020 is officially behind us. I’ve never experienced anything like it, and I desperately hope that current and future generations learn the lessons we need about the important of healthcare, of helping those who are marginalized, and understanding that while competition is a part of humanity, it should not define us to the point of mutual destruction. Leave the power fantasies of invincibility to isekai anime, and let’s help one another out.

I also want to draw special attention to the Georgia runoff elections that will determine control of the US Senate. If you’re registered to vote there, you have the power to shape the future in your hands. If we want to establish even the chance for a future that benefits those in need rather than those addicted to power, this is our best opportunity for the next two years.

Anyway, thanks to the following Patreon sponsors at the start of 2021:

General:

Ko Ransom

Diogo Prado

Alex

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

Blog highlights from December:

Best Anime Characters of 2020

See my picks for the top two!

The Prince of All Rating Systems: The Vegeta Level

A simple question: How Vegeta is your favorite anime?

Christmas, Nostalgia, and Shinkalion

A look at how the anime Shinkalion utilizes nostalgia, and what makes it difficult to license in English.

Hashikko Ensemble

Chapter 35 brings the pain!

Patreon-Sponsored

Thoughts on HoloModels

My initial impressions on the augmented-reality anime figure line.

Closing

On a less somber note, it’s the year of the ox, and we’re seeing a lot of cow cosplay anime fanart. I’d say something about being careful about NSFW pieces, but I get the feeling most people are currently at home.

Holicow: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for December 2020

On the other end of what I hope is the biggest and most important election of my lifetime, I feel a mix of joy and nerves. I also begin to wonder if there is a need for me to continue to bring politics into my writing here, only to realize the answer: of course there is. That being said, one of the goals of Ogiue Maniax has always been to encourage people to think through the lens of anime and manga, so I’ll strive to strike a better balance moving forward. Let’s just say that the last two months were more of an emergency call to action, and even then, it’s only one step in a long journey to a more just and equitable world.

Part of the last month or two has also been me realizing how many Japanese creators are being sucked in by right-wing conspiracy propaganda, which puts me at different degrees of empathy with Harry Potter fans, but I think I might leave that for a full blog post. Or not.

Last month marked 13 years since I began Ogiue Maniax, and it’s probably the heaviest anniversary post I’ve ever written, in no small part due to everything that has happened in 2020. COVID-19 literally changed the way I blog (even if the actual content might not be so different), and it feels strange to head into December—normally a time where I spend time away while reflecting on anime and manga as well as my personal life—while hyper-aware of the fact that things are simply Not Normal this year.

As 2020 comes to a close, I want to thank my Patreon sponsors, especially the following:

General:

Johnny Trovato

Ko Ransom

Diogo Prado

Alex

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

And while my Patreon rewards are such that I only include people above a certain pledge amount every month, I want to give a special shout-out to those who’ve supported me for a long time who choose not to have their names on public display. I really am grateful.

Blog highlights from November:

Gold Lightan Is Bananas

Go watch Gold Lightan. It is a ridiculous anime that few can match up with.

Pokémon Journeys, the Original Mewtwo, and Playing with Canon

Thoughts on the recent anime return of the OG Mewtwo from the first movie, Mewtwo Strikes Back

500 “Easy” Steps: Rivals of Aether

My review of the Smash Bros.-style game Rivals of Aether has turned out to be one of my most popular articles in recent memory.

Hashikko Ensemble

Chapter 34 shows both the grace and might of its student body.

Patreon-Sponsored

Let’s Make an Entire Show Out of Dance CG: D4DJ First Mix

My early thoughts on this anime about cute girls DJing.

Apartment 507

Love Live!, Nijigasaki’s Setsuna Yuki, and the President Archetype

Comparing the student council presidents of Love Live! past and present.

Closing

May we have a 2021 that is full of light and hope, and where we can all laugh and sing together again.

In the meantime, stay home for the holidays if you can. Let’s all protect one another.

Blog Sounders XIII: Ogiue Maniax 13th Anniversary

Here we are, at lucky number 13. Toward the end of last year, I wrote a few posts about my feelings going into the new decade, unaware that the span from 2019 to 2020 would feel less like a year and more like a decade. As much as I would simply want this anniversary post to be about Ogiue Maniax proper, I can’t ignore that the world is in a strange and unusual place due to the effects of COVID-19 and the extremely uneven response to it around the world. The fact that we managed to deliver a defeat to the would-be dictator that we call the 45th President of the United States is at least some comfort, and I’m genuinely happy that I’m on the other side of the US election in a position of relative hope instead of soul-draining despair.

The pandemic has actually affected Ogiue Maniax in certain ways, and not just because I’m more readily willing to write about topics like it. For instance, in recent years, I’d been doing my writing during long train commutes to and from my day job. While not an ideal situation, I’d begun blogging on my smartphone as an efficient use of my time and as a way to decompress from the work day while also fulfilling my personal standard of at least two posts per week. If I didn’t feel like writing, I might read manga (whether paper or digital), listen to podcasts, play games, or any number of activities that could become the fodder for future blogging. But now, I have no commute to “fill up,” so I’ve had to adjust my habits again, accounting for this shift in routine as well as my personal mental and emotional status. Which is to say, I’m not traumatized to the point of inactivity (as any regular readers would notice), but I definitely can’t say I’m unaffected.

Even the travel I would have done—a combination of personal, professional, and blog-oriented excursions—have been kiboshed. Gone are the conventions like Otakon, Anime Expo, New York Comic Con, and Anime NYC. What would have been a trip to Japan next year is highly unlikely for the foreseeable future. I’m one of the many who picked up Animal Crossing as a way to connect to friends, and I’m sure that has influenced my media consumption in some ways as well. Ironically, I’ve worried in the past that I haven’t done enough individual reviews of anime and manga, and now I’m worried I might be doing too many. I used to think nothing could keep me from Otakon, but I did not expect a deadly virus to upend the world. Silly me.

One bright spot among all this is that Ogiue Maniax’s site views are actually trending upwards for the first time in about eight years. In recent times, I’ve been lamenting the declining popularity of anime blogging at the same time I have been reluctant to move from the format, out of some combination of stubbornness and comfort. However, when I looked at my site stats recently, I noticed that almost every month in 2020 has been better than the last in terms of exposure; curiously, it seems to have begun in March and April. So while I have no concrete evidence at hand, I have begun to wonder if the pandemic has been a significant influence on my readership. Could it be that with so many people at home now, they’re willing to read my blogging? I appreciate the increased hits, but I would trade them for a world not in the grip of a plague.

I really, really, really hope next year’s blog anniversary sees us all in a better place.

Love Over Hate: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for November 2020

It’s no secret that politics and the health of the United States has been on my mind these past few months, and now we’re a mere two days away from Election Day. I hope that this is the most important election of my life, because I don’t want to imagine another presidency worse than this past four-year ordeal. For those who have already voted, either by mail or through early in-person voting, I hope you remained safe. While I am deeply horrified at the idea of Trump getting another term, I respect the exercise of democracy as long as all who are rightfully eligible are afforded the same opportunity.

Please bear with me as I express my strong beliefs about this election.

Long-time readers may know that while I could touch on a lot of related topics in years previous, my specific political beliefs were rarely ever front and center on Ogiue Maniax. However, the 2016 election changed something in me, as I came to feel that my distanced academic outlook did not do enough. While I still believe in robust dialogue aimed at finding common ground, I’m much more aware of the fact that right-wing extremism is a dangerous part of the current landscape, whether that’s attempting to recruit kids through video games, voter suppression, or outright violence. I changed my policy of allowing any and all relevant comments to a blog post because there’s a difference between disagreement and merely wearing a facade of civil discourse as a means to push ridiculous ideas. I recently deleted a comment that started with the notion that “wokeness” is ruining anime because it’s an extension of a general right-wing corrosion of Youtube as a whole.

As for Trump himself, I’m going to say straight-up that he needs to be stopped if the United States is to survive, literally. We cannot take even more negligence and death rates when it comes to COVID-19. We cannot take a man who purposely sabotages the US Postal Service in the age of a pandemic and in an election year. We cannot take a man who will sell out the US to the highest bidder, a man who abandons allies to the slaughter and allows bounties on American soldiers. We cannot take a man who thinks climate change is fake yet also believes windmills cause cancer. The Paris Climate Accord is crucial to the well-being of not just the US but the entire planet, and if the country does not rescind our withdrawal, we are headed straight for catastrophe upon catastrophe. Most importantly, we cannot take more damage from the Republican Party, which has enabled this would-be dictator to escape responsibility just because they use him as a battering ram to get more federal judges into the system, including three Supreme Court justices.

To all readers in the US, if you see voter intimidation at your polling place, contact the Election Protection Hotline.

And now, back to Ogiue Maniax proper.

Thank you to this month’s Patreon sponsors.

General:

Johnny Trovato

Ko Ransom

Diogo Prado

Alex

Dsy

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

Blog highlights from October:

Smash Bros. and the Concept of Restrictive Consequences

A thorough look at how the notion of constant freedom plays heavily into competitive Smash Bros., and how it contrasts with the ability to be “very wrong” in other fighting games.

Manga Made for Theater: Maku Musubi

A recent manga series focused on a school drama club that has a nice theme of finding a new creative direction after the loss of a dream.

Dick Dastardly’s Gun Kata: Appare-Ranman!

Last season’s transcontinental racing anime is not quite what I expected.

Hashikko Ensemble

Chapter 33 starts a battle of the bands at the high school culture festival! Lots of great side characters return for this one.

Patreon-Sponsored

Anime Faces: VTuber vs. Horror Games

Thinking about how the limitations of virtual youtubers actually enhances the horror-game-streaming experience for viewers.

Apartment 507

Love Live! Nijigasaki’s Yu Takasaki is the Perfect Audience Character

The new anime pulls off transforming the mobile game’s player character into a fleshed out individual.

Closing

Vote if you can, stay safe no matter what, and I’ll see you on the other side.