The Relevance of Older anime to Newer Anime Fans

This month, I was asked to write about “the relevance of older anime to newer anime fans.” The short answer is that older anime is always relevant, even if newer fans don’t think it is. I’ll leave the criteria for “older” up for interpretation, but no matter whether it’s one year or 30 years, looking back on the anime that came before is a way to gain perspective on this form of art and entertainment that enthralls us so.

When a fan only watches what is newer, there’s a risk of developing a very skewed sense of what anime was, is, and can be. It’s easy to assume certain ideas are entirely new and have never been explored before, when in fact there’s a whole back catalog of shows that take on those topics. For example, the surface reputation of Gundam as vaguely “giant robots do fighty army things” can often color people’s views of what the franchise is actually like, and actually taking the time to look into those older series can broaden one’s perception.

In other cases, it’s easy to think that it’s “always been this way,” when certain stylistic or narrative tendencies are in fact the product of continued development reflecting the changing times. I recall being a young anime fan in the 90s, when most of what we got were short OVAs meant to be proof-of-concept adaptations for manga that doubled as advertisements. Often, they didn’t make any sort of effort to acclimate new viewers, so many fans were under the assumption that most anime were visually beautiful but unfollowable nonsense story-wise. We often failed to understand that it was simply what we received.

The above examples aren’t necessarily about looking backwards, but the point isn’t to position “older anime” as “better.” Not only is that highly subjective, but there are strengths and faults to anime made in any era, as well as cultural assumptions that might be controversial in hindsight. Rather, the important thing is to look beyond one’s current purview.

I understand that it’s easier said than done to get into older anime and not have it feel like a “chore.” It shouldn’t be “watch this show from 20 years ago because it’ll make you appreciate newer things—to hell with your own enjoyment!” Moreover, there are so many forces at work that directly and indirectly discourage newer anime fans from looking backwards. The newer shows take up all of the mental space through advertisements and social media discussion and who knows what else. If watching anime is a social experience for someone, it can become difficult to convince friends to abandon the opportunity to keep up with current trends. And while good aesthetics are in the eye of the beholder, older shows can at first look dated and thus lack relevance to a young, modern person. But for those who can overcome those hurdles, the reward is a more expansive library to potentially love and learn from.

This is actually why I’ve begun to think that remakes aren’t such a bad thing. Notably, Devilman Crybaby has re-introduced a classic manga to the wider world, and people have embraced it. The visuals might not be standard anime by any definition, but they’re fresher and more contemporary than what came beforehand, and they help fans to understand that the stories told in the past can still be relevant and powerful even if they look like they’re from a bygone era. If done well, it can encourage fans to break out of their shells and see.

See more, see wider, see further.

This post was sponsored by Ogiue Maniax patron Johnny Trovato. If you’d like to request topics for the blog, or support Ogiue Maniax in general, check out the Patreon.

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Ponkotsu Kyonyuu: The “Busty Failure” Character

Over the past few years, a new-ish character archetype seems to be emerging in manga. As far as I know, there’s no widely accepted term in Japanese or English, but the two common words used to describe them are kyonyuu, or “giant-breasts,” and ponkotsu, or “piece of junk.” The former word is pretty self-explanatory, but the latter likely requires some explanation.

A ponkotsu character is described by the Pixiv Dictionary as a type of moe female character who seems cool and capable on the surface, but is a comedic wreck on the inside. Two examples of ponkotsu characters in recent memory are Kawashima Momo from Girls und Panzer, the student council vice president who tends to panic in high-pressure situations, and Aqua, the “useless goddess” from KonoSuba! In fact, one might argue that all of the characters in KonoSuba! count.

The small trend, then, seems to be pairing the ponkotsu type with a large chest. I’ve found who qualify for that criteria are Shidare Hotaru from Dagashi Kashi (above), the titular character from Magical Sempai, and Takizawa from Bijin Onna Joushi Takizawa-san (both below).

As heroines, “busty failure” characters appear to share many of the same physical characteristics and mannerisms, even when ignoring chest size. In particular, their facial expressions seem to exist on a spectrum ranging from “incredibly smug” to “profuse blushing,” with these characters most commonly falling somewhere in the middle. Also, they’re frequently incredibly intense individuals.

Given their beauty and their curvaceous figures, there’s an obvious sex appeal component to the archetype. What’s unclear is why this exact combination has taken traction, in contrast to the standard moeblob, e.g. Asahina Mikuru from the Haruhi. For example, clumsy dojikko types are a dime a dozen, but there’s plenty of characters of all chest sizes who fall under that umbrella. Perhaps there’s something fascinating about having these girls be, in a sense, “mentally clumsy.” Maybe it’s that having these girls be “perfect” physically provides a powerfully arousing contrast with how easily flustered they are.

Walking in Tokyo vs. Walking in NYC

As a life-long New Yorker, I am intimately familiar with living in a major metropolitan area where walking and mass transit are the norms. However, every time I’ve been to Japan, I’ve found myself at odds with Tokyo’s pedestrian traffic. Despite the fact that I should be accustomed to large crowds, something is perpetually off—as if I’m constantly on the verge of bumping into others.

What I’ve come to realize is that there’s an inherent difference in how New Yorkers and Tokyoites walk in large crowds, and in a certain sense they’re somewhat opposed to each other. So for those who are traveling to Tokyo and feel overwhelmed by all the people (and bikes!) seemingly on a collision course with you, this might prove useful.

One inherent difference is that people in New York City tend to walk on the right, while in Tokyo it’s common to walk on the left, but that doesn’t explain everything. Imagine an ideal situation where pedestrian traffic is flowing through like a two-way street, with an invisible center line roughly dividing the two groups traveling in opposite directions. Take two people walking on opposite sides towards each other. What happens?

NYC-style walking

In New York City, the common tendency is to avoid the center line as much as possible. The two people will see someone headed their way, and will begin to drift away from that center line to avoid accidentally bumping into each other. In my biased perspective, I consider this “normal.” Moreover, while I don’t think NYC is as rough and unforgiving as is commonly portrayed on TV and in movies, you really don’t want to inadvertently start a fight.

Tokyo-style walking

In Tokyo, however, there’s a tendency to gravitate towards that center line as much as possible. If there’s something in the way, they’ll snake around it, hugging the “curve” so that they can get back towards the middle. I’m not really sure why, though I’ve noticed that people in Tokyo take less issue with accidentally crashing into someone. My (unsubstantiated) theory is that people in Tokyo develop a tendency to head towards their destination (e.g. the train platform they need at a station) in as direct a path as they can manage, and that means staying along the center line instead of deviating from it.

Another possibility is that bicycles are allowed on sidewalks in Tokyo but not in NYC, so it might be part of the natural way to avoid bikes. Whatever the reason, walking in Tokyo and not being aware of this can make it seem like folks are constantly making a beeline for you. You’ll think you’re gonna run headlong into someone, only for them to stop at the last second and make a sharp turn to avoid you.

This post has been based largely on my own experience, as well as from talking to people who have been to or live in Tokyo. If you’ve had a different impression of pedestrian traffic there, feel free to chime in.

The Respectful Pervert: The New Ogler Archetype in Anime and Manga

Miroku, pervert monk from Inuyasha

In today’s environment, the “pervert with a heart of gold” anime and manga archetype has not aged well. While characters such as Great Teacher Onizuka, Miroku from Inuyasha, and Saeba Ryo (City Hunter) are ultimately presented as those who will fight for what’s right, their willingness to cop a feel or lift a skirt becomes less and less charming in consider the current age. They’re ultimately fictional characters, so they can afford to be flawed, but one person’s “acceptable quirk” is another’s deal breaker. They’re not automatically villains or abusers, but they can be increasing difficult to rally behind—and I say this knowing that Ryo, for instance, is classically quite popular with female readers. But I don’t think the solution is to pretend perverts don’t exist, or to portray them negatively, and in fact, I find that anime and manga are slowly moving towards a new type of ogler for the current age.

Before continuing, I understand that my discussion of the “well-meaning pervert” is rather heteronormative, owing to the fact that these characters are derived from a tradition of hyper-straight male protagonists. When you change the dynamics of gender and gender representation, the topic enters a whole new dimension. I’m open to thinking more in that direction, but it goes beyond the scope of this post.

The “respectful pervert” actively acknowledges his love of women’s bodies, but doesn’t step over crucial boundaries—a devoted believer in the mantra “look but don’t touch.” From this cloth, two recent and prominent examples are Space Dandy from Space Dandy and Sword from GARO: Vanishing Line.

Space Dandy with Boobies waitresses

Sword from GARO: Vanishing Line, paying respects to large breasts

Both will regularly express their love of breasts, but will remain more or less cordial. Dandy mostly indulges in his fascinations at “Boobies,” a restaurant whose purpose is to allow and encourage ogling, without physical contact. Sword’s tendency to offer a prayer of appreciation for nice breasts might potentially draw unwanted attention, but his overall actions do not encroach on women’s personal space.

This new-type pervert might not be to everyone’s tastes, but I find that vis significance stands out more when comparing him to another attempt to dial down the pervert archetype: the passive harem protagonist. This archetype is perpetually in a position of convenience to have things happen to him as a way to resolve the character of responsibility. A lack of direct intent, e.g. “Oh no, I tripped fell into her breeeaaasts!!!” means self-control as an issue is ignored. In contrast, the respectful pervert is active in his expressions of sexual desire, but ultimately shows restraint. Power remains in the women’s control, without pushing the onus of responsibility onto them.

What do you think of the respectful pervert? Is it one step forward, two steps back? Is it a character you can get behind? I’m curious to hear opinions from anyone and everyone.

Being “True to Oneself” and the Necessity of Criticism

Ever since my teenage years, I’ve believed it important for nerds and geeks, otaku and gamers, to be proud of who they are. Back then, from seeing my own experience as well as that of others both online and off, it hurt me to witness people continuously talk about how they have to hide their hobbies. You’d find posts on forums of people talking about how they had to abandon their nerdy interests in order to make friends and get a significant other. And while I’m sure there are more than a few who found greater happiness this way, I could also see plenty who basically lived as frail shadows. As frivolous something like a love of RPGs or an attraction to anime girls could be, I saw it doing subtle psychological damage to those who forced themselves to abandon their passions, and I didn’t want to see people like me be hurt.

A lot of things have changed in the years since. Gaming is undoubtedly mainstream. Shows like The Big Bang Theory have, for better or worse, made the lives of nerds “hip” to watch. People needlessly worry about “fake geek girls.” One of the consequences of the prominence of geek culture is that, where once the main issue for many nerds was trying to get their voices out there, now the latent misogyny of gamer culture has become a real problem. Given this current environment, is it okay to just say, “Be confident and declare to the world that you’re proud to be who you are!” if it means that people are incentivized to harass others?

I understand that there are some generalizations I’m putting forward that are inevitably full of exceptions. Geek culture and fandoms are many-armed and camaraderie across different interests can be fractured. One does not even need to be a “social outcast” anymore to be considered an avid player of video games. Perhaps most importantly, it’s not like asking people to have confidence automatically leads to influencing people to attack others. Nevertheless, I think there is a potential path from self confidence and pride to anger towards and mistreatment of others, one that is dimly lit yet still visible upon closer observation.

To some extent, I think this wraps into the idea of variety of expression as a strength, be it in fiction or in, say, speech and dialogue. Much like freedom of speech, the difficult thing about supporting and celebrating it is that you have to accept that you can’t agree with every opinion or belief, even if you swear that it’s wrong with every fiber of your being. It is the constant potential for change that gives both art and speech strength, and for every poorly conceived anime that might exist there can also exist a work of endless wonder, broadly speaking.

That being said, criticism is necessary, and dissent towards ideas believed to be harmful should not be silenced just for the sake of variety. And I think this is where I find myself when it comes to people found in fandoms who continue to espouse racist, misogynistic ideas. I disagree vehemently with those ideas, but they are beliefs legitimately held by people, and to silence them is to build resentment. At the same time, giving them license to run their mouths and spread hate and harassment isn’t the right thing to do either. Ideally, conversations on matters such as the portrayal of male and female characters in games should happen in the open, rather than as rocks volleyed from across a chasm, but that might be wishful thinking.

I’ve increasingly thought about how wanting to make the world a better place and embracing all the beauty and ugliness of the world requires living a contradiction. However, I don’t believe that this is inherently a problem. Perhaps we try too hard to make every aspect of our life consistent, or to expect our thoughts and beliefs to line up perfectly with each other. If that’s the case, then I can continue to cheer for those who are able to express themselves, while putting more effort to guide those who I believe need it.

A Look at Precure Popularity

I’ve been looking at various Precure polls lately, in part due to a desire to see how a franchise that’s 15 years old is remembered. The polls I consulted were Japanese character rankings from 2015, 2016, and 2017 as compiled by user insight_led, as well as a more recent one from the Japanese-language anime news site Anime! Anime! Being a decade and a half old means opinions can change over time (or according to the age of the voters), which is what I normally would expect, but there are some surprises.

Character Popularity

Looking at the Naver rankings, here are the top 10 characters from each year, along with the tallies each one accrued, based on comments on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. Also, kids were not included in the votes; if that core audience was allowed to vote, there’d likely be a significant difference.

2015 (Go! Princess Precure airs)

  1. Cure Beauty (1,541)
  2. Cure Marine (1,224)
  3. Cure Passion (1,107)
  4. Cure Twinkle (750)
  5. Cure Pine (624)
  6. Cure Happy (580)
  7. Cure Ace (575)
  8. Cure Lovely (489)
  9. Cure Peace (440)
  10. Cure Heart (432)

2016 (Maho Girls Precure airs)

  1. Cure Beauty (20,041)
  2. Cure Happy (15,580)
  3. Cure Marine (12,824)
  4. Cure Peace (12,682)
  5. Cure Passion (8,107)
  6. Cure Twinkle (7,750)
  7. Cure Heart (7,432)
  8. Cure Lovely (6,999)
  9. Cure Scarlet (6,890)
  10. Cure Miracle (6,619)

2017 (Kira Kira Precure a la Mode airs)

  1. Cure Happy (12,450)
  2. Cure Beauty (11,394)
  3. Cure Marine (8,924)
  4. Cure Peace (8,804)
  5. Cure Passion (6,409)
  6. Cure Flora (6,102)
  7. Cure Lovely (5,877)
  8. Cure Heart (5,322)
  9. Cure Blossom (5,285)
  10. Cure Chocolat (5,180)

Based on these three rankings, what surprises me is how little recency bias actually seems to influence results. Cure Beauty and Cure Marine are consistently top 3, even as the total counts fluctuate. There appears to be something enduring about both of those characters, which is all the more interesting because they’re 1) in unrelated series 2) almost polar opposites in personality.

For Cure Beauty, the reasons generally given for her popularity are that she’s an ideal combination of strength, intelligence, and beauty. Out of all Precures, Beauty most closely matches the yamato nadeshiko (traditional ideal Japanese woman) in both looks and demeanor, so I wonder how much that’s a factor.

When it comes to Cure Marine, however, the queen of comedic intensity defies expectations for why fans come to love Precure characters in the first place. As mentioned in those rankings, while pretty every other character generally gets comments like “I want to be her” and “I want to be with her,” Marine’s are mostly “I wish she were my best friend.” Seeing as Marine is my favorite Precure character, I’d like to think the Japanese fans also just have incredibly good taste.

Show Popularity

According to the Anime! Anime! poll, the top 3 most beloved Precure series are as follows:

  1. Go! Princess Precure
  2. Futari wa Pretty Cure
  3. Heartcatch Precure!
  4. Kira Kira Precure a la Mode
  5. Smile Precure!
  6. Maho Girls Precure!
  7. Fresh Pretty Cure!!
  8. Yes! Pretty Cure 5 Go Go!
  9. Yes! Pretty Cure 5
  10. Futari wa Precure Max Heart
  11. DokiDoki! Precure
  12. Suite Precure
  13. Futari wa Pretty Cure Splash Star
  14. Happiness Charge Precure!

It should be noted that given the purpose of the site, the general audience for Anime! Anime! would skew towards older and more interested in anime as an industry. One goes there to read essays about and interviews with creators, as well as following general anime news. That’s why I think it’s no coincidence that the most popular iterations of Precure are 1) the original pioneer 2) the series with (in my opinion) the strongest narratives and overall messages. What I’m more surprised about is how well this top 3 aligns with my personal tastes. I consider Heartcatch and Go! Princess to be #1 and #2, respectively, and the unrefined, yet innovative quality of the first Pretty Cure to be a big part of its charm.

While the character rankings and the series rankings are from two different sources, I find it remarkable that character popularity and series popularity don’t really line up. Based on my personal experience, this isn’t a complete shock, but I think it really goes to show that memorable characters can exist almost apart from their sources. Cure Heart is a top 10 (out of 51) character, but Doki Doki! Precure is a bottom 5 (out of 14) show, according to the above sources. It’s also interestingt to me that Cure Marine comes out ahead here. She’s considered a top 3 character, and Heartcatch Precure! is seen as a top 3 show.

Go! Princess Precure is considered the best Precure anime, but interestingly enough, it also has among the worst toy sales out of the entire franchise.

Go! Princess Precure is third from bottom

One might assume that a greater focus on quality storytelling might conflict with how one of the purposes of Precure is to sell toys, but this is not necessarily the case. According to the chart above, the most successful Precure in terms of merchandise sales is actually Heartcatch Precure! There’s perhaps a challenge in being able to achieve high marks in both, but it’s not impossible. The fact that one doesn’t seem to have any bearing on the other is simultaneously reassuring and daunting.

Conclusion (or lack thereof)

I’m not a statistician and I don’t pretend to be. I’m also unsure if there are any truths deeper than what I observed, like how Cure Marine is the Nintendo Switch of Precure (doesn’t compete directly with other Precures and is the better for it), and that toy sales and show quality almost exist on separate planes.

So in closing, Heartcatch Precure! and Cure Marine are the best. Fight me.

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Aikatsu! and Idol Franchise “Experiences”

As Aikatsu Friends! inches ever closer, I find myself thinking about the longevity of Aikatsu! as a franchise. By this October, it’ll be a whopping six years old—a lifetime when it comes to children’s anime. Where other similar series have tried to compete, few have managed to hang on as Aikatsu! has. One of its closest competitors, Pretty Rhythm, eventually pivoted towards the male-idol-centric King of Prism series. Either by outlasting or outmaneuvering other idol series, Aikatsu! feels as if it’s conquered its own niche—though the exact nature of that niche is what I’m trying to figure out.

There are, of course, key differences between Aikatsu! and other idol character franchises. Series like King of Prism and Idolish 7 utilize male idols in a desire to capture a different market. Love Live! and The iDOLM@STER feel like they skew older. Macross Delta and Symphogear have idols as thematic flourishes as part of a greater science-fiction story. They cover various demographics, as well as various degrees of idol presence. Yet I feel there’s another element of difference that isn’t accounted for, as if Aikatsu! and Love Live! occupy different compartments of mental space, at least personally.

While this is only a tentative thought exercise for the sake of categorization, if I had to describe that difference it would be as the following: With Love Live! or The iDOLM@STER, I’m most interested in how the idols will react, but with Aikatsu! I’m most interested in the actions they’ll take. The way I phrased it makes it seem as if it’s a contrast between more passive characters and more active ones, but that’s not quite right. Instead, it’s more that the girls of Love Live! seem to draw their appeal from the way they behave and influence each other, while the girls in Aikatsu! feel as if they influence the environment around them.

Perhaps the reason I see Aikatsu! different is because of the fans and how they express their love for the series on social media compared to other idol anime lovers. Other series appear to celebrate cuteness and style. Fans of Aikatsu! revel in an aura of power and excitement. At the heart of this fan output remains the indelible images of Ichigo, that very first Aikatsu! heroine, as she climbs those cliffs and wields that axe. It’s as if Ichigo and her successors reshape and navigate the land while other idols move through it.

This post was sponsored by Johnny Trovato. If you’re interested in submitting topics for the blog, or just like my writing and want to support Ogiue Maniax, check out my Patreon.