I’ve been on an “90s anime theme” kick recently, watching various live concert performances and animated intros/outros on YouTube. When you look through them, there’s a recurring tendency in shows of the time to have ending animations highlight the token female character as she existed in the 90s. What stands out to me in particular is that a lot of these girls are designed to be fairly pretty but not excessively beautiful, talented but not too talented.

Frequently, the 90s girl is the protagonist’s love interest, especially in series with heavily male-dominated casts, and in shounen works also works as either an everyman or expositional character to get the reader up to speed on the rules of the story. She’s the ideal support for him and his passionate pursuit of whatever goal or motivation he possesses, and it’s this sideline cheerleader that has more recently fallen by the wayside in favor of a new breed of heroine, who still might not be in the spotlight but possesses some sort of “other” talent. The example that immediately comes to mind is Akagi Haruko from Slam Dunk, who knows a bit about basketball and is the target of affection for the hero, in contrast to Aida Riko and Momoi Satsuki from Kuroko’s Basketball, who have support “powers” for their teams and whose roles as possible love interests are not as prominent (perhaps influenced by the greater fujoshi influence of Kuroko). None of them are stars of their stories, but I think there’s a clear difference between then and now.

If the main character’s love interest is supposed to be an ideal, I have to wonder why they’re so frequently designed to not be quite so ideal in the first place. This could be chalked up to “good characterization” in some cases, and a “boring” or “plain” female character to a potential viewer outside of Japan might be seen as a “yamato nadeshiko” type perfect woman in Japanese culture (e.g. Shinguji Sakura from Sakura Wars). However, I can’t help thinking that there’s something else, like a desire to promote the plain girl as the one young readers of shounen should be aiming for. Pining for the hottest girl around might somehow have been viewed as impractical or even wrongheaded, and that the childhood friend, the girl next door, would be the far better choice. Was anime and manga trying to teach its audience what kind of love would be the more realistic choice, or is it just that having these girls be fairly plain is simply about pushing the heroes further to the forefront?

 

In the past, I’ve written about “OEL manga,” English-language comics inspired by the manga style, in an attempt to find out why OEL manga often end up looking not quite like what typically comes out of Japan. I’ve brought up ideas such as screentone usage and how it often looks like artists try to draw “anime” comics instead of “manga” comics. It’s not a bad feature, and there are plenty of good comics that are inspired by manga without looking like it, but it’s just fun to try and figure out why things don’t look “right,” so to speak.

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Recently, however, I’ve come across a manga called Shoujo Fight by Nihonbashi Yoko, and even though it’s drawn by a Japanese person for a Japanese audience, to me it looks very similar to OEL manga. It’s to the extent that, if you had given me a page from Shoujo Fight translated and told me someone from Kansas drew it, I might very well have believed you.

Shoujo Fight is a volleyball manga published in the magazine Evening (sister to Genshiken‘s Monthly Afternoon and the popular Weekly Morning). Its story follows a girl named Ooishi Neri, who holds back a fiery passion for volleyball due to a traumatic event in her past. Beginning from 2012 it ran for 12 volumes, and it’s overall just a solid sports manga with a large variety of interesting female characters with equally diverse body types.

Now, I want to emphasize that, when I compare it to OEL manga that I do not mean that as an insult, and in fact I really enjoy Shoujo Fight‘s art style. Nevertheless, it does leave me wondering… why does Shoujo Fight look to me like OEL manga? I think there are a number of interrelated reasons.

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First, the creator, Nihonbashi Yoko, has a very design-oriented and graphic style that’s conducive to posters, symbols, and logos. When looking at her official blog, there’s a lot of work along those lines, and I think she’s very good at it.

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Second, Shoujo Fight is clearly drawn digitally, and I think (whether it’s accurate or not) that I associate “western” renditions of anime and manga with the rise of tablets and digital comics in general. The line work is very smooth and sleek, completely devoid of pen or pencil textures, and I find that a lot of Deviantart artists tend to work similarly.

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Third, the way Nihonbashi draws eyes often times feels closer to what I’d find in a North American or European comic. In fact, to me the way that the heroine Neri’s eyes are drawn reminds me strongly of the girls from the Italian comic (turned French animation) W.I.T.C.H. or even those of a Disney heroine. I think this becomes especially noticeable when a character has her eyes closed part-way, because the particular shape of the eyes and eyelids are not so common in manga.

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With Shoujo Fight and its art style is compared to the typical manga, it’s fascinating to me how the idea of “manga” continues to be challenged from both within its primary industry and from the outside. And if you want to see more of her work, follow the creator of Shoujo Fight on Twitter.

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Censorship is a difficult subject to explore because the battle over it is rife with conflicting and contradictory values. On the one hand, it usually derives from good intentions, specifically the desire to avoid exposing people to that which is deemed morally inappropriate. On the other hand, it can be a tool for control, especially when the standard for what is morally right is itself flawed through biases such as racism and misogyny. To create a work of fiction around the idea of censorship is to potentially step into a minefield.

Shimoneta: A Boring World Where the Concept of Dirty Jokes Doesn’t Exist is an anime adapted from a light novel. Its premise is that Japan has outlawed dirty words, dirty thoughts, and of course dirty pictures in order to improve public moral health. High schooler Okuma Tanukichi is the son of an infamous “dirty-joke terrorist” who resents his father and seeks to reunite with his childhood love, Nishikonimya Anna, a symbol of purity and righteousness. However, he ends up getting roped into joining a dirty-joke terrorist organization known as SOX (substitute the O), led by a girl clad in only a cape and a pair of underwear on her head who goes by the name “Blue Snow.”

Though a comedy, I don’t find the series to be that funny. Then again, it would have been foolish of me to expect extremely clever jokes from a series premised around trying to restore people’s ability to shout, “PENIS!” Rather, what ended up interesting me was how it tackles censorship, and how I can’t find myself in total agreement with its ideas on the matter.

The world of Shimoneta, or more specifically the elite school in which most of its story takes place, is an environment where people are so sheltered from profanity, pornography, and obscenity that they cannot even recognize it when it is literally thrown in their face. Aside from a few eccentrics who are either extremely good at hiding their feelings or have their interests tied up in other things (one character’s interest in sex is mostly from a scientific point of view), they are mentally unable to process their own sexual desires. From here, I believe it is easy to see why a series like Shimoneta can be simultaneously uncomfortable yet thought-provoking even if one potentially disagrees with it. The idea that the removal of dirty jokes from a country has rendered its men and women psychologically immature could be utilized as both an argument against “political correctness” and an argument against oppression of people’s rights to be sexually active. After all, women are attacked both for having sex and not having sex.

Where Shimoneta stands on the subject feels somewhat unclear even after finishing the series, and this has a lot to do with the fact that the series is rife with anime and light novel tropes. Anna, for example, turns out to be a stereotypical yandere character whose burning desire for Tanukichi (she can literally smell his scent from hundreds of meters away) swings his view of her from aspiration to monster, while her large rack and hourglass figure clearly make her a sexually attractive character. At the same time, Anna is the very symbol of how a lack of sex education can negatively affect a person. Because she has been taught that righteousness is the polar opposite of profanity, she believes that anything she does in the name of righteousness is by definition pure, even if it involves pinning Tanukichi to the ground and trying to take his virginity against his will in highly sexually charged scenes.

What is Anna? Is her behavior more representative of a warning towards keeping people ignorant about sex, or is she a nymphomaniac designed to thrill the audience? For that matter, what is the ethical standing of a little girl character clearly designed for a lolicon audience, whose hair is shaped like a penis? Is it an innocent joke, or has it gone too far? And in this way, is Shimoneta directly commenting on actual society (assuming Japan but perhaps it can apply elsewhere)?

I feel that the ambiguity of that last question is what makes Shimoneta worth watching, at least for a few episodes. It opens up a potentially interesting conversation about how we view media, and even in disagreement I believe it can be a fruitful discussion.

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McGillis_Fareed-5_G-Tekketsu-5Ever since Char Aznable became one of anime’s most memorable characters, many Gundam series have included similar rivals for their heroes. In general, they’re enemy pilots of roughly equal power who wear masks or something similar to hide their faces, and who often have their own ulterior, if noble, motives. Most recently joining the likes of Zechs Merquise, Harry Ord, and more is McGillis Fareed from Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans, and his approach to being “a Char” is probably the most well-realized out of all of them.

Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans spoilers below.

Throughout the original Gundam, Char Aznable is willing to (and has!) back-stabbed even his closest friends because his true goal, to get vengeance for the death of his father, overrides any sort of sentiment he might possess. McGillis is incredibly similar. He’s willing to sacrificing childhood friends for the sake of accomplishing his motives, but in a way he might also be even more scheming and cut-throat than Char himself. While Char might sabotage some of his own side for personal reasons, he never actively leaked information to the enemy or tried to orchestrate both sides to fall in his favor.

McGillis has gone from being a fairly interesting character to being one of the reasons I’m looking forward to the next season of Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans. Given the overall quality of the show, I really, really hope the series doesn’t suffer from Sunrise “half-way point syndrome” like so many of their mecha anime, where in an attempt to become more successful a show loses what made it special in the first place.

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KojiWada

I’ve written a short, personal post about the late Wada Kouji over at Apartment 507. Wada was the singer of many beloved Digimon songs over the years, and had an unmistakable voice.

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Parasyte, the story of a boy whose right hand is taken over by an alien parasite, was a popular 90s manga in Japan. Recently it’s gotten an anime adaptation with an updated look, so naturally Parasyte has been receiving more attention. What I hadn’t expected to see, however, was a Parasyte one-shot spinoff by shoujo manga legend Hagio Moto.

Hagio Moto is famous for being the mother of BL manga as the creator of Heart of Thomas. She’s continued to create manga since her debut in the 1970s, including science fiction, such as Star Red and A, A’, and even comics that act as allegories to the dangers of nuclear power. She generally stays within the realms of shoujo and josei, so the fact that she’s brought her talents to Monthly Afternoon (where Parasyte was originally published) is something special.

Yura no Mon o follows Yura, the young daughter of Tamura Reiko, who is the parasite disguised as the original hero Izumi Shin’ichi’s school teacher. Reiko decides to have a human baby with a fellow parasite, and her relationship with her daughter throughout the original series is portrayed as disturbing yet potentially redemptive. Yura is adopted by another family by the time of Hagio’s one-shot, but she every so often here’s a voice that tells her one thing: kill. Thinking it’s the voice of her mother, she goes through life with that whisper in the back of her head.

I’ll be honest, I’m not a fan of Parasyte, but that’s because it succumbs to many 90s manga tropes (particularly its portrayal of women). With Yura no Mon o, Hagio Moto brings the sensibility and soft style that made her one of shoujo manga’s most famous artists. If you have the chance, and you have even a passing familiarity with Parasyte, it’s worth checking out.

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Of all the fujoshi-themed manga I’ve encountered (and I’ve read a lot), Okachimachi Hato’s Fujoshissu! is one of my absolute favorites. So, having recently found out that Okachimachi is starting up a new manga, I was immediately thrilled. While my search for fujoshi protagonists is why I first discovered her work, it’s Okachimachi’s expressive art style and subtle, considerate explorations of her characters that turned me into a fan.

Her new work, Kimi xxxru Koto Nakare (“You Shall Not xxx”) shows signs of being just as strong from the very first chapter, which is why I’ve decided to start writing monthly chapter reviews for it. This is only the third time I’ve ever done the “episodic review” thing (both previous instances were Genshiken anime and manga), so I hope you enjoy it.

Kimi xxxru Koto Nakare is the story of a budding teenage romance between Shuuto, a male idol, and Nobuko, a female celebrity comedian. When the manga begins, we see that Shuuto first discovers Nobuko at a very young age while watching television. Nobuko is the daughter of a famous comedian as well, and to Shuuto, it’s love at first sight. He thinks she’s the cutest girl ever, and it inspires him to get into the entertainment industry as a child model.

Years later, the two are now classmates, and while Shuuto is adored by legions of female fans for his handsome appearance and cool demeanor, his real aspiration is comedy. Shuuto asks Nobuko for help, and after some important lessons (namely that Shuuto can’t be serious about comedy if he’s afraid of being laughed at), Shuuto finally succeeds in getting some laughs. Grateful to Nobuko, Shuuto finally confesses his feelings to her and even gives her a kiss, but while Nobuko is shown to secretly feel the same way as Shuuto, she backs away and tells him that he can’t do that.

There is so much to talk about in this first chapter, but I think what stands out most is Nobuko’s appearance. While Tonari no Young Jump, the website on which Kimi Nakare is published, can ostensibly be called “shounen” or “seinen,” it’s clear that Okachimachi comes from a very different background in terms of art style and approach to manga. Kimi Nakare is very much in a shoujo vein, but very rarely do shoujo manga feature a main female character as plain-looking as Nobuko. Generally speaking, they tend to be not the most beautiful but still thin and pretty in a conventional sense. In contrast, Nobuko is larger, has a rather masculine face with big bushy eyebrows, and is just noticeably less attractive than Shuuto.

Even the story draws attention to the fact that Nobuko is not supposed to be good-looking. When a young Shuuto is telling his parents that Nobuko is the cutest girl he’s ever seen, they react with puzzlement. “Cute? I would call her interesting…but cute?” Shuuto “shouldn’t” be attracted to her to such an extent, but he is.

What’s amazing about this contrast is that it doesn’t feel simply like wish fulfillment that a handsome idol like Shuuto would fall in love with Nobuko. Putting aside his love of comedy and the fact that she’s mentioned as being incredibly talented at getting laughs, Nobuko is strong, supportive, cheerful, and isn’t afraid to take someone down a peg. As the chapter progresses, it becomes evident that these qualities are what continuously draws Shuuto to her. Okachimachi never draws Nobuko in a way implied to be Shuuto’s “perspective” with the requisite that she then appears to be more beautiful than she is, but by just seeing them together, I could understand just how attractive Nobuko’s personality could be.

Suffice it to say, I already love this manga. I believe that Nobuko’s negative reaction to Shuuto’s kiss and confession comes from the fact that he’s an idol and therefore isn’t allowed to date. Whether that means they have a clandestine romance or they have to constantly resist their own feelings, I can’t wait to see what happens next.

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Name: Nakano, Amane (中野あまね)
Alias: A-chan (あーちゃん)
Relationship Status: Dating
Origin: Kiss Him, Not Me

Information:
Serinuma Kae’s best friend and fujoshi comrade, Nakano Amane shares in Kae’s penchant for pairing boys in their class. They disagree as to whether their classmates Igarashi and Nanashima should be paired in that order, or the opposite (7×5, Amane’s preference).

Amane is into seiyuu talk shows and otaku events, and has a non-otaku boyfriend named Mikoshiba.

Fujoshi Level:
Little is precisely known about Amane’s fujocity, but it appears to be comparable to Kae’s.

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I’ve written another Love Live! character analysis over at Apartment 507, this time about Minami Kotori, aka Minalinsky Our Lord and Prophet. Where are my Kotori fans at?

Between showers, fools, and lambs, April is a month of change and transition. It’s only appropriate then that I try to evolve as well! As always, it’s with the help of my friends and Patreon supporters that I continue to try and improve Ogiue Maniax:

General:

Johnny Trovato

Ko Ransom

Alex

Diogo Prado

Sasahara Keiko fans:

Kristopher Hostead

Yoshitake Rika fans:

Elliot Page

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

So, the first change I’m making is a small adjustment to my schedule. Since 2010 I’ve generally structured my weekly posting schedule to be posts on Tuesday and Friday with at least the occasional lighter post on Sunday, most typically a Fujoshi File entry. However, I’ve noticed that most of my readers come in on Sunday, and to give my lowest-impact content at that point feels like a shame, because if you’re coming to Ogiue Maniax I believe it’s to read something interesting. Because of this, I’ve decided to switch Sunday to being a main posting day, with either Tuesday or Friday being less heavy. I’m still on the fence on which one to use, but most likely it’ll be Friday. I hope you enjoy the change, and of course, if you miss the post it’s always there in the archives.

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A second possible change is adding another series other than Genshiken for me to review regularly. The title is Kimi xxxru Koto Nakare (“You Can’t Do That”), the new monthly manga by Okachimachi Hato (creator of one of my favorite manga, Fujoshissu!) about a high school romance between a male idol and a female celebrity comedian. The question is, how should I cover it? To help me with this, I’m using a handy dandy poll:

Keep in mind that this is just for feedback and the winning answer won’t necessarily determine what happens. Also, I mistakenly thought it was a weekly manga, so a previous Patreon post of mine mistakenly had weekly options.

As for what’s happened on the blog over the past month, the biggest event for Ogiue Manaix and all current Genshiken readers definitely has to be the latest manga chapter, which concludes the Madarame harem story. I won’t say much more, so go check it out if you’re curious as to what goes down and my thoughts on it. Also, I need to point out that a funky translation of Chapter 122’s contents has been going around, and it provides an inaccurate image of the characters. In response to this, I’ve also translated a couple of small but vital excerpts from the chapter in the hopes of clearing up the confusion.

As mentioned last month, I went to see a whole bunch of animated films. These include The Boy and the Beast, The Case of Hana & Alice, Beyond Beyond, Kizumonogatari Part 1: Tekketsu, Psycho-Pass: The Movie, and Long Way North. This means it was a pretty danged review-heavy month, especially because I also covered Please Tell Me! Galko-chan, the mahjong manga Saki, and the ever-successful Aikatsu! I’m typically more of an analysis and deep thinking kind of writer, but it’s not bad to have months like this either, and most of the time I my reviews are more half-review/half-analysis anyway.

Speaking of reviews, I also finally updated the Reviews section of the blog. I neglected it for about…a year and a half? orz

I also talked last month about my concern over stagnating as a writer. My smart and ever-perceptive friend David Brothers gave me some advice in response to one of my Apartment 507 articles on Yandere characters, which is that I should think about putting more of myself into my writing. I think that ever since I’d gone in a more academic direction it’s improved Ogiue Maniax in a number of ways. At the same time, that sort of more casual and personal feel, while still present I believe, might not be as apparent. Sometimes I have to be more friend than teacher.

Three final comments:

  1. Shout outs to Abadango for winning Pound 2016 using 99% Mewtwo (with a dash of Meta Knight). It’s the first major tournament in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U that has been won by a Mewtwo.
  2. Some cool and mysterious fellow recently published an academic article about the science fiction manga 7 Billion Needles in the journal Japan Forum. If you’ve got access and that’s your sort of thing, maybe check it out?
  3. This past weekend was the final Love Live! concert for the original μ’s girls. Love Live! forever! Hanayo banzai! Also, sorry about the April Fool’s joke (not sorry).

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