#1 in the Forest, G: gdgd Fairies

A couple of years ago when Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt was airing, the show would often be compared to American cartoons on account of its clearly influenced style. People even speculated as to whether or not Panty & Stocking would fit on Adult Swim. Since then, a show has emerged which I think is truly worthy of the moniker of “Adult Swim-esque anime.” That anime is gdgd Fairies.

gdgd (gudaguda) Fairies is ostensibly about three fairies living and playing in the Fairy Forest, but like Aqua Teen Hunger Force (which originally had Frylock, Master Shake, and Meatwad fighting crime), the premise is just an excuse for bizarre conversations and even more absurd misadventures. If the unusual nature of the production wasn’t clear enough by the end of an episode, each episode is initially titled “Title Pending.”

The main (read: only) characters are the naive pkpk (pikupiku, center), airheaded shrshr (shirushiru, right), and darkly humored krkr (korokoro, left). An episode is typical divided into three parts, where part 1 involves a conversation between the fairies that usually spirals out of control, Part 2 has them practicing magic in the “Room of Spirit and Time,” and Part 3 has the three fairies peering into a magical spring to see people in other worlds and then ad-libbing their dialogue.  During these sequences, a discussion about being late turns into one about the tragedy of time slips, the girls challenge each other to see “who can fly over the most old men,” and they even get to see this:

Part 3 (the “Magical Spring Dubbing Lake”) is where the show gets serious and pulls out the big guns. And if a bald man in his underwear farting through the sky or a fat woman in lingerie dancing as the city around her crumbles weren’t enough, after a couple of episodes it becomes very clear that, while the other parts of gdgd Fairies may play fast and loose with the show’s contents, in part 3 the actors themselves are entirely without scripts or preparation. Here, the show takes on a Space Ghost: Coast to Coast or Home Movies vibe, where the actors have to improv their lines on the spot. The actors will fall out of their voices without realizing it, unable to hold in their chuckles long enough to maintain character and will mention other anime roles they’ve done without even considering the 4th wall. These aren’t clever nudges and winks for the audience, but evidence that just as you’re seeing that farting man for the first time, so were they. You are literally hearing them joke around with only the thinnest of pretext, and it makes you laugh whether or not what they said was actually funny or a spectacular failure.

 

I had a conversation with Dave (of Astro Toy and Subatomic Brainfreeze) and we agreed that gdgd Fairies would actually work on Adult Swim. There’s no need to do anything to it, just put it on the air with subtitles at 2am and let the post-Family Guy and Squidbillies audience enjoy. If you don’t want to wait that long for it, you can actually catch all of the episodes on Crunchyroll.

Carl x Fusako 4ever.

The Active Pursuit of Anime and the Effects Thereof

Anime fans in the west have had a long history of actively seeking out their anime. Be it trading tapes, taking time out of your day specifically to go to anime clubs, figuring out the arcane secrets required to get shows off of irc, learning how to use bittorrent, or even searching on Youtube, there has always been the push to find more anime. There is a sort of mental devotion, however small, to finding new shows or finding more of a particular show, and I believe that just as much as it is a reflection of the hardcore fan’s mindset, it can also influence that mindset as well. It is both cause and effect.

When one downloads or otherwise looks for episodes of Pretty Cure, there’s some sort of labor involved, and from that labor it makes sense to want sufficient value in return, to (misappropriately) use some of Karl Marx’s terminology.  Thus, when that episode of Pretty Cure has no progress, when it feels like the last episode, disappointment occurs. Then you might think, “This show isn’t worth my time.” And it might not be. However, keep in mind that most anime in Japan is shown on TV, and the TV acts as a passive medium for most mainstream shows. Anime like Pretty Cure air on weekend mornings, so there’s no need for staying up late or setting a VCR or Tivo. It, like so many other shows, becomes simply a part of a weekly routine, something that can be enjoyed in addition to other activities by the viewer, such as eating breakfast.

It becomes a custom, like saying hi to your neighbor every morning (feel free to substitute neighbor with anyone else). Anyone who woke up for Saturday Morning Cartoons is probably familiar with this feeling. Sure, there are shows you like more than others, or would have to sacrifice one for the other if they aired at the same time on different channels, but the familiarity makes it less of a new shirt and more of a warm blanket.

Having started to watch Eureka Seven in Japan, I originally thought it was going to be a warm blanket, that Eureka Seven would be mostly episodic and carried on the characters’ strong personalities and their interactions. When I noticed those interactions causing permanent changes in those characters, I became more involved, and before long it started to become an active pursuit, where I would purposely go to sleep early on Saturdays to catch Eureka Seven early Sunday morning. I think this gradual shift from blanket to shirt is part of what made me so fond of the show.

I think some of the success (or lack thereof) of anime aired on TV in the US has very much to do with being situated in a way that makes them accessible to passive viewers. Dragon Ball Z and Gundam Wing aired at convenient, after-school time slots. Cowboy Bebop was on around midnight, when it’s late but not too late. Gundam SEED was saddled by a poor time slot that got progressively worse. Adult Swim seems to be pushing Code Geass off a cliff with a 5am time slot, and I think they are well aware of the active/passive fandom dichotomy that occurs. I mean, you could say that viewers should just set their vcr’s to record, but then that involves labor, and the viewer then pretty much has to be a fan.

And while it’s great to be an anime fan, not everyone who is a potential viewer or a potential fan starts off this way.