The Fujoshi Files 70: Shiguma Rika

Name: Shiguma, Rika (志熊理科)
Relationship Status:
Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai!

Ostensibly a high school student at St. Chronica Academy, Shiguma Rika is a technological genius who performs her own independent research as her “curriculum” away from other classmates. Possessing poor social skills and an eccentric personality, Rika is a member of the “Neighbors Club,” a club secretly devoted to helping people become better at making friends.

Rika possesses a dirty mind, and is eager to turn almost anything anyone says into a sexual innuendo, specially when it comes to her fellow club member, Hasegawa Kodaka. In spite of a massive yaoi collection, Shiguma has never actually been to a Comic Market, owing to a sense of fear and discomfort towards large crowds. Rika once spoke of never having “kissed a mammal” before, and owns a video collection of invertebrate mating.

Fujoshi Level:
Rather than being a simple fujoshi, Shiguma Rika is more of an overall pervert. Her favorite titles are not simply yaoi-themed, but ones where giant robots engage in intercourse, described through creative visual metaphors.

The Year of Fujoshi Figures

As someone who likes to keep track of fujoshi characters in anime and manga, I also tend to keep an eye out for merchandise if only to see how much coverage these characters are getting. Aside from the manga and anime they come from, there tends to be not much else, but one thing I’ve noticed is that, over the past months or so, multiple fujoshi character statue figures have been announced or released… which might actually make 2013 the Year of Fujoshi Figures, but we’ll let that slide.

First up is Wave’s “Beach Queens Shiguma Rika” from Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai. A member of the “Neighbors’ Club,” Rika is a genius who is not only into homosexuality but also “mechasexuality.” All of the other female characters in her show, as well as from many other series, are in the Beach Queens line.

Next is Ryuusuke’s “Narumi Nakuru” (NSFW) from Mayo Chiki! A glasses-obsessed high school student, she gets her very own episode at the very end of the anime. This figure is not only expensive as all get-out, but it’s gigantic at a whopping 30+ cm in height. An important warning, this figure’s clothing is removable, so it may not be the best display piece.

Then there’s the “Excellent Model Limited Sazanka Bianca” from Aquarion EVOL. I wrote about her recently, and one thing I have to say is that in an interview with the writer of the series, Okada Mari, she mentions that Sazanka was meant to be a much more minor character but that she gained popularity after episode 4, which revealed her status as a fujoshi. Sazanka’s figure is an exclusive.

Coming from the Winter 2012 season is the Nendoroid Koujiro Frau from the popular Robotics;Notes. A programming genius, Frau (real name Furugoori Kona) is something of a recluse, and talks in real life almost entirely in internet slang. Might we expect a full-size figure of her at some point?

Finally, if you want to count it, there’s this “Gray Parka Service’s Homoo.” Homoo is an ascii art-based character from the mesageboard 2ch, and is meant as a parody of fujoshi and their behaviors. It (she?) crawls around on all fours, exclaiming “Homoo!”

So all in all, kind of a crazy year if you happen to be into fujoshi characters and you enjoy buying figures. That said, I have to wonder why there’s this increase, at all. Sure, there was the Ogiue figure from 2007 (which I gladly own), and some Ohno figures before that, but there seems to be an unusually high amount, likely because we’re seeing more fujoshi characters appear in these ensemble cast anime. With more shows out and on the horizon, I would not be surprised at all to see a figure of, say, Akagi Sena from Ore no Imouto ga Konna ni Kawaii wake ga Nai.

The “Nervous” Visual Style of the Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai Manga

Last week I wrote a post comparing the Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai anime and manga (neither of which are the original source material) and showed that I have a clear preference for the manga and its visual style. I gave image comparisons to try and show exactly what I meant, but while some readers got it, I noticed that others were still confused as to why I think the manga looks better, especially because of how “rough” the art is in comparison to the more “stable” designs of the anime. Because of that, I’m going to elaborate on why I find the visuals to be more interesting and more aesthetically pleasing so that even if people disagree with me, I think they can see where I’m coming from.

Let’s start with a visual aid, the first panel in Chapter 19. This time, I’m using an untranslated version of the manga because the points I’m making don’t have anything to do with what Sena is saying, nor does it have a mirror scene in the TV series. I want to emphasize that I do not think the anime should necessarily look just like the manga. This is just straight-up analysis of the manga without having to compare it directly to the anime. If you want more of that, you can check out JP’s response to my comparison.

Sena is cropped from the chest up in the panel, and we can clearly see that she has large breasts, but the thing that stands out most in the entire panel is her expression. She’s blushing heavily, her eyebrows are furrowed in an unusual manner, her eyes are to the side, and her index fingers are touching each other, all indicating that Sena is quite nervous. You can tell that as she’s talking, she’s in an uncomfortable position for whatever reason. That nervousness takes absolute priority over the fact that she has a nice body, and so it becomes the most noticeable thing about her in that panel.

While the line quality of the manga doesn’t approach Robert Crumb levels of jittery, it still creates an interesting sort of tension in the comic. The “sketchiness,” as I’ve seen some people refer to it, results in characters and environments that indeed make the art look “incomplete” if you associate completeness with firm inks and closer pursuit of anatomical correctness in the hands and such, but that mildly quivering line also makes the entire comic feel like everything does not quite fit comfortably within it. When it comes to a series all about people with generally very dire personality flaws,  the fact that the art looks somewhat uncomfortable in its own skin in itself contributes to the sense that the entire series is about people who have trouble making friends. Their nervousness bleeds from them, through the panels, and into the very “texture” of the comic itself. At the same time, it still sticks to fairly conventional character designs to emphasize the cuteness of the girls such that element is still definitely there. It’s just that some of the cuteness also comes from the “instability” in the art style because it shows that they themselves are a little (a lot?) unstable.

I hope this did a better job of helping people to understand my point of view, but if this has only made you more confused, don’t hesitate to ask me more questions in the comments.

The Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai Anime Could Be Better

Earlier this year, I started to read the Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai manga.

I became an instant fan.

I really enjoyed the manga because of how it showed the difficulties of making friends when inexperience and considerably flawed personalities are thrown into the mix. It’s a decidedly otaku-oriented series that hits kind of close to home in a pleasant way. So when I heard that it was getting an anime adaptation I was pretty thrilled about it. I had my fingers crossed that it would be the anime of Fall 2011. Now, a few episodes into the TV series, I find it safe to say that I am fairly disappointed with the anime adaptation of Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai.

On a basic level, the anime and manga are not that different from each other. They have the same premise, a group of people who are very bad at making friends trying to help each other to humorous effect. They have the same characters with the same personalities. They both have fanservice and their fair share of otaku references. But where I find the manga to pass with high marks using this mix of ingredients, the anime by comparison falls short of the manga’s success.

I think the best place for me to begin is the art, because the character designs for the manga and anime are drawn in markedly different styles. Whereas the anime has more of what I’d call a typical light novel/visual novel-esque style to it, the manga’s artwork seems more loose and fun. The manga doesn’t feel the need to stick to its template too closely, and perhaps because it doesn’t have to devote frames of animation to consistency, it makes the comic feel comparatively more energetic. Putting aside more abstract aspects of manga such as page and panel layout, decompression, etc. (things which I think the manga does quite well and do contribute to the quality of the series), even the smiles from the characters in the manga show a lot more emotion behind them. I feel like I can understand the inner workings of the characters and I’m pleased by that. The anime on the other hand, while its designs aren’t abysmal or anything, don’t seem capable of as much expressiveness, and in general the show feels a little stiff and wooden by comparison. I understand that the anime’s designs are closer to the original light novel’s but I still like them less. On that note, I have not read the light novels, so I cannot say if either is a faithful enough adaptation to the original, but the problem isn’t faithfulness so much as it is the particulars of execution.

Another major factor is the fanservice. By that, I don’t mean that the manga is devoid of fanservice which makes it somehow automatically better. In both cases, the girls are still cute, Sena’s chest is equally impressive, and they all have a tendency to wear attractive outfits. There’s nothing particularly objectionable about this. However, the anime has significantly more fanservice, to the point that I find myself saying, “The girls are already cute enough! You don’t have to do anything more with them!” The fujoshi character Rika has scenes showing her fantasizing in both versions, but the anime’s depictions tend more towards a climax in an eroge while the manga emphasizes the extent to which it leaves her flustered. The show also has a tendency to repeatedly linger on the female characters below the belt to a degree which exceeds the yuri mahjong anime Saki. The opening video itself seems particularly dedicated to showing off the girls’ bodies and ignoring the friend-making aspect of the show, and I find myself wishing it had been done differently, perhaps something akin to the Toradora! OP. To put it simply, there’s a difference between the girls wearing a sexy bikini that shows off her figure and a shot that draws specific attention to the underboob.

Now, I understand that the series has something of a harem vibe to it. It’s an unavoidable aspect of it, for better or worse, and it’s not like I have anything against a harem series which is designed to show off its girls. I once compared Infinite Stratos to Kore wa Zombie Desuka? and while I found the latter series better and more engaging overall I thought the girls of Infinite Stratos were more attractive with better designs. That approach is fine, if a little limited in its appeal. With that said, I find the key difference to be that, based on how the two adaptations approach the categories mentioned above, the expressiveness of the characters/aesthetics in general and the approach to showing off the attractiveness of the girls, the manga does a much better job of making me think of the female characters as people first and cute girls second. While I certainly don’t mind that the girls are nice to look at, what made me love the series in the first place was that it encourages a deeper understanding of the characters, particularly their awareness of their own personal flaws. With the manga, I feel that it gives a much stronger sense that these characters really do wish they could make friends in a way that outshines the fanservice, which I think gives it far greater ability to reach otaku and other readers with that bit of warmth. With the anime however, although that aspect is still there, I think it makes it more difficult to see past that simple harem exterior and into the meat of it (no pun intended for Sena fans).

I’m not going to accuse people who really like the show of having poor taste or think they’re simply unenlightened fools. I much prefer the manga and its style, but people may choose the anime’s designs over them for whatever reason. The girls are cute and it’s okay to think that they’re cute, to be attracted to them or even obsessed with them. Perhaps most importantly, while I find the level of fanservice in the manga to be more or less acceptable, I know there are people out there who would find that the cheesecake ruins the character portrayals in the manga. Even so, I just can’t shake the feeling that the anime’s approach to Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai obscures its greatest strengths too much.