From Cutie Honey to Keijo!!!!!!!!: The Rise of Big Butts in Anime History

NOTE: This post is NOT SAFE FOR WORK

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Introduction

For as long as there has been fanservice in anime, there has been an emphasis on rear ends. Few things are more associated with anime (for better or worse) than the panty shot, and the form-fitting suits in works such as Neon Genesis Evangelion and Ghost in the Shell have helped to bring posteriors to prominence. However, I believe that buttocks have not remained static over the course of anime’s history and that, over the past 10-15 years, we have reached a point where big butts are “in.” The purpose of this post is to show this gradual change in tastes while also positing some possible reasons that this change has taken place.

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The Transformation of Time from Manga to Anime

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How much does time pass when the mighty Star Platinum punches an enemy Stand in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure? There are many factors to consider, such as how much time has passed in the show itself, as well as how time is being manipulated within the series’ universe itself. Another important element is the fact that the anime is an adaptation of a manga, where the flow of time is abstracted by manga’s existence as a 2-D paper medium.

As far back as Tetsuwan Atom, adaptations of manga have been a common mode of anime production. Manga act as a spring of new stories to present, and the jump from the comic book format to animation opens up many opportunities. An anime can try to forget its own path through interpretation or divergence from the manga (such as both the Ghost in the Shell films and Stand Alone Complex), or they can faithfully attempt to recreate what exists in the original. However, while the latter cases might often appear to be “direct transplants” of the manga to the screen, the act of having to take a physical and spatial image such as a panel and assign to it a finite amount of time can greatly change the impact of a given scene in spite of the desire for faithfulness to the source material.

In a general sense, having to time dramatic beats for an anime often requires playing around with the contents of the manga. For example, in an episode of Dragon Ball Z, filler sequences (such as the infamous minutes-long powering up spots) not only save budget, but can also be a way to make sure the episode ends on a cliffhanger. On a broader multi-episode scale, Initial D: Fourth Stage does something similar by reversing the order of the final two opponents. Originally, the manga has protagonist Takumi race against a man known as “God Hand,” while his teammate Keisuke races against “God Foot” afterward. In order to make sure the series ends with a climactic battle for its hero, the show has God Foot go first instead.

One consequence of this is that there can be moments when a series feels as if it’s dragging. Sometimes it’s successfully padded out or rearranged so that nothing feels particularly off, but in other instances it is possible to sense an uneven rhythm or pacing.

This notion also extends to the transform of panels into time. Consider that there is generally no specific amount of time that is said to pass in a given panel in manga, or indeed comics in general. What makes a panel feel “fast” or “slow” is partially about how long one’s eyes linger on a panel, and it’s dependent on the amount of content there and the flow of the page. But because time exists differently in manga, things that seemingly pass quickly on the page take much longer on the screen.

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A common example of this would be the frantic explanations of special moves in an action or sports series. Because we tend to read more quickly than we speak, it is possible to believe that an elaborate speech or thought is being made within the span of a ball being passed from one player to the next. However, commit that to concrete time in an anime, and suddenly you begin to wonder why no one is doing anything as they talk for 30 seconds. To appreciate those moments, it requires a viewer to understand that time portrayed is not literal. This is the case even with series not adapted from anime. It does not “really” take Voltes V two or three minutes to combine together, or for Erika to become Cure Marine.

So when what is a single, snappy panel in manga gets stretched out into an extended scene in an anime, it can dramatically effect how a person can feel about a particular title. I find this to especially be the case with comedy series. Take Azumanga Daioh, a four-panel series. In the manga, there will be a comedic moment that lasts for only one or two panels, such as Sakaki rolling on the floor while holding a wild Iriomote cat. In the anime, this becomes a full-on extended display of non-stop rolling with musical accompaniment. A small moment becomes a big one thanks to time. A more recent title would be Nichijou, where the staccato presentation of the manga’s gags are the equivalent of sharp, quick jabs. In anime form, however, the characters’ movements are exquisitely animated and exaggerated, and the result is a series that is in a way much more physical and almost “luscious” in a sense. While the Nichijou anime pretty much takes things directly from the manga, the two turn out to be pretty different experiences.

My belief is that the unusual handling of the (broadly speaking) space-to-time transition of manga to anime is a likely culprit of why someone might love a manga but hate its anime (or vice versa!) even if the adaptation process is largely faithful. It’s kind of like when an actor is cast in a movie based on a book; what was once a nebulous image reliant upon visual/mental interpretation becomes a little more solid and finite.

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Secret Santa: Patlabor: The Movie, Where Oshii Mamoru Says, “Trick or Treat!”

This review is a part of the Reverse Thieves’ Secret Santa Project for 2010.

Mobile Police Patlabor: The Movie is a film by Oshii Mamoru, director of Ghost in the Shell. Though it predates Oshii’s most famous film by a few years, there is no mistaking its pedigree.

In the world of Mobile Police Patlabor, mankind has embraced the use of giant robots to help with large-scale construction and manual work. Referred to as “Labors,” it wasn’t long until some people started using them for less altruistic purposes, creating a new problem in the form of Labor-related crimes. In response, the police begin deploying their own Patrol Labors, or “Patlabors” for short. One such force is the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Special Vehicle Section 2, Division 2, a group of misfit officers whose ranks include a tomboy who names all of her pets Alphonse (her Patlabor being the latest), an overly aggressive gun nut, and a seemingly dull and lazy division chief. Nevertheless, they do their best to serve and protect despite their spotty reputation.

Given this scenario, you’d probably expect some combination of cop show drama and ensemble comedy with a dash of mecha, and you’d be right, normally. But while most of the Patlabor franchise falls along those lines, Patlabor: The Movie is instead a cerebral mystery. A recent string of “berserk” Labors threatens the completion of an important project and the most likely suspect, programmer Hoba Eiichi, is already dead, confounding Shinohara Asuma, the Division 2 member who has taken it upon himself to investigate. All the while, the film explores the continuing onset of technology and the eternal struggle of new vs old, with numerous biblical references strewn throughout. Given the tone and content, Patlabor: The Movie is like a stepping stone towards Ghost in the Shell and the eventual direction Oshii’s oeuvre would take.

The film still has a lot of the requisite elements of Patlabor; it has those same goofy characters (all of whom act as they should), robot fight scenes, and a personal feel to the setting. In fact, you need not have watched any of the previous material to understand the movie or to get an idea of the personality quirks and relationships of the characters. However, those aspects of Patlabor are either more subdued or less frequent in the film, instead putting the spotlight on the mysterious culprit, “E. Hoba” (Jehovah), and his motives. In this respect, it reminds me of another movie, Sengoku Majin Goshogun: The Time Étranger, a sequel to a super robot anime featuring a decidedly different tone and absolutely no giant robots, only Patlabor: The Movie is somehow both more extreme and less in its deviation. Patlabor: The Movie really feels as if Oshii (who also directed the Patlabor OVAs) was trying to push the franchise beyond the limits of its basic premise and bend it to his own personal will. It actually works pretty well overall, maintaining suspense throughout and giving quite a bit to think about, but I’m not sure if Patlabor was the place to do it.

In short, imagine Oshii Mamoru trapped in a giant paper bag called Patlabor, trying to punch his way through until he ends up wearing the bag like a Halloween costume, and you have Mobile Police Patlabor: The Movie. He’s pretty dashing in that getup.

What Do You Mean Not All Anime Involve Philosophical Discussions?

When it comes to anime and manga academia, I commonly see two mistakes.

First is when an unusual work that is elevated by critics and scholars as being artistically significant is considered indicative of other works in anime and manga. Oshii Mamoru’s Ghost in the Shell movies are the most frequently misused in this respect, and while I do like Oshii’s work (including his recent film The Sky Crawlers), he’s pretty much considered an anomaly. And even though he’s much more celebrated and popular, I think Miyazaki is the same way; his works are almost a universe unto themselves when it comes to the Japanese animation industry. If you’re going to analyze the nature and life of the Japanese animation industry, do you look at the rare exception or do you look at the more common works, the middle-of-the-road stuff? I’m not saying you should enjoy crap, of course. However, I think that while the former can give you a good idea of what anime can do, the latter gives you a far clearer image of where anime is.

The second is sort of a mirror image of the first problem. Here, run-of-the-mill works with little to say creatively are considered shining examples of artistic brilliance. Shows that served little purpose outside of making some money and are quickly forgotten due to mediocrity are carted about and displayed as if they were seminal works in the history of anime. For example, Seitokai no Ichizon might be presented as a brilliant portrayal of the difficulties in gender relations in education among students in Japan, when it’s more just a show designed to appeal to otaku and has some entertainment value.

But wait, you might be thinking, “How dare you tell us what’s significant and what’s not! You’re not the boss of us!” But I’m not saying that at all. Ghost in the Shell can say a lot of things about the anime industry. The only thing is that because GitS is an exception, you should probably study it as an exception. And I do think Seitokai no Ichizon‘s story is worth analysis to some extent, but you have to be aware of its origins as a light novel, as well as the otaku subculture it’s trying to appeal to, before you really try to present its ideas as indicative of anything at all.

While I do believe in personal interpretations quite a bit, postmodernism can be a terribly dangerous weapon.