Charge Ahead!: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for July 2016

Don’t forget, the Ogiue Maniax Love Live! Contest ends this Saturday!

With that out of the way, let’s get back to our regularly scheduled monthly blog update.

As always, much thanks to my Patreon sponsors:

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

A special thanks to Diogo in particular for giving me an amazing present: Volume 1 of the Brazilian edition of Genshiken!

genshiken-brazilian

A new season of anime is on the horizon, and I’m looking forward to checking out as much as I can. I’m most looking forward to Love Live! Sunshine!!, which started airing just this past weekend. Unfortunately, I tend to watch many more shows than I have time to write about, so often some of my favorite series don’t end up getting blog posts dedicated to them. I’m considering doing something about that, but it’s always a small struggle between writing about the anime and manga that no one’s looking at to get them more exposure and talking about the things I like that people already have some familiarity with so that there’s an easier connection to be made.

I think that, due to a lack of time, my posts have started getting a bit shorter again. I believe that there are strengths and weaknesses to larger and shorter entries, but it also means that Ogiue Maniax might feel more like the scratchpad for my thoughts that it originally was in the first place. What do you readers think of this, and is there any kind of preferred ratio for you?

June’s post of the month has to be the review of Genshiken Chapter 125. I know, I know, Genshiken is a highlight every month, but I think this is a real case of the manga zagging when you thought it would zig, and it more than anything else reminds me of how wonderful a series Genshiken is.

I also have more reports from my trip to Japan, including my visit to two different Love Live! events, and a look at Comic Store Wonderland in Osaka, which is home to a ton of amazing autographs from famous manga artists. The Hanayo bag I bought at the doujin event is quite possibly my favorite piece of merchandise from Japan. Taketayo~

Another highlight is my review of the new Cardcaptor Sakura manga. CLAMP is back! I mean, they’ve never left, but I just lost interest after years and years of Tsubasa and XXXHolic. This new CCS really feels like a return to form, and I’ve already got plans to get each issue of Nakayoshi as it comes out in Japan.

Lastly, I wrote a post about Mystic Archives of Dantalian, as requested by Patreon sponsor Johnny Trovato, where I explore the show’s intersection with the idea of chuunibyou.

As always, if you’re interested in having me write about something, you can make a pledge through Patreon.  And if you’ve ever wondered why that tier is so high, it’s actually because I really want Ogiue Maniax to still be a space where I share and explore my thoughts, and so having the blog just be about fulfilling requests isn’t what I really want. However, because I’m also always eager to broaden my horizons, I invite the opportunity to make me watch or read or talk about something I might not have thought of otherwise.

I hope you all have a great July. I’ll be spending the month getting panels ready for Otakon in August. If any of you are going, I look forward to possibly seeing you.

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Mystic Archives of Dantalian and that Chuunibyou Feel

dantalian

The existence of the term chuunibyou is fascinating to me. Most famously used in the series Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shitai, it basically means someone who has the aesthetic sensibilities of a middle school student. What this translates to is a desire to feel special, to believe that there is more to one’s life than its simple and mundane surface, and this is most frequently portrayed in Japanese media as characters who claim (or like to pretend) that they have magic powers, cursed body parts, and have access to the “Akashic Records.” What is maybe less talked about, at least on the English-speaking side of the things, are the works that spawn this kind of sensibility in the first place. What an American anime fan might label as “anime as hell” can often also be called “chuunibyou,” and it’s from this perspective that I’d like to talk about Mystic Archives of Dantalaon.

Originally a light novel series, Mystic Archives of Dantalian takes place post-World War I. Hugh Anthony Disward receives a key and instructions from his dead grandfather to become the new Keykeeper of the “Bibliotheca Mystica De Dantalian.” There, he meets a young girl in gothic lolita clothing named Dalian, and discovers that the Mystic Archives are a collection of “Phantom Books,” each of which possess fantastic, supernatural abilities. As Keykeeper, Hugh (along with Dalian) must pursue cases of Phantom Books run amok, using the power of the Archives.

Just from the basic premise alone, there’s just a lot of “this world is not as it seems” sensibility, but it doesn’t stop there. The anime’s visual presentation, akin to Gosick or Croisée in the Foreign Labyrinth, emphasizes a dark and moody atmosphere. The fact that Hugh accesses his powers by plunging his hand through a large, transforming keyhole in Dalian’s chest, as well as the fact that use of those powers comes from reading mystical books with flowery prose aloud, pushes the series into clear “chuunibyou” territory.

However, one thing that stands out to me about the series is actually how Hugh is presented as a character. Although Hugh has these supernatural abilities, he himself seems like a normal fellow. This isn’t to say that he’s bland or generic, but rather that he presents himself as calm and fairly level-headed without going into “perfect stoic badass” territory or “generic everyman.” The result is that Hugh, while having access to chuunibyou qualities, doesn’t encourage chuunibyou behavior through his demeanor. Even when reading from the Bibliotheca Mystica de Dantalian, he comes across as a regular guy. If one were to pattern themselves after him, it would come not with an overwrought sense of self, but more like “just a dude who happens to have powers.”

That’s not quite true for Dalian. Not only is it hinted strongly that she’s older than she looks, but she combines many of the qualities that can inspire others (specifically chuunibyou) the desire to be her. Her words typically imply that she’s much older than she looks. She is the gateway to these magical archives that house the most forbidden knowledge of the universe. Even her gothic lolita aesthetic works in this direction. Dalian exudes mysteriousness, and I think you can easily find the kinds of characters that are indirectly parodies of her type: Kuroneko in My Little Sister Can’t Be This Cute, Kobato in Haganai, and so on.

As an aside, I wonder why so many Gothic Lolita characters end up being similar in Japanese media. In terms of actual real-life wearers of Gothic Lolita fashion, I’ve come to learn that a lot of it has to do with wanting to defy or push back against the expectations placed upon people in terms of appearance, sexuality, age, and other related areas. In anime and manga, the Gothic Lolita often combines a recurring mix of qualities that contrast innocence and maturity. Dalian speaks with an air of authority, but perks up like a kid at a candy shop when the prospect of eating delicious sweets shows up. Victorique from Gosick behaves the same way, as does Shinku from Rozen Maiden. The idea of the Gothic Lolita character carries with it not just a visual personality but also behavioral elements as well, and I wonder to what extent the two sides inform each other to perpetuate this character type further.

My discussion of Mystic Archives of Dantalian isn’t a criticism against the series for being chuunibyou, or that only those who are interested in works like that could possibly enjoy it. The anime has a lot going for it, from its atmosphere to its mysteries, and it overall makes for an involving and entertaining work. What the chuunibyou elements grant Mystic Archives of Dantalian is a kind of self-seriousness that can be overwhelming at times, but can also be welcome when one wants to enjoy a story that revels in the idea of the unknown.

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.