The Newest Nekomusume is the Obvious Character Evolution

The 2018 anime Gegege no Kitaro, the latest in a long line of adaptations of the classic occult manga by the same name, features a certain character who stands out from the rest. Tall, leggy, and full of attitude, Nekomusume (“Catchick” in the Crunchyroll translation) is the biggest departure from Mizuki Shigeru’s original designs out of everyone in this new series. While this might have once been considered uncharacteristic of Gegege no Kitaro, it’s an unsurprising development based on what started 11 years ago.

In 2007, the image of Gegege no Kitaro was changed forever—by moe. Nekomusume, once as strange and bizarre as every other creature in the series, was suddenly…cute. And not just prettied up a little, either. Nekomusume went from being ostensibly a catgirl (the literal meaning of her name) to being practically exemplar for the character archetype.

The fanartists noticed. Oh, did they ever. Seemingly overnight, she was one of the most popular subjects around. Some artists, previously known for their sheer variety of subject matter, suddenly had a noticeable Nekomusume bias. And as was inevitable, a good amount of it was varying degrees of lewd. This was the general direction of Nekomusume in the online fandom, right through to 2018.

While going back to the designs of iterations past would’ve been a respectable decision, the current Nekomusume takes the opposite route, pushing the sex appeal up by five notches. Whereas the 2007 version could be considered cuteness made hot by the fans, this current character is built to be hot from the ground up, and in a more contemporary way as well. She’s a combination of snobbery, ferocity, and tsundere attitude—just one of many elements in an anime that asks, “How does the Showa-era franchise stay relevant in modern times?”

Nekomusume, despite towering over Kitaro and being clearly designed to appeal to a contemporary audience, actually doesn’t feel too blatantly pandering or forced. It’s an overall strength of the series, actually, that an updated series doesn’t come across like an old man in a cane asking, “What’s the haps, fellow kids?” The show also lets her face turn grossly demonic when she fights, so she’s not perfectly beautiful all the time. And if people are gonna look at Nekomusume though perv glasses, at least this one is designed with more adult proportions.

That does make me wonder if any of the diehard fans of the 2007 Nekomusume rejected this version. Which will ultimately be the most enduring design? I look forward to seeing the results in another 11 years.

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Hopefully Celebrating Independence: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for July 2018

The United States is another year older, and it’s starting to feel its age. I normally don’t try to talk politics too much in these monthly updates, but the times compel me to.

Before I jump into the nitty-gritty messiness, however, I want to thank my sponsors on Patreon and Ko-fi. You help make writing and blogging even more worthwhile than it already is.

Thank you to…

General:

Johnny Trovato

Ko Ransom

Alex

Diogo Prado

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

When it comes to the state of the US in 2018, I feel a great deal of anxiety. Politics are tricky, but I constantly feel as if those in charge, especially on the right, are playing with napalm and are willfully ignoring the danger they pose to the people and the very foundations of American democracy. I’ve been watching Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These, and every instance of the democratic Free Planets Alliance trying to use jingoistic loyalty or play with human lives to gain favor for an election season his way too close to home at the moment.

If I had to describe my political beliefs, I’d say I’m broadly left/liberal. It’s not as if I walk lock-step with everything the left says, but if I have to choose between a side that can get a little over-enthusiastic about their desire to create a world free of racism, sexism, and discrimination of all kinds, and one that holds onto power by any oppressive means necessary, then I’m willing to take some disagreements from the former. Seeing the endless mental hoops that defenders of our current political climate try to jump through, all in order to keep power in the hands of those who willingly exploit the marginalized, saddens me.

I know that some others on the left don’t share my interpretation of Darling in the Franxx. And in the past, I’ve actually argued that Anita Sarkeesian was unfair in her early analyses of women in video games. But it’s better for a Sarkeesian or anyone else to try and call out issues of representation where she sees them than to pretend they don’t exist at all—or worse yet, drum up controversy for the thinly veiled sake of minimizing input from other groups.

On a lighter note, here are my favorite posts from June.

How Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s Gameplay Decisions Support Both Casual and Competitive Players

The new Smash Bros. was revealed, and I am beyond excited. One thing I did notice is that a lot of the new changes try to embrace both casual and competitive players, and I’m optimistic about it.

“Mogusa-san Fights Against Appetite” Concludes on a Body-Positive Note

The sequel to Mogusa-san, the story of a charmingly gluttonous girl, comes to an end.

Thoughts on Shinkalion, the Robot Anime Designed to Promote Bullet Trains

Subliminal, liminal, and superliminal approaches to selling the Shinkansen.

Return to Genshiken

It’s the final post on my series 1 re-read! See my closing thoughts on my favorite manga ever.

Hashikko Ensemble

Chapter 5 of Kio’s new manga is the best one yet.

Patreon-Sponsored

The Relevance of Older Anime to Newer Anime Fans

It’ll always benefit a newer fan to look back, at least a little.

Closing

Here’s to hoping for a better world.

The Relevance of Older anime to Newer Anime Fans

This month, I was asked to write about “the relevance of older anime to newer anime fans.” The short answer is that older anime is always relevant, even if newer fans don’t think it is. I’ll leave the criteria for “older” up for interpretation, but no matter whether it’s one year or 30 years, looking back on the anime that came before is a way to gain perspective on this form of art and entertainment that enthralls us so.

When a fan only watches what is newer, there’s a risk of developing a very skewed sense of what anime was, is, and can be. It’s easy to assume certain ideas are entirely new and have never been explored before, when in fact there’s a whole back catalog of shows that take on those topics. For example, the surface reputation of Gundam as vaguely “giant robots do fighty army things” can often color people’s views of what the franchise is actually like, and actually taking the time to look into those older series can broaden one’s perception.

In other cases, it’s easy to think that it’s “always been this way,” when certain stylistic or narrative tendencies are in fact the product of continued development reflecting the changing times. I recall being a young anime fan in the 90s, when most of what we got were short OVAs meant to be proof-of-concept adaptations for manga that doubled as advertisements. Often, they didn’t make any sort of effort to acclimate new viewers, so many fans were under the assumption that most anime were visually beautiful but unfollowable nonsense story-wise. We often failed to understand that it was simply what we received.

The above examples aren’t necessarily about looking backwards, but the point isn’t to position “older anime” as “better.” Not only is that highly subjective, but there are strengths and faults to anime made in any era, as well as cultural assumptions that might be controversial in hindsight. Rather, the important thing is to look beyond one’s current purview.

I understand that it’s easier said than done to get into older anime and not have it feel like a “chore.” It shouldn’t be “watch this show from 20 years ago because it’ll make you appreciate newer things—to hell with your own enjoyment!” Moreover, there are so many forces at work that directly and indirectly discourage newer anime fans from looking backwards. The newer shows take up all of the mental space through advertisements and social media discussion and who knows what else. If watching anime is a social experience for someone, it can become difficult to convince friends to abandon the opportunity to keep up with current trends. And while good aesthetics are in the eye of the beholder, older shows can at first look dated and thus lack relevance to a young, modern person. But for those who can overcome those hurdles, the reward is a more expansive library to potentially love and learn from.

This is actually why I’ve begun to think that remakes aren’t such a bad thing. Notably, Devilman Crybaby has re-introduced a classic manga to the wider world, and people have embraced it. The visuals might not be standard anime by any definition, but they’re fresher and more contemporary than what came beforehand, and they help fans to understand that the stories told in the past can still be relevant and powerful even if they look like they’re from a bygone era. If done well, it can encourage fans to break out of their shells and see.

See more, see wider, see further.

This post was sponsored by Ogiue Maniax patron Johnny Trovato. If you’d like to request topics for the blog, or support Ogiue Maniax in general, check out the Patreon.

Back from the Future: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for June 2018

I’m back after an exciting honeymoon in Tokyo. It was a grand ol’ time full of food and nerdery, and also spending way too much money on otaku goods. For example, I actually bought all of Heartcatch Precure! on DVD—albeit at a huge discount. (I promise I didn’t just do Precure-related things, honest.)

I’m happy to answer (most) questions about staying in Japan to the best of my ability, so send ’em in!

But before that, I’d like to thank my sponsors on Patreon and Ko-fi.

A big thank you too…

General:

Johnny Trovato

Ko Ransom

Alex

Diogo Prado

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

I still had some posts go up even while I was away, so here are my favorite posts from May:

Darling in the Franxx and Choice in a Sexual Dystopia

Some people think the show is greatness itself, while others think it’s hyper trash. Here are some of my thoughts.

Project Z Revived! “Hakai-oh – Gaogaigar vs. Betterman Part 1” Novel Review

My review of the latest Gaogaigar light novel, which is actually the long-awaited sequel to Gaogaigar Final!

“Flukes”: Competitive Rigor vs. Sustainability in Esports

How important is grabbing an audience vs. absolute competitive integrity in esports?

Hashikko Ensemble

Chapter 4 continues the kooky sense of almost-camaraderie.

Patreon-Sponsored

Gamblers’ Paradise: “Uma Musume: Pretty Derby”

My feelings on the new horse girl-themed anime and the expected franchise surrounding it.

Closing

As you might expect, I plan to have a ton of blog posts concerning my trip to Japan. It won’t be a full on travelogue, but I plan to have reviews of doujin events, reviews of series I picked up, and more. Who knows? Maybe it’ll even bleed into July!

Gamblers’ Paradise: “Uma Musume: Pretty Derby”

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic may be the most prominent cartoon about horse girls, but Uma Musume: Pretty Derby is bringing a different angle. Instead of wide-eyed ponies, it’s human-horse hybrids in the vein of anime catgirls. Instead of a children’s show reminiscent of magical girl shows, it’s a strange hybrid sports/idol anime focused on racing and dancing. As a result, Uma Musume: Pretty Derby veers closer to Girls und Panzer than Twilight Sparkle and friends.

Having watched the first two episodes, Uma Musume: Pretty Derby succeeds in being a sports show. It’s got an underdog main heroine with untapped potential, plenty of characters (perhaps too many) with a variety of personalities and competitive styles, and a sense of forward progress while keeping intrigue strong. For example, just what is up with protagonist Special Week’s adopted mother? She gives me a “mom from Aikatsu!” vibe; maybe that’s not a coincidence given the idol aspect of Uma Musume.

Taken on its own, the anime seems like a reliably strong show. However, much like Girls und Panzer, the point of potential concern is what happens when one looks beyond the cartoon itself and into what it’s supposed to advertise and accomplish. For Girls und Panzer, it’s possible glorification of the military. For Uma Musume, it’s gambling.

Uma Musume is a moefied version of horseracing, a popular betting sport. But it’s also part of a multimedia franchise from mobile games juggernaut Cygames, makers of Granblue Fantasy. When it comes to lootbox/gacha systems that drive players to empty their pockets, Granblue Fantasy is one of the grandmasters, and the chase for those slim 1% chances for ultra-rares is especially enticing for those vulnerable to gambling addiction. And yes, there’s an Uma Musume: Pretty Derby mobile game on the way.

So essentially, there’s a dangerous final form of Uma Musume that could become a reality someday. This monstrous version would involve going to the racetrack to watch and bet on the ponies while also playing Uma Musume and trying to get the right gacha gifts for your favorite horse girls. To use an ancient internet joke, they put a slot machine into your betting, so you can gamble while you gamble. It’s not gotten to this stage as of yet, but I have my eye out to see where Uma Musume will go.

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.

19:00 News: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for May 2018

I’ll be heading to Tokyo this month to enjoy myself, nerd it out, and eat everything in sight. My last trip was in 2016, so let’s see how things have changed!

Thanks once again to my sponsors on Patreon and Ko-fi. Thanks to the following!

General:

Johnny Trovato

Ko Ransom

Alex

Diogo Prado

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

Because I’ll be spending a couple weeks in Japan, my post schedule is going to be slightly sparser than usual. Ideally, I’ll be coming back with plenty of material to write about, so hopefully it’ll all even out.

Here are my favorite posts from April:

Approaching “Isle of Dogs” as an Asian-American Anime Fan

My thoughts surrounding the controversy over Wes Anderson’s film.

Love Live! and the Four Tendencies

A fun thought exercise as to how the “four tendencies” concept by Gretchen Rubin map onto the girls of μ’s.

Sakuga is to Anime as Workrate is to Pro Wrestling

A comparison between two hardcore topics fun two hardcore fanbases.

Return to Genshiken

Volume 8, the climax! Only one volume left…

Hashikko Ensemble

Chapter 3 isn’t super big on the music, but it’s fun.

Patreon-Sponsored

More Like “We-Katsu!”: Aikatsu Friends!

Initial thoughts on the newest Aikatsu! anime.

Closing

I’ll be visiting Tsukiji, the famous fish market in Tokyo, which happens to be shutting down this year in October for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. I’m genuinely glad I get to see it once before it’s moved to a new location.

I plan to eat all the sea urchIn…

More Like “We-katsu!”: Aikatsu Friends!

Aikatsu Friends! is the second reboot in the popular Aikatsu! franchise, and based on early impressions, it’s trying to change the formula in a number of ways. While the basic premise is largely the same as in previous iterations—girl goes to a special idol school and aims to become a great idol through the power of friendship, effort, and merchandisable cards—I feel a strong desire from Aikatsu Friends! to differentiate itself from its predecessors.

Aikatsu Friends stars Yuuki Aine—though, perhaps more accurately, it could be said to star “Yuuki Aine’s friendship.” That’s because, as one might expect, the new series is all about bonds on a much greater level than Aikatsu! and Aikatsu Stars! Where those anime would display friendship, ultimately the idols have very strong auras of individuality even as they form idol units. With Aikatsu Friends!, the very premise of being an idol is tied to duos because the default groups are performer pairings called “Friends.” Moreover, even the Aikatsu! tradition of the main heroine standing in front of a show title card and introducing the series has changed slightly, as seen above. Now, both Aine and her idol partner Minato Mio are shown speaking together.

Aine herself reflects the “us” mentality of Aikatsu Friends! in interesting ways. What stands out to me most about her is that her goal isn’t directly idol-related. Every previous protagonist has had “being an idol” as their driving force, whether it’s just wanting to try it out or looking up to another and aspiring to be like them. Aine’s dream, however, is to make a million friends, and becoming an idol is presented as a means to that end. Provided we view fans in a non-cynical light, being an idol can be a rather efficient way to reach that high a number. And while there’s always a chance that Aine’s goal will shift as she learns to love being an idol more and more, the fact that she’s presented this way initially again puts emphasis on idols in pairs over idols as individuals.

Is it friendship, teamwork, or that much more? Ultimately, Aikatsu! is a children’s franchise, but I suspect this series is going to be very popular with yuri fans even compared to older Aikatsu! anime. It’s potentially a little too on the nose, but the explicit focus on pairings—especially girl-girl pairings—seems like it’d be catnip to that fanbase. When Kamishiro Karen and Mirai Asuka, the top “Friends” group known as “Love Me Tear,” are shown being 100% in sync with each other in terms of movement and even seemingly finishing each other’s sentences, I have to give a second look.

One last thing I noticed is that Aikatsu Friends! has done a really good job of showing the difference between a fledgling pair like Aine and Mio and Love Me Tear. From their idol fashion to just the behavior described in the previous paragraph, there’s just a stark contrast between beginners and veterans. It presents a clear point for Aine and Mio to aim for, and it has me interested in where they and their friendship will go.

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.