Thoughts on Steven Universe and Anime Influence

Though not always at the forefront of mainstream entertainment around the world, anime and manga have had a significant influence on a lot of artists’ and creators’ work. Some aim to create “anime” or “manga,” while others are show the impact of Japanese popular media in subtler ways, Prominent series such as Avatar: The Last Airbender and the more recent Steven Universe tend to be at the center of these discussions, and all of this leads to questions such as how one defines anime, or whether or not something “counts” as manga.

When thinking about whether or not Steven Universe or Megatokyo can be defined as anime or manga, what I find important isn’t the semantics of definition or how close to a certain truth we need to get, nor is it necessary to have to strictly categorize anime or manga. Instead, it reminds me of something that a classic anime dirctor, the late Ishiguro Noboru (Macross, Legend of the Galactic Heroes, Space Battleship Yamato) had to say about what influenced his own work in Japanese animation. At Otakon 2011, Ishiguro cited as some of his influences Czech puppet shows and animator Norm McLaren, both of which are visually extremely different from Japanese animation both old and new.

While Ishiguro did not state that he was creating Japanese Czech Puppet Theater (OJP Animation instead of OEL Manga?), what I think is more important is understanding that how art influences art does not always result in something visually familiar. How it’s processed from its presentation to the creator who sees it, who then incorporates it in their own work, is unpredictable, and it might end up looking new and different. So, while Avatar: The Last Airbender looks closer to what people think of when they hear the term “anime” and Steven Universe looks a lot closer to an “American cartoon,” both are examples of series that draw influence from Japanese animation, and on some level it should be expected that there would be a transformative process when anime crosses, time, space, cultures, and different artists.

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Fun New Experiments: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for November 2015

The past month has been quite fun for Ogiue Maniax. First off though, I’d like to thank the following Patreon supporters for believing in me and my writing:

General:

Ko Ransom

Alex

otarsus

Anonymous

Yoshitake Rika fans:

Elliot Page

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

If you haven’t checked out what I’ve written over the past month, I think I’ve put out some pretty good work this time around. As part of New York Comic Con I reviewed Boruto: Naruto the Movie, which is the bookend to the long and popular Naruto franchise. I also finally got around to talking more about my current favorite food manga, Mogusa-san, and I make a pretty convincing argument as to who’s the best moe character of 2015.

My Genshiken chapter review this month felt somewhat heavier than my previous ones, but I think it makes a good partner with my most recent post, which covers my own thoughts on the recent harassment issue in the Steven Universe fandom.

No sponsored posts this time around, but if you’re interested in having me tackle a specific topic of your choice, I take requests from sponsors who have pledged $30+ on my Patreon.I’m trying a few new things with Ogiue Maniax, as while I love the blog I do wonder if it’s grown stagnant and unwieldy in certain respects. First, while many of my articles are fairly long, I’ve started including some shorter posts as well. Back before 2010, when I would write one post per day, my output was more about getting ideas out there and making them short and sweet. Although I think longer posts have their merit in that they allow for more in-depth explorations of ideas and so I would never do away with them, I am wondering if shorter posts can reach people in a different way.

Second, I’m dipping my toe in YouTube. I do not believe I will ever fully get into the YouTube game, but I was thinking of it as a different medium to get my thoughts across. Today I’ve released the first in what could be a series of “1-Minute Reviews,” based on my past reviews on the blog. The idea, as implied, is that I give my take on an anime in 60 seconds or less.

Third, I started up a Facebook page for Ogiue Maniax. I’m currently not entirely sure what its use is, but I’m open to suggestions.Finally, I’ve created an Ogiue Maniax Skype Group for any Patreon supporter who contributes $2 or more. I’m curious to see if anyone would be interested in chatting with me or other readers directly. I’m still unsure if I would do video chat, but voice chat is something I’m open to. Just contact me through Patreon with your Skype name and I will add you to the group.
So tell me what you think!

 

The Dangers of Righteousness: Thoughts on the Recent Steven Universe Tumblr Incident

Recently, there was an incident where a Steven Universe fanartist named Zamii was bullied online through Tumblr, actively harassed over what the aggressors stated to be the artist’s racist, sexist, and problematic fanart. More than simple and well-meaning criticism, it reached the point that the artist attempted suicide, and even the Executive Producer of Steven Universe had to step in and essentially defend fanart as a form of freedom of expression. It gets more complicated than that, but here’s a helpful article that summarizes the whole controversy.

I wanted to say something about this issue, but the problem was that there’s actually so much wrong with this situation that I was having trouble deciding where to begin. So, I think I’m going to start from the basics, the core ideas that I think need to be understood and appreciated so that people willingly reflect on their actions. If these are communicated successfully, then maybe I’ll branch out further in a future post.

We currently live in a time where people are increasingly aware of how perceptions of themselves and the world are shaped in part by the media around them. If you’re a girl and you grow up in a world that tells you women are sluts, that’s going to affect you on some level, even if you ultimately defy it. If you’re a minority and you’re told that you can only work certain jobs, or you’re fat and being told that you can never be beautiful, then it’s going to stay with you, needling at the back of your mind. This is what makes Steven Universe such an interesting series: its diversity of representation, and the strength and growth of its characters are not only well-written but can even be said to question race, gender, and sexuality norms in an uplifting manner. This is what attracts many fans to Steven Universe, and why diversity is at times at the forefront of discussion about the series.

Were the harassers right about Zamii’s art being problematic? I do not believe so personally, but on some level it doesn’t matter how justified their position was.  They could have been 100% right for all I care. The problem is—and I want not just people involved in this situation but everyone to read this—even if you are right, it does not give you the license to be an asshole.

Of course I know things aren’t so cut and dry. There are strong emotions at work, and unlike those who believe that emotions are inherently counter to logic, I think that they actually can help to reveal some of the issues with ourselves and our societies in ways that complement the use of reason. In fact, I believe that emotion is of utmost importance to those bold words above because it’s a matter of empathy, and empathy is a quality that is worth extending to everyone, even those with whom you vehemently disagree.

Ideas can be thought of as living entities, ever-changing as they interact with other ideas. What seems like a sound notion that benefits the greater good in one decade may be revealed to be harmful or dangerous in another. What makes thinking and learning so crucial to societies is that there is the possibility of growth, and that we as human beings are not beholden to the doctrines of yesterday. This is what has allowed race and gender equality to take hold and make progress, even if only a little bit. When you honestly believe in your righteousness to the extent that you feel it necessary to fulfill its demands no matter the consequences, then you are falling into the very trap that all of this progress was meant to avoid. A bully clad in the conviction of helping others is still a bully at the end of the day.

This is not to say that people should never stand up for what they believe in, or that no actions should be taken when someone or something is wrong. However, when you take such an extreme position, that you are right and the “enemy” is wrong and must be brought to justice, mob or otherwise, you paint yourself into a corner. If you harass them directly, create websites dedicated to discussing how terrible they are, or even go as far as to obtain their personal information for the purpose of tormenting them, then you are pretty much saying that the ends justify the means. If that’s the case, then here’s a simple question: how would you feel if it happened to you?

It’s possible that you believe that it would never happen to you, because you’re morally upstanding in every way. Your philosophy on a variety of topics is in favor of acceptance, tolerance, and diversity. Will that always be the case, though? Are you sure that everything you think and feel will always be considered correct and not harmful or problematic? Whatever the case may be, if you harass and bully others, you’re pretty much saying that others would be equally justified in attacking you should the occasion arise. And even if you are indeed morally pristine, that doesn’t prevent it from still potentially happening to you. All people need to do is 1) believe that you’re somehow wrong or evil 2) stand by the idea that the ends justify the means and 3) not understand that you’re a human being too.

Before I end off, there’s another side to all of this that I think has to be mentioned, which is the allure of being on the “winning side.” I understand that, on a very basic human level, people want to feel that they’re right. They want to stand with the majority because it doesn’t only make life easier, it just feels good. As much as I’ve talked about all of this being a problem, it’s not like I’m totally innocent of this. When I was picked on as a kid, I would sometimes fall to the temptation of picking on kids even dorkier than I was. I was wrong, of course. I shouldn’t have ever done that, and to remember that I was willing to join the horrible little assholes who would make my own life hell just for that brief respite from being the target still kind of makes me sick. Please understand that your actions are not in a vacuum, and that when you join in on attacking someone because you either want the thrill of being part of the in-crowd or enjoy seeing others suffer, even if it’s “for the right reasons,” you’re condoning an attitude and approach to solving problems that only begets more hatred and more “us vs. them” mentalities that work not to bridge gaps but to widen them.

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