In My View: What’s the Moe?

In all of fandom there are arguments that seem to stretch across the span of time. Subs vs. Dubs. Eva vs. RahXephon. Fansubs. And now it’s moe.

To be honest, I don’t get it. I mean I don’t get any of it. On a basic level, I understand what moe is, I understand that there’s supposed to be these cute, lovable girls that I, the viewer, just want to protect. They’re anime’s equivalent of the teddy bear or the picture of the puppy dog.

Now I’ve watched the first four episodes of Air and all I have to say is, um… what’s the problem? All of the people who froth in the mouth about how bad moe is seem to go on about how these characters are spineless drones that pander to an audience that wants an ideal little sister, who’ll do all those things that stereotypically have been the woman’s province.

I have already said my piece about stereotypes in fiction, but I’ll say it again. The actual stereotype doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if Harriet spent all day smiling over a sink full of dishes. It doesn’t matter that a character enjoys filling a role that has been classically designated by one’s gender. Anymore than it matters that Rambo likes going out and kicking ass and taking names.

What matters is what the show/movie/book says about the stereotype. The reason why Harriet or June Cleaver might be offensive is that they are lauded as the ideal. They don’t have bad days. They don’t have hopes and dreams or fights. The plot and world says that they’re happy filling that role and that everyone who fufils that role is happy. Just because a character is moe, doesn’t mean they’re the ideal.

And considering how borderline unhappy these people seem to be I don’t think it’s sending a positive or negative message either way.

But again, that’s just me.

I mean it’s not like all of the female characters live off of their husbands, smiling that they get the extreme joy of being dependent on their man. It’s not like they need the guy to solve all their problems. In fact the main character in Air is at best a vagrant, at worst he’s a loser.

The female lead might be cute and yes, a bit ditzy, but it isn’t like she can’t make up her own mind without going to the male lead. So how is this a horrible stereotype that classifies women.

And to top it all off, and I hate to say it, but aren’t these all harem shows to begin with. Even though someone’s sure to launch themselves at me for this one, but when were harem shows great to begin with? I don’t see people holding up Ai Yori Aoshi or Love Hina as the height of anime. So instead of random girl going crazy once an episode, now we have random girl being cute once an episode? What’s the big deal?

And will I ever know?

In My View: Hemingway and Joyce, some thoughts on pretentiousness

So iknight’s got me thinking about language lately. Thanks. Just thanks, because all I needed was my mind churning around in semantic circles like some car where the wheels on the right side have gone out.

Okay, so it’s not his fault. But I’ve been thinking about the word pretentious. Doesn’t that word just sound like what it is? Pre-tent-ious. And while I don’t think the anime reviewing circles have totally mashed that word into a bloody pulp, I do think it’s really really overused.

The problem I have with it, is that it’s a gut reaction word. On top of that, it’s a word that holds all of it’s meaning in the connotation and a little bit in the denotation.

The denotation of the word is:

characterized by pretension: as a: making usually unjustified or excessive claims (as of value or standing) b: expressive of affected, unwarranted, or exaggerated importance, worth, or stature

At least according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. (Yeah, it isn’t the OED, but it’s good enough for me.)

So really, it isn’t about the show at all. The word is reflective of claims that are made about the importance of the show. What I think it’s come to mean is a story that seems to think too highly of itself without actually delivering. The problem is that I don’t think it’s really reflective of what people are actually reacting to.

How Joyce and Hemingway relate to anime

Okay, so a long time ago I was forced to read “Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man” (now that’s a pretentious title if I’ve ever seen one). During the lead up to reading it, I learned Joyce mainly wrote for a small group of his friends. Now all of them really liked what he had to say. In all honesty, I think that’s what people are reacting to when they say a show is pretentious.

Essentially, there is this show (take your pick, but I’ll take Lain), that is directed at a particular audience (people who like theme heavy science fiction with a broken narrative). Now the target audience is going to love it. While the rest of everyone else is going to sit around scratching their heads going, “Huh?”

In Literature, the supporters would call it art. They’d sit around discussing the various implications and talk like this is truly the most important piece of writing that has come along for the last decade or longer. The same thing happens in anime to a certain extent, but mostly because anime in general doesn’t attract the same culture.

The type of culture that is attracted is a Hemingway culture. Now I use Hemingway in specific because he stated that he wrote for a mass audience. He wanted people to understand what he was writing. He didn’t doll it up. He didn’t obfuscate what he was trying to say by fooling around with form or language. He just said it. Now that doesn’t mean he couldn’t be subtle. But he focused on the story first and the rest of the stuff second.

In general, that’s the type of culture that anime attracts. We usually want more Hemingway and less Joyce type of stuff, because it’s geared at a mass audience. (That’s why something like Lain will never have the commercial success of something like Cowboy Beebop.)

So which one is better?

Okay, so I’ve kind of hinted at my feelings on the subject. But I think there’s two general trains of thought that go through anime. There are the storytellers and the artistes. Now the storytellers focus on story first and theme second. In fact, I think the perfect example of that is Paranoia Agent, which while it had a pretty big theme that was overtly important to the plot, it didn’t forget that the characters needed to go through arcs, that there needed to be a build in tension, that people were watching this show for the show and not for whatever the creators are trying to say.

Whereas artistes are dedicated to art-form. They don’t care about the audience that “doesn’t get it”. They only care about the people who will admire their brilliance. And on general audiences, that doesn’t work. For the most part, their message gets lost somewhere in the broken narratives, the symbolic discourses and the bizarre twists. The artistes are doomed to be misunderstood and derided. And they should be, because they don’t give enough of a damn about their audiences to really make a story.

Related Link

Just to prove how unoriginal I am, Michael over at AnimeOtaku wrote about a similiar thing a while back concerning ErgoProxy

The Hidoshi Q&A: That’s Not Kanon

(Okay, Blogger is doing weird things. If any of the words are run together it’s the machine’s fault and is not reflective of the intelligence of the interviewer or the interviewee. Well it could be reflective of the intelligence of the interviewer, but I’m not going to admit that.)

Name: Mark P Tjan

Age: 24

Location: Toronto area, Canada

Occupation: Professional illustratorworking in the technical field. Graduating in April.

Q: What was the first anime you watched? When did you start watching anime? And how were you introduced to it?

A: I probably can’t remember at this point. I come from a mixed background that includes Japanese, so I’ve been exposed to things I didn’t know were “anime” throughout my childhood. I suppose the first time I realised something was anime was at my local Blockbuster back when I was 13, and they had subtitled copies of the original Guyver OVA, Genesis Survivor Gaiarth, and Doomed Megalopolis, amongst others. Gaiarth was really the one that hooked me, and I’ve looked back fondly on it ever since.

Q: I’ve noticed quite a range of shows discussed on your blog, anything from Lucky Star to Gundam 0083. Is there a particular genreyou gravitate to? What type of shows do you enjoy? Is there any show you’d be embarrassed to admit that you like?

A: I’m not much of a genre guy, to be honest. In this day and age I seeeverything becoming more and more meta and cross-pollinated. Even backin the day though, I think genres have always made us less aware of what something is. Take for instance Gundam 0083. Sure the predominant feature is mecha, but it’s also a political story, a drama (both romantic and wartime), and has its funny moments. If we look at Zeta Gundam, it’s actually easier to classify that as a drama-tragedy than a big mecha show. So for me, genre is irrelevant. I tend to see it asa marketing ploy that we’ve all become too comfortable with and need to wake up and escape.

Shows I’m embarrassed at liking? Not many. I’m very straightforwardabout things. Some people have a guilty pleasure like Dragonball Z,but I’m usually quite pig-headed and forward about my opinion of such things (it sucks!). I guess if I had to pick one, it’s probably Love Hina. As long as you take away the Spring Break special and the”Again” episodes, Lova Hina was a product I really enjoyed, but don’t always feel justified in doing so. It is really heavy on the gags and it’s not particularly well-written, but it’s fun damnit. It’s one series I can just throw my cares out the window about and watch for the hijinks.

Q: And do people really pretend that FF VII wasn’t their first RPG? (I just read a rather old post).

A: Ahahaha, see, now you’ve asked me a loaded question! If I say it wasn’t, I’ll probably be called a liar. I think a lot of people do though. It’s embarrassing for some folks to be part of the mainstream. I personally have no problem with mainstream products, I think it’s really childish to be such a hater. I mean, I talk about maturity and such all the time, and I think a part of being taken seriously is accepting that you do like mainstream things and just going with it.If some hater comes up to you, just go “so? Whatever” and leave him or her alone. FFVII wasn’t my first RPG, I was into them long beforethat. I think my first was probably Secret of Evermore or one of the early Japan-only Fire Emblems (my uncle gave me a copy he’d sawed the extra pieces out of so I could play it on a regular SNES).

Q: I notice that you talk about fandom quite a bit. How long have you been part of fandom? I’ve also noticed that you talked about the convention circuit. How many conventions do you go to and what do you cosplay as? What do you like about fandom what do you dislike about fandom?

A: “Fandom” is hard to define. Online I’ve been part of the fandom since probably 1997-1998, possibly a year or so earlier depending on when it was that I got the internet for the first time. Back in the days of 56kbps! Wow, I feel slightly old now. I went to a pretty sports-oriented high school so not many people gave a crap about anime or anything. Except for two kids who I used to hang around with, both Asian and really into Gundam. It was always fairly validating to think that someone else out there knew what I was talking about. I’d seen0080/0083 by then. My local friends were more into video games (I was the guy with the PSX and Saturn back then), so that also wound up leading to anime fandom. Golden Boy was a big OVA for us. Big.

For conventions, I started back in 2001 with Anime North. I’d been to a comic book convention once before, but it was pretty dull so I didn’t really think much of it. A friend on a chatroom I used to frequent told me about AN and said she was going, so I figured I’d drop by and meet her. In the end she and I lost track of each other, but I kept going! I also went to CN Anime (a portion of FanExpo) that year as well. 2002 was the year everything exploded for me though. I met someone who introduced me to her cosplay group and told me about performing in the masquerade. It sounded like fun so I joined in, and the group’s been together ever since. We recently dissolved the old name and united with another sister group of ours to form the Ontario Anime Society.

I tend to hit up quite a few conventions. Not as may as some, butenough to satisfy me. Anime North and FanExpo here in Toronto, AnimeBoston down in Massachusetts, Otakon in Baltimore, Otakuthon in Montreal (come see me! I’m a guest this year!), and I’ve been to a few others. I don’t like overdoing it because then I feel worn out. Plus I’m broke after all that! I tend to cosplay as whomever I see fit. I’m not really that versatile as a cosplayer, so I stick to “safe”costumes. Recently my role has been organising things for the OAS,which means I have less time. I’ve done things like Miroku from Inu-Yasha, Jiraiya from Naruto, and Shigure from Fruits Basket. This year I might be doing someone from Macross F, probably Ozma since I have a chinstrap beard now.

Wow this is a big question… Uh. What do I not like about fandom? That’s a very broad spectrum. I don’t like “cultural idiocy” as I put it on my own blog. I think a lot of people get overexcited about mundane things and treat them as special (ie: the Japanese language orany non-English words period). I mean, I understand it. Been there, done that. But as a community I think the fandom needs to move forward. I’m also very against the sexualising of everything. Yaoi, yuri, general hentai… I think there’s too much now. Way too much. I know I’ll probably get a few angry e-mails about that, but my point is that I don’t really like the oversexualising we do. I think it’s unnecessary and immature. But hey, that’s me. At the very least, I’d prefer people kept it to themselves. Heaven knows I don’t need anymore fangirls waving yaoi doujins in my face.

Other than that, I also don’t like the unethical downloading offansubs. I don’t think fans realise they’re hurting their own industry, and that needs to be made clear. I’m a DVD buyer, but I realise companies need to respond to that situation too and make things available online for cheap. There are ways to solve all this,but it has to start with us. Write letters to companies asking for digital distribution options. Tell your friends to stop downloading or watching on YouTube when a series has been licensed, etc. It starts with us.

Q: If you had to pick a top five favorite anime, what would they be?

A: That’s easy. Macross Plus, Twelve Kingdoms, Genshiken, Genesis Survivor Gaiarth, and Princess Mononoke.

Q: Is there anything about you that you think would surprise your readers?

A: I’m not white? Hahah, no, but all joking aside… I don’t really think so. I’m pretty clear in who I am in my writing, so I don’t feel the need to hide much. I suppose if anything, that I have a very strong spiritual side and that I’m a Theosophist (think Buddhist-Hindu-etc sort of thing, but not in a hokey way). To me, my spiritual life is the most important aspect of my existence. It’s where I find a lot of my ethical grounding and where I begin to base my opinions.

Q: So I’m curious is “That’s not Kanon” a statement like “Hey, you aren’t talking about Kanon.” or is it an accusation like “That’s not Kanon!” or is it a play on the word Canon?

A: A play on the phrase “that’s not canon”, really. I thought it was kindof cute. I never meant to keep it or continue writing the blog (most such experiments have ended in failure), but somehow I just kept going. Glad I did!

Q: I noticed that your blog started as a cooperative effort and then it became just you posting. I’m a little curious what happened there?And more generally how did you get into blogging?

A: Actually, it still is a cooperative effort. Shooichi is my co-authorand he posts every so often. He’s less motivated I suppose? But he always comes out with something quality when he does put in a word. If anything, he’s much, much funnier than I am. I’ve always appreciated that.
I got into blogging largely as an experiment. I had started reading blogs on BlogSuki (we miss you), and then followed it up with AnimeNano (we love you!). I figured I wanted to try my hand at it, so I did. A couple of months in, Owen from Cruel Angel Theses linked me and it’s been an uphill jog ever since.

Q: If you had to classify your blog as a “type” what type would that be? What types of blogs do you enjoy reading? What types of blogs doyou not enjoy?

A: Probably subcultural anthropology or some convoluted name like that. I’m across the spectrum really, because I prefer social commentary over reviews but still do the latter anyway. I enjoy reading blogs that give me an opinion on something. The End of the World blog is really good for that, as is Cruel Angel Theses and Mistakes of Youth (though wildarmsheero sometimes scares me with all the body pillows). I feel blogs that just do giant image posts or recap episodes are a waste of time. I mean, why bother? No one wants the spoilers if they haven’t seen it anyway, and if they have, what’s the point of a recap? And while images are all good and fine, we’ve got Danbooru and 4chanfor that. Open a gallery instead!

Q: On a side note, it almost seems like there’s two types of posts I’ve seen – the angry rant and the longer argumentative one – whichone do you prefer writing more?

A: I tend to write both at once. I suppose the angry rant is easier and it provides more immediate rewards (visitor rates jump for drama), but the argument — if well thought out — is that much better in the long run. It gives people a lot more to talk about in an intelligent manner, rather than just squawking like a duck that was kicked in the sphincter. It’s important that communication be emotional, but not out of control. The same goes for the intellectual component. Too often people can justify anything, and if you can’t feel what right and wrong is in a moment, I don’t think you can establish much of a moral compass about anything. I’ve found that I tend to do the latter and then write it all out because of frustration, but then it’s just an angry rant disguising itself as something intelligent. It’s one of those pitfalls we need to avoid.

Q: If you had to pick three posts that you think are your best what would they be?

A: Hm… Probably the first that comes to mind is “Claymore and the Samurai” (http://tnk.hidoshi.com/?p=580). It’s a bit of a culturalanthropology study I did and while short, frames everything nicely. I might return to it one day in more depth. Then there’s “My Life and Macross Plus” (http://tnk.hidoshi.com/?p=559) which was mostly a small biography of my relationship with Shoji Kawamori’s best work. Lastly,and perhaps most importantly, “Considering the Whole When Reviewing”(http://tnk.hidoshi.com/?p=555) is something I feel every blogger should probably glance at. Hemingway taught us that “writing is re-writing”, and I think a similar concept needs to be applied to reviews. I’m guilty of betraying this concept a lot, but I still try to keep it in the back of my head. You have to get away from the material before you can really review it, otherwise the entire affair can be doctored by excitement, either positive or negative. That skews your opinions and makes your review ineffectual. We could probably phrase it as “reviewing is re-viewing”, to be perfectly succinct.

Q: Any closing thoughts?

A: I’d like to thank you for your time and this opportunity for an interview. I think site-to-site blogging and conversations are very important so that we can all share in ideas more often, even if we disagree. I hope everyone enjoys my blog (even if you dislike what I’m saying), and please feel free to call me on it. I’ll always respond.

Blog in Review: This is Kanon
Introduction

A while back I started a blog post (that I’ll finish one day) trying to lump various blogs into rock music types. Mostly because I like music and I like blogs and of course there has to be a way to combine the two into some sort of cohesive whole.

Now granted, that kind of fell apart, but “That’s not Kanon.” still reminds me of NOFX. Occasionally loud, usually angry, but always with an interesting point. Overall, the blog touches on a little bit of everything, and a whole lot about fandom and the people in it. It takes stabs at cosplay, the entire nipponphile culture and commercialism at conventions. In a lot of ways, it is an examination of the people surrounding anime than the shows itself. And that’s not a bad thing.

Content

To be fair, I have to divide Hidoshi’s posts into two categories – the quick and dirty rant and the longer argumentative essay. Now the quick and dirty rants are generally more accessible. First of all, he has a great voice in these posts. It flows naturally and I don’t find myself having to go back and re-read what he said earlier to see if I missed something. They aren’t so long that I find myself skimming through to see what was said later. And to be honest, his points are cutting, insightful and very opinionated. All of which are good for a blog. Really, I could pick out one or two, but his most recent posts all have these same qualities.

On the other hand, his longer argumentative essay posts tend to be a bit dense – both in subject matter and in language. Now I don’t want to say that it’s a bad thing (because honestly, I don’t want to be the guy to say, “Make it more stupid, so I can understand it.”) But I think sometimes it does hurt his point. For instance, his post “On Being Filled with Stereotypes” is a really interesting examination of how some people relate to characters. But when I hit the line, “The disinterested variant will pay the original character more courtesy and only siphon a portion of the experience, without wearing the comparisons too blatantly. In my own experience, I’ve had this done with Genshiken. We pick and choose and pick and choose, but because none of the characters are outstanding winners or losers in the series, it doesn’t goad anyone to say “such and such is me” with any affronting certainty,” I had to stop and reread it. And then stop and reread it again before I got what he was saying.

Now in all fairness, this is I’m guilty of as well. And I don’t think that it’s necessarily bad to be smart. But in all honesty, the voice that makes the angry rants fun to read is lost right here.

And I do have to make a note about Shoochi’s posts, which are much less frequent and no less enjoyable. Again most of his commentary seems to be aimed at exploring the fan element of fandom rather than anime itself. Although Shooichi’s funny posts do tend to be funnier than Hidoshi. Hidoshi handles the angry rant better.

They also do talk about anime at least somewhat. Although, I tend to think that those posts aren’t necessarily the ones that draw me to read the blog. They also don’t drive me away from it. I tend to be pretty indifferent to them.

Format

That’s Not Kanon is easily the one of the prettiest blogs I’ve ever read. From the banner to the layout, it’s very easy on the eyes. (I’m not surprised to learn that Hidoshi works in illustration). Some of the things I want to highlight would be the combination of sections, a chronological listing and a category listing so that you can search the posts three different ways.

And while I think the banner and design are deceptively flowery, considering the nature of the blog, it is a really great layout. To be fair, I’m kind of jealous.

I don’t even have any problems with the pictures he uses. Even if they aren’t astounding, he definitely uses them well and I don’t have any problems scrolling through them. And to be honest, he rarely uses pictures anyway.

One of the things I did want to point out about the layout of the page is that the font seems a bit on the smaller side. While still readable, it makes the posts feel shorter than they might actually be. And when you combine that with Hidoshi’s usual voice it makes for a good read that feels quicker than it might actually be.

Oh yeah, and I have to mention the poll, which is neat as well.

Conclusion

In all honesty, it’s hard not to recommend That’s Not Kanon. When it’s rocking, it’s really rocking. When it’s not rocking, well it still plays a pretty interesting tune. There isn’t anybody who wouldn’t have an opinion on the subjects that Hidoshi or Shooichi brings up. Well unless you’re not interested in fandom. Or are way too sensitive about the subject.

List o the Weak: My top five favorite anti-heroes

Okay, so I’m going to take a pretty liberal definition of anti-hero here. Traditionally the anti-hero actually has to be the main character of the story, but I do have at least one character in here that is a ally of one of the protagonists. And one that is briefly allied with one of the protagonists.

That said, there’s something about an anti-hero that just appeals to me. Whether it’s their twisted sense of ethics, their self-delusion or just the fact that they’re an out and out jerk. I can’t help being interested in how they’re going to play out. And I certainly can’t help hoping that they’ll either grow up or get what they deserve or at least get their revenge.

So here it is, my top five favorite anti-heroes in anime.

Number Five: Kei Kurono, Gantz

There’s something about a jerk. It isn’t that they’re likable, although I do have to say that Gantz is stocked with fairly likable characters, it’s that they can say what the audience is really thinking and get away with it.

And Kurono is exactly that character. He starts off simply thinking about how miserable he is, and how the world treats him unfairly and when it starts REALLY treating him unfairly he reacts in a backlash. To be honest, he does do some pretty heroic things, but in general they’re out of a sense of wanting to fit in rather from an actual desire to do good things.

The only reason he ended up so low on the list is that his whining does get a bit annoying occasionally. And towards the end, he actually does play the hero.

Number Four: Paul von Oberstein, Legend of the Galactic Heroes

Ahh… what a Machiavellian countenance. To be honest, he looks a lot nicer in this picture than he actually is. (He’s the piebald guy in the background.) Generally, the type of anti-hero I enjoy the most is the type who has the best interests in mind, but his methods are a little bit suspect. And while Reinhard von Lohengramm is starting down the road to being an anti-hero, he’s being lead there by Oberstein.

Case in point, he allows an entire planet to get nuked so he can use it as a propaganda tool. Granted it worked. He also cuts Reinhard off from his sister to pull him out of his moping. Again, the sensible move, but also the nasty move. He is what Machiavelli meant when he said, “It is better for your subjects to fear you, then to love you.”

Number Three: Saito, Rurouni Kenshin

And of course, I couldn’t let an anti-hero list go by without mentioning one of my favorite abberant characters. What makes this guy so much fun is his twisted sense of justice. I mean how couldn’t I enjoy a character who is a spy, police officer and executioner all rolled into one. Probably what I enjoy most about him, is that he doesn’t have any angst about what he’s doing. He truly feels that he’s acting in the best interest of the nation by eliminating the world of it’s scum.

Now, I know that it’s always in vogue to rip on the popular character. But I think Saito holds up well even on repeated viewings. And how can I not like a guy who says, “I’m glad he’s gone, so now I can kill you.” or at least something like that.

Number Two: Guts, Beserk

I had a hard time deciding whether or not Guts should really go on this list. Overall, I think it’s a testament to Beserk that it doesn’t overtly offer up Guts as a classic anti-hero. But overall, his values ARE pretty warped (he just wants to fight, because he enjoys fighting.) Also he’s friends with Griffin, who is a whole different type of anti-hero.

And really, not only is he an interesting anti-hero, but he’s also and interesting character. Just watching his arc from where he joins up with Griffin to the point where he leaves to the point where he comes back. He is a character who learns to accept his inner darkness, but ends up not being able to accept what that cost him.

And my number one all time favorite anti-hero is:

Ryu Soma
Like I said, there’s just something about a jerk and Ryu Soma is the king of all jerks. He starts off the series as a self-involved scientist, who gets caught up in his own pity party. At times he has moments of understanding and while eventually he gets it, he does remain an anti-hero throughout the course of the show.
Probably the best part of it though, is that he doesn’t buck the plot. Unlike other anti-heroes *cough* Shinji *cough* we aren’t stuck with hours of “Do I really want to do this? Why doesn’t my daddy love me?” Instead, we get someone who’s trying to figure out how to take revenge on the actual hero.

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Agree or disagree? Leave a comment or e-mail iniksbane@gmail.com

The Importance of a Dog: What I wish every anime would do

I’ve been rewatching Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex for about the third time straight through. It’s been a while between viewings of the series mostly because I’ve gotten into this rut of watching three or four series at once.

But I came across an episode in the middle of the show called “The Day of the Machines” which I’d always kind of half watched. First because it mostly focuses on the Tachikomas (which were never my favorite characters) and second because I always thought it was just another of those, “Here’s a lot of explaining stuff so we can look smart” episodes that are really prevelant in Japanese cyberpunk (and to a lesser extent William Gibson).

Okay, so that might just be Oshii and Innocence, but I might get to that in a bit.

The whole episode always struck me as a throwaway episode, until this time when I actually watched it. I’m going to go into some possible spoilers, so if you haven’t watched this show, please do. First of all because it’s awesome. And second of all because it’s awesome.

The Micro Structure of the Episode and the Macro Implications

The first thing that struck me is that this episode actually has a plot. The whole episode centers around what Major Kusinagi is going to do with the Tachikomas. And their discussion about how to make the major like them. Now granted there is a little of theme tossing in here, the writers weren’t particularly subtle about discussing the nature of the interaction between man and robots.

But they also weren’t particularly heavy-handed either. While it does watch like the later chapters of “Snow Crash”, it doesn’t get worse than that. And while the tension is pretty low key between the tanks and the Major, it’s still there.

As I was rewatching it though it dawned on me. This is the Standalone Complex in reverse. Namely, it’s a bunch of individuals, who are supposed to be uniform, who spontaneously develop unique personalities and view points. So that the discussion of the nature of the interaction between man and machine becomes less important. Really the discussion is there as a medium to convey the macro implications. Basically it’s the fact that they’re HAVING the discussion that becomes important.

The Importance of a Dog

Something I have to point out about the episode is that the dialogue flowed naturally. While the discussion they were having might have been high-handed, the language they used was very much in line with their characterization up to this point. There had been several instances where they’d displayed curiousity and a social nature, so hearing the Tachikomas discuss this never seemed like the creators talking through the characters.

One of the times they’d displayed that curiousity happened in an earlier episode where one of the Tachikomas had escaped and helped a girl named Miki try to find her dog.

Needless to say it comes up in the “Day of the Machines” episode. Now it comes up in an off hand way as they’re all standing around discussing the nature of machines in society, when one of them says, “I’d really like to see her again.” and they all chime in that they would too.

Bang… it’s the Standalone Complex in microcosm. Essentially it’s a group of individuals who all think they had the same experience because they were all sharing information through a common link.

When I realized that, I sat back and said, “Wow.” First because the whole scene is a throwaway scene. Or at least it’s set up that way. No special importance is placed on it. There isn’t any dramatic music to let the viewer “know” that something important is coming. Essentially there’s no real reason to pay attention to it.

And secondly because it arrived so naturally. There wasn’t anything forced about the way it came up. The writers didn’t need to expound on it, or bring in Satre and Socrates to point out how brilliant they were. It just appeared and then it was gone.

And that’s what I wish every anime could do.

Why I like Shakugan no Shana (even though I probably shouldn’t,)

(Okay, I’m done writing about heavy stuff for a while. I’m going to actually write about anime.)

To be fair, I thought about titling this “Why Not Shana?” but Shana isn’t a title that should be in anyone’s top ten. And it never was a contender for my number nine spot even from the point when I popped in the first disk. Or even after I saw the first episode at Otakon.

Really, there’s nothing about this series that really shines. The artwork is all right. It isn’t anything horrid, but the character designs aren’t all that surprising. And the inclusion of Willemena (or rather her maid outfit) sent shudders up my spine as soon as I saw it. The story is pretty much sucked straight out of it’s predecessors. It’s just the current spiritual sucessor to shows like 3X3 Eyes, Chrono Crusade and Blue Seed. Right down to the bombastic, big breasted, exorcist or should I say flame haze or whatever this iteration is calling it.

But all that said, I really like this show. And a lot of it has to do with Shana and Yuji Sakai. Now sure, you could toss Shana into the tsundere basket and say that she’s just another character. But I think that’s doing the show a disservice. What I actually find compelling is that the creators decided to make Shana a woman at all.

When I compare it to Blue Seed, the roles are completely reversed. The tough competent lead in that one is a guy, who treats the female lead like a obligatory nuisance. In Shana, it’s the female lead who treats the male lead as an obligatory nuisance.

And the male lead, isn’t the normal milquetoast, “Oh does she love me or hate me?” character. He actually has morals and values and compassion for his fellow man. He actually does stuff (which is always a big thing for me and protagonists). He tries to understand Shana, and yes, he does try to change her. But for the most part, he remains a thoroughly interesting a compelling hero.

Topping all of that off, there was something about this series that actually elicited an emotional reaction. For instance, I was actually concerned that he might actually fade away even though I knew that there was another four disks in the series and they weren’t going to kill off the main character. I’m not sure if it had to do with killing a character off so early, or if it had to do with a well-used soundtrack. But to be honest, to get any kind of emotional reaction out of me when it comes to a series like this is like squeezing blood from a stone.

So while, it might just be more of the same. It was definitely a good “more of the same”.

Seviakis vs. Smith : My opinion

(Okay, this is the hardest part, which is why I’ve been putting it off.)

Introduction

I know calling Mr. Smith wrong is a harsh way to put it. In all honesty, I feel for the guy. He’s putting out a product that he thinks is worth selling and people are just coming along and taking it, putting it on the Internet and thumbing their nose at the whole capitalist ideal.

And in a large part, I do want people to buy anime. I do want people to support the industry. But on the other hand, the capatialist paradigm is changing or rather has changed. Gone are the halycon days when a few brick and mortars controlled a very local market and you had to go to them to get your stuff. That was obilitarated when Amazon and eBay proved to be workable business models. Long past is the times when you had to have a physical medium to enjoy copyrighted material. That disappeared with mp3s and the rise of Napster. And quickly disappearing are the days when even ISPs can control the flow of intellectual property through their lines. That vanished when Comcast couldn’t close down BitTorrent. (Granted from the sound of it, it might have been more of a case of truth in advertising then anything else.)

So while I feel bad for Mr. Smith on a personal level, I have to say that he needs to wake up and smell the 21st century and the new brand of capitalism. A capitalism that isn’t controlled by a few brick and mortars in a very local area. A capitalism that is controlled by the consumer.

And downloading intellectual property without paying for it has become a consumer choice.

Why I think Seviakis’s argument is right.

To be honest, perhaps tj_han is correct, and I’m merely mimicing someone else’s opinion, but I have worked in retail a long time. And if there is any one rule in retail it’s: The customer might not always be right, but they’re still the customer.

And in the end, the job of the retailer and the businessman is to meet the customers need. Never has this become more important than in the world of intellectual property, which unlike furniture or shoes or drugs, is not an actual physical item. You can’t force customers to come buy from you. You have to offer them either exceptional customer service or a really cheap price.

Seviakis’s argument acknowledges this. That it doesn’t matter why people are downloading. And while he does indulge into proving that it is hurting the industry, he also points out that trying to guilt people into buying isn’t going to work. Essentially the industry has to wake up and deal with the fact that they’re not meeting their consumers needs.

And the consumers are taking it for themselves.

(Again, I could spend and entire post talking about whether this is good or bad, but hopefully I’ve argued that it’s a non-point.)

So if the industry wants to compete with fansubs, it has to do exactely that. Compete with fansubs. It has to offer the same service that fansubs do. If they don’t then they’ll continue to lose money to them.

To be fair, I’m not entirely sure I did his argument justice, but that’s what I took away from it. And it’s Mr. Smith’s argument that scares me far more.

Why I think Arthur Smith’s argument is wrong.

Like I’ve said before, I feel bad for the guy. I will give the man credit. He did start off by saying that the industry is evaluating different options to provide anime quicker to the market. But… and this is a big but… I have a serious problem with the tone of his response. His first two points were much like the beginning of Seviakis’s letter. He’s simply trying to prove that fansubs are indeed hurting the industry. Now I could spend all day poking holes in his numbers, but I don’t think it’s necessary. What is necessary is to point out why he’s doing it.

He wants us, ‘the fans’ , to be concerned about the industry. My initial opinion about his tone hasn’t changed. The first section of his letter is a plea for people to worry, to give money, it’s a pity party told in four part harmony. It’s a call to give and give and give some more because you’re local neighborhood anime company needs your support. It’s not the words of a business man, it’s the words of a beggar. Essentially he’s turned the anime industry from a business into a charity. Where we “should” give money, rather than “want” to give money.

What disturbs me the most is his third point, where he says why they can’t do what Seviakis suggested. Now I do have to give him credit, he does say that he’s going to “work to shorten this length of time” but the problem is that he has to make it much quicker than six months. Granted, I’ve gotten less angry about this as I’ve read it, but it still seems, like a question of , “Oh we’ll try.” rather than “Yes, I’m going to do that.”

And that’s what I want to hear from Smith. I want to know that he’s doing everything he can to save his business. I want to know that I’m not wasting my support on an industry that isn’t working to support itself.

Because otherwise, why should I waste my time.