FREE food for thought

All right, I have an editorial blog, so I guess there is no way around writing something about FREE, the new KyoAni anime. Also, something about moe, or whatever.

All right. First of all, here is some advice.

  1. If you want to tell your interpretation of how “everyone” or the “otakudom” is completely wrong in the show’s reception, you need to take a step back, go to a forum thread or a blog aggregator or a large comment section, and count 100 reactions to FREE’s announcement. If you truly confirmed that everyone (or even most people) reacted the same way, go ahead. But there is only one thing that is more annoying than a one-sided debate, and that is a many-sided debate where absolutely everyone has a persecution complex, and a conviction that they are alone with their opinion. 
  2. If you want to talk about the meta-discussion of how there is more debate about the debate of FREE than there is debate about FREE, head over to omonomomo. He got it covered.

 

Personally, what I found most interesting, is how obviously this the outrage is happening in our western side of the otakudom, as much as the feminist defense and the anti-moe outcries. In the video gamer community, the past monhs have been all about dragging the geek subculture’s underlying sexism, and misogyny to the spotlight, to admit that WE have a problem.

So far, the anime fandom mostly deflected any such accusations by dumping them on the Japanese otaku. WE, the classy western anime fans, would like more gender  equality, and less sexual objectification, and less moe (whatever the hell that means),  it is the dirty, moe-obsessed, hug pillows-buying, eroge-playing Japanese otaku’s fault that the industry is still backwards.

To see actual western anime fans lose their shit about one particular anime having sexualized guys in it, is an interesting reminder that WE as a fandom still have a problems, or maybe they are not real problems, let’s just leave that inconclusively,  but in either case, you can’t just explain away accusations of sexism with xenophobic stereotypes about Japan.

Phrases that I hate: Fanservice

No, this won’t be about how “fanservice”  used to have a broader definition before it got limited to ecchi scenes. I have no reason to hate it because of that, words change their meanings all the time. My problem is with the “fan-” part, and it applies to both definitions.

When did we, as a fandom, decide that what fans what is the shallowest, most pavlovian, most inconsequential elements of a story? You certainly wouldn’t get that picture just from listening to us. When was the last time you heard a fan declaring that they want more fanservice? Not just “tolerating it in moderation”,  or “not particularly minding it”, but actively demanding that a certain show needs more fanservice?

And when was the last time when you heard a fan complaining about too much fanservice? Or rather, how many times did you hear it today?

Even in our day and age, with “nerd” and “geek” becoming something that we identify with rather than something that bullies insult us with, and with “fan” transforming from the original “fanatic” into a synonym of “liking something”, there are still several ways used to socially pressure us not to indulge in too much fannish behavior, pushing us towards the mainstream, away from any sign of “obsessiveness” or “fanboyism”.

For example I’ve already wrote about the curious case that we have such an annoyingly overused term as “weeaboo” for a type of excessively japanophile fans, yet we don’t even have any term for their ideological opposite, the kind of anime fans who seem to hate everything about anime’s japaneseness, and motivated by wanting to appear as “normal” as possibe. In the previous edition of this “Phrases that I hate” series, I just wrote about “pandering“, and how inconsistently it is only ever used against well-defined stereotypes of fandom groups (e.g.: fujoshi-pandering, otaku-pandering, moe-pandering) , to divide us into hostile groups, but never to describe general cases of other shallow story elements  that are intended to grab someone’s attention.

Even outside of the world of anime, there are many similar examples, with fans trying to put themselves outside of fandoms, to give the impression that they are the only “true fan”, while those under the fandom label are all hive-minded sheeple who are being manipulated with bells and whistles.

The problem with “fanservice” is the same. It’s a phrase invented by the fandom, and popularized by the fandom, to express the feeling that the rest of the fandom is full of idiots. To make you feel better about not being one of those dirty, obsessive perverts down there in the fandom, who can be influenced with panty shots and beach episodes, but a classy, intellectual audience of the series who wants more depth, and more art and more plot.

Which is, of course, a silly idea. Fans are the last people who would want to see a show to become more shallow. The only ones who are attracted to these shallow elements such as ecchi scenes, gratuitous violence, or random shout-outs to other popular series, are exactly the most casual audiences, who just happened to tune to that channel and it catched their attention.  Calling it “fanservice” just pointlessly fuels the fandom’s self-loathing, and hostility against each other.  

The Genre Ghetto

In TVTropes slang, “ghetto” stands for the attitude that a certain content type should stay limited to the narrowly defined pigeonholes that it’s critics made up. For example, the common western attitude that all animation should be made for kids, is the Animation Age Ghetto, or the common expectation that female-targeted shows are strictly for women only, is the Girl Show Ghetto.

These ghettos can even manifest themselves literally as closed-off areas where these stereotypically “inferior” stories can be rounded up and separated from “proper” entertainment, such as libraries sending all manga down to the children’s library, or separating everything all speculative fiction on a sci-fi/fantasy bookshelf, outside of everything else’s alphabetic order.

That latter one, the sci-fi ghetto, gets some of the most interestingly illogical reactions. While by now there are so many mainstream, popular, and even artistically acknowledged sci-fi stories, that you would expect it’s critics to just give up, that’s where prejudice shows it’s stubbornness: Instead of just admitting that, say, 1984 is an intelligent sci-fi novel, therefore sci-fi can be intelligent, the truly prejudiced can still think like this:

“Oh, sci-fi is that silly Star Trek-thing where spaceships shoot lasers at each other, and men wear pajamas, so if 1984 has none of that, it’s not really sci-fi, it’s Proper Literature”

And that’s not even an exaggeration. Critics, and even authors, have really argued that their works are not really fantasy or sci-fi, if they don’t fit into the crudest stereotypes of these genres. Just how arrogant you have to be, to redefine an entire genre according to your own admittedly limited familiarity with it, while dismissing the established definition made by it’s actual audience?  As anime fans, you might be directly familiar with that kind of attitude. While most of the above preconceptions are limited to the hilariously ignorant and old-fashioned mainstream, in case of anime, even our fellow fandoms and nerds and enthusiasts, who are protesting the same prejudices themselves, might think and speak like this:

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How America Invented The Weeaboo

(Warning: The following post may contain generalizations, and national stereotypes. That’s inevitable, since it’s about general trends in the community, not about individual people. Try to read it as one possible aspect of these trends, and not as “Alterego explains how shit works “. )

A few months ago, I wrote a post about Weeaboos, their common traits, and the strange fact that those elements of the fandom that are most vocally opposing them, with their consistent consistent criticism of all of the anime subculture’s most japanese attributes, aren’t equally shunned with such monikers.

From that post alone, you might have figured  out that I’m just a weeaboo who doesn’t want to get criticised.  And there is an element of truth in that. I’m certainly more sympathetic towards people who just want to embrace their fandom, than towards those who are obsessed with appearing normal. But there is also something more to it: Many of these stereotypes about being the annoying type of anime fan, simply don’t register with me. I learned them, and I take care to avoid them so I won’t sound ridiculous, but intuitively, I wouldn’t have felt that they are considered bad. You see, I’m not an American.

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In defense of those annoying “fans of the source material”

It’s one of those issues that can be applied to pretty much any media fandom, but I saw it a lot among anime fans recently, and hey, I have an anime blog, so for the time being, let’s discuss it in this context.

When was the last time you heard this rant?

I’m an anime fan, so I don’t care about what happened in your LN/manga/VN! This is an anime, so it should be judged as one. It’s obvious that due to the differences of the mediums, the adaptation is going to be a bit different, so shut up about how “inaccurate” it is.

Strangely, as much as I see them, I didn’t ever see a  defense against them. No one ever comes up and explains why some people keep talking about the source material. They just keep sagely nodding at the universal wisdom that was just uttered. Apparently, the entire Internet believes that such rants accurately describe fandom etiquette.

Except, of course, the people who proceed to talk about the source material anyways. Including some of those who were just sagely nodding, right until the arrival of another series, that’s source material they are the fan of, in which case, they proceed to do the same. I guess I could write it off as people being hypocrites, and intentionally offensive rabid fanboys,  but following Hanlon’s razor, it’s much more likely that the source of the conflict is poor communication between two different groups with different interests, than that one group of fan is being malicious.

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Phrases that I hate: “Pandering”

pandaing to the audience

picture punrelated

So, from now on, this is officially a running theme on this blog. A category of posts, where I’m ranting about random phrases that fans tend to use, and reveal the negative implications that I see in them.

Last time, I talked about “Guilty Pleasures” and how it’s used by people to justify why they are continuing to watch an unpopular show, while  they are also conforming to the vocal elitists by joining their chorus about how bad it is.

Now let’s look at a phrase that is used to dismiss shows without directly addressing any  tangible problem with them: Pandering. Nowadays, it is even used on it’s own, as in “I don’ even know why I’m watching this pandering crap”, but it’s implication is always supposed to be, that it’s pandering to a certain group, that it shouldn’t be pandering to. To the people with bad taste.

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Blogger’s creed

I decided that as a belated introduction post, I should write a list of things that I believe about art, about the anime industry, and about my personal standing on some hot button issues. Some of these were already adressed in earlier posts, others will be in the future, and some are too self-evident or mundane to waste a whole post on them.

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