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.

Rape season!

So it has come to this. From this new season, we already have two shows that brought in major rape themes, and one other  that had a throwaway rape comment causing a major shitstorm. In case you missed one of them:

  •   The first episode of Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun had a scene, where the socially clueless and sometimes unpredictably silly male protagonist suddenly grabbed the heroine, covered her mouth, dragged her to an alley, and said “if you make one sound I will rape you”. Then she nodded, and they had amusing random adventures together.
  •    The first episode of Psycho-Pass demonstrated the police team’s job, and the sci-fi setting’s functioning, with the case of a psychotic madman on the run, who kidnapped and raped one passerby woman during the episode. The same psycho-pass meters that first warned the police that the man is about to go crazy, now also marked the rape victim as unstable. After even more traumatic experiences, she was so screwed up that she almost had to be put down (according to the same psycho-pass system), but then the newbie protagonist policewoman managed to calm her down and merely institutionalize her.
  •    The second episode of Btooom! presented the backstory of the heroine Himiko, as the following: she got involved with a band of obviously dangerous-looking boys, and introduced her girlfriends to them. Later they invited the girls to their apartment. Himiko got there last, and found two of the girls raped and unconscious, while the third one was crying to her for help. She ignored the cries, escaped and called the police, who arrested the rapists.  The three girls were transferred to another town and the friend she abandoned now hates her for it. Then Himiko got to the video game island where there are no rules. There she almost got raped by a fat smelly loser, and felt that this is her punishment for her crimes, but then activated a bomb, choosing to kill both of themselves rather than getting raped. The fat loser saw that and tried to  run away, so she threw the bomb after him.
  •    Oh, and there were two other shoujo shows, with lots of nonconsensual kissing, and bishies pinning girls against walls in that typical bishie pose, and generally acting shoujo-ish.

So, yeah. Rape has been discussed in the aniblogosphere a lot recently. First of all, let’s clarify my own stance: I don’t think, that rape should be held to any different standard than other kinds of violence. Explicit glamorization of rape porn is not different from explicit glamorization of violence. Black comedy gags about rape are not different from any other black comedy gags. And gratuitous Rape as Backstory isn’t more offensive than any other badly executed gratuitous tragedy.

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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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Sexist or not?

The past weeks in the gaming community have been all about sexism. First the new Tomb Raider, then the Tropes vs. Women kickstarter, then Lollipop Chainsaw… pretty much all opinion leaders wrote their posts about women in gaming, or about something like rape in video games.

That latest part, the reactions to Lollipop Chainsaw, was the most interesting to me as an anime fan, because it is a really intreresting example of how baffling anime clichés are to everyone else. Lollipop Chainsaw is, basically, an ecchi anime in video game format. Complete with panty shots, falling into boobies face-first, a loser male lead being tossed around by the heroine, and with sexy battle sequences. In that context, this analysis sounds almost like a joke review, as it is calling it the game’s “underlying brilliance” that “Nick is frequently idealized and assessed by female characters who have little to no regard for how their words make him feel.” and that by turning table on objectification and victim blaming, “and placing a male figure into those situations, it goes some way toward making a character that’s easier for men to identify with”.

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Nazo no Kanojo X: The first pro-abstinence anime ever?

No, seriously. Just think about it. While it’s true that the overwhelming majority of anime characters are virgins, the reasons for it are varying from fetishist appeal, to the inherent moe appeal of youthful innocence, (that is also used in series that aren’t supposed  to be sexually appealing). Sometimes, it’s pointed out as a significant plot point. Other times, it’s just implied by the characters’ age and behavior.

And then here is this one anime, that finally bothered to actually discuss teenage sexuality. Continue reading

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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Genre legitimacy

I was always interested in the fine line between a medium or genre convention, that one is expected to accept as an inherent purpose of the story, and other, minor tropes.

It’s another part of the neverending objectivity/subjectivity debates: If you can successfully argue that your favourite story did what it did because that’s how things are done in that genre, that gives the story some kind of legitimacy, and the best thing the haters can say is “Well, then I don’t like this genre”, but if you don’t manage to make that claim, then they can still say that your story is just a failed deviation of the greater genre.

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