What measure is a psycho?

Psycho-Pass, episode 11-13

As every viewer suspected, the Sibyl system is flawed. But that flaw isn’t just a technical detail, that it doesn’t accurately measure everyone, or a moral dilemma about “thought crime”, like in Minority Report, that it incriminates people who didn’t do anything, but a huge elephant in the living room that Makishima pointed out in episode 11:

“And how do you define a crime to start with?” 

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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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The culture that made anime into what it is

In many ways, anime is fundamentally different from all western media. Not just as the result of current business models, or recent trends, but also due to some deeply rooted traits of Japanese mentality.

Japan is pretty unique that way, with it’s mass media that is comparable to ours in it’s scope, but still very foreign in it’s execution. Most other countries that are similarly foreign to us, are either too poor, or too oppressed to have large media, while the sufficiently wealthy and free countries are being assimilated into the monlithic, globalized “western culture” that makes them almost identical to us. But for various reasons that I will not discuss here, Japan managed to both reach modern lifestyle, and to maintain exceptional amounts of it’s foreignness.

Trying to understand these cultural differences between Japan and the West, can be useful not just for making detached philosophical observations about art, (like realizing that values that we considered normal are just our arbitary local customs), but also for understanding the daily events of the anime industry. Why did this show tank at the sales? Why did that show get a second season?

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Phrases that I hate: “Guilty pleasure”

Along with it’s synonyms, like “it’s so bad it’s good”, “laughing at it, not with it”, and also the only variation that got discredited everywhere else too, “enjoying it ironically”.

It’s not that the idea behind these statements doesn’t make sense. It’s easy to imagine why a bad show could still be enjoyable. I’m not personally interested in that kind of enjoyment, because I like to take my fiction seriously, and if I’m not even able to do that at all, I just stop watching it. But in principle, it’s easy to believe that someone would like laughing at the sheer absurdity of such a horrible show getting made.

But have you ever noticed, how the entry level for that excuse is much lower in ongoing works’ fandoms, than with standalone works? With standalone works, it’s really limited to the most painfully bad ones, such as literature with misspellings in every sentence, or movies with painfully weak special effects and practically nonexistent acting. With serials, it can be just something like “a manga with an unrealistic, over-the-top setting” or “a generic harem anime”. What’s the difference? Maybe with standalone works, people with slightly unusual tastes can fit in by watching something, enjoying it, and when it turns out to be unpopular, join the chorus about what a waste of time it was, but with serials, they need an excuse to keep going.

For example,  in the current season, we have the generally disliked shows Guilty Crown, Symphogear, and Highschool DxD. There are some people who dropped them early, some who still genuinely like them and call them good, and some who completely dislike them, but feel a sense of duty to finish them.  And then, there is this fourth category, people who believe that they are bad, but want to continue watching them because they are “so bad it’s good”. Isn’t that kind of strange? Even if someone found their badness amusing at first, but couldn’t sincerely “care”  about them, what would make them going back to that specific show every week? What would keep them hooked on, in a way that they often describe to be “like watching a car accident in slow motion”? After all, why couldn’t they just forget about it during the week, or start watching one of the other bad shows instead, to also mock that one’s premise?

My second problem is limited to the phrase “guilty pleasure” alone, and it’s unique issues.  Namely, the way it is sometimes used to imply that the show is really good, but the viewer is so deeply intoctrinated with the public opinion, that they can’t fully separate their own from it. That can range from anime itself being a guilty pleasure, for people who take mainstream’s stereotypes too seriously, and see themselves as “creepy pathetic otaku”,  to certain subgenres, or shows, that are disliked in the fandom, being “guilty pleasure”.

That is usually based on arbitary judgements like how you are not supposed to like mindless eye-candy, or how you are supposed to prefer moderate stories over camp and over-the-top ones, or exactly how “realistic” shows have to be.

That’s probably the worst thing about that phrase. The suggestion that some other people know better than you, and that you should feel guilty about liking something.  That entertainment has any other objective requirement than entertaining you. When I see examples that use it that way, I’m not even angry at the writer, but everyone in general.

A couple of kids

So, in the previous post, I concluded that while it’s obvious that some people are turned on by virgins, and some people even demand virginity on some sort of moral basis, it’s presence in anime is probably just a side-effect of a bigger trend, of focusing all series on the general themes of youth.

But what about this more innocent trend, of always telling stories about teenagers ? Isn’t that still killing  the creative freedom of anime? After all, there are only so many stories that can be told with teenagers in the main cast!

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Like A Virgin

So, I heard you liked that other post about lesbians. Well, the bad news is that you are probably a pervert. The good news is, that so am I, and I’m also an attention whore, so here are some more thoughts about sexuality in Anime, this time about the issue of virginity, and why it’s such a big deal, that most characters have to be explicitly stated to be virgins, while the rest are expected to be, by default? What might be the reason for that?

Your obvious first reaction might be, that it’s simply fetish-pandering for the creepy, misogynistic “Japanese Otaku”, the mythical creature that explains everything strange about anime.

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So, what’s the deal with lesbians in Anime?

Or rather, what’s the deal with the ridiculous amount of lesbianism in anime, even with a distinct lack of actual lesbians? Other than some of the most explicit Yuri genre works, almost no characters are ever identified as lesbians, or even circumscribed with anything like “interested in girls”, or “in that kind of relationship”.  Tvtropes has two pages that are describing the phenomena, but they both boil down to “It’s a Japanese cultural thing”, that sounds suspiciously like an explanation that was reverse-engineered from the trope’s existence, rather than actually confirmed as a fact by sociology. If there is one thing that western otaku have a special interest in, it’s throwing around various hypotheses about how Japan might work, based on Sankaku Complex articles, and from taking anime content at face value.

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