A reader called my attention to this, a history and discussion of the tropes typical of the slew of recent anime, following on the heels of Sword Art Online, that depict a gamer otaku getting thrown into another world that looks like a sword-and-sorcery RPG.
This is a bit outside this blog’s usual scope; I admit my knowledge of this particular genre is minimal, simply because my interests run more toward shoujo anime, whereas isekai typically has male protagonists and a male target audience. However, the video does link isekai to predecessors from the ’90s like Magic Knight Rayearth and Vision of Escaflowne, which typically featured schoolgirls getting thrown into fantasy settings. Not discussed, but probably also an important influence on the isekai genre are the RPG-inspired fantasies from yesteryear like Record of Lodoss War.
In the last third of the video, the narrator explains that many of the light novels that make up the sources of isekai fantasy got their starts as web publications, and after suggesting that the isekai genre is saturated, he argues that this is leading in turn to a rise of “pure” fantasy without inserted modern characters, of which he holds up Made in Abyss as a premier example.
For recent examples of “traditional” or “pure” fantasy, I would also point to the less hyped but respectable Chaika the Coffin Princess, which was a competently made, light novel-based anime series that was something like an old-school fantasy in the tradition of Discarded Princess (because it was in fact from the same author and the same studio).
I have to confess I still haven’t watched or read Made in Abyss, though it’s on my list.
I had an interesting discussion with a friend last night as we were digging far too deeply into anime. Almost every anime show (especially those set in a high school environment, which is the majority of them), have male protagonists that are your classic gamma male archetype. They are socially awkward, especially around women. When encountered with women they go into a crazed frenzy, female worship, nosebleeds, slapstick failings. We’re supposed to root for them to get the girl in spite of their failures. And sometimes we do, but we can’t help but wince every time they enter the scene with their female counterparts, who are usually far more composed and cooler than they are. Continue reading “Jon Del Arroz on Passive Anime Protagonists”
Okay, I admit I’d never heard of Grape-kun before yesterday, but all of a sudden, my social media timelines were full of him.
The handy website Know Your Meme breaks down the facts. Grape-kun was an elderly Humboldt penguin in the Tobu Zoo in Japan. For a while, the zoo had placed cardboard cutouts of characters from the manga and anime series Kemono Friends in the pens of various animals as an advertising gimmick. I’ve never seen Kemono Friends, but it is apparently yet another of the innumerable manga/anime about random objects anthropomorphized as little girls; in this case, the random objects are animals. The anime series is on Crunchyroll.
Anyway, the zoo placed an image of a character named Hululu, an anthropomorphized penguin, in the pen of Grape-kun. Thereafter, people noticed the penguin frequently staring at the image.
Grape-kun died yesterday, October 12th. The zoo reported that the cut-out of Hululu was with Grape-kun through his final moments.
Four months ago, this comic showed up on the Internet. I’ve been unable to figure out if this is from the manga version of Kemono Friends, or if this is someone’s fan art, but either way, it is now relevant:
The bird is fighting its way out of the egg. The egg is the world. Whoever wishes to be born must destroy a world. The bird is flying to God. The god is named Abraxas.
—Herman Hesse, Demian
Revolutionary Girl Utena, episode 9: “The Castle Said to Hold Eternity.” Directed by Kunihiko Ikuhara. Character designs by Chiho Saito. Be-Papas, 1997 (Nozomi Entertainment, 2011). Approx. 24 minutes. Rated “16+.”
In this episode, after two weeks of filler, we return to the main plot. The first story arc, known as the “Student Council Saga,” is drawing rapidly to its conclusion. In this episode, the basics of the show’s underlying mystery are laid before us, though that might not be obvious to someone who hasn’t already watched the whole show through.
Saionji returns. He’s still something of a joke character, but he plays an important role in this episode. We now learn that there’s more to Saionji’s obsession with Anthy than had at first been apparent.
Seriously, anime? We just had one of the best episodes in the series, but with episode 8, “Curried High Trip,” we’re right back to … that’s right, another filler episode starring Nanami. That means two out of the last three episodes have been Nanami-focused filler.
Even worse, “Curried High Trip” is based on the Freaky Friday premise, which was already more than played out by the time this episode aired. Fortunately, the next episode will be a major plot-mover.
Revolutionary Girl Utena is famous for being dense, convoluted, and kinky. I knew all that before going in, but I was unaware before I sat down to watch it that it is also extremely goofy. This is one of the goofy episodes. The story of “Curried High Trip” appears entirely gratuitous, though it does at least highlight one possible angle of interpretation, and it also emphasizes an important plot detail.
I hope Uranus is ready for this, because Viz Media has released the second half of the uncensored sub of Sailor Moon S.
I’ve been looking forward to this for months and months. Now, in spite of my busy schedule, I’m planning to spend some quality time with Uranus. I will of course be talking about it here on the blog—because I want to make you feel the way Uranus makes me feel.
There are several ways to approach Uranus, but I’m planning to use iTunes.
Actually, I’m kidding. I don’t think this show ever managed to do anything I didn’t see coming, but that’s mostly because I’d already watched a number of its successors by the time I saw it.
By the way, the image at the top of this post is official artwork. While I was searching for an eyecatch for this post, I happened to run into the blog Fairy Princess Witch, which features a group of girls who try to replicate the image. They don’t have the poses quite right, but it’s some dang fine cosplaying:
Episode 7 is, hands down, one of the best episodes in Revolutionary Girl Utena. The first two episodes were very tight, but episode 3 was blah, and after that the show dinked around for a while. With episode 7, “Unfulfilled Jury,” it gets its game face back on. In addition to being one of the best paced and plotted episodes, it has one of the best sword duels. It also begins in earnest the use of bizarre and symbolic imagery that will become the show’s hallmark. Continue reading “Did Not See That Coming: The ‘Revolutionary Girl Utena’ Rewatch, Part 7”
A reader helpfully points out that Nozomi Entertainment has uploaded Revolutionary Girl Utena to YouTube. When I first started this series of essays, I named some places you can acquire the show, but I didn’t think to check YouTube. I tend to forget that not all videos there are pirated.
Anyway, I am continuing to watch the series from my enormously expensive collector’s edition DVD set, which is as luxurious and decadent as the anime it contains. But if you’d like to watch along with me without investing so much cash, you can now see the dub, free and legal, online. I’ll be posting the link to the YouTube video under the episode credits from now on.
This same reader makes an interesting comment:
On principle I object to stories that use symbolism as an excuse for ridiculous, poor, or perverse writing. If a story cannot stand up as an independent narrative it has no business obfuscating its shortcomings with allegories and parables. Art naturally embodies some aspect of reality. Every piece symbolizes something. Better that your symbols should be simple rather than convoluted.
Intricate meta-narratives can become great rewards for those who are apt to analyzing them, but the primary plot ought not to suffer for their sake. I shouldn’t need an essay to understand your unpainted canvas, and I should not need a documentary-length series of videos to understand what happened during End of Evangelion.
I’ve only seen up to episode eleven of Revolutionary Girl Utena, but those episodes do hold up as a narrative, despite some remarkable plot contrivances. I’m afraid to finish the series, unfortunately, since I suspect the train will drift off the rails as the series nears its end.
His opinion is similar to mine. I’m typically unimpressed with stories that use opacity to create the illusion of depth.
Some years ago, I loaned my set of Neon Genesis Evangelion to a friend who happened to be studying feng shui. She later contacted me excitedly to tell me that one of the characters in the show had objects on her desk arranged in such a way as to represent, symbolically, the characters’ interpersonal relationships. This is something I, and probably a lot of viewers, never would have picked up on, and that’s fine. I certainly don’t mind storytellers throwing in some esoterica like that. It can lend a story a certain richness even if it goes over most people’s heads.
But that is no excuse for failing to present a coherent narrative. Evangelion is rich with imaginative imagery, but it never gets down to the business of explaining basic elements of its plot, such as what Lilith is, or what the Lance of Longinus is, or what the hell is going on. Partly, it suffered because the creators didn’t husband their meager resources, choosing to blow their wad on boob jiggle in the early episodes so they had to subject us to torturous still frames in the later ones, like that infamous minutes-long elevator ride, or that nightstand. (Sweet Madoka, the nightstand! If I never again hear a dialogue about creative places to insert pills, I can die a happy man.) But even more than that, Evangelion suffered because director Hideaki Anno gave up on storytelling and turned the show into his personal psychotherapy session.
I stated in the beginning that Revolutionary Girl Utena out-Evangelions Evangelion, partly because it handles Evangelion‘s themes and postmodern techniques much more competently, but also because it accomplishes something Evangelion flubbed: It has a coherent plot with a beginning, middle, and end. That’s not to say that some parts aren’t opaque or that there aren’t unresolved plot threads, or that the show isn’t decidedly undisciplined. It’s definitely not perfect. But it has an intelligible storyline, and it manages to conserve its puny budget enough that it resorts to relatively few painful animation shortcuts.
Evangelion attempted something it couldn’t quite pull off. Building on that, Utena successfully pulls it off, albeit in haphazard fashion. I might also add that Princess Tutu, usually considered Utena’s spiritual successor, uses the same techniques, but employs them in a much more disciplined manner and entirely avoids the pitfalls of its predecessors. Continue reading “Nanami Takes Over: The ‘Revolutionary Girl Utena’ Rewatch, Part 6”
Although the main plot of this show still eludes us (and will continue to do so until the third and final arc), this fifth episode represents a sea change in Revolutionary Girl Utena because it is the first episode to reveal what we’re really in for.
In the episode previous, we met Miki, another member of the student council. A mere middle school freshman, Miki is a child prodigy, a highly skilled fencer, pianist, and math student. He also has the hots for Anthy, whom he calls his “shining thing.”
Yeesh, haven’t done one of these in a while. My schedule these days is packed, but it occurs to me that I might be able to do so much as watch a single episode of a beloved anime on a semi-daily basis and discuss the same, so I’ve decided to continue our series on Revolutionary Girl Utena, the ultimate in LSD-fueled self-important mahou shoujo anime. Once again, I find myself sitting up late at night with one hand around a Captain Morgan Cannonblast and another hand hovering over the Print Screen button.
I have got to change my life.
Anyway, yes, it is indeed time once again to explore Revolutionary Girl Utena.