Archive for April 8th, 2008

kure-nai: List of Things I Know About kure-nai After One Episode

1) Murasaki is sassy and haughty.

Yes, that’s it. And I like it that way.

kure-nai is an adaptation of a light novel series by Katayama Kentarou (interest piqued part the first), with animation production being done by Brains Base (interest piqued part the second) and directed by Matsuo Kou, who directed Rozen Maiden and Red Garden (interest piqued part the third). I haven’t seen Red Garden, but I hear semi-good things about it, and I certainly think the concept is quite interesting. I have seen the first season of Rozen Maiden and I quite liked that, although not to the extent that someone on 4chan might have. I remember it being quite fun to watch, and both the serious and the less serious moments were done well. In sort, it’s a recipe for instant appeal to me, and that’s what kure-nai is.

it’s completely unknown what, exactly, is going on in the series. Murasaki has obviously been somewhat willingly kidnapped from her house and away from her seemingly tyrannical father who may or may not have murdered her mother. But that seems to be secondary to the concept of taking said kidnapped Murasaki and throwing her haughty self into a small 6-tatami room with none other than our high-school aged protagonist, Shinkurou. This is Not Pleasing to Murasaki, who tolerates it for exactly one night and promptly leaves when given the chance, leaving Shinkurou to chase after her.

But who cares about that? That’s plot. This series impressed me from the very beginning with its extremely unconventional opening which has to be seen to be believed. It’s a highly stylized opening sequence, and I liked. The actual episode itself was animated somewhat strangely and unconventionally as well, again, something that has to be seen to understand, especially given that I can’t discuss art very well due to a lack of proper vocabulary (I direct you to Ogiue Maniax for your dose of high-level artistic vocabulary, but you probably already knew that). On top of the unusual animation style, the character art itself is also unusual, although slightly less so. It all sums up for a visual experience I found to be quite fun, although I guess your mileage may vary, as in all things.

The real highlight of the episode was the Hatenkou Yuugi-esque dialogue back-and-forthing. Most of the characters in the series have clear personalities, sometimes just from their precious few seconds on screen (the landlady and Shinkurou’s neighbor come to mind–they have amazingly distinct personalities, considering that they’ve been on screen for approximately 2.5 minutes combined) and they bounce off each other naturally. The highlight is, of course, the moments where Shinkurou and Murasaki are quite alone and the latter is biting the head off of the former. Murasaki is amazingly cute, in the way that only haughty girls can be. I really can’t use the term “loli” to describe Murasaki, as the word carries with it a certain kind of stereotypes with it. She is seven, and so technically qualifies, but it’s almost an insult to her to classify her as such, I think, especially given her level of character development at this stage.

The only expectation I have for kure-nai at the moment is for it to be a character interaction/development piece. That’s what it looks like it’s going to be, but I really can’t say for certain, because I really have no idea where it’s going. That’s part of the reason I like the first episode so much–when something is unpredictable, it gives off an air of excitement. I think I’ll be following this one for the run, barring any major mishaps, but I don’t forsee those. I’m almost ashamed of me for not picking up on it earlier (a friend mentioned it to me the other day and I went from “what is this” to “must see” in about two minutes) and generating a teeny amount of pre-air hype for it, but this should make up for it. It looks like it’ll be a fun ride, no matter how things will progress from  here on out.

How To Grow Up With Anime Despite Not Living In Japan: Reflections on Viewer Perspectives

Join Wang Liu Ming and I upon a fantastic safari into the deepest darkest jungles of complicated theoretical ideas! There might be lions! And tigers! And bears! Oh my!

I’ve been thinking about this for a while now, as it always seems to me I approach anime from a fundamentally different positon than other people. I think, by far, the vast majority of anime fans, especially in the Western or non-Japanese world, grew up devoid of anime, and became interested in it peripherally to other interests, to varying degrees. There’s nothing wrong with this, as there’s something to be said for having broad interests, just like there’s something to be said for specialization.

The product of this “peripheral” interest, however, is that there is a difference in taste between any two given people. This is true of everything, so this isn’t news, or shouldn’t be. What happens, however, is that people form sophisticated taste before becoming exposed to anime. Technically, you start developing taste from the moment your parents start reading you bedtime stories and you start picking favorite stories for them to read, but sophisticated taste isn’t developed until much later in life, and–depending on whether or not the person is interested in fictional storytelling mediums–may not develop at all. This “sophisticated taste” would be, say, the realization that you do not merely like a piece of fiction, but you love it. You’re deeply moved by it in some way, whether emotionally or intellectually, or some other way. You progress beyond merely liking something, but not being too terribly impressed by it, as it was something to pass the time with, to loving something for being a great story.

I am serious. And don’t call me Shirley. (Wait a second…)

With me, this experience of discovering something that I really, truly loved was around 16 or 17, when I read Philip Pullman’s  His Dark Materials trilogy. What I found I loved about it was that it had something I had never really experienced before–a bittersweet ending. I do believe I cried when I read the last few chapters of  The Amber Spyglass, and nothing had exerted that power over my emotions before.

I really can’t remember much else that really impressed me in that manner until I turned 18 and started watching anime. Cowboy Bebop was my first (and, yes, I did cry to that too), but I don’t think it really clicked with me until I watched other things, such as Figure 17. Figure 17, of course, has one of the most heartbreaking endings ever, and I also remember being moved by it, even given how slow I watched it.

For other people, however, especially in the West, this “sophisticated taste” is created through exploration of Western works, with Western ideas of what is “good” and “bad” (which of course vary from person to person, since you’re not going to get too many people who like Lethal Weapon but also like The Time-Traveler’s Wife,  but there is clearly a defined set of cultural “good” and “bad” values that Westerners look for). It’s created through watching, say, a Stanley Kubrick movie, or reading a book by Arthur C. Clarke, or anything else under the sun, and, after that, exploring the wide world of fictional storytelling and cementing what you consider “good” and “bad” in fiction.

When someone who has generated this kind of Western-spurred taste prior to discovering that they’re interested in anime, they bring these preconceptions to the table when they sit down to watch a series. For good or for bad, their “sophisticated taste” becomes the benchmark by which they judge a series. The series is viewed through the lens of the West as represented in their own personal taste, and the end result is somewhat distorted from the context the anime was meant to be taken in. Not this this is a bad thing, or that your taste is somehow “wrong” or “incorrect”. It’s simply how humans operate.

If this post is starting to feel like the Apocalypse arc of Revolutionary Girl Utena, here is my admission of this fact.

With me, then, my taste explorations didn’t really start until after I found anime. The more I watched it, the more I found I really liked the kinds of things they did in it, and the more my own, personal lens became distorted from the Western standard and started becoming an anime lens. At this point in my life, I’d say that it might be practically impossible for me to completely remove this distortion, even if I simply stopped watching anime this very second. Since I’ve effectively “grown up” on anime, or at least come into maturity with it, it’s become part of who I am, and how I define myself. And, just like there’s nothing inherently wrong with having a set of clearly Western sensibilities in watching anime, there’s nothing inherently good about having an anime-shaped lens. It’s just how things worked out for me, and I can no more change that than you can change your lens. In some ways it limits me, and in others it frees me. And the Western lens, in some ways, is limiting and freeing as well.

With an anime-shaped lens, however, this means I look at anime through the context of anime, and not through an external context such as “animation” or “film” or “theater” or “storytelling”. And I often find myself mystified at other people, who seem so eager to denouce I series I like for this, that, or the other reason, none of which make any kind of sense ot me, or, if it does, doesn’t really detract from the series as a whole. I shouldn’t really find myself mystified at this kind of thing, but I always wonder about the seemingly insurmountable differences between even two discrete individuals, even and especially ones that get along admirably.

The end result of all this is, of course, a large and varied fanbase, all of whom look at anime differently from one another. Lenses crisscross and overlap, but two never really match each other exactly. This, ladies and gentlemen, is The Human Experience, and, no, you cannot escape The Human Experience by watching anime. Unless you become a hikikomori, or a NEET, or some combination thereof. And even then, you’re still probably talking to people on the Internet, unless you truly are some kind of modern-day urban hermit.

I think this post had a point somewhere but it got lost in the process of actually writing it. Oh well.


I cannot understand those that take anime seriously, but I can love them, and I do. Out of my love I warn them to keep clear of this blog.

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April 2008