I still remain firmly convinced that Kannagi is a solid testament to the assertion that the difference between being trite and not being trite is in how it’s executed rather than how it’s conceived. But I’m pretty sure that everyone realizes this already and that, rather, I would like to spend some time explicating some rather amusing observations.
- Akiba-kun. The very second he opened his mouth to rant about the quality of direction in Lolikko Cutie (the highly parodical snippet we were alloted in the ending credits to episode 7 amused me vastly, by the way. “Actually, I have three lives!”), I thought immediately of myself, as that’s exactly how I would react upon someone mentioning something I liked in a negative context (although, in the case of Lolikko Cutie, I don’t think I’d go to quite the extent Akiba-kun does, but the spirit’s there, and that’s what counts). Pretty much any time he steps on screen I know I’m in for hilarity, although I’m starting to wonder if anything will be better than the presentation of the Beta video tape, follwed by “It’s a Sony!” I have a nasty feeling that there will be better.
- And, speaking of Akiba-kun going into far too much detail on the direction, Yamamoto Yutaka really knows how to manipulate humor. Speaking as someone who has spent entirely too much time thinking seriously about being funny, and also having been a bit of a humorist myself, he understands some of the strongest weapons in the repitoire of the comedian: one, create funny characters and set them loose on each other with free reign and hilarity is born; and two, sometimes the best joke is the one that isn’t actually made.Witness episode 7: as more characters pile into Jin’s room in an attempt to coax Nagi out of the closet, things start to spiral out of control and it becomes less about getting Nagi out of the closet and more about watching the characters interact. You aren’t even told what, exactly, Jin has done to incur Nagi’s irrational wrath until the episode is nearly over, and by then it’s mostly trivial, because you’re laughing too hard at everything else that’s happened. Better, perhaps, is the scene where the cheerfully sadistic Zange is doing something to Jin, although network constraints (Kannagi does air relatively early: 10:30PM on Saturday evenings) and just plain good comedic sense from Yamamoto led to us not being terribly sure what, exactly, Zange was doing to Jin. It’s the classic setup: sometimes, the funniest thing is to leave it up to the imagination of the viewer to invent their own (in this case, perverted) scene. Handled with the right balance of vagueness and specific details, this can provide endless amusement and running gags in both the series and in the following. Personally, I found it funnier to imagine some kind of horribly complex, planned-out act to make it seem like “embarassing things” were happening, either impromptu or without letting Tsugumi in on the deal (perhaps to make her own shock, embarassment, and discomfort contribute to the overall effect. Such an eventuality works for me because I, as the viewer, know that Zange would totally do horribly embarassing things to Jin for the sole sadistic purpose of pissing off her sister, and so, therefore, by acting like she is doing them, but not actually doing them, the insinuation combined with the subversion of her own character archetype makes it delightfully amusing.Why did Kyoani say Yamamoto wasn’t ready to be a director a year ago, anyway? Was he actually good, and there’s just some kind of politics behind this, or did he just train on a mountaintop with a wizened old man in the martial arts of directorship in the intervening year? Is there a similar wizened old man on a mountaintop for the martial arts of librarianship?
- Speaking of Zange-chan, I am still working up some kind of overly complicated and tongue-in-cheek theory about how Kannagi is actually about the intervention of Western values (personified by Zange, who wears a crucifix) versus traditional Japanese values (personified by Nagi, who is a mobile sacred Shinto tree). I mean, really, look at how brutal Zange is to subvert Nagi. She ties her up in the shed! She kicks her in the face! She does anything (mostly decitful things, though) to gain the willing support of the Japanese public, forcing Nagi to fight her on her own turf! If that’s not some kind of intercultural dialogue manifested in two decidedly insane yet strangely attractive sisters, I don’t know what is.
The main thing that’s surprised me is that, even with Kannagi going down directions I didn’t quite think it’d go back at episode two, it’s still retained is particular brand of comedic styling that causes it to rise above the status of “just another otaku-service series.” We may have had underwear shopping episodes, but I’ll be damned if they weren’t hilarious underwear-shopping episodes.