Archive for the 'hitohira' Category

Moenetics: The Rise of the Sophisticated Moe Series

Post to be broken up with ridiculously huge images, as is my tradition for longer essays, because otherwise there’s a huge wall of text and no one likes walls of text, least of all me, so you can either stay for the text or just stare at pretty pictures for a few minutes. Either way, you’ll hopefully have fun!

It’s occurred to me in the past couple of days, basking in the warm afterglow of finishing true tears (which, by the way, I think blogging it really helped me appreciate it much more than I would have without such, as doing the entries gave me the opportunity to properly think about each character’s motivations and emotions, even if most of those posts revolved around Noe), that anime in general and moe in particular is kind of undergoing a sort of sea change. We’ve seen, in the past six months, the airing of four very, from a historical perspective, odd galge/eroge conversion series: Kimikiss, ef – a tale of memories, Clannad, and true tears. They’re odd not in the sense that they’re quirky, but odd in the sense that they break from tradition

Three of them were handed to major creative directors–Kimikiss to Kasai Ken’ichi of Honey & Clover and Nodame Cantabile fame; ef to Shinbo Akiyuki’s very capable supervision hands, with Oonuma Shin providing a very strong initial showing; and true tears to Nishimura Junji, who directed Simoun, as well as a portion of that little-known series Ranma 1/2; Clannad to Kyoto Animation’s extremely competent Ishihara Tatsuya, responsible for Haruhi and Kanon. In addition to these four series, I’d like to throw in, partially because I’m very fond of it, and partially because it works very well with the concept, Nishimori Akira’s Hitohira (Nishimori also directed the extremely pleasant Petopeto-san, which I was probably one of the few people who genuinely liked it). I’ll probably talk more about true tears, ef, Clannad, and Hitohira, as I’ve seen them, and I haven’t had the chance to see Kimikiss yet, but all signs point to that series being excellent as well, so I look forward to it.

Whew.

What that all builds up to, then, is a discovery of what moe actually is. As a term. it has a flexible definition, and one way I’ve always looked at it is as a sort of bridging the gap between the male audience and the female audience, at least when accomplished properly. The concept of “cute girls” preys upon the male’s need for eye candy, and the frequently deep emotions and development of the “cute girl” into a more complex character is strongly reminiscent of shoujo characterization. Put another way, moe offers character-driven (or primarily character-driven) series featuring cute female characters and officially targeted at a male audience. It’s a kind of transference of shoujo sensibilities into seinen anime and manga–again, when accomplished properly.

The deep character focus of the five mentioned series (in Kimikiss’s case, it is assumed, but I don’t think I’m wrong) demonstrate moe in this sense effectively. Consider Hitohira, for starters: it’s an entirely character-driven series, as the plot exists only to further Mugi’s development as a character. She is a quite cute character, with somewhat exaggerated traits, but it’s clear to anyone who’s seen the series that she changes over the course of the series. In true shoujo form, we get a glimpse inside the person of Mugi, and then we get the joy of cheering her on as she slowly comes out of her shell. It’s the total opposite of what you’d think a guy would enjoy, but there’s certainly a small (yet devoted) male fanbase for the series.

The extreme example of this shift in narrative focus from “plot” to “character”, from characters existing solely as flat personalities (such as you’d see in a Da Capo series) with a quirky trait to characters existing as a complex whole, is of course true tears. As I’ve mentioned in my posts about the series, the six main characters are incredibly complex, and developed so well that I find it difficult to grasp how so many people have enjoyed the series seemingly without getting underneath the characters’ skin and trying to decipher how they work. (Then again, maybe all these sorts of people just read my blog, where I attempted to do that for them, to varying degrees of success depending on the person) This kind of depth of character is something you only see in shoujo and josei in anime, and is even what you get in women’s fiction here in America, such as The Time-Traveler’s Wife. It’s what females seem to thrive on, this depth of character, and true tears gives it in a package that both males and females can share, if they try hard enough.

On the Clannad front, you’ve got, at its heart, not a complex “love heptagon” plot, but rather the simple story of two people, Tomoya and Nagisa, who gradually fall in love as they help those around them. I haven’t quite seen the second half of this series yet, unfortunately, but I’m led to understand that the conclusion is decidedly Tomoya x Nagisa. The important thing about Clannad is that, while it may lack some of the character depth found in true tears, it makes up for it by telling a simple, honest story of a romance between two people. It’s almost like girl fanservice to see the little tantalizing bits of relationship between Tomoya and Nagisa, such as hands brushing against one another while walking. Again, here the package of sweet, almost girly romance is tied up with a wrapping of a number of cute girls designed to appeal to the male aesthetic.

ef is somewhat more complicated, but, like Clannad, it’s at its heart a tale of pure romance. Fans of love triangles got their fill with the Kei/Miyako arc, and fans of a tale of true love crossing all boundaries and impediments got their fill with Chihro and Renji. Again, the characters are drawn to the bishoujo style, but also, there’s depth of emotion here. The characters may be somewhat on the flat side, but ef truly shines at bringing out their raw emotions and showing to the viewer exactly what it is they’re feeling, which is a difficult act to accomplish. Part of that is due to the clever direction, of course, but there’s enough of it in the writing that it’s not wholly directorial.

On the whole, I think that this trend towards a more characterized moe (rather than an arbitrary character trait moe) is fast becoming the new wave of the future. We saw its beginnings back in 2006 with Toki o Kakeru Shoujo, I think, and there’s certainly proto-series of this type floating around that I’ve forgotten about from even earlier time periods. I’ve also noticed that as we’ve been getting more and more of these sorts of series, we get far less in the way of series along the lines of Rosario + Vampire, which offer little character depth but plenty of superficial and visceral enjoyment for males (and, it should be noted, females of a rather odd persuasion). I think that the enduring popularity of these series with the American and Japanese audience will only go to encourage the producers of anime to create more in the vein of the five series mentioned here.

Maybe someday I can write a post titled “Moe: The Rise from the Ashes” and everyone who hated moe will suddenly comprehend the concept and appreciate it for what it is supposed to be. Or maybe I’m just delusional, or overly hopeful, or both. Surely there’s some middle ground, right?

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The Mugi-Choco Chibi of Apology, Regret, and Cuteness

To make up for the rather graphic violence contained in Parasyte, should you read (or have read) it, and included a rather creepy cover image with a hand with eyeballs in the post about it, here is some hyper-cute Mugi-Choco chibi to soothe your soul.

Isn’t she just adorable? Mugi-Choco Love, now and forever. Thank you, fictional sister. You are a hero among men.

Hitohira, Mugi-Choco, and the Mystical Power of Anime to Change One’s Life (or, at least, draw parallels to)

So it’s been well over six months since I finished Hitohira, the best little show that no one watched, and while toiling away at the library today I started thinking about how much I’ve changed in the intervening time. I won’t bore you with the dull, in-depth personal details (this is, after all, an anime blog) but I’ll probably refer to things in passing. Rest assured, this is simply an example of the Mystical Power of Anime to Change People’s Lives and not me pre-empting your normal daily anime-based content to whine about things.

At one point, I distinctly remember drawing comparisons between Hitohira and the dorama of my life at the time, and now, months and months later, I come to the realization that maybe that was a very apt way of putting it. Asai Mugi resonated with me at the time I watched the series, for the simple reason that she was very, very shy, and very, very prone to involved emotional responses. As a result of being shy, she had very few friends–only one at the start of the series, in fact: Kayo. It was kind of similar to my situation at the time–recovering from an extended bout of reduced serotonin levels in my neurochemistry with hardly any friends to help me along. Needless to say, as is usually the case when you’re recovering from serious things, the rug gets jerked out from under you and you’re forced to scramble to keep from returning back to the corner to cower and hide.

It was right about then I was in the process of watching Hitohira (the Event either happened shortly before I started watching, or mid-series) and I was soundly impressed by it, and though that the bit about Kayo towards the end really resonated with my situation in particular. And then, as the Situation played itself out, I found myself getting stronger and stronger as a person. Not necessarily in one smooth process, but I’m pretty confident that I’m a totally different person than I was a year ago at this time, with a different outlook on life and everything.

In more ways than one, then, I’m like my dearly beloved Mugi-Choco. She’s a totally different person by the end of Hitohira anime–much more confident and self-assured. And it only just recently dawned on me that that’s exactly what’s happened to me in roughly the same amount of time as covered by the series–a complete 180 on my personality. I’m still not a social butterfly, of course–that’s never going to happen, ever–but neither do I rely on external sources for confidence.

I’d like to say that this was all a conscious effort on my part to emulate Mugi-Choco, but I think it’s regulated more firmly to an unconscious factor. One of my favorite quotes from Hitohira was in the summer rehearsal beach episode, where an angry Nono throws a fit at a recalcitrant Mugi, throwing her script on the ground and stating “Fine, then, just quit acting, and continue to be the Asai Mugi who can’t do anything forever!” This is, of course, one of the major turning points for Mugi in the series, the other major one being the actual performance itself. And, now that I think about it, I do remember sitting there, thinking about that quote, and thinking to myself “do I really want to remain the way I am now forever?” And I think I took that quote, subconsciously and deeply internalized it, and acted upon it to alter my life in what I consider to be a major way.

“But,” the skeptical reader says, “it’s just a silly light yuri-service anime! How can you draw life lessons from it?” Ah, I reply, but remember, I’m the same person whose deep funk four years ago was shattered in part due to the supremely light and fluffy and totally without “substance” Kokoro Library. I don’t think something has to have five levels of Jungian psychology to affect someone’s life. To rephrase slightly, the author of a work doesn’t necessarily have to have set out from the beginning to create a life-affirming work. People find meaning in arbitrary works; there’s no rhyme or reason to it. I don’t know what the original mangaka of Hitohira was setting out to do with his work, aside from telling a heartwarming story with a touch of yuri. And it may have just been that. Meaning, oftentimes, is best found in works which don’t set out to have a meaning. It’s one reason I can’t abide literary fiction, but that’s beside the point. We all have to draw strength from somewhere; does it really matter where that strength comes from?

In conclusion:

iyaa~ hazukashii~

Year-End Anime Awards for 2007

It’s that time of year again.

The air is cold, the night is swift, and Dick Clark is still alive and no one knows why.

Yes, it is the end of 2007, and that means we get the end of the year “best of” awards ceremony. Criteria: the show must have started its broadcast in 2007. So, everything from winter season to fall season is fair game. So here we go!

Best Drama About Drama: Hitohira

Refreshingly original characters, a slight hint of yuri, and some real emotional power drives this series. I kind of glossed over it, and then heard about it from a friend of mine, and then watched it, expecting it to be some kind of mild schoolhouse comedy. Instead I got an incredible and moving drama. It came from nowhere and socked me with both cute and poignancy. How many of your average moe shows get that done, tell me?

Best Space Opera That Was Based on Seventies Manga: Terra e…

A rather inauspicious start led into a flurry of emotions and an actually epic plot, something its contemporary Heroic Age could have only wished it was. Not only that, the anime actually improves on the original manga, making it much more affecting.

Best Show With Immortal Gangsters: Baccano!

I’ve already said my piece about this show, of course, but to review: incredible characterization and a very tightly scripted plot turned this show into one of the real winners of 2007. The whole series would have flopped, in my opinion, had it been 26 episodes, due to the slow pacing that would have been brought on it.

Best Comedy About Little…Things That No One Knows What They Are: Potemayo

The 4koma nature of the manga this was adapted from led to a totally nonsensical anime. And it was good that way. It’s been a while since an anime comedy made me laugh as consistently as Potemayo did, and doing it all without making references is a plus.

Best Show About Drills: Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann

I don’t think I actually have to talk about this one much. I was relatively unimpressed by the first episode for some reason (hype got to me, I think–I kind of expected it to be a hilarious episode, and not an episode of burning passion for some reason) but I quickly warmed up to the series and ended up loving it all the way through. It was, indeed, manly as all get out. And well-paced past a certain point, too.

Best Romantic Drama Wherein There are Numerous Visual Tricks Because Shinbo is Crazy: ef – a tale of memories

I just wrote a post on this since it just ended, so it’s still fresh in my mind, but it’s definitely one of the top-tier series this year. See previous posts on the topic for reminders on why it’s listed here.

Honorable Mentions

“Honorable Mentions”, in this case, usually means “this show is really good but I haven’t actually finished it yet”.

Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei
Minami-ke

We got not one, not two, but three rather clever comedies this year, Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei being the funniest Shinbo Akiyuki show to date, and Minami-ke being….Minami-ke. All three of them are worthy of note, but I just haven’t finished these two. For shame.

Hidamari Sketch

Notable simply because it marked a point where Shinbo stopped being Pani Poni Dash Shinbo and became the Shinbo I can actually find amusing and interesting to watch. I was apathetic before this show; now I’m as much of a Shinbo whore as the next person. So, uh, yeah.

Lucky Star

I actually did finish this, and it was really fun to watch, and I will be buying the upcoming DVDs, so I can’t really explain why it’s down here. Notable, however, for turning a relatively mediocre manga into a huge otaku phenonmenon. Amazing what Kyoto Animation can do, isn’t it?

CLANNAD

Again, you probably know my stance on this show. The relationship dynamics between Tomoya and Nagisa are great, and the one arc I’ve seen so far has been pretty good. And I hear the Kotomi arc is great.

Moyashimon

Yes, let’s make a show about bacteria! And it will be the greatest thing ever!

Mobile Suit Gundam 00

Nothing’s changed since I last watched an episode. It’s still going strong. 30th anniversaries are wonderful things.

Sketchbook ~full color’s~

The other slice of life show about artists. It’s not as viusally clever as Hidamari Sketch is, but it’s a lot more relaxing and funny, thanks to Team Aria.

Dennou Coil

I still can’t figure out why I’m watching this so slowly. I think I’m trying to preserve the awesome as long as possible. Yeah, that’s it.

Darker than BLACK

I’m still only partway through this, but it’s been fairly good thus far. I don’t think it’ll make it into the top-tier up there, but I like the way every arc is focused around character development over action. It could just as easily have been an straightforward action show, but, instead, it’s a pretty nifty study in character.

Ghost Hound

It’s finally shaped itself up to be a good, creepy show. Even if it’s not allegedly as bizarre as Serial Experiments: Lain, I still like it.

I think that’s everything. As you can see, this year has been quite bountiful with the goods.

Despite Appearances, This is Really a “Have an Enjoyable Non-Denominational Winter Solstice Celebration” Post

Replace “メリー・クリスマス” with whatever you feel like putting in there. You could even put “俺の歌、聴け!” in there. Or possibly “お前はもう死んだ。”. It’s up to you!

Also I think the grammar is bad, so if you know better, let me know how to fix it.

(Original image here. Or possibly here.)


NOTICE SHAMELESSLY STOLEN FROM G.K. CHESTERTON

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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