When Stories Leave Us Behind – Empathy and The Narratives of Adaptations (In OreGairu)

In case you’ve missed it, FLCL (pronounced ‘Fooly cooly’), which originally aired in 2000-2001 is getting a direct sequel, which will air in 2017. Most people’s response has been “Why?” I sought to calm these people down by reminding them that no matter how bad the FLCL continuation is, they’ll still have the original, untouched. But is that really true? One of the reasons Tolkien’s estate had been so reluctant to allow for movies to be made off of his work is the knowledge that the total mindscape of a franchise is indeed affected by all that it contains. Then again, look at Psycho-Pass’s 2nd season, or Batman versus Superman: Dawn of Justice, where the argument is that the new people in charge of the franchise don’t really understand what made it good to begin with, and don’t understand its core messages. So we use this argument to do away with dissenting evidence. Then again, we also see this argument with reboots such as female Thor, or black Spiderman, etc.

OreGairu S2 episode 5 anime - Yukinoshita Yukino thought Hikigaya Hachiman would understand her

And this is what it really comes down to; just as we dismiss the latest creation as outside “canon”, for not getting the original, we fear that somehow, we’ll be the ones left behind, where the newest creation will reflect on what the original has said and ruin it for us – not just our memory of it, but what it even said to us. And this is one of the reasons fans of source material are so often unhappy with adaptations: There are as many narratives on what the material really says as there are people who consumed it. This is unsurprising, because we filter the material through our own understanding of the world, and our own media preferences, until the effect of the media on us, through us, is as unique as the experience of having consumed it (and might be different should we revisit the material later on).

(This post will have very light OreGairu (My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU in English) seasons 1-2 spoilers, mostly of a meta-nature, discussing where the story went rather than its details.)

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Concrete Revolutio – Cold War, Sizzling Justice

Concrete Revolutio - A Superhuman Fantasy animeWriting on Concrete Revolutio with my set of intentions, at this particular point in time is like trying to defuse a bomb while riding a jet-powered unicycle, riding on the back of Godzilla. The simple solution would be to pick but one ball, and trust the rest of them to take care of themselves. However, I’m going to be greedy, I’m going to be human, and attempt to succeed in several of these tasks I set myself out to accomplish.

The first task is that I want to get people to watch this show. I believe this show is good, on a small and personal character-moment level, and on a bigger social-commentary level. This show engages in a dialogue with its existence as a media piece, with other creations in its specific genre (of superhero narratives). The show even goes boldly into taking a look at some of Japan’s more turbulent recent history, while casting reflections on Japan’s current political discussion. This show is very much worth watching, and as such, a write-up about it that would be spoiler-free and aiming to convince people of that fact would be something I’d be happy to see written, as the show’s second cour is going to air starting next Sunday, and I’d like people to give it a chance. However, that’s not the style of write-up I’m more interested in writing, so I’ll have to balance the two, and this write-up will contain a fair amount of spoilers, but should be readable even if you are yet to watch the show’s first half.

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Moon Hunters Review – A Question of Time

If I had to answer whether Moon Hunters: A Myth Weaving Game by Kitfox Games (which I backed on Kickstarter) is worth your time on a yes/no basis, then I’d unhappily choose “no”, as it’s a very close thing. It might be the game for you, and I didn’t suffer playing it, but you usually have better uses for your time, especially when you consider just how much time this game asks of you. Time is what this is all about. Time and content: I’ve played this game a number of times, with all classes but support, more than once with most, and beat the end-game boss a number of times. Each playthrough of the game is quite short, ranging from 30 to 90 minutes, depending on how well you’re doing and the size of the maps.

Moon Hunters: A Myth Weaving Game

The game is designed to be played multiple times, except where it is not. You only get to visit 5-6 locations in each playthrough, which provides a reason to play again, and again. Right? Well, except I rarely encounter new options, even 5 hours into the game, and less as I reached 7 hours. Not every location or every setup will appear in each playthrough, and not in every playthrough will you have one of the traits needed to make use of it, so you’d think they’d let you play through every locale the map generates each time, or most of them, and you’d still have reasons to play again for a new map, and to try a different combination of options, so why don’t they?

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Fate/Zero – Flawed Characters, Urobuchi’s Style, and Series Composition

Fate Zero anime 2nd season posterWhen Kyoukai no Kanata (Beyond the Boundary) ended in late 2013, I wasn’t terribly pleased with it. Beyond anything else, I thought that it could’ve easily been better, if not in terms of poor directing in its last two episodes, and its mismatched tones, and other issues, then at least in terms of emotional investment in a certain event, and thus in one of the two main characters of the story. It felt frustrating, that a show missed its mark with what could’ve been an easy change. And that in turn led me to solidify my thoughts on why I wasn’t as invested in Fate/Zero which I watched a couple of years prior – I felt that the show, which wasn’t bad, could’ve been so much better.

This post is going to cover an assortment of topics, as they all tie into one another. It will mostly revolve around and use Fate/Zero, both as the object discussed, and as an example for these other topics: Series composition, the act of deciding which part of the story will go where in the story, and how much space it’ll receive. Story structure with regards to revelation, character involvement and emotional attachment, and Urobuchi Gen’s specific quirk in this regard, and some thoughts on how it might tie to Visual Novel writing, as well as thrillers and tragedies. Hopefully these topics, and how they’re interwoven, will all be interesting.

(This is a Things I Like post, it’s not a review, but more a discussion of the show and of ideas that rose in my mind as a result of watching the show. There will be spoilers for Fate/Zero, and as Fate/Zero spoils Fate/Stay Night, that will be spoiled as well. There’ll be meta-structural spoilers (I’ll discuss the form of the storytelling) for Gargantia in the Verdurous Planet, Madoka Magica, Kyoukai no Kanata (Beyond the Boundary), and Psycho-Pass’s first season.)

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Letting Go of Worldly Desires en Route to The Nuclear Throne

I’m a competitive gamer. I play for fun first and foremost, but I also play to win. Always have.

I play games for fun, which is a good thing, because losing doesn’t frustrate me overmuch, and even if I get frustrated, I do not get angry, I do not go on tilt. This is a good thing, because even if I’m not entirely without talent in video-games, and my siblings and cousins would come to me now and then for aid with video games, I’m not exactly talented in those games either, certainly not mechanically. The progress I make in such games is usually through much trial and error, growing wiser in the way of the game, gaining game sense more than mastery over the mechanics themselves. It also means I tend to do better in games where manual dexterity plays less of a role, such as turn-based strategy games, or non-video games, such as miniature wargaming, or card-games.

Nuclear Throne wallpaper

Thrice over have I benefited from not going on tilt, from not getting overly frustrated when losses come (though some losses do frustrate me, I’ll make no lie, as that’s part of the competitive spirit). First and foremost, some of the fun is sucked away from the activity if it frustrates and angers you, and you’re certainly not happy at the moment. Second, in many games, you could have won, had you not gone on tilt, and so one loss leads to another, and that to another yet. Finally, since my skill came from playing those games many a time, or at least thinking of them, frustration would’ve had me play them less, and so I wouldn’t have gotten better. And I usually learned more from losses than from victories, which meant one has to be willing to tackle on their loss, not try to ignore it.

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Shiki and the Fire Within

Subtitle: Shiki and the Horror of Happy Homes.

Shiki anime reviewPart 1: Driving Out the Darkness:

Shiki is a show I’m reviewing for the Reverse Thieves Secret Santa project, and fittingly, there’s a celebration within the show that makes for a good place to start this piece, a holiday, which also ties in to the winter holidays of two Abrahamic religions, Judaism and Christianity.

Let’s begin with Judaism’s holiday for the winter, Channukah, which like Passover is a celebration and remembrance for having triumphed over the enemies of the Judaic people, the Romans in this case. Here’s a translation of a children Channukah song, translated and transliterated roughly by me. It’s titled, quite fittingly, “We’re Here to Banish the Darkness“:

We came to drive away the darkness, (Banu choshech le’garesh,)
In our hands (we carry) light and flame, (Be’yadeinu or va’esh,)
Each of us is a small light, (Kol echad hu or katan,)
And all of us (together) are a great light. (Ve’kulanu or eitan.)

Move aside darkness, onward blackness! (Soora choshech, hal’a sh’chor!)
Flee from the light! (Soora mi’pnei ha’or!)

Channukah comes at the height of Winter, and one of the miracles it celebrates is that a small container of oil held for 8 days. Holidays held at Winter’s darkest which call forth the Spring are not rare, and the Christmas custom of cutting a sprig of mistletoe is believed to be a remnant of such a pagan holiday. Furthermore, the birth of a “God” as Christianity holds Christmas to be, in the Winter, when it seems the year and the world have died, fit into the same sort of pattern. Although it is held during an especially harsh summer in Sotoba village, Shiki’s end-of-series “jubilee” fits quite nicely.

(This is a Things I Like post, it’s not a review, but more a discussion of the show and of ideas that rose in my mind as a result of watching the show. There will be spoilers for the entire show.)

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Sound! Euphonium — On Ensembles and Ensemble Shows

Sound EuphoniumA topic that I sometimes bring up when people discuss how certain characters in the latest novel adaptation to anime isn’t fleshed out sufficiently is that they’re not supposed to be fleshed out, because they’re a supporting character, only there to help the main character’s fleshing out as they interact with them. In most novels, it’s very clear who the protagonist is, and it’s often clear that other characters not only aren’t protagonists, but they might not even be main characters at all.

In anime, these novels, and often manga (where ensemble casts are slightly more common), get posed as stories with a handful of main characters, often between three and five (three is a particularly common number for romantic series), but let’s take a look at Sound! Euphonium (Hibike! Euphonium in Japanese), where if we go by popular site MyAnimeList (MAL), then we have four, and those are also the first four appearing on the Wikipedia page for the show. All is content added by private individuals, but considering these four appear on the anime’s poster (and are four of the five characters appearing on the first novel’s cover as well), we could go by that.

(This is a Things I Like post, it’s not a review, but more a discussion of the show and of ideas that rose in my mind as a result of watching the show. There will be spoilers for the entire show.)

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When Marnie Was There – Farewell to Studio Ghibli

When Marnie Was There / Omoide no Marnie anime movie posterWhen Marnie Was There (in Japanese, “Omoide no Marnie”, or “Memories of Marnie”) has the distinction of not only being Studio Ghibli’s latest film, but as current plans stand, of also being their last theatrical film. I’ve watched most of Studio Ghibli’s films, and bidding them farewell is not an easy thing, but should we bid them goodbye, or are they still there for us? I feel that this film deals with that very question.

Before I begin my thematic discussion and analysis of the film, because this write-up will contain numerous spoilers, I’ll cut to the chase and say that this film is my 2nd favourite Studio Ghibli film from the last two decades, and I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone. The film is directed by Yonebayashi Hiromasa who directed The Secret World of Arrietty and is based on a novel by the same name by Joan G. Robinson, first published in 1967, which is set in England.

While it might not seem so at first glance, I hold that When Marnie Was There is a film about growing up. Growing up is also growing past, and beyond this film being about Anna’s journey of growing past her own pains, it is also a film about us growing to leave Studio Ghibli, or at least Studio Ghibli as it is in Miyazaki’s films (as Takahata’s are different in style), behind. And in order to do so, the film that seems much less about the “magical journey”, is anything but.

(This is a Things I Like post, it’s not a review, but more a discussion of the show and of ideas that rose in my mind as a result of watching the show. There will be massive spoilers for the film.)

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Shirobako – On Cynical Optimism

Shirobako animeShirobako ended in the only way it could, and in the way its narrative arc had outlined from the beginning. Shirobako ended on an optimistic note, and I felt betrayed by it.

Since like many of the best pieces of media out there, Shirobako is about life, and since this post, as is the case with most of what people write, will hinge upon my personal experiencing of it, mediated through my own experiences, I will now get to do what bloggers the world over love doing: Write a bit about myself. Also, that sure was a long sentence.

I’m not an old person, but I definitely fall under the heading of “adult”, and am older than what the average anime-watcher in online communities is. I’ve served three years in the military, and between my B.A. and M.A. had the opportunity (and need) to work for several years, full-time. I’m no stranger to insufferable co-workers, implicit threats of physical violence, burdens heaped upon the capable until they buckle, unlistening leaders, and more. More-over, and this is the salient part, I came into workplaces expecting these things, so perhaps I gave them a larger place in my mental landscape than they objectively took up, but perhaps even that is a comfortable lie. I’m a cynical optimist, and this is relevant to my reaction to the show, and to much of anime’s storytelling in this regard.

(This is a Things I Like post, it’s not a review, but more a discussion of the show and of ideas that rose in my mind as a result of watching the show. There will be spoilers for the entire show.)

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OreGairu Season 2 Episode 8 FAQ – Explaining “That Scene”

After fielding a whole bunch of questions on my blog, and seeing the same questions pop up on reddit, MAL, Crunchyroll, and even a Russian forum that linked to my blog, I thought I’d try to tackle some questions about the scene in the second half of OreGairu season 2 episode 8. I’m not trying to convince you it’s “good”, or that the characters are “right”, but just try and explain the what and the why.

I haven’t read the Light Novel, so this is all based on my read of the show on its own. You can read my massive notes for episode 8 here if you so desire, or check here for all my writings on the second season.

1) You think Hachiman is miserable? But he’s the batman, and he’s cool, and society is wrong, isn’t it?

OreGairu S2 episode 1 anime - Hikigaya Hachiman's inner thoughts

This question is more of a preamble into the mood of the entire FAQ. I’m not actually interested in giving value judgments on whether the characters are “right” or “wrong”. I’m trying to explain how they see the situation, and whythey are having problems with it. I mean, we sit here outside, some of us with years of experience more than the characters have. Whether I think Hachiman’s goal is right or wrong doesn’t mean much to answer the question, “Why does he try to change his methods?” And the answer is Hachiman is miserable, and was keeping this loner personality as an act to help him keep people, and his own emotions, at bay. He himself says he’s lonely and that his actions only isolated him further, while hurting those around him under the guise of it not mattering.

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