Extra: Timid girls and Japan

Pssssst. Wanna know a secret? Come close. Closer. Ok… I’m not nearly as social as I seem. No, really! I’m actually quite awkward most of the time. And yes, I do have a reason for telling you this. Because my topic today might make it seem like I just don’t understand awkwardness and am callus to it or something. This is by no means true. Me and awkward have a long term relationship going on. We’re quite familiar with each other.

So, that being said, timid girls in anime. Yeah. You know about them. You can’t swing a dead cat, as the saying goes, without hitting an anime with a stuttering, constantly apologizing female (people do use that phrases, right?). So why the obsession? Well, that goes into the culture, which is by no means simple and has no straight answer. Even so, there are a few theories floating around.

For one thing, Japan associates timidity with being cute. And Japan loves cute. I mean, LOVES it. It’s actually a bit scary. In any case, these means that in order for a show to have its cute quota reached, it most have incompetent female characters that somehow always end up on top because they have pure hearts and junk. Whatever the heck, that means. I’d love to see some of these shows actually try to define what purity is. In words that make sense. None of that physiological theoretical stuff.

And another thing? Social standards. No joke. Someone who had visited Japan once said that where Japan was concerning female ideology was around where the United States was in the 1950s. Now before you blow your top, hear this out. It’s easy for future generations to look back and judge the past and how things were handled, but it’s a different world to live in the era, to be raised in it. Being demure, timid, and innocent is just status quo in Japan if you’re a woman. And, like all status quos, it is propagated by media, such as anime. To them it’s normal. And our own “normal” female, the strong willed and independent type, is actually quite strange to them (although they are making more and more appearances as their own stereotypes in anime now). And this goes a long way towards explaining why some strong willed women who go to Japan find themselves frustrated at being constantly asked if they need help or talked to differently. But, as stated, it’s not nearly as demeaning as it first seems. From their viewpoint, they’re just being considerate.

Even so, while timidity (often seen as humility) is so often praised in Japan, this doesn’t mean anime always portrays it well. Media is entertainment, after all. This means that these stereotypes are exaggerated, as is the case with Mikuru from The Melancholy (seen above). They’re also overused, making the type seem all too common and thus not nearly as heroic or unique as it probably should (people who are really as caring and selfless as these girls are rare, after all). So while US shows often have the blond haired supermodel/bully type, Japan has its timid, awkward, walking moe dolls.
…Somehow that ended up sounding creepy. Way creepy. It’s not what you think! (Actually, yes it is)

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Puella Magi Madoka Magica Review

madokaStory:
Madoka loves her family and friends. She leads a quiet and carefree life. There’s really nothing more she could want. So when a strange creature offers her a deal where she can make any wish in the world and have it granted, she finds she doesn’t really know what she could possibly wish for. Especially as that wish will bind her into being a magical girl who must fight witches nightly at the risk of her own life.

Violence:
The worst aspect of this show by far is the violence, which is quite high. A character is eaten by an enemy (most is off screen though), a character is shot to death, an enemy is stabbed repeatedly, a character is covered in blood stains, etc. It’s at least on level with Trinity Blood. However, the difference lies in a bit of horror added in. Thankfully it’s of a kind that’s more weird than gory, blending traditional animation with strange textures and “cut out” art. Even so, it’s defiantly not for those easily frightened. So if abnormal stuff, like dandelions with full lips, puts you on edge, skip this show.

Language:
Defiantly less than a few other YA shows. Even so, there’s at least one instance of the “female dog in heat” word. And a few d-mns and such. Rather tame for shows today, actually.

Nudity:
This one is odd because there’s actually not much nudity at all in this show. Except in the opening where the main lead is transforming (pretty much the only place you see this transformation happen) and a shimmering “older” version of herself is with her. Both are not wearing clothing. No details are seen, but they are in strange positions to one another and it’s just one big trip to awkward town. This doesn’t really happen anywhere else either, so really it’s completely pointless.

Theology/Mythology:
And this is where I struggle not to give out any spoilers while still doing my job. Alright, there is an implication throughout the show that one character might have enough power to be like a “god” (think Haruhi Suzumiya here). At the end, this theory is realized. The concept of god is not really a religious one, however, but more of an idea about being outside of normal space/time and having the ability reorder the world’s laws. Actual worship and mind set about them is completely left out of the picture. Even so, it makes the ending a bit… weird. If you’re sensitive to this sort of thing… you get the idea.

Personal Impression:
I have been requested to see and review this show by a lot of people. And little wonder. It’s gotten itself a bunch of hype since its release in 2011. My impression of it? The plot at the end was interesting, but it’s not something I feel has rewatch value for me (which is what makes a show truly stand out these days).
While it’s true the plot has elements that were unique for its genre, the characters held it back on multiple occasions. The main character specifically was nearly impossible for me to identify with. She’s a very stereotypical magical girl type, demure, ever sincere, has faults but always forgiven for them and seems to have no other motive in her life than making everyone else happy at all times. I would think she’d have something else she’d like being outside of running after other people and trying to “help them” by being a stuttering target. She seemed more of a kind that served the purpose of the story itself and little more, in the end. A few of the other characters did this as well, especially during a flashback sequence where one girl is grief-stricken and just shoots another for really no reason. Shooting someone you think is responsible, sure. But it felt extremely forced for her to shoot randomly like that.
In other words, a case of genre writing taking precedence over character driven writing. A shame considering what they could have done if the characters had been allowed more time to be themselves. Of course, a few of the side characters were different, such as Madoka’s mother and father and so on. But they couldn’t replace the heroine’s flat character for me.
The art, music and such are all decent enough, though a bit odd here and there. And, as stated, the plot is interesting. So in the end, if you enjoy some fighting and a unique take on an old genre, this show serves well. But if the typical anime heroine has been grinding on your brainstem, or you have an aversion to blood, skip this. As short as it is, this show only lives up to its hype if magical girl genres are something you’re familiar with and can compare this to. Otherwise it feels more than a little contrived.

Personal Rating: Young adult

Episodes: 12
Languages: Sub and dub
Official rating: PG13
Genre(s): Fantasy, magical girl
Website: http://madokamagicausa.com/
Legal streaming: Crunchyroll
Screen shots:
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Extra: Mechs

Ahhh, robots. Few images are so closely related to the science fiction nerd. I myself boast multiple Gundam figurines littering one of my bookcases. But speaking of Gundam and other Japanese mecha, have you noticed a very common factor? They’re pretty much all humanoid.

While Japan is also known for more than a few transforming mechs (Thransformers, Voltron, etc), every cases ends up in the same form: human. A few shows have deviated from the idea slightly and included other designs, such as the tachikomas seen in Ghost in the Shell. But generally Japanese mechs keep to two feet, upright models. The question is: why? From a physics perspective, two legged machines are harder to build because of the balancing issue. Also, with less stability, it’s easier for the unit to topple or malfunction during combat. Not the most logical set up for a weapon. And yet they’re all over Japanese media. And they aren’t the only ones. European nations have long created tales involving robots built to look human-like. Why the obsession with the human form?

Perhaps the reasoning has to do with the human ego. We don’t like to think that something that looks too different from us might have similar intelligence or powerful abilities we didn’t have. So we fashion them after ourselves, seeing our own forms as the ultimate form. Or maybe it’s to simulate our past. We thus go from sword fighting human to human, to laser fighting mech to mech. It’s hard to nail down a single reason. It might be many reasons combined. It might even be simply that it’s easier to draw something human-like than to come up with a brand new design from the get go. You laugh now, but when you’re an artist with multiple deadlines breathing down your neck, you’ll sing a different tune.

Not that I know anything about deadlines. Nooope. Just how to shoot the weak links in the back in MechWarrior. Not that I’d do that to you, of course. You’re different.

 

Shangri-la Review

Shangri-LaStory:
Kuniko has lived her entire life in a jungle. But it wasn’t always that way. Before her generation, that jungle used to filled from corner to corner by the modern cities of Japan. But when earth had enough pollution and fought back, nature took over. Now the world’s nations depend on how much or, more importantly, how little carbon they produce to survive economically. And for some nations, only a select few live in luxury. Angry at the mistreatment of the socially poor she grows up with, Kuniko faces the oppressive government of Atlas, intent on re-imagining the system into one that allows for the safety and care of all.

Violence:
By far the worst part of this series is the violence level, which is about as high as in Trinity Blood. People are shot multiple times, stabbed to death, their bones crushed from the outside or, well, eaten. And like the above mentioned series, this show comes extremely close to breaking the YA section because of this. If you are antsy about violence, or even on the fence with it, you might want to skip over this show.

Language:
There’s defiantly a few nasty ones in here, but nothing too strange. Mainly sh-t, d-mn, and the b-words. Military types. They just can’t be original.

Nudity:
Just like in Trinity Blood, some cheap shot fanservice is in this one too. Mainly the main villainess who likes to be half uncovered, wear skimpily dresses or not be covered at all randomly. No details, but it’s pretty annoying. However, unlike that series, this one uses a great deal of innuendo as well. All of it coming from one character. Many are pretty difficult to follow if you don’t know the proper key words, even so, that too is annoying. Also this same character is a transvestite. If these kinds of things bother you, you might need to join the violence haters and sit this one out.

Theology/Mythology:
There really isn’t too much of this until the very end. Without spoiling too much, the end contains such things as Japanese gods of old and ghosts and whatnot. Nothing of a converting nature. Japan’s main religion does not seek converts. Ever. But it’s heavy on Japanese mythology. If those things make you uncomfortable, well, you get the idea at this point…

Personal Impression:
Considering how much questionable stuff is in this show, you might wonder why I stuck it out. Well, it didn’t quite cross that line. Though it certainly tried to do so. Many times. Much like Trinity Blood, this show really pushes on the limits of my YA rating. It pushes it so far, in fact, that if you’re shaky on any of the above mentioned points, don’t read any further, dude. Just let it go.
But if you think you can deal with that, there’s an amazing story to be told in this show. Of course, the economy part is a large plot element, so if you have next to no knowledge of how economies work, you’ll probably be lost a great deal of the time (think C – Control here). Even so, the characters are very deep for a dystopian show. Everyone has an agenda of their own to some extent and that, wrapped up in a complex plot, makes for some good science fiction action. Although, it must be admitted that the end seemed to grasp for a few straws. For those familiar with Japanese folklore, it’ll be an interesting, though odd, twist. For those that aren’t, well, you’ll probably just rage quit.
Overall, though the art, music and story is well done, this show is defiantly not for everyone. In any way. For those wishing to give it a shot, feel free. There’s a lot to be said of the characters and many of the social issues brought up (what good dystopian doesn’t ask those hard questions?). But it does push the YA tag very, very far. You’ve been well warned.

Personal Rating: Young adult

Episodes: 24
Languages: Sub and dub
Official rating: MA
Genre(s): Action, science fiction, fantasy
Website: http://www.funimation.com/shangri-la
Legal streaming: FUNimation
Screen shots:
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Extra: Is this demeaning?

anime-haremBeing an anime fan, even a new recruit, means being very aware of the vast number of harem shows out there. And I don’t mean just the all girl ones, but also the reverse kind found in many shoujo shows. But something that I’ve come to wonder as these kinds of shows have become more popular across the Pacific is whether or not the stereotypes they often contain effect the mindset of their viewers.

Now don’t get me wrong here. I’ve very aware that these shows are for entertainment purposes and little more. Many don’t even attempt having any deeper meaning. However, when you surround yourself with one thing, it will effect you over time. Surround yourself with people who talk slowly and eventually your own speech pattern will become sluggish. So what happens when people are constantly surrounded by shows with overly submissive females or ever attentive males? Thankfully, not too much here in America as many fans tend to mix and match the shows they watch. But the occasional oddball news report from Japan or China about men “marrying” their virtual gaming crushes makes it clear that it’s not quite so harmless as one might like to believe.

But putting extreme cases aside, what bad side effects could harem shows possibly have? After all, stereotypes occur in nearly every genre, right? Well, yes. But there are a few shows that have a heavy concentration of these oversimplified characters and harem shows are the top offenders. And like all oversimplifications in media, they can teach audience members to expect some very unrealistic relationship elements. Women are not always demure. Nor are they always looking out for everyone but themselves. We’re human and, though we may try to be as loving as kind as possible, we have faults. As for men, they are not nearly as responsive to a girl’s emotions and moods as many shoujo titles would have one believe. In a way, these oversimplified models of the ideal partner are quite demeaning really. They boil men and women down to mere shadows of themselves, reflecting only one or two elements of a personality.

Even so, at the end of the day, a show is just entertainment and really shouldn’t be taken as anything near real life. Human beings are complex, not simplified. So long as one remembers that, they should be just fine. Oh and going outside and talking to real people helps out too.

Well, usually…. ;)

Neo Angelique Abyss Review

Story:
Angelique doesn’t like seeing others in pain, yet her world is rank with it. Creatures called Thanatos roam the land, draining people of life. Only a few humans, called Purifiers, have the ability to stop these monsters. When it is revealed that Angelique has this special ability, and in great supply, she is recruited to join an advanced team of Purifiers called the Orb Hunters who dedicate their lives to saving towns from the destructive Thanatos.

Violence:
Despite a decent amount of fighting with the creatures, there really isn’t much blood as the creatures disappear into bits of light. A few cuts and such occur on the humans from fist fights. Nothing extremely violent. A few people either become “possessed” by the Thanatos or try to gain the power of purification artificially and thus are in great amounts of pain. So the violence is thus pretty low overall.

Language:
Unfortunately, one character uses the “illegitimate son” word more than once. Other than that, however, the language is light to nonexistent most of the time and restricted to such words as d-mn.

Nudity:
Not much in this category either. In fact, it’s cleaner than most. The only element worth noting might be a scene in which the heroine comes across a guy taking a bath in a lake. He isn’t dressed, but thankfully we never see anything below the waist. Even so, it’s a bit uncomfortable. Another note might be a few bikini like outfits worn by some women in season two. Nothing beyond beach level stuff though.

Theology/Mythology:
This show, like many from Japan, contains odd references to a Catholic like religion. No outright worship is discussed, but often people are told to “pray for the Queen” and later to pray to her, seemingly. This is never really talked about in depth nor focused on. It is also worth noting that Angelique often takes a praying stance when using her ability. Again, no discussions on this are made so viewers can really just come to their own conclusions about it.

Personal Impression:
This is a shoujo (girl) show in every sense of the word. Every dude in this is prettier than the last. And, of course, they’re all in love with the heroine. Nearly every plot element is tragically predictable. That said, it’s a pretty clean show. Especially considering that they do indeed have the option of random fanservice cheap shots throughout, but never take it. It’s a nice change from other shows that take as many cheap shots as possible. However, the romance aspect is strong enough to overshadow the action, but not quite strong enough to get itself an actual conclusion. So if you go into this show wanting the romance to conclude nicely, look elsewhere. This show takes its plot seriously, pretty much forgetting it’s a shoujo show in the process. So many will likely find the ending to be extremely disappointing. Or, at the very least, anti-climatic. In any case, it’s your average shoujo sprinkled with some action. The art, music and plot never say otherwise. But if that’s a genre you like, go for it. Just don’t expect any weddings at the end.

Personal Rating: Young adult

Episodes: 26 (this review includes the first and second seasons)
Languages: Sub
Official rating: TV14
Genre(s): Fantasy, romance, action
Website: NA
Legal streaming: Crunchyroll
Screen shots:
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