Extra: But it was the past so it’s ok…

rideback rinAs a writer, I have personally run into some really nasty arguments by fellow writers and readers trying to defend sexist texts and media. But probably one of the most common excuses is “historical accuracy.” This kind of response is given to defend all kinds of horrible writing, half baked “research”pieces and outright racism and sexism. But when it’s broken down, it’s an excuse that holds less water than a thimble.

As I mentioned briefly in my review of Joker Game, a very sexist comment by a lead character at the very end left a rather bad taste in my mouth. The line was the leader of the spy devision speaking to his subordinate after closing a case: “Do you know why we only hire men? Because women kill even when it isn’t necessary, for foolish reasons like love and hate.”

My issue with the above quote should be very obvious. However, this is where many would gleefully chime in with, “But it was in the past! During WWII and that’s how people viewed women so it’s accurate!”
That is a lazyass excuse for a sexist show.

You see, while there have been toxic opinions about women on and off for hundreds of years, this particular show was written in today’s world. On one side, they had no reason to have any character voice this viewpoint. It was unnecessary. It added nothing to the story besides making the main heroic mastermind a sexist jerk. And on the other end, if they felt they HAD to include a line that is clearly sexist by today’s standards, they should have shown through the female characters of the show that the statement wasn’t true and that the man who said such was blindly wrong (characters can be wrong, including heroic ones and I’m all for that). But that’s not what occurred. Once the line was spoken I mentally went over every female character in the show. There aren’t many. And, sadly, they are all lead completely by emotions. Not a single one puts their personal feelings aside for the sake of their country/mission. The men in the show, on the other hand, are shown to be capable of both. Many are led by emotion, but some do sacrifice all emotion and personal agenda for their country. And there in lies my big issue with this show (besides the fact that they couldn’t keep to one MC).

See, when your media takes place during an era where a group is discriminated against, you need to take care to make it clear that such sentiments are not true. Yes, women have been seen in a bad light by many throughout history and by many today. But it’s not true. Women are just as capable as men as soldiers, spies and formidable enemies not led by impulsive actions. And if this show had made that clear by having such female characters present, we could then write off the old windbag’s quote as his personal opinion and that such an opinion is trash. But by having all the women in the anime live up to such a sexist statement, this show, a modern creation, establishes that the statement is seen as truth as it is all that exists in that world. In other words, it makes this show sexist in nature.

Again, it’s ok to have incorrect viewpoints and assholes in your stories. But just be very clear in your writing, through other characters, world building or confrontations, that such views are incorrect. Otherwise you run the risk of appearing to justify those sexist agendas.

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The Sordid Case of Sailor Moon Crystal

mooncrystalI have been putting this off for far too long. In my defense, however, there’s nearly no way to go about this without insulting the older generation anime fans. MY generation. However, I feel like I might smash my head through a window if I don’t bleed out this poison.

But first, some ground rules. What this post is NOT:

This is not me griping about how the first TV series was perfect. It wasn’t.

This is not a comparison with the manga or saying one series was more or less faithful to it. This is an anime review blog, not a manga blog. I will not be talking about the manga here.

This is also not me posting about how much I hate Sailor Moon as a whole. I don’t. But I do have standards and I can’t help but analyze everything that crosses my path. A literature major’s curse.

Lastly, I had a third party who was not a Sailor Moon fan watch Crystal with me so I could ensure I wasn’t just making up reasons to dislike this version. I discussed all the points below with him in detail prior to writing this. So I had a pretty impartial soundboard double checking my work.

With that out of the way, let’s dig into the meat of this post: Sailor Moon Crystal is a waking nightmare for feminists.

Now, let me explain. Since my post on feminism in FMA, I’ve thankfully had far better experiences with my fellow feminists. Thus I’ve concluded that while some colleges have a terrifying and judgmental feminist community, all one must do is graduate and the problem is solved. Mostly. The thing of it is, academia has a bad habit of either taking things too far or missing the mark entirely (at least in my state such was the case). Thus what is often belted out as “feminist” rarely is, especially in media. And I’m sorry to report that Japan is far from exempt.

You see, back when the first version of Sailor Moon the TV series came out, it was simply a magical girl show. A rather revolutionary one, as it turned out years later, but at the time just one more transforming girl series. It did not profess itself to be feminist and, as a result, had little to live up to. Thus many were surprised by what they got out of the show, which, despite beginning slow and gentle, had some rather dark moments later on that cemented its status for more than a few fans in my generation. It even had a few instances of true empowerment, specifically concerning Usagi (the MC) defeating enemies and reaching a new level of power either on her own or with the aid of her female companions (friendship is magic, everyone), rather than through her male love interest. In fact, I often forgot Tuxedo Mask was even a character when I was a kid. More often than not his scenes could have been cut without changing the outcome of the fight. And I liked that. It was a show, the only show at the time, where all the characters were girls and they saved the world. As a kid I ate it up. And years later I can still respect that, although under analysis the show has some serious age spots here and there (the age gap between the main love interests, for example, is still rather disturbing).

Crystal, on the other hand, wasted no time in declaring itself to be feminist manna (just check out the English translation of the theme song). And thus, I’m sorry to say, this show pretty much set itself up for failure. Especially as more than a few of the positive aspects of the original TV series were changed into negative ones. Let’s tackle the most worrisome points one by one…

Characterization:
As an author, I’ve always struggled somewhat in explaining how to create unique characters to new writers. But one way that seems to work best is to give them this exercise: if you can switch around the characters’ dialog and your reader can’t figure out that there’s been a switch, your characters are not unique enough. Dialog shows, through diction and sentence structure, that character’s personality. So it stands to reason that what Character A said probably wouldn’t be exactly what Character B would say. And even if they both had the same idea, it’s unlikely they would phrase it the same way.

Yet the cast of Crystal were painful textbook examples of background voices trying to fill lead roles. All of Usagi’s friends (and sometimes Usagi herself) could have exchanged lines and no one would have been the wiser. While this is a crime many anime series commit these days, this show struggled with it the most as the characters in question were all leads and often all in the same scenes every episode. It was painfully difficult to keep the characters apart as they all acted nearly the same with very little variance.

All of this, in turn, impacted the relationships between these leads and the MC. For a show that advertises itself to be about love and friendship, let me tell ya: I probably have a more dynamic relationship with my reflection in the mirror than any of these characters have on screen. With such bland, limp personalities, each one unnervingly close to the next, there’s little real conflict and far less growth. Without these things, there’s little to make me concerned for their well being in a fight, making the battles that much more tasteless (which the poor animation was doing a good job at killing all by itself).

For a “girl power” show, they have one giant strike against them for painting all women with the same exact voice.

Empowerment:
Here’s where the bulk of my bold dislike for this show comes from. In a show where the entire main cast is female, and nearly all the female leads have powers, one would think the point of said show would be for said women to be independent. For their good deeds and accomplishments to be their own.

Sadly, that is not the case in Crystal. Instead, Tuxedo Mask, the only steady male lead, not only saves the day on more than one occasion, but is also the main driving force for the MC’s motivation and “growth” as a hero. She often focuses her desires and goals onto this male love interest and when push-comes-to-shove in battle, he’s the one she leans on.

Now, considering he becomes her boyfriend (and will marry her in the future), that in itself isn’t tooooo bad. What makes this toxic is the fact that she has an entire cast of female friends. All of whom are often completely forgotten in light of her “love” for the male lead. Not only that, but when more power to defeat the enemy is needed, that power also comes -not from her many friends!- but solely from this male character. In other words, she is dependent upon him to win. The fact that her “power ups” (when her abilities as a superhero grow to the next stage) are always direct results of her love for this male character and often have nothing at all to do with her friends, just makes things all the worse.

For a bit of perspective on how bad this dependency became over time, leading up to the conclusion of season one, my friend completely forgot, more than once, about Usagi’s friends. And I must admit that I faired little better on that end. After all, they didn’t impact the MC’s story all that much, so why remember them? The fact that they had no strong presence made it all the worse…

Sexualisation:
Although plot-wise this wasn’t as big of a concern, there’s no good way to ignore how bad this issue was throughout. While the Sailor Moon franchise has always towed a fine line by having fourteen year old girls fetishized (an issue that deserves its own post), Crystal took it one huge step further when Chibi Usagi came into the picture. Besides the strange and disturbing plot elements that kept throwing her and her own father together in couple-like situations, Chibi Usagi was also, on more than one occasion, shown in a sexual manner. In one scene specifically she was shown in a white t-shirt that was see-through. And she had some very detailed curves. Considering that I occasionally work with children that are around this character’s age myself, this scene made me feel ill. My male friend was by no means comfortable with this either. In fact, he was enraged. While anime at large is a constant offender at fetishizing the female form, occasionally bringing children in on it, the fact that Crystal, a show professing to be feminist, stooped so low is disgusting.

No show, no matter the hype or nostalgia, has a free pass to stylize elementary school kids as sex objects. And, in the end, it was this point which tipped this show into the discard pile for me, leading me to stop watching at episode 26, a decision I’ve yet to regret.

And while I, to this day, watch and review shows that could be called worse than this one (stay tuned for my Monday review of Wolf Girl for more on that), the fact that this show tried to market itself as “feminist” and “girl power” while containing the opposite was -clearly!- not ok with me.

All that said, at the end of the day, it’s always your choice what to watch and what to like. This post is not a judgment against anyone who loves this show, a point I want to make very clear.
This was simply my own opinion on this show. The Devil’s advocate, if you will.

Although…. considering that last section up there… I wonder if it’s truly the “Devil’s” side I’m on…..

 

 

Extra: Thoughts mid-stream

Been quite a long time since I last updated this place, but I have indeed been watching a little anime here in there, snatches of things when I have time. I’m down to only three current streams right now, one of which is a continuation from a previous season (see my review of My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU here). So only two truly new shows to report, though since I’m halfway through at this point, I will defiantly be finishing and reviewing them. Let’s dig in!

MY love STORY!!
my loveI heard of this particular gem via a friend and I must say that all the gushing was warranted. It’s bright, has humor here and there, never gets too dark (thus far) and places just as much emphasis on friendship as it does on romance. In the most recent episode I watched the show effortlessly made the hero choose between being there for an old friend going through something horrible and spending time with his new girlfriend. He chose his friend, something that I pumped my fist over as lately the issue of abandoning/forgetting one’s friends after hooking up with someone has become more common all around me. It’s a disturbing trend that leads to an unhealthy dependency on the new significant other as well as opening the door to social isolation.
Also, we recently got to see the hero’s parents, another little detail that is often passed by in shows, but really means a lot. After all, one’s parents can reveal a great deal about their kid, to say nothing of making the story that much more grounded (I’ve never liked the “missing/vague parent” curse in anime and YA media at large).
This show is a definite keeper and I’d recommend it to pretty much anyone, whether romance is your go-to or not.

My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU
my-teen-romantic-comedyAs you saw above, I’ve already watched the first season of this show and I must admit that I was surprised a second season had been released so soon. Perhaps a bit too soon, if the quality of this new season’s writing is anything to go on. See, the main character’s cynical nature (a more depressing version of Kyon from The Melancholy) was interesting in season one, as were the relationships that were built around him. But season two… I guess the creators decided more drama was needed and far less comedy because, unfortunately, that’s what I’m getting. And not only do I get a ton of drama and nearly no comedy at all, but that drama is beyond unnecessary. It’s also confusing as hell. Half the time I can’t even tell why the character’s are all worked up and crying and stomping around like a two year old. At this point, I’m only keeping up to do a review for it. I have a feeling my final thoughts on said review won’t be pretty. If you tried the first season and liked it, you might want to pretend this season doesn’t exist… Unless it really pulls out all the stops and fixes itself before the end. I kinda doubt it can manage that at this point though.

Is it Wrong to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? 
isitwrongYes, I’m not a fan of gratuitous fan service. Not at all. And yes this show is famous for it. That said, it’s actually better written than I originally thought it would be. No Shakespeare, that’s for sure, but not nearly as brainless as the big chested characters seem to imply either. The hero is stupid on and off, but likable overall due to his determination to, well, be a dependable fighter/hero. He actually works at it, despite having an ability that allows him to get better at what he does at an accelerated rate. At first, when that “ability” popped up, I worried it was a get out of jail free card, and once in awhile it is, but usually we see the hero training and getting saved by more experienced fighters, which keeps things a bit more on the reasonable side.
It’s not the best show (not by a long shot), but it’s currently doing better in my book than My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU. But then again, that’s not a tough fight to win right about now.

Also – I am continuing an older streaming show as well as re-watching another so I can see the latest season that somehow streamed while I wasn’t looking. They are….

Yona of the Dawn
yona-of-the-dawnI’m still going though this show, but my slow pace isn’t because the show is failing so much as I keep getting interrupted watching it. It’s still quite good indeed, with Yona slowly becoming the strong woman we catch a glimpse of in the flash-forwards and in the opening credits. Although the finding of the dragons is a bit more dull story-wise than I would like, Yona continues to advance as a person so the time isn’t really wasted. Still a very recommended show.

Durarara
durararaYears back I watched this little wonder and even did a review for y’all, but not long ago a new season was released. Of course, it’s been a looong time since I first watched Durarara so I was badly in need of a refresher. When I saw the dub was available for free viewing on Crunchyroll I jumped on in. I have yet to reach the newest season, but going over the first one has made me rediscover just how wonderfully written and directed it was. If I didn’t stress it enough in my review, I’ll say it again here: this show is amazing and one of my most recommended titles. Seriously. If you haven’t seen it yet, now’s the time to try it as both sub and dub are out there for free viewing legally. Ya can’t beat a deal like that.

Note: Yes, I’m still watching Sailor Moon Crystal. But my thoughts on that one are so convoluted and exhaustive that it will need an entire extra all to itself. Stay tuned for that train wreck of an article.

So what shows are you guys into right now? Feel free to praise a new stream (or rant about it) in the comments! I’d love to hear what y’all are into this season.

Extra: The non-traditional

g4Even though the series itself flopped, a combination of slow pace and overall stereotypical characters pulling it downhill, Glasslip did have one rather unique element I just don’t see that often in anime. Or, really, in media in general. An asexual character.

Now before you blow up my site, hold tight for a bit of a ride. Oh and uh, spoilers for this show, so ye be warned and stuff.

Early on in the series Sachi was proving to be a horrid stereotype: the silent bookworm who has a weird crush on her best friend and has some kind of illness that confines her to bed once in awhile. Cause that card is never played in anime, right? Sure enough, she only seemed to get worse as the story went on. Until a slight change began. Hiro, another side character, acted on his crush and started to hang out with her. And she actually… changed. Over time, I began to notice she liked and looked forward to his presence in her life, giving smiles when he was around and looking forward to suggesting new books for him to read. They never really “dated.” In fact, all their interactions where at her house, in her room, quietly reading and, occasionally, talking about what they read in the cafe or walking. It was a slow, yet comfortable new relationship. However, this is not to say she fell out of love with the main heroine, Touko. In fact, a burst of jealousy causes her to use her new relationship with Hiro in an attempt to refocus Touko away from the new boy in town. When the plan fails and she begins to lose her new relationship with Hiro, she realizes just how important both friendships are to her. And near the tail end of the series she makes a confession that made me blink quite a few times in surprise. Sachi admits that she loves both of them and does not want to lose her relationship with either, wishing always to be near both Touko and Hiro (while this could be seen as simple friendship, and Touko probably took it that way, the context of the rest of the show heavily suggests something deeper).

Now before you say, “hey doesn’t that make her bi, not an asexual?” recall that important part up above: she’s content without physical intimacy. In fact, at no point in the show does she initiate any kind of sexual or even sensual contact with her loves. Instead she seems happiest just being around them, being a quiet part of their lives, closer than simple friends, but not lovers in the traditional sense of the word.

Of course that could change in her future, but within the confines of the show, Sachi is an interesting and very diverging character from the typical anime tropes. Not only does she pose the idea that a character can be attracted to two genders at once, but she also is in no hurry, and might not ever even want, to seek out physical intimacy with her crushes. And for all the many short comings of Glasslip, I have to give them props for Sachi. While she still has some stereotypical aspects, she is perhaps the most well constructed character in the show. It’s too bad she was only the side character, as her arc actually had legitimate development and a small OVA set on her might have actually been more interesting than Touko’s slow and rather tedious trail (which I’m not sure really changed her much in the end).

Regardless of your personal position on sexual orientation, it’s a real breath of fresh air to see a character who wishes to be close to others, especially those of another gender, and not require said relationship to end in marriage and kids. Not everyone wants that in life. For some, all they want, all they really need, is to be understood, accepted and supported. I for one am happy such an idea was posed in a recent show. Although it would have been far better if the show Sachi was in was, well, a better show. Because even with her decent and different arc, it’s still not quite enough to justify slogging through the slow twelve episode trudge that is Glasslip.

Extra: Fall 2014 lineup

Other bloggers have noticed that this streaming season is abnormally slow, more so than ever before, and I agree. Often I start out sampling around five or six shows, only keeping three or so on my viewing list to finish. This time, however, I only managed to find interest in three shows to sample. And while they look decent enough, there’s no doubt that this is going to be a rather dry streaming season.
As such, I’ve taken on a few shows to try that have already been out for various amounts of time. But more on that later. For now, let’s got over the fall shows!

whensupernaturalWhen Supernatural Battles Become Commonplace 
I must say, I didn’t expect this comedy to be all that funny. But it has some decent enough jokes, though quite a few are very dead-pan, so be warned if that isn’t your thing. There was definately a slight Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya air to it, though it’s even less serious of a show and has the “carefree” feels amped up far higher. The characters are all pretty predictable and straightforward, with the art and music being nothing unique either.
There are some surprisingly serious aspects to this show, however. And I was shocked to find how well done they were. Though we’re still a bit too early in the show to have a great deal of stock in the characters, seeing one character broken hearted after a misunderstanding, trying to hide her tears of disappointment by looking up and blinking rapidly, actually connected a bit with me. It’s extremely hard for a comedy based show to get stong emotional reactions out of an audience, especially this early on, so I gotta give em props for that. Even so, this kind of show really can’t be expected to be too serious too often. And I worry that it might dissolve into a show like If Her Flag Breaks, a series I never even finished due to it forgetting it was light comedy and trying to be far more serious than it had any right to be.

yona-of-the-dawnYona of the Dawn
Gotta have a shoujo for the season and, thankfully, this one looks like it might actually have a decent story and heroine! Although shoujo series set during this era/setting (this appears to be a fantasy realm based loosely on feudal Japan) tend to be painful to get through due to their overabundance of cliché material, I’m giving this one a shot due to simply having that few options this season.
And I’m glad I did. Unlike most shows of this genre, the dark elements of the plot are actually touching the heroine and, for now, being taken quite seriously. The flash forwards also show the heroine so vastly different in personality from the “current” (aka her past self) version you see most of the time, that there seems to be promises of decent character development. An element I’m looking forward to a great deal. Only time will tell if this show can keep on track and not be derailed by the pull of romantic clichés, however.

gugureGugure! Kokkuri-san
Like When Supernatural Battles, Kokkuri-san is largely a comedy. And it is indeed rather amusing. However, like the before mentioned show, this one also attempts emotional depth rather fast. A bit too fast. We’re talking last half of episode one. And while I admit to being rather cold hearted at times, I think most viewers, no matter how gentle in heart, will find the last half of that pilot episode a bit… off. The entire drama of it hinges on the relationship between the two main characters. However, we’ve had all of twelve minutes with them. Their relationship is nearly non-existent.
That said, the comedy was decent enough to warrant me giving it another episode or two more. Let’s just hope it sticks to comedy though. At least long enough to establish a solid foundation.

And now two shows that are already complete:

wolfsrainWolf’s Rain
On Artemis’s suggestion, I’ve begun trying out a classic in the anime world. And though I’m only one episode in, I must say, it’s impressive. 80’s era opener aside, the show is visually gorgeous and the characters are a bit unexpected and the plot a question mark. Both good things in my case as all too often characters and plot are easy reads episode one, making it hard for me to want to keep watching.
Although only time will tell if this show can be reviewed on here (the violence is rather high), it’s nice to see a bit more effort put into a show. Instead of just updated visuals and little else.

magicawarsMagica Wars
At only four or so minutes an episode, this show is hard to peg. I mean, it seems like a run of the mill magical girl show. And, honestly, the only thing going for it right now is the pretty art. That’s about it. It’s still a bit early for me to tell what it’s trying to do. Or even if it’s doing much of anything at all. There’s a decent chance this show will be dropped, but it’s a weird one (I mean, why was this funded?) so I might stick with it for a bit for curiosity’s sake.

Extra: Where, uh, WHEN are we?

f1If I have to give Japan credit for anything, it would be for putting a unique spin on a story’s setting. Especially when it comes to nailing down an era. In American cartoons, and even most movies, it’s pretty clear that the setting is Anywhere and Anytime, USA. Occasionally a few old re-runs will show their age with tape cassettes (remember those?). And some very old shows will have a record player or two. But generally not much thought goes into spicing up the timeline. Japan, on the other hand, tends to be a bit more free in spicing things up with their animations. Let’s look at three of my favorite examples.

Samurai 7
When I watched Fuse, I remember being pretty struck with the impression that they had taken a similar route to Samurai 7, abit a toned down version. In Samurai 7, you had all the trappings of feudal Japan, swords, kimonos, and those strange hats that actually work really well (not every country in the world has managed to make practical hats, so that’s an achievement). But it also has mechs, tanks, guns, lasers and pretty much any other high tech gizmo you might want in a science fiction. All said tech isn’t odd to the residents. It’s all very integrated, but also occasionally makes one wonder why swords and the like are still so favored when guns can be had by simple backwoods hunters… Regardless of it not making too much sense logically, it’s still very stylish and gives off a unique flavor of both old and new. And anime these days tend to need flavor. A lot.

Last Exile and Steamboy
Steampunk as a genre is known for its unique take on history, but Last Exile and Steamboy are the only anime I know that handled this setting alteration most consistently. Most other shows trying to be “steampunk” only have a few costume changes and call it good while the history, technology and social constructions remain modern.
That said, there is a bit of a difference between Last Exile and Steamboy in tone. Where Last Exile focused mostly on airships and had a bit more of a mythical/fantasy version of steampunk, Steamboy was more realistic, staying on earth and utilizing steam alone as an energy source of the “future” (aka ‘what would Victorian times have looked like if steam was all we had?’)

Howl’s Moving Castle
This one is an odd one as we never really know what era we’re in. From the clothing we can make quite a few guesses, but due to the fantasy setting and machines, it’s extremely ambiguous “when” we are. But the colors and places are held so consistent that the oddity seems normal in the world itself. The boats pulling into harbor and the carefree parade boast the same bright colors as the military airships overhead, making everything feel far more natural than it should be. To say nothing of the moving castle itself and the presence of magic in the world. This gives the whole setting a familiar, yet fantastical feel. We see clothing of the past, yet as Howl’s castle clunks by we are reminded that what we’re watching is not in our world.

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