Some observations on Mako, Makorra and Masami from Legend of Korra

I don’t understand the weird hatred that some people have for Mako. It makes no sense to me for people to be profiling Mako against ex-boyfriends who have abused them. Understandably, Mako has flaws but he has never been an abusive character, neither to Asami nor Korra. Treating Mako as a paragon of the perfect boyfriend is reducing his character. Mako is not meant to always be a perfect boyfriend; he is meant to be a perfect love. Which Mako actually succeeds in doing. Mako is  a character: three dimensionally, he isn’t only supposed to be only be a love interest and that what made his and Korra’s relationship so interesting. They were both characters in their own right trying to make it work. And it succeeds and succeeds on many levels.

I think people are not addressing something that is extremely important. Korra and Mako are not “perfect” boyfriend and girlfriend. Not in the traditional sense anyway. Mako was made to mature before his adulthood so he has certain needs and styles of showing affection that is pretty non-generic. In fact, Korra, due to growing up mostly alone, is not really indoctrinated to popular social cues in the dating game herself. This allows an esoteric dialogue between them. One must not always look at a character as a reflection of themselves or what they would do. It can’t really be valid because of differing circumstances. I mean, Korra didn’t plan to kiss Mako beforehand neither did Mako plan prematurely to return her kiss in a full-fledged way. It happened for other circumstances.

The relationship had some mature circumstances thrown at it. It isn’t fully a  standard teen romance and that is why Makorra shined. For example, Mako said it made “more sense” to be with Asami. This attitude clearly showed that like many people Mako thought that dating Asami would be prudent because Asami is, ironically, the “perfect girlfriend.” Asami is the person you can’t really be gut-wrenchingly honest with, if you are a person like Mako, because Asami behaved like a socialite. Mako aspires to be like her: content, confident and secure. However, you will notice that Mako easily opens up to Korra because Korra and Mako challenge each other and can easily be comfortable with each other. This may be intimidating at first to a person in Mako’s position who has faced so many hardships in life that reservation has become second skin and instinct to him at first.  Then when Korra got kidnapped Mako realised what was really important was Korra and that confidence, security and contentment would easily follow if he is honest with himself.

Mako’s “crimes” against Asami are also something that young people, of all genders and sexes, accidentally do, it is not innately an evil trait that makes him inevitably  a cheating low-life. Despite Book 2 I saw Makorra as  a real substantial relationship that had real complex issues involved in it. That is why I loved it. Mako evaluated Korra’s actions and Korra evaluated his which is what true loves  actually happen to do. You evaluate to make them better; the best they can be. Mako, as Korra, had some real true complications. Raiko cornered Mako into confessing about Korra but this was not really exacerbated by him from the get-go not finding Korra’s United Forces recruitment a prudent idea. Mako was essentially right. We know with experiences with Aang that Katara was his natural council and that he did less than wise things too out of being rather emotionally hyperactive or too invested. Katara was not always agreeing with Aang, in fact, in one of the most important journeys of Katara’s life Aang refused to join saying that she should forgive her mother’s murderer. Of course, I loved Zutara better because I think Zuko may understand Katara in some cases better but after much thought I must say that Aang was wiser here. Yes, Katara didn’t forgive the man but she couldn’t kill him either. Killing isn’t in Katara’s nature and Aang instinctively knew that. Like Mako instinctively understood that in her zeal to fix things as the avatar Korra forgets about repercussions about her actions. This was the first thing that happened in Republic City when she arrived. Korra went overboard with the Triple Threats making Lin question her tactics.

Where Aang does not engage in action and can pretty much be passive in his avatar duties (while more prudent in his interpersonal relationships) Korra is the antithesis. Katara gave advice to Aang to be more an engaged avatar while Mako gives advice to Korra to not be an overzealous one. I think both relationship types matter and both are full realised characters in their own right due to be able to do something like that. Mako and Katara are not merely cheerleaders. They have the capacity to understand and judge things via a rubric of their own values and ideas which are consistent with the avatars they know but they do think a bit more ahead at times.

In relation with Asami, she is the perfect girlfriend, as in socially she is. She does all the socially right things.  But she doesn’t really know people deeply or innately enough to have a bond with them. I mean you will notice Asami is generally nice to everyone like in a way it was Mako’s reservation to everyone just opposite tandem. But she doesn’t really ask Mako much things or even Korra. Like she never does ask what Korra did when she was away all these years even when in the garden having tea and she never asks Mako in the carriage what it must have been like to be alone and fend for himself. She, just reaffirms her own feelings, says she feels safe with Mako and then later with Korra says that  she would be unhappy if she didn’t come back after the last battle. Asami has this flaw but it was focused a lot more on Book 1 and by Book 4 well she isn’t really focused on much so it became a bit relegated but it’s still there.

So, Mako is not intrinsically a bad character. I think he has been give a bad hand and is always trying to play it well. I really respect a character who struggles through homelessness, poverty, bureaucracy, prejudices (due to his past criminal history), frustrations at being a good detective and not being able to play things out well and still care about people, care and empathize about the ones he loves and also work hard to become a more competent detective and person. Mako isn’t the socially perfect boyfriend: Mako is an all-around individual.

 

 

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Written a lot about this — Korra and Korrasami with Makorra

I  actually posted a lot about this on Tumblr as fans are well, indignant or disappointed. Many are fans who are gay or who intensely love or ship gay pairings were offended by Bryan’s statement of “hetero-lens” due to its widespread spectrum implicit in the arena of homophobia. I, on the other hand, thought the comment was meh to  me because it didn’t really  feel I was in that category. This reviewer who has spent the majority of 2014 being indoctrinated into queer or even heteronormative homosexuality to the point that TPAB actually thought that all I watch is otome or queer animes is pretty much salient with the fact that I am/never was homophobic. I enjoyed some of the pairings in the otome show, saw potency in them and actually critiqued the execution of those shows.

I even wrote one of the longest reviews on this blog on critiquing and also praising Sekaiichi Hatsukoi which is a gay anime which pulled no punches.  I really liked Queen’s Blade which is a lesbian anime, though a bit directed towards guys, had all the lesbianism, no holds barred, in its glory for the whole series. I loved Maria Watches Over Us which is a lesbian anime directed towards girls. I loved Cardcaptor Sakura and thought that Tomoyo loving Sakura or even Touya loving Yukito to be very well handled. I wanted Touya ending up with his teacher not because she was female but because I liked teacher-student pairings at that time but really hated the other character liking her teacher and marrying him after her high-school graduation :/ though it was a totally heterosexual pairing. Because though it was not illegal it wasn’t to me tastefully written. I actually like Domoki liking Watanuki in xxxHolic and don’t like those other girls who fancy/like Watanuki aside Yuko Ichihara. And even that after layers of interactions and understandings comes about.  One of my favourite anime, also directed towards girls is Revolutionary Girl Utena which shows Utena and Anthy as bisexual characters and mostly lesbians, full frontal, in the animated movie retelling Adolescence Apocalypse.

So, this opinion and article will articulate most of my feelings on the series and also on the pairings that survived. It will be long, span paragraphs and I decided after half-writing it I should also push this through some pages so please bear with me. Thank you if you read all throughout the way  and Thank you for reading a bit. Honestly, this article took a long time to write — I was exposed to more material, got tired and procrastinated or cogitated a bit more. Yet I wanted this to be a comprehensive read of what I thought about Korra the series, the character and also Korrasami and Makorra. I will put briefly that I had higher hopes for the series but they were not met and as you will see this is more than any shipping or anything else.

It has to do with how  TLA was handled and how LOK was handled: both  are different shows and may deal with different things but have some core elements. It is the same way  you might judge a reboot or even the different installments  of the Final Fantasy series. It  was mostly how  LOK was written independently in itself. How  it  was budget cut a lot by both Nick and how Bryke had many problems with Nick that eventual made this an internet only show that was also facing cancellations. So much so that Book 3 and Book 4 followed one after the other. Also, though  I personally have nothing against Bryke I do think as writers and creators who were facing a lot of pressure that they did do some mistakes and mess up. Also Nick initially did not like that Korra was a girl and wanted her to be a guy because the Aang formula was pretty much potent still and in these series people  for some stupid marketing reason and cultural biases want the main protagonist being a male and not female.

The TLA team was larger, had more writers and obviously many discussions amongst Bryke and those other people so many more ideas and expansions of concepts  were apparently plausible  and executed. Bryke originally wanted Toph and Azula to be guys and also wanted a love triangle between Katara, Aang and Toph so obviously that idea was scrapped by many  others pitching in their ideas. Asami was initially also meant to be a villain I wouldn’t have minded if that happened because I think Spysami is pretty more interesting than thinly written Korrasami. Or, she may have been a double agent that would  have proved volumes about her dexterity in general. Makorra was, as I read from Tumblr,  described as the perfect pairing by Bryke themselves and how Korra and Mako were right for each other and “soulmates” — so I think Bryke’s Korrasami was done almost like a last minute thing. In fact, I don’t think they did away with Makorra either which is telling in the  finale episode. I think they were confused at what to do really and thought that keeping both pairings open but focusing a bit more on Korrasami was the only thing they could do to “salvage”  the series because before this finale  many people had heavily, explicitly, inexorably critiqued Legend of Korra both critics and fans alike.  So, LOK had a lot of problems since Book 1 that had  to do and nothing to do with Makorra and pairings and stuff.

I won’t  lie that I fast-forwarded to  the last scene in LOK to see what happens because by this time I was kinda bored and wanted to know what happens to Korra and by Book 3 and 4 the hints of Makorra were pretty high I wanted to see if they patch up, after some time of course because  some time even passed for Kataraang to happen. I was impressed with the spirit portal which became like the equatorial region of their world and that was awesome.I loved the  last scene music and ambience but the pairing made me very unhappy because it was just too rushed and scatterbrained to be a beautiful buildup.

So to continue, though some fans of Makorra are homophobic; most of us  aren’t. This is due to the fact we come to this show after years of watching anime shows from its infancy dealing with heteronormativity, queer sexualities (both straight and gay), performativity, and also the construction/reconstruction of identities. So, as most of us  are in our late teens and twenties or even forties we are already nonplussed by homosexuality rather accepting it wholeheartedly as a romantic-sexual outcome. We have relegated our “hetero-lens” a long time ago even before The Legend of Korra or The Legend of Aang/The Last Airbender premiered. I have criticised Korra on numerous occasions and none of them were solely on ships. As listed below:

Legend of Korra, Book 3: “Change”  Criticism

Korra Season 3 Comes to An End

I am not partial. I have enjoyed gay pairings and straight pairings with equal zeal. I am not infected with “hetero-lens” — also I have accused Korrasami of a “hetero-lens” too. That one is that of heteronormativity. As a friend of mine stated gender or a critique of gender was not established in Korra. Korra is, as Anime Live Reactions put it eloquently, stereotyped as a strong woman/person of colour becoming bisexual and lesbian to validate her strong, “tomboy” existence. Asami’s sexuality has always been a game. She is a doll, a feminine debacle, and having Korra, a masculine, pair up with her reinforces a heteronormative way of looking at things. It essentialises that the  avatar spirit is  a “male” spirit with or without past lives because Wan, the first avatar, pretty much is shown to be in a relationship with Raava, a female spirit.  Lesbianism, gayness or even straight-on  heterosexuality is not about binary images but heteronormativity and performativity does reduce it to such.

Korra cannot be alone or be in a heterosexual relationship because that also incinerates the  heteronormative way of looking at heterosexual relationships. Makorra ending in a bad note now encapsulates and also mediates on the fixation that strong men and women cannot mix. This stereotype is nothing new. If Mako and Korra could end better we would not point fingers at this rather Bolin and Korra’s chaotic end was foreseen on a lack of attraction on Korra’s part and even Bolin does not date Eska due to her domineering and inhospitable personality. Korra and Bolin are strong and do have chemistry but they end amicably, on good terms, there is hardly any name-calling and finger-pointing between them. Bolin does not  ever bring up that Korra broke his heart by kissing her brother nor that he wanted Korra to apologise much because they went through things that allowed forgiveness and friendship to happen. Ironically, even Bolin and Eska’s breakup  and later encounter seemed both comic but also reasonable and realistic. It was apparent that they both have considerably, without a doubt moved on. The way Mako and Korra interact are still as lovers even by the end of Book  4  breakup or no breakup  they just do, both context and subtext affirms it as a romance with mutually concerted feelings — it’s pretty confusing.

Legend of Korra Book 4: ‘Day of the Colossus/ The Last Stand Review

With all the  Korrasami and what not tags being interjected I  decided I had pretty much had it with Legend of Korra. I was disappointed from Book 3 though I was suspect from the beginning. The way they treated Mako and Boilin was deplorable the way they treated Makorra was horrendous and then how  they progressed Korra’s character was deplorable. All of these things were pretty stupid and so  sexist (both for men and women) All I can say that I hope fanfictions come about that end these :/ at the  very end is one of the only partly unbiased write-ups I had read. 

You can celebrate any ship and not celebrating it is not homophobic unless you actively declare that gay couples are bad or something — I don’t do that what I must state here is that this is preposterous and the perpetrators of bad writing and scapegoating a same-sex canon but also annoyingly allowing Makorra to continue is pretty much a bad move. I literally was like WTF? Guess what even I did see the signs I also saw signs of Borra. I saw Boilin like Korra a lot but Korra did not choose Boilin because Boilin is someone Korra can’t be personal with — Mako even till the end was a person Korra could rely on in battle and also in well psychological positions. Asami goes and helps gives Korra support as a cheerleader but she hardly does things to help her much. I mean even if Korrasami happened give it more than just her bring Korra tea (which is a good improvement i respect I admit that and also love, both platonic and romantic, because in Book 1 when Mako wants to give  Korra tea she  seethes and say bol it himself). Yet it is not so strong enough as Mako keeps on professing love to actually get going. I just feel no one cared about both relationships. As someone said online it is pseudo-lesbian though she was happy because no relationship straight and gay can happen with just flirtations ill scripted and nothing pretty much well fleshed. Many people would say that as it is a gay-ship it needed cover but even Katara and Aang had stronger non-verbal ways of romancing that people may not have  deemed cool enough for a coupling.  The potential was there but it was not nicely done as even subtle Makorra. In fact I wasn’t even thinking Makorra (though at first I loved them) when the first times Korra looked at the stadium and Mako looked at the island dotingly but that was a good nonverbal gesture they actually well made good use of. All I can say it’s not groundbreaking, it’s actually pretty gender normative and totally unfair to Asami.

All Korra can say is that she dated all the people on Team Avatar what a bunch of crap  :/

Not to mention that she is dating the ex of her ex and what more is that Asami cannot also get out of this viscous love triangle and choose her own road. Pretty much pathetic.

Some thoughts:

It’s something official for me that Avatar people cannot for the life of them write satisfying romantic endings. First, they  somewhat rushed Aang/Katara relationship then they hinted strong at Korrasami but also hinted Makorra. What I want to say is that none of this isgroundbreaking at all for anywhere. Please don’t flame hear me out. They just did to extend a novelty. They did this to make bandwagon people happy. Korra and Asami are so friendly with each other they have less chemistry than Korra did with Boilin.  Also, by doing this they essentially showed how the avatar spirit is more or less a “male” spirit.

This sort of thing is frequent in yaoi literature. Korra is a girl and if she is bisexual marvelous but by accentuating the differences between Asami as a “girly-girl” looking person and Korra as a more masculine person they pretty much made the whole relationship heteronormative as usual. If Korra ended up with Kuvira eventually I would have appreciated that even as they are each others’ equals. So is Mako and Korra to many extent. They made Asami pretty much soft and feminine  like 90% of the time to complement Korra’s “masculinity” but they also wanted some space for Makorra. I would have respected this relationship more if it was even eventually developed with Jinora as she became older. Because the sort of understanding Jinora had with Korra and Korra had with Mako is pretty elementary in any relationship.

Also, by showing they migrated to  the spirit world was also indicative to that “yin | yang” feminine and masculine presence in a heteronormative stance. They won’t ever show Mako as a “feminine” though at many points this season he is and Korra is “masculine”. I realized that it is also pretty cruel to suggest that strong woman can’t be anything aside bi or lesbian — this is pretty common in mainstream culture. Strong men are either made so macho that you have to think them as totally straight and strong women are shown to be either gay or bi or something. Both of these procedures are quite conforming to mainstream tactics.

I love Shoujo-ai and Shounen-ai couples when they make sense. In fact, one of my favouritecouples is Anthy and Utena from Revolutionary Girl Utena, both are girls. What I loved about them is that they broke away from their heteronormative practices to be the “one” for each other. In the end, Utena was not a masculine person or feminine person neither was Anthy.

The Korrasami ending was just like Ginny/Harry in Harry Potter — it was poorly executed had no flair and was shoved right at us.  This pairing was non-existent and had no bearing until the end as well. Asami hardly knows Korra and they hardly know each other other than friends so I found this relationship so thin.  Can I accept it? If it develops more I can but I just don’t see as romantic. Also, it’s just too predictable. It was a cop-out. You know if Emma from Once Upon a Time ended up with Regina that would be more pretty because to me it is a good relationship and also because they have had more actual revelations with each other. This was just lazily written. Also there was no natural chemistry even when Korra and Asami were sitting together at the end and talking about life together.

The only pretty part was how they looked at each other in the end. I seriously still thought that was an over-exaggeration.

Yet this is not to offend Korrasami fans.  In fact though I liked Makorra I will be honest — if they executed Korrasami better and dropped all those heteronormative markers like they did with an anime like Revolutionary Girl Utena I would be very, very , very happy. But they totally messed it up. Also, I had a feeling that after Book  3 they wanted a new male character to  be Korra;ss love interest it was kinda showy of that but then decided on Korrasami at the end. It pretty much looked like that.

This is just me showing how Korrasami made no sense.  It was literally just a deux ex machina that Bryke put at the end because he had to make fans happy some way.

Yup, Avatar series  can’t write good love stories.

I wrote this  and I know it is important concerning how biased and well sequestered all LOK ship fandoms are:

 

Why shipping violently is bad


I can see that there is a  collective immaturity or even ferocity in shipping in LOK that was not so prominent in TLA and not so prominent in many fandoms. I think this is also due to ages of people participating and also ages of the shows. I mean Naruto came to an end but many fans were not rabid about their disappointments nor were they gloating. It was show that  stayed around for a long time.

Makorra fans are acting too  angry, understandably, but still very badly executed. Korrasami fans  are using this to validate themselves, be mean to Makorra fans and basically annotate every Korra/Asami scene into Korrasami which even Borra and Makorra fans  can’t do because  there was good development at times so no need.

This culture of ships and shipwrecking is very toxic. I mean do not just like a fandom ‘cause it;s  cute like it because it has substance, Like other fandoms that are not your OTP also for that think on it and don’t hate easily. I can see that many shippers are young people and also as this LOK is younger and had lesser episodes than TLA people in scarcity of time, episodes, space and writing decide to exaggerate or expunge things.

Please be respectful. Makorra and Korrasami are pretty much both canon.  Korrasami is about to happen (or not fully) and Makorra happened and might continue (or never again) both even in the end Korra showed signs of both interest in Mako and also in Asami. Maybe, as she is exploring herself she wants to see who she can fall in love with truly as her OTP.

No need to say a pairing validates you or not because I think if you are gay or straight your relationships are better than how both these ships were written. Also look at Korra and Mako and Asami as characters independent of these relationships.

I also wrote this:

I think Korrasami is also a revenge of Bryk against studio and Nickelodeon. It just feels like they wanted to say “fuck you” to the studios that always tore apart their ideas, made them cancel, made them fire crew members, make them cut out things. I do not know if the Korrasami kissing alternative ending is the original endings but apparently that was changed. In all honestly Bryke is killing two birds with one stone: making fans happy and also giving a hell lot of trouble with those studios. This make good sense as they cannot work on Avatar soon and I think it is also because of those suidio problems mostly. I feel bad for whatever Avatar endured. Korrasami assuages the pain for them in a way but it also shows how all their creativity to even make both Makorra a bit work better and Korrasami a bit written better was thwarted. What problems LOK had to face.

I saw others also comment:

tsubakies:

destroy the idea that female characters need to be punished in order to receive character development.

destroy the idea that the only way female characters can become better people is if they go through nothing but pain and suffering in their lives.

(via seekingserenity126)

 

vvivaa:

honestly I’ve clearly offended a lot of people, but I’m not sorry. No matter how you look at this, this was bad writing, bad writing for makorra, bad writing for korrasami, bad writing just in general for korra and all these characters, and this is how the show ended. I’ve been here since 2012 defending this show throughout all the crap and now there’s nothing left so, especially knowing they changed the ending….yeah I’m going to be upset.

(via seekingserenity126)

But I  guess what I also disliked was anonymous someone pretty much not getting stuff that I had clearly written:

Anonymous asked:

So a masculine girl is not actually a girl by what you’re saying. Yes the masculine female/feminine female thing is a stereotype but there’s actual couples like that, saying that stuff is hetereonormative is just hilarious

etheraxis:

Not many.  Not so standardized as the mainstream way of looking at it. It is heteronormative. By making Asami pretty much a bimbo throughout the series and Korra a jock is heteronormative be it a straight or gay representation. They didn’t do that with Aang and Katara. Katara is a very balanced person and so is Aang. Also they have both similarity and differences.. Guess what they are both benders, both spiritually inclined elements (air and water) both at the end stronger people with each other and also independently. You do not see this with Korra and Asami it recycles the same bogus trifle that Mako and Korra was accused of sprouting. Just some sentimental hugs. Asami is not integral to Korra’s development as an Avatar as much as Mako was in Books 1, 2 and even 3. Nor was she there so much before Book 4 in the development of her personhood. It is a very badly executed relationship like Makorra. They just want people of the young generation who never knew mainstream homoerotica squeal over this. It is stupid to think people are that simplistic. Once I remember that a guy commented how a villain of Final Fantasy X-2’s dress was so hot and a girl commented that it makes her look like a herpes infected hooker. As a stereotypical response he said that maybe as she is  a girl so she is saying that. Then that girl said that she was bisexual girl and implying so she knows female sexiness. Korrasami should have been better written if it was to be canon. Not mitigated into something typically expected. A girl with muscles, masculine girl, is usually depicted to be queer for all the wrong reasons just like an effeminate man is. These are tropes that persist so nothing innovative was done with Korra. She as a “male” spirit bounded with a female spirit.  If it was better written I would have no complaints. I wanted Katara to end up with Zuko but easily accepted her with Aang because they were not lazy, they wrote very well how a crush became a love. This is lazy writing.  You like it that’s great I would have loved it if they didn’t put in mainsteam cultural biases of how same-sex couples are like.

I don’t hate Korrasami. I hate how all relationships was written in LOK. It was stupid.  A canon lesbian relationship needs to be beautifully written not so “oh I hug you and you hug back” — Asami was pretty much a effeminate bimbo. I hated how  they wrote her. Here best action scenes were in Book 1 and 2 then went downhill. Korrasami the way it was written is the stereotypical way of writing or looking at female/female relationship with one “masculine” and “feminine”. Korra may have told her insecurities to Asami but this was not stressed (or developed) what was stressed is that Korra is looked at as a “man”. People cannot write any relationship nowadays without a heteronormative circuit be it straight or gay. That is what got to me. I would have loved Korrasami if it was not so rushed and written with the same care as Kataraang was written. It was written badly. I am happy if you shipped them because I am always happy if a shipper’s couple becomes canon regardless of it was mine or not. But it was a cop-out as in how it was written. Because of that they also  did not completly extinguish Makorra. Mako and Korra still have chemistry. Mako loves Korra still (she does too) and possibly is thinking of courting her in future. Which is kind of sad. That they don’t know what to write. This sort of bullshit is not new think of Cloud from FF7 and you get the same results :/  Korrasami  should have more intricately written because if it is to be the canon relationship the writers should show it better.

Anonymous asked:

how butt mad are u right now lmao

Apparently, not as much as you. Firstly, speak properly. By being so thoroughly aggressive you allow discussions to go nowhere.  You can tell me what you love about Korrasami aside the generic “cute” slogan. Secondly,  stop being overly sarcastic with people who do not agree with you. There is nothing “wrong” about a pairing like Korrasami if it was beautifully executed. It was not. It was a cop-out even at this point if  she dated Boilin that would be a cop-out too. If she dated Mako it would partially be a cop-out but Mako has been changing as Boilin. So yeah in the end none of the relationships were balanced. It was lazy storywriting.

It is pretty obvious that that was attempts at bullying but it is true what I said. You want  a strong same-sex couple then make Kuvira available  even from Book 3 and you get this better.  Or write Asami better and then we can appreciate it more. Asami was supposed to be a villain first, then she is a hero but still  compared to Sokka and even Suki pretty badly developed and she is basically just a socialite who wears clothes and acts nice.

I don’t know  for sure if the kiss ending was the original but apparently the original ending was changed and I think it was either Korra going off by herself or with Mako but to make fans  happy these conclusive matter was dashed and to keep spectacles alive.

All the materials  above are from tumblr.  All I can say is that I thought about them a lot before coming to that conclusion. Korrasami, the way it was depicted, was a gender normative, heteronormative way of looking at a same-sex  relationship  that conforms to  the very gender roles that  we assign males and females. Korra is pretty much the yang male spirit and the effeminate Asami is the yin  female in  the crudest of forms.

Just pitiful and so upsetting.

 

Legend of Korra Book 4: ‘Day of the Colossus/ The Last Stand Review.

 

Watching Kuroko no Basket

Yes, finally watching another basketball anime 😀 My favourite is obviously Slam Dunk 🙂

It’s a discombobulated watching though. I decided to skim a bit because there are like 40 episodes and there is gonna be a 3rd TV series soon and I need to watch all of this in a short time it feels. Though as soon as I can I am gonna marathon all of it because I am bit busy right now with studies so marathoning is quite not happening at the moment.

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I think 2nd TV series is where Kuroko no Basket really starts shining. I really like Kuroko. Tetsu is this strange, deadpan character. What;s cool is that of all the characters he is the most unique and I can actually feel it palpitate in him, around him and out of him. I really love that his actions are a bit unpredictable and that he is a very ghostly character. No one detects him until like he is 2 inches or 2 seconds away which is a good running gag XD

A complaint I have of Kuroko no Basket is that it has some very glaring flaws. I think I give the mangaka props for making a lead hero as passive to a certain extent to an otome heroine: I can actually imagine this guy being pushed around by a Tsundere love interest prior to any interaction (that does happen in the anime). Yet he does have that virtuoso quality of being inconspicuous and super fast reflexes so that’s pretty awesome. Yet Kuroko steals the show pretty much. I am noticing that none of the other characters are given that much introspection. Yes, they have distinct traits some of them but most of them don’t.

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Even out of the Miracle 5 only Seijuro Akashi is the one that is both enigmatic and shares an aura similar to Kuroko’s. That guy screams Yandere which is interesting. This is the first Yandere character I saw in a sports anime not to mention a guy. There are many layers to this guy so I hope they do focus on him a lot.

It's nice to show an African American player in a Japanese anime. This is Papa Nboye Siki they just call him Dad LOL
It’s nice to show an African American player in a Japanese anime. This is Papa Nboye Siki they just call him Dad LOL

I guess this is also the fault of adapting animes early from manga. I notice that before people use to wait a bit more for manga to progress a lot before they made them animations. Nowadays, anything that sells well will be turned out very quickly. This makes an anime weak in layers which is also Shingeki no Kyojin suffered from to a certain extent. Compared to Slam Dunk this anime also suffers from that. Also Slam Dunk also focused a lot on training the protagonist Hanamichi Sakuragi to become an A class basketball player. Those practice sessions are detailed making me involved with the characters. This is not done as much in this anime. I would also like to see the players on daily life interactions. In Slam Dunk each character even minor was shown a lot outside the court doing well what normal adolescents/young adults do and that made a fulfilling experience. In this aspect  Kuroko no Basket is detached. You want to invest on all the characters so it would be nice to see them out of their comfort zones.

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Especially this can be shown about Seijuro. Apparently, he is both an academic and athletic prodigy which is like the Leonardo Da Vinci in this anime. However, Seijuro is also very disembodied person because his genius alienates him from even himself. His father pushes him a lot to be the best and he comes from wealth and privilege. It would be great to know what his thoughts on are about different things. I remember in Jigoku Shoujo or Hell Girl live action series the very first episode showed a rich girl who thought that the poor or less financially fortunate should work and that they deserved no privilege. I know this anime is about basketball but all characters have a wide range of interests especially this guy I would want to know what he thought about, his state of thinking of his self and society. After all, what do prodigies like him think on.

The character designs, well at times they are repetitive, they are not so clean and distinguished as they should be but the level of detail to anatomy is priceless. The flexibility of muscles and body movements are beautifully choreographed:

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This looks like martial artists: ABOSLUTELY BEAUTIFUL
This looks like martial artists: ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL

At this moment I do think Slam Dunk is a more variegated anime as in still top notch and Kuroko no Basket has a lot of strong points. However, I do think it needs to pull up more to match against that anime. Yes, Kuroko no Basket does have some great moments especially in game play but I do want it to also focus on character depth and study. In the 2nd TV series the introduction of Aomine actually show deep insecurities and vulnerabilities on Tetsuya Kuroko and there were some beautiful expressions and emotions related. If the anime can retain such dimensions it is definitely a great piece of animation and story with spectacular execution.

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So, what do you think of this anime? What do you think of both Slam Dunk and Kuroko no Basket, the pros and cons of both series?

Sekaiichi Hatsukoi— How Ritsu Onodera can be a good shounen protagonist in another anime

 

Yes, this is a shounen-ai anime.

It is about a young man named Ritsu Onodera who is painfully shy from romance and any kind of love life. When he was younger he was seemingly betrayed by a older boy he loved and as he was not the social-sort and always a bit timid he resigned to not really be in love.

Unfortunately for Ritsu, the very boy or now man enters into his life ten years later  in the Marukawa publishing house’s Shoujo Manga division. This man (boy) is Masamune Takeno who was once known in school as Masamune Saga . They both do not recognise each other, obviously, due to ten years of absence in each other’s lives. Yet Masamune later on looks closely and realises it’s his first love and decidedly declares to a reluctant Ritsu that in a year he will make him confess his love for him again.

Ritsu is obviously 100% annoyed. This man broke his heart and now attempts to be so casually engaged with love again. Apparently, Masamune mentions that it was Ritsu who had done the betrayal and not him. This also confuses Ritsu because Ritsu has no recollection of ever hurting Masamune. Yet Masamune seems interested in not losing Ritsu this time and for establishing love once more.

Can these two stay together or will there be no way to0 resolve what was probably miscommunication and hurt on both ends?

That;s basically the entire show. The worst thing is it is not nicely executed. One will see this show for its beautiful graphic and colour palette, to see some of the inner workings of a manga publishing house, to see lots of snogging between attractive men and the minutiae of life with attractive men. I know I enjoyed those moments.

Did I like the couples or did I care about them?

Fuck not much.

Seriously, I do not want to offend any fans nor do I want to offend the mangaka but this is very badly executed, even if the singular idea of reuniting love or accepting love is not bad.

I was introduced to this series I think when I was looking for titles as such. I took a small break from it but returned to it a year later because I actually liked the character designs and the real-world based setting. So my chagrin lies on the fact that a potentially good story is quite weak in structure be it symmetrical or semi-chaotic.

I admit I liked rewatching the series for its fluff factor which can be just zoned in to moments but I did not particularly care about any of the characters except Ritsu Onodera and Takafumi Yokozawa which is a bit sad as there are many characters so XD

This isn’t going to be a regular review as it will mostly focus on my personal reflection. It is also going to be LONG and SPOILER FRENZY based on both seasons and the movie. 

Despite me not so interested in this anime I can write long about it. I guess I have a lot of opinions on the series. I do like its fluff and that makes it re-watchable but I felt it had more potential that could have easily been extracted and executed yet alas that did not happen. Oh well onwards!

The main couple, Ritsu Onodera and Masamune Saga/Takano are a bunch of incompatible, uninteresting, too-sexualized, too passive-aggressive, non-flirtatious, non-talkative, stalemate (checkmate), misunderstanding, extremely poor communication bunch of lovers you could see. Their singular spark comes alive in really off-hand and pretty much coerced kisses between the two. Yes, and if you know the shounen-ai dichotomy you are well aware that Masamune is Seme and Ritsu is Uke and that the Seme is supposedly the action-taker.

My foot.

Masamune is a drab guy who somehow thinks that coercively kissing Ritsu is the only way to rekindle what may have been a genuine first love or even a crush. I see most of the action of their youth being taken by Ritsu and also accelerated by Ritsu with only erotic or semi-romantic actions being boredly or even honestly initiated by Masamune, Fast forward 10 years later and Masamune is still kind of a prick who acts all high and mighty.

I can understand that he has a developed a “killer attitude” in the workplace yet with Ritsu he is not as understanding as he should be nor is he tolerable or a person who respects another’s private space. I can understand the separation has instilled in him a desperation that he longs for Ritsu but dude grow up you guys had a huge break and are at a deadly impasse don’t jerk Ritsu about.

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Ritsu looks great when he is aroused My God such a beautiful man
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Yeah Masamune stop being a jerk

What this so-called couple needed was good-old fashioned talk-therapy between each other. I mean even as  the anime is expiring and both have kissed each other’s faces off but Ritsu doesn’t know why Masamune thinks he has abandoned him and Masamune shrugs off Ritsu;s complains that he was brusque and insulting to his feelings post-coitus.

In my opinion, Masamune is a culprit. No matter how you look at it you saw that Ritsu is a mild mannered person and anti-social. Laughing like that after sex when Ritsu asked him did he really love him and not affirming his  belief is actually a very nasty thing to do. Obviously, a sheltered and even looking like a bullied person, Ritsu would think that Masamune is just passing time with him as  he does in the library reading (though they did once lock the library and got a bit hot there).

I admit that Ritsu’s escapism is also at fault. If Ritsu just told Masamune straight off that he is being a jerk and he shouldn’t take his feelings lightly even if they are a bit intense I know this whole situation was avoidable. Yet Masamune did everything to initiate it. Even 10 years later he brushes it off as he was going through a lot then with his parents divorcing and how he was a bit of a punk then but that still doesn’t really excuse him. If he is so keen on wanting and loving Ritsu he should just be there for him and prove his love because all those years back Ritsu did all that so now it’s his turn.

No, he doesn’t do that; the guy just prances around and just sexually harasses Ritsu whenever and wherever hoping that Ritsu will relent. At times Ritsu does and they have weird knocked-out kind of sex that Ritsu either intentionally blocks out or has a hangover and kinda doesn’t remember (O_O :/). Instead of also informing him that he had sex Masamune does the whole you don’t remember speech over and over like they are on some of eternal repeat.

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Yeah, it gets that annoying. Not to mention Masamune withhelds information; he is as bad as shoujo-stereotype heroine (as in bodice-ripper) implicitly telly Ritsu that he is not an innocent though obviously Ritsu is sexually still an innocent and quite untainted in his analysis. At the same time he is explicit as a harlequin man doing coercive action hoping it would be similar to affirmative action (I kid you not). Thus he is a merging of two tropes that bring out a bad synergy rather a positive or even tolerable one. Ironically, the best synchronized trope mix is Takafumi Yokozawa who is an ex, friend and colleague of Masamune and also his eventual lover Zen Kirishima (more on that later).

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Yeah Yokozawa catches Ritsu being sexually harassed I mean well with Masamune LOL

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Masamune later on in the movie decidedly and finally apologises to Takafumi for in a way jerking him around. In some ways Masamune blinds himself of the dedication that Yokozawa puts on him. In my opinion, Yokozawa first two TV series is a complete asshole. It also doesn’t help that Ritsu becomes too passive about him. I understand Ritsu’s reluctance to have a verbal spat with a company senior but a few choiced remarks would have been helpful especially at one time Masamune points out (coming to the rescue) that Yokozawa deliberately did not pay attention to Ritsu’s work. Not that he pulled the classical jealous bitch and sabotaged it he just didn’t give it the attention it deserved.

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Yokozawa lashes out at Ritsu because during university years Masamune was a wreck not able to cope with anything, becoming devoid of everything around him and naturally he blames Ritsu’s sudden disappearance from Masamune’s life as the sole cause to his psychological breakdown. Masamune does not especially since we see in the last episode of the 2nd TV series that Masamune’s parents were pretty negligent about him and also they were on the turn for a nasty divorce.

Yet Yokozawa thinking Ritsu is  Masamune’s kryptonite is not abnormal nor unfair though his treatment of Ritsu is pretty unfair. Takafumi thinks that Ritsu is like a tease who specialises in breaking hearts which is a far cry from who Ritsu Onodera is. Not to forget that Masamune doesn’t really translate Ritsu as Ritsu as in he admits that Ritsu has changed a bit  10 years  so Ritsu has obviously matured so he doesn’t know him much anymore. This “stranger” attitude is how Masamune handles the Yokozawa-Onodera situation though he deeply suspects that Yokozawa is being a bitch to him. Takano does not really blast Takafumi much for being a bully to Ritsu which is also something I hated.

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That is why Masamune is such an incompetent lover. Aside his kissing vibes and actions he hardly understands Ritsu nor is engaged to Ritsu as a person. The mangaka just treats these people as instruments of romance rather than actual invested lovers. I read in wikipedia that Shungiku Nakamura actually wrote Sekai-Ichi Hatsukoi as a spin-off to Junjou Romantica which I am partially familiar with. Nakamura may have just treated this as a pet project or something because to me it is not the best first lobe in the world <sweat drop> On the contrary it trivializes the precepts and concepts, of love and romance to a certain degree though to give it credit it has  a few gem moments.

My favourite character is Ritsu Onodera. As a character he is the best written one in this series. Though a traditional uke in some design blueprints and precepts of personality he is ambitious, non-conformist at some turns, not a belligerent hardass nor a complete doormat. In reality he is more fiercer than Takafumi and Masamune.

This young man of 25 has more spunk and direction than the 27 year old annoying git Masamune.  Ritsu has an impressive family history in the publishing industry but decides to just escape from it. Masamune does say one valuable thing: your lineage is just a surplus, a little ladder that gave a small boost it isn’t you in your entirety and it won’t qualify you or your work if you don’t understand or are conscientious. That is the most valuable gem in the series and Ritsu is a living embodiment of it.

Ritsu would have better in a shounen anime or another drama where he is bisexual or a thought experiment of an anime.  This is my own personal thing but I can easily visualize him in  a university drama like Honey and Clover or a male model in Paradise Kiss who is Yukari’s classmate/lover/friend. I can imagine him as a ninja in Naruto or a detective in Death Note or even Misa Amane’s co-star who is rightly suspect and discovers things about her. I can even imagine him as Prince Tutu, and extension of Princess Tutu. Or even as a cast of Free! or Haikyuu!! Yes, I can imagine him like this because Ritsu Onodera is so beautifully delicate and strong, such a large potential of attributes and personality with a repertoire of diligence and finesse that I seriously think he is wasted as just the love of a guy named Masamune Saga/Takano.

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This is honestly my opinion. I think in all those incarnations he would work in publishing because he has a literary and artistic talent that is quite beautifully presented if not wholly fleshed out. Yet he can work on other things I can see that capacity for it. Masamune, on the other hand, can be the archetype seme and just be that; his character is narrow and static. Ritsu’s is not.

Legend of Korra Book 4:Balance Episodes 1 & 2

Korra came back early.

Was it anticipated. No.

I was genuinely, pleasantly surprised 🙂

I was not happy with Season/Book 3 and I was hoping that Korra Book 4 would be better. So far, it is. It is asking integral questions about authority and also how misshapen and totalitarian authority can be when power is not rightly exercised.

As fans has suspected Kuvira from Book 3 is the main antagonist of this Book. Like Ozai and also Hyoung-Ting, Unalaq and Amon (won’t include Zaheer as he was not trying to be leader rather just get rid of the Avatar), Kuvira has become corrupt with power. In so far that she is now exiled from the Metal City of Zang Fu (I think that was what it was called) and is trying to reunite the Earth Kingdom and being labeled as “The Great Uniter” by her supporters and enemies alike, both with admiration and disdain.

This is shown in Episode 1 titled “After all these Years” which is taking place after three years of the Book 3 climax. A lot has happened, Republic City has finally accepted Spirits and the Spirit Wilds are flourishing with a good coexistence (we also see the homeless guy that Korra met on the very first episode make good friends with many; funny that he is still homeless right though?) .  Asami has become a person charged with a trans territory rail line construction which she successfully completes that allows Ba Sing Se and Republic City have constant travels. She is hit on by Prince Wu whose Aunt was Hyoung-Ting and though he is not as eccentric as his aunt he is as prideful and foolish. Mako is ordered to be his bodyguard and this is a job that he wants desperately to get out off though does properly (though by the penultimate moments of this episode we hear that Wu wants Mako too much to be his bodyguard and personal relations to be secured doesn’t allow Mako to get out of it).

The Air Nomad are now dressed differently. Their clothes now accentuate a wandering nomadic aerial mobile design as in acrobatic with gliders attached to their clothes like stunt performers. Kai has grown up and is in a long distant relationship with Jinora and Opal with Boilin. Boilin has become from comic relief to Earth Kingdom soldier, so has Varrick and Ju-li. Batar, Opal’s oldest brother is engaged with Kuvira, which is also a cause of family friction. Opal thinks Batar and Kuvira has betrayed her mom. If you guys recall Suyin was anti-monarchy all the way and now her own are beelining for it — not a good situation.

Opal and Kai has come to aid a kingdom that are being attacked by robbers. Ever since Zaheer killed Hyoung-Ting we saw Ba Sing Se in chaos and now still some remnants remain. Opal and Kai are not warmly greeted as the village leader wanted more recruits but they show themselves capable of administrative fair ways of solving a situation. This is antithetical to Kuvira who has a lot of authoritative power. She captures a bunch of bandits by putting metal around their arms eyes and feet then bundling them up as heavy sacks (how Nowatak and Torlak were shown to abuse wolves in Book One). Then when one of the bandits try to apologize she even seals her mouth with metal. Then she says the only way they can save themselves is by relinquishing this lifestyle and just opt to join her. The bandits, fearing for their lives, do as they are told. Kuvira smiles that despot’s smile of triumph.

Then she attempts to bully the village leader into signing a contract of protection (like Yakuza and Mafia and dirty politicians do) saying that she will help them with food, water and troops only if he supports her. There is a campaign for her also by many people who want her as new Earth Queen and not Prince Wu (leading to  a humourous pie in the face in crowd where Mako saves the dude and reminds him, while he gasps, that he is allergic to bee stings not strawberry). The village leader rejects her offer.

There is a gulf between Opal and Boilin because of this. Opal is angry at her brother and Kuvira for ditching her mother, the matriarch of the steel clan and also going so far out away from all the clan stood for (and then suddenly hearing they are engaged made her angry). She does not like Boi8lin helping Kuvira but Boilin believes reuniting and helping the Earth Kingdom is his calling. Then Opal and Kai attempt to get supplies but they are stolen by robbers (bet Kuvira was behind that) prompting the village to sign the contract making Opal become more frustrated and Boilin more confused.

The end shocks everyone. Everyone thinks after three years Korra is finally making a full recovery reappearance to Republic City. Tonrak is surprised and says that Korra has been writing for six months from Republic City and that she is okay and doing well.

So, where is Korra?

Hair cut short. Using only one bending style. Earth. And Wearing green clothes of the Earth Kingdom she is fighting in a cage match of sorts with another woman but loses. The owner comes and angrily gives her due but of course  says she lost him some. Then remarking that she loves “like that Avatar girl” and what happened to her. Korra truthfully answers she doesn’t know.

While in episode we see the ravages of power and totalitarian that Zaheer and even Amon was afraid of (yeah their execution was batshit crazy but not all their ideas were) we also see the vulnerabilities and caustic repercussions that comes through poverty. The fact that in three years no one is really helping these villages is sad.

Also while Kuvira is getting mentally and physically strong, psychologically preparing herself for power, authority and the confidence she is earning in getting a chance to be Queen — Korra has lost a lot of Avatar qualities and is now shown to be unstable and weak. I think this is why they decided to pair off two women in the end as a form of acceptable dichotomy. After all all the main villains has been male and she defeated all of them but none of them were once her protector and comrade but now this one is. This fight I think is going to be the most important and difficult fight that Korra will ever fight as both the Avatar and Korra.

This is where, if the series pulls it off,  LOK is going to be more mature than TLA. Yes for once they got some stuff down after Book 2 right. Yes, more mature. Because Balance isn’t about I think learning any new bending or just making a tyrant pay for their crimes. It’s about Korra keeping her title, spirit, selfhood, body and soul intact, focused, preserved, synchronized and finally evolved. Because all the battle she is fought now has attacked her personhood in these ways and it has made her break — Kuvira may do more damage than all three guys combined. How will Korra survive this? Will she herself break the Avatar chain to show that people can make hope for the future without avatars? I am actually excited to see what happens.

That is why the episode 2 is rightly called “Korra Alone” (a nod to ATLA’s “Zuko Alone”) and like Zuko who decides to travel alone to reclaim his title and earn it as noble, just prince of the Fire Nation Korra too now reclaim herself and also earn her Avatar title. Korra’s body is so badly undone after the poison that she can’t walk and she can’t properly eat or sleep. Her mother becomes rightly worried and says though they had agreed not to interfere with her recuperation she is not getting better so she must go and visit Katara.

It is a grueling process of recovery with Katara. She gets frustrated but when after six months of physical therapy at least allows her to walk she decides to go off to Republic City because she wants to be Avatar again. Actually, she first loses with fire benders in a training (a nod to first season’s first episode where she was able to completely take each and every one out) then on her journeying she loses to common bending thieves (a far cry from Book One Korra who takes on Triple Threats and actually throws a fire bender throw  a store’s glass window). Not to mention what also gets to her is that Tenzin thinks that she should not be ashamed of her convalescence but Korra isn’t used to feeling weak. Unlike Aang who fostered a sense of vulnerability losing his culture, kin, fellow benders (which Katara mentions as a sense of spirit uplifting so Korra can finish her therapy)  Korra has been strong o entitled to strength so she cannot understand how weak feels.

This was the epiphany I was waiting for the entire Book 3 so I am happy Book 4 delved into it. Korra has been avoidant of her weakness in situations; she tries to forget Amon, Unalaq and even the Red Lotus but she can’t anymore. Korra must acknowledge that she is human and that she has both weakness and strength. She must acknowledge her spirituality. Of course, Korra doesn’t necessarily at first. After losing the fight with bandits she cuts off her hair to sever her ties to Avatar position and throws away her water tribe arm band and decides to fight in underground Earth Kingdom battles. She had tried to meditate in the Spirit World’s tree of time unable to reach Raava. The spirits, a cute yellow and green one especially, wants to help. But Korra refuses. Like Zuko she is used to feeling alone or doing things alone.

This episode was a masterpiece in showing Korra; of all the Books this one episode actually did a magnificent character sketch on Korra. Who and What she is and feels. Korra thinks by fighting she can reclaim herself and that is where she errs. The spirits have rightly realized that Korra’s problem is spiritual.

Korra’s mind now emits an old, poisoned still long-haired Korra all wild as she was in the end of season 3 and that Korra is winning the battle because she is strong and ruthless with a vengeance. Korra encounters her especially when she is weak or is in horrendous doubt about what to do. And she gets beat up a lot by this chaotic Korra projection.

The yellow and green spirit, disguised as a dog, comes to Korra and growls at the chaotic emittance making Korra realize that this is real. The spirit wants Korra to acknowledge that her problem is spiritual. Then he skillfully if not without a fight with chaos Korra leads her to a periphery between Spirit and Normal world where Korra succumbs to her wounds and collapses. Person who helps her get better as she awakens after some time is none other than an old Toph who affectionately says it’s good to see “Twinkle Toes” again.

This was a very well written episode. I am happy they finally acknowledged that Korra needs a spiritual overhaul. But one thing I think as a fan I notice is that Zaheer is not really her only “mad man” that enabled a weakened Korra. All her opponents till now has gotten through to Korra in a bad way. In this way I think LOK is more mature than TLA because Ozai did not feel so personal to Aang as all these villains were. Now I wanna see how Kuvira and Korra fight.

It was nice what Katara said to Korra during her therapy that she doesn’t know what is beyond the pain but wouldn’t it be interesting to know?

Korra now must become a balance of both her as a person and Avatar and to do that she must be united in mind, body and spirit. And maybe then in the end she might be the last Avatar. The world’s balance might be decided as a new era of people being people and the Avatar cycle coming to a fruitful and good end.

What anime really needs is this —> Real Love (Yeah dating sims otomes harem fests, yaoi blowovers or yuri thralls I am pointing at you)

You know when I saw Fushigi Yuugi what made me like it? Yeah Miaka got a guy kinda easy, unrealistic there, but her love was never smooth sailing — Tamahome and her had lost of tame but crucial arguments and didn’t just go out on flirting first they knew each other as people before they fell in love. This was beautifully contrasted in Yui who just was attracted to Tamahome and she was the perfection “anti-otome” symbol of the show. This is also done in a Shounen anime where in Rurouni Kenshin Kaoru and Kenshin are also not on each others’ kimonos and the attraction “anti-otomo” symbol was Megumi who was very attracted to Kenshin but well it was always made clear that her feelings are like a little cough compared to the entire respiratory that was in between Kenshin and Kaoru.

Now Seth Adam Smith may be a Christian dude and we may not have much in common but his article actually made a lot of sense. Don’t trust me, read on:

Our society places a lot of emphasis on feelings. We are taught that we should always follow our feelings and do whatever makes us happy. But feelings are very fickle and fleeting. Real love, on the other hand, is like the north star in the storms of life; it is constant, sure, and true. Whenever we’re lost and confused we can find strength in the love that we have chosen…

Love is so much more than some random, euphoric feeling. And real love isn’t always fluffy, cute, and cuddly. More often than not, real love has its sleeves rolled up, dirt and grime smeared on its arms, and sweat dripping down its forehead. Real love asks us to do hard things—to forgive one another, to support each other’s dreams, to comfort in times of grief, or to care for family. Real love isn’t easy—and it’s nothing like the wedding day—but it’s far more meaningful and wonderful.

Yeah, real love is not supposed to be just cuddles and kick (that’s a good title for an otome XD) it supposed to have something in it that can be worked out. All those animes of old 80s and 90s actually tried to “make love” as in more meaningful than sex or even kissing or seduction and it worked. Nowadays characters fall for each other because they are “pretty”, “hot” or “cute” Hell Rurouni Kenshin is a shounen anime and Kenshin is not the sexiest guy (though to me he is) in the show apparently Hiko, his teacher holds more candles and so does Aoshi and Sanosuke. Kaoru is considerably less attracted than Megumi even Yumi but their love makes heart throb. Miaka is less attractive than Yui and also Tamahome is not attractive than Hotohori or even the villain Nakago but their love is real and that what also made those works masterpieces.

So, I wish that today’s market also looks at these things. Yes I know that otome is also for fun but you see this mentality in all shows I mean seriously in both Log Horizon, Sword Art Online, etcetera that couples fall in love way too easily or the girl or guy character is a “type” that must be fallen in love with. I also saw this Blood-C where the antagonist was rooted for as a great person because he did so much for Saya. Hello, no, he did those things because he was selfish and wanted Saya to change — on the contrary Blood + had Haji and Saya going through a lot then thry became love not some selfish guy trying to change someone or kill others just to see if his love can be experimentally come true. Which is the lousiest. So fail Blood -C compared to Blood + and guess what many love stories nowadays fail even the sort of actual cuteness of Goku and ChiChi or Bulma and Vegeta.

So, yeah love, real love takes both effort and the cuddles so yeah writers write more substantial things again 🙂

Haruka Nanase’s breakdown: a critical part in Free! Eternal Summer (Episode 9)

Was this predictable?

I think the warning signs were there.

The entire 2nd TV series was building up to this moment. The moment Haruka would snap. It wasn’t easy to watch. Yet, also the entire episode was geared on it exponentially. This was episode 9.

It made me really sad. It was cathartic as a visual medium and storytelling apparatus. I was really engrossed by his mental exhaustion. So much so that I actually didn’t want to see the stretch. I decided to wait and pull into what I saw disaster coming this way and it was awful.

Like Haruka I too stared in completely amazement, as he limpidly stared into the glossy lights of the swimming arena blankly as though caught in an asphyxiating tremor, not weakness but not strength, just numbness. I knew it — he can’t take pressure. That is a flaw but not to deride him: it is the most human thing elaborated with both visuals and Haruka’s face hanging in defeat (as rinsbae in Tumblr also noted). Haruka had a mental breakdown. It was cleanly understood. He just couldn’t take the pressure. Everyone was down on his throat about his freestyle swimming and it got to him. The propensity of the pressure they gave him was too much. From his school principal, to Rin and his teammates, to teachers to random scouts — everyone was thinking that Haru was a swimming machine and they just wanted to see him perform. And it got to Haruka. He always stated that “free” even short for his style and short for “freedom” was the way he swam. It is not that in competitions he didn’t feel pressure it was still amicable pressure. It was when his entire existence was just bounded, as in being defined by others as only a thing he had to do nor else it made no sense, to his “freestyle” then it lost its freedom. It became really corrupted to him. It became something vicarious and not something that he himself understood as his own, as his self, it became a projection alone as a trick. Haruka never swam for that. To him swimming was both aesthetic, talent but also empathy and a portion of his soul transmuted. It just lost that integrity when the pressure to perform came in.

rinsbae’s image accompanied with these words: “Because the clear stream under his eye seems to not be dripping like the rest but what do I know. Every time I see pictures of him like this and he looks so defeated, I want to cry and my heart feels like its bleeding.”

Even the genius hurts and gets defeated when encountered with such negative social icons of perfection.

Such pressure to perform to an angle that is “full” not “fullest” but rather typed on as something like technical, technicality and reduced to the methodology of technique alone made Haruka lose it. Everyone felt that he could succeed and that success is very well, only defined, by the scouts’s eyes beholding that image of excellence rather than all the emotions, efforts, energy and sweet exhaustion that prepares and is parcel to the entirety of the art. Haruka felt reduced to a mechanical image. Like a wind-up doll he felt meaning castigated, chastised his soul made into a minimal binary of “performing well” and “not performing well” — in that moment, swimming lost meaning to him as something he bonded and became bonded to; it just became  a game, a series of performances. Ironically, Judith Butler would call this “performativity” and I go with that theoretical and philosophical practice. It became difficult for Haruka to process his feelings, all his life, from the first season he had a tenacity, a firmness, to love water but also be ordinary. It was crucial to him not to be determined as a prodigy. Maybe, one will say he is a loser but to him the prodigious title was encapsulated with problems. It did not make an appealing gesture, it brought an attention to him, a mechanical and detached attention rather than an enormous empathetic one. To him competition was an event that made him win affection, bonds and a sense of camaraderie-ship with his friends. Swimming was always that to him and competitions expanded that sequence of events, perhaps not chronologically yet astute and enabled his need to breathe and be calm and live a full life.

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Makoto and Nagisa explaining the relevance of timing accuracy for the relay. The risk is disqualification if they move before the other person as issued by their teacher but they explain to her that even with that risk they need to work on their timing as best as they can. Part pressure but a weight shared by all.
Makoto and Nagisa explaining the relevance of timing accuracy for the relay. The risk is disqualification if they move before the other person as issued by their teacher but they explain to her that even with that risk they need to work on their timing as best as they can. Part pressure but a weight shared by all.
The principal and guidance counselor; just the tip of Haru's problems.
The principal and guidance counselor; just the tip of Haru’s problems.

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And the pressure to perform begins
And the pressure to perform begins

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From his face you can see his distress.

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This excursion adds to the pressure as a scout eagerly tells Haruka how wonderful his talent is and should not be wasted.
This excursion adds to the pressure as a scout eagerly tells Haruka how wonderful his talent is and should not be wasted.

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Only Makoto Tachibana gets an inkling of what this might feel for Haru. Though, I think this is really a whimsical element that he never discussing this with Haru when it is plainly there that he needs to.
Only Makoto Tachibana gets an inkling of what this might feel for Haru. Though, I think this is really a whimsical element that he never discussing this with Haru when it is plainly there that he needs to.

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Swimming had lost that when it became only a sport. Only something that just defined him as an athlete but not a person. It became a lose and cheap term for him. He also got horribly afraid. This was not something he wanted. Not something he was prepared for; the territory and the way it was expressed was not him. He got naturally afraid and did not know this water, this water of only being a sporty person or oriented only in sports. His prodigy is not limited only to performances. So, he got tired and stopped. He was afraid and also this scouting thing made him feel less of what he was. It just made him sad.

Running, it is painfully obvious how this is getting to him:

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So, he stopped.

The nightmare that Haruka had was equally terrifying and expressive of performance and what is integral. Like overactive enthusiasm and logical theory it makes him feel claustrophobic and feel wooden. It was very nicely done to explain his psychological state:

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This is how it is. Backed into a corner. This is how Haruka Nanase really feels.
This is how it is. Backed into a corner. This is how Haruka Nanase really feels.

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Too bright Indeed.
Too bright Indeed.

 

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All the pressure made everything empty. No water or solace found even with people. Can you receive from those from puppets anyway?

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Haruka is very scared.

 

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I don’t think anyone seen Haruka this bothered and close to collapse.

 

This part was a very good development of a character. It was both telling of him and telling of socio-economic and socio-cultural norms that are and should be open to critique. Is an athlete only a name, a performance and a title? To Haruka it was not. Water and understanding water is a large part of his life in fact from the Free! Wiki you can read the director say that water is a vehicle of expression for him. It was a way he communicates. He did not want his communication to be only treated as something like this; something just as a race to determine fastest or slowest. That is why he communicated a breakdown. He stood still. His watery tongue was dry and could not reach his kinesis and state of being.

Haruka Nanase had a mental breakdown.

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Haruka’s beloved water became a foreign entity that his immuno-psychological state just rejected. The beautiful bond he had with water caved in due to his stress and mental bereavement.

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It does look he is crying. It was too much for him. As everyone looks in shock Haruka Nanase breaks down.

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Was it necessary? Yeah clean as day and night it was. Everyone was so excited that Haruka was a dream of potential success. No one asked if Haruka wanted that kind of success and that kind of exposure. Makoto never asked directly and sure as hell Rin didn’t either. Haruka is subtle — his face in silence makes small ripples and in those silent ripples his body language also moves and wrinkles what he feels. Haruka did not know what to feel because everyone is counting on him to make an impression. But to Haruka he doesn’t want to make one. It is tiring doing that.

In Tumblr many had made gifs, graphics out of this and I remember lingering on a set of images showing Haruka stopping and Rin blinking and interspersed with the confrontation they have at the end. It was heartbreaking to watch a genius, a human character to lose in something that he so passionately loved all because of pressure and apathetic views and intentions of treating him as a performance. It really got me.

With this I think the story wants to question if someone’s love for a sport is just a fancy consumption? Shouldn’t people ask what and why they do so elegantly  a sport or an art or a science and actually be understood as whole individuals whose success is not truly always a title but rather also a universe of their own, sacred God-given right to explore and know themselves and others. It is the human element that seems to be askew or replaced by just a perfunctory need to consume brilliance. This brilliance lives short. Like a firefly or butterfly destines to die with so many probabilities of feeling incomplete coerced brilliance makes a beauty into a capital, a taxation of exhaustion and defeat. The Tumblr user yannychigi also beautifully wrote on this:

Can I just give my two cents on this one.

To Haruka, he and the water share a bond no person can ever hope to understand- intimate but based on respect.

What I’ve noticed is that the water is like some sort of mirror. It shapes into form based on the feelings of whoever enters it’s territory.

In this case. Haru.

When Haru’s mind was clear and free of any doubts or insecurities, the water danced with him. Every swish, every splash collided with Haru’s movements.

And it was beautiful.

But during the regionals…

Haru was in darkness. So the water mirrored his heart.

Because there was hesitation and fear…the water hesitated as well.

Instead of syncing with Haru’s swimming, it became the chains that binded Haru to a hault.

And so Haru stopped.

And the chains were no more.

It was almost like the water itself wanted to tell Haru…

“You’re heart is not Free”

“That’s enough, Haru”

“Don’t struggle anymore”

In the entire series, both Free! Iwatobi Swim Club and Free!Eternal Summer, you have never seen Haruka break this badly. Or get mad so furiously. When Rin wants an answer, when Rin wants to know how could he just throw away his future — Haruka just snaps some more and becomes volatile. He just can’t take this impending question of future and a potency of what might be termed as “prodigious future” because to him it feels lifeless, antagonizing and thoroughly not him.

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First time in show: an enraged Haruka Nanase
First time in show: an enraged Haruka Nanase


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Still feeling backed against  a wall.
Still feeling backed against a wall.

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It seems Haruka is very sad at what happened. He looks pretty repenting as well to a certain degree. I think this is because he thinks he let his friends down. But then assures them he won’t do this at the relay.
It seems Haruka is very sad at what happened. He looks pretty repenting as well to a certain degree. I think this is because he thinks he let his friends down. But then assures them he won’t do this at the relay.

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Getting your crap together now huh Makoto? I want to slap you a bit for your late reaction to Haruka's cumulative breakdown.
Getting your crap together now huh Makoto? I want to slap you a bit for your late reaction to Haruka’s cumulative breakdown.
The imagery is full of walls. Haruka's own personal wall and also maybe how communication between him and his friends had encountered a wall.
The imagery is full of walls. Haruka’s own personal wall and also maybe how communication between him and his friends had encountered a wall.

 

Though we are very close to the end. This was riveting. It was very hard to watch but also very important to the narratives of everything. What do these young men want? What do they need? Rin was at failure to understand that he had trained for this challenge and this moment for almost all of his life. Haruka hadn’t. Haruka may be a genius but his life has run along pretty smoothly till now. What so-called ordinary people may not find challenging prodigies can find frustrating, bothersome and many a times defeating. Haruka did things with ease so a challenge like this was also something he never faced before. Things came to him easily enough just not this. It was very difficult  for him to understand this. It was him reaching a point he didn’t before. It was scary, confusing and he didn’t know who to ask to help him. It just happens to be something that he couldn’t overcome at the moment.

It might be pathetic but it’s real. Haruka may be using a bit of escapism but I understand him. Humans are not trained for perfection. They are more inclined for error. It was egregious for everyone to heap all their little toxic bag of expectations on Haruka it was also a limit on him and a non-skill in him to not be dexterous about this. He could have just swam and not care about if he came second or third — he could have swam at his own pace and be happy that what he was feeling regularly or the feelings most intimate to him: loving the feel, heart, texture and mobility of water. But of course he did not know that. Haruka is not really prominent troubleshooter. We have seen this earlier when  Nagisa showed up and he couldn’t do much or even recognise that Nagisa is feeling troubled. It is good that by showing this Haruka may have broken the “Mary Sue/Gary Stu” position he had with most people who knew him (audience included). Not to mention he seems a bit repenting about the situation as he feels he let his friends down. Maybe, he also feels he let himself down too. A situation like this is very painful.

Will Haruka get out of this? Maybe, but I had said earlier that even if Haruka did nor fully get into swimming competitively it did not mean anything because he will still be a great, prodigious athletic swimmer. In fact, he could get into professional swimming and also leave it after he felt it satisfied his cravings and be a chief or something else as the chief avatar we see him in the ending theme “Future Fish”.

What matters is that we are being broken out of the idyllic for and of Haruka’s character. All of this has made him more human and more relatable and more of a person than a frigid character. It added layers to other distinct parts of him.

For that I am happy that they took this route — it was very sad and empathetic, very heartbreaking seeing him like that vulnerable and tired and I respected that he did what was honest of him.

Haruka Nanase is growing up. Maturing into a more substantial personal character.

* I know I said I might do an episode by episode summary and analysis but it is getting difficult. I might just do a full review. However, I was writing about episode 2 individually so I might put that up. I am sorry if I disappointed anyone though.

Line Up: Things I am watching

 

The original 攻殻機動隊 Ghost In The Shell film was...
The original 攻殻機動隊 Ghost In The Shell film was first release in 1995 and the reimagining of Ghost In The Shell Arise looks damn awesome from what I saw in the trailer so far. First of 4 parts released in June this year, 2nd comes on the 30th of November. (Photo credit: inrsoul)

 

 

 

 

 

Well, the summer got pretty interesting. First of all I was watching the miniature movie/film that serve as part prequels or retelling of Ghost in the Shell which some say is a prelude to the entire Stand Alone Complex series but there are some narrative discrepancies so I am not sure if this is totally attached. However, as I read the design specs follows Matoko as she was in the fantastic movie that debuted her to the world and inspired the matrix. Ghost in the Shell; Arise (as it is called) however, despite the good story line I feel that emotive Matoko whose eyes and lips talked so poetically is not really present. The Ghost in the Shell movie was both a cinematic artistic treat and had such emotional depth. I know it is unfair comparing it with a predecessor but I love when Matoko goes into those “ghost moments” where we see her as both fighter but also philosopher and a semanticist/semiologist attempting to crack down the mythos and meat of her cybernative driven world. And as usual there are avatars or visual, stylistic, impressions of “the puppet master” which may seem old but they do try to put variations on the idea. 

 

 

 

I think the flaw with the series is that as it does specialise with “ghost” crimes it needs to be more broad spectrum rather than just ghost hacking or some other things related to it. There is a whole back story of World Wars IV and V I think which were non-nuclear wars that could be explored. Also some parts of Matoko’s origins have drastically changed from that special episode in 2nd Gig where Matoko cybernetic body was given its full address (and also the origin story of another important character). Well, that was rehashed. I am not so pleased and my opinions may be totally subjective but their credence lies on how it lessens to an extent the sort of complex activities, pains, complications and hardship not to mention discipline and experience that God given endurance made Matoko such a more spectacular person who I came to respect more. Though this origin story also highlights on a complex hardship it mitigates the higher details I mean they could have shown the pain with more volatility. Parts of it was shown and here is spoiler information because Matoko was orphaned after a plane crash and her fetal body deemed unable to survive, as her mother was dead, during the period she was alive they did a procedure that transported her nascent mind and brain into a small cyber-brain making her efficiently more or less a born cyborg never having a moment when her body was 100% flesh and this to a high degree does upset and disturb her; not to mention that made her body as all the other cyborgs in the military, or I am guessing that people with that amount of cybernisation become soldiers, inclined to buy out their cards from the army meaning that they are slaves and property to the army until they can buy their freedom or otherwise stated. Matoko’s army division due to international jurisprudence and current wars, being that the war has just recently ended, is comprised of people who are both Japanese and not. There are a few Americans in her division like her commanding officer Colonel Kurtz. Thus the army profiteers from cyber slavery and slavery in general which is pretty much what mass capitalism or mass socialism equipped with consumerism does to people with its neo-liberal oligarchic elites making lives the center of business affairs. In fact,  the cyborgs are made to live in a compound and any unauthorized leave even beyond a fence is considered worthy of immense corporal punishment and you see it happen to Matoko. Matoko is so imprisoned that she is given horrible shocks even if she attempts to take out money from her ATM without her army board’s authorizationEnd of spoiler and well continuing.

 

 

 

The other flaws is that it should provide more non-tactical scenarios with Matoko and her team. They do this with other people from time to time but it would nice to see Matoko interact with a 100% humanoid even one without a cyber-brain so that we can how the dialogue and interaction changes and varies or is cemented; how empathy is gestured and forged. They did do this with Arise where Matoko looks at other cyborgs at times; however I will say that the beautiful panoramic way they did this in the first movie is somewhat missing. You may have the technology now for finer cells but for some reason the vintage like prints of that old movie had more a organic fiber to it than these too sleek and smooth cells. They actually hinder Matoko’s body language to an extent I think; emotive, quiet scenes of Matoko rumination or feeling she is nowhere near the actual looking glass feels more attributing to a masterpiece. I do like that Matoko is not so sexualized in this series as she wasn’t with the first movie. Matoko Kusanagi is like all humans a sexual being but her body despite its prosthesis is not a sexualised thing and this is a major distinction that was made in the episode Cash Eye from 2nd Gig because Matoko knows she is beautiful and has erotic appeal but she is an iron clad individual and her outfit in Arise is full fledged remark of that. It’s blood shade and features reminds us that she is a glossy but flesh and fluid human not a synthoid of pleasure. Matoko’s face and body are now normal; she is attractive but not so voluptuous I do not mind voluptuous but I do mind if that becomes center stage and not Matoko as a person. She is actually a bit more athletic and sleeker now given her military background and that is more appropriate to the context involved. We also learn a very important thing which I do not understand but may have later been added or will later change Section 9 is not only Matoko’s team, Matoko’s team is just like an addendum to Section 9 or this is how Arise makes it. This somewhat confused me because Section 9 unlike the other sections is small, pretty much covert and very specialised it is not like conspicuous or large like Section 1. 

 

 

 

 

 

140620(1) - 第2支預告公開、帥氣高中生競泳動畫續集《Free!-Eternal ...
140620(1) – 第2支預告公開、帥氣高中生競泳動畫續集《Free!-Eternal Summer-》將於7/2正式首播! (Photo credit: ccsx)

Aside this, from my recent review, you know that I watching Free! Eternal Summer compared to Ghost in the Shell it’s like comparing a small toy car to the Formula One event of sorts. But hey I like toys if they are fluffy and also cool and I already watched up to episode 3 of the second TV series. It is going phenomenally good? Compared to episodes 1 and 2 I wasn’t impressed with 3 though episode 3 had its moments and made a very good character development just its pacing and its techniques felt a bit sluggish though as usual its animation was top notch. This is also an episode where direct shounen-ai or yaoi was referenced by Gou so it was nice I liked it and you know that this anime does not mind that though as usual as its not totally a shounen-ai anime (yes, trust me it does have other slices of life things going for it and the way it positions itself it has more teaser elements so its partly not a total shounen-ai fair) we do have characters offering an alternative perspective. I actually want Haruka to get with Gou. I liked this from the first season. Something about them really clicks. I don’t know maybe it’s that Gou understands alot about Haruka at times I feel she gets him a bit better than Rin (Think Harry/Luna from Harry Potter) and they have such quiet but intense conversations at times. Like asking really important questions. And I know this may sound a bit bad to some but I am craving a bit of Het I am. I mean I like variety and I want genuine Het in this show too because the way things are Haruka looks like a character that swings both ways (personality wise he is a more mature version of Kaeda Rukawa; yes I said it. As Slam Dunk focused on Hanamichi we never got real vignettes of Kaeda and I think if Kaeda was alone he would act a bit like Haruka he already does with his off-handed sleeping but Haruka is not as competitive or single minded as Kaeda as in he is surprisingly more flexible and inclusive) and he and Rin, as this Youtube reviewer noticed expertly (forgot his channel) that like Rin Haruka has also matured and also developing. Of all the characters in the show I will say that personality wise Makoto is the most matured and developed. Truly, for a young man he is already acting like a full fledged adult. I want to see Haruka in more expressive situations like anger, hurt or even an emotional carthesis. I mean like “Don’t go Gou-kun!” though like Gou he hates honourifics like that tehe. 

 

 

 

 

 

The Legend of Korra: Book 3 Official Trailer
The Legend of Korra: Book 3 Official Trailer (Photo credit: BagoGames)

I got to know from the Youtuber EmergencyAwesome that Legend of Korra Book 3 Change came out and they are showing double episodes. I was really happy. Thank Allah! Woohoo! Got to watch. There are 7 episodes out and I am liking the concepts but as usual the energy of Book 2 is missing. The people in charge are getting lazy again. I was really disappointed in episodes 6 and 7 and I thought that their magnitude sucked and I see this book is beginning to have an elitist flare that The Last Airbender lacked. This world is very bender focused and many people are benders but Amon did ask a good question why are non-benders treated unfairly and are not given opportunities. I am finding that the directors and storytellers are being very remote on the socio-politics of the show introduced in Season One. Some are being addressed. At one point Korra is asked what she thinks of government systems and colonization is also very nicely added as before. Earth Kingdom territory was used to make Republic City which is the hub for people of all nations but not many people are happy about that and that is somewhat understandable seeing that Aang had a hand it in makes power politics be highlighted a bit. Korra, unfortunately, is even at one point seeing that. Though Tenzin makes very weak observations and so does Korra. People are a bit angry at Korra at her decisions which is viable but Tenzin tells her not to worry too much on their everyday complaints. I was like why not? They are people and they have a right to question her or their leaders but at the same time Korra is doing a poor job helping out. I am angered that such delicate issues are being rushed. I am happy that Legend of Korra has more modern realistic elements and themes compared with The Last Airbender because that series elucidated bending more this one elucidates how life is with or without it.I was also not impressed at how despite people not being coerced or apparently not to make choices they are herded out to do so (more on that later) I am impressed by Asami in this season because she is more of a flexible and nimble fighter than Korra. Korra’s martial arts need polishing so does Mako’s and others because they rely too much on their bending. These things need a separate post.

 

 

 

I also saw Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox it was really good. I am really happy that they focused on how serious and noble Flash is. We usually see Flash

 

Flashpoint Paradox
Flashpoint Paradox (Photo credit: 1upLego)

 

as a jokester and a half mature person. In this installment he was so refined that he even inspires Batman. I guess I did miss his jokes a bit. Yet I was impressed by how they built his character. Full endurance he takes really massive beatings and really takes a heap of torture; psychologically, emotionally and physically. I started to respect his character more. Not to mention this Justice League features violence, blood, swearing gay references which were all huge. It also criticizes all A list countries  for their knack and passion to make wars as easily as they can bump uglies in a dilapidated alley. By the end of the feature I think I started loving Barry Allen. I mean he is a very credible DC hero and I am happy that this film gave him the scope and matter to prove that he was one. I also was impressed by Lois Lane because in this film they showed how many ordinary non-super powered humans are very endurable and very resilient and strong. The non-supers have an equal and able place and I think its about time that these stories show that. Realistic stories have to have that. Hey even melting clocks in The Persistence of Memory of Dali’s had something very real: clocks. Overall I really loved this movie. It’s only flaws I would say is that DC’s animation style needs revisions and very good ones. Their male characters look like steroid spans not people; yes muscular but they also need to look attractive for viewers as in faces. This film is more of a body thing even with its female characters except Lois Lane I don’t think many looked that great yeah Diane looked like her artist make her have a lazy face. I don’t want high cheekbones what I want is variety and relatable faces and bodies of people. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ghost In The Shell ♠ Stand Alone Complex [Tempo Builder]

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex O.S.T.
Image via Wikipedia

At the moment watching sparsely/intrinsically the masterpiece Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex

The Ghost In The Shell is MASHALLAH one of the best anime MASTERPIECES that I watched. It is philosophical, intellectual, engaging, action oriented and preferable fiction of the day. I watched it in my adolescent years and it has been one fabulous ride throughout. It never disappoints as it melds awesome stunts with cool psycohological mind bombs!

A guarantee win for anyone loving complex and simple flux — aka plot with substance and action for purpose!

The Alternate Axis (My Term Paper For Cultural Studies)

An Alternate Axis

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

Chapter 1: Introduction – The Circuitry Of The Modern…………………………………………………1-11
Chapter 2: Romance – The Battleground Between Hegemony and Individualism………….12-30
2.1: Hot Gimmick and Teacher’s Pet – “Abuse Is Love” Philosophy………………….13-20
2.2:Paradise in the Postmodern……………………………………………………………………………20-30
Chapter 3: Man as the Ultimate Simulacra of Being………………………………………………………31-40
Chapter 4: The Revolution Of The Identity: Myth of Sex Roles Broken……………………………41-43
Conclusion

Appendix:

Image 1: Animepaper.net
Image 2: http://www.anime-sensei.net/2006/02/teachers-pet-manga.html
Image 3: http://www.mangafox.com/manga/paradise_kiss/v04/c015/11.html
Image 4*
Image 5*
Image 6*
Image 7*
Image 8*
Image 9: http://www.fusedfilm.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/ghost-in-the-shell-21.jpg
Image 10*
Image 11: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Laughing_man_logo.jpg
Image 12*

* Taken from Personal collection.

An Alternate Axis

Chapter 1: Introduction – The Circuitry Of The Modern

Be it a castle you want to reach due to the reasons of performing miracles or a space you can reach out to your soul – we all desire to be unique – exquisitely imperfect-perfect and in connection to the world around us. The aspects that make us unique may become problematic and take a form so hideous that it may betray our expectations of it or become so overwhelming that it may engulf our known world into a realm transcendentally fantastic. What is truth? What is reality? What is romance? What is sex? What is love? What is identity? What is real? – Questions sorted out like gig-lamps [1] but deepening and twisting into labyrinths – the words illusion and real become zygotic, transparent yet distant to find a proper definition. What if the world became another set of production? Human beings another model of commodity, easily dissected and rearranged to the voyeuristic and narcissistic desires of others and ourselves. The myriads of anatomies present in the world makes dissection difficult. This paper is an exploration of alternative anime in contrast to their mainstream counterparts to illustrate how they depict the subversive, psychological and the postmodern elements that make up society today and our present selves.

The above phenomena that are stated easily illustrate our world today – be it in fiction or even an observable reality. The world, post world wars and colonialism, had become a world that no longer possessed any certainties. There were fears of an apocalypse (or, the thought that the world was already going through it) and also of a world being drastically reshaped by the beginning of abandoning olden values[2] . The world at present has become globalized and digitalized. Most individuals have access to the internet or also known as the World Wide Web. We had learned through strife and experience that old world ethics do not function accurately in an urbanized system such as ours. Identities of different kinds are established and they are presented in various layers and spheres. To be in a world so interconnected also creates confusion, misbalance and an absence of pure security.

Many popular medium such as the television shows we see and the cinema have illustrated stories of isolation and insecurity as the by-products of our urbanized and globalized world[3]. Some of these programs have become very popular as it establishes the emotional, psychological and philosophical questions and incidences of our present. However, many mainstream shows still attempt to bypass such intense and extreme phenomena and only deal with them as a form of superficial entertainment[4].

. There is one medium of animation whose origins are from Japan that have from the very beginning held a distinctive style and presentation. This Japanese Animation, now labelled as anime, has permeated every genre existing in our world – from romance, sexuality, politics, science fiction and even medical innovations, anime illustrates what are mainstream entertainments and even the avant-garde. Anime differ from cartoons of the West not only in animation style but via demographics and also the daring approach to be as explicit as possible to the truths they are concerned with.  The origins of anime and its etymology are detailed below:

Anime (アニメ?, an abbreviated pronunciation in Japanese of “animation”, pronounced [anime] inJapanese,buttypically ( /ˈænəˌmeɪ/ (help·info) or /ˈænəˌmə/ in English) is animation originating in Japan. The world outside Japan regards anime as “Japanese animation”.[1] Anime originated about 1917.

While the earliest known Japanese animation dates from 1917, and many original Japanese cartoons were produced in the ensuing decades, the characteristic anime style developed in the 1960s – notably with the work of Osamu Tezuka – and became known outside Japan in the 1980s.

Anime, like manga, has a large audience in Japan and high recognition throughout the world. Distributors can release anime via television broadcasts, directly to video, or theatrically, as well as online.

Both hand-drawn and computer-animated anime exist. It is used in television series, films, video, video games, commercials, and internet-based releases, and represents most, if not all, genres of fiction. Anime gained early popularity in East and Southeast Asia and has garnered more-recent popularity in the Western World

(Wikipedia)

As we can see anime has become a product of the globalized world. It has become a subculture – not only does it possess a wide audience but also a certain openness and flexibility that common social norms do not permit (such as cosplay, which is a style of dressing like an anime character in very exaggerated and/or unique clothing styles). There are different kinds of anime and manga (in fact, though manga means comic these two has become synonymous with each other due to the styles adopted and adapted – many animes are made based on mangas and vice versa) and the most popular kinds are titled Shoujo, Shounen Seinen and Josei. Shoujo manga are usually targeted to teenage girls and the reverse is Shounen while Seinen is targeted to young adults who are male and its opposite is Josei. Shoujo manga is usually illustrated with cute designs and has feminine elements in its storyline such as romance while Shounen holds massive proportions of action and other masculine traits such as models of a supreme male figure (Wikipedia). In contrast Seinen and Josei may hold complex relationships and dark realities as its story foundations. However, these demographics are mostly prevalent in Japan; when licensed by an international company for broadcast in its national channels the labels of what is Shounen or Josei become somewhat lost and audiences are mostly determined by their tastes.

As mentioned before, our world today has uncertainties and these phenomena have permeated excessively in alternative mangas and animes. When the word alternative is used it is done so as to serve as a contrast to the word mainstream. Mainstream anime do not incorporate deep philosophical questions or psychological evaluations and examples of such can be found in the animes Pokémon, the Dragon Ball Series or even the Sailor Moon series where a protagonist merely tries to overcome foes or challenges presented to her/him and become a stronger fighter against the considered evils of the storyline. Mainstream animes still differ from cartoons of the western world as they depict blood, gore, realistic violence and nudity. The animes that are going to be discussed are not as such – they delve deeply into the folds of our psyches and our personalities many of times more deeply than movies and other forms of animations. They wage war on what is considered as the normal and they express signs of a world that, due to technology dependency, can no longer differentiate between the original and the manufactured. I had personally labelled these kinds of animes hemogenists (a portmanteau of the words homogeneous and heterogeneous) or revoyads (a portmanteau of the words revolution and Dryad) as they possess both diverse story elements fusing with various representations of truth and reality. The animes I will discuss are Paradise Kiss, Ghost in the Shell and Revolutionary Girl Utena. In contrast to Paradise Kiss, I will look into two mangas and their responses to show the existence of the subversive anime fan following.

Chapter 2: Romance – The Battleground Between Hegemony and Individualis
2.1 Hot Gimmick and Teacher’s Pet – “Abuse Is Love” Philosophy



(Images 1 and 2: “Hot Gimmick” [Left] And “ Teacher’s Pet” [Right]) {It was oriented this way on MS WORD}

Misuzu just started her dream job teaching at a prestigious high school, and she feels totally motivated. Recently, she began going out with the really hot/manly principal Kazuki, and their relationship couldn’t be better. But one day. Misuzu had sex with Kazuki’s younger brother Masahiro, who happens to be a student at the same school. This is a huge secret that they can’t tell anyone: the love affair between a teacher and a student.

(Anime-Sensei)

Hatsumi is just a regular girl, living in your regular company apartment complex, with your regular neighbors, but when her sister asks her to go buy a pregnancy test, everything gets out of hand. Afraid for her family’s reputation, Hatsumi gets black mailed into becoming the neighborhood bully’s slave. Then Hatsumi’s childhood crush moves back into the neighborhood, and it seems that all the guys in the neighborhood are out to get with her. It’s neighbors in love, and it’s scandalous.

(Anime News Network)

Above are two descriptions – the first is of Teacher’s Pet and the second is of Hot Gimmick. Both of the mangas were drawn by the mangaka (manga artist) Miki Aihara. Both of them are shoujo mangas. Both of them are known for their great art. Both of them have extremely passive females who pander to ever whim of their tormentors. Then, without any valid reasons, fall in love with their tormentors. Also this love is considered a purer love in the context of the stories – a true, great union of two souls. What better tool does patriarchy need to enslave and subjugate females than a woman writing romances as violent and disturbing as these? Also, the stories are sexist even to males – it depicts that all men who are not virile and agressive cannot obtain desirable female partners and if they are nice and kind then they will rejected by the females they desire. It is as though Aihara wants us to choose the lesser of the evils as the other male love interests of both mangas are either too plain i.e. nice or trying to rape the protagonists using more devious methods. The exploration of these two mangas is to illustrate the contrast of the subversive animes/mangas that will be explored later on.

The information above excludes two things: Hatsumi gets physically, sexually and emotionally tormented by Ryoki, the bully she falls in love with. Secondly, Misuzu does not have consensual sex with Masahiro but is raped by this student while she is alone with him in a classroom[5]. Masahiro rapes Misuzu due to some complications he has with his brother. Also, after the rape Masahiro claims that Kazuki, his brother and the principal, had a woman rape him while he watched thus his rape of her was an act of revenge. The manga is not only disturbing but illogical – an insult to women and men who have received extreme abuse.

‘Pornography is the theory, and rape the practice’, wrote radical feminist Robin Morgan in 1980 (Morgan 1980:139). This memorable slogan has certainly left its imprint on feminist discussions about links between pornography and sexual violent against women.

(Bristow 148)

A fifth definition of popular culture, then, is one which draws on the political analysis of the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci, particularly on the development of the concept of hegemony. Gramsci uses the term hegemony to refer to the way in which dominant groups in society through a process of ‘intellectual and moral leadership’ win the consent of the subordinate groups in society…

(Storey 13)

The passages quoted above serve as the foundations of responses to the Hot Gimmick and Teacher’s Pet. The people who love Hot Gimmick state that relationship is quite beautiful and it is unique, and not boringly depicted. Though it is true that the story has great plot twists matters remain that it still promotes “ the normalization of an abusive relationship” (Wikipedia). Some responses to Hot Gimmick state that though the manga pushes feminism out of the way it is still fictional thus can be enjoyed. However, there are many irate readers of Hot Gimmick and one blog post clearly demonstrates the irritation and frustration the story generates:

…Let me say again, I had very high hopes for the series, expecting all this to teach Hatsumi some important lessons and provide opportunity for character growth. She doesn’t. She’s still the same insecure, wishy-washy girl at the end of the series that she is at the beginning, still being ordered around by Ryoki, and that’s the part that’s so frustrating. What’s the point in spending three years and around 2000 pages on a series when the lead doesn’t change or grow?

Slighty Biased Manga

Teacher’s Pet has similar responses [6]. Both stories illustrate what Rosalind Coward and Janice Radway spoke of the Harlequin romance novels, as documented in John Storey’s “Gender and Sexuality” – that sexuality is portrayed as a male instinct and that it is the woman who does not actively orchestrate a sexual drive but is “awakened” by an aggressive male who leads her to the world of sexuality.

The mangas Hot Gimmick and Teacher’s Pet do sensationalize abuse as romance. But most of the responses to these mangas are critical and display a sense of loathing. The responses indicate either some convoluted senses of enjoyment or delusional perspectives concerning romance or utter hate and disgust for dissatisfying plot elements. These critiques of the mangas display some aversion to the dominant models of what romance should be like.

2.2 Paradise in the Postmodern


(Image 3: Paradise Kiss [Manga] Modelling shoot)

(Image 4: Paradise Kiss [anime]: Yukari as a model)

The traditional Shoujo romance depicts usually a passively, idiotic girl who falls in love with an aggressively, manipulative boy (regarded as intelligent) and is somehow rescued by him i.e. transition from boring to risqué lifestyle is a power only he possesses and he gives it to her with his love. However, as we can see with the majority of the responses to Hot Gimmick and Teacher’s Pet that these are dissatisfactory progressions. Firstly, they are phallocentric: the male possesses more than ample power of the female – despite his psychological instabilities he is marked still as superior to the female. Secondly, the damsel in distress is an impoverished mass of character whose interactions are based on no new character developments. The mangaka of such anime/manga of Shoujo promises that the female protagonist will become empowered and resolve her issues, however, as we have seen, that is not the case. The cycle of slavery is repeated; rather than being a free individual the girl chooses subjugation in its coarsest as a model of “love” and “liberation.” She is a slave now to her lover.

This is not a satisfying solution for the modern reader. The evolution of Shoujos are sometimes seen with out-of-the-box mangakas like Kaori Yuki whose main characters are sometimes male who have unhidden dark and twisted storylines (not making absent any redeeming qualities). However, a true postmodern romance would be Paradise Kiss by Ai Yazawa.

Paradise Kiss is the story of Yukari Hayasaka. She is eighteen years old and is studying for entrance exams that would enable her to get into a good university. However, there are some problems with this wish – she is not academically brilliant and these are desires imposed on her by her mother who has always pressurized her to succeed academically (Anime News Network). Aside from school and cram school Yukari has no life. She has never had a boyfriend or any kind of other social life. Until, she is whisked away by a group of fashion students who want her to model for them. Initially, she believes they are too odd and indirectly insults their devoted to which an angry Arashi, her friend later on and one of the group, tells her that she is stuck-up just because she was from a prestigious high school. He states that their work on making dressing is their passion and is their art-form and she has no right to treat it condescendingly. Yukari leaves their atelier (what they call their workshop) feeling confused as she has never had an experience similar to this. The next boy a handsome man by the name of Jouji “George” Koizumi comes up telling her he has the ID she dropped in the workshop with him. But instead of giving it to her he merely takes to the group’s art college and gives her a haircut (just a trim of her bangs). Yukari, whose life has been a mundane routine till now, becomes intrigued with the group who calls their label “Paradise Kiss” (hence the title) as they are bold, daring, impulsive, individualistic and outspoken. Yukari agrees to be their model – finally resigning from the life imposed upon her.

The journey of Yukari from possessing low self-esteem and being passive to being confident and an individual in her own right is a remarkable one. She runs away from home when her mother does not agree to acknowledge her dreams of becoming a model, has a relationship with George who is the first person she has sex with and even becomes a professional model. However, it was not an easy process – in the beginning she has a crush on an intelligent boy in her class called Hiroyuki who constantly worries about her education after she leaves school (he tries to persuade her to finish high school at least); though Yukari had thought a boy like him would never fall for someone like her. She returns to her mother after a while (who breaks down in tears as she was worried for her daughter and accepts Yukari’s decision) after  she breaks away from George  when she realizes he is too eccentric and controlling thus their romance cannot be. Initially, George aids Yukari in becoming a stronger woman and making her own decisions (Wikipedia). However, he is too selfish and doesn’t always respond affectionately or reasonably concerning Yukari’s feelings. Yukari in the end realizes that though initially she was also attempting to become a model to be liked by George she now only wishes to do it because she loves it and it is her decision. At the conclusion of the story, Yukari ends up with Hiroyuki, a more understanding and affectionate male, who had fallen in love with her as well.

(Image 5: Yukari wearing the dress George had designed for her)

(Image 6: Yukari as the more confident woman)

The show has the postmodern concept of not instilling what is high culture and low culture; be it from academics to fashion – it gears itself to show that people have distinct ambitions and they have their diverse personalities. George and Isabella are also great models against the traditional markers of sexuality. George is masculine in the sense he is sexual but he is not the stereotypical man – he is bisexual and a designer. Isabella is actually a man named Daisuke and is a cross-dresser (Wikipedia) who had confessed to George that he couldn’t live like a boy when they were young thus George designed his first dress which was a dress to help transform Daisuke into Isabella.

(Image 7: A picture of Isabella)

(Image 8: Daisuke wearing the dress George had designed from him)

The show incorporates what Ihab Hassan had spoken on one of the labels of the postmodern: “shall we simply live and let others live to call us what they may?” (Hassan 148). Postmodernist texts do not make judgments nor does it have a set behavioural apparatus to which characters must follow. It in fact, incorporates what Michel Foucault had spoken of concerning sexuality:

Sexuality must not be described by a stubborn drive, by nature alien and if necessity disobedient to a power which exhausts itself in trying to subdue it and often fails to control it entirely… There is no single, all-encompassing strategy, valid for all of the society and uniformly bearing on all the manifestations of sex.

Isn’t it true in our society today definitions of sexuality have blurred? Isn’t it true that right and wrong have transcending their traditional models? Paradise Kiss is an anime that illustrates the relationships and personalities of our world – never fairy-tale perfect but exquisitely challenging and imperfect where individuals do not become just plain masculine or feminine models but address that they are distinct with tastes that are their own.

Chapter 3: Man as the Ultimate Simulacra of Being


(Image 9: Motoko having her new body being made)

When you are dancing, a beautiful lady becomes drunken.

When you are dancing, a shining moon rings.

A god descends for a wedding

And dawn approaches while the night bird sings.

God bless you. God bless you.

God bless you. God bless you.

(Anime Lyrics)

( Image 10: Motoko standing next to her chief)

Ghost in the Shell (攻殻機動隊 Kōkaku Kidōtai?, literally “Mobile Armored Riot Police”) is a Japanese multimedia franchise composed of manga, animated films, anime series, video games and novels. It focuses on the activities of the counter-terrorist organization Public Security Section 9 in a futuristic, cyberpunk Japan.

The first entry in the franchise was Shirow Masamune‘s Ghost in the Shell manga, first published in 1989 in Young Magazine. A collected edition was released in 1991; a sequel, Ghost in the Shell 2: Man/Machine Interface, was released in 2002; and a serialized manga, Ghost in the Shell 1.5: Human-Error Processor, was released in 2003, which contained material that was planned but not included in the sequel.

The manga series has been adapted into two anime films, Ghost in the Shell and Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence; two anime television series,Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and Ghost in the Shell: S.A.C. 2nd GIG; a film based on the television series’ continuity, Ghost in the Shell: S.A.C. Solid State Society; and three video games: one PlayStation game, one PlayStation 2 game, and one PlayStation Portablegame. The films and anime were produced by Production I.G.

Ghost in the Shell is a futuristic police thriller dealing with the exploits of the cyborg Motoko Kusanagi, a member of a covert operations division of the Japanese National Public Safety Commission known as Section 9. The unit specializes in fighting technology-related crimes. Although supposedly equal to all other members, Kusanagi fills the leadership role in the team, and is usually referred to as “the Major” due to her past rank in the Japanese Self-Defense Forces. She is capable of superhuman feats, and bionically specialized for her job — her body is almost completely mechanized; only her brain and a segment of her spinal cord remain organic.

(Wikipedia)

In a future where everything to your body is manufactured, how can you define yourself? In a world where your mind is another mass of digital wires can you say your thoughts are your own and not hacked and implanted into you? Ghost in the Shell is an anime that explores the simulacra that the soul and being becomes when cybernetics replace the originality of flesh. As Jean-Francis Lyotard had spoken in “Defining The Postmodern”:

The development of techno-sciences has become a means of increasing disease, not fighting it. We can no longer call this development by the old name of progress. This development seems to be taking place by itself, by an autonomous force or ‘motricrity’. It doesn’t respond to a demand coming from human needs. On the contrary, human entities (individual or social) seem always to be destabilized by the results of this development.

(Lyotard 1614)

The simulacra that permeate the universe of this animes are vast – the one consistent in all of them is Motoko’s inner turmoil that she is not a true human being – the song quoted above is played hauntingly when Motoko’s new body is being made: it actually promotes what Lyotard has spoken of technology – though addressed as a divine process it actually suffocates the humanity out of Motoko leaving her inwardly questioning what makes her human.

In The Stand Alone Complex series, Motoko faces the simulacra of identities – in the first series it is the ambiguous and clandestine nature of a person who calls himself “The Laughing Man”, adopted from J.D Salinger’s character of the same name, (Wikipedia). In the second series a collective calling themselves “The Individual Eleven” become terrorists to overthrow the Japanese government’s ’policies and start a civil war.

The states for a simulacrum to form, as Jean Baudrillard suggests, are as follows:

  • It is the reflection of a basic reality
  • It masks and perverts a basic reality
  • It masks the absence of a basic reality
  • It bears no relation to any reality whatever: it is its own simulacrum.
  • (Baudrillard 196)

(Image 11: The Laughing Man Logo)

It should be noted that no one had seen the face of “The Laughing Man.” Only records of his attire are documented by men whose brains were not computerized – as this individual is a master hacker who can hack into people’s electronic optical nerves and make them see nothing when he goes past them. The insignia above is the logo through which people see him when he is around in the vicinity. We later find out in the series that a young cyborg only called Aoi – is “The Laughing Man.” He had adopted this secret persona because he was actually fighting against this corporation which was selling the wrong medicine to a cybernetic body related disease. The logo was actually fashioned after “The Sunflower society” logo – a hospital in the storyline of this anime who were the actual producers of the right vaccine, the Maria vaccine, to cure the disease. The logo’s lines are adopted by the lines spoken by Holden Caulfield, the protagonist of the novel “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger (Wikipedia).  He, himself, states that he doesn’t know who the real Laughing Man is. He tells Motoko that he stumbled on some files concerning the corporation’s mishandling of distributing medicine while in cyberspace that mentioned Laughing Man and he adopted the persona. Thus he forged a simulacrum of the unknown original Laughing Man.

In the Second Gig series, “The Individual Eleven” collected claim that they were influenced by a Russian essayist by the name of Patrick Sylvester. In actuality, there is no Patrick Sylvester or his essays – all this is cyber-brain manipulation of a man called Gouda who plans to create a “hero” of the public with these essays and create a civil war in Japan so that control of the internal networks of the Japanese government would be his. So there was a political incident in the storyline of the anime where Japanese rebels moved the hearts of the people with their patriotism but Gouda manipulates this information for himself.

Though the events are futuristic, the events in Ghost in the Shell are reminiscent of society today. Are we not so connected to the internet that our wired lives and our non-web worlds are fusing? Does anyone really know what were the events surrounding 9/11 and the subsequent war in Iraq? Can anyone truly estimate how many American soldiers and Iraqi people die every day due to the war? Can anyone tell if Osama Bin Laden was the perpetrator of the crimes of 9/11 or was it an elaborate ruse formulated by the very CSI the people trust? Was it just a war to gain Iraqi oil?  The political and economical are nefarious networks and what Ghost in the Shell shows in fiction actually occurs in our world every day.

Chapter 4: The Revolution Of The Identity: Myth of Sex Roles Broken


(Image 12: Utena)

Revolutionary Girl Utena (少女革命ウテナ Shōjo Kakumei Utena?) is a manga by Chiho Saito and anime directed by Kunihiko Ikuhara.

The main character is Utena Tenjou, a tomboyish teenage girl who was so impressed by a kind prince in her childhood that she decided to become a prince herself (expressed in her manner of dress and personality). She attends Ohtori Academy, where she meets a student named Anthy Himemiya, a girl who is in an abusive relationship with another student. Utena fights to protect Anthy and is pulled into a series of sword duels with the members of the Student Council. Anthy is referred to as the “Rose Bride” and is given to the winner of each duel. As Anthy is thought to be the key to a coming revolution, the current champion is constantly challenged for the right to possess the Rose Bride.

This anime, called Utena for short, is a postmodern fairytale completely breaks the foundations of the myth surrounding gender as the prince here is a woman. As Roland Barthes said that Myth was a form of speech thus the myth here is that the prince is always a man.  When the former prince Dios, who has mutated into Akio attempts to usurp power from Utena for becoming into a prince she, instead of falling prey to his seductions she breaks free from all that was holding her (the sorrow for the loss of her parents and her former prince Dios) and helps Anthy get free and becomes a prince herself in the end. In the postmodern, gender roles are never concrete nor are they essential. They can be as flexible and dynamic as possible.

Conclusion:

The animes, Paradise Kiss, Revolutionary Girl Utena and Ghost In The Shell are hemogenists or revoyads because of their connection to our society today. Aren’t gender roles interfering with individualism even today? Aren’t there situations too secretive to understand? Aren’t there too many forces in the world that try to control us despite what we do? These anime represents society as it is today – unpredictable and uncertain but offering, in its own way, a new movement of thought – a new look into the labyrinths of the world. They may be animations but they show the world as it is today.


[1] In my first semester I had done Virginia Woolf’s “Modern Fiction” an essay on the importance of how fiction needs a change to operate in the world today. Her line was “life is not a set of gig-lamps” – this line is an elemental phrase to define both a postmodern reality and the difference between reality and illusion. I had retained it in my memory since my earlier readings of it.

[2] Professor Kaiser Huq had given lectures concerning the reshaping of the world this semester in the course “Modernism”. This information is a product of attending his classes.

[3] One example would be the 2004 movie The Machinist starring Christian Bale, an emaciated insomniac who cannot tell the differences between reality and illusion – this information is taken from Wikipedia.com.

[4] In the book New Cultural Studies: Adventures in Theory David Boothroyd in the chapter “Cultural Studies and the Extreme” marks this as a current social phenomenon.

[5] This information shocked me as initially upon reading the synopsis I had thought of this manga as a teacher/student romance. Though it is advertised as such it is not. I had read the entire manga and all the times Misuzu and Masahiro have sex it is by coercion – first the rape and other times by unfair circumstances/persuasions.

[6] All of the responses that are being discussed here where found in popular forums such as the one in Mangafox.com. Some of them also came from blogs that I visited some time ago. As I was introduced to the series two years ago I had read a myriad of criticism based on it so I am relating from previous and recent readings both.

Bibliography

Barthes, R. (1972). Myth Today. In R. Barthes, Mythologies (pp. 109-151). London: Vintage.

Bristow, J. (2007). Discursive Bodies. In J. Bristiow, Sexuality (pp. 169-170). Routledge.

Bristow, J. (2007). Pornographic Materials. In J. Bristow, Sexuality (pp. 148-149). Routledge.

Ghost In The Shell. (n.d.). Retrieved April 1, 2010, from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghost_In_The_Shell

Revolutionary Girl Utena. (n.d.). Retrieved April 1, 2010, from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revolutionary_Girl_Utena

Storey, J. (1993). Gender and Sexuality. In J. Storey, An Introduction To Cultural Theory (pp. 120-126). Athens: The University Of Georgia Press.

Storey, J. (1993). What is popuar culture? In J. Storey, An Introduction To Cultural Theory (pp. 12-13). Athens: THe University Of Georgia Press.

The Cultural Studies Term Paper

ENG 331: Cultural Studies

My seventh semester – which is now – has this subject. I had been planning from last year to take this course. This obviously has good reasons:

  • It is a great expansive course that includes the aspects of what composites culture – the different facets such as postmodern’s famous slogan – “I shop therefore I exist”
  • It was going to be taught by our department chairperson Ms Firdous Azim whose books are also taught at Oxford. I did courses with her before and she is one of the elite. No wonder she is the department head
  • I always wanted to write about anime academically. What affects culture? What aspect of culture is an important phenomenon?

If anime is not a grand cultural phenomenon I don’t know what is ^_^ Though Ms Azim doesn’t take the class anymore because she wanted to hand over the course to a visiting faculty (she was one of our department’s teachers but has gone abroad to work on cultural studies) my term paper remains the same. I am still focused on anime.

Of course now it is the end of the semester and I will finally be writing the paper. I must use the theories I learned to extract information out of those anime and show how they apply themselves to the viewers and society in general. This is really an exciting task and I have chosen the animes I’m going to explore.

Now, I’m not doing the usual anime – not Dragonball series or the Naruto one or the Pokémon one or even Bleach. To me they are mainstream anime – popular and interesting and really engaging but I’m not really their fan. I was a fan of Dragonball Z and still am to some extents but as I got older (I started watching it when I was fourteen) I grew kind of bored of it. There was nothing new in Dragonball Z except maybe a new foe. Though I did laugh at Mr satan’s cowardice (giggle when I remember it now) and loved the battles.  Also, as I am from Bangladesh you don’t know how long it took India and Pakistan’s Cartoon Network to actually show this one show. It started in 2002 then it stopped mid Frieza saga then it started again in 2006 or 2007 – all that time they were just repeating from the beginning to that battle with Frieza! Obviously, I lost the tempo but I also thought it was all action oriented – character dimensions were kind of limited. But Frieza still remains a favourite villain, as Bugs Bunny would say “Diminutive isn’t he?” but really deadly. (Ok, this is SPOILER INFORMATION but I think Frieza is a predecessor to Salem from Full Metal Alchemist that diminutive sadist)

Though I might have to make a contrast on both these considered mainstream anime and the animes I am doing I do have a distinction. The animes I am going to discuss are popular but just not with everyone. In fact one of them has a very limited fan following. The truth is that these animes are not only visually appealing but philosophically, psychologically and socially stimulating. My thesis topic is “The Anime Subculture: The Oppositional Look” basically I might change it to “An Alternative Axis” later on as I have also discuss (as my teacher told) how anime is a subculture in general. These anime explore aspects of  the human psyche and of human decadence, redux and ascension.

Thus the animes I’m going to explore are:

  • Paradise Kiss – not really a dynamic fantasy shoujo manga but it is quite different from other shoujos. It is a slice of life manga where the protagonist grows stronger. Unlike helpless shoujo heroines Yukari is assertive – she may have been passive before but changes throughout the series. She does not like people misbehaving with her nor does she accept her own boyfriend’s eccentricities when they affect her negatively. It is uniquely presented – despite following shoujo’s tradition of lush, vibrant colours and fashionable characters it does not dwell superficially on them but encourages both insight and empathy. You might hate some characters or some of their characteristics  but perfection is not a tool of reality and this is what this manga beautifully illustrates.
  • Hot Gimmick. Teacher’s Pet and Bitter Virgin Hot Gimmick is a manga I love to hate as you have seen in my previous post. Though some say it is not a slice of life manga due to its horrid details I disagree. Due to its insufferable romanticizing of horrendous acts it is slice of life as it imitates Harlequin novels and Mills and Boon romance trash. Its settings and origins were beautiful, its storytelling was addictive however; it failed to establish what it set out to do: cure the adversity and set a decent romance. As Wikipedia expertly stated that “it shows the normalization of an abusive relationship” without any redeeming qualities whatsoever. It sets out to pacify, nurture and develop the characters but in the end succeeds at doing none of these things. It attempts to be reasonable but it fails to do so. Thus I am using it as a contrast to Paradise Kiss in the sense of Gender and Sexuality – are the women and men who are good natured always passive idiots? Are abusive spouses/partners meant to overlooked at being intensely romantic? I am also looking at Teacher’s Pet where Miki Aihara shows how a woman can fall in love with her rapist just for sex (no reasonable reason given) and accepts abuse from her boyfriend who is  not her rapist but gets to play ball with her too. I’m using this to contrast too. What is the mangaka attempting to prove?
    Bitter Virgin on the other hand does not cloud the psychological repercussions of emotional, sexual and physical abuse. It also may have Shoujo traditional passive females and femme fatales but it does see the heroine as a masochistic-dysfunctional entity (sans any reason even masochism has deep psychological reasons: boys and girls do not simply become masochistic for their hearts telling them or they have a rush of hormones. The gratification gratifies on other deeper levels). It shows the protagonists attempting to act out, protect, develop and fall in love via nurturing and understanding thus it succeeds in doing that. Maybe not introducing greatly independent philosophies of sexuality and psychology in individual decision but greatly allows psychological aftermath of rape victim.
  • Ghost In The Shell – the accessibilities of this anime is phenomenal: spiritual, psychological, emotional, political, philosophical, medical, and digital and you can’t totally put it in the standard taxonomy of anime.  It showed identity-crisis entering a whole new axis when the inner universe (Origa’s theme ^_^) is virtually an interconnected cosmos of knowledge and information via brain-space and via body-swapping. The token of this anime is not merely the graphic illustrations of the making of cyborgs and dolls but also the pioneering aspects of the medium (anime) to enter the vortex of the postmodern. The makings of the cyber world and the inner world fuses in so many volumes, layers and vessels that separation, homogeneous, heterogeneous and alienation all become hard to distinguish or hard to make definitions of. Matoko Kusanagi, the protagonist is her own antagonistic vehicle but also her own transportation of being her own saviour. An excellent anime – Allah Almighty bless Shirow Masamune!
  • Revolutionary Girl Utena – need I say more of this postmodernist masterpiece? Aside from the accolades it deserves for being a shoujo milestone it is also, to quote HigevsOtaku, a canon for those who need to inaugurate themselves into the spherical diversities of anime. Its artwork is exquisite, its imagery crisp and the story devices delicious to the tongue and earnestly devoured. Never have I been so engrossed in an anime that I felt greatly concurring with a person who said that Revolutionary Girl Utena should be a novel and we would read it in University/College. The beautiful protagonists Utena and Anthy and their strife to achieve liberation through societal standards of sexes and genders and proper citizenship – their rebellion in dressing unique and staying indifferent to what people consider normal. The role reversals of prince, princess and witch is also fantastic – no definitions are absolute in these titles and manipulation and/or transformations are inevitable truths. The psychological traumas, fluxes, logic and emotions that  motivate these characters despite their ugliness or their beauty are aesthetical models of truth and realism. Aesthetical does not always equate fiction or imaginary but rather versatility in composition and direction.  Masterpieces of masterpieces – Allah Almighty bless Chiho Saito and Kunihiko Ikuhara!

Well those are the reasons why I am covering those anime – I wanted to cover more but there was no time. Actually my visual powerpoint presentation didn’t go so well due to some facts:

  • There were too many students this time in this course so we were allowed 10 minutes maximum. Everyone exceeded this, naturally, as a  3000-5000  term paper cannot easily be condensed in 10 minutes especially when Ms Azim herself stated (she was one of the guest judges) that we all had diverse topics to speak on.
  • Not everyone is an anime fan like me in fact those who do watch anime still haven’t watched these titles (I asked someone about these titles and she was only familiar at this time with Naruto) so my teacher kept on telling me to introduce the animes. So, a large portion of my time went on that.
  • Basically, I am also following a lot of theories to support my ideas thus it is hard for me to condense those theories as well.
  • Ms Azim gave me suggestions but said that it seemed that my paper began at the end of the presentation (:P  *_*) But the truth was that it was hard to chop down the contents I was exploring. So Ms Azim went like “So what?” even if anime prevails as such how does it affect society? But I tried answering again her questions. Basically, our TA told me that I should have kept on referencing to the theories but in a limited time frame that is hard to do.

So, yeah I might talk about those other animes as references; they are:

  • Jigoku Shoujo/ Hell Girl – this anime’s first season may have had a linear style of storytelling with the “cause and effect” approach but it gains popularity and applause due to exploring the reasons why people envy, hate, get confused and eventually want vengeance in the form of sending someone to hell. It is not typically Shoujo as some of the materials present are dark and disturbing including abuse, incest and paedophilia.
  • Full Metal Alchemist – Michel Foucault conversation called The Eye of Power with Michelle Pierrot and Jean-Pierre Barou can be put into application in this anime. The forces that wield power also wield knowledge be it the ones who are seeking the secrets of alchemy, or seeking resolutions for the aftermath of a violent war or even seeking the very philosopher’s stone of truth. The humans, homunculi, ghosts and philosophers stones are the four pillars of power and they will fight for either supremacy or freedom.
  • Death Note – isn’t is obvious ^_^? The Eye of Power works here as well – Kira and the people against this human believing himself to be a deity. Is the deity always in control? No. Are the humans without the power of the note sans power? No. The roles are reversed many a times and the evolution of the characters is fascinating.
  • Angel Sanctuary – Angels and Demons: who are the pure? Truly man Kaori Yuki is one beautiful storyteller that captures the psyche immediately and creates shoujo that transcends cute girls and hot boyfriends. How would you feel if you were the reincarnation of a female angel though you are boy? How would you feel if you were in love with your own sister? How would you feel if Heaven and Hell were waging a war to gain you in their favour? If this postmodern I don’t know what is.

Ok, well this is my current update for my term paper. As it was related to anime and my love for it I thought I should post it here. Though, I think this is my longest post yet 😛 ^_^

Well, I guess Ciao for now guys ^_^