Korra Season 3 Comes to an End: Season 4 may reconstruct the entire meaning of being an “avatar”

Well, Legend of Korra Season 3 or “Book 3: Change” has finally finished. I feel a sense of relief. Like after a tsunami has decimated something I am a survivor. Kind of like the opening level credit start of Tomb Raider (2013) or as I call it Tomb Raider: Survivor when Lara emerges out of a caving-in tunnel to open skies but wounded, alone and really messed up. Yeah, ironically, Korra must have hated her own season because at the end of “Change” she is very physiologically changed and somewhat psychologically scarred. This season should have been called “Air” or “Return of the Air Nomads” (aka like Star Wars) because the only visible changes are that Air Nation is now coming back and that two individuals are at the crossroads of something big — those two are Korra and Jinora.

As usual this review will be Spoiler heavy weight champion so caution and tread carefully (like how you held SHIFT button in those old Tomb Raider games to cross spiked grounds and not fall off ledges).

This season was, as I mentioned before, the worst season of the Avatar franchise. It had some great concepts but lacked the execution, momentum, clarity and elocution to actually address and tackle the large problems it has been throwing. One of the best things about LOK was that it focused on different conceptual arcs (not side-stories but actual arcs) on the flaws and complications of the world. However, it muddled them like a bad dish served rancid and cold after a sand-storm and blizzard passed and you could feel the icicles and dust in your mouth as you chewed the abomination flaunted as food. I am seriously feeling sorry for the youth and kids of the post-00s and 90s generation because they are given really bad ideological stirrings and told that it’s discourse and analysis of it.

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Season 3 was more focused on Jinora and the air benders. Zaheer and the Red Lotus crew of P’Li, Ghazan and Ming-Hua really have no place in the story but to add a temporal dimension to the cast of bending potency meaning that they have accelerated the growth of bending in its subdivisions. Like Zaheer knows how to fly and make air-bound asphyxiation techniques and fog camouflage well, Ghazan knows lava bending, P’Li can combustion bend with her mind and Ming-Hua can do awesome things with water that even challenges her body as she is armless. For a group that yearns a more secure and spiritual base in their actions they sure have been made into bunch of really crude villains. Also unlike Season 2, Korra does not mature with her interactions with them. Rather, the Red Lotus was so useless as even plot phenomenon in this season. They are not necessarily evil. In fact, before they killed Hyou-Ting no one even said “evil” much and the show attempts to force us to accept them as villains by calling them “low life” and “terrorists” reiterating these concepts so vulgarly that it is like total coercion on the producers’ part. Ozai was called king but he was apparently a bad person by his actions and words — no one had to be convinced he was bad through propagandist ways of attempting to seduce our intelligence via coaxing and skillful mind-rape.

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When Zaheer finally captures Korra he says he doesn’t want nations or states, or warriors or what-not. The Red Lotus want that people can live peacefully without a symbol of bending or non-bending , or a specificity of nation but rather on hard work, love and integration of people. Yeah, maybe the way he was trying to do that was obscene or too extreme but his ideals are not really warped. We see that his lover P/Li was saved by him from becoming an instrument of battle by a warlord. Yes, for people like them it is difficult living in a consumer driven world where skills are molested by the overarching monarchy and hegemony of power-hungry individuals or collectives. Zaheer, unlike Ozai, truly believed that the Avatar caused pain or rather did more disservice to balance than service. And truthfully, Wan, Roku, Kiyoshi, Aang and Korra all do MESS UP BADLY. They interfere or at times don’t involve themselves in things that causes more damage.

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So, yeah I didn’t want The Red Lotus to kill Korra and I do not agree with their methods but they have a good enough reason to want to change social orders and all that. But instead of ever doing anything to talk to them or even see their side Korra just outright attacks them and says really stupid things to them. What also got exacerbated was how the writers made sure that Korra can find no alternatives to actually salvage the situation and make it good. The killing of the earth queen and the riots of Ba Sing Se and the air nation held hostage did nothing to anything. It was obvious that Red Lotus (which is bigger than Zaheer and co.) don’t care about anything besides changing social order and so Korra should have fought them on that regard like she did in Season 2. Yes, her personal self is also intertwined in the fight yet this time it felt that she was just fighting to save herself making the season a very weak portrayal of the term “avatar”.

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One can argue that self is very important and that survival of your life is very important. I do agree. I just feel that it was a very messy and unconvincing fight for the narrative cycle of the mythology. It was good to see however that Vaatu has still that modicum of influence of making an avatar lose it as any evil does when you are feeling despair. Basically, Vaatu is like a demonic or devilish Mephistopheles (read Dr. Faustus) who is goading or prompting a human to make wrong choices as in self-destruction so basically Satanic in many ways. I was quite irked that Raava being so endearing and well responsible for the avatar’s well-being can’t help her fight off despair when she really needs it (so much for being a engaging light spirit of principles). This reductionist storytelling is the entire problem of Season 3. Unlike the intensities of Books 1 and 2 Book 3 dabbles on such mediocre methods of storytelling and execution that even Zaheer’s downfall makes no sense. Zaheer was written into the script just so Korra and Jinora can have this bump me up some ladder of hierarchical temporary and flimsy progression.

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I do not see any reason for Zaheer to even matter as much as he did. He just didn’t. He was a nada in this series main highlights of introducing other geographical and geo-political locations of the avatar mythological world. This could have been via other ways and Korra traveling had nothing to do with Zaheer. I do not see how this Book was like Legend of Aang/ The Last Airbender in any way. If they were thinking that “Book 1:Water” then yeah there was a lot of metal bending and lava bending and water bending (metal can be a subset of water bending in liquid form and so can lava). But even the journeying was minimalist compared to TLA and also the narration was. Korra didn’t need The Red Lotus because technically and even in many ways The Red Lotus were not really interested in wiping out the Air Nation who after the finale has decided to continue with their nomadic roots but help people of all nations and stop corruption and misuse of power whenever they encounter it. Tenzin does say that unlike their ancestors they will be more involved in worldly affairs. I cannot celebrate this because it is as ambiguous, in a negative sense, as what Zaheer was saying. It was if you think on it.

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Exactly how can you combat structuralized and conformed violence and injustices without any creed or code to back you up? Also, The Air Nomads where, as they shown in TLA, the most unwavering and inflexible people alongside the corrupted Fire Nation. In fact, Aang broke that trend. By being more involved but not so much to intrude and by marrying a water bender (he would have married Katara even if there were other airbenders because Aang was like that) and by making a multicultural society that values diversity but keeps cultural influxes and heritages. Aang escaped because the Air Nomads where too disciplined and rigid. They may not have craved power as tbut they did not like different views as no one could do things outside of tradition. They were deeply powered by the rigidity of asceticism. Aang is hardly an ascetic. Aang fell in love, intermixed with other cultures, ate much (not little but with restraint), traveled, learned other cultures and even married another tribe person, Katara. The Air Nomads have to understand that not everyone like traveling or even living an ascetic-lifestyle and that should also be respected. It was because of this that Tenzin had trouble recruiting people in the beginning. True that Air Nomad culture is rooted on more spiritual principles as the Water Tribe and that is quite beautiful but Tenzin was adamant to make sudden large changes in people’s lives. That is hardly fair concerning that most of those people are already scared.  The Air Nomads can have different kinds of nomads as real world cultures do have.

Though it would be helpful if the Air Nomads do revise their policies and living accordingly as the Water Tribe and Fire Nation did. The Water tribe is a very flexible culture even if it has its disparages and cultural problems. In Book 2 the Water tribe revised its need to have both incorporeal aspects with corporeal ones. One good thing is that Air Nomads are also adding corporeality with incorporeality too. But like Water Tribe they must review and rethink all the time while keeping core principles. The Water Tribe’s adaptability has always made me love it. From TLA to LOK I have seen that it has gone through many phases and faces but has a natural way to balance itself more or less. The best part was that Korra agreed with Unalaq, not his methods but that the world needs spirits and humans to coexist and thrive. The Air Nomads are still young and thus need to learn how to intermix and adapt.

One point I did not like is that cultural discourse is absent from this timeline. Even within the Earth territory Zao Fu is a fiefdom. No one within the Earth territory challenges the Earth Queen. Suyin with all her metal benders is as useful as rusted steel. Not to mention there is no meeting with delegates of other nations. It is true that Zuko and others shouldn’t just invade another country (because invasion is as anarchic as it sounds; it usually makes things worse. People get displaced because raiding and arresting many cities and structures happen mostly alongside of that) but with all their fame and council powers they can’t even talk or help Ba Sin Se citizens? And what about Raiko too? All these rulers do mostly do things for themselves. They are more interested in trade and commerce than actyal equity amongst people. Nationalism was being properly maintained by even such a wide geographical span as the Earth Kingdom so if there are people like the Red Lotus it would make cultural sense and socially logical because none of these leaders help the non-thriving or the destitute. Republic City and Zao Fu are both quite prosperous but Ba Sing Se was like roadkill. As I mentioned in my previous article it was awful.

My friend and I agreed that by showing Ba Sing Se uprising as “bad” was a big slap on the face on protesters worldwide who stand for humanitarian and equity causes. Yes, it was violent but so was the French Revolution, you know the one that gave birth to modern day Western democracy and democratic legislation. They were suppressed people who were bereft of proper food, homes and also medical and social empowerment of course they would not be gentle and bovine when Hyou-Ting was assassinated. They would go stark mad or even start pillaging. They need assets so that they can have some comfort. Also this is a collective anger and resentment towards the system. They are breaking it by doing these wayward things. They will trash the palace even if some decide not to steal because they will not let the monolith to their suffering stand.

This goes into a discussion on the Red Lotus. It was obvious at the end that Zaheer was an agent of the Red Lotus, his commandeer of sorts but not its head. P’Li, Ghazan and Ming-Hua were equally in power as commandeers as him but they were still just a circuit or rather just a positioning of current affairs within the organization. It was clear that Zaheer is not the main leader and like any loyal agent he just did things with the ideologies he was handed down. And these ideologies or missions is all over the place like a bull going apeshit in a china house. Zaheer first admonishes order and says that the original state of the world is chaos (if one understands even some minor astronomy or mathematics they will know that our nascent or naive view of equilibrium is not how the universe works).  It is designed to incorporate both chaos (as in astral bodies hurling amongst each other and supernovae and hypernovae and pulsars and all that hard-boiled ionic bonding and radiation is happening and by God that is the tempo it is designed) and order — yet of course the magnitude in which these are overridden and synthesized it feels pretty chaotic and out of order at how we look at it. So Zaheer is partly right about universe being “chaotic” however does that excuse his large-scale based plans? Not really because that level of “ordered riots” may actually dissolve the positive chaos that the world requires. Is that positive chaos present in all the current nations? No, it is not. Korra can revise laws and work to show solidarity amongst humans and spirits which was her entire reason for keeping spirit portals open which resulted in a great change and that was the return of the airbenders.

Yet when Zaheer captures Korra his ideology is that supreme rulers and nationality only severs human contacts and that people should be free of that kind of nationhood and just love, thrive and protect whom they love without any superficial allegiance hindering them to do so. Zaheer’s ideologies are not farfetched or bad. Yes, as I reiterate his methods are poor and stupid or rather the Red Lotus’s are. But this strengthening social ties and emotional ties doesn’t feel like extreme anarchy or chaos. It’s like the screenwriters had no idea what to define the Red Lotus with so like a headless chicken running around and sporting Kill Bill stylized blood all over the place we are left on both intellectual and personal scarcity. The viewers may be children but they are not dumbshits ok. Neither are the young adults and adults and so that is VERY POOR writing.  Not to mention that Lahima’s void is like achieved by Zaheer via losing P’li. That was like putting Lahima, the airbender, as a pretty isolated and socially inept person. So to gain flight you must lose everything that is important to you? It is obvious that Zaheer loved P’li a lot. I would trust that his love is not limited on a temporal plane. So, yeah that makes no sense either. It was just lazy writing.

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Change was good with the final two episodes. I liked that Jinora shaved her head and became an airbending master. Though personally I always like Aang and Zuko with hair. I mean the tattos don’t need to be hidden as they are strikingly present on the forehead. Jinora was looking like young Aang as she emerged as young master in the ceremony. This is the first time they had held such an inauguration for a master because last time even Katara did not have such an honour, nor did Sokka and Zuko’s one was less intense. I am happy they have decide to elevate another character so high alongside of the avatar as TLA hardly did that. If they had done this throughout the book I would consider it claiming fully its title name, but hadn’t so there is that. But Jonora seems happy to finally able to take on air nation responsibilities. She is the first air master as Tenzin and she has done all she can to deserve that title (now I guess its Bumi’s turn and the other kids):

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One person ascends but another descends a bit. Korra is obviously broken. This Book showed a very psychological and physiological effect on Korra that Aang had faced when attacked by Azula all those years ago. I think people want to think this is Zaheer and the toxins fault. To me it is not really them. The poison has aggravated a situation already present from the time Korra had fought Amon. This is the culmination of all her weaknesses and shortcomings and anxieties amalgamated with the poison’s negative effects. Korra, like Aang but more potently, has realized that she cannot do everything as avatar or with that title. All her hot temper, all her bending and all her gusto can be translated into failures if she has spiritual board or innovative way to pull them together and make them flow. This season had another good point which was carefully fumbled in the fog of things, the interstices of different bendings. Like Suyin taking out the brunt of the poison in Korra as Jinora said tactfully that it was metallic and Suyin did it with liquid metal sort of prowess. Korra does need to learn alternative styles and subsets of bendings (Though Boilin is a lava bender I do want him to try metal bending next).

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Her single tear, long and lingering, is both her relief that the Air Nomads have returned and also self-loathing for not being able to fend off for herself and do more than she could. Korra is deeply dissatisfied with herself. It is shown in her face. She is also angry that everyone wants to protect her now or criticize her or wants her as savior because I think she is realizing that she needs top travel and learn more subsets of bending maybe even new bending if necessary. You can see that she is annoyed even by her mother’s maternal affection. She is unable to walk and unable to feel happy. As fans has noticed she is clear VERY DEPRESSED. It is a long time coming PTSD. Culmination of all she faced. Aang also went through this period many times. First after Katara realizes he had abandoned his responsibilities and then when Azula was almost successful in killing him in avatar state. I hope in Book 4 they shows Korra rehabilitation process and if she will learn anything spiritual or rather will she be redefining what an avatar means?

All this time she has used and abused the avatar title and took some refuge or used it as a defense mechanism. Her fighting and conflicts has enabled her to realize that she cannot do that anymore. Her enemies or opponents are strong like her even if they can or cannot bend and she must, like Aang, involve her own self and originality and spirituality into being an avatar that is she not a tradition or a lineage or anything but just her. She needs to focus on what she can learn and also rethink on how she can help The Red Lotus by maybe administrating a new system that helps everyone. Yes, they are portrayed as terrorists and we can say their methodology is extreme but their concepts were tactile and decent and just. Korra must now balance these ideological with the remarkable people with her. She has lost a large chunk of her confidence. Which is good. Because that confidence was cockiness rooted in being an avatar and not understanding or learning new things. So, she can reconstruct for herself an identity and a strength that has more meaning and even reconstruct what it means to be an avatar in her time because she can physically fight all she wants but some battles need to be managed with spirit and dexterity and innovation.

 Pretty much Season 3 was a whole pile of messes which only made some substantial things in its last scenes. It really had nothing going for it. I now just want to see Book 4 so that I can see how they make Korra convalesce and return to top form but both spiritually and mentally along with her physicality. In fact, if she learns how to fight without much bending that would be pretty neat too. Yet, that is the problem. I hardly know what half-baked plan these so-called creative team is on with. I guess, I have see it to find out.

P.S. I think Makorra is still canon which is another good thing.

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The Legend of Korra Book 3: Change criticism. The show is hitting really sour notes at its end

The first time I was watching Legend of Korra Book One I was really thrilled. A female, muscular, taller probably kick-ass avatar — yeah that’s cool! Sign me up!

Yeah.

That was then.

Book One had a lot going for it but the mettle to the crucial spine of the series was suffering a dry spell in creative development and persistence in that development. I am not going to compare this series to Avatar: The Last Airbender/Legend Of Aang but I know some points I should. In ATLA there were vast paces to character growth and really beautiful martial arts, accompanied with great themes and not to mention even distinctive only one episode characters. ALOK lacks all of these — ALOT. Yes, it is fun. Yes I loved it in the series premier when Korra was so strong that she grabbbed a firebender and threw him into a shop window. Yes, I loved that she engaged with her love interest from the start. It made sense for young adults to be a bit more upfront about feelings at times. What I did know is that that is all this series was going to amount to.

Seriously.

There are so many flaws in the character of Korra. Yes, I watch the series. Yes, it has some good points and has some continuity but it lacks momentum and it lacks ideas. It has some good originality I will give it that. But it horribly suffers in execution not to mention that Korra is, to some extents, a misogynistic character. She was supposed to be the opposite of Aang that means she was to be more physically inclined than Aang but as Aang I thought that she would, by the end of the penultimate book, learn to be more of a spiritual person. In fact, all of her major challenges and enemies literally challenged her spirit. Her avatar spirit, her own Korra spirit and all that lay between it. I thought she would be matured by now. Instead, she has reverted back to a silly, non-wise, elitist Korra of Book One. Yes, while it may be Book Three Korra has shed the intensity and her wide level of thinking that she acquired in Book Two. Basically, she is being masqueraded as a beautiful muscular air-head. Her physicality is so focused on that I feel it getting on my nerves. A man or woman does not need to have social ideal body types to face sexism. Korra may be modeled after female wrestler types with a spiritual purpose but she is like wrestlers only a visual performance as one critique in Tumblr had pointed out.

Not to mention that Season Three is a pile of messed up garbage in terms of plot execution and even a ready base for the antagonist who has been denatured into just the stereotype mustached villain of old. After Season Two I was expecting more solid bodied and spiritual discourses in the series. Instead we got cheap villains who have a very weak goal and not to mention they are already labelled by fans as terrorists even before they did much because that is how freaking cliched this season is. Amon made you think and so did Unalaq. The Red Lotus have no strength and even their ideology has feels like a child’s endgame. Not to mention naming Zaheer the antagonist an Middle Eastern Arabic and pretty much a Muslim name is very, VERY RACIST.

His other teammates names are also rooted in other religions that are not necessarily Eastern but half Asian or Central Asian origins. They are far more exoticized than the other characters. This Red Lotus wants anarchy. They believe that the White Lotus are fools (to a large extent they are right) for becoming mercenaries rather than  do what their original creed and code was. They hate the way some of the leaders run things and mentions even corrupt leaders such as the Earth Queen Hyou-Ting and President of Republic City  Raiko who have truthfully failed their citizens. They want to assassinate them. Korra at first tries reasoning with Zaheer saying that he has spirituality and that as a new Airbender he can really help the world. However, Zaheer is adamant. Korra gives up too easily. Zaheer quotes one line by Guru Lahima who is a guy that Zaheer really liked and was an Airbender too and she just shuts up. Freezes actually. I mean, she doesn’t even try. She has seen the hierarchical destruction of Ba Sing Se by the Earth Queen and yet she doesn’t even figure that because of such stern cases of oppression Zaheer may have become attuned to a society without systems. She may be the avatar but she hasn’t seen Ba Sing Se before and known its actual socio-cultural climate. Zaheer does ironically have more experience. Neither did Mako and Boilin who realised, amidst the slums and poverty, that their father may have left the city due to the structured chaos and inequality present in its “rings” like society. Where the upper ring holds the Queen’s court and is surrounded by opulence, by triviality and corruption where food is plenty and not shared with the citizens (in fact when they meet their cousin hawking food it is distinct due to its spoiled and un-fresh character; the food is rotten. French Revolution anyone?). So by trivializing this scene, making it only a comedy and no social conscionability held you are actually making fun of democracy and of people’s right to eat. And ALOK is supposed to be a children’s show originally? It fails as a children’s show and it thinks that young adults are a bunch of dummies smitten only to graphically exoticism and visual pornography. It is low and very patronizing to think that about your viewers especially their fandom and their interests has been catalyst to many decisions you made. So, 1984 defined: television being a cataract and vibe to propagandist modes to even influence in a show that is meant to persevere righteousness and social balance? Yes ALOK becomes like Big Brother silencing the masses to ever question teaching children that questioning or even finding a middle ground between two oppositions is socially and even ethically wrong? Dubbing any dissenters as “terrorists” and then when seeing that fan reaction to the Red Lotus was so favourable that you have Zaheer perform assassination and make hostages out of innocent Airbenders. It feels they are forcing him to be very orthodox old age random villain stuff. They are coercing us to hate Zaheer more potently than we should. It feels very like mechanically done. I have only disinterest in him. The guy is written boringly.

So, anarchy is that?  Does even an amount or paucity of research go into ALOK? I use paucity because the research of this topic feels non-existent. The villain, reduced to some bad gestures, is an archetype that in a semi-postmodernist era of television or even on a postmodernist scale that most innovative writers and shows are attempting to debunk, to leave leaving that cocoon and just attempting to transport and do a small journey if necessary. Neither does Zaheer or any of his teammates have this. Unfortunately, neither does Korra. Her narrative is very feminine oriented. Wanna know how? Aang has a chance of growing and thus his growth getting stunted is a very chauvinistic philosophy if it’s only applied to males. Thankfully, Thank God literally, that they made characters like Toph who also grown a lot in the series. But yes in ATLA the major characters growing were mostly male. Here there is a female narrative of losing already established power. Which in itself is not misogynistic but I fear that it has a misogynistic and misandrist portrayal.  Korra is always defined as an avatar. Unlike Aang who is a person other than an avatar Korra can only ever be an avatar. It feels suffocating that Korra is always declaring that she is an avatar in the lineage of bending and that she can do this and she can do that. Best part of Aang was that he was physically a terrible avatar, (I think Korra may have a larger height than Aang in her full mid 40s adult self like Kiyoshi) as in aside airbending he sucked at other types of bending which was a promising concept. Korra did make really marvelous progress in bending in that she learned very early energy bending and then spirit bending which Aang did not most probably know. But Aang had different aspects to him as a person; he grew up as a person and also as the avatar. Korra’s growth is stunted and in a orthodox, sexualized, male-gaze oriented feminine way she is only trying to save the little shards of avatar-ness that she possesses that makes no sense.

Korra is reluctant to grow beyond “avatar-ness” in fact she bases her entire existence only to that role alone and that is a very reductionist and sexist way of reading a woman. Women are not only titles or only vessels for power; for God’s sake Korra is treated as that.  Very archaic and arcane methodology of viewing women is established to formulate her. It is pitiful that a strong female character protagonist is being homogenized into nothing but muscle and athlete pornography. Not to exclude that Asami, the other female character in the show, and a nonbender is totally sexualized. I do not remember Sokka meeting such treatment nor was he reduced to a bimbo in ATLA. In fact, Sokka was a very strong character. They are only scratching Asami on the surface of her inventiveness, technical and technological knowledge and dexterity to provide creative solutions. I love her unwavering loyalty to her friends and her ability to not be a begrudged youth or scorned women but these narratives are hardly explored because Asami is always a frivolous depiction of some Fire Nation beauty (it seems she has Fire Nation roots as both Sokka and Katara were Water Tribe Warriors, my bro always called Sokka a Water Warrior). None of other things about Asami is shown. Not to mention that Sokka is a very humane and human character who learns to be an able warrior for his people and the cause; he proves the essential need of nonbenders as much as Ty-Lee and Mei, and Suki had shown in the first show as they have different methods and valuable tactics of fighting. Asami is just stereotyped as the beauty and mitigated as the forlorn princess of a once rich corporation; add more layers and you make her Blanche from A Streetcar named Desire and have her go insane in the end.  Not to mention in Season Two she appropriated a Civil War in a nonchalant business tone on her corporation getting saved (sound familiar, isn’t this what corporations are criticised for aren’t they?). This transaction way of looking at war and not caring about lives is a problem of the modern age and instead of compassion and love that is displayed by Sokka, Asami acts as ruthless as Amon in what she thinks is delivering justice.  A friend even mentions that Asami must relegate her “Oh, I am daughter of a rich father” mentality and go on with her life. She is not merely future industries heir she is her own person and can make her own judgments. If she even scraps up the company to build another she can if she feels her father has already tainted the principalities it use to first employ. This show focuses too much on blood and secular lineages that have no bearing and only builds up the status quo of inequality and malformed individuality, and individual collective.

Not to mention that Boilin and Mako too have no chance of growing besides chauvinist archetypes of The Casanova and The Fool. A fan had mentioned that Boilin is too reduced as a comic relief and that it makes no sense to do so and I totally agree. You already have Varrick as a comic relief and the pet Pabu you don’t need to make a main character constantly be a comic relief. Boilin singularity is that he is The Fool and he played this card even in Season Three. In Season Two he reconciled with an abusive girlfriend without even critiquing that her possessiveness and superiority complex is neither charming nor helping her as a person. Boilin is always falling in love and rarely having fun in his love affairs. Mako on the other hand is known only as a dating agent, like a detergent. His singularity is that he is Korra’s boyfriend or Asami’s one time boyfriend and love interest.  Frankly, he is only known to be The Casanova. Such misandrist portrayal of a young, sensitive man is highly crap. Like really sexist. Mako clearly has his own dimensions too. The only title graduation he had is being with police and becoming detective. I was like what about his personal journey? Doesn’t he have other goals? Katara did and so did Sokka. Boilin got some time as Nuptuk and that was important but Mako hardly does anything by himself. We see him doing that in Season Two a bit investigating Verrick but he hardly keeps it up when he just ups and down kisses Asami. So basically this guy can only think with his dick? It is true I like MaKorra and that I really want them to be together but this is just plain ridiculous! Why are Mako and Boilin  so silly? So completely non-growing? All these writings on them are truly very limited.

I digressed with normal critique to further extrapolate the banality of Season Three. Korra is still a muscle-head, preferring to always take physical action rather than sorting out things in a non-linear holistic way that challenges her character and even her physicality. This is what Season Two exemplified that mere muscles alone cannot defeat spirits as she even lost in avatar state enabled. Season Three started with such promise of having her fight both physically and spiritually, mentally even because the Air Nation is not going to be rebuilt on brute force alone it needs ingenuity and also a large amount of spirit and dedication to do so. Korra must also attune to herself as having no avatar state which is very beautifully challenging. It always introspection and an innovative that even rivals and surpasses Aang’s progress. Instead Korra bemoans like a drama queen whore left, right and center of having no avatar state and skillfully dismissing time to ruminate and also gain referential or even observation-based knowledge about the world. In her ordinariness now she can better communicate with the people and feel what they feel. None of this connection is shown. Korra immediately faces physical dangers that she can somewhat overpower. Her only physical challenge is that she had to learn metal bending (and chastise Mako for hurrying her as a fugitive escaped because she was still a noob at it which doesn’t add much really).  Zaheer and the others are so scatterbrained that they hardly pose as credible foes. Like Wile Coyote they make randomized, nonsense violent gestures without much speculation at what the hell they are doing. For a pseudo-wise guy Zaheer surely is an ignoramus and his girlfriend P’Li, his comrades Ming-Hua and Ghazan are equally ignoramus with him. Apparently I got this from Korraspirit in tumblr but guru Lahima’s quote was this:

I was once asked what it means to enter the void. I will tell you. An airbender may meditate for a hundred years trying to detach herself from the world, but she cannot do it. Humans cherish human life, and by that they are bound to this world. The only way to abandon the world is to abandon one’s humanity. New growth cannot exist without first the destruction of the old. The void is found in the sowing of death. From that death springs life on the wind.

-Guru Laghima

I do not understand how he quotes in brief and also have a girlfriend and just think that disorder is order when Lahima just does not care about humanity in general. Lahima is like a very orthodox or fanatical ascetic who is probably angry at something and mouthing that off. It makes no sense to even think he presupposes anarchy because anarchy itself is so human and he doesn’t care about this and does Zaheer even understand this. It is just very perplexing that Zaheer will just say one line of this to Korra (which I emboldened) and have Korra, even a layman in Lahima studies, not even question that an air nomad may not have meant such a thing as they are very centered and spiritual people like the Water Tribe (more corporeal clans are Earth and Fire in this universe from my understanding).  And that maybe he means at the end of one’s life one has to shed his or her humanity as in his human skin but they are still human spirits as Iroh.  Another study may show that Lahima may have been upset living as an Air Nomad and must have become a bit angry at the cloistered way many air nomads lived and he felt that it rejected humanity in many ways because many criticise asceticism, its severity as deprivation so he could have just been reflecting on that. Korra has no knowledge of both present or past histories of socio-cultural conduct so she cannot even evaluate the statement Zaheer made. It is a shame really that Korra cannot even ask Tenzin or someone close to him that why an airbender would say this as an airbender has inspired Zaheer and that says a lot. No, that narrative is excluded too. It feels painfully like a betrayal when the inventors of a show presume that we are so dumb to just swallow any crap they give. It feels like we are the daft emperor who are given “clothes” and wear the masterpiece of nothingness and expose raw idiocy. I think the show creators take us for that. It makes no sense. Any of it. A friend and I agreed that this the worst season of Avatar ever both combining ALOK and ATLA and that it spews out stupidity is quite apparent. The weakening of characters and story is a travesty to a potential richness this story has.

I still watch it hoping for changes and just watching. I am not so interested in it anymore. I am just curious on how this train wreck will end. I think the show cannot write or handle female protagonists and is just waiting for this ALOK to end so that they can get a guy avatar to come back. After all these narratives are so chauvinistically handled that in this day and age you feel insulted to see that your personhood regardless you are a man or woman has become reduced to this crap.  They can make another female avatar  who is fire or earth based I actually want to see them do that. Make the next avatar a girl too and that would be interesting and if they can make it multidimensional like ATLA it would be great. But then again these cultural politics have little merit to discuss things. They just want to do stuff that hardly makes sense or even culturally, psychologically, sociologically and individually satisfying or engaging. They want to marry cliches, overused stereotypes and go along with whatever garbage handed to them to preserve status quo. To preserve totalitarian ideologies and do stuff that makes no sense.

ALOK has bombed this season. They want to make it out alive they must rethink and add layers to a potentially rich story.

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. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Transformers: Age of Confusion I mean extinction

I have been a fan of Transformers since Gen 1 which means the animated 80s franchise. I easily loved Optimus Prime and had a big crush on him as a kid which is still pretty salient I must say.  Did I think the Transformers trilogy was very good? It was decent enough and it was enjoyable to watch. In the 3 movies we were shown an array of Autobots and Decepticons with some meat to their metal (aside Optimus):  Starscream, Lazerbeak, Bumbledee, Ironhide, Rachet, etcetera.

 

What did I think there was going to an overhaul in the characters? At first I thought it was a reboot because many franchises nowadays love that. Just rehash. Like some website overhaul. When I saw Mark Wahlberg I thought ok maybe it is an entirely different transformer story. To some extent that is correct. It is a part-reboot but essentially some mythos has been very changed. Top antagonists have changed which is good because Megatron is so common a foe it is understandable that you want to do something out of the box.

CGI wise this film has great components. The bottle green shade of one of the new Autobots is beautifully reflected and so is the Shogun apparel of another. Lockdown, our main protagonist, has an impressive ship  and thats very nicely detailed. Optimus now has a bit of a grungier look and that suits the mode of the film. Before they showed him a lot in van mode but one good thing on this film is that they featured him more sans vehicle and more Autobot individual with a very gothic-vintage armour that really spoke out what the film is going for: personalization of the Transformers as entities not as transportation vehicles that humans ride in. They are individuals.

Did the movie succeed in pulling all of those components?

Not a damn way. Unless Bay wanted that to be the case. Maybe, this film is satirical. If that;s the case I am impressed and this succeeds.

Transformers 4 is so bad compared to Dark of the Moon that I am really disappointed. Dark of the Moon was so good in its genre that I can still watch it today with much gusto but this movie can be summed up only as one sentence: CGI wet dream.

Sure, it had a lot of potential and things that make it partly rewatchable like the graphics and if you are a fan like me (you might want to watch again for fun) but as a whole it was kind of a torture. I remember that after 40 minutes by excitement shriveled like a hot air balloon about to pop or just howl away. It does have potential but it many ways it was ruthlessly, as one reviewer stated, lazy. Plain lazy. You can see it in the narratives that put it up there.

I actually got angry at Optimus Prime portrayal I felt that he has a major character assassination. From a heroic person he became miserable and grouchy which I could connect with at first, however, then it just got boring. It didn’t feel organic enough and it felt more like this scaler steel that was talking and doing things rather than Optimus and I was disappointed.

The humans are very one dimensional and are so “inhuman” as in they are caricatures that I felt that they were just meat adhesives to the plot over all this movie gets  a D- or E because of its lazy narrative and its uncompelling plot circus that just got drafted inti the CGI. It feels more like a workshop draft than something that is a movie; like some filler for some animation specs.  I wonder what Bay was thinking when he was doing all this. It really is so badly written that even I can rewrite a better script.

Now I will go bit by bit on what I feel is wrong with this movie.

Watched Free! Iwatobi Swim Club Second Tv series/Season 2 Eternal Summer Episode 1

Massive Spoilers Ahead → take a detour if not want to be spoiled

* This is an ongoing series and as I did not cap it I am borrowing caps made by others from Tumblr but giving them credit for their work. Sorry for this.

As usual we are treated to hot, muscular, slender bodies that are associated with a swim stars’ physiques. As usual there is both heterosexual vibes in the guise of Gou Matsuoka who is Rin Matsuoka younger sister and still the rambunctious manager of the Iwatobi swim team.  Yet this anime does have the shounen-ai flare. It is marketed with that sense that it will also satiate a boys’ love niche. I don’t have any complications with that. Many sports anime of this era have these secretions (oops innuendo :)), however, I hope that it does not tone down, alleviate the complexities of the story.

When we first see Makoto trying to call Haruka from http://lolitsgabe.tumblr.com/

Many of you might be asking what story? I know that Free! caters a lot to erotica or even sexual responses. I mean many would say that it is a bit like K-On! only with guys. It’s story type is linear-based jumping from some conflict or the other. But then there were moments that it really goes full swing and caters to another level of responses; the ones that deal with adrenalin, the ones that make you want to these young adults and their inner mysteries. There are many things of Haruka Nanase that I really desire to know; quite pithy remarks that he said from the very beginning of the anime in the first TV series where he actually did not mind if he would not be called a swimming prodigy anymore and actually preferred that he becomes what can be called normal. This attenuates to what people think he is and who is. They usually just associate him to be a dry fish out of land; an oddball, an arrogant jerk but he is not that at all.

Rin and Haruka from http://agermanfulloflove.tumblr.com/

He loves swimming for the art of swimming, for the sake of swimming not to be adorned with medals and accolades. And that is something tricky at times. We see this. It is tricky because it is beautifully there and at the same time in the world of sports where one aspires to be a pioneering legend,m prefers to win as it is an arena fully based and blasted on performativity and competitiveness it feels very subtle and strong at the same time.  It leaves its mark. I don’t like that this complexity of Haruka gets toned down only to him being some babe on swimwear; no character, male or female, deserves that especially when they possess such depth. Like water he feels almost non-consequential as a calm surface but he is actually a possessor of depth.  Other details of Haruka that were not so divulged: he is very good at art — sketching and sculpting; it naturally comes to him (maybe he has some school practice because in Japanese schoold from a young age they do make you do a lot of activities both considered academic ones and non-academic ones. However, that does not deny he has a natural talent as he effortlessly understands structure and lines with shading).  This is interdisciplinary strokes as its best. When you understand God given water so well you can do well in art; swimming as he does helps him maneuver in seas and see a lot of detail so his hand muscles and perception are easily polished by swimming like that. So yeah God given talents both flow into each other like an atomic circuit.

The characters in this show have a lot of potential to be complex. They have all the ingredients for it. I see it shining in the hot fire in Haruka Nanase’s eyes, or even Rin’s atypical sharp, sharp toothed smiles or gestures. When Rin is sad it fades but the visuals of this anime are excellent. From the very first season/Tv series I saw that in each slide; the colour palette is crisp and tantalizing fluid, like some segments of water; the colours have an aquamarine tint to them. Also the characters at this point are 2-Dimensional. They have a lot of eccentric qualities that merits beautiful narratives. The only “normal” bishie is a chibi-type Nagisa who jumps on and about but as this second show’s first episode showed that even has a muscular trait that sets him out: it’s his strong calves. That is actually very good for breast stroke because the calves work as a sort of pulley effect against the water (in my understanding; also he does say he specializes in breast strokes). Yet he even he wields more than a fanboy status and has all the qualities these seniors (excluding Rei who is his batch mate) have. Rei has proven he is a prodigy in his own right.  Going up against Makoshiba Rin’s school captain, when he is still a novice and doing pretty good.

Haru also has the proclivity to just bare himself; I nicknamed him water exhibitionist XD from http://azbees.tumblr.com/

Of course, like the first TV series there is a complication. Only this time it’s not Rin being a jerk it’s his boyfriend friend being that. Sousuke is the new character introduced. We see him already in the the opening theme. Let;s say he is designed to be Rin’s Makoto. He has similar traits to Makoto. The hair is darker brown and the eyes are aquamarine. But he does scream that. Only thing is that he is not at all like Makoto who is quite sweet. Like Rin’s previous attitude he has a big aggression. And yeah it is directed to Haruka. I am already guessing why. He must think Haruka is destroying Rin’s aspirations and that he doesn’t deserve Rin’s strong feelings or friendships. That part is quite predictable.  Though I am happy there is a new character I just don’t like the fact that he is the typical “buddy-fetish” one. I hope they don’t narrow his dimensions. Sousuke Yamazaki can be more than eye candy and also Rin’s substitute boyfriend. I wonder if Sousuke actually is angry because he feels that Haruka torn his swimming partner too? Though I would actually find it interesting if Sousuke wants to throw down Rin from his captain position and say he thinks Rin is too emotional to be a swimming athlete. That would be a total u-curve and I would appreciate it a lot.  I think fans may find that also an appealing surprise.

The first episode mostly shows the bodies; the flexible, dexterous swimmers are all lining up, warming up in a way for summer may be coming soon and they want to sharpen their reflexes and breath gauge before that happens. Of course, this allows multiple fanservice to be showcased with some slice of life warm stew put into the mix. The Iwatobi Swim Club lacks facilities and also people, in contrast Rin’s schoo, Samezuki Gakuen, has people trying out all the time and have a good handful of members. This paucity is nicely shown in the absurdly hilarious way in which Haruka and friends try to recruit models using weird amateur film slides and modeling their physiques and expertise to a crowd, a bit surprisingly, full of girls. They, ironically, find this to be too brazen and whisper this amongst themselves. The Iwatobi Swim team realizes the lack of suitable members or fans. Rin is promoted to captain, reluctantly, but he seems a very good leader: all he has to do to recruit members is to give a few trial specs (there is a actually a standard  they have to beat in their academy to actually make it to the team whilst Iwatobi has to be happy with any volunteer) and they go at it. In the midst of a bickering Gou and Rei, a sighing Nagisa and an optimistic Makoto Haruka tells how he feels. He would just like to have a member who likes swimming much to the dismay of Nagisa. A sliver of the gem in the episode (will Sousuke be that one?).

The ex captain from http://azbees.tumblr.com/

I was a bit surprised that Rin has not transferred to Iwatobi school as of yet. I was pretty surprised to see him. Apparently, this is not well discussed but it is shown in a small flashback that because Rin swam with Haruka in a tournament as part of the same team though they are not it did cause repercussions; maybe severe ones. Rin said he will fix it. Unfortunately, his captain handed him the mantle as the fix. Maybe he thinks he is doing Rin a favour as an Olympic swimmer doesn’t swim always with a group he favours or likes or his friends. Clearly, Rin is not too happy about it. Maybe, there is some disparity over what he really wants. Though in a later segment he clearly states, or rather ambitiously, that his goal is the same; to swim in Nationals and go through to the Olympics. I was a bit surprised because I though like Haru he wanted to swim with his friends; maybe, he wants both and the first tv series was dedicated in showing him that he wants both. That is not bad at all. Rather it adds to his character and doesn’t make him a whimsical bumpkin.

There are two swimming matches in this episode. First is a sudden 400m Freestyle medley suggested by departing captain Makishoba of Samezuki Gakuen with the Iwatobi team. In that one it is hinted that Rin did beat Haru again. This is what I like about this show. Haru is not some stereotypical Shounen lad always winning. He actually loses and doesn’t care and attempts to learn from it.  It is also good sportmanship from Rin not to gloat. There is a potential, a watery fire, inside Haruka. There is no reason to oust him as his rival anytime soon. Rivals are not always made by wins and loses it is made by perseverance, compatible wavelengths and a deeply respect and understanding between two individuals. And if your rival is your friend you are at times lucky methinks as you can trust that there will be less foul play in the field.

Before the second match the team heads to their old Iwatobi Swim Club building which has been reconstructed (weird whacky way in which the construction company meant to bulldoze it suddenly had a company shutdown and their old teacher, Goro, decided to buy it partly and salvage parts and just rebuild it).  Their own pool is still dirty and closed for winter and as it is open-air it would be unpractical and against regulations to swim in it. They swim in the club instead prepping for the match while Sousuke (not revealed at that time) carefully observes Haruka.

Sousuke from http://akanenishihara.tumblr.com/

In the second match, which is like a general non-pro tournament, Rin and Haruka go off against each other again. With innuendo laden speech said beforehand (how Rin plans to make Haruka’s cold face heat up O_O)

from ganta again

and then with crisp visuals they show them underwater. Their speedy swimming is captured in gaspy faces as though…you get it. But then technique overpowers fanservice. Rin who was in the lead sees Haruka gaining up after the turnover. Haruka realizes that Rin has much practice than him, though he mentions he has been training, so he conserved his energy but then went full on to catch up to Rin. I actually started cheering as the adrenalin got high. They both finished at the exact same time getting a new record in the tournament and Rin high fives Haruka. Then happily said he knew he would get him fired up to which Haruka remarks that he is still normal.

High Five from http://agermanfulloflove.tumblr.com/

Afterwards he get treated to a visual feast. Not of swimming bodies. But of a cleaned Iwatobi pool. And submerged and floating in them are lovely cherry blossoms. Haru remembered that Rin wanted to swim in a cherry blossom filled pool when they were young,. Making captain means he deserves a nice surprise. The tactic didn’t work to recruit anyone but at least Rin gets what he wanted. Well, during their bickering it starts to suddenly winter rain and they head in. That is when Rin asks Makoto and Haru what they plan to do after high school as he clearing swimming that swim route or plans to. Makoto laughs it that he is undecided. Haru honestly answers with a blank. Making Rin realize they haven’t thought of anything yet.

The visual treat I took from http://f-uwa.tumblr.com/
Namasu at http://kara.sunoo.me/ made this beauitiful gif

This angle is organic and nicely done that I liked it  a lot. Like many young adults and adolescents high school is the pinnacle of existence as in you do that and other things thinking it is permanent. It never is. Haruka is too obsessed with swimming so he hardly thought about it. Makoto’s laugh (as I realized after reading Tumblr posts that suggest that once he was suicidal) is an aversion technique at times. Perhaps he is so used to the team especially picking up Haruka and all that (bromance to the max) that he hasn’t gotten or doesn’t want to think about a separate life. Makoto, from my experience of the character, is at times cheery because he gets depressed and sad easily. He is more attached than Nagisa and at times uses smiles as a way to hide his worries. I am also thinking that Makoto may have already decided what he wants and just doesn’t want to say it yet. Probably because Haruka also gets sad intensely from time to time. I was thinking Makoto may have decided to go to university but feels panicky about leaving the others. It happens amongst friends of such closeness.

Makto and Haru from http://ganta.tumblr.com/

That is pretty much the episode.  It ends with Sousuke joining Rin’s academy and we finally getting to see his face on screen pass OP theme. It the preview it shows that he haughtily corners Haruka. Already ready to start the tension of competition.

About the question that what they will be when they graduate high school. The whole ending thing was somewhat dedicated to that:

Yeah Run thurst from http://hcandersen.tumblr.com/

No, he is supposed to be an actual cop not a stripper. Yeah, I know hypnotic hips (laughs). Makoto becomes a fireman, Nagisa an astronaut which was one that really confused me (I did not know he was interested in those things like that but yeah I am all for it), Rei is a scientist and Haruka aside from some mermaid shots happens to be a chef  (cooking mackerel all the time gets you places I guess).

The show may be centering on the narrative that you may have a dream in sports but if you don’t make it or after that you might have other dreams. I think I really liked that they are going with this message. Many a times we think Rin is just pursuing Olympic medals because his father had him and his sister and couldn’t go for it. I think he is forgetting that his fathers dreams may have changed or that he had other dreams. The anime may be showing that there are more to sportsman than sports and that your God given life is not over till its over and that you can do many other stuff you want to do. Though yeah the ED theme is also sexy but it does bring out that message too,

Overall, if Free! can break its own confines and just be complex as well as fanservicey from time to time it can be very interesting. A lot of shows, recently, have been so fanservicey that it would be nice to see non-fanservice qualities in a show that is so liked for fanservice. Breaking its presumptions and just upping its game.

* * Vistit http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/free!-eternal-summer for fun gifs and caps

Slam Dunk — One of the classics

The Shohoku High School Basketball Team along ...
Image via Wikipedia

Slam Dunk is probably one of the most memorable animes from the 90’s and actually one of the best animes of all time. I was, however, introduced to it when I saw it in 2008 (MANY YEARS LATER I KNOW) when they aired it in Animax. Now most people know that most popular animes focus on martial arts, fantasy, comedy, blood, gore pretty boys, pretty girls, action and/or drama with a combination therewith — Slam Dunk did not really have those but did have them in another way. It packed tons of comedy, had some violence in the form of fighting, had drama and was able to install pretty boys and pretty girls without having the otaku (Japanese denotation) — its most unique feature is that it was primarily a sports anime and its main focus was basketball and how protagonist Hanamichi Sakuragi learns how to play it and becoming an athlete in his own way.

Hanamichi Sakuragi is one of the most memorable characters in anime — initially he is an academic failure, schoolyard “gangstar” and never romantically inclined (he has so many rejections that it makes many of us happy with ourselves) — enter Haruko Akagi, a very beautiful young highschool freshman like him and attends Shohoku High with him. Seeing his height and athletic build she asks him if he wants to play basketball — this begins the journey that is Slam Dunk.

What he starts out initially to impress his crush turns out to challenge him and make him stand out. The young Hanamichi is good at fighting but can he fight without fists? Can he dodge without letting others get to him? Can he defend without a foul? Can he master the slam dunk, three pointer and the rebound?

This anime is beautiful because it fuses a fantastic sport with the actual trials and tribulations of life — if you know nothing about basketball be prepared to learn with Hanamichi in an effective, non-boring manner that’ll stick.

Every character in this anime has such three dimensional substance that one cannot refuse to love them. We have Hanamichi Sakuragi the loveable lead but his “rival” and opposite Kaeda Rukawa — who is handsome, cool, attractive to girls (got a big fan club) and is the apple of his crush’s eye — unlike Hanamichi he seems so not reactive about things and is only emotional about basketball; the only thing he and Hanamchi share are bad grades.

The captain of the Shohoku High Basketball team, Haruko’s older brother, Takenori, is fierce and passionate of his team and basketball and he is not gonna let anyone mess it up. Though he is kind of shown as an unattractive character aesthetically I find him quite handsome and amazing as a personality. Then of course there is Ryota, a guy Hanamichi feels like his pal on the team and Mitsui the rebellious troublemaker, the judo captain who wants to recruit Hanamichi for his tea and Hanamichi’s gang who also attend Shohoku.

Aside from our main characters at Shohoku there are other teams that serve as rivals to it that increases both the intellectual and entertaining quality of this entire series. The main rival — compatibly — is Ryounan and its ace player Akira Sendoh (guy is hard to miss with his signature Guile-like hairstyle) who is more matched up with Kaeda but finds a rival in Hanamichi. Then of course there are the top players of Shoyo and Kainan (who are the undefeated champs) It takes Hanamichi a lot of practice and laughs along the way to hone his skills in the entire series. The series does not only focus on Hanamichi’s basketball development but focuses on how other characters grow too in their skills and learn to find their strengths in the court. It really does illustrate how athletes live, grow and learn.

It is also one of the longest series with reasonable sized episodes coming up at 101 episodes (it has memorable opening and ending themes as well)

Overall Slam Dunk will remain as one of my favourite animes of all time and one of the best animes to come hit the storyboard.

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 ^_^

Hot Gimmick Criticism 1 ( Hot Gimmick – Excuses, Excuses Excuses – Pretty stuff are Boy Candy and No Plot)

For those of you who loved “Hot Gimmick” my question is very straightforward:

Why?

Why is it that you like this manga?

Please, give me a good, coherent answer to this question. Not answers such as Ryoki is so romantic and all the bishies are so cute for that is is just mainly considering the nature of the artwork.

Also, if your answer is that you can relate to the story then please state how and how Ryoki is the epitome of the romantic boyfriend?

Sure, perfect ideals of romance sucks. Hell flowers and candies are not going to stimulate everyone but verbally calling someone “idiot” and “stupid” all the time gets boring.

I am also looking at the interests of sadomasochists, masochists and sadists and I know that almost everyone nowadays has some of their tendencies. But even erotic stories as such include dynamics besides such boring repetitive name calling.

As I am not sadomasochistic or a sadist or a masochist I cannot enjoy the idea of my lover prancing around with “a greater than Thou” attitude or worse “a greater than God” statement and not even correcting his idiotic God complex. To see Kira from Death Note is inarguably fascination – to see his sadistic side is beautiful because the mangaka doesn’t excuse it as a reasonable romance nor an agreeable behaviour. In fact, supporting Light Yagami is not considered criminal because he began with a naïve nobility on justice. He decides to clean up the world but the psychological aspects are conflicted and we are introduced to this detail.

There is depth beyond depth in that manga. Kira twists and tangles incidences and manipulates his lover-girlfriend-psuedo-girlfriend Misa and helper Kiyomi (who is also a lover but not the central one). One can admire Light but hate him too. The manga Death Note may belongs to a different genre but easily does an expose on the characters be them dumb or smart, radical or neutral.

Does Hot Gimmick do that?

The heroine’s passivity was not something she herself desired but came out of compulsion. Also her alleged “boyfriend” comes forth via compulsion. Personal views aside (as one commenter once spoke in another site that we minus personal beliefs and be objective) the love-angle of such a relationship could only bloom with circumstances changing. This change is not only the verbal statements of Ryoki saying that he wants Hatsumi’s love but that he proves he does.

People are different. People do not change. True. Then why does Hatsumi believe that her so-called fiance will change after marriage? She desires better from him. She desires him true but desires the good side of him that Ryoki manages to show at times.

This story would have been successful if more emotive and psychological aspects were explored. The mangaka clearly wants to do this but fails miserably. Ryoki’s behaviour which was aimed at empathy and sympathy gets lost along the way within a formula in wanting to stand out as unique.

As one wise friend of mine said that unique or difference for the sake of being different has no value completely. Ryoki is not truly a unique character but Azusa, Shinogu and Subaru are.

What is the mangaka trying to say that if you abuse and if you are pretty and academically intelligent you can get away with everything?

Seems to me that Ryoki does entirely that.

Hatsumi does the same. Just because you were bossed around all your life and had no boyfriend does not mean your moment of independence comes via choosing your first boyfriend despite the wishes of others with only the reasons that your heart is decided.

People make mistakes. To err is human. Thus those consequential apparatuses make the manga which decided to be strong issued and deep become hollower than a dry well in a desert.

Hatsumi and Ryoki need not change as in make a complete 360 but they could portray themselves as more matured beings. To go through all those things without learning anything is an evidence to show that both are weak and both are not strong enough as the mangaka wanted them to be portrayed.

Ryoki changes slightly but even this slight seems non-existent. If one believes that he will gradually change then his partner must exhibit qualities to help him do so. She does not.

The truth: their pairing is a Deux Ex Machina and nothing can change that.

The argument “that its only fiction” can only be permissible if the mangaka illustrated the phenomenon surrounding her characters with more dynamics and capability. There are glaring holes in this otherwise beautifully constructed origin. Thus the manga fails. Sure it has some great subplots and gives some entertainment but it fails.

I expected more and truly thought the manga in the end gave excuses such as:

1.Abuse equals “love”
2.The beautiful boy must end up with a dumb girl
3.Beauty pardons you of all your crimes
4.Intelligence is not a factor to be considered
5.If intelligence is considered then it is as superficial as academic capability
6.Abusive personalities must be pardoned as they have “reasons”
7.Protagonist must be so altruistic that she can prostitute herself if need be
8.Antagonists and antagonistic actions are resolved via “understanding”
9.Growth is superfluous thus unnecessary
10.Emotional issues and psychological introspection are never needed in love and/or any other situations.

I truly did like the story initially hoping it would give some great insights. There are are some great twists but it is not a great manga. A great manga would dig deeper into the issues it challenges itself to involve not end up as some harlequin trash or mills and boon nightmare.

I still want to cheer for Ryoki and Hatsumi if their storylines were changed and greatly delved into. I wanted to cheer for them but their behaviours and actions proved to me that their “love” is not worth it.

“Escaflowne” had a love-story, “Death Note” had a love-story even if it was one-sided and irrational it gave some reasons, “Honey Hunt” has some reasons and even “Bitter Virgin” has great reasons and that is also an imperfect love story but “Hot Gimmick” fails colossally and cannot redeem itself.

It becomes trash. And surprisingly, despite some of its good potentials and addictive holds leaves me on the fence. Cannot satisfy anyone even without a personal attachment except a few who has not dug deeper besides Ryoki getting “hurt” and his good looks.

So, I’m sorry Miki Aihara you have great ideas but must have a pathological low self-esteem. Ironic – you are one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen.

Can you nurture your awesome talents? This comes from a person who loves your artwork and wishes that your talents were mine. This comes from a person who wants to be your fan.

Best Shoujo manga yet: “Revolutionary Girl Utena” by Chiho Saito.

(Originally Posted On The Manga Fox Forum on the Hot Gimmick section)