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)

Sakura Vs. Sakura

I seriously do not, completely, like the Sakura of “Tsubasa Chronicles”. Though I loved her slender design, her outfit, her more detailed hairstyle – I would still like to chose the original Sakura with her design minusing the personality without any doubt.

The problem: The Sakura of “Tsubasa Chronicles” basically doesn’t do ANYTHING. I get that this is ClAMP’s Shounen Manga but seriously her passivity is annoying. The younger Sakura was sweet and kind but attempted to do things This Sakura is burdensome and silly. Also, I loved the original couple’s chemistry – here Syaron also loves someone who is so silly that his sense and sensibility can be questioned.

As Sakura holds so much power I would love to have seen her grow Bezerk and do damage but that NEVER happens. Though I love “Tsubasa Chronicles” for its haunting and cryptic music that resemble Escaflowne’s Gregorian chants. Also I love the fact that the show is a merged universes concept.

However, I COULD NOT LOVE THIS SAKURA. Too Pinky and cutesy and Useless. Give Me 10 year old CardCaptor Sakura an yday.

Kuroshitsuji (The Black Butler)

(I refreshed some of my information from Wikipedia and even some of my understanding as I have seen this anime a year ago)

Kuroshitsuji (The Black Butler) was a new anime I saw last year. I really enjoyed it concerning it had a Faustian influence that was deeply eerie and made us sympathetic to the young Ciel Phantomhive, who is forced to undergo great trauma and then seal his fate with a demon who cares about nothing except the devouring of his soul.

Ciel Phantomhive seems quite cold and calculative even for a young thirteen year old boy, however, one cannot hate him for his disposition. In fact, his taciturn and sharp attitude (though annoying at times) puts full-force on how much he has suffered. Yet this does not impede him from loving or being loved by others. He has a fiancée who doesn’t really fit the profile of someone who understands him and seems oblivious to anything outside her own universe (though she is precious to Ciel and helps him feel loved).

Though the first anime series (there’s a second on the way) does not portray Ciel’s past, glimpses are shown where he is captured and obviously being tortured. I found out later that after his parents died he had become a slave and was soon supposed to be the sacrifice of a cult; in fact before this treacherous episode Ciel was seen to be quite an enthusiastic and happy-go-lucky child.

Sebastian, the black butler,  is bound to be loyal to him until he can find out who and what had caused the death of his parents and destroyed his family mansion (his parents were killed on his birthday and the mansion was burned down so it had to be rebuilt). The anime is based in Victorian London thus thirteen year olds can become the entrepreneurs of corporations as the Phantomhive toy company.

Sebastian Michaelis is a daring and competent butler – he has certain advantageous by being an immortal demon. He can prepare a four-course meal effortlessly and save his master Ciel from the hands of dangerous kidnappers as though it was cake-walk. However, he is not  a sorcerer so some laws of physics do apply to him (he can’t speed up the yeast in baking nor normalize burnt meat). However, he seems to sometimes show a genuine concern for Ciel.

This is actually the contradiction in his personality shown in the series. Ciel’s attitude and sadness seem to affect him in a way no human has affected him before thus a bond does develop between the two, humorously, none of them wish to acknowledge it. The series explores the darkness of society as well. Ciel, though a child of the aristocracy, gets pulled into slavery after being orphaned. It also shows that different attributes that make up a person’s psyche i.e. Ciel being underestimated because he is a child and the royal family being involved in acts that hamper society in general.

The Faustian theme makes it interesting – the old story of grand intelligence versus this plot’s revenge is obviously a good quality to the series. We see here a child who has forced to be stern and introverted though he is still a child. He was also forced into circumstances where he had to make a deal with a demon. Obviously, his whole life now revolves around these facts. It is pressurizing to anyone.

In the series, there is a main protagonist who deserves a beating. Though this antagonist is shown earlier we cannot identify with this person at all – all I can say is that this villain is a fanatical loony and obviously exudes a false sympathy for Ciel and everyone else.

The household servants make us laugh and so does the other characters in the series. One of them was Grelle Sutcliffe who was humorously androgynous and his explicit crush for Sebastian regardless of Sebastian’s annoyance made the show very interesting.

Overall, this series is very entertaining and I recommend anyone to watch it.

Shana Too Cutesy?

I don’t know but one of the reasons I didn’t completely enjoy Shana was because of its cutesy style. I couldn’t follow it much and though the action scenes were brilliant (I loved Shana’s transformed form with the wings of fire as the ad said in Animax) I just found Shana’s style of character design kind of odd to my tastes.

Anime Me

Anime is a great subculture. However, it is not really appreciated by everyone due to some people believing that anime is limited to children’s shows such as Pokemon or Beyblade. Anime is quite flexible and despite its mainstream populars (most of whom I never follow) the shows that are quite out-of-the-stream many a times fascinate me.

Anime with its great diversities makes me love it.