Feminism in Shion no Ou

March 10, 2008 at 9:30 pm (Analysis, Anime)

(EDITORIAL NOTE: This blog is not dead. I’m still watching a few shows a season, but not much has felt worth writing about lately. Also, busy with full time job. Expect a post roughly once a month.)

Shion no Ou, if you’re not watching it, is the show about the mute girl playing shougi. It’s also ostensibly a murder mystery. Incidentally this post is full of spoilers, if for some reason you actually wanted to watch the show.

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“What the $#@& is up with Idolm@ster Xenoglossia?” or “How to have sex with your giant robot”

May 29, 2007 at 11:40 pm (Analysis, Anime)

I just finished watching, what was it…Episode 8 of Xenoglossia. Honestly I am kind of bored with the story. I figured it would be more, I dunno, action-packed. I want to like it though, so I have to find something to fixate on. Since I’m an aberration of an anime fan, instead of lolis I fixate on story constructions that seem interesting or novel to me. And by fixate I mean blow all out of proportion in terms of significance and intent.


I was very tempted to photoshop seaking into this…

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The Art of Adaptation Revisted: Why Romeo x Juliet = Flying Horses

April 12, 2007 at 3:15 pm (Analysis, Anime)

I wrote an entry on adaptations and loyalty to source material a while ago, but I wanted to revisit some issues after watching the first episode of Gonzo’s Romeo x Juliet.

I’ll refer you to my life-time arch nemesis jpmeyer, because this is a blog and thus obviously I need to make incestuous rants about why I disagree with other bloggers. He attacks Romeo x Juliet for ignoring its source material. So this is about half a critique of that, and half musings on adapting anime from sources other than manga.


“Willy” doesn’t like me talking about him behind his back

First of all, though I’m aware there are a shit load of translations of Shakespeare, including some Kurosawa adaptations (I so fell asleep during Throne of Blood), I think there is a big loss when Shakespeare gets translated. This gets into a huge topic of debate: What’s so great about Shakespeare? One thing that comes up is that he’s an incredible linguist. All of his plays are written in iambic pentameter, making them as much poetry (in the classic sense at least) as prose. Also they’re full of puns and neologisms. We already miss the neologisms, because this was 400 years ago and now a lot of them are just accepted English words. This is stuff it is simply impossible to translate. The best you can do is, if you’re really awesome at the destination language, use a native poetic form that at least imitates the feel of iambic pentameter, and try to make up your own wordplay. But, ya know, good luck with that; I don’t see it happening. The language in Shakespeare is tough for most modern English-speaking people; I know I need annotations to follow all of it, at least. So naturally people have tried to rewrite it with modernized language. Many of these attempts have just flopped and been forgotten, because so much is lost in both feel and cleverness when the language goes away.


MONTAGUEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!

So aside from the language, what does Shakespeare bring to the table? Well, I like his comedies a lot more than his tragedies or histories (which have nostalgia I don’t care about, because it’s 400-year-old nostalgia), but the man certainly was a skilled dramatist. Shakespearian tragedies are so played up in their drama-level it’s, well, sometimes comedic. The entire story to Romeo and Juliet (which is actually adapted closely from another guy’s poem, which is adapted from something else, all of which traces its core waaaay back to when it was first written to the page by Ovid as “Pyramus and Thisbe”) is so played up it’s nuts. The play is full of huge monologues, and extended death scenes, and ANGER and LOVE and PASSION and JUSTICE. It’s the same in Hamlet and Julius Caesar, where the characters are in these epic unrealistic situations of drama that have almost come to define them. The plots are totally contrived. The characters are usually victims of their own dramatic flaws turned up to infinity. It’s totally contrived and ridiculous and really kinda fun if you can get into it. This kind of drama. It can translate, certainly. Obviously, I just described like a million different anime. But I also get this feel from the first episode of Romeo x Juliet. It’s all saving the innocent, and deposed royalty and hiding, and tragic romance! Exactly the kind of thing you get in a typical Shakesperean tragedy. Given that — and also the number of cameos from his other plays — it may be more appropriate to view this as a pastiche of Shakespeare’s tragedies than as an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, but, well, you have to call it something.


Maybe if I can get rose petals to blow past my face, the girl will instantly fall in love with me

The fact that we can joke about how if [book/play/movie] were anime, then one character would be a magical girl, and the other would be a nekketsu mecha pilot and they’d use their combination winged-starlight-moon-assault move to save the world is telling. While in the literal sense, anime is a format and not a genre, that sentiment belies the truth. The huge majority body of anime has a very unique approach to genre(s) that’s identifiable by just these kinds of conventions that we would joke about. I think it’s kind of amazing that in addition to its own culture, Japan has its own fantasy culture, that’s distinct (though certainly there is cross-pollination) from the Western World’s. Manga shares a lot of this culture, so a manga->anime or game->anime adaptation is not very puzzling. Modern light novels like Haruhi I think also are bred out of this same culture. But what about something like Shakespeare? Or any novel divorced from the Japanese manga/anime/game fantasy subculture? How can you take a work like this and adapt it into anime? Obviously you don’t have to use this subculture, but that’s sort of like ignoring your audience. If you’re hardcore like Satoshi Kon maybe you can just do your own thing and be successful, but for a serialized TV anime you have got to consider your audience and how you will bring them to the table. I am really fascinated by how Romeo x Juliet and Gankutsuo manage this. They seem to really have hit on the thematic synergy from these classic Big Dramas with the thematic tendencies of anime. As I was saying earlier, they’re both full of big capital-letter feelings. Then on the other end there’s something like Powerpuff Girls, which you wouldn’t think would *need* an anime adaptation, since it’s already a cartoon show about magical girls (sorta), except PPG wasn’t tied to this subculture, so it still underwent some story translation to work inside the genre framework of conventional anime. I want to see more adaptations from different sources, because the entire process and how this cultural translation happens interest me.


Gankutsuo is sci-fi, so it has space vampires and mecha. Romeo x Juliet is fantasy so it has flying horses and masked vigilantes.

More stuff. In the original Romeo and Juliet, the two main characters aren’t typically highly sought-after roles by actors, because the characters are not very interesting. They’re pretty much just stupid kids. The most sought after male and female roles are usually Mercutio and Nurse (Juliet’s nurse; I would have laughed if she had been here dressed like a hospital nurse), if I remember correctly from talking about this in high school a decade or so ago. In Romeo x Juliet they’ve done something a little weird with this issue of having idiot main characters. They, uh, made Juliet into a masked crusader for justice. In the original, Mercutio convinces Romeo to go to a Capulet dance party with him to try and cheer him out of his funk, while Juliet is dealing with her father trying to arrange a marriage for her. The anime does an interesting role reversal, where Juliet is the errant child sneaking into the ball (I love how they dude in the carriage didn’t recognize her; I never understood how people could actually fail to be recognized behind those masquerade masks) and Romeo’s father is trying to set him up with some girl. Gonzo’s Juliet is channeling Princess Knight, I guess. The gender role-play in anime has always been a pet topic I like.

Given all of the above, I think it’s very unlikely Gonzo’s adaptation will maintain the tragic ending from the original story. Hopefully we can replay the entire brouhaha over the end of Mai HiME, but where in HiME the happily-ever-after end fit into where the story had been going thematically, in this case I think it will just be a consequence of the cultural adaptation I was talking about before. A form like a Shakespearian tragedy simple does not exist in anime, which would make the tragic ending very jarring to most viewers. So I don’t think they will do it, since it would be out of genre.

As a side-note, people similarly complain about Disney sterilizing the works they adapted into movies, but I think Walt was mostly just taking inspiration from them and making movies he thought would appeal to his audience and sensibilities. Aladdin was originally a somewhat blasé folk tale, but I thought Disney’s version was a lot more fun.

I’m also hoping, though this is probably not gonna happen, that they will do more with using Shakespeare’s presence as a character, and all the cameos and pastiche to play around in an interesting way. Self-referential story-telling can lead to interesting (or just stupid) places.

Alright, well long-story-short, I’m pretty excited about this show. It’s not as ridiculously awesome as Gankutsuo, but, particularly if the production values stay at the levels in the first episode, it will at the very least be a fun fantasy-romance-adventure. With flying horses.

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Is ‘tsundere’ really a character type?

July 8, 2006 at 9:58 am (Analysis, Anime)

Granted, I am no expert on tsunderekko, but “tsundere” is an easy enough concept to understand. The girl is initially cold to the protagonist, but gradually warms up to him. Is that really a character “type” though? It only defines one character interaction in the story. The ways in which the girl can be “cold” vary heavily. The only character she has to “warm up” to is her male love-interest, and she does not necessarily have to be cold to everyone else.

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Considering the 2channelers in Densha Otoko

June 3, 2006 at 5:01 am (Analysis, Dorama)

Well it’s been like two months since I finished watching the show, but I seem to have recalled most of my thoughts on it. The most interesting part of Densha Otoko, by a whole lot, was the 2channelers.

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The Big Utena Post

May 5, 2006 at 7:10 am (Analysis, Anime)

Due to a complex chain of events that may have started with Seth’s Beer + Utena Marathon Days idea a few years back, over the course of the past year, CWRU AnSoc (of which I’ve been kind of an adjunct appointed officer by virtue of living with the actual officers) aired the entirety of Shoujo Kakumei Utena, on a schedule of 2-3 episodes a week. This was my second complete run through the show (I watched about half of it on the afforementioned Marathons, before schoolwork overtook schedules again). This second watching has moved a series I liked into the top tier of my favorite anime, and I stop and ask myself why this might be. Why do I like this show?


I kill with my car?

The show uses a ridiculous amount of repeated footage, has a frequently repeated song (absolute destiny apocalypse) that I don’t particularly like, has some of anime’s most blandly choreographed swordfights, is long, and is incredibly pretentious. It looks like some kind of terrible film student art piece come to life on a nickel-and-dime budget.

Yet I think it is totally sweet.

I like lists.

–Why I thought Utena was Totally Sweet–

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The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi, 01: Immersion Tactics

April 18, 2006 at 3:02 am (Analysis, Anime, Theory)

Immersion. It’s not just for saving the damned. Every fucking book lover in the world, and one blind starship engineer harp on about how books will take you to new and fantastic worlds. If a text doesn’t somehow steal my focus from the world around me, then I tend to become rapidly bored with it. Immersion isn’t the only way to engage a reader, but it is an important one. In multi-player (PnP, mmo, or larp) role-playing games, the issue of immersion is often significant, because it is so easy to shatter. I remember one pick-up group I joined playing Dungeons and Dragons online, where the team-leader refused to respond to modern English slang (“What does ‘yo’ mean?”), and tried to insist people precede every sentence with “ye” or “lo!” or “Behold!” or some shit like that. Alright, he was retarded, and he had a very silly concept of appropriate in-character language, but I at least understood his consternation. It’s sort of challenging to pretend you’re Gandalf the Grey if Frodo keeps saying things like “WTF. I PWND THIS RING QUEST n00b! Balr0g’d!”. While creating a truly immersive experience is a challenge, there is some basic requisite consistency necessary to bring the viewer / reader / player into the world of the text at all. This, I think, is why breaking the 4th wall is such dodgy business: it usually wrecks immersion.

John The Baptist
Boo! I’m John the Baptist!*

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