30 Day Anime Challenge Day 1: Gurren Lagann

What was your first anime?

Who the hell do you think I am?

I was inebriated the first time I watched anime. If I hadn’t been, you probably wouldn’t be reading this. What show was it that captivated me enough to keep me from passing out while my friends went off-campus to another party? Gurren Lagann, of course. One of those friends, after I asked them if I could join them on their way to that party, began lecturing me on Gainax, Trigger and Imaishi, and told me, “now go back to your room and don’t come out until you’ve watched the first three episodes of Gurren Lagann.” I did just that. Oh boy. I was all like, what the hell is going on? I had no clue at the time how incredible this animation was. I ended up making it to episode eight before I stopped watching. That was the October of 2014.

I picked it back up in the following summer, which I spent almost exclusively watching anime. I’ve only recently come to realize how awesome Gurren Lagann really is. It is a masterpiece of anime logic and the gunmen aren’t the only things that defy physics (for better or for worse). This easily one of the most influential anime ever released. It marked the end of Gainax’s golden years, which stretched from 1995 to 2007. What a way to go out. TTGL’s influence can be seen most obviously in the productions from Gainax’s wayward daughter, Trigger. Kill la Kill obviously, and this season’s shining star, Little Witch Academia, are inseparable from the legacy of Gurren Lagann. Last year’s best show, Flip Flappers, consistently reminded me of Gurren Lagann. I’m currently about half way through my rewatch, which I’m taking it rather slowly. This show is so awesome, so bombastic, so everything that makes anime great.

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Anime Mixtape Series- Scum’s Wish

I’ve begun a new project, one that combines anime with my favorite artistic medium, music. I’ll be curating a playlists for anime that seem, to me, to have strong artistic ambition, thematic complexity, relatable drama or exceptional storytelling. Basically, if its an anime I love, I’ll probably put together a playlist for it. What does this mean? Basically, I watch and digest an anime and pull forth overarching themes and relatable experiences. I mentally browse through the vast collection of over 150 albums that I know by heart and put together a playlist using songs that deal with the same concepts, conflicts, emotions, experiences and themes as that anime. I love music, so I’m doing this for fun, but it would be cool if somebody actually took time to listen to some of these. Why would you take the time to listen to one of these playlists rather than, y’know, watching MORE anime? Well, music is awesome, and there are some things you can do while listening to music that you can’t do while watching anime. I think that listening to music that deals with the same things as an anime you’re watching, whose artist went through experiences similar to those that the protagonist is going through, can help you better understand, value, and relate to what you’re watching. My hope for this project is that you can listen to this playlist between episodes the corresponding shows and reflect upon the show while listening to songs that deal with the same themes. These playlists will be designed to place you in the main characters’ shoes and help you understand what they’re going through.

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First Up is Scum’s Wish. I’ll come back and edit this a bit later to explain my reasoning for adding the songs that I did. There is also an album, one of my all time favorites, that perfectly captures the spirit of Scum’s Wish, Loveless by My Bloody Valentine. I will also link that album here.

Okay, so the playlist opens up with Love Will Tear Us Apart, which captures the essence of Scum’s Wish in both mood and message. Beautiful, but the beauty is covering up the gritty reality that people can’t love others unless they love themselves. Love, or rather, the lack there of will strain the relationships between the members of the central cast in Scum’s Wish. These characters very much operate as an ensemble. The sources of their emotional turmoil are all intertwined and contribute to both the narrative and its exploration of the way people use, abuse and rely upon each other.

The next eight songs, from Let it Bleed to In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, work together to explore Hanabi and Mugi’s relationship. Let it Bleed by the Rolling Stones demonstrates their willingness to be there to fill the emptiness in each other’s hearts with their own bodies while I Wanna Be Adored reveals their consciously sinful desires to feel wanted, to be touched and to be loved. However, this is not love, and that’s something they’re constantly reminding themselves. I followed this pair of songs with “Heroes” because that song perfectly captures the romanticized contrast between triumph and tragedy that the show uses to depict Hanabi and Mugi’s arrangement. They both know that they’re doing something stupid. This arrangement won’t make them feel whole again because there is no love, which is the core message of the next song, the apocalyptic sex anthem Only Shallow, by My Bloody Valentine. This song is simultaneously abrasive and soothing. It is both beautiful and ugly. The song contrasts sex without love and sex with love. The former, with which Hanabi and Mugi are experimenting is characterized by the titanic distorted guitar in the opening and choruses while sex with love, which is still a long way off for our protagonists, is captured in the verses.

I’ll come back to finish this up later.

And here is the link to Loveless by My Bloody Valentine. It will seem abrasive and hard to listen to at first, but if you open yourself up to it, you’ll realize its some of the most beautiful music ever made.

Where is Monogatari Headed?

The Monogatari series has been, by far, the most compelling long running anime series of this decade. It is easily the best light novel adaptation I’ve watched so far, and, as much as I’m enjoying Katanagarari, an adaptation of another novel series authored by Nisio Isin, I don’t see that changing any time soon, if ever. Monogatari is a hot mess, but I wouldn’t have it any other way; that’s part of what makes these stories feel so real. I can imagine Nisio Isin staying up late at night, contemplating some sort of emotional turmoil, then awakening the next morning, picking up a pen, and asking himself, “now, how will I use Monogatari to tell a tale of that turmoil?” It’s like Monogatari is a medium of its own that Nisio Isin has a monopoly on.

Of course, there are many strands of cohesion that tie Monogatari together as a whole. To those that have read the final volume of Owarimonogatari, or at least its spoilers, it seemed as though all these strands had come together and neatly wrapped up Monogatari once and for all. However, Nisio Isin has gone ahead and announced another season of Monogatari. It will be titled Monster Season. Has Isin really not yet exhausted the Monogatari format? Haven’t all our characters grown up with the lessons they learned from their experiences with apparitions? Perhaps not.

What has been left unresolved in Monogatari? The first thing that comes to mind is not an unresolved problem, it’s a sorely missed character. Hopefully, in Monster Season, Nisio Isin will be generous enough to treat us to another Kaiki arc. While we’re on the topic of Kaiki, although I am not one to aggressively “ship” characters in the entertainment I consume, I do believe that Hanekawa and Kaiki have some great chemistry. I think that it is fair to say Nadeko’s character development has run its course, although that doesn’t mean she won’t show up. Kanbaru’s coming of age story has also concluded, I believe.

Whatever Monogatari has in store for us in Monster Season, I’m sure Kanbaru will be playing a major role anyway, most likely as a specialist or specialist in training. Perhaps we will see her formally confront Gaen, who pretended to be unrelated to her when they first met. I think it goes without saying that Hanekawa will continue to, well, be Hanekawa. Her story arcs have the most definite sense of completion, so I’m sure she won’t have to deal with any more apparitions springing forth from her own mind. I can only imagine her playing a support role. I think it is possible, especially if Monster Season takes place after some sort of time skip, that the Fire Sisters might be brought into the loop regarding apparitions, especially since Tsukihi has been helping Nadeko with her manga and is an immortal apparition herself.

There’s one final matter that I can’t imagine Isin leaving alone. He’s not going to let Araragi go off and live a happy life while ignoring what would inevitably become an awkward situation. I’m sure every Monogatari fan has thought at one point or another how weird it will be for Araragi to spend his life with Senjougahara with Shinobu, his “lifelong partner,” lurking in his shadow all the while. Kizumonogatari’s ending was designed by Oshino so that “everyone would be miserable.” Since then, both parties involved have grown fond of the bond they forged. However, Araragi should know by now that he can’t have his cake and eat it too. I bet you Nisio Isin will force Araragi to choose between Shinobu and Senjougahara. This should be quite interesting.

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A Case for Scum’s Wish

If you follow me on Twitter, you probably notice that the majority of my tweets regarding this season’s anime are about either Maid Dragon or Demi-chan. Those two shows are absolutely delightful, and both have brought tears to my eyes on multiple occasions, which is no easy feat. However, the shining star of this anime season, for me, is easily Scum’s Wish. Of course, if you know anything about the plot of Scum’s Wish, you surely know that the characters do just about everything except shine.

There are a lot of ways to describe exactly what Scum’s Wish is, from ‘Toradora, but problematic,’ to ‘a harem deconstruction, minus the harem, minus the deconstruction.’ I think the latter description, which was the one I’ve used myself, offers some interesting insight. I always look at music, anime, political events, art, etcetera in the greater context of the history surrounding them. When I first read the Scum’s Wish manga, which was the first manga I’d ever read, the first and most distinct connection I made was, of course, to School Days. This is one reason I believe that School Day’s is a must watch for all anime fans. Like Evangelion, FLCL, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Angel Beats, Monogatari, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, and Sword Art Online, School Days, whether you like it or not, is a title that is frequently mentioned in reviews of many anime that have been released since.

Scum’s Wish reminded me of School Days, but as I thought more about what School Days was, a harem deconstruction, I quickly realized that Scum’s Wish was not a harem, and since it was not a harem, it could not possibly be a harem deconstruction. Scum’s Wish is the anime equivalent to the first member of a new species. It has inherited quite a bit from its predecessors, but it is too different from them to be considered the same species. This is a good thing for anime. This genre was born among the early visual novels, most prominently, White Album, which eventually received a fantastic anime adaptation in 2009. There were many other visual novels from that time that revolved around infidelity, and the first of these to receive a widely viewed anime adaptation was School Days. This tradition of infidelity-centric visual novels is most interesting because these stories typically end in a huge clusterfuck. I can’t really give any examples without giving spoilers, but if you’ve seen any of these shows, you’ve got a pretty good idea what I’m talking about. Unfortunately, Visual Novel adaptations, especially eroge adaptations, are, for the most part, not very good. Part of this comes from the problems that come with adapting multiple routes, but for the most part its because of their questionable final causes.

We’re only five episodes into Scum’s Wish, and it is already a huge clusterfuck. Scum’s Wish is a deeply psychological show as well. The characters are constantly striving to understand the reasons why they interact with each other the way they do, and we know that because we’ve spent some time in each of the protagonists’ minds. They’ve all gotten, or will get, some time serving as the narrator. This show feels very real. I suppose what I’m trying to say here is that Scum’s Wish is a special show, and if you aren’t watching it already, you should consider picking it up.

My All Time Favorite Anime

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I need to post something today in order to keep up the momentum I’ve been building, so I’m gonna provide a list of my all time favorite anime. I’ll revisit this now and then to go into more detail explaining why these are my picks for the greatest anime of all time.

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  1. Neon Genesis Evangelion + End of Evangelion
  2. Flip Flappers
    1. I might very well just be riding off the high that came with Flip Flappers last season, so maybe this will change. It is the most triumphant anime of all time. It has a happy ending, and that was refreshing.
  3. Puella Magi Madoka Magicamahoushoujo-7-12
  4. Monogatari
    1. I’ve watched the entirety of this series over 13 times
  5. Oregairuyahari-ore-no-seishun-love-comedy-wa-machigatteiru-zoku-my-teenage-romcom-snafu-too-episode-9-13-15_2015-05-29_10-27-47
  6. Toradoratoradora-23-large-32
  7. Shin Sekai Yori
  8. Eden of the East
  9. ef: a tale of memories/melodies
  10. Clannad/(Afterstory)
    1. Consider this a guilty pleasure. I understand very well all of this series’ problems.
  11. Spice and Wolf
  12. Hyouka
  13. Sound! Euphonium
  14. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya + Disappearance
  15. Gatchaman Crowds

This is definitely subject to change. There are some shows I need to rematch and there are many that I have yet to watch. Let me know what I ought to make a priority.

In Response to the Recent MyAnimeList Controversy: Social Justice Weebs

This was originally a comment on myanimelist’s recent Facebook post on the issue.

The fact of the matter is that there is a large overlap between American anime fans and the Alt-Right. There also happens to be an overlap between the ideologies of the alt-right and of Nazism. President Donald Trump is a reprehensible individual, and now that he has become President, people are going to start believing that his behavior and his words are socially acceptable. We can’t have that happen. We can’t let people believe its okay to be racist again. We can’t go backwards. As a society, those with voices that are heard must seize every opportunity to condemn these words and behaviors, whether we bear direct witness to them or not. This is how we actively define Social Deviance. We need to make these people feel uncomfortable. For those whose support Donald Trump rode upon when he was elected, we are the Socially Deviant. However, they are the minority, and the majority must use this opportunity to better articulate our arguments against the sort of Bigotry that Trump promotes.

maxresdefault-24There is no such thing as cultural relativity, not if we want to be able to differentiate between right and wrong. Humans need to hold steadfast to their convictions. That’s how we make a difference. Nazism is always evil. There should be no controversy in condemning it. Even if this was a controversial article, that would have been all the more reason for MyAnimeList to leave the article unaltered. This isn’t a matter of being offended or not, its a matter of the marginalized being threatened. Those that have voices that will be heard and have half a brain must condemn President Trump’s poisonous rhetoric. Its a time for heroes in this great country. Everybody must take a stand to stop this evil from spreading. We must become that which the enemies of decency and reason label us. We must become Social Justice Warriors.

…Or, if you prefer, Social Justice Weebs.

 

 

 

A Preface for My Feature on Flip Flappers and Funeral by Arcade Fire

I’m very excited for my album/anime project, a series of essays, ramblings, or whatever you’d like to call the words that I type to make sentences, that advocate listening to a specific album as a companion piece to a specific anime. As I type this, I know I have over 3,000 words written on the legendary 2004 album “Funeral” by Arcade Fire as the ideal companion piece to the star of 2016 and of the greatest anime of all time, if you’re asking me, Flip Flappers. My love of the album has deepened m relationship with the anime. I’ve always been able to relate to that album, but in the essay I’m writing, and in other album/anime pieces I’ll write in the future, I can see how the protagonists of the show, in this case, Cocona, Papika and Yayaka, might be able to relate to the album on their own. This has deepened my relationship with the show and its characters as well as Funeral itself. I always enjoyed that album, but it was always one of those albums I enjoyed and listened to every once in a while, but it was never one of the first albums to pop into my head when I would ask myself what my all-time favorite albums were. It was more of an afterthought. Now that I’ve delved into this album for several listens keeping in mind the trials and tribulations of the Flip Flappers, Cocona, Papika and Yayaka, I’m coming to a greater appreciation of the album that I’m sure would have otherwise been possible.

Generally, the albums and anime that I match together for these think pieces will share similar themes and have similar moods. The purpose of this series of features is for me to have fun. I hope that, if you read these pieces and listen to these albums, you can come to a better understanding of the towns, characters and issues discussed in our favorite shows. I will also write a few features that will use albums as guides for understanding some themes or character types that tend to pop up a lot in anime. I know someone will ask, so I will promise to find an album about Tsunderes, but the recurring theme or issue I had in mind was actually depression. If you’ve been there, you get it. If you haven’t, it’s pretty tough. Cocona is one such example of a protagonist that starts her show off mired in depression. In the future, I will be writing about the album Unknown Pleasures by Joy Division and how it can help us understand our depressed anime protagonists. We’ve always had them, and they take the center stage in many of the most compelling anime out there. Shinji, Tomoya from Clannad, although I’m sure you readers all have differing opinions on that show, Kyon from Haruhi, Senjougahara, Hachiman, Houtarou, and Yukiteru from Future Diary (who is often considered a Shinji rip off) are all social outcasts and begin their stories from similar points. Last season had another show with a protagonist who was pretty blatantly depicted as depressed, Rei from March Comes in Like a Lion. Battling depression is one of the most fundamentally human struggles there are, and only a few anime are able to provide original and compelling animated accounts of those struggles. Unknown Pleasures is a static album. It’s not about overcoming depression, it’s more like a snapshot of depression mentality.flipflappers63