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

Demi-chan and Heteronormativity

Anime can be pretty amazing. You hear about a show called “Interviews with Monster Girls,” and think to yourself, “well, that can’t possibly be a show worth watching.” While that is an absolutely understandable reaction to such a title, it couldn’t possibly be further from the truth. Interviews with Monster Girls, or “Demi-chan” as I will refer to it from here on out, is a creative depiction of the experiences of the marginalized and misunderstood members of our society. If you’ve read anything on the show already, or if you’ve watched it yourself, you’ve probably already figured that out. As soon as a demi-human welfare agency was mentioned in the first episode, I was like, “anime, I’m sorry I ever doubted you.”

I think plenty has been said already about Hikari, the hyperactive vampire. Other blogs are finding this show just as fascinating as I am. Nevertheless, I’d like to share some of my thoughts on her. As a matter of fact, that is the perfect way to describe this show. It is thought provoking. Hikari’s interview draws comparisons to those marginalized by race, disability and sexuality, but don’t worry, Hikari’s not about to let any of those things drag her down. Takahashi-sensei opens up the interview by pulling out a book about Vampires and asking Hikari how many of the attributes outlined in the mythology of vampires are true. This question essentially equates stereotypes with mythology, and Hikari proceeds to confirm and deny various claims from the book. She states that she loves garlic, a clear parallel to racial stereotypes, and she states that she does receive some blood from the government on a monthly basis. I think the subtlest point made in this part of the interview is when Hikari agrees that a stake through her heart would probably kill her. Takahahi-sensei provides the punchline by pointing out that it would probably kill him too, the point being that we have more in common that we realize. Stereotypes that we attribute to minorities might very well hold true for us all.

One name that popped into my head toward the end of this episode was Vivienne Westwood. You see, Vivienne Westwood was into BDSM. That’s not something most people would feel comfortable sharing with their peers, but why shouldn’t it be? Kinks are considered sinful and degenerate, but everybody has them, and they may very well be a part of who we are. There are so many ways in which people are and can be marginalized. The idea that somebody would be marginalized for their kinks doesn’t immediately occur to you because, knowing the potential that information has to damage us socially, we never think to share them outside the bedroom. Vivienne Westwood integrated kinks like BDSM into the world of fashion in London in the late 1970’s. Back then, the punk subculture was at its peak, and Vivienne’s boutique, which was called SEX, pioneered punk fashion with things like bondage pants, which required the wearer to hop in order to get around. The point is that Vivienne Westwood, her models, like Sid Vicious and Siouxsie Sioux, and the rest of London’s punks championed a greater degree of sexual expression.

Vampires always carry sexual connotations, and I think that’s one of many important ways of understanding Hikari. Hikari’s interview takes a short detour into a discussion of the sexual implications of her vampiric tendencies and desires. People can be marginalized by sexual orientation, and that’s not news to anybody, but there’s no reason someone ought to be treated differently for their kinks. I’m not crazy right? Women especially can be ridiculed just for promiscuity. My conclusion is that Demi-chan is making a case for a greater integration of sexuality into our understanding of human identity. In an ideal world, we would not go through life assuming that everyone we meet is heterosexual unless we are told otherwise. This is called heteronormativity, and most people are conditioned by their upbringing to assume a person’s sexual orientation and gender identity based on their biological sex. It’s almost impossible to imagine a world that isn’t dominated by heteronormativity. It’s a struggle not to default to the assumption that everyone in the room is heterosexual, but we ought to try our best in order to make our world a more welcoming place.

I have many more thoughts to share on this wonderful show, but I don’t want to lose your attention so I’ll leave it at this for today with one final note I have to make. I can predict one particular objection to that argument, and it is not one that I can risk not addressing. I am not promoting sexual abuse, pedophilia or any other criminal sexual practices.

Some Thoughts on Studio Shaft’s Direction of OP’s

This was written as a preface to my article on my personal list of what I find to be the best Monogatari Openings.

Shaft is indisputably one of my favorite anime studios. Of course, the sort of identification that exists between Shaft and the shows its given us is not representative of the relationship between most studios and their animated output. Nick Creamer prefaced his article on Kyoto Animation in a similar way.

The Monogatari Series is Shaft’s strongest non-original production, and its source material has been as much a blessing to the studio as the studio’s faithful and creative adaptations have been to Nisio Isin’s novel series. Monogatari feels like it has everything; I’ve watched the series 13 times. That’s for another article or two, or two dozen. Now I’d like to focus on one of Shaft’s favorite playgrounds: the openings.

Nisio Isin’s Bakemonogatari, and all subsequent novels in the Monogatari series are very distinctly divided into a continuity of story arcs each named for the heroine they introduced or focused on. Shaft took that and used it as an excuse to craft an opening for each heroine, a trend that has continued for the rest of the series. Although I say “excuse,” I don’t think any other approach would have suited the adaptation. As a consequence, Monogatari will never have a sort of iconic, sing along, universally recognized opening that shows like Haruhi (2006), Evangelion, GTO or Shaft’s other masterpieces like ef: a tale of melodies and Puella Magi Madoka Magica. What we have instead, a collection of songs from a vast assortment of genres animated in a wide variety of styles, is much more valuable. Besides, Bakemonogatari easily has one of the most iconic credits sequences of all anime with Kimi no Shiranai Monogatari. That’s one of my personal favorite Japanese songs, and served as the launching point for the career of Nagi Yanagi.

If you’ve watched Shaft’s magnificent adaptations of the “Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei” manga or the “ef: a fairy tale of the two” visual novels, I’m sure you’ll agree that, by 2009, they had perfected the art of the anime opening, with regards both to music and to animation. Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei’s openings are, for lack of better words, magnificently fucked up, containing bondage, Buddhist imagery, beams being fired from high school girls’ rear ends, backup vocals courtesy of those same high school girls’ voice actresses, rap, a picture of Hiroshi Kamiya’s face, and an animated depiction of the Challenger explosion. There’s also animation in the style of the witches’ labyrinths from Madoka,  snippets of choreography, and general chaos. They are perfectly suited to Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei’s gritty, irreverent and endlessly thought provoking satire. The openings for ef, on the other hand are the most overblown and self-consciously artistic openings I know. The way they each slightly change for the last episode is priceless, and ebullient future might very well be my all-time favorite op.

The follow up to this post will be my list of my personal favorite Monogatari Openings, with an analysis of what makes each one great in its own way.