I started reading a new manga, Shishunki Bitter Change, which is about a boy and a girl inexplicably swapping bodies back in grade school. Which makes it sound like a lot of other body swap stories, but instead of taking place over a single wacky weekend, the status quo has still not reverted years later. In fact, by the latest issue the kids are in high school and still hoping that they’ll wake up in their correct bodies.
The series is also not comedy, but is more about the ways the kids cope with their new bodies over the years. The conflicts are small and low key: The girl feels down that the boy is getting her first period, the boy feels left out when the girl and his best friend discuss boxers versus briefs. The two meet everyday and tell each other about the life that the other is living for them, and they promise each other that they’ll live the best possible life for the other person to return to. It’s very sweet and sad and I’m guessing from the title that this series won’t have the ending the protagonists want.
An interesting point to consider is that this began as a webcomic. I know of other body swap stories, but this is the only one I’ve come across that focused so much on issues of identity instead of getting caught up in plot shenanigans about posing as one’s own boyfriend or that kind of thing. The tone reminds me of Onani Master Kurosawa, another webcomic turned into a manga, in its quiet realness.
Anyway, I do recommend checking this thing out. A quick google will reveal all to the curious.
This is seriously one of the most batshit synopses I’ve ever read:
Akikaze Cosmos is a regular elementary student who also helps take care of the hostel that her mom operates in the town of Hanami. She is incredibly responsible for her age and seems much more mature than the other older residents of the hostel, like the high school girl Soyokaze, the college drunk Sonoko, and the pervert Raita. Everything about this hostel and the town of Hanami seems normal except that everything outside of the town is a nuclear desert where no one is allowed to enter. But when Cosmos unwillingly wanders into the lifeless desert, she is somehow transformed into a magical angel.
Okay, here’s an idea for a movie: You know how aliens came to Earth and gave us the tools and the science to build like pyramids and Stonehenges and shit? Where did all that high tech space hooey go?
Well, maybe a greedy alien developer was going to demolish their community skate park, so the Atlanteans bet everything on a breakdancing contest that was going to be broadcast live across the galaxy. Unfortunately the alien champion was too fly and – according to the ancient rules of breakdancing – all of Earth had to give up its advanced technology. All this and more in Breakin’ 3: Intergalactic Boogaloo.
You may know that Studio Trigger went to Kickstarter to fund a new installment for their anime,Little Witch Academia. It seems other studios have followed in their wake, with Under the Dog being the next anime to join the crowdfunding ranks.
I’m cautiously optimistic about this turn in the industry but not overly enthused. There’s a chance that studios will end up marketing to ever smaller niches, for example.
Of course, there’s also no guarantee of quality or originality. This Under the Dog thing is apparently about child soldiers drafted by the UN, for instance. I’ll wait until the reviews come in, but I’ll keep an eye out in the meantime.
What the hell is up with anime lately, anyway? The titles are basically a descriptive sentence containing a plot synopsis. I realize this isn’t really a trend from within anime, but because a lot of anime are light novel adaptations. The trend is therefore merely carried over from light novels themselves. Sample titles:
There’s no way my little sister is this cute
My youth romantic comedy is wrong as I expected
I couldn’t become a hero, so I reluctantly decided to get a job
My girlfriend and my childhood friend fight too much
Seriously, this is getting ridiculous. What if Star Wars had used the same naming convention? “I went into space and kissed my long-lost sister”?
It also seems that the crappier series are the ones that try to squeeze the entire premise into the title. The ones that pander to a ready-made audience of otaku, I mean (implied incest, flat female characters, harems, etcetera). In fact, this article states that the inherent crappiness and ephemerality of light novels – which are, quite frankly, a dime a dozen in Japan – necessitates squeezing the premise into the title to catch the eyes of bookstore customers who are confronted by shelves of stories so unoriginal that the customers can barely summon the energy to read the plot synopsis on the back of the book.
Fortunately, an insider states in the article that he believes that the trend will burn out soon. New light novels will need another way to distinguish themselves from the pack. Yay for cyclical trends in fashion?
Three episodes in and I’ve had to admit that the protagonist of World Trigger really, really annoys the shit out of me.
First, he keeps repeating the exact same thing people tell him: “The difference in Trigger abilities is because of a difference in the Trion gland.” “A difference in the Trion gland?” Yes, Osamu, that’s exactly what he just said, why are you telling him what he told you just now? The main character repeats what others tell him so often that I have to wonder if he’s slow-witted in some way.
It doesn’t help that he keeps entering into monologues where he reasons out things that the audience figured out like two minutes ago. I know that he’s probably thinking all these thoughts instantaneously, but I like to imagine that the protagonist spends several minutes at a time staring off into space, brow furrowed in concentration, while around him people are shifting uncomfortably, too embarrassed to spell things out for him.
Also, the protagonist has this weird idealized version of Japanese society and he keeps throwing hissy fits insisting in the rightness of his perspective, all while he keeps getting reminded that things don’t actually work the way he says they do. Come to think of it, he kind of reminds me of Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory in that regard, except that he’s apparently a lot dumber.
Oh well, three episodes is more than fair for evaluating a show. Guess this is goodbye, World Trigger. I’m going to see other anime, you just keep on with what you were doing.
Okay, I just had to share this manga, Family Fight, translated here. It’s about a shoujo heroine coming up against real life. The manga is deliciously absurd and only six pages long, so why aren’t you reading it already?
I don’t have much to say about any specific anime series, but I do have a bit to say about many series.
First is Argevollen, a show about two countries locked in a war mostly fought through the use of giant robots. The series just throws you into the middle and then kind of keeps going, like someone continuing a story that got interrupted earlier. There’s no single scene that you can point at as evidence of the show being good, no "fuck yeah" moment where you pump your fist in the air. But when you stick with it, the whole thing just kind of gets at you.
You do have to accept this world as being one where airplanes apparently weren’t invented and all the resources devoted to aerospace were diverted into making something as patently ridiculous as mechs into viable war machines. There’s a reason why the Cold War didn’t see its own version of the Maginot Line being built, after all.
But when you get past that you find a surprisingly realistic war story. Unlike other giant robot anime, which focus almost entirely on the officers and mech pilots, this series shows that every soldier is important. The spear carriers do their bit, like in the episode where the mechanics are hurriedly putting the Argevollen back together while the town is under attack. Also, everyone hates the stereotypical hot blooded male lead for being a stereotypical hot blooded male lead. I don’t foresee any battles being won just because the protagonist shouts into his mic really loud and pulls a laser sword out of his robot’s ass. Also, the enemy ace is named after the Red Baron, which is a nice reference. I think there were some more military history references but I can’t remember them offhand.
And I get why the "bad guys" are dressed like European armies from the classic age of imperialism but dammit, modern armies don’t dress like that anymore for practical reasons. That Grande Armée stuff sticks out like a sore thumb out on the battlefield. Anyway, I’m glad that this season is only half done. The 12-13 episode seasons we mostly see nowadays do tend to feel a bit squished sometimes.
Second, while Log Horizon sounds like a reprise of Sword Art Online, with the premise of players being stuck in a multiplayer fantasy world that’s somehow become real, it thankfully manages to say something halfway intelligent. The first episodes are very clichéd about the party of adventurers rescuing a damsel in distress from a cartoonish villain. Plus, as someone who’s never played an MMORPG, the premise never spoke much to me. But once the story turned into building a society out of antisocial loners in a fantasy land then it started getting interesting. There were even clever justifications for the tropes of RPG games (respawns, XP, etc).
I also just watched the first episode of World Trigger, a show about superpowered teenagers fighting off interdimensional alien invaders called Neighbors. You might be able to guess that most of the episode takes place in a high school. I swear, the high school series is the equivalent of the procedural drama in anime. The show itself is no great shakes, plus the name of the aliens makes me think that the fights are just stupid arguments over who knocked over the recycling bin and it better not have been your goddamn kid again, Bob. There’s a twist in the end that may make me come back for the next episode, but that one better knock my socks off.
Finally, I am most impressed at the latest instalment of Monogatari. This time the story revolves around one of the supporting characters while the protagonist from earlier parts just makes a brief cameo. I just love the way the series refuses to let its problems be solved by violence. “Teenagers resolve supernatural happenings” sounds very Buffy the Vampire Slayer but this show always fixes problems through everything but punching. Emotional and spiritual maturity is what really stops you from being haunted by the ghosts of your own guilt and regret, and damn if the climax doesn’t externalize this realization in superb fashion. Plus, there’s a one on one basketball match that I watched three times just to admire the artistry of the animators.
So it seems I’ve had three in the “yes” column and one in the “maybe but probably no” column. I’d say these are good results for trying out new anime.