Try not to die.
Try not to die.
I recently main-lined the manga One-Punch Man, about a superhero who’s so idiotically overpowered he annihilates his enemies in one blow. By the start of the story he’s actually pretty bored with his work. The series is freaking hilarious, it’s got an indie comics sensibility with wacked out heroes like Licenseless Rider, whose only “superpower” is riding a bicycle, and villains like Fuhrer Ugly and a thinly-disguised refugee from Dragonball Z. I feel like I’m reading a Japanese version of The Tick except the story is actually going somewhere.
Anyway, I suggest checking it out.
So you know what I said about only watching mediocre anime lately? Well, I just saw the first two episodes of the anime Bakemonogatari (Ghost Story). So now what do I say?
I say, “Holy fucking shit.”
Seriously, this show is incredible. I could tell you what it’s about – a high school guy helping female classmates remove curses from themselves – but a story is more than its plot. Bakemonogatari has style oozing out of every pore. The dense symbolism, the quick flashes of meaning which forces me to play quick draw with the remote, the peculiar camera angles: it’s all in the service of a larger aesthetic mission. Bakemonogatari actually has something to say, and I appreciate that fact even more when I think back and realize that it’s been so long since I was able to say that about an anime.
It’s even got fanservice, which normally I would consider a bad thing. I would define fanservice as stuff added to a narrative purely to gratify the audience and with not much regard to how it fits into the larger story in terms of theme, character, and so on. Mostly, fanservice refers to gratuitous depictions of female sexual signifiers, which is to say, tits and ass. Plus all those other female things that heterosexual men are supposed to salivate over, like, I dunno, ankles. However, the show portrays the female form so blatantly (and from such off-kilter perspectives) that it removes the stink of prurience from the act of beholding the feminine.
Normally, the term “shameless” is a pejorative description. To be shameless is to be without a proper sense of what is appropriate behaviour (propriety being a relative concept, of course). Bakemonogatari is not shameless about its frank and upfront display of the female body. It is, instead, unashamed. The show is not afraid of the female body, and because it’s unafraid, it can show exposed female flesh as being the same as exposed male flesh, which is to say, an everyday and unremarkable sight.
Therefore, I was mistaken when I said that this show has fanservice. Fanservice is gratuitous. Bakemonogatari is merely honest.
I’m addicted to mediocre storytelling. Well, not always, but it seems to be a thing with me lately.
Recently I got caught up to the latest issue of Nisekoi, a middling manga full of clichés and lazy stereotypes. It’s got decent art but the story itself has nary an original twist to it.
However, that’s exactly the point. The series is your basic high school romance-comedy full of misunderstandings and secret crushes and ridiculous coincidences. Trust me, series like this one are a dime a dozen.
Because it’s predictable, though, it’s also comfortable to read. There’s not much that needs to be done besides turning the page. Theme? Symbolism? Emotional truth? This is just a story about a boy and a girl pretending to date so that their rival gangster families won’t go to war but which quickly turns into a story about the couple hanging out with their high school friends. Nothing to see here, just move along. And don’t think the too-familiar plot can carry the series on its own, either.
It’s not just this manga, either. I’ve already mentioned that I’m a sucker for flashy yet empty giant robot anime, but I’m also reading Magician’s End, the final book in Raymond Feist’s progressively crappier fantasy book series. Mostly I’m finishing the books out of a weird sense of duty to my younger self.
Meanwhile, the critically acclaimed, though somewhat heavy TV series Orange is the New Black and Les Revenants are waiting for me to finally get back to watching them. But wait, I still haven’t caught up to the latest episode of that TV show where the Headless Horseman runs around killing people with a machine gun.
I’m reminded of what this scientific study claims, that human brains like novel music as long as it’s mostly predictable.
So don’t blame me for my tastes, I’m only a human being.
And in case you were wondering, that Headless Horseman show is called Sleepy Hollow.
Skeevy fact about computer programming: The programming language ADA was named after Ada Lovelace, she without whom I would not be typing this blog post and you would not be reading it. In reaction, the later programming language LINDA was named after Linda Lovelace. To recap, one programming language was named after a feminist pioneer in the field and in response another programming language was named after a famous porn star who happened to share the same last name. Keep it classy, programmers!
And just to keep things extra depressing, see Mother Jones for a list of smart dames who got screwed out of receiving credit for their inventions.
Remember Reboot? Remember that it was set inside a computer, like Tron? It was the first fully CGI cartoon ever produced? It took forever for new episodes to appear? Not ringing a bell?
Well, just take my word for it that it existed. But guess what? Some company or other is remaking it.
Granted, that link is just to a press release and any number of things could happen between now and when funding is cut for the series. But hey, it’s potentially more Reboot. What’s to hate, besides the possibility of the remake being complete shit?
Also, apparently next year is going to be the 20th anniversary of the series. Boo to the inevitable passage of time pushing all of us closer to our eventual deaths.