Farewell, at least for a while

As you can all see, there have not been many posts for the past few months. This is because there is simply not time to complete any posts, and I have taken most of my writing to my academic and public side of things. Who knows what might lie in the future, but for now none of the people at this blog (including me) really have time in their schedule to write things, let alone watch things. I have decided I now want to formally put this blog on pause, as it is unlikely to advance substantially at this time.

I am very grateful for the work of Philip, who wrote several articles for this blog, and with whom I hashed out a lot of discussion on this blogs future.

I would also like to thank all the readers and commenters who paid attention to this blog, and wish them the best on their own writings.

In the future there are many things that could happen, perhaps even hard-copy publications given sufficient financing. But, that time is not now.

Farewell for a while, and best wishes to all of you!

A Commentary on Neon Genesis Evangelion. (Episodes 1-11)

This is written from the perspective of someone who has watched the entire franchise. Be assured, I am not as knowledgeable on the series as someone dedicated to it full time. Included are no spoilers for Rebuild. There shouldn’t be any spoilers for the episodes to come, either, but you never know, do you? This is a commentary, not a review.

~

Screenshot from 2013-06-22 15_37_29

It’s ironic, I think. The “future of humanity” (Geofront) is built with a pyramid, and yet so long ago Jews, slaves to the Egyptians, built pyramids to use for their dead kings. “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” It seems unlikely that this was Gainax’s —or Hideaki Anno’s intention– but, personally, I don’t think it matters. It’s very representative of the way humanity as a whole has become a slave, in Neon Genesis Evangelion. In multiple aspects, too: a) a slave to circumstance–no option but to either die or fight the Angels; b) a slave to emotion–living in a pessimistic, dying world that only hangs on by a thread; c) and, most importantly I think, a slave to ignorance– it’s evident the true nature of the situation is tucked away for only the top brass to know.

Circumstance produces no characters with mercy in Neon Genesis Evangelion. If you ever wanted to fool yourself in the afterglow of defeating an Angel, it won’t work for long. In this world where even the most apparently sane characters are willing to sacrifice a child to the depths of a volcano, just for the slim chance you’d be able to catch and analyze it, there is only the most perverse kind of mercy. “It’s the future of Humanity at stake, of course it’s worth it.” Mercy only exists for yourself, and you have to shake it out God’s hand yourself.

Even if you obtained that mercy, almost everything you knew is dead. The emotion of it all, inhale it and absorb your situation. How have you not gone insane? There are, quite literally, monsters not all that distinct from you floating about the Earth. Robots are trying to kill them, and again, if either one happens to kill you it’s just too bad. You can be replaced.

And, perhaps most laughable, you have no idea why you’re doing any of this. The darkness present for most of episode eleven, where I stopped for this commentary, is a metaphor for your mental state. Your mind–your soul— is surrounded by darkness, by ignorance. Ironically, both the lack of power and the ignorance these characters have to struggle with is cased by one thing, and one thing only: Humanity itself.

Let that sink in for a moment.

PS. This was supposed to be written last week, but life (and writer’s block) got in the way. There’s more than half the series left to review, so the next one of these (posted sometime soon) will consist of information from episodes one to twenty-two.

 

Animation Recommendation: Railgun, Railgun S.

It has been a long while. It has been so long, in fact, WordPress has redesigned their entire Dashboard. Of course, I’m a procrastinator. Even in the things I love to do, I’m a procrastinator. This is genuinely my fault. There are all types of reasons- explanations, really- for my procrastination, but not a single one of them is interesting enough to list. I’ll leave that to a therapist, down the road.

There just hasn’t been anything good that I’ve watched lately, either. Procrastination is not always enough to keep someone like me down. I can not say the recommendation after this Prologue To The Review “section” is particularly long or fascinating. It’s just a short, eeeeasy recommendation. Unique, yes, but that’s always my style. If a show comes up that I’m motivated about, I’ll review it. It’s not like Art will be reviewing Rebuild (chuckles).

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Railgun. Railgun S.

Academy City is a highly developed place in terms of technology. It is said to be 20 to 30 years ahead of the rest of the world, and 80% of its 2.3 million residents are students. The focus of studies here is directed towards esper powers. Misaka Mikoto, one of the top level espers in town, shares a room with Kuroko Shirai, another high level esper who is a member of Judgement, a law enforcing agency composed of students. Both attend Tokiwadai, a private school reserved for the high-leveled and the rich. Kuroko’s partner at Judgement, Kazari Uiharu, is a low level esper who studies at Sakugawa middle school. Her best friend and classmate there is Ruiko Saten, a level zero, one who has no esper powers. Together, the four encounter several adventures in the exciting scientific town.

Railgun, strictly defined: a series with character development, plus some action on the side. The action may be too much for your heart to take, so hop on over to Kyoto Animation if you’re looking for a bunch of guys swimming in bikinis.

The First Season: is phenomenal in its canon arcs, though (as hinted by the word canon) it’s plagued by filler. Skip the filler if you want plot. If you’re just looking to enjoy the ride, watch it. Interesting characters and fun stories (the goal of any series, which few actually manage to produce, these days) make the first season delightful.

The Second Season: If only for the Frenda, it’s amazing. Clones? Check. Death? Check. Morality? Check. No filler thus far? Check. Moé? Check. Interesting characters? Check. Lazy way to summarize it, but this is a recommendation.

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Angel’s Egg: The Child of Mamoru Oshii’s Alienation

Angel’s Egg was a truly amazing experience, and very much a product of Mamoru Oshii’s experience with the Christian faith. It was directed by Oshii and premiered in 1984. A lack of interest or understanding of Christianity will undoubtedly make this film less interesting, (and it is indeed a slow film) leaving it even more impenetrable to the typical Japanese audience. The film critic’s did not receive it well, and it was not a great selling film. It has never had an official release in the English language and has to be sought out through fansubs, despite being more than 20 years old. It showcases an attitude towards Christianity penetrated by deep understanding and personal experience, but also a clear crisis of faith.

The opening is truly cryptic, and one wonders what shall be the purpose of the film. A man stands on the beach while a steam powered vessel descends from the heavens, a vast heavenly city populated by dead statues. One soon finds a little girl running to and fro with an egg, and collecting jars of water for some purpose. Soon the man joins her. I finally realized the man carries a cross. And of course, the girls carries an egg, that she apparently has a great faith in.

The man rejects her faith, and tells the story of Noah, but with a tragic and far less hopeful ending. He is clearly not a Christ of the bible, but someone with much less faith. And as the film goes on, he reveals how utterly opposed he is to the faith the girl holds. He clearly holds a deep cynicism. He is not pure.

But still she holds to what she believes.

I want to avoid spoilers, so I will only say: watch this film to understand how much commentary a man who has struggled with faith can give on that struggle.

It is a cinematic experience, and will leave you thinking if you know what he is trying to indicate.

A short post, that should have a more creative title

I am going to hammer out a short little post to just keep things humming along. Partially a ramble, partially commentary on what I have been watching.

I have to say that there certainly has been a fetish for girls in military (or simulated military) circumstances lately. Girls who are guns, girls who perform tank battles as a martial art, and I am sure there are some others that I have missed. I notice that the battles in Girls und Panzer are being fought with solid tank rounds… but there seems to have a lack of physical injury from said rounds. Of course, it is all a silly fantasy world anyways. Barely worth a blog post.

ImageImageI finally got around to watching the first episode of My Ordinary Life. It was quite funny, although I have seen the best parts on YouTube earlier. I may watch the rest, but there is no dub and I may try improving my Japanese ability on the way at some point. Well, I will see how things go on that front. I am getting quite scheduled with things, so we will see what is coming up.

I am also blogging at Traditional Christianity, as you may know by now. I may have a post coming up that relates to my earlier post on the anime subculture. It will discuss the origins of modern adolescence and hopefully serve as a source of discussion on the foundations of our present culture.

Eureka Seven AO Review

Prefaced with a Conclusion:

I said this on MyAnimeList, right after I finished AO:

Well, I finished the show. Clearly, everyone here acknowledges Eureka Seven was special and this was…bad.I thought during the original that Bones got extremely lucky and their odd way of telling the story just happened to work out. I was right. This attempted to tell the story in the same fashion, but it didn’t work out–for the viewer.It did, however, work out to make some sort of weird sense. We never really got close to any characters like in the original: especially potential love interests like Fluer and Naru. I found myself leaning towards the former, because I said “if they make him fall in love with a girl who has been crap all series long, I’ll blow my brains out”. It looks like they wanted us to not get close to anyone specifically for the reason of this ending: that virtually none of it mattered. I do think there was a bit of ignorance, because to be entirely frank, I don’t think the Eureka of the original/the Renton of the original would just let their child, you know, wonder the various universes. I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong because I misunderstood something that wasn’t adequately brought up.Overall, a big, big mess. Still conflicted.

It had potential, but the issue is that it did not take advantage of it (as I illustrate below); this was, ironically, something its parent managed to do quite eloquently. Still, despite how truly abysmal the plot was, the show had ups. They weren’t numerous, not able to be measured in leaps and bounds, but they were there–quirks of divinity, if you will! Seeing Eureka and Renton with their child, as well as seeing how AO handles preposterous situations makes my life feel better: so I have to say that, if only for my own nostalgia, I thought the show was “good”.

Summary: If Bones’ point was just be about AO’s development, as we did with Eureka and Renton, it was more or less a success. If it was to tell a story involving other characters, with complex plots and such, it was a horrendous failure.

Compared to its Parent: 1/10

As you probably know by way of that conclusion, I thoroughly enjoyed Eureka Seven. (In fact, if you take a moment and look at my MyAnimeList profile, you’d notice that it is number two on my list of favorites.) I loved Renton, and I loved Eureka. I loved how Renton went from being someone who is himself stupid and immature, to being someone ripe for adulthood. I loved his own journey. (That ‘Papa’ comment by the children at the end of the series makes my heart flutter, to this day.) I was overjoyed when Eureka and Renton got together and I was ecstatic at the twist of Dewey. It was probably my favorite moment in the series when we were brought to Charles’ and Ray’s home, just to be mercilessly ripped away from them so they could die in front of our eyes.

But Eureka Seven AO did nothing like this–well, except with AO. So, although Eureka Seven set a very, very high bar, this did not even come close.

Romance and Character Development: 3/10.

Virtually no emotion/character development, except for on AO’s part.

If you watched episode one and nothing more, you would think Naru would be the love interest. Nope. If you watched a bit further, you’d think it could go to either Fluer or Naru. Nope. Maybe Fluer will find out that the story of her father choosing her life, over her sister’s, would be wrong and some magically amazing story would develop? Nope. Maybe Elena’s nut-job personality would be explained, and her story would not simply end with a smile and everyone pretending like nothing ever happened? No way.

As I said in the preface, however, some of this is understandable. They did not get close, or really improve any character other than AO, which leads to less pain in the end. But whether I’m right, wrong or it’s all somewhere in between: the consequence is the same. We never quite got anywhere in terms of character development.

Side note: I do want to give Bones some credit, however. They managed to create a few openings, which is not necessarily easy. Among the top openings: Naru loving AO (probably abdicated any chance at relevance in the series by the time she ‘hooked up’ with Truth, though); Fluer’s organs (you should know the story if you’re reading this!); Fluer’s budding love for AO (all but ignored).

Clarity: 0/10

Where to begin? The series in and of itself is a blob, so its hard to say where it wasn’t unclear. Nevertheless:

  • (1) The many times we changed the world.

Also: Why didn’t Truth having quartz shoved into him kill him?

We  witnessed the world change twice before the end of the series: when team Goldilocks was removed from Generation Blue, and when Truth became the archetype for the Nirvash II. (Various other changes, but none really mattered.)

-> Question: why was team Goldilocks eradicated? Just for the purpose of demonstrating the quartz gun? No answer.

-> Question: why was it that something the character’s did not to happen in the beginning, which was not team Goldilocks’ eradication did happen–but then what Truth wanted, to be an archetype of the Nirvash, or something, did happen? Why did he want to be the archetype? Various other things, of course, make no sense whatsoever.

  • (2) We sent you to another world, to live, you see.

“The Scub Corals” went to another universe to avoid the limit of questions. But, at the end of Eureka Seven, I had thought we resolved this. Furthermore, if this series was going to be about resolving something that wasn’t actually resolved in Eureka Seven, why did we have to go through all this? Why didn’t Eureka, Renton and their child handle it that way? This seems like a roundabout of resolving a plot. Example of a better one: all three live in the ‘universe of Eureka Seven’, trying to eradicate Scub Corals. Eureka doesn’t want to do it, because it’s her own kind? You can’t have it both ways. Seems like this plot went so round-a-bout because they wanted to avoid dealing with Eureka’s inconsistencies. I could be wrong.

Anyway, if the plot had to be this way: (1) why did they not just all go to another universe, where there was no trapar, and live there forever?; (2) by the time AO was born, in his world, there was already trapar there–why didn’t he turn to stone?; (3) if the Scub Coral *absolutely* had to go to other universes, why not just let it?; (4) what was the source of this “natural reaction” called Secrets?; (5) why, if the Secrets were intelligent life, did they not just accept the Scub Coral? (6) if the Scub Corals really are bad and we should support the Secrets, why don’t we just spend the rest of the show eliminating the damn Scub Corals?

Well, whatever.

  • (3) “Weak Renton”

Renton is incredibly strong in the Nirvash at the end of the original, and now he can barely keep up with AO? Come on.

  • (4) Naru:

What happened with Naru? I was worried the series would pull a move where, although she had largely been absent the entire series and her purpose seemed only to present AO with a different worldview –a role, I suppose, that Gekkostate itself played towards the military, in Eureka Seven– she would still end up with him. I was off, thankfully, but I never imagined he’d end up with no one.

Back to Naru:

  1. She’s AO’s friend.
  2. She’s, erm…mislead, by Truth.
  3. She wholeheartedly accepts the Scub.
  4. She tries to play the puppet master towards Truth, making him understand the Scub. This doesn’t work well, because this show makes no sense in the first place.
  5. AO nearly kills her while she’s piloting the Nirvash that evolves in Eureka Seven (not Renton’s Nirvash, but the one that comes after they’re officially dating–still no clue how she gets her hands on this one).
  6. The show ends.

I have no idea what purpose she served, other than to highlight that: (a) the world changes after the second gun firing, including with her; (b) there’s a point of view from the Scub that is still largely ignored.

The Original Sound Track: 10/10

I would say it’s no surprise, seeing as Eureka Seven had such an amazing sound track, but given the series on the whole: that’d be a baffling move. It was absolutely fantastic, and most likely the best part of the series.

Tracks like “IFO-RA272 `NIRVASH` SPEC-M2”, “Tinsagu Nu Hana”, “”ALERT”*, “Ulterior Aim”, “In Flames” , “Slipping Away W/U”, “Anma Maman” and “Broken Wing” are fantastic pieces. (They can currently be found on Youtube.)

~

Request for Material

I am a man with little funds and as a result do not commonly have access to the best material. I have found two solutions. I am requesting that you send me material. I have my Amazon wish list linked. The first item sent to me will be analyzed and or reviewed. I am grateful to any readers who wish to purchase me something from my Amazon wishlist.

Amazon Wishlist
Alternatively, send me articles and I can post them. I can even make you an author and let you post your own articles if you have a WordPress account, which I would prefer. But any attempt to provide additional material for this blog is appreciated.

 

Thank You All, Dear Readers!

The Origins of Culture and Subculture

One thing that has frequently been complained about in modern anime fandom is the abundance and degeneracy of the 90% which is crap. (90% of everything is crap, as the old saying goes.) And it is unfortunate to think that this reflects not just on Japans society and entertainment market, but our own fan culture and the rest of American society as well. There are many good examples of Japanese animation which are produced, examples of which can be seen on both Television and in movies. But here in the US many of these examples remain unlicensed. We have Strike Witches season one and two licensed, but neither a dub nor an American release of a great film such as Only Yesterday. The reason for this is the problems of modern society. It has a preference for spectacle over depth and a tendency to reject and abuse the past and its traditions. There is a widespread unwillingness to examine the factors which created our society and its entertainment tastes, and that must be corrected. Japan has gone through many waves of modernization and transformation, and these changes have led to many of these different strands of thought and taste in entertainment.  The views of the more socially concerned and conservative voices in Japanese animation to have their origins in the immediate postwar era and the persisting pre war society of Japan, while we can find the origins of modern fan culture and its tastes in the postwar Japan of the 60’s and 70’s.

Hayao Miyazaki has openly disagreed with the consumerism and commercialism of postwar Japan, and has criticized lolicon in the anime fandom. His views clearly originate as a product of his upbringing. The same can be seen with Isao Takahata. He was born in 1935, and in the film Only Yesterday shows the beauty of rural Japan and agricultural life, a life that was the norm when he was a child. Both are clearly not followers of mainstream taste, and do not try to pander to it. We can see how these viewpoints originated in postwar Japan.

We find prewar Japan to be an agricultural society, one where traditional ways of life had remained dominant despite the increased power of the middle class. Traditional views held fast to Buddhism and Shinto, and refrained from innovations in morality. It did not have a sexually restrictive morality, but did prescribe clear functional gender roles, and marriage typically occurred before age 25 with an emphasis on having children. Schooling rarely extended past age 12 for most children.

In the post war era things changed, with a great deal of urbanization and an increased number of workers in industry, with farmers becoming a minority. But a concern for traditional morals and standards of gender remained strong amongst many Japanese with many still marrying and having children young. One of the biggest social reforms was the extension of compulsory education through middle school, up to age 14 or 15. The middle classes had a strong desire for change and social reform, and were pursuing it, but the working classes were still mainly concerned about success in daily life. It was in fact quite common for the agents of Japan’s major corporations to recruit new workers directly out of middle school graduation, allowing one to move directly into a job after completing school.

The transformation of Japan into a middle class country and it’s affect upon anime and manga can be illustrated by lolicon. The first lolicon comic, according to the common story, came out in 1974 and was called Stumbling upon a Cabbage Field. I am not certain of its content because I have never read it, and I suppose few others have. But it indicates a great transformation in Japan and in many respects the history of the world: The transformation of pedophilia from simply one type of rape or an obscure perversion, to a full-fledged subculture in its own right. This had never before occurred in Japan or any other country, and this is only just beginning to emerge on our shores. But this was a natural fruit of Japans postwar success.

Japans postwar era had been built on a foundation of capitalism, liberalism, and a powerful and large urban middle class. The phrase 100 million middle class had already begun to be used to by some Japanese to describe Japan. The middle class had developed very distinct characteristics from the proceeding traditional society, as almost all middle class societies have. It had begun to devalue fertility, support long term schooling and promote the concept of teenagers as sexual innocent children. It also had the sufficient amount of surplus wealth to allow these things to occur, and great enough numbers to police society and ensure the creation of institutions such as reform schools and PTA’s which would help promote this world view.

There were strange effects coming about as an effect of this view on the world. It led to young men becoming children for years, and extended childhood until at least 18 or 20. It also lead to a great deal of extended free time and the much higher amount of income lead to a proliferation of new hobbies. The rise of amateur comics was one result of this, and eventually that lead to the anime fandom we see around us at conventions and in this magazine.

It is important to keep in mind the way in which our circumstances can condition and narrow our views, and the way in which they are the foundations for our views. In many ways our current society intrinsically produces the antithesis of what many consider good entertain or good morals. It is interesting to consider what that has to say about not just anime fandom but the country we live in. There are certain tastes which necessarily flow from certain social arrangements and material factors. It is informative to look at our entertainment as a product of the world view which produced it, and it is useful to remember what kind of society it takes to produce certain world views.