Postmodern Magical Girl Mania

One of the most notable trends spawn from anime in the 2010s is the “edgy magical girls” sub-genre, not started by but certainly most popularized by Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Though, I don’t think that actually encapsulates the gravity of how much the magical girl genre has shifted into a sort of postmodern phase during the 2010s. Many magical girl fans disparage this era, considering traditional magical girls feel like they’ve died out, replaced with edgy bullshit that’s subverted everything the original magical girl shows stood for solely in order to evoke shock value. While I can say traditional magical girls definitely became less common and less popular than these more subversive or specifically transgressive magical girl shows, I want to outline a somewhat more thorough perspective on the topic and eventually arrive at what dig a little bit into what these new magical girl shows are trying to say. 

While edgy magical girls are definitely the most in vogue, I would say there’s also a surge of untraditional magical girl anime. Flip Flappers, Fate Kaleid Liner Prisma Illya, and Symphogear are more otaku-oriented magical girl shows, but I wouldn’t exactly call them as dour as the edgy magical girl shows. There are a lot of magical girl parodies like Mahou Shoujo Ore, Mahou Shoujo Nante Mou Ii Desu Kara, Binan Koukou Chikyuu Boueibu, and to an extent Machikado Mazoku. In general there have been a lot less traditional magical girl shows as time has gone on, with Mewkledreamy being the only new one to start in the past two years. There are darker magical girl shows which have ended up becoming franchises that rival traditional magical girl franchises. Madoka, Yuuki Yuuna, and Nanoha (which started in the 2000s but has continued throughout the 2010s). There have been an uptake in reboots or sequels to older magical girl shows like Cardcaptor Sakura Clear Card, Sailor Moon Crystal, and the new Ojamajo Doremi movie. Then, there’s the ever present Precure which started in the 2000s and is basically the main pillar upholding the traditional magical girl formula as newer franchises come and go. There are shoujo kids franchises like Aikatsu and Pripara which have a similar feel to Precure and technically use magic for transformation sequences, except they’re idol shows and otherwise don’t really follow the magical girl formula. There still were a few attempts at building magical girl franchises in the early 2010s like Jewelpet, but as the late 2010s rolled in, fewer and fewer began to appear. So what is there to enjoy here, when there are few good traditional magical shows left?

Well, first, I want to partially defend the surge of darker magical girl shows in the 2010s. While Madoka Magica is regarded as the best execution of this trend which all other following magical girl titles seemingly only mined the surface level appeal of “darker concepts = popularity”. There’s definitely a lot of edgy magical girl shows which seem to be made exclusively for that appeal, with a lot of them seemingly merging with the edgy death game genre which became popularized by Mirai Nikki in the same year that Madoka aired, but there are many which still had a message or other interesting elements beyond that. Granbelm was a mix of the magical girl death game scenario and the mecha genre with pretty strong directing and production values and fairly likable protagonists. There are strong themes in shows like Wonder Egg Priority of exploring a flawed magical girl system that carries over from shows like Madoka Magica and Princess Tutu. Even if they aren’t directly influenced by each other, there is an interesting trend of portraying a magical girl system as subtly harmful and something the characters learn the flaws of need to overcome. There are shows which take elements of magical girl influence and apply it to other types of stories. I’d argue Ikuhara has been doing this for most of his directorial career, not quite falling into the magical girl formula but still taking elements like transformation sequences, fighting monsters embodying social issues, heavy emphasis on interpersonal relationships, and general social commentary in his directorial works past his seasons of Sailor Moon. There are also shows like Kill La Kill which share some similarities to magical girl shows in having transforming heroines and exploring its own social issues and a hierarchical system that facilitates the magical girls. Though, other similarities to the magical girl genre are a bit loose. I still consider it a magical girl show, and I’m sure other people have had more thorough debates over whether or not it fits with the rest of the genre. Certain shows like Symphogear and Nanoha still carry on the firm ideals of friendship, communication, and heroism, even if they’re put in a more over-the-top, action-spectacle context. You have experimental fare like Flip Flappers. You have wholesome slice-of-life fare like Machikado Mazoku. Elements of the traditional magical girl conventions still exist, but they’re just scattered across fairly different subsets of the magical genre which have become more popular in the past decade. A lot of these shows are going to have fairly different appeals from each other and the traditional magical girl shows which used to be more common. Though, I just wanted to somewhat expand people’s outlook on the sorts of trends that I’ve observed in the magical girl genre over the past decade, since some of these correlations aren’t as often discussed, and I still find many entries in the genre to be interesting to watch as I find that some of them have more similarities with traditional magical series than one would initially expect.

Wonder Egg Anxiety

I just gotta ramble about the currently airing anime Wonder Egg Priority, because if I don’t get some of this stuff off my chest, I feel like it’s gonna fry my brain. This is less of an analysis and more a collection of disorganized, not fully thought-through ideas. Traumatized teenage anime girls must just be my aesthetic, considering ever since Wonder Egg Priority started airing, I have been losing my shit every time I watch it, unable to keep emotions from bubbling to the surface every time I think about it. It’s hard for me to talk about, because to be honest the way it handles its subject matter not only strikes very close to home in some instances but can wander a bit close to “problematic” territory. Near the end of ep 6 when Ai, a teenage girl, looked like she was about to confess to her love adult teacher who may or may not have been grooming her friend Koito before she committed suicide, I had a twinging pain in my stomach as a lot of uneasiness set in. Fortunately, she didn’t, she just said that she was coming back to school. Though, she seems to feel attraction towards him, so there’s probably going to be some complicated stuff to unpack in later episodes. I perceive these sort of uncomfortable issues some of the characters face as all part of the stew of complex adolescent emotions they’re sorting through, and I think the show is aware of the “problematic” nature of its subject matter enough that it’s meant to be uncomfortable even if the show isn’t bluntly stating in dialogue how wrong some of it is. There was also a line about girls committing suicide due to emotion-oriented problems and boys committing suicide due to goal-oriented problems which came from the Acas, two characters who I’m definitely suspicious of, but I’ll come back to that later. It’s just that with so many sensitive topics it’s covering, and so many shows which have fucked up handling these topics to absolutely disastrous results just due to some small oversights that really harm their messaging, I’m just on edge in a show which is so built on exploring so many of them. Though, broadly speaking, I’m enjoying it a lot, I think it’s well-made, and it’s the show I’m most interested in watching every week. It’s beautiful, with great cinematography and telling character animation I usually only expect from the likes of KyoAni. It pulls off moments of levity with endearing and grounded character interactions interspersed with many moments of gut-wrenching, very human drama. Though, with its exploration of traumatized teenage girls blending with exploration of various relevant social issues that drove them to suicide, it’s one of those shows that hits on a deep, vulnerable level. To be blunt, I’m not a girl, but I’ve wondered if I could be one before. There’s a lot of reasons why I was grappling with whether or not I should transition that I don’t want to get into, but the characters in Wonder Egg, Ai Ohto in particular, just feel extremely personal. That’s no surprise; the show has pulled no punches in showing the most vulnerable aspects of all of its characters. Yet, there are times when I’m watching an anime with an all female cast that feels particularly human and feel a sort of kinship with their femininity. It’s hard to explain and I’m not sure I really want to explain, but that’s a summation of some of my messier feelings toward this show. Wonder Egg is like what would happen if the magical girl premise were taken to its most relatable and most emotional extreme. That is, the girls fight with magical powers to protect other traumatized girls, all the monsters they fight are manifestations of their trauma, and the entire world they fight in is one surreal dreamscape created to be the most metaphor-laden literalization of these girls’ emotions. I predict the Acas who are assigning the girls these missions are going to be revealed as the overarching antagonist of the show in a sort of Kyubey-esque sense where they’re benefactors of a problematic system, since they say some of the most questionable lines in the series. There are these lines in particular which have them speaking from an ominous red light in an otherwise dark room telling Ai that she needs to fight to clear the mission and “maintain the status quo”.

The specific phrasing just seems a bit too on the nose to not be a calling card for some sort of antagonistic intent. If they do turn out to be antagonists, everything they say is put in a way more interesting light, considering they likely represent some sort of societal judgement forced upon these girls, or something along those lines. I should probably rewatch this show, because ugh there’s so much interesting stuff that I understand a bit more in hindsight after being able to digest it for a few weeks. Maybe I’ll make an actual analysis of the show later, breaking down specific scenes because there are so many great moments of cinematography that are easy pickings considering how many screenshots I took. I know this show has a lot more to unpack, as many people have already been doing. I just had thoughts I wanted to write down and put out there to air my scattered thoughts, because I’m self-indulgent, and defining my feelings more concretely through writing is just such detoxicating force in my life right now, even if it’s just rambling about anime for a paragraph or two. Hahaaah, I’ll see you next time.

3 years of anime… How’ve they been?

The passage of time is coming to a point where I can look back on my first year of high school as if it were a distant memory, as lots have changed since then in regards to me as a person and the world at large. Maybe CO-VID spawned a sort of dilation in my perception of time, as now everything from before the disease feels distant from everything after it, despite it all starting less than a year ago. For the first time, I looked back on the year of 2018 with nostalgia. Things were looking fresh, I was a bit less depressed than I am now, and anime was better(?). I felt nostalgic looking back on 2018 when I rewatched Gigguk’s “Anime in 2018” video on a whim, partially because of the somewhat disappointment he expressed in his “Anime in 2020” video making me want to just go back to the good old days. Is this really it, is this the point where I tip into becoming a 2010s anime fan instead of a general modern anime fan. The vast majority of my favorites aired in the 2010s, with a handful of those coming out in 2018 or 2019. Yet, nothing in 2020 grabbed me that way, and 2021 hasn’t proven itself to me yet. My perspective on last year in regards to anime is fairly different from Gigguk’s, I will admit. For me, it was the first year where there were a lot of good shows airing, but almost nothing that stood out as great. The only anime I truly loved from 2020 was a Pokemon music video, and Pokemon anime in general were really strong that year, with Twilight Wings, “Poketoon” or “Zuruggu to Mimikyu”, and the new season of the mainline anime all being fun additions to the franchise bringing their own new visual and storytelling ideas into the mix. Though in 2019, which I considered to be a bit weak in comparison to 2018, I still got Mob Psycho, Beastars, Hoshiai no Sora, and Sarazanmai which I loved. Gigguk adored that year even more than 2018, since there were so many legendary moments that would stick with him forever from big hits like Vinland Saga, Promised Neverland, Demon Slayer, Attack on Titan, and the other shows I already listed. I was only a bit disappointed in 2019 because there weren’t any anime which became favorites of mine like in 2018. I guess I’m saying that when I saw how quantity and quality of what I enjoyed in 2018, I thought that would be the norm for the following years, since so many anime are being produced nowadays. Though, I guess my main takeaway from watching anime for the past few years is that that year really was a special case.

Obviously, this isn’t the case for everyone. Everyone’s tastes are different, and I watch a lot more anime from each year than the average person, so some fairly niche picks like Hugtto Precure and Yama no Susume season 3 were some of my favorite anime of 2018 when most people haven’t seen them and probably wouldn’t care about them even if they did. This is just my retrospective on the past three years of anime.

Everything is Narrative

To those who say that visuals don’t matter in a narrative, I’d immediately respond, “Do paintings have narratives?” My answer to that would be yes, because I can look at a painting and describe what is being depicted. More importantly to me, though, the way the art looks conveys feelings all its own.

This is a fairly generic shot from the anime Gankutsuou. If you’ve heard any degree of art critique, then you probably already know that the brick walls between the man and the woman in this shot are experiencing some sort of emotional dissonance, this meaning being reinforced by how they are looking in opposite directions. You probably also picked up on how the woman is framed with walls on both sides of her, as well as a floor below her, denoting how she’s feeling trapped. This is in comparison to how the man’s side of the screen is completely open, with him free to leave at any time, but he stays regardless because he ultimately wants to help the woman. The shot is dyed in a blue hue, with both characters looking downward, reflecting these characters’ grief. You may have even picked up on the dichotomy between the lighter colors in the woman’s clothing and the darker colors in the man’s clothing. This highlights some sort of separation between the two characters’ identities, in this case being how the man is seen as a commoner while the woman is the daughter of a man in the upper class. Her eyes are hidden while the man’s are not. With some background knowledge of the show, I know that this reflects how the man does not understand the woman’s true feelings at this point in the story, but wants to find out what those true feelings are and try to help her. This could also come from the woman’s perspective, since with context from the series, I know that she sees herself as not being understood by anyone and having no one who actually considers her best interests. 

Good art is not just good because it looks cool. It’s intrinsic to the storytelling of whatever medium it’s used in, and it can convey so much meaning and emotion in a single image that it took me a whole paragraph to translate it into written words. I could do the same thing for music, animation, sound design, voice acting, etc. We can argue over which elements in a given story are beneficial or detrimental to the overall narrative’s effectiveness, but I wanted to lay out that no element of an art piece is ever simply tangential to the story. If anyone can read some sort of idea that is being communicated by them, no matter how simple, then it’s a narrative in and of itself. If you still don’t believe me, comment down below an element of anime that you think is completely tangential to narrative, and I’ll explain why it’s not or make another blog post on that element instead.

Personal Reflections on Anime in 2020 (part 1)

As it’s the beginning of a new decade, I imagined if there were any new trends that were going to appear and gradually distinctify this next decade from the 2010s. I wondered how the 2010s would look in hindsight, when the medium looks a bit different and what I considered “modern anime” when I first got into the medium in the mid-2010s became discussed as “old shows”, “hidden gems”, or “classics” like how people discuss anime from the 2000s during the late 2010s. It’s a bit surreal, especially because I only started watching anime seasonally in 2018. Though, it’s a temporal experience I want to catalog just because I want to make the most of this time which can pass so fast (at least for me), so I’ll look back on these small memories someday with fewer regrets. This will be a more casual reflection on anime from this year, just jumping to whatever topics I have something to say about. 

How Good Was Anime in 2020?

Starting off with how “good” I thought this year was for anime quality-wise, I watched at least the first episode of almost all of the TV anime that came out this year, alongside a decent smattering of ONAs, movies, etc., and in short, I thought there were a lot of anime I liked, but not many that I loved. Really the only anime I loved from this year was Gotcha! (the Pokemon music video that blew up a few months ago). Hearing that should give you the indication that my tastes are probably radically different from yours, and also that I used to be an obsessive fan of Pokemon, both the anime and the games. But hey, I got more joy out of rewatching it several times after it dropped, considering how dense it is with references riding the full gambit of the expansive lore of the games and personality-filled visuals packed with little details and stylistic flourish in literally every second, than any anime this year. It was honestly extremely gratifying as someone who has enjoyed many of the anime iterations of Pokemon across the past decade to see Twitter collectively go as crazy over this one music video as I was. I yearn for the day Rie Matsumoto (who directed Gotcha! as well as Kekkai Sensen and Kyousougiga) directs another TV series, or even another music video, since both this and Baby I Love You Daze are awesome in their own rights. While just that is definitely a bit of a step down from 2018, where I had about a dozen anime I loved as much or more than Gotcha, and 2019, where I enjoyed 5 anime at the same level, again this felt like a year where there was still a decent quantity of shows I enjoyed.

Shoutouts to the “On-Hold” List

There are some shows I liked the first few episodes of that I still need to finish like Chihayafuru season 3, Oregairu season 3, the new Blade of the Immortal adaptation, Love Live Nijigasaki, ID Invaded, Appare-Ranman, and Great Pretender. Around when Oregairu 3 started airing, tons of anime YouTube videos came out of the woodworks praising its character writing, and those convinced me that I would probably at least relate to Hachiman. Thus, I buckled down and marathoned the first two seasons as season 3 was airing… until I fell off after episode 6 for no particular reason other than I didn’t feel motivated. I enjoyed the whole thing, with the character writing being surprisingly nuanced for almost every recurring character, paired with character acting which sometimes reminded me of a Kyoto Animation show with how well and how frequently it visually demonstrated the mental states of the characters. Another particularly noteworthy show that I fell off of Great Pretender is particularly memorable in my mind due to how it was on the MAL seasonal chart for summer 2019 and had like a 3.61 rating, but I was confused because I couldn’t even find it online back then, despite the little bits of information on its MAL page at the time looking really interesting. Then, the trailer dropped early this year, and a bunch of people on Twitter got excited, including me. Then, everyone watched the show and loved it, not including me, because I only watched the first two episodes. There were a lot of good anime airing in spring when the first 14 eps of Great Pretender dropped on Netflix, as well as anime I was still on the fence about at the time that I would later drop like Balance:Unlimited, Houkago Teibou Nisshi, and Kakushigoto. I know a lot of people liked Kakushigoto, and I definitely appreciate its unique designs and sense of humor (as is par for the course for the original mangaka of Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei and Joshiraku), but the characterization wasn’t substantive enough to keep me invested, as is the case for most comedy anime, unless they’re so consistently funny that I never need a strong narrative or so uniquely bizarre in either its visuals or it’s humor, that I’m too fascinated with it to not finish it.

Comedies I Actually Liked?

Moving into anime I actually finished, Wan Sheng Jie was one comedy which exemplified the former type of aforementioned comedy. Every year it seems like there’s at least one 3-minute long short anime that can actually pull off being a pure comedy because it’s not taking that much of my time, and the jokes just have to be paced faster, which is more suitable to my sense of humor anyways. Both that and Ani ni Tsukeru Kusuri wa Nai which has been airing 4 seasons have been those shows for me. They both have charming straightforward characters which don’t really have a narrative arc (at least from what’s been adapted up to this point), but are just fun to watch and have strong personalities. I think another factor into why they’ve been among the only pure comedies I’ve enjoyed over the past few years is that the source material for both are not made in Japan (I think both of their web manga are Chinese or Korean). I think that their almost complete lack of anime tropes makes them just a breath of fresh air and much more unpredictable in their humor. Also, they’re just really wholesome, so go watch at least one episode of them; they’re only 3 minutes. A comedy that I finished more out of fascination is Gal & Dino, which I actually kept up with almost consistently weekly, because the visuals in that show are just so insane and varied in art style, more than any other anime that I saw this year. Stuff like the Dino Channel segments, the show being split into half live-action and half animated segments, the stop-motion animation, the stop motion ED, etc. All of it was legendary, courtesy of the staff at Kamikaze Douga who made the similarly visually insane Pop Team Epic. Of course, if we’re talking good comedy anime, Kaguya-sama Love Is War is easily one of the most beloved of the year. My opinions on the show have always been mixed, ever since I was watching season 1 weekly in 2019. It’s definitely hit or miss, as most comedies are, and I wouldn’t even call the show’s narrative elements to be consistently interesting. I can’t dive into everything that happens in both seasons, but essentially: Chika was funny at times but often felt like an annoying meme character, Kaguya’s voice acting and characterization is a bit too over-the-top and yandere-esque for me to find likable, Kurogane’s cool, the new characters in season 2 are all fun, and Ishigami’s arc was easily the best part of the whole series thus far. Watching everyone excitedly react to this show on Twitter was fun. The most consistently engaging aspect of this season were easily the visuals. There are some gags which have such interesting ways in which they’re presented that they still stick out vividly in my mind months after watching them. Considering A-1 Pictures productions’ tendency to incorporate lots of random freelance staff which are highly diverse in their styles, I think Kaguya-sama is one of the studio’s best shows to make use of the dissonance between those artists’ flourishes, due to it being a comedy which can use the dissonant, extreme tones created the distinct styles for increased comedic effect. Overall, it’s a good time that I’m glad I got to get endeared to alongside the rest of the community, even if it’s rarely striking a deep chord with me.

I’m No Anime Hipster.

Speaking of normie shows which I also like, My Hero Academia and Attack on Titan were shows I caught up with as they were airing as big moments abound for the two biggest continuing shounen anime. My Hero Academia season 4’s Endeavor fight in the last two episodes lit up the community and was the highlight for me of the entire season, since Endeavor is one of the characters I’ve been most interested in throughout the series. Regardless of the big moments, my journey with this series has been a bit strange, considering it’s one of the shows that got me into the deeper anime community after I caught up with the first 3 seasons back in summer 2018. In the year-long gap between then and the start of season 4 in fall 2019, I had heard a massive variance of analytical takes on the show, and in general my tastes had dramatically shifted after watching hundreds of anime in the meantime. While the first 4 episodes of season 4 gave me the impression I was expecting of “oh, this is okay,” I was overall pleasantly surprised when the show delved into the Overhaul arc and I was actually fairly engaged. The show’s typical strengths of developing its large cast through giving random characters dedicated time to have their own arcs did certainly help, but what I was really invested in was how many of the backstories of both heroes and villains reflected broader systemic trends being perpetuated by the “hero system”, as it’s called in the show. Essentially, much of the conflict in the series stems from how the hero ranking system doesn’t necessarily incentivise saving the most people, but instead defeating the most villains, being the most powerful fighter, and how much fame and attention you can drum up. The biggest strength of My Hero Academia is how the pitfalls of that system are explored, with each arc (at least in season 4) deepening the nuances of the ramifications that system has created in society, even rippling out to affect several individual characters. Now, it’s not always laser-focused on that aspect of its writing, and the school festival was certainly the weakest part of the season because of the festival itself being so divorced from that thematic element. Though, even then there were some interesting character moments for Endeavor and Almight, and Gentle Criminal is actually the best part of the arc for how his behavior and backstory displays yet another chink in the system that perpetuates discrimination against people with specific Quirks. He’s also an entertainingly flamboyant villain who’s literally a YouTuber, with a sympathetic backstory and character arc that really makes him out to be a sort of tragic hero. Welp, I’m gone on enough about low-key defending MHA season 4, now Attack on Titan is the much bigger beast. Probably the biggest anime in existence by now, I’m not going to go on analyzing this show. I like my massive, morally complex political mysteries/thrillers, and after the show’s insane critical acclaim after season 3 part 2 aired in 2019, I finally buckled down to watch it because I knew I’d probably like it. I am extremely late to the party, having binged the entire series less than a month ago, mainly because it felt like a momentous occasion in anime history that I needed to be around for. I take an extremely long time to finish most 2-cour shows, but Attack on Titan is such an easy binge due to its massive array of constantly moving parts, and it was an overall good time, despite me having my gripes with the wonky titan designs, a lot of goofy death scenes (during which I totally didn’t laugh out loud), the CG titans, a lot of moments that were generally too drawn out and over-the-top even if the meaning behind them was interesting, certain characters becoming so unlikable and uncharismatic that it was hard for me to even care about them, a bunch of little issues like that which kept me from truly loving the series as many people do. I will unwaveringly vouch for AOT being one of the biggest achievements in the medium in terms of weaving a complex narrative on every level, and I can talk about its thematic intrigue for hours, but it’s just got other aspects that hold it back for me. This new season is off to an interesting start; the dramatic perspective shift is just brilliant and ambitious and I can’t believe they’re expanding the narrative scope even further and actually pulling it off. The new OP sucks and is too blunt in its attempts to be ominous and haunting, though the lyrics do well at reflecting some of the series’ themes. Listen to Shinsei Kamattechan’s other songs instead; they’re all better than this. Their ED for season 2 is easily better at being haunting, since there was at least a front of a kinda cheery melody. The visual style changing is a step down from the detailed intensity of other seasons’ designs, but it’s not a dealbreaker. I look forward to being on the hype train with everyone else, as this show will undoubtedly go down in anime history as one of the defining shows of this time period.

Intermission (come back in a few hours… or days)

That’s a good place to cap off this first part, since there’s still a lot I have to go through which will be even more miscellaneous and unstructured than this part. This is mainly self-indulgent for the sake of saving these memories of this crazy first year of the decade in some concrete way. Maybe you got something out of this. Feel free to comment your own anime-related memories of this year. I’ll be posting the last part of this retrospection sometime in the near future, so be prepared for that if you’re interested.

A Short Comment on Similarities in Sci-Fi/Fantasy Yuri Anime’s Endings

* spoilers for: Kuttsukiboshi, Simoun, Revolutionary Girl Utena, Yuri Kuma Arashi, and Madoka Magica (and Rebellion)

The ending of Kuttsukiboshi with the lesbian couple only being able to maintain their relationship unimpeded after traveling to another world reminds me of Utena, Simoun, and Yuri Kuma’s endings where the main couples ended up escaping the societal systems which were restricting them. Even Madoka Magica kinda had this ending in Rebellion when Homura created a world where the Incubators seemingly have no power and she and Madoka were able to be together like she wanted throughout the entire show. Except in Kuttsukiboshi, there was no systematic force that they were fighting against, so the ending just comes off as random. Regardless, it’s just an interesting parallel between these fantasy/sci-fi yuri anime.

Welcome to the NHK and Chains of Fear

The conversation Sato has with Toro Toro in ep.19 of Welcome to the NHK was my favorite moment in the show, just because no other show has put into clear terms precisely why I’m still living a detrimental lifestyle in a detrimental mindset, despite me having heard solutions from many different sources. It’s just fear, fear of the unknown which comes with exposing myself to other people when I reach out for help. Even if I know my mindset is unhealthy, and I know I should reach out and get involved in some sort of activity with other people or something, I’m always just afraid of changing that routine, of really breaking out of my comfort zone that I’ve been in for so long. No one else is forcing me to get out of it, so the only one who can push me out is me, and I’m a coward (that’s what I tell myself). Just like Toro Toro, the likely only way I’ll actually reach self-betterment is when an unpredictable crisis threatens me enough that it forces me out of my routine. I had already thought of that might be the only way out, and I guess the writers of this show (or the original novel) realized/experienced the same thing. I love that the resolution of this episode is ultimately Toro Toro’s self-betterment, even if I’m somewhat depressed that my fate might also lie in the random chance of a massive external variable rending my current routine impossible. I know this probably sounds hopeless and/or pathetic, and my behavior is completely irrational and immature. I can rightly blame myself for this all I want, and I have for half a decade now. There are very few pieces of dialogue in this scene that I haven’t had boiling in my head many times before. It was almost creepy how the episode ended in what I had conjectured for years was the only way I’d ever escape this retarded self-torment, not by my own power, but by something/someone else forcing me out of it, just like almost every time I’ve actually taken any risks in my life. That’s almost hilariously depressing, and knowing that this show was adapted from a novel that’s an almost autobiographical account of the author’s experiences as a neet makes me wonder how fictional this actually is. I’m going insane. I feel like I’ve lost my mind and am still sitting here doing nothing about it. Shout at me for how stupid and illogical I am. That might actually affect some change in me. AND YET, HERE I AM. I may have gotten the inspiration from this episode, but at least it wasn’t some panic-inducing threat that led me to write this blog post. Now this can be counted among the risks I’ve taken that were mainly born from my own will (however small of risk that writing this blog post may be). Despite my suffocating social anxiety when communicating non-anonymously on the Internet, and my lack of motivation to go outside or interact with many real people, I still have hope that I can break out of it by my own will and tactics, even if it takes one small step at a time. Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised that Welcome to the NHK of all shows would lead me to this winding monologue. I initially started this show primarily because, after hearing everyone give essentially the same reaction of how it’s an equally comedic, depressing, and realistic portrayal of a shut-in, I was reminded of it on a particularly bad day and hoped it would give me some sort of insight on myself. And how lovely that insight was, as I expected. The show on the whole is definitely inconsistent in how much it engaged me on the whole, with some episodes being more thin on entertainingly relatable material than others. Though, my gratitude will always be held towards this show for just putting so many of my own scattered feelings and messy lifestyle choices into more clarity and with more coherent wording than what I could drum up in this blog post. Once I finish the last 5 episodes, it’ll be my 600th completed anime, and it really feels fitting for a show so steeped in a mindset that many anime otaku, myself included, can relate to at least on some level. Ultimately, when push came to shove, Toro Toro was able to be a decently energetic worker for that small restaurant at the end of the episode, and in the end, whenever I do escape from this self-perpetuating cycle, I can have the confidence that my potential to survive outside of that cycle is often higher than they would imagine.

A Gentle Push (Aoi Hana)

For a lot of this year, I’ve felt like a burden on anyone around me who tries to help me. As someone who’s never thought all that highly of themselves for a long period of time, I gradually began to think of myself as worthless and that the only reason people help me out now is because I was a better person in the past and made a good impression on them. No matter what, I would point to something I made a mistake in and turn that into an indicator of my entire self-worth. Bad grades, dumb tweets, dumb writing I posted somewhere, and generally not living up to my preset ambitions. Subconsciously, that is, since even I had had it drilled into my head by almost every YouTuber I still care about that I deserve to be happy and that my mind will always focus on the negative. Now, I think my fatal mistake was believing that my feelings would follow the logic laid out in my head. I would hate myself, become too unconfident and afraid to put myself out there, then become lonely, then hate myself even more for letting myself become lonely when I had the power to make my life better, then lose faith in myself subconsciously or not and become unmotivated to do anything besides watch YouTube videos and jerk off to the porn scenarios in my imagination. With that, I’d feel like I’d disappointed my parents, who were trying to get me to achieve the dreams that I had set out to achieve in elementary school, back when I had really promising grades instead of the inconsistent ones I have now which on occasion dip into the D or even F range. My parents don’t fully understand why my grades dipped so low, because I’m almost constantly putting on a facade to at least enough of a degree to keep almost everyone IRL from being able to meaningfully help me, locking myself away in my own deepening mental spiral.

I contextualize anime through my experiences, my knowledge, and my mental state fairly often, which is why I can write posts like this which can give somewhat specific reasoning for why I relate to a character like Manjoume Fumi from Aoi Hana. Yes, I’m covering another yuri series, this one being a more down-to-earth, slice-of-life drama exploring the fairly understated relationship developments of the aforementioned Fumi. She starts off as a standoffish, fairly emotionally fragile teenage girl, often avoiding any serious confrontation of other people when possible. She cries fairly easily, she’s flip-flops indecisively on what club she wants to join, and she often has to be specifically questioned by other people before hesitantly allowing them to know how she’s feeling or what she’s doing, and that’s if she doesn’t completely deny those feelings when she feels like its easy to just deflect those questions. While I wouldn’t call her the spitting image of me, she’s a character I nonetheless feel a deep urge to try and console because our personalities are similar, except with her being more passive and fragile than I am. That’s not to say she simply caves to everyone’s demands or is exclusively shy and demure like some of her classmates might see her. She gets frustrated over trying to understand her own feelings all throughout the series, and as I said, she will deflect other people’s attempts to interact with her if she feels she can easily slip away. She can even more easily follow her own subconscious whims early on, particularly when she’s hurting the people who care about her by deflecting any attempts they make to try and console her or even just hang out with her.

The only person this doesn’t apply to is Akira, who Fumi has known long enough to be comfortable around, who she knows both subconsciously and not that she will be willing to console her and not hurt her feelings, who is lighthearted, goofy, and uplifting to be around, who is loyal and headstrong enough to go to stand up for Fumi when anyone hurts her feelings, who is willing to give Fumi stern advice when she needs it, but as a gentle push that won’t get angry with Fumi’s indecisiveness. Akira is Fumi’s truest safe haven, and frankly is a core reason to why Fumi can become more assertive and confident in her feelings by the end of the show.

I frankly don’t have an Akira, at least not anymore. My ties with any IRL friends have been made strenuous by my lack of motivation to even communicate with anyone. Any points at which I might’ve gain something resembling friendship online has been hindered by a bizarre social (media) anxiety that I now have, where I’m always scared of saying something dumb on Twitter and people disliking me for it. Ultimately, my life is not a romance story. It’s a story of many things, despite most of it taking place in a small bedroom as of the past 5 months. Perhaps, primarily it’s a story of self-discovery, even if some of that comes in the form of watching other stories of self-discovery, because it’s better than laying in bed dreaming without actually doing anything that I find meaningful. Aoi Hana provides catharsis in seeing someone like Fumi whom feel such a close, almost parental attachment to, be able to sort through her feelings, grow into a better, healthier person, and actually gain clarity on who is really important to her in the end.

The Skies of Simoun

When thinking about all the stories I plan on writing, I’ve settled on several symbols which are broadly applicable and easily malleable in their meaning. Among which are the skies, the heavens, the earth, and hell as well as the connections between all of them. While a lot of stories have used these symbols individually, one show that’s struck me as particularly provocative with how it fits in with these symbols is Simoun. In its universe, nations wage war over control of the Simoun, flying machines that used to be used for religious rituals but were later deemed necessary as military weapons by the nation that currently controls them. Thus, the sibyllae, girls who are able to pilot the planes in pairs when they kiss, are also forced into combat until they go to “the spring” to decide whether to be permanently male or female, as this is a world where all humans are born female.

Simoun’s focus on the girls being forced into the impending horrors of military combat underscore certain individual characters’ desires to fly freely with their partners. Aside from the explicit lesbian romance, what makes this so powerful is that the society around these protagonists are warring over control of the very things that give them freedom. The illustrious character designs, Shichiro Kobayashi’s watercolor-like background art, and even the extravagant, while aesthetically jarring, CG flying machines all scream majesty and grace, romanticism and expressiveness. Though, throughout the series those skies are often filled with encroaching military airships for the sibyllae to face or else be deemed unsuitable to pilot the Simoun by the nation’s leaders. The romantic feelings between the girls are used as fuel for warfare. The sibyllae’s flights are limited by their government’s jurisdiction. Will they ever be able to fly truely freely, when entire nations want and arguably need the Simoun for themselves, as is explored throughout the series?

Take that as your recommendation to watch Simoun, because it’s one of the most conceptually ambitious yuri anime out there, up there with the likes of Utena, Flip Flappers, and Yuri Kuma Arashi. Considering it’s seemingly the least well-known of these shows, I gotta give the cred it deserves in the somewhat sparse yuri anime canon.

I’m Back Bitches.

You read the title. You could say I’m using this blog as a daily exercise to get better at writing. Whatever stress I may have felt from having this blog in the past has pretty much dissipated at this point, and I’ll be running this blog with a different approach to ensure that it will be more of a source of joy for me than ever before. I view this as more of a place to dump thoughts on anime and manga, regardless of whether anyone will be there to listen. Though, since I have at least one follower who may need an explanation about coming back after quite a few months, I’m writing this one with more conversational syntax. From here on out, I don’t want to make the assumption that people will even see what I write. If I want that, I can just go to Twitter, or even Reddit. Instead, I’ll write here just as rough practice to gradually hone my skills as a writer. I’ve become more interested in western cartoons and literature over the past few months, so I may write about works in those mediums at some point. Though, this blog will likely still mostly center on anime, because that’s what I’m still the most deeply versed in at the moment. Other than that, I don’t exactly know where this blog is going to go, but I’ll keep shouting into the void and hopefully become a bit more comprehensible and well-spoken along the way.