[SPOILER WARNINGS] Game of Thrones: The Return of the Hound & the Issues of Pandering

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Warning: Here There Be Spoilers!

Episode 7 of Game of Thrones’ 6th series –entitled The Broken Man– saw the return of fan favourite/hated Sandor “The Hound’ Clegane (played excellently as always by Rory McCann). The Hound hadn’t been seen since the end of series 4, when he was left to die by Arya after his devastating duel with Brienne of Tarth . His ultimate fate was left up in the air (in the TV series, he very much died in the book), with many fans clamouring for his return. So, apropos of nothing, the Hound suddenly returns so late into series 6.

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What is odd is how his reappearance both felt natural and jarring.

Natural, in that the story of him being rescued by Ian McShane’s Brother Ray (a huge waste of a great actor, especially since he doesn’t even utter the word cocksucker once!) & contemplating his own violent nature and the possibility of redemption. The form of the Hound’s arc is perfect for the character, in that he finds himself rescued by a man who shows him both respect & kindness –two things that have been utterly anathema to the Hounds existence– but finds himself drawn back to his inclinations towards killing. He is given a place in a religious community who both fear & accept him, he works labour which suits his temperament but he is ill at ease with a life of peace –acting like Damocles waiting for the sword to finally drop.

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“What a bunch of measely-mouthed cocksuckers”

Yet it is a jarring return because it does not have a natural fit within the narrative.

Narratively it comes as a break in the current tension of the story. Beginning episode 7 in a way to purposely confuse the viewer, make them wonder why they are watching the scene of harmony & construction –two things that mesh against the usually themes of the show. Whilst the viewer has gotten to wonder about this tonal schism, they are shown the scarred form of the returned villain/anti-hero but not in any role or form they are used to.

This is an intentional jarring of expectations & visual setting yet it unfortunately breaks the established flow of the narrative.

It has no basic place within the current season’s arc; coming with the feel of being placed in as a breach to fit in other sudden shifts in the narrative direction.

Personal conjecture has it that since it showed the return of the Brotherhood Without Banners –who until this point had not been seen since the 3rd series– it is purposed to unite the Hound, Brienne (who is currently on her way to the Riverlands to recruit the Black Fish to fight for Sansa Stark) & Jamie Lannister in capture by the Brotherhood so Lady Stoneheart, née the resurrected Catelyn Stark, can have her revenge on all who betrayed her or served her enemies. Which is combining how characters are last seen within the books A Feast For Crows & A Dance of Dragons. This plays into bringing the Frays back into the fold & having Jamie, whose character arc was skewed with weird trips to Dorne & conflict with the High Sparrow, go to Riverrun to aid the Fray’s in their failed siege (which also brings the other fan favourite Bronn back to our screens),

In this writer’s very (very) unhumble opinion, bringing a character as looming in the minds of the television adaption as the Hound carries the odour of pandering.

Whilst it does fit that he could have survived his fight with Brienne and fall from the cliff, his arc should have been more naturally ended. Serving as a point of evolution of Arya as she chooses not to kill him because she both respected & hated him. This possible forced merging of divergent storylines & character arcs.

Yet the Hound is unneeded for such a resolution.

He has served his narrative purpose but his fate was left ambiguous. This meant that many fans & viewers could wedge their desires for his return into the conversations around the show. After the relatively poor reception of the 5th season, one could speculate that the show’s forerunners have been saving a return of such a divisive character within the fan community for a point that will garner maximum interest as the 6th series steams towards its conclusion. Thus making the Hound’s return both pandering & exploitative.

With the show’s forerunner recent announcing that they want to end the show in 2018 with the 8th series, possibly making seasons 7 & 8 shorter in the amount of episodes for each, one can see why they would be in a rush to draw in elements of the books (both written & forthcoming) to see the entirety of the story reach a satisfactory conclusion. Yet to bring in unnecessary threads, be in the return of the Hound or strange asides to fill in character happenings, chokes the already ongoing story as well as breaks the view of the narrative. Many viewers have complained on social media about how Arya’s arc with the Faceless Men drags on to nowhere –partly because of how different it is from the books but mainly because it feels boring in how its told– & this is something that could have easily been repaired if the showrunners had actually spent time on solidifying character arcs & the overall plot instead of shifting things to suddenly pander to viewers’ supposed expectation.

Which brings this writer onto what they consider the most extreme & vexing of Game of Thrones’ pandering: replacing proper storylines & scenes with pointless female nudity.

Cast your mind back to the events of episode 7. Do you remember the suddenly interlude with Yara & Theon Greyjoy as they with their band of reavers partied it up in what may have been Barvos (it was never made clear to this writer where they were). They were at a brothel, so naturally this meant there had to be lots & lots of naked women around & Yara had to be transformed into either bisexual or a lesbian (neither of which are an issue if they have always been a constant of the character before that moment).

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Les Be friends?

Now, do you recall what the scene was actually about? What purpose it had in the greater narrative scheme or even what Yara & Theon spoke about?

If not it was probably because you were distracted by Yara sucking on some whore’s tits.

Game of Thrones & HBO in general have built reputations for themselves as providers of adult content. Unfortunately, in the US ‘adult content’ tends to mean tits & violence.

Something that garnered Game of Thrones a lot of mainstream attention is that it did not shy away from either yet once that genie was released from the bottle, HBO could no longer tone it down. They had to keep pushing such angles because that is how they viewed audience expectations of the show –that they only watched it because titties would somehow be involved.

Now, this is not a prudish complaint.

There is nothing wrong with nudity in media but it has to serve a narrative point.

One can go on about how it can be seen as either empowerment & life saving or if it is entirely exploitative & vulgar yet that is not the crux of this writer’s vexation.

The issue at hand is how the insertion of scenes dedicated entirely to sex & nudity take away from important character scenes & story arcs. It is like the story is proceeding at an excellent pace, hitting all the right points for audience engagement, when it all screeches to a halt to grab our collective heads & say “hey look! Here some titties! Maybe some arse or bush! LOOK AT IT! LOOK AT MATURE WE ARE!!! All done? Good. Now back to the plot”.

This writer cannot be burdened by writing out every example in every episode & ever series yet the ones that stand out the greatest are Podrick’s visit to Little Finger’s brothel to lose his virginity as well as the pirate Salladhor Saan telling jokes in the bath to two prostitutes. Neither of these scenes served any narrative purpose. They were meant for ahem titillation & breaking of heavy tones that may or may not drag down an episode. Yet they have no function that could not have been fulfilled in other ways that did not have nudity as their centrepieces.

Yet this supposed obsession with associating nudity with maturity can only reach so far before it simply does become blatant pandering & exploitation of audience so socially starved of the normality of sex & nudity that they come to believe that any expression of it is a healthy taboo that one can indulge in with a sense of collective joyous guilt (which is also how shite like Fifty Shades of Grey become a brief zeitgeist but that’s an article for another day). One can endlessly argue that the over moralising of nudity & sex is something so profoundly toxic to social discourse that it overflows into & corrupts so many other aspects of society yet that wavers from this writer’s point.

The complaint remains that the majority of nudity within Games of Thrones is superfluous at best & distracting at worst.

It all remains within the contention that over pandering to fan demands/expectations can lead to a creative deathspiral for creative work because you, as a creative entity, are no longer controlling where your work goes but eternally responding to the whims of a vocal but very fickle few.

Maybe there will be a grand pay-off with the Hound’s return. Maybe it all threads together vital pieces of the story & direct us towards a glorious end. Yet his reappearance does not speak of confidence within the current format of the show. That the individual pieces have the strength to stand upon their merits & there is a wanting of faith in how both the season & show may conclude.

Yet this writer does find Rory McCann layered portrayal of the Hound enjoyable, given an emotional depth rare to how such a violent & unforgiving character is usually depicted upon our screens. So there is some measure of assurance that the Hound’s return is a portent for a strong series ending rather than a horrid death-flails of a program the showrunners & writers are losing faith in.

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Revenge is cute – anime critique: Shirobako

Shirobako_Promotional_PosterTitle: Shirobako
Format: tv anime
Genre: slice of life, satire, comedy, drama
Series Director: Tsutomu Mizushima
Studio: Warner Entertainment Japan P.A.Works
Series length: 24
Original Airing dates: October 9, 2014 – March 26, 2015
Reviewed format: high def download with fan subs


Synopsis:

The story follows a group of five best friends, Aoi Miyamori, Ema Yasuhara, Shizuka Sakaki, Misa Todo, and Midori Imai, who all go into the anime industry after their experiences in the animation club of their high school. The series depicts the daily troubles and hardships the five experience in their respective jobs, as well as their efforts to overcome them, largely focusing on Aoi and her fellow staff at animation studio Musashino Animation as they work on two anime television series.


Critique:

Whoever wrote & created this series was doing three things:

1: show a fanciful yet realistic depiction of what goes into creating anime by showing the drama, tension & creative issues behind the scenes of an animation studio.

2: pack in as many references to their favourite series, creators, directors & artists as they could by altering their names & general depictions but still letting the audience know who & what they are talking about.

& 3: getting revenge on people by depicting various characters as incompetent idiots or selfish, lazy or generally scumbags. Truly, the people behind this series are taking the opportunity to put the boot into as many people as they feel fucked them over during the careers -from uncooperative authors to over-confident but useless P.A.s, artists who can’t meet deadlines & directors too wrapped up in themselves to be able to finish anything.

All three points are references heavily throughout the series & that just makes it an utter joy to watch -especially the depictions of people as feckless to get revenge on someone. Brilliant!

I truly adored this series, knowing nothing about it when I started watching it.

Like so many comedy-dramas, it’s about people finding their goals in life & working towards their dreams but unlike so many other series out there, Skirobako focusses not on teenagers overcoming the struggles of adolescence into maturity but rather on the daily struggles of young women -either at university or have graduated from it- as they try to realise what they want from life & deal with whatever obstacles may get in their way.
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Like so many protagonists in such series, Miyamori Aoi is indecisive about what she really wants to do with her life. Her love of anime lead her, along with most of her friends from her high school anime society, into a job in the animation industry but she’s unsure if she has the ability or passion to move beyond being a simple Production Assistant. This lack of confidence extends over to her 4 friends as well; with Ema questioning whether she has the talent for drawing animation; if Misa should stick with a secure job in 3D graphic design or take risk with an unsecure job; Midori wandering what it takes to be a writer; & Zuka fretting over if she should continue trying to be a voice actress after so many failed auditions.

The questions of confidence & ability extend into the extremely extensive supporting cast. With many characters questioning if they have the talent to be working in the animation industry whilst others, like the exceedingly & purposely annoying Takanashi, being over confident in their utter lack of ability or understand. Yet Takanashi, despite all his many many many annoying (many) traits, has a dream that he wants to achieve & sticks to his guns no matter how useless he is.

The recurring themes of confidence, talent & ability -whether natural or practised- is a constant within anime & manga. This is often depicted that those who have a natural talent for something as being inherently superior because they don’t have to work at anything, where in reality it is always the opposite. With those working hard to get better often being more talented than those for whom it comes naturally because they often get bored with the lack of challenge.

Upon the surface, Shirobako seems to fall into the former camp of praising the naturally talented but in fact the series goes on to show that those whom people proclaim to be “geniuses” or naturally talented in fact worked, struggled & fretted over their own abilities & talents to reach where they are. The use of the term -& characters whom embody- genius is used in the show to demonstrate how people can be dismissive of others &/or themselves for not fitting moulds that they don’t understand. More so if someone outside of the specific field judges everyone by the standards of whom they consider a genius yet are entirely ignorant of what goes into achieving any success in that field.
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Which is, in turn, another major conceit of the series. That is: exploring (almost) every facet of creating anime.

The series delves into the many roles & jobs that goes into making a TV anime series, even down to the most obscure & seemingly perfunctory ones. That is because, in the creator’s mind, every role in the series is important. Which the director Kinoshita keeps saying to every member of the production team; that they specifically are the most important part of the series they are creating. & to show the importance of pretty much every job in the animation industry, they feature an exceptionally large cast of characters; many of whom make a single appearance & then aren’t seen again until the final episode. Which is actually fine, because they exist to explain what their actual jobs are or to make references to past techniques, productions or figures involved in animation.

Complimenting this job are Aoi’s two imaginary figures -her goth loli doll Mimuji and her bear Roro (Lolo)- who act as Aoi’s subconscious. They’re function is to work through the dilemma or stress that Aoi has or explain to the audience the various tasks that Aoi is doing. The flashback to how they came about as figments of Aoi’s imagination is very cute, basically involving her older sister using them to talk to Aoi whenever she felt stressed or depressed.

In fact, the turns of imagination are some of the best parts, such as when Kinoshita envisions himself flying or enacting parts of one the two series he directs. Better yet is when the series forgets reality entirely & throws in one of the best Ryu from Street Fighter references that has ever been!
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The arc of the series encompasses Aoi’s life as she works at an animation studio, Musashino Animation, that is trying to regain it’s former glory after a string of failures. Likewise, the overweight & emotionally immature Kinoshita is trying to regain confidence after his last anime series Boing Boing Paradise (a reference to hypersexualised fan service mega-breasted anime like Eiken) but is constantly reminded of his failures & falls into slumps of laziness & depression. Similarly, most staff or external workers for the company all have their own issues that they are trying to overcome in order not to lose face. Or, like Takanashi, are completely lazy, over-confident or shirking their work to do other things.

It's not fan service if it's mocking fan service.
It’s not fan service if it’s mocking fan service.

The series begins with a perfect tribute to Initial D, as Aoi races to beat a rival animation studio PA from recruiting a freelance animator Segawa Misato. This is important because Musashino Animation are trying to regain their reputation with a new original anime, Exodus (a reference to Magical Girl idol anime stuff) & goes into details the struggles with writing, getting people onside & the daily grind of animation production; all whilst Aoi & her 4 friends try to figure out what they want to do.

The 2nd arc is Musashino Animation, having gotten kudos for their work on Exodus, managing to score the rights to adapt a highly sort after manga, The Third Girls Aerial Squad. This shows Aoi being promoted to the head of the Production Desk (basically, running all the day to day operations & managing the other Production Assistants as well as liaising with & recruiting other freelance workers). This arc goes into more depth of the politics involved when dealing with other creators, publishers & sponsors -all of whom want to control or add their own little bits or do what they want because it will make their companies look better. It really shows the struggle with trying to please everyone but stay true to your own artistic vision. Couple with individual characters personal struggles.
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The characters are truly what makes it work, even with such an extensive cast. They all have their distinct visual styles & personalities as well as little quirks.

This is very much a moé series with touches of hypersexualisation. Yet these are not for fan service but rather referencing how fan service is used. A few of the female characters are really sexy but they are not sexualised. They are not lingered upon or ogled by the camera. Their beauty is there as part of the moé experience. All of the characters are designed to be cute or interesting in some way; each with their own visual signature or clothing style but are dressed differently episode to episode -for the most part that is.

Over all, the quality of the animation is superb. With vibrant colours, clear lines & very well rendered action. It even throws back to more classic styles of animation when they flash back to a past series such as Anders Chucky (kinda like Kimba the White Lion or other similar cute animal series from the 70’s). It even through complete Gundam & Neon Genesis Evangelion reference in for good measure, even using their animation styles for the posters & back ground clips playing on things. A lot of love has gone into the designs & animation, making sure you know who is who & what is going on -even as they mix in the meta-series that they are working on (both with their own unique styles). The series even goes into detail about how CGI is used in modern anime series & how this can cause conflict with those who wish to be more traditional.
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In the end, this is a series with so very few faults. I utterly adored it. Finding it clever, touching & exceedingly funny. There are so many references & great moments buried within it that it bears watching again & again if you can. I do wish that I could talk about it more, but that would just spoil all the little things that you’ll pick up in it. Some characters are designed to really piss you off (Takanashi primarily but there are others too) but once you realise this was someone getting their revenge on people who had pissed them off, it makes the series all the more greater!

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Article: Why I stopped watching Cross Ange

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Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo is probably one of the most controversial anime series of recent seasons & one that more than a few readers have called on me to comment upon (mainly asking why I haven’t condemned it like I did Kenzen Robo Daimidaler).

The 1st few episodes of the series is all about extreme dehumanisation through violence, degradation, sexual assault & humiliation & turning a joy-filled girl into a terrified non-entity & eventually an effective killing machine.

This is all done through the worst forms of visual denigration seen outside of BDSM hentai media. In that basically the titular heroine, Ange, is beaten, stripped, abused, molested, pseudo-raped, near (lesbian raped), degraded, deprived & humiliated until all that remains of the once happy is mistrustful sociopath who is only looking to survive & get revenge on all those who destroyed who she once was.

The reason that I didn’t condemn this series like I previously (& briefly) did with the aforementioned Kenzen Robo Daimidaler) is that all the degradation has a narrative context. It exists for a purpose outside of the titillation of the (majority male) audience. That does not mean that I liked or approved of it but I understood why such acts were within the story. I did not forgive or tolerate Cross Ange for that, more like I endured it. I put up with all the nasty Fan Service & brutality because it seemed to be leading to a point of character & narrative development & had shown that dehumanisation within context shows how terribly people can be transformed &/or destroyed.

And then the series committed the Cardinal Sin of entertainment: it bored me.

At some point, all the development suddenly stopped & Ange was stuck as this angry, untrustful, violent creature who constantly had Tusk (the male love interest) constantly falling into her crotch for comic effect or otherwise getting sexually entangled with her. The Fan Service (in the form of revealing clothes, hinted nudity & lesbianism) dragged on & got worse & the plot just got itself tangled up after they began to (finally) reveal what’s going on within the narrative universe.

This is actually the least extreme example of Fan Service that I could find
This is actually the least extreme example of Fan Service that I could find

The basic conceit of the series is that humans live in a Utopia where “The Light of Mana” fuels everything & grants people magical abilities. There is no war or poverty but it all comes at a price. For within society there are women who can’t use The Light of Mana, called Norma (taken from the word ‘normal’) & there very touch actively destroys any magical field. They are scapegoated by the rest of society, degraded & hated as being violent creatures who wish to destroy the world. So as soon as they are found, they are taken from their families & removed from the world. Naturally, Ange (formerly Angelise), being the ruling princess hates them, so is in denial when it’s revealed that she’s secretly a Norma & her parents have been keeping that fact a secret from not only the kingdom but from Ange herself.

After her father is deposed for hiding the secret & her mother is killed trying to protect her, Ange is taken to the Norma prison, where she is molested, sexually assaulted & humiliated by the commanding officer of the Normas & told that she must fight the DRAGONS or die.

All the Normas are put into transforming mecha units to fight dragon-like creatures, for which they get a bounty for each confirmed killed to use on whatever they want to buy within the prison. Having never committed an act of violence before, Ange is terrified of being thrown into such a situation & her cowardice costs her team several lives. Being humiliated & isolated by the other Norma girls, Ange rebuilds herself as a vicious killer in order to humiliate those who humiliated her & eventually gain her revenge.

This character arc changes after a few episodes, when Ange begins to accept that she’s a Norma & that Normas aren’t as she was taught growing up. Being a Norma is a self-fulfilling prophecy, in that they can only become violent & anti-social because that’s what society turns them into. They are the weapons in a war that the rest of humanity is completely unaware of & one that means they can keep using their precious Mana-imbued powers.

Once they start revealing the nature of the Norma, the history of the world & the truth behind the DRAGON attacks, things start to get muddled & vexing in a form.

You’re presented with all this info as to why you’re meant to see how the dehumanisation of the Norma occurred but Ange remains a basically unlikeable & selfish character that you find it hard to support her when all of her actions are contradicting others & she keeps denying information presented to her even when the facts are to her benefit.

That becomes the problem when dealing with a narrative around dehumanisation.

It’s exceptionally easy to break a person down but it’s next to impossible to rebuild them again from that point.

I feel that’s the major problem with Ange as a character and with the series as a whole.

After spending the 1st half dozen episodes ripping Ange apart -mentally & physically- they don’t really try to rebuild her as anything other than angry & mistrustful.

I didn’t want her to return to normal, not being any mental, emotional or physical scars -because trauma is inescapable- but I did want to see her develop into someone who takes their pain, their scars & their hatred & channels into into a positive force for others.

Maybe it does go that way, I won’t know because I lost any & all engagement with it around episode 16, when they crossed over into the ‘real’ world & the truth of the DRAGONS was revealed.

From this point on, I could bang on & on about the extremeness of the hypersexualisation within the series or how the Fan Service was so blatant that it became numbing but that would be pointless. That dead horse has been flogged so long it’s not a bloody pulp beneath my mighty boots (guessing no one will get those references).

I might come back to this when they release the blu-ray version but unlike considering the back catalogue I still have to watch (over 2 terabytes on computer & dozens of DVDs/BDs).

So, lessons to take from this: dehumanisation is OK if it has narrative context & purpose & isn’t glorified in any way, shape or form; don’t bore the audience or they won’t go with you to the conclusion.

Oh, & don’t bother messaging me with your butthurt over how I didn’t like this series when I did or how you feel that it’s nothing like I depicted with the dehumanisation & so forth because I will ignore you. If you try to defend your masturbation material in the series like others have with other series I dislike, I will insult you until I get bored.

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Still not a way to sell your TCG – Anime Critique: selector spread WIXOSS

i0O4dk7WbjjtATitle: Selector Spread WIXOSS (selector spread WIXOSS)
Format: TV series
Genre: shojo, magic girl, fantasy, drama, trading card game adaptation, psychological, horror
Series Director: Takuya Sato
Studio: J.C. Staff
Series length: 12 epsides
Original Airing dates: October 4 – December 20, 2014
Reviewed format: high def download


Synopsis:

Tama betrayed Ruko by not granting her wish & has vanished, to be replaced by Iona -whose wish was to become the LRIG for the most powerful Selector in the world. Feeling broken, Ruko & friends try to escape the Selector Battles but find themselves still trapped within them -both by Ulith, in Iona’s former body & Mayu, the mysterious girl behind the Selector Battles. Can Ruko overcome her fate & be reunited with her beloved Tama or will despair consume all?


Critique:

The first series of WIXOSS (selector infected WIXOSS) was surprising brutal, filled with dark & tragic themes, incest & forbidden love, despair & faint glimmers of hope that could be crushed like fleeting embers under heavy boots. The 2nd season of WIXOSS continues with these themes but doesn’t merely rehash them without going anywhere. It uses the previous series as a stepping stone to new ideas, dark themes & finding resolution. It seeks to answer many of the questions & plot threads left over in the 1st season but, in the end, it still fails to sell the Trading Card Game that it’s based upon.

That, in & of itself, shouldn’t be an issue but, ostensibly, this series is designed to promote & sell the Trading Card Game. Whilst this season does explore the rules a little more, it is still focussed on the Maho Shojo (Magical Girl) aspects as well as the tragedy & despair of having your one heart’s desire denied to you.

This series is emotionally heavy & fairly brutal in what happens to the characters mentally & physically. Whereas the 1st season dealt with what it meant to be reach your goal only to have it ripped from you, the 2nd season focuses more on aspects of isolation, need, connection & struggling through negativity.

Before I move into an overview of this season, I have to make mention something that I found a bit uncomfortable to deal with -that being the victimisation, degradation & abuse of young girls.

Ever since Maho Shojo Madoka Magika brought it to public popularity again, the Magical Girl genre has returned to the physical & psychological torment of the mid-90’s. This was something that Dr Susan J Napier touched on in her 1997 work Vampires, Psychic Girls, Flying Women and Sailor Scouts & is to do with turning the Shojo into a representation of Japan in a time of economic & social crisis; one that has to be protected & saved but only after they are being physically or psychologically tormented. This is meant to stir the populace into feelings that society can be saved & redeemed, but only after it has suffered & been purged. This was a fairly common trope within the 90’s, during the bursting of the Economic Bubble, where confidence in the nation, national identity & worth of self was crushed because the traits of superiorism no longer worked when unemployment was high & the country was afflicted by natural disasters like the Kobe Earthquake -which crippled a financial centre of the country. With recent repeats of such natural & economic disasters, it is only naturally that the media will turn introspective about the ills of society (such as with Psycho Pass) or create a catharsis with which to release feelings of unease -into which the Selector WIXOSS and other similar Magical Girl series falls into.

Within this aside, I would like to make another aside.

That is, during such times we may flinch at young female characters enduring hardships, abuse & physical/psychological trauma but we don’t bat an eye when it happens to young male characters. This can be endless argued about trope & gender roles, which is a book unto itself but we have to actually address what is an ongoing cultural & social reflection of gender roles in a very rigid & role-enforced nation like Japan.

In such series as WIXOSS, the female characters much struggle & suffer in order to find empowerment at the end to overcome what afflicts them. But they are only empowered to resume the female roles that Japanese society dictates to them. They must remain cute, loving, emotionally open, accepting & so forth but they must remain women. Women who will never lead companies, join the Diet or have a role in the national spotlight unless they are an actress, idol or pornstar. Whereas when young male characters suffer & overcome they are empowered to become leaders or heroes. They can become anyone with power & authority -even if they happen to die. Their suffering is so they can overcome & conquer, whereas as female suffering is a cleansing for the ills of the world.
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That being written though, the Selector WIXOSS series does something different with their cleansing meta-narrative.

The resolution does remain that everyone shall be reunited in friendship & find strength in that connection -which is the theme of almost all Magical Girl narratives- but Selector Infected WIXOSS & Selector Spread WIXOSS serve to point out a cancer within female interactions. A cancer manifest within jealousy, petty rivalry, victimisation & extreme bullying that is part of a scapegoating/victim mentality culture.

A health dose of random lesbianism. Nothing wrong with that.
A health dose of random lesbianism. Nothing wrong with that.

This is represented through 3 characters: Akira, who delights in tormenting the weak to achieve her desire; Mayu, who wishes revenge against the world; & Ulith, who is a natural born sadist who delights in the utter suffering of other girls.

In this, they work in concert, with one using the others to reach her own ends yet it is not as simple as that.

This is expressed through Akira, whose entire sense of self-worth is shattered after she loses her 3rd Selector Battle in the 1st season. This left her scarred down her face, after being attacked by a deranged fan, & her psyche fractured. Her entire identity being based upon her beauty & using that beauty to manipulate others means that she can no longer hide the ugliness that is within her -on that feeds on the misery of those whom she deems weaker than herself. With this exposed, she spirals into destructive depression, locking herself in her room because she thinks that all her value, as a model/object of beauty, & her life’s purpose -destroying Iona because of how she was born into ease & privilege- are gone.

That is when Ulith, now in possession of Iona’s body (now that Iona is Ruko’s LRIG avatar), gives Akira back her beauty (through the use of make up) & a new purpose -to expose the ugliness in other girls before crushing them. In exchange, Ulith promises to give Akira utterly love, devotion & attention but only if she can fulfil her promise to obey her commands & show the ugliness within her that takes such pleasure in tearing down others.

Naturally, Ulith is only doing this for 2 selfish reasons.

The 1st is because she needs to fulfil Iona’s wish to find powerful challengers for her & Ruko, otherwise she’ll be ripped from Iona’s body & basically destroyed (a punishment any LRIG faces if they fail to fulfil their former Selector’s wish). The 2nd is for the simple factor that she’s a pure sadist, who gets basically sexual pleasure out of destroying things -especially other girls.

Ulith’s background is covered well. In that she was a human girl who took pleasure in physically torturing & tormenting other creatures & people until she was caught & punished for hurting a classmate. From then on, she developed techniques to create extreme psychological distresses, eventually pushing some girls to suicide. Her ultimate wish is to be transformed from human to LRIG & back to human again so she can keep on destroying lives & inflicting misery in whichever form she can. She is basically using Akira to achieve these goals but doesn’t understand the limits of what someone as unstable as can do to get the love & affection that she thinks she deserves -since Ulith is leading her on with sexual & emotional promises of belonging & contentment. Even so, such setbacks down stop Ulith from trying to spread misery & malice around her.

To this end, she’s aided by Maya, whose backstory is flesh out in this series.

Without giving too much away, she was a girl who suffered from profound physical & emotional isolation due to an unnamed illness. Meaning that she never go to socialise with other children or even go outside. Her family withheld any positive emotional reinforcement from her, simply leaving her with games & toys rather than affection -almost wishing she would die so she’d no longer be a burden on them. When she’s handed a deck of WIXOSS cards, she has no one to play with, so she creates to alter-egos -a Girl of Light (Shiro) & a Girl of Darkness (Kuro)- to play the game for her. This fundamentally shows her spiral into madness but it also somehow grants her magical powers to affect the lives of any other girls who play the game in the outside world. Sending out Shiro & Kuro, she begins the Selector Battles to twist & destroy the wishes of others, so they can suffer the isolation & deprivation that she did.

It’s all dark & very twisted but ultimately is a brilliant summation for what is a truly terrible cancer at the heart of all societies throughout history. That is: that those who feel isolated & abandoned will find some way to get revenge on that society -which is pretty much how ISIL & #GamerGate got started (same with any terrorist group really & yes, I did just call #GamerGate a bunch of terrorists).

The series also (re)introduces as characters who are key to the unfolding of the events behind the Selector Battles, such as the former LRIG Fumio & her LRIG Anne, who both wish to escape the Selector Cycle so Fumio can restore the original Fumio to her human form so she can live her dreams of being an author. Unfortunately, they aren’t used much in the full series but are supposed to have time in the spin-off manga.

The other characters who get more screen time is the hyperactive but delusional klutz Chiyori & her old country woman accented LRIG, Eldora. Chiyori’s wish is to turn into a LRIG so she can experience what it’s like to have magical powers & have a life like the novels that Fumio (above) wrote. This is mainly because before she encountered Eldora, she was a friendless introvert who spent all of her time in her imagination because she was to painfully shy to connect with anyone. The main trio of heroines -Ruko, Yuzuki & Hitomi- don’t want her to experience the hardship of what it means to both win & lose battles, to suffer at Maya’s whim, but Eldora, for all of her fighting with Chiyori, would rather give herself up than to see the hyper little girl suffer -wanting her to be free & who she really is rather than adopting a personality as an escape from the real world. A world where she can make friends with the central trio & have a happy life.

Chiyori: Innocent or brain damaged? You decide!
Chiyori: Innocent or brain damaged? You decide!

It’s this notion of self-sacrifice that surrounds Ruko’s core conviction to free & restore everyone caught up within the Selector Battles. This is pushed by discovering the truth behind Tama & Iona’s origins. As well as Maya granting Ulith the use of Tama as a personal LRIG with which to make Ruko truly suffer.

This is something that I genuinely found disturbing, more than some of the other inflictions of malice within the series.

Where Ruko can fill her LRIGs (Tama & eventually Iona) with the power of light & love, making them evolve beyond normal limits; Ulith can force all of her vileness into Tama, transforming her into a twisted version of herself who delights in destruction.

The horror at the heart
The horror at the heart

The concept of corruption is what is disturbing but the fact it takes on such a sexualised connotation that is.

Ulith basically rapes Tama; forcing her will, her inner darkness into the innocent (& fairly mentally deficient) girl. The dialogue & reaction of Tama plays it out like a rape, going on about Ulith “entering her”. This is combined with Tama’s shrill voice to terribly effect. It really left me uncomfortable & alarmed but I sense that was the entire intention of such scenes. To show what happens when someone uses their power to utterly violate another human being. Fittingly, Ulith finds a hubris filled end that echoes the countless physical & emotional violations but even for such a vile creature, it was a little too much & too unexpected but plays into the idea of some people being utterly unredeemable.

Again, this hooks into the disturbing trend of making female characters suffer that I mentioned in the 1st few paragraphs of the review but it bares repeating -especially since we have other series such as Yuki Yuna wa Yusha de Aru. This is a series that I couldn’t finish watching because of a lack of decent subs but the basic rub of it is that the female characters -all a form of Magical Girl- are made to suffer when they use their powers to protect a God Tree -which in turn feeds of their suffering & creates a cycle of producing new Magical Girls to sustain itself through their sacrifices. This is just one part of a continued & disturbing trend that girls must suffer horrendous things in order to be granted a chance of peace & love. A theme echoed in several recent Shojo series, especially the utterly abhorrent Amnesia game/anime series from a few years ago -which saw the heroine killed again & again, as well as suffering other emotional & physical tortures for no real reason in each episode of that terrible series (yes, I watched it all because it was like a fucking train wreck).

Anyway, back to the critique.

Visually, the series remains a mixed bag.

With some very dark & intentionally murky -such as the battle grounds- mixed with some bright & vivid cityscapes. The animation itself is fluid, able to shift scale & action well. The use of primary colours for characters as well as the varied designs of the LRIGs is very well down; if a tad sexual at a times. Still, the designs are both unique & referencing other cultural markers as well tropes.

wixoss-10

In the end, if you can get past a lot of the emotional & physical trauma within the series, it is a rewarding end & answer to the first arc. It has a lot going for it, with many subtle messages about the ills of modern society -especially in regards to how girls treat each other as well as how the poisonous nature of some people can be overcome with an unwavering heart & the determination of self sacrifice for a positive end. Even if you can’t achieve such goals, having the support of those whom you love & care about to carry you through is enough for you to see a resolution that benefits the many rather than giving up yourself to cease your own isolation & discontent.

A smile to end the darkness
A smile to end the darkness

The 1st Anniversary – Article: A Year of And The Geek Shall

After 12 month, 80 or so articles, 256 comments & over 20,000 views, it is time to summarise the 1st year of the existence of And The Geek Shall.

Can't hide my excitement.
Can’t hide my excitement.

I started this blog a year ago today as a distraction from a bunch of academic & real life stresses that I was going through at the time as well as a way to get out all of the pent up ideas & rants that were bubbling away inside of me.

I began it with the intention of crossing it over with my academic work but that idea quickly fell by the wayside as people didn’t really understand my academic work (just like I in all honesty) & it wasn’t as interesting as just doing what I want.

Unfortunately this meant that I have let many articles fall to the side half or barely written, as I get swamped with things easily at the moment. This leaves the blog filled with weird critiques, ill-spelt rants & one post that MRA cum-stained scumbags appear to detest. Yet it does not bother me that I’ve slipped from the original goals that I set out with. Like Pokémon: most things evolve for the better.

Even so, over the past year I’ve managed to garner at least 20,000 views -which isn’t bad for such an oversaturated market. Would like to have had more comments from readers that didn’t end up being deleted because they were either too stupid or offensive to allow to exist (much like those who made the comments). Still, over the course of the last 12 months, it’s not a bad effort. Especially considering that I have spent most of my time bitching about hypersexualisation & similar topics.

Moe service is the best service to some people.
Moe service is the best service to some people.

My personal Pokémon retrospective has been the one to garner the most dedicated hits -which isn’t surprising considering how popular Pokémon is. I’ll probably end up exploiting this a bit more, mainly through seeking others to write about their experiences with the franchise. Possibly targeting new adherents to the games or those who never had a chance to play before for whatever reason.

My favourite & constant starters.
My favourite & constant starters.

So, I’d like to thank my regular readers & those casuals who float through for all the hits & those few comments left publishable. Over the next year I’m looking to add more Live Action critiques as well as general articles. Also have to finish off those half finished, such as my Firefly & Doctor Who ones.

Again: thanks for viewing & let’s work together for a better year in 2015 in terms of positive geektastic experiences.

tamayay

It’s Like DLC for Anime – Anime Critique: Persona 4: The Golden Animation

Persona4GoldenAnimationTitle: Persona 4 The Golden Animation
Format: TV anime
Genre: video game adaptation, action, supernatural, comedy
Series Creator: Atlus Games
Series Director:  Seiji Kishi, Tomohisa Taguchi
Studio: A-1 Pictures
Series length: 12 episodes
Original Airing dates: July 11 – September 25, 2014
Reviewed format: high def download with fan subs


Synopsis:

Persona 4 The Golden Animation follows Yu & the gang as they try to help new friend Marie regain her memories, as they battle the evil that is invading both their town & the Televison World. An alternative retelling of the events of Persona 4 The Animation based on the events in the PSVita game Persona 4 Golden.


Review:

If memory (& the search function) serve me, one of the earliest critiques that I wrote was about the PSVita remake of the Shin Megami Tensei game Persona 4 -entitled Persona 4 Golden. Within that critique I may have mentioned my fondness for the anime adaptation of the original PS2 game. Two years on & A-1 Pictures brings us Persona 4 The Golden Animation; which serves as both a bridge & an extension of the original anime series as well as an adaptation of Persona 4 Golden.

If that sounds confusing that is because it is.

Persona 4 The Golden Animation is a fan series for seriously invested fans of both the game remake & the previous anime. This is because P4tGA doesn’t retell the full story of previous series, rather is focuses on the Social Link events of the new P4G character Marie as well as other exclusives events & locations found within that game. There are no great battles with Shadows or our previously exploded protagonists coming to terms with themselves & their repressed feelings. Rather is helps build their lives outside of their struggle to find the hidden murderer & helping the mysterious Marie find out more about her own past.

Marie as both pretty & pitiful.
Marie as both pretty & pitiful.

This format annoyed me at first because I didn’t know it was happening but it did take away the concern that the majority of the season would just be a total rehash of the previous one. If you didn’t know in advance that it focuses on only certain events, the huge time skips would be both confusing & vexing. Supposedly it’s done in a way that you can slip/exchange episodes of P4tGA into the original but am not entirely sure how that would work. P4tGA works better as a stand alone from the original anime but as the previous paragraph mentioned, it is more for already invested fans.

Those who never played P4G wouldn’t really understand the context for the new characters. This isn’t such a big problem in Japan, since both the Megami Tensei franchise & its Persona subseries are still immensely popular in Japan. Yet they are more cult hits in the West but, hey, you’re fault for not being born in Japan, right?

Who can resist those smouldering eyes?
Who can resist those smouldering eyes?

Besides Marie, the other thing this new series is introducing the perspective of the murderer (won’t spoil who it is for those whom haven’t yet played the games or watched the previous series). It brings out some of the feelings as to why they did what they did but, like the game & other anime, still comes across as a convoluted mess. Especially when central protagonist Yu goes off on his own to urge the murderer to turn himself in when his lack of conscious is already obvious.

In fact, they shift the character of Yu somewhat as well.

Marie's opinion of you in non-tsundere mode.
Marie’s opinion of you in non-tsundere mode.

In the game, being a tabula rasa, Narukami Yu (if you chose to call him that) was a basic non-entity, reacting to everything as the player did. In P4tA, Yu was given a more snarky attitude as well as a heavy persistence to see things through. In P4tGA, you are immediately shown that Yu is a far more open & jolly character, making quips & putting himself out there. Because his & other characters have already been exploded, there’s no real point in reinventing the wheel with any of them. So the focus can be on some of the characters who weren’t properly exploded last time -like the murderer- or entirely new -like Marie.

MARIE FAN SERVICE, EVERYBODY!
MARIE FAN SERVICE, EVERYBODY!

Marie is a classic tsundere who has your typical form of tabula rasa amnesia but her immediate personality is brusque -snapping at people whenever she can’t handle the emotions that she’s feeling. Often speaking in clipped, embarrassed words. Marie is also designed to be really really sexy, with the shape of her face, visible lips & pleading eyes. Basically existing to draw in male views & make them feel something (possibly horny) for her. She’s not really exploited in a hypersexualised fashion (although there is fan service in episode 3) but all the characters, including the males, are sexualised in some fashion. This is fundamentally a hallmark of the broader franchise & whilst vexing to a degree, it’s not really lingered upon or used to exploit any of the characters (except for the male character Kanji).

I present: the Birth of Venus!
I present: the Birth of Venus!

What was more annoying then the usual sexualisation was how much the series felt like it was falling apart towards the end. Without the stable plot of chasing down the murderer & solving the larger mystery of the Persona powers & the Television World, there really isn’t a centre that the series clings too. The revelations of Marie’s true identity follow the game close enough but her motivations for action deviate enough that they feeling stretched & vexing. Same without having the tangible connections of her to the overall Persona & larger Megami Tensei universes. If you know the games you can understand but they are still disconnected enough from this anime that something feels frustratingly askew. Plus the end really feels rushed, cramming in as much new game content as they could with focus or sharp relief of situation.

The series still holds up the humour side that marked the last series very well. The characters are still strong as well but lacking the context & connection of the previous series. Which means a lot of their new actions seem hollow because they are only in relation to Marie or new scenarios from the game. Like the previous series, P4tGA is exceptionally pretty to look up. With excellent animation quality & character designs. Even going into some new details for already establish characters & showing some previous unseen Persona that Yu wields.

In the end, this is a series almost solely for those who are already into both the various Atlus animation adaptations as well as the Persona games. You don’t really gain anything new from it, nor is it as brilliant as Persona 4 The Animation but it does have some lovely little touches to it. These being the character relationships/interactions, the stunning visuals & quirky, clever humour. If you are already into all this, you’ve probably already watched it. If you aren’t, you won’t lose much. Although it does give you an excuse to go watch the original adaptation before starting on this one. Not like you have anything else happening right now, right?

horriblesubs-persona-4-the-golden-animation-01-720p_12-jul-2014-23-06-17

Magically Stupid – Anime Critique: Majimoji Rurumo

Title: Majimoji Rurumo
Format: TV anime
Genre: comedy, ecchi, supernatural
Series Creator: Wataru Watanabe
Series Director: Chikara Sakurai
Studio: J.C.Staff
Series length: 12 episodes
Original Airing dates: July 9 – September 27 2014
Reviewed format: high def download with fan sub

manga cover
manga cover

Synopsis:

Shibaki is a high-school boy whose only interest is girls. Except he’s been branded as the most perverted boy at school and girls avoid him like the plague. One day he finds a book in the library about how to summon witches. He tries it as a joke, but it turns out to be the real thing. An apprentice witch named Rurumo appears to grant him a wish. Shibaki helps Rurumo and she in return refuses to take his soul. When the story starts, Shibaki wishes he could see Rurumo again. His wishes is granted immediately as Rurumo falls from the sky and crash lands in front of him. He finds out that as punishment for not taking his soul she’s been busted down to an apprentice demon. Now, she must complete the task of getting Shibaki to use up 666 magic tickets that grant wishes before she can become a witch again. However, what she doesn’t know is that each time he uses a ticket it shortens his life. When the last ticket is used up, Shibaki will die. Shibaki knows this because Rurumo’s familiar black cat Chiro tell him as part of the “contract” for giving him the tickets. Now, Shibaki has a choice, make a wish and help Rurumo become a witch again or resist the temptation and try to save his own life.


Review:

Oh, for fuck’s sake! Why did I ever bother with this show & keep watching it?!

Why do I keep watching shite like this?!

Majimoji Rurumo is another entry in the ever expanding subgenre of “hentai with a heart of gold”, where the central protagonist is an utter deviant but still manages to do the right thing whilst not ever growing up in any way, shape or form.

I pretty much lay this subgenre as part of the major problem as to why geek culture is so fucked up right now. Filled with self-entitled deadshits who think that the universe owes them copious amounts of poontang for the simple reason that they were born with external genitalia & haven’t raped anyone yet.

Douchebag du jour this time around is Shibaki Kota, who is only obsessed with getting near girls. To the point he will contemplate near sexual assault (or perform it in a cough comical fashion) but often gets beaten for his efforts. Due to his lecherous attitudes, no girl will go near him & they all call him Hentai (Pervert) Shibaki, before he is physically punished by the 3 all female members of the Discipline Committee. His shortsightedness in achieving his pervert goals means that he misses out on real opportunities to get to know women on a personal level. What makes it worse is that he is fully conscious of his habits & yet does nothing to amend them -even if he gets savagely beaten.

I do like the fact that Kota suffers punishment for his stupid perversions & at least he tries to act like a decent human being when he’s called upon to do so. Yet for all the good acts that he does, it doesn’t redeem him in the slightest for being an utterly useless perverted prick the rest of the time.

The basic plot is one that has been seen in much better (better being an utterly subjective & relative term here) series such as Sora no Otoshimono (Heaven’s lost Property), where hopeless pervert acquires access to a a stoic & slightly stupid girl who provides him with supernatural wish fulfilment -which me manages to always to screw up.

The provider of supernatural chaos in this case is witch-in-training (although was once a full witch) Magi Mojiruka Rurumo -who is utterly blank faced & quiet in every situation. Yet approaches every task, even though she is useless at them all, with utter diligence -despite constantly failing at everything besides most forms of magic. After she made a mistake granting Kota’s 1st wish (made accidentally whilst being ordered around by the Occult Club’s President), she was going to be punished again, until Kota saves her. She then returns with a book of 666 Wish Tickets but doesn’t know that once Kota uses them all, she has to take his soul.

The main thrust of the series is Kota basically doing his best to help Rurumo adjust to the human world whilst trying not to give into his selfish desires & use the tickets. When he does so, it’s usually for a selfless or ridiculously stupid reason (yet not perverted ones). Sometimes he helps the people around him but usually he’s aiding Rurumo in some way or trying to protect his porn stash from the Disciplinary Committee. Kota also helps Rurumo connect with those around them & it was probably these side characters that kept me watching.

Mainly the Disciplinary Committee, because they show several levels beyond their cliche rolls. The Chairwoman, Sukimo, despite being stern wants to be treated like a normal girl. Something which Kota does but, naturally, in a perverted way. Masako is the otaku secretary of the DC who keeps her cosplaying hobby secret from everyone but is drawn to Rurumo because she thinks that she’s a witch cosplayer (& because Kota told Rurumo to tell people that she is a cosplayer if anyone asks her about her witch clothing). Overly tall & exceptionally physically powerful Kyōko, whom I wish was developed more -both in terms of character & muscularity. The other highly shown & developed character is Chiro -Rurumo’s talking cat familiar. She often explains things to Kota as well as tries to protect Rurumo from the harsher aspects of her life. Including how she is bullied by the other witches for not having any real skills & being so trusting of everyone around her.

The character splash at the end of the opening credits.
The character splash at the end of the opening credits.

There are other characters who pop in & out but none are as memorable as the Disciplinary Committee but at least there are a couple of moments of genuine emotion & redemption.

The main one is Episode 6, in which Kota tries to hide the fact that he’s picking up some discarded swimsuit magazines in front of them female classmates & instead picks up a box with 3 abandoned kittens in it. He takes them home but his mum refuses to let him keep them, so he works hard to overcome the prejudices that the school has of him to find new owners for the 3 kittens. One of the kittens forms an immediate attachment to him, always saving the Magic Tickets whenever they fall out of his pocket. So, naturally, that kitten gets ill & dies -showing to Kota that even magic has its limits & can’t heal those destined to die or bring back the dead.

This should have been a growing moment for Kota, instead it’s forgotten about in the next episode & any progress in his development is abandoned as he goes back to stupid perverted slapstick gags. But at least Rurumo’s character develop progresses, as she begins to show signs of emotion & attraction towards Kota. For the simple reason that deep down he’s a good guy.

I could wail endlessly on about the hypersexualisation & fan service within the series but I’ll just end up hoarse. The boobs are bouncy, all the girls/women are drawn as cute as they can be but still have something odd about their face designs -hard to place really, might be the eye shape & size.

To be honest, I think one of the only reason I kept watching was because of the uber cute & catchy opening theme Seiippai, Tsutaetai! by Mimori Suzuko.

Overall, this series wasn’t great but it could’ve been a whole lot worse than it was. I still don’t know why I bothered with it, probably to see his Kota would redeem himself in any way. Since this is still from an on going manga, there wasn’t much major resolution but it wasn’t focussed on anything huge. Just Kota helping Rurumo as best he could whilst trying to still be an utterly useless pervert.

I will continue to blame series like this for the terrible behaviour of boys out there but like the human (read: hypocrite) that I am, I’ll keep watching such series until they series cross a line & make me feel physically ill.

My expression during most of my viewing of this series.
My expression during most of my viewing of this series.