Academic article: Miyazaki: the Man, the Mould & The Machinations

This is the raw draft of an academic article I’m writing for publication. It’s basically 1,200 words over the limit, so needs to be cut down.

the topic itself is on famed animator & head of Studio Ghibli, Miyazaki Hayao. A brief bio & examples of his works, themes & influences.

It’s a rambled mess but they wanted a conversational style aimed at the not exceptionally bright & this does mimic how I talk (asides & all).

Anyway, please give feedback if you have any.


Miyazaki: the Man, the Mould & the Machinations
by
Shadow & Craig Norris

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If you were to ask any involved with media/cultural studies -be they academic, critic or pop culture consumer- the question: “Who is the greatest creator of animation the world has ever produced?”, their answer would all undoubtably “Miyazaki Hayao”.

Miyazaki strides the world of film & animation like a titan of old. Garnering such titles as “The God of anime”, the “godfather of animated cinema” & “the Walt Disney of the East”. Yet, in his humbleness, he rejects such titles.

Miyazaki’s presence in the filmography is felt the world over by fans & creators alike. To a level that many of his works are considered one of the greatest factors upon the mass consumption of Japanese media on a global level, allowing for a greater awareness of, & desire for, Japanese media products.

It has been argued for over three decades that he is the one who has set the mould for anime films, to those who wish to create such art & to those consider themselves devotees of such cinematic art forms.

Yet, to understand why, you must first understand the man, the mould that he made & the machinations behind his works.

Miyazaki the Man:

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Miyazaki Hayao was born in 1941, the son of the director of Miyazaki Airplane, who made parts for the Zero fighter plane. It was this early life that sparked Miyazaki’s constant interest in airplanes, flight & the freedom that it brings. The fact that his family made parts for the Zero was also the reason for the subject of his final film as director The Wind Rises (2013), which is the story of Hirokoshi Jiro who created the Zero.

Due to his family’s affluence & military connections, Miyazaki says that he was able to live out the war in relative comfort but he says that witnessing the firebombing of the town of Utsunomiya affected him greatly for the rest of his life. During a 1988 lecture, he said how his family’s callous abandonment of people feeling that burning town gave him the resolve to become a compassionate individual, a theme that permeates his work. During the release of Howl’s Moving Castle (2004) he also told how the image of the burning sky scarred him for life, leading to the creation of the apocalyptic war scenes in his first independent feature      Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984), which were revisited in Laputa: Castle In The Sky (1986) & Howl’s Moving Castle.

In his early teens, Miyazaki said that his single greatest influence was the godfather of manga, Tezuka Osamu (creator of Astro Boy). Miyazaki focussed all of his energy into becoming a manga artist but destroyed all of his early works, calling them “a poor copy of Tezuka-sensei”. Still wanting to be creative but at a loss what to do, Miyazaki saw the animated feature Hakujaden (1958) (Tale of the White Serpent), which made him fall in love with both the heroine of the film & animation in general. Realising that if he wanted to be an animator he would need to learn to draw the human body better, Miyazaki returned to his manga work.

After graduating university with degrees in political science & economics, Miyazaki began working low level jobs in the anime industry, writing & co-directing several TV series, such as very adult Lupin III. Eventually, after much labour, he managed to be given his first film directing job, The Castle of Cagliostro (1979), a movie adaptation of Lupin III. It was this film that directors such as Steven Spielberg says put Miyazaki on the map as a writer & director of animated features.

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His next film, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (based upon his own manga), about a girl trying to heal a world broken by fiery holocaust, propelled Miyazaki into mainstream fame as a director in Japan -even if he only managed cult status in the West for many years. Each new release was eagerly awaited by his growing fan base until 1999, when he released Spirited Away, which pushed him into the mainstream international spotlight.

Miyazaki has made only made 3 feature films since there (making a total of 11 features) but each broke new box office records.

In 2013, he announced his retirement from feature film making with his final release The Wind Rises but his close friend & frequent collaborator Takahata Isao (maker of the heart wrenching film The Grave of Fireflies) wearly says that Miyazaki will never be able to keep away from film making no matter how old he gets.

The Mould Miyazaki Made:

Few would argue over how influential Miyazaki has been in nearly four decades in animation -everyone from members of Disney-Pixar to comic writers such as Grant Morrison & Bryan Lee O’Malley to writer/illustrator Jean Giraud (a.k.a. Moebius) but what have been some of the influences upon Miyazaki himself?

Unlike many of his contemporaries, Miyazaki has an exception passion for foreign literature, art & philosophy. Preferring them over many Japanese works, even collecting books in both English & Japanese.

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He’s often spoken about his love of Western fantasy & European fairytales. Once telling the author Ursula le Guin that he keeps a copy of her books by his bed so he can read whenever he gets the urge.

Miyazaki has also shown a great love of such classics as The Wizard of Oz & Alice In Wonderland -although both books (& their various adaptations) are surprisingly popular in Japan. Miyazaki tends to pepper his films with references to them, such as Chihiro’s trans-world journey in Spirited Away.

The Machinations of Miyazaki:

One of Miyazaki’s most famous & enduring qualities is his use of various social, political & spiritual as well as visual themes through his films. Many consider the most obvious to be his staunch environmentalism, as seen in Nausicaä & Princess Mononoke (1997) as well as his love for aircraft & flight -which are central themes for Laputa, Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989) & Porco Rosso (1992).

Though what is slightly more skirted over is Miyazaki’s humanist approach, his idealisation of community & human connection -to each other, to nature & to the spiritual world. Some have argued that this stems from his aforementioned experiences during WW2 & the following American occupation but it extends deeper than that.

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His films Princess Mononoke & Spirited Away explore the dehumanisation nature of material obsession & extreme Capitalism; how they affect our connection with the natural & spiritual worlds as well as divorce us from our sense of community & connectivity with other people. Such themes are echoed in Porco Rosso & Howl’s Moving Castle but they focus more on the negative transformations caused by war & other conflict (something that Princess Mononoke also addresses with the Forest Spirit Boar turning into a demon).

Miyazaki’s proposed solution to such dehumanisation & disconnection is determination through hard work, stoicism & forcing oneself through difficult situations to arrive at a point of growth. Yet never to do such things in isolation.

Unlike many of his contemporaries, Miyazaki openly rejects the machoness of many male anime characters, which focuses on the strong being alone because they are strong. He believes that people can only become whole once they accept others, especially outsiders, into their lives.

Miyazaki’s other form of rejection of anime tropes & cliches comes in his use of female protagonists. Unlike so many other depictions of female characters in Japanese media, especially in the girls only genre known as shojo, Miyazaki refuses to sexualise, victimise or belittle his female protagonist (of which are more numerous than male protagonists in his filmography). In fact, Japanese media expert Susan J. Napier cites Miyazaki’s ability to create female characters who “are remarkable for taking charge of their own lives” as one of the primary reason for the popularity of his films.

What makes Miyazaki’s female protagonists different from others is that first & foremost he treats them as real people. Miyazaki has previously stated that if there is no genuineness in any of your characters, no matter how strange or fantastical, then the audience will not connect with them. So in creating characters such as San (Princess Mononoke) or Chihiro (Spirited Away) or even Kiki (Kiki’s Delivery Service) he starts with them as being real girls who go on a journey to find a lost connection. With San it’s her lost humanity, Chihiro is her lost sense of spirituality & Kiki has to discover her own confidence. Such journeys can be see in all of his female protagonists & why they appeal so much to an audience is that they start the narrative with a solid grounding in reality. Be it a physical place that they are removed from or the necessities of the “Hero’s Journey” that pushes them into adventure, Miyazaki always attempts to make them as real as possible, even with the limitations of narrative need.

Both fan & academics argue as to why he puts so much emphasis on female protagonists over traditional male ones. One reason can be given in that it comes from the influences of such stories as Alice In Wonderland & the works of authors like le Guin & Diana Wynne Jones (who wrote the original novel of Howl’s Moving Castle) all of whom put female characters at the centre of their narratives.

The other reason is because he wishes to challenge many traditional Japanese societal values; the role of women being primary amongst them.

This stems from the belief that post WWII, women in narrative were seen as an echo of the nation itself: fragile & in need of support because they were beset by trauma outside of themselves.

Where as Miyazaki has female protagonists beset by issues but never needed to be protected from them. That is because they are able to draw on their own inner strength as well as the strength of the people around them &, by extension, the further community as well. Such as with Sheeta from Luputa receiving support & encouragement to emotionally grow from the pirate Dota & her sons.

This sort of narrative & character driven challenge reflects the other challenges that Miyazaki throws at society as a whole.

Many critics & academics often view Miyazaki and works as conservative & driven by feelings of nostalgia.

That could honestly not be further from the truth.

Miyazaki has regularly stated that he stands against ideas of false nostalgia or nostalgia for its own sake -such as the ones that the Japanese government has attempted to foster over the past 16 years. Miyazaki is someone who believes that true traditions, such as connection with the animist spirits of nature, should not be abandoned. Nor should people destroy themselves & the world through pointless aggression or to become slaves to the machines of Capitalism. What he & his works hark back to are notions of tradition but ones that are known globally.

He says that modernity should not come at the cost of nature, our spirituality or community but he also believes that there is no sin in using technology. His use of aircraft & other forms of mechanisation & engines is proof enough of that. His belief is that technology must be a positivist things, free of aggression or destructive potential. It is not technoloy that is evil, just those who wield it.

This too can be seen in the animation style of both Miyazaki & Studio Ghibli.

Many people have criticised Miyazaki’s non-use of CGI as being that of a man being afraid of technology & modernity but that could not be further from the truth.

It is a two fold approach founded in very simple concepts.

Firstly: that of expression. The belief being that reliance of CGI strips the magic an audience can take from watching the nuances of the image play upon the screen. That it removes that level of the suspension of disbelief & thus a sense of wonder. Especially in regards to the fine detail of characters’ expression & how an audience can read & relate to them. Studio Ghibli is known for the quality & depth of their expressions & this leads directly into the second point.

Which is, secondly: it is a form of branding. A way of setting up a form of animation authenticity to distinguish the works of Studio Ghibli from those of other production houses such as Gainax (creators of the Neon Gensis Evangelion franchise) & even Disney. By using traditional animation techniques & bringing them up to a level of CGI productions Studio Ghibli is engaging in a form of branding & one-upmanship with other studios.

This can even in his final production, The Wind Rises, which starts in Japan at the turn of the 20th century & goes to the start of World War 2; as it tells the story of airplane designer Jiro & his fate to build an instrument of war in the Zero fighter.

It could be seen as nostalgia ladden & denying the atrocities of the past -as it has actually been accused of being- but more it should be seen as brilliant art unto itself.

The acme of animation as rendered by a man so meticulous that he does everything from the script to the storyboards to sitting with individual scene animators in order to explain to him his vision of the film.

When all is said & done & Miyazaki Hayao has passed from this Mortal Coil, that is what we shall be left with.

His incredible eye for detail & exceptional style of storytelling that shall continue to beguile & inspire countless animators, writers, directors & audiences.

Not only to work better at the own art but to work better at being better people.

His is the heart that lingers & the compassion to give his al for his audience, even if it is tinted by his own passions & experiences. Yet it is a passion that is infectious & it shall go throughout the ages as a glorious legacy of compassion, spiritual, modernity & wonder that none in our current age will ever be able to match.

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List of coming Anime (Northern) Winter season 2013

List of coming Anime (Northern) Winter season 2013

Here is a list of upcoming anime for the end of the year and the start of January, complete with video previews and DVD releases.

Some interesting stuff on the list. Am personally looking forward to Witch Craft Works, because it’s a great manga (despite all the fan service).

Not as evolved as it should be – Anime Critique: Majestic Prince

Title: Ginga Kikotai Majesutikku Purinsu (Majestic Prince, Galatic Armoured Fleet Majestic Prince, Majesutikku Purinsu)
Format: Anime
Genre: sci-fi, mecha, shounen, space opera, super sentai hero team
Series Creator: written by Ayamine Rando, illustrated by Niijima Hikaru
Series Director: Motonaga Keitaro
Studio: Dogakobo, Orange (licenced by Sentai Filmworks)
Series length: 24 episodes
Original Airing dates: April 4 – September 19 2013
Reviewed format: high-def TV rips with Commie fansubs

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Synopsis:

In the year 2110, humanity has expanded its frontier into space in its drive for new resources. Advances in genetic engineering research led to the establishment of the “MJP Project”, which saw the creation of genetically enhanced humans known as the “evolved children”, developed with the intention of allowing humans to adapt to the new frontier. However when Earth finds itself under threat by an extremely advanced but numerically inferior alien race called the Wulgaru, human forces decide to have the evolved children deployed as soldiers to fight on the front lines.

Team Rabbits, a quintet of evolved children whose troubling lack of teamwork and common sense prevents them from reaching their true potential, are selected as test pilots of cutting edge mobile battle suits called AHSMB (Advanced High Standard Multipurpose Battle Device), powered by the “JULIA system”, a cutting edge technology whose effectiveness in combat is increased according to the survival instincts of whoever uses it. As they join forces to overcome their personal weaknesses and achieve their true potential, the members of Team Rabbits eventually assume a key role in mankind’s effort to thwart the alien invasion of Earth


 

Review:

Ginga Kikotai Majesutikku Purinsu (aka Majestic Prince) was one of two new Space Opera Mecha series that began in the first half of 2013, debuting a week before Valvrave the Liberator. The latter series actually being superior yet similar in so many, some of which shall be addressed later in this review.

As described within the synopsis above Majestic Prince is about, like so many other Mecha anime series, teenagers, already struggling to find their own personal identity & place within the world/universe, being forced to fight menace that is both technologically & biologically beyond their comprehensions. There is no arguing that this is a familiar trope to anime over the past 30 or so years, basically beginning in popular consciousness with the original Mobile Suit Gundam series (0079), to which all other space Mecha series will inevitably be compared (at least in the Western consumer mind).
So, let us get this out of the way first: is Majestic Prince in any way reminiscent of any of the Gundam franchise beyond the giant mecha suits?
In a word: no.
Although all Mecha series has some hark back to Gundam in one way or another, this at least strives to be a touch different in its designs & characterisation. If anything, it is designed to be more of a call to the Super Sentai genre (Power Rangers in Western terms), with a team dynamic yet with characters who are, at first, anathema to working as a cohesive unit.

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Like many other Mecha of recent years, it puts the characters first & their respective machines secondary, more extensions of their bodies & personalities than cold machines. That is the major conceit of the series, that these genetically created children work with what is known as the JULIA System, which is designed to enhance their fight-or-flight instincts so they can pilot their mechas -referred to in series as AHSMB. The AHSMB themselves have some interesting & varied designs for each pilot, each of whom has their respective functions in combat, from logistics (Kei) to sniping (Suruga) to close combat (Izuru & Asagi) to high speed tactics (Tamaki). Their designs are, overall, very unique, especially Kei’s Purple 2 which is only semi humanoid, Tamaki’s bulky yet swift Rose 3 & Suruga’s Gold 4, which is an interesting take on the weapons platform design. Red 5 & Blue 1, both being close/medium range units fit the typical mecha humanoid designs. Especially with Red 5 being the typical ‘hero’ unit, with the potential to transform/awaken into a more efficient state.

The trouble with placing the emphasis on distinguishing the 5 main protagonist with their mecha, their actual characters tend to fall more to trope & cliche, even if it seems that they were originally to be cheeky satires upon them.

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The five central characters -Izuru, Asagi, Kei, Tamaki & Suruga- form Team Rabbits but are more commonly referred to as “the Failure Five” because of their low test scores & inability to work together under any circumstances. Their designs & personalities are all meant to be set against each other but, unfortunately, it does mean that their characterisation falls largely to cliche without much actually development.
Suruga is a military geek who is obsessed with hitting on women but messes it up when he gets carried away going on about military hardware, especially weapons.
Tamaki is the hypersexualised (read extra busty) boy-crazy airhead who thinks only of her stomach.
Kei is her opposite, being calm & cold but really shy & finds it hard to express herself, as well as being a terrible cook.
Asagi wants to be team leader but suffers from constant stage fright, giving him ulcers & rendering him useless in stressful situations.
While Izuru is the happy-go-lucky central protagonist who has dreams of becoming a Sentai style hero, like the one in the manga he’s always drawing yet totally lacks the talent at anything artistic.
Whilst interesting at first, they never seem to develop as characters much beyond their combat capabilities & turning from useless into a well working elite military force. All despite their hesitations & questioning their place in the world as humans genetically developed solely for combat.

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The Failure Five are surrounded by an extensive cast of supporting characters but they too fall too readily to trope. From the mysterious alien princess to the cold commander to the cynical yet caring female captain & her chief mechanic -who is rendered entirely in extreme cleavage- & all the mechanics that support each unit & pilot. Lots of potential in chances for conflict & development but most of it sadly wasted.
Even the introduction of the androgynous pilot of Black 6, Ange, suffers from wasted potential as they (Ange’s gender is never disclosed & the team can never decided on what it is) quickly shows a split personality begin humble quiet personal life to a raging berserker as soon as they step into their AHSMB.
Even the offsider senpai in Team Doberman are all cliched in being the brash sex obsessed leader, the calculating 2nd in command who is tired of his team mates antics & who tries to get them to focus to the young shota trying to gain the approval of the other pilots & win the love of Tamaki, who ignores him because he’s so small.

They do make some attempts to flesh out the enemy, the Wulgaru, but their characters & motivations become muddled & confused. With each having their own unexplained agenda & desires but never given the time to develop, Indeed, some of them are killed with little fanfare & one even by his own superior for confusing reasons that got lost in some subplot about political intrigue within the Wulgaru hierarchy. The enemy are portrayed as selfish creatures who only live for their own desires & to hunt genetically compatible creatures so they can extend their lifespans.

This leads into my biggest & constant critique of the anime & of the sci-fi genre as a whole: That humans are portrayed as special & that the Japanese are more special for the simple grace that they are Japanese.

Now, this is a great commonality within any sci-fi produced by any nation. That they (the nation that creates the media) are the centre of the universe & are somehow endowed with an almost divine grace whilst the other races display their worst stereotypes.

Within Majestic Prince it’s the power bases of China & Russia being cowardly & self interested, not willing to commit to the war raging in the solar system because they want to position themselves better once everything’s won or so they can surrender to the invaders with the least amount of losses. This plays to the worst aspects of Japanese media culture, that they are the saviour as well as the victim, & that their neighbouring nations are somehow subhuman because they lack the strength of spirit or character that they, the Japanese (or any other producer of media) possesses.

Speaking of endowment, that leads to my other major issue with the series & that is the level of fan-service involved. Almost all the female characters are sexualised in some way, especially Tamaki who is also viewed within her cockpit in a position that shows off her breasts & arse. Many of the female characters are portrayed as being extremely busty or highly sexualised in other ways & those female characters who aren’t are often shown as having an inadequacy over their bodies -such as how Kei views herself with her all female pitcrew. Valrave the Liberator also suffered massively with issues of playing too much to hyper-sexualisation & fanservice but where as that series seemed aimed more for an older teenage/young adult audience, Majestic Prince looked to be aimed squarely at the typical Shounen audience & thus plays to those aspects, even though it seemingly wants to satirise them.

It may seem as though that I’m am spending my time bagging the series out but it has the problem that so many manga adaptation have in that you do not have the same time to develop characters & ideas on the screen as you do on the page. Overall, I found Majestic Prince an enjoyable series -otherwise I wouldn’t have watched all 24 episodes- but it exists to me as only a piece of popcorn-like fluff. To be consumed & then basically forgotten about. Fun at the time but not something you’ll probably find yourself thinking back on years later. That is to say that it won’t have it’s ardent fans, every series does, but I feel that it won’t stand the test of time like other franchises. More so with the ending, being typical manga adaptation, leaving aspects open & some things unresolved so they have a chance to extend the franchise if it process popular enough. On a side note, as an avid collector of plamo (plastic construction models from various Mecha series) there hasn’t been any of the kits based upon the series released or announced as far as I currently know. The only merchandise that I could find on my usually online import haunts are, again, hyper-sexualised models of some of the female characters.

So, is Majestic Prince something to shake up the Mecha genre? No.
Is it worth watching? Yes but only after a fashion.

If you are already a consumer of the genre, this will fill your needs nicely. The humour in it brings a giggle, the animation is exceptionally pretty. The space battles are fast paced & hyper-kinetic yet not to confusing even when showing high speed actions. Overall, those invested in the genre with all its tropes & cliches won’t mind this. If not, it probably won’t change your mind but there are far worst things out there to watch.

So Cute It Hurts – Anime Critique: Acchi Kocchi

Title: Acchi Kocchi (Atchi Kotchi, Here & There, All Over the Place, Place To Place)
Format: Anime
Genre: Slice of Life Comedy, 4koma, romantic comedy
Series Creator: Ishiki
Series Director: Oizaki Fumitoshi
Studio: AIC (licenced by Sentai Filmworks)
Original Airing dates: April 5 – June 28, 2012
Reviewed format: blu-ray with fansubs

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Synopsis:

    “The serious-minded Io & the pure-hearted Tsumiki feel they never want to be parted, but haven’t become a couple yet. More than friends but less than lovers, they develop an awkward quasi-romance.

Review:

To begin, I must plead utter bias because this is one of my all time favourite anime series ever made. I’ve seen it four times since it first screened & cannot sing its praises enough to people. It was a series that instantly appealed to me because of my love for other similar series, such as 2002’s Azumanga Daioh & the K-On! Franchise. Both of which also started from the 4koma manga format (4 panel strip style comics).

The series focuses on a group of five friends -Tsumiki, Io, Mayoi, Sakaki & Hime- & their strange daily lives but this isn’t a show present in a realistic way. The art style is very much exaggerated, to emphasis the cuteness (moe & kawaii) of the characters & situations, with Tsumiki being presented with cat-like features -sprouting ears & a tail- to show her hidden emotions or Hime’s suddenly nosebleeds. The comedy is based a lot upon quick puns & the interactions of the characters, focussing especially on Tsumiki & Io.

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    Tsumiki is classified as a tsundere style of character -outwardly cold to hide her loving feelings- & the object of her affections is the kindly but often dense Io, who treats her in a friendly manner even though she wants more from him. Her inability to communicate her desires combined with Io’s failings to read deeper into situations leads to teasing down by the manic genius Mayoi & the mischievous Sakaki, who often receive physical retribution from Tsumiki for their efforts. She often gets into awkward situations trying to get Io’s attention or accidentally playing out something that she imagines but her feelings are genuine, as she just tries to be close to him, even if it causes their friends to tease them in a friendly way.

The other source of humour comes from well timed & placed running gags -such as Hime suffering from nosebleeds whenever she sees the psuedo-romantic interactions of Tsumiki & Io or whenever she sees something cute (such as Tsumiki in a costume or Io’s playing with a cat). Other running gags come from Io accidentally charming the female cast, often resulting in wide spread nosebleeds & fainting, or acts of (comically done) superhuman violence, often performed on Mayoi. The humour is designed to be fast paced but seldom going over the audience’s head (issues with translation & subtitle speeds not withstanding).

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    Other than the animation/art style, what truly makes this anime sweet & well done is how excellently all the characters are rendered. You know who they are quickly without them falling into tropes & cliches. Tsumiki is a loli-like tsundere without being rendered in such forms as other, more stereotyped characters like Louise from The Familiar of Zero or Aria from Aria the Scarlet Ammo. She often has cat-like features sprout on her & is rendered in a chibi fashion but is superhumanly strong & fast.
Io initially appears as your typical studious type, with his neat appearance & glasses, but shows many hidden physical skills & other talents -such as being an excellent pastry & sweets chef, skilful gamer & (unknowingly) charming to people whom he meets.
His best friend, Sakaki, is laid back but still sharp, able to pinpoint when Io is at his most dense in regards to Tsumiki’s affections. Whilst Mayoi, who is always seen in her trademark labcoat, is depicted as a trouble making airhead but is, in fact, a mechanic genius, able to create elaborate devices in short periods of time. Leaving Hime as a super average girl, who has trouble with technology & cannot perform the same superhuman feats as her friends, but has a sweet, caring soul which can be easily distracted by anything cute, causing a jet of blood to burst from her nose.
They are surrounded by an equally well depicted supporting cast, which includes Sakaki’s older sister, Miiko, who has floppy dog-like ears drawn in her hair & runs the cakeshop Hachi Pochi, where Hime & Io work party time, & carries dog themes through it.

The series ran for twelve episodes with an OVA released with the blu-ray collection & each episode is divided into two parts, A & B, with a special omake, called Acchi Kindergarten, at the end of each episode that also doubles as the next episode trailer (which is scrolling script along the bottom of the screen). Each scene or segment has special animations based around circles & arrows linking each other, which also serves to enhance the jokes or the running gags. The series, as a whole, covers the course of a year, starting & ending in winter & covering events such as Valentine’s Day & White Day (featured twice in the series), summer holidays as well as Christmas & New Years celebrations, with each episode being self-contained in each half but still continuing with gags & references from episodes that came before.

When comparing the anime series with the original manga, it is one of the few series that becomes superior to its original printed form. In Ishiki’s original 4-koma manga, the illustrations of the characters are exceptionally well rendered, often looking odd & amateurish, where as the anime gives them better forms & far more details -especially in Tsumiki’s cat-like actions. The manga has far more developed jokes & running gags, from which the anime only tends to use from the 1st volume (there 5 volumes published & the series is still ongoing), so I find it surprising that there still has not been a 2nd series with the amount of unused material that they have available.

Another exceptional part of the series is the incidental music by Yokoyama Masaru. It’s subtle and minimalist, using electronic (almost 16 bit) keys & instruments such as clarinets & acoustic guitars yet has its high energy moments when the scene calls for it. They are the kind of tunes that you can easily find yourself humming & they don’t overpower any scenes. Both the Opening & Ending themes are sung by the main cast saiyu.

There are only a few negatives that I can give this series & they are almost all to do with the subtitling & translations. I originally watched the TV broadcasts with the subs done by the Commie group but their lack of honourifics & explanations is exceptionally grating to me. The blu-ray was subbed by a different group but they had issues in regards to panels covering the between scene animations as well as the on screen text. The lack of closure on character relationship was also a vexing issue but excusable because of the ongoing manga. It is also my fervent wish that they make a 2nd series or movie but that is unfortunately unlikely at this point in time -despite its apparent popularity within Japan.

In quick regards to issues of Soft Power, this series is a god example of its possible positive uses because it doesn’t render the series as ‘culturally odourless’ & does retain many tropes, habits & visuals that can be called very Japanese. It does go through many of the cliched forms with the holidays & traditions but calls many of them to question, such as White Day, where men return the favour of receiving a gift from a woman on Valentine’s Day. Over all it plays to trope & cultural expectations within the media but doesn’t let itself be dominated by them. It also, surprisingly, lacks many other typical elements of the genre, such as references to the supernatural (such as ghost stories, even though it talks about fortune telling) or pandering to fan service. The female characters are cute but not sexualised, playing more upon the original form of moe. Most of the sexualisation is actually played upon Io’s character, with the female characters performing the traditional male reaction of bleeding noses & overheating from their desires.

Again, this is a series that I cannot recommend enough. It is so sweet & cute that it cannot help but make me smile whilst watching it. The rapid fire gags & strong visual jokes literally brought tears to my eyes but the undercurrent of the bourgeoning sense of a mature romance between Tsumiki & Io is portrayed in such a fashion that you can’t help but feel for them both. Especially as the dense Io begins to understand his own feelings. Unfortunately due to the manga still continuing, that part of the story was never drawn to a proper conclusion but it is forgivable due to the sweetness of the characters & the series as a whole. Acchi Kocchi is guaranteed to leave a painfully sweet smile on face & have you giggling ages later as you randomly recall a joke or visual gag. This is a series that I cannot get enough off & constantly find myself looking to rewatch when I want to take a break from other viewing. It may be too saccharine for some but it is perfect for me & that, in the end, is what counts.

The 1st post is always the hardest

This is a new blog dedicated to my view of the world of Pop Culture, mainly focussed around various forms of literature (though mostly fantasy & sci-fi), degrees of academia (including drafts of my upcoming articles & theses), manga & anime, games & gaming, films, various reviews & some indulgence in nostalgia.

With what one would deem “nerd”, “geek” & “alternative media” cultures becoming more and more aligned to more mainstream cultural & commercial products, it is my intention to present different points of view upon the every changing worlds of popular and media cultures.

I shall be posting reviews, opinion pieces, discussions, retrospectives and personal indulgences as well as drafts of academic works as they come to hand.

From the standpoint of both an academic and an avid consumer of various cultural and media products.

A brief background of myself:

  • I am currently working on a Masters degree in Media Studies & Literature specialising in manga & anime. My undergraduate work was in Film Studies, English Literature, Creative Writing & Philosophy.
  • am considered a world expert in Supernatural narrative anime, due to being one of the few academics currently researching that genre as a standalone subject.
  • am a writer who has had several articles & short stories published & am currently attempting to finish a fantasy novel. Extracts of which may be posted here in future.
  • am avid music fan who is well entrenched in Heavy Metal & its many sub-genres & have also fronted several (not great) Metal bands in the past.
  • I also engage in cross-platform gaming & try not to engage in exclusive fanisms over which console/platform, series, producers/companies or era may or may not be the best.

I am aiming to prove that is indeed “the Geek Shall Inherit The World“.