Ph for Philosophy – Sides of a Coin

SILLY.WRONGSomehow I’ve already gotten several scathing comments about my opinions about Zankyou no Terror, one of them telling me I’m a lonely, depressed weaboo (I’m still not sure what that means) who only wants to see titties in anime. This person obviously did not read anything I’ve ever written on this blog, so that one found itself in an Aperture Emergency Intelligence Incinerator. I hope it’s screaming. Another comment I got, which I did approve, basically asked me unironically if I’m taking this whole anime thing way too seriously. I have a long answer to that which can be summarized in the comic to your left. Read on if you are so interested.

First: go read the Gundam Wing review I have linked at the top of the screen, then look up the meaning of the word “sarcasm” or “bombastic.” If you think my soul is writhing in anguish over how much I thought Zankyou no Terror sucked, you need to put more points in your Perception skill. This is something I do for fun, and as any critic knows, lambasting something in a dramatic way is loads of fun, especially when it unequivocally deserves it.

Two: look up the word “passion.” This is the other side of the coin of slightly-feigned rage you see on here. I love anime. I grew up on it; it’s influenced me greatly and I respect and adore what the medium can and has achieved. This means, interestingly enough, that I have some expectations and standards towards the medium, and while I can appreciate a mindless Dragon Ball Z here and there, much as I can watch something as dumb as True Blood for shits and giggles and think nothing of it, I do go into my viewings with a sharpened critical edge. From what I’ve seen in anime fandom, this is something of a rarity, as most people who watch anime on a regular basis, for one reason or another, do not use their brains when watching and eat shit up regularly.

The biggest problem with anime today is its fans. No, not the otaku who supposedly live in their parents’ basements and collect every action-figure of Love Hina you can think of. There are dorks like that for everything; I’ve met nerdy sports fans whose worship of their favorite activity would shame those of any otaku. Frankly, more power to them. I speak of those just below that level of commitment and passion:  the people who “love” anime in the most shallow and self-indulgent way possible, the ones who will buy anything with the term “anime” attached to it and love it to death because reasons. There are the legendary “250,000 otaku” in Japan who buy the same DVDs and stuff over and over again, but across the sea in Europe and America, there lurk their brethren of only a slightly different sort. These people have been watching anime for decades without learning a significant amount of Japanese or bothering to study up on the culture that so profoundly shapes nearly everything you see in the medium, stuff that, to me, sticks out like a sore thumb every time. These are the people who shout “kawaii!” unironically, actually sport some cat-ears and think it’s really funny/cool, think they know the difference between -san and -kun and how oh-so important they really are in English translations, think the Gundam franchise is still something worth watching, and yet somehow never develop any sort of sense of criticism or insight into the medium they profess to enjoy. These people infuriate me, because they have actively contributed to the continued decline of anime as a medium over the past decade.

I know this makes me sound like something of a hipster. Feel free to call me such, although I was watching anime when it started getting cool, not before. I have no memories of the pain of getting subs off VHS tapes or other legends I’ve heard of. I grew up in the Internet age of anime just fine, thanks, and I came into the anime on one of its waves of popularity. I do think I grew up in one of anime’s golden ages: the decade from 1995 to 2005, when shows like Cowboy Bebop, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Ghost in the Shell, etc., were all typical examples of what the medium was. This was anime at its best: a different take on so many themes combined with generations of cinematic and storytelling skill. None of these shows were without their flaws, but I can guarantee you that if Zankyou no Terror had been released in this period, it would have been laughed out of the room. Nowadays, though, Zankyou no Terror is “high anime.” Apparently “high anime” qualifies as plots that can’t even pass Storytelling 101, and all you have to do is fill out a form of vaguely intelligent tropes to make it seem kinda-sorta-thoughtful, and then everyone loves it. Geez, I don’t know how many times I rolled my eyes during Zankyou no Terror’s premiere: I knew basically what the story was before the first episode was finished. These are flaws that, in a Western book or show, these same anime fans would lampoon and deride as fiercely as I have, but since they view anime through an obfuscated cultural lens, they can’t recognize crap if it sits on their heads.

These anime fans are incapable of recognizing bad anime. Worse, they cannot comprehend why anime would be bad. They don’t even know what something like that would look like. Their worship of anime is truly insidious: that zombie-esque adoration that comes from not understanding another culture. When I talk about Japanese culture in Sword Art Online, I’m pointing out the grinding flaws and injustices of modern Japanese society that lurk between the lines. These reflect real problems that contribute to real suffering. When I point out how anime tends to offer only two options for a person–normal/conforming or psychopathic murderer–I’m perceiving a debilitating message reinforced to the Japanese viewer that these zombie-fans dismiss or miss because of culture. That message wasn’t meant for them, but their minds don’t even recognize it. It’s just normal or Japanese-y or something. It’s as blatant and insulting as typical racist stunts in American TV shows, something I know people are insulted by, but then again, that’s their culture and they grasp the implications. Japan is just another world, so they turn off their brains and let even the most brazen shit fly under their radar. Shows like Girls und Panzer, which have prepubescent schoolgirls driving tanks around in silly scenarios, reflect the creepy, misogynist sexual culture of Japan. The fans I speak of look at that and giggle: “Oh, it’s just Japan! They’re crazy!” Meanwhile, I see “Oh, look, way to degrade women in a new and innovative way yet again, Japan.” Those kinds of shows are bullshit, and you wonder why poorly developed female characters like Lisa show up everywhere.

Speaking as someone of Asian descent, I find it hilarious when people go to Asian countries or behold Asian antics on the Internet and get a taste of real Asian culture, all the dark sides that sit beneath the well-lacquered surface of saving face. Take the League of Legends World Championship. People are shocked, shocked, to find out that most Asians are horrifyingly racist, misogynist, nationalist, jingoist fucktards, but then they watch Girls Und Panzer or Zankyou no Terror while gleefully shoving popcorn into their mouths. I’m sorry, what didn’t tip you off to this? The fact that nine-year-old girls in sexualized military outfits are driving tanks? You think that’s a healthy thing to depict? Uh, no, you idiots, and culture doesn’t fucking excuse it. Or how some random Americans can bully the Japanese government around without any explanation? What do you think that said to the Japanese viewer? What do you think that said to you? Hey, did you ever think about how the Americans might have a legitimate reason to be concerned about Japan building nuclear weapons in secret? Did you ever bother to analyze what was going on? Because it’s not gonna change if you keep letting this horseshit get away scott-free.

I’ve been reading other people’s reviews of Zankyou no Terror. They’re exactly what I thought they would be: “the finale was flawless, everything was resolved, no threads hanging. What a fantastic show!” Oh, really? By what standard? By what measure was Zankyou no Terror good? Because Yoko Kanno wrote the music? Can you give me a damn good reason why this show was worth our time? You ate it up because it tickled your brain, not because it made you think, and you sure as hell didn’t consider how the show could have been improved or how its message and plot made no sense whatsoever. You liked it because it was “anime.” That’s it. Not because the anime gave you anything substantial. It’s anime, so it gets a free pass on anything and everything.

I criticize anime so mercilessly because I love it. I have passion for it and really want to see it surprise and astound me with its potential. Few shows changed my life more than my first viewing of Stand Alone Complex sometime back in 2005. A futuristic show that explored social changes in the light of technological advances? It was mindblowing. Now we get this crap, and even anime directors are recognizing the medium is spinning its wheels at best. I’m pretty sure it’s not my semi-hipster brain imagining things. Anime is not what it used to be, and it’s fans like these that perpetuate the cycle. If you keep acting like nothing in anime is ever wrong, if nothing is worth ridiculing, if nothing is worth writing pointed blog posts on the Internet, then those studios will keep cranking out the same nonsense. I have standards when I watch anime, and if those standards aren’t met, I speak my mind. Episode 9 of Zankyou no Terror was superb; that makes me even angrier when I realize the ten other episodes of the series weren’t worth the paper they were printed on.

Excuse me for caring.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s