Archive for the ‘General complaining’ Category

Japanese media needs to stop glorifying abusive relationships

October 31, 2010

There are all kinds of people out there and pretty much all of them are capable of finding romance, but sometimes it seems like the only men we see in a romantic context are the exact same ones that the Nice Guys TM complain about.

I just read about the plot of Metroid: Other M (and I will be sticking to Metroid Prime, thanks very much).

And it reminded me of the trend that has caused me to make this last issue of Asuka magazine the last one I will buy (barring super super awesome furoku or something). I haven’t done a formal survey, but the trend of the male love interest being a complete asshole to the female protagonist just got to be too much. (And of course she is never allowed to really defend herself, he never gets comeuppance, because then he wouldn’t be so infuriatingly superior, which is what we apparently are supposed to like. At best she eventually gets some acknowledgment that she doesn’t completely suck, but she is certainly not allowed to expect any kind of actual emotional support or perceptible respect.) There have been times when reading that magazine has ruined my day, and the entertainment value when it doesn’t is just not worth the risk.

Aside: It didn’t help that this month’s installment of Kiss of the Rose Queen featured that same cliched emotional blackmail dialogue that I hate. Note to everyone: Do not try to get your close friends to stop doing X by telling them “I hate people who do X,” especially if you are then going to say you love them after they respond by swearing off of X. It makes you look like an asshole and also really, really fickle. Also I have seen and heard that conversation several hundred times already, and it was stupid and melodramatic every single time. If anyone said that to me, I’d immediately change our relationship from “friendship” to “polite but distant acquaintanceship,” but I get the impression that I just have an abnormally low tolerance for manipulative bullshit. At least in this instance, it was the female protagonist being an asshole to a member of her reverse harem, but you know she is going to wind up with Kaede because he is an asshole and therefore obviously the main, real love interest.

So in conclusion, romantic narratives marketed to girls are squicky and horrifying. I guess this sells. I guess women are trained to find this kind of thing appealing. There would be nothing wrong with this if it were just a part of the natural variety of human romance and sexuality, but it really squicks me out that this is the mainstream, this is normal, there are no other options. Something must have gone terribly wrong with me because I find assholish behavior a complete turn-off. I am such a pervert!

It also occurs to me that of the Asuka comics I still want to read, a lot of them have male protagonists, and don’t really have love interests at all (which makes sense, since a straight female audience wouldn’t enjoy a vicarious relationship with a woman and this isn’t a BL magazine).

In conclusion, Japanese media is scary (in that it portrays lots of really messed up relationships in an uncritical and positive way in both manga and video games). Possibly even more than American media. How to Train Your Dragon flunked the Bechdel test (but I love it anyway), and Percy Jackson was just messed up, but not this messed up (at least in terms of romance and love interests), and that’s about all I know about recent American media.

Now I better hit post before the cat gets on the keyboard, because she is really determined to. Also, Happy Halloween!

Goodbye, Blade

June 23, 2009

You were a good and kinda gender-neutral geek-oriented magazine, and then most of the comics I liked moved into the new, more female-audience-oriented Comics Blade Avarus. I kept buying you because you had that old-timey fox demon comic, and Mother Keeper (which is about cyborgs; Mother is the name of a computer), and someday I am totally going to catch up on Elemental – I’m sorry, Eremental Gerad. But then you kept introducing annoying comics about spunky heroines getting humiliated by nasty men, or else playing sports, which strike me as designed for a male demographic, and more importantly, which I find annoying. And then Mother Keeper got onto this plotline where Female Lead is enslaved and forced to fight to the death all the time, which is much more creepy and less cool than when she was doing things like impaling Male Lead with bladed weapons, and speaking of that, whatever happened to Male Lead anyway? Seeing as how he is the protagonist and all. I think I will try some tachiyomi, and maybe I will buy you again if you have a nice color page for one of those comics.

Other comics I am disappointed in lately: Jump. It has a lot of comics I find disgusting (the one that is entirely about oozing dripping meat; the one about the preschooler who wears neither pants nor underpants; the usual boob-and-crotch one; and I still hate Bakuman for its early spiel about how girls should not get good grades because their purpose in life is to be cute, whereas boys should because they might need to actually do something with their lives), and D. Gray-man is on vacation again. I’m still going to read it for Bleach and Naruto though, because my girl comics do not have enough ninja and shinigami fighting action. Meanwhile Sunday has new comics by renowned artists Takahashi Rumiko and Watase Yuu, and their bishoujo harem comics are the relatively inoffensive and visually cute Kami nomi zo shiru sekai and Hayate the Combat Butler – and maybe Zettai Karen Children, which I don’t read, but at least it’s not saturated with fan service. Now if only they would stop putting photos of models on the cover, because they have nothing to do with comics.

While I am being negative (it’s easier to find flaws in things than demonstrate that they are good), here are two plots I am feeling totally sick of right now: 1. The one where the protagonist undertakes a completely impossible goal but is rashly, illogically convinced they will succeed; at first they fail and everyone makes fun of them, but then they discover their miraculous hidden one-in-a-million power/talent that they just happen to have and then eventually succeed beyond anyone’s expectations, thus justifying their initial completely unjustifiable optimism. 2. The one where the protagonist tells an outrageous lie and then wacky hijinks ensue as they try not to get caught, but finally they get caught just as they were about to come clean anyway and eventually everyone forgives them and they realize that there was no need for the outrageous lie in the first place. We get it! Honesty preferable to outrageous lie requiring untenable and elaborate deception!

How to Betrayal

May 23, 2009

This post contains lots of spoilers for Pretear, Deltora Quest, and a minor spoiler for the latest chapter of Monochrome Kids. Non-spoiler summary: It sucks when a character betrays the protagonist by saying “Mwahaha I was evil all along and all my character development up to now was a lie.” It is much less annoying when a character betrays the protagonist for actual reasons that are in character. This is where I would use the lj-cut tag, but this isn’t LJ and I don’t know how to cut things.

So, I really hate Monochrome Kids, but I kind of have to keep reading it because of all the cat ears and junk. This issue, main character Kureha finally meets a hyena who is all kind and polite and helpful. “Yes! Someone who is not constantly insulting and threatening to kill me!” the protagonist thinks. “Yay, a nice animal,” I think. “I bet he is totally going to try and kill her.” The asshole leopard refuses to let her work with the hyena and insists on helping her himself, while keeping up his usual steady stream of verbal abuse and justifying his helpfulness as sadism (because being helpful for the sake of it would ruin his image as a huge asshole). Then she has to give a speech and the hyena says he left her speech on the podium. She goes up to the podium, but the papers there are blank. She has to ad-lib a speech to avoid the potentially lethal wrath of the student body.

Betrayal Classification: Annoying. I saw it coming a mile away, and it really pounds you over the head with the message that people who are kind and polite to you can’t be trusted, because they are just getting you to let your guard down so they can hurt you worse later. Don’t you know that nobody is genuinely kind, so you can peg anyone who fails to insult you as a liar? Not to say you can trust all assholes, but you can trust some assholes, whereas nice people are scheming lying backstabbers and you should punch them in the nose at the first sign of politeness.

It occurs to me that I hate this kind of plot, where a character that I liked or had marginal hopes for liking suddenly reveals that they were pure evil all along and everything up to that point was a complete act with no hint of truth whatsoever. A much worse case of this type of betrayal is in the anime (it comes in other formats but I haven’t read/played them) Deltora Quest, wherein a certain character – I guess I won’t give too much detail and limit the spoilerage – turns out to be a horrible deceiving crab monster of some kind, near the end of the series, with absolutely no redeeming qualities (and completely two-dimensional, since he had to start from scratch and didn’t have much time and, oh yeah, was generically evil). (I didn’t finish the series once I was sure they were done with this plot point, so someone tell me if I’m wrong and this was retconned out at the last second.) This is better than the Monochrome Kids hyena in that people who aren’t assholes exist in the Deltora Quest universe, so it doesn’t deny the existence of non-assholes at all. But it is worse in that that was a frickin’ long series and I watched most of it only to go “Ugh! This is stupid! I’m watching something that doesn’t suck instead,” at the end. Not that it wasn’t a pretty simplistic show the whole time, but things that piss me off could at least try to be sophisticated. Betrayal Classification: Monumentally annoying.

Contrast to an anime I did like (although I haven’t gotten around to reading the manga), Pretear. (Can I just note that the transformation is weirdly freudian? The guys go into her heart and then armor and weapons and junk form from sparklies that come out of her womb-type area.) It’s been a long time, but as I recall the main villain turns out to be the previous Pretear-heroine-person, and one of the guys is still in love with her and eventually takes her side against the protagonist and the rest of her harem. I always liked him better than the main love interest, because in accordance to the Protagonist Always Chooses Asshole if She Has a Choice Rule, the main love interest is kind of an asshole (although of course, regular assholes pale in assholishness compared to the leopard in Monochrome Kids). But the thing is, after the whole betrayal thing, I still didn’t hate him and he didn’t become an entirely different character! He was the same character but with some new elements revealed, and they changed a lot but did not contradict his previous character development! THIS IS HOW YOU MAKE IT NOT STUPID. Betrayal Classification: Deliciously angsty.

New Anime Season

April 13, 2009

I have a bad habit of watching the first episode of things that I don’t know what they are. This is how I ended up seeing the first minute of Saki: bizarre breast-clinging shirt and a girl worrying about her breasts being too small, all before the opening credits. No thanks.

A couple things I will be watching this season (if I can stay on the anime ball): Fullmetal Alchemist. Otherwise I would lose my geek cred. After the first episode, I am really confused how this fits in with the previous anime (and/or the manga, which I also read, which just adds to the confusion). Is it a retelling or, like, a midquel–a story set in between events of the story we already saw? 07 Ghost. I have been reading the comic, but I don’t really know what’s going on. If it’s anything like Amatsuki (also from Zero Sum magazine) watching the anime will not help at all.

Tears to Tiara sounds like a story about an upwardly mobile girl or something, but apparently it isn’t. The first episode didn’t capture my attention at all, but I might give the second episode a chance as it ended on a cliffhanger and we have only met a few characters compared to the number in the opening credits. But for epic fantasy battles I have higher expectations of Guin Saga. It features a capable princess and a random leopard head man. (A very muscular one; I get the impression that a lot of Japanese furries like muscle-bound types.)

Disappointment

April 11, 2009

In the category of things that I was looking forward to that turned out to be extremely disappointing: Monochrome Kids (Monokuro Shounen Shoujo) in Hana to Yume. It looks to be by the same person as – what was it called – Nousatsu Junky? I never really got that comic, because everyone is so angry all the time, especially male lead. And it has models. Reading Ciao for a while left me really, really sick of models, idols, fashion designers, and hair stylists (which of course are the only things girls want to be when they grow up, except maybe florists).

Monochrome Kids is about a girl who goes to a school for princes and princesses of animal kingdoms. One thing they are studying is how to resist the urge to eat humans. (Way to present the image of wild animals as bloodthirsty monsters, huh?) So she is disguised as a rabbit, the only non-carnivore present, but apparently less irresistible than delicious human. (Whut?) So far so good. I don’t really buy the portrayal of carnivorous animals, but hey! People with dog ears and cat ears and tails! Add cat ears to anything halfway decent and I will love it forever.

Unfortunately, I kind of hate it. The animals are all jerks, but Protagonist Girl seems to be falling for the one with the most severe case of Bishounen Jerk Syndrome that I have ever seen. Last issue, he very nearly got her killed, and he calls her “chibibusu.” (Chibi = small, busu = ugly.) Obviously they are destined to be together, and he is totally a really nice guy underneath all the being the hugest asshole in the world. It’s the polite and kind ones you have to watch out for: half the time they end up being a spy for the villain or something. In fact, you should probably just preemptively punch in the face anyone who says anything not rude to you. It’s like shoujo manga is propaganda for the Nice Guy (TM) conspiracy (the one that says girls only like assholes).

That issue was just not fun for me. The comic version of S.A. (also an anime) ended, and I thought I’d peek to see if I found it as infuriating as ever, and I did. (This is subjective. I identify too much with the protagonist’s competitiveness or perfectionism or something. If I ever decided to kill myself, I’d just overdose on this series without first ridding my surroundings of pointy things.)

And Cyboy (Cyborg + Boy) did a volleyball plotline which I found both tedious and infuriating, because it used that plot device where the protagonist is goaded into letting the outcome of a sports competition determine whether his relationship with his friend has any worth or not. At least he didn’t bet the farm, but really, don’t feed the volleyball champion trolls. Then he got injured, but then he won anyway, against the reigning champion team. I hate it when protagonists win against all odds for no reason (although of course two tendencies of fiction are that the protagonist goes up against near-hopeless odds and that the protagonist wins; but in this case my rooting for the protagonist to win was far outweighed by my annoyance at how stupid he was being). I am annoyed that he didn’t have to face how stupid it was putting his estimation of his friendship on the line like that.

This comic is about a guy who used to be geeky and unpopular but his friend has given him a total makeover and helps him maintain his image so now he is popular (but the love interest doesn’t like that type of guy, oh irony). This sort of “be careful what you wish for” plot tends to focus on the less desirable consequences of getting your dream come true, but sometimes I feel it’s a bit too uncritical of how differently people get treated based on appearances. There isn’t any indication that maybe people should have been nicer to him before he got made over. No one’s entitled to chocolate on Valentine’s Day, but some of the pre-makeover treatment was actively cruel. It also leaves me bitter and cynical when the only way to get shallow people who only value appearances to shut up is to have a friend who is attractive enough to garner their respect swoop in to the rescue (a la the latest issue).

In other news, I’ve been watching Kenshin again! It’s been 8 years since I first saw this show and said “Hey, they all have funny sleeves!” I have more context to judge it now and it’s not beyond reproach (although I still love it). Particularly, Yahiko says Kaoru is strong (when he’s saying he’d still rather learn swordsmanship from Kenshin, which is understandable because Kenshin is the best in Japan, except maybe Shishio and Hiko Seijuurou), but Kaoru, despite having her own dojo, is highly ineffective against all the low-level thugs Kenshin beats up in the first few episodes. (I think she does beat up some of Takeda Kanryuu’s low level thugs later. Why are these disc 1 thugs so awesome?) These first few episodes really don’t have much plot (I noticed this even 8 years ago): bad guys do bad stuff until Kenshin finally shows up and hits them with sword. Kaoru and Misao really should have had more opportunity to kick butt. Yahiko defeats more bad guys than them. Yahiko. (Also, I wish Kenshin had been forced to fight that German ninja lady in season 3; it might have almost justified season 3’s existence.)

State of the Sunday

April 8, 2009

Comics currently running in Shounen Sunday and what I thought of them in general and this week.  Romanizations may vary.

Artist Acro: A world where people called “artists” have special magical abilities to manipulate matter.  Most of them have gone over to the dark side where they have no qualms about practicing their craft on people.  The bizarre fantasy powers come off rather kiddy, but it’s not bad if you don’t mind that.  This week, Acro is fighting an evil dude–pretty standard.

Arata Kangatari: By the author of Fushigi Yuugi, Yuu Watase.  She is a great story teller.  Since this is shounen manga, the guys get to do all the cool stuff and the girls are all cute and supporty, but I expect there will be a certain level of not-gratuitous-male-fan-service maintained.  This week, doubts are cast on the circumstances behind the assassination of that priestess girl.  Maybe what’s-his-name (Kannagi?) is not pure evil after all.

Itsuwaribito Utsuho: Utsuho makes it his business to help people using the medium of lying.  Cute tanuki mascot.  So far so good; this week’s wrapping up of one plot line and setting up a new one seemed a little abrupt.  Is that guy already recovered from falling in a pit full of spikes last week?

Ocha Nigosu: Scary-looking guy in the tea ceremony club -> comedy.  A while back there was a scene with a corn dog that I found immensely hilarious.  Occasionally the sheer stupidity of the characters becomes tiresome but overall it is entertaining.  This week Kaho (I think) defeats bad guys, although by running away rather than by fighting.

Kami nomi zo shiru sekai (The World God Only Knows): A romantic comedy about a boy who is a master of romance games, who must get various girls to fall in love with him in order to evict demon things from the empty spaces in their hearts.  Interesting from a geek perspective, cute visual style, sometimes prone to annoyingly stupid philosophy/psychology and general messed-up-ness, traditional gender roles–one girl does martial arts but her problem in the story is that her feminine side is repressed.  I can’t think of an example of a story about a similarly geeky female character, which is too bad (although I can think of one or two shoujo stories about geeky guys; what the heck).  This week… I think it was taking a week off.

Defense Devil: New this week.  And lots of color pages, I was impressed–they’re only obligated to make two or three and there were, like, five.  A demon who lost his power as punishment for being too nice has a scheme to get it back by proving the innocence of humans who are being wrongly sent to Hell.  Not bad so far.

Traumeister: This comic was kind of messed up and then it got more and more messed up, with the monster-birth symbolism and this Da Vinci guy molesting his pre-school Mona Lisa Artman (think Artman = patronus).  Bleah.  Fail.

Maou Juvenile Remix: I am still peeved at the one scene some time ago where Protagonist Boy and his brother remarked how EWW they didn’t want to be like that gross old guy who bought a soda in a fast food restaurant because his being alive was totally meaningless.  What do they know about this guy?  Where do they get off judging him by his appearance like that?  This week, I found cute-assassin-girl’s twice-repeated crotch-grabbing attack to be gratuitous, especially since she had her fingers in her mouth two panels later.  Overall, it’s an engaging suspense story.  But sometimes it suffers from enough fail that I don’t think I’d pick it off the 105 yen shelf.

Others: I don’t read them because they are about sports*/I tried them but I got bored after one or two chapters/I flipped through them and they looked boring.  Except Kekkaishi, which looks interesting so I want to read it from the beginning.

*If people are going to take competitions that seriously, I want them to be life or death.  So I read fighting manga but not sports manga.