Posts Tagged ‘anime’

Body Image Fail: Ninja Edition!

August 3, 2009

Naruto and the Stupid Long Movie TitleBody Image Fail goes to Naruto and the Animal Panic on Crescent Moon Island! In this movie, Naruto and supporting characters are hired to protect an oafish disgusting loser who is the prince of Crescent Moon Island. He embodies a large number of fat stereotypes, the most obvious being that he is constantly eating. (This is not called “being a fat guy.” This is called “binge-eating disorder.” Although maybe not an accurate representation thereof.) After providing much comedy by being fat and stupid, he eventually learns what is really important and plays a minor supporting role in the saving of the day. In the epilogue, Naruto and his friends stay on the island for a week so Kakashi can recover from using his Fancy Ninja Eye too much. During this week, the fat guy crash diets, and although he is still on the chunky side, he is considerably thinner after the ending credits, to let us know that we are suppose to stop laughing at him now because he is no longer a loser idiot! Also, losing a bunch of weight in the course of a week is totally healthy. Anyway, you can see him in the upper left corner there. I am too distracted by the kitty. KITTEH!!! (The villain was also on the chunky side, and had a guy following him around with a tray of fruit who read as comically gay. Homophobia fail too?)

Body Image Win goes to Nabari no Ou (anime version; I haven’t confirmed whether the [on-going] manga version features the same character or not). In this ninja anime full of even skinnier people than usual, there was totally a minor character in one plot arc who was noticeably chubbier than other sympathetic female anime characters! If I had been writing this blog when I had seen that plot arc, maybe I would have a screen shot. But I don’t! You’ll just have to watch the whole thing. (It would be nice someday if we had a sympathetic protagonist instead of a minor character who lasted a few episodes, but I am not holding my breath.)

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Digimon Tamers

July 7, 2009

Feminist kudos: Ruki (a girl) takes the role of prickly outsider, while protagonist Takato (a boy) is the one who is always overcome with emotion. Plus Jen (a boy) is the one who has to overcome touchy-feely nonviolence in order to let Terriermon fight.

On the other hand, Renamon’s later evolutions lean strongly toward the defensive (she says this is because she was only concerned with the offensive before), all the digimon gods are male, and Ryou is infuriating with his superior do-what-I-am-yelling-at-you attitude and adoration from everyone as the Digimon card game champion (plus no one understands why Ruki doesn’t like him, because most girl characters would be overcome with guilt and thankfulness toward him about now – see below). Also, it totally sucks to be Juri. Maybe these last two points will be ameliorated in the remainder of the show (I’ve got about ten episodes left). [Update: Nope! Not ameliorated at all. Nothing good happens to Juri ever, and her lesson is that even though everything that happens to you is absolutely terrible, you should forgive people who killed your best friend in cold blood and be happy forchrissake because otherwise you will make your friends sad or something. Sadness is never justified just because your life is made entirely of suck.]

Regardiing the incessant gratitude and apology on the part of all good cartoon girls, I didn’t hate this the first time I read it. It’s the fact that female protagonists (excluding some types such as the deadly, perfect femme fatale) almost invariably fall into this pattern that is offensive. When it happens in just about every series with a girl as the protagonist, it’s no longer “wow, she is really emotionally strong to be able to do that,” and more “this is the way all girls should be, the same way boys should be spiky-haired and know no fear” (I was going to mention the ridiculously unfounded optimism in the face of sheer impossibility, but that is a unisex trait). Let’s leave that kind of thing to Honda Tohru from Fruits Basket, because she is the best at it – it doesn’t even require her to suffer. She doesn’t go through the “understandably hurt” phase that comes before the “oh wait, it is all my fault and now I must apologize to the guy who hurt me because actually I am a horrible person and he is so awesome and was just being helpful/reacting to what a horrible person I am” phase. She just already thinks everyone is awesome, even if they are an axe murderer (and never hates herself so much that it would, you know, possibly make people feel bad, which would be a possibility because people actually like her, because she is less surrounded by assholes than many protagonists about whom I have read lately).

[Edit: Also, since the random digimon who sacrifices himself to let the other digimon merge-evolve in the real world belongs to a random girl, fully half of the girls’ digimon die. (The ones who live being Renamon and Lopmon.) I don’t see any obvious sexist trope it would be reinforcing, but that just sucks.]

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.

Body Image Fail and Win

May 19, 2009

Fail goes to Zotcha no Nichijou (a very well-drawn comic about a cat published by Margaret Comics) for the character of Bravo and the way she is treated. Google image search only found one relevant result for Bravo: here is a fanart of Bravo, whom the artist finds adorable. My friend said the same thing when I showed her Bravo, but my cynically defensive side was pretty sure she was just being politically correct. Zotcha himself, of course, finds her butt ugly but since he is a Nice Guy he didn’t actually treat her like rubbish like all the other cats.

In volume 7, Bravo goes on a crash diet (after a tree branch breaks under her weight). Everyone showers her with praise. The vet warns her that sudden weight loss is bad, but also tells her her weight loss has made her cute. She is suddenly the most popular girl-cat in town and all the boy-cats who were complete assholes to her before want to get a date with her. But she starts dating Zotcha, because he was not a complete asshole to her when she was fat. At first this is totally awesome, and if you caught some chapters of the serial publication but not others you would get a diet success story. Then Zotcha notices things like how she can’t walk any distance without becoming exhausted and she keeps falling asleep while he is talking to her. Finally he tells her he liked her better when she was fat. She starts eating again and gets slightly fatter than before (because dieting does that to your metabolism). Zotcha is still dating her, because dumping her at this point would be too assholish, but he is not as enthusiastic about it. The manga itself mocks her earthquake like steps, which makes zero sense considering that, being a cat, she weighs much less than the stylishly skinny human girls in the comic, and their steps do not cause earthquakes when they run.

So, it sucks to be Bravo. The story wasn’t wild anti-fat propaganda but it didn’t provide much counterpoint to all the “wow, you are so cute now that you have dieted yourself to a weight that is unhealthy for you”, and the manga still mocked her with fat jokes, and Zotcha may have learned a lesson but she deserves someone who actually finds her attractive.

Body Image Win goes to Gakuen Tengoku (of the previous Fail post) for having a character concerned that Hawt Babe Vampire and Fat Geeky Boy are not a good couple, not because Fat Geeky Boy does not deserve a hawt babe, but because Hawt Babe Vampire treats him like dirt and he deserves better.

Arale

Arale

Another Body Image Win goes to a cartoon I have seen all of two episodes of on weekday morning reruns called “Dr. Slump”. I knew of its existence from Jump Super Stars on the Nintendo DS, which featured a wide variety of comics from Shounen Jump. In these days of Dora the Explorer getting a slimming makeover and government-funded programs practically teaching kids to ostracize the fat kids, it’s refreshing to see an old cartoon consistently portray a chubby-by-today’s-standards girl like Arale as cute and adorable. Just look at the ending credits where she wears different adorable outfits like a tanuki and R2-D2 costume.  (Sure, it’s kind of relegating her to eye candy, which always happens to women in ending credits, but at least it’s body-positive eye candy.)

Of course, it also has Fail, because while all the men are pretty square-shaped, all the women of attractive, marriageable age (that is, all female characters who are not little girls or old women) look like supermodels, because duh, their function in the male viewpoint world is to be sexily attractive. Presumably Arale will too when she gets older, unless she is some kind of non-aging superhuman android–she does seem to have super strength.

Bonus Win for the sentient pink poop on a stick. I found a plushie of it at a yard sale, but my dad took it home with him.

Bonus Female Character Fail: I saw that Summer Vacation with Coo the Kappa movie and it was much less kiddy than I expected. But why are the daughter and mother so shallow and unlikeable? Because women are fickle and make no sense! (I also would have liked to see more affection for their dog on the part of the whole family, like, before xyz happened. The mother was the only one who seemed to care for him, because you know, women are sappy like that, when they’re not going on about how old they look and how smooth their skin is.)

Ginga Nagareboshi Gin

April 19, 2009

I knew going in that this was a manly manly man story about men except they are actually dogs. Which is why I watched it. Because it has talking dogs. Except the first quarter of the show, which has talking humans and non-talking dogs (then they just start talking when the plot becomes more about them and less about the humans). I can forgive a lot of the violence in this show in light of the fact that it is basically an over-the-top fighting show, but the beating-the-month-old-puppy for no apparent reason near the beginning, not so much. Also, the part where Daisuke accidentally shoots a bird, but the narrative is that the act of taking a life makes him into a Real Man — blecch.

This show is like one of those old samurai movies, except that since it is animated, it can have talking dogs and huge amounts of blood pre-CG (it is an old show). I don’t actually object to dogs getting horribly killed in a story about dogs. It’s when dogs are just extras in a story about humans that it really bothers me to see fictional dogs get hurt. Like the preview of that scifi spider movie I will never ever see where the aliens kill a cat and it is supposed to be funny? Death to that movie.

Anyway, mostly these dogs run around impressing manly dogs with their manliness so that they will help them go fight a big evil bear (dogs are people but bears are monsters — well, only this bear and his bloodline [in the beginning] except maybe also all other bears [at the end]). These are manly, manly dogs who value honor and manliness over their lives. Like Klingons! There is a girl dog, and the DVD insert says she is totally recognized as an equal fighter just like all the others. However, she does way more than her share of getting rescued, and in the actual show it feels more like she is Ben’s girlfriend who is manly enough to tag along but still mostly just acts as the resident girl. (Like Klingons! Women are our partners in battle. Wild cards are for women because they are weak and need more help!) She fights bravely now and then but doesn’t win very much. I only remember one fight in which she played a major role and she totally lost. She is the first and often only dog to cry out with concern when someone else gets hurt. She nearly gets killed saving a puppy and then attributes it to her femaleness that she was moved by the puppy’s cries. She sits out the final battle because she has just given birth to puppies. (Maybe being pregnant was a hindrance to her fighting earlier. I’m not a doctor, but I can’t say I’d recommend running all over the country and making war while pregnant.)

Also, the henchman of the bad traitorous dog appears to have feminine-looking eyelashes.

Now I can watch/read the sequel, Weed, with context! Yay. (They did publish at least the first 3 volumes of the Weed manga in English, which is how I got into this manly manly dog series.)

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.)