Project Haruhi
20Jan/114

Fanservice Beyond Anime: Battlestar Galactica

Posted by Jon

Header image by particle9

One of the more common stereotypes about anime is that it's filled with perverted fanservice. Of course, shows like Samurai Girls and Rio Rainbow Gate partially support this stereotype, but I don't get why it's such a big deal. I mean, modern American culture is just as hyper-sexualized as Japanese culture. Perhaps our tastes are different: for example, Americans tend to frown on lolicon and incest, whereas Japan seems to have an aversion towards the "butch women" fantasy. But, at the end of the day, the entertainment mediums of live-action TV and anime are more alike than most of us realize. For example, there's an American show that was utterly trashed by gratuitous fanservice. It's called Battlestar Galactica.

I'm not referring to the cheesy 1978 pulpfest starring Richard Hatch. To be frank, that incarnation of BSG never had many redeeming qualities to begin with. No, I'm talking about Ronald D. Moore's infamous 2003 reboot. I was initially very optimistic about this show, despite my dislike of Moore's work on Deep Space Nine. What intrigued me was Moore's manifesto for the show: he wanted to make it a pioneer of "naturalistic science fiction." It was a bold concept... sci-fi based on the practical instead of the fantastic. BSG was intended to be a hyperrealistic, down-to-earth show featuring hard science and believable characters. No archetypes, no technobabble, and above all no deus-ex-machina. It sounded like the sci-fi show we had all been waiting for.

21Dec/104

12 Days of Anime #5: Super Robot Revival

Posted by Dustin

This will probably seem strange to those of you who know me as the super-robot apologist on Bakacast, but I didn't watch Gurren Lagann until this year. Well, to be precise, I watched a couple episodes soon after it finished, but I never got farther until early in 2010. That was when I realized the entire series was on Hulu, so I plowed through it in a few days. Despite a few problems I had with certain aspects of the story, I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Unfortunately, watching Gurren Lagann made me realize how rare it is to find any super-robot shows--much less good ones--being made today. It just isn't the popular genre that it was once (that honor now belongs to slice-of-life). But, lo and behold, a new challenger approached: Star Driver. Both the series description and the first episode promised all the fabulousness of Code Geass with none of the angst. I was immediately intrigued. And while Star Driver has certainly had its low points, I've had a lot of fun watching it anyway.

But I've recently realized something. With a few notable episodes to serve as exceptions, I didn't end up sticking with either of the shows for the robot fights. They became a secondary or even tertiary concern. A nice bonus, if you will. What really makes both Gurren Lagann and Star Driver shine like glittering stars are their characters.

20Dec/1010

12 Days of Anime #6: Girls Love Girls’ Love

Posted by Megan

I promise this is the only image from this series I'll use, mainly because it's the only one I CAN use

I've never been shy about the fact that I enjoy things intended for a female audience. I like the emphasis on emotions and relationships, romantic and otherwise, and the calm atmosphere is a refreshing break from the typical frenetic fare targeted at males. Despite the gender gap, most elements of these types of stories aren't alienating to me; my closest friends growing up were female, so constant chatter centering on hair, makeup and clothes is almost nostalgic.

However, there was always one point where both my childhood friends and shoujo manga would begin to lose me: boys. Not only did I have trouble relating to many of my male friends, but I was never attracted to them. So, while I enjoy the perspective shoujo stories are told from, I always have trouble sympathizing with the main character's romantic interest. That's not to say I can't enjoy and appreciate it anyway, but if heightened empathetic appeal is one of the primary draws, it certainly does bring the enjoyment down a notch. The solution seems obvious, but for a long time it was notorious for having its own problems.

More cute pictures after the break!

17Dec/105

12 Days of Anime #9: Weird Japanese Games

Posted by Dustin

I may not be the biggest fan of the recent crop of games from Japan, but that doesn't mean there weren't any awesome ones that came out this year. In fact, I can think of at least three off the top of my head: Bayonetta, Vanquish and Nier. Now, there are two things I realized when I came up with those three games. First, thank God for Platinum Games. And second, all three of them are unashamedly bizarre.

Seriously, they are. Bayonetta brainstorms the craziest action scenes ever, and then finds ways to make them crazier. Vanquish gives you a gun that transforms into all your guns and lets you press one button that makes your character do a rocket-leg power slide. And Nier? Nier is a secret sequel to Drakengard--one of the most insane games ever made--that manages to be almost as crazy as its predecessor. That is the level of weird we're dealing with here, and I love all three of them for it. I'll break down exactly why after the jump.

24Nov/103

East Meets West Part 2: What Mario Can Learn From America

Posted by Dustin

In the first part of my East Meets West series, I talked about the advantages and disadvantages of the current trends in comic books and manga. I tried to make it fairly balanced, since I honestly believe America and Japan are putting out very different but entertaining products. It would be nice to see more melding from both sides, but they're doing quite well so far. This second part, however, will be about video games, and you'll see that I won't be so kind this time around.

Why?

Because I believe that, on some level, BioWare is right when they say the JRPG market is stagnant, even if they couch their argument in marketing for their own game. I'll explain in detail after the jump.

15Nov/1045

Are Moe Fans Sexist?

Posted by Jon

If you look at this picture, you're going to hell.

I'm not usually one to call moe fans "creepy" or "sexist." However, while browsing Twitter earlier today, I came across this little gem.

Moe girls are like the template of the perfect female. If a 3D girl is not similar enough to a moe girl than that means she is bad news.

I won't dignify the person who wrote this with a link to their profile. Suffice to say, they're one of the 'moe cultists' I mentioned in passing at the end of my "Type A vs. Type B" post. For brevity's sake, I will refer to this person as Anonymous Moe Cultist, or AMC, as he's the textbook example of the fandom's extremist fringe. He has an innate hatred of critics and intellectuals (especially those who criticize "his shows"), and frequently targets reviewers from this very website for ridicule. His views on women are similarly unpalatable.

Moe girls are ideas. Aoi Sakuraba is the moefication of Yamato Nadeshiko. Critics get upset and angry at these ideas rather than the content

Ergo, in AMC's view, real women should learn to be more like their sexualized and submissive moe counterparts. They should smile, giggle, wait hand-and-foot on their man, and never talk back. And he wonders why people like me get upset at these archaic, sexist declarations?

This raises an interesting question. If moe produces this kind of blatantly sexist fan, does that make the genre itself sexist? I mean, it IS centered around the objectification of women, often with gratuitous fanservice. A quick look at Sankaku Complex makes it apparent that these prepubescant girls are seen as objects of sexual worship, not people. Should we shun moe shows for something more politically correct?

The answer is NO. Despite initial appearances, moe is NOT sexist. Find out why after the break.

13Nov/1025

Type A vs. Type B Otaku: A False Choice

Posted by Jon

The infamous Type Fantasy otaku.

A few days ago, Penny Arcade's Tycho described the Kinect vs. Move debate as a "media-driven false choice." Hell, I would probably characterize the whole goddamned console war that way. While thinking about this pointless gaming rivalry, I've come to realize that the anime fandom has it's own false choice: the infamous Type A vs. Type B otaku classification. Seemingly based on Japanese blood type fortune telling, this classification has lead to widespread debate and flaming among otaku, along with the predictable cries of extremism. "Moe is the cancer that's killing anime! Oldfags are pretentious elitists! The evil critics are trying to destroy the shows I enjoy!" So on and so forth.

But does this classification have any purpose beyond a flame war weapon? Does it offer any real insight into otaku mentality? In my opinion, the answer is a vehement NO. Our society loves labeling and categorizing other people, because it makes it easier for us to judge them without getting to know them first. "I don't want to associate with that man! I've heard he's GAY! You know how they are!" The problem is, people's attitudes and opinions are complex. Herding them into neat little categories for our mental convenience is just a form of self deception. The same applies to the Type A vs. Type B debate.

Read why these oversimplifications are total BS after the break.

3Nov/1010

East Meets West Part 1: What can Superman learn from Japan?

Posted by Dustin

I've made it clear before that I like it when artists try mixing two cultural styles to create something new and interesting. Though that's partly because I love artistic experimentation, there's a practical reason, too.  I've noticed there are certain things America is better at than Japan, and vice versa; and both countries have pursued ideas the other hasn't. In this three-part series, I'll analyze what I think are each country's artistic advantages: why they're good and what the other country can learn from them.

For this inaugural entry, my focus is on comic books. To make my comparisons easier to parse, "comics" will refer to American comic books and "manga" will refer to Japanese comic books.

1Nov/108

Moe Beyond Anime: The Masked Alien Lover

Posted by Jon

As I stated in my "Four Laws of Moe" article, moe is a concept that is intrinsically linked to anime. The very term conjures up images of giggling Japanese schoolgirls, meganekko, and other archetypes found solely in Japanese media. But is it possible for moe to exist outside of anime? The feelings of paternal protectiveness which define this meme are not restrained by cultural boundaries, so why does moe itself have to be exclusively Japanese?

I'd like you to meet somebody. The masked female alien in the picture above is named Tali'Zorah nar Rayya. She is a character from BioWare's Mass Effect series of space opera RPGs. As a Quarian, Tali's hypersensitive immune system forces her to constantly remain inside her environment suit, protected from the infectious hazards of the outside world. Even a few seconds of exposure could be fatal. Throughout Mass Effect 1 and 2, you never to see her face... only the cold, hard steel of her mask.

Despite this, I still think she's moe. Find out why after the break.

22Oct/103

Roundtable: Remembering Golden Sun

Posted by Dustin

In 2001, Nintendo released Golden Sun, an RPG made by Camelot Software Planning for the Gameboy Advance. It took both critics and gamers by storm, quickly earning a devoted fanbase. Its 2003 sequel, Golden Sun: The Lost Age, met with similar praise and solidified the series as one of the best on the GBA and a must-have for RPG fans. However, it's cliffhanger ending also left fans clamoring for a third game. Their hopes were met with little more than teases.

Finally, at E3 2009, Golden Sun DS--now titled Golden Sun: Dark Dawn--was revealed. As the resident Golden Sun fanatics, SilentAki and I can't wait for its North American release, which is just a little over a month away. Since both of us recently replayed the first two games, we decided to meet on Skype to discuss what made Golden Sun such a great series. So if you want to join us on our trip through nostalgia lane or simply learn what all the fuss is about, follow us after the break.

But be warned: there are SPOILERS ahead!