Into an anime chumbucket: succumbing to clickbait and breaking my heart

Your ads dare obscure even a part of my silver queen, *the* Masuzu Natsukawa?

[Chum is one of the sexier words in the English language… dead fish eyes glaring out of blood and guts. Oi, a weird start to one of the weirdest posts I’ve ever written…]

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times… uhhh why am I covered in blood and fish guts? Where am I?

I stumbled into an internet chumbox the other day. You know, those 6-square ad spaces hosted by Taboola or Outbrain with clickbait titles like:

  • <popular television show> stars [sic] net worth? #<prime number> will shock you!
  • Doctors hate him! <target demographic> discovers one neat trick to <desirable health outcome>!
  • You won’t guess what <celebrity fleeing paparazzi> got caught on camera doing Again [sic]!
  • Grandma from <your IP-determined area> discovers disastrous flaw in Social Security!

Number 1 might have a photoshopped thumbnail of the sexiest cast member in a revealing pose, Number 2 some gross trypophobia-inducing body horror garbage, Number 3 an unrelated mugshot that looks nothing like the target celebrity, and Number 4 a stock photo of an old woman in front of a clip-art financial chart with some gold coins or something. Who knows, who cares.

Or at least, I didn’t care. Before last week, chum-ads had almost never captured my interest except to sneer at their exploitative badness. Ah, but this time I took in a mighty breath through my nostrils to hock up great snob and instead caught an irresistible scent in those blood-clouded waters: anime, “Neo Yokio Season 2: Premiere Date, Characters, Plot” from an entertainment news website called The Cinemaholic

Oh, I like Neo Yokio… did Netflix announce a second season to continue the Pink Christmas special? And next to it “Gakkou Gurashi Season 2: Premiere Date, Characters, Plot.” Oooh, yes yes yes, I love Gakkou Gurashi! After the live-action movie, will they adapt the rest of the series? But wait, huh? From Cinemaholic again? What’s going on here? Oh my god, oh my god, hold that thought: “Oreshura Season 2: Premiere Date, Characters, Plot” aaannnddd oohoo a picture of the Masuzu Natsukawa, my devilish queen. click click click.

No. A mistake. ‘twas but a mirage borne of the blood-haze! The Cinemaholic had a harpoon waiting, ready to break my heart: “It is highly unlikely that Netflix will renew the show,” “We can’t guarantee anything,” “At this point, ‘Oreshura’ season 2 … seems like a distant dream”

Dearest Masuzu, I’m sorry — thrice pierced!

Continue reading “Into an anime chumbucket: succumbing to clickbait and breaking my heart”

Neo Yokio isn’t nonsense: Pink Christmas’s sardonic defense of season one’s satire

Neo Yokio Story Time with Kaz and Charles

Segments of the anime fandom just baffle me sometimes. If some archetypical forum trawler doesn’t understand something, it’s bad, unless it’s funny-bad. Then it becomes a whole new level of empty stupidity: a meme that pollutes discussion with non-sequitur, conversation-ending image macros. I’m swatting at an imaginary composite of anonymous annoyances, but if you frequent online fan sites, I think you know the type.

To my caricatured online commentator, if something’s bad, it’s for inspecific* reasons like “art” or “sound” or “writing,” which so-called “objective” reviewers like to pretend to assess for “quality.” However, that segmented approach often seems to forget the context of the piece. For example, taking flat voice acting as a universal criterion for low quality will often miss the purpose of specific lines, like deadpan humor. Contextless assessments then risk descending into simple solipsism, with “good” equating to “things I like” and “bad” equating to “things I don’t like.” It’s perfectly fine to prefer dynamic, lively performances, but it’s important to also recognize that flat acting has valid uses in certain contexts as well (if this chariture sounds uncharitable, just wait: the review I review here misses Neo Yokio’s clear deadpan humor!).

* (inspecific: not a word, but I like the sound more than “nonspecific”)

That’s all a roundabout way to my reaction to Neo Yokio, or rather my reaction to the reactions. They seem fall into three broad categories: 1) those that recognized it as a deliberate satire, 2) those that did not, 3) and those that did not care because they just wanted Toblerone memes. I suppose the title makes it obvious that I belong to the first group and, given Neo Yokio’s absurdist humor, I suppose I can understand the third group.

However, the vitriol expressed by some members of the second group surprised me when Neo Yokio first landed on Netflix last year. Among the anonymous online public, my imaginary forum-going rivals absolutely trashed the show for “objective” reasons like ugly animation and bad voice acting. Browsing through its 31% Rotten Tomatoes score for season one, even many professional critics ignored or dismissed the satire angle.

Having rewatched the first season, I’m mostly just confused. How could anyone watch a show full of oxymoronic one-liners like “two is the loneliest number” and take it at face value as bad writing? It’s like criticizing a horror movie for being scary… when that’s the point. Or how could anyone watch a show with a pink-haired, demon-exorcising “magistocrat” and complain about poor world building? It’s like attacking an action movie for lacking a well-developed romance… when that isn’t the point.

Did the harshest critics miss the joke? Neo Yokio isn’t a bad (or even funny-bad) failure cobbled together by a cheap, rushed production. It’s a reasonable success that uses ugly animation and voice acting to parody old anime series and sarcastic, deadpan writing to satirize upper-middle to upper class consumer culture. Neo Yokio is lucidly self-aware of its own absurdity, and that contextual distinction makes all the difference in an assessment of its quality.

Now that the meme-fueled hype has passed, maybe it’s worth approaching Neo Yokio again, especially with release of its surprise, hour-long special Pink Christmas. Even more so than the first season, Pink Christmas presents a serious satire of conspicuous consumerism with one notable addition: a subtle mockery of the first season’s critics that refused to recognize the parody that kept slapping them in the face. It’s worth watching just for that.

But nah, discussion’ll just get buried under Toblerone memes, jokes about Jaden Smith’s Twitter account, and pointless bashing of the art, voices and… eh, maybe I’m ranting again.

Let’s start by stopping the vague rant to consider a fairly typical example of the negative reaction against Neo Yokio: this Anime News Network review of season one. Afterwards, I’ll attempt a close reading of Pink Christmas’s satire against the critics that well… maybe missed the joke.

Continue reading “Neo Yokio isn’t nonsense: Pink Christmas’s sardonic defense of season one’s satire”