[As a heads up, I am assuming some familiarity with the material. Also, I wrote this between a Japanese print edition of the manga, an English Kindle edition, and the relevant episode from the anime so I’ve mixed up the sourcing on the quotes — some come from the English manga, some from the anime subtitles, and some from my own translation of the Japanese. Sorry to any source sticklers, but they should be inter-changeable!]
In chapter 7 of the manga Girls’ Last Tour (Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou, also episode 3 of the anime) the map-maker Kanazawa gives one of the series’ few outside, adult observations of the two lead girls. While Chii and Yuu work to fill up the gas tanks for their Kettenkrad vehicle, along with an extra barrel to take them farther through the ruined city, Kanazawa glances up from his maps and notices how unexpectedly clever the girls are at surviving the apocalypse:
[Um, this is a joke, by the way. Manic, satiri-nomi-comical.
I do not endorse my own opinions, except for the one where I call Hensuki terrible. Sometimes I think that
these harem “comedies” don’t know when they cross the line into unfunny abuse
or, at the very least, I don’t know why stuff like this still gets made in such
an oversaturated market]
Hensuki is terrible. Terrible terrible terrible terrible terrible terrible terrible. I mean, just look at the title: Kawaikereba hentai demo suki ni natte kuremasu ka? or Would you fall in love with a pervert if she’s cute? (Hensuki for short). I thought we hit peak harem with Kono naka ni hitori, imouto ga iru! — My Little Sister is among them! but Hensuki comes pretty close. Oh, and a little sister is among them here too. And oh, it’s terrible.
But. BUT. Buuuut.
The series has attracted some
derision for its weak male protagonist Keiki (a real piece of cake). I
vehemently disagree and must defend Hensuki
on this point.
[Another old post that I want to put up before it gets too old… I wrote this before I got into the habit of taking screenshots, so no pictures. I think the writing also feels strained and unclear, but I’m glad to observe my own improvement over time there]
Or at least, it makes very little sense…
Let’s start with the good: Genocidal Organ, the 2017 animated movie based on a 2007 novel by the pseudonymed science fiction writer “Project Itoh”, demonstrates a marvelous imagination with excellent visuals to match. Though the prevailing grey and brown color palette isn’t exactly pretty to look at, it expertly contributes to the bleak tone of its distopian science fiction future.
But overall? Don’t bother.
Genocidal Organ’s is too ambitious. The narrative is convoluted and its points vague. Even the basic plot felt incomprehensible as it jolted around between long dialogues with no apparent relevance to previous events before jumping straight into the next topic with little transition. Meanwhile, apart from the villain John Paul, none of the characters have any meat to them — primarily because half of the cast are super soldiers with emotional suppression nanobot conditioning (what a mouthful, technobabble strikes again). At two hours, Genocidal Organ is too long to hold interest but also too short to sufficiently explore its excessive multitude of themes. Basically it — well, it makes no sense.
I found the episode like I do so many anime — through a meme:
Yikes! I watched Pokemon growing up, but I don’t remember this scene… Drop the meme text and just think about the image: Ash is 10 years old. They’ve set a firing squad around a child in a television show for children! Did this actually air in America?
It turns out, yes. Episode 12, “Here Comes the Squirtle Squad” reached American audiences in 1998 with only minor localization edits from the English dubbing company 4Kidz Entertainment. Ah, but for the sake of childhood, the issue required further investigation. What other Poke-nonsense have I forgotten since wearing out my old original series VHS tapes every night before bed-time?
Instead, with a cursory google for “pokemon gun episode,” I found something much more interesting, something I hadn’t seen as a child: “Season 1, Episode 35 – The Legend Of Dratini (Banned Episode),” an illicit upload of the Japanese original with uncredited subtitles hosted on Facebook of all places. Facebook has the worst video player, but that “Banned” promised me a novel experience better than anything forgotten memories could conceal — no longer for the sake of childhood, but for completion. This wasn’t on the VHS!
[No, I’m kidding, the show has plenty of funny jokes. This just might be my favorite one. Otherwise, lazy content — this is just me trying to make a gif for the first time]
How about Machikado Mazoku (English: The Demon Girl Next Door), the latest inoffensive cute-girls-doing-cute-things comedy to put me to sleep in the same style as Gabriel DropOut, Tonari no Kyuuketsuki-san, or As Miss Beelzebub Likes? Though of a much lower quality than Beelzebub and maybe even Gabriel DropOut, it’s a solid example of the “demon girl” comedy which has somehow cohered into a recognizable subgenre in the past few years.
This time, it crosses the demon premise with a parody of magical girls by introducing the “retired” high school heroine Momo, whose deadpan anti-humor manages to drain all of the magic from her archetype. In the above scene, Momo transforms in 1/100th of a second flat to save the hapless demon girl “Shamiko” from a oncoming truck before trapping the would-be mistress of darkness in an irrepayable* debt of 500 yen (~5 dollars) to prevent her from doing any real harm. Though… not that Shamiko could anyway; she’s so incompetent that she can’t even say her own evil name without tripping on the English syllables.
The pair become arch-nemeses (but really, best friends) and I just realized — why am I summarizing this show? If you want another generic cute-girl comedy anime, go for it. I won’t bother recommending or disrecommending** it. It’s pretty good.
[Ohhh… slow on publishing this… jet-lagged and not really coping. I don’t have anything to say in this post that professional writers haven’t already argued months ago but again, I want to remain in the practice of saying anything at all. So, some edited notes I took on the plane.]
I want to start with a question: to anyone who has watched the live-action adaptation of Alita: Battle Angel, did it have a plot? Reviewing these notes now, I’m trying to remember what happened in the movie and can only come up with a few establishing vignettes strung along by a character thread — the amnesiac cyborg heroine Alita — instead of a narrative one.
Of course, I’m already being too harsh; a plot can be as simple as what a character does. Going to the corner store to buy a soda like I just did tonight could count as a plot and Alita certainly does… things. She falls in love and fights a bunch of underworld thugs and uncovers a conspiracy and discovers her true self and becomes roller-derby champion and whatever else.
But what I more mean is that the movie lacks the sort of recognizable narrative you might expect from a blockbuster cinematic experience — rising and falling action moving towards a climactic goal. Because — to spoil something that doesn’t happen — Alita: Battle Angeldoesn’t end. Or rather, like with the distinction between plot and narrative, it doesn’t conclude. When the movie finally seems ready to move into its climax — Alita will confront the true puppet-master antagonist lurking in the floating city above! — it abruptly stops. Having spent two hours establishing the universe and character motivations, a hype song plays, Alita looks up to the sky determined to face the ‘final boss,’ and the credits roll.
I blinked in disbelief. Ending? Now? Um, alright, 8 hours left in the flight, let’s try The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then Bigfoot. Ugh, well that was terrible. Let’s take a nap instead.
[I’m preparing for an international move so real-life concerns have me down to something low effort this week, but the premiere episode of Lord El-Melloi II World Case Files: Rail Zeppelin Grace Note made me laugh hard enough that I thought I would puke up blood, like that one character from Lord El-Melloi II World Case Files: Rail Zeppelin Grace Note that pukes up blood because uh, a character in Lord El-Melloi II World Case Files: Rail Zeppelin Grace Note pukes up blood (the theme today is *dan-da-da-dannn* senseless repetition!). And yes, I know that I am being unfair, but I had fun just like… hmmm… trying and failing to comprehend the apparent vastness of the Fate franchise despite knowing nothing about it. I wouldn’t have written this post if I didn’t enjoy the episode]
Have you ever jumped into a long, ongoing fictional franchise with which you have had no previous engagement, like starting with the Marvel movies by watching Endgame (does the title spoil a key plot point, that the movie will indeed end? How dare they.) or catching the last half hour of Star Wars: Attack of the Clones and asking about that jumpy little green fella that talks funny? Where’d he come from? Dunno …I don’t.
Maybe I have a point here about franchises that become so bloated that they fail to make themselves accessible to newcomers or about the contexless, fanservice-y namedrops that those franchises use to refer to previous installments despite adding no value to the present installment. Or, I dunno, maybe I’m just repeating a generic complaint about the avalanche of meaningless jargon that spills out of so many fantasy and science fiction anime. Or meh, maybe I don’t have a point at all except to offer some loving mockery of stupid, stilted dialogue in translation (…or just stupid, stilted dialogue in any language…).
Buuut nahhh, no lazy, passive-aggressive media
criticism tonight, the title says “contextless quotes,” including the
most contextless of them all: the title: Lord El-Melloi II World Case Files:
Rail Zeppelin Grace Note: an excuse to use another colon. Ohhh so many
words, so little understanding. So, I slapped that crap in a search engine and
found some more nonsense words like Fate / stay night / TYPE-MOON / hollow
ataraxia / Zero Unlimited Blade Works / Apocrypha / kaleid liner PRISMA☆ILLYA / The Absolute Demon Battlefront Babylonia / a bunch more
forward slashes, yawned who cares (it’s well past midnight), and brought up the
first episode. Holy hats, it made me laugh.
[I had selective mutism growing up, but that anecdotal experience should not determine the strength of my argument. So, I’ll also give an academic-adjacent reading recommendation as my main source, Selective Mutism in Our Own Words: Experiences in Childhood and Adulthood by Carl Sutton and Cheryl Forrester. It’s an excellent book both for its readable first-person accounts of the condition and for its rigorous literature review and references to guide further research. I have also consulted with a professional speech-language pathologist friend to assist me with a mock “diagnosis” of Nanako’s silence and increase the clarity of my writing about communication disorders. A thousand thanks for her expertise!]
I don’t read much manga because I can’t stand the dominant publishing model: chapters trickled out in pulp-periodical magazines, collected and resold into volumes when they reach some arbitrary mass that continues to expand anyway because the incentive to sell another volume discourages writers from hitting real resolutions or, often, even moving the plot forward (I hear a whisper on the breeze, ~Nisekoi~). So, despite the common refrain that “the manga was better,” I like to stick to anime if only because seeing “(ongoing)” attached to a double-digit volume list makes me doze off before even starting. I’ve picked up a few manga for series that have impressed me beyond expectation, but only if they’re short, they’re serious, and they’re over.
I broke my usual habits then when I bought the manga for Senryu Shoujo, a spring 2019 anime series that, despite some initial enjoyment, impressed me so little that I haven’t bothered to finish it. With a bland high-school-slice-of-life 4-panel format, it’s got nothing serious to consider, at nine volumes, it’s too long to finish (especially without an official translation… I’ve limped along in Japanese*), and, ugh, it’s (ongoing). But even if I didn’t much enjoy either the anime or the manga (I only read the first four volumes as a compromise with my sanity), I do think that Senryu Shoujo did something well worth praising: its depiction of communication difficulties, specifically, the mutism of its lead protagonist, Nanako Yukishiro.
* [Note: in the absence of an official English edition, I have provided my own amateurish translations]
But despite the centrality of mutism to Senryu Shoujo‘s entire premise, the relative silence on the issue online has surprised me — maybe just a footnote here, a brief mention in regards to social anxiety here, and an abundance of misguided terms like “shy,” “introverted,” or “non-verbal” scattered around various reviews, impressions, and discussion threads. Otherwise, most viewers just seem to treat it like a cute gimmick. But in an odd way, I take that lack of focus on Nanako’s mutism as a quiet victory for disability representation in anime; Senryu Shoujo has managed to tell a story about living with a rare condition that impedes communication without, it seems, most viewers even noticing the difference.
In this post, I will try to define the disorder that prevents Nanako from speaking, because her almost total reticence goes beyond a mere personality trait like shyness or introversion. Then, I’ll return to the question of disability representation in fiction by discussing how I think Senryu Shoujo excels compared to other media depicting similar communication challenges.
<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”