Track Two: In Syndication

What is eternity doing tonight? has become Mega Megane Moé. For the latest posts, please change your links accordingly.
Aside from Danbooru and other image boards, Owen is probably my next best source of images

Crunched for time on posting today, and these Track Twos have been burning a hole in my hard drive (luckily, only figuratively) ever since Ikimashou went down, so I'll post up a couple of them here.

For those unfamiliar with my Track Two feature, it's essentially my form of "episode impressions", a miniblog updated periodically with shorter entries. Not so much summary so much as Mystery Science Theater 3000. Or, alternatively, episode-by-episode analysis. Enjoy.

(credible spoilers for KimiKiss through 14, Kaiji through 15 and Clannad through 14, and if you're really dense, Shana II through 14 and Shugo Chara through 15)

(will reply to comments on the Lolipop article in the near future, as well)

1/19/08: Zoku Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei Episode 02
SHAFT, you drive me so crazy~

Zetsubou Sensei is back in full force, and I'm a believer in its insanity all over again. There was some random fanservice in this episode with Chii, but overall it still feels more like what it really should be, a boundary-pushing, nudge-nudge-wink-wink show that is a blast to watch.

This episode, as usual, was amazingly over-the-top. Three language tracks in the first segment - one, gibberish language, two, inaccurate (and DBZ-referential) Japanese subtitles, and three, original speech from the manga. It's brilliant, especially when they differ - although, I do wonder, since a.f.k. inserted the third track, how do people unfamiliar with the manga stand this scene?

The second and third segments are solid, but not standout compared to the first. Some of the new members of the Itoshiki family look to be funny. Kiri's getting more screentime, which makes me happy, although I worry that her character's being warped to be too evil. But, maybe I'm used to the soft characters of shows like Kanon, and so I grew to like the catchphrase of "Sen~sei~".

The OP/ED of SZS are solid as ever, I think Rumba tops Bure, but as good as Romanesque is, Zessei Bijin is the king of, y'know, everything. Just found a remix, Oironaoshi Mode, of Zessei, and it's the best thing since sliced vanilla ice cream.

1/19/08: Kaiji Episode 15
Well, I was a bit off-put by the HAAADO GAYness of Sahara and Kaiji screaming at each other in last episode, but Kaiji's definitely back in top form in this episode.

I can't help but think that this Brave Men Arc needs some serious comparison to AIR, what with my remark about Ishida's death being worthy of Aozora, and now all the "Goal~"ing this episode. Followed by dying, of course.

Sahara's death really threw me off, though, it was so sudden that I didn't see it coming, even with Kaiji's tension. I didn't think he could die right on the spot, after all. Definitely shocking, and representative of the nature of this show.

Although, I did wish that either Sahara or Ishida would have had a happy ending, because I knew Kaiji wasn't going to get any cash here. The way which they stripped him of it seemed fitting, and not-too-horribly deux-ex. It's the kind of logic which makes you hate Tonegawa: it's evil, yet it makes sense.

Likewise with all the real-world truths that he and his supervisor spout. They're very chilling in a sense, because although they go against all the good things and warmth every show has taught you, you can't help but ponder their truth. In a sense Kafuka's Super Positive Attitude in me has prevented me from being left in despair, so although I end up viewing this more objectively than anything else, it's still interesting as all hell.

E Card is the next game, and it looks deceptively simple so far, which is strange. I don't know if they're going to stretch this out for ten episodes or not, since I don't see any more games in the ED. And is Kaiji going to play Tonegawa? Not to mention, what is that thing sticking out of his head in the preview? Only time will tell...

1/20/08: Clannad Episode 14
Every passing episode of Clannad only confirms that I'm a heartless bastard.

I don't know. Maybe it's because I watch with friends, so I joke more during the show, but I've really yet to get really emotional during Clannad. Fuuko got me on the verge but I was essentially cracking wise throughout the whole of Kotomi's arc.

My sentiments are pretty much the same as most on Kotomi: she's a drop-dead moe character, but her story isn't up to scratch. I can't help but think these two are related somehow.

The closure to her arc continued a bit of the ridiculousness, with her parents throwing away the future of science for their daughter and her teddy bear. Sweet, yes, but touching, no. As a rational person, I just can't see why.

There were still some good moments, definitely, and it turned out better than I hoped it would (in the end, the party was kind of superfluous), but it just didn't reach me. I think it was put well by DS over at Daijoubu in that it was a good arc, but one that wasn't really emotional.

Next episode looks very interesting though, as it's either Tomoya or Nagisa centric. I can't help but feel that the preview implies some sort of confession, romantic or otherwise, from Tomoya to Nagisa, and that has my interest peaked. On that note, I hope that they go back into Tomoya's backstory soon; they've been ignoring his father a bit too easily for the last arc or two.

P.S. Kotomi would make a lousy model on Deal or No Deal.

1/21/08: Shakugan no Shana II Episode 14
Yeah, Shana II is definitely moving a lot faster now, and it's the strong show everyone is hoping it would be.

Apparently a lot of people disliked most of this episode, because Pheles was being out-of-character, but that was all explained at the end with the double (and change) shock twists. It wasn't a real Pheles! Something funny and - yup - silver comes out of Yuuji and gut-punches her! And Konoe's not just an average girl! No way!

Well, the first two caught me, anyway. Good to see this show actually do something unpredictable for once.

Shana and Kazumi's DBZ-like love fest (talk a lot about how you're going to win, heart powaaaaaah up, rinse repeat) isn't too grating personally, just because there's some sense of things happening; Kazumi is definitely on the offensive now, although if Yuuji isn't aware of his feelings by now, he's a bloody idiot.

Looking forward to 15 and KONOE'S SHOCKING SECRET, among other things.

Also, that one Ogata girl, the one that's with the other side character, she's not a Torch, is she? I'm reading the signs wrong, right? Two of them in one season might be too much for me.

1/22/08: Minami-ke ~Okawari~ Episode 1
Wow, that IS weird walking. Also, in the OP, I expected Haruka to change into Superman or something when she stepped into the phone booth, because, uh, she's amazing, or something; pardon me, I like Chiaki, but I also like riding the catch-phrase train. Am I not supposed to get the OP? Reminds me of the way they did Genshiken 2's OP.

Would have to agree with many sentiments that it feels like Minami-ke on fast-forward, which doesn't work quite as well. Somehow I feel Special Talent Haruka would have been a show-stopper in the other version.

Also, Kana cries.
Also, Haruka's chest now qualifies as an underseat floation devices.
Also, Fujioka goes all depressed when he sees the girl he likes naked.
And now, for the number one reason why everyone thinks Okawari sucks...no Sensei!! or NINOMIYA-KUN!!

Well, it wasn't horrible, to be honest. First half didn't really click but once it got into the second half it started to hit its stride. There were good moments (overflowing spring, ping-pong, "what's your relationship with Chiaki"), gender swapping Touma and Makoto (plus bonus Fujioka) is still gold, and Kana proved that long hair is always win. Did they take three baths in one day, though? Must be a really comfortable onsen.

1/23/08: Shugo Chara! Episodes 14 + 15
Yeah, like everyone said, it's filler, and it has no Ikuto (and thus no Utau, and really barely any Easter), so there was a distinct lack of caring for this, but since Shugo Chara has a large timeframe to fill, we might have to get used to this.

The filler wasn't horrible as a whole, but it got a bit silly at times; Shugo Chara did a reasonable job of not breaking reality but as much as I think stalker Suzuka (or whatever the second-grader is called) is a cute character, his inclusion in this story kind of broke the disbelief suspension.

Yes, ignore the fact that I think in this world glowing purple snowman is a-OK.

Mihuyu was a bit annoying (being a reserved social retard, I tend to not go for the uber-over-exuberant types as much; Asa is OK, Tomo is a no.) but I could sympathize with her plight of cracking under pressure. Kisaragi-sensei...uh...that's the messy-haired teacher for NanaDrops, I can't remember the similar one for this show, interesting villain, I like the psychological manipulation he used on Mihuyu, very clever. Random technology stuff, less interesting.

That makes three potentially entertaining 'villains' for Easter, each with, I imagine, different motives and morale: Ikuto, Utau, and...Evil Teacher Guy. They are really making and breaking this show, along with Amu. Tadase is kind of typical prettyboy (although his Shugo Chara is amusing), and the other guardians and/or characters are kind of background. Well, except for yandere-style Nadeshiko, who is bloody awesome.

1/23/08: KimiKiss Episode 15
This episode was absolutely huge in terms of the plot, I believe.

I can really see where Stripey and Usagijen were getting at with their dislike of Eriko and Kazuki in general. They were nice enough characters up to this episode but here they're almost evil. Eriko with the "this is my jealous look" nearly erasing Kazuki - what, time for a more willing experiment - and Kazuki getting disgusted every time it wasn't Eriko calling.

"It's just Asuka." Yeah, let me wipe that dissapointed look off your face.

Interesting developments are happening on the Kouichi side as well. It was a bit typical of the whole 'let's leave them alone' segment followed by the 'just kidding interruption', but the end more than made up for it. It's still strange seeing a beach episode without all the fanservice lollygagging; what worries me about this segment is that Kouichi and Yuumi really seemed like a couple already in this episode, holding hands at the beach and all.

It's good, but allow me to exercise Nozomu's "Too Perfect" rule - it's too good, too soon, and with the preview of Sad Mao in...Guys'..Arms, I'm sensing a shift over to Mao, not to mention the whole 'now she's the one that gets confessed to and kissed in the play" thing. I mean, the play talks about childhood friends - that should set off flags!

I'm really, really hoping that Mao's melancholy over Kouichi and Yuumi kissing (perfectly OK to yell "Victory!" at this moment, by the way) is just her introspective about how Kouichi is more successful in love than she is. On the other hand, she's got Kai in the palm of her hand, if she chooses to play that card, which she is teasing so badly.

I think my 'perfect pairings' for this show are beginning to take shape; we will see whether my slow conversion to a flaming fanboy will affect my love for this show as we begin to hit the rocky patch of the relationships...

1/24/08: Shana II / Sign that You're a Hopeless Weeaboo #1
You're watching The Simpsons, and when Bart says "Shut up, shut up, shut up!", it mentally translates into another show before clicking back.

1/24/08: H2O ~footprints in the sand~ Episode 1
SHE IS WAITING IN THE AIR wait no. Well, they started with a shot of the clouds a la the AIR OP. Not to mention, some monologue slash poem thingy that I would put money on it being repeated in 11 episodes, or 23, or whenever the show's epilogue rolls around.

A bit of liveblogging this time around, just to go back to roots. Having fun with this feature. And hey, it seems that the much-talked-about 'weird features' of H2O are kept in the anime, given by the weird...animal...things in the "Presented By" segment. I wonder why more shows don't put animated stuff here; that was one thing I liked about Doujin Work.

Can't decide whether this show is taking itself seriously or not. The beginning says yes, the wild animal chase says no. Should I put "smothered by a girl, entirely not on purpose" on the drinking list? I'll get the root beer.

At least blind kid went for her face when groping instead of her - wait, never mind. Somehow, I have a feeling if I sarcastic my way through this it will take longer than an episode of Zetsubou Sensei.

Do blind people really walk around with their eyes closed? Ah well, realism in anime, who am I kidding.

Also, they're middle schoolers. I suppose this is an eroge, so they all failed numerous times so that they are all 18? Or, perhaps, they're really thousand-year-old artificial life forms? I never fail to amuse myself with that.

Hmm, I think I always start out hating an anime, but then I go all tsundere for it and start liking it; at least, that is what I hope for H2O. None of the characters are particularly likable at the moment, except for maybe the clumsy, spacey Hinata.

Alright, so we've established that they like fanservice. And they're not afraid of panty shots. Good job. Well, Shuffle! still turned out well.

I think we're supposed to pity Kohinata because the bratty school idol and her stupid followers beat the living tar out of her. Oh, she just smashed some dishes and snapped at the male lead. That's because she's just being tsundere, a rebel, and a cold person, who just needs love! No worries!


Ooh, y'know what would be fun? If Hinata is actually some evil contract killer out to get Hirose, which is why she's being so nice and sucking up to him. At least, that's my crackpot theory of why her grandfather knows his name already, and calls him Hirose-sama. Always talk good about your "clients".

There's clearly some supernatural aspect to this...I wonder how much emphasis will be put on this. Additionally, how much of this feel-good "you can do it if you try!" stuff will we get. Way to empower those closet otaku, anime.

Extremely nonplussed about H2O so far, but it's long and far between shows that really grab me from the first episode. Doubly so for harem shows, simply because the logistics of character introduction and the concept of 'light-hearted intro segueing into something more interesting' hold pretty firm. The animation quality worries me though, it's a bit behind the times; but I'm not ruling this show down yet.

OK, that chibi section at the end of the show was really cute and made the overall taste left in my mouth a lot better. How simple I am, eh? That concludes tonight's Mystery H2O Theater 3000.

1/24/08: True Tears Episode 1
Let me preface this impression by saying that it is really cool that True Tears is in HD-huge size, yet still only 170 MB in size. I enjoyed watching shows like Shana II this big, but hated the extra 50 MB tacked on. Maybe I'm behind the times with encoding advancements, but more of this would be awesome.

Back-to-backing this with H2O ~footprints in the sand~; with that one, I blogged it live. This one, I'm doing my summaries after watching the show.

My best summary of True Tears is that it's another show that I'm far too happy to be irrational about. In many senses it was the same kind of intro episode as H2O. Same 'show all the characters', same 'let's have something almost important happen', even some mild fanservice - c'mon, the typical 'peeking in the bath' thing.

And yet, it was So Much Better.

It's probably because I'm shallow. True Tears is a looker, especially compared to H2O. It's characters appeal, perhaps, to a different subset; while H2O has mostly submissive characters that are drawn to the male lead (with one notable exception), True Tears has a few that are decidedly far apart, either emotionally or mentally distant from the male lead. This insight would probably explain a lot as to why I like Eriko in KimiKiss so much; for some reason, the female characters that are cold, distant, unfeeling, in appearance, have always been more appealing. You could even stretch the definition to Mai (Kanon) or Nagato.

It's weird. Maybe it has to do with the American ideal of working hard for your dream, and that allure of "being able to open up a person to the world, to make them smile." Odd, considering that anime fans like me probably need a lot of opening up to the Real World.

And so, despite True Tears admittedly being built on a few choice cliches (chance meeting, childhood friend, dirty commentary male friend, etc), it really has a good feel to it so far. I hope it can live up to the expectations now established by people like Owen.


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Loli Pop Culture: The great divide

What is eternity doing tonight? has become Mega Megane Moé. For the latest posts, please change your links accordingly.
Twice now I've been called on my labeling of anime characters as lolis, when I thought I was near-certain that they were.

And aside from launching me off on awkwardly and one might say disturbingly statistical arguments - if you look at the Primula one - it set me off to thinking?

What in the heck really is a loli?

It's kind of anime's "weapons of mass destruction". A term that sends a lot of people recoiling, without them knowing really what it is. I could point to a character very easily, much like I could point to a nuclear missile, and say "This is a loli."

The character, not the missile. Please don't tell me I'm wrong this time.

And I could point to a piece of styrofoam, and say "this is not a weapon of mass destruction," much like I could wield Akiko Minase as an example that yes, there are girls in anime over 18 and decidedly non-loli.

Then, y'know, there's the in-betweens. Those that are young in age but old in looks, or those that are young in looks but old in age. What really counts as a loli, anyway? A lot of people have a sort of shudder, knee-jerk "BAD!" reaction to the term, evidenced much by the Kodomo no Jikan manga scandal, but there are many varied forms of lolis out there, some pure, some perverted, and far too many borderline to count.

This ends up so that when one starts thinking about why they hate lolis, it's difficult to come up with an argument other than "they are bad," because nobody knows what they really are.

So here's another editorial, an impromptu second part to the Moe Rising article from last time, about what a loli really is.

As always when I'm busy looking up something often considered as disturbing by the anime fandom or the real world, I head to my favorite harem-master over at Hontou ni Taihen Desu for some balanced, level-headed commentary on things that would raise quite a few eyebrows in other, perhaps more sane places.

I had remembered an old post of his, now celebrating its one-year anniversary, regarding his definition of what a loli was. As pure as his child-loving nature is (feel free to cough suspiciously) he does note that loli has taken on a highly sexualized connotation, and I can't help but agree.

If you've ever wondered what loli meant before, you've probably asked around and gotten the canned answer that it was spawned from that one Russian novel Lolita about, in short, some old guy sexually interested in some young girl named, yup, Lolita. I'm not sure how exactly it started getting thrown around in anime circles so much - I've rarely-to-never seen it used outside of an anime context - but the link to this book has never really been lost, as the use of the word 'loli' by some people has always had some dirty undertones to it, like "I see, you're watching a loli show."

And probably there's something to be said about the two character I claimed as loli - Ayu (Kanon) and Primula (Shuffle!) - not to mention 95% of most I could think could clearly fit the bill stemming from either eroge or visual novels. I will always stand behind the visual novel genre as a great combination of appealing characters, dramatic storytelling, and strong emotional appeal, but when the majority of your target audience is guys there is, admittedly, a lot of pandering going on sometimes, even if that is just so that the characters can break the mold.

Which leads to the second common way I've seen loli be thrown about, and that's in more of a physical context. A literal measuring stick like the ones you would see at an amusement park, that read "you must be shorter than this hand to be loli". Some might weigh the Delicious Flat Chest factor of a character as equally or more important than the height, as well. It's certainly easier to measure characters this way, as physical characteristics are typically more objective than subjective characteristics.

But yet, it's not foolproof. Exhibit A: Lucky Star.

How many lolis do you see in this picture?

There's that issue of art style playing up or down a character's physical portrayal. Lucky Star has this issue especially, drawing all its characters in a somewhat-deformed fashion, de-emphasizing physical characteristics. For instance, Miyuki is one of the 'larger' characters in the show, yet she is portrayed modestly, especially compared to cow-fests like Dragonaut. This has the side-effect of making most of the high school characters, right around 18 in age, look like short washboards.

Obviously there are a few for-certain lolis in the bunch - Konata wears it with pride, and Yutaka, I think, actually IS of young age relative to the cast - but there are one or two more of the cast in question. Most of the characters are mature enough to not seem childish, but the lovable Tsukasa certainly is on the borderline if anything else.

Or flip over to Shakugan no Shana - the titular Shana, for example. Short, flat, and immature. Undoubtedly she's actually pretty old, and she doesn't exactly fit the loli mold, but when you compare her to other females such as Kazumi or Ogata (?), a trend becomes apparent.

Take the other side of the coin; Aoi Oribe from Myself;Yourself. Mentally and vocally, she might as well be a ten-year-old, with a voice lifted straight from Chiyo (Azumanga). Physically, she's probably the most built of the cast. What's your verdict?

I doubt you'll find anyone who will call Aoi a loli, which gives a bit of preference for physical over mental characteristics in the loli definition, but also brings to mind an interesting concept I believe in; relative loli.

Lolis nowadays are all over the map; they are, believe it or not, not just sexualized little kids meant to make church pastors happy in the pants, but also, an excellent way to portray the concept of maturing in characters. As Owen has professed over Hinako from the same series, they can be surprising when they act like adults, or try to, and break the typical stereotype of little kids. Quite often they are childlike only in look, hiding a deeper personality inside, as Fuuko from Clannad could attest to (well, most of the time). They can hide great insights that more 'adult' characters overlook, as is the case of Koyori in sola.

And as such, the word 'loli' a lot of time has shed its sexualized meaning and become more of a general descriptor, in the same vein as 'tsundere'; there are many variations of it, and the term serves only as a sort of starting point for a character, a quick way to point viewers in the right direction, that doesn't really pin a lot of who they are down.

I say 'relative' loli because a lot of characters I label loli, might not be as such, but are clearly so compared to the rest of the cast. Primula, of Shuffle, may, apparently, be too tall and too busted for a canon loli, but when you compare her to Sia, Asa, Nerine, Kaede, and all, it's pretty clear-cut to me. Not to mention, the role she fits as the 'pseudo-adopted child' certainly fits in that loli section as well, right down to the way she acts.

Ayu, may be too mature, too old for loli status outright, but considering her easily amused, cheerful demeanor, and her being a head down on most characters, she can easily be described with the word 'loli'. (Not to mention, any spoilery reasons about why she is so.) It's not like Yuuichi is going to get busted for being a pedobear any time soon, but Ayu is definitely one that could be recgonized as 'the loli one' if I were to off-hand it, just as if I called Mai 'the quiet one' or Sayuri 'the laughing one'.

Is this diluting the word? Probably. But it seems to be used more and more as a casual word, at least to describe characters. It's not a positive nor a negative connotation - most of the time - but more widely used as a 'of this type' descriptor, kind of like the visual novel genre as a whole.

Not all visual novels may be the same - some are more dirty than others, some are slightly different in approach - but you know the gist of what you're getting when you get into one.

Likewise, a 'loli' has become a mix of characteristics, mostly physical, but also reflecting on the mental side as well; the physique will make or break a 'loli' status, but the state of mind is reserved for judging characters that are more borderline (Konoe, from Shana II, might be a good example). It doesn't always imply sexuality - although there are some that use it in such a way, that I reserve the 'lolicon' branding for - although it usually has at least a slight undertone of physical attractiveness.

(For instance, the cast of Cardcaptor Sakura is not loli, because they are not built to be physically, but rather emotionally, attractive. Many magical girl heroines, like Amu Hinamori, fall into this category.)

Will 'loli' ever lose its negative stigma? Probably not - the issue of pedophilia is a touchy one, especially in the United States, and when this name crossed the wrong people, it really became sort of a 'brand of evil' to stamp on things. Kind of like how some people brand things "moe trash", they call things "blatant lolicon pandering". Of course, neither is true, as there are good parts to both sides, and not just to dirty minds, either.

To be honest, I cannot vouch personally, but I am venturing out to try Kodomo no Jikan, the manga, as an experiment (one that, unfortunately, does not involve a lot of kissing). We will see whether I will come back with sanity and libido unscathed.


One more - you make the call.

(Incidentally, at my age, being a lolicon probably isn't illegal if I'm on the upper edge of shota myself. For the record, though, I don't have any bias towards or against loli characters, barring those that are over-sexualized.)

(Yes, that KimiKiss link was random, but there's a lot of ace discussion going on about this 'unpredictably predictable' - am I allowed to quote myself? - romance anime.)

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Moé Rising: The line between cute and characterization

What is eternity doing tonight? has become Mega Megane Moé. For the latest posts, please change your links accordingly. Ikimashou, Mega Megane Moe's host, is going through some hard times, and until these get resolved, posting will continue here at Eternity.

(I like Hisui, but the ol' line about "So moe I might die" comes to mind)

Moe: is it in your anime, killing your enjoyment?

Recently I've been in a bit of despair over Clannad, the third installment in Key's sad-girls-in-noun series that has been animated by high-quality animation studio Kyoto Animation. By all means, I like to consider myself a Key fanboy (I believe the official term for this is "kagikko") like the best of them; look up at my banner (might need a couple refreshes, admittedly) or down at my posts, and you'll see a whole lot of raving, ranting, and allusions to vanilla ice cream, among other catchfoods.

But with the advent of decidedly more real, down-to-earth visual-novel type stories in anime, for example, the highly lauded KimiKiss, it seems that some of Key's works could almost be growing stagnant. Even other shows with what could be considered mildly moe characters, take a more realistic, balanced view, as the infamous quote in ef - a tale of memories goes: "If the girl is thought to be cute, it means she isn't being described properly."

There are a lot of instances of concentrated moe in anime nowadays, but Key works are generally among the genre-leaders in this regard. Just look at Kanon, and Yuuichi's four childhood friends. Clannad is a bit more even-keeled in terms of characters, but Kotomi's recent arc is what really tipped the scale for me, and led me to this post.

It made me wonder - is there a sort of divide between moe characters and strong characters? Is a moe character, by definition, one that has to be shallow? Or is this just a false dichotomy?

Now, as you may surmise, I'm going to be one to stand by the Kanon characters until the end of time. Whether it's the persistent, fight-o attitude of Nayuki, Mai's deceptively kind demeanor lying behind her silent personality, or Shiori's strange, worldly poetic monologues, they all strike a chord somewhere deep inside.

But one has to wonder whether this emotion results from a liking of a strong characteristic or personality they have, or just what many people label as "moe", what has been described as a sort of 'protective urge', a sort of "wanting to be there for them" of like.

I say this because if you think about it, what exactly would happen if you removed the main character (and projection of many a viewer), Yuuichi, from the puzzle. Would they all come crashing down? Would Shiori ever have been happy? Would Mai ever have stopped fighting those demons, internal and external? Would Makoto and Ayu even exist?

It's a sort of grown-up fantasy for people to idolize guys like Yuuichi and situations like his, more than just a simple lust that people feel towards swimsuit models and front-page pin-ups, more of a wanting to "be the only one that can help them", an ironically selfish motive.

And in order for this situation to exist, the girls' characters have to be intentionally flawed, they have to be incomplete, one might say 'broken'. Of course, that's not to say that any flawed character is bad - a character in fiction shouldn't be perfect by any means, and entire Shakespearean works have been built around characters - and stories - gone horribly wrong.

But I think the key to a character is to make them functional enough so that they can live on their own. Kaiji, from his self-titled series, I think, is an example of one such character; he lives a rather poverished, lacking life, but there's no question that he could survive in his tiny apartment on his gas station pay. He may not be happy with his current life, but he is capable in every way, and so when he gets offered these deceptive opportunities by the yakuza to step up into a greater life, the audience can really feel for the torture, the human emotion that he has to go through.

However, the case really does seem different in many a visual novel, and Kotomi's one such unfortunate example. As blog feedback has been indicating, Kotomi's a sort of mixed bag: she's one of the most adorable characters since the history of ever, but her story just doesn't click as Jeff Lawson in one of the above posts puts it:

"I also have this gnawing feeling her story will turn out to be the weakest of the entire show. She’s hot moe infused with essence of sweet moe with a side helping of refined moe served on a dish made of moe mined in the moe mines of ancient Moetopia."

And somehow, I can't help but think that these two facts were linked.

For example, if you walk down to your local Moe dealership to purchase one of the latest 2008 models, you'll be greeted with a customization list that reads off like a list of some of the biggest cliches in anime. Childhood friend? Traumatic childhood incident that caused mental impairment? Unable to make friends with anyone but one person? Check those boxes.

It's sort of a left-brain, right-brain thing. The subjective right half eats it all up, loves the characters and their emotional ploys and the world be damned if anything come between them. But the logical left half notes that they've seen it all before, notes that it's all been done to death, hates it and wishes there was something more creative.

Are these 'moe triggers' always cliched? Maybe that's part of what it is - you really can't get that sense of comfort with a character without really knowing who they are, and the easiest way to do that is to pigeonhole them into at least a partially stereotyped character. If you have a character that breaks bounds, that isn't cut and dry, it's admittedly harder for them to be moe. Why? Because they're new, because they're different, and for a lot of situations, different is scary.

This is where ef goes, in taking a different path - the characters can't wholly be sympathized with, and they can't wholly be hated either. Miyako's 99 Missed Calls is a perfect example of this; you really feel sorry for the girl, for trying so hard and getting shut down, but on the other hand, you get really creeped out by her persistence and desperation.

And while this sounds like a bad thing, I enjoy this style a lot, because it really invokes a lot of thinking, really makes you consider the character more than a simple black and white portrayal.

Once again I want to hark back to Stripey's post on fanservice in anime, and argue that moe is largely the same way. Logically, you could probably argue that moe is essentially a subset of fanservice, for a more 'pure' type of fan.

And it functions the same way, on a character-by-character basis. If you take a blank character as a plain ice cream sundae, and lather it in moe syrup and dip it in moe chocolate and sprinkle moe candy all over it and put sliced moe on it with a moe cherry on top, it may look tasty to the eye but the fact of the matter is you'll probably be gagging by the second bite.

Moe functions well as a garnish, a way to accentuate an otherwise strong character. It shouldn't replace a character's true personality and strengths but rather add to them, show a kind of contrast.

To speak in character terms, it's similar to the theory of why tsunderes are so widely loved by many anime viewers. If a character was only tsuntsun (cold, mean, etc) or only deredere (loving, affectionate, etc), it wouldn't be half as effective, because the viewer would not get that feeling of 'seeing the side of a character that not everyone sees'.

Similarly, in visual-novel-type shows, having a character that's all moe, or conversely, not moe at all, doesn't work quite as well. If a character looks weak on the outside, but really has a strong inner drive (Nagisa), or if a character looks mean on the outside but has a soft spot inside (Tomoyo), it really works better, provided that one doesn't overpower the other. And as you may have guessed by the parentheses there, that's why I'm still liking Clannad, why I look forward to the arcs of the other characters. (Aside from the comedy, of course.)

And that's probably why I still continue to idolize Kanon; even though the character structure is very weak in spots, the characters, at least some of them, do fit this concept quite well. I know I described Mai to a T last paragraph. Other characters, like Ayu, may not work quite the same, as her clumsiness, loli-ness, and uguu~power generally overwhelm her serious aspects, but deep down, they are there somewhere, so I can't say that I could truly hate on any of the Key games. Such is the tint of the rose-colored glasses.

Kotomi, I should hope is just a holdback of the older days of visual novels, when characters were perhaps a bit weaker, a bit more stereotypical. Since a lot of her story is so cliched, so moe-engined, she lacks that 'other side' to her, that something that makes her more than an cute 2D (in both senses) character. Certainly I see potential in a lot of other Clannad characters to break the mold and balance the opposite scales of rational appeal and emotional appeal, so don't count me disenchanted yet.

Sometimes, there just needs to be a bit of stepping back for a minute and seeing how this new trend for moe is and isn't changing things...


(Hopefully not in this direction, for one...I apologize.)

(This post should rank pretty high on the incoherency scale, the analytical articles are always tough to write. Especially when you're arguing against every anime you've ever watched. I still have no regrets in liking moe characters, I'm just surprised at how much of my viewing lineup is tilting away from stereotypical moe offerings - the ef rewatch (in case you were wondering what was holding the review), Kaiji, ARIA, SZS Zoku, even KimiKiss is on the lighter side of moe)

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Looking Both Ways: The Fall Season Carryovers

What is eternity doing tonight? has become Mega Megane Moé. For the latest posts, please change your links accordingly. Mega Megane Moe @ Ikimashou is messed up something fierce on my end, so until that gets fixed, I'll post here.

Looking back...

And now for the Slowpoke news: we're in the winter season.

I'm still stuck in the past, not because of any traumatic accidents which have permanently scarred me and/or my memory, but because the fall season is arguably a much more robust season than the winter ones, at least in terms of new shows.

Especially for a visual novel slash romance slash restricted rock-paper-scissors fan like me, there were a lot of shows that were very appealing; many of them, despite being in tried and tired genres, brought a lot of fresh concepts to the table.

And what's interesting about this, is that unlike in the summer season, a lot of the most promising shows didn't close out at twelve episodes. Those that did, were strong shows, no doubt, but many more than that have been promised at least 20-odd episodes, double the goodness if they can keep the pace up.

As such, the winter watchlist is turning out to be strangely familiar. There are plenty of carryover shows on the list, and those that are new shows to 2008 are mostly sequels in some way or form (Zoku SZS, Minami Okawari). Not to leave a bad impression of the winter season - but there aren't any names of new shows that really stand out from it.

This doesn't equate with 'no good shows', per se - some of my favorite fall shows have been ones that have been completely off the radar - but going off the blog reactions so far, there hasn't been a standout show that absolutely blows people away, that came out of nowhere and delivered the awesome. Undoubtedly there probably will be, but for now I'm content with surviving off both fresh old shows, and some true classics that are burning a hole in my DVD collection. Today, I'll take a look at what we have to expect from some of the shows coming into their second cour in 2008.

Shugo Chara!
Understandably, Shugo Chara! was a show that wasn't exactly on my radar when the season started. Even if I was born and raised on Cardcaptor Sakura, magical girl shows aren't always my cup of tea, and I usually rely on feedback from other blogs to pick out the subsets of this genre that would be my type. In that sense, I'm a sort of elitist for magical girls - I tend to prefer only the ones that have an appeal to both genders, those that carry 'feminine' traits such as romance and a lowered focus on action, yet don't come off as too girly. I do have a pink tolerance still, despite all these years of anime watching.

Anyway, Shugo Chara! got a surprising amount of good feedback from placed that I read a lot, namely Jeff Lawson's and Owen's locales, and so it was an essential "here goes nothing" while I was scraping the bottom of the barrel one day. As has been detailed, the first few episodes were a bit too pink for my tastes, but contained enough interesting stuff to keep my interest, so I forged on; and man, am I glad I did.

It seems a bit pretentious to both proclaim it the next Cardcaptor Sakura or even compare it to that show at all, considering how times have changed a lot in the 21st century, but there's no doubt that Shugo Chara! has the potential to be THE magical girl show of this decade. I can't speak for other popular shows, such as the PreCure series or whatnot, but certainly SC seems to have the wide appeal and fanbase to make it big.

The animators seem to know this too, as the show has been slated for one of the longer continuous runs in recent memory, topping 50 episodes, and this is something that, naturally, is good and bad. The good is of course more of what we love, more of this show and it's entertaining character dynamics. The bad is that, since there doesn't appear to be a huge amount of content for the manga, there's going to end up being a lot of filler in the show, ergo, not as much of the entertaining character dynamics. (Not to mention, it'd be a pain to blog.)

What, personally, deserves the most focus is the quickly-shaping romance tetrahedron of sorts, forming between Amu, Tadase, Ikuto, and Utau. Of course, saying this is a bit simplified; Amu's torn between the goodly Tadase and the dark Ikuto, Tadase's smitted with Amu's transformed self, Ikuto's busy being the guy equivalent of tsundere (Shiraishi's "cool-dere" comes to mind), and Utau is mysteriously possesive a la Primula (that suddenly explains a lot for Stripey's fandom of Utau), and all these facts add up to make the romance side of this story a bit more appealing than your standard 'will-she-won't-she' love story.

The magical girl elements of SC are a bit overdone, personally, as Amu seems to be able to hax any X Character into submission without barely breaking a sweat, but this might just be the show's way of deemphasizing these aspects in favor of it's stronger romantic and slice-of-life elements.

So what's to look for in the upcoming episodes of Shugo Chara? To be honest, I'm worried that the answer is 'not much' - different shows handle their mid-sections in different ways, but Shugo Chara! has a lot of time to burn, and so it might not be doing much in the way of developing character relations in the near future. Hopefully it will be like many recent shows and not delay the love confessions until the end.

Although, regarding that, what's really keeping me interested in this anime (aside from denying cute traps) is that I can't really decide who Amu's going to 'win' at the end...presuming she does at all. Both Tadase and Ikuto have their appeals, both to Amu and to the viewer, and it's not as clear-cut as other shows which one will end up being the 'main' guy. Tadase is undoubtedly the more traditional choice, being the good guy who fights along her, but Ikuto's been getting a lot of attention recently, and being the somewhat rebellious yet soft-hearted personality he is, I can't help but root for him.

Oh, and the mysterious evil motives of Easter, I suppose I have a little vested interest in; who knows if it will be some typical "parents vs. kids" endeavor or not. I can't get a lock on this either.

Shakugan no Shana II
Shana II was not exactly the most popular anime around the blogosphere recently, having eschewed it's action and love-triangle aspects for more of a repetitive drama that failed to be really engaging. But with the recent episodes having kicked the series full throttle ahead, it might be time to pick up interest in the show again.

For me, Shana II has always been a show that was sort of a bread-and-butter watch - something it would be a little painful, other times a little more intriguing, but most of the time it was relatively typical supernatural-action-romance fare, with the action part just getting into gear now. However, with some of the plot points that I think lie ahead, both involving a few Torches (accidental spoilers, whee) and the story of Pheles and the Reiji Maigo, Shana II might have an opportunity to prove itself more than that, and show that the hype for this show isn't just irrational love for melon-bread-eating tsunderes.

In that regard, it might have actually been a wise decision in the end for the beginning parts of Shana II to be so slow; it could be considered that the animation team was merely getting the filler out of the way so that the rest of the show can be exciting from here on out. Maybe not a good business decision, but if it holds true it will be promising for the second half of Shana.

As for what will happen in what episodes remain, I don't really know. I'm really unfamiliar with this series as a whole, and so what I can say is that there will be a lot of fighting, a few romantic scenes, and a lot of terminology spamming to come. It's pretty cut-and-dry that Shana and Yuuji are into each other, but I can't decide whether we'll get true confessions and conclusion with this season, considering the retcon we got this time. If there is enough material for Shana III, that aspect might just be held back on. Kazumi doesn't look like she has much to go on; we already know she likes Yuuji, and now she's in that limbo between backing off and going on the attack, neither which would really suit her. As such, I think all she's good for so far is some romantic insights, what with her virtues of patience and all.

And so my hopes for this show lie with Ike for reasons too numerous to count. He's your glasses-sporting "just as planned" smart guy, he's gotten shafted through the whole cultural festival arc, and he seems pretty level-headed and likable as a whole. Not to mention, he's shooting for the moon in going after Kazumi, who even he knows prefers Yuuji; he's effective working off a rationale of 'well Yuuji likes Shana, so someone's got to be there to catch Kazumi'.

I really hope he gets his fair share of screentime considering how much he's been made fun of recently, as I think he could be a really strong character. I'm hoping they have time to fit him in among all the more standard storyline fun with the green-haired ladies.

Gambling Apocalypse Kaiji
I think I will forever tout this as the reason why blog hype is important; I would not go within a million miles of a show featuring ugly men (and no moe girls) fighting it out in rock-paper-scissors, yet undoubtedly some of the latest arcs of this show have been nothing short of stunning.

It's funny; what makes this show work is that it's not pure macho, nor pure mindgames, but sort of a mix of both, and then some. There are moments that make you think, there are moments that make your blood boil, and sometimes, there are even moments that make you tear up. Sometimes, there are all three at once. I mean, for the love of whatever deity I worship now, I thought Aozora was going to start playing during Ishida's scene in episode fourteen. It was absolutely wrecking, in that way that made you contemplate the nature of man while crying manly tears and shouting "ISHIDAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA".

Kaiji rivals the best of the visual novel genre in having disturbingly touching insights; while those deal more with the romantic irrationality of man, Kaiji goes more into the nitty-gritty stuff. The difference between the haves and have-nots, the wants and want-nots, how everyone is selfish in being kind and kind in being selfish. (A bit of a stretch, but I heart parallelism)

And it's a great mix of predictability and unpredictability as well. You know that Kaiji isn't going to win millions every time soon, but you know they can't quite kill him off either. You know that he's going to work his way out of this hole somehow, but fall back into another. It keeps the mind racing, and to be honest, I still don't know how the Brave Men Road is going to come out. We know he's not doing to die. So what is he going to do to get rid of the money? I'm guessing give it all to Ishida's wife, because there's got to be another yakuza-sponsored game on the horizon; the other aspect that keeps it interesting. It's that 'what will they think of next?', both in the fourth-wall and in the storyline sense.

It's that strange mix of disgust and delight when you see the shoving in Brave Men Road, that puts you disturbingly close to the action, in a similar position as the 'rich bastards'. It's eerie in a sense, how unwittingly we are becoming like them, being the viewers watching something like this for pleasure. It ties you into the show like what nearly no other show can do, and so that's why I can reccomend Kaiji as one of the top shows - especially if you hate moe - of the fall season.

KimiKiss Pure Rouge
For as many times as I've used this phrase, KimiKiss is one of the shows that I think could most fit the idea of being 'unpredictably predictable.' It's a very vanilla show in a sense, one that's refreshingly down-to-earth and real, and at first the romance seemed pretty much a straight shot. It could be easily seen how Kouichi will be with Yuumi, how Mao will end up with Mai, and how Kazuki will snag Eriko.

But, since this show is so multi-threaded, it's easy to see how these threads will intertwine as well. The show seems to be dropping plenty of hits of possibly tying Mao and Kouichi together. Plus, it's tough to tell whether Asuka or Eriko is the true girl for Kazuki.

Let's go with the latter first. Eriko is probably the more likely shot - on-screen kisses aren't taken lightly these days, and it seems all too sensible to have the romance with Kazuki be the thing to introduce Eriko to the world of emotion - I would say break her out of her shell, but Owen has another way of putting that.

Still, like in Shugo Chara's similar dilemma, I can't help but root for Asuka, the underdog here. It just seems wrong that the one who seems to be more passionate will lose, although I think that instead of Asuka winning here, she will just get some major development instead. She seems the strong, fiercely independent type, and she could definitely learn how to fly on her own with her love for soccer instead of Kazuki.

Mao and Kouichi's situation is even tougher to call. Certainly it seems like it would be impossible to break the romantic bonds between Kouichi and Yuumi, given the collective amount of time they've stared at each other. And certainly it seems hard to split Kai and Mao, who seem the reverse of the Eriko - Kazuki situation; Kai is an interesting character, the 'frequently misunderstood delinquent' type that's cold, but has a big heart.

But there still remains that possibility that Mao and Kouichi will in the end, be together; after all, she had to come back from France for a reason, and the anime has certainly dropped more than a few hints. I could see how Kai could live independently, like how Azuka could. And Yuumi could - could, the imperative word - be removed from the story with her moving away.

But that's the catching point, that it would just seem too sad for her to be alone; she doesn't look like she has a fallback, she seems much more emotionally invested in Kouichi. Enough to nearly clinch the 'with enough effort, you'll win' romance award, but not enough to go yandere. So somehow I think Kouichi and Yuumi is the most likely combo, which will probably set Mao up with Kai. I wonder, if maybe Mao will be the one who has to understand who her true feelings are for.

(Oh, and don't leave Hiiragi and Mamiko Noto out of the picture, either.)

There's a lot to think about for such a simple-looking show, which is why KimiKiss is one of the strongest romances running so far. I look forward to seeing how it can do so much with so little in the future.

Visual novels are probably the toughest shows to predict for, which is why I enjoy them so much. Others may not be as fond of the wild, rampant plot twists and overly idealized characters that these shows frequently make use of, but this is probably an issue of cliche more than anything else.

The visual novel genre is full of them, with childhood friends left and right throwing themselves at some undoubtedly bland guy. That's probably part of the reason why I've always been a fan of the Key shows - AIR, Kanon, and now Clannad - because they do things differently.

Yeah, a lot of things are the same. Everyone's still love-love toward one guy, and most of them have a history with him, but it's not always about that. Clannad is a show that feels more balanced - it's not just romance, but it's comedy, it's not just about the girls, it's about Tomoya as well, and when it is about the girls, it's more about them discovering themselves rather than their affections for Tomoya. In that sense it really is a show that anybody can enjoy.

The beginning episodes and the Fuuko arc were a great representation of this; people left and right both enjoyed the comedy, and when it came down to things, spouted fountains of tears at her story. Despite its somewhat derivate roots of Ayu, Fuuko's arc managed to work well because it wasn't just straight Tomoya - Fuuko interaction, but since it also involved Nagisa both helping them and helping herself.

Nagisa's probably the reason why Clannad works, in that despite her soft, pushover personality she's a very strong character all her own, and a great complement to Tomoya. She's not one-tenth as adorable as Kotomi or Ryou, but that might be exactly the reason why: she's more of a real character, with real thoughts and emotions, instead of a cardboard moe cutout. Yet she doesn't renounce those roots either.

Recently I think the anime has slumped a bit with Kotomi's arc - I love her character, her story's interesting and all, but it's just so typical. I think any visual novel anime could pull the 'reclusive childhood friend with dead parents' concept off, since it just seems so perfect storm, the sort of dream that any lonely guy would wish to have, to be the only one there for a girl like that. Clannad needs to be different.

Luckily, I think we're getting into the best parts of the show, with what arcs we have left. Despite not knowing anything about the show, I have high hopes that Fuuko and Kotomi, as interesting as their arcs may be, will be utterly shamed by the powers of the three (four) girls remaining.

Tomoyo's always been a riot in character, and she looks to have the story to back it up, if it involves her trying to change the way she's seen, like it sounds so far. It's definitely potential for her to develop a lot on her own, into a strong person.

Kyou and Ryou are perhaps a more typical bunch but one I'm much more willing to fall for than Kotomi. Kyou is a great personality, with her light-hearted, flirtatious attiude absolutely captivating, combined with more of a sisterly love for Ryou, equaling something fierce. Ryou, well, she's a mix of Shiori and Tsukasa, and that I'm willing to overcome any sense of logic for. I just wonder what their story could be about, and that's what really interests me.

And of course, we'll close with Nagisa, where it really could go any way in the world. Whether they expand more on her story or Tomoya's story, them or their parents, the real world or the imaginary one, time can only tell. I can only hope it will be legendary like everyone is making it out to be - right now, it is a good show, but the potential astounds me.


Looking forward...

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The End of Eternity // Let's Go to Ikimashou!

What is eternity doing tonight? has become Mega Megane Moé. For the latest posts, please change your links accordingly.

Well, if you think about it, I could have been more of a jerk by leaving out the last part of the title. I wonder how many of you I fooled, if only for a few words.


Well...Blogger...it's been good, you helped me get my start in anime blogging and all...but I just don't think we should see each other any more. I mean...it's not like I don't like you, you're simple to understand, you're user-friendly, you've got a lot of connections...but...there's this one girl called WordPress, and, I think I'd like to get to know her a lot better. Y'know...it's not you, it's me. I want to try different blogs, see how it goes, I think we both can do better than each other.

Look, don't cry, you know what we both go through when you cry?

You've got plenty of other bloggers out there, so don't take it personally. I'm sure you'll be fine. Don't worry about me, I can handle myself. Thanks for the memories, I'll make sure to take them with me wherever I go.

Stay strong.


So, uh, yeah, I'm moving over to Ikimashou thanks to Randall, the host, and Owen, the one who suggested the idea. There's a lot more features there and stuff, so I think you'll enjoy what you see, and I think it'll be great for my posting in the future.

And with a break-up comes a new makeover, as I get a reskinning and a name change to Mega Megane Moé. The new link is http://m3.ikimashou.net, so update your links accordingly and head on over there for more info. I will cease posting on here shortly, so make sure to make the jump.

Hope to see you all on the other side!


I'm pretty sure I used this image before, but hey, it's Sacchin waving goodbye, so it's entirely fitting.

What kind of cocky last words were that? How many times do I have to get that right?


I like that.


Here we go...as you think of the blogs of the past, wonder:

"Do you have any memories you don't want to forget?"

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