High School Boys and the Infinite Time Loop of Hell

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Mar 272012
 

Daily Lives of High School Boys is the ultimate horror anime. That ending freaked me out bigtime.

Every now and then I have dreams where I’m stuck back in high school. Like, I’m still an adult, but I have to return to high school to do one of those vague dreamworld tasks that don’t even make sense within the context of the dream. But no one realizes I’m an adult. I’m fully aware that I shouldn’t be there, but no one else does. I’m sure it’s some deep-rooted subconscious thing like some long-held regret or anxiety over feeling immature or left behind or some shit.

Really. Nothing’s more frightening to me than having to relive high school. Not because those years in and of themselves were terrible, but for the notion that high school is like some sort of purgatory. You feel like you’re an adult, since you’re dealing with that puberty shit and you’ve “experienced” everything and “know” everything, but you’re still legally and socially a child. And thankfully it’s just a form of Purgatory, since you eventually break free from it and gain that “adulthood” you so long for.

And that’s why the ending to Daily Lives of High School Boys is so fucking frightening. The second half of the episode plays through everyone’s graduation. All of the characters are going their separate ways. Relationships play out to their natural conclusions. Everyone’s growing up.

And then it was all just a dream. It isn’t just that “normal” guy waking up from his fantasy confession. If the series ended right there, yeah, it’d just be one last gag. But things don’t stop there. Everything loops right back around to the first scene from the first episode, where everyone’s running to school, and that scene ends with a proclamation about how his adventures with his buddies still continue.

Horrifying. Sheer terror. These guys are forever stuck being high school students. They’re forced to live in perpetual adolescence– dancing about in hellish youth for our amusement.

The existence of a slice of life character is the ultimate punishment. I’m sure I’m doomed to be reincarnated as one for my sins.

We’re All Fools for Loving Anime, and Milky Holmes Thinks That’s OK

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Mar 252012
 

The ending to Milky Holmes is far more bleak than it lets on. It wants you to believe that there’s a glimmer of hope when you see that flower growing out of the broken Pandora’s Pot. But that flower’s born out of the sort of self-delusion and lies that have dominated the series.

That flower’s not hope, it’s a sign of inevitable doom. But that doom’s the sort we want.

The Milky Holmes girls lost their Toys. Again. But it wasn’t due to any sort of failure on their part. They defeated Pig Guy last episode (Albeit with some help, but they put up a legitimate fight.), and in the final dance-off between Sherlock and Arsène, Sherlock did as well as a klutz with no dancing skills should expect.

Milky Holmes won. They did everything in their power and they succeeded, but despite all of that, fate intervened and caused them to return right back to where they started.

Let’s go back to all of that nonsense I’ve been spouting about this series, where Milky Holmes represent the stagnant anime industry, Arsène is the frustrated audience surrogate, and whatnot. Despite showing signs of shedding the trappings of banality and mediocrity, Milky Holmes and the anime industry can’t escape from that black hole. It doesn’t matter if there’s some desire to break from the mold, they both return to what’s safe and comforting. And despite knowing full well that there’s no hope, we the audience delude ourselves into believing that anime can change, much like how Arsène deludes herself into thinking that Milky Holmes can change. That flower is us tricking ourselves into thinking anything’s ever gonna get better.

But at the same time, fuck that noise. We genuinely love anime despite all of its flaws, just like how Arsène genuinely loves the Milky Holmes girls. They both flounder, but we’re willing to accept that if it means we get what we want in the end. It’s more than a little masochistic, but at the same time that’s pretty much what love is. Love’s all about devoting yourself to someone or something despite all reason telling you otherwise. Love is the ultimate act of self-delusion, and we celebrate it.

And that’s what makes Milky Holmes brilliant. It’s all about the vicious cycle of being a fan. At some point you just gotta shrug and admit that this shit that you love is never gonna achieve the sort of perfection you want. It’ll have its brilliant moments, much like how the Milky Holmes girls took on Pig Guy, but you’re a fucking fool for thinking it’s gonna be like that all the time. So you indulge in that delusional love and blind yourself to some extent so that you can enjoy whatever it is you like.

That’s how I’ve been able to be an anime fan for this long. If I just upped and gave up when I realized that most anime was shit, I wouldn’t be here right now writing this post. It takes a certain measure of delusion to keep watching year after year when I know that I’m only gonna enjoy a handful of the series currently airing. And that’s more than OK.

X-Men was my Naruto

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Mar 212012
 

Y’know why I just can’t bring myself to give a damn about Naruto, DBZ, Fullmetal Alchemist, and all of those other “shounen” series?

X-Men.

I think these series have to get you when you’re in a certain frame of mind. You have to be in your early days of fandom, where you’re looking for something to grasp onto– some sort of epic, grandiose, all-encompassing storyline that every intellectual and emotional aspect of your psyche can latch its tentacles upon and dissect, consume, and absorb into your very soul.

The first story you come across that hits all of these buttons is gonna be the one that you (for the most part) always stand by. You’ll forgive (almost) any plot contrivance, shark jumping, or any other shit and blow it off as “that’s just the way this shit plays things out.” And as you grow more experienced in fandom, your tolerance of other similar series starts to wane to the point where most of us old-timers bitterly rant and rave about how Bleach and One Piece are shitty. All the while, we’re cuddling with our precious irrational obsession, doing our best to ignore the fact that this so-called glimmering jewel in the wastelands is no different from the very things we’re bashing.

For most of y’all whose primary fandom is anime, you probably have a similar soft spot for a particular anime. The catch with me is that I passed that phase long before I became an anime fan. My “stereotypical shounen series” was X-Men.

It all came down to that melodrama shit. When I was a middle school brat, I loved that kind of stuff. It was all people falling in love and dying and falling in love while dying and crying and stuff blowing up and getting blasted and punched while someone cried. That’s what X-Men was all about (and still is to this day). But it also had engrossing, contradictory, rules and jargon filled mythos that required the sort of encyclopedic knowledge that powers a young fanboy.

It basically had everything that the likes of Naruto and DBZ have. DB has its arcane power level systems, strange rules about evolving and “going Super Saiyan.” Naruto has its jutsus and politics between ninja clans and crying about Sasuke and all that shit. X-Men has all of that and more. You have the pseudo-political shit with mutants being a metaphor for everything from racial minorities to homosexuals. Mutant powers let every character have their own distinct martial style while still having everyone fall under the same “umbrella” the way Naruto has its ninjas and Bleach has its soul reapers. You even have the whole “school” element since most of the X-Men’s history has revolved around Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. Kitty Pryde? She was doing the “audience cipher” thing years before your typical blank slate action lead like Ichigo or Naruto.

So I was getting all of this shit into my system well before I became an anime fan. I’d already gone through that phase where this sort of minutiae-driven storytelling was my primary interest. By the time I got into anime and started seeing these shounen series, it was all “been there seen that.” These shounen series weren’t new to me the way the likes of Ninja Scroll, Ranma 1/2, and the like were new. They were playing off the same vibes as the stuff I’d been reading for years.

And I think that’s one reason why you won’t see a lot of old school western fans give a damn about your typical Shounen Jump stuff. A lot of us got our start in comics and when we want that sort of fix we look back on X-Men and the like rather than fondly remembering something like DBZ. Least I know that’s the case with me.

The Only Series Airing Next Season is that New Lupin Thing

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Mar 142012
 

Seriously. Before they announced this new Lupin series, my interest in the upcoming spring season was all but dead.

Yeah, there’s that noitaminA series that Watanabe’s directing and Kanno’s scoring, but A) I’ve never had faith in noitaminA and B) watching kids form a band isn’t really a thrilling concept. It’s reminds me of when David Fincher made that Benjamin Button movie. I love Fincher’s style, but it’s wasted on some fucking reverse aging movie. The Cowboy Bebop crew are coming back together to do a coming of age story set to music? Really? I mean, I’ll give it a try to all, and I seriously doubt it’ll suck, but I’m not really excited either. And tossing it up on the noitaminA block does nothing for me, especially I consider the live action Moyashimon to be the pinnacle of the programming block. Its more serious fare has done nothing for me.

There’s that Jormungand thing about arms dealers and mercenaries, but it’s done by the same studio that did Steins;Gate and Katanagatari. Those series were of the “let’s talk about our feelings instead of doing all that cool sci-fi and fantasy shit that’s happening just offscreen” variety and bored me to death, so I’m afraid this studio has a thing for tackling these sorts of series. And I’m especially worried when the series is about arms dealers yet one of the main characters’ defining points is “I hate arms dealers.” There’s some serious Vash/Kenshin crappiness potential there. I loathe it where one of the main characters does their best to bitch and complain about the very premise of the series the way those two characters did their best to pacify samurai action and westerns. But again, I could be wrong, but that’s the vibe I got from Jormungand. It’s frustrating when that sort of “history” is getting in the way of me getting hyped over something I should be all over.

And is there anything else to get excited about? Maybe that Matsumoto series that seems to be rifting off of Star Wars and, well, everything else the guy’s done in the past. I bet that’ll be fun to some degree, but I haven’t really cared much for any of his stuff since that Harlock OVA from 2002. And there’s some vaguely interesting thing about dudes in space that only interested me because there’s a pug wearing a space suit. And… I don’t know… that thing that merges gun porn with moe porn where all the girls are anthropomorphized weaponry? I’ll watch one episode of that just because.

A whole lot of “eh.” Which is how I feel about almost every season, so it’s nothing new. That’s why I rarely bother with these season preview things. I usually end up digging one or two series, but it’s usually despite my initial misgivings. For me to be genuinely hyped about an anime before it airs is pretty damn rare.

And that’s what makes this Lupin series special, as far as my expectations go. I’m hyped. Fucking hyped. Hyper Super Fucking Hyped Turbo Edition.

From what we’ve heard about this thing, it sounds like someone read my old Lupin Conundrum post and took it to heart. It’s playing like a fresh start– the Daniel Craig Casino Royale I wanted to see from the Lupin franchise. They claim they’re getting back to the old school vibe of the early Lupin manga, and on top of that they’re making Fujiko the primary focus. These tweaks are the sort of changes the franchise needs. They aren’t “modernizing” things by having Lupin bend to current trends, but they also seem to be shedding some of the old baggage that probably makes Lupin feel stuffy and out of date to younger fans.

Or at least that’s what seems to be taking place based on the scraps of knowledge we’ve been given. Just the very idea that this series might be striving to take Lupin and evolve him into something familiar yet different is enough to get me excited. And damn, it feels good to be genuinely excited for a new anime rather than taking the usual “I hope something turns out good” approach. Wish that’d happen more often.

Failure and Oink

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Mar 122012
 
This may be one of the greatest character arcs I’ve ever seen in an anime. The evolution of Pig Guy from Tantei Opera Milky Holmes.

We all figured this guy was just a joke. One of those hateful “fat” jokes we think anime is above or whatever. How dare they make such a lowly, adolescent joke? Isn’t this what those nasty Hollywood movies and Nicktoons resort to because they’re decadent assholes who don’t care about storytelling and shit?

Nope. All of those jokes about lard and mocking Pig Guy’s weight problem have turned into one of the most gratifying turn of events in recent anime history.

It all ties into the failure that’s at the heart of Milky Holmes. Pig Guy returns from his overseas exile. Apparently he’s incapable of eating the lard of the foreign country he was sent to after the school was closed, and he’s wasted away to nothing but (lots and lots and lots of) skin and bones. He’s near death, having evolved to the point where lard is his only sustenance. He wants nothing more than to taste the sweet saltiness of Japanese lard.

And then Milky Holmes happens. Namely Sherlock herself. In her quest to find this week’s MacGuffin, she trips into Pig Guy, ruining his lardy treat. And she does it again. And again. And again. Every attempt to partake in his glorious lard is lardblocked by the Milky Holmes girls. Even his secret stash of school lard, carefully hidden in the catacombs below the ruins of the school, is accidentally destroyed by Milky Holmes chaotic, destructive, blissful ignorance.

But it isn’t just these mishaps that contribute to Pig Guy’s story arc. In almost every episode prior to this one, the girls have accused him of being the culprit. He’s been like that Red Herring kid from that shitty Scooby Doo show that aped off of the Muppet Babies trend of the late 80s– always accused but never guilty.

Pig Guy has been the butt of every joke, accusation, and sadistic punishment seen in the series. He’s suffered more than Milky Holmes themselves, because he’s truly unworthy of the torture. He’s a seemingly good student, and he merely wants to wallow away his days being a detective and feasting on the lard that makes him so happy. But the Milky Holmes girls hate him. He’s their exact opposite. While they’re cute and moerific, he’s slovenly and doesn’t adhere to modern otaku sensibilities of beauty. And because of this, they’ve subconsciously directed their powers of failure towards Pig Guy, making him fall along with them.

Pig Guy is a true tragic hero, and it comes to a climax when the Pandora Pot releases its evil sealed Toys and said Toys use Pig Guy as their new vessel. All of his frustration and angsty– all of which is due to Milky Holmes’ pathetic actions– is channeled into villainous fury. Pig Guy has fallen, and he’s become the villain that the Milky Holmes girls need.

Arsène isn’t Milky Holmes’ true nemesis. Arsène needs Milky Holmes, but Milky Holmes doesn’t need Arsène. If anything, they’re happier without the other Gentlemen Thieves getting in the way of their metaphorical cake-eating. But Pig Guy represents everything the Milky Holmes girls aren’t. He’s the light side to their stupid side.

If Arsène represents the audience, then Pig Guy represents the sort of anime we love– mistreated and chastised by the moe trend into submission, but no more. It will harness the juicy bits buried within all of anime– the lard Pig Guy extracts from every other character– and use it to defeat the Milky Holmes menace.

Or will he?

No. We’ve already lost this battle. Pig Guy harnesses the power of failure, hoping that he can bring about the end of the moeocracy by causing it to collapse from within. But this is impossible, since this trend is the personification of failure. It has already defeated itself and it relishes that failure. It thrives on destroying that which came before.

This is a hopeless battle, but it’s a battle that must be fought none the less. And Pig Guy is our avatar in this fateful encounter.

Rock on, Pig Guy. Our cholesterol-clogged hearts are with you.