Watashi ga Motete Dousunda – 05
It’s a dark world in Watamodou, but at least they admit it.
Obviously, this is not a series that’s going to restore anyone’s faith in humanity generally or adolescents (or fujoshi) specifically. But then, that isn’t what it’s trying to do – I think the goal here is simply to present high school shallowness in all its hideous grandeur and have a good time doing it. And it’s hard to argue it’s not very good at it – there hasn’t been an episode yet where I wasn’t laughing pretty convincingly, even as I was wincing.
Shima is certainly an interesting addition to the mix. She’s just as shallow as the guys in this series, but she’s much more sinister and calculating about it. She’s playing Kae like a concert grand, playing on their shared fetishes to try and seduce her while playing it off as friendship and whimsical teasing of Kae’s male suitors. When a Valentine’s chocolate contest for Mirage Saga leads to Kae regaining all her weight, it’s Shima who rightly points out to Igarashi how shallow he (and the other boys) are. But lest we think she’s an ounce better than then, she then proceeds to try and get Kae ever heavier because it feeds another of her fetishes and upsets the guys.
The whole weight whiplash sits badly with me for a number of reasons, starting with Kobayashi Yuu’s performance. It’s also preposterous and even by Watamodou standards pretty demeaning. But it’s also utterly central to the conceit of the series, so it’s obviously not going anywhere. With this show you take the bitter with the sweet, I suppose.
Girlish Number – 04
I’ll say this for Chitose: if you believe Japanese colloquialisms, she’ll never get a cold.
I’m not sure whether the timing of Girlish Number is perfect or the worst possible. We’re likely staring down the barrel of the worst half-year in anime history in the first six months of 2017, and that makes the tenor of G;N even more gut-wrenching. But then, it could also hardly be more timely. And for satire, I guess that amounts to high praise.
Ultimately, Girlish Number does a very good job of getting at what the fundamental problem facing anime is. Namely, it’s what happens when art as product becomes the overarching goal. When the marketers and the producers and the idol managers are the ones in charge of the creative process, this is what you get – and for the most part, that’s what anime under the production committee system has evolved into. I have my issues with Oregairu, but I give full credit to Watari Wataru for realizing this – obviously, if one wants to satirize the anime industry it’s an embarrassment of riches. But he chose the root problem to highlight, the disease rather than the symptoms.
What about Girlish Number itself – as art? Well, I hope it doesn’t continue to play up the whole brocon angle, because that takes us dangerously into ouroborous territory. But it is pretty entertaining, and as for Chitose, well – she’s still insufferable, but as her brother points out there is a fearlessness to her that’s actually kind of admirable. This series is obviously a grotesque, like Shirobako‘s troglodytic half-sibling, but despite playing up the warts of the industry for effect it works because there’s an essential truth to its accusations, and essential truth usually makes compelling fiction.
As fans, we have to be honest with ourselves – anime is in big, big trouble. Productions like “Millennium Princess x Kowloon Overlord” are far less unrealistic (and more common) than we’d like them to be. And most of the grunts in anime work as virtual slave laborers – even the well-regarded P.A. Works was outed as having paid an in-betweener $14 for a quarter after their “expenses” were deducted (the full story is more complicated, but still abjectly disturbing). Maybe this is a death spiral (I hope not), and no, it’s not necessarily pleasant to have it thrown in our face the way G;N does. But ultimately, it’s better than somebody out there is doing that than not.
Drifters – 05
When you think about these shows, they form a good trio, as different as they are. All share a damn bleak worldview, though it manifests itself in the very different slivers of the world they depict.
Drifters, it seems, it just a straight-up nihilistic celebration of man’s inhumanity to man (and demi-man). Unlike say Lord of the Rings, there doesn’t really seem to be a divide between good and evil here – just strong and weak. If you’re stronger you’re justified in doing whatever you want to those that are weaker. It’s interesting to hear Oda dismiss (or at least distinguish) Toyohisa as a warlord rather than a leader – in contrast with himself. He makes a valid point, but it’s really a question of scope and vision more than anything else. Oda steps back and sees the whole picture, Toyohisa just stokes bloodlust and leads men to kill and be killed. But when it comes to why they do what they do and how they go about it, the two men really aren’t different at all. Maybe there’s something of a spark of humanity still alive in Yoichi, but in the world of Drifters that’s clearly a weakness rather than a strength.
The most interesting character in Drifters is Oda, seems to me, precisely because he does see everything. He understands the ethical and moral consequences of his choices – he just doesn’t care. Life (either the first or second go-around) is a game to him – all the world’s a stage, and the men and women strictly (disposable) players. That’s realistic in that it was probably that detach that allowed Nobunaga to conquer Japan when no one had been able to do it for centuries. In that sense he’s the perfect candidate to be a Drifter – he brings no baggage with him that would weigh him down as he adjusts to this strange world he’s been dumped into.