The Purpose of Anime and Manga (Part II)

[Part I]

In the previous issue I introduced my concept of watching shows and reading manga for particular purposes, which I find personally more useful than categorizing them in genre lists. Those lists are still useful for award-giving purposes, genre analysis, among others. However from an introspective standpoint there are more interesting ways of doing things. I get weary of arguing whether a show is or is not “slice of life.”

In this issue you’ll find two shows notable for their gratuitousness, and then a manga notable for its incredibly uplifting quality.

Purpose 004: To enjoy a side order of characterization with a main course of fanservice.

highschool of the dead tits in bullet time

Best-in-class: Highschool of the Dead

by ghostlightning

Amidst the tits bouncing in bullet time, I was able to perceive the following:

The adult nurse who acts like a tease to the lead male but at the same time is one of the least sexually threatening characters in the show. How does it pull this off? I do think it’s remarkable.

We have twintails who is also hung-up on the lead but is conflicted by an attraction to her opposite. She isn’t as interesting relative to the amount of screentime and dialogue she gets, but she has great chemistry with whomever she interacts. How does it pull this off? I think it’s remarkable.

We have miss OTP, who must have all sorts of complex shit going on after what happened to her boyfriend and everything after that — but the way she soldiers on isn’t catatonic, isn’t ignorant, is purposeful, fearful, courageous, vengeful, and hopeful at the same time. How does it pull this off? I think it’s remarkable.

We have samurai ojousama, who is older than our lead male but plays the role perfectly of the only character who can contextualize appreciatively our lead male’s manliness. She is a woman — playing a traditional male role, objectified as fuck (in that apron), and yet acting as THE barometer of manliness in the show. How does it pull this off? I think it’s remarkable.

The fat otaku elevated fanboy … nobody dumps on him except those who are attracted to him in particular. And yet, he doesn’t behave contrary to his type. He is elevated, but not because he stopped being who he is and what he’s about — but not in a rebellious without a cause empty way. He reminded everyone that they’re still human. The otaku acted as the last outpost of humanity in the apocalypse. How does it pull this shit off? I think it’s remarkable.

And finally, our lead — who isn’t easily shoehorned as a stand-in for the otaku viewer. There already IS an otaku in the cast. He isn’t quite your histrionic bancho either. He was just the guy who didn’t get picked. He isn’t remarkably bad, he just wasn’t the one. But see, THE APOCALYPSE CHOSE HIM. His rival wasn’t fit for the apocalypse. That said, there’s nothing he does here that we can’t say that his dead rival couldn’t have done better… except, perhaps be as attractive to everyone beyond Ms. OTP. This makes him and the story very interesting and I think it is remarkable.

Purpose 005: To live out every man’s fantasy as a harem protagonist, even if it kills you

Best in class: School Days

by otou-san

Did you ever watch a harem anime — one of the standard, Akamatsu-template variety — and think to yourself, “sweet Kenshiro in heaven what a pussy! I would never stutter and blush my way through all these Naked Misunderstandings the way Keitaro/Rito/insert-here does! I would throw it up in her butt!”

Well, you can’t have it all, son.

The reason why these harems work is because they take place in a magical quasi-Japanese land where things are innocent. Picture it: a warm but pleasant summer breeze is creating subtle waves in the grass as cicadas buzz noisily but not annoyingly in the venerable shade trees outside your quiet porch. Perhaps you’re eating ice cream, or sipping tea (it’s not too warm for tea, but it’s not too cold for ice cream). You can smell the flowers on the air, and you can see the panties of every girl who walks by. Ahh. Breathe deep, take it all in. It’s a beautiful life really. You can enjoy the company of any number of girls, of any ages and demeanors. Sure, it’ll make that one girl jealous, but it’s probably just true love that she can’t express too clearly.

It’s all very lovely. But until you marry that true girl, you’re not going to have any sex. That’s right. I hope all those lovely panty-flashes can fuel your nights spent shaking the hand of the unemployed, because that’s what you’re gonna be doing.

What’s that? You’d like to have sex? With girls?

No, no, it actually is possible, it can be arranged. But there’s a catch. See, if we introduce something as adult as intercourse, we also have to introduce consequences.

That sounds like a scary word, doesn’t it? Makoto thought so too. So he chose to ignore the consequences. He had absolutely as much sex as he possibly could, with as many girls as would have him — and as many girls as would have him at once! This is the life!

Oh, but the consequences.

Despite what those US Manga Corps previews said before all the Kawajiri OVAs, this shit is for kids most of the time. If you’re interested in enjoying some more “adult” concepts while watching an amazingly canny subversion of the harem genre, there’s probably only one anime series in existence that fits the bill. And consequences will never be the same.

Purpose 006: To feel good about people, and about ourselves by extension.


Best-in-Class: Yotsuba&!

by pontifus

My favorite characters in Yotsuba&! aren’t the kids. They’re the adults who create the environment that enables Yotsuba to approach the world with her trademark sense of wonder.

I don’t think that’s an easy thing to do. It requires that the adults themselves approach the world with a sense of wonder, which is possible, certainly, but it requires negotiation with the cynicism that comes with growing up. It’s nice to think that someone might remain capable of unrestrained fun even after navigating through adolescence.

Of course, anime and manga characters do all sorts of admirable things, and it isn’t always given that we can emulate them — we’re talking about stories that traffic in the extreme and over-the-top. But, here, we aren’t exactly dealing with using galaxies as throwing weapons; we’re dealing with people interacting with other people in particular ways, and human interaction is something we do all the time.

And think of it this way: a fictional character is merely a facsimile of a human being, in the same way that a story is a facsimile of life. If a facsimile can enjoy everything, as it were, is it so hard to imagine that a person might do the same? I think the answer to this question is “it depends,” but Yotsuba&! presents characters and settings authentic enough that the attitude it espouses seems within reach — and that’s reassuring.

We Remember Love is publishing this post series twice a month – given that I have many purposes for my anime (and manga), just as you might have.

These purposes often occur in hindsight, but in some cases (more often than you think) you figure out your purpose of watching a particular show after a few episodes. So, you can claim purposes when watching ongoing shows, and especially ongoing manga.

Do you watch these shows for a similar purpose? Let me know how these shows work for you?

About ghostlightning

I entered the anime blogging sphere as a lurker around Spring 2008. We Remember Love is my first anime blog. Click here if this is your first time to visit WRL.
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22 Responses to The Purpose of Anime and Manga (Part II)

  1. Nothing to add, but that was probably the best write-up on Highschool of the Dead… ever.

    • KrimzonStriker says:

      Seconding that opinion on the HotD post. Very nicely done ghost :D

    • Thanks.

      This actually started as a comment on 8C’s great post on his old tumblr blog right after THAT episode, which I then published in my own Tumblr. I thought it would be better on WRL but it didn’t stand on its own as a post. I’m glad this opportunity came up.

    • otou-san says:

      yeah right on, I hate giving you a big head and all but it was a fun read, and honestly, I might think more highly of the show after reading it :D

      • Hehehe, I’m not a zombie fan (not that I dislike zombie shows, I just don’t go out of my way to see them) but the show got me. Despite my ignorance of the conventions of the zombie horror subgenre, I figured out the zombies here aren’t quite the point.

        In my case I found a lot more value in the deft writing of the character dynamics.

        Not to say that I didn’t enjoy this show for the T & A, and the violence primarily.

  2. Kuro says:

    This article is god.

  3. predederva says:

    Loved your part about School Days. Mostly because you referenced Central Park Media, but also because of the main point. Schools Days was a brilliant anime, in how it turned the genre of harem on it’s head. It dissected that genre better then I had expected. That’s what a real life harem would be like. Harems in 99.9% of anime series take place in a “magical land” like you said. You’re dead on with this article here. It reminds me of what I wrote about the show in my review. Great minds think alike. Nice work.

    • What otou-san wrote finally got me to watch the show (yes, this post was written many many months ago). You might be interested in the articles I wrote thanks to the old man:

      The Comeuppance of a Coward: Ito Makoto and School Days

      and

      Is this Boat as Nice as I Imagine It? Reflections on School Days

      Enjoy!!!

      P.S. I marathoned this show drunk, which led to some awkward shit

    • otou-san says:

      Thanks huge! I don’t always think that it’s the best executed show, but what you say about turning harems on their head is worth slogging through some bad animation, bad acting, and bad pacing just to be amazed. Definitely read ghostlightning’s posts he linked here, some of the stuff in the comments is outstanding. And also proof that a lot of people don’t like examining the dark side of their fandom too closely.

      • predederva says:

        No problem. This was very well written. One of the best posts I’ve read in awhile! Keep up the good work.

        Yes the show is not perfect. Without a doubt there are huge animation problems throughout the show . But I found the pacing excellent. I guess you could say the opening episodes are a bit slow though. I read his posts too, more great stuff on this interesting series. My opinion is this show hits a little too close to home for some. These characters have reflections of the bad traits we ourselves have. people don’t like to be reminded how terrible we are =D . And yes they don’t want to examine the dark side of fandom too much. Agreed. Also some people just generally don’t like this sort of thing. It’s not for everyone!

        • otou-san says:

          It certainly isn’t for everyone. And even having enjoyed it as much as I did, I can’t help but notice every time I watch a harem story/VN-style anime, I find myself thinking about School Days. So I guess to some degree it’s kinda ruined the empty enjoyment I used to be able to get out of those kinds of stories. But that’s ok, too, that’s a testament to how affecting it was.

  4. megaroad1 says:

    Loved the writeup on HOTD!

  5. sadakups says:

    I just noticed the numbering format. Are we having at least a hundred “purposes”. :)

    Great article as always. I can’t relate on the sixth one since I haven’t read it, but I have to agree with the HotD and School Days ones.

    ghosty, any plans on blogging Level E? I swear to you, I haven’t had so much laughs in three episodes, plus having the most awesome trolling in an anime I’ve ever seen.

    • Will try to make as many of these as we can, and people are welcome to contribute! The format is simple enough so it should be a cinch.

      As for Level E, I haven’t seen that yet. I’m watching Fractale, Wandering Son, Beelzebub, and Madoka Magica this season on top of watching Shiki with the wife, and then my ginormous robot backlog. I’m about 11 eps deep into the original Philippine English dub of Voltes V lols. I’m rediscovering my beloved childhood kekeke

  6. drmchsr0 says:

    That otaku was also voiced by NOBUYUKI HIYAMA!!!!!!!

    How can he NOT be a manly man. I mean, he’s Guy Shishioh, Shiro Amada, Viral, Date Masamune AND Madarame combined.

  7. Pingback: Some new stuff at We Remember Love » Shameful Otaku Secret!

  8. Pingback: The Purpose of Anime and Manga (Part III) | We Remember Love

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