The Purpose of Anime and Manga (Part III)

[Part II]

In this ongoing series I explore (along with fellow blogger friends) a 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 the regard they enjoy from a generation of anime fans (and then some), and then a manga remarkable for its villain.

Purpose 007: Purpose: To feel the blues, beautifully.

Best-in-class: Cowboy Bebop

by ghostlightning

How is it that I can feel so much, for and about nothingness? absence? loss? So much of our music, our stories, are devoted to sadness and loss. I listen to the blues when I am sad, and I am happy because someone strung the notes together that describe my sadness better than I ever could. I wail against my inability to articulate my own sorrow, and feel envy at how another human being could, and even worse envy — how that person could actually be sadder than I am, to have made such sorrowful music.

The thing about Cowboy Bebop is how incredibly sad it all is. I don’t just mean the histrionics, and don’t let the mirth fool you; those are just the the extreme notes, as if quickly run passages of a guitar solo. You know it’s going to go down, but maybe not before it wails a bit, some long bends, before it gurgles down and disappears back into the riff from which it came. It’s sad how the characters begin the story having already lost the most important things in their lives, and by the end of their stories, they lose whatever it was they had left.

When there is nothing left, why do I choose to be sad (and it is a choice)? It’s because it feels beautiful, it’s because it feels substantive, heavy… and I’m gonna carry that weight.

Purpose 008: To confront our own insecurities in closed spaces where internal problems have external solutions. 

Best-in-Class: Negative Happy Chainsaw Edge

by pontifus

Negative Happy Chainsaw Edge is a brief manga about a mysterious, terrifying villain — the Chainsaw Man — and the young man and woman who take it upon themselves to combat him.

Why does he show up in the first place? As far as I can tell, it’s because our protagonists need something to fight, an absolute evil; the Chainsaw Man serves as a convenient surrogate for all that’s wrong in the world.

And I won’t reveal how things play out, as it’s really worth a read, but suffice to say that Negative Happy Chainsaw Edge presents a situation in which people have a chance to address their internal conflicts through physical action.

How convenient would that be? How satisfying? And if we failed in the end, we could at least fail because of something tangible. As is, it’s convenient enough that some stories allow us to envision our difficulties as a physical enemy, and perhaps to gain better perspective for it. These stories aren’t quite outright allegories, but they function similarly in that they provide frameworks through which we might consider our own conditions, and there’s certainly something to be said for that.

Purpose 009: To feel what it’s like again to go through adolescence, but actually have fun this time

Best in class: FLCL

by otou-san

It’s tough to talk about FLCL because there are just too many things going on and consequently too much to say about it. But like the way Imagawa’s Shin Mazinger transports you back in time to being a kid on Saturday morning, FLCL does a marvelous job of throwing you headfirst into your most difficult period of life: adolescence. God damn, being a teenager sucks. if you’re like me (and many of you are), you were small, into books and records instead of sports or those girls that wouldn’t give you the time of day, and passed the time getting into trouble or doing things your peers probably found lame.

Guess not much has changed, but I digress.

Thing is, you shared more in common with people than you probably thought. All of them were going through something at least vaguely related to what you were. Many of them looked up to older siblings, tried to act cool, pretended they were older, or put on surly faces while at the same time still legitimately feeling like… kids. That’s Naota, that’s Ninamori, that’s Amarao. And that feeling of pulling in both directions, not able to comfortably rest on either side of adulthood, that’s what FLCL is about.

When I think of FLCL, I think of episode 3, which is really Ninamori’s story. She’s the most obvious when it comes to putting on a brave adult face, so maybe that’s why it sticks out. There are many moments in the episode that broadcast one level of the story pretty clearly (Naota’s dad: “Haruka hit Ninamori with her biiiiike??? Whaaaaaaa??”), but plenty of moments that resonate on the emotional level.

And the subsequent bit when Canti swallows Naota as the Pillows’ “Little Busters” begins is… damn, it’s hard to top. All served with a spicy-ass curry that saves the day.

This is, if you ask me, transcendent for anime. The little laughs or fist-pumping triumphs interspersed among the heart-wrenching confusion and pain — these are Tsurumaki’s admission that yeah, those times had their good moments too.

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?

Also, if you want to contribute an anime purpose write-up for a future post in this series, just leave a comment and I’ll contact 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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11 Responses to The Purpose of Anime and Manga (Part III)

  1. shumbapumba says:

    Great write up on Cowboy Bebop. It’s definitely a show that captures the energy and emotion of a range of musical styles, notably blues and jazz. Your writing captures the musical affect of the show well. I also like how you have considered the psychology of giving oneself over to emotional manipulation. I think we do it because it reminds us of our humanity, it’s comforting and reassuring to know other people understand the workings of your heart/soul, and it can increase our understanding of the human condition – opening minds and hearts, etc. Nice post!

    • Thank you.

      Last year a friend of mine introduced me to the concept of “body genre,” wherein the text (specifically film, but I’d extend it broadly) implicates the viewer’s body involuntary mimicry of the on-screen sensations. Our conversations focused on melodrama, and how it’s easily dismissed as lacking artistic merit (we both maintain that culture is flat; high and low are arbitrary distinctions that can be arbitrarily be disregarded).

      What I find in Cowboy Bebop is the operation of both body genre results, as well as more intellectual — fridge logic like feelings. I obviously am able to articulate such feelings many years after I’ve last seen the show. These aren’t words that come to me as Mai Yamane wails “Blue.” That said, I’m very very present to cues during the show; specifically when Faye shoots the ceiling of the Bebop, knowing Spike is meeting his destiny, knowing that she practically wasted all their time together — that she only started to get to know him when it’s all ending. I’m very present to Faye again, after she meets Julia — realizing this kind of woman (an angelic devil? a devilish angel?) is someone that seems so much more than she is, bringing together her realization that after all her years she’s still that girl before her accident.

      A more precise example of body genre (melodrama) in a scene, would be Faye (again), lying down in her “bathtub of memory.” Thereafter I imagine myself drawing lines in the sand with a stick whenever I want to recall feelings associated with an intimate space; but even as it happened even without amnesia I can feel something akin to remembering the distant past, distinct from nostalgia; partly reassuring and partly dreadful.

      Here’s an interesting take on body genre working in the recent film Black Swan.

      • shumbapumba says:

        Yeah it annoys me when people write off melodrama as mere soap-opera and somehow low-brow. Melodrama is a great genre and an interesting genre to analyse, too. And I’m excited to check out those links. Once again, many thanks :).

  2. sadakups says:

    Jazz and Cowboy Bebop go together.

    • That, they do. It actually took the blues to get me to finally watch this show. My friend back in 2003 kept bugging me to watch it but I mostly just nodded my head. In 2004 as part of my then job, I took a 1,000 km week-long road trip across Luzon and I only had 4 CDs with me: 3 were assorted super robot OPs, and 1 was a mixtape which randomly included the ED of the CB movie “Gotta knock a little harder.”

      I was floored. That song grabbed my soul.

      When I got more of a regular schedule I made sure I watched the show, and I must’ve watched it thrice over that year. The funny thing is, I had no idea Kanno Yoko was the composer until after I’ve seen the show. I had already known her from Macross Plus and Escaflowne, but the CB OST became a staple of my portable media player for the next four years.

  3. Marigold Ran says:

    It is a choice.

  4. 2DT says:

    Have you thought out these reasons beforehand and are revealing them gradually, or are you creating them as material comes?

    Not a bad criticism– I’m enjoying each one so far!– but this entry in particular feels like breaking apart Reason 003 into multiple Sub-Reasons. Which perhaps is necessary when you deal with a big topic like “escapism.”

    • Escapism is really broad, but I didn’t want to stop pontifus from using it.

      We are creating these things as material comes, I have enough for maybe three more posts (9 reasons all told) by myself, but I’d rather conserve these by soliciting contributions from willing contributors (nudge, nudge).

      As for my preferences in composing entries for this post series, the more specific — the better. I want to go to absurd lengths to demonstrate the kind of subjectivity we have and employ successfully to enjoy this hobby. In the same breath we find (so I intend) how easy it is to discover new shows to love, or new love for shows we’ve already seen.

  5. Kuro says:

    Purpose no.9 hits the bull’s eye perfectly. This post is gold. Great post!

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

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