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.
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
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
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.