Blue Heaven – realism in fiction

Today I want to talk about Blue Heaven, a manga by Tsutomu Takahashi. Also if all goes according to keikaku plan this will be the first in a series of post where I’ll be focusing on different aspects of “realism” in storytelling (hence the title). So let’s start!

Blue Heaven

Blue Heaven is a story about a dangerous individual being rescued from a small boat in the middle of Pacific ocean. His rescuers bring him aboard a luxurious cruise liner packed with passengers. The guy isn’t just dangerous, his hands are already covered in blood and there is no way to hide the fact, so he will have to flee from his benefactors to retain his freedom, while committing new crimes, all on board a huge ship in the middle of nowhere. Sounds interesting? How about you go read it, if you haven’t already? I am going to have to spoil at least half of the manga, so consider it carefully. The manga is only 24 chapters long, plus a few unrelated bonus chapters, it is not going to take too long.

Blue Heaven, Seiryuu

Alright, let me first recount the story. As I said, the story begins with a cruise liner saving a guy, Seiryuu, from a boat. There were two living people on that boat, and as we soon learn from that second guy, there were 11 more of them, but Seiryuu killed those. By the time we learn these details, Seiryuu had already escaped from his cabin, killing the person who guarded him, and started wandering the liner. The next thing Seiryuu did was finding a lone passenger and striking a conversation. They drink together, then Seiryuu get into his cabin and murders the guy, but not before interrogating him to get as much information as possible. Thus, Seiryuu was able to assume the identity of that passenger, and get a little bit of a breathing room. After all, that cruise liner holds about 2000 people, finding a new face isn’t an easy task.

Blue Heaven

So, what did the liner’s crew do to counteract this? First, they immediately saw the situation in all of its complexity. They rightly guessed that Seiryuu will mix in with the public rather than with the crew. They understood that there are only a few people who know Seiryuu’s face, and that those people would be targeted by him. Recognizing that their enemy is capable (being able to kill 11 people), they armed a group of people with guns. Also, they made a facial composite, which would soon prove to be useful, as one of the personnel members recognized Seiryuu as one of the passengers she saw earlier. You see, they did a fairly good job already. They also decided to call all the Asian passengers to one room, where they could try to identify Seiryuu. This is a drastic measure, definitely not something you would want to do to your passengers, and it is pretty questionable in terms of safety of those passengers. But, it shows crew’s dedication to deal with the problem as soon as possible.

Blue Heaven

Okay, so this is the summary. At this point of the story I was pretty happy and had high expectations for the rest of the manga, here is why. First, we have a pretty simple setup, an isolated place and two parties at play, “everyone” vs “the murderer”. It is a classic setup and I like it. I prefer it when the identity of the murderer is a mystery as well, but well, it is fun to read either way. Second, both parties play intelligently. Seiryuu seems to be on top of the game, he doesn’t make huge mistakes. You can say that he would have been better off hiding instead of roaming the ship, but I’d argue that is not his style. The crew too, they escalate the situation by bringing in guns, facial composites, calling the passengers into a single room. Can you immediately think of something they had forgot? Maybe having a dog tracking him? Maybe trying to take Seiryuu’s fingerprints? I would say it is reasonable to assume that they didn’t have trained dogs and dactyloscopy specialists on this cruise liner. So, my point is, the crew played it smart as well. At this point, I was eager to see the next moves, who will do what.

Blue Heaven, Fuyuki Jyungo

It is not what usually happens, by the way. Usually I would watch a similar two party struggle story and I would go “oh, why did they do that?”, “this came out of nowhere o.O”, “now that was kinda dumb -_-”, etc. Blue Heaven managed to capture my attention by being realistic, by showing me that it operates by sane logic. So, when I see Seiryuu posed with a situation that has no simple solutions, I wonder what he will do, how he is going to stay ahead of his pursuers. I expect the manga to give me a reasonable answer and waiting for this answer is exciting.

Blue Heaven, Seiryuu

Now, unfortunately Blue Heaven didn’t deliver. They soon introduced mentally and physically deformed neo-nazi family which decided to hunt down Seiryuu using submachine guns and explosives, which they conveniently had on the ship with them, unbeknown to the crew. They didn’t hesitate to kill random passengers and crew members, soon turning the manga into a depressive farce. This part was not interesting to read in the slightest, and I think it was because it didn’t seem real. I can believe into rich people carrying guns without permission and not being afraid to use them when needed, but I am not going to buy psychotic racist villains who outright slaughter people for no reason. Not only it makes no sense, but also there is nothing interesting about it, it is just repulsive. And well, the manga had been a bit repulsive all the way from the beginning, cause the utter disregard for human life was the motif of the story; but then it was balanced by the interesting struggle I described above.

Blue Heaven, Yoshiko Natsukawa

So, what I wanted to say is, Blue Heaven lots all of its appeal when it decided to introduce nonsensical characters, a bunch of cartoon villains basically. You can call it lazy writing, I’d agree with that. You can also say that the author lost his inspiration. Or, you can say that the story was supposed to be disgusting and I just mistook it for something else. People do write disgusting stories intentionally, check Gyo by Junji Ito, for example (here I don’t mean “disgusting” as a derogatory term, I think it is rather a weird genre or a theme or something).

Blue Heaven

But, even if it was lazy writing or an intentional spiral down, for me it seems that the driver of this motion was the loss of realism. But it may be just a personal preference. Another element I didn’t like was Seiryuu’s backstory. That backstory consists of Seiryuu spending about 10 years locked in a room, being thrown in there when he was 11. Regardless of everything else, there is no way he could be that strong and healthy after growing up in such conditions. That doesn’t make sense, and I didn’t like it. So, there you go, maybe I just don’t like nonsensical elements in fiction and my judgement is purely subjective.

Blue Heaven, Seiryuu

It is kinda ironic that one of the motivations that drives Seiryuu is wanting to know what the real world is like

Also, I want to add that the story didn’t need to lose its realism I don’t think. I would have been happy to read a story where Seiryuu runs around, hides himself and is being found eventually. Let the good guys win since they have such an overwhelming advantage. Sounds boring? I’d chose that over cartoon villains every day!

These are my thoughts on it. What do you think? Do you agree? Do you think I am wrong to attribute the quality of the first half of the manga to its realism? Tell me in the comments.

Asura

Asura is the Sanskrit word for demon. Sura is used to refer to gods and asura literally means ‘the opposite of sura’. The only reason I decided to watch this movie is because the movie’s title sounded interesting. So I wasn’t expecting much from the movie.

Asura is the story of a boy who was abandoned in a forest when he was a baby. He never learned how to talk and he did whatever it took for him to survive, including cannibalism. There was a huge famine going on and he didn’t have anything else to eat. He is no different from an animal. He walks on all fours and eats raw meat.

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The protagonist- Asura

This isn’t anything new. We’ve seen many stories of abandoned kids and how they grow up. Even Tarzan did this. Unlike Tarzan, Asura actually shows what it means for a baby to be abandoned. Asura isn’t eating bananas and making friends with gorillas. Instead he is being chased, hunted down, attacked and feared. Most people don’t even use ‘him‘ when they talk about him. They use ‘it‘.

Asura’s mom gave birth to him and at first, she gave him lots of love and care. She didn’t have much to eat and she put up with it. It got worse with time to the point that she once ate meat from a rotting human corpse to feed herself. When she didn’t have anything to eat, she decide to eat her baby. She set up a fire and threw Asura into it. It started raining and she came to her senses. The reality of what she had done dawned on her and she ran away, leaving baby Asura all alone in the forest.

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Asura’s Mom

Asura grew up in the forest all by himself. He ate whatever he could get his hands on, including crows and dogs. He once attacked a monk who is far stronger than himself and got defeated. The monk took pity on him and gave him food. He named him Asura.

Asura left the village and went into the nearby village in search of more food. He killed the son of a noble because a stone the guy threw hit him and people hunted him down. He ended up falling off a cliff and was left to die. A young lady named Wakasa picked him up, cared for him, fed him and taught him words.

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Wakasa

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Wakasa and Asura

Look at how small he looks beside her. Asura is only eight years old and yet he knew a lot of things kids his age are not supposed to know.

Of course, this wouldn’t become a dark story if it ended there. Wakasa fell in love with a guy and it upset Asura because she was spending little to no time with him. Wakasa was the only human he ever came into contact with and the time he spent with her meant a lot to him. Asura tried to kill the guy Wakasa was in love with and ended up being hated by Wakasa.

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I’ll stop here and not spoil the rest of the story for you. Let me just say that Asura doesn’t suddenly get a happily ever after and look at the world through rose coloured glasses.

Here is an interesting question though. The movie is called Asura but Asura isn’t a demon. If anything, he is like a wild animal. It isn’t his fault that he kills humans. No one taught him that it is wrong. If one of the villagers killed him, it wouldn’t be that guy’s fault either. After all, if there is a tiger attacking the villagers and killing them, you need to get rid of it. The movie does a good job showing how terrifying Asura’s existence would be to normal people and it also shows Asura’s perspective, how the things he was doing aren’t wrong when you look at them through his eyes.

Asura has beautiful animation. The art is unique and has a hand-drawn feel to it. They combined it with nice 3D graphics. The music is also good and suits the mood.

Asura has lots of blood and gore and a dark story. It might even leave a bitter aftertaste. If you’re okay with cannibalism and the gore, give this movie a chance.

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See you next time ^^/

Psycho-Pass New Edit Version Episode 5

This episode was really interesting and Makishima finally started messing with Kogami. Before I go into the details of Makishima’s plot, I want to talk about one of the most impressive things about this episode.

Psycho Pass 5 (18)

Ginoza apologized to Kogami for not trusting him and not believing in the existence of Makishima

Ginoza deserves some credit for bringing himself to apologize to an enforcer and for admitting that he was wrong. He didn’t even like treating them like humans and yet he can honestly apologize to Kogami. It makes his character more interesting, especially considering how he doesn’t mind looking down on Kogami, his former partner, the same way he looks down on other enforcers. It didn’t mean he suddenly changed and started treating enforcers better though. He was still his old self, he later called Akane a brat and told her that she is new and she might end up being an enforcer herself if she wasn’t careful enough.

Psycho Pass 5 (7)

I have to admit that Akane managed to impress me a little by standing up to Ginoza

Let me introduce another important character. Here is the guy who killed Rikako.

Psycho Pass 5 (21)

Senguji- A cyborg

Everything except Senguji’s brain and nervous system is artificial. He enjoys hunting. Makishima usually supplies the victims and Senguji locks them up in a huge abandoned building and hunts them down. His prey this time is Kogami. You can see where this is going right?

Makishima lured Kogami into his trap using one of Akane’s friends called Yuki. Of course, he didn’t just want Kogami to be killed. He is interested in his character after all. So he turned it into a game, giving some random items to Kogami that could help him survive. He even gave him a way to contact his colleagues. I also have to say that I didn’t expect Kogami to protect Yuki to that extent, since he is different from the justice obsessed protagonists we’ve seen so far. I did assume he would protect Yuki but there was no reason for him to become her shield.  If Sibyl decided that Yuki is too dangerous to be allowed to live, he would kill her without a second thought. At the same time, he is willing to put his life on the line to save a stranger’s life. He isn’t happy about being an enforcer and he knows that he is doomed to live like an outcast for the rest of his life because of Sibyl. At the same time, he trusts Sibyl, the same piece of code that decided that he is no different from the criminals he hunts. There is a contradiction right there. Kogami is not a bad guy and he knows that himself. He knows that Kagari, Masaoka and Yayoi are people who shouldn’t be locked up. So he should know that Sibyl is not always right and yet he is willing to kill just because Sibyl told him to. He is not stupid. He is not someone who would simply shoot and follow Sibyl’s orders because standing there with a criminal in front of him and thinking whether the criminal actually deserves to die or not is too big of a burden for him. So I can’t help but wonder how all this works inside Kogami’s brain. His faith in Sibyl’s judgement seems rather illogical.

Psycho Pass 5 (11)

Coming back to the hunt, there is no way Senguji is going to win this round. He is too used to killing weak victims with no power to fight back and now he has to deal with Kogami, a guy who is completely different from the weak little rabbits he hunted so far.

Psycho Pass 5 (20)

Young Kogami and Ginoza

We learned that Ginoza’s father is a latent criminal. From all the subtle signs, we can say that it is probably Masaoka. It makes sense that way. He talked Akane out of filing a complaint on Ginoza and he also got mad at Ginoza when he was picking on Akane. He even called him by his first name.

Psycho Pass 5 (16)

Why else would he think he could get away with doing something like this to an inspector?

The relationship between Ginoza and Masaoka becomes more interesting if we assume that they are father and son. Ginoza suffered a lot because his father was a latent criminal. He doesn’t respect Masaoka, in fact he is always disrespectful and looks down on him and yet here is Masaoka, just being a parent and trying to look out for him.

There are also some other interesting characters in this episode. I will write more about them if they appear frequently enough.

Psycho Pass 5 (2)

Kogami picking a fight with a drone because it didn’t let him smoke

Just some nice random shots from the episode.

See you next time ^^/

Other posts on Psycho-Pass New Edit Version:

Psycho-Pass New Edit Version Episode 4

Psycho-Pass New Edit Version Episode 3

Psycho-Pass New Edit Version Episode 2

Psycho-Pass New Edit Version Episode 1

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure and Figuration Libre

If you want to praise JoJo I think you would talk about its sense of humor combined with its unique narrative, especially the visual aspects of it. Like, it is fun to watch a vampire whose head was just split in half putting it back together, but having it a little off, so he has to adjust the two pieces, which seems to make him slightly annoyed.

Even better is to watch two dudes fight, where one throws a steamroller at another, and then both repeatedly punch it to make the machine hit the opponent. There are hundreds of awesomely stupid things like that in the series, and they all work because of how the show presents them. It is not all about actions scenes either, this anime can make even a static image work. Like this one, when an ark antagonist assumes a ridiculous pose and the anime treats it like focal point:

Dio Brando

It isn’t just one particular antagonists, they all do the poses

The whole anime is like this. People act as if they are actors on a stage, they strike poses that look like they belong to an athletic dance performance; the events are unpredictable and ridiculous while the characters are always in dire predicaments. You never know what would happen, would they outsmart their enemy or would they just overpower him or her, or will they get out on a sheer luck.

The anime went through four generations of JoJos already, each had their unique visual style, interesting quirks and interesting people to hang out with. There is a lot to say about each of the JoJos, a lot to praise in each season. But if I were to guess what would not make it to the list of praises I’d name the art style and animation.

JoJo is one of those (un)fortunate anime that were adopted from a manga with a got a huge and dedicated fan base. It is a common theme now to try to appeal to such fans by treating the source material with an utmost care. This usually means that the script, the key scenes, the character designs, all would be made as to follow the manga as close as possible. But JoJo took a step further, adopting an animation style that brings the characters closer to their manga look. This can be seen in the Stardust Crusaders, where character designs are notably heavier, which limited the fluidity of the animation and the diversity of the facial expressions. Take a look, can you imagine these faces moving very much? Right.

D'Arby

Polnareff and Kakyoin

Joseph Joestar

But even when the art style is this restrictive you can find animation gems. There was an episode where two brothers were trying to attack Jotaro Kujo (the third generation JoJo) and his friends. The younger brother had a power that allowed him to read near future in his comic book. It is not clear to me how much of an advantage this gave them, but the comic book did look pretty awesome. Here, take a look.

Boingo's comic book

This comic book inspired two alternative ending sequences made specifically for the episodes that feature this comic book. I’ll post a few screenshots from the second ending below ^^

You can watch the whole thing too, I definitely recommend it. Here is the first one:

What I found especially interesting is that this art style looks very similar to something called Figuration Libre, a French artistic movement. Here some examples of how this art looks (these are works of Robert Combas).

Do you see some similarities? When I first saw that JoJo’s ending I was very impressed by how unique it was, and I was even more impressed later when I realized it was an artistic influence of this not very well known French art style. I think this is the role those progressive art movements should play, discovering new forms of expression, new interesting aesthetics, and then giving them to the public by influencing popular commercial works, such as illustrations, decorative artworks and TV animations.

So what I wanted to say is, even in a show like JoJo you can find some awesome pieces of art, if you look carefully. It would be easy to brush aside this ending theme as some lazy weird joke, since the animation imitates still motion which creates an illusion of simplicity, and it would be easy to ignore it because the the art style looks so childish, while in fact it is very deliberate. Good job, whoever is responsible for this awesome piece of animation ^^b

JoJo's scenery

Just putting a few cool looking pictures here, which have nothing to do with Figuration Libre. Don’t mind me.

D'Arby

^^/

Kakyoin eating eyeballs

Okay, I’ll stop now -.-

If you want more art style talk, check out this post on Madoka Magika and postmodernism. If you wanna read more about JoJo, here are a few reaction posts on the first and second seasons.

Gintama.(The Battle on Rakuyo) Episode 12

The new Gintama season has ended and it didn’t end with a bang. Gintoki and the rest didn’t get on their knees and apologize for offending the viewers on various occasions either. The season had a normal shounen ending for once and I am not exactly happy about that.

There isn’t much to say about this episode. Nothing much really happened. We only learned about Utsuro’s past and it isn’t something that would surprise the viewers. Utsuro was feared because of his immortality ever since he was young. People tried to kill him in every possible way they could think of.

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It is no wonder that being treated this way made Utsuro into who he is now

He hated humans and at the same time he wanted to be one of them. I wonder why a person who was treated so badly by humans would want to be human. We also learned what he plans to do next. Utsuro wants to destroy earth. As long as he is on earth, he is immortal. So he wants to destroy the planet along with himself. Again, I don’t understand why he has to do that. When Umibozu tried to kill him by introducing another planet’s Altana into his system, Utsuro admitted that he was almost out of Altana and if Umibozu had more lives to throw away, he would have won. So why not go around collecting Altana from other planets and shoving them into his heart? It would eventually kill him. It all he wanted to do was die, wouldn’t that be a better plan?

Gintama Episode 12.mp4_000407041

Here is the thing. I don’t think Utsuro wants to commit suicide and be done with it. He wants to live, experience normal happiness and then grow old and die a normal death. He can’t have it so he is playing the bad guy. He just wants to be saved from his nightmare. If someone manages to kill him, he will be fine with it but he doesn’t want to be just erased without a trace. I am impressed that Gintoki admitted that the one who pushed Shoyo into a corner was them. I didn’t expect him to realize that. On the other hand, it only makes the whole situation even harder for him to deal with.

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I really like this art style by the way

The art style used while narrating Utsuro’s past looked awesome. It has this picture book feel to it and I especially love the featured image of this post. It looks like a scene that is taken straight out of an old classic horror anime.

I am also interested in knowing what Kamui wants to do now. He no longer has a goal and he no longer has a reason to act crazy, pick fights and kill people for fun. He will probably try to be a saner killer like Sougo now.

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He was more interesting to watch when he was a psychotic killer

Lastly, I want to say that I never expected Gintama to end with a line as cliché as this.

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Come on Gintoki! This is Gintama. It is supposed to end with a gag or a joke

I like this season and all the action packed episodes but at the same time I have to admit that I will probably never rewatch it. It doesn’t have the charm other Gintama season have. Gintama is supposed to be a fine mix of comedy and action. A season with just action is not appealing enough. We had plenty of comedy moments after Shige Shige’s death. Compared to that, the comedy in this season is rather bland. We didn’t even get to see the Shinsengumi in this season (I am pretty sure Shinpachi is secretly happy about Hijikata not appearing on the cover and taking all his screen time). They should have made this season longer and try to fit in some comedy pieces and made it more Gintama-like.

See you next time ^^/

Other posts on Gintama:

Gintama.(The Battle on Rakuyo) Episode 11

Gintama.(The Battle on Rakuyo) Episode 10

Gintama.(The Battle on Rakuyo) Episode 9

Gintama.(The Battle on Rakuyo) Episode 8

Gintama.(The Battle on Rakuyo) Episode 7

Gintama.(The Battle on Rakuyo) Episode 6

Gintama.(The Battle on Rakuyo) Episode 5

Gintama.(The Battle on Rakuyo) Episode 4

Gintama.(The Battle on Rakuyo) Episode 3

Gintama.(The Battle on Rakuyo) Episode 2

Gintama.(The Battle on Rakuyo) Episode 1

Gintama.(The Battle on Rakuyo) Episode 11

Let me start by saying that my worries about Umibozu proved out to be wrong. He is back and he is stronger than ever.

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They replaced the hands of strongest man in the universe with guns

Gintama comes up with some crazy ideas. Umibozu is a monster who can crush a spaceship with his bare hands and now he has been turned into this half-cyborg with insane firepower. I don’t mind watching Bozutama at this point. His adventures with his new toys are bound to be interesting.

Gintama (2017) Episode 327 - Watch Gintama (2017) Episode 327 online in high quality.mp4_000515055

It turns out that Gintoki wasn’t the least bit worried about Umibozu, and with good reasons

We also learned about Oboro’s past and truth be told, I am disappointed in his character. I expected a more interesting story and I expected him to be a better person. He ran away with Utsuro and even decided to sacrifice himself for Utsuro’s sake. Even after he survived the accident, he dedicated the rest of his life trying to protect the life Utsuro wanted. And what made him snap and throw it all away?

Gintama (2017) Episode 327 - Watch Gintama (2017) Episode 327 online in high quality.mp4_001171832

It was this

It was the simple fact that he wasn’t in this happy picture. He knew what kind of  life Utsuro was living and he tried his best to guard it from the crows. Yet, when he actually saw the beauty of the life he was protecting, he got jealous. He wanted Utsuro to be happy and yet he didn’t like the fact that Utsuro was happy even though he wasn’t by his side. He ruined the happy picture because he couldn’t digest that fact. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that Oboro was the one who pushed Utsuro into a corner, ruined everything he had, made him snap and turned him into the monster we see now. He made it so that Utsuro could never go back and at the same time, he destroyed everything Utsuro had built over the years. He turned his students into broken scarred messes and pretty much erased all the good things Shoyo did.

Utsuro was more humane than he is now even before he turned into Shoyo. He spared the life of little Oboro and refused to turn him into an assassin. Do you remember what Utsuro looked like when he thought he lost Oboro?

Gintama (2017) Episode 327 - Watch Gintama (2017) Episode 327 online in high quality.mp4_001075200

Does he look anything like the Utsuro we know now?

In the end all Oboro did was betray Utsuro in the worst way possible. I expected a different kind of story. I thought Oboro tried to protect Shoyo with everything he could and when it was no longer possible, he didn’t mind killing Shoyo. I thought he spared the lives of Shoyo’s disciples even if it meant he had  to mess up their lives, break their ideals and morals and leave behind living corpses. So his actual story made me feel disappointed. Gintama is full of characters like these, people who destroy something important to them for no good reason. Remember what Hosen did? He loved a woman and what did he do to her? He turned her into a prostitute, locked her up, beat her and even damaged her legs because he didn’t want her to leave him. He said something along the lines of ‘Even if I try to bring it close, my claws will only sink in deeper.’ Does that justify everything he had done? Even if Hinowa forgave him, she will not walk again and is doomed to live her entire life in a wheelchair. It also doesn’t change that Hosen forced hundreds of women into prostitution, pulled them into darkness along with him and killed them when he felt like it. Kamui did the same. He cut off Umibozu’s hand, walked away when his mother was on her deathbed and almost killed Kagura many times. I didn’t expect Oboro to join this foolish parade.

On the other hand though, I believe that Utsuro was doomed to be broken. Even if Oboro never betrayed him and protected him for as long as he could, Utsuro would have known later that Oboro had to sacrifice his life and stain his hands with blood just so that he could continue playing his little teacher game. It would have damaged him the same way Oboro’s betrayal did.

Let me end this post by saying that I never expected to see this in Gintama.

Gintama (2017) Episode 327 - Watch Gintama (2017) Episode 327 online in high quality.mp4_000265917

I don’t even remember how many times I heard Luffy say this but I didn’t expect to hear the same dialogue in Gintama.

See you next time ^^/

Other posts on Gintama:

Gintama.(The Battle on Rakuyo) Episode 10

Gintama.(The Battle on Rakuyo) Episode 9

Gintama.(The Battle on Rakuyo) Episode 8

Gintama.(The Battle on Rakuyo) Episode 7

Gintama.(The Battle on Rakuyo) Episode 6

Gintama.(The Battle on Rakuyo) Episode 5

Gintama.(The Battle on Rakuyo) Episode 4

Gintama.(The Battle on Rakuyo) Episode 3

Gintama.(The Battle on Rakuyo) Episode 2

Gintama.(The Battle on Rakuyo) Episode 1

Denpa-teki na Kanojo, episode 1 – tropes

Before we start let me say that this is not a review of Denpa-teki na Kanojo. If you want a review – we already have one written by Shaurya, you are welcome to read it. Here I want to discuss this OVA rather than to review it, so I’ll assume you’ve seen it. It is a good show by the way, and it is fairly short too, so if you haven’t seen it you can start watching it now and come back in 40 minutes =)

Ame Ochibana

I decided to write about Denpa-teki na Kanojo because it gives me a great opportunity to talk about certain recurring setups in anime. Before we start though I would ask you to try not to let any negative preconceptions about these tropes to guide you as you are reading.

The first trope I want to mention is “harem”, basically it is a setup where you have a guy and a group of girls who are showering him with their attention. It is a weird definition, but I find that it works pretty well. I’d personally consider it to be a harem setup if there are at least three girls who show interest in the protagonist. If there are just two of them you can use more specific terms like love triangle or something; these are just words anyways. First episode of Denpa-teki fits this pattern nicely, as Fujishima Kanako (the class rep girl), Satsuki Miya (the girl who turned out to be a psycho) and Ochibana Ame (the Juu’s knight with weird haircut) are all talking with Juu (the protagonist boy) almost exclusively, and each of them shows a distinct interest in him, though their feelings may be different in nature and depth.

Juu Juuzawa and Miya Satsuki

What do you think, does it make sense to call it a “trope”? If you have a character-driven show it is only natural that there would be people of both genders, and since all of them are teenagers it is also natural that there would be a bit of a romantic tension there. And since Denpa-teki is a short anime you can argue that there wasn’t enough room for more than one male lead, so it just happens that Juu has lots of girls interacting with him. Right?

Juu with Ame

While this is a reasonable thing to say, I don’t think it is quite right. Regardless of the writer’s intentions, making your protagonist seem popular with the opposite gender affects the way the show works. Supposedly, it makes the guys who watch the anime associate themselves with the protagonist, and it makes the girls pay more attention towards him because he is popular. These ideas sort of popular are psychology-based speculations, and it is a broad-brush picture. It doesn’t have to work this way, if at all, for you in particular, my dear reader, so don’t complain :P So anyway, making your protagonist popular will likely change the way your audience views him, in particular it would likely make people to wish him well. And this can be exploited.

Kanako Fujishima

Let me give you an example of another show that falls under the harem definition I gave. In Neon Genesis Evangelion its protagonist Shinji Ikari is living together with Misato Katsuragi and Asuka Langley. He is also the only friend of Rei Ayanami, thus making it thee girls none of whom likes him very much, but they do hang out together almost constantly. This anime definitely does exploit the extra attention that Shinji’s popularity draws to him. It does so by making him fail miserably at everything he tries and by making him give up without trying half the time. So, because you wanted him to succeed you feel disappointment, frustration and even anger. Read what people say about Shinji, you’ll see just how well this worked out, he is a legitimate contender to be the #1 in the “most hated characters” list. All because the show is very effective at making you wish for Shinji to succeed. Of course, it is not just about him being popular with the girls, there are like half a dozen different ways the anime establishes him as a character you root for. Check it out, it is a pretty great anime series.

Shinji Ikari, Misato Katsuragi, Rei Ayanami and Asuka Langley. The white haired boy is also a friend of Shinji’s

So with Evangelion I’d say using the harem trope was an effective choice that helped the show in achieving its goals. What about Denpa-teki na Kanojo? It is similar, in a way. Imagine you don’t care about Juu at all. Then the events of the OVA become bland, like a not-so-scary horror film. But then imagine that you do root for Juu very much. Or, better still, imagine that you are Juu. Then how do you feel about Fujishima’s death? She is a person who was always running around you, she was a classmate, she was generally friendly and so on. Feels pretty horrible, right? And what about Satsuki’s betrayal? Forget the emotional side of the situation, just being beaten up with a bat and then stabbed is awful enough already. This is how the first episode of Denpa-teki na Kanojo is supposed to work, I think. It tries its hardest to make you root for Juu, and then it uses this connection between the viewer and the character to deliver the impact.

Juu with Satsuki

If you doubt that the OVA was set up to exploit this trick, remember when Juu was attacked by Satsuki. It was a second after she finished a sentence that was worded as if she was going to admit her love for him. If you were gonna root for Juu this was the time. And a second later he is beaten with a bat but that same girl.

 

So, I think this trope can be used as a writing tool, rather than just being a fanservice device. Of course, there are dozens of anime where harem is the genre, and that is a different story altogether. Also there are anime like The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, where the harem setup seems to be used only to make the show more appealing, so in a way it is just a fanservice.

The second trope I wanted to talk about is quite similar to the first one, but it is slightly less obvious. I would call it designing a character to be likable. In Denpa-teki it is Juu, of course. Lets describe him. He is a strong and brave guy with a clear sense of justice. He is slightly wild, but not dangerous. In fact, even when attacked he might not fight back, if there is a reason not to. He would rather get hurt than let another person be hurt. He wouldn’t take advantage of a girl, even if there are no consequences and more over he wouldn’t even want to be in such a position. He is sensitive, being able to understand how a person feels, even if that person offended him or physically hurt him. This particular trait has an absurd magnitude, as Juu is able to be worried about a person who just broke his arm and leg. Even when stabbed in the gut, he thinks of the mental torment his attacker is in. He is also a nice guy to hang out with. When he decided to spend time with Ame he asks her where they should go to, even though she was willing to tail him wherever he himself would want to go. He treats Ame as a person and as an equal even though she constantly suggests that she is his servant.

So, what do you think? Half of those traits are just a normal behavior of a good person. Being strong, brave, just, chivalrous, selfless, nice, that is a reasonable package for a protagonist, there are tons of characters like this. But that is not all there is to it. While the traits themselves are fine, the show obviously puts a lot of effort into showing that Juu has ’em, to the point that half the anime’s run time is spent on establishing his character. As a consequence it feels like half the show was written in such a way as to allow for Juu to display various aspects of his personality.

The disproportional amount of time the show spends on Juu, the more than impressive set of great qualities he has, the fact that the show is willing to throw some of its realism out of the window to make Juu look cooler (as with the scenes where he displays kindness towards Satsuki who tries to kill him), the fact that the show is interested in minute details of his personality while the rest of the cast gets a bare minimum of development, all this makes Juu a “designed to be likable” character, at least in my opinion. In particular, it seems he is sort of designed to feel dateable, as a good portion of of his qualities relate to the way he treats girls. Also his character does not display any human faults that would allow him to grow later, which shows that the writers weren’t interested in his dynamics, rather they wanted to see him in his perfect form from the get-go. And, as I mentioned, some of his actions seem unrealistic and even clash with his personality, which indicates that giving him those characteristics was more important than keeping him “real”. These choices are also a part of the reason I call him a “designed” character.

Just to make it clear, I wouldn’t call most of the characters designed to be anything because they aren’t. Satsuki and Fujishima are both just functional characters, they serve their purpose and that is pretty much all there is to them. Ame has a bunch of different and interesting characteristics, but they don’t have a purpose; she isn’t meant to fit in any kind of mold, like Juu is. Most anime characters aren’t designed to be anything, they are just written to the best of writer’s abilities to fit into the story, serve their role and hopefully be interesting. Sometimes a character would fall into an archetype or something like that, but as often as not it wasn’t because the writers wanted it to happen, but rather because they couldn’t do any better or didn’t care at all.

At any rate, the designed to be likable Juu serves the same purpose as the first trope, making you more invested in the guy and in all the stuff that happens to him. I think all together it does a reasonable job, and the episode leaves a good aftertaste too. Tropes often feel like a lazy writing, but in the case of Denpa-teki na Kanojo they seem to work fine. The show’s impressive visual language holds your attention, and the writing is fairly clever too. Just as an example, remember the scene where Juu asks Ame to hit him because he was doubting her, thinking she was the murderer? She hits him making him bleed. This establishes yet another great quality of Juu’s, him being proactive in setting things right, apologizing the way that would not take advantage of the meek disposition of the person he apologizes to. But it also shows that Ame is not a doll and has feelings as well. If she wasn’t at least slightly annoyed with Juu’s lack of trust she wouldn’t have hit him hard enough to make him bleed. This is a clever way of achieving two goals with a single brief scene.

What do you think about it? Do you think the use those setups I talked about takes away from the anime? Do you think it is meaningful to talk about designed characters the way I did? See you in the comments ^^/