Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Um... Excuse Me But Girls Can Like Ecchi Too

I'm female, but I'm no feminist. OK that's not technically true. I believe in equality between the sexes and that women and men shouldn't be discriminated against purely because of what is (or isn't) in their pants, but by no stretch of the imagination am I hardcore feminist. In fact, I'm probably less of a feminist than my very much MALE friend, Patches. I'm not bothered by the objectification of women in anime, nor, for the most part, does it even register as such. However, what DOES annoy me is having my personal opinion demeaned or entirely dismissed because of my gender.

What has sparked this post is a comment that I received yesterday on my Anime-Planet review of Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu Ni which simply said:

"go back to the kitchen"

This pissed me off. The comment has subsequently been removed and the user responsible warned that sexist comments are not tolerated under any circumstance. And for good reason. Why should my opinion be so quickly dismissed in a five word sentence purely because I'm female? Sure, I gave the series a bad review, but that had nothing to do with my sex. That I'm a woman didn't change the fact that the show ignored its central premise in favour of dumb jokes. The show is called (in it's English translation) "Idiots, and Tests and Summoned Beings", yet it focused entirely on the "Idiots", completely ignored the "Tests", and only included the "Summoned Beings" occasionally for dumb shit they weren't originally designed for. Now although the series was aimed at male viewers, I don't need to BE a man to notice it's flaws, and had I been a guy, this user may well have decided to simply leave some kind of comment like "you're a douche" or "you have no sense of humour" or a simple "you suck", but no, because I'm a girl I should just get back in the kitchen where I belong, because clearly I don't know what I'm talking about and my double x chromosomes make me incapable of rational reasoning.

But this isn't the first time I've had comments on a review based on my gender. I reviewed Ping Pong Club and totally trashed it. I received several messages of disagreement as the show has something of a cult following, and much like Marmite, you either love it or hate it. Fair enough. I hated it. Others loved it. But one user decided this was only because I was female and left the following comment:

"Holy shit you are wrong, wrong, wrong, and you have no sense of humor. Ping Pong Club is one of the few decent comedy anime in existence; I bet you pissed yourself with laughter watching Lucky Star. How typical of a female anime fan to hate it. You have no taste."

Now this comment, doesn't offend me so much, mainly because it's trashing my view of one specific show, not just me as a whole. But this message leads perfectly to the main point of this post: what the hell does sex have to do with what anime you enjoy?

Obviously, I get that certain series are aimed at specific demographics, but that isn't to say that ONLY those people can enjoy it. Just because I'm a female anime fan, does that mean that I should only be watching shoujo and josei series? Should I be limiting myself to the likes of Sailor Moon and Nodame Cantabile (both of which I thoroughly like for the record) simply because my lack of penis means that I couldn't possibly appreciate or enjoy shows such as Naruto or anything with even the vaguest hint of ecchi in it? No, of course I shouldn't, because that kind of bullshit belongs firmly in the past.

I'm a female anime fan, and one of my favourite genres is shounen. I like... no... I LOVE anime aimed at younger boys. I love the kick-arse battles. Maybe it's because I've always been more of a tomboy than a girly girl. As a child I'd rather pick up frogs than play with a Barbie doll, and as an adult, I'd rather watch a bunch of ninja beating the living crap out of each other than see a magical girl twirling her wand and shooting love beams at her crush. But it's not in shounen that I've encountered sexist attitudes. That joy has always lay in the ecchi camp.

In my experience, if a girl is ever going to get hassle for being an anime fan from a guy, it's when they express a negative comment on an ecchi show. If a woman dares to say that a panty-shot filled series has a crap story, then don't worry. It doesn't mean the show is shit. After all, the person giving the opinion is only a woman, what can she know or understand about it? She doesn't matter. Ignore her.


Just because an anime features lots of breasts, panties, or crude humour doesn't mean that a girl can't enjoy it. Now, ecchi isn't one of my favourite genres, but that doesn't mean I don't like series where the perversion is a prominent feature, as I either just kind of ignore it becuase it isn't that big of a deal (Highschool of the Dead) or I actively enjoy the humour (Amaenaideyo!! and Mitsudomoe). Granted, the shot of a buxom female's breasts bouncing around the screen or her panties being exposed by an errant wind don't turn me on, but I can find them funny if executed well. And I think that last point is the key, whether it's executed well or not. Some girls may enjoy ecchi anime, but they may also be a little more objective. Maybe females can spot a poorly constructed narrative, or a badly executed series more easily because we aren't quite as preoccupied by the lingerie and cleavage. However, that doesn't mean that our opinions or observations are completely null and void purely because we don't have meat and two veg clogging up our knickers.

Newsflash: girls can be perverts too. So don't judge us purely on our sex, because it's not so simple. We can be crude and enjoy vulgar humour. We can laugh at fart or poop jokes without being failures as women. We can enjoy panty shots and exposed breasts and not be lesbians. So next time anyone tells us to go back to the kitchen, remember that's also where the bleach is kept, so try not to piss us off too much, okay?

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Cassie's Character Corner: Rukia Kuchiki

So, I've been considering writing a character corner post on Rukia for a while now, but having heard that a friend who loves her isn't feeling well, I figured this would be an ideal time to post this to cheer him up.

I never liked Rukia. From the beginning of the series I found her mildly irritating and just never really got her. However, recently things have shifted a bit, and while she's still not one of my most favourite characters ever, I do now actually quite like her. Things that I once found irksome are now what make me like her so much (I suspect my intense hatred for Orihime has largely contributed to me opening my eyes to Rukia actually being pretty damn cool).

She has many entertaining aspects to her personality, in particular her violent tendencies towards Ichigo and Kon. Her smackdowns for the lusty plushie certainly make for entertaining viewing, after all, Kon is bloody annoying so seeing him repeatedly smashed into the floor or kicked out a window is good. Likewise, although she demonstrates plenty of light violence (whacks round the head, or the occasional flying kick - OK maybe not THAT light), my favourite part of Rukia is her... um... "artistic" ability.

From the very opening episodes her rather unique drawings become a running joke. While she has the right idea of trying to illustrate things in order to make it more simple for Ichigo to understand, combining that with her love of cute bunnies nad her inability with a pencil is a dangerous, dangerous thing.
Look Ichigo, doesn't this make it easier to understand? No? Pfft, what's wrong with you?!

Unlike many of the other higher ranking Shinigami, Rukia doesn't have one defining quirk, she hasn't got the arrogance and pride of her brother, Byakuya; she's not criminally insane like Mayuri; and she's not a drunk flirt like Kyoraku (or Matsumoto for that matter); but this actually works in her favour. Though I personally prefer the more outrageous and wacky characters, I honestly think that Rukia's more normal demeanour is for the best. The series needs a certain number of personalities with more muted eccentricities in order to allow the true freaks to revel in their quirks. In my mind, when it comes to Bleach Rukia is one of the characters who does this best. That she isn't ruled by her oddities means that she can perfectly flip flop between the victim role required for the Soul Society arc and the kick-ass shinigami icing her opponents into oblivion in later stories, all while making us smile with her chibi-sized antics along the way. And it's that versatility in her character that has made me finally appreciate her as a solid and damn good character.

She may be small, but Rukia will kick your arse into next Tuesday if you mess with her.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Video Game Manga: Victory Fanfare or Game Over?

The video game industry is big business, and with the plethora of different games around, it's chock full of different stories for people of all ages and genders to play through. So it's no surprise that the rest of the entertainment industry decides to take advantage of the popularity and adapt the tales we've all come to know and love into another medium. When it comes to anime, there are myriad titles based on dating sims, such as Clannad and Amagami SS. But it's not just eroge that get the anime treatment, one of the most successful and widely known franchises is Pokemon whose games have spawned countless tv series, movies and specials; then there's the obscure OVAs featuring Nintendo's signature creation, Mario. But while I could ramble on about how anime has cashed in on the popularity of these games, in this post I intend to look at the lesser known manga adaptations of some of our favourite RPGs.

What spurred me on to write this post is that I've recently finished reading Hiro Mashima's Monster Hunter Orage, which has its roots in - surprise, surprise - the Monster Hunter franchise. As I was working my way through the final volumes, I kept thinking about what it is that game-based manga bring to the table and whether they're a good thing or not. Unfortunately, I have been unable to come up with a definitive answer myself, but I have noticed that with each video game manga I read, the same things keep cropping up.

The biggest issue with video game manga that I've found is that they're not inclusive and they often expect the reader to be familiar with the game franchise. The two biggest culprits of this I've found have been Kingdom Hearts and Devil May Cry 3. I've never played any of the games in either of these two series so when I read the manga, I knew next to nothing about them. Unfortunately, in both of these cases it's clear that the manga expects the reader to know the basic plot, gameplay and character histories, so they don't bother to fully explain things. In the case of Kingdom Hearts, the story moves so quickly and the dynamic of the world is never properly introduced that I had little idea of what was going on and found it very difficult to really get what was happening and why. To me this is a huge flaw as it not only makes for a poor storytelling foundation, but it also alienates a potential new fanbase who may have gravitated to the games after enjoying the manga - after all if you didn't like the comic why would you want to try the games?

That being said, there are times when game-based manga catering purely to the fans can actually be a good thing. My favourite series of games by a long margin is the Legend of Zelda franchise and undoubtedly the best videogame manga I've read is Wind Waker: Link's Logbook. However, where Link's Logbook differs from the aforementioned Kingdom Hearts and Devil May Cry 3 is that it is a 4-koma gag manga that explicitly states that it has been made FOR the fans. And it really is. The game often pokes fun at itself and the manga continues this and takes it to the extreme, making it one of the most hilarious things that I've read, but that's only because I know the game. Non-fans may smile at the slapstick elements, but by not being familiar with the source material, they probably won't find it all that humorous and all the in-jokes will go soaring over their heads quicker than a frog on a cloud.

To me Link's Logbook is the epitome of the best that video game manga has to offer for the seasoned fan. It takes you through the story and shows what essentially feel like outtakes, but it still wholly encapsulates the spirit of the game. It makes you relive yourplaythrough as you remember doing some of the stupid shit that Link gets up to (such as accidentally jumping off the top of a huge tower), or pokes fun at some of the weirder characters out there - Tingle anyone?

Likewise, for fans of video games, reading the manga does have two other functions. Firstly, it makes for some good geek spotting. With series such as Monster Hunter Orage even the mere mention of fighting Rathians or wearing Kelbi armour is enough to set off a small squeal from the fangirl (or fanboy) inside, which undeniably gives some enjoyment as you read. Secondly, as fans of the franchise it's brilliant to see your favourite characters in print and it does allow for you to rediscover your most enjoyed games for a second time. By reading the manga you can re-experience the story in a much shorter space of time and enjoy it. So instead of playing through thirty or forty odd hours of game, you can follow Link's time-travelling Ocarina adventures in the space of an hour or so.

Now from what I've written so far, it may sound like game manga is exclusively for the fans and only they will enjoy them, but that isn't the case. There are several manga series out there where the mangaka recreate a game story that doesn't alienate non-fans. Sounds great, right? Well, yes it is, except it still comes with pitfalls as more often than not in the quest to make a comprehensive plotline, things shift. Details change, things get omitted, or added and while this makes the stories more universally accessible it can piss off the purists. The first thing to spring to mind for me in this case is Ocarina of Time. As a huge fan of the game, I couldn't wait to devour the manga when I discovered its existence, but when I'd finished reading the second volume, I felt more than a little disappointed because they changed so much. Among the many alterations, the entire existence of the Shadow Temple was skipped, while a scene was added in near the beginning with young Zelda and Link running around the market. Similarly, when Link first ventures into the Great Deku Tree, he isn't alone like in the game, instead Mido accompanies him. While this does make for a better manga story as it shows Mido accepting Link and apologising for all the crap that went on before, the gamer geek in me can't help but yell "THAT'S NOT HOW IT IS IN THE GAME!"

Ultimately, I'd say that adapting a game into manga is pretty damn hard. If you go for a retelling of a game's plotline then it's likely to either confuse or alienate those unfamiliar with the source material, or in order to make it more universally friendly, plot elements will be altered which will annoy or disappoint the hardcore fans. However, there are the games that don't have a linear plotline, such as Monster Hunter, which instead takes the world and its creatures and creates an original plotline. In my mind these have the potential to be the most successful, as so long as you introduce the relevant elements - in the case of Monster Hunter, the presence of the guilds and quests etc - then you can appeal to the casual reader who enjoys a nice adventure tale, as well as the fans who can geek-spot all the game references.

In the end it all comes down to what you want out of a video game manga. If you want something that will be faithful to the original content, then you may be disappointed, as when all is aaid and done, games and graphic novels are VERY different media with entirely different storytelling methods. If you're simply looking for an easy read where you can play "spot the familiar game references" then you'll probably be quids in. And for those of you who don't know the games and just think that the plot sounds interesting, well, just give it a go. Don't let what I've written about prior knowledge sometimes being a necessity put you off, because that isn't the case every single time and you could be missing out as so many games out there have awesome stories that deserve to be shared with a wider audience.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Monthly Round-up: March

March was a fairly busy month for me real life wise, so anime was a little thin on the ground in the end. Apart from all the Bleach - and I'm still not done with that.

Ongoing Anime I've Watched:

Manga I've Read:
  • Good Ending - There are still a few series left for me to catch up on from the 25 Days of Manga extravanganza, and having dipped into a slight manga slump for a week, I decided to make a comeback by reading Good Ending. The more I read, the more it's turning into a harem series, yet somehow I'm really enjoying it.
  • Little Little - Little Little is my first experience of textless manga, and frankly I found myself enthralled. I always find any medium that attempts to communicate without the aid of dialogue intriguing, as sometimes the story can be more poignant. I admit that a couple of times I did lose slightly what was going on, but for the most part, I really enjoyed this beautifully-drawn manga about a sickly girl and her new fox-girl friend.
  • Violet Blossoms - I had been looking forward to reading this oneshot for a while since the artwork is from Kaoru Mori, mangaka of Emma. The visuals didn't disappoint, though I can't help but feel that Mori really shines when she gets to recreate a lavish period world. Plot wise, the whole thing was kinda meh. I'm not entirely sure I got what the final few panels were about, but it was an OK manga, for a short read.
  • Ibitsu - While I'm not normally one for horror anime, I don't mind the odd scary manga, and Ibitsu had been on my list for a while. I confess now, that I probably shouldn't have read it late at night with the lights off just before going to bed, but I genuinely found it quite creepy. The "Little Sister" character is genuinely eerie with her tattered lolita clothes and gaunt, psychotic face. I won't give too much away on this since I may write more on this at a later date. But seriously, if you like horror, go read. Now.

Ongoing Manga I've Read: