Kotonoba Drive and the ambivalence of young adulthood

Five weeks ago, I wrote about how Hitoshi Ashinano’s two series Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou and Kabu no Isaki present contrasting yet paralleling views of Mount Fuji that reflect the respective protagonists’ character arcs. Whereas Alpha’s view depicts wistful impermanence through a nostalgic remainder of a lost past, Isaki’s view depicts an aspirational coming of age through persistently exotic otherness. Ashinano’s following series Kotonoba Drive may not feature a view of Mount Fuji, but it does feature a chapter – its twenty-second – that presents a closing sentence to its predecessors’ thematic dialogue.Read More »


The meta-dissonance of Shoujo☆Kageki Revue Starlight

In film theory, diegesis broadly refers to how a given narrative is filmically narrated. Originally a term used in Ancient Greek philosophy for the act of “telling” as opposed to the act of “showing” (mimesis) a story, it was applied to film theory in the 1950s by Étienne Souriau as part of his attempt at establishing a defined science and language for the study of cinema. He centrally posited the existence of a “filmic universe,” both as posed by any individual film, and in a broader sense encompassing the film medium at large. The filmic universe consists of seven levels of existence, of which the fifth constitutes the inner world of the film as represented and implied through the medium – in other words, diegesis (Thanouli, 2014: 133-134). Non-diegesis then, as later posited by Edward Branigan, constitutes all filmic elements that aren’t part of this representation and implication, that exist outside of the film’s world (Thanouli, 2014: 135).Read More »

The inter-narrative of Chio-chan no Tsuugakuro

Nicholson Baker’s 1988 debut novel The Mezzanine is an exploration of minuscule mental excursion. On paper, it covers one young office worker’s ride up the escalators during his lunch break. In reality, it covers the various thoughts going on inside his head throughout this ride; extensive reflections about such trivial things as broken shoelaces, the floating tendency of drinking straws, and which queue to stand in at the convenience store checkout. With his mind thoroughly exploring one subject after the other – many of which get further elaborated on through long, sometimes multi-page footnotes – the external minutiae event of the escalator ride becomes an internal voyage into the endless reflexivity of the human mind. To quote Antoine Wilson: “Here we don’t read ‘our own rejected thoughts,’ in Emerson’s formulation, but rather those which never even reached the level of rejection, fleeting observations of the kind that barely puncture consciousness.” Such thoughts only get to properly flourish in the particular type of space that the elevator ride constitutes; an interspace, a transitionary gap between more eventful activities.Read More »

There’s something uncanny about Hanebado’s animation…

…and I’m not just talking about its badminton scenes, whose prominent use of rotoscoping certainly does constitute a factor. No, what I’m referring to is as much present in these scenes as any other general instance of motion in Hanebado! It is an uncanniness that subtly lingers within the show’s fundamental frame-to-frame basis. Like an uncanny valley, it has to do with ambivalence; partly between figuration and abstraction, partly between an embodiment and disembodiment of the visuality of the show’s medium.Read More »

Hitoshi Ashinano’s views of Mount Fuji

First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is

– Donovan

What’s most striking to me about Hokusai’s Thirty-six views of Mount Fuji series is its vast variety in motifs. From great waves to farming fields to temples to tea houses to town bridges, like markers on a map the 46 paintings collectively portray the vivid plurality of the Edo everyday. Yet, with the lingering omnipresence of the stately mountain as their nexus – whether taking up much of the surface area or just a spot in the background – an almost metaphysical connectivity is suggested. At the end of the day they are, despite their vastly different environments, all parts of the same sociocultural unity. As suggested by the series title, the mountain is the same but the views of it are all different – from different angles and in different contexts. The result is a collection of scenes that are perceptually linked yet disparate, that are all parts of the same world yet indicate different views of the world.Read More »

Comic Girls is a fresh take on otaku

Whereas 3D Kanojo is an attempt at humanizing the otaku that ultimately backfires due to its embodiment of the presumptions and prejudices that it aims to subvert, Comic Girls presents a significantly more nuanced perspective. Instead of treating otakudom as an inherently unwanted condition and a substitute for a lack, the show celebrates it on its own ground. Indeed, its very premise focuses on a communal otaku space, following the young members of a female manga artist dorm in their pursuing careers. With their love and talent for the art of manga being at the dramatic forefront, the passion and creativity that permeates otaku culture is highlighted and centered.Read More »

3D Kanojo is a tired take on otaku

She took me from the virtual world and brought me into the world of real humans.

– Hikari

Densha otoko was in the mid-2000s a Japanese national sensation. Originating from a discussion forum on the Japanese otaku website 2channel, it was the (supposedly true) story of a 22 year old male otaku who, after having saved a young woman from a harasser on the train, sought online guidance in his romantic pursuit with the woman. After getting picked up and made into a novel by one of Japan’s major publishers, the story quickly grew into a major multimedia phenomenon with several manga adaptations, a TV-series and a feature length film. Not least did its huge popularity cause a change in the negative public perception toward otaku (Fisch, 2009: 131-133). Read More »