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 »

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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 »

Dreams of ambivalence in Amanchu! Advance

I realized that dreams always go hand-in-hand with reality.

– Futaba

In his paper “Ambient Literature and the Aesthetics of Calm,” Paul Roquet writes that the main foundation for the relaxing ambience of iyashikei literature lies in a combination of familiarity and mystery. From its wordings to its narratives, he argues that the genre on the one hand is marked by a straightforward simplicity, yet on the other contains a notable degree of mysterious ambiguity. The latter is not a “mystery” in a sublime sense, but rather a “touch of mystery” that is breezily evoked through the translucency of the former (Roquet, 95-97).Read More »

The Metapocalypse of Full Metal Panic! Invisible Victory

Four weeks ago, I wrote about how the first episode of the new season of Full Metal Panic! indicated “a(nother) turn for the franchise.” My argument was in short that, whereas Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid subverted its “grand return” of the franchise back in 2005 by repurposing the attributes of its cast and premise from a fun action comedy to an intricate character drama, Full Metal Panic! Invisible Victory subverts the franchise once more by abandoning said attributes entirely through its total lack of a “grand return” in favor of an entirely new, external narrative. So far, the season has done more than delivering on this indication; it is not just a turn for the franchise, but a complete breakdown of it. Episodes two to four potently executes this breakdown through sekaikei-esque apocalypticism.Read More »

Hinamatsuri is (not) what it sets out to be

Establishing shot of what appears to be an Edo era city street. Cut to a group of uniformed men with wooden sticks in fighting positions, one of which strikes at a mysterious person dressed in green. His attack is blocked by a wooden cylindrical statuette with a face and a blue wig, held by the person in green who is revealed to be a young red haired woman. In an elegantly choreographed, fluidly animated and solidly shot and edited fight sequence, the woman effortlessly takes down all the henchmen using the statuette as a weapon. Another henchman observes the action, commenting: “No wonder she’s considered the top practitioner of Naika-ken.” As the two face off, he reaches inside his breast pocket but is stopped by her throwing the statuette, making him drop the cell phone he was grabbing. “My smartphone!” he shouts. His plan gets realized nonetheless, as reinforcements arrive around the corner. “Hang on, Hina-chan,” the woman says in her head while faced toward her next group of opponents. Cut to an establishing shot of a modern night city and a title card that says: “Japan, ~ Three years ago ~”Read More »

My Hero Academia is at its best during the montages

I should clarify. I do not mean “montage” in the traditional Eisensteinian sense, as a sequence of short shots that collectively convey a narrative idea. No, rather than narrative montage, what best encapsulates what I consider to be My Hero Academia‘s strongest quality is a form of character montage. See, with HeroAca revolving around an extensive ensemble cast of various distinct “quirks” and a tight interpersonal chemistry, the result is a wonderfully diverse and dynamic mixture of vibrant individuals. Nowhere do these qualities shine brighter than when the cast is thrown together and activated into one concentrated melting pot. Whereas the traditional narrative montage consists of event snippets that together form a narrative entity, the character montages of HeroAca are what convey these melting pots, consisting of character snippets that together form an ensemble entity.Read More »