Author Archives: gynoidromance

Filling the Monster Shaped Void in my Heart

I absolutely adore GeGeGe no Kitaro.

For those who don’t know, GeGeGe no Kitaro is a long running media franchise about  creepy-cute Yokai having adventures while  helping out humans and trying to fit into modern Japan.  It’s  a cultural institution at this point, with creator Shigeru Mizuki’s hometown even  dubbed “City of fish and  Kitaro.”  For the past year or so, I’ve sought out as much of it as I could find, but given the deadly combination of it being super long (5 series of ~100 episodes each, several movies,  2 live action movies, tons of manga ), an actual kid’s series, and super Japanese, the amount of subbed material available is next to nil.

So what’s a cartoon monster fan to do?

The most obvious option is to check out Hakaba Kitaro, a 13-episode series frin 2008 based on the original series of Kitaro comics .  It aired in the Noitamina slot and has a sweet OP, which are good indicators of its quality.   It’s a lot different from GeGeGe — the atmosphere’s more gruesome and dark, Kitaro’s  a creepy weirdo who doesn’t particularly care for humans,  Neko Musume’s sexy, etc — but it’s a lot of fun in that sort of cheesy, old school-horror manga way.  There’s even a meta-episode about Mizuki finding out his creations are real, for God’s sake!  The only real problem I have with the series is that it had to end so quickly.  As Hakaba Kitaro’s recent, there’s no problem finding it online, so getting your fix is quick and easy.

Want more of a challenge?   Then try your hand at tracking down episodes of Vampiyan Kids, a more light-hearted series about a vegetarian vampire trying his damnedest  to scare kids and failing horribly.  The 20 minute pilot directed by Masaaki Yuasa (!) is fairly easy to find.  The animation is great and really cartoony (a character escapes by the power of farts, how could you not want to watch that?),  and the character designs ooze cuteness and fun.  The 2001 TV series is less dark, in both color palette and sense of humor, but the sheer fun of the pilot is still there.   It’s unfortunate that I’ve only been able to find the first four episodes subbed, and even though it looks like more were subbed, those downloads have long dried up.  It seems the entire series is available in Italian (I have no idea why), but I don’t think I’m hardcore enough to watch it like that.

So far those are the only monster anime I’ve been able to find, but I really hope I’m missing something.  I’ve tried my hand at western monster cartoons as well, but those are exploits for another post…

Some honest to god animation in Gundam 0079

Shocked the hell out of me!  The little kids, maybe you’d see something like this, but a Zeon soldier?  Whoever storyboarded this scene rules.

The BL Big Bang — Les Amitiés Particulières

Ah, BL,  the central tenant of female otaku fandom.   The proud, slashy tradition of squeeing over male-male love has seeped into the anime mainstream — shonen doesn’t seem to be made for guys anymore, Gundam has had to separate its fangirl friendly continuity from its die-hard one, and there are even guys in Idolmaster now.  For original BL work,  there seems to be no stopping the genre on either of the Atlantic,  and the trend of “real gay” stories seem to be infusing the genre with artistic merit.  But regardless of how popular BL has gotten…isn’t it kind of odd?  How does a genre like this get started?

Well, BL year zero was 1970, when  Keiko Takemiya came out with the one-shot In the Sunroom.  Sometime in 1971, she showed her flatmate/ similarly esteemed shoujo mangaka Moto Hagio the French film Les Amitiés Particulières. Hagio came out with the one-shot November Gymnasium that same year.  The floodgates opened when  Hagio  came out with  the three volume Heart of Thomas in 1974 and with Takemiya’s seventeen-volume-long epic The Song of the Wind and the Trees in 1976.  I can’t make any assumptions about In the Sunroom, because no information about it exists in English, but the latter three  share similar settings — all-male European boarding schools, just like in Les Amités. Not only that, but the multi-volumed works and the movie share tragic plot points, such as suicide and sexual abuse.  Clearly, without this movie, BL would not exist.  With this in mind, I felt it my duty to investigate further.

Les Amitiés Particulières came out in 1964, and is based off of a novel, which was a thinly disguised autobiography of the author’s experiences.   It takes place around the early 1900s in a Catholic, all-boy’s boarding school.  If you haven’t guessed already, the story revolves around “special friendships” the boys have with each other.   At it’s heart, the film is a pure love story, with the boys focusing on love letters and finding secret places to meet up with each other than sex — the two mains don’t even kiss once.  Given the specter of religion over the story, though, you can bet that things don’t end well.

There are two things I feel I have to point out.  One, the movie treats its subject  realistically.  It never feels like the film makers are exploiting the idea of a gay romance, or being voyeuristic about it. While the movie has its cute  moments,  the romance part is overshadowed by how restrictive religion is regarding love and homosexuality.  Even though most characters in the film act gay,  there is the very real threat of being kicked out of the school in being outed, and a few are kicked out over the course of the film.  Two, the second half of the lead couple is a pre-pubescent boy, which I was not expecting, and filled me with squick.   While his age was a good way to convey several ideas — that youth are capable of making their own decisions when it comes to love,  the beauty of man, etc — it was still pretty creepy.

The most obvious way Les Amitiés influenced early BL was through the sheer beauty  of the setting.   There’s androgynous, well-behaved pretty boys, ridiculously elegant buildings, and even beautiful language.  It was  as otherworldly  in the 70’s as it is today, and lent itself well to shoujo settings and art styles from that time.    Pluck out the too-realistic elements (religion, people getting punished for being gay, self-conflict over being gay), and you’ve got a good escapist setting for a love story.   The works I mentioned even keep the cultured air the film has by making references  to literature, music, and poems I had to google  to understand.

So even though by ’76, there was several types of BL out at that time, such as gag  comedies and action series (I have no idea how that stuff got started), it was the inspiration that Takemiya and Hagio got from Les Amitiés that really gave the genre that initial push.  If you like Heart of Thomas or The Song of the Wind and the Trees, I definitely recommend it, as all three have the same feel to them.

I Now Pronounce You Woman and Pillowcase: A Look at Official Male Dakimakura

I’ve lamented it many times before, and I’m sure I’ll be whining about it for years to come– girls just don’t get enough anime merch.  Companies are happy to churn out a million Yoko figures and hugging pillows for even the most obscure bishoujo show,  but when it comes to pandering to female audiences, the machine comes to a screeching halt.  As a result, the only option we have to satiate our wish to collect is to turn to doujinshi and buy the occasional trading figure.  That’s not good enough!  Doujin stuff is great and all, but I want acknowledgment from the animation companies themselves!  I want them to tell me, “You have [sick and twisted] desires, so we will satisfy them!”

So that’s why I’m glad for those rare times a full-sized (none of that jumbo cushion crap)   fabric representation of a male character comes out.  They may be sold out before I even get to think about them, but dammit, it’s something!  Here’s a run down of all the official releases that I know of.

These came out in 2007, and are actually bedsheets, not dakimakura.  Gintama seems like a weird choice in terms of content, since it’s a long-running comedy/action Shonen Jump anime.  It’s very popular with fangirls though, so I imagine it must have been doubly so in 2007.

Anyway, these bedsheets are rare in loot pictures.  Actually, I don’t think I’ve even seen a picture of these, since every picture of these has the Gintoki one as a pillowcase.  Unless these people are skilled at turning bedsheets into pillowcases, I think its safe to say those are bootlegs.

The Simon dakimakura came out in 2008, but I don’t think it actually exists.    For one, this is an utterly bizarre character choice.  If Gainax wanted to whore off one of their male characters, wouldn’t Kaworu be the more logical and profitable choice?  And if this was meant to ride the Gurren wave, wouldn’t it make more sense to make one of Kamina?  Or even adult Simon?  But even if we lose the bishonen angle and go with the idea that this dakimakura meant for cross-gender appeal, that still doesn’t make sense.  He looks like a boy, not a trap, as seen in his prominently-displayed chest.  So who in the world was meant to buy this pillow?

I’ve also never seen this dakimakura in a fan’s loot picture.  Ever.

This Rippongi pillow isn’t due until next month, October.  If I’m not leaving anything out, that’s a full two-year gap between official male dakimakura releases.  Anyway, Miracle Train is an amusing show, but don’t think it set the fujoshi world afire.  Still, the Miracle Train committe has pulled out full stops to appeal to them (off the top of my head, there was a yaoi café event and the creation of the Ikebukuro station — I’ll have to write another post about that later), so a dakimakura seems like the logical conclusion.  Picking Rippongi makes sense, since he’s the most popular character on the show.

Finally, we have these lovely Durarara bedsheets, which are slated for release in November.  Very similar situation with Gintama bedsheets– same company, same cross-gender appeal, same crazy fujoshi fandom.  Admittedly, I haven’t seen Durarara yet, so I don’t know what the fuss is about yet, but I’ve seen these guys everywhere since the show’s aired.   And looking through the character goods, I’m led to believe that these guys are the main characters, and the show’s about their homosexually-charged rivalry.  Is that correct?  Hahaha.

Anyway, that’s about it for the body pillows.  I really hope I’m missing some.  There are a few cushions of male characters, but those are mostly just promo art pasted on a small pillow.   It may be a little something, but it’s a cop out.  I’m sick of cop outs– just give us what we really want!

Underrated Anime Butler Time

 

Name: Raven
Series: Earl and Fairy
Age: 18
Occupation: Butler/Bodyguard

I never understood what it meant to watch a show for a character until Earl and Fairy.  It’s a good show, with lots of bishonen, a strong female lead, and an interesting fairy folklore angle, but I’m not so into  domineering male love interests.  Ordinarily this would mean watching one episode and keeping the show on hold indefinitely, but this was different.  This show had The Greatest Butler.

It’s a bold claim, but I think Raven deserves the title.  He meets all the standard requirements:  says little, keeps to himself, and does his job well.  With his battle skills and half-demon powers,  he may seem awfully similar to thatother butler, but unlike Sebastian, Raven has no ulterior motives.   He’s just that loyal.   Raven’s  sense of duty ties into his tragic back story, which involves him being enslaved and forced to become an emotionless battle machine until, of course, he’s saved and given a reason to live.  Cliche, but effective.

There’s just something about how dehumanized Raven is that really appeals to me.    Not just in the pity aspect, but in seeing him overcome it as well.  It’s a slow process, but when he shows even just a hint of emotion, it warms my heart.   Raven’s cold personality also acts as a foil to pretty much everyone else in the show, which is a welcome relief, considering how hot-headed and impulsive the other characters are.  He spouts some great deadpan lines, and is probably the only anime character that hasn’t freaked out upon seeing a girl changing.

Lastly, there’s Raven’s skin color.  No getting around it, the man is tan.   Very tan.  And he actually has black hair.  It’s wonderful.  Usually tan bishonen aren’t so tan, and have blond or silver hair as a racial cop-out.  Then again, Raven isn’t completely off the hook in that aspect, considering his green eyes and straight hair.  I still have no idea what race he’s supposed to be  (it doesn’t help that his twin sister’s bone-white either),  but hey!  Tan bishonen!  The world needs more of those!

So is Raven original?  Not exactly.  Is he a great character?  Definitely.  He’s a wonderful combination of traits, and I don’t think Earl and Fairy would have been half as entertaining without him.

Too cute for words.

Review: Complex

More re-posts!  This time a review from a blog I had last year, but filled me with so much shame (don’t quite know why) I deleted everything.

Artist: Manda Ringo

# of Volumes: 4

Genre: Yaoi (18+)

Here’s an interesting question: what happens to the boys in BL after they’ve hooked up?  In most series, we never  know —  the story stops right there.  In Complex, however, we don’t get to just see the relationship, we follow the couple throughout their lives.

It’s an ambitious idea, but it works.  We see two boys grow up from being childhood friends to confused young men and to wrinkled old ones,  and all  the drama that comes with it.  Yes, there is sex, but the emphasis is placed more on the relationship than the fanservice.  It starts a bit hokey (two boys becoming more than  friends because of a pedophile teacher?  Really?), but once the boys become adults, depicts the situations the characters are in  more realistically, making it something that is believable.  From being scared of being “open” to society to nasty breakups to raising children, it shows the difficulties of being gay in society.  At the same time, the series makes sure to depict  characters as human, with no idealized exaggerations and sexualities that aren’t exactly black or white.

Overall, Complex is a gripping romantic drama that shows that  yaoi is more than capable of having depth. It’ll sadly never be published in the states, but it’s  a must read for anyone interested in the genre.

Pros: Becomes more realistic as the story progresses, tackles issues such as gay parenting, heart wrenching ending

Cons: Starts unrealistically, random shota thrown in (volume 2 chapter 7), rough art in the beginning

Brief & Trunks– I don’t know what’s going on, but I like it

MADS are addictive.  My favorite one at the moment is “Convenience Store”, which is old, so it has a ton of videos.  I’m not so enamored with the MADs, though, as I am with the song itself, which is by the Japanese duo Brief & Trunks.

I mean, holy shit.  It’s like Souichi Negishi came to life and grew a sense of humor.    The song’s catchy, jangly, and super cute, but also funny because it’s true– sometimes there is nothing better to do than go to the convenience store.   And goddamn do I hate it when cashiers do that with my change.   The video itself is hilarious as well.  Add in two skinny guys in button down shirts and  bowl cuts prancing around and playing leapfrog, and I’m sold.

Here’s another song by them, “Aonori (Green Seaweed), about those little turn-offs that can break a date.   But that’s it for the subbed videos, and there’s no information about Brief and Trunks in English whatsoever.  I had to find out more by searching their Japanese name combined with Google translate.    Turns out their entire philosophy is writing about everyday life “within a five meter radius”, which makes sense.  They’re listed as a folk band (?), and they broke up in 2001.  Translation there was nonsensical, but I’m guessing creative differences between the two.   So where am I going to find  adorable everyday-life songs now?

Well, I couldn’t find out much else about the other singer (according to Google Translate, his name is Makoto Fineroots, haha), but the main vocalist, Taga Hiroshi Ito,  is still active.  He has host hair now, but still plays the same sort of music,  same high-pitched nasal voice and themes and everything.    If only I could understand what he was saying.