Sunday, May 22, 2011

Spring Streaming Season Part Two: Revenge of the Little Sister

Ucch, Moe. On this blog, I have previously defended the style/genre/cult/whatever at a time when no-one seemed to see any good in it, but that's besides the point. 90% of Moe, like everything else, is crud, and TV anime seems to be one of the main creators of that percentage. With last season's drop in moe shows, not to mention the whole Bill 156 thing, I thought to my self, "Well, that's the end of petty syndicated moe blobs," and breathed an innocent sigh of relief. I even speculated which ugly, perverted trend was next. Oy vey, how did I not see this coming. This season sees a resurgence in the cult of cuteness' vice-like grip on the tellie, with at least 5 shows (not even counting what's not streaming) beaming to your screen for 20 minutes you will never get back. Here's my take on four of these titles, My Odinary Life, A Bridge to the Starry Skies, We Without Wings, and Astarotte's Toy.

My Ordinary Life
One of the more interesting (or at least less offensive) sides of the moe symptom is 4-koma. 4 koma are four-panel comic strips, but unlike their western cousins, are often serialized in magazines dedicated to them, rather than newspapers.And with magazines means demographics, so there are countless moe 4-koma mags. And these moe 4-koma are perhaps the purest example of moe. Sexuality is completely absent from these series, and instead places strong emphasis on kawaii cuteness, witch is perfectly fine. The one notable problem with these comics is that, like our comic strips, these 4-koma are so decidedly innocent that very little happens and it's boring and not funny. The key difference is that instead of this dullness pleasing kindly grandmas, it is intended to sucker LFB (a term coined by Erica "Okazu" Friedman, short for "Loser Fan Boy"), slash fiction reading, slobbering Otaku. I expected My Ordinary Life, an anime adaption of a manga of the same name, to be another one of these droll experiences, and even though I was right to the extent that this is another friggin' show about cute girls in high school who look about 6 years old, the series does have one trick up its sleeve: it's actually funny.

My Ordinary Life follows a couple of girl's, well, ordinary lives, while casually undermining said ordinariness. One girl is actually a robot. One boy commutes to school by goat. Bumping into a random passerby creates an explosion taken right out of Akira. The brilliance of the show is that it balances the ordinary and the not without ever devoting itself entirely to either extreme. If all a moe series needs to be good is to go well with a cup of tea, then My Ordinary Life is perfect for those who like their tea with a bit of sugar.
My Ordinary Life is streaming on Crunchyroll.

A Bridge to the Starry Skies
If you are reading this, as I'm sure the more sensible of you have already stopped reading, do know that this anime sickened me. It sickened me to the very core of my moral fibers. To give the show credit, I did have a very strong emotional response: Those poor voice actresses! Doesn't it hurt to talk in a high pitch voice like that? I feel sorry for everyone who worked on this turkey. The animators who are only allowed to put care in to the depiction of panty shots, and must otherwise resort to bad CGI busses and cardboard-cutout motion. The director(s) and screenwriter(s), who for all I know are truly creative people, forced to cull from the Database. What do I mean by Database? Let's take a look at the plot:

We begin with a childhood memory. AWWW! Now cut to bad CGI bus. Self-insert-fantasy character H of earlier childhood memory is on bus with his shota-moe brother. Take it from me, younger brothers are never that nice around an older sibling. Some creaky exposition reveals that they have gone to the place of CHILDHOOD MEMORY AWWW! They get lost. Then, a monkey steals Shota-boy's hat, reminding us that we are supposed to this what we are watching is "wacky."  H chases monkey, falls off a tree, and realizes... he's at the lake from his childhood memory! AWWW! Meanwhile, shota-boy wonders where his oniichan is. Then, cute girl! She is most certainly the one from the childhood memory (AWWW!), and gives us the show's first panty shot, also reminding us the show is supposed to be "wacky," but in a different way. Then, it's the "Oh no I fell and kissed you!" scene. I could go on for longer, but I think you get the idea. Anyway, skip this.
A Bridge to the Starry Skies is streaming on Crunchyroll.

We, Without Wings - under the innocent sky
Many moe and harem anime in the past have what I like to call "the Self-Insert Male Protagonist" (or SIMP, for short). Normally the only prominent male, the SIMP has essentially no personality, and is surrounded by cute girls. The reason for this is that the SIMP is really the LFB, who fantasizes about being the chick-magnet SIMP, or more to the point, replacing the SIMP. The SIMP may be meek, and even be hated by most of the girls, but this only adds to the LFB's fantasy, creating tantalizing thoughts, such as If I were him, I'd do that different! However, We, Without (Chicken) Wings (Sorry, couldn't help it) does not feature a single SIMP, even though the characters are possibly based on that very same LFB demographic. This is because the two (Two!) main characters are complete and utter arses. The arses in question are Shusuke and Hayato, backstabbing, lecherous money-grubbers who happen to frequent the same bar (maid cafe?). Watch as they try, fail, and try, and fail (etc) to pick up women! Fun!

It's nice to see that the folks at work on this series are actually putting some effort into their job, because it made the show significantly better than I would have expected. The humor is funny, the pacing is sharp, and the characters are interesting. That does not save the show, though. The anime is crammed with over the top, distracting fanservice, some of which is literally pedophillic. I simply cannot imagine continuing to watch a series in which a girl who cannot be older than 15 asks one of the protagonist about his "monster." It's really a shame though, because the show seems to be brimming with promise. Oh, well.
We, Without Wings - under the innocent sky is streaming on Crunchyroll.

five minutes of Astarotte's Toy 
*Repeatedly bangs head against wall* Excuse me. Sorry. OK. No matter how hard I try, I can't really seem to get past the first five minutes or so of Astarotte's Toy. So, let me give you a review of those five mintues. Here we go. We begin in random bright colors magical land where a girl who looks five-years old gets chased by a cute dragon while being told to do her homework. Then the girl, Astarotte, screams "I HATE... MEN!" Still with me? Then in an absurdly sparkly bath scene we find out that Astarotte is a Ten-year old Succubus, which apparently means she has to start "sucking the life-seed" out of men. That was when I started banging my head against the wall.
Astarotte's Toy is streaming on Crunchyroll, but I'm not giving you a link. Think of it as a favor.

BILL 156
I wonder how, in a post-Bill 156 world, that a show like Astarotte's Toy gets on TV. In fact, how did ANY of these shows get on TV? Rather than a decrease in shockingly awful moe, we have gotten more. The problem is, even though Shintaro Ishihara, the governor of Tokyo (and also a homophobic, misogynist, nationalist pig), believe the bill is anti-child pornography, it's not! The bill prevents "offencive" material portraying sexuality from being sold to minors, and whether you're for or against that, it doesn't change a hell of a lot. The really bad stuff is already 18+, and the Bill is vague enough that subtexts will generally not be much of a problem. AND MOE IS BUILT ON SUBTEXT. Mind-numbingly obvious subtext, but it's still subtext. So, nothing has changed. Nothing Will change. We are doomed.


No comments:

Post a Comment