Monday, September 27, 2010

They Did What? - The Entertainment of Genderbending

It isn't a far gone conclusion that at some point we as American TV viewers have seen an episode of some sit-com and watched as one of the characters donned the apparel of the opposite sex, in an attempt by the creators to give the "fish out of water" humor effect.

In fact it isn't much blinked at anymore; we just accept it as a plot gag, and chuckle when it's done.

Now there is a name for this. It's called "Genderbending" and depending on how you want to spell it (Gender Bending as two words, or Genderbending all together), it equals something of a growing and more frequent form of entertainment coming from the Japanese Anime and Manga source.

What was originally a minor niche form of entertainment has become a rather large, and quickly growing sub-category of the anime and manga market demographic. This type of entertainment can be slotted and identified in almost any type of manga (Shonen, Shojo, or Seinen) and still maintain its target audience while crossing the gender bridge flawlessly.

Some of the more interesting and memorable genderbent icons of the past five years has been that of internet superstar Kyonko. Born as the product of Rule 63, and quickly becoming a massive online phenomenon, Kyonko -- the re-gendered female version of Kyon The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya -- has helped to bring more awareness to this often overlooked and seldom noticed form of entertainment.

I don't really feel like going all the way back to the origins of Genderbending, but if American television is any indicator, then the concept itself for us, has gone back as far as the 1950s with such wholesome family influential shows as I Love Lucy.

At what point it time genderbending became a device for plots in manga or anime isn't something that can simply be pointed at and say, "Here it is! This is where it all started!"

I know that when anime and manga were new to me, I didn't hear a lot about genderbending. To me anime and manga consisted of cliche characters, cliche scenarios, and cliche catch phrases, but there wasn't a whole lot of gender swapping going on. If there were, it was a one time thing; where a character used the "Let's Disguise Ourselves as a Woman To get by the Guards" routine, or something. But it wasn't until Kyonko and the Re-Gendering of Haruhi Suzumiya that I really began to take more careful notice, and see this in a lot of my familiar shows and manga that I was reading.

There are three types of Genderbending.

The truest form of genderbending would be to take a character and make them the opposite sex. Either through magic, or through the Doujinshi fan's comics.

Ranma 1/2, Akane Chan Overdrive, Grant My Wish Aizen and Kashimashi are perfect examples of a true genderbending anime/manga. This isn't just a matter of putting a boy or girl into the opposite gender's clothing, this is the real deal, where the character gets a plumbing job, and has different pitch to their voice when it's over.

Passive genderbending is an anime or manga that features a character that simply crossdresses for what ever reason. This could be, to hide an identity, cover-up a secret, or because of person selfcentered desires. This kind of Genderbending is prevalent in the anime/manga Maria+Holic, as well as the manga version of Mai Otome and the highly popular Ouran High-School Host Club.

Less passive and more casual genderbending would include one-bit characters that cross dress for comedic or selective scene effects. Those that are homosexual, and thus dress as the opposite sex to win the affection of the boy of their dreams, such as the case in the manga No Bra, and any other instance where the cross-dressing may not necessarily be used as the key plot of the medium.

Some of the most popular titles in anime and manga have included genderbending in one of these three forms, and despite the opinion of the viewers and readers, it seems that this form of sub-genre is becoming more and more prevalent.

Kampfer, Birdy the Mighty, Kaichou wa Maid-sama, are just a few of the recent shows and manga that have either a partial genderbending theme, or the main device is genderbending out right.

One thing to note, is that it is more typical to see a Male to Female re-gendering, and less likely to see a Female to Male, though it does happen. Usually when the male is converted to a woman, it's more likely that the final product will remain unchanged. A typical trope that once a woman is made, it's damned hard to change them back.

With the age of the internet becoming what it is, more fan-made art is now depicting the heavy influence of internet rule 63, which stipulates that "There is a female version of it"; and now we see things like the infamous Broly pic, and Fullmetal Alchemist, with a stunningly gorgeous Ed Elric.

From the perspective of a fellow otaku, I doubt very highly that the original intent of genderbending was as highly perverted as it may have appeared. It's very possible that it is nothing  more than a means to fan-crush on a character of the opposite sex, without feeling the need to resort to homosexual tendencies, or to even more simply re-imagine the entire concept of the work in question to bring out an all new type of story.

Regardless, it's clear that there are cases where genderbending goes too far, and cases where it may be so passive and weak, that it begs for more of the lusty stuff.

I'd love to say that it's a pervs plaything, and sand-box. But that would hardly be a fair assessment, since this subtle wink and nod is in so much of the stuff we love. Not just the manga, but the anime as well. I would personally rather not have the characters of Haruhi Suzumiya re-gendered, but if I was given as choice between Kyon, or Kyonko... well, hands down I'd rather have the hottie with the blushing cheeks and the smart-mouth comebacks at Haruhi.

I don't think genderbending takes away from or overly adds to the popular culture of anime and manga. If it hasn't destroyed the American entertainment industry, then it certainly won't wreck the Otaku Culture.

So, go ahead. Give me your Haruhi Fujiokas and your Mariya Shidos, toss me your Blond Bombshell Broly, and your magically induced sex-swapping Ranmas... in the end, I probably wouldn't change a thing, I'd just do like the classic rock song... and "Let It Ride".

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha

There are very few anime titles out there that I would personally consider an out and out chore to watch, but when they come along; it isn't just a chore, it's down right torture.

Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha is definitely one such anime. Aside from the single greatest hunk of trash ever made -- I'm pointing at Suzuka here -- it isn't complete devil spawn, but it most certainly ranks in the top "Worst Anime" I've seen this year.

It isn't any surprise to know that Nanoha is actually a spin-off of a series of H-games and OVAs called Triangle Heart, in which Nanoha Takamachi plays a reletively average role. The anime was produced by Seven Arcs, which isn't any big shock considering they are also responsible for shows like "White Album" and the highly sexualized "Sekirei".

The premise of the series is obviously a complete rip-off of almost every other magical girl title released in Japan, and the characters are about as compelling as a sack full of dry, once wet, and deformed cardboard.

The plot is also very familiar, reminding me of Cardcaptor Sakura mixed with a little bit of Sailor Moon; but I'll explain why a bit later on. It's not to say that the plot doesn't have good potential, it's just that combined with the characters, and the story progression, it stalls in too many places.

The story of Nanoha revolves around middle-school girl Nanoha, and inter-dimensional traveler shapeshifting mage Yuno, who while in his own world accidentally let loose some powerful artifacts called "Jewel Seeds" which just so happened to come to Earth and start making a bother of themselves.

It's not very clear if the roman numeric gems are cognitive or not, but they manifest and start taking names, and conveniently start appearing one by one . Yuno being something of a better-than average magical boy, does his best but gets torn up, and summons the help of the first person who can hear his telepathic plea for assistance.

Now as soon as Nanoha arrives on the scene Yuno has exhausted his magic and becomes some sort of talking ferret, enter the Cardcaptor rip off of Kero, along with the premise of needing to capture something before the world is wrecked -- and you get the idea.

For the next several episodes it's pretty much business as usual, and Nanoha and ferret companion take on the daunting task of capturing all the Jewel Seeds. The transformation sequence is really un-necessary, and is rather embarrassing to watch, since Nanoha is reduced to a naked Barbie doll body in each one as she gets stripped and re-clothed with her battle costume. Insert face-palm here.

After about half of the series, there appears the token antagonist named Fate, along with Dog-girl familiar-slash-sidekick "Arf"; no, I'm not making that up, a Dog-girl named Arf, they should have just named her Woof!

So the first thing the two middle school girls do is fight. Yup, Fate is evil, and wants to collect the Jewel Seeds for her wicked cruel abusive mother Precia, and Nanoha just wants everyone to get along, and sure enough, she gets her pip-squeak ass handed to her. Jump ahead a few more episodes, they meet and fight, and Nanoha gets beaten. Jump ahead again -- they meet and fight, and after a while you get the feeling that it's going to be a long and bumpy ride.

Now I'm not trying to imply that Nanoha can't handle her own against Fate, but all her "I just want to be friends" chanting repeatedly makes her annoying and usually a sitting duck, for Fate's attacks. So for a good portion of this anime, you just sit and groan internally over the brutal treatment of Fate by her mother -- which includes S&M style beatings -- and the fact that Fate wants to get the Jewel Seeds for her, and the fact that Nanoha is losing her own friends to all her secret-keeping ways. Dear Lord, this show is an out right mess.

It gets further complicated when the "Time Space Administration Bureau" shows up and FINALLY breaks up Nanoha and Fate from wrecking the fabric of the cosmos with their magical tug-of-war over the seeds, and then she and Yuno get recruited by them to save the universe or some nonsense by helping them to officially collect the Jewel Seeds.

What started out as a cute and entertaining magical-girl show, quickly went sour very fast. It has too many gaps in the plot, not enough elaboration on the secondary characters, and things that -- were they added or expanded upon -- would have made it way more rounded of a story altogether.

In short, Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha isn't just a bad series, it's a bad concept from start to finish. It isn't entertaining in the least, and has way too many slow moments that could be better spent offering the viewers anything other than what they are getting.

It seems that in their attempt to cash in on the Cardcaptor Sakura fanfare the creators of Nanoha failed to realize that Sakura & Co. had an equal balance of drama, comedy and cute. Nanoha has none of that, while crammed into a meager 13 episodes. It's no wonder the series seems convoluted and strangely warped by its own premise.

I can't say that I would recommend this show to anyone, as it only makes me regret having spent the cash for it.

Bottom line; this show is pointless, and accomplishes nothing. The only people that would really like this show are the ones that just have a pre-teen fetish and enjoy watching the transformation sequences; because it can't be because of the story or plot, or characters themselves.

Avoid this one at all costs.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Chronology of Haruhi Suzumiya

Now that the fanaticism has hit the fan once again, it occurs to me as I see and read all the online comments, that there is still much confusion about the two seasons of Haruhu Suzumiya, and in all truth THERE ARE NO TWO SEASONS OF HARUHI SUZUMIYA!

Don't let anyone fool you into thinking otherwise, regardless of what Bandai Entertainment of America or even the nerds running riot on the internet tell you; there is no season 2, it was a fabrication, a hoax, a crock of crap, and a big fat lie!

What there is, is two box-sets of 14 episodes (28 total) that are completely and deliberately shown out of their correct chronological order, and for those of you deliberately obtuse, or just not wanting to accept the truth, then I'll try one more time to give you the complete order of the show.

It's gonna be difficult for you, and you may even be in some pain; mentally and physically, but you are going to have to trust me, the series will make about as much sense as a rubber band made out of iron if you don't get your fandom out of your asses, and start following along.

First and foremost, this is a series about Haruhi, and while that is constant, Kyon, NOT Haruhi is the star of the show. 

Anyway, throw out everything you know about the series, throw out all the conspiracies, and all the nerdy rantings, and yes, throw out everything you THINK you know about endless eight, and let's get down to business of which came first, the Mikuru 00 or The Melancholy 01.

For those of you blessed with ordering the "Second Season" and getting it almost a week earlier than everyone else, you may have already noticed that there are huge issues with the show. First of all it dives right into the school year, and immediately follows with summer break. Then the viewer is thrust right back into school with the preparations for a festival, where we see the team working on a film project.

Those of you at this point will stop, and suddenly remember the first episode of the previous set called The Adventures of Mikuru Asahina Episode 00, and no doubt wonder about that little gem just permanently pegged at the beginning, and so far out of context with the rest of the series at this point that it would have served better were it just included as a bonus episode, or special feature; but not this one, it was an actual episode, and it actually aired in Japan.

Also in the first set of episodes, there is that whole mystery adventure the group had on the island during their summer vacation; which was to be followed by the Endless Eight happenings, and wouldn't you know it, they split that between the two sets as well, making the summer break -- which is the same summer break at the island -- happen twice!

Then there is the rock concert.

Now there's not a lot I can say about that, since it was during the festival, but come on! Are you really gonna try and have me believe that there were two identical school festivals where Yuki dressed as a Mage? Get real! We all know it's the same festival, and in fact during the Live Alive episode you see Yuki doing the fortune telling thing, so again it's completely FUBAR in the correct order of the show.

You will also be glad to know there wasn't three different viewing orders this time, in fact, when the series was re-broadcast -- yeah, that's what we call the extended version -- it was done so in its original chronological order. So then after it was aired and Bandai announced its aquisition of the rest of the series all the speculation began in and amongst the fanbase about whether Bandai was going to release it on DVD in North America in its correct order or not, and just discontinue the first release. Well, no.

To be honest there really wasn't much of a way for them to release the extended episodes without forcing people to "Double Dip" the first set of episodes all over again, and so short of pilfering people's wallets, they just opted for the lamest approach of all, which was to call it a "Second Season". Yeah, it's about as second season as my left foot!

So now that we have this atrocious box-set that is as craptastic as the rest of Bandai's wonderful consumer products -- I'm talking about the actual DVD case here which was so crappy that two of my discs arrived off their clasps loose in the box -- with that stupid ridiculous "Second Season" label slapped on it, I feel the need to list once again the correct order.

Now you can be stubborn, and say that you don't care, and that you can follow along and watch it as is, and that's fine. Be a stubborn nerd-wad dorkenheimer! But for those that want to see it as it was intended, you are going to have to take a little initiative and get up off of the couch and brush the potato chip crumbs off their favorite Star Wars T-shirt, and go change a few discs.

This is the absolute correct order for watching your Haruhi Suzumiya DVDs, regardless of what the company has printed on them. If you want it right, then watch it right. Or if you still want to convince yourself that Haruhi will magically arrange all the episodes while you sleep using her demi-god like powers, then, you need to go back to the doctor, and have him or her adjust your psychosis medication.

  1. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya Part 1
  2. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya Part 2
  3. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya Part 3
  4. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya Part 4
  5. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya Part 5
  6. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya Part 6
  7. The Boredom of Haruhi Suzumiya
  8. Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody
  9. Mystérique Sign
  10. Remote Island Syndrome Part 1
  11. Remote Island Syndrome Part 2
  12. Endless Eight
  13. Endless Eight
  14. Endless Eight
  15. Endless Eight
  16. Endless Eight
  17. Endless Eight
  18. Endless Eight
  19. Endless Eight
  20. The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya Part 1
  21. The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya Part 2
  22. The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya Part 3
  23. The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya Part 4
  24. The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya Part 5
  25. The Adventures of Mikuru Asahina Episode 00
  26. Live Alive
  27. The Day of Sagittarius
  28. Someday in the Rain
Now, following after Someday in the Rain is the feature film The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya which finally gives the whiny nerds their beloved arc; you know the one they bitched and moaned over like seasick walruses? Yeah, they get that arc in the form of a film.

Now as for the Endless Eight thing, I can pretty much guess why it was made; and once you hear my rationale you will understand that it was a necessary evil. Now, I don't want to hear that bull-crap about why you are so much better and holier than the rest of the fanbase and dropped the show because of the Endless Eight episodes, that's just retarded, and not just retarded, it's dropped-on-your-head ate-paint-chips RETARDED! If I were there I'd slap the living hell out of you for getting so damned pious and self-righteous!

The endless eights were deliberately made into filler, because it was the ONLY part of the novels that could allow it. Let's say that the studio did animate The Disappearance Arc and tack it on at the end of the re-broadcast, it would have given it only what? Let's say four episodes, five at the absolute most. Because while Endless Eight may not deserve eight entire episodes, it did require at least two or three to tell adequately.

So the average episode of anime is 22 minutes in length, that's about 100 to 110 mins of film. Sure it would have been enough, but lets not forget that the Melancholy Arc had 6 episodes to tell it; that's about 135 mins.

Also, if the studio had elaborated on any of the other arcs, like the Sigh, or even the Remote Island one, then that would equal your favorite thing... FILLER!!!!!! Oh, I know how much you guys just love filler, like getting a nail-file rammed into your eyeballs, and then you gotta go trumpet about how much you hate it so dang much. So you should be happy that there wasn't any filler episodes from the regular stuff. Sigh had enough episodes to tell the story, and if they had cut the Endless Eights off short that would have left the series lop-sided. So yeah, the only real arc that could get away with the padded content WAS ENDLESS EIGHT! Thank you, God bless, have a nice trip, see ya next Tuesday!

So, instead of killing the best parts of the show with bad filler, or cutting down one of the most passionate and critical arcs they made the choice to expand Endless Eight, and give us ALL of the Disappearance Arc, to which you morons aught to be very grateful.

So, now that you have all the facts, all the correct viewing orders, stop repeatedly asking this stupid question, and just watch the show and be glad that I don't come over there and ram the discs one by one up your ignorant weeaboo asses!

Friday, September 10, 2010

GAINAX keeps them coming!

It is no secret that GAINAX has a long history of making some of the most interesting, and/or bizarre anime creations in the world; yet their latest pick is without a doubt the most bizarre of them all.

Whether in conjunction with the manga, or an anime original is pretty much irrelevant at this point, it's the franchise that I'm wanting to get into.

The series -- whether you are going off of the Manga or Anime -- features two female ghost fighters named Panty and Stocking. They are angels that have rather interesting abilities and even more carnal desires.

Panty can use her panties to form a gun, and Stocking uses her (what else) stockings to form two swords. They are somewhat under the guidance of a man named Garterbelt who is a huge black man with an afro, and who wears a priest's suit. Together they go about fighting evil, or injustice, or generally making a mess of the city.

Their appetites is where the series gets its snap. Panty is obsessed with sex, constantly thinking about it, and constantly having it. While Stocking is obsessed with cake, claiming that they are rotting and she has to finish them off before they rot too much. Really it's just an excuse for her to eat more.

The have a dog named Chuck, who gets the worst of the deal, constantly being the painful fallout of their antics; such as getting a used filled condom tossed at him from Panty, only to barf up its contents moments later in the first chapter of the manga.

The Anime is scheduled to broadcast soon, and with the history that GAINAX has for picking strange stories and characters, I have to say that this series takes the cake, hell it takes the whole freaking bakery!

The last anime produced by GAINAX was the comedy romance Hanamaru Kindergarten, which featured animation that was reminiscent of the American cartoon series The Rugrats. Now with this latest endeavor, GAINAX's newest wonder seems more like an alter-persona Powerpuff Girls raunchy duo!

Already there are fans of this series cheering and ranting over the brilliant idea, but I really don't think they understand just what it's about, or the heavy mature subject matter. For a comedy that is no doubt going to cross all sorts of barriers, I'm curious to know which side of the fence the fans will be standing on after they watch the first episode, and if GAINAX is going to tone down the sexuality.

It's doubtful that they will, since that is one thing GAINAX doesn't do. They make no qualms, and offer no apologies for their content. Especially that hunk of garbage Gurren Lagaan and their knack for ending most of their shows on a tragic note.

It is surprising that a studio that has spawned such memorable classics as FLCL, Gunbuster, Diebuster and Evangelion, has started going off in this vein of entertainment. It comes as no shock that titles with more mature content are the best sellers of the medium, but this will make two titles in a straight row that have little more going for them than the art work. Whereas Hanamaru Kindergarten was warm and lighthearted, it was still a far cry from a masterpiece.

I guess like everyone else, I'll just sit back and go along for the ride. Hopefully when it's over, I won't be barfing up my lunch with disgust, or loathing them even more for my time wasted on some of their other titles.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Nerd Asylum

First of all, I owe an apology to the fans for a slight typo in my last post. Apparently the second season of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya was NOT going to be released in August as I had originally wrote, but instead will be released on September 14th.

Now as to the business at hand.

I have taken a break from managing the affairs of my online forums for a time, and thought I would just chill with a few random thoughts that were swirling around in my head the other day as I was trying out my new phone's video recorder.

I thought I would record a video showing off all my anime DVDs and nerd crap, and it started out as a video describing some of the shows, and basic trivia about them, and then the video sort of degraded into a bash the DVD thing. Now I'm not saying that I bashed the shows, just the actual DVDs, the cases and packaging themselves.

After recording the video, and realizing that it might be pretty interesting to upload to You Tube, I thought maybe I could introduce a select series of these video entries called Nerd Asylum, a small segment where I take time out of my busy day to talk and or discuss some of the things about Anime, or Video Games, or even basic manga.

Unlike a lot of review videos, I intend to just talk about the product itself, not go into actual ratings or things because this is after all just my own opinion, and I've learned that people's opinions matter to them, and they get very angry if you don't see eye to eye with them on everything.

Well, I don't intend to ever see eye to eye on much, as a veteran nerd, it is my right to complain, or gripe, and just basically have a beef with what ever I so choose.

With any luck, the first episode of Nerd Asylum will be up-loaded to the official Shohan USA channel over the weekend with additional episodes following sporadically.