I seem to be writing a lot about light novels lately. This is partly because the current anime market is just so saturated with mass-produced light novels that even casual English-speaking fans can’t help but take notice of them, but it’s also partly because my own ambivalence about their writing quality drives me to learn more about them. Most of them are pretty crap, but at least once a season there comes along a light novel series that succeeds in what I think is the aim of this brand of literature in general: taking seemingly difficult literary ideas and synthesising them into something easily accessible to otaku readers. This year, we had Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo and Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Come wa Machigatteiru, to name just two.
All of that said, how do the latest anime measure up? Ore no Nounai Sentakushi ga Gakuen Love Comedy wo Zenryoku de Jama Shiteiru is yet another in a long list of light novels with absurdly long titles. And you know what? I think we have a winner.
See, the basic concept of Noucome is that choices define our lives. The idea that the main character has to pick between two equally stupid-sounding choices at certain points in his life both satirises the whole Visual Novel genre and actually says something clever about human nature, too. Unless we feel as if we are forced to make a choice, most of us take a passive role in our lives. If we see ourselves as the protagonists of our own lives and narrow down our choices, suddenly it’s easier to just live with all the crazy things we might do.
It’s no surprise that Noucome reminds me a lot of Baka and Test, another screwball school comedy that’s actually a lot cleverer and more insightful than you’d initially give it credit for. There are even similarities in the overall direction style, where both of them bombast the viewer with random and repetitive comedy. I do think Baka and Test had the better first episode, but both of them are very creative in using the visuals to enhance what might otherwise be jokes that are in poor taste. I didn’t laugh at every joke in Noucome, but when I did laugh, I laughed very hard. Like with Baka and Test, there might well come a point when the humour becomes relatively stale, but with only ten episodes, I don’t expect Noucome to run out of steam.
By the way, if you’re looking at critic reviews of these series, for the most part, it’s actually really easy to predict. For instance, Draggle liked it and Flawfinder didn’t. Flawfinder has this tag on his post that goes: “I play something straight and reference it. That means I’m funny right?” That is a pretty sarcastic thing to say, but let me just say, I do agree with that. The point of Noucome (and of light novels in general) isn’t to make fun of anime cliches but to fully embrace them. If you hate the entire aims of its genre, then don’t watch it. You won’t like it.
All that said, onto our next “shitty light novel” candidate – Infinite Stratos.
Infinite Stratos 2 – Episode 2
You know, there actually is an interesting idea at play in the world of Infinite Stratos. All the girls are meant to be the powerful ones in this society and, as we’ve seen in this episode, the one boy who can actually pilot an IS isn’t much of a hotshot compared to the strongest girl in the school. And in this episode, she’s the one who lords over him. She uses her physical power to justify taking a condescending, paternalistic approach to teaching him.
It’s pretty notable in my eyes, however, that Tatenashi is the only girl in the school who takes this attitude. The others are gaga over Ichika. Even if they are technically stronger than him, Charlotte pretty much sums up everyone’s attitudes when she tells him, “I think a boy who’s doing his best is cool”. The very fact that he’s romantically attractive to them makes them excuse him for his flaws. That’s actually pretty telling about how some girls think!
This is something that’s been shown time and time again in the first season, but in this episode in particular I’m struck by how objectified Ichika is in the eyes of all the girls. The girls express this common agreement that he’s theirs. They treat him like a piece of meat. It’s only when he’s alone with any one of the girls that they start to treat him like he’s human, but the general culture of the school doesn’t invite that. Then, of course, he gets physically abused every time he is so much as in the same room as another girl. I mean, it happened at least three times that I can remember in this episode alone.
Honestly speaking, if I were Ichika, I would actually not like the idea of being seen this way by all the girls. I think he’s pretty aware that it’s the fact that he’s the only boy in the school that he’s being treated this way. I think he even prefers how Tatenashi treats him because she measures him more by his skill than by his gender. She’s harsh, but he appreciates it, and even though he’s depressed at the end of the episode, it’s not her he’s mad at; it’s himself. Ichika does seem to show more character when the focus is on the IS part of the story and not the romance.
Psychoanalysing him even further, I’d say this is rooted in his older sister complex. As we learned in the first season, it’s Chifuyu who had to protect him, and how unquestioning he is of her shows in pretty much every scene he has with her. In fact, he doesn’t seem to question anything a girl says. I think he likes being treated like he’s younger, but at the same time, he wants to be strong enough to protect the people he cares about. Looking at it in that way, it’s probably no surprise that Houki is his pick from his harem. It also explains why, despite this late stage, Tatenashi actually makes a decent bid for his heart. She’s certainly going the right way about it.
Personally, I like Tatenashi’s teasing attitude. I always like the first stage whenever a new girl is introduced in a harem, because the conquest is generally more fun than what comes after, plus it’s fun seeing how the harem dynamics shift to fit the new girl. Will Tatenashi come down to the rest of Ichika’s harem or will she remain forever aloof and teasing? I would personally prefer her to be the latter, but as we’ve seen with Laura, dere overdose is never a bad thing. That scene where Laura kept trying to keep her bedhead down? Too cute.
All in all, a pretty good episode for a pretty good new girl. Can’t wait for Charlotte in a maid outfit next episode. HRRNNNNNGGGGGHHHHH