2014: Year in Retrospect

Nisekoi-01-3It’s that time of the year, guys! Time to look back on all the Japanese cartoons and declare how shit they all were!

I’m joking, of course. While I haven’t actually watched enough anime this year to string together a top 10 anime list, I did enjoy the stuff I got around to watching. I also feel that this was a productive year for me as an anime fan and for the aniblogsphere in general.

Time for the highlights!

First off, anime.

Nisekoi

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Nisekoi is the gift that keeps on pandering.

I have a strange sort of fascination with Nisekoi. It features no innovations on the harem romcom formula whatsoever, and yet unlike so many of its brethren, it is a mainstream hit published in Weekly Shonen Jump. Even the Pentagon is embroiled in Nisekoi Best Girl disputes! What is your secret for success, Naoshi Komi? Please, enlighten me!

I think Nisekoi is “anti-romance“, in a way, which could partly explain why it succeeds as a comedy. The fact that the shipping will never resolved is a running gag at this point. It aggravates me, but in just the right way that I keep coming back to it. To put it in Marow’s words, Nisekoi is “a giant tease of fun“. (Count me in for season 2!)

Oh, and Onodera sucks.

Kill la Kill

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In the end, Trigger did not save anime. The show was fun and threw together a bunch of clever visual gags and references to Western and Japanese pop culture, but didn’t tie its interesting elements together tightly enough to spin a competent narrative. In the end, I was only really watching Kill la Kill for two things: the Gamagoori x Mako shipping and the super intellectual blog analyses (this one’s undoubtedly the best). Kill la Kill made the fandom’s creative juices run high and I’m glad it exists. While the internet arguments around it were admittedly very dumb, this was one of the occasions where the fandom greatly improved my experience with the show itself.

No Game No Life

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No Game No Life is probably the show I will remember most from 2014. It’s the quintessential male nerd power fantasy, but presented with so much energy and gusto it’s easy to get swept up in it. And that’s also the reason why it makes me uneasy.

I still haven’t resolved my conflicted feelings over No Game No Life. It’s certainly not as clever as it thinks it is, and the show’s sexism feels far more malicious than the garden-variety harems. Another thing that makes it different from other ridiculous nerd fantasies is the show’s tight plotting. It lacks the clumsy earnestness I enjoy about self-indulgent narratives.

No Game No Life made me realise that the one thing I can’t take seriously is people who take games too seriously. This show furiously masturbates to the idea of the PERFECT GAMER. I’m pretty sure you’re not meant to see Sora and Shiro as nice people, but at the same time, you’re supposed to idealise certain parts of them. They’re misunderstood geniuses – socially awkward and morally twisted, but enlightened in other ways. Steph represents the endearing idiots who just don’t get games and must be educated via humiliation. (Full disclosure: I’m a Steph.)

There’s no real critique about this worldview, only a few self-deprecating jokes – as if that justifies the toxic attitude and self-importance about VIDYA GAMES.

I mean, I can sort of appreciate the “life is a game and we should all strive to have fun” philosophy this show is going for, but it romanticises all the worst gamer/otaku stereotypes while it’s at it. The weird thing is, I think I would have loved the show whole-heartedly if I had watched it even a year ago. I’m the audience it’s pandering to.

Barakamon

Art by Kantoku

Art by Kantoku

Out of the measly number of titles I finished this year, Barakamon was my favourite. My thoughts haven’t changed since I wrote this personal post about it.

Barakamon was pure joy to watch. I felt like I needed this show, especially because I was feeling very stressed out about life at the time I was watching it. Handa’s struggles with his ego hit very close to home. While the ending of the anime was perhaps a little too rosy and sweet, I honestly appreciated the message this story was getting at.

Aldnoah.Zero

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Source: tumblr

Aldnoah.Zero was a series that started off as a fairly SRS BSNS war drama and ended up devolving into a kinky NTR fanfic with torture porn for spice.

I loved Aldnoah.Zero. I really can’t tell you why. I spent hours chuckling over Reddit and 4chan threads. As the story got more and more absurd, the memes became more and more hilarious. I wonder if this is what it must have been like to be in the anime community when Code Geass R2 was airing. A/Z is nowhere near as good as Code Geass, but both are buckets of fun.

I’m not quite sure how I have been managing to survive without A/Z in my life for the last couple of months. I started writing dumb fanfiction the other day, if that helps. HERE IS AN EXCERPT FROM THE FIRST CHAPTER LOL.

Other noteworthy shows: Mushishi, Hunter x Hunter and Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun. I never got around to watching Ping Pong the Animation, but since others bloggers have spoken so highly of it, that’s first on my to-watch list after Honey and Clover and Welcome to the NHK!


Now for some personal stuff.

In 2014, I translated three light novels: Hentai Ouji to Warawanai Neko volume 1 and Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Come wa Machigatteiru volumes 2+3. This kept me extremely busy (and explains why I had no time for anime). As tedious and frustrating as the translation process is, I’ve ultimately found it very worthwhile. My Japanese has improved in leaps and bounds, and I am even considering writing my thesis next year on light novel fan translations.

Although I only just finished my undergraduate degree this year, my interest in anime and internet subculture has already played a heavy part in my academic career so far. One of my essays about K-pop and internet media was shortlisted for my university’s Best Communications and Media Third Year Essay for 2014. I wrote a blog post based on concepts from this essay identifying links between K-pop and anime fandom.

2014 was also the year I delved into progressive politics, with particular focus on feminism, sexuality and otaku culture. This was also the year #gamergate happened, a shitstorm that involved MUCH ETHICS and MANY JOURNALISMS. One of my more controversial posts criticised Random Curiosity for failing to address the harassment one of the writers was receiving. Internet and geek culture are two things I feel very passionately about, and there is no doubt I will return to these subjects in the new year.

All in all, it seems I spent a good deal more time writing about anime than actually watching it. I also posted less than last year. I’m okay with that, though. Though this is ostensibly an anime blog, I think it touches on a bunch of different topics that interest me a lot. It’s a credit to the depth of the anime medium that it can be appreciated from so many different angles. There is a big, big world outside of anime, and I think reaching out to other people and learning new things can only enrich your life.

To finish up, here’s a tentative list of posts that I intend to publish early next year:

  • A collaboration post with Zeroreq011 about Inou Battle.
  • Reviews of Japanese novellas recently published in English.
  • Dumb Aldnoah.Zero fanfiction.
  • An essay about queer representation in Revolutionary Girl Utena.
  • Links to the subbed version of the Oregairu Drama CD.
  • Advice on how to write better fanfiction.
  • Something about maid cafes.
  • A translation critique of Yen Press’s Sword Art Online volume 1.

I hope you enjoyed my posts this year and that you’ll stick around for 2015. I hope you have a Great New Year! Until next time, ciao!

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(As always, if you have a question, leave a comment on one of my posts or my Ask.fm. I can also be reached through Twitter.)

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Posted on December 31, 2014, in Reviews and Impressions and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 25 Comments.

  1. The interesting and perhaps sad thing is, as I explore in my own post about Nisekoi, this sort of “anti-romance” is what the male-targeted romance anime had devolved into. It’s the only way to make a long-running romance series, by making the romance not work out.

    Of course, there’s one other way, of actually showing us a long-running romantic relationship, but that’s actually hard, and the joke is most readers/viewers won’t be able to relate :P

    An interesting concept, “Most memorable shows of the year” instead of “Best/Favourite”. I guess the rest of us got much of it out of the way via the 12 days of anime.

    Also, about queer representations in Utena, you might also want to throw in gender representation in Ouran Highschool Host Club, the representations there go so much back and forth that even I’m not sure what all they’re trying to say. Nothing like some more brain-frying action.

    • Arbitrary_greay

      I guess “I Can’t Understand What My Husband Is Saying” would count as an example of an anime tackling a long-running romantic relationship? It’s still a fantasy in some aspects, but I can definitely see it being a possible structure in the future, as many a sitcom relies on spouses not really understanding each others’ hobbies. It’s just that, in the present, nerds tend to sink so wholeheartedly into their hobbies, it’s hard for them to maintain a connection to someone not in the same boat, or for non-geeks to consider geeks outside of their hobbies sufficiently to overlook them.

      Monogatari side-stepped the issue by taking the focus away from the Araragi/Senjougahara relationship after each of their major milestones connecting with each other. So did SAO. XD But both of those series have the luxury to, by not being romance-first anime. The only places I’ve seen long-term focus on relationships work out is in text forms like books or fanfiction, because you can really delve into the nitty-gritty of characters’ mental processes. Otherwise, you need another secondary genre to diversify focus with, such as a family in sitcoms, or SoL shenanigans that could be either romantic or platonic, or another genre’s plot entirely, like with Crest of the Stars.

      I think Ouran falls more in the KLK category of shows, where they aren’t really trying to say anything. Their premises and execution interact with those themes, but the creators weren’t explicitly intending to deal with those issues. Utena, in contrast, has a very definite axe to grind. So for those shows, it’s more about parsing out the subconscious beliefs of the creators by how they manifested in the work.

      • The main anime I can think of in this regard are Spice and Wolf, sort of, and Rec, where a boy and a girl meet, have sex on the first date, and the relationship goes from there. Surprisingly realistic for an anime, but sadly it’s a short, and short.

        I think Ouran is trying to say too much, not at all times, or, even if it’s not always trying to say stuff, it has so much subtext that could and should be peeled and can’t be ignored.

        It’s just that, in the present, nerds tend to sink so wholeheartedly into their hobbies, it’s hard for them to maintain a connection to someone not in the same boat, or for non-geeks to consider geeks outside of their hobbies sufficiently to overlook them.

        That’s an excuse people tell themselves, and a sign of immaturity. Most adult couples I know have each spouse have their own hobbies, and their own “me-time” which the other one often shows polite interest in or none at all, and that’s fine. What you described does happen, but that’s the pre-relationship, pre-maturity phase.

  2. Maid cafes and translation reviews. Out of all things you’ve posted about, this is what hooks me into finally stringing a comment together.

    Been following you for quite a time since the time of Henneko translation (also, I’m the guy who threw in a tidbit about inner BT struggles with MT on your ask). Reading your blog leaves me with quite a host of different thoughts, so you’re cool. I was actually a bit indifferent about aniblogs, since I only visited Crymore (which is undoubtedly fun, when you’re not a part of it) and Seventh (which is a can of worms I don’t wanna open). Therefore, I want to thank you for enlightening me that not every aniblog is bad. Also, for Oregairu translations.

    Twice.

    Thrice.

    …Err, I’m really really grateful for them because, well, Oregairu is that kind of a novel that requires a lot of thinking put into translating it. And it sets an example of what a proper translation should be which kinda re-kindles my translator’s spirit. So, I’m your (and Spyro’s) fan. The comment is getting ridiculously huge, so let’s wrap it up.

    Happy New Year.

    • Thanks for the comment, Cyul! I’m glad to hear that you appreciate my translations. I think all novels require a lot of thinking when you translate them, though Oregairu presents a particular challenge. I think a big reason why people love the novels is that they can hear Hachiman’s voice through the writing, so a translation needs to capture that voice to be enjoyable. The language itself isn’t terribly difficult.

      Anyway, Happy New Year to you too! I hope you comment more often ;)

      (P.S. It’s funny that you mention Crymore and Seventh Style. They’re not thought of too highly in this part of the aniblogsphere. The blogs on my blogroll are certainly not like them at all. Perhaps you should look around?)

  3. Thank you for everything Frog-kun !!
    See you next year!

  4. How funny…I’m actually working on a introduction to fanfiction post for next year (from a reader’s point of view mostly and will also include tips on how to FIND better fanfiction.) I can’t wait to see what you have to see in your fanfiction post. Also, your portrayal of Inaho is pitch perfect. The world could always use for AldNoah.Zero fanfiction.

    • Hey, your post sounds interesting! I write fanfiction, but I have no idea where to read good fanfiction. It’s honestly a paradox.

      And yeah, I agree this world could use more A/Z fanfiction!

  5. Arbitrary_greay

    The more I think about NGNL, the more fascinated I am by my reaction to it.

    First and foremost, it was an incredibly breezy watch. The storytelling execution, independent of its themes, was very competent. I binge-watched it with no problems, and it was like binge-snacking. So easy. So satisfying at the time. I had a similar experience with SAO’s Aincrad arc, although NGNL is even more tightly structured, and really, I wish more anime were executed as competently as NGNL was. That director will be one to watch, and she’s one of the few female directors in anime, at that! It’s zippiness is definitely a huge plus, especially since I’m currently blunt-forcing my way through Shakugan no Shana.

    And then there was surprise yuri! Of course, there’s no fanfiction for Kura/Fil right now. I found it similar to the situation with Negima: because of its male power fantasy trappings, and liberal amounts of fanservice, and a great increase in quality femmeslash elsewhere in non-male-targetted media, no one is giving NGNL a watch. Why slog through harem shenanigans for tidbits of these two when the glorious alternative is Korrasami running off hand-in-hand into the Spirit World to the backdrop of the Bisexual Flag mountain range?
    But also much like Negima, I really enjoyed the interactions between the characters. More Fil and Jibril being catty and shameless, yes. Now if only they didn’t sully it with everyone being in love with Sora… (Akamatsu was a good enough writer that he started making jokes about how ludicrous the Negi harem situation was, which helped. The huge cast of girls also helped, since a large ratio of Negima was spent developing the friendships between the girls. Hopefully the NGNL writer maintains a similar level of competence. Then again, my reaction to Negima was also helped by my ability to binge-read and skim through any material I didn’t care for. NGNL is still in its early stages, so it’s harder to avoid the fucking boob jokes and Steph abuse.)

    For me, it’s just a matter of balance. The main reason I don’t buy Sora’s clockwork “Humanity is great!” speeches is that we don’t see enough instances of Sora having such beliefs affirmed for himself. We had received Kaiki backstory that showed how he believed in such things, and William Massachusetts’ speech was all about how he had come to his convictions through his personal life. The most we have for Sora is some imagery that he got it from Shiro somehow?
    And then we need to see how or why he can reconcile those beliefs with his treatment of Steph, even if it’s just “teenage boys are immature and hypocrites.” Monogatari took 3 seasons and an OVA to get to that point, but then again, Araragi didn’t get really gross until after his first date with Hitagi, and he was in a happy self-indulgent honeymoon state, so we had already affirmed his savior complex as sincere. The show’s visuals aren’t doing enough to highlight that Sora is happily contradicting himself, but the framing makes it seem like it’s all consistent with his master plan. The material and potential is there, much like with SAO, but as with SAO, I can’t give it that credit while its engagement with its themes is so half-assed and ineffectual.

    (Finally, I’d like Steph better if she actually got even more over the top and intense. I strongly disliked Umi in Love Live as a Mio expy, until she got a comedic edge in S2. That’s the kind of thing Steph needs. Instead of getting deadpan reactions, she should be unnerving the others with her ferocity.)

    • Cytrus wrote something interesting on his 2014 top anime list about NGNL: “The show is like a magician burning through one trick after another. And certainly, you already know some of those tricks and are not always equally amused. But the magician winks the disappointment away and fluidly moves into the next part of the spectacle.”

      That’s how I see it too. NGNL is extremely good at keeping its balls in the air. When you sit down and analyse what it’s saying at its core, NGNL just isn’t that great, but the point is to sustain the illusion that it knows what it’s doing. I personally find this sort of storytelling dishonest, but I can’t deny that NGNL is the peak of this craft.

      I also admit that some of the individual elements of the show were great – like the surprise yuri you mention. It really is a pity that the show’s framing, like you say, doesn’t do enough to convince the audience it’s aware of Sora’s hypocrisy. That sort of stuff, along with the sexual-harassment-as-fanservice, really brings the show down as a whole.

      Overall, you seem to enjoy the show very much and I’m happy to hear that!

  6. Have a great new year Froggy! :)

  7. Best Girl for your headline image? 10/10 post.

    I, for one, am very much looking forward to your posts in the coming year & to more random conversations via Twitter!

  8. And it is New Years where I hail. Happy New Year, and hopefully our collaboration project gets underway somewhat timely.

    • Happy New Year to you too, you slowpoke living in the past ;)

      And yeah, I should be able to work on that collaboration post properly the day after tomorrow if all goes well. Hope you’re taking care and having a great time yourself!

  9. Happy New Year 2015 Froggy! It’s been a pleasure following your writing for the past year. Are you going to write anything about Welcome To The NHK in the future after you finish watching the show? Would love to read your thoughts on it.

  10. To be frank, I didn’t watch a lot of anime last year and most of them are kids’ stuff. Still, I think this is a good thing for reasons I have stated before in the RandomC post of yours. Then again, Death Parade would bring me back to more adult oriented stuff for a while. Hopefully this new year would bring up better experience for both you and me.

  11. Oh Happy New Year from me, too, at your own house!

    I’m really looking forward to your queer representation in Utena -it’s my sweetheart and all. I bet it gonna be tough since this is a series talked over and over again. Not sure if you’re aware of Vraik’s simultaneous watch? You might want to take advantage of it if you’re not already.

    NGNL was surprisingly very fun to watch. Not flawless but dashing for sure. I think its over-the-top attitude about everything helped minimize any uneasiness I’d might feel otherwise in other series. And although I kinda feel bad about poor Steph, be sure that there are people who revel in this and not in the usual way you’d think of (hint: self-insertion in Steph). I believe in that aspect it shared much with KLK.

  12. Slaine’s suffering within and outside the show is the best thing to happen in the anime industry.

    And maid cafes huh.. Count me interested!

  13. This comment is just for this: I loved that SkyHigh.

  1. Pingback: “Novel vs Anime” — Now Accepting Requests | Fantastic Memes

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