On the Decline of the Magical Girl Genre

Female audiences, or at least the vocal majority, have always complained about the lack of serious, psychological dramatic series that are often targeted towards the seinen demographic. Josei is usually a lot more serious in subject matter than the often fluffy and prettified shōjo manga, and even shōjo is somewhat changed, with manga like Sabagebu growing in popularity. Female oriented shows are becoming a lot more popular; Free!, Yowamushi Pedal and Haikyuu are making big bucks off of being sport manga written primarily for women,  and otome adaptions of visual novels such as the famous DMMD series are starting to pop up more frequently. But with such an ardent emphasis on the fujoshi, “BL” side of things, the traditional magical girl genre has started to vanish.

Curiously, the genre that was once the face of shojō has somewhat been stolen by the male audience; mahō shōjo has always been a popular kink so to speak, and accompanied by loli, is of  the fantasy of stereotypical male otaku (Kujibuki Unbalance from Genshiken, Puru Puru from NHK). This season, only Precure really fits the bill of the magical girl genre, and a decent portion of its fans are male in gender, and besides Sailor Moon, nothing next season is mahō shōjo either.

It’s definitely interesting to witness the decline in interest of one of the stalwart archtypes of the Japanese otaku miniverse, and I’m curious to see whether the shōjo demographic in its entirety will reform itself after having moved on from the magical girl, or if there will be a resurgence of interest in one of the most time-honoured genres of the recent past.

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Revival

Sorry about being inactive for the past month; really, I just haven’t had any motivation as far as original blogging content goes. When I started out, I wanted to write about the obscure, or give a different take on a work compared to the norm. I definitely didn’t want this blog to become another run of the mill weeaboo blog that just talks about all the popular shows, fangirling over them and talking about why they’re so great; I don’t think it has, but in my own opinion, the quality of my posting is just as bad as the blogs in question, and my commentary is definitely lacking. Maybe I’ve been trying too hard to make serious analysis and commentary on what are meant to be fun, light-hearted media. Whatever the case may be, I ran into a dry spell of ideas and never really came out of it. But, having given myself some more time to collect my thoughts, and with the new season of anime coming out, there are finally some things that I really want to converse about, so I’ll be dumping mythoughts on here.

Apologies for the selfish blogpost, and I’ll get started on some real posts real soon.

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Epiphany

Inazuma Eleven to girls is what Ro-Kyu-Bu is to guys.

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An Attempt to Rationalise the Viewing of Ongoing Anime

I think everyone can agree that most ongoing anime, as with all anime in general, is somewhat viewable at best, and absolute trash at worst. There will always be a few diamonds in the rough; last year, for example, Non Non Biyori and Genshiken Niidaime picked up the slack and saved Christmas. 2012 was heroically rescued by the Nichibros, and Wake Up, Girls! is a promising start to the 2014 year. Putting all that aside though, its generally a huge risk to dedicate yourself to watching a whole season of an anime series without knowing anything about it, besides maybe a short summary. Especially when there are much more guaranteed series, be they classics or unique pieces that manage to exist through a cult following. Something like Cardcaptor Sakura, or Serial Experiments Lain, or even Boogiepop Phantom, all of which are extremely different pieces that have all withstood the test of time; something you can make sure is a good investment of your time. And even if an ongoing anime turns out to be stellar, there’s still the always annoying week of anticipation before the next episode appears.

So why do we do it? Why do we torture ourselves with ongoing anime, watching episodes of sub-par series one week at a time? The biggest reason is definitely tracking the online response. Series such as Kill La Kill and Free!, as good as they may be by themselves, have to credit at least some of their popularity to the online ejaculations both series’ received online, both positive and negative. Many people followed the shows simply to see what the hubbub was about; some might’ve secretly hated a series, but continued watching so they could keep up with their friends. Others might have kept watching just so they could sound sophisticated and well-educated about a certain anime when engaged in arguments on forums and imageboards.

Which is a curious topic in and of itself; how anime culture can freely flow into the anime itself. I know that I’ve been paying more attention than normal to the animation quality of Wake Up, Girls, after hearing about the overworked animation staff over at Ordet. Little flaws that I wouldn’t normally notice suddenly become apparent, not because of the anime itself but of the subculture surrounding it. But that’s a topic for another time.

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Traveller’s Junk 2: Phenomeno

An ABe collab with Nitroplus certainly sets the stage for a very interesting Visual Novel, and while it may seem a little more ordinary than we’re used to, Phenomeno is still an gripping tale full of hidden scares. Well, ordinary in the sense that Phenomeno doesn’t bring much new to the horror genre. Its your average occult story; scary house, scarier things happening and an even scarier girl. This of course, makes sense; it was based off of an original novel, after all.

The atmosphere presented by the visuals give a form of subtle eeriness in the beginning, and slowly peak during the work as the main character’s mind starts to degrade. The composition of the music only heightens the sinister atmosphere, and the thematic motif of how building itself can become “haunted” simply by design was a very interesting one to me. Maybe because I was just a week into my University dorm when I played it, but the message Phenomeno gives of a structure messing with your mind rang very true. Though what truly sets Phenomeno from the rest of the horror VN pack, is undoubtedly Yoshino. Her NEETesque demeanor and ghostly personality tells us from the very get go that we’re in for a treat, and the more details of Yoshino’s character that are revealed, the creepier she becomes. Yet, there is some sort of attraction about Yoshino, that pulls both us and the main character into her, despite the venerable Krishna’s warnings, and it is her tantalizing nature that makes Phenomeno the game that it is.

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On the Fetishism of the Fanservice of Free!

I would be less alarmed if this fetishism of a rather infamous manservice anime was just the harmless opinion of a few fangirls, but its seems to be a common opinion popping up more and more on the internet, so I thought I’d write a post about it.

It’s interesting that, to some people, male and female, the excuse plot that Free! presents us is somehow more valid than something like Yuushibu or Haganai. I’ve even heard some people mention that they watch Free! primarily for the plot, ignoring the fanservice altogether. This isn’t to say that Free! has a bad story; from the couple of minutes of the first episode I bothered watching, it looked like a mediocre plot befitting of your average fan-service anime, nothing horrible but also nothing special.

Even worse, the crowd of people that watch Free! seem to put it on a pedestal above other “new-age shoujo” works that aired during the same season, Brocon and Diabolik Lovers. Maybe its because the demographic of Free! is much more casual then more engaged otome works, (even moreso than the UtaPri audience). I feel as though some of the viewers are tricking themselves into a false stigma that they’re somehow better than the more intense fujoshi crowd. Someone saying that they watch Free! because of the plot plot is just as absurd as telling someone that they watch Diabolik Lovers or Brocon for the plot.

Some fanservice filled visual works have amazing stories that ware well thought out and properly executed. One of my favourite works of all time,  “Watashi no Messiah-Sama”, had an amazingly innovative and interesting story, and also had quite a bit of questionable material and borderline explicit content. If someone were to randomly pull out a panty shot of Haruna or Lilu, and use it to generalise the whole series as fanservice not worth reading, well of course I would be more than a little upset.  So I can see why people are disturbed when I dump Free! in the same boat as Haganai or Diabolik Lovers.  But the fanservice was never core to the manga; the story about the Messiah, the Emperor and the 13 Knights always came first. I could hardly say the same for the excuse plot Kyoani gaves us with Free!.

The gender of the fanservice is also certainly a factor. As sexist and misogynistic I might sound, I think everyone can agree that, if the characters of Free! had been genderswapped, any mention of its story would be much more transparent, if not nonexistent. People would be taking out of context panty shots, semi-nude bodies and other random pieces of explicit material and cite it as just another terrible fanservice anime. I don’t know why this is; as I’ve mentioned above, plenty of otome-centric works run their course without trying to place themselves on a higher ground. It might have to do with the casual audience that Free! attracted.

I guess all I wanted to really say, was that, if you’re into that kind of stuff, you should enjoy fanservice for fanservice sake. Its part of the otaku subculture that all followers of this visually oriented subculture are a part of. Please don’t try vehemently to defend the usage of fanservice in a work, because that’s a battle that has already been lost a million times over.

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Genderswapping an Entire Chinese Cartoon: A Hypothetical

Imagine your favourite work of a japanese visual medium (visual novel, manga, anime, etc). Then imagine if the genders of all the characters in the entire series were swapped. What exactly would change about it? Before I tried thought-genderswapping any work in particular, my original thought was: well, everything changes. But the more I thought about it, the less relevant gender became. For fanservice shows like Free!, Negima, Seikon no Qwaser, nothing would really change. These shows are still mostly about fanservice, albeit pandering to a different audience. For some story oriented works, like True Remembrance or Swan Song, there isn’t much of a significant change; the same story is still being told, more or less. Sure, it might be weird seeing a male Cardcaptor Sakura walking around in the strange outfits his friend Tomoyo designed while capturing Clow Cards, but its not at all detrimental the core of the anime. Even for the obscure and bizarre (think Ergo Proxy or Serial Experiments Lain), the work itself really wouldn’t change itself all too much, mostly because those works are usually abstracted to a point where gender is simply irrelevant.

So what does change? Well, the most obvious one is the demographic of the work. Idolm@ster with a male cast would probably go just as well with the male crowd as UtaPri with a female cast would with the females; i.e, they wouldn’t match at all. Not for all works though; story oriented works would probably capture the same audience, as would some of the more gender-inclusive slice-of-life works. The crowd of people that enjoy Azumanga or Daily Life of High School Boys would probably enjoy it the same regardless of the main characters being male or female respectively. Something like Kuragehime or Love so Life, a shojo/josei romance drama would probably reach the same Shojo demographic as well. Character stereotypes would also see a pretty significant shift. We’d have a lot more tsundere males, sadistic females, etc. But still, the core part of the work usually isn’t changing, unless the work has a character driven core.

All this is irrelevant without a proper example. Putting this into practice, I’ll take one of my favourite works, Working!, as a test dummy. Takanashi-kun is now a female shotacon who spends his time adoring over her co-worker, the lovely cute shota Popura, getting beat up by the gynophobic male Inami-chan and being bossed around by his Yakuza boss and all-around lazy manager, Kyoko. Souma is now a sadistic yandere, and Satou is a female gangster-yankee character that’s too shy to confess her love to the lovely, innocent and airheaded Todoroki. Sure, the premise seems weird at first, but how much has actually changed? Besides complaints of a now female Takanashi being physcially abused by Inami, the core of the show still remains unchanged. Takanashi still dotes upon Popura, Inami is still beating up Takanashi as a way to suppress his true feelings. Satou is still forever unable to make his feelings clear to Todoroki, but nothing has really changed. Working! would still be a light-hearted, comedic slice-of-life manga with some romance and a family restaurant setting, and I’d still be reading Working for those same general reasons. The crux of the work is still the same, more or less.

So, I’ve come to the conclusion that, demographics aside, nothing really does change when a work is gender-swapped; or at the very least, the experience is still the same. This doesn’t mean I’ll start jumping headfirst into something like Inazuma Eleven, which I might have before considered playing if it was about lolis playing soccer, but I think its an important exercise to perform before truly judging a work. Are there any works you would’ve read or watched if they were genderswapped? More than likely, the general experience should still be the same, so give them a go anwyays.

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