Effortful Friendship

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Rather than love or romance stories, I wish we had more stories about friendship. After all, I believe that friendship is the bedrock upon which a stable relationship rests. I watch so many shows and movies with couples who can’t stand each other, and I often wonder, how the hell did they get together in the first place?

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Aikatsu, the Super Idol Anime

ichigo_obari_pose

This is an idol anime.

I’ve been watching Aikatsu, Sunrise’s multimedia ploy to part elementary school girls with their lunch money. With more than 60 episodes, it’s become my full-length, four-cour anime to complete for this year. I’m 14 episodes in, and it’s been a fun ride so far.

I picked Aikatsu up in the middle of Wake Up Girls, another idol anime. To adopt a dichotomy from mecha anime, Aikatsu is about super idols in contrast to Wake Up Girls’ real idols. WUG is an underdog plot about a ragtag group of novice idols led by a former top idol, and the tone of the show aims for realism, exposing the darker underbelly of the idol industry. Aikatsu, however, is about a girl trying to be the best idol she could be in a world where idols are the greatest thing ever.

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Gundam is saved, forever and ever,

gunpla_battle_in_the_pocketAmen.

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Wake Up, Girls! and the Harshness of Criticism

miyu_truth

One of the hardest parts of fiction writing is getting good feedback. The problem is that good feedback tends to be harsh and blunt and awful to hear. And we writers need it.

Writing is hard, precisely because it’s hard to gauge. It takes a modicum of focused reading to identify flaws in the text, and more effort to convey what needs improvement. Most people can’t give a decent critique because it’ll make them say something mean, and we all know how creative types hold their creations close to their hearts. It’s impossible to be fully detached to one’s creative effort, and honest critiques twist the knife.

Writing is hard, because most people treat it as a magical thing wherein writers turn in bestselling books every year and rake in the money, as if it’s some special, god-given quality. It’s a skill, and to get better at it, writers must know exactly how they’re doing. Plain encouragement doesn’t cut it.

It goes for the entertainment industry, too. Watching Wake Up, Girls! hit close to home, especially in the arc wherein Hayasaka takes over management of the group. It takes a tough soul to tell someone who’s trying their best that no, their best is not good enough and they totally lack talent. Taking criticism is a difficult skill to master, and I’ve never truly formed a thick skin of my own to weather the harshest.

So why does Hayasaka have to be mean?

If you ask me, this is the gulf that separates the doers from the dreamers. The world is harsh, and people will say anything outside of a controlled environment. The ability to endure in spite of callous, malicious words thrown your way is a prime element in creative success. Do you go on, even when nobody likes you? Hayasaka’s tutelage is the Hyperbolic Time Chamber, preparing the girls for the worst.

After all, if you can endure that, then you could plow through the rest. But isn’t that a sad way to engage in something? You can never get better if nobody tells you how much you suck?

It pays to kick off your shoes and just have fun–I really like the part in episode 2 where Miyu shows the rest of the girls her maid job. She goes a few steps down to recharge and recapture her love of performing. It’s especially the tonic that I need after being repeatedly kicked down for trying. We need to recharge, to remind ourselves why we keep at this painful pursuit in the first place. And in doing so, we renew our resolve to try again tomorrow, and the day after.

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[Men OP Destiny] The 08th MS Team (Arashi no naka de kagayaite)

08th_ms_team_op_title_card

OPs for OVAs tend to be different from OPs for TV shows. Unlike TV OPs, which are primarily concerned with catching a channel surfer’s attention, OVA OPs can afford to be more experimental or less grounded in formula, because the viewer has already bought or rented the show.

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[Men OP Destiny] SDF Macross

sdf_macross_op_title_card

One day, while I was rewatching a bunch of mecha anime OPs to brighten up my day, the Macross OP made me realize something that’s missing in the “modern” anime OP: a coherent narrative. As anime switched from being plot-driven (Yamato, Gundam) to character-driven (Evangelion, Haruhi, umm… -gatari?), the OP has evolved into a vehicle that showcases characters.

All anime OPs ask the same question: “how do I introduce the show to a prospective viewer?” The modern anime OP twists this into, “how do I introduce the characters?” Instead of packing a coherent mini-narrative that gives insight on the show, the OP of today often becomes an exercise in cramming as many characters into its one-and-a-half minute of running time, throwing in a key scene here or there with little context.

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12 Days of Meditations #12: What’s the point of this all?

Why do bloggers blog?

It’s a simple question, but you’ll probably get different answers from everyone. For me, blogging is a form of introspection, an outlet, a tool for reach out to like-minded people. It’s great to have a site where you could post your thoughts, anime or not. It’s a space where you should feel safe, and believe me when I say that’s not as easy to maintain in the online world. I try to keep this blog disconnected from my real life, not so I can rant about people behind their backs, but so I can have more freedom in posting.

(After all, if your meatspace friends or even your boss can read your depraved Japanese cartoon blog, it’s going to open up a can of worms.)

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