Kaiba – How to do a Dystopia Correctly

I was baffled by how much my father praised the movie Blade Runner after we watched it together— it’s not a bad movie but there’s a reason it didn’t win any Academy Awards. I was also baffled by how praised George Orwell’s 1984 is in the realm of English literature. Again, it’s not bad, but I’d never consider it my favorite book. While Kaiba is largely building off of these giants in its dystopic society, it did it right. That’s because it focuses on the humanity of a dystopia, rather than the society itself.

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One of the first things we see in the show is the machine memory chip-sucking flying things that absorbs the chips of a couple of random guys on a natural-looking bridge. We don’t know anything about these guys, but we can assume from their reaction and physical appearance that they’re pretty ordinary working-class people, and through this we can immediately get that this is a futuristic world with a government or society that is either oppressive or neglectful. These few seconds let us infer everything that 1984 and Blade Runner spend significant portions of their time to establish and analyze.

From here, Kaiba takes time only to look at the human effects of this dystopia. Later in the episode we see the squalor most citizens live in— small gatherings of people with scrap equipment and innumerable memory chips and nothing to do with them. This only preps us for the tearjerker in episode 3 with Chroniko’s Boots (as I discussed the other day). The episode effectively highlights the corruption and apathy of the society in Kaiba, but the focus is put on Chroniko and what happens to her. Contrast this with 1984— sure, there are other relevant characters besides the protagonist, but it only marginally exposits how society is corrupt through the events regarding a particular character. We do see this in one character, Julia, but she tells us very little about the world of 1984 that we didn’t already know.

Listen to the music, too— one of the first songs that is played is “Catch it up!” It’s an action-y, heavy synth song that instantly reminds me of Tron (the original Tron, mind you). And, lo and behold, Tron is another futuristic dystopia movie! Immediately after this tech-y sci-fi song, we’re brought back to the humanity of this world in Planet (laughing version) which is characterized by its bizarre sound that feels down-to-earth and alien all at once. Even here the focus remains on the people, and how they interact under these circumstances.

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This establishment of the extraordinary before giving the audience something to empathize with is how Kaiba conveys its dystopia. It goes a step further in “show don’t tell”— rather than letting the audience see the corruption in the society and how X government official gets assassinated, we see the personable side of it and where we would stand in the shoes of others. And, more importantly, we see Kaiba standing in the shoes of others. The show gets away with expositing what the world is like by making it Kaiba who is watching this unfold. This further establishes Kaiba’s relatability to the audience, which makes us root for him just that much more and be even more surprised when we realize he’s supposed to be the evil king of this world. How can a boy so empathetic be a cruel ruler? And, mind you, all of this is to facilitate the arc of the show. The dystopia isn’t simply a setting in Kaiba, it functions as an influential part of the narrative. And, as such, the expositing of the dystopic setting is all part of the story of Kaiba.

Odds

When I was younger, I was always bothered how heroes would always win by the skin of their neck and against some unfathomably large odds. I wouldn’t believe that in a hundred books where the hero has a one in a hundred chance of survival, they would always live.
But that isn’t the point of storytelling. Just because something is unlikely, it is still possible. The reason the hero never gets hit by gunfire or never roles below a perfect 20 is because that is the story we are telling. Sure, we could tell the story where the hero dies at a certain point, but we can also tell the story where that doesn’t happen. So long as something is within the realm of possibility, it makes sense to tell the story of the person who breaks through those possibilities rather than the one who doesn’t. If we’re telling a story about a person who won the lottery, it’s okay if they only bought one ticket. Even though it’s incredibly unlikely, we as people are interested in the stories about people winning the lottery rather than the people who didn’t. So it makes sense that we would tell the story about the man or woman who won the lottery, or beat a dragon where they had a one in a million chance of survival or was able to destroy every asteroid against all odds or whatever. It as an individual event is unlikely, but because it is in the contextual realm of possibility and gives the most narrative interest, it is okay to tell the story.

Grandness of an Idea

Hello, my content is inspired by Digibro if you couldn’t tell. Obviously I’m not making the same things he does, but I became interested in analysis of essentially the media I consume because of him. One of the dilemmas I have run across in doing this has been I have an idea, but it may be too small to make a full post about. Digi is great at having an idea and then expanding upon it for several minutes, but for me, I may only have a couple sentences to say about something and then I am done. It’s interesting, particularly since in a recent video of Digi’s he commented on how he could potentially make a video for every thought he had. I had kind of assumed a minimum mass was necessary to make a blog post, but you know what, if people are interested in watching the smallest idea of his, then I’m sure anyone who cares about my content would be interested in the smallest idea of mine.

Genshiken has made me Depressed

Young and innocent me has created a demon of depression with my experience of Genshiken. For about six months prior to the big reveal of who Madarame picks, I was hyping myself up for the decision day so strongly. I absolutely NEEDED to know. Well, I absolutely NEEDED him to pick Hato. And I was disappointed. This brought me to tears. I was legitimately depressed for a couple of weeks. But then I started to get better. I could move on. Now I’d be able to witness even more Hato, right?

Well, wrong so it seems. Now nobody is doing a full translation of Genshiken that I could find and I’m not going to satisfy myself with a simple synopsis. I am prevented from being able to truly move on. Instead I must fall behind and hope and pray for the day to come that the next translation comes. I’m thrown into darkness. I staked my hopes and dreams on this one thing and it has been stolen from me, never to return.

 

Why K-On! Falls Flat P2

I was rummaging through the four-chans and the read-its and I found that Hyouka was a show on lots of people’s favorites list. Now, I saw this show a while ago and was absolutely bored and I rewatched an episode recently to recall why. The visuals and music in the show is phenomenal. I love it. It’s beautiful, the character designs are slick and stylized. It’s fantastic. Same as most of the KyoAni shows. But I’ve become aware that it’s hard to enjoy shows centered on character relations and how they change over time since I’ve already seen the shows that to me champion that in Genshiken and Hourou Musuko. If you’re looking for purely how a person causes another person to change, then look no further than Kuragehime. I’ve had my need for character development fulfilled in fullness. Hyouka and K-On! just don’t feel as real and the character feel less three-dimensional in comparison.

Does this mean everyone else would find Kuragehime and Hourou Musuko and Genshiken better than Hyouka or K-On? Maybe??? I honestly don’t understand why Kuragehime and Genshiken aren’t super popular. Hourou Musuko I can get since it can be a bit sappy and it’s paced so slowly. But honestly, Genshiken and Kuragehime and some of the funniest but also most interesting things I’ve ever seen. Character development? Check. Good jokes that a broad audience can enjoy? Check-ish. I guess a lot of people won’t pick up on some of the references. Good pacing? Check. Interesting morals? Check. Enjoyable to binge watch? Check. Enjoyable to savor and watch over a long period of time? Probably check.

Is it the age of the characters? Is it because the characters aren’t traditionally beautiful but more just realistic in appearance? Do people hate Hato that much but also not like the original part of Genshiken because it’s a sausage fest? Is it the fact that both shows question gender and societal norms? What don’t you love about it? What makes K-On! better?

This Kind of Writing

I’ve been attempting to improve “this” style of analytical writing since I enjoy analysis of anime and just most all art I consume. As I’ve been doing this though, it’s become evident that I kind of suck at writing coherently for things like this. I love being swept up in the romantics of writing and going all-out on the fantastical and artistic side, but this conflicts with normal analysis-style writing often since the point is to write in such a way that you can communicate your interpretation of an artwork to someone else. I’m not so sure that I can do this.

The other big point of uncertainty is that I usually don’t have that much to say about a show? Often I have ideas for why I like some aspect of some anime or manga, and the idea is complex enough to take up 500 words, but I’d love to be able to go full-out Hearts of Furious Fantasies style with the 10,000 word posts. I think I do have that much to say about my favorite shows, but I don’t have that much to say at a given time. I tend to be pretty binge-y, both with how I consume media and how I create media, so if there’s a central idea I want to have to a post I have to write it all at once. The only feasible way for me to make a real and lengthy analysis of Hourou Musuko or Kuragehime is to just make a whole bunch of mini-posts and then compile them into something larger, which would have the disadvantage of being totally disconnected from part to part. I’d just be compiling a whole series of completely separate ideas about a show. That’s all.

So what should I do? I don’t think I’ll hear from you guys, since nobody reads me right now and I’m not putting myself out to be read yet. I’m still in the practice stage! I feel more comfortable practicing and then letting people see my past work once I’ve made something good, but I have yet to make something I feel confident about it being good.

Kuragehime: How to Cry and Laugh At the Same Time

I love Kuragehime. One of my favorite anime and manga. It has an incredible sense of realism (and no, I’m not talking about the scenes where the Nuns turn to stone. If you look at it in a broader context it is realistic, especially compared to most SoL shows), it’s genuinely moving, and it makes you laugh even when you see the joke coming.

I kind of want to do a “What’s in an OP” for Kuragehime in the style that Mother’s Basement does his, but I’ll save that for later. Regardless, the quintessence of how this anime can capture these contrasting feelings within minutes of one another while seeming natural is kind of amazing. I’ll watch a tearful and heartbreaking scene of Tsukimi remembering her mother, and then Kuranosuke round-kicks her away from his brother out of jealousy. Or perhaps the scene where Landshark shows her sex photo to Kuranosuke and Tsukimi, making her run away crying? Yes it’s hilarious since they didn’t have sex and she’s so adamant despite Kuranosuke calling out her bullshit, but at the same time I personally empathized with Tsukimi and saw how sensitive she is.

Which touches on one of the most important parts about the show: Tsukimi is kind of adorably sensitive. Kuranosuke sees her grouped in with the rest of the residents of Amamizu-kan and Tsukimi groups herself in with that crowd and they all accept one another, but fundamentally in a way that only the viewer can really understand she is so different. Kuranosuke is given tastes of it in scenes like where she sips on her tea while the rest of the Nuns are boisterously chomping down their ham or when she tries on the sheet as a wedding dress. The rest of the Nuns have fully become the NEET; the ultimate deniers of men and, indirectly, femininity.

If you can’t tell by my favorite anime, I love shows that question gender norms and gender in general. Kuragehime subtly brings up how the Nuns conversely become more masculine in order to avoid males, because it opens the opportunity to relationships and the end of NEEThood and not being normie (see Welcome to the NHK for how love trumps being a NEET). Ultimately the source swinging the Nuns into the hipster crowd though is a woman, Kurako, teaching them the ways of fashion and bringing out the inner artist in Tsukimi. Wait… But there’s yet another layer! In reality it’s the man, Kuranosuke, who breaks down their barriers by force and brings them into the most feminine of worlds: fashion. It is a man who is feminizing the nuns, just as is their fear. Yet he isn’t feminizing them indirectly by attracting them with his own handsomeness. He is there directly. Blunt, bold, and charismatic. Shamelessly crossdressing, he waltzes into the no-man-zone and breaks down their abhorrence of normies.

It’s curious that Tsukimi’s discomfort with Kuranosuke when he isn’t crossdressed is out of a worry of chemistry or attraction between the two, yet she’s clearly blind toward his actual moments of expressing interest, between when her eyes are literally closed to whenever she does something actually kind of adorable in Kuranosuke’s eyes like staring at the jellyfish moon. There’s something beautiful and complex about how gender separation in nerd circles occurs, and Kuragehime dissects this while sidelining the anime/video game/manga otaku aspect of the whole nerd world. Had all the girls been fujoshi or otaku, I don’t think the show would be less original per se since while there are numerous other fujoshi shows that have come out (and were coming out around the time Kuragehime aired), none of them focused on habitat and etcetera in such a way. Yet by further distancing itself from otakudom, Kuragehime is able to create its own unique bubble yet to be explored in other media.

Ultimately, you can still draw comparisons to shows like Welcome to the NHK, Genshiken, and so on and so on, but nothing has come out in the same way as Kuragehime filling the same niche. It’s interesting. You’d think I’d be able to find a dozen ‘normal’ anime with the same level of character interactions and plot as Kuragehime that don’t feature NEETs and crossdressers, but you’d be at least somewhat mistaken. I will admit that ParaKiss and Nana also feature interesting character interactions and etcetera, but ParaKiss DOES include a transgender character and Nana is…

Uhh…

Well, now I must talk about Nana, mustn’t I?

Another day! Another day! I must have the pretense of an ordinary sleep schedule despite it being 3:00 AM.