Archive for January 16th, 2010

Rinko from Omamori Himari.

Plans for a more interesting post fell through this week. We'll try again next week, if the guy who actually knows where to go shows up.

Something I've been puzzled about ever since I discovered online forums and chats and fandoms (ie for fifteen years now) is the prevalence of being critical as a default mode, which strikes me as a little contrary to being, you know, a fan. When I first started I was under the impression that it was enough to like something to be considered a fan, a view which has altered somewhat through the years. I also learned in time that a lot of the friction comes from being a fan of one specific thing, and maybe being a fan of other items of possibly the same shade, and then interacting with fans of who are also fans of that shade but have arrived there from different locales and it all turns into one big tangled mess.

What actually triggered the thought processes for this post was not anime, but games. It was just another of the endless debates on storytelling in RPGs, which inevitably segue into "JRPGs" and "WRPGs". The details are banal and ultimately unimportant, but what struck me the most about the flamewar was that a lot of the people who condemn JRPGs for being "all the same" do not seem to be familiar with very many JRPGs: the vast majority of their reference pool consists of Final Fantasy 7, Final Fantasy 8, and Final Fantasy 10, with 9, 12 (I'll give a pass on the MMORPG 11), and the ones in the SNES/NES era unmentioned. Even talking about the Persona series, much less Shin Megami Tensei, got blank looks. Dragon Quest was unknown. Earthbound/MOTHER did not count, for some unspecified reason.

I cannot comment on the Other Side, as they were not very well-represented, but the more coherent ones hit upon the high points of Black Isle and its alumni (Bioware, Bethesda, now-defunct Troika, so on and so forth), which could be the same sort of narrow vision I am criticizing here. (I consider myself exempt in this instance because, yanno, I am not criticizing WRPGs for all being the same.)

I say "criticizing", but it's more of an attempt to figure out if I can criticize in the first place. Is there a Right To Criticize that is conferred by… what? A degree after several university courses on storytelling in media? Several degrees? Experience in the things we criticize? Or just experience in the general area of things we criticize? If I play a lot of Final Fantasy, can I talk about Star Ocean? How about Ace Combat? Or do I need to play Tom Clancy's HAWX for that?

Let's transfer this to anime. How many episodes of something should I watch before I can say "I don't like this"? How much of a difference is there between "I don't like this" and "I don't like this now", with the implication that there is a possible mindset during which I will like the show in question? What about the difference between "I like this" and "I don't mind this"? Where is the line between "I don't like this" and "this is not good"?

Am I allowed to give a judgement on a show before it has ended? Eyebrows were raised when I named Kampfer as my favourite show last season before the last few episodes, but I do not see any objections mentioned to people slamming Omamori Himari after… what, two episodes? Is there some sort of definable, distinct, discernible threshold of "good" or "bad" that is accepted by the vast majority of people? And if I am not in this vast majority, should I have to join with that majority? Won't that contradict the message of "don't follow the crowd" that I keep hearing when I profess my love of cute girls in anime? Which crowd is the crowd?

Sometimes I get the feeling that I am only allowed to have opinions in sets, rather than individually-packaged a la carte. If I like this, I should dislike that. If I like both, I am deviant.

I realize that I tend to be harsher on the negative aspects of fandom, such as slamming a show with hyperbole, than the positive aspects, such as praising a show with hyperbole. I suspect this is because the negative aspects usually incur more flamewars than the positive ones, and while I am fine with disagreements, I am only fine with them when they are polite disagreements.

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Nori and Nazuna eyecatch.

Same Hidamari Sketch, same lack of anything substantial to say, same hanyaa~n.

Well, more hanyaa~n this time, because we get new characters. Nazuna and Nori, whom we've seen in cameo at the end of the bonus episode of Hidamari Sketch x365, make… somewhat fuller appearances here, with actual voiced lines, although we don't actually see them doing much other than quick one-off Endearing Character Traits. Hopefully we'll see a lot more of them in the coming episodes, although with the non-chronological order of the episodes (and episode halves, ever since x365), this may not be the case for the rest of the season.

Sadface.

I think a large part of why I enjoy HidaSketch so much is the way the abstractions can evoke the implications of whatever they're trying to denote: for example, we are shown a picture of the mailboxes in front of the Hidamari rooms. Rooms 101, 201, 102, and 202 are in red, signifying the residents we're familiar with from the previous seasons; rooms 103 and 203 are in pink, for the new residents. Different, and yet close. Something we can see and understand in a glance, rather than a dry explanation or description.

Each character (well, Hidamari resident, anyway, rather than the others like Yoshinoya-sensei) has their own symbol. Most of us should be familiar with the four from the previous seasons: Yuno's X-mark, from her nigh-trademark hairclips. Miyako has a cat's pawprint, from the time she tanned on the roof with a bunch of cats. Sae has her glasses. Hiro has her octopus-like hair-buns. And now, we have a computer mouse (albeit an odd-looking one) and what looks like a joke set of glasses a twin-bead hair accessory; Nori and Nazuna, presumably, and I look forward to finding out why.

I also admit to looking forward to see what further symbolisms can be obtained from future seasons of Hidamari Sketch, and how they will be translated back to ASCII for ease of reference and typing.

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