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Cirno and her gang.

I seem to remember, somewhere in the distant mists of the Internet Time past (distinct from, say, Valve Time), some sort of diatribe going around the English-language anime blog community like some sort of strangely-contagious cold. I think it had something to do with K-On at the time, as a catalyst for an issue that had been bubbling away for some time. I posted something in reaction based on what was being argued at face value, because I was still not sure what I thought about the general case yet.

I'm still not sure, but I might have ascended to a higher level of ignorance. I think. Maybe.

The argument put forth is that a character who is, shall we say, not entirely quick on the uptake when it comes to mental gymnastics should not be popular. The term used was "retarded moe", which strikes me as an odd effect of semantics: by using what has become an insult in many juvenile mudslinging matches, coupled with the probably-oversimplified idea of moe commonly held to be the entire territory itself (instead of merely a guide map), the issue has become equally oversimplified, and boiled down to its extremes. It's easier to attack the edges of the graph, even if they turn out to be strawmen.

I've noticed that this "retardedness", and I am willing to experiment with other terms to find one that fits better, comes in a variety of flavours, and it's not really clear where one begins and ends, as well as the differing subsets and intersections thereof. Off the top of my head, there is the one which seems to be the primary target, exemplified (at least in recent memory) as Fuuko from Clannad: clumsy and bad at schoolwork, and not exactly overflowing with common sense. Clumsy Stupid characters mess up a lot, but always in an adorable manner, and the viewer is supposedly compelled to help them out if only to keep them from hurting themselves. Not because they're liable to poke pencils into their ears, but because they don't give up, and they'll keep doing whatever it is they do, no matter how many times they fail.

Then there is the Straightforward Stupid, as seen (again in recent memory) with… well, not Negi, but more his father Nagi, in Negima. The idea of Nagi's special brand of idiocy is discusses at some length in the manga: it's not so much plain stupidity as a sort of stubborn bloody-mindedness, a feeling that everything can be dealt with if you have More Power, or More Love, or More Spiral Energy, or whatever. A direct, straightforward rush, and a refusal to worry about the little details beforehand, although it should be noted that they don't completely ignore them either; they just deal with it as it comes. This is the Stupidity of the typical shounen action hero protagonist. I'm a little iffy about this one, because there's a hint of anti-intellectualism involved: why bother with thinking intelligently when it's shown to be less effective than blasting through everything at loud volumes?

There's the Cheerful Stupid, again shown in recent works with Recette from Recettear. The "well, I don't know what's going on, but everyone should get along" sort. The ones who have their own invincible magic of Zettai Daijoubu. There's an unrelenting, unceasing cheer which, assuming the setting is light enough to allow it, infects everyone else and brings them around to the Cheerful Stupid character's viewpoint, full of cheer and hope. If they worry about things, it will be the little details that everyone else sees as unimportant. Maybe they believe that the big problems would be solved "somehow", through sheer determination, or they know that worrying about it isn't going to make things any better. This overlaps to a certain degree with the Clumsy Stupid: they keep trying, because they believe that in the end, they'll succeed.

We also have the Prideful Stupid, which was what prompted this rambling post. Anime-wise, we see it with Ika Musume in her titular anime, but I was pondering this while reading various 4koma doujins of Cirno from the Touhou-verse. This brand of Stupidity has a lot of links to the Straightforward version, but it also has some effect for the Cheerful Stupid at times. The idea is that the Prideful Stupid character is the best person for the job, and possibly the best person period. The leadership position should fall to them naturally, even though they might not actually know what to do; they just think they're qualified, and don't bother them about the details. Ika Musume wants to take over the world, even though she has no idea what the world is like. Cirno says she's the strongest, even though she's at the low-tier of power objectively.

There are plenty more varieties, of course (for example, the Spacy Stupid, as seen in the later portrayals of Osaka-san in Azumanga Daioh). And this doesn't always have to do with anime, or even moe, but that's outside the scope of this blog. Well, to be honest, it's more of a raised eyebrow at the possibility of this post being even longer than it already is.

I suspect some of it is indeed due to the Stupid Person being female, and a cute anime girl at that. We forgive a lot of things when it's presented with eye candy. This effect also applies to small children of either gender, assuming you don't actively dislike small children of either gender.

In fact, it's often because this trait of Stupidity resembles that of young children that there's an unexpected appeal. Here, the Stupidity is transformed into Innocence, or perhaps Naivete. Not knowing the ways of the world, and not caring, as long as they have fun. Coming up with even more bizarre ways of dealing with the little inconveniences and problems of life that we, burdened with Common Sense and Practicality, might not have the imagination for.

This might be why we may be particularly affected by the thought of these young characters grown up, and remembering the stupid fun things they did in childhood. The ephemerality of this innocence is far more effective than when the characters are forever young and Stupid. Someday, Calvin will grow up, and we wonder if he will still remember Hobbes.

And when I look at pictures of Cirno, the ones which I love most are those with the rest of Team 9, portrayed as Cirno's gang of friends. Because here and now, in this frozen instant of time, she is indeed the strongest.

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Flandre attempts to open some snacks.

I've been spending some time the past few days researching the whole Touhou business.

Touhou is one of those things which is unavoidable if you delve deeply enough into Anime Stuff On The Internet. I'd meant to sit down and seriously research it sooner or later (mostly hoping that someone would write up an informative Let's Play of the series), but I kept putting it off due to the sheer volume of what I'd need to know.

Playing the games myself is out of the question: I'm simply not good at them, and the gameplay itself is not fun enough for me to die countless times just to get good at it. There comes a point where frustration outweighs any potential reward.

"So play on Easy mode," I am told.

"It's challenging for me even on Easy-" I begin.

"Oh, by the way," they interrupt, "Easy mode is only for kids, so never play on Easy mode."

If you say so.

Still, since it's all over the Internet, or at least the anime corner of it, I've picked up bits and pieces of the canon, although this is apparently a special case in that there is very little true canon, much like mainstream superhero comics, and the appeal is based on fanon. Getting fans to agree on something is eventually a futile effort, so it's not like I can pin down more than the broad strokes. The games themselves, I am told, are merely the basic jumping-off point, and it is possible (again, so I am told) to enjoy the setting without playing the games.

And as my experiences with just about everything else has proven, now that I'm older (if no wiser), I've gotten tired of dealing with fandom. The source often brings me joy, but being involved in the actual fandom implies having to tolerate other people. For a fanbase as large and varied as Touhou, the chances of aggravation and frustration is high. (In fact, for a time I had to try to ignore Touhou until I cooled off, since one particularly rabid fan also had such an abrasive personality, often regarding Touhou itself, that my general policy of never judging a series by its proponents was sorely tested.) I'm reluctant to declare, with confidence, that Such And Such is my favourite aspect, because I'm sure someone will drop in with "but you see, that character is less awesome than this one" and then I have to wonder why I bother. I'm getting too old for fandom debates.

But researching Touhou had always been on the list of Things To Get Around To, and recently, I got around to it.

With such a large number of characters in so short a time, it seems that my primary means of learning about characters is based on their theme songs, and how catchy they are. Suwako Moriya, Flandre Scarlet, and Cirno are in the lead, thanks to their famous remixes, and Cirno is fascinating to consider as the resident Overconfident Idiot, made more tolerable in that she's portrayed as exactly that. (I don't know enough about Suwako.) Flandre is just scary; I know she's been portrayed as cute in quite a few fanworks, but to me it's the sort of cute that only barely tints the vicious insanity. The best illustration I've seen of this is her appearance in the famous Bad Apple video. Every time I rewatch that grin, chills.

After that is a whole mess of catchy tunes, more or less on equal footing, and below that are the… not so catchy tunes, for characters I don't especially care about. Of course, my criteria for "catchy" often conflicts with others', since I'm not really a huge fan of Obvious Electronica or Noisy Metal.

Apart from theme tunes, character-wise I'm still waiting to see if the initial enthusiasm will last, but I have to say that Marisa and Reisen appear to be in the running. The common thread, so to speak, is in their outfits. Reisen is a standard schoolgirl-esque outfit plus bunny ears, which makes it possible to be created in City of Heroes; in fact, I know for a fact that someone has already done so.

As for main characters, mikos do nothing for me, but I covet Marisa's hat.

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Yuki and Ryoko.

I watched The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya at Anime Festival Asia X.

It was awesome.

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The first day, at least.

Too tired to post anything substantial. Go here.

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CD Single image.

I've been listening to what may be safely called the Long Version of the opening theme of The World God Only Knows. At over eight minutes, it is Long indeed.

Apparently it is divided into five lyrical "chapters", each with its distinctive style, and what is heard in the opening animation is from chapter two, and even then cut short. Hearing the whole thing at once brings to mind strange baroque imageries, musical tapestries underlaid by harpsichord and rock guitar. Reactions I have seen have likened it to something liturgical, which may or may not be fitting. I can only imagine what keyword spam will arrive in the comments this time.

Parts of it remind me naggingly of some of Queen's works, although I cannot quite name the tune beyond knowing that it is somewhere in my collection. (Before anyone suggests, no, it is not particularly bohemian as such.) Is it a good tune? I'm not entirely sure. It seems to hit the right internal buttons, but I am as yet unsure if they are the same buttons hit by, say, a Michael Bay movie: impressive and enjoyable, but not particularly deep. My knowledge of musical theory does not extend so far.

In other news, I'll be heading down to Anime Festival Asia X tomorrow. I'm still not entirely sure what I will be doing there.

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Having caught up on what I've forgotten, I have remembered why Haruna is my favourite character of this show. She's sweet and kind and adorable and for some reason I find myself rooting for her over Lala, even though Lala is supposed to be the primary female character.

Which does mean that I am rooting for Haruna to end up with Rito, despite Rito's generically clumsy nature as a harem comedy male protagonist. It's clear that Haruna does not mind, and perhaps indeed finds it endearing, but truth be told I'd also root for her to end up with Oshizu or something if the plot demands it, as long as Haruna is happy. That, and only that, is the primary criteria for this instance of To Love-Ru shipping.

In this case, Haruna's happiness trumps Lala's happiness, perhaps because Haruna doesn't seem to place a very high priority on her own happiness, thus requiring the fans to take up the slack. It's an interesting puzzle to contemplate: I don't feel as bad when I think about Haruna getting Rito and Lala losing out (assuming Rito doesn't go the harem route), whereas contemplating Haruna sad, regardless of who else Rito ends up with, is a terrible feeling. (Yes, I'm easily-influenced.)

There isn't even the question of whether Rito is Good Enough for Haruna. Haruna certainly thinks so, and apparently what Haruna says is good enough for me. Further examination of the matter starts to feel like I'm thinking too deeply into the whole business, and I may as well start working out the physical specs and ramifications of Lala's inventions rather than point out whether Rito's faults outweigh his good points in the overall success of Operation Make Haruna Happy.

And yet, I might be overthinking it anyway, since I'm actively rooting for a character in a harem comedy that does not have any form of resolution to date. Watching events conspire to prevent Rito and Haruna from getting together more than they have is… frustrating. There is the strange urge to reach into the screen and lock the two of them together in a room for however long it takes for either one to confess (or for teenage hormones to dictate the action, whichever comes first); Mikado-sensei can provide the facilities, and I'll even give them privacy. Just get together, dammit.

Of such feelings are fanfics born.

On a tangent, the nature of the series makes it understandably difficult to look for pictures of a remotely worksafe nature.

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Eyecatch.

Either the Hidamari girls are more stacked than they look, or those uniforms are padded.

I can never figure out how to blog about episodes like these, because every time I try, I end up rooting around the fridge for a snack. Obviously I need to learn how to deal with such temptation, although like all temptations, I'm not sure I want to.

Nazuna's indecision in ordering is familiar to me, though; when I go out to eat, I kind of want to try everything on the menu, but I'm not sure whether I want to take the risk of trying something new. And so I end up getting what I always get. The safe option. Next time, I decide, I'll try to be more adventurous… but by that time, I forget what I had intended, and the cycle repeats.

I like the drinks bar concept, though. I tend to want to hydrate myself far more than anyone else at the table, for some reason. Which is why I never order anything other than plain (ice) water, unless it's free-flow.

Also, spotted in the Nutbladder sub:

Reference.

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Mikoto as Pikachu.

I wonder if I'm the only person who, when playing inFamous, starts imagining Mikoto Misaka (aka Biri-biri) in the role of Cole McGrath.

As far as I can tell on Danbooru, nobody's done fanart of that yet. Plenty of Pikachu references, though, as the picture shows.

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Her name is Yami, or something?

I'm well aware of the fact that To-Love-Ru is essentially a fanservice show, with little more excuse than to show cute girls in various states of undress. This is pretty much why I'm watching it in the first place, albeit only partly so: I am far more interested in the costumes, so my attraction to this sort of anime is more about cute girls in various states of dress.

Except I watched a bit of the first episode and realized that I might be getting a little too saturated with data: it has been so long since the first season that I have no idea who most of these people are.

Which is an odd complaint for a show like this: one can summarize the general plotline of an episode in a few brief sentences. The girls lose their clothes in some way. The male lead gets a good eyeful, nosebleeds. The male lead gets beaten up. Repeat, while adding in a few bits of Wacky Alien Hijinks.

But I doubt people watch this show for the plot, as much as for the characters, or at least the girls. And when I can't remember most of the female characters, not for want of trying, I begin to appreciate the little recaps some anime do at the beginning of every new season.

I can kind of remember the main female lead, the pink-haired alien girl with the very interesting outfit I kind of want to know how to design. I can remember the male lead's little sister. I can remember the Normal Girl the male lead has a crush on, and I admit she looks just as cute as I remember. I can remember some alien guy who turns into a girl or something, and I can also remember how the show (and the manga) tended to keep him in girl form for the fanservice.

Most of all I remember the blonde girl who keeps reminding me of Fate Testarossa from Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, and who is apparently also some sort of intergalactic assassin, although in Fate's case this only started after she grew up, and they don't call it that in the Nanoha-verse anyway. But names, names, all elude me, and with it comes a desire to refresh my memory by watching the first season again.

Not that I have any objections per se, but I kind of have to work on a blog post, and the last time I went on a memory-refresher binge I lost track of three days. The irony is immediately obvious.

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Don't try this at home.

There's something about this series which fails to catch on for me, and yet I keep watching, because I have the nagging suspicion that it is entirely my fault.

I'm probably comparing it unfairly to Keroro Gunsou, which is hilarious and heartwarming and does the whole Strange Animals From Somewhere Else Invading Earth Incompetently thing quite well. Keroro alone would turn annoying very quickly, but the anime wastes no time in introducing plenty of other characters to share the spotlight with. It probably doesn't hurt that the artstyle is cute (which, to be fair, Ika Musume also does well) and Chiwa Saitou has a major role.

And Keroro Gunsou doesn't just deal with slapstick comedy, but also the little things: friendship, nostalgia, the simple joys of life. All seen through the viewpoint of literal aliens, letting us experience the things we take for granted through eyes that have never seen it before.

Ika Musume feels like… something missing, I suppose. It dials the comedy up, but I keep expecting an incredibly biased narrator to start pointing out the obvious or crack some deliberately lame joke or something. Having the titular character mess up her invasion plans yet again is amusing for the first few times, but after that I get antsy: why am I not being amused? Or rather, why am I not being sufficiently amused, when it seems to share several traits with Keroro Gunsou? I am missing something; I should watch further to see what this is.

I want to say that Ika Musume might get better if the cast expands, but I'm not sure if this is what it wants to do. Maybe it's going in a completely different direction that my unfair comparisons are leading me away from.

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