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Moe Check! ยป Archive for defense of mediocrity

Posts Tagged “defense of mediocrity”

Nana Mizuki sings.

A psychiatrically-minded (pun unintended) reader might infer from my frequent rants about the Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha Original Character creation community that I have some sort of grudge against certain people. I don't remember if I've said it before, but to be safe, I shall reiterate: I am but one side of this multifaceted story. Others may have different viewpoints, and several are probably more convincing than mine.

In short, the obvious: don't take just my word for it.

I don't actually have any grudge per se, at least consciously. My primary distaste is with the habit of forceful arguments, using loaded words and condescending dismissals; it gives me an actual physical headache, possibly through some psychosomatic influence. There is the unnerving feeling that the debate is not being conducted logically; the participants are not playing fair.

This also explains my decreased presence in the AnimeSuki thread. The rules of the forum state that there is one, and only one, thread per topic, and "Original Characters In The Nanoha-verse" counts as one topic. So if I encounter friction with other regulars of that thread, or at least their debating technique, there's not exactly anywhere else I can go other than "away".

I also have no illusions that this post will make me in any way popular with the community. So it goes.

In such an emotionally-charged situation, possibly no other collection of three words can cause as much ill feeling as "suspension of disbelief". We all know that the Nanoha-verse is not a place with especially stringent physical laws, at least as we understand them in Real Life. While endless entertainment can be had in speculating whether characters would act in a way claimed by a fanfic, human behaviour being somewhat unpredictable, natural laws are supposed to be marginally consistent. (On a macro level, as a rule of thumb, and several other disclaimers to satisfy the nitpicky out there.) The Nanoha-verse, however, asks one question first and foremost: is it cool?

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Taken from the Musashi scanlation.

I've been re-reading the manga Love & Collage (shortened to AiKora; it makes sense, really) recently. A quick summary for those unfamiliar with AiKora: the main character is a Perverted Harem Male Lead who's obsessed with certain types of body parts on his "ideal girl". Through the usual plot contortions, he ends up in the presence of four (later six) of his main ideal "parts", each one Platonically perfect, except on different girls. Cue Wacky Hijinks.

Anyway, I had a long and rambling musing about how the various "parts fetishism" that are the premise of the story can be mapped well enough onto the idea of individualized moe traits, but then I lost interest in favour of the cute girls therein. Which in turn sparked off the faint rudiments of a post about how I could take a story like this and spin it out into something deeper about the niches of anime fandom and whether or not it's all justified in the search for the highest aesthetic pleasure…

… or I could just read the damn manga and enjoy it.

Why was I reading the manga? Because I wanted to immerse myself in an unrealistic and yet ultimately optimistic story featuring cute girls of various personality types just being happy, being themselves. What makes the girls cute? They have features I think are cute, like Yukari's glasses (as Kureha understands very well), or because I can imagine them to be my ideal version of "cute", such as Kirino's voice, which obviously can't come across in a visual-and-text medium.

That's about all.

Is there something to be said about how I am identifying with the protagonist and his like-minded fellows in my appreciation for "parts", however abstracted? Probably, yes; the different factions are shown to be somewhat pitiful, in an affectionate and yet cutting manner. Tread this path, the message seems to be, and you'll likely never be anything more than a pervert in the eyes of society. Despair all who enter here.

Yeah, whatever. I just want to read about Kureha's valiant efforts to convince Yukari that glasses are attractive on girls. It's lazy and shallow, but dammit, it's still fun.

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From Clannad episode 11.

It's probably a sign of how technically desperate I am to seek out any form of plot which has a noted success rate of entertaining me that when I encounter some mere hint of it in an unrelated show, I fixate upon it to more or less the exception of everything else in the show.

Take the most obvious case, bandied about whenever the conversation comes around to the series in question, when I was watching Neon Genesis Evangelion. After all the mind-bending and heavy concepts thrown at the viewer throughout the show, the little school days comedy bit near the end of episode 26 was my absolute favourite sequence of the entire anime, including the movie. That's right: after twenty-six entire episodes and the movie filled with allegory and angst and insights into what it means to be human, after the oceans of digital print spilled about what it all means, the only part of the show which I can be fairly said to like was that ten-minute sequence wherein Shinji bumps into Rei rushing to school and sneaks a look at her panties. A man of simple and low-brow tastes am I, apparently, easily fulfilled later with the Angelic Days manga which explored this alternate reality in slightly more depth, but I digress.

I've made mention before, to varying amounts of howling protest, that I'm not actually that interested in Clannad. Yes, I know that it's by Kyoto Animation, and after Full Metal Panic: Fumoffu, Lucky Star, and very definitely The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (I was iffy about Full Metal Panic: The Second Raid, and I have few recollections of Munto), they deserve more or less an automatic pass on principle, assuming the work in question contains what has been labelled as "moe-blob" characters. (Mind you, if you haven't yet realized what the point of this entire blog is about, I may have to be uncharitable.)

And the Key trio of Air, Kanon, and Clannad are already praised unto the heavens by fans, made even more so when the legendary KyoAni deigns to animate them, despite inexplicable complaints. By all rights, I should be all over these shows, right? These cute girls in summer/winter/spring are exactly what I want to watch, right?

Well, not really.

Let's plunge into the murky depths of fan-definitions and pull out what can be considered the basis of the moe appeal, which has a strong emphasis on the protection of the pure, shielding it from any possible sullying influence. For now, we'll keep that in mind while considering the Key anime from another angle.

The three KyoAni-ed Key works (simplified for convenience; I didn't actually dislike the Toei adaptation of Kanon back in 2002, but we may as well concentrate on the common ground of the KyoAni adaptations) have a fair mix of humour, usually done in the quick-witted bokke-tsukkomi style of verbal or situational sparring, as well as a substantial dose of drama, which invariably deal with some aspect of human emotion and relationship, as well as the trials and tribulations of going through life in general. Key's works have the added motif of the supernatural which is oddly both prevalent and yet understated: we have all sorts of scientifically implausible circumstances and much made of "miracles", but nobody actually bothers to sit down and ask "wait, why?" The supernatural aspects are a narrative device to tell a (moral?) message via a romantic tale, and we are apparently not expected to look into this too closely.

And so, to tell a story to tug at the heartstrings and perhaps provide catharsis via tragedy, Key has the heroines go through hardships and difficulties which may be familiar to reality, but seldom as pronounced.

Translated into the skewed worldview which I possess, this means that Key's stories are full of sad things happening to cute girls.

That, in and only itself, is why I am reluctant to watch (or rewatch) the KyoAni Key anime. Sad things happening to the characters implies a failure of protection, and thus a breaking of the moe feeling which the art and character designs evidently try so hard to instill. I admit that I watch anime as a sort of escapism, with flippant remarks that if I wanted depressing realism, I'd pick up the newspaper. Watching lives being broken down with only a chance, by no means certain, of hope being restored and everyone getting a happy ending, always strikes me with the same sort of uncomfortable voyeurism as watching divorce proceedings in reality.

Tangentially related is the fantastical element involved in many of the "paths" or "arcs" of the heroines, for the game and the anime respectively. Taken in the anime, each one alone is enough to create a complete story, and all of them together makes for a somewhat surreal world unlike our own, where strange happenings are commonplace and hardly remarked upon (albeit angsted over). Taken in the game, each one is a complete story, and is probably meant to be seen as such… but the knowledge that there are other stories out there remains niggling in the mind, and while the path currently being chosen may or may not be a happy ending for the heroine in question, it does mean that the endings for everyone else remain completely tragic. For those who understand Kanon spoilers (five years since the Toei anime came out), imagine that if you went for the Makoto path, and then consider what that would imply about what happens to Shiori, Ayu, and Mai.

Air was depressing. Kanon was depressing. Clannad, from all accounts, will be just as depressing. This does not fill me with much enthusiasm.

But once in a while, I see episode commentaries on various other blogs about the funny portions of KyoAni Key, and I take them and carefully construct a fantasy far removed from the actual anime, where everyone is happy, or at least as happy as they can be in the circumstances, always looking on the bright side of life (da-dum, da-dum da-da da-dum). Sad things do not happen here: bickering and banter, yes, but nobody will ever sink into despair and hopelessness, waiting for someone to drag them out back into the light. A sunny, cheery, unrealistic world, where Everything Will Be All Right.

And so I make up my own stories about Magical Twins Kyou and Ryou, defenders of justice, love, and peace, along with the appearances of President Nagisa and whatever amusing cultural emasculation one can render from Kotomi's invocation of the Great Old Ones. Of such things are fanfics written.

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