Hey, let’s talk about anime for a minute. Or to be more precise, one of the more popular trends these days (for one reason or another): incest subtext. Or context. Supertext?
…Don’t worry. We’ll get through this together.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that the incest overtones (that’s the word I was looking for!) are in any way praiseworthy. Far from it. Admittedly this is coming from a little brother, not a little sister, but I can’t think of any context -- real, fictional, or somewhere in between -- that makes it “okay”. But it’s in full force for one reason or another. Male leads get little sisters…and it’s almost ALWAYS little sisters (or imoutos, if you prefer), to the point where the last notable little brother in my mind is Sasuke from Naruto. Oh wait, Brock had little brothers in the Pokémon anime, didn’t he? And so did Sailor Moon. Whew. Gender equality preserved!
In most cases nothing really happens between the siblings, but the “relationship” between them is played up to a fever pitch. From what I’ve heard, one of the biggest examples out there as of this post is Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei , wherein the imouto in question is so furiously obsessed with her brother it’s almost kind of sad. Now, not having seen the show for myself I can’t speak about its quality or its…themes…but when pictures like this one and this one pop up, and when there are posts that slam the show on a regular basis, then I hope you’ll forgive me for not being willing to take the plunge.
But getting back on topic, what’s the deal with the incest angle? Well, I’d like to think that by this point there are bloggers that have answered that question in much greater detail, but I’ll give my thoughts. What’s important to remember, I think, is that the incest on-screen isn’t happening behind closed doors, even if some of the shenanigans do happen away from prying eyes. The audience factors in -- maybe more so than the characters themselves.
So in the case of Mahouka, it’s not necessarily “This wonderful girl wants to have sex with the brother she idolizes.” It’s more of “This wonderful girl is willing to idolize the people she cares about, and is wonderful because of it.” It’s not about who she’s attracted to, but how she goes about it. That’s the clincher -- especially if the oniichan in question isn’t much of a character. The imouto is admirable -- and even desirable -- by the audience because of her traits, if not by way of her actual persona or presence in the story. That’s REALLY not the best way to think of a character, but the anime and manga industries are apparently making it work.
The reason I bring up this trend is because it IS a trend. It’s true that there are ways to explore incest thoughtfully and respectfully, but when new shows come out that are almost explicitly dedicated to a little sister trying to woo her brother (among other unfortunate things), I can’t help but get a little worried. And while that’s only one trend, there are plenty of others that have turned off even dedicated anime fans -- moe well among them. What do you do when the medium becomes increasingly more groan-worthy than praiseworthy?
I ask this because every new anime season I think to myself “All right! This is it! I’m gonna start watching anime regularly again!” (For a given definition of “regularly”; when I was at my best I just watched some of the Jump fare on YouTube once or twice a week.) I read my fair share of anime blogs. I read the posts, the reviews, the comments, and the like. I look forward to the season previews that show up every twelve weeks or so, because they brim with opportunities for new entertainment. At least, that’s how it should be. This season it feels like there are only a couple of things I’ll end up checking out oce there’s a healthy catalog: the Sailor Moon reboot, and Rail Wars. Because if Kamen Rider Den-O and Ressha Sentai ToQger are any indication, trains are hype as all hell.
Anyone who’s seen this blog for a thousandth of a second can probably guess that I hold anime in fairly high esteem (seriously, have you seen the header?). It’s true that I like some of the concepts and mechanics shown on a regular basis -- truth be told, I have a soft spot for Soul Eater -- but the reason why I think anime and manga are legitimate and regardless of their origin or weaknesses is -- well, actually, the reason is twofold.
For starters, collectively they’re a medium that by design overflows with style. Each story’s attributes, from top to bottom, make for a ridiculously rewarding experience. But beyond that, I appreciate just how free anime is in a lot of cases. It’s a medium, perhaps more than any other, where no premise or concept is too outlandish. If you want to make a story about a kid who gains power by sucking magical breast milk, you’ll get more than just a green light -- you’ll get an anime to your name, merchandise, and more. (It makes the much-deserved dirty looks worth it, I’d wager.)
But these days? It’s hard to know for sure if the anime/manga industry is in a good place. A lot of people will bemoan the omnipresence of “cute girls doing cute things”, and that’s a real complaint. I read the previews, and I see plots that are either recycled or just plain unappealing. I think it came to a head for me, personally, fairly recently.
I said I like Soul Eater, and I stand by that. But when news came of a spinoff called Soul Eater Not! that had cute girls doing cute things, featured only a fraction of what made the original something I enjoyed, and all in all didn’t seem like something I’d enjoy. And then the anime made the rounds. And when I saw the (admittedly minor, but still noticeable) redesign they gave Maka, I had a more violent reaction than I usually do. I suspect I came pretty close to puking out most of my organs.
Whoops. There goes my pancreas.
Lest you think that I’m just here to sing The Doom and Gloom Song, let me be the first to say that I still think anime and manga have plenty of juice in them. I bet there’s plenty of stuff out there on Crunchyroll right now that would set my heart aflutter. I may be as good as watching an anime to completion as I am at eating an eighteen-wheeler, but I’ve seen for myself the quality of stuff like Heroman, Kamisama Dolls, Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon, and Tiger and Bunny. I especially want to get back to watching that last one somewhere down the line, and I consider it a personal goal to watch at least one episode of Ano Natsu de Matteru (since supposedly there’s another season of it coming, I think). I hope I don’t need to remind you that Binbougami Ga! and Attack on Titan are the real deal. So if people have started up doomsday forecasts, I wouldn’t buy into them if I were you. Anime has still got plenty of juice left in it -- even if there are plenty of titles and creators that have gleefully jumped the shark.
There’s still a question that needs answering, though. There are some shows now that I want to watch, and others that I kinda-sorta want to watch. But the problem is that I want more than something to watch. In the same sense that I’ve tried to crunch in -- and been unduly hyped for -- myriad episodes of Kamen Rider (you’d better believe imma watch the shit outta Gaim), I want an anime that grabs hold of me and doesn’t let go. I want an anime that makes me feel reluctant to call it a night. I want an anime that
It’s JoJo. You read the title, right? It’s a damn forgone conclusion.
By now you can probably guess that I’m the sort of person who looks to the future, and looks on with hope (again, have you seen the blog header?). I think that’s a good quality to have. That said, there’s merit in being able to look back; that is, in order to create the best future, we have to be willing to observe the past -- and with it, some of the best it has to offer. There are lessons there that have been nestled away for years. And if the present refuses to offer us words of wisdom, then it’s only natural to turn back the clock.
It’s a wonder that it’s taken this long for me to say “hey, why not check out JoJo?” Setting aside the glowing recommendations I’ve heard -- shout outs to Dimanagul’s Eric R. Jackson, who I can only assume is irresponsibly brilliant, handsome and manly -- I’ve seen a little evidence here and there that tells me that yes, this is a thing that I need to observe. Like a lot of people, I’d bet, I know of JoJo thanks to the WRYYYYYYYYYYYYY meme, and the tie-in fighting game. The Best Friends Zaibatsu gave me another push, and while I’ve only seen slivers of the most recent game’s demo (in person, at least), what’s there suggests it’s time to get off my ass. To say nothing of the myriad Ultra Combos in All-Star Battle.
Like I said, the draw of anime for me -- if we’re going to pare it down to two of the most basic traits -- is that on average it’s overflowing with style, and it represents uncompromised creative vision. Those two kind of go hand in hand, I know, but if other fans were asked why they buy into the medium, I’d think that they’d have similar answers. They’d have specific examples to point to, as well -- exemplars of what everyone else should be doing, or at least direct the uninitiated to some top-notch art.
It’s hard to know how many of them would recommend one of the myriad JoJo installments, but I’d like to think that it would be more than a couple. Even a cursory glance tells me that there’s something there that I need to experience; the series is famous for its flamboyance and fabulousness, and just looking at the occasional screen grab gives me glimpses of the appeal. And from what I’ve heard, the “Bizarre” moniker is well-earned; Stands, Ripples, vampires, classic rock, horse combos and more are part of the package. They’re proof of originality -- because I’m a little worried by what sort of man in what sort of state could come up with such insane ideas.
BEHOLD! The origin of Guile’s, Benimaru’s, and Paul Phoenix’s hair!
The way things are looking, there’s never been a better time for me to get into JoJo. There’s been an anime adaption semi-recently, and I have the fortune (?) of seeing little more than a few clips here and there. And as of this post, there’s plenty of material for me to dive into -- all the way up to Part 3, Stardust Crusaders. I’m a little wary about whether or not I’ll be able to get the “full story” from watching the anime adaption, or if I’m set for disappointment merely by putting my faith in an adaption (I did that with Devil Survivor 2: The Animation, and it did NOT end well). But this is a chance I’m willing to take.
So in all honesty, you can consider this post as something of a foundation. You know how I feel about anime, and you know what I’m looking for. You know where I stand with JoJo, and you should know without a doubt that I’m eager to dive in. As such, this hopefully won’t be the last JoJo post that pops up here on the blog; I’m hoping that weeks/months down the line, I’ll either be able to offer up some glowing praise, use examples from it to point out what’s good in fiction, or just gush endlessly about it. OR barring that, just find ways to slip references to it as I do with Kamen Rider. Or just fanboy out. Whichever comes first.
And…that’s really all there is I can say for now. Wish me luck. I can’t say when I’ll dive in, or when this bizarre adventure of mine will finish. But I’m hoping for the best. So I’ll see you soon.
Though in all honesty? I’m hoping for an adaption of Diamond is Unbreakable. Why? Because this: