Mob characters on a road trip

I just don’t understand why The Rolling Girls has the reputation it has, as as alluded to in this well timed post defending it. It’s not just that it’s seen as a flawed show, but as an example of a show that collapsed completely, with the promise of the first episodes not delivered by the rest of the series, even dragged out as an example of how Wit Studio always does that when e.g Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress went through its own *ahem* derailment. But I don’t see it. Having binged the entire series over the weekend I found a rather charming, fun seriocomic adventure series that actually holds together better than many more esteemed series.

Rolling, Falling, Scrambling Girls. For others. For themselves. Even if they’re destined to be a mob

But you have to understand what it’s about first. And to know that, you need to understand that subtitle: Rolling, Falling, Scrambling Girls. For others. For themselves. Even if they’re destined to be a ‘mob’. That’s the core of the series. The Rolling Girls start out as supporting characters in other people’s stories and through a series of misadventures, they don’t grow into heroes and remain supporting characters. And that’s fine. But if you don’t take it seriously and think that this is just another zero to hero type of story, you’ll be in for a disappointment. And I think that’s where a lot of the criticism of this series comes from.

Rolling Girls: these are not the protagonists

To be honest, it is not difficult to get the wrong idea about The Rolling Girls from its first episode, with all its cool footage of superpowered vigilantes fighting each other. Because that’s apparantly how in a fractured, future Japan, the various warring states solve their disputes. Each “Best” is supported by their vigilante squad of “Rests” who mostly stand on the sidelines and get blown away by the intensity of the fights. Moritomo Nozomi is one of those Rests, her sister being the squad captain of the local vigilantes and not so secretly the resident Best. When she gets hurt during one fight Nozomi decides to take over, going on a tour of Japan to fulfil the requests asked of her sister, together with three other girls with their own reasons to travel.

Rolling Girls: these are the protagonists

The perfect setup for a group of four misfits to learn how to become Bests through their shared adventures discovering new countries and solving their problems, becoming close knit friends in the process. And that sort of happens. After the first two episodes set up, the next six have the four visiting Tokyo — one big year long Comiket –, Mie and Aichi — racing and deep fried shrimp — and Kyoto — rock and geishas. Each country has its own cultural tics and problems, which Nozomi and co try to solve, but they’re mostly serving as a catalyst rather than actively contributing. In fact, in a fair few episodes they’re rather useless. The final four episodes find the girls in Hiroshima, where everything comes to a head as all the various subplots brewing since the first episode come to a head. Again, most of these subplots are resolved without them or even in spite of them and in the end they’re still more or less the same people as that set out to travel.

Rolling Girls: ganbarra!

I like that, personally, that they didn’t get to be the big heroes but in the end were arguably still supporting characters in their own series. No angst here about wanting to be the best, or boring platitudes about working hard to achieve your dream, but no learning to live within your limitations either. They may have been rests, they still ended up helping change the world.

The series isn’t perfect: the main plot is barely established before it comes crashing into the last four episodes, there are several times when characters behaved like complete idiots because the plot demands it, our protagonists are sometimes more bystander than catalyst and there are some tonal shifts in the first two episodes that were hard to swallow. But in the end, this is a series about finding a place in the world that’s too big for you to be the Best, without resigning yourself to be just a mob character, a series that revels in the fun worlds it creates, that was messy and too ambitious for its own good, but still ended up achieving much of what it set out to do. I hadn’t started watching weekly anime yet when The Rolling Girls was streamed, so I don’t know how I would’ve received it had I watched this week by week, but ultimately I think it’s much better than its reputation would lead you to believe.

Your Happening World (March 16nd)

  • What’s the Deal with Kemono Friends?– I wasn’t even paying enough attention to the announcements or the upcoming anime charts to know that what would become the Japanese anime fandom’s biggest anime of Winter 2017—a moe animal girls show based off of a defunct mobile game rendered in exceedingly poor CG—even existed. But here we are
  • A letter to Apex editors re: the intersectional SFF roundtable – It is not your choice to publish RH that I find appalling, but your specific choice to ask her to contribute to a roundtable on, of all things, intersectionality.
  • The Anti-Library of Kemono Friends: Fans, Theories, and Everything in Between – With a plot like that, it’s easy to think of the show as a Dora the Explorer thing — except it aired as a late night anime. The more you watch the show too, the more you realize the Japanese fanbase might be onto something. There seems to be a cynical, dark past to Japari Park amidst all this cute girls doing cute things crap.
  • Being an itemised list of disagreements – The main reason RH/BS was able to bully people with impunity for such a long time was because it looked, from the outside, as though the SFF community condoned her behaviour. You’d see a Known Cool Person chatting with her on Twitter as though it was OK for RH to chase people around on the Internet having a go at them,
  • Forgotten Realms: The Isekai Boom of the 90’s – The main difference between isekai then and isekai now is the intended audience – 25 years ago, it was a staple of the shoujo demographic, rather than today’s escapist playgrounds for young men. Ordinary young women were pulled into alternate worlds where attractive young men told them they had a special destiny to fulfill. They went on grand adventures and usually – though not always – fell in love along the way.
  • The 2017 Hugo Awards: Why Hugo? – So no, nominating for the Hugos this year is not an act of resistance. But I think that it can be an act of affirmation. A reminder that just because the world is going crazy around us, doesn’t mean we’re not going to hold on to what’s ours. That just because we seem to be surrounded (and governed) by people who care about nothing and no one, doesn’t mean we’re not going to keep caring about things ourselves–even when they are completely trivial–and keep working to preserve them.
  • Peter Chung on Japanese animation theory – It’s very easy for even a casual viewer to notice that Japanese animation has a different “feel” than American animation. Usually the difference is attributed to a divergent cultural viewpoint. What most viewers don’t realize is how much it actually comes down to the physical differences in the technical processes.
  • Breaking Gender Norms, Healing Trauma and Finding Acceptance in PriPara – It’s never stated that Love is trans, but it’s very easy to make the connection between her self-image to that of many trans women. I personally couldn’t help but view her as trans as I watched the episode the first time and the same goes for later episodes and rewatches. Intentional or not, PriPara made what might be the most positive and accepting portrayal of trans women in anime with Love’s character. Nobody ever bashes Love for her build, not during her reveal or later episodes. She’s always looked up to by the people around her as a beautiful woman whose height and etc. only enhances her lovely appearance.

Fifteen years later & still not famous

Fifteen years ago I wrote the first post on this blog as a way of getting me to shout at my television less often. It worked. These days I shout at Twitter.

A lot happened in those fifteen years. I moved jobs three-four times (once involuntarily), got three cats and lost one, started living together with Sandra, bought our first house together, donated a kidney to her, spent two years struggling to ger her healthy again, failed, learned to live alone again. The blog meanwhile continued steadily, madly swerving in content as well as blogging system every few years, from pure reacting to the news using blosxom (as recommended by Charlie Stross) to finally settling down to WordPress with mostly anime, taking my cue in this if nothing else from Steve Den Beste. Its archives are now a vast warehouse of half assed ideas and temporary obsessions and every so often I look at them and despair.

The world has changed a lot since 2002 too as well. We got a mad Republican regime hell bent in driving its own country to destruction while sowing the seeds for war, pandering to a following of out and out racists and assholes who don’t care how bad it gets, as long as those people get what’s coming. The UK meanwhile is not much better, with a sycophantic prime minister happy to lick US arse and pretending there’s such a thing as a Special Relationship while flogging of the country to whoever wants it. And in the Netherlands some xenophobic wanker is poised to win big in the upcoming national elections while establishment parties can only countered with a watered down version of same.

Sometimes you wonder why you get out of bed.

Naoki Urasawa’s Manga Exertions

Urasawa Naoki no Manben is a NHK documentary series in which mangaka Urasawa Naoki (20th Century Boys, Yawara, Master Keaton) goes around talking to and filming other cartoonists at work. There has been one special and two seasons of each four episodes so far:

  • Pilot: featuring Urasawa himself as well as Kawaguchi Kaiji (Zipang) and Yamashita Kazumi (The Life of Genius Professor Yanagizawa)
  • S01E01: Higashimura Akiko (Princess Jellyfish)
  • S01E02: Fujita Kazuhiro (Ushio and Tora)
  • S01E03: Asano Inio (Dead Dead Demon’s De De De De Destruction)
  • S01E04: Saitō Takao (Golgo 13)
  • S02E01: Hagio Moto (They Were Eleven)
  • S02E02: Hanazawa Kengo (Boys on the Run)
  • S02E03: Igarashi Daisuke (Children of the Sea)
  • S02E04: Furuya Usamaru (Lychee Light Club) NO English subtitles

Urasawa was inspired by an 1985 documentary the NHK broadcasted about Tezuka Osamu, the God of Manga. A third season of Manben was scheduled to run in September 2016.

Originally published at Metafilter.

Why you should watch Youjo Senki in one scene

Japanese salaryman turned ten year old warrior mage in an alternate, 1920ties Germany uses his/her little girl voice to obey the letter, if not the spirit of international war crime law, then bombards the undefended capital of the enemy. So edgy you can cut yourself, but the series so far manage to balance Tanya’s coolness and bad-ass attitude with how sick (s)he is not to mention how fucked over by the god that landed him/her in this predicament. This could’ve been fodder for the anime reichwing, but the occassional Trump meme video notwithstanding, it seems to have managed to escape that fate, even though blonde, murderous under age girls are like catnip to that crowd normally.