Monday, 28 May 2012

An analogy- or abomination? Both?


(Oh, and a talk involving cartoon child porn)

Sometimes it's difficult to know how to respond to particular sub-genres of anime. I understand that some things exist, but I wouldn't want any part in watching them. I can certainly enjoy shows like Cowboy Bebop and Durarara!!, which both have interesting characters and like to throw in twists and turns, bending genres and telling a good story.

I can enjoy shows like Lucky Star and Ouran High School Host Club, which keep things good-natured, where love and friendship win out in the end (or not much happens at all, in the case of Lucky Star). The problem I face is when shows try to sexualise these teenage characters.

Lucky Star certainly has a following that enjoys the sexualisation of the characters (not present in the show itself)- just look at all the plastic figures you can buy of these characters in revealing outfits. I understand that it's a part of the culture (which I think is dangerous- just my opinion) but I know I don't have to accept it to enjoy the IP itself.

I certainly steer clear of shows where the sexualisation is the main feature. Shows like Star Driver I feel fall on the less desirable side of the line, but I can enjoy it for its camp, and even-handed approach- it was silly and funny, and almost respectful. Almost. There's a lot that can be forgiven when the main character's catch-cry is "Galactic Pretty-Boy~!"

I'm a huge fan of camp.

Camp is colourful, fun, friendly and joyful. It's self-deprecating, self-aware and joyful. It's Batman: The Brave and The Bold. It's lovely.

But there's this large, dark part of anime that many people are willing to accept as part of the culture, with which I have great difficulty. It's the wrong kind of "moe". It sexualises youth (teens and pre-teens) and it's a backbone to a lot of anime. It's frightening.

Then, along comes a show like OreImo (or Ore no Imōto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai or My Little Sister Can't Be This Cute).

Firstly- it's not about what you're thinking... in a way. The main character never has romantic feelings for his sister, or even sees her as particularly "cute". It's a sort of play on words, because the theme of incest is present- but if they weren't going for the word play, I think a more accurate title would be: No Way Could My Little Sister Be This Nice (to Me)! It's a show about enjoying erotic "little sister" fiction in its various forms, where the characters (one assumes) are adorable, whereas the main character's sister is anything but cute (in the way she acts towards him).

The show stays fairly palatable by instead focusing on the obsession with "moe" anime and games that sexualise young characters (and not the games/anime in question)- all from a girl's perspective. From a young age she found the idea of "loving" little sisters an endearing one, and it's supposed that she stumbled upon this before it held the same significance it has for an older person- that is to say, she fell in love with the ultra-"cute" portrayal of little girls, before it was understood to be obviously creepy.

The main character accidentally discovers his (seemingly perfect) sister's "hobby" of playing erotic games (eroge) and she is forced to confide in him, and requests his assistance to help hide her collection from family and friends. She understands her taste for what is essentially "little sister porn" is odd and fears the response from her family and the popular, pretty friends she has. Incidentally, her friends all work as child models- a further look at the objectification, sexual or otherwise, of young girls, in the context of Japan's idol culture. And at almost no point does she reflect on how uncomfortable it must be for her older brother to discuss the issue- as she has a complete separation from the concept of being a little sister- she fantasises (and writes novels) about being a saviour to the little sisters.

Now it's important to note that there is no child pornography in the show. Or fanservice (that is: titillating imagery). Or real explanation of the mechanisms or in-depth look at the themes of the anime, manga and videogames which she is involved with. It runs very much as a study of the passion people can have for this disturbing area of "entertainment".

And to the uninitiated it seems like an analogy for paedophilia, and how paedophiles are ostracised. But I say "uninitiated" for a reason. In the same way the show separates a violent criminal from someone who enjoys violent games, or someone who likes homoerotic fan fiction from a homosexual, it tries to state clearly that someone can be interested in "young girl" cartoon porn and not be a sex pest. I agree with this to the extent that it can't be true that they are all would-be fellons- but I also believe it can't be healthy, but I'm getting off topic... 

...What the show is trying to say is: fanaticism isn't a disease. Being an otaku (geeky enthusiast) isn't a disorder. The show is self-aware in its acknowledgement that people are largely no longer afraid of nerd culture (D&D, videogames, comics, figures, anime) in the same way they once were. It states this through a lampshade hanging late in the piece.

It wants to tell us that being nerdy is all right, but it doesn't get to the heart of the meaty issue at hand and why people are worried: fantasy child porn.

By having the enthusiasts as female (largely) and removing almost all sexual identity from the male lead, they skirt the issue almost entirely.

One question you're probably asking is this: Why would TSC be interested in this show? Let's find out. (And get your mind out of the gutter. Briefly.)

The anime is based on a light novel series popular with young people in Japan, not read by sleazy types in trench coats, but in the same manner people would read Harry Potter (or perhaps The Saddle Club?). Light novels don't have the popularity here that they do in Japan.

As I mentioned earlier, I often take issue with the seedy side of anime and anime culture, and I wanted to find out what a mainstream take on this issue looked like. After reading the wiki page, and deciding it was safe, I watched the show. I have to say I'm glad I did.

As I've stated before, I often feel I've been somewhat desensitised to many of the stranger tropes of anime, and I'd be very keen for this show to be reviewed by people of various backgrounds:

 - Someone who hasn't watched any anime before (Lorraine perhaps?)
 - Another follower of Jesus with some prior exposure to anime (Ames?)
 - Someone who dislikes anime for some of the reasons I've mentioned
 - Someone who loves anime (who isn't me)

If anyone wants to risk it, I can assure you that it's mostly PG. It's not exploitative (from memory). I've thoroughly enjoyed Lorraine's Fifty Shades of Grey dissections, and I think it would be enlightening to get an outsider's perspective on this particular show.

Thanks for reading. Thanks for commenting.


P.S. I apologise if I've handled this poorly, or been insensitive, or short-sighted. Please feel free to enlighten me.

P.P.S. I must reiterate, OreImo is essentially a sweet story about a brother who cares for his demanding sister- and not much more. It's merely the odd choice of hobby (and constant references to erotic games) that makes it different from any other cute anime (think Lovely Complex).

Friday, 18 May 2012

Model kits and model students

Mr. Ritchie: "...and I'd forgotten that I was supposed to be in Bendigo for the session, so after all that, I ended up driving for four hours-"
Student: "Did you put it in your learner's log book?"

I've had a great time with my students. Most of them are great fun and, when given the right circumstances, like to show their abilities and take pride in their work. Offering them the chance to do the right work can be a challenge.

I'm getting tired of people guessing my age wrong. It only comes up when they suggest I would have completed my VCE more than [x] years ago...

..."In your 30's..?" is almost always where their estimation falls.


I'm 23...

But looking old has its advantages. I (hope) it allows me to surprise them with my knowledge of youth culture (an opportunity quickly falling away). And it should afford a little extra respect. Should.

Right now, I'm looking into model kits. I've just purchased the Kotobukiya Ikaruga: Black Fine Scale Model Kit, which looks... challenging. But I can't wait! I love nail polish, and painting fine details, so it should be right up my alley. In preparation, I'm looking for another one to build my confidence and ready me for the battle. I'm thinking parhaps the Bandai Gundam Age HG 1/144 Farsia. I think it looks like an easy build, and a good opportunity to test out some painting (the kit doesn't really need it, but I think it'll be fun- and the Ikaruga definitely does require it). Also, if anyone has any tips about airbrushes, or tool kits, PLEASE help. I'm super excited!
I'm off on an adventure this weekend, while my lovely wife - who is currently beating me up (or "giving me a massage" or something...) - is on a conference.

I hope you all have many fun adventures to tell me about.



Wednesday, 16 May 2012

I'll never leave

Unlike my students, who often beg for freedom- I hope to remain in school for many years. Thank you, God, for this chance.

I get to spend my days hanging out with young people- trying to expand their world view (and maybe teach them some coding). It's an incredible job, and I wouldn't have any other.

I will return with more posts, and soon.

Much love,