Category Archives: Television

Women and Anime: Mawaru Penguindrum

Quickly! Late, I know. Part of this is going to require knowledge of kawaisa, and I have a post on that already, just skip two thirds down. For those uninitiated with the series, I’ve limited the spoilers to about the first half of the series. Also, what the hell are you doing reading this? Watch it. Now.

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Mawaru Penguindrum, a 26 episode series, created by Kunihito Ikuhara is anime trying to make a modern myth about fate. There’s avoiding fate, finding fate, creating fate, losing to fate, and most of all, changing fate. A by-product of this fate fixation is that Penguindrum comments on the most common type of social determinism, gender roles.  Ikuhara, however, does so in a very Japanese way, reflecting the ways men and women are expected to act in his society and the overriding aesthetic. While the series is not mainly concerned with gender roles, Ikuhara remains a man who is definitely concerned about it. As a result, a lot the metaphors and a analogies for fate, work similarly for convention. Mawaru Penguindrum really argues for a more family centric society, where the roles are determined by necessity, not birth. So we see a flexible family structure, opposed by obsession and, as is often the case in anime, the bad guy is overcome by love.

For those who have yet to watch the show, Mawaru Penguindrum stars an idealised orphan family of the two brothers and their younger sister. In the midst of their happiness (which is so cute and sugary that witnessing it could incite diabetes), Himari gets some horrific disease which cannot be cured. Her brothers, Kanba and Shoma, attempt to live out her last days as best as they can manage. After a penguin-themed adventure, she dies, then comes back to life, possessed by a spirit demanding that the brothers acquire the penguindrum to save her.

This summary is nonsensical in the way that someone not familiar with anime would still say, “that sounds like Japan,” and that is very much the point. Cuteness and absurdity are a key part of Japanese pop culture, and Ikuhara uses that to inform the viewer of his perception of Japan. Kawaisa masks the severity of rape, cults, and mass murder, all of which are discussed in Penguindrum. Ikuhara doesn’t mean to say that cuteness is bad. He’s regularly embraced it in past work. Not to mention that the series is better for its high fructose-based reality distortion, as the story feels more like a fable, where the moral stakes are higher than physical ones. In Penguindrum, kawaisa is simply the lens through which fate and –for better or for worse– women are seen.

Read the rest of this entry

Women and Anime: A Deadly Project in Four Parts

The portrayal of women in media sucks. Let’s be straight, the vast majority of all protagonists are male, the women who make it into stories are often ineffectual or demeaned and sex still sells above all else. Now, anime is no different, and in some ways it’s worse than the 3D butts in Transformers: Dark of the Moon and the protective love men are supposed to have for Lara Croft. Yet, somehow, anime and manga have also turned out some fantastic gems that deal with gender roles in society that outclasses most American media.

My goal is to analyze four different anime, each of them showcasing a different perception of women in Japanese society. They are as follows: Mawaru Penguindrum (Spinning Penguindrum); Lupin III: The Woman Called Mine Fujiko; Ooku: The Inner Chambers; and High School of the Dead.

Now before anyone cries that I’m cherry picking certain series and skipping some others, I totally am. To be honest, I have a rather limited range when it comes to older anime. I do, however, know these series very well. For your consideration, I am skipping Miyazaki, who has fantastic female protagonists, but his movies don’t quite comment on women so much as he does a very good job at writing them.

Furthermore, I am well aware that High School of the Dead is a fetishistic mess of tits and guns. Its failure to portray women as anything except sex objects works as a great contrast to the others. In fact, I find portrayal of uncompromising masculine dominance to be as important to the discussion of women in media as the well-developed female characters featured in the other series.

Alright, we cool now? Good. Read the rest of this entry

Visual Novels That Are Made in Canada, an East meets West Ideal


Game designer Alfe Clemencio sits behind a small brown desk and calls to potential customers. He has two independent games to sell, and one for which he really wants to get some attention.  Yet, how he’s attracting that attention would be considered deviant, perhaps even backwards, by North American standards. He’s trying to sell them as a disk in a box.

Clemencio feels that having a physical copy of a game, especially an indie game, immediately increases its value and uniqueness to the player. While many developers find producing physical copies to be an actual barrier to publication, Clemencio believes that this is a phenomenon unique to North America.

“Back when I took my internship in Japan, I went to Akihabara. Right when I got there, I saw a store selling independent games from local developers,” said Clemencio. Akihabara is a region of Tokyo famous for its shops that sell “niche market” or “geek” merchandise. It is no exaggeration that within this region, you can find almost every video game released in Japan.

“[In North America], you hear people yelling ‘Digital download! Digital download!’ but you almost never hear about physical copies of [indie] games,” says Clemencio. Read the rest of this entry

Video: Fallout: Nuka Break, The Legend of One Man and His Desire for the Perfect Cola

This fan-made series is pretty hilarious. Written by Brian Clevinger, known for Atomic Robo and 8-bit Theater, it’s like a more violent, lower budget Firefly. There’s set to be about ten episodes in this series, with future episodes being 5 minutes long. I didn’t think this would be any good but colour me surprised, it is. There’s a witty script, and while the acting’s not comparable, the setting is interesting enough that I could overlook some of the mumbled lines. The props are reasonably authentic and it captures Fallout’s post-apocalyptic wasteland atmosphere remarkably well.

I recommend at least taking a gander at the first episode, especially if you’re a Fallout fan. They even use VATS in one scene, which is good, I guess. I thought it was weird, but it is pretty cool how they included that in an episode.

Video: DC’s “New 52” Commericial is Out, and Reminds Us of 90s

I have been telling everyone I can that in order for DC’s new 52 initiative to be a success they need average people to know. Not comic book fans, not sci-fi nerds, not software engineers. DC needs anyone who doesn’t regularly read comics, but could, given they knew it existed and was a valid medium of expression. And when I write needs, I mean needs. They have been spending far too much money for their initiative to be a flop. Whether or not they succeed is going to determine the fate of the company and whether it can take any risks in the future. Read the rest of this entry

Serious Analysis: Ano Hana

AnoHana, short for Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai (We Still Don’t Know the Name of the Flower We Saw That Day) is probably the best anime to come out this season. Even then, I wouldn’t just preclude it to being great within its medium. Ano Hana is an enjoyable series that stands at about the same level as other great works of television, like Mad Men or Life on Mars.

For those who haven’t seen it, AnoHana is about the death of a very young girl, Menma, whose death causes her friends to separate. When she comes back as a spirit ten years later, they’re forced to come together again for her sake and to retrieve their own self-worth. AnoHana is a slice-of-life story about recovering confidence and faith in one’s self, while exploring the impact of trauma on children. Read the rest of this entry

Fan Expo 2009 – Saturday AKA Marvel Day

Ever heard of Comic Con? If you’re reading this you should have, and these days everyone’s trying to get a little bit of the comic convention pie, meaning that as being one of the cultural centres of Canada, Toronto played host to one of the biggest conventions of its kind – in Canada. Which means that this weekend, the dreary painful weekend that occurs soon before school starts, is(was) Fan Expo. Now, as a little warning or point of reference, I attended for an hour or so on the Friday and for most of the Saturday, and to be honest that was all I needed. Also, I punched Joe Quesada. Mentally. Read the rest of this entry

FANFIC TIME: Anything More – Part 4

I write Fanfic. Who knew right? Here’s chapter 4 of a BLEACH story I like to call Anything More. For Coherance sake, I’ll post the rest later.

Chapter 4: Midnight Waltz

“Miss Inoue,” Aizen said, pouring a liquid reminiscent of Earl Grey into a china cup. “Have some tea.” Orihime kept her eyes fixed on the drink as it travelled from the teapot to the cup. She didn’t want to see whatever expression lay on his face.

When the tea hit the rim, he immediately stopped, wiping his hands together before moving to the other end of the table. Orihime heard the chair move out and in, allowing Aizen to sit down. When he settled down, he made a small coughing noise to signal her attention. She didn’t look up, instead choosing to watch her swirling drink.

Aizen made another cough, louder this time. Orihime gave him a quick glance, hoping that would be enough to satisfy. She instantly felt that she had made a mistake. Aizen had that look, the one where no matter what you did or how you did it, it was wrong. And he could do it better than you. The man looked at her expectantly, leaning his head onto the back of his hands. Orihime’s fingers started to tremble. It isn’t supposed to happen this way. Read the rest of this entry

Eureka Seven Madness – It’s almost a Review. I think.

Legend: normal text – On topic |  [normal text] – Not on topic

[You know what I love? 3 am. Three AM is this magical time of the day that you can do anything and talk to anyone without fear of being reproached and told that your writing is messy, confusing or written in the wrong language, because if they do you can always respond I did it at 3am, jerk-wad and suddenly it all makes sense. They will be keen to admit that this is not your best work or the reason that you beat little Jimmy with a hammer was not because you’re a psychopath. It’s because you’re a psychopath who works at 3am. And really if you’re not going to go on a murderous rampage afterwards, why bother starting anything past 1am. It’s just too much effort without the insanity.]

Wait. This was supposed to be about Eureka Seven wasn’t it? Read the rest of this entry

G.A.M uPDATE 5

Okay, so here’s another one of these nightmares. I’ve been screamed at for a month to put this up to the point where I no longer even remember what it is about. So based solely on memory here’s what it is apparently about:

  • Bleach movie in Canada October 20
  • Appleseed Anime series on permanent hold
  • Production IG to make computer animated film with Fuji TV
  • Hellsing ends, Hirano is coming up with something new for next year
  • Something about Evangellion
  • Manga/Anime Releases for the month
  • Funimation Juice?

Reviews: There will be more later in the week. This one was already getting too long.

So for the approximately four people who listen to these podcasts, I apologize for the extreme delay, but I have school and I don’t want to spend valuable sleeping time on the INTER-WEBZ. Also it will probably get down to twice a month at most.