Anime Club Escapades: 2/1/2013 – 2/8/2013

There exist people who don’t like JoJo’s. Allow me to explain that later.

I mentioned before that choices in anime club are preferably geared towards what is entertaining versus what is boring. Spring 2012 would tell us that Jormungand would be preferable to Sakamichi no Apollon because the former is inherently more exciting to watch. It tells us that Space Bros. would take us by storm through its sheer novelty and how we as adults could somewhat relate to the not-so-grown-up attitude of Mutta. Mysterious Girlfriend X would be met with little understanding, maybe some gags here and there. What decides this, though? From what I have observed, the ideal show for this anime club is a show that:

  • Entertains
  • Has little to no fanservice
  • Gives people an excuse to laugh, whether justified or not

Of course, when the opinions of others are also involved in the club, finding shows is hardly a unilateral action. When it comes to the opinions of other people, what criteria do I choose from when looking at what anime to watch? Well, that goes into a territory called the “No Fun Zone”, and let me tell you all about it.

  1. You don’t talk about the “No Fun Zone”.
  2. You don’t talk about the “No Fun Zone”.
  3. You can’t leave the “No Fun Zone”.
  4. While in the “No Fun Zone”, you must defenestrate your personal tastes in anime.
  5. Attempts to leave the “No Fun Zone” result in immediate and loud complaints concerning your supposed tastes in anime.
  6. You do not know that you’ve entered the “No Fun Zone”, and subsequently relinquished your tastes in anime, until you are already in it.
  7. Complainers get to retain their tastes in anime like it’s their property and stuff.

And so on and so forth. How far do you think we should take into account the tastes of other people when deciding as a staffie group what should be shown? I honestly don’t know the answer right now, given recent events. Actually, this issue has been an aspect of anime club ever since I came to attend this place. The pervading sentiment for the last year or so is that we should be watching the newest anime to come out of Japan, not unlike what we as anibloggers do now. Some consideration is put into showing anime from the past, and it’s always been a sentiment that I share wholeheartedly, but this is how the club has operated for the longest time and they would be hard pressed to change that model. Until this week happened.

Let us talk about another member of the anime club, this one being a woman. She’s one of the few people in the club who do not like JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. Naturally, like anyone else here would, I asked why. Was it the shallowness of its themes? Was it too dumb? Because like it or not, JoJo’s does draw a lot of its entertainment from being outlandishly dumb. It’s merely a question of whether or not you can appreciate the dumb. But no. That’s not why she doesn’t like it.┬áHer problem is that she can’t handle the violence, which is fair. You can’t expect everyone to be jaded towards gore, censored or not. This is also one of the reasons why we did not end up watching Psycho-Pass too. Actually, the violence in Psycho-Pass came second to what seemed to be a more pressing issue to her, which was rape. So, we ended up dropping Psycho-Pass not because it was violent, not because it would become entrapped in Butcher Gen conventions that we’ve all seen before, but because there was rape.

If it sounds like I disagree with that sentiment, I don’t. I think it’s valid, and I think it’s a serious concern. What I also think, however, is that most of these types of situations can be also be diffused as a non-issue when the narrative ends up not pursuing it. Everyone remember how the first episode of Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun went? Yeah, she was all over that one too. I hesitate to say that she’s a feminist, because there are certainly more traits to feminists than merely thinking about a woman’s well-being, but I can definitely say that her opinion is one that I wish I had for the club. She may be ruining other people’s fun by disparaging what we end up watching every now and then, It’s not like I don’t agree. She isn’t contrary to us because it’s fun for her. Since she’s been around for a while, probably longer than I have, I like to believe that she has the club’s best interest in mind when saying that shows like Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun are bad to watch because they promote bad themes. Her criticisms are more focused on the content of a series rather than their entertainment value, so that means that most of the anime we end up watching end up as a no-no. I used to think that way, so I could identify… but that was when I wasn’t an officer. When you get into a position like mine, there’s a lot more to be thinking about than what she worries about. Hell, the criteria I outlined in the beginning of this post is moot if I take her completely seriously.

Maybe I get a bit on edge when she says things like this because I made the effort to pick out shows. And if it’s any indication by now, what I choose does not necessarily reflect upon my own tastes and desires. I’ve already said that Winter 2013 anime sucks, but because we’re stuck choosing shows from that criterion I have no choice but to keep going. To clarify, though, her suggestion to us doesn’t consist of “watch only good anime pls”, and if I connote anything to that extent that’s really not what I mean. She’s fine with things like JoJo’s as long as there’s other things to balance it out. If we pander to otaku, we must also pander to fujoshi. If we must cater to those who love violence, make the effort to watch things that are less offensive to balance it out. It’s a valid suggestion and we’re thinking of implementing this by next week. Watching older series was an issue because the president prioritized watching newer series over older ones, for no reason other than to stay current, or “fresh” as he might call it. This often led to leaving a bunch of shows imcomplete with each school year, in favor of catching up with the newest thing. Honestly, when we look for quality series, that’s a risky gamble in and of itself. It would make much more sense to just to show something that’s already known as good by a fair amount of people.

Then again, this is just one woman and a couple of other people on her side making this complaint. Out of maybe 25-30 people who frequent the club. How far should her opinion change what has been relatively successful? I still think things can and should change, because honestly most people who go to anime club don’t care whether something is new or “fresh” or whatever. Technically, we don’t even need to show the fanservice-y anime if we don’t need to, because the otaku group is just as small, but that’s not what I want out of this club. I’ll explain this with another post sometime in the future.

Addendum

  1. Thinking about it, how would an actual feminist survive anime pop culture? That shit is sexualized and misogynistic to the point of ridiculousness. I also think it can make rash judgments on anime such as Psycho-Pass or Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun just because they use the concept of rape as a plot device. This particular woman doesn’t watch new anime on her own time, so she’s somewhat immune. It’s just unfortunate that a majority of anime that ends up being screened in anime club seem to promote these kinds of themes relentlessly, every season, perhaps every year. Being Western fan of anime is suffering.
  2. As much as it doesn’t have to be this way, I wish I could share her opinions on what we show in club. Thing is, since she said that she doesn’t like what we have been showing recently (which is heavily influenced by yours truly), it’s kind of a smack to the face. I try to think about what’s best for anime club, yes, and I also want to implement her complaints somewhere along the line. It kind of sucks, I can only access the majority of what people want by denying my own preferences.
  3. We’re still watching JoJo’s until the end, because damned if we don’t end up finishing a single anime series this year.
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13 comments

  1. I found Jormungand anything but exciting most of the time TBH.

    Having the convenience of being able to draw on a well of older anime, I liked to throw some thought-provoking stuff in with the entertaining series – some Kaibas with the Kaijis, so to speak – because I (and several others in club) enjoy those kind of shows. Since the people who liked them were the hardcore fans who wanted to stay the whole time anyway, I usually put them at the end of the meeting (though I always ended with a short comedy to avoid finishing on a depressing note). These shows also served to counter the “shows to laugh about” with something more serious, for a bit of variety. I will say, though, that with the limitation of only being able to draw from the new season, unaired and unproven DEEP anime are much more of a risky bet.

    Taking members’ tastes into account depends on a lot of variables, primarily how many people are upset/pleased and how upset/pleased they are. Our club (which I for some reason still refer to in first person despite having graduated) ended up pulling a show last semester despite a number of members enjoying it, because the people who didn’t like it were REALLY unhappy. Anime with particularly objectionable content (excessive fanservice, rape, etc.) is usually not even considered for showing. I ask for suggestions on the forums before each semester starts to see what shows people recommend. While I ignore the suggestions themselves, I look for the trends to see what types of shows they would want to watch and pick something they may not have seen before but that is similar to things that they like, trying to find a medium between the wide variety of tastes that attend.

    So wait, what happened this week that is making the staff reconsider the “new shows only” policy? I’m not sure I caught that. Is it because the one girl doesn’t like any of the shows you’ve picked out from the new season, so you’re looking into the past to balance it out because there aren’t any good shows this season that also work for her?

    I can definitely relate to that slap-in-the-face feeling of someone not liking what you’ve picked, even (or perhaps especially) if they have a valid reason like that. It’s not even like they’re trying to insult your taste or anything, but it’s always a blow to the pride to see someone pointing out holes in the thing you worked so hard to put together.

    I’m with you on that first addendum, too. There aren’t many series that don’t delve into cringe-worthy material (misogynistic, oversexualized, or otherwise) at least a few times, and a lot of the culture surrounding anime has some rather unsavory undertones (or overtones) to it. Probably has something to do with the very specific niche fanbases that so many anime cater to (otaku, fujoshi, etc.) that tend to zero in on exactly those problematic areas as their desired outlet. For the kind of person who can’t look past some of the more deeply-ingrained vices of the culture – most of which run directly counter to feminist ideals – I can’t see anime being a very enjoyable pastime. I attribute a lot of my continued interest in anime to the tolerance I’ve gradually developed to the more common of those moments (you know the ones) that just make you go WHY.

    1. I heard from a club member that Jormungand was rather accurate with their weapons, down to how they’re supposed to look and sound when they fire (Unlike Upotte, if we need comparison material). Plus “HER NAME IS KOKO SHE IS LOCO I SAID ‘OH NO'” is super-catchy.

      She made it a big point that our restriction to current anime was forcing us to show things that didn’t speak out quality-wise, and sometimes even entertainment-wise at the same time. She wasn’t alone on this sentiment either, and it took until now (after showing episodes 12 and 13 of JoJo’s back-to-back) for them to actually speak up about it. JoJo’s was fine, but Kotoura-san and everything else (We showed Tamako Market, OreShura, Vividbutts, Maoyuu, Kotoura-san, Senran Kagura, and Salami-san so far) Winter season had to offer was not gelling with them at all. Variety was the keyword.

      It makes sense in a way. Since good anime do not always pop up every season, and since not all good anime make for maximum watchability, we end up showing what’s popular, which ironically is pretty much everything these people (and me, to some extent) dislike about anime in general. But really, I just think that an actual terrible season for anime is what rustled these people’s jimmies thoroughly enough to start speaking out about it.

      1. Oh, I’m sure. It seemed pretty authentic, though I’m not much of a weaponhead. Some of the character-centric episodes are really good, but a lot of the series dragged for me. It’s hardly a bad show, but in the end, Koko Loco Oh No is probably one of the few things I will ultimately have taken away from it. That song is so stupidly catchy and lovably silly.

        Yeah, there’s just… nothing this season. I’d plug Roman, but even though it’s my favorite show of the season it hasn’t seemed to click with others for some reason. Though if there were any time to dig into the past for stuff, now would be that time.

  2. Dumping that rule about showing the newest anime should be a priority IMO.

    About the Gordian Knot that is finding shows that everyone will like, my idea is that you cut to the chase and establish thematic sections in your meetings where you would impose shows. Have meetings dedicated to romance, sci-fi, arthouse, etc anime. This would have the benefit of showing good anime your club members wouldn’t see otherwise. And those that don’t want to see Urabe swap spit with Tsubaki can just leave and come back for “combat shonen night”.
    Expect lots of whining though.

    PS: If you recognize misogynist stuff in anime are a problem, aren’t you a feminist yourself? Just saying.

    1. Considering we only meet once a week and the meetings only last about two hours, I’m hesitant about splitting people up into niches. And, until we can find a feasible location, taking extra time to show things on weekends is not on the table either.

      I like to think that I’m not a feminist. Sometimes anime gets trapped between trying to make something good versus trying to make something popular, and at times I can forgive Japan being Japan because the payoff is sufficient (Ano Natsu comes to mind, once the cheesecake in the first episode is ignored). I will still avoid anime solely if it veers too far into sexploitation, though. Hell, even the more subtle things like the incredibly short skirts in OreShura and the butt lines extending past the hotpants in Vividbutts are enough to turn me away.

      Additionally, just because rape exists in media doesn’t mean that it’s absolutely bad, or always sexually demeaning for that matter. Rape itself is controversial, yes, but its mere mention should not be reason to stop watching a show. Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun became controversial for absolutely different reasons (Haru being alpha as fuck), and the rape comment was just one of many traits that were held under intense scrutiny, yet it’s the rape comment that gets the most flak. I don’t like it when people do that.

      1. Damn. Two hours is pretty limiting.

        Feminism is an ideology, i.e. it doesn’t require you to be an activist to be a feminist, in the same way you don’t have to be a politician the be a democrat, republican, socialist, communist, etc.

        I’m sure you don’t mean it that way, but saying you’re not a feminist means you don’t want or don’t care about equal rights of sexes. Basically, you’re saying you’re a bigot.

        Plus, you can be a feminist and enjoy anime. You just have to remain critical of what you see. Turning your brain off is not a good habit.

        Lastly, I didn’t say anything about rape, so I don’t know why you’re bringing that up. But if you want my position on this: it’s like everything. If handled properly, it’s a great tool to explore the human condition and you can say something powerful with it. If half-assed, it’s either cheap drama generator or really, really distasteful. The problem with rape is that it such a shocking and hateful crime that it’s difficult to manipulate without an audience backlash. Check out Straw Dogs if you want a good example of what I mean by “powerful tool”.

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    1. Humility dictates that I deny being worthy of that, because there are much better quality aniblogs out there, but I suppose gaining readership is the entire point of writing things on the internet. So, thanks.

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  4. I think your criteria up top are actually pretty accurate. I don’t really have too much else to say that BokuSatchii and Stef haven’t already brought up.

  5. […] asked this question. I mean, it’s not like I’ve written about the topic before. Nope. Nosiree. Not a single time.┬áThis is really all I ever talk about when it comes to my anime club. […]

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