WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS TO THE HARUHI SUZUMIYA FRANCHISE.
In the Summer of 2008 (I know, slowpoke.jpg) I saw for the first time the anime known as The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. Long story short: it was unlike anything else I have ever seen. The characters, the plot, all seemed familiar; however, it was the presentation of it all that was unique.
Also at this point in time, I was studying a lot of Friedrich Nietzsche, the famed German philosopher. In his works, Nietzsche heralds the coming of the Übermensch, the Overman who shunned all current values, beliefs and world-views to create his own, a person who was beyond good and evil, a person who seeks to create and dominate, not to enslave, but to inspire.
The Übermensch, I believe, is a pretty good description of our very own Haruhi Suzumiya.
Exhibit A: Haruhi seems completely ignorant of social norms and morals throughout the series, beginning with announcing her manifesto in her introduction to her class (Not being interested in “normal” things, calling out to any aliens/time-travelers-ESPers/Sliders, etc.), continuing by occupying the Literature Club and essentially kidnapping people for her new club (more on that below). In addition, she has no qualms about stripping for Gym Class in front of everybody, regarding everyone, as the dub put it, “like a sack of potatoes”, framing the Computer Club to essentially steal their brand-new, self-bought computer, and what can only be called molestation in regards to Mikuru.
However, when one applies the Übermensch concept, it can be seen clearly that Haruhi is acting out the role of the Übermensch. She has created her own set of “norms”, to fight the “boring” norms of the society that surrounds her. Thus, she does what she does not out of any sense of malice, but to enact her will upon everyone around her: just as the Übermensch would. She is what she is, and will never conform to anyone else’s ideas, the only person thus far being able to influence her being Kyon (though it is implied that he is the one and only exception).
Exhibit B: Haruhi seeks to “greatly enliven” the world. To do this, she forms the SOS Brigade. Thus, in this role, she fulfils the Übermensch as creato and inspirer, for she wishes to make the world as fun as she wishes it was.
Also, it has been theorized by some that she created the SOS-Brigade in an attempt to gain friends (though, especially early on, she treats them like servants). Thus, it could be argued, she fulfills the last role of the Übermensch: seeking out companions.
Thus, Haruhi combines all of the roles of the Übermensch into one, and may be one of the best examples in fiction.
–Note: I plan on re-writing this in more detail in the future.
The Dark Age of Animation
Following the take over of the industry by Disney, animators needed a new market for their trade. They found their salvation in the form of television. However, there was one major problem: quality animation was expensive, hard to produce, and went through lengthy development cycles. Thus, if an animation company wanted to churn out enough shows for a television season, the standards had to be lowered. Limited animation became the law of the land, as noticed in repeating backgrounds, stock poses, stock footage, and the strange collars anthropomorphic characters wore around their necks (to be the subject of a future post).
This was the era of Hanna-Barbara, whom produced the majority of titles from this time, and became well known for their cost-saving shortcuts and rushed shows. Though some shows early on were saved by good writing, by the time of the 60s and 70s the Dark Age of Animation was in full-swing.
Due to the fact that these shows would never fly with adults as the target-base, the shows were made specifically with children in mind. It soon got to the point in which nearly all animation was targeted to either children, or in the case of Disney, the family.
However, over in Japan, a different story unfolded.
After the war, Japanese writers had a difficult time competing with western writers, especially in the areas of fantasy and science-fiction. Thus, comic books and animation were sometimes the only way a writer could do what they wanted. Thus, the reason why most early anime focus around adventures with caucasian characters, and sci-fi, a notable example being Astro Boy.
Thus, as the Japanese audience got older, so did their shows. The animation industry in Japan, over time, developed into a “legitimate” method of story-telling, the opposite of what happened in the West. In the eighties, young adults starved for quality animation in the States were searching for animated shows that told a story, had a comprehensive plot, and most of all, didn’t treat the audience like they were stupid. Which led to the
COMING OF ANIME TO THE UNITED STATES
In the eighties, the Japanese animation industry made it’s first tentative steps into America with Star Blazers, Space Pirate Captain Harlock, and Mobile Suit Gundam, and later Dragonball Z, Ranma 1/2, Sailor Moon, and Tenchi Muyo.
Anime, though starting out as a fringe element, was quickly developing it’s niche in American culture. It seemed that it would always be just that: a niche. However, that all changed with one thing, a thing that would leave a lasting mark on Pop-Culture and Animation in general:
Long story short: Pokemon was the greatest. Craze. EVER. It truly opened the doors for the vast majority of Anime and Manga fans from nineties, playing the greatest role in anime’s journey to the west. However, it was a double-edged swrod: not only did it introduce anime, but it introduced anime as a kid thing, something that only existed to keep the kids entertained, thus reinforcing the concept of the Ghetto. Which, in turn, led to Anime such as Urotsukidoji, Ninja Scroll, and La Blue Girl ending up in the animation section.
Which leads to incidents like this:
Thus, the initial reaction: Anime is for kids, thus any adults/teens who watch it are childish/mentally under-developed.
However, this quickly developed into something else: The opinion nowadays, that, essentially, all Anime is violent, gory tentacle porn.
Like this, but with more blood and violence.
Which takes me back to the beginning of Part 1: due to clueless clerks in video rental stores and libraries, animation has gained quite a nasty reputation in the west. Parents expecting something along the lines of Pokemon or a Hayao Miyazaki picture instead wind up with Ruroni Kenshin, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Serial Experiments Lain (in the best case-scenarios) or the three violent/pornographic ones listed earlier, among countless others (in the worst-case scenarios.).
Thus, we the Anime community are confronted with the question: what is Anime’s future in the U.S.?
Anime has had quite a polarizing history in the United States. Just go to most forums. Or, better yet, walk down the street to whatever video-rental store NetFlix hasn’t ran out of town yet. More than likely, among Winny the Pooh, The Little Mermaid, and Finding Nemo, you’ll also find such lovely, family-friendly delights such as Black Lagoon, La Blue Girl, or Neon Genesis Evangelion.
Oh, he’s gonna love it, alright.
An example from my childhood, perhaps, will help clarify.
My childhood (or what I remember of it) is chocked-full of trips to Blockbuster, and the aisle I would always head to would be the Sci-Fi section (which for some unholy reason was next to the animation section). I remember it very clearly; I was around the age of nine, roughly a year after I became a Pokemaniac. I remember, after goggling at the Godzilla and other Horror movies (which is what I always did when my family went to blockbuster), at roughly around 5 in the Afternoon (I believe it was during Spring), that I caught sight of what would be in several years one of my first anime: Neon Genesis Evangelion. Specifically, it was this cover that caught my attention.
I was like “What is this?”. It was animated, but after reading the back cover of this and the other Videos (they had the complete series), I couldn’t make heads or tails what it was about (Angels? NERV? Weird Chinese names? [the distinction between Japan and China not being firmly-established in my mind yet]), so I assumed correctly that it was for Adults. However, I always remembered it.
The details concerning my initial journey into Anime and Manga, however, I’ll save for a future post.
However, along with these titles I would find also various Anime Movies (the only ones I remember to any detail being Ghost in the Shell and Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind) and series (I distinctly remember seeing Dragonball, Ruroni Kenshin and Tenchi Muyo). All the time I’m thinking “What the heck is this stuff? I think it looks awesome, but I know what attitudes my parents would have towards seeing child-unfriendly (a falser term never existed) stuff in an animated feature. I’ll watch it at some other point”. And that I did (as I’ll detail in the future).
Because this is obviously family-friendly.
However, my mother, well-intentioned she may be, rented two movies one day from my library of all places. One was a movie about this guy trying to be reincarnated with this girl (it involved a “Reincarnation-Train”. To anyone who may know what this movie is, please tell me), which I thoroughly enjoyed. However, she also rented the original Ghost in the Shell movie. Even though I was not really paying attention, my mom, roughly 20 minutes into the film, turned it off. As for the reason, it appeared to be either sexual or violent in nature. She seemed puzzled, but then remembered that Heavy Metal (a film I would see, accidentally, the following year) was also highly sexual and violent. Over the years, I have successfully taught my mother that not all animation is intended for kids. As the fruit of my labor, she has seen and thoroughly enjoyed Cowboy Bebop.
However, not all befuddled mothers have sons who teach them later on what animation is all about. Thus the root of the problem, the problem being the existence of the Animation Age Ghetto.
How did this come about, you may ask? This terrible thorn in the sides of the many appreciators of Animation (and, to a lesser extent, Comic Books)?
The answer comes in the form of a story, a long, sad, true story.
It all began with the fall of the Studio System. The Studio System was the pre-dominant method of film production and distribution, which involed a studio (usually) filming the movie on their own studio lot, being made by teams under contract rather then work-for-hire individuals and teams. However, this made it very easy for these Studios to effectively buy out large numbers of theaters, leaving other Studios in the dust. During this era, short animations were usually shown before the main feature. They were general entertainment, servicing neither adults nor children in particular. A major draw, however, was that it was much easier to color animation then film, thus the animation being a major draw for a picture.
However, this came to a screeching halt following a 1948 Court Order, which practically made the Studio Systems illegal. Also, the advent of color film, in addition to declining standards of animation, made animation lose a lot of it’s “oomph” factor. Also, the Studio System guaranteed that these shorts would be shown. When the Studio System ended, so did the market for animated shorts. Thus, the market for animated film fell into the hands of Disney, due to it’s focus on long-format as opposed to short-format pieces. However, this would not nearly have been as bad if it weren’t for the fact that this coincided with the time that Disney started to become aggressively family-friendly.
CONTINUED NEXT POST
Greetings! Welcome to my first “Sexy Woman of the Week” post! Now, what is this post about, you ask?
Instead of just posting a bunch of pictures of said woman of the week, I instead post pictures AND explain why people may find them sexy.
In honor of Black and White coming out today, I have decided to do my first post on the four main girls of the story: The Female Protagonist, Prof. Araragi, Makomo, and Bel. So, let’s get to it!
First up, The Female Protagonist.
Besides looking like she just jumped out of the eighties, she has many qualities that many may find attractive.
For instance, that godly ponytail of hers. Easily hands-down among the greatest ones ever to exist.
Kyon Scale of Ponytail Deliciousness: 5/5
Also, her fashion sense. The short-shorts (torn!) definetely earn points from most, being the shortest hemline yet on any Poké-Girl (even beating out Dawn/Hikari!). Also, others dig her jacket, her tank-top, the fact that she’s the oldest female-protagonist yet, even her truker cap earn her points.
All in all, she ranks an A on my list any day of the week.
Now we go on to Bel/Bell/Belle/whatever.
Looking like a blond Yui Hirasawa who fell back in time to the Antebellum South, the moment she appeared there was an instant cry heard around the world: MOÉ!
There is much to love about Bel: she’s blond, has pretty green eyes, a delightful white skirt that shows off her curves rather nicely, her orange vest, or her orange stockings. Also, she has a pretty nifty hat.
Zun-Kun Scale of Nice Hats: 4/5
All in all, I give Bel a B+.
Next, Professor Araragi.
Ararararararararararararararararararagi. (Sorry, I had to get that out of my system).
First off, the fact that she’s the first game-professor to be female earns points from the sexy-scientist crowd.
Also, that lab coat, the short skirt, and the 80’s-hair further contribute to her allure. Also, along with every other main-girl this generation, she is very curvilicious.
A firm A.
And finally, my personal fave, Makomo.
She is definitely a contender for cutest scientist ever. The flower hair-dec, her ultra-long, form-fitting lab coat, and her long hair all contribute to the Hippy-Scientist appearance.
The glasses don’t hurt either.
An A. Oh, definitely an A.
All-in-all, the 5th-Generation girls are heading towards super-stardom in the Poké-Community, and will most likely contribute a bundle to the games selling-value.