Monday, October 14, 2013

What's All This Anime Stuff, Then?

Both here and elsewhere on the net, I from time to time get asked, what the devil is all this cute anime stuff about? My reply is nuanced. In the first place, it is cute, and cute needs no excuse or reason. It's valuable in itself, to set against all the ugliness out there.

Second, I'm a big fan of anime, or Japanese cartoon animation, and I enjoy spreading it around. This is sort of inevitable, because half of "I" (this blog is basically done by a team of two) is Baloo, the cartoonist, who appreciates good cartooning wherever he finds it. As for anime, if you've seen some of it and didn't like it, try again with other examples. Anime, like all art forms, has its good and bad. Indeed, a lot of what is especially easy to find, like Pokémon, is specifically for little kids, here and in Japan, so you might be put off if that's all you've seen of it. There's a lot of anime that is specifically aimed towards adult viewers, but in this country, it's harder to find than the kid stuff. One thing that might bring you around is watching a Miyazaki movie. Try The Wind Rises [link] or From up on Poppy Hill [link] for serious entertainment, or The Secret World of Arrietty [link], for something cute.

Third, apart from its basic esthetic nature, it sets this blog apart from most such blogs, which either don't use illustration at all, or use it in a very unimaginative way.

Fourth, the illustrations are almost always, well, illustrative of what the posts are about, serving as decoration, amplification, and aides-memoires, if you will. Mostly I use static images, thought, partly by chance and partly because I often modify or add text to them. And on occasion, I'll use animations or gifs. Interestingly, the one I chose to illustrate this post is another example of Amy from the last post. This time she doesn't seem to be an American Indian at all, does she?

And when I go so far as to add text, usually in the form of quotes, I end up with what I call a "Quibcag," which is an acronym for QUote Illustrated By a Cute Anime Girl. And here I include a couple of examples. The rationale is as above, and quibcags, as opposed to the usual memes, tend to of course catch everybody'd attention, attract comment, and, most important, act as memes are designed to do, which is to reproduce and spread themselves around, with, of course the aid of those whose fancy they have caught.

The interesting thing about the quibcags is that they are usually appreciated, not least because they differ from other memes precisely because of the anime illustrations. And when they are criticized or denounced, it always turns out that the critic doesn't like the sentiments expressed in the quotes, and is probably upset because the quibcags are more effective than the usual sort of meme. This isn't always the case, but it turns out to be so far more often than not.

There is, though, I freely admit, a minority of people who like the messages but think the anime illustrations spoil the message, or are counterproductive. I disagree with them, of course, but I understand their feelings. I don't, for example, like rap music or romance novels. And if I saw somebody using either in aid of putting forth sociopolitical messages I agree with, my first reaction would be that it was a very bad idea. But upon reflection, I hope, I'd realize that the message is the important thing, and any medium at all that helps get the message across to those who might not encounter it anywhere else, is, in sum, a good thing. So if you have a gut reaction and just can't stand anime, first, do try to learn to appreciate it, but if that fails, remember that a great many people do appreciate it, and that anime might be only way they'll ever be introduced to the right path. And, of course, anime fans tend to be young, and god knows we need to get the word out to the young ones. Old geezers like me can accomplish only so much.

Another element of all this (we'll call it the fifth) is so obvious as to be easy to skip, and that's the humor of it all. Humor in two ways. First, many of the anime illustrations are amusing or humorous in themselves, being cartoons, after all, and can be enjoyed as such entirely without reference to the message of the graphic or the post as a whole. The second way I didn't recognize myself until a reader pointed it out: the contrast between what is almost always a serious message and the frivolity of the anime is itself funny in a dissonant sort of way. Unexpected contrast is one of the basic building blocks of humor, you know.

But, in the field of anime exploitation, I'm a piker compared to Vulture of Critique, who uses lots of anime gifs, or animated images, which I try not to swipe too often. As far as I know, his is the only other socio-politically inclined blog that utilizes Anime material to any great extent, and I'm glad he does.  HERE he explains why it is cool to use anime gifs in particular, and what the reader should and should not expect from them. Other political sites that use anime include Erudite Knight [link] and Jay's Tee Vee [link]. If anybody knows of any others, let me know and I'll include them here. This could be the beginning of a huge trend.

Quibcags: I usually end up a post that uses quibcags with some information about the illustrations, with links so the reader can find out more if he likes, so I'll do so here. The initial gif, not a quibcag, is Amy of Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet (翠星のガルガンティア Suisei no Garugantia), a sort of post-apocalyptic SF story. The second is illustrated by the girls of Stella Women's Academy, High School Division Class C3" (特例措置団体ステラ女学院高等科C3, about a club in a girls' high school devoted to armed combat competition. Then we have Kagura of Gin Tama (銀魂 Gintama, lit. "Silver Soul"), who isn't actually Chinese — not even human, really — but who certainly knows how to wear a Chinese dress. Then we come to Ayuka Oka of Mysterious Girlfriend X (謎の彼女X. Nazo no Kanojo Ekkusu), a weird, somewhat perverse, story about another high school with lots of sexual innuendo. Finally, the last quibcag features the adorable Akane Tendo of Ranma ½ (らんま½).   If your appetite is whetted, navigate around the blog. There are hundreds more.
I'll leave you with a gif from Joshiraku [link]:


  1. I'm probably being a 2deep4u hipster here, but I like the duality of the contrast between nationalist ideas that many would call "hate" and the cutesy animu, but also how both probably have strong current of assburgers in their demographics (Kind of like My nationalist pony). Oh, also Japan is pretty ideal in their implementation of Nationalism.

    As a side note, I see most anime as eye candy, Lots of western animation/illustration is better on many levels (though often influenced by animu), but Japanese animation can be enjoyable without being too substantive.

  2. I watch it for the plot. Our flag should be the blue and white horizontal stripes. lol

  3. Replies
    1. Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet (翠星のガルガンティア Suisei no Garugantia),

  4. As a right winger and fan of anime, this blog kills two birds with one stone. Kudos.