If you’ve listened to our podcast, you’ve probably heard us say a million times that I and the other two Backloggers are originally from a state in the USA called West Virginia. Huntington WV, to be exact, similar to some other good, good podcast boys.
Plain and simple, we love our home. While I left it a few years back, I’m always homesick for it. Growing up, I took for granted just how freaking beautiful the state was, and the amazing opportunities I was granted by being in a state where even the most major city was not even a mile away from massive forests and rolling mountains. Camping, hiking, and many other things were second-nature to me. I’ve mentioned it before but Yuru Camp legit had me crying remembering what I had to leave behind for better opportunity.
I mean, that’s the capitol building for the state. And that mountain right behind it is the start of the surrounding forest. Nature be everywhere.
See, my home state is poor. Very poor, by United States standards, anyway. As beautiful as it is, West Virginia has been taken advantage of by hundreds of companies that mined it for its natural resources and then took all that money and ran. We prospered while those companies were here, but they’re mostly gone and so has our fortune. The unemployment rate is higher than the national average and the state government is constantly misappropriating funds. However, we’ve always been a strong people. We were birthed out of a fighting spirit, seceding from the Confederacy and joining the Union in the American Civil War because we were against slavery. We were the first ones to start the Railroad Riots of the 1870s because we weren’t going to lie down and let companies destroy the lives of their workers, and we continued that tradition of fighting for the little guys even this year, with the Teachers’ Strikes that started a national movement for better pay state by state for teachers. We’ve always been a strong people, though we suffer a lot.
I don’t know if anyone else does this but every now and then, I go back and reread my articles I’ve written. It’s not for any narcissistic reason. (Though, that’s exactly what a narcissist would say.) I’m not sure if it could be a smaller side effect of my anxiety disorder, but it’s more for fear. I get so nervous that something I’ve said before will come back and haunt me. Other times, I worry that I’ve written something I completely disagree with now or, just as bad, that I’ve written it so poorly, that my ideas could be misconstrued or actually are terrible in some way. To be fair, thanks to Facebook constantly bombarding me with “Your posts from 9 years ago!” reminders, I feel I have my reasons to get nervous about what I’ve said in the past. Hot damn, high school me was a dumb shit.
Me gesturing to my dumb-ass past self.
The article I constantly go back to more than any other, though, is my Kill la Kill article, my very first one I ever wrote for this blog and the one that started the whole dang project of The Backloggers. I think this one, more than anything, I get so nervous about. For one, it’s been one of the single most trafficked articles for our blog, and has been referenced not only in the blogosphere but also on Reddit as well as on a Chinese forum discussing Western and Eastern ideas about sexism. Which… HOW FUCKING COOL IS THAT?! The Internet is amazing!
However, that’s what scares me. Even after I wrote it, I didn’t feel as hot about as I wanted it to be. And as time has gone on, I constantly think back to what I said, particularly when it comes to the themes of objectification and sexism versus equal treatment and empowerment. And I’m still not sold. Kill la Kill, to me, has been really complicated in that I feel it does so many genuinely cool and amazing things, particularly when it comes to multiple badass female characters that are so different from each other and fun to see be the leads in a fighting genre anime. However, while at the time of writing it, I tried to have a good answer for various scenes in the show, looking back, it’s a problematic piece on the whole. And after recently reading a discussion about these very same feelings from someone else, I finally caved in and decided I needed to review my earlier ideas.
Recently, I had the chance to watch the wonderful film Lady Bird, a movie following fictional Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson as she transitions from her last year in high school into her first steps into college and being an adult. It’s a beautiful film that balances and explores the natural humor and heartbreak that a lot of us go through during that same time in our lives. The film’s ability to convey the dynamics of Lady Bird’s family and their developing relationships with each other without every directly spelling it out feels so wonderfully natural and refreshing. It’s that sense of realism to it that I enjoyed, as I watched for all intents and purposes the Hollywood version of a slice of life anime.
There’s no evil villain in this story, no individual kids who bully our protagonist, no quest or soul-searching journey the character goes through, and not even an evil principal that forces almost illegal sentences on high school students a la Breakfast Club. Just a middle-lower class family trying to get by. They don’t always love each other but they try as we watch Lady Bird go through her last years in high school and her first few steps into adult life, struggling with her want to be special and unique while finding time and again that reality is a little harsher than that, and her dreams and ambitions are harder to obtain that just wishing for them. And in the end, they may have been what she wanted, but the naive singular pursuit of them left her missing what she needed. The film doesn’t end with our protagonist learning the error of her ways and dramatically changing everything. It just… ends. Because that’s how life is. Sometimes we only learn the lesson after the fact, and whether we learned or not, life keeps going regardless. We were only privy as an audience to just a slice of that life.
The Winter 2018 season was, in many ways, a genuine surprise, primarily so because of the sheer volume of genuinely solid shows that were offered in this first bit of the year. What has surprised me beyond this, however, is that not only did we have a number of shows that I am already seeing as possible contenders for anime of the year, but a number of shows, to my surprise, made some concerted pushes in terms of working to buck some norms (or at least attempting to do so) that are fairly present within the general sphere of seasonal anime. For this season in particular, one theme that stood out to me has been that of self-love/self-acceptance, and this came to me most notably while watching Yuru Camp and Sanrio Boys.
I will go ahead and state that this is a rant piece so I apologize in advance. While everything I write for this blog is from my own perspective, this is going to be a very opinionated article about my personal feelings on this subject. However, I wanted to share this as I thought it might be an interesting read and it was also incredibly cathartic to me to get this out of my head and onto metaphorical paper.
Recently I noticed someone say on Twitter something that caught my interest.
This thread went on for some time, everyone in agreement, and eventually led to:
The first thing that struck me about this is that fanservice is not a genre of anime, or a genre at all for the matter. It’s a method of direction and writing to entice people. It’s using tried and true methods to appeal to what the audience likes in order to keep them invested or liking the show. Usually, this is adding sexualization into the show but this isn’t the only way to use fanservice, as just as easily, the creators could suddenly bring a fan favorite character seemingly back to life for a shocking twist.
However, these ideas can be done in any show, fantasy, sci-fi, slice-of-life, etc. Regardless of genre, anything can have fanservice in it. A Certain Scientific Railgun has multiple bathing/bathing suit scenes but they’re far and few between and I certainly wouldn’t classify it as a “fanservice show”. It’s way more focused on cute girls doing awesome psychic action things. Kobayashi-san has several bits involving sexual humor and Quetzalcoatl is almost a literal running boob joke. However, I’d never call Kobayashi-san just a “fanservice” show. It has fanservice, sure, but it’s a slice-of-life comedy about a gay couple and dragons, blending comedy and sincere moments to hit on deeper ideas about love, relationships, and family. The fanservice is just an element of the show.
Violet Evergarden is one of these shows that I feel at odds with when trying to discuss, as I feel while there’s so many good things to say about the series and how much I enjoy it and what it does, there’s an equal amount of criticisms I have for the show, yet it never detracts from my enjoyment of the show as I’m watching. It’s a complicated feeling for me, as I do deeply enjoy the show, but at the same time, cannot bring myself to call the show anything more than “good” as I’m watching it. I feel there’s plenty more the series could do with itself than the story is showing me at this moment. “Why is that?” is always what I ask myself in these scenarios, and I think episodes 5 and 6 are perfect to discuss why I both love this series and also feel like it could improve upon itself.