Underappreciated Anime Capsule Review: “Sore ga Seiyuu!”

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Coming on the heels of the heels of Shirkbako, we have “Sore ga Seiyuu!” (which translates roughly as “That’s being a Voice Actor!”), another inside look at the struggles of cute girls in the anime business.

This time the focus is much tighter, on three cute and young voice actresses in the early stages of their careers.  Rather than bore you with a pointless summary of characters and events, I’ll take the opportunity to explain why this show is good and yet underappreciated.

First and foremost, as I might have forgotten to mention, the girls are cute.  Did I mention they’re cute?  The designs at first blush might look a little bland, but they are actually very pleasing, attractive without being racy, well-balanced and effective.  And cute.  Turns out the character designer is one Sasaki Masakatsu, who was also in charge of character design and animation on A-Channel and Saki.  He’s a talented fellow, and the fact that his work here is flying under the radar to some extent is unfortunate.

And why is it flying under the radar?  Probably just never caught on, but who knows.  People likely wrote it off as a Shirobako ripoff and never got into it.  I really think that’s it, since this show is a very solid production and fun to watch.

In addition to the character designs, the music is nice, the plot is adequately engaging without being too stressful, the voice acting is good, as is the pacing.  The moments of “industry insider” exposition are brief and sparse enough that they remain mildly interesting and don’t become bothersome, and the same can be said about the numerous voice actor cameos.

Sore ga Seiyuu’s one flaw is how heavily confucian the characters are.  The emphasis on hierarchy, maintaining harmonious relations, self-censorship, paper-mâché positivity and lack of a discernible sex drive displayed by the characters, while par for the course and a strong contributor to the relaxing experience of watching shows like this, is nonetheless primitive, excessive and ugly.

Then again, if I keep comparing shows to Yuyushiki I’m going to be very disappointed for a very long time.

And really, my personal attitude towards confucian-style characters doesn’t explain Sore ga Seiyuu’s relative lack of popularity.  Well, in the west at least, it’s being “subbed” by Funimation, who are notoriously bad, and the fansubbing group working on it has stalled.  If SgS had better subs it might be more popular over here, no question.  We still appreciate orz’s efforts, or course, and hope they resolve whatever it is that is taking their valuable time.

Well, trying to understand the relative commercial success of an anime without mentioning the relative level of fanservice is kind of silly.  That’s probably it, pantsu deficiency.  Which is a shame because Sore ga Seiyuu is actually a very nice show that deserves to be enjoyed.

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New approach

I think I’m going to take a slightly new approach to this blog, not that it has any readers ;_;

Honestly, I’m trying to spend less time on some other websites (which will remain unnamed) since I find that once I start posting, suddenly two hours have gone by.  Instead, I’ll try to post thoughts here when I feel the need to share.

So expect small posts about crap.

The Tea Party Story

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Michael Lind has a fantastic column up at Salon.  Lind is at his strongest talking about the political economy of the South, and here he provided great perspective on who at least part of the Tea Party is.

I say “at least a part” because I’m not sure how many of the Smaller Ponders (what I like to call Lind’s “local notables”) are actually out there.  If we’re talking about the top 5% of the Southern states, that still doesn’t account for the other 20+% of the population that is Tea-identified, especially in other places.

So I don’t think the effects of AM radio propaganda and the general mental constitution of Movement Conservatism can be ignored.  Rather, I think a huge number of Tea Party supporters have just become totally wrapped up in the comforting oversimplification of “government is always the problem,” the joy of self-associating with the Gipper and John Wayne, and, yes, a profound nativism and self-regard, and have been led astray by decades of propaganda that fed their prejudices.

After being induced into paranoia for so many years, these people really do consider Obamacare to be an existential threat to America, and our current crisis arguably stems from them insisting the GOP leadershp take their paranoia seriously.

Of course, this explanation and Lind’s aren’t mutually exclusive even within an individual, and I expect that my explanation dominates at the bottom of the income scale, Lind’s at the top, and they shade through each other as income rises.  Taken together this is a pretty comprehensive explanation of the Tea Party, which everyone should pay close attention to.

So I had sex with a transwoman…

A little mood music by Shibayan, full lyrics and credits at http://kafkafuura.wordpress.com/2011/02/09/ibara-no-shiro/

It was an interesting experience.  A little background on my sexuality: I’m basically straight, but back when I was young (like early puberty) I had a serious, very sexual crush on one of my friends.  I tried to have sex with him and it did not go well, to say the least.

Bear in mind this was a bit before gay marriage was becoming more accepted.  So homosexuality was an issue, and people were still ignorant and thus shitty about it, as ignorant people tend to be.  Breathing the air of the time and being young, I was extremely hard on myself.  It was actually pretty traumatic.  It probably would have been better back in the 70’s or 80’s.  Then I would’ve just been going through a phase, or experimenting, or whatever.  Instead, the horrible existential question Am I gay? loomed so huge over what should have been a much more innocent experience.

Since then I have found a man attractive every now and then, usually a feminine “twink” type, but haven’t done anything about it.  In contrast, I find many, many women attractive, so I identify as essentially straight, or “heteroflexible,” to use a word that has gone a little out of fashion.  But I sometimes wonder whether I’m just suppressing my bisexuality.  Having sex with a transwoman was thus an interesting compromise between not triggering too many bad memories while still exploring that side of myself.

Plus the concept itself is hot.  In a sense, a transwoman is a woman with a non-disfiguring birth defect which forces her to have anal sex.  And grow facial hair, but that’s not as hot for me.

To protect identities I’m not going to discuss how I met this lady, but we got along well and came together pretty quick.  And the usual disclaimer with these sorts of things: n=1.  This is a one-person sample, there is no way to tell what is unique to her and what is more general to transwomen.

And sorry for the PC talk.  In the past I’ve called them “trannies,” but this is apparently a no-no, and I want to be nice even though the pre-PC word is easier, cuter and less of a pain in the ass, as usual.  I don’t know, maybe being PC is a sick joke, what with me going anthropologist on the poor girl.  Well, she knows she’s going through something unusual, too.  And hopefully it’s clear why I’m looking at this the way I am. Hopefully it doesn’t seem too shitty to blog about it.

The reality of experiences (here we go) are always less meaningful than we think they’ll be.  Maybe it’s just me, but I’m always surprised by how full life is in itself, how it crowds out the symbolism and structure we’d like to assign or find in it.  When I had sex with the transwoman, it was just that.  Real, every touch and second of the experience composed of sensory data.  The interpretations came straight.  All cigars were just cigars, to be a little oblique.

First, there was stubble.  Her mouth tasted neutral, which I appreciated, but kissing didn’t really give me sparks.  And to be fair, there are women with whom kissing also doesn’t give me sparks.  Then she showered, and we moved quickly into sex.  She was so sensitive.  Pinching her nipples made her shiver and moan.  And she knew what she was doing with her ass.  Apparently she’d gone through a period of heavy drinking and compulsive sex, so after putting the condom on with her mouth (!) she lubed herself up and we moved through positions, going progressively deeper until I was on top of her, all the way in, and really pounding away.  I wish I’d held back a bit, but her ass was so tight and really, who wants a lover who’s too worried about being unselfish?

By the way, she was attractive and skinny.  She’d had top surgery and was almost certainly on hormones.  And she was as smooth as you can get with a razor.  I honestly don’t know how she got her ass that hairless, but it was much appreciated.  And I had read online that transwomen don’t usually like to have anything done with their cocks.  They’d rather act like they don’t exist.  They want it gone.  Gone.  G O N E gone.  This proved totally accurate, and I was A-OK with this arrangement, although some curiosity lingers.

She was in some pain at not being a “real” woman.  She loved the manly parts of me; she loved to watch herself getting fucked in the mirror, her hair a mess, a big man on top.  Possibly unique to her, she loved getting fucked in the ass.  Not that I’m so experienced, but she was one of my most responsive partners, my most responsive for non-kinky sex.  I wish I’d held out longer.

After blowing my load with the force of 10000 suns, as they say on the internet, we lay there and had some pillow talk.  Not that I’m running around having a lot of sex, but this seems like normal behavior to me, but apparently the old saying that men come and go (i.e. orgasm and leave) is true when they’re fucking traswomen too.  So sticking around to chat apparently earned me a gold star.

Then I left.  We both knew it was a quick thing, but it’s kind of sad.  Getting more into circumstances again threatens our anonymity, but this is the way it is.

So.  Now that the porn is over, what’s the after-action report?

Gentials aside, the transwoman I was with is something in between a woman and a man.  The need to become a woman is mixed with some vague maleness.  Maybe everyone is like this, not really conforming to the pure gender stereotype, but it feels like something deeper, either biological or an early training.  I felt like she had a masculine aggressiveness, a masculine idea of how to be, lingering in the back of her mind, influencing her reactions.

This is the big question to me.  Does the transition ever end?  Are transsexuals stuck in perpetual gender limbo, or is there a point where the changes are complete, and all that’s left are the memories of a difficult period?

As for me, I feel pretty not-gay, remarkably so considering.  Like anyone cares about this petty bullshit, but I have to include it for the sake of completing the narrative.  For whatever reason, at the end of the experience I almost felt like I hadn’t had sex, instead it felt like I’d had a really, really, really great masturbation session. But that buzz from being close to someone just didn’t happen.

Was it my unconscious repressing my responses?  Did I just not find my partner attractive enough?  Maybe, but I think I understand what it means to be heterosexual, now.

Women as iPhones, Men as Wanting

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The Aria series occupies a special place in many anime fans’ hearts, for good reason. It truly is a wonderful show. I thought about it today while watching Tamayura, another series by the same creator.

I’m only up about half-way through episode 2 of Tamayura, and they introduced a couple of very nice male characters. They are masculine, energetic, flirtatious and yet good, nurturing people. Seeing men portrayed in this way made me realize how seldom it happens in this genre. Usually men just don’t exist, leaving the focus on the female characters and the female world.

Female world is the right term. Interchangeably, we could use the old Japanese concept of the Floating World, a metaphor Aria conjures directly. Once again, Aria is an all-time great series, and the analysis that follows shouldn’t be seen as an attack on it. Partially this is because Aria and Tamayura have men in them and portray them positively.

Unfortunately, shows like Azumanga, Keion, Hidamari and, yes, Yuyushiki don’t, so they’re more culpable. Culpable? What the fuck am I saying?

Time for a history lesson!

For whatever reason, the rise of agriculture (or any system where people stockpiled food) has led to patriarchy. Not this generalized, ephemeral “patriarchy” that feminists tend to complain about, but a real social structure where women were considered subhuman property. Indeed, daughters were often used in trade for livestock and other material goods.

So we have some market incentives in play.  And whenever that happens, we get people trying to blow smoke up each other’s asses, which is where the whole “floating world” thing comes in.  The “floating world” is a subset of “mysterious, other-worldly, insanely desirable woman” schtick. Of course, women aren’t especially mysterious or other-worldly; they’re primarily composed of meat, along with substantial amounts of bone, as well as some void spaces and patches of liquid and other stuff.

Who wants to buy that, when you can get the ephemeral nymph?  This being the shape of the market, the “floating world” is marketing hype.  It’s the Reality Distortion Field, and the women are the iPhones.  But along with the positive hype comes the flip-side: you are lacking! You have a need only this product can fill! Order now!

Being wanting is the human condition, sure.  But what we’re looking at is a destructive, multi-millennia marketing campaign that has deeply worked itself into the minds and feelings of basically everyone.  We end up with unrealistic roles for ourselves and others, norms which are both unattainable and degrading at once.  Women are burdened by supporting a mystery that doesn’t exist, while men have to somehow be worthy of sheltering that nonsense ideal.

And then there’s the shadow these archetypes cast on each other: women take on the weakness and fragility that men seek to suppress, while men take on the coarseness and meat-reality that women try to hide.

Sorry for the gender studies 101 blather, I just want to make sure everyone is on the same page.  The point is that while these shows do good in providing soothing, floating feelings by allowing us to enjoy the characters’ feminine world, there is a constant unspoken implication that the masculine side is dirtying, stressful, mean.

For me, at least, this negativity has built up over time, watching these shows. I love the healing genre, I love much of femininity, and the worlds presented in these works. But seeing these good men in Tamayura, I was struck at once. I felt a subtle self-loathing slip away. Hopefully, other artists will learn from this and improve their future work.

Right-Wing Fairway, Left-Wing in the Rough

Image grabbed from google.  Email me if you want me to take it down.

Image grabbed from google. Email me if you want me to take it down.

During its rise in 2009-2010, the nature of the Tea Party was somewhat contested, with many commentators calling it a spontaneous uprising or movement of ordinary people, and others (especially on the left) calling it an “astro turf” movement orchestrated and organized by the networks of right-wing PACs and media.

This debate misses the fascinating part of the Tea Party’s rise: neither wholly organic nor wholly manufactured, it emerged as a golf course, growing naturally from seeds that had been relentlessly and carefully sown over the dacades prior.

Witness the amazing ideological uniformity in the Tea Party which revealed itself as the original hype diminished. After a time, it was clear that this “organic” affinity group was the right-wing of the Republican party. How did this intellectally homogeneous affinity group arise? By exposing themselves to the same media, talk radio and Fox News, these emotionally similar people gained an intellectual common ground that naturally led to effective political organization.

Maybe this political organization is only natural for right-wing types who take for granted the need of individuals to subsume their particularities in the group consensus. But looking at the Occupy movement, I see a similar tendency.

The difference is that the tendency in the Occupy movement was, rather than to unite around a political program, to unite around the need to be non-excusionary and non-hierarchical. The result is a “political” movement with no objective and no effectiveness.

Decades and decades of “theory” has left the Left with no program, aside from not leaving anyone out. This is the intellectual uniformity that our functional equivalent of AM radio, the Academy, has achieved.

Economic crises like 2008 come along once every few decades, and they often represent a chaning of the guard in policymaking. The Great Depression brought the rise of the New Deal coalition, and the instability of the 1970’s restored the money elite to policymaking power, a change ratified in the election of Ronald Reagan. In this historical context, then, the Occupy movement and the progress of the left since the financial crisis has been a stunning failure.

The Left has squandered a once-in-50-years opportunity because its intellectual leaders have made its highest priority not hurting anyone’s feelings.