First Look: INVADERS of the ROKUJYOMA!?

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Alternative titles: Japanese title
Light Novel Adaptation by Silver Link
Streaming on Crunchyroll

Premise

A young man moves into a small room with cheap rent in order to make his dad’s life easier. He soon finds himself contending for the room with a ghost, magical girl, woman from under ground and an alien with advanced technology. Insanity ensues.

Life’s verdict: Magical Girlfriend Harem

Imagine all the magical girlfriend tropes you can think up. Take those and stuff them into a single room. For better or worse that is exactly what this anime does. Honestly I thought the first half of the episode was pretty boring, but I found myself amused once the antics in the room started up. The story itself? Well it hasn’t really gone anywhere yet and I don’t really expect it to be interesting.

The jokes aren’t particularly funny, but they are amusing in meta, self aware sort of way. The presentation also presents some jokes on it’s own such as shifting the camera to the outside of the apartment before the protagonist throws a newly arrived heroine outside. When the third heroine arrives the camera switches, but the woman from the world below our protagonist’s apartment doesn’t get the boot. There are also some fun visual gags. We get to see all of the heroines in a cameo of sorts before they actually make their introduction. Gags like these keep an otherwise annoyingly large cast of characters in check.

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I’m honestly not expecting that much from this show and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who is less than an expert on magical girlfriend anime. That said, I uh… I probably qualify as I actually found this show somewhat amusing. I’ll continue watching for now. If it does manage anything of merit I’ll be sure to share it.

Jel’s verdict: Quantity Over Quality

I really wanted to hate this. Each of the invader girls is so moe it hurts. Seriously, my eyes and ears were in pain watching their sickeningly cute character designs and hearing their shrill squealy voices crammed into a very tiny room. I can’t deny though as more and more girls start showing up though it was kind of amusing, just seeing how far over the top they could really push it. Once it got to the point of alien girl summoning her giant laser cannon I couldn’t help but chuckle.

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Unfortunately a quick chuckle seems like all this series is going to amount to. There’s no question Invaders is highly self aware but I don’t get the sense they plan on doing anything with it. It seems to love its tropes too much to be satire, particularly as it dives headfirst into some cheap fan service toward the tail end of the episode. And as far as comedy goes, I’m sure it will inevitably come down to the girls fighting over the main character, just like any other harem anime. I wasn’t even impressed by the directing of the usually impressive Shin Oonuma (Watamote, Baka and Test), who seems perfect for saving a stupid premise like this. Maybe the fact that even he’s not trying is a signal to bail out now.

First Look: Akame ga Kill!

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Manga Adaptation by White Fox
Streaming on Crunchyroll

Premise

A young mercenary sets out from home to earn riches in the capital and save his starving village. What he finds is a capital rank with corruption. He will see just how dark the corruption is when he gets involved with a group of famous assassins.

Life’s verdict: Casual Brutality

Murder is not the most attractive fantasy for me. What can I say? I guess I’m not a psychopath. Akame ga Kill doesn’t take all the awful things going on in it very seriously at all. It makes for a strange mood when a woman is walking down a hallway and with no warning whatsoever gets cut in half at the waist by a pair of giant scissors. Should I be amused or disgusted when murderers get chibified at the drop of a dime? The interesting thing to me is that I don’t feel like this anime is trying very hard to justify itself and that is a refreshing feeling. I say that because our first introduction to one of the assassins comes in the form of scamming the protagonist. Then we see one of the heroines nearly kill the protagonist without any remorse. These assassins may have some noble calling they subscribe to, but casual murder and thievery is a thing they are perfectly okay with. Hesitating to kill someone is not even on their moral radar.

So I’ve established that this show is basically shounen murder porn. It’s well animated murder porn with good voice acting and pretty backgrounds, but that doesn’t change the core of what it is. It’s a glorification of assassination. This is a story where having no hesitation about killing another person is a positive thing. I don’t have any moral problem with that in my fiction, but I don’t particularly enjoy it for the sake of the violence either. The big question I have right now is how interesting this city and our cast of assassins will prove to be. We don’t get to learn that much about them in the first episode so I have a hard time gauging my interest in this show. Will this show be dark and edgy for the sake of being dark and edgy, or will it have something interesting to say in the process? The first episode succeeds on a certain base visceral level at being exciting. That said, I would be lying if I called it interesting. I’m not sure what to expect.

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Looking forward, I’m hoping to see an emphasis on the characters, their interactions and back stories. If I get that I might love this show. The amount of natural conflict in a story like this is going to be high. If the whole thing is just casual brutality to pay the bills I’ll probably check out fast.

Iro’s verdict: Casual Violence

I read the first chapter of Akame ga Kill! – which is equivalent to this first episode – a while ago when I was looking for something for Random Manga Theatre, and I was pretty turned off by the level of gore. It’s one thing for a series to not shy away from blood ‘n guts (see Baccano!, which is packed to the gills with murder), but most of the killing in this show happens so quickly and, well, casually that it’s almost comical. It really feels like it’s there for shock value and little else, and it probably is. I’ll pass on this one.

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Marlin’s verdict: Violence’s Sake

This show was laughably gory. From what I understand, this author must have set out to do a regular fantasy story so he could veer it off the deep end and get people talking from how shocking the “twist” is. What this results in is more like finding out someone is an anime fan only to realize they got into it via Bible Black. The violence is graphic beyond anything I’ve seen since Another, but in a way that gives no weight to the actual deaths. People die as easily as you’d flip a switch, and our happy go lucky protagonist turns from adventurer to murderer faster than you could order a Jimmy John’s. From what I’ve heard, here on out the show sounds more like watching someone write the torture porn of their twisted dreams, and I want no part in that.

Imouto Shrugged: Mahouka and the Ayn Rand Connection

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[We certainly seem full of opinions lately, don’t we? Our editorials are solely the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the other The Glorio Blog team. Have a nice day!]

The 4th episode of The Irregular At Magic High School (or Mahouka for short) caused a burst of internet born drama. Interpretations of the political and ethical implications of Mahouka’s message were the cause. This episode inspired blogger Guy Shalev to write a piece on meritocracy. Another blogger, Froggykun, wrote a piece on the problem with fans writing themselves into a story. This post isn’t a direct response to either blog, but I do have some things to add as well as some questions for Mahouka of my own.

Resemblance to Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead

Mahouka bears an uncanny resemblance to Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. I want to illustrate it because I think the similarity is interesting. I am not convinced that Mahouka is a re-imagining of The Fountainhead. I don’t subscribe to objectivism, but I do find it to be a fascinating topic with interesting implications. The 4th and 5th episodes both contain lengthy conversations about political situations that parallel Mahouka with The Fountainhead in several ways, most of those being in the subtext of the story.

First what is The Fountainhead? If you know what it is go ahead and skip to the next paragraph. The Fountainhead is a novel by Ayn Rand which illustrates her philosophy of objectivism. In this story we have a protagonist named Howard Roark who is an unconventional architect. Throughout the story his portrayal paints him as having a special quality that makes him important. The way that he is true to himself despite adversity glorifies him and his position. The moral of the story is one of individualism triumphing over a collective. This message of individualism is one I don’t have a problem with at face value. The subtext of the story is one where this character’s actions as an individual are a moral right. His justification is the virtue of his power as a “prime mover” of society. One who is not tied down by a collective mindset.

As I see it Tatsuya Shiba shares one major quality with the protagonist of The Fountainhead. Society can’t seem to accurately measure his capacity for being well… awesome! How awesome you might ask? Literally a ninja awesome! Tatsuya’s magical ability essentially allows him to use lots of weak magic all at once. His ability to read magical activation sequences means he can combine them for a useful magic canceling effect. The entire magic system of this world seems built toward illustrating just how special he is. Even the minor side characters see Tatsuya as something special and someone they absolutely need on their side.

This brings us to our second connection between Tatsuya and Ayn Rand’s political philosophy. It is the way Tatsuya breaks everything down rationally. He rejects the emotional outbursts of his fellow students and calls them out for it. It isn’t hard to see a connection, but I also believe the parallel ends here. As I see it Tatsuya isn’t fighting for Ayn Rand’s objectivism. He has concern for society. He isn’t concerned for the sake of his own ideas which is an important part of what The Fountainhead is about. He simply isn’t an architect. He may wish to become one, but that isn’t who he is.

Tatsuya has concern about society’s need to catch up to him and his ability before he can reveal canceling magic to the world. There is a strong sense of responsibility coming from his character, not to society as a whole, but to his sister. The way he talks to her illustrates this. His motivation is not that of Ayn Rand’s “prime mover” of society. His motivation is taking care of his sister and everything else is extra. Tatsuya Shiba is something far more simple than an objectivist and the baggage that term carries with it. He is an older brother with little else to motivate his life. Maybe he is a robot or something to that effect. Could the reason he can do lots of weak processing be because his brain is a computer programmed to serve his imouto? I wouldn’t put it past this anime.

Nothing says introspection like staring at your own reflection in a cup of coffee.

Nothing says introspection like staring at your own reflection in a cup of coffee.

Equality in Mahouka

Toward the end of the episode Tatsuya explains his support of the people in charge of society. He gives a message of power by the merit of an individual. Perhaps the most interesting part of this message is a challenge aimed at equality. At first glance it sounds like he is trying to sell a system of government that denies equality as fair. This story even makes terrorists of the group that is using equality as a means to an end. I think it is important to stop and ask what the equality he is talking about refers to. Equality can mean many different things depending on the context of how it used. Equal rights, equal representation, equal wages, you get the idea. Lucky for us Tatsuya tells us exactly what he means by equality: equal wages between magical and non magical people. He isn’t questioning the other forms of equality, this is about money.

In this context the people calling for equality are calling for an equality that is impossible in practicality. Also they are aiding acts of terrorism justified by that belief. As much as I would like to take offense, the things Tatsuya is saying hold up under rational scrutiny. Furthermore they are consistent with the world that Mahouka has presented to us. The important distinction between types of equality is in the implication of what he is calling a lie. Calling equal rights a lie and then trying to justify it would be unfair. Does Tatsuya’s speech justify the persecution of minorities? Some might say it does, but I don’t think he cares about anything that isn’t concrete and rational.

So what does Tatsuya Shiba care about? He thinks like a machine. His one and only true concern is for his sister. When a sexy young counselor tries to seduce information out of him he calls her out on breaking the dress code. When insulted by discriminatory slurs he just moves on without giving a damn. When recruited to join the enforcement team to keep the peace at school and challenge discrimination he had no desire to sign up. When something happens that might endanger his sister or reflect poorly on her? He turns on ninja mode and starts kicking ass. She is his motivation in this story. Tatsuya Shiba is an emotionless robot about anything that doesn’t concern his sister. Even the girls at his school only interest him as potential friends for his sister. Something is going on with him beyond the obvious. I’m not sure what it is, but as I see it he is no champion of meritocracy. His only known passion is his sister. His ideology is a practical means to an end, his rationality a philosophy unto itself.

Because goals are important.

Because goals are important.

Real World Application

How does Tatsuya’s logic hold up when applied to our real world? I think that is the question anyone concerned about the moral of this story should be asking. I am reminded of arguments I’ve had with people over social justice issues on the internet. Those arguments are often obscured by unstated or ambiguous political beliefs. In episode 5 Tatsuya illustrated the lack of goals behind Mibu Sayaka’s call for equality. We know exactly what Tatsuya is talking about when he uses the word, but Mibu Sayaka? She has locked herself in an emotional struggle, tired of the discrimination she faces. Her only goal is to get rid of the awful feelings that come with having an institution of people look down on you, something anyone with human feelings would understand. The problem is that in the end what she is calling for relies on the student council to provide answers. She has none herself. Trying to change the world without a clear vision of what you want to see happen is poisonous logic at best. It’s a loose cannon of emotions at worst.

So is Mahouka portraying equality as Terrorism? I think it is again important to separate what the show is saying from what it isn’t. The terrorists in this story are not terrorists because they support equality. They are terrorists because they blow shit up. Equality is their vehicle, not their true goal. The majority of students who have rallied behind their cause are not portrayed as evil. They are instead portrayed as being emotionally manipulated to political ends. I think this all holds up well with what I know of human nature. It would be a mistake to assume that anyone calling for social justice is a terrorist. That said, I find it is healthy to question to the goals of anyone calling for social change. Nothing is beyond use in a political argument. If a word can be ambiguously used it can become a vehicle to mislead.

How does Tatsuya himself hold up in the real world? He glorifies rationality, but that isn’t the end of the story. He isn’t a hero and he doesn’t want to be. I suspect that his situation will force him into that role. Ayn Rand glorifies rationality as the perfection of humanity. Tatsuya glorifies rationality as cold and inhuman. Despite finding his situation interesting, I can say that I would never want to be him. Rationality is important and without rationality we are stupid, without emotion we are less than human. Compassion is of vital importance in binding the two together. Tatsuya’s portrayal has been a one sided glorification of rationality, but is that Mahouka’s entire message? In enters our imouto…

This terrorist supports equality among murder victims.

This terrorist supports equality among murder victims.

Imouto Shrugged

There is a character in Mahouka that does care about the society they live in, one that Tastuya has told us makes up for his lack of emotion. She is the true “prime mover” of this story as best as that analogy still holds up – she also happens to be a powerful magician who wants to bone her brother. When I started writing, this concept is where I started. It’s ironic, but Mikuki’s obnoxious affection for her brother is the first thing that made me think of Ayn Rand. It is the way their relationship betrays conventional wisdom that caused a connection. Think of like this: Miyuki is the architect and Tatsuya is the work of art she is holding up. Stop and think about the implications of that for moment. If you want to punch the nearest imouto because of that connection well… I understand that feeling, but please refrain. Your imoutos are precious and not guilty of this particular crime. God help us all if they are.

Miyuki’s compassion is a frightening thing. Just as Tatsuya doesn’t seem to care about anything but his sister, she makes it clear that he is high on her priority list as well. If the world finds itself brought to it’s knees before the power of what Tatsuya can do I suspect Miyuki will have a hand in it. If what he is capable of gets out I’ve no doubt it will be Miyuki in the seat of power. What does that say about this society? What does it say by glorifying incest? Does Mahouka even glorify incest or is it simply portraying a challenge to conventional wisdom, one that otaku fandom will undoubtedly love? What does it say about Tatsuya as the perfect caring brother? Will we see more philosophy that lines up with objectivism or will this story explore something different? It is a bit early to explore the full theme of Mahouka in any more depth, but I hope I have provided some interesting things to ponder. I for one am looking forward to more of this story. Not so much because the anime is even all that enjoyable, but because it has provided a lesson in critical thinking.

First Look: If Her Flag Breaks

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Alternate Titles: Kanojo ga Flag wo Oraretara
Light Novel Adaptation by Hoods Entertainment
Simulcast on Crunchyroll

Premise

A boy with a curse can see flags above people heads. He uses his genre awareness to smash those flags so that they don’t get too close to him and draw a death flag. He is introduced to a girl with no flags and a girl with seemingly limitless flags.

Continue reading

First Look: No Game, No Life

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Light Novel adaptation by Madhouse
Simulcast on Crunchyroll

Premise

Our story follows two siblings who are so good at gaming they have become an urban legend. They receive an invitation from the god of another world and unwittingly accept. They soon find themselves trapped in a world where everything is decided by playing games. Is this heaven or hell for our sibling pair? Will they even want to go home?

Lifesong’s Verdict: Fun Wish Fulfillment Fantasy

There is something to be said for gamers when playing games becomes not only a past time, but being a “gamer” accurately defines their lifestyle. I would know, I fit into that lifestyle pretty well myself. The ideas presented by a world where everything is openly and obviously a game is interesting to me. Anyone who has watched enough anime with gamer type characters in them is probably familiar with the phrase “the real world is just a shitty game” I’m not sure which anime said it first, but at this point it’s a recurring cliche. One that I personally believe accurately reflects the way some part of gaming culture really thinks. It is an idea that has been on display for a long time, but rarely explored in any depth. Does No Game, No Life break that mold? The answer is not yet, but it does hint at interesting ideas. The protagonist mentions having no part in the real world and questions the value of going home.

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Our protagonist’s smug attitude and lolicon pandering are likely to turn some people off, but I found neither bothered me that much. The attitude, while exaggerated, feels real. The things I hear him saying are things I would expect to hear from real gamers. The lolicon thing… That attitude is also real and one I wish I could ignore. One major complaint I’ve seen so far is that the protagonist hasn’t actually been shown in competition with anyone yet. It is a given that he will win and that is what he does. Judging from the smug attitude of the first episode I wonder if he will ever be challenged by a game. Instead what I expect to see is some sort of development between our gamer protagonist and the people of this world. The daughter of the old king for one. If our protagonist does continue to live up to his urban legend gamer status than it will be the inhabitants of this world ruled by gaming that make the story interesting. Who knows this story might even challenge the idea that life is just a shitty game? That might be too much to ask for. For now I am expecting this to be a fun fulfillment fantasy for gamers who can relate with the protagonist. I hope it will have something to say about the culture as well.

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Marlin’s Verdict: Continue?

At first I thought I was going to automatically hate this show. Nothing screams wish fulfillment like a couple NEETs getting transported to a fantasy game world. The first second panty shot of an 11 year old girl (what is it with sexualizing 11 year olds this season?) didn’t do much to dissuade my gut feelings, but as the show transitioned into the game world I actually started kinda liking it. While the sibling’s weird overpowered skill sets were par for the norm on wish fulfillment, it was the world itself that broke the mold. I kind of like this laissez fair mood the world takes on, where while cheating is strictly forbidden, its only when you’re caught. Just like in real life, if that’s the case you might as well cheat as often as you can. I’d like to see this turn more into showing battles of wit in out cheating the other opponent, or trying to chip away at a foe’s poker face to figure out his strategy. Unfortunately I’m not sure if the proper narrative tension can be made considering how overpowered our main characters are already shown to be. As for now, I think I’ll put in just one extra quarter.

First Look: Selector Infected WIXOSS

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Anime Original by J.C. Staff
Simulcast on Funimation

Premise

A young girl who lives with her grandmother receives a card game with the promise that it will help her make friends. She doesn’t wish to worry her grandmother so she decides to take the gift. The twist is that the cards are alive and will grant a wish to the ultimate winner of the game.

Continue reading

First Look: The Devil’s Riddle

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Alternate Titles: Akuma no Riddle, Riddle Story of Devil
Manga Adaptation by Diomedea
Simulcast on Funimation

Premise

A young assassin is sent to take part in an assassination game. There are 12 contestants and one target who is to be assassinated. Winning is simple, be the one to kill the target. Or at least it would be simple if our assassin had the sense not to fall in love with her target and decide to protect her instead.

Continue reading

Defining Sexism in Games and Anime

Senran Kagura Burst

[Some recent comments have motivated Lifesong to write about the rather delicate topic of sexism in the games, anime, and media we consume in general. I am obligated to point out that these are strictly Lifesong’s opinions and not those of the Glorio Blog, but we do think having open discussion is important. Expect to hear more from us soon. -Jel]

Words have power. They shape the way we think and how we define the world around us. Recently Nintendo Magazine UK published a blog about how Senran Kagura Burst is damaging the gaming industry. I personally think it is utter nonsense, but it brings western perceptions of sexism to mind and gives me a reason to write about things I’ve resisted saying for years because of how heated this topic can get. The words we use to talk about sexism in media need to change. We have fundamental misunderstandings about sexism and I want to challenge them.

Before I go any further, I want to say that I support the idea that all people should be treated equally regardless of race or gender. I would like to think I can write something like this without being accused of awful trespasses against women, but I’ve been around on the internet long enough to know that isn’t true. Part of the reason this whole issue is so important to me is because there is real inequality and using words wrongly robs them of the power they should have against that real world inequality. When words lose their power we end up with people who are either dismissive of real issues or become apologists defending a stance they may not even understand.

Understanding Objectification

What is objectification? Basically, objectification is treating a person as an object without concern for their dignity. Sexual objectification is the same thing, it’s treating a person as an object for sexual pleasure without concern for their dignity as a human being.

Let me create a scenario to help illustrate what I want to talk about. Consider this: I have just told you that you are objectifying something. By that I mean you have disregarded its dignity and have treated it like an object. I’m not being specific about what that object it is yet because we can easily ignore the dignity of anything, it doesn’t matter. You are going to agree with me because honestly that is exactly what you are doing, the dignity of this object just isn’t important to you. Here is the kicker, you are now a bad person because the object at stake is something someone else holds in high esteem. Wait what, how did that happen? As I mentioned before, words have power, definitions also have power.

So what notoriously awful sexist game am I about to defend? None actually, my above example was Mario’s tanooki suit. Peta launched a promotional campaign against Mario to raise awareness for… something. The thing you objectified was an “evil” outfit that promotes skinning tanooki! More accurately I should say that what you did was to objectify tanookis as an object to be worn, discarding their dignity as a living creature and treating them like a suit. Technically they aren’t people, but otherwise the analogy holds up. You might be thinking I’m crazy, but this definition fits so just bear with me for now. Objectification is only half the picture, I’ll explain the perspective that gamers see things from soon enough.

This really happened.

This really happened.

There is no tangible connection between playing a video game with a tanooki suit and real animal cruelty. They only sound similar, it’s the equivalent of people fighting over a hash tag on twitter, something that I’ve seen happen a few times now. Someone starts using an old tag for something new and totally unrelated to the original purpose of that tag and the people who had used it in the past throw a fit.

Objectification of women is a real world problem that I don’t want to make light of, however objectification itself is sexist because it is a vehicle for inequality. If we take inequality out of the equation is there even anything wrong with objectification in the first place? I just said something dangerous so I hope you are paying attention!

Fictional media objectifies women because well, it objectifies everything, that’s just part of how fiction works. The dignity of a character within a story is only ever as important as the story itself calls for it to be, and it’s the story that objectifies everything held within. Storytelling in anime or anything else is the same way. Until someone makes an organic, living, breathing entertainment object that concept isn’t going to change.

Sexists also objectify women, shocker right? To challenge sexist people for objectification is to challenge people to higher standards of equality, to challenge video games and anime for objectification is to insist that you are entitled to content that appeals to you and to trample on the freedom of expression others value in the process. In truth, if we look at who is having their dignity ignored, the group being objectified is actually whoever enjoys the content of the games we claim objectify women, even women themselves if they enjoy said game. They are objectified for the sake of political goals and because of ignorant misunderstandings.

Now all of this is not to say that gamers are blameless, or even that gamers can’t be sexist. The truth is that plenty of gamers are sexist and do objectify women and that we do have have real problems in the gaming industry, but none of that is relevant to this particular topic. The important thing to note here is that fictional media and the characters contained within ARE objects. Objectifying them is natural, it’s a matter of course while playing with or making them. No one is going to afford a fictional character the equality of a real person. Anyone who would do so is probably insane. If you want an example of what it can look like when someone gives a fictional story and its characters the same level of dignity we afford for people, take a look at the bronies who seriously relate being a fan of My Little Pony with being a member of a real world religion.

Just don't expect anyone to take you seriously.

Just don’t expect anyone to take you seriously.

So we’ve established that video games and anime are objects and by proxy so are all of the characters contained within, what now? Are we still allowed to experience negative emotions from fiction? Of course we are! But the perspective we take when we experience fiction isn’t one of objectification. Lets take a look at what stories actually do with the characters they create.

Understanding Personification

What is personification? It’s taking an object, in this case an object in a story, and assigning it personality traits. Basically this means treating an object as if it were more than an object. Every fictional story does this.

When someone invests in either creating or appreciating the characters in a story they are actually doing something that is essentially the opposite of objectification. When you take an object, sculpt it and assign it personality traits what you are doing isn’t objectification at all, it’s actually personification. Think of it like this: When you buy a game do you do it for the things that aren’t in your game? Or do you do it for the things that are in it? When we participate in a story do we discard the dignity of the characters in that story? Maybe, red-shirts come to mind and they certainly aren’t afforded much dignity. The important thing to note is that before we can even do that we must first personify them. Why MUST things be in that order? Because we know it’s fake.

Personification in fictional media has two parts. One part is people breathing life into stories and personifying entire worlds for the sake of our entertainment, the other part comes from the audience who invests in that world and personifies it and its characters within their own mind. Fiction is not a passive thing. Be it anime, games, American TV, doesn’t matter. You are an active participant being asked to invest in something that doesn’t actually exist in reality.

The reason we can get excited about Mario when he transforms into a tanooki isn’t because we love to casually throw away the dignity of a make believe character, it’s because the transformation gives Mario new personality traits as well as a new way to interact with the world he lives in. That probably seems pretty obvious to most of you, but don’t worry, I have another dangerous statement to make. Boobs, or rather the gameplay which is focused around boobs in Senran Kagura Burst serve the same purpose as Mario’s tanooki suit, they are an object that helps personify the world and characters of Senran Kagura Burst.

Yes, this is part of the personality of Senran Kagura as a series.

Yes, this is part of the personality of Senran Kagura as a series.

The important distinction to note here is that even if you are a sexist asshole who just wants to play a game for the sake of beating up women and ripping off their clothing, what you are doing is still personifying them. Fictional objects don’t actually have dignity for you to remove. No matter how offensive the act of a story may seem we can only give an object more dignity than it deserves, we can’t give it less because it can’t react to the real world action of having it’s dignity removed and holds no concept of equality.

You may be wondering, what of the people who personify “bad” things? Aren’t they still awful people for objectifying women? You know what? They might be, but they also might not be. Judging a person for the fictional media they like won’t tell you what morals they hold as a person. Being judgmental in this fashion is both unfair and unjustified. The insinuation that partaking in fictional media makes us bad people is utter nonsense. It ignores the fact that we know fiction is fake and forces moral judgement to go places it does not belong and where none is required.

On the flip side of all this, the debates that often come out of fictional media can often highlight the awful ideas that people hold. If you want to read more on that Guy Shalev recently did a good job of illustrating the mentality of apologists in his blog on discussing hot-button topics. My challenge is to stop questioning the content of the media they enjoy and instead question the reality they allow it to influence. Fictional media gives us a wonderful platform to talk about issues, but instead of talking about them in an intelligent and reasonable way we are often guilty of becoming judgmental and dismissive of the very apologists we hope to influence. If we don’t endeavor to be better than that are we not guilty of objectifying the very people we hope to influence with our judgement?

Why does this whole debate exist in the first place when we can seemingly cut it into small pieces so easily? Because in many cases we aren’t arguing about the same things in the first place. Debates on sexism in video games almost always break into two sides concerned with different things that sound similar. One side will argue that it’s just an anime or just a game, the other side will argue that people are influenced by games and media. Both of these are true, but they need to be understood as separate things.

Should the offensive things that happen within a fictional story be offensive to us those of us outside a story?

Should the offensive things that happen within a fictional story be offensive to us those of us outside a story?

Understanding the Mentality of “It’s Just Fiction”

I’ve no doubt that anyone who is invested in this debate has seen this argument of “it’s just fiction” before and you probably either lean toward agreeing with it, or think that a serious issue is being dismissed too easily. Ironically both sides have merits that should be taken seriously.

Sexism is a real issue that we need to talk about, but this topic of sexism in media has been wrongly attributed to the media itself. Take Anita Sarkeesian’s Tropes vs. Women for example. She isn’t necessarily wrong when she points out tropes and the ways they work, but her implications that they are sexist toward women is clear, obvious and in direct conflict with the way fictional storytelling actually works. As I established above, objectifying characters isn’t what we are really doing when we partake in fictional media. We are personifying objects and assigning them characteristics. The difference between the perspective of someone uninvested in a story can be dramatically different from someone who is invested. It becomes incredibly easy to ignore personification when you are not personally invested.

Something that needs to be understood is that the awful things that may happen in a fictional story are just that, the awful things that take place in a fictional story. The perspective of someone who enjoys that thing is different from the perspective of the person who doesn’t, but both sides are equally capable of understanding when something “bad” happens. Indulging in “bad” fiction doesn’t strip anyone of their ability to tell right from wrong, it might challenge it, but that challenge is up against reality. It quickly becomes insulting when someone finds something morally offensive and implies that anyone who enjoys that insulting thing is guilty of the same sin.

When someone insinuates a connection between their real world morality and the morality of a story they are challenging the morality of and insulting the intelligence of anyone who is okay with indulging in that thing that bothers them. This misunderstanding arises when we fail to acknowledge that fictional media is fake, and more importantly that it is understood as fake by the people who enjoy it. It shouldn’t be hard to see why those people start looking for a quick out when someone tries to tell them that the thing they like makes them a bad person. If you have ever had a religious person come to your door and try to save your soul from some damnation or another you probably know what I’m talking about.

This is ironic because it's something that we shouldn't need to be told.

This is ironic because it’s something that we shouldn’t need to be told.

Another reason why this whole debate infuriates me is because attacking the content of fictional media itself is also to attack freedom of expression. Freedom of expression is something that is challenged in the modern world and isn’t absolute anywhere. Even in the US our entitlement to freedom of speech is limited by obscenity laws, copyright violations and more. It is scary to see things you love threatened by misunderstanding and natural for people to feel threatened by that I think. No one wants to discuss something with someone who is threatening them, even if those threats are only perceived threats. The risk is alarming to anyone invested.

Do Anita Sarkeesian and others with concerns for sexism in games and anime have ground to stand on then? Of course they do, but not for objectification. There are plenty of sexist gamers in every gaming community I’ve ever been a part of and there is often a real need to challenge their mentality. The industry itself may have the same issues in the workplace and face an even greater need. Those are real problems that need real attention and real solutions, but they are not even relevant to this topic of content. “It’s just a game” is actually a pretty good defense against most complaints aimed at the content of fictional media.

So what about the influence of fictional media? Stories have power just as words do right? Yes they do, but one of the important and understood facts of fiction is that it is fake. What we need isn’t the removal of elements from fiction, it’s a clear understanding of reality. Research, education and meditation will easily trump the ideas we get from fiction because we know those ideas aren’t real.

There is another more personal side to all of this for me and that is this: It’s actually rather insulting to be told that I’m sexist for enjoying a game. The insinuation that I or other people indulging in a fictional story can’t tell the difference between fiction and reality is infuriating and frankly, when this topic of sexism comes up about a game that I enjoy, it’s not women being objectified and having their dignity and intelligence insulted, it’s actually the gamers being objectified for the sake of a political debate.

Consider this: There are often women included in the fandom of gamers who enjoy “sexist games”. Shocker right? It really shouldn’t be. It’s not sexist when a game is made for a male audience, it’s sexist when a woman isn’t allowed to enjoy that game because she is a woman. The feminist argument that these things are responsible for alienating women is ironically sexist against any women who might enjoy those games for the very elements that have been called out as sexist.

Understanding Entitlements

Talking about entitlements is nasty business. I am tempted to skip this section, but I won’t because I think it’s a vital piece of the puzzle. Much of this whole debate on sexism in media really boils down to a debate of what we are entitled to as individuals. To tackle this issue with the depth and finesse it deserves is beyond the scope of this essay, but none the less I wish to explain what they are and how they work on a very basic level.

I want to be careful with how I say this because holding an entitlement mentality is often viewed as a negative thing on the internet and sometimes it very much can be. As I mentioned before, this is a topic that goes beyond the scope of what I can practically cover in one essay. Basically I would like you to keep this in mind: Entitlements are not simply something that spoiled kids on the internet have, they are what define our rights as individuals and they vary depending on where you live. Giving my own detailed opinion on how I feel these entitlements should be is perhaps a topic for another day. Instead I am hoping to educate anyone who might not understand how they work and how they relate to this debate.

The thing that is immediately important to understand is that at the core of both attacking and defending the content of fictional media is an argument over entitlements. To use Anita as an example again, Anita’s entire angle boils down to wanting entitlements for women over the content of fictional media and the defense against it boils down to wanting to protect entitlements for the content we already have and the rights of content creators to make that content the way they wish. That is a gross oversimplification and this topic of entitlements needs to be broken down into many smaller pieces for any sort of meaningful dialogue, but this basic understanding of entitlements is important to understanding the nature of what is at stake.

I look at it like this: Debates over sexism are about discrimination against a gender, debates over entitlements are about what we deserve as fundamental rights. Misunderstanding is a given when we disguise a debate on the entitlements of a gender by dressing it up as sexism. Even if unintentional, this is what Anita Sarkeesian has accomplished with her Tropes vs. Women. Dialogue on the entitlements of a gender look similar to sexism on paper, but sexism implies discrimination. Sexism is discrimination of gender, entitlements are what we believe we deserve. Entitlements for a gender are what we believe a gender deserves. We need to stop confusing these points with our language.

The reason entitlements are so important to look at when talking about sexism is because of the language we use to talk about sexism. In particular talking about the objectification of woman makes confusing entitlements with discrimination a very easy thing to do. They are both important topics worthy of dialogue on their own merits, but no one wins when we fail to understand them as separate things.

but they're still humans.

but they’re still humans.

Moving Forward

So what is the next step toward getting what we want out of fictional media? Honestly, that depends on what it is we do want, what I want is probably different from what you want. It might be majorly different or only slightly different, but it won’t be identical. Frankly, I’m not entirely sure what we should be talking about once we debunk objectification, but I can tell you where it starts. We need to break down the walls of us versus them that this debate has created. You simply can’t fight discrimination with more discrimination. No one wins and everyone sounds like an asshole or and or an idiot when they try. Just see the way so many people have become apologists and dismissive of real problems or the way people are emotionally manipulated by their own false ideas and become judgmental.

How do we break down discrimination? Though acceptance and respect. I think we need to accept that different people want different things out of their fictional media and we need to stop discriminating against people for their taste in fictional media. Meaningful dialogue will never happen otherwise. Discrimination is what formed this misunderstanding in the first place and giving acceptance and respect are what we need to do in order to tear it down.

There are many issues at stake with the treatment of women in our culture, but we need the wisdom to discern what those are and the kindness to respect people who indulge in things we may not like. We also need the patience to put up with the damage that has already been done and the compassion to be accepting of things we do not fully understand.

Words have power, if we want to move forward with this debate we need to start using the right ones for the right things.

First Look: Wizard Barristers

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Anime Original by ARMS
Simulcast on Crunchyroll

Premise

A young genius mage becomes a defense attorney for other mages who find themselves caught up in crimes.

Lifesong’s Verdict: Information Overload

There is a lot I like here, but events jump around too quickly. I’m reminded of Galilei Donna, and unsurprisingly Umetsu directed both series. Galilei Donna was actually a favorite of mine despite all the complaints aimed at it, but even I will admit that pacing was awful and at first glance it seems like Wizard Barristers isn’t going to make any improvements on that formula. Cecil herself is a likeable enough heroine with a Jesus complex. The interesting to note about both Cecil and all the thematic nuances of this first episode is in the way it actually has a fair amount going on. It all seems smart and intentional in retrospect. One thing is sure, it’s not lacking in what you might call substance or ambition, it has both of those in high supply. The problem is that I had to watch the episode three times before I was sure I caught it all. Little nuances in the way this anime victimizes a fat, ugly man for example are not immediately obviously and are important for understanding the promises this story is trying to convey.

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I suspect that many people will find this show far less smart than it actually is and don’t mean that in a demeaning way. Wizard Barristers is entirely at fault for this impression. Galilei Donna did much of the same thing. Normally I would be turned off by a premier like this, but god help us all, it’s for the merits of Galilei Donna that I am planning to stick with this one. This first episode was a great example of show don’t tell done well, but the pacing left much to be desired. Provided the rest of this show doesn’t overload us with too much too quickly we might be in for a treat. I am going to hope for the best even while being fairly confident that I won’t actually get it.

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Marlin’s Verdict: No Objections Yet

A bit of a busy first episode, but I think it did a good job of getting us accustomed to the world and its magic. It seems kinda weird that the wizards get to sentence their own people, but it’s an intriguing system. I’m a bit disappointed that our MC is just some punk teenager who willingly refuses to dress formal even though shes been hired by a lawfirm. It just seems kind of silly for her to act like that, and her later use of force seemed way too disproportional. Sure, those dudes were attacking you, but did you really need to destroy every public ironwork in the entire area in response?As the show goes on, I hope we get to see more murder mystery plots. I’m a sucker for a good detective show and outside Case Closed anime has never really had good representation in the genre. With the addition of magic, it might be able to spice up the formula and put an interesting spin on it.

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Zigg’s Verdict: Failure To Convict

On paper this should be one of the best things ever but it’s scuppered by awful execution. The biggest sin here is the absolutely appalling pacing, which gives the story no time to grow naturally or breathe. Instead we cut cut cut from dialogue filled scene to dialogue filled scene. There’s never any chance for tension or intrigue, or to get to know the (way too large) cast. I’m not a big fan of the art either, which pairs big-eyed big-boobed women with more natural looking men and background characters for a bizarre  divided art style. There’s a thin, obnoxious coat of generic-ness coating everything here, particularly main character Cecil, whou couldn’t be less unique if she tried.

Yet there’s still some interesting stuff to cling onto. The whole concept remains very cool, and a police/law procedural with magic has real potential. The action is neat and I’m intrigued by Cecil’s interactions with the convicted prisoner, who surely has to be her mother based on the physical resemblance. The show needs to sort out its basic storytelling issues fast however, as as it is it’s little more than a bunch of half realised ideas tied together by dodgy art.

First Look: No-Rin

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Light Novel Adaptation by Silver Link
Simulcast on Funimation

Premise

A high school boy unwittingly seduces his favorite idol into wanting to become a farmer by mailing her vegetables and anonymous letters.

Lifesong’s Verdict: No-Thanks

Painful humor and a painful setting with a bunch of lovely voice actresses and a favorite director. The pain won out in this premier. What is there to even say about a show with 3 major gags that last so long they are basically the entire episode? We go from a cow in the classroom to a boy in a body pillow to a picture of a gross 40 year old teacher greased up in all sorts of oils from her kitchen taking a naked selfie. Some of the visual gags actually made me laugh while taking screencaps for this post, but in motion this whole thing simply hurt. Silver Link has been known for bad first episodes so I will stick it out to see what happens in the second, but I’m honestly not expecting anything good.

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Jel’s Verdict: No

Full disclosure: I started spacing out halfway through this episode, mostly as a defense mechanism against one of the worst anime teachers of all time. Seriously, how does that woman still have a job? Meanwhile the main character nearly got hit by a bull, tried to get Kana Hanazawa to say “penis”, and spent half the episode rolling around in a body pillow featuring his favorite idol… and I don’t mean that in a good way. I guess they’re going for some kind of contrast with the flashy idol lifestyle and the down to Earth life of a farming community, but this episode was so random and poorly composed that it failed to gain any traction. All that is before I even get to the ugly character designs and poor animation. With almost no positives going for it aside from a solid voice acting cast, No-Rin is not worth your time.

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Iro’s Verdict: Rotten

This is undoubtedly the worst farming/idol anime I have ever seen. It’s boring, unfunny, gross, and just plain bad. Please consider increasing your standards and watching something that isn’t as shitty.

First Look: Magical Warfare

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Light Novel Adaption by Madhouse
Simulcast on Crunchyroll

Premise

A young boy meets a young girl with magic and becomes involved in a conflict between two worlds.

Lifesong’s Verdict: Like an Old Pair of Socks

So many cliches and tropes are thrown around so quickly this first episode almost feels like a comedy. There is a sense of nostalgic fun as all the obvious as day scenarios play out. Magical Warfare doesn’t success at most what it tries to do in this first episode, but it does succeed on the action front at the very least. The use of magic for combat is some of the best I’ve seen not until this season, but since Blast of Tempest. I’m a bit conflict, my inner critic sees many things I could point out that could have been done better, this anime introduces cliches like they were being pumped out of a Gatling gun, but my inner child was completely sold on the magic itself. I’m intrigued, I can’t say that I’m impressed overall, but I am definitely interested in watching more.

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Jel’s Verdict: Action Anime: The Anime

Not to be outdone by Witch Craft WorksMagical Warfare is so generic it can’t even manage a unique title. Unlike that other show however, this is more of a mash-up of a billion other action titles as opposed to a connect the dots rendition of the “Magical Girlfriend/Slave” plot device. Sure it still sucks but I would say I enjoyed Magical Warfare more, at least on a completely superficial level. Once you get past wanting to smash your screen during the god awful production values, exposition, characters, and “accidental” kiss scene, the fight scenes were alright (I’m always down for an old fashioned magically enhanced swordfight) and the magical powers sound cool on paper. Make no mistake, you should not watch Magical Warfare, but I can’t deny the first episode delivered a little bit of a cheap thrill.

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Iro’s Verdict: Boilerplate

This is the anime equivalent of a saltine cracker. Or, considering the quality of the first episode, a soggy saltine cracker. Seemingly opposed to creating interesting characters, Magical Warfare instead takes a bunch of blank slates describable only via their roles (Protagonist, Best Friend, Jealous Girlfriend, Exposition/Real Love Interest) and bestows them all magical powers with no rhyme or reason. Nobody seems to react to the fact that a girl is shoving a gun in their faces, or that a guy is walking around with a comically oversized sword, or that now they have to go into an alternate post-apocalyptic universe to attend magic school. It’s a bunch of mildly interesting ideas mashed together on a plate with no common thread to tie it together or give the audience any reason to care. Skip it.

First Look: Witch Craft Works

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Manga Adaptation by J.C. Staff
Simulcast on Crunchyroll

Premise

A high school boy discovers that a group of witches has targeted him for some nefarious purpose, and that the most popular girl in school is on a mission to protect him. He is her “princess” as she states it.

Lifesong’s Verdict: Surprisingly Enjoyable

J.C. Staff doesn’t have the magical animation of Bones and KyoAni or the indulgent passions of Imaishi and Shinbo, but one thing they are usually fairly good at is picking fun source material and directing it well. Witch Craft Works doesn’t excel on a technical or even an artistic level, but it combines enough mundane elements from otaku fiction into something that I personally find potentially interesting and at the very least find amusing.

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I particularly like the way the characters are introduced. Kagari is a stoic, almost manly heroine. To emphasis this fact she is followed by a dozen or more schoolgirls at all times praising her elegance whom she flatly ignores almost entirely. I am reminded of an old school prince type character minus the prince charming act. She even calls the protagonist her “princess” and when he talks too much at lunch she stuffs the most elegantly carved wiener I’ve ever seen into his mouth. There is no doubt who wears the pants. Meanwhile the protagonist takes on the role of helpless heroine. The contrast between them makes for an amusing dynamic and also serves to raise my expectations for things to come.

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What really sold me on this first episode was the timing of the Harry Potter-like music and silly, but deadly battle scenes. On the one hand I could complain about the way this anime looks, and I think I would be justified to do that, but considering the fact that it is cheap CG, it was all fairly well directed and the final scene of the fight left a strong first impression. Some of my enjoyment was dependent on being able to appreciate an “emotionless” heroine, but I think Kagari had a bit more than that going for her with the gender role reversal thing. I could see this show going downhill fast and I’m certainly not expecting a literary masterpiece either way, but if the action keeps up we could be in for a fun ride.

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Jel’s Verdict: Burn At the Stake

Aside from the fact the cannon fodder bad guys were mechanical bunnies, I can’t think of a single memorable detail in this episode. You could argue the fact that the main dude is referred to as a “princess” is kind of interesting, but in practice he’s just another powerless protagonist who has to depend on his magical girlfriend  to protect him. Everything else, from the bland art over the personality-free characters to the paint-by-numbers anime plot — the bad witches coming in as transfer students got the hardest eye roll — felt completely uninspired. I really don’t see any reason to keep watching this.

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Iro’s Verdict: No Magic Here

Witch Craft Works is incredibly uninspired. The protagonist is an ordinary high school student whose boring and dull life is thrown into chaos as he ends up in a life-threatening situation with his mysterious classmate, who also happens to be a cute girl that does all the work while he stands around and acts scared/confused. Of course the villains are all cute girls too, and all five of them transfer into the protagonist’s class at the end of the episode. I’d put money down on it eventually being a harem set up. In brief, Witch Craft Works gave me absolutely zero reason to keep watching.

The 6th Day of Glorio: Lifesong’s Massive List of Awards

9days_lifesong

You are now entering the Nine Days of GLORIO, our non-stop year in review. Each day for the rest of 2013, a member of the Glorio crew will share some of their highlights from the past 12 months, all culminating in our Top 10 Anime of the Year. For Day 6, Lifesong has forsaken food, water, and sleep in order to compile our most massive post yet – fitting considering he watches more anime than any of us.

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