Ongoing Investigations: Case #221

hisui_icon_4040 This week’s Ongoing Investigation theme is the first episode of shows that Narutaki would not watch unless you put a gun to her head. Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya is mostly not here because it is getting a whole episode review of its own tomorrow.

No Matter How I Look at It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular! is here because she found out it was popular on 4chan. Therefore she refuses to watch it out of principle. I can’t really blame her.

I’m Not Popular can be summed up simply. It is a magnum opus of schadenfreude. Tomoko Kuroki is a loser. A sad pathetic loser. A socially awkward plain-looking girl who revels in putting a positive spin on her stunted existence. She mostly winds up digging herself deeper into a world of isolation and delusion while feebly attempting to change her life.

And you are to revel in this fact. Like Charlie Brown running towards the football you know that it will be pulled away at the last second. The thrill is seeing how despite common sense the scene is set up and then the cathartic release of her misery being the end cap that ties it all together.

Clearly the audience is supposed to view Tomoko with empathy on one hand as most of the audience understand on a certain level what it is like to be shy, neurotic, paranoid, bitter, and delusional. Those are all common feelings and situations to anyone who has embraced a geeky lifestyle at some point or another. But on the other hand your mostly supposed to be laughing at Tomoko. So it is not like the Big Bang Theory that claims to be about nerds but clearly has no idea what their actual lives are like. But it is clearly laughing at the misery of someone who can’t change their life while grokking what that feels like.

I’m not going to claim to totally understand the female geek experience. I don’t want to mansplain this. It is just something about the show feels like a geeky guy trying to extrapolate what a girl’s experience would be like using their own memories more than a female author exploring her social pariahdom. Nico Tanigawa is a pen name for two authors so I don’t have any definitive proof of what either of their genders are. But maybe I’m just assuming that the genders are more separate experiences than they actually are.  If anyone is actually a female fan who has experience with this I would actually like to know what they think.

I will say that with that all laid it is obvious why this series is so popular with places like 4chan. It is the exact mixture of self-loathing and perverse self-congratulation that would hit their sweet spot. It simultaneously loves and hates its protagonist in equal measure. But in the end shakes its head at its failure of a lead and laughs at her. If that is what interest you then I suppose you know what you’re watching this season.

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narutaki_icon_4040 I read Mixed Vegetables vol. 4. Now that Hana has actually started on the path to her dream by working in a sushi place, she is finding herself more and more concerned about Hayato’s plans. Unlike Hana, Hayato hasn’t owned up to his parents about his dreams. He doesn’t want to take over the sushi shop and desperately wants to be a pastry chef, but this volume of the manga calls that into question a bit.

I do kind of miss their relationship from the first volume, even if they were just pretending to be into each other, it had a fresh vibe to it. Still, they are slowly falling which is sweet and there doesn’t seem to be any artificially obstacles as yet.

I also enjoyed Hayato and Hana’s mini-adventure of trying to help out one of the sushi chefs who happens to be in love with their teacher. Seeing them team up for this purpose was sweet and funny.

P.S. this volume highlights the hot dads a bit.

The Ongoing Investigations are little peeks into what we are watching and reading outside of our main posts on the blog. We each pick three things that we were interested in a week and talk a bit about them. There is often not much rhyme or reason to what we pick. They are just the most interesting things we saw since the last Ongoing Investigation.

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hisui_icon_4040 Dog & Scissors is on the list because it has cruelty to dogs. But the are so many more reason for to her to have hated it besides that. The abuse of canines is a good reason to turn Narutaki away but it is a single patch on an entire quilt of misery.

Kazuhito Harumi is a bibliophile on a Yomiko Readman level. One day having a snack at a diner after his regular book run a disturbed criminal with a shotgun starts a robbery. Kazuhito is killed trying to save a young writer who was so absorbed in her work she is oblivious to what is going on. Death is not the end as his will to see the final book of his favorite author is strong enough that he returns to earth in a dog’s body. But it seems the only human who can understand him is a sadistic woman named Kirihime Natsuno. And Kirihime is not only the woman he died saving at the diner but also his favorite author.

By the way, is this not almost the plot of Nagi’s manga in Hayate?

We recently we were on the Staten Island Ferry to try the first Dairy Queen to open in New York for quite some time. As we were riding across the water the topic of shonen romance came up. Narutaki was worried that she could not remember any shows recently were the main female lead did not start being utterly horrible to the main character. We eventually came up with several titles but I think that it speaks volumes that it took us some time to think of those titles. And the cherry on top of that conversation is Kirihime Natsuno.

Kirihime Natsuno is a reprehensible protagonist. She is sort of the pinnacle of the main love interest who is horrible to the male protagonist. The only things that comes out of her mouth (with rare exception) is vitriol and threats and her general shtick is attacking her canine companion with scissors. I suppose this is the logical next step in the widening gap between the two extremes of the tsundere archtype but that does not make her any more palatable. Kirihime just seems to be a horrible human being. When she is threatening to eviscerate Kazuhito or trying him up and beating him while she insults him it is clear that she is tapping into some masochistic fantasy that would make a stereotypical German business man blush.

I think the joke is to take the standard acidic girl and dial her personality to 11 but I just can’t take it. I liked Matsurika Shinoji in Maria Holic so I have a fairly sizable tolerance for that type of character. But she crosses this line where I just can’t find her funny anymore. She passes from amount  of amusingly sarcastic and brusque to uncomfortably psychopathic.

Also the sadistic abuse of a dog (or any animal) has become the stock method of showing that someone is evil. How are you then going to turn around and go, “But really she is a good person who deserves love” later down the road. The redemption of the villain can be a powerful theme but she is not really portrayed that way. She is just supposed to be the mean-spirited co-protagonist. The problem is she comes off as the sleazy villain.

Also the main character is one step above the generic shonen lead because his love of books at least give him a strong defining trait. At the same time outside of that he is so generic that we never even see his face before he dies. He is like one of those faceless main characters you would see in a jam-it-in visual novel. Sadly his personality is equally compelling. So it is not like I was going to watch their series because I was invested in the main characters plight.

Apparently the next episode is about Kirihime and Kazuhito looking for the man who killed him which formally introduces the mystery element of the series. But I don’t care about that. The first episode was horrible enough to turn me off to whatever case they would have solved.

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narutaki_icon_4040 I know you’ll be shocked to hear that things went from bad to worse in Limit vol. 3 despite a mildly happy reunion as the girls found another survivor from the crash. The reunion sets off Morashigi and pushes her over the deep end from what we can tell. Though I could easily imagine it as misdirection . . . but that could be the mystery lover in me. Then again, the newly arrived friend seems a bit too good to be true.

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hisui_icon_4040 Blood Lad is on the list because it is about vampires. It takes a VERY special type of show for Narutaki to watch anything involving Nosferatu. Apparently that was not the case this time.

Staz is a powerful young vampire who is a big time gang leader in the demon world with a sizable chunk of the city under his control. But he is secretly obsessed humans and their culture with Japanese pop being his favorite vice. So when a real live Japanese Girl wanders into his domain he is instantly fascinated by her. But before he knows it a giant demonic pitcher plant consumer her leaving her a ghost. Staz vows to bring her back to life but it’s mostly just an excuse to visit the human world and indulge in his hobbies.

I will confess for some reasons I thought this series had big female following. Maybe it has some female fans like Hellsing because vampires are like catnip to certain women. But a single glance at the character designs clue you into the intended demographic. When all the female characters are melon monsters and the main girl spends half the episode in just a t-shirt and skimpy boxers you know what the audience was supposed to be. Any female fans are an unintended windfall for the show.

Staz distinctly has a Eikichi Onizuka in GTO feel to him. He is distinctly a low ambition slacker but for some reason has risen to a high position. He is a geeky loser yet garners a good amount of respect in spite of himself. Also he’s a bit of letch. But at the same time he is actually an earnest guy who pulls through when the chips are down and is a surprisingly awesome fighter. He is not the full Onizuka package but it is easy to understand why someone would want to try an replicate that character formula.

Fuyumi Yanagi generally seems to be the Reaction Girl™. In any comedy show like this the reaction girl’s main purpose is to be “OH MY GOD!” when every something strange or off kilter happens. But other than sort of sweet and stacked like a brick house you don’t really get much more of her in this first episode. She is sadly just eye candy and an exposition dump. She does not even have crazy Kyoko Koizumi faces.

The show itself lands between better than I thought it would be and not sure I would watch more. It is not a bad show. There were some genuinely funny moment and Deku works well as an underling for Staz to play off of. I just never felt it fully caught my attention.

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narutaki_icon_4040 Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong is a fun and hilarious look at high school social dynamics as the science geeks go head-to-head with the “pompom Gestapo” to get funding for their respective club projects. And in-betweener Charlie gets torn in two trying to keep the peace and get out of the situation entirely.

Faith Erin Hick’s artwork is perfect for the story which calls for incredulous facial expressions and a few tender moments. I love how she captures a diverse crowd with a mere tilt of head or change in posture.

I really felt Nate and Charlie’s unlikely friendship was solidly written with the perfect amount of strain that comes from high school. The same goes for Charlie’s relationship with his parents and I especially appreciated that things were tied up in a perfect little package by book’s end.

One thought on “Ongoing Investigations: Case #221

  1. VichusSmith says:

    I really liked Watamote. I guess that makes me an honorary 4channer, even though I haven’t been there in the longest time?

    I don’t have insight on girls who are that cripplingly locked off from society, but I remember being younger and not being part of the crowd I thought was cool. I’m thankful that I wasn’t like this girl, dork status, but I knew those dork people, people who probably even had mental issues.

    I do laugh at this girl, but because she is the cause of her own problems at times. I think she’s a walking example of “it gets better” Just chill out! It’s not that serious.

    I also feel for her, though, because when you lack so much confidence that you can’t speak, I’ve been there.

    In short, I want anime that’s approaching real feelings and real experiences, even if they’re cringy.

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