Apologies for the delay in continuing this series; I was without a home internet connection for a while whilst moving house, and was unable to watch the videos. But my thanks to Paul for allowing us to pick up where we left off and continue our tour through the confounding heart of contemporary Japanese culture. So head back here to refresh your memory if needed, and otherwise, on we go!
16. All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku
PAUL’S COMMENT: The 'all-purpose-cultural' bit is (so the internet tells me) a poor translation of a Japanese word used to mean 'the commercial superiority (new and improved nature) of post WWII products in Japan'. It is a comedy about a powerful cyborg with the brain of a cat - hence this strange allusion to white-goods.
BEN’S COMMENT: This was definitely my favourite title from the original list. I pictured it as an anime equivalent of ‘Front Row’, wherein All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku would attend film premieres, interview theatre directors and discuss the shortlist for the booker prize… in-between fighting giant cyborg worms, or something. The opening sequence fails to reveal much about the show’s actual content, so I’ll keep on pretending it is like that, if that’s ok.
17. 'Otome Wa Boku Ni Koishiteru' (The Maidens are Falling in Love with Elder Sister)
Episode 1, part 1, english sub.
PAUL’S COMMENT: Strange. Very strange. One of the few in this list that I have watched at any length. As I've mentioned, it is an example of a show that is quite like others, quite generic, however this one has a strange pedigree. It arose from an explicit 'dating sim' computer game that was found to be popular for the story, rather than the graphic content and, hence, was cleaned-up, re-released and eventually turned into this anime series. (While not common, the change from producing explicit material to family-friendly material does happen in Anime and Manga - however, not usually does such a product change its nature, so much as a creator improves their status). It is about a boy who, abiding by the wishes of his late mother's will, goes under-cover as a girl in order to attend an all-girl school. Now, if this was done in the West, you'd never hear the last of this lad being a lad - that would be the locus of hilarity. However, strangely in OWBNK, the boy becomes indistinguishable from the girls by the second episode, or thereabouts. It is also insidiously Christian: whereas # 8 will never let you forget the religious credentials, OWBNK seems to reek of Christianity while almost never mentioning it. It is a strange program.
However, this is one, perhaps slightly more interesting, unit in a popular genre over which cultural confusion reigns supreme. The genre (I'll call it 'girl-love', though the Japanese can call it 'Yuri') founds this show, and many others, including some others in this list. In Japan (as I understand it) girls can watch a genre of cartoon called 'Shojo', which involves girls taking the lead in plots of romance and action, which end in personal growth and empowerment - they are 'sensitive' but not always girly. Young girls also (and please forgive me if I'm wrong about this), are generally allowed to have 'crushes' on, and even romances with, other girls, based on admiration of their power and femininity. Whilst not common, it is understood to be something that can happen in childhood, like imaginary friends, and is referred to as a Class S Relationship.
If you are following this, you can see how shows about all-girl's schools where all the girls have romances with each other might be seen in outside Japan as 'a bit strange', but fairly comprehensible within Japan. Hence the 'girl-love' genre, combines S relationships with empowerment and growth (sometimes with the interruption of a cross-dressing boy in their ranks, who often loses masculinity surprisingly quickly to blur the issue). What makes things even more confusing than this is that this 'girl-love' genre is often deliberately mixed-up with the more unsavoury 'school girl lesbians' take on it, where things tend to go further than kissing and blushing, and where the sexual elements are used to draw in viewers (see discussion on 'fan service', under # 18, below), rather than any sort of real story. For those not from Japan, it is difficult to tell the two apart.
BEN’S COMMENT: “Looking pretty isn’t just a temporary thing”, says the theme tune, ominously. More psychedelic, massive-eyed school-girl insanity. Why on earth was it this mother’s dying wish that her son cross-dress in order to attend an all-girl school..? Was she some kind of radical gender equality activist, or did she just want to fuck with everybody’s head? Enquiring minds want to know.
18. Penguin Musume Heart
Episode 1, Part 1, English Sub:
PAUL’S COMMENT: Notable because it aired entirely online, so I'm informed by the internet. Perhaps this would be a good point to introduce the term 'fan service' (as this is basically 'knowing' parody of other animes, with fan-service provided). The term refers to using girls without their cloths, and other sexual (or more dubious) lures to 'service the fans' and increase ratings. Fans, however, are quite wise to this strategy and, hence, 'knowing' little cartoons like this. However, there are some cartoons that border on pornography through addition of fan service. (There are some cartoons that ARE pornography, but that's a different essay and not one for me to write: too many Demons involved, so I'm told).
BEN’S COMMENT: More school girls. Sexy ones this time, it seems. I have absolutely no idea what’s going on at any point in this clip, but I confess it’s highly enjoyable. I like the animation, it’s funny. About two thirds of the way through there’s some kind of truly insane credit sequence featuring another bubblegum punk-pop song that has to be seen to be believed. I was all ready to complain about the complete lack of penguins until that point, but OH, you just wait…
19. 'Ai To Yuuki No Pig Girl Tonde Buurin' (Pig Girl of Love and Courage)
PAUL’S COMMENT: Almost no trace on Youtube. A parody of 'magical girl' series, especially Sailor Moon.
BEN’S COMMENT: You’ve got to love a culture in which “magical girl series” is an established genre rather than a unique entity. This is…. well, it’s a pig-girl of love and courage alright. Looks like slightly older anime that most of the ones we’ve been looking at today? If this were live-action, the camera-man would deserve a restraining order for the number of gratuitous anatomical close-ups he crams into 30 seconds.
20. Hayate the Combat Butler
Episode 4, part 1, English sub. (ep. 1 is missing)
PAUL’S COMMENT: Seems to be a comedy.
BEN’S COMMENT: “Hayate the Combat Butler”? Fantastic! Unfortunately, Hayate seems to be one of those drippy, floppy-haired anime dreamboat types rather than a wisecracking robot Jeeves dispensing kung-fu justice, but still. So, in short order: a sweet little health warning telling kids not to sit too close to the TV and to get some exercise, a whole lot of tedious fourth wall breaking self-referential humour, a foul-mouthed albino tiger, some teenage angst. “This is the super combat battle story of a boy who fights, risking his life for a girl”, it promises, but fails to deliver. We do get some great English subtitles to the theme song though; “Let’s run and kick up dirt, like the whimsical wind!” Quite.