A Milestone Amount of Time Has Passed and Therefore I Must Write About It #4

Speaking of train wrecks…

These posts are never easy, in fact, I believe the previous 3 iterations of these have been absolute train wrecks. So instead of worry about that, I thought I would do something a bit differently. After all, I can’t do top X lists of my favorites of all-time, properly reflect on changes in my life or even retire from this blog because I haven’t found a reason to do so yet.

Back in the first week of this experiment when there was no set topic for what I would even write on, I described myself as a failure of a fan, but that’s beside the point. It was the popular thing to talk about series that influenced one as a fan. So in grand style, I’ve decided to retread that particular story and talk about the shows that have influenced me most since then. Nothing special or depressing here I hope. I’d have to really be trying to wedge that in. So without any further delay here they are.

It’s really well worth watching this, honest.

Thermæ Romæ

I caught the live-action movie on my recent trip, and it made me realize the importance of length after all. The idea behind this is almost the definition of high concept. An architect in ancient Rome struggling for ideas on creating new baths is transported to modern Japan, hilarity ensues. You can only do that so often before it wears off, though. So the anime’s six half-length episodes worked out well. The live-action, not so much because after it reached a certain time, it felt the need to go off on a horribly played romance arc. However, they did nail the casting of Lucius.

As far as how this has influenced me, it has made me realize that high concept can be just as good as anything out there when it’s well executed. The anime is silly fun based on a pair of ideas that have been around for at least a century. What would a person think of the world in the distant future and people in unfamiliar surroundings. However, the real lesson is that a two sentence synopsis of an idea can make it look worse than it actually is.

Steins;Gate

Needless to say, Steins;Gate was one of the shows of 2011 ranking high on my list as well as many others. Before I continue with how fantastic a show it is, I have to admit I went in with trepidation. This was a spinoff of the franchise that brought Chaos;Head to the world; that being the series which peaks in the first 30 seconds. Despite that, Steins;Gate managed to be a great series despite the minimal expectations.

This is where I have to stress the importance of the director. This was an area I was completely unfamiliar with 4 years ago. I knew that a guy named Shinbo did the Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei series. Hell, he even commented in an episode of adapting a series from the source. There was also Miyazaki, though I think most people in this part of the blogosphere would have had some idea about him. And that was about it.

Then again, it could have also been the source material. But when Sukitte Ii na yo began this season with another excellent start, I knew something felt familiar, and so it turned out that the name Satou Takuya was attached to both as director. So managing to turn possibly terrible source material into gold, and decent source material into something that stands on his own. The shame is that I had seen some of his work before; namely Ichigo Mashimaro, but simply didn’t care enough in the past to bother.

Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt and Sengoku Collection

These two series are more alike than I thought. The former was essentially the death knell of the old Gainax, at least that’s what others tell me. However, the real story is that these are both episodic tributes to existing popular culture with an overarching plot that is really peripheral to the viewing experience. It’s fair to say that they are tributes to the stuff they reference.

What I really think about when it comes to the pair of these is that it shows a more interconnected world. I think when I first started watching there was a gigantic cultural wall. Depictions of the western world were pretty much idealized with few liberties taken. A good example of this was Rose of Versailles, which as excellent as I found it still felt like it was trying to minimize the amount of fiction in historical fiction.

Maybe these two hit me in the perfect places. I’m not the most familiar with database theory, or whatever it goes by these days, so I just have to assume Hyouka‘s Satoshi is the closest approximation. When I see stories built around the plots of movies like Ghostbusters and 2001 I can’t help but smile. Maybe the whole thought that I could anticipate what I would want to see in the episode once I understood what was being referenced is a part of that database concept. The real important point is that these Western pop culture references are appearing more frequently. How long before it really takes off the other way?

Ore no Imouto ga Konnani Kawaii Wake ga Nai

At a certain level, there is an amount of pandering that is done to appeal to hardcore fans to watch a show. OreImo was far from the first, nor is it the worst offender. Rather it just seemed like the first of these series that would have appallingly long names that had to be shortened just to be able to communicate what it was. So now we have titles like Oniikoto, Anohana and Oniai which are all clearly driven as much by marketing as anything else.

What makes OreImo stand out for me personally is the sense that one can get as much out of it that they put in. It can be seen as simple pandering encouraging fans to continue buying merchandise despite society looking down on it. It can also be seen as one of those stories exploring whether friendships between men and women are possible. It’s just a simple harem anime. It’s also a story about how everything will work out if one is honest about who they really are.

The others I mentioned above don’t measure up as much. I may be a tad harsh on Anohana in particular, but I wasn’t compelled enough to care about interpretation there. The other two are just attempts to find the most profitable niche possible and get as much out of it as humanly possible. That would be the very definition of what high concept tries to go for.

Amagami would be much improved with an Oktoberfest arc, and also I really should do more posts while drinking.

Not too much over the last 4 years. When you watch more and more it gets harder and harder for any single thing to make an impact. Hopefully my writing over the years hasn’t given that impression either, except the ones that go up on this date. Maybe in the next four years, I can begin to put out higher quality writing that seems only possible on the group blogs. Who knows?

6 thoughts on “A Milestone Amount of Time Has Passed and Therefore I Must Write About It #4

  1. Thermae Romae is one of those really original premises that somehow find a producer that believes in them, and then as you say gets well executed. I enjoyed immensely and look forward to catching the live action one day.

    Steins Gate and Panty Stocking are definitely some of the most interesting made in the past 4 years.

    • It was just a way of saying interesting stuff is still being made even though I have seen numerous shows. I do have a tendency of enjoying glorious failures, but I think I’ve covered that before.

  2. I agree with you about the importance of director, and more broadly, the specific implementation (including length, as you point out in Thermae Romae).

    This is also apparent in another show you mentioned: Ichigo Mashimaru. I really thought that show was funny. I enjoyed every episode immensely. Then I look back at it, and I can’t think of a way to describe it that doesn’t make it sound like a dozen other shows that sucked. I think the director plays a large role in making sure the EXECUTION really delivers on any promise that might be there in the premise (or squeezes out entertainment value, despite having a weak premise).

    • Ideally, one would want a director that is able to stamp their own style over something that is well executed. More often than not we end up with directors caring more about style because I think it ultimately ends up in their own interest to do it that way. Unfortunately, the director who is simply able to do things well is never going to be a big name.

  3. Wait, is this like a 4 year anniversary post????! In that case, congratulations! The only show in here that I have actually watched is Steins;Gate, which was great and I guess it was life influencing to ?!

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