Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin. Military Sci-Fi at its Finest!

I’m a pretty big fan of Universal Century Mobile Suit Gundam stuff. For the longest time, though, I’d put off reading Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin, in no small part because of the outrageous price ($30-ish, 3 times the normal price of most manga) of the hard-bound, partially colored, full gloss collections. Plus, I sort of assumed it to JUST be a retelling of Mobile Suit Gundam. In a way I was right, but in so many ways I was TOTALLY WRONG!

Awhile back I snagged the first four volumes from the library, and they are AMAZING!

The Origin is done entirely by the original series character designer, Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, and he uses the opportunity to tell a far more mature and compelling version of the One Year War. Though the story and themes are primarily the same, Yasuhiko strips away the cartoonish trappings of the 1979 series, taking it even further than Tomino did* with the compilation movies in which he’d sought to remove a lot of the sillier elements. Some might cry foul, but Yasuhiko succeeds in polishing off the last of the super robot elements which Gundam was so important for having begun to erode. What we’re left with is an incredibly gripping hardcore military sci-fi story that just happens to involve giant robots. Minor characters get more time to make the White Base crew seem more filled out and less understaffed. Additional Guntanks and Guncannons in its mobile suit arsenal makes the White Base feel a lot more like a functional combat unit than just Amuro and two mooks who sometimes get assists. This also means that we lose a lot more characters that we meet; with the exception of Job John (a VERY minor named character from the original series who did survive) I fully expect all of the other named Federation Mobile Suit pilots on White Base to die. While this could’ve taken away from Ryu’s big-heroic-sacrifice death, it ends up making it more meaningful as he’s the senior most pilot who, already severely injured, has to come to the aid of other pilots, some of whom were already kia.

The biggest change to the story, however, is that Yasuhiko opted not to use the batshit crazy semi-canonical route that White Base followed from its landing in North America to the Earth Federation HQ in Brazil. Instead he manages to fit the entire original earth arc narrative into a far more sensible direct route.

The White Base’s Journey to Jaburo in Mobile Suit GundamJourney to Jaburo Anime1. The White Base lands deep in Zeon Territory, somewhere in the American Southwest, later proposed to be near the Grand Canyon. Attacked by Garma’s North American Zeon forces.

2. Somehow, the White Base ends up the ruins of New York, fighting Char & the NA Zeons. Garma killed in battle.

3. The White Base’s Quantum journey to Asia.

4. The homogeneous wasteland geography makes the first part of the Ramba Ral arc difficult to place, but it’s generally assumed to be mainland China near the Taklamakan Desert.

5. Isle of Kukurus Doan; while this episode was not nearly as terrible as people have said it was (Time Be Still was much worse), it does make fuck-all sense having White Base back in the Pacific at this point, at least based on the episode’s production number. If placed before the Ramba Ral arc, it would resolve the quantum journey issue.

6. Battles explicitly set in or near the Taklamakan Desert (retroactive continuity), though easily could have taken place across Afghanistan and Persia on the White Base’s trek toward Europe.

7. The Odessa Offensive is one of the few places (along with the battle of New York, the refit in Belfast and Jaburo being in the Amazon basin somewhere in Brazil) that has an explicit tie to a real world location. It is, however, a large regional operation.  White Base’s exact location in all of this is unclear other than that they are behind enemy lines and in an arid region somewhere near the Black Sea.

8. The White Base encounters the Black Tri-Star somewhere in the forests of central Europe. This is held to either take place in the Ardennes or the Black Forest in Germany.

9. Following the Odessa Offensive, the White Base is given refit in Belfast, Ireland.

10. The White Base crosses the Atlantic Ocean, pursued by Zeon marines led by Char.

11. White Base finally arrives at Earth Federation Supreme HQ Jaburo in Brazil. After the Zeon’s all out assault on Jaburo is repulsed, the White Base returns to space, where it is involved in combat operations near Side 6, and Space Fortresses Solomon and A Baoa Qu.

The White Base’s Journey to Jaburo in Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin

Journey to Jaburo Manga

1. White Base lands explicitly in the American Southwest in Arizona and spend some time following the Colorado River Valley. They fight Garma’s North American Zeon forces, though the geography is much more concrete.

2. Since one of the few things that was explicit about the location of Garma’s HQ in the original was that it was based in California, North American Zeon Command is placed in partially ruined L.A.; Zeon leadership staff occupy the hoity-toity parts while partisans hide in the ruins. The White Base receives orders to coordinate with the partisans in an effort to break Zeon’s North American command structure. Hence the Battle of New York is moved to L.A. The results are more or less the same, however instead of a brief arc about Icelina wanting revenge, we get to see the Zeon military police put a bullet in her father’s head.  (He was changed from mayor of New York to mayor of L.A.; he’s still a supporter of the anti-Zeon partisans).

3. Rather than take a crazy route circumnavigating the globe to get to Earth Federation HQ, White Base heads directly toward South America, fighting their way towards…

4. Neutral space in Lima Peru. The Ramba Ral arc is moved to the South American highlands, though some may have also taken place in the Mexican desert. It should be noted that in this telling, Lima essentially replaces Belfast, moving up White Base’s refit to before the Tri-Star arc. The Miharu subplot is replaced with Hayato beating the hell out of some Zeons in the street with his Judo skills (which are more relevant in the manga than they were in the Anime).

5. The battle with the Black Tri-Star is moved to near Cuzco. White Base therefore does not take part in the Odessa Offensive for geographic reasons; M’Quve is demoted from his arc-villain status and replaced with rather enjoyable new character General Garcia.

6. White Base arrives at Jaburo in time to assist in the defense of Federation HQ against an all out assault launched by General Garcia. He tries to use an Adzam underground and it goes about as well as you’d expect.

As you can see, the route taken in The Origin is significantly shorter and, despite losing/moving the iconic fights at Odessa and the forests of Germany, makes a hell of a lot more sense.

I cannot recommend Mobile Suite Gundam: The Origin enough.  Even for non-anime fans of Mil-SF.  I mean, I love MSG, but I will admit that there are so many cringe inducing moments as well as slow spots and bad episodes that keep me from making an unreserved recommendation to someone who doesn’t already like Gundam or giant robots.  That is not the case with The Origin, however.  There’s really nothing I would qualify my recommendation for this with.  If you like Mil-SF, you will at least appreciate if not love this retelling of the most significant military sci-fi tales of the 20th century.

Anyway, it’s inspired me to revisit my ideas for OGRE-suit Gundam…  Coming soon…

*:Another reason why I was hesitant was that I was worried it might be like Tomino’s novelizations, which were pretty terrible.

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Review – Kagai!

Disclosure: I have previously received a promotional copy of Postmortem Studio’s Project (reviewed here). I purchased a pdf copy of Kagai! to review.  

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Kagai! is an over-the-top violent gonzo RPG meant to bring the madcap antics of Japanese extreme monster horror to your gaming table.  And if that’s your sort of thing, this simple system does a pretty good job of it!

One thing I’d like to give particular kudos for is that Kagai! admits right off the bat that it’s a niche product and will probably be played by people who game so doesn’t waste time on a lengthy “What is Role Playing and what are Role Playing Game?” section.  Those have a place, but 99 times out of 100, any independently released game product is going to be purchased by someone with a huge stack of games who knows what RPGs are.

The basic premise of Kagai! involves a post-apocalyptic future in which monsters have overrun the entire world save for an overcrowded self-sustaining city enclave in Japan.  A decadent consumerist culture is forced upon the surviving populace to distract them from the horrors of the outside world.  While the enclave is supposedly “safe”, monsters are still able to get in sometimes and wreak havoc. Players are expected to play as high-school girls who have decided to rebel against the system and take up their own fight against the monsters who are killing their friends and families.  While players may play as male characters, there are heavy restrictions/penalties and should be considered something of an exception.  The in-game rationale for this is the enclave’s population is 95% female; unless they are able to evade service by means of wealth, influence or corruption, all males are pressed into service at age 12 and sent off to the front to keep monsters and demons at bay.  As such, any men left in the city are either horribly and disfiguringly injured, cowards or rich kids whose parents managed to keep them from being conscripted.

It’s good that the conventions of the genre are stated up-front: characters will die and it will be gruesome.  People who like games that mollycoddle their characters (newschool D&D for instance) will suffer the butthurt and will suffer it hard.  That person who threw a fit when their Paladin got its eyes gouged out and arm melted off before being impaled on spikes?  Don’t play this game with that guy.  In fact, just don’t play with that guy.  But really, don’t play this with that guy.

Character generation is the really the meat of this game; the rest of the system is potatoes with some butter and maybe some salt, but character generation is steak with all the trimmings.  While the whole of Kagai! itself could only be lifted from the explicit setting to varying degrees, the character generation system could be used across multiple systems/settings to create characters and a party dynamic.  It’s pretty neat!

Name Generator – It’s a nice idea, but the sort of person playing this can probably come up with 20+ female Japanese names on the fly quicker than I can roll 3d6 6 times and look up base saving throws.

Boys Trauma Table – The setting-based restrictions on male characters actually offers some interesting opportunities for nuanced characters.  It’s a two tiered table where you determine the type and specifics of the various injuries (or class-related reasons) the male character might have that explains why they aren’t off at the front.

Sexuality – Interesting choice to possibly force players out of their norm by having to roll for their characters’ sexuality.  While the probability renders the likelihood of a gender-queer identity higher than we see in the real world, given the setting, I’d actually expect a much higher prevalence of opportunistic bi-sexuality.  I’m reminded a bit of how in the womanless world of Saber Marionette, dudes would rather have robot women than be gay and the one actual gay guy who was in love with the protagonist was seen as kind of an outlier.

Relationships- One of the cool bits that could be borrowed for creating ad hoc party dynamics with slightly more depth than “you all just happen to know each other” is the Best Friend/Don’t Like component. Players roll to see who their best friend is and who they are at odds with.  These will either be other players, an NPC or oneself.  In the last case, friendship with oneself means you’re a loner and disliking oneself would be indicative of a character with depression.  For good measure, disliking the character your best friends with could indicate a fairly troubled relationship (think every anime with the two girls who are always yelling at each other and fighting, then someone tells the main character “They’ve known each other since kindergarten; they’re best friends, but you wouldn’t know it.”)

There are a few other tables which determine a character’s family background (mother, father, family business, siblings) and the character’s motivation.  The character’s main weapon is also randomly selected from a two tiered 2d6 table.  Kagai! features a pretty impressive list of weapons (even if it is missing the Jo), each with unique abilities.

I’m bad at maths, so don’t hold me to this, but for female characters there are roughly 2.4 million background variations this generator can come up with, discounting anything requiring re-rolls and party relationship options.  Yowzah!

The rest of character creation is point-buy stats.  Physical stats are pretty straight-forward, but a novel idea is having the character’s school course load, including elective credits, make up a part of the character’s fundamental knowledge/ability base.  So, going to Gym Class would be akin to investing in a thief’s ‘acrobatics’ skill, only more interesting because it’s actually relevant to the character, story and setting.

Gameplay is simple success-based dice-rolling mechanic similar to what White Wolf uses, only Kagai! uses d6s instead of d10s.  Tasks are on a 5 point scale with difficulty determining the number of successes needed to accomplish tasks.  Players can act cooperatively by pushing and pulling dice to a pool for other players to use later or to hold for following turns with the pools lasting for the duration of a scene.  It took me a minute to wrap my head around how the push/pull worked, but helpful examples of gameplay are included:

“Ami is trying to hotwire a mechanical door. She has Smarts 3 and Design & Technology 3 for a total of six dice. She rolls six dice and gets two successes, a five and a six. The door is a tricky prospect, needing three successes to be opened. Ami carries the five over (pull) and pushes the six into the middle. Nezuko is trying to pry open the door while Ami works on it. She has Power 3, Gym 2 and the pry-bar gives her an extra two dice for a total of 7. She also grabs the pushed dice from the pool – for a total of 8 dice, but still only gets two successes, it’s still not open.”

In combat this translates more to setting up combos against baddies, where extra successes can be carried over or passed to other players.

Unlike a lot of games, including ones with similar systems, Kagai! offers the opportunity to target stat damage instead of HP by doing horrific and disfiguring attacks.  Bonus points for gruesome descriptions.  Of course this works both ways.  And in-line with the genre Kagai! is modeled after, one can get some stats back by means of sewing and supergluing one’s appendages back on and the like.

Monsters are created on point based systems similar to characters, with some examples and suggested lists of how many points different degrees of monsters should have.  The “Monster Machine” section offers a lot of different abilities and attributes beyond simple stats that monsters might have, like being boneless or having acid blood… you could make an incorporeal vampire made of sticky razor blades!

There is a large section of Kagai! dedicated to outlining and describing the city’s locations and amenities so that a GM can make their own maps or just wing it to fit their story.  But what’s impressive is that the descriptions really go into the visceral details, such as sounds, smells and even the taste of the air, stuff that you don’t usually get or expect from most game content that adds a lot to immersion.

One of the few places Kagai! is a bit of a letdown is the Art.  The cover art is great, and the chibi art is pretty good, but the rest of the art, which is made of black and white altered photo cut-ups, while not bad does not really jibe with the expected aesthetic.  It just seems out of place, and I think it detracts from the product a bit.  I don’t think anyone would miss it if it were gone; as Kagai! is a pdf, there’s no need for it as filler, especially since between the cover, the handful of chibis and well-written content the feel is well enough established without having to up the page count.  I know that James Desborough has said he would’ve liked to take things artistically in “a more explicitly sexual and ero-guro” direction, but I think that the more cutesy chibi-horror stuff works really well for it too, especially considering that I could almost (a few explicit illustrations in the cut-up style aside) call Kagai! a mixed company game.  But his game, his call.

One other aesthetic gripe I have: I get the manga stylization on the Char sheet, but a clean sheet would be nice on one’s printer ink supply.  Still, always great to have char sheets that fit on a page.  It’s an especially minor complaint given that you could fit your character’s relevant information onto an index card, so you don’t really NEED to print off a sheet.  But a clean sheet would be nice.

There’s a lot of good here, but unless you know you’re going to be playing this, the price point ($3.99) is just on the cusp of being a little high for the curious. I’d really like to have an appendix of a few pages that reduces character creation to its base tables and a table with weapons; in that form, most of the info you needed to get everyone started on the game could be printed on maybe 3 pages. That said, if a subsequent edition (print?) has more art like Ben Rodriguez’s cover, it would be certainly be worth paying print prices for.  Maybe James could look into it as a joint venture game-system/art portfolio?

All said, there’s a lot worth checking out here if you’re into pooled dice games, anime-esque games, or if you’re just looking for something different to try out.  It’s not for everybody.  But I can honestly say that my biggest complaint is actually not really a complaint but more my saying “If there was enough interest behind this and James had some money, he could make the second edition really shiny and nice.”

P – Paptimus Scirocco & the PMX-003 “The O”

There were several villains at the head of several factions in Zeta Gundam, but one of the most impressive was the dashing Paptimus Scirocco. While the Jupiter Fleet was a relatively small faction during the Gryps War and the conflict for supremacy over the Earthsphere and Space, they had a number of huge advantages which made them a deciding factor in the outcome of the various arcs that came together at the end of Zeta.

"Ladies, have I mentioned I will let you use my experimental prototype mobile armors?"

“Ladies, have I mentioned I will let you use my experimental prototype mobile armors?”

The Jupiter Fleet had been absent, on their mission to mine Jupiter gas, during the One Year War. They arrived back in Earth orbit at a time in which their strength would be sufficient to act as “kingmaker” among the battered warring factions. Scirocco uses this to pull a major coup and and become the defacto head of the Titans. Most importantly, Scirocco was a brilliant mech designer who developed ultra-high-powered custom Mobile Suits optimized for use in Jupiter’s gravity well. Needless to say, these mech are big and fast and monstrous. The PMX-000 Messala, the PMX-001 Pallas Athena, and the PMX-002 Bolinoak Sammahn were all forces to be reckoned with, but were eventually handed down to the various female pilots Scirocco had seduced to his cause. Why? Because he had The O.

"Why Hello There!"

“Why Hello There!”

The O was big and bulky looking, but the thing was fast, tough, and fought like a damn Asura with its quad beam sabres.

The O had a fusion reactor with 1840 kW output, 1.57G max thrust, 4 0.39 MW beam sabers, and a 2.6 MW rapid recharge beam rifle. It was equipped with an advanced psychommu bio-feedback control system.

Spoiler: even though the hero is able to beat this thing, it manages to fry his brain and turn him into an invalid in the process.

G – Gundam

There were a lot of things I could have gone with today for G, but I just had to go with Gundam. Despite all of its flaws, warts and blemishes, I’m a huge fan of Mobile Suit Gundam and the Universal Century setting.

Gundam was one of the first entries into the ‘real robot’ sub-genre of Giant Robots. This meant that rather than being made of magic and unicorns, the robots were basically giant multipurpose humanoid tanks used for construction and warfare. Of course much of the animation in the earliest series still reflected that of super robot shows (fully flexible joints, full human range of movement) because that’s what animators of the day had to draw on. The later UC OVAs tend to reflect the ‘real robot’ aspect of the mechs more accurately; these are big cumbersome machines that clod along while carrying giant machine guns and battleship grade beam cannons. In fact, the biggest mechanical advantages the original RX-78-2 Gundam had over the Zeon mainstay mechs were significantly thicker armor that could resist the Zaku’s 120mm machine gun shots and carried a beam rifle with the output equivalent to a small battle cruiser.

A good show is always defined by its villains. During the One Year War, we’re given the Principality(sometimes Duchy) of Zeon, a bizarre pastiche of outerspace Jewish Nazis. The Jewish aspect and its political connotations is often shoved under the rug. Prior to the standardization of the proper names, Zeon was more often than not Romanized as “Zion”. It’s not pronounced Zion the way that your typical American rube might pronounce it, but it is pronounced the way you’d pronounce it in Hebrew. So you have a space Zionist movement of space colonists who have declared an independent homeland for Spacenoids and screw everyone else. In Zum City, the capital, the Zabi family palace is fronted by two grand columns depicting the Iron Cross and the Rising Sun. So, wow. Zionist Space Nazis.

Yep, looks pretty Nazi to me!

Yep, looks pretty Nazi to me!

Much like the Nazis of WWII, Zeon’s major downfall was a combination of squibbling between generals that reflected the Wehrmacht, SS and Luftwaffe’s inability to effectively coordinate with one another and the expenditure of resources on flashy military prototypes rather than maximize the efficacy of mass production units. And they’re also bad dudes who aren’t afraid to commit some pretty heinous atrocities in the name of independence. Which again is why more recent releases of the older series have attempted to put distance between the series and the original connotations of Zion.*

This kinda got away from me here… Oh, right, real robots.

One  significance of Gundam, as opposed to a lot of other giant robot shows, was that ultimately the Hero’s actions contributed only in minor ways over the course of a fairly large war. White Base was almost never involved in any significant strategic operations throughout the One Year War until the Federation was already pressing its advantage in space against a retreating Zeon. The Gundam served as a distraction for Zeon to send its ace pilots and/or politically dissident commanders to chase after and keep them out of various intrigues.

There are a LOT of games out there that cover events in the One Year War. And a LOT of them are pretty bad, though all of them are lovely little snowflakes that hold special places in my heart. The best description I’ve ever read of Journey to Jaburo (or any game, really) was that it was like “pushing a Tiger II through the Ardennes with a toothpick”. One of the games that gets some pretty unfair slag, because it was Nintendo Hard, was Zeonic Front. Of all of the games I’ve played, though, nothing has better captured the feel of the Real Robot genre than Zeonic Front. I’ve heard it described as Rainbow 6 with Robots, but not having played Rainbow 6, I really couldn’t say. Though to be clunking along towards checkpoint Bravo only to be shot and blown to hell by that tank hiding behind a cluster of trees because you were looking for bigger threats with radar rather than checking infrared heat signatures? That’s the kind of giant robot stuff I’m talking about, and even in frustrating death, I feel strangely satisfied. Also: I wonder if I’m the only person who noticed that the one black pilot is the only guy who gets stuck piloting a Zaku I for the entire war?

*: It should be noted that no real or perceived antisemitism in Mobile Suit Gundam would prevent Neil Sedaka from composing the awesome opening songs for the much-better-than-the-first sequel, Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam.

Why I’m Done with Manga & Anime

The Book Wars are about halfway done with their month-long focus on graphic novels and picture books. Interestingly, the focus has been way more on picture books and non-traditional graphic novels than graphic novels by the big Comic Publishers and manga. And in a way, I’m glad. I really don’t think I can get behind encouraging YA readers to get into the whole manga thing. I felt kind of inspired to go on this rant for awhile, but the post on CLAMP dug up some old memories for me of one of the first few anime I saw (click the link and support TBW to find out what it was!). I got to rib my then-girlfriend about why that girl was naked and crucified and being torn apart by razor wire while she swore up and down that the comic was better. Good times!

Once upon a time, and up until fairly recently, I used to be a big fan of a lot of manga and anime, but I really just can’t enjoy it anymore because “oh, god, are there any mainstream series that don’t sexualize children?” While I’m sure there are some titles out there that are just peachy-keen, making children into sex objects is so endemic within the medium that it really seems hardly worthwhile to bother looking. Sure, there are still some good titles that absolutely do not do this, With the Light being one of the best examples I can think of off the top of my head, but the presentation of women and children as nothing more than objects of sexual gratification is a huge problem in the medium.

In some ways, it might be something of a cyclical problem, largely because until Dragonball Z and Gundam Wing started showing on Cartoon Network presented as kids shows Anime was primarily marketed in america based on its sexual content. Who can forget all of those commercials for $50 VHS mail orders warning “These are Not for kids!”, promising lots of lurid violence and celluloid sex? There are a few ‘big name’ titles from this era that many people would list as their introduction to anime (I’m not going to list them, but let’s just say they were the ones that weren’t Akira).* One of the selling points of anime/manga in the US has always been the promise of graphic content which the US comic market had never delivered (and in many ways, the US comic market may be trying to catch up).

Anyway, the drawn graphic medium is ideal for the objectification of women. These drawn women are literally objects who were created for the viewing pleasure of (by and large male) audience. And because these aren’t real women with thoughts, feelings, dreams, goals, personality, etc., one can get away with doing anything one wants to them, right? A LOT of horrible things happen to women and girls in manga, and it’s generally played for laughs. How often is molestation and sexual abuse a gag-line in manga? Way too often. And how often are underage girls in mainstream titles treated as objects of sexual gratification for male characters and male readers? Way more often than is okay! Oh, but it’s fine, because they’re not real, right? That’s something of an echo of the ‘women are not people’ quips one still hears today. It becomes easier to objectify women in the real world when people become accustomed to objectifying them in graphic art. So that’s why I’m done with manga. I’ll grin and bear it for Batman (to a point) and probably bitch about it later, but for now I’m done with what manga has to offer.

Here are just a few examples from popular titles:

Bleach – The diversity of the female cast in Bleach is less about portraying a wide array of different characters and more about the ‘offering something for everyone’ approach that anime/mangas with large ensemble casts use to give more ‘types’ for male fans to latch onto. While the soul reapers are all of various implausible immortal ages, Orihime is supposed to be 15 or something.

Gundam – In the older shows, not a lot of sex happens, but there is a fair amount of out of place nudity of the “Oh, how embarrassing, the main character saw me naked! *v*” variety. In the first two series, nothing would’ve been lost with these scenes’ omissions. We may not have got the Isle of Kukurus Doan on the ‘uncut’ dvds, but we did get to see all three of female crew members topless.

Love Hina – Compared with some of the stuff that’s on manga shelves these days, Love Hina seems incredibly innocuous and tame. Still, being a manga by Ken Akamatsu, there’s going to be lots of panty-shots and undetailed nudity. While the characters ‘grow up’ and are mostly in their early 20s by the end of the series, many of the girls are highschoolers at the start of the series.

Negima – Despite the high fantasy tropes, Negima is unabashed and unashamedly pornography. It should be noted that almost all of the female characters are middle-schoolers.

Neon Genesis Evangelion – Lots of nudity going on here, largely from characters who are supposed to be 14ish. Of course much of the show is about psychoanalysing the sexuality of pubescent teenagers and can almost be seen as a literalist interpretation of Deleuze & Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus on top of the Kabbalistic occidentalism. But at some point, you need to take a step back and realize you’re watching a show about kids awkwardly (and sometimes graphically) coming to terms with their sexual desires and gratifications.

One Piece – I’m not as familiar with this one, only having seen an episode or two, but it takes a ton of space on the shelves at Barnes & Noble, and the thing I notice most about it are that the girls are pretty much sticks with giant boobs.

School Rumble – This is a pretty fun show/manga, and there’s really not a lot wrong with it, especially compared with other romantic comedies, but the characters are highschoolers. At some point, one needs to break away from one’s desire to relive highschool. Especially when it comes to romance. It doesn’t grow up with the reader, which can be a problem with long running series that stay focused on the crushes and obsessions of teenagers.

And yes, some of the titles I mention above I used to really like but I finally just had to say ‘damn!’, put on the breaks, and take note of just how fucked up so many of these things are, especially when taken into account of our already highly pornified culture. And after taking note, I can say “I am done with manga and anime”.

*: I don’t know if it’s true or not, but there’s an urban legend that producers originally pressured to add pornographic scenes to Project A-ko because they were afraid that it wouldn’t do well in the US without them.  Supposedly, this is also the reason for the rape scene in Mezzo Forte.

Puzzling Over the Cosplay Paradox

I saw this, which led me to this, which made me ponder this:

Many of the designs of female characters were created specifically to be sexualized objects.  What Laura Mulvey’s essay on film and the male gaze says about movies applies in spades for the mediums of comic and animation, where female characters are literally objects created by and large by and for males .

If male artists and creators are contributing to and participating in rape culture by designing these over-sexualized and objectified female characters, are female cosplayers who choose to portray these sex object characters as a part of their hobby also contributing to rape culture through their celebration of these characters and their objectifying designs?

Avoiding victim blaming creates an interesting paradox:

If an image or portrayal of women is harmful to women, but it cannot be harmful to women if a woman is portraying the harmful image, how can we say it’s harmful without engaging in victim blaming? If the image is not allowed to be called out as harmful to women when emulated by women, can we say the image was harmful in the first place?

Is it the real woman with ‘boobs hanging out’, as it is so crudely put, or created object image of a woman with ‘boobs hanging out’ being emulated that we have a problem with?

There’s a conundrum in certain lines of modern feminist thought when someone has a problem with the created image but is unable to criticize celebration of the image by the very person that is victimized by or because of the created image when that person is victimized because the victim is not allowed a role in their victimhood. Therefore, creators of harmful images are able to hide behind the victimhood of others, those who are unwittingly playing a role in the culture that has made them victims by celebrating those characters who exist to objectify women.

God, feminism is rife with terrifying logic puzzles! Feel free to use any of this if there is an evil robot you need to destroy.

And NO, this is NOT an endorsement of or post in favor of victim blaming or victim shaming, playing devil’s advocate or anything like that. Just an attempt to articulate a confusing existential problem that faces the geek community with no solutions proposed or implied.