Saturday, November 18, 2006

I Don't Like Batman

It's occured to me that I just don't like Batman. I mean, he's a great character, but, I dunno, I just don't read super-hero comics for normal guys with psychological issues beating up on street-level thugs -- I read them for people who fly around in colorful tights with frickin' lasers shooting out of their eyes.

The only time I ever really like Batman is when he's appearing with other super-heroes, like in the Justice League, taking on threats that normal humans would stand no chance against. Batman teaming up with Superman and Wonder Woman to kick an evil alien god's butt is one-thousand nine-hundred thirty-nine kinds of awesome. Batman in his own series tying up muggers is not.

And then there's the angst. MY PARENTS ARE DEAD, MY SIDEKICK IS DEAD... Jesus, man, get some damn therapy.

I'm also of the opinion that Batman simply is not complete without Robin, which is apparently an unpopular sentiment these days. Doesn't matter which Robin it is (though I have to say I like Dick Grayson better as Nightwing than I ever did as Robin) as long as he's there to keep Bruce's spirits up.

Meh. I'll take a Big Blue Boy Scout over a moody Dark Knight any day.

Fairyland Totalitarian

Here's an interesting article on Walt Disney and his totalitarian leanings. I hadn't been aware that he was such a dysfunctional individual, although considering his lifestyle I suppose it's not surprising.

Disney is not my favorite animator. I do have fond memories of several of his short films -- particularly the "Goofy the Everyman" cartoons of the '50s and '60s -- and I consider Fantasia one of the masterpieces of American animation, but as the man himself said, most of his output is little more than well-drawn corn. Warner Brothers' stable of animators, especially Chuck Jones, were far his superior in terms of artistic expression. Disney's influence on animation and world popular culture cannot be denied, however -- he was, after all, the inspiration for the likes of Osamu Tezuka (and by extension practically every Japanese animator and comicker in the last fifty years), and for that alone he deserves accolades.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Heroes Goes to the Refrigerator

Holy crap, a post that isn't about anime!

I've been really into this show Heroes on TV. It's got a cool premise, a good cast, and good acting. However, I'm getting seriously worried about the way it's handling its female characters.

I'm only a feminist in the most casual sense, but I've still got warning bells going off in my head. In the first three or four episodes, the cast's two female characters were both sexually assaulted, and in last night's ep, a woman was introduced and then killed off solely to provide one of the male characters with an impetus to use his powers (hello, Alex DeWitt!). One of the original female characters has been turned into a damsel in distress (I hate that "save the cheerleader" tagline), and in this episode only served as a motivator for her father's actions.

I'm not very erudite when it comes to political topics, which is why my weblog is pop-culture only, so I'll let other people go into more detail about the general wrongness of it all. I dunno... it had just been bugging me since the third ep, and I wanted it off my chest.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

When a Woman Loves a Turtle...

(Originally posted to my LiveJournal.)

Okay, this is all kinda weird, but... bear with me.

I've been going over some of my old video games, and doing a little thinking. (It should go without saying that I have too much free time on my hands.) In the early Super Mario Brothers games, the plot almost always consisted of Princess Peach Toadstool getting kidnapped by King Bowser of the Koopa, whereupon Mario and Luigi, the heroic Brooklynite plumbers, square off against Bowser's forces, infiltrate his holdings, and win the Princess back. It's a cliche at this point, and I'm sure a lot of female gamers are bothered by the rather sexist plot.

But let's take a harder look at Peach. She's been kidnapped by Bowser about six times now (Super Mario Bros., SMB: The Lost Levels, SMB 3, Super Mario World, Super Mario 64, and New SMB). Realistically, a woman who's been abducted so many times by the same guy would, I dunno, take some self-defense lessons, carry some mace around, and file a restraining order, but Princess Toadstool doesn't so much as beef up her security (not that the Toads could do much, but whatever). And besides that, look at Peach's record in other Mario games. In SMB 2, she accompanies the Mario Brothers herself in the liberation of SubCon from Wart's evil forces, and latter-day games such as Super Mario Kart, Super Mario Strikers, and (of course) Super Smash Brothers have proven that Peach is indeed a woman of action. Furthermore, the Mushroom Kingdom has been attacked by two other invaders -- Tatanga the Spaceman and Wario -- and neither of them was able to capture the Princess.

All of this has led me to a conclusion. The reason Bowser has abducted her so many times is not because of any particular skill on his part... but because Peach lets him kidnap her! Why would she do such a thing, you ask? The answer will shock you:

Peach is madly in love with Bowser!

It sounds insane, doesn't it? But think about it. Bowser's not such a bad guy. Sure he has a temper (and kickin' halitosis), and yeah, he's a giant turtle, but he's not evil. Bowser's never killed anyone. He's a brilliant military strategist, having successfully invaded the Mushroom Kingdom at least six times. He's also a family man, with eight or nine kids all eager to follow in his footsteps. He's just not very good with relationships, which is presumably why we've never seen his kids' mother, and why Peach inevitably tires of him and aids Mario in "rescuing" her. Then she goes back to dating Mario for a few more months or years before she gets bored with her humdrum mustachioed beau and, as Bowser invades yet again like clockwork, she lets herself get "kidnapped" once more. I doubt either Mario or Bowser is aware of just how seriously she's playing both of them.

But come now, you say. This has been going on for twenty years. Surely someone would figure it out by now. Well, look at Peach's entourage. Mario's a good, reliable, stand-up guy, but he's never been shown to be much of a thinker. (Sure, he's a doctor, but how do we know he even has a PhD? I bet Doctor Mario's a quack.) And as for Toad, he and the rest of his kind are all bred for nothing but servitude, so none of her retainers would have any idea. And of course there's Yoshi. Clearly, the woman intentionally surrounds herself with idiots. It's possible that Luigi knows, though... he's smarter than his brother. But being the shy fella he is, he'd never bring up such a sensitive subject, and besides, he's already courting Peach's sister Daisy, so he has no reason to care.

So there you go. Irrefutable proof that Peach is secretly carrying on a double relationship with both Mario and Bowser. Crackpot though it may seem at surface value, I think I've stated my case succinctly. You be the judge.

At the Risk of Sounding Like a Hopeless Fanboy...

Apparently, there's to be a second season of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, debuting in Fall '07. Effing stupendous, I say!

It wasn't a perfect show. There are some valid criticisms -- the show just wasn't quite as clever as it seemed to think it was. Suzumiya went to great lengths to point out the tropes and stereotypes of the anime ouvre ("the indispensible silent character", etc.), but it never quite got around to subverting them, resulting in fairly standard characters and plot. And poor Mikuru; Kyon never did stop Haruhi from abusing her.

Despite all that, though, Suzumiya wound up being my favorite show this year. Even if they were stock characters, I ended up loving the cast for their strong characterization. The quality of the animation was absolutely fantastic, especially for a TV series -- particularly this wicked musical number (check out the animation on the guitars and drums! yowza!!!).

I'm hoping for a few things from the next season. First, for the animation to be at least as good as the first season; second, for Mikuru to grow a spine; and third, and most importantly, for more show-stopping musical numbers!

So, get crackin', Kyoto Animation! Don't disappoint!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

On Japanese vs. American Animation

I suck at coming up with original post titles.

It struck me recently that the biggest difference between American and Japanese animation is variety. The thing is, both possess a kind of variety that the other lacks.

Note that this is all mere observation on my part as a viewer, with no actual research involved. If anyone reading this (any of the zero of you) can set me straight on any misconceptions, that'd be cool.

One of the things that sets anime (and I use "anime" solely to refer to national origin, not content, quality, or even art style -- i.e., any and all cartoons from Japan and from nowhere else) apart from American cartoons is that it's possible to create anime for practically any demographic, from little children to preteens to college students to adults, either male or female. Not that anime is particularly well-liked by Japan at large, remaining largely the purview of the geek subculture, but if there's a demographic to be found, chances are there's a cartoon aimed at them. It also comes in an extremely wide range of genres, from sci-fi to fantasy to horror to (my personal favorite) slice-of-life comedy/drama.

By contrast, American animation seems to play to very well-demarcated demographics: it's either light viewing fare for little kids or teenagers, or it's irreverent adult comedy. There's not nearly the same variety of genre or subject matter. However, American toons possess a different kind of variety: a variety of artistic, narrative, and directorial conventions. Despite its wide range of demographic appeal and subject matter, anime is practically always recognizably anime. From big round eyes and giant sweatdrops to more subtle keys like storytelling and direction, "Japanimation" has a definite set of standards. Even if you took away the visual element and just listened to the dialog in English, chances are that the discerning ear could still tell it was made in Japan. (A joke could be inserted here about the distinctively poor quality of the American dubbing industry, but I still have a big enough crush on Lisa Ortiz-as-Deedlit the Elf, so I'll let it go.) Conversely, there's no such homogeneity in American toons -- The Simpsons and South Park may both be satirical adult cartoons, but they're both very different beasts. This, I feel, is the American animation industry's greatest asset.