Summer Split One — #3: Inside

Summer Split One #3

(trigger warning for rape and sexual assault!)

Free! Episode 5

gallifreyians: I wouldn’t say that much actually happens in this episode of everyone’s favorite swimming anime.

I would say though that we are five episodes in, and Makoto is still boring, flat, and lifeless — not only does he not seem to have any sort of character development or motivations, but our Mako really doesn’t even have a personality. At this point he is just that bishi who smiles with his eyes shut.

The teasing of Mako’s past bad experiences with the ocean appear to be promising however, as Mako reliving a traumatic experience may not only give us some more insight into his backstory, but also into basic things like his personality. If one thing about this show has been weak, it’s been Mako — and the fact that KyoAni seems to have recognized this and are making an attempt to fix that is promising and only serves to raise my expectations of the show.

Uchouten Kazoku Episodes 4-5

gallifreyians: It is that time of the anime season where I find myself biting my tongue; I don’t want to say it, but I have to: Natasha was right, Uchouten Kazoku is most definitely the best show of the season.

Everything about Uchouten exists to make it endearing to the audience; the opening, characterization, interactions, and plot, animation, and atmosphere all exist to make all of the characters pop in non-gimmicky ways and become real humans with complex moralities, personalities, and motivations in the eyes of the audience — which has worked so far! I find that a large part of how endearing the characters have become to me stems from the character-driven nature of the show. Seeing Yasaburou fuck up with the Inner Parlor and the Raijin fan and then choose to run away from Benten combines plot momentum with characterization, and creates a really subtle way through which we can appreciate Yasaburou’s personality. I think that this blend of character and plot is the core of the show’s quality and is something that I now realize is also put to use by Natsume Yuujinchou. Obviously the lack of overarching plot can be an issue, and Uchouten may suffer from being aimless as a result, but knowing that this approach has worked before in virtually all of the seasons of Natsume in some capacity gives me hope for the future of Uchouten Kazoku.

As for the plot though, there are some plot-heavy questions that the series needs to address, such as the history of the relationship between Benten and Yasaburou — why does there exists such animosity between Benten and Yasaburou when they were clearly shown to have an amicable relationship in the flashback in the first episode and why is Benten apart of the Friday Fellows (who seem to position themselves as superior to the tengu and tanuki)? I don’t think that the show would benefit from using flashbacks to tell us what happened, but nevertheless I think that it is something that does need to be touched upon since it seems to form the basis of the relationship between Yasaburou and Benten right now.

Uchouten is a pure delight, and while I don’t really ever know what I want out of it as I go into each episode, I can tell you that this show always delivers it. If at this point you aren’t watching Uchouten Kazoku, you are missing out on one of the most enjoyable series I’ve watched in a long while.

illegenes: There is just something so immensely charming about Uchouten Kazoku. From the way it respectfully treats its characters, to the entrance of the OP and conclusion of the ED, to the way it portrays the humanity of characters regardless of their motives or positions – the series really knows how to sit down and show how people interact while being rooted in a fantasy setting. Uchouten knows how to laugh, smile, and be a little emotionally wistful when the time calls for it, as we see in both Episodes 4 and 5. Episode 4 is probably one of the most entertaining and creative comedies I’ve seen this year in anime, as we see the Ebisugawas and our tanuki family go face to face in battle with firework attacks.  I don’t think I’ve laughed that hard in a while. Behind the chuckles however, is a really warm theme that I enjoy most about the show: how this family basically says, “To hell with tanuki customs!” and throws them out the door. And you know what? That’s perfectly okay. They love being with each other, they love living life, and it’s just so delightful.

This surreality continues into the next episode as we focus back on Benten and the mysterious Friday Fellows; the ‘evil organization’ that was responsible for killing off Yasaburou’s father. You’d have thought that the Friday Fellows were similar to some kind of Japanese mafia – hiding in the shadows, manipulative and devious just like Benten. On the contrary, they’re ridiculous quirky humans who enjoy general past times like eating and drinking. Yasaburou provides entertainment and even gets along with the cast of human beings who killed his very own father. He’s not necessarily super comfortable with the idea of his kind being nothing but a mere delicacy for this group, but at the same time, he does enjoy the company. One of the most interesting parts of the show is brought up through food, ironically. We first hear The Professor exclaiming that as much as he likes tanuki – thinking that they are cute and fascinating animals – he still loves to eat them. Eating tanuki and enjoying them as they are are not inclusive properties, he mentions, and Yasaburou is confused.

This is in contrast with Benten, who likes Yasaburou to the point where she wants to eat him. Tanuki eating is not a simple hobby or delicacy for Benten. Benten must intersect the two; she too, is in love with a tanuki, but unlike the Professor, who is able to separate his love for tanuki and his desire to eat them (granted, the Professor would probably never allow himself to eat Yasaburou’s mother if she revealed herself), Benten’s logic is consequential; it is because she like Yasaburou that she wants to eat him. This reveals that Benten might just be the most shark-like out of the Friday Fellows. It’s a bit scary, but more than anything, it’s sad because it’s a restraint. There’s a kind of Nanami-like feeling here, with Benten almost trying to say to Yasaburou that she doesn’t want to be a monster – trapped in this realm of surreality where she is a human, in love with a tanuki (talk about star crossed lovers) – but to deny that would be to deny herself. It is this dialogue however, that turned out to be my most favorite in the show other than Yasaburou’s confession as to how great his mom was. It was raw, poignant and beautifully done, and it’s these kind of moments that Uchouten Kazoku really sells itself on – moments I hope to see more of.

Next week seems to be a continuation of this as Benten takes both the Professor and Yasaburou up to the rooftop. I’m really looking forward to more of these interactions – they’re so fascinating and really give us an insight on Benten’s character! It’ll also mark the halfway point for Uchouten, which is a little sad to me, considering how fast these past episodes have gone and how much I’m really enjoying the show.

WataMote Episodes 4-5

illegenes: I…I have issues with Episode 4. You probably know why: in anime, there are always borders and lines that are drawn. These lines are often crossed with no respect to the point where we, as an audience, have come to expect such a thing. This regular trespassing comes in the form of many things: a rape joke in Tonari being passed off as merely humorous, or in BTOOM where it’s a mark of manliness and the protagonist’s growth. We’ve become so accustomed to seeing these kind of jokes being made that they stop being offensive and start becoming natural. What I enjoyed about Watamote was that it treaded the fine line between offensive/embarrassing and hilarious. I enjoyed that fine line because it takes incredible restraint, exploitation, and execution to make fun of social anxiety while understanding that at the same time, it’s not really something to make fun of. In episode 4, this takes a turn for the downright uncomfortable, unfunny, and just really awkward.

Tomoko’s frame of mind at this point is extremely unhealthy.  I don’t know if that was the underlying message of the first half of Episode 4 – that molestation is terrifying and something that doesn’t make you popular, but a victim. I don’t know of Watamote is the kind of show that would offer some kind of subtle commentary on sexual assault and talk about how it’s a frightening act of violence. What I do know is that I felt very awkward and violated during these minutes – not that I’ve ever been sexually assaulted, but even then, I know the feeling all to well of not being able to go anywhere because of a fear for being attacked. It’s something I’ve grown up with – that all girls have in a sense, grown up with, and when a show makes light of it and tries to turn it into a joke, I have serious issues with that. I didn’t feel the idea that this was a topic to be avoided at all, like Watamote usually does with social anxiety and as a result, this stunt didn’t funny at all. It was just painful. I didn’t laugh at any moments; I was quiet, biting my lip and trying to look away. In the end I couldn’t, and at that point I realized Watamote had stopped being a comedy and had become something offensive. It took away my enjoyment and made me nearly drop the show.

Luckily, Episode 5 sets us back into the rhythm that is Watmote: funny, painfully embarrassing, and dramatically tragic.  I have completely been in Tomoko’s place regarding Starbucks and ordering, so that bit came off as even more hilarious and empathetic to me (not the adding honey and chocolate syrup part though, yikes Tomoko).  The second bit regarding ‘going into the underworld and becoming a prostitute’ interestingly wasn’t as awkward as the molestation part in episode 4. There’s a clear difference between wanting to be sexually assaulted and then participating in sex work, so for me this wasn’t uncomfortable as it was funny and slightly uncomfortable as Tomoko comes to understand just what kind of responsibilities the job entails. Even more fun was how just before Tomoko prided herself for being in a different world from her peers (which may be true) when really, she’s just as much of regular schoolgirl as the rest of them.

I still enjoy the first ED more, but I am getting used to the second ED as well. I think Watamote still has that brilliance to it, but I’d rather go without seeing another offensive topic being exploited for comedy’s sake. We’ve had enough of that – no need to get so appalling, yeah?

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3 responses to “Summer Split One — #3: Inside

  1. Free! is like popcorn to me. I have trouble being critical of it and I end up just enjoying the show. Am I having a double standard? If this show was gender-swapped, would I bash it into the ground? I think there’s a little of that, but also that the people at Kyoani are pretty good at making you gloss over their shortcomings. Damn you, me!

    About Watamote, I think its pretty clear that the message is that molestation is not something to be desired or made fun of, but rather the mindset that people are bragging about their bad experiences. (Though in my high school experience, I’ve seen some do it to get attention, but generally, it underlines other problems.)

    However I completely agree with you that Tomoko crosses the line to a downright harmful mindset and the point at which she needs assistance. The second part of episode 5 is basically the same joke, but made with a lot more restraint, taste and less unfortunate implications. They should just have dropped the other one.

    • There is no double standard in place with Free!. If the show was gender-swapped, it’s treatment by both KyoAni and the fanbase would be COMPLETELY different. If the main cast of Free! was women, they would be rendered empty vessels for male pleasure by the writing and directing, with no sense of individuality or substance. If Free! was cast by women, the creators and consumers wouldn’t care about the plot, or if there was even a plot to begin with. If Free! was cast by women, the fanservice would be endless and detract from every scene. Women in society are oppressed and robbed of their rights to be represented as human beings in media — and as Haru, Mako, Nagisa, and Rei are men, they are not subject to these things. Even if they are objects of fanservice, the way it is presented doesn’t subtract from the narrative of the show nor from the narrative of the individual characters.

      tl;dr There is no double standard because the boys aren’t treated as horribly as if they were women. Obviously if the cast of the show was gender-swapped you would have a problem with it, because it would just add to the oppression and misrepresentation of women in media. But the cast is guys, so there is no history of oppression and misrepresentation to be added upon.

      • Don’t worry, I know that. I was joking about how I tend to just eat up whatever Free! throws at me, and I was wondering if I would be more critical of the show’s presentation (fanservice) and objective quality if the show had the ubiquitous all female cast. Sort of how I’ve been cutting the fanservice and characterization some slack where I may not have in another show.

        I am very much aware that Free! doesn’t treat it’s characters the same way it would with a cast of women. The show already stands above other similar shows because it doesn’t fall into the same “trappings” as those male-oriented animes.

        So, no worries. I am not actually saying there is no difference between Free! and Dead or Alive beach volley. I can very much tell which one has respect for its characters.

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