A quantitative reckoning of Koyomi Araragi’s effectiveness as a
protagonist, by ‘Monogatari Series’ arc
So one day I was sitting around, thinking that Monogatari Series seems
to have one of the most useless main characters, well, ever. In terms of
making his friends’ lives better, at least, even if he is a premier
source of banter and horrifying losses of bodily integrity. In fact,
Araragi seems to be the source of his friends’ troubles more often
Well, what better way to test this hypothesis than with numbers? We’ll
give Araragi one point for every arc where the solution wouldn’t have
happened without him, and take one away in each case where the problem
et cetera as above. I’ll go in anime order.
Araragi introduces Senjougahara to Oshino. Let’s give him some credit.
None of the arc would happen without Araragi skulking around the park
trying to avoid his family, and Hachikuji finally gets home and stops
being so angry. Yes, Araragi isn’t very helpful when it comes to
actually finding the place, but let’s not nitpick.
Not only would there be no problem in the first place but for Araragi,
but his new girlfriend also has to save him from literal disembowelment.
You could loosely argue that Nadeko’s infatuation with Araragi is an
indirect cause of the conflict, but it’s not essential.
See Suruga Monkey, above, except replace “new girlfriend” with “new
vampire shadow familiar.”
Araragi doesn’t do much here.
Eh, well, Araragi kind of solves the problem with his sword fuckery.
Jealousy again, but at least Araragi shuts this one down hard.
Fucks up the world, then unfucks it.
Definitely number one on the list of Araragi fuckups.
Araragi’s basically the sole reason Hachikuji sticks around for so long,
and he refuses to let her pass on until the very end. Big minus.
This arc is just the tail end of Nadeko Medusa. Though it’s tempting,
it’s not really fair to penalize Araragi for the same thing twice.
No, Araragi’s little pep talk in the middle doesn’t count as essential.
I barely even remember what happens in this arc, but I do know it’s
I guess Araragi could have spoken up, but why put that responsibility
solely on him?
You were supposed to notice sad Oikura in the corner!
Araragi doesn’t solve the problem. Really, nothing gets solved. This is
a pretty tragic, difficult arc.
Jealousy yet again! Araragi really knows how to step on some toes, but
at least he’s learning how to fix things.
This arc is a pretty clear victory for Araragi. Well, if you ignore
Hanekawa getting kidnapped, which he solves, so let’s call that part a
Hm. Uh… well, guess I was right.
The back-end theory
Video games have more than their share of, let’s say, unrealistically
well-endowed female characters. The common refrain invoked in defense of
these character designs is that the depictions of men as tall, trim, and
muscled are no closer to the truth. Usually, the counterargument then
proceeds to how the physical traits given to male characters are
reasonable in most settings, while those given to females are have no
such justification and can only be explained by sexual objectification,
and so on.
I’d like to present Keijo!!!!!!!! as a different sort of rebuttal. It
takes the “T&A is just the feminine version of buff” line of thought to
its logical conclusion, by putting on shounen calling-your-attacks
fights that exclusively use those breasts and buttocks. In this world, a
woman can launch an opponent dozens of meters in the air with just her
butt and the right training. This is, however, clearly not the case in
reality. It follows that the aforementioned depictions of men and women
are not unrealistic in the same way, at least not in the world we as the
viewers live in.
So, yeah, QED or whatever.
Japan Statistics Bureau: Nearly 100% of Anime Voice Actors Without Obviously Accented English Remain Jobless
CHIYODA, Tokyo, Japan — Employment opportunities for anime voice actors
with native-sounding English continued to hover near zero in the month
of October, according to figures released Friday by the Ministry of
Internal Affairs and Communications. Jobs numbers remained stubbornly
low in spite of government initiatives targeted at the hiring of
competent English speakers, including the addition of characters who
“basically screamed for someone with better English than a potato,”
according to an anonymous source inside the Ministry of Economy, Trade,
In one prominent failure, the role of Kouki Saiki, a Japanese returnee
from an English-speaking country in this season’s WWW.Working!!, ended
up going to voice actor Yoshimasa Hosoya, whose English has a distinctly
Japanese flavor. “For this to happen when Saiki’s native language was
explicitly changed to English, from the Web manga’s original Korean, is
nothing short of a complete repudiation of the program. It’s as if no
one in the industry cares,” said Kenzou Takamiya, professor of labor
studies at Tokyo University.
The Statistics Bureau expects the hiring of VAs who don’t need a
katakana reference for English text to remain low in the coming months,
especially given the now-likely demise of the multilateral Trans-Pacific
Partnership trade agreement, or TPP. Provisions in the TPP would have
lowered barriers to work visas for Japanese Americans seeking voice
roles in anime, but the election of the staunchly anti-trade Donald
Trump as president of the United States has effectively closed the
possibility of the deal’s ratification.
Reaction from English-speaking anime fans has been muted, with some
expressing disbelief that voice actors’ Japanglish was ever a concern.
“I don’t think I’ve ever noticed,” said 33-year-old Kent Wentworth of
Toledo, Ohio. “I mean, it all sounds like Japanese to me. I’m too busy
reading the subtitles to really pay attention to their voices anyway.”
Some notes on the Windows version of ‘Zero Time Dilemma’
As you might imagine, given that the game was primarily developed
for the 3DS and Vita, the system requirements listed on
Steam are overkill. I
mean, 8 GB RAM? A GTX 650 or HD 7700 with 1 GB VRAM at minimum? It
was almost playable in a VirtualBox instance that requires software
emulation of DirectX 11! I’d guess most any computer released in the
past three years, and even some older ones, should be able to run
Zero Time Dilemma with few issues. Just turn down the resolution
and antialiasing if you run into problems.
Speaking of settings, the game’s launcher is a Node.js app using the
Electron framework. Seems like overkill for something that’ll only
ever run on Windows, doesn’t it? Hmm.
There are a few UI artifacts indicating the game’s origin as a
handheld console port, most visibly the mentions of hardware buttons
on the menu screens. Since the 3DS supports stylus input, which
translates well to a mouse, the mildly lazy conversion doesn’t hurt
gameplay that much. It’s a little irritating to have to use the
on-screen keyboard for puzzles that require text input, though.
Much hay has been made of Zero Time Dilemma’s introduction of
random elements to the typical visual novel choice system, but I
suspect that they’re not in fact all that random. I’d love to hear
from anyone who doesn’t get the dice roll in exactly three attempts,
for instance. Yeah, when you know what the odds would actually be,
they sure feel awfully hopeless, but it’d be pretty stupid for the
game to insist on adhering to them.
Did somebody say something about Miyuki Sawashiro? No? Oh. I just
thought… well. Another time, maybe. clears throat
Really, the most jarring thing about Zero Time Dilemma, coming
from the first two games in the Zero Escape series, is the shift
to fully-3D cutscenes. It’s a far more demanding mode of
presentation than the models of Virtue’s Last Reward, which
animated a small palette of gestures and nothing else, let alone the
visual novel–style 2D sprites from Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine
Doors. Unfortunately, Zero Time Dilemma’s visuals hint that the
budget wasn’t increased to match. This is especially noticeable in
the PC version, where the low-resolution textures and plasticky
character animations stick out like a sore thumb.
Which is a real shame, because Rui Tomono did a great job with
reinterpreting the character designs for this final game in the
trilogy. They do lose the more baroque fluorishes of Kinu
Nishimura’s work from the first two installments, but that’s in
keeping with the generally more subdued mood of Zero Time Dilemma.
Gone are the moments of calm that housed comedic bits like Junpei’s
cat-related verbal tic. It shows that Koutarou Uchikoshi has learned
how to preserve the sense of urgency throughout a story. Contrast
this with the interludes of chicken sandwiches and kick-the-can
games in Ever17 — though the newfound seriousness can occasionally
get rather suffocating.
Between the replacement of visual novel narration with cutscenes and
the leaner plot, Zero Time Dilemma cuts a third to a half off the
playtime of Virtue’s Last Reward. It’s hard not to feel a little
disappointed by how the game pulls back on throwing revelations out
of left field, even though it makes sense for the last game in a
series like this one — especially this one — to try and wrap up
all of the loose ends it’s introduced. Still, the basic framework of
an Uchikoshi story hasn’t changed: you get yourself very confused,
and in doing so you manage to save the lives of all of the main
characters. It doesn’t even merit a spoiler warning at this point,
but I’m fine with that. The journey is what counts.
Shows I thought were cool in 2015
It’s been too long, but I don’t really have much to say, so let’s have
another list like I did two years ago.
Maybe this time with some more words.
In approximate order from best to even better.
Your Lie in April (Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso). The premise invites
comparisons to Nodame Cantabile, which I think do this show a
disservice — it never professes to be as mature or as musically
rigorous, and holding it to that standard is rather unfair. While
the dramatic turns do sometimes get predictable and circuitous, the
show’s most beautiful moments make up for that. Yes, the intense
swells of the score help.
Prison School. On the flip side, this is a series that no one in
their right mind would take seriously at first glance. If you can
get over its unabashed attachment to the lowbrow, though, you’ll be
floored by how tightly the narrative is constructed, how the
characters play off each other, and how the lewd, lurid, and
juvenile actually fit into a plot where everyone seems to be a
chessmaster. Prison School is the sort of work that lulls you into
low expectations before proceeding to ambush you with competence.
Or, as I put it on
some anime are junk food, this is Alton Brown teaching you how to
Noragami Aragoto. Where the first series is overly focused on the
whiny teenage rebellion of Yukine, played a bit too pitch-perfectly
by Yuuki Kaji, the sequel gives us the shounen battles of wills
that we waited a whole season to see. The evolving rivalry between
Yato and Bishamon serves as the foundation for the rest of the
show’s events, and it gives us a great sense of scale as other
conflicts around them get broader and nastier. My only
disappointment is with the ending theme, which isn’t quite as good
as the last one. Alas, you can’t win ’em all.
My Love Story!! (Ore Monogatari!!). It’s what love would be like
if love were about being as masculine as possible while
simultaneously being as shoujo as possible. This sounds clearly
self-contradictory, but much like with Monthly Girls’ Nozaki’s
anarchic approach to shoujo clichés, it’s why the show works. The
more ridiculous moments, like the protagonist saving his girlfriend
from a literal falling I-beam by just holding it up, give the
romance room to breathe without suffocating on an excess of
self-seriousness. At the same time, My Love Story!! never stoops
to mocking its characters — it really is just love, with a good old
infusion of very hot blood.
Shirobako. It’s an anime about anime, which could have been a
horrible exercise in navel-gazing, but ends up being the closest
thing to genuinely fun edutainment that the medium has given us
since Moyashimon. (If only the word “edutainment” didn’t sound so
stupid.) We get an only-moderately-exaggerated sense of how the
sausage is made, while P.A. Works gets in a sly wink and a nod about
the foibles of themselves and their competitors. Seriously, did
anyone not immediately think of Akiyuki Shinbou and Madoka?
Working!!! Just as fun as the first two seasons, except things
actually happen. I’d ordinarily shy away from spoilers, but come on,
we all know who’s finally shacking up. The important part is that
the warm, fuzzy moments come without betraying the adorably neurotic
personalities of the characters we’ve come to love. Or at least
laugh at in twenty-four-minute increments.
Owarimonogatari. I’ve mentioned before that my ability to
objectively evaluate the quality of any Monogatari Series
installment has probably long been compromised, but this installment
really does strike me as another high note, after the mildly muddled
mess that is the Tsukimonogatari miniseries. Marina Inoue, mostly
known for playing boisterous characters like Minami-ke’s Kana,
balances out her performance as Sodachi Oikura with a remarkable
vulnerability and nuance. The show’s second arc doesn’t shine quite
as brightly, but still brings enough twists and turns to keep us
wanting more — and, of course, that typographically-endowed flair
isn’t going anywhere.
See you in 2017! You should watch Erased, because unless it totally
squibs its ending, it’s going to be on this list then.
Also, I guess I lied about not having much to say.