My Experience Writing Fiction vs. Writing Non Fiction

Writing non-fiction for me is essentially an exercise in arguing with myself out aloud, it is quite easy to do without much effort as long as you have some topic and some data in mind, writing fiction, however, requires much more creativity not in coming up with the premise of the story, but in the execution of the premise through the characters, a coherent plot and dialogue which doesn’t break the immersion.

As I have already detailed at length I have an aversion towards morality plays and fiction that is generally made to preach or to make some point. I think that the essay form is good enough for that, but before criticising me on my stance I would suggest you to read the article I have linked above.

I generally find it more enjoyable to read fiction and write essays. However at the same time I don’t want to be relegated to the role of a mere critic and so I tried to write a novel of sorts which turned out to be a failure as I expected, I started writing it in third person person precisely because I did not want it to degenerate into a plotless internal monologue balancing the self-pity against the self-loathing with utmost care roughly peeling off the self-righteousness where the author-insert-protagonist uses the Socratic method to talk himself into a corner but that is how it ended up.

I also think there is a need to distinguish writing short fiction and long fiction, I personally find writing short fiction easier because it’s all about the shock value induced with some allegory, it’s not like I can’t take a premise to its logical conclusion, it’s just that I am too fast at getting to that conclusion which is fine when I write short fiction or essays but when I write something longer I am inevitably forced to start writing about a different but related subject and very soon the whole thing starts to feel formulaic even condescending like those short fairy tales with morals for children or the ‘moral lesson of the week’ scene at the end of the He-man cartoon (Even children know when they are being condescended to), at any rate it is boring, and being boring is the cardinal sin of writing. I am not saying that there cannot be a moral discussion in fiction but it shouldn’t feel forced and contrived and cheap like propaganda. Another problem I have encountered when writing long fiction is that it is too easy to inadvertently tell what the what the story is an allegory for, this is especially easy for someone who is more used to thinking about what other people write, in short form fiction even if you do tell what the story is an allegory for you can still try to play it off as the punchline to a long joke.

I have also tried on several occasions, to write what is known as ‘serial fiction’ because now thanks to the internet the serial format has become viable again as the cost to set up and distribute them is zero not counting any cost for advertising of course. A serial or a web serial is a story that is told in parts released in succession. It’s a bit like watching a tv series; It’s fun having to wait till the next part and think about what will happen next. You can find them on indexes like the one at topwebfiction.com and webfictionguide.com . The problem with the web serial format is that you have to come up either with some sort of cliffhanger or conclusion at the end of each chapter, all of which should lead to a specific ending. Coming up with a premise is easy but then it is an uphill battle afterwards. Every chapter is a story with a beginning and an end contributing to the whole towards some end.

I have mostly written about the difficulties about writing fiction but there are some difficulties to writing non-fiction too, first of all it is hard to gauge the tone that is appropriate which can sometimes lead to self-censoring and tasteless prose, sometimes the tone I am writing in changes from article to article without even me thinking about it whereas it is easier to carry an even in fiction. Superficially it might seem like research is more of a problem when writing non fiction but I have found out that it is much easier to labour on the same point when writing non-fiction by using analogies, given some general analysis, stating the same thing in more memorable ways at the end, starting the essay with some quotations. On the whole it is easier to start writing an essay and thereafter doing the research as questions pop into my mind whereas writing fiction is all about preparation, it feels very unnatural and so immersion breaking when authors try to retcon some half-forgotten plot point half-way through the story. Basically when writing non-fiction I can do the research as I am writing but when I am writing fiction I need to prepare a lot and it is easier to get stuck in the preparation stage for a long time and give up but even that is better than starting to write a story and going off on a tangent with no preparation (As web serials go on and on this preparation stage becomes even more imperative and continuous because readers will notice if I am trying to tell the same story over and over again every chapter). With all that said it is easier to expose someone’s lies including my own when they are written as a straightforward direct argument in essay form.

Another issue when it comes to writing non-fiction as I have just noticed is coming up with a conclusive conclusion and the ending when it comes to fiction, I can’t just abruptly leave the reader hanging up on a peak with an abrupt pause in my voice, an essay needs to be punctuated with a conclusion just like a sentence ought to be with a fullstop. Actually it may even be more vital than the punctuation itself. I am really bad when it comes to these, it’s as if after I have said everything that’s on my minds backlog my mind is suddenly empty and my hands abruptly stop typing, and then I have to think a bit about what I have written so far, an end up inserting sort of forced repeat of the intro. I always feel satisfied when my train of thoughts ends at a point when I can safely end an essay without aborting it. A tell-tale sign that the I was not simply bothered to write a conclusion and simply wanted to end the essay either because I was tired or ran out of ideas or had written myself into a corner but didn’t know how to end it is when I start the conclusion with ‘In conclusion’ and restate the premise of the argument in a slightly altered way.

At any rate, at any rate, I have been writing ‘at any rate’ too much lately, I think I picked up those three words from Orwell and I have been taking them along with me too often – oh repetition is bad, so there’s that – but I digress… Endings. As the youtube anime reviewer GRArkada used to say ‘The Ending is Paramount’ in fiction, oh no wait he actually still says it in a video he uploaded two days ago(It’s his catchphrase, forgive me for being such a self-indulgent internet geek). Anyway the beginning of a story of a story is important to get people to read my stuff but the endings greatly affect what the final verdict of the reader which will inevitably affect the popularity of my story. They say the journey matters more than the destination but if the ending is a meaningless rushed clusterfuck, or if there is no ending at all like the infamous anime adaptation ‘read the light-novel/manga/VN-source material’ endings or when the author writes himself into a corner, this gravely affects the re-readability of the story too. It can be hard to write an ending after the climax, this is very evident in detective novels where the author simply doesn’t know what to do with the detective and so sends him to drink coffee at a caffè with his lobotomized-ask-man-reader-self-insert-assistant or ends the story with a lot of unsatisfying exposition about what happened to the characters later which looks like its straight out of an outline and so feels contrived (Look at the ending of David Copperfield). The ending is the seal on the story, those ‘life went on afterwards imagine it yourself because I am not bothered to write it’ endings are simply not good enough, especially those by Rumiko Takahashi(Seriously why didn’t she write a proper ending for Ranma? It felt like it was all for nothing, my childhood). A bad ending is vague and leaves a lot of questions (I am looking at you Neon Genesis Evangelion – EoE saved it though), a good ending takes the narrative to its logical conclusion and a very good ending can salvage even a show that is complete bollocks (the classic example for this is the ending of season 2 of Code Geass but now they are trying to milk it with a third season so I am not sure it counts). In conclusion, a bad ending to a story is worse than a bad conclusion to an essay, because even though a null conclusion feels like it ends abruptly the rest of the essay still retrospectively counts but a bad ending retrospectively spoils the whole of the story.

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Reflections On the Craft of Reviewing Fiction and Reviewing Anime in Particular as Well

“He is a man of thirty-five, but looks fifty. He is bald, has varicose veins and wears spectacles, or would wear them if his only pair were not chronically lost. If things are normal with him he will be suffering from malnutrition, but if he has recently had a lucky streak he will be suffering from a hangover. At present it is half past eleven in the morning, and according to his schedule he should have started work two hours ago; but even if he had made any serious effort to start he would have been frustrated by the almost continuous ringing of the telephone bell, the yells of the baby, the rattle of an electric drill out in the street, and the heavy boots of his creditors clumping up and down the stairs. The most recent interruption was the arrival of the second post, which brought him two circulars and an income-tax demand printed in red.” – Confessions of a Book Reviewer, George Orwell

What is the point of book/anime/game reviews? Well, they are recommendations (i.e.‘read this book, don’t watch that anime for it is trash’). The reason people read reviews at first is just because they want to know what to watch and what to not watch to save their time as well as their patience. The obvious danger of relying too much on reviews and on other people’s opinions about fiction is that you will effectively have your opinion about fiction dictated to you (Examples of this include the visceral hatred many seem to display for the Twilight saga and the Transformers films). Another more subtle issue is that the relationship between you and that work of art ceases to be purely personal and it instead becomes communal. This has been made worse by the internet I think as you are only a google search away from other people’s opinions about fiction, even obscure fiction. There are many advantages of course to this communal environment for example if you use a listing website with user reviews like myanimelist or rottentomatoes you can quickly gauge if a title is so bad that it isn’t worth checking it out and for the more creative souls there is an audience to display their fan creations on websites like fanfiction.net, youtube, archiveofourown etc… I think that perhaps what push people to take this extra effort is not just the work of fiction by itself but the opinions surrounding it, one way to judge a piece of fiction is to look at its fandom, this is rather unfair I think because the work of fiction should be able to stand on its own. For example the rampant speculation and fan theories in the Evangelion fandom perhaps reveal that the show was not clear enough on its themes or plot (Don’t crucify me I love Eva but I don’t like how one has to look at outside sources from the series to understand what is going on). All of this said I think that the biggest thing lost by reading reviews is that element of surprise, of opening a book and not knowing whether you will like it and then being pleasantly surprised, of starting to watch an anime without knowing what it’s going to be about, not a single plot point and then being mesmerized by a beautiful story, of picking up a manga just by glancing at its artwork etc… I have personally gotten used to reading reviews and do not watch anything unless it has been recommended to be by at least a half decent source like a MAL rating a few months after a show has aired. I have a low tolerance for trash shows, eight years ago I watched and read anything that I could get my hands on and I enjoyed it but now my tastes have become much more restricted after watching too much anime.

So far I have only talked about reviews from the perspective of the reader but what about the reviewer? I think that writing a review, just as writing in general, helps to cement a certain a view about a piece of work and also other similar works although at other times reviews are nothing more than bookmarks in time as your opinions may vary over time out of your control (the scary thing about changing your mind, as Peter Hitchens puts it in a different context, is that often you can’t stop it,). I have seen people regret their opinions in reviews they wrote a long time ago (e.g. Gigguk on his negative Evangelion review although I am not certain of this, I am basing this on some comments on his video about saying that on a Podtaku podcast).

Should you read reviews of the stuff you are going to review?

Well that is a tricky question, reading reviews can lead to simply restating other peoples opinions in your reviews, in which case – what is the point(unless you are getting paid for it)? So I would like to say no but it is very tempting as you are sitting there wrecking your brain unable to start a review to do a simple google search to ‘look’ at what others are saying and then be disappointed that what you thought was your own original insight has already been pointed out by many before you even set it down in ink on paper or in pixels on a screen. I think it is alright to read some reviews before you watch something but not as you write the review, unless of course your review is a reply to someone else’s review.

Some people have different criteria like ‘sound’ ‘animation’ ‘plot’ ‘characters’ as a sort of guiding checklist to keep your review on point, I think MAL does have such a criteria which is regularly ignored and I can see why – I don’t really know that much about ‘sound’ or ‘animation’ and so on so my anime reviews often read like book reviews only concerned with the themes and the characters and plot unless the animation and sound aspects are so spectacular or so bad that even a lay person like me has something to say about them – this ‘book review’ effect is exacerbated by the fact that I am almost invariably reading subtitles when I watch anime because I do not know Japanese and I would rather listen to the saccharine squeaks of Japanese anime voice-actors rather than to Americans speaking in American (I am British), I am joking of course it’s just that the English dubs are not always available and they are not just translations but also adaptations of the Japanese source material, I wouldn’t exactly call myself a Japanophile (as I am primarily interested Japanese anime/manga/LN/VN/WN otaku culture and a little about the post-war politics, economy and the current demographic crisis and the geo-politcs brewing in the background or is it the foreground of it all?) but I guess I am otaku enough to want to know the untranslated references in anime, if it’s a series that I particularly like I will watch both the dubbed version and the subbed version provided they are both good (like the Steins; Gate dubs and subs) in some cases I also prefer dubs but I will address the old dubs vs subs debate in a separate post (although I admit I have nothing much to add to it but just to be thorough and for the views I will probably write about it). Any way the point is that ‘pre-set criteria’ approach to reviewing doesn’t work for me although I can see it works for reviewers like ‘GRArkada.’ I prefer a more ‘review based around one or two main themes of the work of fiction plus some comments about the characters and plot’ kind of approach – following my A-Level literature teacher’s advice to write a lot about a little – this can of course degenerate into pretentious overthinking where the reviewer/critic uses the fiction as a prop to talk about whatever he likes but if he keeps in mind that he is trying to tell someone whether to watch something or not I think that can lead to a more honest assessment of the fiction rather than a detailed checklist-like assortment to see whether a work of fiction meets certain ideological requirements of the reviewer.

Finally I would like to talk, well write about the ‘leach’-like nature of the reviewing business. When it comes to the internet and blogs in general the bloggers are leaching off some other ‘real’ medium, for example like how most internet alternative news outlets use traditional news outlets as their sources for information, a very similar thing can be said about the craft of reviewing as the reviewer in effect acts as a publicist for the shows he likes by recommending to the audience as a sort of middleman sorting out the good from the bad which is something useful but this doesn’t change the fact that they are not producing anything other than analysis and critique, and the question as to whether they would be able to create something that they could objectively exalt according to their own standards remains open, i.e. unanswered. I wouldn’t exactly call this hypocrisy but something less which I don’t have a word for but which is embodied in the thought ‘If you know what it takes for a great story then why don’t you make one? Oh is it because you can’t.’ Perhaps it is unfair to ask them this for it is not their role and so I haven’t but I can’t say I haven’t thought it and asked it from myself (which resulted in that dreadful novella I wrote and posted on this blog a few months ago and which perhaps for the best no one has read – no I am not indirectly asking you to read it using reverse psychology- don’t read it and don’t accuse me of asking you to). As you may have noticed all anime reviewers I have mentioned above (GR Arkada, Gigguk) are video bloggers on youtube rather than bloggers and that is because most popular anime reviewers are youtubers, this isn’t surprising given the visual nature of the anime medium and of course it is much more comfortable to listen to someone than read small text on a blog like this. Mother’s Basement(another anime reviewer on youtube) recently made a video noting how illegal anime streaming services like KissAnime are leaching off of the anime industry and I think he is right but in a way I think that bloggers and reviewers who depend on the anime industry are also in a way leaching off of it just like Journalists could be said to leach off of miserable events for their ratings and views. Of course it is different – anime reviewers are publicists for anime while illegal streaming websites… well they are popularizing anime as well, in effect a significant portion of Mother’s Basement viewership would be gone if websites like KissAnime would be gone because that is where his viewers go to watch anime. I guess then that it would be fair to say that Mother’s Basement and all other anime reviewers are leaching off of the illegal websites he was lambasting – KissAnime being the main one. But what is the point of this all? Well, I was watching a Japanese drama series called ‘Starblazers’ about Hideaki Anno et Gainax and a mangaka who saw himself as Anno’s rival when he was in university and I have read some interviews given by the self-proclaimed ‘Otaking’(not Anno but the guy who directed Otaku no Video) at the MIT website (Just search for ‘Rei anime MIT’ and you will find a page with all the links to the interviews), I guess it could be classed as an ‘inspirational story’ I mean the story of Studio Gainax rising above from nothing amid innumerable financial and other hardships and what struck a chord in me was his comments on how otaku in the age of the internet and computers feel that it is enough to create websites and create commentary because they can easily get that communal aspect of their hobby without exerting themselves to create original creations themselves. I think he was spot on, I do not deny the hard work done by the youtube reviewers sinking hundreds of hours into their work to make anime more accessible to mainstream audiences but are they really satisfied by being publicists for other people’s work? And secondly I don’t really think that video reviews which are time consuming to make really add anything substantial that is not present in written reviews except of course the ability to reach a larger audience which matters of course but just like modern anime the only thing that cleaner animation has provided only a shinier surface to the same(or worse) scripts.

The next paragraph is a short run-down of the deviations of my opinions about anime ‘classics’ and ‘masterpieces’ from the majority of critics I have read. I suggest you to skip it if you don’t know that much about anime.

My tastes are pretty conventional although there are times when I do disagree with the majority of the anime ‘community’(that is one word I hate) for example ‘Your Name’ (and for that matter ‘The Girl Who Leapt Through Time) are both silly simple romantic comedies with cute girls and with time travel as an unexplored plot ‘convenience’ device and nothing more (Watch ‘Steins;Gate’ one of the only good time travel anime which bothers to conjure up some sort of explanation and agency other than time travel for plot convenience) and most of Hayao Miyazaki’s works are to be blunt either environmentalist propaganda (even at his best I think in Princess Mononoke) or plainly boring ‘pretty colours’ like Spirited Away and lets not talk about his later bland works for which reason I think he retired. Or that ‘Ping Pong The Animation’ was aside from its unusual style was just the usual low stakes sports anime that has been done and redone worse since that baseball anime called ‘Touch.’ Finally ‘Kaiba’ is just another one of those shows that puts style over substance to mesmerize the senses of its viewers with its weird minimalistic cartoonish visuals in contrast with its ‘edgy’ ‘mature’ themes who will be distracted by how ‘forward looking’ ‘avant-garde’ it is to hide the poor boring characters, the quick and vague explanations etc… And let’s not even talk about that awful romance anime about cannibalistic monsters where the world was ending but the tension felt more fake than when watching a Hollywood blockbuster as I didn’t care about that fake world and even less about its two main characters. I think the problem that this director (and Miyazaki too to an extent) has is that he makes his characters run around too much to explore the weird settings which overshadow his characters whereas when he deals with a small cast in a confined setting he is much better like in the ‘Tatami Galaxy’ which for me was only rescued through its excellent ending(the last two or three episodes). Akira was just beautifully animated shock factor, to be frank it felt like an advertisement to read the much superior manga from which it was adapted from – but that’s not even an excuse, there just wasn’t enough time and the movie felt too long. The second Ghost in the Shell movie was just an exercise in quote mining different philosophers for a substitute for a proper script and some pretty colours, it wasn’t even that pretty.

Why Do I watch Anime?

Why do people do anything that they don’t need to do? Because it makes them happy and I suppose anime makes me happy. Different anime make me feel different things but I suppose that what I am seeking for through all of them (even through sadness) is pleasure. All of this is self-evident but I wrote it down just to be thorough. That said how does anime make me happy? Through:

Sexual titillation. Sometimes there can be too much of it, but then I stop noticing it when I see too much nudity I stop noticing it (like in Kill La Kill) but some things like the occasional boob-bounce never get old. Some people say they find panty-shots in action-scenes distracting, I barely notice them until they are pointed out to me and I am not displeased in any manner to the sexy and cute female characters in anime. Of course, I prefer it when there is something more but the reason that I find some of Hayao Miyazaki’s works like ‘Spirited Away’ to be snore-fests is the lack of sexualization (and the lack of tension, you know you are going to get a happy ending, the good characters are always right). Fan service for the win!
Humour. Anime is often chastised for being edgy and full of gore and violence and so on, but another characteristic is that most anime series have some comedy in them, true a lot of this humour is repetitive and after I had seen the same jokes for the first hundred times or so it got a bit boring (like the guys getting beat up by tsundere in Rumiko Takahashi’s comedies) and sometimes the humour can be misplaced right like in ‘Full-metal Alchemist: Brotherhood’ or in ‘Hellsing Ultimate’ breaking the immersion but occasionally you do get shows like Konosuba, Zetsubou no Sensei and even ecchi shows like MM! appeal to me. I like dark humour but the cheerful humour that you find in anime is a nice counterbalance to the violence IMO when used correctly.

Aesthetic Appreciation/Beauty, this is much harder to define, okay I like the large anime eyes, the silly high pitched voices of some characters even when they are annoying especially when they are annoying(Tututuru from Steins; Gate), it’s hard to describe but there are certain scenes like the battle scene of Asuka vs. the Eva series in the ‘The End of Evangelion’ and the last thirty minutes of that film that just look beautiful.
Plot – I mean storytelling. Modern anime especially light-novel adaptations are notorious for screwing up good creative premises by forgetting that execution is what matters the most, still when they get the latter right that’s when you get masterpieces.
Anime Characters – ‘Inspirational’ is a word that is being thrown around so much that it doesn’t mean anything much and in the cynic’s mind it sounds like a euphemism for its antonym, ‘let me show you this very very rare phenomenon which proves that the general rule will be suspended in your case’, well let me tell you a word that is also overused but hasn’t lost its meaning, that word is ‘cool’. Many anime characters (excluding almost all self-insert harem protagonists with broken powers) are cool. Characters like Yang-Wenli from Legend Of Galactic Heroes, Ueki Tylor from The Irresponsible Captain Tylor, Hikigaya Hachiman from My Youth Romantic Comedy is Wrong as I Expected are cool. And you may have a different opinion from mine but of course you would be wrong.

But why anime and not some other form of storytelling/art? As a matter of fact, I do sink in enough time in other forms of entertainment not from Japanese otaku culture but I admit that I find it easier to enjoy anime even when the quality of the storytelling isn’t that high whereas I am more strict when it comes to other forms of entertainment. I think that the reason for this is two-fold, on the one hand, I have been habituated to watching anime from a very long time but if I am allowed to speculate and be pretentious I would say that for me it reaches the nadir between distancing itself from the real world but also not being completely unrecognizable and alienating as I found most stuff from Hollywood and all the crime fiction on TV to be. I don’t know a lot of the stuff on TV felt too self-aware that there were people watching it(like the Simpsons) and the lines they spoke and the way they acted made the whole thing seem fake. Another thing that undoubtedly first got me into anime was that I didn’t feel I was being condescended to as most TV programming for children seems to do. If anime were made in South America or in England I would still watch it if it would still be the same it is today which it wouldn’t but that’s not the point.

My feelings towards anime have not remained constant over the years that have passed and over the hundreds of hours I have spent(or wasted, your pick) on this hobby, at first I was overwhelmed by the sheer diversity of stories in this medium but at the same time felt very attracted to the stereotypical bashful, stoic and honest characters which were set in stark contrast to the reserved manner in which people act in real life. I have never been a ‘weeaboo’, I have never wanted to go and live in Japan and so on and for a long time ‘Japan’ and ‘Anime’ had nothing to do with each other in my mind, that is until I started reading the manga series ‘Detective Conan’ which was firmly set in Japan, as opposed to some fantasy world, in some historical period in Europe(as many anime series for kids on Italian TV like ‘Heidi’ were set), in some urban setting that may have as well being in Europe and even though I watched ‘Ranma’ somehow the slapstick humour and the colourful characters made me unable to concentrate too much on the setting as I was focused on what other shenanigans the characters would get themselves into. The colourful hairstyles and large-eys didn’t really help me to identify it with Japan but that too is a matter of no importance. Anyway, my focus shifted strictly from the characters to the themes and the ideas and so I watched many of the classics and retro anime, Evangelion et al. And right now my focus is on the storytelling and the artwork, composition, script and to a small extent the directing.

Recently I have been watching almost exclusively old anime because the new stuff feels a bit samey – you know there’s the Sword Art Online clone, the Fujoshi bait show, the yandere/loli show every season and so on, there are a lot of shit-shows from the past too but it’s easier to pick up the good ones when the hypes surrounding the old series has mostly subsided. Watching anime has sort of become a group experience when it comes to ongoing anime, you know watching anime and then commenting and reading blogs and watching youtube vids about it, on the one hand this is good as I get to see what others think but it doesn’t feel as much a ‘special’ hobby anymore and to be honest I have started to have less respect as to what others think of my anime whereas in the past I was very eager to talk to people to share views about anime and see if they matched. That said that communal feeling has certainly helped me keep up with the new anime whether I want to or not and it makes everything easier as far as accessibility to anime is concerned, there is so much info about anime online, sometimes sharing my views seems like a drop in the ocean. Sometimes I wonder how it must have been in the early anime community when there weren’t so many sites about anime and the few people interested visited the same times to talk with the same people to discuss anime. There are plenty of anime blogs with regular content but seemingly no readers taking into account the few comments they get (like on this one).

Having said all this it is impossible to avoid the subject of escapism. Well, I could say that anime is one way I try to enhance reality rather than detract myself from it but that would be sophistry or at best pedantry, the criticism levied against anime, and more specifically those otaku who watch anime is an unambiguous one that we have disconnected ourselves from the obligations and pleasures to be gained by actively engaging with others by instead spending our time and money on fiction. I don’t have a counter-argument to this point. IT IS SPOT ON.

Abenobashi Review

A show with too much referential humour without a point to make. This is one of Studio Gainax’s weaker shows.

I had high expectations for this series and was dissapointed I only found the humour in the later episodes to be funny and the conclusion was pretty weak and the resolution contrived. All the characters excluding the two main characters continually get reset to fit the new setting of each episode so there is little to no development. Even the growth of the two main characters gets reset completely finally. Don’t expect any conclusive romance you will only be teased with it, this is just a wacky referential comedy that tries and sometimes succeeds to make fun of anime tropes. To be honest I was expecting more from a Gainax show. The subtitled version I watched was woeful for example it replaced “moe” with “charm” as if they mean the same thing, I think you might be better off watching the dub at least its in English.
The animation looked okay, the characters sometimes looked off model but its mainly for comedic effect in hectic animation scenes. The art style changes in some scenes throughout the series to match the varying settings, all of which reflect the fantasies and wishes of our twelve year old protagonist. In the end however this series ends up celebrating what it is mocking as the main character is chosen by fate to change and undo events in a convenient manner using his newly acquired broken powers while giving out a standard shounen coming of age emotional monologue.
If you like referential comedies which are occasionally self-ridiculing then you might like this. I didn’t like the humour too much as the lines given to the characters in each episode were too repetitive and sometimes they spent a whole episode making fun of the same thing until it got boring, towards the end however especially in the “Hollywood” episode it was quite funny seeing all those references to shows and films like Robocop, Knight Rider, Titanic, Indiana Jones, Back to the Future etc.. all coming and going one after the other with an extra dosage of sexual innuendo.
My main gripe with this series is its ending where the boy is able to win the argument against his father purely out of plot conveniences introduced at the very few last minutes of the show. A very different show with very similar themes called Tatami Galaxy managed with its ending to redeem its otherwise clunky humour and characters with an excellent ending. The opposite could be said about Abenobashi. As a certain anime reviewer used to say “the ending is paramount.”

Well, if nothing else I have to say that the girls look pretty cute in this one and it has got the perverted anime tropes that I love.

Tylor’s Plan: An Analysis of The Irresponsible Captain Tylor; or the Japanese Diogenes

Can’t you see, this is all part of Tylor’s plan? – Captain Don, The Irresponsible Captain Tylor, episode 23.

“Tylor, what is your plan!?”(angry) Captain Don

“Do your best and believe in your destiny.” – Tylor

“It was fun”- The Empress to Tylor

A lot of truth is said in jest in this show. I like to see it as a parody of Legend of Galactic Heroes, I mean what if the genius tactician was just a lucky idiot who was irresponsible enough to do his best and believe in his destiny. It’s as happy go lucky as Gunbuster though it doesn’t quite catch There isch Gunbuster’s scale. There is too much irresponsibility and too much luck to take the show seriously but the show is self-conscious of that, to the point where characters themselves point how much dumb-luck they have had. And the fact that it does so in my opinion places it a bit higher than Great Teacher Onizuka in the scale of honesty, in that it doesn’t pretend that what happens in the show is plausible in any way and so doesn’t become what it makes fun of.

So what was Tylor’s plan? Tylor often confidently says that he has no plan. Was he deceiving everyone while secretly being a genius? Unlikely. I don’t think the point of the show was that stupidity is a virtue. The protagonist reminded me a lot of Onizuka from Great Teacher Onizuka. Onizuka and Tylor do not try to hatch little plans to get near to other people, they wear their emotions on their sleeves and honestly pursue their desires. Tylor’s actions do not have negative consequences and neither do Onizuka’s however The Irresponsible Captain Tylor is more honest than the Great Teacher Onizuka because Tylor is not presented as a saint while Onizuka most certainly is. GTO preaches responsibility but doesn’t practice it. The Irresponsible Captain Tylor doesn’t preach responsibility and doesn’t practice it.

What if Tylor is deceiving everyone including the audience? However unlikely this may seem it is worth considering. The whole point of the show seems to be honest expression of one’s feelings is more effective to touch people’s hearts than hatching plans and playing by all the unwritten rules of social ascension. One of my favourite moments in the show was when Tylor looked disappointed about the medal he was awarded by the military for destroying an enemy fleet but exalted about the hot nurse that became part of the crew. Tylor could see the medal for the chunk of metal that it was. I confess I know little about Diogenes beyond what I read on reddit on a thread about “Who is the Greatest Troll in History” and some articles I read on Wikipedia. Tylor doesn’t care about rank, he only cares about substance.

“What is the captain thinking?”- Mr. Yamamoto. The captain thinks about what he wants and tries to get it, the plot works so that he will get it, that is all there is to it.

Tylor’s first order to his crew is “Do whatever you want” shows just how irresponsible he is. But is he really wrong? There is a basic principle that Tylor follows which goes along the lines of, people should be free to do what they want: Even an enemy Empress who has been captured should be allowed to go if she wants. Tylor seems to believe that people will act reasonably morally if only there wasn’t any overarching authority to dictate to them how to act and live. It is a principle worth defending at least some of the time.

“You only live once, so live the way you want to.” I think that the aim of this series is two-fold: make the viewer more proactive and warn them about the danger of living vicariously to someone else and their rules, “life will seep through your fingers” is Tylor’s warning. What I don’t find convincing however is the assurance implied by the improbable events in the plot that things will be all right if you do what you think is right, isn’t the whole reason that we tend to depend on other people’s morals as a reference for our own because that is the most convenient and risk-free? “When it’s time to lose, you will lose no matter what” is Tylor’s answer to that.

“Do your best and believe in your destiny” It is because of simple certainties like this that make The Irresponsible Captain Tylor easy to be dismissed as blindly optimistic and indeed this is where the show lacks substance, it doesn’t show the grimy parts of life enough, if it did so the show would suffer from some kind of personality disorder (which is what happens in the sequel OVAs). However many of these phrases are platitudes and since we live in a world of platitudes they will seem right at least some of the time. Take Rudyard Kipling’s “If” poem for an example of this.

“Rules are not everything” Freedom is, for Tylor. Ultimately there is something that makes the show feel very human, even when it’s characters are borrowed from many other sci-fi anime. It resonates a lot with me and I think it will resonate with other young people too. It’s a masterpiece to me, and Taylor did not “fool us all” we did that to ourselves. As Taylor told his crew “snap out of it life is seeping through your fingers.” Plans are useful but at some point someone has to do something, Taylor took the initiative and as he would say- everything else followed. I think that people are too obsessed with tactics and trinkets when it comes to human relationships, too obsessed with the strategies and rules to follow which they believe will get them to their desired outcome, human relationships are not IKEA furniture that you can build by following an instruction manual and IKEA furniture is never as good as it looks in advertisements. The trinkets they are too obsessed bring no pleasure in and of themselves and therefore have utility or substance in and of themselves, they are merely symbolic like the military medals Tylor couldn’t give two shits about.

In episode 25 and 26 when Tylor leaves the military, Tylor’s first order as Captain’s final order “Do what you want, the way you want to.” echoes his first his first order, actually it is pretty much the same.

The direct lesson of The Irresponsible Captain Tylor is “Don’t live according to someone else’s rules” but the indirect one is not to live vicariously through someone else’s life. I think this was also the point of Neon Genesis Evangelion, the mood in both series is very different because while in Eva everything that can go wrong goes wrong, in The Irresponsible Captain Tylor everything goes right. Tylor claims that once he has abandoned something(or someone) he will have no regrets whatsoever, when commander Yuriko questions his decision to leave his crew, this is not due to a lack of attachment, after all Tylor came back to his ship the Soyokaze whilst having this conversation, it is a lack of neediness that underpins Tylor’s behaviour, he loves himself already so he has no need to put down, or to put anyone up on a pedestal in order to worship himself. When people worship someone else- the military in Mr. Yamamoto’s case, the Empress in the Ralgan Empire’s case- they are really just worshipping themselves, when the object of their adoration is respected by others it brings them prestige. However this has as much to do with the plot as it has to do with the characters, just try imagining the characters in Eva being replaced by those in TICT the whole mood of the series would be inversed. The same goes if the characters in TICT were to be replaced by those of Eva, just imagine Tylor piloting Test-type Unit-01. One of the good things about TICT over Eva is that it is devoid of the constant whining of characters. At some point the characters must realize that their whining is useless and annoying but instead the whining intensifies as the life of the characters lives seep through their fingers. Tylor is not afraid of rejection and he is not afraid of love though I am not sure he is not afraid of death, he just goes for what he wants believing truly that “things will work out” somehow. There is certainly a lot contrived in The Irresponsible Captain Tylor but so it is in Evangelion. They are two extremes, most people’s fortune lies in between. Sometimes more towards one side than the other and at other times… so it is is possible to accept both.

The opposite of a Tylor would be a Tobe (from Oregairu) – A loud mouthed moron whose only talent is to make noise in the hopes it may get him some attention. Tobe is a failed Tylor. He acts like he is a fun-loving, social person because he thinks this will get him some social currency. Tylor doesn’t care about any kind of social currency, he just does what he thinks is right and what he wants to. Another failed Tylor is the protagonist of American Beauty, life had already seeped through his fingers.

Yang-Wenli from Legend of Galactic Heroes is the first character that comes to mind when I watch TICT. Yang-Wenli is just more responsible than Tylor but their belief in human liberty and trust in the individual over authority makes them virtually indistinguishable at heart. I think that Tylor’s existence begs a very important question: What is the point of living a responsible life? Yang Wenli is correct on many of the political points he made, but in the words he himself considers to be the most powerful in the universe and history, “So, what?” I am not complaining about there not being a reward for doing good, this is clearly not always the case, the right thing is often though not always done in informed self-interest. I am not saying that good things ought to be done because they are self-serving rather than because they are good (although good deeds are often done because they are self-serving and there is nothing wrong with this as long as people are honest about their motives). What I am trying to point out is that once people have done what is right there needs to be something else for people to live for, or in one word their needs to be pleasure, fun and happiness. Doing what is right will not always stove away pain, boredom and sadness and this is why people ought to have something to live for beyond doing what is right. Of course what is right comes first because it is what ought to be done but their needs to be something that comes second and that thing is what people want. Otherwise you will get sad people whose only pleasure is to convince themselves that they are always correct, self-righteous, illiberal saints who cannot see any value in Liberty. After all if man is a fallen creature, if this world is nothing but a vale of tears, if man is not a noble creature neither are any of his wants good or worthy of consideration. If this is so, then the only thing that would make sense would be to create a totalitarian theocracy where everything is prohibited unless it is mandatory. The only way to make sense of a need for human freedom is to accept that his pursuits can be neither evil nor good but merely for his own satisfaction. Anything less than this will negate human freedom and remove any moral agency by removing choice.

This something that we must want has to come from within ourselves and not from other people’s fickle approval. Or in other words this thing must not be other people. Other people include women too obviously. Tylor is a case in point, he didn’t hesitate or have any regrets about leaving his crew, his ship, the women who were fawning on him and all of the status he had gained within the military. The only thing that can come true trying to live vicariously through other people is that you will treat them like objects or put them up on a pedestal or worship them or all these things at once and maybe even hate them for not granting your wish. Tylor is vulgar and materialistic and greedy but not as much as those who present themselves as the opposite; just like people every material in this world is temporal, every talent, everything that is pure and lovely, therefore it is those who are not satisfied with this and seek and hunger for something that is not there and therefore settle for nothing who are the ones who more self-indulgent, more greedy and more vulgar. Irony abounds when it is those behaviours of those who seek and hatch plans to gain others approvals that make them nay, us, shifty, dishonest, manipulative and ultimately as Mark Manson is so fond of saying in his book Models, “unattractive” and boring. There needs to be something else, not an obsession, but an easy going, irresponsible, natural, active, honest and therefore healthy willingness to fall into decadence. Decadence in itself is an evil thing. The platitude that it is always easier to do evil than to do good can be easily disproved by looking at the lives of the most infamous tyrants in history but I shall not go into that. Evil is a petty ambition (and so are happiness and pleasure) but the loneliness it brings to its pursuers is a symptom of the sad truth, the sad but alas true condition of all of us – we each and one of us are alone. So what does this mean in practice? Well it means giving up on all those little schemes at appearing good, cultural customs and rehearsed propriety both in our personal and political lives.

Most of the other characters are passive and only the villains and Tylor seem to be doing something, though Tylor’s unusual reaction to everything is the attraction to the show, just like many find Diogenes reactions to everything hilarious. The luck that Tylor has on the battlefield is a breath of fresh air from the simple military tactics in LOGH where everyone’s intelligence needs to be lowered in order for the genius main characters to show off their brilliance and the seriousness of Battle Ship Yamato (I wonder whether I have done too much name dropping in this essay but they are all relevant points). Captain Tylor An Exceptional Episode is an excpetion because it contains the necessary cynicism which if it wasn’t there, then sooner or later the viewers will infuse it into the series in excess. It’s true if there was too much cynicism in the series it wouldn’t fit in with the rest of the series but given that the series is over and that An Exceptional Episode is as long as a full feature film it worked. It was not nice not to see Tylor succeed through sheer luck but some suffering too and a lot patience. My favourite scene in this OVA was when Tylor showed that he is self-conscious about his personality by demonstrating how out of character he would be if he had been angry at his crew. He may have fooled us all after all. The Irresponsible Captain Tylor is first and foremost a comedy that makes fun of Japan’s values before and after the war but it has also got an anarchist/libertarian strain that I wouldn’t trust any person if they did not have it. It isn’t an ode to hedonism because it assumes that most individuals will act morally when left to their own devices because they care about another and that authority is sadistic, hypocritical, hedonistic in its enforcement of kindness and therefore finally unnecessary. Tylor’s western name (well ostensibly American) is essentially an individualistic simple-minded American stereotype set against the Japanese Empire inspired social order. Most of the other human characters are Japanese. If you are going to watch this, do yourself a favour and watch the English dubbed version.

Slum Online by Hiroshi Sakurazaka Light Novel Review

There are no pictures in this light novel except the one on the cover. It’s only one volume and it’s not that long. Only 210 pages. The protagonist is an apathetic college freshman who gets addicted to an online fighting game but has to balance this with his relationship with his girlfriend. It reads like a short story. The characters are not that developed and the ideas of the protagonist which he relates to us in long monologues are not challenged because he rarely voices them to the few characters around him.

The story can be broken into two parts which are interspersed with each other: The parts in which our protagonist plays the video game and those in which he is in the real world. The video game feels a bit outdated because apparently, all the characters are blocky pixels but other than that it is well explored. The real world setting and the characters in it, on the other hand, are lacking. For example, it isn’t entirely clear why the protagonist’s girlfriend likes him. Most of the characterization she gets is that she is a very hardworking and organized cute girl. The only motivation she is shown to have to find a blue cat from some urban legend, they anti-climactically find it, but it was more of an excuse for the protagonist and her to buy ice cream or something. Then there is another character who also plays the video game, a woman in her early thirties who we never get to know much about and who feels totally unrealistic.

The premise of the story is interesting enough but the stakes are too low for me to care about, on the one hand I am not given enough of a reason to care about the relationship between the protagonist and his girlfriend and on the other it soon becomes obvious that the protagonist isn’t really addicted to the game itself but rather wants to defeat a specific player called ‘Ganker Jack’ to challenge himself. The premise was not what I expected and I was disappointed. What I wanted to see was someone who actually had a lot of negative consequences happening to him because of his video game habit trying to deal with it but instead what I got was a guy who was mostly doing fine both in real life and in the game, the worst thing that happened to him because of video games was missing a few lectures at his university and getting a lower grade at his assesment, even when he refused to go out with his girlfriend because of a tournament in the video game the girl didn’t dump him.

The final ‘bonus’ chapter is about the protagonist’s friend who had dropped out of the university in Tokyo because of his video game habit and now lived at home in Hokkaido(north of Japan where not many people live) with his parents and who also spent most of his time playing the same online game. Honestly, it would have been much more interesting if he was the protagonist.

I give this book a 2/10

Sundome by Kazuto Okada Manga Review

An ecchi romance manga that used to be popular on 4chan. The protagonist is an unassuming typical perverted highschool protagonist #6723 infatuating himself with mysterious transfer student #9969 who for some unexplained reason takes interest in our protagonist.

As an ecchi, it’s a diamond – shamelessly kinky, but connecting the fetishes to emotional evolution of the characters. It’s not that explicit but then I may say that because of the smut I normally read hehe anyway…

As drama, it doesn’t have any problems hitting you in the face, moving you, making you uncomfortable. But perhaps the ending is foreshadowed a bit too much. It’s still a good plausible ending which doesn’t feel contrived at all.

As a comedy, heh, not the finest comedy style around, sure, but it was able to get a chuckle out of me more often than not every chapter. It’s mainly ecchi humour.

As a romance, it is very good. The relationship between the MC and the girl(who is on the book cover above which is why I read this in the first place) actually progresses gasp instead of there just being cute girls, a clueless mc and an open ending.

The MC(the main character) and the girl are part of an after-school club called the ‘Roman Club’ which makes less sense than SEELE. Basically, it’s a club which researches the supernatural and aliens whose former alumni are in positions of power in society. The only rule of the club is that if the club members manage to not get laid during their high school years then for some unexplained reason, they would be guaranteed high positions in society (why wasn’t there such a club at my high school). The protagonist and the two boys in the club are all losers so it doesn’t seem to be a problem but then that mysterious transfer student cute girl joins the club… The shenanigans with the club members were uninteresting as fuck (e.g going to a cemetery to search for ufos or something ..bleah). Just ignore the Roman Club as you would try to stop trying to make sense of SEELE in Eva actually, in this case, is much easier to ignore because it’s only implied there are no evil masterminds’ meetings. It’s not a major plot point I am just trying to find something negative about this to be impartial. Some people(well, probably guys) on MAL were whining about the art I actually liked this art style a lot. The backgrounds are nothing worth talking about but the girl looks cute so…

The guy protagonist is an outright masochist, and the girl isn’t so much a bully as she is a gentle dominatrix. I can see why 4chan likes it… Basically, it’s the premise of a lot of anime (e.g Oh My Goddess, Hyouka, Oregairu) of some cute girl coming to save some loser from himself (from his own laziness and lack of initiative). What makes this series better than the others is that it is clearly formulated in their relationship that she will give him sexual favours if he improves himself as a guy. Actually, there is a second pairing with another member of the class and a ‘gal'(hot high school chick who is superficial and rude archetype) character to further add fuel to 4channers day dreaming fantasies.

By the way, after you have read this manga come back to this blog and watch the video below. You will understand why then. Bookmark this page if you like.

I give this manga an 8/10. It has many flaws but it hit close to my heart. I know, I know “Do you feel the feels in my feels” I can hear @thatanimesnob say but if my doki doki disagrees there’s nothing I can do about it. I know enjoyment isn’t the only way to measure how good a series is per se, after all, there can be so many things surrounding a series, like the fanbase and other people’s opinions, that can affect my enjoyment of the manga but in the end even in a formulaic analysis of art what you are trying to gauge is which criteria you find enjoyable and then apply it throughout making an exception there, changing a rule here and so on. Basically trying to figure out the formula of the masterpiece that you will enjoy the most. It’s just that my perfect masterpiece would be kinky and perverted as well, I guess (Gunbuster nearly reached the bar for my perfect anime but it just wasn’t perfect in so many ways even if it is still great).

Recommendations: Nana to Kaouru(manga), it’s too long for its own good and suffers from why-doesn’t-their-relationship- progress-after-so-many-chapters-syndrome. The girl is the masochist and the guy is still pathetic but also the sadist(is that what you call it I am not that familiar with this stuff). The girl is less interesting than in the girl in Sundome but the guy is a more interesting character though not by much. I basically see it as a lesser version of Sundome which is more concerned about the accessories around S&M though it does make some good points too. It’s a lot less kinky too which for me is a major minus. But it’s still good, don’t get me wrong.

Welcome to the NHK(anime, the manga and light novel are inferior which I will explain why in my next blog post): It’s the same premise as this manga basically (though it plays out more realistically as unrealistic of a premise like this can be played out realistically) of a cute girl coming to change some loser. A much better show in my own opinion though if I am being nitpicky the problem with the nhk anime compared to sundome, is that the Welcome to the NHK anime covered too much group and it felt episodic even if it actually wasn’t but more on that in my next post which deals with the Japanese Broadcasting Corporation’s evil conspiracy to turn us into NEETs trying to make a buck or a pound on Steemit by writing about anime instead of being productive citizens washing old people’s asses and working at McDonald’s because we were too busy watching Chinese cartoons to get an education, amirite guys? Guys?

Great Teacher Onizuka(anime and manga): This may seem like a strange recommendation but bear with me. Basicall, this is one of those shows in which a charismatic teacher tries to help some troubled students, there used to be a lot of these. In this the teacher is a perverted virgin ex-biker gang leader turned into a middle school teacher – he wanted to become a highschool teacher to hit on high school girls but that didn’t work out. The reason that it has a protagonist like this is because this started as a parody of the ‘charismatic young teacher helps troubled students genre’ but in the end it became the very thing it parodied and the best of its kind. Are you still reading? Good. Well, basically manga like Sundome were preceded by manga like GTO – just replace the charismatic teacher with a cute mysterious girl who for no reason wants to help the self-insert-loser-protagonist to be his best? See what I mean? GTO has also got a fair amount of perverted jokes but nothing coming near to the level of Sundome. GTO is a shounen (young adults 12-18 years old male category) and Sundome is a seinen (18-30 years old male category).

Onanie Master Kurosawa(Literally; Masturbation Master Kurosawa): A manga drawn with very very crude art and not nearly enough fanservice for my tastes (not for a lack of taste) but which makes up for it with its cathartic ending. It’s also about some perverted loser but unlike in Sundome and Nana to Kaoru he isn’t some good guy and the innocent cute girl doesn’t fall in love with him for no good reason (or at all) and he is bitter like the average reader.