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Dokuro-chan 2 Post-viewing Thoughts

Just finished the short 2-episode Dokuro-chan 2 OAV series (or 4 half-episodes, if you prefer).  Dokuro-chan the TV series (was that actually shown on TV?) was incredibly dirty in addition to being absolutely horrifying in many other ways.  Which left me wondering what the OAV series, ostensibly without the restrictions (what restrictions?!) of the TV series, would do to top it.

Turns out I didn’t have enough imagination, because Holy Kim Jong Il in a Chicken Basket, Batman! is that series dirty.  Oh, still violent too, but man did that toss out some nasty, cringeworthy, wholly inappropriate, and just plain wrong things.  Some of the throw-away jokes (along the lines of what we briefly saw Zansu doing with a bunch of SM gear and a video camera) are so wrong that I was laughing and wanting to gouge my eyes out at the same time.  Even more than before, that is.  I must admit, it does feature what is the single most horrifying gift wrapping I have ever seen by a huge margin.  Some of the stuff is so dirty you might not even get the joke, and if you do, well, you should be ashamed of yourself.

The upshot, though, is that while it’s even more horrifying than before it’s also considerably more funny.  A slight reduction in the extreme cartoon-style character animation was another plus, since I really don’t go for that sort of thing.  Oh, and it hit the one bodily secretion that I didn’t even realize the first series missed (snot).  I actually ended up laughing pretty hard several times, albeit between cringing, groaning, and wishing for blindness.

It’s a specific kind of masochistic humor (sometimes literally), but at least it’s done well.

On a not-entirely-unrelated note, my comments on the self-fanpon in Genshiken 2 came before watching episode 5, in which Ogiue starts writing raging BL doujinshi in her head about the male members of Genshiken… which we see acted out in graphic detail by hardbodied, bishounen-enhanced versions of the thoroughly unattractive cast.  No, seriously, Genshiken offhandedly tossed out some pretty blunt comments of a sexual nature, but this episode goes there, big time.  As in “Why haven’t we faded to black or cut away yet?  Still no?  Still?!”  I think that’s the most explicit (albeit tastefully shadowy) content I’ve ever seen in a TV series.

So Genshiken has now officially not only done its own fanporn, but it’s run through almost every wholly inappropriate slash pairing and lust-crazed fangirl fantasy scenario possible (Madarame apparently bottoms in Ogiue’s head).

And it gets bonus points for having the entire concept go completely over Saki’s head (she naively assumes that Ogiue just has a crush on one or two of the guys, missing the subtext of what she’s fantasizing about entirely).

Basically good, good stuff, even if it does hurt in multiple different (TMI!) ways.

Genshiken 2 Early Thoughts

I never actually got around to reviewing the original Genshiken, but I did like it immensely.  A slice-of-life comedy about a college club for hardcore broad-spectrum geeks, it’s about as intensely self-aware as an entirely straightforward, no tricks, no breaking the 4th wall, almost completely realistic series can be.  Likable-yet-real characters, every in-joke and reference you could possibly imagine, most of which are entirely intentional since the characters aren’t just like you, they are you.  Sometimes a series like that is about insiders but really targeted at outsiders, but Genshiken I’m pretty sure is intended entirely for the people who get it.

Show me one geek who didn’t at least try to name the ringtones in the first episode before the character did (I beat him on two).  And you also no doubt tried to figure out which character’s category you best fit into (I’m probably closest to a Sasahara-type, with friends ranging from Kugayama to full-on Kasukabe).

It is also the master of the awkward pause.  Heck, that series had an entire episode consisting, without break, of Madarame’s crazed internal monologue while sitting in a room in awkward silence with Saki while she reads a comic.  Few are the series that will try something that extreme, and fewer still that can not only make it work, but make it hilarious.  The little scenes during the ending credits that referred back to earlier bits were also a kind of genius.  Frankly, if you haven’t seen it, it’s worth watching for that episode alone.

So now, Genshiken 2.  Having read some of the manga in the era past the “satisfying but open stopping point” end of the first series, I’ve been looking forward to this since I listened to some radio shows done as a promo for it a while back.  And really, if any series can pull off a sequel, it’s Genshiken.

Well, finally got to watching it, and a few episodes in the first thing that caught me was that it started up right where the first left off—with the club getting ready to publish a doujinshi for the upcoming comic festival.  The second thing was that it completely bypasses the introduction of violently closet otaku girl Ogiue (her addition to the cast apparently happened during the OAVs, which I didn’t even realize existed until a few minutes ago).

Any other series I would have faulted for a major character introduction in an OAV, but this series knows you, and so it has no trouble whatsoever making assumptions about the level of commitment of the viewers.  It feels comfortable with itself, and didn’t seem to have missed so much as a beat despite nearly three years passing between the end of the first series and the start of this one.

And, really, thus far it is 100% more of the same in the general sense, which is to say 100% good stuff.  More of the same, yet it feels fresh and full of new and fun character interactions and socially awkward situations.  As of episode four there’s been an impressive amount of low-key, awkwardly funny “drama” ranging from doujinshi production to table-manning to romance.

It also appears to understand that it’s milked Saki and Kousaka’s relationship sufficiently, so the focus has moved to Sasahara (who, despite appearing to be the main character in the first episode of the original, turned out to have a remarkably small part).  Ogiue hasn’t done much yet, but there’s plenty of time, and the other addition, violently unpleasant geek Kuchiki is hanging around in the background annoying everyone appropriately without hogging the spotlight enough to get annoying to the viewer.  Also, the old President, possibly the creepiest character ever, is still graduated and off being creepy somewhere else.  Thank God.

Oh, the intro and outro.  The intro is 100% pure awesome:  An overdramatic and ridiculously epic Gundam pastiche with the main characters’ heads pasted onto every jumpsuited, crazy-helmeted body.  The endings, disappointingly, are all the same shot of the club room, without the slightly-animated awesome that was the self-referential in-jokes of the first season.  However… the occasional extra bits after the credits are now on every episode, and have been lengthened and upgraded to a level of wonderful possibly better than the original series.  Again, the series of course knows you’re going to sit through the entire credits… and if you’re not, well, you weren’t enough of a geek to deserve the great bonus jokes.

Bottom line, if it can keep it up for another eight episodes, this Genshiken 2 will top the original, and that’s saying something.  I even have some degree of confidence that it will manage.

Final, random note:  The mind-breaking meta-ness of this series continues to amaze and hurt me.  The first had the anime-within-an-anime Kujibiki Unbalance, which of course had three entire episodes produced—the first, twenty-first, and next-to-last.  Three entirely straight episodes of a series that was never made, including the dramatic next-to-last episode filled with numerous straight-faced references back to past episodes that don’t exist and “big moment” character development nobody cares about because we only saw three random episodes!  That hurt me, and of course I watched all three.  That they actually did make a Kujibiki Unbalance later (with a different plot, no less) hurts even more—how does that kind of fiction-imitates-fiction-imitating-life-watching-fiction thing even happen?  And who would actually watch it?

Well, now we’ve got characters in one series producing fanporn of a nonexistant-except-now-it-exists series.  And, every time they get all cosplayed up, Genshiken is, in a manner of speaking, making fanporn of itself [note:  see later post on episode 5].  So here’s what I wonder:  What goes through the mind of a person who sits down to draw fanporn of Genshiken (which most certainly does exist—see Rule 34)?  You are, if you follow the loop, essentially drawing fanporn of yourself.

Maybe there actually isn’t any, because everyone who tried to make some was consumed by an existential singularity.  I refuse to ask Google the answer, because I already know what it will be, and I will then not want my eyes anymore.  An episode of Dokuro-chan was enough of that symptom for one day.

I’m done now.

The Sword of Length (aka “Why US TV series are doomed to failure.”)

So as I mentioned with Code Geass 2, when you try to take a good idea and drag it out to cover four full seasons (52 episodes), you may have lots of time to layer on the intrigue and tragedy, but you have just as much time to run yourself off into a ditch trying to keep things going.  Honestly, there are precious few series that can sustain any kind of real momentum through even 26 episodes.

This ties into a thought I’d had on why I don’t like US TV shows for the most part, and do like anime ones.  (And no, not just because I’m an anime fan.)  To preface, I’m generally a fan of well-constructed stories that are going somewhere.  There are exceptions, but the more tightly-built the better, in my mind.

The thing is, standard US-style TV shows are doomed to fail.  Let’s say you start out with a great idea, and one that’s going somewhere.  Basically one of two things can happen:

  1. The series gets cancelled prematurely, and the viewer is horribly frustrated.   Example: Firefly.
  2. The series is popular enough that they keep making it until it eventually jumps the shark, at which point even fans lose interest and it gets cancelled.  The X-files comes to mind.

So basically you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t.  Shows are literally doomed to failure—because of the way the system works, they will be kept on the air until they start to suck, however long that takes. If they’re not, then almost by definition they were ended prematurely, and most likely with unfinished business.

The few exceptions are shallow sitcoms (though even those can get somewhat impenetrable to non-fans after a while), and inherently open-ended ideas (detective shows are a good example, since they are almost by nature episodic and the stories self-contained).

I’m not saying that there aren’t good long-running series, and there are of course the newer high-budget cable series that break the mold somewhat, but the system just isn’t designed to allow for a tight story with a beginning, middle, end, and a minimum of filler.  If you try, you’re doomed to fail, and if you don’t, you’re left with something treading water from a broader narrative perspective and/or heading for soap-opera-syndrome of exponential plot layers.

Contrast this with the way TV anime is usually produced:  You get the series signed on for a single, 13-episode season that you know will always be shown in order (Japanese TV just doesn’t do reruns the way the US networks do).  There is no syndication as the US knows it to cash in on after the series is done.  There is the potential for a sequel, but it’s a sequel, not another season.  If you’re lucky and have the material, you might even get two seasons financed, but anything longer than that is exceedingly rare outside of the shounen-mill (and Rumiko Takahashi,who is unabashedly in the “treading water” camp).

This is a fundamental advantage that anime TV series have, and the main reason I’m a whole lot more likely to commit to watching one than a US TV series that will either be cancelled early or will drag on so long I’ll eventually lose interest in it.  And it’s why I’m extremely wary of any anime series that’s more than a couple seasons long.