Lies in Bakemonogatari (Mayoi Mai Mai)
Just in time for Mother’s Day, I started working on this Mayoi Mai Mai post. And now it’s here. Late.
Mayoi Mai Mai is perhaps most interesting for its relation to the overarching story of Bakemonogatari, and thus what it reveals about Nisio Isin’s storytelling (and storytelling as a whole). The first thing that comes to mind when I think of this arc is the twist that Araragi is in fact the character who encounters an apparition. We can say that the mystery of the arc relies almost entirely on one “lie”: that Hachikuji is alive. Of course, this brings about a bunch of secondary lies like Senjougahara pretending she can see Hachikuji, but the story pivots on that one main lie.
Every arc in Bakemonogatari is set up this way. There is a “lie” in the timeline of Senjougahara’s childhood, a lie in the conditions of Araragi’s fight with Kanbaru, a lie in the number of snakes affecting Nadeko, and even a lie about Oshino’s actions in the Tsubasa Cat arc. These lies make each mystery unsolvable until they’re discovered—at least from Araragi’s/the audience’s perspective. And this is the arc where Araragi’s perspective really starts to take over. He colors both our expectations and our moods. When he reflects that the park is empty and he feels like the only person on the planet, that gives us a great sense of his current headspace, as well as a subtle motivation for his attachment to Hachikuji. Or, actually, “evidence” may be a more accurate term than “motivation”.Read More »
Thoughts on Bakemonogatari (Hitagi Crab)
With the second season of Owarimonogatari on its way, I’ll be rewatching the Monogatari series so far and giving my thoughts arc by arc. I’ve wanted to talk about the series (outside my posts on Owari) for a while now, but was never sure what I wanted to say. I didn’t have a concrete idea for an essay. These posts will be a good opportunity to just let the thoughts flow freely and see where I wind up. That being said, let’s take a look at the Hitagi Crab arc, and our introduction to the wonderful world of Monogatari.
Incidentally, our introduction is one somewhat lacking in orienting detail. I’ve always found it an interesting choice to start Bakemonogatari after the events of Kizu- and to not ever make those events clear to the audience. The anime staff must have thought so as well, for they included a montage of said events—something the novel lacks entirely. Although we do miss out on an easy focalization with Araragi as a result, I don’t think the story suffers for it. We don’t need to become acquainted with the aberrations of this world by experiencing them through the eyes of an equally ignorant character. The paranormal in this world tends to build off of traditional folklore or else flip it on its head in some way. As such, a big part of the series involves explaining why aberrations are the way they are.Read More »
Death Note: An Absence of Character
It’s a common sentiment among anime fans that the second half of Death Note is less engaging than the first. Yet, most fans manage to finish the show by riding out the waves of suspense and tragedy from the first half. So, what changed from the first half to the second? Why do so many people use the first half to justify enduring the second? The obvious and unfulfilling answer is that L dies and the careful cat-and-mouse game established between him and Light vanishes with him, but that isn’t true in and of itself. L’s death just causes the anime to fail harder at something it had already begun to struggle with—that is: to be thrilling. We should begin by examining Death Note’s most successful moments of intrigue and suspense.
The FBI arc involving Raye Penber and Naomi Misora is the anime’s most well-executed arc by far, and the pacing and scope of the arc play a major role in this. This all begins in the bus-hijacking scenes, where we are clued into a lot of important details about how Light interacts with enemies of his plot. We are never given all of the notes to Light’s plan, but we can infer a lot based on the rules of the Death Note and Light’s actions and thoughts. When the hijacker arrives, Light thinks, “He’s here!” before the hijacker even pulls out a weapon. Light’s subsequent calm demeanor confirms for the audience that he planned for this hijacking. But to what end? Raye Penber handing over his identification answers that question, completing a logical loop.Read More »
Nisekoi is Perfect (An Analysis)
This essay is based on the first four chapters of the Nisekoi manga, analyzed via the first two episodes of the anime, which is more or less an exact adaptation. May contain spoilers for later parts of the series.
Judging by the way Nisekoi is discussed online by its detractors (and even its fans), you could easily think the show/manga is just some trashy harem with a plot more convoluted than a Rube Goldberg machine. This is an unfair judgment. While I can’t say Nisekoi isn’t trashy and convoluted—that’s part of the appeal, personally—it is also perfect. Nisekoi is the perfect incarnation and execution of the setup.
Let’s get back to basics. I’m talking barebones narrative structure: characters have desires but encounter a problem that leads to conflict and an eventual resolution. Putting on our grade-schooler hats, the setup is the exposition where we meet the characters and first crash into the main problem. The reason Niseoki is such a popular series—the reason it can get away or even thrive off maintaining the status quo—is that its setup is perfect. Imagine the setup is a car and the second act/rising action is a long road. If you build that car well enough, you can take people on a drive through potholes, snow, T-bones, and popped tires and still reach your destination.Read More »
Meaning Revisited (Flip Flappers Analysis)
A little while ago, I wrote about the temporality of meaning in Flip Flappers. Due to the story not being completed, that post was more speculative than I would have liked. This essay will act as a redefining and expansion of the arguments in the original post. I recommend you check out that essay if you haven’t, as I will be trying not to repeat myself too much and will be referring back to my original work throughout this piece. With all that being said, let’s take a fresh look at how Flip Flappers plays with meaning.
But first, a quick refresher! To start, Flip Flappers encourages viewers to engage with “immediate” latent content by making adventures in Pure Illusion act like parables, beating us over the head with symbols, or straight up telling us the point. This gives us initial interpretations of events/characters/symbols—let’s say: coercing us into a particular analytical perspective. As we move forward, we discover that our initial interpretations weren’t exactly wrong, just that they weren’t complete or we were right in ways we hadn’t intended. This reflection on our own perspective is the essence of Flip Flappers’s unique storytelling and content temporality. Note: I originally call this “temporality of meaning”, but as I thought more about the show I decided “content temporality” is more accurate. It’s not just meaning that morphs, but perceived purpose and other qualities as well. All the content we take in changes.Read More »
Patchwork Confession (A Toradora Analysis)
Around this time last year, I wrote about three symbols in the Christmas party episode of Toradora. Apparently cold weather and Christmas lights put me in the mood for symbolism, because I want to explore another Toradora symbol this year. Although this symbol first shows up in Episode 1, I’ll be talking about the series as a whole and assuming you’ve seen it in its entirety. You can consider this the start of my love letter to Toradora.
But hopefully my letter has a little more substance to it than Taiga’s.
Taiga attempts to put a love letter in Kitamura’s bag, but mixes his up with Ryuji’s. Ryuji then finds this letter, only to discover it is empty. All of this confusion results in Taiga attacking Ryuji and Ryuji winding up with Taiga’s empty envelope. Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: Taiga’s mix-up with Ryuji and Kitamura’s bags is a foreshadowing of her initial crush on Kitamura giving way to her love for Ryuji. I called it obvious, but this is certainly an important interpretation (and probably the main intended one). However, Toradora is not satisfied until it’s packed every bit of meaning into a symbol as it can.Read More »
Flip Flappers’s Chrono-Complex
Possible speculative spoilers for Flip Flappers ahead!
I feel like I shouldn’t write this post just yet, since I’ll be hemmed by speculation, but I’m going to do it anyway. This seems like the best time to point out a powerful storytelling technique—as we are all experiencing it live. I want to emphasize: this essay’s primary purpose is not to analyze the show, but to analyze the meta and mechanics behind the story.
Every episode of Flip Flappers has been a goldmine for analysis of symbolism, subtext, color, and allusion, but (and I don’t mean to belittle any of that analysis) all of that been relatively surface-level. That is, the show wants us to notice all of it. You can say: Cocona and Papika are like two halves to a whole—they swap hair color when they transform, they can only enter Pure Illusion with the other’s help, one is super energetic while the other is reserved. Yes, definitely, and that is worth talking about, but I don’t think any of that is something viewers are meant to dig for. It’s all right there, immediately accessible, as if Flip Flappers is pushing all of its latent content to the mainstage alongside its plot. As a result, the show can be playful in its storytelling. By first investigating the way Flip Flappers tells its sub-stories, we can uncover a complexity that shapes the show as a whole.Read More »
Magical Girls and the Trap of Genre Canon (Magical Girl Raising Project Analysis)
Additional spoilers for Puella Magi Madoka Magica, and vague spoilers for Selector Infected WIXOSS and Yuuki Yuuna is a Hero. This essay will be written under the assumption the reader has seen Madoka Magica.
To celebrate Halloween, I wanted to write about a show that’s not good. It’s not all that bad, but it’s certainly not good. Magical Girl Raising Project (MagiPro) has fallen into a pit of sublime mediocrity, and I hope to illuminate why. You might ask: how is this related to Halloween? Well, what could be scarier than a disappointing anime? On top of that, there are definitely some spooky elements to MagiPro. Top Speed is a witch and there’s like blood and stuff…Anyway, let’s roll with it. Halloween special go! Also, to save myself the trouble later, I am aware this show is based on a light novel series. This essay will only focus on the anime.
It’s a bit unfair and preemptive to spend a whole essay judging a show when it’s only 5 episodes in, but it’s not like future episodes can erase the sins of the past. The worst errors have already been committed and, if anything, the show looks like it’s going downhill. That makes it sound like MagiPro is awful, and I don’t think that’s true. It’s just not good. And it’s all Madoka Magica’s fault. No, it’s not Madoka’s fault in the sense that “we’ve seen this done before”, but in the sense that Madoka caused MagiPro to fall into a trap—the trap of genre canon.Read More »
Sound of Love – A Reflection
When you decide to write 13 essays in 13 weeks about the same show, limiting yourself to an episode per essay, you inevitably ask yourself: “Are you stupid?” You then realize that question leads nowhere so you switch to: “Why are you so stupid?” That question hurts a bit more, but the path is supposed to be a painful one, isn’t it?
I’ve endured this method of writing once before with Owarimonogatari. However, -monogatari (Bake and Owari especially) is aggressively interesting. The series attacks you with unusual shots and editing and drowns you in labyrinthine dialogue. Sure, some of it is just artistic flexing, but you can’t help but want to think about it. Hibike! is not aggressively interesting. It’s fun and gorgeous and moving, but it does not command you to think about it. Yet, it did always encourage me to fawn over it. That fawning—I think—is the reason I made it out of this process with my brain and fingers intact.Read More »
Sound of Love (Part 13) – On Endings
Way back at the start of this series, I described the many gears Hibike! established in order to keep the story moving in an entertaining and meaningful way. Now we’ve reached the end of that story (sort of…) and can see where those gears have led us. As we take a look at the end of Season 1, we’ll see how Hibike! resolves (most of) its remaining conflicts and shuts the door on a successful season.
Naturally, the entirety of Episode 13 is a build-up to the band’s performance and consequential success or failure. I think Hibike! spent the whole season getting us invested in its characters and this performance, but the show goes the extra mile to ensure we’re glued to the edges of our seats. How does it do so? By removing the very subject of our anticipation: sound and music.Read More »