Mari Okada: Modes of Melodrama (Kiznaiver)

Mari Okada: Modes of Melodrama (Kiznaiver)

This is one of many essays on Mari Okada and melodrama. If you stumbled upon this post, I recommend you start at the Introduction or Table of Contents instead! Spoilers for Kiznaiver.

Now that we’ve established a melodramatic basis and looked at the particulars of teen melodrama, we can start to criticize those particulars and flesh out the complexities of melodrama. Mari Okada herself engages in this criticism via her writing of Kiznaiver. I think it’s fair to assume that, after many years of writing for and adapting melodramatic projects, Okada has some opinion on the mode or has learned something from it. This might sound like an endgame essay topic (like we’re looking at the culmination of Okada’s career), but discussing this early on allows unique insight into the melodramatic mode and why Okada would be continually asked to/interested in working on these projects.

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Digibro explained Kiznaiver as The Breakfast Club told in the style of Cabin in the Woods, and I think that’s a hilariously accurate description. Kiznaiver is quintessential teen melodrama manipulated and ramped up to the point the narrative doesn’t make any sense if you stop to think about it. Yet, that’s why it’s so interesting. (Side note: if you haven’t seen either of those movies, do so immediately. The Breakfast Club is my favorite film of all time and Cabin in the Woods is one wild ride). But anyway…Read More »

Mari Okada: Modes of Melodrama (Teen Melodrama)

Mari Okada: Modes of Melodrama (Teen Melodrama)

This is one of many essays on Mari Okada and melodrama. If you stumbled upon this post, I recommend you start at the Introduction or Table of Contents instead! Spoilers for Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo.

I want to dive into all the social commentary and Okada’s experimentation with the “generic” (“modal” in this case) mythos as soon as possible, but we’ll take things step by step. Most people have been exposed to teen melodrama in some form—especially with its recent resurgence via Twilight and teen fiction in general. So we all know what teen melodrama is, but it can be hard to put into words. Things can get even trickier if you think about how “teen” or “young adult” labels are really just a facet of marketing. However, we can still pinpoint unique elements of teen melodrama and investigate how Okada utilizes them.

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The defining feature of a teen melodrama is its particular “situation”. This is kind of a vague concept, but the general idea is that certain kinds of characters are in certain settings under certain conditions/stresses. The situation of teen melodrama involves archetypal teenagers in a school or home who are in some kind of identity or agency crisis. All of this is then soaked in the woes of puberty and sweet, sweet angst. As with all melodrama, the climax takes the form of an honest release of emotion. I quoted Douglas Sirk last time, so now here’s actress Molly Ringwald speaking on the melodrama in The Breakfast Club:Read More »

Mari Okada: Modes of Melodrama (A Melodramatic Basis)

Mari Okada: Modes of Melodrama (A Melodramatic Basis)

This is the second part in a series of essays on Mari Okada and melodrama. If you stumbled upon this post, start at the Introduction instead! No spoilers ahead for now.

Before we can start talking about anything relevant in Mari Okada’s work, we have to establish a melodramatic basis for analysis. In other words, we have to know what melodrama is and where it comes from—which means chugging through some history and exposition. The history of melodrama is actually quite interesting and I’ll be keeping it light and to the point, since it’s way more fun (and useful) to talk about the gritty details once we’re engaged with some specific anime. In addition to history, I’ll give a brief overview of the most universal elements of melodrama to be expanded upon in future essays.

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Melodrama originated as a method of performance in the theater, not as a genre or tone. Music was used to add or fine-tune emotion within a scene, hence melo+drama. Here’s the entirety of Ariadne auf Naxos and an excerpt of Medea so you can get an idea of what this would look like onstage. As you’ll quickly notice, theatrical melodrama is not far removed from opera, and the functioning of melodrama (i.e. the method of acting, the emotional impact of the music) has greatly influenced modern media. Most notably, early cartoons such as Tom and Jerry and most silent films (Nosferatu as a random example) rely heavily on a melodramatic mode to better convey character motivation and emotion. I’m leaving out some details about the overall bombastic nature of melodramas, but this is a fine starting point.Read More »

Mari Okada: Modes of Melodrama (Introduction)

Mari Okada: Modes of Melodrama (Introduction)

Welcome to the start of what may be a long, long series of essays on the woman I find to be the most interesting of all notable anime writers. We’ll be adventuring through a jungle of diverse shows and discussing a variety of topics, so it should be fun. With that: adventure start!

If this title sounds familiar to you, it’s probably because you’ve seen Digibro’s “The Queen of Anime Melodrama” which refers, of course, to Mari Okada. If you haven’t seen that video, I recommend checking it out as Digi provides some useful background info and speaks from a perspective I’m going to (sort of) criticize in these essays. In particular, Digi umbrellas Okada’s work under the incredibly nonspecific term of “melodrama”. I can’t really blame Digi for this, since he’s just trying to give an overview Okada’s work and melodrama is an apt term for that. The purpose of this series of posts isn’t to directly engage with Digi’s video anyway. Instead, our goal throughout these essays will be to develop a more nuanced understanding of melodrama and its features, as well as investigate how Okada both utilizes and revises those features.

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So, what is the issue with lumping her writing under the catch-all of “melodrama”? This isn’t necessarily wrong, but it misrepresents Okada, her work, and melodrama as a whole. Simply designating Okada’s writing as “melodramatic” with some vague definition of the word does us no good. Digi speaks as though melodrama is the feeling an anime gives off, and as if it’s something Okada can just crank up like a volume dial. As we proceed, we’ll see how lacking this perspective is. I’m not saying “melodramatic” can’t be used in a broad sense—it’s a legitimate adjective. I’m just hoping to provide a more specific context to the melodramatic mode and to get us all to like Okada more as a writer!Read More »

2016 Retrospective

2016 Retrospective

There are spoilers ahead. If you see a show title you haven’t watched yet, you might want to skip it until you have.

The time has come to reflect back on our most questionable hobby: seasonal anime. According to my research, a lot of anime was released in 2016. Too much. My home and body fell into decay trying to keep up with it all, but I regret nothing. I lived my life as a moe-infected caveman in order to make this retrospective possible, and I’d do it again. I live for the list, you could say (the secret is to drop all the boring trash immediately).  Thus, as I finally shave, as sunlight breaks through my shades for the first time in months, let’s recap the five anime of 2016 that I am most likely to remember. The five anime that will define—for better or worse—2016 in my mind.

I’ll be applying the same rules as last year, so that means no shows continuing from cours or seasons that began in 2015 (or earlier). Additionally, I won’t be including any movies. This is primarily because I prefer/have to wait for disc releases. With all of that out of the way, here we go!Read More »

Winter 2016 First Impressions

Winter 2016 First Impressions

A new season begins and brings with it a slew of new shows for me to write about. I wasn’t lying when I said 2016 was the year of opinions, so we’re going to start the year off right with some nice, near-baseless opinions. I’ve watched the first episode of everything I plan to keep up with this season and only tabbed out once per show. It’s safe to say I’m an expert on the anime of Winter 2016.

If a show isn’t listed here, that’s because I’m confident I won’t enjoy it, it’s a short, or it’s had seasons in the past. I’m trying to keep these quick, so I’ll have to leave out a few of my compliments and complaints for each.

I’m going to regret this, but I’ll give a predicted score for each of these. If you’re interested in what these scores correlate to, check out my MAL profile.

Prince of Stride: Alternative

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2015 Retrospective

2015 Retrospective

There are spoilers ahead. If you see a show title you haven’t watched yet, you might want to skip it until you have.

I tend to stay away from stuff like this because the Internet is suffering enough as it is. Are my opinions really so important that I need to piss them into the polluted waters of the Anime Review Lake? Probably not. Not to mention, most people are too lazy to take enough screenshots to form an analysis article, so the competition stays relatively low on that side of things. It’s way easier to just Google ‘anime memes’ and paste the first K-On/pop-culture crossover you find. Plus Print-screen is in such an awkward spot on the keyboard—who has time for that?

This was going to be a meme but they hurt my soul, so have a Kyoko instead.

Yet, a new year is approaching, and I’ve decided it’s time to put that pessimism behind me. It’s time to subject you to my opinions. Out of the many shows of this past year, I chose five that best represented 2015 for me. This is by no means a top five for the year (it is absolutely not a top five), but simply the five shows I felt I’d remember the most after this year—for better or worse. I chose to exclude shows with seasons that aired prior to 2015 from my list (i.e. Haikyuu, Shirobako, Owarimonogatari,etc. were not considered).

Enjoy.

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