Monday, January 21, 2013

Anime-ZING: Toriko vs. The Haggard children of Anime

Admittedly, when I wrote the first Anime-zing article here, I was a little depressed. I was hoping to find a new anime to get into, but was turning up both empty and creeped out.

Fortunately I just got my wish. Since my last blog, I've finished watching all of Lucky Star, and I can officially say I am a fan. I enjoy all of the background humor of the show, and all the times Konata does something small but silly that ends up becoming a meme. Tsukasa and Miyuki I am convinced are voiced by newborn babies, and after a while, I get used to Akira's Jekyll and Hyde tantrums.

 Before mentioning the other titles I've seen, let me just say that as of last week, I am now a big Toriko fan!

Toriko is just what I was looking for. I found this completely at random on Hulu, and was sucked in by the bright and smooth animation. But more than that, it's a fun anime that's easy to follow.

Toriko is like a hybrid of Fighting Foodons, Digimon, Dragonball Z and the US cartoon Chowder. The series takes place in the far future, known as the Cuisine Age. Every thing in the world is governed by exotic food, but none of it is what we have today. All of the food comes from huge beast hybrids, such as the Fishtacio (fish + pistachio) or from fantastical plants (rainbow fruit) and in order to obtain the food, you have to hunt it down.

Toriko has an incredible super power, allowing him to take the beasts down with little effort. (I'm at episode 4) but in order to activate that power, he has to clasp his hands together, and give thanks for all the world's bounty and everything good in his life. That is a really positive message, right up there with the book "The Secret" and it works well with his character, who lives a humble life. He only kills what he'll be eating, and nothing more, and he is your standard "good guy" character.

Another thing I like is that he actually looks like a fully grown man.

Now granted, I advise people to stay away from steroids, as even "safe" amounts lead to lifelong liver, heart and reproductive damage, but I look at Toriko and I can believe that he is above the age of 21. The last anime I watched that gave me the same sensation was Dragonball Z Kai. It sounds like a small thing, but I can appreciate characters that look like they're old enough to buy a home ~ without being someone's mom, dad or grandparent come episode one.

I don't know. Maybe it's because I've bypassed year 21 in my own life, but lately I've been bothered by many anime characters and how they are drawn. I really feel there's an underlying message here that's a little creepy.

Take a look at Sailor Uranus and Sailor Moon here.
(Yes I know Moon has the wrong locket for this photo.)

Sailor Moon looks youthful with her big, bright eyes and her larger, more round head, while Uranus has eyes that are smaller, her face is longer, and you get the sense that she's had a long, haggard existence. She has the face of the woman you'd see at a bar. No, not the hoe or the drunkard, the one with a few miles on her face and the brain brimming with memories of a hard life on the road. You look at the two and you'd automatically guess that Uranus is the older one.

By the time you get halfway through Sailormoon #8, Sailor Uranus already has her own home, a helicopter, her own car and driver's license, a common-law arrangement with Sailor Neptune, and an adopted baby daughter. She also has had two lifetimes worth of battling, and as mentioned has those miles creeping up on her face. She is every bit a veteran and it shows.

But would you believe they're just a year apart in age??

That's right! When Sailor Uranus debuts, she's only 16, while Sailor Moon celebrates her 15th birthday partially through Sailormoon S. But look at them. Uranus looks like she's old enough to have given birth to a teenager! But she herself is still in high school!!

Now granted, there is a back story that explains all of this, and by the time Parallel Sailormoon rolls around (by this point, both are in their 30's), the two really don't look any different than they do here, but still, Uranus represents something that kind of bothers me in anime. The Haggard Youngster.

When I first started learning how to draw in a manga-style, I learned that this is part of an old trick. The younger your character is, the bigger the eyes and the rounder the head. But the older, and more mature she is, the longer her face gets and the smaller her eyes become. I'm not sure if I really agree with that. Even more disturbing is when you see titles that make the above 21 crowd look like they're ready for retirement. Cowboy Bebop is a prime example of this issue.

From left to right, Jet (age 36) looks like he's somebody's grandpa, Spike (age 27) in most episodes looks like he's in his 40's, Faye (age 23 at time of freezing, 77 after thawing) looks like she's seen better decades, while Edward (age 13) is drawn like a model. This is really bothersome.

Many anime, manga and manga-related titles portray people in their 20's as looking like someone's mom or dad, with teenagers being drawn to look like the ideal date. That may be fine if you're making a series pitched to the under 18 crowd, but when you're looking at a TV14 series, and the "hot chick" isn't even old enough to buy her own Happy Meal, that's crazy and a cause for major concern.

But more and more, I'm finding titles that just make me cringe. Here's a short list:

Tantei Opera Milky Holmes actually hurt my feelings, I was that disappointed. Before I migrated my blogging habit from MySpace to BlogSpot, I previewed the series on a short post.

You probably can guess by now that being a baby of the 80's, I adore bright colors, so yes, this distracted me. Milky Holmes has both sugary-light colors and dark, Gothic colors, depending on which scene is playing. Add to it a pink haired, blue eyed girl, reminiscent of Parallel Sailormoon's Kousagi, and you have my attention for 20 minutes. The initial video I saw ran just about that long, and I really thought this was the entire cut of episode one. What I saw on YouTube was a smart comedy, about four girls, each with super powers and the detective skills of Sherlock Holmes. I even heard there were a few video games (more on that in a bit) preceding the anime, and all in all, the show looked like a harmless, superhero show for all ages.

Well what I did not know was that the video I saw online was fan-edited. I watched the entire first season on Crunchyroll, hoping to see some adventure.

What I got instead was a short series about four innocent tweens who lose their superpowers (known as toys) and then get mercilessly bullied by the entire country of Japan for 12 episodes. Even worse, the girls themselves are often drawn in situations where they are posed like Hentai girls, and their teacher is a legit pedophile, who is constantly begging the kids in class to stare at his sharp-as-knives nipples. I can't even imagine what kind of creep would draw this, thinking it was a good idea. >_O The ending credits video features the girls spread-eagle over a bed in their underwear, while the main villain (later turned less evil) is seen wearing nothing more than caution tape. I shouldn't have to feel like Chris Hansen is at the door with the Dateline van every time I watch an anime.

Another issue with the anime is the de-powering of the characters. Remember when I said there's a few video games for Milky Holmes? Well in the video games, you play as each of the girls as they solve crimes and use their powers for good.

Well whoever drew the Milky Holmes anime decided that there was something wrong with tween girls having super powers, so contrary to the video games, all of the girls were stripped of their powers, stripped of their intelligence, and dropped into a ruthless school.

It's the same problem the first Sailormoon anime had. Chibiusa and the Amazoness Quartet are extremely powerful in the manga, but are practically harmless in the anime. Several other anime titles have the same problem, where their video game or manga counterparts are de-powered for television. It's something that really does need to stop.

Koi Koi Seven was recently added to Hulu, and has a very misleading app cover. Please do your best to avoid this title. The actual promo pic (not pictured) shows a feisty girl with a very large mech behind her, and it is listed as a comedy. So I checked out episode one, thinking this was a Gundam spoof.

As soon as the show starts, you see two girls on a bike, trying to outrun a team of other schoolgirls, blasting them in extremely large, military grade vehicles. Much of the episode has random acts of violence... with no plot! There's no given reason for why the girls are trying to wipe each other out, and the audience is expected to believe that five out of the first 7 girls also have superpowers, one can pull assault riffles out of thin air, and that all of this is normal and needs no explanation.

And nobody knows where the parents are, and the teacher and principal are both in on it.

Making it more disturbing are scenes of the girls randomly undressed, randomly being shamed, and in one scene (mind you, this is all in episode one) there's an underage lesbian rape scene. All of these girls are freaking underage!!

Also, we have a very unrealistic (yes I'm using that word) sub-story, around the main character ~ who is a very skinny, wimpy nerd, who is dropped into an all-girls school with no explanation, and then is suddenly stuck with a girl with exceptionally large breasts, moving into his house while he's not home, and making room for all of her girlfriends.

Picking up from that sub-plot is Kemeko DX. Again, we have a high-strung, wimpy boy in high school, who suddenly ends up with a hot chick inviting herself into his house.

If you've seen Lum/Urusei Yatsura, then you already know what this show is about, as it rips from the Rumiko Takahashi series left and right. If you haven't seen Lum before, either Google it or ask your parents, as the manga was sold in select shops in the United States during the 1980's.

The lead character in Kemeko (much like Lum) is an alien. When she was about 6 years old, she met a little boy her own age named Sanpeita, and decided they were going to be married when she returns to Earth in 10 years. The day she makes good on her promise, she arrives in the creepiest little mech-robot possible. The robot is named Kemeko, and good JEBUS she has the most soulless, dead eyes ever. Oh, and of course, ripping from Lum again, there are other, unbelievably hot chicks, trying to get Sanpeita's attention.

Tenchi Muyo, Kemeko DX, Lum, Koi Koi 7, all of them star skinny, high strung, wimpy control freaks, who somehow end up with all these women. WHYEEE??? Ladies take a good look at him! He is everything you should NOT be with, the way he treats you is abysmal at best, he's stupid, he's constantly afraid of gaining weight and what people think of him, he's caught up in his own ways, and even his own parents hate him. Why would ANYBODY want to be with one of these guys??

Which takes me back to Toriko and why I like the title character. Toriko is strong, polite, positive, sure in himself, and is not afraid to gain a few vanity pounds. If any of these anime girls should be fawning over any man, it should be someone like him.... provided they can finish growing up first.

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