Pages

Ta-Ta Tuesday: Popotan (anime series) First Impressions



Popotan
Written by: ??? No one is claiming it!
Based on the visual novel adult game by: Petit Ferrit
Directed by: Shinichiro Kimura
Produced: Shaft/Sentai Filmsorks
Release Date: July 17, 2003--October 2, 2003


I found Popotan on Amazon Prime this month and decided to watch the first episode during some down-time a few weeks ago. I debated doing a review of it because it isn't very remarkable, but finally decided that for several (paired) reasons this would be a perfect post for Ta-Ta Tuesday and we haven't had one of those in a while. 

Apparently Popotan the anime is just the latest in a series of games, novels, manga and drama cds of the same name. There are a lot of variations in stories between these different mediums and retellings, but a few things stay the same. There is a moving house (that's cool), and three sisters named Ai, Mai, and Mii of various ages and degrees of weirdness. There is a stoic, perhaps roboty, maid named Mea (because those names aren't confusing enough). And there is a lot of nudity and sexual innuendo that has been heavily criticized as stereotypical, or obviously blatant appeals to male audiences who are more interested in the characters' physical appearances than their development. I have to say that on first watch...I can't see much need for the kind of nudity that is displayed. But, I don't see much need for this anime as a whole either. I found it hyperactive, confusing, and wondered (while watching) when the first episode would be over. To be fair, I feel like I should give this series a chance, but...uuuuurrrrrrggggggghhhh. I just don't care. 

Here are my first impressions: 
1. That is a lot of boob exposure for a show whose first episode featured middle-schoolers. Like seriously a lot of boob. I don't know that I'm comfortable with that level of boob being used in that way. I mean, yeah, it's just boobs, but...something is unsettling here. Do we really need a "whoops, someone was bathing" scene? I'm siding with the critics on this whole nudity thing...it's pointless, and gratuitous. On a side-note (about side-boob), the breasts in this series come in all shapes and sizes from "those enormous breasts should not be that perky...are they defying gravity?" to "I'm not sure of the age of this character, but I feel like we both need a adult." So...ewh. 

OOH! BOOBS! (Censor bar by Dr. M)
Let's watch this badly written, confusing anime
because the need for cartoon boobs overrides any need for sense,
good writing or plot.  (That was sarcasm.)

2. Weird and perverted magical sisters who live in an eternal Christmas-house powered by dandelions that transport it through time and space! Okay, why not? It's not the dumbest thing I've ever watched/read (See: Prince of Ramen for that distinction). Of course none of it made sense in the first episode, but I'm going to assume more is revealed later about why/how this magic transporting Christmas-house works and who these strange, seemingly unrelated, boob-tacular sisters are. I am guessing time-travelling Christmas-witches. 

3. The title is clever. Popotan is an inversion of the Japanese word for dandelion: Tampopo. Speaking of Tampopo, Tampopo is a favorite film in my house (it is a really good film). Popotan, sadly, will not achieve that distinction...no matter how clever the title. The world of Popotan is an alternate universe, and there's something magical going on (what? I don't know). So speaking backwards seems very appropriate in a winder-shins kind of way. Magic! WOO! 

It is cute, I'll give it that.

4. It is colorful and cute, when it isn't being pervy and weird. That may be 99% of the problem with this anime...it has an identity crisis!! This seems like an anime for kids in terms of art, plot, goofiness, EXCEPT for the nudity and perviness. It's like it is confused about its audience. Either go full-perv (which means I'll avoid it) or full-kid-show (which would make the most sense). This in-between thing is off-putting and creepy...like being flashed by Barney the dinosaur, or learning that Oscar the Grouch is into bondage. I don't like it. 

Conclusion: Not for me, thanks. The whole things is a mess...there are some very strange choices that have been made, and I honestly cannot figure out who the audience is supposed to be. 


Bee and Puppycat: OH MAN IT'S GOODER THAN HELL

I have been putting off watching Bee and Puppycat for roughly two months now. I heard nothing but good things about it, so of course I was extremely wary. I resisted for so long, and now I've seen it, and the infection that is the adorable B&P is now consuming my soul.

I really don't want to say anything specific, because it would spoil what precious little there is of it. At the moment, there is a part 1 and a part 2, and no apparent plans for more. I can't even warn you enough, you will get to the end of part 2 and scream at the gods for making such an unjust world that would not offer forth a third installment. But I can say that the art style is super-cute and well-done, the animation is pretty great, and the writing is A+.

Without belaboring this point anymore, go watch it and make your own decisions. And then come back and tell me when you love it.

Bee and Puppycat Part 1


WataMote (Anime Series)



WataMote
Written by: Takao Yoshioka
Based on the manga series by: Nico Tanigawa (Yen Press)
Directed by: Shin Onuma
Produced: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: Began July 8, 2013--ongoing 

Welcome, Dear Readers, to a GUSHING review of a strange little, heartbreaking, anime with a long name. The title of this slice-of-life, teen-angst, anime series: Watashi ga Motenai no wa do Kangaetemo Omaera ga Warui! , better known by the shortened title Watamoto, translates to No Matter How I look at It, It's You Guys' Fault I'm Not Popular! and, in short (or long...considering the length of that title) that's exactly what this anime is about. 

Lead character Tomoko Kuroki is a fifteen year old girl with crippling social anxiety and self-esteem problems...a fact that makes her high-school life and her desire for popularity awkward to the point of painfulness for both viewer and character. So, why would I not only want to watch something that is painful to watch, but encourage others to watch it as well? That's a good question I don't really have an straight answer to. 

One thing I want to make clear though, is that I am in no way watching this to ridicule or make fun of this character. Although I have never had to face the depths of social awkwardness that Tomoko faces on a daily basis, I cannot help but feel a sort of horrific empathy with her as she moves throughout her day: panicking at each small social interaction; swinging wildly between utter disdain for her fellow students and her desire to be more like them; misjudging and misinterpreting social cues, actions, and reactions; feeling isolated and trapped in that isolation without any direction to turn; and trying madly to find some IN to a world of friends, popularity, and social ease that she seems to be excluded from. To call Tomoko simply anti-social or neurotic is to sell her short...she is a strangely compelling character, who invokes joy, sorrow, and pity in me
I promise you that she's not as scary as all that...most of the time.
And although she is the loner-type, she's not going to snap and go through with any violent actions towards others.
She does however sink into some fairly depraved, and self-indulgent fantasies involving sex and violence.

Fiercely independent by necessity, Tomoko TRIES (and fails) to be "normal"...something that may stick out in propriety-conscious Japan even more so than other countries. Countering that independence, though is a desperate need to fit in somewhere. Tomoko is so desperate that she negotiates every move she makes in an extensive inner-dialog that viewers are privy to...we see the misconceptions she is under, and the, at times, very sweet nature that motivates her. Of course we also see all those plans fall flat on their face, and we see a lot of her perverted and violent side as well (Tomoko is a well-rounded character). The end-goal to all her schemes is something most people take for granted...a handful of friends, a little bit of love and self-confidence, and a chance at the "normal life" those around her seem to find so easily. One issue keeping her from finding that "normal life," is that much of her understanding of what is normal and what makes a person popular is skewed as a result of her reliance on pop-culture artifacts that serve as a poor road-map; she reads countless manga and fan-magazines, plays Otome games (dating and relationship games targeted towards a mostly-female audience), and constructs elaborate fantasies. 

One of the things I find most fascinating about this anime is HOW we as an audience understand Tomoko. Tomoko's inner life is elaborate (it swings from highs to lows as she attempts to navigate the real world), and her outer life is withdrawn, awkward, and stilted (she can hardly speak to others, but when she does it involves some faux-pas, oddity, or social misstep). Somewhere in the middle is the real Tomoko...an interesting and strange girl who with a little more (or less, at points) self-confidence would be a "normal" high-school student (there are no "normal" high school students). Tomoko doesn't seem to realize that she's not completely alone...that each person is a little bag of neuroses and second-guessing just filling to burst. But, unlike many of us, Tomoko has no outlet for her very contradictory thoughts and impulses. 

She hates the popular kids, but she wants so desperately to be popular. Who is to blame? Tomoko herself? Yes, to a point, but who does she have to turn to? She's navigating this alone. Should we blame the popular kids for excluding her? Absolutely, but they're in some ways JUST like Tomoko, and perhaps fear letting her into their lives. She is, after all, an honestly odd person, who keeps others at well-beyond arm's length, and they most-likely have no idea how to approach her. 

Her attempt to escape a frantic situation in which she is stuck beneath a shelter in the rain with two cute boys. She tries to talk to them. It gets, as expected, a little weird. She tries to sneak off, and they ask "Where are you going? You'll get soaked."The sentence above was her impromptu answer.
My empathetic reaction was to scream "NOOOOO!" It took a while before I could laugh.

I love her oddity. I love the completely unaware and disastrous lapses in logic she has. I love that she tries so hard, and I feel sorrow when she fails. In some ways she's a cool kid...she has passionate interests (albeit perverted passionate interests at times); she's unique; she's imaginative--she's absolutely fascinating. She's the kind of kid we've all been at one point or the other (I hope, I'm not alone here in admitting that). She's the kind of person I'd befriend...a fellow outsider weirdo holding "normal life" at a distance while secretly desiring all of its pretty trappings. 

There's a tragedy to her failed attempts that's reminiscent (I'm about to get word-nerd here, so bear with me) of Hamlet. Now, I'm not saying this is Shakespearean exactly, but the inner struggle with identity and presenting our "self" to the world, the frustration of feeling bound by circumstance and expectation...those are HEAVY human concerns, and they are addressed in this anime. If Hamlet were minus one ghost-dad, and plus a comedy-of-errors feel, Tomoko would be hamletesque

I highly recommend this ongoing series. I have watched through episode six of Watamoto  so far, and am hooked. I will say that I don't recommend it for people who have a tendency to be overly-empathetic, or who get anxious when others are in awkward situations. There's a Michael Scott (from The Office) element to Tomoko...she means SO well, but she's so wrong at times, and misjudges so much in the world and about herself. It could be too much anxiety for some viewers, but if you can handle the elevated stress of watching this, it is well worth the risk. 

I'm going to leave you with a teaser....Watamoto has some of the best opening credits I've ever seen in an anime...hard heavy-metal, Japanese-style and some nice imagery reminiscent of Tomoko's inner struggles. I might actually go purchase this song, if I can find it...wow. 



All in all, I'm really loving this series...I'm loving it THROUGH the pain I sometimes feel watching it. My heart goes out to Tomoko, and I know that I'll be cheering through her victories...as soon as she manages to have one.