Advisory Parental – The Case for Parents in Anime

It is not uncommon for anime to lack parental figures. Many shows, especially the more popular ones, have mother/father figures who are either deceased, absent, or never mentioned at all. Anime tends to lean on the coming of age story structure, because a great deal of it is aged at children/adolescents/young adults. These groups will gravitate to imaginative spaces where parents are dead, absent, awful, or even outright villains, because that allows for the young heroes to take center stage.

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Thank goodness mom isn’t around to keep me from achieving my goal.

I feel like this is a huge missed opportunity. Sure, not every story needs or benefits from parents for any number of reasons. They may be outside the scope of the work, not particularly interesting, or the author simply does not know how to handle them. This is perfectly fine, but there are real advantages to adding parental figures to a work. Parents are very easy hooks for most viewers, as if they exist on this earth of ours then they have at least some personal dimension with parents whether they are biological, adopted, brought in through marriage, or of a more spiritual variety. Even if someone’s parents are completely absent, that absence plays some part in their story.

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I was both absent and a villain. Behold my incredible parenting abilities.

Parents also tend to be rather complex parts of our lives, as few people have entirely perfect relationships with the people who have raised them. They provide food, shelter, guidance, nurture, stories, and attempt to pass on a series of virtues to us, but can just as often be overbearing, overprotective, naive, or antagonistic to our desires. This kind of multi-layered complexity practically comes prepackaged with the use of parental characters, and authors should certainly not ignore the potential they have for telling stories

To show what I mean, I will pull examples from three (relatively) recent shows that use parents to great effect. To further compound things, all three will be shonen coming of age stories!

Major Hughes – Fullmetal Alchemist

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The Why – In a sense, Major Hughes is almost a bit boring. His entire character is literally Hey Look At Me I Love My Family. While that seems a bit one-dimensional (probably because it is), he definitely earns points for being one of the few characters in all of anime (or fiction, for that matter) who is just an out-and-out adoring father. I wish I could complain with something like, “Ugh, another good father, seen this a thousand times.” But truthfully good dads in anime are pretty similar to their real life counterparts – few and far between.

The Hook – His genuine goodness only magnifies the feels as the series progresses.

Rinko Iori – Gundam Build Fighters

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The Why – A somewhat typical maternal figure, Rinko gets bonus points in a few categories. Firstly, she has an earnest interest in her son Sei’s success, but is not overbearing/too nosy/obnoxious in any way. She clearly cares and encourages him without interfering with his life in any undo manner. Furthermore, she feels like an actual mother rather than a caricature of one – quietly supportive when Sei is around his friends, excitedly cheering for him when watching him compete. On top of that she is a successful businesswoman, has some great (if sparing) dialogue, and the audience can’t help but root for her while she roots for her son.

The Hook – A mother whose role is a bit traditional, but is refreshing in its sincerity.

Joseph Joestar – JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure

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The Why –  Not only is Joseph one of the better leads in the various arcs of JoJo’s, he really exemplifies the advantages of using these sorts of parental figures in anime. As an audience we see his journeys as a young man, and by Stardust Crusaders (JoJo’s 3rd arc) he is now an older man leading his grandson to save his daughter. The incredible dynamic that his legacy hook adds to the show as a whole gives everything that much more impact. Now the audience can juxtapose Joseph with his daughter and grandson, as well as seeing him continue on to have new adventures of his own. By including him as part of the adventure all of the events that take place have an additional sense of meaning, because this is both a new story for a new hero and the continuing tale of yesterday’s legends.

The Hook – Not your granpappy’s Grandpa character, an elder warrior who provides guidance and punch.


So there you have it folks, three examples of great parental figures that really add to the stories they are in. Do you agree or disagree with our picks for great parental figures in anime? Or can you think of any others we should have included? Tell us in the comments below.

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Anime Jukebox – Area 88 “How Far to Paradise”

The first in a new line of blog posts, Anime Jukebox will be a collection of songs that stand out to the Blade Licking Thieves for any number of reasons. Today’s track – How Far to Paradise, from the Area 88 OVA.

Sung by Derek Jackson, this track served as the first opening theme for the Area 88 OVA. Adapted from Kaoru Shintani’s legendary manga series, this OVA is a favorite for a lot of old heads in the fandom. This track firmly plants the show in the glorious cheese of the 1980’s – a story of seemingly endless war with a reluctant pilot and a distant love interest. While the manga and OVA certainly exceed the seemingly “ho-hum/been there done that” of the initial premise, this track is so drenched in 80s absurdity it is hard not to love. The heavy bass line, rhythmic guitar, and over the top brass accompaniment are a perfect pairing with the iconic logo – the unicorn with a burning mane of fire. The highlight of the track is definitely whenever Derek’s voice drops in pitch as he asks, “How far back to my hoo-ooome?” at the end of each chorus.

What’s your take on this classic anime track – is it worth you quarter, or do you skip it? Tell us in the comments below.

Of Cake and Icing

So a few days ago while checking my Twitter feed, Crunchyroll posted this –

https://mobile.twitter.com/Crunchyroll/status/761054966005891072

The post has a 45 second clip from the show New Game. At the time I encountered it, it had almost 100 retweets and close to 400 likes. Out of curiosity I watched the clip. What I saw was… something.

What had I just watched?

I pondered this for a moment – a straight 45 seconds of two girls walking down the street calling each other cute and then acting embarrassed and modest about being called cute. Was that it? Is this supposed to make me want to watch the show? This saccharine clip existed without context, character, or really any purpose. All icing and no cake. I can’t believe people would get anything from the clip.

But maybe I was approaching this from the wrong angle.

When I cut my teeth on anime it was a different time, and Japanese animation was a subset of the existing American science-fiction/fantasy fandom. So my expectations are wildly different than subsequent generations. I thought about what my “icing” would be – mecha fighting in space, two martial artists using kewl powerz, ancient warriors crossing blades at dusk. I realized that if the clip had featured, say, a criss-crossing laser battle with streaking missiles and detailed mecha designs I wouldn’t have needed much context to enjoy it. I would have just taken it at face value and excitedly searched for more. I’d have seen that plate of icing an devoured it, probably scraping the plate while I did so.

So what accounts for this change of taste? Why do modern fans enjoy two girls talking about nothing and it does nothing for me?

At first I thought it maybe have just been an issue of age. I’m little more than a cranky old man, shaking my cane at passing youngsters. Kids these days, or back when I was a young man, and rabble rabble babble blergha. That sort of thing. But I don’t think that is the entire story. Certainly, 11-year old Grant would not have liked the above clip any more than currently-ancient-Grant did.

Is it that tastes have change radically? Perhaps these dern youngins just don’t know how to connect with the sort of genres I care for. Growing up in he shadow of the Cold War does things to one’s mind, and maybe the current social context gives them a different set of experiences to pull from. Still, I think that may only be partially true. Sure, the current crop of fandom is a lot different than I am or was, but when I look at the top lists for shows on Crunchyroll the top three are all shonen fighting shows – Naruto, One Piece, and Jojo’s – and the fourth slot is the new Berserk, which has been a staple in the medium for years.

I think the truth of the matter is that the fandom is larger and a lot more diverse. Simply put, anime has always been all of the things it is now, but the proportions are different (i.e. less mecha, more slice of life) and the sheer breadth of shows is greater than ever before. It’s not that we exist in an age where everyone is watching 45-second New Game clips and going gaga over moe eyes, it’s that we live in an age where there is such an incredible amount of content that there exists a fandom for, well, everything.

So while some things have not changed, and some things perhaps too much for my taste, at the end of the day anime is probably better for the diversity. Choice tends to work in everyone’s favor. So no, I will never be swayed by sugary sweet clips, but if someone else is… well, more power to them. To paraphrase a famous line that helped someone else keep their head on their shoulders, “Let them eat icing.”

Blade Licking Thieves Podcast #3 – Golgo 13: The Professional

Golgo 13: The Professional

Download Link – Episode 3: Golgo 13 The Professional – A Cold Fish, a Pair of Shades, and an M16

Drop us an Email.  Check out Grant on twitter.  Subscribe on iTunes.

Show Notes:

  • A Wuxia puppet show makes an earnest attempt to redefine the word Awesome.
  • My Hero Academia gets a 2nd season.
  • The state of the original Mobile Suit Gundam among-st Japanese college students.
  • Japanese animator decries Moe eyes for increasing his poverty.
  • And animator pay remains as terrible as ever: see this Shirobako Infographic and this depressing Indiegogo campaign.
  • China saves Duncan Jones career i.e. Warcraft movie talk.
  • We review the Osamu Dezaki helmed feature-film, Golgo 13: The Professional from 1983. The review starts at 25:51.

Links:

If you have questions or comments about the show, please feel free to shoot us an Email or leave a comment below.

Thanks for listening!

 

Blade Licking Thieves Podcast #2 – Gamera: Guardian of the Universe

Gamera Guardian of the Universe

Download Link – Episode 2: Gamera Guardian of the Universe – A Friend of At Least One Child (Maybe)

Drop us an Email.  Check out Grant on twitter.  Leave a comment below. Enjoy!

Show Notes:

  • Grant has a short Hulu followup.
  • The End of the Millennium, Retail-Apocalypse manga (aka DD Fist of the North Star) comes to a close.
  • We collectively ogle Woody Robo Sheriff Star.
  • We chatter on about Studio Ghibli Producer Nishimura’s controversial remarks (he has since apologized).
  • Finally, we discuss and review the 1995, Kaiju film, directed by Shusuke Kaneko, Gamera: Guardian of the Universe.  The review starts at 28:40.

Apologies again for the substandard audio quality.

Links:

If you have questions or comments about the show, please feel free to shoot us an Email or leave a comment below.

Thanks for listening!

Blade Licking Thieves Podcast #1 – Rebuild of Evangelion

Rebuild of Evangelion

Download Link – Episode 1 Rebuild of Evangelion – You Can (Not) Review

Subscribe to us on iTunes!  Drop us an Email.  Find Grant on Twitter.

Show Notes:

  • For this inaugural, mega-long episode, we give a brief introduction and background on ourselves.
  • Explain our general review philosophy.
  • Discuss upcoming Hulu purge of the anime back catalog.
  • Talk what ifs about the upcoming Godzilla Resurgence film directed by Hideaki Anno — Edit: It’s Finally Here!
  • Finally, we have three back-to-back reviews, one for each of the Rebuild of Evangelion films (something we will not be doing again). The first review starts at 47:53, second film at 1:57:15, and third at 2:47:47.
  • Slightly related, I discovered an utterly inexhaustible resource for Evangelion and Gainax related interviews (after we’d already recorded the podcast, of course).  Check it out. The NGE Source Anthology and NGE 2.0 Complete Records Collection sections are a wonderful place to start — tremendous props to the site owner!

Apologize in advance for the shoddy audio quality.  And, yes, we realize this episode is a little rough in parts — please bear with us!

Links:

If you have questions or comments about the show, please feel free to shoot us an Email or leave a comment below.

Thanks for listening!

A Podcast on Asian Cinema: Anime, Kaiju, Chambara, Martial Arts, and More.

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