November 30, 2015

MANGA MONDAYS | All According to Keikaku

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By MICHAEL MAUER

Courtesy of Madhouse

Photo Courtesy of Madhouse Inc.

Translator’s note: keikaku means plan.

For those of you who didn’t scroll past this post due to the awful meme in the title, thanks for bearing with me. Before I get to the business of today’s post, I need to mention that this will be my last one for the semester. Finals and whatnot. Anyways, I’d better get around to justifying dredging up such an old Death Note joke.

Have you ever watched a show and been able to predict every plot twist, character development and action sequence because it was just so absurdly similar to everything in its genre? Unsurprisingly, this happened to me while watching the pilot episode of one of the few shows starring Rie Kugimiya that I haven’t seen – Aria the Scarlet Ammo (not going to lie, the only reason I checked this out is because Nano sings the opening to season 2). Now I’m a huge fan of Kugimiya – heck, I have her tsundere voice as my alarm because I’m a total dweeb. But honestly, she’s always the same kind of character (though as I say this I have to awkwardly pretend to forget about Happy and Alphonse Elric) – and, moreover, the shows she stars in are often pretty similar too. Just see the chart below.

Photos Courtesy of J.C. Staff co., Ltd.

Photos Courtesy of J.C. Staff co., Ltd.

My ability to predict Aria so easily really discouraged me from watching more, and to be honest, it’s why I haven’t seen much of Familiar of Zero. However, I want to point out that this kind of strict adherence to the tropes and conventions of a genre (or seiyuu, in Kugimiya’s case) isn’t always a bad thing.

My case in point is a widely loved and critically well-received anime – Your Lie In April. Perhaps I’ve just been overexposed to anime that enjoy tugging at my heartstrings, but most of its so-called “plot twists” were pretty easy to read. Every character is exactly in their role assigned by common slice-of-life romantic comedy convention – somehow “special” love interest that catches the main character’s eye, childhood friend alternative love interest and another childhood best friend to serve as a foil or partner in crime. Pick whatever you want from the same genre as Your Lie in April and we can find these archetypes without much difficulty. Clannad, Sakurasou and every aforementioned Rie Kugimiya anime, to name a few. Each of them plays with the concept slightly differently, but the fundamental structure is exactly the same.

What interests me here is how I found this idea of a somewhat formulaic plot was a major turnoff for Aria, but made me watch Your Lie in April in a single Saturday. Admittedly there are a number of factors that go into this sort of impression, like Aria’s tasteless fanservice and somewhat cringe worthy CG in comparison to Your Lie in April’s gorgeous animation and music. Nevertheless, there was certainly an element of knowing what I was about to get into that hooked me on Your Lie in April but put me off of Aria.

What makes this distinction is a fairly intangible thing. Some people (including yours truly) just have archetypes and stories that they can’t get enough of, regardless of quality – call it a guilty pleasure (is there a tsundere? If yes, then sold). Or another way to put it is that we all have stories that we just generally prefer to others. For instance, I’m not a fan of stories with obvious heroes and villains, but some people prefer clearer cut morals. I guess my overall point is that there’s nothing wrong with finding a niche you like and sticking with it, but it’s also good to watch something totally different every now and then to see what other kinds of stories are out there. On that note, I’m going to go back to watching Hunter x Hunter instead of Aria because for some reason, I’m on a shounen spree these days.

See you all in January! And as always, don’t hesitate to hit me up on social media in the interim. I’m always down to talk anime wherever and whenever.

 

Michael Mauer is a sophomore in the college of Arts and Sciences majoring in Computer Science. His favorite anime is Neon Genesis Evangelion and he never leaves home without his Homura Akemi necklace. He can be reached at mmauer@cornellsun.com. Alternatively, just hunt him down on Facebook or Google+.

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