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Escape from the Planet of the Lolitas

October 18, 2009

If anime continues to be dominated by moe, you’ll regret it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life. 

What frustrates me most about the current moe fad is how far it has saturated anime culture. It was easy to ignore when it was isolated to a handful of series each season. There were plenty of other options to pick from, and you could ignore the stuff that insisted on indulging these fetishes.

And even then, some of these moe series were actually good. Azumanga Daioh, for all intents and purposes, was a proto-moe series. Azumanga also had a brilliant sense of comedic timing and a sweetly twisted sense of humor that allowed it to transcend its trappings. Even the likes of Lucky Star had some flashes of greatness, although half of those came from the great live action segments where the voice actors ran around acting like idiots in public.

But since then the world has changed. Much like Marky Mark returning to earth at the end of Planet of the Apes to find a gorilla’s face on the Lincoln Memorial, we seem to be in an alternate reality where shows that should involve diverse, dual-genedered casts and various types of scenes have become infested by pre-pubescent girls and scenes where said underaged girls gawk at everyday objects and prattle on about inconsequential topics that real girls don’t give a damn about.

This season’s primary culprit of the Planet of the Lolis-like scenario is To Aru Kagaku no Railgun.

Casting females in traditionally male roles is great. Having an all-female cast is fine as well, so long as it makes some measure of sense. The problem with most moe series is that said all-female cast feels forced at best. Railgun is such a series. Despite being in a world where men and women exhibit supernatural powers, we’ve only seen two male characters with powers in the first three episodes, and both of them had a number of lines you could count on one hand. Also, two of the main characters work for a law-enforcement agency. I have to assume that said agency hires members of both sexes, since there’s no hints that there’s a matriarchal society in play, but we don’t see a single male character working with these two super powered cops. I can buy teenagers being cops. This is anime, after all. But no male agents? No, not buying it.

To be blunt, it’s laughable.

The only reason why there’s an all-female cast is pure titillation. The creators of the series know that they’ll draw in more ratings and DVD sales by appealing to a demographic that wants to see young females and nothing else. It’s a marketing strategy and nothing else.

This, alone, would be OK if it was the only offense. Going back to Azumanga, it doesn’t make sense for there to be no male characters in the cast. Yeah, the series focuses on a group of female friends, but there’s hardly any male speaking lines in the series, much less supporting characters. But Azumanga makes up for it by being strong in other areas, like I mentioned before. So, if Railguns moe offenses stopped here, I’d chalk it up to personal preference and go with it.

The Gawk. Quite possibly the moe genre’s worst offense. Instead of moving a plot forward, or going into some interesting character development, or throwing some action fanservice at us, or doing anything that’s remotely interesting, the series slows down so the characters can gawk at something. Some inconsequential item comes along, like a cute kid or a pair of panties or family photos or a blade of grass or some shit that any sane, rational person would react to with a smile and not much else. But in a moe anime, all of the characters slow down, like a line of cars slowing down to watch a car wreck on the other side of the highway, and they commence with a series of meaningless comments about said meaningless object of obsession.

Apparently this is supposed to be some sort of heart-warming, touching, slice of life situation that makes you relate with the characters. Not only are such scenes narrative crutches and canned responses that feel the same regardless of the series in which they appear, they also have no effect on someone who isn’t already predispositioned to enjoy such things. Good dialogue can catch the ear of someone who usually doesn’t care about that sort of thing. A brilliantly choreographed action scene will make even the most jaded art house critic take noticed for at least a few minutes. But a scene where a bunch of doe-eyed girls coo and aww at nothing? Do they really think someone who isn’t a native to the Planet of the Lolitas is going to find this appealing?

No, we don’t. Yet these creators insist on wedging such scenes into series where they have no place.

It stands out as much as a unibrow stands out on one of said cute gawking girls.

So here we have Railgun, a series with a setting rife with potential. You have schools specializing in developing kids’ supernatural powers. You have a competent studio with a good budget that’s capable of churning out some impressive action scenes. You have a cast of characters that, despite being moe tropes, have the chops to meld into an interesting cast in an interesting storyline. And what do we get in this series? Four girls doing pseudo-slice-of-life things like looking at each other’s panty collections, trying to molest one another, and basically doing nothing. And not the good, humorous Seinfeld or Azumanga “nothing,” but the boring, meaningless, depressing moe “nothing.”

If Railgun doesn’t shape up and meet its potential, it needs to be put out of our misery. Only then can we Escape from the Planet of the Lolitas.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 23, 2009 11:40 AM

    Getting the eps after ep 1 now. I vaguely recall reading a few chapters of the Railgun manga, of which the series is apparently following closely. And while they were okay for manga, yeah, they’ll probably kinda suck anime-wise.

    The series might get better, but I’m not especially confident, since it seems to be pretty much based on moe pandering. I suppose I can cheat by reading the manga and seeing if it’ll improve, but based on the current output, things look grim.

    That said, season 1 was pretty good. I vaguely recall others not digging it because it didn’t capitalize on the moe potential and it had a rather unconventional pacing for anime, but ironically, that’s precisely why I dug it. Didn’t hurt that it occasionally went into Code Geass R2 levels of silliness.

    • Landon permalink*
      October 23, 2009 6:07 PM

      I’ll have to check out Index or whatever the first season was called. The world seems pretty interesting, so hopefully the first season exploits it better.

      And by all means, CHEAT. If anime has taught us anything it’s that you have to take advantage of any little power or quirk that gives you an unfair advantage against your opponent. In this fandom, cheating is morally correct.

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  1. Moe, Slice of Life, Westerns, and Rob Liefeld – Part One « Mecha-Guignol

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