We finally managed to co-ordinate across three timezones and record a podcast! This is very much a trial episode, and we need your feedback to know if/how we should continue. If you want us to make more, let us know:
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We are open to constructive feedback on absolutely everything, this is new for all of us and we’re keen to put together the best podcast possible for our readers. Give us your input and help to shape a podcast for you!
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Chatty AF 1: Winter 2017 Anime Check-in
Amelia, Caitlin, Lauren and Peter follow up on the top 10 anime of our winter 2017 premiere rankings! Listen to find out our biggest surprises, disappointments and guilty pleasures of the season.
SPOILERS: for all aired episodes as of the time of recording
01:38 10: elDLIVE
04:24 9: Masamune-kun’s Revenge
06:45 8: Fuuka
08:38 7: Seiren
11:59 6: Gabriel DropOut
15:00 5: Saga of Tanya the Evil
20:26 4: Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid
25:40 3: ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept.
32:52 2: Scum’s Wish
45:59 1: Interviews with Monster Girls
Recorded Sunday 5th February 2017
Music: Open Those Bright Eyes by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
AMELIA: Hi everyone, welcome to the first-ever Anime Feminist podcast! My name’s Amelia, I’m the editor-in-chief at Anime Feminist dot com, and I’m joined by members of the AniFem team: Caitlin Moore, Lauren Orsini, and Peter Fobian. You guys wanna introduce yourselves?
CAITLIN: Hi, I’m Caitlin . In addition to working with AniFem, I’m the owner and writer for the blog, I Have a Heroine Problem. “Heroine” is spelled with an “E.” I have been watching anime for about 17 years, and I have been doing feminist analysis of anime for about two and a half or three years.
LAUREN: Hi, I’m Lauren. When I’m not writing at Anime Feminist, I write for my own blog, Otaku Journalist; my Gundam blog, Gunpla 101; and I also do reviews for Anime News Network. My favorite kinds of anime are sports anime and, of course, mecha anime.
PETER: Okay. I’m Peter Fobian. I’m a contributor at AniFem and I’m also an associate features editor for Crunchyroll.
AMELIA: That was very succinct.
PETER: Short and sweet.
AMELIA: Okay, we’re gonna follow up on a post that we put up in January, which ranked all the season premieres of the currently airing season of anime. And we’re going to look only at the top 10 in the rankings and see which ones people are still watching, which you’ve dropped, and why. There’s about, I think, four or five episodes now for everything, so I think we have a pretty good idea of what we’re interested in.
So we’re gonna start at number 10, which was in the “problematic but might improve” category. And number 10 is elDLIVE, which I know you were looking forward to, Peter. How do you feel about it now?
PETER: No… uh…
AMELIA: [laughs] Good stuff.
PETER: Cutting deep right from the get-go. Yeah, I really like the art style in the manga, but I’m not seeing… I think I pretty much dropped it after this latest episode. It seems like a “kodomo anime” or something like that. A lot of the themes are very kind of heavy-handed, like in the third episode, he was doubting himself, so… has anybody else been watching the show or watched the first episode?
AMELIA: I got as far as the second episode.
PETER: All right, so Dolugh, the little alien inside his body like, becomes transparent and says: “It’s because you’re doubting yourself.”
PETER: Okay, well…
AMELIA: Anime logic.
PETER: Yeah, yeah. So later on he becomes solid, once he gets his confidence back, and then he went: “I became solid again because you got your confidence back!” Like, okay, after it was explained to me, I got it. [laughs] But I don’t…
CAITLIN: Well, how old is the intended audience?
PETER: I wasn’t quite sure on that because I heard different things about the manga, but it seemed, from like the visuals and everything, it seems like a very… a young show. So I guess I can’t blame them for being like that.
AMELIA: So like the kind of age that still likes to look at underwear, though—
AMELIA: —since every five minutes they’re blowing wind up that girl’s skirt.
PETER: Yeah, I guess maybe that’s what fooled me… ‘cause there’s so much fanservice despite everything else.
CAITLIN: I have been reading Bakuman, and I have a new theory about why people are not as bothered about fan service—
AMELIA: [crosstalk] Do share.
CAITLIN: —in Japan as they are here. And it is because Shonen JUMP series aimed at like eight-year-olds will have, like, panty shots and stuff like that. If you read weekly… like, Weekly Shonen JUMP has fanservice-oriented series in it. So they get desensitized to it from a very young age, and eventually, it’s just like, “Eh.” I feel like if you like it, you like it; if you don’t, then whatever. So yeah. “This is just… just fan service, who cares? Eight-year-olds will still watch it.”
PETER: I guess it’s very… maybe they consider it un-offensive, but—
PETER: I don’t know, I… But despite that, I really like Sonokata as character.
PETER: I think despite the fact that she spends most of her time trashing Chuuta, I don’t know, she’s very self-confident and, uh… I don’t know, her insults are pretty good too, so maybe I do like that part.
AMELIA: Speaking of which, number nine: Masamune-kun’s Revenge?
LAUREN: I keep telling myself I’m gonna stop watching this.
LAUREN: But I keep watching it! Help me.
PETER: Well, so…
AMELIA: [crosstalk] I think that’s been exactly my experience, actually.
PETER: Are you guys caught up?
AMELIA and LAUREN: Yes.
LAUREN: And it’s just, everyone’s so terrible. Just every character. You think you’ve found someone to root for, and then you have not.
AMELIA: But see, it kind of has that Always Sunny in Philadelphia appeal for me where everyone is so dislikeable—
LAUREN: [crosstalk] Yes!
PETER: That’s what I was gonna say.
AMELIA: —That it makes it very entertaining and I’ve gotten a lot more into it since realizing I’m not expected to like anybody, and that’s fine.
PETER: Well, and his plan was obviously awful, but it’s also like set up… set up to fail. So…
AMELIA: Yes, exactly.
PETER: Pretty much—
CAITLIN: So, like, are they likable but also just incredibly incompetent? ‘Cause that’s part of Always Sunny.
PETER: Uh, yes.
AMELIA: [crosstalk] It’s an amazing combination, yes.
LAUREN: Yeah, every plan just goes awry.
PETER: Yeah, they could literally be doing nothing and accomplishing more.
LAUREN: I mean, yeah, as Masamune-kun’s Revenge continues, it seems like everyone has a terrible plan, just every character has this really bad plan and it’s going to fail because they are a bad person. And it’s very entertaining to watch.
AMELIA: It really is. I mean, Masamune-kun’s idea was that he would just show up and be hot and this girl would fall for him, and the fact that she’s making him work so hard for it, it’s like that’s exactly how it would be, of course. He’s shown up with absolutely no interest in her and when she confronts him about it, he just can’t think of anything to say to her. It’s fantastic. I’m really enjoying it, actually.
LAUREN: He has not thought this plan through.
AMELIA: At all.
LAUREN: You would have thought at some point he would have to think of what he likes about her.
AMELIA: [laughs] Yes, exactly.
PETER: Well, that seems to be the problem with his plan is that he actually, genuinely still likes her. That’s the problem, ’cause he wants to just trash her life, right, so… and he’s like…
AMELIA: That’s what he says, isn’t it? He’s doing a very good job of it. If his plan works, then she’s gonna end up with a boyfriend who’s the hot new transfer student. So it’s not the greatest plan to ruin his life… ah, her life, sorry.
PETER: [crosstalk] Well, and Yoshino’s only helping him because she says getting broken up with will be good for Aki. It’ll help her out.
PETER: “So, that’s why I’m helping you.” So, awful plan.
AMELIA: [crosstalk] We’ll see.
PETER: [crosstalk] Pretty bad plan.
AMELIA: Okay, number eight: Fuuka?
AMELIA: Anyone still watching this? [laughs] Why “ugh”?
PETER: Uh… I just, uh… Well, the first episode was just like, Panty-Shot City and also… Well, I guess I’m a little… Maybe “prejudiced” is the right word, ’cause I kinda know a bit about where the story goes—
PETER: —And it falls into my, like, “laziest melodrama” category of writing…
PETER: So I was completely un-invested in watching it.
AMELIA: And that’s a twist that’s coming up that we have to wait and see, apparently. People who’ve read Fuuka the manga I think have been quite coy about it for the few weeks now. And everyone—like me, I have no idea what’s coming, but I’m not really looking forward to it, so… sticking with it until then and see what happens, I guess.
PETER: I might—my personal—
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] See I’m just—
PETER: No, go for it.
CAITLIN: I’m not watching Fuuka but I am just… I don’t know the twist, but I’m just looking forward to the inevitable fallout when the twist comes ’cause I just love seeing people get really upset about media that I don’t care about.
PETER: Oh, the Re:ZERO Effect.
CAITLIN: [laughs] I’m kind of terrible that way.
AMELIA: But you’re watching Re:ZERO now, so you will care soon, too!
CAITLIN: Oh, God, I hate that I am starting to care about Re:ZERO.
AMELIA: [laughs] That is the Re:ZERO Effect, right there.
CAITLIN: Ugh, I hate it!
PETER: I’m right there with you though. I am watching Fuuka closely just because I wanna see the reaction by people. My theory is that it’s gonna lose a lot of viewers, but everybody else is just gonna be screaming and I think it’ll be pretty fun.
AMELIA: [chuckles] Right? Okay, next on the list: number seven, Seiren. Anyone still watching?
LAUREN: Oh I am, but… Amelia, I think you said recently that you couldn’t bring yourself to watch episode four? Because the whole appeal of Seiren is that Tsuneki is fantastic—and well, also the writing is very clever. But now I’m like… agh, I got so invested in Tsuneki—
AMELIA: [crosstalk] Excited.
LAUREN: —And now I don’t even know who the new person is—the new love interest. And I don’t know—
AMELIA: But I hate her already!
LAUREN: [laughs] Because she’s not Tsuneki! Yeah, so I just have been a little resistant to starting the new arc, but that’s how these shows go.
CAITLIN: What happened to the, uh…
AMELIA: [crosstalk] I mean, this is a problem with this kind of format, isn’t it?
AMELIA: Apparently there’s a romance writing piece of advice which is: when you write a romance story, the first couple you see together will kind of imprint on you and if you wanna set the person up with someone else, you have to work doubly hard to kind of get the readers or the audience invested in that new relationship. But Seiren and anime like it do that on purpose. And I think it works if it’s based on a game that has that kind of branching format, but Seiren’s not, is it?
LAUREN: But you know, that’s what’s so good about… I can’t believe I’m saying this, but that’s something good about Junjo Romantica, which is bad in pretty much every other way. But I like that they show three different arcs that are all—
AMELIA: [crosstalk; teasing] We brought you in for the bad opinions, I can see.
LAUREN: —Yeah, all three different love stories, but with three different couples. And it’s easier because I can know at least that the couple I liked is still together.
AMELIA: Right. So if Seiren were now looking at a secondary character and pairing them up with a different girl, that would work much better, right?
LAUREN: Yeah! I’d like to see the main character’s best friend who’s really into studying hook up with someone, maybe…
AMELIA: Yeah, equal.
PETER: Also, it’s sort of implied that at the end of the fourth episode that they get together in the end, like after… ’cause she goes abroad and then, like the… The final thing is like four years later, she comes back, and he’s working at the restaurant that she used to work at. So no matter what happens in the next eight episodes, you’re always wondering if that’s the ultimate end anyway. So I guess most of it is just surrounding him instead of Tsuneki, who I think was the stand-out character really.
AMELIA: She was great. And we got… I think you talked, Peter, about the kind of way that… a kind of ecchi is presented in this one?
PETER: Oh yeah, I… It’s so weird ’cause it looked like it was setting itself up to be a really fanservice-heavy series. And there’s a lot of sexual content, but it’s all in the form of jokes and dialogue. So it reminded me of an American sex comedy, kind of, instead of just, like, constant panty flashes. She’s just talking about the raunchy sex that they’re not actually having.
AMELIA: [laughs] Yes.
LAUREN: I thought that was so funny, that her reaction to people being like, “Oh, Tsuneki, people think you’re kind of a slut,” and she’s like, “Oh let me tell you what I’m doing.”
LAUREN: “Let me own that.”
PETER: Yeah, I was so surprised when that happened, I mean it was hilarious, but I couldn’t believe that somebody… I haven’t seen a character like that, I don’t think ever in anime, before.
AMELIA: Yep. Twelve episodes of her would’ve been great.
LAUREN: Mm-hm. Ah, and I love their friend, the furry, the playing rabbit.
PETER: Oh, that one.
LAUREN: [laughs] What the heck was that?
PETER: [laughs] That was weird.
AMELIA: Okay, we’re into the next category now, I think, which is “recommended with caveats.” And the next on the list for that is Gabriel Dropout. Is anyone still watching that?
LAUREN: [crosstalk] Oh, I am.
AMELIA: Are you?
LAUREN: I’m current, yeah. This is Lauren talking.
AMELIA: [crosstalk] What do you like about it?
LAUREN: Okay. What do I like about it? It’s just one of those shows that I can just turn off my brain with. I really like basic moe shows that are just cute girls doing cute things—
AMELIA: [chuckles] Yeah.
LAUREN: —that I can just totally unwind with. Another example of a show that’s very similar to this, I think, is Engaged to the Unidentified, which was just about a bunch of girls doing random stuff often not very well.
PETER: Kind of a Lucky Star thing.
LAUREN: Yeah, a little bit Lucky Star.
AMELIA: Does Gabriel Dropout count as moe?
LAUREN: I think it does, because—
LAUREN: Well, at least Satania.
AMELIA: Gap moe.
PETER: I do feel that way about Satania. I guess, well, I have a weakness in series: if I see somebody eating alone in a stairwell, I just… it’s just instant empathy for that character. I don’t know what it is, but I…
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] That’s your moe!
AMELIA: [unintelligible cross-talk]
PETER: Except for Rei in March comes in like a lion and I don’t know why. But, uh…
CAITLIN: That’s just your moe, Peter.
PETER: Yeah, I guess that’s my moe.
LAUREN: [crosstalk] Your moe!
PETER: I dunno, it’s just so sad, but…
AMELIA: [crosstalk] Okay anyone who sees Peter eating alone in a stairwell at Crunchyroll, please eat with him! Be generous.
PETER: [laughs] Yeah, but now I want… I don’t know, I don’t know what I want for Satania. She’s kind of… bad, but, uh… I hope she doesn’t get ostracized or anything like that by the other girls, I guess.
LAUREN: I love characters with terrible personalities, especially when they think they’re great.
AMELIA: Insight into Lauren’s psyche now.
LAUREN: That’s my moe. That’s what I love about Satania.
PETER: Yeah, I think she’s kind of the biggest character so far. You thought it would be Gabriel, but Satania’s just always the focus of all the jokes.
AMELIA: I stopped watching it after the first episode. Has there been any kind of story development, or is it still very much like that four-panel kind of humor?
LAUREN: There’s a little bit of “how we met” among the girls, like Gabriel and… what is the demon’s name? Vignette? I don’t know how they pronounce that. It looks like “Vig net” or “Vigneh”?
PETER: “Vin-yay” I think is how she pronounced it.
LAUREN: Okay. Yeah, I thought that was pretty interesting because they were explaining how they met and the other angel was like, “Oh yeah, uh-huh, uh-huh,” and Satania’s just like “Wait a moment!!” just over and over. So uh… I guess she’s the boke?
PETER: Well, they were describing how Gabriel used to be a good girl, and she couldn’t believe it.
LAUREN: Yeah, she just could not get over it.
AMELIA: And speaking of good girls who are bad: Saga of Tanya the Evil? Who’s watching?
AMELIA: Me. Lauren, Caitlin?
CAITLIN: Uh, no. It’s not really… it didn’t look like my scene, so…
LAUREN: Yeah, well… One, it didn’t look like my scene. And two, the stuff that Peter was saying about it, where people were like, “Is Tanya the Evil bad?” and people are mad? that you suggested that?
PETER: Well, I think my concern is that there are people who are watching this who don’t realize that Tanya is an awful person.
LAUREN: Isn’t it in the title?!
PETER: Yeah, but I don’t know.
CAITLIN: That’s always the problem when you have shows about terrible people. We see it here with Mad Men and Breaking Bad. If…
LAUREN: And Gundam, actually.
CAITLIN: Even if they’re supposed to be awful,if you make them look cool, people will aspire to that. Which is unfortunate, because I think I want there to be room for that sort of character.
LAUREN: But in Gundam, the bad guys are literally Nazis, but we’re like, “They’re so cool!” [frazzled laughter]
PETER: Yeah, the Char Effect.
PETER: I think watching the series for me is kind of like watching There Will Be Blood, or I guess a more relevant thing to say would be Death Note. ‘Cause it’s like, you really want them to fail, but it’s really fun to watch them succeed.
AMELIA: This is Tanya?
CAITLIN: I think—
AMELIA: [crosstalk] Tanya’s succeeding but she’s succeeds—sorry, go ahead.
CAITLIN: I mean I’ve got a big bone to pick with the Obata creative team, ’cause I… honestly, I think that they think their characters are great and brilliant, and even though they’re bad, they still write them aspirationally. I don’t know, I don’t like those guys.
AMELIA: That sounds entirely reasonable from the scans you put up on Twitter.
CAITLIN: Yeah… yeah.
AMELIA: I think for me, for Tanya, the appeal is the fact that you’ve got her internal monologue going where she is still this middle-aged salesman. And she’s still sucking up to her superiors and she’s still kind of thinking about how she can get a cushy job away from the front lines, and she just keeps shooting herself in the foot and ending up further and further away from what she actually wants. And it turns into a bit of a comedy character, which I wasn’t expecting from a show called Saga of Tanya the Evil.
PETER: Yeah. I think that she’s finding success, but not in the direction that she wants it.
AMELIA: [laughs] No, no, exactly. And I just wanted to talk a little bit about the fact that she’s… I mean people talk about how she’s a Lolita character? Like, have you guys heard this view of the series? The impression I got is that people are referring to Tanya as “Lolita” just because she’s a young girl, and that doesn’t really sit right with me.
PETER: Because she’s actually a middle-aged salesman?
AMELIA: She’s actually as far from an appealing young girl as possible. I mean, she’s very young, she wears completely masculine clothes, she wears a military uniform, in her head she’s a man. She’s not even a nice man. And I think that they’ve just gone out of their way to try and make her unappealing, but it… The response is still, “She’s a Lolita, ‘cause she’s young.”
PETER: Yeah, I do, she’s kind of like… fascinatingly strange. It’s kind of like watching… there’s so many feelings I get watching this show, it kind of feels like a Chucky movie, like Child’s Play, just how [there’s] this little doll-like creature murdering people and these horrifying expressions she makes and stuff. Yeah, I don’t really… I guess physically, just body-wise, she meets that aesthetic, and I guess that one episode they made her kind of dress up in a goth-loli dress.
AMELIA: But her face was horrified.
PETER: [laughs] Yeah.
AMELIA: She looked appalled.
PETER: Well, you watched the latest episode too, right?
PETER: Where she, uh… they fulfill their military obligation of warning them that they’re about to carpet bomb them by Tanya getting on and in a cute anime girl voice saying “we’re going to proceed with the bombardment.” [chuckles] And nobody takes it seriously?
AMELIA: [crosstalk] I mean just glaring at all of her inferiors. Yeah, it’s wonderful.
PETER: Yeah, I guess that’s part of the joke, but maybe not everybody’s in on it.
AMELIA: Yeah. I think it’s interesting to note that they’re not doing anything with the gender aspect. We get no sense that this man is uncomfortable in the body that he’s in now. That’s not even a factor. His aim is just to get that kind of success and recognition regardless of the body he’s in, and he sees the fact that he’s in this body of a—what is she, ten, eight?
PETER: Twelve. ‘Cause I think—
AMELIA: [crosstalk] Oh, she’s twelve? Okay, sorry.
PETER: [crosstalk] —I think they said it’s been ten years.
AMELIA: Okay. Well, then he’s in a twelve-year-old’s body and the only thing that concerns him about that is that she has to work harder to get respect. But other than that, there’s absolutely no exploration whatsoever of what it means for a man to be in a woman’s body. So this isn’t remotely related to trans issues.
PETER: Yeah, I think they steered pretty clear of that.
AMELIA: [crosstalk] Very clear of it.
PETER: [crosstalk] Age is also like… just as often as they say “You’re a girl,” they always say, “You’re a little girl,” so they’re also just referring to the fact that she’s one-third their size and probably shouldn’t be this smart.
AMELIA: Or cruel.
PETER: [chuckles] No, that’s also weird.
AMELIA: Okay, the next one on the list is Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, which I know a few of us are watching. Who’s watching it?
[CAITLIN, LAUREN, and PETER all reply in the affirmative at the same time]
PETER: I think that’s one of the most popular series this season
AMELIA: Yeah, I think so. So, why are people enjoying? Give us your thoughts.
LAUREN: It fills the hole that Yuri!!! on ICE left.
CAITLIN: [laughs] I wouldn’t quite put it… at that, for me, but, you know, it’s, it’s cute, it’s fun… It’s… It doesn’t feel exploitative of the characters, generally. That’s always sort of my litmus: do I feel like the characters are being exploited for the viewer or do I feel like they are doing things in their own… God, I’m not wording this well. Do their actions make sense for who they are, more-or-less as people? And that’s sort of how I feel about Kobayashi. They act more-or-less like people with some exaggeration, obviously, but… yeah.
AMELIA: I mean it’s not as cartoony as I was expecting, for sure. Even though—
PETER: [crosstalk] Kobayashi’s a mature character.
AMELIA: Yeah, exactly.
LAUREN: It’s just a very entertaining sitcom.
PETER: I think it kind of hits that Seiren thing, too, where there’s a lot of sex jokes, but a lot of them are just based on how perverted Tohru is and not necessarily… like there are parts where she just strips for no reason which are not… ahhh, it’s a mixed bag. But yeah, just a lot of it’s, like, her just sniffing her clothes and stuff.
AMELIA: Yeah, I hated the stripping scene in episode one.
CAITLIN: The stripping scene wasn’t good.
AMELIA: It wasn’t good.
PETER: But they haven’t done that again, I don’t think.
AMELIA: I think they referenced it. It seems like it’s just something that Kobayashi does when she’s drinking.
PETER: Yeah, it’s like—
LAUREN: [crosstalk] I liked when Tohru stripped herself and is just like “Brand me!” [laughs] What a joke.
AMELIA: But other than that I don’t have an issue with the fanservice part of it as well. Which usually, obviously, that’s something that really gets to me, but in this series it isn’t because they’ve kind of presented it as dragons show up with big breasts because they can kind of choose how they look, and they may be aiming for human and getting it like… not a little bit wrong, but a little bit exaggerated. So it’s… it doesn’t bother me at all, which surprised me, I think.
PETER: Yeah, a big theme is dragons just trying to figure out what’s up with humans. So.
AMELIA: Yeah. And everything about that is exaggerated.
LAUREN: [crosstalk] What is up with humans?
LAUREN: What is up with humans? Maybe that’s why we find this so funny.
AMELIA: If only we knew!
PETER: That’s why I really liked the last episode, ’cause it just focused on Kanna deciding to go to school ’cause she was interested in it, I guess. And then they actually… that episode had a lot of really good dialogue, ’cause at first they talk about… they have that thing with Kobayashi and Tohru where they’re talking about being different. How if you stand out, you might get taken down.
And then later on, Tohru’s talking with Kanna about the dangers of maybe getting too invested in humanity, and… I can’t remember quite how she said it. Kanna said she wanted to share in their experiences, but I guess that typically doesn’t work out well for dragons who did get too close to a human. So they, I don’t know, there’s a lot of… You could tell the author thought about it a lot. It’s not just like face level, a lot of fanservice, jokes, it’s kind of like, there’s some deeper thought in between the jokes as well.
LAUREN; Yeah, I guess it makes sense that this came from a light novel. That it started with the writing first.
CAITLIN: Oh, was it a light novel first?
PETER: [crosstalk] Oh, was it? I thought it was a four-panel.
LAUREN: Oh! I thought it was a light novel first. I just bought the light novel because I thought—
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] It’s… there’s definitely a manga.
LAUREN: [crosstalk] Okay. I know there’s a manga, but I bought the light novel, because I was… I thought that was the original!
CAITLIN: All right, well, there is an easy solution to this problem.
LAUREN: [crosstalk] Somebody, use… To the Internet!
CAITLIN: To the Internet! Let’s see… it is originally a manga. There are a couple of manga com [trails off]…
LAUREN: [gasps] I did not know!
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Wikipedia doesn’t say anything about a light novel.
LAUREN: …Huh. What did I buy?
AMELIA: [crosstalk] [unintelligible] if it’s an adaptation, then.
LAUREN: [crosstalk] Did I buy a manga? I got it from Seven Seas.
PETER: [crosstalk] Did you get a random light novel?
LAUREN: Oh my God, like a Chinese knock-off light novel!
PETER: [crosstalk] Fan novel.
LAUREN: [crosstalk] Everyone’s like: “Miss Kobayashi’s so popular, I’ll write a light novel.”
PETER: It’s like uh, Dragon Servant, and they just reached—like, changed the title over. They send it out. Hong Kong knock-off.
LAUREN: [laughs] I’ll let you know what I get.
AMELIA: [laughs] All right, the next one in the list: ACCA: 13. Who’s watching this?
PETER: I am.
CAITLIN: I like—I’m watching it.
PETER: It’s so good.
AMELIA: Why are you watching it? Why is it good?
CAITLIN: [laughs weakly] That’s a really good question.
AMELIA: It’s so hard to decide, isn’t it? I mean to define why it’s good, what’s so great about it, why are we all glued to it?
CAITLIN: Yeah, I think… I think the universe has a lot to do with it. The very… the way it’s structured and the main character’s job, makes it very easy to have a lot of world-building without it feeling shoehorned in. So I think a lot of the world-building and the difference between all of the districts… for one thing, it creates a sense of a really expansive country, and then there’s a sort of slow-burn plot about the coup going. So there’s this sense that even under a peaceful exterior there’s something desperately wrong there. You want to find out what’s going on.
AMELIA: I agree with that. I like the fact that they’re being so imaginative with the different districts as well. Like each one is so different and it’s so creative. I was not expecting that at all, especially from a series that’s essentially about an auditor, right?
AMELIA: Just travels around auditing people’s records, and they’ve turned it into this really wonderful kind of fancy.
PETER: Yeah, I was not expecting redcoats in the latest episode.
PETER: But uh…
AMELIA: It’s so well done.
PETER: I think… Well, there is a lot of obvious—just an information dump like that—like a lot of, “as you know”s, and they did that one thing where they were teaching the kids. Although I think that was actually a little bit clever ’cause if they’re trying to imply that the State’s a little bit totalitarian, of course, they would be giving kids that kind of wash-down education. Very propagandized, I guess.
But in the first episode, I noticed a lot of things they were doing to kind of make things seem uncertain ’cause you kind of learned that… uh, I guess it’s Jean… He didn’t want to be in the job that he was, even though he was so good at it and didn’t seem to not enjoy it either. And then we learn that he tried to transfer but it’s been rejected and he’s really good at this job, but people also don’t trust him, but then he’s also, like, sharing cigarettes with two of the five chiefs.
So you’re getting all this conflicting information about the character which kind of draws you in, very unconsciously, too…
Caitin: Yeah, it’s definitely a lot of complicated dynamics going on, but in a very subtle way.
[PETER and AMELIA begin speaking simultaneously, unintelligibly, followed by a short pause]
AMELIA: How do we feel about the female characters in it? Because on one end of the spectrum, we’ve got Mauve.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Oh my God.
AMELIA: [crosstalk] Who is the director of the entire organization.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Ohh, she’s so awesome.
AMELIA: And then on the other hand we’ve got these three girls in the office whose job seems to be to eat cake.
CAITLIN: Yeah, I’m trying not… like, it’s so minor—the girls in the office—that I try not to think about it too much. I try to just let it slide. It does bother me a little bit that the girls there don’t really seem to take their jobs as seriously as the guys, and they’re just kinda silly background dressing. So yeah, it’s as such a minor thing and it really only bothers me when they’re on screen.
AMELIA: [chuckles] “It only bothers me when they’re on screen,” yes. That makes sense.
PETER: And they’re very Arakawa-esue, those three. But Lott is also a pretty—I guess I don’t wanna say a major female character; she hasn’t really done much yet—but I am constantly concerned for her now, ’cause she’s got Rail, like, stalking her basically, and then she goes to the castle and it looks like both the prince and the king took notice of her, and now the prince has a guy in a car following her around. Like, during the castle episode, I was just like, “She needs to get out of here. This is not safe.” So I don’t know.
But besides that, she basically kind of fills the role of the three girls, ’cause most of the time when you see her she’s just eating something really delicious-looking. So I don’t know what to think of that character, I guess.
CAITLIN: By the way, I think it’s “Lottie” or “Lotta.”
PETER: Lotta. Yeah, for some reason I can’t remember how they pronounce it, I just know it’s L-O-T-T-E.
CAITLIN: Yeah, I think they say “Lotta.”
AMELIA: And how about Mauve? Everyone has feelings about Mauve.
CAITLIN: She’s so cool.
PETER: She’s great.
CAITLIN: I think a lot of us have feelings about Mauve. She is… can I be her when I grow up?
AMELIA: [chuckles] There’s still time.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] There’s still time, there’s always time, right? I’m not thirty yet.
AMELIA: So what are… like, what are your hopes for the rest of the season, then?
CAITLIN: I am seeing… she has a lot going on, she… she definitely has a finger on the pulse of what’s happening, but she also assumes a little bit… she’s standing back from it. So I have no idea what’s going to happen in this series. I have no predictions whatsoever, so I hope to see her… you know, being directly involved in the plot. But how, exactly? I have no idea.
PETER: They definitely laid the groundwork for her to be like a super-proactive character. The meeting they had, the dinner, could have just been sort of expositional and that it got us to sort of start thinking about what Jean would have ended up doing anyway. But assuming they just continue with that plot, she’s pretty high up, so… I guess it just depends on if Jean continues to report back to her and what she does with the information. I am hopeful—
CAITLIN: By the way, I just wanna add… It was so adorable, how overwhelmed Jean was by how hot she is.
PETER: Yeah, that was—I don’t think anything has riled him up except for that, yet. Like he literally got kidnapped and tied to a chair, and he was just completely flat affect, but then she was in the evening gown at the entrance to the restaurant and he couldn’t handle it. What did he say? “I’m so thankful I didn’t quit.” Which is the exact opposite of what he’s been saying for the rest of the series.
CAITLIN: [laughs] Just like curled up on the floor of this fancy restaurant. Just can’t even deal with it.
PETER: Yeah, stuff like that. I think that’s what makes ACCA really entertaining. It’s just so charming like that.
AMELIA: Okay, now we’re moving into the “outright recommendations” part. Now this is outright recommendations based on the premiere alone. That may have changed.
AMELIA: Number two on the list was Scum’s Wish. Who is watching Scum’s Wish?
CAITLIN: I am watching Scum’s Wish.
AMELIA: [crosstalk] Yeah, I’m watching—
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Am I the only one watching Scum’s Wish?
AMELIA: No, I’m watching.
PETER: No, I haven’t bought Anime Strike, so I have not watched it yet.
LAUREN: I really need to buy Anime Strike. At first, I was mad ’cause I’m like, “How dare they charge me five dollars?” And then I was like, “I have five dollars.” So I will.
CAITLIN: I just have a friend who’s account-sharing, ’cause I don’t even have Amazon Prime. I have no intention of getting Amazon Prime, but… Yeah, so thankfully, thanks to this incredibly trusting friend, to share his Amazon Prime account, I am able to watch Scum’s Wish without committing a crime.
AMELIA: [laughs] And in the UK, it’s through Amazon Prime without Anime Strike.
AMELIA: Well, I mean I paid for Amazon Prime, but yeah, I don’t have to pay extra for my anime.
PETER: Prime’s a good deal. I don’t think—I don’t think any of us are gonna argue against that.
AMELIA: [laughs] [crosstalk] So like for Amazon, that’s interesting.
PETER: [crosstalk] I have read the manga—I think I’m further than the anime just based on my manga-reading, though. So…
AMELIA: Yeah, I’ve read up-to-date in the manga. I read it before watching the show, which actually was the only one that I went into actually knowing something about it, and I was blown away by the manga. I read it all through in a day, and then I was so pleased to see that the anime seemed to be mostly faithful to the manga. And not just its content, but also its style and its tone. I think it’s adapted it really sensitively to that. Anyone else?
CAITLIN: Yeah, I haven’t been reading the manga, but… talking about the tone. I’ve only seen one other thing—what is the director’s name?—I’ve only seen one other thing that he’s made, which is SCHOOL LIVE, which doesn’t seem like my usual sort of thing ’cause it’s moe girls with zombies. But the direction was so well-handled in the first episode that it really grabbed me and I just sort of kept going with it, and really enjoying it. So—oh, Masaomi Ando—so yeah, I think the direction has been really excellent. And that’s definitely a part of it.
AMELIA: How do we feel about the representations of sexuality? Which is pretty much what Scum’s Wish is.
CAITLIN: It helps that… [laughs weakly] everyone is miserable.
CAITLIN: So when the lesbian is miserable, it doesn’t… like, miserable gay characters are such an overdone trope, but since everyone is miserable, it makes sense that the lesbian is also miserable. [laughs]
CAITLIN: So it makes sense that Ecchan is also totally miserable, and it doesn’t feel like… “Oh, well of course she would be miserable, she’s in love with her straight best friend.” Which is so overdone.
AMELIA: I mean in this instance she’s just one of multiple characters who can’t be with the person they truly love and get their love in return. At the same time, I’m very interested to know what our lesbian readers might think of her… kind of living out this trope while being surrounded by people who maybe dilute the effect? I’m not sure any of us can really comment on that.
AMELIA: But it’s certainly a valid point that it’s not… like, she’s not standing out that much in the situation. But I mean, the story is so close to the beginning. They’re getting through it really quickly, but there’s so much more to happen. I’m really interested to see how they actually develop this for a closed twelve-episode series.
PETER: I can’t say. It was hard to read, not because it was bad or anything like that, but just because everybody… It seems like, if you, in this world, loving somebody pretty much is always the most inconvenient person you could possibly be attracted to and it doesn’t seem like anybody’s really coping well with it. And they’re all doing these very destructive things to try to, I guess, compensate for the fact that they’ll never find happiness.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] What did you guys think about—
AMELIA: [crosstalk] I quite like the fact that—
CAITLIN: No, go ahead, Amelia.
AMELIA: No, no, it’s okay. Which character?
CAITLIN: Moca. What do you guys think of the character Moca?
AMELIA: Oh, that’s the little girly one, isn’t it? With the—
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] The princess.
PETER: The princess, yeah.
AMELIA: I can’t stand her. But… [laughs] That kind of character, I really struggle with in general, and at the moment they haven’t really done anything with her, so she feels a bit like… it feels like throwing in this extra character just to prove that Mugi is really popular. But I do know that her story is going to be built on, so I’m more patient with her this time around than I was when I read the manga.
LAUREN: So I read the manga and Moca was my fave.
LAUREN: I just wanna say, Amelia, if I love a character, you’re gonna hate them. [Laughs]
AMELIA: This is almost definitely true.
CAITLIN; I’m curious ’cause I’ve seen people tweeting about her and she definitely seems like a very divisive character. I actually personally don’t have strong feelings about her quite yet. You know, I… have interesting feelings about her development just from… like, someone who works with children professionally.
They told her she looked like a princess and it resonated with her so hard that she completely changed her behavior just to be perceived as more princess-like. So I thought that was very… that was really interesting. Like, she stopped playing with boys, she started… she wanted to be a princess, so she started acting like this caricature of what she thought a princess should be.
And I have strong personal feelings about people calling their little girls “princess,” and seeing how preschools have sort of worked with the popularity of princesses to turn that into something empowering for little girls. Like, I’ve seen preschool programs that talk about real-life princesses and how hard they work, and people write books about different kinds of princesses. So at least in child care, in one of the more progressive cities in the US, there is a concerted effort… ‘cause you’re never gonna stop little girls from liking princesses, but there is a concerted effort to change the little girl’s image of what a princess is to make it empowering.
And so, Moca took the concept of a princess and basically turned it into this very strictly feminine, very strictly girly, almost sort of intentionally spoiled behavior. So that was sort of an interesting thing from my perspective, just the difference between the way she acts, as sort of the more classic interpretation of a princess versus how…
PETER: [crosstalk] The diplomat.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] We’re trying to… Yeah, and sort of like, almost the damage that it did, just hearing herself being called “princess,” it just imprinted so strongly on her. And I don’t think it’s really realistic—it’s not super-realistic that it happened just like that. But the names that you call little girls will affect their perception of themselves and thus how they behave and how they are expected to behave. So I thought that was really interesting just from a development perspective.
AMELIA: I mean, on the other end of the spectrum, we’ve got Akane. Who in the most recent episode was shown to have had a formative experience as a teenager where—I mean, spoilers for episode four, I guess?—is it four or five we’re up to now?
But she had this experience where she felt that she could take the other boyfriend but she could attract the crush of one of her friends, and the experience of taking him and hurting her friend has stuck with her and become something that’s just a natural behavior for her. So they seem to put a lot of weight on these kind of one-off experiences shaping someone’s personality.
CAITLIN: Right. And yeah, and that definitely does happen. I think that’s more believable with a teenager who did something incredibly hurtful and had to deal with the consequences than a little girl who gets called something once and decides “oh this is who I am, now.”
AMELIA: How do we all feel about Akane? ‘Cause she’s being a little bit of a cartoon villain at the moment.
PETER: I find it really strange that she is a teacher. I just don’t, I feel like she is very… She doesn’t seem to like other people very much and she really likes to hurt other people, or at least just not—
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] You’d be surprised how…
AMELIA: [laughs] Let’s listen to the teacher now.
PETER: It just seems weird to me that somebody who is the way she is would even consider teaching an option since it seems like she… it just doesn’t fit into her personality type. But I guess maybe—it sounds like maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about.
AMELIA: No, I disagree with that. I think that the idea that she would take a position of power over rooms full of adolescents, I think that completely fits her personality. And just, teaching in Japan is a very secure job. I’ve got many friends who’ve become English teachers in Japan—high school English teachers, and this is Japanese friends.
Because they say it’s really secure, and they’re kind of—they’re paid well, and like, maternity leave is good and things like that. So it’s seen as quite a desirable job. So she’d be in this kind of plumb position but also have this power to kind of manipulate really easily manipulated people, which seems to suit her very well.
CAITLIN: Yeah, I mean, I haven’t seen the latest episode, which sounds like it’s the one that really developed her character. But there are definitely people who get into teaching and—not necessarily consciously, but they get into teaching because they see themselves—they like the idea of holding power over people and being in a position of power that’s gonna be a lot harder to take away from them because they are working with people who are… who have less power societally.
AMELIA: Yes, quite vulnerable people.
PETER: So she’s an Umbridge, is what you’re saying.
AMELIA: [laughs] Oh, no! Yeah, maybe.
CAITLIN: Well, yeah, there are Umbridges in the world, absolutely. And they do tend to become administrators. [laughs] Sorry. Oh, I apologize to any school administrators out there.
CAITLIN: I’m sure it’s a difficult job in its own right.
AMELIA: Well, funny you should mention problematic teachers, because number one on our recommendations list was Interviews with Monster Girls.
CAITLIN: [sighs deeply]
AMELIA: How’s everyone feeling about that right now?
PETER: I felt like episode five was better than four. I just watched it.
AMELIA: Yeah, I’d agree.
CAITLIN: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely.
LAUREN: I mean, I’m still watching it, but I feel guiltier every time I recommend it. Like, I recommended it to a friend of mine who is, um… who identifies as transgender ’cause I thought she would be able to get something very useful out of it and now I’m like—
AMELIA: I am so sorry.
LAUREN: [Frustrated] “Yeah, this is how I see you.”
AMELIA: Well that’s just it, is it’s set up with this big disability allegory at the beginning, and I absolutely would have recommended it to disabled friends, who were familiar with anime, based on that. And I’m so glad I didn’t because as the weeks go on and the girls become more—ah, what’s the word?—the girls become a bit more invested in having romantic feelings for Takahashi-sensei. And I really—
LAUREN: Which is pretty normal, but what isn’t normal is he does seem to encourage them.
AMELIA: That’s the issue, isn’t it? It’s not that they have crushes on their teacher. He treats them well, and he treats them well not despite them being Demis but because they are Demis—
LAUREN: And they know this. They were like, “Oh, Sensei always wants to talk to Demi-chans.”
AMELIA: But they don’t have the context that Sato-sensei has, which is the context of being kind of fetishized for that or exoticized. And I feel like I wish she could see with kind of clearer eyes that the way Takahashi is treating his students is a bit of a problem—
LAUREN: [crosstalk] Right. But—
AMELIA: —And I wish she would talk to him about it, but the only one who seems to do that so far is Hikari’s twin sister, Himari. And a teenager shouldn’t be having that conversation with her sister’s teacher.
LAUREN: That was a great talk though, when—
AMELIA: Oh, yeah.
LAUREN: —When Twin Sis was like “You just like her because she’s a vampire.”
CAITLIN: Her name’s Himari, by the way.
AMELIA: Yeah. I said that, didn’t I?
LAUREN: Yeah. I just said “Twin Sis” ‘cause I didn’t wanna mispronounce Himari.
AMELIA: Yeah, so it’s good that she’s having that conversation. And she’s the star of next week’s episode, so fingers crossed for something good that… but I have a horrible feeling it’s just gonna end with her having a crush on Takahashi-sensei ’cause that’s been pattern so far.
CAITLIN: Like, I don’t… you know, when I was in high school, there was a teacher at our school who wasn’t traditionally attractive but he was young, he had gotten—he started teaching when he was twenty, so he was young, he was personable, he was a funny guy, and he was really involved with his students. So like half of my female classmates had a crush on him, even though he was, like, five-foot-four and, like I said, not traditionally attractive.
LAUREN: And that’s so cool! But wouldn’t we think, like, “Wow, what a creep he is,” if he was calling students in for private talks, just the girls or… I don’t know.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] See, yeah.
AMELIA: Yes, that’s what it is, it’s—
LAUREN: [crosstalk] And that’s the problem.
AMELIA: —If he had treated all his students in this way, that would be different. As it is, it’s the equivalent of some white teacher inviting just the Black students into his office to have a talk about “why is their hair so curly” or “what’s it really like having skin that color?” That’s what it’s like, and every time I see this, it’s… yeah. “Tell me how you feel about sex, 15-year-old student.” It’s just unacceptable.
CAITLIN: Yeah! That conversation with Hikari was…
AMELIA: He’s had a couple now like that.
CAITLIN: It was so… it was so inappropriate, I was cringing the whole time. Everything else was borderline enough that I kind of let it slide, but that conversation with Hikari was just wildly inappropriate.
AMELIA: And in the most recent episode, he has a moment with Yuki where he wants to take some of her frozen sweat to experiment on it.
PETER: I was really happy she just went “No way.” [laughs]
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] She’s like, “No, that’s weird and that’s really creepy. Stop.”
AMELIA: Exactly! And she said “I’m not comfortable with that,” and he said, “Oh you’re so cold. What’s wrong with it?”
AMELIA: Hooo. Don’t do that, teachers out there. Don’t ask to experiment on your student’s sweat and then push them when they say “no.” So, yeah, Interviews with Monster Girls—
PETER: [crosstalk] Well, at least she, like… has it been implied that she has a crush on him yet?
AMELIA: Uhh… There’s been some blushing, but there’s been some blushing from all of them at some point. I wouldn’t call it conclusive yet.
PETER: Okay, ‘cause she seemed to be the hold-out, which I liked that dynamic a little bit more.
AMELIA: [crosstalk] I—
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Yeah, I—go ahead.
AMELIA: I was just gonna say, I was really hoping that they’d use her character to talk about passing when you have a disability, because she can pass and she tried to pass when she first came to the school, and that actually caused her problems ’cause she overheated and then had to tell people that she was a snow woman.
But I mentioned that in the premiere review and a commenter very rightly pointed out that passing as a disabled person can be a real hindrance. It can be a real disadvantage and it can have real social consequences when people feel that you don’t deserve accommodations, for example. Or when you feel the pressure to kind of represent disability in a particular way, so it becomes a bit more about optics.
And I think that would have been so fascinating to explore, using the snow woman. And instead, they’ve kind of brushed past that quite quickly and they get out to the…
AMELIA: Oh sorry, go ahead.
CAITLIN: My boyfriend is disabled. He’s blind enou—his vision is bad enough to interfere with his everyday life and it can’t be fixed with glasses, but he can still see well enough that most people don’t notice. So he does have an invisible disability. And he said that passing has some advantages, but also some real disadvantages for him.
AMELIA: Yeah, it’s a shame that they didn’t really explore that with Interviews with Monster Girls. I think they could have done it with Hikari and with Yuki. But, yeah, the more the show goes on, the more it turns into.. it’s got tones of a harem, at the moment. We’ll see how that goes.
CAITLIN: I mean… the characters all having crushes on Takahashi doesn’t bother me, it’s just the…
CAITLIN: Once again, professionally, the level of how inappropriate these discussions he’s having with them is really, really uncomfortably… and there’s a really uncomfortable note of fetishization in how he talks to them and how he treats them, and it’s definitely not helped by how there are no male Demis represented in the series.
AMELIA: Yeah, absolutely.
CAITLIN: My magic fix for how things could have been better is Sakie—Sato-sensei—being more of a mentor character, or at least no BS, sympa—you know, even if she can’t offer them solutions necessarily, she understands somewhat what they’re going through, she has a perspective rather than being a spectator. But they very specifically wrote her as not really being comfortable dealing with her own Demi-ness, so… [sarcastic] Takahashi gets to be a mentor to her, too! Isn’t that great?
AMELIA: And the way they actually dealt with Sato in her episode—
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] It was!
AMELIA: —was so good. I mean—
AMELIA: I imagine most women especially would have watched that episode, and gone, “Oh yes, absolutely. That is exactly right.” That I have to think about what I wear when I go out in public and I have to really consider what messages I’m sending out because it might be—I mean in her case it’s kind of magical, but it’s rooted in a really real, everyday situation, I think.
CAITLIN: Yeah, I know. I was thinking about it and, like, her condition is almost comparable to having some sort of mental disability—some sort of anxiety disorder. She just can’t… If you turn it internal instead of external, she just cannot deal with the crowds, she can’t deal with living in an apartment. You can even extend it to her being particularly traumatized by men and not being comfortable around men.
So there’s a lot of real applications to her perspective. So yeah, it’s too bad it’s just like, “Oh I don’t know, I don’t understand how to cope with this other than these mechanisms that I’ve come up with, and Takahashi is gonna come in and help me realize my true worth.”
AMELIA: Okay, I think that’s about all we have time for today. Thank you so much, guys.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Ahh, I wanna talk about Rakugo…!
AMELIA: Let’s… okay. This podcast has been an experiment. It’s still very much a trial. So if we get feedback that people want to hear more from us and that they would like us to go into detail, for example, do a deep dive into Rakugo one episode and maybe look at different anime in a different episode, talk about different topics, it would be great to know that.
And we’re really open to feedback, I think. We’d like to know, first of all, if people want us to continue and how often they’d like to hear from us and how you’d like us to address different topics. So please give us feedback at www.animefeminist.com or on Twitter @animefeminist or Facebook: www.facebook.com/animefem.
And we do have a Patreon. In the last month, we’ve provided a feminist premiere guide, we’ve reported on unethical practices in a major anime site, and we’ve challenged simulcast services on keeping problematic translations unedited. We can only do this because we’re funded 100% by readers. We have no conflicts of interest, we have no commercial obligations. So if you support the work we’re doing, if you believe in it, and would like us to continue, and you can spare one dollar a month, it really does add up.
So please go to www.patreon.com/animefeminist and send us a dollar a month to continue this work. So thank you so much to Caitlin, Lauren, and Peter for this experimental first podcast episode, and please let us know if you’d like to hear more.