Amelia, Caitlin, and Peter look back on the winter 2017 season. Listen out for discussion on whether Interviews with Monster Girls counts as good representation, how ACCA changed the way we assess storytelling, and Amelia’s U-turn on Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid.
Date Recorded: Sunday 2nd April 2017
Hosts: Amelia, Caitlin, Peter
01:19 Interviews with Monster Girls
14:17 Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju
20:54 Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid
27:39 Would we recommend Interviews with Monster Girls?
36:21 Would we recommend ACCA?
37:40 Would we recommend Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju?
43:20 Would we recommend Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid?
46:48 Scum’s Wish
52:02 Saga of Tanya the Evil
Caitlin talks towards the end about panels she hosted at Sakuracon in April 2017, but she will do these panels at more conventions this year. For updates, follow her on Twitter @alltsun_nodere or through her fantastic website Heroine Problem.
AMELIA: Hi everyone, and welcome to Chatty AF, the Anime Feminist podcast. My name’s Amelia. I’m the editor and chief of Anime Feminist. And I’m joined today by Caitlin Moore and Peter Fobian. Would you guys like to introduce yourselves?
CAITLIN: Hi, I’m Caitlin. I write and edit for Anime Feminist. I also have my own blog, Heroine Problem, which is pretty much along the same vein as Anime Feminist, it’s just all me.
PETER: Hi, I’m Peter Fobian. I’m an Associate Features editor for Crunchyroll and a contributor at Anime Feminist.
AMELIA: Okay, so, today we’re looking at the Winter 2017 season, which is just wrapping up now. We started the season with a ranking of the premieres that I had seen and reviewed that were full length, for adults, and not continuing—so, they were new seasons. They weren’t sequels.
In the middle of the season, we did our very-first-ever podcast episode looking at our mid-season impressions, what everyone was still watching, what they thought so far, what they thought already, and why. And now we’re going back to look at what we actually watched to the end, what we didn’t, and what we would recommend from that.
So, let’s start with looking at what we all watched to the end. Now, there’s only actually three shows that the three of us did watch to the end, and the first one of those I want to talk about is Interviews with Monster Girls. Now, this was actually number one in our rankings. We had really high hopes for it.
So, Caitlin, what did you think about how it ended up?
CAITLIN: You know, it’s…When it’s good, it’s really, really good, but when it’s bad, it’s just so agonizing—
AMELIA: [crosstalk] Yeah.
CAITLIN: —with very, very little middle ground. But every time I started to really go sour on it, something would pull [me] back in, and I’d really be just right back, ready to see what it was going to do next.
AMELIA: Yeah, it was a hard one to walk away from completely, wasn’t it? There wasn’t ever a point where it was so bad and irredeemable that [chuckles] we didn’t want to watch it anymore. But, at the same time, it’s not an unqualified recommendation, I’m guessing?
AMELIA: Peter, what did you think of it?
PETER: I think all of us kind of early on had our concerns about it becoming a harem anime and—
AMELIA: [crosstalk] Yes.
PETER: —and it just kept on dipping into that territory, I guess. I guess that was my main complaint.
I also felt like…There were really strong concepts that the show approached each of their situations with early on, and I kind of thought it was dying away. I remember actually being really impressed with the—I can’t remember her name—the succubus episode.
PETER: Sakie, yeah. Because it kind of brought that feeling back to the show, but then it kind of dipped again. Like you said, every once in a while, they’d come in with a really cool thing. I think it finished pretty strong as well, but, just, there was a lot of mud in the middle.
AMELIA: You said the succubus episode was a high point.
PETER: Yeah. Well, I personally thought it was a really strong episode as far as… Because each of them got their focus episodes to start with. Hers, I guess kind of… Her forced isolation, having to take the early trains and kind of second-guessing every social interaction she has, I thought was pretty powerful and kind of a unique way to approach it.
CAITLIN: Yeah, I thought the succubus thing worked well for anxiety, like an anxiety analogue to an extent. She can’t handle being around… Caste is something that’s external, whereas anxiety is something that’s internal, but she can’t be around large crowds of people. She has to…I guess you could say more like agoraphobia or something.
She…Yeah, like you said, she can’t trust any of her interactions because she doesn’t know whether or not the guy is just being fueled by the guy being attracted to her or not. So, yeah, that’s how I sort of thought of it initially, but then her character became just all about her crush on Takahashi-sensei.
AMELIA: Yeah, that was my big problem with her, I think. I thought the way they presented the idea of a succubus where it really was relatable just as a woman in Western society… and then they kept telling her story through the mouths of men, which really frustrated me. They brought in this father-figure police detective who was basically responsible for kind of trying to work out which—succubi? succubusses? I don’t know—which ones are criminals and likely to entrap men into sexual harassment allegations and which ones aren’t. So, that was awkward. And just him and Takahashi having conversations about her…
CAITLIN: Yeah, that was interesting, ‘cause that one is definitely a direct comparison to a real-world situation.
CAITLIN: And the whole thing is that people… If you look around on the internet, people who talk about women entrapping men on the subway, they talk about it as if it’s this huge issue, but I did not find a single source from a reputable news site. It was often “Men’s Rights” blogs.
So, I really—I don’t doubt that it does happen sometimes, but I don’t… I think it’s rare compared to guys who are just preying on women in the subway. So, the show presenting that way was very uncomfortable, ‘cause it’s just too close to real life.
AMELIA: And, actually, within the series itself, they’ve established that Takahashi could control his responses to her and that he could present himself as if she was having no effect on him. You know, like people have to do in everyday life in the real world.
AMELIA: If you’re attracted to somebody, but you’re in a professional setting, you don’t show it. And the fact that he is shown as being able to exert control over himself that apparently other men aren’t… It wasn’t consistently applied, this analogy. And it wasn’t used to its greatest advantage, I think, which is a real shame because other things that they did in the series, like the way they treated Machi, the Dullahan, her treatment was beautiful most of the time.
PETER: The whole… I think all of us had an issue with the investigator episode. I feel like the whole purpose of his character was kind of just to gaslight her?
PETER: Because later on, he was basically saying, “Hey, use your succubus powers to get Takahashi.” This is literally exactly the opposite—like, his job is to make sure he doesn’t do this, and now he’s telling her to do it? And I don’t know if this is a form of entrapment or something?
And then, I also was bothered because it does a flashback to when she was a kid, and that one guy came after her, so she …I guess she was on the Judo team or something, so she just fucking floors the guy, humiliates him, and… I don’t know. It was kind of really like a powerful moment, and then cut to the future where she’s like this really insecure person again—
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] She humiliates him through the power of kinkshaming.
PETER: Yeah. Well, I mean… yeah.
AMELIA: [laughs] That’s a tough one. It’s a tough one to have sympathy for that kid because he really, really pushed her to the point—
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Oh, yeah.
AMELIA: Yeah, he kept saying, “Touch me. Use your powers on me. I want to know what it’s like to be affected by a succubus.” So—
PETER: [crosstalk] Yeah. And then he got what he asked for.
AMELIA: I mean, the kinkshaming was kind of consensual. I mean—
AMELIA: I mean, but it’s a really awkward, grey area.
CAITLIN: I say that mostly as a joke.
AMELIA: It was… It was kind of hard to watch, anyway.
PETER: But, yeah. I mean, just… she seemed pretty… like she knew how to handle the situation. But I don’t know if just, like, the years have slowly worn down on her or something like that. Which just kind of left me feeling bad about the whole situation. Like, it was supposed to be a joke, but I just kind of… I was like, “Oh, that’s sad. She used to be really confident.”
AMELIA: Oh my God. That’s… I’m pretty sure that’s relatable to many, many women.
AMELIA: That—that makes perfect sense to me. But they didn’t use her character as well as they could have to really say something about women in the real world; women in Japan specifically. I thought that was a shame.
Okay, we’re going to have to move on to the next one in our list, which was ACCA. Thoughts on ACCA?
CAITLIN: I liked it. [laughs] I saw a lot of people who were disappointed with the ending, but I thought it was the most—
AMELIA: [crosstalk] It was a very ACCA ending.
CAITLIN: —the most ACCA possible way to end the show. Like, totally averting the codes, just… yeah, and having it end in this chill way. This huge climax is totally, totally how ACCA just rolls.
AMELIA: And it’s significant that Mauve is actually the one who directs this ending from behind the scenes, and then goes on to take power from the… I mean, effectively, she’s taking power from the five chief officers or whatever they’re called. But I think they step down, don’t they? They say, “Well, this world isn’t necessary anymore. You’ve got it under control, Mauve. It’s yours.”
PETER: Yeah. She was the only proactive one, so I feel like that makes sense. They’re like, “Oh, we were just sitting around drinking tea and you’ve pretty much single-handedly fixed a coup. Maybe you should be in charge.”
CAITLIN: [laughs] Yeah. She’s also the first female Director General, is something that I remember being referred to in the show. So, yeah, Mauve is awesome. She’s such a fucking good character.
AMELIA: And how about the other female characters in ACCA? There was Ada, there were the women in the office. There were various women we visited in the different districts. Any thoughts on any of them?
CAITLIN: Other than Lotta, and—
AMELIA: [crosstalk] Oh, yeah. Of course. Forgot about Lotta.
CAITLIN: I feel like the women, as the series progressed and the office antics got a bit less emphasis, I didn’t really… The women had more or less equal treatment to the men out in the districts. I didn’t really—nothing jumped out at me as being like, “Wait, this isn’t ideal.”
So, yeah, it was just sort of: “Okay.”
AMELIA: ACCA was a really beautiful series in many ways. I mean, it’s by a female mangaka, Natsume Ono—which I didn’t realize when I reviewed it. I absolutely loved it when I reviewed it. I only found out later it was from a female creator, and it’s… After that, it was like: “Oh, that makes perfect sense.” Because of the way women are treated in this universe.
And I feel like it’s been a really consistent, slow-burn, just… appealing show. I can’t put my finger on it, still—what I particularly liked about it. But every week I looked forward to it.
PETER: Yeah, I remember I tweeted something about that. Like: “It made me kind of reassess what makes a good story.”
AMELIA: [crosstalk] Yeah, I saw that.
PETER: It didn’t really have rising tension. There wasn’t really any tension. Everybody was just super chill the entire time, even though there’s this coup building up. But I never felt apprehensive, or—
AMELIA: No. [laughs]
PETER: There was no…You know how you get your rising tension and your climax. Like how you build a story. I mean, it kind of… It had its resolution, but there was just… It was just this really chill experience.
AMELIA: Yeah, and what draws me to shows is usually big character growth. It’s what I loved about Re: Zero. It’s what pulled me into a show like that. Whereas ACCA doesn’t really have character growth for most of the major characters, I’d say. They’re pretty consistent.
But, still, there’s just something about it. I completely agree with you. It’s made me reassess what makes an anime that I would recommend, what makes a good story, what makes a good character arc. It’s fascinating. I really enjoyed it.
PETER: I do think an act of discovery, like character discovery, is introduced. You’re introduced to new characters. You discover Nino’s backstory, and then more about Jean and Lotta’s parents, and stuff like that. So, there were moments that were kind of revelatory that were really interesting, but besides that, it was just like eating bread and seeing all these really strange cultures and—
AMELIA: [crosstalk] Which, in itself, was enough to make it a great show for me, personally. [laughs] I loved that part of it.
AMELIA: Caitlin, you were going to say something?
CAITLIN: I think Acca is a really fascinating city, and I think that Jean moving from… going from district to district was a contributing factor to, sort of, what kept the series feeling fresh, even as—
AMELIA: Yes. Definitely.
CAITLIN: —even with not a whole lot necessarily happening, as there wasn’t a lot of tension, ‘cause… I mean, to me, a lot of Acca looks like different regions of the United States. It was always sort of fun to be like, “Where are they gonna go next?” You know. This place is the Southwest, this place is Hawaii, this place is very obviously Las Vegas… and seeing all that variation and just sort of exploring this incredibly varied country, and the different subcultures within the districts, was really interesting.
And honestly it works almost like a travelogue anime primarily, even alongside the main plot of the coup and the government intrigue.
PETER: Yeah, it’s kind of like Kino’s Journey, actually. Discovering these really novel areas. I wanted to know more about some of them, ‘cause Lilium’s place—I think it was called Furawau or something like that—was very, like, Saudi Arabia-esque, and Mauve’s town was very briefly covered, but it looked like that was kind of France but… Somebody said, like, “Only we women do stuff there,” or something like that. All of the officials that he met there were women. I don’t know if only women work there, or… I’m kind of interested in that culture that was kind of hinted at…
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Matriarchy.
PETER: But it’s like we just got a brief taste of everywhere.
AMELIA: And the last show that we all watched, of course, was Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju, which was the second season of a show that began last winter. I think that’s the end of it now. I’d be surprised if they go back to that well. Based on a manga series, and it’s… it’s a modern masterpiece, right?
CAITLIN: Yeah, pretty much.
PETER: Top ten anime I’ve ever watched, probably.
AMELIA: Yeah. I mean, I’ve seen people say Top five. Top three. It’s exceptional. Absolutely unqualified recommendation. We will do a separate podcast on it. But, just briefly—Caitlin, what did you particularly love about this show?
CAITLIN: I mean, I pretty much… In very “me” fashion, I pretty much spent the whole series just enchanted with the character of Konatsu. I mean, listen. Obviously, the whole cast is really good. And I really like them. They’re all really great characters. They all have very compelling stories. But Konatsu is like, she hits just right on the kind of characters that I love: angry girls who are struggling in this male-driven world who are trying to find equal footing.
And sort of seeing that arc… When, in the second season, when she’s like, “I don’t want to do rakugo. I don’t want to be disruptive like that,” it really threw me off, ‘cause I was like, “No! Konatsu! Come on! Fight the power! Fight”—you know—“Fight the Powers That Be!”
But it’s—you can’t all be Tamora Pierce characters. It was a much more slow burn with that, with her, and sort of her trying to be a grown-up about it. Seeing her come to be—to finally live her goals was just so moving for me.
In the episode where she finally tries to see Yakumo and is like, “Can I be your apprentice?” She had announced her pregnancy earlier that episode, and I got all sniffly because I love babies. [laughs] I love babies. I love babies being born. You know, I’m like a fucking toddler teacher. That’s just who I am.
But, like, when she turned to him, and she asked that, I just started bawling.
AMELIA: That whole episode was a big cry-fest for me. I think I fell apart near the beginning of the episode and just didn’t stop, basically. It was beautiful.
CAITLIN: So, yeah. Konatsu. Konatsu was definitely what initially drew me in to Rakugo Shinju, and to just see her story come to fruition just was absolutely amazing.
AMELIA: Peter, how about you?
PETER: Yeah. Also, the pregnancy announcement was kind of their way of confirming that she and Yotaro are actually—
AMELIA: [crosstalk] —are a couple.
PETER: Yeah. Not just both raising a kid together, which I really liked.
CAITLIN: They’re doin’ it.
PETER: Yeah. For sure.
AMELIA: At least once.
PETER: [laughs] Yeah, I was on the same boat. Konatsu was probably my favorite character and I was like, “If this series ends without her becoming a rakugo performer, I’m gonna take a star or two off of its rating just because that would be so disappointing to me.”
As far as themes that I really liked, I kind of liked… Well, a common theme in a lot of the more shounen and seinen stuff that I read is the pursuit of power at the cost of connecting with others. And I felt like this had a very novel take on that, ‘cause Bon’s pursuit of rakugo at the cost of his personal connections—it was basically exchanging power for art—was a very interesting way of approaching that sort of narrative dynamic.
And also the whole series was just sort of this push-and-pull between this traditional patriarchal organization and these people who are trying to… I mean, you could see these traditions were slowly killing off the art form, and these people who were trying to create changes and allow this art form to evolve so it could continue to survive, which I thought was this amazing narrative across both seasons.
CAITLIN: Yeah. It’s interesting because it’s almost like Rakugo… ‘cause Rakugo is very grounded in the real world. It’s almost like the ending was this alternate history, ‘cause rakugo had absolutely started to evolve around when the second season took place. In the early nineties, the first female rakugo artist started making waves, and she’s got a bunch of students now. There’s foreign rakugo artists. But in this version of rakugo history, rakugo was not performed in Tokyo for 15 years after the theater burned down, and Konatsu in around… in the early 2010s, was the first female rakugo artist.
That kind of threw me because that’s really like erasing a lot of the accomplishments of the people who did fight in the real world to make these waves, and the show just feels so real that it… it’s weird. I can’t define exactly what throws me off about it, ‘cause obviously, oh, it’s just fiction, they’re gonna change reality to suit the narrative, but it didn’t sit quite right with me.
AMELIA: Yeah, I mean, it’s a story all about the world of rakugo evolving and becoming broader, more accessible, and more welcoming. And they ended up in a place within-universe they’re pretty proud of, and it’s nowhere near where we actually are in the present day.
So, they’re really pleased that they have young people on board, and a few women—or, like, one woman, I guess, at that point—whereas, now, like you said, there are foreign rakugo artists. There’s many women. It’s a very different environment. It’s much more progressive. And it’s an interesting choice that the author of this story made not to include that feature.
We can discuss this at length, I’m sure, on the main Rakugo podcast that we will be doing. To move on, just looking at other shows that we watched to the end… Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid. Caitlin, you and I watched that. Peter, you dropped it?
PETER: Yeah, I’ve been watching it all the way through.
AMELIA: Oh, okay. Okay. And, so, what do we all think? Bearing in mind the last episode hasn’t aired yet, at the time of recording, so we’re going right up to episode 12.
CAITLIN: It is a delightful little series with a couple of glaring flaws.
AMELIA: What are those “couple of glaring flaws?”
CAITLIN: The whole thing with Lucoa and Shota is really just… [disgusted noise]
AMELIA: Are they one flaw each, or is there something else?
CAITLIN: [laughs] Uh, yeah—
AMELIA: [Crosstalk] Is that the main one?
CAITLIN: Yeah, that’s pretty much the main thing.
AMELIA: Yeah. Yeah. Peter, how about you?
PETER: I really liked the show. I was kind of surprised because… In early episodes, it was just about Tohru being super thirsty. But then she ends up sort of taking a back seat to Kanna, who kind of, I think, is like the sleeper main character of the story, just because… and kind of their family dynamic.
Although, recently Tohru’s got a couple episodes as well that were more focused on her again. But it was just sort of—I’m not sure there was a specific theme. It’s just very kind of slice-of-life-y with these really weird characters.
I mean, obviously, there’s the Shota thing that’s a problem. I know there were some complaints regarding Kanna’s interactions with—what’s her name?—Sakawa?
AMELIA: Sakawa, yeah.
PETER: I don’t personally have an issue with that, although I kind of see what they’re talking about.
CAITLIN: Yeah, well, you know, I could talk about this from a child development perspective.
CAITLIN: So, they’re eight. They’re in third grade. That is shown during the sports festival episode. Eight-year-olds are absolutely capable of being attracted to other eight-year-olds. Like, and being like, “Oh,” and want, like, touching and all of that. It’s not sexual in the same way that adults are sexual, but it is absolutely a thing at that age. So, I had no issue with it.
AMELIA: I mean, it seemed like the way that children were treated was really divisive. Speaking of Lucoa and Shota…[laughs]. I mean, Lucoa is, I think, a really, really polarizing character, because I saw some people stop watching the show for her, which I completely understand.
AMELIA: And then on the other end of the spectrum, I’ve seen some women really relate to her, really identify with her. I’ve seen cosplayers dress up as her and talk about what a big fan of hers they are. And I don’t really know where that comes from apart from her figure. She is slightly, I guess, stockier than your standard, sort of waif-like anime woman.
CAITLIN: She’s got this very Galko-ish shape.
AMELIA: Yeah. But from my perspective, she was a very one-joke character. And every time you saw her, they just mined that one joke. And I think that’s what frustrated me about her is you don’t ever go beyond that with Lucoa that I recall.
PETER: There were a couple scenes… Especially early on, she’d keep calling Lucoa for advice. Lucoa would visit them after she was first introduced in person several times to make sure that Tohru was doing okay. And I think they had one moment like that near the end—or, near the more recent part of the series because it’s not over yet—and they have tea when she’s trying to figure out how to make good omelet rice, where it’s kind of like she has… She’s kind of like a maternal figure to Tohru.
CAITLIN: She’s the Mom Friend.
AMELIA: Yeah, but that’s the thing. Is she interchangeable with any other character? I feel like you could’ve put another character in there and it wouldn’t have mattered. It didn’t have to be Lucoa specifically. They just needed someone that Tohru could bounce off of in that moment, and Elma has a job, I guess.
So, it was… I don’t think they revealed anything, really, about her character, her background. Certainly not to the extent of Kanna or Elma or Fafnir, who I absolutely loved by the end of it. His moving in with Tohru’s coworker—
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Yeah.
AMELIA: —and then kind of having this little gaming house. [laughs] I thought that was really cute. But, yeah, Lucoa really stuck for me. She didn’t work for me. But, she is working for many women out there, so I also don’t want to write her off completely as a character that people can feel positively about.
PETER: Yeah, Fafnir’s like… there was just… pretty much how you feel about Lucoa is how I would feel about Fafnir. Like he was just—
AMELIA: [crosstalk] Oh, really?
PETER: —an angry guy who wasn’t gonna… nothing would come of it. But then he, yeah, he started living with that other guy, and he has some really cool character moments, like when it starts to rain and he takes in all the laundry, and how he’s talking about… Because he’s sort of like the conservative character, talking about how short-lived humans are, and how your connection—like, however invested you get, it’s just going to be that much worse later on. And he sort of warns Tohru against, like… basically telling her, “be cautious.”
AMELIA: Don’t get too attached.
PETER: But then he starts developing that sort of thing, and started realizing the value of himself. I was just kind of blown away that they took that character in that direction. I didn’t think that they would do anything with Fafnir, but I think his relationship… I wish I could remember the guy’s name.
AMELIA: His first name is Takiya. I don’t remember…
PETER: Takiya. Yeah. I like their gaming house thing, also. That’s super cool.
CAITLIN: Yeah. It was very sweet. They’re very domestic in their way. Like, in the most recent episode, where it starts raining, and he just goes—Takiya comes home, and he’s brought in the laundry.
AMELIA: Yeah, and there’s a towel there waiting for him, and he’s just like, “You need to join me. We have to grind.” And it was just a really—
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] It’s very real, honestly.
AMELIA: —like, quiet, everyday moment, yeah.
CAITLIN: Yeah, that’s pretty accurate.
AMELIA: And they leave that subtext wide open as well. It’s like they could just be housemates, or, if you want to read into it, you can. They didn’t shut it down. I thought that was really nice inclusion.
So, are those the only four shows that we all watched?
CAITLIN: I mean, you say “only” like four shows is a small amount of anime to watch in this season. That’s a good run for me.
AMELIA: Yeah, I watch quite a lot more, but I wouldn’t recommend all of them. So, I just wondered what we would recommend. Interviews with Monster Girls—would we recommend this to people?
CAITLIN: A qualified recommendation. I feel like I would have to explain… Give them a really good rundown of the pitfalls and the strengths before I could really recommend it in good conscience. Just be like: “make sure this is really what you’re looking for and know what you’re getting into.”
AMELIA: Same for you, Peter?
PETER: I… I don’t know, actually. I guess I’d say you could watch all the character-focused episodes and if you still like it, keep watching. But after that, it does kind of… It has its highs and lows. It definitely ended on a high for me, but the lows were just kind of slogs, so, I guess if you’re super invested after—what is it?—four episodes, then, yeah, continue on, otherwise just turn it off.
AMELIA: Yeah. I’m not sure I’d recommend it, either. However, Hikari I absolutely adored. She might be—
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Oh, she’s great.
AMELIA: —might be my favorite character. But at the same time, she’s kind of a microcosm of the stuff I find problematic. So, the fact that she has this kind of uncomfortable relationship with Takahashi… It becomes less uncomfortable as the series goes on, and by the end, I feel like they’re in a really good place where she is his student, and he is the teacher, and they’re close, but he’s not crossing lines with her.
AMELIA: And she doesn’t have any romantic feelings towards him. So they end up with this really kind of sweet connection, which was lovely to see. Why didn’t they get there sooner? And, also, why does she keep groping her friends? Those were my big issues with Hikari.
CAITLIN: Absolutely. And it’s weird ‘cause I feel like the show has such a balance where it’s like, “This part isn’t great but also sort of balances out this part.” Like, Sakie’s crush on Takahashi-senpai: at times it was really cute. It’s unfortunate that that sort of became the only thing about her character, but it was actually—her attempts to flirt with him were actually really adorable. And it is an appropriate crush. [laughs]
AMELIA: Exactly. Exactly. It’s perfectly reasonable for her to have feelings for him, especially since she starts off completely deflecting him, and over time she comes to trust him more. And that was a really nice arc that I think was kind of clumsily handled. But, as you say, her attempts to flirt with him were, as you say, were quite sweet, and she’s, again, quite… She kind of fumbles quite a bit, herself, because she doesn’t really know what she’s doing and she’s getting advice from this older man [laughs] who’s giving her terrible words of wisdom.
CAITLIN: Yeah! But, shifting the focus: As I said last time we talked about it in our mid-season break, I don’t really have a problem with the students having a crush on Takahashi-sensei. It’s only when he crosses a line that I feel uncomfortable with it. The focus shifting to her crush on him sort of chips away—takes it away from the students’ feelings about him. So it sort of balances itself out. It’s… I don’t know. It’s weird.
AMELIA: I am so glad you brought that up, because it gives me a chance to correct something that I said in the previous podcast. So, in the mid-season check-in, I think it was you or somebody else said, “I don’t have a problem with all the students having a crush on Takahashi-sensei,” and I said, “Oh, no, no. Me neither.” And then instantly regretted it, I just couldn’t say anything at the time.
Because, yeah, I actually… 100% of the young women around him having a crush on him, that—even if it’s understandable, that would not work for me. I’m really glad that they didn’t end up in that place where every one of the girls had a thing for him.
In the end, it was really only Machi who had an actual crush on him, and that felt so genuine and really sweet and sincere. And Yuki had—you know, she had a relationship with him, but there didn’t seem to be any romance there at any point. And Hikari seemed to—she seemed to be pushing her boundaries with him a little bit, which is completely consistent with what you would expect from a teenage girl.
CAITLIN: Yeah, and she also… She, herself, is not great with boundaries.
AMELIA: No. Exactly. So, it made perfect sense kind of how her arc with him went. And I feel like they handled that well eventually, but for a while there it looked like it was going to be 100%, and that was not the way I wanted to see the series go.
But, as you say, Sakie having a thing for Takahashi, a guy who deliberately exerts control around her where other men apparently don’t… That does make sense. He’s got an interest in Demis. It absolutely makes sense that she would be interested in him.
CAITLIN: I just… you know, I don’t understand why if you have an issue where all guys get horny just being around you, why you would choose to surround yourself by the horniest population, a.k.a. teenagers. Like, I don’t know.
AMELIA: At the same time, if that’s what she wanted to do—if she wanted to be a high school teacher—
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] I mean, yeah.
AMELIA: —the fact that she doesn’t let her Demi status get in the way says something quite powerful.
CAITLIN: Yeah, that’s true. She could… I don’t know. There’s a lot of all-girl schools.
AMELIA: Again, though, this is an analogy for disability and for her to say, “This isn’t gonna be an obstacle to me.”
CAITLIN: Yeah. And you know, going back to the disability thing, I do like—I love that they used the accommodations model instead of the “fixing it.”
AMELIA: Yeah. Absolutely.
CAITLIN: And sort of… I think the penultimate episode, all of the students being like, “Why are they… they only talk to each other and they only talk to him. Why is that?”
And they’re like, “Well, it’s because he doesn’t try to treat them like they’re exactly the same and dance around their disability.”
He acknowledges it and he treats it like a thing, but he also treats them like people, so they start getting more comfortable with that. And I thought that pissed me off. But then the things that it does right it does right in ways that I don’t really… I haven’t really ever seen before.
AMELIA: And maybe that’s the problem. Maybe the things that we like about it, that is kind of us looking for scraps and being contented with scraps. Because if there were more shows that really looked at disability and didn’t have those pitfalls, then surely we’d be looking at this and saying, “These lows are unacceptable.”
So, if the highs didn’t stand out so much in the landscape of all anime, and… I don’t know. Have you both seen A Silent Voice?
CAITLIN: I’ve read a significant portion of the manga.
AMELIA: Okay. So, I mean, that’s an example of an anime that handles disability explicitly and very well. And if we had more anime like that airing shows, would Interviews with Monster Girls stand out as much? I’m not sure.
CAITLIN: Right. ‘Cause as much as I headcanon certain anime characters as having ADD or anxiety or autism… That’s still not a real thing.
AMELIA: Yeah, we don’t diagnose anime characters. We headcanon, and every individual can do that differently. So, people can end up making characters whatever they want, really.
CAITILIN: It’s just so real. It’s just so… anyway.
AMELIA: And again, shows leaving that open to interpretation, that’s a way of being inclusive. It’s absolutely fine. It’s not the best way of being inclusive if you can just outright show someone having a disability or being on the spectrum or being mentally ill, whatever, but anime’s not great for that.
And so, we have shows like Interviews with Monster Girls where we read into it and we say, “Okay, yeah. This is representing something that exists in the real world.” And we’re just so pleased to see that, that we’ll put up with the things that were really bad. And some moments of Interviews with Monster Girls were really bad.
So, I don’t know if I’d recommend it. If I did, it would absolutely be a qualified recommendation and it would only be to preexisting anime fans, I think. I couldn’t hand this to, just, a muggle friend.
But the next one, ACCA—would we recommend ACCA?
AMELIA: [crosstalk] Unqualified?
PETER: Yeah. Pretty unqualified.
CAITLIN: Unqualified, yeah. I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone, but if I knew it was up someone’s alley, it would be unqualified.
AMELIA: Yeah. They’d have to be comfortable with that pace, really, wouldn’t they? I think that’s the biggest thing I’ve seen people saying against ACCA is the pace.
PETER: Well, I don’t think that I… Before watching it, if somebody described just like how slow and meandering it was, I don’t know if I’d think I’d like it, but…
AMELIA: No, same. Exactly.
PETER: Yeah. I’d say, “Try it out” to just about anybody and see if it kind of, I don’t know, if you enjoy it. It’s just super chill.
AMELIA: Yeah. I think if I had friends who I knew were into that kind of approach to literature or to film or to another medium, then absolutely ACCA, 100%, in a heartbeat. Not sure I’d recommend it to people who are anime fans but into things like the Shonen JUMP shows, for example.
AMELIA: I think I’d be more likely to recommend it to someone who liked reading novels, you know? Because they’ll be a bit more used to that sort of slow pace. I’m not saying that people who watch anime don’t also read novels, but, you know. In terms of friends I have who—
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] How dare you. [laughs]
AMELIA: I’m gonna get in trouble. [laughs] Okay. So, we’d recommend ACCA. How about Rakugo?
AMELIA: And I’m guessing that’s unqualified?
PETER: Yes. Very much yes. Even if I don’t think it’s something that people like, I still think they should watch it, just because it’s so… It’s got so much narrative—I don’t want to say “narrative worth,” it’s just… I don’t know. It seems really… even “important” is the wrong word. I don’t know. I think everybody should try to watch it even if it’s not something they normally watch.
AMELIA: I’m not sure. I think it’s a very challenging show, actually. I think it’s a masterpiece, but so is much art cinema, for example, and you don’t necessarily recommend something to someone just ‘cause it’s good quality. It’s… the actual rakugo sequences can be a bit dense, I think, or a bit… You know, I’m saying this from the perspective—I was a bit put off by those kind of ten-minute segments early on. Especially the first episode, which is like 90 minutes long and 20 minutes of that is just rakugo.
PETER: Yeah, the first episode was definitely… I was almost prepared to drop it. But then, I don’t know, it was just a way of introducing a lot of the characters before going into Bon’s story, and that’s where I feel like the real interesting—that’s where the narrative is established.
CAITLIN: It was love at first sight for me.
AMELIA: Yeah, but then you had to go from episode two, where Konatsu doesn’t show up again for like eight episodes or something.
CAITLIN: Yeah, well, you know, Miyokichi definitely… ’cause Miyokichi’s a really an interesting character. She’s very… complicated. She’s doing her best, but her best is not very good, and she’s just sort of very messed up largely because of her life, her circumstances.
And I think it’s just fascinating, ‘cause apparently in an interview, the manga creator sort of wrote her—not necessarily as a shallow villain, but she was more of an obstacle. She was sort of there to throw their life into chaos, and… Megumi Hayashibara’s performance in the anime actually changed her perspective on the character.
PETER: Interesting. ‘Cause I don’t know—especially with that line in the penultimate episode where she talks about her role as a woman, and just sort of her conflicts early on… I’m surprised that I guess, man, that was one hell of a performance then. ‘Cause it kind of reminded me of reading Sakuran, where it’s just like this character who is unhappy with their role in life, but it’s like the entire culture of the era sort of pushes women into that role.
And it’s like… There’s one line of Sakuran which I thought about all the time while watching Miyokichi. It’s like, “All of life here is a game. And if you lose, you lose badly.” Ah, I’m gonna butcher this line.
It’s like, “If you win, you lose, and if you don’t play, you lose.” So, there’s just no positive outcomes, and I felt like that resonated really strongly with Miyokichi’s character.
AMELIA: Yeah, definitely.
PETER: I just butchered that line from Sakuran, though. [laughs]
CAITLIN: Well, I haven’t read it, so…
AMELIA: Yeah, exactly. So, we don’t know any better. But I’m sure our commenters will let you know.
PETER: I appreciate it.
CAITLIN: But yeah, no, Rakugo is just a beautiful series.
AMELIA: I’ve recommended it, actually, to friends from my Japanese Studies degree. So, people that are already familiar with Japanese culture, with Japanese—’cause it’s quite old-fashioned Japanese that they speak in and it’s quite interesting to somebody who’s studied the language… just fascinating to see how that evolves and how the different characters speak and how they speak within the rakugo segments to be different characters.
And, so, that’s—on that basis, I’ve been able to recommend it to Japanese Studies friends. I probably wouldn’t be recommending it, again, to friends who like the kind of more mainstream, accessible anime. I say “friends.” I’m talking about younger family members as well. Younger brothers, sisters, et cetera. I don’t know if I’d be able to give them Rakugo right now, but maybe in five years, ten years.
AMELIA: And I’m sure that Rakugo will stand the test of time. I’m quite confident about that. I think this is one that we’re going to be talking about in years to come as something like Cowboy Bebop has been, something like Neon Genesis Evangelion has been. I think Rakugo is going to be in that bracket.
CAITLIN: Like, it’s harder to be one as a series now, because there’s so much coming out that anime has become much more disposable. For a series to not be disposable is a big deal.
CAITLIN: I do agree that Rakugo will be one of those.
AMELIA: Absolutely. So, I would say it’s a recommendation, but I’m not sure it would be completely unqualified. But I don’t think the qualifications would be around feminist credentials. I think it would be around…This is, you know, it is a big, historical story, and it involves a lot of theatrical performances and things like that. It would be kind of saying, “It’s not going to be just a straightforward adventure or anything like that.”
AMELIA: But I think a lot of people who aren’t interested in anime would really appreciate it.
CAITLIN: I would recommend it to someone who’s into film.
AMELIA: Yes. Yes, absolutely. Or into theatre, even.
CAITLIN: Yeah. Yeah, it’s definitely… It’s art.
AMELIA: Okay, how about Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid? Do we recommend that?
PETER: Uh, I—
CAITLIN: [crosstalk; hesitantly] Yes?
PETER: I absolutely would, but it’s one of those shows where if the person hasn’t watched a whole lot of anime, I probably wouldn’t make that recommendation.
CAITILIN: Yes. It is an anime for anime fans.
AMELIA: Yeah, this is the opposite of what I just said. Like, if I had a friend who was into kind of the more Shonen JUMP stuff, I think I would recommend them Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid. I think it’s a rare example—I say “rare”; now that I say that, I have to think that through—but I think it’s an example of an anime that is majority female cast that isn’t designed for the male gaze.
I really don’t get that feeling. I know that it was—I think it’s targeting male audiences, but it doesn’t read that way the way they’ve adapted it to anime. Does that make sense?
CAITLIN: [hesitantly] Yeah…
PETER: I think it was… Isn’t it a shounen?
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] It’s got a lot of jiggle.
AMELIA: Exactly, this is what I’m saying. I don’t know. Feel free to challenge me on this.
CAITLIN: This is sort of why I tend not to talk about the male gaze in my analysis unless it’s like a really essential part. It’s that it’s got a lot of jiggle to it. And—
AMELIA: [crosstalk] That’s fair. That’s fair. And—
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] It’s got, you know—
AMELIA: [crosstalk] I said that, actually thinking, except Lucoa. I completely cut her out of my brain when I said that, so…
CAITLIN: Even Tohru and Elma, they’ve got a lot of jiggle, but even then, I watched the first couple episodes with my friends who watch some anime but not a whole lot. They were just like, “Oh my God. Her boobs are all over the place.”
CAITLIN: So we’re pretty—probably I think it’s safe to say we’re pretty desensitized to it, but… The jiggle for me, it doesn’t cancel out all the stuff that I really like about the show. It is… If I think about it, it is a mildly annoying distraction, but even then I just sort of block it out—
AMELIA: [crosstalk] Yeah, that’s—
CAITLIN: —unless it’s really focusing on there.
AMELIA: That’s essentially what I just did.
PETER: [crosstalk] The characters themselves make up for it.
AMELIA: Yeah. Absolutely. That’s essentially what I just did, saying, “Oh, it’s not for the male gaze.” No. No, actually, Lucoa’s entire character seems to be for the male gaze, so I’m not sure what I was thinking there. But you do just block it out, like you say. I completely forgot about her.
And, you know, the moments like the sports day, for example, the sports festival, they just went over and over and over the fact that Lucoa’s breasts are big and Shota is a young boy with guys around saying, “Your older sister’s amazing” after she shows up with her boobs. And that was kind of the running shtick there, and that stuff is really threaded throughout.
But I did enjoy it despite that, and it was very much “despite that” for me. I did find that stuff jarring. But, as you say, other things offset that. So…
AMELIA: Recommendation for anime fans only, I guess?
CAITLIN: Yeah. Unless I really, really know they are into that homoerotic slice-of-life, I’m just gonna recommend this one for anime fans. It definitely requires a lot of anime literacy. [laughs]
AMELIA: I think that’s a fair point. I want to go back to our ranking for… So, beginning of the season we reviewed 19 shows. We looked at our top ten mid-season, and I just want to look at the top five now.
So, Number One was Monster Girls. We’ve talked about that. Number Two was Scum’s WIsh. Peter, I think you saw Scum’s WIsh.
PETER: No. I do not have an Anime Strike membership, so…
AMELIA: Yeah. Exactly. They’ve made it inaccessible to quite a lot of people by putting it behind an extra paywall. Caitlin, did you watch Scum’s WIsh?
CAITLIN: I watched about half of Scum’s WIsh.
AMELIA: About half. What did you think of that half?
CAITLIN: I mean, it was good. It was really good. It was a very well-done series. Very insightful into these characters’ mental states and sort of the self-loathing and depression that they’re dealing with, but, like, I just didn’t really connect to it emotionally. A lot of people were finding it very relatable and I was not. And my time management skills are bad. So, it feels like I have less time than I do. So, if I’m not connecting to a show in some way, I drop it pretty fast.
AMELIA: That is completely fair. If I weren’t reviewing things for AniFem—if I didn’t have an obligation to watch certain shows, I guarantee you the amount of anime I actually watch would be dropped to about an eighth of what it currently is. So, I think that’s entirely fair. Your time is limited. You can’t watch 19 shows on the off-chance that something like—I don’t know—Handshakers is going to turn out to be amazing.
CAITLIN: [snickers] Well, it’s amazing in a certain way.
AMELIA: [laughs] But it was amazing in that way for episode one. I think you can kind of just tick that box and move on. I did watch Scum’s WIsh right to the end. Absolutely loved it. I’m one of the people who found it really relatable.
But I remember you said, “I’m just not connecting with anyone.” And I just… my mind was blown because I couldn’t possibly imagine somebody not connecting with these characters. So, I think it maybe is a show like that where if you relate to it, you really relate to it. If you don’t, you’re cut off.
I saw some other women that I follow making similar comments on either side of that line, and there didn’t seem to be as much of that in-between commentary around it, from what I saw in my corner of the internet.
CAITLIN: Yeah, I’m sort of… My tolerance for shows that are just constant misery, I think, is dropping. I discovered that, also, while I was watching the second season of Magic Nightmare. It’s just like—oh my God, everyone is so sad all the time. Please, someone, smile for a few minutes. And not a “I’m just smiling to make him think I want his dick” sort of smile. No! Someone please, please, have a moment of genuine happiness. For the love of God!
And, yeah, so I just don’t have the emotional energy for shows like that anymore.
PETER: It was a heavy read. Really. It’s rough.
AMELIA: Yeah, ‘cause you’ve read the manga to the end, haven’t you?
PETER: Yeah, I’m not sure how far. Pretty deep.
AMELIA: I think the anime is a very faithful adaptation of that, so anyone who’s read the manga, you’ve pretty much had the anime experience. Though I will say the voice acting is exactly where it should be. I don’t think there was anyone who was miscast, I don’t think. And Hanabi’s voice actor did a really good job of making her sound kind of petulant but also quite endearing. Which is exactly what you need for Hanabi’s character. So I was really impressed by that.
But, yeah, if you’ve read the manga, it’s wonderful. It’s got the same kind of aesthetic as the anime.
PETER: NoitaminA makes good anime.
CAITLIN: Ehh, well… [laughs] More consistently than most timeslots, but that did… that is the timeslot that brought us Guilty Crown.
AMELIA: [crosstalk] I have no opinion on this issue.
PETER: Yeah. We’ll leave it at that. [laughs]
AMELIA: Okay. So, Number Three…wait. Would you recommend Scum’s WIsh, Caitlin?
CAITLIN: Uh, yeah. Yeah. No. It’s a well-made series. It just wasn’t for me.
AMELIA: I think I would recommend it. It wouldn’t be entirely unqualified, but it would be qualified in the same way as—if I recommended a Western film that had that kind of, well, sexuality in it for a start. You know, I’m not recommending this to my mum. And having that kind of emotion—that complicated emotion tied into it, like, I think that would be hard for some people to watch. So, I’d kind of let them know in advance, you know, it can be a bit hard-going sometimes. But, at the same time—
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] My mom would probably get into this show more than I did.
AMELIA: Oh, no, I couldn’t… no. No. That’s not…
CAITLIN: [laughs] I wouldn’t watch it with my mom, but she would probably find it more relatable than I did.
AMELIA: Maybe we should get her on the podcast. We can ask her.
AMELIA: Okay, Number Three on our ranking was ACCA, which we’ve talked about. Number Four was Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid. And Number Five was Saga of Tanya the Evil. Caitlin, you didn’t watch this.
CAITLIN: I did not watch it.
AMELIA: Did you watch any of it?
AMELIA: Fair enough. Peter, you watched it right to the end?
PETER: Yeah. I thought it was really good. I feel like the ending was opening up for a second season, which I really hope happens. I was really impressed, actually. I thought it was just going to be this kind of Hirano-esque theater of violence, but it actually really focused on some cultural discussions, I guess.
It really went in on… they went all-in on the fact that Tanya is a fascist, and how that resonates with her capitalist tendencies, and it didn’t make any attempts to really make her an endearing—besides her just being entertaining, it didn’t try to portray her as the good guy or anything like that.
AMELIA: I was surprised with what they did do with her though, because, as you say, they did make her entertaining at times. They made her comic relief sometimes, which was surprising. And they made her into a good leader. She kind of… once she had her team of committed soldiers, she knew how to motivate them. She knew how to lead them and how to get their respect, which I wasn’t really expecting considering their flashback to her past as a salaryman.
PETER: I think she made a surprisingly good fascist, and part of a fascist is motivating people with their emotions—
AMELIA: [crosstalk] Ah, true.
PETER: —their lower instincts. So, I feel like they tapped into that pretty successfully.
AMELIA: I think it was… like, it’s quite a shocking image to have this young girl who is so hateful at times. Like, when she kills that guy, I think—or she thinks she kills that guy—and she takes his rifle, which is… for him, it’s a really significant, meaningful, sentimental object… and she’s just like, “Oh, great, I’ve got a gun.” And she’s—
PETER: [crosstalk] Gives herself a birthday present.
AMELIA: Exactly. Exactly. And it’s cold. It’s callous. It’s exactly the salaryman that we saw in the beginning of episode two. And for that to show up in this young girl’s body… like, the fact that the last line of the series, I think, is—it’s about her being a monster in the body of a young girl.
AMELIA: But at the same time, we know that Tanya’s… she’s been well rounded enough by that point that in a way it’s almost more shocking she’s not 2-D. She’s not flat—she’s not a flat character, is what I mean. She’s completely fleshed out. And she’s still a monster in many ways.
PETER: It was a bit… I was wondering what they were trying to do at certain parts, ‘cause there’s the point where she saves one of her companions essentially by taking—it wasn’t really a bullet—like, an explosion for him, I guess. And then she kind of… I felt like they were going in a direction where is it like she’s more aware and smarter than the people above her?
But I think it was just she was more ruthless and understood the baser instincts of mankind more. So, she knew that even though they’d have this big victory, they weren’t going to stop fighting the empire. The enemies would rise again. And she basically understood that because she was so in-tune with these lesser instincts of mankind. So, uh, it… In that way, there are pluses and minuses, but at the end of the day, she is just kind of a ruthless monster.
AMELIA: She’s not a complete psychopath. You know, we see that she isn’t completely incapable of—
PETER: [crosstalk] Yeah. It reminded me of There Will Be Blood. I don’t know if you’ve seen that movie, with Daniel-Day Lewis.
AMELIA: [crosstalk] No.
PETER: Oh, it’s a… it spawned that “magnificent bastard” trope, I think.
AMELIA: Oh, okay.
PETER: It’s kind of like the main character is a horrible person but you find elements of sympathy in the character.
AMELIA: Yeah. But she’s quite unsympathetic in many ways, so I think they walked that line really well. I think they could have made her unsympathetic to the point you don’t—you’re put off watching anymore. But, at the same time, if they’d made her more sympathetic, that would’ve completely undercut the character.
PETER: If you like seeing her get owned by God…
AMELIA: Oh, absolutely. And that is the core of the appeal for me, was her kind of cat-and-mouse thing with Being X, and the moments where he—maybe not?—shows up, it’s very creepy. And they handled it really well. And I actually thought the audio of Tanya was something that really stood out for me.
Yeah, I enjoyed it. There were a few episodes that I found they leaned a bit more on the military side of things than the Being X side of things, and I was less interested in that, but when it was good, it was very good. And I… It set up to a second season. I do look forward to seeing that.
Caitlin, there’s something you wanted to say?
CAITLIN: Yes. So I… If you’re going to the SakuraCon convention in Seattle on Easter weekend, I will be doing three panels there. The first one will be Friday at 10:45 about abusive relationships in shoujo manga and how they’re romanticized and what the signs of abuse are as they are presented in them; one will be on Saturday at 8:45 PM—“Is this feminist or not?”—talking about different ways of looking at anime as a feminist, but not necessarily approaching it from the question of, “Is this feminist or not?”; and the third one is going to be on Sunday at 11 AM about shoujo isekai series from the nineties as opposed to the otaku-oriented ones that are coming out these days.
So, if you are at SakuraCon, come stop by. Say hello. I’d love to meet anyone who listens to this.
AMELIA: Yeah. And please do tell Caitlin if you heard about her panels from this podcast. That would just make our day. [laughs]
Okay, I think that wraps it up for our talk on the 2017 season. Winter season. We will, of course, be coming back for the Spring season, which I’m just starting to review right now.
So, you can find more of our work and our podcast at www.animefeminist.com. You can find us on Twitter, @animefeminist. You can find us on Facebook at facebook.com/animefem.
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So, we would really like to make these podcasts weekly, but only once we hit $900 in patron pledges and we can afford to pay our editor $15 an hour for their time. Because if you do something once every couple of weeks, it’s a favor; if you do it every week, it is a job, and people should be compensated for the work that they do.
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So, thank you so much to Caitlin and Peter for joining me today, and please get involved in the comments and let us know what you think.
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