What happened to horror anime?

I nostalgically remember the late nights when I would turn on the TV, open a bottle of Morgan, switch on the PS3, open a bottle of Havanna Club, bring out the Bacardi Gold
and settle down in my couch to marathon some Higurashi or Ghost Hunt. Maybe not masterpeices, but good, solid creepy mystery/horror that scare and intrigue without trying too hard to gross us out. How much has changed since then. First off, I have passed my rum phase and moved on to bourbon, my supposedly clinical depression turned out to be no more than a vitamin d deficiency (truly a lesson to all basement dwellers out there) and I’m no longer a recluse. More significantly, there are absolotely NO decent horror
anime being made anymore.
I’m not talking about “Vampire Wolf Brigade EX III – Raid on the demon womb, extra blood and guts edition” style fare, but genuine old fashioned thrillers.
The closest we came recently was Another which, despite having a cast so stupid you’d think it was evolution killing them off, was still sufficiently creepy and atmospheric
to satisfy my needs. For a while. But these days even Hollywood is skimping on the horror – remeber when Horror films were decent, had large budgets and top name actors? Now it’s mostly assembly line stuff intended solely for the video market or for 15 year olds who don’t know what else to watch on their dates. The fact that Another got made into a Manga,an Anime AND a live-action film in spite of it’s logic-defying plot just shows how big the dearth of good horror is these days.

If someone doesn’t get going again soon I might have to create some horror of my own… Townsfolk beware!

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The Japanese/Chinese anime paradox

Normally, growing up tends to diminish one’s consumption of anime, but not for me. In fact, being in a shotgun marriage (immigration rules really do help bring back traditional family values) to a Chinese woman probably increased my anime consumption tenfold. Why Chinese you ask? Wouldn’t Japanese women be a better choice for an anime fan? Well, not really. Being from Denmark, If I met someone from abroad who said they loved listening to Aqua might make me feel sorry for you but it would still leave at least a small tingling of national pride in my chest. If one is to mention to a Japanese person (or a Japanese American – like this guy http://bitterasianmen.com) that you love anime a common reaction would be more in the vein of “Oh, well f*** you too!”.

You see, anime is seen as a subculture for the uncool in Japan, and Japanese people who I have met often point out how westerners fail to see the negative rep anime culture has. By contrast, China has quite an interest for Japanese anime (and everything else that can be pirated), but are currently still about a generation away from universally adopting the western understanding of being “cool”. After all many of them are still in the stage in which they find academic success and material wealth more important than showing off your sexappeal at next weekend’s booze-fest. Hopefully the Japanese will once again find the appeal of the animation medium to tell stories interesting again (even when they aren’t made by Studio Ghibli). Otherwise I wonder if the Chinese might take over that industry as well (if the Koreans don’t get there first).

So it begins…

Welcome to my blog – yes, I have actually decided to make an anime blog long after blogs became considered an obsolete dinosaur and real hipsters moved on to things that don’t require you to, uh, write so much. But I’m lazy – heck I’m so lazy that I am using WordPress to make my blog despite having taken two different degrees that include web page design courses as part of the curriculum. But in moments where I’m more inclined to let my mind wander than do something productive I still need some kind of platform to get my thoughts out – rather than just sitting around mumbling to myself.

About me – I’m from the Old World (so forgive the bad punctuation), but have spent a sizeable amount of time in the US and Australia and have relatives on nearly every continent (if you include in-laws).

Oh, and I’m probably way too old to watch anime, but I apparently age backwards, Benjamin Button style. 

Why we don’t need Haruhi Suzumiya season 3

(yes, I have posted this one elsewhere, but given that I have started my own blog, and the last book is coming out in English in about a month, I’ve decided to re-post it here).

Fans of the Haruhi Suzumiya franchise eagerly hope – even over 7 years after the first series, that a third season will be made, regardless of the fact that the initial fans are most likely having kids by now. Not only do I doubt that it will ever happen, I honestly couldn’t care less about the series largely because the source material leaves so much to be desired.

Anime had been a forgotten memory for me for years until I entered the Anime society at UNSW in Sydney, when I visited Australia for a semester way back (in Anime terms anyway) in fall 2006. Being suddenly reunited with the phenomenon I had shunned for the best part of a decade (except for Studio Ghibli films which were hip enough to be watched by high school/college students without risking instant ostracizion) I set out to cover all the anime I had missed in my absence. One anime repeatedly came up on peoples’ top ten lists: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. I nonetheless avoided this series for years, partially because I thought it was a sappy Shojo series, partially because being a recent college graduate I just couldn’t imagine going back to something concerning high school – especially since Japanese people appear to treat high school the way Europeans treat middle school in terms of what stage of your life you are in (where I come from, legal drinking age was 15 for example!).

Nonetheless I eventually picked it up if for no other reason than to see what all the fuss was all about. And I was deeply impressed with the first 6 episodes (yup, I bought the DVD and watched it in chronological order, silly me). It just kept keeping me guessing as to what would happen next. Since then though, I realized that the only reason I kept watching was to see what cute facial expression (or outfit) Mikuru would make/wear next. It seemed that the very conventions Tanigawa was mocking were being embraced in later episodes, and the perceived epicness of the story was but a bluff. He could talk the tawk but not walk the wawk. I nonetheless sat quite happily though season 2 and Dissappearance though the latter didn’t impress me as much as it did many others – perhaps because I had already seen “It’s a wonderful life” and so the story thus  didn’t seem as fresh.

Curiosity alone kept me reading the light novels (fan translated of course – no way I was waiting three years to catch up with the story), but my initial suspicion was only confirmed more and more. Tanigawas was good at hooking his readers only to disappoint them later – Epic quest to correct time hinted at in Disappearance? Nope, resolved in a prologue. Conflict between time travellers and espers? Nope, they make a truce before anything happens. Big rival faction of espers? Nope, just an utterly useless teenager. He manages to put in just enough teasers to keep people reading only to follow up with a load of filler before deflating their hopes. Particularly book 10 felt almost unreadable in its endless philosophical mumbo jumbo and unnecessary conversations. That entire ark felt like a pale imitation of the first book, only padded out to three times the length. Some believed of course, that the series was going somewhere again and that books 10-11 were but forerunners to a slew of new “adventures” by Haruhi & co., but two years on it looks like Tanigawa has once again fallen into the same slump he fell into in 2007 – about the time he realized that he had made more money that he would ever need.

In honesty, looking back, the series had numerous inconsistencies in it. Was Haruhi a stone cold psycho, a clueless aspie or straight up sadist? Those aren’t mutually inclusive disorders and Haruhi seems to switch between them at will even in the first novel. Is Mikuru the moe or the fanservice character? Is she moe played straight or deconstructed? Even Kyon’s memories of some events like the movie screening changes throughout the series. Later in the series Tanigawa seems to have forgotten what people liked in the first place. Where is the black humour? Where is the suspense? Where is the satire? 

I honestly think many people are being polite in their reviews of the latter books in the series because of the anticipation that the series will somehow justify everything and reveal all that meandering as set up for the long promised “epic Sci-fi plot” that many have waited for. Having read the Surprise ark with some disappointment, I expect the official English release in november to be met with some disappointment from critics as well. Should this be the last of the series, it leaves the series with a legacy of broken promises.

We should perhaps commend Tanigawa for at least trying – ever since the first novel (which he was expecting to be the only one) he has been mired by the stories’ own premise: That the numerous factions he hints are in existence can’t reveal themselves as Haruhi must be left in the dark.

But even without this problem, I doubt that Tanigawa truly wishes to do anything with the Sci-fi universe he has built up; Going full-on Sci-fi adventure would ruin the series appeal as a nostalgic high school slice-of-life comedy. However much we may see this series as for teenagers, the truth is, that the most rabid (and lucrative) fans of the series are single men in their thirties. They love reading about high school life, because it reminds them of a recent past where the world (ie Japan) was simpler, companies didn’t lay people off, filthy foreigners were rarely seen and women didn’t entertain any silly notions of independence from their husbands.

But he knew he couldn’t go on with a story that went nowhere without some of his fans feeling had, so the result was this half-hearted anticlimactic ark that for all it’s talking did little except cancel out many of the promising elements that had been introduced in previous books.

So this is where I’m going at – why should we see a third anime season of Haruhi Suzumiya? Intrigues would be almost nothing but internal monologue from Kyon (this was getting annoying already in dissapearance). The rest would likewise feel like a slow moving march to (nearly)nowhere. It would take 20 or so episodes (at least) to get to the big finale in Surprise. And by the time we got there most people would wonder why they had to wait 4-5 years for that. If the purpose of animating the series is to promote the books, Kadokawa would be better off leaving it alone and leaving potential new fans of the series to buy the latter books in the series in the hope of reading the epic story development that will never come.