Self-Indulgent Writing in Anime: Why I Hate It and Why You Probably Don’t

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As an experienced anime viewer with a penchant for dissecting the “goods” and the “bads” of any particular series, I’ve developed a sense of what I typically value in a fictional (or nonfictional) story. Though trying to pinpoint every little detail about what makes one topic of entertainment good or bad in an Aristotle-like manner is a near-impossible task in this day and age, I try to do my best to elaborate on why I find particular aspects of a story valuable or otherwise. In recent years—though its mark can be found in earlier decades—series have begun to hop onto the popular trend of something I’ve come to call “Self-indulgent writing,” which I will explain in more detail as the post continues. This passage will serve as the basis for what I’m referring to by this phrasing, should it ever come up in future articles (and I’m sure it will), as well as my thoughts on why this negative criticism of the topic may just be my desire to be a hipster. (more…)

Thoughts on Fujiyama-san wa Shishunki

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At this point it’d be somewhat of an ongoing joke that anything romantic in nature is assured to draw some interest from me. Should I see a synopsis for anything, really, that involves a romantic pairing as a plot point, I’m at least tempted to look into it. With as pure and safe as most Japanese romances are, it was refreshing to see that a manga was going to have the main couple be paired immediately as opposed to dragging out the romantic tension for some forty chapters or so. In the case of Fujiyama-san wa Shishunki, it’s also listed as an ecchi, which gave me hope that the couple would go farther than kissing. Because, y’know, most teenage couples do.

The first surprise I received from this manga was actually pretty far along into it, when I found out that the main characters are only fourteen. The female lead is 5’11” and the male lead is 5’3″. I simply thought those heights were due to unusual genes, but it turns out they’re not even really done growing. The way the art is stylized, I would’ve pegged them as sixteen, maybe seventeen. These kids aren’t even out of middle school! Knowing this, the subtle comment about one of the female lead’s friends getting to second base with his boyfriend in the first few chapters gives me the willies. Knowing this also led me to believe that the romance wouldn’t go past kissing, but by that point, that wasn’t much of a concern anymore. The way the romance progresses throughout is a far cry from its supposed “ecchi” label, but the build-up is encouraging enough for fans of almost naive-like blossoming of love between two people.

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By its end, Fujiyama-san was a slight disappointment for me. I enjoyed the series for its take on the progression of closeness between two kids within a romantic relationship, but there were a lot of things that bogged down the experience, and the ending does nothing for those seeking closure. One could say that reading through this would be a waste of time, and they’d have a valid argument. The way things are settled leaves a lot up to interpretation and imagination. The only real thing about this story that readers can hang onto is the strength of the relationship between the two leads. If that isn’t enough to charm you, then this really will be a waste of time.

Fujiyama-san focuses primarily on the two leads’ relationship, without relying on taking a step aside to focus on secondary characters or subplots. The relationship is the real story here. Nothing more, nothing less. It deflates any true reason to show the friends of those around the leads other than to show that they have friends, as said friends aren’t really ones worth caring for. I don’t even remember most of their names and I finished this only a few days ago. They provide for some comedic moments and take the edge off of the leads on some occasions, though very sparingly. What matters here is Fujiyama and Kanba; two kids learning about one another while also kinda poking fun at each other for their massive height difference.

Something rather odd about this story is that it’s relatively devoid of drama. It’s a very easy read, as it only employs cuteness and a calming atmosphere to lead the reader along. There is no mention as to how the heights of the two leads affected them negatively throughout their lives, aside from one very small incident near the end of the manga. One would think that a short boy and a tall girl would cause some intrigue among a classroom aside from simply stating, “Oh, they’re different.” There’s also the emphasis with Fujiyama as an athlete, but never provides any weight to it as a major plot point. There are some small sequences where something about her athletics bother her, but are never brought up aside from those sequences, which never last long, anyway. For an ecchi romance between two middle schoolers, the sexual tension is far too tame, especially in the second half.

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Ecchi is something that typically derides the importance of romance. If one’s romantic pursuits are too coy, why not try to force it by putting them in uncomfortably adult situations? And dudes love the shit, so why not? Fujiyama-san does have an occasional flash of the panties, bare female parts, or clothes appearing far too tight. The level at which this occurs is tremendously high in the beginning. Fujiyama (who may I remind you is fourteen) is subject to this quite often. Something strange happens, though, as the farther along the relationship between the two leads goes, the less ecchi is really present in the story. The ecchi almost disappears during the last volume. It’s quite something. When it is employed, it’s usually due to, ahem, “realistic” circumstances and not the “Oops! I tripped on a banana peel and tore my whole shirt off on a conveniently stuck out umbrella!” circumstances. And hey, the kids are together and haven’t done anything more than hug. I can understand Kanba being a little sexually frustrated by his early bloomer of a girlfriend.

What of Kanba and Fujiyama’s relationship, you may ask. Well, it’s the strongest benefit Fujiyama-san has as a story. It’s not what I expected (or wanted), but the closeness they feel for one another feels real and progresses at a slow, but steady pace. I really enjoyed the scenes where they hung out and did normal, everyday things with one another, and then ended on a semi-intimate moment together, like resting one’s head on the other’s lap. The story gives no shortage of scenes like it, and one comes to appreciate them for the impact they have to these kids who aren’t even in high school yet. They don’t have to fuck one another senselessly to show their love and appreciation for one another, and I think for their age, it’s appropriate to keep their relationship pure. I’m glad the manga decided to avoid overindulging in ecchi near the end of the story. It would’ve caused tension with the mood the manga expertly produces within the final volume.

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One thing that I always felt on the fence about was the art style of Fujiyama-san. On the surface, it looks rather freakish, with an awkward blend of both realistic and cartoonish character designs. It reminded me a tad of Aku no Hana‘s anime adaptation. It is a bit of an acquired taste, as I found myself growing used to the design by the second or third volume, though still grimacing upon some odd facial expressions. The backgrounds and environment were much better in comparison, and the story incorporated a few still shots of nature which I thought was a nice evoking of the calming and pure atmosphere of the couple’s relationship. The unique art style didn’t do too well with the ecchi bits, however, as rather than turn me on, it made me question whether everything was proportioned correctly. Something about the use of lines and the directions they were going had me a little puzzled. I wouldn’t read this to get my fix, if you know what I mean.

It’s quite simple: if you want to read a story about two kids slowly growing closer while also already committed to each other, this is your answer. It is absolutely valuable as a carefree and charming read of youthful romance without the (long-term) distractions of sexual intimacy or questions of faith. If you like these stories with a little more meat to them, like a focus on side characters or a bit of drama, this may be a waste of your time. It’s rather one-dimensional in its execution, but one could also say that it has a proper focus. It’s a story designed for specific people. If your piece doesn’t fit, don’t bother solving the puzzle.

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

Impressions from Week Nine of the 2015 NFL Season

It was truly a week of upsets. Many experts (and me) incorrectly guessed a number of match-ups with teams favorited to win by a large margin. Because of this, their (and my) pick ’em records suffered tremendously. Nevertheless, the 2015 NFL Season chugs along without a care in the world. There are still three undefeated teams (Oops, spoiler) and the margin of efficiency between the teams in the league looks quite a bit like Arena Football. The winners win and win and the losers lose and lose.

There were also only 13 games this week, the least there will be in a week for the entire season (until Playoffs, of course).

[Cleveland @ Cincinnati]

  • (Watched, correct)

PRIMETIME. Good win, Dalton. Good win.

Not much to say on this one. Johnny Manziel had an okay performance, but his receivers dropped a lot of catches. His head coach also wanted him to stay in the pocket… and so did the opposing head coach. Anyone see anything wrong with that?

[Miami @ Buffalo]

  • (Did not watch, incorrect)

Whaddaya know? Miami still kinda sucks. I guess anyone could look good against the AFC South.

Buffalo had quite the revitalizing win after being embarrassed by Jacksonville in London last week. Tyrod Taylor only missed one pass the entire game… though he only tossed the ball 12 times, while they ran the ball 30-somethin’ times. It’s all they needed to do; they trampled Miami with their run game and with the deep pass.

I’m sure Miami misses Cameron Wake at this point. They didn’t get much pressure or stop the run at all. I didn’t want to speculate early on in the season, but now that we’re at the mid-way point… Ndamukong Suh’s contract looks a little extravagant. I guess Miami’s used to it. See: Mike Wallace.

Ryan Tannehill had quite the completion percentage. I suppose that’s what happens when you have Jarvis Landry catching anything and everything within five yards from the line of scrimmage. Jarvis Landry’s longest reception of the day? 24 yards. Without it, he had 10 catches for 45 yards. Quite the weapon he is.

[Green Bay @ Carolina]

  • (Watched sporadically in between breaks, incorrect)

As much as people give Aaron Rodgers shit for choking at the end, he was close enough to tying the game to worry Carolina fans. And he did it with next to no offensive weapons. Eat your heart out, Cam.

Cam Newton only completed 50% of his passes, but still scored 4 touchdowns to make the game a lot more high-scoring than I would’ve expected. Green Bay’s defense is starting to fall apart. Why? Who knows? They looked fine for the first five games. Then they let Philip Rivers throw for 500 yards. Then let an aging Peyton Manning throw all over them. Newton only threw for 50% of his passes, but 3 touchdowns through the air? With his receiving corp? Green Bay, what is going on?

Aaron Rodgers has also been sacked 11 times in the last 3 games. With as many Pro Bowl players as he has on his line, that’s unacceptable. It’s just been a case of inconsistency all-around for Green Bay on both sides of the ball.

Or hey, maybe Carolina’s just fuckin’ awesome?

[Jacksonville @ New York (Jets)]

  • (Did not watch, correct)

[St. Louis @ Minnesota]

  • (Did not watch, correct)

One of the hot topics of Week Nine’s slate of games is this one, where Lamarcus Joyner supposedly elbowed Teddy Bridgewater full-force right in the noggin, knocking him out for a few moments. Many are crying that this was a dirty move and Joyner should be suspended. Will he? From reports, not likely, but a fine is certainly coming his way. People are also speculating that the move was premeditated, as St. Louis’s defensive coordinator is none other than Gregg Williams, the one who instigated BountyGate with New Orleans back from 2009 to 2011.

Controversy aside, the game was interesting. St. Louis’s offense basically consisted of Greg Zuerlein’s leg, while Minnesota’s offense basically consisted of Adrian Peterson’s legs. Both defenses played spectacular and it was a game everyone expected: low scoring and run heavy. Nick Foles and Teddy Bridgewater are very similar: both kinda suck, and both rely too heavily on their defense and running game. In this case, Bridgewater’s running game and defense were the better options and that’s all there is to that.

[Washington @ New England]

  • (Did not watch, correct)

Need I say anything here? New England’s really, really good, despite its shortcomings. Washington isn’t there… yet(?).

[Tennessee @ New Orleans]

  • (Did not watch, incorrect)

1 of 3 upsets this week that next to no one saw coming. New Orleans’ defense simply took a shit on the kitchen floor and didn’t clean it up by the time their mothers came home. And once again, Tennessee shows it’s not a force to be reckoned with on defense. It pulled through. It’s certainly better than New York (Giants)’s defense.

Drew Brees had another lovely game (plus a pick, but when does he ever not throw one?), but his running game was pretty bad. His offensive line has been very sporadic this season, giving up 21 sacks on the season at the halfway point. Their running game has also been either really good or really bad, depending on the defense they face. Many people thought New Orleans was a team on the rise, but it seems their defense just won’t let them get off easy.

A moral victory for Tennessee, but certainly not season saving. It’s nice for them to get a win when everyone was against them. I still don’t think they’re even close to the worst team in the league (I would argue Detroit, San Diego, and Jacksonville are all worse), but they aren’t getting anywhere near a winning record. I expect them to win 1, maybe 2 more games this season, but they’re destined for another top 10 pick in the 2016 draft. Maybe next year, eh?

[Oakland @ Pittsburgh]

  • (Watched final Oakland/Pittsburgh drive, incorrect)

Ben Roethlisberger is injured. Again. Now we get to watch Landry Jones start another game before a bye week. Hopefully he plays better than he did in his last start.

Both of these teams’ offenses played their hearts out. Antonio Brown had near 300 receiving yards and 17 catches. Derek Carr threw 4 touchdowns for the second week in a row. Both of these teams are good teams, but Pittsburgh was able to squeeze it out at the very end. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen as much support for a losing team as I have for Oakland this season. They’re 4-4, but people are super excited for their future, it seems. A future powerhouse of a team. Let’s just hope this isn’t just a one year thing.

Pittsburgh typically has an okay defense, but even against New York (Jets)’s defense, Oakland blew the cap off ’em. So perhaps Oakland’s offense is just that great. I’m sure it was a fun game to watch, it’s a shame I couldn’t. Now Pittsburgh needs to worry about Roethlisberger’s health, while Oakland has to worry about something completely different.

[New York (Giants) @ Tampa Bay]

  • (Did not watch, correct)

The funniest part about this game was the final few moments, when New York took a meaningless fumble back for a touchdown on Tampa Bay. It was a nice period for a bad sentence by Tampa Bay’s offense, which contributed to, like, 40 drops by its receivers. Tampa Bay had a chance the entire game, and its defense even stepped up by picking off Manning twice, but they couldn’t get it together. Probably because they suck, but whatever.

New York relied on Odell Beckham far too much. Again. Their offense stalled quite a few times during the game. They need to pick up the slack if they think they can take on New England next week. And their running game. Rashad Jennings is big and bruising, but he doesn’t get a whole lot of yards throughout the game. New York’s running game has been putrid this season. They need to shore that up. Quickly. Their defense isn’t exactly amazing, either. Maybe JPP can give them a little boost in the weeks to come. Maybe. I don’t know.

[Atlanta @ San Francisco]

  • (Did not watch, incorrect)

1 of 3 upsets this week. Atlanta has fallen far from their previous 5-0 record with great publicity. Now at 6-3, people are starting to call them out for their mediocre play, on offense specifically. Matt Ryan’s a top 10 quarterback, but he sure isn’t playing like one. Or maybe it’s his offensive line, as Devonta Freeman ran 12 times for 12 yards this game, making Ryan have to throw it just to catch up. San Francisco’s defense is pretty good at home, though.

And then, the controversy. 4th and Goal at the 1 yard line. Atlanta had been moving the ball pretty well against the defense for the entire drive. Down 4, Dan Quinn decides to kick the field goal instead of going for the touchdown. How did that result? His team lost by one… because he decided to go for the field goal, as the defense couldn’t stop San Francisco from getting first downs on their final drive. Ouch.

By the way, who was the starting quarterback for San Francisco? This guy:

  • 6-22 starting record
  • 25/26 TD/Int ratio
  • 53.4% career pass completion
  • 67.1 career quarterback rating

That must really sting.

[Denver @ Indianapolis]

  • (Watched, incorrect)

Tfw a perfect team loses to a shitty team:

The last of 3 upsets this week. On the bright side, Andrew Luck’s kidney exploded during the game, so now we get to see Matt Hasselbeck’s last hurrah as a starting quarterback for the next few weeks. Hopefully it goes more smoothly than Peyton Manning’s last year.

[Philadelphia @ Dallas]

  • (Watched, correct)

At this point, I was 5-6 in picks. I was at a serious risk for my first losing week of the season. I was nervous as hell coming into this game, but I was confident that Philadelphia would pull this out. And they did… in overtime. After giving up 27 points. Philadelphia’s defense? Are you home?

Nolan Carroll looked a lot like Bradley Fletcher in this game covering Dez Bryant. By that I mean he wasn’t even there. Dez Bryant had a good game, despite him being still slightly hurt. Matt Cassel also played a good game, kinda like how people expected him to play past 2010 in a Kansas City uniform. Alas, he couldn’t get it done, as Sammy Bradford was the hero of this game: by being okay during regulation, and great in overtime. Boy, oh boy.

Both defenses played “eh” this game. Dallas’s offensive line was predictably fantastic (except Tyron Smith, who struggled with Brandon Graham), allowing Darren McFadden to run all over the defense. Philadelphia’s offensive line also played pretty well. But then again, Greg Hardy is Dallas’s only true pass-rushing threat. It was simply a battle of possessions, as the offenses scored on nearly every drive in the second half.

It’s also nice to see Dallas lose. I really don’t like Dallas. I’m not afraid to admit it.

[Chicago @ San Diego]

  • (Watched, correct)

I was 6-6. If I lost here, I suffered the losing week. I was more shaky on this pick than the previous pick, as many others had San Diego beating Chicago, and I could perfectly understand why. Philip Rivers is elite. He has a few weapons left (not anymore). Chicago’s defense has a tendency to give up a lot of points to pass-happy teams, especially on the road (see: game at Ford Field). It looked like San Diego was the better team here, but once again, I believed in Chicago. Much like I believed them beating Kansas City on the road, I thought they could beat San Diego at home. I had a feeling. I went with it.

I wasn’t disappointed.

Nice to see Zach Miller have a great catch. I use that guy in Madden sometimes. He’s a cool dude. No, not this Zach Miller, this Zach Miller. Otherwise, Chicago played like they wanted it more, complete with a composed Jay Cutler and a constant “prevent” defensive scheme. I feel bad for Philip Rivers, as I like him, too, for the type of team he plays on. He clearly deserves better, but one man can only do so much. Needs a little more dosage of Woodcock, maybe.

San Diego’s season is over. There’s no way they’re making the playoffs with Denver at 7-1 and a rising Oakland team at 4-4. Not to mention, Philip Rivers has Danny Woodhead and Antonio Gates left as valuable offensive weapons. Stevie Johnson? Maybe. He didn’t exactly help his cause in the 4th quarter last Monday. He’s in a similar situation as Aaron Rodgers and Joe Flacco, except with a worse offensive line. Philip Rivers is a dead man walking. He’ll probably still throw for 5,000 yards. What else is he going to do?

Chicago looks okay. They’re 3-4 with Jay Cutler starting. If his defense was good, he’d probably be 5-2; 4-3 at the very least. Their season is far from being saved, but they have a good future.

  • Week Nine Pick ‘Em record: 7-6 ( ‘ .’)b
  • Overall Pick ‘Em record: 84-48