Random Thoughts

So I had a number of random thoughts, and decided to fill space with them. You know, like some of those political commentators do.
  • Has anyone noticed how many "harem" anime can be summed up as X + Tenchi Muyo? So, for instance, Moon Phase (it's a small harem) is "Gothed-up Tenchi Muyo", and Elfen Lied (which ain't very good) is "Wes Craven Presents: Tenchi Muyo," and DearS is basically "Alien Nation meets Tenchi Muyo"...or maybe, "the unholy lovechild of ChobitS and Alien Nation, Meets Tenchi Muyo."
    I still like DearS, though; it has a fairly intriguing exploration of what it means to be free, and whether or not it's even always desirable--without getting into Slave-women of Gor country--that I thought was impressive.
  • More generally, one can often express a major tendency of a show by assigning it to a network. Thus, for instance, "Lifetime: Television for Women presents Law and Order: Special Victims Unit", or "Bravo! presents Buffy the Vampire Slayer (or even more, Angel)". How about "Discovery Health presents A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila"?
    Don't know that there really is a network really uniquely suited to House and Law and Order: Criminal Intent, but if there were, it'd be one damn smart network. Even if House's writers can't seem to decide if he's a materialist (he's too smart to be a materialist, really) or some kind of mathematical realist, or maybe a nontheistic Platonist (like that guy whose name I forget, that wrote a book about the problems Goedel Incompleteness poses to the field of AI).
  • As I edited the above, and changed "if there was" to "if there were," it occured to me how odd it is that English expresses the subjunctive by changing singular to plural. Someone needs to have a look at why that is.
  • Apparently South Korea's sunshine policy (hopefully now abandoned), of being nice to the lunatics in North Korea, wasn't just stupid--it was also not named right. According to Wikipedia, the policy got its name from the Aesop's fable about the wind and the sun. I quote, from the article:
    In the fable, the sun and the wind compete to remove a man's coat. The wind blew strongly, but the man clutched his coat and kept it on. The sun shone warmly, and the man voluntarily took off his coat to enjoy the fine weather.
    Only, see, the point was not that the sun was being nice while the wind was being nasty; the point was that the wind was being hasty and direct and the sun was being slow and patient. He took off his coat so as not to die of heatstroke, not "to enjoy the fine weather"! Aesop was a Greek, and Greece is a mediterranean country where the sun was the cruelest of the gods--Korea is a cold-temperate country where the sun is a benign figure. A policy accurately named after the fable would involve the slow application of diplomatic, economic, and small-scale military pressure, until North Korea caved in. Or in other words, Reagan's Cold War strategy for dealing with the USSR.
  • Nemesis, by HP Lovecraft, ought to be taught in every school in this country. It's one of the best copies of Swinburne that I've ever read, and it shows Lovecraft at his Dionysian (in Neitzsche's sense) best. Pretentious? God yes. But it's arguably one of America's greatest poems, for all it's a knockoff of Swinburne, and it's not like Virgil didn't copy Homer (not that Swinburne nor, especially, Lovecraft is either of them worthy of the comparison).


Ghost in the Shell and Death Note

Once again, I find myself needing to point out the nakedness of the Imperial personage. Unfortunately the two works in question can't be explored each in their own separate article--I haven't seen all of them, since I could barely stand the first five episodes of Ghost in the Shell: SAC, and only got through the 7th volume of the Death Note manga before I had to stop or go catatonic. But I won't particularly be dealing with the plots of the two stories (conceding for the moment that GitS:SAC has a plot), but with the themes.

Both stories are very, very shallow, an example of what I like to call "stupid smart people". Nobody can deny that there's serious hard SF meat in GitS (apart from the cyberpunk parts), and the intrigue and machinations of Death Note are very involved. If that were what people were praising about them, I'd be content--but it isn't. No, people insist these stories are deep.

Sorry, Kemosabe, ain't buying.

If GitS was deep, it wouldn't have dialog that largely consists of the name-dropping of concepts in psychology and philosophy, a la undergrads showing off in front of their famous professor. Do any of these concepts have any impact on the story? Well, no, no they don't. Basically, a Shinsengumi story with technobabble (good technobabble, I admit, and not of the Deus Ex Tachyons variety) is still a Shinsengumi story, except the terrorists aren't as interesting and the uniforms aren't as snazzy (although I notice a familiar shade of blue, on the Tachikomas' hulls). Also...is Masamune serious, that he thinks Buddhists would have some objection to cyborging for the sick? Someone show me anything in Buddhism that even trends in that direction. It's almost like he read in some Western book that religious people oppose that kind of progress, transplanted the idea wholesale, and didn't bother to check whether the religion he chose would have those kinds of objections. Nevermind that even Christianity (other than a few fringes like Jehovah's Witnesses) don't have objections to medical cyborging, in principle, either (so long, in Catholic teaching, as the brain and ideally the genitals remain intact).

And if Death Note was deep, the characters might have actual feelings. Any guy that treats Misa, who's cute as a Hello Kitty button, the way Light treats her, is a sociopath. Pure and simple. Even a gay guy wouldn't be able to be that nasty to a girl that cute--it's not a sexual thing, it's the basic human desire not to kick babies or shoot kittens. I, for one, feel it impossible that a story can be "deep" if it doesn't have any characters, and only L and Misa have anything resembling personalities (call me kooky, but oughtn't the protagonist to be one of the characters? Yet Light isn't).

Still less can it be deep by having a bunch of characters who are inexplicably blind to the vast, terrifying cosmic issues raised by their actions and the things they witness--it's like a Lovecraft story starring the Girls Next Door! Maybe the writer wanted the thing to leave those questions open for the reader, but where I come from, people don't witness stuff like that without seriously considering some major questions (like, "Wait, if shinigami are real, doesn't my whole worldview need to be re-examined?"). And considering Death Note ran in the same magazine as Bleach, Naruto, and Rurouni Kenshin (which, oddly enough, was deep but not terribly intelligent--nor very good), I'm guessing people actually work much the same in his neck of the woods. Making the characters inexplicably stupid hurts the suspension of disbelief.

I have a feeling this wholly undeserved acclaim is connected to Cool Table Syndrome, since both of the above are considered more "adult" manga/shows--they're more akin to the anime from the 80s and early 90s that were supposed to be so good, like Akira, which had very nice art but a story that didn't exactly go anywhere.

Get over yourselves, people. The objective fact is, Naruto is deeper than Death Note (seriously, my little brother's the only sixth grader with an inkling of what existentialism is), and the fact that it's more entertaining and has better characters demonstrates, once again, the inseparability of the True and the Beautiful (the denial of which, by the bye, was one of Neitzsche's chief failings). Similarly, Bleach is deeper than Death Note, too (and Kenpachi, Byakuya, or Renji could kick Ryuk's ass). Trigun and Gungrave are deeper than GitS--hell, the Trigun manga is deeper than the Trigun anime, and that's saying something. GeneShaft was deeper than GitS, and it managed to explore a transhuman future without either dumbing down or being breathtakingly talky.

The mere fact that important concepts are mentioned, does not make the work that mentions them deep. And even if a work does, in a very roundabout, mindlessly slow-paced way, explor the penumbra of an issue, if it's got no characters worth giving a tinker's damn about, why ought anyone to bother?