Max Discusses Death Parade and OFF

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In these reviews, I try to bring together an anime and a work from a different artistic medium to discuss them relative to one another. In the process, I try to relate them to real life and show how similar themes across art convey messages about humanity as a whole.

In this review, I discuss Death Parade, our club’s half-season anime from the beginning of the semester and the indie video game, OFF. It’s pretty lengthy and spoiler-laden, so beware!

 

 

SYNOPSIS

Death Parade is a 12 episode anime produced by Madhouse based on the OVA Death Billiards. It is an anime that deals with death and its relations with individual humans and humanity as a whole. When two people die at the same time, they are sent to a mysterious place run by Arbiters. Arbiters are emotionless, non-human beings whose role is to decide the peoples’ fates—to be reincarnated or to disappear forever into the Void. The protagonist, Chiyuki (originally, her name is forgotten until much later in the series), is a human woman who has lost her memories and who works alongside the arbiter Decim. Throughout the series, the two develop an interesting relationship as Chiyuki learns more about the arbitration process and the Arbiters themselves and Decim begins to question his own purpose and existence as an Arbiter.

OFF is an independently made role playing video game produced by Mortis Ghost and Alias Conrad Coldwood. It was built in RPG Maker and features mostly standard turn-based random battle RPG gameplay. OFF is special due to its artistic elements: its story, dialogue, character and enemy design, visuals, and music are incredibly unique and unmatched to other games. You play as the Batter, a bat-wielding baseball player who seeks to purify the world from the specters, crudely drawn ghosts and ghouls that seem to exist everywhere. Led by the Judge, an anthropomorphic, intelligible cat, you (the player) lead the Batter across 3 Zones and the mysterious Room, learning more about the strange world of OFF and discovering how your actions affect its denizens.

INTERPRETATIONS

Ambiguity and Morality

One common idea expressed through these two media is the concept of arbitration and the ambiguous nature of making decisions regarding morality or life and death.

Death Parade brings this out in the relationship between Decim and Chiyuki. Decim makes his arbitrations of people (to send them to the void or to be reincarnated) by having them play a game with their “lives on the line,” observing how their behaviors change toward each other and towards themselves if they believe that one of them will not leave alive. The intent is to bring out their darker side of the humans so that Decim—unable to feel emotions—may pass judgement based on a logical deduction of who is more or less “evil.” Chiyuki, however, is overwhelmed by the feelings and actions of the participants and urgently explains to Decim how emotion plays a vital role in human behavior: people sacrifice themselves for others and make irrational decisions based on incomplete memories, making arbitration based on pure logic impossible.

As an example, in the first episode, the two humans to be judged are a male-female couple who died together in a car accident. To arbitrate, Decim has them play a game of darts. At the beginning of the game, the couple cooperate and support each other, hoping to both leave alive. But eventually, memories from the past resurface and the man’s suspicions about his pregnant fiancé’s fidelity begin to emerge and change his demeanor. He becomes untrusting and aggressive towards her, doubting that he is the father of her child. The woman becomes afraid and then angry. Finally, when they both realize that they have already died and that they are being arbitrated, she hysterically admits to him that indeed she had cheated on him and that he is a pathetic man who she only married for his money. At the end of the game, the woman is sent to the void and the man is reincarnated. But Chiyuki picks up on the woman’s true motives: it is suggested that she sacrificed herself by lying about an affair as to lessen her fiancé’s guilt about having accidentally killed all three of them (including the unborn child) in the car accident.

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Chiyuki reveals to us that the woman was likely faking her behavior out of caring for her fiancé

This roller coaster of human emotions and morality varies according to how the characters are presented to us, the viewers. We first think that both members of the couple are good, but we then see that the man is more “evil” and mistrusting. Then the woman appears to us as evil. But then, a few episodes later, we see that she was likely sacrificing herself—an act of good. Death Parade presents many situations like this where the viewer is tempted to judge the characters themselves as moral or immoral, based on what we know about them, only to realize that there is another unknown element to the puzzle. Death Parade is a discussion on the human tendency to associate meaning and find order in things; it manipulates this tendency to show how it can hurt others and lead to incorrect decisions on the topics of morality and arbitration.

OFF also conveys a sense of moral ambiguity through its gameplay and artistic style. The game seems innocent enough at the beginning; the specters you defeat then are often simple, inconsequential enemies. But as the game progresses, your intentions to “purify” the land are called into question. The game pits you against innocent local residents and leaders of the Zones. It also forces you to slaughter enemies that do not fight back.

[0:00 – 2:00]The “critic-burnt,” an inexplicable adversary that ultimately calls into question how much you are really helping anybody on your quest. Note the “adversaries purified” message that appears at the end of a battle

Even more unsettling, upon defeating a Zone’s leader, the area is declared “purified” and indeed reverts to an immaculate state. But as you can see in the two videos offering a comparison of gameplay between these two states of Zone 1,

[3:50 – 4:20]  Zone 1, as it appears normally

[0:00 – 1:03]Zone 1, in its purified state

Something is definitely not right.

Both of these media contain an element of unpredictability and ambiguity. We might attempt to eliminate this and see how we can make each media more “precise.” In Death Parade, removing ambiguity would mean that each game would have clear cut results for arbitration: one person is genuinely good and the other is evil, instead of somewhere in between. It would also be easy to tell between the two, as people would not lie or act out of emotion. Removing the ambiguity from OFF would mean that the Batter’s quest is obviously beneficial and good, or obviously damaging and evil, yet the game seems to approximate this somewhere in between: you’re removing harmful specters, but possibly creating something worse?

Real life is inundated with ambiguity, although often time in a much more subtle form than that expressed in Death Parade or OFF. One example: when we’re confronted with unfamiliar social groups or situations, we are unsure of how to act (ambiguity). Our solution is often to turn to copying the people around us (subconsciously and consciously) to act “naturally.” Human social interactions are riddled with ambiguous gestures, expressions, mumbles, sayings, and comments: our mind does its best to interpret and understand what other people are truly feeling and saying, but it is ultimately impossible to guess 100% correctly, even in face-to-face communication. OFF and Death Parade examine this natural lack of preciseness of humanity and apply it to the question of moral judgements imposed on other people and things.

When humans judge someone or something, we draw on our previous memories, experiences, and opinions to help us. But for questions regarding moral rules, we never have enough information or reasoning to decide what is good or bad. Other anime like Angel Beats!, Samurai Flamenco, Tokyo Ghoul, and even Assassination Classroom, as well as the new (greatest) video game (ever), Undertale, maintain similar themes, featuring ambiguous characters with mixed motivations which the viewer is tempted to judge, but may be entirely incorrect in their judgement.

A Trivial Reality?

In Death Parade, alternate realities and other worlds are directly involved in the story: life and death are presented as labile and fluid, concepts like the void and life are defined as opposing forces. It uses this to pose some weighty questions regarding humanity and the concreteness of reality.

In one of the last episodes, there is a powerful scene in which Chiyuki begins to recall some of her memories. She remembers her proficiency in ice skating and her mother and friends’ constant praise of her abilities. It is also revealed that she had an accident which prevented her from skating ever again. Without skating, her life felt empty and the comfort by her loved ones felt false and meaningless. Driven into a depression, she committed suicide. Regaining these memories of her past life and her death frustrates Chiyuki in the present and she desperately seeks to return to the living world once more, regretting her decisions; Chiyuki felt as if her life was meaningless, but upon visualizing her death, she realizes the opposite is true. Indeed, nearly every visitor to Decim’s bar who arrives from death changes their opinions of the world and of their purpose after their realization of dying, including the couple in the first episode discussed before.

In this, Death Parade presents the idea that reality is, to some extent, subjective and constructed from the mind.  We define our motives and beliefs in a reality that we construct from experience. But as soon as we learn that that reality is expandable (to say, a place after death), our motives and beliefs change. This is exactly the case in Christian religions, where a belief in the afterlife and eternal judgement for mortal sin (an expansion of the mortal reality into an afterlife) modifies the way people think and act towards others—actions like abstaining from excessive alcohol and sex, and putting faith in God as examples. This is also analogous to the emergence of new social justice movements: we imagine the world as we see it, with the “sum total” of human suffering not exceeding what we already know about. But when are confronted with new social beliefs, moral questions, and scenes of suffering (in the news, from our friends), we are forced to rethink and expand our minds appropriately.

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Chiyuki did not realize how important others were to her until she could see them after death. Similarly, in the real world, we cannot fully understand our current reality without somehow transcending or looking beyond it

OFF also addresses this idea of a subjective and changing reality, but from a darker and more nihilist perspective. Despite its surreal appearance, the world of OFF is not merely fantasy: it contains many elements of the real world. There are areas resembling libraries, post offices, and factories; skill elements like meat, sugar, plastic, and metal; and the dialogue of the game reveals the history of a fallen nation, reconstructed into the current three Zones according to a somewhat socialist ideal by a mysterious Queen and the three Zone leaders. Throughout the game, the player makes connections from the world of OFF to the real world and—probably more than once—ponders their possible relation. As the Zones are purified by the Batter, the player imagines the world being slowly erased. Additionally, the ending of the game gives the player two choices, one of which completely eradicates the world, as if it never existed. Disturbingly, this is the “true” ending that was a part of the original game (before more endings were added).

At the end of the game, the player might ask, If the world of OFF is a representation of reality, is this possible in the real world? Albeit the surreal imagery and unrealistic art style, OFF suggests that, perhaps reality is not so “real,” or that if it is real, it is not as stable or permanent as we’d like to believe.

Trying to relate these concepts to real life is a bit harder than doing so with the ideas of ambiguity presented in the last section. One can approach this from a philosophical and/or religious perspective.

Humans are subject to certain cravings and negative feelings, some more primitive (like hunger and unsatisfied libido) and others more psychological (like boredom, guilt, or sadness). We attempt to avoid these negative feelings and fill our lives with positive ones, surrounding ourselves with friends, eating tasty meals, helping others, and occupying our minds with music and images (like anime). However, we can never completely “banish” negative feelings, thus there is always an intrinsic unhappiness with the world, based on the way our minds are designed. Many philosophies and religions address this unhappiness. Christian religions suggest we should endure it and not indulge in worldly temptations so that we may achieve true peace after death. Buddhism and the Hare Krishna Movement (as well as other Eastern philosophies and religions) describe that reality is mainly an illusion and the world’s unhappiness emerges from the ignorance of the illusion. By accepting the falseness and unhappiness of the world, one may attain Nirvana (or Bhakti, in the case of Hare Krishna) and become truly happy in spirit, mind, and body.

Death Parade addresses the first part of this paragraph: that reality is influenced by the mind and how we perceive the world depends on our state of mind, implying that each person is living a different reality. OFF leans more towards the perspectives offered by the mentioned Eastern philosophies: that the world is illusory and easily changeable by realizing this. However, this would suggest that the Batter is perhaps truly helping the people of the Zones by disposing of this illusion through “purification,” Or, perhaps, the people themselves are illusions and nothing really matters.

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SUMMING IT UP

To draw together this overly complicated analysis of these two media,

Death Parade is an anime that brings up questions about the inherent ambiguity in making judgements on morality and life and death. It presents situations where the viewers cannot accurately decide the “goodness” or “evilness” of the characters. Death Parade also describes death as an extension of reality and considers this in relation to human thought, suggesting that the mind plays an important role in the construction of reality.

OFF is an indie video game that also addresses the ambiguity of moral decisions through its gameplay and artistic elements. It presents a somewhat nihilistic view of world as a false or perhaps easily-destroyed reality. It connects these two ideas by creating a situation in which the player’s actions slowly and indirectly eradicate the world, questioning (but not necessarily answering) the morality of this.

Looking at the ideas discussed in each media, I’d like to present some of my own opinions.

Reality might not necessarily be entirely fake, but it is certainly something riddled with sadness, suffering, and negative tendencies. However, because reality is (at least partly) constructed from the mind, humans have the ability to change this. Changing the mind to repel the negative tendencies of the world manifests itself on many levels. A direct and powerful way to do this would be to serve as the leader of an entire social movement, like Martin Luther King or Ghandi. A less direct but still as evocative way might be to have an active voice in issues and think critically and positively about your surroundings. Even subtle actions, like being nicer to and more patient with people and giving others the benefit of the doubt, are also important ways to change the mind: although they don’t solve hunger or eradicate disease, subtle actions do oppose negative tendencies like loneliness, inferiority, misunderstanding, and dissatisfaction which are ever-present in society.

However, doing these things is simply hard. Trying to act at any of these levels can be time-consuming, frustrating, stressful, and tiresome. Sometimes, we would rather forget about the world’s unhappiness, which is perhaps one reason why we enjoy anime and other media, as they often provide distractions from these ubiquitous sufferings. Some anime in the drama/slice-of-life genre often concern themselves with these problems and show how they evolve and are solved over time. But distractions can have even more harmful effects on how people view reality. As suggested by the aforementioned Eastern philosophies, the more we distract ourselves from the true (illusory) image of life, the more ignorant and unhappy we become. As we consume more engrossing media at increasing rates (and at younger ages), we become further removed from reality.

One criticism I have heard of anime and otaku culture is that it breeds introverted attitudes and social aloofness. I think this is incorrect and biased, but I do think that this does apply (to an extent that cannot be easily measured) to art and media in general: even if we enjoy books/shows/movies/video games that have positive messages like overcoming sorrow and helping others, how can we as individuals benefit from this if we are unable to apply this to the real world? Media like OFF and Death Parade try to change this because they draw the viewer’s attention to the reality around them and suggest how their ideas relate to the real world, rather than just creating a fantasy setting for us to immerse ourselves in.

One reason virtual reality unnerves me is that it presents a medium through which you can almost entirely engross yourself by essentially creating a new reality. Yet, this second reality is only an illusion and a subsidiary of the current one we are in. We are essentially abandoning our current reality, but instead of seeking a more truthful meaning behind it (moving “upwards”), we are simply creating a new one for ourselves (moving “downwards” or deeper), if that makes sense. It’s kind of like Inception, or other “dream” themed games like Dreaming Mary which suggest that the tendency to move further away from reality is caused in part by fear and ignorance and can be harmful to the mind.

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Inception and Dreaming Mary (another indie game) both explore how dreams represent layered realities and suggest a negative or harmful effect of progressing too deep into the system

However, new technology and virtual reality can oppose this trend. For example, the application of medical science to the human body has widened humanity’s understanding and acceptance of the world across time. Consider sex-transformation surgery, in which the established notion that people cannot change their sex for life is challenged, broadening our “reality” in the context of human anatomy and culture. In the future, with a better understanding of the brain, we can observe how negative emotions and ideas, as well as ignorance and misunderstanding, are produced so that we may comprehend how to prevent them more directly. Also, because virtual reality can be used to create “new” realities, it can perhaps be used artistically to illustrate the possibility of false or alternate realities, expanding our minds rather than retracting them.

Again harkening to Death Parade and OFF: certain media work to distract us from reality and engross us in fantasy, or discuss specific, negative sufferings, which can be entertaining and emotionally powerful. But the works of art that illustrate universal meaning and concern themselves with reality are special in that they challenge our notions of what is familiar and real and are perhaps the most critical to interpreting what are true happiness and understanding.

 

Well, that’s it! All 3000 or so words. Thanks for reading this discussion! Hopefully it was engaging and thought-provoking (and not too spoiler-rific) 🙂

Max Reviews Arashi no Yoru Ni

Title: Arashi no Yoru Ni (One Stormy Night)

Original Format: Book written by Yuichi Kimura
Genre: Drama, Adventure
Studio: Group TAC
Director: Gisaburo Sugii

Release: December 2005

Length: 105 minutes

Alright, so I came across this anime a looong time ago, but never really set aside the time to watch it until recently. Although it’s what Wikipedia said, I don’t think “drama” is the right word to describe the feel of anime like this—although I haven’t seen that many, I think this has more of the feel of a Studio Ghibli film (I guess you could call Romeo and Juliet the “dramatized” version of this anime, however). Arashi no Yoru Ni is a sincere and open-hearted anime that is focused on understanding and accepting others and finding strength in friends (like a lot of other anime I watch, I know, I’m a pansy :P).

SYNOPSIS

                Arashi no Yori Ni was originally a children’s book written by Yuichi Kimura. The book’s popularity prompted the author to develop several sequels which were compiled and made into this film. The plot details a goat named Mei who, when he was just a kid (haha…), witnessed his mother’s death at the hands of vicious wolves (although he has little recollection of this event). In a scene many years later, Mei gets separated from his friends in a storm and seeks shelter, alone, in a dark old shack. While inside, another creature named Gabu enters the shack for shelter, and, although they cannot see or smell each other, the two begin to engage in friendly conversation. They soon find themselves enjoying each other’s company, and when the storm dies down, they agree to meet the next day for lunch.

                When Mei goes to meet his new friend, he is shocked to find that Gabu is a wolf! Gabu is equally surprised to find that he has befriended his favorite food. Amazingly though, the two make up like old chums and continue bonding together. It turns out that Mei is a bit naive and Gabu is somewhat timid and friendly for a wolf—these characteristics soon develop into a sense of trust and deep friendship between the two. Eventually, however, our friends have to face up to the anger, confusion, and pressures of their same-species peers who forbid such a friendship and belittle them for their foolishness: Gabu is seen as a betrayer and a weakling by his wolf pack for befriending a goat and Mei is seen too as a betrayer and acting stupidly by his herd for being friends with a wolf. As tension builds between the wolves and the goats with winter drawing near and food becoming scare, Gabu faces the penalty of being put to death by his own pack for betrayal. Gabu and Mei then decide to make a drastic move and flee their groups together by leaping into a river in an attempt to escape. They are soon pursued by the wolves, however, and the adventure to reach a haven far away where no one will criticize them for their friendship begins.

OPINIONS AND INTERPRETATIONS

Alright, so I know this sounds like a pretty ridiculous and mushy story from just reading the synopsis. However, looking at the some of the details put in by the creators reveals a degree of sincerity and seriousness behind the plot of Arashi no Yoru Ni.

For one, despite the movie’s happy nature and positive messages, it begins with the scene of Mei’s mother being killed by wolves. The setting is bleak, emphasized by the creators’ choices of colors and style of animation, setting the tone for a depressing and serious movie. But they soon jump right into Mei meeting Gabu years later and developing a happy friendship. Juxtaposing scenes of sadness and horror with those of lightheartedness and innocence shows that, although this is a “kid’s” movie, the creators aren’t just trying to convey a happy-go-lucky world that we cannot empathize with, but a realistic one with life-like strife and emotions. Many other media use this technique as well, examples that come to my mind being Digimon Tamers and The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask.

Majora’s mask follows a seemingly innocent plot line, but the characters and settings themselves are often dark, twisted, and mysterious, which is unique for a Zelda game. This makes it less likely to be labeled as a “children’s” game, although it technically is. Similarly, Arashi no Yoru Ni, which is directed towards a younger audience, begins on a darker note, which I think gives the anime a more realistic and empathetic feel.

Arashi no Yoru Ni tells a story of friendship and love that surpasses individual differences. Consider other anime we’ve watched whose characters also face barriers to friendship and acceptance like: different personalities and opinions (Angel Beats!), different senses of justice (our beloved Samurai Flamenco), or even different ethnic groups/social demographics (kind of like Tokyo Ghoul). Although this in itself is a common (and sometimes badly used) theme, I find Arashi no Yoru Ni such a compelling anime because this difference involves one friend wanting to eat the other, and yet restraining himself to protect them both: I seriously can’t think of any factor more divisive of a barrier to friendship! I feel that this relationship between what-we-love and what-we-eat is expressed by the intense passion expressed by some vegans, vegetarians, and animal rights activists, and even though it’s treated more simply in Arashi no Yoru Ni than it is in real life, I find it one of the more creative and unique approaches to this resonant theme of friendship surpassing individual differences (this also reminds me of one of last semester’s anime, Silver Spoon, which tells us that it’s okay to feel ambivalent and have feelings of love towards the food you eat and that dealing with that ambivalence is just a part of life).

Another note I appreciate is the use of voice acting and the emphasis it places on each character’s personality. When I first saw Mei, I expected him to have a high pitched, youngish voice and be a childish character. Instead, Mei sounds more like a young man and seems more lighthearted than childish, which makes the watcher realize that he isn’t simply just being naive by befriending a wolf, but actually being understanding and trusting of Gabu. And although Gabu may look a bit rough around the edges or even devious, his voice acting portrays him more as somewhat of a scruffy misfit, which goes to show how sometimes appearances can be misleading in conveying an individual’s personality and choice of friends.

FINAL NOTES

It’s been said hundreds of times by parent’s to children: making friends is important—heck, my mom still calls me and asks if I’ve made any new friends in college nearly every other week! But sometimes, I feel that we overlook the importance of genuine friendships out of fear that we’ll be misunderstood or seen as silly and weak. As a result, we sometimes hold contradictory views or say things that we don’t really mean to our friends: this is okay and a perfectly normal part of being human. Yet I like to see Gabu and Mei’s attitudes towards one another as the ideal model for a happy friendship. A lot of people like to interpret Mei and Gabu’s relationship as a gay romance—and it may certainly be so! I find the fact that people are willing to interpret a children’s movie through the lens of something as serious as a romantic relationship shows that fans are genuinely considering Arashi no Yoru Ni and, consequently, the importance of true friendships from an honest and sincere point of view.

 

Max Reviews Tokyo Ghoul

 Show: Tokyo Ghoul (Season 1)

Manga Creator: Sui Ishida
Genre: Dark Fantasy, Horror
Studio: Pierrot
Director: Shuhei Morita

First Showing: July 3, 2014

Episodes: 12

                Yeah, so, if you’ve noticed, most of my past reviews have been of relatively obscure or less popular anime. This time, I thought I’d review Tokyo Ghoul for several reasons. One, is because most of the club has already seen it (besides it being popular, we just watched it…), and I know it’s much more interesting to read a review for an anime you’ve seen already. And two, I truly thought it was a really interesting show with a lot of meaning behind it, which just goes to show, you don’t need to look to the most obscure, off the wall, “hipster” shows to experience a deep, meaningful, and well thought-out anime. My disclaimer is that I’ve only just seen season 1 of Tokyo Ghoul, so I’ll be writing this review with no knowledge of the events of Season 2.

SYNOPSIS

                Right, so Tokyo Ghoul takes place in a world in which creatures called ghouls coexist alongside humans. Ghouls can only obtain their sustenance from human flesh and are inevitably drawn to it as humans are to a tasty meal. Of course, this is a cause for strife among both humans and ghouls because in obtaining their food, ghouls are labeled as criminals and murderers. The story revolves around a human named Ken Kaneki, a shy college student who has a crush on a woman named Rize. In the first episode, Kaneki lands a date with Rize who, when they are alone, reveals herself as a ghoul and attempts to eat him. Suddenly, the building they are standing by partly collapses, seriously injuring Kaneki and killing Rize. In the hospital, Kaneki undergoes surgery in which he is given organ transplants from Rize (I believe that the doctors are unaware that she is a ghoul) resulting in him becoming part ghoul. This sets off a chain of events that define the plot of the show as Kaneki searches for his true identity as a human-ghoul “monster”, learns about the interactions between ghouls and humans, and discovers the mysterious past surrounding Rize and other prominent ghouls of the city.

OPINIONS AND INTERPRETATIONS

There are two things in Tokyo Ghoul that really stood out to me and I think truly define the feeling of the show. The first is somewhat subtle: it is the idea that ghouls are somewhat of a symbol for social injustice and inequality, and embody the misfortune, cruelty, and misunderstanding that is targeted at those who deviate from a perceived norm or who exhibit behaviors that are unaccepted by society. In the real world, some prominent examples would be the treatment of individuals expressing different sexual and gender orientations, having radical opinions, belonging to minority groups, and even simply taking interest in media and books that are perceived by others negatively. Tokyo Ghoul is brimming with support of this idea. One prominent example concerns the lifestyle and behavior of ghouls: not only do ghouls look exactly like normal human beings, but they hold the same values and are capable of the same emotions as humans; most people would agree that ghouls can truly be seen as humans themselves, simply altered in some way. Another big point are the parallels drawn between the views humans hold of ghouls and ghouls hold of humans. The show conveys that the majority of either side views the other with contempt and having a lack of understanding, so much that violence towards one another becomes a regular part of their lives. Each front justifies their actions through one-sided arguments, with humans claiming that ghouls are murderers and animals and a threat to society but ghouls claiming they are saving themselves and labeling humans as cruel. This reflects the violence and bitterness expressed between different social groups in the real world. The conflicts in Israel are perfect examples, with both sides being motivated against each other through their own ideas of justice, resulting in intense violence and strife. Not only do many ghouls not accept humans, but some ghouls have trouble accept themselves, with Kaneki being the prominent example. Even after being integrated into Anteiku—the organization of peaceful Ghouls within the 20th ward who strive to prevent killing humans and rely on the flesh of dead bodies instead—and accepted by his fellow ghoul accomplices, Kaneki is unwilling to accept his own body and despises his urges to consume human flesh. This applies to the real world by demonstrating society’s tendency to categorize and label individuals based on their thoughts, opinions, and behaviors. In reality, most traits concerning humans (i.e. gender identity, personality, likes and dislikes, sexual orientation, and even ethnicity) are better considered as a continuum with infinitely possible combinations, rather than a set of predefined categories (like “communist” or “right-wing”, or racial groups on a questionnaire, or even “ghoul” and “human”) which tends to polarize people, intensify differences, and leave those in the middle, like Kaneki, stranded and alone. Evidence of this phenomenon can be seen in the treatment of sexual orientation: as we’ve discussed in my class on human sexuality and culture, while homosexual individuals are slowly continuing to gain influence and understanding across the nation, individuals who identify as bisexual or refuse to place themselves in the categories of “gay” or “straight” have not made as much progress, perhaps due to it being easier to accept people if they can be easily sorted into neat categories, which can be seen in Tokyo ghoul by how most people call Kaneki a “one-eyed ghoul”, as if he is merely a ghoul with a bit of human in him, rather than being a different being altogether.

The other aspect of the show that I (and probably many other people) found significant was it’s interesting and excessive use of gore and body imagery. Now I know, if you watched Tokyo Ghoul for the first time in Gator Anime (like me), you we’re probably pretty annoyed at the extent of censorship in the show. However, I find that this merely suggests how famous this aspect of the show truly is and how powerful it is in defining the show itself. I like to contrast Tokyo Ghoul’s use of “blood imagery” to other anime: many shows I can think of tend to use blood to dramatize or make a fight scene seem realistic or exclude blood and/or injury almost entirely (like children’s shows, obviously). Tokyo Ghoul uses this imagery not just to convey that someone is injured, however, but to suggest ideas and evoke feelings that are horrifying, painful, sensual, psychological, and sometimes downright disgusting.

Watch from 13:55 – 15:30

This is a scene from Bleach. You can see how the artists use blood to dramatize the battle and add to the seriousness of the fight scene

Watch from 0:00 – 1:20

This is a scene from Tokyo Ghoul (episode 1) When Rize tricks Kaneki. You can see how the artists use blood to intensify Rize’s personality and pair it with her horrific behavior

To elaborate on this a bit more, I’d like to compare Tokyo Ghoul’s visual style and subjects to a neat video game I’ve played called “.flow” (although I guess this probably applies to horror video games in general, really). Besides the main characters looking alike and the similar color schemes, there are a lot of identical uses of imagery to convey comparable ideas in both mediums. .flow has simple exploratory gameplay and a lack of storyline or dialogue. This, coupled with its extensive use of gory imagery, work to convey complex and ambiguous ideas suggesting immorality, hatred, disgust, lost innocence, and immense suffering. As the player progresses through the game, they begin to question the sanity of their situation and their world, similar to the trauma Kaneki faces when being forced into the world of ghouls. In .flow, you ultimately have to make a decision to permanently change your identity, similar to how in episode 12, Kaneki faces himself and his inner psychological conflicts to make a decision that will permanently change his own identity. Yet one large difference I find between .flow and Tokyo Ghoul’s uses of gory imagery is how the latter uses it to suggest passion, life, and realism. This ties back to the earlier theme of Ghoul’s being a marginalized and discriminated populace, but acting wrongly by striking back with violence. Symbols of bloodshed and human flesh suit ghouls as being full of life and rage, seeking reprise and vengeance from the unfairness of their lives. This is evidenced by each ghoul possessing a “Kagune”, a spirit-like entity that manifests a ghoul’s emotions and desire to live, which they use to their advantage in battle. This is partly why I (and probably many other people) cheer on the ghouls: because they are passionate, badass, and have a reason to fight. They have a strong will and some of them (like Kaneki) possess a powerful sense of justice, all of this emphasized by their close connection to human flesh and the body. In .flow, there is more of a lean towards destruction, death, and decay. The main character’s name, Sabitsuki, literally translates to “rusting” and as the game progresses, it seems as if the world is breaking down or falling apart, rather than heating up to a point of climax, as in Tokyo Ghoul.

Fanart of Kaneki from Tokyo Ghoul and Sabitsuki from .flow. It’s interesting how fans interpret both unrelated mediums with similar visual styles, as seen by similarities in color schemes and stylizations of the characters. The ideas expressed in each medium overlap in many ways as well. However, slight differences in texture and shading might exemplify the differences in feeling between the two (passion and pent anger vs. apathy and decay)

FINAL NOTES

Although Tokyo Ghoul’s characters and themes of betrayal, friendship, love, and understanding (to name a few) are similar or analogous to many other anime and media, I admire the uniqueness of it’s approach by incorporating the idea of ghouls into its storyline—to reconcile the needs of humans and ghouls (who eat humans) would seem impossible and futile; and yet, I would argue that much of the intrigue and beauty of the show lies in just this struggle. To go even further, the creator emphasizes, rather than downplays, the ghouls’ monstrosity and gory habits, perhaps to represent the passion and willpower behind most ghouls’ actions and feelings. What I find truly interesting is how popular this show has become across the world. For example, if I were to tell some of my friends I was watching a show in which the good guys were human-like monsters that eat other people, I might get some strange looks. And yet, Tokyo Ghoul’s popularity cannot be denied: although humanity still has a long way to go, we have come so far towards accepting and understanding other cultures, values, and humans which differ from our own expectations and treating that which we find “ugly” or perhaps unpleasant with respect, tolerance, and renewed interest.

 

Max Reviews Mokke

Show: Mokke (from Kanji, meaning “Unexpected”)
Genre: Slice of Life, Supernatural
Studio: Madhouse, Tezuka Productions
Director: Masayoshi Nishida

Release: 2007

Episodes: 24 (+ 2 on DVD)

As a little kid, I was a bit of a mythology and folklore hipster: while everyone could list the names of the major deities in the Classical myths, I thought that too mainstream, and decided instead to educate myself in the stories of ancient Japan. Nowadays I can’t really remember anything significant about Japanese folklore and mythology, but that hobby is what got me interested in this anime at the time, although I hadn’t watched it from start to finish it until just recently (like, 3 days ago).

SYNOPSIS

The story focuses on sisters Mizuki and Shizuru Hibara. Shizuru is the older sister and has the ability to see things from the “other side” as they call it, which is the world of spirits and demons inspired from Japanese folklore that exists parallel to the real world whose denizens remain invisible to most. Mizuki, however, is easily possessed by such creatures and oftentimes winds up in dangerous or challenging situations because of this condition. Living in the city, the stress and inexplicability of the Hibara sisters’ abilities is too much for their mom and dad to handle (the idea being that folklore and tradition have been forgotten due to urbanization), so they have them live with their grandparents in the countryside who are familiar with the world of spirits—especially their grandfather. Each episode is a self-contained story, detailing a struggle the Hibara sisters face with monsters from the other world and the lessons they learn from each encounter.

 

INTERPRETATIONS

This anime provides a good comparison to Mushishi (another anime I reviewed with a similar premise and style). They are both similarly structured, in terms of storyline, and both focus on phenomena caused by otherworldly beings outside of the normal human’s perception. In addition, they are both influenced by ancient Japanese folklore and culture. To me, the first noticeable difference between the two is the interactions between that of the natural and that of the supernatural. In Mushishi, the “mushi” are often the root of a problem and each episode has an element of mystery as the main character, Ginko, attempts to discover the true nature of the mushi. But in Mokke, the creatures are less clearly defined or classified: they are not species, like the mushi are. In addition, they are often not the cause of troubles, but more of symbols or manifestations of them. In one episode for example, a classmate accidentally breaks Mizuki’s camera which contains pictures of the entire trip. Frustrated and angry, Mizuki is persuaded by a wandering Yama-Uba (like an old mountain hag) to stand up to her and demand an apology. Later, however, the same monster turns on those feelings of anger and nearly devours Mizuki, except that she uses her tactic against her, standing up to the demon with enough resolve to make her turn away. Also different from Mushishi is the dynamic between the sisters that plays out in many episodes. Shizuru is shy and apprehensive, and seeing demons and ghouls around people every day unnerves her. Mizuki is outgoing and energetic, possessing a naivety that leads her into troublesome situations. From their experiences, both of the Hibara sisters learn lessons about coping with others, accepting and rejecting fate, and being observant of the world around them. Another aspect of the show that fits with this scheme is how little screen time and focus the actual monsters and demons receive (although there are a few exceptions). For example, in one episode, one of Mizuki’s friends becomes depressed over losing a scarf given to her by a close friend. Mizuki is determined to help her find this scarf, but as the days wear on, her friend’s sadness and the fruitlessness of the search takes a toll on Mizuki, which manifests itself as a hazy snake-like monster (referred to as a Jatai) that begins to constrict her movement and leave wounds. Yet, the only time Mizuki actually confronts the monster (and when the viewer sees its true form) is only for about a minute at the end of the episode when Mizuki finally overcomes her burden and finds the lost scarf. This emphasis on the troubles of humans, rather than on the monsters and the supernatural in the story, truly makes it feel like an echo to folkloric tales and makes this anime meaningful. This is comparable to Death Note, in which the Shinigamis aren’t the main focus of the show, but the humans who are borrowing their power.

 

OPINIONS

I didn’t think this a necessarily revolutionary anime, but it is unique in its style of storytelling which seems to parallel folkloric tales of the past, in order to teach us lessons about the future. I felt that there was a strong connection between the “other world” and the natural world itself, which is not surprising, considering that a lot of folklore can be considered a metaphor for the real world. People, plants, animals, and earth all coexist and interact in various ways, some that are observable and predictable, and others that are not. The use of tales from Japanese folklore are meant to bring to light some of these relations. One tricky theme from the show that illustrates such complexity of the world is the idea of facing your fears and how and when to do so. Some of the creatures that harass Mizuki and Shizuru can be dissuaded by simply looking at them or ignoring them. Others, if paid too much attention to, may cause you to go insane or even simply kill you. Also, not all of the creatures are evil and not each of them can simply be “cured” or banished with charms. Some may be actually just overly needy and taught a lesson or two.

FINAL NOTES

I will admit, it doesn’t have stellar animation, nor the most memorable characters (besides the grandfather, he’s badass). And you might be irked by the simplicity in design of some of the monsters encountered in the show; although many of the references to mythological anecdotes and ideas sound very well crafted: if most of them weren’t ever actual traditions in Japan at some time, I’d be surprised! However, Mokke is more about ideas and concepts than characters and designs. Like Mushishi, it focuses on philosophical ideas and observes connections between humans and nature. It attempts to draw to your awareness the world and people around you and the greater interconnectedness in all things.

Max Dunevitz is a UF student who enjoys meaningful and insightful anime and video games that challenge the status quo. His hobbies include programming, the arts, music composition, mathematics, and community service.

Max Reviews Oreimo

Show: Oreimo, or Ore no Imōto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai (My Little Sister Can’t be this Cute)
Genre: Comedy, Slice of Life 
Studio: AIC Build
Director: Hiroyuki Kanbe

Episodes: 12 (+ 4 bonus) (Season 1)

I first noticed Oreimo because it was one of the animes on the Facebook poll for our Spring Semester shows. When I asked one of the club officers about it, he told me it was supposed to be a “lolicon” anime that hints at romantic relations between a brother and his sister, and that someone put it up for vote as a joke. Intrigued (and a little bit scared, honestly) I put on my “skepticals” and decided to give Oreimo a try.

SYNOPSIS

The story is centered on Kyosuke and Kirino Kousaka who are presented as terrible siblings who can never seem to get along. Kirino is in middle school and is an A-student, star athlete, and successful model while Kyosuke is portrayed as just a regular high schooler with no special talents. It appears that Kirino’s brother is a reasonable guy, albeit pretty jealous of the attention earned by his sister’s accomplishments, but Kirino herself is incredibly short tempered and violent. There is, however, one flaw to Kirino’s perfect record: and that is her immense hoard of eroge anime, manga, and video games (wham), which all feature moe-style little girls and sister x brother themes (double wham). Kirino knows that if anyone were to find out about her hobbies, she would lose all of her credibility and closest friends, but she can’t hide all of it forever either: it’s a part of her she cannot simply give up. When her brother accidentally discovers her secret hobbies, he is incredibly shocked, as anyone would be. But instead of spurning her or even just ignoring it, he decides to help her. Kyosuke works to reconcile her hobbies with her life, going far out of his way to help his sister find new otaku friends, give her life counseling, accompany her to anime conventions, play her games with her, and even defend her hobbies in front of her other non-otaku friends. The amazing thing is that Kyosuke really has no association with anime at all and pretty negative relations with Kirino already: the fact that he goes so far to help his sister is a strong point in the series that I appreciate a lot. Much of the humor in the series comes from the disparities in opinions between the anime-cultured and the anime-ignorant worlds. For example, in one episode, Kirino’s father finds out about her entire collection and is intent on throwing it out, for fear that it has been tainting her thinking and performance. But Kyosuke saves the day by lying to his dad and claiming it as his own instead of Kirino’s, earning him the title “worthless son” for the rest of the show.

INTERPRETATIONS

So of course, the things you always end up noticing (hence the title) are the subtle hints of “romance” between Kyosuke and his sister. But what I love about Oreimo is how lightheartedly they handle this topic: it is not necessarily intended to appeal to “lolis” (which is a really silly name, if you think about it), and is instead used as a medium for conveying some of the the show’s true messages, like how we should be more open-minded about and responsive to the opinions and concerns of others. This is incredibly relevant today in so many aspects of life, but there are two prominent examples that I am familiar with.

One concerns the rise of the My Little Pony fandom, which, despite being a children’s show, is comprised hugely of older men. Everyone feels passionate about their fandoms, of course, and it hurts to see someone bashing, shunning, or feeling discomfort towards another person’s interests, especially if it’s done in a biased manner. In Oreimo, there is a really powerful scene in which Ayase, one of Kirino’s lifelong friends, discovers her secret and cannot come to terms with her “indecent” hobbies, claiming that she saw a news report that confirmed that playing a certain video game called “SisCalypse”, in which little sisters are supposed to fight using superpowers, drove a man to molest a child. Kyosuke himself tracks down the evidence to show that this news claim was biased and completely false, logically disproving Ayase’s arguments. It shows how opinions that go against cultural norms or our beliefs, or even those make us uncomfortable for reasons we are unaware of, are not always wrong and may be dear to somebody, and for that reason we should try to be open-minded and watch what we say about them. And yet contradictorily, it’s nearly impossible not to yield to the social pressure of labeling such shows and their viewers as uncouth and weird (as I used to do with My Little Pony and my friends who watched it just several months ago). And it is tricky, I’ll admit, to judge what media is acceptable. For example, by today’s standards, video games with intense violence are accepted by most people—and yet there arises the controversy of the possible link between abnormal aggressive behaviors and violent video games: although violent games are “accepted” as normal (i.e. there won’t be nationwide riots when they show advertisements for the next Call of Duty) we aren’t certain that they are the most beneficial for us, in the long term. How, then, do we judge if an anime like Oreimo is acceptable? I think Oreimo does a really good job of bringing light to this question, as explained previously.

This bridges into the next real-life example that I’m familiar with, and that is the book by Jesse Bering titled Perv: the Sexual Deviant in All of Us. Yes, the title and cover clearly explains the book: it’s about coming to terms with deviant sexual desires and being aware of some of the strangest erotica out there. Note that the author makes some pretty extreme statements! One of the his main arguments is that if a sexual practice—no matter how strange or outlandish—does not cause harm to another being, it shouldn’t really be a problem. He makes a clear distinction between pedophiles and child molesters, noting how the one person causes real harm while the other simply has a deviant desire and shouldn’t be shunned by society. He also illustrates the extensiveness of deviant sexual desires and sexual fantasies among everyday people (things like sadism and masochism actually comprise a pretty significant minority) and the public’s lack of knowledge of how significant the role of pornographic material is in society. For example, he shows how, in some cases, the accepted use of pornography can actually cause a decrease in sexual offenses by the public, contrary to popular belief. This plays out in Oreimo through Kirino’s attitude towards others: by the later episodes, we can tell that deep down, she cares for the safety of others and never really desires to harm people—even her brother, whom she regularly abuses. Without her hobby and her collection of eroge as an outlet, she would certainly not be the same person she is now: it’s a part of her and defines who she is. Moreover, it doesn’t harm others and actually offers a chance to make new friends and to get know her brother better, even if it is weird and pretty deviant from the norm.

OPINIONS

The first anime/manga I ever really got into was Naruto. But before I began to actually pay attention to it, I remember complaining to my sister (who was watching it at the time) about all anime being full of violence, overly sexualized girls, and over-emotional people, and that all anime was pretty stupid and weird. I’m pretty sure a lot of us have encountered something like this in our lives: that feeling of anxiety and uneasiness that accompanies the breaking of an unspoken norm, whether it be in regard to religion, sexual orientation, or preferences in books and TV shows. I think we have to stay open-minded—at least a little bit—about anything and anyone. In fact, I appreciate when shows like Oreimo make me feel uncomfortable and a little weird, because it helps me to understand my own opinions (sometimes prejudiced) and views of the world and convinces me to try and change them to make them more helpful and less hurtful to others. There are plenty of anime and video games out there that I wouldn’t care to involve myself with, but I have to try not to judge people who watch those animes or play those games, simply by the fact that they do so. In fact, realizing that the people you know (like your sister, in the case of Oreimo) have such hobbies can do more good than harm. Also, it’s okay to have weird hobbies and be a deviant in your opinions and desires; and if you’re lucky enough to have a friend or sibling that truly cares about you, they’ll adjust their own opinions about the world rather than force you to conform to theirs.

FINAL NOTES

Although it’s quite clearly toned down and completely PG-13, Oreimo might be a little too weird for some people. I was familiar with its ideas because I’ve read a few books on such topics (like Lolita by Nabokov and Perv) and have had friends that were in to My Little Pony, but it does require a bit of background knowledge of fandom culture and what things like anime and “moe” mean in a cultural sense. It also has an interesting way of referencing otaku culture and its stereotypes—creating imaginary animes and video games and having characters cosplay and attend conventions, for example—which might go over the casual anime viewers’ heads (some of it sure did go over mine!).

On Tumblr, there are so many posts bashing this anime (for obvious reasons), which is a little sad, because I can tell it tries so hard to change those social stigmas surrounding “lolis” and the media they enjoy. In addition, it really only relies on the brother x sister idea for comedy and a little plot development. Oreimo is really about understanding people and their true desires—about coming to terms with your friends, your family, the world, and yourself. I highly recommend it!

Max Dunevitz is a UF student who enjoys meaningful and insightful anime and video games that challenge the status quo. His hobbies include programming, the arts, music composition, mathematics, and community service.

Max Reviews Mushishi

Show: Mushishi 
Genre: Supernatural 
Studio: Artland Inc.
Director: Hiroshi Nagahama
Episodes: 26

I’m surprised how many votes Mushishi has gotten in the poll for next semester’s anime! It really is an interesting show and I’m glad so many people in the club know about it already. I watched Mushishi a long time ago as a kid and thought about reviewing it now to give it the credit it deserves.

SYNOPSIS

The story takes place in 19th century Japan and is centered on a traveling man named Ginko who serves the profession of a mushi master (mushi-shi in Japanese), one who observes mushi and aids people who are experiencing problems with them. Mushi are primitive, unicellular-like organisms that take on a variety of shapes and abilities. They are abundant in all places, yet unobservable by all, with the exception of the mushi masters. They cause supernatural phenomena such as strange diseases, illusions, and the granting of unnatural—and oftentimes undesirable—abilities to people.

The only major recurring character is Ginko. In addition, there is no overarching plot: each episode is a fully contained story, usually dealing with a single type of mushi, its interactions with people, and Ginko’s experiences with attempting to reconcile human and mushi needs. The show is very mellow and philosophical in tone. It is best described as a food-for-thought anime, focusing on simple plots that have deep and thoughtful meanings and implications.

INTERPRETATIONS AND OPINIONS

Mushishi is about what we can’t observe and how it affects us. It directs its attention to broad themes such as the extent of human perception of the natural world and the inherent danger and beauty of nature. It is very pure in its stylistic approach, containing simple characters, settings, and music that are often derived from or inspired by 19th century Japanese culture and lifestyle. Its focus on themes and the structure of its episodes creates an interesting philosophical undertone to the show, in which each episode is like a parable, providing a lesson for the viewer to consider. For that reason, Mushishi is a very thought-provoking show, truly the first of such animes I had ever encountered as a kid. For example, in one episode, there is a mushi that is carried by the sound of one’s voice that causes rust-like rashes to appear on objects, so that the girl afflicted with the mushi will no longer speak out of fear and embarrassment. Another episode features a plant-like mushi that grows to mimic the appearance and function of human beings, which serves as the child of two elderly parents who are unknown of their son’s true nature. But the mushi aren’t the only creatures in the show that deserve attention. Ginko himself is a man shrouded in obscurity: he speaks few words and bears a mysterious past, yet is a knowledgeable, assuring, and venerable person, seeking only to help others that suffer and to study the mushi; these qualities make him a highly intriguing character. In all, Mushishi is an excellent show with a lot of creative thought and effort behind it that conveys a unique and intellectually stimulating experience.

FINAL NOTES

I would recommend this show to anyone, really. Mushishi is a very enriching anime that provides a break from the stresses of life to consider some interesting connections between humans and nature. Because of its structure, the episodes do not have to be watched all at once or in sequential order. Actually, I would encourage you not to watch multiple episodes at a time without reflecting on each one a bit, to consider their deeper implications.

Max Dunevitz is a UF student who enjoys meaningful and insightful anime and video games that challenge the status quo. His hobbies include programming, the arts, music composition, mathematics, and community service.

Max Reviews Digimon Tamers

Show: Digimon Tamers 
Genre: Action-Adventure, Science Fiction 
Studio: Toei Animation 
Director: Yukio Kaizawa 
Episodes: 51

 

As a 51-episode anime for kids, there is a long, slow-moving plot with many predictable twists and frequent, lengthy flashbacks. As a result, you really can’t write proper a review unless you consider the entire plot, so spoilers beware!

SYNOPSIS

Digimon Tamers is the third season of the Digimon animated franchise. If you’re not familiar with the Digimon universe, just imagine Pokémon, except that the “creatures” chiefly exist within the “digital network” of communications between computers and electronics and are considered incapable of materializing in the real world. However, each season of Digimon presents an entirely different perspective of the “digital” world and Digimon themselves. In Digimon Tamers, Digimon are actually trading cards that are played with using a “Digivice” and can be interacted with on a computer. Three children, however—named Takato, Li, and Ruki in the Sub; Takato, Henry, and Rika respectively in the Dub—have their Digimon “bio-emerge” into the real world—Guilmon, Terriermon, and Renamon respectively. They soon team up to stop other Digimon that have begun appearing in the real world as well to uncover the secrets behind a shady organization called Hypnos. The three “Tamers” meet up with some side characters—including Takato’s crush, Juri (she becomes quite important later)—and Digimon Culumon (Caulmon in the Dub) and Impmon. They eventually have to journey into the Digital World to rescue Culumon who has been kidnapped where they find that there is a computer program, called the D-Reaper, which has been threatening the digital world for ages. The team eventually leaves the Digital world only to find that the D-Reaper has invaded their own world. It takes the efforts of the once evil Hypnos organization, the original programmers of the Digimon trading cards, and the Tamers to defeat the D-Reaper and ensure the safety of the Digital and Real worlds.

Whew!

QUICK PROS AND CONS

Pros: The character designs are interesting and surprisingly relatable for children, there is a meaningful over-arching plot that has deep implications and interpretations, the jams are pretty sweet, and the overall feel of the show is a somewhat serious, which is unique for a children’s show, from my experience.

Cons: You could seriously cut the number of episodes in half and maintain the same consistency of plot. There is a lull in the action in the 20 or so middle episodes when the Tamers are have to go up against a group of Digimon called the Deva, an arc that really unnecessarily extends the story. A few of the characters provide little to the plot development but are given significant screen time and there are a few scenes, like a few battles, which seem overly convoluted and unexplained. However, I imagine that all of these can probably be attributed to various contracting deals demanding a longer season and the fact that Digimon Tamers is for younger audiences.

OPINIONS

One thing I really enjoy about this show is the amount of effort that was put in to maintaining a childlike simplicity while concurrently devising a meaningful plot with occasionally dark situations and characters. For example, you can compare visually some of the posters for Tamers to the first series of Digimon: Digimon Adventure. It’s clear that Tamers takes on a darker and more serious approach. The focus on the three central Tamers is apparent throughout the show and they occasionally deal with problems that really resonate with our own, like social acceptance, forgiveness, empathy for others, and refusing to face the real world. The soundtrack of the series is excellent as well, employing many genres of music to convey each character’s beliefs and personality.

Digimon Adventures

Digimon Tamers

 

 

compared with…

 

 

Here is a video of each Digimon’s “digivolution”. It’s like Pokémon evolution, except that it’s temporary. You can just watch it to 2:08 to get the gist: the art style and music is pretty dark and intense. Also, each Digimon is not necessarily hero material. Guilmon is supposed to be a virus type Digimon and is very mischievous, and Renamon is pretty much a tsundere character that likes being alone.

]This is a dark and somewhat disturbing scene from one of the later episodes, where Juri is recalling the traumatic experience of discovering her mother’s death while the D-Reaper overtakes the city.

INTERPRETATIONS

Digimon Tamers also communicates quite a few ideas on technology. The plot itself is propagated through the interaction of a technological world and a real one. The fact that Digimon are coming to life is not just a neat idea, it’s a sign that technology and humanity are merging and changing. In the end, the ultimate enemy is a creation of humanity, the D-Reaper, which, interestingly, alludes to the real life program of a similar name that was used to eliminate the world’s first computer virus—a tiny bit more on that here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creeper_(program)

Kind of makes you think about where technology is headed in today’s world

The great computer scientists of the mid-20th century like John von Neumann and Alan Turing recognized the life-like attributes of a digital network of computers and the possibility of “digital organisms” existing in the invisible matrix of signals and electronics, obscured from our view—even before the Internet was invented! On an even higher interpretive level, I feel that the Digimon franchise, and especially Digimon Tamers, is a realization of this idea. In both the Digimon universe and ours, the digital world as a whole is, in a sense, autonomous and is often beyond the control of humans, despite our daily reliance on it for communication and entertainment. Therefore the name Digimon “Tamers”.

FINAL NOTES

If you like the simplicity of children oriented material but also enjoy deep plots and relatable characters, then you should try this anime. Just be patient, as it is a children’s show, so not all of its 51 episodes are mind-blowing! If you stick it out, you’ll find that Digimon Tamers is an exceptional anime by the standard of kids’ shows and is a wonderful show in itself as well.

 

Max Dunevitz is a UF student who enjoys meaningful and insightful anime and video games that challenge the status quo. His hobbies include programming, the arts, music composition, mathematics, and community service.