Kimi no Iru Machi: Review

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Nana to Kaoru Review

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Fanservice, Fantasy and Flashing: Ecchi in anime and manga

A nice little image to start off with, nothing mad, but still ecchi and fanservice

So I thought I would write a piece on the ecchi content on anime and manga, perhaps mainly anime since I have recently been watching a few series that have a significant or perhaps more accurately a more obvious amount of ecchi content in them. Ecchi describes a genre of manga and anime, which is seen as a softer variant of hentai (basically in Japanese that means “something with sexual content”, and is used as a synonym for “perverted” in many situations in anime and manga). For the most part it does not show sexual intercourse, but can show: panty shots, nudity, and perverted situations. In general Ecchi in anime and manga can take the shape of toilet humor, misinterpretations and general slapstick involving such things as the bath, the beach, and women’s underwear/swimsuits being popular.
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Bath Scenes and Beach Episodes: Two staples of Anime and Manga

Something that I have noticed for a while now is the use of bath scenes and entire episodes based at the seaside and the beach in anime and manga. These scenes are so prevalent that they are now obligatory, and indeed I have not seen any anime in the last few years that I can remember at least which did not include one or in fact both.
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Enjouji Maki: Hapi Mari – A Manga Review

So the other day I was trawling the internet and found Hapi Mari on one of many manga reader websites. I would say that I am a fan of Enjouji Maki, I enjoy her stories and find the artwork to be really clean and enjoyable to look at. As an artist she specializes in Josei comics with a lot of emphasis placed upon Romance, comedy and drama.

The premise of Hapi Mari is that Takanashi Chiwa the female protagonist has a huge debt hanging over her from her dad, in order to pay this off she works both a full-time office job along with a hostess side job. We are then introduced the male protagonist Mamiya Hokuto who is the president of Chiwas company and he proposes that she marries him.

Hapi Mari follows the same path that her previous releases; we are introduced to the female protagonist and then the male protagonist. In this release along with a previous release Private Prince the main characters start off being entirely opposed to each other. This of course changes as the first volume progresses.

What I like about Enjouji Maki’s work in particular are the exaggerated angry faces she draws on her female characters, this adds to the comic elements of her manga. As readers our first glimpse of the interaction of Chiwa and Hokuto happens when Chiwa throws a drink over him after he insults her about the kind of work she is doing as a hostess. This sort of interaction continues throughout the first volume and into the second with Chiwa constantly getting angry at little all the little things Hokuto does. As the first volume progresses however we see both Chiwa and Hokuto mellowing slightly, they get closer and so the relationship starts to progress.

The artwork in Hapi Mari follows the same pattern as other Enjouji Maki series, the faces are beautifully drawn both make and female, the eyes, especially those of Chiwa are captivating and very large, and importantly the comic elements of the story are wonderfully exaggerated and exploited.

However while I do love the manga and others that the artist has drawn there are a few problems with it. Firstly there are times where I find the female protagonist to be slightly annoying, she crys too easily, and in later chapters and volumes starts to lose the strong element of her character that makes her so attractive in the beginning. As a character she starts to depend too much on Hokuto, to the point of being incapable of doing things of her own volition. Hokuto is far from perfect himself, being immensely arrogant and harsh. Secondly on the story front this manga suffers from the symptoms that many Josei and Romance manga suffer, and that is the female protagonist ends up being someone who looks for and then is supported by the male lead, rather than thinking for herself.

Having said that I do enjoy reading this manga, and also happen to enjoy the general josei and romance genres of manga. I do understand that Josei is mainly aimed at women and so has this element of finding the ‘prince on his white horse’ as part of the story, and while this can be annoying to me I still enjoy these types of manga from time to time. The story of Hapi Mari moves a long at a nice pace, the characters are well thought out and the comedic elements of the story really help to break up the drama. Add on to this gorgeous artwork with faces and in particular ways that I could stare at for ages and this manga is a wonderful read and thoroughly enjoyable.

Gender-Bender in manga and anime.

Following on from the cross-dressing post here is one about gender-bender. As a genre it is similar to cross-dressing but takes it one step further, one of the major characteristics of gender bender as a genre appears to be that of comedy, there is often a very strange set of circumstances surrounding why the character has changed genders.

One of the classic manga, and indeed one of the first I have read that includes gender bender is that of Ranma 1/2. In this manga, Ranma Saotome along with his father Genma are on a training mission in china when they each fall into cursed springs, his father turns into a Panda, and Rama turns into a girl. While the springs and other characters who change play a large part in the manga, the main focus is that of Ranma himself. The effect of his gender change is controlled by water; hot water reverses the effect changing him back to a man, whereas cold water changes him into a girl.

The manga follows his trials and tribulations, as a character he continuously acquires fiancés through his fathers misadventures and just plain stinginess and his own suitors for both his male and female appearances. The device of water temperature allows for a seamless switch between genders, so seamless in fact that there are whole story arcs whereby Ranma is either one gender or another. This is done in such a way that there is no question about how this happens, it is merely an everyday fact about his life, and the natural way in which all those around him interact with Ranma, whether he is a man or a woman shows how easy it is for this gender switch to be accepted.

Gender bender is similar to cross-dressing, and they are both often used in the same manga, however it takes it to more of an extreme, in particular it is used for more of a comic purpose in manga. There are occasions where a spell for example goes wrong and people switch bodies, this is often followed up by the boy who has moved to a girls body making some comment or perhaps feeling certain parts of a women body and wondering why they feel the way they do.

What is very specific about gender bender compared to cross-dressing however is that when boys or men switch bodies, be it like ranma, a spell or some other reason they tend to keep all their male mannerisms. The most obvious example would be switching to a body of a very well brought up ojou-sama or wealthy girl, in this example the girls personality would completely change to that of the mans. So while in cross-dressing genre the protagonists often change there mannerisms, the men becoming more feminine, the women becoming more masculine in gender bender we largely have a complete swap of genders while still maintaining the original personality. And yet this is almost exactly the same as cross-dressing, but in a reversal of the roles and personality compared to gender.

Cross-Dressing in Manga and Anime, A Japanese take on gender and sexuality.

For a while now I have noticed that there is a startling amount of cross-dressing of gender-bender manga around, while trawling through several online manga sites it appeared that about 1 in 4 manga had something to do with either cross-dressing, gender bender or both.

What I find fascinating about these genres is that they appear to exist in a country that seems to largely reject any notion of homosexuality or deviance from the strict set of moral codes that has existed for centuries.

But what is also fascinating about these two genres is that the ways in which they appear. Men who dress as woman and look and act so much like women that they are in fact more of a ‘woman’ than others around, similarly there are women who dress as men and are so handsome that they are more of a ‘man’ than others.

This bluring of the gender boundaries is often used for comic amusement, however there are often very specific reasons for this cross-dressing. More often than not it is to do with chasing after a loved one who has moved away, or more classically moved to an all boys or all girl school. The obsession shown by the other party will lead them to cross-dress and pose as a member of the opposite sex in order to enter said school and continue to be together with their lover.

There is one anime and its accompanying manga that I was watching in particular called Otome wa Boku ni Koishiteru whereby a boy in order to gain his inheritance has to enter a very strict all girls school that appears to be very traditional in order to train ‘proper ladies’. He therefore has to dress as a girl with the help of some very extreme make-up including full stick on breasts in order to pass himself off as a girl. What is so curious about this particular work is that even when he is not cross-dressing the main character has all the characteristics of a girl anyway, a very feminine face, long elegant hair and a very un-boyish manner. What is also particulary fascinating is that when he enters the academy his beauty is so stunning that he immediately attracts the attention of everyone around, so much so that he becomes this elected head of the academy as a symbol of how elegant and proper a woman can become.

Within this particular manga and anime, while there are many comic elements, including the obligatory bath scene, the majority of it takes place within the school buildings and subsequent academic and extra curricular activities. Within this setting it is easy to forget that the main protagonist is in fact a boy, rather you as a reader or viewer forget about this little detail very quickly and the series quickly becomes one of Shoujo Ai (girls love, but not quite lesbian) following the romantic elements of the plot. Here we have a perfect example of a boy being so convincing as a woman or girl that he becomes that gender, as a mentioned the viewer quicly forgets about the fact that he is cross-dressing and instead starts to view him as a girl, this is in turn further emphasized by how he is perfect is almost every way and is seen as some sort of ‘queen’ or perhaps more accurately a ojou-sama by most of the student population.

This startling aspect of having those who cross-dress appear as so convincing that they effectively become the other gender is in stark contrast to how cross-dressing and other such activities appear to be viewed within Japanese society. There are regular elements of cross-dressing manga whereby the cross-dresser is ridiculed and socieally alientated after being found out. But perhaps this obsession with cross-dressing, gender changes and other genres belies a need to find an outlet for emotions and characteristics that are by and large rejected by the strict social conditions within Japanese society.

Observations on the views on Japanese culture

Right, my first post and its going to be about the varied ways in which I have noticed people can view another culture. I personally have an interest in Japanese culture, ranging from Manga and Anime, to Japanese films, culture, history, zen and social traditions, however I am by no means an expert.

Recently I attended a seminar on Japanese popular culture, and what struck me, was not the seminar itself, but rather the varied ways in which Japanese culture is viewed, and the lenses through which people choose to see it.

There were those who had a passing interest in Japan, perhaps knowing something about the pacific war, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the atomic bombs, and more recently the terrible earthquake and following tsunami. There were also those who had heard about Japan in some way, and there were people who knew a fair amount about Japan and its culture. But finally there were those who knew an astonishing amount about a specific aspect of the culture, about the games, anime and manga and all that follows.

I have noticed this before where people know an awful lot about a very specific aspect of another culture, and often view the entire society and culture from this fairly skewed viewpoint.

Now looking at a culture from your particular interest is not necessarily a terrible thing to do, but I do think that it narrows what you can personally gain from the culture and society. In the case of Japan, if all you think about is the anime and manga scene, then you are missing out on many other aspects of life.

What is very interesting is what appears to be the utter reliance on one aspect of a countries culture to fill in the blanks for the rest. I myself have been guilty of doing exactly that, reading or watching an anime or manga and taking some elements as truth of Japanese society. However in the last year or so I have tried to learn more about the culture and society, often through sites such as wikipedia that do give a good if brief account of various terms, ideas and elements of Japan among others.

This way of looking at a different culture was further emphasised in a Japanese class that I have been taking, where several people cited manga and anime as a reason for starting Japanese lessons in order to learnt the language and perhaps more about the country.

I think this way of working and viewing a culture is important, in order for a culture and a society to thrive you need to have a variety of ways in which to view that country and a number of interests. If everyone were to go to Japan for the same reason then it would be a rather bland and dull place, it is precisely because of these eccentricities and differences in opinion and view point of this country and culture that make it so appealing. And this on its own makes it worth going to the country to experience it for yourself.