Archetypal tsunderes and the transience of (anime) fame
Scamp of The Cart Driver somewhat recently wrote Anime Archetypes: The Superior Appeal of the Tsundere for MAL (via), in which he said:
There are some debates over who the original tsundere is. I've seen it argued that Lum from Urusei Yatsura was, but she's very open about her affection so I don't think it counts. However there's no doubt which character became the popular face for the term with anime fans. That would be the hot-headed robot pilot, Asuka Langley from Neon Genesis Evangelion.
While I don't doubt Asuka's current status as the popular and archetypal 'first tsundere' in anime fandom today, I find this status interesting. Particularly, it leads me to reflect on the transient nature of something being a famous or well-known anime. Because, you see, Asuka is not the first famous tsundere that Western fans were exposed to, not even the first one in a big series. Who I'm thinking of here is Akane, from Ranma 1/2.
Akane's a clear and undeniable fit for the classical tsundere; she's hotheaded and quick to mete out some violence to the object of her affections (that would be Ranma), periodically soft and affectionate, and of course neither she nor Ranma are at all willing to admit their love for each other. Ranma 1/2 itself predates NGE by several years and back in the 90s it had a massive presence in anime fandom. Despite all of that, today Ranma 1/2 and memories of Akane have faded from fandom, including her archetypal tsundere nature (to the point where Scamp didn't even bother to mention her). Instead she's apparently been displaced by Asuka, who may not even be a tsundere as such, as well as later characters that she seems pretty clearly a template for, such as Love Hina's Naru Narusegawa.
(You can argue a lot about if Asuka actually ever likes Shinji. As for Naru, Scamp's description of her behavior in his article applies just as much to Akane.)
I can speculate about various reasons why Asuka has stuck in people's memories and Akane hasn't, but it's more interesting for me to just note that it's happened. An entire influential series and its characters, one that inspired or at least touched a whole generation of fans, has just disappeared from the modern landscape of fandom. If you'd told someone in the mid-90s that Ranma 1/2 would be barely remembered or mentioned in fandom in twenty years, I'm not sure they'd have believed you. Yet here we are.
(In the early and mid 90s, even if you didn't particularly like Ranma 1/2 you could hardly avoid hearing about it if you were part of anime fandom. People cosplayed, people talked about it, people wrote a huge number of fanfics (some of them well known and relatively influential), and so on. You could say that it was kind of the Naruto of its day.)
Sidebar: Some views on why this happened
I suspect that a fair part of it is a combination of fandom turnover (and growth) and the relative views of both shows. I wouldn't be surprised if most old fans from the 90s who've been exposed to Ranma 1/2 and Akane have left (modern) anime fandom, and certainly fandom has grown a lot since then. At the same time, new fans are much more likely to be told they really should watch Neon Genesis Evangelion (which is considered a classic for good reason) than that they should explore Ranma 1/2 (which is, uh, not as good as NGE and is much bigger and more sprawling), so they're much more likely to either see or hear about Asuka than Akane.
(Leaving fandom is not the same thing as not watching anime any more, and for that matter fandom has fragmented. I know of at least one cluster of relative oldbies that barely crosses over into the modern anitwitter or MAL or ANN based fandom. Scamp was of course writing his article for the MAL fandom audience, since that's where it was published; your mileage may vary elsewhere.)
Brief early impressions of the Fall 2015 anime season so far
- Subete ga F ni Naru - The Perfect Insider: This is still not really
showing its cards, but on the other hand I love how the characters
interact. It's a grown up show with flawed characters who are too
smart and too smug for their own good.
- Concrete Revolutio: It's now clear that the show's big theme is the
moral ambiguity of super-powers (and how attempts to see the situation
as black and white are a terrible mistake). On the one hand, this
is nothing new to readers of American superhero comics over the past
couple of decades (from roughly Watchmen onward); on the other hand,
Concrete Revolutio is a good show and I'm enjoying it even if I don't
expect it to have anything much new to say. I really like that the show
is aggressively not spelling things out and letting us draw our own
conclusions; it favorably reminds me of UN-GO.
(The creators have apparently explicitly said that they were inspired in part by Watchmen.)
- One-Punch Man: Anime comedies that I find genuinely funny are rare, so I treasure them when one shows up. One of the things that makes OPM work for me is that the show generally doesn't overplay its jokes by having the characters actually react to them.
- K - Return of Kings: In the end I quite liked the first series. It's
great to see all of our old friends back and the changes are nice, but
at the same time I wish the show was moving faster and being crazier
the way the first season was.
- Utawarerumono - Itsuwari no Kamen: I haven't watched the original
series (my notes say I dropped it after 3 episodes), but fortunately
you don't have to in order to enjoy this new one. While it took a
few episodes to get me genuinely enthused about this, I'm now rather
enjoying how the characters rub against each other. Kuon and Haku are
an especially nice combination.
- Gakusen Toshi Asterisk: At one level this is a standard LN show
of the 'people fighting in high school' sub-genre and there's nothing
particularly new or novel. What I'm enjoying is the execution, which
I find refreshingly competent and well done. It has energy and a
refreshing lack of annoying or outright offensive (to me) cliches.
- Owarimonogatari: At this point I'm too invested in following the
Monogatari series to have a really objective opinion on this; the odds
that I wouldn't watch this despite grumbling about it were always
close to nil. In general it's enjoyable as usual, and it's nice to
see Araragi repeatedly shoved off balance. But boy I wish it'd move
faster; as things stand it feels like the show is deliberately filling
time with rambling dialog.
(Honestly, Perfect Insider is basically doing the Monogatari dialog thing much better than Owarimonogatari itself.)
They're okay so far:
- Mobile Suit Gundam - Iron-Blooded Orphans: This is a Gundam show
so I'm kind of predisposed to not be deeply enthused.
With that said, it's a pretty good example of its genre and it may yet
get me fired up with solid enthusiasm. I'm certainly enjoying it more
than I expected so far and I rather like a number of the things it's
doing, even if I know that most of the cast is probably doomed and it
sometimes does characterization with a large paint roller.
- Heavy Object: This is another typical LN show, this time of the 'how
will the protagonists manage to pull this one off' fighting genre.
It's not great
and it's definitely quite LN, but I've been enjoying it in a casual
popcorn way. I'll probably drop this after a while.
(If you're going to watch Heavy Object, you absolutely can't think very much about the logic of what you're seeing. HO is full of things that happen because this is a LN, not because they actually make any sense.)
- Noragami Aragoto: In retrospect the only Noragami character I
really care about is Hiyori, whose fundamental role is to be a
bystander. Yato is an irritating putz most of the time (his alleged
charm points mostly aren't), Yukine's continued suffering and angst
leaves me unmoved, and the show's never given me a reason to care
about Bishamon. Once I realized all of this I decided that show wasn't
compelling enough for me to bother continuing this season, not when
there was already a fair amount of stuff that I liked a lot more.
(Yes, this walks back my opinion from the end of the first season.)
- Sakurako-san no Ashimoto ni wa Shitai ga Umatteiru aka Beautiful
Bones: This was not bad as such, it was just uninteresting. I've
already read a lot of mystery stories, most of them much more
interesting than this show, and there's plenty more out there if I
feel like I want more in the genre, plus I'm pretty sure that there's
better mystery anime out there that I haven't watched yet.
- Comet Lucifer: Another show that turned out to be uninteresting.
I gave it two episodes and it gave me no particularly compelling
reason to watch anything more.
- Garo - The Crimson Moon: The first episode of this had basically
none of the things that made the first Garo interesting and unusual,
and a certain amount that made me sigh (like the 'funny' kid sidekick).
- Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry: As many people have said, this is basically
the same show as Asterisk in many ways. But at least for me this is
generic and not particularly good in a way that Asterisk isn't.
I kept watching it to have an informed opinion in the debate between
partisans of the two shows, but then I flamed out at episode 3, which I
(I very rarely abandon episodes partway through watching them. This was an exception.)
One of the big debates this season is between Asterisk and Rakudai; in many ways the two are almost the same show but many people have strong preferences. As you can tell I come down on the side of Asterisk. To condense my views, I think that Rakudai is doing some potentially interesting things with Stella and Ikki but it's otherwise loaded with terrible tropes and bad or merely clunky execution (like clumsy and eye-rolling writing). Asterisk isn't as potentially exciting but its execution is far better and more interesting (and far less cringe-inducing), and I don't trust Rakudai to deliver on its potential anyways.
(And Asterisk has its own vaguely novel bits.)
The really short way to summarize this is that in theory Rakudai has more potential but in practice Asterisk has much better execution.
Not for me:
- Osomatsu-san: This combines a bunch of genres that almost never work for me, as it's both a comedy and an ordinary life setting. As a result I've opted to skip checking it out, even though it gets a fair bit of praise.
Not even considered for various reasons:
- Young Black Jack
- Anti-Magic Academy: The 35th Test Platoon: It's yet another LN show
like Asterisk and Rakudai, but apparently even worse than Rakudai.
- Lance 'n Masques: Apparently epically bad. Someone I follow on Twitter is watching this and tweeting the terrible art and shots, of which there are many.
The one show I haven't seen and would like to is the new Lupin, which appears to be basically unavailable over here. I've seen the opening, which is pretty cool.
This makes three shows I'm quite happy with so far and several other shows that I expect to watch all the way through, plus stuff that I'm enjoying so far but don't necessarily expect to have staying power. By my current metric of 'do I have enough things that I actually have to think about my APR ballot', this is a reasonably good season and it may become an excellent one. Heck, Iron-Blooded Orphans could surprise me and earn a place alongside my favorite Gundam works.
(Right now, how excellent the season turns out to be depends on how well Perfect Insider and Concrete Revolutio hold up. Both are very early so far so they could both fumble things, or they could really come through.)
Looking back at the Summer 2015 anime season
- Gatchaman Crowds Insight: In the end the show didn't give us any
really easy answers, which is not unexpected; the issues Insight
was dealing with aren't problems you can solve easily. Sadly the show
felt it had to explain itself to people who might not have gotten it
in the last episode, which I wish we could have done mostly without,
but on the whole I really liked it.
- Akagami no Shirayuki-hime: This was a late season pickup for me
and it wound up totally surprising me with how much I liked it.
I wound up writing an entire entry on my views on Shirayuki-hime.
- Senki Zesshou Symphogear GX: It didn't finish as strongly as it started and Hibiki's father is still a putz, but it definitely delivered the Symphogear experience (complete with a surprise or two). The finish wasn't as epic as the first season's, but it would be hard to top that and I enjoyed what we got.
- GOD EATER: This was nicely made and I enjoyed what I saw of it,
but it never had anything particularly deep or compelling about it.
Its production problems were unfortunate, but the delayed remaining
episodes have made me realize that I probably don't care enough about
this to watch them whenever they wind up coming out.
- Rokka no Yuusha: I don't want to go so far as to say that this was
an epic troll, but it kind of was. I liked some of the things the
show did and it did play pretty fair with us with the mystery (there
was not so much clues as foreshadowing periodically), but I think it
misstepped with one story choice and the whole thing just moved slowly.
(And the second half of the last episode sure had a quality collapse.)
I don't regret watching Rokka but I have no interest in a second season.
- Ushio to Tora: This remained burning 90s shonen and I enjoyed that part of it. Unfortunately that comes with side orders of periodic bad writing, not enough budget to do the fights really well, and the usual slow moving plot. As a result I've opted not to continue with this after this season; although I generally enjoyed watching it, I didn't enjoy it enough to carry forward into a busy new season.
I finished it:
- GATE: It didn't end so much as stop mid-show, because it's being
continued in a season or two. If I'm smart I won't continue it then.
- Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya 2wei Herz!: As mentioned in my midway report I picked this up once the fights started. Well, they finished and so did the show. My verdict is that the fights were okay but certainly not up to the standards of episode six of the first series.
The top three shows this season were good (once I picked up Shirayuki-hime) and I think that I'm going to be satisfied with that. I only really watched one thing out of boredom and I more or less knew what I was getting into with it anyways.
(In fact, looking back at my spring views I think that this season was better overall than last season. Last season only had Sound! Euphonium to be consistently great, while this season had three shows I always really enjoyed watching.)
My (Twitter) reactions to the first episodes of the Fall 2015 season
Since I want to do less of my blogging just on Twitter (cf), I've decided to collect here all of my tweeted reactions to the first episodes I've seen (in the order I saw them).
- Heavy Object episode 1: Meh. It's a reasonably well made, reasonably
well done generic work. You know the drill by now.
- Noragami Aragoto episode 1: Maybe I'm in a grumpy mood, but nothing in
this episode really (re)hooked me. It was okay but needed a spark.
- K - Return of Kings episode 1: It was fun to get back together with
these people, but not much actually happened this episode.
- Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry ep 1: This is a decently competent and
essentially generic instance of what it is. You know all the parts by
- Utawarerumono - Itsuwari no Kamen ep 1: All setup, no hook. As setup
goes it was okay & different than usual, but that's not really enough.
- Gakusen Toshi Asterisk episode 1: This is clearly LN based, but wow, it
actually has energy and knows how to be interesting and intriguing.
- One Punch Man episode 1: This was okay and I smiled a few times, but the
next episode better have a whole new set of jokes.
- Concrete Revolutio episode 1: However crazy and stylish this was, it was
once again a case of all setup and basically no hook.
- Comet Lucifer episode 1: At least there's something like a hook here,
even if it feels like they crammed too many obscure hints in this ep.
- Iron-Blooded Orphans episode 1: It's a giant robot war story. It's
cliched but not abjectly stupid, and sometimes clever and a bit subtle.
- Owarimonogatari episode 1: On the one hand, that sure was a lot of
talking and nothing else. On the other hand, I did stay interested in
- Perfect Insider episode 1: That was interesting in a way that most shows
aren't, even if I have no idea where it's going or what it's about.
- Garo - The Crimson Moon episode 1: I'm sad to say that there's no
special reason to care about this, no special spark like the original.
- Sakurako-san episode 1: That was decent, but it would have been a bunch
better without the LN protagonist and the need for him.
- Hidan no Aria AA: nope. Just nope. In the short amount I watched this did less than nothing to offset my bad memories of the original. ♯ (also, and I'd have been happier listening to myself about giving it a try)
Anything with a → link has additional discussion in the replies to my tweet (sometimes more tweets from me, sometimes talking with other people).
(Having done this by hand once, clearly I need to automate it for next season. Or at least do it piece by piece as I make these tweets, instead of well after the fact.)
I watched Akagami no Shirayuki-hime and quite liked it
In my early views of the season I listed Akagami no Shirayuki-hime as 'not for me' after watching two episodes. Recently I decided to pick it up again, partly because this season leaves me bored during the week and partly because it kept getting praised on Twitter. I wound up quite liking it.
Part of the problem the show has is best exemplified by an Evirus tweet to me in reaction to my watching it:
@cks_anime How many kidnappings are you up to now?
If you saw only the first couple of episodes, what you'd expect from the rest of the show is the typical otome-game pattern where Shirayuki would keep getting kidnapped and then rescued by a succession of men who would wind up orbiting her and perhaps snarling at each other. This is not what happens at all. Instead the kidnappings in the first two episodes are the only instances. From episode 3 onward, Shirayuki pretty much handles her own problems. Nor is there any romantic tension; it's very clear that Shirayuki and Zen are a couple.
Shirayuki-hime is not your typical romance show, or indeed your typical show at all; I summarized it as 'charming'. Some people will dislike it, because it doesn't really have conflicts, tension, or dramatics over the romance. Basically all problems that come up are cleared away by the end of the episode (or at most the end of the next episode), and to enjoy the show you have to be able to enjoy watching Shirayuki relentlessly and charmingly clear away every obstacle in her way through optimism, hard work, and stubborn refusal to yield.
(I'm serious about that. Shirayuki bulldozes every single obstacle in her way over the course of the show, regardless of what it is. She may be very nice but absolutely no one who gets in her way has any chance of success.)
I found the whole thing just what I was in the mood for. Shirayuki and Zen both came across as far more mature and sure of themselves than the typical romance story protagonists, the romance progresses satisfactorily, and pretty much all the characters are nicely drawn (even if they're not deep or conflicted) and I enjoyed spending time with them. The show is not afraid to be a bit subtle with stuff. Mind you, there were things I didn't entirely like and I suspect that my enjoyment was increased by being able to batch-watch it.
There is going to be a second cour of Akagami no Shirayuki-hime and apparently it's going to avoid the curse of other romance shows and not introduce stupid artificial tension to prolong things. (I went on a Twitter rant about Marmalade Boy doing just that.)
I've been doing a lot of my 'blogging' on Twitter
If you follow my Twitter as well as this blog, you've probably noticed that I write a lot more commentary on Twitter these days, commentary that maybe could be blog entries. I think there's a number of reasons why I've wound up doing so much on Twitter compared to here:
- It's simpler and lower-friction. I don't have to come up with an
entry title, open up my editor, and so on; I can just Tweet. My client's
'new tweet' entry bar is right there.
- It's socially accepted to be terse, casual, unrefined and so on, because
the medium itself is short. No one really expects carefully elaborated
deep thoughts in 140 characters. Whenever I write actual blog entries
here I feel the need to carefully lay out my views in paragraphs,
elaborate on things, answer possible counter-arguments, and so on.
(And if 140 characters is too short, I can string a few Tweets together.)
- It's okay to be short (indeed, it's expected). By contrast, if
I try to write a blog entry that's only a couple of sentences long it
just seems wrong; it's too short and somehow disappointing. I have an
irrational but definite feeling that blog entries should be multi
- All of this makes it faster. I'll probably spend a hundred tweets
worth of time and effort on this blog entry by the time I'm done,
and the reality of my life is that I only have so much time and
energy to write (and the lion's share of that will always go to
- And I have to be honest and confess to another reason: I suspect that I have a bigger audience on Twitter than I do here. At one level I don't care about how much of an audience I have; at another level I am conscious both of the reach to effort ratio and the fact that if I want to influence people, Twitter may be a better payoff.
In short, it's much easier to fit tweeting in around the edges of my life. I can throw a brief unrefined thought or reaction out there in a minute and be done, in contrast to the much more of various things that I put into entries here.
I do feel that I want to blog here more. I have ideas for entries, but I generally don't get around to actually writing them (or I write them very slowly). I don't have any answers, though. In part I'm writing this entry in the hopes that just writing it will encourage me to blog more.