meimichi: (utena + repent all your sin)
[personal profile] meimichi
Hahaha wow I don't even know what I think about this show.

MASSIVE TL;DR AHEAD



On a totally superficial level I was liking it okay just for how stylish it was (while the visuals being ripoffs of everything ever but especially Utena had me eyerolling), until episode 10 and it was only then I thought it got REALLY REALLY GOOD and everything with Homura made me cry FOREVER...

But then the more I thought about it the more I was creeped out by this show and everything it was saying until we hit the final three episodes.

I went through [livejournal.com profile] canis_m's list of meta posts, and nobody pegged what was bugging me about it aside from people saying "it's *~problematic~* but you can still see it as a feminist tale!"

I saw a lot of complaining about how it was a male director behind it, which is not my issue with it at all in and of itself (especially since aren't all anime directors male? certainly every major mahoujo show in the past has been directed by men, and never have I seen the maleness of the director attract this much commentary). I'm kind of frustrated in reading other people's writeups in how others seem to think the "male gaze" and moe bait aspect of the show is incidental, or "it's there because the director is a guy," when my read of the show is that is the entire point the show is trying to make.

Almost every mahoujo variant show I've really loved since Sailormoon (which is far from the first mahoujo series but is certainly the defining one for my generation) has been a meta commentary on the genre to some extent. I think the last straightforward, no-meta-frills take I watched and enjoyed was like, what, ten years ago with Pretear...?

The difference though, is how Madoka is really not a meta commentary on the straightforward take of the genre. I don't think it's talking to girls who loved mahoujo anime and manga as kids at all.

We've had countless deconstructions and meta commentaries of the mahoujo, made for girls (with the original manga concepts generally created by girls). Madoka couldn't exist without those stories: Utena and Jeanne are the two biggies it steals wholesale from a lot. But I don't think it wants to be in that company.

In a way it's trying to do what Eva did: it deconstructed the mecha fantasy for boys, and it was totally straightforward on what its message was. It basically was Anno going, "Stop running away by obsessing over anime escapism, otaku boys! Go outside and get a life!"

But this isn't about deconstructing the mahoujo fantasy for girls, because other stories have already done that. What I feel Madoka is all about is deconstructing the moe stereotype of a mahoujo that has become a sex symbol for fanboys.

Which is perhaps useful but really grosses me out at the same time, because I feel that it's deconstructing the moe stereotype of the mahoujo and not the mahoujo herself. I get the definite impression that it's aimed towards men perving on the Pretty Cure stereotype in a very sexual way. And it's trying to say, "The little girls you're perving on have some seriously depressing shit going on underneath their adorable moe exteriors, and being a girl in a man's world is really hard, and maybe you should think about that as you're lusting after elementary school girls in cute kneesocks and making the problem worse, k?"

Which...it just makes me angry that this is even necessary.

The mahoujo genre is supposed to be a fantasy for girls, and it's now turned into the object of moe sexualization to such a huge extent that we need an entire show basically serving as moe bait-and-switch for older men, just to scold them? This really makes me rage just thinking about it. My reaction to this is, "Fuck you, this genre isn't FOR you, it was never supposed to be FOR you."

Except now it is.

Because guys buy tons of moe merchandise, so now the mahoujo genre is now also for men, and these characters have to be designed to appeal to fanboys and cater to their sexual desires. Their buying power has made it acceptable for men to co-opt the genre.

Looking through the wiki, I was so grossed out reading the character designer's thoughts. Madoka's costume: "Madoka was drawn to be the very image of a magical girl. I added an almost fairytale-ish hints, so hopefully female viewers will be charmed by her as well." As in, "girls are not the target but it would be cool if they liked it anyway." Talking up how big Mami's boobs are. i.e. they deliberately crafted Mami as the "sexy one" so that male viewers would be attracted to her. They created her to play into the moe expectations for the sexy older sister senpai type. And then at the last moment she blurts out that her confident sexy senpai act is only a facade, she's actually miserable and lonely...and then is the first to die a shocking violent death.

It's so very, "Ha ha, take that, fanboys! We got you lusting after this fantasy object, and then showed you she was a REAL PERSON and not a fantasy at all, and then decapitated her!! BET YOU FEEL REAL STUPID NOW." (The whole opening animation is constructed as bait in this same kind of way, too... Obviously the song is super significant, but the actual sequence is just straight-up trolling and inviting you to perv on Madoka.)

Kyouko and Sayaka are much the same in how they balance out expectations of their moe trope vs reality, and they both end up dying horribly, after both of them used their wishes for men.

I love Homura and think she's by far the greatest character in the series, but she had to basically "overcome" her original persona as a shy meganekko with a freaking heart condition. You cannot get more absurdly pandering than that in terms of moe stereotypes. But she basically wishes her stereotype away by wishing to be a protector instead of the protected. From start to finish, she's the one who feels most like a success story.

Madoka herself is really just a trope rather than a person, which is unusual since 1) mahoujo deconstructions made for-girls-by-girls usually don't put a cliché protagonist in the driver's seat, and 2) the show lets her be herself to the end and play her moe trope card to the fullest.

Which in terms of the show's overarching *~lesson~* is, I think, a good thing... But on the other, I don't particular care for Madoka herself on a personal level precisely because she is such a trope and a meta device. I like the end message of the show okay but how it gets there bugs me, if that makes sense.

I'm not even predisposed to disliking the mahoujo who is a wonderful pure adorable type who loves everyone and sacrifices herself so readily over and over. Like, Usagi is my favorite senshi, and hey, she's also presented as mahoujo Jesus. But... I mean, the reason I love Usagi best isn't because she's mahoujo Jesus. I love her because she is the girl who wanted so badly to kiss her boyfriend goodbye when he died in her arms, and she wouldn't allow herself that because she decided it was wrong to allow herself a happiness the other girls didn't get to have before they died fighting. I love that moment more than I can say, because, yes, Usagi does stand up and go fight to save the world after that (even though her boyfriend told her to run away and save herself, loserrrr), but the struggle with this little selfishness she wants and denies herself is so beautiful and human to me. I love that tiny moment far more than the big showdown with Beryl that follows it.

So, where Madoka is concerned...

On the one hand I appreciate that the mahoujo cliché wins the day. It's good that love and hope triumph at the end of the day, especially because that's what Sayaka and Kyouko both died after dreaming of fulfilling that magical girl dream of love saving the day in the end. And also because if there isn't that element of the overarching mahoujo genre's main cliché saving the day, they just co-opted the entire mahoujo genre to use it as moe lolicon bait and that would render the show worthless to me.

But on the other I'm a little sad because it takes an impossible cliché of a messiah to win, and nothing less will do. The girls were all automatically doomed to their fates by the rules of the story. Kyouko's death is so tragic to me because she deliberately sacrifices her life for the mahoujo cliché, but it doesn't matter, because once you're trapped in the system no beautiful mahoujo cliché can save you. It's impossible for the girls to save themselves from their own fates, no matter how good they try to be. You can't just be an amazing ordinary girl; it takes a god to make everything okay.

And that makes me sad, because I would have liked it more even just if Madoka had even that Usagi-esque moment of being tempted by a tiny selfishness and then pushing it away before choosing to sacrifice everything and be a god. Madoka just doesn't feel human to me even before she becomes a god, and that takes away from the story for me on a personal level.

But the meta commentary of Madoka's parting with Homura is too lovely, because while she's a god...

She's a god who subscribes wholesale to the religion of the mahoujo genre.

"It's okay. It'll turn out okay for sure. Let's believe that. Magical girls can make dreams and hopes come true, after all..."

And that's really, really beautiful, especially given what the show starts out as.

Which results in my end take being: okay, so this show basically deconstructs the gross moe perversion of the mahoujo genre by men and then reconstructs it as a traditional mahoujo show, where because of Madoka's sacrifice, Homura and the rest of the team are able to become "normal magical girls" who fight on and believe in dreams and hopes and the power of friendship.

Which, I think the final three episodes are incredible and huge tearjerkers, and Homura is amazing amazing amazing I cannot believe how heartbreaking and cool and perfect she is, and I don't hate the end message because it does basically take the grossness of the beginning and twist the entire world around to MAHOUJO ARE ALL ABOUT THAT GOOD STUFF LITTLE GIRLS GREW UP READING ABOUT IN NAKAYOSHI AFTER ALL, BELIEVE IN HOPE AND DREAMS.

Buuuuut the aiming of the show at a male audience and using it as moe-bait... Like, using these devices definitely is intentional and speaking to an existing problem, but I HATE THAT THE PROBLEM EXISTS SO FUCKING MUCH to the extent I can't really get into the show completely. Since I feel like I can't really wholeheartedly be a fan of what I see as commentary on an animated child porn phenomenon.

And mahoujo is an escapist female empowerment fantasy and I love that about the genre, so even this show seemingly dealing with men trying to co-opt that fantasy for themselves in a smart way, has me going, "UGH YOU DON'T EVEN GO HERE." I don't want that problem to exist. I don't want to watch a show about it even if the end message is good. I love my escapist fun, and I love deconstructions of that escapist fun, but if I'm going to watch a deconstruction of it I want that deconstruction to be ABOUT GIRLS, FOR GIRLS.

So while the end message of the show seems to be "return the genre to where it belongs" I still don't feel like this show is for me, but for guys. It has feminist aspects but they seem purely incidental. I just don't feel like the show is at all speaking to girls and saying, "Yay, girl power!" so much as it's an instructive tale for fanboys going: "MAGICAL GIRLS ARE ABOUT LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP AND HOPE. THEY ARE NOT FOR YOUR PORNOS AND SEXUAL SATISFACTION, K?"

I hugely agree with that, but I don't feel particularly inspired by the show because I don't feel like it speaks to me.

/tl;dr I DON'T EVEN REALLY KNOW WHAT I THINK.

I think that I'm at "incredibly smart show, worth watching, worthy of much discussion, BUT..."

It's odd because I cried buckets over the final three episodes, and I'm sure if I rewatch them I'll cry just as hard again, so I hesitate to say, "This show left me cold." Yet that's exactly how I feel.

(Though everyone seems to agree on how amazing Madoka's mom is. I AGREE WITH THIS SO MUCH SHE IS AMAZING.)


I think I'm gonna rewatch this and try to sort out my *~feelings~*, then move on to Blood+. Which since my knowledge of it is all from [livejournal.com profile] missdeep means I am pretty sure this show will require no actual thought whatsoever.

Strangely I think I read all of her reaction posts back in the day and while I remember basically everything about how moe David was in his apron and how awesome Julia is, I DON'T THINK I KNOW A SINGLE THING ABOUT THE PLOT OR MAIN CHARACTERS. Except that Hagi goes "..." a lot and Kai wants to be Saya's bandaid. (There are vampires in this show, right??)

Date: 2011-05-23 04:27 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] missdeep.livejournal.com
This is the post I've been wanting to read about Madoka. The comments on a co-opted genre, on co-opted women, are the ones that really stuck with me as I was watching the show. I read the ending similarly to you, in Madoka being a god who subscribes to the essence of the mahoujo. She cannot destroy the essential need for mahoujo (and what they represent) so she recreates them as they should be - as girls fighting together, girls able to rely on one another.

But in saying that, I felt the show overall was, as you said, a message for the creepy men who have corrupted the focus of a genre so much that someone actually had to sit down and make a fucking show about it. WHEN YOU MASTURBATE TO MAHOUJO YOU'RE MASTURBATING TO CONFUSED, BROKEN LITTLE GIRLS WHO ARE STRUGGLING TO CARVE OUT AN IDENTITY IN A WORLD THAT IS INTENT ON HURTING THEM. WHAT KEEPS THESE GIRLS GOING IS BELIEF IN THE PURITY OF LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP, A PURITY THAT HAS BEEN CORRUPTED BY YOUR CREEPY RE-APPROPRIATION OF THEIR PURPOSE AND MESSAGE.

Homura was totes amazing, wasn't she?

Omg I did comment on the main character in Blood+! I'm sure if you go back far enough you'll find my reaction posts from the first arc where I was "WOW THIS SHOW IS GREAT!!! ^_^_^_^" before said reaction posts spiraled into a sea of frothing hate. The Plot is about omg poor Saya learning she has to fight omg creepy bat monsters, ew! Hagi is made of cardboard and idk, at one point we get to see Rasputin try to get lesbian fresh with Saya? In all honesty though, The Plot is really just "there are monsters and we have to kill them by capitalism and an overabundance of assholes makes this difficult."

Date: 2011-05-23 06:55 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nyonyo.livejournal.com
WHEN YOU MASTURBATE TO MAHOUJO YOU'RE MASTURBATING TO CONFUSED, BROKEN LITTLE GIRLS WHO ARE STRUGGLING TO CARVE OUT AN IDENTITY IN A WORLD THAT IS INTENT ON HURTING THEM. WHAT KEEPS THESE GIRLS GOING IS BELIEF IN THE PURITY OF LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP, A PURITY THAT HAS BEEN CORRUPTED BY YOUR CREEPY RE-APPROPRIATION OF THEIR PURPOSE AND MESSAGE.

A++ comment, I love you.

I wish Homura could have somehow been the star of the show the whole time. She is the absolute coolest.

I am kind of intrigued at how they are already talking spinooff/sequel, though. I wouldn't have any interest in a prequel, but I am genuinely curious in how they'd do a sequel and whether they could continue this story without ruining their own ending and still managing to feel like a conclusion.

But the more I think about this show the more sad I get. I lost my main interest in anime fandom right around the point that the moe phenomenon was really taking hold as a force to be reckoned with. I've got no clue what kids nowadays are growing up with in Nakayoshi, I think Precure is the only mahoujo show to hit my radar since Tutu which was 9 years ago (and I only know of Precure because it was a pop culture phenomenon, never actually seen an episode so I just know it as "the mahoujo show that creepy dudes perv on"). The idea of girls growing up at a time when Madoka is necessary kind of breaks my heart, and makes me think, wow, I grew up at an awesome time to be a mahoujo fan.


I'm sure if you go back far enough you'll find my reaction posts from the first arc where I was "WOW THIS SHOW IS GREAT!!! ^_^_^_^" before said reaction posts spiraled into a sea of frothing hate.

lol this is basically what I "know" of the series thanks to you (I didn't even bother to go look up pics, this is all STRAIGHT FROM YOUR LJ TO MY BRAIN which is why I barely remember what Saya looks like, like at all, since you didn't post stuff about her much):

Date: 2011-05-23 08:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] missdeep.livejournal.com
Awww ilu2. I really enjoyed your post on Madoka, it's a series I've kind of wanted to say things about but I've been so busy with university that coherent thoughts have yet to pass through my head about it. But you absolutely hit the nail on the head with your remarks.

Well the director wanted to do a slice-of-life take on the characters or some crap allegedly, but it'd be interesting to see any sort of additional anime take on the concept. There are various manga spin-offs that are essentially prequels and focus on different magical girls, but none of them have been particularly nuanced.

Precure is definitely the primary mahoujo franchise, there have been a handful of others in the past decade but few have been memorable (and certainly none have been profitable on the same scale as Precure). I mean yeah, Precure has merchandise aimed at young girls and all that jazz, but it would be disingenuous to suggest that the heftiest share of the market belongs to anyone other than adult males. Which is sad and disgusting and I don't even. I would venture that as a result, the focus of Precure (and similar shows) tends to move somewhat away from core mahoujo "values", so to speak. It's more about the outer shell of mahoujo -the glitter, the cute girls, the innocence- rather than any of the key themes originally relevant to young women. While I don't think recent mahoujo titles have veered so far away from their original purpose that they're unwatchable or inaccessible for young girls, there's definitely something lacking in the worlds they present when compared with series like Sailor Moon. I'd suggest that this owes, at least in part, to the co-opted viewership gaze. Which is just... WHY GOD, WHY? WHY DID IT HAVE TO COME TO THIS?!

AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA OMG. IT'S LIKE YOU'RE INSIDE MY HEAD! These are by far the most relevant aspects to B+, ngl. SAYA MADE ME TOO ANGRY SO I COULDN'T POST ABOUT HER OFTEN WITHOUT INDUCING A STROKE. This is what she looks like:



FUCKING SLEEPY WASTE OF SPACE. Did you end up finding a decent torrent for the series? I will enable you with this series in whatever way you desire as it's my version of Smallville (though, thank the gods, a lot shorter).

Date: 2011-05-25 02:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nyonyo.livejournal.com
Yeah, I watched the first episode-and-a-half or so; I'll try to watch more tonight. When does it start getting awesomely terribad?

Date: 2011-05-25 10:24 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] missdeep.livejournal.com
Hmm it starts to get dodgy by the second arc (when they go to Vietnam) and by the time they get to Russia it's rather amusing. Shit gets seriously funny in the mid-twenties when they're all crying in France and on The Love Boat and shit. After the time skip (ep 32) every episode is pretty much comedy gold.

Date: 2011-05-23 10:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ener.livejournal.com
The character designer is a woman, so as a fellow dirty-minded (yet somehow asexual) artist, I can't really get grossed out at her comments on the designs. More amused than anything, really.

Considering the fact that anime as a whole is just barely making enough money to skirt on by (unless you're Eva and on those money-making standards), I've become desensitized to the extremely obvious male-targeted demographic. However, I don't think Madoka had sexualized anything, really... Mami was "healthy" for sure, but none of them came off as creepy fanboy bait to me? It could just be me having "but this art style isn't even hot!" goggles, or even "lol well girls who can work it should have skirts that short!" goggles, but yeah.

Date: 2011-05-24 04:25 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nyonyo.livejournal.com
It could just be me having "but this art style isn't even hot!" goggles
If you found the girls hot, it would be creepy. Which I think is the whole point, lol.

I think the point is that any mahoujo show (not just this one, which I think is doing it for commentary purposes) being deliberately marketed primarily to men to play to their lolicon kinks, period, is the creep factor. The idea that the market has turned around to the point that the aim is no longer, "Let's make a show about magical girls who fight for the power of love, for little girls (who will love it and buy our toys!)," anymore but instead, "Let's make a show about magical girls who wear short skirts and *~virginal kneesocks~*, for dudes (who will love it and buy our shit to masturbate to!)" is gross to me. Girls deserve to have heroes made for them, instead of mahoujo existing as porno fodder for dudes into elementary schoolers. Men have enough of the market cornered for their own entertainment, sexual or not, without co-opting the mahoujo genre.

And I disagree Madoka wasn't sexualized; just the OP alone, with the shot of Madoka in the skimpy fetish outfit, and the henshin sequence portion with the closeup on BOOBS SMOOSHED TOGETHER, pretty much read to me as "SENDING UP THE BATSIGNAL FOR PEDOS, THIS SHOW IS PROMISING YOU LOLICON GOODIES GALORE!" Which of course ended up being a bait-and-switch in the end, but they were still trying to draw in an audience of creepy dudes so they could be *~taught a lesson~* as the show attempted to humanize the girls beyond their moe stereotypes and reconstruct the world into having traditional mahoujo values.

Date: 2011-05-24 05:21 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ener.livejournal.com
I could make a counter argument based on all the fangirl fodder hot-blooded shounen shows. Sure, it sucks the mahou shoujo genre being aimed at dudes sucks, but what about the likes of new shows like Tiger & Bunny and Star Driver obviously aiming for the fujoshi crowd? I watched Star Driver in hopes that it would just be good, but it gave in to providing yaoi fanservice and had absolutely no closure to its very simple story. It might just be something new anime has made prominent, it could even be that now we have names/tropes/etc. to observe. Regardless, I feel like it's something that has always existed, whether we like it or not. That being said, Madoka's fandom was actually incredibly equalーfujoshi, creepy otaku, casual viewers, old anime fans who haven't watched something in ages and so on seem to all appreciate it equally.

Most anime OP/EDs are pretty irrelevant to their shows, and it was confirmed the OP was just Studio SHAFT dicking around. Considering the show aired at 4am, I didn't think very much of the OP visuals… but again, I'm much more desensitized to that sort of stuff than an average person.

Date: 2011-05-24 05:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ener.livejournal.com
>>Sure, it sucks the mahou shoujo genre being aimed at dudes sucks[...]
Sure, the mahou shoujo genre being aimed at dudes sucks*

Typing while snacking is not my forte!

Date: 2011-05-24 07:31 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nyonyo.livejournal.com
I'm def not up on recent anime enough to respond to this well XD;; but yes, I agree there's an industry-wide problem with shows existing purely to hit a target audience's moe kink, instead of just telling a good story. And since anime as an industry has become less profitable the problem gap has gotten bigger because it's safer to play to proven moe kinks that can get you a built-in audience.

But at the same time, I think the shounen market is big enough to handle a certain amount of fujoshi-bait. I am pretty sure if a straight dude looks hard enough he's going to find a straight hero he can relate to in a shounen-marketed title. I don't think the market is ever going to totally forsake that straight dude - it can't afford to, he has too much buying power. Whereas mahoujo is a niche market compared to even the shounen fantasy hero genre - if the industry decides that creepy pedos are worth catering to over little girls because they're where the money is, then as a little girl you're pretty much shit out of luck in finding a mahoujo heroine you can relate to who isn't just there for someone else's sexual gratification. And I don't think this was a problem in the same way when I was younger, because then Sailormoon and its memory still exerted such power over the mahoujo market as the standard. Of course dudes were perving over Sailor Mercury back then, but they weren't the target audience the way they are now for mahoujo shows, and there were more mahoujo shows to choose from anyway.

And I'm not quite sure I think fujoshi vs lolicon are comparable issues either. They're both co-opting genres, but I'm just...not as bothered by girls who want to see boys sexing each other up as I am by creepy old men who want to sex up little girls. I think fujoshi tend to actually buy into the core shounen manga values a lot of the time, because those are precisely what make the characters and pairings attractive (nakama! rivals! ganbaru koto!) and often just add in, "BUT WHAT IF THERE WAS ALSO SEX BETWEEN THOSE NAKAMA AND RIVALS WHILE THEY WERE MUTUALLY GANBARU-ING?" On the other hand, I don't actually believe creepy old dudes give a shit about the power of friendship and love, they are pretty much there for the underage girls and costume kink factor, and that is a problem since it guts the core values of a genre in a way I don't think fujoshi can. Which brings me back to "gtfo creepy pedos, go watch some other costumed moe show that caters to your underaged kinks and LEAVE THE POWER OF FRIENDSHIP AND LOVE ALONE."

Date: 2011-05-24 09:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ener.livejournal.com
Nah, I think you responded well!

I get what you're saying now. While I agree to disagree on the fujoshi not being creepy thing (lol I get so creeped out browsing pixiv and at Comiket), I definitely agree that them liking boys sexing isn't quite the same socially as old men liking little girls. LOL but on that note, I remember a comment I read after the Madoka finale that was like, "brb, going to fap to Madoka/Homura porn to wash away these feelings I have because of this finale!" Coupled with the fact that Madoka is topping "best tearjerker anime" charts, I don't necessarily think that they don't give a shit about the power of friendship and loveーtheir creepiness just overshadows it.

Of course, this isn't everybody, but a lot of people I know personally and most of the sites I frequent are of the same camp: One minute they're bawwwwing at the storyline, the next they're enjoying whatever R-18 art they just found. I can't speak for many other shows, but I'll naively think that creepy people do enjoy whatever non-fanservice merits a show has to offer, providing those actually exist. (Unless they come right out and say otherwise--like me watching various awful things last season just to pass up the time…)

But yeah, it's kind of like the idol thing. Creepy old guys worshipping much younger girls who, despite their bubblly music and personalities, are definitely targeted towards males. At least it's kind of changing with AKB48 having heaps of female fans as well, but that's unlikely to last very long.

Date: 2011-06-01 07:29 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mindstalk.livejournal.com
Here via canis-m.

Interesting analysis and perspective.

I guess I'm not perceptually sensitized to the moe thing; I didn't even notice a lot of what's complained about. I don't mean I didn't notice them as problems; I mean that when I read "fetish outfit" and "boom squishing" my reaction is "really?". Just a data point.

I'm also not up to being able to tell the difference between girls being dressed up in frilly short dresses for men vs. girls with magical wardrobe powers choosing frilly short dresses because they like them.

Not sure if you're talking to the broad genre like 10 year old Sakura or just this show; in the latter case, calling them "little girls" seems problematic. Madoka and Sayaka are 14; the others appear similar ages (what's "third year", 16? I never got Japanese high school) but are unknown amounts older in lived time. 14 isn't adult but it seems infantilizing to call it "little girl", too; we invented the teenager category for a reason, after all. (And before that, such ages were often thrown into adulthood, willy-nilly.)

Re: a comment below: Kyouko got resurrected in Madoka's world, so there's some alleviation of the unfairness. IIRC they all did, but Sayaka got herself killed again anyway. Showing you just can't help some people, I guess.

Date: 2011-05-23 08:23 pm (UTC)
bell: a pair of red shows on a sidewalk (misc red shoes)
From: [personal profile] bell
Yeah-- I almost didn't watch the series because the OP and first episode felt so creepily moe. I'd promised I'd watch the third episode, though, and kept going because the plot became intriguing. I loved a lot of the series and cried buckets for Homura (who does get the selfish moments like "I'M OKAY WITH GOING EVIL AS LONG AS I'M WITH YOU", Homura ♥), but something was still kinda bugging me. I guess it was the "THIS IS NOT FOR YOU" feeling. I'm happy to take what I like and poke my tongue at the rest, but still. The creepy gaze is still there. :|

Date: 2011-05-26 08:21 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nyonyo.livejournal.com
Homura's selfishness is such quality selfishness that it really makes up for Madoka's total and complete lack thereof. I adoooore her. ♥

Date: 2011-05-24 12:35 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] canis-m.livejournal.com
"Ha ha, take that, fanboys! We got you lusting after this fantasy object, and then showed you she was a REAL PERSON and not a fantasy at all, and then decapitated her!! BET YOU FEEL REAL STUPID NOW."

You know, I totally got that message--I mean, it was clear that one of the goals of the show was to trick the (male otaku) viewer into identifying with the girls / thinking of them as human beings rather than (just) objectifying them--but you're right, I somehow didn't think of it as the message. I really like your read that it's the message.

deconstructing the moe stereotype of a mahoujo that has become a sex symbol for fanboys. ...Which...it just makes me angry that this is even necessary.

I hear you! It's so gross that this problem even exists. But I guess I'm pretty grateful that one cadre of dudes actually took the trouble to critique it.

You can't just be an amazing ordinary girl; it takes a god to make everything okay.

The implicit "you have to change the system (because working within the system will get you nowhere)" isn't a problem for me; what makes me sad is the suggestion that the only way to change the system is to become superhuman, as opposed to "Let's all stage a revolution together!" XD; Which is where I sort of vaguely idealistically wished the show might go, like, if Homura could get into a timeline in which all the girls pooled all their information. A girls' revolution (hi, Utena) that doesn't just hinge on a single revolutionary.

Basically, I can accept "it's not enough to just be an amazing ordinary girl," because when it comes to social change there really is a limit to how much one single human can do--i.e. "it's not enough to just be one amazing person alone"--and (sadly) sometimes it really does take a martyr. But the last word shouldn't be "BECOME A GOD," it should be..."organize?" XD; The Marxist feminist ending ahaha.

Anyway, thank you for this post! I'll add it to my list.

Date: 2011-05-28 02:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nyonyo.livejournal.com
On the rewatch I almost think that has to be the message given how weirdly selective the show is with its meta. You can tell the people making this show definitely watched the mahoujo shows that Did It Wrong: they designed the girls to look like they were stepping out of a show that Did It Wrong, they cast seiyuu from shows that Did It Wrong (or general moe shows) as a hook for those fans. (The last seems like a cute play on Evangelion's strategy where they cast popular seiyuu to reel otaku in, but then put them in roles you would never have expected.)

At the same time, you can tell just as much that they are fans of shows that Did It Right. Someone definitely read the Jeanne manga, as the choice to make Jeanne D'Arc a magical girl again hardly seems subtle (I vaguely recall Jeanne did *~magical girls throughout history~* first too, though that was kind of a throwaway, plus the general themes of BEING A MAGICAL GIRL IS PSYCHOLOGICALLY DAMAGING SRS BUSINESS and IN THIS STORY WHEN PEOPLE DIE IT'S FOR REAL and the all-important DON'T TRUST THE CUTE MASCOT CREATURE). The surreal architectural designs of the school seem incredibly Ohtori, witches have signs in their designs that seem very Black Rose Arc, and Homura's apartment design is completely shameless in being a visual combination of the Utena movie's classroom rotating chalkboards and the tower paintings that change. Homura/Madoka can't not be a deliberate homage to Anthy/Utena between their pink/purple designs and the ending. I'm kind of fascinated at the idea that the show is designed to have these characters at total odds with their environment, with the girls themselves and the world they inhabit having their inspiration lifted from two totally different types of shows.


what makes me sad is the suggestion that the only way to change the system is to become superhuman, as opposed to "Let's all stage a revolution together!" XD
Yeah, I get that. All of the girls clearly wanted so badly not to be alone, and it seemed kind of a waste that this didn't play into the solution more. I thought there seemed to be a disconnect between the girls didn't want to be alone, wanted to believe in friendship, but were isolated by the system, and then the show made it take only one person...so that the girls wouldn't be alone and could believe in friendship and could work as teams.

I agree that there's a limit to one person and that it does sometimes take a martyr, what I was going for was more that I find martyrs less compelling when the story doesn't really weigh their sacrifices, if that makes sense? Madoka's choice is tragic, but there isn't really any other alternative presented, either. Like, I get that she's mahoujo Jesus, but even actual Jesus had the agony in the garden? Madoka just sacrifices everything so readily and without second-guessing it that I find her sacrifice less affecting than I would otherwise. Granted, Homura is DO NOT WANT enough for the both of them, but still... When I'm crying at the end, I'm crying for Homura, because she's so human and it's so hard to watch her lose someone she loves that much. Madoka herself doesn't pull at my heartstrings.

Overall, Kyouko's death is really what rubs me the wrong way, I think. She is an amazing ordinary girl who starts out on the show as selfish, and then sacrifices herself because she wanted to believe in a world where mahoujo values are real, but it's all for nothing. She sacrifices herself for the same reasons Madoka does (she doesn't want to accept the system either when she decides Sayaka can be saved, she puts it all on the line for love and friendship), and her sacrifice gets to me because of how Kyouko is a selfish person who's been depicted as totally capable of walking away...and she tries to save Sayaka anyway knowing the risks. It just seems very unfair that Kyouko and Madoka both make that sacrifice but the ordinary girl just ends up dead while the god changes everything. I know that LIFE ISN'T FAIR, but this still bothers me given where the series ends up at the finish line. XD;

Date: 2011-05-24 11:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wingblossom.livejournal.com
IIRC the director has self-admitted lolicon tendencies, which is why people were going so crazy over the male gaze in the show. I haven't seen enough of his other stuff to evaluate, but he's not a stranger to objectification for moe value. XD;

I have to say, I really enjoyed this show--but it definitely doesn't lack its problematic elements. Mainly, I'm not sure how successful the bait-and-switch direction was in the end. On one hand, humanizing the characters is part of good storytelling, but wrt the deconstruction for creepy otaku...well. Other people have pointed out that despite the approach Madoka takes, a lot of these guys won't have a problem with fetishizing the content in the show anyway. Which is not necessarily the show's fault, but if your intended audience is too thick to get the point, then what does that even say?

On that note, I admit to being disturbed when I found out that the periphery fandom for CCS in Japan years back kickstarted modern moe/lolicon trends.

Date: 2011-05-24 02:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nyonyo.livejournal.com
Other people have pointed out that despite the approach Madoka takes, a lot of these guys won't have a problem with fetishizing the content in the show anyway. Which is not necessarily the show's fault, but if your intended audience is too thick to get the point, then what does that even say?

This doesn't really bug me that much since Eva's message backfired on it in the exact same way. XD; Ayanami has probably prompted more otaku to build shrines in their basements than any other character ever. I don't think that means Eva's message is any less clear or it was unsuccessful. If you do an otaku commentary show that uses the elements that obsess fans in the first place in order to draw the audience in, I think that outcome is really inevitable.

I see how Madoka's methods of bait-and-switch themselves could be just another kink to some guys and that is a problem, but on the other hand I also think they seemed to make a really calculated effort to make everything about how the girls looked and sounded (i.e. casting seiyuu from moe shows for maximum crossover appeal, Sayaka's seiyuu being from Precure) pull in a certain kind of male viewer at the outset. Now, once the word got out about how this was actually a show that killed off little girls in violent ways, you're gonna reel in a whoooole different audience with different kinks, but with marketing it as a "normal moe show with 'pure' mahoujo" and waiting until episode 3 to drop the anvil on the creepers who were tuning in to see a very specific type of moe that was being marketed to them, I think the show played its cards well.


On that note, I admit to being disturbed when I found out that the periphery fandom for CCS in Japan years back kickstarted modern moe/lolicon trends.

Yeah, I definitely feel like Sakura was patient zero in a sense, but then Chobits was like, "UGH CLAMP STOP ENCOURAGING THEM." T_T

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