Anime fandom parallel to hip hop: my “normie” perspective

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As indicative of my recent posts pertaining to anime in general rather than individual anime series, my intention is to build a solid knowledge base in anime. Although in part motivated by my novelty to the medium, I’m also genuinely interested in learning about it; I don’t want to just enjoy consuming anime, I want to be able to understand and celebrate the thing I love. And in seeking this holistic understanding of anime, I want to be able to explain and share this passion with others.

Myself prior to getting into anime can be described as a twentysomething student living in the Canadian West Coast who would use the word ‘fam’. I never went as far as using vernacular such as ‘mad ting’, but it wouldn’t have been so out of place among my friends, many of whom are rappers. Speaking of which, I would like to call attention to how prevalent the African American Vernacular English (AAVE)–and the currently emerging Eastern-Canadian/London patois popularized by Drake and BBK–has become in the North American popular culture; hip hop has undeniably been integrated with the American society, growing alongside America since its come up.

While this is sort of obvious, at least when you think about it, what fascinates me is how anime seems to be becoming mainstream as well, in the West. Although my personal subscription of media content is biased, I think noticing anime’s popularity is a reasonable observance, which has been especially noticeable in meme culture. And in my frame of reference, Porter Robinson’s Shelter signaled a groundbreaking assimilation of anime into the popular culture, which cemented my anime fandom that only really started (a month prior) in September of 2016.

A semester (4 months) later, I would be experiencing my first time following an anime season (Winter 2017), which–by the end of this week–I will be finishing 9 of the season’s titles. This number isn’t even including many older series I’ve also been watching and… I found myself asking why, as this is objectively a lot of anime. Well, you could say that I’m obsessed (aka otaku), but probably, this is just a phase. I’m not implying that I’ll stop watching anime–it’s too culturally and nostalgically significant for me–but the time allocated to anime will naturally decrease.

There used to be a time when I would listen to at least one hip hop album a day as I felt inspired by rap and I wanted to learn everything I could about hip hop. I actively researched for ‘classic’ albums that I should listen to if I wanted to understand the culture. And I seriously dove right in: I’ve rapped, produced, DJed, and right now I’m even running a hip hop club at my university. What’s crazy is that this only started (almost exactly) 3 years ago when my friend invited me out to Rappers Without Borders, the aforementioned student club. But even though hip hop has solidified itself as a major element of my life, it doesn’t replace people, relationships, and community–and it’s going to be the same for anime.

In saturating myself with anime for the past 8 months (and I’ve actually yet to be satiated), I feel a satisfying sense of understanding for the current landscape of anime. And in feeling this way, I also realize my separation and differences in perspectives compared to the people who have watching anime for years: my appreciation of the ‘moe’ sub-culture. Before some of you dismiss me–although, really, who cares–what I understand of moe is that it’s very difficult to define it due to how diversely it is being understood and used today. And so, in clarification, when I say moe culture, while still acknowledging moe blob, loli, and CGDCT, I personally enjoy its focus on relational aspects of story telling (although this is slice of life), and the clean, cute, and colourful aesthetics they usually entail. In music genres, moe is the bigroom of EDM (generic), trap of hip hop (over-saturated), pop music in general (good production)–and all of these things are easy to consume.

Now, even if I recognize this, someone like me who actively enjoys moe may be frustrating to many. Although I can try to explain my pickiness within the moe genres, I can certainly sympathize with this frustration: hip hop has ‘youngins’ who only listens to Lil Yachty, Kodak Black, or 21 Savage. No shade against them, it’s just that they represent the currently over-saturated and derivative (mumble rap) trap sub-culture of hip hop. But let me offer this perspective, in prioritizing togetherness, understanding, and celebration of the positives: not that we can even stop art from evolving, new fans of the medium are nonetheless new fans. There’s no reason to discredit them or worry about the medium’s demise, because true fans will always seek out for more, as I am doing.

But I’ll admit: I have not seen all the ‘classics’, and at this point in time, it’s not my priority to watch all of them anytime soon (my MAL has over 100 PTW titles). I’m talking abut Ghost in the Shell (I couldn’t finish it), Your Lie in April, Clannad, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Code Geass, Gurren Lagann, and the list goes so on. While it could be argued that the classics must be watched in order to truly understand the medium, I think having this reference (at this point in time) is relevant in reflection of how newcomers come into the anime fandom.

My perspective, then, is when I came to the fandom that was post-Eva, post-Haruhi, post-NHK, post-K-On!, and post-Shirobako. I came in and enjoyed the likes of New Game! and Gabriel Dropout while also enjoying NGE and NHK. I didn’t hate One Room, I didn’t think the Monogatari series were confusing, I agree with the popular opinion that FMA:B is great, I’m slowly watching Cowboy Bebop… and K-On! is my favourite. Compared to modern anime, I don’t particularly like the character designs of early 2000s like in Clannad. These are just some of the ways to describe my viewing experiences.

In hip hop, there is a fairly vague divide in what we call old school and new school, in which old school is now synonymous with boom-bap (Just Blaze) and G-Funk (Dre). The original 80s sound of hip hop is probably called ‘super old school’ or ’80s hip hop. New school is whatever is new, which is trap right now so I guess the stuff in the middle like early Drake and MBDTF Kanye are… throwbacks? I guess it really depends on who you ask. And if Kanye’s 808 is said to have influenced all following 808 focused productions, K-On! is analogous in having created the CGDCT boom that is still popular today. Or was that Lucky Star (and Man on the Moon: The End of Day)?

In closing, I find it incredibly interesting that hip hop and anime actually amalgamates in some crossroads. Lupe and Logic watches anime (regularly?) and Kanye, at the very least, appreciates anime. And in both cultures, music is a huge part of the medium, which is a big reason for me being involved in the first place–I’ve seen entire anime series just because I liked the OP. I also can’t help but love the intonation of ‘seiyu’ (voice actors) and their dramatic, syllabic delivery of lines reminiscent of rapping.

There’s also vapourwave, which stands at an interesting junction between the two, a genre which is the soundtrack to the meme culture, that has the sampling aspect of hip hop and in which many of these samples are from ’80s Japanese funk records. How did this come to be? I don’t know, but it feels somehow catered to me.

Thanks for reading, I hope you found my frame of references as interesting as I did thinking about it. To read up on other personal perspectives, check out Diary of an Anime Lived.


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Image is from K-On!

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Re: What’s the Matter with Moe? An Inside Look

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Previously, The Mary Sue argued that we should be critical of ‘objectification’ by ignoring contexts of characterization and treating anime girls as no more than objects in the first place. Now they want the community to be ‘critical about cuteness’, as they vaguely denounce the ‘adult male’ viewership of moe as misogynistic, and conclude that moe is ‘alienating’ for those who want to see ‘real women’ in anime, and not the lovable and hyperreal figures modern Japanese culture is full of.

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Linguistics of anime and moe

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(Note: I don’t have the necessary experience to discuss this topic myself, so I’ll be doing a meta-analysis on what has been discussed already)

A video by Geoff Thew (Mother’s Basement) called, “Avatar is an Anime. F*** You. Fight Me.” went to the top of r/anime today. But the focus of this video wasn’t really about Avatar: The Last Airbender as it was about discussing the changing definition of “anime”. I highly recommend watching it, but what the video discusses is the growing problem with defining anime as a “Japanese produced animated series”. Geoff starts his argument with Shelter, which is a music video that challenged the integrity of the definition in a way that has never been challenged before. Can we call the work of an American music producer (Porter Robinson) collaborating with a Japanese animation studio (A-1 Pictures) an anime? Moreover, what about the fact that what most people would consider anime are actually produced in Korea or China?

Digibro acknowledges this dilution of the term but makes a point that having a distinction is convenient for discussion. r/anime certainly agrees in having the distinction as it exists to “focus on the discussion of anime”. So then, the question is, “What Is Anime?” We’ll come back to this after we look at moe.

In his video, “The Evolution of Moe Anime” (which was posted just 2 days ago), Lewis (Anime Everyday) defines moe as pertaining to both a genre and an aesthetic, where moe is a certain characteristic and art style used in anime. My interpretation of this is that moe is a device used to invoke feelings of ‘cherishment’ and love towards what the moe aesthetic was applied to. Lewis suggests that this moe aesthetic has pretty much always been an element in anime, as far back as Astro Boy: the focus on facial expressions, the emphasis on innocence, and the marketability of creating characters that live beyond the screen. Lewis highlights the introduction of lead female characters in anime which led to an increase in female viewers in the ’70s, thereby pushing anime productions to include moe aesthetics to appeal to both male and female viewers.

Digibro has also released a video in which he discusses moe. Digibro, however, is more concerned about how the word moe has been used and makes a clear distinction that initially, moe referred to neither a genre nor an art style, but was a word to describe a feeling. Thus, in its initial usage, otaku would use ‘moe’ to describe the feeling they had for anime characters — as in, they would feel moe towards a character that they wanted to see do well and succeed. This is different from how moe is presently understood as “something that triggers your protective instincts”. Digibro concludes by saying that moe is a dead term that only exists now to be used derogatorily to describe bad “cute girls doing cute things” shows.

What I think is interesting about all of this is the lack of Japanese perspective on these terms and their usage in Japan. But, understandably, the focus of the discussion is the cultural landscape of the international audience of anime. After all, we are using the word “anime” instead of cartoons to describe the predominantly and initially Japanese medium in our discussions. The definition of moe seems to be continuously debated and disagreed upon, but I think that as language evolves and definitions change, moe will largely be referring to the aesthetic of cute character designs.

Geoff and Digibro agree that, as time goes on, the distinction between anime and other mediums will be impossible to make. Geoff concluded in his video that anime is a movement and that it influences the American anime that we see today (like Avatar), and that the future anime creators are being influenced by the what’s popular now. As I’ve said before, one of the reasons why I watch anime is because it allows me to affectionately revisit the cultural attitudes and feelings of my upbringing. What I think will be interesting is to see how the specific cultural values and relational hierarchies that exist in Japan and thus in anime will translate to other mediums.

On Moe and Kiniro Mosaic (2013)

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Because midterm season is in full swing right now, I haven’t posted anything lately. But since blogging is always on the back of my mind, I thought I do a quick post on Kiniro Mosaic and its second season Hello!! Kiniro Mosaic (2015), which I finished watching two weeks ago.

I also wanted to draw attention to the “Moe” category under the “Anime” category that I’ve created. Moe, as AnimeEveryday discusses in his video The Problem With Moe Anime, is an asthetic rather than a distinct genre. And moe is more than an art style, it’s an approach to evoking feelings of love and cherish-ment. And since I watch a lot of moe and cute girls doing cute things anime anyways, I thought I try to specialize in highlighting and understanding the moe aesthetic.

Having said this, Kinmoza (from Studio Gokumi) is probably the most “pop” moe anime out there. What I mean by pop is that it is familiar, mainstream, and is well produced — just like pop music. And while this also usually means generic, I didn’t think that this aspect hurt Kinmoza. If you watch the PV (promotional video), you’ll understand that Kinzoma’s intentions were just to be cute for the sake of being cute. And with this expectation, the audience got exactly what they were promised.

Moreover, I want to recognize Kinmoza’s visuals for being one of the most accessible and iconic CGDCT series. Iconic in a sense that Kinmoza is what I think of when I think of cute anime, and I think that a lot of others will agree. Even with its cliche premise about the friendship of 5 girls who attend high school together, Kinmoza’s story feels authentic because it comes to its own. Here are some thoughts that I had about the show:

  1. Kinmoza is like the hallmark of being cheerful, energetic, and affectionate in a moe anime. It shows that doing everyday life things can be fun when you do them with your friends, and all of this is executed very well.
  2. The show has 2 characters from England, and this is an interesting addition to the plot of the show. The challenges that they face in adapting to the new environment, learning a new language, and missing home was something that I could relate to.
  3. One aspect of the show that I thought was weird/racist was in the portrayal of Western culture. For example, one of the girls from England wore a Union Jack sweater all the time and the MC was seriously obsessed her friends’ blond hair. Nothing was particularly offensive but it was interesting seeing “white culture” be stereotyped and blond hair be objectified.
  4. Some of the show’s funniest moments come from the seiyuu of the blond girls trying to speak English like its their native language. Genuinely cute and hilarious.
  5. I remember feeling fairly annoyed in one or two of the earlier episodes because the MC had such an insecure jealousy over her friend. It was too much drama and misunderstandings. But the rest of the show wasn’t like this.

There isn’t much else to talk about in terms of the plot or characters in Kinmoza because the point of the show for me was to enjoy its moe aesthetics and character interactions. Like I said, it’s “pop”. But with nothing glaring to complain about, and also for being one of the most typical yet iconic CGDCT slice of life anime, I would give both seasons a high 7/10.


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Image is from Kiniro Mosaic

First thoughts on Urara Meirochou (2017)

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(Note: This post was written after watching just the first episode)

Urara Meirochou is a 2017 Winter season anime from J.C.Staff. Quite frankly, I decided to watch this series because it looked cute asf. But what added to my anticipation waiting for the series to start was when I checked that Urara’s source was 4-koma manga. Some of my favourite anime have been adapted from 4-koma manga (like K-On! and New Game!), and so I was hoping that Urara would be another good one. Settings wise, this is a standard moe narrative involving CGDCT (cute girls doing cute things).

The strange thing is, however, for a CGDCT anime, I thought that I felt some dark implications in its tone. For one thing,  Urara had a rather muted colour palette instead the bright, poppy, and cheerful colour palettes I’ve comes to expect from modern anime like New Game! or Konosuba. Not only this, I thought that the leaf reading and kokkuri scenes were actually trippy and fairly serious in tone compared to its contemporaries dealing with magic and spirits.

I’m having a hard time putting this feeling into words at the moment but the vibe of Urara is strangely reminiscent of 2000s era anime in that it has an “earthy” feel to it. On top of the colours, the outlines are more in sketches than clean and minimal lines that are stylistic of modern anime. And just… how shall I put it, the plot feels more like a shonen anime than a moe anime — there is adventure waiting to be had.

There was some ecchi too. And I couldn’t believe that they somehow brought ecchi into an anime depicting 15 year old girls. But although it’s obviously catering to a certain audience, I kind of appreciated the playfulness of it rather than straight up ecchi fanservice. Feral is apparently the new savage.

Towards the end of the episode, it seemed like the writers needed to force the plot into the 20 minute time frame, because all of a sudden, there was this cliche ecchi scene involving skirts and a rather noticeable background music shift. But I would have to say that this was the only time the story’s immersion broke.

Overall, I think this will be one of the more popular anime of this season due to how cute it is. I’m looking forward to watching more of it.

Edit:  My roommate Edward got back to Vancouver just a few days ago, and we decided to kick this year off with Urara’s pilot. Cheers to another fun year of watching anime together!


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Image is from Urara Meirochou