Saturday, 23 April 2016

Is Konosuba misogynistic?

I watched the Winter 2016 season without paying attention to any anime related website or related source. After finishing Konobu I was surprised to see it as a favorite among many of my friends and people I admire and respect in the anime community. So let me first start of by saying I didn’t connect to the series as well as others. I thought it was a fun quick anime to pass the time. This high praise made me start to really think about how I feel towards the series. At a certain point I asked myself “Is Konosuba sexist or misogynistic?” This question surprised me because I am a die hard harem fan and have watched more harem anime than I can count. I write lengthy reviews on random harem shows that no one ever reads. I’m a guy who doesn’t consider myself a feminist. I’m for equal pay for equal work but I’m tired of the media’s frenzy over feminism and personally think many supposed “feminists” have gone too extreme and equate feminism with man hating. I am hesitant to even write this because I know I’m going to anger people, many of whom will scoff at the title and comment on how stupid I am to even question this.

Why Konosuba can be perceived as being misogynistic:

Literally every female character is portrayed as being dumb. I don’t even mean the main cast, even the secondary cast falls victim to this. The only smart one as the anime points out is the male protagonist Satou. When I say dumb I don’t mean not being smart it terms of understanding magic, I mean being generally clueless and lacking common sense. The female lead Aqua is said to have a low intellect, you see her leveling up water tricks instead of more important stats. Another female named Lalatina is a masochist and wants to be abused making her entirely irrational. Megumin is a witch who uses too much magic and needs Satou to carry her, there is a weak submissive female lich named Wiz, a thief girl who becomes a baby once her panties get stolen. In fact multiple females in the show are shown as being helpless and require Satou to come save them. They constantly beg and whine to Satou. There is not one strong female character.

The running gag is that everyone in Satou’s party is helpless making the team dysfunctional. It can be argued that this is the whole point of the comedy show, that is why it is funny. I give comedians a lot of slack when it comes to comedy. Personally I think it’s ok to be sexist in a playful manner but not in a way where there is apparent ill will to whatever group you are making fun of. If you look at Konosuba 90% of the time, the girls are the brunt of the joke. Even Satou the male protagonist constantly berates Aqua. When this happens over and over again at a certain point you begin to wonder if this is becoming misogynistic. Which might be why I was slightly annoyed and frustrated when watching the show. I got bored and tired of it. “Oh look Aqua’s being dumb again, oh look Lalatina wants to be abused again, oh look Megumin needs to be carried again.”

Since watching Konosuba I have watched a random harem anime called Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance and it made me confirm my stance on why I feel the standard harem treatment of women is different than Konosuba. I would say harem anime are sexist, you have girls inexplicably falling in love with the protagonist for no apparent reason. Females can be clueless or stubborn, even the standard strong female falls in love with the MC. But I could never call a harem anime misogynistic. I think a big part of why is because in a harem anime there is still a plot even if it is pretty thin and weak. Throughout the course of a harem anime you begin to connect and care for the females. You see their faults and insecurities, you see how they grow in order to rise up and meet some goal. You mostly laugh at the MC and not at the girls themselves.

On a final note this is all very subjective and your opinion probably differs than mine. My problem with Konosuba is not that it is sexist but that it is misogynistic. I do not believe that every anime needs to have a strong female, I think a lot of recent tv shows and movies have a strong female lead for the sake of having one. However in Konosuba the girls are all perceived as being dumb and in a country like Japan where there is a high degree of gender inequality, where you see females on japanese variety shows just there to smile and look pretty, it all becomes a little jarring. Konosuba is a comedy, a parody in fact so I get where they were going with this; but personally the gags got old over time. Maybe they are parodying the role of women in anime, but honestly I think that is a bit of a stretch. I don’t think the anime is smart enough for that, and if that is true it was never tasteful or clever. Here’s looking at you Succubus whore house and the gratuitous Lalatina bath scene. In Konosuba the girls are always the brunt of the joke, I laughed at first but over time it changed from being endearing to just being mean.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance Review

    Blade dance is an underrated harem that has its faults but counters by overcoming common issues within its genre. I have watched a plethora of harem anime and the bad ones usually have poor pacing as well as a lack of character progression. The question every director of a harem series has to determine is how do you balance the amount of fanservice and harem humour with actual plot progression. I have seen a number of other harem anime where a whole episode is spent on harem cliches. For example an entire episode could be spent randomly going to a beach while the world is falling apart. However in Blade Dance the director smartly puts the focus on the plot when needed. Each episode has a healthy dose of fanservice and plot progression to a point where I didn’t feel dissatisfied with either. I would say Blade Dance is about average when it comes to fan service. This is surprising considering the fact that the director Tetsuya Yanagisawa is also the director of Highschool DxD which is the epitome of excessive fan service. The fan service is not too extreme where it feels out of place. The only exception is after an intense battle where the protagonist becomes unconscious, wakes up and usually finds a girl in his bed. That happens a lot, but oddly it acted as a breather for the audience after intense action so in retrospect it does seem to have worked. And if you have to put it somewhere, it’s a smart place to put it. 

    The characters on the show can be hit or miss, both in the characters themselves and how a viewer perceives a character. If you look at popular tv shows with many seasons like the Walking Dead there are well developed characters who grow. In a harem show it is near impossible to provide adequate character progression to all the girls as well as the protagonist while balancing plot progression and harem fanservice in only 12 episodes. Therefore sacrifices have to be made. Most of the shows character growth comes from the female lead Claire as well as the male protagonist Kamito. This makes sense because they are the first characters introduced in the show while the other girls are introduced later. The sacrifice is that while the other girls in the harem are developed in term of breast size, they are not as lucky in terms of character growth. This is fine but it bothers me when one girl in the harem, Rinslet,  inexplicably is not there and randomly shows up when it is convenient. We learn nothing about her, even her personality is very similar to another girl in the harem which makes her entirely forgettable.

    I would say the protagonist is above average. He is clueless like every other harem lead, but he is not a wimp and is competent even though he is emotionally scarred. He is still an enigma both to himself and to the audience, we don’t know what exactly happened to him. However it doesn’t matter because we see his faults and insecurities and can see his growth. The real x factor is the female lead Claire Rouge. Either you love her or you hate her. For a while I hated her, she was whiney and possessive, her traits made her cute at times but at other times she was annoying. However by the end of the show her character changes completely. Personally I believe that actions and decisions make a person. At one point I was thinking, “Here we go again…” but surprisingly Claire makes the right decision and changes completely. Whether this change was rightly deserved is up to the viewer, but I thought this change was refreshing. Looking back her character was a foil to the other characters on the show and even helped to galvanize their own character growth. She literally talked some sense into another character a number of times. Both Claire and Kamito are similar in that they both felt alone, the person they loved abandoned them, but the two learn to lean on each other and others for help which I thought was a well executed theme.

    The show does have its faults. There are times when things just do not make logical sense or when a character seems to contradict themselves. They often seem to break the rules of the world it setup. The art and sound is average for a harem anime. The opening and ending became catchy over time but they are standard jpop tunes and are not exceptional. If this was a stand alone series I think some characters like Rinslet shouldn’t have existed. It felt like she was there simply because they needed a blonde girl in the harem. However this is based on a light novel so I think she had to be there for the sake of the franchise. Considering this fact, the ending while predictable was very satisfying. There are still more questions, the blade dance (battle) between different schools has yet to happen. Will the other girls in the harem figure out the MC’s former identity? What is this demon lord business? What happened 3 years ago to the protagonist and his partnered contract? The show exemplifies a director making the most of what he could in the 12 episodes he was given. I don’t blame him for not trying to fit everything in because it would feel rushed. It is satisfying because the central themes introduced at the start were brought full circle and resolved with characters who smartened up. It felt like the first book of a book series like Harry Potter, even though there is more plot to discover it ended on good note which made logical sense. It is unlikely a sequel will come to fruition but if it did I would want to watch it because I want to know what happens next. If you decide to watch this series you will be surprised by how fast the episodes fly by and how invested you become to the story and characters.

Story: 8.25/10

Art/Animation: 6/10

Sound: 6/10

Character: 7/10

Execution: 9/10

Enjoyment: 8/10

Overall: 7.5/10