Five-Minute Anime: The Wrapup
May 6, 2010
Gotcha! We weren't really turning into Five-Minute Anime forever after all! Didn't see that coming, didja?
...Okay, seriously, it goes without saying that this event went way, way off course. I had the basic idea for it in place right from the start (my forum posts at the time back this up), but each piece of the event proved to take much longer than I expected. Honestly, I wasn't planning to go past a week! I was on a roll (by my standards) with the 5MBSG relaunch event, and I also wanted to do something special for our long-awaited one millionth visit. The April Fool's thing was just a distraction, something silly I was doing to keep that particular site tradition going.
I've explained at my LJ why I didn't just give up after a while. And frankly, as stupid as this whole thing was, I'm still glad I didn't. I would be much more frustrated looking back on Five-Minute Anime as a flop -- the third of its kind in three years -- than I am now, looking back on it as a preposterously overextended but complete event which accomplished everything I wanted it to.
That said, it's still embarrassing. The worst part, I think, is that I've wound up sending a message I never intended. The event as originally envisioned was about poking fun at anime cliches. But by letting it hijack the front page for this long, I've left visitors thinking one of two things. Either I meant it about going anime-only (not such a big deal as I always fool at least one reader, and after a while I added a warning message which left no excuse)... or else I thought anime was just a big joke, worthy of the most extensive mockery.
That's not what I think, of course. Most people my age or older were pretty freaked out by their first encounters with anime -- all those huge eyes and sweatdrops just came across as bad art, and the animation quality was about on par with cartoons 20 years old. I used to call it lazy man's animation. Some people never move beyond that first impression -- the news media and your parents, for example -- and while there is some truth to it, it's not nearly the whole story.
I watch a fair bit of anime (my better judgment would say too much, but what does he know?). What keeps me coming back are the concepts. Japan is a freaky place; anime writers come up with stuff that can blow your mind. I'm not proposing some theory of Japanese exceptionalism here. There's nothing about Fate/stay night or Hell Girl that you can't ever find in Western works. But the fact is, there's nothing written today at all that doesn't borrow or steal from the great literary works of old. What matters is how you use what you borrow -- and anime uses its influences in remarkable ways.
In short, I don't dislike anime, if anybody got that impression. Of course, I don't think it's perfect either. Modern anime lacks some of the old cliches, but it has weird and disturbing new cliches that are all its own. (Look up "moe" sometime... or don't, you'll be happier.) It's a medium like any other, with good that's worth enjoying and bad that's worth mocking.
Which means, of course, that it fits in perfectly at FiveMinute.net.
Back to the event. Right up till the last minute, I was hoping not to hit April 1st again. (Sorry, Wowbagger, I was serious about that.) In the end, I can live with finishing on the first; at least I didn't go past it. What really matters is that this mess is no longer hanging over my head like an albatross of Damocles. Until the damn anime thing was over, it was embarrassing to link to my own site. That's a bad position to be in -- your site has to be something that gives you satisfaction, or you're better off without one. Real life is more than stressful enough.
This was no picnic for readers either, of course. I was asked at one point during the event (ironically, while I was working on the last piece of it) to promise I'd never start another of these big ungodly things with no clear timeline. I understand the feeling, but I don't make promises like that. There's a line between businessman/customer and webmaster/reader relationships, and I've learned that the farther from that line I stay, the better. So I'm not going to set my bow in the sky as a sign of the covenant that never again shall I send a wave of anime to destroy the Earth.
But man, I sure don't plan to.
So! Enough navel-gazing. The real point of this article is to give you a closer look at the content of Five-Minute Anime -- not just because some of the targets were obscure, but because almost everything I posted was working on more levels than advertised.
The Top 10 Signs That You Wish Your Girlfriend Were an Anime Character
This list idea predates the actual event. It had been floating around in my mind since summer '07, which was when I went on the spectacularly poorly-timed anime binge that left me an outright fan as opposed to an occasional checker-out. The references are mostly general, but Mai-HiME and Mai-Otome get direct shoutouts -- no surprise since I got heavily into the Mai franchise during the aforementioned binge.
Since I wrote this list, I've become more aware that wishing your girlfriend were an anime character -- or rather, the reverse -- is a real phenomenon that some otaku take to very disturbing levels. I've alluded to "moe" already, but the worst example in my book is the hug pillow. Seeing those damn things at my comic store makes me want out of the whole geek business.
Five-Minute Sailor Moon
This was a ton of fun to write... but man, did I ever get stalled. I had large parts of the fiver worked out in my head way back in April. But the thing is, although I knew quite a bit about the show, it wasn't from watching it. I'd just picked up a lot of bits and pieces over the years. (I keep my bits and pieces -- photographic memory, baby.)
In the past, I might not have let that stop me. There were several Cheese fivers where I largely winged it. But I don't like to -- and failing to do the due diligence has led me to embarrassment before. (Remember Andromeda's "Ouroboros"? That Earth scene is funny unless you know the Perseid homeworld isn't where they go. A fan at SlipstreamWeb called me on it, or I might not know even now.) So I did a little reading -- episode summaries, manga and whatnot. As I did, the fiver in my head kept picking up more scenes I had to throw in. So that took half of forever, and getting the damn thing written took the other half.
I've discussed the content a bit at my LJ. Here's more.
Five-Minute Hell Girl
Hell Girl is one of my favourite anime series (three series now). I love it for the same reasons I love The Ring, and unlike the latter, it doesn't resort to cheap scare tactics. Enma Ai has become a mid-level anime icon, helped by the amazing voice of Mamiko Noto. But the show has a definite problem. Everybody likes the premise... and everybody wishes the writers would go farther with it.
Make no mistake, interesting things have happened over the show's three seasons. Secrets have been revealed. But it takes patience to get to them. Up until the last few episodes of each season, the big picture appears slowly, a piece at a time, while the rest of each episode focuses on the "damnation of the week". It's not like the American live-action shows that delight in stringing the audience along; Hell Girl always knows where it's heading, but it considers the anthology-style stories every bit as important and interesting, and it thinks you do too.
I try, really. They're good anthology-style stories. But even to a diehard fan, they get a little formulaic after a while.
That said, I fully recommend Hell Girl. The art and music will blow you away, and those bits and pieces of the larger story are well worth waiting for. The show presents a dark, strange moral outlook. You'll have to figure out the right and wrong for yourself, because Ai sure as hell won't tell you which is which -- she's just doing her job.
So go get the box set. I want it to sell well so we'll get the other two seasons, which are even better.
Five-Minute Mecha Anime
Okay, I'm just gonna say it: Mecha does nothing for me. Nothing at all. I just plain don't see the appeal. That goes for Western versions like Transformers too. It's a character flaw, I know.
If pressed, I think the main reason I'd give is that mechas push my suspension of disbelief just a bit too far. Magic is one thing; no rules of physics have to apply. And I like powered armour at human size, like Iron Man or Samus wears. But giant robots? Nobody with an ounce of sense would model one on the human body. Extreme size is hard enough to manage without handicapping the design team. Even if we grant the unknown materials that would be required to make a mecha support itself, they could be put to use so much better on... almost anything else, really.
This is not to say I can't enjoy mecha shows on occasion -- I just don't enjoy them for the mechas. I liked RahXephon, but its mechas are pure plot device, only there to look cool and force Ayato into his role. Kannazuki no Miko's mechas just give consequences to the character drama. Van in Gun X Sword is cooler out of his Armour than in it; it seems to exist mostly for the novelty value of a mecha in a Western show. But Macross? Gundam? Robotech? All my brothers got into that stuff, but not me.
So naturally, the genre was an obvious target.
Not too much to say about the fiver itself. Pilot 1 represents old-school mecha shows, Pilot 2 the new school that began with Neon Genesis Evangelion, and Pilot 3 the subgenre of "combining" mechas best known from Voltron. All mecha shows have government conspiracies. And yes, I just threw in Godzilla for the hell of it.
This Just In Special Report: Next Generation anime to begin and begin and begin
THIS ARTICLE ENDS! Very few people have found the ending so far; MaverickZer0 was the first to say so in the thread. I won't tell you the final page number, of course, but I'll tell you that it's practically given away in the article itself. I've added a go-to-page button to aid in the search. (And you could always try just paging forward over and over... heh heh...)
This article is a potshot at Season 2 of The Melacholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. I've gone into the reasons at the forum, so rather than say it all again, I'll copy that post here.
Now as for the article itself...
Five-Minute Seven of Seven
This is a fairly obscure series, so once again I did some explaining at the forum.
Of course, the real point of this "fiver" was to be the next step in my grand scheme. First Star Trek insinuated itself into the TJI, and now it was taking over fivers wholesale. This was always my plan for the event. I had hoped to involve other FiveMinute.net standbys and not just the Trek shows, but I had to nix that when the drag set in. (One idea mixed Doctor Who with a particularly weird choice of anime. I'm not saying which because I think I'll still write it.)
Some minutiae about Five-Minute Seven of Seven:
To wrap this up, here's a weird little coincidence. While working on this article, I dropped by the comic store. (My usual place in Ottawa is The Comic Book Shoppe on Bank -- highly recommended for both comics and anime.) And what should turn up in their discount manga section but volume 2 of Seven of Seven? I'd never found the manga of this series in stores before, and suddenly here was a volume for two bucks. I snapped it up -- one doesn't say no to fate.
Then I read it and felt vaguely dirty. Stick to the anime, folks. Grade 9 girls should not do this much fanservice.
The Top 10 Little-Known Anime References in Star Trek
This one's my tribute to the anime in-jokes in TNG. I read about them in Larry Nemecek's ST:TNG Companion, and so should you. Since TNG began in '87, the references they made were necessarily to anime we'd call vintage today, and so this list was a good opportunity to touch on some of the classics in my event. (There may still be an anachronism or two.)
That said, I'm a recent anime fan, so I'm mostly a fan of recent anime. I know most of the shows on this list by reputation or through checking out the manga. The exceptions are Excel Saga (priceless random-comedy show), Evangelion, and Pokemon, of course.
By the way, for anyone who didn't notice, the disclaimer has a Wikipedia link for each item. I figured everyone would get at least one, but probably nobody would get them all. After all, we're not an anime site... whatever unreliable sources like me might say.
Five-Minute The Dirty Pair
Ah, the piece de resistance! As soon as I came up with the blending-into-Trek idea, I knew The Dirty Pair had to come into play.
Of the various anime that Sternbach and the gang made in-jokes about, The Dirty Pair is my favourite. It's a bizarre sci-fi comedy about Kei and Yuri, the Keystone Kops of the future. They work for the WWWA, a sort of space UN, as Trouble Consultants -- special agents who solve tough problems. In bikinis.
Their codename is the Lovely Angels, but nobody calls them that. The massive collateral damage they invariably cause has earned them a different name: the Dirty Pair. Send them to save the crew of a falling space station, and make no mistake, they'll succeed -- but the station will explode, the debris will crush cities, the planet will be knocked off its orbit, and the commander will get kicked in the junk.
Even so, if they get the job done, they must be doing something right, yes? Not exactly. They're not really good at anything. In fact, being about 19 years old, they're usually either having fun with the mission or complaining when they can't. And they put way more energy into bickering with each other than into fighting the bad guys.
So how come the WWWA computer keeps recommending them for missions? Nobody knows. My guess is that it's figured out their real strength: luck. They always seem to have just enough good luck to save the day after their bad luck fans the flames. A Pierson's puppeteer would consider them perfect recruits for a trip to the Ringworld... as long as it wouldn't be needed in one piece again.
Oh, they've also got some kind of big mutant dog-bear-thing. It's called Mughi. It can't talk, but it's probably more competent than Kei and Yuri put together.
So there's your premise. Easy to run with, no? After toying with the idea of using Angel and Spike, I settled on Tucker and Reed -- it was high time for new Enterprise content. I tied it in loosely with my ENT-future TJIs. I had to bring in the Temporal Cold War. And other things snuck in from truly weird directions. The result is what you read.
The Dirty Pair remains an active franchise, both in Japan and here. There hasn't been a new anime in a while, but Takachiho is still writing the light novels. Meanwhile, Kei and Yuri can also be found in one of the very few original English manga series. It's not ongoing, but a new volume comes along once in a while. The writer/artist of most of them has been Adam Warren, who also wrote a pretty cool Iron Man miniseries recently. (Hey, didn't I just...?) Warren is heavily into cyberpunk, which is a good fit for the quirky universe of The Dirty Pair. Both anime and manga are well worth checking out.
That about wraps it up for the anime event. Oh, except for the two Easter eggs that nobody's mentioned yet. Each of them has been visited at least once according to the hitcounter, so they're not that hard to find. You can still be the first to post the code words, though. Satisfaction!
So what's next for 5M.net? Well, existence is a good start. To cement our return, I made a new site logo that finally restores VOY and ENT to their rightful place as cornerstones of the site. (We've had the NCC-1701 and Deep Space Nine there for years; I was in a hurry during the fifth anniversary event and asked a friend to whip something up. Been meaning to replace it for ages.)
Our tenth anniversary is next month, and it goes without saying that a celebration will be called for. I'm not gonna reveal anything about that yet, but it'll be good. In the meantime, I've got plenty of guest fivers to dig up. I also want to finally add some of my favourite recent shows to our repertoire. And of course there's still a season and a half of Enterprise I haven't done yet... sometime soon I'll do a poll and see what's most in demand.
I'm not promising anything. As I said, I don't do that online; it's not smart. But 5M.net is a part of my life that I enjoy, and I'm always getting ideas for it. I hope to deliver many of those ideas in the future.
Many more than this year, at least.
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