Keijo!!!!!!!! Review

I loathe fan-service. The only exception to this was Kill la Kill, but with that series the fan-service was satirical. So when I started watching Keijo!!!!!!!! –I think I counted the right number of exclamation marks in the title–I often asked myself “What am I watching?” I’ve seen the popularity of the show in my anime blog feed so I decided to check it out. Well, I found the fan-service in this series rather painful. At times it was satirical, but most of the time it tried to titillate. The anime also features all the elements of anime that can get annoying when overused. And overuse it did.

For those who haven’t seen the show, it follows a cadre of girls as they attend a school dedicated to teaching keijo, a sport similar to sumo that requires the women to use their busts and butts as weapons. They race, as they call it, on platforms floating in a pool. Of course, that requires them to wear skimpy bathing suits. The audience, mostly men, gamble as the teams of women smash and rub against each other. At times, this becomes more sexual than athletic. The story involves the characters becoming friends as they train and face an opposing keijo school.

Okay, let’s start with what I liked about the show. I liked how the show focused on women without male influence in the story. It shows how women can be strong athletes. The sport of keijo pokes fun at sports. If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that I’m not a sports fan. The show pokes at how ridiculous sporting events can be and how much training it takes to be an athlete, even for a sport as ridiculous as keijo. I mean, baseball is a game that involves a ball being hit with a stick. When you think about it, its pretty ridiculous. I also enjoyed some of the comradery between the women. Finally, for a show full of fan-service, it features a variety of female body types, and all of them have what it takes to compete at the game.

Keijo is meant to be a comedy, but it joked without a smile. The show took all of anime’s tropes and stuffed them together. For example, the girls would yell their attacks, which all had silly names, amid seizure- inducing flashes of light. While the anime tries to pass itself off as a sports-anime at first, these attacks come straight from shonen action stories. You’ll see butts with spiritual demon dogs emitting from them, summoned butts filling the air, and other over-the-top attacks. All with names that try to be funny but end up making me cringe such as the obvious “Bust to Bust Attack” and “Vacuum Butt Cannon.” I don’t know. I guess I’m an old prude, but the early-teen humor grated. Some of the late attacks are downright painful. I mean, who would twist their nipple and breast and then let it drill into other? One attack that did leave me chuckling at the absurdity of it all used a hardened nipple to grab an opponent’s swimsuit and pull off a move from judo.

The animation style is well done aside from impossible poses. I have to give the series that. The animators took care to animate the softness of breasts and butts–too much care, but it’s understandable considering that is the focus of the show’s visuals. Again, the variety of female body types surprised me. Of course, the self-conscious small-breasted girl trope had to appear. For once I’d like to see a small chested girl have confidence and not care about her bust. Not all women “lacking” assets lack confidence or fret over their chests.

This pose is impossible. For a girl to pose like this, her spine would have to have to corkscrew. Scenes like this reveal how Keijo! focuses more on fan-service than on sports competition. It’s interesting to note how large bottoms have become popular in anime compared to anime from the 1980-2000. Consider Faye from Cowboy Bebop and Misato from Neon Genesis Evangelion. Oddly, this interest has allowed anime females to develop body types that come closer to nature.

Anime likes to take strong, female characters and make them less threatening to male audiences through fan-service. Perhaps it’s because my hormonal teen years are long behind me, but efforts to make female characters attractive by showing their skin does the opposite. Intelligence, inner strength, compassion, and virtue makes characters appealing. The most memorable anime characters I know of don’t flash skin or, at the least, don’t plaster their skin all over each episode. Balsa from Moribito, for example.

Keijo! is meant to be a fluffy, ecchi romp aimed at boys and young men. And it has many good messages–self-discipline, friendship, persistence, female-strength–but it leverages anime’s negative tropes to the hilt. Anime’s focus on female skin, silly attacks, and stereotypes hurts its ability to extend beyond its core Western audience. Okay, I get it. It’s meant to be fantasy and fun. I also like a fluffy comedy time-to-time. But the preponderance of silly and immature anime stories damages anime’s ability to be taken seriously in the West. Fans know it can achieve near literary levels of sophistication, but the market reacts to what people watch and buy. Western fans need more diversity in anime–yes, anime already has some diversity available, but it could use more.

Yes, I’m ranting a bit here. I enjoyed some moments of Keijo!, but it too often turned around and ruined those moments. That appears to be a trope of anime too. It can’t allow itself to convey a message or reach an apex of tension without interjecting something to deflate the blimp. Keijo! is pretty creative in its portrayal of sports and how outlandish sporting events can be. I mean, look at sumo. Two giant men crash into each other in an effort to push each other out of a sand ring. Keijo! satirizes the arbitrary rules of sports well. We forget that the games can be anything we make them to be. Well, all of that aside, I often repeat myself here on JP. Much of what makes anime anime also keeps it from becoming a widely accepted form of storytelling. I criticize anime because I want more people to experience the ability to animation to tell stories in ways live action can’t do. I want mature-storied animated movies to break records here in the States as they do in Japan. Until anime gives up some of its tropes, and the western community pushes for more mature stories, anime will continue to remain a niche genre, one subject to ridicule and misunderstanding. Stories like Keijo! have a place, but anime has far more potential to inspire and tell stories beyond fan-service and fluff.

The Hentai Prince and the Stony Cat

No, this anime is not hentai despite the title. This is a fluffy rom-com that centers on the antics of Yoto Yokodera, the Hentai Prince, Tsukiko Tsutasukakushi, and a trickster god. The trickster god lives in stone cats. When a person wishes on the cat and gives it an offering, the god grants the wish. Only the wish is not granted as expected. The god also gives any personality traits a person wishes gone to someone who needs it. Well, Yoto loses the ability to lie and Azusa loses the ability to show emotions. The pair work together to find the people who gained the traits wished away in order to regain them.

hentai-prince-tsukikoYoto becomes a larger perv without the ability to lie and filter what he says and does. This leads him to be called the Pervert Prince. Of course, he is absorbed in ecchi, dating sims, and splutters out his views of boobs and more. Most of the comedy centers on misunderstandings and his perversity. Some of the other antics works in other problems the trickster stony cat causes for the people around Yoto and Tsukiko.

Hentai Prince is pretty standard fare. Yoto is a pervert who is a nice guy inside. He eventually develops relationships with the popular golden hair girl, Azusa along with 2 more girls. Tsukiko’s older sister falls for Yoto through his lie of having a younger identical twin. Again, pretty standard harem fare. Expect the usual “oops I walked in while she was taking a shower” scene. There are plenty of flat chest jokes and references to Yoto’s porn collection. Yoto has zero pride or dignity. He often publicly acts as Azusa’s dog because he cannot hide his true feelings.

tsutsukakushi_tsukikoThere isn’t much else to say about this 12 episode run. The animation isn’t stellar. It often deforms for comedic purposes. Yoto is annoying. I find most perverted harem protagonists that way. Each episode had a moment that was amusing. Most of the time I found these scenes inadvertently amusing. Scenes that were not meant to be funny struck me as funny, in other words. Hentai Prince and the Stony Cat is alright for some light laughs.

I wonder if the pervert antics of this genre started with reality and started a feedback loop or if the genre influenced reality first. Judging by the perverse antics we see in American culture, I suspect reality (though at first limited and rare) started the antics found in these comedies. I doubt these types of behaviors are common, however.  Some otaku mistake fictional behavior for real behavior. Or make these fictional behaviors real.

I am not a fan of these type of comedies. That was the main reason why I try to watch them. So far, they seem to follow certain patterns and jokes: shower/hot spring scenes, the mistaken up-skirt scene, and other patterns.  I am not one to judge this genre of anime. I prefer serious stories. In any case, if you like fluffy lighthearted comedies with cute female characters who don’t tolerate a pervert, Hentai Prince might be one for you to watch. Because of the sexual jokes (there isn’t any real nudity), fan service, and other sexual references this anime is not suitable for everyone’s sensibilities.

Kill la Kill – Exploring our Relationships with Clothing?

Kill la Kill, Clothing Commentary?

I was hesitant toward Kill la Kill when I first started watching it. First, the style of the humor tends to turn me off.  The obsession with frantic humor is something I cannot understand.  Next, the level of fan service turned me off. The skimpy uniforms and creepy come-ons by the teacher Aikuro Mikisugi toward the protagonist Ryuko Matoi was off putting.  The environment of the anime was nonsensical.  Honnouji Academy was a school  that had special uniforms made out of a material called Life Fibers that boosted a student’s natural abilities to superhero levels. For example. a kendo student became an unstoppable sword master.  Of course, when the uniforms transformed they grew tiny and barely decent on the girls. To be fair, some of the guys also had this happen.

The story follows Ryuko as she challenges the leadership of the Honnouji Academy (the class president, not the principle) in an effort to learn who killed her father. She ends up finding one of her father’s inventions, a sentient sailor uniform called Senketsu, who gives her the ability to challenge the schools uniformed superheroes in duels. Ryuko stays with the Mankanshoku family, a poor family that provides most of the frantic comedy.

Kill la Kill - 06 -1

Despite the turn offs, I  stuck with Kill la Kill and was surprised by the layers the anime had. Aside from the interesting art style and compelling action sequences, the ridiculousness of Kill la Kill points at some ridiculousness on the part of modern society that we often miss. The anime was also self aware and pointed out how nonsensical it was.  Anyway, Kill la Kill points out several factors about modern society and media by taking those factors to satirical extremes.

Skimpiness in Clothing Equals Power

Kill la Kill - Power of Skimpy

Ryuko is constantly embarrassed by Senketsu’s (the name of her school uniform) transformation.  The uniform essentially becomes a tiny G-string with shoulder pads and a skirt that is barely there. Of course, this is animated with boob jiggle. However, this is a common trend among all the girls and some of the guys (excluding the boob jiggle animation) whenever they transform into their battle modes. This echoes a trend in video gaming where armor sets with the highest defense tend to have the most skin exposed. This is particularly true of female characters.

Next, it points to how much power sexuality has in modern culture. Everywhere you look are advertising with scantily clad men and women (mostly women) selling everything from food to toilet tissue. Even as Senketsu bares Ryuko’s midriff, you can see midriffs being used to sell ideas and products. A set of good abs is a powerful message of health, power, strength, and sexuality. Look at how many supermarket magazines focus on ab exercises.  Sex sells. In Kill la Kill, sexuality (in the form of uniform transformations)  is used to further political and personal agendas.

Later in the series, the main antagonist reveals her plot to fully enslave people to clothing. This is already done in our world by the proliferation of fashion standards and judgments posed on people by how they dress.  This brings me to the next point.

Clothing Denotes Caste

Kill la Kill Clothing Equals Caste

A caste is any group of people who are perceived as socially distinct from another. A class is a way of dividing people into sets based on a person’s caste. In Kill la Kill, the type of Life Fiber uniform a student wears determines both the student’s and their family’s social standing. At the top are 3-star uniforms. At the bottom are no-star uniforms. The no-star level are the vast majority and live life on a subsistence level. As you go up the hierarchy, families get richer.  Kill la Kill reverses how class and clothing are related.

In our world clothing reflects a person’s social standing, in Kill la Kill, a person’s social standing reflects their clothing. However, Kill la Kill’s world is actually closer to how we treat people. We tend to treat people in suits better than those in holey jeans and a ratty T-shirt. Never mind the fact that the person in a suit may well have no money at all and the person in the jeans may be a millionaire. Kill la Kill points out how how foolish these judgments are. In fact, by the end of the anime, everyone is naked. Social standing then comes down to personal abilities and character.

kill-la-kill Creepy Come ons

The anime’s fixation on clothing is little different from how we fixate on it. The anime’s ridiculousness points to how ridiculous it is to pass a snap judgment on a person by what they are wearing. In Kill la Kill, Ryuko’s uniform looks weak compared to those of the Elite Four in the school. However, her ability and character proves the snap-judgment wrong. Ryuko even goes beyond her uniform and challenges the antagonist’s power in her underwear. This points to how it much her character contributes to her ability to challenge the powers that be.

Kill la Kill has other obvious messages such as the corrupting influence of wealth. However, I found the satire and commentary on just how much importance we place on clothing (and the lack thereof) interesting. As an anime, Kill la Kill has its own unique style. The humor is not my cup of tea. The action sequences are done in an interesting and exciting art style. The hand drawn feel of the anime is appealing.  Although I didn’t care for the humor, it was well balanced with the action and story telling.

Don't be sure Ryuko

Ryuko’s relationship with her uniform Senketsu is interesting as well. It speaks about the love/hate relationship most of us develop with clothing and the meanings people place on what we choose to wear or not wear. Ryuko develops a friendship with Senketsu. In many ways Senketsu becomes a reflection of Ryuko’s character. This relationship points to how people relate character with clothing. A guy sagging his pants is viewed as less against a guy dressed in a crisp polo. A girl that wears a short skirt is viewed as a slut compared to a girl wearing a knee length skirt. Clothing is seen as a reflection of the person wearing it.

I did not expect Kill la Kill to have deep satirical elements.  Kill la Kill is actually a well put together action anime that pokes fun at itself and the modern world. It is a surprising look at things we don’t consider. Even if the writers do not intend this anime to be commentary, it still points to many issues of making assumptions of people based on clothing.


IS: Infinite Stratos

Infinite StratosWhat would happen if only women could pilot the most advanced weapon system in the world?

They would all attend a school where they use high yield explosives in sporting events!

Infinite Stratos (or IS) follows the only male in the world who can use these powerful mechas: Ichika Orimura. He attends the only school in the world where women train to use these machines. It is also the testing ground for the latest models. Yep, one guy in a school populated by go-get-em girls used to blowing each other up in competitions. Obviously this is a harem anime.

Why doesn’t anyone get killed from these competitions you ask? IS are equipped with energy shields. Once the shield is drained, the match is over…unless some type of accident happens in the safety mechanisms.  By the way, no one knows exactly why Ichika is the only one who can pilot an IS. It may have to do with the fact his eldest sister (and his teacher at the academy) is one of the best pilots in the world. The IS have ushered in an age of world peace because IS tech is equally given to all nations by its inventor and sister of Ichika’s childhood friend Tabane Shinonono.

Infinite Stratos MechaIchika, being the only guy, has to deal with the attentions of an entire school. Apparently all girls are out to  fight over a guy according to harem anime.

Infinite Stratos is pretty typical in the harem department. Ichika is a clueless brick when it comes to the girl’s advances…at least when it comes to those that matter. The cast is the usual, the childhood friend and love interest, Houki Shinonono; the Westerner elite girl, Cecilia Alcott; the other childhood friend, Huang Lingyin, and the mysterious quiet girl (who happens to be German), Laura Bodewing.

Antics involve the usual fare of girls fighting over who will date Ichika (in and out of the mecha) down to Ichika waking up beside a naked Laura who already “married” him. Of course, other antics involve sharing a room with a girl and other problems for a guy attending an all girls school.

Infinite Stratos Fan ServiceThe storyline felt tacked on since the focus was the conflict between the characters. It had to mainly do with some mysterious unregistered IS units showing up time to time. The IS did lend an interesting dynamic to the usual harem fights. The mecha fights were done in CG, but they looked nicely seamless compared to the regular animation. It is pretty much the norm for mecha fights to be CG anymore.

Infinite StratosThe fights were interesting and dynamic, but I wasn’t really surprised to find there wasn’t much in the way of actual danger. This is a romance story after all. Ichika, as usual for harem protagonists, was often annoying with how clueless he was. Out of all the characters I thought Laura stood out despite the limited screen time. She was different and interesting. Not to mention she was one of the few who wasn’t, well, top heavy. Large bosoms tend to detract from character designs much of the time.

There wasn’t any panty fan service luckily, but there was a fair bit of breast jiggle as the IS clamped over each girl when they were activated.

Being a harem, I wasn’t expecting too much from Infinite Stratos. It kept me amused enough to watch all 12 episodes.

Space Dandy Season 1

Space DandyI’ve seen a fair split in the anime community when it comes to Space Dandy. There is a fair bit of disappointment. Expectations were high. Space Dandy is directed by Shinichiro Watanabe, the creator of Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo. Many fans expected something similar to Cowboy Bebop. Space Dandy is not Cowboy Bebop by any stretch. The series is a comedic romp through space. Each episode is richly animated and disjointed. Space Dandy seems to go out of its way to avoid anything resembling an arching plot, at least in the first season.

Space Dandy aims to poke fun at tropes and conventions. Space Dandy (is a Dandy guy, in Space) loves a space restaurant called Boobies. He lives for the place and every Woolong is spent there. His job? Scour the universe for new aliens. QT (his vacuum cleaner robot pal), and Meow (a space cat) join him in misadventures to collect bounties on unknown alien species. He promptly cashes in (which isn’t very often!) by taking a trip to Boobies. Dandy’s goal in life is to visit every Boobies in the universe. Meow and QT are just along for the wild ride. Behind the scenes is a villain (?) called Admiral Perry and the Gogol Empire. Dr. Gel acts under Admiral Perry’s orders to capture Dandy who is somehow the key to the future of the universe. Dr. Gel’s spaceship is the head of the Statue of Liberty, complete with a ball gag.

Space Dandy - Sexual SuggestionsSpace Dandy is stuffed full of sexuality. Many aliens look….like certain female areas (see above). Boobies waitresses are pokes at fan service. I mentioned the ball gagged Statue of Liberty. Not to mention the series pokes fun at ramen, dating sims, lolita complexes, mecha, and just about everything else found in anime. It also provides interesting, subtle commentary about modern life. Meow is constantly messing around with his smart phone and his blog. QT is behind in his software updates. The show had me when QT displayed a battery icon on his face after plugging himself in for the night.

Each episode has a different art style. Aliens are designed by different artists. Every episode is spectacularly animated. Often psychedelic, Space Dandy is an animation feast. Rich, bold colors characterize most of the episodes. While the episodes sometimes fall flat, I found them all amusing.  Season 1’s best episode was “A Merry Companion Is a Wagon in Space, Baby.” This is where Dandy meets a young orphan named Adélie who is a cute handful. She will appear again.


meow-dating-simMeow is the stand in otaku if you haven’t noticed.

I watched Space Dandy without expectations. Sure,it was directed by Watanabe and animated by Bones. But, I wasn’t expecting another Cowboy Bebop or Samurai Champloo. Honestly, I would have been disappointed if Space Dandy was similar to either. I found the first season amusing, funny, and pleasantly satirical. Space Dandy had some surprising insights about the ridiculousness of modern culture hidden beneath its hijinks. Meow’s compulsive blogging caused no end of trouble. In fact, Meow is a good representation about our obsession with modern technology. He almost always has a phone, game, or other piece of technology in his hands…er…paws. The sexual elements of Space  Dandy are also poking fun at our hyper sexual societies. The first episode has Dandy philosophizing about which is better: a woman’s bust or bottom.  The trivialization and objectification of females in the series lands Dandy into trouble. It is a satire about female objectification in our own time.

space-dandyDespite how dumb it appears on the surface, Space Dandy (is a dandy guy, in space!) is a series that has many layers to peal away. It is a amusing, richly animated romp through Space that touches on satire and relentlessly pokes fun at anime tropes. It revels in what it is. Stirring controversy with anime fans almost seems to be the show’s intention.


Samurai Harem

Samurai HarumThe title of this anime pretty much explains the show. As anime goes, Samurai Harem is junk food. It isn’t very filling and actually doesn’t taste all that great, but I watched it anyway.

Samurai Harem starts with Yoichi Karasuma being sent out of the mountains by his father to train at a dojo owned by one of his father’s friends. In typical harem fashion, the dojo is ran by a gaggle of sisters without an adult in sight. Yoichi has never left the mountains. Much of the comedy centers around his first foray into a modern city and his first encounters with girls. Yoichi trained as a samurai in various “wind” techniques. He carries a wooden sword at all times (which can block even metal blades) and speaks in an old fashioned formal style.

Well, you can probably see where this is going. Yoichi is quickly labeled as a pervert through constant misunderstandings and antics that inevitably leads him to grab of handful of the many bathycolpic (an academic word for big boobs) girls and end up with his face between a girl’s legs. Honestly, the only attractive design of the girls was Ayame Ikaruga, one of the sisters. She was nicely proportioned (read: not top heavy).  However, her character was a bit abrasive; she was one of the best developed of the sisters because of her relative complexity.

Samurai Harem Ikaruga GirlsHonestly, there isn’t much to say about Samurai Harem. It is fairly typical (from what I have seen of comedy focused harems) and without much story. The main storyline deals with Ibuki Ikaruga and a promise made between her and a dojo student back in their elementary school days. It came completely out of the blue and felt contrived just to make the usually strong Ibuki into a damsel in distress for Yoichi to save.

Samurai Harem does have heart. The sisters care deeply for each other despite their bickers. Yoichi, despite his newly found perv-tendencies, has a compassionate heart. He tries to always do the right thing.

Samurai Harem is 12 episodes of mildly amusing antics. It isn’t one to go out of your way to watch. If you feel like eating lighthearted candy with a mildly amusing flavor, it is alright. Just don’t come in with expectations. Of course, harem lovers may enjoy the antics as a break from the heavier shows out there. The show amused me enough to watch all 12 episodes, at least.