Anime Is Getting Lazy With Its Meta

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If you’ve watched enough different anime shows to count them on one of your hands, then you’ve probably noticed that a lot of them are pretty derivative. Guys are always walking in on girls while they’re in the bathroom, or falling all over their titties; girls are always acting like they hate the guy and beating the shit out of them, even though they secretly wanna suck his dick–you know this shit. It doesn’t even matter what decade of anime you’re watching; you could be on Urusei Yatsura from 1981, and realizing that nothing has ever changed.

These jokes are so old, that the joke of calling attention to how stupid the jokes are, is almost as old as the jokes themselves. The other day I was watching a fuckin’ shoujo manga adaptation from the year 2000 and a girl gets walked in on in the bath and yells, “what is this, an anime?!” –you get the picture: shit is ancient. But the weird part, is that you get this scene in Phantom World where the dude tries to avoid accidentally groping a girl, and ends up with his face in her panties instead, and I’ve seen people with the nerve to call this subversive. What the fuck?

See, I know what it looks like when this trope gets subverted, cause I watched this 21 year-old cartoon called Gundam Wing, where the main character falls on his girlfriend’s boobs, and she just stares at him for like half an hour before asking him to get the fuck off of her. The tables are turned on the viewer here because anime has taught you that this scene is supposed to be funny, and that the girl is supposed to slap the guy in the face; but instead, they treat the scene like it’s really happening to these characters in real life; and it’s just kind of awkward and quiet, before the girl has a perfectly reasonable response. Then, just to make sure you got that they did it on purpose, they throw in this whole scene in the last episode where you get to see what Gundam would be like if it was just like every other stupid ass harem show; and it fucking sucks! Then the creators realized that even though they solved anime forever back in episode five, everyone was still making the same bullshit tired-ass cliches, so they released two entire godawful comic books about life in the Harem Gundam universe, and made a gazillion dollars off of their dumbass fans.

About a decade after that, a whole bunch of people who watched Gundam when they were little kids, but didn’t want to work for slave wages drawing cartoons when they grew up, invented a new kind of anime book called a light novel; and they were super excited to prove both how smart they were, and how much anime they had watched, by exploring the medium through its meta.

The first light novel that anybody read was the The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya; and Kyoto Animation was so excited after reading it that he immediately made an anime out of it, which everybody loved. Haruhi Suzumiya was about this girl named The Melancholy, who was desperately trying to convince herself that she was living inside of an anime, and that she was secretly god; without realizing that she was living inside of an anime, and that she was secretly god. Trust me, it make sense in context. Most of the jokes were about how even though all of the characters were supposed to represent anime cliches, and The Melancholy was convinced that they were anime cliches, the truth is that they were actually more complex and multi-dimensional characters who were putting on the facade of being dumbass teenagers in order to appease their autistic god. Trust me, it makes sense in context. Just like Grandpa Gundam, Haruhi also had a whole part where it showed what the world would be like if it was just some lame-ass slice-of-life anime; which also got turned into its own comic book and another anime series–cause fuck the entire concept of irony.

A couple of years later, this psychopathic sentient logo that reads NISIOISIN decided that it had to one-up Haruhi Suzumiya and create the most self-indulgent, asinine, up-it’s-own-ass monument to the concept of meta in human history; and therefore wrote the Monogatari series. In the first chapter of Monogatari, this weightless crab girl staples the main character’s cheeks together and calls herself a “tsundere,” which is a word that people had heard before, and therefore it made them laugh. However, the joke which NISIOISIN was trying to tell was apparently lost in the admittedly rather difficult translation–because the entire point is that crab girl isn’t just some copy and paste anime cliche. She’s actually a fully fleshed out character with serious trust issues stemming from her realistically troubled childhood, who acts aggressively towards the main character out of legitimate defensiveness; and then warms up to him after he proves himself to be trustworthy, before forming an official (if questionably functional) relationship with him early into the story. While bits and pieces of her personality do correlate with the tsundere cliche, the purpose of writing this line into the script was to draw attention to just how shallow and unhelpful that term can be when describing an actually realized character.

So Haruhi and Monogatari made a hundred million billion dollars, and pretty soon there was a huge tidal wave of light novel authors crashing over Japan, with everyone hoping to cash in on the success of this whole “meta” thing. Somewhere in midst of that maelstrom emerged the Little Sister show–one of the four horsemen of the anime apocalypse. At first, the Little Sister show was also about taking an anime cliche and making it realistic, by reminding everyone that in real life, your little sister hates you, and complains if you don’t constantly do shit for her; and that the only way to get back at her is by shacking up with her hot goth friend. The Little Sister show had a lot of fun things in it, but there’s this moment in episode three where the main guy falls on his little sister’s boobs, and it started sinking in that maybe this show wasn’t quite as self-aware as first thought. Then you fast-forward to season two and WHAT DO YOU MEAN HE BROKE UP WITH KURONEKO AND FUCKED HIS SISTER–I’M DONE, I’M FUCKIN’ DONE!

So now meta anime is suddenly fuckin’ everywhere, and all of it completely misses the point. You’ve got this scene in Saekano where the girl says to the other girl, “hey, stop practicing your tsundere act and get over here;” except that the girl is actually, literally a tsundere. They’re just pointing out that they did the thing that everyone else does, except they also want you to know that they did it. Give ‘em a gold star, A for effort, team, we did it!

That’s why there’s nothing subversive about this guy trying not to grab this girl’s boobs–because his face still ends up in her panties anyways. They didn’t change the basic meaning of the scene, they just called attention to the fact that they were doing it. It’s like if someone was pissing in the middle of the street and everyone was staring at him, and then he yelled out, “I’m pissing in the street!” And everyone was just like, “oh, well, at least he knows what he’s doing,” and went back to shittweeting. Just because that guy admits that he’s pissing in the street doesn’t make him a functional individual; and calling attention to the fact that you’ve put a bunch of stupid bullshit in your anime series doesn’t stop it from being stupid bullshit.

Now, this isn’t to say that it’s all bad. Last season we had this wacky, farcical version of a light novel about being trapped in a light novel about being trapped in a video game called Konosuba, and it was fucking hilarious; even if it wasn’t necessarily making some deep commentary on the laziness of anime writing. But I’m still sick and tired of all these goddamn light novel adaptations that people treat like they’re so fucking clever just because the author watched a bunch of anime and said, “hey guys! Isn’t anime totally like THIS!” And then literally did the exact same thing that every other anime does. Stop it.

6 thoughts on “Anime Is Getting Lazy With Its Meta

  1. Subversive? That scene was more like, ‘Oh, you’re a protagonist who doesn’t want to behave like he’s in a harem anime? Well, you’re in a harem anime.’

    It draws attention to the show being trapped inside tropes/genres/forms rather than having escaped from them in order to have an interesting perspective on them. It’s a lot less interesting than, say, a character’s mention of staging something as a play in Berkoff’s ‘Decadence’.

  2. Reminds me of how some ‘deconstructions’ choose to subvert a trope for the sake of subverting it even when in the context, averting the trope would be a much better move. Averting tend to come across as more natural while subverting tend to make the show look like a hypocrite.

  3. Are you me? Let’s see…
    – knows nothing has really changed in the anime industry
    – watches shoujo manga adaptations
    – has the same opinion on Neon Ge… I mean Gundam
    – thinks Haruhi and *monogatari are smart and work on a lot of levels
    – was fooled by the beginning of OreImo that it’s a satire of the imouto fapfics
    – likes KonoSuba

    yup, you are me.

    Bonus round:
    Haruhi and *monogatari weren’t successful only because they were smart. Actually, at least half of their fanbase never realized how smart they are. “I like Koizumi because he’s always happy and smiling, without a single care in this world, I aspire to be like him.” – this is an actual quote from a real living person.
    The joke in Rakudai is that it’s not actually a harem. Also I’ve seen a honest-to-god comparison with “A Requiem for Homo Sapiens”, so it also works on a little more levels than the run-of-the-mill light novel.
    Remember Zugzwang? I mean, NouCome? I’m sure the author of this can write something smart, but stuff like NouCome is what sells in Japan. They won’t stop producing such shit soon.

  4. Again, a great video, I really enjoyed it. Finally I could solve some issues, and I could fulfill my word regarding the support (it was via PayPal). Besides, one of my partners contacted you for an interview for our Digital Magazine Yakuza Webzine. That interview will be published very soon. Keep going, you are doing an outstanding job!!!

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