I do not like Free!

Even though there’s loads of half naked men…

I find Free! to be particularly problematic. It doesn’t sink (pun not intended) well with me for two reasons:

1) the anime feels like a capitalist exploitative venture in order to grab as much fujoshi cash as much as possible. Let us remind ourselves that Free! was not even originally conceived as an anime, it was a short commercial in order to display kyoto animation’s prowess at… animating things. It was solely due to the amazing response and feedback by audience that Free! has gotten the green light to develop from a lowly commercial into a full-fledged anime.

Firstly, there is little to no plot to speak of; the characters feel like typical anime character molds that has been lifted straight off tvtropes.com, there is no character progression, no plot complexity and just loads of gratuitous stripping which brings me to my second point:

2) It feels like an anime that was created in order for girls to gawk at a) delicately drawn muscular nudity and b) the bl pairings that was crafted so deliberately, it seems out-of-place and awkward to begin in the first place.  In this sense, I’m reminded of Mulvey’s theory of the male gaze: basically in film, women are objectified because men are in control of the camera, in ways that are voyeuristic and scopophilic (more on the male gaze on another topic.)  Wikipedia gives a good introduction: “(The male gaze) may linger over the curves of a woman’s body, for instance.The woman is usually displayed on two different levels: as an erotic object for both the characters within the film, as well as the spectator who is watching the film. The man emerges as the dominant power within the created film fantasy. The woman is passive to the active gaze from the man. This adds an element of ‘patriarchal‘ order and it is often seen in “illusionistic narrative film”. Mulvey argues that, in mainstream cinema, the male gaze typically takes precedence over the female gaze, reflecting an underlying power asymmetry.”

What is particularly interesting was that Mulvey mentioned that men can never be a subject of the female gaze, since the gaze is always already male. The females always look at herself through the eyes of man, which is why when she looks in the mirror, the female that she wants to be belong to the beauty standards that men wants. Man never wants to be made an object under the gaze, insists Mulvey. I wonder whether Free! would prove her wrong. In the name of capitalist profits, anyone and any gender can be made into a sexual object as long as there is a healthy demand in the market because I swear, few would watch Free! for the spectacular plot.

But if watching gratuitous shots of half naked men is your thing, go ahead. Free! in this case, seems to belong to a long-forsaken term that fujoshis want to move desperately away: yaoi. Yaoi originally stood for yama nashi, ochi nashi, imi nashi which meant, no peak, no fall, no meaning. It’s used to describe a subcategory of BL manga, usually of low-quality, which depicts scenes of men having buttsex with each other just because. Manga that depicts actual relationships, actual plot and actual characterisation are called BL manga in Japan. Thankfully, Japan has largely moved away from the production of yaoi to BL but anime like Free! just crops up once in a while I guess.


Magi Episode 7 – What Would Salvoj Zizek Say?

Well hello there.

Will be starting my review of Magi from Episode 7 onwards since I’ve started blogging after watching 6 episodes of Magi so far. Since I have not read the manga, the only spoilers you’ll be receiving is the contents of this episode.

Basically I was particularly concerned about how the idea of class and struggles are depicted in the episode. It’s a proverbial story/criticism on capitalism: the rich (bourgeoisie) monopolises all the resources while the poor (proleteriat) suffers in the most desolate conditions unfavourable even for basic survival. The lower class then strikes back at the ruling powers that oppressed them, a revolution is started and a communist, classless society is formed. According to classic Marxian thought, that is the inevitable conclusion of every single capitalist society.

Let them have chicken drumsticks!

However, what we’re having within Balbadd is not a classic revolution. Rather, a group of vigilantes are taking it upon themselves to steal from the rich and redistribute to the poor; kinda like an Arabian Robin Hood with genie powers. This vigilante movement (if this happened in the States, we would call it terrorism) have attained immerse support from the subjugated classes and they are seen as an symbol of liberation for bringing hope to a caste of people who were oppressed and neglected too far and too long by the ruling rich.

What is lovely about this anime is that it does not bother making simplistic sociological resolutions as such. In an almost Zizekian twist, Ahbmad points out that:

Looks a little bit like Zizek too…

Which doesn’t really improve the situation does it? As what Zizek would argue, the problem here isn’t the fact that the people in power are corrupt; it is the system which encourages people to be corrupt in the first place. Stealing from the rich or dethroning the powerful isn’t going to helpful if there is a check-and-balance system in place to allow the powerful to recuperate their losses such as taxes, in this case. Fundamentally, there is something intrinsically wrong with the majority of wealth belonging to the top 1 percent of the population while the 99 percent starve to death, working in order to privilege the rich. This is where much of the emotional ethos of Magi is derived of, because there is something about the labour exploitation and social injustice that appeals to everyone; whether this sociological dilemma can be resolved in a tasteful manner by the mangaka Ōtaka Shinobu remains to be seen.

And of course, what is another plus point of this episode is that you already see glimpses on how the rich are not portrayed simplistic as helpless, fat bumbling fools who can only whine about being robbed. There were definitely certain clues within the episode that revealed that there’s some scheme that is brewing underneath all the apparent helplessness. Perhaps the presence of the Fog Troupe also served to their advantage in a particular insidious manner, in which case such vigilante actions did nothing put to perpetuate and reinforce capitalist social structures that oppresses them in the first place.

On a less academic note, I’m greatly intrigued to know Alibaba’s role in all of this. The suspense build-up was artful, the plot direction and pacing was impeccable and the character cast (Sinbad and his white-haired boyfriend in particular) has been nothing but charming. My favourite moment has to be when Morgiana got tired of Sinbad’s sexist bullshit and actually called him out on it, something we don’t really see very often in anime. I’m really looking forward to next week’s episode to see a more angst-ridden Alibaba and why he had reached that particular state of being (probably because he’s pissed off at being cut off from like what, 3 episodes? I know I would be. XD)