Winter 2014 – Week 12 in Review

Fell behind on basically everything this week because of Anime Boston, so I’m struggling to catch up as fast as I can. Of what I have watched, well…

Kill la Kill 23: Another reasonable episode this week, propped up by a hell of a lot of beautiful frames and some legitimately solid work in concluding Ryuuko and Satsuki’s arcs. As I said last week, they kind of had to shoehorn in an arc for Satsuki, but Ryuuko’s actions this week were actually well-chosen – she ended up concocting a plan that required her to play dead and then ignore her mother completely, pretty handily demonstrating she’s gained a little self-awareness and self-control. That was pretty satisfying to see, and the rest of the episode did what Kill la Kill always does best – beautiful, ridiculous spectacle. This show’s lack of any real thematic weight and uneven character work is kind of dampening my ability to care about the stuff happening, but it’s certainly happening as hard as it possibly can.

Actually, let’s dig into that a little bit more, because it’s something I’ve been thinking about on my own a lot recently. I don’t care about Kill la Kill. I think its ideas are slapdash and irreverent to the point of almost mocking the idea of thematic coherence, I think its narrative structure basically fell apart in the second half, I think it’s full of cheap, meaningless fanservice, and I think all of its characters are simplistic and often inconsistent devices. I actually kind of wanted Ryuuko to die this episode, because I think she’s both a bad character and an unpleasant person. And while I can applaud the visual execution, how much can I say that’s really worth in the absence of any investment? I mean, it is an aesthetically impressive show – its direction is excellent, its aesthetic is distinctive, its music and shot-to-shot pacing are top notch. I’m stuck in the position of wondering how to evaluate a show that’s good at basically everything I don’t care about and none of the things I do. What number do I assign that?

Kill la Kill

Samurai Flamenco 21: “But once evil was gone, there wasn’t a need for Samurai Flamenco anymore.” Untrue. Absolutely untrue. And that’s the whole point of the show, really. We don’t need heroes to vanquish evil. Evil’s a constant, evil’s a part of us, evil’s a fact of life. No, we need heroes because we need heroes – we need people we can absolutely believe in, to inspire us and make us strong. We need role models, we need champions, we need targets of love and faith and obsession and hope. We need to feel there is something greater than us, something that will never give up, never surrender, never die, never accept evil. As children we may want to become this thing, but even as adults we know faith is real. It’s powerful and dangerous, but also inescapable and capable of great things.

Sorry, at this point, pretty much every episode of Flamenco has me furiously drafting my upcoming review. It’s ending so well! Completely astounded that Flamenco actually found a way to tie all its concepts together.

Samurai Flamenco

Sekai Seifuku 11: Another great episode in what’s now apparently just Sekai Seifuku’s default mode – whimsical, melancholy, endlessly endearing family drama. This episode drew all sorts of direct, piercing parallels between the leadership styles of Kate and Asuta’s father, and the ending proved the worth of Kate’s system – Asuta finally found the confidence to seek out who he really is in the company of those who accept him. All the stuff about masks and identity has really boiled down to another reflection of what family really means – you don’t need a mask with your family, because they love you for who you are. This has always been the Winter ’14 show with the greatest potential, and seeing that potential realized has been a real treat.

Sekai Seifuku

Log Horizon 25 (COMPLETE): For a finale that was really more of a second season bait, this episode was actually surprisingly satisfying. Even more surprising for the fact that the conflict brewing over the last two episodes just kind of fizzled in the first five minutes, with the rest of the first half being dedicated to romantic drama that clearly won’t pay off until whenever the series decides to start wrapping up. Yeah, it was all the second half here – Shiroe’s confrontation with the ruler of the West was a satisfying climax to his season-long quest for purpose that featured Log Horizon’s writer at his socially-focused, cynical best while providing ample bait for future conflicts. There’ve been weak stretches throughout, the production has rarely been more than serviceable, and the writing has clear strengths and weaknesses, but Log Horizon was an enjoyable ride that I’ll be happy to see coming back. Solid 6/10.

Log Horizon

Space Dandy 12: Normally, when I don’t like a Space Dandy, I can at least say “well, that was probably fun for the visual people.” This episode wasn’t visually impressive, and really just felt like a mediocre western daytime cartoon, so… yeah, not the best.

28 thoughts on “Winter 2014 – Week 12 in Review

  1. “I mean, it is an aesthetically impressive show – its direction is excellent, its aesthetic is distinctive, its music and shot-to-shot pacing are top notch. I’m stuck in the position of wondering how to evaluate a show that’s good at basically everything I don’t care about and none of the things I do.”

    Though I don’t agree with this evaluation of the show (KLK sux), I think visual aesthetics are 100% important in a fundamentally visual medium like animation. IF klk was actually well-directed (it ain’t), and careful attention had gone into the composition of shots, then weak “writing” wouldn’t matter. Images tell stories just as much as words.

    • I agree to a certain extent, but weak writing is weak writing. Anime is a visual medium, but also a narrative one, and I feel that outside of purely atmosphere-based shows (which are extremely rare), you need solid writing fundamentals to make an excellent show.

    • The direction’s fine as long as you’re not demanding any great deal of subtlety. Hang on, that’s misleading. The direction’s fine as long as you’re not looking for the show to portray anything small. With a few exceptions, the show’s been uniformly big: Big events, big feelings, big gestures. As a result, the show is very visually loud. (Wagnerian? Weird comparison, should probably rethink.) It does show some degree of subtlety, but that’s mostly in getting the visuals to portray all of the various loud elements without making them lose harmony.

      • @ Ernie: KLK fails to be a good “big” anime, and I say this as someone who loves big and boisterous stuff. The action cinematography is really poor, the fights are these weightless clashings of “epic” poses with flash-tier animation, the combat itself is conceptually unimaginative despite the potential uniqueness of the setting. Imaishi was basically in autopilot ‘steal from Dezaki/Go Nagai mode’ for the show’s duration (like he always is). And unlike TTGL, Nakashima’s script does very little to unify the narrative and visual elements. The “fashion=fascism” analogy from the beginning of the show, that could’ve given more semiotic weight to the visuals, was never really developed in the same way “spiral power” was in TTGL. It’s the anime equivalent of a headache; sound and fury, signifying nothing. I don’t even like Wagner all that much but that comparison is insulting imo.

        If you want big and loud, there are much better anime/manga than KLK. Go Nagai’s shit wasn’t this incompetently made, and despite being bombastic Nagai used visual design to convey interesting and relevant ideas. KLK is just chum for 4chan/tumblr/reddit nerds, the Madoka Magica of 2013 if you will.

        @Bobduh: I don’t think these conceptions of “writing” and “direction” are all that helpful. Elements of the “direction” are part of the “writing”, and vice versa. It’s better to take a formalist and holistic interpretation of a work, rather than segment its constituent parts off.

        • Obviously the visual and written elements are linked, but you were the one who proposed an entirely visually-focused evaluation of anime, which I disagree with. I’m not sure where formalism come into that discussion.

      • @Bobduh: I should be clearer. The “writing” is itself a visual element, and part of the aesthetic whole. You’re watching images, not reading words off a page. Writing as such doesn’t apply. Things like characters, dialog, plot structure, etc. are manifested primarily in filmic form. Hence why I think it’s valuable to look at things through their formal constituents, rather than impose external standards (in this case, literary) where they may not apply.

        • I just fundamentally disagree, I guess. I think approaching virtually any show from a literary standpoint is a perfectly valid perspective. It’s not the only valid perspective, and obviously different shows have different priorities and thus reward different perspectives, but I feel the idea of evaluating shows from a nebulously defined “non-external standard” (which I don’t think really exists, which is why formalism is largely discredited as a school of criticism) is just going to result in not acknowledging the frames and limitations of your perspective.

          That’s not to say the cumulative effect of all the show’s choices shouldn’t be taken into account, of course.

      • @tamerlane

        ” KLK is just chum for 4chan/tumblr/reddit nerds, the Madoka Magica of 2013 if you will.”

        First of all, are you implying the PMMM “is just chum”? I’m pretty sure PMMM has much more than just sound and fury.

        My opinion on KLK is that it’s fun. Sound and fury is entertaining, my favorite video games are sound and fury (Devil May Cry), unless you want to get into the technicality of game-play. I don’t think most people are treating KLK as conveying interesting and relevant ideas.

        KLK is chum-bait. It’s also really good at being chum-bait.

        As for action cinematography, that’s pretty much because Trigger is about the defense/justification of cool for the sake of cool, which is antithetical to the values of cinematography. In essence, Trigger is about Bay-hem (though illustrated with hackneyed animation instead of 9 figure CGI budgets, which arguably clearer at describing scenes).

        We’re not really given a reason to care about said action, which is a legitimate failing, but at the same time, if someone wants to ignore it and watch it for the same reason people like watching stuff blow up in slow-mo, they can.

        “You’re watching images, not reading words off a page. ”
        A page of words IS an image. They get processed by the same part of the brain (and handed to several other parts). There’s also the matter of audio… (narator)
        “Things like characters, dialog, plot structure, etc. are manifested primarily in filmic form.”
        I thought film included writing.
        Also, when most people say visuals, they don’t mean the contents of said image (which could very well include plot elements and such), but how said image is rendered. Your plot could have a gun. The visuals would be if that gun is just a blocky L, a poptart eaten in a specific manner, rotoscoped, hatch-shaded, or 3D rendered and raytraced (course these are just surface elements, but that’s because it’s easier to describe in words).

        While yes the visuals and writing are related (you couldn’t really have giant robots unless the plot involved giant robots), but it’s not that hard to talk about them seperately.

      • I’m starting to hate the wordpress reply structure.

        @ChaosBloodterfly: The issue of why Madoka is bad is a wholly different issue. Madoka is chum for entirely different reasons than why KLK is. The only similarity is the reaction by otaku communities.

        You don’t seem to be getting what I’m saying. KLK isn’t fun. It isn’t cool. And it fails at being good sound and fury. The script is shitty too, don’t get me wrong, but the action scenes are ineptly made by any metric. There is no rhythm to the fights as characters power up and get destroyed just as quickly. The action is conceptually uninteresting, with characters flailing at eachother with no differentiation in combat. Like occasionally a good piece of background art will pop up for a still, but the majority of the backgrounds have this low-res gray PS2 quality about them. The key animation is generic and uninspired, worse than fucking Panty and Stocking even. Like, what are you thinking of when you call KLK’s action cool?

        Your neuroscience is bunk. Writing is processed in different parts of the brain than images, even if the letters themselves are fed through the visual cortex (going down this route is pointless in any case since the functions of visual processing are themselves compartmentalized in the visual cortex). Although it doesn’t seem like you disagree with me. I argued “writing” manifests itself primarily through filmic form (ie “how said image is rendered”). What I’m arguing against is when people use narratological structure alone as a barometer for “good writing”. This often entails abstracting the work beyond its context. If you read the wikipedia entry description of NGE it sounds really dumb, but the execution via visual aesthetics makes it not. If Bobduh thinks KLK is well-directed and considers the visual design to be deliberate, then it follows that he should have no problem calling it “well-written” (that is to say, “well-constructed”). Since there is some hesitation to call KLK “well-written” by a subset of the fans, maybe that means they think KLK isn’t well-directed? Food for thought.

      • this is in response to Bobduh’s comment, which for some reason didn’t appear at the bottom of comment chain.

        I’m not talking about “non-external” standards; I’m talking about evaluating the work itself via close-readings and attention to formal properties, rather than a generalized representation which has little relation to the work itself (that is, KLK on paper versus KLK as it actually is). This is often what these narratological analyses end up being: in the NGE example, the character of Shinji is somewhat cliche and uninteresting if we’re discussing him in the abstract, but the way the show presents his problems through mise en scene and clever editing makes the character “writing” better. On the flip side, Madoka on paper sounds much better than how the work actually expressed and pursued its themes. Formalism as an explanation for the history of art is discredited, sure, but as a tool for analysis it is alive and well. In fact, it’s pretty much impossible to do rigorous analysis of art without it.

        It’s disingenuous to imply that because I advocate one method of analyzing works that I don’t understand its limits. On my blog I include contextual information and broader interpretive readings in addition to analysis of cinematic form. If a show is well-constructed, with deliberate visual design, then such a show will have literary themes and thus be “well-written”: That’s all I’m saying. The alternative would be like judging a novel based on its premise, rather than how it’s written. My view here is not the ultraconservative formalism you think I’m espousing. It’s more like “Don’t relegate formal properties to insignificance”.

        • (My advice concerning the comments: hit the closest “reply” button in a new tab. Then open the comment that you want to reply to in a new tab. (right click on the timestamp) Replace the comment number (in the url) in the reply tab with the number in the comment tab.)

          Isn’t this discussion dependent on the definition of “writing?”

          My impression is that most people here are operating off of a vague and broad definition of “writing”
          that is responsible for many of the visual elements, not just the things that are on paper or in the abstract.

          That is, someone conceived of, or “wrote,” lots of personality traits and characterization, which Anno then interpreted into visual cues to portray said “writing.” Said “mise en scene and clever editing” fall under direction, but the content which they represent, the character interpretations we draw from the scenes and editting, fall under writing.
          In other words, the “writing” encompasses the things that remain universal between cross-media adaptations of the same story, the things that each medium is meant to illustrate through their own unique advantages. Hence why people can write excellent NGE fanfiction that evokes the same characterization of Shinji, even though the processing of text vs. images is different, and achieving the same effect of “mise en scene and clever editing” within text takes drastically different techniques.

          Therefore, under this particular definition, good direction without good direction can exist in that the visual cues are very effective at portraying a certain something to interpret, but those interpretations don’t add up to something more than the sum of their parts. (e.g., Bobduh’s descriptions of his experience with KLK) For most people here, it seems that well-constructed =/= well-written, as seen in Bobduh’s SAO write-ups, episode 3 in particular. Its craft (construction) did well enough in portraying its intent, (writing) but its intent wasn’t that good to begin with.

          • Ugh, so many typos.
            “That is, someone conceived of, or “wrote,” lots of personality traits and characterization” –*for Shinji
            “achieving the same effect” –The specific techniques are unique to each medium fall under direction, but the ultimate effect, independent of medium, fall under writing. (Again, under the definition of “writing” I perceive most of us are operating under. The merits of this definition are open to discussion.)
            “good direction without good *writing can exist”

      • thanks arbitrary_graey for the reply tips

        I think you’re description of “writing” is accurate. What made this discussion confusing is we are discussing the merit of something. Evaluative claims, like “KLK is well-constructed” or whatever, must necessarily be based in evaluating direction just like you would judge a poem based off it’s meter and use of language. Whether something is a good work of art depends on its craftsmanship basically. But we can discuss the writing of KLK without regard to that. It just wouldn’t enter into a discussion of the merit of the work. A good director would take bad source material and turn it into something good, and oftentimes the most auteurist directors in anime work closely with the screenwriting process.

        What makes this conversation more confusing is I’m arguing Bobduh should be fine with saying KLK is a good show based on its direction, even though personally I think the show is bad. Confusing shit.

        • “Whether something is a good work of art depends on its craftsmanship basically.”

          Not sure about this. There’s a reason why there are sayings and such about style vs. substance, polishing turds, objectivity vs. subjectivity, and the existence/merit of “soulless craft vs. messy art” or whatever.
          Evaluative claims like “KLK is a well-constructed show” are drastically different from “KLK is a good show” because the latter standard, “good,” is so much vaguer and dependent on individual tastes than “well-constructed.” (good for whom? good for what?) To argue that the former qualifies the latter (“Bobduh should be fine saying KLK is a good show based on its direction”) is a discussion over the standards of criticism, in which case you should check out these previous posts on the subject: 1, 2, 3

          The dilemma is in how to distill all of these complex factors into a single score, especially when you take into consideration how other people are going to consume and interpret that score, with their own complex standards of criticism. Is the score meant to represent the critic’s personal enjoyment of the show, and thus strictly follow their personal standards? How much should they acknowledge standards that others laud, but don’t personally hold for them?

          I think this conversation is especially interesting in light of some of the articles I’ve been linked through Bobduh’s twitter feed concerning the weight that should be given to craft in criticism, this one in particular. Because while I nod and agree about the merits of critics teaching the masses about why a certain storytelling is effective, I am also more likely to be engaged in a fandom way in storytelling that offers stronger “writing” than craft-for-craft’s-sake, even if I acknowledge that the latter may have more artistic merit than the former, based on craft evaluations. See the way due to Sturgeon’s Law, the very best of transformative works like fanfiction will come out of the largest fandoms like Harry Potter/Naruto/Marvel Cinematic Universe, despite the arguably and relatively low level of craft within the source material. Shouldn’t that power to inspire also be given weight in the evaluation of a piece of media? If a show manages to move me despite not utilizing its visual elements well, doesn’t that speak to how powerful the story itself was to overcome its medium defects?

      • Valuation in art is a touchy subject, and I think once there is a big enough gap between an artwork’s creation and your reception of it, valuation shouldn’t really come into play. I mean, I’m not about to go and rank the best medieval Italian poets because that is a way of thinking that doesn’t apply to that era. It’s different when you’re talking about modern day pulp mediums because not only is making evaluative judgments of art in the present day broadly acceptable, but most pulp art isn’t worth your time and sorting out the good from the bad is necessary. Stuff like numerical scores are dumb, I agree, but I think being discerning and having consistent criteria for that discernment is valuable.

        As to your final few questions, I would say every work of art that has ever moved me has done so because of careful attention to the interaction between its themes and form. To decide to make messy art is just as deliberate an aesthetic choice as to make highly controlled art. I’d also say there’s never been a “style” I’ve enjoyed that wasn’t also substantive (viz. FLCL, which has a very human appeal behind the brisk animation), although I’ve seen plenty of unsubstantive styles as well (Kill la Kill, Hells, to name some recent examples). I guess the mindset you and Bobduh are espousing is entirely alien to me…

        • One more attempt at examining the supposed divide between the visual and the transcendent content in visual media:

          Consider Bobduh’s enjoyment of Witch Craft Works. How should this show be evaluated vs. Neon Genesis Evangelion, his current best anime of all time?

          On a directing and visual level, WCW is head and shoulders above NGE. It’s well-paced, it doesn’t strive to be more than it should, and succeeds very well at the storytelling goals it does have, and does so through a very good use of the medium. The way the “characters, dialog, plot structure, etc. are manifested primarily in filmic form” is expertly done. WCW’s larger budget obviously helps.

          But for Bobduh, the “transcendent content” (bullshit term I just made up now because “literary forms” sets up a battle between mediums that is misleading with regards to the goal of this conversation) in the characters, dialog, plot structure, the meat of the story and characters driving NGE and fuelling the direction of the visual elements is just so much more artistically valuable than WCW. Otherwise, all best anime would be Kyo-Ani shows, with K-On! at the top of the list as best Anime of All Time. (Nothing personal against K-on.)

          Right back on the other side of the coin, as seen in the post linked, sometimes flawless execution of a less artistically ambitious work is to be valued above works that are trying to be more than fluff, but don’t have the direction and visuals to fulfill their intent. A good parallel is in singing and dancing, where the debate is usually on simple-and-clear-emotional-portrayal vs. lauding the effort and talent required to pull off more difficult techniques, ignoring that the suppose “simple” performance is the result of a particular technique. In such cases, I also tend to support the technique side of the discussion, because trying to use “je ne sais quois” bullshit as the primary judge is dangerously unreliable and subjective. Meanwhile, it is going to be the systematic exploration and experimentation of technique that will push a medium to new heights.

          In the end, I think that most evaluations are valid, as long as the standards, factors, and weights used are thoroughly explained, and the conversation regarding everyone’s standards continues on. Even a modern ranking of the best medieval Italian poets is okay, as long as its made explicit that the standard used is of modern perspectives and interpretations. It just means that that particular evaluation cannot be compared head-to-head to an evaluation made using historic and/or academic contextual standards.

  2. I think KLK is what you make of it. You talk a lot about it being incoherent in it’s ideas and how many different people take many different meanings out of it. Before you have mentioned that each of the people claiming different messages each have evidence to support their message. One of the interesting things about fiction in general is that there is sometimes a disconnect between the message the author is trying to tell and the message the reader takes from the work. Who is to say that what the reader felt from his experience is wrong, and that the author’s intent is correct. In my opinion death of the author is dumb when applied to factual tidbits that the author left out of the story but stated somewhere else, but can be important when dealing with reader’s message vs author’s message. To me KLK almost seems to be taking advantage of this. They are throwing seeds of all different messages into the story without fleshing out any of them and seeing what people latch on to. People are pulling out of the story much more than was actually put in and I find that fascinating. Unlike you I’m typically the type of person who only reads a little below the surface on the first watch and then goes much more in depth into the themes on a rewatch when I think a show merits it. For people like this the show feels a lot more cohesive, but then if falls apart when you try to dig further like you do. But for some reason I find myself not really caring, because I love this show for all it’s other merits, which normally I don’t hold in as high a regard. And reading all the varied opinions on it’s message or lack thereof only adds to my enjoyment.

    • I feel like there should be a distinction made between shows that are ambiguous and shows that are undercooked, though. Utena is ambiguous – Utena has all sorts of ideas, and some of them are deeply explored and some of them intersect with others in weird ways, and ultimately everyone is going to take a different experience away from that show. Madoka is ambiguous – there are many valid reads of that show, and you can approach it from many perspectives that overlap in strange ways but always seem to offer something new.

      With Kill la Kill, I feel like basically all its thematic elements are like the Christian symbolism in Evangelion – they make you WANT to dig in and explore the show from that angle, but as soon as you try to do that, you realize that’s all they were – flashing lights that say “imagery” but don’t offer a richer understanding of the work. And that’s actually fine, but I wouldn’t call that “meaning” or something that makes the show “better” from a writing standpoint – I’d just call it “style.”

      • Yeah I definitely agree with your distinction. I almost think the writers realized they could achieve the same effect of ambiguous with undercooked because the masses don’t dig too deep below the surface. They have a facade of depth and to the average watcher it works great, but people who like to analyze it see through the disguise. In any other show that would probably bother me, but one of the only themes in KLK with any real consistency is performance/theatrics and that’s kinda what the rest of the themes feel like, so for me at least it weirdly kinda works. They are just part of the set for the play, with no real meaning behind them aside from dressing things up. So yeah I agree it’s style, but when style seems to be the theme then the lines get blurred a bit.

  3. And about family, Silver Spoon’ ending was absolutely amazing. Everything tied up so well.
    I find it interresting that this last weeks (actually this whole month) I had far more interrest for this show than for KLK. KLK is visually great, fun, and have a n “epic, great finale”.
    But Silver Spoon… makes whatever it has personal, important. If here’s no personal stakes, then all of this is pretty meaningless. (Which is also why HxH and Sekai Sefuku are so great.)

    The problem with KLK is that there are no investment in it.

  4. I have this theory than Wizard Barrister is actually some kind of deconstruction of the standard LN when a guy gain amazing power because of a magic girl.
    All the elements were there, but horribly twisted in that last episode.

    I just don’t really think WB can be good enough for that…

  5. As usual, your reasons (and most of your commenters’) for not getting into Kill la Kill are precisely why I love it a lot. Alright, the padding this show utilizes to be two-cour when it should have been one is something I could have done without (particularly in regards to forcing conflicts on Ryuuko’s character), but I love how much of an awesome stylistic mess it is and how “distant” the characters are to the audience whilst still finding their actions interesting. It’s that sort of presentation that makes Book of Bantorra one of my favorite anime of all-time, although KLK is nowhere near as good IMO due to said pacing issues. It’s more X or (barf) Fate/Zero than anything.

    As for how to grade something that’s good at stuff you don’t care about and not at stuff you do care about…well one look at my own MAL grade for KLK’s predecessor, Gurren Lagann, should show you what I think about that sort of logic. The stuff tamerlane said was awesome about Lagann (and what you liked as well) was something I didn’t care for. Because by being better constructed and giving Rossiu “reasons” for his behavior and all, the show became more familiar and thus more boring to me. It’s still a cool show and all, but I’m a highly opinionated fan first and an unprofessional critic second.

  6. I operate from the perspective of a former MMORPG player and political scientist, so my opinion’s going to be somewhat skewed in one direction over another, but, in addition to the existential issues it brings up (what’s real and what’s not, living versus existing, what constitutes a person, etc.), I think you should give Log Horizon more credit for how well it understands law, politics, and the nature of power (which is often based on perception), an understanding that isn’t isolated to just Episode 18, but is prevalent throughout the further macro the story becomes. From this MMO setting, it is a fascinating scenario of the rise of civilization from anarchy and informal fiefdoms to formal societies and states.

    The last scene of the last episode in particular is a clash of political philosophies and government systems, Shiroe’s, where society is based on republican-stylized representation, coalition-building power-sharing, and consent, and Nureha’s (the Ruler of the West’s), where society is based on undisputed autocratic control by one or a few over the many. A democratically-inclined system versus one that’s undeniably more authoritarian.

    • I actually really do like how Log Horizon handles the nature of power, something it definitely shares with Maoyuu Maou Yuusha. What appeals to me is that these shows don’t make value judgments on how power is based on perception, or the arbitrary ways it can manifest and exert itself – they accept the world as given, and just try to make the smartest choices they can given the resources available. This show plays it up a little more than Maoyuu with the whole “villain in glasses” thing, but it’s nice to see a show where both the protagonists and the antagonists don’t get hung up on simplistic “how the world should be” arguments and actually engage with the world as it is presented to them in order to affect meaningful change.

      I guess the scene that most exemplifies this for me is from Maoyuu – there’s a point where the church makes a strong power play against the protagonists, and instead of getting hung up on the injustice of this action or the supposed evil of the church, they just go “damn, that’s a crippling move. What’s our next play?”

      Of course, any show that wants to meaningfully engage in politics has to do this, but it’s nice to see it just the same. So in short, yeah, I definitely agree.

      • Maoyuu Maou Yuusha’s definitely something I need to get to seeing.

        What I love about Log Horizon’s discussion of politics is that the show clearly understands the underlying drives behind it. It’s not simply a matter of insensitive farts being insensitive farts. While MMO land is different from the real world, it’s not different enough tamper with what exactly is the driver behind politics itself: power, and power ultimately resides in the people. The major political players, with the exception of the small guilds, minorities that, in the game world and real life, tend to adopt liberal positions, have to be conservative on principle not because conservative stances are the most efficient or preferable methods of solving pressing to critical issues, but because not taking them would mean looking bad to your supporters and potential supporters while emboldening your opponents and creating potential enemies. When that happens, your supporters will be more inclined to retract their support, and your potential supporters are less inclined to offer their. In addition, your opponents will be more likely to tread on your interests with impunity, and opportunists will jump at the chance to make a name for themselves. It doesn’t even matter if your opponents ultimately agree with you deep down, or if there are actually any opportunists. So long as acquiescence equates less power, it’s a war of every party versus every party

        In the two major situations where the issue of politics are on the forefront, in the creation of the Round Table and response to the Goblin Invasion, those situations are solved, interestingly enough, only on terms amenable to every major party, terms in which their credibility, and thus, their power, remains relatively in tact. So far in the show, that happens when either every major party gets the equal opportunity to cave in.

        Shiroe does this intentionally with the future members of the Round Table. Each major major member, deep down, wanted to restore Akihabara’s vitality, but they couldn’t unanimously agree to it while one of them ended up with the shorter straw. If enough of the major players don’t agree, then in the end, no one would agree. Shiroe made it so everyone looked weak essentially blackmailing the whole lot of them of their wealth, which in turn, gave the major players the excuse to cave in. Thus, the Round Table was formed and the Villain in Glasses played his role.

        Lenessia does this unintentionally with both the Round Table and her kingdom’s noble council, but from the opposite spectrum. Everyone in those chambers believed the most practical way to resolve that crisis was via Army of Adventurers, but each stood their ground against defaulting to that option for fear that it would wreak irreparable damage to each party’s claims as autonomous political agents, which depends on a power structure, and thus, perception, to keep those claims respected. Lenessia gave her kingdom’s noble council a way out of giving in by acting independently of its decisions, allowing the nobles to distance themselves from her actions. She gave the Round Table a similar exit by enlisting the help of volunteers, rather than requisitioning aid from the Round Table directly. In the end, everyone was able to continue looking strong. Thus, the Goblin Invasion was dealt with and the Princess played her role.

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