Kandagawa Jet Girls – 02

Why not devote 12+ minutes of airtime to Rin and Misa’s first jet ski race? Why not break the fourth wall nearly as often as the commentator’s and exposition break the momentum of said race? Why not swap awkwardly between hand drawn and 3D rendered versions of the girls while they race? Why not follow the race with balloon-bewbs!, more exposition, and some fat shaming?

Because boring, boring, boring, awkward, boring, boring, awkward? (in that order)

Well… that didn’t take long did it? Where last week featured many puzzling design choices, which worked to elevate the material from slop to creepy psychodrama, this week couldn’t reach ‘slop.’ If you are earnestly excited by the made up rules to a water-gun shooting + jet ski racing sports anime, I guess you got something from it. Otherwise, not so much.

Kandagawa Jet Girls – 01 (First Impressions)

Rin is surrounded by a warmth as adults chat aimlessly and give us a glimpse of their family-like fishing community. Their world buzzes with detail but stands motionless. Not even a ripple ebbs near the boats docked at port. Not until Rin’s mother is announced as Jet Girl World Champion! As she speaks into without a sound, we zoom in close to her exposed chest and watch her gently wrest a hand above her heart. Rin mirrors this while dry-humping an oversized dolphin plushie beneath her.

Now grown up, teen-Rin saddles a jet ski, buffeted by sports graphics and announcer narration. A delicate smile dances on her lips and a yellow wetsuit like her mother’s hugs her ample curves. There is joy in her and her partner’s face as they ride from wave into the air, rising to the upbeat throb of the opening theme music.

Teen-Rin now sits in darkness before a picture of her trophy-holding mother at the family shrine. Rain and stillness hang like death in the air.

Elsewhere in the dark, a phone alarm wakes another girl. The emptily-chirping phone lays loose in her sleepless hand. Her eyes do not hide her depression. Her student’s room describes an empty life to us in clean but heartless stills. Pens not quite neatly arranged beside a pad on her desk. A simple mug holds her plain tooth brush by the window.

The girl strips for us and her young breasts bounce with natural weight, as if rejecting their sexual impact. The scene is almost silent, broken only by her sliding door sticking in it’s track. It fights to keep her inside before letting her pass. Misa Aoi is written on the name plaque as the hooded girl marches passed.

Rin now sits by her father at the docks, sharing empty chatter about moving to Tokyo for school and part time jobs. He stands there and does not look at her, nor do either turn to face us. We do not see his face. While the setting and color and coldness match, it becomes clear the girls live far apart.

A steam boats horn blares and music returns. In the distance, Rin now faces us waving. Briefly we come close to her smiling face, and as briefly see the smile slacken, her inner shadow cast long by the rising sun.

Misa dons VR Goggles and we see a machine’s hydraulics flex with her weight. We see a simulation through her eyes, and we see her eyes too, each we see tightly framed. Virtual water splashes but Misa never leaves the dirty wooden room. Nor do we see Misa’s projection into  the simulation. She can not see herself there. She curses, feeling the representation is lacking, and hurts her leg in anger.

Rin returns, eyes wide and balled fists held together in surprise. Pair after hyper-sexualized pair, Rin encounters stylish Tokyo girls in love with each other. A foreign couple offers sepuku. Another, selfies. Later, she is mugged by a plain man, who is ultimately tripped by Misa a short chase later.

As Misa stands, Rin’s eyes trace shapely legs, lingering on the dress shirt,  and distant eyes. Rin’s hand returns to her heart, where it hasn’t been since her mother won the championship. Judging from the shrine photo, perhaps moments before she died. Rin exhales and blushes with glistening eyes and lust. Delicate piano keys finger a short rise. Unable to contain her excitement, Rin unzips her duffle bag and her dolphin plushie erupts forth like a skyward facing erection.

Later still, the girls become roommates. Rin attempts to make Misa touch her breasts before leaning in to smell Misa’s neck. She can smell Misa on their bunk bed. Misa violently pushes her away, disturbed but their name plaques now hang together. Rin’s childish mug and personal items sit next to Misa’s on the walls and desk.

The creeper factor runs thick with deceptive charming, as if Misa’s alarm over a sexual predator and stalker could be gently batted away by Rin’s playful grin, poking and chest rubbing. Misa eventually cowers behind a wall to hide, while Rin chats-up another student. The conversation is yet again inane, but introduces Rin’s Jet Ski experience within range for Misa to hear.

The episode culminates in a race against a river side mean girls, during which most of the sexual themes and azure colors are repeated with gusto. Misa is anally penetrated by rifle fire. Tears flow from her eyes. Her clothes detach and fall away.

Point of view impacts storytelling. Not only who’s point of view, but how they see (what angle, the framing, what they focus on) feed us details about their character and the world overall. In KJG’s case, we mostly share Rin’s point of view but the contrast of what that view shows us, and how people see Rin (a smiling happy girl played straight), creates a deeply unsettling juxtaposition.

What makes any of this interesting is that Rin is not simply a ‘flip’ on a male anime creeper. Where most anime and manga would use creeper icons and conventional expressions like drool and ‘that elbows bent arms up wiggle gesture’ to convey Rin’s desires to the audience, KJG does not. Rin’s expression is played straight. In part, this hides her inner feelings from the other cast members as well, which in turn makes her feel dangerous because we, the viewers, are the only ones who can see more is going on with Rin underneath the surface.

KJG sprinkles other weirdness like suicide, the cheapening of Japanese cultural icons, and untreated (and socially ignored) depression. None of these are pushed to the forefront as much as the sexuality but the sexuality is obviously more the point: if you don’t think about how KJG presents itself, you could be forgiven assuming it was just cheap smut.

what the **** did I just watch? (twice)

Shimoneta – 02

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To borrow a couple of sophomoric double entendres from Blue Snow, Okuma is in a tight spot; between a rock and a hard place. He admires and idolizes the pure, perfect Anna (who shows no signs of being anything other than that, with no hidden dark side), but is being forced through blackmail and coersion by Ayame to undermine her.

I will say, both Ayame and Okuma are well-positioned in terms of hiding in plain sight, and Okuma’s story of how he was ostracized when his “terrorist” father was put away and met the “guardian angel” Anna in grade school (something she doesn’t remember) that inspired him to live a purer life, is a great cover story.

But Ayame is stripping the primacy of his goal away as she exposes him to more and more misbehavior, as Okuma can’t deny the thrill he gets from finding ultra-rare smutty mags in an abandoned cabin, like buried treasure. When the imagery therein is copied and distributed around school, Anna is so ignorant to its insidiousness she herself frames a picture of a girl performing fellatio in the StuCo office!

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That gets to another bigger social issue about the whole anti-dirty-joke law and PM devices: real-world Japan’s brith rate can’t keep up with its aging population; if laws were put into place to block the people’s natural sexual development and keep them in the dark about reproduction (if such a thing were even possible), it would be a de facto form of population control. Maybe the Japan of Shimoneta wants the population to decrease.

In any case, Anna’s powerful, driven politician mother is introducing a new bill that would step up the oppression even further, legalizing the monitoring of every action and conversation in the country. With no stones unturned, Ayame’s terrorism could not continue, her crusade to educate the ignorant masses would end in defeat, and most importantly, the people would have no privacy whatsoever in the new surveillance state. Ayame makes sure to impress upon Okuma that while she has her own selfish reasons for doing what she does, she’s also working in best interests of a free society.

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Thus, the fight must not only continue, but be stepped up. Ayame dresses Okuma up like a Blue Snow decoy to give students dirty word eye exams during school physicals while she steals the boys’ urine samples, hoping to start a scandal in the school when tests reveal high levels of masturbation. The operation also results in Anna yelling out the howler above.

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Anna isn’t portrayed as an idol fool here, but actually comes quite close to exposing and capturing Okuma-in-drag more than once, and presses her pursuit of him with heretofore unseen (and somewhat frightening) superhuman strength and speed. Game Over for Okuma and Ayame is rarely less than a few seconds or inches (heh-heh) away, but with one last misdirection, Ayame manages to save Okuma and make off with the urine.

The fact that the entire final exchange is witnessed by a painter in a crow’s nest—likely the same painter who painted the pure “Sound of Music”-style painting Okuma lingered on—means the ranks of Ayame’s SOX are likely to swell in the near future, which bodes well for defeating Anna and stopping her mom’s overreaching legislation.

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Shimoneta – 01 (First Impressions)

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Rundown: In a titular “boring world where the concept of dirty jokes doesn’t exist”, because they are forbidden by moral law, Okuma Tanukichi manages to transfer from one of the least moral to the most moral high school in the country, to be closer to his crush, StuCo President Nishikinomiya Anna.

His dreams of a pure high school life are dashed when he’s approached by the Vice President, Kajou Ayame, whose alter-ego “Blue Snow” (or “Blue in the Snow Field”) is a “decency terrorist”, who uses his feelings for Anna and her own high standing in the school to blackmail him into helping to found the “Anti-Societal Organization” or SOX with her.

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Analysis: Shimoneta[…] may have a ridiculously long title and a concept as high as a kite, but it quickly commits to and fully owns its silliness. Aside from a few choice pieces of sexy dialogue uttered by Blue Snow, most of the “dirty jokes” she whips up aren’t just tame, but awkwardly and often arbitrarily used, which makes perfect sense in the context of the show. Kajou Ayame may be a serial distributor of blue material, but she’s new to it too, and wields it with wild abandon and gusto.

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Okuma may actually be more well-versed than Ayame, due to his time spent at a school of lower moral fiber, which, in addition to his dirty joke terrorist father, makes him a natural target for Ayame’s gaze. And if you strip away the blue sheen, this show has some pretty dark and interesting undertones about an invasive, oppressive police state that leaves its youth so cripplingly ignorant to the act of reproduction, that a few moments of Ayame’s antics are able to “finish off” the vast majority of them at a school assembly.

The metaphor is tired, but apt: Ayame aims to break the dam and restore this boring world to a state of natural sexual freedom, and whether he likes it or not, Okuma and her are uniquely positioned to make meaningful change, and have a lot of fun in the process.

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Shimoneta’s dialogue—at once stuffed with bleeped bad words and hilarious euphemisms (and a whole lot of incorrect information about how babies are made)—crackles and pops as the wild Kajou darts across the screen, a human spectacle with a mask made from pantsu and a towel that threatens to fall off and reveal all.

President Anna and Treasurer Raiki serve as agents of the system and defenders of the oppressive and ultimately unnatural order, but interesting, neither seem like they’re hypocrites, making their battle against the front-line revolutionaries Ayame and Okuma more interesting than simply good-vs.-evil (that, and the fact Okuma deeply admires Anna).

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This is a battle between ignorance and knowledge, and Ayame is the Eve who has tasted of the fruit and works towards the creation of an exciting world where the concept of dirty jokes, among other things, does exist. Which sounds like the ingredients for a boisterous, refreshing comedy…but comedy tempered by the knowledge that hundreds of millions of people in the real world live under regimes that stifle free expression as “violations of the established order.”

I’m not sure the show will get that serious (the jaunty dance number at the end would seem to indicate not very), but the undertones are there, and they lend righteousness to Blue Snow’s crusade that rises this show above farce and dirty jokes for dirty jokes’ sake.

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