While perusing the news of upcoming releases, I found out that Funimation, one of the largest US distributors (especially with other companies giving up), has licensed "Strike Witches".
For those who haven't seen it, "Strike Witches" is a sort of military fantasy fiction. Taking place around the days of WWII, an alien presence is invading Earth. As it goes, it creates a miasma (an old but still effective plot device when done right, such as Spiral Zone, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles, and the Reavers in Firefly) that is not only destroying people, but making entire segments of continents drop into the sea. Curiously, the ocean levels don't rise and endanger the remaining countries, but hey, it's anime. You have magical girls who combat the menace.
And they're lolis.
The creator of "Strike Witches" concurrently created another series called "Sky Girls", which is pretty much "Strike Witches" but set in the future instead of the past. The girls pilot their ships in an outfit called a "motionslit" that looks like a mallot swimsuit and covered with a skin made of nanites to create a circuit connection to the vehicles. The girls are supposedly 16 and 17 (legal in Japan), but they aren't drawn that way. Note to all aspiring artists: just because you stick balloon-like tits on a girl doesn't make her look legal. It just makes her look even creepier since you are telegraphing what your goal with the characters' appearances are.
(Three side notes. 1) I'm not talking about characters INTENDED to be sexy, like Mai Shiranui in King Of Fighters or Yuri and Kei in Dirty Pair or Agent Aika. I'm talking about characters whose sexual image is based on defiance of their presentation. Please notice that most of your Disney characters who get Rule 34'ed are Ariel and Snow White and them, while Meg from Hercules, the only Disney heroine that you can safely assume is not a virgin, is pretty much ignored. 2) Please note I'm not talking about anorexic looking women like Michael Turner drew, I'm talking about girls who, without the balloon tits, which is not how tits are drawn anyway (check out ANYTHING by Frank Cho to see them done right), look like they might be hitting puberty next week, maybe. That is soooooooo fucked up. 3) As much as I love looking at tits, I hate drawing them. The problem in my mind is simple -- they're supposed to be there, but you're not supposed to notice. I constantly sweat making Holly's build look natural instead of pnuematic (the guy who told me her breasts should be bigger can kiss my Polish ass), and the problem continues as I draw "Head Above Water".)
Like "World Of Narue", I couldn't get through a single episode without wanting to fill my bathtub with vodka and lie in it for a few hours. I decided to try an episode of "Strike Witches" at random, and picked episode 7. It starts off with one of the girls flying through the sky. They fly with just these things on their feet to propel them through the air. So before we even get to the opening credits, we see a loli bending over at the waist with a good, long, loving shot of her ass and camel toe. Completely ignoring that her posture and the bazooka she's carrying should have her jackknifing into the water. Skipping further into the episode in hopes of getting something like exposition, instead we see the Strike Witches in their sleeping quarters. It's all artfully lit and colored, with one girl with a sheet conveniently draped across her belly so as not to spoil the view of her pink bra, pink panties, and D cup breasts. Others not only give you the cheesecake, but establish that their characters are based on anime girl cliches (like the "wild child" sleeping in a tree outside). I couldn't take anymore and quit watching at that point.
It's really weird to think about how the cute girls are presented as being perfect for sexually violating. Hayao Miyazaki, the anime legend who gave us immortal films like Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away (a film that's even better when you are familiar with Japanese mythology), and Howl's Moving Castle, has commented on his disappointment with the trend towards studios and fans fetishizing anime girls. "It's difficult. They immediately become the subjects of lolicon fetishism. In a sense, if we want to depict someone who is affirmative to us, we have no choice but to make them as lovely as possible. But now, there are too many people who shamelessly depict (such heroines) as if they just want (such girls) as pets, and things are escalating more and more."
So you have studios that are anxious to reward these questionable fetishes of the buying public. And US distributors, seeing there is plenty of money being thrown at these things, are anxious to buy them up and distribute them. And the buying public is anxious to throw their money at them. Can you say, "circle jerk"? I knew you could.
As I look at the anime I have enjoyed recently, I noticed something. Here's a pair of examples: Android Ana Maico and A Cheeky Angel. Android Anan Maico is a mixture of romance and workplace humor about female robot DJ in a pilot program for a failing radio station. A Cheeky Angel is about a boy who is magically turned into a girl and the whole world doesn't remember him as anything but a girl. As he tries to find a way to return to normal, the series uses its situation to examine gender relations and roles in modern society, both self-chosen and those imposed by those around you, as well as a little possible romance with his female best friend from childhood and the only one who remembers he used to be a guy.
Now, what do those two series have in common? They are not available in the US. I got them while trading videos with a guy in Japan.
A Cheeky Angel's plot device is sort of used in an offically released in the US anime called "Kashimashi". A boy is having girl trouble and has two crushes. He gets turned into a girl, and the two girls start to fall in love with him/her. Needless to say, it doesn't go in the same direction as A Cheeky Angel, it just plays to the audience's interest in the naughtiness of the girls going yuri.
This is my problem. What makes me watch anime is the depth -- the storytelling, the art, the characterization. I like that the series will spend several episodes setting things up before getting to the actual conflict that will drive the series, making it seem more real instead of just a sequence of events, like a novel that exists to turn pages instead of telling a story. And yet, more and more anime coming to the US disregards the depth that makes it unique in favor of superficial titilation. It used to be that you went to the anime section and you would find things well done that you had never seen before, like Ranma, Macross, and yes, I would include Cream Lemon in that group. Now, like the porn industry, trying to do something unique doesn't matter anymore. What matters is doing whatever it takes to get the audience's attention and, hence, their money. Actually engaging the audience isn't the goal anymore. I wouldn't have a problem with "Kashimashi" if I didn't feel like it was simply angling for my baser instincts. Believable homosexual romance (Utena) is good. Cheap outrageousness is not.
On the bright side, this means I'm not spending as much on anime (that shit is EXPENSIVE). But on the down side, it means that, not only am I having to look harder for the good stuff, but I can't watch it on the go. One of the reasons I bought a laptop with a DVD drive was to watch movies while I'm out and about, eating or waiting for a movie to start. If it's an anime I haven't seen before, I'm too worried that someone will be looking over my shoulders and see imagery that will be terminally humiliating to be caught with. While trying to watch "World Of Narue," I was aware that the stadium seating in the theater meant that everyone behind me could see this anime that used almost nothing but panty shot angles on the girls. I shut it down and watched an episde of MXC on my hard drive instead.
If you anime fans wonder why people are looking at you strange, this is why.