The GIF above has nothing to do with my feelings about the episode. I just feel like seeing Nagisa pouting cutely in loop.
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Why am I not surprised that Gou doesn’t cook well?
I’m not sure if it’s only because I’ve been watching and reading Rurouni Kenshin recently, but I have this impression that when anime tries to de-feminize a woman, or at least make her less conventional, it strips her of cooking skills.
In any case, I’m not really complaining. I’m just putting it out there. And for all it’s worth, the chocolate-flavored whey protein filling in Gou’s onigiri managed to turn my stomach the way no other poor cooking in anime ever had.
No swimsuit fitting scene this time? 
Too bad; I was looking forward to seeing Sousuke and Mikoshiba— I mean, Momo— parade in flashy Speedos.
Momo is an immediate favorite because he’s kawaii and, come on, he’s a hotstraight guy, what’s not to like. And Sousuke is fast becoming my favorite in terms of appearance. Those beautiful eyes. That messy hair. Those broad shoulders. Those fine abs. And those normal human teeth!
By the way, I originally mis-tagged this post with “Shiota Nagisa” instead of “Hazuki Nagisa”. Shiota is from Assassination Classroom. But I guess I was thinking ‘shotacon’ while typing Nagisa’s name. Lol.

The GIF above has nothing to do with my feelings about the episode. I just feel like seeing Nagisa pouting cutely in loop.

___

Why am I not surprised that Gou doesn’t cook well?

I’m not sure if it’s only because I’ve been watching and reading Rurouni Kenshin recently, but I have this impression that when anime tries to de-feminize a woman, or at least make her less conventional, it strips her of cooking skills.

In any case, I’m not really complaining. I’m just putting it out there. And for all it’s worth, the chocolate-flavored whey protein filling in Gou’s onigiri managed to turn my stomach the way no other poor cooking in anime ever had.

No swimsuit fitting scene this time? 

Too bad; I was looking forward to seeing Sousuke and Mikoshiba— I mean, Momo— parade in flashy Speedos.

Momo is an immediate favorite because he’s kawaii and, come on, he’s a hotstraight guy, what’s not to like. And Sousuke is fast becoming my favorite in terms of appearance. Those beautiful eyes. That messy hair. Those broad shoulders. Those fine abs. And those normal human teeth!

By the way, I originally mis-tagged this post with “Shiota Nagisa” instead of “Hazuki Nagisa”. Shiota is from Assassination Classroom. But I guess I was thinking ‘shotacon’ while typing Nagisa’s name. Lol.

Too much anime makes weird dreams.

I was in school. We were having class, but I noticed that my seatmate had not gone back to the classroom after going on a restroom break. I went to look for her, and suddenly the school was a castle. I saw her on the battlements, staring at a black cat that was perched along a broken part. She wanted to save the cat, I guessed, but being afraid of heights, she couldn’t approach the crumbling wall.

I went to fetch the cat for her, and suddenly there was a boy, another classmate, calling out frantically with a warning: “Wait, don’t! The floor might give out!” His warning came too late, though, as I was already by the wall where the cat was perched. I grabbed the cat, then, carefully, as lightly as I could, I started making my way back to the safe area. The well-meaning boy who gave the warning reached his arms out to pull us to safety, but before I could hand over the cat to him, the floor disintegrated into nothingness.

It didn’t ‘give out’. It was nothing like that. It was magic. Before my eyes, parts of the floor disappeared as shadow-like particles spread out and multiplied. And I fell, still clutching the cat, and I saw my classmates, the boy and girl both, also falling as the disintegration reached the part where they had been standing. We were all falling, falling, falling. Then a voice, commanding and crisp, spoke into my ear: “Toss!” I didn’t understand. Toss? Toss what? I had nothing to toss. “Just do it,” the voice said, as if able to hear my thoughts.

So I did. I made a tossing motion towards my friends, and mattresses materialized underneath them— curious mattresses that slowed down their fall. I made another tossing gesture, this time near myself, and I grabbed the mattress that appeared.

When the cat and I were safely on the ground, I looked around me for the source of the voice I heard. I saw no one, but then it spoke again: “I’m an ant, one of the 12 animal guardians you will meet in your journey to dispel the evil shadow. My name is… Psycho-Pal.” 

I can feel the fangirl in me coming back with how well Book of Circus is unfolding! The manga hasn’t been very exciting for much too long now, so seeing one of the better arcs animated certainly feels refreshing.

I said this last week, and I’ll say it again— Book of Circus gets the tone right. That’s a point that deserves emphasis and recognition because Kuroshitsuji has proven to be a series where that’s especially difficult to handle. Go too far down the shotacon road, and you get anime Season 2. Go too far down the demon cultist road, and you get the second half of anime Season 1. Go too far down the safe and light road, and you pretty much get the cricket portion of the Weston College arc in the manga.

Book of Circus has been managing pretty well, though. Especially of note in Episode 2 are…

1. The Abberline joke! At first I thought it was lifted from the musicals, which I love and which are to be credited for Fred Abberline being a memorable character at all, but I looked it up and found that it does in fact make an appearance in the manga. In any case, the Abberline gag is something I didn’t even realize I’ve missed until I heard it again, and it worked especially well on me today because I can no longer think of Abberline without remembering that comedy actor who played him in the musicals.

2. Sebastian making friends with Betty the Tiger. I’m a cat lover myself so I do understand the temptation to pet such a marvelous creature. Even cats tame demons, it appears. Being reminded of this little tidbit, by the way, is getting me excited for the OVA that will come after this season— Book of Murder, which is to be based on another arc that happened in the manga back when Kuroshitsuji was at its prime.

3. The pseudo-fight scene resulting from Sebastian unwittingly groping Beast. The whole sequence was executed extremely well, and at least part of the credit should go to Miyano Mamoru for the excellent voice acting behind Joker— that smooth shift from hick to hunk and back should be criminal! Also, the fact that Sebastian isn’t being tender with Beast (“I didn’t technically touch her skin, but I seem to have touched a nerve.”) is alluring in its own way. I do love Sebastian better when he’s smirking— see photo above.

4. I have one complaint though: Snake says “This area is off-limits” without following up with his trademark “says Oscar/ Emily/ Wordsworth/ some other snake”! I’m guessing it’s probably because it isn’t a fitting episode closing line, and also to be considerate to anime-only audiences who would require further explanation, which are completely understandable reasons, but it still kind of left me disappointed because I was looking forward to hearing it! Snake in the manga has never spoken a line that isn’t supposedly parroted from his reptilian friends, and I find that to be such a creative gag characterization that Snake has become my favorite character despite his lack of sufficient prominence. I sure hope to hear the real him in the next episode!

Thoughts on Free!, Shounen Ai, and the Female Gaze

In this image, Matsuoka Rin and his new dorm buddy are talking about which bunk bed goes to whom, but the screenwriters of Free! Eternal Summer like to have their fun with the script.

Not that I’m complaining. At this point, I don’t think anyone pretends to watch this series for its compelling storyline. We’re here for the boys and the fanservice, and Free! delivers spectacularly on both points.

A month or so ago, I read an article somewhere pointing out that Game of Thrones fails the female gaze, that while there is no shortage of breasts and bums in the series, we have yet to see male nudity exposed to even half that extent. And true, while there are handsome men to be seen at each turn, they are hardly ever depicted in a fashion that aims to rouse the same excitement in female or female-identifying audience members that all the naked ladies on the show give the men.

The lack of emphasis on the female gaze is not a new issue anywhere. In anime, a show branded ecchi is most certain to have boob shots, upskirts and at least one onsen scene where female bodies are at the mercy of steam rising to cover the correct parts.

But while there is nothing in the term ecchi that should imply that the sexy parts involve women only, it’s completely understood that there will not be an equal amount, or even any, exposure on the men’s part. No boxer shorts hanging a little too low on manly hips, or loin towels flipping at the onsen to show firm buttocks, or completely unnecessary close-ups of sweat rolling along the crevices of chiseled abs. None of that. Ecchi, and even hentai, is for the male gaze. 

I enjoy Free! because it attempts to reverse that gaze. Impossibly hot high school boys strut around in nothing but their swimsuits for over half an episode, and even more precious than the nudity is how the camera favors female eyes, which is what sets Free! apart from other series with naked bishounen. In Fairy Tail, for instance, a running gag on Gray Fullbuster is that he unconsciously strips even during inappropriate times, and Natsu Dragneel himself wears only a vest on top of his muscled torso. Despite this though, as in Game of Thrones, neither Gray nor Natsu are ever depicted in a manner that aim to elicit arousal in women. 

Compare the sensuality of the image above versus this screencap of Nanase Haru unzipping his fly.

But this isn’t to say that Free! is a woman’s paradise. For one, Free! gravely lacks prominent female characters. We only have 2 that matter, and they don’t even matter all that much, quite unlike, say, Aito Yuuki of last season’s The Comic Artist and Assistants. Said series fetishizes 4 different women, and Aito’s only purpose is to be the pervert from whose perspective the audience sees the girls, but despite that, he’s terribly important to the story, and it even revolves around him. In contrast, Matsuoka Gou, who is supposed to more or less serve the same purpose in Free!, can be written off the plot without much cause. The commentary that accompany her muscle sightseeing also tends to be repetitive, which makes me wonder whether there aren’t enough women in the screenwriting team.

Free! seems a man’s world still, and that shows even more in how it’s sexier when it touches into yaoi territory. Why is it so taboo for men and women to be on equal footing, especially when it comes to sexual desire and depiction, that media has to substitute another man in the woman’s place?

After all, that’s predominantly what yaoi is. As far as I know and I’ve read, yaoi is not a realistic portrayal of gay relationships, a telling statistic being that it targets female audiences and is written mostly by female authors. I assume, based partly on my own experience, that this is because women are able to identify with the uke of the pair, who is for all intents and purposes a woman, but endowed with glorified man parts. Female sexuality is so unexplored and unavailable in media that women must make do with putting themselves in the shoes of feminine men.

Free! attempts to prioritize the female gaze and it succeeds, but seemingly only by discarding female characters altogether. Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy Free! and its endless supply of hot guys. I just can’t help wondering how much nicer it would be if there was a woman involved in at least some of the eye sex and the innuendos, which is why the appearance of Mikoshiba Momotarou is such a welcome blessing, although I very much doubt that Gou is going to be roped into anything remotely sexy anytime soon.

Still, Mikoshiba’s blank face while staring at the homemade cookie that turns out to have been made by Ryugazaki Rei, a guy, and not Gou as he had thought, was certainly one of Episode 3’s highlights for me.

I guess what I’m meaning to ask here is, when are we going to get a mainstream series, otome game adaptations not counted, where men can be sexy without being gay, where men are permitted to be objects of female desire?

I’d love to see a show that has both sexy men and women, where the camera does not favor just one perspective. If there are to be underboob shots, there must be an equal amount of frames that linger on the deep Vs of masculine pelvises and definitely more boys dancing like this: