the arc of all arcs is the anti-arc!!!!!

Rest assured, I have no idea what my title means, but I had to put in a plug for my favorite show’s come back and I know that I’m not the only fan, so…

If you haven’t watched the first arc of the new season of Gintama, watch it. NAU!

This show always manages to topple my conviction that I can’t possibly love it more than I already do. By surprising me with elements that make me reel with anticipation at studying it 10 years down the line when I might be able to sit down with industry people and have them chuckle fondly about what kind of problems the show faced with broadcasting and reception.

Yes, this show makes me imagine my future. Because, well, it is the future.

That’s deep y’all, sit on that.

Season 6 begins with Sakata Gintoki returning to Kabuki-cho after some time (his absence presumably echoing the show’s hiatus), only to find that his position as main character has been completely usurped by one Sakata Kintoki, a hero with the kind of personality you find in most RL conceptions of anime win. That is, in this imagination, straight silky golden blond locks, straight-shooting charisma, and impeccable hygiene.

Click here or for the OP/ED of Gintama‘s anti-world.

60 DVD volumes of memories with his friends, appropriately edited, reprogrammed, ps-d to oblivion.

Who is the culprit? How did this happen? Which Sakata of Kabuki-cho — gin or kin, silver or gold — will prevail?

In the usual manner of Gintama, you have meta upon meta and a structure that sucker punches you after every heart-stringing moment.

Season 5 ended on a rather strange note, with Sorachi gorilla (俺) appearing with a public statement about the circumstances of the show ending, with all sorts of oblique suggestions of TV code violations and the way the show is thought to be inappropriate (one too many censored penis, huh, Sora-papa?).

This arc can therefore be read as a kind of meta-rendition of the showdown between the kind of show Gintama is and the kind of show that perhaps typical Shonen-Jump audiences would have it be.

It’s a fan manifesto written for itself. An exegesis of why it can’t be anything but what it is.

Yes, and phallic imagery abounds. As does sadism and abjection. (As usual, though, Shinsengumi is left quite out of Kabuki-cho centric storylines.)

On the other hand…it gets you with the screwy friendships and plot developments (because by god this series storytells). It has trained us to read the subtext of violent language and wtf as the affections of a warped, but stronger-than-steel bondedness.

As such, tears are never cathartic in Gintama. They are a cue for Sorachi to come in with his meta-hammer and shatter the illusion of made-for-TV dramatics, never leaving us with a sense of being robbed, however…but, as in all well-executed gag, trashing the established (as by centuries of realist convention) border between their world and ours (with no more than a passive smile at modernist angst) so that we can wholly recognize it and claim it as our own.

I’ve only begun to follow this fandom in non-western contexts…but it is truly exceptional in the way it evokes and guides fans to inhabit its narrative world. In no other fandom do I see people riding such a linguistically, thematically, and generally unruly series with such intimate and instinctive, it seems, understanding of how it works.

Unlike the lip-service paid by most shonen heroics, Gintama is truly capacious enough for its fans and its enemies. It doesn’t surreptitiously distract you with careful, well-measured injections of fan-service (it wears its fan-service on its diegetic-commentary sleeve) nor does it blindside you with plothole-correcting speeches (*cough, cough* Bleach *cough*). Friend or foe, it takes you head-on with the full and unapologetic can’t stop won’t stop power of just the way it is.
And flat out dares you not to come along for the ride.

solar powered me (not a new year’s resolution)

On my bulletin board, off a clear, shiny pin, hangs a green rubber bean pod. Gracefully portioned into three sections, it even comes with its own leaf-like placard, printed with place of make and maker (China and Bandai, incidentally). When you give any section a gentle squeeze, an impossibly delicious looking plastic soybean will rear its roundness and beam. It’s so inexplicably stupid delightful, you beam back, thinking, “how stupid delightful!” and then you squeeze upon the one rogue bean marked with a silly face, and the stupidity delight becomes absolute.

mine is old man face, i mean, bean

This is an example of a the kind of gag toy which graces convenience stores East Asia-wide and which members of my family find irresistible. True story: during a visit a few years ago, my grandmother walked into her nephew’s 7eleven in Taiwan and walked out with 2 tea eggs and 5 of these (I’m pretty sure the store’s entire stock). One hangs off a designer bag she carries from time to time.

This is to say, it should have been no surprise to any of us when she returned from her last trip with a monkey-formed flip flap solar toy she no doubt swiped politely asked for and obtained from one of our relatives’ cars. They even threw in the no-slip pad they put under it to keep it from sliding off the dashboard. Needless to say, it now sits upon the dashboard of my mom’s car, bringing the passenger seat passenger endless hours of (stupid) daytime car ride delight. Mainly my grandmother.

I actually love that my grandmother has always seemed to find joy in silly, delightful things. She doesn’t realize it, but her favorite Ghibli movie–heck, one of her personal favorites period–is Totoro. The sight of that furry who-knows-what (In the Taiwan version, Totoro is called “dragon cat,” which hardly provides any insight…well, Mokona is Mokona, as the saying goes) soaring through the sky, eyes blown, teeth bared, beings of various sizes ridiculously clinging to the fluffy expanse of its chest always draws her to the TV–like, two feet in front of it.  “Ohhh, ho ho ho. Look at it fly!” she’ll point out, clinging to her apron with her other hand. And then, later, when May similarly grips the front of her summer dress, “Oh, ho ho. Look at her crying!”  =.=”

During a recent car ride, she was pointing out similar 2-feet-away phenomenon regarding the monkey: “Ohh, ho ho! Look at it go!” A moment’s consideration, followed by: “Doesn’t he get tired?”

“Well,” I venture, “he gets to rest when the sun goes down.”

“That’s true.”

Indeed. A novel idea, one might even say. Like plastic peas who trick you into trying a bite and then give you silly face.

This monkey is powered by day and rests by night.

Reflecting on the sad, sad life habits I have developed as a life-long student (life is so long, huh, Imagase), I was struck by the revelatory nature of this revelation, more so as my feelings for said monkey suddenly developed into awe. Surely, if I were to take my rest by night, I could also feel empowered by my days! Yeah…live in sunlight, jiggle to the click of my mechanics, bring my grandmother some fresh silly delight. The leap towards gag’s comedy of nonsense from crack’s open despair is but a sound, well-timed sleep away!

Then I, too, could be a solar powered monkey–I mean, being.

go ‘head, monkey dude.

rock yo’ self to sleep.

tell-tale signs…

People have been sending me some funny things and while I don’t always feel compelled to pass it on, sometimes they line themselves up thematically too perfectly to not….  So let’s call this a prelude to the whole “why people think anime characters are white” essay I keep meaning to write and publish here already.

White america reflects on this thing called the J-pop/anime phenomenon:

On Saturday Night Live…(the threshold of funny versus painful, I suppose)


In New Yorker Cartoons

source credit:

To the latter, I want to say “what’s the difference” but I guess that would be insensitive use of hyperbole.