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Friday, January 31, 2014

Gundam Dropped, more thoughts on Ojamajo:

Having watched enough Gundam to bleed out of my eyes, and still not coming to a single series I can point to as being truly high quality, I have to admit that Gundam just plain isn't worth anyone's time.  Whether it's Gundam Wing, Gundam SEED, Gundam 8th MS Squad, Gundam 00, or the original Gundam, the story always falls short somehow or other.  The characters act too stupidly, the bad guys keep sparing the heroes for no good reason, the pacifism is cloying, Gundams seem to win or lose fights based on how the plot wishes the story to proceed instead of previously accumulated data that would have implied a different result, and so on.

With a series that goes on forever, since 1979 to this day, enough eventually just becomes enough.  You could watch Gundam all day every day and never reach the end, but not a single episode would contribute to your life in any meaningful way.  Putting Gundam in my rankings just because it was popular and 'watchable' was a mistake.  Unless it makes me feel 'wow' at some point, it's just not worth recommending to others.

With Gundam dropped, I can also say a new truth for the first time -- every series I'm recommending I have watched in full myself, so I am not asking anyone else to do something that I haven't already done.  Of course, this excludes filler content which no one should be required to watch in any series.  But I can now proudly say that my list of 152 'best ever' is at least good enough to watch from beginning to end, 1 to 152.  Over the course of the year, I hope enough new good series come out to bump my numbers back to a top 160.  I have high hopes concerning this upcoming spring season.  But for now 152 is the only number I can recommend.  Either the rest of anime isn't worth watching, or at least isn't worth rewatching, and if you can't even watch a show twice it's probably not that good.

Going back to Ojamajo, I can't help but think that friendship is an ephemeral concept linked around a common interest or a common goal.  Once the Ojamajos had lost their common goal -- curing the curse of the former queen's predecessor, they quickly lost interest in magic, and magic was the only thing tying their group together in the first place.  The girls were all so different from each other to begin with, it's no surprise that they immediately broke up.  Even if they had stayed together, they would have had nothing in common to do together or say to each other, so they would have just been bored the whole time.  Even with the magic of teleportation to stay in touch, if you have nothing to say to each other there's no point meeting.

The solution to keep their friendship together was to all become witches together and maintain their interest in magic.  They should have moved to the witch world to live with Queen Hana as her executive cabinet.  Or if not move there, at least visit on the weekends.  With that connection, they could have all maintained their bonds with each other through a new shared task, running the realm.  God knows why they didn't want to become witches, but once they had chosen not to be witches, it was inevitable they would choose to not be friends as well.  They had always been united via magic and had no connection to each other outside of magic.  If they had truly loved each other, I believe it was their duty to stay invested in a common interest that could bring them together naturally at all times.  By giving up on being witches, they gave up on their friendship, because they severed the glue that held all six of them together forever.  What makes this most tragic is that Onpu even said she would become a witch if Doremi did, but Doremi turned her down.  That's the worst of it.  They even were given the choice to stay friends, but Doremi rejected that choice.  If you love each other, I think you should make an effort to stay compatible to each other.  You should try to find common ground, and you should try to stick to it, so that everyone can be happy.  If bonds are truly precious to you, letting them live on only in memory is a disgrace.  Is memory that perfect, that just memories of old times together is as good as an eternal living bond that newly reinforces itself every day together?

Japanese have a phrase, zutto isshouni, which means together forever.  Hana wished on the Tanabata tree that she could be zutto isshouni with her five mothers.  It's a simple wish, and a loving one.  Hana seems to be the only person who wanted that future.  The rest had just been play-acting as friends with no serious intentions from the start.  Instead of making the effort necessary to stay together, they intentionally drifted apart and kept their distance, even from their own daughter.  I think that's as bad as intentionally breaking a priceless vase.  There was once so much love and joy in that circle of friends, and they intentionally exorcised it from their lives so they could concentrate on 'more serious things.'  That's like punching a hole in a Monet painting just because you can.

If there really is a 'right amount of time' for friendship, where you can maximize utility by only staying together during your most needy times, your weakest times when you need most emotional support from others, or when you're trying your hardest tasks and by default need support from others, and then you break up once the tempest is passed, then you may as well stop calling them friends and instead call them business partners or crutches.  I just don't see how wanting a crutch because you're sad, and then transforming that into a 'nice memory' once you've gotten over your depression, is at any time caring about someone else for themselves and due to their personality.  Is everyone just using each other in one giant emotional marketplace?  Do we buy and sell love like the stock exchange?  Ojamajo Doremi is pointing out what's probably an ugly truth of this world -- most people are just friends of convenience, people you slip in and out of knowing without any effort put into it at all.

But shouldn't there be some friendships that aren't like that?  That are more than emotional marketplaces?  I look to friendship as a shining example of love without the crude chemicals of sexual attraction being necessary to cement a bond.  If there is no such friendship, then the corollary is also true, sexual attraction is the only connection between married couples, and marriage itself is just a farce.  If sex is the only thing on this planet that brings two humans together, then it definitely isn't love that unites the world.  Unless some friendships overcome this barrier of temporary, convenient, 'on-loan' friends, then humanity is an ugly and hypocritical structure built entirely on sugar coated lies.  I thought the Ojamajos were those friends, but I was wrong.  The devastation of having that dream ripped from me is more than just one story gone bad.  It's a direct challenge to the existence of love itself.  Is there any such thing as love at all?  Or is it all just lust?  Is it all just selfish indulgence where people use each other for limited, convenient moments to achieve delineated, narrow goals?  In Maria-sama, Sachiko tells Yumi that she doesn't intend to stop being friends with Yumi just because she graduates.  I take her words to heart.  I believe the girls in Maria-sama were true friends to each other, in the inspiring sense of the word.  Of course, without the author going on to prove these statements via future books, that could just be laughed off cynically as a naive and fruitless gesture by Sachiko that will prove itself false shortly.

Likewise, in Little Busters!, the story ends with everyone enjoying a trip to the beach together, perfect friends in all ways.  But perhaps once they graduate all that will cease.  Is there any proof that their friendship is real?  I just don't know.  Are any friendships real?  Or are they all these sorts of part-time gigs that don't amount to anything more than the relationship between a customer and a service provider?  As a corollary, are any marriages real, or are they just glorified prostitution rings?  If sex is the basis of marriage then you may as well just call a spade a spade.  And if it isn't, then it has to be friendship.  Which means friendship has to mean something.  Which means we should see eternal friendship everywhere we look.  Especially in the stories of the people we admire most.  Little Busters! is a group of eternal friends -- right?  Now I wish there was some sort of time skip that would allow me to confirm this question.  But in any case, Ojamajo isn't.  Which means that as a story, it's fundamentally lacking in goodness.  And a story that lacks heart, that lacks soul, that can't find God anywhere or anything worthwhile about mankind, is just a plain bereft story.

In the last episode of Dokaan it shows Doremi confessing to some mystery guy 'two years later,' smiling happily.  But am I supposed to be happy?  Even though she went through so much with Hana, she ended up betraying and abandoning her.  Am I to believe she has a more meaningful bond with this mystery guy than she had with Hana?  Than she had with Onpu?  Aiko?  No, of course not.  That's not humanly possible.  The times she had with those friends were more important than anything she'll ever experience again in her life.  Therefore the reason she wants to be with this guy instead of her original friends and her own daughter is only sex.  She just wants to have sex with the guy but not her girl friends because she isn't a lesbian.  That's the only reason she's happy with this guy, he can provide what she wants, a basic, material, animal-level satisfaction that isn't even worth mentioning it's such a pathetic motivation.  Am I supposed to be encouraged by that?  That she's found happiness by becoming a glorified whore?  If you can't love your own friends, there's no way you love a boyfriend either.  The friends who went everywhere and did everything with her, even risking death by her side, she cast away like so much dirt.  And then she confesses to a boy she hardly knows?  What is that boy supposed to think of this girl?  Isn't it clear that she's only into him for one thing and one thing only?  Can her confession carry any weight at all anymore, to anyone, about anything?

Love is all or nothing.  You're either capable of love or you aren't.  If they couldn't stay friends, there's no way they can have any other relationship in the future either.  People with good friendships make good lovers.  People with good families make good lovers.  People who abandon their friends and family will abandon their lovers too.  If nothing else, people should at least have a firm love of God and keep an eternal bond with Him.  Even that level of faithfulness is reassuring.  But a faithless person is a loveless person.  There's no love in people who can't maintain relations over time.

'Precious memories' are just the corpses of failed friendships.  If it isn't eternal, if it isn't absolute, it just plain isn't love.

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