Hey guess what? I watch anime! I'm sure I've mentioned it before on here at some stage, but as this is primarily a book blog, my various other methods of putting off doing important things tend to go unmentioned. But I'd like to branch out a little, so I thought I'd occasionally share some anime shows that I've enjoyed watching.
This is one of my favourite animes, although that might have something to do with the fact that I marathoned the whole show with one of my best friends, and housemate at the time, Tom. This reminds me of chilling on the sofa in our pyjamas, trying in vain to sing along to the Japanese lyrics in the opening titles. Soul Eater is about another world, in which the grim reaper is a slightly Dumbledore-esque character, who runs a school teaching 'Meisters' and 'Weapons': Teams of (usually) two in which one person can turn into a weapon, and the other can wield them.
The plot follows three teams, Maka and her weapon Soul, who becomes a scythe, Black Star and Tsubaki who has various forms but generally appears as a katana, and Death the Kid (The headmasters own son) who partners with sisters Patty and Liz who form into twin pistols. The very vague plot involves witches, and raising evil spirits from the dead and collecting souls and an inexplicable giant tadpole called Tadpole Jackson and honestly I can't really explain it in any coherent way, but I did really really enjoy it. It has the perfect balance of fun and humour, paired with 'No really the world will end if we don't get our shit together' that makes for something engaging and entertaining. It's also really heartfelt and explores a lot about friendship, family and kindness, even to people who might not deserve it. And, if nothing else, the title songs are dope af.
Gekkan Shojou Nozaki Kun
Next on the list is some fluff. Chiyo is a sweet cinnamon bun harbouring a secret affection for the big quiet guy in class. One day she confesses her feelings to him and, due to her poor choice of words and his misunderstanding, ends up with an autograph and a job offer. Nozaki, the object of her affections is actually a manga artist and, under a pseudonym, writes popular romance novels. Unfortunately despite his heartfelt artwork, hes fairly clueless about romance in the real world and Chiyo ends up joining his team and helping him work, in the hopes that she can figure out a way to get him to realise how she feels.
This is actually hilarious, particularly if you've watched a lot of fluffy romance animes, as the plot and the characters poke fun at a lot of the tropes we see in typical shows and even if you haven't, the heartwarming story and ridiculous loveable characters make this show something you can watch again and again. They're not making a second season of this and it gives me the sads.
Psycho Pass is a really strange anime. It takes place in the not too distant future, in which Tokyo's justice system has been completely overhauled, and is now headed by Sybil, an AI that can sense someone's likelihood to commit crimes. This allows the law enforcers of the city to prevent crimes from happening and to stem flows of anxiety and trauma in the city, leading to a seemingly pleasant utopia. However a new recruit ... enters the force with fresh eyes, and her diligence and determination to uphold morality, as opposed to a black and white judgement from Sybil, means that the cracks in the system begin to show.
This show is pretty brutal, in every sense of the word. There are really hard hitting ideas about humanity and what we are capable of when we see others as things to be kept in order. It reminded me a lot of the hideous situation in America with cops shooting young black men, where the mindset is almost akin to a purging of people with the (assumed) potential to commit crime, rather than waiting for it to happen. In this new Tokyo, you are declared dangerous by a force without compassion or subjectivity and the law enforcement officials have their weapons automatically set to kill. It also gets very gory and upsetting so not one for a more delicate disposition. AT ALL.
Also do yourself a favour and resist watching the second season. It was the most shrug-worthy follow up I've ever watched and took all the interesting premises and ideas laid out by the first season and just ran around naked, waving them in the air and screaming. It was just bad.
Death Parade is another show that I watched with my friend Tom. It's a really unique premise and such an enjoyable show. The series takes place in a place similar to purgatory. When two people die at the same time, they are sent to one of a series of bars run by bartenders who act as arbiters. They must participate in a game, a different one for each pair, and during the process of these games the true nature of each person in revealed, as well as the truth of the circumstances of their deaths. The arbiter uses these games to decide whether each of the dead people are sent for their souls to be reincarnated, or banished to the void. The show focuses mostly on Decim, one of the arbiters, and a mysterious woman who finds herself there with no knowledge of who she is or how she came to be in purgatory, and assists Decim overseeing the Death Games as the mystery of her identity is unravelled.
Like Psycho Pass this show really explores ideas of human nature, how we all wear a facade of 'civility', and what we are capable of when truly pushed to the limits. There's also a greater mystery surrounding Purgatory and the people who live there, and the reason the young woman is there. It's a very intricate and involved series with a lot to think about.
Let me know if there are any animes I'm missing out on!
This is the first of the Man Booker shortlist that I've read and honestly, I'm pretty disappointed. While it was a fairly enjoyable reading experience I really don't understand what it's doing on the shortlist, I don't know what exactly anyone sees in it... I'm actually kind of baffled.
This book is sold as a compelling, honest account of modern masculinity. A raw and complex exploration of manhood in the twenty first century. It is split into nine short segments, each focusing on a few days in a different man's life, with the men getting older as the narrative progresses, and dealing with the different situations that life brings.
I assumed this would explore concepts of toxic masculinity, gender identity, emotional intelligence, sexuality, race, body image, the changing dynamic between men and women, and potentially look at the horrifying suicide rates of young men. All of the things we know structure and guide a man's life whether he's conscious of them or not, but I was really let down.
Honestly, if this is 'All That Man Is', then man is unethical, constantly horny, and unbelievably boring. Although there were some differences in background and life outlook each story could probably have been about the same person, just getting steadily older and more lame and miserable.
Not a single one of the characters that this book focuses on has anything interesting in their lives. I couldn't really see why any of these stories were worth telling. There didn't seem to be any real stakes in most of the segments and there was no real journey or development in the characters either. One of the stories literally went something like this:
"Ah shit my casual girlfriend is pregnant, I'll try to convince her not to keep it. Well that's made her really upset. We'll walk around some name-drop sights in the city we're in at the moment and I'll say some smart sounding stuff about my profession. Ah ok she's agreed to terminate the pregnancy, oh wait no she hasn't. I feel conflicted. Also I pranged her dad's car. The end."
So why bother? Am I just missing something?
I will say that it is beautifully written. Szalay's prose is effortless and accomplished, never over flowery with metaphor or 'look how deep I am' prattle, but always very smart and confident. Whatever I think of his novel, his writing is incredibly capable and I'm definitely interested to see what else he's written.
I think the novel as a whole was mainly disappointing because I know that men aren't that shallow. They aren't led solely by their penis and they aren't flat boring dickholes. I have men in my life, friends and relatives and romantic partners who actually had other shit going on in their lives. They have families they care about, causes they want to fight for and struggle with their core nature conflicting with societal expectations. I actually feel slightly offended on their behalf, that this is meant to be the literature that represents them, when novels like Girls by Emma Cline or My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout have such rich and intricate characterisation of women that the narrative has to admit that the are ultimately unknowable. All of the characters we follow here are flat and unmemorable and have minimal development. The structure of the stories means that we only ever really follow each of the nine men there in the moment, we know very little about who they are and where they came from and, while in some cases the author did a really good job of summing up an archetype in just a few scenes (the shark-journalist workaholic whose wife has to hide his phone, or the twenty something loser who still lives with his parents and plays video games and ambles after girls who don't care about him.) That's all they are, archetypes. Stereotypes of men that we see in cheap media. The whole point of truly good literature is to challenge that and to give those stereotypes their own depths and truths and this just doesn't. I don't know what it really means to be a man, and I was excited to have my own assumptions challenged and really empathise with men and get a glimpse into their own rich complex inner lives. But no, apparently they're just shitty people who want boobs all the time. Cool.
If anyone has read this and did enjoy it please let me know because I would love to see what someone saw in it enough to get it published, let alone short listed for the Man Booker!
Thank you for reading.