arcadiagt5 (arcadiagt5) wrote,

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Anime Archetypes Panel Notes

Anime archetypes is a panel that could go for endless hours. To limit it I called for suggestions and based the panel around those suggestions plus a few more suggested by my co-panellist Steveg.

The basic format we were following for each was:

a) Brief Description
b) Earliest usage we could remember (given that this was a pair of Grumpy Old Fen :) )
c) Best usage we could remember
d) Discussion as to whether the archetype is generally good or bad
e) Should you run away now if you encounter it? (bearing in mind that this was a pair of Grumpy Old Fen ranting about things we sometimes get so tired of seeing again and again and...)

So, on to the archetypes that were actually discussed (warning: links are to wikipedia pages and WILL contain spoilers)

1. Girls With Guns
a) Brief Description: Action Girl meets the Gunslinger
b) Earliest usage: Dirty Pair, possibly Gall Force: Eternal Story or Riding Bean
c) Best usage: Iria: Zeiram the Animation, Gunslinger Girl
d) Discussion: This is (at least superficially) a feminist/ empowering archetype so it opens the way to strong female characters.

However it depends on what other tropes are present for the character. Ms Fanservice is a combination that can be dreadful (cf Those Who Hunt Elves).

And there is that qualifier “superficially” – if it is the only empowering element of the female characters then you may have a problem.

e) Run away now? I’d give it a look if thats all I knew. 

2. Mind Screw
a) Brief Description: What just happened? What does it mean?
b) Earliest usage: Vampire Princess Miyu OAVs
c) Best usage: Key the Metal Idol (oh so much), Haibane Renmei (oh so much)
d) Discussion: On its own this is  a neutral archetype.

Whether a mind screw works is going to be utterly dependent on the characters. If you don’t care about the characters to whom the weirid, funky, and possibly symbolic...stuff is happening to, then you won’t engage with it.  At that point the mind screw simply becomes annoying (cf Evangelion).

If you do have characters to care about, then settle in for a wild ride that you probably won’t understand.

But it’ll be fun to scratch your head in puzzlement afterwards.

e) Run away now? No, since I don’t do drugs I sometimes watch these instead. :-)

3. Ms. Fanservice
a) Brief Description: Hello boys! Are we having a good time?
b) Earliest usage: Ranma ½, Dirty Pair, Riding Bean
c) Best usage: Faye Valentine (Cowboy Bebop)
d) Discussion:  Usually bad. And it can be very bad.

Especially when, as is the case all too often, it is combined with underage characters to an extent that can make me go “ewwwww”.

Another key issue can be the way Ms Fanservice shatters the willing suspension of disbelief. Look guys real boobs just don’t move like that. And it would be nice if the female characters could actually stand up in normal gravity at all.

Or without screaming in agony at the constant back pain.

Often  Ms Fanservice is at best a distraction from the story rather than actively damaging to the story. Mai-Hime is an example of a series where the story is just barely strong enough to overcome my distaste at the constant “fan service”.

This character can work well in comedies (early Ranma ½ episodes especially).

In a drama it can also work well if there genuinely is more to the character than that. Which is why I select Faye Valentine as the best usage of it: partly she’s using it to get ahead (cf Erin Brockovich [“They’re called boobs Ed”], and partly to hide the fact that she is deeply broken inside behind a strong front.

e) Run away now?  All too often.  If it looks like this is all there is then definitely. There have been some titles I have fled screaming from just by looking at the cover art.

4. Magical Girls
a) Brief Description: Release!
b) Earliest usage: Leda: The Fantastic Adventure of Yohko
c) Best usage: Card Captor Sakura
d) Discussion:  Can be a coming of age / empowerment metaphor. There is an alternative message of external granting of power vs self achievement which could be damaging.

Can also be an excuse for tacky stock footage.  And we mean tacky. 

e) Run away now?  Sometimes. Good ones are rare, and it can be really, really, tacky.

5. World Jumping
a) Brief Description: What am I doing here? Why me?
b) Earliest usage: Leda: The Fantastic Adventure of Yohko
c) Best usage: Twelve Kingdoms, Spirited Away
d) Discussion:  This is the classic fish out of water / grass is not always greener type of story. It also ties into Japanese mythology of being spirited away as well as into western equivalents such as "Rip Van Winkle" or entering faery rings.

The key question is does the world jumping character learn anything or have to develop/adapt.

e) Run away now? No, this one usually has some potential for good story telling. 

6. The One True Pilot
a) Brief Description: The mecha equivalent of the sword in the stone
b) Earliest usage: Patlabor, Mobile Suit Gundam
c) Best usage: Gunbuster, RahXephon, Gasaraki
d) Discussion:  This is often the male equivalent of the magical girl (but less exclusively so).

Can be hard to justify in story, but can pay off well if done right. 

e) Run away now? This has been done often enough that I am reluctant to see any more without indications that there is something more.

Thanks to:
• cheshirenoir for Girls With Guns (Noir) and Mind Screw (Key the Metal Idol)
• livewareissue for helping to clarify my comments on the Ms Fanservice archetype.
• Steveg for suggesting Magical Girls, World Jumping, and The One True Pilot as well as helping out on the panel. 

Tags: anime, musings, reviews, sf cons

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