Tower of Duraga vs Strike Witches

Caught two series a few weeks back, but, being lazy, and now no longer forced to post stuff on a weekly basis, I put off a review. However, I have summer classes coming up…well, tomorrow, so I figured, before shit gets crazy (and yes, this is no longer a school project, so I can say shit now) I thought I’d post something.

I had caught  Tower of Duraga on Hulu. The first episode was hilarious, and, being a fan of RPG’s, I was hooked. Based on a dungeon-crawler video game, the series centers around a loser, Jil, who lives in a village located entirely inside a large tower. The upper levels are inhabited by monsters of all shapes and sizes, with the top dominated by the evil god Duraga. Hoping to one day become a hero like King Gilgamesh (who, prior to being king, was the hero of the original 1984 game), and in spite of his resentful brother, Neeba, Jil manages to acquire a group of heroes and set off to defeat Duraga once again. The series manages to both parody and play straight many of the tropes commonly associated with RPG’s, and makes more than a few nods to the original game. Highly recommended to gamers in general and D and D enthusiasts in particular.

Not so recommended is Strike Witches, a series whose American release, quite frankly, should have been accompanied by an AMBER Alert. Remember the trailer I posted several weeks back?  The show seemed to have some comedy potential (if a little uncomfortable fanservice), however, what results is a mix of slightly amusing cliches and dramatic fluff mixed with a lot of really uncomfortable fanservice. The plot takes place in an alternate timeline, circa 1942, where, instead of Nazis, the earth is attacked by strange aliens called the neuroi. Female magic users, known as witches, are brought together by the military and used to combat the invading menace using special mechanized boots, called brooms, that allow the young women to fly. The girls in question, although each based on real life  WW2 fighter pilots (their “brooms” based on actual planes), are pretty much moe stereotypes. The story, though sounding intriguing at first, is just convoluted (it does make me wonder how someone like Edward O’Hare or Pierre Clostermann would feel about being personified as an overly sexualized 14-year old Japanese girl with magic powers and propeller boots) and too dramatic to be funny, or even mildly amusing. Overall, unless you have a serious witch fetish, and/or are a pedophile, it’s not worth your time.

The Winner: Tower of Duraga

Lolicon

First off, I want to make it clear that I do not abide censorship in any form whatsoever. This country is overly puritanical and driven to fits of hysterics over the slightest hint of sexuality, whereas acts of morbid violence are shown regularly without the slightest concern (not that government or self-appointed moral guardians should have any right to tell right-minded, consenting adults that they can’t watch either). Art and knowledge should be available to the masses in exactly the form they are intended to take.

But…then there’s lolicon.

A simplification of the term “Lolita complex,” lolicon refers to a genre of Japanese media that depicts young girls (or childlike women) in erotic situations. Seen mostly in anime and manga (where its much easier to depict an underage character in this manner without alerting authorities), the genre has long been the subject of controversy due to its obvious implications of pedophilia. Granted, there’s no concrete evidence that lolicon contributes to the exploitation of children, and some camps argue that removing non-exploititive materials may contribute to such crimes. However, to those outside of Japan, that doesnt keep it from being any less…creepy, and many countries, including Canada, have lumped it in with child pornography and banned it outright.

It’s worth noting that a large majority of females in anime are depicted as overly cute and innocent even without being underage, in the typical kawaii style, and many of those that are aren’t necessarily sexualized. That said, many anime/manga series, created in a country where schoolgirl fetishes are common, will have lolicon themes inserted into an otherwise unrelated plot. For anime purists, who demand that shows be presented complete and unedited,  this creates a  serious dichotomy between censorship and public safety.

Marzgurl (of ThatGuywiththeGlasses.com) recently posted a video on this issue, commenting on Funimation‘s controversial decision to release Dance in the Vampire Bund in an edit-only format, due to the millenia old (and heavily sexualized) vampire protagonist inhabiting  the body of a nine year old girl. Because of the company’s long held tradition of releasing unedited versions of its liscensed material (unlike some other companies, which shall remain nameless), this decision is seen as a major slap in the face to fans, who have threatened to boycott.

On the other hand, most of what’s been cut is animated nudity of a NINE YEAR OLD GIRL. Make of that what you will.

Update…

Having been busy with school and all, I’ve been neglecting my anime-watching duties. Hopefully, once my classwork settles down, I’ll be able to make it to some comic book stores to explore manga consumption in our area.

Towards the end of April, I’ll be taking another anime tour of New York, and will have loads of pics and stories from that. Meanwhile, I’ve managed to score an interview with voice actor Greg Ayres, which I’ll have for you by monday.

Coming up tonight: Lolicon and the censorship of anime in America.