Friday, 15 August 2014

続夏目友人帳 / Zoku Natsume Yuujinchou / Natsume's Book of Friends Continued (Season 2)

Perhaps appropriately, given that it is the only season to be titled as a continuation rather than being given a number like a sequel, Zoku Natsume Yuujinchou is the only time a season starts without an opening episode that repeats the exposition to explain the premise...which is why I didn’t notice when I started watching season 4 that it wasn’t the beginning.

The second season is really more of the same. It kicks off with an imitator of Nyanko-sensei, who turns out to be a powerful youkai, and generally the series goes on exploring Natsume’s situation and developing his relationships extremely slowly. We also begin to have the theme of everyone else but Natsume wanting to choose a side – abandoning humanity to spend time with the youkai like his grandmother Reiko, or treating them like tools or animals like the exorcists. 

There are even humans who will use a youkai as bait to catch another. Natsume spends more time with the famous actor Natori – including a hot springs trip with him, a new level of homoeroticism. Otherwise, things are generally episodic again – Natsume might buy a painting that turns out to be the object of obsession of a kind-hearted spirit, or meet an old lady who met a mermaid in her youth and fears she cursed another with immortality.

Though the cute fox boy is not back in this season, he will return in the next. Instead, there’s a little dragon-boy who hatches from an egg who is quite absurdly cute – especially as powerful demons want to eat him – and another somewhat emo young spirit whose name was taken by Reiko and tied to a tree. 

There’s also a very interesting young boy called Kai who is prickly but of course warms to Natsume – and in the two-part season finale turns out to be more than he initially appears. His design seems almost a nod to Mushishi, but grey/white hair and a fringe that covers one eye isn’t exactly unique. It’s a little unconvincing how he departs to neatly round off the story, but it was interesting to watch nonetheless.

As the series gets closer to the present day, the animation marginally improves, but it’s never really what one would call stunning. Still, Brain’s Base get the art style nicely, and a slightly less bombastic style suits it.
The only thing I’m starting to find unconvincing is that Natsume’s supposed spiritual power manifests generally in one punch to the face whenever he’s in trouble, and that always seems to sort out even the most terrifying threat – before, of course, Nyanko-sensei intervenes.

I suspect that looking back, I’ll consider season 2 the most underwhelming of the Natsume Yuujinchou seasons, but I thoroughly enjoyed it nonetheless, and will happily continue with season 3.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Pudgy & Grunge, from Mrs. Doubtfire

Even for my blog, this is a slightly odd thing to talk about. But it is an interesting little nugget of animation that, with Robin Williams’ recent passing, I have been thinking about. I wanted to write something as a bit of a tribute to Williams, and since I don’t think thoughts on Robots would be that, I’ve opted for this.

I loved this opening. My brother and I would watch the film a lot when I was a child, and I would happily sing along to the snippets of ‘Large al Factotum’ that open the short. Though I knew that legendary Warner Bros. director Chuck Jones made the animation seen, only today did I find out a full five minutes of animation were made. True, the sequence ends when the Doubtfire script demands it, but this is still a very interesting little nugget.

Clearly a parody of Sylvester & Tweetie, the short’s slapstick has more in common with Jones’ run on Tom & Jerry. It’s gleefully classic – the cat wants to eat the bird, so chases him, but ends up injuring himself or letting himself get distracted.

But of course overlaid on this is the fun of Robin Williams taking on the roles of both cat and mouse. The cat’s smooth voice has something of the voice Jeremy Irons would later give Scar, especially saying ‘I think not’ – a line I’d like to believe was a reference to the sinister cat in Watership Down, unlikely as I know that to be. His Pudgy is irritating, but hey – is that not perfect given Mel Blanc’s delivery of Tweetie’s lines?

It may seem odd now, but in 1993 Williams’ stature as a voice actor was freshly-established after his bravura performance in Aladdin and his contribution to FernGully. I feel that in a small way, this film made the image of him as a vocal performer even more solid in the public’s mind. He was incredibly skilled and if you pretend hard enough, this short can almost make you feel he was there in the golden age...

A Liar’s Autobiography: The Untrue Story of Monty Python’s Graeme Chapman

This was such a beautiful idea, and could have been something wonderful. And while I suspect I liked it rather more than the critics who eviscerated it, and it had flashes of something brilliant, mostly it simply wasn’t a good animation at all.

The strong idea: to take the audiobook version of Graeme Chapman’s 1980 ‘autobiography’ – with four listed authors other than Chapman and the typically glib appended joke ‘Volume VI’ – and make an animation using Chapman’s voice. What we know now about his hedonism, his alcoholism and of course his death from cancer will surely lend extra poignancy, and getting the surviving pythons involved for new voiceovers can only help, right? What’s more, to reflect the many and varied elements of Chapman’s life, how about commissioning a number of British animation studios to provide different segments for a compilation animation like Fuyu no Hi or Genius Party? Sounds great, right?

Well, there are two massive failings here – one is that the animations dictate the pacing, and the pacing is entirely wrong; the other is that without fail, the animations are ugly. There is no cuteness here, not even the quirky cuteness of Aardman or Peppa Pig. There is no stop-motion or classic animation in the Superted/Count Duckula tradition. There is certainly no Watership Down realism, storybook winsomeness of The Snowman or any of the clever mixing of styles of Gumball. I’m sure it’s because of a low budget, but we get almost nothing but bad CG best-suited to early 2000s European music videos (yes, I’m talking Jamba!-level), unimpressive Flash and some clumsy hand-drawn animation in the style of unimpressive adverts. And not Kellogg’s smoothness or Compare the Meerkat decent CG. The film fails to represent either the history of British animation or how good it can be. Some sequences are done very well, mind you, but others are awful and there is a constant need for the experimental parts to be tempered by some sincere, straightforward, solid animation.

The film starts very clunkily. After an awkwardly-timed rendition of Chapman choking during the Oscar Wilde sketch done in cut-out animation, we go back to his childhood, and things get awkward. A story about body parts during World War II isn’t really one that benefits from visuals, even crude cartoon ones, and Chapman’s ideas on class get muddled. Asides with awfully-rendered monkeys as the Pythons long overstay their welcome after the well-known story of coming up with the Python name. And then while the scene of miserable British holidays in the rain worked, stiff video-game CG for a quite clever passage about Freud (bafflingly played by Cameron Diaz here) analyzing an obviously homoerotic dream about Biggles and pointing out only signs of feelings of navigational inadequacy completely ruined it. It not only made the dream itself hideously unfunny, it was far too slow to unfold and all the humour dried up.

Bland animations covered Chapman going to Cambridge and meeting Cleese, who did an unkind impersonation of David Frost. The most obvious and puerile animations were used for Chapman discovering his sexuality (which came over far more as bisexual than homosexual) and sadly, later, his penchant for promiscuity. Things got better as he realised his alcoholism and he went cold turkey – the sort of event that requires odd, experimental animation, which is what we got, and the animation towards the end where he grows very tired of Hollywood parties yet incessantly namedrops is superb, like a smoother Superjail, especially when Wilde himself appears – voiced, of course, by Stephen Fry.  

Chapman was a funny man – ignoring the awful and butchered Yellowbeard – and I sense the autobiography reflected that. But coupling his writing with badly-paced, ugly animation kills it. And having all the Pythons bar Idle (whose singing voice features) provide new voice-overs makes me think that the project deserved to be better-realised than, sadly, it was. 

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

ねこぢる草 / Nekojiru-So / Catsoup Grass / Cat Soup

Nekojiru-So is a very weird short animation. In weirdness, it’s right up there with Mind Game and even A Country Doctor. The 2001 animation is an adaptation of the drug-influenced manga of the artist Nekojiru – which means catsoup – who sadly committed suicide three years earlier. I must confess, I do not know how much of the trippiness derives from the original work, as I have never read it, nor seen the prior collection of 2-minute shorts Nekojiru Gekijou. But I get the impression her vision is maintained in the out-and-out weirdness here. No surprise, Yuasa Masaaki was a screenwriter here. 

Let me try to recount the plot, as I recall it. The young humanised cat Nyatta almost dies trying to fish his toy truck out of the bath. This near-death experience, apart from letting him pass a group of women gossiping in squeaky voices like Sweep from Sooty and Sweep, also allows him to see his sick sister Nyaa-ko’s soul being taken away. Apparently the one taking her soul is meant to be the bodhisattva Jizou – patron deity of dead children – he looks a hell of a lot more like a cutesy Shiva. Anyway, Nyatta pulls his big sister’s soul back with him, but succeeds only in splitting it in two. When Nyatta recovers from drowning and the dead Nyaa-ko is revived using this half-soul, she is more or less vegetative.

On a quest to buy some tofu, the siblings stop at a circus where the Abrahamic god seems to be performing, sawing up a woman and reassembling her, giving form to his words and presumably being behind the circus’ main attraction, a giant bird full of his cloud-breath that makes pretty colours when it squawks. Inciting these squawks, however, foolish men go too far, the bird fills up with rainclouds and then water, and finally bursts, flooding the whole world.

Nyatta and Nyaa-ko end up on a wooden arc with a pig they treat very cruelly. He offers them tasty fish that gathered to eat the boat occupant’s poop under their toilet, but the cats prefer to unzip the pig’s outer skin and remove the tasty butchered pork cuts from inside him, which they fry up and eat - including the pig autocannibalising himself. Out on the sea, a creature is pregnant with kittens, but eaten by baby pterodactyls, whose poop puts the baby kitten into the flowers the grow beneath them. One fish, meanwhile, has a small adventure trying to make a break for it, but some samurai chop him up into sushi. Undeterred, the fish bone swims on, seeing a giant muck-lump above the surface and then washing up on the shore, where a random child cat eats its eyeball and gets reprimanded.

The beach brings in sand imagery, and God empties the world’s excess waters, so that the world becomes desert. The poor pig is abused by the cats, who use him as a slave, riding in his skin and ultimately killing him. Nyatto loses an arm in the scuffle, but gets it reattached. In the house of some weird degenerate, who feeds them delicious food before putting them in a cauldron with vegetables, donning his bondage gear and trying to cut their heads off with scissors. He gets overexcited and falls in the cauldron himself, and the cats escape, first pulling off his scalp to reveal the robot parts underneath, then chopping off his limbs and shutting the lid on him. These are some violent kitties.

Back in the desert, they dig under a mushroom-y thing to find water, but uncover a water-elephant, which is pretty awesome. It has plenty for them to drink and they can even swim in it, but it finally evaporates in the blistering heat – moments before reaching a shoreline where giant Dalí-influenced mosquitoes stalk along. Cutting a cabbage-thing full of blood, God stops time, and for some reason the cats fall down into giant still scenes mostly of the ocean. In a rather lovely, extremely bleak sequence that follows after one cat finds a woman about to step in front of a subway train and cuts away her teardrop like a jewel, in the attempt by celestial beings to set time right again, everything is sped up, slowed down and reversed. The cats age in moments, car crash victims are restored, and bullets are sucked right out of the heads of the victims of a gangland or terrorist execution – the likes of which I’ve sadly seen from ISIS lately.

Time is turned back far enough that the cats are back on the arc. Jizou had hinted they need to find a flower, and they come across it past some weird steam-powered cat. This restores Nyaa-ko’s soul, so the two can return home – suggesting it may all have been a trip into the world of the dead. Except that back home, when Nyatto goes to the toilet, his family members all get switched off just like the picture on a CRT television. As does Nyatto. And then the screen itself.

Okay, I’ve taken about all the space I have just to summarise the bizarre plot, but that should convey just how weird this was. Like most super-weird anime, though, it is justified by its striking visuals, brief moments of heavy emotional significance and frequently unsettling atmosphere. J.C. Staff are at the most experimental I’ve ever seen them – though I guess if you condensed all Di Gi Charat’s weirdest moments you might come close – but also ambitious. Some of the sweeping shot compositions and the methods of realising vast scales are beautiful.

I can’t help but think I’d have loved this if the cats were a little more sympathetic, though. Cruel little buggers!

Monday, 4 August 2014

夏目友人帳 / Natsume Yuujinchou / Natsume's Book of Friends: Season 1

As I said in my thoughts of Genius Party, I had a weird start to my experience of Natsume Yuujinchou. I started watching season 4 without any idea it wasn’t the beginning. And the odd thing was that it took until episode 6 for me to realise that I wasn’t watching from the beginning – because there was clearly a backstory to the relationship between Natsume and a celebrity with a moving birthmark/tattoo that I hadn’t seen. Every other relationship – from the cat to the more minor friendly spirits to the schoolfriends – I could take as natural elements of a story starting in medias res. Which, I suppose, is a sign of some very good writing. Or even if it was just me being dumb – by the time I got that far I was hooked.

Natsume Yuujinchou is the story of a boy with the power to see spirits. One day, one of the more powerful of them becomes Natsume’s ally and Natsume is drawn to their society while at the same time having to be aware that nobody else around him can see what he can. So far, very Bleach. But the execution is very different, in part because this is a shoujo series, not a shounen one – though it blurs the lines. If I were to compare it to any other series, it would probably be Kekkaishi, with a similar relationship with a protective spirit, family tradition and much emphasis on a rather goofy teenage male protagonist and how he interacts with his peers – rather than how much butt he kicks.

Though he has had a difficult time as a child, passed between family members and foster homes as his ability to see things creeps people out – a bit of a Sixth Sense backstory – Natsume has mellowed into a pleasant boy who doesn’t want to cause problems for others. But from his grandmother, who had the same ability but spent her life challenging spirits, he has inherited the ‘book of friends’ – a list of the names of spirits. These names allow the owner to summon and command the powerful beings, and though it doesn’t seem Natsume’s grandmother ever used the book for that purpose, it is a valuable relic and in the wrong hands it could be a terrible thing.

Into Natsume’s life comes a mischievous spirit who is arguably the series’ main draw, the childish, vulgar, impetuous and selfish spirit Madara, who takes the form of a fat cat and so gets the nickname of Nyanko-sensei. This cute, beckoning cat-style guardian spirit offers protection to Natsume in exchange for getting the Book of Friends upon his death, in a somewhat less creepy echo of the central relationship in Kuroshitsuji. His cat form is a kind of brilliant ugly-cute and his grumpy old man personality hiding a formidable power is a classic of Japanese storytelling, as seen everywhere from Toshiro Mifune characters to Muten Roshi in Dragonball. And, of course, Yoda. He’s hilarious and a key part of the series’ appeal.

Once the set-up is dealt with, the series becomes largely episodic, not too far from Mushishi in terms of Natsume encountering new spirits and hearing their stories, then sorting them out. He doesn’t travel much, but sometimes he’ll go to, for example, an old abandoned train station his grandmother went to once, and there discover a spirit that needs to be reconciled with his friend but has been waiting for decades for Natsume’s grandmother to return. In a way rather reminiscent of Western cartoon writing, these little stories will also be framed by something to parallel them in Natsume’s life – like friends in his school needing to reconcile. It’s neat, it’s simple and it’s very, very cute.

Not everything is episodic. Many characters recur, especially significant humans – we’ll see more of the exorcist, as I mentioned. Natsume’s schoolfriends stay in his life, especially one who has some small power to see spiritual elements: the season finale centres on Natsume’s developing kinship with him, which borders on the homoerotic. Significant spirits also come back, from comedy mid-level, rather bureaucratic spirits to a huge horse-like spirit who becomes a strong ally. There’s also the heartbreakingly cute story of a lonely little fox spirit, who is saved from bullies by Natsume and begins to hero-worship him. It’s absurdly cute and made my man-ovaries squeal. Dammit, I’m still too young to want kids, especially fox-spirit kids. But oh lawd, that kid was too goddamn cute.

I wouldn’t have been satisfied with just these 13 episodes. The story barely seems to have gotten going, there was no overarching plot to this particular season (ie not the same one that runs through the entire story) – but of course there are three more seasons to watch, so that doesn’t trouble me. And I think that if the story isn’t satisfactorily wrapped up, I’m going to have to read the manga. Because though I can’t say the series stands out in terms of animation, character, concept or performance, I became really emotionally attached – and that’s the most important thing.  

Friday, 25 July 2014

ジーニアス・パーティ / Genius Party

I’ve been meaning to get around to watching Genius Party for a long while. Well, today turned out to be a good day for it, because I had set aside some time to marathon Natsume Yuujinchou, only to find I only had series 4 to watch. So as I was in the mood for something new rather than something I’ve been watching for a while, I fixed on Genius Party.

If the title makes you expect a rave with a Tales of Symphonia character, have another think, and forget modesty. This compilation film is rather in the vein of Fuyu no Hi – several respected directors get a chance to show off their stuff. This is somewhat of a lesser project, though, in terms of its inception – it’s not international, every director represented here being Japanese, it’s not linked by a stab at being high-concept like the Basshou theme there, and the animation is done entirely by Studio 4°C. When it was made in 2007, the studio were clearly very keen to put their stamp down as a highly capable, quirky and arty studio, building on their contribution to The Animatrix, the pleasantly oddball Tekkon Kinkreet and the wonderful Mahou Shoujotai Arusu. Of course, over the next few years, they were not exactly highly idiosyncratic, getting bogged down in animating Transformers: Animated and the ill-fated Thundercats revival, with not much else to show for their newly-established place in the anime world but the entertaining but not exactly ground-breaking Detroit Metal City and their game-related animation like the cutscenes for Catherine and one of the Kid Icarus shorts.

Divorced from the studio history, however, all the component parts of Genius Party are interesting in their own rights, though in no way make up a cohesive whole. Essentially they are linked only by being together in this compilation.

The first segment is the eponymous Genius Party, directed by veteran female key animator Fukushima Atsuko. Having contributed to Akira and Kiki’s Delivery Service, she’s worked with the best, though I’d like to see her helm more than this oddball segment. In a very music video-like sequence, a lanky dark-skinned man in a very strange burlap bird outfit hunts the hearts from little living stone faces in the desert. Most hide, but one is caught tripping out with a glowing flower. The bird-man gobbles down its heart and gains glowing wings, flying up to the sky. The flower, too, has floated up high and the bird-man eats it, becoming a shooting start. Whether as a result or by coincidence, clouds form an bright sparks rain down, restoring the soul of the little stone face whose heart was eaten. The shooting star bird-man returns to fly about and the stone faces show their approval with big glowing hearts, which pop suggestively when they’re most excited. One gets so stimulated it projects a giant trippy energy-flower into the night sky, which also becomes a bird. One of the heads becomes a huge, clearly living thing. This is clearly about inspiration and creativity inspiring all those around you...but how exactly is pretty subjective. It’s a bit of trippy vagueness that is very enjoyable visually but ultimately says little of importance.

Next is an offering from Kawamuri Shouji, the man who went from helping design Optimus Prime and other original Diaclone proto-Transformers to creating Escaflowne and designing mechas for Ghost in the Shell and Eureka 7. The length of a typical anime pilot, his Shanghai Dragon features a snot-nosed little Chinese boy who picks up a piece of alien tech that makes what he draws become real. Unfortunately, this draws vast intergalactic forces, and some big CG mechas come to catch him. The overused CG is looks dated now, but the action is incredibly stylish - and very, very silly! Fantastically paced wish fulfilment, it’s a cut above what can be done on TV budgets, and hilarious, but nothing you’d call artistic.

Third is Kimura Shinji’s Deathtic 4, with CG shaded to look like a grim gothic children’s book – with a heavy Burton influence. Kimura is comparatively unknown, but was art director for Steamboy and Tekkon Kinkreet. In a world of zombies who speak a kind of Japanesey Swedish, a boy gets in trouble when he finds a living frog. It’s a good effort and I love the art style, but attempts to inject action and fart jokes fall flat. A slow, meditative, creepy pace would’ve worked better.

Mangaka  Fukuyama Youji’s Doorbell is next, and the nadir of the film. Hideously ugly designs, bad CG and an overdone doppelganger storyline make this one to skip on any repeat viewings.

Futamura Hideki’s Limit Cycle is almost as bad, a faux-intellectual discourse on utilitarianism and existentialism that rambles on and on. Futamura is another key animator, though directed some bits and pieces like some episodes of the old Jojo’s OVAs, and this gets a pass from being a disaster for striking visuals. It’s all so juvenile, though. So 6th-form artwork.

Of course, the main draw here for me was Yuasa Masaaki’s Happy Machine. As a confirmed Yuasa fanboy, this short was everything I hoped his Adventure Time episode would be – and wasn’t. A surreal yet moving story of a baby discovering mortality, it had the odd yet coherent and sometimes stunningly smooth animation of Kemonozume, the freewheeling plot of Mind Game and some of the emotionally affecting qualities of his Wakfu episode. It had pee and poop and farts, yet the infantile qualities suited it, and didn’t seem embarrassing at all. Strange and yet moving, it was everything I hoped for from Yuasa, and makes me happy he could go on to direct Kaiba soon after.

Finally, big hitter Watanabe Shin’ichirou brings us Baby Blue, which is also well worth the hypothetical price of admission. The story of two students escaping ennui with an impromptu trip to the beach with a hand grenade, it succeeds primarily by being very straight, with superb naturalistic dialogue. The fantasy of blowing up an old-fashioned yankii gang helps, too. This is perhaps the most ordinary work here, but also the most mature and most meaningful – and beautiful.  

Thursday, 24 July 2014

ノーゲーム・ノーライフ / No Game No Life

NGNL fell short of everything I wanted it to be. Obviously, I never expected it to be sophisticated like Paranoia Agent or epic like Seirei no Moribito, but I hoped it would be a silly, entertaining bit of fluff I could watch with my brain switched off. Sadly, it aimed for a little more than that, and the result was a mess I mostly found annoying.

The No x No Life formula is common in Japanese uses of English. Tower Records in Shibuya has a huge plaque reading ‘No Music No Life’, for example. No Game No Life, unsurprisingly, centres on two characters whose entire lives are devoted to playing games. Instead of an amusing Welcome to the NHK study on a NEET not fitting into society or a Rozen Maiden take on how a fantasy adventure can lead to a person making changes in their everyday life and getting over psychological issues, No Game No Life is a wish-fulfilment fantasy. Though it is interesting in that the light novel was written by a writer who was not born in Japan – Brazilian born Thiago Furukawa Lucas, who writes as Kamiya Yuu – ultimately I am quite surprised it’s as successful as it is, even with its heavy fanservice.

Two siblings game together as ‘Blank’, largely online. They hate the larger world and have no place in it. They also have a rather dubious relationship – 18-year-old big brother Sora and 11-year-old little sister Shiro are attached to one another in a way clearly designed to appeal to loli fans. After being approached by a god who takes the form of a little pageboy named Tet, they are sucked into another world where everything is a game. Of the sixteen races – equivalent to one side of a chessboard – humans are ranked lowest, but with Blank on the scene that’s all going to change.

The drama of the series has no tension at all. Blank are ridiculous. They are so good at games that they surpass human limits, can effectively predict any enemy’s actions and have the physical ability to do things like force a tossed coin to land on its edge by moving a pavement slab with a foot. They are overly perfect despite having lived an absurdly unhealthy life, with Sora handsome and suave – with women constantly throwing themselves at him – and Shiro blank-faced, submissive and prone to getting naked a lot, as well as acting suggestively to other girls. Both have the ability to play games on a level that’s plain stupid, and though sometimes the way they win is clever – like when they use an NPC’s movement to put a team member in the right position to counteract cheating – sometimes it’s just unnecessarily convoluted to give the appearance of something smart, like with ‘dematerialisation shiritori’.

These overly perfect protagonists quickly assemble a harem of girls who lack any sort of character whatsoever. There’s the stooge girl, the subservient angel, and the two former antagonists who are in somewhat of a lesbian relationship, but of course so enamoured by Sora that he becomes centre of their lives. Later there’s the cute girl with the animal ears who is their final challenge in this series.

Other than social anxiety, which is played for laughs, and an absolute need to be with his sister, Sora is without flaw. His mind runs calculations beyond those anybody else who has ever existed can possibly manage, he is capable of impressive physical feats with a gun, and he is handsome enough that every woman is beguiled. People complain about the Mary Sue archetype, but Sora is a Gary Stu of an order that makes Kirito in Sword Art Online look like a joke. Since every other character is either there to look stupid so that Sora looks good, or look impressive until Sora makes them his sex slave – including 11-year-old Shiro, if we’re honest – there isn’t a single likeable or fleshed-out character in the entire cast. I could probably deal with this if the humour had been good, but it was terrible – all ‘look, her panties are showing!’ or ‘look! Sora doesn’t care about Stephanie and so she gets hurt a lot!’ It doesn’t even get old – because it was never funny at the start.

Add to this the fact that the series doesn’t actually get anywhere near a conclusion – only to the defeat and takeover of one other nation – and you can see that this is a story not even half-told, and thus deeply unsatisfactory. I don’t really want to see more, but I probably will now, because not finishing a series I’ve started irritates me – part of me still itches to watch the rest of Hidamari Sketch. The saddest thing about this series is that its success clearly shows this IS what a lot of young Japanese males want to be – removed from their world and put in another one where they can be lauded by all for their cleverness, have little girls and big-boobed women alike throw themselves at them, and never think for a moment that they should think for themselves or dislike being used. Sure, it’s wish fulfilment – but I can’t approve of those wishes.