Friday 2 April 2021

Weebery Three - He He Heee

Join me as I continue my descent into the anime hidden deep within the Amazon Prime recommendation algorithm.

Parts One and Two.


A quiet group of people try to make a book! Will they succeed???

Presumably there is a Japanese subgenre about groups of people attempting some kind of creative pursuit. This is one of those. Except in this case its the story of a bunch of underpaid and ignored nerds fighting (against the odds) to make a dictionary for a country that already has a bunch.

The dive into the family of Japanese dictionaries is part of the interest, and the reasoning behind the central concept, the dream which inspires our heroes.

Each Japanese dictionary is meant to have a different 'character', to prioritise a slightly different selection of words and to make slightly different definitions. Because of this, each has a world-view, a personality, based on who made it, and when.

I have no idea how much, or if at all, this interacts with the differences between English and Japanese as languages. So far as I know; Cambridge and Oxford dictionaries; about the same, Websters; American and not as good. Collins; unknown. And that’s about it. I have no idea if dictionary nerds think these texts have different approaches to the world. Perhaps they do.

We have our hero, Majime, currently labouring with horrific ineptitude as a salesman, an introverted nerd, obsessed with words but when he is banishpromoted to the low-status team hidden in the old building at the back, undergoing a long term project which eats the companies money but which no-one has the nerve to cancel, we discover - HES A DICTIONARY NATURAL GUYS.

Add the slightly-dodgy hotshot salesman who may be there as a punishment, but watch and learn as these two unlikely colleagues slowly become friends, and when the dictionary gets into trouble with management - will the sketchy salesman’s cunning tactics and Machiavellian dealings be the one to save the day? Yes, yes they will.

As well as a central inspirational elder whose idea the dictionary is, the old team he established, who are now close to aging out of the project, the love interest and partners of the main group, and as the series goes on, in fifteen years time, the new generation who arrive to find Majime occupying the 'elder statesman' role.

The central idea motivating all these different people, what the dictionary is intended to be - is a form of meta-communication, a ship to cross the sea of words. It’s a drama where people can have discussions and arguments about the exact interpretations of the definition of a word in a language I don't speak. Etymology may be pretty different in japan but the strange accrual of meanings, sub-meanings, emotional tenor, and the difficulty of absolutely and precisely defining a word-concept when, in actual life, it exists most truly in a complex web of mutually interacting social and conceptual meanings, each of which are also shifting slowly over time as the nature of life itself shifts and alters, is still there. To define a word you need to look deep into its past, and widely into its current place in the web of things.

It’s a high-stakes low-stakes drama. In comparison to most genre fiction the challenge is; will (another) dictionary get made, or will the publishers finally give up on the long-term money sink and likely low profits and pull the plug?

But while the more-evidently cool and exciting genre stories I describe below have some COOL AS SHIT CONFLICTS up front; SUPER DRUGS, CRIME GANGS, APOCALYPSE WORLDS, EVIL ROBOTS, FUCKING TIME TRAVEL, but underneath those strong drivers, have sustaining webs of complex interpersonal dynamics which counterpoint and lend them meaning of a different kind.

This one is a normal-person story but the very long time over which it takes place, the generational leaping so we can see the consequences and development of individual personalities, and the close and compassionate eye with which it examines its characters, transforms workplace and life dramas into, well, the dramas they actually are. 

Will Majame finally work out how to ask out the cute girl in his building, will salesguy be secretly honourable even though it screws his career? Will they find a way to finish the FUCKING DICITONARY? Will senpai even live to see it done? What does it mean for him if he doesn't? 

There is a cool a fuck episode in the last act where they find, by chance, *one* mistake in the final text. Majame decides they have to re-check, again, the entire text, BUT THEY ONLY HAVE DAYS TO DO IT. ITS IMPOSSIBLE I TELL YOU!!

Its a good series.


This was very gay.

Occidental as fuck. 

Man have I ever seen any main character threatened with rape as much as here? Let alone a male lead?

Japanese-eye view on a American crime/conspiracy drama with very slight sci-fi stylings, so more airport novel/earthbound Bond than actual science fiction, plus alienation, child abuse, an anime take on gang culture, love, loneliness. 

Basically, worlds toughest super-hot teenage gang leader who is also super-intelligent, (though that only comes through in the more genre-y later episodes), falls for super pretty pole vaulting Japanese reporter, in the midst of a gang-war super-conspiracy over a mysterious mind-wrecking drug called 'banana fish'.

Not entirely my jam but I finished it when I haven't finished other series so it must have been pretty good.



tldr; Little House on the Prairie - in BLAME! 

This looks cheap - not that that's the most important thing about it but if you go in not knowing that then you will likely judge it for that first. Reason for this is that it looks like it was made by about three people with limited resources, so its "passion-project-pure-vision-limited-means" cheap, rather than an EA/Disney-style; "marketing-manager-run-shovelware-of-known-IP" cheap. 

The good kind of cheap.

A small group of sisters live on an utterly desolate, dark and ruined place which looks like an abandoned 20th century or 21st century Japan. They are clearly not entirely or mainly human, as they can leap about like super-heroes, can survive purely by drinking water and have a bunch of weird exploits.

Unfortunately, there is no more water and they are being hunted by "red bugs"; mechanistic robot creatures which emerge from an enveloping sea of corruptive red mist which seems to enfold everything outside their home.

This all seems pretty awful, and in fact we learn several sisters have already died. 

But - this life, this existence, is all the sisters know. We don't find out immediately how they came to be but they refer to a "first person" - someone who was there before them, and as far as they are concerned, their entire reality has always been like this, (though slowly getting worse), so while for us it’s an utterly spooky and disturbing post-apocalyptic hellscape, for them, as bad as it is, its normal.

We are generally more disturbed by the environment than the characters are.

There are other islands in this enfolding mist. Previous exploration attempts have lead to deaths but, the water is running out here, and they need to go in search of more, no matter how dangerous it is, if they want to live. And at that exact moment, a strange man just 'appears' from the depths of the island, like the sisters, he has no complex contextual memories of who he is or why he is there, and he is even more of a pure innocent than them.




No it will not.

Or at least not much.

Things generally make sense at the end, or at least as much sense as they need to

what didn't I mention?

Oh yeah, there are goddamn MAGIC LEAVES. The only thing living in this world apart from the Sisters and the Red Bugs is one tree, which they carry around with them in a re-purposed tram car, and this tree sometimes produces leaves, which sometimes looks somewhat holographic or supra-real, (no its not all happening in the matrix), and which have various powers associated with them. You can also sometimes find these things lying around. These are the 'Kemurikusa' of the title, and working out what they are, what they do and what they mean is the key for the characters understanding the world.

Nightmare decayed futurescapes, nation-consuming gigastructures, geology transformed into artifice, but its a story about family, relationships and love y'all!

Honestly I can't go too deep into the meaning of stuff without also going into the secrets of the setting, and revealing those ahead of time would damage the story, so there you go.

(The main male character is REALLY fucking annoying but from reviews apparently that’s a thing in anime).


The magical power to stop time! Just like in Bernards Watch!

(If you are not of my generation you have NO FUCKING IDEA of the scale and level of magically powered artefacts randomly discovered by school-age children on televisions, keys to other worlds, magical wish-granting coins, a fucking SPACE SHIP. They just found this stuff lying about! yet it never happened to me....)

Our spunky main character has a defective family. Useless dad, otaku brother, distant granddad, but after the littlest kid, who everyone actually likes, gets kidnapped, the grandfather reveals that he has an artefact capable of stopping time which he has not used or revealed for reasons that become clear as the series goes on.

Unlike most time-stop dramas, this one takes place almost entirely within one singular stopped moment, there is no going back and forth exerting power in the real world and then stopping time again, instead its more like stranding a bunch of people with highly complex and hugely opposed motivations together in a world made of one moment, a city full of time-stopped people.

As things go on the cast discover more about how this world of 'stasis' works, its strange guardians, the dangers of remaining there and the creepy motherfuckers who have followed them in.

Who will manage to leave 'stasis', who will survive, who will be trapped inside that moment forever??

Top Level - a well worked-out genre setting with complex, (not pathologically detailed in show), but coherent laws.

Mid Level - a tactical and force-of-personality-based game of ruthless opposition between the family and their opponents and the motivations of the different members of both groups. They are all in the city, but they are there alone, or at least, no other human can reach them. They can access any building and grab an object, but cars don't go, phones don't work, only what is around you and grabbed by you becomes subject to motion, so it’s a state-of nature-deal which brings primal motivations to the fore and necessitates low-tech OSR style tactical thinking.

Bottom Level - families, our reasons for doing things, meaning and the loss of meaning, what it means to lose your place in the world and what people might be willing to do to get it back, or make a new one. A lot like Kemurikusa, the high personal stakes and alienating environment which simultaneously separates the characters from ordinary society but also provides limited, and strange, opportunities for power, brings people down to their core values, if they even know what those are, and into developing and contrasting those values with each other.

INTELLIGENCE - Everyone here is as intelligent as a manga author carefully thinking through options. 

Well not everyone, quite a few are dumb, but the 'main characters' are all relatively cold and careful planners. Maybe that’s just what its like in Japan? This isn't a flaw, just a feature.

- things being carefully worked through, relatively original and MAKING FUCKING SENSE both as story AND diegetic elements - oh lord how I have missed thee! 

The sense that the people making the thing have thought about it more deeply and more coherently than I did watching it, holy fuck I haven't had that from western pop culture in a while.

A bunch of reviewers on myanimelist fucking hated this declaiming all the qualities I though it had as ones it didn't. A MYSTERY? Could Histories Greatest Critic be wrong? Or are these the wittering’s of thoughtless drones? U DECIDE.


  1. Half-tempted to go after some of these.

    Managed to catch Aquila and the Queen's Nose in my youth, not necessarily on the small screen.

    1. You watched kids TV on... a big screen? In the cinema?

    2. An interesting prospect, but I encountered them by (I think) books (novelisation or adaptation? not sure) and cassette tapes.

  2. re the careful planners in Kokkoku (which I will definitely look for! Thanks for panning through the bilge seas of amazon prime for us), JoJo has very calculating main characters who can, like, bounce a hairpin off the floor at a perfect angle to hit a guy's front tooth while having their foot shot off. Also KJ Parker comes to mind (Vance too I think) as someone with many characters who are 100% calculating in their decisions.

    I don't know if I'd prefer these kinds of characters to be ubiquitous in all entertainment but it's surprisingly excellent to have them some of the time. Their contract with the reader/viewer is less about traditional narrative psychological motivation for each action, and more about exploring the limits of what one could possibly do in a strenuous situation.

    1. Characters like that may not necessarily be *realistic*, but we accept all kinds of things in fiction that are unrealistic but entertaining. They feel like PCs in a game, where the player controlling them has time to discuss their action with the rest of the table before doing it.

  3. At the risk of rambling - I imagine the fictional precedent here would be Holmesian detective fiction, where the point of the story is to watch a detached "player" navigate an intellectual challenge, rather than watching them learn that 'love is the ultimate mystery' etc.

  4. I cannot believe you omitted the movie Clockstoppers in your analysis of Kokkoku and I was so dissapointed I am burning my copy of Veins of the Earth, hoping the flames will convey my displeasure via some nebulous hitherto undiscovered sub-process of quantum entanglement.

    you have brought grave dishonoru patrick-san,

    1. Apart from the involvement of Michael Behn,Clockstoppers just seems like an inferior ripoff of Bernards Watch

    2. You would compare the shadow on the cavern-wall with the fire that casts it?

  5. Amazing one-sentence Jodorowsky takedown, but I still loooooved “The Holy Mountain”

  6. I’ll check these out eventually. I have a strange relationship with anime. I only like maybe a third of them I see. I’ve only ever loved two of them. Bubblegum Crisis (original) and Drsgonball. Some early discoveries also stick with me. Vampire Hunter D. Fist of The Northstar.

    Of course I’m not including childhood faves. Kimba, Gigantor, Speed Racer...

  7. Just finished up the Kokkoku manga, a rare gem.

    With regard to myanimelist reviews, the problem with enjoying anime/manga is that many of the other people who do are idiots, absolute imbeciles, wrong about everything they like and dislike.

    Especially bad is when those sorts of people get to making animes of their own.