Sunday, October 05, 2008

I just got back from the grocery store where I saw Calista Flockhart on the cover of a magazine. I wondered where she's been all these years, but I just checked Wikipedia and saw she's appeared in several shows which no-one with anything remotely fulfilling in their lives should watch.

I suppose I shouldn't talk, since over the past three days I've watched the first two episodes of Gokusen.

Manga has very starkly defined demographics; shonen for boy, shojo for girls, seinen for young men. I'd never seen or read any examples of josei, manga and anime for young women, which led me to the live action drama series version of a manga called Gokusen.

One thing I noticed immediately was how similar it was to typical shonen and seinen series. Only, where shonen and seinen might feature one shy young man with a mysterious power/past surrounded by beautiful girls, Gokusen features one shy young woman with a mysterious power/past surrounded by beautiful boys. It's ridiculously transparent. But I don't necessarily hold it against the show.

Another thing I noticed was that, for live action, it was remarkably cartoonish. I thought of Ally McBeal and Amelie, except the line between the protagonist's imagination and reality is only occasionally enforced. Like many anime series, Yankumi (the protagonist) has a tendency to wildly exclaim or cry at moments when it would be most embarrassing for her to do so.

The plot involves Yankumi's budding career as a teacher at an all boys high school while trying to keep secret the fact that she's heiress to a powerful yakuza clan, a position that somehow grants her super strength as both episodes bizarrely end in fight sequences, followed by the show's nails-on-a-chalkboard theme song; "Feel Your Breeze".

The show's loaded with perpetual goofiness, yet supposedly it's a drama. The structure of the stories is such that it seems as though a moral is coming, but the moral always seems to be things like, "Don't snitch on your friends","Fights are okay, but bullying is not", and "Be delinquents with honour and pride."

And behind it all is this persistent message of "There is nothing more good and noble than the way of the yakuza." It's not so much a romanticising of yakuza as it's a casual enforcement of the idea that yakuza are among the most morally superior people in the world. It's really quite strange--I wonder even if the show's secretly backed by a yakuza clan.

Otherwise, the show reminds me a lot of Strangers with Candy except that it's really earnest. Too earnest, really. It is . . . discomforting. Well, you can judge for yourself;

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