Monday, August 31, 2009

Toothless Vampires

Now I'm really digging Bakemonogatari--Saturday's episode went back to the S&M subtext that first caught my eye about the show, and the thinly disguised kinky dynamic is clear--Araragi, who has supernatural healing abilities, lets himself be abused by beautiful women who need to hurt him to work out their own psychological issues.

This latest episode was the last part in an arc that introduced the athletic lesbian character, Kanbaru, who's jealous of Araragi for capturing Senjogohara's affection. But the layers of story deployed before the characters reach this conclusion themselves are nice--Kanbaru blames the supernaturally extreme violence she wreaks on a monkey's paw granting her wishes in ways she does not expect--and she seems to believe this explanation herself. I love the alternate opening for the episode, "Ambivalent World", which superficially plays like an Aim for the Ace style, optimistic sports series, but with sinister undercurrents;

I'm even growing more comfortable with Araragi's shyness, as I see it now as an aspect of his desire to be punished. And I've been thinking more about the standard "shy guy" in anime and manga--I downloaded the first episode of a hentai series the other night called Stretta. I only watched the first part of the episode, but it featured a guy going to a maid cafe where apparently sexual services could be purchased. The maid seemed happy and eager to perform these--hardly unusual for a character in a porno--but what struck me is the guy, the whole time, acted sincerely shocked by the maid's behaviour, "Oh my god, she's taking her clothes off! Oh my god, she's giving me a blowjob!" etcetera. It's like the Ani DiFranco song about the goldfish with bad memory always being surprised by the little plastic castle--we all know any halfway intelligent person would've figured out sex was happening pretty early in the proceedings, so it seems to me this is a conspicuous play-acting, though perhaps it's not consciously read as such by the typical viewer, even less likely read as such in standard anime and manga where the shy guy often appears. Bakemonogatari might be an honest attempt to analyse the type and what it means that the type is so popular, or is deemed necessary in order for a show to have abnormally affectionate and sexual fantasy women. Perhaps it's a sort of automatic solution for guilt young men are made to feel for being attracted to women's bodies, a solution based on poor understanding of the actual issue of women being treated solely as sexual objects, or just jealousy over the fact that women get to be both beautiful and intelligent and guys feel they can only hope to be the latter.

On kind of the same subject, I find I'm having exactly the same reaction to the fifth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, nine episodes in, as the first time I watched it. Well, except I really liked the episode with Amy Adams where the Buffy gang tells Tara's conservative family to fuck off. But I'm hating the Buffy's mom stuff just as much as I did the first time and feeling just as frustrated by wanting more Spike than is being served.

I remembered thinking the episode where Buffy's mom dies was lame, but I'd forgotten about all the cheesy Lifetime movie stuff from earlier in the season where Mrs. Summers was dealing with a brain tumour. Though this time I started thinking about how a two-dimensional, standard sitcom "Mom" character getting cancer might in some way be a discussion of a disease attacking an extremely broad, amorphous concept, but the show isn't really exercising that discussion. I feel more like Joss is punishing me for wanting to see more Spike, "No, you callous viewer, you, you must WEEP FOR BUFFY'S MOTHER." What's more, the precious few moments with Spike are misfires anyway--one of my favourite moments in the entire series comes at the end of "Fool for Love" where Spike is about to make an earnest go at murdering Buffy, only to find her crying and finding he wants to comfort her. The play of emotions on James Marsters face here is great, and the episode does a good job of establishing something of an inferiority complex for Spike that prompts his need to go for big targets, like Slayers, and craft flashy styles and mannerisms for himself. But it's like the writers became worried about the amount of sympathy the episode generated for him, because the only times he's appeared in the two episodes afterwards, he's committing piddling stalker crimes--sniffing Buffy's sweater, stealing photos from her basement. I don't buy it--Spike's been around over a hundred years at this point, he's used to getting what he wants, and is concerned for his self image. This stuff is clearly here to set up for Buffy really shutting him down.

Meanwhile--hey--he's a murderer. We don't need this. If we feel bad for Spike when Buffy spurns him while she's unquestionably the heroine and he's a soulless killer--well, that's interesting. When you have an audience whole heartedly liking something they know they're not supposed to like, that's a great moment in art. Though that assumes mortality means anything on Buffy, and, of course, it increasingly doesn't. Oh, well.

My tweets last night;

Opposing ear canals are in your head.
Kerouac and Gollum are lost and beat.
This heavy wine is like red liquid lead.
You'll never get home from the car's back seat.

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