Critics and idiots

Jejune piffle

One of the mysteries of our times is, how on earth did Charles Solomon ever become the main anime reviewer for amazon.com? He’s apparently a Major Authority on Animation, but immense knowledge doesn’t necessarily imply good judgement. Here are his pronouncements on Divergence Eve:

In 2317, mankind can cross interstellar distances through wormholes in space. But at the Watcher’s Nest, an hourglass-shaped space station many light-years from Earth, “ghouls,” creatures from a parallel universe, try to invade human space. The only protection against them is the elite Seraphim Corps, a unit of overendowed cadets in outfits apparently ordered from a 24th century Victoria’s Secret catalog. Masaki Kureha comes to Watcher’s Nest wondering if she has the skills to succeed in Seraphim. (As she’s built like a highboy with the top drawer open, her future is assured.) The disjuncture between the three-dimensional computer graphics and two-dimensional drawn animation is jarring, and the fragmentary plot makes little sense, but no matter. Divergence Eve exists to deliver jiggle shots and nude scenes to hormonal adolescent males. Other viewers will rightly dismiss it as jejune piffle. (Rated TV 14: violence, nudity, grotesque imagery, alcohol use) –Charles Solomon

And Misaki Chronicles:

A prequel to Divergence Eve (2003), the broadcast series Misaki Chronicles (2004) covers Misaki Kureha’s days at the Allied Military Forces Academy. Misaki is a typical fan-service heroine: well-intentioned, not very bright, uncoordinated, and pneumatically constructed. Because her pilot-father was killed in space–and because she needed a steady job after being sacked as a waitress–Misaki enrolled in the Academy. The Military Forces battle “ghouls,” mecha-like monsters that are too three-dimensional to fit into the drawn animation and too menacing to fit the silly tone of the series. To the inter-dimensional hokum from the earlier series, Misaki Chronicles adds time-travel and supernatural elements. As the characters bounce between the 24th and 16th centuries, they offer some unintentionally hilarious dialogue: “Time has stopped? Explain!” But fans of Misaka Kureha wouldn’t want a coherent plot to distract them from her non-stop jiggling. (Rated TV14, suitable for ages 13 and older: violence, nudity, minor profanity) –Charles Solomon

Sounds damning, doesn’t it? If this were all I knew about the series, I wouldn’t have the slightest interest. But just how reliable is Solomon? ((Small but telling detail: Misaki Chronicles is not a prequel to Divergence Eve.)) Let’s look at other reviews he’s written. Here’s what he had to say about the first volume of Haibane Renmei:

The Haibane, who look like angels with halos and small wings, share a walled town with humans. Both groups are forbidden to leave. Rakka awakens from a portentious dream when she emerges from a huge cocoon as Haibane. She was apparently human once, but can only remember fragments of that existence. She quickly settles into Old Home, a former dormitory where the Haibane live when they’re not working. With the help of some fellow Haibane, Rakka learns about the enclosed world in a succession of brief vignettes. Unfortunately, life at Old Home is about as exciting as a visit to Ozzie and Harriet. These mini-episodes are cute, wistful, and dull, with passive, uninteresting characters. Rekka’s curiosity about what lies beyond the walls will undoubtedly lead her to violate the Haibane’s most sacred law in a later episode. (Rated 13 and older: brief nudity, minor profanity, tobacco use) –Charles Solomon

And here he is on the first volume of Someday’s Dreamers:

Seventeen-year-old Yume Kikuchi comes to Tokyo for training as a mage and discovers a sophisticated urban world unlike anything she’s experienced in the countryside. Requests for the use of Special Powers are regulated by the government and can be granted only by mages who have completed the training program. Yume embodies the old saw “you can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl.” Naive and even prudish, she constantly apologizes to everyone for everything. There’s little need for apologies: in the world of Someday Dreamers everyone is nice and all the males are bishonen (beautiful boys), beginning with Yume’s languid gay instructor, Masami Oyamada. Aimed at an audience of adolescent girls, Dreamers plays like a very tame cross between Harry Potter and Sailor Moon. (Rated 13 and older: tobacco and alcohol use, mild risqué humor) –Charles Solomon

I figure that most of my visitors have seen one or both of these, so I don’t need to point out how far off-base Solomon’s evaluations are. Now it’s no big deal when an amateur critic writes silly things on his website. Given that most anime fans are adolescents (in spirit, if not in age) more familiar with video games than Dickens or Faulkner, it’s not surprising that online reviewers are frequently unreliable. Solomon, however, has been published in the New York Times and elsewhere, and his word carries weight with readers who don’t know better. I wonder how many people who would have enjoyed Someday’s Dreamers decided to skip it because of his wrong-headed review.

I do plan to watch Divergence Eve and Misaki Chronicles, though it will probably be sometime next year before I get to them. Here’s Steven’s review, which explains why I’m interested despite the grotesque character designs.

*****

Satanist elitist ideology

It’s been a while since I last checked the Maoist Movie Reviews. Gee, I’ve been missing a lot. Here’s some perspective on The Incredibles:

In any case, the real organizing clue of the reactionary nature of this film is the villain. Cast as a humiliated child who grew up to do evil, the villain is in fact a representative of all the intellectual gains of the Enlightenment now under attack in the united $tates with creationism and other white theocratic schemes. The villain informs us that he is going to make the superpowers of superheroes available to all through his ingenious inventions. He was just about to succeed when the superheroes stopped him and preserved their own elite status with crowds cheering the “old school.” In fact, the villain planned to give everyone his technology free and he only had to kill off the superheroes to do so, which pretty much stands in for his supposed evil plot to prevent anyone from becoming “special.” Just as mother superhero tells her children that “everyone is special” so that they should conform and fit in, the children retort that that’s just another way to say no one is special. Viewers paying close attention will also note a baby superhero character turning into a Satan image, which is to say that the Satanist elitist ideology is “natural,” while the Promethean ideology of the villain is self-defeating and destructive. This is a case where MIM again sides with the villain and not the superhero children.

And a note on Shrek 2:

Gender bureaucrat enemy of the people “Fairy Godmother” lives a life of dogmatism following the scripts in “Cinderella,” “Snow White” and such books that she keeps in her library. Living off the exploited workers, and selling hocus-pocus to the people like many other unproductive sector flim-flam artists we can think of today, Fairy Godmother spreads her poisonous visions of the future everywhere and lords over even the king himself.
Seeking to appropriate the sexuality of the king’s daughter for her son, Fairy Godmother does her best to spread speciesist propaganda against ogres, one of which already married the king’s daughter, thus making her unavailable to the Fairy Godmother’s son. The evil speciesist propaganda finds fertile grounds in the king’s mind and most of the people of the kingdom.

The review of Spiderman 2 is noteworthy for its insistence that “[n]ot every instance of asexuality is revolutionary asexuality.” That never would have occurred to me.

*****

And why kids prefer fantasy

Why Teachers Love Depressing Books

[Barbara Feinberg] sees the memoirlike problem novels as symptoms of ”the drastic fall from grace that the imagination has suffered in popular understanding” and her generation’s insistence on ”making our children wake from the dream of their childhoods.” Adults, she suspects, secretly resent the sheltered, enchanted world children inhabit and under the pretext of preparing them for life’s inevitable difficulties, want to rub their noses in traumas they may never actually experience and often aren’t yet able to comprehend. All the better to turn them into miniature grown-ups, little troupers girded to face a world where they have no one to count on but themselves.

This perversity finds its counterpart in a writing program adopted in Feinberg’s daughter’s second-grade classroom. The 7-year-olds are instructed to write their ”memoirs,” and a handout promises, ”Your child will receive critique on all aspects of writing, and learn how to edit, rewrite and publish!” Only nonfiction writing is allowed, as the founder explains in a book in which she also details the regimented means by which she directs her own children’s ”poetic observation.” When a first grader wrote a story about two lizard brothers who flew to the sun, one of the program’s experts told the child he needed to ”seriously rethink his material.” It’s one thing to bum kids out with depictions of homelessness and institutional foster care, but getting them on the creative writing workshop circuit before they’ve outgrown nap time? Now that’s harsh.

(Via Amy Welborn.)