Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Country of Brotherly Love

I caught a picture of a couple buses in Japan advertising an anime called 'Sister Princess'. "Well", I thought "If it's good enough to advertise on a bus it must be at least watchable". A little overnight bittoerrenting later and I started watching the first episode, and the first frame gave away the whole game:

In the states, a normal person would probably think this was some sort of 'Seventh Heaven' type show; but anyone remotely familiar with pop Japanese culture will realize they're in for some display of implied incestuous relations, as the following screenshot of a dream sequence demonstrates:

By the way, that's the groom (her brother) saying that.

I had trouble pinpointing the target audience for this show. My first guess was that the show was being geared towards 40 year old, sisterless perverts*. However, upon later inspection, it appears that the show is geared towards teen or 'preen' girls, though the sisters are the typical one dimensional cutouts from other anime (I could only sit through the show long enough to see "bashful-obsessive" and "clumsy", but from the photo mockup I'll go out on a limb and guess the rest consist of 'tomboy girl', 'nerd girl', 'cute girl', 'young and wired girl', etc.). The last episode in particular troweled on the cutsie schmaltz way too thick to appeal to anyone with one drop of testosterone in their blood (and before you get any funny ideas I watched the first episode and then the last one to see if I gauged the series correctly).

But is this a storyline that appeals to that (or any other) demographic? Later that night while watching (U.S.) television, I had visions of Lucy getting the hots for Charlie Brown, or Princess Lea opting to stay with Luke instead of taking off with Han. Would anyone doubt that for viewers the hands would go for the armrests and eyes for the nearest exit?

The concept itself is....interesting enough**. But the obsessive behavior of at least the sisters I saw made me wonder if the older brother practiced some form of home brewed 'juche' - brainwashing his siblings to see him as some sort of man-god:

Sisters that are hot for their brother, or brainwashed zombies?

Interestingly, the show might work if it was reformatted on some dark level where obsessed, brain washed zombie girls mindlessly try to manipulate each other to improve their own chances with their dark, evil overlord of a brother who is too manipulative to ever have anything to do with any of them (I still wouldn't like it though).

I got tripped up on some inconsistencies as well. Not that one expects cartoons to be ultra-realistic, but these were too big to overcome. The first is the 13 kids. I didn't watch enough to figure their origin, but the last woman to have 13 kids in Japan probably didn't live long enough to see Admiral Perry pull up. The second has to do with how families work. Someone once told me he knew of some guy who grew up with six sisters. My first question was obvious: "Does he coregraph Broadway musicals?" "He's a homosexual, right?" The story teller replied that "he wasn't, though you wouldn't have thought that if you met him". It's quite obvious to me that if the guy in the show grew up with 12 girls, he'd be the 13th 'sister'***.

One more note on the show apart from it's story line, I snagged the screen shot below from the first episode:

The fansubber is explaining to me what Indian Summer is? Why not explaining why she would be using a phrase like that. I figured the Japanese picked it up in spite of (or because of) it's political incorrectness, but repeated viewings of this scene didn't turn up any 'nihonglish' ('eendeenu soomar') so I'll guess the subber made a rough translation of a known Japanese phrase and put the definition up to explain himself. It's cultural subtilties like that which make even hookum like this interesting at times.

*Mr. Kendall meets at least two of those criteria, but I know the idea still disturbs him.
**A weak defense might be mounted along the lines that such behavior is not all that unusual throughout human history as tribes and royalty used inbreeding to ensure clan ties and the maintenance of possessions. Even then though, where possible, such marriages would be deferred to cousins. The resulting genetic disorders and general ickiness factor are more than enough to overcome this argument though.

***The Sandmich has two sisters and to the best of his knowledge neither has fantisized about marrying him. Of course the same can be said for the other 99.99999999999999999999999% of the other women on the planet as well.

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