The Wandering Witch Explores Anime — Gataris

Posted on Nov 22 2017


Welcome, all, again. I hope you enjoyed Halloween (Samhain, for me) as much as I did! Meanwhile, our subject of discussion today, Anime-Gataris, has already proven a great joy to anime enthusiasts and other otaku by allowing us to view ourselves through rather rose-colored glasses, however pitted. And I can’t argue. After all, we’ve been subconsciously awaiting this series–this premise–since Shirobako knocked us onto our collective can back in 2014. Shirobako, while fictional, was nonetheless an expose of the nigh-overwhelming diversity and severity of work and workload required to make the anime we viewers love. Of course, it also served as a quiet, almost self-congratulatory tribute to those who perform that work. Three years later, we finally see a proper response, a loving tribute to our own devotion to the art form. Anime-Gataris is something of a love letter, both to those who make anime and we who watch it. And appropriately, it even began as anime–no manga or light novel origin story, here–its predecessor being an animated short called Anime-Gatari which was used as intermission during animated films in Shinjuku’s TOHO Cinemas from 2015-2016. The short and the series were both directed by Kenshiro Morii, and some characters were carried over. This nascent franchise is anime about loving anime, and we deserve this!


Anime-Gataris follows Minoa Asagaya as she is plunged into the world of anime and anime appreciation, pulled into the glimmering depths by her classmate Arisu Kamiigusa, herself an otaku hiding beneath a veneer of propriety. Minoa finds the attentions of Arisu, who is wealthy and incredibly popular, flattering to the point that she agrees to help Arisu restart their school’s defunct Anime Club. But how are two high school first-years supposed to resurrect the dead? Well, with bunny-girl suits, obviously! They’re going to need members, a purpose and corresponding rules, a club advisor from faculty, permission to organize, etc. In other words: gumption, perseverance, and funding. But while Minoa herself was drawn in by her fascination with Arisu, the next few recruits seem to gravitate towards Minoa’s own charm and enthusiastic confusion. She’s that lost, shivering kitten that even people who hate cats can’t help but pick up and hold close for a moment. The new club needs that because, while Arisu is extremely knowledgeable about anime, she also seems intimidating and unapproachable. And so we move beyond just anime, finding room for a light novel fan, a devoted cosplayer, a sufferer of severe chuunibyou, as well as a (budding?) lolicon. Let the games begin!


But it’s these stereotypes that make this show so much fun. That, and the fact that Anime-Gataris not only has characters who watch anime and then discuss watching anime, but also that these characters are thrust into trope after trope that even they recognize as such. They must somehow find enough members to officially organize; their school’s ruthless student council has some unexplained vendetta against the club and individual members, seeking to disband it; club trips and club romances both gone awry. . .the requisite swimsuit episode cannot be far behind, and we’ll probably also have either a Christmas episode or one in which the club faces the possibility of losing a member due to family circumstances. The great and clever thing here is that not only do our club members recognize these tropes in which they find themselves, but they discuss (sometimes at length) similar situations appearing in instantly recognizable anime series. And speaking of recognizable, episode 6 sees the club make an anime pilgrimage to the port city of Oarai, setting of Girls und Panzer–and it is magnificent! Quite aside from the love-interest subplot, watching our protagonists pose alongside cut-outs of anime characters from an[other] actual series while looking for sites associated with it was pleasantly surreal. Anime-Gataris rewards its viewers with an exploration not just of anime or anime fandom, but of the growing international anime culture. This is us, people!


The pendulum has swung. Shirobako was instructive, and there proved much to learn. And while I’ve been happily watching anime for decades, Shirobako instilled in me a profound appreciation for it as both career and industry, causing me to value it more deeply and perhaps even enjoy it more richly. Now we’re being offered a sympathetic yet humorous look at the recipients of all that effort. We, the anime fandom (as well as claimants to kindred fandoms and fragments of otaku mystique), can glimpse ourselves in the gilt mirror of Anime-Gataris. And we appear as what we truly are: a finicky but global market. This show is a celebration of our diversity and tenacity, highlighting our role in the life cycle of an anime product. We viewers help make anime by guiding the industry with our tastes and supporting it with our money. Good job, us!

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