August 24th, 2011

pr0n domo muncher

Love isn't blind. It's stupid.

When it comes to manga, I often grab a series on little more than a whim. Sometimes it's because the description sounds interesting. Other times it's because it was the author or illustrator also did something else I enjoyed. There are also times where it's nothing short of random. I do the same sort of thing with anime in many cases, but I tend to be a little more picky there because of the larger file size and bandwidth needed, especially if I'm snagging it from a site that tracks my ratio. Also, because I'm a media packrat, it can be months or perhaps even never, that I actually get around to reading or watching the work in question. It often happens when I'm bored and nothing else is appealing or when I'm trying to avoid something (like a certain convention recap that will take bloody forever). I'll scan through the list of titles, many of which I've long forgotten even the smallest smidge of information about, and start reading. This has lead to a series of hit or miss sort of experiences as you might imagine. So with that preface, I give you Glass no Megami (Goddess of Glass).

As you can no doubt tell from just the cover above, this title ended up being sort of pr0n'y. Quite pr0n'y actually. It actually sort of detracted from the story a bit, which is sort of funny if you think about it. I doubt that's a common complaint from any of the guys who actually bought this at the local bookstore in a brown paper bag. Anyway, on to the plot.

Meet Sakura Keita, a third year science/engineering student at a Tokyo University. I actually went through around a dozen pages of google image search trying to see if I could snag a full page picture of the guy, but every single one that featured him also had a nekkid girl in it and pr0n'y interplay to boot. That's no surprise really since as we know, the guy is really not the focus of attention in a manga like this. Anyway, one day Keita is putting together a report and a page he desperately needs flies out he window and gets stuck in a tree. Luckily, a lovely co-ed named Kurimiya Honoka just happens to be passing by with her badminton racket and whatever the hell those things they hit are called. I just went and looked it up. It's apparently a shuttlecock, no pun intended. So she sends Mr Shuttlecock (would that make for a spiffy pr0n name or what?) flying and knocks the page out of the tree to Keita's eternal gratitude. They spend some time together drinking, end up falling asleep on the train missing their stop, and end up stranded in the middle of nowhere for the night since the trains have stopped running by then. Of course it just so happens that the only business nearby is a love hotel. They spend some time talking and it gets emotional, helped along no doubt by the booze.

And that's not the only thing that made a connection that night. All of a sudden I wish I had a cigar a la Groucho Marx. I'd be waggling it suggestively right now along with my eyebrows.

So connection made, and everyone's happy. They separate the next day and Keita just happens to run into another attractive girl named Aya on the train. He had actually helped her out the day before when he had just happened to be there when the heel on her shoe snapped. Keita was able to whip out his trusty bottle of crazy glue he keeps with him at all times and fix the shoe. Frankly, if there were even a snowball's chance in hell of something like this actually happening, I'd carry a fucking hardware store with me wherever I went. Aya is quite grateful and wants to take this opportunity to thank him for his good deed.

The only thing God has told me lately is to stop bothering Him.

Anyway, they go back to her place, down a few drinks and she enthusiastically thanks him. Energetically. Repeatedly. Keita still has Honoka on his mind but the mixture of booze, being a spineless jackhole, and well, a man, his faint protests are soon overcome. They part the next morning and he sees Honoka on campus. Just as he goes up to her, Aya also appears and it turns out that Aya and Honoka have been friends for years. Aya tells her friend about how Keita's her boyfriend, and that basically sets the stage for the love triangle.

The rest of the manga is basically a tale of Keita still being in love with Honoka while being too spineless to break it off with Aya who is innocent (Well, not _that_ sort of innocent obviously. I mean more that she's honest and guileless.) and loves him. He also knows that he's got a good thing with Aya and obviously doesn't want to risk all the ridiculous and, again, quite enthusiastic nookie he's receiving at every turn. That doesn't stop him from trying to spend time with Honoka every single chance he gets, hiding their time together from Aya as best he can.

Let me take a moment here to opine a bit on this classic Japanese archetype. It comes up very often in just about every piece of harem manga and anime where there's multiple girls who are all after one guy. The guy will, beyond fail, be a spineless, vacillating jerk. There's a practical reason for this after all. If the guy were the kind of person who knew his own feelings and could make a decision, even if it risked losing being the focus of so much female attention, he would just pick one of the girls, tell her his feelings, and the harem would end. There wouldn't be much of a show if it ended the very first episode. Because of that, we have to have a guy who for one reason or another cannot make up his mind. This keeps every single girl on the hook and all the male viewers at home can pick their favorite out of the harem to pin his shipping hopes on. Beyond practicality, there's also a more disturbing moral dimension to this. By making the male protagonist so spineless, the author is trying to lessen his responsibility for everything that happens. As long as he makes token protests that we all know will be overcome, it's somehow not his fault that he cheats on his girlfriend or otherwise plays the field with little regard for the feelings of the various women who care for him. It becomes really hard to play along with this after a while, and I've come to develop a sense of loathing for these sort of characters. They are essentially karma houdinis who can do whatever they want and never suffer any consequence because the bevy of perfect women who love them completely will never really abandon them. It should come as no surprise that none of these women ever cheat and the only target of their boundless affection is the protagonist. I'm not sure whether to be depressed by the idea or vomit.

Anyway, back to Glass no Megami. As the story unfolds and the love triangle pulls this way and that, Keita manages to have a ridiculous amount of sex. He even ends up boffing a stripper, who just happens to be yet another student at his school. This goes on and on and on until finally he tells Aya that it has to be over. Instead of being upset or raging or whatever, she decides she wants one final rolicking and then goes off to become a swimsuit model with tears of longing still in her eyes. Our 'hero' then goes to Honoka who he really loved for yet more enthusiastic exchange of fluids. She, of course, has loved him this entire time and never strayed so much as to look or consider another man. Oh, and did I mention that she was a virgin before their first time when the story opened? Yeah. I think I'm just getting too cynical and bitter for things like this. Then again, maybe I'm just an asshole for actually trying to review what was probably meant to be pr0n. You never see people complaining that it makes no sense that the 36DDD coed would let some random plumber snake her drain after all. Le sigh. Still, I can't help wishing that someone had punched Keita in the face at least once.
zoloft sad

And the emptiness becomes a prison

In his play, No Exit, Sartre wrote the 'Hell is other people'. For the past several years of my life, I've tried to embrace this truism. The phrase is often misunderstood, and Sartre himself addressed it, but I always had an instinctive understanding of exactly what he meant.

…“hell is other people” has always been misunderstood. It has been thought that what I meant by that was that our relations with other people are always poisoned, that they are invariably hellish relations. But what I really mean is something totally different. I mean that if relations with someone else are twisted, vitiated, then that other person can only be hell. Why? Because…when we think about ourselves, when we try to know ourselves, … we use the knowledge of us which other people already have. We judge ourselves with the means other people have and have given us for judging ourselves. Into whatever I say about myself someone else’s judgment always enters. Into whatever I feel within myself someone else’s judgment enters. … But that does not at all mean that one cannot have relations with other people. It simply brings out the capital importance of all other people for each one of us. -Sartre

All of us see ourselves reflected in the eyes of other people. No matter how much we might try to tell ourselves we don't care what others think, it bleeds into our perceptions like poison. It's like how I've always said that 'Hope kills'. Without hope, you would never feel the shattering pain of disappointment, of failure, of regret and all of that reflected and magnified in the eyes of those around you. The only way to protect yourself is to try to wall yourself away from others. Build internal walls of iron and stone and try to keep out the pain. As the Buddhists say, desire brings suffering. Tell yourself that you desire nothing, need nothing, and maybe in that emptiness you can find an escape from pain.

Of course, you may find surcease there in the darkness. The darkness is cool and empty, but eventually you also find loneliness there. Sartre may be absolutely right that hell is other people and that we find our greatest pain in the eyes of others, but the lack of them also brings its own pain. So which pain is the greater? In the endless tug of war before competing daggers, each which draws blood and drives you to the other side, only to be cut again.

For years, I really thought that I had come to terms with things. I had built my walls, strong as I could make them, mortared with indifference and surrounded by caustic wires and brambles. Wanting nothing, I risked nothing, and was content to drift on the current. Maybe it's just a sign that I'm getting soft in my old age but I find the pretense, which I didn't even fully recognize was a pretense, harder to maintain. I look around at the few friends who have stuck with me over the years and I can't help but I never really appreciated them as I should have and how much I really value them. This came to a forefront this time in Chicago and at gencon where I made an effort to try to convey in some small measure just what some of these people mean to me. We're all reaching that age where people start to fall away for one reason or another and no one knows when that parting will come. You can't help but come to realize just how rare it is to have people willing to stick by you, faults and all. That isn't to say that there isn't pain and risk involved. Hell is other people after all. But when you're facing competing hell's and there's no easy way out, sometimes all you have is a leap of faith.