Category Archives: Discussion

The mind of the cynic, explored through the character of Hikigaya Hachiman in Oregairu

Hello all. Today I will be talking about how the hit anime series, My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU (or Oregairu), masterfully explores the mind of the cynic through the character of Hikigaya Hachiman. Not only does it explore how the cynic thinks, but, through the two seasons it has run for, I have come to understand so much more about why the cynic thinks the way they do, what can create a cynical mindset and, as a result, what the cynic truly desires.

hachiman-stinkeye

Cynicism and the cynic

In its extreme sense, cynicism is a general distrust of other people and society, people’s motives and social values. It is ultimately the belief that everything people do is motivated by self-interest and self-gain. Taken to the extreme nothing, even the most seemingly innocent actions, gestures and emotions, is sacred. However, in the more normal sense, it’s like having a nice conversation with a shopkeeper: you might, for a fleeting moment, feel a certain affection for them, a kinship, just two apeople getting by in their everyday lives; fleeting of course because this feeling is almost immediately moderated by the understanding that good customer relations is a very good business strategy.

Now, going from this definition, it’s clear from the beginning that Hikigaya is a hardcore cynic: He hates society, and sees himself, with apparently great pride, as being a loner by choice. He has clearly been disillusioned by it due to the social experiences he has suffered throughout his life, and has reacted in the long term by simply rejecting human society completely, and only takes part in it in order to survive. All he sees in other people and groups is some form or another of low behaviour motivated by base human instincts like survival, greed and fear.

 In almost everything he sees, he will look beyond what we see on the surface, breaking through the ‘facade’, and sharply exposes whatever social mechanics are at work. He goes through life diligently observing from a distance and deconstructing everything he sees in front of him in an attempt to reveal any twisted, selfish behaviour is behind it. In fact, the greatest amusement the show has to offer us lies in this ability as time and time again Hachiman points out many a situation that the average person has observed, and does it with such clarity that I can’t help a part of me cheer cheer out in triumph as it was articulated better than even I ever could.

Why is this?

Cynicism and the fight for survival!

The truth is, we are all a little cynical. We all have a basic understanding that people are inherently flawed as a species, and, while we try to be good and noble and uphold our values, we are ultimately selfish and basic creatures driven by one desire or another. As a result, people don’t always tell the truth; people deceive one another; people use other people for their own ends, harming, or maniuplating them in the process. Of course, people can be selfless too. They can be generous and kind and loving, and most of us understand and respect our values.

But cynicism is not interested in this side of the human condition. Cynicism is there to protect us, to stop us naively and gullibly placing absolute trust in the people we interact with and the social systems we occupy. If our senses provide us with an environmental defence, think of cynicism as providing us a social defence. When the cynical side of us sees through a situation, we have, in a way, saved ourselves from potential abuse, embarrassment or pain. We have triumphed against danger, and made it to safety. So when Hachiman cooly breaks down some event happening before him we, through him, get to live out a sense of invulnerability, a “you can’t catch me” feeling as we gleefully skip through the social obstacle course Hachiman encounters every day.

And here lies another piece of the puzzle of the cynic’s mind.

A constant state of fight-or-flight

yumiko bitch face

The cynic lives for that feeling mentioned above. By breaking down and analysing what he sees, the cynic is able to achive a feeling of absolute saftey, as opposed to a false sense of security that naivity offers. The cynic, in taking this desire for safety to the extreme, takes nothing at face value, and treats everything like some sort of fight or deathmatch. Take his advice on avoiding people who try to contact you through text/email as an amusing example:
This is how it’ll go down. At 2 am, I’ll reply with “Sorry, battery was out!” or “Sorry, looks like I was in a dead zone!” You’ll have them cornered every time with those lines. Source – myself.
Or the more conceited example where Hachiman makes a realisation about bullying-victim Rumi’s situation at a kids’ summer camp:
“I see. This girl’s already given up. They say the world changes when you change, but that’s not true. People judge others based on stereotypes and impressions. Loners will be judged as loners forever. If you try to do something and stand out, they’ll just use it to bring you down. It’s an iron rule of the rotten society of children.”

“This is how it’ll go down…You’ll have them cornered every time with those lines.” “If you try to do something to stand out, they’ll just use it to bring you down”. For cynics like Hachiman, the social world is a place of survival, not friendship or emotions. Even things like values are nothing but strategies used to better one’s own position, as we see him hiding behind a shield of naivety and innocence that stops whoever is trying to contact him from accusing him of ignoring their texts.

Cynics are like eggs

hiki blushing

Behind the cold-hearted, calculating facade, Hachiman only stays the avoids social interactions because it hurts him. At his soft, yolky core is somebody who wants friendships, something to be a part of, and even love. After all, we see time and time again Hachiman have to hold himself back from coming closer to people, especially girls, when he interacts with them, analysing the situation to death like some sort of defensive mantra. So what’s wrong? Why not just dive head first into the social world and enjoy it for what it is? There is a conflict here.

The trouble is, Hachiman actually is looking for connections that are completely genuine and honest. It doesn’t take the viewer long to realise that Hachiman wants the comfort of friendship just as much as the next person, but he avoids it because the risks are too great. Making friends requires him to lose his cold, invulnerable position – his God’s eye view – and open up to people. Again, and again, until he meets people who are right for him. The problem is that the risks are too great and, simply put, not worth the effort.

He has tried before, and does not want to try again. Plagued and restricted by his understanding and social experiences, Hachiman lacks the trust to open up to people.

Cynics never give up!

hachiman grabbed by coolar

Yes. Hachiman has before now delved into the world of people a few times. Naturally, throughout his early school days. But this didn’t go too well for him. In fact, his social lifespan has consisted mainly of rejection, being bullied, and exclusion from social groups.  The social world has rejected him so much throughout his early life that he has grown frustrated and hurt and rejected it back. Why? Becuase it is both the safest and most positive move he has available. At least he’s not giving up, eh?
“’I can change,’ means adjusting to that shitty, cold-hearted and cruel world. It means admitting defeat and subordination.”
“I choose the way of the solitary bear, which does not form packs. The bear finds no anxiety in living alone. He is proud. He is a lone wolf… In my next life, I want to be a bear.”

Hachiman has indoctrinated himself with the belief that being alone is what is best for him. By proving that the social world is actually rather depraved and animalistic under the surface and a place where people deceive themselves and each other to ‘make it work’ by observing and deconstructing it on a daily basis, he can avoid the feeling of loneliness and, instead, become a ‘lone wolf’. Therefore, he won. He uncovered the lies and deception and found the truth. He got out

Consclusion: hope for cynics

red firework

Ultimately, the cynic will only be satisfied by good relationships that satisfy their needs. But can we ‘cure’ cynicism? Of course.  I mean, it would be silly to rule it out. But within reason – remember the example with the shopkeeper earlier? Cynicism is an important and vital part of us that will, and should, never cease to exist completely. The thing is, before Hachiman realises it, he forms the bonds that I think he has always wanted. He has found friendship in its most genuine form. He is learning to open up to these friends, and yes, the even the possibility of romantic love is on the horizon. He is begining to feel a base level of warmth towards his fellow person. I feel that this counts – Hachiman is becoming happier and more fulfilled as a person. But has this ‘cured’ his extreme cynicism?

Not really. He’s still cynical as all hell. Besides, I don’t know if I want him to change just yet 🙂 .

 

Thanks for reading. If you liked, leave me a like, and if you have any thoughts on the post, comment in the section below or contact me on my blog email listed in the about page. I’m trying to improve my writing at the moment, so do let me know what you think. I’m going to do a follow-up post on cynicism and PTSD, some thoughts I had and definitely talked about but want the opportunity to explore specifically and with more clarity, as I was unable to do in this article due to its length and range of topics.

See you all later 🙂

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

 

I’ll keep this one short as I’m currently putting everything I have into recovering from a hearty Christmas lunch, but I just wanted to post a Christmas post for you all.  I’d like to take this opportunity to catch up with you all – you may have noticed that I have not been all that present these last few months. That’s because I’m working pretty hard on helping my dad run his business. But how have you all been? Let me know down in the comments~

Although I’ll only have a few days out, it is important to take a full day’s rest and reflect positively on life every now and then, and Christmas is the perfect time to do this. Heck, it’s basically a public holiday about relaxing and being positive. A change of pace is always nice, and helps us reset and get our heads on straight to ready ourselves for our lives ahead of us while appreciating what we have. In that sense, the Christmas/new year period is themed by giving our hearts and minds some rest and refreshment.

I hope you have all had a great day and continue to stay merry and happy throughout this warm and cosy time of year.

 

Warm regards,

Sebastian

How Ghost Stories simultaneously managed to take the mick and still do a better job than most English anime dubs

Over the last year or two, the existence of a certain anime – or version of a certain anime – whose very nature seemed baffling and entertaining, appeared to me. First from anime reviewer GR Arkada and then from Ruki, I’d seen bits of the anime in various compilations and found it hilarious. From the edgy and controversial humour to the strange and amusing underlying meta-joke that this all got LICENSED and distributed officially by a dubbing studio, I fell in love with what I was seeing. At least, I fell in love with the idea of it. However, permeating my positive reaction to the anime on a number of levels was the belief that despite everything I still didn’t think this anime could stand on its own two legs. It was clear that the dubbing artists were taking the notion of artistic freedom to the extreme here and the chances that we’d be getting a coherent piece of entertainment that could endure a full twenty or so episodes without running out of steam were slim. As a result, I decided not to go further with this anime than the compilations I’d seen and the things I’d heard. That was a mistake the extent of which it only took me until I watched it in fully to realise.

What the hell happened here?!

In short, the back story here is that the original Japanese anime flopped in its country of origin, and when handing it over to be dubbed in the US, the studio were given veeery few restrictions with how much they could change from the original script besides names of characters. Result? The writers, direcors and actors having a brilliant time constructig the most unhinged, whacky and hilarious abridged version of the series they could come up with.

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Yes, really. It’s real. Here’s a vid if you’re interested in seeing more.

 

One day, though, on catching up with the seasonal anime I’ve been following this season (shoutout to any other To Be Hero, Yuri on Ice, March Comes In Like a Lion and Nanbaka fans out there reading!), I felt like I just hadn’t had my fill. For whatever reason. Ghost Stories was on my mind in those last few days, and I decided “what the heck, one episode can’t hurt”. I was far from disappointed.

#Let’s get down to business#…

In fact, Ghost Stories really did a better job than most English dubs I’ve heard before. Below I’ll list a couple of things I heard in the Ghost Stories dub which really stood out to me compared to most anime dubs, and how anime dubbing VA’s (voice actors)/directors should take note of this and use it to improve their own projects, as well as perhaphs highlighting what a wonder it is that English anime dubs haven’t pulled their socks up yet when we look at them from outside the anime bubble.

 

1 – it’s an adaptation, not a direct translation!

family
Loosen up some more, English dubs! Exercise some creative freedom and make it feel real!

 

The first thing to note about this dub is the thing it has that other anime dubs (for the most part) don’t: charm. You can really tell that the actors are comfortable with themselves and each other and the chemistry between them is refreshing and enjoyable to hear. It made me comfortable and more open to their jokes. Not only that, but it turns out English anime voice actors can in fact speak normally (shocking, I know) if given more freedom to play their role naturally. Now I don’t have any idea why dubbing a Japanese anime in English should mean actors have to try and do a sort of ‘direct translation’ type thing with their acting, but for some reason this is the case. The results are obvious, too. People hate on anime dubs more than marmite haters hate on marmite: a lot. And while I disagree the extent to which English dubs deserve this aggression, I can understand why people feel such animosity towards them. It’s because when you translate something, be it a book, film or anime, trying to do an ‘accurate’ or ‘direct’ translation is the not the right way to go about it. We end up with stuttery, awkward dialogue which might reflect the original well (or not, who knows) but in doing so fails to accommodate for the language it is in. I’m talking about the little idioms, quirks and characteristics, both in terms of the words used and the intonation of speech (which is far more noticeable in dubs of course).

 

2 – just act natural!

oh god toradora
Oh my gosh Seb – so original!

As overused as the saying is, in my opinion one thing English dubbing teams need to do that Ghost Stories performed in flying colours is to make the ‘character’ the VA is playing sound remotely human. I know this partly relates to the previous point, but of course it goes further than this. I’ve heard this said before but moe doesn’t seem to work in English the way it does in Japanese. The simple reason for this is that people just don’t speak like that, even those with cute voices. BUT obviously there are cute voices in English speaking countries (duh), so the best route to go down here for any VA’s placed in this apparent predicament is to do their best to put on a cute voice that sounds naturally cute in English, i.e. something that would sound cute and not cringy if used by an English speaker to their fellow English speakers. Of course, this is just one (admittedly large problem VA’s seem to have in playing their English anime roles. If it’s that hard, just learn from your fellow VA’s doing a comparably sterling job in English cartoons like Rick and Morty, Archer, or even some of the excellent Ghibli dubs out there which are examples of anime dubbing done right). When we compare most anime dubs side by side with these better examples, it’s clear that it’s not just a problem with English-speaking VA’s in general. All you have to do is look in other media which handle voice acting comparably better.

 

Final word – what’s great about English dubs, and the fact that Japanese dubs aren’t as perfect as you might idealise them to be

I love – or want to love – English anime dubs. Despite the faults of shoddy English dubbed anime, the one invaluable thing I appreciate about them is the fact that I can immerse myself so so so much more in the anime because I’m not sitting there with my eyes darting all over the screen to take in the atmosphere, art, narrative and also read the subtitles. For those of you who want to argue that the Japanese sub will always be more natural, you’re wrong. As somebody with Japanese friends and started learning Japanese so I could find my way around the country, one of the most surprising things I learned was that people don’t speak like they do in anime in real life. The difference is, for us, we just can’t tell – but that doesn’t mean we have the right to roast English dubs when comparing the two.

 

 

 

 

Thanks for reading guys, and I hope you enjoyed and maybe even learned something new here. If you want more like this, please subscribe to have this good stuff sent right to your wordpress reader and/or have you notified every time I post something new.

See you next time.

“Why?!” 3 very sad love triangle situations.

I hate love triangles at the best of times. Love triangles make me sad because one person will always lose out, and this upsets me. Not only this, but they create this kind of negative drama where there sometimes didn’t need to be any. This especially upsets me in series where I’ve begun to care about the characters to the point where I don’t want anyone to lose, which can be, well, a little difficult in the case of a monogamous relationship. Even so, often times I come across a series where a love triangle takes form and I’m left anxious and scared for everyone involved, powerless to change the course of events as the story unfolds before my eyes.

Continue reading “Why?!” 3 very sad love triangle situations.

My Free Spirit Award nominations!

Hi all, I’d like to thank you for reading the post the other day, and for your positive responses to it. I appreciate the support guys 🙂 . Sorry this was late by the way: I had a busy day yesterday and so it got too late to write this.

My topics/phrases for those wonderful nominees are “travelling”, and “snacks”.

Enjoy!

My nominees are:

Shiroyuni from The Limitless Imagination

Librarian25 from Manime Conquest!

Ruki from Wanimu

Rocco B from In the Cubby Hole

Ka-chan from Ka-chan Anime Reviews

Row from Rrowbite

And renxkyoko from Renxkyoko’s Space

ZACH BRAFF

 

 

 

 

Feeling happy? Sad? Ecstatic? In love? Listen to some Suneohair.

suneohair space suit
Suneohair = cool

Hi guys. Today I’m here to preach another favourite japanese musician of mine, Suneohair. As you can see above, he doesn’t try to take himself seriously and often uses his music videos to tell an interesting story.

Continue reading Feeling happy? Sad? Ecstatic? In love? Listen to some Suneohair.