First thing’s first: shame on you all! Here I am, running a contest to give out beta keys for a game to the best comments on my previous article, and then no one commented. So sad! As such, rather than declaring the winner, I will instead extend the contest deadline by another two weeks. I’ll post the results in the next article. Remember: leave a comment in the PAX MegaRoundup for a chance to win beta keys for Colour Bind.
Anime and manga are weird: news flash at 11. But one of the most confusing – and delightful – forms of weirdness come from the really random sources and inspirations that give rise to the stories. I’m not talking about, “What would happen if a space alien crash landed in an ordinary guy’s backyard” or “What if an all-powerful demon queen got caught in a teenager’s testicle” (that is an actual plot, by the way). I’m talking about the sorts of story ideas that make you wonder how on earth anyone could dredge out any sort of storylines, characters, or anything remotely resembling a series; alternately, the original source material might be fine, but the execution is so insane that it busts through any sort of logic or coherence before looping back around.
The list is likely a very long one, and I’m sure you all have your own ideas, but here’s my pick for top 5 strangest inspirations for an anime or manga series.
5. Go – Hikaru no Go
Concept: Let’s take a game known for its strategy and thoughtfulness and then make a shonen anime out of it.
Wha?: Not going to lie, it worked really well. The ancient boardgame Go is not exactly the first thing that comes to mind when one considers gripping action, excitement, and interest; the Western equivalent would be something like, “Hey, let’s make a Michael Bay-style action movie about chess, or Othello, or Senet, or Battlesh- ohwait.”
Luckily, it all still comes together, partly due to the fact that they play both the Go and the shonen tropes pretty much straight-faced. We’re talking about an anime where the placing of a single game piece is treated with the same deadly intensity as a earth-shattering martial arts fight, complete with dramatic camera angles, speedlines, big music and gasping reactions. Add in some cool characters, an interesting inciting event, and the classic nature of the “boy becomes a master” narrative, and you have an awesome series. About Go. A board game.
Better than Jumanji, I guess…
4. Operating Systems – OS-tan
Concept: Hey, let’s turn operating systems like Windows XP, Vista, Mac OSX and Linux into adorable moe anime girls!
Wha?: Apparently the inspiration for the original meme – which went on to spawn honest to god merchandise and fanbooks – was the unstable nature of Windows ME. Someone joked that it was like a fickle and unstable girl, which then inspired someone else to draw her, and then… um, this happened:
I think what really adds to the sheer WTF factor for the OS-tan phenomenon is how much thought goes into their relationships, appearance and so on, and how that relates to the actual operating systems themselves. For example, as Windows XP has a reputation for being bloated, XP-tan is usually depicted as being stuffed into smaller clothing. ME is shown as a good-natured girl who fails horribly at whatever she does, reflecting ME’s crash rate. Windows 95, a woman in a traditional kimono, is constantly confused about any kind of new devices like USB and broadband. For some reason, it’s the little details which just push it over into the really strange territory.
3. International Politics – Hetalia: Axis Powers
Wha?: Obviously, international events like World War II are great source material for interesting, gripping tales, but Hidekaz Himaruya… approached things a bit differently, to say the least. Rather than depicting historical periods, wars, and diplomatic relations as they occurred, Hetalia instead plays them out using a large cast of (mostly male and cute) personifications of the various countries, using their personal interactions and behavior to reflect actual events and national stereotypes. For example, my country Canada is shy, sweet, raised by both France and England, has America as a twin big brother and is constantly getting mistaken for him, squeals out things about “maple” and carried around a cute polar bear. Italy, Japan, and Germany, the titular “axis powers,” wear the uniforms of their respective countries and end up becoming friends despite their… odd personalities (Germany is aggressive, Japan is quiet and easily confused by Western culture, and Italy is a lovable loser) It’s a very odd concept for a series and obviously skirts some very, very problematic issues (for example, any nation with a history of conquering another will often be depicted as making very aggressive sexual overtures towards the “victim” country, all while played for laughs). Still, from a small webcomic, it’s exploded into a major anime phenomenon, so obviously there’s artistic and historical worth there… either that, or lots of bishies!
2. The Console Wars – Aoi Sekai no Chushin De
Concept: Let’s dramatize the old-school console wars between Nintendo and Sega as a fantasy manga/anime.
Wha?: This one’s been making the rounds lately, and I’m still scratching my head over it. Why? I mean, how… what… where did this come from? Originally a manga, Aoi Sekai no Chushin de is apparently going to be made into a full series, where the Ninterudo Empire is winning an all-consuming war until a speedy young man named Gear helps turn the tide and help the Segua Kingdom. All the characters are based off of Nintendo and Sega franchises, albeit run through ten fantasy filters and occasionally gender flipped: Gear is an anthropomorphized Sonic, Kirby is is an adorable pink-clad girl with a hammer called Carvai, Mario the plummer has become Marcse the stony faced, armor-clad dictator, and Tetris is apparently some sort of mercenary with a bo staff. There is not enough WHAT in the world.
1. Buddhism and Christianity – Saint Young Men
Concept: Let’s make Jesus Christ and Buddha into 20-something roommates in Tokyo.
Wha?: Jesus and Buddha hang out together, pay the rent, go out to amusement parks and celebrate Christmas with a surprise birthday party for Jesus.
WHAT DO YOU MEAN IT’S NOT AWESOME?
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever seen an anime based on?