A month or so ago, I posted a little something about why I don’t think that deconstructions didn’t exist. I took it down, so don’t try looking for it on my blog. The reason why I took it down was because it wasn’t focused in anyway about deconstructions itself. Instead, it was more focused on “you see this thing that you think is original? Ha, these shows did it first. WHAT YOU WATCHED WASN’T A DECONSTRUCTION.” All in all, that didn’t make sense or support the original premise of what I was trying to write itself. You see why I took it down. So basically, this is a new approach to this topic. A more personal one.
For those of you who don’t know what a deconstruction means, it literally means to take something apart in examination. I keep thinking about how some cooks on competition shows on the food network try to pass off an item of food that they couldn’t find time to finish as a “deconstructive approach”. You know, because all the components of a sandwich are on the plate, but they aren’t put in a sandwich form, it’s a “deconstruction”. Of course, the deconstructive concept can be applied to parts of fiction as well. I mean, that’s why we are here right? To most people, a deconstruction in media is when a lot of different elements of certain genres of media are taken apart and examined from. A lot of what ifs, what would cause something like that to happen in our own reality, and/or how all of the special powers bits of fancy technology provided from the series would affect our reality. So this is the part where I start disagreeing with this concept.
My Anime Background
I don’t know if my disagreements happened because I started my anime fandom with series that have a real world feel to them or ask questions that shake my mind. I mean, my favorite franchises are Gundam and Ghost in the Shell. Is any of that really a shock? Mobile Suit Gundam took a lot of elements from super robot shows and grounded them in a real-world kind of way. I suppose you can call Gundam a deconstruction because of that, but I wouldn’t. Mainly because all of the magical abilities of super robot shows still exist in the show with people call new types (or innovaters or whatever) that become more prevalent throughout the Universal Century as time goes on along with the random BS technobabble that gets robots to fight in close combat in the first place.
There then is also Ghost in the Shell franchise. More specifically Stand Alone Complex, which takes place in a possible future for us (I wrote post about this a long time ago). It’s deep and methodically themes are something that ruined a lot of anime for me for a long time during my elite days. Hell, I still use Stand Alone Complex as guideline for what I consider a great anime. Maybe this makes it my most favorite anime ever? That’s a post for another day. A well grounded and rounded anime is something that I look forward, but I think it’s my own anime upbringing that deny a lot of famous series that are called Deconstructions by a lot of people as deconstructions in my own mind. The two concepts of having a grounded series and having a series ask questions of the audience are two things that I expect out of the best sort of anime.
Ok, let’s now move on to some arbitrary and famous shows that people call a deconstruction for one reason or another.
Talking about Eva
Once again, I bring Eva into the fray of this conflict. Looking at this one again, I am still wondering why people consider this show a deconstruction in any sort of way. Is it the realistic world and characters that ground this kind of anime? Is it the fact the fact that it takes a lot of supposed super robot mech material and tries to make it more realistic? What about asking the audience why Shinji should pilot the robot in the first place? Maybe there is something else that I am just not seeing or why so many people consider Neon Genesis Evangelion a deconstruction? I know that I am completely biased here, but I just don’t see the deconstruction bell ringing for me.
Having a grounded world and some great grounded characters are what make Neon Genesis Evangelion so weighty and meaningful for me, because I feel like I live in that horrifying world, know these characters, and feel it’s conflict. For the realistic super robot elements, all I see is that it took a different approach to it then Mobile Suit Gundam to grounding its robot stuff. Yes, having countries spend billions of dollars to a mysterious organization called Nerve in order to build Evas to protect humanity, but we never see any of that play out except in one episode. That weight of this concept isn’t there. Then there are the Evas themselves. Despite being mostly battery powered and grounded with sync ratios, they are every bit as special as super robots. They change size a lot, have fantastical super powers from time to time, but their construction and use makes as much sense as every other super robot show. All you are doing here is adding more technobabble. It’s like that jump from Star Trek TOS to Star Trek Voyager. In the end, it’s still Star Trek. I guess I don’t have a huge answer for the Shinji issue other then for me, that’s just a theme that was a part of Eva. A theme that somehow went to the forefront of the show toward the end of Eva. Doesn’t make it anymore special for me here.
Madoka Magica Again
Did Madoka ever feel thematically empty to any of you? To me, it felt like Madoka Magica was more about shock value then actual themes, not that it didn’t have much themes behind it. This doesn’t mean that I didn’t like it, because there was something special about it that spoke to me too. The drama between the characters felt real because, since their wishes and desires were placed in the forefront which grounded each of them in reality. There was also some well-choreographed and exciting action and the special imagery of the witches hide outs gave everything an other worldly feel that drove this home. Not to mention all of the amazing powers that I felt were unique and you can’t find anywhere else. Still, I feel that Madoka was about shock value. The death of a certain character earlier on drives home this point for me. That whole witches come from magical girls who have been corrupted and it’s reveal feel like another shock value sort of thing for me. What about the girls’ wishes not turning out the way they want them to? Shock value. It’s extremely well executed shock value, but shock value for me none the less. I know that it’s my natural bias to go against things like shock value or horror things in general, but Madoka still felt hollow to me. I’m not saying that I don’t think it’s a deconstruction because it’s thematically hollow, but it wasn’t saying much to me. There wasn’t that much that was special about the show which drove me to think about differently in any special sort of way. Like there was something missing in it all. Maybe it was dark, but it’s not the first dark magical girl show either.
“Advanced Shonen”: HxH and FMAB
You know, for when you see a shonen series do more than the usual shonen fair with the hot-blooded protagonists going on adventures doing protagonist things and beating people up. HxH and FMAB are definitely like that, because they have a lot more meat on them.
HxH takes the usual Togashi protagonist crew and general shonen characters and moves them into a different direction, which makes them memorable. Also, the world of HxH goes far beyond the basic realm. I mean, the fact that the Chimera Ant Arc has a larger political background and has everything taken on a worldwide scale somehow realistically. That being said, it’s still a shonen series. There is a magical wish fixing element in this show, our protagonists are still going to work hard on completing their dreams, friends are being made, and there are battles to be fought. To me, the Star Trek: TOS and Star Trek: Voyager thing still applies here.
Then there is Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. A lot of the same things apply here. Except, the main characters are league smarter than your usual shonen proatgonists. They are both bad ass book types, which already adds some more complexity to their characters. Especially with a lot of the way their fears and emotional weights are written in a way that they feel realistic. In a way, that’s how I can describe this show too. Like HxH, FMAB has the skeleton of a basic shonen series are still there, because Ed and Al travel around gathering friends, see new location, fight a lot (of course), and have to stop the bad guys from destroying humanity. It’s just written a lot smarter, because every situation is so much more complex and compelling than a traditional shonen series. Man, I can’t recommend either of these enough.
Anime in General/Conclusions
I hope I got my point of view and point across here. To me, having an anime series be extremely grounded and feel like you can live in that world is the peak of storytelling. Putting effort into how something works and affects the world the series takes place is in, to me, is just the writer and director putting a lot more effort and love into an anime series then usual. The same can be said for characters. The more effort that is put into the characters, the voice actors for their characters, and their backstories to make them feel like realistic characters, the better. None of that means a series is a deconstruction though. They are things that I would put into a list of how to make peak leveled anime for me to watch me. Add some complex, intricate, and/or personal themes for the anime to explore, and I think you get it by now. Having all of these things together makes the perfect anime for me. Not a deconstruction.