I don’t think Deconstructions Exist (Take 2)

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.

11 Comments Add yours

  1. moyatori says:

    Hmm…interesting. I guess I think of deconstruction as anything that gets it’s audience to think differently about a certain genre. How the authors sets out to do it and how the audience takes it may be very different too. Like I doubt the author of FMA was trying deliberately to make things non-shounen, so I probably wouldn’t consider FMA a deconstruction either. It is merely a spectacular series that isn’t quite shounen.
    Madoka Magica however, I’m inclined to believe that the subversion of magical girl tropes are highly intentional. I would disagree with you on the shock value bit, as I encountered spoilers early on and was never shocked by any of the dark twists, but still ended up appreciating the series very much. If you did get shocked though, that to me is support for the fact that Madoka Magica is a deconstruction that did what it intended to do. I myself have never really followed magical girl shows before that, so I can’t say much about how it made me reevaluate the genre. It was certainly thought-provoking to me in other ways though.
    So that’s my stance on it. I never really thought about it before your post, so thank you for that~

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Scott says:

      Here’s the thing, if you consider something making you feel differently about a genre to be a deconstruction, then that’s an extremely easy criteria that doesn’t stand up to anything. The smallest things can do that from one person to another, so it doesn’t make sense to me.

      And if you spoil something for yourself, of course it’s not going to have any shock value. Surprising the audience and doing the unexpected is just good writing, not deconstruction things.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. moyatori says:

        I don’t necessarily think it’s easy for a show to make you think differently about a genre though. It could be easy for an anime to change your views on something, but how often would you associate that with its genre?
        As for Madoka Magica, what I was trying to say was that even without shock value, the anime was still highly impactful for me. For Madoka, the reconstruction could encourage you to wonder things like “wow, there really is no such thing as an easy wish” or “adolescent girls’ problems are much more complex than what’s typically depicted”, because it encourages you to draw comparisons between the anime and the usual themes/structures/tropes of the magical girl genre. Again, I don’t really watch magical girl shows, so what I gave are probably not the best examples

        Liked by 2 people

  2. ospreyshire says:

    I wanted to comment on the original deconstruction article, but it was taken down before I could. I will say that is an overused and misused word especially when it comes to reviews or even just liking stuff. Those anime series are examples of some fans liking it for the wrong reasons like “Hey! Show X totally deconsrtucts this and that genre! It HAS to be good!”. That certainly bugs me. Don’t get me wrong, I like it when shows subvert tropes and cliches for the right reasons instead of just shock value or trying too hard to be edgy. Personally, I think some shows do this without even trying.

    I think Hikaru no Go was an example when it comes to the typical Shonen Jump stuff. A show like that could’ve been another Yu-Gi-Oh! clone, but there was way more depth. Every character loses at some point, the situation is very realistic despite the existence of the ghost Sai, and the characters aren’t written as heroes or villains even when some of them act like jerks.

    Much like how people abuse the words “dark”, “pacing”, or “riveting” (the latter especially true with reviewers that want to sound smart), I feel that people need to figure out how deconstruction really works and also learn about the history of certain shows that did it first without looking like hipsters.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Scott says:

      Oh, Hikaru no Go sounds like it must be well written then. Awesome!

      Yes, at some point a grand council of anime people need to meet and discuss what a deconstruction means. Everyone seems to have a different definition for it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. ospreyshire says:

        Sure. Even though HnG isn’t my favorite anime series of all time, I do feel it gets slept on partially because of it’s Shonen Jump affiliation and because it isn’t dark and edgy enough for many anime fans. It’s a bit funny in hindsight because illustrator/co-creator Takeshi Obata would eventually help make Death Note, but it’s whatever. Haha!

        Yes, and I’ll go one step further and say that people in live action movie circles need to have a meeting on that matter, too.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a very interesting stance on the term “deconstruction” and while I don’t necessarily completely agree that they “don’t exist”, I do feel that the term is largely overused and that many shows people would consider to be deconstructions, are not.

    Evangelion for example, as you talk about in your post, isn’t really all that subversive. It’s a “unique” take on Mecha, but it doesn’t “deconstruct” Mecha and actually follows a lot of the standard things that older Mecha shows, like Gundam, helped establish.

    Similarly, while Hunter x Hunter can be considered a deconstruction, outside of the Chimera Ant Arc, which I DO consider to be a deconstruction of the “Standard Big Battle Royale Shounen Story Arc”, the series is actually fairly “shounen” in so many ways. Yes, it has a unique power system. Yes, it tackles many things in a much more mature and interesting way. But it’s still a Shounen. Heck, it RUNS IN JUMP.

    I also completely agree with you on Madoka, but that’s probably obvious at this stage given past things I’ve said.

    I have my own post on this topic being written up as I type this comment, so I hope you’ll check it out (when I eventually finish it…)

    Very well thought out post and an excellent argument. I look forward to hearing more on the Podcast!

    Liked by 2 people

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