Monday, May 14, 2018

What Anime Does Peter Parker Watch?

Commissioned by Aleph Null

In regards to the subject of a fictional character’s taste in the wider culture, it should be noted that it will always be constrained by the opinions of the person writing said analysis as well as his knowledge in the subject matter. There was, for example, that rather rubbish decision in the 90’s (which is to say “a decision made in the comics scene of the 90’s”) to reveal Superman’s favorite music was grunge, which is right up there with “The Doctor telling Ace not to fight against her rapist, as that would be historically inaccurate” and “Captain Picard displacing the Space Indians” in misunderstanding both the characters and the universe they live in.
As such the subject of “What does Peter Parker like in anime” will always be constrained both by my views on Spider-Man as well as my knowledge and understanding of anime. In truth, I’m not much of an Otaku. I haven’t watched any of 
Speed Racer or Trigun or Macross or any of the other anime people tell you to watch. I’ve seen bits and pieces, certainly. I grew up on Yu-Gi-Oh and Digimon, but I tend to lean more towards more English centric works like Spider-Man and Doctor Who (when I did watch Digimon, I didn’t even realize there was a reboot between series. And I stopped watching Yu-Gi-Oh all together roughly around the DRAGONS ARE REAL AND WANT TO SAVE YOUR SOULS FROM THE CORPORATION WITH MOTORCYCLE RIDING CARD GAMERS FOR GOONS arc). It took a class for me to finally get around to watching Akira.
But I’m being paid for this one, so I guess I’ll have to try my best.

I’ll start out with what we know from the comics. To start with: Cowboy Bebop. In one of her amazing comics, Hannah Blumenreich posits that Peter is in fact a fan of Cowboy Bebop. This is a problem for me as I have yet to finish Cowboy Bebop and it’s been… seven or eight years since I tried to watch it (before YouTube took the videos down). I can’t say what his favorite episodes are or what he thinks about the shit episode that every Cowboy Bebop fan says is shit (Peter is a contrarian, but there are limits). His favorite character is probably either Spike for being his male ideal of a slim guy with a quick wit, a laze fare attitude, and a willingness to throw himself into danger for others or Ein for being an adorable dog.
But if you want less fan comicy opinions, Chip Zdarsky’s recent run on Spectacular Spider-Man has canonically stated that Spidey’s a fan of the mecha genre by having Young Peter have a Leopardon action figure in his room… which is a problem, as I’m not familiar with the mecha genre. I’d assume, given the sheer beauty of the work he’s a fan of Macross Plus and he’s certainly come across Neon Genesis Evangellion… OH! Here’s something I can actually talk about: When Peter initially watched NGE, he didn’t care for Shinji. There are several reasons for this from the whining to just not liking the passive nature of the show’s protagonist to flat out turning off End of Eva after the masturbation scene (he watched the series subtitled on recommendation). But when he went back to watch NGE a few years later, he realized that a major reason for his disdain was that he was intimately aware of the kind of person Shinji was. Sure, Peter wasn’t the kind to run away at a moment’s notice, but there was a faint echo of the kind of person Peter was as a kid. In retrospect, Peter wasn’t a good person. He tried, but for the most part he came off as just as whiny as Shinji, even if he kept most of the whining to himself. Rewatching the show with the eyes of an adult, Peter finds the character far more palatable… even if the masturbation still mortifies him. Also the concept of Newtypes made Peter refuse to watch any Gundam series ever.

That’s pretty much all the stuff the comics have provided in regards to Peter’s tastes. All that remains is my interpretations. Let’s start with the one everyone expects from me: Dirty Pair. In truth, Peter didn’t watch this during his first anime phase (that was mostly stuff like Cowboy Bebop, mecha shows, and 4Kids dubs [he only liked Pokémon]). Dirty Pair never crossed his radar, though not intentionally. He might have seen an image or two of the series at some point or another, but he didn’t ever watch the series.
It wasn’t until one of his Trekkie friends pointed out that the two series have a connection to one another that Peter gave the show a chance. (This was during his Star Trek phase, wherein he had rather dull opinions before ultimately treating Star Trek like it’s comfort television and now has no opinions on the show.) In many ways, Dirty Pair was the start of Peter’s second anime phase, which is growing strong today. Though the first couple episodes weren’t enough for him to shout “THIS IS THE GREATEST THING ON TELEVISION,” he kept watching because it was fun enough comfort television (though he has respect for episode 7).
It wasn’t until “Gotta Do It! Love is What Makes a Woman Explode!”that Peter fell in love with the show. In truth, Peter has a soft spot for romantic comedies wherein the base plot is essentially the Gift of Magi. He loves stories where people come together through sacrifice and realize how much the other means to them because of it. He especially loves stories where the sacrifice is nullified because of their love and the world is better with them in it. Also, the action is a delight.
In truth though, much for the same reason as his feelings towards Shinji, his favorite episode of Dirty Pair is “Who Cares If They're Only Kids! Playing War Games Warrants a Firing Squad?!” both for its anti war message and for the deconstruction of “boy will be boys” mentality that he probably could’ve used when he was younger. He’s a bit mixed on my favorite episode of Dirty Pair (Red Eyes are a Sign of Hell) but he finds it to be fine. The only Dirty Pair move Peter likes is Flight 005 Conspiracy, as he doesn’t care for Carson D. Carson or unnecessary rape scenes (especially ones that give him Venom flashbacks).

Shortly after finishing Dirty Pair, Peter asked one of his anime fan friends what he should watch. Among the series was Dragon Ball… Peter rage quit that series midway through the Frieza arc because it just wouldn’t end, which is shocking given he frequently hosts showings of The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach to people who for some reason let him do movie night after CHIRPY (when Peter showed the film to the Avengers, all but Captain America swore a blood oath to find an excuse to beat Spider-Man up with shovels. The reason Captain America didn’t agree to the blood oath was because he was too busy being a Space Nazi to participate in movie night. The LMD that took Captain America’s place tearfully confessed to being an LMD and that Captain America was a Space Nazi, but everyone else was too busy plotting various schemes of revenge to listen. With no one to confide into, the LMD went back to Space Nazi Captain America who only listened once the LMD brought up the confession. Upon hearing this, the LMD was immediately terminated. Upon realizing Captain America never actually watched CHIRPY, Peter made it his mission to get Captain America to watch CHIRPY. It took five years, but the utter delight on Cap’s face made it worth it. The Fantastic Four have stricter rules regarding movie night, so only Reed has seen CHIRPY. Reed does not talk about CHIRPY. Reed has explicitly told Peter that should he cause Johnny to watch CHIRPY, he will hire an assassin to murder every single person Peter has ever loved at the peak of his relationship. Reed does not know that Johnny was the one who introduced Peter to CHIRPY, who was in turn introduced to it by Sue, who was introduced by Ben, who was introduced by Val and Franklin, who saw it some super villain review it on YouTube. The X-Men do not have a movie night because Professor Xavier is a jerk).

In regards to the film Spirited Away… it’s not that Peter dislikes the movie. Rather, he doesn’t find it to be one of the better Studio Ghibli films made. There’s something about the art style or the writing or the acting that he just doesn’t like. He still isn’t sure what aspect of the film that has him not like it, but the important thing is what not liking the film caused to happen.
He was at a bar, talking to two of his friends who are also anime friends, when the subject of Ghibli came up. It was relatively civil at first, with Peter mentioning that one of his favorite films was a Hayao Miyazaki film. When one of his anime friends, Fleming Kingston, asked if it was Spirited Away, and Peter mentioned that it was one of his least favorite Miyazaki films. Fleming, it should be noted, is someone who is extremely passionate about anime much in the same way Ian Levine was passionate about Doctor Who. What followed was a heated argument where it became increasingly apparent that Peter wasn’t really friends with Fleming as much as was in his presence for large periods of time. It was only made worse when Peter finally said what his favorite Miyazaki film, which absolutely broke Flemming to the point of homicidal rage.
Peter was only saved by the timely intervention of his other anime fan friend, Doreen Green. When the dust settled, Fleming swore that he would never speak to either Peter or Doreen again. As a consequence to their escape, Peter discovered that Doreen Green was in fact Squirrel Girl, much to his delight and her relief. He confessed to being Spider-Man and their friendship was solidified even more. They decided to celebrate by having a movie night, though Doreen was disappointed that Peter had already seen CHIRPY, so they decided to watch Speed Racer instead. Peter was surprised by how much he liked it.

I suppose at this point I should probably write what Peter’s favorite anime series is. Like many a superhero, Peter does not have his own Netflix account. Some superheroes (like Hawkeye) simply nick the account from their fellow heroes (Hawkeye). Others, like Tony Stark, don’t need a Netflix account because they have a massive share in the company and get it for free. And some just ask their non-superhero friends to use their Netflix account (Howard the Duck). Peter, meanwhile, is technically breaking the law in his acquisition of a Netflix account in that he isn’t using his name or credit card. Coincidentally, Oscorp profits have gone down considerably since Norman came back from the dead.
On the account that isn’t his, Peter has watched a number of shows that he missed on initial viewing (from TNG to Breaking Bad) as well as various original movies that are mostly for ironic purposes (though he will cut you if you make him watch The Ridiculous 6). While browsing without any real purpose, Peter came across a series that looked like the kind of edgelord garbage that he enjoyed when he was a teenager. Naturally, Peter decided to skip that show and watch something else. But every so often, Peter would see that anime pop up in his recommendations. There was something about the series that drew Peter to it, but he couldn’t quite place his finger on it.
Rather than ask Doreen about the series or look into it himself, Peter instead watched all 10 episodes in a single five hour block. What followed was a period of utter depression, queerness, magic, cruelty, and other such things that ultimately ended on a note of ambiguous optimism, wherein the point isn’t so much the pointless cruelty but rather the willingness of frightened people to suppress their empathy when it comes to mass hysteria and violence. It reminded him of his childhood growing up under the shadow of 9/11. It was the story of how a social darwinistic attitude leads only to the suffering of those closest to you. It was one of the greatest, most tragic love stories Peter had ever seen, a love story ultimately destroyed because one of the members was unwilling to be emotionally honest with himself.
When he finished the series, Peter called Doreen to ask her what she thought about the series. She told him that she hadn’t watched it, as it looked a bit mean and she was familiar enough with the Manga to know where it goes. Peter convinced her to at least give the show a chance. When Doreen finished, she said that while DEVILMAN crybaby is a watchable and quite good show, she was right about it being too mean for her tastes.

As for his favorite anime movie… let’s dial back a few years. When Peter was a kid, he would frequent one of the Blockbuster stores in the area. It wasn’t one of the bigger ones, used to be a mom and pop shop in the 50’s. Now it’s a bank that’s just four kiosks and an ATM. But when Peter was a kid, it was a Blockbuster. He had many conversations with the cashiers about various films. Some would recommend rather violent films Peter was too young for like The Secret of NIMH or Watership Down. Others tried keep him towards more childish fare like the Return of Jafar or The Great Muppet Caper. But perhaps his favorite was Ryan Chack.
Ryan worked at the store for a single summer, but he always treated his customers like he was working for them for his entire life. He had a scruffy look to him, with black hair and a beard that he didn’t bother to shave. It wasn’t that long, all things considered, but there was a messiness to it nonetheless. Ryan had the knack of knowing exactly what movie someone needed to watch. A depressed girl in Peter’s apartment named Jane was given a copy of Clue and laughed for the first time in forever. A reformed convict named Jack was given a copy of Fight Club and began a movie club that introduced him to the man of his dreams.
For Peter though, he was given a movie that shaped his life forever: The Castle of Cagliostro. Watching the film, Peter realized that what he wanted to grow up into was the Lupin of the film. A suave, caring person who has wild adventures dancing against the cruel and the unjust in the name of making people better. Of being a magical man who, with the power of belief, could overcome everything. Maybe he would never find love or get the treasure he was after. Maybe he would always be a menace to society, on the wrong side of the law. But what did that matter? The world is far less fun without menaces like Lupin or Spider-Man. Also, it’s fun, funny, and a wonderful watch. (Were he allowed a third movie night, this would be it. Fourth movie night is O Lucky Man! Fifth is Inland Empire.)
Ryan ended up moving to Chicago at the end of the summer, though Peter would see him again.

In terms of Abridged series, there are many paths we could go down. It would be obvious to say that he likes Team Four Star and Little Kuriboh (both of which are true), and it would be a bit too long to discuss the various opinions he has on abridged series (Could, for example, Young Justice Abridged exist in a world of superheroes? Could My Hero Academia? Does Miracleman exist as a comic? These are not rabbit holes I’m interested in diving into).
But what I want to focus on is simply this: Peter Parker’s favorite abridged series… but first, I have to talk about Berserk Abridged. He watched the original series hbi2k was riffing on, and it ended his first anime phase with the kind of disgust one tends to see when watching a series end with the entire cast raped, murdered, and turned evil. (DEVILMAN crybaby is an exception because it doesn’t have massive moments that are just blatantly still images, there was a glimmer of hope at the end, and it was about a year before he became Spider-Man when he saw the series end so bleakly, so he might feel differently if he rewatches it.) When Peter was getting into anime again, he was told time and again to watch Abridged series. One such series was Berserk Abridged.
It was a bit rough starting out. Not all the jokes hit as well as they could have. And yet, there was a charm to the series. Someone who deeply cared about the show and loved it, warts and all, was making these jokes as opposed to someone who utterly despised the characters and wanted to show why they were better than them. It’s not so much that it’s the best Abridged series that Peter’s ever watched, but rather it showed Peter the potential of an Abridged series could be.
And then he reached the final episode, and realized the full potential of Abridged series. Not only could they make jokes around the narrative of a series, but they could also be used to fix the flaws of a series and expand on the narrative to make for a far better viewing experience. Which brings us, perhaps inevitably, to Peter Parker’s favorite Abridged series: Sword Art Online. Not only does the series do all of these things, but it also adds brilliant new jokes, wonderful side characters like Don Fluffles, and is literally a love story about terrible people who try to be less terrible for their friends and for each other. That’s one of the many reasons why Steven Moffat is one of his favorite writers.

And finally, Peter has read the Spider-Man Manga. I think I’ll leave it at that.

1 comment: