What We Can Learn From ‘Henkei Shojo’

NOTE: This post contains material that is not safe to view at work. Specifically, numerous panty and bra shorts from a Japanese miniseries featuring girls who are clearly underage because GOSH DANGIT JAPAN WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU.

A popular urban legend says that famed Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki once said that anime was a mistake. Considering how the most popular stereotype of anime depicts of being crammed full with underage girls whose panties and bras are frequently visible, that quote might be on to something. If nothing else, it gives the impression that Japan is full of sexual deviants who are desperate to find any excuse to feature schoolgirls in morally questionable outfits, and that’s before all the tentacles show up.

This short miniseries does nothing to dispel that stereotype:

Well, that’s… something. Let’s break it down and see what writers can learn from girls who turn into vehicles.

What the video does well:

*It does an excellent job with random humor

The best thing about this miniseries is that it masterfully uses a random joke so well: the idea of girls turning into cars, fighter jets, and ships for the flimsiest of reasons, complete with over-the top transformation scenes, leaving a non-transforming onlooker to stare on in stunned silence. While humor relying on sudden, over-the-top elements at random times doesn’t always work, it can provide some great laughs, especially if it’s so ridiculous it has no chance of being taken seriously.

*It does a great job portraying laughably ineffective powers

My favorite video in the series features one girl transforming into a battleship to save another girl on a sinking life raft, complete with the music, the elaborate changing sequence, and falling into the ocean… only to reveal that the battleship is only two feet long, making it all-but-useless when it comes to actually rescuing girls stuck on sinking life rafts in the middle of the ocean, ensuring that she’ll die a miserable, watery death.

This use of a giant buildup with a pitifully weak payoff is one of my favorite comedic acts, because when we think something is going to be awesome, intentionally subverting it for comedic effect can almost always get a belly laugh, like superpowers that turn someone into popcorn.

What doesn’t work as well:

*It sexualizes underage girls, complete with numerous shots of their underworld.

Excuse me for a moment.

*Goes off and drinks bleach*

Okay… let’s do this.

If the girls in the videos above wore normal clothes, like jeans or long-sleeved shirts, and we didn’t see their undergarments when they changed, it would be a lot less creepy. It wouldn’t leave me feeling like this guy. Unless you’re willing to risk being labeled a closeted pedophile, don’t have any underage characters do anything that could even be remotely considered sexual. Tight clothes, bra shots, panty shots, ridiculously tiny skirts that no one would or should wear in real life – including all these things in your work is only asking for trouble and possible visits from your friendly neighborhood police officers.

The Bottom Line:

NEVER, EVER FEATURE UNDERAGE CHARACTERS IN ANYTHING REMOTELY SEXUAL ARG.

Perfect Moments: Korn’s Special Powers

Once in a while, you come across a moment in a story that is so perfect that it stays in with you for years, or even a lifetime. These are moments that, in my opinion, are flawless; perfect gems of storytelling that cannot be improved in any way, and are a joy to treasure and revisit again and again.

***

The Show

‘Korn’s Groovy Pirate Ghost Mystery’, a ‘South Park’ episode where the band KORN teams up with the kids to solve a groovy pirate ghost (ghost pirate?) mystery.

The Moment

Why it’s perfect

In South Park’s 21 year run, it’s produced countless funny moments, but none have made me laugh harder than seeing KORN turn into actual corn to fight pirate ghosts. It comes out of nowhere, adds nothing to the story, but is so funny that it’s stuck with me since I first saw it back in 1999. The question is, why? I’ve spent years trying to figure out why seeing KORN turn into corn-related products is so funny, and I think I’ve figured it out:

*It is completely unexpected, with no foreshadowing beforehand.

*It takes place during the climax, so the audience is fooled into believing that something amazing is going to happen.

*What happens is so pathetic and ineffective that even the characters in-show are dumbfounded, including the villains.

In other words, the unexpected is presumed to be amazing, but fails so hard that everyone, including villains, are dumbfounded. This comedic formula could be applied to any situation and it would be funny:

*Luke Skywalker activates his X-wing’s special ability during the Death Star Trench run, and the craft turns into a shark balloon.

*James Bond, during a final fight with a villain to save the world, activates a suit of nano-armor that Q gave him, only for it to create something that looks like this, and has no fighting abilities whatsoever.

*In a bid to stop Godzilla from destroying Tokyo, the military sends out and impressive looking mech bristling with death-dealing weaponry. Problem is, it’s actually only 6 feet tall, and useless against Godzilla, who promptly crushes it.

What’s the takeaway here? When our heroes are facing the big bad of a story, having someone use a useless power/ability to try and save the day can – if pulled off well – be hilarious.