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Breaking the Narrative Special 3: Why Do Anime, Video Games, and the Men’s Rights Movement Corellate?

Its been a while since I did a ‘special’ article of Breaking the Narrative. As such I figured I’d write an observational opinion piece on something that keeps being noticed in our stretch of the world. Many people who back our side of the debate get attacked for having ‘anime avatars’ or being ‘filthy weebs.’ Why is this? Well like many of these very niche fandoms, all of us are considered ‘outcasts’ from well-to-do society. “You like video games and aren’t a kid? Begone, freak!” “You like cartoons? What are you a pedo?” “You think men have problems? You sick misogynist!” Just because of things we see evidence of things that are outside the norm we, are all seen as subhuman trash by these people who believe their mindset is the majority. This is obviously a mob mentality measure. But WHY do we keep finding an overlap of these very different things among the MRM?  It’s that aspect I wish to clarify in this piece. Let’s Hammer This In!

To begin, I guess I should go over why I keep referring to both video games and anime to break feminist arguments and defend or outright prove men’s rights positions. That’s actually very simple, I’ve been gaming since I was my son’s age (he turns 3 in September) and I have been knowingly watching anime since I was 8 years old (23 years). As such, I’ve gotten very deep into both fandoms… so much so that about a decade ago I helped sponsor and organize Paducah, Kentucky’s OMG!Con (which has since moved to Owensboro, and I’ve been off their staff for about 6 years now.) OMG!Con is a joint anime and video game convention. With this I’ve made some friends in the anime industry and still talk to some today. You could say I’m a bit of a studied expert in both mediums.

That’s right, I said mediums. I have to explain this because for the past 15 years I keep hearing anime called a ‘genre.’ This is factually inaccurate – Animation by its very definition is a medium, Japanese anime is a style that is used with this medium to create unique works that are fundamentally different from Western animation. Even if a Western show like Avatar:The Last Airbender uses the style it still should not be considered ‘anime’ because it is missing a very specific aesthetic, namely the intensity created from many of the stop-gaps used by Japanese animators to keep up with their workload. This is like how Flash animation of the previous decade at Newgrounds used tweening as a trick, anime uses speed lines common in manga and layered cells to keep in budget and speed up production, not to mention reusing cells to save time and money. Its why in Dragon Ball Z, when it became more fighting oriented, the characters that fought most often stopped having emblems on their fighting gi. It kept from having to redraw it each cell. It was also why they keep beating up Son Goku’s uniform consistently even in Dragon Ball Super, to have an excuse to not worry about the kanji of his name in the shot so often in battle scenes.

Now what about vidya? It is a creative medium that uses not just imagery and written narratives to tell a story but gameplay as well. All three of these are integral to making a good game. You could do without one perhaps but rarely will you get away with skirting two of them. For example Tetris never had a written story but it’s still a video game because of its visual aesthetics in the tetrominoes and its high quality puzzle gameplay rules. There are also some text based RPGs that eschew graphics to recreate the feel of a tabletop game setting but it’s still a video game because it requires such a complex game system to work. This is why games like Depression Quest and Gone Home are oft-considered to not be video games. They only visually tell a story, and have no real gameplay. Even the walking simulator Myst had a sort of fail state by not being able to go past a certain point if you didn’t do things in a specific order, so it is still considered by many to be a video game.

Ok, now we understand exactly what they are. So WHY do they keep coming up in relation to the Men’s Rights Movement? Part of it could be because of the overlap created by #GamerGate 3 years ago, which I wrote about around this time last year. But I wager the correlation has existed before hand. Sure a lot of the higher profile men’s rights advocates and even myself may have come to the movement via #GamerGate but I’ve heard many in the movement mention a past with video games and I know many in the movement also like some anime. Even our own Brian Martinez has waxed about his enjoyment of Fist of the North Star and has shown himself to enjoy JoJo’s Bizzare Adventure. In fact one of the best reactions I’ve gotten on my Minds page has been on my review of Aho-Girl.

“I get that Alex, but WHY do these geek subcultures overlap so much?” Well as I said before, it has to do with being outcasts. I want you to ask yourself, if you agree with our views here – were you considered an outcast in high school? I know I was, I also embraced that fact throughout my life. However, whenever I did make a friend they were typically true till the end, though I’ve had a few that have thought I changed over time when I didn’t really, I just grew my thought process. You could say that’s a ‘change’ but change isn’t always a bad thing. In fact its that change we are fighting for that motivates so many to push forward. So what does this have to do with anime and video games? Well various different anime are usually not taken under the same scrutiny by gynocentric sponsors, so they can be a lot more open about men’s issues. As for video games it comes down to the fact that many companies are only dealing with investors who just want to make money – not sponsors who want to push a message.

Of course there are exceptions in both mediums but they are far from the norm. There are certain companies that are trying to change this that have shown a very pro-feminist past, such as Sony Pictures purchasing one of the biggest anime licensing firms, Funimation, or Anita Sarkeesian ‘consulting’ on various games and Legacy media companies such as Disney taking a vested interest more so than in the past in video games. But those are few and far between even now.  This could be due to the fact that tools to create video game content are so easy to get hold of now. In fact, even with Steam adding in its fee to submit a game it’s still easier for independent companies to create and distribute their games than ever before. Obviously the powers that be don’t like this because other messages can get out that conflict with The Narrative.

Take Aho-Girl, its more recent episodes based around ‘summer vacation’ have shown the gold digging nature of the Mrs Hanabatake, who just wants to take advantage of the merits of Akutsu to live the good life without having to work for it. A Chinese show The King’s Avatar makes a the point about the generosity and disposability of its main character Ye Qiu who helped all his friends that failed to become as successful of a gamer as he did, but was discarded when he started to not be his guild’s biggest draw… basically forced to resign because his abnormally high reflexes were starting to decline due to his age. So they gave his character who he rightfully earned to a new pretty boy player so they can make money off the image. Ironically that show is sponsored by McDonalds so make whatever joke you want from that observation. Then there is Tokyo Godfathers that I reviewed as well, that tackled many issues men have, and is critically acclaimed.

There are games that touch upon issues men face as well. A surprising example of this is the Metal Gear series with Metal Gear Solid 4 basically being becoming an old man in an ever-changing world, perhaps even showing the disposability of men and soldiers via Peace Walker and MGS:V The Phantom Pain. Then there is the coming The Last Night which may touch upon facts that feminists won’t like. Even classics like Final Fantasy VII and its partner games touch upon several issues men and boys face in the real world evenly with many other human rights problems. These started out in this country with mostly niche followings. Also these, while very successful games in their own right, are still technically ‘niche’ due to the nature of gaming as a whole. Niche followings are typically outcasts as well. So those who have been outcast for being gamers, otaku, or even weeaboos can very easily empathize and comprehend what men’s rights advocates have to deal with on a regular basis.

I think that’s why we all happen to overlap so easily, we all carry similar mindsets and experiences, and on top of that, gain the understanding of meritocracy through video games, and pride ourselves in accuracy in relation to our fandoms. Therefore, we require accuracy in all things more often than not, so we have to see the facts for ourselves. Now if you want to discuss this concept with me further I am likely to be on Discord most of the day the next three days. I want to talk in depth with all of you on this to figure this out further and perhaps tackle how my observations change after such conversation then. I will also be willing to discuss how I tackle many of my articles if you are curious since I have something else interesting to unravel. So until I see you there Please Remember to Game Freely!

Alex Tinsley
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Alex Tinsley

A student of Fine Arts and Japanese culture of six years at Murray State University. Having never graduated due to difficulties with a specific teacher has gained a unique perspective upon the issues being faced by men and boys. A father of a young boy and loving husband.
Alex Tinsley
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Alex Tinsley

A student of Fine Arts and Japanese culture of six years at Murray State University. Having never graduated due to difficulties with a specific teacher has gained a unique perspective upon the issues being faced by men and boys. A father of a young boy and loving husband.