Life’s Great Mysteries: Marth on Souls

While I choose not to believe in the existence of the soul, I can’t say I haven’t found it an interesting concept to ponder in my free time. Since this is potentially a touchy subject, I will start by saying that similarly to my time travel post, this is just my personal idea that may be right or wrong. I really don’t know. It’s simply what I have rationalized in my own head. I’m throwing out a theory, so if I see something like “You’re a bastard for insulting the beliefs of others”, I’ll be very upset because that’s very much not what I’m doing.

So what’s the plan? First, let me state that I believe that the existence of the soul is impossible to confirm or deny because the very concept of the soul requires that there is no physical evidence of its existence. I believe that the soul is meant to immune to the influences of the physical world, and thus the physical world shouldn’t be able to detect it. It acts as an anchor in a world where memories can be lost, bodies can become comatose, and personalities can change with the passing of time. Essentially, the soul remains constant through all of this. With that said, the rest of the plan is to explain this definition a bit and then I’ll go into the implications of this.

you look confused…

While there are varying interpretations of the word “soul”, I would say that there are a few common aspects. First, it is immortal. When a soul is “created”, it cannot be destroyed and it will never decay. Second, a soul is intangible. As I mentioned before, it would follow that there is no physical evidence of its existence and that no force that we can perceive should be able to manipulate it. And third, the soul acts as a form of identity…as in each person is tied to a single soul. Note that this is saying that we are unique in life, but not necessarily in death (an example being reincarnation).

Those three properties may seem to be exclusive, but I would say that they all stem from the idea of allowing our existence to continue indefinitely. Why do humans have a concept of a soul? I believe that the soul exists as a sense of security or comfort…an assurance that a person’s identity will last forever (hence the immortal bit). Why is a soul intangible? Because while our minds and bodies can be altered by our environments, something intangible cannot (I’ll explain this in a second). This creates the sense that in a world where minds and bodies are subjected the harsh forces of the environment, part of our identity remains constant. A clear way to say “this is who I am.”

Please note that I’m not saying that a soul and an identity are interchangeable. Let’s take the example of numbers. A number, being intangible, can’t be manipulated in any way through tangible means. We can combine them to create new numbers, but within those new numbers, the number remains (if I add 1 and 2, 1 is technically still a piece of 3). We can change the identity of a number, for example calling the number 1 “four” or something like that. Does this make 1 any different than what it was when we called it “one”? No, it doesn’t. That’s basically how a soul works. It is constant, and therefore humans choose to link their identity to it.

What does this all mean? Let’s look at Kokoro Connect and the idea of “soul swapping.” Normally I would try to say something like “they call it soul swapping, but they’re actually swapping _____”, but I really can’t with this show. The only way I can rationalize it is to say that their souls move to the new body, overriding the conscious mind of the new body. They don’t retain the memories of the new body, so they must be suppressed somehow. Also, they do retain some aspects of the subconscious of the new body (demonstrated with Yui’s androphobia), which rules out the possibility of simply switching brains. This does bring up some implications of connecting souls with the conscious mind, but that isn’t really my concern (because I’m trying to stay as general as possible).

Well, in the case of Kokoro Connect where the soul is being shifted around, this kind of soul allows the identity to remain constant. If Taichi and Iori swap, then whichever body contains Taichi’s soul is Taichi and whichever body contains Iori’s soul is Iori. This sort of distinction isn’t quite as clear in science. If we look at Aoki and Yui’s swap, what is the identity of Yui’s body? Aoki is technically the one in control, but it’s demonstrated that Yui’s mind still has some level of influence. There’s no part of Aoki’s brain transmitting androphobia, so it must be some remaining “piece” of Yui’s brain.

With two “half-brains”, which one could we use for identity? Say we copied Aoki’s memories on to Yui’s brain. Would we have then “created” a “new” Aoki that just looks like Yui? You could argue that Aoki’s memories generate identity, but then you could ask if amnesia creates a new person. Can you see how that can be a bit tricky? But I’ll leave the identity stuff up to the philosophers. It isn’t really my point. I’m just saying that this is the reason the soul exists.

So since that may have been confusing, let me make this clear. What you have just read is 1) what I think a soul is, 2) why I think the concept exists, and 3) why I believe it’s pointless to argue for or against its existence.

Life’s Great Mysteries: The Weight of Knowing the Story

So the question for today is pretty simple. When it comes to watching anime, how much does knowing the story affect how you perceive the show? Most specifically, I want to look at first impressions of a show. For example, you’ve read the manga or played the visual novel and you’re finally seeing your favorite manga/visual novel in anime form. The general consensus I seem to see is “the manga was better.” But let’s take a look into why that is the case and what we can conclude from that.

The simplest explanation is disappointment when it comes to personal expectations regarding the anime. I’ve read some blog posts about Medaka Box and I often see people who have read the manga saying something to the effect of “the characters didn’t sound the way I expected.” Stuff like that. While I don’t often have the opportunity to watch an anime after already completing the manga, I feel like I don’t run into this sort of idea when it does happen (like with Bakuman). Is my perception just different? Maybe I’m not thinking hard enough when I’m reading the manga. I wonder if I just accept the anime as the true adaptation, regardless of my own perception of the story.

While this explanation works pretty well with manga, how well does it hold up with games or visual novels? They have the benefit of voicing (and the characters even have color). Video games even have moving characters. I guess it’s just that the animation isn’t as good for when the anime comes out? I don’t usually notice those things, so how could I really comment on it? I thought that Persona 4’s anime adaptation was great. Even if you take out the RPG in the story, it was still fun to watch. However, game adaptations usually run into problems when they become anime. Taking out the battles or the level-up system seems to lower the effect of the show. But it seems weird to me if an RPG’s main selling point is the story.

In fact, I might argue that this perception of original into anime happens in reverse. Take Code Geass as an example. It’s no secret that I loved that show. But reading the manga was just a disappointment. Possibly because of all the things they changed or skipped. Is that just how things are? Is it that we will always be disappointed by what we see second? Or is it just that any adaptation that a company makes for a franchise will never be able to live up to what was originally created?

So maybe the problem just boils down to the difference between creating a story and already having the story. I guess just having the content already there and being forced to work with it is so restrictive that it naturally decreases quality. Maybe adaptations are just doomed to failure from the beginning and some truly talented people will be able to manage a good adaptation.

The question that comes from all of this is what does this all say about how we approach anime? Should we constantly avoid the manga until we finish the anime so that we have a “pleasant surprise” after we watch the anime? Or should we cut anime altogether and just read manga all the time if there is one available? My personal approach is that I avoid manga while a show is airing (that’s why I haven’t continued reading Tasogare or Sankarea now that I’m following them). When the show finishes, I will start reading (like I’m about to do with Mirai Nikki).

Life’s Great Mysteries: When to stop the season

Haven’t written one of these in a while. Not an April Fools joke, I swear. The question today is pretty simple: at what point is it appropriate to cut off and start a new season as opposed to ending an arc and continuing the season? Let me use an example. Code Geass spans two seasons, each 25 episodes long. Meanwhile, the first season of Gundam SEED (which honestly can stand alone) spans 50 episodes in one season. Why is it that one show decides to stop the season and restart again while another show keeps going?

The obvious answer is funding. These shows are usually planned out pretty far in advance, so sometimes you can only get funding or you can only justify a certain number of episodes. This would also explain things like inconsistent season lengths (the first season of Darker than Black is 25 episodes while the second season is only 12). I can definitely understand companies only wanting to invest in a certain length. If you embark on a 50 episode show and it starts tanking at episode 8, you’re in a lot of trouble. But is that it?

My next concern is arc completion. Let’s look at shows like Guilty Crown or Death Note. They are both longer than a typical one cour show (just for clarification, a cour is a measurement of season length, usually 13 episodes) like The World God Only Knows or K-ON!, but the latter two shows are stopped and later given a second season, while Guilty Crown and Death Note run to completion, despite having very distinct points where an arc can end. I might even argue that K-ON! didn’t have that sort of distinct stopping point.

Let’s assume that it isn’t all about funding. Is there a certain level of arc completion that has to be attained in order to end a show? Was Guilty Crown’s first arc insufficient in some way as an ending? I’d say that the ending of Code Geass season 1 didn’t give nearly enough answers, but it was still stopped there. I can’t argue that Code Geass ran longer either because The World God Only Knows and K-ON! are one cour shows. If there are certain qualifiers for season completion, I can’t imagine what they would be.

For example, it can’t be a time skip, as Gurren Lagann uses a time skip without a second season, while Gundam 00 uses a time skip with a second season. Even Naruto uses a time skip to separate the seasons. It’s not enough to say “when the story ends” because any arc could be argued as a stopping point for a story. What could it be? Is funding simply the answer to everything? I refuse to believe that it’s the only thing determining how this is. What is your input on this? Am I over-thinking things? Is there some hidden aspect or meaning that I’m missing? When do you think is an appropriate time to end a season? Do you think that Guilty Crown or Death Note should have been two seasons? Or maybe you thought that Code Geass should be one glorious season (I don’t really think that >.>). Personally, I think that 24-25 episodes is a nice number for season length as long as there is a decent place in the story to stop.

Life’s Great Mysteries: Advertisements

So, with Symphogear late, let’s take a look at another mystery while we wait. So while it was tempting to talk about gg fansub’s addition of the Mameshiba ads in some of their releases, I meant this in a sort of blogging sense. Basically, I wonder about your opinions about the role of advertisements on actual blog websites. It’s not like you haven’t seen them before (unless you have a really good adblocker).

I know that whenever I tell my real life friends (yes, I have them!) that I write a blog, they ask if I make any money out of it. Part of this is because half of them are economics majors, but I guess that’s sort of the perception of the general public towards websites as a whole: that people make them to get money out of it.

Personally, I’ve always been against the idea of putting ads on my site, but I also dislike the people who think better of themselves because they do that. I can certainly see how ads can be a distracting thing on any website. But still, my omission doesn’t somehow make a better person because I don’t care for the revenue gain or something. In fact, I would like nothing more than to be paid just to watch anime and write blog posts every day. But in my opinion, the potential revenue I could gain from putting ads just doesn’t seem worth the hassle to me.

But I definitely understand that there are those out there that put a lot of time and effort into their blogs and would just simply like for something tangible to come out of it. I would never discredit anyone for thinking that sort of thing…it’s perfectly logical to expect some sort of compensation, especially when clicking an ad is optional and requires very little effort from the readers. What I don’t like, though, are people who put a bunch of ads on their websites and then ask that anyone wishing to be linked have few ads (*cough* Animetake).

In all, the important question is “what do you think about this?” Do you have an adblocker and just ignore the ads, so websites can do whatever they wish? Does seeing a single ad make you fly into such a rage that you never visit the site again? Are you the type of person that clicks ads out of sheer pity or sympathy for the webmaster? I imagine most people would be in that moderate category where they have a limit to how many ads they see before they get annoyed.

Life’s Great Mysteries: Fansub Groups

By the time you read this post, I’ll probably be in a plane headed back to America. But when I get back, I’ll be ready for the new season. So today, I wanna talk about fansub groups, who spend a lot of time enabling all of people like us that are too lazy to learn Japanese.

So before I started working with fansub groups, there were many things about fansubs that I never really paid attention to and I was wondering whether others were really looking into these sorts of things. Naturally, I saw things like grammar errors and spelling mistakes, which tended to give me a good chuckle.

However, recently I find I’ve started to naturally see timing errors with subtitles. Specifically, I’m starting to see when a timer doesn’t let the subtitles stay on the screen long enough or when the subtitles stay on screen during a major scene change when the person’s stopped talking. So I naturally wonder if these are things that people normally see or only after you find out about them?

Also, I wonder how people choose the fansub groups they watch for shows. I used to just watch whichever group released the subs first, but then I fell victim to gg’s troll subs (sigh…Hidan no Aria). Nowadays, I tend to watch Commie (just because they sub so many different shows), UTW, and Doki.

Do you find yourself generally watching the same group’s releases? Or is every series that you watch subbed by a different group? Or maybe you just follow the blue highlighting on NyaaTorrents? Maybe you know Japanese and have no idea what I’m talking about. I’m curious about what makes a popular fansub group popular.

And if you’re curious about these fansub groups and helping out, I know it can be difficult to jump in when the recruitment posts always have all these qualifications and whatnot. But I’d be happy to lend a hand where I can…I’m still fairly new, but I’d say I have a decent idea what I’m doing.

A final note: if you ever want to know which groups I’m watching, the urls for the screenshots I post usually have the group name in the picture name. And the big question I have for everyone reading this: what’s your biggest pet peeve when it comes to subtitles? Anything you just really hate to see?

Life’s Great Mysteries: Watching Anime Socially

So with 2012 upon us, let’s look at another one of life’s great mysteries. Today, I want to talk about watching anime in groups. From the general trend I see online, this may not be such a common trend, but I want to look at how this dynamic changes the experience of watching anime.

So for the most part, the anime I watch is watched alone in my room. However, sometimes I venture out of my cave on the outskirts of town and go to the meeting for my school’s anime club, which meets every week during the school year. Basically, they pick like 4-5 different series and show one or two episodes each week.

What does this end up looking like? 3 hours each week in a dark room with anime playing on a projector with about 20 people watching. Clearly, this is different than watching by myself. How is it different? Random outbursts of laughter become choruses of laughter and personal predictions are met with outcry or agreement.

I like the atmosphere watching with others and it’s nice to get immediate feedback about an episode, but I’m not a huge fan of waiting a week for an episode when I could so easily finish it myself. Still, I found myself greatly entertained when I watched No. 6 for a second time with everyone else.

I also find that watching with the anime club introduced me to shows I wouldn’t otherwise watch by myself, like Nabari no Ou and Outlaw Star (No. 6 and Nabari no Ou? What is it with this anime club and borderline BL?). I start to wonder if this is evidence of the social environment acting in a negative sense, numbing myself to problems I’d normally have with an old show like Outlaw Star or…a show like Nabari no Ou.

Let’s switch gears to a completely different dynamic. What about watching with just one other person or two other people, such as close friends or significant others? Although, I’ve never done this, I’m sure that plenty of people have. Does this add to the experience? Subtract from it?

In the end, maybe it boils down to a matter of preference. Even though writing this blog gives me fairly quick feedback on the episodes I’ve just watched (which is part of the reason I’m still writing), I find that watching with the anime club is still the same amount of fun.

So what’s your opinion? Am I nuts leaving my cave because anime is not meant to be a social experience? Or have you always felt the same, but never quite been able to gather the necessary human beings for such an event? If that’s the case, maybe something can be organized online. Not quite the same, but maybe it can make up for it a bit.

Life’s Great Mysteries: Forums

We’re still in that quiet period in between seasons, so today I want to talk about forums. In particular, I was wondering how many forums people frequent and what about the forums attracts their attention, specifically anime forums.

From what I’ve noticed, anime forums often look similar, with general discussion sections to talk about certain anime and a downloads section where users can post links to download series. I use Cartoon World forums as a source for dual audio anime, but for the most part, I get anime directly from fansub sites.

Another use for forums to create a site for social interaction online. However, I find myself often using chats, like IRC and Skype, instead to communicate. Maybe I prefer to have the sense that I’m addressing someone specific, rather than just leaving a message for anyone to answer. But is it so simple?

Still, I understand that forums provide a much wider scope for communication, allowing you talk with so many more people than you can with a chat. But I feel like IRC is fairly similar if you find a popular enough one. You can definitely get some discussion going on with a plethora of people.

Another thing I’m wondering about is the forum rules. On one hand, it makes me hesitant about posting because I’m afraid of breaking the rules or re-posting something someone else has already said. But on the other hand, I don’t have to deal with the constant stream of disturbing comments people say in chats (usually sexual in nature).

I think the best part of the forum is the permanence. Without having to go through the effort of starting a blog (like someone I know >.>), you can throw out information to the world for everyone to read as long as the forums stay up. In contrast, a chat won’t show you the messages you’ve missed and it will clear when you close it.

I’d say that I want to get to the point where I’m reading forums often because of the wealth of knowledge that I’m sure to find there. I guess the problem I have is sifting through the bogus threads to reach the ones I really care about.

Another problem I have is how annoying it is to reply to someone with a fairly early post, since it just gets tagged at the end and I wonder if it’ll even matter to make the reply. I guess I really just like the way blogs organize the comments.

So that’s why I’m wondering what other people do to keep up with forum posts and such. I tried using email notifications, but that just becomes tedious sometimes for my inbox. So how do you do it? And which forums do you hang around? Any tips for an Asian guy with waaaay too much time on his hands?