To OEL or not to OEL? Gems from the Gaijin of the Internet

by eternal on October 17, 2009

Katawa Shoujo[Katawa Shoujo]

This isn’t quite a serious response to a recent Sankaku Complex article (NSFW). Their jab at Western “dating sims” was obviously not intended for any kind of serious contemplation, despite the fact that they overlooked something crucial.

The punchline, however, felt disturbingly familiar. It isn’t all too uncommon in anime fandom to criticize Western media, much moreso when a person is creating something that “resembles” Japanese media like anime and manga. It’s the typical “stop trying to be Asian” argument, which appears to be worse for the YouTube stars (although that may only be because they have to deal with YouTube commenters).

Anyway, media is the issue here, not culture. Put simply, some fans have a bad habit of underestimating Japanese-style media that wasn’t made in Japan, and that can be as unhealthy for the community as it is harmful for your own media intake.

I don’t think anyone would benefit from me listing the reasons why Western “imitations” of Japanese media aren”t necessarily bad. It’s common sense, for the most part. While anime is distinctly Japanese, I don’t believe the fact that it’s Japanese has much to do with our enjoyment of it. The fact that it’s different, maybe, but not simply because it came from Japan. So, instead of rambling on about the importance of open-mindedness, I’ll do something productive and list a few pleasant Original English Language creations I’ve had the pleasure of discovering over the years.

  • Katawa Shoujo needs no introduction (and it’s linked above). I played the demo up to the opening video, by which point I was convinced that it would someday become the revolution that the OEL VN community needs. There’s no question that I’ll play the full game when it comes out.
  • The Answer is clever, though it has little value unless you’re an aspiring visual novel creator.
  • You’ve probably played The Best Eroge Ever already. If not, do so now: it’s the good kind of meta.
  • Tomorrow is an unusual OEL VN written like a Shakespearean play. Sorta. It’s no masterpiece but it’s a refreshing change.
  • Sorcerers & Secretaries is a soothing romance manga that isn’t too ambitious. It’s an enjoyable read for the two volumes that it lasts for.
  • Megatokyo needs less of an introduction than Katawa Shoujo, but it’s worth linking to for the two of you who haven’t heard of it. The comic supposedly dropped in popularity as it took a more serious turn, but while I wouldn’t recommend reading it in webcomic form due to the naturally slow pace, the archives and/or manga volumes make for a great read.
  • Textnovel is one of those sites for amateur writers to post their work, the only problem being that there’s usually more writing than reading. However, the site’s focus is on cell phone novels, and it seems to have a heavy slant toward Japanese-style light novels. The Ranobe Cafe took note of them a little while ago, and the most popular story seems fairly interesting. At least the art is good!

That’s about all I can think of at the moment, but I’m sure there are a few buried (and not-so-buried) treasures that I have yet to stumble upon. I’d appreciate any and all recommendations if you happen to know an OEL gem or two, but failing that, perhaps it’s time you took a break from watching Railgun and reading Umineko to give the unknown a shot. Who knows, you just might earn the bragging rights of saying that you were there when a future classic first got off the ground!


{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

2DT October 17, 2009 at 8:07 pm

In the case of anime and manga, I think it’s just hard for fans to separate their original experience (i.e. “Look at this cool stuff from Japan that’s so much more interesting than the comics/cartoons from home”) from today’s potential for multicultural media. Sankaku Complex is definitely pushing this conservative fan attitude, but what can we do? They get the hits. At least in the case of Katawa Shoujo (a project I watch closely because I have some history with it), they were somewhat approving.


ETERNAL October 21, 2009 at 5:54 pm

You have a history with Katawa Shoujo? Do tell…


zzeroparticle October 17, 2009 at 9:50 pm

One of the OEL creations that I used to be pretty fond of was the comic Van Von Hunter which is a satirical take on fantasy cliches and managed to be entertaining up until the artist stopped updating.

But yeah, I’d prefer to see the discussion focus more upon whether the ideas presented in the medium are good rather than whether the people involved are American, European, or Asian. Bringing in nationality in the picture is helpful if that background plays a big role in the work, otherwise, one should probably focus more upon the content if one is tossing into the debate a general opinion.


Snark October 18, 2009 at 3:27 am

Great to see more fans of OELs; they tend to be an oft ignored aspect of Western anime culture.

Anyways, if you’re looking for good reads, the works of Svetlana Chmakova are great. She wrote the well acclaimed Dramacon, and her latest work, Nightschool, seems to be shaping up nicely.

Or you could check out Stripfighter. Which is awesome, cause it combines my two favourite things; fighting and tits.


Blowfish October 18, 2009 at 2:14 pm

I think one of the other Problems associated with this is that when non-japanese media makes japanese media the elitists feel insulted because their hobby isnt as rare and exclusive anymore.
In the end you could call it something like brand loyalty just that the brand is Japan and everything else sucks because its not from Japan.

You wont find the same guys that criticize OEL criticize japanese media that tries to make a western style release.Theyre just hypocrites after all.

Gunsmith Cats for example is a Manga I adore and while the visual style is indeed japanese the whole concept is as american as it can be.You wont find anyone scream OMG Cheap Copy though


ETERNAL October 21, 2009 at 5:55 pm

Thanks for the recommendations! Now I have some googling to do…


Blowfish October 26, 2009 at 1:07 am

Oh I think you actually misunderstood me ^^;

Gunsmith Cats is japanese but the whole concept of the Manga is pretty american.
Check it out nevertheless since its good :P


ETERNAL October 27, 2009 at 8:07 am

Ah, you’re right, my mistake. I’ll still check it out though :P


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: