12 Moments of Anime #5: Conspicuity in Cataloging, Sweet Blue Flowers

by eternal on December 21, 2009


Aoi Hana was a spectacular show, easily my top pick from the summer season. It inspired a lot of thoughts in me, too, which I recorded in the post that the awkward pun in the title is referring to.

Interestingly, 2009 was pretty much my first experience with the yuri genre, and I think I’ve learned my way around the tropes in the past year. Marimite was good, no doubt about that – the symbolic memes of ribbon-adjusting and “walking slowly is preferred here” define what shoujo-ai is all about. In fact, I don’t think it’s wrong to simply call Marimite a definitive piece, despite the origins of the genre reaching back to the 70s and 80s.

However, there’s no question in my mind that Aoi Hana excels at what other yuri shows only try to do. Much like the demure, subtle atmosphere of Marimite‘s all-girls Catholic school, Aoi Hana tells a straightforward story of first love, touching on devices like love at first sight and the infamous childhood friend. It shies away from the complications of relationships, which would, for lack of a better word, “taint” the purity that people associate with the genre. The aesthetics are perfect, capturing the mood and feel of the show, and the dialogue is only as revealing as it needs to be; but above all, Aoi Hana is sincere. The show is true to itself and true to its viewers. Ryan wrote a good piece on it recently: it’s a story with no excess, and it conveys the bittersweet longing that defines the shoujo-ai genre with the utmost sincerity. For that, it’s earned its place as my favourite yuri anime and one of my favourite shows of the year.

– – –

MyAnimeList is not a new invention. I believe the site was launched some time in 2004, and it’s since attracted as many types of users as there are anime fans. When you factor in the clubs, you can find pretty much anything on MAL. Thoughtful discourse? Check. Embarrassingly narcissistic fanclubs? Check. A society for masturbation? Believe it or not, check.

That said, the core of MAL’s fame is the sheer power that it offers to the user. Did you know that ghostlightning has dropped 18 days worth of anime, or that JP Meyer‘s mean score is about 2 points below mine? I didn’t either, but thanks to MAL, now I do. Unfortunately, no matter how much I preach, nothing can change the fact that MAL is not a new invention.

The updater, however, is.

MAL Updater, the program that automatically updates your list as you watch anime, was apparently created near the end of 2007, but it’s seen constant changes throughout the year. The developers have done a spectacular job of not only making the program work, but making it look good while working. It can be a little buggy, and I’m not sure if it’s Mac-friendly, but the MAL Updater is definitely an attractive program, and it’s an invaluable tool for keeping your list up to date. In addition to doing all of the work for you, it can also serve as a convenient way to record which episode you stopped at, and it has the power to make scoring/tagging and even downloading slightly easier.

Looking at it that way, there aren’t many reasons not to join the community of 10000 and download the program. It’s especially recommended for those of you who are allergic to keeping your lists up to date… and you know who you are.


{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Animewriter December 22, 2009 at 12:17 am

Yes, Aoi Hana is truly a great anime series, and one of the best yuri themed shows I’ve watched in years. But, the real separation between Aoi Hana and other “yuri” themed shows is that Fumi is really a lesbian (not a s-class pretender), she’s even had REAL lesbian SEX. Also, Kyoko who is Fumi’s rival for Yasuko’s affections is a real lesbian, she loves and wants Yasuko as lover, no BS longing glances, no slow walking.

Another major difference between Aoi Hana and other yuri themed anime is that Aoi Hana takes place for the most part in the normal world and not a “mythical garden of flowers”. Fumi knows that her lesbianism is outside of mainstream society and her fear and pain is brought to the forefront when she comes out of the closet to Akira and begs her to not hate her or think she’s gross.

Now to MAL, I occasionally go and check the top anime by ratings list, and guess what? For the most part, new series rule the ranking lists, but there are still some pleasant surprises. I sure that if the Academy Awards let the fans vote for best picture the screaming masses would choose Twilight New Moon as the best picture of 2009.


ETERNAL December 23, 2009 at 11:29 pm

Ah, yes, the realism of Aoi Hana is definitely one of its strong points. It isn’t overly angsty and melodramatic like a lesbian love story potentially could be, but it doesn’t really sugar-coat it with a “garden of flowers” either. It sugar-coats love, to some extent, but it feels more down-to-earth when compared with the rest of the genre. Above all, I think it knew when to put on the rose-tinted glasses and when to toss them aside.


Ryan A December 24, 2009 at 3:05 am

It feel more down-to-earth than 90% of 2009 anime I believe. Definite win point.


kevo December 22, 2009 at 3:30 am

Ok, that’s it. You have just officially pressured me into watching Aoi Hana. After reading so many positive comments about the show and hearing so much talk, I can’t stand being left out in the cold anymore. I have not seen a good romantic drama since spring and I’ve been itching to jump into this discussion.

If it sucks, I’m holding you responsible :P Though my expectations are high and I am totally ready for a pleasant surprise.


gaguri December 22, 2009 at 5:47 am

I personally don’t use update myself, because I normally marathon titles, and I don’t want to cluster my ‘recent viewings’ with random episodes of anime. Plus, I like that personal feeling of archiving completed titles manually (but don’t ask ‘why dont u then buy dvd to be even more personal you leeching scumbag ^_^b’).

Clubs are usually horrible and should burn in hell, but there are some worth checking out. zzeroparticle’s music club for example, and for me personally there were few ‘artsy’ clubs that had recommendations of some very obscure and rare titles (and that ‘recommend’ feature also helps a lot).


Ryan A December 22, 2009 at 5:04 pm

More people should watch Aoi Hana, definitely feel it’s a definitive 2009 series regardless of the focus. 2009 had a number of yuri-toned series, so it’s only natural imo that Aoi Hana be a representer.

Rawr, MAL. I don’t have an account and won’t be using it. The updater >_> I’ve heard various things, but I’m not a windows user, so kinda pointless…. then there is Melative. MAL is seriously lacking api, and focuses only on anime/manga, while Melative is basically open to any medium, has a massive api, and can accomplish everything MAL can and more…. I use either the MelativeFF extension or the Melative Micro xulapp, but I think what people don’t realize is that updating through the microblog actually logs what you are keeping up with…. a genuine response to all those twitterers leaving spammish remarks about series they are watching (why do that when there is melative?). Also, while the default view doesn’t show it, melative updates can be unspoiled by default where you can see a friend has watched a given episode, but it hides any message that might ruin the experience for you based on whether you have logged that specific episode or not…. auto-unspoiling. I really despise attempts at text-scrobbling on twitter, it’s a waste and inconsiderate to followers.

It’s kinda not the point of melative, just a feature; micro-actions allow scrobbling.

In any case, the coming versions of both the FF extension and xulapp have a Library management window where a user can see what they are currently following, increment episodes, make a recommendation, tag, rate, favorite, leave a comment on a series, or perform a microupdate on a given episode (or chapter or whatever). I also have some apps that can tell when I am watching something with mplayer (and tested with mpc on windows, also with various audio players on linux) and can subsequently post updates that way, but I can’t focus too much off the backend or else things won’t ever progress with the site (webui is fail, but api and 3p apps are hopeful).

Finally, because I recently updated the time-spent methods, I wonder about this bit about ghostlightning has dropped 18 days of anime… Here is where I question…

Is that 18 days he spent watching, and dropped somewhere in the middle, or is that just the length of series he dropped, where he possibly didn’t actually spend 18 days watching. If it is the latter case, how is that even useful?

:) sorry for the length.


ETERNAL December 23, 2009 at 11:33 pm

No worries about the length ^^

I think the biggest advantage MAL has over Melative right now is the database size. For obvious reasons, the MAL mods go through a lot of trouble to document everything, and instead of having to add stuff to the database, I end up bumping into OVAs and DVD specials that I never knew existed. As you know, Melative’s database still isn’t complete, so it can’t replace MAL’s documentation value – it can only replace the Twitter-style microblogging. The problem is, no one would maintain a complete catalog of completed shows on more than one site.

As for the dropped anime calculations, I have no idea how it works, but I certainly hope it’s the former :P


Ryan A December 24, 2009 at 3:35 am

Yea, database is somewhat an issue, especially for me considering I’ve personally added 99% of the titles which includes roughly 8000 literature titles, 3000 visual novels, 4000 manga, and about 2500 anime (non ova or movie), not to mention a modest portion of my music, and a small bit of films/tv.

Here’s how it works with anime: 1) I have a parser which parses ANN into the proper page format… yea. The portion of the database for anime/manga has been generated via ANN, which is a major issue because MAL and ANN don’t agree on titles or synonym in about 10% of cases. Melative solves this by being name-based and allowing aliases to reference the same entity (think Wikipedia articles of the same page with different names).

This is a paradox of sorts. As too many try to view Melative as MAL, and just shrugg it off, or are confused by the ui and disregard the concept. The concept is tough to manifest with just myself alone, while maintaining dev. So, paradox.

The other thing, is my dev perspective, which end-users might not care about, but it generally allows better creations for the user via apps/plugins. My perspective is on API, and MAL has a poor API. MAL Updater, I’ve heard, uses page scraping D: … Melative is all about API. With the right attention, a wider array of tools can be created for melative with greater ease (page scraping is a pain in the ass/waste of time btw).

Here’s an example: Why drive traffic away from your blog to look at your MAL list? I created a Wordpress plugin which sovles this, and is fully dynamic with the Melative engine. see here. The rendering is fully customizable in XSL, so all links to melative can be left out if a user wishes… they can do whatever they want. That’s kinda the point.

Another interesting trick. The microblog auto-adds titles when you update on them, even if they aren’t in the db.

The problem is, no one would maintain a complete catalog of completed shows on more than one site.

1) There is import/export (export is basically the api call).
2) People do this. They have their experiences for different media on different sites. Segregating their experience profile between mediums. Melative thrives on the concept of multi-medium, that’s the notion of library, and that’s how the likeness algorithms can compare two users across one medium or all to see their compatibility, etc.

Why distinguish between mediums? The experience provided by a give work, regardless of medium, takes another shape inside ourselves. Internally, do we really distinguish between experiences of an anime versus a tv series? Or a book and a light novel? … when we’ve finished and enjoyed it, that experience is part of us, why separate it from other experiences across sites?

guh, so late 3:30am


ETERNAL December 24, 2009 at 5:41 pm

I can see what your goal for Melative is, but it’s a daunting task to try to overcome something like MAL as a standard. Even if Melative can be more convenient for the user if it’s used correctly, it doesn’t change the fact that your entire anime list will be on a site that most people aren’t familiar with. In this case, documentation is just as important as microblogging – MAL is like a standard in the community, and with everyone on one site, it’s easy to tell at a glance what a user’s experience in anime is and what shows you have in common. From the user’s perspective, there’s not much incentive to move their entire list over unless everyone else does the same… but I guess that’s where the paradox comes in.


Ryan A December 24, 2009 at 8:35 pm

Not everyone is on MAL, for one, I’m not on there, but this is an issue. MAL is also not the only site, AniDB, Anime Planet, and ANN all have solid usership, but they are all generally closed realms.

I have a bit of momentum for open things, and I’ve already written a specification that allows “friending” across sites without being a user. With that in mind, there is also potential for unifying the representation of media-lists so that you may see the same view, without having to be on any one specific site…. if this were the case, one user could use Melative, another could use MAL, and there would be some view which unifies the representation, as well as providing a social relation between these two. This is where my mindset is. You should read up on that Google article I shared on GRSI and check out the differences between the MBA model and the Open model of applications. Closed sites are not the future, but open and distributed models with overlying specification or protocols are.

If users want incentive, Melative is a live fish in rapid development mode, we will continue pushing and streamlining while MAL is doing what exactly? Basking in content users and not undergoing progressive modifications? Active development is a good thing, just look at Google, they are active in a lot of areas. If they just felt their products were “fine” what would become of them?

I am both a radical and extremist; the greatest change is often the most interesting (I get bored easy). ^^

The microblog is one small thing, but it is getting shifted into a Kronblr plugin (Kronblr is a micro-publishing platform similar to Facebook’s wall or Friendfeed, but built like Wordpress with themes/plugins… and open as well). So those updates will likely be generated from Kronblr, a general purpose microblog that doesn’t need to be on any one domain (this is where the friending across sites comes in).

Anyhow, it’s totally a paradox. I don’t know what to do, and it’s a wonder why I focus so much on anibloggers, but the fact is they usually are into a wide-spread of mediums, it’s like the perfect user base for something multi-medium (I also have high regard for anibloggers because we seem to be more open to mediums than typical pop-culture kids who only know tv and radio music).

Probably not a bad thing that M has dramas, light novels, games, and visual novels, so maybe if users get used to it through those mediums, they’d be more inclined to use it for other mediums. Saa~

Difficult things with little help (most ppl that were helping have basically bailed, like Gargron).


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