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Genuinely philosophical vs. pseudo-philosophical anime

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#1
Dec 4, 5:41 AM

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As a post-grad student of philosophy, I've found three types of "philosophical" anime: one that really has philosophical content, one that merely makes references to philosophy without being genuinely philosophical, and one that is middlebrow attempt at being deep without any challenging insight to offer. Example for discussion (I'm ready to be converted by sound argument):

Genuinely philosophical:

The Wind Rises, Planetes both ask question about the competing priority between humanitarian-egalitarian values and the value of human excellence. Nietzsche was perhaps the first philosopher who set two kind of values against each other --
And what if, as Nietzsche argues, a morality of equality – and altruism and pity for suffering – were, in fact, an obstacle to human excellence? What if being a “moral” person makes it impossible to be Beethoven? Nietzsche’s conclusion is clear: if moral equality is an obstacle to human excellence, then so much the worse for moral equality.

(https://www.the-tls.co.uk/articles/public/friedrich-nietzsche-truth-terrible/?fbclid=IwAR2MsR9wM0SVx7xaM7v7ScvEYJK4GnDbT_38VYboJ2Vl_Ri2qRrcybVJzyY)

Fate/Zero Of the many philosophical facets in F/Z, three of them are the most interesting: Gilles de Rais's (Caster's) Dostoevskian nihilism, Kiritsugu Emiya's utilitarianism and Saber's chivalrous ideal.

- Gilles de Rais was shocked by how much evil and injustice God has permitted. He went on committing evil for evil's sake to spite his old God (or the absent of).

- Kiritsugu believed in sacrificing the few in saving the many. Once this self-justifying thought pattern is fixed he has lost the vision of a better world in which the few doesn't have to be sacrificed for the many. As his conversation with Grail has shown, he doesn't know how the world could be made better. He had only bureaucratic calculating reason, but no political imagination. (Cf. Frankfurt school)

- Saber believed in the idea that the strong protects the weak, the King serves his subjects. She later found out that even if she could protect her subjects physically, she nonetheless had left them spiritually empty, lacking a higher value to strive for. Her conversation with Alexander the Great was a Nietzshean counterposition of slave morality and master morality. Alexander embodied the master morality of antiquity: he as the leader was the self-sufficient source of positive values, like the sun which relies on no one but is needed by everyone else who needs guidance. Saber, the embodiment of the slave morality of Christianity, provided no guidance. She needed her subjects more than her subjects needed her. She was not a source of positive values, but simply a protection of whatever values already existed in her community.

From the New World Aside from the most obvious themes borrowed from Brave New World, what's most interesting about it (while rarely mentioned) is the critique of the politics of empathy. Many liberals believe that social conflict and inequality can be solved through encouraging empathy for each others. The idea of Monster Rats is precisely to remind us that empathy is an easily manipulated thing. We can be manipulated to see people of marginalised groups as subhuman, either by genetic engineering, or more realistically, by media.

Psycho-Pass In certain sense Makishima is a Kantian. He believed that moral law is what man legislates for himself. Man is free when he obeys the moral law he himself, instead of an other, imposes on himself. What's wrong about Sibyl system is not that it had this and that technical flaws, it's that it has destroyed human autonomy and thus our ability to make judgment for ourselves. The idea of making the whole legal system into a calculating machine makes it impossible for moral progress. Some of the moral beliefs we have are mistaken. Many of the most talented minds in 18th century Europe believed black people and native Americans are inferior and it is morally acceptable to enslave them. We challenged those ideas and revised our moral belief. If moral truth was something that is merely given by the Church, or Sibyl system, we would not have made any change. We will forever stuck at whatever the Bible or Sibyl tells us about race, woman, and gay people. We have made progress because we take ourselves to be our own law-makers. (Cf. Kant's What is Enlightenment?)

(I have a mixed feeling about it as an anime, precisely because the the show (season one) later revelation distracted its audience from the deeper Kantian theme for a rather superficial discussion about the technical flaws or the ironic secret of Sibyl system, which usually ended up with an extremely trite conclusion that all systems have flaws so utopianism won't work. It would have been more thematically interesting if the show had just focused on what might be wrong about the very idea of handing over our moral responsibility to a computer.)



Pseudo-philosophical:

Serial Experiments Lain I love its art style but honestly I don't understand why it is regarded as one of the most philosophical shows by so many people. It does question the unity of our different social persona and asks what would become possible in the era of internet anonymity, but not in a very interesting way. It wasn't really ahead of its time either. Discussion about the impact of internet was already plentiful before this anime was made. Its message is even far less radical than postmodern philosophers who commented on the era of information in the 80s. (Eg. Baudrillard, whose idea are still fresh even today.)

Revolutionary Girl Utena Again, I like its style but I think thematically it's just a cluster of random adolescent issues. No interesting philosophical question is asked.

Texhnolyze It did ask question about whether human society would descend into a lifeless bureaucratic dystopian with nothing to strive for, if mankind has finally got rip of its propensity for violence and power. (Cf. Nietzsche's Letzter Mensch) But narratively it just never went deep enough into the life of the surface world. It offer very little intellectual stimulation for its entire 22 episodes run.

Ergo Proxy It's just a cluster of random themes and references. I have yet seen anyone who's able to formulate what exactly is the philosophical content it is claimed to have. Being tedious is not the same as being deep.



Middlebrow

Legend of the Galactic Heroes I'm only about 40 episodes into this series but for what I've watched, the politics in it looks like it was directly transposed from a Politics 101 course or a 20th Century History 101 course. It's good for educating the general audience I guess. But for people who have read a few academic books on history and politics, the show provides very little intellectual stimulation. Artistically it also relies too much on expositional dialogue.

Ghost in the Shell I generally enjoy this franchise but I just don't think it is as deep as many people have made it to be. It does have a lot of post-humanist themes in it, but they were never made to pose any real challenge to our conventional, humanist, essentialist outlooks.
 
#2
Dec 4, 5:46 AM

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another pseudo philosophical anime is bunny girl senpai. i wrote a long review yesterday night. click

this is anime is a trash fanservice anime that pretends to be pseudo philosophical with its stupid dialogs about those puberty syndrom problems with that nonsense and random connection to quantumphysics (schrödingers cat for example).
 
#3
Dec 4, 5:54 AM

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afg1930 said:
another pseudo philosophical anime is bunny girl senpai. i wrote a long review yesterday night. click

this is anime is a trash fanservice anime that pretends to be pseudo philosophical with its stupid dialogs about those puberty syndrom problems with that nonsense and random connection to quantumphysics (schrödingers cat for example).

I don't think Bunny Girl is intended to be philosophical (let alone scientific). It's more about the social commentary on the Japanese culture of "reading the atmosphere (空気を読む)". I think how much you personally get from it heavily depends on how much you can relate to that particular culture.
 
#4
Dec 4, 5:56 AM

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Correct me if I'm wrong but pseudo-philosophical here sounds like a very contrived way of mentioning stuff that IS philosophical, just doesn't reach a conclusion that is enlightening enough.
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#5
Dec 4, 5:57 AM

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I am no philosopher by any means, but when you claim that "no interesting philosophical question is asked" , are you speaking for yourself or for everyone?

As someone who is into science, I barely invest myself in the deeper implications of the said anime, nor am I even aware of the vast amounts of literature behind it. Nevertheless, I do connect when any theme piques my interest and that in turn provides some degree of intellectual stimulation. It's probably the nature of my field where intellectual stimulation comes from a completely different angle for me.

Thereby, I barely see a strong differentiation in all three categories you have mentioned since I come from the understanding that an individual will respond differently to any proposed philosophical intrigue.

For example : I have seen some shows from the three categories you have proposed.

Ergo Proxy seemed like a shout to something such as existentialism perhaps? The anime did seem quite abstract/random in the concepts it was throwing at the viewer but did enough for me to ponder about the topic. Probably one of those shows which require you to have a rewatch to make better sense of it, I guess.

Psycho Pass and Shin Sekai Yori offered some food for thought with relation to upholding a society by from two different angles.

Legend of Galactic Heroes was a wholesome experience for me as it made me ponder over the futility of war, shortcomings of democracy and how aristocracy can prove to be powerful under a competent ruler. Nothing phenomenal if I think hard on the latter two but it did reflect on how some countries struggle with democracy in modern times. Thematically, both sides have lost the battle where it mattered the most : dialogue.

In effect, all three categories offered enough to provide a challenging insight for me.
Modified by KreatorX, Dec 4, 6:12 AM
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#6
Dec 4, 6:18 AM

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KreatorX said:
I am no philosopher by any means, but when you claim that "no interesting philosophical question is asked" , are you speaking for yourself or for everyone?

As someone who is into science, I barely invest myself in the deeper implications of the said anime, nor am I even aware of the vast amounts of literature behind it. Nevertheless, I do connect when any theme piques my interest and that in turn provides some degree of intellectual stimulation. It's probably the nature of my field where intellectual stimulation comes from a completely different angle for me.

Thereby, I barely see a strong differentiation in all three categories you have mentioned since I come from the understanding that an individual will respond differently to any proposed philosophical intrigue.

I'm speaking about the show. People may disagree with my judgment on the show. They may point out things that I might have missed, and demonstrate to me what kind of philosophical questions it asked (like what I did for the anime in "genuinely philosophical" category.) If I'm convinced I may see them again with a different perspective and see what they saw in the show. There is of course more personal aspect about anime, but there is also public aspect about a show, which is not necessarily seen by everyone but is in principle can be seen.
 
#7
Dec 4, 6:19 AM

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I think to enjoy Lain you have to be able to enjoy it as a metaphorical, experimentally structured mystery show as well as its philosophical ideas. Also I think the point was to compare the way Lain consumed the internet to how people were using it at the time/how people would consume it in the future, rather than speculating on a future where the internet was literally like that. Hence why it takes place in "present day, present time". Also, I think the way Lain expressed how the internet might effect our members of society who are already heavily disconnected from the real world at the very least heald some pretty intense parallels into my own life and how I felt as a young teen when I got a computer.

Also perhaps Baudrillard does have some more insightful opinions about the internet, but as far as I'm aware he didn't create an exoerimental piece of animation to express himself, nor as far as I'm aware did any internet philosopher of the 90s. I don't think anyone is saying that Lain was the first or only thing to make philosophical criticisms of the internet, it just did so in a way that was both interesting and strikingly relevant to a lot of people's lives.

Perhaps other people are getting something out of these works you are not. Something like Lain although very philosophical is popular I would say more because of the way the experimental nature makes people feel and forces them to think and interact with the work on a higher level. I don't think just that it has philosophy alone is the whole point. Personally, I found a lot of your choices pretty shallow. Though I love Shinsekai Yori, the philosophical elements were pretty on the nose imo.
Modified by simonephone, Dec 4, 7:05 AM
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#8
Dec 4, 6:24 AM

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Serial Experiments Lain,Texhnolyze and Angel's Egg are three of the most pretentious anime I ever watch.
Anime that intelligent people like.

 
#9
Dec 4, 6:29 AM

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Gorochu said:
Serial Experiments Lain,Texhnolyze and Angel's Egg are three of the most pretentious anime I ever watch.

How is Angel's Egg pretentious?
It's just weird and has a bunch of references.
 
Dec 4, 6:39 AM

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jal90 said:
Correct me if I'm wrong but pseudo-philosophical here sounds like a very contrived way of mentioning stuff that IS philosophical, just doesn't reach a conclusion that is enlightening enough.

I don't really think the shows I listed under that category is philosophical. Making reference to philosophical themes is not the same thing as embodying those themes. The word "philosophical" is like the word "critical". A person is not critical just because he criticises. An anime is not philosophical just because it philosophises.

The category I made for philosophically solid but ultimately unenlightening anime is "middlebrow".
 
Dec 4, 6:44 AM

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Haven't actually touched on what you classify as pseudo-philosophical and middle brow. Have heard people that are essentially cult followings of the show praising them to the high-heavens though. In the end, to me they are pretty middle priority shows that I wouldn't rush to watch. While I could end up loving them to bits, there's a higher likelihood it just wouldn't work out.

I have watched Fate/Zero and Psycho Pass S1 (with no intention of touching S2), but have ended up dropping Shinsekai Yori 11 episodes in. The key difference in my opinion lies not in the meaning, but how well they do in hooking the viewer into caring about the characters to tell an interesting story with a deeper meaning.

CHC said:
From the New World Aside from the most obvious themes borrowed from Brave New World, what's most interesting about it (while rarely mentioned) is the critique of the politics of empathy. Many liberals believe that social conflict and inequality can be solved through encouraging empathy for each others. The idea of Monster Rats is precisely to remind us that empathy is an easily manipulated thing. We can be manipulated to see people of marginalised groups as subhuman, either by genetic engineering, or more realistically, by media.
Sorry, but I don't see what's particularly deep about this. When it comes to playing with politics, almost none of the easily digestible and repeatable slogans are the truth but merely a campaigning strategy. It's self evident to me. The greatest illusion of empathy politics is that it is inclusive, yet it specifically marginalises those who have more and at the same time paints people who disagree with empathy politics as uncaring.

Besides, the idea of having an out-group being wrongfully portrayed is not complicated and actually rather frequently used as a plotline.

afg1930 said:
another pseudo philosophical anime is bunny girl senpai. i wrote a long review yesterday night. click

this is anime is a trash fanservice anime that pretends to be pseudo philosophical with its stupid dialogs about those puberty syndrom problems with that nonsense and random connection to quantumphysics (schrödingers cat for example).
I'm pretty sure you are either taking the show way more seriously than it's intended or someone is trolling you about their opinions on Bunny-senpai (and you fell for it).

The vague explanations of the adolescence syndrome don't seem to point to any particularly direction, but this isn't even atypical for slice of life sprinkled with supernatural elements, at least not until the characters come closer to understanding it themselves. In any case, I haven't read the source material, so I don't know what's actually behind the adolescence syndrome. I'd certainly think it'd be more appropriate to at least get to that point before judging it so harshly.

Plus, the main attraction of the show is having the characters sit around talking and banter with each other.
Modified by BurningSpirit, Dec 4, 6:49 AM
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Dec 4, 6:47 AM
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am honestly surprised Utena was mentioned in OP instead of EVA
 
Dec 4, 6:52 AM

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Gorochu said:
Serial Experiments Lain,Texhnolyze and Angel's Egg are three of the most pretentious anime I ever watch.

Angel's Egg is a slow, stylish, meditative spectacle. I don't think it ever pretend to be anything that it isn't.
Most of the enjoyment that comes from SEL is in its style, ambience and suspense. A lot of people did make it into something much more than it really is, but I think calling it "pretentious" is too harsh when it IS artistically well-made.
 
Dec 4, 6:54 AM

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CHC said:
jal90 said:
Correct me if I'm wrong but pseudo-philosophical here sounds like a very contrived way of mentioning stuff that IS philosophical, just doesn't reach a conclusion that is enlightening enough.

I don't really think the shows I listed under that category is philosophical. Making reference to philosophical themes is not the same thing as embodying those themes. The word "philosophical" is like the word "critical". A person is not critical just because he criticises. An anime is not philosophical just because it philosophises.

The category I made for philosophically solid but ultimately unenlightening anime is "middlebrow".

Then I don't get why are you mentioning Lain here when its themes are integral to the narrative and define in a quite direct way the character actions, emotions and growth throughout.

If what you are aiming at here is shows that simply quote but don't apply philosophical themes to the story, like just name-dropping, this is a particularly bad example.
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Dec 4, 7:05 AM

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Why are otaku interested in demonstrating knowledge about philosophy and pseudo philosophy?
It is almost annoying to see them say the same things.
sǝuılǝpınƃ ɯnɹoɟ & ǝʇıs ǝɥʇ uı pǝuıɟǝp sɐ ,sǝlnɹ ǝɹnʇɐuƃıs ǝɥʇ ʍolloɟ ǝsɐǝld˙pǝʌoɯǝɹ ǝɹnʇɐuƃıs
 
Dec 4, 7:10 AM
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Since the beginning of this past summer, I have watched anime almost exclusively. I seem to enjoy them more than other shows largely because they have far superior metaphorical significance and thematic impact that make one think critically on human nature. For example, NHK, Kimi No Na Wa, Spirited Away, OreGairu, Shinsekai Yori, 5cm/s, FMA
 
Dec 4, 7:10 AM

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Also, I think the point of revolutionary girl Utena is to be a metaphorical and symbolic coming of age story, it's not really trying express a specific philosophical view point. I don't really get what the point of calling it pseudo philosophical is.

CHC said:
Gorochu said:
Serial Experiments Lain,Texhnolyze and Angel's Egg are three of the most pretentious anime I ever watch.

Angel's Egg is a slow, stylish, meditative spectacle. I don't think it ever pretend to be anything that it isn't.
Most of the enjoyment that comes from SEL is in its style, ambience and suspense. A lot of people did make it into something much more than it really is, but I think calling it "pretentious" is too harsh when it IS artistically well-made.


Angel's egg is also more metaphorical than philosophical, the most common interpretation is to view it as a metaphor for the creators loss of faith in his religion, but there are A LOT of interpretations. . It seems like you're kind of overlooking the metaphorical implications in a lot of these works.
Modified by simonephone, Dec 4, 7:19 AM
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Dec 4, 7:18 AM

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How about RahXephon? They deal with choosing what's best for you. A fake wonderland or the cruel world. They have other cool stuff too.
"Even if there's a wide world and stories beyond the main focus, I don't think it's necessary
to end with the protagonist having been involved in everything." - Yagi Norihiro
 
Dec 4, 7:42 AM

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BurningSpirit said:

CHC said:
From the New World Aside from the most obvious themes borrowed from Brave New World, what's most interesting about it (while rarely mentioned) is the critique of the politics of empathy. Many liberals believe that social conflict and inequality can be solved through encouraging empathy for each others. The idea of Monster Rats is precisely to remind us that empathy is an easily manipulated thing. We can be manipulated to see people of marginalised groups as subhuman, either by genetic engineering, or more realistically, by media.
Sorry, but I don't see what's particularly deep about this. When it comes to playing with politics, almost none of the easily digestible and repeatable slogans are the truth but merely a campaigning strategy. It's self evident to me. The greatest illusion of empathy politics is that it is inclusive, yet it specifically marginalises those who have more and at the same time paints people who disagree with empathy politics as uncaring.

Besides, the idea of having an out-group being wrongfully portrayed is not complicated and actually rather frequently used as a plotline.


It's interesting that you said the politics of empathy specifically marginalises those who have more, when it is those who have less were marginalised in From the New World.

This point asides, I do agree that the mere idea that marginalised people get dehumanised is not a particularly deep insight. But I do think the way the show presents the idea is great. It gets us into sympathising the protagonists, who belong to the upperclass and are morally respectable and likeable people, and then we are introduced to the villain, Squealer, a base, cunning, cruel, ugly Machiavellian, who nonetheless fought for equality. In this way it challenges us to do the difficult task of empathising with Squealer.

I can't really expand on it because it has been quite a few years since I watched it and I don't remember a lot of details. So it's fine if what I said is not thorough enough for you to find convincing.
 
Dec 4, 7:46 AM

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jal90 said:
CHC said:

I don't really think the shows I listed under that category is philosophical. Making reference to philosophical themes is not the same thing as embodying those themes. The word "philosophical" is like the word "critical". A person is not critical just because he criticises. An anime is not philosophical just because it philosophises.

The category I made for philosophically solid but ultimately unenlightening anime is "middlebrow".

Then I don't get why are you mentioning Lain here when its themes are integral to the narrative and define in a quite direct way the character actions, emotions and growth throughout.

If what you are aiming at here is shows that simply quote but don't apply philosophical themes to the story, like just name-dropping, this is a particularly bad example.

So what do you think is philosophical about Lain? To be honest I like the show but I just don't think it's philosophical.
 
Dec 4, 7:47 AM

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Frqncy said:
Why are otaku interested in demonstrating knowledge about philosophy and pseudo philosophy?
It is almost annoying to see them say the same things.


Insecurity. Anime fan always try to prove that anime is more than entertainment to justify watching it. They feels the need to prove themselves they are smart or intellectual through watching anime and not just for entertainment.
Anime that intelligent people like.

 
Dec 4, 7:56 AM

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simonephone said:
Also, I think the point of revolutionary girl Utena is to be a metaphorical and symbolic coming of age story, it's not really trying express a specific philosophical view point. I don't really get what the point of calling it pseudo philosophical is.


I get that shows like Utena and Lain are perhaps intended to be symbolic/metaphorical rather than philosophical. I might have got the impression that it somehow pretends to be deeper than it is from their fans when they try too hard to decipher the meaning, and the "hidden" messages are usually pseudo-philosophical.
 
Dec 4, 7:57 AM

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I think Ghost in the shell and texhnolize are pretty deep and how they treat the theme of what makes us human and most of the moral dilemmas are pretty grounded. Also they didn't abuse the symbolisms like Uthena or Lain did IMO.

I like Shinsekai and I found it interesting, I never though about it too much about it's philosophical aspect tho and I never though it was deep.

Chobits had some interesting topics too if I remember correctly.

But real philosophical shows are pretty rare, I don't remember much else that the ones that are named.
 
Dec 4, 8:00 AM

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afg1930 said:
another pseudo philosophical anime is bunny girl senpai. i wrote a long review yesterday night. click

this is anime is a trash fanservice anime that pretends to be pseudo philosophical with its stupid dialogs about those puberty syndrom problems with that nonsense and random connection to quantumphysics (schrödingers cat for example).


I'm pretty sure that it's pseudo scientific not pseudo philosophical. But I agree on the complains that you mentioned.
 
Dec 4, 8:03 AM

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CHC said:
jal90 said:

Then I don't get why are you mentioning Lain here when its themes are integral to the narrative and define in a quite direct way the character actions, emotions and growth throughout.

If what you are aiming at here is shows that simply quote but don't apply philosophical themes to the story, like just name-dropping, this is a particularly bad example.

So what do you think is philosophical about Lain? To be honest I like the show but I just don't think it's philosophical.

The show talks about internet, social presence and identity and these are themes that are present actively in the narrative and define the path Lain goes through. You even reach that conclusion on your own so again, I don't understand how are you making it look pseudo-philosophical under your own definition of what a pseudo-philosophical show is. The problem I find with this example is not that it is any good or bad at presenting philosophical ideas, but that the themes it references and the themes it treats directly in the narrative are the same. There is not the disonance that you associate to pseudo-philosophy.
Modified by jal90, Dec 4, 8:07 AM
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Dec 4, 8:05 AM

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Gorochu said:
Frqncy said:
Why are otaku interested in demonstrating knowledge about philosophy and pseudo philosophy?
It is almost annoying to see them say the same things.


Insecurity. Anime fan always try to prove that anime is more than entertainment to justify watching it. They feels the need to prove themselves they are smart or intellectual through watching anime and not just for entertainment.

Some people do get entertained by intellectual things beside other things. Some people like to discuss intellectual anime or film for the same reason they like to discuss Crime and Punishment or The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Some people get bored by mindless entertainment for the same reason they get bored playing rock-paper-scissors. Not everyone is like you.
 
Dec 4, 8:12 AM

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I litterally said the same thing about chain lain in the comment section of its op but no one seemed to agree with me which was to be expected since most of the people who would go ahead and listen to its op are avid fans of it



Anw watch death parade Because it is an actual philosophical anime
You like air,angels beats,clannad,little busters,charlotte..?then WATCH "KANON 2006" which is better
anime page:https://myanimelist.net/anime/1530/Kanon_2006
Opening:https://youtu.be/_qA3tXZwfrI

 
Dec 4, 8:13 AM

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jal90 said:
CHC said:

So what do you think is philosophical about Lain? To be honest I like the show but I just don't think it's philosophical.

The show talks about internet, social presence and identity and these are themes that are present actively in the narrative and define the path Lain goes through. You even reach that conclusion on your own so again, I don't understand how are you making it look pseudo-philosophical under your own definition of what a pseudo-philosophical show is.

It merely mentions those issues as the backdrop of the show. I don't really see how it narratively embodies those issues. Like, did any of the characters make their decision based on their (explicit or implicit) philosophical understanding of those issues?
 
Dec 4, 8:20 AM

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Gasaraki is the only anime I've seen that uses internal philosophical debate to move the show's ideas forward, while at the same time incorporating it in a way that makes the dialogue apart of the characters and the world; as if the discussion would continue even if the audience wasn't around The ideas presented are also engaging and intellectually stimulating. A step-up from the usual nonsense you find in anime that attempts to 'ask' questions.
 
Dec 4, 8:20 AM

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CHC said:
simonephone said:
Also, I think the point of revolutionary girl Utena is to be a metaphorical and symbolic coming of age story, it's not really trying express a specific philosophical view point. I don't really get what the point of calling it pseudo philosophical is.


I get that shows like Utena and Lain are perhaps intended to be symbolic/metaphorical rather than philosophical. I might have got the impression that it somehow pretends to be deeper than it is from their fans when they try too hard to decipher the meaning, and the "hidden" messages are usually pseudo-philosophical.


I understand where you are coming from but I think that's a bit of.a close minded path to go down. Especially for something like Lain, Utena, or Angel's Egg the fact that they are open to interpretation is part of the point. You are supposed to think about these shows and derive your own unique experience and meaning from them. Why do you think these people are trying too hard? Putting a lot of thought into these works is an inherent part of enjoying them. Dismissing other people's interpretations like that is pretty limiting imo. I do think Lain is philosophical but @jal90 explained it better than I could so I won't go into that
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Dec 4, 8:36 AM

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CHC said:
jal90 said:

The show talks about internet, social presence and identity and these are themes that are present actively in the narrative and define the path Lain goes through. You even reach that conclusion on your own so again, I don't understand how are you making it look pseudo-philosophical under your own definition of what a pseudo-philosophical show is.

It merely mentions those issues as the backdrop of the show. I don't really see how it narratively embodies those issues. Like, did any of the characters make their decision based on their (explicit or implicit) philosophical understanding of those issues?

Well, the narrative of the series is about that. About the relationship of Lain with the internet, about the impact on and of social media, and about Lain's self and identity. Note that I'm not saying that it's good or enlightening at presenting its themes, but that they exist and not merely on a theoretical level, they define the character's path. Like how her struggle with identity affects her emotions and her position in the storyline, and how this doubt is raised in the narrative as a specific point of conflict.

Also, @simonephone, I think you are far better than me at explaining this stuff, in fact I feel like my views on the show are quite simple and straightforward, and I lack the body of knowledge to go beyond that.
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Dec 4, 8:52 AM

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Gorochu said:
Insecurity. Anime fan always try to prove that anime is more than entertainment to justify watching it. They feels the need to prove themselves they are smart or intellectual through watching anime and not just for entertainment.


I love when people see anime as a mere entertainment medium and ignore the fact that it can convey a lot of things. Saying that mediums ought to be consumed in only one way is pretty stupid.
Also, for the love of God, fix your English... or at least try to write more cohesive messages.
Modified by Aslt, Dec 4, 9:12 AM
 
Dec 4, 9:00 AM

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I've been on MAL for a year now, and I've learnt Anime is not smart, anime was a mistake, but despite this, we keep watching, 'cause we are a mistake!


 
Dec 4, 9:16 AM
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From my uneducated perspective, behind long paras of the OP, I managed to identify the distinction for "pseudo" as "Mentions, but doesn't mess with ideas".

Well, Death Note first 20 episodes or so messes with Morality a lot...
 
Dec 4, 9:18 AM

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CHC said:

I don't think Bunny Girl is intended to be philosophical (let alone scientific). It's more about the social commentary on the Japanese culture of "reading the atmosphere (空気を読む)". I think how much you personally get from it heavily depends on how much you can relate to that particular culture.


That sounds interesting. Do you have an article or anything on that culture? I've seen that in some works but never thought there was actually a deeper meaning behind it.

Also, I agree on GitS. I love it for its style but why it is considered deep or anything is beyond me. Reading the manga has made me take it even less seriously.
 
Dec 4, 9:35 AM

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Satyr_icon said:

That sounds interesting. Do you have an article or anything on that culture? I've seen that in some works but never thought there was actually a deeper meaning behind it.


It's basically "reading the atmosphere". Body Language and social context. I haven't seen Bunny Girl to extrapolate much on it, although it's something that is a given in japanese media.

Kuuki Yomenai(空気読めない) likewise, is used for people who are not able to perceive what is a reasonable way to behave in a given situation, or who are not able to pick up on subtle social cues. That said, the term is usually referred for foreigners in Japan who are not well versed with their cultural lifestyle.

Many of the western societies are kind of extroverted and they overstep their bounds when in Japan aka "can't take a hint". Just something that is deemed to be rude over in Japan.

source : some of my japanese friends
Modified by KreatorX, Dec 4, 9:40 AM
Yeah, E.M.T.!
 
Dec 4, 9:37 AM

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As I always say on this topic, somebody's ability or lack of ability to get interesting, thought provoking ideas out of an anime says more about them than it says about the show. A genuinely philosphical person doesn't need references of the highest degree to get inspired or find an interesting interpretation.

If you didn't find Tex or Lain thought-provoking, that's on you, not on the show. I know how many fascinating and thought provoking interpretations of those shows I've read, how many interesting conversations and debates they sparked. You just didn't manage to acquire the perspective needed to appreciate them, maybe because you didn't even try or maybe because you genuinely failed at it.

But I have no respect for people who try to use their 'credentials' to objective their opinions in a context like this after they failed to extract anything interesting out of shows that obviously inspired thousands of others to very interesting and thoughtful interpretations. My first instinct in such a situation is that I missed something or approached the whole show from the wrong angle, but then again I wasn't blessed by a superhuman ego that tells me whatever I think of a show is how it can be objectively classified.

It is pretentious, quote-hungry, ever-referencing-the-classics-and-never-thinking-for-themselves people like you that made me quit my Philosphy major 7 years ago. The level of depth, or how interesting and philosphical something is doesn't get defined by how many namedroppings you can quote in relation to it. But under those parameters it's no surprise you see Psycho-Pass as 'genuinely philosophical' because that is what it does for the most part. Anything else in the show is just really badly executed and screams of Urobuchi's edgy and biased worldview. It doesn't try to explore, it doesn't ask questions, it thinks it already knows all the answers and just gives them to the viewer in very transparent and predictable fashion.

On the other hand you discard something like Tex which doesn't give you any conclusions and is deliberately very open to interpretation to force the viewer to think about it, come up with an interpretation. It relies on the viewer being able to think interesting thoughts on their own by allowing them a lot of freedom in exploring the themes and meanings behind the show. That's probably why you didn't get it, because you seem obsessed with finding links to existing big-name philosophers and schools of thought while never adding any interesting thoughts of your own to the mix. With that mindset you're gonna make a perfect academic, but your interpretations are always gonna be boring and unoriginal and uninspiring.


StephenCovey said:
Most of us don't listen with the intent to understand, they listen with the intent to reply.


 
Dec 4, 11:43 AM

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It seems like any shows that didn't click with you or you just didn't enjoy must therefore lack "depth," which is an extremely pretentious and idiotic way of thinking.

Also, Psycho Pass is "philosophical" but not GitS and Texh? Ok then...
 
Dec 4, 11:56 AM

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I don't really watch anime to obtain some deep insight into philosophy. To be honest, I don't think that I've ever seen an anime that actually has given me some sort of insight into the human condition (that I didn't already know). Granted, I've only seen the entirety of Serial Experiments Lain and Ergo Proxy, and only parts or none of the other shows OP mentioned. It is nice when shows have complex characters, moral ambiguity, and other 'deep' elements, but, yeah, I've never really gotten or expected a philosophy lesson from an anime series. After all, these are just Chinese cartoons.
Modified by ProfessionalNEET, Dec 4, 12:00 PM
 
Dec 4, 12:02 PM

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how would you class a dark comedy like kuuchuu buranko or humanity has declined?

I'd assume middle-brow because they are comedies?

IDK.

I don't really agree with everything you said, but you're free to your opinions, and I won't argue them.

Shit like this is highly subjective. A lot of philosophical media either gets overrated because of naivety or underappreciated due to excess exposure or whatever.

I find it kind of disappointing when I see people providing straight-edge commentary on philosophical content. It'd be one thing if it were more common to have some amount of humility so that we could at least guess you know none of this is objective...

I mean, I guess I'll just give you the benefit of the doubt. I think you're intelligent enough. Just got a bad vibe by the way all of this was laid out, and it might be just me that has the wrong assumptions here.
 
Dec 4, 12:49 PM

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Will add this: philosophy is a process. It's about seeking knowledge through argumentation and dialogue. Anyone can interpret something in a philosophical sense (a character 'being' a 'Kantian' or whatever) and a show can simply play with certain philosophical ideas in order to add something interesting or unique, but I have a hard time considering something 'philosophical' if it doesn't actually have an argument to make. Not saying it needs to be didactic or tedious, but it seems a lot of people are happy with a character literally saying 'Nietzsche said x' or spouting ready-made conclusions (''robots are ppl too'). I have no problem with philosophy acting as a window dressing, but I haven't encountered very many (if any at all) anime that embodies that social, logical and argumentative aspect of knowledge seeking.
 
Dec 4, 2:17 PM

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After thinking about it, I couldn't agree more with you. Except Lain. I enjoyed Lain for different things than being "philosophical". But yeah, if someone want to defend Lain for "philosophical" aspects... well...

CHC said:
afg1930 said:
another pseudo philosophical anime is bunny girl senpai. i wrote a long review yesterday night. click

this is anime is a trash fanservice anime that pretends to be pseudo philosophical with its stupid dialogs about those puberty syndrom problems with that nonsense and random connection to quantumphysics (schrödingers cat for example).

I don't think Bunny Girl is intended to be philosophical (let alone scientific). It's more about the social commentary on the Japanese culture of "reading the atmosphere (空気を読む)". I think how much you personally get from it heavily depends on how much you can relate to that particular culture.

This too.
 
Dec 4, 2:40 PM

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HungryForQuality said:
but I do hate how referencing philosophers > theme exploration for so many philosophy grads. It's like subtetly means there's nothing at all and only a heavy-handed approach is truly intellectual.

That's because philosophy isn't about theme exploration, that's more for the literature students.
 
Dec 4, 2:44 PM

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Anime is entertainment
Its a severe waste of time to over-analyze and act like a philosopher when it comes to fiction
 
Dec 4, 2:58 PM

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> Places pretentious Urobuchi crap like Psycho-pass and Fate/Zero into the genuinely philosophical category (despite both of them coming off as baby's first foray into nihilism) while LotGH and GitS are both considered as "middlebrow".

Top kek
 
Dec 4, 3:12 PM

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HungryForQuality said:
Pullman said:
As I always say on this topic, somebody's ability or lack of ability to get interesting, thought provoking ideas out of an anime says more about them than it says about the show. A genuinely philosphical person doesn't need references of the highest degree to get inspired or find an interesting interpretation.

If you didn't find Tex or Lain thought-provoking, that's on you, not on the show. I know how many fascinating and thought provoking interpretations of those shows I've read, how many interesting conversations and debates they sparked. You just didn't manage to acquire the perspective needed to appreciate them, maybe because you didn't even try or maybe because you genuinely failed at it.

But I have no respect for people who try to use their 'credentials' to objective their opinions in a context like this after they failed to extract anything interesting out of shows that obviously inspired thousands of others to very interesting and thoughtful interpretations. My first instinct in such a situation is that I missed something or approached the whole show from the wrong angle, but then again I wasn't blessed by a superhuman ego that tells me whatever I think of a show is how it can be objectively classified.

It is pretentious, quote-hungry, ever-referencing-the-classics-and-never-thinking-for-themselves people like you that made me quit my Philosphy major 7 years ago. The level of depth, or how interesting and philosphical something is doesn't get defined by how many namedroppings you can quote in relation to it. But under those parameters it's no surprise you see Psycho-Pass as 'genuinely philosophical' because that is what it does for the most part. Anything else in the show is just really badly executed and screams of Urobuchi's edgy and biased worldview. It doesn't try to explore, it doesn't ask questions, it thinks it already knows all the answers and just gives them to the viewer in very transparent and predictable fashion.

On the other hand you discard something like Tex which doesn't give you any conclusions and is deliberately very open to interpretation to force the viewer to think about it, come up with an interpretation. It relies on the viewer being able to think interesting thoughts on their own by allowing them a lot of freedom in exploring the themes and meanings behind the show. That's probably why you didn't get it, because you seem obsessed with finding links to existing big-name philosophers and schools of thought while never adding any interesting thoughts of your own to the mix. With that mindset you're gonna make a perfect academic, but your interpretations are always gonna be boring and unoriginal and uninspiring.


I agree. I don't think OP has any bad intentions but I do hate how referencing philosophers > theme exploration for so many philosophy grads. It's like subtetly means there's nothing at all and only a heavy-handed approach is truly intellectual.


Yeah I was probably too harsh, it's more of a problem of how philosphy gets taught in academic circles and less of an issue of any individual. Philosophy is constantly paranoid and scared of not being taken serious as a 'science' by the other sciences and it thinks the best way to counter that is to formalize and standardize the way that you can write about philosophical topics, basically adopting the way other sciences write their academic papers and books. But philosophy isn't like the other sciences, it never was. It is at the same time more (with literally everything being of interest to one or more subgenres of it and no constraints as to what or how you think about) and less (with it not being a hard science, not always being provable).

You can't give sources or external backup for your ideas or arguments when they just come from introspection or observation. That's not 'scientific' enough. So the idea is that you have to work like in other, 'respectable' sciences, by thoroughly sourcing and quoting everything you say. Nevermind that a lot of what they now count as 'sources' in philosophy, originally came from the same kind of introspection and observation that now seems to be regarded as too unscientific to be worth anything.

By trying to get taken more seriously by the other sciences (most of them really do look down on philosophy as an academic subject to some degree or other, in my experience) philosophy lost what to me historically were it's core values, the ability to think and theorize without constraints, to come up with new and original ideas, to let the arguments and ideas speak for themselves rather than thinking that the fact someone else said it before gives it more weight than if you came up with it on your own.

I always found Socrates to embody my ideal of philosophy. Constantly observing, thinking, theorizing, interpreting, questioning, having discussions, arguing dynamically. Philosphy as a way of living and thinking so to speak, rather than a strictly formalized academic category, than something limited to the lifelessness of books. As an activity rather than a discipline.

But there isn't much respect for that nowadays. In academic circles it is even treated as plebeian, unprofessional and irrelevant. Only systematic, history-centric approaches are seen as legitimate. People sitting in their ivory towers for 10 years writing a single book which deals with the results of the author reading other authors, rather than putting out new ideas regularly and placing them in the context of a dynamic discourse with other thinkers to refine them, improve them or retract them based on the results. At least for the most part, at least in continental philosophy. I can't stand that and that's why I quit studying philosphy and never got my degree even tho I was already pretty far into it.

OP just reminded me of that frustration I felt about philosphy when I quit. It still frustrates me to this day, because I do still love philosphy and it did teach me a lot and shapes who I am to this day. But the way it is expected to be done in academic circles, at least where I live, was not something I could stand.


StephenCovey said:
Most of us don't listen with the intent to understand, they listen with the intent to reply.


 
Dec 4, 3:15 PM

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Everyone knows Ergo Proxy is pseudo-philosophical.
It's a mess.

But that's not why I loved it. I loved it for one thing, and one thing alone: the atmosphere.
 
Dec 4, 3:24 PM

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HungryForQuality said:
So many philosophy grads I've talked to can't comprehend that just presenting a school of thought in media isn't enough.

Philosophy students (in most departments) are taught to write directly and to the point, not going to say dryly, because obfuscation defeats the purpose of writing something that will communicate their arguments and ideas. I think a lot of people don't realize how boring and tedious the discipline is, with academics arguing over minute meta-details that mean absolutely nothing even to other philosophers who are outside of whatever weird specialization the discussion might be apart of.

I don't disagree with you at all though, because most things are not meant to be read as philosophy. But, I think there is also a tendency for critics to evoke philosophy in order to make whatever art they're working with seem more important intellectually.

To be honest, the people you talk to might be a tad pretentious, or only have one toolbox to draw from.

now I can pop out my favorite famous philosopher's book and compare

When done in good faith, I don't really have a problem with this, but most people just do this to name drop and look cool. I'm guessing you experience the latter.
Modified by syncrogazer, Dec 4, 3:31 PM
 
Dec 4, 3:45 PM

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HungryForQuality said:
syncrogazer said:

That's because philosophy isn't about theme exploration, that's more for the literature students.


That's true but it's also the problem. So many philosophy grads I've talked to can't comprehend that just presenting a school of thought in media isn't enough. Their mindsight is a lot like OP's. "If a piece of work takes an open-ended approach, it's just wishy-washy and never really had anything worthwhile to say. Now if a work tells you everything, then it's being bold and is truly intellectual because now I can pop out my favorite famous philosopher's book and compare. See, see!" It's incredibly frustrating and close-minded.


Yeah that is the next thing. It is just very narrow-minded to try and interpret and judge art or entertainment solely from the perspective of a philosophy student. To refer to the Opening post, who cares whether some more or less obscure philosophers already referenced themes in Lain before Lain did? Lain isn't a philosophical paper claiming to come up with a brand-new idea. It is a piece of fiction, a work of literature, or rather film and animation. It was innovative in that field. It took much longer for its themes to seep further into popular culture. It was ahead of its time.

Maybe it wouldn't have been if it was a philosophical paper, but it wasn't. Disregarding what Lain is is just ignorant. It's projecting a narrow point of view that ignores any elements or contexts that can't be summarized in a philosophical paper and thereby completely missing the point of literary analysis, leading to basically worthless and pointless analysis results because the basis for those results is a failure to understand the difference between art/fiction and academics.

There also seems to be a grave misunderstanding or misrepresentation of what is 'thought-provoking', which your example of how many people treat open-ended, or open-to-interpretation works (like Texhnolyze, where the creators themselves have stated that the meaning of the show is up to the individual viewer and their interpretation) examplifies. To me those kinds of shows are the ultimate thought-provoking works of art because they literally require the viewer to think themselves, to come up with an interpretation, come up with their own meaning. It provokes you to think yourself, so to say. While shows like Psycho-Pass that tell you clear as day what their message is from the first episode on and then just add an ornamental storyline on top of it, don't provoke any thought. It provides you with thoughts. It doesn't make you think, it makes you recognize at best.

I don't get how that can be what people want out of a 'thought-provoking' show. What's so thought-provoking about getting clear answers, obvious messanges and heavy-handed references? About simply being able to put parts of the story into pre-existing (philosphical or otherwise) categories where you can mentally store them and be done with those elements. That's not thinking, that's just mental organizing at best. Approaching literature like that doesn't make you think. It becomes more of a self-serving way of recognizing and categorizing elements that not everyone might be able to do, as a sort of justification for feeling like you have such a better understanding than the rest of the people and therefore can disregard anything they have to say. It's lazy. And it's boring, unproductive and often adds nothing interesting to the conversation about these shows.

I'm not saying identifying elements like this is a waste of time, it can certainly open up interesting perspectives and new, better or more holistic ways of interpreting a work. But at best it can be a first step, not the end of the whole process. Once you identify the elements and maybe link them to existing philosophies the interesting part starts, like discussing the value of those positions, their interactions, the way they were used in the story and impacted its progression.

And for a lot of that you don't even need that first step of 'identification' or 'recognizing'. As long as you understand the position of, for example Kiritsugu, you don't need to know how it is called to be able to discuss it or criticize it. It can be helpful, but it's not essential for a good discussion or interpretation and it certainly doesn't change any inherent thought-provoking-ness that the show or that character might have.

But people like OP seem to be satisfied with simply identifying elements and labeling them and putting them in categories, and ending it there. That is their definition of 'depth', if they are able to identify elements that can be categorized as something they were taught is 'deep'. No mention of their role in the narrative, their execution or any arguments for or against those positions. Just saying 'that char is nihilistic and that other char is utilitarian and therefore the anime is deep and philosophical and thought-provoking. To me that's just sad, being satisfied with that level of intellectually engaging a show. It means nothing.


StephenCovey said:
Most of us don't listen with the intent to understand, they listen with the intent to reply.


 
Dec 4, 3:46 PM

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Utena is anything but a "cluster of random adolescent issues". I can barely think about anything as well crafted as this show, both thematically and artistically
 
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