vucubcaquix: This week, we’re treated to the first episode of Kamisama no Memochou, a show about a so-called NEET Detective Agency and right off the bat the first thing I noticed are the stellar production values of this series. The first notes of the soundtrack’s bells and electronic notes are accompanied with the various tones of different phones as we’re bombarded with the imagery of text messages being sent off at such a rapid clip, that the audience can barely keep up by the time that the scene cuts between images of a nondescript crowd and a flash of one of our main protagonists overlooking something offscreen, bathed by it’s soft glow. What struck about the music is how well it complements the feelings of the digital ethereality that one finds in the seeming transience of digital information. Texts are sent off into the abyss, with no real weight or thought given to them and it’s reflected in the show’s execution because the quick cuts are meant to elicit a sense of bewilderment and inconsequentiality on the part of the audience barely being able to perceive these messages.
ajthefourth: Today, we are taught to process information in this manner. Everything is hitting us simultaneously at incredible speeds. Likewise, we have become our own platforms for disseminating information just as quickly. We are our own best aggregators, if you will. The consequence of processing and disseminating information this way is that nothing actually sticks. We process, laugh, cry, punch something, and move on to the next thing all within a matter of minutes, forgetting what exactly it was that made us so amused, saddened, or angry. With everything presented to us as if it’s the end of the world, nothing is. Our protagonist Narumi Fujushima processes information this way.
ajthefourth: He also finds himself unable to process anything else in his life in a dissimilar way. Narumi describes himself as a dot that moves among the other dots that make up the rest of the world. He doesn’t remember the names of his classmates; however, he manages to become adept enough socially to cover up this fact. Whenever his character is presented on screen, there is always a flurry of activity around him, and yet he is always shown standing still, or walking slowly. In addition to this, as another way to demonstrate his inactivity, this episode chooses to either keep him in the background, with minimal lighting, or to push him into an overly well-lit foreground, highlighting his isolation from others. Despite the myriad of activity, and the insurmountable quantity of information that is being thrown his way, Narumi, like most of us, is only ever an observer. This is in direct contrast to Alice, who is bombarded with the same amount of information, and yet, has decided to take action, albeit behind the scenes.
vucubcaquix: Alice has made it her personal mission to act upon any and all information that comes her way. She recites a statistic that states that one child dies every six seconds on Earth due to poverty. I will not comment on the veracity of that claim, but what does fascinate me, is that she feels personally responsible for the deaths of every single one of those children because of the way that the information has been revealed to her. It is not a coincidence that when she makes those statements, the scene is interspersed with quick cuts of traditional media news outlets on several of her monitors in the background. I find this to be a very subtle & pointed commentary on how traditional media has been on the path towards sensationalizing and personalizing news since at least the mid-nineties. These things are happening in the world, they are terrible, and we by extension are terrible people for not wanting or not being able to do anything about it. What does it say about Alice’s character that not only does she recognize this, but she internalizes it, and it affects the way she perceives and interacts with the world?
ajthefourth: It’s also not a coincidence that Alice presents herself to Narumi, and by extension the viewing audience, as a NEET. Typically regarded with derision by the general populace, NEETs are often seen as the members of society who contribute the least, if anything at all. The fact that Alice is a NEET may have been used to draw sympathy from a specific niche (bringing up such conundrums like how on earth her poor atrophied muscles will possibly be able to separate chopsticks properly) but also pointedly juxtaposes a socially withdrawn NEET with an average high school student. If an ordinary member of society was asked, based on Alice and Narumi’s respective stations in life, which one they would assume to be the larger social contributor, they would indubitably choose Narumi, who is still enrolled in school and probably bound for a university or some sort of career path. The series turns this assumption on its head by making Narumi, a self-described unexceptional dot in the sea of dots that make up the pointillism painting of the world, the larger drain on society. At the very least, Alice is attempting to do something with the sea of knowledge that has been presented to her instead of becoming so overwhelmed, or even worse, accustomed to information overload that she fades into the background completely, processing none of it.
vucubcaquix: The idea of information overload reminds me of a conversation that I had in a class last summer about a drawback to living in the Information Age. The drawback being that the sheer volume of information out there has a negative effect on information as a whole, in effect being devalued by it’s availability. The signal-to-noise ratio continues to plummet, and our response to it is to just become accustomed to all of it. In all, I’m rather impressed by this first episode of Kamisama no Memochou. The production values are stellar, the music is interesting, the animation is crisp and fluid, and we’ve barely even touched on some of the more interesting lines that were uttered, like the idea of writers and detectives being the only occupations capable of doing anything meaningful for the dead. I feel that that could be an entire post on it’s own. I am going to continue watching this, how about you, Emily?
ajthfourth: For me, someone who is easily swayed by good production values, the music and visuals are reason enough to stick around for at least a few more episodes, never mind all of the interesting themes presented in regards to media dissemination and how it affects the way we process the world. As someone who previously studied journalism and mass communications, this idea of media overload had already fascinated me; however, this first episode has done wonders towards renewing my interest in the methods with which we receive and transmit information. There are a few red flags here and there: Alice’s character design/fanservice and the gimmicky appeal of a NEET detective agency, but this first segment of the series (mind you, it wasn’t even an entire episode and it has inspired this much passion from both of us) has certainly made a positive impression on me.
vucubcaquix: Well, it’s a date. I’ll see you next week. Have a good night, Emily.
ajthefourth: Have a wonderful night, David.
11 responses to “Colloquium: Kamisama no Memochou 1 part A”
When I see Alice, I’m reminded of the developing spatial perceptions of children. Even kids as old as eleven have only a limited ability to understand distance beyond their immediate perceptions.
Depending on how old Alice is, the statement “every six seconds, a child dies somewhere in the world” could have an immediate urgency for her that an adult simply doesn’t feel, not under normal circumstances. Combine that with the spatial-perception-warping properties of the datasphere and the fragility of child genius, and it’s a heady mix.
Cheers, to your first team post. Here’s to many more. :)
I also am not sure as to how old Alice is, and my partner informs me that it’s also a point in the source material that her age has never been disclosed. But the idea that everyone suffering in the world occupying an equal amount of urgency in her mind concerns me for her character quite a bit.
I’m sorry I’m going to do this, & you probably think I’m a bit of a loony already, but that notion reminds me of an article I read on Cracked about a social hierarchy ranking phenomenon they dubbed the “Monkeysphere”: http://www.cracked.com/article_14990_what-monkeysphere.html
It basically states that humans are naturally the type that want to include some, and exclude others. but it also states that basically we require this in order to function cohesively, since if we regard every single person out there with the same amount of intimacy & urgency, then we may pretty much go insane. It makes sense to me, since we as organisms are only able to comprehend so much.
Thanks for posting 2DT, it means a lot to us that you were our first colloquium comment!
Ooh, the first tag team post for a tag team blog! I’m looking forward to more give & take in the future!
Really, this post reminds me why I was motivated to supplement anime viewing with the commentary of the aniblogosphere: thoughtful, intelligent perspective that brings another of a myriad of ways to see what for this lowly plebe is mere escapist entertainment in a different light.
You’ve piqued my interest in Kamisama, and I’m now looking forward to both future summer shows and what perspective you will provide!
Thank you! We’re pleased that you appreciate the format. For this blog we want to highlight our team posts more than any individual articles, especially in light of the fact that my partner here is also the founding member of a simultaneous anime watching network over Skype. We both feel that there is a certain passionate (sometimes pretentious) discourse that can only occur when watching anime with others and we want to attempt to bring that feeling to all of our co-authored posts.
Personally, I’m excited and look forward to more commentary from you in the future. I thoroughly enjoy your thoughtful 140 characters-or-less anime recaps/reviews on Twitter and hope to hear a lot more from you, whether it be in comments here or watching something else in a group. For as much as you look forward to our posts, we look forward to continuing a discourse with you personally.
Please continue to comment in the future, and thank you for this wonderful compliment.
This is a very neet post guys. ^ ^ Okay, serious comment time.
Working through the hour-long episode, I hadn’t a second thought on the notion of how trivialized the technology and communication was presented; trivialized, not accentuated, integrated. For myself, there is a seamless awareness in the capabilities of modern communication, but the non-trivial portion is the information quantity we are growing used to, and likewise assuming in Memochou. (Alice noted her attention to all information, though I had to brush off the literal implication of that statement.)
Generally, I believe my subconscious low-lighting of how technology is used in this episode (and possibly the rest of the series) comes from the fact that my functional mind is lathed in mathematics, computer science, and physics. It’s all pretty normal for today, but there are a couple interesting points given how a character (or anyone) might deal with almost infinite amounts of information. Brute aggregation and analysis just isn’t possible unless you’ve government-level man power; one might assume there is a finite limit on the human mind, and even if that limit increases, it will never catch up to information. A second method would be mechanical aggregation, such as a computed reports and algorithms which aid a person in assimilating information into manageable clusters or formats; things like feed readers and even auto-recommendation algorithms would fit this category. Finally, the most legitimate method in my opinion is adaptive prioritization and aggregation; pure algorithms which hold their own bit of intelligence and use it to mutate accordingly. One could say they “see” everything with such a tool, but realistically, the more visible pieces are more relevant, and vice-versa.
In a way, news and journalism function similarly in terms of priority and organization (one could argue here about ‘top stories’ and their relevance), yet these are exactly the generators creating so much information. One would assume an impressive [human] effort goes into reporting and organizing news/media, and having another such layer for assimilating per-person is completely unreasonable (we don’t have the resources, and a single person’s mind is limited)… it must be left to technology.
That’s my take, and that’s sort of what I assumed all at once when Alice gave her speech. ^ ^
Hope to see your next post, I have a few more episodes in me at least.
ajthefourth: I really enjoy how you summed up the limitations that a human mind has when attempting to parse such vast amounts of information. You address it in a completely different way than what I had seen from this series, and yet, I feel that both points are equally valid. Speaking from a journalism perspective, when I was a sportswriter the majority of my job was not connecting with people, but scanning news-wire services for other sources’ stories to use for our sports pages. I was the human aggregator, if you will. One thing that this episode addresses (albeit in part B) is that Alice not only relies on technology to unearth her mysteries, but is also highly reliant on a human element: emotion, that even largest-level aggregators would be unable to properly process.
vucubcaquix: I appreciate the different methods you bring up about how information is gathered and aggregated, but I don’t feel as though the series itself is going to be concerned with that in particular. And I understand you say it’s partially a function of how your own mind is inundated with mathematics, but I think Memochou is going to keep its powder dry with that particular aspect. However, I am very much of the opinion that Memochou is actually concerned with how the *presence* and *volume* of information is going to affect its characters.
ajthefourth & vucubcaquix: You put a lot of effort into your response to us, and we are incredibly appreciative of the fact that you put as much time and consideration into your comment as you did. We’re glad the show and our post inspired this response. Thank you!
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Awesome post! Not gonna lie I didn’t really understand much of it but still nice read you two! Tag team posts are really so much fun to do.
So far I like this anime, of course it helps that I am a bit of a JC Staff fanboy >.>; but ya anyway I just hope the mystery can keep the show going better than other anime that fit that genre.
Now to see what happens next with this usually with JC Staff they have an amazing first episode then they fall apart after with the 2nd or third episode, but we shall see! Alice seems smart enough but also needs the help of others. I do get a Durarara feel from this with sooo many characters each different from each other.
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If you wanted to be really cynical about it, you could say the media has ALWAYS been on the path toward sensationalizing and personalizing news. It’s just that we are bombarded with it so much more now that we have such powerful mediums through which to get these stories. In the heyday of yellow journalism, you had just the newspaper. Now, we have papers, television, the Internet, and whatever else we can come up with. There seems to be a lot more sensationalizing and personalizing because there are so many more gaps to fill. (Or perceived gaps, anyway.)
One of the interesting things about the media is that one of the reasons for its existence is supposed to be as a filter for information — to judge what is truly important for people to know, and to funnel it so that people receive information that is of use rather than empty calories. Now, though, the whole thing is blown wide open, which is, as you write, one of the drawbacks to the information age. There’s so much and so many avenues that nobody could possibly hope to contain and filter it, which means we get fat on unnecessary information. Really, it’s up to the audience now to act as its own filter; that hasn’t gone so great, as the existence of Fox News and its acolytes demonstrates. (Or, to be fair, any of the big news organizations and their acolytes. I mean, when you support a news company like it’s a sports team … it’s insane.)
Blah blah blah. I thought you made an interesting point as it regards all this fun stuff and nonsense and how it relates to Alice and how she views the world. When you have so much information, you almost feel as if you should be able to do something with all of it, but there’s this illusion of power that comes with having a ton of information. We learn a lot about many horrible things, but pragmatically, there isn’t much we as individuals can do about many things around the world.
ajthefourth: Shin, I rather love you for making this comment! It’s true, William Randolph Hearst would be proud of news today (provided that he was reincarnated as Rupert Murdoch). We do get fat on unneccessary information, and it also allows us to choose what passes through our individual filters. I’m ashamed to admit this, but since I quit journalism, I’ve stopped paying attention to what one would consider “actual news,” with a few notable exceptions, and only really follow the so-called big stories and anything having to do with sports. Does this increase my value as a member of society? Probably not. I used to have more of an, “I can change the world” attitude; however, after becoming accustomed to taking in so much information, sadly, it almost all seems like white noise.
vucubcaquix: You know man, whenever you go into Serious Business mode it’s like a Crowning Moment of Awesome. There’s not much I can add to this, but I will say that I’m glad you brought up the specific examples of the various news organizations since I was deliberately thinking of them, but decided against politicizing this post too much. Warms the cockles of my heart to know that idea was communicated effectively.