C Almost Misses the Point

I think one of the most problematic thing that differentiates America and Japan in their economies is the nature of the entrepreneurship. I think C ([C]: The Money of Soul and Possibility Control is by far the worst title this season, worse than the anime from that day whose name that I still couldn’t remember) has it right by bringing on board an entrepreneur as the person who turns around Kimimaro.

But at the same time, I think this is fundamentally a cultural problem. Take this anecdote for example, where a Silicon Valley type asks a room full of Singaporean MBA students if they want to start their own business.

It’s even worse in Japan.

The problem isn’t so much that few want to start their own businesses; that is fine if the number of business in the economy generally is stable. But with mergers and boom-bust cycles, there will to be times when the economic condition is favorable and encourages new entries into existing markets. That is how an economy grow. Under such circumstances, the business culture has to be one that tolerates failure. Because for each healthy harvest of new and successful businesses, there will be a multitude more of failed ventures; that is always going to be the case. If people are afraid or can’t afford to fail, new businesses are not going to be developed, or at least not at the optimal rate. That has has long term and negative consequences.

I thought this was kind of glossed over in C. It is by far the biggest problem–how else can you empower a lost generation, if that generation is only seeking to plug itself into the existing machine that has long since favored the established? I think the show does a good job covering that alternative perspective, but it doesn’t explain the incentives behind it; it’s too busy talking about philosophical pokemon nonsense than the economic realities of things. Change will never come fast enough that way. To compare C to its companion piece, Eden of the East, I thought Eden made a lot more sense in terms of providing a real point of discussion. You have basically the establishment playing against a, heh, internet startup. We’re talking about how to empower a lost generation, rather than magically putting that generation of people in some magic vacuum.

Perhaps, rather, I am more discontent with C for not offering an answer. I’ll avoid the spoiler here, but the ending was more hilarious than credible. Monetary policy is a complicated game and while C entertains a particular outcome that happened to also be entertaining, it kind of lacks that raw edge, that anger, again, that was full of in Speed Grapher’s climax. I keep going back to Speed Grapher because the overall idea between the two are the same. C just cultivates its supernatural settings based on real social issues, where as Speed Grapher exaggerates and turns them into way fantastic things. [Maybe a Shintoist sort of way?]  Speed Grapher talked about things that are beyond any notion of realism, but yet evokes emotions.

(And of course, C pays homage to the ultimate concept in Speed Grapher too. C  kind of makes fun of it, as we should.)

Because, let’s put it this way: regardless if Souichirou is a sympathetic antagonist or not, he is just outright wrong. He represents the philosophies and policy positions plaguing Japan in a big way, as posited by the story. I mean if they’re trying to put that idea down gently, they’re doing it wrong–not because it isn’t a respectful put-down, but they aren’t putting it down enough.

Rational discussion is wonderful; but it lacks the outrage that powers a real change of regime. And without that anger, that discontent, the metamorphosis of despair into outrage, greed will continue to trample over justice.

My other disappointment is that other than the first couple episodes, it didn’t really do much in terms of exploiting the short-sighted nature of greed. It’s a fundamental driving force behind bad ideas!

I don’t think I do the show justice, that said. C is definitely a worthy piece if you want to talk about Japan’s view of the outside world, in a way that connects with its fellow citizens. Personally I wanted C to challenge the notion of the nature of the global economy. Japan’s economic problems, after all, are not Japan’s problem alone. Pardon the light spoiler, rather than think of C as a tsunami that gets bounced back and forth (which is an apt metaphor in a lot of ways, and perhaps a bigger fear factor to a Japanese audience), in real life it would manifest more like a slow-acting disease.

With all of that out of the way, I thought C was way above expectations for a Pokemon-for-adults anime. I guess that’s damning via faint praise, but I went away entertained, even if the two “horny” girls were a big part of the fun equation. It’s a good watch to get some insights into problems in vogue within Japan’s domestic dialog. The animation is creative, but a little too nonsensical; the designs, cinematics and artistic direction are full of impact, except I’m not sure what those things impacted besides a grounded understanding of C.

I’m still waiting for them to do a big reveal with Msyu to give it more of a human touch. It would have made an awesome epilogue. Instead we get this weird scene between two people who may be blood related. OKAY JAPAN. I mean I could read Mikuni’s motivation and trauma as an extension of his feeling of protectiveness and adoration for his sister, but like, isn’t that just imouto moe? So imouto moe is killing Japan? (Pure imouto moe in OreTsuba discourse.) And back-to-the-nonexistent-future imouto moe is the cure? Maybe you don’t have anything to stand on to criticize Speed Grapher after all, C.

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5 responses to “C Almost Misses the Point

  • Hogart

    Yeah.. being on noitaminA was a bad idea. Everyone thought it was going to be some serious social commentary when it’s really just a shounen card battle anime with some fun ideas. Oh well, it was worth my time investment in terms of simple entertainment, because I took in one episode and thought “there’s no way this is going to be serious”. Kudos to Madoka for changing my perspective so I remember not to take anime seriously, and just enjoy it for what it is, not what I want it to be.

  • zzeroparticle

    Do you think the creators of [C] realize the inherent problems with not allowing for the kind of creative destruction needed for innovation? Maybe that’s why the criticism doesn’t come off strong enough because they are stuck in their own worldview and it requires an outsider to shake things up.

    Also, I dimly recall some recent article talking about how some of Japan’s entrepreneurs like that Livedoor guy are thumbing their noses at the old industrialists, which is kinda pissed off the Old Guard. Whether this will have longer-term effects, I don’t know. What I do know though is that Japan could use more guys with the attitude like that Horie guy to really make change.

  • omo

    @Hogart
    I don’t know, it’s “serious” in a way but the presentation is definitely not serious. Which I think is probably what they were aiming for in the first place. I think a noitaminA audience would appreciate the multiple-layers of it all. It’s just that I think most of the enjoyment comes from how farcical it is.

  • omo

    @zz
    Putting that Horie guy in prison is a great way to encourage that kind of paradigm change! But like I said, that is exactly my problem with C. It doesn’t go far enough. The financial market is a gentlemen’s club, basically. The game doesn’t change, yet somehow Japan is saved. Now you do make a good point about self-awareness of the problem, but I don’t know if C is aware of it.

  • vendredi

    “isn’t that just imouto moe? So imouto moe is killing Japan? …And back-to-the-nonexistent-future imouto moe is the cure?”

    You know, it’s stuff like this that keeps me reading your posts.

    As for [C], I have to say that it just feels tugged in too many different directions. There’s a sort of a unique aesthetic it tries to establish (Michael’s series of posts over at animeotaku do a great job of exploring the Tarot iconography), but it sort of feels hamstrung by a lot of the budget issues.

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