Uraboku: A Mildly Sarcastic Retrospective

The main “couple.”

So Uraboku has ended without resolving much of anything. The Average Anime Viewer might see this as an insult or a cop out, depending on his optimism (because the average is always male, don’t you know). But are any of us really, truly surprised? This show was made to appeal to a specific (oh so specific) demographic–and, hey, if it should somehow also appeal to others, well, more money for them. Uraboku knows above all else its audience, and so the finale could not have turned out any differently.

I remember a momentary confusion as I witnessed the transition from climactic conflict to post-battle recovery. But then, as it went on, it all made perfect sense. This is not a show which ever concerned itself with its plot; the seriousness of its presentation was merely eye candy, a sparkly pretty thing to keep the viewer’s interest as it built up to the meat of the show.

The meat being, of course, the characters. And by characters I mean bishounen (what females we see hardly count as characters, as they lack penises). A quick look at the primary cast sees all the major fetishes and cliches provided for: you’ve got your girly audience stand in, his protective/possessive “boyfriend,” the big eater, the extant yet hardly so female, the stupid jerk with a heart of gold, the cold distant snarker with a Dark and Troubled Past, the perverted older man, the doctor, and the “older brother.” Everything you could possibly need to attract a sizable female fanbase.

The aforementioned jerk and snarker, as viewed by fandom.

It occurs to me I have forgotten to spell out precisely what Uraboku‘s target audience is. Forgive me the obviousness, but this is rather important: the show targets females–specifically those inclined to fetishize homosexuality, but there (likely) is some overlap with the wider female demographic (that is to say, normal human beings). There, now I can move on to the (more) important stuff.

I said above (in slightly different words) that the audience dictated Uraboku‘s finale be as it is, so let me explain myself. You see, the upper echelons of the entertainment industry, wherever in the world you might find them, know how women think, what they want. And they have it on good authority (read: have made shittons of cash) that women don’t care a lick about action or plot or whatnot; they would much rather watch a half hour of uninterrupted homoerotic subtext. Ergo, Uraboku‘s finale, simple as that.

Now I’ve (mostly) gotten the sarcasm out of the way, let’s try and be a tad more serious.

Half as serious as this guy. At least.

Around episode fourteen, I noticed something that had been bothering me about the show: The writers spent most of the episode moving Yuki between different sets of characters, as if he were on a conveyor belt of subtext. This format continues through the rest of the series, at least for the slower episodes. There’s only the barest of excuses for moving around as they do, which is where the plot comes in, but that’s not the point. The point is to have Yuki speak with character X, or with Y and Z, or with whomever. This gives the fangirls plenty to squee over as they rush off after the credits to write yaoi or whatever. Because that’s what girls do.

Granted, the show does mature about this somewhat by the last episode, where we’ve got enough characters that we move beyond just Yuki and mix in some new guys. Obviously this makes everything completely different from before, as now the show wants to tease at new pairings. But by the end everything is still as it should be. By which I mean that little has changed except maybe Yuki has a new power (the ability to magically end battles mid-climax, apparently) and we’ve all learned a lesson or something. (The sarcasm refuses to die, it seems.)

I suppose the plot does also serve to make various characters angst and provide fuel for Mr I-Will-Never-Betray-You to say his line, but that I think is just a subset of the above, grease to get the conveyor belt running. Because it’s that same conveyor belt that’s really running the show.

This is actually more subtle than the show, which hovered about half a layer of clothing short of full on buttsecks.

It’s actually the most amusing part of the show, from a certain perspective, to watch the ever escalating subtext. How will they top themselves this week, I wondered as I clicked on each episode. Nor did they ever fail to deliver. (I refer you to this tweet from when I was watching the last episode.)

And that’s all that matters, isn’t it–the amusement? What does it matter that the show eschewed any sort of resolution in favor of a vague (and brief) analysis of what happened and Hotsuma spilling ice cream on Shusei’s bed? The show is targeted at girls, and we know they don’t care for plot, so can we really fault them for skipping over it? From the beginning Uraboku was only ever about one thing, the one thing it knew best, and it made no effort at hiding that.

I can only wonder why, for a show so stuffed with homoeroticism, there were no overt displays of homosexuality. I understand the source is only shounen ai, but does that really restrict the adaptation from showing even a single kiss? Or even just spoken confirmation of some sort? I predicted earlier that Yuki’s reincarnation as a male might play some greater role (and thus explore gender identity in an interesting fashion), but they skipped over that with only a brief mention near the end. So, really, did Uraboku do anything?

I can’t say that it did.

Unless you count having more metaphorical gay sex than Freud and Jung on an acid trip.

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17 Comments

  1. Rockmanshii
    Posted September 21, 2010 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t watched the last episode yet, so it just “ends” huh?I should go read the manga then because despite being a guy and straight I got hooked, the shonen side of it was pretty good in my opinion.And even if all the characters have been seen and used already in others medias, I like it because they executed everything fairly well.What I mean to say is that as long as it’s well done even if it’s classic or cliche I still like it.

    So we agree that this show is extreme fanservice for girls right? I’ve got an idea in my head ,waiting to be posted on my blog. Looking at it this way, it’s akin to the likes of Queen’s Blade or Sora no Otoshimono (just examples, I don’t compare these two shows because I like/don’t like them) or any other ecchi show right?So I wondered ,a lot of guys bitch about the fanservice in those shows and don’t watch them simply for that reason, sometimes missing great things in the process.Is it also the case with girls?Do you guys think there is any girl out there who dropped Uraboku saying things like :”Way too much fanservice shit” ?Or does this phenomenon only exist for boys on the net?I think I’m gonna write something about this.

    • Chronolynx
      Posted September 21, 2010 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

      That’s an interesting thought you’ve got there. There are any number of answers for why, but I don’t think you’re as likely to find that same sentiment regarding female-oriented fanservice (among females, at least) as with the male-oriented stuff. From one perspective, you’ve got a long history of male objectification of the female body, so any modern instance of such comes off as sexist to some–that is, a continuation of antiquated values. Whereas female objectification of the male body comes off as much more modern and progressive (whether it is or not), a sort of feminist attack on the patriarchy or whatever they call it these days. I can’t say I agree with either position, but they’re out there.

      On a similar, if opposite, level, you have the normalization of male partial nudity. Look at Gurren Lagann, where you have equally fanservice-y Kamina and Yoko. No one I can recall made any complaints about Kamina’s refusal to put on a shirt. But with Yoko, it was lol-Gainax. Either way it comes down to a double standard, I guess.

      Also, yeah, the action scenes were mostly a lot better than I thought they’d be going in. Especially near the end when everything started to build up so much. Guess that’s why the ending left me so bitter.

      • Posted October 13, 2010 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

        Look at Gurren Lagann, where you have equally fanservice-y Kamina and Yoko. No one I can recall made any complaints about Kamina’s refusal to put on a shirt. But with Yoko, it was lol-Gainax.
        Hey, some of us think Gainax is pretty damn awesome for being all equal opportunity fanservice-y, thank you :P

  2. Briar
    Posted September 21, 2010 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

    Huh, should I feel guilty for enjoying and even looking forward to Uraboku every week, or should I just admit that I’m a brainless and kya-ing fangirl who doesn’t care for plots and fetishize homosexuality?

    Though I have to agree, the ending sucks. Big time. For all the reasons you have mentioned, including the deus ex machina and anticlimatic post-battle conversations. That’s the problem with adapting unfinished manga. First you change the original plot to make it more fitting as an ending. Then you add in scenes from the manga that were never supposed to be at the ending. The result is an unartful mish-mash of sillyness.

    I also agree with you that the “meat” of the anime is the characters. But I don’t think I’m all that enamoured with the various stereotypes you have mentioned. So they happen to fulfil every “types” of bishounens out there. I honestly never noticed. And does it matter if they are enjoyable and real characters, insofar as 2-D characters can be real? The possessive “boyfriend” you mentioned (I assume you refer to Tsukumo… and hey, that’s another fetish — the mild incest) is so much more than just a possessive boyfriend, in my eyes at least. Personally I don’t think that label is an adequate or even suitable description of him.

    As far as the Yuki conveyor belt is concerned, I blame it on the fact that it’s again adapted from an unfinished manga. The whole anime series is adapted from what is essentially a setup for future conflicts; in the overlying arc of the Uraboku story, it’s mainly the prologue. The manga itself hasn’t done much more than a few minor battles.

    I have never seen myself as having a homosexuality fetish or being yaoi fan. I would say that Uraboku appeals to beyond the homosexuality fetish fandom. At least for me. There’s something so intensely romantic of having relationships that transcend gender definitions. But again, that could just be me.

    Plot is overrated. Character and presentation is everything. At least for me.

    I likened guys watching Uraboku to gals watching High School of the Dead. There’s something beneath all the violence and sex and tasteless fan service in HSotD, but a typical female would have to shovel through the bouncing boobs and panty shots and brainless big-breasted blonde bimbos whose appeal is probably only apparently to adolescent boys. Likewise, a typical guy would have to look past homosexuality and homoeroticism to enjoy Uraboku.

    As an aside, you have some glorious pictures here. :)

    • Chronolynx
      Posted September 22, 2010 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

      No need to feel guilty for enjoying it. I certainly enjoyed it, and even looked forward to watching it. It was campy, cheezy, fun, and had the right amount of fanservice to keep me watching.

      (Clarification: “Possessive boyfriend” refers to Luka/Zess. Sorry for the confusion.)

      I will give you that the show did more with the characters than I thought it would, but their introductions gave them a basically one note personality before any development, which most of the villains didn’t get. And I agree that the show/manga does have a wider appeal, but that doesn’t change its primary intended audience. Interesting comparison to High School of the Dead, by the way. I was struggling earlier to come up with one (kept thinking K-On), but that is surprisingly apt.

      • Briar
        Posted September 24, 2010 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

        RE possessive boyfriend = Luka, my initial reaction is “huh? How is he possessive at all?” And then I think further and remember all the Death Stares and moving-Yuki-away-from-perverts thing he did. I must have wipe the entire procedure out of my mind from self denial. Duh. My bad.

    • Posted September 26, 2010 at 9:28 am | Permalink

      I pretty much agree with everything Briar said. :P

      I’ll add/ reiterate, though, that this was a beautifully presented, engaging and entertaining series with very well fleshed out characters that also ‘made you think’ (sorry, dunno how else to say it best) about the bonds we form with other people.

      And it has cat boys. What more could you want?! ;)

  3. Bah
    Posted September 23, 2010 at 5:40 am | Permalink

    Well, I’m one of those gals who fetishes over homoerotic stuff (although I don’t really support/like the LukaxYuki/HotsumaxShusei stuff so what do I support? The stuffed in KanataxYuki stuff is what I’m kya-ing all around)…but I do care about the plot and other crap. After I tried watching all 24 episodes, I found myself totally annoyed with this series. If a series is moving slow on a 24 episode limit then there’s probably no good fulfilling ending that’s what anime are like these days :(
    So I was not surprised with the really bad and empty ending…I guess they had their reasons. They want more people to read the manga so they can increase their sales lol

    After watching the anime/taking a glimpse at the manga…I don’t I think I will read it.

    • Chronolynx
      Posted September 24, 2010 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

      Really? I never cared for Kanata x Yuki (or Kanata in general, for that matter). And though it does pick up a bit nearer the end, you’re right that the pacing was a serious issue. Normally I don’t mind slower series, but for what Uraboku was trying to accomplish it really did not fit.

  4. Posted October 13, 2010 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    Speaking as a girl who likes plot (and world/magic system building) in her homoerotic fanservice; I found Uraboku overall rather disappointing. It just doesn’t carry the oomph of other melodramatic gothic shoujo/yaoi crack such as the work of CLAMP, Yuki Kaori and Mizuna Kuwabura and stands as a pale and very vague imitation. Let’s home Togainu no Chi will do better as a sausage filled guilty pleasure.

  5. L.J
    Posted November 14, 2010 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    What you said was very insightful, but I find you insulted to female populace a little too much.
    I (being female) do quite enjoy plot and I was completly disaspointed with the ending.
    I also thought it lacked something, and that it needed more.

    I did find it was good, but plot is important and would have liked to see MUCH more of it.

    • IcedWings
      Posted November 29, 2010 at 11:48 pm | Permalink

      I don’t think he really insulted anyone. It’s pretty much the truth, girls go crazy over hot anime guys doing sexy-like things. It’s the parallel to males with unlimited access to hentai and whatnot. : x In anycase, a lot of sarcasm was drenched in. : ) And I too care about plots and storylines, haha.

  6. IcedWings
    Posted November 29, 2010 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

    Ah, your review was quite humorous.nYou pointed out many things that I now find myself agreeing with. Despite being lumped with the girl fanbase, I did find the ending very disappointing. And to be honest when I finished the first episode, my mind screamed for female Yuki X Luka for the remaining episodes, but it never happened. Oh well, beyond all that, I, being a typical female, watched the entire series just because Luka was in it ( Luka no doubt being a Sex God) :3~ I can’t say I don’t regret it; however, it could indeed have a more complete ending.

  7. NaNaGirl!
    Posted July 24, 2011 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

    I am watching the anime and your right to say it is nothing like the manga which I just happen to be following. I think just like in the series D.Gray man the studio behind the anime version of the manga only produced it because it is currently popular enough to have an audience willing to through away there cash. So far volume one of the manga has a few details that are either omitted or changed in the anime. And also the story is mainly about Luka and Yuki who I am assuming by the constant focus on them in the manga are the main charcters of the story. In the anime Yuki spends a lot of time with the supporting cast then the other main charcater Luka. Which I found to be both strange and confusing because in the manga all his major battles with duras are with Luka defending him or him speaking to Luka about something personal and Yuki desperately wanting to know about the connect between Luka, that he feels. The anime is rather anti-climatic. It is disappointing to see what I feel is a good plot completly butchered by the incorrect direction of the anime studio. They should have just waited til the manga was maybe two volume before the end of the series and then made the anime. Currently 8 volumes have been published in Japan and is ongoing. Only volume 1 of the onmibus containing vol 1 and 2 and publishedin the States. They should take a few notes from the second release of Full Metal alchemist aka FMA: brotherhood maybe then anime studio would do better production jobs with series such asUraboku, D. Grayman, skipbeat,etc.

  8. Cierra
    Posted August 17, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    hmmm… good point i guess so this means NO season 2??

  9. Posted September 21, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    super fain pacat ca sunt doar 23 de episoade sper ca se va continua …….

  10. Dracia
    Posted September 11, 2012 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    I have to agree. There was more fanservice and BL than actual plot, and the ending pissed me off.
    I mean, I have nothing against BL [could do without the fanservice], but I’d rather watch the hot guys kicking ass than sucking face.
    I haven’t finished the manga yet and can only pray that it has an actual ending.
    Preferably one out of a shounen manga.

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