Tag: cliches

The Devil’s in the Resales

hamburglar
Note: The burger in this picture represents your money and me being too tired to Photoshop this picture. The Hamburglar represents the Hamburglar. But for some reason he’s a hipster now? Yeah. I don’t really get it either…

“Well,” I hear you say with a weary sigh, “at least you can sell your books back for money when you’re all done with them.”

Then, apparently not understanding how cliches work, you add, “I mean, at least it can’t get any worse, right?”

At which point, it starts raining.

But to answer your question: Yes, selling your books back is something you have the option of doing, in the same way that you could spend the day before a trip looking for loose change on the ground at the airport to pay for your ticket. You certainly could. It just wouldn’t be all that helpful.

The entire book-buying experience concludes at the end of each semester in something called “buyback.” Or as it’s more properly known, “Would you rather cling to the last shred of a moral victory, or have $6?”

So how does it work? Let me walk you through the process.

Buyback begins by handing a textbook to a salesperson who then tries to come up with the smallest number they can think of. They will then look at the book from various angles and, regardless of its condition, cut the number they were thinking of in half. While all this is going on they continually shake their head and “tsk” as your plans for your refund devolve from “dinner, movie and drinks” to “dinner and a movie” to “a movie” before finally settling on “reading movie summaries on Wikipedia.”

This concludes with one of two monetary outcomes that are, for all intents and purposes, identical.

In the first, you either bought a used copy of the book or some oil from your fingers touched the cover – either rendering it worthless at a tool for future education. The salesperson will reveal the number they thought up. And before you get halfway through your well-reasoned argument that you paid several hundred dollars more just two months ago, they say, “Take it or leave. There’s a line of sad people forming behind you.”

If you take the pittance, you’ll enjoy the realization that the book you bought for $100 used and sold for just $6 will likely be on the shelf against next semester with the same $100 price tag. Alternatively, you could walk out with your head held high(ish) and a bag full of books no human would ever want to read.

And for the record, no, even after going through that about a dozen times I’m still not sure which of those is the moral victory.

In the second scenario, the salesperson will look at a master list, sigh and say, “Looks like there’s a new edition coming out.” They then may or may not mutter something about having thought up a really good low number for nothing.

They’ll then point to the line of sad people forming behind you without offering you either a choice or pittance.

Why? Because as a I hinted at earlier, slightly different editions are effectively worthless to students. Although student bookstores can – and as I’ve seen, will – sell outdated editions, they won’t buy them back from you.

At which point you’re essentially left with a choice of tossing the books in the nearest garbage or giving it to the salesperson to do it for you.

The bad news, though, is that neither option is the moral victory in this case. If you hand over the book for “disposal,” there’s an above average chance it will still end up for sale next semester. And that’s why I probably never went this route. Giving the school the book I bought for $100 just so they could sell it again feels oddly like handing someone back their knife after they stabbed you.

Even if you think you’re sticking it to the bookstore by throwing your book in the trash outside, I’ve seen their employees root through the garbage for sellable books after closing. Seeing this didn’t make me very happy about the entire process. Though it did go a long way toward explaining why my used astronomy book smelled like an odd mixture of shame, human tears and pasta sauce when I bought it.

At least two of those three odors, I can only assume, were directly related to the buyback process in the first place.

So what’s the takeaway from all of this? What’s the moral of this story? What can future students do to make things better? Honestly, I’ve got no clue. Lord knows I was in college long enough that if there was a solution I would have figured it out and tried it myself.

For the most part I was just picking used copies based on the smells I liked most.

Anime Pet Peeves

inuyasha

I’ve recently had the opportunity to watch more anime and it’s been good for the soul. It brings me back to simpler times in college when I had only $133 to my name but no real expenses to speak of after food. Hence, anime was the flaming garbage can I chose to dump a lot of my money into.

Over time that sort of lifestyle started to become increasingly unlivable. I mean, there was more and more money after I graduated (for reasons entirely unrelated to the diploma I received, I assure you). But the idea of spending three-quarters of my available funds on buying anime started to become more and more pathetic as I started making larger and larger amounts of money.

Not to mention the huge amount of debt (for reasons very much related to the diploma I received) I had to pay off every month.

But now anime is pretty much free to stream. (Cough, plug for Crunchyroll, cough.) So aside from that small cough, things are good here.

On the other hand, anime is a bit of an emergent property – a larger whole that isn’t obvious from its smaller pieces. Adorably stupid characters become infuriating after thirty episodes. Overpowered characters are obviously going to be the solution to any problem after you see them do just that for the tenth time. In short, you may want to think twice about binge-watching anime. Like cheese, what’s pleasant in small chunks might become essentially indigestible in large enough amounts.

Anyway, you know the drill by now. Bold first sentences. Supporting evidence. Let’s do this.

Relationships that never progress. Pretty much every series feels obligated to have a relationship these days. Even in cases where an ancient evil is on the verge of breaking out of its magical seal and bringing about the end of the world. I mean, we need to reach the top of the Mountain of Spirits in the next four hours or else fire will rain from the sky until the end of time, but you know…let’s have a filler episode where the girl takes the hero shopping and she’s not sure whether it’s a date or not.

I’ve made my peace with these, no matter how tacked on they feel. But you’d think there’d occasionally be some sort of resolution. Nope. For the most part, any time a couple seems to actually be progressing there’s some misunderstanding or a one-episode villain who steals a kiss or a fog that gets everyone drunk and they’re so embarrassed of confessing their true feelings that it sets them back again. And we’re stuck in a holding pattern until the main character’s undead ex-girlfriend dies all over again.

I actually started that paragraph speaking in a general sense, but by the end, I’m pretty sure I was just talking about “Inuyasha.” Wow. Through almost 200 episodes and four movies, the closest thing we got to romantic progress was a non-canon movie kiss.

Granted, depending on your interpretation of the ending, Inuyasha and Kagome eventually got married, but that was a pretty long walk for a thirty second payoff.

And speaking of not knowing how to resolve things…

Series that don’t know how to end. Maybe they knew how in the beginning. Maybe they had a good idea where they were headed. But by episode 800, it’s pretty clear that their actual intent is to wait until the Sun goes red giant and vaporizes the Earth, thus ending it all for them.

I don’t mind long series. In fact, I’ve rather enjoyed a number of series with an upwards of 26 or 52 episodes of very rewarding story. Both the “Fullmetal Alchemist” series were over 50 episodes. “Yu Yu Hakusho” was pretty great, too, and that was well north of 100.

“Case Closed,” on the other hand, is currently sitting around 832 and is as close to ending as it was fifteen minutes through the first episode. (The creator mentioned having an ending in mind, but that was in 2007 so I’d take it a grain of salt.) Even if it ended tomorrow it’s build itself up so far that no outcome could be worth the wait. It would be like your parents giving you nothing for Christmas for 17 years in a row. By that point you’d probably just give up on the whole mess or (more likely) assume you were Jewish.

Series with a perfectly good ending and then they just kept going. I get it. Money is a thing. And writers and artists tend to get more by continuing a series than they would by stopping and holding out their hands to random passersby on the street.

The classic example was “Dragon Ball Z.” Depending on who you ask, it was originally planned to end earlier or much, much earlier. As a result we slogged onto a few different planets, through a few more enemies who absorbed people to become stronger and what felt like seven or eight years of “Dragon Ball GT.” And say what you want about the material that followed, it’s always best for a series to end on its own terms on a high note than to be run into the ground.

A more recent example (specifically of the “running into the ground” variety) was “Bleach.” Despite having a perfectly good ending after our hero gave up his powers to defeat the enemy-turned-god-turned-butterfly-turned-god-again, they decided to head into another long training arc where he regained his power on the way to continuing his adventures. Only…he didn’t. Sure. I mean, he got his powers back, but with the sudden end of the series immediately after, it was a lot of run-up for a very short jump.

Or, maybe more accurately, a stumble directly onto its face.

Oh, and this crossed my mind while I was writing this, so consider it a bonus. It’s not technically a problem with anime itself. But it did come up an awful lot while I was trying to finish a few of the longer series that hadn’t finished getting dubbed yet.

Starting a series in one language, then switching to another. This isn’t a question of whether the original Japanese or English voice actors are better. Like the reddish stream running behind the local Pepsi bottling plant here, that’s an argument I just don’t feel like wading into at the moment.

(For me personally, it depends. Having a kid means it’s nice to watch subtitled anime when he’s around during the occasional flurry of f-bombs. And other times, well, if I wanted to read I’d get a book. Or, more likely, I’d get an audiobook so history’s most pleasant British people could read it to me.)

In any case, there’s something just fundamentally wrong with the characters switching voices in the middle of a series. Recently I tried watching “Cowboy Bebop” in the original Japanese. After listening to Steve Blum nail Spike Spiegel over the past twenty years, it’s weird to hear some other guy’s voice coming out of his mouth. It would be like your mom suddenly having a new voice when you woke up one morning. And also, she was speaking Dutch.

Unless she started out as Dutch and…well, you get my point.

Since I’ve been watching a lot more new anime as it comes out recently, I tend to watch more of it in Japanese first with English subtitles. And yes, it’s just as weird the other way. I tried watching some of it translated and it feels like everyone is talking in slow motion or something.

Also, people scream differently in English versus Japanese. You’d think being terrified would have the same sound no matter where in the world you were. Then again, you’d be just as surprised looking at one country’s list of animal sounds compared to another’s. What does the rooster say? Kikiriki? Like hell he does.

In the grand scheme of things I realize it’s a minor nitpick, but aren’t they all, really?

Anime Cliches – Missed it by That Much

That’s right. I’m pulling out the Maxwell Smart quotes. For all six of you still alive to remember that, you’re welcome.

Wait. For that matter, why do I know about that? I was born a good decade or so after that show. And trust me. It never came up in conversation. Ever.

Anyway…

Dodge.jpg

I remember spending a good portion of my college days defending anime. I was one of two (and a half) people who liked it, whereas the other eighteen guys were pretty much all productive, useful adults. Well, I’m still watching anime. And where are they? In productive jobs, being a meaningful part of society. So who’s laughing now?

Still them. Always them. It haunts me.

Anyway anyway…

One of the major issues (with various sub-issues) was that anime was riddled with cliches that made it unwatchable at times. When it comes to cliches, I’m probably more forgiving than most – in large part due to the fact that cliches appear in literally every single entertainment medium from movies to manga to crude bathroom stall jokes.

But I will acknowledge that some can be annoying. Today, in particular, I’ll be discussing how attacks in anime and manga never actually land. Ever. Go check. If you’ve ever read anything where an attack connected, it was probably a bootleg issue or something.

For those unfamiliar with the genre, I can understand your disbelief. “How can an anime last hundreds of episodes and be almost fifty percent battles and hardly anybody is actually getting hit?” you might ask. “I just saw that one guy shoot a laser out of his hands that blew up the actual moon. Like, in the actual sky. And then it was gone.”

Well, it happens a few ways.

 

First off, flash-stepping (or whatever it’s called in your anime of choice) is garbage. If you don’t know what that is, it’s how most anime and manga show movement happening faster than the blink of an eye. And whereas actual dodging requires preparation, tensing the muscles and leaping out of the way, a well-used flash step can just move them eighty feet away.

Often with a smug look on their face as they taunt, “Oh. Were you trying to hit me?”

I’m not a fan, mostly because it seems to work under mathematical principles I don’t really get. I mean, why aren’t they doing that all the time? Couldn’t you just vanish and reappear with your fist through your enemy’s face?

And while we’re at it, why does it make that sound? You know, the one that should sound like someone moving at the speed of sound but instead sounds like shuffling through a stack of papers really quickly.

 

Regular dodging isn’t much better. It’s a nice way of letting the audience know someone is out of their league in a fight. But when it goes two or three episodes that way, ugh.

Or sometimes they let attacks hit them when they could have dodged, just to show their opponent that things are about to get real.

 

But the worst dodge cliche is Naruto’s substitution jutsu. Okay. I watched that clip (and the weird clip after it for some reason). Kakashi is dead. Like, super dead. They held a short funeral for him a week later that was attended by friends and family. Proceedings began on the disbursement of his property and assets according to the wishes in his will. On the one-year anniversary of his death, the gang gets together to share drinks and talk about the time they spent together and…oh. Wait. No. It was a tree that died.

But if that’s the case, where did all the blood come from? Did that tree bleed? For that matter, did that tree scream in a thoroughly convincing impression of a dying person?

I appreciate creating tension by making us think a character is dead, but when the reveal equates to “nuh-uh,” it loses a bit of its punch.

Anime battles are very dusty. Another popular method of just screwing with viewers is having a barrage of attacks land, throwing up dust. In my experience watching maybe two or three hundred different shows, the person in the dust or smoke has only actually been hurt once. One and a half counting the time a character self-destructed holding onto an enemy, killing themselves but leaving the enemy unharmed.

Again, I feel like it’s meant to build tension. Did they get him? Is the battle finally over? But pattern recognition means we already know the outcome. If it’s a bad guy, they don’t have a scratch on them. If it’s a good guy, maybe he’s breathing hard and his shirt is sort of torn but he’s otherwise unharmed.

And then, I don’t know. He launches into a speech on the power of friendship or hope or some crap.

Conclusion: I realize it’s a bit of a turn-off for some people…but honestly, it’s not as bad as it seems. In a real world bound by regular physics it makes sense to be realistic. When characters can punch through mountains, though, I understand that dodging is sort of a necessary mechanic. Otherwise fights would be over in twelve seconds and “Dragon Ball Z” would’ve lasted about as long as a blowout college football game.

Besides, for every fight where you get annoying cop-out dodges that just seem to prolong a fight, you’ve got one of these:

 

Yeah. When’s the last time someone on “Law and Order: SVU” pulled off one of those? No. Seriously. I’m asking. I haven’t watched in a few seasons and I think the planet-cutting episode would be a good place to hop in again.