Kannagi, a quick cultural comparison and final thoughts
February 9, 2009
In episode 4 of Kannagi, otaku expert Akiba made an interesting observation that intrigued me on cultural level. I do not know much about Japanese idol culture (but I trust many have covered that), but his comments concerning idol culture in Japan was interesting because of its similarities and differences compared to what I observed from Korean idol culture (it’s more of ‘entertainer’ culture but I digress), so I guess I’ll be talking a little about that. Feel free to skip to the next screenshot if you have no interest and just want to read my final thoughts on Kannagi.
Akiba says, “There’s no idol who’s working all around”, but I think that accuractely describes majority of Korean celebrities in the field of popular media, sincem ost of them are active in various mediums all around. For example, idols who are new into their singing careers are by default expected to at some point feature in numerous variety/talk shows. They do this mostly because,
1) as a side job, as Korea is one of the most wired country in the world and hence download free music like crazy
2) promoting their albums/events
3) testing of their attributes in other areas such as acting, comedy and conversation skills. Through these variety shows an idol has the opportunity to be cast in dramas (and then acting), or as a host for other variety shows, etc.
Also interesting is Akiba’s comment on idols of niche area. In recent years Korean entertainment industry has seen increasing number of celebrities in fields more obscure than you know, singing and acting. The top picture for example is of a popular female comedian. Another increasingly popular niche idols are announcers being casting as hosts for other variety shows. Their elegant and know-it-all image serve as an excellent contrast to the often comically looking, sarcastic male co-host at the age of 30~40, and often these usually ‘untouchable’ images are exploited by making fool of themselves (which people find MOE -__-). The difference here between Akiba’s insight on Japanese and mine on Korean is that Korean celebrities of such niche area are making their ways into more popular realm, such as releasing their albums, becoming more active in variety shows and being cast in K-dramas. And of course there are pro Starcraft gamers who have gained celebrity status. It baffles the mind.
As for my final thoughts on Kannagi,
# I loved the comedy in general. Many amusing and ROFL moments to be had, not a single dull episode.
# Characters were all hilarious, and the chemistry was great, even if they are based on cliched archetypes. This goes back to the points I’ve made in previous posts on the architecture of Utena and Avatar. There is very few original characters (if any), it’s all about experimenting with various archetypes and gimmicks to form new affective connections. Nagi is tsundere, but ultimately she is perceived as an uniquely quirky and mischievous character.
# Animation was very expressive in characters’ gestures, and of their emotions.
# I loved the voice actings, practically all of them excelled in their roles. I’m tempted to give more credit to the director, like I would to Kou Matsuo for his Red Garden and Kure-nai.
# I wouldn’t say the ‘serious side’ of Kannagi was brilliant, but they were tense and immersive, and wasn’t at all jarring when juxtaposed to more comedic elements.
So yes, Kannagi easily gets my recommendation.