Fridge Brilliance – Medaka Box as parody?

Look, I could write a million posts about how I liked the manga and how I therefore hate the pace of the anime but I’ll never be finished and you’ll never be entertained. Yet the reason why most people like the manga is due to its content…but only at face value. This is only the tip of the iceberg.

[spoiler alert]

Alright, so we know how this all goes down: next week, they recruit Kakaijima, the ace of the Swimming Team which had lost. She’s incredibly obsessed with money, and she became on rent for 300 yen a day. Also, she was kissed by Medaka and wears glasses, being probably the most intelligent one of the lot, aside from Medaka. This set-up’s interesting, no? We have the godly leader, the deadpan assistant, the flamboyant bishonen and the coldly calculating glasses girl. And later on we get a joke yet powerful character in the form of the Minus, Kumagawa.

Where have we seen this before – oh, right.

It’s your Haruhi cast all over again. In fact, it’s probably every single council or afterschool club you’ve ever seen repeated once again. But what the true parody is here is not just of Haruhi, but of pretty much everything. Both characters are godly for unexplainable reasons. Haruhi’s SOS Brigade members’ lives practically revolve around Haruhi. Kyon is in love with Haruhi. Later on, a character with an even stronger power appears. Similarly, everyone in the student council is practically in love with Medaka, whose abnormality, ‘The End’, lets her almost immediately master anything. Later on, an even more powerful character, Ajimu Najimi, appears as well. Both shows are also titled after their respective heroines: yet it is the suffering male lead that’s the true star of the show: the character from which the story is told.

But the true clincher is Medaka’s annoying superiority. She’s pretty much the exemplification of everything extreme in battle manga. She’s perfect. She has the heart and graces of God. She can master any skill instantly. Everyone is in love with her. She can take down the entire school’s students if she had to. She even has the biggest bust size of every single character in the show, as she constantly boasts about her ‘well-toned body’. Despite how powerful Ajimu is, she constantly admits how she would never beat her because Medaka was the main protagonist – her constant breaking of the fourth wall being brushed away by the characters as her own delusions.

The entire manga is unapologetic about its ludicrousness and absurdity. In fact, I’d say that’s its selling point, or rather its focus: bringing things to the extreme. This is something the show hints at as well, what with the image of Medaka holding the globe in her hands. She can literally master any skill immediately, and become invincible – her talents are extreme. This extremity is also reflected in the latest chapter when Ajimu uses a few hundred skills to take down 6 opponents in rapid succession. Battle manga gets our blood pumping through epic fighting and skillful tactics. But Medaka Box is different: it does give us action, but the effect is downplayed by the acknowledged fact that Medaka would win everything.

This is also something that is reflected when Zenkichi challenges Medaka by running for Student Council president, and winning, with Medaka only getting 2% of the vote. The reason they voted for Medaka earlier, they say, was due to being indirectly voting for Zenkichi and whatnot. Turned out that not so many people liked her after all. On several levels this is parody: the popular girl loved by everyone turning out to having lost to ‘an insect’, and the perfect girl being detested by plenty. Is it the point then, to hate her? That was what was being pushed by Nisoisin in the previous 80 or so chapters.

Then after Medaka gets out of the student council, she becomes a ‘problem student ‘, whose childish, free behaviour makes people like her again. Earlier she was so human to the point she simply wasn’t human anymore – like how Haruhi was a goddess with flaws trying to be human, she was a flawless human on the verge of becoming a goddess. She now eats a lot, talks a lot, becoming very relaxed. Despite her abilities she seems more human than ever.

So what’s the point then? Perhaps it’s Fridge Brilliance then, that the first few chapters have been building up to this  -the bait-and-switch philosophy of Medaka Box. You thought it was a generic school council manga? Bam! Genre change to battle shounen! You thought the entire point was to make Medaka as inhuman as possible? Bam! She’s suddenly the most human character ever! You thought the parody themes had ended with Zenkichi becoming council president? Bam! Suddenly, suitors everywhere!

Point being, Medaka Box is an interesting manga which will entertain me for quite some time. I truly hope that as a result, the anime can pick up the pace so that we can truly get to what makes the manga so good.

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"The ability to quote is a serviceable substitute for wit. "- Somerset Maugham QED
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26 Responses to Fridge Brilliance – Medaka Box as parody?

  1. Smiley says:

    Ah, another manga reader. I salute you.

    I was also hoping for more from the anime at one point, but I think the “higher-ups” are “playing it safe” yet again. They’ll first determine the success of the show from the BD sales, and if enough money rolls in, they’ll be able to milk the series for its money with future seasons of the same kind of pacing they have going.

    To be honest, it felt to me like Nisio just wanted to end the manga by the time Ajimu became the primary antagonist. Those fourth wall breaks, in particular the one where Ajimu claimed the manga would end before the anime airs, seemed to suggest this. I’m thinking what happened was more politics yet again. Medaka Box had taken a favorable turn, given that it used to be in the bottom of the rankings, so Nisio was being pressured to continue it. The fourth wall breaks, then, were just his way of venting stress by poking fun at things in retaliation (notice how most of them ridiculed Shounen Jump).

    At least now we get potential yuri for all the fans out there. *wink*

    • Carillus says:

      One of the suggestions as to the reason for the manga continuing, however, is that Ajimu is the main antagonist for the arc, and the declaration was made by her. In other words, it’s similar to a declaration by a less genre-savvy villain to ‘destroy the world’, and thus the protagonist has to go out and defeat the antagonist, thus saving the world as we know it.

      It’s an interesting way to approach this, and if it’s true, it’s a very interestingly executed version of the standard supervillain trope.

      • Valence says:

        but Ajimu is her ally of sorts now because of the Black Wedding (?) Feast fight. I mean, even Shiranui is involved so it’ll be interesting to read.

        • Carillus says:

          Yeah, but I was kinda responding to the statement that Isin wanted to end the manga… I was just providing an alternate viewpoint to that issue that’s been floating around for a while.

    • Valence says:

      We don’t need potential yuri to ship characters in yuri pairings.

      Ajimu became the primary antagonist but she just became an ally, no? The fight where she assists in taking down the suitor’s doubles.

      I do suppose the possibility of playing it safe from the studio’s standpoint is valid. Maybe we’ll end with her defeating the abnormals and the next season’s about the Minuses.

      • Smiley says:

        The yuri was just another attempt at a joke which was once again ruined by the lack of conveyance on the part of the internet. =/

        Anyway, I’m not sure they’ll make even make it to the flask plan. MAL has Medaka listed for 12 episodes, and with the pacing they have, I wouldn’t be surprised if Leap250 is right.

  2. Leap250 says:

    Too bad the genre shift is still a ways to go based on the pace the anime is going >.<
    (they'll most likely end it with the enforcers/Unzen arc too)

    I think that's where the manga shines I think. It openly parodies various shounen tropes (and even directly address them in one chapter) and for me, well, it works. There were some arcs that could've been done better, but overall Medaka Box is still pretty epic.

    Looks like our hopes of seeing Kumagawa animated will have to wait

  3. Andmeuths says:

    Medaka box is a long story, which an unintelligent adaptation would fail to capture. Unfortunately, anime viewers are very impatient. So, while anime viewers may love everything from the second half of the Enforcer Arc/Flask Plan Arc onwards, the risk is that the first episodes will utterly alienate them. Just look at the Blogosphere, and the anime forums. Anime Only Viewers are dropping Medaka Box left and right.

    It would indeed be amusing if Medaka Box had a Second Season, and we have a ton of reviews predicting the same boring Slice of Life directionlessness. And then, after the Flask Plan, the survivors would have to either eat their words, or disclaim it. Of course, there’ll be quite a few who would likely go : WTF did I just watch?

    Really, I think that parts of Medaka Box might have been better conveyed as a Light Novel, or even a full Novel. Then again. later Medaka Box is home to some truly epicly drawn scenes. But really, it’s a literary work one cannot approach and read at face value. It invites you to go deeper.

    • Carillus says:

      Of course it would’ve been better as a light novel. Remind me again, what did Nisio Isin do for most of his writing career before Medaka Box?

      Yeah.

      • Andmeuths says:

        If so, we’d probably get a Shaft treatment for Early Medaka, with a much more compressed early Medaka adaptation. Unless Early Medaka becomes dialogue heavy, but if so, I’d expect it to be quite interesting, Monogatari style.

        • Valence says:

          But the later parts of Medaka are already dialogue heavy, no?

          • Andmeuths says:

            One good example is Election Committee Arc. As Light Novel material, it likely would have been called a fairly strong arc. As an action Shounen Manga, it was called disappointing. Now, if Medaka Box was Seinen oriented, and that arc was made even more political, it’d probably be hailed as at least an acceptably adequate arc.

            The post Minus Thirteen Arcs really are pushing at the borders of Shounen, sometimes. It seems that the Jet Black Bride Arc for now is reverting to Action Shounen, though it remains to be seen whether there’s another, less traditionally Shounen angle to it. Since if this is Action Shounen, Medaka’s team should by rights be walking all over the opposition.

            • Valence says:

              Jet Black Bride Arc is definitely shounen. The name itself reeks of shounen. But I honestly can’t see a way any of the enemies can reasonably put up a fight to Medaka’s team, which has all the abilities in the world.

              • Andmeuths says:

                Yes, the name of the arc is very Shounen. But if you think of it for a moment, the setup of the Jet Black Black Wedding Arc is most definitely not traditional Action Shounen, where the heroes have to physically (or ocassionally outwit, but most usually physically) smash their way to victory. Yes, it seemed like a straight forward tournament/Arranged Marriage parody where five suitors were to be smashed in a series of battles.

                But, the think is, as you have said, if it was a traditional Shounen arc with traditional Shounen premises and victory conditions, Medaka’s team should have completely wiped the Suitors, no matter how powerful there are.

                The reasons for Medaka’s disappearance, I’d imagine is not traditionally Shounen, nor will the traitional Shounen methods work in resolving the situation. It remains to be seen whether Nisio wants to make the Jet Black Arc more of a political/psychogical thriller, where political considerations triumph and might (of which both Medaka and Zenkichi’s team arguably has more than enough at their disposal) is a mere red herring.

                Also, the mere presence of a suitor left as a rear-guard seems to suggests that Marriage is not the only thing on the table here. The lesser sub-houses, who should be hostile to one another seem to be united in some, other common clause.

                Finally, there’s the issue of the murderer. Who assassinated the previous participants of the Jet Black Wedding feast?

                But Medaka Box has never been traditional Shounen anyway, and often touches the edges of the genre.

      • Valence says:

        Sigh, Monogotari series….

    • Valence says:

      They are all dropping Medaka Box, but just because it’s the buildup to the fun part doesn’t mean they have to animate it at its current pace. I’m actually hoping for the first season to just end with the defeat of the enforcers or the abnormals and the second season focusing heavily on the minuses. That’d be pretty good pacing IMO. An interesting contrast.

      • Andmeuths says:

        Honestly, I think Gainax was doing a very poor adaptation at selling Medaka’s box.

        If we were to take the Three Episode Rule that most audiences comply with, then rightfully, they should have rushed towards Kikajima’s arc by Episode 3. Then commence with a cliffhanger showing the end results of Unzen slaughtering the entire Band at the end of Episode 4- that’d grab the audience attention, though granted, it’s not as shocking as Mami Tomoe getting eaten.

        Episode 1 should have devoted a third to the Kendo Club, five minutes to the Dog incident, and the last third or so to Medaka’s crazy deduction skills with the athletics club,

        Episode 2 should have been the entire Akune’s Sub-arc, and Episode 3 Kikajima, while Episode 4 the First part of the Enforcer Arc, including the Chained together Incident- ending with a mission to soundproof the Band Room, and a final cliffhanger of the entire Orchestra club being butchered.

        Then the fun begins in Episode 5.

        That, I think would have been a far better pacing – that way, you could probably touch the first section of the Flask Plan by Episode 12.

        As it is, I suspect they’d cover Unzen’s Arc in the last Third of the Cour. By then, neutral viewers who remain could quite possibly be aghast at the Swing to Action Shounen, while the others who would have otherwise lauded the twist or loved later Medaka Box long drop this show like a hot potato.

        It seems that Gainax logic was to drop in One cour, and see what reception Medaka Box would receive. The problem is, I doubt they are aware that they’d probably be ending just not too far after the point when ratings for the manga were at their lowest.

        Sigh, if only the 45 Episode rumor was true. I seriously think that Medaka Box may well share the same fate as the Negima adaptation. And then, we’d have lots of people complaining about the impeding demise and painful uncreativity of Action Shounen, when there are alot of interesting titles that tried to break the mound and mock and deconstruct those very cliches, achieved modest success as Mangas, but had poorly received adaptations.

        The past few Episodes, in any normal Shounen would have been called Filler.. As the First Four Episodes, they are called Drop Inducement Material.

        • Valence says:

          Drop Inducement Material indeed. Plenty of bloggers find it a pain to watch the show. I do too, yet I know it gets better. They could actually have the show accelerate a bit faster. I really do think they’d take about 12 episodes to reach the Minuses, so that’s pretty slow, actually. They also couldn’t have been aiming for two seasons with different genres, could they? I hope not.

          If Medaka Box is 45 episodes long, I really hope to see more than just a simple manga-to-anime direct adaptation.

          • Andmeuths says:

            Forget Minus. At the rate they are going, they’d barely reach the Flask Plan by Episode 12. I suspect the animators wanted to milk this out slowly, throwing the first season as a pilot test. But if that’s the case, then the First Cour should have been accelerated up to the meat of the story, focusing on selling the plot on what it actually is.

            But there’s alot of filler material they could use to pad out Medaka box, if it’s going to be a long runner. Like unusual requests in between the main arcs.

            It seems they are indeed aiming for two seasons with completely different genre undertones. Or, if we were to be more cynical, perhaps the producers are simply adapting it as it goes, without actually stopping and realizing that Medaka Box dives into Shounen Action territory later on. If that’s the case, then the animators may well have a very discordant seeming Enforcer Arc where they desperately try to shoehorn the plot to the initial Slice of Life Theme of Medaka Box.

            If they screw up the Enforcer Arc by trying to cram it into a Slice of Life tone, I’d say even manga readers will drop the adaptation in disgust. Hopefully, Gainax would prove this worst case scenario wrong.

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