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So today I’m talking about Me!Me!Me!, a short animation project that is blowing minds at a Ghost in the Shell rate. I’ll let the website describe it for me: “You are attacked and ravished by many girls.” See, that’s actually important. The main character isn’t just some generic anime moron, he’s generic anime you. And as great as that may sound, it’s not. Unless you’re into serious BDSM alongside ridiculous drug cocktails, in which case, call me.

What do I have to say about the video? Well, first of all, it doesn’t get along well with search engines (here: http://animatorexpo.com/mememe/ you’re welcome). The name itself is really weird, not that that’s unusual for an anime, but in this case it actually has a point. But I already made that point with the quote from the site, so let’s actually get to the video.

Meet you:Me!Me!Me! Overview

You appear to be pathetic, contribute nothing to society, don’t know how to operate a broom and really like the cicada sounds from Evangelion. In fact, you seem to like of lot of things from Evangelion, including action figures, model guns and mech models. You’re an Otaku, aren’t you?

Some girls on your TV screen start dancing in what most people would recognize as a lewd, provocative, borderline pornographic manner, and what anime fans would call a little ecchi. And you enjoy it. Given that this is an anime about anime (if you haven’t picked up on it yet, this is one of those subversive things that’re all deep and impactful and shit) we have a bit of problem knowing whether these dancing girls are real, like a J-pop group or something, or animated. Some people have said that they’re animated, because just look at the main character, he’s all about otaku stuff. But that’s a bit circular I think. However, I do agree that they’re animated, just for a different reason. In the establishing shots there is a decent level of realism to everything; colours are dingy and more grey, light behaves in a believable manner and you can understand the positioning of everything in the room, for example, the chair being turned away from the desk. Now all over a sudden, reality is completely gone and we have light seeming to come from every angle at once, bright and saturated colours, and the fact that real girls aren’t at all like this.

But the most telling distinction is the cigarette. When we see your TV on your desk, it’s surrounded by gross, burnt up cigarette butts. But in the music video, it, like all the butts, looks appealing.

Anyway, we get further along in the animated music video, full of popcorn fluff and fanserivce, and meet the specter beneath it all, wearing a four eyed mask (Four=Shi=Death). Suddenly the world turns red, including the girls. The dancing continues for a while, and then the four eyed girl crushes your head between her breasts until blood seeps out. Then she jumps out of the TV, your Eva figurines help her pin you down, and she drools in your mouth and you go on some drug trip.

So not only are your anime girls killing you and messing with your head and sense of reality, but that cheap, well marketed, plastic you love so much helps. This might be the first time Evangelion symbolism has actually meant something.

You enter your crazy drug trip and see a bunch more weird anime stuff, including Eva‘s eye/vagina imagery, fly by in honestly impressive animation, until it slows down for the first time on a girl. She’s sitting on the floor wiping tears away, and you just walk away from her. What did you do to make her this sad, you jerk?!

We know this girl is real, because again we have realist light, shadow, and colour used to portray her. But the way it’s whitewashed and the glow of the light makes it look like a memory. Presumably this was a real girl you rejected or ignored. During this scene there are two versions of you, the one who walks away, and one who does nothing, just stands and watches the scene. I expect it’s the current you, remembering what happened, but unable to change it.

Then we have a shot of you reaching out to the girl, regretting your decision. I’ve heard people say that this is also the memory of yourself, realizing the mistake too late, but I disagree. I think this is the you who is observing the memory, realizing your mistake WAY too late. When you reach out to her, you are animated as you were in the room, not whitewashed like the memory.

You are killed by an anime girl, then brought back to life by the real girl’s kiss. You remember more about her, but this time it’s more sexual, and she becomes the four-eyed girl. I dare anyone who watches hentai to say they can’t relate to this.

Everything flashes by again, until we stop on the same pathetic shot of you lying in bed. The cycle is complete. When you look to the memory of the girl for comfort. You interpret comfort from her as sexual, and your sexual desires bring you back to the anime girls.

You realize you’re in this downward spiral, and try to fight back. How? You grow a power suit, and literally shoot at the anime girls until they explode, all animated from a first person perspective. This perspective would usually imply a type of realism, literally seeing what the main character is seeing, but in this case the main character is so far gone, they don’t have a realistic perspective. Just one look at the visuals at this point makes that clear. In this case, the first-person perspective is more like a first-person shooter videogame. You are fighting one form of escapism with another, and, needless to say, this ultimately doesn’t work.

However, the way it’s portrayed at this point is a lot different. Before your terrible situation was because of the mistakes you made, but now, a whole society of anime girls is fighting back against you. You’re trying to get past it, but the culture surrounds you and keeps pulling you back in. We end the video right where we started, and it loops.

Now I have to remind people, this is from Japan, and that “you” in the video, probably isn’t you. Japan is currently experiencing a hikikomori crisis, where a lot of young men have been unable to cope with the demands of adulthood and have cut themselves off from society. This isn’t just because of anime, but anime does have something to do with it; it is something a lot of hikikmojri turn to, seemingly as a coping mechanism. It’s a type of escapism. The main character of Me!Me!Me! is a hikikomri.

Overall, this is a really provocative video that gives a surprisingly nuanced view of hikikomori. While it does put some blame on the main character because of his past mistakes, it also demonstrates character growth by his regretting his decision. He recognizes the cycle he’s in and tried to fight back. But he doesn’t actually know how to engage with reality, so his attempt to break from the cycle is just another part of his overall problem. With nothing in reality, no engagement with society to focus on, all he has are anime, videogames and model mechs. And if feels like there is genuine sympathy from the creators here.

This was clearly made by people who understand the life of the hikikomori and otaku. Hell, they even made a character model for the blue striped panties- what normal human being would even thing of that! And the small details resonated, at least with me. But it doesn’t offer anything more than sympathy; no real lesson to take away that will improve anyone’s life. And most of what Me!Me!Me! says, Welcome to the NHK said first.

At best, it’s a cautionary tale, warning you not to sink this low. Most people reading this probably aren’t Japanese, and aren’t at any risk of letting otaku culture take over their lives. This short wasn’t made for us, we just happen to like some of the same stuff as the people it was made for. That said, I can’t say it is completely irreverent to my life. I had an exam this afternoon, and instead of studying, I spent the morning writing about some Japanese cartoon.

Don’t Lose Your Way