# Scheduling Conflicts
My second year of running an animé evening is drawing to a close; traditionally this is about the time that such efforts collapse. Only one of the original attendees remains, and what female contingent we had is departing entirely (and if they weren't my proposed schedule for this season would probably push them over the edge). But on the whole the group is stronger than ever, and I look forward to many more years of the highs and lows.
Some seasons are easy - the vagaries of the Japanese animation industry occasionally throw up a perfect mix of shows (I try to stick to the current season if at all possible). But usually there's a last-minute scramble for one or two shows to fill the gaps, and we often have a subpar show or two, such as the just-completed *Zetsuen no Tempest*, by turns intriguing, shambolic, cute and then all these things at once.
The animé is only part of the point; this was always meant as a social occasion first, and even a bad show can be the spur to a fun discussion. In some cases it can be a better one - with *Shinsekai Yori*, probably the most objectively good show we've viewed together, most episodes were watched in hushed, awed silence. Contrast something like *Kokoro Connect*, which was a bad - or at least trashy - show, but spurred no end of laughter and speculation. Admittedly even the worst shows only allows space for relatively short comments - more like tweeting than actual conversation. At my last flat we went for dinner after meetings, at which point more casual conversation and speculation could occur, but sadly there is as yet nowhere suitable near my new place (I have high hopes for the French bar that's currently under construction).
Scheduling is impossible to talk about without sounding pretentious, because it's all about finding the right emotional arc. Reducing the garden of genres to a 1-D wheel seems simplistic but has been surprisingly easy in practice: broadly, we start with action or serious science fiction, something to engage the viewer immediately and pull us out of the real world. Gradually fade into softer sci-fi and fantasy, or alternatively comedy and the more comedic end of slice-of-life. Either way the idea is that these stories about plot and setting gradually give way to something more character-focussed, and we finish up the evening with outright drama. I've come to regard the sixth and final slot as "manager's choice", and push more personally relevant drama series there - *Honey & Clover*, *Princess Jellyfish* and my favourite animé, *Wandering Son*. (Right now we're watching *Simoun*, which I've already gushed about in these pages)
The series I remember now aren't generally those I thought I would at the time. Many are shows that the wider community dismisses - there seems to be a niche characterized by *Last Exile ~Fam, the Silver Wing~*, *Secret of Cerulean Sand*, *AKB0048*, and perhaps *Symphogear*, of series that are charming in their unironic evocation of a different world. (From my own experience I'd put *Mai Otome* and *Allison to Lillia* in the same list). Fantasy and science fiction are often characterized as escapist, and I've noticed the '90s dip in their popularity (followed by the resurgence of the 2000s) seems to correspond to a zeitgeist of optimism (and subsequent despair). Creating a whole universe requires a level of incredible devotion that often necessitates some level of withdrawal from the world. But it's also an affirmitive act, a creation of familiar human issues, a way to engage with the present even as it refuses to do so head-on. Much classic sci-fi is bound far more tightly to the era it was created in than more "literary" novels of the same period.
And yes, there is a childishness to some of these stories. The effort invested in the setting can mean little left over for the characters. The results can be hard to relate to as humans. But the other half of this childishness is the sheer, wonderful joy of a world to explore, creatures to see, even the simple fun of flying or singing - something the shows I've mentioned capture far better than more serious science fiction. At its height, something like (the novel) *Anathem* can weave together true insight into humans, humanity, and reality itself.
This summer season makes these questions more than academic. Having just finished *Psycho-Pass* - an excellent, if flawed, piece of that "serious science fiction", I'm now about to field a schedule where perhaps five out of six shows could be classed as "magical girl" to some extent. Now a friend has suggested replacing one of them with a magical realism show about Japanese mythology. Will this be more or less accessible? Will the subtle but persistent undercurrent of Japanese sexism be more or less of an issue than one brief but incredibly awkward bath scene?
If you get these questions right, a social event like this can be immensely rewarding. Go too far wrong and your group will collapse - and you may not even notice why, because things like the emotional arc of which shows you watch in which order seem incredibly fuzzy and irrelevant - but experience suggests they are very real, even if we can't come up with an objective formula for them. In fact, that's part of what makes it so fun.
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