Editorials · On Themes

A Voyeur’s Telescope; Obsession and Impotence in Sasami-san@Ganbaranai

Sasami-san
Apparently not Shaft enough for some people.

I’m adverse to reality television. Although there’s no denying the allure of watching a personal activity from an impersonal position (this is essence of fiction, after all), in the end all reality television is just assurance to the naïve viewer, claiming that the feelings they feel from watching can only be as real as the source. But more importantly, it willfully places the viewer in the place of the voyeur, obsessed with the false lives of actors. It’s an obsession which even extends outside their required timeslots, as actors act just as shallow as their television counterparts off the air. Underneath the hard partying lifestyles and McMansion housewives lies only discomfort, as the fans are forcibly made out to be voyeurs. There’s nothing more fake than reality TV.

The central gimmick of Sasami-san@Ganbaranai is Sasami’s passiveness in the face of both the gods and the ordained who are constantly rushing to her side in an attempt to control her or protect her from outside influences. She’s lazy, but at the same time powerful, two traits which draw countless others inside her personal space. And it’s in this wrestle for control and stability that things get a bit chaotic: entire cities turn to chocolate, video games end up controlling our heroine’s destiny, and so on. Sasami-san@Ganbaranai is a clash between guardians and voyeurs, two roles which unavoidably spill into each other as time goes on. Sasami’s laziness is both a result of the two sides colliding and her “unmotivated” stature is only a result of other’s goading.

A Necessary Obsession

In the end, the Yagami sisters are gods: spying comes with the job description.
In the end, the Yagami sisters are gods: spying comes with the job description.

To clarify, I don’t mean voyeurism strictly in an erotic sense (although that certainly applies in the context of Sasami-san), but rather in a more universal application: gazing into another’s intimate moments and gaining insight into their lives as an outside observer solely for entertainment. Although the act itself is arguably unethical and selfish, it’s a false promise of a seeing a different, yet more interesting reality outside of the viewer, and it’s that warped perspective which makes it so fascinating and emotionally involving. The allure of privacy and the desire to invade it haunts the characters of Sasami-san: to the omnipresent gods and observant holymen, voyeurism and stalking is an unavoidable factor of life and a duty which must be done.

Knowing that others take interest in one’s life can be a bit flattering, but when others start deriving entertainment or gratification from watching over someone, things get dicey. No one exactly likes having their personal space intruded upon from afar and directed by unwanted individuals. I fall somewhere in the grey as well: I don’t mind interdependence and thoroughly enjoy the company of others (nor do I mind working under bosses or reasonable guidelines for that matter), but I quickly grow disconcerted when colleagues peer over my shoulder at every given moment. To put it mildly, it’s simply uncomfortable to have someone watching your every move.

During a wild spy mission on Sasami throughout the city, it is revealed that even Tsurugi, the once omnipotent creator of lesser gods, fears the very thought of aliens watching over her outside of her. Although this is played off for a couple cheap laughs, it reveals a rather valuable truth about the nature of our characters: no matter how much they enjoy or partake in the observation of others, being observed by others only brings sheer discomfort and annoyance. The universe as seen by Sasami is undergoing a crisis of privacy, where there can be no intimate moments between any characters. Whether in Sasami’s own room or trying to find quiet place at the spa, there’s no escape from the watchful eyes of others.  Much similar to Tsurugi, although Sasami loves to spy on her blissfully unaware brother, she’s constantly smothered under the weight of her friends and family who constantly intrude.

Subverting Authority and Exerting Inner Control

In letting others get to her, she only
In trying to control every minute detail, Sasami only drives herself into more madness and frustration. I’m far from particular about my junk, but I can relate.

Obsession comes not from exerting too much power, but rather too little. I’ve been on both sides of the “ogre tyrant” and I’m confident to say that each is equally unpleasant. Acting as the ogre tyrant drives everyone, including myself, insane and works as a poor motivator, as people will only do enough to not got fired or yelled at.  For me, it is far more productive to “let it all hang out” and within that Dionysian mode of living, finding true control. In the core myth of Sasami-san@Ganbaranai, the tale of Amaterasu and the cave, it was not chaos which drove Amaterasu into her cave but rather Susanoo’s fixation on control, his resulting frustration from not being able to reign over his equal. And contrarily, what draws Amaterasu out aren’t rigid rules or punishments but rather merriment, laughter, and ecstasy. Real control and productivity are not made from a gross fixation on order, but instead extracted from our most Dionysian values: our emotions and our ambitions.

As seen in Sasami-san@Ganbaranai, the line between the voyeur and the rigid, staunch protector is a thin one. While the latter leans towards the altruistic side as the other falls in, well, the opposite direction, the two are never distinguished from each other at the core level. They are both seen as two sides of the same coin: whether for the protection of the individual or for the entertainment of others, they obstruct the privacy of the individual without remorse. Both are intrusive and both are a tough sell. At the characters’ worst, these all-powerful, omnipresent god figures are controlled just as much by their controlling behavior as those they seek to control. From the ED, another segment which is often cashed in for a couple quick laughs, we can tell that their efforts are fruitless and counterproductive: Sasami-san sings only when unpressured and on her lonesome. Despite claiming otherwise, she does it not because she has to, but rather because she can.

But what Sasami-san@Ganbaranai does encourage is, for lack of a better term, tough love, offering some guidance but otherwise allowing others to fall to their own devices. To quote Futurama, when you do things right, people won’t be sure if you’ve done anything at all. It just takes is a pinch of restraint.

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9 thoughts on “A Voyeur’s Telescope; Obsession and Impotence in Sasami-san@Ganbaranai

  1. Hey look. He updated. He’s alive!!!

    Honestly though, I don’t think Shinbo is restraining anything in regards to Sasami-san@Ganbaranai, which is part of my problem with it.

    1. Hey look. He updated. He’s alive!!!

      I took an almost 3 month siesta (cocaine, dead prostitutes, the usual reasons), but I’m just about back in full stride. I’ve got a couple things planned for the upcoming weeks including a not-so-insignificant announcement, so stay tuned!

      Honestly though, I don’t think Shinbo is restraining anything in regards to Sasami-san@Ganbaranai, which is part of my problem with it.

      I agree, although I’d say that this is what makes him the prime director for a project such as this. Sasami-san is about losing yourself to carnality and embracing impotence, and Shinbou expresses this through pandemonium. It’s very, very similar to the infamous toothbrush scene of Nisemonogatari: it celebrates a loss of control in the characters through a perceived loss of control in both the cinematography and world. It’s nothing oblique, it’s just chaos (but meaningful chaos, at that).

    1. Sasami is pretty Shinbou-esque, but he does take a different spin on his usual directorial style if you pay close enough attention to the details. He leaves out his several of his signature marks, but it’s still undeniably him. It’s a crazy ass show, and far from the most accessible, but I’d say that it’s interesting enough to merit a watch attempt.

      1. I’m now on the last episode, and I must say it’s been hard to keep my head on straight. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a bizarre first episode (unless you count the KyoAni swimming CM I watched like 20 times lol), and I think that, indeed like ImperialX has mentioned, it’s been hard to think at all about the show because it’s just so crazy. I’m glad for the guidance here as well as from several other blogs (yea Omonomono!) on keeping me at least somewhat in tune with the Shinto/historical bakdrop.

  2. Man, I didn’t even know you started blogging again…great to see you back with this article!

    I’m really not sure how much of what you noticed in Sasami-san are due to your own interpretations, or whether it was intended to be so. From my viewing of Sasami-san, I was too utterly confused by the way the show was presented to actually start thinking about the show at all like you did. Maybe if I started thinking, I would have treated it differently. However I don’t think this show encourages that give the way it was produced…

    1. I’ve always thought that “this too crazy/disorderly/uninterpretable, so I’m going to give up any attempt at analysis” is lazy intellectual exercise, because this can be applied to any medium. I’ve always thought that if you never attempt to be right, you’ll always be wrong. However, Sasami@Ganbaranai is fairly interesting exception due to the content which presents itself.

      Maybe if I started thinking, I would have treated it differently.

      Au contraire! And at the same time, exactly! This is the ultimate trap of a series such as this, which encourages the viewer to give themselves up to the chaotic and unaligned. It discourages Apollonian values such as thought, reason, and order and emphasizes Dionysian ones such as emotion, pleasure, and ecstasy. The cinematography and script highlights this: it focuses on backgrounds, color palettes, and televisual appeal in order win over the audience with carnal desire. This is the purest essence of the myth of Amaterasu and the Ama-no-Iwato: losing yourself to pleasure instead of reason and within that finding real control.

      It’s also important to note that Shinbou makes a number of cuts to his directorial style in order to illustrate this. While this show by all means and purposes is undeniably Shinbou (for better or for worse, really), he trims out anything that could possibly give the series some semblance of order or thought, such as his trademark cuts to flashing words or charts of human anatomy. The man is all about the irrational: he bends space, visual and audial perception, and overindulges in the vain. While this wouldn’t automatically qualify Sasami@Ganbaranai as good, it does make it interesting.

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