Two wizards enter, nobody leaves.
It’s something of a custom around here to use this week of American Turkey Day to shine a spotlight on underappreciated artists. To that end, let’s talk about Let’s Players: folks who record themselves playing video games in whole or in part for the enjoyment of others. It’s often not a highly respected art, derided as riding on the coattails of other creative endeavors by people who don’t understand the time and effort of play time, editing, and presenting one’s own persona as part of the experience that all go into a well-made Let’s Play.
Not to mention that video games (before we even touch problems with the community mentality) are the most exclusionary art form out there aside from, perhaps, Broadway. Certainly it’s the only art form that deliberately plans its own obsolescence and correspondingly wrings potential consumers for every penny of disposable income they have, backed up by an emphasis on modernity that demands being able to put down those large sums regularly at launch in order to find the factor of community involvement even slightly surmountable. And never mind if you come late to the party and find yourself interested in a game that’s four or five years old. Good luck finding it and potentially a system to play it on (if indeed it existed as physical media and was not ghosted a la the infamous PT). And so Let’s Plays can come to serve not just as entertainment but as historical documents for curious viewers who lack the means, equipment, skill, or time to tackle a game themselves.
And while I am quite the fan of well-known individuals like Jim Sterling, Laura Kate, and Markiplier (an example of how modern Players have shaded into the realm of sketch comedy, but certainly a kind and generous individual with some enjoyable longform LPs), today I wanted to focus on two channels who’ve been consistently talented and entertaining and deserve far, far more recognition than they get – one old, one new.
Sound!Euphonium is a show about two girls bonding over high school band. What kind of bonding? Well, that is ever the question, and there are many complicating factors when trying to come up with an answer (even more than the usual issue of Japan’s fraught relationship with earnest LGBT representation). The show walks a fine line in arguably playing to and at times subverting elements of the Class-S genre (which emphasize “pure” emotionally intense relationships between young women that are confined to high school/”practice” for heterosexual relationship), studio KyoAni’s usual infatuation with mixing beautiful animation and baseless fanservice, and moments that feel frightfully close to sincerity.
In the name of appreciating the delicate, dangerously close to ship affirming ambiguity of these first 13 episodes before the sequels arrive, let’s look at Sound!Euphonium’s central relationships.
Few words are as dirty as the phrase “focus testing,” the process in which bewildered strangers representing various marketing demographics are ushered into the screening of an unreleased film and then battered with questions about their feelings. Alright, it’s a bit more involved than that, but it’s also a process well known for being used as a crutch by nervous studio executives (also known as The Man) to rein in artistic types who want to try out something that, God forbid, might fail. The fallacy of this system has been discussed in broader scope by more learned souls than I, so today let’s keep it simple. There is one case in which I remain in favor of the results of a focus group: the infamous edited ending of the 1986 film Little Shop of Horrors.