Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Anime Representations of the Internet

Alright, so I'm going along the internet as I often do and I come across a review for .Hack//Sign. The review doesn't like it. And I can see why. It's a very slow show. But I love it, not because of the show itself, but what it represents.

.Hack//Sign was released in 2002 right around the time the internet was becoming mainstream. Don't get me wrong. The internet was around before that but now days I don't have to preface "What's your email address?" with, "Do you have an email address". The late 90's early 2000s were when that happened. And .Hack//Sign is one of the best shows I know of that explores what does it mean. How does the internet change the human condition? And that I feel is an important question to ask. So here is a list of other shows and movies I think do that well. By the way most of these are navel gazers.


Well since I was talking about it any way. People think the show about MMORPGS, but it's not. It's really about how more and more our online identities are merging with our offline ones. Several online activities are meant as escapism but can you ever truly escape from yourself. We all play roles, but only to a certain extent. Oh sure different aspects of my personality are highlighted depending on my company, but at the end of day, Greg Miles, and The Cyphered Wolf are one and the same even when I'm deliberately trying not to be. There is but one self (most of the time).

For better or worse in .Hack the main character only has access to his online personality, while almost all other characters continuously waver between the two, some even deliberately invoking that separation.  For example the character Crim deliberately sees the game as only that and maintains a distinct personality within it while knowing damn near every other character in real life. The schism between the two personalities frustrates his friends to no end.

Ghost In the Shell The Stand Alone Complex

One of the defining traits of the internet is the amalgamation and synthesis human effort and resulting information. Or to put it more simply crowd sourcing. And Ghost in the Shell especially the ending of the first season of that show is all about that.  MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD

The overall plot is bassically about stoping a cyber terrorist, but the original "Laughing Man" was mostly by the time of the actual plot just an digital activist collecting and disseminating information. When he decided to disappear several third parties took up his name, all acting independently yet concurrently creating the eponymous stand alone complex,  a situation whereby independent activities by independent agents can culminate into a singular effect.  He only really gets involved when said third parties start doing things he finds completely repugnant. It's complicated with government and corporate coverups, rouge splinter groups and false flag operations. You're going to need to break out the white board, q-cards, yarn and thumbtacks.

The whole thing reads like the history of Anon  before Anon existed.  Same goes for Wikileaks.

Okay. That show with The Grim Reaper, what could it have to do with the internet? The Dollars. Think everything I said about Ghost in the Shell, but more realistic. At least as realistic as you can get in a show with zombies, The Grim Reaper, and mad scientists. Again SPOILERS. A kid basically starts up fake gang, that gets taken over by a quasi-evil social engineer in his madcap scheme to cause Ragnarok.

On the internet rumors are everywhere. And people have to make a choice on what to believe. They don't always believe what's true, and in a way the stakes, the why the problems of the series matter, is because of viral internet rumors that a slasher is a part of this "fake gang," which dispite the creator's wishes slowly becomes real.

And that's a constant. Sure most of the plot happens offline, but an internet chat room, which often features main characters, acts as a running greek chorus for why it all matters.  See this show lives on dramatic irony. Several of the characters are in positions to have privleged information, yet can't just say "I know this because it involves me".  So the chat room becomes sort of an anonymous way of obtaining, assembling, correlating, and disseminating useful information or in the case of our evil social engineer misinformation. Oh screw it. Izaya is basically an offline internet troll taken to the behavior's logical concision.  Almost every problem of this 24 episode show, the damn near destruction of the entire town starts because he thinks it's funny.

After some thought, I'm taking away my almost. Every problem in the show is connected to him.
Anyway. It's not always what happened that matters, but what people think happened and the internet is a very good tool at figuring that out, in both this story and in real life. Perception matters and perception can cause problems. IZAYA!!!!

Rin Daughters of Mnemosyne

Rin presents two versions of the internet with equal validity. It spans a large period of mostly in the future.  So in this world both versions existed but at different times in the development of the internet. One version is purely escapist, existing entirely separate from the "real world" where people often let their real bodies rot away while in the net, While the other is compleatly integrated into the real world via neural implant, where people's clothes are even digital projections.

And it's interesting because it presents two competing views of the internet. 

  • The internet as an separate escapist entity from the real world
  • The internet as an augmentation of the real world
Both have some truth to them.  We are still having this debate regarding taxation on digital goods

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