Back in 2014, Me!Me!Me! was a sensational music video that gripped the internet and found its way into the hearts of anime lovers everywhere. It surprised us with stimulating visuals, upbeat tunes, and inspired storytelling, all conveniently wrapped up in a tidy 6 ½ minute package. For the years since its release, this animation has been a breeding ground for discussion of all sorts, spurring on countless fan-theories and eventually leading to the creation of “GIRL”: a sequel to the video (or possibly a prequel, nobody seems to know which). You may be wondering, why write about this now? Seems a little late to jump on the hype train (and admittedly it is). However, in light of the recent decline in anime quality, the lessons to be learned from this video have become more relevant than ever. Me!Me!Me! is a shining example of what every anime ought to have in store for its viewers.
Over the years, I’ve come to cultivate a healthy mix of expectations when it comes to anime, so it’s never a surprise when the latest season leads to a few disappointments. Unfortunately, I’ve recently struggled to identify those stand-out series that offset the bad ones because there simply aren’t any to be found. I don’t consider myself a particularly harsh critic, but even I’ve been finding more flaws than strengths in the latest seasonal lineups. The anime scene is quickly being consumed by harems, gratuitous body proportions, and far too many idol groups to count, let alone remember. As a result, we’re left with the likes of Re:Zero, Shokugeki no Souma, and Junjou Romantica filling the spots for highest rated anime in the last few years. Where’s the originality? Where are the cool new stories and relationships we expect when beginning a new show? It feels as though all of the latest shows have been composed of recycled material with minimal attention to character development and plot fluidity. In Fall 2013 alone, we were treated to shows like Kill la Kill, Gundam Build Fighters, and Kyousougiga, all extremely imaginative and original in their own right. I’m not saying every season has to have a handful of amazing shows but I expect there to be shows I actually want to watch at the very least, which seems like a pretty tall order as things stand.
Now, where does Me!Me!Me! figure into all this? It is my opinion that Me!Me!Me! exhibits what I can only call the formula to make anime great again: it has all the elements that comprise a positive and memorable viewing experience while giving rise to debate over its themes and ideas. For this reason, I’ll be discussing some of these elements over the course of a few articles, how they contributed to Me!Me!Me!, and why they should be mimicked by producers and directors for better quality anime.
Let’s begin with a summary. The video is linked in the picture above, but in the event that you’re in a relatively public place and you don’t want every passerby who glances at your screen to fill with disapproval and disgust, below is an explanation of what happens in the video. I’ll be pointing out some of the important elements and symbolism as I go along.
The first frame is an extreme close-up on a portion of our protagonist, Shuu’s, face. Before the music starts, we zoom and find ourselves in his room where Shuu lays on the bed, barely conscious. It’s a typical hikikomori room complete with figurines, model kits, gaming paraphernalia, posters, and a monitor with anime frozen on screen. There’s also a number of cigarette butts littered around the desk. If you don’t know what a hikikomouri is, Google it or check out my last article, “Why Do We Anime: The Contemplations of an Otaku”.
As Shuu stares lifelessly into the monitor, the scene depicted on it comes to life, dragging the viewer in as two girls welcome you to the vibrant anime world. Shuu happily smokes a cigarette as his fantasy unfolds around him, and the camera pans so the viewer can take up Shuu’s point of view. We’re treated to a formation of blue haired girls wearing bright pink dresses, thigh high socks, and long gloves gyrating playfully about the screen. This girl is Nana, the porn star. Her lighthearted dancing goes on for around a minute, with the moves getting progressively more suggestive and the style of dress getting progressively more revealing. The entire sequence is reminiscent of soft hentai and pinups.
This happy fantasy ends with a repeat of the welcome sequence, only this time moving into a dark version of the world with inverted colours. Here, we’re greeted by a sinister, masked, female figure sitting back, cross-legged, on a throne. She appears to be some sort of threatening overlord, eyeing the camera while she sits calmly on her throne. It feels like a virus has come and hijacked the once bright and lighthearted daydream. No longer are there a bunch of carefree, dress-clad girls bouncing away around you. Now Nana wears nothing but heels and chokers with wires that seem to be threaded through the nipple and genital piercings on each of her clones. Not only is the state of dress shocking, but the dancing is much more suggestive than in the first sequence, with each girl shaking and thrusting her hips. The camera zooms out and we see the masked woman on her throne behind a V formation of gyrating girls. The Nana clones look like puppets, chained together by their cords, controlled, and literally “dancing” for this masked figure. Eventually, our protagonist is approached by the figure; the plot begins to thicken. Shuu looks startled and we begin to see glitch-like flashbacks of pleasured and dancing Nana interspersed with the image of a girl who we have yet to meet. We can just make out a distinguished flower worn in her hair as she flickers on and off the screen. Then, without any warning, the masked woman crouches down and proceeds to crush Shuu to death between her breasts, waking him up in the real world.
This marks the beginning of the second segment. Shuu’s back to laying in his room, absently staring at his monitor, when the masked woman springs from the screen, huge tits first. She chases him off the bed and pins him to his bookshelf, kneeling in front of him on all fours while the figurines on the shelves come to life and cling onto his head. The figure removes the mask revealing a familiar, human face. It’s the girl from the flashbacks, this time with a ponytail. This scares Shuu, and we see another glitchy image of him and the girl flash across his monitor. Now, the ponytail monster hovers over him and regurgitates into his open mouth, knocking him out and causing him to enter another dream.
This dream is quite different from the first two: nothing is coherent. The frames move more quickly, and no image stays on the screen for longer than a second. It feels like an acid trip. The sequence opens with us being rushed to the surface of some murky water, greeted by the same girl with the flower in her hair, now worn down rather than in a ponytail. Her clothes disintegrate away, followed by her skin, leaving a smiling skeleton in her place, as though she was once something wonderful that withered into a bad memory. Throughout this segment we see psychedelic imagery of this girl, sometimes sexualized, sometimes nightmarish, until we finally come to a pause in the music. Shuu reaches a circular plane where he sees himself and the pink haired girl, who sits on the floor sobbing. Everything comes together now. This girl is Shuu’s girlfriend (or ex-girlfriend) Hana, who he presumably dumped in favor of his hobbies and fantasies. After watching her cry, the camera zooms into Shuu’s surprised face as he’s on the brink of a realization but, in that moment, he’s attacked and devoured by an evil, ponytail Hana. Normal Hana then moves over to what remains of him, sobbing, and gently places a kiss on his lips. Shuu’s eyes widen as he sees flashbacks of all the happy times he spent with her. He watches as she’s taken from him and morphed into the masked woman, who we now know as evil Hana. Evil Hana is no longer naked: she now dons a bodysuit and has tattoos, longer hair, and rings hovering behind her. Masked Hana is made to resemble an omnipotent being- perhaps something of a deity. Shuu screams and undergoes a transformation sequence of his own, as if finally waking up and attempting to fight this reverie that controlled him for so long.
I would say the screams and transformation mark the beginning of the third and final part to this video. From here the plot is fairly straightforward. The newly refurbished Shuu, now clad in glossy mechanized armor, enters what appears to be an FPS inspired battleground, where he shoots the parasitic Nana clones before they can devour him. The entire sequence is reminiscent of fighting addiction- figuratively and literally. Shuu has, if not physically, been mentally dependent on Nana since his break up with Hana. This scene is not only his attempt to eradicate the virus, but it also represents the struggle against the adverse effects that come with trying to break from one’s addiction. Unsurprisingly, Shuu fails his attempt at rehabilitation, as is all too common when people try to get clean of a substance abuse. He is then torn from the scene, arm shot off and falling through space, trying to reach Hana, who free-falls in front of him. Despite their hands being mere centimeters apart, he cannot reach her in time, and she falls into the abyss below. He stares down after her, tears streaming from his eyes, terrified and devastated all at once. The video then cuts back to deity Hana, who absorbs the fallen and unconscious Hana to gain even more power before launching a large scale attack on Shuu with an army of Nana clones in her command. The fight scenes are interspersed with the happy picture of Shuu and Hana, which cracks a little more upon each showing, finally shattering the last time it appears. Shuu feels this break and cries out once more while bullets fly at him, tearing off his remaining limbs until only his upper torso and head remain. Once he is defenseless, Nana clones flock to him and deity Hana takes off her mask, moving in to kiss him. This section may represent how Shuu has opened his eyes and realized what he’s done but it’s too late. His relationship with Hana is already ruined, and all he has left is the cheap, replacement fantasy of her. No matter what he does to escape it he’s already in too deep. Once deity Hana places a kiss on his lips, as if to undo the work of Hana’s kiss from earlier, Shuu closes his eyes and once again loses himself to her spell. We see his severed head fall to the ground, and the video ends with a familiar close up on his face as his dull eye opens to match the very first frame of the video. The cycle continues.
By now you will have come to the conclusion that all is definitely not what it seemed at the beginning of the video. There is so much to be said about every little detail crammed into Me!Me!Me! that I won’t even attempt to cover it all in this article, which you’ll thank me for. One of the nicest things about this video is watching and discovering all these details for yourself. There’s so much to be found it almost feels like you piece together a bit more of the puzzle each time you watch it. Anime needs more of this because, more often than not, the viewer can figure out everything that’s happening immediately, which leaves no room for discovery or interpretation. I enjoy picking apart shows I’ve seen in search of underlying meaning, but the vast majority of modern anime is entirely surface level and has very little substance to be uncovered. Me!Me!Me! forces you to think and actively search for clues to the bigger picture. Given that we’re still only talking about a 6.5 min long video, this is just a small glimpse into what anime potentially has to offer.
What at first may seem like a purely entertaining video about booby girls is actually a fairly serious commentary on the hikikomori lifestyle, which in recent years has become an increasingly large problem for Japan. There are many interpretations of the video, but this seems to be the “confirmed” theory. Currently, Japan has an aging population- with a median age of almost 50 years old for both males and females- and is facing the problem of a declining birthrate. One of the major contributing factors to these demographic trends is the tendency for male youth (and older men as well) who have trouble with socializing, to become so enamoured with fictional characters and virtual relationships that they completely withdraw from reality. In many cases, these men also become reclusive to their homes (rooms), much like Shuu appears to be in the video. Shuu represents victims of hikikomori culture. Once this connection is established, each girl featured in the video can then be looked at as a personified aspect or offshoot of the hikikomori lifestyle.
First we have the blue haired “moe” porn girl, Nana, who represents all that is good and valued by Shuu about his lifestyle. She is cute yet sexy, playful yet submissive, and a thin yet busty girl who exemplifies the gratifying traits hikikomori expect all of their fictional companions to have. Happiness and pleasure are both effortless and guaranteed with her. This girl is made to personify obsession and addiction. She is a typical example of how companies cater to Shuu’s demographic. The industry mass produces all sorts of merchandise and entertainment tailored to hikikomori tastes because they are easy targets: willing to spend money on anything and everything relating to their obsessions. Boys and men like Shuu are powerless to the charms of these characters engineered to please them, and therefore become slaves to their image, which is mirrored ironically in part one of the video when the Nana clones are chined and bound to evil Hana for pleasure.
Next we have the masked deity Hana and evil ponytail Hana. They are still good looking, big breasted moe girls, but they’ve been twisted, and Shuu no longer has control over them. Instead they manipulate him, using his feelings of attachment as means to control him. They’re introduced during the nightmare sequence, where bright colours and happy music has faded, becoming dark and droning. This is what the lifestyle does to people. Hikikomori become numb to reality, leaving it behind for an endless stream of sexy fictional girls and instant gratification. Fiction is so bright and over-exaggerated that real life seems dull and boring in comparison. The way deity Hana comes through the monitor with her massive boobs- the same ones that crushed Shuu only moments earlier- emphasizes just what is so dangerous about this industry creating these tropes and characters for the express purpose of catering to this weakness. Evil Hana represents how the hikikomori lifestyle consumes reality (much like she is seen literally devouring Shuu in part two) and replaces it with fantasy. Deity Hana then personifies the powerful hold this lifestyle has over people and why it becomes so difficult to escape.
Finally, we have the real Hana. She represents everything Shuu has turned his back on and lost to his hikikomori lifestyle. She was something tangible he once had- presumably before he fell pray to his otaku tendencies- and we see him leave her in the middle of the acid trip sequence. She’s on the floor sobbing and he doesn’t even look back at her. It requires more effort to maintain real happiness than the cheap satisfaction Shuu receives from living in his fantasies. Thinking back to the skeleton at the beginning of the second dream, this makes sense. Perhaps he once saw her as something positive and lovely, but gradually something about their bond ate away at this happiness and in her place he was left with something frightening and bare. The relationship became too hard for him to deal with so he left her for the easy comforts of imaginary girls. Shuu is only reminded of the good times with her after she comes and kisses him, as if to open his eyes to what he has become blind to.
The story of Me!Me!Me! is so much more interesting once these connections are made- if these are the connections you want to make. The characters are all established and effectively developed through the scenes and interactions in the video, but does it end there? The lack of dialogue gives viewers freedom to take liberties with any assumptions regarding characters, and their importance to the video’s message, whatever that may be. Remember that nothing is set in stone by the producers. The above descriptions are what each of the characters represents to me, but anyone can watch Me!Me!Me! and form their own unique opinions about these same characters. It’s interactive, and extremely rewarding to play around with ideas while trying to fit them into whatever you see the story forming. I love it, and I think anime could benefit a great deal from more thought provoking characters purposed for ambiguity- much like the cast of Me!Me!Me! has been.
More articles about Me!Me!Me! and what makes it so great to come!