Image chosen with care, trust me
GAR is fascinating. Or at least if you’re partially emasculated by working in seminar groups with a 1:4 male-to-female ratio it is. And I would be forced to commit ritual suicide with my very fine Parker fountain pen if I couldn’t adequately explain a word. Now that SaiGAR ’08 getting into full swing, the time would seem to be ripe for me to build together a few thoughts on GAR. Entirely in keeping with my habit of applying too much thought to too little matter, of course.
Rather than fitting all this into one post, I decided to split it up into a series, and scatter the resulting posts among the rest of my blogging. Hopefully this way each individual argument will be discernable, but they will still form a cohesive whole. Also, things won’t just be a flood of tl;dr.
So cut yourself a slice of sunshine pie, pour out a cup of MANLY TEA and settle down for the not-entirely-serious ride.
The GAR We Have Now
This entry was originally going to consist of some examples and a teasing-out of different strands of GAR. However, more useful would be this imagequote from 4chan:
[In connection with the above image I would like to point out that if you were a Roman from the north of Italy, you might have pronounced virtus as ‘feer-toos’, not ‘weer-toos’.]
Extrange’s ‘WTF is GAR Afterall?‘ is also a succinct introduction to the subject as it stands. I recommend you read it if you haven’t already, but, to paraphrase, what what I want to build on boils down to this:
- GAR supposedly originated during discussion of Archer‘s heroic last stand in Fate/stay night 14.
- GAR is comparable to the Latin word, concept and deity virtus. [Do not be surprised that virtus had a deity. The Romans had a god personifying rust.]
- Hot-blooded GAR is epitomised by indomitable mecha pilots (Kamina) who destroy their opponents.
- Cold-blooded GAR is epitomised by cunning schemers (Akagi) who destroy their opponents.
- There’re characters considered GAR for their sarcasm (Kyon) or their insouciance (Shunsui Kyoraku), and also female characters who are GAR (Revy).
Thus stands the state of play. I intend to do some shading around the edges.
To quote the Lurkmore wiki:
A common phrase in /a/ at the time [of GAR’s invention] was, ‘You are gar for badasses but gay for traps. After a while, the word’s meaning started to become objective, as opposed to subjective. Rather than saying ‘I’m gar for Archer’, people began to say ‘Archer is GAR’, usually in capital letters.
I think arguably there’s still a concealed relationship in the statement that ‘Archer is GAR’. Rather like saying ‘Archer is hot’, which implies that someone else finds him attractive, ‘Archer is GAR’ still requires someone else to admire him. [And Archer is GAR: for all its Engrish, rather lazy animation and essentially silly nature, his defiant battle in F/sn 14 is worth watching.]
So GAR is really something we feel for a character. And, I think, usually because we feel ourselves to be less GAR than the character concerned. After all, if you really were as GAR as Kamina, you wouldn’t find him admirable, merely normal.
What About SaiGAR, then?
The intellectual discussion gets into full swing
Recently the otakusphere has been witness to some angst regarding SaiGAR. Now, while Double has a point when he compares this to an exercise in mass Onanism, I think there’s something more useful happening behind all the posturing, the ‘mindless clicking and recruiting’ and the excuses for vacuous blogging. The nomination and voting processes are actually exercises in exploring the concept itself.
Consider this: dictionary definitions are an inadequate way to learn the meaning of language – ‘it is not, after all, out of a dictionary that the speaker gets his words’ – a method of last resort, if you will. The proper way to learn language is through example and imitation. This is why most people find it easier to define words in terms of how and when they’re used, where they fit in the rules of the game of language.
Consider the fact that English’s greatest dictionary is not, at its heart, a collection of definitions but rather a collection of quotations. [The collection of the c. 2,500,000 quotations which demonstrate how English words work is often used as an early example of crowdsourcing. Incidentally, the first quoted (1549) instance of ‘anime’ in English refers to an Italianate breastplate, and this is swiftly (1577) followed by the use of the word as ‘a name given to various resins’. But don’t worry – our anime is in there too.]
Similarly, SaiGAR helps us to understand and explore the concept of GAR (and other contests of the ‘Sai*’ ilk do the same thing). This isn’t by looking at who wins, but rather at who’s nominated and why. The GAR characters who are nominated are the ‘quotations’ which demonstrate, more clearly than any definition could, the essence of GAR. The joke characters who are nominated likewise demonstrate how GAR works: for their presence (and their victories) to be funny, they have to not be GAR.
Definition by example, fine-tuning our concepts. That’s what SaiGAR does at its best.