Life Abridged

I keep trying to write, but the internet distracts me as ever. My solution? Write about the internet! Look at this kid. He so meta. If the internet does one thing and one thing well, it acts as a vast mechanism by which our culture is continuously consumed, digested, and regurgitated in a never-ending cycle of skewed self-reference. Imagine the Sarlacc after too much Thai food. Do it!

Now that I have all of you in the proper head-space (you’re welcome), I’d like to very briefly deal with one particular aspect of this great moebius-meme. You might even say I will deal with it in… “abridged” fashion? Yeah I went there. While the lion share of the “abridged series” phenomenon has already come and gone, an internet trend with the approximate lifespan of one of its episodes, its references continue to echo with surprising longevity. In particular, the keystone for “abridged” reference is inevitably the one that spawned a thousand imitators, the (somewhat ironically) inimitable YuGiOh Abridged. The classic pilot awaits below in all its unpolished glory!

This was hardly the first time someone had redubbed anime for comedic effect. Heck, I can remember “japanimation” parodies as far back as MTV’s Cartoon Sushi (there’s a dated reference for you). This was something subtly different, though. What I feel accounts for much of YuGiOh Abridged’s popularity is a combination of creator LittleKuriboh’s deft vocal skills doing convincing impersonations of the characters with an intuitive sense of the comedic value inherent in the actual show’s premise. That said, much of that comedic value is lost on someone who didn’t watch the original series. That is the dirty little secret of Abridged. For a show that has been the subject of so much (not undeserved) panning and mockery, an awful lot of us watched it. Being able to laugh at the abridged series effectively makes it okay to have watched the original, because this time we’re ‘actually’ watching it ironically, rather than just ‘pretending’ to.

Nevertheless, as rollicking of a good time as it is, its hard to deny that Abridged starts to lose some of its steam after the first season or so. Its still funny, just not quite in the same way that made you laugh out loud without need for abbreviation. Why is that? Well, if I had to put my finger on it I would say it had to do with the show becoming an entity unto itself rather than just a parody of another property. The caricatures of cast members began to have distinct personalities of their own beyond their absurdist relationship to the straight-men on which they were based. The meme spawned memes of its own which spawned still other memes, like the sorcerer’s apprentice of one-liners. These somewhat threadbare in-jokes combined with an increasing number of outside pop-culture references to gradually create a new comedy formula that supplanted the straightforward satire of the earlier season. Some of this was inevitable. At the end of the day there is only so much material you can mine out of the central premise of purportedly reasonable people getting waaaay too into a “children’s card game.” So, the internet did what it does best: consume, digest, regurgitate. Its not that the new comedy is bad, its just different. LittleKuriboh’s character work remains entertaining even if the funny voices seem to be more and more the central draw of the series. You can call it all sound and fury, signifying nothing. Amidst the unceasing redefinition that undergirds so much internet culture though, does it really need to? In a lot of ways when you take a broader look at the self-feeding culture furnace that is the internet, along with all of its attendant tropes, the world wide web is really just one massive Abridged Series. Except what this one parodies is real life.

This post isn’t nearly as abridged as it ought to be…

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