Why do magical girls exist? Whose great cosmic plan involves putting preteen and teenage girls into dangerous battles against inhuman enemies for minimal gain? And why the hell are the little critters that bring the pretty transformation items so stinking cute and happy?
Madoka Magica, an anime written for television by Gen Urobuchi (creator of the equally subversive Psycho-Pass), takes a rather cynical approach to the magical girl genre. Madoka is a painfully average middle school student. There is nothing special about her except her level of empathy and kindness. A new girl, Homura, transfers into the school at an odd time of year and starts a strange relationship with Madoka. Then, Madoka and her best friend Sayaka meet a cat-like creature named Kyubey who promises them one wish if they agree to fight against witches as magical girls. The dream is obviously too good to be true since every magical girl they encounter begs them to stay away.
At ConnectiCon this past weekend, I debuted two new panels. The all ages panel was The Play’s the Thing: Shakespeare in Anime. It’s, as you can imagine, about anime adaptations of Shakespeare. I will be broadening the focus in the future to include manga so there is more territory to cover.
The panel was well-attended and led to some lively discussion about Shakespeare, anime, and the nature of translation/localization. I’ve embedded the full presentation below as well as video references (not the exact cuts due to copyright issues).
Unfortunately, the alternate video references are NSFW. I made it a point to selectively choose all ages-appropriate references for the live presentation, but I do not have the luxury when working with the available clips online. The Power Point is still safe for all ages, but the videos get more violent and sexual.
I’m a sucker for a good haunted house story. I went in blind on my marathon viewing of the 2006 anime series Ghost Hunt and my one regret is that there is only one 25 episode season. (Fear not, dear readers; a second season is scheduled to arrive December 2014).
Mai is a first year high school student who accidentally gets pulled into Shibuya Psychic Research, a company run by Kazuya, a 17 year old tech expert, and his stoic assistant Lin. Kazuya introduces Mai to a cadre of spiritualists consisting of a famous teenage TV medium, a self-proclaimed priestess, a monk turned rock star, and a teenage fully ordained exorcist. The team uses the combined skills of science, Buddhism, Shintoism, Catholicism, Taoism, psychic abilities, and intuition to identify and eradicate paranormal menaces all over Japan.
I couldn’t let AniMAY 2014 pass by without at least one review of a horror anime. Shiki is a doozy. It’s like a mash-up between Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Twin Peaks.
A town is dealing with an inexplicable run of deaths. Natsuno, our hero, is fascinated by death but won’t be of much use in the story for quite some time. Things turn strange when a high school girl, Megumi, is found in a catatonic state brought on by anemia and dies later that night. Her parents refuse an autopsy so that her suffering isn’t extended even though the only thing wrong with the body is a few bug bite wounds. At the same time, a new family, the Kirishikis, move into a long-abandoned Western-style mansion in the middle of the night and are never seen around town. Megumi was on her way to visit them when she fell because of the anemia.
The new Sailor Moon series will premiere worldwide in July. You already know that.
Did you know that Hulu finally started putting up the original run of Sailor Moon, unedited and with accurate subtitles? That’s pretty remarkable. I’ve watched the available episodes so far and they feel right.
See, Sailor Moon isn’t just a silly series for kids. There is a good bit of depth there. It does go to dark places. The characters aren’t perfect and the ever-expanding web of players adds some intrigue.
Kaito Daimon is a master puzzle solver. With a little help from his best friend Nonoha, he solves a massive labyrinth designed to kill anyone who doesn’t solve it correctly. The prize is a magical armband that enhances his puzzle solving ability. It also sends him into a world of deadly puzzles being thrown at a small group of students at his school. These four students have the potential to solve the Puzzle of God, unlocking all the secrets of the universe.
Phi Brain: Puzzle of God is simultaneously strange and familiar. It has the same kind of dramatic structure as many other competition as storyline series (Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Digimon, etc.), yet there actually are deadly stakes to the story. There are random characters who only appear for one episode, but the core cast is developed beyond the young male lead. Each of these core characters is strong in their own way, but not held so high up that they can never be used for humor.
Another day, another panel accepted at ConnectiCon 2014. I’ll be discussing Shakespeare and anime on Saturday, 12 July, at 11:30AM. This is not an attempt to impose a Western reading on Japanese animation but a celebration of the times when Shakespeare is adapted, referenced, or revolutionized in anime. Think Blast of Tempest, which will figure heavily in the discussion. Details.