Magical Girl Site Episode 2: Shock Factor Done, Set Into Familiar Patterns

Episode 2 of this anime turns down the extreme content, but what do we get instead?

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As much as the first episode of this show flaunted misery for the sake of it and gave us characters that we couldn’t sympathise with because they hadn’t tried to make them real characters, at least there was the potential that maybe, just maybe, this anime was going to do more than just inject death and misery into a magical girl story. Episode 2 kind of dashes those hopes and what we are left with is a protagonist who’s only personality trait is being timid or a punching bag, a mentor type figure who is clearly damaged but not in an interesting way, and a count down to some horrible future event that is about as non-specific as you can get.

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It doesn’t make for terribly compelling viewing. When they’ve frightened half the potential audience off in episode one by hitting us hard and fast with that kind of content, and episode 2 begins with blood rushing from a girl’s sliced throat, to follow that up with walking, talking, and a half-hearted confrontation between yet another unbalanced girl with magical powers and a protagonist we still don’t care about and all and all, it is just kind of dull.

Possibly they’ve given themselves some wiggle room with the oncoming tempest but this feels like they just intend to introduce psycho magic girl, have some kind of show down, at some point there will be a betrayal, and ultimately everyone will be miserable. Just my prediction though.

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Karandi James

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Magical Girl Site First Impressions – Warning on the Content and Images In This Post

In the battle to see which magical girl anime could hit the bottom first for dealing out sensationalist violence without substance, this one is a strong contender for victor unless it actually does have some point other than misery. What did you think of this first episode?

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Other than Killing Stalking and the occasional BL manga, I haven’t had to issue content warnings on most the stuff I cover because I either don’t directly discuss or show the truly horrific parts or because most of the stuff I watch uses the violence and misery it presents for some actual narrative purpose (King’s Game was probably an exception but you really couldn’t take that seriously even if you were trying to). And now we have this ‘Magical Girl Site’ which from start to finish during the first episode manages to be a bottomless pit of the worst attributes of human nature with little to redeem it or to even make you think this has some other point other than the writer was wondering how much suffering he could inflict on his protagonist (maybe the writer was female, I don’t really care).

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I don’t actually mind seeing protagonists put through some horrific events, but usually that is because challenges help them grow, develop, find some hidden talent, make them realise some weakness in themselves, or something. There’s usually something. Even a power of friendship message might have been nice here, trite though that is. But no, we get to see Aya tormented, abused, threatened, assaulted, ignored, and generally treated as sub-human by every single person in her life. Literally every person in this show is scum. That includes every bystander in her classroom and the teacher that openly ignored the harassment that is being carried out.

And Aya herself is horrible. There’s no other way to describe her. She kills two people (accidentally of course as she gains a magical power she has no control over) and her first thoughts are of self-preservation and denial of guilt. Not one instant of actual guilt for killing them. All of her trauma is because she doesn’t want to suffer punishment for their deaths. This is after she’s spent the first however long it was telling us she wants to die. As much as she’s in a horrible situation, and the people who died really don’t deserve much in the way of sympathy, a single moment of thought for them may have helped me care a smidge for protagonist girl. Or, you know, any act that seemed like she was genuinely trying to overcome any of the situation rather than just trudging along and accepting it. This isn’t bullying she is suffering from. These are criminal and violent acts being inflicted upon her.

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So this should probably hit my dropped list and yet part of me really wants to see if this show is going to sink lower or whether all of this misery is actually going to end up serving some narrative purpose other than just seeing how much the audience can endure of watching this.


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Karandi James

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A Silent Voice Movie Review: Almost Nailed It

Overview:

I doubt there are many who haven’t heard of this one. Lucky for me, AnimeLab added it for just one week which gave me a chance to see this much talked about film. Focusing on Ishida, a teenager who in primary school bullied Nishimiya who was deaf and later found himself the target of bullying, the story looks at his life as he tries to find a way to live with himself or to atone for his past acts.

Review:

There was no going into this movie blind. The sheer number of reviews and articles about this anime that have been flung about the internet made that an impossibility. The fact that so many of those were positive set the bar for this movie incredibly high particularly in how it was going to depict disability and bullying. And for the most part, the movie delivers on these aspects phenomenally well. At least, it delivers a recognisable form of both the struggle with hearing impairment and the social aspects of school and life that sometimes fall apart by people not really thinking through their actions.

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The movie is also beautifully constructed. Scenery is almost always flawless and the characters are distinct enough while still mostly being fairly generic school students. The use of the purple crosses to demonstrate Ishida’s disconnect from others and his social isolation was integrated well and used with consistency and purpose. All and all, it is a well put together movie from a visual point of view.

Even though many of the characters are unlikable, that isn’t a drawback to this film. For the most part they are supposed to be. They show us the selfish nature people have and how, even when their actions harms others, they still choose the path that gives them the most satisfaction. Even Nishimiya doesn’t come off as the saint being bullied and abandoned. Her flaws as a character are on display giving us a rare look at bullying that doesn’t paint an innocent victim but presents a situation that no one really likes but no one really knows how to stop or feels really compelled to act differently. Even when the bullying is exposed in primary school, all that does for most of the class is shift the target to Ishida and later on claim innocence.

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And with that in mind, this isn’t exactly a relaxing viewing experience. Despite the soft pastel colour scheme, this movie is hitting hard at social issues and it isn’t point the finger at one cause or perpetrator but rather is painting the entire social construct as complicit with allowing such situations to exist and to continue. Victim, perpetrator, by-stander, parent, teacher, school… everyone is shown to have contributed to the situation and the solution in the 6th grade is no solution as all of these characters are still carrying around the weight of the events many years later which ultimately lead the two characters at the centre of the story to the understanding that they hate themselves.

Ishida attempts suicide at the very start of the movie and it is only after that, and the confrontation by his mother and a rather dramatic (if slightly stupid) burning of some money, that he begins his journey toward looking for atonement or even just a reason to continue living. And he seeks this out by meeting with Nishimiya, who understandably has a fairly mixed reaction to seeing the face of the boy who bullied her so mercilessly again. Despite the progress made throughout the story and the other characters who also come on-board to deal with their own baggage, Nishimiya ultimately also tries to take her own life.

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It is a dramatic story and one that hits hard. It brings the consequences of seemingly ‘innocent’ actions to the forefront and makes you think through the reality that other people might be living due to your words and behaviours. And if the movie had ended on that note I would actually claim this movie was an absolute masterpiece.

And yet, the story continues and leads us by the hand through a redemption sequence and ultimately tries to set up a happily ever after which might make people feel better about what they just watched but kind of shoots the film’s powerful messages and early statements in the foot. While it is lovely these characters get a happy ending, kind of, the far more powerful story is ultimately down-played because of it. While I don’t actually think the suicide should have been successful, leaving us wondering what happened next or seeing just the immediate fall out of the incident where the characters finally feel the full weight of their actions, would have been a much more powerful ending.

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Still, it is a minor criticism and the movie still packs quite a punch. I’m really glad I had the chance to see it and if you haven’t seen it yet, I certainly recommend checking it out.


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Karandi James

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March Comes in Like a Lion Episode 34: Hina’s Choice

Review:

Usually when a show makes their protagonist disappear for a whole episode the word filler is the first thing that comes to mind and yet episode 34 of March Comes in Like a Lion shows us how it should be done. Rei makes no appearance in this episode which is largely narrated by Hina and focuses on the events in her classroom after the field trip.

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After the teacher finally gets a taste of the bullying going on in the classroom she loses it and while they might try to justify her previous actions as being worn down by seeing the same pattern over and over, a teacher ignoring bullying (worse, denying it’s existence and blaming the victim) is inexcusable. And yet, Hina once again takes the high ground as she helps the teacher and doesn’t hold a grudge or act like the teacher deserves what she is getting. In fact, Hina reacts with the usual concern we’ve seen her hold for others since the beginning of the series.

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After the teacher leaves the school and the head teacher takes over the class it finally seems like someone is going to acknowledge that there is a problem but that leads to Akari needing to attend the school. This is probably the first time we’ve fully seen the burden Akari is carrying as she tries to be the mother to Hina and Momo. Yet, when Akari buckles under the weight of that burden, Hina is again the one who stands up tall.

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While this isn’t an instant fix to all the issues that are going on in Hina’s class, this episode marks a transition in the events. What is more important than anything that the school or others are doing is Hina’s mindset. She’s determined not to give in and has promised that she will graduate. Someone needs to give this girl a hug, she’s fantastic.

So, Rei’s absence this week wasn’t an issue at all as this episode more than held its place in the story. Also, the new opening and ending songs are fantastic.


 

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March Comes in Like A Lion Episode 28: Fight or Flight

Review:

The bullying saga continues and there are no easy options here. Every step leads to further complications and Hina is caught in a very rough spot. However, once again March Comes in Like a Lion shows us it understands people very well. Hina’s friend fled from bullying and retreated into herself and now is receiving counselling elsewhere. She’s completely withdrawn from school and from everyone she used to know. Rei remarks in a voice over that he thought that if things got bad she could just leave as another advocate for a flight response. One that we see Rei himself has taken many times in his life. Whle he doesn’t always physically flee, he withdraws himself from situations and human connections.

Hina on the other hand… Hina is not just upset. She’s angry. She’s a fighter and one who continues to think of others even while trapped in a cycle of misery. However, just standing up doesn’t solve the issue anymore than running away from it will and it is fantastic for an anime (or any story) to point out that neither response really magically makes the problem disappear.

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Episode 28 is a great episode for building on Rei and Hina’s relationship. We see Rei trying to be the older of the two and trying to be the helping hand for Hina but then struggling to understand how to help her sending himself into a downward spiral of self-doubt and loathing that Hina then rescues him from in true Hina fashion.

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Rei may not realise it, but this is helping Hina. For a little while she has a problem in front of her she can solve and a person she can help. He might feel like he’s useless and making things worse, but I don’t think Hina is ever going to see it that way.

The one thing I have to wonder is whether the teacher will remain in denial, or worse, whether she’ll try to redirect the blame onto Hina. We’ve already seen that this particular anime teacher would rather stick her head in the sand rather than see the reality facing her students and has brushed aside complaints of bullying previously. Though with one student having fled the school entirely and another now being openly targeted you would have to wonder how much longer she can keep that up.

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The other fun part of this episode is where Rei recruits Takahashi (baseball character seen previously) to help out. It actually further complicates the situation but it does give Hina one further companion so at least she knows she isn’t alone even in the school. We also see Rei preparing for and playing in various shogi competitions. It is nice that he is motivated for a change even if he is still a little misguided.

This episode continues to be visually wonderful to watch, emotionally powerful and the story and characters are just fantastic. No complaints at all about how season 2 of this show is progressing.


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Evil or Live Episode 3: I Didn’t Think It Was Possible, But It Is Getting Worse

Review:

This show is not good. It didn’t start well, but at least had an interesting kind of premise even if the execution was questionable, but at episode 3 I just have to admit that this is going to be kind of terrible. I also have to admit I kind of need to know how it ends so here I am condemning myself to another Bloodivores type experience.

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The main problem (there’s a lot of problems but the main one) is that Hibiki is an inconsistent and just plain uninteresting lead. Episode one he was rebellious and jerk of a teen taken away from everything and scared. Since then he has been up, down, and all over the place but this week he tries on cowardly but just minded human. They also attempt to give him some back story with Shiori hinting he used to run but he didn’t really want to talk about that so while that may come back later for now it is just a random point thrown in to a character that makes little sense.

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Even if I choose to ignore his inconsistencies and put those down to the extraordinary circumstances he has been dumped into, he’s still an idiot. He can’t do anything by himself and yet he burns Shin. He continues to think things will be okay like when he goes to collect food for the guys in his room, despite every bit of evidence so far being that nothing will be okay in this place. So far his actions and thoughts have just been too dumb for words.

It doesn’t help that other characters are horrible just for the sake of being horrible so far. Maybe motives and reasons will emerge but at the moment we are just watching horrible people be horrible to other horrible people and the plot isn’t going anywhere fast. This week we see Hibiki promise to save Shiori but he has zero possibility of achieving that and everyone knows it. Even he knows it. So where exactly is this story going?

Anyway, if you haven’t started this train wreck I would recommend avoiding, however should it get better I’ll let you know.


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Interviews With Monster Girls Episode 4

Review:

I’m not totally sold on this show but this episode was quite charming. Instead of letting the gossip go on Hikari decides to take matters into her own hands and while I don’t think this would work in the real world it was kind of fun to watch.

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The rest of this episode seemed to be about bringing all of the cast together given up until now we’ve been seeing fragmented interactions between the demis with Takahashi kind of being the link between them all. Though, what happens next will really determine whether I end up seeing this show through or not. Because if it just becomes a club where the demis hang-out and occasionally flirt with Takahashi I’m going to check out, but it seems like this show wants to be more than that so here is hoping it can find what it wants to be.

Interviews with Monster Girls is available on Crunchyroll.

ReLIFE Series Review

Overview:

Arata Kaizaki’s life has kind of hit a stand still. After quitting his first job three months in he is finding it pretty hard to find employment, or even really face the world and is becoming increasingly isolated. Enter a pill and a contract to go back to being 17 years old for a year and have a chance of a job waiting at the other end of the experiment. Yes, Arata is going back to highschool.

Review:

Firstly, I am going to thank whoever decided to release the 13 episodes of this show on one day. If I’d had to wait week to week to watch this, I would have lost interest. Not because this is bad, but because it is kind of ordinary and there isn’t really enough to make you want to come back to it. However, in a single sitting or split over a couple of days, this is actually quite fun and interesting. So, good decision there.

Secondly, what’s with the title? Why is does LIFE need to be entirely in capital letters? I don’t normally care when anime does weird things to English words but this one kind of just made me wonder whether there was meant to be some greater significance that I just missed.

Alright then, on to the review.

The premise of this anime (that somehow reliving a year of high school will enable you to overcome your adult gained emotional baggage and become a productive member of society again) is complete and utter rubbish. No matter how you look at it, even if magic pills that could make you appear older/younger existed, this is not going to work. Even if you learn to get on with others within the confines of school, this does not directly translate to the workforce. More importantly, in Arata’s case, it isn’t his inability to deal with people that’s the problem. It was the criminal negligence of the company he worked for. So reliving high school, not helpful.

If we ignore this (and if you can’t just don’t bother watching), then what we get is a half-way interesting show about nice guy Arata overcoming the hurdles of being plunged back into a classroom and helping all his new high school friends overcome their emotional angst by giving them pep-talks. Okay, it sounds lame but as I said, it kind of works. It’s sweet and it doesn’t drag and most the characters are likeable.

My biggest complaint would have to be the writer’s inability to let the premise be. He goes to school for a year and then everyone forgets him and he goes back to his adult life. Instead we have a second test subject in the school and a growing romance and you just know that if this story continues they are going to find some ridiculous reason to let at least one person remember what happened. Just commit to your silly premise already. Hey, you already declared you were going to wipe perfectly innocent students’ of their memories of an individual, what worse things could you possibly do?

There’s some genuine humour to be found in this series. Particularly Arata’s difficulties with studying. Yep, even if you made it through school, if you don’t use it you lose it. In addition to studying we get to look at sports, bullying, romances and all the usual anime high school tropes but from the perspective of an adult who has already had their illusions about real life shattered.

Furthermore, the two ‘support’ characters who are working for the group that are incharge of the ReLife experiment are gold. Their back and forth when discussing strategies, their different approaches in the classroom, and just their ‘support’ really work well to keep the plot moving along.

I enjoyed ReLIFE. I started watching it while waiting for someone while I was away and ended up marathoning the entire series. That doesn’t mean it is amazing but it is watchable and a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. However, if you aren’t going to let go of the fact that the entire motivation behind the going back to school thing is rubbish, you aren’t going to get into this show.

So, what do you guys think?

ReLIFE is available on Crunchyroll.