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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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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Puella Magi Madoka Magica Series Review: Make a Wish, Pay the Price

Overview:

I’ve really touched on Madoka before when I wrote a feature regarding the Strange Case of Madoka Magica but I’ve not yet written an actual series review so I figured it was about time.

For those that don’t know, Madoka Magica is about Madoka who is approached one day by Kyubey and offered the power to become a magical girl so she can fight witches and all she has to do is make a wish. If that sounds too good to be true, then you have probably been paying attention. Madoka, unlike so many magical girls before her, takes her time to find out what being a magical girl means and to think about her wish before she decides to seal this contract. In the meantime, the other magical girls continue to fight against the witches and aren’t always coming out on top.

Review:

My feature that I wrote about this show already touched on my thoughts of people calling Madoka a subversive magical girl story. From my view Madoka is simply an origin story extended beyond the first episode for once and giving an outsiders view of what being a magical girl is like rather than subversive (mostly because our protagonist isn’t a magical girl for a large part of the series). So I won’t be rehashing that argument here and will instead just give my thoughts on this series as it stands rather than trying to classify its genre and purpose.

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The first thing that drew me into Madoka Magica was the art style used, particularly for the witches. While I get it isn’t appealing to everyone (and having heard it described as an eye-sore or headache inducing by some critics) I find the visuals of this anime to be fascinating. Not beautiful because that isn’t really the right word for as many times the world depicted here is ugly and unsettling (intentionally so) and even the ‘normal’ world of Madoka is too clean and shiny, too orderly to really be considered beautiful. But it is the jarring contrast between the bathroom where Madoka and her mother prepare for their day and the sterile classroom environment to the realm the witches inhabit with their chaotic, cluttered and disorderly (somewhat nonsensical) appearances that really captured my interest in what was a somewhat mundane opening couple of episodes.

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Sure the music is pulsating during the dream sequence opening and trying to ramp up tension, but you haven’t enough knowledge of the characters to really care about them at this stage and this sequence is more affective toward the end of the series once you know who these characters are and how they came into this situation. Madoka is also playing all the nice girl and unassuming protagonist tropes that she can in these early stages but mostly comes out feeling a little bland. So it is the visuals that really caught me and kept me watching the show.

Which is a good thing. Because by the end of the series, the characters have had time to win you over and even if you don’t agree with individual character choices or actions, you learn to understand what each girl is actually seeking and why they might have made the choice they did. You also fully realise the complete hopelessness of the situation all these characters find themselves in. That feeling of hopelessness is also accompanied by feeling helpless because in my case I couldn’t even bring myself to hate Kyubey for putting the girls into the situation.

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Kyubey gets called evil a lot online and certainly he is the catalyst for all the woes faced by the girls however, his motives are never malicious. We interpret malice because of his emotionless demeanor and matter of fact attitude to the horror, but he actually doesn’t cause any of it. Kyubey has a clear job of collecting energy and the magical girl system is how that is done. He finds girls who have potential (more potential equals more energy so his targets make sense) and he offers them a choice. And that is important. It is always a choice. Perhaps his method is coercive at times particularly when he offers a wish to a girl on the edge of dying or the like, but ultimately the girl chooses and makes the wish she wants. The one thing you might claim malice for is that Kyubey doesn’t explain exactly what the transformation to magical girl entails or what the end result is. Of course, the girls aren’t exactly demanding answers to those questions and you would think at least one of them would ask.

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Madoka Magica is a series that at the time felt fairly unique. It took all the sweetness and light of a magical girl story and turned it on its head, not just to say ‘hey we can do dark’ but to really explore the characters and how they would react when pushed to their limits and the choices they would make when they found themselves cornered. It ultimately was a deeply satisfying watch though probably one that won’t be as good now as it was when it was released. A lot of what made Madoka truly feel unique has since been cloned a number of times so now it will just be one of many such shows (though arguably the execution is Madoka is pretty solid and that may help it still stand above the crowd).

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I really enjoyed this series and fully recommend at least watching once to most anime fans even if it isn’t your usual kind of genre. The influence of the series is unmistakable and it is a fairly decent narrative in its own right. With interesting visuals, good character relationships and development, and a story that isn’t totally eye-opening but still manages a few surprises, Madoka is well worth the time it takes to watch.

Don’t ask me about the movies, I haven’t seen them.


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Hell Girl: Fourth Twilight Episodes 2 + 3: Blow Out The Candle Already

Review Episode 2:

The main problem with this episode is that even though it starts with someone turning down the contract, you kind of know by the end someone is going to hell (this is the fourth season afterall). So all of the steps in the middle just seem to be stretching content as we march toward the inevitable. All episodic stories that follow formula tend to face this issue but for the most part they overcome this by clever twists or unexpected developments within the formula. Episode 2 here offers none of that other than perhaps that neither character was actually wishing vengeance and despite seeming a bit crazy actually seemed to be trying to grant the other’s wish.

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Because I didn’t really care about either character in this instance, mostly I was just marking time while watching and waiting for the axe to fall. When it finally did, it was really without any kind of pomp or ceremony but more just the expected conclusion. That doesn’t make this bad, but it wasn’t really a particularly interesting episode either.

Review Episode 3:

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Well, that story had a bit more bite to it and while the ending wasn’t totally unexpected, it felt like there was bit more thought put into it. What’s really horrific about this episode isn’t the number of people sent to hell, but more the reality the characters are living before that. Mostly because it isn’t completely unthinkable.

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I liked this episode far more than the second one, but that is mostly because I really wanted to see vengeance carried out this time. Not necessarily sending the characters to hell resulting in a definite mental break for the characters left behind, but some form of justice or intervention that might save the younger characters from the hell they were living in. Overall, it just had far more impact.


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18if Episodes 2 + 3: Good Witch, Bad Witch, Whichever…

Review Episode 2:

This episode is kind of an interesting follow up to episode 1. In episode 1, you didn’t know who the people were the witch was playing with or whether there were any real world consequences. Essentially she was just playing house in dream land and there wasn’t really any need on the part of the audience to get invested. This episode makes it clear that at least this witch is having a very real impact on the real world.

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Note, avoid if you are squeamish about death, dismemberment or blood. As none of these put me off in the slightest, I found the story interesting as I found the show’s very heavy handed attempt at establishing moral ambiguity for the central character. It works, but we don’t know enough about him (and is he actually permanently in the dream world or not) to really care about his colourful moral choices and the way he chooses to resolve the crisis.

I liked this. It isn’t great viewing but it kind of fits for popcorn viewing. Hopefully episode 3 can be equally interesting.

Review Episode 3:

This changes things up a bit (most notably the colour scheme) as we enter the dream of a girl who becomes a witch (which seems like it should be a big deal but apparently isn’t in this case) and then Haruto gets his heart broken (though how serious he was in the first place is still undetermined).

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First episode played with split screens and eye jarring colour schemes, the second episode dove us straight into a red and black toned world of gore, and the third takes us to a washed out world of a sick girl before transitioning to a more vibrant colour scheme. Can’t wait to see what comes next.

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It would be lovely to know though why only girls become witches in the dream world, why Haruto is wandering around in dream land, who Lily actually is, and whether there was some overall plot here or if we really are just drifting from dream to dream so Haruto can save all the lonely girls from their nightmares.


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The Laughing Salesman Episode 1

Overview:

So we have a salesman who helps fulfill people’s wishes and we all know how that is going to end.

Review:

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I checked this episode out of curiosity and was pleasantly surprised. The art is hideous and the animation questionable, the plot extremely predictable, and the episode being split into two different stories meant very limited characterisation. Really, there is little to recommend this but the format reminds me of those old TV shows where we meet someone with a weakness or a vice and grant them a wish with horrific results over and over again. Maybe this will do something more and develop the salesman or maybe it will remain strictly episodic; either way I’ll give it a few more episodes because it was enjoyable enough. Plus the opening theme is kind of entertaining which is more than I can say for most of the first episodes I’ve watched this week.

The Laughing Salesman is available on Crunchyroll.


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D Gray Man Hallow Episode 7

Review:

When D Gray Man first came back, one of my biggest worries was that it wouldn’t be the dark and emotionally turbulent story I knew and loved. The last two episodes have really put that worry to rest. I am really thankful for previews of the next episode now because I was genuinely worried about the fate of one character this episode and got no closure before the credits on whether he was still alive. On this episode, we continue our journey through Kanda and Alma’s memories until Allen decides he’s had enough and breaks out. However, as Road points out, it’s just a little bit too late and things in the real world are only getting worse. Still, that final shot of Kanda is all kinds of awesome so looking forward to next week.

D Gray Man Hallow is available on AnimeLab.