Tuesday’s Top 5: Character Poses

Pretty much every anime fan will admit that at some stage they definitely struck the pose of their favourite character (usually a fighter) in real life. There’s something very cool about character poses on screen and something utterly ridiculous about using them in real life and yet some cosplayers really pull it off. Today my top 5 includes 5 character poses I love seeing and am really glad that they are either parodied regularly in other anime or that cosplayers enjoy them too because it means endless streams of images to admire.

Please Note: There may be some spoilers below.

Honourable mention this week goes to Rika from Chuunibyou.

Number 5: Steins;Gate

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This one is fantastic but mostly because you can actually pull it off in real life without looking too ridiculous, which makes it a fairly safe pick for most people who while they would like more anime in their everyday life don’t want to have people start avoiding eye-contact with them. There are some more dramatic poses from Steins;Gate but the back to back in the lab coats is pretty classic.

Number 4: Soul Eater

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I’ll admit, Death the Kid with Patty and Liz is also pretty iconic but there is something insanely fun about taking on one of Maka’s stances and if you happen to have your scythe handy (or a broom stick or anything else really) you can really prepare to fight. Of course, the key to Maka’s look is not actually how she stands given other than the crouch it isn’t exactly the same each time, the key is in that piercing gaze. Nail that and it won’t matter how ridiculous you look.

Number 3: Evangelion

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The Gendo Pose. Probably doesn’t need much explanation and while it isn’t really a cosplayer favourite, it is an overly referenced and parodied look in anime. Plus, it is all kinds of fun to strike it in meetings when no one knows what you are doing. Even more fun if one person knows what you are doing and the rest are oblivious.

Number 2: Full Metal Alchemist

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I dare you to tell me you watched either version of Full Metal Alchemist and didn’t at one point in the month after the viewing clap your hands together when something broke or didn’t work. It may not be the coolest pose but once again it is all about the attitude while doing it. This isn’t a clap your hands if you believe in fairies moment.

Number 1: Sailor Moon

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I should probably attribute this one to the fact that I was significantly younger when I watched Sailor Moon but I most definitely spent more time than I will ever admit practicing and perfecting each of the Sailor Scout’s poses. And their attacks. And pretty much anything else to do with the show. Favourites were of course Jupiter and Mars for attacks. But very little beats Sailor Moon’s transformation stance and then her little monologue ending with “In the name of the Moon, I’ll punish you”.

Okay, time to spill. What is your favourite anime pose or which one will you admit to practicing in front of your TV?


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Friday’s Feature: A True Champion Can Adapt To Anything, But Don’t Mess With The Source Material

Last week I reviewed the Netflix Death Note movie and I tried really hard to review it as a movie in its own right rather than as a poorer version of the psychological masterpiece that is the original anime (at least the first half of it). However, while I read a lot of reviews about this movie, what I noticed repeatedly was that a lot of reviewers were not reviewing the movie on the screen. They were reviewing how well it managed to follow a different script or the manga. Some reviewers even put side by side pictures of the live action characters from the American production with the anime version of the character as though this somehow added weight to their argument that the movie was appalling.

Now, I don’t actually want to argue about whether the movie was good or not because that isn’t even the issue. While I enjoyed it on my second watch through, there are some actual plot and character problems that the movie has, even ignoring the source material and the changes that were made, and it definitely has some pacing issues in the second half. Is it the single worst thing I’ve ever seen and would I threaten the production team with having their names written in a Death Note? Probably not, but nor do I care to try to defend the movie because this movie is pretty much doomed to be a five minute discussion topic and then the world will move on.

However, I have to wonder why fans get so attached to the source material that any variation feels like some kind of criminal act? By its very nature, adapting material forces changes. From manga to anime, anime to live action, it is kind of certain some things are going to be lost or changed. Some because of the medium involved and others because of different interpretations, and still others by deliberate choice. While those choices may produce a lesser quality work (and regularly do, I’m not even going to try to claim that the majority of works that have ended up with this treatment aren’t pretty dreadful) it isn’t necessarily because they chose to change them. In the case of Death Note, I would actually argue that the changes didn’t go far enough.

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In an effort to pander to the fans of the manga and anime, several characters and events were left in the film, though they served little purpose and actually just took up screen time that could have better been spent on fleshing out some of the more original ideas. The pacing fell apart toward the end because we’d wasted time building L up as any kind of antagonist when he actually wasn’t the one Light had to confront, and because they bothered to leave Light’s father in the story as a character of any significance. Which of course in the other variations of the story, L and Light’s father are important and of course should have screen time, but in this version of the story, they were merely the face of the police, but the climax isn’t about Light facing off against the police. It is about Light facing off with Mia, his partner who for whatever reason wants to use the Death Note to judge whoever she wants.

If you sat through Netflix’s Death Note and felt frustrated by the ending, think about how much better it would be if L just remained a background character. A voice on the TV reassuring people that the police were looking for Kira, and someone Light mocked to make himself look good to Mia, and then they went about their business. What if the police received a tip that Light and Mia might have been Kira after they were overheard discussing the Death Note in the school grounds (because they do and that is stupid), so the police still show up at the dance forcing Light to tell Mia to go to the ferris wheel and still leading to a chase sequence, only no L and no space gun.

Suddenly the whole sequence is cleaner and less complex because you aren’t trying to deal with L’s emotional break down which is unimportant to the viewer because this version of Death Note gave us no reason to care and you aren’t trying to figure out what is with the gun. Light no longer has to try to justify his actions in hysterics and we actually have time to give Mia some actual character development. It would all work so well.

However, let’s pitch that idea to Death Note fans.

So, I’m going to make a live action version of Death Note.

Go on.

It’s going to be set in America.

What?

No, it will be fine. We’ll just give Light an American sounding surname. No problem.

Assuming that’s true, what else will you change?

Okay, I’m going to get rid of L as a main character. He’ll still be there, but the investigation isn’t going to get that close to Light, as I’m going to focus on how Light changes as a character because of the Death Note rather than how smart he is and how well he can play cat and mouse with a detective.

Right, so the table just got flipped and that discussion ended rather abruptly. Because for some people that change means it is no longer Death Note. What it means to be Death Note is gone. For me though, Death Note is the power to kill with the book. How that power is handled by different people in different times and places could be fascinating. There’s an endless parade of stories that could come from that idea and some of them could be brilliant. They may not involve two super geniuses anonymously facing off using the entire world as their battle ground, but the stories could still be pretty brilliant. So that is where I feel that saying the reason the Netflix Death Note movie is not that good isn’t because they changed the source, but because they didn’t have enough confidence to take the core mechanic and make it their own. They tried to have their cake and eat it, by appealing to fans by keeping things they should have just cut and trying to make a very different style story at the same time.

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But if we turn our attention to the other big adaptation that got people talking, Ghost in the Shell, we have much the same argument. Some people accusing Hollywood of White Washing, others saying that the writers missed the point, still others saying Scarlett was not a good Major whereas some would say she did a fine Major. But maybe it is the fans missing the point.

I don’t know how many of you have ever read the novel ‘Jaws’. I’m sure most of you have either seen the movie or know of it. It’s a great movie. Lot’s of suspense and jump scares, excellent musical score, some buddy moments with the cast, and of course a giant shark eating people. It’s classic and it works. But the movie wasn’t supposed to be that suspenseful. The shark was supposed to appear a lot more and the reason we only get limited glimpses of it, adding to that great atmosphere, is because the shark malfunctioned and they couldn’t get any more footage of it. The drunken singing and storytelling occurred because one of the cast was genuinely drunk (regularly). Many things that make that movie amazing occurred entirely by accident.

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And when you read the novel, aka the source material, what you find is an incredibly different story and one that the movie was clearly never trying to tell. Yes, there’s still a killer shark. But there’s also a love triangle between Brody and the scientist and Brody’s wife and the book spends a lot of time on the drama and relationship aspects and far less time with the boys drinking on the boat. It is almost as if the only thing kept the same were some of the character names and the killer shark. I’ll also point out that the movie is much more entertaining than the book, though doesn’t have the depth of characterisation you will find in the book.

But comparing the two is kind of pointless. The book has its place and its audience and it inspired one of the greatest classic horror stories to hit the cinema. The fact that the two stories have ended up vastly differently doesn’t mean that the movie is trash or that the writer should somehow be fed to the broken mechanical shark.

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To bring this back to anime though, I think Sailor Moon (1990’s) and Sailor Moon Crystal are a great example of why following the source isn’t the be all and end all. I loved the original Sailor Moon anime. Yeah, it isn’t following the manga but as I didn’t even know it was based on a manga when I was young that isn’t really a criticism I care for. It was a great story and one I fell in love with. That didn’t mean I wasn’t excited about Crystal. Seeing the story in a new form. Same characters but with a different interpretation. One that was apparently closer to the source but different from the one I knew. The end result is that while the main characters did great out of Crystal, the Sailor Scouts really get sidelined a lot and their personalities are pretty bland. So, sure, fans of the manga may really appreciate Crystal for how true it might be, but for me, while it is great to see Sailor Moon with more modern visuals and less filler, the 1990’s version is always going to be my go to version for the champion of Love and Justice.

I’m going to reiterate that the point of this post wasn’t to tell you that Death Note was an amazing movie. Nor was it to criticise people who want to criticise the movie. It was more a musing on how our preconceived notions of what something should be like affect our ability to accept variations on it. Which makes me wonder why we have so many reimaginings of super heroes and why we’re tolerant of those guys getting darker and grittier with every retelling but aren’t happy to see a character made more human or actually get a girlfriend.

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Anyway, over to you and I’m sure I’m asking for it but let me know your thoughts on how fans deal with adaptations of source material.


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Tuesday’s Top 5: Female Characters with Black Hair in Anime

Well, it had to happen sooner or later, but I’m finally turning my attention to the raven haired characters in shows. While not as flashy as certain other colours, there’s something to be said about the beauty of black hair. Below are my top 5 female characters from anime with black hair and I’d love to know your picks. I kind of based the selection on how cool a beauty they were so some of my favourite black haired characters got cut a little bit (sorry Sawako). Next week I’ll turn my attention to the guys, though I’m pretty sure people who’ve followed the blog for awhile already know who is going to be number 1.

Please note there are potential spoilers in the descriptions below.

Honourable mentions: Rukia Kuchiki (Bleach) and Ran Mao (Black Butler).

Number 5: Yukino Yukinoshita (My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU)

The cool leader of the service club, Yukino has poise, grace, and a fairly nasty tongue in her mouth that will quickly rid you of any self-delusion you have. That said, she’s at heart an honest and hardworking person (though she may not be fully honest with herself sometimes). They say that still waters run deep and that is pretty true of Yukino as she goes about her business and interacts with the other members of the service club.

Number 4: Rory Mercury (GATE)

Do not let the cute costume fool you. This black haired beauty is almost a millennium old and a demi-goddess to boot. You do not want to mess with her even if she isn’t wielding her scythe because she’s another on this list with a dangerously sharp tongue. While Rory has some very fine moments on screen (when she isn’t being used for fan service purposes), her finest hour came when she visited earth and was testifying about the actions the soldiers took on the battlefield.  It was a fantastically delivered speech that left very little room for argument.

Number 3: Mei Misaki (Another)

For someone being shunned by her classmates in a desperate but futile attempt to ward off a death curse, Mei Misaki certainly defines grace under pressure. You almost want to see what she was like at school prior to entering grade 9 just to see whether the girl we meet is who she always was or whether the successive pressures of being in the class, being made invisible, and the death of her sister played a role in creating the cool and quiet Mei we meet.

Number 2: Rei Hino (Sailor Moon)

Rei is an interesting character, mostly because she can switch between cool and sophisticated to middle school brat in the blink of an eye (and usually when in the presence of Serina). Still, in the 1990’s Sailor Moon, she was the cool beauty of the group and the sometime rival for Darien’s attention prior to the whole revelation that he was Tuxedo Mask etc. I’m kind of glad Sailor Moon got an update if for no other reason than it saved Rei from some of those dreadful 1990’s fashion choices (the pink overalls are definitely springing to mind).

Number 1: Yuuko (xxxHolic/Tsubasa Chronicles)

The cool and mysterious dimensional witch and a very intriguing lady, Yuuko can be every bit the lady, or she can drink herself silly while lazing about and still look cool doing it. Don’t expect a straight answer from her and don’t expect a favour without payment, but she does always honour her agreements no matter how hard a bargain she drives. With a fantastic wardrobe full of a wide variety of truly glamorous and unique outfits, Yuuko is my number one pick for a true cool beauty with black hair in anime.

That’s my list done so throwing it over to you. Which lovely ladies have made your list?


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Tuesday’s Top 5: Sailor Moon Episode Villains

While I was a big fan of the 1990’s Sailor Moon, I remember how useless some of the individual episode villains were (and how ridiculous some of their costumes looked). I guess when you are a throw-a-way villain of the week it doesn’t really matter. Still, here’s my list of top 5 Sailor Moon episode villains. My criteria here are that they had to be introduced and killed in the same episode, they came from season 1 of the original 1990’s anime, and they made me actually remember them. As an added bonus, their outfit had to be totally ridiculous (though that more or less goes without saying).

Please Note – There will be spoilers below.

Honourable mentions this week: Murid (because of her dream or illusion ability) and Petasos (because she looks ridiculous).

Number 5: Ramua

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Early in the series, Serena and Ami are investigating some cursed clock and they end up encountering Ramua who apparently has the ability to control time.  What’s interesting is that while Sailor Moon gets transformed into a child at one point, Ramua doesn’t just cause her to die of old age instantaneously which is what I would think an effective villain would do at that point in time. Anyway, Ramua makes the list because of her striking facial features, and because they make such a big deal later on about Sailor Pluto being the guardian of time and yet here’s a villain playing with it like it is nothing.

Number 4: Garoben

Garoben isn’t exactly spectacular as a villain and her appearance is pretty cliché, though that weapon attached to her hand looks pretty deadly. The reason she’s on the list is because she was the first villain who made me realise even as a younger viewer that Sailor Moon wasn’t your typical girl’s cartoon. She literally grabs Ami by the head and shoves her face at the computer screen. That kind of hands on violence was almost unheard of in 90’s shows aimed at young girls. Whenever I think monster of the week, Garoben is one of the faces that immediately comes to mind.

Number 3: Cameran

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Not entirely sure if I got the name right and googling this one got me more confused as I saw more variations. While she was a later villain in the story and wasn’t particularly noteworthy, except for the part where she foolishly zapped herself with her own power which kind of makes her memorable, Cameran is on the list for the sheer ridiculousness of her design. What is with those shoulders? I honestly had to wonder if she would actually be able to even move her arms properly.

Number 2: Blizzar

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Okay, take in that outfit for a moment. Are we actually supposed to take a villain literally wearing snowmen that look like they are screaming in pain seriously? Despite that, Blizzar was actually a pretty decent villain of the week. She transformed from a skier who was very fit so actually had some good moves on her. Plus the scouts were separated so it wasn’t like they could gang up on snow-ball girl.

Number 1: Shakoukai

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I don’t know if it is the fact that she was a villain who didn’t resort to screaming or empty threats, or whether it was because she’s covered in clam-shells that somehow shoot clay, but Shakoukai (or the English name: Polite Society) was always one of my favourite villains. I liked that even mid-battle she felt the need to correct Sailor Moon’s grammar and was so upset by getting conflicting commands she literally just stopped fighting and waited for Sailor Moon to heal her. All and all, she was an interesting villain though not perhaps the most effective.

Okay, that was my list of Sailor Moon monster of the week villains. Who would you have chosen from Sailor Moon or who is your favourite monster of the week villain from any anime?


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Tuesday’s Top 5: Visually Appealing Anime Titles

One thing  I learned absolutely while trying to write this list is I have a clear taste when it comes to how a series title should look on screen. Basically anime titles fall into three categories for me. Completely forgettable, eye-sore, or nailed it. There’s very little middle ground. The ones in the list below are titles that stuck in my mind long after I finished watching the show. They are iconic without being crazy busy with details. More importantly, they fit the show that they are preparing you for. As always this list is very subjective so I’d love to hear your choices on anime titles that have visual appeal and why in the comments below.

Please Note – Probably no spoilers this week.

Honourable mentions go to: Vampire Knight, Blood Lad and Tsubasa Chronicles. Though from more recent titles, 91 Days was pretty impressive and probably deserves a spot on the list below.

Number 5: Sailor Moon (1990’s)

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Alright, it doesn’t look like much these days but back when I first saw this anime the opening song and the final shot with the girls striking a pose behind the title really left an impression. You have the main cast, including the cats (even before all the characters were introduced so you knew who was coming), you’ve got the crescent moon in both the sky and behind the title, you have the love heart over the I, and the weird spot light on the scouts with the rest of the background detail left kind of hazy but still quite pretty. By my tastes today, I probably wouldn’t think too much of this title, but the lingering impression it left forced me to concede this title serves an absolute purpose in appealing to the target audience of the show so it deserved a place on my list.

Number 4: Another

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There’s definitely something to be said about simplicity and Another get’s it right. Basic red on black is pretty standard, particularly for horror, but the letter design and arrangement, all just that little bit off, adds to the general creepiness of what you are about to watch.

Number 3: Evangelion

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When I first thought of this topic for a list, I believed Evangelion would end up being my number 1 choice however when I looked closely at each of the titles in my short list, it just didn’t quite measure up. Much like Sailor Moon, this one has the advantage of me watching it when I hadn’t watched a lot of anime, and it left a lasting impression so even as I look critically at it now, I remember the genuine sense of excitement that title used to invoke in me. Okay, it’s simple text but the colour choice and composition are striking enough to draw you in and the general feeling of a whole bunch of things mashed together kind of fits the story you watch unfold.

Number 2: Attack on Titan

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I’ll be the first person to admit, I’m not actually that big of a fan of Attack on Titan. I really enjoyed it and the first episode really did make me sit up and take notice but by the end of season one I found the whole thing to be slowly losing momentum. That doesn’t stop the title being very visually appealing and the promotional posters for this anime, with the title centred and the whole thing causing our eyes to sweep from Eren in the front all the way to the looming giant at the top just works (incidentally this one promotional poster that came with a DVD that I actually have up on a wall because I really enjoy looking at it). The title itself isn’t the most flashy, but it is distinct enough in its choice of font that it is instantly recognisable on any of the promotional materials and is hard to miss when you run your eyes over the spines of many DVD’s.

Number 1: Bleach

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Okay, don’t start prepping all your reasons why I am wrong. This title screams what the show is, which is larger than life. More importantly, this basic text title with it’s red, white and blue colour scheme is absolutely recognisable and stands out from the crowd. The flames out the side frame it perfectly. The whole thing is fun and not taking itself overly seriously while at the same time making you feel there’s something more to it.

Bleach actually gets a double hit here because in addition to the series title being iconic every single episode gets it’s own eye-catching thematically appropriate episode title screen. Preparing you for the episode to come in both subject matter and tone (even if you don’t get it when you see it at the start of the episode by the end you’ll know exactly why the title looked like that). Eventually I’ll do a top 5 list of episode titles for Bleach because they have some very cool designs.

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Alright, over to you. What anime titles have grabbed your attention?


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Friday’s Feature: The Strange Case of Madoka Magica

There’s been a lot written and said about Madoka Magica (or Puella Magi Madoka Magica) since it came out in 2011. For the most part people have viewed this series as a critique of magical girl series in general or at the very least a subversive entry in the genre of magical girls and certainly the show can be viewed in this manner.

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Since it came out there have been countless other ‘dark’ magical girl stories and almost universally people have either compared them unfavourably to Madoka Magica or just not felt the same kind of emotional punch that Madoka delivered. While it isn’t really fair to dislike a series like Magical Girl Raising Project because it isn’t Madoka, the comparison from the start was pretty much set in stone and unfortunately the opening episodes of that series didn’t have anywhere near the visual or emotional impact needed to sway an already fairly jaded audience. From reading the reviews, those who stuck with it mostly felt it was a rewarding watch, but many, including myself, abandoned ship early on.

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What I find interesting about Madoka, more so than any comparison we might make to shows that have come out after it, is that it is consistently called a magical girl show. What actually sets Madoka Magica apart from every other magical girl show that I’ve watched and every satire of the genre, is that Madoka isn’t a magical girl. This is an origin story for a legend that will be told by magical girls in the world that is created in the final episode of Madoka, but it isn’t a story about a magical girl.

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If we make the obvious comparison to Sailor Moon we can immediately see the difference. Episode 1 of both shows starts with a flashback or dream sequence to some major conflict and then our protagonist wakes up in the very mundane and ordinary world and goes about their morning business. These openings are almost perfectly synchronised really and these two aren’t the only ones. Card Captors has pretty much the same opening sequence as do dozens of other shows in this genre. Okay, so I’ve just proved Madoka is following along in the path of a standard magical girl show. Where does it change?

By the end of episode 1, Serena has met Luna, been given her brooch, transformed into Sailor Moon and defeated the first villain (with some help and support from Tuxedo Mask). Sakura has released the Clow cards and partnered up with Kuro to hunt them down in Card Captors. If we look at Shugo Chara, Amu has hatched her first egg and had her first character change. In all of these shows, by the end of episode 1 we know our protagonist is special and can use special powers.

So episode 1 of Madoka?

Yes, there are magical girls and Kyuubey has appeared in all his evil cuteness. Madoka has not become a magical girl. Neither has Saya at that point. Madoka remains an observer of the magic in the world.

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And this remains true for Madoka until the very end of the series. The story explores the agony of whether or not to take that final step from the ‘safe’ and normal world into the world of magical girls where you can have a wish granted but the cost it comes with is enormous (and mostly not spelled out in the contract).

To go back to Sailor Moon, this would be like having the story told from the perspective of Molly. She watched her friends transform, doesn’t know the whole story but knows something is going on, wants to help but ends up fretting and hoping from the sidelines. That’s Madoka’s role through the vast majority of the story. The only difference between Madoka and Molly is that Madoka has the chance to change her circumstances whereas Molly is just destined to be a side character.

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This is where Madoka actually does become a critique of the magical girl genre. In most of these stories we are seeing it from the insiders point of view. And more importantly, the initial transformation from ordinary to magical is over in an instant. One episode and done. While the character might later have doubts or second guess themselves, they are already transformed and have power so to not use it would be a tragedy. Their path is set and more or less locked in stone and any protests they may verbally make or threats to quit are more or less futile and the audience knows that.

A truly subversive magical girl series might have a member of the team actually quit for real and not have some epiphany and come back. That would actually really mess with the audience expectations to have them genuinely sit on the sidelines and let the tragedy unfold when they have the power to stop it and they choose not to act.

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Madoka shows us the story almost entirely from the outsiders point of view. Madoka is the outsider and while initially Saya is also an outsider, Saya jumps in to the world of magical girls and becomes yet another case study for Madoka in the tragedy that is unfolding (and one day I will focus on Saya as the definition of a tragic character but that isn’t the point of this post). This extended belaboring of the ‘choice’ magical girls face finally makes audiences face all those characters saving the world at the risk of life and limb and makes the audience really understand what is sitting beneath all the pretty costumes and love hearts. Madoka isn’t about tearing down the magical girl genre, it is about rethinking the reality faced by the characters and putting a new voice into the forefront of people’s minds.

That Madoka will eventually also choose to step into the world of the magical girls, knowing exactly what her decision will lead to and finding a way to still use that in her favour is a remarkable way to end the show because it combines her transformation, final battle, and transition into legend all into one sequence. Madoka doesn’t become a magical girl and then fight to save the day. She becomes a magical girl and uses that to save those she has come to treasure, creating an entirely new reality where she exists only as a dream or memory in the lives of those she touched. We never get to see Madoka in her own reality as a magical girl because she never exists as one in the time sequence we follow. We only see her as a magical girl in flashbacks to other realities and in dreams.

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For me, Madoka Magica will always be kind of special. There’s certainly issues with the narrative in places and some of the characters aren’t as well developed as you would like, but it has done its job at reframing what magical girls are and it has done it in a way that doesn’t take away from the tiara wearing girls before it.

Ultimately this is why the so called imitators that have come after have fallen short. And I know some of them aren’t actually trying to imitate Madoka, but they feel like the writer just grabbed the idea of dark magical girl story because Madoka did well without understanding that it wasn’t the shock deaths and darkness that held the story up. What holds Madoka up is an understanding of what had been missing from all those other magical girl stories and Madoka neatly filled in that gap. This is the origin of a magical girl. This is the agony they face as they leave behind what they know and go to face a monstrous danger. It is also the end of a magical girl as she gives her life and entire being to save the world (with no do-over or last minute reprieve or rebirth). That is why simply calling it a critique or a subversive magical girl story does not begin to do it justice.

What are your thoughts on Madoka?

 

Tuesday’s Top 5: Saddest Death Scenes

We all know the scene. It’s usually about two thirds of the way through the story and the nice character, the one we all love, suddenly gets cut down. What makes it even sadder is that usually the only purpose their death serves is to give our protagonist a renewed focus. yep, the guys that killed your friend are evil. Now you need to go get them back.

Okay, not every sad death scene goes like that. But you must admit it’s fairly common in anime. My list below are the deaths that came in isolation (no group deaths), in non-horror/slasher anime, that serve as a critical plot point and really crushed me. As such, it’s an entirely subjective list. Feel free to add your own in the comments below.

Please Note – There are spoilers below. You have been warned.

Honourable mentions this week go to:Shirou Fujimoto (Ao No Exorcist), Nagisa Furukawa (Clannad After Story), Art (Hamatora), Kuro Sensei (Assassination Classroom), and Mikoto Suoh (K).

Number 5: Maes Hughes from Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood

Kind of a given going into this list that Maes Hughes would appear. Arguably one of the most well remembered anime deaths of all time. What makes Maes stand out (I feel) is that he is a genuinely sweet character, a family man, and very few of the main cast in Full Metal Alchemist die. They get injured a lot and there are some deaths, but Maes is really the only one that get’s treated as a true death with the funeral and the mourning family.

While Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood plays this for the emotional punch and uses it to drive first the Elric brothers and then Mustang into action, Maes’ death is more than just a cheap plot device. It is a devastating reminder that life and death are at the core of the story. If you look at the timing, it has been a long time since the hit from the death of the Elric Brothers mother, and quite a length of time has passed since Nina’s tragic end. There are many lighter moments in the show but they always come back to the darkness at the centre of the story and Maes’ death is definitely one of those moments.

Number 4: Mikage from 07 Ghost

I was really torn about this one. Certainly, I  was really crushed when he died (or rather was horrifically murdered after being forced to try to kill his best friend) but then the show pulls the whole his soul is still with you in the form a really cute animal that follows Teito around for the rest of the run time. It kind of takes some of the impact out of the death.

Clearly though, I decided Mikage’s demise was one of the saddest deaths in an anime. I think it is more that Mikage never did anything to deserve anything that happened to him. Sure he helped his friend escape the military and that certainly deserved some punishment, but having his family threatened, being possessed, and forced to try to kill his friend before choosing to die so that neither his family or his friend would be hurt, just kind of sucked all round. This was definitely a sad death scene. (It doesn’t help that the rest of the anime kind of suffers from Mikage’s lack either).

Number 3: Joker from Black Butler Book of Circus

I started noticing a theme in my choices. Characters who aren’t inherently bad but end up on the wrong side of the protagonist for whatever reason or try to turn over a new leaf and get killed in the process.

Joker is a pitiful character. He originally comes off as quite strong and together but it becomes quickly apparent that he is desperately trying to hold up his little sand castle of dreams even as the tide is washing it all away. By the time Joker is killed he literally has nothing left to live for. It is sad and tragic and just leaves you feeling empty inside.

Number 2: R from Jormungand

Hard to believe that any death in an anime about an arms dealer travelling with body guards would get to you but R manages it. In the first season he is almost a non-entity, but he is definitely there. After seeing the second season I went back and watched and began to see how they had managed to make a character who seemed so in the background such a major emotional turning point.

R is working against Koko with the American government, but when one of their agents targets Jonah, R throws caution to the wind to save the child soldier, in the process revealing his duplicitous lifestyle to Koko before getting himself very dead. The impact this death has on Koko is enormous and unlike most of the deaths before it, this one causes the show to pause for some quiet reflection which hits the audience hard.

Number 1: Nephrite from Sailor Moon

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Firstly, what makes a death sad is emotional connection to the characters, and given that Sailor Moon is one of my all time favourite anime, it should be no surprise that I feel an emotional connection to the characters. Secondly, I saw this when I was pretty young and unlike most other cartoons, they just knocked off a fairly major character, on screen, and one who had redeemed himself (kind of), and they didn’t even wait for a season final or something. This was really different from anything else I was watching at the time and I honestly couldn’t believe what I’d just watched. I remember sitting and staring at the screen completely stunned. I wanted to scream, “But he just saved Molly!”

No matter what anime deaths come after this one,  I will always remember Nephrite. Even though he was a villain, and not a particularly good one, and even though he was barely in a quarter of the series, his death had real impact.

Okay, who do you have on your list?

Tuesday’s Top 5: Sailor Scouts

Well, it had to happen eventually that I would do a Sailor Moon themed list and to be honest, top 5 sailor scouts is an easy start. I’m certain there will be other top 5 lists in the future that revisit our very favourite ditzy heroine. To keep it simple (and so that I could finish the list and not go crazy) I stuck to only Sailor Scouts from our solar system. It just seemed to make more sense. Also, I stuck to the 90’s anime adaptation when making my decision. If I ordered the characters from Crystal, they’d probably be in a different order and I have not read the manga.

Feel free to share your favourites (or your order) in the comments.

Please Note – There are spoilers below. You have been warned.

Honourable mentions this week go to Venus, Mars, Uranus and Neptune. Also, an honourable mention to Tuxedo Mask. Which kind of tells you who is on the list, but the question becomes, what order?

Number 5: Sailor Moon

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Maybe it’s sad that the title character only just made the top 5 and was nearly edged out by Mars or Uranus. However, Sailor Moon is just not that good of a Sailor Scout. Her most amazing moments come when she is transformed into the Moon Princess which I don’t really count as being a scout. Sorry, Serena, but as a scout you just aren’t quite as interesting as some of the others.

Number 4: Sailor Pluto

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Right from when we were first introduced to Pluto as the Keeper of Time, standing and guarding the doorway, I loved Pluto as a character. She seemed so sad and tragic and yet powerful at the same time. Later, she gets more involved (for reasons that are not explained in the 90’s anime) and she is every bit as awesome as she appeared to be. The reason for her placement at number 4 is her impact on the series is fairly negligible. Really, anyone could have been the door keeper and after that, Pluto is interesting but non-essential.

Number 3: Sailor Mercury

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The much needed brains of the group, Ami regularly is overlooked because she isn’t as active in some of the fights. That said, despite being mostly the brain, when she needs to, Sailor Mercury dives in to the battle. Her confrontation with Tuxedo Mask in Season 1 was superb and her chess show down in Season 2 (combining combat and brains) was a real shining moment. She’s definitely an asset to the team.

Number 2: Sailor Saturn

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It’s really hard to imagine that Sailor Saturn wouldn’t be on someone’s favourite scout list. She’s beautiful, fragile, and yet terrifyingly powerful all in one plot defining package. Hotaru stole the show during season 3 and her being transformed back into a baby was one of the most emotional moments I had while watching the original series. Plus, her uniform is one of the most adorable (not really the main point of the list but it is one of the better looks). Also, her weapon actually looks like a weapon and not a cheap toy.

Number 1: Sailor Jupiter

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I’ll admit that Lita might be a bit of a sucker for a cute guy, but as Jupiter she’s physically the strongest of the inner scouts, her power (originally) shoots lightning at her enemies (and occasionally her allies), and she’s the only one of the original group that never turned their back on Serena during Rei and Serena’s power squabbles. She weaponises earrings, cooks up a storm, is competitive and yet super sweet. Sailor Jupiter is a great character and my personal favourite Sailor Scout.

For those of you who are still with me after my fan-girl list, who would you have included and in what order?

 

 

 

Tuesday’s Top 5 – Characters with Blue Hair (Female)

My very first Top 5 list featured our fiery red headed females, so now it’s time for the characters with blue hair. I will eventually run out of hair colours but I’ll space them out given there are so many other topics to cover. Next week I will cover the anime guys and that’s a list I’m really looking forward to.

So what is so special about blue hair? Other than its a colour you don’t normally see outside of anime, it tops some of the most interesting characters around. I actually started with a phenomenally long list of characters I wanted to feature in this list and slowly whittled it down. My final decision came down to how interesting they were as a character and how distinctive their hair was within their anime.

Please Note – There are spoilers below. You have been warned.

Honourable mentions to Rei Ayaname (Evangelion), Wendy and Juvia (Fairy Tail), and Tsumiki (Acchi Kocchi).

Number 5: Touka Kirishima from Tokyo Ghoul

Touka isn’t exactly a nice character. Her first encounter with Kaneki is anything but nice, and yet she does take him under her wing (I promise that wasn’t a deliberate pun). Touka’s hair isn’t exactly amazing but the style is perfect for her as a character. It kind of insinuates that she’s hiding who she is and keeping the world at a distance, while at the same time allows her to look completely cool and ice cold when she lets herself go. She’s a great character in a dark anime and one who suffers from a lot of inner conflict.

Number 4: Tabitha o Tabasa from The Familiar of Zero

I’ll admit this one might seem left field but even in amongst the many female mages in this anime Tabitha stands out. She’s a total book worm and usually lost in her own little world but when she get’s serious she’s unstoppable and there’s a lot of pain hidden behind those glasses. Mostly a laconic character she still manages to give her friends the advice they need and speaks up when the occasion calls for it. So what’s not to like about an incredibly smart and power magic user who regularly steals the scene with her cool headed and direct approach to the situations the characters find themselves in?

Number 3: Kaname Chidori from Full Metal Panic

No matter how I look at it, Kaname deserves some sort of medal. She’s kidnapped, has medical experiments performed on her, and assigned a body guard that just does not get Japanese high school life and yet she still manages to take most things in stride. She does get a nomination for most useless hair ribbon ever (and if anyone can explain how it even stays in her hair I’d be thrilled). I think it is Kaname’s contrasts between super focussed and serious and extreme violence (in the nicest possible way) that makes her stand out. She’s responsible for a lot of the humour and a lot of the darkest moments in the series, but where she really shines is in Full Metal Panic Fumoffu which focusses far more on Kaname and Sousuke’s everyday school lives.

Number 2: Rikka Takanashi from Love, Chunibyo and Other Delusions

I’ve featured Rikka before in my list of eye patch wearing characters. This time it’s her hair that has our attention. While I’m still on the fence about whether her hair is blue or purple, it is definitively Rikka. In addition to her amazing and distinct sense of style, Rikka is just an incredibly fun character to spend time watching. Whether she’s lost in a delusion, struggling with maths, or coming to terms with her emotions, she is always entertaining (if occasionally heart wrenching).

Number 1: Ami from Sailor Moon

Okay, we probably should have predicted this one. From the original 90’s series, Sailor Mercury was the only scout with any sense and all of the scouts would have been dead at least ten times over without her around. While her bubble power’s effectiveness is questionably, there is no doubt that once she powers up in season 2 she is a very valuable member of the fighting team. Besides, Ami was one of the only scouts to go straight up against evil Prince Darian and she succeeded at getting the crystal away from him and saving all of the trapped rainbow crystal carriers. And she did it without backup. Ami, you rock.

So that’s my top 5 but who would you have put on your list? Next week, we will definitely check out the guys.

 

Friday’s Feature – On Magical Girls (2/3)

Right so we’re back to magical girls and this week I wanted to look at the characters and the magic powers that crop up in these stories. While this is where many of these stories differentiate themselves, there are still a lot of common factors between shows.

Alas, I am only going to be looking at the main characters from a handful of anime. There is too much content to get into side characters and villains (though I may do a post on those guys at some point – it won’t be in this series).

So who are our main contenders? Serena (Sailor Moon – original anime series), Amu (Shugo Chara), and Madoka (Madoka Magica).

I’m going to start with Serena (the person who springs to everyone’s lips). How do we describe her?

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She’s a klutz.
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Who over eats.
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And she’s not particularly bright.
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And she’s a cry baby.

Wow. It’s a good thing she likes cats and rescued Luna or else she was kind doomed as a character. Even her friends regularly run her down but they all agree on a couple of things. Serena is stubborn (and while that is sometimes a negative a certain amount of stubbornness is needed to not just give up on things) and she’s also happy most of the time and loyal to her friends.

As a magical girl, Serena’s path is a long one.

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Her initial transformation aside, she struggles in the early battles to hold her nerve and to use her powers effectively. She regularly needs a pep talk from one of the scouts of Tuxedo Mask to get her moving again and while the threat doesn’t feel very real at times she’d rather let someone else take care of it. However, as the danger intensifies and as Serena ‘grows up’ she begins to embrace her roles as the Moon Princess. Admittedly, it’s midway through season 2 before you see her settle on this and even then she is plagued by the occasional doubt about whether she’d just like to be ordinary.

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Serena and Darien

Serena’s love story is integral to the overall plot as there’s a whole lovers in former lives issue and Serena and Darien’s love regularly saves the plot from falling apart by generating a much needed power boost or saves one or the other from what should be death. While Darien’s presence is very much a positive for Serena’s development, he himself gets very little development or chance to take the lead. It’s a magical girl show so show up, give your speech and then wait on the sidelines until she requires some moral support. I always felt a bit sorry for Darien.

As to the magic itself, Sailor Moon relies heavily on devices. Transformations can be undone by removing brooches and powers rendered useless by knocking wands out of hands. The girls themselves seemingly cannot activate their power without these device and accessories (which makes you wonder how any of the villains ever lost to them when there was such an easy path to victory). The device aside, Sailor Moon is the champion of shouting out attack names and key phrases for transformation in English. I wonder if shouting it louder made your power more impressive?

On to Amu from Shugo Chara.

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I must not smile.

Amu is straight away a different character from Serena. She is cool and admired for being cool and aloof. However, that’s all her outer character and one she has deliberately established. The audience is let on to her inner monologue and uncertainties and we know she’d love to ooh over the cute things and gush at the prince. And unlike Serena, Amu isn’t inherently a magical girl. Nope. She did not get reborn after dying tragically in a past life. Nor was she chosen by destiny. Apparently being indecisive and wishing for a change in your life is enough because Amu created her own magic, even if she regularly regrets it during the first part of the series.

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What? You can’t see the difference? She now has a heart in her hair and she’s ridiculously over the top and exuberant.

Amu’s indecisiveness is crazy. She doesn’t just manifest one alternate personality in the form of a guardian character but three (later four but you know). This leads to a whole range of different transformations, though Amulet Heart is her main go to.

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Yep, I’d look like that too if someone put me in a cheerleading outfit.

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Keep in mind, this isn’t like Sailor Moon evolving in Super Sailor Moon or then becoming the Princess. These are entirely separate identities with totally different powers (more or less the same results though). And then later, of course, we start combining these powers and then things just get silly.

Where Amu is very similar to Serena is the journey she goes through as a character. She matures and stops worrying about petty things quite so much and stops complaining about things not being fair. She learns to just deal with things as they are and take them as they come. She also eventually gets over her ‘Prince’ crush though Ikuto probably had something to do with that.

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Seriously, who needs a Prince when you have a bad boy whose alternate self is a cat? And unlike Darien, Ikuto actually gets to play a more active role in the story. He stirs up the core group, acts as an antagonist, get’s close to Amu and then disappears leaving her to fret for his safety and try to save him. He (like Darien) also gets brainwashed and has to be saved but then hangs around for the final fight instead of ending up with amnesia in the hospital.

The magic here comes from their guardian spirits (which are like manifestations of their dreams). Problem is, these spirits live in eggs and they can get stolen, sealed shut, or broken. Way to shatter your dreams literally. It’s like someone gave you that thing at school where they make you care for an egg for a week, only in this case if you break your egg you will not only have no super powers but become an empty shell of a human being. Tragic.

Once transformed though, the characters generate weapons and magic appropriate to their character. When she’s the cheerleader, Amu uses a baton or pom-poms. When she’s the artist, she uses a paintbrush. As Su, she uses a whisk (so cute and yet so useless – except for remake, that’s a remarkably useful power for cleaning up supernatural messes). I will point out that I spent a lot of time when I was younger trying to make a heart shape with my fingers like Amu and I am still convinced it is actually impossible to position your hands the way she does and end up with a clear heart. You can put your fingers together but it really doesn’t look particularly heart like.

Finally, we have Madoka. And I know, she isn’t a magical girl until the very end of the series. That’s why she’s included. We have the traditional magical girl (Serena), the slightly more modern and self-aware magical girl (Amu) and now we have the not a magical girl and hesitant to become one because it could cause you to die.

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That’s not the only reason Madoka is interesting. She also has no love interest. She saves the romance angst for her best friends to deal with. All Madoka has to deal with is her rampant insecurity because she feels she has no special… oh wait. She is a modern version of Serena with the self-awareness of Amu. Now the pink pony-tails make sense.

Still, the magical girl transformation is definitely impressive – they do make you wait all season for it. And her power is pretty undeniable (she recreates the entire lore by which magic works). Similar to Amu, her power is based on an inner wish, but in this case manifests by making a contract with the dev… Oh no, just Kyuubey. Close enough. Once a wish is made the magical girls get a soul gem that enables them to transform and then their power is kind of linked to their wish. Though watch out, if you get too far away from your soul gem, well you have no soul. This isn’t a good state to be in as it pretty much leaves you dying in a coma.

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I said their power was kind of linked because it’s a little odd. Madoka though has a bow and arrow, because arrows are cool nowadays, but she has the overly frilly dress of someone who grew up on a rich diet of what a magical girl should look like. It’s almost on par with the parody outfit from Is This A Zombie?

Let’s be honest. None of these girls are going to hold their own in a straight up swordfight. Serena will trip, Amu will be sarcastic and Madoka will wring her hands together in distress as she tries to think of a way to help (though which side she would help is debatable). But what these girls do possess:

  • Loyalty,
  • Honesty, and
  • Perseverance

These characteristics are not bestowed on them by mystic eggs, lockets or creepy bunny things. These are traits they have developed through their lives and are traits that allow them to overcome the trials and hardships they face. And that’s the core of magical girl stories. These characters. For just a little while you can believe that you don’t need to be smart or athletic or particularly talented at anything as long as you keep working hard and growing you will one day triumph.

And yeah I’ve missed a huge amount of points and ideas and haven’t even touched on the other cast members (friends and foes alike) but the post is already long enough so I’m calling it. Please feel free to add your points and argument below.