Category Archives: Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica

After Madoka: The Past-Due Future

Now that a couple months have lapsed since I first saw those spoileriffic conclusion to easily the most talked-about anime in 2011, what is there left to say about Madoka?

This post is spoiler free.

My own view of the show is not too far from Wah’s, at least on a technical level. [I get the feeling that he “criticizes” it only because he didn’t like it, compared to the average Shinbo x SHAFT production (which he is borderline irrationally in love for), so I doused it with the proverbial grain of salt.] If I had to use one word to describe Madoka, it would be inventive. The most inventive thing about Madoka is its visuals. A lot of its sharp and jarring directorial cues and visual tricks were already hallmarks of another best-selling anime, Bakemonogatari. And others. To that end, and especially if you subscribe the view that SHAFT’s anime are like things coming out of an iteratively refining process, an assembly line of adaptations, so to speak, then Madoka is simply the latest and best thing.

In other words, I think what’s really inventive was all the contractors the producers roped into putting Madoka together. SHAFT is a studio that contracts out to some of the rising stars from the scene for their work, to the degree that they could. Madoka isn’t the first time they’ve done it; it’s better to say that they have been doing it for years, and the whole thing is finally coming together. It is a refinement. Still, in essence, Madoka was very much of a 1+1=2 product, in that the end result is the sum of its parts. Great parts, they are; I think people were right to assume that Shinbo x Urobuki x Aoki x Kajiura made a powerful combination, and the hype was well-deserved, if we can still remember the months leading up to Madoka’s debut.

Of course, I think it wouldn’t be fair to just say that Madoka was “just sum of its parts.” For one, great parts don’t always make great anime. It’s safe to say that the Madoka collaboration works because Shinbo is pretty good at this now. The original anime gambit pays off because things went according to plan, earthquakes and tsunami aside. There is evidence that magical girls show can sell if it channels some kind of character-centric pathos. And Urobuchi is pretty much one of the top VN hack dudes at this sort of thing. It’s funny, because compared to “Buchi’s” CV, Madoka is, hands-down, uplifting.

So you get an “uplifting” show with strong character-driven pathos as hook while featuring innovative visuals, hacked into the magical girls framework and expectation. The end result is a best-seller is probably not a big surprise to anyone. Well, it’s kind of a surprise in the sense that it bucks the trend. There are a lot of magical girls anime over the years, and especially the ones that appeals to that mysterious group of people so-called otaku; Madoka bucks that trend. And what makes it so is the something that still made Madoka a little more special, a little more attention-hoarding, than the average otaku anime of the same pedigree.

But that something isn’t something we’ve never seen before. I believe it’s the same thing that sold three seasons of Zetsubo-sensei and Hidamari Sketch, or Bakemonogatari. It’s the reason why Wah loves his little SHAFT thing. It’s also the same thing that I am getting rather weary of. Back in 2008 this someething was the bee’s knees, but in 2011 it feels that Madoka was the corner that Shinbo should have turned years ago; instead of Bakemonogatari, we should’ve had something a little more ground-breaking already. In fact, one could even see the original Nanoha series as attempt #1, if we read into the history of magical girls for adults. Were we ready for this kind of stuff back in 2004-2005? We may never know. But to me that is just a sign that we’re years behind where we could have been.

I ask this question because I still remember 2005.  I can tell you that something like Madoka is what we needed in 2005, something to punctuate the moe trend during its loudest hour. Because something like Madoka can actually stick, maybe, and by sticking I mean trending. Or alternatively, we just weren’t sufficiently sick and tired of it at the time and we didn’t complain as loudly as we do now. That is besides if Aniplex’s mercenaries can even do something like that, to pull off the troll, to get hype, during the coolest hour of Cool Japan.

Maybe we were not ready; maybe SHAFT still had a lot of kink to smooth out (see: how badly Bakemonogatari was delayed). Maybe the global great recession was at fault. I don’t know. It’s the fresh breath of air that we could’ve used, is all. It’s the thing that ef was (except nobody took it seriously), but now with 100% more star power (Tenmon is better than Kajiura, you heard it here) and not trapped by the weirdest content owners for anime ever. Madoka is great. It just came up a little too short, a little too late. I just hope SHAFTxShinbo and the rest of the industry are going to keep on playing catch-up.

[Homework: Imagine Geneon USA’s last license was a show named Madoka instead of Nanoha…]

That Anime Character Contest I Get Involved in Every Year…

I have been running a little game over at Megatokyo forums (LOL) for the past few years. Few refers to some number I lost track of, but probably greater than 5. This year, for a change, I wasn’t running the game. But somehow I am now, again.

Long story short,  you get a forum account, you find a poll that has the person(s) you like, and you vote for that person. There’s a schedule of when things happen, and there is a bracket prediction contest in which the winner gets a box of random junk from me and several other people who have stuff to give away. In years past it consists of mostly DVDs, CDs, figures, books of all kinds, stationary, and what weird things you may find in your daily CD Japan email subscription for their goods store. In years past I mail the thing on my own dime, but only as far as Romania. Or was it in some Latin American nation? My geography is not so good. Of course others contributed to the pot via helping out on shipping.

The final round ends in another day or two, and it boils down to Kuroneko versus Homura. I think Kuroneko also headlines Japanator’s “saimoe” contest. That one has a sample size not too different than the one I’m running, maybe 10-15% fewer voters show up there.

I think that is probably going to be a good indicator of Korea’s Best Moe. How will 2ch’s annual Saimoe unfold, that’ll be hard to tell. But I think Homura and Kuroneko are both going to be forerunners, and Kanade will also make a strong show. What are some other “big” polls running out there along the same rules? AnimeSuki does one too, right? And I kind of ignore ISML just because it runs on for way too long and requires too much book keeping.

Personally Ruri Gokou may be the first pure otaku type that I liked since…may be as far back since Hikaru Amano. Man, that’s a long streak. I don’t know how I was largely immune to the girls’ charms from Genshiken, but I was. I typically dislike those otaku-type characters, too. Maybe for once, snark is being done right.

So, That Magical Girls Genre Subversion…

Spoilers for Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica ahead.


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Things I Learned From Anime: Spring 2011 Edition

Good ideas:

  • It’s not okay to catch giant salamanders in the stream, naked.

  • You can beat yourself up over your inner weakness, not because it makes you weak but because it makes you want to kiss some video game nerd.

  • It’s always good to pay Matsurika.

  • Don’t visit your elementary school at night.

  • Don’t run inside a supermarket.

  • Be nice to the crêpe lady.

  • To modulate the smell of your fart, do it in the bath.

  • You don’t just eat meat, you defeat it.

  • Ninja Warriors are better than normal wars.

  • Segues make great weapon platforms.

Bad ideas:

  • To neutralize someone much stronger than you, take away their favorite field hockey stick. It will make them totally weak. (inb4 Sket Dance is a much better magical girl subversion than Madoka.)

  • It’s okay to call your girl your asset. In fact only winners do this.

  • The world is a much better place if crazy people wrapped themselves in futons.

  • As long as you provide insightful examination to the inner qualities of the real-life individuals, it’s okay to write them into your slash light erotica.

  • You can get away with fake yuri breast-sucking as long as you are a magical boy in drag, in an all-girls school. (This one isn’t so bad isn’t it.)

  • Virtual reality makes you learn stuff faster.

  • It’s okay to carve graffiti into things you don’t own as long as you are a little kid.

  • Chasing a wild monkey will lead you to fateful encounters.

  • Physical touching makes a strong first impression. Be sure to poke that person’s face.

  • Hire your shoujo manga editors based on their looks.

  • Drink Pepsi Nex.

  • Combine a prison with an amusement park.

Special Madoka Bonus Idea:

  • Madoka Died For Your Sins.

Happy Easter? I guess? LOLOL whoever thought Madoka had anything to do with Good Friday LOLOLOL. I am missing a few shows, so forgive me. In fact I am still not done with watching ep1 of all the shows I want to check out…

Last Christmas I…

Just going to toss these thoughts down before they fly away with the Spring breeze.

Kore wa Zombie Desu ka? – Korean Zombie Desk Car – It’s my most enjoyable, uh, romp this season. It has just the right kind and right amount of randomness. It’s the sort of otaku show that they make every season, that has the kind of self-referential humor that pisses some cancer-speaking-people off and just annoying enough with its senseless plot to highlight that the point of this exercise is all those things otaku like about…things otaku like. Mousou Yuu! Boobs! References to Kira Kira! Of course the drama was pretty amusing that they can even pull it off, but I am not sure if it was used to the show’s benefit.

The only thing left to do is to make Korean Zombie Desk Car our version of Ankoiri Pasta Rice.

Level E – Really enjoyed the show, just as it is. It’s just retro enough, and I really like the ED for some reason.

Fractale – It’s a nice try Yamakan. The story and the composition is all “there” but it just didn’t come together. Which is probably more unusual than I would expect? How many shows like this fall flat? I think noitaminA is flushing them out.

Hourou Musuko – Best show of the season, and I didn’t even read the manga (nor do I really want to). Pretty much everything about this show is spot on, except how we had to squeeze episodes 10 and 11 together. It does have the “you don’t really need to have a vested interest about transgender issues” thing to it, but I think even that is done just right as to not alienate people unnecessarily. OP and ED are not my bag of tea but they are very well done.

Freezing – It was pretty okay except for the horrible pacing for a boobs show. I don’t get why people say the manga is good either. It feels a bit like High School of the Dead, just much less well-produced.

Infinite Stratos – This is the true moe show for this season. Half of which is because of Charlotte. The other day I karaoke’d Straight Jet, and it went down pretty smooth. It’s a quality tune. The ED, as mentioned previously, is cool ensemble stuff.

Dragon Crisis – This is the moe show for the season, and except Yukana’s character, it’s not even that moe. The one quiet girl was more WEIRDO than moe, the Kugyuu character is Yet Another Kugyuu Character and Rose isn’t setting any records there (not even sure if it sets the “most number of times Kugyuu repeat the same word per episode” record). Maruga and everyone that comes after only offer boobs, and not much else. Maybe you can make a case for furry girl but I don’t want to waste my time. Oh wait, oops, too late.

Star Driver – Save the Best Kiraboshi for Last. What he said.

Kimi ni Todoke – I like the first season more, but this one at least pays off. That said, I’m indifferent about the overall story the series covered in season 2. It doesn’t even make me RAEG like it does for some others. The thematic content, however, was pretty interesting terms of talking about communication.

Casulties: Rio, Gosick, Beelz (I should’ve just go watch Gintama), Merry, LOLOL Index.

The Other Type of Casualty: Madoka