Posts Tagged ‘magical girl’

My conceptions of anime` are being shorn.

You could always count on J.C. Staff to make boring, predictable shonen-fests, and the instant you saw their logo pop up, you knew it was time to jump ship. Selector Infected Wixoss (S1) blew that all out of the water, because it has been good — more than that, it has been excellent. I was looking forward every week to a new episode, and each episode satisfied and yet left me hungry for more.

The animation house wasn’t the only strike against Wixoss coming out of the gate: it also revolved around cards. Yuck, cards! Almost every card series has minimal plot, no depth, and no originality. Those series exist just to move product as far as I can tell. The only series in recent memory that cut against that grain was Fantasista Doll. Yu-gi-o fans — stop. I don’t care.

The series starts by introducing Wixoss, a card battle game that has recently become popular. The main character, Ru, plays it with her grandmother. However a certain few people receive a living card, and owning it makes them a selector. Once a selector contracts with the living card, and the selector wins three battles against other selectors, then his or her wish is granted.

I won’t go into any more detail, but Wixoss is also a magical girl series — a dark one. Think Madoka Magica Puelli. Wixoss takes that kind of setup, adds flawless characterization, a taut plot, always appropriate and unsettling music, all in finely-detailed gothic Romantic fashion. It’s heavy; it’s deep; it’s emotional; and it never falls apart or turns into excess.

The animation style is where some may complain. I’d say it’s on the same level as K-on (season 1); darker tones dominate. It’s not super-detailed, and it’s not minimalistic. The money and the time went into crafting an overall effect (colors, cinematography) rather than realism. The same goes for the voice acting. It’s not about virtuoso performances, but acting done so well that the actors disappear into their roles. Tama has the kind of voice she needs to have, for instance, and each character is perfectly identifiable by his or her voice. What really strikes me is not the quality of particular aspects of the show, but rather that everything works together to create a gothic monolith. Nothing grates. Everything compliments.

And the ending? A lot of series seem to have no idea where they are going. Here, it feels like there is a master plan, and the plot just couldn’t fit into just one season. A lot of things are up in the air, but it doesn’t feel contrived. I can only hope that season 2 continues with the same quality and doesn’t turn into a parody of itself like Chuunibuyo did. Please, let it not be!

No trash; rare profanities. With the Romantic setup, the characters are facing things larger than themselves, and so there is this grappling with the supernatural, an awe present. Also, Ru’s character develops from someone who doesn’t participate much in life to someone who is willing to sacrifice, even herself, for her friends. So that great truth is on display.

I’ve been watching the Horrible Subs version and they do a good job. Download from the torrent hole of your choice.

Highly recommended by OO.

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Full Moon Wo Sagishite (Looking for a Full Moon) is one of the exemplars of the magical girl genre, right up there with Hime-Chan’s Ribbon. It undergirds the usual transformation/maturation motif with doom, because the main character, Mitsuki, is fated to die in one year. Plus, it features enough romantic complexity and humor to make the series well-rounded and not simply a genre effort. It is quite emotional and convincingly so.

Mitsuki’s dream is singing, and the principal reason why she sings is so that she can reach Eiche, who has left for America. Her grandmother is opposed to all forms of music, however. One day, two shinigami appear (those who transport souls when the person dies), only they have messed up and have come one year too early. Mitsuki learns of this and becomes even more dedicated in pursuit of her dream.

Given the target audience, I’m convinced that most of the profanities here are mistranslations, but be aware that there’s usually a few of the tstsch/itse in each episode. The animation itself takes a sympathetic perspective towards Mitsuki, instead of an exploitative one; the number of perv shots you can count on one hand. However, Meroko’s outfit is a bit much and that’s in every episode. No gore.

The music deserves a shout-out; it is across-the-board excellent, evocative, emotional, and well-produced. Songs will stay with you long after an episode ends, and I’ve looked around to see where I can find the soundtracks to the show. Unfortunately, the only places that have this now are import shops and they are charging ridiculous prices. So watch out: the music is that good.

The usual OO guide is as follows, with * indicating excellent episodes.

* 01 – The opening theme is catchy and fun. The intro has some arguably loli parts, but once the show gets started, those concerns are washed away. This show has incredible potential. It has everything needed to make it beautifully emotional, tragic, and yet hopeful within this small sphere of an individual life. I’m looking forward to what’s next. We’ll see how well it delivers. The ending theme is cool.
02 – Not bad, but not as great as the first episode. Lower key and kinda off/on. Mitsuki lies a few times.
03 – A few funny parts, one emotional part, a good end, but the rest is way too complex and unnecessarily so. The part about her doc being an ex-idol was funny.
04 – Ok, this is good.
05 – Another good one. Mitsuki has to act like a 16-year old b/c she’s doing a photo shoot, so just appearances won’t cut it. She’s innocent, but also immature. Still a few dodges from the truth, which really weren’t necessary. A good episode besides that.
06 – Ok, but it’s cool to see the inside of a studio and Mitsuki’s reactions to it. The actual plot with Namini is cheezy.
07 – Ok. Finally an ep that’s not entirely stand-alone. I mean, each of them follows linearly, but this one had some connection to the past. I just wish there would be more of a story arc. The ending song changes; the debut song really doesn’t fit the MC though.
08 – Trite, but at least there’s more connection to the prev episode. The formula is getting old here.
09 – Better. More of the past is revealed.
10 – Ok, I’m tired of the whole nearly self-contained nature of each episode. As far as plots go, this wasn’t bad, and it had some depth to it, but it’s all they could do in 20 minutes and so it feels shallow.
11- Ok.
12 – Nothing special. Like a slice-of-life episode. Funny end.
13 – Eh, overly emotional, stand alone episode.
14 – Ok.
15 – Not bad. Some character development, but not a lot. A kind of cute side plot.
* 16 – Plot and character development. Madoka appears with her rotten, vengeful attitude. A cliffhanger ending.
* 17 – Very good.
* 18 – Very good.
*19 – Excellent. Lots of character development. Some funny moments too. Finally Mitsuki comes clean and stops lying to her manager and her doctor.
* 20 – Excellent. Connected to the previous episodes and character development.
* 21 – Very good. Pretty much vs. Madoka.
* 22 – Beautifully heart-warming, hopeful, and triumphant, as well as innocent. One of the best episodes of the entire series.
* 23 – Hilarious. A laugh riot.
* 24 – Great. Full Moon’s second single is decided, Oshiga-san learns that Mitsuki’s dad was in Route L, and Madoka connives to undermine Mitsuki again, plus the foreshadowing of the producer.
25 – Still self-contained, but a bit of trouble is introduced that doesn’t wrap up at the end — Takuto’s memories begin. Realistic treatment of the recording biz.
26 – Connections to the past, some funny parts, the fact that Mitsuki was born out of wedlock is not cool. Mitsuki has no feelings about it, which seems very strange. Her grandmother’s feelings are now at least understandable.
27 – Just shy of very good. Character development.
* 28 – Some character development. Focus on Mitsuki’s friend at school. Touching, warm-hearted, and funny.
* 29 – Excellent.
30 – Very good. Some unneeded profanities, but good character development, and some funny parts.
31 – Ok. Takto’s jealousy is getting kinda old and the lesson here is silly.
* 32 – Good. Semi-standalone.
33 – Ok. Somewhat heavy.
34 – Good. Faint connections. Emotional. Just shy of very good.
* 35 – Excellent. One profanity (tstch has also been translated as ‘darn’ or ‘crap’). It’s heavy and shot through with fear, almost a horror feel. More connections forward and backward.
* 36 – Very good. Mitsuki’s reaction at the end seems hard to believe, though.
37 – The obligatory Christmas episode. Not horrible. Some character development, actually.
* 38 – Wow. Another emotional blowout. Excellent.
* 39 – Excellent. Emotional, flashbacks, and longingly looks forward to the next.
40 – It’s good, surprisingly emotional, and well-done, but the profanities and a flash of skin towards the end hold it back from being excellent.
* 41 – Another excellent one. The ending is surprising and a blow. Mitsuki’s emotions are kinda predictable and unbelievable in one place, though.
* 42 – Just crushing.
* 43 – Again, crushing.
* 44 – Devastating, and like 41-43, connected to the past and with intimations of the future. Doesn’t end with everything wrapped up. Man. This is what the series promised from the beginning.
* 45 – Wow, another excellent one.
* 46 – Absolutely crushing, but it ends well. At last, the dawn.
* 47 – Beautifully heartwarming and yet, tragic. Awesome combo.
48 – Very good. Only a lame camera angle on Meroko detracts.
49 – Not bad. Definitely connected to other episodes, and doesn’t end with everything all wrapped up. A little bit of cheese.
* 50 – So incredibly wonderful that I didn’t think I could take it.
51 – Good, a great ending, but also a total mistranslation (GD). C’mon FSG. Get real.
52 – Not bad, a little over the top, but it ends on an up note — I know, it’s kind of amazing that they pulled it off. It’s not as convincing as it could be. It’s a bit rushed, but I am impressed with stories that end happily and do so without being utter cheese, and FMWS does so. The theology is…eh…I can see some parallels to the truth, but I don’t think it was really thought through.

The problem with this series is that it takes too long to get to the good stuff, that so many of the shows follow the same formula, that Mitsuki learns anything from Takto’s jealousy-inspired harangues, and that for much of the series, there’s no character development. Mitsuki seems a bit underdeveloped as a character, sometimes, but I think that’s because doing so allows the primary audience (young girls) to pour themselves into Mitsuki’s place. Also her singular focus on a guy is unhealthy both emotionally and spiritually. If you place all your hopes upon someone who will let you down, when they do, you’ve got nothing left.

As a result, this series is both emotionally powerful and yet unhealthy. I think if it were shorter it would have been a better series, and also one more poignant. Don’t get me wrong; the good episodes are good, and it ends well, but it spends too much time in territory that almost makes you feel without hope, knowing that the fragile hope Mitsuki has is doomed, yet this continues on and on instead of coming to a quick end.

Anyhow, if you are an emotional person, watch this with care. If you’re not and you just like fluffy happy stuff, this series isn’t for you because of its undertones and the last third of the series. Also, for guys we have to be careful because seeing episode after episode of Meroko’s outfit is a bit much.

A.F.K is the fansub group that did this series, although another group (I forget which) is doing the DVDs. To download this, search for it at your local torrent hole and find the 8.4 Gb release from A.F.K. The files are hardsubbed AVIs, and if you want to get a good idea of the series, download the first episode and then some from 19 onward.

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It’s really hard to write a review about a series that you love. You run the risk of waxing romantic and droning on about the subtle differences that bore people who aren’t already into the show; on the other hand if you collapse your appreciation into terse sentences like “Watch this. It roolz.” then no-one else will understand why the series was good. So between the fanboy and the hip otaku, therein lies the chasm straddled by the honest reviewer, and yeah, it often feels like you’re stretched across a chasm.

Hime-chan’s Ribbon (1992-1993) is something of a legend in anime` circles. It was one of the most mature magical girl animes` before Sailor Moon came along and added fighting to the mix, and other series tried to appeal to (dumb and horny) guys by sexing up series, a la Lyrical Girl Nanohora. So it may be the purest example of the genre out there. At the same time, it was a mature example of the genre in that magic didn’t fix everything and the main character had to grow up and learn NOT to rely upon magic as a cureall. You toss in the above-average musical score, the well-characterized characters, and deft emotional plots, and it’s easy to see how I could write a book about HCR’s virtues.

However, the series was not perfect. Season two and three saw HCR lose the plot about the ribbon and the lessons Hime-chan learned by it. In fact, you could probably skip most of episodes 31-53 and not miss anything. HCR does experience the anime` sag, just later on in the series and for a more prolonged period than usual. It was in the middle that the series came to rely more upon stand-alone episodes instead of story arcs; and towards the end, the highly-annoying summary episodes showed up when they weren’t needed if you had been following the series all along. At times, it was schmaltzy, cheezy, and over-the-top; critics will find most of the series this way, but I found only a few episodes guilty as charged.

However, if you watch the majority of the episodes and savor them for the pure-hearted innocence that they are, you’re in for a heartwarming and humorous experience. About the only moral caution I would throw out is that far too often, Hime-chan relies upon deception, or purposeful lying in order to evade consequences. Nearly all of the profanities I’m convinced are mistranslations (for example, I’ve seen “itse” translated as “brat” elsewhere and not “b*stard” and at least in one case, “d*mn” is used in place of “idiot”).

One other thing that’s worth mentioning is that although HCR is emotional, it is not pointlessly so. I’m in awe of the way this series builds up sorrow to a climax and then at its height, washes it away in a deeper understanding that we are not meant to be defeated or laid low, but to learn and endure and to triumph.

HCR exists in two forms: the complete original fansubbed series (at small rez and with cruddy WMA audio), and the high-quality DVD AVIs being released by Honobono. Unfortunately, Honobono has only made it to episode 21, so you’re stuck with the original if you want to see the other episodes.

For your downloading pleasure:

The high points in this series are episodes 1-31, and then episodes 54-55, and 59-61. And now, one last word — how does it end? Gently. You’re not left feeling hopeless, but rather feeling like Hime-chan’s adventures were continuing and you could return to them at any time. I say this because sometimes the ending of a good series is like the ending of a good book. You hate to see it end and it can be painful. That’s not the case here.

Hime-chan’s ribbon is definitely worth watching.

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