Walpurgisnacht

’Tis April 30th, and April 30th is the eve of the Feast of St. Walburga.

This is, naturally, the most important feast in the official magical girl calendar, since, even though Japan has its own witchcraft folklore, magical girls find their origins in a bowdlerized version of lore borrowed from the Occident. Walpurgisnacht lends its name to the final boss in the mold-breaking 2011 magical girl series Puella Magi Madoka Magica, as pictured above.

Today, therefore, is an appropriate day to watch anime, eat the stale candy corn still left over from Halloween, cosplay as a sailor scout, light a bonfire, stomp on Tokyo, or sell your soul to Azathoth so you can create wormholes to alien planets via the manipulation of non-Euclidean geometry. But do not call up that which you cannot put down.

According to legend, Walpurgisnacht is the night of a witch’s sabbath in the Harz Mountains. The day is celebrated in tongue-in-cheek fashion, similar to Halloween, in Germany, Sweden, and the Czech Republic, according to Lonely Planet.

The Catholic Encyclopedia has the hagiography of St. Walburga, a nun and sister of St. Boniface who lived from ca. 710 to 777. I am unclear as to how her holy day became attached to legends of witchcraft and devil-worship; as usual, internet sources on this subject are mucked up by current urban lore, which makes the old lore decidedly murky. Gothic Horror Stories, for example, tells us that Walpurgisnacht shares its date with the pagan holiday Beltane. This may be, though speculations on the matter are, I assume, about as accurate as the common falsehood (or, at least, unfounded speculation) that Halloween traditions are derived from Samhain, a Celtic holiday about which we in fact know next to nothing, since our only and scant information about it comes from Christian sources of the tenth century.

(On Halloween and Samhain, the History Channel delivers the usual unfounded claims. From the other side of the aisle, The Federalist makes equal and opposite errors. Skeptic actually does her homework and delivers an unusually well-balanced and well-researched essay.)

Anyway, whatever the real history might be, the lore is that Walpurgisnacht is a night of witchery, and this lore finds its way into horror stories and ultimately makes its way across the Pacific to appear in a reference, now almost entirely detached from its roots, in a magical girl cartoon.

Enter the Wrongthink Sci-Fi Giveaway and Get You Some Freebies

Robert Kroese, author of Aye, Robot, is giving away free books. These are books by authors who’ve been lambasted, harried, blocked, or banned by science fiction’s publishing gatekeepers for being insufficiently politically correct.

Kroese explains here. You get seven books just for entering, including Brian Niemeier’s Nethereal, which I’d been meaning to read for some time now. That’s one I got to watch from the ground floor as it went from being a self-published longshot to having its sequel win a Dragon Award.

There’s also a chance to win seven additional novels when you enter.

At the time of this writing, there are two days and five hours left to the giveaway, which you can enter here. Tell them the Deej sent you. In fact, use my link, which gives me more chances to win.

EDIT: I just realized I watched this Robert Kroese from the ground floor, too. He used to run the Mattress Police blog, and I remember when his first novel, Mercury Falls, was a work-in-progress. Cool. I have to admit I haven’t read his books (yet), but I do know he’s a really funny guy with a cutting sense of humor you don’t want to stand in front of. I once crossed wits with him and lost.

Hat tip to Carlos Carrasco.

JAKE AND THE DYNAMO Chapter 26

The Morning After: Jake’s in the doghouse after Pretty Dynamo catches him with Sukeban Tsubasa!

JAKE AND THE DYNAMO

CHAPTER 26: THE MORNING AFTER

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After changing back into her magical form, Tsubasa left by the window. Jake had to press himself into the corner at the foot of his bed so she could—with her eyes squeezed shut—dash past him and leap to what she considered safety. Soon after she was gone, he closed the window, finished undressing, climbed into his pajamas, and lay down.

After all the commotion, the room seemed strangely quiet. His heart thudded in his ears, the only sound.

He tossed back and forth for several minutes, but no position felt comfortable. He had been having trouble sleeping for the last few months. Over the previous week, whenever he had slept, he had slept soundly from sheer exhaustion, but now that he had spent a weekend without anything trying to kill him, his insomnia was back.

The bed with its disarrayed and rumpled bedclothes felt desolate and empty. Thanks to Dana, he didn’t even have his Triceratops toy—not that he actually slept with the thing anyway; he just set it on his pillow on the rare occasions when he made the bed. Most of the time, it was buried somewhere under the covers or squeezed between the mattress and the wall.

He rolled over onto his stomach. In an ill-defined way, he had an inkling of why he couldn’t sleep. Now that he had come firmly and irrevocably into his adolescent years, going to bed alone at night had grown into a crushing, almost intolerable burden. It was worse now because he had tackled a girl in this very bed only a half hour earlier, an event that had provoked a bizarre mixture of fear and desire, leaving his nerves frazzled. He could still smell Tsubasa in his bedclothes: she smelled like roses and sweat—heady, salty, and exciting. The scent made his stomach ache. Continue reading “JAKE AND THE DYNAMO Chapter 26”

Tomorrow …

I’m getting pinched by school projects as we’re coming to the end of the term, and I wasted too much of my Easter weekend writing that gargantuan post on Shugo Chara! instead of writing my reports.

Nonetheless … look for Chapter 26 (finally!) of Jake and the Dynamo tomorrow. I don’t think I better make a definite promise, but … look for it.

Notice it, senpai. Notice it.

‘Shugo Chara!’

Surprisingly sophisticated but unfortunately creepy.

Shugo Chara!, written and illustrated by Peach-Pit. Translated by Satsuki Yamashita. 12 vols. Kodansha Comics (New York): 2013 (2006). Rated T (ages 13+).

Shugo Chara!Shugo Chara! Doki, and Shugo Chara! Party!, directed by Kinji Yasuta. Satelight and TV Tokyo, 2007-2010. 127 episodes of 25 minutes (approx. 53 hours). Not rated. Available on Crunchyroll.

The Background

In the midst of Revolutionary Girl Utena, Kunihiko Ikuhara’s magnum opus, there are a number of screwball gag episodes dedicated to the side character Nanami, a spoiled rich girl who laughs inappropriately, a requisite character in shoujo anime. In one of the most fascinating of these gag episodes, Nanami awakens one morning to find an Easter egg in her bed. Convinced that she must have laid it, she first tries, from embarrassment, to hide its existence, but on account of some misunderstood conversations, she eventually comes to the conclusion that egg-laying is normal for girls. In keeping with the coming-of-age theme of magical girl shows in general and Utena in particular, the egg becomes over the course of the episode a multivalent symbol by turns representing puberty, menstruation, childbirth, and child-rearing.

This one-off episode apparently became the inspiration for another whole magical girl franchise, Shugo Chara!, by Banri Sendo and Shibuko Ebara, the two-woman manga-ka team known collectively as Peach-Pit. They got their start with works aimed primarily at a male audience: the little-known harem comedy Prism Palette, the raunchy magical girlfriend series DearS (which is sort of like Chobits with more bondage), and an action series called Zombie-Loan. In the U.S., probably their most famous title is Rozen Maiden, an unusually classy harem series that’s something like a cross between Pinocchio and Highlander with a veneer of Gothic horror. It’s spawned Internet memes and a modest cult following.

The History

Shugo Chara! was Peach-Pit’s 2006 foray into shoujo manga, appearing in Nakayoshi, a magazine aimed primarily at girls aged nine to fifteen. This same magazine has hosted such titles as Sailor Moon, Sugar Sugar Rune, Saint Tail, and various adaptations of the Pretty Cure franchise. So it’s a magical girl powerhouse. Continue reading “‘Shugo Chara!’”

Art and Update

Featured image: “Those Mahou Shoujo Messiahs” by Ruri-dere.

To let you know what’s up, chapter 26 of Jake and the Dynamo is (finally) off to my writer’s group, so it will appear on the blog in the near future.

I’m writing a novelette tonight, and then in the near future I need to finalize the extra extra story that’s going in Down and Out in Fifth Grade, the first fully illustrated Jake and the Dynamo novel. The editor I wanted has agreed to take me on, and she can get to it in mid-June. So that gives me enough time to get the extra material put together and get things squared away with Roffles Lowell, the illustrator, as well as get the ball rolling on the cover art.

In other news, I’ve got a lot of schoolwork coming up as we’re rapidly approaching the end of the term. And I have a new job.

So things are moving, if more slowly and haphazardly than I’d like. But it’s coming together.

I hope to have a new, fairly extensive review up in time for Easter. There’s a particular magical girl franchise I’ve been meaning to discuss at length, and Easter is the right time to do it. In fact, one of the magical girls in the above image is from the franchise I have in mind. If you can guess which girl it is based on the hint that it’s related to Easter, you can win the grand prize of ONE INTERNET, which I will award immediately.

And Then They Danced

I’m working on a Rag & Muffin novelette where much of the action takes place at a formal ball. I was hunting for some information to improve the verisimilitude and came upon this video of the Stanford Viennese Ball Opening Committee performing a dance to the “Morning Paper Waltz” of Johann Strauss Jr.

I wanted to share it not only because it’s a lovely performance, but also because all of the men are wearing what, as far as I can tell, is proper white tie, though I think one fellow’s had his shirttails come out in the back.