‘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!’”

Anime Review: ‘Sailor Moon S,’ Part 1

Better than it has any right to be.

Sailor Moon S: Part 1 (Season 3). Directed by Kunihiko Ikuhara et al. Written by Sukehiro Tomita et al. Story by Naoko Takeuchi. Starring Kotono Mitsuishi, Michie Tomizawa, and Aya Hisakawa. Toei Animation, 1994-1995. North American re-release by Viz Media and Warner Bros., 2016. 19 episodes of 25 minutes (approx. 475 minutes). Rated TV-14.

Long have I desired to discuss Sailor Moon S with you, mostly because I get to write the word “Uranus” over and over again. I highly recommend that you take every sentence in this essay containing the word “Uranus” and read it aloud, preferably in the presence of someone who doesn’t know the context. Continue reading “Anime Review: ‘Sailor Moon S,’ Part 1”

Major Old-School Anime Titles Hit Blu-Ray

Format war can have a silver lining. As Blu-ray continues to replace DVDs, it seems some old anime series have come back to the market this year. I haven’t been keeping a super-close eye on this like a fanatic, so when I say “back to,” I might be speaking loosely in some cases, but still.

I only regret that, due to life circumstances, my current anime budget is zero. If it weren’t, I’d snatch these up. So, just to be clear, this is a list of stuff I want, not stuff I’m reviewing. I believe strongly in compensating artists for their work, so I don’t do bootlegs, and that has the unfortunate effect of putting a lot of gaps in my first-hand anime knowledge. I’m passing on the news of these titles because a few of these are works I tried to acquire legitimately in the past, but failed to do so. For that reason, their re-release is notable.

This is a handful of arbitrarily selected “want to see” titles based solely on my personal taste. (NOTE: You may need to turn off Adblock to see the images.)

Continue reading “Major Old-School Anime Titles Hit Blu-Ray”

Is ‘Sailor Moon R: The Movie’ Too Gay?

Featured image: Totally a real screenshot from the film and not some crazy cosplaying by GeshaPetrovich.

Sailor Moon R: The Movie, directed by Kunihiko Ikuhara. Screenplay by Sukehiro Tomita. Starring Kotono Mitsuishi, Aya Hisakawa, and Michie Tomizawa. Toei Animation, 1993. In limited release from Viz Media, 2017. Dubbed. Runtime 78 minutes. Rated PG.

We’ll get to the meaning of the deliberately provocative clickbait title of this review in a moment. But first, let’s cover the preliminaries.

So, I just saw Sailor Moon R: The Movie, the first North American theatrical release of a Sailor Moon film, courtesy of Viz Media, which now owns the North American distribution rights. The film originally came out in 1993 and runs a mere hour and eighteen minutes. I hope some other showings around the country are more successful than the one I attended, or Viz Media is going to go broke, and I don’t want them to go broke until they finish releasing the series. Continue reading “Is ‘Sailor Moon R: The Movie’ Too Gay?”

‘Sailor Moon R: The Movie’ Update

I have successfully purchased my theater ticket for the first American theatrical release of a Sailor Moon film, which runs under the impressive title of Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon R: The Movie: The Promise of the Rose: Really Long Name for a Cartoon: It Just Keep Going: Holy Friggin’ Cow: How Many Colons Is That?

Okay, I’m kidding. I think they’re just calling it Sailor Moon R: The Movie for this release, but “The Promise of the Rose” was slapped onto the American release the first time around. This theatrical presentation will also include the first-ever American showing of the short film Make Up! Sailor Soldier, which according to Infogalactic is basically a recap episode for anyone who might be seeing the movie without having watched any of the TV series first.

Except instead of “soldier,” I think the official translation is “guardian” now, which I kind of hate. Admittedly, “sailor soldier” sounds dumb in English, but still.

And while we’re on the subject, it is ironic that, according to Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana Jr.,* sailors view soldiers with contempt and even use “soldier” as an insult meaning “lazy good-for-nothing.” To mimic the sailors’ slangy speech, Dana renders the word soldier as “soger.” According to him, the captain of a sailing vessel might even punish an especially lazy crewman by making him march up and down on the deck, holding a marlin spike as if it were a rifle. Such a humiliation is sufficient to break some men.

… And that has nothing to do with what we’re talking about. Anyway, speaking of laziness, it’s kind of an epic journey to the theater from where I am, but barring some unforeseen contingency, I should be able to make it. I will put in every effort to do so, as I wouldn’t want to be seen as lazy like a soldier. Or sailor. Or sailor soldier. Or whatever.

It will no doubt be a great thrill at last to see a magical girl in the theater … and for that matter, to hear the new dub for the first time.  I’ve been watching Sailor Moon in the Japanese with subtitles. I don’t really like to indulge in the perpetual play-fighting of otaku over sub vs. dub (if anyone really cares that much, let him take the time to learn Japanese), but switching from one to the other will no doubt be jarring.

I’m really looking forward to this. It is supposed to be the best of the Sailor Moon movies.

*And no, Dana Volt is not named after Richard Henry Dana.

‘Magical Girl Raising Project’: The Final Verdict

It’s a bloody mess.

Magical Girl Raising Project, episode 11, “Server Down for Maintenance” and Episode 12, “File Not Found.” Directed by Hiroyuki Hashimoto. Studio Lerche. Produced by Genco (2016). Two episodes of 24 minutes (approx. 48 minutes). Rated PG-13. Available on Crunchyroll.

I was going to review this earlier in the week, but my Flash player kept crashing for some reason. Anyway, let’s get this over with so I can get back to injecting Sailor Moon S straight into my bloodstream. As I mentioned before, Magical Girl Raising Project gave me a hankering for Sailor Moon S, and then Viz Media turned around and supplied.

I’m a heroine addict, and these distribution companies are my dealers.

Here be spoilers. Since we’re talking about the two final episodes, I assume that’s obvious.

Continue reading “‘Magical Girl Raising Project’: The Final Verdict”

‘Sailor Moon Crystal,’ Season 3: The Final Verdict

Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Crystal, Episodes 34 to 39. Toei Animation, 2016. Approx. 144 minutes. Available on Crunchyroll.

Viz Media has finally, after taking its sweet time, produced the full, uncensored release of the first half of Sailor Moon S, the 1990s anime series that roughly follows the third, “Infinity” arc of the Sailor Moon manga. So now seems to be a good time to finish up our review of the third season of Sailor Moon Crystal, which came out this year and follows the same arc.

Character design comparisons: manga, 1992 anime, and Sailor Moon Crystal, swiped from Impact Books.

I had previously been reviewing Sailor Moon Crystal an episode at a time, but I stopped because … well, frankly, I got bored. Hey, it’s not like anyone pays me for this. Continue reading “‘Sailor Moon Crystal,’ Season 3: The Final Verdict”

‘Magical Girl Raising Project,’ Episodes 9 and 10

Let’s get this trainwreck over with!

Magical Girl Raising Project, episode 9, “Notice of New Rules!” and Episode 10, “Super Hot! Back-to-Back Battle Events!” Directed by Hiroyuki Hashimoto. Studio Lerche. Produced by Genco (2016). Approx. 48 minutes. Rated PG-13. Available on Crunchyroll.

Spoilers throughout. Continue reading “‘Magical Girl Raising Project,’ Episodes 9 and 10”

‘Magical Girl Raising Project,’ Episodes 7 and 8

Magical Girl Raising Project, episode 7, “Up Your Friendship” and Episode 8, “Sudden Event in Session!” Directed by Hiroyuki Hashimoto. Studio Lerche. Produced by Genco (2016). Approx. 24 minutes. Rated PG-13. Available on Crunchyroll.

The first of these two episodes is entitled “Up Your Friendship!”

No, up yours, MGRP.

Okay, I gotta admit, my opinion of this thing has flipped once again. It took six whole episodes to get its momentum, but it’s finally picked up. Episode 7 is strong, and episode 8 is basically its second half. It’s good, because these episodes are mostly action, and as I said before, Magical Girl Raising Project works best when there’s fighting going on.

Also, it improves by toning down the ultraviolent gore, having apparently got that out of its system. It finds a balance somewhere between the bloodlessness of episodes 1-5 and the Evil Dead blood geysers of episode 6. It’s bloody, but not stupid-bloody.

Major spoilers from here out, since it’s impossible to discuss otherwise. Continue reading “‘Magical Girl Raising Project,’ Episodes 7 and 8”

‘Magical Girl Raising Project,’ Episode 6

Magical Girl Raising Project, episode 6, “Get the Super-Rare Items!” Directed by Hiroyuki Hashimoto. Studio Lerche. Produced by Genco (2016). Approx. 24 minutes. Rated PG-13. Available on Crunchyroll.

Screw you, Magical Girl Raising Project. Screw you and the talking animal mascot you rode in on.

The show, it appears, is not doing what I’d hoped, but is doing what I predicted. I now return to the opinion I formed initially in my review of the first episode.  Right now, at what I assume (?) is the midway point (and I’m well aware that I’m four episodes behind), I hate the show and just want to get it over with. I’m going to gird my loins, grit my teeth, and watch the whole thing—but only because it has “magical girl” in the title.

If I wanted a sneering, mean-spirited, blood-soaked, nihilistic magical girl story, I’d go read Magical Girl Apocalypse and at least get a few chuckles out of the deal. Magical Girl Raising Project doesn’t even provide the chuckles.

The last time I watched a magical girl anime this unpleasant, it was called Day Break Illusion, which, like our present offering, is an attempt to follow in the footsteps of Puella Magi Madoka MagicaDay Break Illusion at least has a tight structure: its creators clearly knew what their story needed, and they put the pieces together with workmanlike competence and efficiency. The result is respectable, if not exactly enjoyable.

Magical Girl Raising Project doesn’t even have that going for it. It is utterly undisciplined, and its scenes appear disjointed and random. This episode, which swerves into over-the-top gore, is an emotionless mess.

I’m glad I’m watching Revolutionary Girl Utena at the same time to remind myself that there are other, more intelligent ways to deconstruct or go “meta” with a genre. In fact, when I finish MGRP, I might go re-watch the perfection that is Princess Tutu to get the bitter taste out of my mouth.

Major spoilers after the break.

Continue reading “‘Magical Girl Raising Project,’ Episode 6”