Rawle Nyanzi on ‘Pretty Cure’

Rawle Nyanzi, who blogs both on anime and on Appendix N (that is, those fantasy works that inspired Dungeons & Dragons), noticed that I was preparing to review Glitter Force, which I will seriously get to after I’ve cleared some other things off my plate, so he tried his hand at watching the original Futari wa Pretty Cure.

His comments are amusing. He writes, Continue reading “Rawle Nyanzi on ‘Pretty Cure’”

Now Starting ‘Glitter Force’

The year 2004 represents a sea change in the magical girl genre. In that year appeared two series that would give a new look and feel to mahou shoujo. One was Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, a series aimed primarily at the neckbearded adult male crowd, and the other was Futari Wa Pretty Cure, aimed at young girls. Both would produce spin-offs. Pretty Cure became a cash cow franchise for Toei Animation, with an impressive total of fourteen series to date, the most recent of which, KiraKira☆Pretty Cure a la Mode, began in February of 2017 and is still ongoing as of this writing. There are also several movies, including crossovers that bring together cures from different series.

Both of these franchises are notable for introducing to the genre a heavier emphasis on physical combat. Both series also completed the process of all but eliminating the previously omnipresent romantic subplots in favor of a focus on feminine camaraderie. Continue reading “Now Starting ‘Glitter Force’”

Something Eternal: The ‘Revolutionary Girl Utena’ Rewatch, Part 9

The bird is fighting its way out of the egg. The egg is the world. Whoever wishes to be born must destroy a world. The bird is flying to God. The god is named Abraxas.

—Herman Hesse, Demian

Revolutionary Girl Utena, episode 9: “The Castle Said to Hold Eternity.” Directed by Kunihiko Ikuhara. Character designs by Chiho Saito. Be-Papas, 1997 (Nozomi Entertainment, 2011). Approx. 24 minutes. Rated “16+.”

Watch for free here.

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In this episode, after two weeks of filler, we return to the main plot. The first story arc, known as the “Student Council Saga,” is drawing rapidly to its conclusion. In this episode, the basics of the show’s underlying mystery are laid before us, though that might not be obvious to someone who hasn’t already watched the whole show through.

Saionji returns. He’s still something of a joke character, but he plays an important role in this episode. We now learn that there’s more to Saionji’s obsession with Anthy than had at first been apparent.

Continue reading “Something Eternal: The ‘Revolutionary Girl Utena’ Rewatch, Part 9”

The Spicy Episode: The ‘Revolutionary Girl Utena’ Rewatch, Part 8

The bird is fighting its way out of the egg. The egg is the world. Whoever wishes to be born must destroy a world. The bird is flying to God. The god is named Abraxas.

—Herman Hesse, Demian

Revolutionary Girl Utena, episode 8: “Curried High Trip.” Directed by Kunihiko Ikuhara. Character designs by Chiho Saito. Be-Papas, 1997 (Nozomi Entertainment, 2011). Approx. 24 minutes. Rated “16+.”

Watch for free here.

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Seriously, anime? We just had one of the best episodes in the series, but with episode 8, “Curried High Trip,” we’re right back to … that’s right, another filler episode starring Nanami. That means two out of the last three episodes have been Nanami-focused filler.

Even worse, “Curried High Trip” is based on the Freaky Friday premise, which was already more than played out by the time this episode aired. Fortunately, the next episode will be a major plot-mover.

Revolutionary Girl Utena is famous for being dense, convoluted, and kinky. I knew all that before going in, but I was unaware before I sat down to watch it that it is also extremely goofy. This is one of the goofy episodes. The story of “Curried High Trip” appears entirely gratuitous, though it does at least highlight one possible angle of interpretation, and it also emphasizes an important plot detail.

Continue reading “The Spicy Episode: The ‘Revolutionary Girl Utena’ Rewatch, Part 8”

Did Not See That Coming: The ‘Revolutionary Girl Utena’ Rewatch, Part 7

The bird is fighting its way out of the egg. The egg is the world. Whoever wishes to be born must destroy a world. The bird is flying to God. The god is named Abraxas.

—Herman Hesse, Demian

Revolutionary Girl Utena, episode 7: “Unfulfilled Jury.” Directed by Kunihiko Ikuhara. Character designs by Chiho Saito. Be-Papas, 1997 (Nozomi Entertainment, 2011). Approx. 24 minutes. Rated “16+.”

Watch for free here.

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Actually, I’m kidding. I don’t think this show ever managed to do anything I didn’t see coming, but that’s mostly because I’d already watched a number of its successors by the time I saw it.

By the way, the image at the top of this post is official artwork. While I was searching for an eyecatch for this post, I happened to run into the blog Fairy Princess Witch, which features a group of girls who try to replicate the image. They don’t have the poses quite right, but it’s some dang fine cosplaying:

Juri, lean forward, and use your other hand. Shiori, grab her waist. Her waist, darn it.

Episode 7 is, hands down, one of the best episodes in Revolutionary Girl Utena. The first two episodes were very tight, but episode 3 was blah, and after that the show dinked around for a while. With episode 7, “Unfulfilled Jury,” it gets its game face back on. In addition to being one of the best paced and plotted episodes, it has one of the best sword duels. It also begins in earnest the use of bizarre and symbolic imagery that will become the show’s hallmark. Continue reading “Did Not See That Coming: The ‘Revolutionary Girl Utena’ Rewatch, Part 7”

‘Sailor Moon Crystal’ Season 4 Confirmed

Moonkitty recently tweeted the news: the struggling and embattled Sailor Moon Crystal is set to see a fourth season, which will be in the form of a two-part movie.

“The same director” means Chiaki Kon, who did a lot to rescue season 3 from the problems that plagued seasons 1 and 2, by ordering revamped character designs and improving the animation.

Otherwise, I don’t know if this is good news or bad. My opinion of Crystal has been mixed, as you can see here. A two-part movie for the Dream arc, however, might be a good idea. If they’re not working to put out an episode on a bi-weekly basis, they might have the time they need to produce something more polished.

There was confirmation as far back as late January that this was going to happen, but there’s been little other news since then that anything was in the works.

Sailor Moon’s official birthday is June 30th, so that is apparently the reason for the announcement of the fourth season, which took place at a live event as Sailor Moon News explains. I chastise myself for having forgotten such an important date. I’ll send her a “belated birthday” card.

The live event also featured some info about the new stage musical, which is unfortunately irrelevant to us over here as the musicals never make it across the Pacific, not even in a subbed video.

History of Magical Girl Anime, Part 15

Haven’t done one of these for a while. This is yet another video from SourcererZZ’s well-made series on the history of magical girl anime. His presentation remains impressively disinterested and scholarly, though his thick accent also remains hard to understand, so I recommend turning on the closed captions, which, though somewhat messed up, are nonetheless helpful.

He goes here through the years 2007 and 2008, discussing series such as Kamichama Karin and Shugo Chara! (which I’ve discussed at length). I hesitated to post this, mostly because he also discusses Moetan, a grossly mishandled educational series that’s sort of like Dora the Explorer … for perverts. But as I said, SourcererZZ is professional in his presentation, so I decided to share anyway.

Although he for the most part simply summarizes the series he discusses, at the beginning of this video, he talks about how Getsumen to Heiki Mina, which had its origin as a fictitious anime referenced in the television drama Densha Otoko, which you may know better under the title of Train Man. Basically, it’s a case of a fake series being made real, somewhat like Kujibiki Unbalance.

Nanami Takes Over: The ‘Revolutionary Girl Utena’ Rewatch, Part 6

Meanwhile, in an unrelated subplot …

The bird is fighting its way out of the egg. The egg is the world. Whoever wishes to be born must destroy a world. The bird is flying to God. The god is named Abraxas.

—Herman Hesse, Demian

Revolutionary Girl Utena, episode 6: “Take Care, Miss Nanami!” Directed by Kunihiko Ikuhara. Character designs by Chiho Saito. Be-Papas, 1997 (Nozomi Entertainment, 2011). Approx. 24 minutes. Rated “16+.”

Watch for free here.

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A reader helpfully points out that Nozomi Entertainment has uploaded Revolutionary Girl Utena to YouTube. When I first started this series of essays, I named some places you can acquire the show, but I didn’t think to check YouTube. I tend to forget that not all videos there are pirated.

#NotAllYouTubeVideos.

Anyway, I am continuing to watch the series from my enormously expensive collector’s edition DVD set, which is as luxurious and decadent as the anime it contains. But if you’d like to watch along with me without investing so much cash, you can now see the dub, free and legal, online. I’ll be posting the link to the YouTube video under the episode credits from now on.

Now with more images from Utena: Texts from Last Night.

This same reader makes an interesting comment:

On principle I object to stories that use symbolism as an excuse for ridiculous, poor, or perverse writing. If a story cannot stand up as an independent narrative it has no business obfuscating its shortcomings with allegories and parables. Art naturally embodies some aspect of reality. Every piece symbolizes something. Better that your symbols should be simple rather than convoluted.

Intricate meta-narratives can become great rewards for those who are apt to analyzing them, but the primary plot ought not to suffer for their sake. I shouldn’t need an essay to understand your unpainted canvas, and I should not need a documentary-length series of videos to understand what happened during End of Evangelion.

I’ve only seen up to episode eleven of Revolutionary Girl Utena, but those episodes do hold up as a narrative, despite some remarkable plot contrivances. I’m afraid to finish the series, unfortunately, since I suspect the train will drift off the rails as the series nears its end.

His opinion is similar to mine. I’m typically unimpressed with stories that use opacity to create the illusion of depth.

Some years ago, I loaned my set of Neon Genesis Evangelion to a friend who happened to be studying feng shui. She later contacted me excitedly to tell me that one of the characters in the show had objects on her desk arranged in such a way as to represent, symbolically, the characters’ interpersonal relationships. This is something I, and probably a lot of viewers, never would have picked up on, and that’s fine. I certainly don’t mind storytellers throwing in some esoterica like that. It can lend a story a certain richness even if it goes over most people’s heads.

But that is no excuse for failing to present a coherent narrative. Evangelion is rich with imaginative imagery, but it never gets down to the business of explaining basic elements of its plot, such as what Lilith is, or what the Lance of Longinus is, or what the hell is going on. Partly, it suffered because the creators didn’t husband their meager resources, choosing to blow their wad on boob jiggle in the early episodes so they had to subject us to torturous still frames in the later ones, like that infamous minutes-long elevator ride, or that nightstand. (Sweet Madoka, the nightstand! If I never again hear a dialogue about creative places to insert pills, I can die a happy man.) But even more than that, Evangelion suffered because director Hideaki Anno gave up on storytelling and turned the show into his personal psychotherapy session.

I stated in the beginning that Revolutionary Girl Utena out-Evangelions Evangelion, partly because it handles Evangelion‘s themes and postmodern techniques much more competently, but also because it accomplishes something Evangelion flubbed: It has a coherent plot with a beginning, middle, and end. That’s not to say that some parts aren’t opaque or that there aren’t unresolved plot threads, or that the show isn’t decidedly undisciplined. It’s definitely not perfect. But it has an intelligible storyline, and it manages to conserve its puny budget enough that it resorts to relatively few painful animation shortcuts.

Evangelion attempted something it couldn’t quite pull off. Building on that, Utena successfully pulls it off, albeit in haphazard fashion. I might also add that Princess Tutu, usually considered Utena’s spiritual successor, uses the same techniques, but employs them in a much more disciplined manner and entirely avoids the pitfalls of its predecessors. Continue reading “Nanami Takes Over: The ‘Revolutionary Girl Utena’ Rewatch, Part 6”

Musical Madness II: The ‘Revolutionary Girl Utena’ Rewatch, Part 5

Things continue getting freaky!

The bird is fighting its way out of the egg. The egg is the world. Whoever wishes to be born must destroy a world. The bird is flying to God. The god is named Abraxas.

—Herman Hesse, Demian

Revolutionary Girl Utena, episode 5: “The Sunlit Garden – Finale.” Directed by Kunihiko Ikuhara. Character designs by Chiho Saito. Be-Papas, 1997 (Nozomi Entertainment, 2011). Approx. 24 minutes. Rated “16+.”

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Although the main plot of this show still eludes us (and will continue to do so until the third and final arc), this fifth episode represents a sea change in Revolutionary Girl Utena because it is the first episode to reveal what we’re really in for.

In the episode previous, we met Miki, another member of the student council. A mere middle school freshman, Miki is a child prodigy, a highly skilled fencer, pianist, and math student. He also has the hots for Anthy, whom he calls his “shining thing.”

Miki fencing with Juri.

Continue reading “Musical Madness II: The ‘Revolutionary Girl Utena’ Rewatch, Part 5”

Musical Madness: The ‘Revolutionary Girl Utena’ Rewatch, Part 4

Things start to get freaky!

The bird is fighting its way out of the egg. The egg is the world. Whoever wishes to be born must destroy a world. The bird is flying to God. The god is named Abraxas.

—Herman Hesse, Demian

Revolutionary Girl Utena, episode 4: “The Sunlit Garden – Prelude.” Directed by Kunihiko Ikuhara. Character designs by Chiho Saito. Be-Papas, 1997 (Nozomi Entertainment, 2011). Approx. 24 minutes. Rated “16+.”

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Yeesh, haven’t done one of these in a while. My schedule these days is packed, but it occurs to me that I might be able to do so much as watch a single episode of a beloved anime on a semi-daily basis and discuss the same, so I’ve decided to continue our series on Revolutionary Girl Utena, the ultimate in LSD-fueled self-important mahou shoujo anime. Once again, I find myself sitting up late at night with one hand around a Captain Morgan Cannonblast and another hand hovering over the Print Screen button.

I have got to change my life.

Anyway, yes, it is indeed time once again to explore Revolutionary Girl Utena.

Yeah, I bet you’d like to explore Utena.

Continue reading “Musical Madness: The ‘Revolutionary Girl Utena’ Rewatch, Part 4”