Anime Review: ‘Sasami: Magical Girls Club’

Sasami: Magical Girls Club. Directed by Takamoto Nobuhiro. Starring Mana Ogawa, Himeko Shimura, and Momoko Hatano. AIC Spirits Work Collaboration: BeSTACK. English language version by FUNimation. 26 episodes (approx. 640 minutes). Rated TV-PG.

What a weird little anime.

Where to start? The highly successful Tenchi Muyo! franchise is one of the best-known of the so-called “harem comedies” that came out of the 1990s; in fact, some consider it the original harem comedy (though it is not strictly speaking the earliest), or at least the codifier of the genre’s conventions. The franchise includes manga, light novels, OVA series, television shows, audio dramas, and probably other stuff, most of which are independent of one another. Because its history is convoluted and there isn’t really a central “canon,” trying to get a handle on Tenchi Muyo! is decidedly confusing.

I am not deeply knowledgeable of the Tenchi Muyo! franchise, but near as I can tell, it began with an OVA series that appeared in 1992 (OVA means straight to video, which doesn’t have the stigma in Japan that it has in the U.S.). Additional OVAs followed on its heels, with a fourth slated to appear later in 2016. I’m pretty sure I’ve watched the first OVA in the FUNimation dub: it’s awesomesauce for six episodes, featuring lightsaber duels, space battles, humongous mecha, miniature black holes, pocket universes, and explosions.

But after that, it settles down into harem mode, and then it pretty much sucks. Continue reading “Anime Review: ‘Sasami: Magical Girls Club’”

FUNimation Partners with Crunchyroll

In the world of anime fandom, this is really big news.

hope that it is also good news, but that remains to be seen. I don’t follow the politics of fandom, but I sometimes hear murmurs of discontent with FUNimation. However, I personally have been generally happy with Crunchyroll, the anime streaming service, though I recently let my subscription lapse for economic reasons. A few years ago, Crunchy seemed to be mostly a motley collection of obscure titles and hentai crap, but more recently, I’ve been really impressed as they’ve added more and more classic titles to their catalogue.

In fact, I finally bought my subscription when they picked up a complete set of Cardcaptor Sakura, the inexplicably popular and undeservedly influential magical girl story from CLAMP about an innocent little girl trapped in a world full of perverts. But I’ll talk about that show and why I detest it with a passion at another time. Continue reading “FUNimation Partners with Crunchyroll”

History of Magical Girl Anime, Part 10

We continue with SourcererZZ’s nearly exhaustive history of magical girl anime. Unfortunately, copyright claims have once again made parts of this series unavailable in English. You’d think that a few clips used in a free online documentary would be considered fair use, but Victor Entertainment hates free advertisement, and thus has laid the smack down.

Here, SourcererZZ covers the years 2001 and 2002. I think I recognized a grand total of two titles in this one, so I got an education here.

I tried watching Magical Play once. It was so stupid, I gave up. I’ve probably killed enough brain cells with magical girl shows since then that I might give it another go. I don’t know a legal source for the other titles mentioned here, but they might exist.

By way of update, I’m presently out of work. That means I won’t be acquiring any new media in the near future, as I have to save my funds. But I have a backlog of things to discuss, and there’s always free stuff (I just have to watch it in low quality with ads).

I also need to spend time on some things more urgent than my hobbies, so there’s a possible brief hiatus on Jake and the Dynamo in the near future, as my buffer’s been shrinking dangerously. Chapter 13 will appear this weekend, and chapter 14 needs expanded and rewritten, but should appear the weekend after. Chapter 15 needs only slight alteration. Chapter 16 needs rewritten. Chapter 17 needs to be drafted. So I should have four weeks of material left if I get on the ball.

Watch ‘Sailor Moon: The Movie’ Before It’s Gone!

Like many magical girl fans, I have sometimes daydreamed about what a live-action Sailor Moon movie might look like. My imaginary version would probably piss off most of the fans, because it’s a gritty Kung fu film directed by the same guy who did The Raid. No, I’m serious.

For some fans, daydreaming is not enough. They take it to the next level and actually make the movie. There have been several such projects, and even though they’re not-for-profit, they have a habit of disappearing because of copyright claims. In fact, when I stumbled across Sailor Moon: The Movie on YouTube, I mistakenly believed it was the 2011 short film starring Avery Danielle, but I was wrong. That one, sadly, is gone from the interwebs. No, this is the 2015 loooong film starring MaryBeth Schroeder, and it clocks in at a whopping two hours and twenty-two minutes. That’s the size of an epic-length feature film. Continue reading “Watch ‘Sailor Moon: The Movie’ Before It’s Gone!”

Review: Sailor Moon: Crystal, Season 3 Episode 7

Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon: Crystal, Episode 33, “Three Guardians.” Toei Animation, May 2016. Approx. 24 minutes. Available on Crunchyroll.

I think I missed an episode in here somewhere. Hm.

Anyway, in this episode, the pace picks up as the story heads toward its climax. The three outer scouts, Neptune, Uranus, and Pluto, finally explain what they’re doing, though by this time the audience already knows: they were reborn on Earth for the purpose of taking down the Death Busters from the Tau Star System, who invaded Earth through a rift in space-time. Same thing most of us do on weekends. Continue reading “Review: Sailor Moon: Crystal, Season 3 Episode 7”

Review: Sailor Moon: Crystal, Season 3 Episode 6

The determined frowny faces of justice!

Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon: Crystal, Episode 32, “Setsuna Meioh.” Toei Animation, May 2016. Approx. 24 minutes. Available on Crunchyroll.

I’m way behind on these. But oh well.

This is, on the whole, a pretty good episode, if slow-paced. The story continues to hew closely to the comic, though I notice in this case that it improves on it considerably. Throughout this chapter, the comic book version has a lot of unnecessary internal dialogue that announces the obvious, but the show simply cuts most of it out and allows the audience to read the mood. Though this series sometimes looks like a panel-by-panel presentation of the comic, in this episode, it alters the imagery for the better without altering the story. Continue reading “Review: Sailor Moon: Crystal, Season 3 Episode 6”

Review: ‘Wish upon the Pleiades’

Wish upon the Pleiades. Written and directed by Shōji Saeki. Studio Gainax, 2015. 12 episodes. Approximately 290 minutes. Not rated. Available on Crunchyroll.

It’s refreshing to see a magical girl series made as recently as 2015 that’s simple and sincere with no traces of so-called deconstruction or irony. The girls never discover that their familiar is conning them, nor that they’re really in hell. Nobody gets mind-raped. And though it does find a flimsy excuse for a swimsuit episode, it even manages to steer clear of the more grotesque side of anime cheesecake. Continue reading “Review: ‘Wish upon the Pleiades’”

History of Magical Girl Anime, Part 5

Unfortunately, part 4 of SourcererZZ‘s thorough history of magical girl anime is not available in my country because of a copyright claim, so we have to skip ahead to part 5, where he starts with 1993’s superhero parody Moldiver. He continues from there through 1995. These are the years immediately after the appearance of Sailor Moon, when the genre enjoyed a surge in popularity.

I particularly enjoyed his discussion of Magic Knight Rayearth, an RPG-inspired adventure with a twist, which is the only story by CLAMP (that team of manga-ka that is both so prolific and so overrated) that I like.

Unfortunately, his sound quality is going down the tubes. SourcererZZ has always been hard to understand, but now he’s got a bad mike to go with the broken English.  His description of Moldiver is more-or-less indecipherable, but he becomes intelligible shortly after that.  In spite of the shortcomings (and, alas, the missing episodes), this is the most thorough overview of the genre I’ve ever come across.  His research, and his insane ability to find clips from obscure cartoons from the days of laserdiscs and VHS, is quite impressive.