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.

Tuxedo Mask Doesn’t Know How to Wear a Tuxedo

Tuxedo Mask, the sometimes useless boyfriend of Sailor Moon, does not, strictly speaking, wear a tuxedo. As I learned recently while researching for a character’s costume in a story, Tuxedo Mask wears white tie, the most formal of formalwear in the West.

The rules of white tie, I have learned, are strict, so it is unsurprising that the most famous formally dressed man in the world of magical girls frequently breaks them. Oh, Tuxedo Mask, how many rules of men’s full dress have you violated in how many different versions? Continue reading “Tuxedo Mask Doesn’t Know How to Wear a Tuxedo”

History of Magical Girl Anime, Part 3

I continue to be impressed by SourcererZZ’s video series covering the history of magical girl anime. His presentation is professional and knowledgeable if perhaps dry.

Here he covers the bulk of the Studio Pierrot era, when the genre was still mostly tame, but could sometimes get a little sleazy.

Unfortunately, at this point in the video series, a version with accurate subtitles is apparently unavailable, and SourcererZZ’s English continues to be, at times, difficult to understand. On the plus side, if you turn on the closed captioning, it is, as always with YouTube videos, hilarious.

Why does YouTube even have automatic closed captioning when it always turns out like this?

Sugawa Akiko’s ‘Children of Sailor Moon’: It’s Because Men

Featured image: “Evolution of the Magical Girl” by Shattered-Earth.

I direct your attention to the essay, “Children of Sailor Moon: The Evolution of Magical Girls in Japanese Anime” by Sugawa Akiko, published on nippon.com.

The essay promises to be interpretive, though in the end it is mostly an overview of the history of the genre from its origins in Sally the Witch to darker and more violent recent entries such as Day Break Illusion. Although not a bad overview per se, it misses some major milestones and does not appear to have a particularly in-depth knowledge.

Sugawa Akiko’s attempt to fit her discussion into a certain sort of feminist framework compels her to talk nonsense, as evident in these two paragraphs:

Female superheroes, meanwhile, were almost invariably adults. The heroines of such comic-based TV shows as Wonder Woman and Xena: Warrior Princess and the video game–based movie Lara Croft, Tomb Raider were endowed with male strength but also a mature sex appeal targeted primarily at heterosexual men.

An attribute virtually nonexistent in Western witches or female superheroes is the maternal or nurturing behavior that has become such a common feature of mahō shōjo anime since the advent of Sailor Moon. While powerful, Japan’s magical girl warriors also preserve attributes associated with traditional gender roles—including cuteness and maternal affection—that make them less threatening to men.

Got that? So when the characters are vampy and busty, it’s because men. And when they’re cute or maternal, it’s because men. Dammit, those men got us every way we turn.

Why not just say, “It turns out that dudes like chicks”? That would cover all the bases, except then it would be obvious that she’s stating the obvious.

In any case, she’s correct that magical girls are typically more overtly feminine, even hyper-feminine, than Western superheroines.

The essay also contains some flat-out BS: she suggests that the “yuri” (read: lesbian) hints in 2011’s Puella Magi Madoka Magicawhich are not unambiguous or inarguable—are something new to the genre, when in fact they’ve been around since Sailor Moon at least and have been present in anime more broadly speaking for longer than that.

The essay ends abruptly after the overview with very little of the promised interpretation, but not before this:

Some of them seem to be turning back toward the fairy princesses of an earlier era. The heroines of Happiness Charge Pretty Cure, for example, combine the “girl power” and appeal of Sailor soldiers with the traits of the nostalgic princess archetype.

My response: I hope so. The dark and depressing magical girls of the Madoka mold are beginning to wear out their welcome.

History of Magical Girl Anime, Part 2

This is the second installment of the visual history of magical girl anime from SourcererZZ.  So far I’m quite impressed by this series.

Only one of the series that he discusses in this installment is readily available.  The long-lost and decidedly obscure English dub of the 1982 series Minky Momo showed up mysteriously and without explanation on Amazon Video last year. Unfortunately, it’s packaged as a series of movies, each containing four or five episodes, which Amazon is selling for the exorbitant price of $14.95 a piece. The movies don’t appear to contain the entirety of the series. There are thirteen such movies, so at the current price, that comes out to a whopping $194.35.

It’s a good series, but it’s not that good.

Review: Sailor Moon: Crystal, Season 3 Episodes 3-4

Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon: Crystal, Episode 29, “Ripples,” and Episode 30, “Two New Soldiers.” Toei Animation, April 2016. Approx. 48 minutes. Available on Crunchyroll.

I’m going to discuss what is arguably a plot twist, though if you know Sailor Moon at all, or even if you don’t, you’ll easily see it coming. I’m also going to discuss a scene that’s presented as if it’s supposed to be a shocker. So for courtesy’s sake, I’ll give a spoiler warning on this review, though I don’t think I’m actually giving much away. Continue reading “Review: Sailor Moon: Crystal, Season 3 Episodes 3-4”

History of Magical Girl Anime, Part 1

I recently found this series of videos on the history of mahou shoujo anime by SourcererZZ.  Somehow, he’s managed to dredge up clips from early shows, including some that are quite hard to find.  He seems to know his subject very well.  Depending on what he gets into, some of his later videos might be NSFW, but this first one is a pretty good overview of the evolution of the genre from its origins with Sally the Witch to the early 1970s with Cutie Honey (that last getting a little racy toward the end of the video).

He’s a little hard to understand and rather quiet, but if you turn on the closed captions, he’s added accurate subtitles.

Review: Nurse Witch Komugi R

They should have called it “Magical Girl Tsukasa-kun.”

Nurse Witch Komugi R, directed by Keiichiro Kawaguchi. Written by Kazuyuki Fudeyasu and Momoko Murakami. 2016. 12 episodes. Approx. 276 minutes. Available on Crunchroll.

There is a character in Nurse Witch Komugi R who, as I’ll explain shortly, should have been the central protagonist. She is (I kid you not) a crossdresser/pop idol/magical girl/cat girl/nun. And that right there tells you all you need to know about this show. To sum it up in a word: unfocused. Continue reading “Review: Nurse Witch Komugi R”