The History of Isekai

A reader called my attention to this, a history and discussion of the tropes typical of the slew of recent anime, following on the heels of Sword Art Online, that depict a gamer otaku getting thrown into another world that looks like a sword-and-sorcery RPG.

This is a bit outside this blog’s usual scope; I admit my knowledge of this particular genre is minimal, simply because my interests run more toward shoujo anime, whereas isekai typically has male protagonists and a male target audience. However, the video does link isekai to predecessors from the ’90s like Magic Knight Rayearth and Vision of Escaflowne, which typically featured schoolgirls getting thrown into fantasy settings. Not discussed, but probably also an important influence on the isekai genre are the RPG-inspired fantasies from yesteryear like Record of Lodoss War.

In the last third of the video, the narrator explains that many of the light novels that make up the sources of isekai fantasy got their starts as web publications, and after suggesting that the isekai genre is saturated, he argues that this is leading in turn to a rise of “pure” fantasy without inserted modern characters, of which he holds up Made in Abyss as a premier example.

For recent examples of “traditional” or “pure” fantasy, I would also point to the less hyped but respectable Chaika the Coffin Princess, which was a competently made, light novel-based anime series that was something like an old-school fantasy in the tradition of Discarded Princess (because it was in fact from the same author and the same studio).

I have to confess I still haven’t watched or read Made in Abyss, though it’s on my list.

Jon Del Arroz on Passive Anime Protagonists

On his blog, author Jon Del Arroz has some interesting comments on the passive, weak male protagonists who often star in anime high school rom-coms. Excuse me while I quote him at length:

I had an interesting discussion with a friend last night as we were digging far too deeply into anime. Almost every anime show (especially those set in a high school environment, which is the majority of them), have male protagonists that are your classic gamma male archetype. They are socially awkward, especially around women. When encountered with women they go into a crazed frenzy, female worship, nosebleeds, slapstick failings. We’re supposed to root for them to get the girl in spite of their failures. And sometimes we do, but we can’t help but wince every time they enter the scene with their female counterparts, who are usually far more composed and cooler than they are. Continue reading “Jon Del Arroz on Passive Anime Protagonists”

The Origins of Superheroes (and Magical Girls)

This is showing up on blogs I frequent, and I think it’s relevant here. Alexander Macris has divided superhero origin stories into three types:

1. Ordinary person accidentally becomes extraordinary through chance.
2. Determined person becomes extraordinary through dedication and will.
3. A person born with extraordinary gifts lives up to his birthright.

 He describes these three origin stories as “proletariat, bourgeoise, and aristocratic.” The examples he gives are interesting but not unassailable. For example, he holds Superman to be “aristocratic,” since he has superpowers on account of being an alien, but Superman is also a farm boy who learned values of honesty, honor, and hard work before moving to the big city, which would put him more-or-less into the “bourgeoise” category—and yet calling a farm boy “bourgeoise” sounds decidedly strange.

I wanted to add a fourth type of origin story, but John C. Wright beat me to it:

4. Ordinary person is selected to become extraordinary through the intervention of a higher power.

This is the origin story typical of magical girl warriors. Generally, they are ordinary schoolgirls selected by talking animals from space or from fairyland. They are frequently reluctant and would rather be ordinary girls, though there are exceptions.

Even those of the “deconstructive” brand of magical girl fall mostly into this category: Phantom Thief Jeanne, Revolutionary Girl Utena, Princess Tutu, and the girls of Magical Girl Raising Project are all selected by godlike powers, and even Madoka is harassed into a Faustian bargain, which is almost but not quite the same thing. What makes these girls different is simply that the powers who’ve selected them turn out to be infernal rather than higher.

By contrast, the typical cute witch falls into Macris’s third category: cute witches usually come to Earth from space or from fairyland and use their powers to help mankind.

Of course, some titles will change things up. Some magical girl warriors are also cute witches from fairyland, such as the Fairy Musketeers. And Sailor Moon falls into both categories, since she is an ordinary schoolgirl who receives her powers from a talking cat, but is also a reincarnated space princess and rightful ruler of the Solar System.

Kai Wai Cheah Goes Magical Girl

I’m going to have no serious content here until I FINISH MY BOOK (which might be today!), but I am pausing momentarily to note something that showed up in my Twitter feed:

This is from the Twitter account of Kai Wai Cheah, the author of No Gods, Only Daimons. He’s a seriously skilled author of military sf and fantasy. He’s also in my writer’s group, where he’s given some additional details about this project, but since he hasn’t posted them in a public forum, I won’t repeat them.

miko, in case you don’t know, is a Shinto shrine maiden. That’s a picture of his new character up at the top there …  nah, I’m kidding. I grabbed that off Pinterest.

Anyway, let’s just say that I’m very interested in seeing what a knowledgeable military sf writer does with magical girls.

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’”

Evolution of the Magical Girl Anime

Featured image: “Magical Girl of Valentine’s Day” by ElynGontier

I’m busy with school, and I’m also digesting the annotations from my editor. But in the meanwhile, I refer you to The Hyped Geek, which offers yet another article overviewing the evolution of magical girl anime from Sally the Witch to the present day.

Being one of those who grew up on anime, one of my biggest and most secret fantasies was to become a magical girl. That’s right; minute long transformations with colourful lights, a cool signature outfit, speeches of love and justice and a cute animal sidekick as a guide.

While that’s how many of us would think of it, it’s a pretty generic view of what constitutes as a magical girl anime. There’s a lot more to the genre than cute young girls with powers, saving their loved ones, or even in most cases, the world, as different anime bring different and new elements that have made the magical girl genre so renowned today. So get your transformation items ready as we go through the most influential magical girl anime from its inception until today. [More …]

One of the reasons I got into this genre in the first place is that it’s narrow enough in its concerns that it plays out over time like an ongoing conversation. One cartoon or comic will come out, and another will build on it or respond to it. So, for example, Revolutionary Girl Utena is an answer to Sailor Moon, and then Princess Tutu is an answer to Revolutionary Girl Utena. More recently, Puella Magi Madoka Magica was a major game-changer, and then Yuki Yuna Is a Hero responded to it. I think this is why magical girl fans so preoccupied with tracing history, because this genre is an ongoing dialogue.

Girl Got Game II: The ‘Revolutionary Girl Utena’ Rewatch, Part 8.5, Addendum

Yesterday’s post on the 1998 Revolutionary Girl Utena visual novel for the Sega Genesis is quite popular for some reason, so let me add a few more links of interest.

I have located exactly one walkthrough for the game, presented by Rouroni Kaji on GameFAQS. It’s a text file that briefly outlines the different game paths and lists what you need to accomplish each of the game’s nine possible endings. It’s a brief outline, with no images or description, that’s meant to be used in conjunction with the game, so it’s more-or-less unintelligible by itself.

There is also a playthrough of the English fansub by Geek Sentai on YouTube. It’s divided into parts; I post only the first here.

It’s not exactly exciting to watch; visual novels are sort of like adventure games minus everything that makes them even slightly interesting.

Girl Got Game: The ‘Revolutionary Girl Utena’ Rewatch, Part 8.5

End of line!

—Master Control Program

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In 1998, there was a Revolutionary Girl Utena video game. Semi-canonical, it was set chronologically immediately after episode 8, the one I just reviewed. It was created for the Sega Saturn. Sega Nerds reports.

The game was a visual novel, a type of video game that to this day has never found more than a niche market overseas, so it is no surprise that the game, subtitled Story of the Someday Revolution, never saw a release outside Japan.

Continue reading “Girl Got Game: The ‘Revolutionary Girl Utena’ Rewatch, Part 8.5”