Anime Review: ‘Yuki Yuna Is a Hero’

This was originally posted in slightly different form on a different site in 2014.

Who deconstructs the deconstructionists?

Yuki Yuna Is a Hero. Directed by Kishi Seiji. Starring Haruka Terui, Juri Nagatsuma, and Suzuko Mimori. Studio Gokumi, 2014. Twelve episodes of 24 minutes (approx. 290 minutes). Unrated. Available online.

I am a confessed heroine addict, and thus I sometimes watch mahou shoujo, that peculiarly Japanese genre of fantasy translated as “magical girl.” I have just finished watching the recently completed twelve-part magical girl series Yuki Yuna Is a Hero, a mostly amusing but sometimes frustrating exercise in audience chain-yanking. Though it is a competent story in its own right, it can’t be fully appreciated without a general knowledge of what’s been happening in the magical girl genre of late, most especially 2011’s Puella Magi Madoka Magica, with which Yuki Yuna is in dialogue, so bear with me.  It is also impossible to give more than a cursory discussion of either Puella Magi Madoka Magica or Yuki Yuna Is a Hero without spoilers, so be warned: spoilers lie ahead. Continue reading “Anime Review: ‘Yuki Yuna Is a Hero’”

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’”

Manga Review: ‘Alice 19th’

Alice 19th. Story and art by Yuu Watase. Viz Media, 2003. 7 vols. Rated T+ for older teen.

Yuu (or Yû, or Yu) Watase is a prolific and influential creator of shoujo (girls’) manga whose work, according to her Wikipedia page, fills over eighty volumes. She has explored a few different genres, primarily focusing on teen rom-coms and historical fantasy. She’s best known for her bodice-ripping, wuxia-inspired reverse harem sword-and-sorcery epic Fushigi Yugi, which broke the mold of the schoolgirl-gets-sucked-into-an-alternate-universe brand of Japanese pop fantasy. It’s a gigantic stew of melodrama, overwrought dialogue, lush costuming, hawt bishie boys, dippy romance, rape, martial arts battles, naked chicks, gay jokes, and rape.

How should I characterize Watase-sensei’s work? Remember the old days before Tivo when people used to channel-surf: you’d be flipping through the channels looking for something to watch, and for a brief moment you’d land upon the Lifetime Network, which was “television for women.” And it was always some guy beating the hell out of a woman. Every. Single. Time.

Reading Yuu Watase is sort of like that. Continue reading “Manga Review: ‘Alice 19th’”

Yotsuba&! Volume 13

Yotsuba&!, volume 13, by Kiyohiko Azuma. Translated by Stephen Paul. Yen Press (New York): 2016.

I have on my shelf a twelve-volume set of Kiyohiko’s instant classic Yotsuba&!, right underneath my twelve-volume set of Sailor Moon. The twelfth volume had ended in 2013 on a more-or-less satisfactory note, and no more volumes came out for about three years, so I simply assumed the series was over.

I am happy to be wrong. The thirteenth volume appeared in Japan in November of 2015 and in America in May of 2016. Continue reading “Yotsuba&! Volume 13”

Magical Girl Dress-Up Games

Good grief, these things actually exist. What can’t you find on the internet?

While the rest of you are playing with your little Pokey Mans, or whatever they’re called, I’m over here designing magical girl outfits like a boss.  Yes, this is what I call a truly immersive video game experience.

Okay, not really, but at least these games aren’t encouraging me to trespass, walk into traffic, get mugged in back alleys, or give away all my Google account information.

So, in honor of dumb but addictive video games, I here present all the free online magical girl dress-up games that I was able to find just now. These games are pretty much like those old paper dolls your grandma used to play with, except now on the computer, and with magical girls. Such games prove, among other things, that I have no fashion sense. And also that I have too much time on my hands.

To test these games’ versatility, I decided my goal with each would be to get the character to look as much as possible like Pretty Dynamo. Let’s see how close I can get. Continue reading “Magical Girl Dress-Up Games”

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”

‘Chaos Arena: Crystal Fighters’

Chaos Arena: Crystal Fighters, Chapter 1, written and illustrated by Jen and Tyler Bartel. Digital comic. Stēla. 2016.

This is a digital comic, new within the last few months, with a magical girl theme and an unusual premise. I’d like to be able to say more about it than I’m going to, but aside from its first chapter, it is, unfortunately, available only behind a paywall on the Stēla comic-reading app, which is available only on the iPhone.

I have an Android. So I’m going to discuss the first chapter (which you can read online for free) and say what I think so far, and then I’ll leave those of you with iPhones to decide if you want to shell out in order to read further yourselves. The Stēla people need to get their act together and port their app for the rest of us.

Also, you’ll notice I don’t have a link to Stēla’s website or the free first chapter. That’s because I read the chapter on my phone using the web browser, but now that I’ve sat down at my PC to write the review, I find that my anti-malware program has blocked Stēla’s site for malicious content. That could be an error on my end, or it could mean that the Stēla people really need to get their act together. Continue reading “‘Chaos Arena: Crystal Fighters’”

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’”

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”