‘Magical Girl Raising Project,’ Episode 5

Magical Girl Raising Project, episode 5, “New Character!” Directed by Hiroyuki Hashimoto. Studio Lerche. Produced by Genco (2016). Approx. 24 minutes. Rated PG-13. Available on Crunchyroll.

I’ve got behind on this show, but I don’t mind. It just goes to show that I do, in fact, do other things besides watch anime. I sometimes also read manga.

In this episode, we finally meet Hardgore Alice, and she’s every inch the creepy Goth loli we could expect. We don’t get to see much of her, though, as the episode focuses primarily on Sister Nana and Winterprison. Alice appears, conveys an air of vague menace, and then disappears, but she seems to have it out for Snow White for some reason, just like everybody else. Continue reading “‘Magical Girl Raising Project,’ Episode 5”

The Crossdresser Who Isn’t: The ‘Revolutionary Girl Utena’ Rewatch, Part 3

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 3: “On the Night of the Ball.” Directed by Kunihiko Ikuhara. Character designs by Chiho Saito. Be-Papas, 1997 (Nozomi Entertainment, 2011). Approx. 24 minutes. Rated “16+.”

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Images taken from Utena: Texts from Last Night, which, just to warn you, is Not Safe for Work.

We move on now in the course of our irregular series to the third episode of Revolutionary Girl Utena, entitled “On the Night of the Ball.” Whenever mentioning this episode in the extras that come with the luxurious special-edition DVD set, the staff sounds apologetic, and not entirely without reason. It’s by no means an awful episode, but neither is it great. Continue reading “The Crossdresser Who Isn’t: The ‘Revolutionary Girl Utena’ Rewatch, Part 3”

‘Sugar Sugar Rune,’ Volumes 1-3

The greatest fantasy comic of the last 5 years has just ended its publication run in America and nobody cares. Oh well, I’ll just give it an A- and cry sad tears over why there aren’t more fans of Sugar Sugar Rune. —Carlos Santos, Anime News Network

Sugar Sugar Rune, volumes 1-3. Story and art by Moyoco Anno. Translated by Yayoi Ihne. Del Rey Manga (New York), 2006. Rated Y (Ages 10+).

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Sugar Sugar Rune may be one of the magical girl genre’s best-kept secrets. From time to time, I see this title named as the best of the so-called “cute witch” magical girl stories. Anime News Network, as quoted above, in 2008 even went so far as to call it the best fantasy comic of the last five years, and also said it has “one of the most satisfying, most creative, most epic endings to a fantasy series ever.” There is evidence for this in how the series gets sold: take a look on Amazon, and you will see that the aftermarket prices are reasonable for the first seven volumes, but then shoot up to ridiculous numbers for the final volume, apparently because people are actually willing to pay upwards of forty-five dollars for Sugar Sugar Rune‘s allegedly mind-blowing finale. Continue reading “‘Sugar Sugar Rune,’ Volumes 1-3”

‘Magical Girl Raising Project,’ Episode 4

Magical Girl Raising Project, episode 4, “Add More Friends!” Directed by Hiroyuki Hashimoto. Studio Lerche. Produced by Genco (2016). Approx. 24 minutes. Rated PG-13. Available on Crunchyroll.

This episode continues where we left off in episode 3, with magical girls Snow White and La Pucelle getting bum-rushed by Ruler and her minions, who hope to swipe Snow White’s Magical Candies in order to avoid death at the hands of Fav’s sadistic elimination game.

You got that right.
You got that right.

Continue reading “‘Magical Girl Raising Project,’ Episode 4”

Fifty Shades of Pink: The ‘Revolutionary Girl Utena’ Rewatch, Part 2

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 2: “For Whom the Rose Smiles.” Directed by Kunihiko Ikuhara. Character designs by Chiho Saito. Be-Papas, 1997 (Nozomi Entertainment, 2011). Approx. 24 minutes. Rated “16+.”

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The 39-episode anime series Revolutionary Girl Utena is complex and weird enough that it admits probably several interpretations. After kicking around on the internet, I’ve decided that in spite of the large volume of ink already spilled, I don’t feel redundant for writing this series of essays, because after I read anything anyone else has written, I inevitably come away saying, “No, that’s completely wrong.” Continue reading “Fifty Shades of Pink: The ‘Revolutionary Girl Utena’ Rewatch, Part 2”

‘Magical Girl Raising Project,’ Episode 3

Magical Girl Raising Project, episode 3, “Update Notice!” Directed by Hiroyuki Hashimoto. Studio Lerche. Produced by Genco (2016). Approx. 24 minutes. Rated PG-13. Available on Crunchyroll.

This third episode is still low key and maintains the deliberate pacing, but the premise, at least, is now fully established. It also appears that the most important players are already on the board, though we know one more magical girl will be added in the future; I assume that’s HardGore Alice, who was in some promotional material but hasn’t shown up yet.

This episode is fairly simple. We see a few vignettes of characters doing various things, but the most important part of the episode is the girls’ discovery that to cease being a magical girl is to die, which means one of them is going to die every week for the next seven weeks until Fav reduces their number to what he considers acceptable. Continue reading “‘Magical Girl Raising Project,’ Episode 3”

God Is Dead and Men Are Pigs: The ‘Revolutionary Girl Utena’ Rewatch, Part 1

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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 1: “The Rose Bride.” Directed by Kunihiko Ikuhara. Character designs by Chiho Saito. Be-Papas, 1997 (Nozomi Entertainment, 2011). Approx. 24 minutes. Rated “16+.”

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Anime fans can have short memories. It is to be expected: shows come out, have a brief run, and then go away. Unless a fan snatches up a hard copy during the often short window of its printing, it disappears off the market or its cost rockets up to a collector’s price. Older stuff is on laserdisc or VHS and nigh inaccessible unless there is a re-release.

Probably for that reason, 2011’s Puella Magi Madoka Magica gets credit from a lot of fans for its “deconstructive” character, and they call it the “Neon Genesis Evangelion of magical girl anime.” But there is an earlier title I believe is more deserving of that honor, a title closer to Evangelion in time and theme, and which also had some of the same staff. That show is Revolutionary Girl Utena, brainchild of Kunihiko Ikuhara, who had previously been one of the most important directors to work on Sailor MoonUtena is, in spite of a decidedly uneven presentation and the hampering of a shoestring budget, easily one of the greatest anime of all time.  For reasons I’ll defend later, I daresay it out-Evangelions even Evangelion. Continue reading “God Is Dead and Men Are Pigs: The ‘Revolutionary Girl Utena’ Rewatch, Part 1”

‘Magical Girl Raising Project,’ Episode 2

Magical Girl Raising Project. Episode 2, “Collect Magical Candies!” It’s so new I’m not even sure who’s making it. 24 minutes. Not rated. Available on Crunchyroll.

I’ve decided after reading the audience comments on Crunchy that I’m going to say spoiler warning, but seriously, if the end of this episode surprises you, you’re not paying attention.

I wrote my preliminary thoughts about the new, ongoing series Magical Girl Raising Project over here after seeing episode 1. The show’s synopsis on Crunchyroll promises a magical girl death battle. However, the first episode, after its initial glimpse of blood and gore, is pretty tame, and this second episode is surprisingly low-key as well. It gives the impression that, instead of revelling in violence from the get-go, it’s planning to build gradually and then, in the final episode, go full Battle Royale.

Never go full Battle Royale. Continue reading “‘Magical Girl Raising Project,’ Episode 2”

‘Magical Girl Raising Project’: It’s Another One of THOSE Shows

Here we go again!

Magical Girl Raising Project, episode 1: “Welcome to a World of Dreams and Magic.” Genco, Studio Lerche. Available on Crunchyroll.

In my naïveté, I wanted to believe that the magical girl genre’s Goth phase, begun in 2011 by Puella Magi Madoka Magicahad come to an end with Yuki Yuna Is a Hero, which I discussed here.  Yuki Yuna replies to Madoka by giving it the finger, an audacious move that earned my admiration.

And, after all, the last few years after Yuki Yuna have seen titles like Wish Upon the Pleiades and Nurse Witch Komugi R, not all of which are good or likeable or decent, but which at least suggest that creators in the genre are looking back to a previous era when magical girls were about love and hope rather than about dying in a pool of blood after having been tricked by an amoral power. Perhaps, I told myself, the Day Break Illusions are behind us. Continue reading “‘Magical Girl Raising Project’: It’s Another One of THOSE Shows”

Adolescence as Bodily Invasion: A Review of ‘Alien Nine’

Alien Nine, story and art by Hitoshi Tomizawa. CPM Manga, 1999. 3 volumes. Rated Age 16+.

Alien Nine is that deceptive kind of manga I like, the kind that starts out looking cute and then grows darker and grimmer. Although its premise suggests a target audience of children and it has a simple and cutesy style, this actually appeared in a seinen magazine, that is, one for adult men. Originally running from 1998 to 1999 and filling three volumes, it in 2003 saw a one-volume sequel, Alien Nine: Emulators. There is also a four-episode OVA adaptation. The OVA only managed to cover half the story before it ran out of money, but is nonetheless a cult classic.

This is such a common trick that I'm surprised anyone is surprised anymore.
This is such a common trick that I’m surprised anyone is surprised anymore.

The story revolves around three twelve-year-old girls obliged to protect their elementary school from hordes of goofy little aliens by trapping those aliens and then maintaining them in a vast zoo (or prison) on the school grounds. After introducing this absurd premise, Alien Nine grows steadily more gruesome and violent as the aliens grow more dangerous, until it descends into angst and body horror. By depicting creature-catching as less than it’s cracked up to be, it may be considered a subversion or deconstruction—or whatever the kids are calling it these days—of Pokémon and similar brands.

Continue reading “Adolescence as Bodily Invasion: A Review of ‘Alien Nine’”