I think I had been watching Shugo Chara!, the anime based on Peach-Pit’s classic magical girl manga, before I went to bed, so that was probably the impetus, but I had a dream about a high-schooler who got sent back to fifth grade because of an error on his transcript. There, a little girl picked on him, and he couldn’t do anything about it because she was just a kid.
When I woke up, I thought that was a really funny idea, but I couldn’t think of anything to do with it. I mulled it over for a few days and finally said, “Well, what if she’s a magical girl?”
Pretty Dynamo, complete with name, look, and a basic idea of her powers, popped immediately into my head.
I think I can name every title referenced in that picture. From left to right, Shugo Chara!, Magic Knight Rayearth, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Kill la Kill, Cardcaptor Sakura, Sailor Moon, Revolutionary Girl Utena, and Princess Tutu. How’d I do?
Happy Mother’s Day. I should have a review up tomorrow, and then of course we’ll have another chapter of Jake and the Dynamo on Monday.
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 Magica—which 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.
… I don’t even know what that is. But it kind of looks cool:
This is in some mysterious fashion linked with the new Facebook page for Jake and the Dynamo. I think you can scan it with your phone using the Messenger app. You might have to print it first.
Back in my day, things you scan with your phone were square and looked like mazes. You kids these days have it easy, what with your pictures and circle thingies.
As an added note, Chapter 2, of Jake and the Dynamo, “Enter the Dynamo,” will appear this coming Monday, just in time for Mother’s Day … at least if you like to get your mom things like free ebook chapters because you’re some kind of cheapskate tightwad who doesn’t appreciate his parents.
Chocolate and flowers, dammit. That’s what your mother wants, not magical girl ebook chapters! Believe me, I know this.
Because she told me last night.
Oh, by the way, like our Facebook page. I promise not to talk about your mom.
You know those stupid birthday games? This is one of those stupid birthday games, courtesy of Utah’s Anime Banzai. I remember Anime Banzai from years back. Good times.
I get “Glistening Mirage Wave,” which is surprisingly intelligible, if rather mundane. What do you get?
I’m rather fond of magical girls’ called attacks. The sheer audacity of creating a move for your character by flipping open an English dictionary and grabbing random nouns and adjectives delights me. Unfortunately, a lot of creators have never bothered to think about exactly what these attacks do or how they work, so we in the audience are often stuck watching the characters throw sparkly lights at each other while wondering what the heck is going on. Of course, there are other titles that have addressed this issue or simply dodged it.
I get the impression from the hand-wringing that there are people on the internet who think Hollywood’s casting directors can create actors and actresses ex nihilo. They have to work with what they have, people.
Are you upset about Scarlett Johansson starring in a Hollywood adaptation of a Japanese anime? Okay, then name me an A-list Japanese actress in Hollywood. I mean that seriously; I don’t keep tabs on Hollywood and I am aware that there exist a lot of allegedly A-list actors whose names I don’t know.
Oh, excuse me, it seems most of the internet isn’t complaining that Johansson is not Japanese, but that she’s not Asian. But surely you don’t think Asian people are interchangeable and all alike, do you … do you? If the role of the Major were being played by a Pakistani or White Russian, that is, someone Asian, would you be satisfied?
Tell me: exactly when did Hollywood get Ahnenpass rules? Since when are actors and actresses supposed to be judged on melanin content or genetic heritage rather than, say, talent? It must be quite recent: I don’t remember anyone whinging about white actors in Speed Racer, which was also an American movie based on a Japanese cartoon. Oddly enough, I do remember the internet whinging a great deal about white actors in The Last Airbender, which was an American movie based on … um … an American cartoon.
“But the cartoon characters are Asian!” the internet cried. No they weren’t. They came from magical element land, spoke American slang, and behaved like American teens. They were about as Asian as a pan-Asian cuisine fast food stall, but that didn’t stop busybodies and scolds from tarring M. Night Shyamalan as a racist, which no doubt completely blindsided him: no one has any hope of accurately predicting what will offend the Twitterati and Tumblrinas.
And because the rage and offense of Twitter cannot be predicted, there is no point in trying to avoid giving that offense. The executives at the studio making the Ghost in the Shell movie should answer the self-appointed internet moral guardians with a giant middle finger. If they do, I will see the movie. If they kiss butt instead, I’ll skip it.
It’s not “whitewashing.” It’s just practicality. Movies made in a place cast actors from that place. In Bollywood, it’s customary to depict characters of European descent by slapping a wig on an Indian actor. And I can’t tell you how many anime I’ve seen with allegedly foreign characters who speak Japanese fluently and with a flawless accent. Sometimes they speak their “native” language (usually English) with such a thick Japanese accent I can’t understand them. For example, check out the “English” girl from Kinmoza. It’s pretty funny. But does it offend me that a Japanese woman is playing an English girl? No, because I’m not that petty.
People claiming to be offended by this are trying to introduce a moral principle they cannot possibly apply consistently. The inevitable result will be hypocrisy such as we see in people condemning Johansson playing the Major while insisting we need a non-English James Bond. No casting director could possibly obey such a harsh rule, and historically, casting directors have not. Remember Scotty from Star Trek? Not actually Scottish. How about Sean Connery in Hunt for Red October? Not Russian.
When a person acts, he plays someone he’s not, someone with a different life and different history, and yes, possibly a different race, from his own. That’s why it’s called acting.
And just to be clear here, this is the character we’re talking about: