Sunday, May 26, 2013

Madoka Magica and Why it Rocks ~ by me :3

Welcome back, ladies and gentlemen.

So last week I mentioned throwback posts about older shows that warrant a good watch, and since I didn't happen upon anything new this weekend, I figured this would be the first of those.


During the Gargantia portion of last week's post, I mentioned a show called Puella Magi Madoka Magica and said something along the lines that it was up there with Freddie Mercury's mustache as one of history's greatest artistic triumphs.  Obviously I didn't say that verbatim, but you get the idea.

Madoka Magica, in my opinion, is one of the most influential series I've seen in a long time, and as long as you haven't been living in a colony of hipsters for the past three years, you've probably heard something similar.  So if you were reading last week and was wondering "Should I be impressed by this writer person?"

The short answer is "yes".  The long answer is "yes, and let me tell you why".

So, Madoka Magica is what is known as a magical girl show, a term most readily associated with Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura.  True to form, Madoka Magica has a cute animal helper, a couple transformation sequences, an entirely female cast (kind of?), and evil villains to fight.  However, somewhere along the way, somebody said "You know what I like is that Evangelion," (I'm gonna talk about this show a lot.  Do yourself a favor and watch it if you haven't).  And that's when all hell broke loose.  What I'm trying to say is that this show gets real dark, real quick.

But I digress.

The general gist of Madoka Magica is that there's a girl named - you guessed it - Madoka, who is hanging with her friends one day when she hears a voice in her head calling for her help.  So she and her friend Sayaka follow the voice and finds this hurt little...thing in what I can only describe as abandoned service tunnels.  It is here that they meet a mysterious girl who warns Madoka to stay away from the creature and disappears into the darkness.  Then they get attacked by some truly bizarre and disturbing creatures but are saved by another mysterious girl, this one with a sunnier personality, significantly more blunderbusses and a bitchin' hat.  Her name is Mami and she introduces Madoka and Sayaka to the world of magical girls.

The deal works thus: Kyubey, the creature Madoka discovered, will grant any one wish in exchange for a life pledged to fighting Witches, evil creatures born from dark thoughts that lurk in the dark places of the world, cursing any who wander into their realm to death (usually suicide).  And as it happens, Madoka and Sayaka have a great deal of potential, or so Kyubey reports.

The pair go with Mami on a few Witch-hunts as they weigh their decision.  However, things take a turn for the worst as one such hunt goes horribly wrong.  And let me just say, it gets worse from there.

Which is not to say that the show is bad, just soul-crushing, dark, and really not what you'd expect out of a magical-girl show, and the best part is that it has a pretty satisfying ending, as I am not the biggest fan of shows that end badly.  Where's the fun in that?

The show is masterfully written, has interesting and tragic characters, a unique and stylized art style (which I, personally, enjoyed as a sort of visual foil for how dark the tone is), and has a rewarding end.  The show came out in 2011 with a 12 episode run and is available in English on Blu-ray and DVD.  I would highly recommend this show as I think it is a truly great work, and a marvelous example of how anime can carry complex messages and themes in the same way other artistic media can.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Hitting the trail: Anime night sampler

Hey everyone, and welcome to Danny's Great Anime Adventure!

When a friend of mine first suggested I make an anime blog, my first question was "where do I start?", and I figured the best place to start is now.  That is to say, I'll start with what I'm watching right now and maybe double back for throwback posts, talking about shows I really enjoyed in the past or talk about ones that really left an impression.  But I can do more of that later.  So without further ado, let's do this thing.

So last night I was at a friend of mine's place for our weekly anime throwdown rediculousness and I brought some new shows for a tentative look at the first couple of episodes and I have to say, I got pretty lucky with the outcome.

The first show we watched was "Hataraku Maou-sama!" which translates roughly as "Work, Demon lord" or something of that nature.  I did see it translated somewhere on the net to "The Devil is a Part-timer" which I think is A) more apt and B) a lot funnier, so we'll call it that :P

So anyways, we watched the first episode of Hataraku and I have to say I was not disappointed.  Trying to keep things concise here, but the general gist is that the great demon king named Satan ruled over these five island in a separate fantasy world.  Then, led by a great hero, humans rose up and overthrew Satan.  And, in a climactic battle (which looked REALLY sweet, for what its worth), Satan and his first lieutenant, Alsiel, fled through a magic portal and wind up guessed it,

modern day Japan.  (I would just like to take a second to say that for the entire first segment, all of the characters from fantasy land were speaking some language that I can't readily identify, and I can't tell you how cool I thought that was).  So now Satan and Alsiel have to make their way in the world, battling such problems as getting a house, keeping food on the table, et cetera.

Hilarity ensues.

Afterwards we watched the first episode of "Dantalian no Shoka" or "The Mystical Archives of Dantalian".  Dantalian is an older show, from 2011, and is actually an adaptation of a light novel by Gakuto Mikumo.  The anime was adapted by GAINAX, our lord and savior, so that should speak for itself. So, Dantalian starts off in post WWI era Europe with the main character, Lord Hugh Anthony Disward, driving to his late grandfather's estates to look into his inheritance.  This includes the house and his wealth of rare books that he has collected over the years.  It is here that he meets a mysterious girl, Dalian, hanging out in his basement reading his books.

Dalian and Hugh get roped into the world of Phantom Books, special grimoires that unleash magic with terrifying consequences if read by the wrong person.

Sort of like if "Card Captors" was about books and they were ALL BY LOVECRAFT.  I hyperbolize, but you get the idea.

 Spooky, right?

In the first episode, the pair investigate the man who Dalian thinks murdered Hugh's grandfather to steal one of his Phantom Books.  This one in particular involved circus creatures, with the pair being attacked by things like a crazy, knife-wielding joker and a rampaging lion.
What do you think's in here?  An elephant?

Nope.  It's a dragon...

Like I said, Dantalian is an older show and has already completed its 12 episode run, but it is a relative favorite of my fiancee's (a bibliophile herself) and mine.

Finally, we polished off the night with "Suisei no Gargantia" or "Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet" which, in my opinion, took the gold medal for the night.  This is another new show, written by Gen Urobuchi, the writer behind Puella Magi Madoka Magica (which, if you haven't watched yet, watch, and if you haven't finished yet, finish.  Super solid show in my top 10)

The first episode starts off pretty standard fare...robots, space, war with aliens, and your main character, Ensign Ledo with the human alliance, piloting his robot, Chamber.  In Gargantia, humanity has established itself in some kind of super-colony called Avalon, a supposedly perfect utopia.  The first scene opens up with Ledo gearing up and shipping out to fight the Hideauze, a hostile race of aliens.

What I find really interesting about Avalon is the creepy dystopian feeling it gives off.  The opening monologue has a real propaganda vibe to it that is beamed to the alliance fighters via "REM hypnosis education", which sounds a hell of a lot like brainwashing if you ask me.

The second thing that gets me is where Chamber alerts Ledo that his military time has exceeded 145,000 hours, which calculates roughly to 6041.66 days, or 16.5 years.

This earns our boy LIMITED CITIZENSHIP and the right to visit Avalon for FOUR WEEKS.


Four weeks where you can sleep, eat, drink, and "reproduce" all you want.  Sixteen years for one free month seems a little crazy if you ask me.

Chamber fires infinite lasers :P

Without leaving any of us a lot of time to really think about it, the show throws us into an intense space battle against the Hideauze.  However, on the retreat, Ledo falls off course and is flung unconscious through space.

He comes to after about six months and finds himself inside of what appears to be a really rickety colony or space station, with strange people trying to take apart his mech.  After some snap decisions, an abduction, and an escape later, he gets out and discovers its mysterious origin.

Ledo has crash landed on Earth

Gargantia definitely was my top pick for the night, and possibly this season (I may delve into a few other newish shows like the Devil Survivor 2 animation).  It has a really solid cast of characters, looks amazing, and I feel like there's more to it than a boy and his robot.  I would strongly recommend Gargantia and have really high hopes for it in the future.

I'll update as I get farther into this series or start others, so keep and eye out.

Thanks for reading :)