Falling Into Some Cool Anime!
. . . I Feel Like I’ve Used That Before. . .
By: Head Writer – J.R Tafoya
Hello again my Giga-Landers! It’s J.R here again with another of my amazing and patented(?) anime reviews! Maybe a day or two late, but who’s counting!? Not me, because you can’t quantify love! Or, your love for me, anyway.
Once again I have painstakingly watched a lot of anime, which is much easier than it sounds, just for you! Going so far as to watch anything that might pique any interest this season, I have attempted to pick some sleepers this season, rather than the most well-known among the populace. This time, I looked specifically for things you might have passed up because of a weird name, or because the synopsis sounded boring, or even because the title picture sent you running. Things like Drifters definitely don’t need my help this season!
This time, I cover the slow-to-start Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku that’s been seeing some backlash for trying to rev the engine for too long. Secondly I cover an emotional show called 3-gatsu no Lion which seems to keep us off-balance by constantly switching gears! And finally, Flip Flappers, a show that is about something! Like a car from the future! . . . Or something! . . .
Anyway, these are some things that I found personally enjoyable and ones that I hope you might like as well. As the wind beneath your wings and flame to your Bonfire (Dark Souls-esque), I personally welcome you to open your eyes, and your mind, to something just a little different!
Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku
(Magical Girl Raising Project)
Outlook: More Like “Razing” Project! –
As a young girl, Koyuki had always been a huge fan of magical girls. Being able to swiftly and beautifully save the day, helping people in need, and always doing what was right, magical girls were the epitome of righteousness for this young, impressionable girl. Later in life she had to hide her love for these daintily dressed heroines because being a young woman who adores something so childish would make her to center of ridicule. One day, Koyuki finds a mobile game called “Magical Girl Raising Project” in which she can live out her dreams of being part of Japan’s girliest cultures. But, there is one strange rumor surrounding the game: they say that every one in one-thousand girls who plays the game gains the power of a magical girl! Backed up by this story, there have been multiple sightings of strangely dressed women saving the day in nearby areas.
If you couldn’t guess that Koyuki would eventually find herself obtaining these powers, then welcome to anime! Blessed with the gift of her childhood dreams, Koyuki spends almost every free moment she has helping anyone and everyone with even the slightest problem. From literally saving cats from trees to rescuing people in a burning building, Koyuki’s innocent heart was filled with joy that she could help people. She would soon find out, though, that there were 15 more magical girls all connected by a certain chat room. Their magical guide, Fav, would then inform them that he’d “accidentally” hired too many magical girls, and that he would have to cull their numbers by half. He would also mention that the only way for the girls to prove themselves was to gain points by helping people in need or performing acts of kindness. With Koyuki far ahead by an almost unreachable margin, she soon becomes the target of most other girls’ ire as they find out that losing means a lot more than just having your powers taken away.
If you haven’t guessed that this is another “dark magical girl” sub-genre anime, then I suggest you wake up and go watch Madoka Magica. This anime introduces itself much like Madoka Magica in that, without a preview of the show, you would never have been able to surmise that it was going to get dark by the first episode alone. But, also like its predecessor it really takes a bit of time to ramp up or, in this case, hasn’t ramped up yet. Mahou Shoujo has taken a lot of time to set up a plot that seems extremely intricate from the outside but at the terrible expense of its character development. Aside from Koyuki and her childhood friend Souta, we aren’t shown much of anything about anyone or why we should care. So, when the first death happens, we aren’t as much surprised as we were when we saw things like Mai-Hime or the aforementioned Madoka Magica.
The negatives aside though, this show seems to be playing more to a stronger plot and game rather than endearing characters. Fav, for whatever reason, seems to not care about these girls and their lives. In fact, he starts changing the rules slowly to make the game more interesting. But, he also doesn’t hide what happens to the girls when they lose their powers. Though a lie through omission, the “you never asked” line pops up proving that he’d been ready to lay his cards on the table from square one. The addition of these rules really plays a big part against our protagonists. Koyuki wants to be a good person from the bottom of her heart, she wants to save the people who are hurt and help as many people as she can. But, by doing so, she is literally killing every other girl who is competing against her. This creates a huge moral quandary from the start and plays strongly into a lot of their conversations. If the show can keep that going, it will definitely be a top contender for this season.
That being said, the show hasn’t accomplished much in three episodes. We know who the good guys are, we’re aware of the bad seeds, and we know what needs to be done, but we don’t know the endgame which adds even more suspense, in my opinion. Hell, the first scene alone puts us en-media-res with a show of carnage that could put a lot of shounen shows to shame! Even then, we’ve been given no clue about what we saw or why we saw it other than to catch us off guard from the first step. From this point, we’ve only seen one person lose so far and it was rather dull and obvious from the start. It’s hard to say more without ruining the plot, but it seems to be teetering on the “dropping this soon” list for a lot of people. Unless it can find a way to kick it into high gear, it will soon be losing a lot of viewers who have much more to watch than an imitation with much to prove.
If you’re a fan of the dark magical girl sub-genre, morally ambiguous situations, or cute things being bloodied and killed, you might actually like this show. If you’re interested, give it at least two episodes to find out where you stand. If you’re a little skeptical, like Yours Truly, you might want to wait a week or two, or even for my “awesome” reviews, to find out if it becomes something worthy of watching.
3-gatsu no Lion
(March Comes in Like a Lion)
Outlook: “Insert Social Commentary Here” –
My smarter half (i.e Me) has informed I, that I should probably talk more about the anime than my disdain for the human beings who communicate solely through social media. I think Me has a good point about my writing for Me. Also, Me thinks I should probably stop referring to myself as Me, as it could confuse we, meaning us. Let’s just start with a synopsis instead! . . . Man, this writing thing is hard.
3-gatsu no Lion (pronounced: San-gatsu), is about a young man named Kiriyama Rei who lives alone at the tender age of 17. But, rather than getting money from his parents to live alone and attend a prestigious school – like most kids his age would do – Rei provides for himself by playing, and winning, professional Shogi matches. Don’t worry if you don’t know what Shogi is or how it’s played, I had to look it up at some point too. Anyway, Rei tends to bypass his studies and, well, school in general to participate in these matches that win him just enough money to live on. Though, it seems that most of his class, and teachers, and even other members of his Shogi club have stopped attempting to force Rei to go to school at this point.
While, on the surface, 3-gatsu may sound like a boring anime about “Japanese Chess” I can promise it is much, much more than that, even from the first few minutes alone. You see, Rei doesn’t speak much, but narrates most of the story in the first person, which lets you see a lot of what’s happening in this troubled child’s mind. Something terrible happened to Rei in his past, something that’s only hinted at once in two episodes, that has deeply affected him and his ability to connect with others. He keeps his distance from just about everyone except for one family of three sisters: Akari, Hinata, and Momo. Akari, the eldest of the three, sees right through Rei’s obvious guise and does her best to take care of someone who obviously has no interest in taking care of himself.
If you haven’t guessed, this is about Rei dealing with his crippling depression and intense emotions of solidarity. Social commentary incoming: Despite what pop-culture may try to spoon feed you on a daily basis, depression isn’t some kind of loud monster that you can deal with easily. As seen in this show, one way to personify it is like a giant wave, one you can barely swim in and one where you struggle to reach the top before you run out of breath. Rei’s emotions never really reach the surface, but his soliloquies really drive home how he sees something that we would never have caught had he not mentioned for us which, honestly, speaks volumes for its writers. One instance, which really had me pondering for days afterward, was during a shogi match. Rei envisions himself and his elderly opponent, someone he’s obviously acquainted with, slowly wrapped in darkness and every move he makes is rigid and heavy. Every tile placed comes with a loud cracking sound as if Rei had intended to slam his pawns with the strength of Atlas himself. He later describes the scene as if he were physically fighting the man, as if every motion were an attempt to strike the man with every fiber of his being.
3-gatsu is deep, and it lets us know where Rei stands from the rest of the cast. But, it also has these weird moments where it takes a uniquely hilarious turn. Whenever Rei is with the family of sisters, the animation becomes much more light-hearted and gains this almost-Shoujo feel and artstyle to it. The cats that live with the sisters become more prominent and even have a few (internally) spoken lines about how being a cat is very cat-like! This juxtaposition really provides a strong sense of both Rei’s want and need for some kind of love and attention, but also for how lonely even we can feel, as watchers, when Rei is by himself. I was honestly surprised how sad I felt one moment, then how much I was laughing the next.
One thing I feel I should note about this show is how they animate one particular thing: Rei’s face. In particular, his frown. Rei very rarely smiles and . . . honestly, I can’t tell you if he ever actually smiled in the first couple episodes. The unique attention paid to the dark borders outlining his lips really draws your attention to his eternal grimace. The furrowed brow and sloping eyebrows helps direct your attention to his one constant emotion: sadness. Despite how happy he sounds in his narrations and even if he’s seemingly optimistic about something, the one thing that always gives away his true feelings is his gloomy look. The show goes out of its way to always animate that frown, even to the point of looking strange sometimes, but never downright bad.
If you’re looking for a show that’s about a young boy battling with the colossal monster that is depression, and if you want something that’s about a young group of sisters taking in a poor lost soul with every ounce of love they can muster, and if you want something along the lines of a broken family grasping at peices to make itself whole again, I would highly suggest going out of your way to watch this show. It is, for lack of a better word, depressing as a whole, but it definitely gives a look into how difficult it can be to deal with something that many people make light of. And, if I’m lucky, maybe we can end on a high note with this young hero conquering the dragon that is his inner demons. If anything, to prove that a monster is something you can beat, not something you should hide from.
Outlook: Drawn, and Probably Written, By Ace Animators –
Usually I take this time to write about the story and a taste of what it might be about. I try to pepper in some stuff about the characters, the protagonists and antagonists. Sometimes I even try to sprinkle in some words about the animation or sound quality as well. Well, I’m not gonna lie about this one . . . I’m almost at a loss for words. This may be the first time I’ve felt this way since I started my long and arduous journey to this point. So, I’m literally just going to type whatever comes to my head first. I’m going to do my best, so try and keep up with me, O.K?
Cocona is a young middle-school girl on the cusp of graduation. Her grades, like her standards, are way higher than most people in the school which give her a huge range in choices on where to go to high school. One day, while mindlessly wandering around her school’s forest, which I’m sure most schools have, she meets another young girl named Papika. Their chance meeting seems much less like chance when Papika exclaims Cocona’s name before she even gives it, then they’re transported from a pipe to a completely different world. And, no, that wasn’t a cute Mario reference, that actually happened. In this new world covered in snow and trees, Cocona starts to panic and then becomes friends with Papika . . . as much sense as that makes.
While on this strange and stranger-less journey giant monster . . . worm . . . mole(?) things trample their campsite taking Cocona’s precious glasses with them. In an attempt to win over her new friend’s heart, Papika uses a device similar to Eureka 7’s “liftboards” to fly on to one of the worms, only get pulled underwater by it. In a panic, Cocona attempts to chase after her new friend and then goes super saiyan, except with purple hair! After saving Papika, they return to the real world with this new gem in hand, then they get attacked by GIANT (mid-sized) ROBOTS! And that’s the last you see of those robots, they literally have no appearance and are never referenced after that.
I’m confused, does a confused person get a resolution? Because I have no clue what in the hell was happening in those first two episodes but, damnit! I enjoyed the hell out of myself! To be more clear, let’s start clean.
Flip Flappers was fantastical. It was beautiful, and it was detailed to an unbelievable degree. It was more about the world and its utterly exquisite grace than it was about some kind of “story”! It seems like this show has an inexhaustible animation budget, and it shows with how much care they put into even the tiniest details. Every movement, every footstep, every tree, and every animal moves with such refinement that, even without a coherent storyline, you need to at least applaud it on that front.
I literally have no idea what the story is for this show, and I couldn’t even make one up at this point unless I really tried. Harkening back to my outlook, it seems like this show is only by artists and animators who care about, well, art and animating. There has been near zero character development, and the world-building has been shoved under the carpet to make room for the world-beautifying. Even about 80% of the dialogue has been the two either grunting or heaving and the Inuyasha-esque exchange of each other’s names. “PAPIKA!”, “COCONA!” honestly gets old pretty fast. Hell, I don’t even know how, or why, the hell either of them can go super saiyan! BUT I WANT TO SEE MORE!
I’m obviously bias, so I’ll see if I can’t be less so. If you’re into shows that have deep, meaningful stories and endearing characters, this show has definitely missed the mark. If you want something to get attached to or something with a sense of urgency or accomplishment, then I can tell you to look elsewhere. But, if you can bypass those shortcomings and like to focus on the pulchritudinous aspects of modern “art” and all its forms, I can tell you you’ll have a fun time with this hackneyed show full of hodgepodge and mishmash. I couldn’t tell you if something deeper is in the works, honestly. I know that artists think differently and usually have several layers to their works, but if that’s the case now, then we haven’t even scratched the surface. But, what do I know? The only reason I picked up the show was because it had the stupidest sounding name I’ve seen in a long time.
I don’t know what it is, but i love it. For now, anyway.
P.S. Cocona’s hamster’s name, Uexküll, is hard to pronounce. Here’s a tip.