So the Japanese are going to get their own dub of My Little Pony ~Tomodachi wa Mahou~. Good for them; the first season, at least, (which is all I’ve seen) is often clever, rarely cloying, and probably better than nearly all other contemporary shows on western teevee.
Most of the actresses announced so far are new to me, but there are a few familiar voices. The Queen of Tears, Kikuko Inoue, is Princess Celestia. Fortunately, Celestia isn’t a weepy sort, and Inoue is a good actress when she isn’t bawling her eyes out. Rozen Maiden‘s Shinku is Twilight Sparkle, and Cardcaptor Sakura‘s Li Shaoran is Spike.
Dusty Sage found a “State of the Herd” survey of Bronies. One of the findings is astonishing if it’s accurate: more than a quarter of all MLP:FIM fans are INTJs like me. I knew that thoughtful introverts are far more common on the internet than offline, but this is bizarre.
Crunchyroll began streaming Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica today, so I watched the first episode during lunch. I was curious to see how it looked at 1080. I took several screencaps; click on them to see them full-size. They look nice, but they’re not razor-sharp. I would guess that the video was upscaled from 720. (The monitor screen is 1920 x 1200, hence the letterboxing. (The images from Madoka’s dream were letterboxed to begin with.))
I’ve been fortunate so far with Miku Hatsune and her ilk. The Vocaloid engine has not yet been ported to Macintosh, so I haven’t been tempted to spend all my evenings and weekends tinkering with vocal synthesizers. But my luck may have run out. There is now a Mac version of UTAU, the freeware/shareware counterpart of Vocaloid. If it’s possible for someone without Japanese to figure out — there is an English-language UTAU community online, so help is available — what free time I had this summer is gone.
One of the 19th-century piano virtuoso’s stocks in trade was the operatic paraphrase, in which he took themes from a popular opera and assembled a fantasia with them, often highly elaborate. The practice fell out of favor in the twentieth century. However, if you substitue anime for opera, it is alive and well in otakudom. Here is a piece using themes from Yuki Kajiura’s OST for Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica:
I wonder if might be possible to make an opera out of Madoka. Perhaps not; it would take considerable ingenuity to condense the story to two or three hours and still have it make sense, and there are no significant roles for adult male singers — you could cast Kyubey as a tenor, but he would be cuter and creepier as a boy soprano. While a clever designer can probably think of a way to present the witches, the events of the last episode are another matter entirely.
Nevertheless, if it could be done, and done well, it would potentially be overwhelming. The composer would not necessarily have to be Yuki Kajiura, though I would be curious to hear if she’s capable of something as complex as an opera.
Not anime-related, but noteworthy: an arrangement of a Lady Gaga tune that bears listening:
Three months ago I was following six new shows, the most ever at one time. So, how did the winter season pan out?
• Gosick — Victorique and Kujo both annoyed me in different ways, and the first few mysteries weren’t that interesting. It takes more than a blonde Leningrad Cowboys haircut to sustain my interest. Dropped.
• Yumekui Merry — I dropped it when it was licensed. I’ll probably pick up the boxed set in a year or two. It’s not high priority. I skimmed ahead in the manga; there’s possibly a good story there, but I doubt that it could be wrapped up neatly in 26 episodes, let alone 13.
• Kore wa Zombie desu ka — Any show that makes a guy in a frilly pink dress a exemplar of manliness deserves recognition. Still, it felt like a small fragment of a much larger story, and at the same time, it seemed that the writers had no particular goal in mind but were making it up as they went along. I almost made it all the way through the series, quitting ten minutes into the last, irrelevant episode. It’s a possible buy if it’s licensed for DVD, but it would be low priority.
• Level E — The oddest show I’ve seen in a while. The central character, a hyperintelligent alien bishie prince and a complete jerk, torments and plays practical jokes on his staff and on earthlings unfortunate enough to catch his attention. Surprisingly, it’s watchable and sometimes even fun. It gives Takehito Koyasu a chance to chew the scenery as the prince’s much-put-upon assistant. If it’s licensed, it might be worth buying when the boxed set is on sale. The opening theme is my favorite from the winter season.
• Mahou Shoujo Madoka?Magica — The last two episodes were more than worth the wait. The show has had me thinking of Divergence Eve/Misaki Chronicles; the last episode strongly reminded me of Serial Experiments Lain as well. Every episode surprised me; even when I had some notion of what was coming, Shinbo and Urobuchi consistently exceeded my expectations. I don’t declare anything a “classic” until it is at least ten years old, but I think that in 2021 Madoka will join Cardcaptor Sakura, Lain and Shingu on my very short list of true anime classic series. ((Haibane Renmei (2002) and Dennou Coil (2007) are also probable classics.))
Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica, episode ten: I can’t think of anything to say except “wow.”
One translation nit-pick: “Puella magi” != “mahou shoujo,” and I refuse to use the term. It should be either “magica” or “maga.” “Puella magi” means something like “girl of the wizard.” I suppose you could describe Kyubey’s victims as such, but I don’t think that’s what Urobuchi and Shinbo had in mind.
Which of the fansub groups working on Madoka produces the most accurate translations? I watch the first sub available of each episode so I can see it before the otakusphere is rife with spoilers, but for rewatches I want to view the one that best catches the shades of meaning in the dialogue.
Madoka was a mahou shoujo before, and a really good one. But she was utterly miserable, having lost her family and nearly everyone she loved to the witches. Homura was her last remaining friend, and decided to become a mahou shoujo so she could use her wish to make Madoka happy.
Homura’s wish was to give Madoka back the life she had lost, the family and friends and places that were gone. And that’s why Madoka’s life is a bit surreal, with the strange house and the school built of glass walls and everything seeming just a bit off. It is real, in a sense, but it was created by Homura’s wish.
At this point it is very clear that Madoka is a horror story involving children, closer to Bokurano than Sailor Moon. It’s an interesting exercise to watch the opening and note the misdirections and outright lies.
Since Funimation is streaming Fractale, I am not downloading the fansubs. This has been frustrating. How many more times will the broadcast be delayed? Will I live long enough to see the final episode? Similarly, I am not downloading Kore wa Zombie desu ka?, Level E or Gosick since they are on Crunchyroll. This has also been frustrating. I get very tired of playback stopping every 45 seconds while the buffer reloads.
This illustrates two reasons why streaming is the least desirable way of making anime available. I really do want the videos on my computer or on DVD so they will always be readily available, regardless of the whims of the licensors or the vagaries of internet traffic.
Just wondering: was there some sort of big sports event this past weekend? The “Stuporbowl,” I think somebody called it.
Humor and horror are closely related, as anyone who has read Saki or followed Akiyuki Shinbo’s career knows. Or who follows politics. Both are responses to the perception that something isn’t quite right. Consequently, abrupt shifts in tone from comic to horrific to WTF? in shows like Kore wa Zombie desu ka? or Level E rarely bother me. Both series remain on my watch list.
Gosick, however, I am dropping. Victorique is too abrasive to be sympathetic, even if she is literally a prisoner of the library, and the perpetually flustered Kujo is not a good foil for her. The mysteries aren’t interesting enough to compensate for the lack of chemistry between the characters. ((It’s a bad sign when I know the solution to a “locked room” mystery before the writer finishes presenting the problem.))
1. We believe that Pantu Baba, the Vile, the Irascible, the Arbitrary, eternal and almighty god of all that is was or ever shall be, has created all things in a fit of pique. Which explains Detroit. And Comcast.
The sorta-official alternative title for Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica is “Puella Magi Madoka Magica.” Grrr. “Puella” (“girl,” nominative singular) is a feminine noun in Latin, so the proper form of the adjective “magus” (“magic”) is “maga,” not “magi.” I suppose whoever is responsible was trying to avoid calling the show “Magical Girl Magical Madoka.” I’d suggest either sticking with “Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica” or just calling the series “Magical Madoka.”
Update: Maureen interprets the title differently in the comments below. She may well be right, but I’m not convinced that it’s what the SHAFT staff had in mind.
Irresponsible speculation: between whom will the final battle be?
I might follow up to five shows this winter, the most in years. In order of interest, they are:
Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica Fractale Kore wa Zombie desu ka Yumekui Merry Gosick
• Do lepidoptera frighten the Japanese? When I see flocks of butterflies in anime, it’s usually a prelude to danger or horror, e.g., the blue butterflies in Paprika. Butterfly motifs seem to be one of the signals of a witch’s presense in Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica.
• Visually, Madoka is the most eccentric show since Trapeze, combining Shaftesque art and animation with architecture from Unhappy Hipsters and monsters from RatherGood.com.
• The first clue for me that Madoka might be darker than most magical girl shows was the announcement that Yuki Kajiura was doing the soundtrack. I recently put together a two-hour program of music by Yoko Kanno and Kajiura. I was impressed once again by the width of Kanno’s range; she can do anything, from intensely dramatic to cute and silly. However, Kajiura’s music, good though her pieces are taken individually, eventually all sounds pretty much the same: cool, minor-key, introverted, a little exotic, a little strange. ((I was surprised that Kajiura placed first in zzeroparticle’s recent anime composer poll. She’s good, but not that good.)) When a show fits her abilities, the results can be very effective, e.g., Noir. Madoka thus far is another good match for her.
• How dark will Madoka be? Possibly verydark, indeed. The silliness in the opening, I suspect, is a deliberate bait-and-switch. Update: Really, really, really dark.
• Discussions of Fractale so far have mentioned such works as Dennou Coil, Ghost in the Shell, The Matrix, The Naked Sun, etc. I’ll add one more: the trio looking for Phryne reminded me of the duo in Brazil who wore the caps with very long bills.
• I can understand the Fractale committee’s frustration with fansubs, but their action means that people outside Japan now have the choice of a) hoping that it will soon be licensed and available for a reasonable price; b) breaking the law; or, c) joining twelve-step programs to overcome their anime addictions. I really do want to play by the rules, but the case of Dennou Coil indicates that I can no longer expect that all first-rate anime will licensed during my lifetime.
• A frightening thought: boys will cosplay as Ayumu as he was garbed at the end of the first episode of Kore wa Zombie desu ka, and pink chainsaws will be the most annoying props since Wolfwood’s cross.