There were six

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.

Fractale — Even mediocre Miyazaki beats pretentious, incoherent imitations. 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.))

Butterflies and chainsaws

Merry's eyes: leftovers from Katanagatari?
Merry's eyes: leftovers from Katanagatari?

I might follow up to five shows this winter, the most in years. In order of interest, they are:

Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica
Kore wa Zombie desu ka
Yumekui Merry

Random notes:

• 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

• 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 very dark, indeed. The silliness in the opening, I suspect, is a deliberate bait-and-switch. Update: Really, really, really dark.

Would you trust Mami's little smile?
Would you trust Mami's little smile?

• 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.

Avert your eyes: one of the characters in  Yumekui Merry (shudder) smokes.
Avert your eyes: one of the characters in Yumekui Merry (shudder) smokes.