Archive for the 'mahou tsukai ni taisetsu na koto' Category

Mahou Tsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto ~Natsu no Sora~: Initial Impressions, or “Where Did This Budget Come From?”

The answer to the titular question is, of course, that they tapped Kobayashi Osamu (dear Japan: stop naming kids who go on to become important or at least recognizable figures in the anime industry “Osamu” as it’s getting confusing now). Of course, not having seen either Paradise Kiss or BECK, I did not know what exactly to expect when I fired up ~Natsu no Sora~. I expected something on the production levels of the previous series, which I quite liked, but couldn’t have been called “high budget” by a long shot. Maybe it’s just that HAL Film Maker is rich off the proceeds from Aria. Or something.

At any rate, I totally was unprepared for the background visuals, which knocked me for a loop. At first I was like “holy crap, where did this money come from?” and then I was like “wait, these look like photographs” and then I looked even harder and they weren’t photographs, but they were actual drawings. So I was pretty much in a state of confusion for the first half of this episode, trying to figure out what was going on with the backgrounds. But I know now!

The mobile/character art isn’t quite up to par with the backgrounds, lending a kind of strange dichotomy to the whole thing, but there’s nothing wrong with the character art or animation at all. In fact, it reminds me of watching various American cartoons growing up, especially Looney Tunes, where there was a very similar disjoint between the backdrop and the actual props–if something was going to be used as a prop in a take, it would be drawn in the much simpler style of the characters, but if it wasn’t going to be used as a prop, it was drawn in the much more complex style of the background. Which sometimes led to amusing moments like a prop drawn in the background style in one cut, and then in another cut it’d be used as a prop and would be drawn much simpler. I hadn’t seen this in a while, and I’m not sure if it’s an anime thing, or just an advancement in modern animation techniques. I suppose this is the difference in budget and time allotment between a 13-episode TV series and a feature-length Shinkai Makoto film, but given the extreme complexity of the backgrounds, I’m not going to fault them on this matter.

As for the actual episode itself: it was a prologue, so there’s not much to say other than “it was good.” Various elements of ~Natsu no Sora~ seem to have been improved over the original Mahou Tsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto: the writing feels much better, for instance, in what little we’ve seen, and other small things. It also retains the feel the first season had, which I of course cannot put into words, because I don’t think there are words. I think it’s fairly safe to declare HAL Film Maker the champions of the slice-of-life/iyashi-kei anime genre at the moment, considering they have Aria, Sketchbook, and now ~Natsu no Sora~ under their belt. Can they be stopped? Do we want them to stop? I don’t know!

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Someday’s Dreamers: Tokyo Tower Cannot Withstand the Power of Love

I can only imagine the terror of random passerby as Angela here bent Tokyo Tower just to prove she’s in love with someone.

I’ve watched over half of Mahou Tsukai na Taisetsu na Koto/Someday’s Dreamers now, and it’s a quite solid series. Episodes 6 and 8, Kera’s “I want to be a mage!” and Angela’s Tokyo Tower calisthenics performance, respectively, were both incredibly impressive on a writing and direction level, in a way I wouldn’t have expected.

The main episode I want to focus on is 8, since it’s much fresher in my mind than 6 at this point, and at any rate the episode itself illustrates an interesting point about Japanese storytelling style, I think. The main focus of 8 was the mysterious goings-on involving Angela, who, unbeknownst to herself, but knownst to the astute viewer, is slowly falling in love with a character introduced in 7, Inoue. She’s a bit of a tsundere about it, though, being Angela, and she doesn’t quite understand her own feelings on the matter, so she initially rejects Inoue. Through Yume’s persistence in explaining Inoue’s kindness to an Angela who superficially seems to dislike him, but in reality cares for him deeply, Angela realizes the truth behind her still-mysterious feelings and awkwardly confesses to Inoue, which leads to confusion and the mighty sight of Tokyo Tower twisting impossibly.

What this series does well, especially in this episode, is evoke a certain kind of emotion from the characters. Slice-of-life series frequently deal with emotions that are either extremely complex, or physically or mentally hard to bear. Mahou Tsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto has accomplished both fairly well over the course of its run, and, while it may not be the Best Thing Since Sliced Jesus, it’s certainly not a series easily dismissed (unless one is not quite paying attention).

The thing about tackling the complex issues of these emotions, sometimes the Japanese way of storytelling takes an interesting approach. Here, instead of having a complex character, the character instead acts as a vehicle for complex emotions. This is probably what leads many people to criticize various kinds of anime for failing to adequately develop a character’s personality, and, as a result, sometimes have them behave in almost arbitrary fashion according to the whim of the author. I saw this phenomenon in this episode, and I’ve seen it before, the first example that pops in my head being Socrates in Love.

I don’t think it’s a bad thing, per se; it’s rather a different approach to the function of a story. It could be likened to a myth: the story does not exist as a story, but rather to illustrate some form of human truth through the actions and reactions of the characters. From the Western standpoint, the presence of “poorly” developed characters is a flaw; depending on how the story is supposed to function. However, what I think is more important to the viewers of series such as Mahou Tsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto isn’t the astounding character development, but rather the emotional content within. Developing a character’s emotions can be seen as a function of character development, and, while the optimal character will both act realistic and have depth of emotion (this being the reason I remain so enamored with true tears, because that’s exactly what it did), the lack of one or the other isn’t, by itself, a damning flaw of the work as a whole. If handled poorly, it contributes, but if the series is cognizant of its own flaws and elects not to correct them, but instead focus on what they are doing well, it could be counted against the series, but I, at least, would not hold it against it. I’m a firm believer in liking a series for what it does well, and not disliking it for what it doesn’t do well.

As for Mahou Tsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto, well, I stand by my comment in the first post on the subject that it’s a worthwhile use of $30 to pick up the whole series. For one, it’s three less Geneon DVDs sitting around TRSI’s warehouse collecting dust. They may collect dust in your possession, depending on your assessment of the series, but for those who liked other slice-of-life series, it’s not much, and you get another dose of the genre you love! Plus really cool DVD covers! How can you go wrong?

Someday’s Dreamers: Things That Are Important to a Mage

So on an almost random whim, and because, due to the implosion of Geneon, the entire series on DVD cost $30 at TRSI (plenty of copies left! Get yours today!), I picked up Someday’s Dreamers, alias Mahou Tsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto. I’ve meant to watch this series ever since it aired, but I somehow never got around to it. It aired in the crowded time when I was busily watching everything that had already been aired up to that point and that people said was good, which was quite a lot, and so it got overlooked. It’s been on my “check this out sometime” list for a while, and, spur of the moment, I decided to go for it. And now, after episode 2, I am glad I did this. I’ll be honest, I’m entirely a sucker for this kind of slow-paced slice-of-life series, but this is quite an exceptional slice-of-life series. Dare I invoke the potentially lethal Kamichu! comparison? It does, after all, seem to be a direct predecessor.

But first, a bit about the series to get you situated. Kikuchi Yume, your average country 17 year old girl, isn’t actually average. Instead, she was born with the ability to use Power (mahou). This, of course, makes her a mage, and, in this alternate universe, mages are strictly regulated by the Bureau of Mage Labor. For instance, we can’t have mages running around creating money out of thin air, can we? (I will give you three guesses as to what Yume does in the first episode, and the first two don’t count) So, Yume is sent, over the summer, to Tokyo to do intensive mage training.

It’s the perfect set-up for a slice-of-life series. In any slice-of-life series, you have to have a charming or otherwise interesting main character, be they Ginko from Mushishi or, in this case, Yume. Image of Yume showing off her Power:

It’s kind of hard to get a good look at her from there, but flashy magic powers are always fun to look at.

Yes, she has three ahoge. In fact, she seemingly deliberately encourages the development of the ahoge, as there are scenes where she does not have the triahoge. She is extremely warm, friendly, and all sorts of other things slice-of-life heroines should be.

The other key element of slice-of-life is the mood it generates, and Someday’s Dreamers creates an extremely effective calm mood. I looked up the director and I was fairly surprised: it’s Yamada Norie (which I cannot tell whether this is a male or female name, or possibly both; I’m going to presume female), who directed things like Boys Be…, Ai Yori Aoshi, and Zegapain (one of these things is not like the other…). The Ai Yori Aoshi credit, after seeing this series, makes sense–Ai Yori Aoshi is a series I have mixed feelings about  due to not finishing it, and am still unsure whether or not I should rewatch and complete it, but I can certainly see parallels from my vague memories of especially the first 4 episodes of Ai Yori Aoshi. Except there’s less nudity.

And the character art–oh, the character art. The original artist for the manga version, Yoshizuki Kumichi, did the DVD covers, and, upon opening the package and gazing upon the DVD covers, all I could think was “this is beautiful.” Yoshizuki’s art is soft and gentle and completely unassuming, and an extreme pleasure to simply look at. I found it difficult to decide which side of the cover to face outside, as I liked all six of the possibilities. The art in the anime is, of course, much simpler, but the character designer did an excellent job of capturing the feel of Yoshizuki’s original designs, and it’s relatively well-animated thus far.

I’ve only seen two episodes, so there’s not much else to report. The writing is quite good thus far, and watching these two episodes, I’ve found myself getting caught up in the moment and just relaxing, and appreciating Yume being her cute self. It’s a genuine kind of cute, rather than a forced cute (her seiyuu, Miyazaki Aoi, has a voice that could hardly be described as “cute”, but one which fits nevertheless), and I appreciate that. Cute isn’t cute when it’s crammed down your throat, a la Moetan, but in Someday’s Dreamers there is nothing forceful about anything in the series. And that’s a very good thing.


NOTICE SHAMELESSLY STOLEN FROM G.K. CHESTERTON

I cannot understand those that take anime seriously, but I can love them, and I do. Out of my love I warn them to keep clear of this blog.

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