Mar 14, 2016Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica Movie 3: Hangyaku no ... (Anime) add
1 of 1 episodes seen
In 2011 Studio Shaft captured lightning in a bottle with their wildly successful Madoka Magica anime series. It had a twelve episode run with a fairly conclusive ending, so few suspected that Shaft would churn out exactly what the series didn't need, that and a pair of recap movies for the series proper.
[ Story ]
Think of a movie sequel, and picture yourself never having seen the original. How lost would you be? If you said "not very" then congrats, you understand the basics of a movie! Most of the time a movie should never lock viewers out from understanding it if they haven't seen the original. It's a self-contained story that can be appreciated as it is.
Madoka Magica Rebellion is a different story for one particular reason. It's targeted almost exclusively toward fans of the original. This is apparent in so many places and both benefits and hurts it in a lot of ways. I'll get to why as we go along.
The movie starts off innocuously enough. Our five protagonists are introduced, we see them going about their lives as magical girls, battling creatures called Nightmares using snacks and silly songs about cake. It's not until about one third into the movie that the plot starts kicking in and it becomes apparent that this setting isn't quite what it seems.
Of course, this being a Madoka Magica production, anyone familiar with the series (or has heard of its reputation) knows that something is amiss. Viewers of the anime already know that this idealized setting where these girls, Kyubey and a sickeningly familiar creature now called Bebe, is not the genuine article. While it does serve a narrative purpose, it ends up being pure fluff and fanservice for quite a while. So anyone who isn't basking in this fanservice would likely be anxious for the actual plot to get rolling.
Once an entire third of the movie has passed, the show presents us something that the Madoka Magica TV show didn't. A plot. The second third of the movie is dedicated to the characters deciphering the meaning of this illusion they are living inside. It's no longer a character study on how teenager girls react to being manipulated, there's an actual driving force motivating these characters into acting, and each one has a specific reason for being where they are, doing what they do.
While the TV anime was fairly break-neck in its pacing, this movie spends a lot of time dilly-dallying around nothing. Once the source of the conflict is realized it becomes more of a question of "Why didn't the characters act on it sooner?" As they spend a lot of time dancing around each other and being secretive, only revealing certain things when it could be most dramatic to do so. The anime itself had a lot of unnecessarily conflict centered around characters being unable to communicate, and it looks like they haven't learned their lesson.
The plot soon grinds to a screeching halt when roughly twenty minutes is spent info-dumping the movie's convoluted plot, much of it requiring intimate knowledge of the TV anime to grasp, or at least the last episode of the anime. Info-dumping is often considered bad writing, so when a movie has to take this long explaining the finer details of a plot device that has to work in a very specific way in order for the story to run the way it's needed to... it's pretty bad. The explanation of how the illusion world functions and what it does is complicated enough that even fans of the series are likely to be lost and just read a script so they can interpret it without all of the distracting Shaft artsyness that's taking place at the same time.
The third quarter of the movie is when the climax starts, and it ends with a plot twist that left both fans and casual viewers up in arms, questioning what Shaft was thinking when they wrote this movie. It wasn't long before it became obvious that what Shaft was thinking was, they wanted to leave the story open-ended in order to make room for more continuations.
Without going into too many details, the ending to the movie is capped off by a plot twist that pretty much personifies all of the problems the movie has, from the sheer convoluted nature of it all to the regression of its characters. The ending has only minor nuggets of what could be called foreshadowing, in one seen that itself leaves the fandom debating about whether or not the catalyst for it was genuine. Some would even argue that the HOW of this plot twist relates back to something that's only mentioned in the anime series, another lock-out for newcomers.
And the movie simply ends on an unsatisfactory note, where the viewers know that the current status isn't going to be the absolute and the whole thing just feels wrong, much like the opening third of the movie.
[ Character ]
Character development was never Madoka Magica's strong suit, and it's no more apparent than here in this movie. As mentioned before, the anime was fairly conclusive, all of the characters's major plot threads were resolved. So how does one use these same characters now that their roles have ended? Amnesia!
Characterization is regressed for the sake of trying to add more to characters that have already served their purpose. Think of it as a spinoff series that re-uses the same characters, but takes them in a different direction. Only it's not a spinoff, it's an official sequel.
Surprisingly, despite this regression of character, development barely happens. Madoka herself spends much of the movie being cutesy and oblivious without any of the personal growth or experiences she had in the anime proper, Mami gets a tiny bit of development to make up for her severe lack of it in the anime proper, and Kyouko is a shell of her former self, as much of her distinctive characterization from the anime is erased and she's turned into a buddy-buddy character who eats all the time because it's cute.
A new character was introduced and advertised so thoroughly that it's not really a spoiler. She goes by the name of Nagisa Momoe, and is better known as the human form of the witch who's claim to fame was the simple act of killing Mami in the anime. Her two minute role in the anime netted her such wild popularity as the catalyst of the show's defining moment of shock value that Shaft decided to include her as a major character in the sequel.... to do absolutely nothing. She serves one simple narrative purpose in her disguise form as Bebe, but as a character in her own right she's as hollow as they come. We learn nothing about her backstory or motivations throughout the movie other than her obsession with cheese, and she exists purely as fanservice for fans of the anime.
If there's one character that does get some development, it's Homura. The movie mostly focuses on her, as she's the one most interested in discovering the truth about the illusion surrounding her. In the anime proper, Homura is presented as being a wonderful and dedicated friend to Madoka, despite her increasing coldness, demeaning and controlling behavior. She is presented as the most rational and intelligent character, and it's made to seem like nothing bad would have ever happened if the other characters just listened to her.
Rebellion on the other hand peels away the layers of glitter on Homura's character and shows us what happens when she's placed in a setting that she hasn't had the luxury of repeating over and over. Her uglier traits aren't glossed over, and we see that she's actually no more rational than the others, and has an impulsiveness and unwillingness to work with others that puts her at odds with the other characters even when THEY'RE the ones trying to help HER. Her dedication to Madoka is shown to be unhealthy and self-destructive. She is given actual flaws to make her more human, instead of simply being a saint who was the victim of a series of unfortunate circumstances.
Sayaka is the other most developed character in the movie, but only because she lacks the flaws that made her so infuriating and human in the anime before. Gone are her self-righteousness and black-and-white view of the world, allowing her to better understand the situations taking place before her with a calmness that seems almost alien coming from her.
Even when Mami and Homura end up in a massive confrontation of flying bullets, it's hardly a character moment for either of them. No ideologies are clashing strongly enough to warrant such actions, and the two are merely engaged in a massive gun battle for the sake of visual fanservice.
[ Art ]
One of the things I can admit I appreciated about the Madoka Magica anime is that it was fairly mild on the Shaftiness scale. It didn't use a lot of their budget saving tricks or try to be artsy and quirky with its visuals too much. Most of it was contained in the witch barriers and used to convey how unnatural the setting is.
When they made Rebellion, Shaft decided that this would be a perfect time to flex their massive budget and make the movie as artsy and bizarre as possible, to the point that viewers watching the movie with subtitles would be torn between reading them and focusing on all of the visual oddness taking place around them.
The visuals themselves are as crisp as one would expect from a theatrical production made by Studio Shaft, and are noteworthy as they don't recycle any visuals from the tv anime. All new animation is put in full display, and it's easy to impress even the most cynical of Shaft viewers.
[ Sound ]
If you're a fan of Yuki Kajiura then you won't be disappointed. Some would argue that this movie displays some of her finest music. But if you're not a fan of her music it just sounds like the same thing we've heard in works like .Hack, Sword Art Online and Fate Zero. A lot of ominous, Gothic sounds and her bizarre fictitious chanting. It works well when the mood is very dreary, but her music doesn't compliment the lighter and softer moments very well. At least since it's only a two hour movie, we don't have to hear "Sis Puella Magica" ten times throughout the run of the film.
[ Enjoyment ]
Enjoyment is a difficult word for someone who absolutely hated the Madoka Magica anime, so it's strange that I actually came out of watching this movie without being annoyed any. Even the plot twist at the end was more confusing than frustrating, and because I have no major attachment to the characters or the tv anime, I don't feel as if something important to me was desecrated...
With the true nature of the franchise no longer a desperately guarded secret to be used as shock value, the movie was able to tell a much more intriguing story, and use at least one of its characters as more than just a plot device. The movie wasn't riddled with misery and nihilism. Even in the climactic battle near the end there's a feeling of optimism and comradery not seen in the tv series before it. The character of Nagisa, while pointless, didn't come with any of the traits that frustrated me about the others, and the overall healthier and less hostile portrayal of the characters made me forget how much I disliked them before.
The movie of course had a mountain of faults, with an excessive need for info-dumping, lack of characterization for anyone but Homura, an opening third of the movie that wastes time pandering to the fans, conflicts that lack weight and an ending that's more baffling in HOW it's possible than WHY.
For a movie that didn't leave me annoyed with the characters, but didn't do anything great with them, I think a 5 is a good score. Overall the movie is middling. Not an amazing addition that redeems the franchise in any way (that would be the spin-off manga, The Different Story), but I also don't think it's the heaven-defiling train wreck that it's seen as by those who loved the tv anime. read more
49 of 49 episodes seen
=== Story ===
Our story begins with a lone warrior known as Cure Sword, gazing out at the ruins of her home, a magical realm known as Trump Kingdom. The war against the invading enemy known as "Jikochuu" or "Selfish" has not only transformed the vast majority of Trump Kingdom's people into monsters, but has also resulted in the disappearance of its beloved princess, Marie Ange. Under the guise of pop idol Makoto Kenzaki, Cure Sword travels to the real world, hoping to use her singing talents to find Marie Ange and save Trump Kingdom.
But this isn't her story. No, this is the story of Mana Aida, an ordinary fourteen year old girl whose defining trait is her love of helping others. Mana's chance encounter with both Cure Sword and the generals of the Jikochuu menace lead her to becoming Cure Heart, the heroine of our story. Through Mana's headstrong nature and unyielding kindness, Makoto/Cure Sword learns the value of friendship and teamwork.
Along the way, a fairy baby falls into the laps of our heroes. Given the name "Ai-chan", this baby becomes both their responsibility to raise, and a plot token dispensing machine. Meanwhile the generals are working hard to gather energy to revive their leader, King Jikochuu, who was frozen in suspended animation by Marie Ange.
Doki Doki Precure is one of the few seasons to adhere to a strict story. There are no episodes that are entirely filler and all of them have some sort of impact on the story and characters. Whether it's introducing new characters, making progress on Makoto's attempts to find Marie Ange, or having focus episodes on the main characters, nothing feels like a complete throwaway episode.
This all sounds like it would make the best Precure season and at about episode 7 I thought it WAS. But things went downhill fast as the show clearly threw all of its cards on the table at once. Doki Doki Precure has a very bad problem with consistency in its writing. While it is always charging forward, it doesn't seem to know what to do with itself.
One plot-line that up to six episodes can be spent on will be immediately discarded in favor of another. New characters are introduced halfway through the show and quickly shoved out the door, making them seem completely irrelevant. Characterization tends to either remain completely static or jump around in jarring ways as the plot demands.
Those who watched Fresh Precure might remember the red herring stunt that was pulled halfway through the show with the last member of the team. Doki Doki Precure attempts to replicate this, but gets the most basic part wrong. Many Precure seasons have had a new character recruited onto the team midway through, and it has always been someone that the viewer has gotten time to get to know. Doki's new recruit comes completely out of nowhere, with absolutely no foreshadowing, and her very existence not only contradicts much of the show's previous story, but also renders several major subplots completely pointless.
Out of all Precure seasons this one seemed to be the most desperate for ratings, as it pulls stunt after stunt to get viewers to keep watching. A mysterious new character appears in the preview for one episode, enticing you to watch again next week. You literally saw all you're going to about that character in the preview, as they only appear five seconds before the credits. Now you have to watch again next week to find out literally anything about this character!
The red herring stunt above was also teased in the credits right before a major redemption arc, only for that character to be cast aside in favor of the brand new face. Even a Cure's attack was used as a ratings trap, Cure Rosetta's Rosetta Balloon was introduced with her directly stating to the viewer that something different would come out of it each time, and the viewers should keep watching to find out what would happen next. It only appeared one other time.
=== Art ===
By now we're no strangers to Toei Animation, so for the most part we know what to expect from one of their shows. Doki Doki Precure is one of the seasons more highly prone to off-model animation, with even a large amount of close-up shots looking completely absurd. The show's visuals really stand out during the transformation sequences, which blend CG and animation in a manner that is impressive despite the sequences themselves being bland and uninspired.
The ending sequence, like with many past and present Precure seasons, is entirely CG and features 3D models of the characters dancing. It's actually very well animated. Vivid colors, fluid animation and gave us one of the franchise's funniest memes, Rikka dancing.
=== Sound ===
It's been a while since I've watched Doki Doki Precure and aside from the OP and ED themes, not much of the background music has grabbed my attention. The music best stands out when one of the main characters is singing. The OP and ED themes are very standard Precure affair, catchy and fun songs for the little kids to dance to but certainly not the best Precure has to offer.
=== Characters ===
And we come to the part that absolutely killed Doki Doki Precure. The driving force between the vast majority of the show's criticisms. Counting the main characters, fairy partners and antagonists, the cast comes to a number of about twenty. Yet Doki Doki Precure doesn't seem to know what to do with even this amount, as the show suffers from a very bad tendency to focus on only a small number of characters.
In order to truly illustrate how bad this gets, we must first talk about Mana, the show's lead character. Precure seasons have always had a very strong emphasis on team work. Be it the most basic or crucial of battles, it never feels like one character is more important than the others. When the final battle arrives, victory is usually the result of the harmony between the entire team, and in some cases even supporting characters get involved.
Doki Doki Precure is the exception, as the vast majority of the show's focus revolves around Mana. Mana is the only character able to finish off the monster of the week, and all too often the others have to give her their strength so that she can be the hero. Perhaps it's because one of the writers from One Piece was involved in this season, or that the creators have admitted that Mana is her favorite.
If that were just the extent of it it wouldn't be so insufferable, but there's also her handling as a character. There is only one instance, early on where Mana's behavior is shown to be a flaw, and has her realize this and resolve to fix things. After that the universe shifts into a reality where Mana is incapable of being wrong about anything, and even if the other teammates and the viewer see that this is completely asinine, she ends up asserting her way and being rewarded for it.
About fourteen episodes in a character by the name of Regina arrives on the scene and serves as one of the primary antagonists. She seeks to befriend Mana purely out of her own amusement, and what begins is a head-ache inducing roller-coaster of obliviously stupid behavior from Mana, as she blatantly ignores Regina's nasty behavior for the sake of trying to become friends with her.
Regina's character is also one of the worst handled in the series, as the show tries to go for a redemption for her several times, only to immediately backpedal and throw in an outside force to warp Regina into an even more wildly antagonistic character, repeatedly. The second time she is taken out of the show entirely for quite a while.
Aside from one other character, none of the other protagonists are allowed to stand out in any way, or do anything of substance. The shortest end of the the stick goes to Alice Yotsuba, who becomes Cure Rosetta. She gets one episode of focus and development early on before being immediately sidelined and acting only as the pleasant voice that attempts to reason with Mana, while Rikka and Makoto do so more harshly.
Doki Doki Precure uses a victim of the week formula for its monsters. The generals can spot minute traces of selfish desire in the hearts of various background characters, which they prey upon and unleash into powerful monsters. These background characters almost NEVER have a name or a purpose, and frequently appear on-screen for only seconds before being victimized.
While it does grant more focus time to the protagonists it feels soulless compared to Heartcatch's portrayal of this, as the monster bears no reflection of the psyche of the victim and there is no urgency to save the victim from this fate. It's just a standard monster of the week fight.
The antagonists don't fare much better in terms of focus and development. They have very standard antagonist personalities, with Ira being bratty, Marmo being vain and Regina is pretty much both of these combined. The villain who stands out most in my mind is Bel, who is usually very lazy and doesn't take action often, but when he does he's usually incredibly cunning and savvy, knowing how to manipulate both allies and enemies to his advantage.
=== Enjoyment ===
As I said before I really enjoyed this season early on. I actually defended Mana against the claims of her being a Mary Sue after seeing her acknowledge that she can come on a little too strong and be inconsiderate toward those she wants to befriend. I really loved how the show mixed things up by having the villains be savvy enough to have a second monster waiting to ambush the Cures, and stepping into the fray themselves without hesitation.
While I initially disliked Makoto's harsh attitude toward the others, I absolutely adored her turnaround and eventual integration into the group.
The show also gave shoujo-ai fans a run for their money as so many scenes made people scream "SHIP!" with Mana being joked about as building her own harem. When you have two girls lying in bed together with their hands clasped, you can't help but think the creators were being blatant.
I really liked how structured the show started out being, and as mentioned just above, how savvy the villains were.
It's just a shame Doki Doki Precure didn't quite know where it wanted to go. It had a very good thing going, but it squandered it all by dropping and picking up plot points at random and wanting to focus too much on a dime-a-dozen perfect hero archetype. read more
25 of 25 episodes seen
[ Story ]
The story is deceptively simple, a world where mankind has developed a magitech ability known as "Mana" that is used in their daily lives as if it were the most common thing in the world. However, there are a handful of people in the world who are incapable of using Mana, which results in immense discrimination toward them. These people are referred to as Norma, and they are taken from their homes, treated like literal objects, and forced into a military where they battle enormous dragon-like creatures called... well... DRAGONS.
On paper it sounds like an interesting concept. You have themes of racism, the aforementioned magitech, and the hardships of military life, with giant mecha battles spicing things up. The problem is in the execution.
People say that fanservice isn't inherently bad, and I'm willing to believe that. The problem comes when the writers prioritize fanservice over the work they're creating. Not only can this show not go five minutes without focusing on the bodies of its scantily clad pilots, it also can't go an episode without a mindless lesbian sex scene that only serves the characterize the cast as dominant or submissive to each other. Meanwhile the only relationship in the show that has any real substance (and not by all that much mind you) the one between the lead and the show's solitary male protagonist.
It's also a bad mark on a show when unnecessary fanservice is thrown into moments that are trying to be serious, as seen when a tragic event is highlighted by a blatant underboob shot of the main character as she's restrained to a bed, clad in nothing but bandages.
The show also suffers from a horrendous lack of awareness as to its own direction. Plot details are thrown at the viewer with absolutely no coherence and characterization frequently defies all logic to the point that some have declared the show to be a satire. At one point the main protagonist is suddenly expressing fondness for the horrendous prison that gave her nothing but bullying and abuse, which she outright expressed contempt for and desired to escape.
As mentioned above, the show brings to the table some interesting concepts, but never manages to properly address them. If it does they're usually unsatisfying answers that feel as if the writers simply shrugged off the questions so they could spend more time undressing the main character and panning over her body. The amount of times a viewer can wonder "Why is she naked?" in a single show is staggering.
At one point they went so far as to present the idea of two characters having met repeatedly across different timelines or dimensions, which basically amounted to a whole lot of nothing and only served to either wow the viewer with a shocking plot twist, or pander to them with the enormous shipping potential of these two characters.
It feels like the show doesn't know whether it wants to take itself seriously, when it tries to frame dark and edgy scenes as sexual or when the on-the-next previews lampoon the events that took place before them. It among the other things just reeks of this show not knowing what it's doing, and adds fuel to the belief that the show was meant to be some sort of parody.
A noteworthy scene at the very end of the first episode not only applies to the above, but also has absolutely no impact on the story or traumatic effect on the character it was done to. It was so vague that viewers all over can't seem to even agree what the nature of it was. "This happened. Now we're not gonna mention it again."
[ Art ]
What can I say that hasn't already been said in the many reviews beforehand? CGI is mixed in with animation so awkwardly in this series, that the only thing that lessens the blow is the constant off-model animation thrown in. If it were only distance shots it wouldn't be so bad, but often times a character up close will have a face too small for their head, or their ear will be trying to take over the rest of their faces. Compared to that, badly done CGI dragons aren't so big of a deal.
[ Sound ]
As mentioned above, the show has a large amount of talented and famous people working on it, particularly the lead, Nana Mizuki. The music direction is so-so at best and most remarkable song in the whole show is the OP. With such a good voice cast one would think the constant singing wouldn't grate on the ears, but this is just another example of the show putting style over substance.
[ Character ]
And we come to the big problem, the major deal breaker for this show (aside from the ending to the first episode). The cast of characters is often regarded as the weakest link in the show, and for good reason. The few that aren't completely detestable are either unremarkable or completely annoying.
We have our protagonist, Ange, who starts the show as the very picture of ignorant racist. Her response to a parent having her norma baby being taken away is to blissfully spout that she should try again for a proper child, as if that's easy. Once she's brought into the aforementioned prison camp, her characterization goes from a bratty racist in denial, into a bitter, cynical wannabe-badass who only shows moments of vulnerability around the lead male. For all her hardcore antics it's really baffling when Ange has to constantly depend on Tusk to bail her out of any given situation.
The next most noteworthy character is Tusk, also known as the only male character in the show outside of two of the antagonists. Tusk is the definition of a beta male, the kind of clumsy and passive character you expect to be the lead in a harem show. He claims to not be a pervert, but constantly finds himself face first in Ange's crotch and is ignorant and stupid enough to comment on her being "Blonde down there". It's another hallmark of the show's crass and tasteless writing when this supposed "nice guy" archetype doesn't know better than to say things like that.
The other characters don't fare much better (because let's face it, aside from Ange and Tusk no one really matters to the writers). One of the few characters of note is Hilda, who starts off being the perverse version of that girl in high school who is the leader of the popular cliches, and soon develops into a sexually confused teenager who claims to only be pretending to be a lesbian but then later molests Ange in the shower.
Then we have the smug snake Jill who uses everyone as her tools, the depraved nurse Maggy, Zola the rapist and Hilda's two cronies, Rosalie and Chris, and we have a wonderfully hackneyed trail mix of unlikable characters. Probably the only ones who come off as likable are Momoko, Ange's ditzy maid, Vivian, the cheerful to the point of being oblivious cutesy character, and Ersha, the stereotypical team mom.
And just because we couldn't get enough rape in this show, enter the man who has the stupidest name in the world, Embryo. This character only appears in the second half of the show, where the world surrounding the characters is finally elaborated on. He dishes out the brunt of the show's repetitive exposition, all the while mind controlling women into giving up their bodies for him. He also likes "strong, intelligent women" and becomes enamored with and determined to break the only woman who has ever been able to reject his advances. So basically, a rapist.
[ Enjoyment ]
The only enjoyment people seem to garner from this is either in its immensely sexual nature, or on how off-the-wall the show is, with some seeing the entire show as one big trolling attempt on Fukada's part (see Ep. 22).
For this viewer there was none to be had. Between the excessively sexualized nature of the show, how sloppy the story was written and how unlikable the majority of the cast is, Cross Ange is an anime that's pathetic at best and malicious at worst.
A show where its all female cast is literally treated as objects, forced into skimpy outfits, repeatedly demeaned and violated, while constantly spouting words like "skank" and "whore". It's crass, it's tasteless and as much as I don't like to use the word, it honestly comes off as sexist. read more
32 of 51 episodes seen
=== Story ===
The Mysterious Star/Wonder Planet (depending on the translation, we'll go with the former) is the setting where this story takes place. It's essentially a hollow meteor with the various kingdoms, oceans and mountains lining the inner walls. Floating in the center of them all is the Sunny Kingdom, home of our protagonists. Hyperactive, redheaded glutton Fine and her blue haired, equally hyper romanticist sister Rein are infamously known as "The most unprincess-like princesses in all of the Mysterious Star.
The ecosystem of the Mysterious Star is fueled by a power known as the "Blessing of the Sun". When this power starts to weaken, it causes the Kingdoms to suffer adverse effects, threatening the way of life for all of the star's people. After an encounter with the legendary Princess Grace, Fine, Rein and their mentor mascot, Puumo are tasked with saving the Mysterious Star, and are granted the magical powers of the Prominence. Of course our unprincess-like princesses have quite a ways to go before they can grow into capable saviors of the Mysterious Star, and the only thing put to a greater test then their abilities, is the patience of Puumo.
One fraction of the show's story involves our heroes descending to the many Kingdoms of the Mysterious Star, discovering the various problems sweeping the star and doing what they can to help.
Another reoccurring plot is the Princess Parties, competitions where the princesses from all across the star gather to compete in various activities such as baking and gardening, with the hopes of being crowned Best Princess.
Roughly a quarter into the show however the show takes on a new formula, as villains are introduced, seeking to steal the power of the Prominence and conquer the Mysterious Star. By the halfway point the show shifts into a slightly darker tone, exchanging the absurd story of twin princesses helping others with their personal problems, to a journey around the world via hot air balloon, where our protagonists combat the powers of darkness.
=== Art ===
The art style of Futagohime is color and lively, much like it's brightly dressed protagonists. The animation style is what you'd expect of a cutesy Magical Girl show, with bright eyed girls smiling and lighting up the hearts of the viewers. Nothing particularly spectacular for our current age, but it does well for it's time.
=== Sound ===
The opening and ending of the show are both bouncy and cheerful songs that will get stuck in your head if you're not careful. The BGM is fairly standard, but it's pretty hard to notice when our squeaky voiced heroes are babbling on.
The voice cast do their jobs well enough, with special mention going to Kaori Mizuhashi, who puts all of her talents into the stuck up and irritable Altezza. Some of the voices, particularly Puumo's, might be a bit too squeaky and obnoxious for some viewers, but if cutesy stuff is your forte, you should be able to enjoy them.
One minor thing that chips my enjoyment down (but not enough to affect the numbers) is the recasting of Prince Tio's voice. From his debut in episode 3 to episode 25, Vanilla Yamazaki brought an energetic and adorable charm to the character. Come episode 27 and that gets replaced by the raspy, nasally voice of Shihomi Mizowaki, which Ojamajo Doremi fans would recognize as belonging to Kaori Shimakura, the obnoxious paparazzi girl.
=== Character ===
Like in most Magical Girl shows, the characters are where the show shines brightest. Of course the first step to enjoying them is to not take this show seriously. At all. This show is essentially about Magical Girls with a bad case of ADD, as Puumo and Camelot, the Sunny Castle Princess's tutor learn the hard way as a simply explanation can go completely ignored in favor of the scent of food or fashionable clothes.
I must emphasize, Rein and Fine are probably the most ridiculous characters I have ever had the pleasure of watching. Cheerful and outgoing to a fault, the girls have a hard time dealing with anything that isn't fun or delicious (food for Fine, Prince Bright for Rein), leading to wacky antics and a vast encyclopedia of bizarre dances that will leave you cracking up, cringing, or both.
With such emphasis on princesses, the cast of them doesn't just stop at Rein and Fine. Princesses from all the land come together, from the sweet, timid Lione, to the gluttonous infant, Milky. Probably the most prominent princess is Altezza, a spoiled, haughty girl who has very little tolerance for the antics of the Sunny Princesses, and their inability to take Princess Parties seriously.
Though less prominent than the Princesses, Princes of various Kingdoms play a role in the series, such as Altezza's older brother, the aforementioned object of Rein's affections. Bright is, on the surface everything you'd expect from a Prince Charming, in the wrong place, because the heroes are princesses, and Bright shows he feels very insecure about how little help he can be.
The other most focused prince is Tio of the Flame Kingdom, the show's resident punching bag. Tio shows up every now and again, eager to protect Rein and Fine, but this plucky kid always ends up failing spectacularly.
=== Enjoyment ===
I want to say that this show is completely ridiculous, but that's not the case. Only the first 25 or so episodes are. I really enjoyed the beginning half, rooted in the Cute Witch sub-genre of Magical Girls. It was fun, absurd and upbeat. Once the second half rolled around the show began to take on a darker, more serious atmosphere, reducing it's comedy level and making the once charming antics of the twins stand out as odd when the group is discussing serious threats.
In particular I found the show much more refreshing without villains taking center stage as the cause of superficial problems for the people of the Mysterious Star. Without being the direct cause of villains, these problems could be solved in much more amusing and unconventional manners, rather than simply expelling or disabling threatening entities. This also allowed the emotional develop of the characters to expand more than allowed when a monster or villain threat must take center stage, which honestly are rather generic in nature.
But still, after adoring the cast and watching their various developments, this shift in tone doesn't do all that much to make me not want to follow Rein and Fine's adventures in the Mysterious Star.
=== Overall ===
Fushigiboshi no Futagohime is for those who don't expect much from their anime. It's a fun show with silly characters and silly plots. If you're looking for a much more meaningful and complex show you may enjoy the second half, but not all that much. read more
13 of 13 episodes seen
=== Story ===
Okusama wa Mahou Shoujo: Bewitched Agnes is the story of Tatsumi Kagura, a young man living in a town known as "Wonderland". Contrary to it's name it seems to be nothing more than an ordinary, sleepy little town.
In reality, Tatsumi's world is the product of a magical world known only as "Realm". Realm appoints a magical girl to manage this town and protect it. This manager has the authority to reshape the entire Wonderland if they please. This causes a problem for the current manager, Ureshiko Asabe, also known as Agnes Bell. This town is quite precious to her, but she's become too old to maintain the position of manager, and is supposed to hand the position over to a new Magical Girl, who would surely spell the end of the current Wonderland and it's inhabitants.
Exacerbating Ureshiko's unwillingness to relinquish her position is the budding feelings between herself and Tatsumi, which becomes further complicated thanks to the fact that Ureshiko is already married... and quite unhappily so.
Okusama wa Mahou Shoujo is at it's core a romance story, and with any good romance story, emotional drama is needed to make the end result worth it. One of the best things about this show is that no side of the conflict feels completely right or wrong. As Ureshiko and Sayaka butt heads we can feel for both of their situations and it's clear that both of them have very understandable passions, but passion often leads to stubbornness and a refusal to accept new ideas.
=== Art ===
The animation style of Okusama wa Mahou Shoujo is good for it's time. The scenery of our humble town is always pretty and conveys the feeling of a peaceful town where most long time residents are happy with their ordinary lives. The character designs all suit the characters well. Most notably our lead male, Tatsumi boasts a rather messy hairstyle which clues us into his personality, passionate, yet naive young man.
The animation loses some points mainly in part to scenes where bright magical effects make it almost impossible to see the characters and what is transpiring between them, as well as scenes of animation laziness where a character essentially warps from one part of the room to another, in order to save time and animation having him go about his business in that room.
=== Sound ===
The sound department is where this show suffers most. J.C. Staff is no stranger to criticism, and in this case, the biggest criticism is that the background music is often too loud, so much that it's difficult to hear what the characters are saying. The music itself usually sounds of the peaceful wind instrument variety, but it's hard to feel relaxed when the sound is blaring into your ears.
The voice work is pretty top notch, with each voice suiting their character. I personally wasn't too fond of Ureshiko's breathy, ditzy voice, but it suits her character quite a bit, especially since she shares her voice with another well known Yamato Nadeshiko type character, Belldandy.
=== Character ===
The characters are where the show shines brightest. Though some such as Ureshiko herself come off as generic, (in her case the typical naive clumsy older woman) there is a layer of depth to them makes them endearing to even a detractor of this type of character, such as this reviewer. As we learn just why Ureshiko acts the way she does, it's difficult not to sympathize with her, particularly why her relationship with her husband is so strained, and her unwillingness to give up the current Wonderland.
The character of Sayaka Kurenai is another of great interest. Sayaka transforms into Cruje Gapp, a Magical Girl who won the right to be the next manager of Wonderland. Much of Sayaka's development comes from how her perception of Wonderland changes throughout the series, which we see in her interactions with her classmates and Tatsumi. It's hard not to support Sayaka just as much (if not more) than Ureshiko as we see the world from both of their sides, and how these sides clash.
=== Enjoyment ===
What began with an appalling first episode that nearly made me drop the show, blossomed into a rewarding experience. It proved that the story of a 20-something year old Magical Girl wearing a skintight costume could really be something more than shameless fanservice. The pace of the story never feels like it's doing too much at once, or it takes too long to get to the point. Every episode brings new developments into the mix while elaborating on the old. Even the seemingly mundane conversations between Ureshiko and her friends carry weight that makes the viewer feel for Ureshiko's desire to keep Wonderland as it is.
=== Overall ===
Overall, Okusama wa Mahou Shoujo has it's faults, as do many J.C. Staff shows, but if you can overlook a bit of fanservice and an obnoxious soundtrack, you'll find yourself captivated by a rich, rewarding story with meaningful drama and compelling romance, all of which is brought to us by a diverse and endearing cast. read more
39 of 39 episodes seen
[ Story ]
True to it's name, Otogi-Jushi Akazukin has fairy tales as it's bread and butter. In fact there's an entire world where many Grimm fairy tales are blended into a vivid culture reminiscent of The Legend of Zelda series. Magical weapons, Elves, dragons and all that other good stuff. On the other side of this series's universe, there's the world we the viewers live in. Two worlds, one ruled by science, one ruled by magic. Long ago these two worlds existed as one, until God himself separated them. This "Tale of Two Worlds" is an integral plot decide, as the favorite fairy tale of the show's lead.
True to Magical Girl fashion, the show starts with a dream the lead, Souta, has where he's rescued by a mysterious girl wearing a cloak and distinctive red helmet. It's not long before this dream becomes a reality and he meets this girl, Akazukin, or Red Riding Hood. She reveals that a member of the Three Muskeers from her world of Magic and has been sent to protect Souta, who bears the "Key" of his world, a great power sought by Cendrillon, an evil witch who broke free from an ancient seal and is seeking to take over both worlds. Soon enough Akazukin, her fellow musketeers, Souta and his childhood friend Ringo travel to the magical world on a quest to rescue their king, who was taken by the witch.
Of course it's not as simple as it sounds, especially when the backstories of the characters are involved. In fact the pasts of Akazukin and Cendrillon are among the most intriguing things about the series, the latter's story being gradually revealed through several episodes.
[ Art ]
In Summer 2006 this show's visuals were lovely. Bright and colorful, showing just how vivid the world of magic is. The character art is just as nice but falls victim to the trappings of moe, which means this band of fourteen year olds looks a bit younger than they should. It doesn't try to push the envelope in any way, in fact it's not even widescreen despite releasing around the same time as Haruhi Suzumiya, but it works well with what it has. The few Magical Girl style sequences that appear aren't visually impressive or memorable in any way, but they make up for that with the fact that they're not reusable attacks themselves, but used to summon weapons for the heroes to fight with themselves.
[ Sound ]
Where the show might lack in the art department it more than makes up for in the visuals. The music of Otogi-Jushi Akazukin is one of my favorite things about it. It's comes in many flavors to suit whatever scene is taking place. Being a series about magic it has plenty of gorgeous, mystical melodies to convey the mood of the series.
The show's two opening themes are sung by Yukari Tamura, who does the voice of Akazukin herself. They're cheerful and cute sounds that perfectly express the show's kid friendly nature.
The first and third ending themes are performed by marhy, and are catchy, peaceful songs, while the second ending is performed by the voice actresses of the Three Musketeers themselves, and is more upbeat in nature.
The show boasts an all-star voice cast, with Yukari Tamura as the lead. Nobuyuki Hiyama provides the voice of Akazukin's talking wolf sidekick, Val.
Motoko Kumai, famous for the role of Li Shaoran on Cardcaptor Sakura, voices our male lead Souta, for the first half of the series, but was replaced by Yuuko Sanpei due to medical reasons.
Rie Kugumiya is also on board, voicing the nagging, Tsundere (Big surprise!) childhood friend Ringo.
Miyuki Sawashiro voices the narcoleptic Elf, Ibara-hime and Shugo Chara's own Sayuri Yahagi voices Gretel.
[ Character ]
As with many Magical Girl shows, the characters are where this show shines best. Each character plays off the other in comical and heartwarming ways. Val is the straight man to the cheerful and silly antics of our heroine, the prim and proper Shirayuki develops a crush on Souta, putting him her at odds with the aggressive Ringo. Yet there's a level of depth to each character beyond these wacky antics, and they each get their time in the spotlight.
On the villain side we have Randagio, a clueless comic relief character who struggles to defeat the heroes with his entourage of monsters of the week, but even he is more than just a joke character. He's one of the few characters who's honestly loyal to Cendrillon, and only wishes become part of her elite army.
Hansel and Gretel serve as Cendrillon's second and third tier minions, with Randagio as the fourth. Hansel is cold to the point of emotionlessness, expressing only disdain for weakness. He's the kind of character who, when he shows up, things get serious.
Gretel is probably the second most frequent villain behind Randagio. Armed with a sword larger than herself and gravity magic, Gretel behaves very condescending toward our heroes and villagers, making her hard to like at first. Then we see what she's like when the heroes aren't around. All she wants is to earn her brother's love and respect, as he's the only person she has in her life. Of course her constant failures lead to his increasing coldness toward her, making her arguably the most sympathetic character in the series.
Probably the most serious villain besides Cendrillon herself is Jed, King of the Lycans. In a child friendly series we have a character who won't hesitate to kill (and does!) though no blood is shown. His thirst for power leads him to clash with not only the heroes, but Cendrillon's forces as well.
[ Enjoyment ]
Even before I got into the Magical Girl genre, I liked this show. I was in a bad place, depression and all that and this series really brightened my days as I watched. It didn't teach me anything special but it was a heartwarming and cheerful series, very enjoyable.
If I could name it's second flaw it's the fighting. Being a kids show it doesn't try for hardcore dueling. Most of the fights seem like eye candy, where our heroes can win with ease after clashing with the enemies for a while. When you hear the inspiring music you know it's time to end this fight. This is made worse by the powerup Akazukin receives roughly halfway through the show. It gives her a Goku-level edge over her teammates, and from then on she rarely, if ever fights without it.
It's first flaw: Episode 18. I would have preferred a clip show to what I was forced to endure, a cheesy episode that was used to plug Image Songs. And they don't even sing themselves, the episode breaks into a clip-show style music video for each song. Only a bit of comedy made this episode remotely watchable.
[ Overall ]
Overall Otog-Jushi Akazukin isn't the perfect anime, even by Magical Girl genre standards, but it's a colorful and heartwarming series with surprisingly dark moments and deeper motives than simply "Save the world". If you can stand watching kid friendly shows with cute characters, I personally recommend this underrated gem. read more
49 of 49 episodes seen
[ Story ]
The story is pretty typical for even a Precure season. A great evil was sealed away long ago and is returning to wreck it's own special brand of havoc on the world. Since Heartcatch is flower themed, this comes in the form of desolate wastelands, specifically of the desert variety. And so our Precure warriors must band together to combat the threat of this evil's band of minions, the Desert Apostles.
Watching Smile Precure at the moment I'm able to see one thing that really stands in Heartcatch's favor, the limit on main characters. At the start of the show, Heartcatch only has two active fighters, as opposed to Smile's ensemble of five warriors. This allows the two fighters to take on a single monster without the need for blatant methods of disabling all but the focus character of the episode.
The fighting is probably one of the things most older male viewers are going to remember from this show. Precure in the past have always been known for being super strong and having enhanced combat ability, but these girls spend much of the fight rumbling with their foes in an impressive display that would be welcome in a Cartoon Network lineup alongside Powerpuff Girls. But, true to Magical Girl fashion, they always finish with a flashy Magic attack.
One of the things that works against Heartcatch is it's victim of the week formula. A standard filler episode features a random background character with an emotional problem. Our leads, Tsubomi and Erika associate with this character before said character becomes the power source for the latest monster of the week. It can get really predictable at times, to the point that you can tell right away who's going to be the victim. Their problems are also very easy to see through at times, and you can tell exactly how they're going to overcome it. It gets downright repetitive at times, where the monster of the week will stop in the middle of the fight to cry over the problem the victim is having. "Girls aren't allowed to play on the boy's soccer team!" and such. The villain who summoned the monster will 9 out of 10 times, laugh about the problem the victim is having, saying that it's stupid and pointless. At this point our heroes will make a big speech about how important that problem is, followed by catch phrases and then the aforementioned magic attack. On a bad filler episode, the lead characters get maybe... five minutes of screen time, aside from the fight.
One interesting thing to note is that the show is somewhat savvy toward the cliches of the genre. If you're watching online. Just when you think there's going to be a typical stock footage finish attack, a villain interrupts it and the fight continues.
Despite the aforementioned filler there is a surprisingly gripping and sometimes dark story taking place amid the colorful scenery and cutesy designs. At the focal point of is Cure Moonlight, a fallen Precure who spends much of the series recovering from the emotional damage of her last battle prior to the start of the story.
[ Art ]
With an animation style reminiscent of Ojamajo Doremi, it's easy for those who aren't fans of the genre to be put off by this show. If you can get past the flurry of pink and rainbows that is the opening theme, the show itself is vivid and gorgeous, showing just how beautiful the world is despite the hardships these characters endure. The character designs all come with round, lovable faces and dazzling eyes that convey their personalities so well.
You would think that this art style would have a bad effect on the darker, more serious moments of the show, but amazingly it works in their favor. Even with the color toned down, the smooth animation style stands as one of the best aspects of the series.
Edit: How could I forget to mention the most gorgeous transformation sequence in Magical Girl history? Blossom and Marine's dual transformation is absolutely stunning.
The ending themes feature the cast of characters in CG, dancing to the song. This animation is nice, but seems awkward compared to the style of the series.
On a personal note, I wish I had watched this show after receiving this gorgeous flatscreen monitor I have now. My last one was pathetic, so I wasn't able to appreciate the animation style like I can now.
[ Sound ]
The soundtrack of Heartcatch Precure is another thing that helps it vividly display the joys and hardships of life. Gorgeous melodies accent the peaceful serenity that comes with the flower motif. In particular, the transformation sequence music is among the most upbeat and inspiring of any in the Magical Girl genre. This series has something for every occasion. Powerful, upbeat music for dramatic action moments, gentle, mellow tunes for the tragic, emotional moments and plenty of cheerful, upbeat melodies to suit the fun of being a girl and having great friends.
The opening theme is catchy and cheerful, perfectly suited for the bright, optimistic majority of the series. The first ending theme is another of those upbeat, catchy dancing themes that spreads through the internet like Haruhi-ism. The second ending is one I'm less favorable toward, as it's a gospel-style song, a weird choice for a Magical Girl show with no religious symbolism.
[ Characters ]
The characters in a Magical Girl show are usually it's strongest point, and Heartcatch is no exception. This cast is well rounded and colorful, developing beautifully whenever there isn't a filler episode. Our lead, Tsubomi Hanasaki, is a rare treat for the genre. Whereas main leads are often the idiot hero type, Tsubomi is intelligent, withdrawn and insecure. Realistically, she's not at all ready to accept the burden of fighting dangerous monsters, and even when she has no choice but to become a Precure, it takes her a while to get used to this new power. The best thing about Tsubomi is that she doesn't immediately shed her timid self. It's all too easy for a protagonist to become instantly courageous and confident upon receiving power. Tsubomi on the other hand still has her doubts about herself, and spends much of the series growing as a person.
Serving as the foil to Tsubomi's weak exterior is her friend Erika Kurumi. Erika is another unusual character. Her Cure powers are water based, but she's as hot blooded as any Shonen Hero, maybe more so. Erika is loud, obnoxious and incredibly outgoing, making her overwhelming for those around her. That isn't to say she's completely without concerns, she has her own insecurities, but has an easier time masking them through sheer energy. Such energy and yet Erika is lazy at the same time, especially when it comes to school work.
For those who don't mind casting the spotlight away from the lead characters, every filler episode brings us a new character who the show takes the time to develop as a person, instead of simply throwing them on screen, throwing a problem at them and being done with it. The best part is that these characters exist around our heroes long after they've become the victim of the week, offering their support and serving as comic relief.
The villains of the show we mostly see are a trio of quirky characters. Most noteworthy among them is Kumojacky. Just looking at the guy, you can just see him as the hero of any hotblooded mecha series. He is a man who believes power is most important. Of course when you're in a Magical Girl show, this philosophy isn't on the winning side.
Kobraja is another of the more interesting villains. He's a complete narcissist, and FABULOUS MAX at that. He can be both a serious threat and comic relief.
And then there's Dark Precure, the nemesis of Cure Moonlight who's sole goal in life is to eliminate her enemy. This puts her at odds with even the main villain of the series, who wants her to focus on eliminating the Cures who are still in commission. While there's much more to her than meets the eye, the thing that stands out most about her for me is that she is the bringer of the more serious, impressive moments in the series. Every time she shows up I pretty much cheer, cause I know things are gonna get awesome.
[ Enjoyment ]
I admit I was a bit bored during the first few episodes. The victim of the week formula gets a bit tiresome, especially when the main cast is so vivid and lovable. But I'm so glad I stuck with it. Things got much better after a while, and even in the filler episodes, we have the amazing fight scenes and gorgeous animation that make this series stand out even among it's successors, Suite and Smile Precure. In particular, the arrival of the third Cure brings about a change in the formula, as there are now enough able warriors to warrant the villain assisting the monster of the week, or not using a monster at all.
[ Overall ]
Heartcatch Precure is a must see for any fan of the Magical Girl genre. Even if you were bored with the original Precure season, give this one a try. If not for the amazing fight scenes, then just for that beautiful animation style. It's a fantastic series marred only by a bit of tedious filler, which is par for the course in this genre. If has it's dark moments, arguable the darkest in the Precure franchise, but you're looking for lots of angst and despair, you're watching the wrong series. Heartcatch Precure is a fun series with something for all ages and genders, full of cute characters, colorful animation mixed with amazing action scenes and surprisingly dark moments, but in the end, love conquers all! read more
26 of 26 episodes seen
The animation is stunning, true to KyoAni standards. Even more so than a couple of it's other works. One of the major beefs I found with K-on was that the character designs were a bit blobby. Nichijou's character designs are more smooth and believable, without the cloying amount of attempted cuteness squishing their designs. The "chipmunk teeth" seen in K-on's animation style is also absent. Teeth entirely are rarely seen, and when they are, they take up the entire row of the mouth the appear in. The budget for Nichijou must have been impressive, as there are a lot of stunning visual effects not seen in other KyoAni works. The effect of a camera swirling around a desk is the most notable. It really shows that they took the time to make the series as vivid as possible.
Where would great animation be without great music? Every little melody compliments the scene flawlessly without overpowering it. It sets the mood and shows us exactly what the characters are feeling.
One of the best things about Nichijou is it's well rounded cast of characters. Nichijou takes the time to shine the spotlight on a vast array of background characters, giving each one a name and personality unique to them, showing how they go about their crazy lives. But when it gets down to it, the show is mainly about two groups of characters, a trio of school girls, and the surprisingly more mundane lives of an eight year old mad scientist, a humanoid robot girl, and a talking cat. For the first half of the series these two sides are kept separate, but come together into a circle of friendship as the series progresses. In a series where character development isn't needed, it's surprising when it does come up, and can tug the heartstrings of those who are surprised to find themselves endeared to these characters.
If I could name one flaw in Nichijou, there are a handful of quick, meaningless scenes that seem more like padding than anything else. The show often employs the use of lengthy shots of peaceful scenery, which while gorgeous, don't really contribute to the show, and feel like they go on for almost ten seconds. Cut out all of the "short thoughts" and mundane scenes and you could fit in an entire chapter of relevant manga humor.
Another beef with the show I had was the focus on a certain gun-toting tsundere character. It's pretty obvious from the beginning who she has feelings for, and her angry, violent attempts to deny it got stale for me after a while. She's like a car stalled on the road, it's neither completely dead, nor is it going anywhere. It was entertaining the first time, but how many times can you watch a girl viciously lash out at her crush, friends and little sister before it gets more annoying than amusing?
All in all, Nichijou is a fun and enjoyable show for those who are skeptical of the slice of life genre, or are just looking for a show full of laughs read more