Well, here’s an interesting little anime. An addictive 13 episodes, it’s easy to blitz through in one evening. Despite the whimsical lede of a title, Is it Wrong…? does not actually involve all that much dungeon crawling for the sake of meeting chicks. Instead, it follows the adventures of one Bell Cranel, favored of Hestia (an impressive classical reference, that), whose crush on a much more experienced dungeon crawler leaves him blind to the fact that he’s dropping the panties of everyone around him — including, ironically enough, Hestia’s.
Perhaps the most traditional subversion of the harem comedy genre — the oblivious harem head.
But what makes this anime so enjoyable is that it’s so much fun. Bell Cranel is essentially our Final Fantasy or Skyrim characters turned into an anime, somebody who sucks donkeyballs at the beginning of the first episode (when the aforesaid dungeon crawler saves his ass and he falls hard for her). And after that, he turns into a determinator, whose skills and experience — along with a certain bit of divine favor — compound quickly. By the middle of the anime, he is the fastest person to ever reach Level 2, eclipsing the previous record-holder’s. And by the end, there’s a full-fledged WoW-style raid. Continue reading Is It Wrong to Try to Pick up Girls in a Dungeon?
The Fate series is one of the larger and stranger franchises. It started as an eroge (shares a root with eros; I’ll let you guess what it means) visual novel (a type of popular video game in Japan, one that is all-but-nonexistent in the West), and it’s spawned a galaxy of games, manga, and anime. Fate/Kaleid Line Prisma Illya!, a spinoff of the core series that takes place in an alternate universe, fits nicely in the Japanese magical girl genre (the closest Western counterpart would probably be The Powerpuff Girls).
In this series, Ilyasviel (Illya) von Einzbern, a nubile side character in the core Fate/Stay Night, takes center stage when a talking magic wand blackmails her into becoming a “magical girl”. What follows is a show that works on two levels: first, as a very conventional magical girl show, and second as a very self-aware commentary on the Fate series’ core mythology. The first season, anyway.
Continue reading Fate/Kaleid Liner Prisma Illya!
The best stories are often retold time and again. Even though when we hear the word “retelling”, we think of oral literature stories written down in a book — often stories dealing with trickster characters, like the West African spider Ananse or Native American Coyote — at its core, a retelling is simply a story adapted to a new medium. For example, Game of Thrones, the TV show, is a retelling of the fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, and Game of Thrones, the graphic novel, is a retelling of Game of Thrones, the TV show.
With that in mind, let us take a look at the 2011 Studio Shaft anime Puella Magi Madoka Magica — a show that, at first glance, seems like a series about young women aimed for young women. The framing device sets the tone — a strange cat-like creature, Kyubey, grants you one wish in return for becoming a magical girl, someone who fights witches and generally lives a much less dull life than ours. A win-win for everybody, right? Well…what does Kyubey get out of it?
Dig a little deeper, though, and the themes and maturity are not what one would expect from such a genre. (The third episode features an onscreen decapitation!) Instead, the story is a very mature retelling of a fairy tale and a classic legend, in exactly the manner one would expect a latter-day fairy tale to be retold.
Continue reading Puella Magi Madoka Magica
This is one of the more interesting artistic projects of the last decade.
In the early 2000s, the French house duo Daft Punk partnered with the Japanese anime house Toei Animation to produce what is essentially a feature-length music video for their Discovery album. As such, every song on Discovery has a music video associated with it, and–when put in the right order–they yield the full-length feature Interstella 5555.
There is no dialogue anywhere in the film, and only minimal sound effects. Instead, the story’s told through the songs and animation themselves. Needless to say, this is a stripped-down tale: alien rock stars are (plot twist!) abducted and brought to Earth, thralls of a corrupt manager, and pursued by a cowboy type of their own race. The cowboy frees them from their thralldom but at the cost of his own life; the band confronts the manager and his own greed kills him; once the band’s true heritage is revealed, Earthlings work together to send them back home. (Fame has its perks.)
Continue reading Interstella 5555