About Me

Newfoundland, Canada
I've been a big anime fan for about 10 years or so now. My five all-time favorite animes at this point are, in no particular order... Puella Magi Madoka Magica, El Hazard: The Magnificent World, Love Live!: School Idol Project, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, and Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha. However, there are hundreds of anime shows that I like. The main purpose of this blog is to provide meta-commentary on anime, and the anime industry - to try to cast a critical, though appreciating, eye upon this entertainment genre that I believe has tremendous potential, but can also be easily wasted. I have always been a fan of animation in general - in the 80s, I grew up on western cartoons like He-Man, She-Ra, Transformers, and G.I. Joe. Through out the 90s, I was a hardcore comic book fan, for the most part. I'm also a big fan of Star Trek. Right now in my life, though, anime is my principal entertainment passion.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

In a World of Pure Imagination...

In our modern internet era, Willy Wonka is known best as a masterful meme maestro at smoothly sarcastic satire directed at hypocritical positions and questionable claims. I'm sure most, if not all, of this blog's readers know exactly what I'm talking about there.

But decades before the inventions of Al Gore enabled this very blog to become reality, Willy Wonka sang about a world of pure imagination, and beckoned us into it with his charismatic mannerisms and his delightful candies and chocolates. Ah, but Charlie's Chocolate Factory was much like Charlotte's witch's barrier - Filled with delicious goodies, but also fantastical horrors that could harm children. Willy Wonka brought five such children into such a world, where all but one of them was victimized, albeit arguably by their own poor judgement. Remind you of a certain magical girl familiar? You could even consider Willy Wonka to be a proto-Kyubey!

This is one of the more fascinatingly fearsome forms of magic - The form of a double-edged sword that can slice miracles out of cold materialistic steel, but also slice chunks of flesh out of those who don't wield the sword with picture-perfect precision. 

Another form of magic is a more innocent form. The form of Mary Poppins, not Willy Wonka. The form that gives you sweet sweet sugar to help the medicine of daily life go down.

This magic is something that the western world once specialized in as amazingly adeptly as Willy Wonka specialized in chocolate and candy creation. After all, the western world gave us Alice in Wonderland, the Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and live-action musicals that held the imagination of a Willy Wonka as well as the relentless rhapsody resolve of a little orphan girl Annie, who never lost hope that the sun would come up tomorrow.

But the western world has largely traded in Daddy Warbucks for Lex Luthor. A gruff but hopefully sentimental adult replaced by a cynical corporate conman who wishes to remove things that are super from the world of the pleasingly dark and corrupt and normal. There is a place for such gritty entertainment, but I'm glad that anime has made a wonderfully whimsical world that I suspect Willy Wonka would gladly call his own if he could.

And this blog entry will now focus on exploring this aspect of anime, one which I think is perhaps not as well-understood and appreciated as it could be.

Anime, I would argue, tends to convey a fond fascination for a few specific things. Youthfulness. Hope. Struggle. Coming of Age. A strange blend of universality with cultural heritage. And with clear carefully calculated consistency, anime finds the magic and color in it all.

What I mean by magic and color is how it plays on a child-like imagination. An imagination that I think can ironically grow stronger and hungrier as we move through life.

"When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up." - C.S. Lewis

What I'm talking about is similar to what many of us anime fans call "chuunibyou", or some may even say that what I'm talking about is chuunibyou.

It's about a love of the strange and wondrous, the bizarre and imaginative, the surreal and the fantastical, the "larger than life". At its best, it does not dispense entirely with reality, but rather opens up a door between reality and a brand new world - Similar to the wardrobe door in Lewis' own "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe."

Sometimes this door opens up to a truly supernatural realm - Like the witch's barriers of Madoka Magica. Other times the door opens up to something more rooted in the natural world - Like the world of school idols in Love Live! But in either case, the key is that this new world is meant to be awe-inspiring and exciting and engaging and capture our imagination.

We are to join the protagonist(s) on an amazing adventure, on her or his newly discovered racy roller-coaster ride. Sometimes the roller-coaster ride ends in truly tumultuous triumph, and other times it ends in distressingly daunting despair, but in either case, the Amusement Park nature of the ride remains the same.

There is magic in the air - Magic in the sense of making the seemingly impossible real. It's about things gradually building up to key definitive moments, as these moments seem to justify everything that came before, and often give greater weight to what came before.

This is one specific thing that I think modern anime does exceptionally well. It takes something that almost all of us can relate to - Such as youthful first love - And it explores it in an unvarnished way that cuts through to the core of it. And to help itself do so, it cuts away the clutter and noise of background reality, and replaces it with fantastical events or imagery that I think speaks to a very deep and yearning humanity within many of us, if not all of us.

That is a yearning for meaning, and purpose, and success, and comfort, and knowledge, and love. Human drives are liberated from cynical defeatism and skeptical shackles, as distilled dreams are allowed to flourish and soar, like bubbles in Love Live! Episode 8 and blimps in Madoka Magica: Rebellion.

To get to these human drives - these core emotional truths - animators must capture just the right facial expression at just the right time. A good recent example can be seen with Aoi Miyamori in Shirobako Episode 23.

And many examples of this can be found in Love Live! and Madoka Magica.

So, good reader, will you journey with me, as I take you on a roller-coaster ride review, in exploring Love Live! and Madoka Magica in the days or weeks to come?

This blog entry is meant to renew this blog, by forecasting new reviews of two of my all-time favorite anime shows. This blog entry is an appetizer of what I intend to explore in those reviews. In my mind, Love Live! and Madoka Magica are opposite sides of the same colorful magical anime coin. Both specialize in everything I have mentioned in this blog entry. And both reinforce that with cute captivating costumes that well-represent this marriage between reality and a world of pure imagination.

That is the world I hope to bring you into soon, so stay tuned! Let's just hope I can see my ideas here through to the end, without any regrets.


  1. So would something like Tari Tari qualify as being the type of "magic" series you're talking about in this article? I've generally praised Tari Tari for being "down to earth" (and therefore a nice counterbalance to the adventurous sci-fi and fantasy series I tend to favor) but there are times in this article where it seems like it would qualify as one of the "magic" series you're talking about as well!

    Some of my favorite anime definitely do have an element of "magic" to them. Although my reasons for appreciating the series have evolved over time, I think one of the highest praises I can give Macross Frontier is to note how seeing the first episode of that show in 2008 reminded me of seeing the original Star Wars on VHS when I was a kid.

    And to think I'm posting about this right before a new season where one of my most anticipated shows is the sequel to the highly cynical "My Youth Romantic Comedy is Wrong as I Expected"... :P

  2. Yeah, Tari Tari would count.

    The "magic" series I'm talking about is less about clear-cut supernaturalism, and more about the show having a strong emotional core that resonates in a way that shows a certain child-like awe and/or wonderment.

    Tari Tari's final episode, as well as Wien's focus episode, definitely has that going for it.

    Clear-cut supernatural elements *can* be a part of it, but they're not downright necessary. One thing that anime is in fact very good at is taking the everyday and making it look very meaningful and special.

  3. I I may not be able to comment on your next couple posts because I'm really busy until mid-April, but I thought I'd drop a comment on this particular one.

    I agree with your general point here but If we're tie Madoka's magic in with the "magical scenes" that appear in shows like Love Live (or EF, or a whole bunch of others), I personally find it a better fit to say anime embraces the fantastic than to say anime embraces the magical. And underlying that, I think anime can have such elements and still feel authentic because it avoids the cynicism trap. Even the stuff that purports to be dark and edgy tends to have shades of idealism to it, note that anime's most prominent "dark and twisted" writer puts idealistic heroines in most of what he writes - Madoka, Saber, Akane, Asseylum, etc.

    I'm not quite sold on your use of the term chuunibyou though. Among my real life anime circle, chuunibyou tends to be applied to stories whose fantastic elements come across as pretentious - ie. Absolute Duo's use of terms like "Blaze Diabolica" and character names like "Thor Kokonoe". Or Yuuta's alter ego being "Dark Flame Master" in Chuu2 itself.

    1. Methinks there's quite a difference between the self-importance the characters in Chuu2 put on themselves and don't take seriously VS the author of the story trying to make the story itself deeper than it actually is.

      Btw Trips, how long are these reviews going to be that you'd need a few weeks? Kininarimasu~