precurealamode

I’ve written an article over at Apartment 507 talking about the latest Precure. There aren’t any major details yet, but if you want a quick rundown of Precure as a whole, and want to know how I’d like the series to go, head on over.

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In 2011(?), the Pokemon anime decided to spice things up a bit by modifying its character designs. More than a simple change of wardrobe, the denizens of the Pokemon TV world had changes to their faces and hair, and the result was an Ash with green eyes. With the release of Pokemon Sun & Moon, the characters have transformed once more, and this time it’s even more drastic than before. While it’s not like Ash is seven feet tall with a goatee now, it looks noticeably different compared to his adventures in the Kalos region. With such a major change, the inevitable question is “why?”

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Fortunately, I just so happen to have answered this question the last time around, and it turns out that the answer applies just as well, if not better.

At the time when green-eyed Ash was revealed, I wrote a post explaining how this was a clear attempt at making the characters in the Pokemon anime match more closely with the character designs of the games. The main artist for Pokemon has always been Ken Sugimori, and while the designs of the anime characters were based on his work back in the mid to late 90s, he’s continued to refine his art style over the years. If you look at Ash and other characters in Sun & Moon, they veer even closer to Sugimori’s current aesthetic. Characters appear rounder and softer, and the way their eyes are drawn have that distinct Sugimori look. This is probably most evident in the new Alola region characters, such as Lillie.

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Anime Character Design

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Game Character Design

That explains a good chunk of why Ash’s adventures in Not-Hawaii look so far-removed from past generations of the anime, but another significant one is that a simpler art style means being easier to animate. That’s not to say that the old Pokemon anime styles were especially complex, but being softer and more simplified in this way means the animators can put more effort into making things move well instead of making sure each character has all of their necessary details.

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Is it December already?! It actually feels like I just got done writing the update for November, and now we’re at the end of the year. Much love to all of my sponsors on Patreon for being with me for the entire year!

General:

Johnny Trovato

Ko Ransom

Alex

Diogo Prado

Viga

Yoshitake Rika fans:

Elliot Page

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

November was the 9th anniversary of Ogiue Maniax, so I wrote my thoughts on how the blog’s been going and where I think it’ll head next. I’ve since reflected a bit further on what I said there. While I primarily look at Ogiue Maniax as a place to share thoughts and ideas, I think I’ve been a little sparse in terms of denser, heavier content as of late. I’m looking to write better and with greater insight as I move forward, but also balancing it out with shorter, lighter posts, much like a three-course meal.

It was a long time coming, but I finally posted my feelings on the dismissal of Precure as insignificant because it’s not Sailor Moon. As a fan of both I feel like this is a recurring issue, and I hope that magical girl enthusiasts and just anime watchers in general can come to appreciate Precure better.

I also began my pseudo-series of posts about characters I love, with Inukami Kyouko from the volleyball manga Shoujo Fight. As Ogiue Maniax was built on a foundation of character appreciation, I felt that it was kind of a nice return to my roots, so to speak.

This month’s Patreon-sponsored post sees me tackle the third season of Aikatsu!, which passes the baton from heroine Hoshimiya Ichigo to young upstart Oozora Akari. I mostly talk about the idea of switching protagonists and how the series handles it.

Finally, I want to give attention to something I wrote the day before the US presidential election. Even after all the chaos that has ensued, I want people to read it and perhaps take it to heart. I think it is all too easy to want to silence others if one believes others to simply be hateful and ignorant, but that merely creates greater animosity in my opinion. It’s ostensibly an anime-related post because I talk about Legend of the Galactic Heroes!

Look forward to the rest of December’s posts! I’ve got a new Anime Secret Santa review on the way, my annual “best characters of the year” post, and more!

doremi16

A sequel is a curious thing, beholden to the expectations created by the original. If you stay too close to what came before, then the work runs the risk of being a pointless retread. Stray too far, and the spirit that made the work special can fade away. Across multiple year-long seasons, the magical girl anime Ojamajo Doremi, managed to never grow stale. Between its lived-in world, genuine respect for its young audience, characters both central and supporting who truly grow as human beings, and a sharp sense of both drama and humor, it’s an example worth holding up.

But what happens when the next sequel is not only removed from the elementary school days of the anime, but also in another medium entirely? That question is what brings me to the main topic of this review: Ojamajo Doremi 16, the first in a series of light novels that shine the spotlight on Harukaze Doremi and her friends in the exciting new world of high school.

At the end of Ojamajo Doremi Dokkaan!, Doremi and her classmates graduate from elementary school. However, rather than continuing on into middle school together, Doremi and her closest friends all go their separate ways in pursuit of their dreams or in support of their loved ones. At the same time, while they had spent the last four years as witch apprentices, they ultimately decide to forego their abilities as they stood on the cusp of becoming full-fledged witches, preferring to live as humans. Three years have passed, and now high school is on the horizon. Doremi discovers that her old friend Senoo Aiko is in town, having moved back from Osaka, and together with Fujiwara Hazuki have reformed their original trio. Not surprisingly, their reunion also becomes a new encounter with the Witch World they had left as kids.

One of the challenges of the light novel comes in how to convey that these are the same characters as the ones from the anime, only older. To this end, the vocabulary of the first-person narrative of the light novel, Doremi’s that is, effectively conveys the idea that she’s matured quite a bit. At the same time, it is clearly Doremi speaking, as her voice sounds very close to the same girl from back then, whose clumsiness belied a special talent for inspiring others. The other characters share similar changes. It can be hard to imagine them as their current selves and not just picture their smaller selves from the anime, though the updated character designs from Umakoshi Yoshihiko (who worked on the Doremi anime originally) certainly help.

Another sign of this change comes in the form of romance. Love for the main cast was never much of a focus for the Doremi anime, and even in this light novel it doesn’t play the most major role, but it underlies many of the other stories that take place. Hazuki’s close friendship with misunderstood delinquent and (bad) trumpet player Yada from their elementary school days has blossomed into a full-on relationship. Aiko is mentioned as having had some boyfriends, but is currently single. Kotake, the boy who began the series picking on Doremi but clearly fell for her by the final TV series, has grown tall and handsome, as well as becoming the star of the high school soccer team, and their being 16 potentially allows them to communicate in ways that they could not as immature kids.

While there are plenty of differences, the actual feel of Doremi 16 in terms of how its stories are told feels right at home. Rather than try to tell one grandiose plot in the span of its 300-odd pages, the light novel tells many smaller stories that both stand alone well and build off of each other to varying degrees, creating the sense of connection between characters that Doremi as a series is so good at. One of Doremi‘s greatest strengths was its excellent side cast, and in Doremi 16 you get to find out how they’ve also grown, whether because they’re the focus of these new stories, or because they simply exist as part of the world.

Fiction-loving Yokokawa Nobuko became a successful manga creator in middle school alongside artist and friend Maruyama Miho. Segawa Onpu, idol and former magical girl antagonist, has struggled with the transition from child star to full-blown actress. Doremi 16 brings you right back into their stories, and it feels immensely satisfying catching up with them, and it never gives the impression that the light novel is simply asking its readers to wax nostalgic purely for its own sake.

At the same time, however, I have some doubts as to whether someone could approach Doremi 16 without any prior experience with the series. I do think it’s excellently written in general, but it relies heavily on a cast of characters that have been previously established through years of anime. While I believe that the light novel quickly sums up its characters well so that you can get an immediate sense of who they are, I’m not sure how much it would matter to a complete newbie to the Doremi universe that Nagato Kayoko, who once suffered from a crippling fear of going to school, has now actually won awards for academic excellence. New characters are established, but the return to the town of Misora where Doremi and the others live is a significant factor in this book’s appeal.

That might appear to contradict the notion that Ojamajo Doremi 16 isn’t just for nostalgia, but it would only truly be a nostalgia-focused work if its story simply dwelled on the good times of the past. Instead, Doremi 16 actively builds on the paths that the girls of Ojamajo Doremi take towards the future, and it encourages readers to similarly reflect on their own lives. Although the three years from elementary school to high school isn’t nearly as long of a wait as the seven-year lull prior to the light novel, I can imagine that the high school world of Doremi 16 is a reminder that time brings about change, and that friendship and discovery are on-going processes whose magics are well worth exploring.

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Name: N/A
Alias: Angel (エンジェル)
Relationship Status: Dating?
Origin: Girls Saurus DX

Information:
A member of the Manga Study Club at her high school, Angel works as an assistant for the club president Maria on her BL manga. In particular, she works on a manga based on the student Chiryuu Shingo, who is known for avoiding women. Angel claims she has a boyfriend, though this boyfriend is supposedly in a parallel universe.

Fujoshi Level:
Angel is considered to be a peer to her fellow club members in terms of being a fujoshi.

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soundeuphonium-kumikoreina

Ever since the end of Sound! Euphonium Season 1, I’ve found the conversations between protagonist euphonium player Kumiko and trumpeter Reina remarkable in their intimacy. While the acting is overall solid as each member of the Kitauji High School music club brings personality and history, there’s something noticeably different when it comes to those two.

Often when voice actors in anime are playing their roles, there is a sense of performance. This is not a bad thing, at least not inherently. They are, for all intents and purposes, actors on a stage bringing their characters to life. When Taki-sensei speaks with this slightly hoarse yet alluring voice, for example, one gets the sense of a teacher who’s dedicated, clever, and expects the best of his students, but seems to carry an internal emotional pain at all times. When Kumiko and Reina are talking to other characters, one senses the way in which Kumiko is constantly trying to find herself while Reina’s dedication and drive are ever-present. Together, howver, it’s as if their outer-facing selves begin to crumble, and we’re witness to the hush tones of a more naturalistic conversation between close friends (or something more).

I do not know how Sound! Euphonium accomplishes this. Perhaps they do something different in terms of the recording environment or the voice direction. What I can say is that this style of dialogue reminds me of a certain type of Japanese animation: the off-the-cuff humor shows that began with gdgd Fairies and include series such as Straight Title Robot Anime and Tesagure! Bukatsumono.

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Made “on the cheap” using the 3D modeling and animation program “Miku Miku Dance,” these shows tend to feature offbeat comedy culminating in a special “improv” section. For example, in Tesagure! Bukatsumono (currently the best show of its kind in my opinion), the show is about a club where characters try to imagine what other school clubs would be like. In the middle of every episode, there is always a scene where the girls are supposed to come up with never-before-seen version of familiar clubs (like a baseball club where everyone has to dress fashionably), an in these moments the audio noticeably changes. To start, here’s a lot more mumbling. And where anime normally has characters speak and even interrupt each other so perfectly that you can’t call it anything but “staged” (because of course it is), these improv scenes have characters talking over each other like it’s a radio show. The fact that the actors often end up breaking character because of the success (or failure) of their own jokes makes it feel that much more like a private conversation that we the viewer are happening to eavesdrop on.

That’s more or less the feeling I get when I listen to Kumiko and Reina talk to each other. Whenever they’re together, it’s as if the rest of their world vanishes, and we’re privy to a space where only they reside. In it, even their outer selves fall away, and what we’re left is with is openness and comfort.

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aikatsuakari

Years of watching sequels has made one thing clear to me: it can be remarkably difficult to properly pass the torch from one protagonist to the next. For every Love Live! Sunshine!! that presents a cast with its own individuality, there’s a Saved by the Bell: The New Class, which, like so many in the graveyard of failed follow-ups, tries too hard to imitate the formula of the predecessor. In this respect, Aikatsu! takes on one hell of a challenge, not only taking the focus off of original heroine Hoshimiya Ichigo and re-centering it on newer star Oozora Akari, but actually keeping Ichigo and the rest of the old guard around.

The risk that comes with keeping the older characters around is that they might very well make the newer characters feel less worthwhile. In a post comparing the manga Genshiken to the series Kyuukyoku Choujin R, Japanese blogger tamagomago talks about how, while both series are about generations of college students, in the latter’s case the older characters stuck around to the extent that they overshadowed the younger ones. In Gundam SEED Destiny, protagonist Shinn Asuka ended up taking a backseat to the original Gundam SEED hero, Kira Yamato, to the extent that the opening changed to reflect this. Perhaps this is why the 800 lb. girls’ show gorilla known as Precure switches to a completely disconnected world with every new series more often than not.

To my pleasant surprise, I find that Aikatsu! does a fine job of re-focusing itself to highlight Akari as its new protagonist, with Ichigo passing into the role of support character in a manner that diminishes neither character.

It is necessary that I point out the following: for the sake of this post, I did not watch through the second year-long stretch of Aikatsu!, and thus cannot comment on how the actual transition from Ichigo to Akari went. All I know is that Akari was introduced partway through, and that, sort of like in the world of pro wrestling, she was gradually elevated to take center stage. By the time the third season starts up, Akari seems just different enough from Ichigo that it somewhat resembles the relationship and character contrast between Jotaro, the hero of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure Part 3 and his Part 4 successor, Josuke. Like Jotaro, Ichigo even as an inexperienced individual feels like a powerhouse of sorts, a rock-climbing, tree-chopping force of nature. Akari, in turn, is more unsteady but brimming with life, akin to Josuke. She’s very much her own character, which is also the case for all of the newer cast.

Ichigo’s substantial role change into supportive mentor also has me thinking about the aura that emanates from characters who were ex-protagonists. Often, when a work no longer revolves around them, these former main characters gain a kind of stature or legendary status that elevates them above even the most prime moments of their time in the spotlight. Think of how the arrival of Cure Black and Cure White is generally considered a high-impact moment in the Precure crossover films, or how the arrival the original Red Ranger in the Power Rangers special Forever Red has the others standing in awe. Think of Goldberg at Survivor Series 2016. Ichigo is more or less the same character.

From my prior experience, Aikatsu! had been a consistently strong and entertaining series, so it’s not too much of a surprise that later parts of the anime manage are similarly high in quality. Akari’s a worthy successor thus far, and I’m curious as to how she and her friends will transform and perhaps someday become mentors themselves.

This post was sponsored by Johnny Trovato. If you’re interested in submitting topics for the blog, or just like my writing and want to support Ogiue Maniax, check out my Patreon.

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Name: N/A
Alias: Kitty (キティ)
Relationship Status: Single
Origin: Girls Saurus DX

Information:
A member of her high school’s Manga Study Club, she acts as an assistant for the club president Maria on their popular BL manga based on one of the students at her school, Chiryuu Shingo. At one point she argues about how many times Chiryuu should orgasm in a specific scene.

Fujoshi Level:
Kitty gets into a fight with one of her fellow club members because she supports a pairing of characters named Keith and Mike, in that order.

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Amae Koromo, demon of the high school mahjong world, is the first major opponent in the manga Saki. Able to oppress her opponents using the power of the moon, her physical appearance is deceptive: though she’s a year older than Saki herself, she resembles a small child, which causes her grief to no end. Those of you who’ve seen the anime and read the manga, however, might not be fully aware of just how much Koromo’s strange mix of naivete and maturity also comes across in her speech.

When Koromo speaks, the two main elements to notice are that 1) she often mispronounces words and names like a child would, but that this is contrasted with 2) she uses a heavy, heavy amount of classical Japanese idioms and obscure, old-fashioned vocabulary. So just as often as Koromo will call Nodoka “Nonoka,” and act like a spoiled brat, she’ll throw in phrases like 黄壌 (koujou, afterlife) and 神算鬼謀 (shinsan kibou, ingenious scheme). Her Japanese is so dense and difficult at times that Japanese people themselves have trouble. If you do a search for many of her lines, you’ll find even Japanese speakers asking, “What in the world is she saying?”

The result is that Koromo comes across as a girl who is very well-read and intelligent, but also sheltered and unaware of what the commoners enjoy. This, as readers of Saki know, is exactly what she’s like.

This site collects Koromo’s idioms up to Volume 8 of the manga, while this one has some other examples of her strange vocabulary. And as always, may the Haitei Raoyue be with you.

Today marks nine years of Ogiue Maniax. Normally, this would be a post reflecting back on just the blog itself, but the world is in such a crazy spot at the moment that the times of a small anime blog seem to pale in comparison. Still, while a huge part of me wants to do more to help my fellow human beings, I still plan on keeping up with all the anime and manga out there.

Nine years is not that far from eight, but somehow it feels like so much more. Maybe it’s because the big “10” is on the horizon, and that’s a pretty crazy place to be. Most anime blogs last maybe two to three years, and somehow I’ve been chugging along. I attribute it to stubbornness, perseverance, and a willingness to let half-baked and flawed ideas get posted (sometimes typos and all). A friend recently told me a famous quote: “Perfect is the enemy of good enough.” I think, when it comes to the things I’ve accomplished in my life, especially this blog, that accounts for a good deal of my success.

Perhaps the biggest topic of the entire year for Ogiue Maniax is the end of Genshiken itself. In my final chapter review, I wrote about all the good times I had with the series, and how it impacted the blog, and the takeaway from all of that is simply, Genshiken changed and so did Ogiue Maniax. What it means to be a fan or an otaku, the cultural associations with these ideas, has morphed significantly over the course of nine years. In a recent episode of Anime World Order, they discussed the increase in the number of fashion designers as guests at Anime Weekend Atlanta (and cons in general). Just thinking about how we live in a world where fashion is a big deal to nerds says to me that we’re in a very different place.

Genshiken reflected these changes well, which makes me want to go back and take another look. For that reason, I am making an announcement:

Starting next year (most likely January 2017), I will be re-reviewing the original Genshiken manga. Rather than going chapter by chapter, I am going to be looking at it one volume at a time on an approximately bi-monthly schedule. I already reviewed the series a long time ago (for my first anniversary!), but I expect to get a new perspective on an old friend, especially with knowledge of Nidaime.

Another sign that Ogiue Maniax is nine years old is that the blog itself looks like it comes from nine years ago. I’ve considered changing the design at some point, but I’m just not sure. Blogging itself in this format seems to have left the lands of trendiness long ago as well, and perhaps I’ve stubbornly refused to adapt to changing times in that regard. YouTube will never be my medium, but I wonder if it’d be worth it to really mix things up.

While not exactly a stylistic change, in light of recent events in the world I’m considering something. I might make more posts that veer towards political thought, though not in a way that takes over Ogiue Maniax or makes it any less of an anime blog. One can argue that just about any action can be political (including actively tried to avoid it), but what I’m thinking about is writing more about the goings-on of politics with respect to the US, Japan, and elsewhere, and how they potentially impact fans, production, and the on-going conversations we have about respect, anger, diversity, and so on. However, I am aware of how much the strength of my writing comes from trying to see all sides of a situation and I wish to not get so embroiled in thinking of “sides” that I don’t challenge my own viewpoint on a regular basis, so I don’t wish it to become too much a part of any “cause.” It’s a balancing act that I’m still trying to figure out as a person, and I still fully intend on maintaining my love of anime’s sheer variety.

That was a bit of a ramble, but those are my genuine thoughts and feelings. I hope you’ll hang on with me as we jump into 2017 and reach a decade of Ogiue Maniax.

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