We Still Fight

Mazinkaiser SKL and Madoka Magica embody the spirit of 1990s anime and anime fandom.

That I included Mazinkaiser SKL in that statement is not much of a surprise, I imagine. It’s the robot whose name stands for “Skull” because it’s covered in skulls, and its plot, characters, and levels of ultra-violence are taken straight of the worst best OVAs of the era. Mazinkaiser SKL has what thrilled anime fans of the 90s, and it would not have looked out of place next to the likes of MD Geist and Bubblegum Crisis.

My choice of Madoka Magica might be more puzzling, but I insist that in some ways it houses the 90s anime (and anime fan) spirit even more than Mazinkaiser SKL. When you look at how the series has been captivating fans, you see recurring comments in regards to how dark it is, or how it subverts the genre. Even if people don’t necessarily have a good understanding of the original genre being addressed, when it comes down to it Madoka Magica is attracting fans because it feels “different” and worth discussing and thinking about at length. The way people talk about it reminds more of the way people discuss Akira, Ghost in the Shell, or Evangelion than the way conversations about Suzumiya Haruhi or Code Geass go. Madoka Magica has that certain something that thrills people into dividing anime into Madoka Magica and everything else. While the difference is that Akira drew in non-fans and Madoka Magica isn’t really going beyond the existing fandom, it seems to be hitting fans with the same shock that Goku’s death gave to me as I realized cartoon character’s could die after all.

So while Mazinkaiser SKL is aesthetically an anime ripped straight out of the 90s, a time traveler from a different era whose ways may seem at odds with the current day, Madoka Magica takes the effect anime had on anime fans in the 90s and translates that emotional impact across time onto the current fandom. Whether or not these shows will be remembered in another ten years is unknown, but at the very least in the here and now they connect the decades together.

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9 thoughts on “We Still Fight

  1. It’s kind of too early to really say, but I suppose that Madoka is what happens when you look at a magical girl show through a very VERY cynical viewpoint, where things are not roses and rainbows, and things have a real danger of turning into, pardon me saying, tang.

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  2. Ogi, why does it matter if it’s a show from the 90’s or not? Simply that it recaptures an old spirit in modern context?

    Certainly not each season, but definitely each year there is definitely at least one anime that rises above the rest and gains huge attention from the entire community.

    Also why is it important that it as if it’s the 90’s? It’s 2011 son, we’re all getting older and at this point I think it we should just let go of “era’s of anime” and start just focusing on what’s good. Life’s too short to ponder those sort of topics that have been drilled into the ground a million times.

    Then again, maybe 2010-2020 will just be better for anime in general, and 2000-2010 was just a huge transition phase because we got “better technology” and it was “easier” to make anime, and now studio’s will have to really work again to catch attention on good anime. I’ve often contemplated if there was an “anime fad” that sorta went around from 2005~2010 just because it became more accessible and people are turning to other things.

    I think a lot of the experienced bloggers or viewers in general these days picked up in that mid-2000 generation, and had a lot of free time they just don’t anymore. So, the “hobby” of watching anime must be something you actually take time to do, which most people put aside for something more interactive (either a game or social activity). I think being an anime fan in the upcoming years will be a good joy, and if Madoka is the start of that, kudo’s to it.

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    • While I’m all for optimistic viewing of anime and where it’s going, that’s neither here nor there, and my point was merely an observational one, that these shows bear great resemblance to 90s anime, either in form or in spirit.

      I could discuss why it “matters” in the sense that there is generally a reason to tell a story in a way that is intentionally a little out of step with current trends, for example, but my point wasn’t to make a judgment call on quality, but just to say that the type of discussion and fan reaction that Madoka engenders is also different from how it typically goes these days, even when compared to excellent shows with lots of fans talking about it. Nowhere in this post do I talk about fans picking up or dropping anime or anything like that, nor do I mean that Madoka and Mazinkaiser are the shows that are pulling in lapsed fans.

      I mean, when you watch Slayers Revolution and the show feels different in its characterization, storylines, character designs, and even the style of its opening, you can chalk it up to wanting to recapture the feeling of the old Slayers series, which were made in the 90s and which were very indicative of how 90s anime were.

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      • In the 90s, because there was less technology there was less anime in general – but I can guarantee you the ratio of good to bad anime was fairly similar.

        You can assume a lot about an anime and it’s reactionary base based on the time it’s made, but I think this connection is a little too over broad.

        I feel like people just too often associate “90s anime” in both quality and fan-base reaction with “good”.

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  3. I can see a connection between the decades. I think these shows resemble the 90s in spirit by trying to do something different but resemble where anime is and where it may be going in form, especially Madoka with it’s simplistic character designs amidst the wild and psychedelic world of the witches.

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  4. The comparison is more than a little bit flawed though, I believe, because it neglects to consider that once upon a time many people also believed that Haruhi, Code Geass or whatever else “felt different” and were worth discussing or thinking about at length, because they were doing something rare or at least unusual within their respective genres. In other words, this kind of emotional impact or intellectual stimulation isn’t exactly unheard of.

    Whether or not most conversations about either of those shows ended up devolving into something else (and whether or not that was fair in retrospect), the underlying point remains.

    It’s, just as well, impossible to know how people will end up talking about Madoka Magica by the time the series has concluded.

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    • Perhaps I wasn’t clear in my post, but I did not mean to say that people didn’t think Haruhi or Code Geass were different or that they didn’t garner tons of discussion, because they did and still do.

      What I meant to say is that the extensive discussion and huge reaction to Madoka is different from Haruhi and Code Geass’s own extensive discussion and huge reactions.

      Let’s actually take a look at Haruhi, which hit in the middle of the prior decade like a thunderbolt from above. Haruhi was and is huge. In many ways it’s one of the most influential anime of the past 10 years. I know people who have been into anime for years, and Haruhi quickly shot up to be their #1 show or at least in their top 3. I thought Haruhi was quite good myself.

      But let’s just assume that both Haruhi and Madoka are two of the greatest shows ever and that they are very different from what came before them, whether you agree with that statement or not. I would say, and feel free to disagree with me, that more of the discussion on Haruhi is centered around how it’s great, whereas Madoka discussion is more focused on how it’s different. Both shows are great and different, but the general focus of conversation diverges, and I think that it partially has to do with the fact that Madoka puts much more focus on where it’s headed (what will happen in the end?) vs. Haruhi, which doesn’t build up its story as consistently in pacing. I don’t know the full answer though, which is why I made the observation in the first place, as I found it interesting how Madoka discussion seemed more reminiscent of another period.

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  5. I recently watched Birdy the Mighty: Decode, which brought me a huge nostalgia wave (due at least in part to it almost literally BEING a 90’s anime, resurrected with a modern touch). I think there is a difference, certainly plot centered anime was bigger then, and character centered anime dominated the last 10 years in general. That may be the difference between Haruhi and Madoka, both as shows and as characters. Not to say there aren’t strong characters in Madoka, but what happens to the characters is more important than the characters themselves, whereas in Haruhi the characters are more important than the events.

    Another aspect perhaps is that much of the anime, especially moe anime, of the past several years has been about creating a relaxing or fun atmosphere, whereas Eva, GitS and Akira created a very harsh, gritty atmosphere both externally and psychologically. Madoka certainly shares that darkness, really the polar opposite of a show like, say, Ichigo Mashimaro.

    As for the “remembered in 10 years” bit, well, I’m starting to think that’s not exactly the right standard. There is a sort of canon among fans, and in a way it’s the job of us fans to keep great series known and pass our ideas down. With the Tokyo manga bill and general anti-otaku sentiment, I feel we need to stand up more and proclaim the value of what we see, or it will be erased from history (by people like Ishihara) despite it’s value. I don’t want to force a canon, but even more so I don’t want, say, Utena to be forgotten.

    I strongly recommend Birdy: Decode if you haven’t seen it yet, it flew under the radar it seems but it was much better than I expected.

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