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When it comes to the history of Japanese art, no name stands out more than Hokusai. Most famously known for works such as his amusing sketches known as Hokusai Manga, as well as The Great Wave Over Kanagawa, his prints and paintings are the definition of iconic. One lesser known fact, at least to folks such as myself, is that he had a daughter who was a renowned painter and printmaker in her own right. Her life is the central focus of the film Miss Hokusai (known in Japanese as Sarusuberi), a highly appealing movie directed by Hara Keiichi (Summer Days with Coo) whose meandering path from beginning to end makes it all the more engaging.

What stands out about the film above all else is the main character herself, Katsushika O-Ei. “Miss Hokusai” exudes a strong charisma that gives her story weight and carries the film forward despite the fact that she doesn’t have any sort of singular ambition or goal she’s trying to fulfill. Instead, the focus is broader, showing her personal challenges as an individual, and how she handles them from one day to the next. For example, she works as an assistant to her father, and her awareness of both his general disheveled nature and his brilliance makes it so that the sheen of celebrity that he possesses is simultaneously both dulled and refined. The most notable aspect of her design visually is her big, bushy eyebrows (inherited from her dad), which gives her a memorable appearance.

Though the film presents in some ways an idealized image of Edo (currently Tokyo), it takes great steps to reflect the realities of the times it’s portraying. None of the characters speak in the style of Japanese one would hear today in modern Tokyo, and instead everyone has an Edo accent. Though this is not explicitly stated in Miss Hokusai, one of the main reasons the “Edo dialect” became more widespread was that it was how the women in the brothels spoke. The commonality of prostitution, and the fact that it wasn’t considered an especially big deal, sets the kind of environment that O-Ei lives in, all without admonishing it.

Related to this, one of the more interesting aspects of the film is the full acknowledgement that ukiyo-e and other forms of printing were not especially glamorous worlds. Its makers toed the line between artists and artisans, and the fact that pornographic and erotic art was a staple of the market is both well-established and incorporated into O-Ei’s own narrative. Her inexperience with love has an effect on both her business (she’s known for her unrivaled talent in drawing beautiful women but isn’t as good at depicting sex), as well as her personal life (she’s constantly flustered when speaking to the man she’s smitten with).

There’s also a spiritual/occult element to the film that I don’t want to spoil too much, but it reflects a kind of deep emotional and spiritual connection to art as expressed by both O-Ei and her father. It really makes me think about the idea that, even since the time of prehistoric cavemen, the ability to recreate worlds both familiar and alien assumed a kind of power bordering on the divine. The way Miss Hokusai depicts the act of creating art portrays it as a magical experience that visits different creators in different ways.

Another visual quality that gave me much to chew on mentally was the act of seeing these anime characters drawing in this older style. Though ukiyo-e and such are sometimes argued to be the precursors to manga and anime as we know it today, the connection is actually rather tenuous. However, seeing the same characters depicted in both anime form and in that woodblock print style connects these two different aesthetics together. As a result, I began to consider the idea that, even if they aren’t related all that much historically, there is a kind of spiritual succession at work between “Hokusai manga” and “manga,” so to speak.

Overall, I highly recommend Miss Hokusai to anyone who enjoys a kind of circuitous storytelling where the important pieces slowly come into view, and to anyone who wants to see an inspirational and uplifting woman who is certainly not without her own flaws. It’s visually rich, full of characters who need only moments to draw you into their world, and a clever portrayal of what it’s like to be a creator.

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kiminakare6-hayatoshingo Whenever I read a chapter of Kimi Nakare, it always feels like the next chapter might be the end of the story. Chapter 6 not only follows this, but the vibe is stronger than ever.


In spite of whatever hopes might be lingering, WARP’s days as an idol group are numbered. As a final farewell to their fans, their manager has arranged one last massive meet ‘n’ great with the fans.

Not long after, Hayato and fellow WARP member Shingo are having a bath time discussion about their futures. While Hayato believes himself to be ill-suited to the idol path, especially because his initial motivation was just so he could meet Nobuko, Shingo responds that Hayato’s attitude (and idiotic qualities) are what make him a natural idol.

In a flashback to Shingo’s high school days, we see a conflicted Shingo unsure of whether the idol path is for him, not least of which is because his hospitalized father is very much against it. Shingo ends up bumping into a girl at the hospital who turns out to be a fan of idols. Accidentally revealing that he’s an idol from the same agency as her favorite, Shingo listens to her story of how idols helped her to keep living in spite of her illness, which strengthens Shingo’s determination to continue his idol career no matter the odds.

The next day, Hayato is discussing the upcoming meet ‘n’ great with Nobuko and Natsumi. When Nobuko promises that she’ll defend him from all of the fangirls, Hayato confesses his feelings for her once more—this time in front of the whole class!



As I briefly mentioned in the introduction, Kimi Nakare often feels like it’s moving at a breakneck pace in terms of typical romance manga developments. It’s one thing to have a confession in Chapter 1, but it’s another to have three confessions in six chapters. Not only that, but each of them raise the stakes more and more, because now it’s not even a secret among close friends anymore. While I could see the class not taking it seriously, especially because Nobuko has made a running gag out of her on-screen obsession with Hayato, I think they’re going to realize what’s going on sooner or later.

The sense of urgency isn’t limited to just the main romance, either. Just the fact that a scandal has already dissolved Hayato’s idol group and put him on a slightly different path is the kind of development that would usually occur late into a manga’s life. In some ways, it feels like early Kimi ni Todoke, where every time you think the story would move one way, it would swerve in the other direction, and usually for the better. Can Kimi Nakare keep up this pace? It’s something I welcome, and while I hope the series does well, I also hope that it wouldn’t fall into the trap of becoming increasingly meandering if it reaches major success.

The Side Cast is Growing on Me


In my review of Chapter 5, I mentioned that the side characters aren’t nearly as interesting as Hayato and Nobuko. While I still stand by that statement, I think the other characters are starting to come into their own. I actually previously had trouble keeping track of all the guys in WARP, but now I have a firmer grasp of Shingo as a character. We’ve yet to see more characters on Nobuko’s side of the story, so I’m curious as to what might be in store there.

The Irony of the Natural Idol

After reading Shingo’s comments to Hayato about he’s a natural-born idol, it made me think about how idols are presented to the world, and in turn how idols are presented in Kimi Nakare. Idols, male or female, often project an image of both innocence and sensuality, and this quality is central to the story of this manga. There’s the scandal with WARP member Jirou and his having a girlfriend, but there’s also the idea that the idol business has a dark side. In the real world, idols are often controlled day-in and day-out by their agencies, and it’s what leads to the criticism that idols are just a way to make money off of gullible fans. For me, I think that it can be healthy as long as there’s a tacit understanding that it’s a shared fantasy, something akin to pro wrestling.

If Hayato is a natural idol, it means that he achieves that innocent sensuality without effort, through both appearance and attitude, and it’s exactly that kind of demeanor that you’d expect to get subsumed by the idol engine. To be in the right spot, he has to be just strong enough to never stop being himself, but also just “dumb” enough to stay naive. It’s a precarious position that is preserved in part by his love for Nobuko. That, of course, is also the other irony, that what makes him a natural idol is also what is liable to get him kicked out of the business.

One might also say that his masturbation scene in Chapter 4 represents that combination of innocence and sensuality perfectly. Here is this handsome yet goofy guy who just can’t hold back his very real passion for the girl of his dreams. Her being not beautiful by conventional standards only adds to that rather special moment of characterization.

Last Thoughts

Idols are all well and good, but I want to see more of Nobuko!

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I love to eat. Just thinking about all the varieties of cuisine out there in the world, with dishes for the rich and the poor, gives me pure joy. That’s why one of my favorite manga over the past few years has been a food-themed series called Mogusa-san. The simple story of a cute and gluttonous girl who has mastered the art of stealth eating, I’ve already written two posts praising the series up and down. I recently picked up the most recent volumes and was surprising to learn that Mogusa-san as I originally knew it had come to an end. Volume 10 actually marks the conclusion to Mogusa-san, but it turns out that there’s already a sequel (more on that later). In any case, this gives the perfect opportunity to write an overall review of the manga.

Mogusa-san follows Mogusa Minori, a seemingly normal girl with a seemingly normal appetite. However, one day her classmate Koguchi Torao notices something odd: while Mogusa appears to be writing in class, she’s in fact snacking on a pretzel stick. The reason no one notices is that her pantomime is so convincing that most people assume she’s just using a normal pen. It turns out that Mogusa’s appetite is near-insatiable, and that she sustains herself by eating constantly, hiding her food in plain sight. After Koguchi reveals that he’s aware of her secret, the two of them become “food buddies,” visiting snack shops and other food establishments to bask both in the quantity and quality of various foods.


Generally speaking, there are two different types of food manga. There are the series that bask in portraying the simple joy of eating and drinking, such as Sweetness and Lightning. These works portray characters with wide-eyed expressions as food brings them true joy, resulting in “food responses” that are intense but not especially over-the-top. Then there are the manga that make eating and drinking the most powerfully dramatic and sensual experiences possible. These are the Yakitate!! Japan-type series, where tasting and creating foods becomes a religious experience fueled by impossibly superhuman abilities. One thing I love about Mogusa-san is that it possesses elements of both worlds.

When Mogusa has to engage in covertly satisfying her never-ending munchies, the series emphasizes the physical limits that Mogusa pushes in pursuit of eating. Whether it’s eating a stick of dango in 1/60 of a second, hiding candy inside the corners of her jaws in case of emergencies, she always has a trick (or a pastry) up her sleeve. However, when she’s allowed to just eat without feeling any sense of shame, especially when she’s with Koguchi, the look on her face as she bites into a succulent piece of meat or slurp some delicious ramen carries the same joy as a tamer degree of food manga. While Mogusa’s expressions are near-orgasmic at times, they’re not “actually orgasmic” as one would find in Food Wars!


While the concept might seem like it overstays its welcome, and a part of me expected that might be the case, Mogusa-san actually provides both enough narrative development and a sufficiently robust supporting cast that the series never gets tiresome. Koguchi and Mogusa bond over the course of the ten volumes in a beautiful way. Characters like Taira Chigumi (Mogusa’s opposite in that she has developed ways to hide the fact that she has the palate of a 10-year-old) and Tabe-chan (a professional competitive eater who considers Mogusa her life-long rival) add a surprising amount of variety to the theme of eating. Because these characters grow as well, Mogusa-san shows itself to be remarkably heartfelt while still remaining true to its core themes. Although there’s clearly a decent amount of experimentation in order to keep the concept in motion, the entire manga ends in an extremely satisfying way that leaves little room for disappointment.


So where does that leave the sequel? For whatever reason, it was decided that Mogusa-san would take on a new form, and it has now been replaced by a new series called Mogusa-san wa Shokuyoku to Tatakau (“Mogusa-san Fights With Her Appetite”). Taking place after a short timeskip, Mogusa is now a college student in Tokyo, and because she no longer has her family to support her regularly, she’s trying her best to refrain from eating all the time. The result is that Mogusa-san desperately tries to stick to “only” three meals a day that, while enormous in quantity for the average human being, are clearly signs of Mogusa trying to practice willpower and diligence when viewed in the context of the previous series.

One of the two most notable changes in this new setting is that Koguchi is no longer the perspective character, and readers are instead more privy to Mogusa’s own inner thoughts. The other big change is that there appears to be less of the shounen-esque “wacky stealth eating,” giving the sequel a somewhat mellower feel. A part of me definitely misses the old style, but I am quite curious about how college life is going to treat Mogusa.

You’ll know in just one chapter if you’re going to like Mogusa-san. For me, I think it took about four pages. It’s just a food manga that has never let me down, and I’m more than happy to keep reading it with the awareness that Mogusa Minori is a kindred spirit.

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Though I’ve been away from the series for a while, I recently read Volume 8 of the Hidamari Sketch manga. Rreleased in the US as Sunshine Sketch, it covers Sae and Hiro’s transition to college and the arrival of a new girl named Matsuri. With graduation and all that it typically entails in anime and manga, I expected this volume to be the last, so color me surprised when I found out that the series is still continuing.

Fan favorite K-On! had a similar change, but while I loved the move to college for K-On! and the transition into a new environment, I also know I’m the exception. It’s very telling that the series didn’t continue much longer after that. If I try to look at it from an unbiased perspective, it was perhaps too sudden a change in terms of how time seems to flow (or not flow, as the case may be) in K-On! Prior to graduation, Azusa is the only major underclassman in that series who was also a club member, and the rest were all of the same age. As a result, when they go to college, the focus shifts sharply away from their familiar and beloved high school setting, while the girls who remained in high school don’t have quite the group dynamic that readers loved over the years (even if Ui deservedly got more of a spotlight).

I don’t think Hidamari Sketch will have that problem, or at least not quite so much. When the series began, it was already about senpai and kouhai, whether that’s Sae and Hiro in contrast to Yuno and Miyako, or how later characters both older and younger are introduced. There is a greater sense of the forward progression through high school, even if Hidamari Sketch is moe slice of life comedy at its most mellow. Also, because it’s only a part of the cast moving on (not to mention that Sae, Hiro, and probably even Natsume still show up), the transition also doesn’t feel quite as jarring.

I’m looking forward to reading more, and I’m especially looking forward to Miyako as a terrifying high school senior.

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Every year I’m amazed that the people who run New York Comic Con manage to make it work. New York City is a notoriously difficult place to hold a convention, but it keeps growing. I hope that the recently announced Anime NYC will have similar success.

I’ll be heading to New York Comic Con this year for a couple of days, though given how gigantic the crowd is it’s likely I’ll end up never bumping into anyone I know. In terms of what I plan to attend I’m playing it sort of by ear this time around, but you’re likely to catch me at some European comics panels.

As mentioned last month, I’ll be seeing Kizumonogatari Part II in theaters! I happened to pick up the book recently, but I’m going to wait until the movies finish before I read it. I also updated Love Live! School Idol Festival to the newest version which its fancy overhaul and Aqours additions. One thing I like about it is that I can use my stickers to Idolize, instead of hoping in vain for duplicates. I finally got around to upgrading one of my Hanayo cards. Did you know that I’m quite fond of argyle patterns?


As always, I’d like to thank to all those who support me via Patreon:


Johnny Trovato

Ko Ransom


Diogo Prado

Sasahara Keiko fans:

Kristopher Hostead

Yoshitake Rika fans:

Elliot Page

Hato Kenjirou fans:


Yajima Mirei fans:


It’s been a review-heavy month for me, partially because a number of series are ending, but also because I’ve finally gotten around to finishing a bunch of shows I had on the back burner. I’m aware that series which are more than a season or two old tend to fade from people’s memories, but I think it’s important to not get too distracted trying to keep up with the Anime Joneses, as it were.

Love Live! Sunshine!!

Thunderbolt Fantasy


Yona of the Dawn

Ojamajo Doremi (final season + retrospective)

Kimi Nakare didn’t get a new chapter in August, which is why there was no review. It’s back, though, so expect to see something for October.

I also want to draw attention to this month’s sponsored Patreon post, where I discuss my favorite RPGs of all time. As someone who is fairly familiar but not neck-deep in the world of Role Playing Games, the list might seem a bit sparse. If you want to see me write about a particular topic, consider sponsoring me on Patreon. I have a reward tier specifically for guaranteed requests.I want to end off on a question for my readers: What do you think of the balance between talking about older series and newer series? What about manga vs. anime? I was mostly anime-heavy this month, and I’m curious as to how many of my readers are more on the anime side, and who favors manga more.So with that, a poll!

I don’t know how much this’ll change things, but I wanted to see for myself what is favorite among readers of Ogiue Maniax.


NOTE: Spoilers for Love Live!, Love Live! The School Idol Movie, and Love Live! Sunshine!!

When I first watched the original Love Live! anime, I approached it with a healthy dose of skepticism. I may have enjoyed certain idol anime, but I’m not terribly fond of the concept of idols itself, and so premise alone isn’t enough. In the end, though, Love Live! won me over with a surprisingly solid presentation that emphasized both characters and narrative, along with what I found to be rather clever humor. Many months later, I now walk around with a Love Live! phone case.

So when Love Live! Sunshine!! was announced, and with it a set of new primary characters in the form of school idol group “Aqours,” it presented me with something of a conundrum. I’m now a fan of Love Live!, but I didn’t want to give the sequel a free pass. On the other hand, I also didn’t want to judge the series too harshly, scrutinizing it unfairly for not living up to the lofty heights of its predecessor. I still don’t know if I hit the right balance, but it was a situation I was consciously aware of.

Because the main way I experienced the first Love Live! was through its anime, I decided that this would be my entry point into Love Live! Sunshine!! as well. However, the Love Live! Sunshine!! itself didn’t make it easy. Character profiles came out months prior, each with detailed information and self-introductions. A trip to Japan and its otaku goods stores made it even clearer: pick your favorite, and devote yourself to her greatness. But I couldn’t! Descriptions alone are not enough to endear me to any character. I need to experience them interacting with each other. Otherwise, they become flat entities floating in a space of simple desire. That’s all well and good, but not how I decide who to root for.

Nevertheless, from what little I gleaned (and with a nudge from fate thanks to a random shikishi signboard), I went into the show curious about two characters. The first was Kurosawa Dia, the student council president and someone who, according to her profile, revels in the idea of competition and achieving total domination in any endeavor. In a way, she has a very fighting game community-esque “play to win” mentality. The second was Ohara Mari, by virtue of being half-Italian American (thus making me imagine her talking like people I meet on the streets of New York City), and because she enjoys industrial metal.

Then the anime debuted. It was finally time to see how these characters behave when fleshed out and moving. But as the characters and their world opened up, and I got to see things like Watanabe You’s cute-but-odd obsession with uniforms and chuunibyou Tsushima (Yohane) Yoshiko’s antics, I noticed something. For both Dia and Mari, elements of their stated personalities existed, but the show only hinted at bits and pieces of it. Their “true selves” were, to a certain extent, hidden behind the plot. For example, while early on Dia shows that she secretly loves μ’s (the original girls of Love Live!) by basically acting as a fandom gatekeeper against main heroine Takami Chika, that love of victory doesn’t really shine through. There was no trace of Mari’s fondness for industrial metal, either.


What I found was a disconnect between the initial profiles provided and the characters as they were presented in the anime, partially because the anime focuses on how the group came together in the first place, instead of having them already assembled as the official character descriptions assume. Granted, it was possible to see how that gap might get bridged, and it also created the opportunity to find new favorites within the anime (like athletic third-year and diver Matsuura Kanan!), but I had to wonder if I had sabotaged myself by just getting too much information, instead of sitting back and waiting for the anime.


Another minor problem came with the fact that μ’s are essentially considered legends of the school idol world by the time of Love Live! Sunshine!! Their status is almost divine to many of the characters in the show, and while the story develops to show how the girls of Aqours embrace and then move forward from their love of μ’s, it also made me aware that, even as I am the biggest fan of Love Live! whole thing among my own circle of friends, my experience with Love Live! is not to the degree of its most ardent supporters. When I appeared on a podcast about Love Live! The School Idol Movie, my fellow guest Bamboo Dong talked about how she and others in the theater cried as the film reached its conclusion. People like them, the fans who are literally moved to tears, at seeing μ’s ride off into the sunset, are the ones who the girls of Love Live! Sunshine!! resemble. That isn’t me.

One of the results of these conflicts was that it became a bit more difficult to view the characters as being charmingly realistic, which is one of the qualities that drew me into Love Live! in the first place. At first, I thought their appeal lied in their being a little more extreme and bombastic. A lot of this feeling was extremely subjective, of course. You could ask anyone who’s watched both to say which characters they think feel more “real,” and you’d surely get disagreements even within a single franchise iteration. For me, it has to do with how characters resonate and reflect the life I see around me. Koizumi Hanayo is still the best, in part due to the fact that her enormous appetite and the way she can go from shy to intense when on the subject of her passions (rice and idols) is something I empathize with immensely. The divisive nature of Yazawa Nico comes from her being a little too real. I know someone who’s just like Sonoda Umi.


In spite of that mildly rocky start, and the fact that it is lacking in Hanayo, Love Live! Sunshine!! can count me as a fan. As the show progresses, you get to see Chika face the hurdle that is the dedication of competing school idols. You learn about the past that ties the third-year characters of Dia, Mari, and Kanan together. Friendships are challenged and made stronger, fun is had all around, and they for the most part end up as well-conceived characters who are each sure to attract people who love them to death. A cynical side of me could point to this being the franchise itself playing people like a fiddle, but I think the series makes a convincing enough presentation that even a discerning eye can become a fan of, say, Hanamaru’s speech quirks and “man out of a cave” experience with technology.

What perhaps impresses me the most about Love Live! Sunshine!! is how it handles the inevitable comparisons to the first series. In this regard, the ending of the first season of Love Live! Sunshine!! says it best. Much of the show is about Aqours trying to find its identity, its reason for being. While μ’s was conceived from Day 1 as a way to save their own school, and this eventually becomes a plot point in Love Live! Sunshine!! too, Chika is at first just all about being a μ’s fan. It’s not until the last concert in the final episode that the primary distinguishing feature of Aqours becomes clear, and it’s best to describe it in comparison to both μ’s and the original “boss characters” of the first Love Live! anime, A-RISE.

A-RISE was the #1 school idol group, and by the second season the reigning champions. They were dedicated to being the best they could possibly be, striving for the top and whatever heights lie beyond that. Saint Snow, Aqours’ own rivals, are of a similar mindset. μ’s was all about capturing the spirit of the zeitgeist of their time in high school as school idols, and letting such passion remain fleeting and thus all the stronger. Aqours, in contrast, is about showing love for their community, school idols as a means to share how great it is to live in a city with a fairly small population that is nevertheless full of good people.


Honoka and the other original Love Live! girls worked to save their school, but there was no need to show the appeal of the already-famous Akihabara. When Chika calls all of her classmates and everyone’s families to get near the stage and cheer for their climactic performance on-stage, it comes with the knowledge that doing so is against the rules. She literally sabotages her chances to progress in the Love Live! preliminaries because it is less important than getting the audience to see the great people who go to Uranohoshi High School and live in Numazu. Ironically, the actual “Love Live!” competition in Love Live! Sunshine!! takes a backseat.

My time with Love Live! Sunshine!! has been, while perhaps not an unusual one broadly speaking, somewhat strange compared to my other experiences with other anime and media franchises. Nevertheless, it’s definitely been worthwhile. Now that the pieces are in place and the girls of Love Live! Sunshine!! are all together, I’m looking forward to seeing Dia wreck some scrubs.

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Human communication and the overt expression of emotion/trauma: when it comes to anime writer Okada Mari, many of her works explore these two thmes. Just this past spring, two of her shows—Kiznaiver and The Lost Village—did so in spades, but I found myself comparing the former to another, lesser-known title of Okada’s, titled M3: The Dark Metal.


In a previous discussion of M3: The Dark Metal as a guest on the Veef Show podcast, I mentioned that the show felt like two conflicting forces were at work, the more down-to-earth directorial style of Satou Jun’ichi clashing with the high melodrama of Okada. The ultimate message of M3: The Dark Metal is that being able to see straight into people’s minds won’t necessarily solve problems of communication (and might even create new ones), and that we as people should do our best to connect with each other using the tools and senses we have already. It thus provides a counterargument to a notion most famously found in Neon Genesis Evangelion.

Kiznaiver takes a similar angle, forcibly connecting its characters through a bond of pain; when one gets hurt, it gets evenly distributed to the rest of them. Ostensibly a way to help people learn to empathize, the story reveals that it ironically did the opposite in early cases. Like M3: The Dark Metal, the characters realize that they need to learn to communicate as they are, though in the case of Kiznaiver the bonding mechanism ultimately helps more than hurts. Another similarity exists between the characters Heita (M3) and Hisomu (Kiznaiver), the sadisme of the former contrastng with the masochism of the latter.

The big difference between the two series is visual flair. M3 is plainly animated, and takes place in a world of monsters and giant robots. Most of it is dark and brooding. Kiznaiver is bright and colorful, and filled to the brim with the dynamic facial expressions, sleek character designs, and overall frenetic aesthetic of Studio Trigger. In this respect, Kiznaiver does a much better job of meshing with Okada’s writing style, though I do hope to see her try and write another giant robot anime.

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In 2010, I found what would become one of my favorite anime ever. Ojamajo Doremi, at one point brought to the US as Magical Doremi, is a magical girl series targeted at young children, but with such great character development and genuine respect for children’s intelligence that it is easily one of the strongest works of fiction I’ve ever seen, let alone anime or kids’ material.

While I never really reviewed the series beyond the first season, my verdict on the sequels more or less amount to “more or less just as good,” so I didn’t feel it necessary to say the same thing four times. Now that I’ve finished Ojamajo Doremi Dokkaan!, which concludes the original series (there’s an OVA that takes place in Seasons 3 and 4, as well as canon light novel sequels featuring the cast in high school), it gives me a chance to rwhat eflect on I think makes this series so special, but now within the context of having followed the cast over 200+ episodes.

Doremi follows a group of young girls who become witch apprentices, and with their newfound abilities they use their magic to help others out. What makes this series remarkable from the very beginning is that they often cast magic in order to solve people’s problems for them, but rather utilize it in a way that lets people help themselves. Unlike the current Toei magical girl franchise, Precure, each season of Doremi is a direct continuation of the previoust, so we follow the girls from third to sixth grade. Doremi and the others meet a ton of characters and encounter a vast number challenges, so it’s easy to assume that all of the events would kind of blend together in one’s memories. However, the biggest testament to how strong Doremi is in general that the series is filled with characters both major and minor that create lasting impacts.

In the second season, Ojamajo Doremi # (pronounced “Sharp”), where Doremi has to take care of a magical witch baby named Hana. As a 4th grader in elementary school, Doremi cannot handle actually taking care of a baby, and Hana makes her life a living hell. However, when Doremi runs to her mom for comfort because she can’t stand being reprimanded for messing up, her mom instead of offering her a hug actually slaps her. While this might seem harsh, Doremi’s mom is trying to get a message across: while Doremi’s feelings might be hurt for making a mistake, Hana is a baby and utterly helpless. If Doremi isn’t there for her, she could die. Right at this point, the series teaches a valuable lesson: being a mother is no small responsibility, and it’s not to be taken lightly.


In the third season, Motto! Ojamajo Doremi, Doremi meets a girl named Kayoko, who loves to read but has a deep fear of attending school. The show successfully portrays Kayoko’s fear as something convincingly terrifying to her, and perfectly understandable: at some point, the pressure she felt from both herself not being able to keep up and the perception of her classmates’ seeming disappointment in her became too much. What’s more, in the episode that introduces Kayoko, the show initially creates the expectation that Doremi has solved her problem already, only for her to turn away at the last second. It’s not until a number of episodes later that she’s able to overcome this psychological turmoil and go to school, and then another few before she can even attend class (as opposed to study in the nurse’s office). What’s more, it’s also with the help of another minor character (who also undergoes a good deal of growth) that Kayoko finally recovers.

Then in Dokkaan!, many of the episodes explore the life of a former Queen of the Witch World. Though at first they seem to show individual happy memories from her time in the Human World, gradually they build up to a significant plot point: if the girls truly want to become witches, they must be aware that it might forever divorce them from being unable to fully empathize with their families, friends, and other humans. Life spans, ways of thinking, everything changes.


So when the final episode of Dokkaan! features many of the characters Doremi helped coming back to help her, I found it rather amazing that I could remember so many of them. It made me aware that, though they appeared countless in number, they each stood out in their own ways. Each of their stories were so special, so filled with emotions and the rewards of having been able to work through their problems with Doremi’s help, that they both individually and collectively speak to how tremendously strong Doremi is as a while.

Doremi creates an incredibly robust world from just the simple wish fulfillment concept of girls gaining magic powers, and does so without veering into either coddling over-optimism or grim pessimism. The franchise is mostly full of positive energy but will temper it with an awareness of the doubts and worries that children possess, and is not afraid to show them that life isn’t without is challenges. Whether people are young, old, famous, nobodies, from foreign countries, or right next door, everyone has a story and their own circumstances to work through, and Doremi encourages us to help however we can.

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The latest great anime isn’t even animated. Thunderbolt Fantasy is a Japanese-Taiwanese co-production that is best described as a puppet show that combines Wuxia martial arts, fantasy anime, and tokusatsu. As someone who doesn’t watch that many martial arts films, isn’t terribly into Super Sentai or Kamen Rider, and was never a big fan of old action-oriented puppet shows like Thunderbirds, it surprises me that this series has actually become my favorite of the season.

I’ve been thinking of Thunderbolt Fantasy as a kind of 2.5D show. It has a lot of the flash and flair of anime, and one might even say the detail-oriented anime-inspired games such as BlazBlue, but of course it’s all intricate puppetry, miniature set design, with a smattering of CG special effects. What strikes me about the series is that the standards by which one judges the quality of a show like this doesn’t quite fit into the criteria of anime or live-action series. It’s not like there’s “animation quality” to consider, or  the idea that the series might be cheaping out during dialogue scenes. Because they’re puppets, it’s not like typical notions of “good acting” necessarily apply either. It ends up falling somewhere along the lines of a tokusatsu show, or perhaps even pro wrestling, where subtleties are conveyed through exaggerated gestures.

As a result, I find that while the fight scenes are intense and entertaining, even entire episodes of characters standing around and talking to each other have much to be impressed by. When the characters are speaking, their mannerisms come out in the puppets’ actions. When they’re fairly stationary, then that invites the opportunity to really admire how amazingly the puppets are designed. The show just has a lot to visually chew on, and that’s on top of charismatic characters, a story that moves at a brisk yet comfortable pace, and interesting lore.

Another aspect of the series I’ve been considering is the idea that Japanese animation has sort of come full circle with Thunderbolt Fantasy. Some of the earliest attempts at Japanese animation were more akin to puppet shows. The late director Ishiguro Noboru (Yamato, Macross) was influenced by Czech puppet shows, while the also-late director Nagahama Tadao had his start in puppet theater as well. However, I’m saying this not just because Thunderbolt Fantasy utilizes puppets, but also because so much of its aesthetics comes from contemporary hyper-stylized anime akin to Madoka Magica or Fate/Zero. This shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, as the co-production is by Nitro Plus, creators of those two series, as well as Good Smile Company, creators of Nendoroids and Figmas.

The last piece of the puzzle is PILI International Multimedia, the Taiwanese company that actually makes the show. I don’t know nearly enough about them yet, so I don’t want to just spout nonsense. That being said, the making-of episode on Crunchyroll is very insightful, and it makes me want to learn more.

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September is the start of a new, post-Genshiken world.

Though the loss is great, I know I have my patrons to back me up. Thanks to all of you who continue to support me on Patreon:


Johnny Trovato

Ko Ransom


Diogo Prado

Sasahara Keiko fans:

Kristopher Hostead

Yoshitake Rika fans:

Elliot Page

Hato Kenjirou fans:


Yajima Mirei fans:


In terms of blog content from this past month, first and foremost is my final chapter review of Genshiken Nidaime. I hope it’s been a great ride for you.

According to last month’s poll, a lot of you would like me to go back and take a look at the original Genshiken as well. I’m eager to oblige, but I probably won’t start for a little while, at least a month or two. In the meantime, I guess I can get my Kio fix with some Spotted Flower.

Other post highlights include an Otakon 2016 convention report, as well as interviews with artist LeSean Thomas and anime studio P.A. Works. The LeSean Thomas interview has been doing extremely well for the blog, and it makes me very aware of how niche the anime audience in comparison to even other nerd subcultures in the US. The last time that happened was when I reported on the Nostalgia Critic and Angry Video Game Nerd appearing in an anime, which got me the most hits in a single day ever.

I also wrote about Yukitheater, sort of. Sadly I couldn’t get the program to work, but if you want a kind of trip back to early 2000s anime fandom but in a modern lens, this virtual theater program might be worth something to you.

The last post I want to mention is one that had been ruminating in my mind for a long time, which is about how characters are rendered attractive or charismatic. Basically, I think that, through visual design and personality and a bunch of other small factors, there are two primary ways by which people become drawn to characters: a magnetic “pull” and a forceful “push.” Am I on the right track? Tell me what you think.

Following up on another point from the previous status update, I’ve begun watching Super Dimensional Cavalry Southern Cross in order to finally update Gattai Girls. Are there any other series you’d like to see me tackle?

Until next time! The second Kizumonogatari movie is showing in October, which is also the month of New York Comic Con. Exciting times.

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