Just Enough Magic: Flying Witch

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When it comes to stories about witches, it’s quite common (and perhaps even expected) to have magic be prominent. Whether it’s American sitcom classic Bewitched, Archie’s Sabrina the Teenage Witch comic, or an anime and manga like Witch Craft Works, the influence of spells and sorcery is, if not grandiose, at the very least quite large. The anime Flying Witch is a much mellower series in comparison. As a show where just the lightest of touch of the supernatural appears, it makes for a most delightful series.

Adapted by J.C. Staff from the manga by Ishizuka Chihiro, Flying Witch follows the daily life of Kowata Makoto, a teenage witch who moves in with her cousin Kuramoto Kei’s family as part of her coming of age. Residing in Aomori Prefecture in the Tohoku region of Japan, the people there still have a fairly strong connection to nature, and just going back and forth from school is enough to take in the greenery. For the most part, magic doesn’t make much of an impact, but when it shows up it’s just enough to make their world feel a little bit more unusual, and a little bit more wonderful.

Though the show consistently succeeds at its sparse but effective interaction between the human and witch cultures, the most memorable example has to be in the very first episode. Makoto is walking home from school with her new friend, Nao, when she sees an unusual plant. For anyone who’s familiar with stories about witches and wizards this is a red flag. Sure enough when she gives it a hard tug a mandrake pops out and gives its shrill cry.

flyingwitch-mandrake

As Makoto cradles the demon plant, she cheerfully explains to an aghast Nao that it’s a good thing that they found a young Mandrake because an adult one can literally send people to the hospital or worse. The anime doesn’t stop being this fairly laid-back series, but the result is that the tiniest bit of magic feels that much more amazing.

What also helps Flying Witch is that all of its characters, guys and girls, are extremely charming. Makoto’s older sister Akane is a more experienced witch whose penchant for mischief contrasts delightfully with her younger sibling. The Kuramoto family is entertaining all around, whether it’s the dad’s thick Tohoku accent being indecipherable for Makoto or Kei trying to get his little sister Chinatsu to try more vegetables.

The fanservice in this show also has a deft touch akin to its use of magic, to the point that it might not even be right to call it fanservice. Just to be clear, generally speaking the female characters in this series are all extremely attractive, but Flying Witch never goes out of its way to show them off. When it focuses on Makoto or anyone else, the anime just lets the audience see how nice they look without lingering or leering.

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Another notable aspect of Flying Witch is its focus on Aomori, because it at times feels like a promotion for the prefecture. In fact, it makes me wonder if this is one of the reasons it was adapted from manga to anime. The Tohoku region has in recent years been known more for the Fukushima disaster, and a lot of effort has been put into reviving the region in terms of agriculture, tourism, and more. A series like Flying Witch might be just the thing to really get people to visit Aomori and Tohoku again.

Overall, because of how delightfully mellow yet powerful the show’s humor and characters are, Flying Witch has become one of my favorite anime of the year. When I get the opportunity, I’m definitely going to pick it up, possibly in multiple formats. If you want to check it out, you can find the entire anime on Crunchyroll, and Vertical Comics is releasing the manga in 2017.

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Discussing Hulu’s Anime Eradication on the Speakeasy Podcast

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Hulu is removing hundreds of anime from its catalogue on June 1st, and I hopped onto the Speakeasy Podcast with Alain to talk about it and to speculate about what it might mean for anime streaming in the future.

If your favorite show is on Hulu, there’s a good chance it’s also on other legitimate streaming services, but it’s still notable because of how big Hulu is.

Sadly, this means Hulu viewers might no longer be able to experience the excellent Show by Rock!!

 

 

 

The Importance of Twitch Chat

One of the most common pieces of advice when it comes to the internet is simply, “don’t read the comments.” Whether it’s arguments about Justin Bieber on YouTube music videos or angry and insensitive comments on an article about a sensitive topic, comment sections can become minefields. It makes sense that we’re advised to ignore comment sections. However, while that’s generally sound advice, I think that it’s a mistake to believe that comment sections do not matter at all, especially in our current environment where social connections (both strong and weak) are made through online media.

Nowhere is this more relevant than with sites that utilize live chat feeds, such as Nico Nico Douga and Twitch. The difference between watching a game on Twitch with and without chat is basically the difference between watching alone or watching with a crowd. For those who want to share in the excitement of something as it happens (like a virtual crowd at a pro wrestling event), it becomes a vital part of the spectator experience. At that point, it’s not just about wanting to see comments or not, it’s about being a part of a collective bonding.

If you want to know how important the live chat is to Twitch, you only need to look at one of their more recent developments: saved chat logs for VODs. In the past, if you wanted to see what the chat was like for a previously recorded stream, your only hope was that someone captured it with the chat in progress. Now, anyone can step in a week or a month after a broadcast and see what people were saying at the time, and in many ways it enriches the experience. Imagine watching an old football game or something and having the crowd muted out. It certainly wouldn’t be the same, and while I understand that by not watching it live the experience changes anyway, there’s now a middle point.

This brings me to what I really wanted to talk about: the degree to which Twitch chat can become an unwelcoming place, and the potential harm it can cause. For me, personally, I experience this when I watch a Smash 4 tournament, and the chat is inundated with comments about how boring the game is, and how people can’t wait for Melee. It doesn’t matter how interesting the actual game being played is, people are ready to criticize and diminish its value. I think Smash 4 is awesome, and to some extent the trolls are just being trolls, but it results in an inhospitable environment that can turn away people who potentially have interest in a game. Perhaps they see huge portions of the chat calling the game a snooze fest, and think, “If this many people are saying that, maybe it is boring after all.” Or perhaps they just don’t want to deal with all of the nonsense and would prefer to watch another game with a chat that isn’t secretly hoping for the clown from Showtime at the Apollo to drag away what’s currently on.

That’s only a “your game vs. my game” scenario, though. Consider the tendency for Twitch chats to explode with comments whenever a girl appears on stream. I understand, lots of guys are horny, and by connecting to Twitch through one’s own personal devices, be they computers, mobile phones, or whatever, there’s a sense that what you’re seeing is merely an extension of your private space. Talking with your friends about how that girl was incredibly hot isn’t a bad thing, but stream and chat become this nebulous space where private and public intersect, and it’s not surprising that women would choose to hide their identities in chat, or prefer not to participate in the zoo that is Twitch chat (though that zoo can be fun and positive too).

In fact, I think comments online in general are a kind of extension of private space into public territories that can be both welcome and unwelcome. In a way, this blog is doing the same thing, as is Twitter, Facebook, and wherever else people are placing a part of themselves into their words. Social media and the internet as it exists today is not a separate entity from the real world. Ignoring elements of “IRL” space can be done too, but it usually comes with the awareness that it is cutting you off from a certain experience and resonance with others. Doing the same online might be necessary at times, but we shouldn’t act like the solution is to just encourage everyone to turn their eyes away from the problems that exist. The problems themselves need to be addressed too.

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Flying Witch x Smash Bros

[Apartment 507] Is “Voltron: Legendary Defender” Copying Anime?

I wrote a post looking at Voltron: Legendary Defender and its transformation sequence compared to that of King of Braves Gaogaigar. You can check it out at Apartment 507.

Moe Norton vs Avast: Garakowa -Restore the World-

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 be a patron of Ogiue Maniax, check out my Patreon.

garakowa

This might not be a universal feeling, but I think there’s nothing quite like your first emotional and heartrending anime. It could be something as simple as Pokemon, or something more known for its sense of tragedy, such as Kanon. Perhaps it comes from Japan’s literary tradition of valuing the ephemeral, or maybe it’s something more modern, but as you watch more anime, you start to notice trends in how sadness is portrayed, how characters are used to facilitate this sorrow. Though you don’t necessarily get tired of these trends, after a while recognizing the trend can cause the sheen to come off the anime model.

Garakowa -Restore the World- is a recent film from A-1 Pictures that I’m compelled to describe as “a standard interesting anime.” It doesn’t quite do the movie justice, as I think it’s actually a solid piece with a strong story, characters, and lots of interesting ideas to chew on, but there’s an odd sense of familiarity I get from the work.

At the center of the future setting of Garokawa are two antivirus programs, visualized as teenage girls named Dual and Dorothy. Their sole task is to protect their computer world containing vast archives of human history, known as the “box of knowledge,” by deleting any memories that have been infected, at least when they aren’t butting heads with each other (it’s why you don’t install two different antivirus software!). During one virus-purging, they encounter a mysterious other program named Remo, who seems to possess all of the human traits that are simply absent in Dual and Dorothy, and the three form a bond that leads them to the truth of the world.

Garakowa‘s atmosphere is like a cross between Madoka Magica, Corrector Yui, Reboot, and She, the Ultimate Weapon, in that there are elements of magical girl anime mixed with the idea of a world inside a computer, a looming sense of tragedy, and a grand scale whose exact dimensions are intentionally ambiguous. This might be more obvious when looking at the Japanese title, Garasu no Hana to Kowasu Sekai, or “the Glass Flower and the Crumbling World.” The official translation, by the way, is the odd-sounding Vitreous & Destroy the World. However, what makes Garokawa simultaneously not the most daring and original work while also filled with material worth contemplating is the way it creatively utilizes its science fiction setting alongside its emotionally resonant moments.

The first element that really stood out to me about the film was the idea of personifying the conflict that occurs when multiple antivirus programs are installed. The way it’s presented here, with the anime trappings of magical girl accoutrements and cute girls, is to be expected to a certain extent. However, even as it’s reminiscent of the OS-tan craze of personifying computer operating systems in the early to mid-2000s and even as it draws upon the power of moe, yuri, and a kind of sensuality, the story of Garakowa also somewat implicitly justifies their human appearances.

From there, the part of the movie that really stays with me (outside of some spoilers I’m choosing not to divulge) is the idea that Dual and Dorothy cannot taste food or understand human behavior even as they’re modeled after humanity. In particular, in a scene straight of Urasawa Naoki’s Pluto, Dual contemplates Remo’s advice that, if you think that something is delicious, it feels like it will become delicious (Atom in Pluto says something similar). While it might all be in my head, I feel like that interaction sets up this idea that the antivirus programs are part of the greater presentation of humanity that is the box of knowledge. Even if they aren’t able to directly feel human emotions or sensation, they can at least exhibit a record of the ideas. If the box of knowledge is a kind of catalog of human history, then perhaps Dual and Dorothy are just as much a part of that purpose.

Overall, Garakowa is a very “anime” film in terms of its combination of science fiction, attractive female leads, and heart string-tugging narrative that contextualizes an everyday environment as something larger than life. It’s the kind of work where I feel someone who has less exposure to Japanese animation, or at least anime of this variety, could be strongly affected by its ideas, characters, world, and presentation, but it’s also enjoyable for long-time fans. Garakowa -Restore the World- is actually available for free on Crunchyroll, so it might be worth your while.

 

Ogiue Maniax’s 8th Anniversary: Fight! Fight! 8! 8! 8!

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Last year, I forgot about my anniversary for about a month. Always looking to improve Ogiue Maniax, I decided that it wasn’t enough, so this time I’ve over a month and a half late for the annual retrospective.

Whoops!

Eight years sounds kind of crazy for anime blog, doesn’t it? A lot of old friends and comrades have set aside their keyboards while others keep marching on, but of course that doesn’t mean anything about their passion for their hobbies. Blogs are just one way of doing things, and it’s the format I’ve come to prefer the most. It’s just informal enough to feel comfortable, while also providing plenty of space to get serious if need be.

Though I think it a bit obvious, by far the biggest change to Ogiue Maniax this past year was the launch of my Patreon. Thanks to my patrons, but also everyone who reads and shares and even just thinks about what I have to say, I’ve managed to make a decent chunk of change from blogging. It’s not a full-time career by any means, but I think it shows that good written content is appreciated for the ideas contained within, even if the tendency in “content creation” is often towards simpler things like lists. Just the fact that my longer posts garner greater attention gives me a little more faith in the world.

I’ve been looking at the idea of being a “content creator” recently, and one thing that’s crystal clear is that written content, especially given how much time and effort is required of it, is often viewed as a losing battle. Video and podcasts are where it’s at. Of course, it’s more than possible to create quality work on YouTube or wherever, and the convenience is something even I take advantage of as a viewer, so I’m not knocking people who focus their energies in that direction. Rather, in light of this, I actually feel pretty good that there are so many people who think my writing is worth something. While I don’t need a confidence boost to keep writing, it at least is comforting to know that the energy I’ve put into Ogiue Maniax can be felt by so many.

Thanks for 8 years, everybody.