A New Release: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for April 2017

Did you know that Kinomoto Sakura’s birthday is April 1st?
Upon learning this, I realized that major spoilers for Watanuki in XXXHolic were staring me right in the face all along (his name means “April 1st”).

Do any of my Patreon supporters have an April birthday? Whether they do or not, I’m still just as grateful for their support:

General:

Johnny Trovato

Ko Ransom

Alex

Diogo Prado

Viga

Yoshitake Rika fans:

Elliot Page

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

Here are the post highlights for this month:

Part 2 of my Genshiken re-read is up, and it’s amazing to see how many characters come and go in the second volume.

March also saw the end of the New York International Children’s Film Festival. Here are all the Ogiue Maniax reviews from the event:

My Life as a Zucchini

Window Horses

Rudolf the Black Cat

Ancien and the Magic Tablet/Napping Princess

The runaway hit of the last season was definitely Kemono Friends. It was such a big deal I had to write about it twice… sort of.

I also got back on track on my chapter reviews of Kimi xxxru Koto Nakare. The series looks like it got delayed for a little while, but I hope it’s coming back. I really do think it’s an excellent series.

Lastly, it was a close call, but I wrote my thoughts on March Comes in like a Lion. I knew I’d like the show, but I’m even more impressed with how well the show makes its protagonist Rei relatable.

April means the end of the winter anime season and the start of some new shows. That means you’re likely going to see a bunch more reviews for anime that concluded this past season. Early on, I saw quite a few people online expressing their opinions that the winter was something of a disappointment. While this has turned around somewhat, thanks to the rising popularity of shows such as Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid and Kemono Friends, I feel like that idea still persists.

As for new shows, I’m looking forward to Love Rice a show about rice-themed idols. It’s as if Hanayo was allowed to make her own anime.

 

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Making an Ass Out of Me and Me: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for March 2017

mahogirls-sleepingbags

Perhaps I should do a review of March Comes in Like a Lion this month. It’d be the kind of super dumb joke I adore?

You know what else I adore? The support of my Patreon users!

General:

Johnny Trovato

Ko Ransom

Alex

Diogo Prado

Viga

Yoshitake Rika fans:

Elliot Page

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

As I think about all I’ve written on the blog, a thought occurs to me: I might subconsciously assume more knowledge in my readers than I should. This is not an assertion that people who read the blog don’t know enough, but rather that I’ve written about so much over the years that it colors how I write on Ogiue Maniax. Because I avoid trying to repeat myself too much, I feel that I leave too many things unspoken, things that are worth explaining or elaborating upon for readers who are learning of certain elements of anime, manga, and Japanese pop culture for the first time. For this reason, I plan to be more conscious of newer audiences as I write. I’m aware that anime fans nowadays prefer to get their info from YouTube, but I should still make a greater effort to account for people who haven’t been reading my blog for 5+ years, i.e. most people.

Moving on, here are this past month’s blog highlights:

Two series I enjoy concluded recently: Maho Girls Precure and 3D Kanojo. The latter I’m especially fond of, and it’s one of my favorite shoujo manga in recent memory.

I also wrote about the incredible voice acting by Ishida Akira in Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, as well as the ambiguous morality of Saga of Tanya the Evil.

And i you want to learn about one of the stranger Japanese manga one-shots out there, look no further than Chiyo’s Lips, a title about a relationship based on popping pimples (you might not want to read this over lunch).

March is shaping up to be quite a month, as it’s time for the New York International Children’s Film Festival. I’ll be seeing a whole bunch of movies in the next few weeks, so expect some reviews! I’ll also be writing up my re-read review of Genshiken volume 2.

See you on the lamb side!

 

 

 

Coast to Coast: Saga of Tanya the Evil

tanyatheevil

It’s very tempting to categorize Saga of Tanya the Evil according to its appearances. What else would you do about a series where a Japanese man is reincarnated as a blonde magical little girl in an alternate universe version of Nazi Germany? Is it fetishizing the Third Reich? Is it making an argument for authoritarianism and militarism through the lens of contemporary anime tropes? Questions abound, and yet I find that this anime is very difficult to gauge its moral direction, if there is any at all.

Tanya is a little girl who in another life was a ruthless salaryman dedicated to staying the reliable course that is assumed of his profession. So devoted a company man is he that he fires one of his employees for a minor infraction. Believing in the superiority of a detached, logical mindset, he fails to anticipate that his ex-employee would be so despondent as to push the salaryman in front of a moving train. At that moment, the man receives a message from God but refuses to believe in the existence of a higher power, which prompts God to reincarnate him as Tanya.

As Tanya, she has kept her memories of her previous incarnation, and at only 10 years old joins the imperial military due to her extremely high magical aptitude. Similar to her previous life, she sees the military as the steady course to a comfortable life, but a variety of contrivances both divine and coincidental cause her to consistently put her life (and her beliefs) in peril.

Given this back story, it’s possible to argue conflicting points. For example, the refusal by Tanya to let God control her could be seen as a defiance of fate and religion, but the fact that Tanya is constantly denying the existence of a supreme being despite everything that happens might render it a point in favor of religion. For me, I find that the main point of conflict and confusion when trying to analyze this series is actually the question of whether it’s supporting Tanya’s mindset or criticizing it (or maybe both!).

Tanya’s desire for the most stable track in life, and the calculated way she goes about it, has the appeal of an older science fiction protagonist. Often, she’ll say one thing and think the other, and it’s usually in service of appearing like an upstanding member of society in order to further her own desires. However, the subsequent derails that keep Tanya from that comfortable life might be a criticism of the Bubble Economy mindset that has been the cause of much anguish ever since the Japanese recession began. Where once the path to success was all but assured for many Japanese salarymen, that foundation crumbled underneath them, leading to (among other things) a crisis of masculinity.

Perhaps this is the reason why Tanya is a girl in the first place. While it’s normally assumed that older male anime fans gravitate towards young female characters due to a desire to be with them, there’s also to some extent a desire to be them. The assumed idyllic life of cute girls, and the innocent mindset that is supposed to come with that, holds what I believe to be a particularly strong appeal to those whose lives are slowly ground down by the engine of corporate society. That being said, the fact that Tanya maintains her previous life’s Japanese salaryman/mildly sociopathic mindset seems more confrontational than those kinds of series usually are.

In this respect, the series that I think holds the greatest connection to Saga of Tanya the Evil, it’s actually Strike Witches. In terms of setting, the two are quite similar: alternate versions of World War II Earth where magic and technology come together to give young girls flight and military might. Strike Witches is much more in the vein of the types of series I described in the previous paragraph, because while the story is about war, it’s as if the world is an extension of the characters’ identities as cute girls. With Saga of Tanya the Evil, this concept is taken to its extreme. Tanya is akin to a Strike Witch if that world actually had the image of military machinery beyond lighter aesthetic elements.

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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I Have a Choco: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for February 2017

February might be Valentine’s Day Month, but how much I’ll actually discuss romance on the blog remains a mystery even to me!

Whatever the situation, I know that if I were in Japan, I’d be giving giri choco to my Patreon sponsors.

General:

Johnny Trovato

Ko Ransom

Alex

Diogo Prado

Viga

Yoshitake Rika fans:

Elliot Page

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

Given that this will be the tenth year of Ogiue Maniax, I decided last November to do a Genshiken series 1 re-read. I’ve started with Volume 1, and you should expect to see them come out every other month. (I would have said bi-monthly but that phrase can also mean “twice a month,” so…) I’ve already felt like I’m stepping back into a different world, so I’m looking forward to the next article too.

Speaking of Genshiken, I also wrote a little post comparing Kasukabe Saki to Love Live‘s Nishikino Maki. The latter’s cooldere attitude reminded me of Madarame’s fantasy version of the former.

Perhaps the most important post I’ve written this month is on the subject of butts in anime. In it, I detail increasing presence of large rears in Japanese animation, and put forth my own hypothesis on why this has occurred. The seeds of this post have been germinating in my head for a very long time, even before Ogiue Maniax ever began. If you want to see more content like this, let me know. I just hope it doesn’t take me another 10 years to write one!\

I was also sad to see the end of Soredemo Machi ga Mawatteiru aka And Yet the Town Moves. It’s a very unique series in a lot of ways, and I look forward to seeing what the artist does next.

On the video game side, I’ve written a couple of posts thinking about what how players view competitive games, and what they can potentially do to both bring in a bigger audience and keep them from running away in fear.

As for this month’s Patreon-sponsored post, I looked at the subject of babies in anime and manga. My rating of babies is based on how much they make their parents suffer, I guess. If you have a subject you really, really want me to write about, it’s just a one-time $30 pledge.

If you’re wondering why I have it at that price, it’s just because I don’t necessarily want the blog to consist primarily of requests as opposed to my own ideas. That being said, I am considering maybe offering a poll with three or four topics that can be voted on with Patreon pledges. Is this an idea readers would be on board for?

Overall, I think this was a pretty solid month. I don’t have a wholly solid idea of what’s going to come next, but it might be a bit less review-heavy compared to this one.

 

 

 

 

New Year, New Look: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for January 2017

The Year of the Rooster has arrived, but given the tumultuous nature of 2016 it’s hard to be…cocksure.

Bad jokes aside, it’s time to look backwards and forwards. And as we enter this new year, I’d like to once again express my gratitude towards my Patreon sponsors.

General:

Johnny Trovato

Ko Ransom

Alex

Diogo Prado

Viga

Yoshitake Rika fans:

Elliot Page

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

You might have noticed things being kind of different. Half on a whim, half as a result of ruminating on the dated look of Ogiue Maniax for the past year, I decided suddenly to change the look of the blog. While I think ultimately it’s the content that matters, I got the feeling that people were turned away by the fact that the site looks like it’s from a decade ago (which it pretty much is). This is actually the first aesthetic change I’ve made in a very long while. The last time was when I moved from Blogspot to WordPress back in 2007!

I’d like to know you think about the new look, so feel free to drop a comment. In fact, don’t be afraid to tell me what you’d like to see out of Ogiue Maniax. I can’t accommodate everyone, of course, but I’m still keen on finding out what my readers think.

Given that the end of the year just passed, the blog has been full of reflective articles and the like. Check out my picks for best anime characters of 2016, read my Anime Secret Santa review of Queen Millennia, and take a look at what’s in the final volume of Genshiken. I also took a picture showing off in part one of my Christmas gifts: Nendoroid Shidare Hotaru from Dagashi Kashi!

I also finally got around to reviewing the first volume of the fantastic Ojamajo Doremi16, the light novel sequel to the beloved early 2000s magical girl anime. And leading off from November’s post on the latter part of the original Aikatsu!, I wrote something about Aikatsu Stars!

And over at Apartment 507, I discuss both the end of Sabagebu! and what this bizarre survival game-themed manga brought to shoujo manga, as well as some of my favorite anime openings that came at the tail end of 2016.

The last article I’d like to mention is my very first of the new year, about the manipulation of time in adapting manga to anime. I think it’s a good way to start off 2017, personally.

 

 

Idol Activities are Serious Business: Aikatsu Stars!

aikatsustars-op

In contrasting the different eras of the popular idol anime series Aikatsu!, I once used a JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure analogy. If the original heroine Ichigo is equivalent to Jotaro, then her successor Akari is the Josuke of Aikatsu! If this comparison holds water at all, then the latest series, Aikatsu Stars!, must be the Steel Ball Run of the franchise, and therefore its main character, Nijino Yume, must be its Johnny Joestar. In other words, it’s a new world, a new setting, and all ties to past series have been more or less severed.

It’s unclear to me whether this “reset” was necessary, but then again it’s how the Precure franchise has rolled for the past 14 years. Whatever the case may be, to the discerning eye Aikatsu Stars! reveals itself to be a different beast. While it shares plenty of similarities to the Aikatsu! of years past, there are enough changes to make it feel like a new and almost separate entity.

Aikatsu Stars! follows Nijino Yume as she enters the prestigious idol school, Four Stars Academy, in order to chase after her idols, the mega-popular group known as S4. What she lacks in experience she makes up for in enthusiasm, as well as a strange potential that seems to only manifest itself when she’s directly onstage.

aikatsustars-hmph

The summary above mirrors both Ichigo and Akari’s own stories, but where it begins to diverge is that Aikatsu Stars! feels like a more serious story with higher stakes. This isn’t to say that the show is dark or cynical; they’re not poisoning each other and putting thumbtacks in each others’ lockers. However, whereas Ichigo is confronted in the early episodes by her classmate Ran’s fairly cutthroat attitude and quickly overturns it, I sense a much greater emphasis on rivalry in Aikatsu Stars! Adding to this feeling is the impact of S4 themselves. As the premier female idols, they give off the impression of being nigh-untouchable, their minds occupying a world almost beyond the reach of regular mortals. Not even #1 idol Tachibana Mizuki in the original Aikatsu! quite has that aura.

The most noticeable change with Aikatsu Stars!, however, is the new character design aesthetic. The girls and guys of Aikatsu Stars! have smaller frames and rounder features, giving them a look that feels to me be to more “gender-neutral.” What I mean is, the original Aikatsu! had designs that I see as closer to shoujo manga. Their large eyes weren’t just expressive, they were almost like miniature planets. With Yume and the rest of the Aiaktsu Stars! cast, the designs more resemble a balance between girls’ anime and bishoujo anime for guys. It’s effectively The iDOLM@STER meets Peach-Pit, the artist duo responsible for works ranging from Shugo Chara (shoujo) to Rozen Maiden (seinen featuring cute doll girls).

aikatsustars-s4

While the characters are all different and look different, there’s one semi-subtle link to the franchise’s lineage, which is that the girls of SF4 match the main four in original Aikatsu in terms of hair color. Blond, blue, red, and brown are all present, and although their personalities don’t really line up at all, it can’t possibly be a coincidence.

There are a couple of other differences which I think make Aikatsu Stars! rather interesting. The first is the greater prominence of male idols. Yume meets a boy who turns out to be a member of M4, the top group from the academy’s male division. The previous Aikatsu! as far as I know only barely bothered in male characters. Is this the influence of successful male idol spin-offs, such as Pretty Rhythm: King of Prism?

aikatsustars-sensei

The second is that the series implies a greater and more diverse range of possible idols. Sure, Aikatsu! has things like an American idol, and one who likes to dress as a vampire. But Aikatsu Stars! has a teacher who has a rock background, and the first ending theme is an S4 dubstep song. What other possibilities exist? I want to find out.

Aikatsu Stars! feels more tightly focused and more dramatic, but I do wonder if this comes at the cost of the more lighthearted fun of the original series. That being said, there’s nothing so far that tells me it’s going to plummet or lose its footing. I look forward to seeing Aikatsu Stars! build on itself, and even if the episodic hijinks don’t feel as strong, it looks on-track to being a more polished work overall.

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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‘Tis the Seasoning: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for December 2016

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!