OGIUE MANIAX

Anime & Manga Blog | 50% Anime Analysis, 50% Ogi

[AnimeNEXT 2017] Studio Trigger Interview

Last time, I asked the illustrious Studio Trigger about the origins of Turning Girls. This time I only had the chance for one question to Yoshinari Yoh (director of Little Witch Academia), but the answer was quite informative.

When you were a lowly footman in the anime industry, what did you swear you’d do when you got further? Like, “If I ever become director, I will definitely do this.”

Yoshinari Yoh: When I just entered Gainax, it was right when Sailor Moon was airing, and I was reading an article in a magazine. I remember commenting, “I would never want to do something about magical girls.” But then once I entered Gainax, the executives (such as Anno) loved Sailor Moon, so I ended up working on it.

Thank you for the interview!

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Precure is Not a Lesser Sailor Moon

curemoonlight

A few months ago at Otakon, I was talking with Alain from the Reverse Thieves, who had attended a panel about magical girls and feminism. He had described how the presenter went through the various series she’d be discussing, but made specific mention that she’d be omitting Precure from the discussion, citing the fact that she wasn’t particularly impressed. Although I did not attend the panel myself, I found that to be unfortunate, not because of the dismissal of Precure by the presenter in isolation, but because this stance on the long-running magical girl franchise is not that uncommon. Among many fans, presenters, and even scholars, Precure is assumed to be bland and generic and not worth discussion.

In my opinion, that kind of thinking is a mistake. Precure is not only the biggest and most popular magical girl property of the past ten years, eclipsing even Sailor Moon in certain ways (sales, longevity on TV, etc.) and therefore worth observing for its cultural footprint, but it is also a fount of positive imagery for girls. While there are certain elements that can remain issues, such as the increasing ubiquity of pink as the only possible color for the main heroine and the fact that a lot of the magical girl outfits have high heels, Precure utilizes strong female characters by default, rather than making a big deal out of their existence. What’s more, because the series refreshes itself every year or two, its variety results in different approaches to characterization of female characters and themes pertaining to feminism. You have weak girls who become strong over time (as well as a nuanced exploration of what it means to grow), heroines who are more ideals of human potential, and even characters who try to reclaim the term “princess” to mean something more than “demure.” Even the very first series is significant due to its portrayal of girls having aggressive, hand to hand fights (in a show for young girls, no less), and the fact that its two main characters are more about their life goals than pining at the boys around them.

I have my suspicions as to why Precure has ended up with this reputation, and a lot of it has to do with Sailor Moon. It was the first of its kind, the sentai-inspired battling magical girl genre of which Precure is a part. In terms of cultural influence around the world, Sailor Moon has crossed the barrier from niche interest for anime fans only to seminal work, and is frequently cited as a pivotal show in the development of many young artists. Just the fact that it portrays these mature-looking girls who fight and win is on a basic level empowering and inspiring, and so any similar series gets compared not only to Sailor Moon but also its presence as a kind of nostalgic defining moment where any weaknesses it possesses as a series are forgiven. It’s also very important to point out that, especially in the US, Precure is just plain hard to come by. As a result, for English speakers it has much less potential of becoming part of the fabric of one’s upbringing, with the possible exception of Smile Precure!, which has been loosely adapted to become Glitter Force on Netflix.

I get the feeling that, when the Sailor Moon generation typically sees Precure, a common process occurs. First, they see that Precure is similar, and that its story (depending on which version they watch) is often more lighthearted initially. Second, they see that the character designs are younger-looking, and so it seems less mature as well. Third, they might do a bit of research and become aware that the franchise is also popular with adult men, lending a sort of “creepy pervert” vibe to their impressions. Finally, they fill in the blanks, and without watching much more, jump to the conclusion that the franchise can’t possibly do things so differently from Sailor Moon that it’d be worth looking into more, or that it’s only for sad otaku (unaware that Sailor Moon was the show for doujinshi in its heyday). Moreover, because Precure doesn’t have the more immediately apparent dark appeal of a Revolutionary Girl Utena or a Madoka Magica, it’s further assumed to be generic kiddie fare. That’s not to say that the series isn’t for children, but that the type of maturity it carries is more in how it approaches the task of trying to show strong images for a female audience. As discussed above, I believe Precure does this to great success, and to see it brushed aside saddens and angers me.

I like Sailor Moon, and I don’t mean to paint fans of that series with the same brush. However, because it is a defining magical girl show for a lot of people, it gets written about as if it is the be-all, end-all of its particular brand of mahou shoujo. The reputation of Sailor Moon surpasses what is actually in the series in a certain way, and it casts an unfair shadow on Precure when Precure does many things that I would argue are improvements or directions that Sailor Moon never goes. This is especially the case with its feminist qualities. My hope is that, when people think about progressive portrayals in anime and the magical girl genre, they not only remember that Precure exists, but are aware of all that it offers.

 

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Finishing the Sailor Moon Manga

sailormercury-coverSailor Moon was one of the seminal shows of my anime fandom. I recall the joy of waking up every weekday morning to see what would happen next just as much as the embarrassment of being a Sailor Moon fan (I was a dumb kid for sure). However, as formative as that series was in certain respects, one thing I had only heard about but never directly experienced was the Sailor Moon manga. Now, 20 years later, thanks to Kodansha Comics’ re-translation of not only Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon but also its predecessor Codename Sailor V, all of that’s changed.

I don’t think Sailor Moon needs much of an introduction at this point, but just to cover my bases: A young girl named Tsukino Usagi discovers that she has magic powers that lets her transform into a costumed fighter named Sailor Moon. Along with her allies whom she gathers over time, the Sailor Guardians, she fights against numerous forces threatening the Earth. What makes Sailor Moon so memorable is its ever-continuing story of twists and turns, the powerful image of strong female characters fighting without needing to be rescued by a man (though occasionally a man will show up to give some moral support), and just the way it sparks imagination in audiences young and old.

The manga is no exception, though if there’s anything that stands out immediately about the Sailor Moon manga, it’s the relatively brevity compared to its animated counterpart. Instead of a 200-episode TV series, we have instead a 12-volume manga (15 if you count Sailor V and some additional side stories). While this typically implies a great deal of filler or extra stories to pad out entire seasons, and this is indeed true of Sailor Moon, it’s rarely to the degree seen here. Kenshiro in Fist of the North Star takes 26 episodes to reach his first major adversary, Shin, but only one volume of manga to do the same. The Sailor Guardians fight Jadeite in the anime for 13 episodes; he lasts only 3 chapters in the manga. Sailor Moon cuts through villains and entire story lines like a hot knife through butter, and covers most of the major arcs that the anime does in a fraction of the time.

This is a significant change of pace compared to the anime, which is based around a kind of episodic peek into the world of Sailor Moon. Each week, there would be a monster to fight and a problem to solve, and while the overall story would gradually move along, it’s sort of like visiting some friends. The feel of the show is slower, and I don’t mean that necessarily in a bad way. With the manga, however, everything moves forward at such a fast clip that I feel as if the dynamism of the characters themselves, as heroic figures, as beings with style and physicality, progress the narrative through their bodies and the actions they take with them. There’s a kind of connectivity from panel to panel that’s achieved through the statuesque shoujo designs of the characters and their fights that can’t be found to quite such a degree in the anime, even when taking into account the elaborate transformation sequences.

By the time Sailor Moon finishes, I get the sense that Usagi herself has changed tremendously. However, I’m not entirely sure if her maturation is entirely convincing. There are moments when Sailor Moon seems to have learned important lessons about doing what’s right/right for her, and then there are others where the manga tells you that she’s grown, or she suddenly shows a greater sense of compassion and responsibility, but it seems to have come from out of nowhere. In a way, having the story move as quickly as the manga does can make some events feel a little too rushed, and Usagi’s character development might just be one of those aspects. On the other hand, some of the weirder aspects of Sailor Moon (Chibi-Usa’s entire story) come and go just as quickly.

As a final note, I’d like to just give an aside about my favorite character, Sailor Mercury. It’s funny to think about what drew me (and a lot of other boys growing up on Sailor Moon) to the character. To put it simply, I was a nerd, and she was a nerd too, one who prized knowledge and study and interest in books and science. These days, that’s the norm for a lot of characters, and specific attention is being given to encouraging more girls to get into math, science, and the highest of higher education. Nerd girls are so expected of the world that they’ve entered the realm of stereotype. That’s how much things have changed since I first saw Sailor Moon, but the admirable qualities of its characters, whether in manga or anime, are what help make it timeless.

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In Case You Forgot, I Love Both Anime and Food

I’ve written a blog post on Sailor Moon as my introduction to Japanese food over at the Waku Waku +NYC official blog. If you’re interested in me waxing nostalgic and rambling the way you expect out of Ogiue Maniax, take a look.

Sailor Moon Was My Gateway into Japanese Food

I’ll be a regular contributor to the Waku Waku +NYC blog from now on, so look forward to more posts from there in the future. As always, I will continue to devote myself to Ogiue Maniax as well.

If you’re curious, Waku Waku +NYC is an upcoming Japanese popular culture festival from August 29-30 in Brooklyn, NY. Unlike a lot of anime cons and Japanese events, this one looks to more thoroughly integrate food with Japanese anime, games, fashion, etc. If you’re even half as interested in eating and watching anime as I am, it might be worth your while.

Where the American Anime Fandom Goes

I’ve been living outside of the United States for the past few years, though funnily enough I’ve spent every 4th of July in the US. This year is an exception, but at the same time I will also be heading back home soon. So at least for the foreseeable future, this is my first and last Independence Day in Europe. What better time then to talk about America? I haven’t done that in a few years either.

Specifically, there are a bunch of thoughts related to Americans and anime fandom that have been whirling around in my head as of late, and I’m using this opportunity to try and organize them into some cohesive ideas. Not sure if I’ll succeed or not but that’s part of the entrepreneurial spirit or somesuch. AMERICA.

Two pieces of news that caught my eye over the past few weeks have been the announcement of a sequel and animated television series for Pacific Rim, and the fact that the recently revived Toonami block on Cartoon Network is doing better and better. In the case of Pacific Rim, one of the biggest talking points concerning the first movie’s release was that it didn’t do well in the United States, but in contrast found some success nternationally, especially in China. The idea permeating Pacific Rim and its “failure” was that it needed to do well domestically for it to have any real hope of continuing, but this news has shown otherwise. Scott Mendelson over at Forbes argues that this is the first movie that has received a sequel despite of its lack of success at the American box office, and may hint at the increasing importance of that overseas market. Various arguments have been made for why Pacific Rim didn’t click with American audiences, from idea that “mecha” isn’t a popular genre in either the US mainstream or among its anime fandom, to the opinion that it was just a bad movie, but there’s something intriguing about the idea the US is not the epicenter of this property’s future.

In contrast, it looks like anime is in a certain sense “rediscovering” its American fandom through Toonami. For a long while anime looked like it was on its way out of the American geek culture, as the presence of Japanese cartoons on Cartoon Network faded from their heyday in the early to mid 2000s. The “Toonami” concept itself, a block dedicated to anime and anime-like cartoons, even went away in 2008. And yet, whether it was because the folks in charge smelled profit in the air from anime once more or there was just some personal desire somewhere to bring anime back to the fore of Cartoon Network, Toonami has returned and is doing quite well.

Historically, anime has not needed its American fanbase. Sure, there have been a lot of viewers, but anime’s domestic market is Japan, and it also finds success around the world, in Europe, South America, and Asia. The US certainly has an online presence when it comes to anime discussion and enthusiasm, but over the years it’s been easy to get the impression that this fandom is a paper tiger, especially when it comes to popular shows among the internet fandom not translating to home video sales. Of course, this also has something to do with how expensive anime was for a long time (and still kind of is relative to other forms of media), but overall it wouldn’t be surprising if people perceived American audiences of anime as just somehow lacking. Now, however, not only are American viewers tuning in to catch Toonami and its latest anime, but the shows people are most interested in are also the ones that have developed large fanbases online as well.

It would be remiss of me to minimize the importance of the actual shows themselves, as I think regardless of anyone’s opinions of these anime, it’s fairly easy to see why series such as Sword Art Online (MMORPG plus swords and sorcery), Attack on Titan (violent post-apocalyptic world with large cast of interesting characters), and Black Lagoon (guns and action) would do well with an American audience even if all three are significantly different from each other. One thing that I find interesting, however, is that at least for the first two their Japanese fanbases are also quite substantial. In this situation, you have the support of a hardcore Japanese fanbase, a mainstream Japanese audience (especially for Attack on Titan), a hardcore international and American fanbase, and a relatively mainstream presence in the US as well. It’s as if the division between fan and casual has been collapsed, and interests that are often viewed as mutually exclusive now overlap.

So on the one hand, you have a property in Pacific Rim where the American audience turns out to not be as important as originally thought, and on the other hand you have in Toonami the rediscovery of an American audience that is, while arguably not significant, still good to have. I feel like there’s some connection or relationship here but I’m not exactly certain of what it is. One thing that might help is that I recently read an academic article from 1998 on Sailor Moon, which was written during the time that Sailor Moon was already a runaway hit in Japan and was beginning to air in the US. Though Mary Grigsby’s “Sailormoon: Manga (Comics) and Anime (Cartoon) Superheroine Meets Barbie: Global Entertainment Commodity Comes to the United States” is more about arguing how the series is influenced by cultural hegemony (essentially the continuous and subconscious reinforcement of how things are in society) yet somehow defies it, what caught my attention is the fact that a note at the end mentions how by the time this article was published Sailor Moon had already been a commercial failure in the US.

Sailor Moon was not the profit machine that the various companies supporting its US distribution had hoped, but in light of a new  Sailor Moon anime in celebration of its 20th anniversary and the clear continued significance it has to American anime fandom, it’s clear that the show has had an impact, and possibly that what was seen as a failure of the show at the time may have been more a failure of marketing. To some extent, this may have had to do with the cultural landscape of the US in the 90s. After all, in contrast to the revising of Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune from lesbian lovers to cousins back then, currently more and more people in the US are accepting or at least tolerant of same-sex relationships. However, there’s another important point to consider. In the Pacific Rim article, Mendelson also writes that “The deciding factor separating Pacific Rim 2 from Robocop 2 may be the passionate fan base of the former. It’s easier to talk financial parties into a sequel to a somewhat under-performing original if paying audiences actually liked said original.” Sailor Moon grew a powerful fanbase that the models for success at the time couldn’t properly account for. As the American anime fandom grows once more, now may be the time for both old and new fans to find some common ground.

 

 

 

The Fujoshi Files 55: Buraidaru Marie

Name: Buraidaru, Marie (舞頼堕流マリエ)
Alias: Marie-sensei (マリエ先生)
Relationship Status: Married
Origin: Codename Sailor V

Information:
Buraidaru Marie is the famous author of the smash hit 110-volume shoujo fighting manga Aurora Wedding. Featuring ten heroines who run a bridal shop by day and fight evil at night, it has made Marie fabulously wealthy and earned her a fan in Aino Minako, the girl also known as the “Champion of Justice” Sailor V. She herself is a fan of the mysterious Phantom Ace, who bears a resemblance to her editor, Baishaku Shinrou.

After a mishap involving an evil minion known as Wan Wan, Marie married her editor and ended Aurora Wedding.

Fujoshi Level:
Marie has drawn yaoi doujinshi of Phantom Ace.

My dream restaurant?

She also likes takoyaki you know

An anime-themed restaurant of course.

But I don’t mean just people cosplaying or there being posters on the wall and anime music playing. Hell, I don’t need any of that.

What I mean by an anime-themed restaurant is that the food is anime-themed. And by anime-themed, I mean the food is taken straight from anime.

Hagu’s pumpkin mint ice cream. Usagi’s curry-that-doesn’t-look-like-curry is okay too. Fresh taiyaki served in a winged backpack.

If you have a large family, get one of the large meals. Choices are Luffy, Lina and Gourry, and Saiyajin.

Oh, and you can Kuga Natsuki any food for free (mayonnaise).

If only I had the money, I would totally do this.

Oh, and of course you can order the Ogiue special: Average-tasting food with some ikura sushi on the side.

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