Becoming Cinderella in Märchen Mädchen

“I want to forget all this right now and immerse myself in a story!” Hazuki, “Farewell, My Magic,” Märchen Mädchen

Reading has always been a treasured hobby of mine. Like Hazuki, I often used it during my childhood as a means to travel far away to another place as another person. I lived on a farm in the Ozarks, joined a new family on Prince Edward Island, and traveled with companions to defeat a dragon army. Books always represented freedom. It wasn’t until I was older when books started to represent an escape from the more unpleasant times in  life.

Anything Hazuki finds unbearable, or even slightly uncomfortable, is pushed aside the moment she delves into a work of writing. So when she discovers a magical world attached to her own where books empower their users, called Mädchen, it seems like a dream come true. She can literally become Cinderella thanks to one of the oldest and most powerful books finding its way into her hands. The problem? She can’t actually use it. Try as hard as she might, she not only struggles with beginner spells, she also has yet to transform into Cinderella. The girl who so easily slips into works of fiction fails to equip it when the need arises.

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Mitsuboshi Colors, Keepers of the Peace or Out-of-control Brats?

If there’s one show making me laugh more than I would have thought possible this season, it’s Mitsuboshi Colors, a series about three kids romping around their neighborhood in a style reminiscent of The Little Rascals. There are plenty of other anime this winter full of silly moments, but Mitsuboshi Colors thrives off of our laughter and promises to do so for the coming weeks. Watching Yui, Sat-chan, and Kotoha interact with each other and other members of their community is a little bit like witnessing a tornado—everyone and everything they pass gets swept up in their energy. It’s easy to overlook the fact that these are grade school kids who are almost completely unsupervised in their play and show no hesitation in wandering the city. We see a mom, a shopkeeper, and a police officer, but none of them impose any particular restrictions on the girls’ freedom to explore. These self-proclaimed “keepers of the peace” will make you worry and cringe, but there’s also a high chance you’ll find yourself laughing uncontrollably every episode and looking forward to more.

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I Love and Hate Devilman Crybaby

If you were paying attention at all to social media over the past couple of weeks, you’ll have noticed the hype surrounding Devilman Crybaby, a Netflix original release at the start of the winter 2018 season. Instead of forcing viewers to wait months to watch the Yuasa/Nagai love child, they did the opposite and provided all ten episodes at once. Doing so fits right in with the Netflix binge mentality, as well as suits the addictive flavors of this show. Devilman Crybaby bombards the viewers’ senses with sex and violence, and while this may repel some people, the barrage also acts like a super drug with an immediate high that carries you straight to the end.

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Flaring Bright in Juni Taisen: Zodiac War

“Don’t worry. All I’m taking is your life. In exchange, I hope you’ll be my friend, too. I’ve wanted that so badly since the first moment I saw you…”
(Rabbit, “Even a Champion”)

There was a time when I veered away from any kind of atmosphere that would get my heart pumping, or suffocate me in fear. Horror films always stuck in my mind and came to life in the darkness of sleep. Action and thrillers threatened to cut me in seemingly everyday activities in the car or walking on the sidewalk. As I dabbled my ankles in these genres over the years, I slowly waded deeper and deeper into the blackness of the unknown. What seemed too frightful as a child promised to excite me as an adult.

Juni Taisen: Zodiac War is this season’s offering from Nisio Isin, also known for his Monogatari series, Katangatari, and Medaka Box. A little bit of fear, the dash of a promise just out of reach, and plenty of violence fill each episode. There’s no comfort to be found in the arms of a protagonist; our writer is just as happy to tell their histories as he is to cut them right out of it. Our twelve characters, each representing a member of the Chinese Zodiac, are no heroes, either. Every one of them, no matter how righteous, reeks of questionable motives.

With an irredeemable cast and a predictable story, it might seem like Juni Taisen offers nothing of substance for enjoyment. In almost every other instance I cite my necessity for unique characters and an interesting plot.

Forget about those. Juni Taisen is a hell of a lot of fun.

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Amanchu! Episode 13: Joining Friendships of the Past and Present

“An unfamiliar path may fill you with anxiety, shock, or many other feelings, but there’s no need to rush. You need to take it easy. If you have fun on the way, you win” (Kohinata Kino, “The Story of the Promised Summer”).

A little over a year ago, we were gifted the anime experience of Kozue Amano’s Amanchu!, a story about growing up, scuba diving, and so much more. Amano’s gentleness appears in every smile, and her love for the ocean moves over and around us in almost every frame. Now we have episode thirteen, “The Story of the Promised Summer and New Memories,” bringing us back to Shizuoka along with two of Teko’s old friends. While this may be a story in a familiar place, experiencing it through Chizuru and Akane’s eyes allows us to see anew our main characters and the sea they love so much.

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Netflix’s Castlevania: A Welcome Addition to the Family

Love and revenge. Hunger and blood. Castlevania brews a stew of emotions in a way that leaves you both terrified and exhilarated. Thanks to positive reactions from my peers on Twitter and elsewhere, I picked up the show with very little background knowledge and watched all four episodes in one sitting. The urge to continue the next episode after finishing one was irresistible. Through a combination of atmosphere, story building, and characterization, Castlevania the television series—a Western-made product that pays respect to both the original games and Japanese animation—succeeds in reasserting the charm of 2D animation and its place in adult media.

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Seeking the Light in The Ancient Magus’ Bride: Those Awaiting a Star

“The lonely little star, the tiny child of a star, twinkled in the empty sky all by itself.”
(“Those Awaiting a Star: Part 2”)

“You can see them if you look really carefully. The sky is endlessly connected. Just try, and you’ll see even the faintest of lights.”
(“Those Awaiting a Star: Part 3”)

The third and final episode of Mahoutsukai no Yome: Hoshi Matsu Hito recently aired—just in time for the much anticipated series coming out this fall. This three-part OVA tells a supplementary story that can be watched at any point, be that before, during, or after the main series. “Those Awaiting a Star” is a wonderful addition to better understanding Chise’s past and her present point of view. Her dark history and unbelievable apprenticeship point Chise towards an uncertain yet promising future should she choose to take it.

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Made in Abyss: Eating to Survive, Eating to Unwind

“Over the span of many years, with a spirit of adventure for the unknown and countless legends luring them in, the world’s only remaining unexplored chasm has swallowed up a great many people. It is known as the Abyss.”

(“The City of the Great Pit.” Made in Abyss.)

From setting to character, story to music, this season’s Made in Abyss is all anyone is talking about lately. The show, a manga original, stunned viewers right from the beginning with its visuals and Kevin Penkin’s haunting melody, “Underground River.” That overwhelming feeling still persists more than halfway through the series, and now that we’ve made it to the third level of the Abyss, the danger seems more present than ever before. Our moments for respite are far and few in between. One thing about them obviously stands out to me: many of those quiet moments are spent around food.

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A Silent Voice: Remembering the Past and Improving the Now

While the 2016 film A Silent Voice (Koe no Katachi) spotlights topics like solitude, bullying, and death, much of the story plays out on our common desire to connect with one another. Connections by blood, friendship, rivalry, and even animosity all begin with the self, accepted or not. The lessons play out beautifully in the film through characters whose expressions and emotions seem almost tangible in their vividness—especially important for a central figure suffering a hearing disability and who rarely speaks. Nishiyama Shouko’s desires come to life in her body language. Conflict arises from a combination of her classmates’ discomfort and insecurity, and their teacher’s neglect.  Their experiences show not only how easy it is to misunderstand one another and to perpetuate the mistreatment of others, but also how it is never too late to confront your mistakes and learn from them.

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Action Heroine Cheer Fruits: Your Local Idol-Heroes

“The nine of us will become the saviors of the city. We will! Maybe!”

(Shirogane Misake, “Explosion Angel Hatsuri-chan”)

If you’re watching Action Heroine Cheer Fruits this season, chances are you’re enjoying the theatrics as much as I am. The odds for success are high given the almost guaranteed popularity of idol and superhero shows, but Cheer Fruits has more than a winning formula to help it–the show also addresses Japan’s established concern of shrinking rural communities, as well as displays solid writing that paces itself well over the course of its episodes. From practice to performance, the Cheer Fruits are the local heroines who will capture your applause and heart.

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