Witches have been a part of our culture since time before time, and come with a variety of labels and expectations depending on where you search. For the longest time in the U.S., they were synonymous with the historical town of Salem as a warning of sorts against ignorance and mass hysteria. Currently, the works of J.K. Rowling have blasted witches and wizards into our consciousness as people walking by our sides unbeknownst to the general populace (perhaps with the aid of a memory charm). In other countries, witches might be called shamans, druids, or even priests. These diverse interpretations reflects themselves in anime, with works like Soul Eater, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, and, more recently, Maria the Virgin Witch.
This season presents Flying Witch, originally a manga and now an anime by J.C. Staff. This magical new show is presented in a meandering and calm manner in the spirit of other works like ARIA and Natsume Yuujinchou. Even the art is drawn in a softer color palette. We see a good variety of witches presented: the gifted and passionate sister, the fortune teller, and the restaurant owner. Like these three, protagonist Makoto is born into her ability, but she maintains a closeness to the audience and her human family due to still learning about her skills and plans for the future. She seems to have a special connection with plants and herbs, but spends an equal amount of time simply eating them to actually using them for potions or spells. Then there’s Chinatsu, Makoto’s young cousin who is not a witch, but carries on many of our wishes as someone who wants to become one. Her excitement feels completely real as a product of her optimistic outlook on life and the audience’s own desire to enter this magical world.
Flying Witch stands out from the rest of other magical shows in a number of simple, but fantastic ways that bring the series up from forgettable to a work that I expect will stand the test of time. We have witches who do what they want when they want, and see them often slip when treading the unknown.
This season’s Kuma Miko is a delightfully light-hearted comedy following a middle school girl. This sounds pretty generic at the get go, but the show brings in some unique flavors in a few different ways:
Machi is also a priestess for a shrine devoted to the god of the mountain, thought to be a bear
The current bear is tame, named “Natsu”, lives with Machi, and talks like a human
Machi’s shrine garb is influenced by Ainu culture that is visually and verbally referenced
Shintoism is frequently used in anime, and I’ve become accustomed to its influences on various worlds and characters. This is actually the first series I’ve seen that brings up the Ainu people and their culture, which like Shintoism is animistic (think Pocahontas and the spirits in all things) . The next closest suggestion are the Emishi people of Mononke Hime, who were banished and thought lost by most of the country. There are arguments in many of the sources I’ve read, but the general consensus is that the Emishi and Ainu are both hunter-gatherers indigenous to Japan, and descendants of the prehistoric Jomon people.
I dub 2015 the Year of Romance, both in anime, and in my own life. There weren’t an abnormal amount of romantic shows through the seasons, but there was a notable addition to the genre with Ore Monogatari!!, an unconventional story in quite a few ways from its characters to its early successes. The anime fulfilled almost all of the wishes I hold for romance stories, ones that tend to end up unfulfilled or on an open ending.
“Leave everything to your big sister!” –Mocha/Cocoa
Family has always been a major factor of Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu-ka? Rabbit House is run by a grandfather, father, and daughter. Cocoa dubs herself Chino’s big sister and quickly does the same with Chino’s grade school friends upon meeting them the first time. And now in this second season we get to meet Hoto Mocha, Cocoa’s big sister. The relation is immediately clear upon meeting her—Mocha exudes a sisterly care for everyone around her, particularly cute girls, and gives off a vibrant love for life. Like Cocoa, Mocha’s eyes light up with stars when she spots a special something warm to the heart.
The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan ended early in the summer, appropriately in an awkward spot between seasons. I was left with a bit of an odd sensation of insecurity–exactly whose disappearance did the title refer to, the familiar and beloved Nagato presented back in 2006, or the 2015 Yuki-chan full of open human emotions? Both are certainly applicable with their own definitions and circumstances. Both evoke a sadness that never fully vanishes at the series’ end.Read More »
“Takeo-kun has really nice skin…and his eyebrows and sideburns really get to me…and his broad shoulders, and nice pecs…and his lips are so sexy!..His hands are so big, too. They make my heart race! I really want to cuddle, and hold hands, and stuff.” -Yamato Rinko
A modern day Beauty and the Beast, Ore Monogatari!! takes a much sweeter route through its tale of romance. Yamato Rinko appears to be your typical adorable female shoujo lead, with her small stature, high voice, and pure aura. Gouda Takeo towers over her and many full-fledged adults with a body builder’s muscles and penetrating stare. But unlike the fairy tale, our girl isn’t a hostage, and our guy is neither prideful, nor full of anger. We have two young people who genuinely care for one another, and come together as a couple in the first three episodes.
“I’ve never liked playing tuba alone. It’s just one boring phrase after another. But when you play in an ensemble and hear all the other parts, it becomes music. It becomes harmony. You can really tell you’re carrying the piece. I’ve liked tuba ever since.” -Gotou Takuya
I’ve mentioned quite a few times in previous posts that I grew up playing the piano, having started at a very young age, but I don’t know if I ever mentioned that I also picked up percussion at the wise age of ten. The choice was a simple one: I took one look at the mallet instruments–glockenspiel, xylophone, vibraphone, marimba, chimes–and saw my piano keyboard. And when I joined the concert band, it was easy to shift into the role of mallet player since all the boys wanted to smack the drums and auxiliary percussion. It wasn’t too long before I realized that to continue on would require I learn the other percussion instruments, as boring as they seemed.
There’s a distinct lack of Ghibli’s TV series, Sanzoku no Musume Ronja, on my Feedly and Twitter, which is a shame given its charm. Watching this show feels like a step into my childhood, with memories of tales like the series Pippi Longstocking (no surprise, since the writer is the same), several of Roald Dahl’s books, Charlotte’s Web, and the Chronicles of Prydain with its European-inspired setting. The original story of Ronia the Robber’s Daughter comes from Swedish writer, Astrid Lindgren, and takes place in a magical time in a forest populated by spiteful harpies, baneful dwarves, playful will-o’-wisps, and jolly thieves. Ghibli is the perfect vessel for a story like Ronja’s, and would have likely made a beautifully drawn film with music orchestrated by the esteemed Joe Hisaishi or Cecile Corbel. Instead, it is the first of the studio’s TV series–and I dearly hope it isn’t the last.
Yowamushi Pedal has been amazing to watch this year, and I’m always happy to see more Onoda and hear the Hime song. I talked before about my lack of experience with cycling, but now that we’re into a second season and I’ve discussed the details more thoroughly with KWoo, I’ve gone ahead and compiled some of our notes–nitpicking, if you must–regarding the show. If you’re a cyclist, or love the sport as a spectator, feel free to include anything else you’ve seen.
Blazing rings of fire, whips and wild cats, acrobats, and clowns–circuses have long been places of mystery and thrills. What began as Roman structures for naval battle reenactments, shows, and races later became the romanticized traveling tents many people think of first these days. I have never personally attended a circus, but have always been intrigued with the idea of running away to join one like many of the kids did in the books I read. Could I fly on the trapeze? Or perhaps befriend a lion? Even now as an adult, I have no idea what area I would have fallen into, though I like to imagine a variety of circus names I might have chosen.