Category Archives: Alex Watches

Madoka Magica #4: Depictions of Gratuitous Violins

Madoka ep4 (20)

Thought: does the magical girl genre exist in the world of Madoka Magica? We can assume that anime does, given that Sayaka references anime tropes when she’s joking around in the first episode, but apart from that the only media we’ve seen the characters interact with is music (both pop and classical). Do the characters in-universe have any concept of what a “magical girl” is before they meet one/become one? It’s not entirely clear. Which is odd, in a way, since having pop culture set a precedent that real life does not match up to would lend a degree of social commentary—in a “television is not preparing our children for the harshness of reality” sort of way—to the series. After all, if you’re going to take familiar tropes apart (and here, clearly the subversion of familiar tropes is for the benefit of the genre-aware audience, rather than the characters themselves) you may as well use that process to make some sort of point.

Maybe it’s too early to be diving into that sort of discussion. It’s just something that blipped across my mind while I wondered where exactly this ideal image of a magical girl that Mami worked so hard to display, and her friends admired so much, came from. Are they taking cues from media? From history, perhaps, given that Kyuubey’s been making contracts since early human civilisation? From a logical combination of society’s ideal visions of femininity and society’s ideal vision of selfless heroism? The fact that Madoka’s setting seems to be some sort of deliberately ambiguous, slightly sci-fi, and architecturally stunning Anyplace isn’t helping. Do these characters exist in a bubble, a world vaguely recognisable as our own but effectively just a grand and beautifully-designed stage for this story to play out that’s isolated from any conception of actual society as we in the real world know it??

God. Anyway. This week we’re dealing with the wake of Mami’s untimely death, and everything is the worst. Continue reading

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Madoka Magica #3: Let Them Eat Cake

Madoka ep3 (15)

Have I talked yet about how much I love the music in this show? Each track is distinctive and atmospheric, helping to set the tone of each individual scene and build a consistent otherworldly sense for the whole series. I especially enjoy ‘Sis Puella Magica’, which manages to be both beautiful and haunting, evoking a sense of simultaneous wonderment and foreboding that really does sum up the Madoka experience, and especially neatly reflects these first few episodes where we—and Madoka—are still figuring things out. And oh boy does that “mild sense of magical foreboding” come together this week.

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Madoka Magica #2: You Can’t Fight Crime If You Ain’t Cute

Madoka ep2 (14)

After a handy, abridged flashback to the fight scene at the end of the previous episode, Madoka wakes up wondering once again if it was all a dream… until she glances over and sees a pink-eyed Devil Kitty sitting on the shelf with her toys. To her credit, her immediate instinct isn’t to scream and fling the creature across the room, which means she has more resolve than me.

Given that these are spoileriffic analyses, I want to take a moment to talk about Kyuubey. They (er… it? Homura says “it”, and Mami says “he”, but let’s go with “they” for now) are pretty cleverly designed in terms of fitting all the technical hallmarks of a cute magical girl companion while also managing to use those same elements to be unnerving. Kyuubey has big eyes and a cat mouth, which should by all technicalities be adorable… but the unblinking, ever-staring red eyes and the fact that the mouth doesn’t move when they talk is uncanny and creepy. Kyuubey is small and fluffy and has those Neopets-esque ear extensions, which should be cuddly and cartoonish… but instead they just seem alien. Kyuubey speaks in a high-pitched cute voice, but the existential words they actually say create an unsettling dissonance. Even before we know Kyuubey is essentially the villain of the piece, everything about them is engineered to set the audience just a little bit on edge. Continue reading

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Madoka Magica #1: Sweet Dreams Aren’t Made of These

Madoka ep1 (13)

The curtain rises on a strange and twisted wonderland, a young pink-haired girl running through a warped checkerboard landscape. This world is cold and silent, an unsettling mess of colour and pattern offering no solace. The girl finally finds a door, but on the other side is only more chaos: a strange upside-down monster hanging suspended in the stormy air over a destroyed city, locked in battle with another young woman. She is clearly magical, flying, fighting, but is also clearly in trouble. The pink-haired girl can only watch in horror… or can she? Amidst the floating rubble and thundering chaos a small creature appears and offers her a bargain, a chance to help, fixing her all the while with an unmoving catlike smile…

…aaaaaand snap, the pink-haired girl wakes up in a soft and sunny bedroom. Was all of that really just a dream?

And so begins Puella Magi Madoka Magica, 2017’s Big Summer Rewatch Project. Who’s excited to dive back into this world of magic, monsters, and metaphors? I know I am. Continue reading

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The Garden of Words: A Masterpiece, But Did It Have to Be a Love Story?

garden of words

The Garden of Words came out in 2013, and for four straight years my Tumblr dash has been scattered with gifs celebrating the beautiful scenery and animation in the film. But apart from how pretty it was, I didn’t actually know anything about the plot of this iconic movie, so when I saw it on AnimeLab, I decided to dive in and investigate. Sure enough, it’s an absolutely gorgeous film that should 100% be celebrated as an achievement in animation, atmosphere, and visual storytelling about the way human lives connect. It was kind of spoiled for me by an unexpected case of compulsory heterosexuality, but hey, you can’t have everything…

Head to Lady Geek Girl for the full post!

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Adventures in Asian Drama: My Little Lover

My Little Lover Chiyomi pocket sized

Wording is everything when making wishes. The last thing you want to do is get caught up in some weird business due to some tiny technicality… which is exactly what happens to high schooler Chiyomi when she, distraught with the stress of her current life, longs for the simplicity of childhood and wishes to be “little again”. Lo and behold, when she wakes up she’s only 15cm tall.

As I’ve said before, if there’s one thing that can rope me into an otherwise unremarkable YA romance it’s a fun and interesting supernatural element (or it not being straight. Ideally, both!). The tale of a relatable-yet-flighty teen girl being in love with her now-distant childhood friend has been told approximately a squillion times, but the magical shrinkage? That was enough to catch my eye and give it a bit of pep and intrigue. Unfortunately, My Little Lover doesn’t carry itself too strongly on the merit of its magic element or its character relationships, and while there are certainly some good points in this show I… kind of only made myself finish watching it because I got more than halfway through and knew it could make a blog post. So here that blog post is! Click on through for frustrating teenagers, cool grandmas, and hilarious and bizarre sexy saxophone music. Continue reading

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Love, Chunibyo, & Other Delusions: A Silly Yet Heartbreaking Story About the Power of Geekdom

Love Chunibyo and Other Delusions

It’s a universal fact that everyone is at least a little bit embarrassed by what they did when they were thirteen. Was it a misguided and poetic emo phase? An overzealous leap into fandom, including indulgent fanfic or fanart? An all-consuming desire to be seen as mature in your tastes that ended up just making you look pretentious? Whatever it is, despite how much this passion consumed you at the time, you’d be happy if no one ever brought it up ever again—that’s how much it makes you cringe.

There’s a Japanese word for this: chunibyo, loosely translating to “eighth-grader syndrome”, the stage of life where a sense of self-importance and newfound independence combines with passion, imagination, and a desire to be seen as special, whether that manifests as a pretentious geek phase or believing you have magic powers. It’s this phenomenon that is the core of Love, Chunibyo, and Other Delusions—a show that begins as a wacky comedy about high school embarrassment and ends up punching you (or at least, this reviewer) in the gut with a poignant story about grief and growing up.

Head to Lady Geek Girl and Friends for the full post!

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