Tag Archives: Puella Magi Madoka Magica

A Journey Inside the Mind with Madoka Magica and Flip Flappers

flip flappers rabbit dreamworld

Have you ever wondered exactly what’s going on inside your friends’ heads? Of course you have. Have you ever wanted to take a surreal and frightening journey inside the physical manifestation of your friends’ thoughts, feelings, and worries? Maybe? No? Well, in these two series, you can!

Fiction provides us with a unique opportunity to see into the minds of others, in that we get to live out other people’s stories and lives and see the world through their point of view for a time. Fantasy and sci-fi elements that allow us to literally see into and interact with the minds of characters, such as the dream-diving in Paprika and Inception, take this a step further. Through literally venturing into a physical manifestation of another character’s mind, you can learn a lot about them that they may not show you on the surface, such as hidden insecurities and secret memories. And sure, as a writer you could get the same information across in a dream sequence that lets the audience see inside that character’s mind for a scene, but the act of physically entering someone else’s mental landscape is what I want to talk about today. It lets the other characters, rather than solely the audience, learn what’s going on in the subject character’s head, and does so in a way that also moves the plot forward and provides a physical adventure at the same time.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica and Flip Flappers are two series that, via magic, give their characters the opportunity to explore their co-cast members’ inner worlds, sending them all down a proverbial rabbit hole into surreal, symbolism-heavy, and often frightening landscapes that teach them (and the audience) something about their peers that they couldn’t have known before. The two series use a lot of the same tools, artistically speaking, but the consequences and emotional outcome of their heroes’ journeys into each other’s mindscapes is very different in each case.

Dream-dive to Lady Geek Girl for the full article!

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The Problem with the Dark Magical Girl Genre

Sad Homura

Magical Girl Raising Project finished airing a few months ago, drawing its Battle Royale-esque death game to a close with most of its young, frill-clad, magical girl cast dead. It’s the expected outcome of anything that comes with that formula, but it’s an incredibly grim way to describe a magical girl show—shows that are, traditionally, at their hearts all about girls banding together to support each other and saving the world with the power of love and friendship. Murder and despair are normally nowhere near the magical girl archetype, but that’s changing in some recent and disturbing developments.

Read the full post on Anime Feminist!

Author’s notes: WOOHOO! This piece has been in development for a long time owing to both AniFem still growing and getting onto its feet as a website, and owing to the amount of tireless and passionate editing and re-outlining it was put through in collaboration with Caitlin and AniFem’s editor in cheif, the stellar Amelia Cook. The result is the beautiful analytical 3,000+ word beastie you see before you, which I have to say I’m immensely proud of.

In the Patreon link to this post, AniFem says “We’ve linked to Alex’s work on The Afictionado before, and this definitely won’t be her last piece for Anime Feminist!” which a) fills me with all sorts of warm and fuzzy feelings of a “senpai noticed me” variety, and b) has me excited to get on board and contribute to this website more as it grows. Watch this space!

Never laid eyes on AniFem before? Here are some of my favourite pieces:

“Your Name”: Body-swaps beyond ecchi punchlines by Hannah Collins, a review and picking-apart of the blockbuster Your Name.

Straight Guys!!! on ICE by Amelia Cook, a look into Yuri!!! on ICE’s references to actual queer skaters and queer culture, and (in the wake of episode 7) lamenting  the fact that homophobic fans were bending over backwards to deny the “gayness” of Yuri and Victor’s relationship, and lamenting that LGBTQ+ fans had to bend over backwards in turn to try and justify their stance.

Force Him, Not Me! Rape culture in shoujo romance by Amelia Cook. Well, the title really says it all–an in-depth analysis of Kiss Him, Not Me! and the incredibly skeevy “romance” tropes it has been playing into of late, and what that means for the genre.

She and Her Cat and her story by Dee, a heartstring-tugging review of She and Her Cat.

Why aren’t problematic translations fixed? by Amelia Cook (if you couldn’t tell by now, she’s both editor in chief and a writing juggernaut), in which I drag my hands down my face and ask why the hell the supposedly progressive American industry would bend sideways to take implied gay out of Dragon Maid (and other such examples).

And the one that started it all, How fan service can attract or repel an audience, and how to tell the difference by Lauren Orsini. Interesting and on-point thoughts.

Also, their podcast about Utena was super fun, even if I myself haven’t watched the show yet. Looking forward to seeing what else Chatty AF covers in future!

 

 

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Filed under Archetypes and Genre, Things We Need to Stop Doing

The Pretty Cure for All This Gritty Nonsense

Go! Princess Precure

I’ve written a few posts on here about magical girls and how important they are, so it was with a bit of a shock that I realised, apart from my beloved W.I.T.C.H. comics, a few out-of-order chunks of Sailor Moon I caught on TV as a kid, and Puella Magic Madoka Magica, I hadn’t actually… watched that many. Of course, most of this is because my pre-and-early-teen self broke out in hives at even the implication that a show or book was girly (the dread scourge!!). Perhaps sitting down and periodically bingeing all 50 episodes of Go! Princess Precure with CP is a kind of retrospective remedy for that, but mostly, it’s just been ridiculous fun. And it’s made me think more about the genre, and balk a bit at  Madoka (specifically, the movie continuations) and how they take great pride in being deliberately gritty deconstructions that kind of… kick the breath out of the entire point of magical girls.

Go! Princess Precure is 2015’s instalment in the Precure (or Pretty Cure, or PreCure, or Cute Girls Save the World With Perfume All Year Every Year and Sell Millions of Toys in the Process) series; the story of three (later four) young girls who gain the powers of the Princess Precure to battle an evil kingdom of despair. They transform with the power of Princess Perfume and Dress Up Keys, gaining frilly skirts and Big Hair, and for their final attacks they go into Elegant Mode and earn themselves enormous ballgowns. They exhibit the true traits of princesses: beauty, inner strength, kindness, delicacy, and above all hope and love and determination to follow their dreams. It’s ridiculous, adorable, and genuinely engaging and well-put-together (kids’ shows can be like that—who knew?). Also strangely relaxing, which I realised was only strange to me because, again, the magical girl show I’m most familiar with is bloody Madoka Magica, where the most openly determined and hopeful magical girl warrior gets her head bitten off three episodes in. Continue reading

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He Who Fights Monsters (or: Everything is People)

Attack on Titan

[note—this post discusses plot twists. It will contain spoilers for Attack on Titan, Suisei no Gargantia and Madoka Magica among others]

Is Hannibal Lector writing these plot twists? Because everything is people. Not just our food like your classic Soylent Green, which is possibly one of the most iconic examples, but also our enemies. After all, when you’ve worked so hard against a great foe, what could be more horrifying and heartbreaking than discovering that you and it weren’t so different after all?

Humans vs Monsters can be a very black and white battle to base a story around—not that this is always a bad thing, after all; not all stories require the amount of complexity and darkness that would come with a Humans vs Humans dilemma. Pacific Rim, for example, gets its strength of fun and positivity from bringing humans together in the fight against monsters, and in that it creates a happy ending of a unified earth striving to protect itself. Of course, actual conflicts are rarely so simple, and giving your alien/monster/magical foe sympathetic qualities is a quick way to make things more complicated for your heroes and your audience. Continue reading

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Find Me in Another Time: Of Soulmates, Destiny and Time Travel

sgate

[Contains spoilers for Cloud Atlas, Steins;Gate and, if they’re still spoilers by this point, Madoka Magica]

There’s no better way to show your affection for someone than to get separated from them by the cosmic decisions of the universe and get really, really mad about it. Maybe, a la Cloud Atlas, you’re caught in a cycle of reincarnation and keep crossing paths and bonding, only to be separated by something in every lifetime. Maybe there’s time travel involved as your device for era/parallel universe jumping, and you’re caught in a loop trying to save your loved one (or just your relationship, a la In Time) and leap your way to an eventuality where you can both be safe and happy.

Either way, this brings a big cosmic concept like time or soul travel, proverbially, down to earth, and makes it about people rather than saving the world. Which makes it much more interesting in my book, especially with all the concepts it brings into play.

Any plot like this, especially the ones where wayward souls are involved, will eventually have to bring up the question of fate—something humans have been brooding over for thousands of years, the idea of the pre-ordained path that we’re all traversing. Do we have the ability to step off it and follow others if we become self-aware? Is this giving us the power of the gods themselves? Or at least, the very human power to rage at the gods and the universe for making our destinies so annoying and cruel? Continue reading

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Pros and Pratfalls of Regenerating Your Cast

Being Human season 5 cast

[Spoilers ahead for Marvel comics and Being Human]

A series’ heart is its characters—whether it’s comedy, tragedy, fantasy, what have you, generally speaking, if you’re going to really capture the audience what you want is a good cast. You could have the most banal or wacky concept in the world, but if you have good characters people like and are interested in, people will watch it. Similarly, you could have the coolest and most fascinating backdrop ever, but without good characters to form that human connection, nothing’s going to glue. So, once you’ve got this band of characters that forms the bridge of audience attachment, you’d be silly to change them, right? Well, not always. Not every series revolves around the same set of fictional people for its entirety, and sometimes it’s beautiful and sometimes it’s bad.

Some series cling to their characters for decades, some change them every few seasons as a matter of course (like Skins), some bring back beloved concepts with new faces (Star Trek: Next Gen perhaps). Every long-running series has a kind of conceptual mould at its heart (e.g. Madoka Magica’s mould is “young girls fight monsters and discover the evil in the system they’re fighting for”) and a set of main characters (Madoka, Homura, Sayaka and co.). Sometimes, if they run long enough, these can get a little tired, so you have to change things up, unless you’ve got something truly episodic with no excessive continuity like old sitcoms. Generally, you can either change the characters (for example, bring in a new group of Magical Girls to follow) or break the mould (now instead of this being a story about fighting monsters it’s about fighting each other and their various dubious motivations).

Comics often keep their moulds, but get new characters within it. The new Thor comics star a woman (to the ecstatic cries of one half of the internet and the groans of the other, of course) not because Thor as we know him has been warped into a sex change, but because a new character has picked up the hammer and gained the powers therein, thus becoming the person to carry the title. So you can still have all your adventures that play with the universe and themes that suit that story, but to keep things fresh there’s a new lead to follow, get attached to, come to understand. It keeps the flavour and formula the same, but changes up the human connection to make things interesting and fresh. Thor was also a frog at one point, I’m pretty sure, so it’s not as if this is something new. Continue reading

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String Theory and Storytelling

Doctor Who's 'Turn Left'

Every story comes with its own bargeful of “what if”s, whether they’re minor points of interest or catastrophic differences that could change the entire course and outcome of the plot. After all, string theory states that there’s an alternate universe out there where every outcome and variable is true (which means there’s a universe out there where string theory isn’t true even if it is, but that’s a headache for another day). These things are always fun for the creative-minded to play with in fandoms, but what’s interesting to me is works that actually ask and answer a lot of those “what if”s as part of their storytelling process.

Games and visual novels, obviously, are a perfect medium for this—they’re less concrete than movies or books, for example, whether their plot itself is linear or open world. Either way, generally with a lot of games half the point of interest is an interactive and fluid audience experience, where the audience is well, less of an audience, and more an active participant in the events. In open world games like Skyrim this can mean choosing your what political or rebellious factions you get involved with and thus swaying the outcome of the history of the land, or, it could just mean wandering the wilds of your own accord, deciding whether to be a good knight or a pickpocketing ass, or whether or not to fill your house with cabbages.

In more plot-based games like the Mass Effects (or interactive-movie-esque, decision-based ones like Beyond Two Souls), every decision fits together to be vital (at least a little) to the final result of the story of the trilogy, going so far as to have your choices from the first instalment affecting the gameplay in the third. This gives the player an epic sense of immersion in the story, and a feeling of responsibility for the fate of the universe, throwing them into a strong analysis of the morals of war that they as a person in the real world are directly involved in… or, you could just play around and focus on picking which crew member to romance. Which is another genre that this multiple-plot-string storytelling goes hand in hand with. Continue reading

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Filed under And I Think That's Neat, Archetypes and Genre