After a momentous winter season to kick off 2012, we're at it again by releasing the spring simulcast lineup early with Hiiro no Kakera! There will be more announcements like this coming down the pipeline so you definitely want to stay tuned! We've also got the new site design up and rolling for many of you out there, and could really use your feedback as to what you think about it! Finally, The Live Show returns at a new time and day, but with the shenanigans as before! You can catch it now every THURSDAY at 7pm PST!!!
After debating with the idea for some time, I decided this wouldn't be a review. Why? Because the less you know about Puella Magi Madoka Magica's plot, the better. The anime takes such a sharp turn early on that there isn't even any point in describing the first episodes. No, this is going to be an article about the events that happened before, during and after its airing time, about why Madoka Magica was the most important anime release of 2011 and why it should be watched by anyone who's the least bit concerned about anime culture in general.
Back then, that's all anyone could guess. The trailers didn't help either as they mostly only showed us character art and short quotes from the voice actors, so when the show aired, we were completely in the dark. It was golden though: Being the magical girl fan that I am, I would have been fine with a run-of-the-mill mahou shoujo anime. The first few episodes delivered on those expectations, too, as I was blessed with a naked transformation scene in the OP, a super cute Madoka Kaname main character and all the clichés you could possibly ask for. Some early reviews were already shrugging it off as just another forgettable magical girl anime with great style and production values, but no substance.
As the episodes went on, fandom for the anime exploded, capturing the imagination of fans around the world. Fan arts abounded, memorable memes were born ( “Being meguca is suffering... ” ) and detractors to its brilliance were complaining that it should be taken off the air for its content. Every new episode became an event, a hotbed for new debates and theories about what was to come next. The excitement even spilled over into the real world as a slew of Akihabara stores became plastered with fan-made appearances of the anime's cute magical beast Kyubei, various collages and photo montages promoting the store's goods, as unrelated to the anime as they were. There was a feeling of complicity all around that simply shouted “I know, I'm watching it too, and it's freaking amazing!” That was also when, exactly one year ago ( true story, I just confirmed it, it's like destiny ), I sent an e-mail to Keith to make sure that, if Crunchy ever got the rights to the anime, I'd be the one to make the article for it.
All of this culminating in episode 10, not only because it was arguably one of the best single anime episode of all time (not a hint of fanboyism here, folks), but because of what happened mere hours after it aired: The March 2011 massive earthquake that devastated Japan. Due to the damages themselves and the contents of the final episodes 11 and 12, the anime's finale was delayed for close to a month and a half. Being left at a critical point in the plot, it could be said the wait for the final episodes became more than just anticipation, but also motivation for all of Japan's anime fans to persevere in the wake of the destruction they faced. Fan activity for the anime soared to new heights during these few weeks as they had to express all that pent up adulation, either through art, speculation, stories, Anime Music Videos / MADs (guilty as charged) and more. In April, the last two episodes aired back to back to universal praise and ended the legend, or so we thought.
Things were actually far from over as Puella Magi Madoka Magica went on to continue being part of Japan's culture with 3 movies planned, an exhibition dedicated entirely to it, a massive presence at the 15th Japan Media Arts Festival where it also won the Grand Prize for Animation (which probably just ended by the time you read this article) and even displaying some of the girls from the anime in an official ad campaign for the “Puppy Walker” program helping blind people get their own guide dog, distributed in 3500 schools and public buildings around the country.
And now, well, it's finally here on Crunchyroll. You can watch it all again or see it for the first time. What's certain, though, is that not giving it a fair shot of at least 3 episodes will immediately discredit your opinion as “someone who saw it and didn't like it” since you won't even have experienced a hint of where the anime is really going! Of course, no matter how well-received it was, it won't please everyone, so if you get to that point and still don't see the magic, chances are it's not your thing. Otherwise I think it's great we're only airing one episode a week, so the newcomers can feel the unbearable pain of having to wait a week to see what happens next.
Oh? You say you can't wait? Hmm, well, this can be arranged, just sign this contract...
The best running gag among all the bite-sized three-minute episodes has to be Atsushi’s innocent crush on his classmate Hina, who he regularly walks home--and regularly gets arrested as some kind of kiddie-loving pervert. The poor kid just wants to walk his girl home, don’t mind the fact that he looks like he’s in his twenties!
The way a story is unveiled is immensely important in creating an anime’s atmosphere. Another begins by telling the infamous ghost story about Misaki, which leaves viewers much more informed than protagonist Kouichi Sakakibara. Kouichi, having just moved to Yomiyama, knows nothing about the story and its implications, and that causes him to make very poor decisions. Such dramatic irony is quite a useful tool, for the audience knows enough about the ghost story to fear things they wouldn't normally care about, and they can also curse the consequences of Kouichi's ignorance. At the same time, viewers don't know every detail about Misaki's story and why everyone truly fears it, and this maintains an extra layer of fear; for some, knowledge can be scarier than living in peaceful ignorance, and this automatically creates a tense mood. Enhancing this effect, the first episode of Another focuses a lot on setting.
At first, Yomiyama is shown to be a small, beautiful town in the country, but this changes as the series goes on. Kouichi discovers places in Yomiyama that are awfully sinister, and places once lovely become foreboding after certain events. In essence, Yomiyama looses the sweet charm it had at the beginning of the series and becomes a place where there is no refuge. This aspect of storytelling intensifies the disturbing nature of Another, creating a dark pool of fear.
Building upon the storytelling, the exactness of the art direction contributes greatly to the unnerving mood in Another. Another has gorgeous artwork that rivals that of shojo anime, and every character has an original design done by Noizi Ito of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya fame. As wonderful as this sounds, it is also off-putting; Another is a horror anime, yet it looks so beautiful. There’s such a strong contrast between the aestheticism of the artwork and the story's actual content that the atmosphere automatically feels more disturbing. Aside from the character designs, the artistic details also emphasize the fearful atmosphere in Another. It is strangely curious and foreboding how an old desk in the classroom corner is worn with age in comparison to everyone else’s pristine desks, and with details like this everywhere, it comes to the point that even the malicious twinkle of shattered glass is sickening. The technical codes don’t waver in their sinister style either; it’s disconcerting when scenes abruptly cut to images of nightmarish dolls for what feels like no reason, but intricacies in the art direction like this are what aid Another in being so hauntingly memorable.
Under the orders of Head Captain Yamamoto, the 13 Court Guard Squad Soul Reapers share their Spirit Energy to restore Ichigo’s lost powers. With his Soul Reaper powers fully restored, Ichigo returns to challenge Ginjo.
Ririchiyo wants the type of friendship the others share with their SS Agent. But her inability to speak her true feelings and Miketsukami only able to talk in a formal matter doesn’t help. What can she do to break the barrier of Master / Servant?