Latin Latin Madoka More Latin IV: The Voyage Homura

So, this should actually have gone up a week after the Steven Universe live reaction video, but I basically forgot and went straight on with the SU videos. Anyway, this is video of a panel I gave at AB, my fourth annual Madoka Magica panel. It’s totally not at all an extended ad for my book! (It totally is.)
AMVs used:
Shingeki no Kyojin x Madoka OP 2:
Puella Magi Homura Magica OP:
Puella Magi Madoka Magica OP 2:

Reading Too Much Into the Slayers

In honor of the 20th anniversary of the first TV broadcast of The Slayers, have Reading Too Much Into the Slayers, a panel I did last weekend at Anime Boston 2015!
Sorry this is so late. I basically had no ability to function yesterday after Anime Boston, and it took a lot longer than expected to edit, render, and upload the video. But I still made the anniversary!

Intro to Reading Too Much Into the Slayers

I’m off to Anime Boston! Before I go, here’s a little something I made for one of my panels.

A sort-of AMV I made combining footage from all five Slayers OPs, set to the long version of “Give a Reason.” This is the introduction for my panel “Reading Too Much Into The Slayers,” which will be premiering at Anime Boston this weekend. It’s also my way of celebrating the 20th anniversary of The Slayers!
And after you’ve watched that, check out The Nintendo Project Resumed for a review of The Very Soil! Remember, if you write about anime or media and would like a review copy for yourself, just let me know!

Anime Boston Schedule!

I’m going to be at Anime Boston this weekend, April 3-5. I have about seven hours of panels! So if you’re there and want to see me talk about anime, here’s when I’ll be doing it:

  • Friday:
    • 10:30 a.m. – 12 noon, Panel 208: Latin Latin Madoka More Latin IV: The Voyage Homura: Probably the last time I do my annual AB Madoka panel. Topics this time around include kamishibai, the history of magical girls and witches, manga spinoffs and why they tend to suck, and Homura as Faust, Milton!Lucifer, and the Nutcracker.
    • 12:30 – 1:30 p.m., The Fens: Postmodernism and Anime: A brief introduction to postmodern techniques anime tends to use, and then discussion of some anime particularly notable for their use of it.
  • Saturday:
    • 10:00 – 11:00 a.m., Panel 206: Tengen Toppa Evangelion: Aim for the Top!: Traces the use of repeated motifs and themes across four decades of Gainax mecha anime, from Gunbuster to Evangelion to Gurren Lagann to Rebuild. (Not on the schedule at the moment due to an error, but AB panel department assures me it’ll be added before the con.)
    • 9:00 – 10:00 p.m., Public Garden: Reading Too Much Into The Slayers: If you’ve been following my posts on the show…. yeah, that.
  • Sunday:
    • 1:00 – 2:30 p.m., Panel 208: Big Eyes, Small Mouth: The Anime RPG: Take 2! The audience participation segment at AUSA was a flop, so I took it out in favor of more storytime and just walking through making a character.

A few thoughts regarding Slayers Evolution-R

I’m rewatching the classic 90s fantasy-comedy anime The Slayers for a panel at Anime Boston next month. I’ve just finished the fifth and final season, called Slayers Evolution-R. Here’s a handful of incoherent thoughts likely to show up in some form in the panel:

  • The first four episodes of Evolution-R pretty much fill the role of the four episodes o’ loosely connected nonsense that start off the second half of each of the first three seasons. Taken as such, they are far and away the best such run. Particularly great are the second episode, involving a Dullahan conference that’s played like a typical Japanese professional get-together and quite possibly the greatest concept the show has introduced since dragon chefs, and the fourth, which instead of the traditional and not particularly funny Gourry And Possibly Other People Crossdress schtick, is instead a massive and massively funny parody of soap operas.
  • There’s also Nama, who is of course Naga, and they play a lot with blatant hints both that she is Naga and that Naga is Amelia’s long-missing older sister. Other than one scene where Amelia describes her wonderful father and Naga describes her terrible father, both of which are recognizably Prince Phil, it’s all very boring and fanservice-y. Which, at least, is better than the usual sense in which Naga is fanservice-y?
  • After that we get into the meat of the story with a mini-arc involving Zuuma and Ozzel. There’s lots more grotesquerie here, of course, such as Zuuma’s Mazoku arms, the delightfully hideous Gduza and Dugld, and Ozzel’s aforementioned status as a doll.
  • Also here in the Zuuma mini-arc is where a theme that’s been building up since the beginning of Revolution comes into view, that of unintended consequences:
    • In the first episode of Revolution, Lina is hunting pirates because she’s killed so many bandits they’re getting hard to find.
    • Pokota’s crusade against the magic tanks gets exploited by Wizer to draw in Lina to use against Gioconda, leading to her learning about the Hellmaster’s Jar and thus being available for Rezo’s self-destructive scheme.
    • Gioconda’s quest for wealth unleashed Zanaffar on Ruginavald and Seyruun.
    • Lina’s bandit-killing and conflict with Copy Rezo led to the death of the bandits that killed Radock’s wife, robbing him of his revenge and leading to him becoming Zuuma with the goal of destroying her.
    • The gang’s attempts to follow the recipes provided by the “senile” spirit of Rezo led to the healing of a great number of people in the village.
    • Rezo’s quest to restore his sight led to a great many people healed as a side effect, but also led him to transform Zelgadis, deliberately subject Taforashia to an epidemic, and seal Taforashia.
    • Rezo’s creation of Ozzel as a servant and his own ambivalence about resurrection led to her developing a personality and will of her own.
    • Lina’s defeat of Shabranigdo led to his and Rezo’s spirits being bound together in the Hellmaster’s Jar.
    • Potoka’s quest to restore his kingdom led to the permanent loss of his human form and resurrection of the “ghost” Shabranigdo.
  • As I mentioned last time, in many ways the character Pokota most resembles is Zelgadis, and here we see both their stories end in the same place: neither can ever become human again, but both find people who accept them as they are and families of a sort.
  • Given that channeling the Giga Slave through a magic sword is basically just the Ragna Blade, you can make a case that this is the first time Lina successfully cast the Giga Slave. Fitting as a place to end the series, as it is the magical achievement of a lifetime, even beating out the fusion magic from Try.
  • This season pandered to fans of the old series a lot with stuff like Nama, constant references to the first season, the heavy Lina/Gourry shipping in the fourth episode, and the use of “Give a Reason” in the final battle. On the other hand, it was very funny and had great action, and what more do you want from The Slayers?

A few thoughts regarding Slayers Revolution

I’m rewatching the classic 90s fantasy-comedy anime The Slayers for a panel at Anime Boston next month. I’ve just finished the fourth season, called Slayers Revolution. Here’s a handful of incoherent thoughts likely to show up in some form in the panel:

  • I remember being somewhat disappointed in Revolution when it first came out, but watching it directly on the heels of Try? Once you get past the jarring shift from traditional animation to CGI, it’s so much better.
  • Potoka is kind of interesting as a character because he’s clearly a hybrid of the four main characters: a hot-tempered magical powerhouse like Lina; wields the (replica) Sword of Light like Gourry; royalty like Amelia; transformed into a strange creature by Rezo like Zelgadis.
  • The character he’s most like personality-wise is definitely Lina though, while storywise he most closely resembles Zelgadis: he’s briefly an antagonist who draws Lina into the plot before allying with her, he’s very focused on his quest, and most of the more serious elements of the season have to do with him in some way–all statements true of Zelgadis way back in the first season.
  • Wizer, on the other hand, is rather Xellos-like: a pleasant demeanor hiding a scheming, gleaming stainless steel bear trap of a mind. He prefers observing to getting his hands dirty, takes pleasure in trolling people, and will never ask for help when he can trick you into helping instead. I really enjoy his and Xellos’ occasional scenes where they sort of bond over the shared experience of being the hypercompetent middle management and sometime elite field agents of their respective organizations.
  • They do an impressive job of weaving together characters and storyline elements from unrelated novels into a coherent plot, too. Well done.
  • And most blessedly of all after Try, it’s back to being a comedy series that occasionally touches on surprisingly deep pain or has an impressive action sequence, a register that just works much better with these characters.
  • Seyruun’s military (and, earlier, the pirates, though it’s not mentioned in dialogue at that point) has “Jillas cannons.” I love the idea that Jillas introduced firearms to the “inner world” behind the Mazoku Barrier and is now famous for it.
  • “Ozzel” is “Rezo” backwards, sort of. In a Japanese accent but using Romanji instead of Japanese characters (I’m guessing “Rezo” was probably treated as a foreign word/name and spelled in katakana, but I don’t actually know) it is. Anyway, I can’t remember whether I noticed that on my first watch or if it’s pointed out somewhere next season or what.
  • 13 episodes actually works pretty well as a season length for this show; it forces a brisk pace where even the one-off sillinesses inform the overarching plot–for example, the episode with chimerae made from people’s pets is also our first understanding what Wizer is trying to accomplish and how he’s doing it, as well as the first mention of Gioconda.
  • Odd coincidence: the main villain of the first arc of my Slayers d20 campaign was a warmongering duke building an army of golem tanks. The word being translated as “marquis” or “marquess” is koushaku, which is pronounced the same as the Japanese word for “duke or prince” (though it uses different kanji).
  • More on translating titles of nobility: the variations on the rank above earl and below duke in the English language–the equivalent to Meiji Japan’s koushaku–are a mess. The obvious assumption (which seems to be what the translators of Revolution did) is that “marquis” is the masculine and “marquess” the feminine term, like “count” and “countess” or “duke” and “duchess.” This is incorrect. Actually, “marquess” is a masculine title used only for British and Irish nobility, while “marquis” is the term for a nobleman of the same rank from a mainland European country. The equivalent feminine terms are “marchioness” if the noblewoman is from Britain/Ireland and “marquise” if from mainland Europe. So Gioconda’s actual title should be Marquise Gioconda.
  • So. Much. Grotesquerie!
    • You’ve got Pokota and Duclis being transformed from human into other (admittedly, Pokota is basically a Pokémon and Duclis is no more monstrous than Jillas, but it’s still distortion of their bodies).
    • A freaking living doll in Ozzel, including a head that still works after being unscrewed, arms that turn into blades, the puppet-on-strings way she sometimes moves…
    • You’ve got sentient armor that eats the wearer’s body and soul and eventually turns them into an unstoppable monster.
    • Pokota can unzip his stomach to store things in it. Yet it still demonstrably works as a stomach, including swelling comedically after he gorges himself.
    • Zanaffar gains people’s power and knowledge by eating them.
    • Duclis’ incomplete Zanaffar armor turns him from a snow leopard man into a snow leopard demon centaur.
  • And now, a brief moment of fanwank: The Sword of Light and its replica were effective on Zanaffar because its magic immunity works by shifting its astral body to the Overworld’s astral plane, and they’re based on Overworld sorcery. The Sword of Light didn’t work very well in the first season because (as Phibrizzo VERY briefly comments in Next) its power had been sealed at some point, until he unlocked it. The replica Sword of Light is possible because Darkstar isn’t actually completely dead–five tiny fragments of him remain in the five Darkstar weapons. (See also: Lost Universe. Or don’t, it’s eminently skippable.) That’s also why the weapons worked against him in the climax of Try: while casting a Mazoku’s own spell against them normally does nothing, the Darkstar weapons are part of Darkstar, and thus enable the use of his power against other parts of him. This is foreshadowing the climax of next season: sorcery drawing on a particular Mazoku can be used against that Mazoku, if and only if some part of the Mazoku wants it to work.
  • The title of this series is rather a misnomer. There is no revolution. Quite the opposite: Zanaffar was created for purposes of fighting a revolution against the gods and Mazoku, and Lina rejects it on the grounds that she personally is already an independent nation (unstated: population 2, herself and Gourry) and Zanaffar just wants to set itself up as a replacement god. Which is true–unlike Valgaav, who sought true revolution, Zanaffar’s pseudorevolutionary purpose is to recreate the existing system with itself at the top. Still, this means Lina is once again defending the status quo on the grounds that she personally is comfortable, so what’s everyone else complaining about?

A few thoughts regarding Slayers Try

I’m rewatching the classic 90s fantasy-comedy anime The Slayers for a panel at Anime Boston next month. I’ve just finished the third season, called Slayers Try. Here’s a handful of incoherent thoughts likely to show up in some form in the panel:

  • This has much stronger and more realistic characterization than the first two seasons.
  • It’s also way, way less funny.
  • Oddly, even though this is the one season that isn’t even loosely based on any of the novels, it comes the closest to the novel characterizations, especially with Xellos, who is way more of a sadist than a trickster here.
  • That’s why it’s less funny: most of the humor in the novels comes from Lina’s narration rather than the characters, but the show lacks that narration, so it exaggerates the characters for humor instead. Lose that exaggeration, and you lose most of the jokes.
  • So what you end up with is an attempt at serious fantasy-drama about ethnic hatred and genocide with the occasional weirdly out-of-place joke. It just fundamentally doesn’t work.
  • But still, good characterization! Valgaav is easily the best antagonist in the series–he has an actual motivation beyond teh evulz!
  • Unfortunately it really can’t handle the themes it’s biting off, so you end up with the (hopefully unintentional) implication that you shouldn’t be like Valgaav and angry that someone SLAUGHTERED YOUR ENTIRE CULTURE AND THEN LIED ABOUT WHY THEY DID IT, you should be forgiving like Filia.
  • Hell, Lina herself endorses incremental (read: no) change as opposed to revolution. She directly lectures a victim of genocide about it. Admittedly, he’s trying to kill her at the time, but still. The show can handle moral ambiguity when it’s being silly; it can’t handle the plain truth that Valgaav is right from his perspective.
  • Because ultimately the hero is the defender of the status quo, which is to say the winners of history, the perpetrators of genocide. Any attempt by the victims to be anything other than victims will be cast as villainy, so they may as well embrace it and go full revolution–or, in 90s anime villain terms, “destroy everything so that it can be reborn.”
  • When I joke about getting to the point where my philosophy is basically that of a 90s anime villain, I’m mostly referencing Valgaav.
  • Ultimately the triumphant argument of our heroic main characters is “Well, we like things how they are, so we don’t care that our fun, happy world is built on the systematic extermination of your people, Valgaav. Fusion magic go!”
  • Yeah, fuck Try. Let’s move on.

A few thoughts regarding Slayers Next

I’m rewatching the classic 90s fantasy-comedy anime The Slayers for a panel at Anime Boston next month. I’ve just finished the second season, called Slayers NEXT. Here’s a handful of incoherent thoughts likely to show up in some form in the panel:

  • The first season was pretty good, but this is so much better
  • Next is more thematically coherent than the first season; for example, secrets and deceptions are major themes throughout, and show up even in the traditional four-episode silliness break just past the season midpoint:
    • In the first episode, Amelia is hiding her purpose in Xoana, while Martina and King Xoana are lying to Zelgadis about what’s in the Book of Xoana.
    • The second episode introduces Xellos, who is secrecy and manipulation incarnate. And also the best character in all of anime, just FYI.
    • The Atlas City mini-arc is ultimately about finding the Pledge Stone, which is hidden in plain sight from the first episode of the arc.
    • The Seyruun mini-arc, however, is when the deception really breaks out, from Phil’s faked death, to Alfred’s lie, to the misdirection about what the Mazoku are after, to Lina faking her own death, and of course the growing mysteries of increasing Mazoku involvement in human affairs and what’s going on with Xellos.
    • Then in said traditional four-episode silliness break, we have in rapid succession the lost book of spells that are really just dances and a mask-themed Mazoku, everybody disguising themselves as dolls to infiltrate the tower of a Mazoku that disguises herself as a doll, Xellos trolling Lina and Zelgadis with the racket-switching and the fake clue to the Claire Bible, and the City of Women Who Are All Actually Men–and it’s very likely that basically all of this is just Xellos leading them around to take out Gaav’s minions.
    • In the Claire Bible mini-arc we again have Auntie Aqua as a disguise for something much more powerful, plus the brief but very funny bit where she pretends to be Zoamulgustar, the revelation that dragons can take human form, the reveal of Xellos’ true nature and power (including cutting him open–twice!–to reveal that there’s nothing inside–his disguise is all he is), and of course Phibrizzo tricking everyone with his human form.
    • And then in the final arc we have the disguised Gourry, the false Sairaag, and the Giga Slave being a summoning rather than an attack, culminating in the Lord of Nightmares manifesting to look like Lina.
  • And of course Martina, who parodies the “obsession” theme that ran through most of the first series, and in particular is a ridiculous comedic version of the somewhat more serious (though still pretty funny–this is Slayers after all) Zangulus and Vrumugun from the first season.
  • Speaking of “somewhat more serious,” this season is way darker and more violent than the first, closer to the novels in tone, though still lighter than them. (Mostly because Xellos is more of a trickster in the TV series; in the equivalent novel stories he comes across as a sadist–anime!Xellos and novel!Xellos both enjoy confusion and pain, but anime!Xellos seems to prefer the former while novel!Xellos goes for the latter.) But there’s some seriously brutal violence on display here, much less cartoonish than the first series, especially once Gaav shows up.
  • It’s present with Sylphiel in the first season, but man does this series do grief astonishingly well for a light comedy. Here we have Amelia grieving over her father and Lina grieving over Gourry, and all three are consistent with how real people deal with grief while also being idiosyncratic to the particular character.
  • Holy shit is the music good. Not just “Give A Reason”–though that is undeniably one of the classic anime OPs–but the background music in the episodes as well. The last three episodes in particular–near as I can tell, they are fully scored with unique music that did not appear prior in the series, and it’s really good. I think my favorite is the way the music kept hinting all season at the rising triplets that served as a leitmotif for the Dragon Slave in season 1, but never quite playing it, the closest being the harder, minor-key version which was played for the Giga Slave in the first season and the Ragna Blade this season–until finally at the climax of ep 51 it bursts out in all its glory when Lina finally casts the Giga Slave again.

A few thoughts regarding The Slayers

I’m rewatching the classic 90s fantasy-comedy anime The Slayers for a panel at Anime Boston next month. I’ve just finished the first season, called simply The Slayers. Here’s a handful of incoherent thoughts likely to show up in some form in the panel:

  • This holds up really well in a lot of respects
  • The extensive use of flashbacks as an excuse to reuse footage is emphatically not one of them.
  • Neither are the repeated riffs on “Hey, did you know Lina’s a girl and yet also the main character of a shounen anime series, despite being a girl who has girl parts?” The whole “loses her power on her period” plot point is the epitome of these, thankfully it never shows up for the rest of the series.
  • Still, there’s a lot of good stuff here. The first arc does a really good job of introducing Lina, Gourry, and Zelgadis, and establishing their core roles:
    • Lina is the shounen hero (smart variant), basically Ed Elric with boobs: she’s extremely good at combat magic, thinks on her feet, selfish, compassionate when she remembers to be, has a vicious temper, a particularly short fuse related to body image issues, and kind of a nerd about her field of expertise.
    • Gourry is smarter than he initially appears, extremely cunning, massively skilled at physical tasks, very observant, lazy, and completely ignorant about and uninterested in anything to do with magic, monsters, history, or geography–precisely the areas Lina is most knowledgeable about and therefore, in classic nerd fashion, considers the only things worth knowing about.
    • Zelgadis is the most morally ambiguous of a morally ambiguous bunch. He’s as quick to cold anger as Lina is to hot, vengeful, ruthless, cunning, and mercenary–but he takes no pleasure in harming people and doesn’t like those who do.
  • The second arc introduces its major themes in fairly innocuous episodes: “the most powerful spell is useless if you don’t know when to use it and when not,” for instance, is a major unstated element of the final battle with Copy Rezo, what with him trying to force Lina into using the Giga Slave, and in the end all the attack spells and magic weapons the Slayers threw at him just got him into the right position for a well-timed Recovery.
  • Another major theme of the second arc is the grotesque, which of course is an element in both fantasy and comedy. It’s foreshadowed with Zelgadis in the first arc, and possibly Lina–after all, she is a woman as shonen main character, and genderswap is a form of carnivalization.
  • But in the second arc we have a ton of it: chimera monsters, Vrumugun’s constant return from the dead/replacement with more copies, Copy Rezo himself, and ultimately the Rezo-Zanaffar monster. (Those mouths in his hands are very creepy, especially when they start chittering spells!)
  • And the grotesque is a source of power–note that the two “grotesque” main characters, Lina and Zelgadis, are significantly more powerful than Amelia, Gourry, and Sylphiel.
  • Which makes sense for parody, given that the grotesque is basically a parody of the body.
  • Interestingly, however, the show ultimately rejects the grotesque: it is an act of healing that resolves the final conflict of the season, and next season the villains will in general be more powerful the less grotesque they appear. Still, its fascination with the concept will continue with a lot dismemberment, and then in the third season the idea of the grotesque as a source of power will be back with a vengeance, quite literally.