A random discussion about magic

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There's no time for a long debate

This might end up being a random tirade, but let’s see where it goes. Let’s talk a bit about magic. In fiction, magic is a concept that can take many different forms, as it loosely refers to any phenomenon that wouldn’t occur in the natural world. I know it might sound strange coming from someone as heavily science-minded as I am, but I truly think that fiction is the perfect medium for exploring the bounds of what’s possible in reality. Needless to say, I watch and read a lot of fantasy stories.

Trying too hard to sound significant

What I’m really trying to get at with this post is along the lines of how I prefer to see magic used in a story. To be clear, I’m not saying there’s a right way to do it. I’m no expert, after all. Given how we approach scientific investigation, it’s probably tempting to say that a series must always explain the mechanisms behind its magic, but I don’t think it’s quite so simple.

Glenn claims to be an expert

That’s not to say that a complicated magical system can’t be interesting. Many series that involve magical academies tend to leverage this idea. A show like Rokudenashi Majutsu Koushi to Akashic Records relies on this fact, as the main character, Glenn, breaks many social magic conventions in order to optimize his spells. Discovering what kind of spells can be cast in this system is part of what makes a show like that interesting.

Shiro thinks you're too negative

In contrast, xxxHOLiC is one of my favorite shows of all time, and it has a magic system that I find confusing. However, I don’t think this fact is particularly important, because the main point of the story is to show that the supernatural doesn’t solve all problems. The series revolves around the concept of destiny or inevitability, and emphasizes the sacrifice required to get what you want with magic.

The siren goes off

If I were to truly distill my opinion down, I think I just prefer that magic feels as natural as possible in the world that’s being presented. My views tend to focus more on how the concept relates to the plot rather than how much it’s built. In Spice and Wolf, Holo can transform into a giant wolf to solve most of Lawrence’s problems, but doing so exposes her to persecution from the Church. The fact that she can’t do so lightly forces the main characters to approach problems realistically while using magic as an absolute last resort.

Bocchi is being suspicious again

Where I think this can go wrong is in a series like Clannad, specifically in Clannad: After Story. While the series does a lot of things well, it has a minor supernatural element that’s never truly addressed until the very end. And when it does, the magical element appears to completely save the day, without any real provocation. As a result, it gives the impression that it exists only to create a better ending, which has always bothered me.

Anne gets it all wrong

Well, that ended up being a lot longer than I expected, but that’s all I have for now. Be sure to let me know how you feel about magic in anime. What do you like to see from fantasy or supernatural shows? Also, feel free to let me know if I’m just being overly nitpicky again. I deserve it.


Spring 2019 Grab Bag Week 9: Mayonaka no Occult Koumuin

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Ryo is scared of his dreams

Mayonaka no Occult Koumuin Episode 9

This series really knows how to come out of left field, but I think this episode had an interesting concept behind it. The episode had a sense of slowness in the beginning, but I liked the idea of dropping Arata in a completely different group. I think it might have been better if the series built up to its shock ending more, but I’m curious to see how it plays out.

No one thinks about what Anothers think

While I don’t have a problem believing that many people would think this way, I find it hard to accept that it’s as systemic a problem as the show presents. I say this having taken classes on animal behavior in school. Anothers seem much more interesting than a sleeping lion. Maybe the series is trying to make the point that government officials don’t care.

Arata defends the Anothers

I like how Arata explains his position here. The fact that he understands an Another’s motivations doesn’t imply that he agrees with it. It’s a nice mentality, and it gets at how I tend to approach discourse. Rather than labeling them as monsters, Arata can at least see their intentions.

The Another is surprised to meet Arata

On a side note, I did think that the Another in the episode was cool on its own. I think the concept of playing tag in a dream works well. A childish Another is also a good way to introduce the concept of a being who causes harm without necessarily knowing any better.

Arata can't understand

I get the vague sense that this whole encounter is going to be made “okay” later in the story. I suspect that the guy who eliminated the Another has some painful history with Anothers that motivates him to take drastic measures. I’m not a fan of that direction, but I can see it happening. The reason I’m largely against that is that I like how Arata takes his power for granted. It makes sense that the other government workers can’t make the same assumptions that he does, which makes for a valid point of discussion.

Fruits Basket Episode 9: The imposing ox

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Haru is in bike mode

Apparently, the French Open was not as much of a delay tactic as I was hoping. It certainly looked like this episode was introducing a new character, but it seems to have been progress for Yuuki all along. I guess we’re back to slowly moving through the other zodiac animals at this point. At this point, we only have so much time left in the series, so I can understand that. Or does it? Is there supposed to be more than one cour for this series? That would be nice.

Kyou is ready for a showdown

I found Kyou’s reasoning in this episode pretty interesting. I definitely expected him to be the type of person who wouldn’t accept a victory against a weakened Yuuki. But instead, he just rationalizes it away while making a joke about the typical view of “idiots and colds”. It’s certainly different, if a bit unsettling.

Tohru isn't sure what to do

Weekly reminder that Tohru is an excellent protagonist.

Dark Haru arrives

Haru’s kind of a weird character for me. He bears too much similarity to Kyou and Kagura when it comes to personality, so it’s hard for me to see him as a someone separate. However, his backstory is excellent in this episode, and I really liked how he was introduced.

Yuuki collapses

This scene has me curious. It’s reasonable for Yuuki to succumb to his illness, but Haru’s reaction makes it seem like it’s unrelated to the illness. Is it another part of being a zodiac animal or does Yuuki have another hidden element to his past? It certainly seems to be the latter, and the episode suggests that it has to do with Akito.

Haru talks about being the ox

As I mentioned before, I thought that Haru’s backstory was great. I liked the idea that his child self imprinted on the idea of being the ox and internalized insults towards the ox as a result. It’s a nice demonstration of why it’s important to watch your words, especially around children who might not know better.

Yuuki is embarrassed

The cow scenes with Haru in this episode were hilarious, but my favorite animal scene from this episode was the blushing rat at the end.

Dororo Episode 21: A familiar flaming horse

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Dororo spots some soldiers

The hard times are not getting any easier. This series has an interesting sense of subdued drama to it. Normally, you’d expect to see heavy, over-the-top screaming in these fights, but the main encounter goes along at a reasonable pace. It’s definitely hard to see Hyakkimaru falling deeper and deeper towards a more feral side, given how much we’ve seen him grow. It makes me wonder if we’re just headed towards more tragedy at this point.

Daigo sacrifices some villages

I suppose this is the weekly reminder that Daigo’s land is suffering. I’m curious to see how they’ll resolve this, but this certainly has been the main moral dilemma of the series. Daigo cruelly cuts off the villages that are infected by the epidemic, and it’s not like any of those villagers played a part in his decision. Or did they?

Dororo tries to stop Hyakkimaru

I understand why Dororo pushes to stop Hyakkimaru from fighting his family, but it’s still kind of a hard choice. I can’t fault Hyakkimaru for wanting a normal body. That being said, Dororo watched her parents die, so it’s reasonable for her to not want Hyakkimaru to go through that. Also, it’s clear at this point that Hyakkimaru is losing his way, so she surely want to help him.

The mother is worried

This was an odd scene for me. It’s reasonable for Hyakkimaru’s mother to worry about her sons and curse her own powerlessness in the matter. However, this seems to be the first time I recall seeing her act genuinely concerned for Tahoumaru. Where was this before?

Hyogo and Mutsu join Tahoumaru to face Hyakkimaru

Showing Hyogo and Mutsu’s past in this episode doesn’t bode well for their futures. They seem to have gotten out of this fight with their lives, but Mutsu is looking pretty dim in this scene. Is this just a function of their relative resolve to fight Hyakkimaru? Or is Mutsu facing another problem entirely?

Hyakkimaru faces off against Tahoumaru

To be completely honest, I liked the last fight between Tahoumaru and Hyakkimaru more than this one. That being said, this fight was still pretty impressive. The camera largely centers on the two as they face off, and there’s a clear progression of moves in the fight itself.

Hyakkimaru is pushed off the cliff

The random intervention at the end seemed a bit overboard, though. I get that Daigo instructs that guy to watch over Tahoumaru, but the character itself seems to come out of nowhere. Anyway, I look forward to seeing Hyakkimaru ride in on a flaming horse next week. If he does it, that certainly won’t be a good sign, since he typically kills demons without prejudice.

Kimetsu no Yaiba Episode 9: Enhanced dodgeball

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The house was hidden with Blood Demon Arts

This week’s episode felt oddly stretched, as though time was being padded for some reason. The large flashback in the episode felt unnecessary, and I got the sense that Tanjirou was going through too much effort to explain battle circumstances (rather than just strategy). The series also seems to be showing its shounen colors more with the “12 generals” that Tanjirou apparently has to defeat now. That being said, the fights themselves were mostly cool, even if the heroes were largely on the back foot.

Yushirou loses his head

I feel like I should make a joke about the angry guy losing his head. Yushirou’s happened pretty quickly, so it was hard to react to it. The episode definitely made it look more serious than it was. Additionally, I think replaying this scene later in the episode was kind of overkill.

The building couldn't fully be concealed

It also seemed to play into a general theme of demonic regeneration in this episode, which seems to be at least some indicator of strength. I think it might be interesting if Nezuko’s slow regeneration is a recurring theme even if she continues to get stronger. It would make sense given that she doesn’t eat humans.

Tanjirou faces off against the temari

For the most part, I liked seeing how the main characters interacted with the temari in this episode. The movements they used to dodge them generally looked nice. However, I think it was fairly obvious in this scene that the camera was zooming out to make the CG harder to see. I suppose it helps, but it’s not hard to notice.

Yushirou gives Tanjirou a vision upgrade

I think it’s funny that Tanjirou gets enhanced vision in combination with his sense of smell. It makes me curious how much Yushirou will be contributing in future episodes. His abilities seem to compliment Tanjirou’s abilities well.

Tanjirou remembers a conversation

Hey, this scene looks familiar. I suppose you could be pardoned for replaying this lengthy explanation, but the episode makes it worse by following it with a copy of the scene that was immediately preceding it. I understand that commercial breaks happen, but this flashback should have covered that.

Tanjirou's moves are weakened

Let’s be reasonable here. Did we really need to know this? I feel like saying that the arrows are messing up Tanjirou’s timing should get the point across, so this is once again excessive. It almost feels like the audience is being talked down to at this point.

Bungou Stray Dogs Episode 33: Let them fight

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The president is attacked at night

It looks like it’s finally time for Fyodor to make his move, and it was a big one. He seems to bring an interesting mental aspect to the series, which really allows Dazai to shine. He’s engineered a massive battle between the Armed Detective Agency and the Port Mafia, which I’m looking forward to seeing (if it actually happens). It’s been a long time since I’ve seen many of these characters in action, so it should be fun.

A string of attacks on gifted people

I think the idea of having the leaders of each organization attacked to spark conflict between them is great, but I did have a thought on it. Specifically with the president of the Armed Detective Agency, he generally doesn’t contribute to the story anyway. So, it’s like the story is taking out a character that wouldn’t otherwise do anything, and I don’t know how I feel about that.

The masked figure is revealed

I probably should have remembered Nathaniel from the last season, but I had another small nitpick to add here. We established in Fyodor’s introduction that his ability doesn’t allow him to control his target’s mind. Instead, he does that naturally. So, I think it would have been more impactful if Nathaniel had been truly convinced to help get rid of the gifted users. It could still be the case, but I don’t like how mind-broken he looks in this episode.

Fyodor is searching for the book

I’ll be honest. I’m a little skeptical about Fyodor’s plan here. Don’t get me wrong. His personality makes complete sense given the author he’s based on, but his ultimate vision could use some work. The whole “purge the gifted” thing isn’t the most inspiring goal. How big was his organization again?

Fyodor uses a virus to infect the leaders

Watching Dazai and Fyodor play chess with each other was great, but the episode could have given a little bit more explanation for this virus bit. Fyodor mysteriously says that it would end poorly if Dazai touched the virus, but that doesn’t really add up given what we know. Why wouldn’t it just work? Sure, it’s probably almost impossible to find them, but Fyodor makes it sound like there would be some backlash.

The Armed Detective Agency mobilizes

This fight is looking pretty epic so far. I think it’s funny that they cut the episode after Chuuya asks whether the fight will be one-on-one or all-out. I’m kind of wondering that myself.

Carole & Tuesday Episode 8: The tournament begins

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Angela meets her new manager

I’m surprised that this singing competition to be such an extended arc. I guess I’ve gotten used to the one-shot nature of the girls’ previous ventures. I’m looking forward to seeing how they’ll grow from this. I’m still thinking it’s too early for them to win, but it sounds like we can get a lot out of this endeavor.

Tuesday meets a fan

I’m not sure what to make of Cybelle so far. I think it’s funny that Tuesday has her own stalker right now, but I get the sense that Cybelle exists to cause trouble for the main pair. However, I don’t know how that’s going to happen when Cybelle is currently pit up against Angela in the first round. My assumption has been that Angela is meant to win this competition, so it seems like a death sentence.

Pyotr just wants some followers

Pyotr has an insufferable personality, but his performance was surprisingly entertaining. I get that he’s meant to be a stereotype and all, but it’s absurdly hard to listen to him talk. It should be interesting to see how the girls deal with him, I suppose. He seems a lot more formidable than their first opponent.

The girls write songs without AI

This point still feels like the weirdest side point. I understand that it’s hard to realistically represent what a world of AI-generated music would sound like, but it would be nice to have some idea of what’s different. From what we’ve seen so far, I think the judge is right to call them out on that being their hook, because it almost seems like a gimmick.

OGBulldog is not a gang member

Compared to past performances, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Carole and Tuesday’s song in this episode. Granted, I don’t like opera music at all, so I think it was better than OGBulldog’s performance. It’s not surprising from a story perspective, since it gives the two room to improve throughout the competition. But then again, that’s just my take on it.

Angela doesn't like their song

I’m happy to see Angela confronting Carole and Tuesday, though. This is pretty much the interaction I expected them to have, since it establishes that the two are now aware of each other. With how much the story contrasts them, it should put things into a better perspective.

A random question: Anime gaps in knowledge

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Shiro is not amused

It’s been a while since I did something random, so I thought I’d give it a shot. I often feel like I’m just standing in front of a podium and shouting stuff out, so I wanted to pose a question instead (because interaction is fun, right?). Here’s hoping this isn’t the worst idea. In your anime viewing experience, what do you feel is the weirdest gap in your viewing habits?

Should Arata answer seriously?

Now, I don’t mean to imply that any good anime fan should be watching everything. I personally think I watch a lot, but I know that I still don’t get anywhere close to seeing it all (and that’s part of the fun). So, what I’m really trying to get at is something like this: what’s a subset of anime (whether it’s genre, medium, or any other arbitrary category) do you feel you’re maybe missing out on?

Hard pass

To give an example, I feel like many people might respond with something like “older shows” or even “airing shows”. Personally, I think I’d go with “movies” instead, since I feel like it’s a bit weirder that I somehow have no patience for them. Honestly, anything longer than the standard 24 minutes can be hard for me to start. I don’t have a great explanation. It’s just something that happens.

Amane questions what is normal

It’s probably sad for me to admit this, but one of the reasons that I’ve never watched Re:Zero is the fact that the first episode was a double-length episode (please, have mercy). Kind of silly, right? Anyway, it’s something that I hope to get better about, but I also think it’s just a fun realization.

So, what are your own personal gaps? I feel like this is similar to when there’s a piece of general knowledge that you’ve just never learned (such as how to use a screwdriver or something).

Spring 2019 Grab Bag Week 8: Kono Oto Tomare

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Chika can play the koto freely at home

Kono Oto Tomare Episode 8

This series has some rough competition in this season, but I’ve still been finding it fun. One thing I’ve been finding interesting in the series is how it seems to intersperse its character stories. The beginning of the series was largely focused on Chika, but that’s largely shifted after the club’s first performance together. Takezou and Satowa are thrown into the mix, and each character seems to get touched on in the episode.

Chika rejects Satowa's offer to eat lunch together

I’m really enjoying watching Chika and Satowa’s relationship. The two are becoming a great pair, with Satowa inspiring Chika and Chika conversely supporting Satowa from the shadows. This scene where Chika refuses to eat lunch with Satowa is a nice one, as he subtly pushes her towards making new friends outside of the koto club. I’m looking forward to seeing where this couple goes.

Hiro makes amends

I was a bit skeptical when Hiro (Kurusu) showed up, but her story came around well. I also like that she contributed to Satowa’s growing comfort in the club in addition to her own story, despite trying to do the opposite. While I’d still probably have trouble forgiving her despite seeing her past, I’m glad that there was more to her. She doesn’t get much of a scene in this episode, but I liked that she commits to making amends despite the personal cost.

Chika finds out about his grandfather's song

Honestly, I think Chika’s insecurities surrounding his grandfather’s koto have been a bit overplayed. It’s not that I don’t understand his worries, but I feel like the series doesn’t have to dwell on it so much. Just let him play his special koto already, right?

The girls arrive for a challenge

With the arrival of Kazusa, I guess we’re finally diving deeper into the koto part of this series. It was only a matter of time. I’m curious to see how that will affect the koto club. The preview for next week’s episode implies that they will be motivated to change their goal of just aiming for nationals.

Takezou fails his exam

Takezou’s story pops up at the strangest moments. That aside, I think he’s interesting so far. His personal trepidation makes sense given his failure to get into his preferred school, so I’m looking forward to seeing how he’ll grow from it. We’ve already seen him acting as a solid leader for the club, despite his own rejection of that idea.

Fruits Basket Episode 8: New Year’s with family

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Tohru has no plans for New Year's

At this point, this series is just a constant feels trip, and I don’t have a problem with that. I liked that this episode was mainly focused on developing Tohru, and expanding the relationship Kyo and Yuuki have with her. They’re really coming together as a strong main group. I don’t know what drama is in store for them, but I’m glad that these kinds of developments are happening before they start going.

Tohru stays at the Souma residence for New Year's

I think the most surprising part of this episode for me was that this was the first New Year’s she was experiencing without her mother. Maybe it’s something that has been mentioned before, but her generally cheerful attitude makes it seem like something she’s long gotten over. That small reminder in this episode is a great way of framing the episode.

Kyo is not allowed to attend the main event

The Souma New Year’s celebration itself was a surprise as well. The event definitely seemed like something a character like Tohru would normally crash. It would be a chance for her to finally meet the rest of the family, but it’s pretty much skipped.

Hana gives Kyou and Yuuki a push

What I found interesting about this episode was the fact that Hana and Uo didn’t leave their families to be with Tohru. Perhaps it’s just meant to indicate that they have a stronger familial connection than Kyou and Yuuki, but I thought it was a bit odd that they instead pushed the Soumas to join Tohru. Given that the boys needed push in the first place, maybe the girls were just giving them a chance to grow closer to Tohru.

Tohru is in danger of choking

It’s a small part of the episode, but I do like the extended joke of Tohru choking on mochi in this episode. It’s something that really suits her character, and it’s a fun inside joke at this point in the episode.

The three see the sunrise together

I’m curious to see if this episode is setting something up. Shigure has a minor comment in the episode about Akito reaping what is sowed, which indicates where his true support lies. If Akito flies into a rage at Yuuki for not attending the family dinner, it would make sense for that anger to be directed at Tohru.