Click here to check this post out on my personal website.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.