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.

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Spring 2019 Grab Bag Week 6: Kenja no Mago

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The first victim is taken

Kenja no Mago First Impressions (1-5)

If any show is going to prove how much of a sucker I am for entertaining facial expressions, it’s going to be this one. I’m not going to lie. I started watching for them. The series as a whole is a lot to wade through, but I still think it’s been fun to watch. It follows Shin Wolford, a reincarnated Japanese man who is raised by the legendary sage of his new world.

Shin's ability is explained

The running joke of the series is that Shin grows up in a largely sheltered environment, which leaves him with absolutely no common sense. Effectively, that makes him a typical isekai protagonist (who must learn about the new world around him) with the training of a native-born inhabitant. It’s not a terrible combination, but it certainly raises some questions.

Shin uses a gate to link two places

Shin’s advantages as a reincarnated human aren’t explicitly called out, but he seems to benefit from a general understanding of science from his old world. It allows him to better understand how the magic of his new world is manipulating the laws of physics. Honestly, I think that’s not a bad way to do it, but I feel like that aspect of him gets glossed over a lot.

Seeing the wise man

In fact, I’d almost argue that this effect is pretty common for this series. It might just be a product of being a light novel adaptation, but I definitely feel like events in the story are dragging the audience along. Things just kind of happen, and it’s almost like we’re expected to just accept them and move on.

Shin's words are understandable

That being said, I’ve enjoyed Shin’s interactions with his classmates so far. He doesn’t really lord over them, and he’s quick to share his understanding of magic when he can. It remains to be seen how they’ll develop as a result, but I don’t get the sense that Shin is explicitly hiding things from them.

Schtrom is alive

As a result, I don’t get as much of a sense that people are keeping secrets just to up the drama in the series. I got a similar feeling when the series addressed Schtrom. It doesn’t make a big mystery of whether he’s dead. Shin concludes that he’s alive and justifies it.

Time to go to war

I get the feeling that the series might try to dodge this, but I’d be interested to see how Shin handles a war. As long as he doesn’t end up being an unstoppable war machine, it could give his friends room to shine.

Fairy Gone Episode 6: Seems to be balancing many threads

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History lesson in progress

As I started to mention last week, I still get the feeling that I’m wringing information out of this series where I can. This week’s episode seems to start out by suddenly shifting the focus over to these 5 dukes, none of whom we really know except Ray Dawn. I’m waiting for the moment when it all clicks together, but there’s no clear schedule like with Boogiepop.

Another mysterious death of a duke

I’m guessing I should take note of the fact that the dukes seem to be rebelling against the prime minister Golbarn shortly before their deaths. From the introduction, it sounded like Golbarn gave away the title of emperor, implying that he was the previous emperor who lost the war. So, it’s weird that he seems to have an important position. Shouldn’t it be more overtly suspicious that his former allies are betraying him?

The artificial fairies go out of control

I’m actually incredibly interested in the concept of an “artificial” fairy. Are they just armor or inanimate objects possessed by fairies? Or are they robots designed to exhibit characteristics similar to fairies? The fact that they are controlled with whistles makes me think they’re sentient, but so far, they kind of just exist in the world.

Marlya teams up with Klara

It’s kind of anticlimactic to find out that the previous Black Fairy Tome page was a fake. This week’s episode was interesting for pushing Marlya into teaming up with a different character, but it almost felt like Klara was just there to look tough. We also see a bit of her past, as a victim of the war, which makes me stand by my statement from last week. That flashback definitely could have been placed in the conversation last week, and it would have made more contextual sense.

Sweetie misses the train

I’m still curious to see how the factions will continue to play into the story. It’s fun to see familiar characters from the various groups all making a mad dash for the same objective. Maybe there’s some hidden meaning behind which characters show up in any given encounter. That would be a cool reveal.

The duke finds out about the malfunction

If I remember correctly, the Duke of Hybranz was talking with Wolfram in the previous episode. Wolfram has been shown to have ties to some form of illegal artificial fairy trade, so it would make sense that the duke would have some nefarious tie to a malfunctioning artificial fairy. I’m happy to see that sense of consistency in the series. Now what does it mean?

Fairy Gone Episode 5: The old days are lost

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Veronica's life is bright

This series seems to be slowing down a bit and fleshing out its characters, but it still seems pretty shallow so far. I think I’ve got a better handle of what’s been bugging me about the series. It doesn’t seem to waste time explaining what people are thinking or expanding on a given situation. Normally, this would be okay, but I don’t get the sense that the series has equipped me well enough to fill in the blanks. Maybe I’m just dense, but it’s the feeling I’ve gotten.

Marlya wonders if she causes disaster

I do like the contrast at the beginning of the episode, but I have to point out that it’s a trick that the series has done already with Marlya. Still, I like the idea that Veronica lost her bright, happy life, while Marlya already had her own doubts.

Veronica confronts Ray

I’m not sure if I’m supposed to draw this conclusion, but doesn’t Ray Dawn look like the guy who was taking care of Marlya? There’s no clear link, so I’m not super confident, but they at least share basic appearances. Additionally, it might explain why Marlya’s a little bit more guarded about her past than Veronica is. Marlya might feel partly responsible for Veronica’s suffering.

Marlya burns the area

As I’ve mentioned before, this series is somewhat lacking in the fight monologues. As a result, I have no real sense of how strong the fairies are or even what kinds of abilities I’m supposed to expect from them. I don’t think I could properly explain the identifying trait of any fairies other than Marlya’s and Veronica’s. In this scene, I don’t even know if I understand why the fire works so well.

Free wins his fight

That being said, I think that Free’s fairy fight ended up being a lot more interesting. He seems to have the closest relationship to his fairy amongst the main cast, to the point where his fairy is more of an autonomous partner than servant. It’s fun to watch, and I guess it makes sense with his background as a soldier.

Wolfram addresses someone noble

The allegiances in this series are way too hard to track. I guess Wolfram has some connection to royalty or something? I thought he was part of the illegal artificial fairy trade. Am I supposed to conclude that he’s undercover or something? I honestly think he’d be a more intriguing character if he didn’t have a generic vengeance mentality. If he’s channeling his sorrow into helping maintain order, I might end up respecting him more.

A story about the director's past

I felt like this drinking party revealed less than it should have. Typically, a round of drinks should bring out the stories, but most of them seem to get cut off. Even the discussion about the director doesn’t seem to go anywhere. Just let me know who these people are…

Fairy Gone Episode 4: Old friends

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Sweetie taunts Free

If this series continues on with the general chaos of multiple organizations fighting for the Black Fairy Tome, I think things could end up working out. It’s interesting for me to see how the different groups interrelate, so I can follow along. That being said, I still think the series kind of forgets character points or somewhat shoves them into background a lot. As a result, I get the sense that information is annoyingly fragmented in ways I don’t think are necessary.

Sweetie's fairy reflects damage

I guess my main question for the episode is still Sweetie’s fairy. There’s no follow-up to the confusion from last week in this episode, and the issue is largely forgotten when she escapes. Her fairy’s power seems absurdly powerful, but the whole black mist makes it hard to see the fight. Additionally, there’s no confirmation about how she got the fairy, so I guess I’m meant to assume that she has an illegal organ implant similar to Free’s.

Free is skeptical about the Fairy Tome

I’d be more willing to believe Free’s skepticism here about the Black Fairy Tome if we hadn’t already experienced the dismissal of a fake page from the first episode. If it was so easy to call that page a fake, then the fakes are probably easily identified. So, I’m guessing this page is real…even if it makes the previous episode more confusing. What is this Damien guy playing at?

Free and Marlya are distracted by the odd pair

The significance of Jonathan’s theft in this scene seems lost by the fact that we don’t see it. We get the sense later in the episode that he’s a slippery guy, but I would have liked to see more of a hint of what was happening. It’s almost like you have to see more of Free’s reaction to understand what happened.

Free figures out the true target

I’m a bit worried about the fact that Patricia’s target isn’t the Black Fairy Tome. If she’s truly after Free, I have a bad feeling that Sweetie just wants to abduct Free out of some odd form of obsession. It makes her seem more like a jilted ex, which I think is a lot less interesting for a character trait.

Veronica shows up to save Marlya

I don’t actually mind how Veronica was set up throughout the episode. There’s a brief moment where we see her watching over Marlya while she’s recovering in bed, so this scene makes sense. The episode also has an unnatural focus on Marlya’s memories of Veronica, so this development plays into the idea that Veronica hasn’t truly changed as much as she claims. I think it works overall.

Fairy Gone Episode 3: Adding to the chaos

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Surviving Fairy Soldiers are few

While this week’s episode still had its disagreeable moments, I thought it was a lot better than the previous two episodes. It actually seemed like it was trying harder to explain the world, and I didn’t get the sense that it was bombarding me with action sequences. Additionally, we get a better explanation of the Black Fairy Tome, which is potentially less of a MacGuffin than it seems to be with the developments at the end of the episode.

Wolfran discusses his intentions

I feel like this series has an issue with restating things that it’s already established. From the previous episode, it’s not hard to guess that Wolfran’s wife and child were killed in the war, fueling his current endeavors. However, the episode starts by showing him as he figures this out. I’d be fine if it added something else to his background in the meantime, but I didn’t get that sense.

Free and Marlya learn about the Fairy Tome

I think the description of the Black Fairy Tome is a bit reminiscent of the “One Ring”, but it’s fairly interesting. We get a decent sense of why everyone wants to find it, and the episode seems to introduce multiple factions that are targeting it. Additionally, this comment about fairy possession implies that Marlya’s condition is somehow related to the Black Fairy Tome, which could be promising.

The tome is a trap

I’m not sure how to interpret this scene. It seems like Damien’s suggesting that he set up Axel’s robbery, which implies that he wouldn’t risk the real Black Fairy Tome page. Alternatively, he could just be saying that the implication about the Black Fairy Tome itself was meant to draw the attention of Arcame, Dorothea, and Gui Carlin. Either way, I find it hard to believe that they’re fighting over something legitimate.

Free confronts Sweetie

I do like the idea that Free’s past with Gui Carlin isn’t just a throwaway, and he’s legitimately confronted by Sweetie. Ridiculous names aside, the chaotic structure of the post-war world is interesting to see. We get a decent sense of the major powers that have cropped up in the aftermath.

Sweetie summons a fairy

Based on Free’s reaction here, I think it’s safe to assume that Sweetie shouldn’t have a fairy here. At the beginning of the episode, it’s suggested that the government keeps track of all known Fairy Soldiers, so he would presumably know that. If it turns out that Sweetie is fairy-possessed, that could have some cool implications for the Black Fairy Tome, so it’s my preferred interpretation. Alternatively, she could just have an implanted heart like Free, which probably gets closer to the artificial fairy production stuff that’s happening in the background.

Fairy Gone Episode 2: This seems familiar

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Marlya thinks she's unlucky

After spending the first episode reuniting the main character, Marlya, with her old friend only to have her escape, the second episode…basically does the same thing for Free. I guess that’s one way to do it. My opinion of the series is largely unchanged by this episode. I think the series is blazing forward with introducing its plot without taking a second to give the characters or the world any reasonable sense of focus. We’re introduced to various aspects of the world without any context, so it’s hard to tell what’s normal or taboo.

Free becomes a Fairy Soldier

That being said, I did like how Free and Marlya are contrasted at the start of the episode. Marlya sees the death around her as a form of bad luck, leaving her to suffer alone. Meanwhile, Free describes this same property as good luck, given that he’s survived. It sets the two up as having opposing views on their pasts, even though they end up being fundamentally similar. I don’t think it’s a bad way to introduce two allies.

Marlya's condition is strange

I guess it turns out that Marlya has a rare condition after all. I’m not sure how to react to that, since everyone seems to be fairly chill about it. I think that having the main character end up being an exception to the rule is fine, but it just doesn’t feel deserved to me. In the first episode, Marlya doesn’t do anything in particular for the fairy in the jar, so I don’t see why it would have formed a bond with her.

Free confronts Wolfran

As for the main focus of the episode, it’s hard not to draw parallels with the first episode. Free confronts Wolfran with knowledge of their past, just as Marlya does with Veronica. In the end, Wolfran is fundamentally different than the person Free knew (presumably because his wife and daughter were killed), and he escapes.

Artificial fairies come to life

How big of a deal are artificial fairies in this world? Given how little the series wants to describe its setting, it’s hard to tell whether these are meant to be some new technology or an established concept.

Marlya jumps out of the way

Can we appreciate how ridiculous this scene looks? At the moment when Marlya reacts, it seems way too late to properly get out of the way. And even when she does jump out of the way, she looks like she starts the jump from a safe point anyway. To top it off, the car(?) looks incredibly impractical.

Fairy Gone First Impressions (1): Bring back Veronica

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War is harsh

Well, that could have gone better. There seemed to be a decent amount going on in this first episode, but I didn’t get the sense that I had enough information to make a decent judgment by the end. The story takes place in a post-war fantasy world where humans can use fairies to fight. The main character, Marlya Noel, is one of the two survivors from her home village of Suna, and she desperately searches for the other survivor, Veronica.

Free explains what fairies are

Aw, I really wish Free would have finished here. He stops for literally no reason other than to tease the audience, so it’s frustrating to see. The fairies are presumably the most interesting part about this world, so I kind of want to know what their deal is.

Veronica steals the page from the Black Tome

I know there’s a synopsis and all, but this episode felt like it was “jumping in” a bit too quickly. Without any context on what a Fairy Soldier is, it’s hard to follow the motivations for characters like Free and Veronica. Free makes more sense later when he reveals that he’s part of Dorothea, but it means that the entire “Gui Carlin” thing was effectively a throwaway.

Veronica brushes Marlya off

Marlya herself also isn’t a particularly convincing character. Veronica’s grudge again Lay Dawn (who definitely is not named “Lay Down”) makes sense, as he’s a native of Suna who came back to massacre the townspeople. From what we can gather in this episode, Marlya has apparently been roaming by herself in the meantime to find Veronica, and she cuts all tension in this episode in her vain attempts to reunite with her old friend.

Marlya binds with a fairy

From the synopsis, it sounds like fairies normally get implanted into Fairy Soldiers after they possess another animal, so it would seem that Marlya’s interaction with this fairy breaks the rules of the world. It’s not necessarily a bad thing if that’s the case, but it gets back to what I said about context. Without that sense of how the world works, this scene has no real impact. For all we know, this happens all the time.

Veronica faces off against Free

I’m kind of sad about the action in this opener. I don’t care too much about the CGI monstrosity bit. Sure, the fairies look like they don’t belong in this world, but that might actually be appropriate. The heartbeat sound they make when they use the fairies is a bit distracting, but what can you do?

I’m more bothered by the fact that the sword/knife fight. Most of the attacks were erratic, and the slashes were pretty much instantaneous, making them hard to follow. As a result, they seemed like a formality while the fairies fought in the background

Free threatens Marlya

I’m actually curious what this means as well. Is it just the case that Fairy Soldiers were discarded after the war ended? I guess it would work if Dorothea is hunting down Fairy Soldiers just trying to survive in the world.

Endro Review: The quest to become a great hero

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The hero's party faces off against the demon lord

Somehow, this series wasn’t actually a video game adaptation. It certainly seems like it from the beginning. The legendary Hero faces off against the Demon Lord with three fellow adventurers. They cast a forbidden spell and the Demon Lord is sealed away. The credits roll. Wait, this is all from the first episode. In reality, this forbidden spell turns out to be a time spell that sends the demon lord to the past, where she resolves to sabotage the Hero’s journey.

Seira gets embarrassed

To be honest, that introduction was enough to catch my interest for this series. As a whole, the series has a charming sense of playfulness that I greatly enjoyed. It takes the standard fantasy adventure premise and turns it into a goofy slice of life with both the protagonists and the main villain. I probably would have preferred if the hero, aptly nicknamed Yuusha, wasn’t actually the airhead she seemed to be, but I suppose it fits with the story.

Mao tries to jump above the podium

Along those same lines, I thought that the characters in the series had an equal charm to them. Even the girl whose only gimmick was that she’s obsessed with the cards they use to cast spells had her own character arc of sorts. The demon lord herself, who takes on the name Mao, also has a nice transition, making real connections outside of the main character to help her redemption story.

The legendary hero wields a club

All in all, I don’t have too much to say about this series. It’s that kind of show. It does have a pastel color style that I think is a bit overboard, but I can live with that. I thought that the series was surprisingly funny, so it was always fun to watch. Also, the number of scenes that were screenshot-worthy in this series was truly impressive (and that’s definitely important, right?).

Overall Score: 7/10

Winter 2019 Grab Bag Week 5: Manaria Friends, Shield Hero

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Grea's new haircut

Manaria Friends General Impressions (1-3)

To be fair, there’s not too much to talk about for this series. As a fan of the Manaria-related content from Granblue Fantasy, I see the show mostly as a bit of fun, watching characters I like interact with each other. The series basically follows Anne, a princess attending Manaria Academy, and her friend Grea, a dragonborn princess. As far as we’ve seen in the first three episodes, the series is largely slice of life without too much development involved. I’m actually kind of hoping that changes, though, since what I know of Grea’s story is surprisingly interesting.

Anne and Grea test out weapons

I’ve always thought that the contrast between Anne and Grea was interesting. They both share a relatively similar set of insecurities, but they have opposed personalities. Plus, there’s the whole fire and ice thing going on.

Grea tries a new outfit

Also, every episode seems to have a fairly gratuitous dressing scene for at least one of the main characters if you’re into that. Not to say I’m not into that…

Raphtalia is tired of dealing with people

Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari Episodes 4-5

It’s interesting to see how my opinions can change from manga to anime. Granted, part of it has to do with the fact that I tend to analyze anime more heavily than manga, but I’m sure a decent part of it comes from how much time has passed since I first read it. My point is that I’ve been a bit skeptical about these recent episodes, especially when it comes to general dialogue.

Raphtalia gets a new slave crest

While I thought that Raphtalia’s defense of Naofumi during the duel with Motoyasu was a great emotional moment, her speech to Motoyasu felt a bit strange. It’s true that Naofumi has demonstrated a much stronger sense of empathy than Motoyasu, but Raphtalia’s claim that Motoyasu should have a slave of his own doesn’t feel convincing to me. It completely ignores “opportunity”, right? The opportunity to buy a slave presented itself to Naofumi, after all.

The villagers start to help Naofumi

It is nice to see people warming up to Naofumi, though. It makes him come off as much less of a jerk overall, which makes him an easier character to watch.

Motoyasu tries to add new tolls to the village

I mean, I get that it’s a legitimate mistake from Motoyasu here, but it’s weird that he doesn’t back down when Naofumi tells him what the buying power of a silver is. Add in the annoyingly blatant cheating during the race, and it just seems like Motoyasu and Malty are being mean for the sake of it.

Filo takes human form

New character time? Filo definitely went through a full range of changes, but it looks like we’ve settled on one.