Tag Archives: mahou shoujo

Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir (2015- Cartoon)

Zagtoon with Method Animation, Toei Animation, SAMG Animation, AB Droits Audiovisuels, SK Broadband, & De Agostini Editore

Status: Ongoing (2 Seasons, 34 episodes)

My rating: 4 of 5

In present-day Paris, Marinette deals with the same things most students do–friends, schoolwork, crushing on the cutest boy in the school. Not that Adrien seems to even notice her particularly, although it would help if she could actually talk to him without tripping all over herself and looking like an idiot. But that’s not all she deals with, because you see, Marinette has a secret alter-ego–the superhero Ladybug, sworn protector of Paris along with her partner Cat Noir.

Miraculous Ladybug was a fun, unexpected find for me, something I’ve heard other people mention but didn’t have high expectations for myself. It’s a French kids’ CGI adventure show, and it’s pretty random for something like that to even cross the radar in the States anyhow. Not surprising, though, considering that this show is actually quite good. It pulls from a lot of different sources, giving it a unique flavor–kind of a mix of mahou shojou and your more traditional superhero stories, but also a cute slice-of-life story. The CG can feel a bit stilted at times, but overall the animation is excellent if not my ideal style; it still has some cute anime influences, which is fun. This story is solidly a kids’ show. It’s clean–astonishingly so, in fact. It has the repetition, the set episode pattern, to make it ideal for a younger audience (although that very thing may get kind of annoying for older viewers). By the end of each episode, everything is cleaned up and put back right, and the city views Ladybug and Cat Noir as proper heroes. Moreover, the show teaches important life lessons like responsibility, honesty, and courage. All of which make this an excellent show for children, but there is actually something there for older viewers, too. Because behind the masks and the cheesy villains and all, you’ve got some awesome characters who show growth over time. You’ve got diversity. You’ve got an adorable slow-burn romance. You’ve got real, developed friendships and Marinette has an awesome, supportive family. So there’s more than meets the eye in this cute kids’ show. I’m looking forward to seeing where Miraculous Ladybug goes in the future (I’ve only seen season 1 so far), although I’m dying for some development and a reveal between Adrien and Marinette. We’ll see if/when that ever comes.

Created by Thomas Astruc/Written by Thomas Astruc & Sébastien Thibaudeau/Directed by Thomas Astruc, Christelle Abgrall, Wilifried Pain, & Jun Violet/Music by Jeremy Zag, Noam Kaniel, & Alain Garcia/Voiced (in English) by Cristina Vee, Bryce Papenbrook, Keith Silverstein, Mela Lee, Max Mittelman, & Carrie Keranen

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Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon (manga)

Mangaka: Naoko Takeuchisailor-moon

Translator: William Flanagan

My rating: 3.5 of 5

Usagi Tsukino is an average middle-school girl–cute, cheerful, and prone to oversleeping. She’s also the reincarnation of an ancient Moon Princess–a Sailor Guardian wielding the power of the Legendary Silver Crystal to protect the world she loves. As she awakens to her powers, Usagi discovers other Sailor Guardians, friends from her past life who join her in the battles she faces. And they will definitely face numerous enemies in battle as those drawn to the power of the Legendary Silver Crystal for their own greedy reasons seek to take it from her.

First off, I must recognize that Sailor Moon has a certain appeal that uniquely comes from growing up with it; I have any number of friends who absolutely adore the story–all of whom first watched it on TV back in middle school. So I have to preface my review by saying that I only just read this manga recently, so I’m coming at the story from a different perspective, acknowledging that there are aspects of it that I’m just not going to appreciate in the same way. Please don’t be offended if you are one of those people who love this manga dearly. I can certainly acknowledge that is a classic–one that anyone who enjoys manga should read at least once–and that it has been highly influential not only on readers but on other mangaka over the years. I found Sailor Moon to be quite a unique story. The genre blend is something I’ve never seen before, at least not in this particular mix. While being essentially a shoujo story (with a strong mahou shojou flair, complete with the instantaneous costume changes and frou frou styles), there is a strong shounen vibe to the story as well. I found this particularly notable in the battles, both with the named attacks in the midst of the battles and with the sequence of each defeated enemy being followed by a stronger enemy. Personally, I found the enemies and their motives to be a bit bland and unoriginal. Although the character designs and the specifics changed, they were all essentially interchangeable otherwise, at least for the most part. On the other hand, the characters of the Sailor Guardians were charming, distinct, and interesting. I think the reason I enjoyed the series as much as I did was that I enjoyed the characters. As for the plot . . . the overarching plot of reincarnation, destined love, everlasting friendship, and all that goes into that was actually quite good. I enjoyed the time-travel plot elements that were thrown in as well. But the repeated fights just weren’t that enjoyable for me. Still, I think Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon is a solid classic manga that is well worth reading at least once, both for the characters and story themselves and to understand the innumerable references to it that pop up elsewhere.

 

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Cardcaptor Sakura

cardcaptor sakuraMangaka: CLAMP

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Ten-year-old Sakura is basically your average girl–cheerful, fun-loving, bad at math, a little overly prone to sleep too late–but she also has a secret. You see, she has magical powers, and she’s been chosen to retrieve and master all the Clow cards, a set of magical cards that manifest as beings or phenomena in the physical world when released as they were at the death of their former master, Clow. Sakura is aided and guided in her quest to capture all the Clow cards by Kero, one of the guardians of the cards, and all her exploits are costumed and videoed by her best friend Tomoyo. But don’t think for a moment that Sakura spends her whole life devoted to capturing the cards–actually you could probably say she doesn’t devote herself enough. She actually has a busy life full of school, family, friends, and the hope of love. Sakura’s a pretty incredible girl.

I’m probably one of the few people who can say they didn’t grow up watching Cardcaptor Sakura at one point. I actually only discovered the manga after I fell in love with CLAMP’s writing and read several of their other manga; I’ve never watched the anime. I have to say that I really love this manga though. It’s so cheerful, even when it gets dark–and yes, at points it does get dark, especially in the second half. But Sakura’s such an optimistic character that she keeps the story bright throughout. And I love that even though this is technically a mahou-shojou/cardcaptor series, it’s fleshed out to be much more than that. There are numerous enjoyable facets to Sakura’s life that are presented here, as well as a number of really sweet love stories besides her own. This is one area in which I have complaint against the series, however; one of the fourth-grade students has a romantic relationship with one of the teachers, which is a totally CLAMP thing to do and is presented in a sweet and innocent way, but still NOT okay. And that, in addition to some of the complexities of the other relationships, is the primary reason that I can’t see this as a middle-school girl’s manga, even though it’s usually presented that way. It’s cute and sweet and funny, and yes, middle-schoolers would probably love it . . . but still. I do think there is a lot here for older teens and adults to love, though. Like I said, sweet story, great characters, and by the way, incredible art throughout. Absolutely beautiful. So in all, in spite of a few things I’m uncomfortable with in the story, I think Cardcaptor Sakura is an adorable, delightful manga that I would definitely recommend.

Note: I’d recommend getting the Dark Horse omnibus editions if you’re buying this. It’s only 4 volumes that way, and the binding is really nicely done. Plus, there are some incredible color pages included.

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Fading Hearts

Created by: Sakura River InteractiveFading Hearts

My rating: 4 of 5

In the years since the Y2K disaster wrecked havoc on the small country of Sorayama, Ryou has shown an incredible amount of initiative and determination, working to support himself so that he can get away from the terrible foster care conditions experience by so many orphans in the aftermath of the disaster. He’s also shown a true commitment to his two best friends, Rina and Claire. But now that they’re in high school, things are becoming more complicated for these three friends. The girls are keeping secrets from him. Ryou has never told them about the freelance programming he does to earn his living. They’ve got an awkward love triangle developing between the three of them. Ryou’s other good friend Alex has rumors floating around that are totally inconsistent with the guy Ryou knows–yet that are just about believable. Not to mention the rumors flying about of giant monsters in the nearby forest and of a truly magical girl named Mystica. It’s hard to know what to believe, sometimes; harder still to make the right choices.

Fading Hearts is a unique video game that combines elements of several different game types: visual novel, dating sim, life/work sim, and RPG, possibly a few more. The premise is that the choices you make (point and click from a list of options, usually) will alter the direction the story is going, and even the genre of the game. It’s true, although I think a lot of people see that advertised and expect huge story-altering changes with each decision–and then they get disappointed or upset when they play it again, make different choices, and end up with similar story lines for large parts of the story. The way it seems to work is more that there are a few major decision points like that, but on the whole, the story is directed by the accumulation of the small choices you make over time, so the alterations you see are more gradual. Also, there are a lot of subtle things you can choose to do (like, with your spare time) that will make surprising differences–in other words, try random stuff and see what happens! Seriously, I liked the game mechanics, and I enjoyed the story also. You’ve got friendships and romance (if you choose to pursue it), otaku culture, work and school, and some really random mahou shoujo stuff mixed in. And yes, you can end up dying in this game; I have. I liked the characters–Rina and Claire are interesting, if stereotypical in some regards, and even Ryou (whom you play as) actually has some solid character built into him. Plus, the art is an attractive anime-style design. Minor points off for a soundtrack that can get repetitive and that seems to randomly trail off into silence and equally randomly start playing again (this tended to startle me), but it wasn’t enough of an issue to make the game unenjoyable. And honestly, I figure there’s a good bit more to the game that I’ve yet to uncover, considering the list of accomplishments I still have to unlock (all of which are story-centered). I think that for those who enjoy visual novels but would like a little more interaction and control–and for those who like sims but prefer more story–Fading Hearts would be a fun choice.

Note: This game is available on Steam and directly from the Sakura River website.

 

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Soul Eater NOT!

Bones Studio

Directed by Masakazu Hashimoto/Music by Asami Tachibana & Yuuki Hayashi/Based on the manga by Atsushi Ohkubo

Tsugumi Harudori is your average 14-year-old, dreamy-eyed Japanese schoolgirl. Or so she thought, until she started having parts of her body transform into weapon-like forms. Turns out, she’s your average 14-year-old, dreamy-eyed Japanese schoolgirl who just happens to have demon-weapon blood in here genes and who can transform into a halberd at will . . . or at least, she will be able to just as soon as she figures out how to control her powers. And so, Tsugumi ships off to the Death Weapon Meister Academy in the United States to get some training and pair up with a meister. She quickly makes some good friends there including two aspiring meisters–the tsundere Anya, who is fascinated with commoners and who clearly has a hidden past, and Meme, who is clearly capable and whose past might be just about anything . . . if she could only remember! Tsugumi’s life gets a bit more complicated when the three start rooming together–and when both of them declare their interest in partnering up with her. But with her groundless optimism, Tsugumi’s bound to find some way to work things out, right?

Soul Eater NOT! is a super-fun spinoff of Astushi Ohkubo’s master work, Soul Eater (which I highly recommend). While Soul Eater is rather dark and ominous–in a cool and adventuresome sort of way–Soul Eater NOT! is much more cute and slice-of-life (and just mildly shoujo ai). It’s a great story in its own right, but I think it has the greatest appeal for those who already know and love Soul Eater; NOT! is dated prior to the events of the original story, and it features all kinds of cameos and back-story to flesh out what you already know from the original (like how Jackie & Kim got together or the Thompson sisters’ job at Deathbucks coffee, complete with maid uniforms!). But even if you don’t know the original or like such an intense, action-packed story, Soul Eater NOT! has a certain appeal, definitely–the characters are wonderful, and the story is cute, fun, and just exciting enough. The art in the anime is very cute (the manga is too, but I haven’t had the chance to read all of it yet  and will review that separately)–it’s like a brighter, lighter version of the art in Soul Eater, but still stylistically consistent. The voicing and music is great, too, very fitting for the setting. (By the way, this is done by Bones Studio, one of my favorite anime studios ever. They do great work.) Soul Eater NOT! is definitely a recommended anime, especially for Soul Eater fans, but also for anyone who likes a cute, kind-of shoujo ai, kind-of mahou shoujo sort of story.

Note: This anime consists of 12 episodes. As of now, there is no English dub (not that I’d watch it anyway), but I am hoping for an American release sometime soon–please?

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Meru Puri

Mangaka: Matsuri Hino

All Airi Hoshina has ever dreamed of is a simple, everyday happiness with a normal husband and a quiet life. That all blows up in her face (naturally) when Aram–a magical prince from another world–shows up on her doorstep with no place to go . . . and a rather troublesome curse on him. Even though Aram is really just a kid (several years younger than Airi in any case), he becomes (in body, not mind) older when he is exposed to darkness, probably about 17 or 18. In this older body, he also becomes unable to use his magic with any accuracy. And of course, the only thing that can change him back to his true form is a kiss from his chosen maiden–who else but Airi?! Initially, it seems he’s just being childish and picking her arbitrarily, but as events unfold, it becomes clear that Aram truly loves Airi beyond what seems possibly for his years–to the point of staking his life on their relationship. What unfolds is not quite the quiet life of Airi’s dreams, but it certainly is a fairy-tale romance.

From the well-loved creator of Vampire Knight comes a softer, sweeter tale of pure-hearted love and frilly fantasy. Meru Puri is a manga that I absolutely love and come back to frequently. The characters are great: Airi, the natural sort of idiot with her long, curly hair, ditziness, but with a stubborn solidness to her also; Aram, the oh-so-princely, pushy, demanding, sulky, yet also kind and protective (have I mentioned perverted? Some of the scenes in this manga are pretty erotic, and it’s mostly Aram’s fault. Well, that and Hino-sensei’s editor’s fault.). I like the plot a lot also–it’s short (only 4 volumes) and tightly written, but full of twists and surprises. Definitely never boring. It could have been nasty and shota if it were written just a bit differently, but because of Aram’s character, it’s just kind of weird and ecchi at parts. But cute, definitely cute, and very romantic. I especially loved: 1) the fact that marriage in Aram’s world is such a big commitment that breaking that vow is literally risking your life, and 2) that Aram and Airi waited until Aram reached his majority to formalize and culminate their marriage–so much more romantic and pure-hearted that way! Of course, Hino-sensei’s art is some of the most beautiful in the industry, so this manga is also gorgeous. For fans of sweet romance manga who don’t mind a bit of eroticism, Meru Puri is one I would highly recommend.

Note: This is purely trivia, but the evolution of this manga’s name cracks me up. In the original Japanese editions, it was titled Märchen Prince (like, in German and English). So why, in the English edition, is it called Meru Puri–the short form of the kana pronunciation of the original title?!

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Puella Magi Madoka☆Magica

Story by: Magica Quartet

Art by: Hanokage

When Homura Akemi transfers into her school, Madoka has the unsettling feeling that she’s seen her before . . . perhaps in a dream. Homura seems nice enough. That impression is challenged, however, when Madoka finds herself trapped in a bizarre alternate dimension where she encounters Homura trying to shoot a cute little creature calling itself Kyubey. Things become even more confusing when Kyubey offers Madoka the chance to become a “Magical Girl” and have her greatest wish granted. All of which sounds fantastic . . . until the heads start to roll. Ugh.

Puella Magi Madoka☆Magica is a brilliant, beautiful, horrifying parody of your classic mahou shoujo story. It’s got all the typical stylized magical abilities and cutesy girls in frou-frou outfits, but the actual plot is incredibly complex, dark, and frankly depressing. If it weren’t for Madoka and her absolute refusal to accept the way things are, the story would be an utter tragedy. As it is, Madoka☆Magica is dark yet beautiful. As the mangaka states, this manga version is really another take on the anime scripts and storyboards (as opposed to on the anime itself); thus, there are some visual differences and variations in focus as compared with the anime. Personally, I would consider the anime the original (and would recommend watching it first; I’ll probably review that separately at some point). Still, the manga is beautiful, complete, and an overall excellent rendition of the plotline and characters. Definitely recommended.

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