Kill La Kill: Obnoxiously Inconsistent Fun

Series: Kill La Kill

Original Release Date/Run: October 2013 – March 2014

Genre: Action, Comedy, Drama, Magical Girl, Ecchi

Director: Hiroyuki Imaishi

Writer: Kazuki Nakashima

Studio: Trigger

Number of Episodes: 24 + 1 OVA

Overview

 

Kill La Kill takes place in Honnō City at a fictional High School called Honnouji Academy. The student council, led by Satsuki Kiryuin, rule over the students of Honnouji Academy with an iron fist. This is until new girl Ryuko Matoi, who wields half scissor blade, appears on a quest for vengeance against the user of the other half scissor blade.

 

 

Little does Ryuko realize, is that the student council and members of the school clubs are given special outfits that grant them special enhancements, powers and abilities making them a force to be reckoned with. Each outfit is given a star rating, with one being the lowest and three being the highest, however, there is far more to the materials used to make these outfits that Ryuko comprehends.

Personal Opinion

 

 

Kill La Kill is like that overtly drunk person you run into at a pub or house party or randomly on the street when you’re with a group of friends: they’re incoherent and obnoxious, like to ramble and make little to no sense – yet they spend a great deal of time and effort trying to rationalize their story; but they’re sure a lot of fun to watch. Okay. Perhaps that’s a little harsh to say, after all I enjoyed watching Kill La Kill a lot, and contrary to my initial statement, some (not all) of the thematic ideas Kill La Kill explores are consistent with a fulfilling narrative payoff. Overall it is a good series; I stress “good” and not great, as Kill La Kill has some monumental flaws that inhibit its ability to make it a great anime with strong narrative and thematic impact.

 

In the defense of Kill La Kill, such flaws would otherwise completely destroy any other anime; however, one of the wonderful things that Kill La Kill demonstrates is that a piece of art/animation can redeem itself to an extent by being much stronger in other areas. A lot of what works on Kill La Kill including the well developed thematic ideas, are nicely framed and conveyed to the viewer through good visual storytelling from how characters move and react to each other to the surroundings and character designs. It’s creative, has good characterisation, well implemented and executed comedy, a vibrant colour palette, is well-paced and some of the thematic concepts do work out very well; overall, Kill La Kill is generally a lot of fun.

 

 

 

Story/Plot

 

 

The plot starts off pretty straight forward and logical both from a narrative and thematic perspective which is very entertaining and leaves plenty open for conceptual, metaphorical and literal interpretation. While some of these thematic concepts are well developed, there are many other ideas Kill La Kill attempts that are not explored sufficiently or are abandoned all together so that the plot and story can go into an obtuse direction. This is usually fine if it’s well set up and foreshadowed; however, on Kill La Kill, when the plot decides to take an abrupt turn in direction, it fails to sufficiently set up or foreshadow most of the later plot threads. The result is that Kill La Kill ends up having to spend a great deal of screen time rationalizing this drastic plot change to the audience with expository info dumps.

 

 

It’s almost as if a different team of writers came in for the second half of the series, more or less ignored what had been set up so that they could take the story in the direction they wanted to by shoehorning in their “cool” ideas. However, this is not the case; it was the same writers throughout the entire series, which is pretty strange considering the overall execution of the story here.

 

 

While this is true and I stand firmly by it, I will also admit the direction it goes in is at least interesting and entertaining and the reason it works in some ways is because of how over the top and outrageous the tone of this show is along with the fact that this change in direction is unpredictable; which is actually pretty fun. It’s at that point it’s almost as if the story-line of the show is meant more to serve as a vehicle for all the hysterics the show has to offer as opposed to making perfect or at least close to perfect logical or narrative sense. That’s neither a compliment nor a criticism.

 

Thematic Concepts: What’s it all mean?

 

 

Thematically speaking, Kill La Kill has great ideas; however, only a few of those ideas are given the necessary development to grow and mature into a strong resolution while others are merely touched on at a superficial level or are resigned to being utilized as plot devices or even abandoned all together.

 

 

This outcome is a direct result of the obtuse plot shift that occurs halfway through the series, which I brought up earlier. It is here that Kill La Kill is severely inconsistent and suffers the most. Thematically it’s sloppy and messy with some ideas, while it’s tight and consistent with others giving them strong narrative points. It’s almost as if someone’s playing darts and decides to wear a blind fold for some throws hoping for good results but missing, while throwing others without a blindfold and focusing on their objective with the utmost concentration and therefore hitting the bull’s eye.

 

 

Granted, while there are only a couple of ideas that are consistently explored throughout the series in an over arcing fashion and are also episodic, it does add some depth to an otherwise silly show. Unfortunately since there are also many other thematic ideas that get choked out, it gets particularly jarring for anyone wanting to do a thematic/narrative analysis of Kill La Kill.

Some of the well-executed ideas are utilized in an episodic fashion making a few of these episodes like their own little self-contained stories. The amazing aspect here is that they contribute to the few consistent overarching themes while also developing the characters as individuals on a mental and emotional level.

 

 

Of the few thematic ideas that are consistent and well executed, the most consistent thematic idea that encapsulates most of the concepts Kill La Kill explores is the idea of staying focused. Not losing sight of who one is. Not losing their way. Don’t lose your way as the song goes.

 

 

This becomes far more evident when Kill La Kill deals with the idea of family bonds, friendship, togetherness and unity making it possibly the strongest thematic thread of the entire show. What allows for this is that there are some good smaller, more episode based ideas that feed into it. One perfect example is the episode where the Mako and her family, are confronted with gaining status. This alters their behavior; the way they interact with others, their incessant materialism and as a result, they lose their way. It is at this point they’re ultimately faced with their family morals being put to the test.

 

 

This is one of the better episodes, not only because of the character interaction but how its conclusion reinforces some good thematic ideas while setting up some plot and character motives. This episode also provides some great world building and social commentary on various levels with the sociological hierarchy of the setting by exploring its structure in greater detail. The reason this works is that Kill La Kill establishes elements of this thematic idea early on in the series quite well by using visuals with something as simple as repeatedly showing the structure of the town Kill La Kill takes place in; it’s literally set up as social pyramid with the wealthiest high status population on top and the poor on the bottom.

 

 

Kill La Kill also deals with the concept of vengeance and power when Ryuko’s acquisition of power throughout the series allow her to enact her vengeance. It is during these scenes when Ryuko is confronted with vengeance and the emotional toll it takes. As a result, Ryoko at various times during the course of Kill La Kill, literally and figuratively becomes drunk on power and thus, the very monster she set out to fight. She loses her way; and it’s her friends and family that are able to save her.

 

This brings me to one of the most compelling and consistent thematic ideas that Kill La Kill explores which is the idea of friends and family. There’s a great deal of screen time establishing the family Ryuko stays with as well as time fleshing out and developing the characters and their dynamic with each other. 

 

Ryuko deals with the fact that her family is gone and is seeking vengeance, and as explained earlier, this does more harm than good. One of the toxic results of Ryuko’s quest for vengeance is her reluctance to get close to anyone early in the show. It’s not until she decides to open up and let these people into her life that she’s able to gradually let go of her thirst for revenge. It’s from here that her friends help her find her humanity; this is particularly apparent when she’s overtaken by hatred and the need for vengeance. 

 

It’s Ryuko’s acquisition of true friendship that ultimately allows her to overcome external threats and her internal conflict. In doing so, she becomes part of a surrogate family made up of close friends even discovering that she does have blood relatives that she can have a relationship with.

 

 

Now, there are some other good, well thought out episodes that do this where the thematic idea is more character and situation based and works as a stand alone episode since the idea is resolved; however, the issue with some of the other themes that come up in a similar fashion go unresolved and they’re never revisited. That brings me to the thematic problems that infect Kill La Kill; I see there are some ideas that begin to develop, but are either just lip service, or they’re not developed to the extent the narrative demands or they get abandoned all together.

 

 

As an example, one of the thematic motifs Kill La Kill attempts to implement is fate; the show presents and loosely explores, but ultimately fails to fully develop the thematic idea of fate to the level it should have. It’s really sad too because there are some great opportunities here where this thematic idea could’ve been integrated into some of the other ideas and character arcs. There’s the red thread of fate motif and the scissor blades cutting that thread that could be seen as a metaphor for free will allowing one to cut and weave their own destiny. This is where I become conflicted with this particular concept because of the plot and execution.

 

With Ryuko showing up with a scissor blade to change the course of fate and how she literally shreds life fibers with her scissor, she’s cutting the very fabric of fate forging her own destiny. That works well for the first half of the show and isn’t overly heavy handed, however; when it goes in a different direction for the second half of the series, it seems as though the thematic idea isn’t given any more depth and almost feels abandoned in a way. Sure there’s some decent to great imagery put in there once in a while, but it’s not followed up thematically nor is it integrated into the well developed thematic ideas as it should’ve been. 

 

Instead, the theme of fate becomes subordinated to being used as a plot device as opposed to a thematic one. The result here is that instead of using the thematic idea of fate to really analyse its own philosophies or exploring the characters’ perspectives, it exists as a means to rationalize the convoluted plot.

 

 

One more thematic example that I feel needs to be addressed to better illustrate where Kill La Kill runs into problems is during the second half with the clothing motif. This is a great motif during the first half of the series brimming with thematic potential. Not only does Kill La Kill start off by conveying this idea that clothing is a way for people to express themselves, but it presents how clothing becomes an extension of an individual’s personality and how different clothes brings out different aspects of an individual’s personality.

 

 

It doesn’t stop there either; it utilizes this motif to illustrate how people internalize their hobbies and what they do and how their clothes are a reflection of that. The way this motif can be related to real world interpretation is practically boundless; use your imagination here. It even connects to one of the main ideas of “don’t lose your way” with how this theme relates to status and the social hierarchy.

 

 

There are numerous times Satsuki mentions this out loud with how clothing doesn’t make the person who they are and how it’s important to be confident as an individual. This is also evident in how she refers to people as “pigs in human clothing.” This is something Ryuoko learns early on in the series that kicks off some of her character development.

 

 

Unfortunately, this great thematic motif suffers the same fate as some of the other thematic ideas I had discussed earlier. It’s abandoned due to the series taking a completely different direction with its story. Understand, I’m doing everything within my ability to give Kill La Kill the benefit of the doubt here. With the direction the story takes during the second half of Kill La Kill, I’m pondering, even trying to rationalize, how it connects thematically to what had been established with this motif earlier in the series.

 

 

I feel that even if I look at this from a deeper metaphorical level, it could be interpreted that ultimately clothes wear people. That individuals put so much of their identity in their clothing they forget and lose who they are and become obsessed with status or the materialism of having clothes, and as a result they cease to be individuals. While I do feel that’s a solid interpretation, I also feel that I’m really reaching out on that one. While this is a fair assessment of this  theme during the second half of the series, it still feels ambiguous and murky. This is why I strongly feel that this motif should’ve been articulated better during the second half, particularly in connecting it to the thematic idea about clothing in the earlier episodes.

 

Ultimately, art is subjective; meaning it’s open to interpretation. However, I also feel there’s some confirmation bias on my part here, as I’m trying to give Kill La Kill the benefit of the doubt going as far as to rationalize what it’s doing with this particular thematic thread. I suppose in all fairness someone else may see it as a good interpretation; which I’m also fine with. I guess it varies from person to person, as it should.

 

 

 

 

 

I feel that Kill La Kill has a lot of great thematic ideas that could’ve been put to good use, from something as simple as doing more with the gritty aesthetic of the series contrasted with the lighthearted comedy, to the tyranny and oppression motif complete with 1984 references and high school life. At the same time, Kill La Kill does manage to have some well-implemented and well-executed core thematic ideas that are consistent throughout the series.

 

Characters

 

 

Despite how harsh I’ve been to Kill La Kill, I still like the series and have plenty of good to say about it. One of those areas is the characterization and because of how it’s executed, it’s practically the glue that holds the series together. The characterization is very efficient with how it goes about fleshing out and developing characters. Everyone in the main ensemble cast is given a good backstory of who they are, how they met each other and where they fit into the story without eating up too much screen time.

 

Then there’s some strong implicit fleshing out and development of the characters with how they’re presented visually, framed and how their actions, motives and behaviours convey their place in the story thematically. While some of this can get repetitive, I find that it reinforces a particular character’s goal thematically and how it affects them as a person.

 

As an example, one of the things Kill La Kill does well with its characterisation is the framing and how body language is utilized. Something as simple as the visual gag earlier in the show of when Ryuko dodges or avoids Mako’s (sometimes aggressive) adoration conveying to the viewer that she hasn’t opened up. However, as the series progresses, Ryuko allows Mako to get closer and accepts a hug from her illustrating her development as a character.

 

This adds a strong dynamic to the already interesting and enjoyable ensemble cast, and while that’s a fine thing, like any good art/entertainment that has an ensemble cast, it ensures narrative stability by anchoring the main story line to two primary characters. This is one of the definitive strengths of Kill La Kill that allows it some redemption over its flaws.

 

 

I also find that from a character perspective is where some of the smaller thematic ideas and overarching ones work. These ideas are well executed in a functional and thematic sense, not only in how they’re integral to some of the growth and development the characters undergo, but they also give the characters’ experience more validity.

 

 

A perfect example of a well-implemented and well-executed character arc on Kill La Kill is the episode that focuses on Uzu Sanageyama’s character arc earlier in the series. What makes it such a great episode is the thematic integration and use of imagery coupled with Uzu’s character development as well as the frame composition and overall structure of the episode. Aside from the way Uzu’s story arc on this episode links to the show’s primary themes, it develops him as a character along with his relation and dynamic with Satsuki leading to an amazing resolution.

 

Clever Antics

 

 

The vast majority of comedy on Kill La Kill is well-executed and creative. The way the animation, visuals, dialogue and music are utilized, contribute to the strong execution of humor while also providing something relatively fresh, unique and effective.

 

 

There is a nice variety of jokes to be had here including everything from what Kill La Kill is poking fun at to how a joke is executed to how it’s introduced and built up gradually and escalated to be called upon as the series progresses. The humor is even effective at times for foreshadowing and reinforcing some of the thematic ideas on Kill La Kill.

 

Out of all the jokes in the series, I’d say there’s only one that I really have an issue with and that’s mostly due to my personal experiences, understand, it’s how the scene is handled; how the joke was executed with its content and framing that bothered me. Aside from that one issue I have with the humour, if everything else in this series was as consistent, effective and well executed as the comedy, it would be a phenomenal show; however, my prior criticisms still stand.

 

 

Animation

 

 

The animation, visuals and aesthetic contribute well to the humor and the thematic ideas whether they undergo development or not. The series has an inviting aesthetic to it and does a great job of establishing the tone of any given scene. It’s also pretty cool to see a slightly unique character design style come up. There’s also some great framing which supports the humor, characterization and even some of the dramatic scenes and thematic ideas the series brings up. Overall, this is where the show’s creativity and unique style really shine and compliment a lot of what it does well.

 

 

This adds a lot to many of the fast paced, intricate action sequences that occur on Kill La Kill which makes them a lot of fun to watch. What I really enjoyed here is how the animation is utilized, from how some action scenes are framed with how there’s a 360 view to how and when close up shots are executed. The action, like the characterization and comedy, is a definitive strong point of this series.

That said, the animation gets pretty inconsistent at times; while there are some breathtaking, intricate, fast moving action and comedy scenes that are ridiculously well animated as well as some great establishing shots, there are times where the illusion crumbles. What I mean is that there are times where it’s easy to tell when a key frame is being manipulated around or enlarged to create movement. The issue here is that while many anime put this style of animation to good use and hide it in plain sight making it almost unnoticeable, Kill La Kill actually tries harder to hide it and as a result, it becomes more obvious and somewhat cheap looking at times.

 

Ecchi Fan Service

 

 

The only other aspect to bring up regarding the visual presentation is that Kill La Kill does consist of some ecchi fan service scenes such as the magical girl transformation, the occasional bath scene and naked men and women charging into battle.

 

 

While the majority of the ecchi fan service is meant for comedic and thematic purposes, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s ecchi material. I’ve heard people rationalize the fan service here as “lamp shading” or “parodying” actual ecchi stuff, which is fine. However, I disagree with this interpretation of it considering how gratuitous it can get, regardless of whether it’s meant to make a thematic point or it’s done to parody ecchi in anime. The point is that there are people who enjoy anime who find such content alienating for numerous reasons and that’s fine. It’s also fine if you’re cool with it. I’m not trying to discourage people from watching it, by all means, if you want to try it, go ahead, I’m just letting you know it’s there.

 

 

Music

 

 

The music is amazing, Hiroyuki Sawano, who also composed a solid score for Attack on Titan, composed the music for Kill La Kill which consists of a variety of melodies that complement and enhance any scene in how; from something comedic, to dramatic to suspenseful action; it helps to convey the tone of a scene. A cool example is the use of exotic scales during some of the comedic parts, particularly something that sounds like the harmonic minor that complements scenes where Mako does these frantic monologues. These parts are funny on their own because of their energy, content, and visuals, but it’s the music that completes the execution of these scenes.

 

 

English Dub

 

 

I watched Kill La Kill in English as I do most of the time with anime and for the most part it’s done very well. All the actors do a great job on this show and I feel they fit the characters they play very well. The only real issue with the English dub are the first couple episodes with the character Ryuko. It’s pretty easy to tell that the voice actor playing her is not as experienced as the rest of the cast and is getting into the groove on those first couple episodes. Even Erica Mendez, who plays Ryuko has admitted to wanting to redo those first couple episodes because she feels her performance is lacking there.

 

 

Conclusion and Recommendation

 

 

Kill La Kill is messy and inconsistent when it comes to its plot and themes, but makes up for this with its creative approach to its animation and visuals, well executed comedy, fast paced and suspenseful action and its colorful cast of characters. Overall, this is one occasion where the style, fun and rule of cool on Kill La Kill is enough to carry the series despite its inconsistent and at times, incoherent substance.

 

 

If you as an individual want a fun, entertaining and action packed ride with amazing characters and you don’t mind some ecchi fan service here and there, I feel I can confidently recommend this to you.

 

 

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Worst Anime of all Time

Well, click bait title aside, worst anime I’ve watched, but whatever.

I’ve done these before, but not to the detail I have here; the dreaded worst anime post, these sorts of things, if taken with a grain of salt can be fine provided that everyone’s a good sport about it. It comes down to understanding that it’s all opinion and in this particular post; just my opinions, and like anyone else’s opinions; they’re not fact. I’m not an authority on anime as far as what constitutes good and bad and I’ll never claim that I am; it’s pretty much the same approach to why I like an anime, only the opposite. Basically, it starts with a simple question; why do I feel a certain way about a particular show? These explanations here are answers to that; in this case, how these shows fail me as an audience member, or why I had a difficult time enjoying them let along trying to stay focused on them.

You see, I got into anime in my early 20’s; but I still had a mild case of “if its anime, it has to be good and I want to watch” which resulted in me buying shows because they were cheap at the time, or if they had cool art work. This didn’t last and was quickly deep sixed when I realized some of the material I had gotten sucked hard. I mean, just abhorrent, unpleasant shit that I subjected myself to; why did I do it? Because when I was a rookie to getting into anime, I had no idea how much and what actually existed; I had no clue how great or terrible some shows in the medium could get. So I do have some of these shows on DVD and even the odd Blu-ray of. Don’t get me wrong, I stumbled upon some prized gems like Perfect Blue and GunBuster; both I got a great price on too. Thankfully, however, for the most part, and as I mentioned I outgrew that aspect of my venture into anime quite fast and started looking closer into what I was picking up.

Some of these shows I do go into great detail; the others ones, since it’s been so long since I watched them I can’t remember much besides the fact that it was an unpleasant viewing experience. The catch is that I have to have watched these shows in their entirety; so shows like Cyberteam in Akihabra don’t go on here. That’s the thing; if I list dropped shows; this post will be ridiculously long, and it’s already plenty long enough.

I do want to mention that I remember Cyberteam in Akihabra being so awful that I made it only ten minutes into the first episode, the people who made it had to be on some nasty drugs, or they didn’t care, or they were drunk, or it was a combination; either way, it’s so bad I say stay away. It does bring up a quick topic for me to rant about real quickly though; its proof that there was some awful material made in the so called “good old days” of anime, which many detractors of modern anime seem to conveniently overlook. Yes; there was ungodly shit in the so called glory days; it wasn’t all Cowboy Bebop, Neon Genesis, GunBuster, Berserk or Revolutionary Girl Utena as some of these fools would like to believe.

Just remember Cyberteam in Akihabra, or Apocalypse Zero or Violence Jack the moment someone wants to say anime sucks now; bullshit, and the proof is right here. All these shows make Rosario + Vampire (not great, but not bad either) or whatever light novel adaption people are getting their junk tangled up a about look like sophisticated criterion pieces in comparison. I really hate that whole modern anime sucks now; it has no heart; too much harem and fan service; fucking light novels; blah blah blah, moo moo moo; ah get over yourselves, go have your cookies and milk.

Anyways, without delaying things further; here’s my list.

“We’re here to ruin your life.”

School Days – I’ve heard many people express their dislike for this series, yet, while I get where they’re coming from, I feel that I still haven’t seen anyone truly pinpoint the major problems with this series. People have brought up that it’s a stupid melodrama – which is true, that the characters are way to unlikable – which is also true. These are some factors that make watching School Days an exercise in withstanding tedium, but aside from poor execution, I feel they’re the result of something else rather than the primary faults that make this show unbearable.

When I viewed it, I was already having problems watching it; I really dislike the overall aesthetic of this series; it’s an ugly, ugly show. Visual perspectives are distorted, the colors have an old, dated and sour look to them, backgrounds are inconsistent ranging from passable to just plain hideous. This continues on throughout the series as well, so right away, watching this was going to a chore rather than an enjoyable pastime.

The characters for the most part are severely underwritten, only being pigeonholed to one dimensional personality types with little to no fleshing out or development. We get that the male protagonist is a douche, we get that the female characters are naïve, but the series doesn’t go to any length implicitly or directly to explain why that is.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s fine to have characters that have little to no backstory to add a certain level of mystique to them; Melona of Queen’s Blade for example is perfect for this; but Melona is not the main character of the show she’s in; she’s an antagonistic anti-hero. She’s a rare specimen that if she was given a backstory, it would actually trash her character. Of course, there are other characters like this throughout anime, movies and such as well.

However, with School Days, I knew and didn’t learn dick all about the protagonists; which is a narratively counterproductive move because I didn’t give a shit about any of them. The exception, however; is Katsura who does get some decent characterization. It’s illustrated that her family puts a lot of pressure on her, that she’s being bullied at school, so when she meets a guy and it boosts her status; it makes sense that she would become a possessive stalker at first watching her “thing” and then a homicidal maniac when she learns of his betrayal as well as her friend’s.

Aside from that, there’s nothing else occurring with the characters to cause me to care about or empathize with them. The lead is an asshole; it’s not outlined why, it’s almost as if the series is implying that it’s just “normal” for boys to have such an entitlement complex to betray and cheat on their partners because they’re just degenerate scumbags. Or that girls are just as bad and naïve by going along with all this expecting no consequences. So, I agree that the show’s misanthropy impedes the viewing experience.

If that’s not enough, the dialogue is some of the most meaningless, boring verbal diarrhea ever to come out of an anime. It does nothing to add dimension or depth to the characters, it has no thematic relevance; it’s just bland, directionless talking; nothing more.

In summation, I feel that the true reason School Days is a terrible series is that it’s tedious to watch; that’s it; it’s a result of all the factors I had mentioned making this series unpleasant to watch. I barely made it to the end of this series, I wanted to drop it so bad, but I continued to watch it because sometimes, in order to appreciate a good series; you have to see how low the medium can sink. This is one of the few times in recent memory I stuck it out to finish an awful series.

“How did we get stuck in this? Run for it before it’s too late! Oh, too late.”

Green Green – Here’s a series that pushes fan service in its trailers and cover art, that has next to none and whatever fan service it had was poorly executed and lame. This was another rookie mistake I made way back when I was getting into anime and, like the earlier shows I watched in those days; I would finish them regardless of how bad they were. Oh, I knew they were bad as I was watching them, but, I kept going anyways because it was something to watch.

To summarize this series, once again the aesthetic and art work is crap, the characterization is crap, and the story is crap; basically this show is crap. To make it worse a lot of the comedy relied on these creepy supporting characters, which had far too much screen time, that I just wanted to see clobbered, but didn’t happen often enough; oh, I wanted to see them get straightened out so bad.

“We’re stuck here; doesn’t mean you have to be.”

Shuffle – Here’s another melodrama, well, not quite; it starts off as a harem comedy you see, then it becomes a slice of life drama then it mutates into a B-grade horror thriller series. I was enjoying this series during the first few episodes even with some of the unfunny jokes and half-baked cookie characters; no, it was nothing special, but not every series needs to be Cowboy Bebop to be good. However, when the pacing slowed to a crawl and attempted drama I was given more verbal diarrhea dialogue, and since there was so little invested in the characters, I couldn’t even try to care about them.

Things got worse when it tried to be a psychological thriller, but, as mentioned, since nothing was put into the characters along with no foreshadowing or anything to set up this direction in the story, it came in with the subtly of a wrecking ball.

“Don’t get too excited; even the fan service on this is lame.”

That is perhaps one of the biggest problems with Shuffle; its attempts to be ambitious and demands to be taken seriously – which is fine, but goes about it all wrong resulting in a weak execution. The problem comes in couple of places.

The transitions feel forced and make watching the series wonky, however; many shows can do this, sometimes within the confines of a single scene; both versions of Fullmetal Alchemist do this so well being able to pivot from comedy to drama, hell Ikki Tousen, or Cat Planet Cuties or Darker Than Black pull these tonal transitions with precision and smoothness at the drop of a hat. Aside from that, there are many other shows that pull off starting light and comedic and then smoothly, sometimes gradually transition into more dramatic or darker material later on.

But where these shows succeed is where Shuffle fails; all the listed shows invest in their characters, there’s a strong dynamic, there’s a natural and organic element to those characters and the worlds they populate. Aside from that, they just change tones much better; it’s as simple as that.

Shuffle suffers from a severe lack of depth on the characters, a lot of what occurs feels out of place; the character dynamic doesn’t feel authentic, it is outright weak, I just couldn’t care about what was going on, or what impact it has on the characters. What Shuffle is attempting fails to work; it didn’t establish a strong enough foundation built with good characterization, themes and ideas; that is why I had no fun watching it.

“This is a metaphorical for how it feels to watch this series.”

Eiken– A series with two episodes that I could barely finish; this show is so awful, but it seems futile to take it apart because I don’t even think the production team who worked on it gave a crap about it. It does have a plot and most art/entertainment does, and while some of the simplest stories are some of the greatest (Mad Max: Fury Road) other factors are imperative to creating something worth viewing.

Eiken has no characterization and this hurts it to no end. The animation and aesthetic are passible, and it does have some decent fan service gags; I’ll give it that, however; that’s the issue with this series. It’s a perfect example of a fan service driven series, meaning that the series revolves around nothing more than to have the characters move from one ecchi gag to another like consumers going from ride to ride at an amusement park.

“What the fuck did I just watch?”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m very liberal about fan service; when the series has substance such as well written characters with depth, strong themes and ideas and the fan service is well integrated into the series making it subordinate to the narrative regardless of the amount; then I’m cool with it. Shows such as Queen’s Blade and High School of the Dead do this very well; they have far more to offer than just ecchi content.

Eiken on the other hand, is just fan service; that’s it. I could see this show being amusing to watch with a group of people and laugh at the gags on it. Beyond that, this series has nothing to offer.

This show thinks very little of its demographic.

Chaos; Head – Now here’s a show that had potential only to have it flushed down the toilet with a convoluted story with a severe lack of foreshadowing.

Without going into too much detail, the overall aesthetic of this show is hideous, the lead character is one of the most oddly designed characters I’ve ever seen; I mean that outfit he wears all the time and just his look.

Now, it started off pretty good with the mystery aspects to it, and I was actually enjoying it as a series up until about episode three or four. From there it just nose-dived and became harder and more difficult to watch the further I got. A lot of that had to do with the fact that the story kept bringing up new ideas plot wise and the result is a very convoluted, confusing show.

It’s easy to point at something like Revolutionary Girl Utena and say it’s confusing too; but that’s just because it’s a dense show; and well composed to boot. The ideas aren’t cluttered together and have repetition so they stick, and oh yeah; they have thematic relevance there. With Chaos; Head, it’s all just plot driven as opposed to theme and character driven like Utena; so of course I’m going to be hard on it when it crams a bunch of mythology into a series and does so in a disorganized, messy, convoluted way.

Aside from all that, the English Dub performances were good at least, but the music on the series made it much more of a chose to watch.

“But I want to ride the motorcycle.”

Elfen Lied – I’ll try to keep this short; so it’s a series that demands to be taken seriously with edgy violence and nudity as opposed to complex characters with depth and compelling thematic ideas – which, like Master of Martial Hearts, had some thematic threads, but didn’t really focus on too many of them. The only one thematic thread that was given any attention is the strong preying on the weak, but this theme is subordinated to only explore it as a vehicle to torture characters in a graphic manner. Which wouldn’t necessarily be such a bad thing if the characters developed as a direct result of this; but that’s the problem, it just doesn’t happen.

There are some shows that have some torture scenes; nowhere near as gross or gory as Elfen Lied, but they are ecchi based eroticism. Queen’s Blade, which has a little of this, and Wanna be the Strongest in the World which has substantially more (fortunately no gore) is actually forgivable since it also helps aid the development of the character as a result of their ordeals. Basically there are consequences that involve the characters reacting to it after the fact in the sense of towards toughing it out, tougheninging up and bettering themselves. The actual result is a satisfying component to a character arc.

On Elfen Lied, it just doesn’t happen; there’s little fleshing out or development of the characters and the little bit that there is, is just spoon-fed to the viewers.

Aside from that, the series is highly misanthropic; it has the basic male as cannon fodder, or as I like to call it; the crash test dummy trope; and the guys actually do look like plastic mannequins when they get killed off most of the time. The major issue with the male cannon fodder is that it’s meant to create indifference between the viewer and those dummies; but they are characters that represent men, and that indifference towards men is a major problem in the real world as far as gender issues go.

With the female characters it’s just as bad; yes, the body count is lower, but all the female characters that get killed have names; they have more detail to their character designs. They even have more fleshing out than the protagonist and supporting characters of the series. This makes it far more mean spirited; the female characters are given more graphic deaths; one girl gets her head corkscrewed off and her body used as a human shield, another gets her limbs torn off while another gets blown apart with all her insides exposed in the frame. So, to me, there just feels as though there’s an overt hostility towards the female gender in this regard here.

Just as an aside; male or female nudity for fan service, or ecchi for any reason or no reason other than titillation doesn’t bother me in the least; I see no issue with that provided the characters are well written and contribute more to the narrative than mere eye candy; I can take them and the series they’re a part of seriously at that point.

Other than that, I will admit, that Elfen Lied has a gorgeous look to its animation and character designs; the backgrounds look colourful and set the right atmosphere for whichever scene. The well designed characters generally stay on model and have a familiar yet unique look to them. The music on the series is also pretty good with strong melodies. Aside from that, I have nothing else to say about this series.

“You don’t want to know where my finger’s been.”

Master of Martial Hearts – Tell me; have you ever walked down the cereal aisle at the grocery store and noticed something like Fruit Loops? You know, it has Toucan Sam on it with the Kellogg’s logo on the box. Then have you noticed not too far away, the house brand cereal called Fruity Hoops and it has a distorted, drug induced nightmare of a cartoon character on the box?

Obviously, the house brand is a cheaper alternative to cash in on Foot Loops, and anyone who has ever had that, knows it’s clearly an inferior product in every way. That brings me to Master of Martial Hearts being a cheap knockoff of Ikki Tousen, and I say this regardless of the fact that the same studio, ARMS did both shows. So, comparing the two is an inevitability that can’t be avoided. Even Queen’s Blade comes into this comparison to a certain extent.

This here is an infamous one that has many problems to talk about, and there are many that caused my viewing experience to suffer. I found myself bored a lot of the time, and if not, confused at what the series was conveying to me on a contextual level.  I mean, there was a point where I thought it was actually a parody of the whole ecchi fighting girl anime, but with what it is attempting thematically, it seems to take itself too seriously for that.

There’s nothing wrong with a series like this taking itself pretty seriously; Queen’s Blade is a perfect example, but Queen’s Blade invests more in its characters and set pieces, it has motifs, symbols, foreshadowing, powerful themes and ideas, and most importantly; it’s consistent about all of it and builds up to the end with a real catharsis or resolution for the characters and how their arcs contribute to the themes the series deals with. That’s how a series like Queen’s Blade can get away with all the fan service it has, but still be a phenomenal series.  It’s intelligent, well composed and thought provoking, but also very inviting and entertaining.

Leina displays clear symptoms of having just viewed Master of Marital Hearts.

Ikki Tousen on the other hand never takes itself too seriously and while it’s more similar to Master of Martial Hearts, it’s is far more inviting and charming in every way. Yes, sometimes it has drama, but it’s earned as opposed to contrived. There’s also a greater self-awareness to it, which it knows it’s meant to be more of a fun series and doesn’t try dealing with heavier, darker material until later seasons; and even then, it still keeps everything light and optimistic for the most part. The irony is that not only does Ikki Tousen come off as a far more entertaining series; its way more intelligent and consistent with its thematic exploration and it doesn’t have to try that hard; it all occurs naturally.

A contributing factor worth bringing up is the characters; firstly, they actually have names and some really cool designs that stand out. They evolve beyond personality types, follow through with their motives and become realized characters as a result. Secondly, while not as deep or as articulate as the characterization on Queen’s Blade, the characters of Ikki Tousen have definitive story arcs that add to the theme a given season is working with. That’s where my cereal analogy comes from when comparing Master of Martial Hearts to Ikki Tousen, and even Queen’s Blade a little. Even Wanna be the Strongest in the World has profound thematic ideas which, when I think about it, are pretty well explored, followed through, consistent and even some character arcs reinforce those ideas; it’s also nowhere near as grotesque as Master of Martial Hearts. To sum up my thoughts in comparing all these shows, they succeed at what they’re doing where Master of Martial Hearts fails miserably.

So where did Master of Martial Hearts really go wrong? Well, just like School Days, it did have some decent ideas and thematic threads that it touched on, but lost out on the execution. It’s unfortunate because this series had potential to be pretty decent.  Was it the fan service that ruined the series? Absolutely not, but the fan service is not sexy in the least, it’s poorly integrated and brings absolutely nothing new to the subgenre, aside from that, the animation was mediocre, so most of the fan service was kind of, off; if that makes any sense. It can’t even do shock value right.

“I’m too sexy for my burger, too sexy for my burger.”

One of the major problems came from the negligence of its own thematic threads it started; and this is one of the reasons the ending was completely idiotic. Don’t get me wrong, I have to give it that there are one or two thematic threads that are very well done and explored. For instance, on episode four where the main character fights the maid/idol character; this particular scenario actually has some social commentary and relevance about how flaky fan bases can be with their loyalty and how frivolous the entertainment industry can be. This comes complete with a summation monologue from another character about how people and the entertainment industry always ditch/turn against one thing to jump to something newer or whatever fresh idea. I almost feel that an entire series could be built on this premise, in a way, Puella Magi Madoka Magica does this with its magical girl to witch concept; the older, busted magical girls become self-aware which leads them to expire only to have younger, more vibrant, optimistic girls who not only appear as replacements, but to literally do away with them; it’s also one of the greatest shows out there; you go watch, but I digress. With Master of Martial Hearts, this is another example that illustrates how even a series I consider horrible does have the odd good point that I’m willing to acknowledge.

Aside from the little bit of positive feedback I have for a singular thematic thread on Master of Martial Hearts, most concepts and threads on Master of Martial Hearts are prematurely dropped for whatever reason which really hurt this show. I actually had hope every now and then that this series would at least make it to okay, or passable at times, but because of its absence of consistency; it ends up really sucking. There is this one really great thread for example, that was starting to be delved into about how in any competition, victory will always come at the expense of someone else, and it’s true, the greater the reward, the higher the risk, thus the worse the consequences for failure. Add to that, a same sort of idea like Madoka in terms of wishes having a price. Unfortunately, right when a resolution to this thread was coming, it vanished like a fart in the wind and was never acknowledged again; which really pissed me off.

Some aspects of this theme were pretty well done with dialogue and visuals, but as I mentioned, it had no resolution in terms of the character or narrative. The main character had no catharsis about it in terms of their own regret eventually destroying themselves, or coming to terms with it and being at peace; nothing.

This brings me to other issues with this series; as mentioned earlier, I figured it was going to be a parody of shows like Ikki Tousen or even Tenjho Tenge, but as I said, it attempted to have deeper themes, which as mentioned, most weren’t fully explored to any sort of conclusion. Yes, they were touched on throughout the series, so it was taking itself seriously, there’s next to nothing for comedy in it, so I developed an expectation for it to resolve most of these themes but failed to do so. I still don’t understand exactly what I was supposed to get from this series as a whole; is it supposed to be a coming of age theme? Is it a metaphor for girls growing into women and the competition that goes with it? Is it still a parody of sorts making fun of the subgenre it belongs to? I mean; what’s the deal with this show?

Perhaps it’s just a vehicle to see girls and women being the crap out of each other, stripping each other down for ecchi content and fetishism; but there’s not much fan service here though, and most of its kind of, well, lame. I’ll admit there’s a ton of shock value involved, and maybe that’s the point of this series; who knows really?

This brings me to how it ended; it made no sense; there was no foreshadowing or any kind of set up to find out who the culprits were behind this scheme. This resulted in one of the longest info dumps I’ve ever seen in anime; it included character motivations, backstory material and explaining as far as setting it all up. I’m not even going to get into the major plot holes on this such as turning the fighters into mindless drones for fetishism; I get it they’re broken, but, that ending was disturbing. To me that’s some pretty hack writing.

As for the show, or the ride; I’ll admit, it could’ve been worse, but it was still pretty awful; at least it’s only five episodes. That’s where it has one of the greatest sins in art/entertainment; I generally found this series boring. Remember how I said character motives didn’t come out until that info dump at the end? Yeah, it’s pretty tough to stay engaged and interested in characters that have next to nothing to present in terms of actual characterization. Which is as bland as the generic designs for the characters; they aren’t ugly or anything like that; they’re just, as I said, bland, nothing special.

Aside from that, the pacing was clunky; I still say the scene on episode four with the maid/idol character is the best one because it’s consistent and has a good, inevitable conclusion. The aesthetic and animation are pretty inconsistent; some of the scenes look very nice, they have a refined, vibrant colour palette to really gunky looking backgrounds. The characters have the same issue as well where the lining and modelling is focused and polished to going off model and kind of gunky.

The music is atrocious; and not only that, it constantly goes actually becoming a huge distraction at times; silence can be platinum at times; just saying. The sound effects are awful, and it contributes to my theory that this show is a parody, but other mentioned factors contradict this. The English dub is good; no complaints, the actors at Funimation did their best with the material, and at the very least made this series a little watchable.

“You may be a weeaboo if you haven’t gotten tired of us yet.”

Panty & Stocking – I know there’s a chance I’m going to take direct or indirect flack for this, but I have to be honest; I really didn’t like this series. It’s actually easier for me to talk about what I did like on this show, and that’s the opening and closing songs, oh and that one song for the music video on one of the episodes. Once again though, the English dub performances are good on it; I can tell they had a lot of fun doing it; and you know? At least they got something out of it; I really didn’t, this series isn’t for me. And that ending; kiss my ass Panty & Stocking.  Aside from that, there’s nothing redeeming for me on this series.

Where to begin; I didn’t like the characters one iota; not even a bit; I get that I’m not supposed to like them, but they irritated me to a point that tested my “can you survive” abilities. The sad part is that I actually know girls that behave like these two, take pride in it and believe that it’s somehow empowering. Just a news flash; behaving like an unlikable asshole, whether you’re male or female still makes you an unlikable asshole. No, it’s not everyone else who has to change for you and respect you while you treat them like crap; it’s called you may have to develop a sense of respect and manners for people too; grownups don’t put up with it; I don’t. So, that’s one issue I have with this series.

The next is the episode structure, I didn’t like the whole half episode pattern it does, and this allows me to transition to the comedy which I also feel is poorly done and unfunny. Basically, Panty & Stocking to me is badly done sketch comedy that derives most of its humour from using the F-word and poorly executed gross out jokes. I think I laughed maybe once or twice on the entire run of the series when I viewed it (the monkey episode) the end result being that it felt more like a chore to watch. And before someone jumps on me and tells me “I didn’t get it” oh I understood the jokes very well and their implications in the real world and the social commentary that goes along with them; I totally understand that. But just because a series has a little satire and jokes rooted in reality, it doesn’t make them good; on Panty & Stocking, they’re poorly executed and come off juvenile; they remind me of something I would’ve come up with when I was fourteen.

Moving on from there, while I liked it at first, the art style, aesthetic and character design really started to annoy the crap out of me to the point where I was literally getting nausea and headaches; I almost threw up once; it’s extremely rare for something to provoke that sort of reaction from me. It’s just the combination and way the colours are composed and the awkward character designs that are problematic for me.

It goes to show that just because a series has an out of the box style to it and it’s doing something different, it doesn’t automatically make it good. If someone wants a series with a unique style to it, some well executed comedy (and some great drama) and something much more intelligent and enjoyable to watch; go watch Ping Pong or The Tatami Galaxy; screw Panty & Stocking.

Ichi the Killer– AAAAAASSSSSSSSSSSSSSHHHHOOOOOLLLLLEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!

“Oh fuck no; there’s more!”

This last batch is merely a list of horrible shows I have finished, but can’t recall, and since I have a massive backlog of anime I want to watch; I will not be subjecting myself to these shows again just so I can talk about them here.

Burn Up Scramble – Boring, unfunny waste of time.

Burst Angel – A mech anime done wrong.

Deadman Wonderland – What a fucking let down this whole series is; I guess I expected way too much.

Ghost Talker’s Daydream – A “short” series that feels longer than it is.

Love Hina – This series made my blood boil watching it, awful fucking show.

Samurai Gun – I don’t know who thought up the concept for this, but it didn’t work.

Star Ocean EX – Boring, boring, boring.

This Ugly Yet Beautiful World – Another show attempts big things but fails in its execution.

General Ramblings About Anime and Favourites List

This post is some of my personal philosophies about how I feel not just about anime, but art/entertainment in general; I won’t be going to deep into the specifics as nobody wants to be here all day reading an entry that plays out like a rambling textbook. With that; I shall begin.

Anime is a remarkable medium. It has the same capabilities as any other form of art/entertainment; for better or worse, the ability to conjure a wide range of reactions from the individuals observing it, including strong emotional ones.

That’s one of the greatest things about anime, visual media or any kind of art work for that matter is that it is for the most part; subjective. Meaning individuals can draw their own conclusions based on their own perceptions; everyone will react differently to various shows making something as simple as liking or disliking something an individual reaction. The best part is that there is no objectively “correct” or “incorrect” opinion or interpretation to have regarding a given piece of art/entertainment.

With that said though, as an individual, it can be difficult to abide that; sometimes I want to tell people they’re “wrong” for liking or disliking a series, sometimes I have the urge to say their interpretation or reaction to a given series is incorrect and that instinct to resort to the old shaming tactics come into play. However; I avoid doing this because it ultimately comes down to the fact that if I want people to respect and listen to my take or preference about any given art/entertainment; I have to be willing to grant the same courtesy to them.

The fact is that I can write at length as to why something is “good” or “bad” but someone else can do exactly the same thing with a contrary opinion, because, that’s all it is; opinion, not concrete fact; so long a given individual backs up what they say. It takes a particular kind of arrogance to believe one’s own opinion somehow carries more weight or is more “factual” or “objective” than anyone else’s.

That doesn’t mean stop listening to certain fans, or critics; there are particular individuals I take recommendations from for certain types of shows, and at the same time, those same people I don’t listen to when it comes to other types of shows. However; there are some reviewers (I won’t mention names) that I don’t listen to even when I have agreed upon some of the shows out there. In this case it’s more about their individual attitudes that don’t sit well with me or they have a perspective heavily steeped in bias brought on my various factors such as a hard lined devotion to a given ideology, or they have a hate on for a given type of series or a love for an individual director or writer.

This bias comes through in the writing of many of their reviews, and I’m not going to lie; I have bias sometimes when I go to engage in a series, however; the key word here is “sometimes” and whatever bias I have, I’m aware of, and am always learning about. Meaning that a majority of the time when I go to try out a series, I’m approaching it pretty clean and there’s that rare occasion that I come in with a bias, say, a particular writer I’m familiar with, so immediately I expect big things from that series by said writer.

In the case of whether I like, or dislike something, that isn’t bias, but my personality which is a summation of my experiences; as I said before, people react differently to different things. What one person holds as the pinnacle of quality is trash to another; this doesn’t make one person’s tastes “better” or more “mature,” it simply means people like different things, or different “dressings” in the sense that is isn’t about people prioritizing certain narrative elements when some of them get the same thing from an ecchi-harem or shonoun series that someone gets from a so called “masterpiece” hailed by the anime community as essential viewing. What one person is offended by, another can wave it off; this doesn’t make the offended person “thin-skinned” or oversensitive no more than it makes a person unoffended a sociopath. And so on and so forth.

I think what’s always bothered me is when someone such as myself has come out and mentioned that a show like Ikkitousen has some symbolism and consistent thematic ideas even while admitting it’s a fun, bubble-gum anime only to be told I’m “reading too much into it,” whereas I can pull virtually any interpretation of Neon Genesis or even Puella Magi Madoka Magica out of my ass and people will buy it. In simple terms, it seems as though ridicule is given to people who approach all types of shows with the same initial level of respect or as I like to say; giving a series a fair try or the benefit of the doubt.

I don’t care if a series has frivolous ecchi fan service, or a generic cast of characters, or something isn’t ground breaking or “original.” I care about the ideas a series is playing with, how they’re dealt with, how and to what extent they’re resolved and the overall execution of the art/entrainment I’m engaged in at a given time.

I’ve heard of this idea of “judging an anime by the cover” which, in my personal opinion is a very reductionist way of approaching this art form. When I took martial arts, there was a saying “they who betray the art, are eventually destroyed by it.” In a way this rings true for any art form including the medium of anime as I have seen people on the receiving end of the bad karma they’ve dished out. This is why, with all my talk about anime being subjective and respecting others’ opinions, one thing I don’t abide is this looking at the cover approach.

Sure, a person can look at promo art, or poster or a DVD/Blu-ray cover and know that a series will have giant robots, excessive fan service; maybe it’s a mystery, or a darker psychological thriller, when it’s a cover with a lame guy surrounded by girls it’s usually a harem, but the thing is, even a person who just got into anime can do that. What people can’t discern from cover art is what ideas, themes or philosophies the series will play with, to what extent and how. It’s difficult to determine how much depth the characters will have and what role they will play in the story aside from the conventional archetypes they’re assigned to or what impact or influence they will have on the narrative and or themes and ideas a show is working with.

I’ve seen shows that have changed my mind and my approach, shows that have surprised me, the most highly unlikely shows with something valid and intelligent to say in a well-executed, consistent and coherent manner. In essence; for me; some of these shows exceeded any expectation I had making it on to the higher positions of my favourites list.

This is my explanation as to why I consider myself neither critic nor fan, but as connoisseur of anime; it’s the only term I can think of even though there are those who feel I have no right calling myself that; whatever. My reasoning is that I approach this medium differently from most others I have come across, even looking over my favourites list myself, I can see it’s pretty eccentric not just in where I have ranked shows  but my levelling system.

The other reason for this is its extremely tough for me to pick a “best” or “most favourite” series since there are a lot of great shows out there that give me everything I want in an anime, but more importantly; all do it in a different manner that explore the human condition with different themes/ideas, philosophies, genres all tied together with a sound execution.

My favourites list is a testament to this philosophy; which is why there are so many and such a wide range of titles listed here. If it has well written, developed/dynamic characters, a solid story; whether complex or simple, good pacing, themes; something that connects to real life experience, something intelligent, good overall use of literary devices, and good execution; this is what will attract and retain my interest in an anime. It’s all of this that I need to consider an anime to be one of my top favourites; to be more entertaining or stand out, to create that urgency of desire the continue watching it. All of this anime here has done this and fulfills its duty as good quality series; and I will always be adding new shows. All lists are in alphabetical order and are subject to change with other upcoming shows I intend to view.

Top Favourite Anime Shows Level 1: This component of the list is shows that not only hooked me in and where profoundly entertaining, but also gave me something to think about. Many of these titles I still think about even not having watched them for a few years. It’s these kinds of shows that remind me as to why I got into anime in the first place. Upon observation, one will notice there are the obvious choices and a few that may not make sense being here; trust me; I hold all these shows in a high regard.

Baccano!

Blood Blockade Battlefront

Cowboy Bebop

Darker Than Black (All of it)

Death Parade

Ergo Proxy

Fate/Zero

Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Blade Works

Fractale

Fullmetal Alchemist

Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood

Gankotsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo

Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet

GunGrave

High School of the Dead

Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions

Mushishi

Penguindrum

Ping Pong

Princess Jellyfish

Prison School

Psycho-Pass

Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Queen’s Blade

Queen’s Blade: Beautiful Warriors

Samurai Champloo

Shiki

Texhnolyze

Welcome to the NHK

Top Favourite Anime Movies Level 1: The same idea applies as Top Favourite Level 1 Shows, only carried over to movies. Obviously movies are much shorter, but this does in and of itself, provides a new set of challenges with the limited run time.

Expelled From Paradise

Grave of the Fireflies

Howl’s Moving Castle

Paprika

Patema Inverted

Perfect Blue

Puella Magi Madoka Magica Movies: Beginnings, Eternal and Rebellion

Spirited Away

Summer Wars

Time of Eve

Wolf Children

Top Favourite Anime Shows Level 2 (close behind 1st place top favourites): We continue on, this is pretty much the same as the previous list, however; these shows had a few issues for me that I am critical of, or didn’t leave me with as strong an impact as the shows above it. Understand that these shows are here because of a very marginal difference in my personal preference; I’m talking by a sliver.

Barakamon

Blassreiter

Cat Planet Cuties

Chaika: The Coffin Princess

Chobits

Dance in the Vampire Bund

Devil is a Part-Timer

Inuyasha: Season 1

Inuyasha: Season 5

Inuyasha: The Final Act

Kino’s Journey

Kousougiga

Ladies Vs. Butlers

Maken Ki (Season 1)

Maria the Virgin Witch

One Punch Man

Ouran High School Host Club

Queen’s Blade Rebellion

Rage of Bahamut: Genesis

Samurai Girls

Speed Grapher

Spice & Wolf

Stein’s; Gate

The Tatami Galaxy

Terror on Resonance

Top Favourite Anime Movies Level 2: Once again, same idea here as Top Favourite Level 2 Shows, only to movies. Every now and then a big franchise may make its way in there such as Madoka, FMA or Inuyasha; the same ideas apply only the challenge these movies face is; do they build on to, or expand the lore; or are they merely rehashing most of what we’ve already seen and not executing it as well as on the series they came from? This is regardless of some of them being shameless cash grabs. The ones that still provide the same level of care and quality from the series, while doing something a little different usually work out.

Akira

Evangelion 1.11: You are (not) Alone

Evangelion 2.22: You can (not) Advance

Evangelion 3.33: You can (not) Redo

Fullmetal Alchemist Conqueror of Shamballa

Fullmetal Alchemist Sared Star of Milos

The Princess Kaguya

Princess Mononoke

Redline

Trigun: Badlands Rumble

When Marnie was There

Your Name

 

Level 1 Favourite Anime Shows: These are shows I really like, I got into them and feel pretty strongly about them, however; they’re here because while I feel they’re great, there are a few factors I found lacing in them inhibiting their ability to be “top favourites.” In some cases it is superficial elements like pacing or animation issues, perhaps some overt repetition, self-indulgent storytelling, some narrative or thematic inconsistencies or I may have even somewhat disagree with what the series has to say.

There are some that make it this high out of the sheer and utmost respect I have for them in terms of the narrative ambition and execution put forth, however; those particular shows I still have some pretty legion issues with. Understand though; I still think these shows are pretty golden and would recommend them to which ever fan is into a given type of series.

 

Attack on Titan

Bakemonogatari

Basilisk

Berserk – both original and new

Blood – C

Black Lagoon (all)

Eden of the East

Freezing & Freezing Vibration

Gatchaman Crowds & Gatchaman Crowds Insight

GunBuster

Haibane Renmei

Hellsing

Hellsing Ultimate

High School DxD

High School DxD New

Ikkitousen GG

Ikkitousen XX

Inuyasha: Season 2

Inuyasha: Season 3

Inuyasha: Season 7

Kids on the Slope

Mermaid Forest

Moribito

My Love Story

Neon Genesis Evangelion

No-Rin

Outbreak Company

Revolutionary Girl Utena

Sailor Moon/Sailor Moon R

Samurai Bride

Shimoneta

Tenjho Tenge

Trigun

Wanna be the Strongest in the World

The World God Only Knows

Yurikuma Arashi

Level 1 Favourite Anime Movies: Once again, same idea applies here as in the Level 1 Favourite Shows taking into consideration the shorter run time and how well they expand upon the larger series they come from.

Blood – C: The Last Dark

Inuyasha: Castle Beyond the Looking Glass

Inuyasha: Swords of an Honorable Ruler

Kiki’s Delivery Service

Oblivion Island

Short Piece

Tokyo Godfathers

Level 2 Favourite Anime Shows: Making it lower on the list, these are shows I find to be all out entertaining and downright fun. In some situations they lose steam at given parts of their run and in some cases once again; self-indulgence and some overt repetition which took me out of it at times other times it’s the fact that the experience of viewing certain titles here come off more like reading a textbook as opposed to a novel, if that makes any sense. Other ones, while I still consider good have nostalgic value on their side.

Air Gear

Astroboy (1980)

Baka and Test

Beck

Chrono Crusade

Daphne in the Brilliant Blue

DearS

Desert Punk

Eureka 7

Excel Saga

Fate/Stay Night

FLCL

Fruits Basket

Girls Bravo

Haganai

Haganai NEXT

Heaven’s Lost Property

Heaven’s Lost Property Forte

Hellgirl Season 1

Hellgirl Two Mirrors

Hellsing

Ikkitousen

Ikki Tousen DD

Inuyasha: Season 4

Inuyasha: Season 6

Kill La Kill

Le Chevalier D’Eon

Nadjica Blitz Tactics

Princess Tutu

Rune Soldier

Simoun

School Rumble

Sekirei

Stellvia

Strike Witches

Vandread

Watamote

Yuki Yuna is a Hero

Puella Magi Madoka Magica: A Modest Write up

If you’re reading this, congratulations; you’ve come to my first ever blog post. I’m actually putting the carriage in front of the horse on this one since I’m discussing some of my personal interpretations of one of my personal top favourite anime before writing an introduction or prologue or whatever the fuck people normally do, but this is my blog post, so I will do whatever I want with it.

With that, this post is a pretty basic analysis of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, as mentioned, one of my top favourite anime. The original intent of this particular piece was meant as a rebuttal to people who say that this series lacks good characterisation; which I’ve encountered more often than one would believe; so this write up has been handy.

Firstly, as mentioned I hold Puella Magi Madoka Magica to a very high regard, it’s well paced, it’s thematically and narratively consistent, it has interesting characters, a dynamic and captivating aesthetic that contributes just as much to the narrative and themes and the characters do and it can be enjoyed on various levels.  These are attributes that are found in most of my favourite anime series; at least as far as I’ve seen.

At a mere twelve episodes, Puella Magi Madoka Magica covers more ground than in numerous other shows I have seen that have over a hundred episodes; and still lack a conclusion of any kind. With this limited time frame, what we have with Madoka Magica is a more condensed story. Despite the fact that it’s out of necessity, what I find remarkable and considerably impressive is how the characters are generally well fleshed out and developed while also serving a functional role to the narrative goals of the story.

Essentially, Puella Magi Madoka Magica goes the economy route by squeezing as much mileage as possible out of every frame; from the perspective of cinematography, everything from shadow puppetry to keen color use with wide background shots are utilized; every scene is populated with something of great narrative value.

This is where I want to share a few of my personal interpretations, particularly some of the character aspects, and dabble a little on backgrounds and settings; I do apologize for the length, however; if you decide to read it, I hope that you find it enjoyable; and understand, even with the length that it is, I’m not covering everything I want to here; there are a lot of intricate details in this particular show.

With that, there are three major motifs/themes I will bring up throughout this write up.

The first can be summed up with a quote from The Dark Knight; “You either die the hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”

The second one is the chess motif; note how often checkerboard floors come up in this series, then think about the characters and apply the two as complimentary motifs.

The third are the colors and what they represent to the characters, visual motifs and tone shifts.

“If you’re not 100% sure why you’re doing it, you’ll most definitely regret it later.” – Mami

First we have Mami, poor Mami, lonely Mami. While her character arc is the only one I can really criticise since her developmental change does feel somewhat abrupt and it would’ve hurt to have a little extra time; it was narratively established quite well nonetheless considering the little screen time she got as a character. In her arc we found out her reasons for becoming a magical girl, that while she’s confident and seems very happy, that she’s quite lonely due to her lifestyle and is aware of the price she’s paid for her abilities. She’s very noble, has a sense of justice and is usually concerned for those around her; she becomes the idol that Sayaka wants to emulate; but we’ll talk about her later. This is where her magical girl form has a bit of an elegant “western” sheriff motif to represent that nobility, selflessness and justice.

A lot of her fleshing out and development is not spoon fed to the viewer but rather presented in an implicit fashion. We see that she lives in an apartment alone, the only company and council she has access to is Kyubey (which would suck). Her change occurs when she learns Madoka will join her in her struggles; she receives assurance that someone will be there alongside, that she no longer has to endure loneliness; of course, those who have seen Madoka Magica know that it all comes to a sudden end.

Which brings me to Mami’s role and function in the story; while her character is pretty well crafted in the allotted time, she does serve the purpose of exposition when she takes Madoka and Sayaka under her wing and “shows them the ropes.” It’s in these scenes that Mami is not just addressing Madoka and Sayaka, but the audience as well; this is something that Kyubey does as well throughout the series along with the scenes with Mami by further elaborating her points. The first narrative function of Mami is there to lay out the “rules” of the story for the audience while explaining them to the new recruits.

The second is to show the true price young girls pay when making a contract with Kyubey; the isolation and loneliness they endure under such circumstances. This toll is presented in conjunction with the fact that what magical girls do is dangerous and that the life they choose to live doesn’t enable the luxury of friends, or a significant other. This is your basic Spiderman premise of making lifestyle sacrifices and the old saying of “with great power, comes great responsibility.”

This brings us to the third narrative function Mami plays; that being a magical girl is dangerous. While many contend that her death scene is for mere “shock value” I respectfully disagree; it’s a wakeup call to the viewer to illustrate that the danger is truly real and threatening with what these characters have gotten themselves involved in. This eventually leads Mami to die a hero.

The red sky and shadowy industrial buildings in the background of this frame illustrates that impending doom awaits Mami.

The chess motif for Mami is the Bishop, a piece that moves in a diagonal pattern across the chess board similar to Mami’s long range attack with her guns; even Mami’s silhouette in her Magical Girl form looks similar to that of a Bishop.

Her color is yellow, which in context of her character signifies joy, happiness, optimism, idealism, imagination, hope, sunshine, summer, philosophy, jealousy, hazard and friendship.

“I’m so stupid! How could I say those things? I’m hopelessly stupid!” – Sayaka

Water up front; take it with the floods.

Next up, we have Sayaka the stubborn. Since her story arc is one of downfall and tragedy, her tragic flaw is that she’s quite stubborn. Combine that with her naïve idealism and these are the primary factors which ultimately lead her to her demise; however, I am getting way ahead of myself. Sayaka, Madoka’s best friend is portrayed as impulsive and quite headstrong(forte hair clips – get it?); she makes a decision and goes full out, however; she doesn’t think things through as much as she should, she has a sense of justice and idealism which is what gives her magical girl form a knight motif with sword and cape. Combined with her impulsive and stubborn attitude, Sayaka’s hopeless infatuation with a boy serves as the primary motivator for her wish which could be questioned as; did she do it selflessly? Or did she do it to win his affections? Does she expect gratitude from this boy? Even if he does recognize the sacrifice, can Sayaka reciprocate such feelings with the state she ends up in? As a character, she is one of the more fascinating of the cast, but that possibly might be the result of her outcome in the story.

Sayaka in the brilliant blue; this visual motif comes up frequently; a signifier for an eventual outcome.

This is where her narrative function comes into play; her story arc has an added interest to convey to the viewer what happens when a magical girl succumbs to despair and how witches come into being. What I find interesting about this character arc are the factors that cause her to fall into despair; learning the truth that magical girls are essentially vessels without souls and their true form is reduced to a mere gem stone, her strong idealism and stubbornness, or perhaps she feels guilt for her wish because of her own selfish desires to be entitled the boy she likes for helping him thus strengthening her resolve and idealistic sense of justice out of an obligation to rectify that guilt.

Actually, it’s clearly apparent that she initially made her wish out of her own selfish desires to win the affection of the boy she likes; this is one part of how she fell into despair. The other part is that even if she wanted to attempt a relationship with him, she’s no longer human and she has taken on an enormous responsibility. With all her good intentions, her wish doesn’t bring her the happiness she wanted. Of course at the very end of the series, in her development as a character, she doesn’t regret it, because she truly understands what it means to do something selfless; she does become a responsible adult.

The mermaid conveys powerful imagery relevant to Sayaka.

As an aside, it has been said that Sayaka’s story arc is virtually identical to the Little Mermaid, everything from water bubbles in her transformation, to the rain pouring down prior to her transition to a witch. Even the imagery of how she looks as though she’s engulfed in the crushing depths of the underwater abyss when she transforms to a witch, then her witch form has a mermaid tail. Sayaka lives long enough to become the villain.

Sayaka’s appearance becomes distorted in the water.

Sayaka is the Knight wielding a sword, and the motif she has and her sense of justice and gallantry; the piece in chess that moves/jumps in an “L” shape on the board, this I noticed with Sayaka’s fighting style the way she leaps and jumps around while in combat.

Sayaka’s color is blue which in the context of her character means; trust, truth, confidence, conservatism, security, cleanliness, order, loyalty, sky, water (ah ha, aquatic mermaid), melancholy and depression.

“Miracles aren’t free you know. If you wish for something good to happen a whole lot of bad stuff is going to happen too. I guess that’s how the world stays in balance, good bad, everything zeros out.” – Kyoko

Kyoko has a short arc, and just a personal rant about her; people are always saying that her character development is somewhat clumsy, even the word contrived comes up. I couldn’t disagree with this more as I have recently viewed Puella Magi Madoka Movies One and Two, and with Kyoko; I think her arc, while short, is also rich which means it’s one of the most condensed of the characters. People often confuse condensed with lack of; and this is a big mistake. Most of Kyoko’s early development is implicit and, very subtle; blink and you miss it. Another aspect to remember is that Kyoko is more of a supporting character with her arc being subordinated to Sayaka’s story arc.

What of Kyoko’s character? She is well fleshed out and developed, possibly one of the best, and most thorough back stories of the series not only allowing the viewer to understand Kyoko, but also outlining that an inevitable curse of misfortune and despair is equal to the wish that brings hope and prosperity. I loved hearing her story about how she became a magical girl told with puppets, and about her past along with the Christian allegory and imagery of the apples (fruit of knowledge) and the church she hides out in. From her actions and behaviours it’s implied that she doesn’t really seem to care about anything, or anyone else but herself and the reasoning for it is well established in her backstory. She has allowed her experiences to dictate her identity and as a result has become jaded and cynical. She has become similar to Kyubey in her outlook being one of utilitarianism as illustrated by her actions; allowing a handful of people to die to fuel a greater cause; her cause, her livelihood.

Fruit of knowledge?

This changes when her mentality and ideals are challenged by Sayaka, and that’s where her development begins with her anger and frustration towards Sayaka, because she learns that she just might have been going about things wrong. From there, this all occurs on a gradual basis eventually causing her to cast aside her fears and cynicism. At the end of her arc, she dies the hero redeeming herself in the process.

Although there’s plenty of Christian imagery throughout Madoka, there’s an abundance of it with Kyoko’s arc.

Her narrative function is that she’s a corrupted magical girl who has abandoned serving others but hasn’t given into despair. She is a survivalist; she doesn’t anything she can to ensure she continues on living, usually stealing food for example, or waiting for a witch to mature at the expense of some innocent human beings; one could say she’s something of an anti-hero. Prior to her dynamic change in her story arc, her ideals and mentality is similar to that of Kyubey as I mentioned, but her actions, while like that of a magical girl, is in some ways; like that of a witch as well.

Kyoko is the rook, her lance has a long range capability as does the rook in chess being able to move in a straight pattern across the board, matching Kyoko’s personality and fighting style.

Kyoko’s color is red, which indicates in the context of her character; Excitement, energy, passion, love, desire, speed, strength, power, heat, aggression, danger, fire, blood, war, violence, and sincerity.

“Sometimes kindness can lead to even greater tragedy.” – Homura

Homura, who’s seen as the antagonist earlier on is possibly one of the most dynamic characters on Madoka Magica. While this is mostly done with fleshing out, it is her developmental phase in a past tense which is presented to the viewer later on. Of the characters on this series, she is the one who cares most deeply about Madoka; which is the catalyst for the events of the entire Madoka series including Rebellion; but we’ll not talk about that now, and just so everyone knows; yes, I like it a lot; here’s hoping another one will come out to “finish” that story.

There’s plenty of foreshadowing and subtle hints dropped with Homura when she first comes on the scene actually giving a certain intrigue to the early episodes. With her development, I’d like to think that she was able to “let go” with Madoka to allow her to do what she must, of course, that would be all fine and dandy, however; movie three right (I still like it though).

Her story arc is in a way, is an amalgamation of Mami’s, Kyoko’s and Sayaka’s story arcs; she’s a somewhat jaded and cynical survivor, she’s lonely but somewhat optimistic, she made her wish to help someone whom she deeply cares for and she could fall to the impending doom of despair at any moment. Interestingly enough, the events that set all this off is Homura’s hubris and her ambition to play god by trying to fight against fate and save her best friend.

This is what makes this series so amazing; all the individual character arcs are great standalone short stories, however; they’re also a part of a whole to provide the viewer with relevant information to set up the climax.

Homura is the Queen, in chess the Queen can go anywhere in any direction at almost any distance; this is identical to Homura’s time freezing technique that allows her to move quickly over great distances.

The color for Homura is purple, which combines the stability of blue and the energy of red. When applied to the context of her character; Royalty, nobility, spirituality, ceremony, mysterious, transformation, wisdom, enlightenment, cruelty, honour, arrogance, mourning, and temperance.

“If you ever feel lie dying for the sake of the universe, call me; I’ll be waiting.” – Kyubey

There’s Kyubey, and he can be compared to many things, a used car salesman, although, I like comparing him to a drug dealer myself:

These are accurate analogies, but I’m more inclined to think of him as an elite architect of war. He practically engineers the wars fought between magical girls and witches in order to come along and reap the benefits; he is definitively a war profiteer. I understand the whole debate about him being a villain and all, and how he does all this for the “greater good” however; one of the most common thematic threads found in Urobuchi’s works (Fate/Zero, Psycho-Pass, Gargantia, Expelled from Paradise) is the conflict of utilitarianism vs. individualism, this whole idea of sacrifice the few to save the many. Kyubey represents that utilitarianism that Urobuchi tends to rail against in his works; which is why Kyubey is of sorts a pretty nasty villain. No, he doesn’t have malicious intent, he doesn’t take joy in the downfall of the magical girls, and that’s part of the problem right there; he’s completely incapable of that or any emotion, or empathy, and that is what makes Kyubey particularly menacing as a character; cold logic, no heart or soul.

While his overall design has elements of “cute,” there is also something unsettling about his appearance, such as his demonic red eyes, or his alien like ears. This comes through especially for scenes where “shadow puppetry” come into play, casting a more demonic appearance and creating a haunting imagery which reveals Kyubey’s true nature and intentions.

Upon examining the picture we see a blue and white background, keeping in mind what these colors mean, over top of that we see what appears to be a gritty black figure. This is merely Kyubey sitting on a plant, however the actual look alludes to something more menacing with sharp edges casting a dark shadow upon the wall making Kyubey appear as a devil. Understanding that black is generally associated with power, evil, death and mystery, this image is meant to evoke feelings of tension and anxiety in the viewer.

The shadow of Kyubey shows him as much larger and far more demonic in appearance than he normally appears and conveys his cold logical mentality. Add to that the hearts on Madoka’s bed represents love, empathy and compassion as she pleads with him to understand; something he’s incapable of doing.

This is the Faustian bargain and contract allegory with how Faust, as represented by Homura on Madoka Magica, sold his soul to the devil for magic abilities to indulge in the pleasure and knowledge of the world by making a contract with Mephistopheles, who is Kyubey. Mephistopheles(Kyubey) helps Faust(Homura) seduce an innocent young girl named Gretchen, as represented by Madoka, and as a result, her life is destroyed.

Gretchen’s(Madoka) innocence saves her from damnation and is able to get into heaven. Depending on which version, Faust(Homura) is saved by god due to his constant striving along with Gretchen’s(Madoka) pleading with God. In other versions, Faust(Homura) has submitted to being fully corrupted, his sins unforgivable; eventually the devil comes to collect him and takes him to hell; Rebellion. Of course, the only real aspect here is the Faustian Bargain, the other elements of the story although present; are lightly implicit.

Aside from serving as an antagonist on Madoka Magica, he’s also a source of exposition; in many of the conversations between him and Madoka I feel as though he’s addressing the audience as well as Madoka. As is the case with Mami’s dialogue, I don’t feel that Kyubey addressing the audience is a bad thing since it doesn’t disrupt the narrative flow of the series, nor is it spoon fed and after all, the characters are still talking to each other.

Kyubey is the King on the opposing side.

His colors are red and white and when applied to his character; red; aggression, danger, fire, blood, war, violence and malice. White; is considered to be the color of perfection, purity and is associated with hospitals, doctors, and sterility; angels are usually imagined wearing white clothes. Other attributes that white lends to Kyubey is simplicity, cleanliness and precision. His white body color gives a person a false sense of security while his red eyes are a definitive warning.

With art/entertainment in general, when there’s impending danger, the color red comes up in some way, this is not just for Madoka; on both Fullmetal Alchemist series the philosopher’s stone is red in color and gives a red glow; it’s also made by killing people, then there’s the Sith lords in Star Wars with their Red lightsabers. Kyubey has red eyes and looking at how they’re used with the cinematography is brilliant; you see Kyubey talking about making Madoka a magical girl and the entire frame is his eye with her face reflected on it; meaning she’s in danger, this occurs a few times throughout the series. Then there’s when Kyubey is talking about livestock and the entire screen is red with his eyes over top creating a haunting atmosphere. This is just a few examples of how red is an indicative warning to the characters and viewer watching at home when stepping into the world of Madoka Magica; and there are many more times this visual element is utilized.

“I can change it? Even someone like me can do something to help. Can I really change how this ends?” – Madoka

Lastly Madoka, she has so much to her character; her implicit fleshing out and obvious development and her functional role in the story. Her fleshing out is achieved through her behaviours and interactions with the other characters; her mother for example tells Madoka how good a person she is, that she practically does no wrong; implicitly saying that she is pure. This not only fleshed out Madoka’s character, but also serves to set up the final outcome of the story.

When we examine how Madoka behaves during confrontative scenes we can see that she desires peace asking everyone to quit fighting. We also see that she is pretty indecisive, unable to make choices easily, which contrasts Sayaka’s impulsive behaviour. Madoka is somewhat shy, but still friendly and welcoming to everyone. Essentially all of her fleshing out portrays Madoka as a Zion of sorts which foreshadows coming events.

From a narrative function view, Madoka does fill the role of giving the viewer a first person perspective on the events or a point of view character; the reason for this, aside from serving the narrative, is to establish how Madoka makes the ultimate wish in the end. Everything Madoka sees, from Magical girls’ fighting each other, losing their lives to witches, becoming witches, hearing what Kyubey has to say and his motives allow for her to piece all this information together to come up with a solution.

We all know Madoka becomes a god; and this is narratively earned with Madoka’s fleshing out pointing towards her being a Zion and Kyubey coming right out and saying that Madoka could be a god; the series practically spells it out and lays it one the table for the viewer.

As mentioned earlier, there’s some good religious allegory thrown in throughout the series, and I’m not talking about surface level stuff like Neon Genesis (another great series) I’m talking about this allegory being well integrated into the series and contributing to the narrative in so many ways.

“And I saw the seven angels which stood before god; and to them were given seven trumpets.”

-Revelation 8:2

In Revelations, the trumpets are sounded one at a time to cue apocalyptic events, in Madoka, considering that impending doom and despair await, these trumpets have relevance. Notice how the background is a nice clean white and blue; think about what those colors represent, then the trumpets are black, which is indicative of death.

To hammer this point down there’s:

“Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.”

-Revelation 8:15

Now, I’m not a religious person, I just happen to know the relevance of it to this particular series. The fact is, after Madoka becomes a god; she rewrites the fabric of reality.

Madoka is the King in chess, she’s the one Homura so loyally protects, and when Madoka makes the right wish against Kyubey; checkmate.

Madoka’s main colors are pink and white; pink symbolizes love and romance, caring, tenderness, acceptance and calm. White for her; reverence, purity, birth, simplicity, cleanliness, peace, humility, precision, innocence, youth, and is associated with safety, hospitals, and doctors.

Before I wrap this up, there are a few words I want to bring up about the backgrounds and setting as many of them compliment the series so well with their relevance to what’s occurring narratively and thematically. The first set piece that comes to mind that I want to bring up are black bars, such as gates or framing at the front of the screen creating an oppressive tone, almost as if the characters are “caged.” I’m almost inclined to say that this visual motif implies that the characters are restrained to the fates they’re given; that there’s no escaping what’s considered inevitable outcomes for them in the story.

I particularly like how this is also applied to inanimate objects throughout the series; one of my favourite examples is at the beginning in Madoka’s “dream” when Kyubey proposes making a contract with him and at that instant the frame has a busted traffic light(traffic lights come up often in this series) that has the red light violently flicker which is indicative of an inevitably regrettable and dangerous decision on Madoka’s part.

Other visual aspects I have I pulled from the Movie and TV series.

There is obviously way more about this series I’m aware of such as the significance of the empty chairs, how the color palette is very simple and background colors are not only meant to set an atmosphere for a particular scene, but to convey meaning and transition tone; particularly when it’s well integrated into the cinematography at times. I just want to bring up a few examples obviously being aware of the sky or floor colors during certain parts since it has scenes where it’s a red haze, or blue flooring or an unsettling night sky.

As for more about intimate objects, besides chairs; mirrors are also of great importance, and don’t seem to get spoken about too often, at least in my travels.

One piece of allegory worth pointing out in the context of Homura’s time travelling is near the beginning of the series when Madoka and her mother are in the bathroom and one frame has Madoka near a mirror and we see the infinite reflections of Madoka’s face in the mirror which alludes to the various world lines Madoka is a part of.

The mall serves as a great symbol representing the cycle Magical girls endure; on the surface everything looks pleasing, warm, colourful and inviting. It could even be a statement about the series itself, how most of the promotional art work makes the series look cute and innocent, however, as an aside, I knew within the first few seconds of watching this series that it was going to take a darker route. Madoka’s dream sequence was enough to convey that to me, anyways, I digress.

The area people see at the people is lovely and inviting.

Now, let’s examine some of the shots of the “back area” of the mall; what it looks like behind closed doors.

Notice the chains hanging down, the glaring red lights indicative of danger.

More red used as well as shadow and darkness; notice the flooring in some of these shots and how it’s still colourful and bright.

This here is just gritty.

Take note the gating intruding on the front of the frame, the colourful floors and where Madoka is.

A frame from a scene prior to Sayaka succumbing to despair; shadow puppetry utilized here.

Clocks come up over and over again throughout Madoka Magica; obvious reasons for those who have watched the series in its entirety.Factories and industrial builds come up a lot in Madoka Magica; these offers up a contrast to the sterile, pristine look of other surroundings and characters frequently seen as well as illustrate intense danger and tension.

Notice as they head towards the left of the screen where it’s darker indicative that the fate they hold is equally as dark.

Darkness surrounds Madoka.

Multiple shadows may possibly indicate the various timelines travelled as described earlier with the mirrors.

Homura’s shadows are somewhat covered and ambiguous.

This here is a great shot; up top we see Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam with yellow on the left and blue on the right. Junko, Madoka’s mother sits on the right where it’s blue and is feeling helpless because she’s unable to comprehend her daughter’s behaviours; essentially she’s having trouble letting go of her daughter and allowing her to grow up. This is a small character arc, but an arc nonetheless, and in the end; she is able to give Madoka her independence.

Kazuko sits on the left where it’s yellow and she lectures Junko that her daughter is growing up and that she needs to let go and recognize her independence. She is also a lot more optimistic and upbeat.

Okay; after everything I’ve talked about in this post; do I really need to describe this frame? I think you get the idea by now.

Anyways, for those who read through this; I hope you enjoyed it. I am more than aware that there is much more symbolism and imagery that greatly contribute to the narrative and themes of Madoka. There series is rich with such things, but as I mentioned before, I like shows like this because they can be enjoyed on various levels.

Whether a person simply wants a good, entertaining series they can immerse themselves in, or if they want to take the critical route examining the cinematography and writing, or someone wants to dissect and analyse the series and the deeper meanings Puella Magi Madoka Magica offers all of that.