Though both Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki seem to be in this bizarre limbo of being in and out of the animation circuit, it seems that fans of the studio’s style and themes will have somewhere else to look to once their final animation cel is crafted and Ghibli’s doors close for good—Studio Ponoc. For their first feature-length film, Studio Ponoc is giving us Ghibli-esque goodness featuring an adorable protagonist and, of course, magic.
Rin: All right, listen. It’s not that I was trying to avoid watching Yuri!!! On Ice, it’s just that I had things to do. And stuff. However, as an early Christmas present to myself—and at the behest of the increasingly sappy, romantic, gay gifs I was seeing on my Tumblr dash—I finally sat down and watched all ten of the currently aired episodes. Let me tell you: it’s going to be damned hard to write a review that’s not just me screaming in delight for however many paragraphs. Luckily enough, I have Lady Saika here with me to keep me in line. Maybe.
Saika: I don’t know that I’ll be much help there. I binged the first several episodes of the series a few weeks ago, and after the pure and sweet and precious tenth episode (which just aired this week), we knew we couldn’t wait any longer to write about this wonderful series. And we’ll do our best to keep the shrill, excited shrieking to a minimum. Probably.
Rin: No promises. I’ll tell you right now, this article is going to conclude just as it’s starting right now—with a sincere plea to sit down and watch this show. You will absolutely not regret it.
Spoilers after the jump!
I first heard about animation director Kenji Kamiyama when I heard about 009 Re:Cyborg. Growing up, one of my favorite anime series was the 2001 adaptation of the original Cyborg 009 manga (penned by Shotaro Ishinomori), so seeing that the series would have new life blown into it made me incredibly excited. Unfortunately, in the swirling torrents of being an adult and having a million things to do, I still haven’t gotten around to watching Kamiyama’s film vision of the series I enjoyed so much. Despite this, though, news of Kamiyama’s upcoming film still has me anticipating some slice-of-life goodness mixed in with some sci-fi on the side, right alongside some beautiful animation from studio Signal.MD.
I’ve been awfully busy since I finished Sailor Moon S, which means I haven’t had time to sit down with the next season of the classic show. There’s always time for fanfiction, however. While I was excited to finally meet Sailors Neptune and Uranus in S, they’re by no means the main characters, and I wanted to see how fans imagined their relationship. How did two girls from such different walks of life handle their partnership, both as Haruka and Michiru, and as Uranus and Neptune? What made them into the harder, grittier scouts they became, who judged individual lives against the greater good of the world? This fic from Michiru’s POV digs into how Michiru first discovered Haruka and how their relationship developed over the course of the season.
“Who is that?”
“Huh? Michiru!” Her classmate looks up from the magazine in her hands, unfiltered surprise scrawled all across her face, and the three girls crowded around her follow suit with gapes to match. She presses the magazine closed, tapping her finger against the cover photo that Michiru had just touched. “Her? That’s Haruka Tenoh! You really haven’t heard of her? She’s the youngest motor racer in Japan, and one of the best in the country, too!”
“Oh,” says Michiru, then pauses. “May I borrow this for a bit?”
All four look at her as though she had just now landed from outer space. The magazine’s owner is happy enough to shove it into her hands, however, with an awe-struck exclamation of “Wow, Michiru, this is really rare for you!” as she’s apparently “never interested in this sort of stuff”. Michiru responds with an “Oh, really” that’s more of a stock reaction than a legitimate question, thanks her, and returns to her seat with the magazine in hand.
On the cover, Haruka Tenoh is beautiful. Perched on the driver seat of the racecar like it was built for her, helmet tucked beneath her arm, on an open road where you can see nothing but the sand and sky. “Faster than the Wind”, the bold print reads, and in smaller letters describes the promising young racer who just got the gold in the nation-wide quarter-final and told Japan Entertainment Weekly all about her win and plans for the future, more on page three. Michiru traces a finger across the line of her jaw — high and sharp like a man’s, but with a fascinating sort of delicacy to it — up to the line where her hair begins, short sandy-gold blowing back in the wind. And in that moment, every last hard-suppressed fantasy filters through the newly-formed crack in her mind’s dam, flooding her.
They could be driving along the beach. She would feel warm summer breeze flutter through her hair, and breathe in ocean air. There would be no roads but the one they would make for themselves, and Haruka would turn to look at her, and smile.
Michiru’s chest tightens. This is ridiculous. She really, really shouldn’t.
She turns to page three.
2016 may be a shitshow, but at the last moment, anime seems to be conducting a noble effort to make the end of the year a bit sweeter. Freshman on the sports anime scene, Yuri!!! On Ice, appears to have skipped the typical queerbaiting of its predecessors and jumped right to a heartwarming portrayal of a healthy relationship between two bisexual men (fingers crossed this won’t get fucked up as it approaches its final episodes); unable to keep himself from his passion, Hayao Miyazaki has stated he’ll return from retirement for just one more feature length animated film with Studio Ghibli; and both Spirited Away and Sailor Moon R: The Movie are getting theatrical releases, Spirited Away in early December and Sailor Moon in January. As I’ve traveled back home for the holiday season, I’m about 90% sure that none of the theaters in my little town are going to be showing either of the two animated films. Like that would stop me, though.
Out of the Sailor Moon filmography, I remember watching Sailor Moon R—subtitled Promise of the Rose in the North American release—back in the wee days of my youth, and as such it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise when I say that it’s hands down my favorite of the three. Aside from the rose motif, little me adored the flower-based baddies and the romantic triangle that had a satisfying conclusion. Older me sat here not even a day ago reminiscing about the film wondering, “did this movie even have a love triangle?” I’m not doubting the shoujo genre or glossing over its flaws, but I watched the dub of the movie, and if there’s one thing I remember about the early dub of Sailor Moon, it’s that anything pertaining to not being straight typically had a shoddily woven rug thrown over it in hopes that the kiddies wouldn’t notice. And the potential love conflict between Darien, Serena, and the antagonist Fiore would have had almost inescapable implications of homosexual love between Darien and Fiore. Yet, upon watching the film again and keeping an eye out for this, I found that Fiore’s feelings probably weren’t intentionally glossed over. Furthermore, while the American dub may actually be gayer than the original Japanese, the ambiguity isn’t necessarily a bad thing in this case.
Note: since I’m mainly speaking of the dub, I will be using the names from said original dub.
In the summer of 2013, the first part of Koe no Katachi was released. Written by Yoshitoki Ooima, and based off a one-shot that was published earlier in 2011, the series quickly picked up a following in part, I think, due to its empathetic handling of its one Deaf protagonist. As a fan of the one-shot, I was ecstatic to find that the series found its way to the silver screen and that the people at KyoAni were going to be leading the helm in terms of animation because honestly, this story about growing, learning, and redemption deserves as much beauty as it can get.
Anime magical girls and witches seem to fill a similar niche in their respective media. Both are centered around the inherent powers of women—whether they are feared or not because of it–and the idea of gathering power from what one wants is vital in the use of their powers. Though a witch may be more apt to use a love potion or other more unsavory methods in popular media, and magical girls typically want peace and love, the similarities aren’t difficult to see. Moreover, while these character types are stereotypically feminine, their real strength comes from how the magic they’re given only serves to build up the inner strength of the character in a way more easily understood by younger audiences. Sailor Moon doesn’t start caring about her loved ones extra hard because of her magic, it just helps her defend her friends and family in a way she wouldn’t be able to otherwise. Similarly, Marnie in Halloweentown doesn’t seek new challenges just because she found out she’s a witch, but being a witch offers her a whole new set of obstacles she’s excited to test her mettle against. In both cases, the girls are allowed to try and fail and embrace all the feelings that come with that.
Expanding on the overlap between witches and anime magical girls at some point really only makes sense; however, I will always be disappointed that the most prominent example of this to date is in Madoka. I watched the series a while ago, and while I liked some parts of it, the series as a whole never sat right with me. While, yes, part of it was because of the torture porn-y aspect of all of it, my main problem with it was how eager the series was to deny the safety of this power fantasy and how that tried to enforce a narrative where powerful women and girls are punished for wanting things.
Spoilers for Puella Magi Madoka Magica and Rebellion under the cut. Continue reading