Magical Mondays: Showing, Not Telling in Princess Principal

I’ll admit it, I started watching Princess Principal because it just looked fun. Young women kicking ass as spies in a steampunk fantasy version of turn-of-the-century London, set to a jazzy soundtrack and wrapped up in science-magic? Yes, please. I’ve been pleasantly surprised to discover that this show that I picked up solely for its geeky Cool Factor is… actually really damned good, delivering consistently sharp writing, interesting and layered characters, and some wonderfully efficient and intriguing magical worldbuilding that makes fantastic use of that old writing adage “show, don’t tell” that paints a vivid picture of its fantasy world from its very first scene.

Because it did such a good job laying the groundwork and piquing this viewer’s interest, let’s look just at the show’s first episode, and the small but important details the premiere gives us (and how) that let us build a picture of the world… without leaning too heavily on narration, pausing or cutting into the action to explain what’s going on, or having an audience point-of-view character that others teach things to.

Princess Principal floating

I think I’ll tryyyyy defyyying graviityyyy. (via aldi404)

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Love, Chunibyo, & Other Delusions: A Silly Yet Heartbreaking Story About the Power of Geekdom

Love Chunibyo and Other Delusions

Screencapped from AnimeLab

It’s a universal fact that everyone is at least a little bit embarrassed by what they did when they were thirteen. Was it a misguided and poetic emo phase? An overzealous leap into fandom, including indulgent fanfic or fanart? An all-consuming desire to be seen as mature in your tastes that ended up just making you look pretentious? Whatever it is, despite how much this passion consumed you at the time, you’d be happy if no one ever brought it up ever again—that’s how much it makes you cringe.

There’s a Japanese word for this: chunibyo, loosely translating to “eighth-grader syndrome”, the stage of life where a sense of self-importance and newfound independence combines with passion, imagination, and a desire to be seen as special, whether that manifests as a pretentious geek phase or believing you have magic powers. It’s this phenomenon that is the core of Love, Chunibyo, and Other Delusions—a show that begins as a wacky comedy about high school embarrassment and ends up punching you (or at least, this reviewer) in the gut with a poignant story about grief and growing up.

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Magical Mondays: Flying Witch and Magical Realism

2017-04-25 (3)

(screencapped from Crunchyroll)

Flying Witch did for witches what Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid did for dragons: just had them be kinda there, going about their daily business instead of getting wrapped up in some sort of epic fantasy plot. Makoto, the protagonist of Flying Witch, is a young witch completing her training, but is she rollicking along on some sort of Harry Potter-ish adventure attending a haunted magic school and defeating evil incarnate? No, she’s just doing the gardening. Occasionally she unearths a howling mandrake and disturbs her friends and neighbors, but otherwise she lives a relatively conflict-free existence, sitting where she does in the place where the “supernatural” and “slice-of-life” genres meet. Which is, it turns out, pretty near the dreamy land of magical realism.

Spoilers for Flying Witch Episode 11 beyond!

Flying Witch is not a show you watch for conflict and action—it’s quite literally just the day-to-day goings on of a girl’s life in a rural town, including high school cooking classes, vegetable planting, and long conversations about the history of the pancake… oh, with the occasional bit of magic woven in. There’s no overarching plot, no tension, no mysteries or intrigue as we glimpse the magical world. The witches in this universe don’t have a statute of wizarding secrecy so much as just keep to themselves because they like it better that way, which pretty much tells you all you need to know about the series’ casual tone and casual acceptance of magic. Apart from some initial shock when Mako floats on her broom for the first time (and some comedic reactions to the yelling plant), the existence of magic is basically accepted by the cast and by the story without anyone batting an eyelid.

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The Bittersweet Taste of Orange

If you could write a letter to your younger self, what would you say? “It will get better”? “Don’t stress too much about fitting in”? “Yes, what you’re feeling is love, and that’s okay”? “The future is awful and sad and I want you to work tirelessly to make sure you don’t end up a regret-stricken wreck like me”? Orange takes this last approach, and the result is a series that I have a barrel full of mixed feelings about.

Spoilers and content warning for suicide ahead.

On the first day of the new school year, protagonist Naho finds a strange letter addressed to her, which was apparently sent from herself, ten years in the future. Naho is confused and dubious that such a thing can be real, but then the events the letter describes start coming true: the letter tells her that a new student, a boy named Kakeru, will be joining their class that day, and he’ll sit next to Naho. Naho’s friends will attempt to be welcoming and invite the new kid to hang out once school is over, but, the letter warns, they should absolutely not do that. Not that day, at least.

Naho soon realizes that the letters are full of specific advice from her future self, chiefly about things that Future Naho regrets and wants to change. These mostly concern Kakeru, since, as Naho is shocked to find out, ten years in the future Kakeru is no longer alive. In Future Naho’s world, Kakeru died—in an accident later discovered to be suicide—when he was seventeen, and she’s sending these letters back in time to try and stop that from happening.

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Fanfiction Fridays: The Rules for Lovers by ADreamingSongbird

I don’t usually read fic, and in fact, I’ve never written for this column before. I got burned one too many times by bad fic in my youth, and now I won’t touch a story unless someone has recced it to me. Well, boy am I glad that beanpots, an artist I follow on Tumblr, recommended the Yuri!!! On Ice fic The Rules for Lovers by ADreamingSongbird. It’s an arranged marriage AU in which Viktor and Yuuri are princes of their respective countries. Also it’s in an alternate history version of our modern world. Also, there’s magic!

They’re already the princes of our hearts (especially in these outfits), so why not read about them as actual princes? (via fencer-x.tumblr.com)

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Cloudy Days in Love Live! Sunshine!!: Where Bad Communication and Gaslighting Collide

Perhaps to the surprise of very few, it wasn’t too long ago that I sat down and finished Love Live!’s second incarnation, Love Live! Sunshine!!. For all intents and purposes, Sunshine is exactly the same plot as the first Love Live!: a group of three second-year high school girls working hard to become school idols, eventually recruiting three first-years and winning over the skeptical group of three third-years to round out their final group. While a good portion of the Love Live! fanbase and tenets the show is built on are problematic due to their sexualization of young girls, the show itself is typically not any worse than any other anime you may have seen. Unfortunately, though the first season gave me a wealth of girls supporting girls and legitimately touching moments, Sunshine never quite got its feet off the ground. Much of this can be attributed to protagonist Chika’s lack of personality or drive, but the aspect that truly ruined the whole season beyond redemption was the gaslighting of Mari by the two friends she trusted the most, and the show does nothing to show how what they did was wrong.

Spoilers if you haven’t watched past Episode 8 of Sunshine.

Love Live Sunshine Kanan Mari2

(Screencap via Love Live! Sunshine!!, “Young Dreamer”)

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In Brightest Day: Yang and the Treatment of Disability in RWBY Season 4

The newest season of RWBY was, in my opinion, one of the better seasons: the animation was beautiful and the characters continued to grow in impactful ways. There were unsurprisingly a few missteps, but one of these missteps almost ruined the entire season for me—and while it didn’t, it certainly took me out of a couple episodes. Before this season, RWBY didn’t offer too much in the ways of characters with physical disabilities, but the characters they did show were pretty badass. Torchwick’s right hand woman, Neo, managed to be intimidating, skilled, and infuriating (in a good, villain-y way) all without use of her voice, and Cinder’s companion, Mercury, used his prosthetic legs as naturally and dangerously as any trained warrior would. Their disabilities didn’t define either one or hold either of them back, it was just a part of who they were. Which is why I was disappointed and frustrated that in RWBY Season 4, the characters now learning how to live with their new physical disabilities weren’t given the same sort of narrative support—a problem most heinously shown through the character Yang.

RWBY Yang Semblance

Also, calling Yang’s power a “temper tantrum” was like, really shitty, too. Taiyang’s definitely not getting any “dad of the year” awards any time soon. (via Reddit)

Spoilers below.

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