Magical Mondays: Purity and the Magical Girl Genre

Pretty Cure All StarsI’m going to go out on a limb here and say that most of you, dear readers, have seen a magical girl anime or read a magical girl manga. Or, if you haven’t, you’re at least somewhat familiar with the mechanics: say some words, use some object, then get cute clothes to fight crime with. Though there are some similarities to a portion of Western superheroes (ie: Wonder Woman, Superman) the fact remains that these magical teens are getting their powers, in most cases, from some otherworldly power or tech instead of Bruce Wayne-ing it or taking to the ol’ sewing machine. However, it’s not the costumes that interest me today. Instead, it’s what gives these magical teens their powers in a virtuous sense because, let’s face it, you’re probably not going to see a magical warrior with the powers of burning rage, even though that would be really cool.

Spoilers for Madoka Magica beneath the cut.

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“There You Go” with Dino Andrade: Part 2

Read the first part of the interview here.

MadameAce: I know you said that you experienced some disappointment when you did that role, but in the early days what were your thoughts on doing voice overs?

Dino Andrade: At the time most of what I wanted to do in voice over was basically to [have it] work as a stepping stone. I really wanted to get into doing on-camera. I started doing a lot of commercials at the time. I was doing commercials for McDonalds, Delta Airlines, various things like that kind of working my way up. I was also doing a lot of training with The Groundlings comedy / improv. I’m a very physical actor, physical comedian. This was something that I felt might be the future for me, but it was very disappointing: unfortunately it seemed that 90% of what I was being sent out for was one Mexican, cholo gangster after another. It is so not me! That was very discouraging and I decided that, “you know what, if I’m going to get into these projects I might as well make them myself.” So I decided to leave acting for about ten years and spent the 90’s being involved in independent filmmaking, writing screenplays—I sold six screenplays, none of which were produced. [laughter]

Stewi: You still got paid

Dino Andrade: I still got paid. I think it was Kurt Vonnegut who said that the best thing that could ever happen is to sell a screenplay and have it never get actually made so your work isn’t screwed up. [laughter] So my work has not been screwed up six times, but it was kind of cool that I sold them. I also produced one independent film called Bob’s Video that ran the film festival circuit for a year and got me to travel around the country which was really fun. In the end, in the 00’s, I decided to go back to acting and to my original love, which was animation and fantasy, which then meant voice over. Even that was somewhat accidental.

There was a director who was working on an anime show called Vampire Princess and I was being told about that. And I thought, “well maybe I can get in on that as a writer. I’ve never done anime writing, but maybe I could give that a shot.” It turned out that he was also working on another show called Saint Tail and his wife was casting it and when I was contacting him I wound up contacting his wife and his wife thought I was an actor calling in for a scheduled  telephone audition. I said, “…sure! Yes, that’s me,” and so I wound up auditioning completely cold, had no copy at all, so I just had to make up something about, “oh yeah, I didn’t get it. The courier didn’t make it. The fax machine died,” or something. I don’t remember. So they fed me the lines and I auditioned and they said great and I got a small part on Saint Tail. I took that as a sign and said, “okay! I guess this is what I’m supposed to be doing.” I returned to voice over at that point.

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Manga Mondays: Saint Tail

One of Japan’s favorite themes to use and re-use is the magical school girl. Those punishers of good and evil. Those middle school-ers who learn how to kick ass and take names with the help of a fancy new costumes and neat weapons. With shows like Puella Magi Madoka Magica entering back into mainstream discussion, this genre is also experiencing a rebirth of sorts. So, in this spirit, let’s visit an old friend who didn’t manage to age as gracefully as its sister series.

If I had the internet at the time, I’m certain that, after Elfquest, Saint Tail would have been my first fandom. Like every other magical girl series, we follow after the young school girl, Meimi Haneoka who attends St. Paulia’s Private school by day and takes on the persona of the theif, Saint Tail, at night. While she is thieving, she’s also being pursued by the detective—rather, the detective’s son—Asuka Jr. Asuka is also Meimi’s classmate who somehow doesn’t put blonde hair together with blonde hair, and so he’s continuously obsessed with figuring out Saint Tail’s identity. The third player in our main cast is Meimi’s friend, Seira. It’s from her that Meimi is able to get all of her information. It is a little strange that a young girl would have so much information pertaining to items of interest, but Megumi Tachikawa explains this partially away with Seira’s after school job. No, she’s not a computer whiz like Amy in Sailor Moon, Seira is a nun. Yes, you read that correctly. Apparently Seira is incredibly lucky in that all the people with problems about stolen items come to her church to confess. I’m not exactly sure that’s how going to a confessional works (aren’t you supposed to confess to a sin you’ve done instead of crying about something that got stolen from you?), but it’s at least is plausible-sounding.

This brings up two things about this series that separates it from other magical girl stories. First off, Saint Tail is a much different heroine than we’re used to. In fact, I would say that she’s more comparable to Kaito Kid from Case Closed/Detective Conan than someone like Wedding Peach. Despite her acting more like a Robin Hood figure than Catwoman—she only steals back items that have already been stolen to return them to their previous owner—she’s still a legitimate thief. She is actually breaking the law, and thus deserves having the police go after her no matter how good her intentions are. She also gives Asuka advance warning of where she’ll strike next to give him a fighting chance on catching her. Kaito Kid also does this, but for him it’s much more smarmy since he does it in codes and puzzles rather than just saying it straight out. Main antagonists in a magical girl story usually are mystical or extra-terrestrial, so seeing the genre taking a foray into the more realistic is refreshing.

As a sub-point to this, Saint Tail also has no magic powers. …Let me rephrase that. Saint Tail has no magical powers that thwart her foes. As Meimi’s father is a magician, her shtick is using subterfuge and other magician tricks to fool her opponents and help her get away. This series is much more about outsmarting the other person rather than overpowering them. I wish more magical girl series focused on this, actually.

Secondly, the clear connection to religion is somewhat unique. Although it can be easily argued that every magical girl series has a god figure, I find that it’s hardly ever actually THE God. Granted, it isn’t used in the same way: God didn’t come down onto Meimi and give her magical tools. But with Seira being a nun, St. Paulia’s being an assumedly religious academy, and the two girls praying before each ‘heist’ it’s a factor that can’t be ignored. In fact, it was so un-ignorable that in the first seven episodes of the anime they tried to remove every mention to the religious figure. Considering the setting, you can imagine how well that went.

Is this one of the better examples of the magical girl series? No. But it is enjoyable to read and some of the arcs are genuinely interesting. I haven’t been able to find a scan online, though, so if you want to see for yourself it may take a little digging. Not a series I would recommend off the bat, but if you’re bored I’d give it a try.