2014
05.26

The feeling is mutual.

Yay, it’s a new arc. Boo, there are still old tricks. I feel like in a normal show, this would be seen as a breather episode. Characters are more concerned with sports and stuff with the terrorist plot in the background rather than the center of everyone’s mind. This would be the point where the cast get to relax for a week… except it seems like they’ve been doing this for the whole show. The whole deal with Blanche last week didn’t do anything to show what the characters are struggling with. Despite terrorism happening directly in the school grounds, we don’t have any real message as to what the cast has lost. There aren’t any casualties. Even the background characters that haven’t done more than drink tea went through the affair with no injuries. They’re in the same situation now as they were in the early episodes; only with more of the kids aligned into thinking Tatsuya is their savior. Even Hattori Hanzo has begun savoring for Tatsuya’s perfection, and here I was hoping the guy would do a rematch and trounce our lead at something he’s not good at.

We are at that point where the cast have grown to accept Tatsuya as their lord. The meekest of the lot drool at what their God has done, with his greatest work being the crafts they cannot directly connect to him. You can see that with the littlest girl Azusa in awe over what the mysterious Taurus Silver created, in awe of his gunsmith talents and in mystery over where this man with the initials T and S could possibly be. She could ask Tatsuya Shiba, but that would be like a dying child praying to their savior and only getting a grain of rice.

Yes, I know that the “mock Tatsuya for being perfect” shtick has been overdone amongst other anime blogs. It’s like how mocking Hajime Ichinose for her verbal tics became more common than discussing her actual show. But it gets hard to avoid that subject when the show showcases his skills so often without even having a breath of some other form of his personality. The writing spends more detail on telling Tatsuya how great he is rather than how he even feels about this. He just has the same facial reaction with no glimpse as to any inner conflict. You have the messiah complex in full fire, and the show could easily deconstruct that. They could ponder on the burdens of being seen as a god, and the struggles that come from meeting those expectations. The thing about the Mary Sue is that this archetype doesn’t always have to be bad. Given enough thought, even the invincible hero can be made for a powerful story. You give him equally Olympian tasks to face, with struggles that will often match his perfections so he’ll have to come up with something else. And through there, you learn how to contrast the hero’s invincibility with the more mundane characters he interacts with.

Instead, I get Miyuki in a fairy dress offering Tatsuya a drink while applauding his efforts again. It gets hard to look at that and complain by this point. I’m at the stage of the show where I expect this to happen. Of course she does a little dance while Tatsuya suddenly discovers how to fly by himself, so they can be fairy siblings together. It’s supposed to inspire awe, but all it gets from me is a droll sense of “We get it.” We get that Tatsuya’s good at almost everything, and that Miyuki would do anything for her brother. Do something that will challenge those perceived expectations rather than go around in circles. I know that seems hypocritical given how I’ve probably rehashed the same criticisms, but the point still matters.

2014
05.17

Delicious Manservice

So this episode of Code Geass was pretty by the books, with a few surprises here and there. It was out of left field how Lloyd revealed he had a Geass in front of Lelouch, and then Tamaki went crazy and cut off that dude’s arm. Kallen needs better wr—Wait, this is the Mahouka blog. I forgot. From the barrage of shows like Guilty Crown, Aquarion EVOL, and Valvrave, I should have known better. I should really distinguish this show from its ilk a bit more, and focus on its more original traits, like how a red haired girl is focused on this troubled lady named Sayaka, or the flamboyantly evil guy wearing glasses who gets butchered by the heroes.

Like, are we supposed to think the student council’s cool for needlessly attacking enemy combatants like that instead of just incapacitating them? It’s just I haven’t seen enough of Miyuki’s character for her freezing a bunch of guys without a hint of mercy to come off as something that compliments her personality. Maybe it would be interesting if the show understood how to utilize the “villains fighting even worse villains” angle, but that idea gets quickly swept away by the characters screaming about how Tatsuya’s their savior. When one of the characters’ dads appears just to tell Tatsuya how awesome he is, even Stephenie Meyer would complain about you wanking over your protagonists.

Oddly though, this has become the point where I’ve gotten used to this show’s blindness in its own storytelling. Tatsuya can run off another speech about Antinite, and Miyuki could talk about how her strong black Onii-sama don’t need no black man, but what else do I say about these issues other than they’re bad and only pad out what’s already a drawn-out arc? Besides, if these lectures on magic are supposed to be integral to knowing about magic, then why doesn’t Blanche know how to circumvent that rule? Like why don’t they use anti-mana bullets like Kiritsugu does? I know Tatsuya literally invents the rules of magic behind everybody’s back, but you could make it less obvious.

Since this is finally the end of this bitter arc, let’s run through what’s been accomplished. We had all of our characters introduced, and a motive for one of them, even if it’s too vague to really be seen as a distinctive motive. When all’s said and done, what has this arc taught us? That Tatsuya is a champion of the old guard? That terrorism is stupid? That China is evil for some reason? Frankly, I’m interested by how people can claim the author doesn’t try to reflect real life struggles. Whether or not you intend to, any fiction you’re going to write will reflect the reality you’re living in. Saying that “it’s magic, so it doesn’t have anything to do with real life” only belittles speculative fiction as a medium and dodges the issue at hand regarding the show’s reception. It’s almost as the “don’t like, don’t watch” excuse when trying to avoid criticism, because your favorite show should be able to stand when facing analysis rather than wither at the mere hint of slander.

But throughout this arc, I keep getting the hint of a world that abhors change, a world where the authority figures look like clean-cut Johnny Unitas knockoffs and the traditions are kept without any question as to if they still work. It’s a world where a young woman will fall in love with a guy who threatened to stab her a few weeks ago. It’s a world where noble blood seems to outrank skill accomplished from one’s own hands. In any other show, this world would be lambasted as a dystopia. But instead, it’s a paradise, where the beautiful people reign and their quests go without challenge. At this rate, I’m starting to miss Unbreakable Machine Doll. At least that show wasn’t so full of itself with its messages.

2014
05.16

Around six years ago, the latest animated series in Marvel’s top web-crawling wonder’s repertoire, the Spectacular-Spider Man, started its run in the ending line-up of the Kids WB! Saturday morning fair. Not too long after the first season aired, repeats of it and later the already-commissioned second season would appear on Disney XD. While a third season was never ordered and another Spider-Man series would be made shortly after, this is considered by many to be the best of its kind. Sony, who produced the series, has recently released the entire show on a reasonably priced Blu-Ray set, and in celebration of this, I hope to look over and write about each of the show’s 26 episodes, delving into not only why fans admire it so much, but also its ties to the character’s vast comic book history.

Review:

Now before I start, I just want to give a shout out to Sony’s home video division on a job well done. Putting the Blu on was almost like seeing this again for the first time, bringing me back to a slightly agitated self who woke up early to see if Greg Weisman’s take on the character would be worth the investment.

It doesn’t even take a minute for Weisman’s structural skills and personal admiration for Spider-Man to shine. Just as back on that Saturday morning, I was hooked.

“Survival of the Fittest” is a kitchen sink pilot, in that it throws a substantial amount of characters and potential storylines right onto the table with little shame. Granted, not every character who will matter, but already, we have a Midtown High scene, a Daily Bugle scene, a reunion of Peter and Eddie Brock at Dr. Connors’ lab, an Oscorp scene… it’s actually pretty refreshing to start off with a majority of the most important daily players in Spider-Man’s life.

It is debatable that some scenes, like Peter’s attempts to solve his Aunt May’s financial woes, could have been saved for a later episode in lieu of more time with Spider-Man in action or even some insight into Pete’s school life, it’s hardly something to fault Weisman and director Victor Cook too much for. after all, it wasn’t uncommon to see Peter in class between bargaining for a good offer on his pictures with Jameson, only for him to put on the suit and fight the day’s villain.

On the other hand, if there is a problem with the episode, it is a fair argument to say that the pacing isn’t completely there. There’s nothing wrong with jumping from scene to scene, and while there is breathing room, it’s rare for a scene to last for longer than 2 minutes. That can be a problem, as atmosphere building is an important part of a pilot, which is hard to accomplish if not enough time is spent in one specific place. I think back to some of the series I’ve looked over on the blog before, like the Powerpuff Girls and Ed, Edd n’ Eddy, which, without sacrificing plot or character, were able to take their audiences into some of their settings and spent time building identity and location-specific atmosphere.

But even location isn’t as much of an issue as the editing, which is arguably too rapid-fire here. This is especially true with some of the fight sequences in the episode, particularly a helicopter attack that Spidey dodges. The scene is still cool, but is a strangely disappointing contrast to the more exciting traditional action our hero dishes out in the rest of the episode, and almost unnecessary, since Spider-Man and the Vulture were capable enough of holding an episode.

That’s about it in terms of complaints for the episode, since everything else works. The character introductions are entirely effective, including the episode’s introduction, which shows Spider-Man swinging through a dark Manhattan night. Any issues with the show’s art design are almost instantly thrown away as Adelaide Productions’ efforts bring the web-slinger to life fluidly. And while I will talk about most of the characters present later in the article, it should come as no surprise that Weisman gets the cast down right away. It almost feels as if one of Stan Lee’s best unused Jameson quips is being ripped straight from his files to screen, as well as perfectly portraying Norman Osborn’s conniving side, while making him (somewhat) likable for less aware viewers.

Another thing Weisman gets right is Spidey’s sense of humor, something that I’m eternally thankful for. Sam Raimi had a lot of fun with his trilogy, but forgot to give Spider-Man any good lines, which is one thing that has never sat well with comic fans. Andrew Garfield is an improvement in this department, but the screenplays for his movies haven’t given him fantastic stuff. To give an example of what this Spider-Man has to dish out inbetween punches, he only just “rents” the sky. I know that I botched up the line, but Josh Keaton’s vocal inflections can make just about anything pop, and that’s the difference. Right away, Keaton gets his role and knocks it out of the park, as both Spider-Man and Peter Park. Even Kevin Conroy didn’t start off perfect.

Speaking of voice acting, let’s just take this moment to celebrate Keith David as the Big Man. The mystery of who called up the Enforcers will be revealed later on as the season rolls, but we only hear the voice of Goliath and Dr. Facilier this once, as David was given the opportunity to play Oberon for Shakespeare in the Park at the same time, and when the Bard calls… well, I’ll just point out that it’s perfectly ironic that the play David went to perform was A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Still, the delightfully silky voice of Keith David’s is always welcomed, and he does a killer job as the potential Big Bad here.

But enough about the voice acting and other technical aspects. Besides some pacing problems, how is the story? As an introduction to Spider-Man’s daily responsibilities, it’s a strong one. Rather than repeat the origin again, “Survival of the Fittest” skips to not too long after the events, with a brief reminder of how Peter Parker gained his powers for the uninitiated. Uncle Ben isn’t forgotten either, as Peter remembers the effects of losing his father figure and tries to make sure that Harry has to suffer that same loss as he rescues Norman from the Vulture. It’s a welcome change of pace to get straight into the action, which especially seems fresh after the first Andrew Garfield movie repeated the details. Weisman and Cook just where to start.

And for the villain of the week, the Vulture has a strong debut. Toomes has never been one of Spidey’s most fascinating rogues, which makes his failures a little enjoyable, yet at the same time, he always has some amount of sympathetic qualities. It’s also a nice call to pick an aviary villain for the show’s first episode, with a finish that almost functions as a callback to the flight sequence in Batman: TAS‘ iconic debut. Ultimately though, while the Vulture was a capable scientist, it’s obvious that he was never quite smart or tough enough to hold his own, as evidenced by getting Norman Osborn’s insult confused earlier in the episode, and by his general failure to compete with Spidey on his own.

Overall, just about every aspect of “Survival of the Fittest” works. There’s room for improvement in some aspects, but this remains a great pilot and a strong episode anyway, as much now as it was back in 2008. But if memory serves, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Inside the Comics:

Well, as mentioned before, this episode skips the fabled origin story originally published in Amazing Fantasy #15 to fast forward a little later in Spider-Man’s crime fighting life. We got to meet Spidey and Aunt May in that iconic origin, neither of which don’t require an introduction. Yikes, there’s a lot of first-time appearances here, and very few seem to parallel their comic likelihood.

In terms of the lead villains (not counting a couple of  pre-powered appearances), we have the Vulture, the cover baddie of Spidey’s very second comic book. The differences between their debuts is pretty staggering. In the comics, precious little is learned about the Vulture, as he just uses his power of flight to obtain riches. A big difference from Spectacular, where Adrian Toomes just wants vengeance against Osborn after getting canned. Of course, the Vulture was never one of the strongest bad guys Spidey faces, his age being a reason for that, so it’s no surprise that he fails here.

Meanwhile, the unrevealed Big Man calls out upon Hammerhead, a big-headed toughie whose comic run gave him a history with Doc Ock, and the Enforcers, a group of specific baddies originally called upon from the Green Goblin to fight Spider-Man. In terms of portrayals, they work well here anyway.

For references to other comics, not so much so far. I hope to update this section later on though!

2014
05.13

Faces of Brony #5201 - The Mountain Watched as I Shook the Palm.

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic has its fair share of formidable villains.  No, I’m not talking about the Big Bads within the series but something a bit more abstract.  Season 2’s true Big Bad was the absence of Lauren Faust from the majority part of the creative process; Season 3’s was a short 13-episode season that halfway as it was about to hit its stride, somebody started playing award show wrap-up music; and for Season 4 the show confronted the most gruesome and challenging of all enemies:

Success.

I say that because essentially My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Season 4 is one 26-episode long victory lap.  They’ve outlasted the 65 episode syndication mark and thrived without the guiding hand of Faust.  However, as they say, mo’ money mo’ problems, and that may lead to the slow but sure vanishing of the ‘suc’ from success and the inevitable appearance of ‘ex’ into a new unpleasant feature of fame…

Cesexs – which I think is a new gender orientation.  I don’t know what that has to do with ponies, but anyway…

To be sure, there’s a lot of good to be had with Season 4, although there is very little to say. That is unfortunate, but this is the kind of show that as long as it hits its emotional and entertainment core throughout whatever Saturday’s Aesopic half-hour narrative was, things would be fine. What made the show appealing should remain for the majority part unchanged but in top form. In that regard, the show dealt with much impact and gusto if you consider episodes like “Flight to the Finish”, “Rarity Takes Manehattan”, “Pinkie Pride”, “For Whom The Sweetie Belle Toils”, to name a few. These are the ones that invoke the spectre of Lauren Faust in how they focused on the virtue and vice of the characters involved, reveal a relatable cri de couer on certain issues, and bring them all together in an entertaining fashion unburdened with any maudlin sentimentality or cynicism.  Those episodes do good!  The production crew needs to keep doin’ em like that and I’ll be happy!

With that out of the way let’s talk about Success and how it leads to Cesexs.

Faces of Brony #412 - The Most Sound Trade for Reality in Exchange for contentment in Denial.

As I said above the season is one 26-episode long victory lap. Because of that, I noticed that like any nubile young Cesexssual at the cusp of attaining sexual enlightenment… it began to experiment with certain episode ideas. However the outcome led to certain stories feeling like they’re being driven less by character and more so by gimmicky contrivance. Remember how bronies were all stoked that ponies should become super heroes and fight crime in a city gone mad? Well you get it… along with some tacked on story with Spike having an existential crisis whatever. Remember how bronies were primed to turn Fluttershy into a vampire?! Well you get it… along with some tacked on story about maintaining nature vis-à-vis agrarian industry. Remember how bronies wanted multi-layered storylines with ponies having their own separate plot only to come together in a whizz-bang climax? YOU GET THAT!  …And… Nothing happened except the setup for how the Mane Six detail the lesson learned. Oh, and for some reason some Indiana Jones-esque heroine from books Rainbow Dash reads is real.

When the show veered towards that direction it sacrificed pony pathos for meaningless spectacle. They were peculiar anomalies, in that they relied on ‘what if’ antics and not on what make the show work.  It is only the concept that remains in memory, but not the memorable moments that even an average episode would have to make you remember it. What a loss, as I’ll remember Apple Bloom’s short-lived song, irate countenance, and joyous listing of things she can do when work is done with more fondness than Fluttershy Hulking out. I would wager such overt focus on meaningless spectacles diverted from actual meaningful spectacles like the Equestria Games, and gave us that incredible bomb of an episode that is less about ponifying the Olympics but about Spike having a sad again about how useless he is.

Such focus probably also explains how most of the dialogue in this season feels really expository. There always seems to be a concept eagerly sought out and put to animation, but everything else is markedly lean, especially in the script.  In certain episodes (“Three’s a Crowd” is one example), most of the prologue and first quarter of the episode is dealt with exposition about certain goings on and the action only gets started in the second half. Hell the season finale feels the same way. There’s a lot of talk about a threat and certain problems, but we are never really compelled to feel anything as most of the screen time is based on talking about it and not letting the characters have any chance to work their way through it or act.  This was to the detriment of characters like Discord (always a pleasure, but with a redemption arc so thoroughly rushed that it only occurs in the last fourth of the finale) and more importantly… Princess Twilight Sparkle.

People talk a lot about character assassination in media.  In this occurrence I’d like to talk about character chemical castration. It seems like the writers never really knew what to do with Princess Twilight. Although she is a princess, the erudite, albeit neurotic, unicorn that was eager to learn about the magic of friendship is mostly gone. In Season 4 she’s… just there. She provides herself as a useful intellectual and moral foil in some episodes, and at her best she makes for a well-meaning role model (“Twilight Time”) or a Princess who will always have something new to learn even in her new status (“Testing Testing 1, 2, 3”). Yet at her worst she provided Deus Ex Machinas that leave many a head scratched (“It Ain’t Easy Being Breezies”), and the major crux of her chemical castration: an unwarranted and unmentioned existential crisis.

Faces of Brony #1059 - I Just Fucked a Goat On the Veranda, I sure hope Senpai noticed me.

Throughout the season Twilight has been giving mixed messages about her new role. At some parts she is incredibly reluctant (both premiere and finale) and others she is modest but firm in her new position (again “Twilight Time” and “Trade Ya”). It is the first part that is galling as the finale gives the audience the biggest avoidable crisis this side of the blueballed narrative of the Equestria Games: what is Princess Twilight’s part? In the most unmemorable musical number of the entire show, all we know is that she has a sad but that’s okay says the other princesses she’ll find her part soon. While she had a lot to learn pre-princess days, Twilight exuded some form of confidence and dynamism on who she believed she was and what she needed to do. Where was this Twilight in the finale? We had her somewhat in earlier episodes but she is drained of confidence here due to the fault of the other Princesses making her feel less than welcome through her role of greeting foreign dignitaries. Then when the plot finally starts to kick in and she fights the final boss of the season, she gets a boost of confidence, everybody gets rainbow scabies to beat the boss, an aesthetically displeasing tree castle appears in the middle of a bucolic town, ponies sing and it’s happily ever after see you next season.

It’s kinda a load of bullshit, not gonna lie. There is a lot more to take issue with, like Spike’s always continuous crisis of feeling useless, Pinkie Pie being cesexsively hyper and over-the-top, and the forced inclusion and misuse of the Mane Six in episodes when not all of them needed to be there (another possible result of concepts before characters). However, I believe I have spoken enough about the flaws.

Still, Season 4 is okay. When it does great, it does exceptionally great. However the foibles and follies mentioned above really brought the season down when it did. There was too much concept, chemical castration, exposition, and needless physical presence by the Mane Six in certain episodes, and too little focus on character and by extension their actions on making certain stories work, especially when it mattered. I am not one to make policy recommendations to a creative staff, but the thoughts outlined above would work wonders if Season 5 is to surpass Season 4 (I’d also recommend the continuation of bringing new writers in, I do admire that the show keeps it fresh like that). Hopefully the euphoric high after this victory lap has subsided already, and the crew is back to work focusing on the stuff that makes the show truly work and doesn’t turn success into cesexs…

…Or maybe next season there’s a sentai parody and the ponies pilot a giant Spikezord, but not before Applejack travels to Orange Islands to buck coconuts with Aloha Pineapple, and Princess Twilight must don the Rainbow Scabies power-up again to save the Space Ponies’s Asteroid from colliding with Equestria by defeating the mysterious red masked pony Char Azneighble. Who the fuck knows?

2014
05.11

This makes as much sense in context.

…according to Tatsuya’s standards. So apologies to all of my white supremacist fans who were misled by the blog title.

But that drives Mahouka’s plot into a wall, by casting this type of conflict as a black and white view where the people fighting for equality are either evil or stupid, and the people fighting against it are painted as valiant warriors of justice who will not let so much as a piece of their school uniforms be stained by these simpletons. The siege in this episode isn’t even a difficult issue for the students to deal with. They pretty much squash Blanche’s attack in the first act of the episode, leaving only a few members left to fight back. Even if they didn’t accidentally paint Blanche as more sympathetic than the protagonists, this isn’t how you establish conflict. You make the bad guys competent enough to one-up the heroes every now and then, not stomp them in the face at the first moment they act.

I would also like to note how you see no casualties from the school’s side, with most of the students being able to take out four men each. There’s not even an account from Tatsuya about how many students got injured, whereas all of Blanche’s force suffers huge casualties with no chance of even making a dent into the school. Where’s the threat? Where’s the proof that these guys are the monsters Tatsuya rails against? Instead, I see lazy attempts to paint them as villains like giving them gas masks so we can’t see their faces. The writer seems to think painting a little arrow pointing at Blanche saying, “these are the bad guys. Hate them or whatever” is enough to introduce a struggle in this story.

That’s what Tatsuya does: Tell the audience what whom we’re supposed to hate rather than the series itself showing why these people are contemptible. He even scoffs at Sayaka by calling her allegiance “misplaced sympathy”. He acts as if joining a civil rights movement denotes foolishness and savagery, with no exceptions the rule at all. I know Japan hasn’t had the cleanest record when it comes to human rights, but to dismiss all of that as no better than terrorism just seems backwards even for the most draconian societies. How Aniplex thought this show could be released here without controversy boggles the mind. And yet, you know this will be on Toonami in about a year. If they can air Asuna getting molested by tentacles, than Tatsuya pulling a John Galt would be no problem.

It almost makes me tolerate the magic technobabble. Because after all of the political dogma, hearing a guy explain how wands work for half an episode seems less torturous. That’s not to say the exposition has gotten better. No. It’s only made the magic even stupider. And that deserves an achievement to somehow make the action of flying via iPhone stupider than it actually looks. Explaining it is not going to make magic any less dumb. Your audience is probably savvy enough to understand the basic rules of magic, so hammering them over the head with terminology in place of showing the magic actually works only belittles expectations. This show acts as if I don’t know what a spell is.

But then, the show really likes to look down on the intelligence of anybody who doesn’t side with Tatsuya. The last act is just a long-winded speech to Sayaka, telling her how stupid is for thinking equality could really work out in society. Tatsuya even says flat-out that equality would mean being equally snubbed, as if being any less than the fastest excelling student in the area could be the worst thing to happen to him. This show is so smug, unable to question itself and instead having the characters assure themselves that any attempt to go against their values will result in the worst-case scenario. I can’t wait until the show tries to prove people who run homeless shelters are actually terrorists. Or that immigrants are all out for blood.

2014
05.07

Hi, Not-chi!

Writing about this show is like pulling teeth. The lack of information about it outside of the staff made it seem kinda fun to do at first, but after three weeks of boring tedium spent with annoying characters who all wear eyeliner for no reason, the regret I feel in regards to not writing about Brynhildr in the Darkness (which is growing more and more idiotic every week) escalates.

Make your own damn conclusions...

Well what happens this week on that most exciting action packed anime M3!…nothing really. The exploration team, now renamed Team Gargouille because, in the words of American Philosopher Dr. Stephen T. Colbert, “its French bitch!”, after two straight days of alternatively standing around doing nothing and getting sexually harassed, is finally ready to go into the Lightless Realm! Who clearly ISN’T ready is Heito who is still out cold from the Argent; and Akashi, who’s being tortured by the show’s resident Ryoma Sengoku clone, and vomiting profusely no thanks to the Argent.

Don't step in the white stuff...

But what’s really the point of this episode is to introduce (badly) the final addition to the Gargouilles… GOLIAT-no its just some meek girl named Sasame who doesn’t talk too much and will only serve as a part of the Akashi/”Bitch-Chan” Emiru love triangle. We’ve seen her before actually. Last week, Akashi saw her singing “the song of death” at the same moment the exploration team’s former coach was killed by the Giant Beer Can Admonition. Speaking of which… its back and manages to kill the Principle of the school this time, there’s a brief fight, Akashi finally figures out how to use the Argent, and the episode ends. Well that was a waste of 23 minutes…

He got scissored!

The phrase “more of the same” does not begin to describe M3’s stagnation. Its pretty much gone nowhere from episode 1, only adding additional characters who only equate to cliched archetypes (this week we get the “Mystery girl/Rei clone” in the form of Sasame). I’m not exactly sure what Mari Okada was trying to accomplish here but it only seems to have succeeded in creating all out boredom for me with barely anything to remark on in these write-ups. Oh well…

3.5/10

 

2014
05.04

You are challenged by Hex Maniac Miyoooooki!

On this week’s session of Mahoukey Pokey, we have more of characters sitting in rooms and talking about skin-deep politics for twenty-two minutes. I know that sounds vain of me, because that can describe plenty of excellent shows that have aired and are airing right now. The “I don’t like this show because it’s nothing but talking” complaint usually depends on what the characters are talking about exactly, as well as how they express themselves through conversation. For instance, I really like Fate/Zero, but am aware and understanding of the criticisms toward that show like how it’s nothing but characters talking about utilitarianism. Like I said, it’s sometimes about the matter of their discussion. Some people don’t like Kiritsugu because he keeps spouting his “kill one to save one” ideology to everyone, and will be upfront when his logic is questioned. It feels like being in a confrontation, where a character argues for something that you disagree with. And for me, that’s what Mahouka is doing.

With that scene where Tatsuya discusses with Sayaka about her treatment, I listened to all of what they were saying and could feel little from each sentence spewed out of their mouths. They consisted of a barrage of arguments that Tatsuya could quickly overturn because of his own apathy toward Sayaka’s situation, only seeing her complaints through a technical standpoint in place of a considerate one. It doesn’t process in his mind that Sayaka could feel discriminated against, despite being right there with her when malcontents tried to attack her with a lethal weapon. Instead, he makes it about himself and how he sees no problems with the school at large. All the school has to do for him is give him a degree, and he will be perfectly satisfied. And if that works for him, that should work for everyone. If Tatsuya couldn’t even respect what Sayaka was fighting for, then why should I care for his words?

In place of trying to reason with Sayaka, he brings up his desire to invent a magic fusion reactor. Because not only does Tatsuya have to be one of the strongest and most mentally capable of his fellow students, but he has to have a planned-out and in-depth desire to better the world by creating clean energy… since that’s what teenagers do, after all. By rejecting a relatable concern with a fantastical one, what Tatsuya’s saying becomes groundless and disconnects with the overall tone. We don’t get why he wants to do any of this, while we have plenty of reasons for why Sayaka wants to rebel against the school’s norm, with Tatsuya giving her further motive by just coming off as a deaf snob. And instead of giving a balance portrayal so both sides are intentionally portrayed as sympathetic, the show’s direction leans in favor of Tatsuya being in the right. It tries to make Sayaka and Blanche seem antagonistic by hijacking the school’s speaker or by introducing clones of Sugou from Sword Art, but they come off as strawman efforts made to immediately show us who’s supposed to be right or wrong rather than inviting us to find out for ourselves.

Instead of that, the show literally has characters on a podium tell people why their way works and other tactics don’t. Someone of high status like Mayumi has to kindly, but firmly deride the equalists’ efforts by implying a helpful situation may be coming without outright saying she’ll work in favor of the oppressed in school society. Her speech waters down to “I know you guys hate us, but I hope things get better” with little strength to back up her statements. I remember last episode when Tatsuya criticized Blanche for using equality and liberty as feel-good terms for nefarious purposes, but we get to see his side pull off the exact same bait-and-switch scheme while being portrayed as heroic for doing so. And just to further how they’re right, guns go a blazing to show that Tatsuya’s side is the “real” oppressed faction. I know revolutions in real life aren’t often civilized, but those events occur through decades of internal strife and labyrinthine conflict that can’t be pinned on one specific event. From what we get here, the show keeps claiming this situation’s rooted in kids being mistreated in school clubs, as if school clubs were the apexes of modern civilization. The show really wants to paint a side as bad by showing off gunfire and creepy stares, but can’t offer a decent reason when they’re forced to discuss and explain why these guys are the antagonists.

Instead, you get more of how sugoi Miyuki’s onii-sama is.