the_sun_is_up: Giorno in a cloud of flower petals, making a sexyface at the camera. (giogio - faaaaabulous)
[personal profile] the_sun_is_up
OKAY OKAY OKAY. There was that Magical Girl Project thing I was doing. And still am doing! I've just been lazy about posting.

Today it's time to take a voyage into the Magic Idol Singer subgenre, which is a distinct niche unto itself despite producing only about 8 shows over a 30-year period. Lately I've been reading Full Moon Wo Sagashite, which I've seen held up as the pinnacle of the subgenre. However, I've been holding off on talking about it, because Full Moon is one of the later entries in the genre, and I've heard that its approach is rather subversive. To understand the rebellious present, we must first examine the stodgy past, i.e.: Creamy Mami, the first Magic Idol Singer.

Creamy Mami was a 1983 original anime by Studio Pierrot; Full Moon was a 2002 manga by Arina Tanemura, adapted into a heavily cut-down and fillerized 2002 anime that I haven't seen. And right from the start, the journeys of their respective heroines are drastically different.

First off, Yuu winds up becoming Creamy Mami entirely by accident. She helps an alien, and he rewards her with the power to turn into a sixteen-year-old. In Episode 2, she's wandering around town in her older form, when she's spotted by a music exec and dragged into singing in a televised solo performance, filling in for an idol who's running late. By contrast, Mitsuki becomes Full Moon almost entirely by her own design. When she bumps into a couple of shinigami by chance, she interrogates them about their powers and asks them to make her older, specifically because she wants to attend a singing audition with an age limit. The shinigami grant her request, and she goes to the audition and blows everyone away. Then she gets an agent, releases a single, and quickly works her way towards fame in a (I assume) more conventional way than Yuu's serendipitous "discovered on the street" debut.

Second, and closely related to the above, Yuu has zero interest in singing prior to becoming an idol. In fact, when she first gets kicked out on stage, she uses her powers to summon a magic microphone which invents a signature song for her, teaches her the song, and gives her the talent to sing it, all in the blink of an eye. Mitsuki, on the other hand, has a lifelong passion for singing, to the point where she refuses lifesaving surgery for her throat cancer because she doesn't want to lose her voice. Her singing talent is all her own — all the shinigami do is remove the throat tumor when she's aged up, so that she can sing at full volume.

Third, both girls' powers are restricted by a one-year time-limit, but for completely different reasons. Yuu's time-limit is arbitrary; the alien just gave her a year's worth of powers. Mitsuki's time-limit exists because she's fated to die of throat cancer in one year, so her powers will only be relevant until then.

Fourth, while Mitsuki wants nothing more than to be a singer, the Creamy Mami writers made the bizarre choice of having Yuu dislike being a singer at first. After her debut performance, Yuu reflects that it was fun but she wouldn't want to do it again, and it's never made clear why. She spends most of Episode 3 avoiding the manager who discovered her and who is now searching for her Cinderella-style. In the end, he ignores her protests and basically badgers her into becoming one of his full-time singers. I'm guessing this was done as a cheap attempt at creating conflict and drama, but it doesn't make a lick of sense. The target audience of this show is little girls who are dying to become a glamorous idol singer; why make the heroine be a girl who rejects that life and has to be strong-armed into it? If you're going to make a shameless wish-fulfillment anime, you could at least have the protagonist appreciate her amazing good fortune.

As you've probably guessed by now, I infinitely prefer Mitsuki's origin story. I like that she has so much agency; she knows what she wants, and she pursues it. Even before getting powers, she's already plotting to sneak out of her grandma's house and go to that audition. When she happens to run into a pair of empowering entities, she seizes the opportunity and milks it for all it's worth. I also like that music and idol singing is woven into her character and her life pre-magic-empowerment, and even into her past (her dead father was an idol singer); it makes the magic idol singer gimmick feel more natural and in sync with the story, rather than just a random fantasy getting dumped on somebody with no interest in or connection to it. And most of all, I like that Mitsuki blatantly asks for her powers. Most Magic Idols and Magic Warriors either have to be wheedled and nagged into accepting powers, or they're just empowered automatically, without their consent or input. It's very rare and refreshing for a heroine to go "I want powers. Hey you, magical person, give me powers!"

The one area where Mitsuki's agency falters is in the individual transformations. Yuu (like most MGs) has a magic object with which she can trigger her transformation; she has total control. Mitsuki has no magic object; instead she must rely on her male love interest to trigger her transformation by snapping his fingers, and I'm sure there's a very interesting essay about gender politics somewhere in there. However, the only problem with this that Mitsuki encounters is when she needs to transform but her love interest is far away; to fix this, she has a magic whistle to summon him, and I don't recall Takuto ever ignoring the whistle or refusing to transform Mitsuki, although the author definitely could have explored that possibility if she wanted to.

Date: 2013-04-20 11:34 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] bunnybelle3
Really interesting analysis ^^ are you going to continue doing comparisons for the rest of the show? They go in completely different directions, so I was just curious.

I was always a little disappointed in Yuu stumbling into the music biz without much gratefulness. I know that Creamy Mami even went in the idol direction is because they wanted to promote Takako Ohta, an upcoming idol singer. Perhaps Yuu's indifference to idol singing is something Takako Ohta felt in her own childhood and Studio Pierrot based that on Yuu's character?
Aside from the idol singing, Creamy Mami is much like the other magical girls before her, in that if someone has a problem, Creamy Mami/Yuu will use magic to solve it.

I think what ultimately sets Creamy Mami and Full Moon apart. Creamy Mami can use magic to help others as well, but (please correct me if I'm wrong. I'll admit that I have not seen Full Moon the whole way through) I think Mitsuki's magic only makes her older, and that's it, and the show is based around character development. Arina Tanemura's even said that she did not intend Full Moon to be a magical girl story (Of course that's up to debate, since I think its okay if the art is interpreted by viewers differently than the artist)

But anyway. Those are just some things I wanted to discuss while reading your wonderful analysis. (I'm such a fan of old magical girls, I'm really happy if I can get a chance to discuss it with people who've seen them >///<) Keep up the good work!

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