the_sun_is_up: Aliciabeth from Claymore succumbing to zombie-ification. (claymore - drowning)
*sigh* Time to paint a big target on my chest. Time for you to bring out all your rotten fruit. Because seriously, no one wants to hear this. Nobody wants to hear about why Madoka Magica sucks because everyone fucking adores this show. Its fandom is massive and rabid and I’d have to be pretty stupid to invite their wrath. Oh well.

Hell even I like this show. Mostly. But goddamn it, every time I see some reviewer gush over how amazing and perfect it is, it gives me an eye twitch.

Today it was JesuOtaku. I watched her review of PMMM, and don’t get me wrong, it’s a good review and you should watch it, but when she got to the end of the review and started praising the narrative and inevitably gave the show 4 stars out of 4, I just got... eye-twitchy. It was the same feeling I got when I saw Zac Bertschy gave PMMM full marks across the board. These two in particular are both reviewers who tend to have little patience for weepy pandery moe dramas, and yet here they are, watching yet another weepy pandery moe drama and... giving it a glowing review??

So over two years after seeing it for the first time, and after working on this post off-and-on for god knows how long, here’s me, giving my take on this universally beloved show and why I think it’s pretty good but certainly not great and brought down by some pretty glaring flaws.

First off, we have to ask ourselves: why does Madoka Magica exist? Or more specifically: who is it for?

At its core, PMMM is a moe drama just like Uta Kata and Elfen Lied, and the purpose of shows like these is to:

a) present us with a bunch of cute innocent young girls


b) beat them with the angsty stick until they cry, thus turning them into adorable helpless woobies that the target audience of adult men can fantasize about hugging and/or boning.

Moe, Agency, Victimhood, Sexism, and Faust )

Writing this post has made me rather depressed, because I really really want to like Madoka Magica. Scratch that, I do like Madoka Magica. Mostly. Because for the most part, it’s a really good show. Art direction, animation styles, cinematography, soundtrack, voice acting — all are absolutely fantastic. I even like a lot of its ideas and some of the execution, and I think it could have been a really brilliant, landmark show. But the core themes and the way it handles them are so damn skeevy that I just... I can’t. I look at this show, and all I feel is disappointment.

And that’s why, whenever I see some intelligent thoughtful reviewer give this thing a perfect score, I feel the need to punch something.

Edit: Whoops, forgot to include my favorite quote about Madoka, from somebody else on Dreamwidth:

It is a work designed to punish its female protagonists for caring and to blame them for their beliefs; everything in it was written with murder in its eyes.

Yep, pretty much. I still like it, but yeah, ick.
the_sun_is_up: Yahtzee's speech bubble has been censored by a black bar that has the text "horrible things" written on it. (zero p - horrible things)
Gotta clear some room on my harddrive, so it's time to watch some shitty anime that's been collecting dust in my to-watch folder.

Pretty Rhythm Aurora Dream: a few assorted eps including the season finale.

I could describe PRAD as a Magic Idol Singer show except with ice skating and dancing instead of singing, but that would be quite deceitful of me because this is not a show about ice skating or magic or teenage girls — it's a show about clothing and the sale thereof. Yes, PRAD is one of those "30-minute commercial masquerading as a tv show" deals that were so popular in the U.S. during the 80's. Much is made of the girls' outfits, with one's skill at assembling fashionable ensembles being an important factor in one's success as an ice skating idol, and the main trio of girls even compete in a big contest where the prize is (drumroll please) a pair of shoes. The show also features some award-winningly terrifying uncanny-valley CGI whenever the girls have a dance/skate number, which is frequently. Possibly this was done as a nod to the arcade games upon which the anime was based? Dear Japan: Stop basing your anime on pachinko and/or arcade games. STOP IT THIS INSTANT.

All that said, this show pleasantly surprised me in that I didn't completely hate it. It's very by-the-numbers and was clearly made by a "creative" team who were half-assing it all the way through, but it wasn't as soulless and materialistic as it could have been. Actually I think the show's attempts at being un-shallow and heartfelt, though admirable, were a big detriment to it, especially in the finale. I don't know how to properly describe the facepalm-worthy crescendo of stupid that is the finale, but basically it's what happens when a writing team realizes "Shit, our show's climax is an ice-dancing competition. That's not epic enough! Gotta make it more epic, even if the result makes no sense whatsoever!" Just.... so stupid, y'all.

Happy Seven: all eps except the last one.

Jeez and I thought PRAD was by-the-numbers. Happy Seven is what happens when a bunch of peeps collaborate to make a moe magical girl anime with absolutely no new ideas in it. We will hit every cliché, gentlemen, every goddamn one! Starting with the characters: The heroine is a clumsy ditzy lovestruck pigtailed blonde, and her cohort includes a cool big sis with a hefty rack, a pair of loli twins who speak in unison and fall asleep at random moments, a dog-girl instead of the usual cat-girl who says "-wan" after all her sentences, a Rei Ayanami clone who goes all dere-dere for fishes, a braids-and-glasses techno-whiz chick, and a shy crybaby who turns into a tough bifauxnen when she transforms. The villains are a purple-haired purple-wearing haughty sorceress with a fan and the silver-ponytailed bishie student council president, and the token dude of the heroine's posse is a bland squinty prince-charming type whom absolutely every female in the cast wants to bone. The heroine, her two muggle pals, all seven members of the magical girl posse, and the purple villainess are all hankering for this guy's dull flavorless sausage, to the point where it becomes a major subplot that takes up a huge chunk of the runtime. I'd almost call this a harem anime, except that Mr. Blanderson is clearly not the protagonist.

The plot is what you've come to expect: Team of magical girls and token dude fight monsters that possess angsty people, resulting in a Victim-of-the-Week/Monster-of-the-Week formula, with the villains showing up occasionally to vaguely foreshadow some impending doom. The only unusual element here is that the heroine spends most of the show's run as a muggle; she starts off as a Victim-of-the-Week, and when the team senses a weird power lying dormant within her, they let her become their manager. Her powers only awaken during the finale. This could have made for an interesting twist, but unfortunately this show, like most bottom-of-the-barrel moe shows, spends most of its time faffing about with dull slice-of-life nonsense and finding every available excuse to turn the castmembers into chibis. There's even one episode that has zero monsters or magic in it and is just unapologetically filler. In a 13-episode series.

Akahori Gedou Hour Rabuge: Gedou Otome Tai: a few assorted eps.

So this is a moe Cute Witch show about five witchy sisters who live amongst the muggles by day and fail miserably at being evil by night, blah blah slice-of-life and lulzy hijinks, but I really only have one thing to say about this show: WHAT THE FUCK IS UP WITH THE FANSERVICE?!?

I expect a dude-aimed magical girl show to have fanservice, but not quite this much and certainly not this, um, sleazy? Like, we're edging into Moetan territory here. The main source of creepy is the 2nd and 4th sisters, Maika and Kanashi. Kanashi's in elementary school but looks like a busty high-schooler. Maika's in high school but looks like a flat-chested braids-and-glasses elementary-schooler. I'm sure you can see where this is going. Maika has a part-time job modeling children's clothing for what I can only assume is some fetish magazine or website considering the way they have her pose (and yes, she even dons the stereotypical school swimsuit). Meanwhile Kanashi's whole shtick is that she looks like jailbait but is totally clueless about it, so she's constantly shown in male-gaze-o-vision and her male teacher repeatedly explodes into nosebleeds and then berates himself for having dirty thoughts about his pre-puberty students, har har what a knee-slapper. I guess it's okay to treat the ten-year-old like a Playboy bunny so long as she doesn't look like she's ten. /SARCASM

Jewelpet, Season 1: eps 1-4, unsubbed.


Even if I'd had English subtitles to liven up the experience, I doubt I'd have been able to stay awake through this one. Mostly it strikes me as an extremely poor man's Onegai My Melody.

Magical Canan: assorted eps, Spanish subs (which I don't speak).

Another one where I don't need to hear the dialogue to know that it's shit. This is a suitable-for-broadcast adaptation of a porno OVA, which itself was adapted from a porno game, which I strongly suspect was meant as a porno spoof of Cardcaptor Sakura. Hence the series carries the stink of lazy ripoff. And what it doesn't rip from CCS, it swipes from Pretty Sammy. The visuals also look incredibly cheap, to the point where I started wondering if I was watching the porno version by mistake.

At one point, the heroine ends up at a cosplay café in Akiba where one of the waitresses is dressed up as Mew Mint from Tokyo Mew Mew. I guess the writers had never heard of "Don't mention a better anime in the middle of your crappy anime."

Welp, that's 1 GB freed up. Now to dig into the umpteen bazillion TMM/MerMelo/Sugar Sugar Rune/CCS episodes I've got squatting on here.
the_sun_is_up: Yahtzee's speech bubble has been censored by a black bar that has the text "horrible things" written on it. (zero p - horrible things)
POP QUIZ: Name a bunch of narrative elements guaranteed to make pre-teen and teenage girls fork over all their money.

-pop stardom
-Sailor Moon
-foofy dresses
-shirtless surfer dudes
-forbidden romance

In 2003, Michiko Yokote and Pink Hanamori had the bright idea to mash all these things into one guaranteed-to-sell manga. In fact, it's possible they were a little too confident in the failproof nature of their brainchild, because they don't seem to have put much effort into making it, y'know, not suck.

Mermaid Melody is bad. More than that, it's incompetent. I've read plenty of bad manga in my time, but even so, it's rare that I come across one that's fails on such a basic level of "how to tell a functional story with words and pictures." I hate to say it, but it's a lot like Hen in that sense. It's like...

Okay, so modern-day Hollywood puts out plenty of bad movies, like the Transformers films. But at least those films were made by people who grasp the basics of film-making and could probably have made something a lot better if they'd tried harder. On the flip side, you have the films featured on MST3K and Cinema Snob where the creators were so incompetent that they couldn't even keep the boom-mike out of the camera's view.

What I'm saying is: In Mermaid Melody, that boom-mike has a starring role.

Oh fuck these analogies, I'll just show you:

Cut for large images )

But let's leave the details aside and widen our scope a bit: What about that failsafe premise I was praising before? MerMelo is about a bunch of mermaids who transform into idol singers and fight the forces of evil with their voices. It sounds like a pretty winning concept, but it's brought down by one big problem: MerMelo's heroines fight by singing. In a manga. Manga being a solely visual medium.

This ensures that nearly every single fight scene in MerMelo lasts a mere two pages. Each fight consists of three steps: 1) the heroines show up and say their In The Name Of The Moon speech, 2) the villain-of-the-week grimaces and yells some variant on "I'll get you next time, you meddling kids!" and departs, and 3) the heroines say their closing catchphrase: "How'd you like an encore?" That's literally it. Seriously, between steps 1 and 2, they may as well write the words "Insert song performance here" because we never get to see the girls sing for more than a page, nor do we see any of the lyrics. It's possible to depict singing in a soundless medium and still make it interesting — Full Moon Wo Sagashite did a pretty good job with that — and a few of MerMelo's battles at least make a vague attempt at being cinematic, but most of the time they don't even bother.

This also has the side effect of making villains look even more ridiculous and trivial than they usually are in this genre. The villain keeps sending his minions out on missions to kidnap the mermaids for use in his evil plot, but the minions always attack the mermaids head-on instead of using subterfuge, and the mermaids' songs always defeat the minion-of-the-week in one hit. These villains are so easily beaten and so disorganized that they can't possibly pose a threat.

Speaking of laughable villains, the main villain's consort is the resident Dark Magical Girl, a fallen mermaid princess named Sara. Her deal is that she was in love with a human who dumped her, and most of her dialogue is wangsty moaning about how no one can possibly understaaaaand how she feeeeels oh woe is me, I am literally the first person to get dumped in the history of everything. It's pretty insufferable, especially when we find out that he only dumped her for the sake of her kingdom.

Back to what I'd tentatively call the "combat": Fighting one's enemies via song is already a rather shaky concept, but MerMelo exacerbates this towards the end of the first story-arc by throwing in a bunch of shallow nonsensical bollocks about believing in yourself — for example, Lucia's given a magic harp with no strings, but she's able to play it because she belieeeeeves hard enough. Belief as a weapon can work, but here it's almost insulting how pastede on yey it is.

Another plot element that annoyed me: In the first volume, Lucia finds out, to her surprise, that she's a princess. She's spent all thirteen years of her life as a mermaid, and yet her caretakers and friends failed to tell her that she rules the top half of the Pacific because... she's still young? We never get a clear answer. Given the melodramatic tone of this manga, I assumed they included the "I'm a princess?!?" reveal in the name of creating cheap drama, but no, it's totally underplayed. It's like, "Oh by the way, you're a princess," "Oh that's a surprise, I guess." We don't even see the full reveal — it's shown in a flashback.

As for the non-plot parts of the manga, aside from the feeble comedy I already mentioned, it's mostly just a hurricane of fanservicey shojo clichés. I even started playing "spot the clichés" to entertain myself, but I'll need a separate post to list 'em all.

Anyway, final verdict on Mermaid Melody: an evil genius concept sunk by embarrassingly incompetent execution.
the_sun_is_up: Yahtzee's speech bubble has been censored by a black bar that has the text "horrible things" written on it. (zero p - horrible things)
So I've come down with a case of the summer lazies, and while I've been continuing to work on the MG Project, this "work" hasn't involved doing any write-ups because writing takes effort and thought and all that stuff that's so hard to summon when it's summer. In such cases, it often takes something extreme to jolt one out of one's couch-potato-ness. In my case, it was something extremely bad.

I just watched the first episode of Twin Angel: Kawaii Moe Desu Barf on Crunchyroll, and while Moetan and Ultimate Girls were painful viewing experiences because of their intense sleaze, Twin Angel: Technicolor Yawn was painful because of its unrelenting badness. The opening credits alone was one of the most agonizing things I've ever had to sit through. Whoever told the voice actresses to sing like that should be taken out behind the barn and shot. And after all the vapid cutesy giggling in this episode, I'm pretty sure I never want to hear anyone laugh ever again.

I could attempt to explain why this thing is so godawful, but Gia Manry at ANN did it better, so I'll just quote her: "You know that show that non-anime fans vaguely imagine anime as being? The one always parodied by fictional anime-within-anime (like Genshiken's Kujibiki Unbalance)? High-pitched, overly colorful, and usually mind-numbingly stupid? This is that show."

Actually I'm quite thankful to the ANN preview folks because their universally revolted reactions to this thing sufficiently prepared me for what lay ahead, while also providing some much-needed snarking. Although Theron's review had one unintentionally funny part in it that almost broke my brain:

"[the bouncing tits] and certain other elements suggest that teen and preteen girls are not the only target audience here."

I... wait wait wait. Stop the presses. You're saying that certain elements of this episode suggested that teen/preteen girls aren't the only target audience.

Dude, you've been reviewing for ANN for a while now, so I'm just going to assume you were high when you watched this episode, or maybe the show's awfulness caused some kind of temporary brain damage. Because there was not one single second of this episode that was even remotely aimed at anyone female, much less at teen/preteen girls. For fuck's sake, literally the third shot after the opening credits end is a close-up of the heroine's lovingly animated bouncing tits, complete with "boing boing" sound effects. And that's only scratching the surface. I mean, I'll freely admit that I'm terrible at telling the difference between girl-aimed anime and guy-aimed anime, but Twin Angel: Jiggle Jiggle is one of the most blatant examples I've ever seen of "made for the horny moe otaku and no one else" anime. (Plus there's the fact that it aired at 1:45 in the morning. Yeah, that was a pretty big hint.)

Also, I was reading some of the forum comments on the preview guide and became annoyed at hearing people defend the show by saying that it's a parody. So let's get something straight, boys and girls:

When you have a show that takes a bunch of really painfully tired clichés and plays them absolutely straight, that is not a parody. It might be attempting parody, but if so, it is failing miserably. To be a parody, you have to actually comment on or mock the thing you're parodying; you have to take all those clichés and show us why they're stupid and bad and don't make sense. Hell, one of the earliest definitions of the word was "a parodie, to make it absurder than it was" — the key being "absurder." If your "parody" is indistinguishable from the thing you're parodying, you're doing it wrong.

Dai Mahou Touge is a parody. Puni Puni Poemi is a parody. Even Ultimate Girls had certain elements of parody to it. Twin Angel: Unicorn Puke is just a lazy crappy rip-off.

As a final note, Dear Japan: Please stop naming blue-haired characters "Aoi." It stopped being clever a long time ago.
the_sun_is_up: Yahtzee's speech bubble has been censored by a black bar that has the text "horrible things" written on it. (zero p - horrible things)
This week on the Magical Girl Project, I take on that other unholy abomination known as CosPrayers.

Most of you have probably never heard of this series. Those of you who have might have also heard of the minor meme it spawned: "worse than CosPrayers." This meme uses the show as a litmus test by which to judge other shows, in order to separate the truly wretched from the merely crappy. Saying a show is "worse than CosPrayers" indicates that it's the very suckiest of suck.

Even the production company seems to have become aware at some point that the show sucked because right after it came out, they made another show called "Smash Hit" in which CosPrayers is a show-within-a-show that is acknowledged in-universe to be really terrible. This is what we in the biz refer to as a "parody retcon," in which the creators of a really shitty work turn around and go "Oh, no no, we made it shitty on purpose! As a satire of, um, stuff! Please believe us!"

Hell, even the name of the thing is sucky. Its full title is "The Cosmopolitan Prayers," and the shortened title intentionally resembles the word "cosplayer." Yes, it's a groan-worthy pun based around the Japanese tendency to pronounce "L" and "R" the same. KILL IT.

So since I'm the type of person who always gets morbidly curious whenever fans declare something to be the WORST EVAR, I decided to give CosPrayers a try and see for myself just how bad it is. Honestly, I came away feeling kind of disappointed.

CosPrayers is not the fun kind of bad. It's not the hilarious, campy, hubcaps-on-strings kind of bad that makes the work of Ed Wood and Coleman Francis so unintentionally entertaining. CosPrayers is just dull. And I know I panned Wedding Peach for being dull, but at least Wedding Peach had a clear idea of what it was doing and how to do it. CosPrayers, on the other hand, is incompetent and incoherent, with the storytelling and the editing being its biggest problems. It's like the creators had a bunch of story elements and bits of plot, but instead of arranging them in a way that flowed and made sense, they just kind of dumped them all out on a card table and let chance decide. The characters are shallow and bland and never get a chance to talk or develop relationships with each other, and the plot is so poorly executed that it invites plentiful fridge logic.

That 52-card-pickup method of storytelling gets even worst in the latter half of the series which offers up several plot twists that make no sense whatsoever, only serving to confuse the audience further. Again, it's like the creators wanted to have some plot twists in their anime, but had no clue of how to go about constructing such things. Alternatively, it's like they wanted to make a show about some cute girls fighting monsters, but they didn't realize that a functional anime series needs more than literally just "some cute girls fighting monsters."

I guess I should also mention that the show is full of gross, in-your-face fanservice that completely shatters the dramatic tension whenever it shows up, and the art style is typical of moe-esque fanservice shows in that it makes all the girls look like they're made of plastic, but none of this is unique to CosPrayers.

But back to that question of the parody retcon: According to Wikipedia, Smash Hit premiered only a week after CosPrayers ended, so it does seem possible that the producers had planned all along for CosPrayers to be crappy. But if that's the case, they're still complete blockheads. First of all, where's the sense in airing the intentionally sucky show-within-a-show before airing the making-of show that gives it context? Your audience will get bored and/or annoyed and go off to watch something else long before you have a chance to reveal the whole "it was supposed to be crap all along!" twist. And secondly, a crappy work does not automatically get any less crappy just because you made it crappy on purpose. If you sing a song horrendously off-key, it doesn't matter whether you did it because you're tone-deaf or because you're doing it intentionally to make some point — either way, it's still going to make my ears bleed. Being sucky on purpose isn't enough by itself — you have be entertainingly sucky, and preferably also include some satire on the sucky thing that you're imitating. Plus, I don't think CosPrayers is outlandish enough in its suckiness to qualify for the "haha sucky on purpose" crowd. Simply put, it's not bad enough. Despite that "worse than CosPrayers" meme, it's not the worst anime out there, nor is it even the worst I've seen. It's just kind of mediocre and incoherent. It fails even at being legendarily awful.
the_sun_is_up: Satan from Dinosaur Comics saying "What, what, I am in hell and that is the worst thing I've ever heard!" (dinos - the worst ever)
Huh, so I'm way behind on watching MLP:FIM, but according to Tumblr, the latest episode featured Ditzy Doo/Derpy Hooves getting speaking lines for the first time. Cool beans!

*watches the scene in question*



I mean making the name "Derpy Hooves" canon was already uncomfortable, but then they had to go and make it like TEN TIMES MORE UNCOMFORTABLE. I AM ALMOST IMPRESSED BY HOW MUCH CRINGE THEY MANAGED TO CRAM INTO THAT SCENE.

Normally I'd say a show's writers should listen to their fans, but this ceases to be a good idea when the fans in question mostly hang out on 4chan.



the_sun_is_up: Panty from PSG wearing glasses. (Default)
Sing me a bawdy song, make me merry

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