Monday, 14 August 2017

Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Book 1

"But it did change your fate.  It makes me happy to have saved even one of you". - Homura Akemi

Puella Magi Madoka Magica was an acclaimed twelve episode seinen anime that debuted in 2011 that tells the story of five very different girls and their dealings with being who in return for granting them a single wish, turns them into super-powered Magical Girls who are then required to fight and defeat Lovecraftian monsters called Witches who create lairs full of familiars to entrap and feast on normal humans.  It's pretty much my favourite thing in the history of ever, a tightly plotted character drama full of twists and turns with moments of very real tragedy and packed full of dense symbolism. So how do you adapt such an anime, especially one that pushed the medium of animation to it's very limits?  Well the answer is... not very well.  Three volumes is far too little space to do it justice and the delicate pacing is rendered a completely rushed mess.  However, the basic story is the same, your required reading is Faust and I'll be linking to clips on Youtube to help show you just how awesome the anime is and why you should watch it even if you're like me and know next to nothing about the Magical Girl genre.  Four of the five girls featured are on this cover, colour coded for your convenience: Madoka Kaname (Pink), Homura Akemi (Black), Sayaka Miki (Blue) and Mami Tomoe (Yellow).  A fifth girl, Kyoko Sakura (Red) appears at the very end and will feature more heavily in Book Two. So five girls, all different colours and when super danger threatens they combine and turn into one giant Magical Girl.  Sorry, sorry, cheap joke I know.  Anyway if you want some idea of what the show looks like, check out this award winning AMV cut to a bitchin' tune.

Anyway, the main characters are eighth/ninth graders, dividing school years like this was a bit after my time here in the UK.  But I am reliably informed (well it's the wiki so you know...) that means Madoka and Sayaka are fourteen, Mami is fifteen, Kyoko is a bit older than Madoka and Sayaka and a bit younger than Mami and Homura is fourteen... technically.  So any off-colour jokes I make must be taken with the full knowledge that I am a terrible human being who shouldn't be allowed near a computer. The manga is unflipped so panels read right to left and the honorifics have been left in for those who use them. Also, if you haven't seen the sequel movie Rebellion I'll be making some jokes and allusions to it in places, so minor spoilers - you have been warned. Also be aware that the events of the three volumes actually take place over roughly one month lest the messed up pacing make you think it all happens in about a week. Let's begin.

So we begin, and already I'm annoyed.  The show starts with Madoka emerging from a black and white maze onto a floating platform, buildings crashing down from the sky and one teenage girl with long dark hair battling a strange giant creature floating above the devastated city as a cross between a bunny and a cat tells her only she can change what's happening.  The manga starts with two pages of Madoka staring through the mists as the long haired girl battles something unseen and the bunny-cat (with apologies to SF Debris) tells her only she can change the outcome. 
Consult a lawyer before signing contracts with bunny-cats.
The long haired girl sees it talking to Madoka and screams something at her, but Madoka can't hear her and bunny-cat says she "would you like to change destiny? You have the power within you to do that.  You can overturn everything that's come to be in this world"  and she should make a contract with him and become a "Magical Girl".  And then Madoka wakes up.  It was just a dream.

She gets up and goes through her morning routine with her mum, Junko.  Junko tells her to wear the pink ribbons in her hair and "your popularity will soar".  After breakfast she rushes off to school and meets her best friends Sayaka Miki and Hitomi Shizuki.  They note her ribbons and Sayaka jokes that she is trying to lure in the boys, "wow that sounds like a girl I'm going to marry!"

Later they are in class and their teacher has some gripes about her lovelife and how boys shouldn't grow up to be petty and girls shouldn't ever date a man who complains about how their eggs are fried.  She then introduces them to a new transfer student, Homura Akemi.  Madoka is very surprised to see she is the dark haired girl from her dream.  Homura catches her eye and fixes her with an intense gaze.
Homura and the legs that launched a thousand fanfics.
Breaktime comes and people crowd round her asking questions, she asks if Madoka can take her to the nurse's office as Madoka is the health representative for the class.  As they walk, Madoka stammers at her and Homura asks to call her Homura, Madoka finally asks if they have met before.  Homura stops turns as says to her, "Madoka Kaname! Your family and friends.  Do you... value them?"

Madoka says she does, she loves her family and friends very much, they are precious to her.  Homura says in that case, she will offer her words of caution:

Homura: "If you truly feel that way, then follow what I am about to tell you very closely.  For the forseeable future, no matter what may come to pass, you should never consider 'changing yourself' in any way. If you choose not to heed my  words... those things that you hold dear... will all be lost."

And with that she walks off on her own, leaving a bewildered Madoka in her wake.  Later after school in a cafe with Sayaka and Hitomi, Sayaka finds it amusing that a brand new student "master of atheletics and academics" appeared to Madoka in a dream

She goes on to say they are "two whom fate has bound together in a previous life. A mystery of the universe!"  Madoka tell Sayaka not to tease her, then Hitomi has to leave, she's from a very wealthy family and has a lot of extra-curricular stuff to do. Sayaka and Madoka go to a music store so Sayaka can look for a CD.  Behind them, an older girl is using a small gem like thing to search for... something.
Madoka finds the injured bunny-cat.
We then see Homura in her dream girl outfit hunting bunny-cat.  So bunny-cat uses telepathy to call Madoka for help.  Madoka goes into the corridors behind the shops and finds a batteres bunny cat.  She picks him up and Homura appears in her dream girl outfit and yells "get away from that thing!" She bears down on the both of them but then Sayaka blasts her with a fire extinguisher and the three of them make their escape.

But as they run, reality suddenly changes around them.   It's not illustrated very well, but weird spherical things with moustaches surround them as the place swims and distorts, but before they can hurt Madoka and Sayaka the older girl appears in a flamboyant outfit and summoning some muskets she blows away all the creatures.  Reality reasserts itself as Homura appears, silently contmplates the other costumed girl, then turns away and leaves without a word.
Mami Tomoe to the rescue.
The girl heals bunny-cat and he thanks her, calling her "Mami".  She tell him to thank the girls who found him so he addresses them as Madoka and Sayaka.  Mami then changes back into her school uniform and introduces herself as Mami Tomoe, a student like them.  She also introduces the bunny-cat as Kyubey.  Kyubey then says it has something to ask of Sayaka and Madoka:

Kyubey: "Listen...I want you to contract with me... and become Magical Girls!"

Next morning Madoka wakes up wondering if it was all a dream, but Kyubey pops up on her bed and wishes her "good morning".  She goes about her bathroom routine while Kyubey soaks in a bowl of water.  Her mother can't see it and she also mildly scold Madoka for getting in so late last night.

Madoka says a "senpai" asked them so come over to her house.  I'll quickly explain that senpai roughly means an older mentor to a "kouhai" or student. We then flashback to the previous night at Mami's flat, she's an orphan so lives alone as an emancipated child, not uncommon in Japan where adoption is rare.
A Soul Gem.. seems so innocuous doesn't it?
Mami tells them that now Kyubey has choosen them she can fill them in on what it's like to be a Magical Girl.  She shows them a gem, when a girl makes a contract with Kyubey it creates this thing called a Soul Gem and a duty to fight witches.  In return, Kyubey will grant a single wish. Sayaka asks what the witches are they'd have to fight.  

Kyubey: "If you think of Mami as a 'Magical Girl' who spreads hope to all... then witches are the opposite. The ones that litter the world with despair."

Mami continues that witches cause suicides and murders that happen for no reason, they wandered into a witches "wards" or labyrinth as the anime called them.  If Mami hadn't appeared they would be dead.

She advises them to think hard about entering into a contract.  Sayaka muses that there seems to be some nice perks, are there other Magical Girls?  Homura is one, and "quite a powerful one, I venture".  Sayaka wonders why she would attack Madoka and Kyubey say she was after it (Kyubey has no gender). Kyubey thinks she was trying to stop it making any more contracts.

Mami explains that every time you defeat a witch there is a certain reward and Magical Girls will clash over the "glory of defeating a witch".  She thinks Homura doesn't want another rival, "probably".   Mami then invites them along on some witch hunts so they can think about if they still want to contract after that.
Kyubey comes to school with them.
Back in the present, Madoka meets Hitomi and Sayaka with Kyubey on her shoulder who Hitomi can't see.   Madoka then speak telepathically to Sayaka using Kyubey's borrowed power.  As they talk mentally, Hitomi asks why they have gone so quiet.  She then reaches the entirely wrong conclusion that they had an overnight tryst and now can understand each other with just a glance:

Hitomi: "You mean this is Forbidden Love!??"

Haha, as if this series has and lesbian undertones, the very idea. Ahem.  In class, Sayaka asks Kyubey if he is safe here, "transfer student" is in their class too (Sayaka refuses to use Homura's name from now on).   Mami is there and can hear them too.  Homura comes in and frowns at seeing Kyubey on Madoka's lap.

Later on the school roof, Sayaka and Madoka wonder what to wish for.  Sayaka says they are "happy fools" who can't think of a wish so important they'd stake their lives on it.   Madoka wonders why pick them, there must be others with wishes so important they'd trade their lives for them.

Then Homura appears.  Sayaka is rude to her, but Homura says she is not here to fight.  She reminds Madoka of what they talked about the day before and "don't regret later that you ever listened to that thing's honeyed promises".  She starts to leave but Madoka asks what she wished for, Homura stops and pulls a pained expression, then leaves without a word.
Readying for a witch hunt.
After school, Sayaka and Madoka tell Hitomi they have errands and are going home early.  Hitomi sniggers saying they must be off to "consumate your forbidden love again tonight."  Later Mami, Madoka and Sayaka meet in a cafe.  Sayaka brandishes a baseball bat, Madoka however has been designing a Magical  Girl outfit much to the amusement of the other two.

They return to where the witch was the previous day, now in the anime when a witch is introduced it's name appears in a runic code.  The manga doesn't bother with that but I'm going to use their anime names for reasons which will becone apparent in the next two volumes.  Mami holds up her Soul Gem to track the witch, who is called "Gertude".

As they walk, Mami says she check places where accidents are likely to occur, as well as hospitals where a witch can feed on the weakened people.  Then she sees a woman about to jump off the top of an abandoned building.  Henshin!  A transformed Mami uses her ribbons to catch the woman as she falls.  The woman has fainted and Mami show Sayaka and Madoka the "witch's kiss" on the woman's neck which controlled her into attempt suicide, Gertrude is here.
Here's the anime version, sorry for no subs.
The walk into her labyrinth and using guns and a baseball bat (enchanted by Mami to damage familiars) work their way through to Gertrude herself who has a sluglike body and a rose bush for a head.  Mami, fires bullets into the ground which turn into ribbons and ensnare Gertrude, then Mami summons a huge gun and shoots Gertrude with it.  She dies and the labyrinth collapses around them, as normality is restored.

Mami shows them a spherical object with a spike under it.  This is a "Grief Seed.  It's a witches egg" Mami tells Madoka and Sayaka.  She holds her Soul Gem to it and the gem which is now muddy looking has the taint pulled off it into the seed and is shiny again, using magic is what makes a Soul Gem murky and a Grief Seed the only way to cleanse it, which is why Magical Girls will fight over them.
A Grief Seed.
Homura appears and Mami coldly offers the seed to her saying it has one more use in it.  Homura responds icily, "I don't need it.  That was your prey.  So just keep it for yourself".  And she leaves.  Sayaka says she gets on her nerves, but Madoka wants to be friends with her.  Mami goes to comfort the woman who jumped saying she just had a bad dream.  Madoka admires her saying "Mami-chan... is so cool!  She really is awesome!"  She thinks how she wants to be a Magical Girl so badly now, but can't think of a wish.

Madoka: "...I can't help but think that even someone like me... could be a person who's able to help others.  It would make me so happy!"

We then cut to Sayaka visiting a boy called Kyosuke Kamijou in hospital,  He was a violin prodigy but after an accident he's lost the use of his left hand.  Sayaka has known him for a long time and has a major crush on him.  She's bringing him a rare classical music CD which he recieves with gratitude saying he hadn't been able to find it himself.

He asks her to listen to it with him and they put an earbud in one ear each and listen takes Sayaka back to being a young kid watching him perform on stage.  Then she realises Kyosuke is crying as he listens and this puts her in a pensive mood.
Sayaka with Kyosuke.
We then cut to her, Madoka and Mami on another witch hunt.  This time no Grief Seed is dropped as it was only a Familiar.  But Mami says that they must be destroyed as they will kill people and grow into witches themselves.  Back into normal clothes, Mami asks if they have thought of any wishes yet.  But Madoka asks Mami what her wishes was.

Mami tell them it was a few years ago, her family was in a massive traffic accident and she was lain dying in one of the cars.  Kyubey appeared and all she could think of was "save me".   And that's why they should think their wishes over carefully as that was something she wasn't able to do.

Sayaka asks if the wishes have to be for themselves, could she, for example, make a wish on behalf of someone who is having a rougher time then she is? Mami says yes, she knows it's been done before, but she doesn't recommend it:

Mami: "Miki-san... do you truly want that person's dream to come true?  Or is it that you want to be that person's saviour for making that dream come true?  If you're going to fulfill someone else's dream, that's the time when it's most important to be sure you know your own wish,  The two might seem the same but they're entirely different".

She apologises for the harsh tone, but she is sure Sayaka would end up regretting it.  Sayaka apologises saying "I wasn't thinking it through".  Kyubey pipes up saying the sooner they make a wish the better, but Mami says making them rush the decision might get "him" dumped.
Myubey keeps up its nagging.
In bed that night, watched over by Kyubey, Madoka again thinks how happy it would make her to be "a strong, cool, wonderful person like Mami-san".  Kyubey tell her if she becomes a Magical Girl she'll be stronger than Mami, although her powers will be defined by what wish she brings to the contract.  Kyubey say "I've never met anyone with your nature before!"  Madoka laughs that that can't be true and Kyubey's picking on her and she wishes it "good night!"

Next day they are at the hospital.  Kyosuke wasn't in the mood to see anyone so Sayaka has returned to the waiting Madoka and Kyubey.  Then they spot a Grief Seed attached to the hospital wall and it's about to hatch.   They quickly make a plan, Sayaka and Kyubey will stay and watch over it while Mami goes and finds Mami.  If the labyrinth opens, Mami can find Kyubey and Sayaka inside via telepathy.

As Madoka leaves and the labyrinth appears, Kyubey ask Sayaka if she is scared.  She says that she is, and Kyubey says she can make a wish and become a Magical Girl, but Sayaka says she doesn't want to make a hasty decision.  Mami and Madoka arrive and enter the labyrinth, though the witch, Charlotte, hasn't hatched yet.

Homura follows them inside, saying she'll hunt todays prey.  Mami says she doesn't trust her and won't retreat.  She wraps up Homura in ribbon bondage even as Homura tries to warn them, "this witch this time... is like nothing you've ever faced!!"  But Mami ignores her and she and Madoka walk further into the labyrinth.

As they walk, Madoka admits that shes always hated the fact she spends every day "without being of any use to anybody".  But when she saw Mami fight and learned that she could do the same thing it has made her "happier than anything else".

Madoka: "So if I were to become a magical girl, that would be my wish come true.  To think I could even help others like that... my biggest dream is to live a life that would make me proud of myself!"

But Mami stops and says quietly that she is not someone you'd want to emulate.   Fighting scares her like nothing else, when she is with her and Sayaka she forces herself to be the cool senpai, "when I'm alone, I do nothing but cry".
Tempting fate...
Madoka says she's not alone anymore, Madoka will fight by her side.  Mami starts to cry saying they can be a Magical Girl duo.  She transforms as Sayaka tell her the Grief Seed is hatching.  She thinks happily to herself "I've got nothing to be afraid of.  After all... I'm not alone anymore!"

She fights with joy and much more flamboyantly than normal, shooting Charlotte who looks like a small toy saying she'll kill it on one shot.  But after wrapping Charlotte in ribbons and shooting her with a big gun, suddenly a huge clown worm with sharp teeth in its big mouth bursts out of Charlotte and the over-confident Mami freezes.
The Charlotte battle anime style.
We then cut to Homura and the ribbons holding her melt away, realising what this means, Homura runs towards where Charlotte is, who is currently feasting on the crushed up and mangled remains of Mami Tomoe. 
Om Nom Nom.
Kyubey tries to get the horrified Sayaka and Madoka to make a contract before Charlotte turns her attention to them.  Homura then appears saying "there is no need for that" and she cooly takes out Charlotte with a series of massive explosions.  Standing over the bloodstain which is all that remains of Mami, Homura says:

Homura: "Burn this scene into your brain.  If you become a Magical Girl... this is what you get!"

She picks up Charlotte's Grief Seed, Sayaka grabs her and demands she give it back, it belongs to Mami!  Homura slaps her away saying it belongs to a Magical Girl and they have no right to touch it and she leaves Sayaka and Madoka kneeling on the ground weeping over the loss of their senpai and friend.

Next day over breakfast, Madoka breaks down crying that she is alive to enjoy breakfast. Later, she and Sayaka sit on the school roof and wonder if they still want to be Magical Girls.  Sayaka says there's no way now. Madoka asks Kyubey who will protect the town now Mami is gone.

Kyubey says it has been Mami's territory for quite some while now.  Her gap will be filled by those hunting for Grief Seeds, "like that transfer student..?" asks Sayaka.  Madoka says she promised Mami she'd become a Magical Girl... But after seeing her die like that she just can't.  Kyubey say's it understands, it'll be off looking for more girls to make a contract, "we haven't known each other for very long, but it's been fun.  Thank you". And off it goes.

After school, Madoka goes to Mami's flat, and cries saying "I'm sorry... I'm sorry I'm so weak... I'm really sorry".  Outside Homura is waiting and tells her she musn't be so hard on herself.   She asks if Madoka has taken her warning to heart.  Madoka says yes, but if she had done so earlier Mami wouldn't have died.  Homura says it wouldn't have changed Mami's fate.
Homura offers some consolation.
Madoka asks Homura if she's seen many people die?  "Yes I have" she replies, "so many... I've given up trying to count".  Madoka asks if anyone will notice that Mami is dead?  Homura says she only has distant relatives and it will be some time before anyone files a missing persons report.  When someone dies in a labyrinth "not even a body is left behind".   She'll be a missing person forever, "that is what happens to Magical Girls in the end".

This upsets Madoka, saying Mami fought for everyone for a long time, now no one will notice she's gone "... that's too lonely a fate".   Homura says it's part of the contract that gives them their power.

Homura: "So for no one to notice... for the world to forget us... that is just something we have to accept".

Madoka says she'll never forget Mami.  Homura says that would make Mami very happy, "so happy that I envy her". Madoka says she won't forget Homura either for saving her life yesterday. Homura turns away muttering "there's no way you remember..." Then she hastily takes her leave of Madoka who unknowingly struck a nerve with her comment.

We then cut to Sayaka bringing Kyosuke another CD.  But he flatly asks her if she is picking on him, is she trying to make him mad?  He can't play anymore and listening to the music is like torture.  He smashes his injured hand on a CD smashing it and cutting up his hand but feels nothing.
Kyosuke unleashes his bitterness.
Sayaka stops him cutting himself and says he'll get better. But Kyosuke says todays medical science can't help him.  He must give up the violin, "my hand won't move anymore... unless miracles or magic exist".   They do, says Sayaka as Kyubey appears on the balcony rail, "miracles... and magic... both exist".

Madoka is doing some late night shopping and comes across Hitomi, she has a witch's kiss on her neck.  She dreamily tells Madoka that she is going "to someplace far, far better than this."  More people with witch's kisses appear headed in the same direction as Madoka wonders what she can do as she doesn't have Homura's cellphone number.  So she just tags along.

They all converge in a small warehouse and shutter the entrance.  They start to mix up chemicals to create poison gas.  Madoka manages to grab the bucket and hurl it through the window and foils that plan, but then the crowd of people all turn on her, she manages to get into a small storeroom and locks the door.

Unfortunately inside is the witch Kirsten who drags Madoka into her labyrinth which in the anime was rendered in "super-flat" style.  She is tormented by images of Mami's death and wonders if this is her punishment for being "such a coward... and a liar."
Sayaka to the rescue!
Then suddenly Sayaka comes charging in, now a Magical Girl clad in a knight's cape and wielding a sword.  She smashes all the familiars holding Madoka then slices Kirsten in half killing her.   As the labyrinth collapses she grins at Madoka, "I'd say that I didn't do too bad... for a beginner."  Homura comes running up, but realises the witch is gone.  She sees Sayaka who sneers, "aren't you a little late... transfer student?"  In Kyosuke's hospital room he wakes up and finds his hand can move again.

This volume comes to an end with the introduction of a new character, Kyoko Sakura watching from afar.  She'd come because she heard Mami was dead and was going to take over her territory.  Kyubey tells her that a new Magical Girl here to protect the area, she made a contract with Kyubey a short time ago.  Kyoko says the territory is too good to give up to a rookie, so she plans to "crush that little girl".
Enter Kyoko Sakura.
I hope you've checked out some of the clips I linked to and you'll see the manga has an almost impossible task trying to portraying the witches and their barriers which all use differing animation techniques and that are packed full of symbolism regarding the witches inside them.  I understand why the mangaka focused more on the conversations and "normal" animated segments and I hope the quality of the underlying story of the anime still manages to shine through. Mami's death was a big surprise when I first watched it, I hadn't been as surprised by a early exit from something since Sephiroth kebabbed Aeris in Final Fantasy VII.  Her tale is quite a sad one, of crushing loneliness and a zealous clinging to the Magical Girl mission to help fill the emptiness of her life.  And to die just as she found a companion is truly saddening even if one wonders about the responsibility of taking two non-Magical Girls into combat just because she needed friends.  We also get to know Sayaka and Madoka well, Sayaka will be explored more in Book 2 which concentrates on the strange relationship that forms between her and Kyoko.  We know she's a "take no shit" kind of girl who will bring a weapon to fight eldritch abominations but also has a softer side as evidenced by her relationship with Kyosuke.  Madoka is a girl of layers, on the surface a bright and cheerful girl but inside filled with self hatred and fears she's just a drag on everyone around her.  And why is Homura, very much an unknown quantity, so obssessed with stopping her becoming a Magical Girl?  And finally what is Kyubey's game?  He grants wishes and creates Magical Girls but no one has asked him the important question, why?  Next volume sees the true cost of becoming a Magical Girl revealed, and to say it's not taken well is an understatement.


  1. - “bunny-cat (with apologies to SF Debris)”

    Is “Evil bunny-cat stalks the night.” the best sentence or the bestest sentence?

    - “It was just a dream.”

    Or was it? Dun dun duuuuuuuuun. Also I see a pattern building in these reviews… actually two given groundhogs are also woodland creatures.

    - “A Soul Gem.. seems so innocuous doesn't it?”

    I'm a Marvel reader so not really.

    - “Haha, as if this series has any lesbian undertones, the very idea.”

    Just like Claremont's X-Men. :3

    - “Mami: "Miki-san... (...) might seem the same but they're entirely different".”

    Shorter Mami: Don't be a Nice Guy™.

    - “Mami's death was a big surprise when I first watched it”

    Apparently when the anime first aired they even left off the ending theme for the first couple of episodes because it was too ominous so it might have been a clue.

  2. Yeah the ending theme on the dvd's is a cutesy little number then episode 3 happened and cue Magia.

    I'm trying not to spoilerise the next two books, but I have in fact pointed out Sayaka Nice Guyness in the next one.

    And yeah, I've watched the SF Debris take on the show a few times and had to keep deleting bits where I had unconsciously quoted him.

  3. This show tried to sell itself as the nth moe (but now in Magical Girl flavor!) show very hard for 2 episodes just to subvert it later. And people wondered why I called it trolling back in the day. ^^;

    (Gen Urobuchi being the screenwriter could be a clue, but that was not common knowledge then... He has a "character murderer" reputation.)

  4. I like how they tried to keep Urobuchi's involvement a secret because everyone knew just what he was like. Then when he was found out just before the show started said he was a "healing type" writer now.

  5. Now to mirror translate a Hungarian idiom and possible be totally confusing:

    Well, that sure was a well built ceiling.

    (It's using the metaphorical "a lie this big deserves the sky, or in this case ceiling, falling on the person telling it" for somewhat literalist type of snarking.)

  6. Heh I like it. This series came early in my reconnection with anime, there was just this glowing review in neo magazine which gave away no plotpoints so I went into the show totally unspoiled. I loved it so much I made my mum watch it, and sister 2.0 and her boyf too. Sister loved as did mum and sister gave me a Kyubey plushie I like to hadoken whenever I reach certain points in the narrative ^_^

  7. Kyubey sure as hell deserves that and more. Cute is EVIL! :3 Or at least that particular cute thing is.

  8. I'd say "spoilers!" but I think it's obvious by now that bunny-cat is up to no good. But is he actually evil? That's an interesting debate we can have when I post the final volume, so hold on to your horses :P

  9. I'm trying to keep spoilers to minimum, but it's hard. ^^;

    Probably Alan will have some interesting thoughts about the evilness of bunny-cat too. :D

  10. Yes, it is hard. I'm planning to do PMMM: Rebellion as my next manga series so I keep having to delete lengthy references to it, just enough to tease for those who haven't seen it.

  11. Hiya

    Sorry for the tardiness in responding. Just been tied at work actually doing stuff rather than pretending to. And it's been quite the shock I can tell you. But I'm hoping to find some time tomorrow to have a read of all the above. Especially as it appears to be manga and as we know, I need a bit more education there. But gonna have a very early night first. Rather weirdly, I just fell asleep on the sofa, and had a dream that I'd fallen asleep on the sofa and then was dreaming about it. The human mind's a bewildering thing.

  12. Hey no worries, it's annoying when you have to do actual work at work! Have a good sleep :)

  13. ... Apparently Gotham Academy ended with issue #12 of the "Second Semester" relaunch. :(

    Also Gwenpool is dead set on creeping me out between the giggling and facepalming. And I can not say more because *spoilers*.

  14. Malitia... why you make me has a sad? :(

    Imagine a long epic rant here about DC coming round to my house to personally kick my cat and poke me in the eye.

    I'm liking Gwenpool more and more, at this rate I shall be reading more Marvel than DC, INCONCEIVABLE!

  15. I'm sharing my sadness. That was my only DC book still left. NOOOOO!!! /o\

  16. We've both been turned into DOCTOR DOOM by this news!

    That said I haven't taken stock of what's been going on in the Rebirth lately, although I have been picking up trades as and when I can afford. I'm sure next year I'll have had time to compose a long screed about the abusive relationship me and DC appear to be in when I cover the end of the series *sigh*

  17. My other recently ended series is Ultimates, which went out as it started:

    By making cosmic Marvel even more mind screwy!

    (It established the 7-8 iterations of the Marvel cosmos, and featured designs making me long for a "Shin Megami Tensei Marvel edition" game. :3)

  18. My favourite DC stories and characters all belong to the "myth n'magic" stables and pretty much all that is left is Wonder Woman and The Hellblazer. Occasionally they'll release an awesome series like Gotham By Midnight that hits all my sweet spots, then cancel it just as it's on a roll. This is why I prefer indie stuff nowadays, they don't need to build huge audiences and seem to rely much more on trade sales in bookshops rather than just comic shop sales.

  19. I can relate, I'm mostly on Marvel's mythic side... that pretty much dwindled down to just Thor.

    But a new movie is coming which on the positive side might mean new books for some less central characters*, and on the minus it probably will end Jane's Thoring one way or another**.

    I'm way too optimistic, aren't I? :/

    * Loki. I want a new good*** Loki ongoing again (there was one before Secret War (2015)). But I'm not very picky (Angela? Sif? Valkyrie? Hilde? Leah of Hel? Lorelei and Sigurd?).
    ** They currently tease "her" (Thor's actually) death very heavily. I'm skeptical, as her book still sells too well to kill her off for real. Also there are a lot of rethorical trickery in the press info. :P
    *** I mean a well written, interesting story, with some nice art; not that the jerk should be a hero necessarily. ^^; This footnote is brought to you by my knowing Loki's fandom too well. :/

  20. I just don't understand why DC/Marvel keep aiming their product at stale old 40 year old fanboy tastes. Now speaking as someone who is in her early 40's I've managed to embrace change, again thanks mainly to Image (Image, who'd a thought that label would end up a beacon of diversity and variety back in the 90's!) and other indie labels and when DC release good stuff I buy the blasted trades and GRAH!!

    I take it Loki is a bit of what TV Tropes calls a Draco In Leather Pants then? Sounds about right :D I'm glad lady Thor is popular, gives me hope.

    Also I hope Alan is OK and hasn't worked himself to death :O

  21. "Dear Big Two,

    please grow out of the 90s. If even Image could do it you've no excuse.

    Sincerely, the readers."

    Lady Thor's book sells around 40 000 issues per month (plus the hidden sales, and trade sales), which isn't even remotely close to the cancellation line, heck it's around Deadpool's main title (okay that's bi-weekly not monthly, but still... DEADPOOL!).

    Loki... partially, yes. There is a big part of their fandom who "Draco In Leather Pants" them a LOT, but there is another big part who want the classic villain Loki back (I can't imagine why, could be fun, but was sort of one note). And there are also several smaller segments thanks to all the iterations, and "interpretation up to the reader" stuff the jerk went through in recent years. ^^;

    O.o You're right. Alan disappeared. I hope he's all right too.

  22. I'll co-sign that letter. And DC, start promoting new stuff on your Vertigo imprint, so much of what makes you my favourite company is Vertigo. I'm just reading through all five volumes of Lucifer, who I imagine is a lot like Loki. Handy having a sister who is into comics as well, I can buy her cool stuff then borrow it.

    I think Alan is just bogged down with actual work, poor guy.

  23. Lucifer is on my to read list, but I didn't got around it yet. ^^; (Even the recently ended run... it had the same artist on who drew Loki: Agent of Asgard.)

  24. I'm only halfway through the first omnibus volume but it's been pretty damn good so far. Like a mash-up of early Hellblazer and The Sandman, but with a voice of its own too. I give it too thumbs up but I know I am probably missing quite a lot because I was raised atheist so a lot of the cool biblical stuff I feel I sometimes need footnotes for. Ah well, wikipedia is a friend in these cases!

  25. I've now had the realisation that my obsession with the 'law of the jungle' is that, unlike 'real' law, you don't spend from 8 til 8 everyday just lurching from one crisis to another. Talk about spinning plates. But anyway who cares. I've now finally got round to reading this. I'm sorry but I'm afraid I have to say...I LOVE IT!

    (That dramatic reveal probably doesn't work as well in print)

    I've really surprised myself I have to admit. When I first glanced at the pictures of cutesy anime girls and weird hybrid animals, I'll be honest, I thought I'd just chug through it because you'd gone to all the effort of writing about it. But it's one of those tales where I'm having to process all the things it's set up in my mind.

    It just combines so many great ideas. Now obviously a lot of the Tropes are pretty familiar, but it handles them so well. And it's not afraid to takes risks with the conventions. I thought the early death of a character who'd been set up to be a regular was very well done. Reminded me a bit of Spooks or even Torchwood. I especially liked how they'd given her a very sympathetic backstory just to rub it in a bit more.

    I like sinister bunnycat. I've read a few of these 'recruit youngsters for magical war' stories. And I much prefer it when the 'mentor' is a bit dodgy. Love a bit of moral ambiguity me. I'd rather hoped in Harry Potter that it would transpire that Dumbledore had just set up Harry as a decoy for Neville, who would be the real chosen one. It was a bit disappointing that Dumbledore had to be such a goodie; especially bearing in mind his wizard Nazi past. So I'm hoping bunnycat is a bit of a git.

    I'm also now pretty convinced that Sucker Punch was influenced to a great degree by this. Both in terms of narrative and on a meta level.

    As soon as my mind stops racing with work crap I'll do my cogitating thing. There's a lot here to think about. Luckily so much so that if anyone asks why I'm really enjoying a story about 15 year old lesbians in school uniforms I can legitimately give none Rule 43 reasons.

    (That's the prison service rule, not the Internet one)

  26. Oh and I meant to add how much I liked Malitia's clever 'thor' thing.

  27. Ah He Lives! Glad to see you good sir. I think you'll enjoy the rest of the books (I'm posting vol.2 around midnight), shit gets real yo, I'll tell you now you don't find out what bunnycat's deal is until the final book and I think as an old skool Doctor Who fan like me you'll get a big kick out of finding out just why it (oh god I have had to delete referring to it as "him" and "he" about a million times, I think I should have just gone with "he" and made an excuse that western fandom tends to gender bunnycat male - even though his VA's are both women and in Japan he's consider agender) is doing all this stuff.

    I'm having to hold back some of my more pretentious analytic stuff for the third volume because it fits better then, never fear, imaginary beards will be stroked and non-existent pipes smoked in what is turning into an epic final post on it.

  28. Heh, just about. I would check my pulse, but renewed my first aid certificate on Monday and apparently we don't check pulses any more. Actually loads of my knowledge turned out to be out if date.

    "Oh, I was always told to tilt the head like this.

    "Yeah, turns out that kills you"

    The weirdest thing was that we're moving to cardiac only CPR, but only from 2020. Wow, have I misunderstood how evolution works.

    But you've got me even more intrigued now. I'm thinking everything from that Tibetan monk, to Fenric, to the Valeyard. But so long as there's a warrior girl in leather and a tin dog I'll be happy.

    I'm feeling quite chuffed I spotted a few down with the kids references. Like that sharing earbuds thing. It's great that they're such complex characters. I like that there's some proper tension and rivalry. Nothing wrong with MLP style friendship is magic, but let's face it, real teenagers can be frikkin horrible to each other.

    I also like the cost of the journey aspects and the sacrifice overtones. From a magical perspective that's very interesting and real. Crops up a lot. And also the motivations. Especially the saviour complex. You know I've got that a bit.

    I did like using the wish to restore his hand though. That was just the right side of twee. It felt very satisfying when it risked being a bit mawkish.

    But now being a manga expert with this and Dragonball, is that how it works then? Put yourself through incredible danger and if you succeed you get one lousy wish? I would have negotiated a better contract. You never accept the first offer.

  29. Believe it or not this is considered a seinen anime, despite the frilly girls it was aimed late night and written for adults. The manga adaptation, I don't quite know who it's aimed at, it's not to bad with this first volume, but with the next one, important scenes have been omitted or skimmed over, so it would become very confusing I think if you didn't have a handle on the plot already.

    Hah, well in later Dragonball they start wishing for stuff more important than a pair of knickers. As for wishes, one Magical Girl we've already met managed to make a wish that ended up making her very powerful. I like the "smallness" of the wish to heal the hand, you're not always savvy enough to cover all the bases, like a wish to be able to heal anyone you fancied say.

  30. I can see how the story is aimed for a more mature audience, it is nicely complex and nuanced. The frilly girls aspect is perhaps a bit misleading. Maybe it's a cultural dissonance thing? You could have a gritty story about kids facing adversity in the UK, and there school uniforms would just add to the overall drama. And of course there have been some very serious works in the West that have been cartoony. When the Wind Blows for example. Have you ever seen Oranges are not the only fruit btw? I'm getting a similar vibe from this.

    I still haven't had an opportunity to check out the anime. Hopefully I'll be able to do that over the weekend.

    It's a shame really that anime has been spoilt by association with that neckbeard waifu culture, and especially the 4chan crowd (check me using the terminology as if I know what I'm taking about!). Of course many excellent works are ruined by elements of their fandoms. Must confess I find the neckbeard thing bizarre. I know how subcultures work. Bu it's bewildering to me why anyone would want to adopt one that's so tainted.

    Speaking of manga, if I may pick yours and Malitia's brains for a moment. I was interested in what you were saying about the breadth of the genre. One aspect of Japan that crops up a lot in certain circles I frequent is Taiji. That's the place they capture and kill the dolphins. Are there any mangas that relate to that, or whaling generally? I'd be very interested to see how that's handled if there is such a thing.

    Now I'm thinking what wishes I'd want as a reward. Publicly I'd just announce that something like the smile of a relieved child would be reward enough, or merely knowing that there was one less injustice in the world. Behind the scenes though I'd probably be angling for a speedboat or something.

  31. I've not heared of Taiji nor come across any manga or anime dealing with it. There probably is some, but my explorations of manga and anime are pretty much all the fantasy stuff that tends to get western releases. I know there is a lot of fan-subbed anime of all genres out there, I'll have a poke around.

    Anime Nazis are the worst. Gaming is so entrenched in western culture that gamergate has remained relatively obscure. But anime being a more niche interest has definitely been tainted by the antics of the anime Nazis. It sucks because overall manga and anime are fandoms with large female followings. Sigh this is why we can't have nice things.

  32. I can't remember anything about whaling in the manga I've read... except maybe if it came up as part of a particular running gag in Azumanga Daioh. (The animal lover character keeps getting meaty foodstuff from her "friends", and weirded out by it, because they totally misunderstood her.)