Extra: Bit of motif, please

What do Fairy Musketeers, Princess Tutu and Durarara have in common? Well, if you’ve read the title, you might have a guess in mind and you’d be right. Aside, of course, from the more obvious answer of all three shows being produced in Japan.

So, for the sake of those unfamiliar to the term, what exactly is a motif? Well, a motif is a specific idea or feature that is found in many different kinds of stories. For example, the “evil stepmother” is a motif. You see this one in Cinderella, Snow White and many other fairy tales. In fact, motifs are used so frequently in folklore, there is a motif dictionary for them all and scholars are constantly researching them and adding more. But fairy tales aren’t the only ones that contain motifs. Many contemporary shows and books continue to recycle these elements of story and reuse them in various settings.

In a show like Fairy Musketeers, it’s pretty easy to guess at what motifs show up. Actually, it would be easier to figure out what motifs are not being used. The evil stepmother, three companions (the number three is very heavily used in folklore), magical helpers, quests, evil and good magic, etc. Even direct references to fairy tale characters are made with Red Riding Hood being the lead alongside Snow White and Briar Rose (Sleeping Beauty). As for Princess Tutu, again, it’s a simple matter. You have a beast (duck, in this case) transforming into human form, a prince, a knight and a princess. Well, actually Princess Tutu is a story that enjoys twisting these motifs a bit, so instead of one princess, there are two. The prince is powerless, the knight can’t protect anyone and the villain doesn’t like being a villain and one princess doesn’t get a happy ending. Oh and the major villain at the end? It’s not who you think it is.

Even so, those shows are pretty easy motif factories. They are based on fairy tales, after all. But what about Durarara? That’s an odd one to add to the list, isn’t it? Not as much as you might think. Durarara is interesting for many reasons, but one major reason is for its unusual urban fairy tale blend. Thankfully the story doesn’t focus solely on this element, -or I fear it might not have done so well- but instead branches out its plot into heavy character development and a strong critique on the blending of technology, information and gangs in our world. The fantasy/mythical elements are more of a foil, drawing attention to how heavily technology has affected our societies. That being said, Durarara does indeed contain a few motifs of its own. It has a headless rider, a possessed sword, and a journey to retrieve something that was lost/taken. Although these elements are not the main focus, they do contribute to the overall story and make for an impressive urban fantasy setting (though the urban is more emphasized, in this case).

Of course, these are by far not the only examples of motifs showing up in anime. There are many more examples (Fruits Basket, anyone?). If you watch a lot of anime, chances are you run into motifs pretty frequently. So what kind of shows have you guys watched that might contain a motif or two? Were they any good?

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Fairy Musketeers Review

Story:
Souta is just an ordinary elementary school student. Well, so far as he knows. But strange dreams about his mother’s disappearance and a sudden attack by a creature called a “nightmarian,” begin to change his mind. As it turns out, Souta is a “key” that another world wants to have. Thankfully for him, this other world isn’t just a group of baddies. The king of the magical world of Phandavale sends his most loyal guardians to protect Souta from the forces that would use him for evil. Thus Riding Hood, Snow White and Briar Rose are introduced to Souta and his friend Ringo and they all set out for Phandavale in the hopes of setting the now dangerous magical realm right.

Violence:
The violence is at the level one would expect from a kid’s show: low. When monsters die they turn into speaks of light, no blood. A few of the monsters are a bit creepy looking, mainly the spider ones. Nothing too extreme so long as one doesn’t have an unusually high fear of bug shaped things.

Language:
Thankfully the creators of this show kept their audience in mind and thus there isn’t any bad language to be found here.

Nudity:
Again, nothing really to report in this sector. At the very end of the series there are a few hot spring scenes, but these are kids here so there isn’t any nudity aside from seeing some bare shoulders.

Theology/Mythology:
This show opens up with a story that is used as the framework for the entire plot and claims that once magic and science were side by side until the day when God separated them. Because of this, the villain makes the statement that she wants to “get revenge against God.” However, aside from these references, God really isn’t discussed at all. Mainly characters simply question God’s reasons for making the world the way it is. Also, if it isn’t clear from the “magical girl” genre, there is indeed magic in this show. Usually it follows basic RPG fair, attacks, protection during battle, etc. The enemy also uses magic termed simply as “dark magic.” Also, in one episode Souta and co. come across a town that worships a statue of a dragon that saved their town long ago. Since they have a temple and entire religion based around this, it can be uncomfortable for some viewers. It is odd, to say the least, but really only goes on for one episode.

Personal Impression:
Sugar. So much sugar. This entire series is pretty much exactly what it claims. It’s a kid going on adventures in a magical place with other kids, essentially. That’s really all there is to it. Sure there’s a king they have to save from an evil villainess, but really now. Kids on an adventure. Which, so long as that’s what you want, is great. The animation and music all compliment the kid and magic themes, as does the moral messages tucked into nearly every episode. There are even a few places where genius tries to get through, specifically the scene where Riding Hood and Val return to the hilltop where they first met and silently sit together. Considering how horrible their pasts are, the silence speaks volumes about both not needing words around one another. Unfortunately, scenes like this are rare and most of the series ends up in predictable city. Even so, it’s good clean fun, even if there isn’t a lot of brain power involved. Oh and there’s sugar. A lot of it. A lot of sugar. So. Much. Sugar.

Personal Rating: All Ages

Episodes: 39
Languages: Sub
Official rating: All Ages
Genre(s): Fantasy, adventure, magical girl
Website: N/A
Legal streaming: Crunchyroll
Screen shots:
   

Extra: “Good” and “Bad” Villains

Anime can usually be divided into two camps, those with well written, “good,” villains and those with poorly written, “bad,” villains. Well, actually there are other categories but, for the sake of making my job easier, let’s focus just on the villains here.

So, villains. Most anime contain one or more, though they vary in intensity. But tackling the “bad” first, recall to mind the “monster of the day” villains. Anyone who has seen Sailor Moon or other typical magical girl shows will know instantly what this phrase means, which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Every episode reveals a new villain that will be defeated by the end of said episode. Often a “bigger” villain will be behind the scenes, but they too will be defeated as soon as the hero gets to them. The villains have either no reasons for being evil or they have flimsy and predictable reasons (the whole “I was so unloved and thus you must pity me for becoming evil” bit doesn’t often go over well).

This isn’t to say that an old card can’t get a few touch ups. Shows like Natsume no Yuujin-cho may be based on the “enemy of the day” formula, but their characters are more often than not fleshed out. Every enemy will have a back story, often revealing a bit more about the larger plot around the main character’s grandmother. Some side characters are also seen more than once, unlike other “enemy of the day” shows where most side characters are forgotten along the way.

But then there are those villains that are truly scary, in one way or another. They are not there for only one round. They are not easily beaten either. In fact, it seems they can’t be defeated (Gosick, anyone?). The fear can also come from them being unpredictable or with undefined goals, such is the case with Izaya from Durarara (pictured above in his slightly unstable glory). In Izaya’s case, we can understand that he finds unique amusement in the suffering of human beings, but that idea is not only eerie in and of itself, it’s also not well defined. How far will he go to “experiment” on people? And how much power does he have? How much influence? Without being able to answer these questions, Izaya remains a more daunting enemy than Queen Beryl from Sailor Moon.

But what do you guys think? What makes a villain scary for you?