Extra: Timid girls and Japan

Pssssst. Wanna know a secret? Come close. Closer. Ok… I’m not nearly as social as I seem. No, really! I’m actually quite awkward most of the time. And yes, I do have a reason for telling you this. Because my topic today might make it seem like I just don’t understand awkwardness and am callus to it or something. This is by no means true. Me and awkward have a long term relationship going on. We’re quite familiar with each other.

So, that being said, timid girls in anime. Yeah. You know about them. You can’t swing a dead cat, as the saying goes, without hitting an anime with a stuttering, constantly apologizing female (people do use that phrases, right?). So why the obsession? Well, that goes into the culture, which is by no means simple and has no straight answer. Even so, there are a few theories floating around.

For one thing, Japan associates timidity with being cute. And Japan loves cute. I mean, LOVES it. It’s actually a bit scary. In any case, these means that in order for a show to have its cute quota reached, it most have incompetent female characters that somehow always end up on top because they have pure hearts and junk. Whatever the heck, that means. I’d love to see some of these shows actually try to define what purity is. In words that make sense. None of that physiological theoretical stuff.

And another thing? Social standards. No joke. Someone who had visited Japan once said that where Japan was concerning female ideology was around where the United States was in the 1950s. Now before you blow your top, hear this out. It’s easy for future generations to look back and judge the past and how things were handled, but it’s a different world to live in the era, to be raised in it. Being demure, timid, and innocent is just status quo in Japan if you’re a woman. And, like all status quos, it is propagated by media, such as anime. To them it’s normal. And our own “normal” female, the strong willed and independent type, is actually quite strange to them (although they are making more and more appearances as their own stereotypes in anime now). And this goes a long way towards explaining why some strong willed women who go to Japan find themselves frustrated at being constantly asked if they need help or talked to differently. But, as stated, it’s not nearly as demeaning as it first seems. From their viewpoint, they’re just being considerate.

Even so, while timidity (often seen as humility) is so often praised in Japan, this doesn’t mean anime always portrays it well. Media is entertainment, after all. This means that these stereotypes are exaggerated, as is the case with Mikuru from The Melancholy (seen above). They’re also overused, making the type seem all too common and thus not nearly as heroic or unique as it probably should (people who are really as caring and selfless as these girls are rare, after all). So while US shows often have the blond haired supermodel/bully type, Japan has its timid, awkward, walking moe dolls.
…Somehow that ended up sounding creepy. Way creepy. It’s not what you think! (Actually, yes it is)

Puella Magi Madoka Magica Review

madokaStory:
Madoka loves her family and friends. She leads a quiet and carefree life. There’s really nothing more she could want. So when a strange creature offers her a deal where she can make any wish in the world and have it granted, she finds she doesn’t really know what she could possibly wish for. Especially as that wish will bind her into being a magical girl who must fight witches nightly at the risk of her own life.

Violence:
The worst aspect of this show by far is the violence, which is quite high. A character is eaten by an enemy (most is off screen though), a character is shot to death, an enemy is stabbed repeatedly, a character is covered in blood stains, etc. It’s at least on level with Trinity Blood. However, the difference lies in a bit of horror added in. Thankfully it’s of a kind that’s more weird than gory, blending traditional animation with strange textures and “cut out” art. Even so, it’s defiantly not for those easily frightened. So if abnormal stuff, like dandelions with full lips, puts you on edge, skip this show.

Language:
Defiantly less than a few other YA shows. Even so, there’s at least one instance of the “female dog in heat” word. And a few d-mns and such. Rather tame for shows today, actually.

Nudity:
This one is odd because there’s actually not much nudity at all in this show. Except in the opening where the main lead is transforming (pretty much the only place you see this transformation happen) and a shimmering “older” version of herself is with her. Both are not wearing clothing. No details are seen, but they are in strange positions to one another and it’s just one big trip to awkward town. This doesn’t really happen anywhere else either, so really it’s completely pointless.

Theology/Mythology:
And this is where I struggle not to give out any spoilers while still doing my job. Alright, there is an implication throughout the show that one character might have enough power to be like a “god” (think Haruhi Suzumiya here). At the end, this theory is realized. The concept of god is not really a religious one, however, but more of an idea about being outside of normal space/time and having the ability reorder the world’s laws. Actual worship and mind set about them is completely left out of the picture. Even so, it makes the ending a bit… weird. If you’re sensitive to this sort of thing… you get the idea.

Personal Impression:
I have been requested to see and review this show by a lot of people. And little wonder. It’s gotten itself a bunch of hype since its release in 2011. My impression of it? The plot at the end was interesting, but it’s not something I feel has rewatch value for me (which is what makes a show truly stand out these days).
While it’s true the plot has elements that were unique for its genre, the characters held it back on multiple occasions. The main character specifically was nearly impossible for me to identify with. She’s a very stereotypical magical girl type, demure, ever sincere, has faults but always forgiven for them and seems to have no other motive in her life than making everyone else happy at all times. I would think she’d have something else she’d like being outside of running after other people and trying to “help them” by being a stuttering target. She seemed more of a kind that served the purpose of the story itself and little more, in the end. A few of the other characters did this as well, especially during a flashback sequence where one girl is grief-stricken and just shoots another for really no reason. Shooting someone you think is responsible, sure. But it felt extremely forced for her to shoot randomly like that.
In other words, a case of genre writing taking precedence over character driven writing. A shame considering what they could have done if the characters had been allowed more time to be themselves. Of course, a few of the side characters were different, such as Madoka’s mother and father and so on. But they couldn’t replace the heroine’s flat character for me.
The art, music and such are all decent enough, though a bit odd here and there. And, as stated, the plot is interesting. So in the end, if you enjoy some fighting and a unique take on an old genre, this show serves well. But if the typical anime heroine has been grinding on your brainstem, or you have an aversion to blood, skip this. As short as it is, this show only lives up to its hype if magical girl genres are something you’re familiar with and can compare this to. Otherwise it feels more than a little contrived.

Personal Rating: Young adult

Episodes: 12
Languages: Sub and dub
Official rating: PG13
Genre(s): Fantasy, magical girl
Website: http://madokamagicausa.com/
Legal streaming: Crunchyroll
Screen shots:
 photo mm1_zps90e2a207.jpg photo mm2_zps52b4e67b.jpg photo mm3_zpsf2c21452.jpg

Extra: Mechs

Ahhh, robots. Few images are so closely related to the science fiction nerd. I myself boast multiple Gundam figurines littering one of my bookcases. But speaking of Gundam and other Japanese mecha, have you noticed a very common factor? They’re pretty much all humanoid.

While Japan is also known for more than a few transforming mechs (Thransformers, Voltron, etc), every cases ends up in the same form: human. A few shows have deviated from the idea slightly and included other designs, such as the tachikomas seen in Ghost in the Shell. But generally Japanese mechs keep to two feet, upright models. The question is: why? From a physics perspective, two legged machines are harder to build because of the balancing issue. Also, with less stability, it’s easier for the unit to topple or malfunction during combat. Not the most logical set up for a weapon. And yet they’re all over Japanese media. And they aren’t the only ones. European nations have long created tales involving robots built to look human-like. Why the obsession with the human form?

Perhaps the reasoning has to do with the human ego. We don’t like to think that something that looks too different from us might have similar intelligence or powerful abilities we didn’t have. So we fashion them after ourselves, seeing our own forms as the ultimate form. Or maybe it’s to simulate our past. We thus go from sword fighting human to human, to laser fighting mech to mech. It’s hard to nail down a single reason. It might be many reasons combined. It might even be simply that it’s easier to draw something human-like than to come up with a brand new design from the get go. You laugh now, but when you’re an artist with multiple deadlines breathing down your neck, you’ll sing a different tune.

Not that I know anything about deadlines. Nooope. Just how to shoot the weak links in the back in MechWarrior. Not that I’d do that to you, of course. You’re different.