Fate Stay/Night Unlimited Blade Works – Words Over Action


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Every time I see a new Type-Moon series I am filled with dread and a lingering feeling that regardless of my hopes and wishes I will ultimately be presented with a series that is more about dense, often nonsensical dialogue than actual animation. This has been my relationship with Type-Moon anime for a number of years now, every series, with the possible exception of Canaan waves its fascinating, intriguing world before my eyes, only for it to disappear behind a dense, impregnable wall of dialogue. This has been the case for the last few Type-Moon anime, including Fate/Zero, Kara no Kyoukai, and ultimately the first Fate/Stay Night. All of them are series (or in the case of Kara no Kyoukai a number of short films) that present an interesting world where the boundaries between the spirit world and everyday life are weakened, melding into one another until they become indistinguishable. Read more of this post

Mahouka Koukou no Reittousei – Weaponising Magic


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The tournament arc of Mahouka was not the most inspiring, or interesting part of the series. It demonstrated what we already knew, one’s magical abilities and the strength of their powers does not automatically make them superior to those with magic considered weaker based on arbitrary, and arguably flawed testing patterns. That Tatsuya and co won the monolith code battle through a combination of their special abilities and a small amount of luck should not be surprising. They were up against skilled, intelligent individuals who were also arrogant, assuming that their genius and power would make a win automatic and without doubt. The Hubris of Ichijou Masaki and Kichijouji Shinkurou is to assume that their abilities mean their victory is certain and nothing, regardless of how strong it may be can stop them. In this respect we see how flimsy the pretext for a Two Tier school system is, with characters like Tatsuya, Yoshida Mikihiko, and Saijou Leonhart ultimately demonstrate how easily powerful magicians can be defeated regardless of how strong their spells and abilities may be. Read more of this post

Aldnoah.Zero – The Politics of Conquering


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The idea of rigging an event, perhaps creating a situation that would allow a country to go to war is hardly new. Both in anime and in real life, situations have been engineered in order to create the desired effect for one particular party, regardless of the consequences or collateral damage to others. The same is true in Aldnoah.Zero, although to anyone familiar with this sort of story, and indeed, the writing style of Urobuchi Gen such an occurrence will come as no great surprise. We are presented with two opposing factions (ala Gundam), the Vers Empire, a clearly evil, nationalistic, militaristic, fascist society that has strong views of its own superiority to those who live on earth, a somewhat weaker, and far more naïve faction that seems doomed to destruction. Read more of this post

Mahouka Koukou no Reittousei 10/11 – Sports Festivals as a sign of Prestige


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Anyone who has watched any amount of anime will be aware of the importance placed upon school wide events such as cultural and sports festivals. They become central to the school experience in anime, a period when exams and studying cease to be important and are replaced with a period in the characters life where the experience of something new takes priority. Looking at almost any school focussed anime and we find a series devoted to this period of experimentation and freedom from the rigid structure of school. Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo for example is largely built around the premise of the school festival as a space for its central characters to learn from their experiences, and begin to understand what they want to do with their lives. In a similar fashion the entire narrative of Ano Natsu de Matteru is based on the creation of a film over the school holidays to be shown at their school festival. Within the narrative of such anime series, these festivals are so important that they take precedence over any form of studying, or university entrance exams (although we rarely see these within anime), and may also become the spaces for major character and story developments. Furthermore, the ideals of ‘tadashi to handanshita koto’ (what you judge to be right), and ‘susunde mina no tame no hataraku’ (proactively work for the common good), are an integral part of these activities, as important lessons that main characters must learn if they are to grow as individuals capable of working with a group and on their own. Read more of this post

Mahouka Koukou no Reittousei – A Families Prestige


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Anyone who has watched a moderate amount of anime may be aware that the vast majority of series and films focus on characters from fairly affluent backgrounds – many may not be rich, but their houses are spacious, and they do not seem to worry about where the rent or food money is coming from. In fact, one of the key aspects of anime is relative lack of working class or poor families and individuals, whereas most series may focus on, or include a number of characters from established families with significant wealth and prestige. The worlds of school centred anime like Mahouka Koukou no Reittouse engage with the complex nature of family, and its place within Japanese society, by presenting multi-faceted representations of ‘family’, and family life. The ‘ie’ household (extended family based on patrilineal descent) as interpreted by the Meiji Government quickly became a matter of state concern in establishing a modern nation, but it only exists because of the force of ideology and power promoting it; it is a dream of what a family should be, rather than way it is. The state views the family as a unit that conforms to acceptable social and cultural norms, reinforcing state ideology. It is essential to have a solid family structure in place in order to create society, and to engender the values central to state ideology. Read more of this post

Mahouka Koukou no Reittousei 08 – On Weeds and Blooms


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While this week represents the start of a new arc, one focussing on a competition between Japan’s magic high schools, I am more interested in the way the series main characters and their perceived worth within the society of Mahouka. The terms ‘Weed’ and ‘Bloom have been used, to varying degrees, throughout the series so far, denoting a two-tiered class system within the school, and by extension, magic society. One of the key aspects of this series has been the unequal nature of Japanese society that it portrays, with those who have significant magical power given high status, privilege, and power, whereas those without are effectively pushed to one side and told to make do. The entire premise of a two-tiered system at this magic high school is based upon the idea of magic as inherently superior to every other skill or ability. The persistence of status inequality is arguably the major characteristic of Mahouka’s social system, and while there are features within this society that emphasise and promote social integration (such as the ability to attend magic high school regardless of your powers), it is clear that conflicting opinions about the nature of what it means to be a magician, and how that feeds into the national consciousness can have major consequences for the level of social conflict found within the series. Read more of this post

Mahouka Koukou no Reittousei 07 – The Consequences of Inequality


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Previous episodes have provided numerous interesting examples of the inequality and frustration felt by those without significant magical powers in Mahouka. This weeks episode on the other hand presented us with an interesting, if brief, glimpse at the global politics of the series and how other groups and countries may try to manipulate the frustrations of those who feel left out in order to achieve their own goals. We now find out that Blanche are merely a front for other countries and alliances to gain information about magicians that the Japanese government has presumably kept relatively secret. That First Magic High School has access to this information, not only demonstrates its importance, but also helps to denote the schools status as an essential space for the education of the countries most valuable commodity, magicians. Read more of this post

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