Magically Stupid – Anime Critique: Majimoji Rurumo

Title: Majimoji Rurumo
Format: TV anime
Genre: comedy, ecchi, supernatural
Series Creator: Wataru Watanabe
Series Director: Chikara Sakurai
Studio: J.C.Staff
Series length: 12 episodes
Original Airing dates: July 9 – September 27 2014
Reviewed format: high def download with fan sub

manga cover
manga cover

Synopsis:

Shibaki is a high-school boy whose only interest is girls. Except he’s been branded as the most perverted boy at school and girls avoid him like the plague. One day he finds a book in the library about how to summon witches. He tries it as a joke, but it turns out to be the real thing. An apprentice witch named Rurumo appears to grant him a wish. Shibaki helps Rurumo and she in return refuses to take his soul. When the story starts, Shibaki wishes he could see Rurumo again. His wishes is granted immediately as Rurumo falls from the sky and crash lands in front of him. He finds out that as punishment for not taking his soul she’s been busted down to an apprentice demon. Now, she must complete the task of getting Shibaki to use up 666 magic tickets that grant wishes before she can become a witch again. However, what she doesn’t know is that each time he uses a ticket it shortens his life. When the last ticket is used up, Shibaki will die. Shibaki knows this because Rurumo’s familiar black cat Chiro tell him as part of the “contract” for giving him the tickets. Now, Shibaki has a choice, make a wish and help Rurumo become a witch again or resist the temptation and try to save his own life.


Review:

Oh, for fuck’s sake! Why did I ever bother with this show & keep watching it?!

Why do I keep watching shite like this?!

Majimoji Rurumo is another entry in the ever expanding subgenre of “hentai with a heart of gold”, where the central protagonist is an utter deviant but still manages to do the right thing whilst not ever growing up in any way, shape or form.

I pretty much lay this subgenre as part of the major problem as to why geek culture is so fucked up right now. Filled with self-entitled deadshits who think that the universe owes them copious amounts of poontang for the simple reason that they were born with external genitalia & haven’t raped anyone yet.

Douchebag du jour this time around is Shibaki Kota, who is only obsessed with getting near girls. To the point he will contemplate near sexual assault (or perform it in a cough comical fashion) but often gets beaten for his efforts. Due to his lecherous attitudes, no girl will go near him & they all call him Hentai (Pervert) Shibaki, before he is physically punished by the 3 all female members of the Discipline Committee. His shortsightedness in achieving his pervert goals means that he misses out on real opportunities to get to know women on a personal level. What makes it worse is that he is fully conscious of his habits & yet does nothing to amend them -even if he gets savagely beaten.

I do like the fact that Kota suffers punishment for his stupid perversions & at least he tries to act like a decent human being when he’s called upon to do so. Yet for all the good acts that he does, it doesn’t redeem him in the slightest for being an utterly useless perverted prick the rest of the time.

The basic plot is one that has been seen in much better (better being an utterly subjective & relative term here) series such as Sora no Otoshimono (Heaven’s lost Property), where hopeless pervert acquires access to a a stoic & slightly stupid girl who provides him with supernatural wish fulfilment -which me manages to always to screw up.

The provider of supernatural chaos in this case is witch-in-training (although was once a full witch) Magi Mojiruka Rurumo -who is utterly blank faced & quiet in every situation. Yet approaches every task, even though she is useless at them all, with utter diligence -despite constantly failing at everything besides most forms of magic. After she made a mistake granting Kota’s 1st wish (made accidentally whilst being ordered around by the Occult Club’s President), she was going to be punished again, until Kota saves her. She then returns with a book of 666 Wish Tickets but doesn’t know that once Kota uses them all, she has to take his soul.

The main thrust of the series is Kota basically doing his best to help Rurumo adjust to the human world whilst trying not to give into his selfish desires & use the tickets. When he does so, it’s usually for a selfless or ridiculously stupid reason (yet not perverted ones). Sometimes he helps the people around him but usually he’s aiding Rurumo in some way or trying to protect his porn stash from the Disciplinary Committee. Kota also helps Rurumo connect with those around them & it was probably these side characters that kept me watching.

Mainly the Disciplinary Committee, because they show several levels beyond their cliche rolls. The Chairwoman, Sukimo, despite being stern wants to be treated like a normal girl. Something which Kota does but, naturally, in a perverted way. Masako is the otaku secretary of the DC who keeps her cosplaying hobby secret from everyone but is drawn to Rurumo because she thinks that she’s a witch cosplayer (& because Kota told Rurumo to tell people that she is a cosplayer if anyone asks her about her witch clothing). Overly tall & exceptionally physically powerful Kyōko, whom I wish was developed more -both in terms of character & muscularity. The other highly shown & developed character is Chiro -Rurumo’s talking cat familiar. She often explains things to Kota as well as tries to protect Rurumo from the harsher aspects of her life. Including how she is bullied by the other witches for not having any real skills & being so trusting of everyone around her.

The character splash at the end of the opening credits.
The character splash at the end of the opening credits.

There are other characters who pop in & out but none are as memorable as the Disciplinary Committee but at least there are a couple of moments of genuine emotion & redemption.

The main one is Episode 6, in which Kota tries to hide the fact that he’s picking up some discarded swimsuit magazines in front of them female classmates & instead picks up a box with 3 abandoned kittens in it. He takes them home but his mum refuses to let him keep them, so he works hard to overcome the prejudices that the school has of him to find new owners for the 3 kittens. One of the kittens forms an immediate attachment to him, always saving the Magic Tickets whenever they fall out of his pocket. So, naturally, that kitten gets ill & dies -showing to Kota that even magic has its limits & can’t heal those destined to die or bring back the dead.

This should have been a growing moment for Kota, instead it’s forgotten about in the next episode & any progress in his development is abandoned as he goes back to stupid perverted slapstick gags. But at least Rurumo’s character develop progresses, as she begins to show signs of emotion & attraction towards Kota. For the simple reason that deep down he’s a good guy.

I could wail endlessly on about the hypersexualisation & fan service within the series but I’ll just end up hoarse. The boobs are bouncy, all the girls/women are drawn as cute as they can be but still have something odd about their face designs -hard to place really, might be the eye shape & size.

To be honest, I think one of the only reason I kept watching was because of the uber cute & catchy opening theme Seiippai, Tsutaetai! by Mimori Suzuko.

Overall, this series wasn’t great but it could’ve been a whole lot worse than it was. I still don’t know why I bothered with it, probably to see his Kota would redeem himself in any way. Since this is still from an on going manga, there wasn’t much major resolution but it wasn’t focussed on anything huge. Just Kota helping Rurumo as best he could whilst trying to still be an utterly useless pervert.

I will continue to blame series like this for the terrible behaviour of boys out there but like the human (read: hypocrite) that I am, I’ll keep watching such series until they series cross a line & make me feel physically ill.

My expression during most of my viewing of this series.
My expression during most of my viewing of this series.

Subversion succumbs to cliche – Anime Review: Witch Craft Works

Witchcraft_Works_manga_vol_1Title: Witch Craft Works (Witchikurafuto Wakusu)
Format: TV anime
Genre: supernatural, comedy, romance, fantasy
Series Creator: Ryu Mizunagi
Series Director: Tsutomu Mizushima
Studio: J.C. Staff
Series length: 12 episodes + OVA
Original Airing dates: January 5, 2014 – March 23, 2014
Reviewed format: HDTV download with fan subs.


 

Synopsis:

Takamiya Honoka is a regular student whose only problem seems to be that he sits next to Kagari Ayaka, the school’s “Princess”. They have never spoken to each other before and any small interaction between them immediately results in her fanclub beating him. Yet when a falling part of the school’s building is about to send him to the afterlife, it’s Kagari that comes to his rescue. Only she’s dressed as a witch, carrying him in her arms and floating on a broom. Kagari tells him it is her mission to protect him and that now she can finally protect him openly rather than undercover.


 

Review:

I have a confession to make, I first became aware of Witch Craft Works when a friend sent me a hentai dōjinshi that they wanted identified. Once I found the original manga, I instantly was drawn to the series.

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The main reason for this is that it sets out to subvert so many tropes of Shonen style action narratives, by positioning the male lead, Takamiya Honoka in the role of the princess to be protected & rescued, with Kagari Ayaka being the knight who protects him at all costs. The reasons for which are slowly revealed over the course of the manga (less so in the anime) & whilst it is a good first step in terms of subverting & parodying the narrative norm, it still falls short in so many ways.

That is because of my two usual bugbears: Fan Service & cliche.

Pretty much, in my view, every two steps both the manga & anime make in a good direction, they’re both pulled back a pace by reverting to Fan Service or not doing enough to twist around cliché into something truly subversive or unique.

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The one of main reasons for this is because of the male protagonist, Honoka, who despite having the role of the one who needs to be protected actually wants to be the one protecting others. Because is constantly targeted by various groups & individuals who are seeking the White Stuff within him (which leads to a lot of bad comedic misunderstandings), he always has Ayaka fighting for him but, in order to satisfy his own sense of justice & male ego, he tries to be the one to protect her. This usually results in both of them getting hurt in some way, even though Ayaka’s magic means she suffers no harm when she’s close to Honoka’s hidden power source, & drives him to do stupid things in order to achieve some sense of control & empowerment within his own life. He is also the constant victim of bullying, because of his closeness to Ayaka -who is worshipped like an idol at their school & has a devoted fan club/following- & he always tries to enforce the Consensus Society rule that the bullies are right & that he has no business being near Ayaka (despite her clear love for & devotion towards him). This shows the greatest of cowardice because at the same time he desires the power & ability to protect those around him, he gives in to pressure & bullying & shows utterly no backbone when dealing with problems. This carries over to the whole cliche of the ‘purity of love’, where Honoka is too much of a bloody coward to even touch Ayaka in any significant way, even if it means saving her life through a simple kiss (this is a trope that pisses me off no end & will write about it at a later date).

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Unfortunately Ayaka doesn’t fair that much better in terms of depictions. Despite being one of the most physically & magically powerful people within the narrative universe, she has a blank cold exterior, refuses to explain anything to Honoka -even if it would mean he’d stop doing stupid things- & is creepily obsessed with him (to the point of sitting by his bed all night to watch him sleep). She also has very large breasts, which aren’t flaunted in the usual Fan Service hypersexualied way but are always emphasised whenever she is shown. Was very much surprised that they didn’t have a beach or onsen but doubt they could’ve fitted it into the very close following of the first story arc of the manga without utterly destroying the quick flow of the narrative.

Before I get into the positives of the series, one more quibble: the anime isn’t as pretty as the manga. Which is a shame because it has the potential to be an exceedingly visually beautiful series. The manga has some pretty images whenever magic is being used or the witches reveal their true powers but they don’t really explore that in the anime. I understand the whole cost factor & the like but it does seem like a shame. Hopefully they will amend this in the Blu-ray releases.

witch-craft-works-ep2-so-green

Anyway, the good of the series.

When it’s funny, its very funny. With lots of good visual gags & running jokes (such as Ayaka easily beating the KMM Gang witches who try to kidnap Honoka or the random unexplained llama).

The side characters are a hugely diverse bunch. With Ayaka’s mother Kazane -the head Workshop Witch- who is powerful but incredibly slow on the uptake. Honoka’s mother, who is emotionally immature from being a victim of extreme bullying in high school & openly admits to a lesbian love for Kazane, who used to protect her growing up, to the point of asking her to marry her (but unable to do so, says that they arranged for their children to eventually marry).

wcw-0101

The 5 KMM Gang witches are also very amusing in their failures & over-confidence. More so when they are captured & enslaved by Ayaka.

Then you have Honoka’s younger sister, Kasumi, who is a violent, loud bro-con who over reacts to everything -especially Ayaka’s presence near her beloved onii-chan.

The villains Medusa, Chronoire & Weekend are al interesting but not enough time is spent developing them unfortunately. Even though the overall machinations of Weekend is what drives the plot & action of the series.

One draw back is there isn’t a great deal of development of some themes & characters, with many popping in during the 2nd half of the series without any context or explanation yet somehow vital to the plot. There is also an ongoing thing that Ayaka & Honoka have a deep connection in their past but something has altered their memories of their connection. Same with why Honoka is possessed of the power that he is. I know this is all future set up for the ongoing manga but a bit too much time is spent going over it in the anime.

At any rate, despite all of my griping with characters & cliche, Witch Craft Works is still a very interesting & unique series. It has good plot progression & the pay-off at the end in terms of narrative outcome is good (except for Honoka’s bloody cowardice over a little fucking kiss!). Depending on how BD/DVD & manga sales continue, we might see a sequel series in a year or two but am not holding my breath over it with how media stakeholders tend to act.

Still, given a bit more spit & polish, I believe that is can truly break out of all the things that are holding it back for utter greatness (which I think the manga does improve on). I honestly do recommend this series & hold it up as an example of progress in getting over so many negative tropes & cliches.

lvuygtu

Been There, Criticised That – Anime Review: Strike The Blood

Strike_the_Blood_Volume_1Title: Strike The Blood (Sutoraiku za Buraddo)
Format: TV anime
Genre: supernatural, ecchi, action, comedy, shonen
Series Creator: Mikumo Gakuto
Series Director: Yamamoto Hideyo
Studio: Silver Link, Connect
Series length: 24 episodes
Original Airing dates: October 4, 2013 – March 28, 2014
Reviewed format: censored TV downloads

 

 

Synopsis:

“The 4th progenitor—the world’s strongest vampire who should only exist in legends. Accompanied by twelve Familiars and spreading calamity, this phantom vampire appeared in Japan. For the observation and obliteration of the Fourth Progenitor, the government and Lion King Organization decided to dispatch an attack mage known as a Sword Shaman. However, for some reason, the one chosen for the observation was an apprentice Sword Shaman girl, Himeragi Yukina. Wielding the strongest anti-progenitor spirit spear, Yukina arrived at Demon District, Itogami City. What is the true identity of the Fourth Progenitor, Akatsuki Kojou, she encountered over there?!”

Review:

OK, girls & boys, cliche checklist time!

  • One male protagonist with hidden power? Check!
  • Also slightly perverted? Check!
  • Redeems himself by having a pure heart & protects his friends to the risk of his own life? Check!
  • Tsundere style violent love interest? Check!
  • Female characters as potential love rivals for the female protagonist? Check!
  • Secret supernatural powers? Check!
  • Plenty of useless fan-service? Check & motherfucking check!

And that’s what we get with the Supernatural Shonen Ecchi comedy series Strike the Blood.

This series started at about the same time that KILL la KILL did & I didn’t really know anything when I first watched it. The first episode was decent but still riddled with cliches but what do you except? It’s very hard to produce entire new ideas & it does come from a fairly popular Light Novel series?

Anyway, the plot resolves around Akatsuki Kojou, a once human who was turned into the most powerful vampire known as the 4th Progenitor through mysterious means. This garners the attention of the Lion-King Organisation, who sends the powerful & obedient, but very naive, Himeragi Yukina act as his observer in case he goes out of control.

Due to this being a world where magic & monsters are known & have been given their own territory where they can freely interact with each other as well as normal humans, Yukina gets involved in a fight with vampires, causing Koujo to reveal his powers to her as he steps in between them. From there the general plot follows Yukina & Koujo coming to terms with not only the immense power that dwells with Koujo but also there feelings for each other.

I stuck with this series because the first half was very well constructed, with nice little story arcs that build upon the last & develop the various characters, main & side, in small ways. Unfortunately it falls apart a bit in the 2nd half (eps 14 or so onwards) because there isn’t really any developments to be made. Just more female characters added to stir up the fan service & harem angle as well as setting up plot threads that will go unanswered because is doubtful it will get another series.

StB Y&K

One of the major problems is that it is so cliched & spins up all the stupid ecchi, fan-service stuff. It plays out a lot like IS: Infinite Stratos in many ways. The ignorant male lead always being protected by those stronger than himself, so he fights to justify his masculine position even though he keeps getting his stupid arse kicked. Which means he struggles to control his power but also means that he stumbles into situations that make him look like a pervert & no one listens to him when he tries to explain, so he gets his arse kicked again.

& his stupid, stubborn need to protect everyone despite his own lack of skill seems to rev the motors of all the ladies around him, so they flock to have him drink their blood, which fuels his powers.

yukina_himeragi_0d

At least that’s a fairly interest an angle but having ecchi activated powers isn’t all that new in an anime. The whole slightly perverted protagonist who gets caught in compromising situations that get blown out of all proportions is one of the most common & annoying Shonen genre Light Novel tropes -usually it’s innocently picking up panties (again: see IS: Infinite Stratos). This plays into the whole idea that “a kiss is pure & innocent, only to be done with someone special” but “hey, here’s a whole heap of underage tits bouncing around. Enjoy & feel no hypocrisy in it!

650px-Strike_the_Blood_Trailer

Anyway, enough bagging, let’s get into more serious discourse. With some critical kicks from the side.

Basically, what does make the series good is the tightness of the first half. You get several small story arcs, usually 3 to 4 episodes per arc, that actually progress the story & character development while setting up future plot points & arcs. Like your typical Shonen work, each new challenge requires more power/strength to overcome &, while getting that power is often more Deus Ex Machina, it actually has some logic to it. What’s actually unlike typical Shonen stuff is that the female characters, whilst being hyper-sexualised, still have their own sense of action & agency. They aren’t sitting around waiting for Kojou to save them, though they are always happy when they do, but always performing actions that will either prevent disaster or protect those they love.

The best example of this is the character Aiba Asagi, the resident computer expert. In fact, she has a supernatural power over computer systems & is considered the Demon District expert on it all -to the point she was once kidnapped due to her talents. Whenever something bad happens -& it always does- she will do anything to see the Island & Kojou (her unrequited crush) protected, even if it means putting herself in danger.

More often than not, even though it is Kojou who defeats the BBEG of the arc, he wouldn’t be able to do so without the female characters. Who either save his stupid arse or provide him with the blood needed to activate his magic powers & thus destroy the ultimate enemy of the arc.

In the end, Strike the Blood isn’t anything new to anime as a whole. It is riddled with cliches & annoyances but does stand above many others of its ilk because of the focus of its stories & the characters within. Unfortunately, possibly due to its source material & translation, a lot left out in terms of background info & development & the 2nd half of the series doesn’t feel as good or refined as the 1st.

It’s not a bad thing to way really but nothing I’d say you should go out of your way for. The blu-ray will be uncensored if you are into that kind of thing. It’s pretty much for genre fans or those who like what I call annoying Fan-Service but it does have some merit in terms of Female Agency, which I’d like to see picked up more in other series (but minus the jiggle factor).