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Hello everyone! This is the Roundtable User Discussion, where couple of AV users, like yourselves, virtually met up to talk anime, manga and other related topics. Read, comment, discuss and enjoy! Also, go back and read our other conversations (Here) and share your thoughts!

Fire Star(FS): Hello and welcome to the eight edition of the Roundtable discussions here at AV! I'm your host, Fire Star, and today, I have my fellow host Halberdierv2 with me to co-host. I hope everyone is ready for the great discussion tonight, because our topic is going to be in season, magic. Also, I have a few great and relatively new people here as well, please welcome Little_Socrates, Turambar and Hailnel. Before we go into our discussion though, let's start off with what are we doing currently as far as anime/manga is concerned? Me, I'm just starting to watch the Gosick series all the way through, I'm really excited for it. How about everyone else? Give yourself a little intro!

Ghost In The Shell
Ghost In The Shell

Little Socrates: Hey, happy to introduce myself! Lately, I haven't had a ton of time for anime thanks to my other Japanese courses, but I have been keeping up with the Persona 4 Animation and I've just begun the Ghost in the Shell manga. Having not seen the movie or a significant amount of Stand Alone Complex, I'm really enjoying it so far. I've also been on-and-off watching episodes of High School of the Dead with my roommate, commisar123.

OH! Also, I rewatched the first episode of Baka No Test with my roommate and a friend. That's still really stupid, but it's pretty entertaining, and seems to have appeal to people who don't know anime very well.

Baka No Test to Shoukanjuu!
Baka No Test to Shoukanjuu!

Hailinel: Hey, 'sup! Like Little_Socrates, I've been watching the Persona 4 anime and have been really enjoying it. I'm also in the middle of watching the entire run of Fist of the North Star. (And by "middle" I mean "episode 8 of 109.") I'm also prepping for a Halloween-themed anime night at my place this coming weekend, with Vampire Hunter D and Vampire Princess Miyu on tap.

Socrates : My roommate's a huge fan of the Fist of the North Star movie, but not because it was especially good. Lots of mention of reusing stock footage from the TV show, which sounds incredible. How's the longer-run series so far?

Hailinel: Violent and crazy. Kenshiro just wiped out an entire cult of Green Berets. My god.

Usagi Drop
Usagi Drop

Turambar: And jumping in late is me. I haven't had adequate time to make head ways into my back log of Revolutionary Girl Utena, Usagi Drops, and Legend of the Galactic Heroes, but I'm following Persona 4 on the currently airing anime front along with Gundam AGE. Manga wise, I'm slowly trudging through Five Star Stories, which I've been doing for half a year now.

Oh, and Fate/Zero. Definitely watching that.

HalV2: Good Evening Everyone! this is your co-host Hal! nice to be here this evening (despite me catching a cold no less than an hour ago!) tonight, we've got a special topic, so get ready to Sail under the Moon on Magical Girl night!

Sket-o Dance!
Sket-o Dance!

As for keeping up with anime, I've been keeping abreast of happenings over at Sket Dance, "the poor man's Gintama!" to quote Kagura (from Gintama). I've also started to look at Baka No Test season 1, and finding it hilarious! How are our guests this evening?

Hailinel: I'm doing great tonight.

Socrates: Yeah, I'm on top of the world today.

FS: Alright, so let's just jump right into it. First off, why do you think magic is prominent in manga and anime? For me, I think it is because it captures the imagination, and that is what anime is all about. Plus, it is also a common trend in other mediums, such as comics and games.

Hailinel: Well, magic is a very common, very convenient fantasy element that, as you said, very easily captures the imagination. It can be used to do just about anything.

Turambar: Magic is just an extension of the supernatural, which all cultures have embraced throughout history. It both captures the imagination and also helps explain the unexplainable. It's no surprise that it is so prominent in anime and manga along with pretty much every other medium. The fact that it's often extremely flashy and pretty helps too.

Socrates: As someone who's been focusing a LOT on Japanese literature over the last couple months, I can vouch for a longstanding tradition of the supernatural and magical in Japanese literature. The supernatural and magically religious has always captured the minds of the literate class; going back to The Tale of Genji, women die of supernatural causes all the time. Abe No Seimei (the man in my profile picture) resides in the Shuten Dōji scrolls as an "Onmyoji", one who practices a magical art known as "Onmyōdo." He's also regularly referred to as the first bishōnen.

The reason it is prevalent in anime and manga beyond American television (as I perceive it) is that magic and the supernatural is not necessarily considered a subgenre in the culture.That said, I think it's interesting to note how much more prevalent magic and the supernatural are in anime and manga compared to, say, American television, or even American television animation. It seems that the magical, whether used for comedy, action, or tension/horror, is of more disinterest to the American television community. There are, of course, exceptions; Fringe, Heroes, and Buffy all come to mind as examples, but I think most Americans consider magical shows "hokey." I think it's out of an unwillingness by the show's writers to take the magic they're creating especially seriously when they're being serious, something that gives many anime a lot more power.

Hal: Ok, in light of the topic of magic, let's focus on the topic of majou shojou (magical girls) for a moment. as much as they are an iconic staple of japanese anime culture, where should they fall storywise? they take prevelance in a Shōjo demographic, but should they be more skewered to Shōnen? Provide Examples of some Magical Girl Series you like!

Turambar: It can also be added that despite the big divide between Fantasy and Science Fiction genres, both can be said to explore the realm of magic in their own ways. They both tackle fantastical phenomenons, objects, and creatures, but simply with differing explanations for their creation and method of operation. After all, can anyone really say that the Turn-A Gundam's moonlight butterfly, despite being an attack composed of nanomachines, isn't pretty damned magical?

Well, I suppose one can say something like Nanoha is more of a shounen action show or a mecha show than anything else, haha. But something like Sailor Moon has always felt like wish fulfillment for girls more than a shounen (action) show.

@Socrates: Magic is definitely considered something for children, particularly if we're talking about magic in the realm of a mahou shoujo show. The West tackles the supernatural in terms of ghosts and vampires in mature fashions far more readily. Part of that can be pointed to the negative view that religion has given magic over the course of history.

However, I would like to point out that Science Fiction seems to be a far more popular genre in the West than in the East. As I said previously, something like Star Trek helps cover the human desire to imagine something greater and more fantastical.

Star: I think Magical Girls is a great concept for all mediums, but especially for Anime. I think they should stick to more shounen like shows, because, let's be real here, Sailor Moon had major success, and that show is exactly what I'm talking about. Though they have tried to copy a similar theme before, I think the shounen touch Sailor Moon had put it above all the rest.

Wedding Peach
Wedding Peach

Hailinel: I think that the genre is just fine for young girls. Wedding Peach is perfect for that demographic. It's light, fluffy, cute, largely non-violent, and covers a subject matter that's easy for children to digest. It also doesn't hurt that the protagonist Momoko, despite being a bit of a blockhead, isn't nearly as thick-headed as Usagi of Sailor Moon.

Of course, then there are the bonus episodes from the show's laser disc/DVD releases that directly parody two genres that skew toward boys; giant robots and sentai heroes. Those are just delightfully silly.

Socrates: I really have spent little time with the majou shojou genre; the experience I have is that as a child watching Sailor Moon, and during my reintroduction to anime I watched Yumeria (not a series I especially recommend.) It's not out of a dislike for the genre, I've just had very few recommendations other than Puella Magi Madoka Magica, which I've simply not gotten to yet.

However, compared to the traditional role for women in supernatural fiction (namely transforming into horrible demons as a response to strong jealousy/romantic feelings for monks) this new tradition is a lot more positive. I could not tell you who they were being aimed at demographically (and the ratio of innocence to fanservice in the genre) but I can say I'd be interested in seeing them skew towards shonen. I'm not entirely sure what the tone of the series would be (in my mind, it's like Those Who Hunt Elves in terms of comedy/quest, which is not a series I especially like) but if recommended I'd check it out.

Turambar: @Little_Socrates: Madoka is an interesting beast because despite being a mahou shoujo show, it aggressively voids many of the accepted tropes of the genre, the least of which being the existence of mahou shoujo is a good thing. Some have compared it to Evangelion in terms of how it rebels against its own genre. I wouldn't go that far, but a mahou shoujo show where the main character does not become one until the final episode is definitely not the norm.

The warrior of love and Justice, Sailor Moon!
The warrior of love and Justice, Sailor Moon!

Socrates: I'd agree, Turambar; I'd heard it was a deconstruction of the genre in a fashion similar to School Days or Evangelion. Deconstructions are wonderful, though (even if Evangelion's style was a bit too much for me) so I'm looking forward to checking it out.

Hailinel: I think that so much time has passed since the heyday of Sailor Moon and its ilk that it's natural that the generation that grew up influenced by mahou shoujo would want to put their own spin on things, whether that be through Madoka or something else.

Star: I think the only Magical Girl series that got some mega attention was Sailor Moon, it sort of "set the stage" for Magical Girl concepts everywhere.

Turambar: Actually, was there any mahou shoujo shows before Sailor Moon? While Sailor Moon certainly set the template for mahou shoujo shows to come, I wonder if different explorations into that genre was made before it, failed or otherwise.

Hailinel: True, Sailor Moon was the biggest and one of the longest lasting, which allowed it to really dictate the standards of the genre that would go on to be repeated elsewhere. It's in some ways no different from the way that Gundam gained influence over the giant robot genre, carving out a space for "real robots" in an age dominated by super robots.

Star: Do you think that most anime/manga have some magical concept in them, and if so, why?

Socrates: I wouldn't go that far, Star. Cardcaptor Sakura may have been before my time, but it was absolutely HUGE (not Sailor Moon/Naruto/Dragon Ball Z huge but huge nonetheless,) and I've seen people who are fans of Tokyo Mew Mew, D.N.Angel and Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha. Also, I realized I have seen one other series with magical girls, that being Magic User's Club. Unfortunately, like Yumeria, that show is an entertaining bit of fluff, and I don't have much to say about it.

Sakura CardCaptors
Sakura CardCaptors

Personally, the characters that stick out the most in actual majou shojou series are the bishōnen. There's one who's slightly androgynous in Magic User's Club, and he was easily the most popular character in the anime club I watched it at (something around 30-40 viewers,) and I still consider dressing as Tuxedo Mask for Halloween even now. Other than Moon herself, I'm not even sure I could identify which Sailors were which! But I still remember the ridiculous way the Rangers would shout his name when he came onto the scene.

...though that may have been more of a realization of a poor dub than an actual sticking trait.

Hailinel: I think that most do, mainly because of the medium. It's much easier to depict magical and supernatural acts in an animated or drawn medium than it is in, say, a live-action TV. So while it's certainly possible for magical elements to appear in a live-action format, more creators have the freedom to pursue fantastic elements through anime and manga, even if the magical element is itself rather subdued.

Star I don't know, I think with the most attention Sailor Moon still had the biggest impact on the concept overall.

Turambar: As a prominent feature of the show, not necessarily. But almost all shows bend their knee to the supernatural in some small way, shape, or form. Take Lucky Star, a 4koma based show. It contains an episode that contains the spirit of one of the character's deceased mother.

Star: Good point, and I agree, I think if you look hard enough, magical concepts will be hidden in nearly every show somewhere.

Socrates: "Most" is a term I try to avoid. I don't follow the release of new series carefully enough to actually hear about what's coming out. That said, from the people I've met who are interested in anime, those with elements of the supernatural certainly seem to stick out the most to them. There's a subgroup of people I know who prefer science fiction in anime to the supernatural, but those people still enjoy both, so I'd still mark the supernatural as the "most popular."

In terms of anime discussion, the supernatural series are certainly the most popular for the same reason episodes of House merit more discussion than those of Desperate Housewives or Brothers & Sisters. There are two very distinct possibilities that can occur: either the supernatural elements cause things to change pretty drastically from episode to episode, or they allow for extremely long arcs that lead to a lot of tension and anticipation.

However, when I think of a lot of the first series I watched when I first delved into the world of subs, their supernatural elements were, at best, limited: Futakoi, Shuffle! (in its non-filler arcs,) School Days, and a couple others had next to zero supernatural elements to them. In that way, they were kind of special to me.

Hal: ok, In Relation To the question I posed, I do think Magic girls are a mostly shojou concept aimed at girls mainly (Sailor moon, cure peach, etc) but a few have crossed the border to be appealing for both shojou and shonen (sailor moon (again), Sakura Cardcaptors). however, i do wish there were some distinctly shonen Majou shojou shows that would be substance, and not using the girls as fanservice.

as for star's question, i disagree with the statement as is written, but I think i get the angle its trying to approach. many recent and popular shonen and shojou shows that have been produced in the last 10-20 years have some fantasy element in them, which in one way or another has been copied from one show to another. look at the "Shonen Jump Pillars" of Naruto, Bleach and One Piece. all of those are pure fantasy and incorporate some sense of magic into their storyline that fits well (the magical jutsus, Kido and Hado, the Devil fruit powers, etc). many other shows (FullMetalAlchemist is a big example) run with some variation of magic as its main plot, and would execute it to various degrees of efectiveness.

Hailinel: To go back to the show I mentioned at the very start, Fist of the North Star, even that is, in itself, a magical show. The characters practice martial arts comprised of physically impossible techniques that could in their own way be considered a form of magic despite the overall tone of the show. It's one of the main elements that separates it from other Mad Max-like post-apocalypse worlds; characters that have mastered arts capable of physically destroying a human body with a simple touch.

Turambar I think it really just depends on what you consider makes a shounen show a, well, shounen show. For me, a shounen show predicates on flashy action that appeals to your average teen or tween male. It can certainly build ontop of that, but that is the bedrock of what makes shows in that genre popular. In that sense, a mahou shoujo show that appeals to the shounen crowd is easy. In fact, I'd say Nanoha pretty much has already done it.

Turambar: Going off the previous question then, what do you think is a good method of mixing magical elements into non-magical shows? And do any shows or franchises pose as a good example of it?

Socrates: Well, I hate to bring up Persona 4...

Haruhi Suzumiya no Yuutsu
Haruhi Suzumiya no Yuutsu

Nah, I'd be lying if I ever said that. Persona 4's best parts are often non-magical, though I wouldn't say that about the anime. The same goes for The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. Essentially, the rule of the day is to let the supernatural elements serve as your levity when you want to tell a more serious story. The supernatural allows the creator of these show to explore many themes at once while binding it all to a supernatural narrative, and as a result the show allows lovable characters to engage in a WIDE range of tones, situations, and subtexts.

Star :I think one of the best ways is a supporting character with magical abilities, it is the easiest way to be known, yet not too over the top.

Turambar: I personally feel that the magical element needs to be laid on in a very broad stroke. I have two preferred examples of this. The first being the original SDF Macross. The magical element in that show is laid on top of the broad concept of culture shock and exchange. The Zentradi, a warrior race, are defeated and pacified through the power of song that stimulates their senses in a way they never have before. The power of music is taken to even greater degrees with Macross 7 where song becomes a more literal weapon compared to SDF-Macross where it was more conceptual. Demystification and "scientific" explanations of this element in the show is possible, but the entire presentation of it is given a very fantastical and magical touch that does not need some "love beam" to pull through.

Hailinel: I think Xenosaga: The Animation really did a fine job in that regard. The show is based off of a video game in which characters had a number of special attacks that obviously fantastic. The character MOMO can even learn a mahou shoujo transformation. In the anime, these sorts of elements obviously couldn't be used, because while being able to jump thirty feet in the air and kick a meteor at your enemy is a neat attack, the logic of the actual story doesn't normally make that possible.

The one exception to this rule is an episode in which a number of characters delve into another character's consciousness. While present within this mental space, the laws of normal reality don't apply, and thus they're able to be more creative and do things that they wouldn't normally be capable of.

As another example, there's Azumanga Daioh, which is as down-to-earth as they come in many respects. But things get fantastically weird when the show delves into the dreams of the characters. Once again, the events don't violate any natural laws of their mundane reality, but it allows the cast to experience the bizarre.

NewType Gundam
NewType Gundam

@Turambar: On a similar track, there's also Gundam and the idea of the Newtype. The idea of exposure to outer space eventually allowing humanity to evolve into a state of being with a sixth sense is a fantastic element in itself, but in Zeta Gundam particularly, the interaction of Kamille's power and his emotionality take the notion of the sixth sense into the realm of magical, or almost magical, as it empowers the Zeta Gundam beyond what would normally be thought possible.

Turambar:

whoops, pressed post too early there.

The second of which is Gundam. The concept of the superior human being, the Newtype, exists throughout the entire franchise, and is praised as more than just the next step of human evolution, but as something transcendental, almost god like. With their powers to do stuff like contact the spirits of the dead (zeta gundam), it's not hard to see how newtypes have been given a somewhat magical touch. But what I really love about Gundam was that the franchise critiqued itself with Gundam X. It critiqued the characters that worshiped newtypes like gods, and critiqued newtypes that thought themselves as transcendent beings. It was a very meta moment that I definitely appreciated.

Hahaha, you pretty much read my mind there Hailinel.

Hailinel: Indeed!

Hal: With the popularity of magic-related themes in manga now, do you think this will be a core theme that will never run out of popularity, or will it just eventually fade away like some of the fads in the past (like mechas, zombies, etc)?

Hailinel: I don't know if it will ever really wane in popularity simply because there are so many ways for magic to be depicted, whether it be straight high fantasy (Record of Lodoss War), modern/urban fantasy (X, Haruhi Suzumiya), horror (Hell Girl, Vampire Princess Miyu), or mahou shoujo. Magic simply comes in so many flavors that when one wanes in popularity, it's easy for another to take its place.

Star: I think it may loose some of it's "luster" per se, but I don't think it will every really diminish.

Turambar: I'd hardly say mecha is a fad given the sheer breadth of that genre, but yes, magic will be something that will never run out of popularity. Magic has had a hold on human imagination for thousands of years, and I don't see it losing that grip anytime soon. Even the magic specific genre wanes, as previously shown, its a theme that will still find its way into plenty of other shows out there.

Hal: alright guys, its about time to wrap up. thank you for a rousing discussion this evening! care to say any last words before we leave?

Star: Thanks for having me, as always it's a pleasure and fun. As Sora would say, "I'm signing out!"

Turambar: And always be piloting giant robots!

Hailinel: Sorry to not to tell you guys before now, but everyone that read this round table is already dead.

Until next time!

Socrates: With that, unfortunately, I have to sign off! It's been fun, everybody; I hope to be back next time.

Hal: this is your Co-host Hal signing out for the night. see you next time!

See you, Space Cowboy

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