PenguinDust (Level 13)

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Saki from To Love~Ru 
Saki from To Love~Ru 
No excuses this week to open things up.  Instead I want to talk about one of my favorite mannerisms unique to anime; the noblewoman’s laugh.  This is the arrogant shrill cackle that female characters inflict upon the ears of those they view as beneath them.  I believe it might be the feminine equivalent of the mad scientist’s maniacal laughter.  For some reason, hearing this grating sound makes me happy.  Perhaps I am exposing some hidden affinity for masochism, but I love it when the lady-in-question places one hand slightly over her mouth, tosses her head back and lets it roar.   The position of the hand adds a touch of refinement to the outrageous bravado and reaffirms her as a woman of culture.  “OH-AHa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-haaa!”  Is there a sweeter sound ever heard?  I think not!  
  
  

Mitsudomoe (Seasons 1 & 2) 

 Mitsudomoe
 Mitsudomoe
Do you remember that episode of Three’s Company where Mr. Roper eavesdropped and overheard Jack and Chrissy talking?  He unwittingly misinterpreted their conversation and believed that they were chatting about something really dirty, when it was actually something innocent and mundane.  Yes, yes, I know…”Wasn’t that all of them?”  The point I am trying to make is that the misunderstandings led to hilarious pandemonium; each side reacting and responding, completely ignorant to the other’s true purpose.  That comedic structure lives on in the zany and outlandish anime, Mitsudomoe.  It’s possibly my favorite anime of 2010.  I have enjoyed quite a few smart and funny shows this past year, but this one excelled beyond being just that.  I altered my current viewing habits for it.  Normally, I wait at least a year before re-watching a series, but I’ve seen Mitsudomoe three times already and I know that won’t be the last.  It’s just so enjoyable and irreverent and ridiculous that I can’t help myself from wanting to experience the mayhem over and over again.  

Yabecchi meets the Marui Sisters
Yabecchi meets the Marui Sisters
Mitsudomoe is primarily about the three Marui sisters and their lives at school and home.  The girls are referred to as “eldest”, “middle”, and “youngest” but they’re triplets, so that only refers to the order in which they popped from their mother’s womb.  They attend the same classroom, 6-3 at their elementary school under the tutelage of novice teacher, Satoshi Yabe who they along with their classmates call “Yabecchi”.  He entered into their lives full of hope; resolute to meet the challenge of guiding his young students to become good citizens of Japan, but his positive demeanor was abruptly crushed once he experienced the troublesome trio first hand. The three have a knack for causing and exacerbating chaos, although with no malicious intent.  They are not mischievous girls, at least no more than any child their age, but they have very dominant personalities and that invites others to follow or challenge their individuality.  They’re popular and well liked even among their classroom rivals; however because they always seem to be at the center of turmoil they have gained a certain reputation among the school’s faculty.  I suspect Yabecchi is considered “fresh meat for the lions” by his fellow colleagues.  At home, the girls are cared for by their father, Soujirou.  His character design is different from all the others.  It’s very sketchy and emphasizes how suspicious other adults view him.  He is repeatedly arrested by the police believing him to be a pedophile or some other criminal type.  In truth he’s a very good father who is protective and loving to the three even when they are the cause of his incarceration.  

Mitsuba & Miku
Mitsuba & Miku
I can’t say which my favorite is since they are all very different and equally appealing.  Mitsuba is the oldest and the most antagonistic of the siblings.  She is very much the “Ojou” (Princess) type personality, but not in the regal and cultured way.  She is overbearing, demanding, and belittles those around her.  Like the Queen of Hearts she seeks adoration through domination and subjugation. Her greatest desire is for others to use the most respectful honorifics when speaking to her.  Her inflated ego often puts her at odds with fellow classmate, Miku Sugisaki, a wealthy girl with an equally imperial personality.  Despite their rivalry or perhaps because of it, the two are friends.  They spend a lot of time together, and when they aren’t arguing and insulting each other, there are brief acts of kindness.  It’s likely that they see the other as the only one equal to their own resplendence. 

Futaba & Shinya
Futaba & Shinya
Mitsuba’s true foil doesn’t come from Miku, but rather the middle sister, Futaba.  Like a bull in a china shop, she is impossibly strong and unintentionally destructive.  The humorous excuse, “I guess I don’t know my own strength” applies to her; she punches holes through walls, tosses classmates around like rag dolls, and routinely knocks Mitsuba unconscious and bloody.  She can burst a soccer ball with the force of her kick.  Her Herculean athleticism is matched by an enthusiastic and positive personality.  She is practically always cheerful and honestly perplexed when others are troubled.  She enjoys helping although her innocence and simplemindedness usually results in further embarrassment for the aided person.  She has a very close relationship with her father, and spends most of her time with male classmates, Shinya Satou and Yuudai Chiba.  Futaba’s most unique trait is her passion for bosoms.  She is obsessed with boobs, big and bouncy.  Her considerable artistic talents are often used to render the nude female figure in uncompromising detail.  This fetishism along with her physical prowess makes her popular with the boys. 

Hitoha with Father & Sakiko
Hitoha with Father & Sakiko
The final member of the trio is youngest sister, Hitoha. Dark-haired and distant, she resembles any of the evil ghost children seen in Japanese horror movies like Ringu (1998) and Ju-on: The Grudge (2003).  She is soft spoken and keeps mostly to herself preferring to read quietly alone, but her eerie façade masks a warm, shy girl yearning to engage others.  Like Futaba she has an interest in eroticism; however she prefers the written word over images.  The books she is seen reading are suggested to be shockingly lewd.  Anyone attempting to obtain one of her light-novels has the open pages smothered into their face leaving them paralyzed by sexual bliss.   Most, however, are deterred by the soul sucking vortex of her displeasured aura beforehand.  This chilling barrier enables her solitude but also inhibits her interaction with other children.  Many of the other kids bound between liking her and being actively frightened of her.  The one exception, much to her distress, is Sakiko Matsuoka, an occult fanatic who is convinced that Hitoha is a paranormal sensitive exorcist constantly in battle with unseen demonic forces.  In addition to her literary interests, Hitoha harbors a secret passion for a Power Rangers-like TVshow called Gachi-Rangers.  It’s a subject she aches to share, but the imagined ridicule obstructs her every attempt.  She is at her most vulnerable when concerned with animals.  She takes care of the class hamster and later adopts a pet for the family.    


The 3 Marui Sisters
The 3 Marui Sisters
In one essay I read online about Mitsudomoe, the author related the three Marui siblings to the Hecate sisters of Greek myth who are often depicted as maiden, mother and crone.   In this instance, innocent Futaba is the maiden, bossy Mitsuba as the mother and gloomy Hitoha as the crone.  I can see the comparison, although I prefer to see them more as examples of the three dominant female archetypes in modern anime; tsundere, yandere and kuudere.  I perceive Mitsuba as the tsundere, or hostile on the outside, warm on the inside.  Futaba then becomes the yandere meaning loving on the outside but exhibiting a violent and destructive nature.  While she doesn’t have the harmful mental instability commonly associated with the personality-type, she is oblivious to her own power and that naïveté is equally threatening.  Finally, Hitoha exemplifies the kuudere type which is cold and somber on the surface but loving beneath a grave exterior.   Both analogies apply and one may have given birth to the other.  Good stories and good characters are timeless.  Either way, creator Norio Sakurai obviously put some thought into their design.  

  
What?! The Pink Gachi Ranger -- NUDE?!
What?! The Pink Gachi Ranger -- NUDE?!
The first season of Mitsudomoe is comprised of twelve episodes and the second, Mitsudomoe Zouryouchuu, follows through with an additional eight.  I believe the forth coming Blu-ray releases of both volumes will include an additional episode bringing the series final total to twenty-two.  The shows themselves are independent comic slice-of-life stories usually two to four per episode.  While there is no overall story arc, there is a momentum to the series meaning incidents from early shows are sometimes referred to later on.  Each little tale has impact on the cast and that creates a connection between the audience and the characters.  What’s more, there are multiple facets to each character’s personality including the subordinate cast members which makes them interesting and surprising.  One of my favorite examples is Shinya, Futaba’s friend.  Early on, he’s seen as a real cool guy who all the girls adore but about a third of the way through he’s labeled a pervert and has to deal with that misconception for the rest of the series.  It’s hilarious to watch him struggle with the stigma. I really can’t say enough about this treasured delight other than to urge fans of comedic anime to seek it out and watch it.  It’s very funny.   

Megane na Kanojo 

Megane ni Kanojo 4 part OVA series
Megane ni Kanojo 4 part OVA series
Anyone experienced in the world of anime is familiar with the term “moé”.  In the beginning it meant having an acute interest in a specific element, but over time its definition was expanded and corrupted to primarily mean young, cute anime girls.  Megane na Kanojo takes a page from both descriptions and tells the stories of four bespectacled girls and their encounters with romance.  These heroines are all cute and they all wear glasses.  That last detail is the focus of these short stories with an eyeglass shop serving as the common locale between the four tales.  I believe I’ve confessed a couple of my predilections in past blogs; a weakness for girls in glasses is certainly among them.  Having declared that, you’ll understand my attraction to this concise series.  It’s got comedy, it’s got romance, and it’s got meganekko (glasses fetishism).

This is a very short series running under an hour total, but worth the time spent.  There’s nothing too deep here, but the stories are enjoyable enough and their abridged length is actually a positive.  How often do we fall for an anime only to have its potential squandered as we find disappointment?  These four 14 minute narratives provide a brief glimpse into the lives of their heroines and then close leaving the rest to our imaginations. 

Mmm... spectacles 
Mmm... spectacles 
My favorite of the four was the first with the second close behind.  The former is about a boy who joins an after school club because there’s a cute girl in it.  Well, the first time he sees her she isn’t wearing glasses and it’s that moment that his heart compels him to join.  Afterwards, she puts on her glasses much to his dismay since he hates glasses.  What’s done is done however and so he stays in the club and instead tries to get the girl to remove her glasses again.  The ending of the vignette is what I found both amusing and familiar.  I wear glasses myself (I refuse contacts or whacked laser surgery), so I could relate to some of scenes in the show.  The next episode reminded me of Rise from the Shin Megami Tensei Persona 4 video game.  In this story, the protagonist is an idol who’s on vacation from her modeling and performing duties.  She spends some of her days just relaxing in a café reading books.  So that she’s not pestered by fans, she disguises her appearance with a floppy hat and some glasses.  One day, a waiter who works there asks her out.  He’s completely duped by her charade, and so she accepts believing it might be fun to have a normal date with a normal boy as a normal, obscure girl.  The story is very sweet and it too has a bright conclusion.  The following third and forth episodes are fine but not as well constructed as the former two.  The third actually feels more like a segment from a much larger show such as Strawberry 100%.  

All-in-all, I’d recommend the four for anyone looking for a short and sweet anthology with affection for cute girls in glasses. 

Magical Girl Lyrical Nanaho 

Being a magic girl is a busy lifestyle
Being a magic girl is a busy lifestyle
With the surprising popularity of Puella Magi Madoka Magica this season I thought I’d go back and look at one of the earlier hits in the “magic girl” genre.  I admit I have little experience is the group beyond the most basic.  I’ve seen four of the five Sailor Moon shows, a substantial number of the Cardcaptor Sakura episodes, and a sampling from various other titles.  If I was going to broaden my definition of the category, I could include the many harem and romances that feature magic girlfriends, but I can’t accept lumping Steel Angel Kurumi in with Magic Knight Rayearth.  In my mind, the archetype has a few key features including transformations, wands and/or pendants, and a purity of heart.  Granted the last element may not always apply depending on the depth of the story, but for all the ones I’ve seen it’s essential.  Magical Girl Lyrical Nanaho is a perfect example of the genre as I see it.  The heroine has an unwavering faith in her mission and in her friends.  Like the best protagonists from this school, she is deeply sympathetic to the suffering of both her allies and enemies with concepts like revenge and hate being completely foreign.  Instead, she draws her strength from the unconditional love within her.  
 

Nanaho and Fate...Fight!
Nanaho and Fate...Fight!
Nanaho Takamachi is an average elementary school girl living with her parents and two older siblings in fictional Uminari City, Japan.  The day after experiencing a nightmare full of sorcerers and dark creatures, she meets a talking ferret named Yuuno who spoke to her in her dream.  He informs her that he is on a mission to recover twenty-one ancient jewels which fell into this dimension from his.  He’s actually a mage and junior archeologist back home.  He discovered the “jewel seeds” there and feels responsible for their current missing whereabouts.  The magic within the gems is quite potent and when gathered together can be very destructive.   Nanaho agrees to help him collect the stones.  To aid her in their battle against each seed’s manifested material form; she is given a wand named Raising Heart.  She exhibits a strong magical talent in their first engagement impressing Yuuno with her power.  Over the course of a week, the two successfully recover a number of stones and her aptitude with Raising Heart improves following each encounter; however the two soon discover that they are not alone in their quest for the jewel seeds.  A dispassionate girl equal in age to Nanaho is also after the stones; Fate Testarossa.  With her familiar, Arf at her side, she proves herself to be better at winning the gems away from Nanaho and Yuuno.  

Yuuno and Arf 
Yuuno and Arf 
The first half of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanaho reminded me a lot of Cardcaptor Sakura, but with the introduction of Fate Testarossa, the two became markedly different.  I’m convinced that Fate’s character could not exist in Sakura’s reality.  Sakura functions in a world of pristine innocence and, like the opening of Pandora’s Box, acknowledging her tragedy would invite all other sorts of sins to manifest.  But with great care, the producers behind Magical Nanaho reshaped their world to include such peril and the twisted psychology created from it.  The story element added a rawness to show that I found refreshing.  It also better defined Nanaho’s commitment to Fate who she described as the pretty girl with sad eyes.  There were a couple of very disturbing scenes, but they never felt cheap or exploitive.  Nanaho could have easily become another vacillating pacifist like so many other Gundam pilots before her had the urgency of Fate’s plight been absent. 

Magical Girl Lyrical Nanaho - Support Cast
Magical Girl Lyrical Nanaho - Support Cast
This turned out to be a much better series than I had envisioned originally.  It was important to stick with it though since it takes a while to get past the conventional concepts normally seen in Magical Girl anime.  I know that there are two successive series, Magical Girl Lyrical Nanaho A’s and MGLN StrikeS plus a movie.  From what I gather, the final series takes place ten years after the events from this show, so I am curious to see how the characters evolve during that time.  For now, I’d recommend this show to someone looking for a satisfying light-adventure anime especially for this genre. 

Parting words and Martial Hearts

That brings this blog to a close again.  I had planned to write something about Strawberry 100%, too but that will have to wait until next time.  I’m not too sure what I want to say about it though.  I’ve already abandoned any thought towards a written reflection of Zettai Shougeki: Platonic Heart.  Well, I’ll say I didn’t think too much of it, particularly the end.  If the producers are going to close their show like that then they need to make certain the characters are entertaining enough to overcome the laughable incongruities in the conclusion.  I am a big fan of the Thin Man movies from the 1930’s and 40’s. In that franchise of films, it was the principle characters of Nick and Nora Charles that captivated me.  The mystery of “Who did it” could easily be solved by singling out the most unlikely of suspects.  Platonic Heart takes that route, but without any of the charm innate to those old movies.  There is an uncompelling amount of nudity in the short series, too.  Trust me; it’s not enough to warrant the time investment.  Definitely, skip this one.  

Well, I guess now that wraps things up.  Here’s a cool Godzilla vs Gamera movie I found on the web.  It’s the best of the fan-made mash-ups I’ve seen on the subject.  Ah, when two titans clash you know it’s going to be fun.  Why can’t a real movie be made?  Japan seems to be more flexible than Hollywood when it comes to crossovers, so I still have my hopes.  
  
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