Ask Sensei! Magical Girls and the Thing About Anime

Welcome back, class. It’s nice to see most of you so alert and prepared this morning. Most of you, that is. (unobtrusively but firmly kicks Shiraishi-kun’s foot under his front row desk, startling him awake)

This last month, we had a couple of questions come to us via Facebook. Joshua asks: “[W]hat about thoughts on anime using rare topics compared to other media? Or rather how they tell them more organically and emotionally pulling than most filmed media. It could be about showing single parents, anime like Samurai Champloo that gives a very raw showing of Christianity in a historical perspective, or even loss of close family members?”

I think you’re onto something, Joshua-kun. Most anime fans have probably noticed that, in general, anime is not in the habit of whitewashing difficult subjects, character traits, or situations. I’d venture to guess that this is a major reason that so many of us prefer anime to other media. Whether it’s the treatment of personal heartbreak in Clannad, or of undiluted evil in Naruto, or even, as you point out later on in your comment, of how undisturbed One Punch Man’s Saitama seems in spite of everyone underestimating him, anime seems to tell it like it is, even in otherworldly or supernatural settings. Top it all off with being filtered through Japan’s unique culture, language, and consciousness, and I think you have a combination that can captivate fans’ minds for a lifetime.

And Joel asks: “Thoughts on magical girl anime?”

I am not personally a fan of magical girl anime, mostly because I prefer series that have a cast with a male/female ratio somewhat closer to 18 6.5 1. I readily acknowledge its importance as a genre, however. Series from Sailor Moon to Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica have sparked the imaginations of thousands of girls, and not a few boys. Their themes of faith and friendship overcoming obstacles are certainly no less common in shounen anime, but displaying these themes from a more feminine perspective is every bit as valuable. I did watch Madoka when it came out, because I thought it was likely to be important, but I must admit it left a bad taste in my mouth. I didn’t fare much better with Star Driver: Kagayaki no Takuto, a magical boy anime of a similar vintage, which left me feeling rather more trolled than unsettled. All this being said, I think magical girl (and boy) anime series are here to stay — fortunately.

Finally, our own Samuru asks via our website whether I would expand more on my experiences traveling to Glorious Nihon, and if I had any tips to pass on to others hoping to make the pilgrimage one day. I will certainly do both in a future column, as it turns out I will probably be visiting a friend of mine in Glorious Nihon over Christmas break, so it could be very well timed.

I see that my time’s up for today, so I hope you took good notes. Until next time, be well, and keep those questions coming!

And yes, Shiraishi-kun, this will be on the exam. You know better than to ask.

Ask sensei your own questions and they might be featured in next month’s column! Feel free to ask through the comments, by sending us an email or by tweeting sensei (you can also use the hashtag #asksensei).

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