Otakubites: Puella Magi Madoka Magica and DRRR!! dub

1. Late to the Party: Puella Magi Madoka Magica

I like this new policy; rather than actually watch a whole bunch of first episodes to determine what’s good, I wait a few weeks into the season until it’s been determined what the one show everyone absolutely cannot shut up about is, then just watch that one. Obviously to anyone who’s been on Twitter in the last month, that show currently is Madoka Magika. Beware, those who have not seen through episode 4; spoilers abound.

I’m hesitant to call it “The Evangelion of Magical Girl shows,” because that somehow sounds awfully pretentious, but it’s certainly an apt comparison. Mami’s last stand in episode 3 reminded me very much of Asuka’s final battle in The End of Evangelion; both fought in a state of kinetic euphoria, realizing for the first time that they were no longer alone, and the end came as an extremely brutal shock. Also, the soul searching Sayaka does before deciding to become a Puella Magi reminds me of what Shinji would be like if he ever took his head out of his ass for the five seconds it would take to think about somebody else for a change.

It probably is doing a disservice to the show, however, to just keep pointing out the Eva parallels, so I’ll just leave it at that- I think the show is ultimately going for something different. The deconstruction of the genre is obviously similar, but I don’t think the themes necessarily are.

Madoka is currently the weakest link in the show, which would bother me were it not for the fact that I think it’s very much intentional- I’m wondering if the fact that she’s actually considering using the wish she gets by becoming a magical girl, in order to become a magical girl, will create some interesting divide-by-zero sort of situation, hence the “potential” everyone keeps talking about.

I hope her potential isn’t just latent magic power that she was born with or something, because that’s REALLY boring; I’m interested in the idea that she could end up being the best magical girl because there’s nothing else in her personality to compete with it.

Also loving the ultra-modern aesthetic of the architecture on this show, it makes the “real world” look strangely cold and sterile compared to the reality marbles, complicating the good/evil dichotomy. I’m not going to say the witches are good- last time I checked, making people inhale chlorine gas is rather bad- but don’t you think it’s funny that those creatures in the reality marbles are so cute, and the colors are so warm? Meanwhile, Madoka’s house and school look like they’re part of the same giant, impersonal hospital. I’m not sure at this point whether or not that’s the result of the art direction going off and doing it’s own funky thing, or if it’s something deeper; I look forward to finding out.

2. On the Durarara!! Dub

With the first Durarara!! DVD collection hitting shelves now, the normal reviewer-type thing to do would be to say whether or not I recommend it. However, I’m currently sitting here surrounded by my full set of Durarara!! mini-figures, sipping coffee out of my Shizuo-emblazoned mug. I also have my very own “Certy” pencil case, and have written one of the wordiest blogs about the show ever. I think it’s safe to say I’m a fan of this show: do I think you should buy it? Hmm, y’think?

If you’re actually unfamiliar with the show and and are genuinely wondering whether or not to buy it, then I would direct you to Mr. Huber’s review. What interests me, and what I’ve been curious about ever since this show was licensed, is the English dub.

I was initially going to write up some impressions of the dub based on a five-episode screener, generously provided by Aniplex, but my first watch of the dub left me so ambivalent, I didn’t know what to say for a good while. Now that the show is actually, well, RELEASED, I think I’ll wait until my copy arrives and I can watch the full nine episodes properly before I get into analysis-crazy mode.

From what I’ve read, the general consensus is that the younger cast (Mikado, Masaomi, and Anri) are poor and/or miscast, while Celty, Shinra, Simon and Shizuo are good. Generally speaking, I agree with this- although I think there’s something interesting going on with Bryce Papenbrook’s performance as Masaomi that some fans may not have picked up on. Anyway, I think the problems with the dub are indicative of what happens when a dub is made for a hyper-specific, enthusiast audience; they let Izaya say “Shizu-chan” because they know everyone watching knows what honorifics mean, but he has to call Rio “Ms. Mazenda” in episode 2 because GOD FORBID he use her first name; Japanese people just don’t do that! Even though he’s speaking English!

Meh, I’m getting ahead of myself- more dub musings after my copy arrives.

3. Otaku USA Conclusions

Remember last time, when I was trying to decide whether or not to continue subscribing to Otaku USA? Well, I think I have my answer; the latest issue has a cover story about Evangelion by…RevolutionofEvangelion.org. Really? Without getting into my concerns with that particular site, they’ll just run an article that a fansite sends them? More importantly, they run it as the cover story?

Dropping a magazine because of one article is silly at best, but I haven’t really been enjoying it in general; their article on Excel Saga was of little interest to me, because I’d actually seen the show, and too much of their stuff seems to be like that- either “Hey, this anime exists-check it out!”, or something critically suspect like the Evangelion article.

I wish I could remember whether Animerica, which I loved to pieces, was actually much better back in the day, or I just wasn’t completely spoiled for otaku coverage yet. Rightly or wrongly, I certainly remember it being better.

4. Zettai Hero Project- Dropped, sort of

Dropped for now- currently replaying the early Tomb Raider games on my PSP after getting them through PSN. I do plan to eventually get back to it, but I also want to eventually play Disgaea 2 and Persona 3 Portable, both of which I have yet to touch in their console iterations. I don’t dislike ZHP, but it may be hard to get back to it with that kind of competition around.

8 thoughts on “Otakubites: Puella Magi Madoka Magica and DRRR!! dub”

  1. Is there something in particular from the Otaku USA cover-story that you disagreed with?

    Actually, my fansite didn’t “send” them a copy. A few weeks back I appeared on ANNcast and described my views on the show (that if we stressed what the creators’ own statements, it would make a lot more sense, and interpretation has run rampant so far, i.e. the creators themselves flat-out stated the religious symbols are meaningless); and the next week Carl Horn & Co. came on and offered a….I feel, sort of weak counter-argument (check out their forum for that).

    Anyway, the next week, apparently having listened to both, writers from Otaku USA *came to me* to ask if I’d like to write the cover-story. I then submitted the cover-story to Patrick Macias, who apparently liked it enough to run it in their magazine.

    If you don’t like the article I wrote, well okay; but didn’t you at least read it to give it the benefit of the doubt? Other than the fact that I wrote it, what was wrong with it?

  2. I did read it, and if it had included an Editor’s note that explained what you’ve just explained here, I might have reacted differently.

    I think any article, but a feature or cover story in particular, should be written from the standpoint of someone neutral on any sort of disagreements within the fandom, unless it’s a letter to the editor or something else where it’s okay to express an individual opinion. RevolutionofEvangelion takes a certain stance in regard to the things fans love to argue about with Eva, which is fine for the website, but as a cover story on Otaku USA, it seems too biased to me. It may seem like splitting hairs, since everything is ultimately biased on some level, but in a print magazine, at least making the effort to be objective means something to me.

    The fact that Otaku USA doesn’t worry about journalistic integrity in this regard leads me to believe that they don’t feel their content warrants it, which I disagree with. They seem to have a “throw it in” approach to feature articles that seems haphazard to me.

    IMO it was an opinion piece that wasn’t presented as one, so my issues with it have much more to do with the way Otaku USA approaches filling their pages than anything you wrote specifically. I do disagree with certain things you wrote, but again, it wouldn’t have been an issue if the piece had been presented appropriately.

    1. Well, while I might not have been “utterly objective”, I hope I at least supported by assertions with quotes from the creators (or if I didn’t, this was simply due to space constraints: Anno’s quotes on US politics are from The Atlantic Monthly magazine).

      Out of curiousity, what didn’t you agree with? Thank you for your feedback.

      1. Well, for one thing, I don’t know if it’s accurate to characterize Rebuild as Anno’s “final desperate attempt to get his point across.” It’s not as though the original incarnation of the series fell on deaf ears.

        At one point you mention that Shinji and Asuka heavily self-medicate on music and games, and that they’ve formed a not-quite love triangle with Rei, then say “What kind of society could produce such twisted characters?” Twisted how? Twisted so that they listen to music and play games to self-medicate? I do that, I may have my issues but I don’t think I’m twisted. Of course, I know about the issues that the characters do have, but you didn’t mention them- that segment wouldn’t have made sense to someone who wasn’t already very familiar with the series.

        It was basically a lot of little things like that, where I thought there was a disconnect between what you wrote and what you perhaps meant to say. I was going to say that I didn’t like the way you wrote off the religious symbolism in the sidebar, but on second thought, all you really said was “This is what the creators have said,” so you were letting people draw their own conclusions there. In fairness to you, I think I read certain things into the article that weren’t there on a first read.

        1. Oh yeah….well the big problem I ran into was that there was a set word limit of 1200 words or something. The original version I just wrote up off the top of my head was easily four times longer or more, and had all of these really involved descriptions of how it was different, and then of Anno’s creative process.

          Contrast this with the short article on Excel Saga which you didn’t like because it focused only on the small idea of “wow this is a funny series and exists”….and told the one idea fully, but little else.

          I was trying to at least *mention* a lot of different things; once I realized that a lot of it wouldn’t fit much had to be cut out but…I struggled *mightily* to try and retain much of what I originally wrote down.

          I particularly remember that my explanation of why Anno was making Eva again “in desperation” was originally longer and not quite as drastic, though I feel my point still stands even in clipped form.

          Funny thing about Asuka and the hand-held video games: the original outline of the series, “Eva Proposal”, which they drew up in 1993 actually described Asuka as obsessively playing video games like Shinji zones out with headphones, but this idea was largely dropped from the original series (there are a few hints of it, but not really). So in Rebuild, they actually recycled this idea for Asuka’s character that they’ve had since the very beginning. And it really helps, moreso than in the original series, to draw parallels between Asuka and Shinji, it really juxtaposes that they both self-medicate and have all sorts of personal problems.

          I guess the problem results from that I had to cut out a lot of intervening paragraphs. Asuka and Shinji are indeed pretty twisted with deep-seated psychological problems, though I didn’t intend to imply that this was simply because they listen to music/play video games.

          I hope you understand that this was the result of word limit, and I hope it was still comprehensible.

          Which leads to the final point: they said I could use a 250 word box if I wanted, from the original 1200, to talk about a side-issue. So I chose to use it up to finally put Tsurumaki’s quote in print. Its been bouncing around the internet for many years (he said it at Otakon 2001), but people never treat those things as “real” until they’re in print, in a magazine.

          Yes, you accurately summarized my intent in your last paragraph there: rather than ranting a lot about how the religious symbols don’t add up to a bigger pattern in my own words, I wanted to present to everyone a fairly clear direct statement from Tsurumaki, one of the actual creators, and people can deal with that how they want….though it was so clear I’m not sure how they could understand it any other way. But I can’t change the fact that Tsurumaki said this, no one can.

          So if I had to cut some corners and it seems like a few intervening sentences got omitted, they were….but I felt that in the long term this was a necessary sacrifice in order to finally get Tsurumaki’s quote in print; and presenting a quote from him instead of my own words was probably the most impartial thing I could have done.

          1. Thanks for that detail about Asuka, I never knew that.

            At the risk of beating a dead horse, IMO an editor should have worked with you to get your final draft to be more cohesive. I realize that most readers aren’t as picky as I am, but it seemed like the article needed some polishing, and that bothers me in a print magazine that I’ve paid for. Maybe I just hold print to too high a standard at this point.

            On Tsurumaki’s quote “The creators said it doesn’t mean anything” isn’t necessarily the end of the argument, without even getting into that funky Death-of-the-Author territory. But that’s a whole ‘nother discussion:).

  3. Well in defense of Otaku USA — and yes it would have helped to explain this — I think they wanted to include my submission in order to “balance out” the fact that Sean McCoy was allowed to write their cover-story for Rebuild of Eva 1.0, and that one *did* say that Eva was about the religious symbols, etc.

    So they already had a review which was not-neutral, as you say, so I think that this time around they looked to the other end of the opinion spectrum, to try to be fair and balance out the two sides of this.

    But it wasn’t out-of-the-blue or like the review of the first movie was neutral; so I think you’d have to keep that McCoy one in mind (even “that other fansite” that competes with mine, generally considers Sean McCoy a crazy person. Simply rambling on about the religious-sexual connotations of events on screen….moreso than Carl Horn or Jaffe ever did. Google around, the man is a very controversial figure).

  4. “On Tsurumaki’s quote “The creators said it doesn’t mean anything” isn’t necessarily the end of the argument, without even getting into that funky Death-of-the-Author territory. But that’s a whole ‘nother discussion:).”

    as we say at ReVolutionOfEvangelion.org, “The Death of the Author…has been greatly exaggerated”.

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