Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic – 02
One of the reasons it’s so hard to settle on a blogging schedule this season is my current living situation, of course – settling into a new country and wanting to enjoy my surroundings as well as work and attend school, time is limited. But another reason is that a great deal of she shows this season fall into the same broad category – good, watchable and entertaining anime (or many genres) that don’t especially stand out. I covered three yesterday, and Magi is another one that fits the bill. Which to cover, and which to skip?
Magi is certainly a solid show. It’s very nicely animated by A-1, with some real budget. It’s quite funny, and as is often the case with Shounen Sunday series, can surprise you with how ironic and dark it gets. Heck, Kaji Yuuki is even quite tolerable here – he’s playing the straight-man so no weak attempts at humorous delivery, and Alibaba is a thoroughly competent and courageous kid and somewhat free of the normal whiny schlub characteristics Kaji normally exhibits. It’s a very solid cast generally (many big names still to come) and yet another Tomatsu Haruka role that you’d never guess was her if you didn’t know it.
For now I’d rank Magi near the top of that vast pool of pretty good series, because it’s among the most polished shows of the season and the setting is an especially interesting one. It also has the benefit of being adapted from a well-liked source material, which should help prevent shark-jumping. I liked this ep about as well as the first, and for largely the same reasons – Aladdin made me laugh, strong work by the cast and some beautiful depictions of a fanciful take on the Arabian Nights. Like so many series this season – and this is a good thing – Magi is multiple cour, so I don’t think we need to fear rushed storytelling for a while at least. It’s not blowing me away, but I like it – and I think it has a pretty good chance to stick.
Sukitte Ii na Yo – 02
Well, I guess my worries about Kurosawa being too perfect were groundless.
If I were back in the States, I’d certainly be blogging this, because I liked the first episode an awful lot. As is it’s still in the catbird seat assuming I don’t collapse from exhaustion and the next few eps don’t jump the shark. I’ve heard from some of the manga readers that they aren’t especially happy with the direction it takes later on, but I can only go by what I see in the anime – and so far, so good.
I think Mei can be summed up as a character by the line she uttered in the first part of the episode – “I didn’t think you’d actually come.” Setting aside the English double entendre, it’s a fairly pathetic thing to say – yet, so very true to her personality. This sort of heroine is hardly a new thing in shoujo, but the same things that endeared me to the premiere are present here – authenticity and a natural, unforced quality. Sukitte seems to capture a very realistic portrait of high school life – neither excessively sweet and pleasant, not unrealistically savage. A place and time that can be inane, euphoric, painful and tedious. I love the frankness of the dialogue (especially among the girls) and the focus on sex without an obsession over it.
I didn’t much like Kurosawa this episode – I found his behavior towards Mei during the kissing scene pretty unpleasant, in fact, though in context I’m not sure I was supposed to. More so than during the premiere we get the sense that he’s a player, and thinks rather a lot of himself. As is often the case in shoujo I find the beta male, Nakanishi, more interesting, especially with the excellent and very natural Shimazaki Nobunaga playing him. He’s been paired off with Asami, the sweet girl who suffers from jealous venom (“The boys all want to titty fuck you”) at the hands of her female classmates because of her large chest. They seem a good fit, though it’s a bit early in the story for anyone to be happy.
I also want to single out the music here, which is superb – both the soundtrack by Noumi Yuuji and the OP by Okazaki Ritsuko are memorable, lovely and perfectly suit the mood of the series.
Kamisama Hajimemashite – 02
I don’t have a lot to say on this one, except that it was a pleasant watch. The episode, like the first, is breezy and fun. The comic timing is excellent and the characters are likeable and distinct. This is classified as a shoujo, but strikes me more as a crossover type of series, like Inu x Boku SS. It’s definitely on the madcap side, with a good deal of slapstick mixed in with the character humor. I see it more as a series that I’d watch rather than blog, but I’m curious to see what the chemistry is like with Mikage involved, which looks as if it may happen next week, before I make a final decision.
Sakurasou no Pet no Kanoujou – 02
And lastly, we have Sakurasou – another series that falls into that vast middle ground that dominates this season thus far. I wasn’t as knocked-out by the second episode here as the premiere, but I still liked it quite a bit. I’m definitely getting a vibe here that the stars are aligned for this to get the maximum out of its potential: it seems perfectly suited both for Okada Mari’s pen and J.C. Staff’s visual style, the original writer is on the anime staff and the LNs are supposed to finish about the same the anime – yet another two-cour – comes to an end. When JC has their ducks in a row, you just get the feeling right away – as with Toradora and Ano Natsu (an original series that nevertheless had that “just right” quality to it).
If I’m to point out one thing that impresses me about Sakurasou specifically, it’s that it manages to feel fresh and different despite superficially having just about every cliche in the book. In the first place it’s an interesting mix of genre tropes – a little harem, a little coming-of-age, a little shoujo romance, even some seinen (which, if pressed to name just one, might be the box in which I’d place the show). Shiina has a bit of Erio from Denpa Onna in her with her social cluelessness and erratic behavior, but there’s a lot of Mahoraba and even Kuragehime in the mx too.
Sakurasou is surprisingly explicit when it comes to talking about sex, too. There’s Jin’s activities, for example, and then there’s Shiina – it might have been easy to dismiss her lack of boundaries as an innocent reflection of her lack of social development but there more here, and the scene where she ordered Sorata to strip for her was a real eye-opener. She may be naïve but “innocent” is not quite the right word to describe Shiina, I think. Sorata’s male lead shyness and the misunderstanding gags with Aoyama are pretty standard-issue, but there was a lot of subtext to that scene that I really liked.
I can still see some yellow lights with Sakurasou, and one of them is that I’m still not sure how well Shiina will wear as a character. This trope is a bit of a dangerous one, and can get repetitive or boring if not handled well – but there’s enough distinctive about Shiina to give me hope that the novelist knows what he’s doing. It would be also be nice to Sorata take command of his own life a little more rather than fall back on the standard behaviors of the harem MC, but given that the heart of the story is likely going to concern his finding something he loves to do and accepting that being “normal” isn’t a worthy goal in itself, there’s a good chance that will happen too.