These are certainly two interesting series, though the one with only one cour to work with is revealing its charms with considerably more urgency than the one that figures to be a fixture for a while.
Magi – 06
Another perfectly competent and well-produced edition of Magi this week, though I confess it didn’t grab me as much as the last couple of episodes did. I see a bit more of the Kawahara breed of villain in here than I’m comfortable with – every mini-arc thus far has featured a villain of cartoonishly exaggerated evilness – slavers and racists and mustache-twirlers of the highest order. It’s certainly true that in the pre-industrial world such evil was pretty commonplace, and this is a shounen – but shounen don’t have to fall back on that kind of manipulation when it comes to villains. Frankly, anti-heroes are a lot more interesting than villains anyway.
What’s redeeming Magi so far is that while the villains are straight out of Hanna-Barbara, the heroes are substantially more interesting. Alibaba comes off as a pretty straightforward shounen action hero, but Morgiana and especially Aladdin are another matter. Aladdin had ample opportunity to showcase what makes him interesting – the fact that his nature is effectively alien – over the last two weeks, especially in episode 5. It was Morgiana’s turn to take center stage this time, and her story is neither especially original or especially riveting, but it does a good job of establishing her as another one of the good guys who’s not someone to be trifled with – an angry person (with good reason) with the power to act on her anger with extreme prejudice.
For me, then, I suppose the best I can say is the jury is still out on Magi even after the three-episode rule has looped itself. I like the leads, especially Aladdin, and I like the highly stylized Arabian Nights setting as brought off by A-1 Pictures. Plus, this is a long-running shounen that I expect to be a long-running anime, and almost without exception is takes a good while for those kinds of series to really show their stuff.
Kamisama Hajimemashita – 07
A couple of days ago I was walking to Shibuya Station when I realized that without my conscious mind being aware of it, the OP from Kamisama Hajimemashita had been playing on the station’s PA system for a couple of minutes. I looked around and couldn’t find any reason why – it was just one of those random moments that make Japan a surreal place to live if you love anime.
I can say with some confidence that no Fall show makes me laugh so often solely with facial expressions as this one does. Of course that can only take you so far and the show would wear out its welcome pretty quickly if that were all it had going for it – thankfully it’s not, by a long shot – but it’s not something to be dismissed too easily, either. Getting laughter without dialogue is an art rarely mastered these days and this show has it down. That the faces are so much fun to look at makes the characters that much more appealing as a whole – it’s just human nature to feel that way.
The latest to really make a stamp on the series is Nekota Ami (Satou Satomi). She’s been around off and on since the second episode, but it’s only in the last couple that she’s really come into her own comedically. Ami has gotten some big laughs the last couple of weeks with her utter cluelessness, ichigo panties, clumsiness and naivete – not to mention a veritable catalog of expressions – and it’s her unrequited love of Kurama (who I think probably leads in laughs per minute of screen time) that inspires most of the comedy this week. Human-youkai romance is very much the order of the day, as the second half of the episode takes a rather more serious turn when Nanami confesses her love to Tomoe.
This is a shoujo, so the overt romantic plot had to turn up sooner or later. It remains to be seen how the genie having been let out of the bottle will change the dynamic of the series, but early returns are favorable – while certainly darker than anything that came before it, I thought the scenes between Nanami and Tomoe were rather good on the whole, depicting the difference in experience and sophistication between the two of them in rather stark terms. There are reasons why this sort of romance is a dangerous one, and we’ve already seen enough of Tomoe’s back story to realize he can be a very dangerous being (though I’m sure there’s more to come).