Sunday, April 28, 2013


Mushishi is a cool series.  It’s mostly laid back, not intense or fast moving or action-packed.  It doesn’t have cliff-hanger episodes, or leave you wondering if the main character is going to survive.  It’s just a nice series about the travels of a man named Ginko.

The background for this story is that the world that most people see and interact with is not the entire world.  Existing alongside the everyday world, and sometimes affecting it, is a world of “mushi”.  Mushi are generally small supernatural creatures who go about the business of their lives unknown to most humans and uncaring of human concerns.    Occasionally they interact with the human world, and sometimes normal people fall afoul of them.  The interactions between mushi and humans are almost always to the detriment of the humans.  In general very few people can see them or interact with them, but occasionally an action by specific mushi drags one or more humans into it and affects the “normal world”. 

Ginko is a mushishi, a man who can see and interact with mushi.  He travels from place to place, tracking down mushi stories and sightings, and helping people who have crossed paths with them.  Along the way, he collects stories and mushi for a collector friend of his.  Ginko also happens to be a person who attracts mushi himself, so he smokes a type of cigarette nearly constantly.  The smoke from this cigarette keeps the mushi away from him.   This series is the story of his travels.  Each episode is a case surrounding a different type of mushi that he deals with and solves for the people involved. 

This is really a wonderful series, especially if you like calm series with a mystery to them.  It's fun not knowing what type of mushi will come next and how Ginko will deal with it.    Ginko’s interactions with and solutions to the mushi in each episode are interesting and unique.  In addition, the music is awesome, with a new and different background piece for each episode.  I thoroughly enjoyed the series although occasionally I wished they could have spent some additional time on Ginko’s life.  They do go into his background and how he became a mushishi, as well as introducing a very few of his friends.  Mostly the series is the stories of the various mushi though.  

Even though I often like series with lots of action, Mushishi was more than worth spending the time watching.  The plot is definitely unique.  The feeling it gave me reminded me somewhat of Natsume Yuujinchou, in the pace of the plot and the sort of serene feeling it has, although of course it’s not as gorgeous as Natsume is.  Definitely worth the time. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

AKB0048 Second Stage

AKB0048 Second Stage, the second season of AKB0048 is MUCH darker than the first season.  I described the first season in an earlier blog post  (AKB0048), including the basic plot line about the girls struggling to grow up and become successors.  The same basic plot holds true for the second season.  The 77th generation of AKB0048 understudies are still training hard and hoping to become successors, actual members of AKB0048.  At the same time, this new season adds several more plot elements.

One of those elements is a galaxy wide AKB0048 election where people vote for their favorite AKB0048 member or understudy, and the winners get to perform a special live concert.  The competition is fierce between the girls for this privilege and to be one of the girls with the top 10 numbers of votes.   The series spends some time on the character development here. 

Also added is a subplot about the scheming of Chieri’s father and the relationship between Chieri and her father.  Chieri’s father manipulates the airwaves to increase Chieri’s popularity during the contest, and she faces some angst dealing with this.  His main goal is to tap into and control the energy of duralium, which is manifested by the glowing kiraras.  The Kiraras glow whenever the energy of a live concert and specifically the energy of the individual girls is particularly high.

This is the big mystery hinted at in the first series.  Originally AKB0048 had a central singer known as the Center Novae, but the position was done away with because Center Novae tended to glow brightly, become surrounded by Kirara and disappear, with no one knowing where they went and what became of them.  In order to keep the girls from disappearing, the Center Nova position has been done away with, but the girls all want it back.  Each girl dreams of being Center Novae and shining the most brightly.  Chieri’s father has discovered that the kirara glow brightly around the Center Novae in a feedback energy reaction with duralium, and he is determined to control that energy.

This season also has very dark moments not found in the first season.  The major one is the loss and destruction of the home planet of AKB0048, Akibastar, which is destroyed by DES and Chieri’s father.  The members of AKB0048 must fight to not only get it back, but to re-establish themselves with their fans who blame them for the disaster.  In addition, AKB0048 is betrayed along the way by a former member.  And just as Chieri and her father are mending their relationship, Chieri’s father is killed.  There is significantly more for the girls to overcome in Second Stage besides trying to become and stay successors.  And again each girl deals with her own ambitions and struggles as the series proceeds.

In the end, the girls succeed in solving the mystery around the Center Novae.  They also defeat DES and regain Akibastar.   They each continue in their individual drives to become successors and shine as brightly as the Center Novae.

Overall this is a very watchable series.  I liked the music in the original season marginally better, but the music here is still good.  The character development continues from the first season, and Nagisa and Chieri remain friends and rivals.  The plot, although significantly more tragic and sad than season one, is nicely tied up with the main questions answered.  It’s a good series.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Mahoutsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto

This is another older series.  Mahoutsukai ni  taisetsu na koto is translated as “things important to a mage” or “what is important to a mage”, but the series is usually just called Someday’s Dreamers.

Mahoutsukai is a nice, short (12 episodes) little series about the coming of age of a young mage.  The background is modern day but with a twist – some people are born with the ability to use magic.  Magic-users, or mages, or mahoutsukai, spend time training when they reach a certain age or certain level of magic.  The training involves not only using their magic, but also learning the conditions under which they cannot use their magic, when and on what they may not use magic.  Mages are bound by rules which protect both them and non-magic users.  The way those rules are set up, non-magic users may request magic action from mages under very strict conditions and in very clearly defined requests.  The mages in turn fulfill those requests for a fee, and are not allowed to perform magic unless it’s to fulfill a request.

The series plot follows Kikuchi Yume, a teen age mage who is coming to Tokyo to spend her summer vacation learning the rules of being a mage and using her magic.  She is assigned to a trainer mage named Oyamada Masami, and moves into his spare room.  Masami runs a salsa club, so Yume makes friends among his employees as well as with other mage-trainees as the summer progresses.  Among Yume’s friends are two other mage trainees, the very powerful British mage-trainee, Angela, and the almost powerless Japanese mage-trainee, Inoue. 

Yume comes from a family of mages where magic is accepted and taken a little for granted.  She is a powerful mage in her own right and uses her magic from her heart, striving always to accomplish the magic that will make the recipient the most happy.  She interacts with a variety of people along the way and performs magic to help them.   Early on she is unaware that mages are not supposed to perform magic without a specific request going through the mage office, but later she occasionally breaks that rule to help people.  In the course of her training she comes up against other ways of thinking too, including people that desperately want to be mages but have little to no power, and people who have mage power but don’t want it.  She not only learns about magic and mages over the summer, but about personalities and friendships.  Essentially she grows up.

One of Yume’s biggest challenges is her trainer, Masami.  Masami is jaded and doesn’t believe in using magic from the heart.  Masami uses magic as little as necessary, for exactly what’s requested and no more.   As he repeatedly tells Yume, magic cannot solve everything, and sometimes magic can do nothing.  At firstit's hard to like Masami, but then you find out his wife died in a traffic accident and although he was there and performed magic, his magic was unable to save her, so he has a reason for closing himself off from the world. 

At the end of the summer, there is a “final exam”, in which the trainee must use magic to address an issue assigned to them by the head of the magicians, Ginpun.   Ginpun assigns Yume to perform magic on Masami.  Yume isn’t given any parameters other than that.  Her solution to Masami, and her magic from the heart, really make the series.

This is a good series, with a nice, fairly unique plot, pretty, enjoyable characters and good music.  This is another series that I wish had been a little longer, but that’s just because I enjoyed it.  They did a good job of tying up plot ends and not rushing the plot.  There was one character in the Opening theme song (or was it the Ending?) that didn’t appear in the series, but besides that tiny flaw, the series was fun and is well worth watching. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Zetsuen no Tempest

I really liked Zetsuen no Tempest.  This is a pretty awesome series in just about every way.

Tempest is essentially about the death of a girl, and the relationship between two boys, who are sometimes friends, and sometimes not friends.  Takigawa Yoshino and Fuwa Mahiro grew up in the same grade in school and were thrown together very young.  Mahiro comes from a rich family, is spoiled and unfriendly and until Yoshino came along, had no friends in school.  When Mahiro is hurt in an accident as a child, Yoshino is randomly chosen to accompany the teacher to visit him in the hospital.  Yoshino very reluctantly goes and is asked by Mahiro to find the person and the reason why Mahiro was run down by a motorcycle.  Despite being very young, Yoshino does find the information Mahiro wants and the two end up blackmailing each other into being friends.  From then on they are paired throughout school.  Along the way, Yoshino falls in love with Mahiro’s younger sister, Aika, and begins dating her.  This is unknown to Mahiro, who himself is in love with Aika, who is unrelated to him by blood.  That’s the background, which the series lets you in on as the story progresses.

The actual story begins when Mahiro and Yoshino are teen-agers and several months after Aika has been murdered.  Mahiro has dropped out of sight, struggling to find Aika’s killer and make sense of her death, and Yoshino is just moving through his daily existence, not much caring about anything.  They come back together at Aika’s grave at a time when a strange new illness is felling cities full of people, turning them into iron.   Yoshina and Mahiro become embroiled in the plots of a clan of magicians, the Kusaribe.   

The Kusaribe are a family that has been magician-servants of the great Tree of Genesis for centuries while they wait for its eventual revival.  Along the way half the clan has come to believe that the Tree of Genesis will destroy civilization when it revives and they are trying to stop it by reviving the Tree of Exodus.  The leader of the rebels, Samon, has managed to exile the Kusaribe’s actual leader and head of the Genesis faction, Hakaze, Princess of Genesis, to a remote tropical island.  The Kusaribe’s magic only works if they have a manufactured object to give the Tree of Genesis in return for its power.  On a tropical island, with no people and no  manufactured objects, Hakaze is stuck.  She only manages to send a wooden doll in a bottle, which can be used to communicate with people off the island and which is found by Mahiro.  Mahiro agrees to help Hakaze in exchange for her finding Aika’s killer for him.   Thus Mahiro and Yoshino get dragged into the battles between the Tree of Genesis and the Tree of Exodus.

One of the interesting things about this series is that, especially for a dead character, Aika is extremely central to the plot and gets a lot of air time.  Her life and death affect almost every other character in the series, their actions and thoughts and emotions.  It’s almost uncanny how a dead girl can make such a difference and have such an impact.

This series was fun to watch.  I lost track of how many times during the series I said, “Wow!  I didn’t see that coming.”  The plot was twisty and interesting.  I found myself going back and forth between who were the good guys and who were the bad guys, and of course that always makes it more interesting.  On top of that, I really did not see Aika’s killer’s identity coming.  Also, the characters and anime are gorgeous and the music is excellent.    As an added bonus, the only main character who dies is Aika, and she was dead when the series began.   Given how much Aika’s character grew on me, I ended up kind of wishing she could end up not-dead, like Hakaze did, but I suppose the plot was convoluted enough and they decided to avoid the love triangle.

Overall Tempest was well worth watching.  The series going to be one of my favorites, I think.