Edited by The Davoo
This post has been copied from my Digibrony tumblr, since I intend to continue my episodic analysis of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic on this blog. I’ve updated the post with some new thoughts and comments, and fixed a lot of spelling errors.
While writing my favorites-based ranking of MLP:FiM episodes, I found myself promising to analyze a bunch of them. I’ve decided to pull the stops and analyze them all. I’m skeptical about my ability to do this, since I’ve tried to do the same with a large number of anime shows over the past four years and never succeeded in finishing one, but I think that my love of MLP is enough to conquer this obstacle!
Episode One: Friendship Is Magic, Part 1 (Mare in the Moon)
When Twilight is reading about the history of Nightmare Moon, Princess Celestia’s voice narrates. I like to think that this book was Celestia’s own account of events, which brings up a point about history: it’s written by the winners. According to Celestia, she “reluctantly” harnessed the elements of harmony and “tried to reason” with her younger sister, but (and fans of the “lunar republic vs. solar empire” thing will love this), we could easily say that this is propaganda by Princess Celestia, and a simplification of a more political and intricate series of events.
I doubt this, of course, but one of the things I like about MLP:FiM is that while it has a canon, that canon is very loose. The idea that Celestia has simplified the story of trapping her sister in the moon need not be a dark or nefarious twist, but is still something you could run in any direction with. This is supported by the fact that Celestia consistency withholds information and manipulates her subjects throughout the show.
God damn, I’ve finally got something to be excited about. I haven’t felt this fulfilled with a piece of media since I finished Mass Effect 2 six weeks ago. Just as in February, MLP has filled the hole left by my growing fallout with currently-running anime (except JoJo, which is fairly satisfying). It’s a shame I’ll only get one episode a week; I’ll have to continue marathoning all my favorite anime in the meantime.
The season premiere is as exciting as I needed it to be. I’ve seen mixed (though mostly positive, because come on, it’s S3!) reactions, mostly because the villain is almost non-present throughout the episode. I don’t even care, do you care? Do you fuckin care? I don’t care.
The most exciting thing in the premiere is something which had started to emerge in season two, and looks to be a continuing trend—continuity. Back in season one there were two major continuity threads between five episodes—three of which revolved around the Grand Galloping Gala (3, 14, and 26), and two of which revolved around the Sonic Rainboom (16 and 23). You may remember that my first reaction to MLP after finishing S1 was that I wished it had a stronger continuity.
Holy fuck, a genuine anime post! Yes, I’ve been looking forward to watching new shows this season. I did my season preview a month in advance, completely not realizing how early I was. Now it’s finally here, and the first show I checked out, Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai, has given me plenty to think about in just the first episode.
The concept of chuunibyou is greatly interesting to me, especially in the context of analyzing someone who actually has it. There are tons of anime which appeal to the chuu2 sense (such as Sword Art Online), but it’s far more interesting to actually analyze characters who have chuunibyou.
As explained by the show, chuu2 is the inflated sense of self-importance that people often develop as they become self-aware, usually during the eighth grade. The show chooses to interpret this as literally acting like Shana—or, to use another chuu2-having anime character example, Kuroneko from OreImo. What separates having chuu2 from being a chuu2 fantasy is that, obviously, the person who has chuu2 isn’t important. An anime character’s incessant moodiness and belts are justified (to an extent) by their actually being powerful and important to the planet’s survival.
Personally, I’d find it more interesting to have realistic chuu2 characters in a show. Note: I said, “in a show,” because I don’t think I could watch a show about goth kids in fedoras and Tripp pants; but I find them entertaining as side characters, especially in shows about everyday life starring adults, which makes the chuu2 aspect really stand out as ridiculous and hilarious.
Takanashi Rikka, Chuu2’s case study if you will, is not a realistic chuu2 character—or at the very least, she goes beyond anything I’ve ever witnessed. Her dedication to the act of being an anime heroine is all-encompassing, although at the same time, the show hasn’t convinced me that she’s not somewhat self-aware.
Thing is, Chuu2 actually glorifies Rikka and the way she acts. It doesn’t paint her as a pathetic weirdo, but as a fun, quirky, and extremely moe girl, whose chuu2 attitude doesn’t seem to be interrupting her life (as of yet).
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, I think it’s way better than the alternative—a show about some generic anime guy “fixing” the imperfections the cute girl focal character. Such a show would be a pathetic fantasy in itself, just like that shitty chuu2 show, Shakugan no Shana.
Yuuta (holy fuck, talk about a generic name), the male lead, is actually the one whose personality quirks are endangering his happiness. Yuuta is horribly embarrassed by the himself of a year ago, who was chuu2 up the ass, and is striving obsessively for a life of normalcy to make up for it. He’s the one who’s desire to be normal is ruling his decisions and getting him into potential trouble, whereas Rikka seems to be pretty satisfied with herself (at least, insofar as the first episode). There’s potential for this show to be interesting if it is, in fact, about Rikka causing Yuuta to open up and except some of the chuu2 in his heart, sort of like Takkun having to realize that he’s a kid in FLCL.
In bringing up FLCL though, I’ve gotten way ahead of myself. While there’s potential for intrigue in this story, the presentation of the first episode is overall sloppy and dull.
For one thing, we don’t understand exactly what caused Yuuta to turn his back on his chuu2 persona and start obsessively striving for normalcy. All evidence suggests that he was incredibly self-absorbed a year ago, and thus far, we’ve seen no evidence of what brought him out of that. His family seems to have been supportive of the way he acted, and even though he shudders to think about how he made a point of sitting alone in middle school, that was also just part of his thing. If he was enjoying himself at the time, what suddenly made him decide that he was being an idiot and should try to be normal?
There’s time for this show to become heavier, and I think it’ll need to for anything meaningful to come of it. Was Yuuta depressed in middle school? If he was so weird back then, why does he have no problem being normal now? He doesn’t seem to have any social anxiety beyond the fear that he’s somehow going to accidentally make people think he’s chuu2, which is highly unlikely. Did people bully him? We’ve seen no evidence to suggest that chuu2 makes you hated. When Rikka acts like a complete spaz in class, no one makes fun of her or laughs, they all just are rather confused about what’s happening.
The best case I can make here is that Yuuta’s actually experiencing the second stage of chuu2. In both stages, what makes it chuu2 is the obsession with taking yourself way too seriously, but in stage two, he’s rebelling against his own ideas of who he is, and trying to be someone else. Again, I draw a parallel to Takkun from FLCL, who was always pissed off at adults for being “immature,” and tried way to hard to be mature, until he eventually learned that he’s just a dumbass kid.
Everyone feels a bit of shame over the things they did when they were younger (especially myself), but Yuuta seems to have flipped so dramatically so quickly, that it’s hard for me to buy into.
My younger brother, Victor, had a massive image change when he left high school. He went from long hair, a black trench coat, and a fedora, to short hair, button-up shirts, and jeans—and never looked back. But this came about through long-term realization of the fact that he wasn’t who he was trying to be, coupled with crippling depression and self-loathing. Again, this is only the first episode of the show, but if it turns out that Yuuta just somehow realized at some point that he looked a bit ridiculous, that won’t cut it for me.
At this stage, though, I think I’m taking the subject matter more seriously than the show is. This is a lighthearted comedy with all the usual KyoAni trappings. The girls are moe as all living fuck, and the show seems to dedicate as much time to moements begging to be turned into gifs en-masse on 2ch as it does to the plot. The first episode is a showcase of a bunch of chuu2 aspects only meant to establish just how out-there Rikka is, and mostly to be cute.
Watch her playing around with the umbrella! Watch her skating around on shoes with wheels! (totally jealous of that scene, btw.) Watch her punch the fucking Konami code into a vending machine! I mean yeah, this isn’t me complaining, because I’m a huge K-On! fan, and if you asked me at the start of that show what it was about, I’d probably say it was something like this. K-On would go on to establish an incredible amount of depth and characterization over its run, and Chuunibyou has the potential to do the same.
It’s just hard for me to imagine at this stage that it will, because the show isn’t as clean and well put-together as K-On was. The best place to see the difference is in the ending themes, because the Chuu2 ED borrows liberally from several K-On EDs to the point that it’s practically just reused assets.
But the Chuu2 ED is terrible and boring. It’s just a bunch of random shots with no character to them, which is the opposite of K-On’s EDs. Those exploded with character, because they were exploring the show’s core themes of music and friendship, while making a point to parody and exemplify music videos. Those EDs bleed well-made drama, which ought to make them exactly what the ending of a chuu2 show should be, but the chuu2 show doesn’t make the ED its own. It doesn’t resonate with the themes of the show or convey anything at all, really. It literally appears to be a collection of reused assets, with no effort put into fitting them into the new show.
Anyways, that’s enough about this week’s episode. I wouldn’t say that I particularly liked or disliked it. Even if it cashes in on the potential which I described above, I still might not enjoy it, and it won’t be as cool as what I really want from a show about chuu2.
The first minute of this episode was a surreal bit of nostalgia. To clarify, I’ve never played Persona 4—I avoided it because I never managed to beat Persona 3, even though for years I considered it my favorite video game. That aside, I have the Persona 3 OST and love it, and the Velvet Room BGM, “Want To Be Close,” has apparently remained the same across both games and, now, the show. It was interesting to suddenly hear that song in an anime, and while I don’t know the Persona 4 soundtrack, it nonetheless felt familiar since it carries the same distinct vibe courtesy of composer Meguro Shoji.
Anyway, about the show—I don’t need to have played the game to know that the show is reaching around its own ass to pay it tribute (like using the game’s own soundtrack). Some of the scenes look like the animation was made to imitate exactly what happened at the same moment in the game. The most obvious visual call-back is when Narukami uses a spell:
Visual call-backs and references are awesome (especially for fans of the game I’m sure), but the trouble I have with this adaption is that it lacks its own personality. Episode One was written and paced very awkwardly, and most of the animation didn’t stand out at all. It seems like the show is more concerned with presenting a trimmed-fat transliteration of the game material than it is with being a good anime series. If I’d played the game, I might be happy with that, though. After all, I dropped the Persona 3 anime precisely because it had little to do with the game (and it was just boring).
Of course, I could be totally wrong, because I haven’t played the game. Maybe the shortcomings of the anime have nothing to do with its being an adaption. Either way, I felt this was a rather weak opening episode.
(I probably would’ve loved it if the fight had opened with “BABY BABY BABY BABY BABY B-BABY BABY BABY BABY BABY BABY!”)
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First, let me just say, this OP is the best thing Bee Train has ever animated.