I guess someone in the studio has impeccable taste. SHAFT are known to have amazing original OPs and EDs done by unexpected or otherwise awesome artists (such as ryo on the Bakemonogatari ed and Ootsuki Kenji on Zetsubou Sensei’s everything), and the Ootsuki Kenji to Zetsubou Shoujo-tachi album is by far my favorite anime-related musical project (to the extent that I actually own the album!).
When writing my last post, I didn’t really get why Urobuchi Gen thought now was the time to come out about the lie of Madoka Magica. Of course, that’s because I’m an idiot who hadn’t watched the third episode.
Part of my brain is saying ,”no way, she can’t be dead—she’s in the opening theme, on the promo material…”
But the other half is saying, “SHAFT already trolled us to begin with, they’re known for changing opening themes, and everything makes sense now.”
I’d read that there was a death in this episode, but I could never have expected this. Now I really understand why they bothered with that troll—so that our expectations wouldn’t leave us prepared for this.
Now I’ve got that Shiki 19 feeling of total despair and emptiness.
This show is a masterpiece.
Update: Now that I’ve given it more thought, I really don’t trust that Mami is dead. It seems like there was way too much foreshadowing about her character to end her time in the series. DiGiKerot also pointed out that there’s a chance Madoka could wish her back to life if it’s possible.
At least according to the blogosphere’s biggest SHAFT expert.
Since I haven’t posted on Madoka here, I’ll explain the situation up to now. Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica is the latest SHAFT offering, which garnered lots of pre-release hype because of the huge combination of cult-favorite creators brought together to develop it. Link’s introduction to the team is very helpful, as is ringOtamegane’s lengthy and detailed history of everyone involved in the production, which gives a great sense of why and how these people were brought together.
Read those posts for juicy details, but the important thing to this post is that this series is directed by Team Shinbo, written by Urobuchi Gen, and scored by Kajiura Yuki. Now, Shinbo has worked on many different kinds of shows, but his work feels most at home when he does big dark gothy nightmares such as The SoulTaker and Petit Cossette (pre-SHAFT) and gets to inflict a dark tone on a series, like in Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei and Tsukuyomi Moonphase. Petit Cossette happens to be my favorite of Shinbo’s directorial efforts, and it was also scored by Kajiura, both of which made it the purest expression of “gothic” (and “lolita”) in anime.
Urobuchi Gen meanwhile is a writer best known for his work on Nitro+ erotic visual novels, all of which are notably dark and violent. His most famous work is Saya no Uta, widely considered one of the greatest visual novels of all time, which is known for its heavy Lovecraft influence, intense scenes of rape and gore, and loli porn. Suffice it to say, Urobuchi has never written something lighthearted.
All of this is why it became confusing when the production team claimed that Madoka Magica was supposed to be a “traditional” magical girl series (see Link’s post), and that Urobuchi was trying to change his image and do something lighthearted. It only got more confusing when the show began and was clearly far darker and more sinister than a casual magical girl anime. Otou-san and I (via comments) speculated on whether the creators might’ve intended for a traditional show but just weren’t capable of it; sdshamshel, a mahou shoujo aficionado, has tried to help viewers who know that Madoka Magica is some kind of subversion, but don’t know what kind because they don’t know the genre well, understand how this show subverts classical mahou shoujo anime.
As one who champions creator’s intent in interpreting anime, I’d been curious about why this show was so blatanly subversive when the creators had so clearly stated that it wouldn’t be. According to ringOtomegane, that question has been answered: SHAFT trolled us all.
The case appears to be that SHAFT wanted to throw a curveball at audiences and purposefully made the show look like normal mahou shoujo on the previews. According to Urobuchi’s twitter, they’d intended to hide his involvement altogether, but since that proved to be impossible, they instead came up with the lie that he was trying to change his image. Urobuchi is apparently happy that he doesn’t have to keep the secret anymore.
So there you have it. Yes, they gathered my “gothic dream team” with the intent of doing something dark, yes it’s a subversion of the genre, and yes, it’s all intentional. (Apparently.)
Meanwhile, I’m planning to episodically blog this show once it’s all over.
Related: If you want to learn more about SHAFT, I highly recommend ringOtomegane’s detailed history and exploration of the studio’s personnel. It’s given me a much better idea of who does what at SHAFT.
Dance in the Vampire Bund was very much a mixed bag, and a confusing one at that. Episodes ranged from interesting to seemingly pointless, and the production quality was all over the place. And yet, that’s easily forgiven because the direction and animation of Shinbo/SHAFT gave it a unique and worthwhile quality that made it a memorable experience. No matter how “flawed” it was, it’s still a show I can see myself rewatching in the future since there’s nothing else quite like it. Plus, it had one of Yuuki Aoi’s best performances to date.
Bad things happen when a manga author doesn’t like the adaption of their work. Kare Kano, GAINAX’s promising shoujo romcom adaption, was hamstrung when Tsuda Masami complained that it focused too much on comedy instead of romance and refused to allow another season, which lead to Anno Hideaki‘s departure from the studio. The project was left in shambles, culminating in one of anime’s most disappointing endings. Toriyama Akira said of Dragonball Evolution that he wasn’t sure what it had to do with his original manga at all. These disapprovals by original authors can range from hazardous to depressing, which is why it’s refreshing to see a manga author give their thumbs up to an anime adaption.
Warnings for this post: there’ll be a lot of youtube embeds, and to get the point of the post, you’ll have to watch most of them. This post features some presumptuousness on my part; I’m going to say things like “this is Oonuma’s doing” or “this is Shinbo’s doing” or “you can see Shinbo’s influence on Oonuma here”—obviously, I can’t prove any of this to be true, as I’ve never met Shinbo nor Oonuma. This information is what I personally believe to be true, but you should formulate your own opinions based on the evidence.
I have a distinct mental image of Oonuma Shin and Shinbo Akiyuki as directors, and of SHAFT as a studio. Each has a definitive and irreversible influence on the others, and tracing whose original ideas are whose could very well be impossible. However, I have a lot of fun imagining all the guys at SHAFT as they come up with ideas to put into each new show. I also have a helpful device that makes this post possible—Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu, the first show that Oonuma directed away from Studio SHAFT. I already know what Shinbo is like away from the studio, so now I feel I have a pretty good sense of what each of the three parties contributes to the work they’re involved in.
Dance in the Vampire Bund is a showcase of Shinbo’s maturing as a director. His career has followed a strange and interesting path up until now, and hit a sort of new stride in 2009’s Bakemonogatari before leveling out into Bund.