In the Name of the Moon, I will License Rescue You!

narutaki_icon_4040 Wouldn’t ya know the moment I go on a vacation, something spectacular happens in the anime community! As a rule, I stay off the internet while on these breaks but friends texted me for all this news about Sailor Moon.

We have been waiting a long time, too long really, for a Sailor Moon anime license rescue. But now here it is and it wasn’t just a rescue, it is a whole package of epic proportions.

hisui_icon_4040 After Rose of Versailles, Mazinger Z, and Galaxy Express 999 available in English it seemed clear that not every anime would ever be licensed but there were no anime that were clearly off the table (other than maybe Anpanman and Doraemon). No one expects to hear that Legend of the Galactic Heroes got licensed but if it were picked up tomorrow a large number of people who would be happy but not many that would be utterly flabbergasted. At this point it is more surprising what has still not picked up more than what is. While it is probably a matter of cost it is still a little surprising that in world were you can buy DVDs of  Uta no Prince-sama you can’t do the same with Free!.

The biggest headscratcher has always been the fact that no one had ever got the rights to re-release Sailor Moon. It was one of the tent pole series in creating modern English-speaking anime fandom especially when it came to female fans. It was on TV in an extremely visible manner. It is clearly a series that still has a good deal of nostalgic cache. So as it has been out of print for a while the price of the old DVD release of the original series and R from ADV has gotten increasingly expensive and the older Sailor Moon S and Super S from Geneon have become insanely valuable. Sailor Moon Sailor Stars was only ever available as fan-subs. So the conventional wisdom was that anyone would wanted to make boatloads of sales just needed to get their hands on this property and just let it print money. The fact that no one had the series spoke more to the fact that something had to be happening behind the scenes. I have heard a dozen different rumors and theories. The Japanese licensor did not want the crazier parts of Sailor Stars to ruin the reputation of the brand, Naoko Takeuchi had near impossible demands, the Japanese producers wanted to release it themselves as opposed to going through a middle man in the U.S., or just that it was insanely expensive. Whatever the reason that was holding it back that seems to been cleared away with the imminent debut of the new Sailor Moon Crystal.

VIZ not only has the rights to Sailor Moon Crystal but they also releasing all the original series uncut. That is sort of a big deal.

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Ongoing Investigations: Case #231

hisui_icon_4040 Anomal by Nukuharu in an interesting little book from Gen Manga. As Kate had mentioned in the past, anthology books like this are hardly unheard of in Japan but we so rarely get them in English expect for extremely popular authors and usually only when demand for their work is not being sufficiently met by the number of titles currently on the market. This is from a generally unknown artist so it is more outside the box than most single author anthologies we get. Then again Gen Manga tends to do things that most manga publisher don’t do.

While we might not be in the grip of the Yokai Craze like in The Monstrous Turnabout case in Dual Destinies it is hard to ignore the number of Yokai related stories lately in anime and manga. Not all the stories have various Japanese monsters but the majority of the stories are focused around them. There is one story about a detective and his new partner that is a bit of a BL tease but other than that is all tales of spirits and demons. I guess the last story is about an alien but she feel more like a goddess or kami than an alien.

The stories about yokai tend to be on the lighter side of the spectrum. This is not the uber-dark tales of Requiem from the Darkness or even the moody heavyhearted feel of Mushishi. The best anime equivalent for the stories would be the Gingitsune: Messenger Fox of the Gods or Kamichu! anime. It is a little litter than Natsume Yuujincho, which can get fairly melancholy when it wants to, but the stories can have a bit of bite to them. That said is would say it is not more than a bit of an edge. They are at most the medium salsa of Yokai tales. They are a bit if zest to them but not the harsh burn of human critique like some spicier shows.

Other than maybe Ayakashi-nushi none of the stories here really felt like series that needed to be longer series. They came in, told their story, and then the closed the door on their way out. But with a short story book like this that is often for the best. Stories that overstay their welcome can be a real pain in book like these. Also in general Yokai tales lend themselves to one shots equally as well as long form stories. Even many long form yokai series are often small stories inside of a larger framework that mostly exists to tell those small stories.

Anomal is an interesting little curiosity. I can’t say that any of the stories were the strongest things I read this year but they are light, breezy,and fun. With only one book it is a pleasant one shot that can satisfy an itch for less than spooky stories with a nice bit of heart. They are more candy than a full meal. Sometimes that is exactly what you need.

narutaki_icon_4040 Anomal by Nukuharu was a rare treat I got in the mail, thanks Gen Manga! I liked the small format of this short story collection and it fit with the quiet but odd nature of the tales within. This collection features yokai or other supernatural elements in different settings and with very different main characters. Each also had various relationships as a focus. Even though it says horror on the back, none of the stories are super dire. In fact, some have a stronger comedy bent and I found these more successful.

The 3-part story Ayakashi-nushi made me laugh because their personalities were well realized. It is about a partnership between girl who finds yokai so cute she is always trying to hug them and a boy who has a demon in his blood. It had a bit of what we’ve come to expect from things like Natsume Yuujincho: a spirit has a problem and our lead helps resolve it while we get their little backstory in the process.

The Ongoing Investigations are little peeks into what we are watching, reading, or playing outside of our main blog posts. We each pick three things without much rhyme or reason; they are just the most interesting things since the last OI.

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Ongoing Investigations: Case #191

Rental Magica seems like a fairly solid premise to me. The anime is about a magical organization that hunts down case of abnormal magic in the modern age. It seems to have a decently eclectic number of magic users and the school of magic seem well researched. The original light novels were written by Makoto Sanda who worked on the original Record of Lodoss War series and is working on Red Dragon with several other artists. It really seems like something that would be in my wheelhouse. But sadly the actual show itself does not live up to its promise. The show itself in not really bad. In fact it is extremely inoffensive. It is just not really interesting as well. It is like plain rice with boiled tofu. It is not totally tasteless but at the same time it is hardly exciting.

The main problem is that characters don’t really have any spark to them. Itsuki Iba is the head of the Astral company and he is just a milquetoast weenie. The sort of guy that bland harem heroes push around. It does not help that his running shtick is that he passes out every episode. He has a magic eye that when unsealed makes him super competent but that moments are few and far between. And even then he is sort of boring when he is in Glam Eye mode. It does not help that Naruatki and I could not stop snickering when ever they said Glam Eye despite the fact that I know that Glamour is the name for faerie magic. The main girl is a mix of the childhood friend and the angry girl. Her Celtic Magic is fairly cool but it hardly makes her character interesting. The rest of the company is a cat obsessed Onmyoudou expert, a little Shinto Priestess, and their mysterious secretary. There is also a blonde foreign sorceress who uses the Key of Solomon. Again there is nothing wrong with using well-worn archetypes. But you have to breathe some life into them.

The stories have a spark of possible interest to them. You have haunted hospitals and cursed shires which have some good story seeds in them. But like that characters the potential is there but the execution never capitalizes on what is there. It’s never boring. It just never engages you like it needs to.

I will say the show is interestingly fan-service free. There are plenty of opportunities to flash some panties, have girls popping out of their uniforms, or walk in on people changing. But so far no boob grabs or learning cameras. It seems like the type of show that would revel in such tactics but oddly enough it keeps itself inline.

The main problem with Rental Magica is not that it is a hard show to hate. In fact I would say it is super hard to hate it. The problem is there is not much to love as well.

I recall watching the first episode of Rental Magica when it was first coming out in Japan and feeling very negative about it. Watching eps. 1-6 now, I found it rather inoffensive because the show is just rather bland more than bad.

Our lead hero, the president of Astral, is so unassuming that I’d forget he even existed if the girls didn’t make such a fuss over him. He is always fainting or getting injured, and when I say always I mean it. In these episodes he passes out at least seven times, falls off a bike, falls down a flight of stairs, breaks his leg, and I’m probably forgetting some stuff. This is supposed to make him incredibly noble and whatnot.

The two lead girls are more interesting. Honami working for Astral and Addie working for Goetia are rivals fighting for magical jobs. They are also both fighting for the love of Itsuki, I try to say this in the most monotone voice possible. I truly think the series missed its moment to shine by making this show about the love between these two rival witches instead. Their interactions have the most bite in the show.

Rental Magica comes from that era of anime that decided to broadcast its episode out of order, riding on the coattails of Haruhi. They of course do this without really thinking it through or with a greater reason for changing the order of things. Maybe it shows greater purpose for it later, but in these first episodes it is just confusing. There were no grand surprises because I didn’t know certain information or any “aha” moments. If I didn’t know about the broadcast order VS. chronological order, I would have thrown up my hands in frustration wondering why people didn’t know each other among other things.

There is nothing special about Rental Magica. The story, the characters, their interactions with each other, even the animation are all mediocre and unmemorable. Can’t hate it, but there is nothing to recommend here.

The Ongoing Investigations are little peeks into what we are watching and reading outside of our main posts on the blog. We each pick three things that we were interested in a week and talk a bit about them. There is often not much rhyme or reason to what we pick. They are just the most interesting things we saw since the last Ongoing Investigation.

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