BHS Blogress Report: 2016, Week 45

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  • Tasakeru Book II Chapter 6: 4 pages done
  • Tasakeru Book I Appendix: Complete!
  • Shattered Skies Chapter 21: 4.5 pages done
  • Photo projects: Resumed

I just got through with a half-hour of phone banking. It would have been more, but after a dozen disconnected numbers in a row, I got somewhat discouraged. Thank heaven all of this will be over tomorrow, one way or another.

I'm actually almost finished taking the shots I need for the magical girl group photo project! A lot of progress was made this week, and by my count, there are three more group shots left... after that, I can start editing and adding the background and lighting effects. Here, enjoy another preview below. Pardon the pixels, I don't want to spoil too much. XD

MGGroupPreview by bhsdesk

VDrake and I have started a new anime based on the recommendation of Liam-sama from the esteemed Super Best Friends Play. The way he described it made it sound like the Gurren Lagann to Madoka Magica's Evangelion, so naturally I was eager to check it out. The series is called Flip Flappers, and... and I really don't know what else to say other than that. It's got some of the most gorgeous animation I've seen in a TV anime since One Punch Man, and it's definitely a magical girl show of some sort, but beyond that? I've seen comparisons to Alice in Wonderland floating around, and while most things that get compared to Alice are just pleasantly quirky and eccentric, in this case it's actually warranted. Flip Flappers is BIZARRE, with great sections of each episode composed of borderline-hallucinogenic imagery. Five episodes in, and I'm still not sure exactly what the series is about... there's two girls, Cocona and Papika, with superpowers and flashy transformations, they work for an organization called Flip Flap, they travel through incredibly strange worlds called "Pure Illusion" that don't seem to operate by any sort of logic or rational sense, and they have some kind of nebulously-defined goal and equally nebulously-defined antagonists along the way. Other than that, it's all up for grabs.

In case it's not clear, though, I'm absolutely giving Flip Flappers my approval. Batshit bonkers it may be, but one gets the sense that there is some purpose behind it all, and just trying to figure out the symbolism in each episode is enough to keep me watching. That, and like I said, the art is absolutely gorgeous. I may not always (if ever) understand what's going on, but it's always amazing to look at. I'll be recording more of my thoughts as it develops.

One of the other magical girl series this season, however, has sadly veered in a direction that's rapidly killing my interest. Magical Girl Raising Project had potential to be something different from the tide of dark magical girl series that followed Madoka, but at around the halfway point I have to say that it's missing what made Madoka special. What follows will be filled with frank discussion of *SPOILERS*, so read no further if you're watching MGRP blind.

Part of it is my fault: while browsing TVTropes, I accidentally got spoiled on what's going to happen in the rest of MGRP's first arc. That's happened before and hasn't deterred me from finishing a series, but in this case, unless the anime goes in a totally different direction from what I saw, then seeing it to its conclusion is going to be an ugly and depressing affair. Here's the distinction: Madoka Magica was cruel and violent to its characters, and one could argue it was nihilistic (in the actual sense of the word, not the "everything is meaningless so there's no point in anything" misconception), but it wasn't cynical. It could be cruel, but not pessimistic. Madoka never lost hope, no matter how dark things got, and that was the message of the whole thing.

MGRP's main character, Snow White... isn't going that route. The spoilers I saw and the events of the anime's most recent episodes indicate that she's yet another tragic naif who starts out too pure for the world and eventually sinks into the filth with everyone else. Her best friend La Pucelle, a character with massive untapped potential, was viciously murdered for no reason at all other than sadism. Unlike Mami's death, which was a much-needed slap in the face to the audience to establish what the stakes really were, La Pucelle's death doesn't tell us anything we didn't already know. We knew that the "game" is rigged, that the stakes are deadly, that their killer is a violent psychopath. I read that La Pucelle's death in the books was never described in detail; it cuts from the impending fight with Cranberry to the news of their brutal death several days later. That I could have dealt with. The anime took a different route: it showed the full, sickening brutality of the fight, to the extent that I actually felt ill watching it. And then we get Snow White wallowing in despair afterward... until she's interrupted by another magical girl who gets decapitated in front of her by the seemingly harmless Magicaloid 44... who then dies gruesomely when the not-quite-dead first one shoves her hand through her "killer's" chest, to Snow White's further trauma.

I've said it before: Madoka wouldn't have been nearly as meaningful without the final episode's uplift, without its message of hope in the midst of despair. Again, based on what I've read, there's no uplift in store for Snow White: after she learns the truth of the rigged game and the villains responsible are dealt with, she becomes a bitter antihero who ruthlessly hunts down and kills "rogue" magical girls so that what happened to her friends never happens again. There's no closure, no catharsis, just an emotionally-scarred girl forced into a miserable life of killing other girls. There isn't even the satisfaction of the villain(s) having decent motives: Cranberry snapped after a slaughter when she was young and became obsessed with fighting and killing stronger and stronger opponents, and wannabe-Kyubey Fav just went along with it because he was bored with the status quo. Don't get me wrong, that's horrible, but not at all in the way that Kyubey was. Kyubey was terrifying because his thought processes were genuinely alien... his kind arguably had a good cause, but were incapable of understanding why what they were doing was monstrous. Whereas Fav is just, for lack of a better term, a dick. A dick for the sake of being a dick.

So what's the point? What's the message? That the world is a sad, cruel place where it's kill-or-be-killed and idealism is pointless? Don't stop the presses. If I wanted that kind of relentless pessimism, I'd go watch Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, or any other of the thousands of series where the "heroes" are barely separate from the villains. Madoka is special in that the heroine overcomes evil without becoming it (at least in the original series... until the next movie comes out and clarifies things, Rebellion's position on that subject is still up in the air). MGRP wants to be like Madoka, but it only emulates PMMM on the surface level: the cutesy veneer, the violence, the darkness, and the cruelty, but without the substance.

Call me old-fashioned, but I just plain don't truck with that worldview. There's too much living in utter misery in the real world already, I don't need it in my fiction too. I haven't decided if I'll continue watching MGRP or not, but right now the scale is leaning toward "not". I think these days, with the world being what it is, we need more idealism, or at least anti-nihilism, to show people that things can be better.

- BHS

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