Shelf Life
Witchy Woman

by Erin Finnegan, Apr 19th 2010

MoCCA Festival was a success! I saw almost everyone I know in New York City over the weekend. I sold some comics (not made by me) to kids. I got Kate Beaton to sign my book while I discussed Cheetos with the Wondermark guys.

Unfortunately, two convention weekends in a row mean that I've caught a cold. It's pretty unpleasant. I hope I get better by Wednesday, because April 21st is my birthday. I share my birthday with such diverse celebrities as Queen Elizabeth II, Iggy Pop, and Tony Danza. Just one day earlier and my birthday would fall on the deadly combination of Earth Day and Hitler's birthday.

Speaking of Hitler (Godwin's Law!!) I watched some World War II "alternate history" anime last weekend.

In Strike Witches, an elite group of young witches fight aliens in a World War II-era alternate universe. The witches fly thanks to technologically-advanced jet-boot things developed by the army, and are powered in part by their magic ability. We're introduced to the witches through the eyes of a 14-year-old Japanese girl as she gets recruited and travels to Britannia for training. Continental Europe is under alien control.

But wait, there's more! In this alternate universe, female army (air force?) officers don't wear skirts, or even pants. Instead, they just wear panties. (If you happen to hate the tyranny of pants, be sure to check out Daphne in the Brilliant Blue or Reign: The Conqueror.)

Also, when the witches activate their magic, they grow animal ears and tails. I got in trouble in my Spice and Wolf review for saying Holo may be of interest to furries. I didn't realize "nekomimi" was a thing. The Strike Witches are definitely nekomimi.

Let's pretend for a moment that the Strike Witches wore pants and didn't grow animal ears. Without those elements, this is almost a decent show. When the Strike Witches zoom through the sky, they are fueled by a higher budget than most anime series. The alternate history is interesting enough. The incidental music is shockingly good. Particularly during the naval scenes, the wartime ballads are charmingly patriotic.

Unfortunately I'm sure that if you cut out all the fetish-y stuff from each episode, this series would be half as long. Almost every episode features a bathing scene with the girls groping each other shouting about who has "grown". A little less groping and the war would be over a lot sooner.

Plus Strike Witches has cinematography about as delicate as the movie 300. I haven't read a Strike Witches script, but here's what I think episode nine's screenplay must look like:

COLD OPEN (before the credits)

EXT. SKY – EARLY MORNING

CLOSE-UP on a camel toe. We ZOOM OUT to reveal SANYA LITVYAK* flying back to the base, YAWNING.

SMASH CUT to the opening credits.

An infinite number of shots begin close-up on a character's underwear before panning up to her face.

Maybe I could still deal with Strike Witches, but in one of the later episodes it's revealed that witches start to lose their magic around age 20, just like Morning Musume. Up to that point, I just assumed that maybe there were no older witches because the war was going so badly. Maybe they were recruiting child soldiers out of desperation. Nope! I could almost deal with this show if the characters were older. Unfortunately, teenagers with low self-esteem get fetishized and I find that offensive.

Nevertheless I found this less offensive than Popotan because at least the characters are pubescent. Strike Witches gets points for not being a 30-minute ad for an erotic videogame starring an elementary school student. At least Strike Witches has a conclusion within the anime series, so you don't have to play the game to find out how it ends. Rin ~Daughters of Mnemosyne~ got higher marks from me for having a sexually mature protagonist.

Strike Witches is a bit like Hetalia; each character represents a different country. They aren't anthropomorphic personifications but they are representatives. Charlotte, the American, has the largest breasts. Francesca, from "Romagna", is the darker-skinned character who sleeps in the trees. Like a little monkey, she's carrying on a racist trend from Su in Love Hina and Tanya Natdhipytadd in Battle Athletes.

No one has sex in Strike Witches or Hetalia. (If these virgin girls had sex they wouldn't be pure, would they?) That is left up to the collective fan imagination as they pen doujinshi in Japan, and/or write a lot of fanfiction Stateside and make music videos about various "OTP" couples.[TOP]

As for the next show, my OTP in Slayers is Gourry and Lina Inverse.

Slayers has become a Lupin the Third-like institution in Japan, with dozens of TV movies. This is the fourth Slayers TV series. I've only seen the 3/4ths of the first season of the original Slayers, and I own it, because it's quite good. I've heard some of The Slayers movies are good, although I've never seen them. I'd like to read some Slayers light novels if they were available in English. I assume it would be like reading the Dragonlance series, which is to say that Slayers is heavily based on old-school RPG gaming.

In case you're totally unfamiliar with it, Lina Inverse is a high level mage with a Chaotic alignment. She's infamous for her excessively destructive "Dragon Slave" spell. Slayers Revolution plays up Lina's fame; "being Lina Inverse" has become a crime. Lina gets arrested by Wizer, the Zenigata of Slayers. (He's voiced by Akio Ohtsuka in Japanese, who has been in everything, but I probably remember him as Black Jack or Batou from Ghost in the Shell.) I wouldn't mind if the rest of the series was all legal proceedings, like some kind of Phoenix Wright Slayers crossover. Unfortunately, Wizer gets dragged into the adventure for the first half of this set.

All of the old familiar characters are back!! …which would be exciting if you knew who they were. No time is spent developing Zelgadis, Amelia, or Xellos for a new audience. This season stands alone fairly well, but you'll enjoy it more if you're already familiar with the characters.

The first half of the series is spent chasing around a little Pokémon-looking monster with a cape who happens to be a powerful spell caster. The second half is spent trying to stop a huge demon monster from destroying kingdom after kingdom, leading up to a battle to save Amelia's kingdom. It's kind of like the stinky Clash of the Titans remake I just saw.

If a TV series is only as good as its strongest villain, Slayers Revolution really drops the ball. We're introduced to a half-tiger man and given his reasons for wanting to destroy the kingdoms in question. Unfortunately his moral compass is broken. Even after he finds out the truth about the plague that killed his kingdom, the tiger-man continues ransacking with his demon, and justifies it with total bullshit. His ending is pretty ridiculous, too. It's way too happy, even for a comedy series.

Slayers Revolution is pretty tame. It's squarely in the middle of the rental shelf. At least it's dubbed. It was dubbed in New York City, at Michael Sinterniklaas's studio. Sinterniklaas plays Xellos in this, and he was also the voice of Leonardo for the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series (2002-2009 RIP). Plus, he's Dean Venture.

Voice actors take note; just once, in anime, I'd like to hear the characters say the following things:

"I will immediately forgive you for this!" "Let's give it our second-best. Let's hold back a little, guys!" "This will only work if we split up and try to accomplish our goals individually!"[TOP]

In Yozakura Quartet, everyone must try their hardest to accomplish something, and by god if they work together I think they're going to win.

I read four volumes of this manga series (and reviewed two of them) before I saw the anime adaptation. I stand by my opinion that Suzuhito Yasuda is a great character designer (Durarara!!), and a good illustrator, but because Yozakura Quartet is his first manga, it's really hard to follow. The anime is a great improvement on the manga series, since it fixes the pacing problems.

Hime is the teenage mayor of Sakurashin, a very special town where humans and demons live together in peace. Hime is a demon herself, the heiress of a ruling demon clan. She was forced to take over at a young age when the previous mayor, her grandmother, died. Hime runs the Office of Life Counseling with a few other demons, and one human, Akina, who has the power to "tune" demons "into the next world".

I put that in quotes because halfway through Akina begins to question his exorcist powers. Is he killing the demons? Does it hurt to be tuned? His family has been in charge of tuning demons for generations and have never questioned the consequences.

I am usually bored out of my skull by anime demons (unless that demon is the Overfiend, who is alarmingly un-boring). Anything with an exorcist character usually has me rolling my eyes. I also hate super heroes as a rule. It is surprising, in that case, that I am drawn to Yozakura Quartet, where the demon characters essentially have super powers.

Ao can read minds with her cat ears. Kotoha is a "kotomo" who can conjure objects with words. Hime has super strength, dragon staff skills, tsundere skills, and zettai ryouiki socks. She also wears a really long scarf like Romana II. I think that Hime and Kotoha are pretty hot. I can't decide which one I like best, but Hime gets more of my love since she's not obsessed with the German military.

I was a tad disappointed by this show, because the crux of the plot is that Hime is a stubborn character who wants to be able to protect the town on her own. She wants to be strong enough to fight off anything, but she keeps getting beaten up by evil demons and her friends have to rescue her. She feels really bad about it and we even see her cry towards the end. I identify with Hime and her stubborn independence, so I didn't want to see her cry, and I wanted to see her kick ass by herself.

Yozakura Quartet is very Japanese, and not just because the characters need to work together to win. There are more cultural notes than I expected. The characters are yokai and "land gods" and Japanese style ogres. The seven giant pillars that surround Sakurashin turn out to be giant magic cherry trees straddling our world and the demon world. In a key scene, Hime meets the town elders in a striped outdoor tent, which I wouldn't be familiar with if I hadn't seen the movie Ran. (By the way, you need to see Ran before you die.)

It isn't dubbed, the release isn't fancy, and there are no extras. At least the whole series comes in one box, and ends on a satisfying note. If you find this at a reasonable price for your personal budget and it sounds remotely interesting, you might as well buy it. I wanted to like this series more, but it didn't knock off my thigh-high socks (so to speak).[TOP]

Last night I tried tamagozake to clear my sinuses. My Japanese teacher said it tastes gross, but anything with that much sugar doesn't taste that bad. In any case, I don't think it worked.

* Sanya is the Strike Witches equivalent of Snoozer from Hamtaro.

No Shelf Obsessed this week, but keep 'em coming! Send your jpgs to shelflife at animenewsnetwork dot com.


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