Wixoss 2-3, Nisekoi 14, Captain Earth and Mahouka 2

Selector Infected WIXOSS is turning into an interesting series.

Yuzuki is losing her cool.
Yuzuki is losing her cool.

I’m still wondering why so-and-so is getting another attack when it should be whozit’s turn, and so forth, but overall they’re doing a good job of explaining the game rules on the fly so we can get into the flow of battle without infodumps. And so we get to concentrate on the characters rather than the strategy. So we watch as Akira basically goads Yuzuki into losing her cool, and thus the game, rather than seeing the little figures duke it out. We don’t even need to see the last bit of that battle to know how it would turn out. We also see the flaws in Yuzuki’s “straightforward” approach (compared with Hitoe’s preparation and analysis without practical experience), and lament that sad wish of hers, which will cause much pain in later episodes.

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Even better is the Hitoe/Ruuko battle, between two girls who want to like each other, because it leads to a difficult question that the game rules don’t explain. If Hitoe doesn’t get her wish, will she never be able to make a friend? That’s a cruel penalty! What does that say about Ruuko, who wants to be her friend anyway? Would that break some universal game law? While we (and Ruuko) are pondering that we also have Hitoe’s belief that losing for her sake would cheapen the wish. Well, it’s an honest but dumb wish to begin with … so’s Yuzuki’s come to think of it. We also see Ruuko’s card “evolve” after that one match, while Akira gets upset because all her wins aren’t getting her avatar anywhere at all. No wonder Piruruku looks at her like that … Does this mean evolving to get wishes depends on being good and decent to people, as the show is implying so far? Too soon to tell. But when you add Akira’s rage and that other girl Iona’s rivalry with her, we have a show that’s developing very nicely. An interesting story with decent characters and concepts.

Nisekoi 14 … Oboy, Raku`s got another girl now.

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If you count Tsugumi that`s four now. Chitoge is only pretending to like him but is growing to like him anyway. Tsumugi flat out claims not to like him but is coming around. Onodera liked him from the start but is too shy to go after him. And now Marika/Marie comes in and practically takes him without a fight. Well, so far. And while I don’t like the way Marika steamrolls everyone else to get her way, I will admit it made for a fun episode, at least the first half. You knew the moment she hugged Raku that not only the main characters but everyone in the school would have a reaction, especially the boys. Then the ante is upped when Marika calls in her strike force, yeah, good scene. The second half wasn’t as good because it followed the “everyone follows the couple on their date” rules, but it did get some information about this whole situation out in open, though not all of it. Still, there were times when I wanted to bring them all together with their keys, and see which one actually fits. But then we wouldn’t have a story, would we?

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Back to the new shows. Captain Earth feels more routine that last week, but the story is still decent and has enough mysteries that I’m intrigued. The first part is the usual “boy pilots a mecha for the first time and is getting his butt kicked” situation, when Peter Westvillage (not bad for a generic European name) calls on a weird girl to help guide him, and soon the tables are turned. Well, it’s interesting because he actually did the hit, thanks to his power-up, and the girl just pushed the right buttons to make his attack work. Daichi didn’t seem to mind, but he doesn’t mind a hell of a lot in this series so far.

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Back on Earth it gets more interesting when we see Teppei and that girl, named Hana, in the clutches of some asshole with glasses who forces them to wear pain-headsets and gets creepy around Hana. Daichi seems them too, but doesn’t make the connection when he is about to run off with them for some fun and they’re suddenly clutching their heads. Hard to tell what’s in Daichi’s head. In contrast, we see the evil guys and their earth connection, Kube, I believe, debate whether THEIR young superpowered kids have too much freedom. I’ll leave it to them to decide, but I hope the show isn’t going to be a big metaphor about how to raise your children. Well, Daichi gets a clue and pulls off a ridiculous superpower move at the end and now Teppei and Hana are free, at least for now. But I’m not thrilled about how the show got him to that point. He gets it put on (why?) and then zap, he dumps it. Weird kid, or he wanted to experience it for himself, maybe.

Tatsuya as tsundere.
Tatsuya as tsundere.

Still not sure about Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei, which I’ll call Mahouka from here on out. We start with the aftermath of the fight in the schoolyard with Mayumi and Mari intervening, duels delayed for now, fine and dandy, but after that it turns into a magicbabble dump as they walk home from school. The next day the siblings are called in by the Student Council and we get a studentcouncildump. For all the magic everyone’s got and potentials for violence, this is not the most exciting scenes I’ve ever seen. It gets better when Miyuki is asked to join the SC and she says she wants Tatsuya in as well, because we’re finally watching characters at work and not babbling. A loophole is found letting Tatsuya join the discipline committee, which sounds like a pain in the ass but we’ll get more fights that way, but one of the resident snobbish jerks objects, and there’s a duel. If this show is going to be about Tatsuya navigating the waters of high school castes, I’m going to drop it.

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8 thoughts on “Wixoss 2-3, Nisekoi 14, Captain Earth and Mahouka 2

  1. The show isn’t about Tatsuya navigating around High School Caste. Hardly that – there’s no way in hell a LN could keep selling on that premise for 13 Volumes. The real story is about an emotionally Lobotomized human Weapon of Mass Destruction effectively enslaved to his sister, though not out of the choice of each other. You saw abit of the mass destruction at the start – a very small bit.

    The real story is that of a transhuman dystopia, where Transhuman clans plot against one another and within each other, and where children are mere pawns on the board to be bartered and traded for family interests. The real story is that of a reflection of Japanese Nationalistic insecurity (the first few seconds of Mahouka was about this). The real story is about a boy rejected from his family because of his lack of what Mahouka formally defines magic as, in exchange for very unique sets of powers. Navigating around the Castes of magical Society, and the Caste of a Post Apocalyptic International System is a more accurate description. What you see here is just a microcosm of much larger issues.

    But that story wouldn’t emerge within the first three episodes – Mahouka is very formulaic for the first two volumes, and even up to the fourth to fifth volume. But by the fifth volume, it starts to become obvious that Mahouka is very much a dystopia by our standards.

    And there in lies the whole problem. Mahouka takes too long to break out of the mold via Anime adaptation, and is a very intensely world-building centric story in the first few volumes. By the point Mahouka goes beyond and not just tell, but show how grim, and how unlike the world of Mahouka is to our modern eyes – with it’s intensely eugenic culture, which the High School is just a very petty reflection off, half a season at least would pass in the adaptation. For readers of the Light Novels , that’s fine, since you could clear two volumes in a few hours, if you are a fast reader.

    But for anime viewers, that’s unacceptable – even though, they are burning through most of the first volume in two episodes, which seems to be suggesting they are trying to rush the earlier, weaker, more cliche arcs away. Mahouka is never going to past the three episode test. The twelve episode test yes, the three episode test, never – if Mahouka was not a LN, but a Shounen manga, it’ll probably have reached the 200 chapter mark by now (even though most of Mahouka’s themes fit Seinen demographic stories better). Mahouka’s eight volume fairly convincingly explains why the two Main characters are the way they are, but that’s so far out that the anime might never get there.

    • Based on what you’ve written, then, it would be a mistake to drop this series after just a couple of episodes. Fair enough, it sounds a lot more interesting than it’s let on so far, so I’ll be patient with it.

      But I’m worried. If they’re rushing the early bits to get to juicier anime material, will they compress or rip up many of the later story arcs, good or bad? How much should we trust the creators to recognize the good and rush through the bad?

      • “will they compress or rip up many of the later story arcs, good or bad.”

        It depends. Mahouka does have quite abit of bloat in the earlier arcs, usually the sort of usual formulaic pandering that LNs do to sell copies, although it is often subverted, often to introduce the themes I’ve explained. And later volumes tend to subvert the pandering much more often, or even do away with the usual LN pandering. The “pandering” aspects of Tatsuya and Miyuki is one of the biggest subversion. of them all.

        The problem, is whether the directors will choose to focus on the subversive aspects of the pandering, or will choose to minimize the subversive aspects of the pandering in favor of paying undue emphasis on the more traditional sort of cliches that Early Mahouka posses.

        And this is why I often regard LN to anime adaptations with a good deal of dread – animes have this nasty habit of botching many LN adaptations, as compared to manga, for many reasons. The risk is that Mahouka pulls an Infinite Stratos II, gives the middle finger to the later story arcs because these arcs involve a diminishing use of pandering, and butchers them completely to try to cling to the comfort of formulaic pandering.

        Even when the source material has long reduced its reliance on such devices, or subverts them with increasing frequency. I’ve posted on a few places before in the weeks before Mahouka aired, that this was the outcome I feared the most for the adaptation.

        However, because Mahouka is 2 Cours, if they are rushing the first arc, it suggest that the directors want to devote more time to the later arcs, which seems to imply that they recognize what made Mahouka the LN sell above the hordes of cliche LNs even without the anime.

        It’s actually a good sign, given that the consensus among LN readers is that the first arc was the worst – Mahouka never became as bad as the first arc, unlike the catastrophic ALO Arc in the second half of SAO. I have to concur – I dropped Mahouka when I read the first volume the first time round – I didn’t last three chapters. But I notice there’s a trend that LNs tend to improve with every volume, so when I started with Mahouka again, I skipped several volumes first (and of course, the price of this was that alot of references sailed past me).

        I can think of several possible risky spots where the adaptation could be butchered. The biggest risk, IMO, is when they arrive at the Fifth Volume, the summer arc, because that’s one of the last times Mahouka has, a volume made out of a large proportion of LN Cliche Pandering stories, although many of these “pandering” stories come with their own set of subversion that highlights the dystopian elements of Mahouka’s world- sometimes within the story, sometimes at the end of the story. And sometimes, the dystopian elements come up in critical conversations whose contents, and the way they are delivered has connotations we’d consider disturbing from a modern eye – the end of Volume 4 had one such conversation. To me, if Mahouka the anime shows very bad judgement with Volume 5, I’d be very afraid how Mahouka would execute it’s final two arcs.

        But will Mahouka’s adaptation be butchered? I don’t know, but the more time they have for the later arcs, certainly, the less likely things would be butchered. The fundamental problem of LN adaptations is that rather than expansion (which Mangas usually can afford), LN adaptations involve omissions, and that’s where so much of the risk emerges from. Minimizing time spent on the early volumes (at least the first two volumes) in a way is a sign of what the adaptation chooses to omit. To make things more difficult, Mahouka is monologue and exposition heavy. Animes often screw up those two. Thankfully, Mahouka is two cours – so many shows have been screwed over by the “One Cour syndrome” , where pacing goes to hell because of the limits of one cour (Maou Yuusha is one good example of the one cour syndrome).

        But I don’t think you’d like the next episode that much – we are still in LN Volume 1 territory, the least readable chapters in all of Mahouka. It’s going to fail quite alot of people’s three episode test, sadly. I hope that volume ends in 1 episode, I can see it ending in 2 if they really prioritize things badly, and odds are, we’ll get 1 and a half.

        I’ve seen people put forth convincing cases that Mahouka will cover the first 8 volumes, and I would have to concur that it’s likely. However, it could just as easily end with Volume 7, in which case, the subversion of Tatsuya and Miyuki’s relationship isn’t fully executed. Still, because the opening scene likely comes from Volume 8, they may well end with Volume 8, to make a good bookend to the adaptation. Volume 8 itself is partly an epilogue to Volume 7, partly the set-up for the next three volumes, and partly a flashback.

        Mahouka’s problems, as with most LNs written by newly published authors, is that it frontloads with the very worst material. Hence, the very poor first impressions in the blogosphere. Had they actually decided to start with the flashback sequences of Volume 8, and tell the story behind the introductory scene fully before going to Volume 1, the first impression reception will likely be better, though what we might get in reviews at season end: promising beginning, shockingly bad follow up, and (possibly) gradual recovery.

      • Sounds like you’re basically saying that no one knows yet; maybe they’re speeding through the first arc because it’s bad, or maybe they’re speeding because they’re going to speed everything. But it sounds like they had options (flashbacks) to avoid this first arc if they could. On the other hand, the LN have a high reputation and a following of fans with expectations, so maybe they decided not to screw around with the order of things. Your guess is as good as mine.

        I met a guy who did NOT have a high opinion of the LN, but the only anime he’s watching this season is JoJo, so I’m not sure I should trust him.

  2. I kind of like that Daichi in Captain Earth seems so chill about everything. I mean, I assume there’ll be some internal character conflict somewhere down the line, or this would probably make for a fairly bad and/or dull series, but his cheerfully calm persona (thus far at least) makes for a nice change after the sort of character that audiences have now no doubt come to expect from these types of mecha shows – angsty, whiny, emotionally frail, etc. In contrast, I think that Daichi is a nice refresher.

    • Considering how he takes everything in stride, I wonder if those dad-genes are at work. I also like how the older relative in this show actually worries about him, unlike Gendou. The kid doesn’t have the same abandonment issues Shinji had. But I hope they don’t make him too much a supremely competent lead. They’re boring. Shiroe being the exception.

  3. Peter S :
    Sounds like you’re basically saying that no one knows yet; maybe they’re speeding through the first arc because it’s bad, or maybe they’re speeding because they’re going to speed everything. But it sounds like they had options (flashbacks) to avoid this first arc if they could. On the other hand, the LN have a high reputation and a following of fans with expectations, so maybe they decided not to screw around with the order of things. Your guess is as good as mine.
    I met a guy who did NOT have a high opinion of the LN, but the only anime he’s watching this season is JoJo, so I’m not sure I should trust him.

    They can’t completely avoid animating the First Arc, but they didn’t have to animate the First LN arc as the first anime arc. Personally, I think if they shown how Tatsuya and Miyuki’s relationship came to be, the Incest vibes would be read in a very different light. One analogy might be how Madoka Magica’s opening episode, once seen from the lens of Episode 10, elicits a very different response.

    Part of the problem of judging LNs though, is that the writing quality and sometimes, sophistication of a given LN tends to improve with later volumes. It’s very easy to condemn Mahouka if you barely survived the first two volumes and dropped it. I also think that the perception of Mahouka depends on whether you can buy some premises of the plot – that Mahouka touches alot on Transhuman themes, that Mahouka has many dystopian elements, and that our two main characters are rather… disturbed characters that don’t operate on the logic of modern, familiar society. The LN is very unashamed at proclaiming that it’s a dystopia – here’s a sample line that wouldn’t spoil anything:

    “Furthermore, after 2030 AD, the Earth had noticeably cooled, which was then accompanied by the ensuing food shortage. Caused by the infighting for food and resources, the Third World War became a powerful impetus for the development of Magicians – to the point that basic human rights, a core pillar of society, were abandoned.”

    When the Introductory exposition of one of Mahouka’s Volume tells you that human rights have been flushed out of the window in Mahouka’s world, it’s more or less trumpeting that it’s set and aims to convey a dystopia, and implicitly promising to show that Mahouka’s world is a dystopia. Perhaps it’s a personal assessment, but I think Mahouka does a good job at demonstrating it, often in subtle ways, both in earlier volumes, but even better in later volumes. It’s inviting you to judge it by how well it executes dystopia.

    I guess it’s looking back from hindsight, and being aware that Mahouka is a dystopia, but that probably affects my reading of the Bloom-Weed situation – it’s just one minor manifestation of dystopian elements in Mahouka. Whether or not you find Mahouka a good dystopia (or an example of the pitfalls of writing a dystopia) is probably a better way of approaching Mahouka, than the echo-chamber that Mahouka is a power-fantasy, which leads to very repetitive criticisms. I am not denying it could be both at the same time, and if it’s both, then a Power-fantasy in a Dystopia, which is normally associated with powerlessness is a fascinating contrast.

    TLDR : Mahouka is a dystopia, just more indirect, than say, Psycho Pass, Brave New World, 1984, We, etc, etc , and therefore should be judged on whether it’s a well done dystopia.

    No-one would ever know how an Anime would turn out, at the 3rd Episode, if it’s 24 episodes. To use a frequent point of comparison, it wasn’t obvious how sharply SAO’s quality would dip past the first Cour, even after the third episode. Sure, there were worrying signs – omissions of what goes on inside the characters head was one big hint.

    Although, here’s something to consider – part of what gave the LN it’s reputation, were the internal monologues and thought processes we got from the characters, depending on who’s PoV the story focused on. And judging by the forums and blogs, LN readers seem to be most upset at the omission of certain internal monologues, regarding the third episode. Mahouka is one of those stories that build up it’s characters by giving the audience a peak into the mind of its characters, rather than just the actions and words of the characters alone. Animes struggle to execute such stories if they were written in text – the fact that Monogatari and Haruhi successfully adapted the Internal worldview of their characters so vividly in anime format is quite likely the reason why Monogatari and Haruhi were regarded as brilliant adaptations.

  4. Most of this latest comment (and thanks for it!) is speculation about how they’re going to go about adapting these novels to a weekly dramatic work, and the only answer I can make is “We’ll see.” Right now it appears to be a straightforward anime show with some of the trappings anime viewers enjoy these days, such as the bro/sis aspect, high school, etc. If I was cynical I would say that it’s not a good sign, that they chose this show for adaptation because they hoped to pander to the hardcore otaku. If I was more optimistic I would say they they’re interested in the same things in the LN that you and I would be interested in.

    As for internal monologues, that’s hard to do while keeping the flow of the scene going, and I can’t blame them for not trying. The Monogatari franchise is a completely different beast. As for Kyon, they used his internal monologues as well as I can imagine, but even there, there are still moments where everything going on in the scene comes to a standstill because Kyon is voicing his thoughts to us.

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