Once upon a time, the toy company Mattel had a brilliant idea to sell Barbie dolls. The plan was to produce a series of movies that would star Barbie as the main character, and it worked! It started with Barbie in the Nutcracker in 2001 and Mattel continued to churn out at least a movie per year until 2017, at which point they decided to try producing a live-action movie.
The fourth movie in the animated, direct-to-video franchise was Barbie as the Princess and the Pauper, and it was my absolute favorite of the lot. I had the dolls, the horse, the carriage, my sister and I even dressed up as Erika and Anneliese for Halloween. I love this movie. And in honor of the fact that I am a lot older and I can still enjoy this movie, I would like to list ten great things about this movie.
All of the Little Things.
There are a ton of little details put in here that I absolutely adore. From little lines that the characters say, to lyrics that just resonate, to the background characters each looking distinct, to the expressions that the characters have in each scene. It breathes life into a movie that maybe didn’t really call for it. Plus, I tend to latch on to these little things, so yeah.
The Animated Bloopers
There is no reason that they had to do this. It’s more work for literally everyone, but they did it anyway. And they are really funny. Preminger admires himself in a mirror, Serafina resists being catapulted onto the roof of the cottage, and Wolfie falls into the bathtub. My favorite one, however, is the one where Julian starts dancing in the middle of “To Be a Princess.”
So, you may have noticed that Anneliese wears pink and Erika wears blue. I know, it’s super subtle, very hard to miss. But I think these colors were chosen for more reasons than just “well it’s a Barbie movie, we have to have pink. And what’s the opposite of pink? Blue of course.”
Nah, son. Colors all have a ton of meaning, and they can give us insight into the characters that the dialogue might not be able to spend much time on. So, in totally broad strokes, pink is the color of femininity, friendship, and romance, but it is also the color of selfless love, affection, and approachability. All qualities that you can easily associate with Anneliese. Blue is a symbol of freedom, imagination, loyalty, and intelligence, all of which you can apply to Erika and Julian. Dominick usually wears red, a color that denotes love, power, energy, and emotional intensity. The Queen and Preminger are both clothed in purple. It symbolizes royalty, luxury, ambition, and wealth. Even the shades they wear have meaning. The light purple on the Queen is romantic and nostalgic, and Preminger’s dark purple is more gloomy and frustrating.
It’s just… I love the use of colors on the characters. It is pretty spot on for what the characters are and what they want, and the costumes were also very pleasant to look at.
While in most Barbie-related media, the animal sidekicks are the least interesting and most annoying part of the entire movie, in this one they serve a purpose that directly connects to the plot and final conflict of the characters. The two main animal sidekicks are Serafina, Anneliese’s kitty, who has a very regal and elegant, yet playful personality. Wolfie, who belongs to Erika, is more rascally, chivalrous, and basically just a really cool dork. Both are loyal to their ladies and genuinely seem to care about what happens to them. They contrast Preminger’s black poodle Midas, who is very conceited and materialistic. There’s also a really awesome horse named Herve, and he is basically just the best. He’s an old horse that just wants to help and ultimately saves the day. The animals have character depth and growth, which is absolutely fantastic.
The animal side plot is directly connected with the main plot, but doesn’t detract from it. Serafina and Wolfie become friends after Wolfie saves Serafina from Midas, which is how we learn that Wolfie barks instead of meows. Herve helps Serafina on to the roof of the house that Anneliese is trapped in, where she later helps the princess escape and ride off with Herve. This is also the scene where Serafina learns that Preminger can’t be trusted. Midas catches Serafina when she sneaks into the castle on Anneliese’s behalf, which leads to the princess getting caught again. Herve goes to find Wolfie because Serafina is in danger, then Wolfie digs a hole and reveals a mine shaft which saves the royal couple and their cat. Finally, Herve brings Preminger back to the wedding after he tries to run away, which leads to Preminger’s arrest. It’s almost like they’re the actual protagonists, since they propel the plot, whereas the girls mostly have to respond to their situations.
Finally, I really like that the animals can’t talk to the humans. They speak in their own animal language. I think this is the first of the Barbie movies that did this, and I really enjoy this touch.
Anneliese isn’t Deviant
Princess Anneliese loves SCIENCE~ In the opening scenes, we are shown that Anneliese loves science and is very inquisitive, which she later “uses” to save her people. The best part? Where most movies or books would portray this interest of hers as deviant or something to be erased or not princessy enough, this never even comes up. I love this. Science-loving girls are just as needed as musical or artsy girls, and that is a powerful statement to make.
So… there’s this thing I’ve been noticing in children’s media recently. They really like having comedic villains, that way they don’t give your kids nightmares. So they make them act funny and do ridiculous things, like tapdance. Here’s the thing, those villains usually aren’t very threatening to the heroes. So, why should they be scared of this dandy and his little doggy?
Because while Preminger is funny to the audience with his butt-shaped hair, platform shoes, and flamboyant personality, he is genuinely threatening to the protagonists. He successfully endears himself to the royal family, captures and contains Princess Anneliese twice, and convinces the queen that the only way to save her kingdom is to marry him. He nearly obtains all the power he desires. To the characters, he doesn’t seem like the obvious bad guy.
He is motivated and dangerous, and smart, while still looking and sounding ridiculous. He is basically my go-to example of how to do a comedic villain right.
The Themes of the Movie
So, there’s this song it’s called “Free” and it’s the first song of the movie. It sets up a lot of things in the movie. Firstly, it tells you what the characters want, and what’s stopping them from getting what they want. And secondly, it outlines some of the major themes that are explored over the course of the film.
Freedom, responsibility, friendship, self-acceptance, and balance.
The first one is kind of obvious. Anneliese and Erika both want the freedom to do what they want. Anneliese wants to explore and go on adventures, and Erika wants to escape the confines of her warden and travel around the world. They are prevented from just going and doing this because of their responsibilities. Anneliese has to marry to save her kingdom, so she can’t marry Julian and run away to some far away island with him, and Erika has to stay with Madame Carp to repay her debt to her. They find true friendship with each other because of these, and that helps to save the day. Ultimately, the solution is to find balance between freedom and responsibility.
Self-acceptance is the most flimsy of the themes and is mostly exemplified through Wolfie, who tries to meow at one point, and Erika convinces him to just be himself. I guess they could have done more with this, but I don’t think it would have added anything to the story. It was probably just there because that’s what all movies did in the early 2000s.
This was the very first musical that the Barbie franchise did, and OMG the music is amazing! Each of the songs moves the story along, usually by explaining where the characters are emotionally, but occasionally advances the plot. Most of them are also supremely catchy and will be stuck in your head forever. That said, the harmonies and melodies in “Free” and “I Am a Girl Like You” are beautiful. “How Can I Refuse?” is not my favorite song, at all, but it’s pretty fun, and that phrase will never leave my head. “To Be a Princess” is really fun and bouncy. “The Cat’s Meow” is really cute, though not very strong, neither is “If You Love Me for Me” for that matter. They’re pretty forgettable. And “Written in Your Heart” is really pretty.
I’m not an expert with music by any means, but I do appreciate a good score. Princess and the Pauper has an effective score. When they aren’t stealing from Nutcracker or Swan Lake, they use instrumental versions of the songs, or they create a little mood music. It’s performed by the London Symphony Orchestra and the Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra, so it’s performed well. I dunno, others might hate it, but for what the score is, I like it.
One of my favorite things about watching this movie, even as an adult, is the way the characters each interact with each other. Anneliese and Erika are obviously very new friends, but develop a very strong connection during the short time that they interact. They’ve just met, but their interactions feel so natural that it’s heartwarming to see a couple of girls develop such a nice relationship in such a short amount of time. I also really like to see how loving the queen is with Anneliese, she truly wants her to be happy.
However, the aspect of this that I really like is the interactions between the two couples. Anneliese and Julian have an easy relationship that is indicative of many years of friendship. You just know that after they get married their relationship will change very little. Again, it’s just something that feels very natural. Even Dominick and Erika, though they don’t have a ton of screen time together, develop a relationship based on mutual interests and admiration. None of these people go looking for a specific kind of relationship, but rather easily fall into the one that is right for them. It’s nice to see in a world where finding love is portrayed as the most important thing. For these characters, it wasn’t the most important thing, but it happened anyway.
I bet it doesn’t come as much of a shock that I really enjoy these characters. I love their designs, their sidekicks, and their interpersonal relationships, but none of this really means anything if the characters themselves aren’t engaging. As I mentioned before, Anneliese has a strong interest in science, but she is also unfailingly kind and empathetic. She wants to learn new things and take care of her people. As a kid, I think she was my favorite character. Erika is more creative and musical, but determined and courageous. She loves to sing and is quite ingenious. Julian is quieter and reserved but is observant and dedicated, and I’m pretty sure that he’s my favorite as an adult. Dominick is less interesting, and certainly not as dynamic, but the man’s a hopeless romantic with a flair for the dramatic, how can I not like him?
These characters are all interesting because they are more fleshed out than they had any reason to be. They all have hobbies and personalities, they have different responsibilities and different ways of responding to hardship. They all have clear motivations. And, my favorite part, they are all very intelligent without being obnoxious. They don’t feel like cut-out character archetypes, but rather people who are just thrust into extraordinary circumstances and have to use their natural gifts to get through it.
So, yeah, as you can tell, I really like this movie for a lot of reasons. From the characters to the writing and the little touches that the writers and animators didn’t have to do, but chose to anyway.
This past Saturday, Netflix started releasing episodes for their new Korean drama, Mr. Sunshine. I don’t usually catch new dramas as they are airing, I usually watch them after they’ve completed, so I was really hoping that this would be the one I could watch as it came out, and as it happens, it might just be.
So, I didn’t actually watch the trailer until after I watched the episode, but the reason I put it on my list is because I think there was a blurb about a soldier falling in love with a princess, plus there was period clothing, but we’ll see where that goes. What this episode actually is… is BACKSTORY!
Yes, most of this hour in a half is all the setup you will need to understand the story as it progresses. And I’ll be honest, I was confused for a lot of it. It took me a while to realize that we had jumped into a prolonged flashback. A lot of characters are introduced, many of them die, and some of them will be important later.
Summarizing the Plot through the Characters (Kinda)
The beginning of Eugene’s story arc looks very promising. He was born a slave, named Yu-jin, but had to run away because his father was killed by their master, and his mother committed suicide to protect them both. He then travels to a port city just as it is attacked by Americans, and stows away on a vessel returning to the States. The man who helped him stow away then helps him get on his feet in America and he gives him the American name Eugene. Eugene is beaten by the local boys in the area and generally has a hard time. Then he sees a black man amongst the soldiers and decides to become a soldier himself, which will eventually take him back to his home country.
During the attack on the port town, we are introduced to Seung-gu. His father is a gunner that ends up dying during the battle and is actually killed in front of Seung-gu. In his grief, Seung-gu shots his father’s loaded gun and hits a Korean man (a translator for the Americans) in the leg. He is then captured as a POW and taken aboard the American ship with some others. The king’s advisors convince him not to negotiate for their lives, so it looks like they are going to die, but as a gesture of goodwill, the American soldiers let them go. Seung-gu is determined to take down the government that betrayed him and resolves to become a rebel. I am probably going to really like this character.
The other main player is a girl named Ae-sin, who is the granddaughter of a rich nobleman. Her story starts really late in the episode, but from what I can gather her grandfather is Eugene’s old master, and he had at least two sons. The one, who I think is the eldest, was present during the murder of Eugene’s parents. Eugene’s mother held his pregnant wife hostage so that Eugene could escape. The pregnant wife gave birth to a child and survives with a scar on her neck. I expect this will become important later. The other son likely ran away with his wife and joined some kind of rebellion, but on the day that his daughter was born, he was killed. His wife gave their daughter to a trusted friend and dies so they can get away safely. Shortly after, the daughter is returned to her family, as well as the ashes of her parents. If the romance that I was promised actually happens, I bet it will be between Eugene and Ae-sin. The first real thing we learn about her is that she is curious about the world around her.
I was constantly resisting the urge to look up if America really attacked Korea in 1871 because it’s not a part of America’s imperialist past that I was taught. I did notice a few historical inaccuracies on the American side of things; they erect the modern American flag for instance, even though America didn’t even have all 50 current states until 1959 when it forcibly annexed Hawaii. But I’m a sucker for historical dramas, so I expect that I will really enjoy this series. The characters have grabbed my interest, the setting as grabbed my attention, and the plot has started on its way to being a very good story. I just hope it lives up to my expectations.
I’m getting on the Incredibles 2 bandwagon for a moment to air my opinions on the movie. I was fortunate enough to see it on Thursday night, and again on Monday, so I’ve had a little time to think about my thoughts.
Hands down, The Incredibles is my favorite Pixar movie. It’s also one of the few Pixar movies I actually own (most of the others were lost/given away to my younger cousins). I love the writing, the art style, the characters, the powers, and the villain. The music is amazing, the animation is energetic and dynamic. It’s just great, which is why I have a few issues with the sequel.
Overall, I really liked the movie. Every piece of praise you’ve heard about it is true. The animation is fluid and gorgeous, the returning characters are strong and motivated, and Jack-Jack steals the entire movie. However, I think the weakest part of the movie was the new characters, especially the villain. Everyone I’ve talked to about this movie figured out that the villain was Evelyn somewhere between her introduction and the introduction of the Screenslaver as the main antagonist. It’s really obvious, guys. Which, if she were interesting, wouldn’t be a problem. Evelyn wants to destroy the reputation of Supers because her father died during a break-in while calling for supers instead of hiding in the safe room (why weren’t the phones in the safe room, btw?). Which… feels weak? And kinda a rehash.
I’ll admit, I liked Evelyn at first. I even thought that she had a big, gay crush on Elastagirl. I even thought that her design was interesting. The way she’s designed makes her look like she’s at odds with her world, which makes sense for her initial introduction. She is an outsider on the inside. But then they had to ruin it when they made her the villain. Mostly, however, I don’t like her as the villain because she is a discount Syndrome. She is a tech genius that was spurned by supers in a time of personal crisis, and that’s why she hates them. I expected more of an Incredibles villain, I suppose.
In the end, I can forgive this one issue I have in favor of ALL THE AWESOME that is in Incredibles 2. The action is amazing, the character relationships are great, the animation is phenomenal, and it’s just really really good, guys.
Ciao, my beautiful readers, and have a fantastic day.
Good afternoon, dear readers.
It’s a natural fact that there are some cliches and/or tropes that drive everyone insane. For some, this is the delicious new bad-boy at school, or the hardcore Asian chick with the purple stripe in her hair, or maybe it’s the “we hated each other at first, but now we’re totes in love” trope. I am sure that you, dear reader, have a few that come to mind that you hate, and this is simply a list of five of mine. That said, while many of these tropes can be found in western media, I mostly find them in Asian dramas. (They are also not in any particular order.)
The Manipulative Hero (Stalker Jerk, A-hole Love Interest)
It may not surprise you to find that I have issues with Twilight and the like because of the depiction of the main couple’s relationship, mostly because of how it is framed. I don’t like no-good-very-bad relationships being portrayed as perfectly fine, normal things that happen. The Manipulative Hero is the main male character (MMC) that, usually, has an ice-cold personality and is super mean to everyone. He and the main female character (MFC) meet accidentally, and she usually ruins something of his. He then proceeds to use this as leverage to get the MFC to do what he wants, usually manual labor with the intent to embarrass her is a popular one.
As the story progresses, the MMC stops being so terrible and starts doing nice things for the heroine, eventually figuring out that he’s fallen in love with her, then fumbles to figure out how to get her to date him. He’s not really an a-hole, he’s just troubled and needed lurve to heal his broken heart. (Please excuse me while I roll my eyes).
My issue with this trope isn’t that it’s unbelievable, or that it’s not something that could happen. Rather, my problem is with the framing; the MMC is rarely, if ever, depicted as being in the wrong, and I can’t stand that. Don’t manipulate your partners, people.
Examples of this trope: Boys Over Flowers, You’re Beautiful, Black, Murphy’s Law of Love, The Prince Who Turns Into a Frog, Office Girls, ect.
Nice Guy Finishes Last
This one usually goes hand-in-hand with the last one. The jerk-wad that gets the girl has a best friend that is genuinely nice and caring (not always, but enough). He helps the MFC and supports her emotionally and selflessly. But he falls in love with her just a hair too late, or the MMC is just a little more aggressive, and the nice guy doesn’t get the girl.
So… there’s this aspect of the Korean version of Boys Over Flowers where a fortune teller tells the MFC that she is on vacation with both her soulmate and her true love, but that they are totally different people. We, the intelligent viewers, know that her good friend is her soulmate, and the MMC is the true love. This particular theme has never left my mind, even though it’s been many years since I’ve seen BOF, because there’s no good reason for the MFC to choose the MMC, she initially hated him and only came around to him through near-constant exposure (because he wouldn’t leave her alone). Ehh… maybe I should just rewatch and review BOF.
The bottom line is that I would like the nice friend to actually succeed against the terrible-no-good-bad-idea love interest.
Examples: Boys Over Flowers, You’re Beautiful, Murphy’s Law of Love, ect.
Congratulations! The MMC and the MFC have finally confessed and started dating! But, oh no~ On the horizon is mommy dearest, and no girl is ever good enough for her precious little boy. Either the MFC is too poor, or too outspoken, or not pretty enough, or not the girl mommy wanted; therefore it is time to dispose of her. Mother must break them up by any means necessary! How about we threaten her family? Bribe her with lots of money? Put her down and tell her she’s not good enough? Threaten to disown her own son?
Why can’t mom’s just be happy that their son is happy? Is that so hard? Why are you trying to break up my OTP? I’m genuinely terrified any time parents appear in a drama now thanks to these crazy broads.
Examples: Office Girls, Fall in Love with Me, Inborn Pair, ect.
Evil Female Rival
Can someone explain to me why most male rivals are not horrible human beings, but most of the female ones are? Maybe it’s just in the stuff I’ve been watching recently, but I’m getting really tired of some skank showing up part-way through the show and thinking, “Yes, I want that hunk of man-meat. Oh no, he’s got crush on someone already. Guess I’ll have to change that in the most nefarious way possible.” Cue attempts to harm the FMC, either by manipulating her (sometimes with Mother’s help) or trying to make her look bad. I don’t like seeing this trope as prolific as it is. Not all women are catty (or want to date their ex that they abandoned) and some can challenge their rival on even ground.
Or, ya know, cat fight the old fashioned way?
Examples: Fall in Love with Me, Just You, ect.
There is nothing worse than sitting through however many hours of screen-time just for the ending to make no sense whatsoever! The worst part is, nine times out of ten, there is an obvious answer for how to end it, but they choose the most convoluted way possible. Or they had a perfect ending set up, then machina-ed it all the bad things away. Or it just ended with no real conclusion at all.
It’s not that difficult to write a satisfying ending. They don’t all have to end in marriage, but please don’t leave your audience hanging.
Examples: Descendants of the Sun, Black, K-Pop Extreme Survival, ect.
I would sincerely like to thank you if you made it this far through my ramblings. Stay amazing, dear readers, and I will post again soon.
Over the course of the last few weeks, I have blasted through three different Asian Dramas: Black, Descendants of the Sun, and Refresh Man. After I finished the last one at 3 AM last night, I decided that watching something in English might be a nice change of pace, so I went through my recommendations and Star-Crossed popped up. Now, I’ve read Romeo and Juliet, and while it is not my favorite Shakespearean play I do enjoy it’s themes and gimmicks well enough. The main one being the idea of a set of lovers that are kept apart by the expectations of society. It’s my kind of cheese.
That said, I am barely two episodes in, and I have a few thoughts.
Firstly, the series starts when a spaceship full of humanoid aliens called Atrians crash-lands just outside Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Almost immediately, the human military is gunning down the Atrians because they believe that they are coming to take over the Earth. And I think it’s honestly kinda ridiculous. Throughout the entire opening, I kept thinking that these nutters have seen waaaaaay too many Sci-Fi movies. Anyway, one of the children runs away and hides in a barn, where he befriends the little girl that lives there. He is found the next day and shot by one of the soldiers while protecting the little girl.
So, yeah, the American government kills most of these aliens and puts the rest in a concentration camp, which they call the Sector. After ten years there, and a lot of Americanization, seven teenage Atrians are allowed to attend a local high school. Most of the students are terrible human beings and bully the new students. One of the humans at the school is Emery, the little girl from the opening all grown up (and looking scarily like the main actress from The Vampire Diaries), and one of the Atrian boys, named Roman, remembers her as the girl who showed him kindness on Arrival Day. Though how he recognizes her I will never know.
Anyway, they make friends again pretty fast… Just in time for her father to accidentally shoot his father. This puts Roman in a position of power in the Atrian government. Plus there’s a group of renegade Atrians that want to fight for liberation or something. It’s all very political, and I’m finding that aspect pretty interesting, but I don’t want to spoil the whole thing for you. Instead, I want to talk about the subtext, which you can’t ignore because the show won’t let you.
More than anything else, this show is about racism.
So much of this show makes it obvious that they are trying to mirror real-world racism in a way that is… hard to miss. The Atrians don’t look all that different from humans, with the exception of tattoos that appear on their skin, yet they are bullied by the student body. They are insulted for not participating in the Pledge of Allegiance (in the only school that still does that apparently). One of the girls is almost assaulted by some male students, and her brother gets into a fight to save her, then gets scolded for his choices.
And I am honestly not qualified to talk about this in much depth, because I am not an expert on racism in America. And this show just baffles me. Why don’t any of the minority students try to befriend them or talk to them or show them compassion? The show takes place in Louisiana for cripes sake, this can’t be a coincidence! I don’t live in Louisiana, so I am not an expert and please keep that in mind, but isn’t Louisiana in an area of the United States that had a lot of trouble with segregation and stuff? Did none of that happen in this universe? I don’t know, I just feel like the minority students would be the first to welcome them. GAH! This bothers me. I think it just boils down to the writers missing a great opportunity, or royally messing it up. I’m not sure yet.
I feel like the CW just operates in its own little world of “there’s no prejudice or racism here — unless it is plot convenient.” And, like, there’s still the question introduced about using peace or violence to accomplish integration. It just feels like the show wants to yo-yo between these serious themes, but not really dude.
As for the star-crossed lovers angle, I think their relationship is progressing a lot faster than what feels natural, and it is also annoying me. Like, Roman and Emery nearly kiss (probably) after a party in Episode 1.
I’m curious to see where the show is going to go, so I’m not going to stop watching, but I just hope it gets better.
Have a fantastic day, by beautiful readers.
Black is a very weird show. The Netflix description doesn’t do the show justice, because it is a steaming pile of questions. Like, “What the heck just happened?” and “Who is that? How do they tie into the big fat murder case?” What Black is actually about is a detective who kinda befriends a psychic woman right before getting shot, and the Grim Reaper that possesses his dead body for his own purposes. Oh, and the psychic and the reaper develop feelings for each other, because of course they do.
For the sake of spoilers, I am going to try to only discuss the first two episodes here. This includes characters, world-building, and plot points that are set up, then I will discuss the ending in a separate post.
The main female character is Kang Ha-ram, an unfortunate woman who is able to see black smokey clouds on the backs of people who are about to die. Then, if she touches them, she can see exactly how they die. She lives alone, has trouble keeping a job, and has a terrible relationship with her family. Out of all the characters in this show, she is the most relatable. She cares about human life and constantly tries to save the people who have shadows on their backs. She has clear motivations and a multi-faceted personality. It’s nice to see a headstrong female character who is also compassionate and damaged.
That said, the first episode tries to misdirect the audience into thinking that the detective, Han Mu-gang, is the main male character. His is the day that we follow before it turns sour. We get an insight into his job, his quirky personality, and his relationships; however, he ends up dead by the end of episode one, and the Grim Reaper No. 444, or Black, as he calls himself, possesses Mu-gang’s body and becomes the hero of the story. Black is the serious, cool looking detective that always gets what he wants. While I appreciate that he now looks prettier, he also obtains a few traits that I’m not a huge fan of. He is manipulative, he is petty, and he is controlling.
With the exception of two characters, most of the supporting cast is quirky and shallow. They are entertaining and fun to be around, but they aren’t very well developed.
The story proper starts when Black possesses Mu-gang because his newbie partner abandoned his job and jumped into some unknown human. Black wants to find him and return him to the Grim Reaper authorities. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the ability to find him on his own. But once he discovers that Ha-ram can see the shadow of a Grim Reaper inside a human body, he attempts to obtain her cooperation in this… without actually telling her what he is doing. He tricks her into working with him by letting her think that he is actually her long-lost childhood crush Kim Joon.
Additionally, a woman is found dead in a freezer, another character changed her identity at some point in her past, and Mu-gang had his own private investigation going on behind the scenes. There is a lot set up in these first two episodes, and all of it is confusing and doesn’t make much sense. However, the further you go into the series, the more it starts to click. I’m not really a big mystery fan, but I liked this one because it gives you all the necessary hints early on, but not too many, and explains the full story at the end.
Additionally, the rules of the Grim Reapers and how they operate are explained in Episode Two, and I found it quite interesting. There are two types of Grim Reapers, those that are “born” and those that become Grim Reapers when they commit suicide as a form of penance. Black is a born reaper, and therefore considers himself better and more legit than the others.
Black is the perfect show for someone who really likes the girly, lovey dovey, boy meets girl type of shows and needs a change of pace. There is a lot of interpersonal relationship things that happen to keep you entertained, while also providing an interesting and detailed mystery. However, it really drops the ball the further into the story you go, and the final episode has more problems than solutions (but that is a topic for another day).
Overall, I rate it an 8/10, and I hope you have an amazing day!
The Irregular at Magic High School
Book by Tsutomu Sato
The Irregular at Magic High School is the first volume in a light novel series about siblings Tatsuya and Miyuki Shiba and their experiences at First High. A high school specifically designed to train magically-gifted child soldiers. The school is split into two main groups, the Blooms, who are gifted with the ability to use and control magic, and Weeds, who can use magic, but aren’t as strong with it as the Blooms are. It is stated that the Weeds essentially exist to take the place of a Bloom in case he or she perishes. Miyuki has obvious magic potential and is placed with the Blooms, while her older brother Tatsuya, who is more mechanically inclined, is placed with the Weeds.
The plot is pretty standard, assuming you are familiar with common anime tropes. Boy and girl go to a new school and unwillingly participate in wacky shenanigans. They wind up surrounded by a large cast of archetypes and essentially get pulled along by the cruel hand of fate. The majority of the book follows the day to day misadventures of Tatsuya and Miyuki as they attempt to have a normal high school life. It meanders from one plot point to the next with little to no transition. This culminates in Miyuki becoming a member of the Student Council and Tatsuya being forced into the Disciplinary Committee. While reading, it’s not very hard to imagine how this series got adapted into an anime; it hits all of the necessary checkmarks.
That said, while this plot is simple, not everything is as it seems. Because I watched the anime first, I was treated to the first amazing opening, Rising Hope by LiSA, which features a short scene of young Tatsuya holding the hand of a dying Miyuki and performing some type of magic. This event is never mentioned in the show, and the only hints to it in the book is in Miyuki’s (uncomfortable) attention toward Tatsuya. I find it very compelling that something this potentially serious lurks beneath the surface of the standard high-school-harem setup.
But back to the book. The siblings are our narrators, and Tatsuya is probably the more interesting of the two. His big motivation is to simply be left alone, and it is amusing to experience his exasperation with the other characters as his desires are thwarted at every turn. This boy is savage. I don’t think there is a single situation that he gets involved in willingly. He also has a very mechanical way of thinking, where he willingly shuts down parts of his mentality which would ordinarily be considered normal, such as his sex drive. His mechanical nature extends to his skill with CADs (the in-universe way that magic users control their magic, like tomes or grimoires). He is able to reprogram and build them with relative ease.
Unfortunately, Miyuki isn’t nearly as interesting as her brother. She is beautiful, smart, and gifted; all of which makes her a little too perfect for me to really connect with. Her motivations are limited to supporting her brother, which is also her major flaw. She is uncomfortably obsessed with Tatsuya, and it is creepy.
As for the side characters, they are all common archetypes. There’s the sporty one, the impish one, the shy one, ect. This is standard anime fare, so it doesn’t bother me as much. What does bother me is that there are very few male characters that aren’t treated like antagonists. I think Tatsuya and his “friend” Leo are the only ones that are written sympathetically.
The world-building is okay. The series is set in a futuristic Japan where they’ve figured out that magic is actually some type of pseudo-science, and the explanation provided is a bit confusing. As far as I can tell, certain humans are sensitive to psions and can channel them through the CADs to cast spells. Sato spends a ridiculous amount of time trying to explain each and every pseudo-science thing that comes up. Entire chapters consist of how certain types of CADs or spells work and this is honestly the weakest aspect of the book. Thou shalt not stop your plot dead to explain fake science! It’s boring. Please don’t.
In the end, I like it when the book is Tatsuya enduring his high school existence and engaging in wacky shenanigans; but I don’t like it when Miyuki is waxing incestuous on her brother and the way the novel freezes because the author feels like he has to explain the magic.
Thanks for reading!