Pages Cels Stories: Slayers

Sadly, it’s a man’s nature to forget that women can be dangerous.

Light novels are a topic that haven’t really been discussed so far in my time writing Pages Cels Stories, and honestly, it’s because they don’t exactly fit in with the purpose of this series. While they are written in a prose form, and I have never been one to get particular about what does and does not count as literature, they’re such a different beast entirely when it comes to their relationship with anime, to equate them with more traditional novels in this context would be putting both mediums on uneven ground. That being said, light novels are so tied in to the anime scene, and have so drastically helped to give shape to the anime aesthetic and sensibility, that to ignore them entirely would be an oversight. And when it comes to light novels that have been given form in animation, few titles hold as much weight, or have led to such a huge following, as Hajime Kanzaka’s long-running fantasy comedy serialization, simply titled Slayers. While fantastical tales of other worlds have always been a staple in the world of light novels, when it comes to Western European style fantasy, Slayers in particular stands out as being one of the pillars of the genre, and has recognition both in Japan and elsewhere, lasting long enough to have started in the 90’s and continue on well into the late 2000s with new installments and continuations. It’s standing was such that, for a period of time in the Western anime fandom, Slayers was the title that was brought up whenever fantasy anime was mentioned. What makes this interesting is that Slayers, when looked at directly, is by no means a conventional fantasy title. At least, at the time it was released, it wasn’t. As a disclaimer, while the Slayers franchise has produced many anime seasons, OVAs, movies, and manga adaptations, I will only be covering the first season of the anime by J.C Staff, which roughly adapts books one and three of the light novel series. Also, as always, spoilers will be discussed.

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Pages, Cels, Stories: Starship Troopers

“I had to perform an act of faith. I had to prove to myself that I was a man. Not just a producing-consuming economic animal… but a man.”

In the modern anime scene, it’s easy to forget or overlook some of the biggest influences to the medium, particularly starting out. When we do analyze the inspirations of particular works, we only ever look within. All anime came from some other anime, and nothing outside had any effect on the medium whatsoever. It’s mostly just easier to see things that way, but when we look at Japanese animation from that limited perspective, we lose out on a greater understanding of just what it is we’re watching and discussing. This is one of the biggest reasons I started writing these articles in the first place. And one of the most blatant influences that helped to shape anime, that has gone almost completely ignored, is the impact of classic Western science fiction novels, which, in the 70’s and 80’s particularly, were enormously popular in Japan. While the authors of these novels are highly regarded today, at the time that they were writing they were mostly considered to be “lesser” works of fiction, aimed solely at a very specific, very nerdy niche. In Japan however, serious, dedicated sci-fi became a staple of popular culture, and was the direct precursor to many works that are still widely celebrated, most notably the epic sprawling mecha series that have become so prominent for the medium. However, with a couple of exceptions, very rarely have these novels been granted direct adaptations, and the few adaptations that did get made were harshly criticized by the original authors, who did not appreciate the changes made by the animators. One of these exceptions is Sunrise’s six-part OVA of Starship Troopers, based on the novel by acclaimed author Robert A. Heinlein. The book, written in 1959, is mostly known as Heinlein’s love letter to the military, told from the viewpoint of mankind’s future wars against the hostile forces beyond our own world, and is also recognized as one of the originators of a modern staple of pop culture science fiction: the armored mobile suit. This anime, directed by Tetsuro Amino, the man behind several entries in the Macross franchise, is something of a peculiarity. Released in 1988, only a few months after Heinlein’s death, the anime never became popular on its own, and only had a limited release on Laserdisc, never to be seen on DVD at all. Despite its obscurity, some have considered this anomaly of an anime to be one of the primary reasons that so few adaptations of modern Western novels have been made. But does it really deserve that blame?

NOTE: Spoilers discussed in article. Continue reading

CJ’s Anime Review Blogs – Sailor Moon Crystal Season 3, Episode 10

I’m finally home from Japan, but as I settle down, I can’t find the time or energy to do another video review. Jet lag has been dreadful and I find myself stuck in a strange limbo where it seems like I am both sleeping way too much and sleeping way too little. Aside from that, it is strange to be back in a country where I had to hide my Sailor Moon keychain getting off the plane for fear that people might judge me in public. Yes, even I, a person who runs a small YouTube channel as a hobby, have issues talking about my passions in public. Still, I am glad that I find the courage to write about my hobby and look forward to sharing more reviews in the future.

So let’s get to this review. This episode was once again another exciting episode of Sailor Moon Crystal. I can’t say enough how exhilarating it is to actually look forward to episodes of this season. Everything is done so well and although I might not agree with all of the changes made, I can at least appreciate that Toei Animation is trying to make Sailor Moon Crystal a separate entity from the original manga. Don’t be fooled when people say that this is a “1:1 adaptation.” Sure, it might be closest thing we ever get to the manga, but it is not a perfect representation and in my opinion should not strive toward being one. We already have the manga after all. Continue reading

Pages, Cels, Stories: Dracula and Hellsing Ultimate

“That poor soul who has wrought all this misery is the saddest case of all.”

Stories about our fears are as old as stories themselves. What we cannot explain, the things that unnerve us most deeply, can be given a name in the world of fiction and myth, as well as a face, and thus a tale is told. Of all the monsters and creatures we’ve imagined during humanity’s long history, few are as old and universal as that of the vampire. Though their exact forms and nature varies from region, time period, and storyteller, the core idea behind them remains the same each time: undead monstrosities in the form of humans, that survive by consuming human blood. They may not be distinguishable from ordinary people, in fact, they may be able to charm their way into our homes with nothing more than their seductive graces, but in the end, the result is clear for the victims, to be eaten and consumed by the vampire, or, worse, to become one of them and be doomed to roam the night seeking out fresh victims forever, and that’s the horror. Vampires have existed in our imaginations for perhaps longer than has been documented, but it was one particular novel, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, that in 1897 cemented the form that they would take in all future vampire tales. Drawing from folklore and then-contemporary fiction as well as history, Stoker created a vision of vampires that was both strange and resonant, familiar, yet so striking that it, as well as its many adaptations, came to define the genre. This influence can be seen plainly in the popular manga by Kouta Hirano, written 100 years after the original, Hellsing. Hirano’s narrative follows and continues Stoker’s, being a sequel of sorts set in the modern era, and adding elements all on its own, until, like what Stoker himself did a century before, the source was built upon until it created something new and groundbreaking. In Hirano’s story, Dracula was not necessarily killed, but instead came to work for an organization named after his old enemy, to take down other vampires. Along with his new role, Dracula was given a new name as well, the somewhat apt Alucard, but over time it’s more apparent that no matter what he’s called, he’s still the classic monster that would be recognizable to any member of the audience. In Hirano’s world, vampires are not always the villains, brutality is the norm, and great acts of violence can come from anyone. But how much has the idea of the vampire really changed over a hundred years? As a note before I examine this question, just as Dracula has been adapted to many different mediums over time, Hellsing has received its own share of retellings, and as this is primarily an anime-based column, I’ll be using the second animated adaptation as a source, the ten-part OVA Hellsing Ultimate.

NOTE: This article contains spoilers. Continue reading