I have a new goal this year to watch a lot more animated movies, whether in theaters or online streaming. I think we’re definitely seeing a lot of great stories and animation coming out through full length movies. The only problem being that it can be very difficult to find a theater near you to watch them in and then it takes forever for them to come out on a streaming service like Netflix to watch. But I think with the efforts of more companies, we’re getting more screenings around the US for various animated movies. I’m not sure if Flavors of Youth ever made it to US theaters, but it did make it onto Netflix, and instantly became an addition onto my long list of things to watch. And while I don’t think it’s the best animated film I’ve ever seen, it definitely has its strengths and interesting moments to discuss.
Flavors of Youth is a three-part film that tells the stories of three separate groups of characters, all with their own histories and troubles. The stories all take place somewhere in China, from Beijing to some more rural areas. The first story follows a young man who looks back on his life and childhood in his hometown when he was able to get noodles with his grandmother or on his way to school. He narrates his memories from his younger years to the present, reminiscing about food, family, and the ever changing nature of his neighborhood. The second story follows the lives of two sisters, one a model and the other a fashion designer as the grow and adapt to their lives and careers. As one sister sees her career as a model being overshadowed by younger women, she begins to relearn the value the family. The last is a story of three friends and how their paths separate and converge as life moves forward. Continue reading
I can’t conclude this month’s reviews of witch and magic related anime and manga without a look at Flying Witch, one of the best magic related slice-of-life’s to come out so far (in my humble opinion). The series is a calming look at the life of witches and magic users in rural Japan, an alternate society where witches exist in a semi-secret state within society. Due to the laid-back tone of the series as a whole, I would even go so far as to categorize this as an iyashikei series, or healing anime. The narratives of each episode give the viewer an intimate look at a witch’s everyday life without going into too much drama, going so far as to have very little plot at all. That is what I would call an iyashikei: warm life stories with light plots that allow the viewer to relax into a comfy state. Flying Witch has the comfy feelings down pat, the magic elements adding just the right touch of interest and difference to draw in fans looking for something unique instead of the typical slice-of-lifes out there.
The series follows the life of young teenage witch Makoto who leaves home for the first time to complete her witch studies in rural japan, living with her cousin’s family. The episodes are filled with stories of Makoto’s life living with her cousins, studying magic, going to school, and experiencing the hidden magical world around her. Each episode contains one or two contained stories with a specific story, interaction, or learning experience for Makoto or her cousins, most containing something to do with magic, but not always. The series is based off of a manga, and was picked up for the adaptation by J.C. Staff and released in 2016. Continue reading
Generation Witch is the story of what would happen if witches existed in the modern world, fully open and integrated into society. I feel like we don’t get many of these stories. Flying Witch was one that was close, but even then the existence of witches was still considered somewhat of a secret and knowledge of them among regular people was few and far between. This series asks the question of what would society and people look like if there was no barrier between normal human and witch, if anyone with the right blood, male or female, young or old, could become a witch and practice magic. In this way, this world has taken on the qualities of a magical realism narrative, where the fantastical is normal. Generation Witch brings us differing stories from this world, from different parts of society and age groups, letting the world build a chapter at a time. If you enjoy a modern twist on witches or magic girls, then I think you’ll enjoy this peek into a society where magic is right out in the open.
Each volume of this series features four or five different stories, each following a different set of characters through their troubles and goals. Chapter one brings us a story of a powerful witch who saves her dear non-witch sister from a bully. Then we are sent off to high school in chapters two and three where a young and fairly talentless witch is trying to start up a magic club at their school. She winds up finding the only other witch on campus and ropes him into doing odd jobs around school for the other students. Created by Isaki Uta, the series was recently picked up for its English release by Seven Seas. Continue reading
Do you enjoy a good post-apocalyptic story? How about cooking? Giant spiders? A feel good slice-of-life? If I’ve hit on one or more of your genre faves, than I’ve got a manga for you. Giant Spider and Me: A Post Apocalyptic Tale is a short, 3 volume miniseries published by Seven Seas that hits all of the genres I’ve listed above. It may seem like a strange combination, but I assure you it works! This manga very quickly catapulted itself into one of my top favorites for just how unique its story and narrative combinations are, and I truly wish this series could have had more volumes. Three volumes definitely does not seem like enough, but the stories told within hold a fascinating combination of feel-good iyashikei/slice-of-life and post-apocalyptic horror. If you haven’t already picked up this manga, I highly encourage you to do so. It’s not a large reading investment and I do think there’s a bit of something for many different manga lovers out there.
Giant Spider and Me follows the young girl Naga who has grown up in a post-apocalyptic version of Japan where the seas have risen to flood all the major cities. People have adapted to a more rural way of life as they slowly recover. In the midst of this, Naga’s father decides to head out on a journey around the world, leaving his daughter to fend for herself in their small cabin and farm. One day coming back from checking on their farm, she encounters a giant spider like nothing she’s ever seen before. It follows her home and slowly becomes the lonely Naga’s best friend and confidant, if only the rest of the village thought the same way. Continue reading
Magic school narratives have been and. I suspect, will always be very popular. With the overflowing fandom surrounding books like Harry Potter and other similar fantasy novels, the amount of stories of this type have proliferated far and wide into varying mediums. Anime and manga, in particular, took a strong interest in this narrative type. Manga like Witch Hat Atelier, Ancient Magus Bride’s most recent arc. Anime like Little Witch Academia, Gakuen Alice, and now Irregular at Magic Highschool (honestly the list goes on). It’s certainly not a new anime, having originally aired in 2014, but with the recent announcement that it would be getting a second season soon, I figured I had the perfect time to talk about it considering the time of year. The series started as a novel and then became a light novel series before being picked up by Madhouse for the anime adaptation. I became a fan shortly after, attracted by the unique view of magic presented in the series and the well-crafted fight scenes. I’m not saying this is a perfect series, but it definitely has its strengths, especially for fans of magic school narratives.
The anime follows two siblings, Shiba Miyuki and Shiba Tatsuya, who are accepted to one of the top magic schools in the country. Miyuki manages to pass all of the entrance exams with flying colors and is accepted into the full Course 1 program, while her brother Tasuya has a slower magic processing speed and winds up being accepted into the lower Course 2 class. The narrative follows these two siblings as they navigate the culture of their new school with its favoritism towards Course 1 students, while trying not to be dragged into the country’s various political struggles in the process. Continue reading
Sabrina the Teenage Witch has been a staple show in American culture since the TV show premiered on ABC in the late 90’s, adapting the story from the ever popular Archie series of comics. Now we have a resurgence of this iconic series with the recent adaptation of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina that premiered as both a comic series and Netflix TV show last year. Well, the series has been adapted again by Archie Comics into a less chilling mini-series, simply titled Sabrina the Teenage Witch. The miniseries runs 5 issues, or 1 volume, and winds up being a great companion to the more chilling series for those, like me, who prefer a less horror themed Sabrina. The last issue was released this past September, concluding the first arc of the series, but plans for a second mini-series have already been announced for 2020. If you’re a fan of the original Sabrina the Teenage Witch with all the teenage hijinks and snarky Salem come-backs, then I would highly suggest checking this out.
This mini-series reboot follows Sabrina Spellman as she makes the move to Greendale to live with her two aunts. But adjusting to a new school and a new town has its challenges, especially for a teenager who can use magic. Not only does she have to deal with all those pesky teenage hormones and the bullies at her new school, but something seems to be transforming the teenagers of Greendale into monsters. After being forced to do battle with a Wendigo and a giant Kraken, Sabrina puts all of her magical knowledge to the test in order to figure out this mystery…in between kissing some cute boys of course. Continue reading
Witch Hat Atelier became a big hit when the first volume was released in April earlier this year, and honestly I’m not surprised. It’s art is eye catching and the story is fantastically magical. I’m really surprised we haven’t heard much from this mangaka in the past considering the polished nature of the art and the detail put into the story, but with further digging it looks like I missed quite a few things. Kamome Shirahama is an accomplished artist who has been doing work for Marvel and DC for a while. They worked on various covers for Marvel including Howard the Duck #4 featuring Ms Marvel. It also looks like they are working as a regular cover artist for Batgirl and Birds of Prey. I’m honestly surprised, but looking through their past covers, I’m just really glad they were given the chance to create a full-length manga to show off their awesome art style. It also looks like they had another manga in 2012 called Eniale & Dewiela, but it looks like it may have only been given a French translation and hasn’t made it to the US yet. But if you’re a fan of witches, magical worlds, interesting magical systems, and magic school stories, I would highly suggest picking this volume up for a try.
The manga follows the story of young Coco who has wished she could learn magic from a young age. But everyone knows you have to be born a witch in order to use magic, so Coco spends her days helping her mother at their tailoring shop. Resigned to her un-magical life, she is about to give up on her dream when the witch Qifrey shows up at their shop. After secretly spying on him while he casts magic, Coco learns that her dream of becoming a witch may be closer than she ever thought. Continue reading
Mythical Beast Investigator is another manga that popped up one day while I was looking for some new series to get into. I wasn’t quite sure what I would think of it, but I have an interest in all things fantasy and especially a focus on magical creatures. When I was reading Ancient Magus Bride I was always drawn to all of the weird and mythical creatures that would appear in the series, whether covertly in the background or taking center stage for a particular chapter. Here is a series that focuses on one particular troublesome creature each chapter, exploring its history and looking at how its existence fits into the larger world of this fantastical manga. While I don’t think it’s the best fantasy manga I’ve read, it’s been interesting enough that I plan on completing the series when the final second volume comes out. But therein lies one of my concerns too, that the shortness of this series will not allow the narrative to fully explore the world and creatures in it. I’m hesitant to say that this is a great series without seeing the culmination of both volumes, but it’s interesting nonetheless for those who enjoy stories about mythical creatures.
This manga’s story takes place in a world where humans and magical creatures live side-by-side, humans living beside dragons, mermaids, or other possibly dangerous creatures. And when things do go wrong, that’s when Ferry is called in. Ferry is a mythical beast investigator who longs to see peace between beasts and humans eventually come to be real. Armed with an extensive knowledge of magical creatures and fierce and mysterious protector, Ferry travels from town to town solving the disputes between human and beast, and more often than not setting humans straight about the nature of mythical beasts. Continue reading
I’m always on the look-out for new manga to read and often make it a point to check in on all the major publisher websites at least once a month to see what new volumes are coming out. The Alchemist Who Survived popped up one day and its description intrigued me. The full title of the manga is The Alchemist Who Survived Now Dreams of a Quiet City Life. It’s quite a mouthful, so I’ll be using the shortened title throughout the rest of the review, but the full title does give you some idea about the nature and the story of this particular series. After reading through this first volume, I can predict that I’ll be falling in love with this series as more volumes come out. It reminds me so much of a combination of Snow White with the Red Hair in its focus on herbology and daily life and Ancient Magus Bride in its creation of the magic system. I have a deep love for series that focus on the daily life of mages, herbalists, or people in a magical setting, and I’m really interested to see where this series goes.
The Alchemist Who Survived follows the life of one of Mariela who wakes up from a magically-induced sleep to find that her former home has been destroyed by a monster stampede. To make matters worse, the spell has kept her asleep far longer than she wanted, finally allowing her wake after 200 years. In those 200 years, she finds that the city she used to live and sell her potions in has been decimated by the monster stampede, reduced to only part of its original size, and that she happens to be one of the last Alchemists in the area able to make potions. Mariela sets out to make a place for herself again, selling her potions, and trying to lead a quiet life. Continue reading
I have a hard time finding a better heart-warming comedy than those involving yakuza members. Hinamatsuri was a fantastic anime a couple seasons ago that highlighted a relationship between a young homeless girl (who happened to have psychic powers) and a yakuza member. Now we have Way of the House Husband that takes the over-masculinization of being in the yakuza and flips it on its head. I spoke about this series in the past when I wrote about it in the article “The Changing Face of Paternity in Japan as Told Through Anime and Manga,” but just last week it got its first English release to the states by Viz, introducing more people to this hilarious series. I honestly have to say that this series is up there with Hinamatsuri in its hilarious comedy and portrayal of the yakuza. With its fantastic art, great exaggerated gags, and hilarious premous, Way of the House Husband is sure to entertain fans of comedy manga.
This manga features Tatsu, the former Immortal Dragon, an ex-yakuza member turned house husband who is just trying to adjust to being the best husband to his wife. From cooking her lunches to running to the grocery store to doing all the cleaning in the apartment, Tatsu takes his duties as stay-at-home-husband very seriously, trying to leave his yakuza past behind him. But sometimes that’s harder than it might seem as people from his past start popping up around town. Created by Kousuke Oono, the English edition of this manga is now being distributed in North America by Viz. Continue reading