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Maid-Sama!: An Anime Review

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Everyone has different versions of themselves that they present to the world. Who we are at work or school verses who we are when in the comfort of our own homes. Sometimes these worlds collide before we are ready.

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In Maid Sama! that is exactly what happens. Misaki Ayuzawa is a girl on a mission. She and her female classmates are the minority at Sieka High School as it has just become co-ed. The rowdy boys of the school are harassing the girls and Misaki is not about to stand for it. With her top marks, get it done attitude and a passion for equality she becomes the first female class president. To protect the girls and to get the boys in line her persona at school that of a unrelenting dictator.

However Misaki has a secret. At home her mother is ill. She has a younger sister and her father has left them in debt. So she has a part time job at a Maid Cafe. Yes, outside of school she wears a maid outfit and waits on patrons with the most demure of dispositions. What happens when her a popular boy from school discovers her job?

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The story of Maid Sama! started off as a manga written by Hiro Fujiwara in 2006. The drama and the romance of the story attracted many readers. In 2010 Maid Sama! came to life in the form of an anime. Again the drama of the story and it’s continual twists drew viewers. The artistic style of the characters is lovely, particularly the differences in Misaki school verses maid looks. The music is cute, particularly the upbeat theme.

Maid Sama! is an anime that I would recommend to a viewer who is looking for a love story. There is a lot of humor in the series as well.

ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!

Review: The Umbrella Academy

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Everyone wonders what it would be like to grow up with superpowers. How would we be? How would we take those powers and make our own justice? We grew up inspired by the heroes of comic books and want to be like them.

Netflix’s new hit show, The Umbrella Academy, gives viewers a look into the lives of superheroes. The children of the Umbrella Academy were adopted as babies by an eccentric billionaire. He schooled them, fed them, clothed them and trained them to fight. These children have grown up in the spotlight created for them and the consequences that come with that. Some of them left, running from their demons, and some were lost. Now those that are left have been called back to their childhood compound by the one thing that unites them, their “father.” They will be faced with a mystery that will lead them to a crisis. Will this dysfunctional and emotionally stunted group be able to band together to save the world one more time?

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The Umbrella Academy started off as a comic which was rolled out by Dark Horse Comics. Written by Gerard Way and illustrated by Gabriel Bá this dark story took fans by storm in 2008. After rumors of a movie the title was picked up by Netflix as a series. We can all be grateful that Netflix did because The Umbrella Academy is almost too good. The line of dark realism and humor is straddled perfectly in this show.  

The casting is spot on and they give fantastic performances. The sets are masterfully crafted, really allowing the viewer to become immersed in this world. The soundtrack is perfection. It sets the mood for every scene and helps the audience to get to know the characters. The costumes were also perfection. Every character has their own look. It is clear that a lot of attention was put into giving us clues about the characters, both what they want to be and who they truly are, through their clothing. The cinematography is a thing of beauty.

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I would highly recommend The Umbrella Academy. I was blown away by the experience that is this show. Everything comes together to tell an interesting story. The characters are well thought out. You feel for them and root for them. My only words of caution are be careful about binge watching it, and you will, because when the ten episodes are over you will be left with a very real need for the next season. Seriously though, just go watch it.

ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!  

Review: Black Butler

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A legacy can be a difficult thing to live with. The knowledge that you have something so important tied to your name that you must protect. What lengths would you go to? Would you make a deal with a demon if you had to?

Black Butler premiered in Japan on May 2 2008. The series is based of a manga that was written and illustrated by Yana Toboso. There are three whole seasons of this wonderful anime.

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Young Ciel  is an earl in Victorian England. When he loses his parents he understands that the world sees him as weak due to his age. So he makes a choice and gains a very capable butler, of sorts. Sebastian certainly has many talents and can help Ciel to continue the family name. He can also help the young Earl on dangerous errands they are sent on by the Queen. They also have a household staff of dedicated characters who often add a lot of humor to the story.

The character design in Black Butler is stunning. The costumes designed for each character enrich the anime and are just a treat to watch. The art for the settings are also just so well done. Black Butler easily transitions between the pristine upper class life of Ciel’s station and the dark underworld of Victorian England. The music subtly sets the mood for every scene.

The story itself dances between darkness and humor flawlessly. The characters are all well written and fleshed out. None of them are perfect but their complexity adds to the story.

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I would very much recommend Black Butler. It is a great historical anime. Fans of the fashion if the ear will enjoy the eye candy that is the character designs. Fans of darker anime will appreciate the themes of the story. It is also just a plain fun anime. The story is good. The music is good and the characters are likable.

I hope you will all pay a visit to young Master Ciel very soon, I hear he has one hell of a butler.  

 

ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!

Why I like: “Escape From The Happy Place.” Part 1: The Magicians, overview and characters

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Hello, readers!  I’m Soliyra and I like to talk about things I like.  Right now, I am really liking SyFy’s drama The Magicians, specifically the fifth episode of season four.  But my editors told me that before I start telling you all about that particular episode, I should probably write a short article introducing the show, so you’ll have some idea what I’m talking about.  That seemed reasonable enough, so here we are.

Inspired by the Lev Grossman novels of the same name, The Magicians follows eight young adults as they become adept at using magic, travel to other dimensions, and repeatedly save each other and the world(s).  It’s basically an R-rated “Harry Potter meets Narnia.” Most of the action early on takes place at Brakebills University, a graduate school in upstate New York where college grads can, in three short years, get pretentious degrees in being wizards -only they call themselves “magicians” because I guess ‘wizards’ wasn’t pretentious enough?  Other action takes place in New York City and the magical realm of Fillory, which is definitely not Narnia.

At the beginning, the series is mostly focused on a young man named Quentin, AKA ‘Q,’ though it evolves into an ensemble cast over time.  His favorite books are a fictional series called Fillory and Further, about a set of English siblings who, during World War II, travel through an enchanted piece of furniture to a magical realm populated with talking animals.  They do not resemble any real books at all. Nope. Quentin learns that magic is real when he gets accepted to Brakebills. This gets him thinking that maybe Fillory could be, too.  Surprisingly, he is right! (this is not surprising). Other things that are real include: monsters, witches, gods, bad fairies, DRAMA, and a shadowy organization known as The Library that reminds me of Welcome To Night Vale every time it’s mentioned.

So anyway, this dude goes to school, makes friends, learns magic, etc.  I had deeply mixed feelings about season one. I liked the characters (well, most of them), really liked the spell choreography, and thought the villain was genuinely frightening.  However there was a lot of Problematic content that made me deeply uncomfortable, to the point that I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue watching.  Furthermore, I was very over the ‘chosen one’ trope. I felt that the show had potential, in spite of revolving around what I’d deemed a nothing character, because everyone else was much more interesting.

Season two steered away from some of the problems, particularly season one’s treatment of mental health.  It introduced some new characters and a ton of absolutely fantastic costumes (speaking as someone who has devoted the past year to the study and practice of costume design).  Some of the charm of the first season was gone, though. The villain was not scary in the same way, and the storytelling wasn’t as tight. I didn’t find it particularly compelling, but loved getting to see more of the ensemble.

Season three, and what I’ve seen so far of four, have often consisted of damage control: they subvert, or even undo, much of the garbage from earlier seasons.  This is also, I understand, the point at which the show really begins to break with the books. The Magicians hits its stride in season three, and, in retrospect, I am very glad I decided to continue watching.  Problem tropes still pop up from time to time, but the writers are plainly making an effort to improve.

 

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Things have improved, on multiple fronts

The colorful characters are the reason The Magicians succeeds.  I have therefore created a bulleted list describing the core characters, along with their Brakebills year and major as of season one.  This will give you an idea of who is who and how they interact so, hopefully, you’ll be able to at least sort of follow me when I start analyzing things with a microscope.  Also, there is this scene in season three where a bird-man refers to almost everyone by cool code names and we had to figure out who is who. Fun!
Anyway, these characters are good.  I want to hug them all and bring them cookies.   Bonus! This list also doubles as a ‘tag yourself’ meme.  I’m Fen.    Peruse this list while listening to this playlist I came up with at 4am, entitled The Magicians Characters as Dessa Songs” while you read, for an even more complete picture.

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Review: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

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The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel had me within the first scene. Not many shows can hook a viewer within seconds. However with The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel the humor and heart of the story comes forth in those first few seconds.

Mariam Maisel has it all. She has two children, a apartment with an elevator man, loving parents, a husband whom she adores and a sharp wit. She also has a tiny waist and can make an amazing brisket. Nothing could ever go wrong to someone so blessed. Something does go wrong though and it sets off a chain of events of things going wrong.

It is only when everything falls apart is Mariam able to find out something important about herself. That wit might be able to be molded into something more. She is able to mold herself into something different. By falling apart Mariam sees new ways to try to fit the pieces back together. In the process the audience gets to meet her very relatable, yet hilarious, family. The audience journeys with Mariam armed with humor and a can do attitude as her world grows.   

The sets for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel are, well, marvelous. The elaborate apartments, the dark clubs and everything in between set the tone for each scene. The costumes tell the viewer so much. The outfits of each character let you know their social background. They also help the viewer become immersed in the story and the time period. Each character’s look and design is so unique. 

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The soundtrack of the show is also wonderful. The music frames very scene perfectly. The soundtrack is also comprised of fun and danceable music. While The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is a treat to watch. It is also wonderful to listen to.   

I really enjoy The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. It is a funny show that is also full of heart. The characters in the cast move the story along with more than just humor. Their highs and lows are a roller coaster ride that the viewer never wants to get off of. The storyline is full of twists and fun. It is empowering to watch these characters find themselves.

I would highly recommend The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel if only for the laughs alone.

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ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!  

 

Ronin Warriors: An Anime Review

220px-Ronninwarriorsdvd1 Ronin Warriors, known as Yoroiden Samurai Troopers in Japan, is one of those amazing older anime that simply does not get enough love.

In 1988 Japan premiered a new anime. Yoroiden Samurai Troopers would run for thirty-nine episodes. It would premiere in America in 1995 under the name of Ronin Warriors. The show would then continue to run on syndication thanks to networks like Cartoon Network.

The story centers around four armored warriors who each have special weapons in connection to the elements. They are the only thing standing in between a terrifying warlord known as Talpa and his minions. Talpa has set in motion events in modern Japan for himself to rule the mortal world. Each of his minions has power to fight one of the Ronin. Therefore the Ronin must find each other in the chaos and join forces to defeat Talpa. They are also aided by a student named Mia, a young boy named Yuli and a masked man known as “The Ancient.”

Ronin Warriors has a fantastic plot. It blends the history of Japan with the supernatural. It takes an interesting “what if” question and spins a story of friendship and overcoming the odds. One more interesting thing about Ronin Warriors is that it is an anime with a transformation sequence for male characters. Yes that is correct. A “magic boy” sequence where our male heroes are transformed into their armor.

While the animation is dated it does still hold a real beauty. The sequence for the transformations is one of my favorites. It is cleverly done featuring Japanese cherry blossoms with drums. The character designs are actually very minimalist, which serves the story as we are worried about the end of the free world here and not what the boys are wearing. That being said everyone has their own style and color. The hairstyles alone are worth watching for.    

The music is also a little dated but it fits the show. It adds to the fight scenes and the transformation scenes.

Ronin Warriors, thankfully, came back to syndication when I was in High School. My friends and I loved it. We still quote parts of it. Ronin Warriors did seem to be a favorite of a lot of American anime fans at that time. It also spawned some wonderful fanfictions, one of which is very sadly no longer anywhere to be found. In short, it is a fun show which had a great fandom.

Would I recommend Ronin Warriors? Most assuredly. Please give it a shot if you haven’t already.

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Always keep sparkling!

 

Review: The Man in the High Castle

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What would have happened if the Nazis would have bombed the White House before the United States could bombed Japan during World War Two? That is the base question for The Man in the High Castle.

The Man in the High Castle is an Amazon Prime television series based on the book by Philip K Dick. In the year 1962 the United States as we know it no longer exists. The pacific states are under the control of the Japanese Empire. The eastern states are under control of the Nazis. There is a strip of states in between that are called “The Neutral Zone” where no one has control and it is more like the lawless Wild West of old.

There are many players in this show and they all contribute to the direction that the story takes. The Man in the High Castle, is at its heart, a story about stories. Different people reacting to the situations they are put in and how those actions affect those around them. There are also alternate versions of the stories, but we are just beginning to find out about those on the show.

Julia Crain has accepted the Japanese influence in her life. She practices aikido, looks after her mother and lives with her boyfriend. She has a fairly normal life for someone who is considered a second class citizen in her own country. There are other forces at play around her though. There are plots within the Nazi party itself and Hitler’s health is failing. The relationship between the Nazis and the Japanese are on shaky ground with the threat of war. The Resistance has something that they are trying to keep safely hidden. These are films. Films which show a different world. The question is whether these films a solution or are they something that should be destroyed?

The storylines in The Man in the High Castle are amazing. They take us from multiple people in the Pacific States, to the idyllic looking states under control of the Reich to Germany itself. All of the people from different countries and vocations are spun around each other seamlessly. The show keeps you guessing as it is filled with switches and turns. The characters are masterfully written.

The settings are also key to The Man in the High Castle. As the viewer travels from set to set we get an inside look at the lives which we are to be so invested in. Costumes let us know the show takes place in the past but also the status of the characters. Music is also a reminder that the sometimes familiar surroundings of our characters that what we are seeing is not what it seems. Everything in The Man in the High Castle is very delerate.

I would highly recommend The Man in the High Castle. It is a great story about alternative history with a rich cast of characters.

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ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING.