I’ve recently found a few more anime I thought I’d recommend. Each one offers something interesting, and I think all of them worth checking out.
The first offering is a movie that caused something of a stir when it wasn’t nominated for Best Animated Film, “Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms” (Japanese: “Sayonara no Asa ni Yakusoku no Hana o Kazarō”). At an one hour, fifty-five minutes, this isn’t some movie you can just sit down and turn your brain off to watch. Maquia, the title character, is a young girl of a nearly immortal race, the Iorph. Her people weave the tale of their years into fabric, the patterns of which they can read as we would a book. As the movie opens, she is alone, with no family, but her loneliness is to become more profound. A group of mortal humans invade, seeking to gain the immortality the Iorph possess by stealing women to breed with. These humans attack with the aid of dragons they hold in captivity, and when one of them goes mad during the invasion, Maquia become entangled in the cloth her people wove and is carried away by it.
When she recovers her senses, she is in the woods, alone, and seeing the flames of her homeland in the distance, is prepared to leap from a cliff to her death. At that moment, she hears a child crying. Maquia follows the sound to a village who’s inhabitants have been slaughtered. In one structure she finds a dead mother still clutching her living child. Maquia saves the mortal child, vowing to protect it and do her best to be a mother to it. She finds humans who takes her in, and despite her young age, helps her as she undertakes the raising of the boy she names Ariel.
I won’t go into the details so as not to spoil the movie. I will say that I enjoyed it because it examines a lot of themes I find interesting. Immortality, and the strains such a life would impose on someone who possessed it. Tolerance, or more precisely, humanity’s unwillingness to tolerate those who aren’t ‘normal’. And most of all, the danger of those who grasp for power without understanding the consequences of their actions. Sadly, it’s out of the theaters now, and not all that easy to find available online. But it is available on DVD/Blu-ray, so if you can’t find it online, I would highly recommend buying it.
The next two anime I’d like to bring to your attention are currently being streamed via Crunchyroll, so if you choose to watch either, they’re not hard to find. The first is “Magic Girl Spec-Ops Asuka” (Japanese: “Mahō Shōjo Tokushusen Asuka”). The ‘magic girl’ concept is something of a sub-genre in anime. It usually involves a young girl, usually not out of her early teens, who is suddenly endowed with magical powers that she uses to fight monsters and other evil. Normally, there is little of the actual horrors of war and fighting, and “Magic Girl Spec-Ops Asuka” steps into that void to ask the question what happens to the little girl who has to face all that? Asuka, the title character, was among a group of eleven young girls from around the world who were given magical powers to fight the Disa, a group of extra-dimensional invaders. While they look like over-sized stuffed toys, the Disa are ruthless killers, and of the original group of 11, only five survive to see the invaders driven off. Asuka leads the group of survivors in the final battle, and with the war over, she tries to go back to a normal life. Unfortunately for her, just as for many warriors coming back from our own wars, the things they saw, the things they were forced to do in combat, are never far from the present day. Dealing with PTSD is the battle she fights at the beginning of the series, but it soon become clear that just like the nuclear ‘secret’, the ability to turn magic to evil purposes has escaped into the world. Asuka is forced to return to her role as a warrior to face the growing threat. This is no laugh-a-minute comedy. Asuka’s made friends, and they are soon dragged into the conflict. One nearly dies in a confrontation with escaped criminals armed with magical abilities. Another is captured and tortured because her father had helped catch those same criminals. It’s dark stuff, but the series deals with it not for the shock value, but because modern warfare is filled with horrors as bad or worse. Well worth checking out.
On a far less serious front, I’d like to offer “Kaguya-sama: Love Is War” (Japanese: “Kaguya-sama wa Kokurasetai – Tensai-tachi no Ren’ai Zunōsen”). Another sub-genre in anime is school romance. Often, these are comedies about the confused emotions of high school students, and this one takes that notion up several notches. Kaguya Shinomiya and Miyuki Shirogane the top students at their high school, and respectively the vice-president and president of the student council. Each one is in love with the other, yet both of them are too proud to speak up for fear that such a confession would be a sign of weakness to the other. What results is a series of attempts by the two protagonists to get the other person to actually confess their feelings. Some of the humor is decidedly low-brow (like when Chika Fujiwara, the student council secretary and generally clueless noob who acts as a comedic foil to the main characters, discovers that Kaguya laughs uncontrollably when the word ‘wiener’ is said), but then again, the entire premise is to strive for a good innocent laugh at the expense of the haughty main characters. Watch it if you’re in need of a good chuckle.