Tag Archives: magical girl

Codename Sailor V

Codename Sailor VStory: Naoko Takeuchi
Art:
 Naoko Takeuchi
Genre: Magical Girl
Volume Count: 2
Vintage: 1991 (through 1997)

Version reviewed: English Translated
Date of Review: 21 Oct 2013

Grade: B

Before Sailor Moon there was Sailor V.

Plot Summary
Minako Aino is a happy-go-lucky thirteen-year-old first-year middle school student. She likes boys and video games and hates homework. Everything changes when Minako meets a talking white cat named Artemis who tells her that she is to be a “Champion of Justice”. Strange things are happening around town, and only Minako can put things right again. With help from Artemis, Minako transforms into Sailor V to save the day.

The Review
It’s a simple magical girl formula that repeats in every chapter: strange things happen, people are in danger, girl transforms into hero and saves the day. Even so, Codename Sailor V remains entertaining. Naoko Takeuchi has a unique sense of humor, breaks the fourth wall occasionally, and has a nice (and very shoujo) art style. And did I mention that this series is the prequel to Sailor Moon? Codename Sailor V takes place before and through the very beginning of that most famous series which followed.

The story really is quite simple. Nearly every chapter follows the formula mentioned above, so unless you are already a fan of magical girl stories and can accept its conventions, you may find Sailor V to be repetitive. It’s the writing and character interactions which hold the story together over its fifteen chapters.

Kodansha’s translation is a bit of an odd one, and I base this solely on how it reads in English. The phrase “for pity’s sake” is used quite a bit, and it almost sounds anachronistic, or perhaps more accurately more like something your grandparents might say rather than a teenager in the 1990s. Also, Minako is thirteen years old and still calls her parents “mommy” and “daddy”. It’s been a long time since I was thirteen years old, but those terms seem more like something a grade-schooler would use rather than a junior high school student. Those two oddities aside, there are no other major quirks in how it reads, though some bits here and there may have benefitted from some further normalization into English.

My final call on Codename Sailor V is that if you’re a Sailor Moon fan, it should definitely be a part of your collection. Sailor Moon is where my own anime fandom began nearly fifteen years ago, so finally being able to read Sailor V as a lead in to Sailor Moon itself makes it feel like I’ve gone full-circle. If you’re a Moonie, new or old, check out Sailor V!

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Ground Defense Force Mao-chan

Ground Defense Force Mao-chanType: TV Series
Episode Count: 26
Genre: Comedy / Fantasy / Magical Girl
Vintage: 2002

Version reviewed: Japanese Subtitled
Date of Review: 21 Jun 2010

Grade: B

Each episode of Mao-chan is twelve minutes long.

The DVDs for this series should have a warning from the American Dental Association on them. Mao-chan is so chock full of cuteness, sugar may crystallize on your TV set as you watch it.

Plot Summary
Japan is being invaded by aliens! But these are no ordinary aliens. They are extremely cute aliens! What’s a nation to do when its safety is threatened by these huggable invaders? The Ground Defense Force Chief of Staff has the answer: send in his eight year old granddaughter Mao to defend against this menace! After all, the only way to fight extreme cuteness is with extreme cuteness. Not to be outdone, the Chiefs of Staff of both the Air and Sea Defense Forces assign their eight year old granddaughters to defend for their respective sectors as well. The battle of cuteness for the ages has begun!

The Review
As I once said in another review – ironically for the series upon which Mao-chan‘s director worked after this one – fans of the ultra cute, rejoice. Everyone else, run screaming for the hills.

Mao-chan‘s sole purpose is to immerse the viewer in cuteness. It does this very well. It also knows exactly what it is doing and how to do it. Mao-chan is a calculated, deliberately executed assault on the senses, constructed to find at least one way to have you fall under its spell. If you have any weakness for cute, one way or another, Mao-chan will find it. And there is no turning back once you have been ensnared. The series is almost meta that way. It’s a series about being attacked by cute things which attacks you with cute things. In a way, it’s twisted genius.

The story is simple, as it should be for a series of this type. Cute aliens descend to the earth in what look suspiciously like giant vending or prize machine capsules. Once landed, they begin their assault, making everyone in their path squee with delight and rendering them incapable of rational thought. As it turns out, the cute aliens do have a Master Plan, and only the cute trio of second graders in the United Defense Force can defend Japan from these advances.

Mao is our pink-haired heroine. Her grandfather, Herr Drosselmeyer The Ground Defense Force Chief of Staff, is the one who devised the plan of using his adorable granddaughter to gain the support of the Japanese Diet to fend off these attacks of cuteness. Mao has an indomitable spirit, but zero athletic ability.

Next to join the United Defense Force is Misora, granddaughter of the Air Defense Force’s Chief of Staff. She’s very polite and well spoken. She also has what to me quickly became an irritating mannerism. Whenever Misora speaks, she adds de arimasu to the end of every sentence. De arimasu is a variation on the ubiquitous desu – a word with no real English equivalent which conveys politeness. Misora’s doing this is supposed to be cute. For me, it got old after a handful of episodes. When I say she says it after everything, I mean everything. Every. Single. Thing. Misora almost killed Mao-chan for me. (In the manga adaptation, de arimasu was translated as “don’tcha know?”, and used far more sparingly.)

Fortunately, the third girl to join the United Defense Force saved the series for me, and in grand fashion no less. Sylvie was enlisted with the Sea Defense Force by her grandfather. She’s the outsider, and speaks with an Osakan accent. Sylvie is also laid-back and tells it like it is, and she’s got an unusual sense of humor. She’s also a lot more perceptive than her appearance and demeanor would suggest.

Strictly speaking, Mao-chan may not be a magical girl show, but for all intents and purposes, it is. The way that the girls prepare to defend is lifted straight out of the mahou shoujo playbook, complete with incantation and transformation sequence. The girls even have sidekicks, in the form of sentient full-scale plastic models of  various military vehicles.

There are a couple more interesting (or bizarre, if you prefer) elements to Mao-chan which add to its overall feel. First, there is a very specific way that the characters (especially Mao) cry when things go wrong… “ahh-ooh-ehh-ooh”. This is of course yet another device used to nab a portion of the unsuspecting audience with something they can latch on to as being cute. I was pretty neutral on this element myself. (Sylvie was the bait which got me hook, line, and sinker.) Perhaps the most unusual part of Mao-chan is the crush that Mao’s immediate supervisor (and homeroom teacher) Kagome has on Mao’s grandfather. Kagome is probably thirty years old tops, but she’s head over heels for the Chief of Staff, who is at least twice her age. Now, there’s probably nothing wrong with a little May-December infatuation, but Kagome is shameless in her pursuits to keep the Chief happy.

When considering Ground Defense Force Mao-chan, ask yourself these simple questions: Do you like cute? Do you really like cute? Do you really really like cute? Do you really really really like cute? If your answer to all of these questions is “yes”, then load up on toothpaste and mouthwash and brace yourself for an onslaught of sugar the likes of which you may have never seen before. Just be aware that the series is already three steps ahead of you and has a surefire plan to capture you with one of its cute hooks. Once you’ve been caught, there is no escape.

Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A’s

Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A'sType: TV Series
Episode Count: 13
Genre: Fantasy / Sci-Fi
Vintage: 2005

Version reviewed: Japanese Subtitled
Date of Review: 03 Apr 2009

Grade: B

Magical girls haven’t rocked this hard in a long, long time.

Plot Summary
A short time after the events of the first series, Nanoha Takamachi is training to increase her mastery of her magical abilities when she is attacked seemingly out of nowhere by someone that she has never seen before. A new force of evil has been unleashed, and Nanoha must find out who is behind it and what they want.

The Review
If you absolutely despise magical girl shows, Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A’s is the series for you. It takes the magical girl formula and combines it with the action of a shonen fighting series, and it works very well.

While the first Nanoha series laid the groundwork, A’s picks things up quickly with fast and furious action sequences from the very first episode. The best part is that these are well executed and exciting battles to watch. Sure, the girls call out the names of their attacks as in magical girl shows, but the way fights play out would seem right at home in, say, Bleach. Actually, fighters often call out attack names in shonen fighting series too, so there you go. Action packed battles in a magical girl show, and good ones at that.

Lest you believe that Nanoha A’s is more action and less magical girl, there is plenty of Girl Power and Do Your Best in this series to satisfy most mahou shoujo fans as well. Rooting for the underdog and Believing In The Power Of Friendship play important roles in the story, so the series wears its dual identities well. Magical Girl fans should find lots to enjoy, as long as they are receptive to the highly unconventional approach. Action fans should be happy as long as they are receptive to the idea of fourth grade girls (among others) being the ones dishing out the pain. (Magically, mind you.)

Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A’s is an excellent continuation of the story begun in the first series, and as with the end of the first lending itself to this sequel, A’s leaves the door wide open for a third series, which it did receive. I am very interested to find out where the story goes next, and now it’s just a matter of waiting for the third series to reach this side of the Pacific.