Magical Girlfriend (V) – Urusei Yatsura


“Typical” High Schooler Ataru Moroboshi has been picked by a random to save the Earth from invasion by the Oni.  To do so, he must touch the horns of the alien’s top warrior, Lum.  But things aren’t as straight forward as they appear, as Oni are capable of flight…

However, falling back on his true nature, Ataru manages to succeed, only to accidentally propose to Lum at the end.  She quickly accepts, then informs Ataru that if he is ever unfaithful to her, she will use her other power on him.  The power to  send electricity coursing through him with a touch…


Darling and his future wife
Darling and his future wife

You don’t talk about Magical Girlfriends without talking about Urusei Yatsura.  Actually, that’s not the whole of it.  You really can’t talk about anime without mentioning UY.  It is one of the most popular manga/anime out there.  It has run 34 manga volumes, 195 TV episodes, 11 OVA, and 6 movies, which is nothing to sneeze at.  More, and I might be going out on a limb here, it probably inspired the whole Magical Girl Harem sub genre in Japan.

Again, someone with more anime/manga knowledge might correct me on that last bit, but I don’t think it’s a bad assumption to make.  What research I could pull off the web seems to suggest this, though admittedly I am not the best at finding facts on-line.  Still, hear me out a moment.

Wikipedia‘s entry on Magical Girlfriends lists 19 examples of the subgenre.  Of these, only two started in the 1980s.  They would be 3X3 Eyes (1987)  and Oh!  My Goddess! (1988).

UY started in 1978.

Another thing that leads me to this conclusion – and I hasten to add that they too might be wrong – is the following quote from TV Trope Wiki:


…UY is one of the earliest tongue-in-cheek harem comedies, combining its outlandish premise to spice up deceptively typical plots, as well as parody the genre nearly a decade before the fact.


It’s impossible to just describe UY.  I can say this quite without reservation, as I’ve tried and failed before.  I fell back on words such as “wacky”, “wild”, and “almost killed me.”  These do not really work for me, and, looking back on it, I’m kind of embarrassed by it.  What I mean to say, without reservation, is that it is one of the funniest, most entertaining anime out there.

In cold print, the set up sounds… kind of bad.  Ataru Moroboshi is a lecher of the worst order.  He’s a grabby, groping kind of guy.  What would be termed in the olden days as a masher.  Not the kind of hero you’d expect.  Or even want, come to that.

In practice, however, it’s sort of like the Waner Brothers Road Runner cartoons.  Atatu is Wile E. Coyote and every single women in the series (save Ataru’s mother and Lum) acts as Road Runner.  You really don’t want him to win, but he loses so often (and so cataclysmic) you find you almost have to like him.

Ataru gets a charge out of Lum. Watt? You weren’t expecting amp-le punnage? Shocking.

I was going to squeeze Lum into that comparison somewhere (the Acme products?) but really, she’s more like Sam Sheepdog.  I might have tried using that particular duo, except the women in UY aren’t exactly sheep.  Most (if not all) of the women in the series are perfectly capable of handling Ataru’s advances, and do so with ease.  Sometimes they do so with power rivaling Lum’s own electrify nature.

Whether or not the above comparison hold eight, know also that the series never, ever sides with Ataru’s shenanigans.  In fact, it’s made clear early on that it’s his lecherous nature that the source of all of his woes.  Were he to changes his nature, perhaps things would improve.  The electric shock treatments might even be cut back a touch.

But only a touch.

I’ve really only covered one character in this review type thing here.  The series has a tone of excellent characters, ranging from Ataru’s long-suffering fiancée (!) Shinobu Miyake to Lum’s fire-breathing breath cousin Ten.  Then there are Lum’s Storm Troopers, a group of male classmates who want Lum to themselves, and who will go to great lengths to do so.  And so on and so forth.

I think I can recommend this series straight across the board.   Not only are both the series and manga excellent, but the movies are great as well.  My favorite of the set is Beautiful Dreamer, in which the cast discovers not only that they are living the same day over and over again, but their numbers are dwindling.  You probably should have a grasp on the characters before watching this one, or, really, any of the movies, but like I’ve been saying, doing so is worth the effort.

One small caveat (again?):  If you have a problem with subtitles, then you might not get into UY.  The series has never been fully dubbed into English.

That aside, below is the first season opening theme for .  Try and get it out of your head once you’ve heard it…

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Magical Girlfriend (IV) – Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-ohki


Young Tenchi Masaki always wanted to know what was in the forbidden cave near his family’s shrine.  So one day he sneaks in.  Big mistake, as the cave contains the fabled Demon Ryoko.  Ryoko only wants to play with Tenchi, if you consider massive property damage to be “play.”


He looks so happy. The poor sap.

Let’s now turn our eyes towards Japan.  There, the Magical Girlfriend trope is much more alive than here in America.  More, it is attached to another story archetype, that of the Harem Anime/Manga.  Let’s pause a moment to discuss this new Archetype in regards to the subject at hand.

In the regular Harem stories, the loveliest of ladies all but surround our Hero.  Between the male and the females exists a certain type of bond.  Call it love, call it lust, call it whatever you want, the two groups1 can’t bear to be parted.   Or perhaps one group can’t bear to be parted, but the other group doesn’t quite see it that way.  You know how Archetypes are.  Sometimes rigid, sometimes variable.

The main thrust of the Harem stories is the eventual choice Our Hero must make.  Will he choose the tomboy?  The Silent One?  The Free Spirit?  The girl whom he has a mutual hatred going for but deep down there’s a definite sense of attraction and/or love?  Oh the burden he must have.  Oh the stories that will result.

Now, for me, for my own personal viewing habits, I’ve found that our Hero inevitably chooses the wrong freaking girl.  Meaning, of course, that the one I like is left crying in the distance while chump and chumpette go marching off into the distance.  This has happened so often that, as a rule, I should stay away from Harem stories.  For my ulcer’s sake.

I should also stay away from Bad Movies, but we all know how well that’s been worked for me.

The other problem with Harem stories is that the viewer inevitably wonders why Our Hero won’t just make a choice already.  The Creators often try to give an explanation for this.  The Hero is clueless to the girls’ feelings, he doesn’t want to chose, or he wants them all.  That sort of thing.  It doesn’t matter.  The viewer still tears out his/her hair while that nitwit dithers over a choice.

What amounts to a pleasant conversation between Ayeka and Ryoko
What amounts to a pleasant conversation between Ayeka and Ryoko

I hasten to add that a good Harem story will lessen these self destructive habits, and actually is enjoyable.  Despite the fact the nitwit never chooses the right girl.

Now when you have a Magical Girlfriend Harem story (shortened to MG Harem), you don’t just have one Magical Girlfriend causing havoc.  Of course not.  See, almost every single females attached to the hero has her own special ability, and they are not afraid to use it.  On this, like all Magical Girlfriends, they are not only jealous of the time Our Hero spends with other Females, they are hell-bent on getting him alone and working their wiles upon him.

Cory Anders had no idea how lucky he had it.

All of this is a long-winded way to head to poor Tenchi Masaki.  All he wanted to know was what was hidden in the cave behind the family shrine.  Mainly because his grandfather said he couldn’t, but also because of the legends attached to his family.  But, like so many forbidden secrets in Genre, there’s something to the legends.  Trapped there in suspended animation is the Space Pirate Ryoko, the demon of legend.  And, through his curious search, Our Hero releases her.

Well, like almost all Magical Girlfriends,  Ryoko fixes on her rescuer and wants to play.  Her version of “play” results in the destruction of Tenchi’s school and his own near death.  More, her presences on Earth draws more aliens, including the Princess Ayeka (who, despite being the polar opposite of Ryoko, is almost as destructive as the Space Pirate) and the Space Cop Mihoshi (if intelligence was light, she would be the center of a black hole).  Tenchi’s nice and simple life is now gone.

I’m not sure, but I seem to recall that this was one of the anime Brother Eric tried to introduce me to.  I thought it looked dumb.  But, like oh so many things Eric has pointed my way, it’s actually quite enjoyable.  Tenchi is extremely likable, and while Ryoko is extremely selfish and destructive, I like her, too.  Which means that, at least with the first six episodes, the creators pushed Ayeka as the “right choice.”

The skin chills at the notion.  Ayeka’s first appearance has her shooting without provocation, false arrest, torturing a helpless captive, and theft.

Tenchi and Ryoko.  Having "fun"
Tenchi and Ryoko. Having fun

Which is much worse than blowing up an empty school and trying to cause harm to the man she loves.

Honest.

Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-ohki is one of the best MG Harem stories out there.  While it started out as a OVA, it inspired a hell of a lot of TV series, one of which (Tenchi Universe) is far better than the source.  Both the Japanese voice cast and the American cast are excellent, or, at least they never grated quite as much as Mark Hamill does in Jeannie (no, I’m not letting that go.)

I must add one cavat.  I’m only talking about the first six episodes.  While mileage may vary between the view, I really didn’t care for the second OVA series.  The third and latest adds at least one new cast member.  Tenchi’s new fiancée.

Grrr.  Arrrgh.


End Notes

  • Back in the day, these things came out on VHS one episode per tape.  On this, the subtitled version (my family’s preferred version) cost more than the dubbed.  Hard to think about, in this age of DVDs
  • I don’t mention it above, but avoid Tenchi in Tokyo.  It’s just painful

1 If one person can be considered a group, that is.

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Magical Girlfriend (III) – Jeannie


Cory Anders discovers the genie Jeannie while surfing one day. Havoc then reigns. Or at least as much havoc as a 70s Hanna-Barbera Cartoon will have.


Hideous capture, isn’t it?

One of the most important thing to remember about the Magical Girlfriend trope is that the Girlfriend always causes problems for her love interest.  She doesn’t mean to cause problems.  It’s just that she has so little control over her powers.  Or that she’s not familiar with the social mores of the “real world”.  Or that she really, really likes to do property damage, and what’s the big deal, exploding buildings are so much more interesting than ones that just stand there.

But the one area where the Magical Girlfriend excels at giving headaches at is when she discovers a rival for her lover’s heart.  That’s when it really hits the fan.  It might be the most innocent of situations, something easily mistaken as a guilty moment, or the louse could really be pulling something.  It doesn’t matter.  HAVOC WILL REIGN UPON THE EARTH AND ALL WHO BEHOLD IT WILL RENDER THEIR GARMENTS, POUR ASHES UPON THEIR HEAD, AND WAIL PITEOUSLY.

Or something to that effect.  Depends on the attitude of the story’s creators.

Which leads us to today’s review.  Or whatever this is.

Jeannie is the story of High Schooler Cory Anders and his adventurers with the genie named Jeannie.  Cory wants to live a regular life, while Jeannie wants to help her Master with all of her powers.  Combined this with Cory being a bit girl crazy and Jeannie saddled with Godzuki a nit wit Junior Genie named Babu, and you have a potentially good series.  Unfortunately it’s a Hanna-Barbera cartoon, which means it misses it’s mark by a good country mile.  Especially when you consider the creators decided to add a laugh track to the cartoon.

Urg.  Laugh tracks.

By rights, I shouldn’t remember this show at all.  It’s been years since I even thought of it.  Brother Eric and I watched it all the time (not in its original run, I hasten to add) and there’s some fond memories attached to it.  But, then again, I have found memories of The Smurfs for God’s sake.  What does that mean?

Last week I was doing a bit of research on the show this cartoon spun off from (I Dream of Jeannie) and found myself reminded of its existence.  As You Tube is the Great Reminder of Things Gone Past for the Internet, I thought I’d go see what I could find out about Jeannie.  I mean what could it hurt, right?

One of these days I’m going to learn better.  Because the first thing I saw was the original opening.  I have it below, but be warned: the theme song might cause damage to your ears, your mind, and maybe even your immortal soul:

No way in hell was I going to watch that cartoon again.  It belonged to another age.  One where I was dumber and more easily amused.

And that was where I planned to stand on the issue.  I’d refer to it in my Magical Girlfriend essay (yes, this series was going to be another one-off essay), make some derogatory remarks, and that would be that.  All would be happy.

Only morbid curiosity got the better of me.  I watched an episode (Surf’s Up).  And as the show went on, I spent a good deal of the time, rolling my eyes.  Like so many Hanna-Barbera cartoons, if any of the characters had a lick of sense, none of the events in the story would have happened.  You could call each moment right before it happened, and while you might not get the specifics, you’d be well in the ball park.  I was going to stop watching.  I was.

Then it happened.  Cory is riding down the street with his friend Henry Glopp and Cory’s chick of the episode.  On the way they spot Jeannie in the air behind them, tailing them.  As I implied in the opening, our girl is an extremely jealous individual.  Cory guns his motorcycle and tries to ditch her.  Not the wisest thing to do, but oh well.

An even worse capture of Jeannie in action

Jeannie is having none of that.  She speeds up herself.  To do so, she gets into the position you see to your right.  That’s right.  Jeannie pretending to be on a motorcycle while still sitting crossed legged.

I was hooked.

What I learned is this.  If your expectations are low… real low… there’s a lot of fun to be had with this cartoon.  Jeannie, as played by Julie McWhirter, is a very winning character and I found I could easily root for her, despite the fact most of the problems caused in the series were her fault.  Babu is not nearly as annoying as most Scrappies, thanks to Joe Besser‘s stellar work.  The only real weak link here is the guy playing Cory Anders.  Which is shocking considering Mark Hamill plays Cory, and he’s something of a Cartoon God these days.

Bottom line:  If I catch the show on TV, I’ll watch it.  If it comes out on DVD, I might even buy it.  But that’s me and my lack of good taste.  Your mileage may vary.

Magical Girlfriend (II) – I Married a Witch


Back in the 17thcentury, Jennifer and her father Daniel were accused of witchcraft and were burned at the stake. Problem was, they were real witches, and they cursed their persecutor, one Jonathan Wooley, and his descendants, condemning them to unhappy marriages.

Now, in the modern year 1942, the two have returned to life.  They seek out the descendant of their old nemesis, one T. Wallace Wooley Jr.  That very evening, Wooley is about to enter an unhappy marriage.  Jennifer, fascinated by this man, decides that if he’s going to be in an unhappy marriage, it will be with her…


TV Trope Wiki suggests the following when talking about the Magical Girlfriend:

Just as the Magical Girls genre was inspired by Bewitched, it seems likely that both that show and I Dream Of Jeannie are somewhere in the DNA of the Magical Girlfriend.

Now let’s suppose for a moment that this is true.   Then we could trace the lineage of the Magical Girlfriend trope.1  As I Dream of Jeannie was inspired by Bewitched, then what inspired Bewitched (assuming we can’t trail this line of thought back into antiquity) would ultimately be the source of the Plot Archetype.  And, assuming I’ve set all of my ducks in order, that source would safely assumed to be…

Wait.  You’ve already guessed?  Gads.  It’s rough dealing with such intelligent readers.  I am truly not worthy.

Now here’s where things get dicey.  Was I Married a Witch a bad movie, I could discuss it with great abandon.  I could tear it apart with my razor sharp wit.  Or whatever I use on wretched vile movies.

Thing is, this isn’t a bad movie.  Oh, it has the One Hour Romance, or at least half of one, and I think it could have a bit more “meat” as it where storywise, but none of this bothers me about it.  It’s an entertaining film.  One that doesn’t deserve spoilers.2

What I will say is that  I Married a Witch is a whimsical romp that’s worth your attention.  If you’re into whimsical that is.  The lady playing Jennifer in this movie is one Veronica Lake, one of the most stunning women in movie history.  She really holds this film together, and it’s worth seeing for her if nothing else.


1 At least as far as America is concerned.  Japan uses the Magical Girlfriend often in anime.  We will be attending to a couple of those in the final two essays.

2 Of course, I’ve never let conscience keep me from spoiling good entertainment before.  Another problem is… heh heh… it’s been a while since I’ve watched  I Married a Witch and I’d rather skim on review than get story points wrong.

Magical Girlfriend (I) – Who is the Magical Girlfriend?

So.  What will we be talking about this week?  More crappy Horror movies that cause me physical and emotional pain, scars, and what not?  I say thee Nay!

Instead, we’ll talk about the Magical Girlfriend.  Who or what is the Magical Girlfriend?  Am I talking about someone new in my life?  A significant other that will lighten the awful burden that is my life?

No.

Of course not.

Don’t be ridiculous.

We are speaking in the Language of Genre here.  The Magical Girlfriend is a certain type of Plot Archetype.  You know, one of those silly things I like to go on and on about.  Only this time it isn’t one of my made up terms at all.  It is a specific, well used one.  So specific in fact, we can quote two different sources, such as Wikipedia or that devourer of free time,  TV Trope Wiki.  Either would do just fine for our purposes.

But that would be the lazy way out.  So put up with a definition (of sorts) of my very own:

Our Hero, whom we will call Wooley for no real good reason, has a relatively event free, normal life.  He has his family, his friends, and something to occupy his time, be it a job or school.  Everything seems perfect.  Oh hell, it is perfect.

Then, one day, Wooley leaves the fields he knows for a strange place.  It might be a cave, a burning building, or some out of the way beach.  He might go willingly or he might be dragged kicking and screaming.  How he goes isn’t important, it’s who he finds there.  Namely, the girl.

For this example, let’s call her Jennifer, for the same non-reason as before.  Jennifer is a stunner.  Beautiful beyond compare.  She might even be the perfect choice for our Wooley, except for one small hitch.  She is in possession of a great power.  More, she’s perfectly willing to use that power to obtain what she wants.

And what does she want?  Why Wooley’s heart.  For our Jenny loves Wooley madly, passionately, deeply.  And woe to anyone who stands between her and her prize.

All of this is enough to upset Wooley’s little apple cart.  However there’s even more.  Jenny’s presence in his life draws in further madness that just refuses to go away…

I think you get the general picture.  For this week, we’ll cover a wide variety of type Magical Girlfriend stories.  It’ll be fun!

Now if you excuse me, I’m off to mourn my sorry, sorry love life.

Last time I asked a girl out was in my junior year at Marian.

God knows how long ago that was…