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It is one bad mother.

So, as you already know, I was a big fan of GONZO for quite some time. Well, now that I find myself without a studio to fanboy over, I’m thinking of getting a new “Property of Studio Shaft” tattoo. The anime they produce is quirky, to say the least… yet, as I look through the list of Shaft anime, I keep finding Shaft works that I didn’t even know were Shaft! Things that I had enjoyed years ago before I even knew of Shaft! Furthermore, of the anime I’m currently watching, several of them are Shaft!

I watched He is My Master, Pani Poni Dash and Negima!? years ago and enjoyed each of them. I didn’t think to look into their makers though… so the first Shaft anime that really sticks to me as a shaft anime is Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei.

That is Shaft-quality quirky anime right there.

Zetsubou-sensei put into my head the basic things that I look for in Shaft anime. I want a non-traditional story, unexpected twists, interesting artistic effects and the ability to blur the line between comedy and tragedy. Zetsubou-sensei marked the point at which I began looking at Shaft as an entity… an extremely quirky entity. I’ve tried out several Shaft series since, and I haven’t been disappointed… for the most part. For instance, one of my favorite romance anime is Shaft.

ef: a fairy tale of the two

Oh my goodness, ef was good. The series is composed of two seasons, ef: a tale of memories and ef: a tale of melodies… but the seasons are separate stories, tied together through personal connections of the characters. It was some really good Shaft stuff. There were amazing visual effects that tried to convey a deeper mood… some of those visual effects were extremely powerful and moving. The funny thing is that I didn’t realize it was Shaft until I saw those bold artistic choices.

Similarly, Bakemonogatari was an amazingly visual anime. There were a lot of subtle effects there… and a lot of not-so-subtle effects… but either way, it was very well done and I can’t wait for them to eventually get around to Kizumonogatari. Something about the way that Shaft anime can highlight the best and worst in their characters through those subtle artistic choices… it really gets to me. The little flashes. The odd angles. The images tossed out there… they engage your mind on multiple levels and I love it.

Dance in the Vampire Bund was a real winner. It treated vampires with the level of respect and sophistication that some vampire fiction doesn’t seem to these days… and yet the vampires were still human characters. They were at once human and monster. The anime switched seamlessly back and forth between innocent and happy and dark and sanguine. It was an anime that dealt properly with vampires and Shaft did a wonderful job with it. There was one extremely powerful scene fairly early on in the series where an anti-vampire person, who had been sort of portrayed as racially insensitive, gets her worst fears realized. You get to watch her being attacked by vampires, exactly as she feared. It is practically a rape scene… and it was masterfully done.

Arakawa Under the Bridge is a LOT lighter than Dance in the Vampire Bund. This one is a Shaft-style comedy. Beautifully random with just a dash of serious romance… it is an enjoyable series to watch and I heartily recommend it. One thing I especially like about it is the level of the humor. You can show this one to your mom without it getting awkward. There aren’t any of the jokes that make people think we are terrible sexual deviants… just the sort of jokes that make people think we are strange humor deviants… Oh well, pick your battles. Everyone loves a man in a kappa costume.

But this season Shaft made a magical girl anime. I was skeptical at first. It looked pretty by-the-book. I mean, you have the cheery but kinda useless main girl… she meets magical critter… magical critter tells her she can become a magical girl… it all seemed sort of standard… but then I actually WATCHED it. First episode, first encounter with the evil of the series, the good old Shaft artistic sense kicked in. The badguys have an entirely different art style. It is surreal to watch, but it adds to the level of unreality, when you think of it in terms of the characters. These are not beings of their comprehension. These are strange twisted mockeries of the evils that dwell in men’s minds!

Another interesting point about this one is that they clarified the entire Magical Critter + Girl = Powers bit. There is motivation there. There is motivation for the critter to gain powers, there is motivation for the girl to receive powers, there is motivation for the girl to exercise received powers… the entire process feels understandable, if not natural. I especially like the focus on the main character’s family and home life. It does my heart good to see that they aren’t all orphans. The REAL zinger hits at the end of episode 3. That is the episode that solidified this in my mind as “not just another magical girl anime”. Puella is actually, surprisingly, the anime of this season that I’m most interested in. It is certainly worth watching and I would encourage you to pick it up.




  1. I need links to DVB…

  2. I miss our Robert Hall days were you would make, in a nice good way ^_^, me watch all sorts of anime. I need to broaden my search into anime.

    • It is never a bad time to broaden one’s palate.

        • Jordan
        • Posted January 28, 2011 at 1:58 am
        • Permalink

        But the tongue would eventually swell and choke the person…

      • Then perhaps you should broaden your jaw as well.

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