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This week, I was fortunate enough to watch two awesome episodes of two awesome series. The thing that really made them awesome was the author’s use of perspective. When I say perspective, I mean the point from which the audience views the world. If you stop to think about it, most anime pick one or two people and generally have the camera hovering somewhere around them. There are, of course, anime that cut to villains or side characters, but for the most part, the majority will pick a few main characters and stick with them. This lets the author control the impact and tone of events, as well as how much the audience knows about any given situation. For instance, let us say that we have a scene in which a supposedly evil man confronts an actually evil man who is widely believed to be good. Then, lets have a hero barge in. If we, the audience, hadn’t seen the initial conversation, we see the good man being confronted by the evil one. Now, let us say that the supposedly evil man knocks a hero unconscious and saves his life from a bomb the actually evil man had planted. Most the time, in such situations, anything that would knockout the main character knocks out the cameraman. We would wake up with our character outside of the blown-up ruins of the “good guy”s building. If our cameraman stays awake, we see an entirely different scene that raises some serious questions! Little differences in perspective can seriously color perception.

So what does this have to do with the awesome anime I saw this week? This week, Puella Magi Modoka Magica (which you should be watching if you aren’t) switched up perspective on us. The entire series I’ve been LOVING how very non-typical PMMM is for its genre. It has felt like a magical girl anime that is trying its hardest not to have a magical girl main character. We continued to follow this girl as our main character with repeated reminders about how powerful and superb a magical girl she could be… and yet she hasn’t become one. All the while, we have had a character that has attempted to thwart the main character’s ascension to relevance within her own anime. In fact, Akemi Homura has almost become a sort of antagonist as, to the audience, it feels like she has been attempting to make the anime not be about the main character. All the events of the anime keep pushing the main character towards becoming the magical girl we KNOW she can be! She is a magical girl in the opening credits! She was a magical girl in the pre-season hype! THE TITLE HAS HER NAME IN IT AS A PUELLA MAGI! Yet, for almost an entire season, we have watched her not become that magical girl. It always felt wondrously off somehow, but I didn’t know exactly why.

That is, I didn’t know why until this episode. This last episode started off with a mind-bending twist of perspective. We were no longer following Madoka, we were following Homura. We began to see the anime the way it might have been. By switching to Homura’s perspective, the entire content of the show had changed! Through that episode, we gained a second point of reference. Do you know why human beings have two eyes? Because with two points of perspective, you can gauge depth… and this was some seriously deep stuff. By changing the point from which we view the world, we learned more about all the characters… especially my favorite character… nothing says “You were always doomed to suffer this fate and there was nothing anyone could do to save you” like a good second look. Whats more, they added a little bonus for those of us who pay attention to beginnings and endings. They only had time for the opening credits at the very end of the episode and they changed the last shot of the opening credits to what they would have been, given this new perspective. It was an eye opener.

Bakuman also threw me for a loop. Technically, it should have thrown me for a loop last week, but I missed the episode and caught up this week when I noticed I’d jumped from 20 to 22 somehow. Bakuman has followed the main character Mashiro almost exclusively. On occasion, it has jumped to one of his 3 friends for a brief period but, almost the entire anime, our cameraman has remained within 15 feet of the main character. This means that we, with a few exceptions, are introduced to characters when our main character is. There is a problem with this approach, though… it reduces dramatic irony. Any time that the author feels the urge to instill dramatic irony, he has to cut away from Mashiro long enough to impart a meaningful scene. After we see what sort of person Nizuma is, the camera slides back into its natural comfortable place near our romantic protagonist.

The really great part came when it was time to suddenly thrust a pair of new characters at the audience. I don’t know about you, folks, but when I suddenly had like 28 or so new names to learn in Bleach, I could feel my interest waning. Character introduction is a tricky thing, especially if you have to break out of your traditional perspective to do it. Bakuman has, for the most part, introduced us to characters through our protagonist. We get to know them as he does, so we don’t have a lot of characterization dumped on us… but Bakuman did something GREAT here… and it started in episode 1. Throughout the show, we have had background references to a visual kei sensation named KOOGY. Nothing major, the main character has never even looked at the KOOGY posters plastered in the background… but subconsciously we’ve been noticing. We’d catch a snippet of girls talking about KOOGY’s music or see a KOOGY commercial on a downtown TV, but it never tied back into the plot. We just had KOOGY posters hanging on the wall. Suddenly, KOOGY is relevant. KOOGY is extremely relevant and it doesn’t feel like he was thrust suddenly upon us. Quite the opposite, there is a wonderful feeling of comprehension! Finally, we can tie this rogue element in!

This sort of subtle character introduction isn’t new to Bakuman alone, but I have to say that they did a very good job of it. Much like the Green Braver appearing in the background shots of the first season of Bamboo Blade, KOOGY’s media presence established his existence within the world without breaking out of the main character’s perception. Now, when we are called upon by the author to view this character, we have a sort of mental foundation to work with. We have a framework of belief. After all, it doesn’t matter how long ago the author planned a character’s place in the story. The introduction will just feel forced unless you first establish within the minds of the audience that there is a place for such a character.

Or maybe it’s just me.

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