Monday, 30 March 2015

Book Review- The Very Soil: An Unauthorized Critical Study Of Puella Magi Madoka Magica

(And here it is, the very special thing! Many moons ago, a very nice person suggested that I do a collaboration with a fellow called Froborr. What became of that was some tandem waffling about Mega Pony, a My Little Pony/Mega Man fangame. It turned out very well, and you can read the second half here.  The first part of it is hosted on his blogspace, and you can hit that up as well. Anyway, while I must confess that I'm indifferent on the subject of ponies, what really grabbed my interest when it came to Froborr was his Very Soil series, which was a critical look at a favorite anime of mine; Puella Magi Madoka Magica. I love that show to death and I was super stoked to read about it. Which I did. Now Froborr, otherwise known as Jed Blue, has put out an entire book of his insights into the inner workings of Madoka Magica, and what follows is me talking about it for a bit. Thank you very much for the review copy, sir, and for anyone else interested in his work, check out his new and spiffy-looking webspace. He's currently just started a project that's going to look at the DC animated universe. All of it. It's good enough for me to be giving him two bucks a month for it on Patreon.

...If that ain't enough full disclosure for all y'all, I don't know what is. On with the show.)

If there ever were a poster child for brevity, Puella Magi Madoka Magica might be it. Twelve 22-minute episodes and three feature films, and yet the entire thing is packed with everything a growing anime fan could want out of a show. Colorful and imaginative imagery. Characters you give a crap about. Things spiraling out of control down into a deep and dark pit of despair. I watched this show in 2012 or so, and deliberately limited myself to only one episode a night. It's fantastic, and it's fantastic in ways I find difficult to describe with just broad strokes. More than that, however, is the fact that deeper meanings glimmer beneath the surface of the Madoka pond. There are madmen thematic divers who delve into these depths, searching for the lost treasure of the postmodern armadas. Fresh from his bathysphere right now is Jed Blue, and this is the gold he unearthed within the sunken ship. This is The Very Soil.

On paper (which is one of the ways you can get it!), The Very Soil is an unauthorized critical study of Madoka Magica, originally posted over on Jed Blue's blogspace. As Madoka Magica is in my top 5 of Japanese cartoons, I readily absorbed every word, and delightfully did so again for this new version. Beyond the analysis of the twelve main episodes, there's also several chapters that poke and prod in various directions at the third feature film, Rebellion. (The previous two being more recaps of the television series.) In addition to that, the book's got a handful of extra essays, most of them dealing with spinoff manga. There is an extra chapter about Rebellion, and more analysis of that is always good as it's a very... challenging film, I found.

What gets analyzed here, precisely? Anything and everything. Madoka Magica is already a very rich series, and the book dives right in, unveiling every hidden theme it can. Things you might not have thought of, but get explored in great detail. The Buddhist nature of cycles, and how the show's time travelling character deals with this. Faustian analysis, and issues of bodily consent involving the magical girls and Kyubey. The show's third episode and third-to-last episode being mirrors of each other, which fundamentally change the show by way of miniature narrative collapse. Themes of putrefaction and decay. At its heart, it is a book that enriches the experience of Madoka Magica, and makes one think about it in new and exciting ways. If nothing else, it helped me to make sense of what the hell might be happening in Rebellion.

This is the treasure pulled from the depths; the critical analysis gold. If you are at all fond of Madoka Magica, then you definitely should give this book the old read-through. It is a mighty fine companion piece that delves deep into what makes this masterpiece of a Japanese cartoon tick, and then delves deeper than that into things one might not even consider. Most of all though, it's a book about people. Because, as Jed Blue reminds us in the introduction, all stories are about people. If you have never seen Puella Magi Madoka Magica, then you really had ought to view it at some point. It's fantastic and well worth your time. If you have seen Madoka Magica, then you'd find this book to be well worth your time also.

(The Very Soil can be purchased from Smashwords in e-book form here, or from Createspace in paperback here. 

Sunday, 29 March 2015


Yeah. I neglected this for over three months. Oops. My sincere apologies to anyone who was really stoked about esoteric views based on 15 minute experiences with old Nintendo games. I'm not going to say that the Nintendo Project Resumed is dead, but I need to regain interest in it. Really, I should have posted an official thing like two months ago, but here we are.

There will be a post in the next day or two about something really cool I experienced, but until then here are a few things I wrote and took part in in the last little while:

-The absolutely massive finale to Phil Sandifer's TARDIS Eruditorum. I wrote a brief interlude for it; CTRL+F "Cynthia" to find it.

-The best games I played in 2014. A lot of interesting waffling about a bunch of rad experiences.

-"A Brief Treatise On The Rules Of Dungeon Crawling", in which I wax nostalgic about old RPGs before praising the wild and wondrous world of 3DS dungeon crawlers by Atlus.

-The Let's Play Summer School II, a Let's Play competition I technically won. I played some of my favorite games, got nostalgic, and bitched about the AVGN Adventures one last time.

-Sockscast, Episode 14. A three-hour podcast with my good pals Polly, Rhete, and Crono Maniac. I say naughty words that get bleeped and talk about video games I played.

-A thing I literally just wrote about Mega Man X5.

See you in a day or two for the special thing.