I’ve just returned from an amazingly successful and fun con where the topic of the day was the genre known as shoujo anime. Shoujo (pronounced show-joe) means “girl” in Japanese and shoujo anime is primarily directed towards a female audience. “Magical girl” or mahou shoujo, includes popular series such as Sailor Moon, Utena, and some of today’s entries. To make some point that I’ve completely forgotten now, I wanted to write up reviews of anime/manga series done by one specific production studio– CLAMP. CLAMP is well known for being the only all-female production studio in Japan. They have a distinctive style and have done some of my favorite (and least fave) series. Their audience is typically girls, but don’t let that fool you– the boys love CLAMP’s work too. CLAMP has something of everything in their series– the supernatural, magic, mythical powers, Japanese fairy tales and even a bit of Alice in Wonderland, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella. And more than a little sexiness.

As always, the four star review system—
* —you might as well watch Flintstones reruns for all the
Pagan content here.
** —has some potential, or I like for some entirely
unpagan reason
*** —this is pretty good, a “should watch”
**** —miss this at your peril!

Magic Knight Rayearth — I read the manga before I caught the anime and I really, really wanted to like this series, but it’s all form and no content. It’s got cute girls, transported to a magical world, where through trial and tribulation they will fight for the power to save the planet. I liked that part, and the bad guys were suitably sexy and sultry, but it just never clicked for me. I liked the manga more than the anime, partially because of the subtitling– this is the second worst subtitling I’ve ever seen . The animation is, IMHO, less than up to CLAMP’s standards, but I give it extra points for mutating weapons and armor. The voice acting is all right, nothing special. On the whole, I’d rather watch something else. The art in the manga (available in a well-done English version) is better than the anime.
Manga **1/2 (It’s safe to read the translated version)
Anime ** (just get the dubbed, if you can’t find fansubs)

CLAMP School Detectives — This series is plain silly. The heroes are 10- and 11- year-old boys at a spectacularly exclusive school. The Elementary School President (a budding flaming queen) and his VP and Secretary make up the Detectives. Good points? The sheer silliness of this series– such as the President’s own private giant Penguin hot air balloon, or the school’s official blimp shaped like a blowfish. What this lacks in plot it more than makes up for in surreal conversation: “All my cuteness was not enough to bridge the age barrier between us.” The Secretary Akira and VP Suoh both fall in love with kindergartners, which are some of the best episodes. No pedophilic thing here– these lovers are cute as buttons and really, really disturbing, because you want to dislike it and you can’t. Call this zero content eye candy and you’ll like it fine. No magic, not Pagan, nothing but silly.

X or X/1999 — "X" is the American title. Let me cut to the chase. This series sucks! Well, I don’t like it. But I am in a microscopic minority. Let me start again. This series is an apocalyptic-world-end-crisis. The Seven Harbingers of the Dragons of Earth (real ones, not a gang or something) and the Seven Seals of the Dragons of Heaven vie for the abilities of one young boy to be able to either save or destroy this planet. The art, in both manga and anime, is luscious, complex and really cool. It’s got psychic magic powers out the wazoo and huge battles atop Tokyo’s buildings. The real story lies deep under the Japanese Diet building, where a stellar war has been brewing for millennia. Sounds great, doesn’t it? It isn’t. The characters are some of the least interesting I’ve ever read, the plot is hackneyed and not particularly well developed and the movie? Let me just say that it was 3 hours of my life irretrievably wasted and I can never get them back again. If you like beautiful boys– grab a copy of the manga. Avoid the anime like the plague, unless you want to use it as footage in music videos, for which it’s admirably suited.
Anime/movie L Manga *1/2

Card Captor Sakura —
This series is currently in my top 5. I love it so much and I can barely tell you why. It’s cute enough to make my teeth hurt, and has some of the least complex art CLAMP offers, but damn! It’s a great story! Sakura, an 11-year old girl, finds a book in her father’s library. When she opens it, she accidentally causes the cards inside the book to escape. Now she is told by the “seal beast” that inhabits the book, that she has to capture the cards again– thus the title. The magic is silly girly magic– no cool mythos here… until some of the older characters show. This show has a plethora of great characters, some odd intergenerational relationships, some very unique plot twists and two or three of the absolute funniest episodes I’ve ever seen. What’s to see? Very cool magical animals, some lovely beautiful boys (who look as good together as they do with the girls around them) and girls, a very strange set of gorgeously creepy-cool secondary characters and my personal fave, a best friend who is insanely in love with the heroine in the sweetest and most nicely obsessive way I’ve ever seen. This show is available in English in both manga and anime. Read the comics if you must, but if you watch the Saturday morning TV version of this (titled Cardcaptors) expect to be confused. They’ve hacked it up badly, taking out all the fun things, and trying to sell it as a boy’s action series. I have no idea why. The American voice acting sounds a bit on the too old side, while the Japanese VAs are some of the best in the business, including my personal favorites list. No contest– this is CLAMP’s finest series. Got Pagan kids? DVD’s will be coming out this fall– get them a real fun treat, then stick around to watch for yourself. Warning: Highly addictive series and even better pins.
Manga **** Anime ****
Candy with pins ***** (For the pins, but the
chocolate is BAD, get Pocky instead)

Miyuki-chan in Wonderland — Ever wondered what Alice in Wonderland would look like as a soft porn anime? Me neither.
Anime **
Manga artbook *** (’cause they do draw pretty pictures)

Well, that’s it for this time... if you have a series or manga you’d like to see reviewed, lend me a tape– I’m open to suggestions.
Next issue: Monsters and demons and sex, oh my! You have no idea what I go through for you guys…



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