From what I can tell, Japan has a hard-on for the Western idea of "the witch". Very curious that. The only explanation that I can come up with about this whole phenomenon of overabundance of animated witch movies and television shows is that the Japanese believe that the Western witch is responsible for all those magical tentacle-rape monsters that their culture worships like horny horny gods. But I digress. Today I'm here to tell you about three animated witch projects that I watched recently, and how one country can have so many different views of one traditional, gaijin, mythical Halloween figure. These ventures are Witch Hunter Robin, Someday's Dreamers (aka Mahou Tsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto), and the classic Kiki's Delivery Service. Bizarro.
Let's start off with Witch Hunter Robin. This show looks at the dark occult side of witchcraft that most people associate with freaks in black who paint weird hieroglyphics on the walls while they chant to Hecubus, the god of the Kids in the Hall, in Latin and deep Southern Accents. The witches in Witch Hunter Robin are mostly bad and naughty people. When citizens with Witch Blood in them realize they have powers (usually only powers to kill and maim innocent people), they usually go right out and kill and maim innocent people. Then the STN-Japan branch is called into action. And no, I have no idea what "STN" stands for. Could be "Shit Toothed Necrophiliac", they never say. It's not important anyway. What is important is that these men and women of the STN-J like to wear cool black outfits and carry guns that shoot a strange green substance that looks and kinda glows like your urine after you eat too much broccoli and drink too much Kiwi Kool Aid... or maybe that's just me. Anyway, these STN-J people hunt down rogue witches, incapacitate them, then ship them off to "the Factory" where they're never heard from again. Sucks to be an evil witch. Especially when Solomon (the HQ of the STN-J) sends in a new hunter to take the place of a one who is missing in action at the start of the show. This replacement is Robin.
Robin is a 14 year-old girl who doesn't appear to have the facial muscles needed to smile. As one of her coworkers puts it, "She always looks like she's about to cry." She's got the hard body of a twenty year-old swimmer, likes to sleep in the nude, and has powers like Drew Barrymore in Firestarter. A lethal combination indeed. Robin was raised by some old Catholic priest (he's a stern, but nice old man, so get your mind out of the gutter!) and trained to be a hunter her whole life. When she first gets to Japan she meets up with her partner, Amon, a grunge guy who gives her a run for her money in the angst department. Together, for about 10 episodes, they go out on X-Files-like adventures where each week they get information about a supposed witch, hunt that witch down, and then capture and contain him/her. After the first 3 episodes of this it gets rather monotonous. Luckily, at around episode 11 things take a turn for the better for us, the viewer, but terribly worse for Robin herself. That's when the fit hits the shan and the meticulous world that we've known up to then gets shredded and pissed on like Hitler's ashes. Bad things happen, and the real plot takes a stand and kicks it into overdrive. From about episode 13 to the very end things keep getting more and more intriguing as we are led through some spiffy revelations, betrayals and new alliances that tie in very closely to the cohesive plot that was started since before the first episode... You'll understand once you see it. In other words, though, good stuff!
Now let's take a look at Someday's Dreamers (as I'm sure it will be called when it's picked up for U.S. release). A total 180 from Witch Hunter Robin. None of Robin's subdued palette and feelings of despair here. Instead we get to visit a very peppy and happy modern Tokyo where rainbows rule and everybody smiles while flowers shoot out of their asses and their hearts pump orange sherbet through their veins... Not really (hey, it is a magic show, you never know), but you get the point. In Someday's Dreamers we are introduced to our protagonist, Yume, who's just shown up in the big city in order to start her magic license training. See, in this world, magic is very real and very well known. People with magical abilities must register with the magic bureau and train to become a professional mage if they want to use their abilities at all. Once they become a professional they can take requests from commoners who think that they need a magic wish to make their lives better.
Sounds cool, you say? Wish I could live in that world where lollipop dreams and puppy kisses come true with the wiggle of a nose, you cry?... Well, if you saw how ABSOLUTELY AND MIND NUMBINGLY BORING that world truly is you might have second thoughts. Nothing ever happens in Someday's Dreamers... Nothing. Yume whines a bit. Her fellow student, Angela (apparently a cloned Robin from Witch Hunter Robin fame), moans a bit. Oyamada (Yume's trainer who you may think is gay but really isn't) hides his heart from all his friends and then... And then... Nothing. Twelve episodes of jack squat. To give you an idea of how boring this show is, instead of a showdown with a world-wide secret police force conspiracy played out with strategic moves and shadow ops, or a giant out-of-control blimp that's endangering the lives of an entire city, instead of that we get self doubt. That's the big bad of this series. Everybody has self doubt and they must cure it. *Yaaaawn*
I will admit though that the final two episodes of Dreamers are very well done. The raw emotions that come pouring out of them are a true treat. Hell, I almost cried at one point I was so moved. I said "almost." Fuck off. If I might recommend something, I would advise you to watch the first two set-up episodes, and then the last two finale episodes. Trust me, you won't miss any plot and you won't ask why you spent a full 6 hours watching animated paint dry.
Now on to Kiki's Delivery Service. I can't gush enough about director Miyazaki's bewitched masterpiece. I first saw it back in '96 and I'm telling you that it deserves all the praise and glory that have been/can be given to it. It takes place in Western Europe in the 50s or early 60s if World War II had never taken place, and if witches were real and everybody knew about them. By the time we meet Kiki (a 13 year-old witch in training who wants to do happy magic for the world in order to make it smile like a pig in feces... sound familiar?), the tradition of the witch is dying away. She's one of only a few left in the world who wants to continue the lineage and training of her mother, also a witch. Kiki takes leave of her family and friends and sets forth on a journey of enlightenment and "rated G" adventures. She moves into a large port city with her cat, Jiji, and she starts up her own high-flying delivery service since the only magic she can really do is flying on a broomstick... And even that she's not the best at. But she makes up for any magic-sucktitude with her cheery attitude and zest for life... Well, until about 2/3rds of the way through the story, but then I'm just getting into spoiler territory.
The animation in Kiki's is gorgeous and incredisplodicous. The city that our little witch moves into is so alive and vibrant that you feel like you're flying through the streets on a broom of your own alongside Kiki herself. But what makes Kiki's Delivery Service the greatest Japanese witch story ever (yes, even greater than Mahou Tsukai Tai) is Jiji, Kiki's talking cat. Jiji is so goddamn sarcastic and set in his ways that he could make Dennis Miller cry for his mommy. On top of that he's also incredibly loyal to his witchy friend. Yeah, he went off to boink that fluffy female kitty without Kiki's permission a few times, but he always came back. And don't forget that stunt he helped his ditzy master pull off with the stuffed animal and the bird cage on her very first delivery job! I can't think of any animated magical pet that would do the same for his/her master... Well, except maybe Glomer from the animated Punky Brewster show, but that was only because he was a stoned and retarded enchanted teddy bear. He's still in rehab today.
I knew it! I don't know if I told you already or not, but I've been trying to understand and maybe even learn the black arts for years now. I was at my wits' end in trying to divide leprechaun semen by pi, when in barges the Rossman with a bunch of DVDs and he tells me to "Shut up, sit down, and stop dry-humping my leg..." to which he was referring to the leprechaun that I had just de-juiced.
We sat down and began watching hour after hour of animated documentaries on the life of the witch in modern day Japan. It was so enlightening! This one series that dissected the inner operations of the Solomon International Witch Hunting Organization (aka SInt WHOr) was very educational. The science behind witchcraft became as clear to me as an open magazine with nudie girls wrestling in vanilla pudding and gummi worms in it. It was a total epiphany! After doing a few quick calculations I was able to determine that all I needed to cast a spell that would end that goddamn leprechaun's Irish potato-loving life was a few runic symbols and a pair of old ladies' eyeglasses. Then I could charbroil the green-clovered one's ass into ashes faster than Richard Simmons jumping on a greased up, naked 18 year-old high school quarterback... Where was I?
Well, after the first docu-series, I was shown some modern-day happy place where the only magic that was ever used made people pee their pants with giddiness. I- I did not want to go back to that place ever again. It scared me. That androgynous fellow who ran that disco was pretty creepy, but what startled me the most was that the moral of the story appeared to be "No matter how big you fuck up, or how many lives you endanger or innocents you almost slaughter, as long as the property damage caused by your shit-tard magic is less than $500 Million... then you're okay with us." That's about when I started rethinking my whole magic-kick that I was trying to get into... If something like what I just witnessed could happen to my depressing and dingy world if magic existed, then I did not want to be the moron responsible for dooming humanity to an eternity of kitten hugs and androgynous discos.
Finally, we began watching some MTZ Real World rip-off that featured this little kid who had to make it on her own in a strange town for an entire year by using only her weak and pathetic magics and her stringbean of a cat. *Sigh*... If this was anything like the real real world that ungrateful little turd would have been in the gutter praying for week-old waste that didn't taste like rancid worms within a couple of days. You just know that the producers set up the whole scenario and got her that job in the bakery and probably even paid for that boyfriend of hers too. Don't delude yourself. Who else other than a professional gigolo would waste that much time on a magical girl with a princess complex?
Rock on! Head bang! Kill some dogs! Feel the pain! Three shows about the occult in one weekend?! Hells yeah! Who gives a Satan shit if two were all fluffy fluffy, love is good, shiat?!? They promoted witchcraft and worshipping the Devil. That's all that matters. Let the little kids run around trying to fly their brooms like good little witches and warlocks by chanting to the dark lord in ancient Etruscan. They'll be chained to black magic like my friend Garry to his bitch wife in no time! Hell, that's the only reason I've let that Harry Potter author live so dang long... She corrupts more minds with worm-eaten evil in a day than I could ever hope to do in a lifetime of blood-lettings and involuntary maggot-feedings. Long live the Beast!!