Sunday, 12 August 2012

まかでみWAっしょい!Macademi Wasshoi!

At first I really did not know what to make of Macademi Wasshoi! – a pretty, fast-paced and pervy comedy series from Zexcs, the studio responsible for the rather ugly first season of Da Capo and the anime of boys-love game Sukisyo, one of very few series I have on long-term hiatus and only vaguely intend to one day finish. For a somewhat minor studio, they made Macademi Wasshoi! – based on light novel and manga series Magician’s Academy – look great, there’s no doubt about that. But watching the first episode, the uninitiated viewer is bombarded by crazy images and there’s a feeling of having everything the writer can think of thrown at you all at once. We see a magical school full of elves and witches and robots, we see the summoning of a mysterious naked cat-girl, we see a crazy teacher who looks like a young boy but whose head is detachable, we see a whole range of mecha filling skies with rockets, we see packs of dwarfs and we see one girl with a split personality who has a sharp tongue and drains others’ magic when her hairband is off, but is so shy when it is on that she has to write her thoughts down like Shion in Shion no Ou rather than speak them. And that is only about half of the most memorable characters from Macademi Wasshoi!

Being thrown into the deep end sometimes works brilliantly, though – I had that same impression when I started to watch Azumanga Daioh, after all – and looking back, the set-up isn’t so complicated. It’s essentially like MahouSensei Negima (young magic-using boy gathers a harem of moé clichés and they compete for his attention while magical crises are averted) with a touch of Baka to Test, plus the anarchic humour, style changes and direct parodies of Sayonara Zetsubou-sensei and heaps of fanservice. Still, after a few episodes I was thinking there just wasn’t much to Wasshoi! – I’d seen it all before. I didn’t like the intro song – an attempt at the rapid-fire style of Damekko Doubutsu or Lucky Star with a festival dance feel that just meanders and sounds half-finished – and it felt like Tanarotte was painfully underdeveloped for a central character, like she was just Mikoto from the first episodes of Mai-HiME, never to develop beyond that.

Episode five changed everything with the introduction of Hapsiel, the masochistic, bisexual beefcake of an angel with a mission to spread love and peace by kissing everyone into submission – which was one of the most disturbingly hilarious episodes of an anime I’ve ever seen. He is so completely foul and the humour so gross that it’s brilliant – not even mentioning the Evangelion parody it builds from. There’s something homophobic about the humour of Hapsiel, how repulsive it is to have a big, muscled man acting so suggestively, but main character Takuto is just about as sexualised as the girls in his harem, and as the moé-loving teacher points out, he and his kind have no problems with cute love stories between younger boys (and the tragic one-sided love story of two minor male characters is more affectionate mocking than contemptuous), but Hapsiel’s sweaty, forceful, ultra-masculine love has long been a source of gross-out humour in Japan (Chou Aniki being a well-known example), with Hapsiel probably its brilliantly horrific apogee.

Moé sensibilities turn out to dominate the whole series, and it soon becomes the wider cast who steal the show – one brilliant episode plays straight the love story between a personified computer and a rocket about to be sent to space. The older male characters tend to be very into their moé and it’s very obvious that the otaku crowd is being pandered to, teased and complimented – which makes for some feel-good viewing and big laughs. Of course, the series tries to end on a serious note, with tragedy coming very close and the ending being uplifting, with a final Christmas episode doing such a good job of making the central three girls endearing that it really should have been episode 4 or 5, because their being underdeveloped and not actually very interesting was probably the show’s biggest problem.

It was also remarkable in being one of two shows from late 2008 that were purposefully highly censored to boost DVD sales – the other being Rosario+VampireCapu2, which went too far in every way and ended up with a ruined TV show and a vastly overdone DVD. Here, all the risqué scenes and nude scenes were replaced with clay figures. This showed a lot more effort and ingenuity than Rosario+Vampire managed, and other than shots of faces, I have to say that I rather preferred the clay versions, not because they looked good but because the uncensored version was just really awkward to watch. Tanarotte looks like a preteen but with oddly large boobs, and seeing them bare just…seems incongruous and isn’t at all a pleasant sight. It just looks tacked on and doesn’t suit her as a loli type. Macademi Wasshoi! is a fun, zany comedy with lots of explosions and random Kaiji parodies – it shouldn’t need nipples to shift DVDs, and feels cheapened by them. But perhaps that is just where I’m out-of-sync with the moé ideal…

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