Your Friend in Japan

The “Battle Royale” of Magical Girls, and All About Saké

Written by HotAnime

One type of anime that’s quite fun to watch are those that “deconstruct” their genres, tearing down or otherwise providing criticism of anime themes in interesting ways. There are plenty of shows that do this, like Evangelion (taking the classical giant robot genre and filling it with Freudian complexity), or One-Punch Man (a hero so strong that most battles are over before they’ve begun). School Days is another example, turning the classic harem genre on its ear by making the main character a realistic and flawed person who likes to have sex, and showing what dark consequences might result, including jealousy, pregnancy and Fargo-inspired violence. (Remember that the original game is much less dark than the anime, and the sequel not dark at all.) I’m currently enjoying Magical Girl Raising Project, a fun and light-hearted twisted series about an online social game in which players “raise” virtual magical girls…but to the joy (and later horror) of some players, they’re actually chosen to become real magical girls, who must engage in a Battle Royale-esque showdown to the death. I like the show for its dramatic story, and also for the way its characters are often refreshingly complex in dark ways, including a NEET, a girl who’s become a pariah at school because her father is a murderer, and an failed mother who’s an alcoholic. If you liked Madoka, give this show a try.

Everyone is familiar with Japanese sake (酒, pronounced SAH-kay, never “saki”), often called rice wine in English. Sake has been made for millennia, from 6000 years ago in China and 2000 years in Japan, and is one of the world’s oldest fermented beverages. Sake is often served hot, called atsukan, and it tastes great heated with a camping stove while sitting under the cherry blossoms in the spring. As with wine in the West, sake has always been associated with religious ceremonies, and when we built our J-List office, a Shinto priest came out to purify the ground with sake and salt to appease the kami (gods) that lived in the earth we were about to build on, and ensure that we would have good luck in the future. Sadly, many of the brands of sake commonly distributed outside Japan, such as Sho Chiku Bai, Ozeki and Gekkeikan, are not well regarded by serious sake drinkers. Instead, J-List’s artbook and manga buyer recommends you try to find Juuyondai (14th Generation), Dassai, or Shira-Yuki. Sake, specifically sake made from rice that’s been chewed by a miko shrine maiden then fermented, is a theme of the popular Makoto Shinkai film Your Name.

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