I’m beginning to see a kind of sick wish-fulfillment at the center of Btooom!.
Btooom! – 07
I really wish I had time to keep up with JoJo, because in a way it would be a natural show to blog alongside this one. Both are marvels of excess and bombast, not remotely realistic and silly to the point of gleefulness. I can’t say I really like Btooom in the truest sense of the word, but in spite of myself I can’t stop watching it.
I’m beginning to suspect that in addition to its obviously dismal view of mankind as a whole, this show has a kind of right-wing survivalist mentality to it – no one comes off looking especially good, but the worst of all are the soft, slothful otaku and the bleeding-heart lawyer who should have let the kid fry. Seeing Natsume effectively devolve into Gollum this week before Sakamoto put him out of his misery was particularly unpleasant, and we had our requisite unsettling fixation on Himiko’s nether regions (Tied to the bed, huh? Let he who is without sin cast the first stone at the otaku). At least the savage mercenary Miyamoto (the always distinctive Kuroda Takaya) was allowed to die in GAR fashion, with his face being melted off by poison gas.
As distasteful as I find Btooom at times, it’s a pretty riveting watch. The pacing is relentless, the action scenes are really beautifully done and there’s a certain timeless quality to the premise that draws you in. The odd little SAO element of Sakamoto and Himiko having gotten virtually married – and then not realizing who the other was – certainly adds a bizarre twist to things. It’s hard to believe this is going to end well for anyone in the cast, which in a way is sort of the point, but Sakamoto and Himiko are certainly being set up to be the survivors and take their revenge on Tyrannos for their little enterprise – which appears with each new hint to be a larger and larger conspiracy.
Magi – 07
It hasn’t been an uninterrupted climb, but I’d definitely say the general trend for Magi is upwards. This has all the makings of a good fantasy shounen, with enough darkness around the edges to give it a little bite.
We may be close to a record for big-name seiyuu introduced in a single episode that wasn’t a premiere. I may be overlooking someone in the avalanche, but I counted Ono Daisuke (Sinbad), Sakurai Takahiro (Ja’far), Fukuyama Jun (Kassim), Hosoya Yoshimasa (Masrur – and this one is especially ironic as I immediately thought “Why is Kagami in Balabadd and not on a basketball court?” when I saw him), and Miyama Kouki (Abhmad Saluja). And there’s more to come too. But Magi is definitely more than just a star-studded cast and big budget – it’s a pretty good show, too. I especially liked the pacing this week, and Sinbad and his team made a positive first impression – I especially liked it when he provided his own introduction, right out of the storybooks. It's easy to see his goodball persona is a cover for a highly formidable leader.
Even before the big reveal that Alibaba was the leader of the Fog Troupe (which wasn’t really a surprise in the least) Magi was already doing a pretty solid job of creating a situation where right and wrong weren’t so easy to discern. The trend towards Scooby-Doo villainy does continue, this time with Abhmad and his brother Sabhmad (Nojima Hirofumi) and the general trend of the wealthy class being heartless pigs, but the notion of whether what the Robin Hood-esque Fog Troupe was justified in their actions was at least put on the table for Aladdin and Morgiana to consider. We’re clearly still at very early stages of the story yet, and all of the battle lines have yet to be drawn, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Aladdin and Alibaba aren’t going to wind up on opposing sides for very long.
In addition to the subtly dark undertone, another element of Magi I like is that the show is rather more quirky than most shows of it’s ilk. Aladdin has given me two or three pretty big laughs every episode, and I think it’s an interesting twist that probably the two most powerful characters in the cast though I might be giving Morgiana too much credit there) are adorable youngsters, and they’re both capable of killing for their cause. That and the slightly bent sense of humor will go a long way to make what might be derivative distinctive, and give Magi a chance to stand out in a very crowded field of shounen adaptations.