Desktop Madness Vol. 104

Amazingly beautiful backgrounds from the series “Steven Universe.”

Today’s edition of Desktop Madness features some of the gorgeous artwork from the series Steven Universe. Seriously, this show is just a joy to watch for the artwork alone – and there’s something oddly soothing about the backgrounds in particular.

 

Desktop Madness Vol. 103

This edition of Desktop Madness features a few wallpapers from the web series “RWBY.”

RWBY (pronounced as “ruby”) is actually a quite interesting and entertaining show (technically a web-only series), but there’s surprisingly little in the way of desktop wallpapers and backgrounds for it. Still, I’ve managed to collect a few which I like, and now I’m sharing them with you – enjoy!

Desktop Madness Vol. 102

In the grand tradition of Desktop Madness, this entry features wallpaper images from an anime – specifically, “Nichijou” (or “My Ordinary Life”) which is actually really cute and funny and worth a watch!

The theme for today’s Desktop Madness entry is the anime Nichijou (or “My Ordinary Life”) – which if you haven’t seen, you really should, as it’s both incredibly cute, funny, and weird!

Keith’s Anime Reviews: Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Make a contract with me as we take a look at a relatively new anime called “Puella Magi Madoka Magica,” and see what all the fuss is about.

Madoka Magica

“Anything is possible if you make a contract with me!”

Puella Magi Madoka Magica (or just “Madoka Magica,” for short) is a very surprisingly deep, somewhat dark, and very thought-provoking series – especially given that at first glance it looks like “just another magical girl anime.”

For those not familiar, the idea of “magical girls” is sort of a staple in anime – it’s a bit of a twist on the more traditional “superhero” story you see more often in western media. The basic idea is similar: person gains some sort of super-power and secret identity and has to fight bad guys/evil while trying to balance a normal life.

The basic premise of a magical girl story has the potential for a lot of interesting development, character growth, and so on – although it can also be used as just an excuse to have characters dress up in cute costumes.

Madoka Magica is… not like that. At all.

This is a series that is very hard to describe without spoiling things – A LOT – but I’ll do my best, because it really is worth watching without knowing the spoilers.

The basic premise here is that our main character, Madoka (and her friend, Sayaka) are suddenly asked if they want to become magical girls by the weirdly cute (but also somewhat creepy) talking cat-like creature Kyubey. In exchange, he will grant them any one wish they desire.

Getting any one wish you want granted in exchange for magic powers, a secret identity, and the duty to battle evil sounds like a not-too-bad trade, but this series really explores the depths of this seemingly inconsequential plot device.

Consider: should you be “selfish” and make the wish for yourself only, or use it to grant someone else’s desire – someone you care about? What if your wish turns out to not be what you want – or what the person you care about wanted? The price of your wish may turn out to be more than you can bear.

The characters in this series are very well developed – each one has a very interesting back story and motivation (which for the most part is filled in slowly with hints and suggestions, rather than being spoon fed to you), and they all grow and change over the course of the series.

This is an extraordinarily well put together and well thought out series, with lots of attention to detail and subtlety, which benefits from a second (or third) viewing. You will absolutely notice things the second time through that you didn’t notice before, and you’ll go “ah-ha!” or “oh, so that’s what that means!”

So if you’re a bit tired of the usual fare in this genre of anime, or if you’d just like to see something that really twists your mind (and your heart!) and explores some very deep concepts in a new and interesting way, I’d highly recommend that you give Madoka Magica a try.

Keith’s Anime Reviews: Waiting in the Summer

A bit of a surprise this time: a review of a relatively new anime. I don’t normally catch new anime, I usually only hear about it much, much later, when it’s had a chance to become well known.

Waiting in the Summer (or Ano Natsu de Matteru) is a very interesting series – it starts with a bit of a “wham” episode, throwing a lot of stuff at you all at once. In fact, some of the stuff in the first episode seems like it’s there only to catch your attention and make you stick around for the rest… but that’s not that unusual in and of itself.

What’s unusual is that it throws all this stuff at you in the very first episode, and then takes its sweet time bringing it all to fruition.

The basic plot is about some high-school kids who are making a film for fun during their summer break, and the way that their relationships grow and change during that time. (The “making a movie” part is basically the excuse for them all to hang out together so often; it plays some other roles but is largely irrelevant to the plot after the first few episodes.)

This show actually plays with some of the tropes common to anime in general; for example, after a few episodes you would be forgiven for thinking that this was beginning to look like another “harem” anime series. Likewise, after few more episodes you’d be forgiven for thinking that certain relationship-based tensions (the classic “UST“) were going to be prominent for the rest of the series, and never be resolved until the very end of the show (if that). However, each time the series looks like it’s about to go down one of these roads, it will make an abrupt left turn at the last minute and genuinely surprise you.

For example, like any typical anime, this one has the obligatory “beach” and “festival” episodes – but instead of being filler (as they so often are), both of these were actually highly relevant to the main plot of the series, and in a way that felt genuine & not contrived at all. That’s something that can be hard to pull off effectively.

Suffice to say I was surprised several times – and that’s a hard thing to do to me these days.

So the premise is interesting, and the story is refreshingly different – or at least genuinely surprisingly unpredictable. The animation, on the other hand, is nothing to write home about – it’s certainly quite good, but nothing groundbreaking.

At the moment, this is available only in subbed format – as far as I know, no English dub exists yet – and can be watched (legally!) on Hulu for free.

All in all, this is an entertaining series. It may leave you pining for your adolescence, or it may make you glad you’ve left those days behind you, but either way it will probably surprise you, and maybe even make you smile (or blush – often, as it did with me). If you enjoy anime, I definitely recommend it.