Noragami vs Mahou Sensou (Yes, I’m still here!)

It’s hard to imagine that a month of 2014 has already gone by, and I don’t even know where the time went! 
But I can tell you for sure that I had no intentions to abandon this blog. No sir. 
It’s a brand new year, and with that came a brand new development. 
I took the plunge to connect with a fansub group sometime in late December/beginning of January, and asked to work on Noragami. Later, I was requested to take over someone as translator for Mahou Sensou (Magical Warfare). Both are at episode 4 as we speak. 
I had hoped to work solely on Noragami until the show ended, or another interesting series surfaced. Checking translations for one show kept me busy enough; working on two shows proved to test my ability to prioritize. Checking translations would have been a far easier job if the original translation was good to start with. But this proved to be more time-consuming than I thought. Not that I don’t enjoy it of course. I’ll always prefer getting the details right, no matter how long it takes. But so far each episode takes between 4 to 6 hours of brain-sucking work, and I’m flat out by the time I’m done. I don’t know if that’s telling of my own translation/language abilities, or that I’m just extremely fussy with the scripts. 
In any case, since I’ve been working on these shows for a month, it’s only fair that I shared my thoughts. 

In life, we can’t always have what we want.

As far as the anime script goes, I haven’t found a single line that says this. I am hoping that it’s in the manga (which I have in Japanese, but I haven’t read it in detail myself. Oops), but this line always comes to me when I see this picture. 
And why not? Noragami’s core themes go merely beyond the supernatural. Iki Hiyori, the female protagonist, comes from an obviously well-off family: the father’s a doctor who owns Iki General Hospital, while her mother is overly protective of her daughter, and hopes that she marries a bachelor of equal standing. That is not to say the girl hasn’t got any spunk of her own. She’s a closet fan of kickboxing, worships her idol Touno-sama, and is able to pull off a few moves on her own without any prior guidance. On the other end of the spectrum is Yato, a minor god of war who earns his existence by granting requests, and charging them at 5 yen apiece. Without a shrine to his name, let alone worshipers, he literally works to make ends meet, which means spray-painting his contact details and marketing himself as a “fast, cheap, and safe” delivery god who will solve all your problems. All this labor seems relatively excessive and redundant, until one learns that as an unearthly being, you are just as memorable as the passing man on the street. In other words, to be completely forgotten is to lose your right to exist at all. Understandably, Yato is driven to see that he gathers all 120 million devotees across Japan. And adding to the mix is his new Sacred Tool (shinki), Yukine – a young teenager who died too young, yet carries the same curiosity (or boredom) of a typical adolescent, while learning his place and the new world he exists in. 
As with every hero, Yato keeps his facade as an easy-going, nomadic, “homeless, jobless, jersey-wearing” young man, while masking his terrible past (which god of war hasn’t got a story to tell about that?). Yet, even though Hiyori’s ability to slip between her physical world and the spiritual was an accident (and she’s gotten a tail to prove it), we the audience know early on that fate has already bound the three of them together through an unusual sequence of events. But what I really enjoy about this show is how each episode has carried their journey in a timely, unhurried fashion, without losing the essence of strengthening the ties that hold them together. I like how Hiyori keeps Yato in check to be responsible over Yukine, and how Yato also gives Hiyori a new perspective of treasuring the life she still has. At this point, we don’t know whether Yato actually has a solution to fix her body so that she doesn’t fall into insta-snooze mode, but even when he does, I would imagine that it would be with a very heavy heart. 
From a more technical perspective, I have to admit, after just watching episode 1, how amazingly good the quality of the visuals have become. 10 years ago I was still getting used to the new character designs of Inuyasha compared with the manga version, and how even that looked so different from the designs of the 90’s. And now, thanks to High Definition and technology, even the focus of the lights and the objects are as good as any live-action series. This would have been the expected standard of a full-length anime feature film, but for television, this just blew my mind (and by the way, I saw the trailer for Kotonoha no Niwa, and the graphics were hypnotic). The soundtrack also does not disappoint. The OP is performed by Hello Sleepwalkers (午夜の待ち合わせ), and Tia from Supercell performs Heart Realize for the EP. 
The OP for the first 3 episodes. A special edit was made to episode 4
Mahou Sensou

The main cast.

To be truthful, I hadn’t heard of the show until I was asked to work on it. On the surface, it looked like another moe-filled series with unbelievably gorgeous teenage boys. The story, which is based on the original light novel series, begins with one of the two female leads, Aiba Mui, trying to bring her brother Tsuganashi back from the terrorist group Ghost Trailers. She accidentally lands in an alternate dimension, where our main hero, Nanase Takeshi, picks her up, and inadvertently gets some of her magical abilities. And because two other friends (Isoshima Kurumi and Ida Kazumi) are also caught in the fray, they are brought to Mui’s home dimension – the World of Decay – and are enrolled into Subaru Magic Academy where they would remain to hone their newly-acquired abilities. 
This totally reminded me of another version of Harry Potter. 
I don’t mean to be critical in any way. Obviously, if a show like this can attract such stellar seiyuu talents like Miyano Mamoru, Suzumura Kenichi, Morikawa Toshiyuki, Fukuyama Jun and Okamoto Nobuhiko, there must be something about this show that’s worth paying attention to. 
The more interesting aspect of this show at least, is finding out who the Ghost Trailers are (if not the equivalent to Lord Voldemort’s Death Eaters). I am more interested to learn more about its history, its recruitment tactics, its powers, and its current status. I am also equally interested to know more about what Subaru Magic Academy actually teaches, its legacy, and its game changers. 
Are we going to see any of that? Perhaps a little later. But as of episodes 2 and 3, we learn nothing except for Kurumi’s jealousy towards Takeshi’s bonding friendship (for now) with Mui. Oddly enough, her relationship with the former was merely to protect her from potential stalkers and admirers until she found someone she actually likes. This clearly is a failed cause, but perhaps we can give her a chance to grow up a little. Kazumi is a Kansai-dialect speaking, casual young man with a sister complex, and so far has not shown much character development. Takeshi seems to lack a bit of a backbone himself, except that he clearly has a strong sense of duty and justice, with underlying magical powers so great that he could possess a previously-owned Aspect – a sword that once belonged to one of the great 15 magicians that fought during the great magic war of the 90’s – a faint trace of similarity to Harry Potter and his wand.  
I do wonder what kind of story the crew is trying to tell here. Are we expected to be patient and watch our heroes mature into rational, stable young adults? Is there a deus ex machina along the way that immediately solves every problem? We’ll see after 12 episodes. 
Obviously I have a very strong bias towards Noragami, and I don’t mean to offend anyone who is a fan of Mahou Sensou. But I do wonder what is the point of a show like the latter, that doesn’t seem to offer anything solid in the form of character development, slices of life, or simply telling a good story. Can we expect to see more than just the thrills? I sincerely hope so. 

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