Farewell Flying Witch

Flying Witch: flying for once

Flying Witch went out on a double bill last weekend, having kept up its high quality throughout its run. This was a show that if I had my way, would’ve run forever, the perfect way to start a lazy Sunday morning. Especially since one of my favourite gags from the manga hasn’t been used in the anime yet. It’s been funny, it’s been relaxing, a real balm to start the week with, as engaging in its everyday life scenes as in its more supernatural aspects.

Flying Witch: flying for once

What I especially like about Flying Witch is the sense of family it has. You can see that five out of the six people in that screenshot above are related. Akane (extreme right) and her aunt (extreme left) have the same sticky out bits of hair, while they and the titular flying witch, Makoto, share a *ahem* similar build. Kei too, to the right of his mother, shares her hair style, while Chinatsu looks more like Makoto again. When they’re in motion these similarities are even greater and it helps set the series apart. Their interactions which each other too are natural in a way that you don’t see often in anime. Chinatsu is the most believable little sister/niece character I’ve seen in a long time in how she acts around her brother Kei and her two cousins Makoto and Akane. I hope we get a second season, or at least an OVA of it.

That time Englehart was Byrned

Byrned -- from WCA 51

Andrew Weiss is asked is there “A hated story or story line you like?” and answers with John Byrne’s run on West Coast Avengers

Without trying to defend that nonsense (because, honestly, I can’t), I will say it regrettably overshadows an fairly entertaining and mildly innovative run of comics. For starters, it was John Byrne’s return to Marvel after a three year stint at the Distinguished Competition. The significance of that might be lost on kids born after 1980 or so, but for my demographic peers it was a Big Deal. Our memories of his X-Men and Fantastic Four and Captain America work was recent enough to give Ol’ Crankypants another chance.

Byrne’s run happened just as I was branching out from reading Dutch translations of Marvel series to the originals, as the local comic shop had finally started to carry them. First priority lay of course with all the series that had not been translated and WCA was one of them. For a noob like me, Byrne’s dynamism and willingness to shake up the status quo was great, even if I didn’t like what he was doing to the Scarlet Witch, who already was a favourite of mine. It was only later, when I’d more context to place his stories in that it became clear all his change was for the negative.

Byrned -- from WCA 56

And it was only when I read an angry open letter Steve Englehart had send to Amazing Heroes that I realised that was probably deliberate. Byrne has always had a reputation for trashing everything he didn’t like in series he took over, prefering to strip continuity back to his own view of what Lee and Kirby did, rather than build on the work of other, lesser writers. As far back as 1982, when Byrne had only just started his Fantastic Four run, you had Len Wein and Marv Wolfman complaining about the changes Byrne made. In an interview for The Fantastic Four Chronicles special put out by Fantaco, Len Wein wrote: “I muchly resent what John is doing, I resent his implication that everything in the past 20 years hasn’t happened, that it’s still 1964.” Now on The Fantastic Four, Byrne created as much as he broke down, but on West Coast Avengers it was different. True, he brought back the original Human Torch and remade Hank Pym, Failed Superhero into Jump Suit Battle Scientist Hanky Pym, which was rather cool, but apart from that:

Byrned -- from WCA 44

  1. Tigra reverted to a cat like state
  2. Master Pandemonium, from independent villain to lackey of Mephisto
  3. The Vision went from a crying android into an emotionless, “logical” Data clone
  4. Vison got a new, fugly piss yellow costume
  5. Scarlet Witch went insane and joined Magneto for a bit
  6. Scarlet Witch went insane and molested Wonderman
  7. Wonderman meanwhile hat the hots for the Witch
  8. The Vision and Scarlet Witch’s babies? Never existed, just shards of the soul of Mephisto

Byrne started his run with issue 42 and left with 57 and from begin to end he set out to systematically demolish everything that Englehart had done with the Vision & Scarlet Witch. Personalities destroyed, marriage demolished, their kids retconned out of existence, etc. It’s hard not to see that as a deliberate vendetta against Englehart, especially in the light of the troubles he’d later ran into on his other two titles under DeFalco as editor-in-chief. Rereading it leaves a bitter taste in the mouth, seeing the creations of a writer who surely deserved better be torn down so brutally.

Macross Delta 11: grief and remembrance

Macross Delta: the return of Messer

After the battle, the mourning. We open on Messer’s homecoming as his team mates and Walkure crew salute his coffin. It sets the tone for the rest of this episode. Walkure and Delta Squadron have been dealt a heavy blow. Apart from the loss of a comrade and friend, there’s the simple fact that their best pilot was brought down with a single shot through the heart. Despite their conquests Windermere until now hadn’t yet directly attacked Walkure, but rather skirmished with them. This was the first time they could bring their full power to bear and they managed to not only kill their enemy’s ace pilot but also to overpower Walkure itself through the song of the Wind Singer. It’s no wonder we see Windermere plot further attacks, while everybody in Walkure & the Delta squadron wonders what they could’ve done to prevent Messer’s death.

Macross Delta: grieving for Messer

Much of the emotion in this episode is understated, controlled, but not the grief that waitress from episode four feels. It’s interesting that she’s the only one grieving openingly when his old flame Kaname remains stoic, though perhaps only on the outside. But of course Kaname is military as well as an idol, not a civilian like our waitress. She still has a job to do. And as the occassional cutaways to Windermere show, that job is only to get harder from here on.

Macross Delta: sending Messer back to the jellyfish

What I like about this series of Macross is how it has attempted to give Ragnar a distinct culture, as also seen in the previous episode’s jellyfish festival. Floating people out to sea for their final voyage is an old tradition among many seafaring peoples so it makes sense that the Ragnarians have something like it as well. Though here it’s symbolic, as the Nyannyan kids created a model of Messer’s Valkyrie to float out. It’s an emotional scene as the entire crew of Walkure and Delta Squadron, as well as the Nyannyan staff say their farewells.

Macross Delta: Kaname shows her emotions

And of course it’s only right and proper to have the fallen warrior be sent off by Walkures singing a final song to him

The apocalypse near you is always different

Seeing New York be blown up by aliens, London submerged under glaciers in a new Ice Age or Tokyo trampled by Godzilla is old hat, but seeing your own neighbourhoods being smashed by the after effects of a comet hitting Earth, that’s something else entirely. On The Edge Of Gone is Corinne Duyvis’ second novel, an apocalyptical survival science fiction story that takes place in and around Amsterdam. As such it’s an entirely different feeling when it isn’t people desparately trying to escape the Bronxy to flee for the safety of New Jersey, but rather have the heroine trying to make her way from Schiphol to Gorichem and the dubious safety of the shelter they were promised a place in…

It’s also interesting that Duyvis has chosen to set her novel here in the Netherlands when she’s writing for a mostly American audience; I don’t expect many readers will be familiar with Amsterdam outside of the tourist hot spots, if at all. Thomas Olde Heuvelt meanwhile has rewritten his fantasy novel Hex to move it from the Netherlands to upstate New York to make it more accessible for the US market. Two different strategies from two Dutch writers looking for foreign success. Duyvis held a book presentation a few months back at the ABC here in Amsterdam in which she explained her reasons for writing her novel the way she did, as shown in the video above.

Kiznaiver: “science did it”

Nick Creamer’s view on Kiznaiver here is something I think that’s shared by many of its viewers, myself included:

Learning the reason for Sonozaki and Katsuhira’s emotional issues was definitely a bit of a letdown; instead of their issues being reflective of their characters in some meaningful way, it was simply “the science stuff made bad times for everybody.”
“Why is Sonozaki so distant but emotionally curious?” “Because science did it.”

kiznaiver: that is nineteen children tortured for world peace

But science didn’t do it. Science didn’t take, operate on and torture children in service of some dubious programme to link emotions: scientists did. What’s missing in Kiznaiver and what makes the premisse too light to bear the emotional weight of the characters is the moral dimension. Apart from the two teachers, who were only low level caretakers in the original project and Sonozaki, we never get to see any of the people involved; even the thugs involved in the current iteration are faceless, hiding behind the costume of the city mascot. There’s no sense in episode nine or ten that the project was immoral, not tragic, that what was done to Sonozaki, Katsuhira and the seventeen other children involved twelve years ago wasn’t an unfortunate accident but a deliberate crime. These were people who were given unnecessary, unconsented to medical treatment and who were tortured as a result; worse, these were at best five year old children who could never hope to comprehend what was done to them.

kiznaiver: Sonozaki pushing Katsuhira down the stairs

But the show isn’t really interested in exploring this moral dimension; key to this is its treatment of Sonozaki. A victim of the first Kizuna Project, she’s the instigator of its second incarnation, its driving force, with the tenth episode being her crisis point as the experiment is over and the powers behind it want to withdraw funding, which leads to a suicide attempt on her part. It’s clear that we’re supposed to be at least somewhat sympathetic to her, to see her as a tragic figure rather than as a villain. That she pushes her fellow victim Katsuhira down the stairs to test the Kizuna system on their first meeting, after having kidnapped and operated on six new Kiznaivers without consent, then follows it up with both physical and mental torture through the expedient of repeatedly shocking Katsuhira every time somebody answers a question “wrong” –all in the first two episodes– is largely swept under the rug. She doesn’t have to atone for her actions, instead the conflict is the struggle to re-establish the emotional connection between her and Katsuhira, with the worst consequence she’s had to suffer so far being Katsuhira’s disappointment in episode six.


This seeming refusal to even start considering the moral consequences of the Kizuna project is what makes it into little more than a macguffin, a plot device without weight or merit. To me it’s a flaw, something that unbalances the show as it attempts to explain the history behind the project without acknowledging the responsibility of the people behind the project. There cannot be an emotional payoff with this backstory if the show can only answer that “science did it”.