Random Curiosity

« My Way or the Anime – The Allure of Incest

My Way or the Anime – The Thematic Failure of Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai

Science versus magic. Uh, science is the glowing dragon monster in back. Really.

For fans of this anime—or in all likelihood, of the source material, since the anime has been rushed—I’m probably about to get into trouble. So let me make this clear: I’m not talking about whether the story of Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai is good or not. I’m not talking about quality. I’m talking about whether it follows through with its central premise, i.e. that guns have taken over from swords and magic as The Most Powerful Weapons In The World™.

In case you haven’t guessed, the answer is no. It fails at its central theme, and here’s why.

Disclaimer: This could easily be a misunderstanding on my part, of missing what the point of the story is. I’ve gotten criticism on my own book because a few readers thought it was going to be about a salesman in a fantasy world (I guess Recettear with door-to-door sales?), whereas I always intended the salesman aspect to be a jumping off point to tell an explodey action-adventure story. But even if that’s so, the misunderstood Taimadou can serve as an interesting case study for thematic failures in anime. Enough disclaimers, rage if you want, on with the post.

I’m going to do something I’m not qualified to do. I’m going to compare a story to Harry Potter. I say I’m not qualified because I’ve never read the Harry Potter books, nor have I seen more than perhaps a fifth of any of the movies.

*holds hand to ear* Can you feel that? That’s the sound of a thousand fanboys and fangirls crying out in rage, only to never be silenced, ’cause what am I, Sith? Bakas. (Don’t hurt me.)

Now before anyone jumps on me for that transgression as well, I have several reasons for why I’ve never read the Harry Potter books, spanning from a preference for hard fantasy over soft fantasy, a serious case of hype backlash when the books were coming out, annoyance when J.K. Rowling when she said she didn’t feel like she had written fantasy (source, though she later realized she had), and ending up to now, where I take perverse delight in people’s reactions when I reveal that I, a fantasy author, haven’t read the biggest fantasy series of recent decades. Also, I’m hella busy.

What’s important right now is that I do know what happens in the books, and I’ve also spent a lot of time on TVTropes. It was there that I discovered one element from the Harry Potter series that I always found to be particularly brilliant.

In short: Gun beats wizard. (Or muggle with a gun beats wizard, if you want to use in-universe terminology. Also, trope!) The first time I read that—even though TVTropes now notes that Harry Potter zigzags the trope—I thought it was fantastic. Younger Stilts was the kind of kid who wondered why Voldemort didn’t just smother the damn baby with a pillow before he ever became a threat, and though I now realize that there were character reasons for why he acted as he did, I appreciate that a gun (or a pillow) would have actually made a better weapon at points. It’s the Indiana Jones gun versus sword scene to me. It just makes sense.

But Harry Potter can flipflop on this trope and it doesn’t break the story, because it’s not he series’ defining theme. For Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai, it is. Taimadou’s premise says that guns, as embodied by the Inquisition, have supplanted magic as the most powerful weapons in the world, which is a great theme. It would be fascinating to see a bunch of gun-wielding mundanes go up against a smaller number of wizards, and for the advances in ballistics technology to lead to the mundanes winning. It could be a magical WWI in anime-form, where the killing power of man’s machines supplants that of man himself.

Only, that’s not what Taimadou does.

By the second episode, it’s revealed that Ouka has magic guns herself, and Takeru makes a pact with a witch, dons some magic armor, and uses it to go toe-to-toe with a summoned creature. Then later on they get a witch on their team, and another of their teammates reveals that she’s science’d herself into having magic, and—wait, what? What happened to the supremacy of guns?

As it turns out, Taimadou isn’t about a clash between competing paradigms. It’s not about magic versus guns. It’s still magic versus magic, like in every other magical-fantasy-action-harem (school) anime—it’s just that one side tends to have a few more guns than the other side. Which is disappointing.

Now, to reiterate: This doesn’t mean the show isn’t entertaining. It doesn’t mean it’s bad. It just means that the central theme upon which its world has been constructed appears to be a lie. Perhaps not most of the time, in-universe—I assume that Relic Eaters are rare, and I know that Inquisition-aligned magicians like Mari certainly are—but from our perspective as viewers, it certainly is. When four of five main characters (plus powerful secondary characters, like the Headmaster) have some kind of magic, that theme dies.

Which is a shame, because it could have been a good one. Taimadou could have been similar to Ghostbusters, in a way. Thematically, Ghostbusters was about mankind using science and technology to go up against all manner of the mystical, monstrous, and godly—and the gods getting their asses kicked. (For more, here’s the MovieBob review on Ghostbusters, which I highly recommend.) That’s a fascinating theme, because it banishes the ghosts and monsters of our imaginations before the light of humanity’s science. Taimadou could have been that, only with witches and warlocks instead of ghosts and gods, and kickass guns rather than proton packs.

Not that I don’t understand why author Yanagimi Touki did what he did. Guns are less entertaining to watch, read, and write about than cool magical sword battles. There’s still a certain romance in ancient forms of warfare, a romance which is repellent when mixed with modern war, because we recognize the inhumanity of artillery, cruise missiles, and Predator drones. But swords—swords are more personal. They’re fair. They’re more fun. And magic provides for much more varied challenges than even melee weaponry does.

What this means is that Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai avoided what could have been a truly fascinating take on a magical fantasy story in favor of being yet another example of the usual tropes. And once again, I don’t blame the author—I’ve gotten criticism for not taking the “magical salesman” idea and making that the core of my book, and instead pivoting to an action-adventure story. So I understand why Yanagimi-sensei did what he did—this is probably the kind of story he likes to read, so that’s what he wrote.

What I’m pointing out is the opportunity lost, because the more I can isolate these flaws when I see them, the more I won’t miss my own opportunities the next time around. Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai can still be an entertaining story, even though it’s safe to say that the anime is overly rushed. But it invalidates the central tenant of its world. Guns have not become more powerful than magic, apparently. The gun-wielders are just using magic to keep the magicians down. It’s all magic in the end.

Ah well. At least we got a wide variety of oppai. Yanagimi-sensei made sure of that. Dude is a weird guy.

At least Usagi-chan doesn’t need no magic. Usagi-chan don’t need none of that shit.

Stilts note: With the monthlies coming to an end, you may be able to expect more editorials in the future. I’ve got a few topics I’ve been ruminating on, and Passerby may jump in with a column of his own. We’ll give you more information as the situation develops.

My first novel, Wage Slave Rebellion, is available now. (More info—now in paperback!) Sign up for my email list for a FREE sequel novella. Over at stephenwgee.com, the last four posts: $%&@* cuss words, Stephen, what is best in life?, It depends, and Momentum & mental space.

December 8, 2015 at 12:23 am
55 comments »
  • December 8, 2015 at 1:16 amPancakes

    Goddammit Stilts, posting something interesting just before I go to bed. You’re keeping me up :P

    It’s funny that Taimadou is a feature for this type of article because the show is distinctively lackluster. Taimadou suffers the adaptation curse of having too much packaged into too small a time frame. The story arcs are isolated with little connection to one another, major plot elements are breezed through, and any semblance of world building is defenestrated in the name of reaching the “good bits”. Result is something skewing more towards Black Bullet than One Punch Man on the adaptation continuum.

    Although this post is not about the story, I would argue the story’s execution is partially to blame for the noticeable theme floundering. Taimadou’s superficial backstory naturally excludes any depth to the “guns are better than magic” because we receive little basis for understanding how and why. We are simply thrown into fights and SoL moments that flutter by like some thaumatrope of stereotypes. Taimadou is probably the first LN adaptation in which I’ve wanted more world building to give reason to all the things going on.

    The gradual change in theme, however, can probably be chalked down to sales pitching and author experience. Like you mentioned Stilts, the theme likely sounded interesting to the author and he decided to use it as a base. The problem is that magic (without careful and well-thought out structural planning) is a deus ex machina waiting to happen. It’s just easier to solve problems or increase the awe factor of fights by applying the magic brush. Rather than for thematic interest, however, I would argue that the author just couldn’t figure out how to properly work out why guns are more powerful than magic. Lack of time probably caused the author to gradually abandon the gun theme and merge it with magic in order to keep moving the story forward at a reasonable pace. Not to mention the decision allowed for more varied and interesting plot lines (i.e. the Dark Elf arc). Efficiency and pragmatism trumping complex and difficult world building for all intents and purposes, intensified by the chopping on the adaptation cutting board.

    • December 8, 2015 at 2:15 amStilts

      I think I tend to assume thematic interest (or lack thereof, as opposed to just wanting to tell an actiony harem story) is a bigger element because that held true for me, haha. (Though to my own credit, I do have themes still in play, ones that I’m not abandoning—they’re just not the themes some people assumed. Also, I write full novels instead of light novels. Little bit more involved.) But the leap from “guns are better” to “give everybody MAGIC!” happened so quickly and with such aplomb that I feel like much of it was planned from the get-go. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Dark Elf thing was thrown in later … but then again, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was planned either.

      You’re assuming a certain amount of ambition in a light novel author, and while I hate to generalize, the light novel industry has proven over and over again that ambition is not one of their major elements. It feels more like Yanagimi-sensei thought of the gun hook to get the story started in the same way Akamatsu Ken started off Negima as a romcom before transitioning it into shounen action … only I’m certain Akamatsu-sensei had that planned all along, whereas Yanagimi-sensei probably tripped into the hook that got him published and got lucky that people liked what he was doing enough to keep writing.

      You’re right, though. Magic is such a deus ex machina waiting to happen. That’s why I restrain it so much in my own stories, though even then it has the tendency to break things.

      Though strangely enough, now that I think about it, my protagonists are sort of the gun wielders of my universe—they have set things they can do, and while their abilities are cool, they can’t break the rules. Their enemies, however, frequently can break the rules (within certain bounds). That means I have to keep coming up with interesting strategies and tactics for my protagonists to win (or not! Though at least not die. Or not! *waggles hands menacingly*) instead of having them pull a new ability out of their asses so they can win.

      It’s much harder to do it that way. It’s also much better. Boundaries make for better writing, because they force us writers to not suck. Yanagimi-sensei could have probably used a few more boundaries.

      Also, +10 Stilts points for throwing out the word “defenestrated.” It will never not make me smile that defenestration is a word that someone came up with, haha

  • December 8, 2015 at 1:29 amc2710

    Truth be told Stilts… I never noticed those short comings but this does feel rushed. Compared Taimadou to the other SILVERLINK’s offer, Shomin Sample, I pick Taimadou in a heart beat.

  • December 8, 2015 at 1:33 amHylarn

    For the Harry Potter thing, it should be noted that this never comes up in the books. The author has said that wizards would lose to muggles in a firefight, and this is certainly believable, but it no such firefight ever occurs (also, magic in that verse excels at sneaky shit, not destruction)

    Also, I think this is more premise than theme?

    • December 8, 2015 at 1:54 amStilts

      That’s true, but the premise implies a theme. I think of it like a question that was asked, and then never answered. Or put another way, Yanagimi-sensei came across two roads diverging in the wood, and he chose the—more traveled one.

      Doesn’t make it the wrong choice. Perhaps that road was just as fair. But I do lament that we didn’t see the story less traveled.

    • December 9, 2015 at 7:02 amJac

      There’s actually a pretty simple reason why we don’t see gunfights in Potterworld. The bad guys, who would be the only ones who want to kill people, believe that magic is superior and would never stoop to using muggle weapons like guns.

  • December 8, 2015 at 1:35 amcryarc

    As an LN reader I actually admit I never even remember that they ever touch on the gun are better than magic aside from the earlier chapters to introduce the MC’s inferiority wielding swords, soon after that they never ever mention it again, at all. It’s either the author decides to scrap the idea of gun superiority to focus on magic or he simply forgot about it… Since, heck in Taimadou gun is almost useless unless you are a sniper like Usagi, assault rifle goons are always decimated by witches.

    • December 8, 2015 at 1:57 amStilts

      Not surprised. Once again, to use my own series as an example, anyone who gets super annoyed that I didn’t go deeper on the “salesman in fantasy world” idea won’t read past the first book (once I finish the second one…), and everyone who sticks with won’t mind the path I chose. It’s just so glaring when guns could TOTALLY be powerful and useful (see: Homura in Madoka), but only Usagi’s sniper rifle or magic guns are any good. You’d think an AK-47 would be more effective than they apparently are.

      • December 8, 2015 at 5:33 amJusuchin (Military Otaku)

        Huh…frankly I just noticed this, bad considering I’m blogging the show. But then again, I’ve not read the LN and just doing recaps of the series. I think it’s because they focused the story too much on the supposedly underdog platoon (where is that in the anime?). It’s a ‘misfit’ platoon of ‘underdogs’. As typically anime. The boring platoons that are on top of their game would read more like a military squad than the quirky main characters.

        Not that I wouldn’t mind that, but it wouldn’t be as fun to see how a compassionate swordie and his magic weapon, matched up with a demoted inquisitor, a witch on probation, an oppai loli sniper with stagefright, and a boffin with a past would be.

        You brought up a good point about guns being powerful against magic, and there are endless ‘what if’ stories of muggles vs wizards in the Harry Potter fandom. A suppressed, and magically enchanted (in the sense it works in areas of magic like the Ford Anglia and the camera from that one kid) M4 would probably had made short work of some of the antagonists.

        I think it boils down to this. Guns are just easier to use for laymen. You can train hundreds of people on the basic operation of firearms and small unit tactics/maneuver in about three months. Hell, you can teach em enough in three hours to go beyond spray and pray. Magic would require at the very least a year, some innate ability, and enough of it to scare the living bejeesus out of the non-magic folks. The two academy students/inquisitors(?) who were impaled by magic vines when apprehending Haunted and Mari is an example of holy sh!t drop a JDAM on that position now.

        I think yer right, it was a wasted premise in the sense the setting was set up for it, then dropped faster than my fuel reserves during the last KanColle Event.

        But now that magic basically is the focus of the show, being centered on the 35th Platoon, I’m quite interested at the Academy chairman’s magical flintlock. I had Rip Van Winkle vibes from it, add the fact it’s apparently named after Pope Innocent VII, while he has control over Ouka’s Relic, Vlad, makes me wonder. Just how powerful is this man?

      • December 8, 2015 at 9:45 amStilts

        The whole thing would need to be switched up if it were truly a guns versus magic story. Then it could actually feature the best squad, and have them still have trouble because magic is just THAT GOOD. It’d also probably need more characters (since I imagine gunners would need more guns to take out the wizards), which is harder to write.

      • December 8, 2015 at 10:27 amJusuchin (Military Otaku)

        Depends on the sliding scale of realism methinks. Larry Correia’s slightly dieselpunk series, Hard Magic, managed it.

    • December 8, 2015 at 3:10 amDualash

      I was actually kind of wondering about that considering that the main character uses a sword and guns are supposed to be serperior in this magical world. It felt like that claim was only to highlight the main character as the underdog (Well, until they gave him the armor) and then using that to help propel his reputation . It would have been a cool concept since first looking at the anime, I presumed the magic users would have some kind of disadvantage in terms of defense, making the claim that guns are superior more believable. But unfortunately the author went the common route, which is a little disappointing.

      • December 8, 2015 at 9:46 amStilts

        I liked how ridiculed he was during the first and second episodes. Using a sword was (rightly) pictured as stupid. Theeeeen he got Lapis’ armor, and that went by the wayside.

    • December 8, 2015 at 4:01 amcryarc

      Actually on the LN our protagonist are the underdog and they always fighting a losing fight, it’s just somehow on the anime they cut like 80% of it due to rushed pace. Either because of director’s cut or the lack of animation. The anime spent most of it’s time on the bright side of comedy while the main appeal of the LN is the dark side of struggle that the character goes trough. It’s like we’re being served a burger without it’s filling, incomplete…

      Out of Taimadou, Asterisk and Rakudai (I’ve read all of them) it was supposed to be the one with the highest stake on the battle. Out of the three, Rakudai’s anime managed to up the entertainment value, Asterisk stay on par with the novel, while Taimadou got the short end of the stick and butchered into unrecognizeable shape.

      • December 12, 2015 at 11:53 amKarmafan

        In the LN is there as much boob jokes/fan service or did the anime makers add that stuff to try and drive DVD sales?

  • December 8, 2015 at 3:55 amCraig McLeod

    35th felt a lot like it was the red headed step child of the two Silver Link shows made this season; almost as if the rights holders told whoever was in charge of SL that they needed to animate this as well as Failed Knight or they wern’t going to do that show at the same time A1 was farting out their boring mess of a magical swordsman show (Asterisk War).

    Though on reflection, Failed Knight could have probably done with being out next season to give us the refreshing taste of a Magic Swordsman show that wasn’t a load of nonsense.

    I dropped 35th at about ep 5 as it was clear the show had no interest whatsoever in just letting the story breathe.

  • December 8, 2015 at 5:03 amStyx

    You have hit the nail on the head with this Stilts. This whole anime stinks of missed opportunity. I was hoping for a guns vs magic showdown and instead we got magic items vs magic powers. the problem is that its such a shame as the whole character of Takeru could have been awesome as he is so compassionate that you could have had some real moral wrestling as he was ordered to kill these witches who he discovers are actual people. The introduction of Mari could have been a catalyst for him rejecting the guns shooting all mages attitude as he tried to find a better way of doing things.

    Maybe that’s a bit of a cliche, sit on the fence plot, but I feel like it would have been more interesting and more in touch with the theme of the world, as well as perhaps serving as a metaphor that we shouldn’t let science take away imagination and creativity (shown in the series as magic).

    On a less serious note, this was a cool change to the weekly format so would like to see more, but seriously seems like this has not been your season Stilts, between starting with this and continuing Comet Lucifer, hopefully you get a masterpiece for the winter season!

    • December 8, 2015 at 9:57 amStilts

      Yeah, a lot of missed opportunities here. And I’m glad you liked the post. Hopefully I’ll get something good next season ;_; (Or Utawarerumono will stop fucking around and get to the point already.)

      • December 9, 2015 at 5:19 amStyx

        Ha exactly , I love the characters in Utawarerumono, especially Haku as he basically has my attitude to everything and Kuon because she is best girl for life! It is just unfortunate that the plot has not caught up with the characters yet and I sadly find myself losing a little more interest each week. I just want something outrageous to happen to propel the plot forwards!

  • December 8, 2015 at 6:53 amzztop

    Yanagimi Touki admitted the earliest Antimagic volumes had the weakest writing.
    It probably didn’t help the initial plot was a mashup of 3 different plots he had for the series.

    “I remember thinking to myself, “No wonder (the plot’s) chaotic! What outrage are you thinking of here! How dare you submit such a thing!” But since a lot happened, I started to write and it turned terrible. I can remember that too.
    “What am I gonna do…” I held my head after finishing volume one. And this (feeling of hopelessness) continued after the second volume. I had no idea how to continue. There was a lot to reflect upon, but it was worth (the) struggle.

    He mentions how he always felt Antimagic would be cancelled any day, and was steeling himself for the worst. Surprisingly, his editors let him go on…and on. Now he takes a lot of pride in the success of his work.

    • December 8, 2015 at 9:55 amStilts

      I understand how he feels. A first story, especially early on when you’re still figuring out what kind of story is, is usually full of mistakes that are OBVIOUS in retrospect. But you don’t want to go back and fix it because you want to write new material. Just gotta vow to do better next time.

      • December 8, 2015 at 3:48 pmzztop

        What do you think about authors who go back to rewrite their source material to fix things up?
        For example, shoujo mangaka Watase Yuu’s rewriting Arata Kangatari to fix up the early story quality(thus putting the main story on hold).
        She admitted in her blog she used to have an overbearing editor who forced her to write the plot his way, and then refused to approve the publications if she didn’t give him what he wanted.
        http://www.jefusion.com/2014/01/editorial-harrassment-on-watase-yuu.html

        I also hear Kawahara Reki’s doing the same thing with SAO Progressive, although that seems to be more of his personal desire.

      • December 9, 2015 at 12:27 amStilts

        Rewriting because of editorial interference I can understand. That’s less going back and rewriting the story as going back and writing it as you MEANT it to be. Though even then, you’re retreading instead of writing new content. Hm.

        I’ll rehash what my best friend and alpha reader told me: Every minute I spend rewriting old content is a minute I’m not spending writing new content. Whatever I write next, from the ground up, is liable to be better than whatever I’m trying to go back and retool. It’s almost always better to just leave your old work as it is and move on. Small changes—typos certainly, and even small worldbuilding elements or continuity errors—are fine, but a writer shouldn’t spend all their time facing backward, polishing their old work. They should face forward and do new work.

        It’s also a lot healthier this way. Less dwelling in the past, more working for the future.

    • December 10, 2015 at 7:54 pmRight Hand of Anime

      That’s hilarious… there must be some sense of shame in knowing something you think is terrible work is actually successful

  • December 8, 2015 at 7:45 amzztop

    I’ve heard from LN readers the anime cuts out a lot of the conspiracy foreshadowing, worldbuilding and dark, bloody themes; which were the main draw of the LNs. Cutting out the above is literally destroying the LN’s main premise, since the wordbuilding (and above) are so tied to the plot.

    Now compare to the Rakudai LNs, which have very simple macro worldbuilding. For example, the author makes a brief reference to a previous world war happening, but never brings it up again. However, this doesn’t affect the story because its focused on the micro worldbuilding; Ikki’s challenges, and interactions with Stella and various characters at Hagun.

  • December 8, 2015 at 9:26 amDarthtabby

    I’ve only seen one episode of this show. My reaction to the synopsis when I read up on it was something like “Introducing guns to a fantasy world sounds kind of cool… oh, it’s yet another generic magic academy harem LN where the MC is unfairly looked down upon because he’s the sole exception to some rule.”

    I still think introducing firearms to a sword and sorcery fantasy setting (thought maybe muskets and cannons rather than modern guns) would be interesting. Though I imagine someone has probably already done it -there’s a lot of fantasy novels out there that I haven’t read yet.

    • December 8, 2015 at 9:59 amStilts

      To be fair, everyone rightly treats Takeru as an idiot for using a sword instead of guns, which is good. But then he gets magic armor and that mostly goes away.

      • December 9, 2015 at 7:14 amJac

        The sad thing is, he doesn’t particularly need the magic armor in the first place.

        The weakness of sword vs gun is the range gap- a good shooter can kill you before you get into melee range. He showed right in ep1 that he had magic which enables him to deflect bullets with sword slashes so that he can close the gap, which I thought was a more balanced skill thyan a rather cheap magic armor.

        Oh well, missed opportunities.

  • December 8, 2015 at 11:00 amjhpace1

    Outlaw Star did a better “guns vs magic” theme, and it was a sci-fi spaceship show!

    35 had great possibilities, but took all the wrong turns in the last nine episodes.
    - immortal (teenage or young) necromancer killing people faster than flies
    - ultra-evil mega-corporation cloning scientists and putting the clones into a “produce or die” Nazi environment
    - illegal contraband magic being intercepted by the school
    - “guns vs. sword”
    - adolescents as fully-qualified Customs/ICE agents
    - mecha as the “big guns” vs. witches
    - “disgraced” policewoman redeeming herself by making the “Zero Squad” into an actual team
    - harem focus making girls that hate each others’ guts into an actual fighting team

    PICK ONE, NOT ALL OF THEM!

    That’s the problem so far. Nine episodes and we don’t have a central theme yet.

  • December 8, 2015 at 11:10 amewok40k

    on a semi-related note: I think i have found the original concept behind GATE, while wasting time on tvtropes

    The Dungeons & Dragons adventure “The City Beyond the Gate” by Robert M. Schroeck, in Dragon Magazine #100, where a PC party goes through a dimensional gate to modern day London, England. It’s specifically stated that if the PC’s decide to fight it out with the British police and/or military that they’ll be slaughtered, either immediately or after their magic runs out.

  • December 8, 2015 at 1:15 pmbloodshots

    It’s weird, since I went into this anime knowing nothing about what the plot was supposed to be. I assumed it was just in the Rakudai Kishi/Asterisk triad, and I really rather enjoy watching it every week when it airs.

    Admittedly, I think it’s objectively the weakest of the three with Rakudai Kishi being in the lead due to it’s impressive subversion of tropes and likable cast of characters, Asterisk being my personal favorite due to it generally being really fun to watch. I think this is still a rather good anime all things considered, it gives me slight vague Trinity Seven vibes on and off, which is a good thing since by far Trinity Seven was my favorite anime of it’s particular type. the *Seiken Tsukai no Fafnir to Blade Dance to Seiren to Infinite Dragonar no Machine Doll to World Break to Absolute Duo no Stratos.* genre.

    I dunno, it seems they’re at the very least trying to make something that isn’t entirely derivative in all three cases this season, which I gotta give them props for.

    I can however see now how this managed to not only subvert the tropes while maintaining them, it managed to subvert the entire point of the show, which is hilarious.

    • December 9, 2015 at 12:40 amStilts

      The genre is called magical-fantasy-action-harem anime. Or that’s what I call it, at any rate.

  • December 8, 2015 at 1:41 pmdaikama

    First some disclosure. After watching the first couple of episodes, I ended up reading a few LN volumes to “fill in the blanks” because yeah, the anime is rushing with its adaptation and leaving out quite a bit.

    ”Disclaimer: This could easily be a misunderstanding on my part, of missing what the point of the story is”

    Sorry Stilts, but IMO that’s the case. If there’s ANY central theme it’s the tired (not a typo) and true “Power of Friendship” theme. That, this series has covered in spades. But “… guns have taken over from swords and magic as The Most Powerful Weapons In The World™”? Nope, and that’s especially true when it comes to magic. You rightfully note the introduction of “magic guns” (a.k.a relic eaters – and BTW, the anti-magic school chairman has a “magic flintlock” relic eater of his own (“Innocentius”) as shown in a recent episode). However, IMO you wrongfully conclude that ”…wait, what? What happened to the supremacy of guns?”

    To me, this was never meant to be a “guns > magic” story. Given how powerful magic is (see Haunted along with relic eaters), I think that’s pretty clear. Only way the “non-magic” side can even take on high level “witches” is because of relic eaters. The whole deal with Takeru in the beginning was NORMAL guns vs. NORMAL swords. And yeah, that is a mock-worthy situation for his classmates. However, I think you’re extrapolating and exaggerating that early very non-central theme to go beyond that. To me, it’s just a plot vehicle to make the ML “special and different”. Give him some supposed “weakness” that invariably he will overcome one way or another to become OP/hax. Plus the whole “swords be cool” factor. Shounen 101. Nothing new here. Moving on.

    The above should NOT be taken as the show (or series) does everything right, is AOTY/AOTS, etc., etc. It has its issues (both anime and LN). However, I do think you’re unfairly flagging the show for “failing on a central theme” that isn’t there or intended to be there. Now a general discussion whether guns > swords/magic as a central theme would make for a good story, etc. – sure. Certainly a worthy question to explore.

    “It would be fascinating to see a bunch of gun-wielding mundanes go up against a smaller number of wizards, and for the advances in ballistics technology to lead to the mundanes winning. It could be a magical WWI in anime-form, where the killing power of man’s machines supplants that of man himself.”

    Not WWII era, but isn’t that exactly what you have in GATE: Thus the JSDF Fought There? Now magic in GATE is not a major theme. Other than perhaps Lelei, so far magic use is minor deal (e.g. some “harpy” type demi-human might have wind magic which works on arrows, but not so much against bullets). Regardless, yeesh do guns, tanks, missiles, RPGs, etc. take out the fantasy/magic/sword side. Only thing that’s shown any durability thus far is an ancient flame dragon. Even “wyverns” were routinely taken out by .50 BMG AP rounds. It’s a one-sided slaughter. Literally. I think a good question is whether, while perhaps realistic, is that aspect of GATE compelling as a story given how one-sided the outcomes are, or are you just trading one type of hax/op for another?

    • December 8, 2015 at 2:00 pmdaikama

      Clarification: Last paragraph – “Now magic in GATE is not a major theme” SO FAR (as far as the manga is). There’s noticeably little spell slinging in the so far with the possible exception of Lelei. Not sure if that changes later on or not.

    • December 9, 2015 at 12:38 amStilts

      I said World War ONE, not WWII. WWI was when it became clear that our killing machines had become much more powerful than the people operating them. WWII was basically just a continuation of WWI, since the peace treaty they forced Germany to sign was a joke.

      As Hylarn noted above, part of my (potential) misunderstanding has to do with with the premise, where Taimadou was billed—and this could be a translation error, or selection bias on part of the marketing departments involved—as a world where the balance of power had shifted from swords, to magic, and now to guns. From the front page of the wiki:

      The school action fantasy is set in a world where people with magic powers are close to being wiped out. Just as the balance of power and military might had once shifted from swords to sorcery, it shifts once again to guns.

      Yet what we find is that what REALLY happened was that the balance of power shifted to the side whose mooks use guns. Which in’t the same thing.

      You’re correct that the central theme isn’t what it first appeared to be. The central theme is more generic. So it’s the theme the premise suggests that I decided to talk about. That’s why I put the disclaimer in there—because, even if that’s not the theme that was intended, it’s a more interesting case study. Plus, Death of the Author and all that, etc.

      • December 9, 2015 at 7:01 pmdaikama

        Regarding. the premise or theme, my guess is marketing billing. Certainly not the first time I’ve read summaries for stories or anime adaptations that I felt were not entirely accurate. You did indeed put a disclaimer, but I’ll be honest here. What puzzles me is why even bother with the whole “Thematic Failure of Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai” title and corresponding discussion of said “failure” when you were not sure said “failure” even existed in the first place? Surely, you could have easily explored the topic of “guns > swords & magic” in fiction (which, again, I do think is worthy of discussion) without that. Perhaps go with a title like “Guns, Magic and Swords – Taimadou Gakuen 35’s Missed Opportunity” (if it’s even worth mentioning Taimadou in the title), and then talk about a lot of what you discussed without the criticism for “failing” to do something the series never set out to do. I think that’s fair.

        My mistake on WWII rather than WWI (perhaps I had WWII on my mind from watching Pearl Harbor documentaries along with reading Neptune’s Inferno). Since the distinction is important to you, my guess is that you’re suggesting a period right when technological advancements tilt the balance of power and exploring what happens as that balance of power changes. Definitely a different story than Taimadou Gakuen 35.

        As for ”WWII was basically just a continuation of WWI, since the peace treaty they forced Germany to sign was a joke”, there’s actually quite a bit of historical debate as to how harsh the Treaty of Versailles really was. I think an accurate assessment is made by German historian Detlev Peukert. Show Spoiler ▼

        There’s also the Pacific side of things where the Second Sino-Japanese War started two years before Germany’s invasion of Poland (1937 vs. 1939). I think it’s reasonable to conclude that even if Germany hadn’t invaded Poland, the rift between the US and Japan over that war was very likely to result in conflict between the two nations anyway. Keep in mind that at least from the Japanese perspective, tensions with the US were rising well before even the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War. Captain Tameichi Hara in his book Japanese Destroyer Captain states that right after the 1930 London Naval treaty, Japanese naval officers ” came then to consider the Unites States not merely a potential enemy, but a probably enemy. All maneuvers from then on were carried out on the theory that the “hypothetical enemy” was the United States.”

      • December 15, 2015 at 2:06 amStilts

        The title is how it is because of marketing billing : ) A more evocative title, ne?

        In all seriousness, I named it early on and added the disclaimer later when I realized it could as easily be a misconception. And I try not to change things in my posts. If I make mistakes, I try to leave ‘em so I’ll learn for next time.

  • December 8, 2015 at 3:09 pmMormegil

    If Takeru and Suginami would have had sex in that previous episode, I would have given the show SOME points, but nope. Nothing. This show is just bad in general.

  • December 8, 2015 at 7:30 pmMarigoldRan

    Errant Story has one of the best takes on guns vs magic.

  • December 8, 2015 at 8:27 pmSeracen

    A novel series that I think handled the whole “tech vs magic” angle rather well was the “Incarnations of Immortality,” by Piers Anthony (starting with “On a Pale Horse”). The author himself has some…unfortunate and myopic beliefs from time to time, and it comes across sometimes in his writing (though thankfully it’s mostly in the undercurrents). Granted, I may be building up the series in my mind, since it was such a formative read for me as a beginning sci-fi/fantasy aficionado. However, the tales and characters in the series were compelling.

    The idea was basically: what if there had been a Newton-level revelation in magic, to counter the actual Newton’s redefining of science? The resulting world would become an interesting mishmash of clash themes, ideologies, and lifestyles. Certainly, the main characters were all essentially Roman/Greek deities, but the approach was interesting.

    As for the anime, it’s a shame that they don’t use the dynamic to explore that divide. This is especially telling, as Gate does just this, with compelling skill! Still, I’ve been saving up Gakuen 35 to watch all at once. Now I can adjust my expectations, so thanks for the PSA! As always, a great read, and I thank you for it!

    • December 9, 2015 at 12:43 amStilts

      I enjoyed the Incarnations of Immortality series. It was rough at times, but Satan in particular was an especially compelling character.

      That’s not a sentence you hear real often.

      • December 9, 2015 at 12:35 pmSeracen

        Hah! True enough! My fave of the bunch was still Pale Horse, just for setting up the world, if nothing else. By the time I got to the God/Devil books, I felt something was missing, and not just because of the switch in publishers. Still, a worthwhile series in my eyes.

        Just recently read all the Wheel of Time series. Alas, I found parts of it frustrating, and I wanted to throttle pretty much all the characters, and will likely never read it again as a result. The storytelling, however, was amazing, and I see how it was formative for a great many fantasy authors.

  • December 9, 2015 at 12:30 amSMinstrel

    I know I completely missed the point, but since the supposedly “Magic” side summon a King-Arthur-In-Mecha-With-Excalibur-Railgun-Thing as early as…episode 2? The Inquisitor side probably need some magicking as well.

  • December 9, 2015 at 8:09 amRaiu

    The LNs are just way better… though I think it still missed the point and in hindsight, is also a different kind of mess by itself.

    IMO, High School DxD is written better than Tanmaidou.

  • December 9, 2015 at 12:52 pmquigonkenny

    Stilts, “guns beat magic” is no more the theme of Antimagic Academy than “magical salesman” appears to be the theme of your oft-plugged book. It’s an aspect of the setting, but certainly not important enough to warrant a “the”. If AMA has a “the” theme, it’s yet another variation on the “overachieving misfit(s) versus poor assessment method” trope that seems so popular lately (One Punch Man, AMA, Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry, Mahouka, etc.). That or fanservice.

    • December 15, 2015 at 2:09 amStilts

      Quite probably true. Hence the disclaimer. But I felt the idea was interesting to talk about, so I did.

  • December 9, 2015 at 5:04 pmMarigoldRan

    If you want a story that successfully uses guns in a sorcery setting, read Errant Story.

  • December 9, 2015 at 6:06 pmFelia

    Sougo

  • December 9, 2015 at 6:31 pmBear

    Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. –Arthur C. Clarke

    Seems more like this is magic with guns beats magic by itself. Now if they had gone with technology beats magic then you’d have a theme that would be interesting to me. Given Clarke’s law it would still could have looked like magic-on-magic but would create a conflict between different instrumentalities. The way the author wrote it you have the Inquisitor’s acting as if magic is ok if they use it but not if anyone else does. It makes their whole organization staffed and commanded by hypocrites.

  • December 10, 2015 at 4:25 pmsaphina

    I wish studios wouldn’t cut out things that are essential to the plot like character interaction or world building. also I’m noticing that shows have been copy catting each other for a while look at madoka for example ever since that came out most authors have been riding its coat tail of power suffering because its popular instead of making their own thing within the genre like the 80′s and 90′s magical girl shows used to do. Corrector yui, pretear, cardcaptor sakura, and kaitou saint tail are examples of using something out dated so to speak and making it your own without being traumatic about it.

  • December 10, 2015 at 6:06 pmDave_K

    I’d say the problem is less the theme – which from my perspective was that the hero needed to overcome the obstacle that firearms had surpassed swords – and more that the world building completely failed to set up the idea that firearms were especially dominant and the pacing meant that we Superman jumped straight over the obstacle.

  • December 11, 2015 at 6:14 amHunter-Wolf

    Don’t you think “GATE” anime from previous season was a much better representation of Guns (and Tanks) VS Magic (and Dragons) … this theme was pretty much the selling point for me, heck .. the main reason i got interested in GATE was probably my experience with “Those who Hunt Elves”, a 90′s anime that’s a bit obscure but got the fascinating idea of taking a military tank into a fantasy world, epic shenanigans ensued.

    • December 15, 2015 at 2:12 amStilts

      Quite probably true, though I only watched one episode of GATE myself, so I can’t say for sure. That’s a case of technology curbstomping magic, though. What I would have found interesting was watching the moment when the balance of power swings from magic to technology, and seeing what happens. Though that’s a different story than Taimadou is really trying to tell.

  • December 12, 2015 at 12:56 amFlareKnight

    While I agree with what is said here….I don’t think that’s the biggest issue for the show. The issue is the terrible pacing. No time ever given for any event to sink in and have impact. It’s just rush to the next event and arc. It’s like the show is in such a hurry to get itself over and done with that it never feels like something substantial has happened.

    While the situation in that world may be that guns have supplanted swords and magic, sadly they don’t show it well enough. A huge deal is made early for the MC being a magic sword user and how utterly he’s mocked for that. Instead of giving that any time or weight….the show just shows him being badass and getting a powerup so that dilemma is gone.

    • December 15, 2015 at 2:13 amStilts

      All true. It’s just no fun to point out yet another show where the pacing is rushed. It happens far too often.