Thanasis is a writer, professional geek, and assistant editor at MANGA.TOKYO. He started watching anime with the mecha shows of the 70s and hasn't stopped since. He loves JRPGs.
There is magic to be found in this show, but if you are looking for it in its realistic depiction of how doujin games are made, then you are looking in the wrong place. Honda-chan is just a school-girl that is trying to make something out of her love for drawing. Her club mates are also trying to build on their individual talents to create something original. They all have to skill up to live up to the challenge and that’s what Magic of Stella is all about: the magic of creation.
Japanese Title: スキルアップ
— TVアニメ「ステラのまほう」公式 (@magicofstella_a) October 26, 2016
Most of the artists I know can relate to the way Honda feels. She is tasked with bringing a set of characters to life through her sketches and she is afraid that she is not up to the task. Her drawings feel inadequate, her skills short of the needed talent to make the character’s expressions lively and gamey enough. In her despair she is joined by two new classmates whose purpose is still unknown. Both Shimizu Marika, the half-Caucasian blonde, and Nabu Iiko, the animal lover, seem inconsequential to the overall story to the point that I didn’t really pay attention to them. My guess is that they either have something to do with the (very basic) plot later in the series, or that they just want to show that Honda is not marginalized by the rest of the class and that she has friends out of the club ‘with the ridiculously long name.’ Either way, I had to go back to the episode to get their names, and that is never a good sign.
On the other hand, every Honda scene in the first part was coupled with a good soundtrack and a self-narration that added to the whole ‘I-am-an-artist-with-self-doubts’ feeling the episode wanted to portray.
In the beginning I found it a little strange that Honda was so easy in opening up to a total stranger dressed in a cat cosplay, but a single line later in the episode by Iido brought the necessary self-sarcasm that made me laugh: ‘Didn’t your parents teach you not to go out with strangers?’ The fact that the cosplayed stranger was the club’s senpai Teru was both convenient and cute. I don’t know if her cheer-up spell worked on Honda, but it certainly worked on me.
The second part had the girls gather for another club meeting. It reminded us that Stella no Mahou is a slice-of-life anime that needs to incorporate a few everyday-life elements in its plot. Aya’s little brother, Haruma, was created as the anchor between the main theme of the anime, creation, and the slice-of-life element. He is good at art and tries to teach Honda the basics. And the reason he tries to do that is because he falls in love with her as soon as he lays eyes on her. Art is feelings, and many times art itself is love, and even if Kuroba-sensei’s intention wasn’t exactly that, the interactions between the two his light-hearted, cute, and artsy enough that I didn’t feel disconnected from the main theme of the anime.
The Life of the Artist: The very first scene of the episode shows Honda-chan go through every possible feeling an artist can experience: despair, inspiration, puzzlement, and then work work work. I liked the scene so much that I made a GIF out of it:
Haruma: Haruma is the most interesting of the new characters. He teaches us about some basic drawing skills, but his most valuable lesson was that the greatest inspiration for an artist is real life. Quite a mature approach for such a young artist.
Manga Pages: We must not forget that many anime are based on popular manga. We recently wrote an article on the profession of the mangaka and how wonderful and cruel it can be. Check it out here.
Scanner: I don’t draw, so I always thought that artists create all their art digitally. It was very naïve of me to believe that every artist did her work on tablet and stylus, and it was natural that many of them prefer to do things the traditional way. I guess a scanner is the only way that they can later upload their work and work on it digitally. Also, is a basic scanner really that expensive, 10,000 JPY??
— アニメイトタイムズ公式 (@animatetimes) October 26, 2016
Lately, I’ve come to realize that saying that you like anime is like saying that you like music. There are so many different kinds of music out there and so many different styles that you probably have developed your own taste. Everyone likes and dislikes certain genres. The same applies to anime. Anime is the medium. I for one do not enjoy shounen anime. On the other hand, I really enjoy Stella no Mahou. It’s an anime about a theme that interest me quite a lot and its light-hearted approach makes for fun 25-minute episodes that remind me of how hard it is to build your skills as an artist.
And not just art as in drawing, but also art as in writing, composing, and caring for others. I am routing for Honda and the girls in their journey to create their visual novel. Let’s see if they make it to Comiket!
Which was your favorite scene from this episode? Let me know in the comments below.
NEXT TIME: Countdown (カウントダウン)