Magic-Kyun Renaissance and the Spark(le) of Creativity

The Magic of Art and other feel-good lessons from the best show nobody’s watching.

mkr1-3-52

Magic-Kyun Renaissance is an adaptation of an otome game (basically a dating sim marketed towards girls) that follows Kohana, a second-year student transferring to the prestigious Hoshinomori School of Magical Arts. Once there, she quickly winds up on the school’s festival committee along with a bunch of cute boys specializing in various arts, from calligraphy to dancing to sculpting. Sparkles, flowers, and musical numbers ensue.

While the premise is pretty standard harem fare, it’s charmed me with its cast of likable (if not a bit one-note) art dorks, silly sense of humor and willingness to poke fun at itself, and some impressive cinematography thanks in large part to Yamazaki Mitsue’s direction and storyboards. I also find myself both fascinated and inspired by the way it uses its world of “magical arts” to address the struggles of young artists. And since no one else is talking about it, I figured now was a good time for a li’l mini-essay!

Here there be spoilers: General discussion of the first three episodes below.

mkr1-3-59

As the title suggests, Magic-Kyun Renaissance is about a magic school, but the “magic” doesn’t fit the usual definitions. There are no spells to chant, no potions to brew, no fairies to bind to your will. Instead, the magic is tied entirely to each student’s artistic projects. As they practice their craft, the works they create–from dance routines to cello pieces to flower arrangements–emit their own unique “Light of Arte” (or “sparkles,” as our protagonist calls them), which takes a form that’s different for every student and sometimes for each work they create.

That may sound underwhelming for a school that studies the “magical arts,” but to Magic-Kyun, art in itself is a kind of magic, transforming the world figuratively if not always literally. The show uses its “magic” as a way to talk about the artistic process–to discuss the tangled ball of inspiration, self-expression, passion, talent, and the rickety bridge between intent and effect that comes together to create a piece of art that “shines” or “speaks to” or {insert your metaphor of choice here} for both the artist and their audience.

mkr1-3-61

It’s the kind of visual metaphor that has a lot of flexibility to it, and Magic-Kyun uses that to its advantage. Its characters all deal with different roadblocks in their attempts to Make Good Art, and their Light–the way it looks and who can see it–plays a huge role in conveying the frustrations and triumphs behind those struggles. Along the way, it also paints a tentative picture of what successful artistry looks like, and encourages aspiring artists at home to overcome their roadblocks, too.

To give you a better idea of what I mean, let’s spend some time with two characters and their work: Kohana and Aoi. Our protagonist Kohana gets accepted into Hoshinomori as a transfer student largely because her mother was a famous alumni. Kohana greatly admired her mother’s flower arrangements and wants to follow in her footsteps. She uses photos of her mom’s work as reference, making replicas that are technically sound but have never produced the Light of Arte. They’re beautiful, but lifeless.

mkr1-3-64

It’s natural to start off by mimicking an admired artist–copying their drawing or writing or singing style–and it can be valuable practice in terms of technical skills or to give you an idea of the general kind of work you want to create. But a copy is, in the end, just a copy. Eventually you have to find your own inspiration, infuse your art with your own voice, if you want it to truly shine. Once Kohana does, she’s able to produce a Light that’s unique from her mother’s and just as powerful.

mkr1-3-72

Kohana makes for a good starting point because her conflict is a straightforward, typical problem for beginners, and her ability to create competent flower arrangements but not the Light of Arte give us a solid idea of how the magic in this world works. That opens the door for more complicated stories, such as that of the talented but awkward calligrapher (and Best Boy of the Season contender): Aoi.

Kohana admires Aoi’s work, which produces tiny balls of Light that vary in spikiness, but Aoi himself can’t see them. And, to his horror, when Kohana describes his Light to him–when she gives him her impression of his work–he realizes he’s moving away from the kind of work he wants to produce. It’s a pitch-perfect representation of the nightmare that is artist’s block, of desperately wanting to say something but not quite knowing what it is or how to go about doing it. There’s talent, passion, and personality in Aoi’s work–Kohana wouldn’t be able to see the Light if there wasn’t–but it’s not conveying what Aoi needs it to convey. And so he’s lost for now.

mkr1

It’s that “for now” that gives Magic-Kyun a lot of its charm and the “feel-good” quality I mentioned in my tagline, because while the series doesn’t pretend there’s an easy answer to Aoi’s conundrum, it is endlessly optimistic that he’ll find a way through it. Kohana certainly helps, as her support encourages him, and her impressions of his work give him an idea of the direction he’s going in terms of what he’s conveying. Art doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and so it can be helpful to find out if the intent of the work is matching up with the effect it’s having on others.

Most importantly, though, Aoi and Kohana keep working. They make art, and they fail or succeed, and then they learn from it and make something else. Magic-Kyun knows there’s no quick fix, no single, perfect answer to what produces that “Light of Arte,” making a work shine for the artist or their audience or (hopefully) both. But we’ll know it when we find it, and the only way to find it is to keep looking.

mkr1-3-20

In true shoujo fashion, which likes to use flowers and bubbles to literalize hard-to-describe emotions, turning something felt into something seenMagic-Kyun Renaissance uses its “magic” to talk about art, to visualize what it’s like to experience a song or a painting or a performance that resonates with us in a meaningful, sometimes deeply personal way. It also has a sharp understanding of the artistic process, acknowledging pitfalls and difficulties while always cheering on its aspiring artists.

That “you can do it!” attitude is downright contagious, leaking out of the series and into the audience. It’s made me want to return to some of my own creative projects, something I was starting to think I’d abandoned altogether. This otome game adaptation may not have the confidence of Yuri on Ice or the ambition of Flip Flappers, but there’s a sparkle here all the same, and I heartily recommend giving it a try. Who knows? Maybe it’ll fill you with determination, too.

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “Magic-Kyun Renaissance and the Spark(le) of Creativity

  1. First time I even heard of this show (the ‘otome’ tag must’ve put a lot of people off before they even try it), sounds really good. Plenty of interesting shows this season.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s