One of the many reasons I lean towards anime over alternative mediums of entertainment is its abundance of one genre: the magic genre. Typically, the magical girl genre, but there’s also the supernatural genre and shounen shows, which share common surface qualities. Super powers are incredibly common in anime, as is magic. Fate/stay Night Unlimited Blade Works, Magi, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, and D.Gray-Man are but a few good examples of magical shows in anime.
By comparison, the West sorely lacks in this department. Several times throughout the years I have searched for books, movies and so on similar to Harry Potter, and nothing comes close to what I crave. Whereas anime has been satiating that desire of mine for years now with Naruto, Soul Eater (both of which took inspiration from Harry Potter), Fate/Zero, Little Witch Academia, RWBY (though, it is from the West), even Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry, etc.
Fantasy settings in general appeal to me, but stories revolving around going to a magical school and learning more about how that world functions in conjunction with the magical system is one of my favourite fantasies there is and there needs to be more of it in the West. I cannot stress enough how desperate I am for more books, shows and movies analogous to Harry Potter, RWBY, Soul Eater and so on, to be made. I use those examples, because they’re closer to the specifics of what I’m looking for more than others among the same lines (such as Hunter x Hunter, Mob Psycho 100, My Hero Academia, Yu Yu Hakusho…).
So, I saw Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them, and thought I really like Scamander’s coat. After the movie, I thought it was okay. Don’t get me wrong, there were parts I loved, as well as parts I found intriguing or ideas I thought were pretty cool. Like Scamander’s magical suitcase. Oh, this concept alone is enough to reignite my enthusiasm for Harry Potter. Similar to Ramona Flower’s subspace bag, Scamander’s suitcase contains a dimension of space separate from the world outside of it. Him stepping into the suitcase, inviting Kowalski to join him (barring the part where he gets stuck), and seeing the world that dwells within side was spectacular.
Remarkably, I was quite partial to most of the fantastical beasts, and particularly fond of Pickett, the Bowtruckle (or as I refer to him as “the green celery stick”) and the Thunderbird, Frank. Pickett is adorable and actually serves a purpose in the movie (woo!). I won’t give it away, but he likes picking locks. Frank, is barely present in the movie, but when he is he is majestic and cool to look at. The yo-yo creature Scamander carries around that he uses like it’s a pet-weapon, Swooping Evil (what a name) is also pretty cool in its purpose and design. What I didn’t care for was the mischievous Niffler, the source of my annoyance in the scenes he dominates. But, I did like the winged serpent creature, who grows and shrinks to fill space.
Take this as a personal peeve of mine, but I cannot stand scenes dragging on with nothing happening. Those scenes where the characters stare at one another the camera cuts back and forth between their gaping eyes and “concerned” / “affectionate” expressions are recycled from the same scenes out of the thousands of movies that came before it. Here, it’s not so bad because the use of magic and special effects compensates for the few scenes that bothered me. Like, that “comedic” scene where Scamander has to do a mating-call dance to lure one of his escaped beasts into his suitcase. Things go awry and Kowalski buffoonery ensues, having accidentally attracted the beasts lustful attention, the scene is supposed to be played for laughs. But it’s not fun or funny. It comes off as awkward, embarrassing and tonally extraneous in what would otherwise be a satisfying movie. Once the movie moved away from those scenes I felt relieved. But I couldn’t help feel that for a nation proud in its repressed sexual attitudes, it’s surprisingly lax with the implications of beastiality in the Harry Potter world.
Back to what I found agreeable, I actually liked Kowalski and his relationship with Queenie. I thought it was endearing and pleasant to watch. One of the underlying themes, or rather points raised in the movie is the divide between wizards and muggles. From what I gather, Queenie and Kowalski’s relationship will be a start in tearing down these barriers and re-establish the laws of the wizarding world. Their relationship will probably be key in the inauguration of muggle and wizard relations, reconceptualizing the status of wizarding and muggle families. So, it’s likely they’ll have children together by the epilogue of the third movie.
Honestly, I don’t have much to say about the other characters, because they didn’t really stick out to me as anything special or disagreeable. They were just there filling space most of the time. Though, I will say it was nice to see a main character who takes huge liberty in making people understand something they don’t. Scamander’s goal to study and write a book about all his fantastical beasts is a respectable endeavour and a refreshing one, when compared to the typically regurgitated Hollywood plots and motives. Porpentina was fine, but I felt like the movie didn’t know what to do with her, and falls into the implied love interest problem, as so many movies still do. I have few qualms with love sub-plots, but only when they’re done in a fitting way. Verisimilitude is important, and how characters and their development are handled is a big part of that.
Oh, they’ve announced that there’s going to be at least two more movies. (Hesitant excitement) Um… yay?