Monthly Archives: January 2011

Kimi Ni Todoke

 

Quick & Dirty

Language: Japanese

Initial Interest: High

Favorite Character: How can I choose?

Opinion: Shoujo goodness

Likely to Finish: Given time

 

 

Synopsis

Kuronuma Sawako is nicknamed Sadako due to her resemblance to the girl from the Japanese horror movies “The Ring”. Shunned by her classmates, her life starts to change after she befriends Shōta Kazehaya, a very popular boy in her class. (Source: AnimeNewsNetwork)

 

Pre-Viewing Thoughts

So before it died in a spectacular fireball, I was a subscriber to Shoujo Beat. Kimi No Todoke was a one chapter preview in one issue, but it caught my attention. I read all of what was then online and eventually will buy the manga. So it’s safe to say that I like this series so far as I know it. So when I heard there was an anime, I thought I’d check it out.

 

Favorite Character

I really have no idea who to pick as a favorite character. This time it has more to do with my absolute adoration of every character they’ve introduced. I really don’t know what to say about it other than I love the entire cast. Sawako is adorably shy and clueless, Kazehara is sweet and maybe a little bit shy himself, the two friends are adorable in a weird kind of way, and I love the quiet and perceptive Ryu – even if he’s hardly done anything yet.

 

Overall Opinion

What they did well: This series seems to be pure shoujo, so as someone who really enjoys shoujo most of the time, I think they’ve done an excellent job in that respect. The characters are good, and believable for the most part. I’ll admit that the complete ostracism that Sawako is subject to at the beginning of this series seems a little farfetched, but not beyond suspension of disbelief…and who knows, things may be different enough in Japan that it isn’t really beyond the realm of possibility. I also really like the animation style for this anime. To some extent it’s not really that fantastic, it isn’t polished to a ridiculous shine like a lot of anime is these days, nor is it dark and gritty like most of the rest of it is…but for the story being presented I feel it is the exact style that works. I also really like the voices they chose for the characters. A lot of them surprised me at first, they weren’t what I expected after reading the manga, but after the initial shock of them I felt that they were somehow right all the same.

What they didn’t do well: This series is pure shoujo, so if you don’t like shoujo there isn’t anything here for you. For some, Sawako’s isolation might be a little bit too extreme to be believed. The animation is kind of awkward. As I said above, I think it fits well with the story, but I know that a lot of people will judge a series by its art, and this series might not stand up to that kind of standard.

 

Overall I think I love this series, but I’ll only recommend it to those who enjoy a good romance.

 

Next Official Review: You tell me.

 

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Darker Than Black

Quick & Dirty

Language: Japanese

Initial Interest: Medium

Favorite Character: Hei/Li

Opinion: Interesting

Likely to Finish: Eventually

Apologies for not knowing most of their names.

Synopsis

In Tokyo, an impenetrable field known as “Hell’s Gate” appeared ten years ago. At the same time, psychics who wield paranormal powers at the cost of their conscience also emerged. Hei is one of the most powerful of these psychic agents, and along with his blind associate, Yin, works for one of the many rival agencies vying to unlock the mysteries of Hell’s Gate. (Source: AnimeNewsNetwork)

Pre-Viewing Thoughts

This is another one of those series that I selected mostly because Netflix said I’ll like it. The synopsis sounds interesting enough and I know that it was pretty popular for a while. That being said, I want to mention that 90% of what has been popular lately I hated. So my feelings on this are kind of in the middle somewhere. Sounds interesting and Netflix seems to know me fairly well, but then popular crap tends to be…well crap. We’ll see how it goes.

Favorite Character

I said Hei/Li for this one…there really aren’t any choices in this. Thus far we have Li, Kirihara and her team and….well I think November is sticking around… Of those, Li is our main character, Kirihara & co are the useless police, and I think November is a bad guy…but it’s hard to say from two episodes.

Overall Opinion

All right, let’s start off by saying that I went ahead and did 6 episode on this one instead of the regular 5. This is because Darker Than Black seems to like doing episode pairs – Such and Such episode part 1, Such and Such episode part 2. So I watched part 2 of whatever the episode name was and rounded it off at 6. That being said, I can tell that 6 episodes is barely even scratching the surface of the story.

What they did well: I’m honestly not sure what to say for this… I know that I liked these 6 episodes, but I can’t really say why. I guess I really did like Li as a character, he’s interesting and fun to watch. Also the plot seems interesting and probably pretty deep as well. Honestly though it’s hard to say what was done well in these first 6 episodes though, because it feels a lot like having watched one episode and trying to do this…even though Darker Than Black seems to be only 26 episodes long, it feels like I’ve barely started.

What they didn’t do well: There is a lot of exposition required for this series. There’s Hell’s Gate, which I don’t feel has been explained properly yet, there are Contractors, of which there seem to be many types that have also not been explained. Really it seems like the basic premise requires so much explanation that in order to make it clear to the audience you’d have to sacrifice some story. Rather than having long episodes of background info on these things, the series is trying to introduce them through story, which to me makes them much less clear and forces them to come slowly, one piece at a time. The first two episodes gave a brief summary of contractors and Hell’s Gate. The second two introduce the idea of moratoriums. The third pair begins to carve out the real story. Also, there aren’t a lot of characters to choose from as I said above…so if you don’t like Li, you probably won’t care much for the series. Maybe they’ll fix that later on, but whether or not they do you still have to get through a minimum of 6 episodes where it’s basically just him…and the cat.

Overall I like it. I want to watch more and I expect I’ll finish it. But I think I’ll have to get Kaze to give it a shot before I do, because I think he might like it too.

Next Official Review: Please give me a suggestion. I will no longer be announcing in advance unless it has been suggested by you rather than chosen by me.

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Full Review: Kaze No Stigma

Here we have our second full review, Kaze no Stigma. My husband loved this series from the beginning because, as I said before, Kazuma is an undeniable badass, so we watched it over the course of a few days. I’m gonna try and structure this review a little bit better than the last full.

What they did well: The first thing that I think this series did really well was breaking the character stereotypes. I’ve already gone over how awesome Kazuma is so I’ll forgo repetition and move on to Ren. If you pay much attention to the pictures in these posts you may have noticed that Ren’s has changed. In my 5 ep review I said Ren seemed to be our resident squishy character. I thought this because in the first 4 episode he hugged people, cried for practically no reason, and got kidnapped. Classic squishy. So I chose a picture that reflected that opinion. But going through the rest of the series Ren proves that he isn’t very squishy at all really. In episode 5 he started fighting, which I though would be a one time event. But later he gets an entire plot centered around him fighting for a girl he likes and from there he starts escalating in cool. He does get kidnapped again towards the end, but he gets kidnapped by Bernhardt up there, the series villian, and only because he discovers his evil location before anyone else has even told him there’s evil afoot. And he doesn’t really get kidnapped in the helpless sitting around looking pitiful sense anyway.

Then there are Nanase and Kanon. Kanon, by the way, is annoying to try to find a picture of, there being an entire anime by the same name. They share a panel in the lineup because they are technically minor characters. But while I first assumed that they would only play the part of ‘Ayano’s friends’ and really have no importance at all, they kind of pulled out of that role a little at the end. Yes they were ‘Ayano’s friends’ and they played that role as one would expect, but they also each had pretty well defined personalities and played an important role in the final story arch. Kanon in particular took the initiative to spy on the bad guy (not Bernhardt, but an unknowing subordinate) and give most of the characters crucial information.

The story was also pretty engaging. Most of the story arcs were sort of episodic in nature but they were still entertaining to watch and they each had some small piece to contribute to the endgame. There were in fact only 4 episodes that I classify as filler and didn’t really enjoy watching all that much.

What they didn’t do well: At the same time, there were some character stereotypes that never cleared up. Ayano began the series as the useless girl, the weakling trying to prove her strength, and the one I forgot in the first review – the girl who doesn’t realize she’s in love even though everyone else knows. And she never got over it. Okay, you might make an argument about the ‘useless girl’ stereotype. She technically gave the final or nearly final blow to just about every big bad in the series…but each time required Kazuma’s help to attain enough strength, or finish it off for good. At then end, when she achieves the divine red flame she uses it to….do nothing really. And when they face off against the final big bad she tag-teams with Kazuma and Ren and doesn’t seem any stronger than either of them. And she stubbornly refuses to acknowledge her feelings throughout. Admittedly, I didn’t like Ayano from the beginning, so maybe I’m being a little harsh, but that’s how I saw it.

We also had Kirika in the mix. Kirika was one of the two characters that I said in the 5 ep review would be important but hadn’t been named yet, the other character was her assistant and not really important. Kirika was supposed to fall into the ‘busty blond’ stereotype, but even then she seemed to fall short. She was the head of the police’s special magic unit or something like that, but she did almost nothing the entire series. Even at the end when she was in charge of the investigation of the big bad, she got all her information from everyone else and then sent them to go and do the work.

Then we have the series itself. Now I really did enjoy this series. As I said there were 4 episodes that were basically just filler and the rest was plot things. But we get to the end and Bernhardt gets away, his organization is experimenting with a demon-human hybrid that they have not launched yet, we know practically nothing about why Tsui Ling was sacrificed, and we have no idea how or why Kazuma made a pact with the Spirit King of Wind. Actually, related to that, there was a line in the last episode or so that implied that he didn’t actually make any real contract, he just woke up one day (after his girlfriend was brutally sacrificed for…what exactly?) with the power to control wind…which, if that was really their intent, is the most obnoxiously stupid thing I’ve ever heard.

They set the series up for a second season but as far as I can tell there isn’t one, and that’s just annoying.

Overall I liked this series, I’d recommend giving it a watch if you have time. However, be prepared for a bit of a let down as far as a solid wrap-up goes.

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Kaze No Stigma

Quick & Dirty

Language: Japanese

Initial Interest: High

Favorite Character: Kazuma

Opinion: Awesome

Likely to Finish: Definitely

Other characters do not exist in pictures.

Synopsis

Four years ago, Kazuma Kannagi was defeated by his cousin Ayano Kannagi for the right to be the successor of Enraiha, a sword passed down in the Kannagi family. His defeat, along with his lack of talent for En-Jutsu, the fire arts, the Kannagis’ specialty, resulted in his banishment from the family. Now, Kazuma returns as Kazuma Yagami, a skilled master of Fū-Jutsu, the wind arts. (Source: AnimeNewsNetwork)

Pre-Viewing Thoughts

So I read the synopsis on Netflix at some point and thought it sounded pretty interesting, but I promptly forgot what it was about. It’s been waiting for me for some time. Every time I see the cover art on my Netflix queue I think that it looks intriguing and I tell myself I should watch it. Now that I’ve reacquainted myself with the plot summary my interest is redoubled. So here goes.

Favorite Character

Kazuma won favorite character within the first two minutes of his arrival. It’s pretty rare to see a character who is overwhelmingly powerful and justifiably cocky from the get-go but Kazuma is that character. He comes into the series as the single most powerful character and he knows it. Honestly it was kind of refreshing. He is every bit as awesome as say Vash in Trigun, Kira by the end of Gundam Seed or Goku at just about any point in Dragonball Z but he doesn’t spend any time pretending to be stupid or trying to level up because he’s already powerful and he’s proud of the fact.

Overall Opinion

This series is amazing. The premise sounded interesting to me but they seem to have pulled it off more beautifully than I could have hoped. I think the sure power of Kazuma is the main reason it’s as cool as it is. You’ve run into the series where the main character is cool and all but you’re just waiting for that really awesome ass-kicking moment. Well Kazuma starts off kicking ass and by the end of episode 4 has had a crowning moment of awesome. And you still want to see more because he’s just that cool.

What they did well: Kazuma is an awesome character with believable motivations. Also he has a back story that I can’t wait to find out. By then end of episode 4 we’ve already resolved our first story arc in which Kazuma nd Ayano tag team to fight a demon. There are still 20 episodes and that’s the start they made so I can’t wait to see what the meat of the story is going to be about. The animation is great as well.

What they didn’t do well: While Kazuma is awesome the rest of the cast leaves a little to be desired. Ayano is your typical useless female character that is so common in anime, she also doubles as the weak character who is intent on proving her strength. Basically she’s annoying, which wouldn’t be so bad if she weren’t a main character. We then have Ren, Kazuma’s little brother who is our resident squishy character. He’s small, cute, clingy, and weak to the point that he has to be protected almost any time there is danger. He gets a small saving pass because he actually gets to fight for a while in one episode, but he still comes off as cliché. After that we have Ayano’s two friends who play a pretty small role, as main character’s friends often do. And we have the Kannagi clan which seems to be made almost entirely of total assholes. The head of the family, Jugo Kannagi, seems to mostly be okay. There are also two other characters that I know will be important but in 5 episodes have had around 5 lines between them, so I can’t much comment on them yet. I also felt like the Enraiha – the special sword of the Kannagi clan – looked pretty lame and seemed pretty weak. The weak thing though, I think, has more to do with it being wielded by Ayano who is weak herself.

Next Official Review: Up for suggestion. Darker Than Black if not otherwise requested.

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Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

Sorry this is late…it was going to be on time and then…well keep reading.

This review was supposed to be about Strait Jacket. Unfortunately somewhere after the first half hour I realized that Strait Jacket isn’t a series at all, but a movie. I could review it…but unless someone makes a request I don’t intend to. I will say that they took all the fun out of sorcery by making it a product of science and that it was a weird movie. I will also say that the end resolved nothing. I’m not sure why this is a movie and not a series, not that I would watch the series  if they made one now.

So after having watched the movie I still needed to watch 5 episodes of a series, I chose Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.

Quick & Dirty

Language: Japanese

Initial Interest: Medium

Favorite Character: Ed?

Opinion: Deja Vu

Likely to Finish: Eventually

Synopsis

Two brothers lose their mother to an incurable disease. With the power of “alchemy”, they use taboo knowledge to resurrect her. The process fails, and as a toll for using this type of alchemy, the older brother, Edward Elric loses his left leg while the younger brother, Alphonse Elric loses his entire body. To save his brother, Edward sacrifices his right arm and is able to affix his brother’s soul to a suit of armor. With the help of a family friend, Edward receives metal limbs – “automail” – to replace his lost ones. With that, Edward vows to search for the Philosopher’s Stone to return the brothers to their original bodies, even if it means becoming a “State Alchemist”, one who uses his/her alchemy for the military.

Pre-Viewing Thoughts

I’m really not sure how I feel going into this one. I absolutely loved the first Fullmetal Alchemist and the only thing about the entire series that I was really unhappy about was that Ed and Al ended up on opposite sides of the gate. So when I heard that the entire ending isn’t just different, it’s completely different in Brotherhood…I wasn’t sure I’d be able to like it. I honestly felt like the end of the first series was sort of poetic and quite good.

I also approach this with some trepidation because while I only really lurk on the fringes of fandom I’ve picked up on what seems to be a war between the Fullmetal Alchemis anime fans and the Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood/Manga fans. As far as I can tell you like one or the other and not both so having liked the first anime, what will I get out of the second? It gets to be ridiculous really because I’ve heard both sides say opposite things, most notably that the animation is either much improved or excessively bad…we’ll see how I feel after.

I read an article contrasting the two which I think was likely as fair and unbiased as I’ll ever find. The result was that the two came out tied for good, so you’ll like it or hate it…which makes sense given the obvious divide. But what this article said was that the beginning of the first anime was based on the manga and done really well, so when they remade it to follow the manga all the way through they had to retrace some ground…If I remember correctly the article said that Brotherhood took some comedic liberties to distinguish itself and that sounds corny to me…In the article the first anime won the beginning, I believe they tied for the middle, and Brotherhood won for the end….So a five episode review puts me in the rehashing what I saw and liked and doing it worse category. I’ll try not to be too hard if this is the case.

For those interested, article is here.

Favorite Character

I put Ed as my favorite character rather hesitantly. I think this is one of those series where I don’t really have a favorite character. I like most of the cast well enough but none of them stands out as my favorite. At least that’s how it is for the first anime and these 5 episodes being almost entirely content covered in that one (and right quick, I might add), it seems that it’ll be the same here. Maybe if I finish it someone will pull ahead of the pack in Brotherhood, who knows.

Overall Opinion

As per my prediction I’m not really sure how I feel about this anime. Aside from the first episode with the freezy alchemist it’s all stuff I’ve seen before. Objectively it was done well enough, but not objectively I feel like they sped through it so fast that it didn’t connect properly. I remember spending two full episodes with Nina and Tucker and their tragedy and so here spending just the one, I feel less attatched and therefore less affected by their tragedy. I was happy to see Scar kill Tucker this time around though.

It’s a little difficult watching this having watched the first one mostly because some of the voices have changed. Sure most of the main cast has remained but there are little changes here and there that I can recognize and feel weird about. The one I noticed the absolute most was Gluttony. This Gluttony is a little higher pitched and it jars me every time. But the one that pisses me off the most is Scar. Scar in A1 (the first anime as I will now refer to it) was voiced by Okiayu Ryoutaro who happens to be my all time favorite voice actor. He’s very flexible in his acting and has a voice like caramel, it’s fantastic. But he’s not Scar in Brotherhood and that makes me dislike Brotherhood just a little bit more than I would otherwise. That aside…

What they did well: The character animation was just as good as A1 when they were being serious and for the most part watching these five episodes after watching A1 was like seeing old friends. I liked the opening theme and I loved the animation in the opening theme. If you’ve never seen either series FMA has a really dark story with well made characters. If you accept that in this world transmutation is possible then the story and characters are believable and enjoyable to watch.

What they didn’t do well: The scenery/background animation in a lot of places seemed really poor. Every shot of the Elric household felt like it was drawn by a child and so did a few other scenes. In the first episode they used a lot of emoticons that didn’t fit anywhere in the story…in an angst ridden series like FMA you can get away with some comedic interludes like Ed screaming about “who are you calling a bean that is so small you could step on him and not notice” every now and then but it shouldn’t be often and I feel like Brotherhood is riding that fine line with reckless abandon.  They kept trying to do artistic color themes to make certain scenes dramatic (black and white where the blood is red or red all over to signify the pure evil of Lust) that didn’t really achieve the intended atmosphere. Also, to me, probably because everything went so quick which is in turn because it’s all been done before and they’re just trying to move to the new content, they didn’t spend enough time with characters to make some of the relationships seems real. I can tell that Hughes and Roy are supposed to have a solid friendship but the way they interacted in these episodes felt like whoever was writing their dialogue wasn’t sure what friendship feels like. I think they tried to establish the history between Winry, Ed, and Al, but it too felt choppy and forced. I also really hated that Roy recruited Ed to be a state alchemist. That’s probably a your mileage may very if not a A1 vs Brotherhood issue…but it seemed just a little ridiculous that he came out to recruit and 11 year old boy into the military. I liked it better when Ed decided on his own to become a “dog of the military” and proved his worth in the exam well enough to be accepted.

All right so final verdict is…I dunno. So far I like A1 better but I have a feeling it’s because what A1 was at this point Brotherhood should have been but didn’t want to impose. Hopefully I’ll eventually watch the rest and see if the ending really does do a bang up job. Maybe I’ll enjoy it and figure out a way to fuse the two series into some cohesive awesome. But that’s a far off dream. I suppose I’d recommend this more to anyone who hasn’t watched the other.

At any rate I’m sorry for the bias and heavy comparison on this one…it’s kind of hard not to compare two things which are technically the same thing but not, especially having loved the first one as I did.

Next Official Review: No idea. Suggestions please, otherwise it’ll be a surprise when I get there.


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