Monthly Archives: May 2011

Kore Wa Zombie Desu Ka

Quick & Dirty

Language: Japanese

Initial Interest: Low

Favorite Character: Yuu

Opinion: Low

Synopsis

Aikawa Ayumu is a normal high school boy. One day he is killed by a serial killer and revived as a zombie by a necromancer named Eucliwood Hellscythe. He starts to serve Eu as her guard but he happens to deprive the mahou shoujo Haruna of her magic power. Haruna orders Ayumu to fight against the anti-mahou shoujo system “Megalo” in her place.

(Source: AnimeNewsNetwork)

 

Pre-Viewing Thoughts

Once again I feel like the synopsis is lacking. I realize that questions like ‘how does he deprive a magical girl of her power?’ and ‘anti magical girl system?’ are things that should be answered in the series, but the way they are just tossed out in the synopsis seems kind of confusing. It boils down to me having no idea what to expect, story-wise, from this series. Also while this series claims to be about a boy the tiny picture attached to it on ANN shows like 5 little girls… I think this is a series that falls under the ‘moe’ category but I can’t say for sure because I’ve yet to receive a satisfactory explanation of what that term means or where it came from. Based solely on that picture I suspect this anime of being a harem anime, and after my last harem anime I’m more than a little wary. On the plus side it seems to be 12 episodes long, so if I have even a mild interest in this series by the time you get to read this it may be a full review.

 

Favorite Character

I picked Yuu (aka Eucliwood Hellscythe) because it’s kind of hard to like any of the other characters at all. Yuu, possibly by virtue of being silent, managed to be the only character that didn’t annoy the hell out of me. Thus she wins.

 

Overall Opinion

What they did well: I liked the opening theme quite a bit, both the song and the animation sequence. Also, somewhere under all of the porn there was a good story wishing it could have been done properly. Kaze believes the fight scenes had potential.

What they didn’t do well: The porn. Technically they never really show anything…but at the same time this series is so overwhelmed by boobs and naked girls that it’s painful. Ayumu is your typical stereotyped teenage boy. He fantasizes about every girl he sees on a regular basis. These fantasies range from the cute girl calling him “onii-chan” to the cute girl inviting him into the bath and are pointless at the best of times. But it isn’t just Ayumu fantasizing that brings out the porn. Somehow or another Ayumu steals Haruna’s power, which means every time she transforms into her magical girl outfit her clothes instantly dissolve, leaving her naked. Sera is the excessively busty one which means that the camera focuses on her rack more often than her face. There’s a scene where the girls play Twister, I’ll leave the particulars of that scene to your imaginations. Then we’re introduced to Kyoko who is the shy girl type but still manages to have her pj’s (she’s in the hospital) unbuttoned low enough for excessive cleavage, which is where Ayumu’s attention is generally drawn. It honestly could have been a good series if they hadn’t tried so hard to focus on fanservice, which is extremely disappointing. Also there was one glaringly predictable part which could have been at least a little more subtle.

 

I refuse to give this any sort of recommendation. Those of you who enjoy excessive boobage may enjoy it, but reasonable and non-horny viewers will want to steer clear. I’ll rank this one just slightly above Infinite Stratos because in this one the interesting plot seems to be tied with the fanservice for screentime.

 

 

Next Official Review: Tiger and Bunny

 

I’m vacationing for two weeks, visiting my siblings. In theory I will finish two more reviews in the next couple of days and set them to post on successive Fridays, but if I don’t get it done you have fair warning and my apologies in advance.

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Hourou Musuko

A Warning Before Reading: This series deals with some issues that will make a lot of people uncomfortable and/or angry. If you have a problem with the issues discussed in this anime and, consequently, this review, I don’t want to hear about it. Calm rational discussions are welcome, insults and flames will be tagged as spam and deleted.

Quick & Dirty

Language: Japanese

Initial Interest: High

Favorite Character: Takatsuki

Opinion: Mixed

Synopsis

Shuicihi Nitori appears to be a shy and quiet preteen boy, when he transfers to a new school he quickly makes friends with the tomboyish Yoshino Takatsuki who sits next to him. It soon becomes apparent that both Shucihi and Yoshino are more than simply a sensitive boy and masculine girl, they both are transgendered. Together they decide to take the first steps toward becoming the people they want to be.

(Source: AnimeNewsNetwork)

Pre-Viewing Thoughts

I ran into this one while wandering about a fandom website. Someone mentioned something about calling Takatsuki “her” when she clearly gender identifies as a boy. Now I can honestly say that I’ve never had any gender identity problems and I’m not really sure I understand the mindset of people who do, which is part of why I went out of my way to read the manga. I’m a firm believer that gender is irrelevant but I also believe that if a girl would rather be a boy or vice versa that that’s their business, if they can do it and want to then they should. But I don’t want to soap box too much here, so I’ll move away from too much of that speak. The general point is that since this is a minority group in society I thought that an anime/manga that explored the special issues involved would be interesting, especially for me who doesn’t really understand the underlying concept all that well.

I did read the manga (what’s out/translated online thus far) and enjoyed it. I intend to finish it when possible and I may buy it someday. So it’s safe to say that I’m looking forward to watching the anime, as I generally tend to enjoy color and motion just a bit more.

Favorite Character

I picked Takatsuki but this is a series that I don’t really feel like any of them are my favorite. I like the characters (mostly) but I don’t feel drawn to one or another. It’s just that kind of story where no one stands out too much but it’s still really good.

Overall Opinion

So there are two special issues I feel are worth noting before I proceed with my judgments. First, I read the manga before I watched the series, which will color my opinions some. I said above that I liked the manga so the anime has a high standard to meet. Second, I only just read the manga a month or so ago. I’m not the kind of person who tends to enjoy something twice in close succession. Having just read the manga I should have expected to feel just a little bored.

What they did well: I absolutely love the song they used for the opening theme and I only wish that the subber had translated it. I’m not good enough at my Japanese to follow most of it so I can only get a sense that it’s probably very relevant. I also really like the animation style they used. Every shot looks like a full-color airbrushed page from a manga. I feel like on some level the creators of this anime really understood the underlying feeling they needed to present and it comes out in a thousand subtle ways.

What they didn’t do well: One thing that struck me as both annoying and stupid within the first 5 minutes of the first episode was that they started in the middle. It honestly felt like I was watching season 2, but I really wasn’t. I get that starting in media res is a stylistic technique, but it’s one that works for some things and not for others. This is not a series to start in the middle. There is so much relevant back-story that just got skipped and a deeper understanding of the problems these kids are facing. I was honestly concerned for a few episodes that we’d managed to skip enough content to change the story from one which deals with two children who want to be the opposite gender into a story about two children who like to cross-dress. Thankfully I was mistaken on that front as episode 3 or 4 introduced the issues of getting cleavage and the lowering of a man’s voice, which brought us back to gender identity rather than just cross-dressing (which I am by no means dismissing as a real issue for those who face it). But we still missed so much that really enhances the audiences understanding of the problems Takatsuki and Nitori face. Not to mention that if you start with the anime rather than the manga you’re very likely to be confused at various points. I can’t really confirm this, however, because Kaze didn’t watch it with me.

I was also kind of surprised by some of the casting decisions. Anyone who has watched really even a little anime (in Japanese) is probably familiar with the fact that girls can voice boys and it’s no big deal. (For those of you who just didn’t notice my biggest example would probably be that Romi Park – a woman – voiced Edward Elric in Fullmetal Alchemist). So I was kind of surprised at how boy-ish Nitori sounded to me, especially knowing that at some point he and Mako record their pre-puberty voices while they still sound cute and feminine. I was even more shocked when another character that is interested in Saori and is – in his attitudes toward Nitori – very opposed to the concept of cross-dressing, sounds as though he is voiced by a woman. I guess that’s not necessarily a “what they didn’t do well” but it seemed kind of strange to me.

In the end I’m not going to recommend this anime. If the story interests you read the manga first. If you love the manga, feel free to watch the anime. But I don’t think anyone should start with the anime on this because it doesn’t really add a lot and it takes away too much.

Next Official Review: Kore Wa Zombie Desu Ka? (“Is this a zombie?” or possibly – based on the synopsis – “Am I a zombie?”)

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Guin Saga

Quick & Dirty

Language: Japanese

Initial Interest: Medium

Favorite Character: Rinda

Opinion: Good

Synopsis

The ancient kingdom of Parro has been invaded by the armies of Mongaul, and its king and queen have been slain. But the “twin pearls of Parro,” the princess Rinda and the prince Remus, escape using a strange device hidden in the palace. Lost in the Forest of Rood, they are rescued from Mongaul soldiers by a strange leopard-headed man named Guin, who has no memories except for the word “Aurra.”

(Source: AnimeNewsNetwork)

Pre-Viewing Thoughts

If you’ve been reading this blog regularly you may have noticed that I use AnimeNewsNetwork as my primary resource. It’s a good site and it has only really failed me once or twice. But a side effect of visiting that site so often is that I get subjected to their advertisements. That’s what got me to watch Blassreiter and it’s what introduced me to Guin Saga. I can’t really say why but it caught my attention and now I’m curious. We’ll see how this goes.

Favorite Character

This was not a decision reached lightly. I actually like most of the cast so far on this one. Guin is a good and noble knight and I found Istvan to be interesting in his own right but I had to pick Rinda. When it comes down to it Rinda is powerless. She is at best like 13 years old, her kingdom has been conquered, and her only weapon is a dagger. Yet she still faces every situation and every foe with unfaltering bravery and force of will. It is an unbelievably rare characteristic for a female in anime and it makes me happy.

Overall Opinion

What they did well: The characters are generally good and very diverse. They do a good job of building interest in character background. I’m very anxious to see what the deal is with Guin and I’d like to learn a little more about Istvan as well. I like the animations style and I personally thing that the design for leopard-headed Guin was skillfully pulled off. The action sequences were also very nice, especially after the last two reviews. There were a few fights that happened too quickly to really follow or where the camera was otherwise engaged so that we couldn’t see a lot of what happened, but there was plenty of fighting where everything was clear and entertaining to watch.

What they didn’t do well: The opening theme may be the most boring opening theme I have ever seen. It’s all heroic background music and a montage of characters, really no fun at all. Remus seems to serve no purpose other than to cry about how scare/tired/hungry he is and it gets kind of annoying pretty quick. You’d think a child whose entire family was just murdered and who was fleeing for his life would have other things on his mind, but not this kid. Also, at five episodes I’m not sure what the point of Suni is. I guess they’ll end up going to her village at some point and maybe that’s more relevant than a safe harbor in a dangerous region, but until then she seems just to be there as the cute pet, and I just don’t like cute pets for the sake of cute pets.

Next Official Review: Wandering Son aka Hourou Musuko

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Siayuki

Quick & Dirty

Language: Japanese

Initial Interest: Mild

Favorite Character: Undecided…Kougaiji

Opinion: Neutral

Synopsis

Many years ago, humans and demons lived in harmony. But that unity ended when demons started attacking humans and plotted a mission to unleash Gyumao – an evil demon imprisoned for thousands of years. Now, Genjo Sanzo, a rogue priest, must team up with three demons – Sha Gojyo, Son Goku, and Cho Hakkai – and embark on a perilous journey to the west to stop these demons from resurrecting Gyumao and restore the balance between humans and demons on Earth.

(Source: AnimeNewsNetwork)

Pre-Viewing Thoughts

This is another series that I watched without regard for this review, so these are the pre-viewing thoughts as written after watching.

Kaze wanted this series so we bought it at some point and when we were watching anime every Friday with my mom (who is awesome) we started this one, but we didn’t finish it and I honestly didn’t remember anything about it. This series was well beloved by about half of my anime club in high school but I never got into it both because no one loaned it to me and because I didn’t care. But at least one of the people who liked it was Izzy and she and I tend to enjoy similar anime, so it’s worth a shot. I actually watched it because we own it (which makes it portable), because I wanted to watch anime, and because it is one of three series I own but have never completed (that I intend to complete anyway). I am completely neutral to this series otherwise.

Favorite Character

I really don’t know. This is another series where in five episodes I don’t feel like I’ve really met anyone yet, so I’ll just wait until I do. At this point honestly the bad guy… Kougaiji seems the most interesting.

Overall Opinion

What they did well: It has an interesting enough concept. The characters might be interesting. The villains – specifically Kougaiji – don’t seem to all be black and white. That is to say, I feel that they are doing what they are doing for a reason other than destruction of the world and aren’t necessarily pure evil. I like dynamic villains.

What they didn’t do well: The fight scenes in this are terrible. This is another series where all the action happens in flashes and bad cg effects so that even someone like me, who knows little about combat and doesn’t really care, feels a little disappointed. There seems to be some kind of religious higherarchy involving thtree floating heads and someone that seems to be named The Merciful Goddess, but that hitgherarchy isn’t explained so that it seems confusing. This might have to do with the whole story being based on the Chinese legend and (I believe) Buddhism. I know knothing about Journey to the West and while I did learn about Buddhism at some point I don’t think I ever really grasped it, so maybe the problem here is me, but at the same time, I probably represent your average anime viewer.

I reserve judgement on this one. I still feel completely neutral. I don’t dislike it at all but I don’t really like it either. I just lack any feeling at all.

Next Official Review: Guin Saga.

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Rurouni Kenshin

All right, time for some apologies. First, I apologize for missing two weeks in a row. Things have been kind of crazy and some issues arose that made watching Guin Saga difficult. On that second note, apologies for the fact that this, and the subsequent review that should come on Wednesday, is/are not Guin Saga.

 

Quick & Dirty

Language: Japanese

Initial Interest: High

Favorite Character: Sanosuke

Opinion: Mixed feelings

Synopsis

Himura Kenshin is a vagabond with a dark past and sunny disposition. Not a ronin but a rurouni, he was never a samurai, but an assassin of utmost skill in the Meiji restoration, who in the turning point of the war simply walked away. His travels lead him to Tokyo in the 11th year of the Meiji era, where he befriends a female Kendo master, a former thief, a brawler and a doctor all with their own secrets. Together they fight off the enemies surfacing from the dark past that Kenshin cannot escape.

(Source: AnimeNewsNetwork)

Pre-Viewing Thoughts

The following may get a little long winded and isn’t technically part of the review, skip to the last paragraph in this section if you just want to know my opinions on the anime itself.

So there’s a reason that I put my pre-view thoughts in here. The fact of the matter is that how I feel about a series going into it will greatly affect how much I enjoy it. If I expect a series to be great I may like it more than I would have if I’d had no expectations or I may like it less because it fails to meet my expectations even though it may still be good. On the other side of that scale is if I expect to hate a series, and this barrier is a little harder to overcome. I don’t often go in thinking I’ll hate something but I can’t think of one instance that I did and came out feeling any different. So I like to declare my biases beforehand so that all of you reading can keep that in mind when reading my opinions. The only problem with this insistence on stating my feelings going into an anime is that it means to properly post a review for this blog I have to make a conscious decision to do it beforehand. Because of this I haven’t watched a single series strictly for leisure purposes since I began this endeavor. Now, in the past two weeks, for the first time, I watched not one, but two series just because I wanted to and with no real consideration for this website. What results is that I can only give a vague idea of my pre-viewing thoughts looking back. They may be skewed.

So I watched Kenshin back in the days when it was on Cartoon Network (you know, when they still only showed cartoons). And I really enjoyed it then. But I was at that time (I believe) in middle school, so my tastes and standards may have changed quite a bit since then. One thing that has changed quite considerably is my knowledge of Japanese history. I’m no expert on the subject, I’m not really a history person and I really only have a cursory knowledge, but I recently started learning about the Shogun of Japan and the time period leading up to the Meiji Restoration (Kenshin being set in the Meiji period) and it made me really want to watch Kenshin again. This was compounded by the fact that I never actually saw all of it in the first place, and always thought I would finish it someday.

Favorite Character

I picked Sanosuke. I know I used to prefer Kenshin, and I did consider whether I liked him better, but I really think that I like Sano best. Sanosuke is kind of rough around the edges but he sticks to his convictions and he seems to know who he is. I like that. The thing about Kenshin is that he’s trying to rewrite his own story and it makes him act in two distinctly different ways. On one hand he’s the bumbling wanderer who is clumsy and gets hit by things often and on the other he’s the legendary Battousai who can defeat any and all opponents. The switching between these two personalities honestly kind of annoys me. Where is it written that you can’t be cool and competent and still not kill people?

Overall Opinion

So like I said, I watched this back in the day and loved it, so I had high expectations. Honestly it was kind of a let-down. Maybe it’s a nostalgia issue, maybe it was just better when my standards were lower, who knows. I did enjoy the little bits of history stuff that I now had a better understanding of and I feel like knowing what it meant to be and imperialist or the enemy of imperialists brings a new level to the anime that I didn’t have when I watched it before, but these are very specific things that deal with extraneous knowledge and so I can neither classify them as “did well” or “didn’t do well”.

Also, I watched this dubbed the first time, long before I ever started watching anything subbed, and I enjoyed it. I was going to watch this one in English but within the first two minutes I thought my ears were going to start bleeding. Kaoru’s voice is obnoxious and for anyone who has a solid grasp of Japanese pronunciation their insistence on pronouncing Battousai as bat-too-sigh (instead of bah-toe-sigh) will make you cringe every time.

What they did well: The story so far (I’ve watched all of 11 episodes) is pretty easy to follow. There’s a certain amount of mystery as to what made Kenshin decide he didn’t want to be a killer anymore which encourages the watching. The characters are mostly likeable.

What they didn’t do well: For an action anime that is really about the fight scenes, they didn’t seem to pay much attention to them. The action is presented as happening “too fast” for the casual observer to follow so fight scenes tend to involve the characters moving in and around each other and black screens with sword flashes that completely conceal all of the action. Really the only time we get to see the characters make contact is when they tie up. It gets really annoying really fast. Also this anime came out in the formula days. It has a cast that was comprised right out of the anime handbook. Mighty hero who doesn’t want to hurt/kill people anymore, good intentioned female that lacks strength but is the love interest, little kid sidekick that can’t do anything but keeps trying anyway, buddy sidekick (at first an enemy) who can do some things but isn’t as awesome as our hero, cool female who is competent at some task or another but will not feature strongly in the plot. It’s so cliché that some of the roles seem rather forced. I feel like Yahiko could be completely removed and it wouldn’t hurt the story at all – it may actually help. Also, to get kind of nitpicky, there was an entire plot that revolved around a heartless killer who could use sheer force of will to paralyze people. I understand the concept of clashing wills and I’m totally okay with the idea of a strong murderous intent/presence being detectable and possibly even freezing lesser people with fear…but they took it just a little too far. At one point he uses this on Sanosuke, a confident and strong willed character, and he is barely able to move for the power of it. Twice he uses it on Kenshin who then has to actively break out of it. Basically they took something that was purely a matter of mental fortitude and made it into a physical attack and that just felt really stupid. Also, people don’t bleed nearly as much as they should in this series, and before anyone objects, I am watching it uncut.

In the end I’m not going to pass a final judgement on this one. I used to love it and it was hugely popular in its day so it may have some merit. But I’m just not enjoying it that much anymore.

Next Official Review: Saiyuki is coming on Wednesday, then Guin Saga should be next week.

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