Monthly Archives: September 2011

Seirei Moribito

Quick & Dirty
Genre(s): Adventure, drama, fantasy, historical

Language:  English
Initial Interest:  Medium
Favorite Character:  Balsa
Opinion:  Undetermined
Likely to Finish: Possibly

 

Synopsis
Balsa the spearwoman is a wandering warrior, who takes on the task of saving lives, in atonement for a past sin. On her journey, she happens to save a prince, and is tasked with becoming his bodyguard. And he is going to need one, for his own father, the emperor, wants him dead. (Source: AnimeNewsNetwork)

Pre-Viewing Thoughts
So this is one of the many series that are now available through Netflix streaming that I was mildly curious about based on the artwork but hadn’t even attempted to watch because Netflix hasn’t officially added subtitles as an option for viewing. I haven’t checked yet to see if it is subtitled anyway as some of the titles are. It doesn’t seem to be Funimation so there’s a chance anyway. It’s on Hulu also, I think, so I shouldn’t have too much trouble.

The thing is I was only mildly curious, as I said, based on the artwork. I had no idea what it was about. So at the suggestion of a friend I am going to be watching and reviewing 5 episodes for this blog but, having read the synopsis, I’m not really all that psyched. It could be interesting, or boring, or cliché. We’ll just have to find out.

Favorite Character
This is another one of those limited choices picks. There are a good sized handful of people  in the first few episodes but most of them are support character with very little characterization or relevance for the time being. While I’m fairly certain that Tanda will eventually develop into an actual person, and one I think I could really like, he hasn’t yet. So the default choice is Balsa… and really even she hasn’t been developed much yet. She’s strong and independent, but with a good heart. And I’m sure she’s much more likeable in Japanese. Sadly her English voice actress seems to lack much emotion.

Overall Opinion
What they did well: They’re building a solid story. I can see that there are some pretty big plot points that viewers may want to discover which will draw them into watching it. For my money I don’t believe the water spirit can be as inherently bad news as they’ve thus far implied and would like to see if my suspicions are correct. Additionally I would very much like to understand Balsa’s backstory and wouldn’t be at all averse to watching her grow enough as a character to rely more on those around her. They have also done a pretty good job so far of making a cast entirely of gray characters. Even the Mikado, who is at first attempting to have his son assassinated and later intending to kill him himself, can be seen in a sympathetic light – after all he believes it’s a water demon that will cause a bad drought, should he really choose his son over his people?

What they didn’t do well: The pacing on this is extremely slow, and while I can see that this is a story that flows best with this kind of pacing I know that many people cannot watch a slow series. I myself sometimes find it difficult and was more than a little bored through a good portion of these five episodes. Also, I personally believe the dubbing sucks. Granted I’m a bit biased, I enjoy subtitled anime more nine times out of ten, but there’s a difference between ‘I don’t like dubs’ and ‘Within the overall context of dubs, this one sucks’ and this one sucks. As I said above the woman voicing Balsa is not at all emotive and she isn’t the only one. Most of the cast sounded pretty deadpan to me and the person who seemed to do the best acting was Touya – a minor character that I don’t have much expectation of becoming particularly important. They’re also introducing a pretty wide cast, it’s becoming tricky to follow what names are whose and if they’re important or not… I had to look up Touya’s name just now, and I rather like him this far if only because he has personality.

This is one of those shows that I’m uncertain about. I can certainly see the appeal and I may yet finish it, but it has some problems that will drive the wider audience away.

Scoring:

Next official review: Dream Eater Merry – though as my brother is getting married next weekend it may be a bit delayed.

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Samurai Champloo

Quick & Dirty
Genre(s): Action, adventure, comedy, drama, historical, samurai

Language:  English

Initial Interest:  High

Favorite Character:  Jin

Opinion:  Mixed

Likely to Finish: Maybe

 

 

Synopsis
Mugen is a fierce animal-like warrior with a unique Bboying (break-dance) inspired fighting style. Jin has a more traditional style but don’t think of this as a weakness because his skills are amazing. The two contrasting samurai warriors are far from friends, yet their separate paths seem to cross anyways. Mugen is wandering aimlessly through the city when he stumbles upon a teahouse where he meets Jin and Fuu (A ditzy waitress, but don‘t think she doesn‘t have anything hidden up her sleeves). Fuu convinces them both to come with her in search of a mysterious samurai that smells like sunflowers and their journey begins. This modernized hip-hop tale breaks the barriers of the common, historical, samurai anime. (Source: AnimeNewsNetwork)

Pre-Viewing Thoughts
The thing about Samurai Champloo is that I have technically already seen all of the episodes I am now obliged to watch. Once, when it was on Cartoon Network, I expressed an interest in seeing it but was unable to owing to it being already partway into the series. My good friend Nisey had purchased part of the series and loaned me the first disc. I enjoyed it, and would have been interested in watching more, but I was never afforded the opportunity. Now it’s on Netflix. So I’m going to watch the beginning again, and then maybe, after I pause to complete this review, I’ll watch the rest.

Favorite Character
I picked Jin because I mostly find Fuu annoying and Mugen is too random for me to like him for two scenes together. Jin is soft spoken, intelligent, and strong. These are traits I tend to like in characters. I will say though, that I feel as though they character sinned him in episode three. That is to say, for a character that seems to value honor, intellect, and discipline it seemed extremely out of character for him to conspire with Mugen to ditch Fuu when they had both promised to find the sunflower samurai. I understand Mugen running out on her, he’s only in it for the fun and she was being obnoxious; but Jin should be duty bound to honor his word regardless of his own personal feelings toward Fuu.

Overall Opinion
What they did well: There’s a certain style to this anime that they seem to be fairly consistent with. To some degree this style works really well for the show, but it’s kind of a hit or miss. I really enjoyed the rhythm of this show the first time around and found myself caught up in it more than once this time as well. The characters, while being few in number, are pretty diverse in personality. And of course an important thing for any samurai anime, the fight scenes are done quite well.

What they didn’t do well: The style to which I refer above is, as best as I can describe it, somewhere between hip-hop and gangster rap. I imagine that most of you can understand the shortcomings inherent in that choice. First, it’s a little difficult to manage that visually for a samurai anime, and second a lot of people simply won’t enjoy it. It annoyed me most in the first episode when they kept running the animation like a dj at a club, the term escapes me at the moment, but that way of moving the disc/record/whatever a little bit forward and back to make that scatching/screeching sound. And the last place you want to annoy your audience is the first episode. Thankfully they seemed to have abandoned that particular tactic afterward. In the same manner Kaze remembers he disliked this series because it was too much modern in his samurai anime. Mugen curses pretty regularly, and while some cursing – perhaps even a lot of cursing – may have gone on during those days the degree to which it is used here makes it obvious that is is anachronistic. As an obvious example, when Mugen tells someone in episode 4 to send the toughest mofo they can find. Some of this may also be a result of bad dubbing, but given that it seems fans are increasingly tolerant of dubs, and may in fact favor them more these days, a poor dub is a serious offense.

Ironically, the best way I can think of to describe Samurai Champloo is to say it’s Cowboy Bebop only with samurai. At the same time, Spike and Mugen have the same English voice actor.

Scoring:

Next official review: Either Seirei Moribito or Dream Eater Merry, depending on whether I find time for Kaze and I to watch the episodes together.

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