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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Temporary Lull

If any of you out there are checking this at all regularly you may have noticed that I have missed three weeks of updating. I apologize for this, but I’m afraid I can’t make any promises for improvement just yet. See, I missed the first week because I was on vacation and didn’t have a lot of time or really a great computer for watching five episodes on and I failed to get 2-3 weeks of updates done in one week beforehand. But when I came back from vacation and booted up my desktop – my sturdy, hardlined, dependable computer – it started coughing and wheezing and doing strange things. I don’t know anything about computers and therefore cannot diagnose Gigabob (that’s what we named it so we could network it). My husband says he thinks it’s something wrong inside and he’ll look at it but he’s a busy man and he hasn’t gotten to it yet. Until then I have the computer I am typing this up on only. For reference this is my laptop. It’s a hand-me-down I got when my mother upgraded to something that could run Oblivion, it can’t run anything higher than Windows XP and it has an internal wi-fi that is extremely finicky. I cannot watch anime on this computer and I will probably have to fight with it like crazy to do a proper update after watching a dvd or something on Netflix.

So I apoligize again for those of you who might actually care, I wish I could give you a concrete time to expect a revival but it is what it is. Just know that I haven’t abandoned the blog, I’m just having some hardware issues.

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Tiger & Bunny

Quick & Dirty

Language: Japanese

Initial Interest: Medium

Favorite Character: Tiger

Opinion: Fun

Synopsis

Sternbild City is home to people called “Next,” who use their special abilities to protect the people as superheroes. These heroes solve cases and save lives so they can wear sponsor logos or acquire “hero points.” Their activities are documented on the popular program “Hero TV,” which picks the “King of Heroes” in a yearly ranking. The veteran hero Wild Tiger has always preferred to work alone, but now he’s been assigned the rookie Barnaby Brooks Jr., who has a different perspective on being a superhero.

(Source: AnimeNewsNetwork)

 

Pre-Viewing Thoughts

This is another show that they’ve been advertising on ANN, which means that I keep seeing adds for it. On top of that I’ve been running into it elsewhere recently as well. It’s piqued my interest somewhat. That being said, however, the plot sounds only so-so to me. I’m pretty sure this is a comedy, so maybe that will make it rise above mediocrity.

 

Favorite Character

I picked Tiger or Kotetsu because he’s honestly the only character I really like. He gets awesome points for being the only hero in this gig that seems genuinely interested in saving people rather than racking up points, looking cool, and making money. He’s also goofy in that cool hero kind of way. He’s always saying things that are all heroic and awesome and never gets credit for it in the show, so he deserves credit from it from someone at least.

 

Overall Opinion

What they did well: The thing I love best about this show is that it seems to have seriously considered the superhero scenario and where it would go in the real world. It kind of mixes the old school hero with the Incredibles idea of costs of heroism and comes out with an interesting premise. The synopsis isn’t really clear so for those who are reading without having watched I’ll break it down a little. Heroes are paid for by big companies and sponsors and they wear their sponsors on their uniforms like Nascar. There’s a TV network that films all of their heroic actions as well as gives them direction from time to time and scores them based on how many people they rescue. Bunny is literally in the game to win the game; Tiger is in the game to save lives. This is honestly how I would expect superheroes to work in real life, with corporate sponsorship and maybe a little more egotism than heroism.

In the first couple episodes we find out that Bunny’s parent’s died when he was little and I’m anxious to see how that happened. I’m also anxious to see how his relationship with Tiger progresses because as of episode 5 it seems like he’s never really had anyone that cared enough to check up on him and now he has Tiger being a nosy friend if not an almost father-like figure.

I also really like Tiger.

I am infinitely amused that Blue Rose is sponsored by Pepsi (I love Cherry Pepsi), that Bunny is sponsored by Bandai, and that Origami Cyclone is sponsored by Anime. As a note, the pictures above are missing the sponsor logos.

What they didn’t do well: It really annoys me that Tiger seems to be the one saving the day in pretty much every episode so far but he never gets any credit for it, and I’m not exaggerating. Blue Rose keeps telling him that he has no points which means that when he completely defused the situation in episode 2 it didn’t count, when he found the bomb and then cleared a path for Bunny to kick it out of the building it didn’t count, and of course when he “arrested” the bad guy and gave him to Bunny it didn’t count. I’m wondering how long this can continue.

I’m wondering why they bothered making as many heroes as they did because so far Dragon Kid and Origami Cyclone have done pretty much nothing…well I think Dragon Kid arrested someone in the first episode after Sky High and Rock Bison had done most of the work… I’m hoping eventually they’ll give everyone more depth but I won’t hold my breath.

This anime is also full of Superman syndrome, which is to say, how do they not recognize these people? I get most of them, they’re either in full body suits or in the case of Blue Rose, her hair changes color. But Tiger spends a lot of time hanging out with Bunny and sometimes he’s wearing a mask (like Robin in Batman) and sometimes he’s not and either way he’s wearing the same outfit, down to the pretty recognizable hat. How do people not know?

 

I totally recommend giving this one a shot. It’s funny in a good way. Word of warning though, it seems it’s still airing so you might want to put it on a back burner if you like to watch a series in one go.

 

 

Next Official Review: Undetermined.

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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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