Archive for the 'Anime' Category

27
Jul
14

Robotics;Notes, Accel World

Robotics;Notes

The moe robot is what really sells this show.

Aside from having inappropriately used a semicolon in the title, Robotics;Notes is actually not a bad show. Unfortunately, it’s not a particularly good show either. Robotics;Notes takes place in a fictional near-future Japan in which giant robots are real. A high school robotics club is trying to make their own giant robot for display in an annual robotics competition. The first several episodes revolve around the club’s two members as they try to recruit new members, secure funding and parts, and deal with general stressors of high school life. These were the show’s strongest episodes. As the show goes on, it bites off more than it can chew with crazy conspiracies, completely unnecessary side plots, a pointless villain, and an idiotic moe AI we are supposed to feel sorry for. When Robotics;Notes was focused on the robotics club, it was interesting and funny and surprisingly fresh. When Robotics;Notes diverted its attention to so many other things, it quickly devolved into a mess. The conspiracies are lame, the pointless villain is indeed a waste of time, and all the side plots distract from what had been a good story about “real” robots. In the end, the show was good, but significantly lacking. It was the lack of focus that ultimately hurt Robotics;Notes.

Verdict: Average

Accel World

The main character is fat, which is unique for an anime, but that’s the only thing interesting about this show.

Accel World is yet another entry in the very long line of anime with great concepts that were squandered. The premise is that everyone has a computer interface tied in with their brains. They are able to use software to help with their daily lives. The main character is given a mysterious online game called “Brain Burst” which accelerates the synapses of his brain so much that the world appears to move in ultra-slow motion. This is a very cool concept. There are myriad ways in which he could use this power for good or evil. Naturally, being an anime, this intriguing concept is eschewed for punching people in the face. That’s right, the second part of “Brain Burst” is an online fighting game. Each character needs to fight others, and the fighting doesn’t use their special slow-mo powers. Nope, it’s just people punching and kicking each other. This comprises the bulk of the show. And since this is based on an ongoing light novel series which hasn’t concluded, there is no ending. Accel World is a waste of time. They took a great concept and threw it away immediately for generic, uninspired brawls in stupid looking costumes.

Verdict: Shitty

17
May
14

Attack on Titan Restored My Faith in Anime

“I can take him, no problem.”

My faith in anime was at an all-time low. I had thought about completely giving it up more than once. The last show I really enjoyed was Gurren Lagann and before that, Akagi. Those series came out in 2007 and 2005, respectively. Since this is 2014, that means there had only been two great shows in the last seven years. That’s pathetic. Nobody in Japan seemed interested in creating a good series any more. All they care about is selling moeblob merchandise which cater to the lowest pedophilic denominator.

And then I watched Attack on Titan.

I’m not going to say this series is perfect. It’s not. It isn’t the next Cowboy Bebop or Haibane Renmei. It has flaws. But it is a huge step in the right direction. It tones down the moe factor, ramps up the action, and even took the time to include a plot. These are the only things I ask for in an anime. Unfortunately, most anime are incapable of meeting these three criteria. Attack on Titan, however, made all the right moves.

Continue reading ‘Attack on Titan Restored My Faith in Anime’

29
Mar
14

The Wind Rises

Jiro and Naoko.

Hayao Miyazaki’s final film (until he un-retires again), The Wind Rises, is an excellent capstone to his already legendary career. The movie is decidedly less fantastical than the rest of his work, but just as emotionally moving as anything else.
The Wind Rises tells the story of Jiro Hirokoshi, a Japanese man who loves aviation. He has poor eyesight and is told he can never fly a plane, so he decides to do the next best thing: design airplanes. The film follows him from a young boy into his middle years as he toils to develop a new kind of airplane. The storytelling, while fictionalized, is quite riveting. You understand Jiro’s eagerness to build an aircraft, and you feel his successes and failures through each attempt.
01
Feb
14

Kids on the Slope, Mawaru Penguindrum

Kids on the Slope

Sorry, I couldn’t come up with a funny caption for this picture.

Shinichiro Watanabe is a pretty great anime director. With the one-two punch of Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo, he firmly planted himself in the hall of the greats alongside Hayao Miyazaki and Satoshi Kon. So, how could I not be excited about his new series, Kids on the Slope? Instead of his usual sci-fi/fantasy/action/comedy shtick, he opted for something rooted far more in reality. The series would take place in 1960s Japan and focus on high school students becoming friends over jazz music. The incredible Yoko Kanno (who has quite the eptitude for jazz) provided the soundtrack. All the pieces were in place to create yet another masterpiece of anime.
Yet, Kids on the Slope is somewhat lacking. It just doesn’t do enough to pull itself out of mediocrity. The main character, Kaoru, seems like a typical anime kid: shy, weird, no friends, nervous around girls, etc. His friend, Sentaro, is a lot more interesting as he starts out as a thug, but slowly the audience learns his troubled backstory and that he has a lot more going on underneath the surface. Female character, Ritsuko, is a blank, offering nothing to the series except for a completely cliche and totally unwanted love triangle between the three.
Kids on the Slope is better than a lot of the shit that passes for anime these days. The time period is unusual, the focus more based in reality, there aren’t any circle eyes or people getting punched into space, the characters interact in organic ways, and the love of jazz shines through. Unfortunately, the series falls into a lot of preditable tropes like the love triangle, the nervous characters, the characters who literally run away instead of talking about their feelings, and on and on. Kids on the Slope is truly a mixed-bag. It’s a disappointment because it could have been great but wasn’t.
Verdict: Average
Mawaru Penguindrum

Spoilers: The Penguindrum is a diary. Why is a diary called a Penguindrum? Because Japan.

Kunihiku Ikuhara created one of the greatest anime series of all time, Revolutionary Girl Utena. The complexity of story, the depth of characters, the epic tone, the action, the drama, the comedy, and the underlying metaphors were what elevated that series. If it had excelled at any one of those things, it would have been an awesome series. But it excelled at all of them, making it a legendary series. Suffice it to say, I was thrilled to see Ikuhara emerged from his cave in 2011 with a new anime titled Mawaru Penguindrum.
With this series, it is quite clear that he is trying to emulate his past success. Penguindrum tries to have complex characters, an intricate story, and drama mixed with comedy. It technically has all those things, but it stumbles hard along the way. The characters aren’t very interesting. They are far more tropey than they should be. The story isn’t that intricate. In fact, it falls into the typical anime mystery camp. That is, the mystery is a rather simple background story, but important information about it is withheld from the audience until the end. There aren’t clues to follow or themes to unravel, no, it’s just purposely kept at bay. Lots of anime use this technique, and it’s frustrating for the audience.
The show has two more major problems. First, it focuses on one character at a time. For several episodes it will focus on one person, then the next few episodes it will focus on another, with a totally different set of plot points and themes. It makes the series feel like an anthology. By the end, there is little sense of cohesion. Second, the show is buried in metaphors. Utena had lots of metaphors but they were decipherable. Penguindrum has layers upon layers of metaphors. There are so many that it’s virtually impossible to know what is really going on and what’s a metaphor. There isn’t anything clearly tangible for the audience to grab hold to in order to slowly unravel what is real and what has deeper meaning.
Penguindrum becomes somewhat an incomprehensible mess by the end. I wanted to like it, I really did, but it tried to do too much. It piled on too many things and drowned under an artsy-fartsy mess of too many shitty metaphors.
Verdict: Bad
09
Nov
13

Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, Hellsing Ultimate

Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood

So… many… characters…

I am a huge fan of the original anime series Fullmetal Alchemist. It’s a near-perfect vision of what anime should be. It has drama, humor, love, action, suspense, you name it, it has it. It was so good, in fact, I proclaimed it to be one of the greatest anime of the 2000-2009 decade.
Something very common in anime is for a popular manga to be animated before it has concluded. This happened with the original Fullmetal Alchemist series. Once the animators hit episode 34, they had caught up to the manga. They then had to create a brand new ending to finish the series. Fast forwarding several years, the manga has been completed. Not wanting to miss any chance at milking a cash-cow, the series was remade, from the beginning, to tell the entire story.
This, unfortunately, was a huge mistake. The first 34 episodes of the TV series (I don’t know how many books of the manga it took) is compressed into a mere 13 episodes. The content is told in an extremely hurried fashion. While the previous series used these episodes to introduce us to the characters and to slowly build the drama, the new series rushes through everything so quickly it doesn’t have a chance to breathe.
07
Sep
13

Gungrave, Black Heaven

Gungrave

The only cool thing about this anime is this picture.

Gungrave is a 2003 anime based on a 2002 video game. A video-game based anime?! I’m surprised this series didn’t win a thousand Emmy awards from the pedigree alone. The story is about a mute gangster named Brandon Heat who allies himself with a cocky asshole named Harry McDowell. The tale chronicles their rise from low-level thugs to the top of the Millenion crime organization. McDowell only owns a single white suit and never changes it despite the series taking place over the course of DECADES. Geez, that thing must have reeked of B.O. Brandon isn’t technically a mute, but he talks less than Ryan Gosling’s character from Drive. The first half of the series is OK, but in the second half, things go down hill fast.

Millenion is at war with a rival organization. Their enemies decide that the only way to wrest control of the city from Millenion is to use zombies. Yes, that’s right, zombies. Motherfucking zombies. So, we get a healthy injection of the walking dead into what had been a gangster series. The juxtaposition absolutely does not work, and every time a fucking zombie shows up, it just reminds you how far off the rails this show went. Eventually, Brandon gets betrayed by Harry, and he dies. He comes back as a zombie with revenge on his mind. By this point, all the characters in the show are “old.” Old by anime standards. As best I can figure, Brandon died at age 43 and Harry was probably the same age since they grew up together. Of course, at the ripe old age of 43, Harry has gray hair and a deep, old gravely voice, sounding like a guy who is about to get thrown into a nursing home. Goddamn you, anime.

Continue reading ‘Gungrave, Black Heaven’

07
Jun
13

Steins;Gate, Black Rock Shooter TV

Steins;Gate

Why are these stupid assholes in outer space?

Steins;Gate is a completely forgettable anime which, naturally, has almost universal acclaim as a “Masterpiece.” I’m not sure why, because it’s anything but a masterpiece. Piece of trash? Sure. Piece of crap? OK. Piece of cliche story recycled from better ones? Definitely. This show is about time travel. But it’s not really about time travel. It’s about moe bullshit. It likes to showcase cutesy girls and cutesy boys who look, talk, and act like girls in the most annoying fashion possible. The main character (who holds the trademark on the most grating laugh of all time) is constantly travelling back in time in 3-day intervals in order to prevent the death of his friend. In doing so, he fucks up things more and must do even more travelling to right the wrongs he caused. It’s a good concept when executed well. However, in this anime, it serves mostly as a method of showing the same crap over and over again, and letting us listen to girls who talk like cats in maid cafes. I’ll admit there were a couple of riveting episodes (number 13 comes to mind), but there was nowhere near enough material to last 24 episodes. This could have been great as a 2-hour movie, but since this is Japanese anime, they stretched it out to something bloated and not recognizable as good. A single day after I finished this series, I tried to remember how it concluded, but I couldn’t. It was so bland, so flat, that I couldn’t remember what happened one fucking day later. If that’s not a testament to mediocrity, I don’t know what is.

Verdict: Bad

Black Rock Shooter TV

At least she’s a hot alter-ego, right?

I complain about anime being too long so often it has almost become a mantra. In Black Rock Shooter’s case, they didn’t make the show unnecessarily long. At only 8 episodes, it is the perfect length to tell a compelling narrative and then conclude without pointless tangents. Unfortunately, Black Rock Shooter doesn’t have a compelling narrative to tell. It is a travesty, an insult to good story-telling. This is a school-age drama with cute girls homolusting after each other in the way they could only do in a Japanese anime. Simultaneously, we see a fantasy setting with the same girls blasting each other with high-tech weaponry and coming off without a scratch in the way they could only do in a Japanese anime. We learn that these are some kind of mysterious alter-egos of the main characters, living in an alternate dimension or something, and the reason they fight is because the real world people are sad. If their fantasy counterparts die, then the real world people become happy again. Black Rock Shooter kills all her friends in order to make their counterparts happy. Ummm… sure, why not? The grasp this anime has on logic is tenuous at best. The action scenes are cool to watch, but other than that, it has nothing else to offer. Unless, of course, you like shitty acting and shitty storytelling.

Verdict: Shitty

03
May
13

Ouran High School Pimp Club

Ouran’s pimps.

Ouran High School Host Pimp Club is a 2006 “reverse harem” anime. What’s a reverse harem, you ask? Well, a “harem” anime is where one meek, bashful, skinny male loser is surrounded by a boatload of busty, horny women who are all vying for control of the guy’s penis. A constant source of rage is the fact that the guy never gets with any of the girls, usually because he’s a fag.

A reverse harem anime is just the opposite. One female character is surrounded by a bunch of dudes who all want her. Upping the ante is that these anime often feature a lot of man-on-man action in order to appeal to the female viewers watching the show. Apparently, all women are into watching gay sex.

The main character of this anime is Haruhi Fujioka, a 15 year old girl who has just entered Ouran Academy. It’s a school for super rich kids who are completely sheltered and spend most of their days doing rich people stuff like: travelling the world, buying expensive shit, getting no legal reprimand from DUIs, exploiting tax loopholes, yachting, opening up child-labor factories in third world countries, and repressing the poor in order to get rich. But I digress…

Continue reading ‘Ouran High School Pimp Club’

08
Feb
13

Fate/Stay Night

Fate/Stay Night’s cast of clowns.

Fate/Stay Night is an anime series based on a erotic porn video game, so you know it’s going to be high quality. It features the exploits of a blockhead named Shirou who gets caught up in a war for the Holy Grail. He has a really great super power in that he can “fortify” the durability of any inanimate object (like a school desk lol). He also has the amazing ability to act like a complete dumbass in almost any situation.

The story here revolves around the “Fifth Holy Grail War.” These wars take place every 10 years. So, if these wars are every ten years, and this is the fifth one, then they only started 50 years ago. But the Holy Grail was created approximately 2000 years ago. So what about the prior 1950 years? I guess nobody gave a shit about the Holy Grail then. And why is it that the Holy Grail only shows up in Japan? Was Jesus Japanese? Do the Japanese think Jesus was Japanese? It doesn’t make any sense. They might as well have had the series take place on the Moon.

Continue reading ‘Fate/Stay Night’

19
Oct
12

I Finally Finished Blood+

Blood+ is an anime series that aired from October 8, 2005 until September 23, 2006. It aired weekly and broadcast a total of 50 episodes. I started watching it weekly, through torrents, in October 2005. And I finished watching it on… um, September 23, 2012. Holy shit! It took me forever to finish this goddamn show, and, completely unintentionally, I finished it the same day it finished airing, albeit 6 years later.

What took so long? It’s not that the show was particularly bad. It wasn’t. It was good enough. It was about vampires, and had plenty of action in almost every episode. But I found I just couldn’t get into it. I was always putting it on the back burner to watch something else. I would watch a handful of episodes at a time, and then put it on hold again for several months. By the time I finished it, I could hardly remember any of the plot points or characters that populated the show. It was like watching this weird, detached monstrosity that was entertaining, but I had no idea what was going on. That must be what it’s like to have Alzheimer’s Disease.

So, anyway, here’s a list of things that happened between the show beginning to air and my finishing it. Continue reading ‘I Finally Finished Blood+’




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