Archive for the 'Anime' Category
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.
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.
Black Rock Shooter TV
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.
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…
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.
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+’
Star Driver is a 2010 anime series by Studio Bones. Usually their stuff is pretty good (e.g. Wolf’s Rain), so I went into this series with high hopes. Unfortunately, this series is anything but good. It does have some good animation quality and interesting character designs, but that’s about all it has going for it. The story is incredibly half-assed. A douchey kid named Takuto, who calls himself the “Galactic Pretty Boy” (that should tell you something about his sexual orientation), washes ashore on a mysterious island. Immediately, he enrolls in school and gets embroiled in mecha battles with the other students.
They all pilot giant robots, and battle in a parallel dimension. No one is ever killed in the battles, so there is never any tension in these fights. The reasons for the battles, the motivations of the characters, the origins of the mecha, and the way the mecha function are all known to the characters. However, the series does not explain any of this to the audience until the last episode. Basically, they are trying to make everything mysterious and keep the viewers hooked in. Sadly, this doesn’t lend intrigue to the show. All it does is piss you off because you’re being kept out of the loop of a secret everyone else is aware of.
The mecha are French-inspired and have puffy hair bouffants, frilly dress-like appendanges coming out of their asses, and high heels. Also, there is a HUGE amount of recycled animation. Every episode we see the same fucking opening battle sequences/transformations. Now, this practice was considered OK in 1997 when Revolutionary Girl Utena aired, but it is no longer acceptable by today’s standards. I’m sorry, Star Driver, but this is not 1997 and you are not Utena. The show also has a ridiculously huge cast, so large that everyone ends up barely explored, left one-dimensional, and utterly devoid of interest. It’s the same problem that plagued RahXephon. Well that, and it was essentially an Evangelion rip-off.
Star Driver farts along blandly until the final episode when all the mysteries are explained, there is a final battle, and the show suddenly ends without any denoument. A typical shitty, rushed ending from Japan. I think what is most frustrating about Star Driver is that it could have been good, but they squandered every opportunity.
The last time I reviewed a series directed by Akiyuki Shinbo was when I wrote about Bakemonogatari. That boring piece of shit was dreadful. He improved his skills with Madoka Magica, but overall I haven’t been too impressed with his body of work. One of his earlier titles is a 2001 anime titled The SoulTaker.
This anime makes no goddamn sense. The main character, Kyosuke, is living a normal life when he is unexpectedly murdered by his mother. He is immediately resurrected and obtains the ability to transform into a monster called The SoulTaker. The majority of the series features him trying to find his long lost twin sister Runa, and fighting against the evil Kirihara Hospital organization and his father. That’s about the most coherent summary I can give of the show. The rest of it is incoherent.
At first you think this is a show with a supernatural bent, what with all the crosses and religious imagery. But then you learn that Kyosuke can turn into The SoulTaker because he’s actually a mutant. But that turns out to not be true because Kyosuke is really an alien. The same is true for Runa. There is some crazy incest stuff where Runa wants to kill all humans because they are “Devils”, and she wants to marry her brother Kyosuke. Somehow she was split into a bunch of fragments called “Flickers” and Kyosuke has to fight them. Also, Kyosuke had two mothers, and his father tied his soul to his mother and if one of them dies then the other one dies too. There is some weird cat-girl nurse who follows Kyosuke around. Oh, and of course, the finale takes place on the Moon.
If anyone can tell me what the fuck was actually going on in this show, I would be eternally grateful. On the positive side, the show had a really unique aesthetic style to it, and despite all the insanity, it was somewhat intriguing. It isn’t something I’d watch again, but for the insanity aspect alone, it was worth seeing once. Oh yeah, and the English dub is horrible, so be sure to avoid it.
Coming from 2011, and consisting of 12 episodes, Ga-Rei: Zero is an anime prequel to the manga series Ga-Rei by Hajime Segawa. I don’t read manga (mostly because I’m illiterate), so I had no idea what to expect going into this.
The Ministry of Defense has a secret unit known as the Supernatural Disaster Countermeasure Division, whose job it is to defend Japan from all sorts of paranormal bad guys. The first episode shows a unit killing some deadly monsters, and that first episode was incredible. The characters were really interesting, they were all mature adults (rare for an anime), and they seemed to have an intriguing back story. Plus, the animation was outstanding. This had to rank up there with some of the best single-episode animation quality of all time.
And then, once the unit returns from their successful mission, they get slaughtered. SURPRISE! The characters I just invested a half-hour in all got murdered. TROLLING! What remains is some mysterious teenage girl with a katana, who killed them all. That intriguing back story? Never mentioned again. It was just a way to further troll the viewers into thinking these characters would be important, just to extract shock value when they suddenly died.
Shakugan no Shana Second
I reviewed the first season of Shana a couple of years ago. What I thought would end up being a horrible slice of life moe shitfest turned out to be a rather entertaining fantasy/action series. It had this unexpected dark side where Shana would mercilessly obliterate her enemies. The action was fun and the pacing was good. Plus, it had an incestuous brother and sister, and everyone knows incest improves everything by 10,000%.
So when I got around to watching season 2, I was fairly excited. It started out pretty good with a couple of action-packed episodes. After that, the series settled in to a long stretch of really annoying slice-of-life/love-triangle bullshit that was so badly written it was only tolerable to watch on fast-forward. Now, this kind of stuff was in the first season, too, but usually there would be one or two episodes intermingled with the other story/action episodes. Season 2 just gives a seemingly endless onslaught of these crappy episodes. Everything is so boring, so contrived, so inconsequential that it is impossible to give a fuck about any of it. Plus, we get to see Yuji training for about a thousand episodes, and that certainly could have been condensed into two or three.
Nothing even remotely interesting happens until episode 16. And then we get another lull until the writers finally decided they needed to have something happen so they could claim this season had some semblance of a plot. Episodes 19-24 feature a battle between the protagonists and Sabrac/Bal Masque. The fight drags on for several episodes and even though they “kill” Sabrac, he somehow manages to survive, which destroys the payoff and makes the entire thing seem like wasted time a la Dragonball Z.
Overall, this season was a huge clusterfuck. They should have rethought the pacing and story structure. If they didn’t have enough material to keep 24 episodes consistently entertaining, then they should have pared it down to 12 episodes. That would have at least been respectable. I’m not sure about the third and final season of Shana, hopefully it fares better.
I originally included this in my list of the 20 Awesomest Anime of the Decade (2000-2009), and since then I have given the series a rewatch. So, did it hold up to my original review? Yes it did. Wolf’s Rain remains a phenomenal series. There are very few TV shows and movies I would consider a work of art, but this would be one of them. The tone is far more subdued than in most anime. There are no annoying moe characters. There is no stupid love-triangle. There is no intent to sell merchandise. There is no pandering to the audience. The only agenda Wolf’s Rain has is to tell an incredible story, and it certainly does that.
The setting is a bit murky, we don’t know for sure if it takes place on Earth or just some unknown fantasy planet. Wolves are semi-mythological creatures that have super strength/speed, can speak, and have the ability to make themselves appear as human. And no, they aren’t werewolves, it’s more a trick of the mind that humans perceive them to look like other humans. In this world, wolves are foretold to open the door to Paradise, which may or may not bring about the ultimate destruction of the world.
The visual aesthetic of the series is amazing. There is attention paid to even the smallest detail. The animation is so intricate that you can see all the dirt and grime, the crushed out cigarettes, and the wasted plant life. The world looks realistic, and a lot of this is due to the high-quality work by Studio Bones. Just like Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo, a lot of work went into the details. The budget must have been relatively high, as there is rarely any recycled animation, there is minimal use of well-integrated CGI, and character movements are quick, fluid, and well animated. I can’t rave enough about how great everything looks. I imagine this is how a Final Fantasy anime series should look, if anyone could ever make a decent anime of Final Fantasy.
The voice acting is excellent in both the original Japanese and the English dub. You can’t go wrong listening to either one. The music was composed by the legendary Yoko Kanno, so expect to be listening to the soundtrack over and over again. The characters are all unique and have well-formed story arcs. The pacing is nearly perfect. There was a period of maybe 4 episodes in the middle that dragged a bit, but if anything they give more insight into the characters. There is a lot of humanity amongst everyone, the story is fascinating, and there is a healthy dose of action. Also, this is the only anime I’m aware of where the opening credits play a role in the story.
The story never verges into cliche territory. With most anime, you pretty much know how things are going to end. With Wolf’s Rain I was never quite sure. They always manage to give an unexpected plot twist or simply pull the rug right out from under you. The climax at the end is simply astounding. The first time I watched it I found the ending to be tragic. This time, well, it was still tragic, but I found much more hope than the first time around. Wolf’s Rain is such a wonderful, rare anime series, that it deserves to be seen by everyone. It really is a work of art.
Revolutionary Girl Utena is a hard show to describe. It is so complex, so intricate, has so many moving parts, that capturing everything in a coherent review is almost impossible. So, instead of trying to do that, I’m just going to give you my thoughts on this anime’s various aspects.
As a brief synopsis, Utena tells the story of Utena Tenjou, a tomboyish teenage girl who is newly enrolled at Ohtori Academy. She wears a ring with a rose crest on it which was given to her by a prince when she was a child. Upon entering school, she quickly learns that several other people wear the same ring. People who wear the ring are allowed to fight in sword duels for the chance of winning the “Rose Bride.” The Rose Bride is Anthy Himemiya, a completely submissive woman who is essentially a slave to the current dueling champion. Utena is disgusted by this, and fights to save Anthy and treat her as a friend and human being. As the show progresses, more truths are revealed, and it is learned that whoever is the ultimate champion of dueling will be offered the chance to “revolutionize the world.”
That’s about as concrete a synopsis as you can get with this series. From that point on the audience is treated (or subjected, depending on your point of view) to a multitude of allusions, illusions, metaphors, and psycho-sexual imagery. Nearly every character, relationship, and duel contains far more depth than what is presented on the surface. To get a good handle on everything would require many repeated viewings. Utena is one of those series which is famously accused of not really being about anything, and just throwing weird shit at the viewer for the sake of being obtuse and weird. But if you pay attention, you’ll find this really isn’t the case at all. There is a lot of depth and meaning to be found. All you need to do is pay attention. Unfortunately, paying attention is something really difficult for moe-loving, mouth-breathing otaku.
So what is this anime about? That’s easy, lesbians. Yep, that’s it. Case closed. Oh wait. It’s not? OK, OK, let’s try this again.