Once again I have three quick reviews for you. Why? Because I’m still too lazy to write a single in-depth review for any of these titles. Really, it all stems from my inability to— ah, fuck it, let’s just get on with it.
When I saw that this series came from Studio Gonzo and featured heavy use of CGI, I figured it was going to be a non-stop shit storm on the Gonzo ani-turd express. To my surprise, it wasn’t completely horrible. Did it have Gonzo’s trademark terrible CGI? Yes, but it does have Gonzo’s best CGI to date. It isn’t embarrassingly bad, as much of Gonzo’s opus, but it isn’t top-notch stuff either. How about the story? It was fairly unique and interesting. It centered around two warring states in a sort of Industrial Revolution/steampunk alternate universe. For the most part, I really enjoyed the setting, and the writing wasn’t half bad. And what about Gonzo’s other trademark, that is fucking up the ending? Well, yes, they did. The first half was well written, with great characterization and some really tense moments. The second half slowed down and was less focused, but was still decent. The final episode, however, was a complete mess. Characters died and were later resurrected, a shitload of things happened way too fast, and a number of plotlines were left unresolved. Typical Gonzo. Overall, though, this was a good series, and probably the second best thing Gonzo has ever produced. Their best being Welcome to the N.H.K. Despite having some flaws, Last Exile’s strengths make it worth watching.
X (and not the terrible movie X/1999) is a series I first watched when it originally aired back in the olden days of 2001. I hadn’t seen much anime then, and I thought this series was badass. After having wasted the subsequent 9 years of my life continuing my downward spiral toward oblivion (i.e. watching more anime), I thought it was worth revisiting this title. I was suspecting that it wouldn’t have held up with the passage of time. In fact, the opposite was true, it was fairly strong. The animation is truly amazing. It was one of the last shows to have traditional, hand-drawn animation, and it looks incredible. It stays consistent throughout, and the quality and level of detail puts many current shows to shame. The action sequences are fun, but a little shorter than I would have liked. The characters are interesting, and I liked the dynamic between the main rivals Kamui and Fuuma. On the negative side, the story is weak, however, this is really more of a character-driven affair, anyway. Also on the negative side, it is 25 episodes with two, yes that’s right, TWO fucking clip episodes. So it actually comes out to 23 episodes. I feel like they squandered a great opportunity to flesh out the characters a bit more or throw in some more epic battles. But whatever. X is really an intriguing dichotomy of a show. While it is drawn in a style aimed toward female anime fans (and has more than a few scenes where the guys get more than a little close to one another), the story content clearly skews toward male anime fans. It doesn’t hold back. People get slaughtered, they explode in geysers of blood, and characters who you think are going to live end up dying brutal deaths. It’s this dichotomy that helps differentiate X from the slew of other fighting shows. After so many years, it is still a very enjoyable series.
Serial Experiments Lain
I fired up the time machine once again, this time traveling back to 1998 to check out the mindfuckery that is Lain. Although it was my third time watching it, I feel like it was the first time I actually understood what the fuck was going on. The story is complex. And it doesn’t help that a lot of the details are presenting in a very fragmented manner. Key plot points can come in many of the series’ hallucinogenic, Lain-in-the-Wired scenes. Nevertheless, if you pay attention, you can figure it out, and it is very worthwhile. This is not an action series, and it does move slowly. However, I found myself riveted, sucked into a world that was extremely well crafted, with a story that was carefully planned. Lain posits a number of interesting philosophical ideas regarding humanity, evolution, god, memories, and connectivity. Also, this show aired in 1998 (presumably with planning going back a couple of years before that). At that time, the Internet was fairly young and not well defined. However, many of the things they talk about being possible on the Internet are now in place, and are very popular, today. They were fairly accurate in their predictions, and it helps to not date or age the show at all. The animation quality is quite strong. As I revist more older anime, I find that the animation quality holds up better with less digital shit thrown in. I’m glad another old series I revisited turned out to be just as good as I had remembered it. This is an excellent series, and well worth the time of anyone who claims to be an anime fan.