Archive for the 'Anime' Category

19
Jan
15

Btooom, Kill la Kill

Btooom

Bombs and boobs.

Despite having a terrible Engrish title, Btooom is a decent show. It falls in line with the genre of kids who have to kill each other in an arena like Battle Royale or The Hunger Games. Even though this has already been done a million times, Btooom still manages to bring something new to the table. It doesn’t matter that the idea isn’t original, what matters is that the show is executed in an interesting way. A popular online video game called “Btooom” features teams of people playing deathmatches, and their only weapons are various types of grenade and mines. One day, many of the games best players are kidnapped, dropped off on a mysterious tropical island, and forced to play “Btooom” for real. Each character has a unique grenade or mine, and must kill the others in order to win the game and get off the island. As you would expect, characters form alliances to try and improve their chances of survival.

The show is fun to watch. It manages to have a lot of variety and somewhat ingenious ways to use explosive devices. It has just as much of characters outsmarting each other than just winning by brute force. The characters are likable, and the plot moves at a quick pace. The ending leaves a bit to be desired, clearly they want to do a second season, but at least it didn’t stop on a cliffhanger. My only real complaint is that this show is inconsistent in the blast radius of the various explosives. Sometimes, it seems that a grenade will explode right next to someone, and they will be unharmed. But, whatever, it’s anime, it isn’t realistic. Btooom is worth a watch.

Verdict: Good

Kill la Kill

Kill la clothes.

Kill la Kill is the spiritual successor to Gurren Lagann. Those of you who follow me online know that I declared Gurren Lagann best anime of the last decade. And I still stand firmly behind that assessment. Naturally, I was extremely excited to check out this show, given its outstanding pedigree. And the show is really good. It puts an interesting spin on high school dynamics. In reality, high school is like a constant battle against annoying peers, jealous kids, exclusive cliques, and raging hormones. Kill la Kill takes that to absurd levels with the students literally fighting each other. The student council dominates the academy, passing down special uniforms to favored individuals that will boost their fighting skills. One day, a mysterious transfer student (anime trope alert), Ryuko Matoi, comes to school demanding vengeance for the murder of her father at the hands of the head of the student council, Satsuki Kiryuin. They each get special talking battle uniforms, and battle it out, blasting apart the school, and pounding each other with absurd levels of force. What arises from that is an even more absurd concept. The world has been colonized by “life fibers” which are evil alien organisms that have plotted to take over the world by forcing human to wear them as clothes. An insurgent organization, Nudist Beach, is trying to rid the world of clothes. Ryuko, Satsuki, and Nudist Beach ultimately team up to battle the life fibers.

The action in Kill la Kill is phenomenal. I haven’t seen a show with such fantastic battle, and such tremendous animation quality since, well, Gurren Lagann. There is also a lot of humor in the show to punctuate the onslaught of battles. Unfortunately, Kill la Kill isn’t perfect. For all its great points, the show is ultimately hollow on the inside. There is no character development, there is no deeper meaning, everything is taken at face value, and despite the worldwide battle, the show is surprisingly low-stakes. None of the heroes die. One dies, but it turns out to be a fake out, and he was fine all along. Characters don’t have to die to make a show good, but it goes a long way to show that there are real stakes, and there are real dangers against which the characters are willing to sacrifice themselves. As none of the heroes die, they can throw themselves headlong into every battle, and there is never any worry that anything bad will happen to them. Also disappointing is the fact that the heroes don’t kill either of the primary villains. Both of the villains end up killing themselves. So, even with all that fighting, the good guys were completely ineffectual. Overall, Kill la Kill was a lot of fun. It may be light, mindless entertainment, but it was incredibly entertaining mindless entertainment. It’s hard to recommend a show more than this one.

Verdict: Good

20
Sep
14

Gatchaman Crowds is Horrible

If only the series was as cool as this artwork.

“Gatcha, Gatcha-Gatcha, Gatcha,” sang main character Hajime.

“Strangle, Strangle-Strangle, Strangle,” sang BrikHaus as he strangled the life out of Hajime.

Seriously, Hajime is one of the most annoying anime characters in recent memory. She is a super-positive, Mary-Sue type who has earned the dual ire and love of anime fans who have watched this series. She is one of those characters who shouts all their lines, says incredible positive things all the time, and is unrealistically naieve. It’s impossible to think that anyone could be as dense as her in real life. So, when this is a show’s main character, things aren’t off to a great start.

Things don’t get much better with the rest of the characters. Three characters shout/scream all of their lines. Two characters are incredibly pseudo-gay, they are insulting stereotypes. Of course, there is the token quiet/shy loli character. None of the characters have any depth at all. They are all completely one-note. They have virtually no backstories, no personalities, and nothing to make them interesting at all.

Continue reading ‘Gatchaman Crowds is Horrible’

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.



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