Posts Tagged ‘utena

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
08
Sep
12

Star Driver, The SoulTaker

Star Driver

WTF is this shit?

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.

Verdict: Bad

The SoulTaker

WTF is THIS shit?

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.

Verdict: Average

28
Apr
12

Take My Revolution, Please

Utena and Anthy

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.

Continue reading ‘Take My Revolution, Please’

15
Nov
08

Top 30 Anime Openings (with Video Evidence): Part 2

I’m back with the second entry in this three part series. This week, the next ten openings will be revealed. These range greatly in terms of style and music. Every single one is different, and cool in their own way. Enough talk, let’s get on to the openings. Part three will be posted next week.

Note: Sometimes after watching so many embedded files, Youtube audio files will stop working, or the entire file will load incredibly slowly. If that happens, reload the page, and everything will work again.

20.) The Vision of Escaflowne – No Need for Promises by Maaya Sakamoto

A classic series deserves a really good opening. I’ve always found Maaya Sakamoto’s singing to be rather soothing. The song is upbeat, and the visuals showcase a wide variety of the thematic elements that appear in the show. Overall, a well composed intro.

19.) Dai-Guard – Back Alley Space Boy by The Cobra Twisters

Baa ba ba baa ba ba ba ba baa ba ba barara ra ra ra ra!!!!!!!! Catchiest opening song ever? Yep.

18.) Excel Saga – Love (Loyalty) by The Excel Girls

It’s a pretty rare thing for a comedy series to have an opening that is actually funny. This one has a lot of visual humor, as well as jokes in the song lyrics. It also earns points for its general weirdness. Every aspect of this series is top-notch (not to mention completely insane), including the opening.

Continue reading ‘Top 30 Anime Openings (with Video Evidence): Part 2’




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