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Reviews

Naruto – 184 – Ad nauseam

The filler wasn’t supposed to go on for this long. A black hole of 48 straight episodes, 18 hours of pure nothingness; it would be funny if I didn’t love Naruto as much as I do, but as it stands this is a damn travesty. And the frightening thing is, an end to this utter farce is still no where in sight.
So this is basically how every filler arc has gone so far; Tsunade hands Naruto a stupid task under the premise that it’s actually a really important mission, Naruto complains but does it anyway; meets up with random Konoha genin- this time, it just so happens to be Kiba. Two or three Kage Bunshin no Jutsu’s later and mission complete. Throw in some completely redundant character development for Kiba and his pet hound Akamaru along the way and repeat the formula ad nauseam, but next time with Rock Lee, or Hinta, or Neji.
The sad thing is that a lot of what makes Naruto so much fun is still present here. The art direction (no matter how blatant the limitations on animation are right now) is as electric, colourful and bouncy as it always was and Toshio Masuda’s soundtrack never falls to enthral, compel and excite me. I still love seeing the characters pull off their unique ninjitsu moves and kick ass- but honestly, I’m in dire need of a story now, a real story, where when characters get hurt, they stay hurt. A story where Naruto (the character) isn’t such a third wheel- it’s hard to imagine that just one year ago, we were amidst Sasuke’s defection to the dark side.
Ahh well, at least I got to see the slick ANBU elites in this episode, even if they were reduced to abducting a (nin-)dog. How the great have fallen, eh?

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Uncategorized

Greetings and Salutations

As is the proper tradition for us newbs, here is my belated introduction to the hectic world of blogsuki.
If this is the first time you have come across BATESZI; HI! I hope you stick around! Of course, that’s entirely down to your (and indeed, my) tastes in anime- I’ll give you fair warning though and say I won’t be reviewing Haruhi, Fate/Stay Night or whatever other “cute” series are popular right now. Sorry- we’re all about the mucky gems here at BATESZI, so prepare to gasp at the dramatic highs and gut-wrenching lows of Kiba, fall in the love with the beauty of TOKKO and drown in the deep, dark depths of Black Lagoon. I’m starting to worry I have bad taste in anime, but stick with me anyway.. could be worth a laugh?!
If you gloss over the hypocrisy of actively blogging the semi-popular Ergo Proxy, my main goal for BATESZI is cover the more overlooked and undervalued anime out there, as well as chipping in with the occasional article (read: rant) every now and then too. A long and winding road lies ahead. Thanks for reading and come back, please.

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Reviews

Kiba – 6 – The price of freedom

It’s easy to take kids anime for granted, but compared with Western cartoons aimed at the same young viewers, the difference in conviction and themes is exceptional. Through out episode 6 of Kiba, several (old and young) characters die. It’s not gory, but the intent to kill is clear from the outset. There are no last minute resets, no brave super heroes to save the day; that’s not to say there aren’t characters with good intentions, but (as this episode suggests) sometimes good doesn’t always win out.
Frankly, I was really impressed with this episode. As cliche as Kiba has been up until now, I never expected to see the characters battle like they did here. It was shocking to see Noa envelope an entire town in flames, shocking to see old buddies like Kis and Gale impale each other with their swords.
Episode 7 promises a return to the dumb-luck of Zed and his boring face off with Dumas, but taken as their own separate story, both episode 5 and 6 represent an emotional and unpredictable high point for this series, where the ideology of short sighted adults collides with the untainted vision of youth. I’m in no doubt now that Noa will eventually turn bad and come to battle Zed, but with this kind of compelling back story, who could blame him for giving up on society?

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Reviews

Ergo Proxy – 8 – Larger than life

I read a few weeks ago that somewhere along the line, Ergo Proxy gets a bit like X-Men; mutants against mutants and all that. I guess episode 8 is where it started.
This episode was just weird. The people Vincent meets, the way the monstrous finale plays out- it was just utterly inexplicable in places. What immediately struck me was how much it was like watching a full episode set in the post-apocalyptic hell of The Terminator. Cyborgs roaming the barren land, people dying all around you, skies dark and depressing, and everyone having long lost hope.
It was the most action packed Ergo Proxy has been for while, though any true excitement was offset by my utter bemusement at what was happening, combined with a darkly shrowed presentation; it’s hard to make out what is going on when all you can gather is odd flashes of light and the muffled cries of dying soldiers.
I’m looking at this like the beginning of the second arc of Ergo Proxy. Very head-scratching and frustratingly mysterious, it ends with a larger than life battle between Proxy and an unknown ‘mutant’ adversary. Visually this was a fine episode, though ultimately my enjoyment was tempered by the sheer random style of it all.

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Reviews

Black Lagoon – 1 through 3 – Adrenaline Rush

It took me a few weeks to catch onto Black Lagoon, but now I’m fully convinced of its (loud) qualities. I had avoided it up until this weekend because the reviews I’d read gave the impression that it was another typical girls with guns anime. I was wrong and it’s much more than that. I’m sorry for doubting you, Madhouse.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though- Black Lagoon is a purely action driven series, but (like Gungrave) rather than simply wallowing in style, the story sprinkles enough compelling character development to really capture the moment. The star of the show is Levi- an absolutely badass mercenary capable of killing her enemies by the dozen. So far, she has shown very little in the way of emotion- preferring instead to swear, get drunk and basically kill anything that moves. Her foil (and opposite lead) is Rock- a Japanese “salaryman” whisked away from the boring world of corporate business. He’s still searching for meaning in his life and opts to become a sailor of the Black Lagoon rather than go back to his boring old life of monotony. Rock is living the epitome of every salaryman’s dream.
The rest of the Lagoon crew are just as likable- particularly captain Dutch, who defines macho cool in very 1980s Schwarzenegger way.
It’s notable just how immoral the story has been up until now. Given this is about modern day ‘pirates’, the action is not so much as case as ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, rather how much Dutch and crew will be paid – there is no respect for human life. The characters are criminals, but remain sympathetic because of their honourable warrior-code and a strong sense of comradery and friendship.
The animation is very physical and kinetic; when combat kicks off, there is a real bite to every bullet, every punch and every torpedo. It’s consistently exciting because the presentation maintains a palpable sense of danger where anything and everything is a possible weapon.

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Reviews

My long winded countdown of the top 8 spring anime

It’s been a while since I’ve watched so much anime. This spring season is quite remarkable in that not only is there an unprecedented number of new series, but also because a lot of them are actually quite good. And I’m not a fan of harem, loli or whatever other genre is “hip” right now.
My top 8 spring anime
8. Tokko
Undeniably this is a terrible series. Why I’m watching it, let alone blogging it is a mystery fit for Columbo. So yeah, big guns, big monsters, big breasts and dismembered corpses. That’s Tokko; it’s so damn badly animated too. I guess those are the reasons why I’m watching it. Approach with caution!
7. Kiba
Utterly fan pandering shounen adventure escapades, yet I’m bitterly enjoying it because despite the lead character Zed being the worst “hero” ever- the rest of the cast and the generally bright, expansive setting envelope me in a finely built universe, ripe for escapism. Given the sheer number of good shows airing this season, I’m not sure how long I’ll stick with Kiba but the fact I’m still around by episode 5 suggests there must be something I like enough to keep watching.
6. Good Witch of the West
Yet more frilly medieval melodrama featuring only pretty characters with mad hair styles; the Good Witch of the West has an interesting fantastical take on the days when teaching and explaining science was banned, but I’m not a fan of the way every character is so damn cute and as soft as a pillow. Certainly, the fairy tale premise suggests potential, though I may wait for a few more weeks and watch this in batches.
5. Witchblade
The first GONZO series since Basilisk that isn’t utterly mediocre tripe, Witchblade; starring an impossibly large cheated female avenger akin to Devilman\lady is a surprisingly heart-rending tale of a woman fighting (with strange supernatural powers) to be reunited with her lost daughter. The action and animation have so far been disappointly below average, but the story retains some strength thanks to a mysterious plot and the fractured relationship between mother and child.
4. NANA
By rights NANA should be higher on this list but I can’t hide the fact that the characters simply don’t interest me enough. Being as it is a series by and for young ladies, it’s not terribly surprising I’m not totally into it. That said, the particularly slender and stylish character designs are wonderful and the drama is very well… dramatic; lots of passionate kisses, tearful eyes and sad goodbyes.
3. Utawarerumono
So like everyone already knows, Utawarerumono (worst series title ever) is based on a porn game, but rather than having tons of fan-service (so far, there has been none, thank god), the story seems to be heavily spiritual and environmentalist- a Studio Ghibli style rural fantasy in which violent forest spirits and other mysterious apparitions exist.
2. Jyu-Oh-Sei
The fantasy and action in Jyu-Oh-Sei is deep enough to suggest an interesting story is on it’s way, though the strong homoerotic undertones are slightly detracting from what I hoped would be a completely dead pan science fiction show.
1. Black Lagoon
I watched the first episode today and I feel ashamed to have ignored Black Lagoon for so long. The action is stylish and fluid without falling into boring poses, while the characters themselves are interesting and mysterious enough to forecast some compelling drama ahead. Black Lagoon is vaguely reminiscent of Gungrave in that it stars compelling adult characters capable of pulling off some cool kick-ass moves. Very impressed.
Stuck in backlog hell

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
The most hyped series since Mai-Otome, I plan on watching Haruhi sooner or later. I admit the extremely loud fan-base has put me off it for now and at the best of times I try to avoid anime based around Japanese school girls. Until the unabated praise slows itself down, I’ll be content to ignore Haruhi.
Higurashi
Apparently Higurashi is disturbing horror, but again, it looks so typically cute and “otaku” that I’m having trouble motivating myself to sit down and watch the damn thing. I had the same problem with Jigoku Shoujo; for so called horror, Enma Ai looked like such a calculated pin-up for fan culture that I eventually just lost interest.

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Reviews

Kogepan – Living the life of a burnt piece of bread

Just when you think you’ve seen it all, a show like Kogepan comes along. This short series follows the everyday adventures of the titular Kogepan, a burnt piece bread that no one wants to buy. Try as he might to be sold, he’s destined to live out his life unwanted, unsold, uneaten.
Each episode of Kogepan is only 4 minutes long and there are 10 episodes, so I was able to find my way through this series in a record time of a measly 40 minutes. For shame. Kogepan is a hidden gem.
Playing out as a high spirited moral allegory, Kogepan is all about learning to accept yourself, warts and all, and enjoying life. It may look like an innocent kid’s anime, but behind each bready character are personalities infected with such a loveable kind of vicious sarcasm, innocence and humour. The laughs are often wry and pessimistic but this is a show that has real heart.
The way Kogepan has been drawn is wonderful. It’s very surreal and innocent looking, yet matches the witty dialogue perfectly. There are some very cute, innocent baby breads that will make your heart melt, yet this is offset by the group of ugly burnt breads who are so down beat and confused that it’s both funny and slightly heart breaking; they get drunk on milk and roll around trying to cheer each other up.
If you’re in the mood for something different, something surreal or something offbeat, Kogepan is worth looking out for. Just like the message that pervades this entire show, don’t judge Kogepan based on how it looks, behind the odd visual style burns a particularly tasty slice of warm bread (.. I mean anime).

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Editorials

Anime Bloggers Need Excitement

The relevance (or rather, lack there of) of contemporary anime blogs has again been brought into question, this time at the core of the blogsphere itself; blogsuki.
The central theme of the discussion is an unstoppable slew of generic episode summaries, the problem being that these dozens of posts all essentially describe the same things; why recap an episode if it’s already been done elsewhere?
I’m torn between both perspectives, as pointless as it may be to reiterate the contents of an episode that has already been echoed countlessly elsewhere, blogging is and always should be a personal labour of love.
If you see an anime series that just gives you that feeling, nothing should stem the ensuing passion; you know what I mean- when you discover an anime series you love, or see an amazing episode, you’re instantly transformed from that moody old seen-it-all-before to an excited kid so full of glee and enthusiasm that you just need to tell someone…, anyone…, about what you’ve just seen. That’s basically why I’m running an anime blog, to capture and share those glimpses of euphoric emotion, and at that point I couldn’t care less whether some other bloke has already said the same things 7 days previous.
Naturally I would love to be listed on BLOGSUKI and see my readership expand. No doubt I’m one of the dozens waiting in line to be granted this “honour”, but I am not going to appease my style just to earn their favour. Writing should always be a natural exercise, free of external pressures or set formulas.
Over the past few days there has been all this talk about how bloggers can do the right things and avoiding doing wrong things, but it’s all irrelevant if you lack the passion to write about anime. That is basically all you need to succeed, for me writing here is about fulfilment. It’s great to get comments, to express and share opinions with other anime fans and that’s all there is to it. To this end, it’s disappointing to be denied entry to a website like blogsuki, but I’ll live.

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Uncategorized

A new beginning

Celebrating the fact BATESZI has been online for nearly three months now, I decided to move the blog over to my own web-space and basically give the whole site a bit of a touch up. Visually, not much has changed but behind the scenes is a totally different matter; I’ve basically coded my own blogging software- so now I can enjoy the miracle of categories and the wonders of an interactive blog roll.
This is the kind of change that won’t mean much to you, but it’s essentially a massive overhaul for me. Expect regular service to resume shortly, once I’ve had time to catch my breath! Thanks for reading.

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Reviews

Tokko – 2 – Guns forever

In many ways, TOKKO is the worst anime series I’ve seen for a while now; the animation (if we can call it that) is cheap and tacky and the characters are about as cookie cutter as they come, but it’s violent, has demons and pulls no punches when the time is nigh to combine the slicing quality of samurai swords with human limbs.
This is a show for the anime fans who grew up with the ultra violent OVAs of the 1980s and early 90s; we’re talking Genocyber, AD Police and Angel Cop here. The story is basically “kid’s parents are killed by monsters, so kid wants revenge”- you don’t need any more information than that, throw in some fleeting sexual innuendo and that’s about got TOKKO covered.
This episode was simply more of the same; a police officer can’t take down a bunch of zombies with his pistol so comes back at them with a military issue anti-tank machine gun. You’ll either love that idea or not and it pretty much sums up why I’m watching TOKKO. This is cheap, so-bad-it’s-funny horror.