Editorials Reviews

Autumn ’08 impressions: week 2

Another week and the last of my autumn anime impressions. Right now, it feels like this is an exciting time to be an anime fan. There is so much that’s actually worth watching at the moment that it really seems like every day I’m adding more and more to my back-log. Naturally, I’m already having a hard time just trying to keep up with it all, but it’s been refreshing all the same.
If you haven’t participated already, please vote in my “best of season” poll. It’s just a bit of fun, but I’m becoming fascinated by the results. Casshern Sins is on top right now and I really didn’t expect that, but then again, you people do read my blog, so you obviously have good taste! (Not that I’m biased or anything.)

Mediocre anime

8. Hokuto no Ken Raoh Gaiden: Ten no Haoh
As with anything related to Fist of the North Star, a certain quota must be filled. This includes exploding heads, muscle-bound vigilantes, blood-thirsty street punks and crazy martial arts that require the least amount of movement possible, which is handy, because the animation is just as static. In this first episode, apparently all Raoh need do is stare at someone. The rest is taken care of.
You probably know already whether or not you want to see this. Just like the recent Golgo 13 anime, it delivers exactly what you expect of Fist of the North Star, but I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not. It’s just more of the same. More manly action.
Consider this: the great Raoh will only walk in a straight line. Literally. Even if there is a building obstructing his path, he won’t walk around it. He just smashes his way through and keeps on going. Does that sound stupid? Certainly. Is it funny? Most definitely. But this is not a comedy.
I’ll admit that I have a soft spot for Fist of the North Star. Taken in small doses, it’s entertaining enough, but at the same time, if you wanted to say that this is terrible, I couldn’t exactly disagree either. A guilty pleasure for sure, but now that the original series has been completely fan subbed, I might just start watching that instead.

  • tags: exploding heads, martial arts, post-apocalyptic, manly, destruction

7. Kurogane no Line Barrel
It’s rare to find a main character as unlikable as the teenaged idiot at the centre of Kurogane no Line Barrel. Selfish, petty and horny, his pseudo-Light claims of justice are nothing more than a superficial smoke-screen, all to hide his innate insecurity and shattered masculinity. He is a coward, basically. A coward that, by a miracle of good luck, can somehow pilot an all-powerful mecha. I guess he is built-up like this on-purpose, we’re supposed to hate him so that we can welcome his inevitable demise with unabated glee. Everything else in this anime is so utterly generic that it is depressing, yet I want to see this guy crash and burn spectacularly.
Vitriol aside, the next few episodes will make or break Kurogane no Line Barrel. This could turn out to be a traumatic mecha series like Bokurano, with insane teenagers in-control of things they cannot even begin to understand, or it could be just another boring action anime from Studio Gonzo. For whatever reason, I suspect that there might be something more to this story, but it will have to deliver soon.

  • tags: mecha, teenager, wimp, idiot, annoying
Good anime

6. Chaos Head
I’m finding it hard to say much of anything about the first episode of Chaos Head. It has generic bishojo characters, all of whom are inexplicably attracted to a shed-dwelling, anti-social otaku. His name is Takumi and like many otaku, he has a sexy figurine collection, an ‘odd’ relationship with his sister and admits to hating ‘3D girls’. All the while, a gory mystery seems  vaguely related to them all.
This is a promising, yet baffling debut, and, despite pandering to the otaku fan base, I’m hesitant to draw any firm conclusions just yet.  Much of this episode is particularly reminiscent of Welcome to the NHK, especially that sense of self-delusion and rampant paranoia. The line between the real and unreal is blurred through-out, so much so, I’m not yet convinced that certain characters even exist outside of Takumi’s vivid imagination.
I’ll be watching more of this. I need some answers.

  • tags: otaku, mystery, culture, romance, bishojo

5. Skip Beat
I could binge away an entire weekend on Skip Beat.
This episode ends with such a moment of pathos that I could spend hours watching this character’s rise from obscurity, to battle for fame and success. Of course, I’m talking about Kyoko. A dumped girl hell-bent on the best possible revenge.
I nearly lost faith in this ‘brand’ of nineties-era shojo after a bad experience with Itazura na Kiss, which wasn’t as much a bad series as a frustrating one. Similar to my complaints about Toradora‘s Taiga, Itazura na Kiss has a (male) tsundere so consistently obnoxious that the love-struck girl lost all of my respect by willingly accepting his streams of abuse to accommodate her love. Thank god that Kyoko is different. When she over-hears her beloved ‘prince’ insulting her behind her back, she throws a hamburger in his face and tearfully swears to get revenge! Ah, that’s the spirit!
Skip Beat could almost be described as a Shonen Jump action story, ‘I will become the strongest celebrity!’ It’s certainly as compulsive as Naruto, but where the boys might spend countless days in training trying to power-up, Kyoko just changes her hair style and starts wearing some trendy new clothes! Seriously, it’s easy being a girl!

  • tags: shojo, attitude, comedy, romance, drama
Excellent anime

4. Tytania
Sitting down in-front of Tytania for the first time, I was worried. I’ve read my fair share of negative reviews of the first episode and the rather stiff animation used in the trailer didn’t exactly impress me either, but I am a fan of Legend of the Galactic Heroes and the last thing in the world I wanted to report was that ‘Tytania isn’t good.’ Luckily, I don’t have to do that.
I’ve criticized the new Hokuto no Ken anime series for being exactly what I expect it to be and Tytania is much in the same way, yet it is a superior series. This was expected to be another Legend of the Galactic Heroes and that is exactly what it is. The well-groomed, posh soldiers of the Empire versus the up-start rebel capitalists. In space. Both sides contain men of quality and they will clash, frequently, in battles of huge scale and importance. They represent not just themselves, but a political ideology too. Every move is calculated. This is what I expect from Tytania, and I find it fascinating. It is a space opera; a grand adventure. Each side has a different uniform, culture and unique technologies. Each side contains people of burning ambition, who stare fearlessly into the endless expanse of space and dare to dream of mastering man’s destiny. They drink tea too.
The animation was better than expected. This is a dialogue-heavy show with riveting speeches, so fluidity of movement isn’t as important as the ambience and the mood of the moment. Basically, the presentation of Tytania is perfectly fine, but then, I’m excited. I might be biased.

  • tags: space opera, tea, wine, bishonen, war

3. Kurozuka
Let’s get something straight. The Kurozuka manga never aspired to be anything more than stylish and action-packed. That is all well and good, and it does look incredibly cool, but substance was sorely lacking and it felt a tad disposable too. The manga was ripe for an anime adaptation precisely because those deficiencies were so obvious and the end result is that this opening episode that isn’t a particularly faithful adaptation of the source material, but is arguably much, much better.
Through-out this story, the one thing we must believe in, above all else, is that Kuro and Kuromitsu are deeply in-love. Most of this hinges on the seiyuu, so it is a relief that the cast includes the best voice actress in Japan, Romi Paku. In the role of Kuromitsu, she delivers a subtle and tortured performance that’s completely unlike anything I’ve heard from her in the past. Her voice is mature and restrained, a voice that understands the eternal pain of immortal life.
Ironically, so much that I like about Kurozuka has nothing to do with restrain. Bloody action, samurai, and vampires. This is a dangerous mixture of extremes and subtleties, yet what I am relishing most of all right now is that this is an adult story, with adult relationships. It is also dark, romantic and action-packed. I can’t ask for any more than that. It is everything I hoped for.

  • tags: horror, blood, romance, samurai, action

2. Michiko to Hatchin
Another beautifully animated first episode, but then, I always expected Michiko to Hatchin to look great; my questions concerned only the story, which was, at times, painful to endure. The little girl, Hana, is abused horribly by her adoptive family. Her situation is comically bad and very reminiscent of Harry Potter at the Dursleys’, but rather than Hagrid bursting in to save the day, it’s Michiko, Hana’s so-called mother; a sexy, gun-toting prison escapee who ‘don’t take no shit from no-one‘. Her moment of arrival is fantastic for obvious reasons, but even better is Hana’s own little stand, when she finally snaps and head-butts her violent sister. What a moment of relief.
I adore the blue skies, dusty roads and concrete walls of Michiko to Hatchin, where graffiti and dirt smudge across damaged buildings and poor old men sit out on the side of the street, feasting on their greasy snacks. The influence of the stunning Brazilian film Cidade de Deus (City of God) is obvious, not just in the soundtrack, which features a number of cool samba beats, but in the sun-stained, colourful clothes, the half-arsed, uncomfortable way the characters hold their pistols, the sense of energy, youth, corruption and lawlessness. In every sense, this is a liberating piece of work. A triumph of the human spirit. It is art, and it will be fun.

  • tags: gritty, urban, abuse, cool, animation

1. Mouryou no Hako
In a weird, creepy kind of way, the first episode of Mouryou no Hako was a masterpiece. Understated and beautiful, dark and foreboding, the strangeness of the characters and the subtlety of their movement; I was mesmerised by this episode, utterly incapable of fathoming its direction, yet entranced by its sad progression into the beautiful weird. That it conveys no sense of logic is barely relevant, nightmares often dance their own baroque roads of thought. Simply conveying feeling is enough. Mouryou no Hako is animated, perfumed emotion, and it isn’t necessarily happy. If you value anime, allow yourself to be taken by this episode, to savour its romantic sting.

  • tags: horror, creepy, beautiful, artistic, moody