Magical Girl Madoka Magica

Type: Kinda weird after watching Sailor Moon

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Synopsis: A deconstruction of the magical girl anime sub-genre that subverts stereotype by, wait, sorry, I have snort this ounce of cocaine while listening to this indy cd I bought while eating at a cruelty free thrift shop….and scene. Anyway, by “deconstruct,” I mean that it shows how all the stuff in magical girl shows, like talking cats and enchanted jewelry, are actually sinister.

Pros: All jokes concerning the hipsterness of pretentious critics aside, Medoka Magica is a deconstruction anime. It takes apart the elements of its genre and adds dark connotations to each. Evangelion did it, School Days did it, and probably a bunch of other shows I’m forgetting to mention. Case in point, in Medoka Magica: the cat is cute but creepy, the witches’ rooms are all twisted version of storybook drawings, even the opening has Medoka crying in her Magical Girl dress. There are a lot more, but discussing them would ruin the plot, so have fun catching all the references. Past the analytical aspects of the show, you’re left with killer fighting scenes and pretty imaginative enemies. Seriously, the fights in this are something to behold. Even if you don’t watch the show, you should catch on of these fights on Youtube or something.

Cons: For one, I don’t think the show’s promotional artwork properly conveys the actual tone of the show (though, this too could be part of its deconstructionness). I feel that the main characters were underwritten, with most coming off as two dimensional. Medoka is the modest one, Homura is the cool one, Sayaka is the tomboy, Kyoko is the wild one, and Mami is the wise one. None of them really move past their assigned role, well, maybe Homura and Sayaka. The ending could also be way better, but I’m guessing the series was leaving itself open ended for the movie sequel.

Watch it?: The hype is deserved, if overblown (5/5)

MVP: Mami Tomoe

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I really loved her fighting style

Best Episode: Ep. 10 “I Won’t Rely On Anyone Anymore” (origins!)

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Inumaki! The Movie

Type: 30 minutes

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Synopsis: So its been a while, but from what I can remember, this pervert wanted a harem like his cousin, so he made a deal with a fox spirit. The spirit tricked him into being her servant instead. Blah, blah, blah, we skip to a half-hour “movie” where perverts are being rounded up. That’s honestly about it.

Pros: It’s only half and hour. It’s more of an ova than movie. There’s this one scene where all the girls strip down to their underwear. Everyone seems a lot cooler with one another, and at the end two naked men hug on a bridge.

Cons: A movie isn’t thirty minutes. TV really has to understand that “movies” should be at least 80 minutes or higher. Here’s the story: Karina is dead. Keita thinks its something bigger. All the perverts are being rounded up. A giant robot appears. Karina come back from the dead. The end. It’s still Inukami, and Inukami is Inukami. 

Watch it?: Maybe. I mean, yeah?

MVP: Karina-san

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Him being dead was delightful

Best Moment: Naked Karina and Keita hugging (friendship is a beautiful thing)

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Please Twins!

Type: Not gross, but sometimes bordering

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Synopsis: Here’s a story of two lovely ladies, high school students with very slender bodies. Then one day these ladies met this fellow, and they knew it was much more than a hunch. They could in fact be related, although that would cut out any naughty stuff. So they decided to form a family, at least until they figured out who could bone each other without incurring the wrath of God.

Pros: Not as bad as I though I was going to be. You see, in the first ten minutes of the show, each of the main characters are gloomy, and one of them is even assaulted as her introduction. So I thought this was going to be one of those anime. You know the ones. Luckily, everything gets a lot more lighthearted afterwards. The plot of the show is that these two girls (Miina and Karen) move in with a boy named Mike because they believe one of them could be his twin sister. After that, mild hijinks ensue until the mystery is resolved. Because this is anime, the characters aren’t allowed to simply get a blood test, but must wait until they remember whose related to who.

Cons: Aside from the obvious blood test thing, I found myself not caring about any of the supporting characters. I think that show’s plot was straightforward enough to allow the three main characters to carry the show by themselves. Everything else felt like filler. There’s also Episode 5, which has the girls trying to “fix” Mike when they hear a rumor that he’s gay. This was troubling to say the least, although I guess you can’t really judge the writer’s ignorance way back in…2003? Mike’s also a pretty bland character, as are most of the show’s stories.

Watch it?: At least the girls agreed that the related one couldn’t also date Mike. Kudos. (3/5)

MVP: That’s little alien guy

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They never did explain what his deal was

Best Episode: OVA “The Summer Never Ends” (everyone seems a lot more relaxed)

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Psycho Pass

Type: Crime Thriller

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Synopsis: In the future, society (or possibly just Japan) is regulated by the “Sybill System,” which determines who is mentally fit to remain in society. But if you’re likely to commit a crime, can think like a criminal, or even had a bad day and thought about burning your boss alive, you are screwed. It also turns out that some people can totally bypass the Sybill System and commit crimes while seemingly having a low Crime Coefficient. We call these people corporate executives sociopaths. That’s were rookie detective Akane and her group of criminally minded Enforcers come in.

Pros: This anime is a pretty straight forward sci-fi crime thriller. Sorta like Blade Runner (0r Equailibrium if you’re really nerdy), but not as subtle. What starts as a crime story soon evolves into a larger issue involving the age old topic of peace vs. free will. On the “peace” side you have Akane, a new detective whose thrown into the morally grey world of police work. She is accompanied by “Enforcers,” people who have been deemed potential criminals and work alongside the police to prevent real cops from having to think like criminals. This is an obvious flaw in the Sybill System right off, and from here the show builds an even larger story. Through the Enforcer’s work and the cases they tackle, we see how messed up society still is, even with the Sybill System. If I had more time, I’d probably mention the themes of technology, surveillance, repression, and the like. This is a show that’s not really afraid to go there, in terms of depictions and story events, and I appreciated that.

Cons: This show is pretty violent. But it’s not the normal cinematic violence, or even the over the top and gruesome anime violence. Pyscho Pass employs more of a casual, matter-of-fact violence that is quite disturbing. I myself had to look a way a few times. I’d also have to say that most of the supporting characters were underwritten, with most of the effort going towards portraying the antagonists of the show. Don’t get me wrong, they were fascinating antagonists, but I wound up not caring that much about any of the enforcers except Kogami and Tomomi. The ending was also bitter sweet, implying that nothing was really resolved in the end. That’s not a bad thing in terms of storytelling, but it is a bummer. (P.S. Akane is Criminally Asymtomatic, right? I mean, that’s pretty much implied here? Can we talk, or can we talk?)

Watch it?: A great anime thriller (5/5)

MVP: Tomomi Masaoka

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I’m a fan of old gum shoes.

Best Episode: Ep. 15 “The Town Where Sulfur Falls” (this really bothered me, so it must be good)

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The Girl Who Leapt Through Time

Type: Literal Title

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Synopsis: Really? A girl leaps through time. It’s not that hard to figure out.

Pros: O.K., so I’m a sucker for time travel stories. This has been established. I loved the this movie. It was light-hearted, funny, and used time travel in a very realistic fashion. Basically, it was used for shinanigans. Pass a test. Dodge a hit. Sing kareoke ten times in a row. Everything the average person would do. Because, lets be real here. You might think you’d use time travel to kill Hitler or bet on the 2004 World Series, but you would actually just use it as a redo-button for your life. A lot of the humor comes from Makoto literally leaping though time and fixing various little high school problems. The main conflict, which thankfully isn’t some reality shattering consequence of abusing time travel, arises when Makoto discovers that her two male best friends like her (which I get the feeling happens to a lot of girls). This wasn’t overly melodramatic, at least at the start, and I would highly recommend this film to anyone.

Cons: The film doesn’t quite stick the landing. In about the last 40 minutes, you discover how Makoto was traveling through time, and the movie goes down the cliche love angle. This felt out of place with the rest of the story. The first act had been Makoto using time travel in funny ways. The second act was Makoto finding herself in a love triangle and trying her best to undo it, because screw whoever came up with the term “friend zone.” What bothered me about the third act is that the previous two had been alluding to the consequences of time travel. Not in an earth shattering way, but in a more personal “you open a door but close a window” sort of way. That’s why one of Makoto’s classmates was being bullied, because Makoto accidentally transferred her series of unfortunate events to him. But these consequences never pay off in a tone consistent to the more down to earth plot before hand. Maybe if the film had explored Makoto dating both boys, or giving up both, or something totally different. Don’t get me wrong, the ending doesn’t ruin the movie by any means, it just makes it “good” where it could have been “great.”

Watch it?: Very accessible.

MVP: Makoto

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Keep rolling, rolling, rolling….

Best Moment: Makoto laughing arrogantly over her new mastery over time.

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Queen’s Blade

Type: No, you shut up!

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Synopsis: What? No, really, what!? Look, I don’t care. I was having a rough week and needed something to decompress. Don’t give me that look! Whatever…Exiled Virgin (Season 1) and The Evil Eye (Season 2).

Pros: Queen’s Blade is about a fighting tournament between female warriors for the throne of the country of “Gynos.” Its not as horrible-I’m sorry, I know this time for positives, but for reals, “Gynos?”- as you would expect. I came into this thinking I was going to watch 12 episodes of fan service. What I got was, well it was still 12 episodes of fan service, but also a pretty interesting story about a fighting tournament. Season 1 introduces all the fighters and their reasons for fighting, ranging from revenge, duty, wealth, to becoming the strongest. The themes in the plot are actually a lot more complex than you’d expect. If they ever made a proper fighting game anime, this is kinda what you’d want it to be. Season 2 is the actual tournament, which I’m always a fan of. Every characters is established enough to carry their own episode, which they often do. The main character, Leina, often acts more as a narrative device to introduce the new warriors. Leina herself goes through an interesting, if rushed, character arc on her quest to gain a reason to fight.

Cons: “Gynos?” I mean, come on! Plus, Elina Vance-total bitch. I’m sorry, I don’t really like using that term, but seriously. A super rich aristocrat who hates the lower class and literally drove a young servant to demonic witch craft? You suck Elina! There’s also the issue of Leina getting strong within the span of one training session instead of slowly becoming stronger through loss and experience. That was a bit too shoen for my taste. Now for the elephant in the room. Queen’s Blade is one of the most sexually exploitative anime I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen Battling Venus). Season 1 isn’t as bad Season 2, where it has a character that literally gets sexually assaulted by her evil staff. That’s some messed up shit right there. The thing is, if Queen’s Blade just covered up their characters by say 30%, and cut out the weird stuff, it would be a perfectly normal anime. Except for the character Nyx, and the two women with ludicrously inflated breasts, Queen’s Blade is not the most horribly sexploitative anime I’ve ever seen. Not by a long shot. The story is engaging and some of the characters are actually pretty admirable.

Watch it?: You come for the fan service, you stay for the story (3/5)

MVP: Elina Vance

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I hate her some much! She’s obviously a good character.

Best Episode: S1., Ep. 11 “Thunder: Struggle to the Death” (sister vs sister)

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Redline

Type: Awesome Pompadour

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Synopsis: Its a racing movie. A space racing movie. A movie about racing in space.

Pros: Obviously, the visuals are incredible. It kinds looks like Gurren Laggan or Kill La Kill, but on speed (puns!). This is especially showcased in the races the open and close the movie, which almost attack you with their use of color and motion. This is the level of animation you expect anime movies to take advantage of. Being a sort of wackier racing story, each of the racers involved are your color mishmash of personalities, along the lines of Wacky Racers, but more adult and made in Japan.

Cons: The story is a little thin. Aside from winning the race, there are three side stories. One is about Sweet JP’s troubled past, another is the love story with Cherry Boy Hunter Sanoshee (Cherry Boy=Virgin), and the third involves the robot planet the race is taking part in. The main reason to watch the movie is for the race scenes, all this extra stuff is just to pad out the time in between. There’s also this one nude scene that felt out of place, but whatever.

Watch it?: A Very Fun Movie

MVP:  The TRANSAM 20,000

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Trans Ams kick-ass!

Best Moment: The race to the finish line (who’s ganna win!?)

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Phantom: Requiem for a Phantom

Type: Repetitive Title

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Synopsis: A Japanese tourist witnesses an assassination from a supposedly god-tier killer and is kidnapped and subsequently trained by the killer for reasons. He’s supposed to be brainwashed into becoming a souless murderer, but he totally doesn’t. Instead, he spends the show trying to figure out how to escape his new life. First he tries to play along, then he runs away, then he plays along again, then the become a high school student…yeah it sounds like a weird path. But dammit, it hooks you in before you even know it.

Pros: This show is weird in that it’s a straight drama. There’s not real humor or crazy action scenes. In fact, except for a few bits in that start and some costume changes, this could have easily been done with real people. It’s pretty low key for the most part, relying on intrigue and plot twists to drive the series. The story is about Reiji, a guy who is forced into the life of an assassin and what that entails, with a continuous criminal power struggle in the background. The assassin stuff in pretty interesting, as Reiji and several other characters often lament their lives in the underworld. The mafia stuff is also great, particularly the parts involving Claudia, a surprisingly well executed femme fetale. Like any great drama, the show gets you to care about what happens in these characters lives (WHY DREI! You know Reiji didn’t play you like that!). It’s a great crime drama, probably the best I’ve seen since the first part of Gungrave.

Cons: So the show is also weird in that is has a so-so beginning and ending, but a great middle. The first part is about Reiji being turned into an assassin, a potential “Phantom.” This honestly felt the most “anime” to me, and I wasn’t sure whether I was going to like it or not. Then the second arc hits, taking place 6 months later with Reiji being a full blown mafia assassin, and that was great. He even take an “assistant,” with clear allusions to Leon: the Professional. The last arc, taking place 2 years after, and has Reiji pretending to be a high school student. This felt out of place (which may have been the point), and beings up a whole mess of questions. How old is Reiji? I though he was college age when this all started. How come Reiji seemed to age more after 6 months than 2 years? To be fair, all the stuff that took place outside the high school was amazing. The time skips gave a great sense of progression and consequence. I just wish it had been a little more consistent. They also never really resolved the fate of the whole evil organization known as Inferno, or how it started, but maybe that’s part of the point as well.

Watch it?: No jokes and I still loved it. (4/5)

MVP: Cal

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Any kid that can quote Taxi Driver gets a Thumbs Up from me.

Best Episode:  Ep. 17 “Truth” (it hurts my soul!)

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Nekomonogatari

Type: Cat-Girl Ghost Thingy

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Synopsis: Taking place before the original series but not showing the events we really wanted, Nekomonogatari is about a cat spirit. Specifically, its about the time Araragi’s friend Hanekawa. You know, the one with the glasses and big boobs. The one that already go her own story arc in Bakemonogatari. So instead of finally explaining how Araragi became a vampire and was forced to enter the world of ghosts and oddities, we get 4 episodes about a girl in her bra and panties with cat ears.

Pros: By now, fans of the Monogatari series will know what there getting into. The traditional use of cut frames, bright colors, and of kilter conversations are still here. Araragi still runs the gamit of cool guy to spaz to perv. Its four more episodes of Monogatari (or a single movie depending how you look at it).

Cons: Going into this series, I knew beforehand that it was a prequel. However, I failed to read too much into the “Neko” part of “Nekomonogatari” and thought it was going to be about how Araragi became a vampire. So far, this is the only “oddity case” that hasn’t been covered in the anime side of the franchise. Maybe the books or the subsequent series cover it, I don’t know. But it’s staring to irk me. Nekomonogatari is good enough and its still Monogatari in terms of quality, but I don’t think we really needed to have Hanekawa’s story expanded. Her arc in Bakemonogatari was enough.

Watch it?: If you need more Monogatari, then sure (4/5)

MVP: Araragi

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Still a fun character

Best Episode: Ep. 1 “Tsubasa Family, Part One” (boob latch)

 

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Sailor Moon (Season One)

Type: O.G. Pretty Soldiers

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Synopsis: I normally don’t do super popular anime, but dammit, I finally know what Sailor Moon is about! A long time ago, the Moon Princess and her friends are sent to Earth after her Kingdom is destroyed by the evil Queen Beryl. Years later, the Moon Princess is reincarnated as a young girl named Serena and given the ability to turn into “Sailor Moon” by a talking cat named Luna. Together, they reassemble the “Sailor Scouts” and fight Queen Beryl and her evil henchmen.

Pros: Although I’m the right age, I missed Sailor Moon the first time around because I didn’t have cable. But I did watch the Power Rangers, and this is basically the same thing. Just look at the story structure: One or more of the Scouts are doing something, the bad guys crash their activity, then someone throws a tiara and the day is saved. This would have made for great after school TV (though I wouldn’t recommend binge watching). It’s funny, in that early 90′s English dubbed anime way. I mean, why does Serena’s school friend have a Brooklyn accent? Better question, why weren’t their more random accents! I also liked that Serana was kinda a clutz and not a natural at the who hero thing. It made her relatable.

Cons: The show is repetitive, though I can’t say whether that’s due to North American editing or not. That’s right, I watched the old-school English version of Sailor Moon, end credit PSA’s and everything. I can tell you this much, Goku never told me that jealousy made people act differently. The more you know, I guess. I should add that this show is pretty girly. I mean, it was made specifically for girls, so that’s not really a negative. But I was confused over the common plot of these–middle school girls? high school?–dating clearly adult men. Maybe that’s a girl thing.

Watch it?: You really need to know what your missing (4/5) 

MVP: Serena

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I refuse to call her Usagi.

Best Episode: Ep. 31 “A Reluctant Princess” (Serena got real for a minute there)

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