My Little Monster

Type: Humans are the only animal that go to war, whose the real monster?

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Synopsis: A girl with dreams and ambition meets a boy with slight manic tendencies, and the two fall in love. Sort of. I mean, he likes her, then she likes him, then he’s not sure if he likes or loves her, then she rejects him, then he says he loves her, then she loves him, then a rooster gets involved, its a whole thing.

Pros: Right off the bat, its really funny, especially for a Shojo show. There are some funny gags, my favorite being the small ones where male protagonist Haru gets happy or excited over the prospect of having friends. In fact, Haru and supporting character Natsume’s comedic desperation for friendship was my favorite part of the series. At these moments, the show felt like a cross between From Me to You and Haganai. I also liked the the protagonist Shizuku’s blunt and rational attitude, and the fact that her story line involves balancing her goals with her love life, instead of having to choose one or the other (I mean, she tried that, but it didn’t go well). And it may not be very gallant of me, but I laughed out loud whenever Shizuku was accidentally hit by Haru.

Cons: Personally, I disliked the more shojo-esque elements of the show. I won’t say that I disliked the moments involving character emotion or psychology, because that would make me sound like an unfeeling robot, but I do feel that these moments are a bit troupy. There are love triangles, personal anxieties, fowl, the works. Haru was also a problematic. On one hand, he’s a handsome loner with a heart of gold. On the other, he has substantial anger issues that he can’t control. At one point, it’s implied he was going to murder a rival for Shizuku’s affections. I feel that the title My Little Monster is implying that Haru may have legitimate psychological problems. It’s also pretty obvious that we’re not getting the complete story, which is a shame, because I’m interested in what happens next.

Watch it?: Possibly the funniest Shojo-Anime I’ve ever seen. (4/5)

MVP: Asako Natsume

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I love that she calls Shizuku “Mitty”

Best Episode: Ep. 1 “Sitting Next to Yoshida-Kun” (this was a  surprisingly hard decision)

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Trigun

Type: A lot funnier then the artwork suggests

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Synopsis: Set in the distant world of not Cowboy Bebop you guys! A gunman with a broom for a head and red licorice for a body wanders the waste in search of love and peace. Sadly, he’s haunted by his reputation as Vash the Stampede, the humanoid typhoon, despite the fact that he dresses exactly like the description on his bounty. Along for the ride are two female insurance agents, a preacher, and later on his psychotic brother from his plant based species from space.

Pros: I found Trigun to be somewhere between Cowboy Bebop and Rurouni Kenshin. It’s a space western starring around a seemingly goofy protagonist with an infamous past. Though I don’t think Kenshin was quite the lothario Vash was. It even shares a few voice actors with the latter, most notably Dorothy Elias-Fhan, who play Meryl and Miss Kauru in Kenishin. The first half-ish of the story revolves around Vash saving people despite his harsh reputation, and the second revolves around Vash’s inner turmoil over his life and fight with his brother’s henchmen. Vash actually proves to be a pretty complex guy, if a little too quick to tears. Most of the series have stand alone stories, with plots ranging from greedy land owners to fighting would be assassins. A great show through and through.

Cons: I feel that the second half of the show falters. Learning about Vash’s backstory makes things needlessly complicated, and his ultimate showdown with his brother knives, the supposed antagonist of the series, doesn’t feel earned. The thing is, as the show gets closer to the end, the stories become increasingly dark. A lot of characters around Vash die, and we learn that this is all a ploy by Knives to make Vash suffer. The problem is, we only get about two episodes with Knives, so we don’t get enough time to get to know him as a villain. If Knives had been given more screen time, the differences between Vash and Knives would have been more pronounced and their conflict would have been better executed. As it stands, however, it makes the ending feel a bit anticlimactic.

Watch it?: Does a Trigun have three barrels? (No really, I want to know) (4/5)

MVP: Vash the Stampede

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The man with a hundred nickname.

Best Episode: Ep. 18 “Goodbye for Now” (now this is a cowboy story)

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Rurouni Kenshin: Reflection (OVA)

Type: I don’t even, no.

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Synopsis: Set in a horrible future we’ll call Earth-616, our once heroic protagonist abandons his family because he felt guilty over having a happy life and, and..no. You know what, no. I’m not doing this. SCREW THIS OVA.

Pros: There’s this part were Kauro tries to get Kenshin to give her leprosy by having sex. That’s so stupid that it makes me smile.

Cons: Jesus, where do I begin? This is a big, melodramatic, pile of lackluster storytelling. Everyone looks weird and the trademark action sequences are no where to be seen. And everything looks kinda grey. This thing totally missed the mark on the original source material. Why would Kenshin leave his family over guilt if the last arc of the manga specifically dealt with Kenshin getting over his guilt. That was the entire point of the fucking story. I’m sorry if this sounds like a rant, but it really upsets me that this story is considered canon by some people. Because it’s not. This is not how Kenshin’s story ends. This is not how the franchise ends. I refuse.

Watch it!?: Burn it.

MVP: No

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No

Best Moment: The Leprosy Sex Thing.

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Rurouni Kenshin: Trust & Betrayal (OVA)

Type: God, do you remember when this was called “Samurai X?”

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Synopsis: Set in the not so fun time of the Bakumatsu and Meiji Restoration, a young swordsman named Himurai Kenshin joins the Imperialists as an assassin. Earning the moniker Hitokiri Battosai, or Man-Slayer, the once gentle soul tries to build a better future through steel and blood. His life changes, however, when he meets a woman named Tomoe, who affects his life so much, that his future becomes much less detailed and more gag heavy.

Pros: So, the thing about Trust & Betrayal is that everyone really, really likes it. It’s considered one of the best OVA’s in the medium’s history. Why? Well, it does what the Dark Knight did years later by taking a “realistic” approach to a largely fantastic story. Everything, from Kenshin’s design to fighting style are taken down a notch to appear more true to life. The dialogue is slower and quieter, and emotion is a lot more subtle. It basically stays true to the manga version of Kenshin’s backstory and provides the last missing piece to the anime’s story.

Cons: I’ll be honest, I don’t particularly like Trust & Betrayal. I never have. I don’t like the redesigned character models or the serious tone. If found it way too somber, slow, and totally devoid of the charm of the original anime. Granted, I will acknowledged that it is a good OVA. Even within the franshise, it makes for a nice contrast between Kenshin’s life as an assassin and the life depicted in the anime. The issue really isn’t over the quality of the OVA as much as it’s with the overall enjoyment you get from it. I didn’t enjoy it, but this is one of the very rare franchises that I actually have very strong preconceived notion and thus honest fanboy bias. So my dislike may be in the minority.

Watch it?: Objectively, yes. Subjectively, maybe.

MVP: Tomoe

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The reason for wandering

Best Moment: Revealing how Kenshing got his scar.

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Rurouni Kenshin

Type: A Personal Favorite

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Synopsis: The baddest man on the planet starts feeling guilty over his whole “man-slayer” title, and retires to a life of wandering. He starts carrying a reverse-blade sword so his mad skillz won’t utterly destroy the posers who attack him. A few years later, he shacks up with this Dojo Woman who think he killed her father. He didn’t, but you know how these things go. Together, they help defend Japan against the forces of evil, because Meiji Japan knows to respect the legend.

Pros: As stated above, I love Rurouni Kenshin. I’ve loved it since I was a kid. I love the fact that the protagonist is this super modest guy who only fights when he absolutely has to. I love that the franchise often injects real historical people and events into a story where one sword style is enough to end wars. I love that one episode where Sanosuke thought that cameras could steal souls. Even though the show stopped one arc short of the manga, I think they made the right decision. The New Kyoto Arc is the story’s high point, and Shishio is a damn charismatic antagonist. There are too many great moments to list, especially because a few are personally special to me, but trust me, this is a good show.

Cons: There’s no getting around it, Rurouni Kenshin is a shonen anime. Granted, a shonen anime where the protagonist is a full fledged adult looking for inner peace and redemption, not power, but a shonen anime nonetheless. There are several non-organic fights, and quiet a few supporting characters looking to become the strongest. Yahiko was particularly guilty of this (though his character does get better in the last arc of the manga). The filler within the anime were also not great, and the fact that the “last” season (ep. 63-95) was entirely filler makes me glad I stopped watching at ep. 62.

Watch it?: Guys, I have Reverse-Blade Sword. I think you know my answer. (4/5)

MVP: Rurouni Kenshin

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Oro

Best Episode: Ep.57-60 Shishio vs. Kenshin (So. Damn. Epic.)

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Cowboy Bebop: Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door

Type: More Cowboy Bebop

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Synopsis: The crew of the SS. Bebop ride again on an adventure involving hacking, terrorism, and that one scene were Faye’s shirt gets popped open. There’s also that great fight at the end and, and…huh.

Pros: Fans of Cowboy Bebop will really like this movie because it’s basically two more hours of the now classic show. The only real difference is that some of the animation gets an upgrade, and most of the music has lyrics in it. Despite the three year gap, the English voice actors (which is the version I saw) didn’t miss a beat.

Cons: This is a great movie based on a TV show in the sense that Serenity was a great movie based on Firefly. Original fans will love it, but newer viewers won’t understand what’s going on, and question why this deserves the moniker “movie.” While it was nice that the movie felt like it fit right into the original TV show, it felt too much like a TV show instead of an independent film.

Watch it?: Mostly for Bebop fans.

MVP: Vincent

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Better than Vicious

Best Moment: The Spike-Vincent Fight

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Akira

Type: The Really Famous Kind

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Synopsis: You know what this is about. Or do you? Does anyone?

Pros: Gorgeous. The animation is amazing. This film is almost 30 years old, and it still out shines most animated films with its stunning visuals, bright colors, and masterful cinematography. So yeah, it’s very pretty. You can tell why it went on to inspire generations of film makers. In terms of story, I have to give it props for  making Kaneda likable. In the original manga, I found Kaneda to be the most unlikable character. Too brash, too arrogant, too selfish. But in the movie, Kaneda is actually kind of charming. But again, the animation is really the films strongest asset.

Cons: While the animations incredible, the story may be hit of miss for some viewers. A lot of the original story from the manga is condensed into a 2-hour sci-fi film that involves psychics. Personally, I preferred this version, because the manga had a lot of political themes that I wasn’t a big fan of. However, a condensed story also means that a lot of characters are short changed. I’m specifically referring to Kei, who I felt was the true protagonist of manga, but gets a much smaller role in the film. And if you’re not a fan of sci-fi, you may not be a fan of this.

Watch it?: Historically important, so yeah.

MVP: Tetsuo

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Heart of Darkness

Best Moment: Any time the camera pans to the city lights (wow)

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Hayate the Combat Butler! Heaven is a Place on Earth

Type: In my day, movies were a lot longer

Hayate no Gotoku Heaven is a Place on Earth Movie DVD

Synopsis: Hayate and crew go on vacation. It’s hot. The ghost of Hayate’s grandmother shows up. I’m not really sure why this was called a movie, but hey, just go with it.

Pros: I like Hayate.

Cons: What constitutes a movie? Websters defines a movie as a recording of moving images that tell a story. But by that definition, commercials and television shows are movies. We could limit the definition to recordings that only show up in theaters, but that would still count trailers and teasers. To me, a movie has to be longer than an hour, and it has to tell a story you can’t really tell in any other medium. The Hayate movie fails on both counts. It feels more like an hour long special to an especially dull episode of the anime. It’s very slow, and the story is practically non-existent.  It lacks any of the original humor of the show in favor of a semi-emotional story that never really takes off. Yes, it was interesting to meet Hayate’s grandmother, but it was more interesting to believe that his entire family were just his comedically greedy parents. I know that anime movies traditionally like to break out and explore new story conventions, but this definitely felt like a step in the wrong direction.

Watch it?: No.

MVP: Someone

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I’m pretty sure someone was it.

Best Moment: The scenes between Hinagiku and Hayate were still cute

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X-Men

Type: From Dark Phoenix to Legion Quest

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Synopsis: The X-Men, a team of super-powered mutants dedicated to protecting a world that hates and fears them. Disbanding shortly after the death of Jean Grey, the team reunites to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a young girl in Japan. So not only do you get to see your favorite X-Men in anime form, you also get a few troupes thrown in for good measure. Sadly, there are no Tsundere in this series. Oh wait, Cyclops is here. So kawaii.

Pros: I love the X-Men. A lot. So it was a treat to see them in an anime style show. Since Marvel worked closely with the animation studio Madhouse and had writer Warren Ellis supervise, the dialogue really seemed like it was written for an English speaking audience. It was a lot smoother than the usual English dubs, which sound a bit awkward at times. Impressively, most of the X-Men are true to character, particularly Cyclops. Since Cyclops is my favorite X-Men, I appreciated how well handled he was, especially because that doesn’t happen a lot (cough The Animated Series cough X-Men movies cough). The addition of Armor was also surprisingly well executed. I originally though she was just the token Japanese character (and she kinda is), but she filled that crucial young X-Men role pretty well and I’d hazard to say this is the best portrayal of the character in any media, including comics.

Cons: Since I’m such an X-Men fanboy, I’ll refrain from being too nitpicky. But I have to say, two characters really bugged me, Storm and Wolverine. I said that most characters were true to form, but Storm wasn’t one of them. At least, her personality wasn’t. She was too generic, and didn’t match the dignity and gravitas needed to pull off Storm. Wolverine, on the other hand, had a bad character design. Anime Wolverine should be the coolest mofo in history, but in this he was really scruffy looking. Almost like an actual walking wolverine. The antagonists are also pretty boring. Some are just random monsters, and the other are the Hellfire Club, but for some reason the members were original characters instead of actual comic villains. No Donald Pierce, Selene, or even Sebastian Shaw. The story was also subpar.

Watch it?: Better than X-Men 3, not as good as Days of Future Past (4/5)

MVP: Cyclops

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Honestly, even I was surprise at how good he is.

Best Episode: Ep. 05 “Power-Unity” (the most X-men episode ever)

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Heaven’s Lost Property the Movie: The Angeloid of Clockwork

Type: 1 hour of original footage

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Synopsis: One day a poor girl named Hiyori secretly declares that she likes local pervert Tomoki Sakurai…then a busty angel/robot falls on top of him. She begins to stalk him from afar, afraid that this boob crazy maniac won’t like her or her big boobs. She does manage to start hanging out with him, even starting this strangely convenient relationship with Tomoki. Then she dies.

Pros: I didn’t know how much I missed Heaven’s Lost Property until I saw this film. It actually made me skim through the last parts of the manga. Most of the shows gags are still in place. Tomoki is a perv, people hit him for it, etc. The emotional core of the film was Hiyori, a hard working and earnest girl that has a crush on Tomoki. While not an original concept, you do feel sympathy for Hiyori, if for anything, developing feelings for a guy who once made panties fly in the sky.

Cons: This isn’t really a “movie” in the truest sense of the word. The first forty percent of the film is a recap of the show, with a few scenes put in from Hiyori’s point of view. This is Hiyori’s movie, so don’t expect to see a lot from Ikaros of the other angeloids. The rest is more like an hour long TV special, or OVA. The animation is also about the same as some of the better looking episodes of Heaven’s Lost Property. As I said, don’t go expecting to see an actual “movie-movie.”

What it!?: Skip the first third, then enjoy the rest

MVP: Hiyori Kazane

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A girl who likes plants

Best Moment: Tomoki’s purity challenge (so dumb, I love it)

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