Cute High Earth Defense Club Love!

Type: It needs a shorter name

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Synopsis: Fighting evil by moonlight! Winning love by daylight! Never running from a real fight! They are the ones called Sailor…wait, wait, that’s not right. First off all, the Cute High Earth Defense Club, or “Battle Lovers” for short, never fight at night. They do do a lot of winning with love. As for never running from a real fight, well, that’s technically true, but does fighting a noodle-man count are real fighting? And one of the central stories involves someone turning their back on a friends, and “defense” is in their name, but I wouldn’t consider them really dependable.

Pros: So as you can tell, Cute High Earth Defense Club is a magical boy anime. Its about 5 high school boys living in this possibly post-apocalyptic world where no women exist. Like, at all. They’re chosen by this space wombat to protect world with the power of love. The show is full with a lot of cute boys of every preference, from the lovable blonde to the guy with luxurious pink hair. The homoerotic undertones are yours for the taking. It’s a comedy, and the boys do in fact comment on the weird turn their lives have made, as well as keep the dead body of their faculty adviser around. The show follows a monster of the week format, which is defeated the exact same way every time.

Cons: The show is formulaic, not particularly exciting, and the overarching plot isn’t that original. Good sailor boys vs bad sailor boys. My real gripe with the show is with the Battle Lover uniforms. I’m not really sure what they’re suppose to be. Their this puffy, short short get-up with ribbons. They look downright silly. Their rivals, the conquest club, had a much better uniform that looked military style. This was probably a reference to Sailor Moon or something, but it didn’t really land for me. This may sound kinda weird for an obviously female-driven audience, but I hope they butch up the uniforms a little for season 2. (Why not make them dress up in tuxedos?)

Watch it?: A solid parody show (3/5)

MVP: Akoya Gero

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Look at this guys hair…just look at it…

Best Episode: Ep.11 “The Trial Called Love” (the fated battle!)

 

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Air (Film)

Type: Look at our effects budget! NO, LOOK AT IT THOUGH!

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Synopsis: Same basic story as Air. A traveling hobo meets a semi-functioning dying girl and her still very hot aunt. They bond, then, like in Forrest Gump, the verging-on-handicapped person is left by the love interest because it would be a little weird to make-out with them. However, in this movie, everyone looks and acts relatively normal. Well, normal for anime standards.

Pros: I really liked the character designs in this over the original series. Its a bit anime-generic, but its way better than the weird mousy faces from before. They film only follows the Misuzu arc, and luckily for everyone, Misuzu acts more like a typical anime heroine than woman-child. It definitely feels that she has more agency in the film than the anime. I also liked her aunt Haruko’s design in this, mostly because she looks like an attractive late-twenties woman and less like every other girl. The story is more obvious about the romance between Misuzu and Yukito this time around, and given their new character attitudes, it feels way better executed.

Cons: My god, WE GET IT, you had a bigger animation budget. Was their really a need to show it off so much? This film is a textbook example of overdoing it. The constant bombardment of sun rays, rain, and the cherry blossoms! Was Feudal Japan constantly in the middle of a petal blizzard or something? But the hamminess doesn’t stop there. This film really notched the melodrama up to 11, and there are multiple times when it reaches comedic levels. Weird cuts, uneven humor, and way too many cinematic tricks. It made the mistake of trying way too hard to make the movie feel like a movie.

Watch it?: I’m torn. It has better characters, but the animation is way overdone.

MVP: Misuzu Kamio

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I liked her way more in this one

Best Moment: Leaning Misuzu could actually form independent thoughts

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Air

Type: The best Avatar season…wait a minute.

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Synopsis: A long time ago, a women with wings helped humanity. In gratitude, humanity did what they usually do and killed them all off. Only one bloodline survived, kept alive by love and friendship and all that jazz. However, by “kept alive,” I mean that girls with wings are born every so often and fated to die young and alone. That’s not an exaggeration. Monks cursed the last winged females to get sicker and sicker whenever they make friends. Yet another example of the Patriarchy keeping Chicks down.

Pros: Air has the same director and studio as one of my personal favorite animes, Clannad: After Story. Air was actually made before, and you can see that a lot of the beats and emotional highs used in this carried on in Clannad. Its not quite as sad, but it does pull at the heartstrings. This anime is surprisingly efficient with its plot-episode number ratio. It basically had three story arcs and an origin story it needed to cover in 12 episodes. In the beginning, every character is introduced, and its take 4 episodes for the real stories to begin. I liked this, because it set up the premise of each heroine right away simultaneously, while other animes have the main character meet and solve one girl’s problem, then move on the next one in an inorganic matter. I also really loved the story in Feudal Japan, to a surprising degree.

Cons: While I did like the way it started, the beginning of Air is a little slow. The story isn’t specified right away either. Basically, the main character Yukito is the latest in his family to search for the “girl in the sky,” which is explained in the Feudal Japan story. In a beach town he meets three girls that might be who he’s looking for: Kano, Minagi, and Misuzu. Kano’s story line is the first and the weakest. It has to do with her being haunted by a past life, which also took place in Feudal Japan and thus clashes with Misuzu’s story line (obvious spoilers: she’s the girl with wings!). Minagi’s story is the shortest, but also incredibly sweet. Misuzu, as the main heroine, gets the most time, and surprisingly has more to do with her relationship with her mother than with Yukito (a lot of the anime has to do with mothers). The animation style is a bit older than modern fans might like and the ending is…alright, but it does have at least one happy ending.

Watch it?: It sucks you in. (4/5)

MVP: Uraha

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The real hero of the story

Best Episode: Ep. 8-9, “Summer,” “Moon” (you got me again Ishihara!)

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Elfen Lied

Type: Oh, geez anime!

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Synopsis: With the gore, and the nudity, and the child nudity, and the people with the horns and crazy invisible hand things, yeesh!

Pros: So yeah…I watched Elfen Lied, an anime with one of the most well known reputations for being disturbing. Its, ah, an honest assessment. The anime is about a mutant species that can kill people semi-telepathically. One of the most dangerous ones, Lucy, escapes and makes it back to her childhood friend. So one half of the show is about an evil corporation trying to kill Lucy with other mutants, or Diclonious, and the other half is about Lucy living an innocent life with her friends. Now, this thing is Violent. Gore fans will probably get a kick out of it. Its not as over the top as Blood C, or even Gatz, but its high up there. That’s kind of its selling point.

Cons: Let’s be real here. If you’re ganna watch Elfen Lied, its for the ultraviolence, not the story. The plot is not impressive in the least. We get it, humans are the real monsters. It also never explains where exactly diclonios originated from, or why they all look alike. This Dark Anime Drama covers such uplifting and totally predictable topics like: child molestation, torture, psychological trauma, dual personality, schizophrenia, child murder, and lots of nudity etc. Nothing innovative, nothing great. Its icky, but also kinda superficial. Part of this is because the anime still adheres to other anime troupes, and they mainly all happen in the Kohta household. Like when psycho killer Lucy, under a second identity, messages someones breasts from behind. What is this, a harem!? (p.s. Elfen Lied is kinda a harem). These moments fell really inconsistent with the rest of the show. I get it, these scenes are trying to juxtapose the cruelty of Lucy’s world with something more innocent, but the should could have been more subtle. Then again, a show where a little girl is amazed by giraffes one minute, then kills an entire family the next, probably doesn’t do subtlety.

Watch it!?: Eh, I’ve seen worse. God, I wish I hadn’t seen worse. (3/5)

MVP: Lucy

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That first scene is still pretty good.

Best Episode: Ep. 08 “The Beginning ~ Beginn” (Those kids deserved to die, right? I’m not the only one who thinks that?”)

 

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Ninja Scroll

Type: The One You Were Too Young To Rent, But Saw Anyway

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Synopsis: So back in the 90’s, anime was still a relatively new thing in the States. With things like Speed Racer and Gundam being the only comparisons, many adults often made the mistake that “anime=for children.” So image your surprise when you walk into your local video store, your parents rent something called Ninja Scroll from the animation section, only to get home and watch a Japanese lord have sex with his concubine while a Kunoichi reports that all his ninja were slaughtered. Kids, be grateful you have the internet now.

Pros: From what I can gather, Ninja Scroll is one of the most famous anime movies in the west. In the same vain as Akira and Eva, its popularity can partly be attributed to the fact that it was actually released and dubbed for English speaking audiences during a time when anime was scarce. Thankfully, it  does live up to the hype. The movie is about a group of ninjas trying to get their hands on some gold, with our protagonists coming along mainly to kill people. This thing is a Hard-R, full of awesomely violent fight scenes, some nudity, and one sex scene. It’s nothing out of the ordinary for a modern movie, or some cable TV shows, but keep in mind that this was made in 1993.

Cons: If you somehow saw this back in the day thanks to the ignorance of the past…good for you? This thing is super violent and has one sexual assault (not rape, but close), so be cautious. The plot if fairly simple, being mostly about greed and revenge. I got a little confused about Kagero’s story line, because it seemed that in the beginning she resented being treated as a feudal woman, but in the end she falls in love with Jubei because, in her words, he treated her like a woman. Maybe she meant as an “equal” and it got lost in translation.

Watch it?: It’d give it a go

MVP: Jubei Kibagami

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Loosely based on an actual guy

Best Moment: The Last Fight (fire everywhere!)

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Ultra Maniac

Type: No one’s really a Maniac in this

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Synopsis: A middle school students makes friends with a Magical Girl, which leads to a lot of wacky misadventures. There’s the time they turned their pets into humans, the time a potion made everything bigger, and the time the girls turned into 20 year olds to go clubbing and their parents were totally cool with it. There’s also the main story involving five Holy Stones that determine the next princess of the Magical Kingdom, but I was mainly in it for the blushing and sparkling eyes.

Pros: This is an older anime from a time where animation gags and sitcom-like plots where the norm. The gag where Nina’s mom and dad acted super cutesy together was adorable. Like I said, Nina the Magical Girl’s second rate magic lead her friend Aya into a variety of comedic situations. Aya plays a pretty good straight-man to the ditzy Nina. Its a pretty light love-comedy, complete with the main character that has a crush on a boy that is seemingly very popular (but don’t worry, he likes her back). Their is actually an interesting character twist with the much sought after Kaji-Kun that moves him away from generic love interest territory, at least a little. This isn’t a masterpiece, but it is a pretty fun anime from a decade ago. (P.S. if you want something extra to do, this anime is based on a Manga that I’m pretty sure was targeted at young girls, so keep an eye out for the girl’s clothing. You’ll find them more stylish than usual).

Cons: Again, this is an old anime. If you weren’t a fan of that style of comedy, then move along. Story wise, two main plots compete from attention. The first is Aya’s crush on Kaji and Nina’s well meaning and hilarious attempts to use magic to help her out. This is apparently closer to the Manga the show is based on. The second is Nina’s “secret” quest for the five Holy Stones, which is not as interesting, and sure enough, not at all based on the Manga story. Sadly, the Aya-Kaji arc resolves itself about 5 episode before the finale to focus more on the Holy Stones, which just made Aya’s search for love seem inconsequential. Though in hindsight, her story is literally about the most popular girl in school dating the most popular boy in school. Also, Nina’s catchphrase, “Practice,” totally annoying.

Watch it: Simpler Jokes for Simpler Times (3/5)

MVP: Aya Tateishi

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I just really love her hair

Best Episode: Ep. 18″R&B” (kids pretending to be adults…wait a minute, that’s what being 20 is all about!)

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Planetes

Type: Space ain’t all its cracked up to be

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Synopsis: Space, the final frontiers. These are the non-voyages of Technora Corporation, Space Debris Section, DS-12 Toy Box. Their 26 episode mission: to explore the lives of mundance future people, to seek out meaning in the bleak nothingness of creation, to boldly go where most people have gone before in order to clean up their junk before it kill everyone.

Pros: Planetes really wanted to be a prestige anime. That’s not a knock, but you could really tell what it tried to be. It was made in 2003, but I though it was made in 2010! It was almost devoid of anime troupes, it had pretty consistent animation and tame character design, and the crux of the story dealt with the human condition. Specifically, Planetes was about ambition and social mobility, and how that will continue to evade people even in the future. Almost every character in the show wants, was denied, or has had, the opportunity to move up in the world, and the realities that goes with that. The show’s about space debris collectors, but its really about the people they encounter. It ironically shows a pretty down to earth future, where things like poverty and economic inequality are still very much real (they just spread to the stars). The show uses a mix of humor and drama to tell its story, and ends on a pretty positive note. It’s not “Drill to the Heavens!” but it leaves you with a smile. (P.S. It also uses a lot of hard science or whatever, I didn’t check for accuracy)

Cons: Did this succeed in becoming a cornerstone of anime? Yes and no. It’s good. Really good. But the fact that I didn’t even hear about it until recently kinda puts a blemish on its legacy. Its not Eva or Akira, even if the quality is arguably in the same ballpark. This show is thick. You cannot binge watch it. Even though a lot of episodes are stand alone, their each pretty packed. That being said, the anime doesn’t really do a good job at explaining what exactly is happening on Earth. From what I could gather, an UN like organization called INTO is creating a Hegemony, which most everyone seems cool with (unless you live in a third world state). INTO doesn’t really become important until the very end, where a terrorist organization attacks the station where the main character are at. They want equal distribution of space recourse, which they actually get (ah, spoilers). Its also kinda depressing since most of the topics explored hit close to home. On a personal note, I disliked Hachimaki, the “protagonist” of the series. I use quotation because even though he’s front and center in the opening and closing credits, I consider Tanabe a better main character. Hachimaki was a little too annoying for my taste.

Watch it?: You could easily make this live-action (4/5)

MVP: Fee Carmicheal

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I copy.

Best Episode: Ep. 05 “Fly Me to the Moon” (future problems)

 

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Grenadier

Type: Smiling Gunslinger

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Synopsis: Boobs are cool. They make us drool. We love ’em all, big and small. They’re especially great when using guns. You can bounce bullets off ’em for quick reloads. They also help comfort people. If you can use ’em to break a person’s will, then no fighting need take place. They’re really the key to the ultimate battle strategy.

Pros: Grenadier is a classic shonen adventure story. About 70% humor, 30% action. Good enough, but nothing impressive. The protagonist is a happy-go-lucky-fighter who mostly gets into trouble because of misunderstandings. Think Vash the Stampede, but with bigger breasts. On that topic, or topics, for the first time ever, an anime character with ludicrously bouncy boobs actually uses them in a fight. I wasn’t joking above, Rushuna actually does reload her gun by bouncy her bullets off her breasts (well, it happened once in the show). They’re also part of her “ultimate battle strategy” or removing the will to fight. Luckily, she mainly uses them in embraces, and doesn’t just flash them. I actually really liked Rushuna’s belief that sympathy and empathy where a superior answer to violence. It made her seem more heroic.

Cons: This thing goes by really fast. It’s 12 episodes makes it feel really stuffed with supporting characters who don’t get room to breath, story lines that come and go, and a general lack of character development. Just look at Yajiro, who just joined Rushuna because he was, what, bored? It’s a common problem with manga-anime that only gets one season. Some of Rushuna’s catchphrases and such are cute at first, but get tired afterwards. No Rushuna, I do not think you can pay a ransom with a smile. You ain’t Mary Tyler Moore. And the baths, always with the baths. Where is she getting the money for these things? And the fan service is…actually not bad. It’s more eye candy than anything else, with mostly cleavage and non-nudity nakedness.

Watch it?: Fun characters, good jokes, generic shonen feel (3/5)

MVP: Rushuna Tendo

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Would you care to join her?

Best Episode: Ep.12 “The Smiling Senshi” (who takes a battle in the middle of a battlefield?)

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A Certain Magical Index Movie: Miracle of Endymion

Type: Cannon Movie Sequel

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Synopsis: Arisa lives in a world where things like Magicians and Espers really exist. She has no particular talent except signing and the ability to make the two protagonists her friends. Unfortunately she has also attracted the attention on Church approved magicians who keep trying to kidnap her without trying to explain why, which would have made the whole process much easier. It’s almost like story convenience was put ahead of basic logic.

Pros: The one most interesting thing about this movie is that it occurs after the events of A Certain Magical Index and A Certain Scientific Railgun. So this movie basically has two sets of characters interacting with the same plot. I found this fascinating. Story wise, the movie does what every anime movie based on a show does by revolving the story around one new character. Arisa is a cute (and literally radiant) singer who catchers Touma and Index’s attention. It later turns out she is part on some overarching plot to blow up the Earth…or something. Arisa of course falls for Touma a little, but its not really important. The other new character of note is Shutaura, Arisa’s secret bodyguard with tragic ties to the “Miracle of 88,” one of the central events to the movie plot. I found her way more interesting that Arisa, and luckily, she becomes a major plays later on in the film.

Cons: I kinda got lost towards the latter half of the story. I know they went to space and the bad guy wanted to blow up something. To be honest, I’m still not sure what the bad guy’s ultimate goal was. Or what the Miracle of Endymion was. I know it involved nudity…On a more objective note, I feel that a lot of characters were crammed in for no real reason. Since the “A Certain” franchise has produced two successful anime shows, they have a variety of characters to showcase. However, this couldn’t always be done organically, so there are a few times when characters feel forced in (cough Accelerator cough). It gets even worse if you haven’t watched both shows. I should also note that Arisa is a singer, so if your not a fan of pop concerts in your anime movie, your out of luck.

Watch it: The Author Wrote this Story, if you’re into that sort of thing

MVP: Shutaura

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Half of this is her story

Best Moment: The Fountain Fight (Awesome fight scenes)

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Minami-Ke Tadaima

Type: Please Don’t Expect Too Much From It

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Synopsis: Three sisters, each in elementary, middle, and high school respectively, live their lives for our amusement. After a great beginning/end and a lousy middle, the franchises adds yet another entry which I can only determine to be some kind of epilogue. You now, the epilogues that are open ended, don’t resolve anything, and leave an incredible amount of room for more stories.

Pros: Still really funny. Much like Season 1 and 3, this season of Minami-ke stuck to its traditional slice-of-life style comedy, this time around winter and spring. Yes, there is an entire scene dedicated to pretending to be hot in order to get invited to eat chilled noodles. So nothing really happens, but its a humorous nothing. I think Season 2 was just a temporary swing-and-a-miss for the franchise. Since this is the 4th season, a few of the supporting characters are given more attention, specifically Haruka’s high school friends (about 20% more). Hosaka and Hitomi stand out the most. The show also seems to have adopted the character design from season 3, so more of the characters look slicker and shinier.

Cons: Minami-ke suffers from Character Overload syndrome. Since it’s lasted so long and has three main protagonists, it has an overflow of supporting characters. Each of the Minami sisters have about three friends each, so that’s twelve characters right there. Plus, there are about seven boys, so that’s nineteen supporting characters. Plus the Minami uncle, so that’s twenty. I’m not saying that they each need an episode to themselves, I’m just saying that’s a lot of recurring characters for one show. I also noticed a bit more fan service snuck in, which was alright because the show knew how to play it for laughs, but I hope the next season doesn’t go overboard. It’s not that type of show.

Watch it?: Still Minami-Ke (4/5)

MVP: Hosaka

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I feel that he really came into his own this season, not shirt and all.

Best Episode: Ep. 8 “Vegetables with Your Merry Friends on Your Day Off” (I warned them!)

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