Monthly Archives: April 2015

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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