Monthly Archives: May 2016

Jitsu wa Watashi wa

Type: Apparently “My Monster Secret” in America

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Synopsis: When a boy likes a girl, he usually tries his hardest to show her his affection. This could come in many forms: gifts, small gestures, large gestures, dates, compliments, taking a blood oath to keep her unholy existence a secret. At least, that’s what Asahi “Eromine” Kuromine did when he accidentally found out that his crush is actually a vampire. It was either that, or letting her drop out of school. Blood-sucker or not, a fella can’t let his best gal miss out on an education.

Pros: This anime is based on one of my favorite manga’s. I’ve actually been following Jistu wa Watachi Wa (Actually, I am) for a while now. It has a unique art and humor style that really appeals to me. While it is basically another high school romantic comedy, the gimmick is that all the players are some sort of abnormal person. Shiragami is a vampire. Aizawa is a tiny alien piloting a fake body. Mikan has haunted glasses. Shishido is a gender swapping self proclaimed Pervert. And those are just the one’s in the show! Don’t get me started on the time traveler, angel, and other alien. Each character add a little bit of a twist to the typical rom-com anime recipe. For example, one episode revolves around Aizawa needing help getting back to her human body. And all the episodes with the Principle were awesome and perfectly captured the magic of the manga. It also occasionally uses a song cue for the really romantic scenes, which, while manipulative, works.

Cons: As a fan, I was happy that one of my manga’s got an anime. As an objective observer, I cannot ignore the fact that his is a very generic anime. You can pretty much predict what happens: Boy meets Girl, they bond, more girls are introduced, hijinks, a love triangle develops, misunderstanding, a self-doubt episode, and then the cast goes save the girl. I can’t say for sure that this isn’t how it went down in the manga, but I remember it happening a lot better.  The anime felt rushed, and in the end, nothing was really resolved. For example, a lot of Mikan’s original story is mushed into the anime, and doesn’t really go anywhere. The whole thing just felt a bit off, too mainstream, and failed to capture the real charm of the manga (just look at the intro to see what I mean). It all felt hollow, with inconsistent signs of it’s true greatness, and ultimately a disappointment.

Watch it?: Yes, Shiragami and Asahi eventually get together, and it’s adorable (3/5)

MVP: Akane Komoto

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Always an evil delight

Best Episode: Ep. 8 “Let’s Save the World!” (Now, this is what I’m talking about)

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Samurai 7

Type: “I’ll be in the rice!”

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Synopsis: A remake of the legendary Seven Samurai film, Kambei is now a very pretty older man! Katsushiro is pretty much the same! Gorobei is a street performer! Shichiroji is in a healthy relationship! Haihachi is a mechanic! Kyuzo is a silent assassin! And Kikuchiyo is a loudmouth robot! And Shino is replaced my a water maiden named Kirara!

Pros: I’ve always been curious about Samurai 7. It’s an adaptation of one of the most, if not the most, influential Japanese movie in history. The anime mostly follows the plot of the movie, and does included a lot of the key moments (Ex: Kambei testing Gorobei). For those who somehow don’t know, the story is that a poor farming village hires Samurai to protect them from bandits. Only this time, the bandits are Mecha, as this takes place in a quasi-futuristic setting. Flying ships, samurai deflecting lasers, etc. The beauty with this adaptation is that we get more time with the 7 samurai, with each getting more fleshed out by virtue of having 26 episodes instead of 2 hours. For example, in the anime Kambei is younger than in the film, so we get to see him in battle. What I loved was that Kambei was skilled, but not overpowered, and tended to tactics rather than raw skill to hold his own. Another thing worth mentioning is that the actual plot borrowed from the film ends at about Ep19. The plot is then extended to a battle between the Samurai and the Capital. While I have mixed feelings about this, I did like the fact that the fight against the Capital stems from the mistreatment of the farmers, particularly the scores of women that had been abducted over the years. And while not a central focus, I did appreciate that the victimization of females in feudal settings was at least included in the conversation.

Cons: Obviously this isn’t a perfect adaptation of the film. The anime takes liberties to help set it aparts. Some good, some not so good (like Kikuchiyo coming off way more annoying). But still, the show has a definitive beginning, middle, and end (though the ending could have been better). I didn’t really buy the “Emperor” as a credible antagonist. I would have much preferred that the bandits had stayed the main protagonists. Maybe take the opportunity to flesh them out and explore why they abandoned the samurai way. In fact, the show could have easily replaced “The Emperor” with “Bandit Leader.”But that’s the thing about this, even though it had more time than the original, none of the characters are as explored as I would have liked. You do get a better sense of their personalities, but not their backstory. How did Kambei and Shijirochi act in their younger days? What happened with Heihachi’s old troupe? Why does Kyozu want a duel so bad? One or two spotlight episodes would have been appreciated. On the technical side, the animation was all over the place in terms of quality, particularly in the first few episodes where the show actually repeats crowd scenes (maybe the animators were in a rush?). And on a personal note, I hated the love triangle the show was trying to make between Kambei, Katsuchiro, and Kirara. It was mostly there because it was in the movie, but come on. No matter how much anime I watch, I am just never going to root for the teenager(16 in this one) trying to get with an adult, no matter how cool he/she is. Plus, it doesn’t do anything other than give Katsuchiro another area to feel inadequate about. If the show really wanted to explore a love story, how about Shichiroji and his girlfriend Yukiko? At least they have witty banter.

Watch it?: Watch Seven Samurai, and then The Magnificent Seven, and the maybe this (4/5)

MVP: Shichiroji and Yukiko

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The more I think about it, the more I want a side series

Best Episode?: Ep.7 “The Friend” (I can’t help it, I just find them cute)

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Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo

Type: Revenge in Space Paris

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Synopsis: Based on one of the greatest novels to slam the whole “let bygones be bygones” idea, we’re introduced to The Count of Monte Cristo, a vampire-like blue guy who everyone falls in love with. His servants love him. His friend’s wives love him. Even the young male protagonist loves him. Like a lot. Like in an adult way. Which is great for the Count, who may or may not be evil. But to be fair, almost every adult in this is pretty evil, so he fits right in!

Pros: The first thing you notice is the art style. It mixes 2D and 3D effects to give every clothing piece and hair style a distinct look. The whole anime looks visually abnormal, vibrant and static at the same time, which works well with the theme of revenge that the story revolves around. I’d like to think that most people know the story of The Count of Monte Cristo, but I’d rather not spoil anything for the uninitiated. That’s kinda the tricky thing about reviewing a good story. You want to gush over the story and characters with great detail, but risk ruining the experience for the reader. I’ll just say that Gankutsuou does an excellent job at adapting the classic western story, capturing most of the emotional beats and character moments from the original. Particular kudos should be given to the creation of The Count, who came off as so charismatic that even I wasn’t sure what his intentions were until late in the anime. In fact, given the number of characters included and time allowed, this may be one of the best interpretation of The Count of Monte Cristo outside of the novel itself.

Cons: When you think about it, its weird that Albert fall for the Count the moment he meets him. That being said, it is in his character. Albert is portrayed as extremely naive and trusting, and his sometimes childish attitude may irritate viewers. But what bothered me most was the one dimensional characterization of the the Count’s targets for revenge. They all came off as unrepentant villains, even in their home lives. I would have liked a bit more complexity in their portrayals, just so we in the audience could have felt more conflicted about the Count’s quest for vengeance. I would have liked one or two episodes exploring the Count’s past, instead of using flashbacks. Then there’s the art style which, while unique, is  a bit intense. I should also point out that the story is a bit of a slow burn, since the first half of the anime focuses on establishing all the characters and the Count slowly integrating himself in their lives. And a lot of Albert’s friends felt superfluous. Outside of Franz and Euginie, I could have lived without the rest.

Watch it?: Trust me, it’s good. (5/5)

MVP: The Count of Monte Cristo

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Sleep well, sweet Edmund Dantes

Best Episode: Ep17-18 The Confession/The Duel (the turning point of the story)

 

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Hunter X Hunter (1999)

Type: I Hate Gon

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Synopsis: In the world of anime, Shoen exists. Long running series about boys fighting to get stronger and milk merchandising for years. Luckily, this one was only 62 episodes and in English, so it wasn’t so bad. In Hunter X Hunter, which surprisingly isn’t about adorable shipping art on Tunblr, the world revolves around “Hunters,” people who are allowed to hunt and kill most anything as long as they have a license. Then it becomes about auras or something. Then it becomes about revenge. Then it ends, but I hear a new one came out, so I still don’t need to read the manga!

Pros: Hunter X Hunter is one of those big shoen titles I’ve just never gotten around to. I’ve seen pictures of the character, clips, and even played as them in some of my video games. But I’ve never actually read or watched it.  I finally decided to watch the original anime because A) It was in English, B)It was only 62 episodes, and C) I had time and wanted to marathon something. While I had some issued with the main protagonist, Hunter X Hunter did exactly what a good shoen story (and really any story) should do, it go me engrossed in it’s world. By episode 30, I was reading the Wikia to understand the lore and characters better. The animation makes the show very atmospheric, though apparently the story gets even better beyond episode 62 in the manga. I want to see more, and look forward to the reboot dub when I get around to it. My favorite characters were the side characters, particularly Killua and Kurapika, two morally complex characters with very interesting story arcs. Heck, the last 10 episodes of this series are all about Kurapika (and was my favorite arc). Like most shoen, this anime can be split into story arcs. The first 30 episodes are the Hunter Exam arc, which is more of an adventure story. The next about 20 episodes focus on Gon learning Nen, and is more of a fighting tournament. And finally the last arc is Kurapika’s quest for revenge, and takes place in “York New City” (Yeah). Admittedly, things don’t get truly interesting until Nen is introduced, which is this story’s chi/chakra/magic/spiritpressure/ki energy. I should also point out that during fights, the animators did an excellent job and including every bruise and cut a person suffers. It makes the actions look more realistic, as even the top tier guys take visible damage. If anything, Hunter X Hunter’s 1999 anime takes some animation cues from it’s older brother, Yu Yu Kakusho.

Cons: For the first time ever, I found myself personally disliking a shoen character. I can’t stand Gon. This has never happened before. But here we are. At first, I distaste for Gon came from his bland character at the start of the series. He was the textbook straightforward/confident/always positive shoen protagonist. But as the series went on, some of the other stereotypical shoen traits started to become more pronounced, particularly stubborness and a desire for strength. Gon is very stubborn, even getting his arm broken when he absolutely refused to forfeit a fight. He also has a desire to become stronger, with his biggest rival being some clown who showed “pity” on him for being weaker than him. Again, par for the course, but the thing is, none of it ever felt earned. I have no idea why Gon is the way he is. He doesn’t really have a motivating force behind him. He wasn’t raised to be that way. His overall goal of meeting his father doesn’t explain his personality. Goku was raised to be a fighter from birth, which is why he’s always training. Naruto works hard to earn the respect of his village after years of persecution. Luffy wants a life of freedom and adventure. Ichigo needs to become stronger to save whichever of his friends has been kidnapped that week. Without a reason behind his actions, Gon just seems like a little sociopath who refuses to comprimise if things don’t go his way. Hell, some characters in the show even comment on the potential danger this kid is. He’s an extremist. Even his wikia describes his morality as “twisted!” To put it another way, I’d describe him as “soul less,” a being with character traits but no real depth.  But, ah, we should really be taking about the anime, shouldn’t we? The animation might look old by today’s standards (though I liked the gritty look). The show has a few exposition scenes that are annoying, especially during fights. And it really does take a while to get into the story. About 20 episodes in fact. I personally didn’t get invested until episode 23, when Gon suffers his first true defeat and we get some actual characterization out of him (he pees himself, it was hilarious). In fact, I’m almost tempted to recommend skipping to episode 26, since this is when things get truly interesting.

Watch it?: The second half was good, but I can’t ignore the first (3/5)

MVP: Kurapika

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Boy or Girl, Kurapika steals the show at then end.

Best Episode: Ep. 51-62 The York New City Arc (easier to recommend arcs than episodes for shoen)

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Space Dandy (Season 1 & 2)

Type: Anime Futurama

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Synopsis: Meet Space Dandy. He’s a Dandy guy, from space.

Pros: When I watched Space Dandy, I was primarily reminded of two things: Futurama and Abenobashi Shopping Arcade. The series follows “Space Dandy” a pompodour looking fellow and his crew as they hunt for rare aliens. The set up already gives them an excuse to visit strange and varied worlds. Most of the episodes are stand alone, and like Futurama, some delve into deeper sci-fi questions and/or personal stories (luckily, nothing as hard as the dog episode). But like Abenobashi, a lot of episodes are non-sensical, full of cultural references, and some episodes even end with Dandy and his crew dying! So like all great sci-fi comedies, Space Dandy is a silly space romp with pretty deep messages, you just have to watch it to find out. [Season 1 is the one full of crazy deaths, Season 2 is the more philosophical one]

Cons: You know what? I actually can’t think of any negatives. I appreciated this show a lot. The varied episodes and animation really made it clear that a lot of people worked hard on this show. The show made you laugh, it made you think, and it may even have made you cry. I guess the only sad part is that you can’t watch it with everyone given the fan service bits, but you could always get around those with some navigating.

Watch it?: Stay Dandy (5/5)

MVP: Dandy

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I really want his hair

Best Episode: Ep.17 “The Transfer Student is Dandy, Baby” (There are probably better ones, but his is Anime GLEE we’re talking here!)

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