Tag Archives: 2003

Rumbling Hearts

Type: “Does Everything I do Have to Hurt Someone?”

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Synopsis: Once upon a time there lived a girl named Haruka, who had a best friend named Mitsuki. They both loved a boy named Takayuki very much, but he only loved one of them. Then one day, Haruka fell into a deep sleep and couldn’t wake up. Takayuki’s heart was broken, but Mitsuki helped him but it back together. She never left his side, even though part of his heart still remained with Haruka. What else could she do, she loves him…

Pros: Ok, so real talk. I kinda got into this show. I found this anime soap opera genuinely engaging. Sue me. The basic premise is: Takayuki, Haruka, and Mitsuki are high school friends stuck in a love triangle. Then one day, Haruka gets into an accident and falls into a coma. Takayuki and Mistsuki start dating, even though Takayuki isn’t fully committed. Three years later, Haruka wakes up and causes Takayuki and Mistuki’s relationship to become really strained. That’s basically the gist of it without giving away too much. I would love to explore the subtleties of the show, but that would spoil the experience. The strength of the show comes from the portrayal of Takayuki and Mitsuki, both as individuals and as a couple. More so with Mitsuki, who I found really relatable. You see, when Haruka wakes up, Takayuki basically begins an emotional affair with her. And Mitsuki’s reactions to this are all too understandable. She tries to ignore it, she tries to overcompensate physically and emotionally, she even verges on alcoholism. She spirals as she comes to the realization that the person she loves has stronger feelings for someone else, and probably always did. Both Mitsuki and Takayuki are guilty of trying to cling to the past, with Haruka being a not to subtle living memory that holds them back from the future.

Cons: The show has a good beginning, and a strong ending, but a weak middle. This is because the beginning sets everything up, the ending ties everything together, but the middle has to let the story breath. And it takes long breaths. The middle of the story, about ep4-9, has to show Mistuki and Takayuki’s relationship slowly deteriorate. So you get a lot of awkward silences and montages of everyone looking sad. It’s necessary, but also skimmable. The ending, however, really sticks the landing. So much many character arcs come to a head in ep10-14 that I want to talk about, but it would spoil them!! Even sweet, stereotypical Haruka gets to react to her situation in a realistic manner. The show does have it’s faults. The story is a soap opera, and fairly predictable. All the heroines seem to love Takayuki for because it’s anime and “he’s a nice guy.” But I saw how he lived with Mitsuki, and honestly…he seems like a dick. He’s distant, emotionally self-centered, and rather boring. But dammit if the story’s not engrossing. I partly attribute this to the fact that main cast are all in their early 20’s instead of in high school, so the drama can be taken a little more seriously. Although I do admit that the character designs do make everyone look older than they should. Takayuki and Mistuki are suppose to be 20-21, but they look 25. I watched the English dub, which was great, although Takayuki’s performance came off as a but wooden. I do have to mention, however, that I have never heard the phrase “baby” in the romantic sense this much in an anime before. Since Takayuki and Mistuki are adults in a relationship, they tend to sleep together a few times in the show (nothing explicit pervs!), so the phrase comes up. That’s not a bad thing, it just tickled me a little.

Watch it?: If I even did Anime Audio Commentaries, this show would be one of them (4/5)

MVP: Mitsuki

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You can’t help who you love, and that hurts sometimes.

Best Episode: Ep10-14 The Ending Arc (Though I’m not sure how I feel about Mitsuki and Takayuki’s ultimate fate…)

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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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Ai Yori Aoshi Enishi

Type: It means destiny between people

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Summary: Set two years after the events of season 1, Kaoru and his assortment of female friends have seemingly discovered the secret to eternal youth. Despite living through 730 days, not one of them has aged, grown, or even changed their hair style. In fact, the only evidence of this supposed time jump is Kaoru’s status as a “grad student.”  Are these people stuck in some sort of perpetual time lock, forever doomed to 20 something bodies with smooth skin and great health? Or were the character designers just lazy?

Pros: This season of Aoshi is only twelve episodes, and has much less of the melodrama that hooked me the first time. This season is more of a classic harem show. One episode per girl, a beach trip, a spa trip, and even a haunted house trip. A bit more focus in put on Chika, but that’s probably to make for her late entry in the original. A interesting development happens towards the end of the season when Tina’s status as an culturally Japanese American is explored. Tina is native to the US, but spend most of her life in Japan, making her feel out of place in both nations. I kinda wish this had been the through line for the entire season, if just to distinguish more from its predecessor. Also, I might have forgotten this before, but I like the fact that most of the characters here are college age. It makes their occasional beer fest understandable, and it helps move Kaoru and Aoi’s relationship along.

Cons: Since this season was shorter, a lot less attention was given to Kaoru’s relationship with Taeko and the Miyabi. There more or less relegated to background characters in favor of Chika and Tina. And even when they did show up, it was usually as part of the larger group. This season is a lot more haremy than the last one. Some effort is put into trying to make the season about Kaoru worrying about his future, since he is a grad student and all, but nothing really becomes of it. It was also very weird that after two years, not one of the women in the household looked any older. Or any different for that matter. Are you actually trying to tell me that out of about seven people, six of them being young women, two being high school age, not one of them tried a different hair style? Come on.

Watch it?: Totally skippable, except maybe the last three episodes (3/5)

MVP: Tina Foster

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Hey man, culturally Japanese or whatever, you’ll always have a home here in the States.

Best Episode: Ep. 9 White (they totally did it. right?)

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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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Chrono Crusade

Type: Kinda like Fullmetal Alchemist, but not

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Synopsis: The year is 1928, see? The Church of Mary Magdalene fights demons in the mean streets of New York, see? One of their star members is Sister Rosette, see? She wears a highly inappropriate high-cut skirt for a nun and teams up with a devil named Chrono, see? Their looking for Rosette’s brother who was taken by this guy whose basically Satan, see? At some point they also team up with a cute apostle and busty bounty hunter, see? I hope you were reading this in an Edward G. Robinson voice, see?

Pros: This is a very solid action anime. I was particularly partial to the American setting, since I had a reference for the scope of the conflict. When they mentioned Denver, I knew their problems were for real. The version I saw was in English, and I must say, Chrono Crusade had some very stellar voice acting. Sometimes dubs are just phoned in, but you could really tell that the actors where giving it their best. The voice actresses for Rosette and Satella impressed me in particular with their wide range of emotions. The relationship between the eventual foursome of Rosette, Chrono, Satella, and Azmaria was very fun, and the eventual romance between Rosette and Chrono felt earned.This show also had a particularly slimy antagonist in Aion, whose smugness really made you want to punch him.

Cons: Well, you see, that is to say, the thing is….there is nothing particularly wrong with the show. It was honestly a solid manga-based anime. But there was just something missing that kept it from being more memorable. This thing really reminded me of Fullmetal Alchemist, especially with Rosette being such a hot-head, while Chrono was so calm. But I can’t really call Chrono Crusade better. I enjoyed it for what it was, but it didn’t wow me. The anime actually diverges from the manga, so maybe that’s what made it feel vanilla. The ending was also kinda a downer.

Watch it?: A good show with great voice acting. Not a must see, but still entertaining (3/5) 

MVP: Aion

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He’s such a sleeze!

Best Episode: Ep. 11 “Hellhound” & Ep.18 “Photograph” (one’s funny, one’s sweet)

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R.O.D. The TV (Part 2)

Type: Sequel of a OVA, which is a Sequel of a Manga, which is Based of a Light Novel

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Synopsis: Three sisters, Michelle, Maggie, and Anita, are forced to participate in a world wide conspiracy after successfully bodyguarding an “author” that’s only written one book in her entire life. They are joined by Yokimo, a fellow paper user and all around waste of space who everyone seems to be obsessed with for no real reason. Together, the high reliable Paper Sisters and useless Paper Agent have to stop a really, really, really old man from being reborn.

Pros: The second half of R.O.D., or second season for all intends and purposes, is a very contained story that serves as the Finale for the entire R.O.D. franchise. The glue that holds it all together is the antagonist, Joker, and the British Library. The British Library are such bad guys in this! They always seem a step ahead, and they never panic or get angry when the protagonist seem to get the better of them (which rarely happens). You may not sympathize with the antagonists, but you come to respect their ingenuity and efficiency.

Cons: Since this part of the show is meant to tie up lose ends for the R.O.D. franchise, certain elements from previous works are brought into the series. Concepts like I-Jins, The British Library, The Dokusensha, Yokimo Readman, Nancy Makuhari, and the revival of Mr. Gentleman. You won’t feel lost, but you also won’t necessarily care about the specifics. I’m specifically referring to Yokimo and Nancy’s whole deal. The show vaguely refers to their past exploits, and doesn’t do much to make them likable characters. Yokimo is a weak willed and short sighted bookworm, and Nancy is a obsessive woman with co-dependent issues. There presence takes focus away from the Paper Sisters to a degree, almost to the point of making the series their story instead. I really wish their roles had been relegated to a simple cameo.

Watch it?: Despite some unlikable characters, the story as a whole as exciting enough to warrant a watch. (4/5)

MVP: Anita King

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Paper Master

Best Episode: Ep. 20 “Bonjour tristesse” (Anita was right, Yokimo does suck)

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R.O.D. the TV (Part 1)

Type: Paper Sister Detective Agency

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Synopsis: Three sisters, Michelle, Maggie, and Anita, are dirt poor detectives hired to guard an author whose only written one book in her entire career. The three sister are all “Paper Users,” people with the ability to manipulate paper. Believe it or not, this isn’t the craziest part. Nor the fact that these super powered pretty girls are always strapped for cash. The real jump is believing that a person whose only written one book five years ago is considered an “author.” That’s just silly.

Pros: The paper based powers are cool. It’s kinda like the Avatar water, air, and earth bending all rolled into one. The animation really makes the power seem powerful, but at the same time graceful. The same goes for the three leads, the “Paper Sisters.” The sister really shine when on a mission, because you get to seem them use their skills and teamwork first hand. The show demonstrates that these girls are professionals. I would have been perfectly happy if the whole series had just been a series of one-off missions involving the Paper Sisters.

Cons: While the action driven episodes are strong, the rest are hit or miss. The fist half of the show focuses on the Paper Sister’s time with Nenene Suminegara, a temperamental author. I disliked Nenene and found her obnoxious, but the show does a somewhat decent job at explaining why she’s that way, and her relationship with the sisters increases her likability. Thing get really boring when Anita goes to middle school. Because, you know, middle school. The show changes in tone after episode 13, introducing elements from the larger R.O.D. franchise. So you might as well consider the first 13 episodes as a season 1.

Watch it?: Paper Bending is something you must see (4/5)

MVP: Maggie Mui

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I like the big strong silent type

Best Episode: Ep. 12-13 Twilight of Paper (Imagine Mission Impossible, but awesome)

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Popotan

Type: Ghost House (not really)

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Synopsis: Three sisters are stuck travelling through time in a magic mansion. They must do this because it’s their duty to…wait, they never explained that. I think it involved dandelions. You know, come to think of it, the only thing I know for sure is that it got really good halfway through.

Pros: O.K., you have to understand something. This show does not get good until episode 6, but when you hit that mark, boy, are you in for a ride. You see, by episode 6, the show starts exploring the real tragedy of time travel. The girls are forced to meet the friends and loved ones that they left behind. To them, it’s only been a few weeks. To their friends, it’s been decades. That’s a concept I wish more shows explored. The character Mai was especially compelling, because she was the first one to want to escape their assigned fate.

Cons: The really bad part about this show, aside from the animation, is that you have to watch the first half of the show to fully understand the second. The first five episodes are so cliche that you’ll honestly end up wanting to skip them. The tricky thing, however, is that these episodes lay the emotional framework for the second half of the show. For example, the friend that won Mai’s friendship in episode 2 has a daughter that Mai needs to win over in episode 9. If you skipped ahead, you would’t know who the hell this girl is, or why she’s important. The ending also bugged me, because it didn’t really solve anything.

Watch it?: Skim, but don’t skip, every episode up to Ep. 6, then enjoy the ride (3/5)

MVP: Mai

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She called her life’s B.S. way before everyone else

Best Episode: Ep. 6 “I’m Home” (it just gets good on you all of a sudden)

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Fullmetal Alchemist

Type: Pseudo-Science Adventures

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Synopsis: You remember that thing that Harry Potter and his friends where looking for in the first Harry Potter book (or movie for you philistines)? The Philosopher’s Stone? Well, if you replace the Potter crew with two cyborg brothers, magic with super science, Britain with Germany, the Horcruxes with Golems, and Voldemort with girl Voldemort, you get…a 51 episode anime that has very little to do with Harry Potter.

Pros:  My favorite thing about Fullmetal Alchemist is that the central characters were two brothers. Edwards and Alphonse’s central goal is to help each other regain their bodies after a failed alchemy experiment. I loved that Edward, the oldest, always tried to take full responsibility for the accident, even if it sometimes meant ignoring his younger brother’s thoughts. That’s classic Big Brother. I also like the use of alchemy as a super powers. This fictional science of transforming matter made everyone’s specific powers understandable. Why does someone have fire powers? Because they create a spark and amplify it with oxygen. Simple, and somewhat scientific. The show revolves around alchemy, and much of the corruption and conflict in the show derives from it. The show explores the consequences of using knowledge in unethical ways. Humanity’s tainting of alchemy is even given physical and symbolic form through the Homunculi, beings created by alchemy and named after the 7 deadly sins.

Cons: Apparently, this anime version of Fullmetal Alchemist diverges from the original manga about halfway through the show. So, fan of the original work may dislike the show. I personally never notice any dip in quality because of this, and the show does a good job at tying up most of  its elements. This show does get really dark at times, to a very surprising degree. War, murder, experimentation, genocide, its all explored here. There will be times when the show slides into the grotesque. The show ends on a semi-cliff hanger, which is suppose to set up a movie finale for the series. It’s an interesting approach, but also a bit unsatisfying.

Watch it?: In exchange for you time, you’ll get a fun series (4/5)

 MVP: Alex Louis Armstrong

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The Strong Arm Alchemist

Best Episode: Ep. 13 “Fullmetal VS Flame” (training day)

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