Tag Archives: 2005

Black Cat

Type: Tries to fit in waaaay too much

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Synopsis: In the most basic terms, this is an B-level anime about a disgruntled government employee who travels around with a bounty hunter and a teenage girl. But honestly, the “main character” is the most uninteresting part. I was way more enthralled by oddly cute story about a father figure taking his charge for ice cream, fireworks, getting her tones of books, and letting her hunt down criminals by utilizing her super soldier abilities. Maybe my tastes are maturing….

Pros: As stated above, this anime is a really fun B-anime. I’d put it right up there with Outlaw Star and Negima!? There are really 2 main plots that run parallel to each other in the anime. The primary plot is about Train, an ex-government assassin who’s on a quest for revenge against the man who killed a girl he kinda, sorta liked. I mean, they only met for, like, 30 minutes combined, but she was being all manic pixie. Boys like that. Train’s rival starts a revolutionary terrorist, “Apostles of the Star,” who drive the main plot. The other plot involves Eve, an artificial life form who’s powers drive the plot of the last arc. But really, the anime is mostly about 3 people going on wacky adventures with one another. That’s when its at its best. Train’s the wacky one, Sven’s the straight man, and Eve’s the deadpan girl. And sometimes they’re joined by Rinslet, a sly con woman. The three had great chemistry, make a great comedic team, and I honestly could have lived with the entire series just being them going on jobs.

Cons: There is actually a lot wrong with Black Cat. The story is rushed. The original manga was 20 volumes. The show is only 24 episodes. That’s practically a volume per episode. The show tries it’s best to cram in as many characters and villains as it can, but most are forgettable. I mean, yeah, Creed’s obsession with Train was unique, but he’s outfit was just too much to take him seriously. And the Apostles and the Numbers aren’t really given enough time individually to establish themselves as credible threats. This is a rare case where the “read the manga” ending would have been better than the “let’s get as many plot points as we can” ending. You never really get a chance to “know” any of these characters. And the English Dub dips in quality one too many times. Train’s story is ultimately uninteresting, and he’s more of a poster boy than compelling protagonist. Eve’s story isn’t as fleshed out as I would have liked it. And Sven isn’t really given an arc at all. He has a quick flashback and that’s it. I liked Rinslet’s addition, but she usually stayed at arms length most of the time. But the most jarring this about watching this show is that ep1-7 feels very removed from the rest of the show. The first seven episodes are the intro arc, which is way more melodramatic and dark than the rest of the show (the first arc is literally all at night). And Train is way more of a emo anime boy than the happy go lucky guy he is later. I would actually not recommend watching ep1-7 first. I would actually watch these between ep10 and 11, or even until ep20. I think this anime would have been truly great if it’s story had been given more episodes to breath.

Watch it?: For all it’s faults, it’s still a fun ride (4/5)

MVP: Sven

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This is an alternate version of Kenji Harima. This is my headcannon now.

Best Episode: Ep.8 “The Sweeping Cat / A Traveling Cat” (adventure!)

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Gun x Sword

Type: On the verge of greatness

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Synopsis: Gun x Sword is about a guy with a sword. Well, it’s not really a “sword” sword. It’s more of a remote control for his Mecha suit. There is a guy with a gun as well, but he only shows up here and there. The anime really should have been called “Gun x Claw” since the protagonist is hunting a man with a metal claw for a hand, like in The Fugitive. Wait–the other protagonist Wendy carries a gun. Is she the “gun” in “Gun x Sword?” That actually makes way more sense. Holy crap, I can’t believe I just figured that out…

Pros: This anime is a very good anime. Yes, that’s the phrase. “Very good.” The premise is simple enough, it’s about a guy named Van hunting down a man with a claw who killed his bride to be. In the first episode, Van meets a girl named Wendy, whose brother was kidnapped by the same man with the claw. For a third of the series, the two set out in some pretty great episodic adventures and eventually tie together at the end, where everyone they meet come together to help Van and Wendy defeat the man with the claw and his crazy schemes. The anime does a good job of hiding “The Claw,” for a good while, and I really liked his depiction. The Claw presented himself as a soft spoken man, but never took the “I’m actually really evil” turn that a lot of villains do, especially when their plans are thwarted. He’s crazy, sure, but he developed a cult of personality around his crazy. The anime is filled with interesting characters, from the con woman Carmen 99, to the El Dorado Five, the SICKEST heroes this side of the Power Rangers. The anime has interesting and fun stories, great characters, and an overall swell plot. It has all the elements of a great series.

Cons: But, Gun x Sword never quiet reaches that apex of greatness. It’s hard to describe why. It doesn’t have that “It” factor. It’s strange, because it has everyone most fans and cranky critics would love. It has episodic, stand alone episodes. A lot of them are parodies, which I loved. It has a connecting narrative that doesn’t overpower the present story being told. It has fun and memorable characters. And it has villains that, that-oh, that’s the problem. It has weak villains. Outside of “The Claw,” the villainous New Original 7 (it makes sense in the anime) aren’t that interesting. You have two little kids who are annoying, especially the boy. You have a rich dude, I guess, who does nothing and dies later. And you have Wendy’s Brother, who got brainwashed way too easily. Van’s friend, who turned out betrayed him to the Claw, was somewhat interesting, but he could only really die given the story. That leaves Fasalina, the Claw’s right hand woman, whose interesting in her devotion to the plan. But honestly, a large part of her appeal is her unique fighting styles, which mixes stripper moves and sticky substances. I’ve never seen that. The main protagonists aren’t that strong either. Wendy can get away from being bland since she’s the audience surrogate, but Van doesn’t have an excuse. Van doesn’t really have an arc outside of “making friends.” He acts the same in episode 1 as he does in episode 25. His lazy gimmick was interesting, as was his violent outburst when The Claw was involved, but I never felt that I go to know him. I would have liked an episode dedicated to just his life as “Van the Drifter” (and no, the flashbacks don’t count). The show’s real strengths are it’s stand alone episodes, which area littered with great supporting characters. The last chunck, which is all plot related, is great because it brings all the characters together, but the villains bring it a bit down. If I was going to compare my feelings for this anime to anything, I think it’d be to Planetes. Both are anime that are of solid quality, but it just doesn’t reach the levels of other shows of a similar nature.

Watch it: Again, it’s a good show. I liked it. (4/5)

MVP: El Dorodo Five

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Adios Amigo!

Best Episode: Ep.3 “Heroes One More Time” (most of the episodes are good, but this one has five robots turn into a bigger robot!)

 

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Street Fighter Alpha: Generations [Fighting Game Week]

Type: Prequel to a Sequel

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Synopsis: Ok, look, here Ryu’s basic backstory. Ryu was raised by a martial artist named Gouken, whose brother killed their master after succumbing to the “Dark Hado,” or killing intent. When Ryu was around 23, Gouken was killed by his brother. Enraged, Ryu fought the evil Gouki (or Akuma), but lost, as he tapped into the Dark Hado as well. Intrigued, Gouki lets Ryu live so he can grow into a worthier challenger. Ryu, ashamed at his lose and confused about the Dark Hado, goes on a world journey to find other strong fighters and finds his own strength. Eventually, he is able to overcome the Dark Hado through the Power of Nothingness, finally defeating his own weaknesses. This movie, yeah, doesn’t really cover any of that.

Pros: I really liked the animation style used in this. It was a little muted, but the action was perfect. It was able to portray the energy that Street Fighter matches deserve. The story was alright, as the Ryu-Akuma story is probably the most straight forward story in the Street Fighter franchise. Nothing about over the top evil organizations here. Sakura makes an appearance, which was neat. Always fun to have her around.

Cons: While I found it muted, others may find the animation and quieter moments a little dour. And the story is strictly non-cannon. Just take the fact that Ryu wears street clothes as all the evidence you need. The core story remains the same. Gouki killed his master and brother. He wants to fight Ryu. Ryu struggles to control the Dark Hado inside him. But the details are changed. The Dark Hado is now a blood line technique instead of a side effect of training. Ken does not appear until the very end. It’s implied that Gouki is Ryu’s father (which, to be fair, has been a long standing fan theory). Oh, and Ryu beats Gouki. That’s something. Street Fighter fans will probably be annoyed, and normal viewers will probably find this pretty to look at. (And honestly? This is probably the most understandable Street Fighter anime to date).

Watch it?: Completely Optional.

MVP: The Animation

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Damn, they looked good to me.

Best Moment: Sakura vs Ryu (we fight, to find that answer!)

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Naruto the Movie: Legend of the Stone of Gelel [Naruto Movie Month]

tType: So Europe exists?

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Synopsis: Mission 2-Return a Ferret

Cons: So yeah, this movie is predictable. It’s also a bit slow. The movie has high and low moments of action, with the low moments meant to flesh out Temujin. But again, this doesn’t really work. Temujin just comes off as wooden. Separating Naruto from the other ninja just makes his flaws more pronounced. And while the action looked good, I wasn’t all that invested. The addition of the Sand ninja was cool, I guess. They didn’t really do much. For me, the most interesting part was the idea of some sort of European country existing in the Naruto world. Because it once again makes the Naruto world even more convoluted by implying that Europe is also still Feudal, but has steam punk inspired tech. What are the rules of this crazy world!? The use of Knights as villains was also one of the few instances where a bunch of 12 year olds fighting full grown adults didn’t come off as ludicrous. Because the Knights were fighting 12 years old Ninjas. The movie does a good job at showcasing the character’s skills by juxtaposing them with regular people. It’s just too bad it happened in a forgettable film.

Best Naruto Movie?: No

Villain: Master Haido

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Forgettable villain #2

Best Moment: The Sakura cave “fight” (it just looked really smooth)

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Ghost Stories

Type: Yes, that Ghost Stories.

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Synopsis: ADV Films, in a moment of sheer brilliance, decided to take a very basic anime series and give it the ol’ “lets get weird” treatment. The result? 19 episodes of racist, sexist, and homophobic comedy. Enjoy!

Pros: This anime is infamous, infamous, for its English Dub. The story is that Aniplex, who had the license for Ghost Stories, tried desperately to find a distributor. But the Japanese version really, really, really sucked. They finally sold it to ADV Films for cheap, given them permission to do anything with it as long as it sells. Deciding to make Gold out of goat sh#t, ADV Films let its producers and voice actors go nuts. AND THEY DID. Every episode is a joke episode. A hard R comedy. No taboo is left untouched. This is an Abridged Anime series that happens to be licensed. You need to watch this, if just to experience this very abnormal event in North American Anime history.

Cons: I was not being hyperbolic when I described this show. When I say the filter was off, I mean that the filter was off. Every episode has at least one horrible racist, sexist, and/or homophobic remark. One of the characters is described as their “retarded little mascot.” If you’re easily offended by that type of humor, and I would totally understand and praise you if your were, then do not watch this show. If you’re the type of person who loves jokes like the one about the Gay dentist, then your shouldn’t watch the show either, you homophobic f@ck. Don’t enable your ignorance. But for the rest of us, especially long time anime fans, this is a treat.

Watch it?: Oh yeah, the plot is about 5th graders fighting ghosts (4/5)

MVP: Momoko

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“And you remember … Matthew 21 :17”

Best Episode: Just give it 4 minutes (then you decide)

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Shankugan no Shana [Month of Shana]

Type: Burning-Eyed Shana

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Synopsis: A lot of confusing words are used to describe not-demon hunters who hunt down not-demons and not-vampires who eat human not-souls. This story stars a particularly not-developed “Flame Haze,” or not-demon hunter, who meets a recently not-ghosted boy named Yuji. Together, they fight not-monsters, go through puberty together, and sometimes waste their time in boring school with boring people and generally waste all our time.

Pros: So Shakugan no Shana is apparently a HUGE series, spanning multiple seasons. The first season mainly introduces all the characters and sets the foundation of their interactions. The two star performances come from the two stars, Shana the Flame Haze and Yuji. Shana was raised a warrior, but lack many of the social and emotional skills necessary to function in society. She’s not deadpan or quiet, she’s just a little rough with interacting. Sometimes this is funny, like all her bored expressions while at school. It was particularly fascinating how the adults in her life addressed this. Her sorta dad/necklace of power and sorta mom/maid didn’t view this as a problem, but Yuji’s mother/social mentor pointed out that if Shana doesn’t learn how to deal with people as as child, it will be a serious problem as an adult, especially when dealing with men. Then there’s Yuji, who becomes a Torch (basically a ghost), and is our introduction to Shana’s work. He suffers from momentary existential crises. The best part of the show is their interactions with one another. Their relationship is great to watch, in a “First time Boyfriend and Girlfriend” kind a way. So expect a few misunderstandings.

Con: You can tell right away that this show had a budget. I’m not talking about looking different become it comes from the pre-digital era, I’m saying you can notice cuts here and there made to save money. The exception is Shana’s Flame Haze form, which always looked really cool with the added floating ember effect put in. There’s also the matter of the side characters. Other than Yuji, Shana, everyone else was pointless. I simply did not care about Yuji’s school friends. Ike and Kazumi could go F@#$ off for all I care. They are not important. Kazumi does throw a love triangle wrench at Yuji and Shana, but a random new character that goes away after three episodes could have done the same. Then there’s the matter of Margery, Eita, and Keisaku, who I’m pretty sure are just their for filler. They add nothing to the story, and aren’t really related to the overall plot other than Margery being a Flame Haze. For real, they don’t hang out with Yuji or Shana, they have no real history with Yuji or Shana, and aside from going to the same school and I guess sharing the same plane of existence, they are not relevant. That, I feel, is the show’s biggest flaw. It’s 24 episode length meant filling it with a bunch of filler content, such as school events and side fights, that just acted as fodder for the skip button.But if you can, I’d advise looking for the Bonus mini-episodes. They put a very funny spin on some of the cliches.

Watch it?: Skip where you may (3/5)

MVP: Shana’s Outfit

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Burning Red Hair and A Black Trench Coat with the Collar Popped Up. Bad Ass.

Best Episode: Ep. 2 “The Burning Flame” (ironic title)

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Trinity Blood

Type: I was expecting Hellsing, boy, was I disappointed.

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Synopsis: History tells us that after the fall of Rome, the Empire was divided in two. The west evolved into the Holy Roman Empire, while the east evolved into the Byzantine Empire. Both claimed to be the “true” Roman Empire and Head of the Faith, and they was some heated tension between the two for a few hundred years. But what history doesn’t tell us is that both Empires were full of Vampires, Gun-Priests, and Bad Writing.

Pros: I liked the general allusions to real world history. I liked the idea of a Vatican lead Human Empire fighting a Vampire lead Byzantine Empire. The show does a fair job at making the Vampires seem sympathetic, and making the some of the Humans seem aggressive. No side is perfect, and that’s exactly what this type of story needs. Both sides have people who have their own political agenda, and it’s those who want peace that have to work the hardest to achieve their goal. This is especially hard when their a “third power” that tries to play both sides off each other. I even liked the depiction of a weak-willed Pope, because history is riddled with weak Popes who often acted as puppets for cardinals. The socio-political themes of the show are it’s strongest points.

Cons: OK, maybe I just watched a bad copy, but I remember this show being a lot better looking. But now it looks cheap. The animation is not impressive at all. The story is not impressive at all. Certain plot points are glossed over or omitted, certain characters show up and leave, the pacing is all over the place, and the dialogue is embarrassing. Abel’s a pretty cool goofy repentant bad-ass character, unless you count the times where me melodramatically scrams for god to “FORGIVE ME.” And his entire backstory is given the briefest look at the very end of the series. He has brother named Kain (because of course he does), a sister named Lilith, another sister named Seth, and is some sort of super vampire from Mars. There, now you know. Ester started off strong, as a would-be assassin, but she just turns into a scream queen when her story arc is over. Their are several priests that are introduce, but nothing is really done with them once their intro episode is completed. The show generally has 2-3 episode arcs. And their is an excruciating middle arc involving this whiny little brat named Ion. SCREW ION. The show also alludes to some sort of big-war that resulted in the regression in history and birth of vampires (or “methuselah”), but the show never once explains it. Not even as a two minute thing at the start of the series! You have to gather it through osmosis. This anime is a blatant “you like the anime? Then you’d better read the light novels!” kind of deal. Luckily for me, I don’t have to do neither.

Watch it?: No. no. skip. skip. (3/5)

MVP: Ester

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She’s apparently funner in the manga

Best Episode: Ep.3 “The Star of Sorrow I. City of Blood”  (Ester appears)

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King of Fighters: Another Day

Type: Are you O-K?

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Synopsis: Back in the 90’s, there was a momentary fighting game boom thanks to the popularity of Street Fighter 2. One of the most well-made challengers was the King of Fighters series, which was really a combination of other less successful games released by the company SNK. The anime itself tries to highlight some of the most popular characters, to varying degrees.
Pros: I truly believe that out of all types of games, Fighting games are the most anime friendly (with RPGs coming an immediate second). After all, fighting games are just two well dressed people with short back stories fighting each other. This anime has some of that. We see May, and Terry, and Geese’s kid show up and fight a little. If each episode weren’t so short, I could imagine this being a regular anime.
Cons: While I believe fighters and anime work well together, it’s usually only the animes that are turned into fighters. For some reason, the reverse almost never works out. Maybe it’s because fighters have too many characters, and most central plots are dumb (let’s be real, Shadoloo is dumb). In KOF’s case, the anime will only appeal to hardcore KOF fans, because I had no idea who 99% of these people were. The story is nowhere, consisting mostly of character interactions, which again, only matters if you understand who they are to one another. Even then, the events are weak.
Watch it?: Even KOF fans will complain (2/5) 
MPV: Terry Bogart
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Hey, get serious!
Best episode: too short to remember
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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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