Tag Archives: 2007

Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit

Type: Really, Really, Really Good

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Synopsis: In the ancient land of…Japan? China? Korea?…In the ancient land of South East Fantasy Asia, a female spear wielder is tasked with protecting a young Prince whose been ordered to die due to being possessed by an evil spirit. The bodyguard must now act as guardian and care giver to the young Prince, while also being a generally all around bad-ass.

Pros: This anime is really, really, really good. After watching it for an hour, I immediately looked to see if there was a second season. No such luck, but I did learn that the anime is based on a Japanese fantasy novel series. Amazon here I come. Being based on a novels makes a lot of sense, because the anime’s story is allowed to breath more than your standard action-drama. You can usually guess the story source based on the pacing. Manga anime are typically fast paced. Light-Novel anime are brisk. Visual novel anime have slow start but quickly ramp up. And video game anime are a mess, just a complete mess. But getting back to Moribito, the anime does great job mixing realism with fantasy, almost to the levels of a Miyazaki project. All the characters felt real, and the pre-industrial Japanese-esque setting made their daily lives and struggles come off as more relatable. Their are very few stories in fiction that are confident enough to allow their characters to be the story, not just be part of the story. I found myself being equally entertained by the well done action scenes, to the quieter personal scenes. The protagonist Balsa could be fighting 7 men at once, or explaining how money works, and I’d be enjoying it either way. On the topic of Balsa, can I say how refreshing it was to have a grown-up as the main character in an anime? A single Female grown up at that? One of the first things Balsa says in the series is that she’s almost 30 years old. She is a fully established character by the time we the audience meet her. She’s at the tale end of resolving her personal mission when Chagum the Prince is introduced. Her relationship with Chagum is very well handled, as her duty to look after him evolves into maternal love organically on both ends. I would love giving the anime the series of analytic essays it deserves, but these are meant to be quick. I just say that like all great stories, this anime is filled with notable moments that you can pick out and say: “Remember the fight on the mountain ledge? Or the Gambling scene? Or the attack in the rice patties? Or Chagum’s first fight? Or the visit to the blacksmith? Or Tada’s trip to the spirit world? Or, etc, etc…

Cons: There’s not more of it? That it ended? That it took me this long to get to it? That you’ll want to pay attention? That I’m pretty sure The Legend of Korra might have taking large character points from it? I mean, come on, there are soo may ways this could have gone south. Chagum could have been a whiny rich brat. Balsa, a strong female warrior, could have been given the HBO treatment. A hacky conspiracy plot could have been added. A villain could have been added, Balsa could have been given the “forget being a warrior and be a woman” troupe! But thankfully, not of that happened. Balsa is never objectified, and her being a warrior is treated more as part of who she is rather than some tragic fate. Chagum never acts arrogantly. And the major conflict come more from trying to stop a force of nature than one character trying to gain something. Even the King, the guy who ordered his youngest son dead, did so under the idea that it would protect his nation (and he was totally feeling bad about it). Maybe, maybe the idea of Balsa and Chagum having parallel stories of being protected by someone at a young age is a big too convenient, but that’s just a personal opinion. Overall, this is an anime that anyone can watch and enjoy.

Watch it?: This is why watching anime is the best! (5/5)

MVP: Balsa

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I’m now a fan of the short spear

Best Episode: Ep.3 “Fight to the Death” (I’ll with excitement, but honestly, the entire thing is great)

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Naruto Shippuden the Movie [Naruto Movie Month]

Type: Everyone’s hit puberty!

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Synopsis: Mission 4- Bodyguard a Priestess

Pros: Obviously, the big thing about this movie is that it’s the first that takes place in Part 2, or the Shippuden saga of Naruto. Fun fact, I think Shippuden means Hurricane Chronicles (I think). Anyway, my favorite part of the film has always been the beginning, which shows Naruto’s funeral after a failed mission. While we all know Naruto isn’t going to die, its a nice reminder of what he means to the other characters. By this point, Naruto is no longer the loud loner, he’s a friend to many. The movie follows Naruto, Sakura, Neji, and everyone’s favorite, Rock Lee. Lee has the best fight in the movie, though he and Neji’s roles aren’t all that important in the end. Neither is Sakura’s. The new movie character in this is a teenage Priestess named Shion, Shion’s alright, a but snooby, but alright. Her relationship with Naruto was a bit interesting, implying that he may be what would consider “cute.” More research is needed.

Cons: I mean, the prophesied death of Naruto is a fake out. Everyone outside of Naruto is just there to fill out a team. The bad guy isn’t memorable, proven by the fact that I can’t actually recall his name of motivation. The story felt a bit rushed, but in fairness, the whole plot was about getting Shion to her destination as fast as possible. I also found it weird that at the end, Shion wasn’t really needed to defeat the big bad at then end, despite that being her primary role and reason for existence. But I guess even she is not match of Naruto the all powerful protagonist.

Top 5 Naruto Movie?: Yes

Villain: Moryo

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Forgettable Villain #4

Best Moment: Shion blushing a Naruto’s glistening hair (Honorable mention at the end where Shion asks Naruto to father her children)

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Baccano!

Type: You could spend hours talking about this

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Synopsis: Dateline, Anime America. With Immortal toughs running amok, the passengers of the luxurious Flying Pussyfoot find themselves in quiet the pickle! Who will come out on top? The cry baby crime boss? The evening gowned assassin? The murder happy lunatic? Or America’s answer to Bonny and Clyde!? Be sure not the miss the next installment of- “Better than Durarara in every possible way!” [please read in 1930’s accent]

Pros: Ha! Just kidding. Kinda. But you could see why I made the comparison. Baccanno! and Durarara!! are both anime with huge ensemble casts and loosely linked story lines. The comparison is easy to make, and has most likely inspired some not-so-friendly debates from fans of both shows. Baccanno! takes place during Depression Era America, which is a pretty awesome setting for an anime. A large majority of the cast are 30’s mafia member, and the English cast did a fantastic job capturing tone and sound of the era. Every episode tends to skip around time frames and characters, with the first episodes actually starting at the end of the main story. The most common setting is the Flying Pussyfoot, a train caught in the middle of a gang war. Baccanno!’s other gimmick, and a pretty clever at that considering America’s history with prohibition, is the existence of an elixir of life, which make a few of the characters immortal. You learn whose immortal, or at least who survives, in the first episode. The fun come in finding out how they managed it in a story full of suspense, action, humor, and, dare I say, heart?

Cons: Because the show has such a large cast and skips around time lines, it’s sometimes hard to keep track of everything. This may make the first few episode a bit difficult to follow. It’s helpful that the show’s opening names each important character, as well as offering a brief summary of the important events so far. The show veers on being excessively violent at times, though this sometimes helps emphasize setting of the gangster filled America 30’s. I also found the main villain of the elixir plot generically evil. Oh! And don’t forget that even though some streaming sites may list this as a 16 episode show, it’s actually only 13. The other 3 were DVD only episodes that serve more as an epilogue/OVA, but are ultimately skippable.

Watch it?: Only if you’re not a big Palooka (5/5)

MVP: Miria and Isaac

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Just, just Fantastic. Absolutely fantastic.

Best Episode: Honestly, the more I think about it, the more I end up liking the entire series as a whole (but, maybe Ep.7 for subplot purposes).

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Shakugan no Shana-tan [Month of Shana]

Type: Chibi Shana

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Synopsis: Reviewing this instead of Shakigan no Shana S, because CHIBI!!!!

Pros: Shana-tan is basically all the criticisms of the Shakigan no Shana series condensed into 5 minute shorts. These little segments make very self-referencial jokes at it’s own expense, noting the flaws of the parent series. The most obvious example is Shana, who is depicted as an immature chibi character. Another is Kazumi, how here is a two-face character whose actually very snarky in private (a major upgrade in my opinion). Comments are also made about the show’s lackluster supporting cast and confusing terminology. While I personally wise this was the main show instead, I know that’s just a pipe dream and enjoy what I got.

Cons: Aside from this not being the main series, it does have one major flaw. In order for you to enjoy Shana-tan, you will have had to have sat through Shakugan no Shana proper. You will not get the majority of the jokes otherwise. They may also be DVD exclusive, but that’s what the internet is for. (P.S. For those curious, Shakugan no Shana S is an OVA series, 4 episodes, one involves body switching, and the last two are a prequel adventure starring Shana).

Watch it!?: Again, I wish this was the main series (4/5)

MVP: Kazumi

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She went from one of my least favorite characters, to my most favorite

Best Episode: The Entire Series (their, like, 5 minutes each)

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Shakugan no Shana Second [Month of Shana]

Type: The struggle is real

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Synopsis: New season, new animation, same boring supporting characters. Yuji gets to become less worthless. Margery gets a bit of backstory. Shana stays, well, she’s still Shana. Burning eyes and all. She should really get that checked out.

Pros: So this season is more or less a continuation of last season. It’s more plot focus this time around. The first season was mainly focused on introducing and developing character relationships, while this season is more focused on introducing story specific revelations. For example, Yuji gets a power up because of the thing inside his chest, which is revealed to have been created by an ancient couple for smooching purposes. He also has “silver flames,” which ties him into Margery’s backstory and finally gives her character an excuse to stick around. Even though the anime still fluffs about with some filler episodes, fans of the show’s world building will like this season. And the anime got a major upgrade.

Cons: I am getting progressively angrier at this series. It’s starting to become a problem. I simply do not care enough about the supporting characters or main villains. How gives a F#$$ about Margery has her boy crew? Because I do not. WHY ARE THEY HERE???? It feel that the show creators just wanted a busty blonde around. Truthfully, if they had their own side series, I’d be fine, but their inclusion in these series really ticks me off. They take time away from Shana and Yuiji, who are all I really care about. Although, turning Yuji from just a random guy into a psudo chosen one is pushing it. And I kind miss Shana’s animosity with Kazumi. In this season, they become friendly rivals and compete over Yuji. It was all very early high school. The first arc is also predictable, and the last arc was unnecessary. It should have finished with the fight with the super assassin.

Watch it?: Slightly more good than bad (3/5)

MVP: Wilhelmina

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She takes on a super assassin by herself, while injured, and protecting someone. Badass.

Best Episode: Ep. 20 “The Scarlet Death Struggle” (uphill battle)

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Elemental Gelade

Type: Why won’t anyone let these crazy kids be together!?

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Synopsis: A young sky pirate-in-training one day accidentally stumbles upon a legendary “Eldel Raid,” a specifically female race (because anime) that can transform into weapons. They’re mostly an exploited race (because patriarchy), and everyone really wants to exploit this super rare girl for their own purposes. In hindsight, they could have just asked her to join their side instead of trying to force her. It wouldn’t have been difficult. She barely woke up from years of sleep, so she was probably super impressionable. Ew, that sounded kinda gross. Double ew, pointing out how gross it was only made it more gross.

Pros: This is either a super good average anime, or an average super good anime. The animation is right at the middle, and the story is fairly predictable. But for the life of me, I couldn’t help but get invested in the story. Maybe the slight repetitiveness of key plot points did it. In almost every episode, Ren is nearly kidnapped, or Elder Raid is abused, or Cou bonds with Ren more. The constant hammering of the Elder Raid plight as second class citizens and the various situations that could manifest as also helped. Or maybe I just had a light-hearted adventure ich that needed scratching. Whatever the case, I found myself really rooting for Cou and Ren’s relationship to thrive, and was a little anxious when a potential problem occurred (like Ren nearly being kidnapped a lot). The show’s also pretty funny in that older anime style, with gags and off-comment ribbing that’s really been lost in recent years.

Cons: I watched this in a huge chunk, so my own opinions could have a bit of bias. The anime is very bye the books, meaning that if you have a good-ish handle on manga stories, you’ll know what will happen. As mentioned above, the animation is nothing to write home about, and neither is the action. And while the story does its best for explore the different relationships between humans and Elder Raids, from abusive partners to separated lovers, some of the story arcs drag on a bit. The last arc, for example, was six episodes. The show also never explained what where the Elder Raid come from, why they were only women, or why they can live for so long.

Watch it?: The last line was, “I wonder if we can breathe up there?” (4/5)

MVP: Cisqua

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Funny and based on a Darkstaker’s character

Best Episode: Ep. 8 “The Edel Hunter” (added depth to the story)

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Inumaki! The Movie

Type: 30 minutes

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Synopsis: So its been a while, but from what I can remember, this pervert wanted a harem like his cousin, so he made a deal with a fox spirit. The spirit tricked him into being her servant instead. Blah, blah, blah, we skip to a half-hour “movie” where perverts are being rounded up. That’s honestly about it.

Pros: It’s only half and hour. It’s more of an ova than movie. There’s this one scene where all the girls strip down to their underwear. Everyone seems a lot cooler with one another, and at the end two naked men hug on a bridge.

Cons: A movie isn’t thirty minutes. TV really has to understand that “movies” should be at least 80 minutes or higher. Here’s the story: Karina is dead. Keita thinks its something bigger. All the perverts are being rounded up. A giant robot appears. Karina come back from the dead. The end. It’s still Inukami, and Inukami is Inukami. 

Watch it?: Maybe. I mean, yeah?

MVP: Karina-san

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Him being dead was delightful

Best Moment: Naked Karina and Keita hugging (friendship is a beautiful thing)

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Romeo X Juliet

Type: Juliet X Romeo

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Synopsis: Two households, both alike in dignity until one destroyed the other some 16 years before, In fair Neo-Verona, where we lay our scene. From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, only this time its really the Montague’s fault. From forth the fatal loins of these two foes, A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life. Well actually, a crazy magic tree takes their lives, but that would be telling.

Pros:  I’ve said it before, but I love when anime reinterprets well known stories, particularly western stories. So what did they do different with Rome and Juliet? For starters, House Capulet was nearly destroyed by House Montague years before the show. The story actually revolves around Juliet, the last surviving Capulet, and her quest to restore her House and overthrow the tyrannical Prince Montague. As such, we get a lot of stories showcasing the cruelty the citizens of Neo-Verona suffer from Montague and the Noble Class. The best part is that Juliet isn’t just some lost princess. She actually established herself as a Zorro type character who defended the citizenry from oppression well before she learned she was a Capulet. A lot of the story is actually told from Juliet’s perspective, and we get to see her struggle not only with the pressure of reviving her House and the realities of leading a revolution, but also with falling in love with Romeo. Juliet’s personal journey is the core of the show, and ultimately why it succeeds. (p.s. You should also watched this in English, since they actually throw in some actual lines from the play in it).

Cons: I feel that Romeo character was underwritten. Unlike Juliet, Romeo doesn’t really go through a personal journey. He’s more or less that same character from the first to last episode. Fans of the original play may not like some of the character changes. I personally was irked by the personalities of Mercutio and Tybalt. In the anime, Tybalt is this cool and collected character, the opposite in the play, and Mercutio is a conniving power seeker instead of Romeo’s best friend. He doesn’t even die in the end, so we miss his calling out both Houses on their bullshit. I would also argue that Prince Montague should have hated all nobles, not just the Capulets. After learning his backstory, you can’t help but feel he was missing the forest for the trees. Finally, the ending was needlessly complicated. It does the cliche “hidden boss” troupe, where the real antagonist was some mystical being or whatever. This reeked of being an out to kill Romeo and Juliet at the end. Also, not an actual tragedy. In fact, the only tragic figure may be Prince Montague.

Watch it: The only time I actually liked Romeo and Juliet (4/5)

MVP: Juliet

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Hell, even I’d follow her

Best Episode: Ep. 17 “Cruel Tyrant: Darkness, the Origin” (man, do Nobles suck)

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Zombie Loan

Type: Non-interest bearing loan

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Synopsis: Well it finally happened, pretty boy zombies are walking the Earth. I knew Warm Bodies was a harbinger of things to come. Or is it the other way around? Any who, a girl with glasses can see the dead and become the indentured servant of two undead zombie hunters who survive through borrowed time. Because debt follows you everywhere, even beyond the grave…

Pros: The character interactions of Zombie Loan were really top notch, and most definitely the highlight of the show. The lead Michiru, Akastuki, and Shito played off each other very well. They made Zombie Hunting seem fun. Their banter during non-action scenes was sorta like if Ghost Busters had starred anime people instead of comedians (Big ups to Harold Ramis).  The heavy shadows and lanky body artstyle also fit very well with the macabre story elements.

Cons: The action is not great and the story plot is uninteresting. The show was building towards a conflict between Zombie Loan and various organizations, which doesn’t really pay off because the show only had one season. You can obviously tell that this was based on a manga. Some things are overly complicated, like Shito’s backstory. I just couldn’t get into the actual plot scenes as much as the throwaway character scenes. If you’r not too worried about being a bit lost, I’d say skip around a little to get to the talky bits. They’re usually the best parts.

Watch it?: There are hints of greatness, but overall its pretty average (3/5)

MVP: Michiru Kita

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She’s the viewers’s eyes (get it?)

Best Episode: Ep. 3 “Dead Man’s Tongue” (It got the story going)

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Afro Samurai

Type: Mace “Motherfuckin'” Windu

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Synopsis: In a nutshell, everyone wants to be the #1 badass, but only the #2 badsass can challenge him or her, but everyone else is allowed to challenged #2. This is all symbolized with headbands, because of course it is. The current holder of the #2 Headband is the “Afro Samurai,” a nameless warrior hell bent on killing the owner of the #1 headband, who just happens to have killed his father. Now, all this pales in comparison to the fact that Samuel L. Jackson does the voices for Afro. That’s right, fuckin’ Nick Fury is in an anime!

Pros: The anime is very visually stylized, in that “let’s trade series length for the animation budget” kinda way. The hip-hop soundtrack was great, and helps this anime appeal to western audiences. The action is of course top notch, and the real strength of the show. The story, on the other hand, is a simple revenge story, though the #1 and #2 headband system was very intriguing. Short but sweet, anyone looking for a action packed samurai tale should really look up Afro Samurai.

Cons: Again, the actual story is kinda weak, and goes by very fast. We’re really only catching the tail end of Afro’s journey for revenge. I know not everyone likes them, but I feel one or two more flashbacks into Afro’s past would have rounded out the character more. Then again, maybe his silence says it all.

Watch it?: Did I mention it had Sam Jackson in it, with a soundtrack from RZA and The Wu-Tang Clan? (5/5) 

MVP: Ninja Ninja

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This would not have worked without Ninja Ninja

Best Episode: Ep. 3 The Empty Seven Clan (Mecha-Afro!)

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