Tag Archives: Manga

Sebagebu

Type: Survival Game Club

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Synopsis: In a world not unlike our own, young women must fight for their lives in the cruel world they were born into. Momoka Sonokawa has little to rely on, other than her shooting skills and sharp instincts, in an school club where she must weigh survival against love. The love of not doing anything, money, and her general self interest.

Pros: The gimmick of this comedy is that the characters each have guns. This leads to every scenario and skit to eventually devolve into a shoot out. It can be something as official as a shooting competition, or something as trivial as who get to sit in the new fancy chair. Why do these high schoolers have guns? Because the premise of the show revolves around a “Survival Game Club,” in which members pretend to kill each other with airguns. The show, however, depicts these battles as bloody because it’s all in their “imaginations.” The show’s great. It’s hilarious. It’s full of references (flippin’ Predator shows up), and has what TV Troupes defines as “comedic sociopathy.” Meaning that the jokes often end with one extra nasty or mean action. For example, a character could jump out for hug and get hit instead. Classic joke. But in shows like Sebagebu!, the character then lands on the edge of a chair and gets their head cracked open, bleeding out on the floor while the other characters continue the conversation. It’s an extra but of spice that sets this show apart. Of course, the medium for best jokes comes from the main character, Momoka, who skirts the protagonist curse of blandness by basically being a selfish sociopath. She’s shot every member of the club in the back at least once. She’s hilarious.

Cons: The opening does not fit the tone of the show. When I first saw it, I thought I was going to have to lug my way through some NRA nut’s wet dream. Then there’s the “transformation sequences” for lack of a better term, then the girl’s each take out their guns. This doesn’t really work for the absurdist tone of the show and always felt our of place when it occurred. I got the feeling that these sequences where added when the show was running low on time. I should also point out the first half of episode 9 is a real snooze fest. Any scene without either the entire group or guns doesn’t work. Momoka’s solo adventures with her Otoku fan boy Lemon (the only consistent male presence, as the club is in an all girl’s school) works because she often resorts to shooting him. But luckily, ep9 was an isolated incident. The rest was gold.

Watch it: I hate guns, but I do love this (4/5)

MVP: Momoka

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There are multiples times when she tries to commit fraud to get rich!

Best Episode: Ep5. “Ascension!? Silent Survival / The Unkillable Twin Tail / Crusade – Raganarok of Angels and Demons” (I also recommend the Yakuza riff in ep6)

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The Circumstances in My Home’s Bathtub

Type: or “Orechi no Furo Jiro”

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Synopsis: A young man invites a merman to live in his bathtub, and hilarity ensues.

Pros: This anime is very short. It’s one of those 3-minute episode deals. The appeal is having very cute boys be cute to one another in comedic fashion. Wakasa, the merman, is the source of comedy, being the child like blonde one in the show. His ignorance of the surface world will lead to things like using too much hot water, or learning not to eat too much expensive food, etc. He also has a myriad of equally cute male friends who are also various aquatic life forms that come over from time to time. Though, I also find it funny that Tatsumi, the human, is vaguely designed like a cat and brought a bunch of fish home. It has the save vibe as shows like Hetalia, only located entirely in a washroom.

Cons: There’s a little sister character that is in romatic love with her brother. Not a fan. The intro does not match the tone of the show at all, suffering from the same thing the Free intro did. Apart from that, its a great little anime.

Watch it?: It’s so short, why not? (4/5)

MVP: Wakasa

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Ariel eat your heart out

Best Episode: Short anime rule (so all of them)

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Black Butler

Type: So many historical inaccurate

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Synopsis: The Earl of Phantonhive, also known as the Duke of Short Pants, also know as Lord Protector of Boys Love, has a problem. He’s alive, and so are the people the killed his mother as father. The problem is, he would like them to not be alive anymore. You see the dilemma here. Now, he can’t simply use his vast, vast, vast fortune, connection to the Queen of England, and his own notable genius to find these people. Instead, he sold his Soul to a demon butler to get his revenge. Even though the Demon Butler can’t leave his side. Or do anything without a direct order. And was possibly responsible for the Plauge. But kids, am I right?

Pros: The anime’s strongest asset is its characters. Black Butler has a set of amazing characters, from the haughty Ciel, the always debonair Sebastian, and the comedic servants. They are quiet versatile, working in comedic and serious moments. The anime is mostly made us of “cases.” As the Earl of Phantomhive, Ciel is the “guard dog” for the British Crown, often sent to various locations to root out corruption and wrong doing. Ciel is portrayed as a very good tactician. His family’s fortune lies in sweets and games, which allude to Ciel’s talent for manipulation and his young age and temperment. Sebastian often accompanies him as his highly skilled butler, sometimes comedically so, and he’s always used as the Mcguffin that saves the day. Then there’s the comedic servants: a pyromaniac cook, a cooky maid, and a jolly groundskeeper, how as indispensable as the comic relief (since the show can get dark on you). Like I said, it’s a solid group.

Cons: The anime’s story is kinda bland. It starts off strong enough, but loses it’s luster as it goes. The whole angel subplot was weak. And there was this one dog episode, Ep.7, that felt out of nowhere. I don’t wanna see dog fights. I’ll get that fix from Pokemon, thank you very much. I also felt that the story jumped the shark too quickly on the Jack the Ripper case. From my research (Wikipedia), it seems that the anime veers off from it’s manga counterpart around halfway through. For my money, Ep.7, ep17-20, and ep.22-24 are the worst story arcs of the bunch. Ep.21 stands out because it gives use the origin of the servants, which was fun. The any does delve into some darkish territory, in a psudo Victorian horror kinda a way. Your enjoyment kinda depends on your tolerance for bloody mysteries and arrogant protagonists. Oh, and your feelings on implied romance between a teenage (?) boy and his handsome adult butler.

Watch it: Pick and choose episodes (4/5)

MVP: The Servants

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My favorite characters

Best Episode: Ep.1 “His Butler, Able” (Comedic Downton Abbey)

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Your Lie In April

Type: Oh man, get ready for the emotions!

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Synopsis: Love means never having to say your sorry. Wait! Wrong thing. Also, a very bad saying. If your in love, then you should never be afraid to say your sorry. Like, “sorry I got home late without calling,” or “sorry I ate the last pizza slice,” or “sorry that your life dedicated to music has brought you nothing but pain and misery, but hey, at least the blonde one likes you.” Feeling safe enough in your relationship to apologize sincerely is the sign of good communication and a healthy couple.

Pros: In complete honesty, I have been avoiding Your Lie in April for a while. Because its a anime famous for making its audience cry, and I don’t like crying. My eyes get red, I start losing precious liquids, certain existential questions start popping up, its a whole thing. But I finally decided to bite the bullet and give it a try. Surprisingly, the anime has a lot more humor than I though it would, and never veers into drab and dreary territory. It’s more of a happy tragedy. Sad stuff happens, but the message is ultimately about moving forward. I didn’t actually end up crying, but most probably will. The story is about a former pianist named Kosei Arima, and how his life changes upon meeting a free spirited violinist named Kaori. A lot of the plot involves getting Kosei to play the piano again by getting him to overcome the psychological trauma he endured by the life and death of his mother. While most shows would deal with this in two-three episodes, this anime makes it the central story for half the series, which I appreciated. There are actually four subplots in the series. Kosei’s grief is one of them. The other is Tsubaki’s crush on Kosei. And while there is a love triangle between Kosei, Kaori, and Tsubaki, it’s never overdone. Tsubaki never jealously confront Kaori, and in fact goes out with someone else for a while. Imagine that, anime characters trying not obsessing over one person and actually dating around. Huh. The next subplot involves Kosei’s rivals, but they really only reinforce Kosei’s story than anything else. And the final subplot, and main story for the latter half of the series, involves Kaori. Every story in every episode had a weight, like it meant something. Oh, and the music is obviously fantastic. I’m no classical music expert, but I do love the piano and violin, and I loved what I heard.

Cons: This thing is very predictable. By the first episode, you know exactly what’s going to happen. You can tell just by the character troupes. Kosei is the sullen protagonist, Tsubaki is the energetic childhood friend, and Kaori is the manic pixie girl sent to fix all of Kosei’s with her wacky personality. The only character that subverts expectations is Watari, as the surprisingly wise best friend, and he gets the least screen time than anyone. Which is why I don’t really consider the Kosei-Kaori-Watari love triangle a thing. It was mostly in Kosei’s head. The love triangles in this are very courteous. I would say that the character are even a little too considerate of each other’s feelings for one another. Kosei doesn’t want to interfere with Kaori-Watari, Kaori doesn’t want to interfere with Tsunaki-Kosei, and Wateri doesn’t want to interfere with Kaori-Kosei. Which works very well in this story, but don’t go looking for dramatic love confessions. Except for Tsunaki, whose whole story arc is dealing with her love for Kosei. Notably, Tsubaki is also the only non-musician with narration (which doesn’t always translate well). And Kosei’s inner monologues about Kaori do straddle the line between poetic and silly from time to time (“your existence means freedom,” what!?). Speaking of Kosei, man, his mom was a pretty shit mom. I know she was dying or whatever, but damn, I can’t help but feel happy that Saki’s dead. In fact, if I could change one thing about this story, I would dial back on the portrayal of Saki’s abuse of Kosei. At least, the physical abuse. I feel that having her be a emotionally strict mother was enough to get the point across, but having her beat Kosei regularly makes it impossible to sympathize with her. On that note, Saki’s motivation for giving Kosei years of therapy bills was to make sure that Kosei was able to look after himself, but Kosei does have a father. A father that’s never home and allows his wife to beat their child, but a father none the less. Its not like he was going to be orphaned or living on the street. I guess her life was pretty pointless. Oh well! Aside from that, I would actually keep all my criticisms as is. Which is a weird thing to say, but I feel that the anime is almost perfectly balanced, and changing anything else would ruin it.

Watch it: A bit troupy here and there, but damn, it’s good (5/5)

MVP: Tsubaki

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Why do the childhood friends always have to do the heavy lifting?

Best Episode: Ep.13 Love Sorrows (I don’t feel sorry for Saki, but it was important that Kosei forgave her)

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Cyborg 009 VS Devilman (OVA)

Type: Dawn of Trends

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Synopsis: I was rooting for Devil Man.

Pros: Cyborg 007 vs Devilman follows the classic superhero vs superhero story points. The two heroes fight one another because of a misunderstanding, it turns out there’s a bigger threat, they work together, hugs and kisses and goodnight. The plot is more Cyborg 009 heavy. After the fight with the Olympian styled cyborgs, the Cyborg 1-9 are alerted to the dangers of a “demons,” run into newer cyborgs, and then have to fight cyborg/demon hybrids. The Cyborg side of the story is more proactive, giving them more presence in the story. On the other side, we have Devilman, who sorta just reacts to the plot. His involvement doesn’t become justified until the halfway through, when his girlfriend(?) is kidnapped to get his devil genes, or something. The crux of the story relies on the fact that both sides find the others existence possible. Having fought god themed cyborgs, Demon Cyborgs aren’t too crazy, and Devilman will mostly fight anything. I actually really found myself liking the Devilman aspects of the show. In a way, it completed its mission of making me curious about one of the franchises. As crossovers go, mushing these two seemingly antithetical franchises made in the 1970’s together worked surprisingly well.

Cons: I’m going to put this out there: I am not a fan of Cyborg 009. And it is for the pettiest reasons. Back in the day, Toonami replaced Rorouni Kenshin with Cyborg 009 on their 6pm slot, moving Kenshin to Saturday Nights. This occurred before the resolution of the Kyoto Arc, meaning I had to stay up late to watch Kenshin, which was now once a week instead of every day. As you can imagine, child-me did not appreciate this. And even since, I’ve been very bitter towards Cyborg 009 (even though I know that it was probably some dumb program managers fault). So naturally I found myself rooting for Devilman in this and resenting the plot heavy Cyborg 009 elements. That being said, this mini-series is very cannon plot heavy. It seems to occur after a big arc for Cyborg 009 and an early arc for Devilman. This was clearly done for the benefit of long time fans, because new viewers will feel lost and confused. In fact, I’d hazard to say that this film is meant to be a cannon occurance instead of a stand alone adventure. Did this make me a fan of Cyborg 009? No. It’s still not for me, and I still find Cyborg 009 and 002’s power redundant (if they both and super speed, we keep both?).

Watch it?: Now I wanna read Devilman (4/5)

MVP: Devilman

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I just think he stands the test of time better

Best Episode: Ep.1 Cyborg 009 vs Devilman (hero fights!)

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First of the North Star (1986)

Type: You’re already dead

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Synopsis: You blew it up! Damn you! Damn you straight to hel…wait a minute, did that man just blow up another mans head? Huh, did that other man just cut those people in half with his fingers? Wha-is that man’s horse eminating some sort of terrible yet noble aura? Maybe this apocalypse won’t be so bad…

Pros: The First of the North Star movie is based on the Fist of the North Star manga, a very seminal and very bloody manga from the 80’s that influenced a bunch of stuff, most notably Berserk. The story is basically a Martial Arts drama set in a Mad Max world. In fact, if Mad Mas is what’s happening is Australia, then Fist of the North Star is probably happening in Japan. The star of our tale is Kenshiro, the current master of Hokuto Shinken, a pressure point fighting style. Kenshiro’s fiance is kidnapped and Ken is left for dead, only to wake up a few years later to look for her. What follows is Ken going from town to town, helping the survivors of humanity along the way. And by helping, I mean using Hokuto Shinken to make bandit heads blow up real nice. This is a very bloody movie, so much so that the animators actually had a few joke decapitations here and there. The film does capture the spirit of the source material, even if it takes some liberties with story points like Roah showing up way too early). Overall, pretty good.

Cons: It’s not that the animation is old, it’s that some of the special effects used in the movie did not age well. The English Dub could be hit of miss for some people. I found it charming, but purist may not be able to deal with it. And his is very gory. If your not a fan of that, then you won’t be a fan of this.

Watch it?: If you’ve never been exposed to Fist of the North Star, this is a good first look

MVP: Kenshiro’s Beard

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It kills you with its manliness

Best Moment: Kenshiro’s revival (what is he, a monster!?)

 

 

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The Seven Deadly Sins

Type: “A Netflix Original”

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Synopsis: Giant! Fairies! Fan service! This is a tale set in a time before the worlds of human and magic were rend asunder, when Netflix was trying to get into the anime business. Crappy for normals trying to watch anime dubs in one convenient place (cough Funimation cough), but great for corporate petiness. That is the greatest sin!

Pros: Now this is an adventure anime! None of that unwanted preachy message that bogs down some other anime whose name shall not be mentioned (its Magi guys, I’m complaining about Magi). In this charmingly funny anime, a princess is on the run from Holy Knights that have taken over her Kingdom. Her only hope is to find the 7 Deadly Sins. Now, this isn’t a tale of a young woman’s spiral into hedonism (sorry pervs). The title “7 Deadly Sins” refers to 7 legendary warriors who were used as scapegoats by the Knights to take over the Kingdom. We get about 6 of the 7 sins, and the show does the smart thing of not giving them a real challenge until the second half of the season, emphasizing their skills and power. It also states that they aren’t even fighting at full strength due to missing their “sacred relics,” which allows these OP characters the possibility to lose. Th second half gives the Sins more of a challenge, and you get to see the sins fight more as a unit. I loved the whole “get the band back together” vibe of the show, and the writing was good enough that you got a sense of the personal dynamics between the group. And believe it or not, but an anime based on a manga actually ties up its story at the end!

Cons: While I loved the Sins and their fighting scenes, their powers sure do fluctuate for the sake of story convenience! One minute their beating the unbeatable enemy with no sweat, the next minute their near death against some jobber. On the topic of the Sins, the anime does the anime/manga things where the Sins aren’t actually guilty of their “sins.” The only thing they’re guilty of is feeling guilty about what their friends did. But being super cool guys, they take the punishment anyway. In fact, the worst thing they’re guilty of collectively is petty theft. And the show also does that thing where 99% of the bad guys aren’t bad guys at the end, despite killing a bunch of people (and it only really pulls it off for one of them). On a spoiler note: the show also did the thing where none of the good of bad guys died. So while I’d would argue that Magi tried a little too hard to be edgy, this anime tried a little too hard to have a happy ending. (oh! I forgot: quiet a but of groping here. At least at the start).

Watch it: I’d rather watch this on Netflix than that other thing (4/5)

MVP: Diane

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The Friendly Giant

Best Episode: Ep.13 “Apostle of Destruction” (Giant Hammer!)

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Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic

Type: Arabian Nights starring Jake Gyllenhall!?

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Synopsis: In a time long ago before, there was a movie franchise of movie franchises called Aladdin, of Studio Disney. So popular was the story that it sprang forth two direct to video sequels, a cartoon show, and some pretty good video games. It’s also the reason why this wasn’t just called the “Adventures of Aladdin” or something. Copyright is a scary thing. Anyway, this stars a little magician called “Aladdin” with a non-talking Genie and “Alibaba,” a thoroughly not old woodcutter. Oh, and sometimes it also has a slave girl named Morgiana, but according to the show, she’s not super important.

Pros: I’ve said this before, but I always find anime adaptations of non-Japanese stories really fascinating. In this case, the anime borrows heavily from One Thousand and One Nights, one of the definitive bedrocks of modern fiction. Having never read the collected works (It’s on my list), I can’t really speak that much about the allusions the anime uses. What I can say is that the Magi anime itself is pretty good. It sets itself up as an adventure story, but quickly becomes a sociopolitical tale with social inequality as it’s main topic. The villains used in this are often drunk on other own power, either because of owning slaves, or holding titles, or simply being powerful. A lot are simply bullies, which irritated my a lot, meaning that they work as villains (because you’re not suppose to like the villains!). And because most of the story arcs boil down to the harshness of inequality, something that has stayed consistent throughout history, the plots often pack an emotional punch. Just look at Morgiana, a slave from early childhood with the mental scars to prove it. The use of the colorful world was a great juxtaposition with the ugly actions of some of it’s inhabitants, as well as the power source of the true antagonists being hatred and negativity. I should also mention that the openings for this anime are really good. Not artsy, as they mostly use scenes from the upcoming episodes, but they were really fun to watch.

Cons: A story set in the Middle-East, and you couldn’t give one character a tan? For reals!? Hollywood gets a lot of flack for white washing its films (deservedly so), but anime ain’t exactly innocent of this either. Like, why is Morgiana of the “Dark Continent” (cough Old 1800’s Racist English Name for  the continent Africa cough) a pale girl with red hair? Why does Alibaba have Blonde Hair and Blue Eyes? This is almost as bad a Gods of Egypt, which I’m sure will stay a topical reference…Anyway, there are other problems. For a story whose opening sells itself as an adventure series, Aladdin and crew don’t really do a lot of traveling together. And despite all this talk of Dungeons, you only get 2 in the show. A lot of the story arcs just have them hanging out in one city at a time. You never see them hit the road as a group, which would have been fun. Speaking of groups, I feel that Morgiana gets short changed, probably because she’s “the girl.” The anime is more of the Aladdin and Alibaba story. Spefically, Alibaba’s hero’s journey with Aladdin as his wizard advisor. Morgiana’s just there for the ride. Story wise, this is a meaty anime. Some arcs drag, like the Balbadd story. Ultimately, my biggest problem with this anime is that I feel that it sells itself as a fun adventure story, but the levity never arrives outside of a few boob jokes. It’s really more like a disingenuous Fullmetal Alchemist.

Watch it?: Yeeeeah, but do realize it does feel long. (4/5)

MVP: Morgiana

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Always has the best fights

Best Episode: Ep6 “Warrior Tribe Fanalis” (showcase of the anime’s story structure)

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Space Pirate Captain Harlock

Type: Should I count a 3d movie?

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Synopsis: So a bunch of jerks fly around in space being jerks while a bunch of losers rule humanity by being losers. In this movie, the losers send a baby loser to infiltrate the jerks, then the jerks go back home and start fighting with the losers, then the baby loser gives everyone a flower so they’ll stop fighting.

Pros: The 3d animation is gorgeous. I can’t say that modern gaming consoles aren’t catching up, or already there, but the movie is still very pretty. The backgrounds and space ships are the real winners here. The faces, well, let’s keep this positive. Speaking of needing to keep things positive, here’s the thing about the plot: it’s told backwards. By that I mean that the key motivations for the characters are reveled around the middle of the film in flashback. This kind of narrative structure usually works really well in tv and comics, but its a bit trickier in film. Due to the time limitations, keeping information like this hidden seems more forced than in other mediums. In the film, you meet Harlock and Yama before you know their backstories. As such, Harlock comes off as a brooding-egotist, and Yama comes off as whiny. Then you learn their about their past and you like them more because their motivations make sense. But until this information is reveled, it’s hard to like the characters in this film. For example, this review is based on my second attempt at viewing this movie. A few years ago iIn my first attempt, I quit halfway, right before backstory dump, because I could not stand any of the characters. But those backstories are worth it, and I kinda wish they had been the focus of the film. They’re that interesting, particularly Harlock’s. The whole political story involving Earth, Harlock, and the powers that be would have made an awesome origin film.

Cons: I’ve mentioned my problems with the structure of the film. Animations wise, the only real issue is with the faces. One of the reasons why a lot of movies with 3D animations tend to lean more towards the cartoony side is because they can play around with the faces more. But in cases such as Harlock, movies try to mimic humans expressions more realistically, and fail. The faces here are stiff. Not bad, but stiff. I should so mention that for die hard Harlock fans, this is a whole new backstory and set up. Now plot wise, theirs only one big thing I have a problem with. Spoliers ahead. In the film, the big turning point is when Yama discovers a flower on a barren Earth, which cases Harlock to change his plans and fight again. But how did Yama get to Earth? He was on a ship with his brother on board, so he couldn’t have just walked off. He may have stolen a ship, but why go to Earth? What possible motivation did he have? To die? Maybe. But we get no indication. No inner thoughts. In the end, the big deus ex machina revolves around the seemingly random actions of some kid. Like a lot of things with the story, this was really sloopy. (P.s. Does the ending imply that Yama is the Harlock of the old anime? Does that even make sense?)

Watch it?: Pfff….nah.

MVP: Isola

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His motivations were clear from beginning to end.

Best Moment: The final scene between Nami and Isola. (the most emotional moment)

 

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Ghost Hunt

Type: Ghost Facers!

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Synopsis: Based on a Light Novel that ran for 2 years, which inspired a manga that ran for 12 years, is this anime that ran for 25 episodes. Its about, you guessed it, a group of Ghost Hunters. You get a little bit of everything. You get a Paranormal Researcher, a Monk, a Shrine Maiden, a Priest, an Onmyoji, and even a teenage girl for good measure.

Pros: Ghost Hunt is an anime comprised of several different “cases,” each involving some sort of paranormal activity. Some involve Ghost, while others involve Psychics, or Demons, or etc. One thing I really liked was the use of different specialities when dealing with the paranormal. A lot of different cultures and faiths are represented, from Buddhism, Christianity, Shintoism, to  modern technology. It’s a nice representation of the quirky fact that people all over the world have developed different ways to ward off evil spirits. The characters of the show end up using “real world” methods for fighting ghosts. So if your interested in paranormal activity, this is a quick primer. Some of the cases do get good, though they quality fluctuates. I loved the character of Mai, as her often overemotional delivery brought much needed energy into the show.

Cons: Honestly, its a little long. The show covers 8 different cases, and with 25 episodes, that’s about 3-4 episodes per case. And outside of Mai, none of the characters are well executed enough to warrant such attention. The problem is that the support cast are all outside contractors. The main characters are Mai and Naru, the latter running a paranormal research agency. Naru brings in the support characters to help out on cases. Every case in fact. Makes you wonder why he doesn’t just put them on staff. As such, there’s always this distance between the audience and the supporting characters. You pieces of personal history here and there, not that’s not much. Then there’s Naru, whose a really unlikable. He’s the stereotypical “cool” character, whose quite, prideful, and keeps things to himself. To quote Naru himself, he uses “strategic secrets.” Narratively, this is used to create situations that make Naru look evil, only to reveal after the fact that he’s actually super nice you guys! See, he wasn’t going to curse 600 students, that’s crazy talk. He was just going to make it look like he was and not tell anyone his plan, even though he had no reason not to tell the truth. Isn’t he the best and cutest?! Sadly, the brunt of this plot structure comes at the expense of Mai, who is often used to call Naru on his bullshit, only to be proven wrong at the end. Story wise, it has a monster of the week vibe, kinda boring at times, the animation doesn’t hold up, and the Opening, OH MY GOD, that was the laziest thing I’ve ever seen.

Watch it?: Overall, kind of bland. (3/5)

MVP: Mai Taniyama

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The Liveliest Hunter

Best Episodes: Ep18-21 “File 7: The Bloodstained Labyrinth Part 4” (scary, and the first anime I’ve encountered to mention Japan and China’s harsh history)

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