Tag Archives: tragedy

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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Danganronpa: The Animation

Type: Like Hunger Games, or Battle Royale, or whatever reference you prefer.

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Synopsis: It’s a survival game with high schoolers…hey! Don’t go yet. You didn’t hear that it’s also based on a visual novel….hey! Give it a chance at least. This one has a sadistic teddy bear in it!

Pros: Danganronpa is a visual novel series based around the theme of “despair.” This anime is based on the first game, “Trigger Happy Havoc,” and is a murder mystery. The set up is that 15 students are trapped in an elite high school and forced to kill each other. Its a mystery because the rules state that once a body is found, the students have to figure out who the killer is. If they fail, the killer goes free while the rest die. The last person surviving wins and is rewarded with fame and fortune. The anime follows a set formula: A murder happens, an investigation happens, and then a trial happens. One of the first things you’ll notice is the art style. The colors are vibrant and each of the characters are given unique designs, which helps make their death a bit more meaningful. The trial scenes, which are usually just the characters talking to each other, are spiced up with cool video game style animations and transitions, masterfully blending two mediums together. Ditto for the executions. And at only 13 episodes, the show moves at a very brisk and meaningful pace. Overall, the show has a unique look, an interesting cast of characters, an intriguing mystery, a sense of humor, and a cool set up. Well worth a watch.

Cons: The anime does get a but troupee. Its a survival game anime where a boy and girl form an alliance early one, the characters each betray each other for no real reason, a suicide occurs, and it all ends like you’d think it would. Even some of the mysteries and twists are cliche, though the show does call itself out on a few of these. In term of characters, a lot of the designs, while unique, also come off as overdone.Their meant to give you a quick visual summary of the character’s traits, as the show doesn’t have time to give depth to all 14 students. So some come off as one dimensional. The show is also very back heavy, meaning the the last episodes, particularly the finale, are stuffed with revelations and lore (and a weird lack of budget). My only real gripe that during the trials, when the murder has been accused, the characters tend to break down and admit it, turning into weird caricatures of themselves. Which again, was on purpose from a creative standpoint. Interestingly, I think this show does recognize it’s weaknesses and addresses them, or at least owns up to them. Everything the show does feels intentional and confident, so these are more nitpicks than anything else.

Watch it?: A strong recommend (4/5)

MVP: Kyouko Kirigiri

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Super High School Level Detective

Best Episode: Ep2-3 “Not Normal Arc: Kill and Live” (though I like other arcs better, this one is a good intro to the formula of the show)

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Naruto the Movie: Blood Prison [Naruto Movie Month]

Type: Don’t Drop the Kunai!

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Synopsis: Mission 8- Destroy a Magic Box

Pros: Blood Prison is definitely the darkest Naruto movie. I feel that the writers took this opportunity to stick in a few Prison movie Easter Eggs (some uncomfortably so). The premise is that Naruto is accused of attempted assassination and is sent to a Ninja Prison. He spends most of the movie screaming that he’s innocent and trying to find a way to escape. He also has to stop the evil Grass Ninja from using the “Paradise Box” to take over the world. The idea of a Ninja Prison was interesting, and for once, the antagonist had an actual motivation for his actions. The final battle against the demon in the Paradise Box was pretty cool (we even get a Gamabunta appearance), though it does get very bloody. And the good guys don’t really “win,” more as got lucky. Again, the darkest Naruto movie by far.

Cons: There’s a lot of small movie conceits that annoyed me. In the beginning, we see the “Naruto” attack the Cloud Village. That’s why he’s sent to prison. But if any of the characters thought about it, they’d know it wasn’t Naruto. The attacker used a chain (not Naruto’s style) and he paused a minute to show his face (why would a secret assassin do?). Now I’m going to spoil something, because it’s really dumb: at the final battle it’s revealed that no one though Naruto was guilty, they actually sent him to Prison to find and destroy the Paradise Box. A box he was never told about. Why didn’t they just tell him!? Why have him believe that everyone abandoned him? Because it seems to me that a very powerful Ninja with no living family and a large history of neglect probably shouldn’t be given a chance to develop trust issues. I did like the villain in this, mostly because he was the first Naruto film bad guy who didn’t want to use the movie Mcguffin to take over the world. Also: this was my first exposure to the English dubbed Killer Bee. Man, that was….all I’ll say is that the rhyming speech sounded less lame in the manga.

Best Naruto Movie: Yes

Villain: Satori

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Forgettable Villain #8

Best Moment: When Naruto’s friends talk about Tricking Naruto at the End (they partially did it for the LoL’s)

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Mobile Suit Gundam 0079

Type: I watched this while playing Xenogears

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Synopsis: It’s War! The Principality of Zeon (who are totally not evil, pinky swear) has declared its independence from the Earth Federation (who are totally not corrupt you guys!). With heavy casualties on both sides, Zeon begins to take the advantage with their devastating new Mobile Suits. Luckily, Earth has the one thing Zeon can never beat: a merchandising empire based on a severely anti-war story!

Pros: When you think about it, the Gundam franchise is like the Star Wars of anime. A clearly influential mega franchise that forever changed the course of world wide pop culture. It also premiered 2 years after Star Wars, which I’m sure is a big pink laser sword sized coincidence. I know that Gundam has gained a reputation as a home for whiny teenage pilots, but I wondered how much this was a result of a post-Evangelion world. Turns out, Eva borrowed heavily from Gundam (which is pretty obvious when you think about it). The original Mobile Suit Gundam is a strict anti-war anime with a whiny teenage protagonist. But without spending an entire thesis analyzing this show (which you could totally pull off), I’ll just say that the show does a great job justifying all the troupes that it would birth in the “Real Robot” genre. The premise is that humanity is at war with itself. The protagonist, Amuro, is caught in the middle of a battle. His escape ship, White Base, is attacked and is threfore severely in need of able bodied men and women, which is why so many of the crew are young volunteers. The first third of the anime is like the modern Battlestar Galactica, a skeleton crew trying their best to get back to Earth while being hounded by the enemy. Amuro is more or less drafted because he’s got the most experience with the new experimental “Mobile Suit Gundam.” He’s whiny because he’s not a trained soldier but everyone expects him to pilot Gundam and keep everyone from dying. That’s a lot of pressure. But by the second third, Amuro becomes a soldier after experiencing the horrors of war. The last third delves into more sci-fi mind reader stuff. The beauty of the show is that every story “arc” is an exploration of the cost of war, either for families, couples, or the individual. People die. A lot. And except maybe the people in charge, there are no “bad guys.” In several instances, the “evil” Zeon soldiers are portrayed are regular folks. Look, its really hard to talk about something this influential. It’s a good show. Watch it.

Cons: This show was released in 1979. The animation might be a big obstacle for a lot of people. Which is a shame, because this show stands up extremely well. I admit, I did not expect  a continuous plot line from a show from the 70’s mainly known for selling toys. But this thing is quality (except for those kids that are allowed to stay on the ship for some reason). Maybe, maybe, it drags a little at the end, and I kinda wish the Mobile Suits weren’t so brightly colored, but that’s a minor gripe.

Watch it?: I’m annoyed that I didn’t watch it sooner (5/5)

MPV: Amuro

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I heard this guy doesn’t get the happiest of endings

Best Episode: Ep13. “Coming Home” (the cornerstone episode)

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Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo

Type: Revenge in Space Paris

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

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

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

Watch it?: Trust me, it’s good. (5/5)

MVP: The Count of Monte Cristo

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Sleep well, sweet Edmund Dantes

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

 

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Elfen Lied

Type: Oh, geez anime!

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Synopsis: With the gore, and the nudity, and the child nudity, and the people with the horns and crazy invisible hand things, yeesh!

Pros: So yeah…I watched Elfen Lied, an anime with one of the most well known reputations for being disturbing. Its, ah, an honest assessment. The anime is about a mutant species that can kill people semi-telepathically. One of the most dangerous ones, Lucy, escapes and makes it back to her childhood friend. So one half of the show is about an evil corporation trying to kill Lucy with other mutants, or Diclonious, and the other half is about Lucy living an innocent life with her friends. Now, this thing is Violent. Gore fans will probably get a kick out of it. Its not as over the top as Blood C, or even Gatz, but its high up there. That’s kind of its selling point.

Cons: Let’s be real here. If you’re ganna watch Elfen Lied, its for the ultraviolence, not the story. The plot is not impressive in the least. We get it, humans are the real monsters. It also never explains where exactly diclonios originated from, or why they all look alike. This Dark Anime Drama covers such uplifting and totally predictable topics like: child molestation, torture, psychological trauma, dual personality, schizophrenia, child murder, and lots of nudity etc. Nothing innovative, nothing great. Its icky, but also kinda superficial. Part of this is because the anime still adheres to other anime troupes, and they mainly all happen in the Kohta household. Like when psycho killer Lucy, under a second identity, messages someones breasts from behind. What is this, a harem!? (p.s. Elfen Lied is kinda a harem). These moments fell really inconsistent with the rest of the show. I get it, these scenes are trying to juxtapose the cruelty of Lucy’s world with something more innocent, but the should could have been more subtle. Then again, a show where a little girl is amazed by giraffes one minute, then kills an entire family the next, probably doesn’t do subtlety.

Watch it!?: Eh, I’ve seen worse. God, I wish I hadn’t seen worse. (3/5)

MVP: Lucy

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That first scene is still pretty good.

Best Episode: Ep. 08 “The Beginning ~ Beginn” (Those kids deserved to die, right? I’m not the only one who thinks that?”)

 

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Berserk: The Golden Age Arc I, II, III

Type: Egg of the King, The Battle of Doldrey, The Advent

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Summary: So these three movies are based on an anime which is based on a manga that’s been going on for over 20 years. Before you start being impressed, note that it publishes irregularly, so there are only about 300-ish chapters. It’s not One Piece, but maybe quality beats quantity? But for those of your still too lazy to read, these three movies summarize the best part of the story, the one with gross demons, gross humans, and generally gross turn of events.

Pros: Berserk, specifically this part of the Berserk story, is basically Game of Thrones made in Japan. Evil knights, scheming friends, sex and nudity, magical subplots, intriguing tragedy, the whole magilla. You follow Gutz, a loner mercenary who gets charmed by the beautiful Griffith to join his band of mercs, The Hawks. That’s part 1. Part 2 deals with the Gutz’s growing relationship with Casca, the only female Hawk. Part 3 is largely about the downfall of Griffith and the Hawks, and the dark events that lead to the rest of Berserk. The ultimately tragic tale of Gutz, Griffith, and Casca is at the very heart of this show.  A solid dark fantasy story with surprisingly striking art work. Fans of Hard-R medieval stories will get a kick out of this.

Cons: Everything wrong that’s wrong with Game of Thrones is wrong in Berserk, but with an even more Japanese kind of way. Ultra violent (though not a much as the manga), truly horrific demons, rape, incest, a general cynical view of the world, and even worse roles for women. At least Thrones has Aria, Brienne of Tarth. I mean, Casca’s strong (sometimes), but she ain’t taking down no Hound anytime soon. Plus there’s the whole…maybe I shouldn’t mention it…fuck it: Casca get brutally raped by demons. That’s a thing that happens in the story, she become a simplistic invalid, and it’s disgusting. Like I said, it’s Japanese dark fantasy. The anime also uses a mixture of 3-D and 2-D animation which gives its a unique look and works…sometimes. Mostly for scenes involving the main characters. Then there’s the fact that this is just a retread of the original anime instead of exploring some of the other arcs in the manga, though this is admittedly the most interesting.

Watch it?: Only if you have a strong stomach

MVP: Puck

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He’s not in the story, but I love that little guy

Best Moment: Making references to the rest of Berserk in the opening title was a nice touch.

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Phantom: Requiem for a Phantom

Type: Repetitive Title

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Synopsis: A Japanese tourist witnesses an assassination from a supposedly god-tier killer and is kidnapped and subsequently trained by the killer for reasons. He’s supposed to be brainwashed into becoming a souless murderer, but he totally doesn’t. Instead, he spends the show trying to figure out how to escape his new life. First he tries to play along, then he runs away, then he plays along again, then the become a high school student…yeah it sounds like a weird path. But dammit, it hooks you in before you even know it.

Pros: This show is weird in that it’s a straight drama. There’s not real humor or crazy action scenes. In fact, except for a few bits in that start and some costume changes, this could have easily been done with real people. It’s pretty low key for the most part, relying on intrigue and plot twists to drive the series. The story is about Reiji, a guy who is forced into the life of an assassin and what that entails, with a continuous criminal power struggle in the background. The assassin stuff in pretty interesting, as Reiji and several other characters often lament their lives in the underworld. The mafia stuff is also great, particularly the parts involving Claudia, a surprisingly well executed femme fetale. Like any great drama, the show gets you to care about what happens in these characters lives (WHY DREI! You know Reiji didn’t play you like that!). It’s a great crime drama, probably the best I’ve seen since the first part of Gungrave.

Cons: So the show is also weird in that is has a so-so beginning and ending, but a great middle. The first part is about Reiji being turned into an assassin, a potential “Phantom.” This honestly felt the most “anime” to me, and I wasn’t sure whether I was going to like it or not. Then the second arc hits, taking place 6 months later with Reiji being a full blown mafia assassin, and that was great. He even take an “assistant,” with clear allusions to Leon: the Professional. The last arc, taking place 2 years after, and has Reiji pretending to be a high school student. This felt out of place (which may have been the point), and beings up a whole mess of questions. How old is Reiji? I though he was college age when this all started. How come Reiji seemed to age more after 6 months than 2 years? To be fair, all the stuff that took place outside the high school was amazing. The time skips gave a great sense of progression and consequence. I just wish it had been a little more consistent. They also never really resolved the fate of the whole evil organization known as Inferno, or how it started, but maybe that’s part of the point as well.

Watch it?: No jokes and I still loved it. (4/5)

MVP: Cal

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Any kid that can quote Taxi Driver gets a Thumbs Up from me.

Best Episode:  Ep. 17 “Truth” (it hurts my soul!)

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Penguindrum

Type: Terrorism is Bad

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Synopsis: There’s a lot of talk about circles and fate, but the gist is this. About twenty years ago, a terrorist attack killed a girl named Momoka. This made her younger sister obsessed with replacing her in the eyes of her parents and childhood friend. It also turned her best friends into obsessive psychopaths. Meanwhile, the children of the terrorists have a sick sister, and their quest to cure her forces them to cross paths with the aforementioned people. But it all turns out to be a battle between this evil bunny and a little girl with a magic diary.  And Penguins. What was with the Penguins?

Pros: Visually beautiful and dynamic. That’s not a word I get to use often, but this was very dynamic. Maybe dynamic isn’t the right word. Colorful? Bright? Bouncy? Something like that. I happened to watch the English dub, which was very good. A little flat in some parts, but overall excellent voice work.I really liked that the protagonist were brothers, because I don’t feel anime takes advantage of sibling protagonists that often. Its a pretty easy way to establish a relationship without backstory. There’s a good story here, if not entirely straightfoward. It’s also very funny when it wants to be. It even made some of the dark stuff they get into worth a chuckle. There was one scene between Himari and Masako that made me really want them two to have their own weird spin-off. There’s also a pretty tragic story underneath all the color, just in case your into that sort of thing.

Cons: First off, it has pacing problems. The first half of the show (ep.1-12) deals with Ringo, the girl who supposedly posses the “penguindrum” that the protagonists need to save their sick sister. We watch her stalk some teacher and try to impregnate herself with his baby. Yeah. This part drags on and on, especially compared to the second half, which just throws as much backstory and set up as it can. The whole story feels a bit full of itself, with incessant talk of destiny and fate. I feel that if this were set up in chronological order, from at least the day of the terrorist attack, some of the plot would work better. Speaking of the story, can I say that there was entirely too much weird sex stuff in this. There was implied rape, attempted rape, incest, obsession that turned out to be incest. I get that this is one of those stories, where the bright exterior hides as gritty underbelly, but can we not. Please. Can we just not. You already have terrorists, cults, and abandonment. Isn’t that enough? It should also point out that for a show that clearly spend a lot of animation, they recycled the Himari “Survival Tactic” scene way too much. And once again, what was with the damn Penguins? What do the symbolize, dancing? Did a watching of  March of the Penguins inspire some sort of existential crisis? What’s the deal?

Watch it?: It gets slack, because people clearly worked hard on this (4/5)

MVP: Shōma Takakura

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Clearly the main guy. Am I right or am I right?

Best Episode: Ep. 20 “Thank You For Choosing Me” (I was thinking of The Little Matchstick Girl when I saw this)

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Rurouni Kenshin: Trust & Betrayal (OVA)

Type: God, do you remember when this was called “Samurai X?”

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Synopsis: Set in the not so fun time of the Bakumatsu and Meiji Restoration, a young swordsman named Himurai Kenshin joins the Imperialists as an assassin. Earning the moniker Hitokiri Battosai, or Man-Slayer, the once gentle soul tries to build a better future through steel and blood. His life changes, however, when he meets a woman named Tomoe, who affects his life so much, that his future becomes much less detailed and more gag heavy.

Pros: So, the thing about Trust & Betrayal is that everyone really, really likes it. It’s considered one of the best OVA’s in the medium’s history. Why? Well, it does what the Dark Knight did years later by taking a “realistic” approach to a largely fantastic story. Everything, from Kenshin’s design to fighting style are taken down a notch to appear more true to life. The dialogue is slower and quieter, and emotion is a lot more subtle. It basically stays true to the manga version of Kenshin’s backstory and provides the last missing piece to the anime’s story.

Cons: I’ll be honest, I don’t particularly like Trust & Betrayal. I never have. I don’t like the redesigned character models or the serious tone. If found it way too somber, slow, and totally devoid of the charm of the original anime. Granted, I will acknowledged that it is a good OVA. Even within the franshise, it makes for a nice contrast between Kenshin’s life as an assassin and the life depicted in the anime. The issue really isn’t over the quality of the OVA as much as it’s with the overall enjoyment you get from it. I didn’t enjoy it, but this is one of the very rare franchises that I actually have very strong preconceived notion and thus honest fanboy bias. So my dislike may be in the minority.

Watch it?: Objectively, yes. Subjectively, maybe.

MVP: Tomoe

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The reason for wandering

Best Moment: Revealing how Kenshing got his scar.

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