Sep. 19th, 2011 06:47 pm
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[personal profile] salinea

A privileged boy living in a futuristic, oppressive city once sheltered and helped a runaway boy escape; thus dooming his own shining future. Some years later, he's in turn rescued by the boy he helped from being sent to prison for having witnessed a strange bee related death.

N°6 does two things : the relationship between two characters of very different backgrounds who learn a lot from one another; and a SF dystopic plot. The former is lovely and touching, with wonderful dynamics; and the latter is crap, barely coherent in way that easily undermines the themes of the story and resort to a Deus Ex Machina at the ending.

The series is at its most brilliant in the little touches and the details. The animation is lovely, the characters design good, the direction is wonderful and lets the characters develop and establish their dynamics in ways that are lovely. For me a big draw was how much I loved the two main characters and the ways they played off one another, especially in some of the most low key scenes. While the ways in which Shion embodied idealism and kindness contrasted to Nezumi's cynicism and pragmatism was sometimes a little bit pat; we also had a few moments subverting this, especially by the ending, which made both of them much more human and their dynamic more interesting.Plus it's great to see a series focussing on a male/male romantic relationship without falling into offensive BL clichés. It is not entirely devoid of corniness, especially with a use of singing in some scenes which fell mostly flat. Thought the secondary cast is less deepened, there too you have some good characterizations, especially with Safu and Dogkeeper.

I'm not sure what else to say about the plot asides that it made very little sense; at least by the time it came to the ending, very much a BONEStatic one. I don't even want to start, it's just silliness topped onto silliness, most of which came out of the left field, and probably a lot of it has to be blamed on a rushed adaptation of a too long material for one cour series. It's just a mess. The power of the images and themes they try to invoke make it all the more insulting for being used in such a nonsensical plot.

In the end I did feel n°6 was very much worth watching and I enjoyed myself throughout; but the weaknesses of the story itself makes it only worth it for people likely to enjoy it mainly for the characters and their interaction.

(yes, first review after a year - sorry about that :p)
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[personal profile] salinea
Occult Academy aka Seikimatsu Occult Gakuin

1999 : Maya comes back to the Waldstein Academy, focused on all sorts of Occult and mysterious knowledge, for the burial of her father, formerly headmaster and founder of the school.
2012 : In an Earth become wasteland by an alien invasion, the only hope for victory lays in sending back a psychic, Fumiaki, to the past, in 1999, in order to prevent the use of the Nostradamus Key that will unleash the first part of the invasion.

Occult Academy is a fairly uneven short anime series; at its best it gives hilarious wacky occult stories with a great sense of comedic timing, physical humour and solid characterization; and its worst has horrible pacing, annoying wacky butt monkey based comedy and out of the blue plot events. Overall it manages to be solidly entertaining the whole way through and occasionally interesting.

Read more... )
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Okay this season doesn't look quite as terrible as I feared after a first look.

Kuragehime, one of the Noitamina show this season, had an awesome first episode. With a focus on female (for once ^_^) geeks and the female main character being obsessed by jellyfish meetings a "princess" who's really a crossdressing guy. Great voice, characterizations and comedic timing so far.

Star Driver is the other main intriguing show, with a very confusing, pretty, and fabulous set up of mecha + high school + magical girl transformation for its male lead; plus a whole lot of surrealism, self-aware humour, psychosexual vibes à la Utena. It's at least going to be a fun show; and possibly maybe one of those awesome brain breaking show. I hope.

Psychic Detective Yakumo looks decent enough, with a Ghost Hunt-like occult investigation premise revolving around one snarky antisocial male lead and a cute and perky (and smart so far) female sidekick. Plotting has been very average so far, but it shows hints promising a metaplot; and the texture and characterizations make it fun enough to watch for now.

Otome Yokai Zakuro is set in an alternate universe version of Meiji era Japan where people live by side with Yokai, but where modernity and westernization is pusing them by the sidelines, so a program seeks to pair three military officers with four half-blood yokai damsels in order to foster better understanding. Characters are little more than gimmicks so far, though it's kind of interesting to see both a set of pretty boy and moe girl archetypes in the same show (the manga it's adapted from is technically a seinen, though written by a yaoi mangaka) ; and at least the female lead is rather endearing (also gorgeous, ritualistic looking fight scene with traditional music). I hold a faint hope it could turn into an interesting show.

Togainu no Chi will be my guilty pleasure homoerotic fanservice show this season, with a post appocalyptic street fighting tournament story adapted of a BL visual novels. Despite my warriness against visual novels adaptation, i have a moderatly good feeling about this one : despite bad production values, it's already pushed some of my kinky buttons, the fights are actually fun to watch, and it's already shown more promises of actual plotting and character than, say, Uraboku.

I won't be watching Panty and Stocking, despite the interesting art and animation, I find the humour too unappealing to my taste. I had checked out The World God Only Knows because some people were saying it was deconstructive of harem shows, but it actually contents itself with lampshade hanging so no, thanks. Shinryaku! Ika Musume looks like a pretty good moe gag comedy show, but that's a genre that doesn't interest me enough to stick with it. And Bakuman has shown all the signs of being one of those pretty boring adaptations that don't add anything to the manga.

I'll continue watching Shiki, Legend of the Legendary Heroes and Katanagari. Dunno yet if I'll bother catching up with Hakouaki Hekketsu-Roku.

So what you guys gonna be watching? Did I miss anything of potential interest?


Oct. 14th, 2010 12:35 am
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[personal profile] salinea

Eden Hall is a bar in Ginza in which the genius bartender Ryuu Sasakura is able to mix the "Glass of Gods", the perfect drink for a person in any given situation.

Bartender is an adaptation of a quiet, mellow, bittersweet and quirky seinen manga. Short and strongly episodic, it revolves around various people coming to the bar, an aspect of their life story, and the relief, inspiration or epiphany they might get there in a glass and conversation. With its laid back atmosphere and mature tone; it's a pretty excellent slice of life anime series.

Its strongest point is its storytelling and characterisation : each episode gets us under its charm, introduces its characters and tells their story with a very deft hand. The direction, strongly theatrcal, despite the simplicity of the presentation from the threadbare production values, really works at setting the atmosphere; and most of the characters really feel original and genuine, coming from a variety of background, age, social class, gender etc.. While the show isn't above some slliness - mainly alcohol and bartending being presented as What do You Mean This is Not Awesome - the rest of the storytelling is very sober (heh) and understated in a very efficient way.

Its weak points are... well the production value is pretty low, obvious especially in the animation (character design in general is fine and realistic) and the silliness of the way bartending is made Serious Business of. And the series is episodic enough that it never really grasps like other stories would.

Overall very much worth checking out for being an anime series out of the ordinary, and a very well done one.
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Kara no Kyoukai: Garden of Sinners

Adapted from a light novel series, Kara no Kyoukai is a series of seven movies (yeap, actual movies, shown in theater) of urban fantasy mystery cases set in the 90s and told in anachronical way, revolving around Shiki, a young woman who dresses in a kimono and red leather jacket and can kill pretty much anything. Telling more about the story would spoil most of the fun which is trying to determine what the fuck is happening; especially due to the anachronical part and general lack of exposition.

Kara no Kyoukai is mostly worth watching for its mesmerizing beauty, with gorgeous action scenes and entrancing atmosphere. It is not much worth watching for its plot, asides from the middle 5th movie.

Read more... )
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Welcome to the NHK

Satou has been a hikikomori - a recluse suffering from anxiety at the idea of going outside - for the last three years after dropping out of college when he meets a highschool girl,Misaki, who decides he is perfect for her project : if he does what she says, including daily counselling sessions with her, she will cure him. Meanwhile, he also realises that the annoying otaku neighbour who listens to anime songs all day is one of his former school mate Yamazaki; and in order to prove Misaki that he is not actually a hikikomori, he decides to collaborate with Yamazaki to create a porn dating game; thus falling into the grasp of the otaku lifestyle.

I really enjoyed watching Welcome to the NHK as a dark comedy about depression with geek references in its first half; but I kind of got really fed up with it after a while, when I started finding the plot very repetitive - with Satou falling into yet another unhealthy/predatory fringe subculture every few episodes - the main character too dislikeable in his self-centeredness and lack of empathy for other people, and I had to struggle to finish it. I'm not entirely sure if that is a fair criticism, because when people are suffering from depression and anxiety, being unable of focus on other people is a factor of it, as is falling back onto unhealthy patterns every time you think you'd make progress - so it's not like those things are unrealistic. There are also many times when I felt that the show simply might be a poor adaptation of a much better original work - as it's adapted from a novel with autobiographic elements.

Read more... )

Cross Game

Aug. 9th, 2010 02:24 am
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[personal profile] salinea
Cross Game

Kitamura Ko has grown up in the same neighbourhood as the four daughters of the Cafe Clover, and has always been friendly with them, especially Wakaba, who was the born the same day he was, who is pretty much his girlfriend; and baseball-crazed Aoba, one year younger, who bickers a lot with him because she resents him taking away her sister's attention - but the summer when they are 11, Wakaba dies in an accident. Fast forward five years, Aoba is still as serious about baseball; and still bickers a lot with Ko who didn't join the baseball team in middle school, but still practices for it, when another childhood friend, Akaishi, mention that Wakaba's last dream was for both of them to play baseball in the national high school competition at the Koshien stadium.

Adapted from a shounen manga by Adachi, Cross Game is a series that is... well, very much like every Adachi series. Quality slice of life / sports / romance / comedy story, with romantic development that take forever to develop; and simplistic, almost caricatural character design. It makes me nostalgic, because I remember loving Touch when I was 14; but that asides; it's genuinely a good series and very pleasant to watch.

cut for length )


Aug. 2nd, 2010 12:54 am
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[personal profile] salinea

In the near future, Ogata Rin is a ballerina who retired from dancing after a leg injury. As she begins college, she finds a new passion in RideBack; a sort of bike-like mecha that can be used in racing and war. Meanwhile, in the background, the GGP who was a resistance group which succeeded in overthrowing the former global government and took power, is slowly showing itself to be quite autocratic itself as they fight against offshoot terrorist groups who use RideBack machines in their urban guerilla attacks.

Even with only 12 episodes, RideBack is a pretty brilliant anime series, which especially shines with the strength of the character exploration of Rin; and with the beauty of its action scenes.

cut for length )

Link to an interesting blog entry comparing the dancing in RideBack and in Princess Tutu.


Jul. 27th, 2010 11:28 pm
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[personal profile] salinea

Takasa Ryuuji is a highschool student with a scary look to his eyes (apparently inherited from a long dead yakuza father) with the result that everyone fears him and takes him for a deliquent, though his personality is pretty sweet and shy, with an obsession for the domestic (his hobbies are cleaning and cooking). As the new year starts, he realises that Aisaka Taiga, the petite yet fierce (exactly like that, random French reference at your service!) girl nicknamed "Palmtop Tiger" by the whole school, lives alone next door (and next window) to him and is in love with his best friend (and he in turn has a crush on her best friend). She bullies him into helping her making her confession, and more broadly taking care of her and they become friends of sorts.

Adapted from a series a light novels, Toradora! is that elusive jewel, the good and entertaining shounen highschool rom com, mainly by virtue of having some excellent comedy and some very endearing characters. It doesn't escape all of the flaws that shounen romance tend to have, but it does well enough I was willing to overlook them and just enjoy the series

The series is very solidly hilarious, with some excellent comedic timing, and very well built on the characters. Ryuji is just a little bit more interesting than your average shounen romance lose male lead, thanks to his supposedly scary design which actually makes him adorable and his domesticity. Taiga, asides from the archetype violent and tiny Tsundere character design, has enough subtleties and and shades to be wholly three dimensional and loveable (though her flaws are perhaps a little bit too much exploited for moe for my taste). The rest of the cast is also pretty damn awesome, with Minori, Ryuji's crush and Taiga's best friend, being an extremely energetic and cheerful girl with some quirky ideas who totally steals the show when she appears; Kitamura, Ryuji's best friend and Taiga's crush, being the popular class representative with some eccentric attitude; and Ami, the two faced bitch queen who is a popular model and Kitamura's childhood friend and who is the other show stealer of the series. They each are all well enough developed in narrative arcs to be more than stereotypes; and the series almost (almost! ;_;) escapes harem dynamics in the complicated and endearing relationships between its five main characters. I especially really liked how richly all the female-female relationships were depicted, this isn't a series that has any problem passing the Bechdel Test.

The drama part of the series, which increase in its second half with more emphasis on the romantic plot as well as the two main characters' respective family background, is a little less solid, coming across as a little bit too forced, trite and melodramatic for my taste, though it's touching enough and reinforced by continuous usage of humour in that undercutting way that tends to make emotional scenes more emotional by the whiplash. In the end I wasn't entirely convinced by the way they resolved the romantic plot, not because of what it involved, but because of how it was done.

Still, Toradora! remains an extremely entertaining and well crafted high school romance.
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Bakemonogatari aka Ghostory

Highschool student Koyomi Araragi has already encountered the supernatural (callled "oddity" in this show) once or twice before, in particular he was a vampire for a while, he got better but it left him with a super capacity for healing and a contact with oddity specialist Oshino. So when he discovers that a girl in his class Senjougahara is literally light-weighted as a result of an encounter with an oddity as well, he proposes to help her by asking for Oshino's advice. Then he goes it again and again as various girls around him have similar problems.

This is going to be a tough review, not least because I watched most of it last year, thanks to the ending being broadcast as web OAV (OAW?) - but also because it's show I almost dropped once before getting convinced to pick it up again by the fanboys of RPG.net gushing about it. Bakemonogatari is on many levels so annoying, but it also have some qualities that make it (barely) watchable.

First there's the harem dynamic. Araragi is a pretty boring lead. He's ridiculously self-sacrificing but that's his only quality (?), he's insensitive, a geek, and a little bit of a loser in that boring way that so many show go for; and he's surrounded by girls who need his help and a more or less have a crush on him (even the lesbian among them banters with him in a sexual teasing kind of way). To his credit when backed into a corner, he improves greatly. There's a some gratuitous fanservice, some of which came across as fairly creepy. This is only slightly undermined by the fact that Senjougahara is a pretty unusual female lead : despite calling herself as a Tsundere she betrays the archetype in various ways:
One is by how her violence is portrayed : usually in shows that have a Tsundere character behave in violent way, that violence is portrayed in a comical way, frequently by going so over the top it goes into slapstick and absurd reach. Senjougahara's violence is extreme yet portrayed as scary. She mostly gets away with it because Araragi heals so fast and because after showing what she can do, she mostly resort to threats and mind games after that. And yet that violent character is still somewhat portrayed as seductive in a way.
The second one is that Senhougahara is mostly straightforward and honest with her feelings, after a few false starts, she right away confess to Araragi and ask to date him, as a result of which they hook up very early in the show. Really, I'd be tempted to call her a Yandere rather than a Tsundere character (I wonder if anyone would agree with me on that). Despite being the romantically aggressive character in their couple, I was disappointed by the fact Senjougahara mostly did it through objectifying herself instead of treating Araragi as sexually attractive to her.

The artistic direction is very idiosyncratic in the way SHAFT tend to do them. In some occasions it's strikingly beautiful, but in most of them I found it annoying; though I'm sure many other people would have mostly loved it. (I saw someone at a blog describe SHAFT's visual style as an "acquired taste" which I find amusing because as far as I'm concerned, it's the opposite : I loved the first show I watched in that style - Sayounara Zetsubou Sensei - found it dull the second time - Bakemonogatari - and now have come to disliking so much I could barely go through one episode of it - Arakawa under the bridge). There's a lot of close up on eyes, Araragi's emotive hair ahoge, random items, and wall of texts; for a result of a faintly surrealistic atmosphere. The surrealism is increased by the fact the world is literally empty of people asides from Araragi, Oshino and the girls, for a rather claustrophobic result.

The thing I actually liked a lot in the series was the treatment of the supernatural. Every oddities play up in a kind of punish way on the character's name, and everyone are a metaphor for some kind of psychological issues, usually a strong emotion that is being repressed. The treatment was usually pretty clever and interesting (though sometimes uneven), with some great moment of cathartic realisation. In general, the show had strong themes related to, as one of the best blogger on the show put it, inauthenticity and overcoming it. The storytelling overall had very good drama at the right points (with the exception of the Snake arc which was very underwhelming as well as having the creepiest fanservice).

The other thing that appeals is the cleverness of the writing, full of meta-ness, self-awareness and witty banter. While I didn't find those as amusing as many people seem to have, it was reasonably entertaining and funny. (Though so far I'm enjoying the adaptation of another novel by the same writer, Katanagari, much more in term of witty dialogues).

Overall Bakamonogatari is the sort of show that will appeal a lot to some people and repeal most others.

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Now that i've finally finished with the spring anime reviews (or have I? look they've starting subbing Senkou no Night Raid again! Though I'm not sure I want to continue watching it, we'll see...) I can talk about the show I'm interrested in this summer. Which aren't legion, this is a pretty dry season.

I love Fuyumi Ono enough that I'll be watching Shiki even though I think the character design are atrocious and I've been impressed neither by the first episode nor the first volume of the manga. For the premise we have an isolated town surrunded by cedar trees forest (they use to make coffin, the region's speciality) and series of suspicious death by anemia after a big gothic style castle has been build on top of the hill above the village. I smell vampire.

Occult Academy is the other cool looking supernatural show, with a dramedy set in 1999 (are we already nostalgic about the 90s? yay!) revolving around an occult obsessed highschool and a time traveller from 2012 (1999 and 2012? That's a lot of appocalyptic dates) trying to prevent an alien invasion in the future. The first two episodes have been pretty dam good, with some excellent comedic timing, awesomely establishing the two leads (especially Maya, the daughter of the recently deceased principal of the occult academy; who is badass, impatient, intelligent and has a hate/love relationship with the occult - very well rounded as a character already), and i rather love the tongue in cheek attitude to occult elements already.

The other series I might be interrested in is Osaka Hamlet which i don't believe has premiered yet and seems to be a slice of life show about a family in Osaka.

Of course there's also the Black Lagoon OAV Roberta's Blood trail which I will not miss for the world ♥

I should also mention Highschool of the Dead which right now I'm watching with a sort of horrified fascination. It's Zombie Appocalypse meets panty shots, with some excellent production values, black humour tone and action scenes and with an extremely misogynistic narrative so far.
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House of the Five Leaves aka Sarai-ya no Goyou

Masanosuke is a tall, naive and shy samurai who was sent away from his master because of his overly timid personality. Exiled as a ronin to Edo he tries without much success to make his life as a bodyguard when he meets Yaichi, a suspicious and easy-going guy, who takes interest in him and starts making use of him for the schemes of kidnapping and ransoming people he does along with a few friends as the gang of the five leaves.

I was looking forward to this adaptation of a manga by Natsume Ono (aka the author of Restaurant Paradiso) which I've been enjoying reading a lot in its French translation called Goyou; and I wasn't disappointed : House of the Five Leaves is one beautiful, nuanced and entrancing adaptation, suffering only from being a bit too short for its source material.

Goyou is an odd work, which, despite the involvement of samurai and criminals, is more a slice of life and character study than an action series. It's an understated, atmospheric and bitter-sweet work where we mostly learn to appreciate the characters and their interaction as they go about their day to day life and start revealing events of their past and changing as characters from their relationship with one another.

The production values are excellent and really carry out the atmosphere. The art is beautiful, with lovingly detailed backgrounds and a lot of fluidity; the music is unique sounding and lovely, and the character design is original yet pleasant (well, I liked it, I've seen people on the internet react badly to it but they know nothing :p)

The storytelling makes great use of Masa's candidness and genuine kindness to bring out interesting bits from the characters he interact with, as well as bits of subtle humour. With his awkward height, shy demeanour yet emotional boldness, he kind of reminded me of Fumi from Aoi Hana (is that an odd comparison? ^^). Yaichi's like those ambiguous allies with their eyes always shut you always see in shounen series, except his personality is treated in a much more realistic fashion in term of both his weaknesses and how annoying it can be for others. Their relationship is more than a little bit slashy. The rest of the five leaves are Otake, a beautiful woman who loves drinking sake and teasing people, Umezou the grumpy looking owner of the tavern they all always gather at, Matsukichi a silent and stern thief. Each one except for Otake has a narrative arc dedicated to exploring their background and personality. Overall, they have some very nice chemistry and subtle characterisation.

For a historical work, this one is really interested in looking at people's life from a different kinds of social class in a very down to earth fashion. The direction gives attention to small gestures and objects of the daily life, giving a rhythm and a poetry to the narrative as it fills it with subtle meanings. The situation of the character are quite morally ambiguous, yet revealed to be a complex result of their character, social situation, and network of conflicting obligations (with all the weight that obligation has in traditional Japanese culture) in a way that allows them to remain sympathetic while still having a dark undercurrent. How to handle the way the past can weigh you down and learn to appreciate life and friendship as they come form the core of the thematics of the series and are realised beautifully with deft touches.

The gender dynamics aren't the best : the few female characters were the ones which were the least focussed on by the narrative though it (barely) pass Bechdel's test. And despite some clever rearrangements to fully tell the story despite the shortness of the series' run, there are still some awkwardness of pacing in the middle and some plot threads that are just left hanging there, though they managed an ending that was fulfilling and cathartic enough.

With its down to earth attitude to the historical setting, its mature tone, the slow and deliberate pacing that build up the atmosphere beautifully, and its subtle characterisation, it kind of reminded me of Mushishi though it doesn't quite match that sublime anime series (what does?); it was still a pretty amazing anime and my favourite of the series of spring 2010.
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Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood

In a dieselpunk world where alchemy is a powerful science, Ed and Al Elric are two teenage brothers who became crippled in their failed attempt to resurrect their mother in an alchemical experiment: Ed lost on arm and leg, now replaced by automail prosthetics, and Al is merely a soul bonded with alchemy to a suit of armour he can animate. They have enrolled in the army as State Alchemist in order to investigate the rumours of the Philosophical Stone which could have the power to help them recover their original bodies, but in the course of that investigation they fall onto a huge conspiracy and face the opposition of the strange creatures known as Homunculus who are named for each of the seven (Christian) Sins.

You know I feel kind of silly to summarise FMA's premise at this point. Who doesn't know what the series is about? Oh well.

No less than the second adaptation of a brilliant shounen manga, Brotherhood jumps into the fold in a rushed race to narrate the material already covered by the first adaptation as quick as possible and only hits its stride once it's done so after a dozen of episodes or so, at which point it becomes an absolutely wonderful and enjoyable adaptation of 64 episodes, delivering on the humour, the action and the epic scope of the drama provided by the excellent source material.

FMA is first of all an excellently plotted story, which is dramatic, interesting, coherent and epic all at the same time. It is very dark at times - dealing with such themes as mutilation, the trauma of war, genocide, and abuse of people in the name of "science" - while retaining an optimistic and humanist outlook. Brotherhood has a pretty steady kind of pacing, going with "build up build up build up epic EPIC EPIC and back to build up build EPIC EPIC EPIC kind of rhythm that isn't quite breathtaking, but is very efficient nonetheless and without any filler despite the length of the series. The comedy feels a little bit mandatory at times (oh look, an Ed is short joke, it's been a while, I had forgotten how they went), but is good at relieving the tension and preventing the show from falling into excessive wangst (one of the first adaptation's flaw, some would say) and building up the relationship between characters. Most of all, Brotherhood had the good taste to time itself so it could adapt the full of its original material and thus deliver an actually coherent and logical ending (which I would say was the major flaw of the first adaptation).

It juggles with a pretty large and diverse cast of characters, most of which are very endearing in their own particular way, and gives most of them their due in the course of the story (there are a few I wouldn't have minded to see explored and used more than they were, but oh well). Ed is a spunky, determined, intelligent and a slightly artless kid, and Al is adorable and kind hearted yet just as dangerous when roused. The secondary cast is so large I feel a bit at a loss at how to represent them - but let's just say they come in a variety of age, gender and ethnicity, and that many of them are awesome and loveable. One of the series' big quality was really the quality of its characters, both amongst antagonists and protagonists.

The production values are excellent through out, without really being overwhelmingly so. Most action scenes (though not all) are very well animated, the character designs are endearing with a pleasant roundness, the music is very efficient at underlying the mood of a scene without overpowering it. I'm ridiculously in love with the music of the second ED though not quite as much as I was in love with Bratja in the first adaptation ;).

The thematics of FMA are ambitious for a shounen series, and it does deliver on most of them successfully. What it does best is talk about the effects of war on individuals, with the Ishvalan rebellion and the ensuing genocide casting a heavy shadow in the past of many characters and their motivations. Unfortunately it does so much better from the side of the military people who took part in said genocide than it does on the (dark skinned) Ishvalans who were the victim of it. Another theme it explores is the responsibility and role of a leader, which is a little bit earnest and naive, but still strikes some interesting chords with how it parallels different characters. It does beautifully talk about human reserve and perseverance to struggle through, recover from and overcome difficult times together - though of course this is standard shounen themes but it handles them well in that it's not ridiculously over the top and mostly realistic, and I love how it does so through the motif of disabilities as well - as well as guilt (and hubris) and the question of how to take responsibility for it (which is more original and interestingly done).

I could pinpoint to few other things I didn't think worked totally well; bemoan that some flashbacks or scenes were too short or cut from the anime compared to the manga (though some of them would have been difficult to include without hurting the pacing), but overall Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood was an anime I absolutely loved watching every episode of and one awesome journey to take.
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Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei aka Tatami Galaxy

Our nameless protagonist (Watashi) is a student newly enrolled to a college in Kyoto as he picks a club to enter in, looking forward to a rose-coloured college life, filled with romance with a raven-haired beauty and other exciting accomplishments. Fast forward 2 years and he feels that his college life has been an utter waste of his precious youth. If only he hadn't been led astray by his best friend, the trickster-like and demonic-faced Ozu! If only he had picked a different club when he entered! So time rewinds to let him make another choice, and again, and again, and again. Always to a disappointing result. Yet opportunity is always hanging over him, waiting for him to pick it up.

Adapted from a novel (as in a serious, literary novel, not a light novel), Tatami Galaxy is a brilliant, inventive, quirky and resonant study of the unrealistic dreams and foiled expectations typical of young adults as they start their life in earnest. Served by a wildly imaginative visual style and a quick fire running commentary by Watashi; it produces an ironic atmosphere perfectly suited to its subject.

The visual is the most creative and interesting aspect of the series with some always entertaining, creative and surrealist ways of rendering the events, it is strikingly original and fluid. With Watashi's narration going on so fast, though, it is easy to miss details of the animation, but I wager the series bears several re-watch easily, especially given how many little details correlate with one another from one rewind to the other.

At first I feared the repetitive nature of the plot, with a feeling of little progression during the middle of the story, but that's when shit started kicking in a more interesting direction, building up to the truly amazing and exciting ending. Descending into greater magical realism it gave us a wonderful apotheosis of the thematics of the series.

The comedy works on a dark humour, surrealism and satire basis - and of course repetition gags - and while it's not really the kind that'll make you laugh out loudly, it's certainly efficient at creating the right atmosphere.

My biggest disappointment with the story was Watashi himself, who is the pretty typical socially awkward, kind of idealist, kind of cynical, mostly wishy-washy male loser character type you see in too many stories (both anime and others). I ran out of interest into those kinds of characters a long time ago. However since the narrative is especially there to criticise his hesitation, responsibility-fleeing, others-blaming and contradictions in order to build him up from there, I shall excuse this series (though it did take a while before it got there, due to the nature of the time-rewinding plot).

Thankfully, the rest of the cast is much more interesting. Ozu, the demonic best friend is remarkably entertaining, always up to untold mischiefs of various kinds that dynamise the story in a very trickster fashion (and not always unkindly though Watashi fails to notice it, of course). Akachi the love interest is also pretty damn awesome, a very cool-headed, intelligent and no-nonsense girl, member of the engineering club and with a phobia for moths. I wish we had spent more time exploring her character actually. The rest of the cast appear bits by bits, and is fairly high in colour and interesting as well. Despite all the rewinds, they remain true to themselves, though Watashi's always changing perspective on them depending on where he is gives them some surprising depth.

Thematically, Tatami Galaxy works really well, it puts us face to all the contradictions we have between what we dreamed of and what we accomplish, the little hypocrisies and cowardice; while capturing a sense of whimsy of college life and Kyoto's region evocatively. And for all the sardonic tone, it is strongly humanistic and optimistic to its core. It really makes the best use of of the motif of repetition and variation to highlight characters in both their failings and qualities.

An awesome and unique anime overall.


Jul. 5th, 2010 04:29 pm
salinea: (meh)
[personal profile] salinea
Hakuouki Shinsengumi Kitan

After going to Kyoto for a job, Yukimura Chizuru's father disappears, so she decides to dress up as a man in order to travel there herself in order to investigate his whereabouts. On the road, she is attacked by weird white-haired blood-thirsty people and saved by the intervention of the Shinsengumi who take her in (although with a certain amount of threatening). Chizuru's father was known to the Shinsengumi, and seems to have been involved in some of their secrets behind those weird white-haired blood-thirsty people.

Hakuouki shows the typical flaw of visual novel games adaptation : boring harem dynamics and lack luster lead. We are saved from boredom by the quality of the animation - always gorgeous, with some pretty good combat scenes and work with lightning and the sexy character designs of all the bishounens - and by the interest of the Historical period depicted plus the addition of a supernatural plot which is intriguing though too slowly developed.

Chizuru is a pretty unoriginal main character : she's cute, hard-working, kind, determined and has a knack to get herself into trouble. Despite the cross-dressing and wearing a sword that she's nominally supposed to know how to use, she rarely draws her blade and never uses it, thus frustrating our expectation. That would be okay if she was the sort of character using other skills and qualities in order to advance the plot (contrast with Saiunkoku Monogatori for a non-fighting heroine surrounded by an army of bishounen who defend her when needed, who nonetheless manages to be awesome because she actually saves the day with negotiation, paperworks, networking and other non fighting skills) but noooooo, in this show the plot only gets developed by random happenstance due to the many times Chizuru witnesses something she shouldn't have or finds herself in a situation she needs to be rescued from. Oh, and the Historical plot gets developed in voice over, for the most part.

The rest of the cast varies in interest, the usual Shinsengumi stars get their due : Hijikata, Okita, Saito, Harada, Shinpachi, Heisuke etc. all get their chance to shine. And look very pretty. Of course, everyone is pretty uniform ally fond of Chizuru, and she likewise; and all other relationships are mostly underdeveloped (I think, with the exception of Shinpachi and Heisuke's friendship). The supernatural plot is slowly revealed and is intriguing, adding a few other interesting characters, but with the second series set for broadcast next Fall, we've yet to see if it was worth the bother.

So, good for getting a katana-using pretty boys fix and for die-hard collectors of Shinsengumi-related series, but not for much else.
salinea: the Huntress brooding (sad)
[personal profile] salinea
Back when I first finished watching Utena and joined the utena usenet group, I wrote a short essay on some of the themes in Utena. Anyway at some point I decided I wanted to repost such things on my journal so I searched back for it, but when I reread it it looked all horribly vague and badly written, so I ended up rewriting it entirely and it thus became much, much longer. Some of the stuff on this essay are of the painfully obvious variety, and some are me reaching a bit. It's definitely written for an audience of people who have watched the series and is quite spoilery. Anyway I hope you guys will like it. If someone feels like correcting my bad English, I won't resent it and will be quite thankful instead.

Utena's Revolution or la Fin de l'Ancien Régime Romantique

One of SKU's most fascinating feminist critique is the study of the role of power and inequity in human relationships – especially but not only romance between men and women – and the harms it cause to people. Some of it is explored through the core political concept of Princehood and Revolution.

tl, dr on SKU )
salinea: (meh)
[personal profile] salinea
Angel Beats!

Otonoshi is an amnesiac boy, waking up in a high school which serves as a strange kind of afterlife / purgatory for dead people. A score of the "students" there, led by a coldly determined girl, Yurippe, have decided to rebel against God because their lives sucked and have taken up arms against the (female) President of the Student Council, whom they call Angel, and who exhibits strange superpowers to fight back against them (they, in turn, use an impressive battery of weapons). People who follow the rules of the school at Angel's request eventually vanish away, and the rest of the people at school are "NPCs". Otonashi agrees to go along with them until he gets his memory back.

Angel Beats! has one big quality and one big flaw : its quick, dizzying pacing. It never really rests, bringing up a new plot twist changing the direction of the series virtually every episode, and operates some pretty abrupt mood shift within the episodes themselves. On one hand, that makes it particularly entertaining and riveting as you wonder what they'll bring up this time, on the other hand it also undermines much of the atmosphere, leaves it with a sometimes incoherent plot and dramatic moments that feel forced and artificial because there was not enough build up leading to them. Add to that the fact that it crams several genres together (it tries for both gag-based comedy and tear-jerker melodrama, plus the mysterious setting and the odd action scenes) and has a large cast of character; and you have a pretty odd result of ideas flying together at random for some very mixed result. I can't really call it a bad show, because I mostly had fun watching it, but it certainly wasn't great.

Many of the characters are simply underdeveloped and merely served as one-note comedy jokes. I fairly liked the humour of the series (I wouldn't say it was very good, but I like random and deadpan humour so I found it amusing) so I liked most of them. Other characters are developed thanks to the Sob Story of the Week, usually told through a flashback and with little build up, so you're left wondering at Otonashi's strange power of persuasion that convinced everyone to tell him their life story in the middle of a scene. The characters that spend the most time on screen are still mostly okay : I enjoyed Yurippe as a cool-headed and grimly focussed leader (up until the last episode); and Hinata as Otonashi's male best friend, was pretty endearing and solidly characterised as well. Otonashi felt a bit too Sue-esque (though that's probably mostly a result of "easy" level of the scenario and the way he resolves everyone's issues thanks to... err, thanks to what anyway?) but not actively annoying. Angel was too much of a moe archetype for my taste being an Emotionless Girl, but she's not badly characterised either. And some of the dramatic scenes do reach the right note of touching emotion - mostly a credit to the excellent direction.

The plot only barely hangs together, and while you could fanwanks most of the stuff that did not, it's not like the narrative itself provided you with the rational. The setting is intriguing and well used to give the series its quirky atmosphere (with characters' dying always used as a joke, since they're already dead so it doesn't make much of a difference to them), but again, strongly lacks coherence in the end. At least the series has a neat end and concludes on a great note (if you skip the after-credit tag).

The character designs are pretty average and unoriginal, but the animation is mostly gorgeous, with a lovely direction and some great works on light, and an overall glossy feeling that suits the video game aesthetics of the setting well. The soundtrack, while not particularly awesome in itself, was used to great effect to bring the best out of dramatic scenes.

Overall, not a must-see, but an amusing way to pass time, and not an anime I can say I was ever bored watching.


Jun. 27th, 2010 12:01 am
salinea: kid!Loki, smiling adorably (*g*)
[personal profile] salinea
Durarara!! aka Drrr!!

Highschool freshman student Mikado Ryugamine has just arrived to Tokyo, and meets up with his old childhood friend Masaomi Kida who introduces him to the quartier of Ikebukuro : its infamous colour gangs, and the weird newcomer "colourless" gang of the Dollars, his eccentric otaku acquaintances, Simon the Black guy working at the Russian sushi restaurant, warns him about the dangerous Heiwajima Shizuo, the strongest man of Ikebukuro (and the one with the shortest temper), the perhaps even more dangerous information broker Orihara Izaya, and of course Ikebukuro's urban legend in the flesh : the (female) headless motorbike rider, the Dullahan. He also meets a couple more people at school, including beautiful and shy Sonohara Anri who along with him volunteer to be class representative. Them and a quite a few more characters of the city's stories end up involved in a complex, intricate way full of zest, swing, violence, drama and humour; where nothing is quite how it appears.

Adapted from a series of light novel by the author of Baccano!, by the same studio and director as Baccano!, with the same soundtrack composer as Baccano!, with an OP in the same style as Baccano!, there's actually a couple of times where it felt that it was trying just a little bit too hard to be Baccano!-like... it begs to make the comparison, and Durarara!! is just not as good as Baccano!; though it is a very good work of its own despite a frustratingly flawed second half.

For one it is an excellent work of Urban Fantasy in the truest sense of the expression, seeking the capture the sense of magic and entertaining chaos of urban places and modern life, the city & area of Ikebukuro as a character realised handsomely through the various motifs (like the frequent commentary and rumours given from an internet chatroom, or the silhouette way to render the people in a crowd which has an awesome eventual payoff) and themes of the various stories, mythologising it with both the supernatural elements of the show and a couple of larger than life characters. It is in this very much helped by the soundtrack, which is by turns jazz, hip-hop, pop or elegiac in a way that gave the series a very unique atmosphere and suited the mood of the story perfectly. The animation was a bit uneven, with some strikingly excellent work at moments, especially in the beginning, and some much less impressive. The character designs are endearing, and the background art is remarkably detailed, mapped after the real Ikebukuro.

The cast of character is pretty charismatic, with a very wide variety of characters from highschoolers to a Celtic fairy like the Dullahan as well as several adult characters. While I don't think any of them was quite as charming in that wildly over the top way the Baccano! cast had, they were still pretty damn awesome and had overall a great chemistry. However, the anime perhaps went ahead of itself by introducing a lot of characters without quite having the mean (and time) to tell their story and give them their full measure. I was especially fond of Kida, the extremely talkative and flirty best friend, Shizuo, the freakishly strong guy with a trigger-happy temper, Izaya, the manipulative and trickster-like information broker, Celty the badass and kind Dullahan in search of her lost head, and Simon the Black Russian who hates violence (but is able to dish out in the highest level when he has to stop it). This series was remarkable for someone like me who has the hardest time singling-out voice acting from characterisation as a whole because i was the first time when I thought : I could listen to those guys talk for hours on ♥ Though there's a couple of characters I could have liked much more if their story hadn't creeped me out a little bit (... I'm not sure if I can rightly call Durarara!! sexist, but it had a few elements that made me definitely uncomfortable in the way it handled its female characters, and in this case the comparison to Baccano! makes it worse because Baccano! is already not that great on that level. It's hard to articulate though. Actually female characters in both shows having trouble about articulating things as in lacking voices - sort of - is a part of it.)

The storytelling is the big way in which it lacks compared to Baccano!. Durarara!!'s story (I need to stop having fun with the punctuation >_>) starts slowly, yet never boringly, with several effects of fractured narration by giving us different point of views on the same situation to light it with a different meanings each time, taking its time to introduce various characters, slowly bringing up the story strands together seamless for an awesome story arc conclusion in its middle. The second part, which starts 6 months of story time after that, introduces a few more characters yet doesn't quite do anything with the majority of them. Its story is much more linearly told than the first half, badly paced, and simply not as interesting, relying heavily on quid pro quo and communication breakage to bring out drama and - well - wangst. It still manages to bring it out to a satisfying ending; though yet lacking in conclusion for a couple of characters (what with all the light novels not being adapted - though of course Baccano! also had that disadvantage yet managed without that flaw). Had Durarara!! been a show of only 12 episodes, I wouldn't have hesitated to rate it awesome. As it is I can "only" call it good with a certain measure of disappointment. Still, and much like with Baccano!, I hope more of the light novels will eventually get adapted.


Jun. 26th, 2010 01:57 am
salinea: (pensive)
[personal profile] salinea
Sukisyo aka Suki na Mono wa Suki Dakara Shōganai!!

At an all boy Highschool, Sora Hashiba finds himself with a new Dormitory room mate in the presence Nao, except that at their first meeting 1/ Nao called himself "Ran" 2/ climbed up on him while he was sleeping 3/ insisted to him to talk to "Yoru". Also both Nao and dorm president and friend of Hashiba Matsuri used to know Hashiba when he was a child but he forgot all about them nowadays. What are "Ran" and "Yoru", why did Hashiba forgot his childhood, and why did Nao suddenly re-appear into his life?

Sukisyo is a cute, slightly dark and slightly sexy BL series, adapted from a visual novel. In other words, if you like BL, it's pretty charming all around. (Of course I've read enough bad BL manga that any BL story with #1 an actual plot #2 no rape-as-love automatically qualifies as "good" >_>;)

Its first half is mostly filled with fluff and comedy based on Matsuri's money-macking schemes which he persuades Nao and Hashiba to participate in (Matsuri is kind of like a only-slightly-less-crazy-and-overbearing Ayame (of Fruits Basket's fame); including in his character design).

The second half, more focussed on the resolution of the main mysteries, is darker and more dramatic, despite the plot lacking much in sense when you think twice about it and fulfils the character's arc well.

There's a relatively large cast of characters - all male (I sometimes wondered if women actually existed at all in this world ^_^) with several m/m couples. Most of them are rather endearing and well characterised (except the villains who are just... evil, cuz, evil I guess). Nao being the cranky trsundere kind of uke, he's pretty entertaining. Hashiba is a bit clueless, mostly well intentionned and willful kind of male lead; and they have good chemistry. Matsuri of course is awesome and brings a lot of energy to the story.

The character designs are a bit more stylisized than I usually like, but they work well in this case and I didn't dislike them at all. The animation is decent enough. Can't remember anything about the music.

All in all, not a great series in any shape, but a lot of good fun.
salinea: (Default)
[personal profile] salinea
Shikabane Hime (Aka & Kuro)

Oori is a young orphan boy who sometimes have weird visions of a talking cat. One day he realises that his big brother figure, the Buddhist monk Keisei who found him as a child and has been taking care of him since, has a strange relationship to a young undead girl named Makina who hunts down undead monsters known as Corpses or Shikabane. Makina herself is called the Shikabane Hime.

Shikabane Hime is an adaptation of an action / horror shounen series which keeps teasing us with glimmer of goodness : the direction is remarkably good, the graphic palette in faded colours is absolutely lovely and atmospheric, the main characters though archetypal are pretty well realised and sympathetic, some of the animation is really stunning especially in the first season, the horror ambiance building in general is pretty good and subtle, and some of the dramatic moments do work well. It's also pretty well paced, slowly and deliberate with episodic stories that lets them build up the cast of characters well in the first season, then quickly around with a more overarching arc in the second season. The ending is also pretty unique and well delivered.

And yet for all that Shikabane Hime is just another boring shounen series, with a pretty lacklustre plot, some horribly timed comedy and fanservice. The only thing I'd want to rescue of the story is the way it relies heavily on Buddhist motifs like attachment to build its mythology in a way that feels pretty fresh. Also it's yet another series which portray badass young female (it's always young and female) warrior in service to (almost always) older male guardians/authority figures (which in this case institutionally at least treat them as unclean things) without the narrative providing much in terms of feminist commentary (that is to say : the institutional dehumanisation is obviously portrayed as a bad thing and exploitative, but without any kind of feminist self awareness, especially not related to the elements of fanservice the show exploits). That sort of tropes just officially got old (and I love me some badass young female warrior!).

In other word, I think I'll try to find what other things this director can do when he's not adapting silly shounen mangas.

I leave you with the OP which is remarkably good and, indeed, perhaps the best thing in the whole series:


abymage: (Default)
Etrangere's anime reviews

September 2011

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Currently watching

- Legend of Galactic Heroes
- Katanagari
- Uraboku
- Senkou no Night Raid
- Madlax
- Welcome to the NHK
- Now and Then, Here and There
- Kaze no Yojimbo
- Arigatou Ghost Slayer Arashi
- Kara no Kyoukai
- Occult Academy
- Shiki
- Legend of Legendary Heroes


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