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I am so late with anime reviews. I really need to catch up before all the winter shows finish and I have even more on my plate ^_^;;

Kazemakase Tsukikage Ran



In Historical Japan, Ran is, in her own word, a beautiful drifter, a female samourai with a love for sake, a lot of skill with swords and a cool, easy going attitude that doesn't entirely stop her from being involved when injustice crosses her path. The unlikely named Miew is a very carefree and not particularly bright female kung fu fighter who walks the earth. When their path cross they start bickering a lot drifting together and fighting crime (or injustice in general).

Dating from the year 2000, Kazemakase Tsukikake Ran is a short, pleasant and pretty simple anime series which does have a certain charm despite it's lack of subtleties. It is very much episodic, very much chanbara and comedy and not much else. One of the stuff I really liked about it are perhaps the ways it stands out as old fashioned : here's a story with two female leads and we have neither romance with other characters, neither hints of romance or fanservicy between one another. Likewise there is no moe of anykind or any overwhelming cuteness. The comedy is mostly basic Boke and Tsukkomi routine (in a way that was actually pretty annoying because I hate when humour relies on making the sidekick character very stupid, especially as Ran hardly needs that to look cool). The action scenes are pretty cool relative to the production values (which are of the 90's but pretty good for it), and I certainly enjoyed watching them a lot. The plots are simple but serviceable, very much to the point. Ran, as mentioned, is a very cool and awesome characters, and I really love her voice in particular (someday I'll learn to pay attention to voice acting in a meaningful way, riiiight). I also loved the opening music, which is a drinking enka song ^_^. In conclusion a pretty nice series if you want something short and sweet and chambara-esque (who doesn't?).

Link to a fun blog review comparing Tsukikage Ran to Samurai Chammploo : http://2dteleidoscope.wordpress.com/2009/11/08/tsukikage-ran-vs-samurai-champloo-artificial-pasts/


His and Her Circumstances aka Kare Kano



Yukino is a high school student who is very vain and likes nothing like being praised, and therefore puts a lot of work into being a model student and acting like the perfect, elegant, delicate and classy girl she is really not in personality. Arima is the perfect, kind, classy boy who beats her result without even trying because he's the genuine thing (for the most part). Also he's in love with her. Also he just discovered that she's faking it. Also, now, he's blackmailing her.

I'm seldom the biggest fan of shoujo high school comedy romance anime adaptation. That is for the most part because I tend to love their manga version so much more and find the anime doesn't add much. In this case, I haven't read the manga (yet), so I can't know if the very high opinion of the anime series would be significantly lower from the manga. It does show the main disadvantage of shoujo adaptation which is that it just stops without any ending, ARGH. But let's be clear : this is probably the single best shoujo high school comedy romance series I have watched as of yet.

Let's start with the characters. The characters are awesome, every single ones of them. Yukino is very entertaining, she's very competitive, she doesn't get intimidated by much and is very brave and mentally tough as well as smart overall. She does have some vulnerabilities at the same time, as well as some obvious flaws; but she also doesn't hesitate to grow and develop marvellously through the series. In general, she's easy to root for. Also, she's hilarious. Arima oscillates a bit between being too perfect in a sweet, humble, nice way, but at Yukino's contact he really shows some more mischievously and genuine personality which makes him more likeable. Of course he also has some massive angst and darker issues. Then there are the secondary characters. They are a lot of them, and they get introduced and developed progressively. AND THEY ARE ALL AWESOME.

Yukino and Arima's relationship is portrayed in a pretty wonderful way in that their relationship actually progresses, in a very organic way and without being set back by artificial drama. At some point they have sex. It's portrayed as a natural step which is Not A Big Deal. For a 90's shoujo, I bet that was pretty ground breaking.

Story wise, KareKano oscillates between crazy energetic crackful comedy and lovely depiction of romance and friendship. The comedy is pretty good overall, with good timing and no big cliches, though it's probably not the bestest comedy that ever was found in a shoujo. The romance/friendship/character dynamics in general however, is some of the seriously best stuff ever. I'm talking at least a Crowing Moment of Heart-warming every two episodes, here. And I'm using this term despite that I hate it because it's the most accurate in this case. It's very much cheering and sweet, without being very cute, just heart-warming and adorable and lovely.

The production values are pretty low. This is a late 90's shoujo series, handled by Gainax back when they didn't know how to handle a budget, and they probably didn't have much to start; at least that how it looks like. There's all sorts of tricks to avoid animating stuff; shift to drawn art at emotional moments, and lots, lots of recapping. The thing is, despite being obvious, all of those things aren't annoying (with the possible exception of the recapping); they are, in fact, turned into a STYLISTIC WIN. It's all done very ingeniously and in ways that improve the story instead of diserving it, which is, in itself, very impressive.

So basically, this is something of a classic for shoujo series, and for a good reason, and I definitely do not regret taking the time to watch it.
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I had promised... I forget if it was [personal profile] misstopia or [personal profile] haremstress, or both, a big rec post about SKU at some point; so there it is!

Revolutionary Girl Utena, aka Shoujo Kakumei Utena or SKU for short, is a series from the mid-nineties. It exists in both manga and anime form; and there also was an animated movie adaption made in 1999; but i mostly want to talk about the animated series which is, IMHO, the best and more interesting form the story takes. It was directed by Ikuhara, which at that point was mostly known for working a lot on Sailor Moon; and comports 39 episodes organised in 4 narrative arcs of unequal size.



The Story

Tenjou Utena is a 14 year old girl enrolled at the Ohtori Academy. When she was a young child and after just losing her parents, she remembers meeting a Prince who saved her and gave her a ring to remember him by. She was so impressed by him that she decided to herself become a Prince as well as cherishing the ring in the hope of meeting him again. Thus motivated, Utena grows up as an impressively athletic girl who values noble qualities and straightforwardness; and she always wears a male uniform in high school to the annoyance of her teacher and to the boosting of her popularity amongst other girls.
One day, in order to defend her best friend who just got her heart broken by a jerk, she ends up involved in a duel against a member of the Student School on a very weird duel arena that exists in the Forest behind the school and under an upside down castle floating in the sky. It just so happens that every members of the Student Council wear the exact same ring that was given to her by her Prince, which marks them as Duellists in an elaborate game organised by a mysterious letters writer naming themselves The End of the World where the Victor receive a young girl, Himemiya Anthy, as their Bride for as long as they keep winning; and has a shot at winning the vaguely defined Power to Revolutionise the World. By the way, the current Victor needs not bring a sword to the duel, they can just magically bring forth the Sword of Dios from inside the body of Anthy. Because Anthy is cruelly abused by her initial Victor, and appears to submit to it meekly as per the rules of the game, Utena ends up participating in those games in order to protect her as, one by one, each member of the Student Council challenge her.

Pics and lengthy review )
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Sasameki Koto (aka Whispered Words)

Kazama is a sweet and a little bit airhead girl with the habit of regularly falling into a crush for cute and small girls, Sumika is her best friend and secretly has a crush on her. Sadly Sumika is the type of girl - tall, capable, excellent at both sports & academics - that would be more properly called handsome rather than cute, so she mostly spends her time suffering in silence while Kazama drifts from one crush related hijnks to another. One day they witness two other girls kissing one another in an emptied classroom.



I wasn't expecting to find another good yuri anime right after Aoi Hana, but there it is. While the story is fairly predictable and lacks originality, going from slice-of-life to comedy, gently pocking fun at some classic yuri tropes while following most of them along the ways, Sasameki Koto is a very good and entertaining watch, with endearing characters and excellent storytelling. In particular it strikes a very good balance between comedy and the emotion of (various) unrequited love and friendship; and executes both very well : the wacky stuff is very funny and adorable, the emotional moment are very sweet or heartbreaking. The cast of characters is pretty excellent : I found both Kazama and Sumika to be very charming; and all the various other secondary and tertiary characters are also pretty fun and lively. Tomoe and Miyaka, the couple of lesbians, are hilarious and great at giving impetus to the story by wanting to create Girl's club; and Akemiya, a boy with a crush on Sumika, who gets up to crossdressing for complicated reasons, is also adorable. The cast is completed by Sumika and Kazama's genki friend and another classmate who is a fangirl of Yuri novels.

The art and animation doesn't stand out as in any way, but they're enjoyable and fluid enough, with some good direction.

Much like with Aoi Hana, the biggest flaw of the series is that it couldn't adapt the whole run of the manga so it just... stops and doesn't deliver any ending; which is a bit frustrating (less than in a plot focussed series; but still).

In conclusion a very solid and well crafted if typical comedy/romance series.
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[personal profile] salinea
In order of 'liked it most' to 'liked it least', no spoilers unless marked & whiteouted.

Aoi Hana

Read more... )

Tokyo Magnitude 8.0

Read more... )

Spice & Wolf S2

Read more... )

Taishou Yakyuu Musume aka Taishou Era Baseball Girls

Read more... )

Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom

Read more... )

The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi S2

Read more... )


That's all for this batch. Will review Bakemonogatori (if i feel up to it because I have some very mixed feelings about this one) and Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood when they are actually finished.
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All right, enough with the slacking!

Ghost Hunt



Young teenage girl Mai likes telling ghost stories with her friends. Someday a supernatural investigation is launched at her high school, and after a mishap where the assistant investigator is injured, she finds herself replacing him in helping 17 year old head investigator Naru (short for Narcissist, due to his charming and remarkably humble personality, nicknamed by Mai and everyone followed up through on that ^_^) in this investigation an later on taking on a part time job officially at the Shibuya Psychic Research Center.

Adapted from a series of light novels by Fuyumi Ono (aka the writer of 12 Kingdoms), Ghost Hunt is made by a series of a few episodes long case stories. The cases are pretty classical haunting and ESP based stories, and never very surprising, but all very solidly told in terms of pacing, atmosphere and storytelling and as a result very successfully enjoyable and entertainingly creepy, each one better than the previous one. They also manage well to be credibly build their world in a way that made me want to reach for my Second Sights book to play nWoD: Ghost Hunters, if you see what I mean.

There's also a definite appeal to the cast dynamics. Naru is a pretty amusing character - a rather antisocial, extremely intelligent, exigent and dry-witted young man - and he plays up to Mai - your ordinary cheerful high school girl with a spine and lots of natural curiosity - in a very entertaining way. The secondary characters - we've got a kind hearted Australian Catholic priest, a laid-back and fashionable Buddhist monk, a Shinto priestess with a bad temper, a famous Medium girl with a traditional demeanour; and Naru's protective and laconic assistant - also all have their appeal and their moment to shine.

Although it's not show where i can point out one thing and say : "this is why it's awesome", I really enjoyed watching it all the way through, it's just solid and well done overall. The animation is also excellent and very fluid, and the musical atmosphere quite good.

One of the only bad point i have against it is that the series ended short of adapting one of the key reveal from the light novel, which I had to go find out on the internet (there's manga adaptation which does go until there, for the curious) - and it's a shame because that's one reveal that made me even more interest in the characters and their relationship.

Ghost Hound



In a small village, eleven years go, Taro and his older sister were kidnapped and imprisoned in the disaffected hospital beneath the dam, and when their kidnapper died unexpectedly when he was chased by the police, it was three days before they were found. Taro's sister was dead then. Nowadays he's a 14 years old boy whose whole family is still trying to get over the trauma of what happened. When a new boy from Tokyo, Masayuki, who likes asking uncomfortable questions spurs Taro and another boyfrom the village, Makoto, whose father may have been involved in the kidnapping before killing himself; to go back together to the deserted hospital in an effort to exorcise their fear and the mysteries from the past, they all end up having an Out of Body Experience, opening up to the Unseen World.

All right, as you see it's not exactly a simple premises, it's got a lot of texture, a lot of interesting and intriguing details interwoven thematically. The pacing is pretty slow, but it's got gripping atmosphere served by some of the most creepy sound effect I've ever seen. The characters are all very well realised and compelling. They play onto your average anime archetypes, yet feel much more realistic (and flawed) than that, while still ending up making you feel concerned with them. The somewhat claustrophobic setting in a small village where everyone knows everyone also works great.

In terms of the main mystery, I found the end of the story a bit of a disappointment, with a rather anticlimactic ending which didn't end up solving as much as I hoped it would. In fact, the true emotional climax of the story is three episodes before the actual ending, playing up to the psychological and character development which was the true highlight of the story. Despite the disappointment in the overall story, it's still got some really effective ideas, mixing psychological, quantum physic, biological and mythological concepts from right and left and building up a fascinating tension, interweaving characters and thematics in a great way.

The animation and graphics are top notch, and a pleasure to see. I love how they designed the Unseen World, full of old extinct species done with very lovely CGI. I really love the OP, too.


The main characters from Ghost Hound : sweet and cute Taro, nosy and cocky Masayuki, troubled boy with an attitude Makoto, and Miyako, a sensible elementary school girl and daughter of the local Shinto priest who sometimes gets possessed.

(so yes, I did review the two Horror anime with very similar names together on purpose ^_^)
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Fulfilling my resolution of writing reviews for series as I go, here's my opinion on the anime Natsume Yuujinchou, first season

An episodic shoujo series about a highschool boy, Natsume, who has the gift of seeing spirits and monsters; and which has always considered this as a curse - being seen as weird by his classmates, and being passed on from adoptive families to adoptive families. His grandmother had the same power and used it to bully spirits into forming many a "pact of friendships" which she collected in a book which is now in Natsume's possession. This brings Natsume a lot of unwanted attentions from yokais which want to steal the book for their own advantage, or to be released from their pacts of friendship. Natsume forms an agreement with one such powerful creature - Nyanko Sensei - which takes the form of a Maneki Neko to be his bodyguard against the other spirits, and in exchange will inherit the book of pacts once Natsume dies. Meanwhile Natsume will try to release as many yokai from the pacts as he can.

(this was my summary of the manga I just copy-pasted. I'm lazy, okay? :D )

Loving the manga a great deal, I was a bit apprehensive of the anime. I was wrong to be: this is an excellent adaptation, which manages overall to catch quite well the atmosphere and the characters from the manga, both in terms of animation, music and voice acting; and even manages to improve on it on a few points, such as making Natsume's school mates more present through out and fleshing their characterisation better (we also gain a bit on how Natsume look in their PoV, which is sort of funny in that he's much more cool in a mysterious way than when we're in his PoV). It also avoids to repeat the basis of the series as the very episodic manga did every chapter, also a plus XD and tied up a lot of storyline cutely together in the final episode (as well as including hints of some further developments in the manga, hehe) There are only one or two stories I found a bit weaker than their manga counterparts - stretching the pathos or cuteness too heavily; but nothing to really complain about. All in all, it has deepened my fondness for this series, and I'm now curious to see what the fandom is made up of and if there are fics with my ship.
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Somehow I tried to take advantage of the fact I had a lot of free time this year to watch a whole bunch of TV series and anime. I didn't actually review most of them, so I'll try to compile my impressions there.

The Awesome )

The Good )

The Flawed yet Compelling yet Flawed )

The Okay I guess )

The Boring )

The Not Sure Yet )

Whoa. This took me so long to type I started yesterday and only finished today. Next time I'll try to do more reviews as I go >_>;

Anyway, I'm off to see the new BSG ep!

12 Kingdoms

Jun. 5th, 2008 12:25 am
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12 Kingdoms starts with that good ol' trope : a young girl from our world is transported into a fantasy world where she has an important and mysterious role to play, around which various intrigues, adventures and magic revolve. The young girl is Youko, a nice obedient girl who has the flaw of wanting everyone to like her - if you're a HP fan fond of Remus as a big part of my flist is, you'll know what that mean - and she was carried away along with two of her school mate, one of which is another girl, Sugimoto, who is a big fan of fantasy novels herself and wants nothing but be carried into that world of magic, persuaded that she'll finally find there a place to belong (the other is the second girl's boyfriend and has very little personality and plot relevance so don't mind him). Quickly after travelling, they are, because of a fight, separated from the man who had made them cross over and find themselves stranded in a world which they know nothing about, and on which their status as travellers from another world makes them subject to pursuit and imprisonment.

However the anime as a whole presents several stories, only another one deals directly with the same character as the first (the others center around secondary characters from the first story or new characters altogether) - giving a bit of strange feeling to the pacing of the series as a whole. Both the opening and ending songs are gorgeous pieces that really help the immersion.

In terms of characters, the story intrigued me immediately by intentionally setting its characters as not very likeable. Most of the major protagonists are presented as flawed people - not in the glorified anti-heroic way of gritty fantasy - but with the essential pettiness, self-delusions, small hypocrisies and selfishness of teenagers. Their depiction is very stark and raw, but not without compassion for the hardships they suffer from. I liked seeing them grow out of those weaknesses and learning to face their responsabilities in all their forms, to blossom into better people. There's a certain feeling to this theme of responsability and maturing which reminded me of Utena, although the treatment is very different. Overall the characters are very nuanced, believable and differenciated.

In terms of story, it is very entrancing and tightly paced (a lot of episodes end up on cliffhangers!). Once we get to the part with more ambitious plotting it is also well constructed if not exactly complex. There was at least one point which surprised me when they completely glossed over what could have been a major epic moment summarizing in a short voice-over, but we got paid back on that with another epic moment in the sequel story. The storytelling, however, is mostly focussed on the evolution of the various characters which it does very well.

The world building of the 12 Kingdoms is pretty interesting. It's fairly low key magically. A lot of the details revolve around the concept of government chosen by the Heavens, what happens when it goes wrong, and the difficulties in making it work right, which might sound silly but is examined with a lot of earnestness and gravity as one of the central theme of the story and end up being rather fascinating as such, even as its political blindspots could occasionally be frustrating. There are also a lot of creatures, wolf-like, horse-like, bird-like and plain chimera, which look gorgeous and totally appealed to my inner 12 year old. The graphic design of the world is also beautiful and works well. There's a certain abuse of exotic terms and names which can be sometimes be hard keeping track of, but I couldn't figure if that was a genuine issue of the writing, or an effect of using those words without translating them in the adaptation (which was fansubs, of course). My other main criticism is that for all that it's got 12 kingdoms, most of them remain unused and have zero differentiation between them apart from which King or Queen rules over them.

There's a couple of excellent ideas such as the fact that this is a world in which people get born from fruits of a special tree. I kinda fell in love with this idea because I think it's got ginarmous potential to explore issues about gender and sexuality in a way that's very pertinent in a fantasy world without having the boys of the old boys' club of sexist fantasy complaining about the lack of realism. Sadly, the story doesn't much explore this idea - there's a couple of clever throwaway lines about different kinds of marriage contracts and how they're used by people and that's about it. All of the couples we see are also heteronormative.

The gender dynamics of the series in general are a bit ambiguous. Definitely, they don't mean to show female characters as having less status or power in this world (except maybe in the Kingdom of Kei for very specific reasons), and the stories portray a lot of strong female characters as main protagonists. However the way that two Queens (one crowned the other consort) had their fatal flaws being their jealousy of other women left a rather bitter taste in my mouth. My overall impression is positive, it's just that it had the couple of WTF moments.

12 Kingdom is about an old trope, to some amount it did some acknowledgement of the escapist aspects of that trope, and some genuine effort to try to subvert it - but I don't think it was entirely successful. It also fell into that trap of telling the same story over and over. You know how in Darkover at least half of the books revolve around the story of a Terran, or someone who was raised among Terrans for reasons x or y goes onto Darkover, and discover telepathic powers and the culture there? Well, a good part of 12 Kingdoms gave me the impression of telling again and again the story of someone from Japan transplanted (for reason x or y) the 12 Kingdoms and having to discover the rules of that world and their own role in it. For all of that, it was a very interesting use of that trope and the best of those I've had the occasion of watching in anime (the others I know of being Fushigi Yuugi, Escaflowne and the first episodes of Kyou Kara Maoh...)

In conclusion a very good series well worth watching and very immersive, with strong and fascinating characters and a lovely examination of the themes of responsibility, admission of one's flaws and growing up. And pretty creatures/monsters ♥

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