N°6

Sep. 19th, 2011 06:47 pm
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N°6

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)

RideBack

Aug. 2nd, 2010 12:54 am
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RideBack



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.
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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.
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Scrapped Princess



In a medieval fantasy kind of setting, Pacifica Cassul is a spoiled, sweet, cheerful, rather clumsy 15 year old girl. She's also the prophesied of Scrapped Princess who will bring destruction to the world when she turns 16 and as a result is hunted by pretty much everyone at the instigation of the Church of Mauser. Thankfully her two older foster siblings, Raquel, a magician, and Shannon, a fighter, are quite bad ass and will do anything to protect her as they run away chased down by various kinds of assassins.

Dating from 2003, Scrapped Princess is one of those shows I'd call solid and well crafted without really having any particular edge that bring it to excellence. Graphically, it's very pretty, with gorgeous animation, compelling, round character design; and a beautiful direction overall. Most of the characters are a bit too much stereotypical, but they are well used for drama and comedy. The setting is very basic fantasy and trite. There's a twist about it, but that also turns out to be rather predictable. The action scenes are boring. So the series is entertaining and easy to watch, with good drama and comedy, but it always feels a little bit artificial and manipulative, with a strong sense of deja vu (take one pinch of Slayers, one pinch of Gurren Lagann, powder with BtVS S5 and stir with a small dose Nanoha... now this is unfair, Gurren Lagann came after... it just did it better, is all).

Pacifica, our nominal heroine, doesn't do much. Her power is much more about what she is, and her personality is to be cute, kind-hearted, preternaturally cheerful, a little bit spoiled so we and random characters she meets feel like protecting her. Shannon plays the role of the badass, stoic, teasing, protective older brother (he vaguely reminds me of Touya of CCS in global outlook) in a more active way. Raquel is a cool character too, very polite and feminine in demeanour and quite deadly with a spell, but she's much less put in focus compared to the strength of the Shannon-Pacifica relationship. There are other important characters, such as a badass general princess (sadly underdeveloped) and her girlfriend; an airhead knight who falls in love with Pacifica; the stoic young elite soldier who was sent to kill Pacifica then investigates the origin of the prophecy; or the demonic emotionless girl who starts helping the Cassul family for her own agenda.

There are elements in the story that are interesting, the whole "protagonist is the one who will doom the world" bit is an interesting premise, exploited in good dramatic ways, especially the fact that most of the antagonists feel like they have a good reason to be trying to kill Pacifica, and the story sometimes offer ironic parallels with other characters and situations to complexify things. However the plot remains often too banal, despite the high quality of the direction and storytelling. The ending, while suitingly dramatic, felt way too easy and Deus Ex Machina in the way it resolved things.

So a good and solid series, but an underwhelming one.

Planetes

May. 6th, 2010 11:55 pm
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PlanetES



Space, baby, space. And not any space; realistic, gritty, hard science space like you've never seen hard science on a TV or cinema screen before.

The year is 2075, space exploration is continuing at a steady rhythm, leaving a trail of a bunch of junk in orbits, and one day of course one piece of garbage causes a big accident, so various programs of debris collection are organised in the corporations that deal with space exploitation. Since of course, this is no profitable business, those programs are underfunded and a place to send employees nobody else wants. But they do their job nonetheless. Our story deals on one such agency, and in particular with a young Japanese woman Ai Tanabe, a clumsy, spunky, hard-working, idealistic busybody who just joined the program and needs to learn everything, and with Hachimaki (thus nicknamed because he always wears one) her senior astronaut, also Japanese , a jerk with a heart of... actually I don't think he's got much of a heart, but who loves space and dreams of owning his own space ship one day. The focus of the story starts very low key and episodic in a slice of life way with a side of romance, painting a broad and complex picture of space exploitation and exploration in the future along the way, then develops a more continuous dramatic storyline in its second half, brought to an impressive and emotional climax both on the global scale and the smaller scale of the characters.



Unlike most everyone I've seen talking and reviewing Planetes, I actually have mixed feeling about this anime. On the one hand, yes, it does some brilliant, beautiful and heart-wrenching things, and more over, does it about themes and situations that you almost never see anywhere else. Planetes does space like nothing else does it (but documentaries, I guess), and Planetes does personal drama excessively well, and both of those by themselves make it worth watching. But Planetes also does a number of irritating things I can't quite ignore; and also does a few problematic things that are so involved and complex I have difficulties even properly articulating them. I'll probably have to make a second spoilery post to even try addressing them.

cut for length & pics )
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Xam'd : Lost Memories aka Bounen no Xamdou aka Bounen no Zamned aka fuck that shit, it's got too many names



Akiyuki is an ordinary highschool boy living on the quiet Sentan island along with his separated parents, and his two best friends Haru (female) and Furuichii (male), when someday he helps a mysterious white haired girl trump the security to get on their bus for school. During the trip, Sentan Island is attacked by the Northern Empire by using Humanforms (= magibiotech weapon that transform ordinary people into huge rampaging monsters with flashy colours) and the white haired girl has their bus explode and puts a Hiroki in Akiyuki's arm that makes him into a Xam'd, a smaller scale rampaging monster who starts fighting with the Humanform, causing much damage to the city. Haru runs after him to help him, without success, until a mysterious girl (another one), Nakiami (aka 'Second Coming of Nausicaa'), shows up, gets Akiyuki to turn back into a human and then kidnaps him onto.... the Postal airship where she lives on, hoping to teach Akiyuki to control his Xam'd ability so he doesn't turn into stone and die. Meanwhile, the Southern country already at war with the Northern country allies itself with Sentan island and sends military forces there as well as a team of researchers into Humanform technology.

Xam'd is a show with excellent production values, awesome characterisation, compelling drama and a story that doesn't make much sense at all.

The character design is lovely and vivid, the animation ranges from excellent to stunning, and the soundtrack is wonderful. I also loved both generics, Boom Boom Satellite who made the OP music is my new favourite band ♥

There are a lot of characters, and the story doesn't shy away from developing and giving their own agency to characters who could have seen as fairly minor or secondary. Akiyuki's parents are fairly well developed for example (and pretty damn awesome), so is Haru's sister and most of the characters on board of the postal ship. This throws up the story in a lot of interesting, complicated directions although it's also what made the story lose its focus. The main cast is also very endearing : Akiyuki despite beint your ordinary young male lead has a sympathetic personnality you can relate with and is willing to learn and grow very easily. Nakiyami, being Nausicaa Lite, is of course fairly awesome, determined and strong, empathetic, and very much badass. Haru despite being in the designated Love Interest role is a fairly interesting character with a lot of agency and backbone. However sometimes characterisation intersected with the WTF-ness of the plot in ways that were odd and disappointing, concluding a character arc in unsatisfactory ways or making some of them rather inconsistent.



The world building remained a little bit too vague and kitchen-sink-y trough most of the story. On the one hand there's the way they drop so many kind of elements in there : highschool students, aircrafts, a war, magitek and biomecha and what nots in ways that felt very... video games-y? I dunno, it didn't feel like there were much consistency to it, especially since there were very little exposition or explanation, and the underlying mythology that bears the story was very much confused and near-ununderstandable (still not sure there was actually something to understand). Despite this, thanks to the quality of the animation and soundtrack, it's very vivid and awe-inducing.

The plot meanders in weird ways. With good dramas, so I can't say I was ever bored or not enjoying myself, but in ways that are utterly baffling at times. Where do they go with it? Who are the antagonists? Who are the protagonists? What are the sides of the war? Exactly what roles do the Tessik, the token Magical Discriminated against people (that Nakiami belongs to), play in this and what is their past? Who are the white haired children and how are they related to the Tessik and what is their plan? Who does the Postal Ship work for exactly and do they have a mission asides from mailing stuff which explains how badass they are? I'm not really sure what's the answer to most of those questions after watching the show. I'm not sure there is one.

As a result, the themes aren't much clear or well developed either, there's a nice compassionate heart to it, where killing people/creatures that were once people is seen as bad/sad. There's a nice motif of letters / communication which is kind of cool if fairly aimless. And some more vague stuff about how war affect a population. And how embittered discriminated minorities shouldn't succumb to rage and stuff -_-;. And some disability fail which was fairly wtf x_x. So yeah, nothing great on the theme front.

One of the thing that amused me about that show was many of the similarities it's got with Eureka 7, another Bones show which I dropped after watching more than half of it. One of the thing I disliked about Eureka 7 was how tight the focus was on the main idiotic male character, and how other characters relate to him (and his family), with the large cast of otherwise cool characters having very little agency - Xam'd shows the flaw of going the opposite way, although I still like it better that way (at least Xam'd doesn't take more than 15 episodes before it first passes the Bechdel test, for example, and some of the female character's story in Xam'd aren't about male characters at all *gasp*). Of course another advantage Xam'd has is that its main character isn't utterly stupid. I assume Eureka had, in the end, a much better mythology/world and more consistent story and worthy ending though I never got up to that, based on how many people like the series.

In the end, I found Xam'd to be a very enjoyable show at the I was watching it, but when I think twice about it, I am disappointed by the waste of potential that a show with such gorgeous production value and promising characters ended up with.
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Sora no Woto



In a post-Apocalyptic world (long after thereof) and right after the end of a war, Kanata is a cheerful and optimistic young girl who joins the Army for the sake of learning to play the trumpet. She is sent to a small town in Switzerland, where five female soldiers are always stationed by tradition because of a local legend of five maidens and a monstruous creature.

Sora no Woto is a pretty dull and mediocre moe slice of life / comedy show, only enlivened by its intriguing setting, gorgeous background art and a lovely soundtrack. The characters are all pretty thin and fit too much into their moe template in artificial ways, I was fond of Rio (the cool sempai with a mysterious past character), but I could give or take all the other characters, except for Kureha, the tsundere, which I found rather annoying (which is odd of me, since I typically tend to adore tsunderes, go figure).

The comedy is adequate, except a couple of cringe-worthy events, and it's not unpleasant to watch but nothing to write home about. We keep getting intriguing hints about the setting, and how mysterious it is, what exactly was the Apocalyptic event that happened, why there is traces of a Japanese civilisation here and there in the otherwise European setting; and what was the local town legend about. Most of those hints are never full resolved; and while there's a real climax at the ending, it relies too much on unlikely events to be as dramatic as it could have been (it's not a terrible one though). There is one excellent episode in the middle of the series; and generally speaking, the way it deals with war, the traces it left on various characters is pretty interesting and well done. (I think there is way too few stories that take place after a war and deal with where you go from there, how you rebuild etc. so credit for a series for dealing with this at least a little)

To be perfectly honest the main reasons I was watching the show is that I really love Mediterranean landscapes, and the series portray them beautifully in its background art (apparently copied from a small mountain town in Spain). Also the music is nice, especially the OP, which also has cool Klint inspired visuals:



And, you know, winter was a pretty bad anime season, and it was that or watching Cobra.

Ergo Proxy

Feb. 12th, 2010 01:49 am
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Ergo Proxy



In a post-Apocalyptic future, most of mankind, to protect themselves from the wasteland that Earth has become, lives in isolated domes such as Romdo in which our story starts; which got all the technology to make life luxurious and comfortable for its citizens, including androids they call Auto-Reiv, though not everyone is granted the status of citizens. However a virus called Cogito is infecting Auto-Reiv, often triggering them into murdering people; and there's another series of murders which seem caused by a strange monster called Proxy. Re-l Meyer is a young woman charged with investigating those matters. Vincent Law is a young immigrant from the faraway city of Mosk trying to become a citizen and who appears to have a mysterious connection to those murders. Pino is an Auto-Reiv of companionship in the shape of a little girl.

There's something about Ergo Proxy that really reminds me of a certain aestheticism that was much more common in the 90's or early 00's (and I don't just mean in the anime medium); something about cyberpunk and mindfuck and avalanches of philosophical references and 90's action heroines that aren't really the heroine and a general over seriousness. It makes it feel a bit annoyingly affected at time, as if it had already aged badly even though it's pretty recent. That said, it's a pretty good anime, though it has certain flaws.

Visually, Ergo Proxy is quite stunning, with a very unique character design style, fluid animation, and a gritty dark & brown colour palette that suits its oppressive and ambiguous atmosphere perfectly - to the point that the colourlessness occasionally made me feel quite morose.

In terms of plot, Ergo Proxy is a bit meandering. The first few episodes were frankly boring, and I probably would have dropped it were it not for the fact I bought those fucking DVDs and I wasn't watching it alone. Then the story finally starts in an interesting direction to go on... on a road trip with a very episodic nature to it. And I actually like those more standalone episode much, much more; especially as many of them were little jewels of Mindfuckery. I do love my mindfuck, I do. Plus, occasional meta-ness! And one episode where literally nothing happens, and it's actually one of the single best episode in the series! Then they wrap up the plot in an okay ending, though if you weren't following during the Quizz show episode info dump, you'll probably be very confused by the conclusion.

Characterisation is another of the pretty good aspect. It feels a bit bait-and-switch, with the way you think first that Re-l is the main protagonist; and then you think, oh, no, I guess it's really Vincent; and then it never really clarifies who's the real lead between the two and it feels a bit confusing. Anyway, Re-l is an interesting female lead, she's competent though often a bit overconfident, driven and stubborn; she's pretty sharp tongued and temperamental, and she's both a bit of a spoiled child and someone with acceptance issues. Vincent is very shy, unassuming and kind, sometimes to the point of being annoying, but in the end pretty sympathetic. They both feel very real. Pino is redoubtably cute, but small aspects of childlike amorality to give her a certain edge. The secondary characters vary greatly, but there's a few that really stand out despite only appearing in one or a couple of episodes.

Thematically... errr Ergo Proxy name drops a whole lot of philosophical names and concepts in a way that's rather baffling to me because most of them went way over my head. Does it build anything of consequence with all those references that end up for a deep and complex thematics? Or does it just use them for to look cool and symbolic without really making any sense? I have no clue. In the end, we have a pretty cool Existential message, which is always nice but I get the same from my trashy gonzo action modern pirates show without all the fanfare & trumpets. There's also a lovely sense of melancholy in the face of certain death; and a motif of relationship between creators and creatures which play at a series of levels in a beautiful sad way. And puns. Actually the puns were really silly and sort of Sailor Moon level. So, I dunno, you tell me if you saw anything really profound and intricate into it that would justify calling a series of talking statues Derrida, Lacan & I forgot the third, because I certainly can't guess why on my own.

So yeah, in the end a pretty good show, especially if you like intellectual cyberpunk shows and good mindfucks.
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Himitsu: the Revelation



In the near future, a technology is developed to be able to watch the visual memories of someone through scanning their brains shortly after the death. A unit of police called Section 9 is developed, specialised into watching the brains of the murder victims and criminals in order to solve cases.

Adapted from a josei manga by Reiko Shimizu (called The Top Secret in its French translation), Himitsu was something of a disappointment. I've watched so many great anime adaptation of manga lately, I had forgotten that it was such a risky form I can be very picky of XD. The problem doesn't come from the plot adaptation or addition, which, for the most part actually were an improvement (especially how they made Nanako a real member of the team SPOILER instead of only introducing her in order to be killed as she is END SPOILER in the manga) and necessary in order to increase the overall story's cohesiveness; but from the show's direction : basically it felt very forced and hammed to the point of cheesiness, always going for the overstated when it should have gone for the understated (especially since most of the plots are horrific and taboo enough in contents, they didn't need oversell the point to shock or hook us in) in a way that removed from the dramatic tension and made me roll my eyes more than a few times. The soundtrack is particularly grating, but, really, this is a flaw of the storytelling in general.

It's not all bad though : the source material is pretty interesting if you like mysteries about dark, mature subjects, with some interesting thematics about privacy and how secrets weigh on people. It can sometimes be gore; and there's a couple of episodes that sort of flirt with a CSI-like freak of the week vibe; but for the most part, it's handled rather elegantly. Most of the stories are well done. The art and animation is pretty good, with a realistic art style and beautiful effects of light. The cast of character is a bit slow to come into its own, but does have a beautiful dynamic when it starts. Our view point character, Aoki, is a young policeman newcomer to the unit. He's pretty straightforward and a bit lacking in confidence. Maki, the leader of the team, is a beautiful man with an aloof demeanour and a great capacity for awesome. Both the manga and the anime play with a sort of slashy vibes between those two in a superficial pandering to fangirls way which I find rather irritating since they obviously have no intention to pursue it any deeper than that.

Anyway, if you're as desperate for josei anime as I sometimes am, I guess I'd still recommend it, with some warning about the eye-roll worthy direction.
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Darker than Black (Kuro no keiyakusha)



In the near future and ten years before the story starts Something happened. The something involves several elements :
  • The sky and what it held has been... changed. The night sky now contains no moon; and the stars were replaced by new, fake ones.
  • Two very weird zones of weird stuff happening have appeared at diametrical location of the earth. One in Brazil, called Heaven's Gate, and one in Tokyo, called Hell's Gate. Those zones have been isolated and studied by a new branch of the UN called PANDORA; which has resulted in many breakthrough in technology, notably a lot of memory and personality manipulation stuff. Five years before the start of the story, the Gate in Brazil has disappeared, taking a huge chunk of South America along with it.
  • People have started manifesting powers. There are two sorts : Contractors have one kind of superpower, and are compelled to pay a "price" right after using it (called by various names in different translations, but my favourite is "obeisance" for the bad French) which ranges from the weird compulsion to the horrific (there's one Contractor whose obeisance was drinking the blood of babies. Fun!). Contractors also appear to lose all sense of morality and most emotions and only act pragmatically for their own self-interest. Dolls have the ability to observe things through one medium (such as water or electricity), however Dolls, as their name indicates, appear to lose all personality and will of their own.
  • The existence of Contractors and Dolls has been hidden to the public, by erasing their memories when they came into contact with them if necessary, but governments couldn't stop many rumours from spreading out, of course. The new fake stars are also somehow related to each Contractor, so they have put a surveillance system in place based on astronomy. A lot of spy agencies have business in Tokyo because of Hell's Gate and they are not usually shy about employing Contractors.

Our protagonist is a Contractor named Hei who works for a mysterious Syndicate in a team comprised of a grumpy old man who doesn't like Contractor much, a Gothic Lolita Doll and a cat. His work usually includes stuff like information retrieval, infiltration and assassination.

Asides from Hei, we also follow a variety of secondary characters, such as a team of cop charged with dealing with Contractors related stuff, led by Misaki Kirihara, a cool and determined female cop; a team from the MI6 composed of two Contractors and one Doll, and a (not very successful) private detective and his sassy, otaku secretary.

cut for length )
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Towards the Terra



In the future where Earth was ecologically destroyed and humanity fled to the stars, doting itself of a computer controlled and fairly totalitarian government so as to avoid the mistake of the past. Children are created by biotechnology, then given to foster parents until they're 14, when they pass an "adulthood test", get most of their memories of their childhood erased and get send to orbital schools. Jomy is a teenager who, on the day he passes his own adulthood test, finds out that he is a Mu, one of the humans gifted with psychic powers and reviled by humans for it. As the computer orders his death, he is rescued by other Mu. On the other side of things, Keith Anyan is an elite young student who mysteriously retained zero memories of his childhood as he starts his higher education, and whom the computer controlling the orbital school has very high expectation of.

Adapted from a 70s manga, Towards the Terra really rocks the old school Sci-Fi vibe. I guess it might be a bit of an acquired taste, but AE Van Vogt and MZ Bradley were my favourite writers when I was 12, so I loved it. It helps that it's got some excellent storytelling and very decent characterisation, with the emotional high point of the series really compelling and well executed (with the exception of the finale episode, which felt a bit badly rushed through) and a good sense of epic and tragic events making the plot. It's got a very quick pacing (sometimes perhaps a little too quick) with some pretty drastic time jumps, which are well used to develop characters. Some of the plot development are slightly melodramatic or rely too much on unlikely coincidences (like the way Jomy's childhood friends are kept in the story) but with the right kind of suspension of disbelief, extremely fun. While the thematics are fairly cheesy in the way they are presented, they are well explored and set up by the characters and the way we follow both Jomy and Keith a lot. Jomy's a fairly archetypal young, hot blooded hero at first, but gets well developed; Keith's your average not!quite!so!emotionless and sarcastic anti-villain, and is quite fun as such, especially early in his story. Other important secondary characters are also well done (and it looks like the adaptation made a good work of filling some flimsy characterisation in some cases) though none are very original or deep.

The animation is pretty good and fluid, and I rather like the character design style - old school that it is. I love how characters wear capes and diadems and even headphones of power. It's all very disco ;) The soundtrack is also very good and atmospheric.

Sadly, the setting also shows its age on the gender, with female characters saddled with little presence, agency and power - despite the effort of adaptation to increase their relevance - or on the weird way the only place we see dark skinned are two minor characters amongst the Mu. On the other hand, we have a lot of slashiness, which should come as no surprise given that the original manga was written by Keiko Takemiya.

For a very random appeal, Towards the Terra has a couple of vague plot resemblance with the new BSG, except it executed those right and mostly coherently which made me feel very vindicated.

In conclusion, a very solidly entertaining work, if it fits your taste.
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Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann

Humanity lives (pretty miserably) underground in small villages, the existence of the surface being reduced to a myth. Only Kamina, a teenager with more attitude than brain insist it exists and repeatedly tries to reach it. One day, Simon the digger, Kamina's best friend and younger brother figure, finds a weird machine shaped like a human head; later on, a redhead girl with a big gun falls from a hole in the ceiling; quickly followed by an aggressive mecha and they fight it using Simon's new-found mini-mecha... and soon reach the surface. Sadly the surface is populated by beastmen piloting mechas who will hunt down and kill any humans who dare to live on it.



TTGL doesn't do a whole lot of thing, but what it does, it does very, very well. TTGL is a reconstruction of the mecha genre, with a lot of homage to old shows and lot of things working on trope, literally, (tropes like the Rule of Cool and Hot Bloodedness, especially) and whole fucking lot of EPIC AWESOME. Also a lot of silly. And a lot of things so silly they cross the line twice and go back into AWESOME. It would be an understatement to call TTGL over the top. TTGL is flying far, far over over the top. Even the sky isn't the limit for TTGL, for it knows no limits (or common sense). It will frequently make you OH MY GOD WHAT THE FUCK THEY DIDN'T? THEY DID! This is made particularly winningly entertaining by the utter lack of shame and amused self-consciousness the storytelling shows.

Stylistically, the art is aggressively shounen and very dynamic, frequently sketchy and with some notable daring art-shift to suit narrative moods. There's pretty much always something racing, bouncing, drilling, popping or exploding on screen. Fanservice is also endemic, with most of cast - including male characters - wearing stripperific outfits. As a machine in creating enthusiasm, TTGL is a thing of beauty, helped along by an earwormy soundtrack ("row row fight the power") and many judiciously repeated catchphrases. In a way its a bit scary how good this show is at creating rabid enthusiasm amongst its fans. It's just... very, very catchy. Like a virus.

In pacing, TTGL also pushes beyond all limits, with a virtually absent status quo. Events don't just happen, they rush in rapid succession of topping over previous events; yet still in a way that is easy to follow and distillates the mood perfectly. This does have the bad effect of having a bunch of secondary character who have very little development besides showing up and being named, although TTGL rests very knowingly on tropes to be confident the audience still knows what those characters are about.

Those aside, most characters are very endearing and sympathetic. Simon's character journey is very well told and I found him much more interesting than your average shounen lead, not due to originality but simply to the quality of the storytelling. Kamina is... pretty much indescribables, but very hard not to love. Yoko and Nia, the female leads, are both pretty awesome and likeable. Relationships between those four (and the few other regular secondary characters) are also pretty rich and compelling (also frequently very, very slashy).

Thematically, TTGL mostly works around the idea of the importance of self-confidence, guts and actually trying things and not letting yourself stopped by anything; a theme it pursues relentlessly with the use of the "Spiral" motif, which is embedded (and drilling) everywhere in the series from art to narrative to theme to the show's very structure (also drilling). If you want a show to cheer you up and motivates you, you could do worse. It also addresses shallowly themes of idealism vs pragmatism and in the third arc (my favourite ^_^) also perhaps without fairness enough to make it work fully.

Gender dynamics wise, TTGL is... not very good. Asides from copious amount of male fanservice and the existence of a couple of very cool female protagonists, it relies way too much on putting those female characters in weakened or dangerous situation for the express purpose of making male characters look cool, especially by the ending. Otherwise, there's one flamingly gay character whose campiness is played for laugh, although he's portrayed as very awesome and competent.

In conclusion, an extremely fun and entertaining show, thanks to clever and bold storytelling and stylistic mastery, especially if your taste runs to AWESOME and over the top.
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[personal profile] salinea
Daughter of 20 Faces (aka Nijuu Mensou no Musune aka Chiko, Heiress of the Phantom Thief)

Shortly after WW2, in Japan, Chiko is a 12 years old wealthy orphan being taken care of by her aunt and uncle when the famous phantom thief 20 Faces infiltrates her household in order to steal her family heirloom jewels; upon which he finds out that the aunt is doing her best to poison her ward and that the remarkably perceptive Chiko is doing her best not to be poisoned; and decides to take the young girl with him as he makes his usual dashing escape.

This anime had a lot stacked up for me to like, yet ended up being quite disappointing in terms of stories. Chiko is a great female lead, intelligent, stoic and relateable; and several other characters are also charismatic (although not 20 Faces himself, a fact which ends up being rather crippling). The animation is of decent quality, and gives us some pretty impressive action scenes, especially well done in terms of having the characters make smart use of the environment. The setting is a bit of a mixed bag - the time period is interesting in itself in how it deals with the wake of the war and how it's affected people, as well as the show having a entertaining amount of pulpish elements like mad scientists and, you know, dashing phantom thief schemes, however it isn't deep or clever enough in its use of the time period, and in one specific episode set in China is downright offensive with it. The big disappointment is the overall story, while having a lot of unforeseen twists, it gave me the impression of not knowing at all where it was going. I kept expecting the story to start in earnest, watching with mild irritation the episodes where Chiko is still young and learning the ropes with 20 Faces, and when I expected things to start, it was more tepid plots without much aim nor depth to them. The finale is particularly boring and disappointing in that.


I had two more anime to review but I'm too lazy to do them tonight!
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[personal profile] salinea
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!
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So Catie (Bless her ^^) recced Gankutsuou to me, so I watched it. She had promised to me it had nice slashiness and I would like it. She was totally RIGHT ! I loved it. Actually I cried. That makes... errr... two anime that makes me sob like a baby (not counting Graves of the Firefly, that'd make it three >_>; but it's cheating)

*cough*

Alright first, the aesthetics. It was absolutly lovely. I don't usually pay attention to this, because mostly I'm a story girl and I don't care if the art is lousy as long as the story is good, but in this case the graphism were gorgeous. They did this weird pattern imprit over flat surface that I found lovely. Sometimes it was a bit too much, but given it was XIXth century Paris (except in a futuristic way, but nevermind that, detailes, detailes...) we're talking, it was fitting perfectly with the baroque and over the top dramatics of the story.

For the uninitiated, Gankutsuou is an anime adaptation of the Count of Monte Cristo. Except in the year 5000 and a few. With a strange vengeance immortal spirit possessing the Count. And with Mecha, but not many of them (thankfully). Since Alexandre Dumas is the person who ought the least to complain about unfaithful adaptation (he lost that right when he made that quip about rapind History but to give it beautiful children) it works wonderfully well.

Anyway the story focussed principaly on Albert who balances between being the kind of moronic oblivious lambda anime hero you want to slap repetedly until he stops being so stupid, and being a lovable stubborn naive idiot.... errr well, I haven't made up my mind yet, but though he was on the verge of earning my hatred several times he never quite got it, as he meets the mysterious and wealthy Count of Monte Cristo and introduces him to the Parisian society, and his family. All of this works very well for the Count who is setting up a complicated and most cruel revenge upon the people who betrayed him twenty five years ago. *doom !*

Most of the characters are very likeable. I was totally under the charm of Franz and Eugenie. Franz because he kicks into my unrequitated love kink plus being so selfless, cheerful and earnest at the same time about it, and Eugenie by being a lovely garçonne with a vivid personnality without being as annoying as many female characters would be in that role. I also liked Haydée a lot (but I liked her before in the novel, so no surprise).
In general I absolutly adored the character designs, they fitted the characters perfectly from what I imagined in the books (of course I don't remember a lot from the novel, actually I still don't remember Eugénie at all from the novel, but what I did fitted perfectly) Especially Mercedes and Fernand.

The reproduction of the Parisian society was wonderful. Cruel, lively, proud, colourful, cynical, enthousiastic and ever so fickle. Some of the details made me laugh like the quick mention of the Queen (a quite famous gay night club on the Champs Elysée...) It serves as a great background for the dramatic tale of revenge unfolding.

The story in its adaptation is darker and more tragic than the one by Dumas. Overall, I like it better ^^ but so sad ;_; There's some weird stuff (like why the hell keep Caderousse when they don't do anything with the character ?) but it keeps you on the edge for the whole 24 episodes. I watched them all in two days because i couldn't stop myself (all right I had time too) ^^

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Etrangere's anime reviews

September 2011

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