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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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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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