Bartender

Oct. 14th, 2010 12:35 am
salinea: (polite)
[personal profile] salinea
Bartender



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.

Cross Game

Aug. 9th, 2010 02:24 am
salinea: (pensive)
[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 )
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[personal profile] salinea
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.

Planetes

May. 6th, 2010 11:55 pm
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[personal profile] salinea
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 )

Kobato

Apr. 12th, 2010 09:14 pm
salinea: (Default)
[personal profile] salinea
Kobato



Kobato is a young, naive, airhead, clumsy, optimistic and hard-working girl who just literally fell down from the sky. Helped by a bad tempered flame throwing plush dog that goes by Ioryogi, she's got one year to fill a glass bottle full of confetti she earns by healing the heart of people. Soon enough she starts working at a kindergarten along with a kind young woman and her younger grumpy with a heart of gold foster brother. Good luck, Kobato.

Kobato is adapted from a seinen manga of CLAMP I had actually avoided reading because the premise seemed remarkably silly and fluffy to me, which tend to be the sort of CLAMP manga I like least. But I thought the anime was a good occasion to jump that bandwagon and I don't regret it. The concept remains pretty silly and fluffy as expected, but is charming and well executed enough to be pleasant to watch. As the story builds up and characterisation are deepened it even becomes pretty good in its second half, with a few excellent episodes filled with grace and bitter-sweetness.

Kobato despite her very moe flaws is very likeable thanks to her determination and kindness; and while Fujimoto was too much of a jerk through most of it for my taste, they definitely have a good dynamic. Even better is the dynamic with Ioryogi who has a complicated past I wish we'd have found more about. The characterisation of quite a few secondary characters also particularly shone through and gave the anime the chemistry that made it better than average. I can't judge it as an adaptation since I have read the manga (the one CLAMP manga I haven't read, lol), but it overall has a very nice direction and pacing. Add the fact the ending was particularly excellent and you really have a lovely slice of life anime series.
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[personal profile] salinea
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.
salinea: (Default)
[personal profile] salinea
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.
salinea: (Default)
[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.
salinea: (Default)
[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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Etrangere's anime reviews

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