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Occult Academy aka Seikimatsu Occult Gakuin



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

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

Read more... )
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Kara no Kyoukai: Garden of Sinners



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

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

Read more... )
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Bakemonogatari aka Ghostory



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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei aka Tatami Galaxy



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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

An awesome and unique anime overall.

Hakuouki

Jul. 5th, 2010 04:29 pm
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Hakuouki Shinsengumi Kitan



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

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

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

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

So, good for getting a katana-using pretty boys fix and for die-hard collectors of Shinsengumi-related series, but not for much else.
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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.

Durarara!!

Jun. 27th, 2010 12:01 am
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Durarara!! aka Drrr!!



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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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Rental Magica



In contemporary Japan, Itsuki is a teenage boy who at the disappearance of his father inherit the position of president to the Rent-a-Mage association Astral; Itsuki isn't even a Mage though he does have one magical sight power, Glam Sight, in his usuly covered left eye, and is remarkably inexperienced in magical matters and unsuited for such a job. The members of Astral, Honami a Celtic witch and childhood friend of Itsuki, Mikan a very young Shinto priestess, Nekoyashiki a cat-themed Onmyouji and Kuroha the resident ghost, along with Itsuki will have to solve cases and deal with various creatures and rival mages, plus the meddling of Adelicia, a cabbalistic witch of the powerful magical association Goetia, while trying to keep Astral from being dissolved. (In case you wonder, yes, the esoteric Buddhist monk does show up later so we have the typical Japanese magical tradition all present as usual in those shows :p)

Adapted from a series of light novels, Rental Magica isn't a show with any glaring, offensive flaw which I can point out and say : this is what makes it bad; it's just mostly dull through out.

The things I wouldn't watch for a good magical system - and Rental Magica does have some excellent conceptions of magic, with references to real world mythologies and esotericism; which are used in a consistent and logical way. It's got very much the ambiance of a modern day Ars Magica, or perhaps WitchCraft.

The rest ranges from mediocre to average. The plots are mostly episodic (there's a couple of stories which stretch through two or three episodes), and are okay if not particularly intriguing, with a few here and there that are more successful. The animation is neither particularly bad nor particularly good. And the characters totally failed to interest me though I wouldn't either say they're horrible either.

Itsuki is on of those overly kind and self-sacrificing male lead, though he knows nothing and totally lacks competence, until he removes his eye-patch and his voice drops three octaves as a way to tell us "now I'm going to channel Lelouch" (same voice actor, natch) and solves whatever was the situation at this point - though you can see that part progresses and becomes less of a one solution matches all as Itsuki is developped. While the rest of the cast is somewhat structured as a harem series, it never really goes beyond the pale with those dynamics, without offensive fanservice, and only two of the girls really after Itsuki, Honami (bossy Tsundere) and Adelicia (prissy Tsundere) in a way that is almost as much about the rivalry that's between both girls (and very femslashy). Nekoyashiki was probably my favourite character on account of being the Eyes Always Shut playful mysterious male character... but really none of them grabbed me.

So this remains a watchable show though it was sometimes just barely entertaining, but i wouldn't recommend it to anyone who doesn't have a special interest in fancy magical systems.

Kobato

Apr. 12th, 2010 09:14 pm
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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.

Baccano!

Aug. 16th, 2009 03:28 pm
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Baccano!



How do you summarize an anime that starts with a discussion on narrative and its arbitrariness prefiguring that the ensuing story will have no clear beginning nor protagonist, not to mention the fact it will be chronologically destructured?
Baccano! is a story set in the 1930's that involves robbers, mobsters, delinquents, cultists, assassins, innocent and not-so-innocent bystanders - a number of which are immortals - a newspaper agency and a train called 'the Flying Pussyfoot' running from Chicago to New York through three main separate interwoven time lines plus the flashbacks.
Slightly more details than I would usually give in an anime summary, without being spoilery as such )

Despite the complex chronology and massive number of protagonists, Baccano! is remarkably easy to follow (after the somewhat confusing first episode) in what amounts to a brilliant masterpiece of storytelling. It is fast paced, compelling, with beautiful action and fluid animation, a glorious jazzy soundtrack, frequently gory and yet filled with a communicative feeling of joie de vivre. A remarkable number of the characters in Baccano! are kind of insane - from the sociopathic to the so stupidly eccentric it's crazy, going through the psychopathic and the people who clearly have big issues which would be hard to describe. You come to love all of them anyway, or, at least, those of them that do their psychopathic rampage with style (there are several).
I have only one complaint against Baccano! : I want more.
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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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[personal profile] salinea
I haven't been all that good about reviewing series as I was watching them. Soooo watching up on series I've finished watching a few weeks ago:

Mononoke

Continuing on the Bakeneko arc of Ayakashi, Mononoke tells the stories of the mysterious medicine seller, as he goes about historical Japan, finding malicious spirits and exorcising them by finding their nature, the cause of their existence and what they're trying to do (roughly).

cut for pics not spoilers )


Spice and Wolf

In a Europe-like setting of the high middle age/early Renaissance, Lawrance is a wandering trader who goes about his business, when a pagan wolf deity of wheat (in the form of a young girl with wolf ears and tail) by the name of Horo hitches a ride on his cart and makes a deal for him to bring her up north to her native land.

cut for pics, not spoilers )
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[personal profile] salinea
Kannazuki no Miko is a short (12 episodes) story revolving around a romantic triangle, mechas and magical girls: Chikane is a very naive everygirl, friend to both Ohgami, a young boy raised by a shinto priest, and Himeko, the young high-class overachiever girl idealised by everyone at their highschool. Both Ohgami and Himeko are in love with Chikane, and Ohgami was going to confess when suddenly mecha attacked! (it happens...) The mechas are the Orochi, some kind of monster that regularly tries to destroy the world, and to do so, empowers and uses 8 humans who have reasons to despair. The only ones able to stop the Orochi are the priestesses of the Moon and the Sun, who are reincarnated into Chikane and Himeko, by doing a ritual to summon Ame no Murakamo to fight off the Orochi - so of course Ohgami's first mission upon awakening as an Orochi is to kill Chikane and Himeko.

I watched this anime because I saw it mentioned in the Utena thread at RPG.net as one of the rare yuri stories but the two girls actually end up together in an uplifting way. This information was not actually entirely correct:
SPOILERS
Since Himeko at one point rapes Chikane, even if there's an explanation to handwave it, and since Himeko eventually dies, even if she's supposed to get reincarnated and meet Chikane again. I think I'll take my happy-ending yuri fix from somewhere else. Athough at least this way it pushed my betrayal!angst button!
END SPOILERS
As a story, Kannazuki no Miko was just barely entertaining enough for me not to drop it. It uses a lot of obvious narrative tropes, some of which were appealing enough to me for purely buttons reasons (brothers set to opposite sides angst! Boy overcomes destiny of evil to save the one he loves! Meta commentary provided by one of the villain! Yuri! Unforeseen betrayal! Mindfuck!) rather than for any originality or cleverness in their execution and the ones that didn't appeal to me got on my nerve with their obvious Moe-ness set up (Chikane and most of the secondary character Orochi). Chikane is that kind of character who's supposed to be cute to your average anime fanboy, but who's really, really annoying to everyone else and feels like a 6 years old child was transplanted in the body of a 15 years old girl. She's not even genuinely kind and compassionate to overcomes her obliviousness, clumsiness and overall stupidity. Ohgami and Himeko are decent enough characters, if really generic ones. The visuals and animations are pretty good although I can't say I found the action scenes particularly riveting (of course I'm hardly a mecha fan). The yuri scenes were much better... and that's about it. I don't think I would recommend this anime to anyone but the diehard fans of yuri or perhaps the diehard fans of shinto mythology.

Ayakashi: Japanese Horror Stories is a series of three horror stories set in historical Japan of 3-4 episodes each. Each story have a fairly interesting and pretty visual design (the first one is done by Yoshitaka Amano, the other two by other people I don't know about).
The first story is a tale of betrayal between husband and wife leading to the ghost of the wife seeking vengeance. It's a rather gloomy tale where no one is particularly sympathetic, and then everyone die. In the hands of a very skilled storyteller that could make it a stark study of human nature, but as it was, it was pretty dull, with flat characters who you can't wait to see dying off.
The second story is a doomed romance between a falconer samurai and a beautiful fey girl (okay, she calls herself a forgotten god) who lives by preying on humans. It was somewhat more pleasant to follow and interesting than the first one, but rather lacklustre as well.
The third story happens as a household prepares to marry off their daughter, when they're suddenly attacked by a monstrous cat spirit, trapping them in their house as it kills family members one after the others. Thankfully a medicine seller is present who claims to be able to fight off the spirit if he is told by the family about what they did to provoke the spirit's grudge against them. This is the most successful story, both because of the investigation into the dark secrets of the family nature of the tale, and because of the claustrophobic huis-clot set up. The character of the mysterious stranger that claims to be able to help, and the young servant girl are both very well realised. There's a spin off of this story revolving around the same medicine seller called Mononoke which I will watch soonish-ly.
So overall this is a pretty mediocre anime apart from the gorgeous visual styles and the tie in with another series.
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[personal profile] salinea
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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[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

September 2011

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