RideBack

Aug. 2nd, 2010 12:54 am
salinea: (meta)
[personal profile] salinea
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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[personal profile] salinea
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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[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.

Simoun

Jan. 5th, 2010 06:08 pm
salinea: (Default)
[personal profile] salinea
Simoun



In a steampunk-ish world where everyone is born female and then picks a permanent sex when they are 17 years old; the country of the Simulacrum Theocracy is at war with most of its neighbours because other countries covet their monopoly on an ancient technology : the Simoun aircrafts . The Simoun, which the Theocracy worship as the Chariot of the God and the way to commune with their Tempus-Spatium deity, are the most agile and quick aircrafts there is, and when they trace patterns in the skies those can produce various powerful effects, including explosive ones. The Simoun are piloted by pairs of priestesses called Sibillae, which must be girls who haven't picked a sex yet (due to the war, the government has been letting girls beyond the age of 17 keep holding the office of Sibillae). The story follows a team of 12 Sibillae, their relationship with one another and how the war affects them.

Simoun has a lot of interesting elements : the world building is pretty intriguing, the genderfuck elements has a lot of appeal, and there are many mysteries loaded in the setting to hook us on. However the story didn't end up focussing on the real resolution of those mysteries in a way which I found very frustrating, and the overall storytelling is pretty bad from a plot aspect and contains many plot holes. The pacing is also very uneven, with a lot of time to way before action starts kicking at first. On the other hand, the characterisation and character development is where the storytelling shone. Despite the huge number of characters, the show was dedicated to explore and develop everyone of the 12 Sibillae as well as a number of secondary characters, and did so pretty well, if in a rather melodramatic way at times (they are teenagers after all). Eventually, as a coming of age story, it is a very good one, although as an action or as a mystery focussed one it is an utter failure. It is not much of a romance anime either, despite all the yuri flavours, with only one of the secondary romance being convincing and interesting.

Graphically, Simoun is very colourful, with gorgeous landscapes & architecture drawn lovingly in watercolours and the beautiful design of the Simoun and the way they fly. I'm less crazy of the character design which I found pretty silly and overdone, but at least the fact each girl has a different hair colour helps remembering who each one is, a helpful cue with such a huge cast of characters. The music is also pretty good, unique sounding in a way that fits the peculiarities of the setting.

The genderfuck elements, while very intriguing as a concept, wasn't explored enough for my taste and didn't seem to result into coherent or interesting effects on the setting. For example, they appear to have conservative gender roles and not picking a gender is seen as a very bad idea in the setting, which gives the anime some unfortunate implication message for genderqueers.

On the other hand, the thematic of the confusion between religion and war and the problems this causes, with the girls' role as priestesses and the fact they are being used for war is explored much more satisfyingly, with a lot of bitter-sweetness, painful realisation and conflict between characters.

Overall, I have very mixed feelings on Simoun, because I was very disappointed by the ending due to the lack of resolution other than character-wise, but, aside from the expectations I had build for it, what it does focus on it manages to execute pretty well.

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