salinea: (pretty)
[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.
salinea: (just as planned)
[personal profile] salinea
Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood



In a dieselpunk world where alchemy is a powerful science, Ed and Al Elric are two teenage brothers who became crippled in their failed attempt to resurrect their mother in an alchemical experiment: Ed lost on arm and leg, now replaced by automail prosthetics, and Al is merely a soul bonded with alchemy to a suit of armour he can animate. They have enrolled in the army as State Alchemist in order to investigate the rumours of the Philosophical Stone which could have the power to help them recover their original bodies, but in the course of that investigation they fall onto a huge conspiracy and face the opposition of the strange creatures known as Homunculus who are named for each of the seven (Christian) Sins.

You know I feel kind of silly to summarise FMA's premise at this point. Who doesn't know what the series is about? Oh well.

No less than the second adaptation of a brilliant shounen manga, Brotherhood jumps into the fold in a rushed race to narrate the material already covered by the first adaptation as quick as possible and only hits its stride once it's done so after a dozen of episodes or so, at which point it becomes an absolutely wonderful and enjoyable adaptation of 64 episodes, delivering on the humour, the action and the epic scope of the drama provided by the excellent source material.

FMA is first of all an excellently plotted story, which is dramatic, interesting, coherent and epic all at the same time. It is very dark at times - dealing with such themes as mutilation, the trauma of war, genocide, and abuse of people in the name of "science" - while retaining an optimistic and humanist outlook. Brotherhood has a pretty steady kind of pacing, going with "build up build up build up epic EPIC EPIC and back to build up build EPIC EPIC EPIC kind of rhythm that isn't quite breathtaking, but is very efficient nonetheless and without any filler despite the length of the series. The comedy feels a little bit mandatory at times (oh look, an Ed is short joke, it's been a while, I had forgotten how they went), but is good at relieving the tension and preventing the show from falling into excessive wangst (one of the first adaptation's flaw, some would say) and building up the relationship between characters. Most of all, Brotherhood had the good taste to time itself so it could adapt the full of its original material and thus deliver an actually coherent and logical ending (which I would say was the major flaw of the first adaptation).

It juggles with a pretty large and diverse cast of characters, most of which are very endearing in their own particular way, and gives most of them their due in the course of the story (there are a few I wouldn't have minded to see explored and used more than they were, but oh well). Ed is a spunky, determined, intelligent and a slightly artless kid, and Al is adorable and kind hearted yet just as dangerous when roused. The secondary cast is so large I feel a bit at a loss at how to represent them - but let's just say they come in a variety of age, gender and ethnicity, and that many of them are awesome and loveable. One of the series' big quality was really the quality of its characters, both amongst antagonists and protagonists.



The production values are excellent through out, without really being overwhelmingly so. Most action scenes (though not all) are very well animated, the character designs are endearing with a pleasant roundness, the music is very efficient at underlying the mood of a scene without overpowering it. I'm ridiculously in love with the music of the second ED though not quite as much as I was in love with Bratja in the first adaptation ;).

The thematics of FMA are ambitious for a shounen series, and it does deliver on most of them successfully. What it does best is talk about the effects of war on individuals, with the Ishvalan rebellion and the ensuing genocide casting a heavy shadow in the past of many characters and their motivations. Unfortunately it does so much better from the side of the military people who took part in said genocide than it does on the (dark skinned) Ishvalans who were the victim of it. Another theme it explores is the responsibility and role of a leader, which is a little bit earnest and naive, but still strikes some interesting chords with how it parallels different characters. It does beautifully talk about human reserve and perseverance to struggle through, recover from and overcome difficult times together - though of course this is standard shounen themes but it handles them well in that it's not ridiculously over the top and mostly realistic, and I love how it does so through the motif of disabilities as well - as well as guilt (and hubris) and the question of how to take responsibility for it (which is more original and interestingly done).

I could pinpoint to few other things I didn't think worked totally well; bemoan that some flashbacks or scenes were too short or cut from the anime compared to the manga (though some of them would have been difficult to include without hurting the pacing), but overall Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood was an anime I absolutely loved watching every episode of and one awesome journey to take.
salinea: (just as planned)
[personal profile] salinea
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.
salinea: (Default)
[personal profile] salinea
I am so late with anime reviews. I really need to catch up before all the winter shows finish and I have even more on my plate ^_^;;

Kazemakase Tsukikage Ran



In Historical Japan, Ran is, in her own word, a beautiful drifter, a female samourai with a love for sake, a lot of skill with swords and a cool, easy going attitude that doesn't entirely stop her from being involved when injustice crosses her path. The unlikely named Miew is a very carefree and not particularly bright female kung fu fighter who walks the earth. When their path cross they start bickering a lot drifting together and fighting crime (or injustice in general).

Dating from the year 2000, Kazemakase Tsukikake Ran is a short, pleasant and pretty simple anime series which does have a certain charm despite it's lack of subtleties. It is very much episodic, very much chanbara and comedy and not much else. One of the stuff I really liked about it are perhaps the ways it stands out as old fashioned : here's a story with two female leads and we have neither romance with other characters, neither hints of romance or fanservicy between one another. Likewise there is no moe of anykind or any overwhelming cuteness. The comedy is mostly basic Boke and Tsukkomi routine (in a way that was actually pretty annoying because I hate when humour relies on making the sidekick character very stupid, especially as Ran hardly needs that to look cool). The action scenes are pretty cool relative to the production values (which are of the 90's but pretty good for it), and I certainly enjoyed watching them a lot. The plots are simple but serviceable, very much to the point. Ran, as mentioned, is a very cool and awesome characters, and I really love her voice in particular (someday I'll learn to pay attention to voice acting in a meaningful way, riiiight). I also loved the opening music, which is a drinking enka song ^_^. In conclusion a pretty nice series if you want something short and sweet and chambara-esque (who doesn't?).

Link to a fun blog review comparing Tsukikage Ran to Samurai Chammploo : http://2dteleidoscope.wordpress.com/2009/11/08/tsukikage-ran-vs-samurai-champloo-artificial-pasts/


His and Her Circumstances aka Kare Kano



Yukino is a high school student who is very vain and likes nothing like being praised, and therefore puts a lot of work into being a model student and acting like the perfect, elegant, delicate and classy girl she is really not in personality. Arima is the perfect, kind, classy boy who beats her result without even trying because he's the genuine thing (for the most part). Also he's in love with her. Also he just discovered that she's faking it. Also, now, he's blackmailing her.

I'm seldom the biggest fan of shoujo high school comedy romance anime adaptation. That is for the most part because I tend to love their manga version so much more and find the anime doesn't add much. In this case, I haven't read the manga (yet), so I can't know if the very high opinion of the anime series would be significantly lower from the manga. It does show the main disadvantage of shoujo adaptation which is that it just stops without any ending, ARGH. But let's be clear : this is probably the single best shoujo high school comedy romance series I have watched as of yet.

Let's start with the characters. The characters are awesome, every single ones of them. Yukino is very entertaining, she's very competitive, she doesn't get intimidated by much and is very brave and mentally tough as well as smart overall. She does have some vulnerabilities at the same time, as well as some obvious flaws; but she also doesn't hesitate to grow and develop marvellously through the series. In general, she's easy to root for. Also, she's hilarious. Arima oscillates a bit between being too perfect in a sweet, humble, nice way, but at Yukino's contact he really shows some more mischievously and genuine personality which makes him more likeable. Of course he also has some massive angst and darker issues. Then there are the secondary characters. They are a lot of them, and they get introduced and developed progressively. AND THEY ARE ALL AWESOME.

Yukino and Arima's relationship is portrayed in a pretty wonderful way in that their relationship actually progresses, in a very organic way and without being set back by artificial drama. At some point they have sex. It's portrayed as a natural step which is Not A Big Deal. For a 90's shoujo, I bet that was pretty ground breaking.

Story wise, KareKano oscillates between crazy energetic crackful comedy and lovely depiction of romance and friendship. The comedy is pretty good overall, with good timing and no big cliches, though it's probably not the bestest comedy that ever was found in a shoujo. The romance/friendship/character dynamics in general however, is some of the seriously best stuff ever. I'm talking at least a Crowing Moment of Heart-warming every two episodes, here. And I'm using this term despite that I hate it because it's the most accurate in this case. It's very much cheering and sweet, without being very cute, just heart-warming and adorable and lovely.

The production values are pretty low. This is a late 90's shoujo series, handled by Gainax back when they didn't know how to handle a budget, and they probably didn't have much to start; at least that how it looks like. There's all sorts of tricks to avoid animating stuff; shift to drawn art at emotional moments, and lots, lots of recapping. The thing is, despite being obvious, all of those things aren't annoying (with the possible exception of the recapping); they are, in fact, turned into a STYLISTIC WIN. It's all done very ingeniously and in ways that improve the story instead of diserving it, which is, in itself, very impressive.

So basically, this is something of a classic for shoujo series, and for a good reason, and I definitely do not regret taking the time to watch it.
salinea: (Default)
[personal profile] salinea
I had promised... I forget if it was [personal profile] misstopia or [personal profile] haremstress, or both, a big rec post about SKU at some point; so there it is!

Revolutionary Girl Utena, aka Shoujo Kakumei Utena or SKU for short, is a series from the mid-nineties. It exists in both manga and anime form; and there also was an animated movie adaption made in 1999; but i mostly want to talk about the animated series which is, IMHO, the best and more interesting form the story takes. It was directed by Ikuhara, which at that point was mostly known for working a lot on Sailor Moon; and comports 39 episodes organised in 4 narrative arcs of unequal size.



The Story

Tenjou Utena is a 14 year old girl enrolled at the Ohtori Academy. When she was a young child and after just losing her parents, she remembers meeting a Prince who saved her and gave her a ring to remember him by. She was so impressed by him that she decided to herself become a Prince as well as cherishing the ring in the hope of meeting him again. Thus motivated, Utena grows up as an impressively athletic girl who values noble qualities and straightforwardness; and she always wears a male uniform in high school to the annoyance of her teacher and to the boosting of her popularity amongst other girls.
One day, in order to defend her best friend who just got her heart broken by a jerk, she ends up involved in a duel against a member of the Student School on a very weird duel arena that exists in the Forest behind the school and under an upside down castle floating in the sky. It just so happens that every members of the Student Council wear the exact same ring that was given to her by her Prince, which marks them as Duellists in an elaborate game organised by a mysterious letters writer naming themselves The End of the World where the Victor receive a young girl, Himemiya Anthy, as their Bride for as long as they keep winning; and has a shot at winning the vaguely defined Power to Revolutionise the World. By the way, the current Victor needs not bring a sword to the duel, they can just magically bring forth the Sword of Dios from inside the body of Anthy. Because Anthy is cruelly abused by her initial Victor, and appears to submit to it meekly as per the rules of the game, Utena ends up participating in those games in order to protect her as, one by one, each member of the Student Council challenge her.

Pics and lengthy review )
salinea: (Default)
[personal profile] salinea
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 )
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.

Mushishi

Sep. 15th, 2009 01:29 am
salinea: (Default)
[personal profile] salinea
Mushishi



In early 20th century Japan, but in rural areas where the time period isn't quite obvious, Ginko is a wandering Mushi-Shi, a man whose job is to deal with the creatures known as Mushi when they trouble the lives of people. What are Mushi? Invisible to most people but those who are sensitive to them, they are very much like supernatural faeries or ghosts, yet they are also described in very organic terms, as part of the natural world rather than part of the supernatural world. Mushi are also frequently just phenomenon, and few Mushi show intent and personhood in a way understandable to humans, and those few that do are still very alien, and come across as very differently than creatures from a yokai story. Yet they are forms of life, not beings either good or evil, just life that seeks to live its own life, and the ways they cross human beings' path is never simple, and never entirely good or bad.

Adapted from a seinen manga series, Mushishi is a thoroughly episodic anime, working on cases basis each time. In 26 episodes, only one character asides from Ginko is seen several times. Despite this, it manages some of the best characterisation and most beautiful storytelling I've ever seen. Seriously, this anime is sublime, utterly captivating in its melancholy atmosphere, quietly understated yet poignant, beautiful in its animation and gorgeous in its detailed natural landscapes. Each story makes splendid use of the 20-so minutes of an episode to be told fully, with a beginning, a middle, an end and often an epilogue, at a serene, deliberate pacing, yet with a storytelling alchemy and a fullness of conclusion that leaves you under its charm long after it's ended. Each story develops its characters with nuance, subtlety and a unique character design that let them be fully realised.

Thematically, Mushishi is also very strong and mature. Most mushi play as a metaphor for something of nature - not only nature as the wilderness, but also nature as the natural laws that affect human beings, from the things we use to survive and prosper like agriculture to the thing that plague us irremediably like diseases and aging. Some mushi are wonderfully beautiful. Some mushi are terrifying and horrible. Some mushi are useful. Some mushi extremely harmful to humans. Many mushi are both, to some extent. The solving of cases isn't ever a given, and frequently quite difficult. (Some of the episodes aren't about cases, as such). Most of the times, it's a matter of how you can live along, live with the problems caused by the mushi, or live without. A lot of stories have bitter-sweet endings. Several of them have sad endings. Some only end many years after the case. Some are up in the air.

I especially love how the anime focus on very ordinary people. That are several very varied range of mostly rural work and crafts underlain by the story, and there's something very refreshing in that kind of focus, and in the variety of ways people made their life, as well as the naturalistic treatment to storytelling.

Ginko himself is an interesting lead. He's not quite the cypher that the Medicine seller is in Mononoke, for example, he's got his own personality as a sardonic man who has his own ethical ideas about things yet is fairly cynical about people. Yet he's not at the forefront of most of the stories (there are several stories in which he appears very little) and is a rather quiet man. There's a handful of episodes dedicated to developing his character and his backstory, but not much. Of course, Mushishi is a great example of the less is more kind of storytelling.

In conclusion, this is easily one of the best anime I've ever seen. Watch it.

Baccano!

Aug. 16th, 2009 03:28 pm
salinea: (Default)
[personal profile] salinea
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.
salinea: (Default)
[personal profile] salinea
Black Lagoon

In South-East Asia during the mid-nineties, Rokuro is a salary man on a mission to deliver a CD containing important data when he's kidnapped by pirates looking to blackmail his enterprise and ransom him. However Rokuro's boss would rather kill everyone to cover all tracks - including Rokuro. Shocked by this ruthlessness, the now renamed Rock decides to join the pirate crew of the Black Lagoon rather than go back to Japan - which is the start of a whole new life for him in the crime-riddled city of Roanapur in Thailand.


The crew of the Black Lagoon, from left to right: Ben, an American Jew from Florida who handles hacking and all stuff related to communication and electronics on the ship; Rock, our Japanese former salary man who is good as negotiation and social skills in general and the occasional crazy awesome plan; Revy a Chinese-American gun slinger who is more that a little bit hot headed and violently inclined; and Dutch, also American, the leader of the team and pilot of the ship.

rest of the review )
salinea: (teasing)
[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 )
salinea: (Default)
[personal profile] salinea
Was the last Sarah Connor Chronicles awesome or was it AWESOME? slight blabber on SCC )

But today I want to tell you about my other favourite show right now. Much like SCC, it does not just pass the Bechdel test, it passes it with flying colours and while doing a tap dance. And above SCC, if there's an equivalent to the Bechdel test for characters of colours, it passes that one too:
That's Michiko e Hatchin:

Photobucket

Produced by Mangaglobe, the studio otherwise known for Samurai Champloo, and directed by Sayo Yamamoto, Michiko e Hatchin takes place in a nameless country which is basically Brazil with the serial numbers removed and features more references to the 70s exploitation genre than a Tarantino movie, and revolves around one woman and a little girl travelling around searching for the girl's father while cops and gangs try to capture/kill them. So far 18 episodes out of a total of 22 have been broadcasted and can be found fansubbed easily.

More in depth review, with pictures )
salinea: (Default)
[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.
salinea: (Default)
[personal profile] salinea
Paranoia Agent

An epic-level mindfuck series by Kon Satoshi revolving around a pheonomenon ofa young boy nicknamed "Shounen Bat" randomly agressing people with a baseball bat, the investigation thereof, his victims, and a parallel phenomeon of enthousiasm for a cute pop character à la Hello Kitty whose designer was the first victim of Shounen Bat. Like all Kon Satoshi stories save perhaps Tokyo Godfather it features a lot of interesting mixing between fantasy and reality, and meta-ness. See the part where I said it was epic-level mindfuck.

Sadly the copy I've watched were borrowed japanese DVDs which just happened to have English subtitles but those subtitles were somewhat... lacking. I have seen worse, but they had a lot of typos, bad grammar, lines left untranslated for no reason at all, text appearing on screen almost never translated, etc. which in a series that's already pretty difficult to understand perfectly is a bit annoying. So yeah, I kinda regret not having simply watched some fansubs.

Otherwise Paranoia Agent is extremely fascinating. It does atmosphere perfectly, oscillating between cryptic, disturbing, cynical, morbidly creepy, morbidly funny and morbidly-I-don't-know-if-it's-funny-or-creepy-but-my-jaw-is-on-the-floor. It does a pretty good job of exploring various the rather big cast of character with pitiless examination. Add a very good graphism, animation and musical score, and it's certainly entertaining as well as brain-breaking, while dressing a rather depressing portray of Japanese society - or of people's neurosis in Japanese society. I also loved how the story focussed on not one person but on the way different people crossed the phenomenon, and i found the narrative modes picked by different independant episode very unique and brillant - I think my favourite was the episode focussing on the urban legends told by gossipning housewives.

Code Geass

TV Tropes wiki seemed to love this one, and the tropes involved made me think I should give it a try. I was right : I devoured one season and a half in two days.Then I watched it again with a friend and am slightly more critical. Not that I don't love it any less - the show hits fairly on quite a few of my favourite narrative kinks - but it's also fairly flawed in other ways.

In an alternate world where the empire of Brittania rules a good third of the world and invaded Japan 8 years ago, Lelouch, a young Brittanian student living in Area 11 - formerly called Japan - finding himself in the middle of a fight beween Japanese terrorist and the Brittanian army, meets a mysterious woman who gives him the power of geass which allows him to give an absolute order which must be obeyed to any person he meets the eye of. That's a good news for him : he's always planned to destroy the Brittanian empire, this power only makes it possible for him to move faster. The first step of his plan is to take over a Japanese terrorist group and work to liberate Area 11. Bad luck for him : his Japanese childhood friend Suzaku is working for the Brittanian army and is going to become an elite mecha pilot for them.

Code Geass aims at being a fan pleaser. It does so in various ways, cramming various genres together in a way that's not always wieldy : highschool hijinks, mecha battles, complicated plots & counterplots drama, harem-like fanservice. Despite this it holds itself pretty well together, with a good helping of a high threshold of suspension of disbelief and a fair resistance to fanservice abuse. It's very over the top, extremely DRAMATIC, occasionnaly quite subtle and clever, thankfully full of self-derision and never fails being entertaining.

On the plus side, as I've mentionned, it pushes some of my buttons :
The main character, Lelouch, is an adorable manipulative bastard. Between his pretty pretty CLAMP designed character, his reliance on complicated and twisted plotting, his fastidiousness and analytical mind, his love of DRAMA and chess metaphores, his evil overlord laugh and his genuine caring for the people close to him, he makes quite the fascinating anti hero. He reminds me much of a much younger Gerald Tarrant who hasn't learned to sacrifice as much yet but is well on his way to. He's a powerthirsty, ruthless revenge driven fiend yet angsts very prettily when he realises the not always foreseen consequences of his action. I've seen a lot of comparison to Light Yagami, and it does work as a comparison, but mostly for contrast. Lelouch sees just as big and is just as prompt to analyse the exact limits of his power and to exploit it to its utmost, but unlike Light he's not a sociopath - which I find much more appealing. (Also Lelouch has a power that's actually useful instead of somethign that forces him to see every problem like a nail!) Also, I love it when the show sets him up for mockery, and the show does it a lot.

The antagonistic relationship with Suzaku is the other point of appeal. Suzaku himself is pretty fascinating, quite a complex character and an excellent foil to Lelouch. Impulsive where Lelouch plans wheels within wheel, full of qualms where Lelouch is ruthless, physically able like Lelough isn't, willing to work from within the system that Lelouch wants to destroy, taking on a personna of a white knight where Lelouch sets himself up as a shadowy masked terrorist... and full of his own contradictions. Their friendship and its evolution as the fight gets more and more between them is very appealling.

Then there's the big screwed up Amber-like royal family of Brittania, huge, fucked up, full of infighing and caring and twistedness and all sporting purple eyes (perhaps they're a Taragaryen off shout;)). Yeah, I love this trope.

The alternate history that's the background of the world looks fascinating but is way underdevelopped in the anime itself - I learned most of it from the wikipedia instead. Still, it's definitly got an appeal and allows the show to explore ideas around themes of imperialism, nationalism, quite a few ballsy references to WW2 in a way that's surprisingly subtle. It's kinda funny to see a show where ethnicity matter to the characters involved yet they all look like polychromed haired anime characters to the audience. Appart from Lelouch (yes, he does get called on his mithey whitism) and Suzaku (yes, he does get called on his collaboration), there's Kallen a half-Brittanian half-Japanese who sides with fights with the Japanese yet passes for Brittanian in her day to day life, weapon support coming from India, in fighting between various revolutionary groups and many more. The morality play is never simplified and you sometimes get surprise character development even for villains (in one case posthumous).

The mandatory just as planned plot twist isn't always clever but is almost always fun to watch.

On the bad side, the show is riddled with fanservice in a way that is occasionnaly detrimental to the plot. There is a huge cast of character which is not always plot relevent as some characters seem to be only there to look pretty or moe, provide with comedy, or be the ubiquitous morality pet and source of angsty manpain. Female characters are especially treated badly : some of them are pretty cool (I'm very fond of badass strategist princess Cornelia and Euphemia for all that she is cringe inducing on first appearance is fairly well rounded, developped and plot relevent in her own character archetype niche and Kallen definitly has her appeal as well beyond the boobs) but they tend to be way too much used only to further male characters' story or just... to provide the fanservice.

Some of the plot devices are overused (amnesia I'm looking at you), and the parallels between s1 and s2 got old very, very fast. And yes, there is such a thing as too much cliffhangers.

So many characters and plot threads and it's sometimes overloaded. A lot of material isn't in the series itself but in drama episodes and book dramas or even elsewhere which I haven't managed to track yet.

For all of the flaws, I am hopelessly addicted. ♥

Nodame Cantabile

That would be the liveaction drama, not the anime. A friend showed me the first episode saying it was extremely silly and hillarious and I loved it right away. It's centered around a character whose dream is to become a musical orchestro conductor, yet is hindered by his phobia of flying when he should study abroad to get any far in his studies, and his relationship with a wacky eccentric and sloppy yet brillant piano player Nodame. It is extremely, extremely silly - sometimes not in a subtle or unproblematic ways (if you've got a squick for seeing a male character hit a female one even if it's done in manga comedy style, this is not for you); but also works very well at being adorable and tender. Then there's the musical score, which is awesome (great use of Gershwin).

12 Kingdoms

Jun. 5th, 2008 12:25 am
salinea: (Default)
[personal profile] salinea
12 Kingdoms starts with that good ol' trope : a young girl from our world is transported into a fantasy world where she has an important and mysterious role to play, around which various intrigues, adventures and magic revolve. The young girl is Youko, a nice obedient girl who has the flaw of wanting everyone to like her - if you're a HP fan fond of Remus as a big part of my flist is, you'll know what that mean - and she was carried away along with two of her school mate, one of which is another girl, Sugimoto, who is a big fan of fantasy novels herself and wants nothing but be carried into that world of magic, persuaded that she'll finally find there a place to belong (the other is the second girl's boyfriend and has very little personality and plot relevance so don't mind him). Quickly after travelling, they are, because of a fight, separated from the man who had made them cross over and find themselves stranded in a world which they know nothing about, and on which their status as travellers from another world makes them subject to pursuit and imprisonment.

However the anime as a whole presents several stories, only another one deals directly with the same character as the first (the others center around secondary characters from the first story or new characters altogether) - giving a bit of strange feeling to the pacing of the series as a whole. Both the opening and ending songs are gorgeous pieces that really help the immersion.

In terms of characters, the story intrigued me immediately by intentionally setting its characters as not very likeable. Most of the major protagonists are presented as flawed people - not in the glorified anti-heroic way of gritty fantasy - but with the essential pettiness, self-delusions, small hypocrisies and selfishness of teenagers. Their depiction is very stark and raw, but not without compassion for the hardships they suffer from. I liked seeing them grow out of those weaknesses and learning to face their responsabilities in all their forms, to blossom into better people. There's a certain feeling to this theme of responsability and maturing which reminded me of Utena, although the treatment is very different. Overall the characters are very nuanced, believable and differenciated.

In terms of story, it is very entrancing and tightly paced (a lot of episodes end up on cliffhangers!). Once we get to the part with more ambitious plotting it is also well constructed if not exactly complex. There was at least one point which surprised me when they completely glossed over what could have been a major epic moment summarizing in a short voice-over, but we got paid back on that with another epic moment in the sequel story. The storytelling, however, is mostly focussed on the evolution of the various characters which it does very well.

The world building of the 12 Kingdoms is pretty interesting. It's fairly low key magically. A lot of the details revolve around the concept of government chosen by the Heavens, what happens when it goes wrong, and the difficulties in making it work right, which might sound silly but is examined with a lot of earnestness and gravity as one of the central theme of the story and end up being rather fascinating as such, even as its political blindspots could occasionally be frustrating. There are also a lot of creatures, wolf-like, horse-like, bird-like and plain chimera, which look gorgeous and totally appealed to my inner 12 year old. The graphic design of the world is also beautiful and works well. There's a certain abuse of exotic terms and names which can be sometimes be hard keeping track of, but I couldn't figure if that was a genuine issue of the writing, or an effect of using those words without translating them in the adaptation (which was fansubs, of course). My other main criticism is that for all that it's got 12 kingdoms, most of them remain unused and have zero differentiation between them apart from which King or Queen rules over them.

There's a couple of excellent ideas such as the fact that this is a world in which people get born from fruits of a special tree. I kinda fell in love with this idea because I think it's got ginarmous potential to explore issues about gender and sexuality in a way that's very pertinent in a fantasy world without having the boys of the old boys' club of sexist fantasy complaining about the lack of realism. Sadly, the story doesn't much explore this idea - there's a couple of clever throwaway lines about different kinds of marriage contracts and how they're used by people and that's about it. All of the couples we see are also heteronormative.

The gender dynamics of the series in general are a bit ambiguous. Definitely, they don't mean to show female characters as having less status or power in this world (except maybe in the Kingdom of Kei for very specific reasons), and the stories portray a lot of strong female characters as main protagonists. However the way that two Queens (one crowned the other consort) had their fatal flaws being their jealousy of other women left a rather bitter taste in my mouth. My overall impression is positive, it's just that it had the couple of WTF moments.

12 Kingdom is about an old trope, to some amount it did some acknowledgement of the escapist aspects of that trope, and some genuine effort to try to subvert it - but I don't think it was entirely successful. It also fell into that trap of telling the same story over and over. You know how in Darkover at least half of the books revolve around the story of a Terran, or someone who was raised among Terrans for reasons x or y goes onto Darkover, and discover telepathic powers and the culture there? Well, a good part of 12 Kingdoms gave me the impression of telling again and again the story of someone from Japan transplanted (for reason x or y) the 12 Kingdoms and having to discover the rules of that world and their own role in it. For all of that, it was a very interesting use of that trope and the best of those I've had the occasion of watching in anime (the others I know of being Fushigi Yuugi, Escaflowne and the first episodes of Kyou Kara Maoh...)

In conclusion a very good series well worth watching and very immersive, with strong and fascinating characters and a lovely examination of the themes of responsibility, admission of one's flaws and growing up. And pretty creatures/monsters ♥
salinea: (Default)
[personal profile] salinea
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) ^^

Profile

abymage: (Default)
Etrangere's anime reviews

September 2011

S M T W T F S
    123
45678910
11121314151617
18 192021222324
252627282930 

Currently watching

- Legend of Galactic Heroes
- Katanagari
- Uraboku
- Senkou no Night Raid
- Madlax
- Welcome to the NHK
- Now and Then, Here and There
- Kaze no Yojimbo
- Arigatou Ghost Slayer Arashi
- Kara no Kyoukai
- Occult Academy
- Shiki
- Legend of Legendary Heroes


Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated May. 27th, 2017 10:05 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios