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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.



Hakuouki

Jul. 5th, 2010 04:29 pm
salinea: (meh)
[personal profile] salinea
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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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.
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[personal profile] salinea
Himitsu: the Revelation



In the near future, a technology is developed to be able to watch the visual memories of someone through scanning their brains shortly after the death. A unit of police called Section 9 is developed, specialised into watching the brains of the murder victims and criminals in order to solve cases.

Adapted from a josei manga by Reiko Shimizu (called The Top Secret in its French translation), Himitsu was something of a disappointment. I've watched so many great anime adaptation of manga lately, I had forgotten that it was such a risky form I can be very picky of XD. The problem doesn't come from the plot adaptation or addition, which, for the most part actually were an improvement (especially how they made Nanako a real member of the team SPOILER instead of only introducing her in order to be killed as she is END SPOILER in the manga) and necessary in order to increase the overall story's cohesiveness; but from the show's direction : basically it felt very forced and hammed to the point of cheesiness, always going for the overstated when it should have gone for the understated (especially since most of the plots are horrific and taboo enough in contents, they didn't need oversell the point to shock or hook us in) in a way that removed from the dramatic tension and made me roll my eyes more than a few times. The soundtrack is particularly grating, but, really, this is a flaw of the storytelling in general.

It's not all bad though : the source material is pretty interesting if you like mysteries about dark, mature subjects, with some interesting thematics about privacy and how secrets weigh on people. It can sometimes be gore; and there's a couple of episodes that sort of flirt with a CSI-like freak of the week vibe; but for the most part, it's handled rather elegantly. Most of the stories are well done. The art and animation is pretty good, with a realistic art style and beautiful effects of light. The cast of character is a bit slow to come into its own, but does have a beautiful dynamic when it starts. Our view point character, Aoki, is a young policeman newcomer to the unit. He's pretty straightforward and a bit lacking in confidence. Maki, the leader of the team, is a beautiful man with an aloof demeanour and a great capacity for awesome. Both the manga and the anime play with a sort of slashy vibes between those two in a superficial pandering to fangirls way which I find rather irritating since they obviously have no intention to pursue it any deeper than that.

Anyway, if you're as desperate for josei anime as I sometimes am, I guess I'd still recommend it, with some warning about the eye-roll worthy direction.
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[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.
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Daughter of 20 Faces (aka Nijuu Mensou no Musune aka Chiko, Heiress of the Phantom Thief)

Shortly after WW2, in Japan, Chiko is a 12 years old wealthy orphan being taken care of by her aunt and uncle when the famous phantom thief 20 Faces infiltrates her household in order to steal her family heirloom jewels; upon which he finds out that the aunt is doing her best to poison her ward and that the remarkably perceptive Chiko is doing her best not to be poisoned; and decides to take the young girl with him as he makes his usual dashing escape.

This anime had a lot stacked up for me to like, yet ended up being quite disappointing in terms of stories. Chiko is a great female lead, intelligent, stoic and relateable; and several other characters are also charismatic (although not 20 Faces himself, a fact which ends up being rather crippling). The animation is of decent quality, and gives us some pretty impressive action scenes, especially well done in terms of having the characters make smart use of the environment. The setting is a bit of a mixed bag - the time period is interesting in itself in how it deals with the wake of the war and how it's affected people, as well as the show having a entertaining amount of pulpish elements like mad scientists and, you know, dashing phantom thief schemes, however it isn't deep or clever enough in its use of the time period, and in one specific episode set in China is downright offensive with it. The big disappointment is the overall story, while having a lot of unforeseen twists, it gave me the impression of not knowing at all where it was going. I kept expecting the story to start in earnest, watching with mild irritation the episodes where Chiko is still young and learning the ropes with 20 Faces, and when I expected things to start, it was more tepid plots without much aim nor depth to them. The finale is particularly boring and disappointing in that.


I had two more anime to review but I'm too lazy to do them tonight!
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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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Etrangere's anime reviews

September 2011

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- Legend of Galactic Heroes
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