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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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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.

Sukisyo

Jun. 26th, 2010 01:57 am
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[personal profile] salinea
Sukisyo aka Suki na Mono wa Suki Dakara Shōganai!!



At an all boy Highschool, Sora Hashiba finds himself with a new Dormitory room mate in the presence Nao, except that at their first meeting 1/ Nao called himself "Ran" 2/ climbed up on him while he was sleeping 3/ insisted to him to talk to "Yoru". Also both Nao and dorm president and friend of Hashiba Matsuri used to know Hashiba when he was a child but he forgot all about them nowadays. What are "Ran" and "Yoru", why did Hashiba forgot his childhood, and why did Nao suddenly re-appear into his life?

Sukisyo is a cute, slightly dark and slightly sexy BL series, adapted from a visual novel. In other words, if you like BL, it's pretty charming all around. (Of course I've read enough bad BL manga that any BL story with #1 an actual plot #2 no rape-as-love automatically qualifies as "good" >_>;)

Its first half is mostly filled with fluff and comedy based on Matsuri's money-macking schemes which he persuades Nao and Hashiba to participate in (Matsuri is kind of like a only-slightly-less-crazy-and-overbearing Ayame (of Fruits Basket's fame); including in his character design).

The second half, more focussed on the resolution of the main mysteries, is darker and more dramatic, despite the plot lacking much in sense when you think twice about it and fulfils the character's arc well.

There's a relatively large cast of characters - all male (I sometimes wondered if women actually existed at all in this world ^_^) with several m/m couples. Most of them are rather endearing and well characterised (except the villains who are just... evil, cuz, evil I guess). Nao being the cranky trsundere kind of uke, he's pretty entertaining. Hashiba is a bit clueless, mostly well intentionned and willful kind of male lead; and they have good chemistry. Matsuri of course is awesome and brings a lot of energy to the story.

The character designs are a bit more stylisized than I usually like, but they work well in this case and I didn't dislike them at all. The animation is decent enough. Can't remember anything about the music.

All in all, not a great series in any shape, but a lot of good fun.
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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.
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[personal profile] salinea
Yes, another one. Not the last either, I'm really on a roll of finishing a lot of series I've started in the last few months :)

Takau Shishou : the Book of Bantorra aka Armed Librarians of Bantorra



In a diesel punk world, people leave a "book" (a stone tablet that can be read by touch) of their life behind them when they die. The Armed Librarians of Bantorra collect those books in a labyrinthine library guarded by monstrous creatures for the use of people and the great good, and fight against the Church of Drowning in God's Grace, a mysterious cult which believes "True Humans" must be protected, loved and lavished with every privilege in order to create the most perfect happiness in their "book" when they get to Heaven; but which treats other people, which they call "Meat", with the most abject and dehumanising servitude.

The adaptation of a series of seinen light novels, Book of Bantorra has a large, multiple cast of characters, which it focusses in turns in short story arcs, as it progressively reveals an intricate and complex overarching plot. This plot is pretty good, and is brought to a satisfying epic climax which explains most of the mysteries it successively raised and especially tying every characters and ever story arc together in a pretty brilliant way. Sadly, despite this structural quality, it was very much lacking in its texture (characterisation, setting, animation etc.) which ended making it much less entertaining and intriguing than it could have been with such qualities of plot and storytelling.

One big weakness is the characters. There are several of them that are just this close to interesting and that I could have been pretty fond of (Noloty, Mattalast, Enlike and of course Hamyuts Meseta, the acting director of Bantorra who is certainly a very unique female character) however it never developed them enough to truly make them come alive and distinguish themselves from their stereotypes.

Another big weakness is the art and animation, which is remarkably graceless. Many of the character designs were frankly ugly (don't get me started on Hamyuts' ridiculously big cleavage which is animated as if it was a mass of concrete), the background art really fails to render the world with any life or originality, and while the animation is obviously not all that cheap, it very seldom seems to have any fluidity.

However the storytelling really is frequently brilliant, building up to excellent dramatic scenes during each story arcs. Some of them are more rushed or cheesy than others, but overall they made me keep watching despite the other flaws. While its themes, the worth of living, idealism vs cynicism, dehumanisation vs one's inner sense of self and wills, conflicting loyalties and love/friendship, etc. are not anything new or entrancing they are well and coherently woven into the stories in a way that make them resonate successfully. Actions scenes are also frequently pretty good, with intelligent strategic uses of people's powers and interesting direction.

Book of Bantorra sometimes reminded me of the fantasy epic Malazan Book of Fallen; both for the "Book" (teehee) and the "Fallen" (don't be surprised to see lots of characters dying), and for the ridiculous names that kind of sound cool and epic anyway part ^_^ It remains however much more flawed.

In the end, I guess it was an okay enough series, but I won't keep a stellar memories of it.
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[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.
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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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Etrangere's anime reviews

September 2011

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Currently watching

- Legend of Galactic Heroes
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- Now and Then, Here and There
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