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I've watched so many series last year, I think I'm going to make a separate post for the liveaction shows.

The Awesome
Natsume Yuujinchou (S1&2): The very good adaptation of one of my favourite fantastique shoujo manga. Here's hoping to a third season!
Mononoke: Gorgeous art and chilling historical horror at its best.
Michiko e Hatchin: Action road movie series about a young badass orphan girl and a female gangster on the run in Brazil of some years back. This one really caught my heart.
Black Lagoon (S1&2): Comparable to Michiko e Hatchin with original setting and many badass female characters, this one has slightly less "heart" and compensates for it with gonzo action & dark existential musings.
Mushishi: Sublime historical supernatural cases stories!
Baccano!: Tarantinesque action & narrative deconstruction meet alchemical immortality in the 30's. Woohoo!
Aoi Hana: High school f/f romance & slice of life at its best, served by beautiful animation.
Tokyo Magnitude 8.0: Poignant catastrophe story.

The Good
Shion no Ou: Murder mystery meets Japanese Chess series, excellent plotting served by a break neck pacing.
Spice and Wolf (S1&2): Fantasy with a focus on economics & the relationship between a wandering merchant and a trickster wolf goddess.
Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood (on going): A pretty good adaptation of an excellent manga series; after a few clumsy first episodes it really took its strides and really delivered in the high points of the storytelling so far.
Ghost Hunt: Extremely solid supernatural case stories with endearing regular characters.
Ghost Hound: Horror & mystery series with a great creepy atmosphere and excellent characterisation.
Kodomo no Omocha (on going): An adorable and very funny old shoujo series (from the 90's) about an hyperactive ten years old child actress and her day to day life. I've been stuck in the middle of this one because I couldn't find good subtitled version of the episodes after ep 40 ;_;
Taishou Yakyuu Musume: Adorable and well crafted comedy series about a female baseball team in the 20's.
Le Chevalier d'Eon: Swashbuckling meets alchemical zombies meets esoteric conspiracies meets genderfuck in 18th century Europe.
Sasameki Koto: Well crafted High school comedy & f/f romance with very endearing characters.
Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann: Reconstruction of the mecha genre. Even for someone like me who rather hates the genre this show is a love letter too, this series stood out as pretty awesome and communicative in enthusiasm.
Towards the Terra: Epic old school space opera with psychic powers.

The Okay
Ristorante Paradiso: One of the two series I finished watching this year which I failed to write a review of (oops). A slice of life show around a restaurant in Rome which focus on, err, fetishizing old men with glasses. I'm a bit at a loss about what to say about it, it's no unpleasant to watch and rather refreshing in its originality, but it was strongly lacking in plot and characterisation.
Kazemakase Tsukikake Ran (on going): A female samurai and a female kung fu warrior wander Japan and fight crime injustice. I'm only 2 episodes from the ending. It's a rather charming chambara show despite some weakness of the episodic plots and the way the sidekick is mostly used as the butt monkey of the story.
Requiem for the Phantom: Noir story about assassins, a little bit overdone and with some flaws, but still decent enough overall in terms of story and characters.
Rental Magica (on going): I'm halfway through this urban fantasy stories about a team of Magicians for hire. Pretty slim characterisation and plots, but the magical system is interesting at least.

The Mediocre
Kannazuki no Miko: Mecha & magical girl series plagued by a horrible lead and trying too hard for fetish tropes.
Daughter of 20 Faces: Great female Phantom Thief premise undercut by terrible storytelling.
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya S2: Repetitive sequel :p (worst time loop story ever)

Mixed Feelings ones
Ayakashi: Japanese Ghost Stories: Classical horror stories anthology of very uneven qualities.
Sayonara Zetsubuou Sensei (S1&S2): The other anime series I finished watching (well, up to the season season at least) which I failed to review. Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei is tough to describe... imagine South Park with better art and more fanservice? Dark&morbid humour, parody, puns & gorgeous animation meet in a crackful fest around the class of the weirdest high school students of Japan and their suicidal teacher. First season is pretty good (if frequently offensive), but the second loses most of its charm and originality.
Bakemonogatori (on going): Interesting graphics and supernatural cases stories but undermined by harem dynamics & disturbing fanservice.
Kemonozume: Weird supernatural love story with a dark and ironic atmosphere. Pretty good up through the surrealist ending. Gets prop for originality and art.
Simoun: Steampunk war story in a genderfucked world; a great setting and characterisation but too many flaws of pacing and storytelling.
Spiral: It's hard to decide if a mystery focussed series is good or bad WHEN THERE IS NO ENDING! (grrr)

The ones I dropped
Fate/Stay Night: Contemporary magical tournament for the Graal of teams of one Magician and one Heroes of Legend servant. So many bad sides to this one... a terrible lead character, annoying harem dynamics, bad graphism and animation. On the other hand one of the female lead is made of awesome and has great snarky interaction with her own servant. In the end i gave it up when I read some spoilers about more of the world/story. It's just... not my kind of stuff.
Gambling Apocalypse Kaiji: A very weird series about a desperate loser taking part in gambling tournaments in hope of winning enough money to repay his debts. Very idiosyncratic in style, so it gets prop for originality and for trying for interesting themes about the darkness of human nature and hope one can have nevertheless; although the pacing was sometimes very annoying and oddly enough has zero female characters. I dropped it because I'm depressed enough in my life, I don't need a show to increase my anxiety level. XD
Eureka Seven: Surfing mecha shows. Pretty intriguing setting and overall story, but I got annoyed by the lead - obligatory 14 year old boy - and how everything in the story is focussed on him and his romance with obligatory Emotionless girl, and all the relatively cool secondary characters only get to play peanut gallery to his antics. Bad pacing too.
Kemono no Souja Erin: Coming of age fantasy. Dropped it after 6 episodes because it seemed to much built as a children show; but with the superlative reviews I've seen of it lately, I think I'll probably pick it up again.

The not sure yet
Ergo Proxy (on going): Post apocalyptic/cyberpunk mystery. I'm a bit more than halfway through and it's a pretty interesting stories if a bit tough to get into at first. My final opinion will depend a lot of the ending and how it resolves of the mystery, but it'll probably be at least "good".
Legend of Galactic Heroes (on going): Very old, very epic, and very long Space Opera drama series. I'm in the middle of S2 on a total of 4 seasons (not counting the movies and side stories). It's really good, with excellent characters, plotting and political intrigue and battle scenes, with most of the flaws I can blame on the age of the series (mid 80s to early 90s).
Bokurano (on going): Deconstruction of the humongous mecha genre, with a lot of death and character exploration. It's been pretty good so far, although I'll need to compare it to the manga sometimes.
Kobato (on going): CLAMP's latest slice of life/supernatural adaptation. Cute and pretty pleasant to watch so far.
Armed Librarians of Bantorra (on going): Action/mystery series in a weird diesel punk world where everyone leaves a "book" (a stone tablet than can be read by touch) behind them when they die. So far I have mixed feelings: animation is pretty bad and characters are somewhat clicheed but the storytelling has been pretty good and the setting is intriguing.
Aoi Bungaku (on going): Anthology adaptation of Japanese Literature classics. So far what I've seen has been stylistically awesome, but the source material is seldom to my taste.

NB:
- on going means I'm still in the process of watching it, not that it's still being broadcasted. Although, in some cases, it is still being broadcasted.
- Links go to my reviews of the series, when I made one




Total series: 41 (well shit)
Best series overall: Mushishi
Best Male Lead: Natsume
Best Female Lead: Michiko
Best Art/Character Design: Mononoke
Best Animation: Baccano!
Best Plot: Baccano!
Best Storytelling: Mushishi
Best Soundtrack: Mushishi

See the recap of the year before
salinea: (Default)
[personal profile] salinea
Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann

Humanity lives (pretty miserably) underground in small villages, the existence of the surface being reduced to a myth. Only Kamina, a teenager with more attitude than brain insist it exists and repeatedly tries to reach it. One day, Simon the digger, Kamina's best friend and younger brother figure, finds a weird machine shaped like a human head; later on, a redhead girl with a big gun falls from a hole in the ceiling; quickly followed by an aggressive mecha and they fight it using Simon's new-found mini-mecha... and soon reach the surface. Sadly the surface is populated by beastmen piloting mechas who will hunt down and kill any humans who dare to live on it.



TTGL doesn't do a whole lot of thing, but what it does, it does very, very well. TTGL is a reconstruction of the mecha genre, with a lot of homage to old shows and lot of things working on trope, literally, (tropes like the Rule of Cool and Hot Bloodedness, especially) and whole fucking lot of EPIC AWESOME. Also a lot of silly. And a lot of things so silly they cross the line twice and go back into AWESOME. It would be an understatement to call TTGL over the top. TTGL is flying far, far over over the top. Even the sky isn't the limit for TTGL, for it knows no limits (or common sense). It will frequently make you OH MY GOD WHAT THE FUCK THEY DIDN'T? THEY DID! This is made particularly winningly entertaining by the utter lack of shame and amused self-consciousness the storytelling shows.

Stylistically, the art is aggressively shounen and very dynamic, frequently sketchy and with some notable daring art-shift to suit narrative moods. There's pretty much always something racing, bouncing, drilling, popping or exploding on screen. Fanservice is also endemic, with most of cast - including male characters - wearing stripperific outfits. As a machine in creating enthusiasm, TTGL is a thing of beauty, helped along by an earwormy soundtrack ("row row fight the power") and many judiciously repeated catchphrases. In a way its a bit scary how good this show is at creating rabid enthusiasm amongst its fans. It's just... very, very catchy. Like a virus.

In pacing, TTGL also pushes beyond all limits, with a virtually absent status quo. Events don't just happen, they rush in rapid succession of topping over previous events; yet still in a way that is easy to follow and distillates the mood perfectly. This does have the bad effect of having a bunch of secondary character who have very little development besides showing up and being named, although TTGL rests very knowingly on tropes to be confident the audience still knows what those characters are about.

Those aside, most characters are very endearing and sympathetic. Simon's character journey is very well told and I found him much more interesting than your average shounen lead, not due to originality but simply to the quality of the storytelling. Kamina is... pretty much indescribables, but very hard not to love. Yoko and Nia, the female leads, are both pretty awesome and likeable. Relationships between those four (and the few other regular secondary characters) are also pretty rich and compelling (also frequently very, very slashy).

Thematically, TTGL mostly works around the idea of the importance of self-confidence, guts and actually trying things and not letting yourself stopped by anything; a theme it pursues relentlessly with the use of the "Spiral" motif, which is embedded (and drilling) everywhere in the series from art to narrative to theme to the show's very structure (also drilling). If you want a show to cheer you up and motivates you, you could do worse. It also addresses shallowly themes of idealism vs pragmatism and in the third arc (my favourite ^_^) also perhaps without fairness enough to make it work fully.

Gender dynamics wise, TTGL is... not very good. Asides from copious amount of male fanservice and the existence of a couple of very cool female protagonists, it relies way too much on putting those female characters in weakened or dangerous situation for the express purpose of making male characters look cool, especially by the ending. Otherwise, there's one flamingly gay character whose campiness is played for laugh, although he's portrayed as very awesome and competent.

In conclusion, an extremely fun and entertaining show, thanks to clever and bold storytelling and stylistic mastery, especially if your taste runs to AWESOME and over the top.

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Etrangere's anime reviews

September 2011

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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
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