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.

Simoun

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



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

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

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

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

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

Overall, I have very mixed feelings on Simoun, because I was very disappointed by the ending due to the lack of resolution other than character-wise, but, aside from the expectations I had build for it, what it does focus on it manages to execute pretty well.
salinea: (fairytale)
[personal profile] salinea
Shion no Ou

When Shion was very young, her parents were murdered in front of her, the trauma rendering her mute. Nowadays, she's a 12 year old girl on the verge of becoming a female pro of Shougi - Japanese Chess; as various events conspire to remind her of this still unresolved murder; while she meets two other pros; Ayumi - really a boy who crossdresses in order to win as much money as possible to pay for his ill mother's treatment bills among the less competitive female pros - and Saori a girl from a very well off family who is apprenticed to the Meijin - the current top player of the Shougi world.

I first encountered mentions about this anime around the Hikaru no Go fandom, and it's easy to see why, both being shounen series revolving on board games; yet they are very different kind of series apart from some fairly standard Shounen tropes , although both are excellent. Where Hikago is a fairly straight forward Bildungsroman; Shion no Ou is much more focussed on the main mystery's investigation and one main tournament of Shougi, held at a breathless pace. This is the anime's strongest point : I watched the 22 episodes in about 2 days, driven by the intense storytelling.
In terms of characterisation, it is a little bit uneven. Shion herself is a bit distractingly "moe" on first aboard, not to mention the difficulty of giving strong presence to an animated character whose voice is only heard during the occasional inward monologue, but eventually as the story progresses she's revealed to be a very strong person and compelling lead. Ayumi's the other compelling character (and my favourite) as a very intense and earnest boy in a difficult situation. Saori is also very interesting, although too much put to the side of the main story in the latter part. Other characters are pretty well done in their role - I particularly like how, in contrast with Hikago, parents, even those who do not play board games, aren't entirely sidelined from the story. There's a couple of characters who are a little mishandled due to how the mystery plays out.
About the plot itself : I liked how it came across as the intersecting of different characters' agendas and own secrets. The main mystery of Shion's parents' murder itself is only decent and fairly easy to guess, but works well because of how tied it is to the Shougi games and Shion's psychology.
Sadly the graphism and animation is quite ugly and barely watcheable; although occasionally interesting.
The show also makes a few interesting commentaries on gender, and sexism in the Shougi world is addressed, which was appreciated.
Overall a solid series, very easy to get into and very fun to watch.

Otherwise I finished watching a few series I've mentioned before:

Shounen Onmyouji: Had a pretty dull last tier. I'd hoped it would pull itself into an eventually interesting plot and antagonism but it disappointed me. I'm feeling very meh about this anime overall.

Saiunkoku Monogatori S2: Well, this was not an ending made of fucking awesome brilliance, what with so many interesting new plot threads only being hints; and any expectation of a sequel being unlikely to come very soon, what with the fact the anime already adapted almost all light novels it is based on; but it was still very decent, and made a nice counterpoint to the S1 ending. I really adore this series, despite some of its flaws.

Michiko e Hatchin: FUCKING AWESOME BRILLIANCE.

What's next? I'm currently watching Mononoke, Tobaku Mokushiroku Kaiji, Mouryou no Hako, trying to finish watching Zoku Sayounara Sensei, as well as watching Zoku Matsume Yuujinchou and Skip Beat as they're nearing to their ending. Currently wondering what I'll get into after I've finished those, so if you'vre got suggestions...
salinea: (Default)
[personal profile] salinea
Somehow I tried to take advantage of the fact I had a lot of free time this year to watch a whole bunch of TV series and anime. I didn't actually review most of them, so I'll try to compile my impressions there.

The Awesome )

The Good )

The Flawed yet Compelling yet Flawed )

The Okay I guess )

The Boring )

The Not Sure Yet )

Whoa. This took me so long to type I started yesterday and only finished today. Next time I'll try to do more reviews as I go >_>;

Anyway, I'm off to see the new BSG ep!

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