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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.

Ergo Proxy

Feb. 12th, 2010 01:49 am
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Ergo Proxy



In a post-Apocalyptic future, most of mankind, to protect themselves from the wasteland that Earth has become, lives in isolated domes such as Romdo in which our story starts; which got all the technology to make life luxurious and comfortable for its citizens, including androids they call Auto-Reiv, though not everyone is granted the status of citizens. However a virus called Cogito is infecting Auto-Reiv, often triggering them into murdering people; and there's another series of murders which seem caused by a strange monster called Proxy. Re-l Meyer is a young woman charged with investigating those matters. Vincent Law is a young immigrant from the faraway city of Mosk trying to become a citizen and who appears to have a mysterious connection to those murders. Pino is an Auto-Reiv of companionship in the shape of a little girl.

There's something about Ergo Proxy that really reminds me of a certain aestheticism that was much more common in the 90's or early 00's (and I don't just mean in the anime medium); something about cyberpunk and mindfuck and avalanches of philosophical references and 90's action heroines that aren't really the heroine and a general over seriousness. It makes it feel a bit annoyingly affected at time, as if it had already aged badly even though it's pretty recent. That said, it's a pretty good anime, though it has certain flaws.

Visually, Ergo Proxy is quite stunning, with a very unique character design style, fluid animation, and a gritty dark & brown colour palette that suits its oppressive and ambiguous atmosphere perfectly - to the point that the colourlessness occasionally made me feel quite morose.

In terms of plot, Ergo Proxy is a bit meandering. The first few episodes were frankly boring, and I probably would have dropped it were it not for the fact I bought those fucking DVDs and I wasn't watching it alone. Then the story finally starts in an interesting direction to go on... on a road trip with a very episodic nature to it. And I actually like those more standalone episode much, much more; especially as many of them were little jewels of Mindfuckery. I do love my mindfuck, I do. Plus, occasional meta-ness! And one episode where literally nothing happens, and it's actually one of the single best episode in the series! Then they wrap up the plot in an okay ending, though if you weren't following during the Quizz show episode info dump, you'll probably be very confused by the conclusion.

Characterisation is another of the pretty good aspect. It feels a bit bait-and-switch, with the way you think first that Re-l is the main protagonist; and then you think, oh, no, I guess it's really Vincent; and then it never really clarifies who's the real lead between the two and it feels a bit confusing. Anyway, Re-l is an interesting female lead, she's competent though often a bit overconfident, driven and stubborn; she's pretty sharp tongued and temperamental, and she's both a bit of a spoiled child and someone with acceptance issues. Vincent is very shy, unassuming and kind, sometimes to the point of being annoying, but in the end pretty sympathetic. They both feel very real. Pino is redoubtably cute, but small aspects of childlike amorality to give her a certain edge. The secondary characters vary greatly, but there's a few that really stand out despite only appearing in one or a couple of episodes.

Thematically... errr Ergo Proxy name drops a whole lot of philosophical names and concepts in a way that's rather baffling to me because most of them went way over my head. Does it build anything of consequence with all those references that end up for a deep and complex thematics? Or does it just use them for to look cool and symbolic without really making any sense? I have no clue. In the end, we have a pretty cool Existential message, which is always nice but I get the same from my trashy gonzo action modern pirates show without all the fanfare & trumpets. There's also a lovely sense of melancholy in the face of certain death; and a motif of relationship between creators and creatures which play at a series of levels in a beautiful sad way. And puns. Actually the puns were really silly and sort of Sailor Moon level. So, I dunno, you tell me if you saw anything really profound and intricate into it that would justify calling a series of talking statues Derrida, Lacan & I forgot the third, because I certainly can't guess why on my own.

So yeah, in the end a pretty good show, especially if you like intellectual cyberpunk shows and good mindfucks.
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[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
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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Etrangere's anime reviews

September 2011

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Currently watching

- Legend of Galactic Heroes
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