They’re the best Anime that 2010 has to offer! We counts down the best anime to come out this year, including the likes of Toaru Kagaku no Railgun, Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt, Heartcatch Precure!, and more!
10: Toaru Kagaku no Railgun
English: A Certain Scientific Railgun
MAL Score: 7.70
The student-filled Academy City is at the forefront of scientific advancement and home to the esper development program. The seven “Level 5” espers are the most powerful in Academy City, and ranked third among them is middle schooler Mikoto Misaka, an electricity manipulator known as “The Railgun.”
When strange incidents begin occurring throughout the city, she finds each crime to be connected to the elusive “Level Upper,” a legendary device that allegedly increases the esper level of its user. As the situation escalates, it becomes apparent that there is more to the Level Upper than meets the eye, and that Academy City may be a far more twisted place than the glamorous utopia it appears to be.
Toaru Kagaku no Railgun focuses on Mikoto and her friends—and the dangerous situations they find themselves in—as they get caught up in the matter of the Level Upper. As Mikoto says, “There’s never a dull moment in this city.”
All is not lost though, as while it is rare that a spinoff can proclaim itself to be as good as, if not better than, the original work, there are some shows that do fit the bill. Frasier (Cheers), CSI: NY and Miami, Torchwood (Dr. Who), Mork & Mindy (Happy Days), and a small number of other titles are widely regarded as at least equal to the original works.
Toaru Kagaku no Railgun can also add its name to that list..
Unlike Toaru Majutsu no Index this series is not actually based on the light novels by Kamachi Kazuma, but is instead based on a spinoff manga by Fuyukawa Motoi. Unlike the Index series the spinoff focuses on Misaka Mikoto, the “Railgun” from the original series. Once more the action takes place in Academy City as Mikoto and her friends are beset by strange earthquakes, conspiracies, friendship issues, and all manner of hijinks.
Like the original series the format of Railgun uses an amalgamation of episodic and multi-chapter arcs however, much like Index, the series is also flawed in terms of its plot because of this. While the series has a reasonably enjoyable story, the tendency to jump from one focus to another like frog on a hot rock is detrimental to the flow of the plot. It’s unfortunate as the format is similar to that adopted by GitS: SAC, however the big difference between the two shows is that where GitS: SAC provided food for thought, Railgun neglects this in favour of audience pleasing fillers (if the audience is juvenile that is).
That said, the plot has some interesting aspects to it, however the lack of a timeframe means that viewers may become a tad confused as to the ordering of events, especially if one tries to correlate the occurences in Index with those in Railgun.
The biggest downside to the format of Railgun though, is the fact that the more interesting aspects of the show are never fully explored due to the lack of focus, something which would have given this show the edge that it really needs.
While the plot may have its issues, the art and animation for Railgun is definitely a step up from Index. The characters follow the design of the manga and the original series, and while this may promote a certain sense of continuity, it’s also a downside as well, as the character design becomes a little stale over the course of the show (i.e. too much of the same).
Backgrounds and settings are generally bright and colourful, and the scenery is very much in keeping with the style of the original series. The animation is generally smooth, however there are moments when the characters move in a truly ludicrous manner, something which can ruin a good action scene.
The one thing I do question is the fanservice, as it’s clearly surplus to requirements. Granted the series is nowhere near the same level as some I could mention, however this is a showthat didn’t really need to go that extra mile just to please the fans, and the story would have been more enjoyable without all the pandering.
Railgun is generally well served in the acting department. Satou Rina and Arai Satomi reprise their roles from Index as Mikoto and Kuroko, and they are joined by Itou Kanae and Toyosaki Aki (Saten Ruiko and Uiharu Kazari respectively), to form the main core of characters. However, while the actresses are all experienced, there are occasions when the roles are really “hammed up”, particularly when it comes to relationship issues.
As for the music, the show has a decent variety of thematic tracks which are generally well used when required, however there are also occasions where the music is clearly at odds with the on screen action. The generally upbeat style of music is reflected in the two OPs and two of the EDs used in the series. The ED for episode 12 is more melodic and has a slightly bittersweet sentiment to it which serves as a nice counterpoint to the ending of that particular arc.
The biggest surprise of this series is the characters. In a strange irony, they are both the best aspect of Railgun, but also its worst. The lack of plot focus is, in part, made up for by the development of the main cast, especially Ruiko who, in terms of actual character growth, is developed more than the other three girls. Now many fans may argue with that perspective, however I will point out that of the four main girls, it’s Ruiko who not only changes the most, but also endures the most.
Now, I did mention that the characters were also the worst part of Railgun didn’t I? Well, the reason for this is that while the characters do receive a degree of development, it simply isn’t enough to justify their actions. The lack of plot focus only exacerbates the problem, and the show is littered with semi developed characters. In addition to this, the usage of comic relief based fanservice (e.g. Kuroko’s behaviour towards Mikoto), washes away what little development had gone before. While the characters are engaging enough in their own way, the show could have done with putting more effort into the plot and characters, and less into making money from the hormone crazed masses.
With all of the problems I’ve mentioned, many might think that I didin’t enjoy Railgun, when in actuality, I did. The show is entertaining as a no brain action romp, and had the potential, along with Index, to be something truly great. While I may regard Railgun as a wasted opportunity, it isn’t actually a bad show at all, and many people may find something to keep them insterested.
In all honesty though, Railgun, like Index, had a great deal more potential than it actually delivers. The concept of both series is inventive and imaginative, however the execution, especially in Railgun, falls flat due to the desire to make money.The biggest example of how this impacts the show is the level of fanservice throughout the series (one whole episode, for example, is nothing more than a swimsuit buffet). It rapidly becomes obvious that the one of the main purposes of this series is to pander to hordes who love Mikoto, and while giving the public what they want isn’t a bad thing, sometimes a show is better off not doing so.
On the plus side though, at least Toaru Kagaku no Railgun is one of the few spinoffs that’s as good as the original story.
Academy City is a city that thrives on those who are espers — who are special — whether they already have powers or are trying to attain them. Everyone is reaching towards their ideal self, but some people don’t care what methods get used. The pursuit of the “next level” is absolute. If our limitations only exist so we can surpass them, should there be a limit to how far we can go to get there?
Toaru Kagaku no Railgun, or A Certain Scientific Railgun, follows the events around Misaka Mikoto and her core group of friends and their exploits within the City. They are students, aiming to better their powers as espers. But in a city with a concentrated amount of people with special abilities, it’s only natural for the criminally-minded to try to carve out their own bit of power at the expense of others. To combat such an element and maintain civil order, the organization Judgment exists. Having a free-willed, ace-in-the-hole player like Misaka who keeps people in line all by herself doesn’t hurt either.
Misaka (affectionately dubbed “Biribiri”) is one of the most powerful espers in Academy City. Her ability to generate and manipulate electricity makes her a force that most overconfident thugs learn too late shouldn’t have been reckoned with. Kuroko is her best friend, a crazy and hyperactive girl whose yuri-obsession with her beloved “Onee-sama” is hilarious despite constant rejection. Teleportation of objects (herself included) is her esper proficiency, making her one of the more menacing opponents to come up against, despite the diminutive and cute appearance. Uiharu is the demure techie: easily embarrassed, but a wizard at hacking or culling information from any network. As a member of Judgment, she is often the “eye-in-the-sky” for Kuroko when they take action.
In a place brimming with espers, Saten is the most fascinating of the four. Her official designation is Level 0. She has no powers at all. Nevertheless, she attends classes and learns all there is to learn about being an esper. The teachers explain to the Level 0s like her that it’s possible to reach Level 1… but Saten always has a wistful look when the topic comes up. It’s clear she doesn’t have that kind of optimism. What does it mean to be that kind of outsider looking in? And how much worse is it to be in the middle of this incredible city, surrounded by so many exceptional people she’d love to be?
Academy City is almost a character in itself. It’s hard not to fall in love with it. Clean, stylish, dotted with wind generators, a near-futuristic center of learning and advanced scientific research, all the while supersaturated with technology. The juxtaposition of seemingly sentient trash-collector robots and soda machines that only work if you kick them appears to point out that we’ll always have some low-tech around.
Railgun fixes most every glaring problem that tripped up Toaru Majutsu no Index. Gone are Index’s occasional — albeit entirely useless — scenes where those involved in the higher echelons of running Academy City were up to some sinister, boring machinations. Fortunately, Railgun is much more down-to-earth. It also wisely limits the amount of talking that occurs during fight sequences. The action is left to unfold naturally, instead of cramming in reams of idealistic soliloquies that the Index villains probably weren’t even listening to. Finally, it does away with Index’s tendency to tell one mini-arc, followed by another mini-arc, followed by another mini-arc… ad nauseam that tended to make the show’s overall narrative out of focus and its pace too breakneck.
The structure of this show, however, is a bit of an odd thing and does deserve to be mulled over. It begins largely episodic with only a scattering of episodes focused entirely on the more serious arc that concludes at the halfway point. The second half is much the same. I say ‘odd’ because it’s a unique structure I’ve rarely come across. Most non-episodic anime tend to follow the same format as any other narrative medium: an identifiable conflict or targeted goal at the outset; gradual complications along the way; an ending with the inevitable climax and resolution.
Railgun mostly ignores that age-old wisdom. Twice.
The four or five episodes that precede each climax are strong, focused, and exciting. So if the creators were so capable, why not follow the arcs in every episode? Simply put, it seems to be a stylistic choice — and one that is as refreshing as it is surprisingly effective. It frees up the story, allows our perspective of Academy City to expand by degrees and the characters a chance to breathe. The importance of the latter cannot be stressed enough. After all, our heroines are living here primarily to learn. It’s a given that attending classes and socializing are going to make up no small portion of their day-to-day lives.
That said, Kuroko and Uiharu’s work at Judgment comprises the larger portion. Most of the fun is watching them work on cases and hunt down perpetrators. Even though Misaka isn’t a part of Judgment, she often forces herself into the role of unofficial member. That she has this proclivity for beating up criminals isn’t so much that she’s a do-gooder, but rather that’s how she finds it easiest to protect her friends. She has an active investment in their well-being and specific meaningful relationships to lose if something goes wrong. This is, of course, all to say that it’s vastly more engaging to watch her and her cohorts, as opposed to a certain bed-headed, misfortunate guy with a chronic Helper Monkey Complex.
I usually don’t mention voice acting, but the consistent excellence is such that I can’t avoid it. Toyosaki Aki easily hits her highest note yet here and in one pivotal moment gives an amazing, touching performance. Even the always-talented Tanaka Atsuko creates a character that is very special. So to avoid a laundry list of names, let me simply say that if some of your favorite seiyuu are involved, it probably wouldn’t be an exaggeration to urge you to check it out for that reason alone.
The OPs are as highly-charged as Misaka’s railgun and the EDs are catchy outros after all the excitement. In fact, the songs that bookend the show’s second half are as good as — if not better than — the first half’s. And here I thought it was some sort of sadistic tradition in anime for second-half OPs and EDs to be lacklustre.
The overall soundtrack is just as fantastic. Not only the music itself, but also its skillful use. At one point, a solitary piano begins playing, making us realize that since the episode started there hasn’t been any music. Instead of merely reinforcing the mood, it becomes the subtext that the characters can’t say. Later on when they connect to each other, a similar piano begins. As they are finally able to talk, more and more instruments are woven into the song as they become more and more desperate to express everything they wanted to say earlier.
Sound effects are another design element that truly shine. There is something so perfect in the execution of Biribiri’s electricity and Kuroko’s teleportation. It isn’t that Index’s sound effects for these abilities were bad at all, but rather that in Railgun they have been refined enough to be a little addicting to listen to. Likewise, the action of the fight scenes is as much aural as it is visual. Impact is visceral, whether against concrete or someone’s face.
The art is crisp and beautiful. The visual design is such that your eyes get drawn in, from a particularly huge parfait to some spellbinding fight choreography. Some close-up expressions of the characters are priceless. Unfortunately, certain distance shots of them can dip in quality. It’s a pity given the polished look of everything else around them, but comparatively speaking it’s easy to forgive as it doesn’t occur often.
Railgun is an anime that starts with a cast of memorable characters, tells a very entertaining story, and has the privilege of doing so with laudable production values. The questions it raises are thought-provoking and relevant. Even when the story meanders into a stand-alone episode that has no real bearing on the plot, it is always with a sense of how it fits into the overarching frame. Like its characters, the story breathes. At times it runs; at times it walks. And yes, also like its characters, sometimes it takes that random detour and ends up discovering something wholly unexpected. While science plays a large role in the show, all its elements end up filled with quite a bit of magic.
And that’s a certain kind of awesome.
The story is nothing new. At all. There are people who can use powers and this time a whole city is there to develop these. Even though everyone’s already full of that premise, doesn’t mean you don’t have to explain the world build, writers. We only got a glance at what its like living in Academy City. The world was never explained. Why the magic users don’t appear was never explained. The “Level” system was never fully explained. We saw everything but knew nothing.
This show uses a specific formula to get its story arcs going, usually introducing a new character that has nothing to do with the conflict at the start, and then starts slowly revealing why this one character in fact has everything to do with the conflict. The wrong in the execution of the show is its constant failures to try to hide it. The episode itself tries to be too unpredictable and almost becomes too predictable, you see. It’s funny how this show tries to pretend it’s not based on arcs by constantly remembering you of what happened in the past. These ‘flashbacks’ are unneeded and they only serve to take more screentime.
The story contains many trivial episodes (which is also a screentime problem, like the festival, the visit to the girls dorm, the Judgement investigation episodes of things we already know about etc.) and recycles alot of jokes (like Shirai worshipping Misaka). Not only that, but the filler episodes and the jokes are misplaced, which completely ruins the dramatic mood it tries to develop (just like it happened in the end of episode 22).
The story ends up having too many mishaps and too little reconnaissances. There are twists and turns on the story but it is never truly developed since the end of every conflict has little impact on the characters themselves (like it was all ‘just another adventure’). There was never a climax. There was never a point where I was worried any of the characters would get hurt. There was never an experience that involved the viewers worrying or even caring for the characters. I just accepted eveything that happened and moved on, knowing that in the end everything would go well. And it did. That’s why I didn’t enjoy watching this series.
We got more development to the side characters than to the main cast of girls, while Uiharu was the most developed and by far the worst character of the show. We still know nothing about Misaka’s past, which is a shame since she has the most screentime of the entire series, and it feels dull to watch her kicking ass without knowing the conflicts she had to pass to obtain such power. The villains are are absolutely horrible. This is another anime that explains the bad guy’s actions by the insanity of their minds, like a human can only be mean if they are out of it. It’s cringe-worthy, I’m telling ya.
The art is nothing special. I’ve seen this style many times, and I don’t like the side faces. This is not a judging point, though, I’m just pointing it out, alright?
Animation is okay. Nothing much to complain about.
The sound work is bad. While the fights are going the same singing tune keeps on repeating undefinitely until it’s over. The episodes always start with the same calm soundtrack. Each part always has its own music. This show is so preditable that you can even predict which soundtrack is going to play for each scene, and It’s not like they are good at all. The music should help the show by adding another feel to the scenes, and not help you to know what’s coming up next, lmao.
There are shows with no story that can be enjoyable with good characters. There are shows with bad characters that can be enjoyable with a good story.
But there are no shows with bad stories and bad characters that can be enjoyable. See you in the sequel, Kagaku no Railgun. I hope you learn.
9: Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt
English: Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt
MAL Score: 7.72
The “Anarchy Sisters,” Panty and Stocking, have been kicked out of Heaven for, to put it mildly, misbehaving. Led by a priest named Garterbelt, these angels must buy their way back by exterminating ghosts in Daten City. But this task requires unconventional weapons for these unorthodox angels—they transform their lingerie into weapons to dispatch the spirits. Unfortunately, neither of them take their duties seriously, as they rather spend their time in pursuit of other “hobbies”: Panty prefers to sleep with anything that walks, and Stocking favors stuffing her face with sweets than hunting ghosts.
Follow these two unruly angels as they battle ghosts, an overflow of bodily fluids, and their own tendency to get side-tracked in Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt.
To put it plainly, the entire point of this show is to take the illusions otaku have surrounded themselves with for the last 10 years and annihilate them through a wanton, infinite assault of sex and Western style. This show is not Sora ga Otoshimaru Hime Desu Beats! or whatever the hell it is you people watch nowadays. This is about a gun-toting whore and her diabetic goth friend slashing and shooting giant monsters literally comprised of shit, armies of dead sperm soldiers and their especially polite and well-mannered rivals, and when they’re not doing something like that they’re getting into some other shenanigans which may or may not involve parodying Transformers. Oh yeah, they’re Angels or something under the command of Black Dynamite and have Gir as their sidekick and have to collect coins by killing monsters to get back into Heaven. But honestly, who cares? There are panties in this show that turn into guns and it’s funny as fuck.
Behind all this exquisite and sophisticated comedy is probably one of the most feminist morals ever, another thing that separates P&S from your average animu. Through the entire series, the female main characters do what they want, when they want, how they want while the male lead is useless, flaky and gets captured a lot. This motif boils down to “It’s okay to be a bitch. Live free and if you screw up have a man clean up after you.” As you can see, this show’s driving message has all the modesty of its main duo. It’s fantastic.
Also, that token Gainax ending. It’s there and as wonderful as ever.
It’s entirely episodic like a US cartoon, but with an overarching point. There are actually 26 episodes, but they’re all 12 minutes long. Each episode is two episodes. That’s right, this show has a 2x Quality Multiplier.
This show oozes with style that has pretty much never been tried before in the Eastern world. Think Dead Leaves (if you haven’t seen this, take 40 minutes away from that time vampire Korean MMO I’m sure you have minimized in the corner and watch it. Dubbed only. It’ll be the best thing you’ll see all month) meets Power Puff Girls. The art and animation quality are as incredible as they are unique, using a potent blend of patented hand-drawn Imaishi scribbles, CGI and actual, real-life explosions at the end of each battle. The comic-styled on-screen sound effects from Dead Leaves also make a return here in full force, and they make the whole thing such a cool and unique experience. Another, minor thing I like is that the girls change clothes every episode, a subtle but welcomed touch that more cartoons should employ.
Oh yeah, it should be noted that this isn’t an “ecchi comedy” (Those aren’t funny or even passable as entertainment. If you came here looking for one of those and are now reading this review with a twisted expression of shock on your face, it should be noted that I personally and sincerely hate you and several things that look like you). Yes, there are more sex jokes than I’ve ever seen in a 12 minute cartoon segment, but the girls themselves are not fappable. That’s the point. If something along the lines of “UNFAPPABLE ANIME GIRLS?! WHAT IS THIS” just escaped the blubber of your face, this isn’t the show for you. In fact, most shows and animation in general isn’t for you. As said in the previous section, this show was designed to be the antithesis of every ecchi moe series that has ruined anime in the last decade.
The punchline is that there are often scenes where Panty and Stocking become similar to standard, over-proportioned anime women to cocktease otaku, and there are people here who’re actually going “i don’t get it, why wasnt the whole show like that?”. Jesus christ
This won’t be hard. We have /eight/ main characters in the show.
PANTY: She loves sex and violence. Her panties turn into a gun named Backlace. In episode 1, she banged four or five guys. I love Panty.
STOCKING: She loves sweets and goth frills, not to mention looking down on her sister’s bad habits. “Serves you right! I hope you shit out all your organs! Hahaha!” Also her stockings turn into katanas and she has a bondage fetish. I love Stocking.
GARTERBELT: A large, angry, black afropriest who tries his hardest to make the derelict angels do their jobs. Dude is awesome and intense. Also, a pedophile.
CHUCK: literally Gir
BRIEF: The nerd who follows Panty around, the anime everyfan that the show makes fun of.
SCANTY & KNEESOCKS w/ FASTENER: Creating a beautiful parallel to our lustful and gluttonous heavenly duo(along with terabytes of more fan art), these two demonic siblings are just grand and add a much-needed team of villains for P&S to unknowingly beat each episode.
OH LORD THAT SOUNDTRACK:
Upon beginning this show, I got five seconds in. I hit stop. I hit play.
Yes, my brain said, the theme song is, in fact, electrorock “PANTY STOCKING, PANTY PANTY STOCKING YEOW!!”
As expected from a Gainax original series, this soundtrack is godlike and like Gurren Lagann’s, it’s extremely varied. The ED alone makes the whole thing worth getting.
The OST is out now btw. It’s missing a few good tracks so gainax can release another one later for more $$$ or something though. Still, it’s just swell.
Gainax is trollan’ weaboos hardcore while simultaneously resurrecting the entire medium with Imaishi’s bare, tired hands. If you like style, great music and actual humor then you’ll probably like this a lot. Oh yeah, and it’s easily a contender for Anime of the Year, right next to Rainbow, DRRR and Sym-Bionic Titan.
Truly a work of art, the only setback is that it isn’t dubbed, and due to crunchyroll’s indescribable faggotry, it won’t be for a while. I have a strong feeling, that with a patented Funi gag dub(WHICH IS COMING IN 2012 OH MY GOD), this show’s quality will burst into dimensions the human mind can’t even acknowledge.
(editor’s note 2013: the dub is great)
The main argument as to why Panty & Stocking is a masterpiece are all embellished ways of saying “funny,” “it’s a parody,” and “cool art.” Some people go as far as to say that Panty & Stocking is actually genius scripting – a juxtaposition between today’s current moe anime standard and hardcore “American pop culture.” I’ve even come across the explanation that Panty & Stocking is “a new level of anime,” one that doesn’t require intricate or meaningful plot, characters, or story – essentially an anime that thrives on emotion and it’s acute sense of humor.
That my friends, is complete bullshit.
Panty & Stocking is an anime that relies on swears, penis jokes, and violence as its selling point. Now many anime have capitalized on at least one of these points before and have succeeded (Detroit Metal City, Seitokai Yakuindono, and Baccano! in respective order). So Panty & Stocking tried to do all three simultaneously. I found this not only moronic, but offensive. Never before have I actually been ashamed of watching anime. I am a male, and I have even strapped myself to a chair and watched such titles as Boku no Pico, Bible Black, the Ghost Stories dub, and a high amount of other borderline disturbing anime and media with radical content and ideas and not ever have I felt what I felt when watching Panty & Stocking.
I felt stupid.
What do I mean by that? I mean that Panty & Stocking insulted my intelligence and grouped me in the level of humor that one would find in such riveting pieces of American glory like “Family Guy” and “Superjail.” I personally watch anime because I view it as a medium that has great qualities that other media culture could learn from. I openly started Panty & Stocking with hopes that it would verily mock the troupes one could find in American media in a way that had not been done before. What I received was a trashbin of repetitive storylines combined with zero-dimensional characters that did nothing but yell about phallus’s and excrement. The attempt on grasping American culture (even today’s pop culture, which is what I believe Panty & Stocking wanted to poke fun at) disgusted me. Not once did I find the use of references to famous American films appropriate. Not only did the references have nothing to do with the episodes at hand, I felt that Panty & Stocking tried to take such references and use them as a tool of manipulation trying to coax viewers into thinking that Panty & Stocking was legitimately a smart piece of composition. I can easily see where people would be misled, that is with the art looking similar to various cartoons in America, Panty & Stocking must be a parody! Not at all. In fact, Powerpuff Girls had a stronger plot to begin with, and to even group this anime together with that cartoon would be slander to Craig McCracken. The animation may be new to Japan, but it has been seen before in cartoons, and it’s been seen better so all exclamations like “The art is weird so it’s good!” and “Different art just isn’t appreciated!” are false. Gainax, one of the most acclaimed and profitable animation studios in Japan, truly abused the art style to boot. Watching only a few episodes you can see where corners were cut (which is extremely noticeable in episodes 10, 11, and 12.) A recap in a thirteen episode anime, should never be necessary. How is it that anime such as Legend of the Galactic Heroes, Monster, and Glass Mask, spanning over fifty episodes each never used a single recap episode in its main series, yet Gainax has the balls to put one in a thirteen episode /comedy/ series? Truly outrageous.
The characters in Panty & Stocking might as well have been pieces of shit or drivels of snot. Oh I must have forgotten. They are pieces of shit and drivels of snot. Nearly every antagonist, save the demon sisters whom I will touch upon in a moment, makes the characters from Mars of Destruction look creative. They exist solely to be discarded, and even worse, to swallow precious moments of your time away. The demon sisters who are introduced halfway through the series actually shined a beam of light down onto this hellhole of a production, but only briefly. They were first brought into play standing for everything that Panty and Stocking opposed and after their episode had ended, I hoped for more episodes similar to theirs to occur. But what do I get? A conflict that builds between the antagonists and protagonists for one episode, and then the demon sisters regress into Team Rocket. Never again are the demon sisters relevant as antagonists and most of the proceeding episodes are focused on them releasing some sort of monster and then failing as they fly into the sky. Now the supporting characters might as well be called the crippling characters, because that is really all they do to the overall story. Garterbelt does nothing but hinder the story and abuse the stereotypical “all priests are gay child molesters.” If this was meant to be a way to confront the issue in the Vatican, it failed, and if it was meant to be a funny comment on the church’s political standpoint, then well, it failed again. Garterbelt assumes the role of mentor to Panty & Stocking but ultimately ends up being a total eyesore and teaches the protagonists nil. And then there’s Chuck who is likened by many to Gir from the Invader Zim series. The main difference between the two is that Gir was actually funny. I really don’t think I have to go into much detail on Chuck’s character design because all he says is Chuck and is then squashed by a larger object. He plays absolutely no role at any point in the series, but there exists an episode in which he is the focus. After watching this episode I was very much tempted to sign up for lessons in Japanese so I could write angry letters to the writer in his native language begging him to quit his career in animation and move onto a medium that won’t suffer from his obvious mental deficiency. Then is the character named Brief, who portrays the cliched disgusting otaku with no merits other than his apparently large penis. His atrocious character design is only overshadowed by Panty’s single trait – how much of a gigantic unlovable disease infested whore she is. Both her and Stocking are obvious fodder for prepubescent virgin teenagers attracted to the sheer idea of sex. I would even go as far as saying that if this anime did not contain explicit transformation scenes in which characters remove their undergarments it would be nowhere near as acclaimed as it is. That is to say, the fanbase consists of perverts striving to find some deeper meaning in their anime which they try to defend by explaining that if you don’t like it, then you must have a poor sense of humor or need to “loosen up.” Compare Panty & Stocking to Mitsudomoe – both anime including large amounts of sexual content used as jokes – Mitsudomoe has characters that possess qualities beyond “she likes sweets” and “a huge bitch” though. Panty & Stocking can’t actually even compete with Mitsudomoe on a scale larger than sex jokes, because the characters and story are so disabled that it merely strives to fill the void with even more moments of mediocrity. I don’t find Panty & Stocking unfunny because it doesn’t suit my humor, I find it unfunny because there is no humor to begin with.
Then there’s the canon discontinuation. Anyone who tries to makes sense of the abominable ending or any one of the episodes all together deserves to have themselves locked into a sanitarium. Another reviewer describes the two eleven minute episodes per episode as a “times two multiplier” but I would I disagree and say that it’s actually a divided by two denominator. The split episodes merely reflect the inconsistency and the lack of coherency that Panty & Stocking exclusively has. One moment the entire cast is zombified, the next everyone is on the beach being sexually violated by sea monsters. Not ever will the story amount to anything beyond not having one.
The sound in Panty & Stocking, I will cede, is very good. The ending song, performed by Lisa, is wonderful and regrettably has very little to do with the anime. In the ending sequence a scene that appears to be a vague backstory on both Panty & Stocking exists, and alas once more, Gainax turned their noses away from such a sweet smelling idea. Even cartoons for the youngest of children have stories explaining the origination of their characters. Dora the Explorer had more character development than Panty & Stocking. Beyond the ending are numerous in episode tracks, whilist very enjoyable, I felt that many of them were overplayed and often unfitting (I can recall about four episodes ending with the song that includes the lyrics “Clap your hands.”) The opening is closest thing to piece of satirical work – the song is a shout-out to all cartoons which only repeat the characters name over and over again.
Now if you’ve actually read this far, I believe you’ve come to the conclusion that I hate Panty & Stocking. If you thought anything but that, then you’re wrong, because I detest Panty & Stocking more than a Red Sox fan from Boston hates the Yankees. It is an insult to the medium of anime almost as much as is when someone says “You like anime? Then you must love anime porn,” and I will end this review saying Panty & Stocking does nothing but encourage statements like that. It gives a foul name to anime, for it lacks the fineness that geniuses like Tezuka and Kon worked themselves to death to bring us. When it comes to Panty & Stocking, I am disturbed with anime being associated with it.
And for people who may find this review too serious and that I must not have “understood the point” of this show I would like to say that I did not miss the point. You just made up a point yourself, because this anime lacks one.
It is a not a sophisticated series.
As an anime in general, its selling point is not a deep and compelling story with fleshed out characters, exploring various philosophical issues in order to deliver a good message.
As a comedy anime, its humor is not very classy. Its laughs are not derived from insider knowledge (well, most of them) or sublime writing.
So what exactly is the appeal of this anime, you ask?
In Gainax’s own words, “vulgar and indecent jokes”.
This is usually not a good selling point for anything, because honestly potty humor is very rarely an effective form of comedy. It is quite possible you will not find this series appealing even if you legitimately give it a try. That’s fine.
However if you’re anything like me, you’ll find the result is surprisingly entertaining and one of Gainax’s best (if strangest) shows.
The refuge in vulgarity works fantastically, and the numerous references to western animation/movies, slick animation, awesome music, zany characters, and blatant abuse of engrish makes for a very fun experience; if you’ve ever played Conker’s Bad Fur Day, it’s very similar. it’s honestly one of the most entertaining anime I have seen in a long time. In typical Gainax fashion, the ending will involve you tearing your hair out.
This is a very love or hate series; either you will find it fun as hell or you’ll hate it and find it a disgusting waste of animation cells. I’d at least give it a try, but you should know what to expect before you watch it.
8: Heartcatch Precure!
MAL Score: 7.79
Young flower enthusiast Tsubomi Hanasaki is often modest and quiet. But with her family moving to a new town, she aims to reinvent her image at her new school as someone more confident and outgoing. On moving day, she dreams of a mysterious tree in the sky guarded by a warrior named “Cure Moonlight.”
Tsubomi quickly learns that this was no ordinary dream when she encounters two mysterious fairies—Chypre and Coffret—who are being hunted down by a strange woman. When the woman summons a giant monster to attack the city, Tsubomi finds herself transforming into a warrior to fight the enemy! Taking on the alias “Cure Blossom,” Tsubomi learns that the woman is part of a villainous group that aims to turn the world into a lifeless desert, with her new duty being to stop it from happening. As Tsubomi continues to battle more monsters and uncover the secrets behind Cure Moonlight, will she find the confidence needed to overcome her timid nature?
What this anime is, is about 40 episodes of filler. Filler seems to be the no-no word for an anime to be a very good anime, see anime like Naruto for instance. However, as some hallmarks of anime like Cowboy Bebop prove, filler doesn’t have to make an anime bad, and can make the series even greater. This is the case with Heartcatch as well. While the series uses a pretty distinct formula: the main group of girls have a minor conflict, and we’re introduced to a character of the week that is having a similar conflict, that drives them to despair. One of the generals catch them in sorrow and steal their sou- …um heart flower and turn them into a Deserterian, the girls transform and fight the monster, the general mocks the character of the week for their stress , one of the girls, usually Tsubomi argues for the good nature of the character of the week, the purify the COTW and the COTW’s conflict is resolved, we learn about some “Flower Language 101” (which isn’t just made up by the creators, Google it) and its case closed. Even though the formula is, for the most part, rigid, it rarely gets tedious and they even throw some new tricks into the bag such as the general piloting the Desertarian like its a mecha. Even though they’re only one episode long, two tops, they stand on their own nicely.
But its not just episodic narratives all the way through, about 10-15 episodes is dedicated to advancing the story, whether it be introducing new cures, or the excellent last 6 episodes, which pretty much sealed the perfect 10 that I gave the story. The ending probably ranks along with Code Geass and Madoka Magica among the best endings in my book.
They do cut a lot of corners sometimes with the animation, using a bunch of CG for stuff like the activation items, and occasionally sloppy animation. Also the reuse of animation for things like transformations and finishing moves may turn some people down. However, at several points they show how good the animation team is, especially during the final 6 episodes.
The designs are a whole different ballgame, they are very versatile and can work in many situations. Not to mention they are heart-attack-inducing adorable! Also, the Gold Forte Burst animation is jaw-dropping to say the least.
The soundtrack is very excellent. The series got dark and it got tragic sometimes. The art and the soundtrack really are the two things that made these moments so great. One thing I have yet to mention is how the series uses parallelism to great effect in this series. At one point the song “Heart Goes On”, initially used during the fashion show that was built up to for several episodes, is used during the climax of the series. The soundtrack helped the series make me cheer, laugh, and nearly cry.
I’ll not spend a century focusing on ALL the characters, but they all are solidly built. Tsubomi develops throughout the series from a coward to a bright and loving hero. Yuri Tsukigage is a minor character for nearly half the series, but nearly steals the spotlight from Tsubomi near the end, not to spoil a whole lot. The rest of the cures are excellently built and a great ensemble. The characters of the week are of special mention as nearly all of them get a detailed backstory, except for the last one, who just gets his sou-…heart flower snatched right after he remarks how he doesn’t have a girlfriend, and he is never seen again. They serve as a Chekhov’s Gun near the end as they help the cures not lose hope when the bad guy is nearly about to win.
Speaking of bad guys, I guess I have to mention them.
The generals are excellent characters, you sympathize with them, but ultimately root for the cures to triumph. They are quirky but not to be trifled with. Excellent.
Sabbaku is defininely worth mentioning as a great character. His best traits are best left undiscussed due to MAJOR spoilers. But near the end reminds you of a certain other masked villain that you’ll probably recognize unless you live under a rock.
Dark Cure while kinda vague, definitely acts as a solid adversary, espescially for the final cure.
The big boss, Dune, is a fabulous villain in more ways than one. He nearly accomplishes his goal, which makes him probably the most capable villain I know of, and takes all the strength the cures can muster to defeat. GG Dune.
I was hesitant to give this anime a perfect 10, but this anime is one of the best series I have watched. And to think its a kids’ show.
RECOMMENDATION: VERY HIGH
Now the heart tree will get better!
Your move My Little Pony!
Another point in Heartcatch’s favour is the animation style. It’s done by the same team who did Casshern Sins, which is a bit of an odd mix. Casshern Sins is a great show, but it’s hella depressing post-apocalyptic material, and to have them do a Precure seems like a match made in “didn’t think this through properly” land. But it works, certainly in the animation style department. Heartcatch is stylish. The designs seem to be made with movement in mind, rather than other Precures where the characters don’t move freely at all and every fight scene is simply them panning across the screen (*cough* Fresh Precure *cough*). The animators are rather happy to let their characters go deformed for the sake of more fluid animation, but the artstyle suits the free-flowing designs quite well. Heartcatch’s fight scenes are far and away the best out of the Precure franchise, albeit that’s not particularly high praise. In comparison to other action anime, it doesn’t compare to Bones or Gainax level material, but it sure is pretty to look at.
The transformation sequences are…well, actually they’re not all that bitching at all. At least, the main two aren’t. They decided a cell phone was too unoriginal for this version of Precure, so instead decided to use perfume as a Precure transformation aid. Full points for originality I guess, but this does mean what you get is a spray-on Precure costume, which is rather underwhelming. It’s only until the third Precure shows up that we get a proper bitchin’ transformation sequence
Not that Heartcatch solved all the problems of the previous Precures. The magical pets are still as annoying as fuck. The BUY OUR TOYS still isn’t that well integrated into the plot. No really Precure, I’m cool with your amazing gospel 2nd ending song having awesome CGI dancing in it, but it’s jarring when every instance of BUY OUR TOYS is accompanied with the product in question being in CGI itself. It makes it stand out all the more jarringly, especially when they have to go through gimicky actions that the toys can also do. Like, come on. What sort of magical girl has to wind up their wand before they can use it? But the fact that it had a brain and wasn’t painfully stupid with its episodic plotlines far outweigh the problems I had with BUY OUR TOYS and annoying magical pets.
Precure is a cartoon aimed at little girls. Kids like repetition, or so I’ve been told. I did too, when I was, like, 4. Heartcatch’s non-plot related episodes follow such a strict formula that they start to get boring after a while. It’s the same problem I had with Hell Girl, and even that tried to mix things up a little more than Heartcatch ever tried to. Every episode follows the exact same damn pattern, to the point that they start to blend together. This is Not Good for an episodic show. Each episode should have something that makes it stand out from the rest. That was the one where they all talked backwards for the episode. That was the one where the colours all inverted. I dunno, I’m not a scriptwriter, but there’s nothing remarkable about most of the episodes. They don’t try to make them stand out, except on very rare occasions. Even the ones where plot-related stuff happen, the show still goes through the exact same motions. It doesn’t matter how great your formula is, it will be less interesting with every repeat of the formula if you don’t mix it up a bit.
Then there was the plot. Yeah. The plot. For gods sake, why do even the apparently good Precure villains fall foul of the pathetically dumb Precure villain syndrome? Dark Precure is Cool. She has a single black wing and is amazingly overpowered compared to our heroes. Then why does she not attack them? There is a scene where she is about to deliver the finishing blow, but then retreats because Mysterious Voice From The Sky calls her away. There was no reason for her to be called away either, she just went anyway. And it’s not like the villains don’t realise what a threat the Precures are to them. I don’t necessarily mind that the underlings are stupid, spending their time admiring themselves in the mirror. They’re meant to be stupid, and the show embraces that. But why are Sabaku and Dark Precure not attacking the Precures when they realise what a threat they are? What the fuck do they spend their time doing in the dark castle? She had no problem defeating Cure Moonlight back in the day, why not these two Precures before they get stronger? Oh wait yeah, I know. Precure Villain Syndrome. Give them a stick and a banana just out of their reach, they’ll proceed to choke on the stick.
But even the plot with the good guys is stupid. Every single revelation to the plot was lame. The revelation who the fancy man who kept saving them was an incredible anti-climax. The reveal of who the third Precure would be was a let down. Every time a plot related incident would occur in the episode, it would never result in something I particularly cared about. The plot related episodes were never particularly good, apart from maybe introducing a new bitchin’ transformation sequence or new move. The best episode of the series was the Mother’s Day one by an absolute mile, and that had nothing to do with the plot. It was just a well-directed episode that told a powerful message. But non-plot related episodes, as I explained earlier, got repetitive and dull. I found myself watching the next episode previews to see if anything potentially different would happen. But this too was a misnomer, as new events never succeeded in improving the quality of the episodes. Next episode has a new Precure, hopefully that will improve the quality, right? Nope, still the same old stuff it has been pumping out since episode 1, except now there’s an extra part to the transformation sequence.
I reached the episode where we got the fourth Precure. But her becoming a Precure was telegraphed to us for the past several episodes, so there was no joy in seeing it be realised. How she came about gaining the power to become a Precure was done via several randomly introduced plot elements over the past few episodes, such as a magical flying castle and the fact the Heart Tree can apparently travel across time and space, and that magical pets come from heart seeds, and all sorts of totally randomly introduced plot points for the sake of advancing the plot. But it’s not like the show ever changed. The villains were still being stupid. The Precures were still going through the same routine. The end of the episode showed the fourth Precure doing her bitchin’ transformation sequence and getting ready to fight Dark Precure. I thought to myself “well that was boring, but I gotta see the next episode because she fights Dark Precure in it”
…and stopped myself. I had fallen into that trap. I’m not watching the anime to see what’s happening. I’m watching the anime to see what’s going to happen. Nothing that’s ever happening in the present ever entertains me. Only the promise of changes in the future keep me going. Even if there is something worth watching, it comes out of non-foreseeable, non-plot related events like the Mothers Day episode. And there was where I dropped it. Episode 33. At the very point of the grand reveal, I gave up.
Tsubomi, the protagonist of this story, is a shy girl who definitely didn’t fit with what the image of what the standard Precure protagonist looked to me, I think that this is played very nicely through the story and seeing her open up more while keeping what makes her be her was so satisfying to see. Together with the cheerful and absurdly lovable Erika by her side, they form the main duo of the story for a good time before the other Precure join.
Those episodes with them alone were “the weakest” part of the series to me (saying that in quotes because they were still enjoyable) and were focused on giving the spotlight to side characters (mostly classmates or the family of the MCs) and our girls helping them both via interactions, and by kicking ass defeating the “Desertrians”, monsters created by the enemies of this story combining an object and the wiltered hearts of the characters. This anime uses the fact that Tsubomi loves flowers very strongly using that detail, with the flower each character has having a meaning that fits with their problem.
Once the other and equally nice Precure join the group, the plot starts to really pick up and only gets better and better, with very emotional moments and solid development for the characters. I don’t want to possibly overhype it, but honestly the final episodes were some of the most epic I have watched.
With a nice main cast is also needed a nice villain side, and The Desert Apostles did a successful job on that. Precure does a very good job at being lighthearted while also not shying away when it has to be darker, and the villains were a good example of that in execution, I enjoyed the interactions and comedy moments between them and/or with the Precures a lot and they ended up being very memorable as well when it came to the more serious parts involving their characters.
The art style of the series is so visually appealing and allows for a wide array of nice reactions and goofy movements from the characters while looking perfectly fitting with the show, and the great designs by Yoshihiko Umakoshi (Casshern Sins, Boku no Hero Academia, Doremi, Mushishi…) definitely were a part of that, the action scenes are also solid, abundant and well animated, not to mention the nice transformation scenes of the characters. The soundtrack of the series is also nice and has some very memorable tracks.
After only saying more and more positives I guess that it’s time to say the problems I had with the series, which honestly didn’t affect my opinion in the long run:
– The first is the already mentioned slower start, while I always enjoyed watching the episodes, I didn’t feel that it hooked me in nowhere as much as Hugtto or Princess Precure (which I watched right after) did, so I wasn’t feeling as hyped and also a bit worried that maybe I wouldn’t end up loving it as much as I wanted to, but yeah, that got fixed later on, boy it did.
– The second is the mascot characters of the main duo, that honestly were pretty annoying at first and I was never a fan of the “a heart seed is coming out!” scene after they defeat the Desertrians they face (and thank god the animation of that part got more polished, they are clearly pooping it, c’mon!) But they grew on me as the episodes passed and even took the spotlight in a comedy focused episode that made me laugh really hard and I loved.
– Lastly, this just seems to be a thing with the franchise as a whole. As a series that lives by selling the toys they make based on the anime they know that they have to advertise them, and how they do so? By making the objects the girls use look exactly like they would as a toy and even use CGI for some, this makes total sense but at times I couldn’t help but feel like “man, they are really trying to sell the product here”, which let’s be honest, it’s pretty stupid thinking about it: of course they are not making anime because why not, we wouldn’t get more if it didn’t sell! It’s a matter of getting used to it, and why lie, I freaking want a Flower Tact! I’m not surprised at all that this is the best selling entry so far.
If you haven’t watched any Precure yet and you’re reading my review you might feel put off by the last two negative points and think that this is in anime that only kids might find enjoyable, but I can promise you that this isn’t the case and that anyone has a chance to really enjoy it, the characters are very compelling and likeable, the comedy is solid, the action is nice looking and the story is interesting and has some darker moments that definitely surprised me seeing. This franchise is so painfully underwatched in the west and I hope that this slowly changes as time passes. Nice anime I can’t recommend enough and a totally good point to start with the franchise.
7: Angel Beats!
English: Angel Beats!
Japanese: Angel Beats!（エンジェルビーツ）
MAL Score: 8.10
Otonashi awakens only to learn he is dead. A rifle-toting girl named Yuri explains that they are in the afterlife, and Otonashi realizes the only thing he can remember about himself is his name. Yuri tells him that she leads the Shinda Sekai Sensen (Afterlife Battlefront) and wages war against a girl named Tenshi. Unable to believe Yuri’s claims that Tenshi is evil, Otonashi attempts to speak with her, but the encounter doesn’t go as he intended.
Otonashi decides to join the SSS and battle Tenshi, but he finds himself oddly drawn to her. While trying to regain his memories and understand Tenshi, he gradually unravels the mysteries of the afterlife.
Basically, Angel Beats is about an afterlife in which a group of dead students refuse to ‘move on’ to the next life, because they have some sort of peace to make with the world and themselves. There’s a unique mix of common school life against the supernatural. It’s a setting that I found to be original enough; I also expected it to be a simple tear-jerker, but that isn’t the case.
Angel Beats has a duality about it. One part of it is comedy – most of it is well timed, and on several occasions, had me laughing out loud at my screen like a nutcase. The English-speaking, nonsensical TK doesn’t even need an introduction anymore. Even the slapstick comedy is quite well done, and usually timed with unfitting music which (for the most part) heightens the comedy.
The other part would be the melodrama. Most of the important characters have a back story to them, which are revealed piece by piece. And, as to be expected, many are torturous, depressing tales. These stories aren’t your stereotypical ‘my puppy died’ stories; in fact, I’ve found that most of the stories that have been revealed are all original in some way or another, and interesting as well. Their common theme seems to be ‘regrets’ – especially those of teenagers struggling with family, society and life in general.
Topping it all off and decorating the whole package is a very clean, crisp presentation, and music that can move you from the first time you hear it. The rock concert scenes are some of the finest I’ve ever seen, with spectacular animation and crisp lighting effects. The music alone made me re-watch the concert episodes over and over. The art is also very pleasant on the eyes, with soft but vibrant colors and simple but effective character styles.
The greatest problem that many people make an issue out of is the transition between the two previously mentioned parts of comedy and drama. Sometimes, the parts can seem fragmented and poorly transitioned. But I only noticed this after I heard the criticisms and look for such inappropriateness. I’m a fan of such shows that mix in different types of enjoyment. Angel Beats also isn’t a stupid show; I never felt that my emotions were being toyed with in a rudimentary or heavy handed manner.
What I’m trying to say is that while this may seem contradictory and schizophrenic to some, overall, it seems to be a fairly successful blend to me. I found I actually liked being proven wrong about my guesses as to ‘what kind of show this will end up being’. And I know that many scenes will evoke familiar memories from other shows, but really, this show deserves to be considered as it is, by itself.
Let me do some breaking down:
The story is revealed irregularly; some episodes teach you various things about the world, while others spend their time screwing around. I had fun watching those anyway, but I can see how others would think it’s a waste of time.
The art is beautiful. Beyond what we’ve come to expect, the animation is amazing (especially for the concerts), and the lighting effects give the show a slightly washed-out, surreal look – which I’m sure was the intended effect.
It’s been a while since I’ve liked every song in a show. Some of the BGMs are repeated a bit often, but the feature songs are all brilliant. The seiyuu also do a fine job. No voices will annoy you – unless it was intentional.
This one’s tricky, as many of the characters’ back stories are still veiled. Some characters seem to follow the usual anime tropes, but they work. I definitely felt more interested in a character once I learned more about their past.
There’s a very obvious sign as to how much I’m enjoying a show; I get antsy and check for updates every hour. The more I see, the more I want. The concert scenes alone are worth the watch.
I guess in the end, your enjoyment of Angel Beats will depend on whether its various aspects strike a chord with you or not (pardon the pun). For my part, I’m glad to have found a series that keeps me guessing, interests me with its premise, dazzles my eyes, while making me laugh and sniffle in the same episode.
This one’s definitely worth your attention, at least until you’re absolutely sure you don’t like everything about it. Check it out.
After having finished this series, I needed to add a short addendum – because it helped me realize the potential problem of this series. In short, it’s a little messy. If you watch the final episode, you’ll probably come to realize the main theme of the series (the entire first half of the final episode is dedicated to it). But when you do, you start thinking of ways in which certain story elements could have been developed and presented a little better.
I can’t help but compare it to Clannad, a series that expertly manages the drama and the waves of emotion from the viewer. It’s almost like the show is psychic, and knows exactly when to say or show something in order to get the maximum emotional impact and reaction. Compared to that, Angel Beats is more than a little awkward; in particular, the final scene – it just didn’t hit me as hard as I thought it should. I was affected, but was distracted at the same time by the clumsy dialogue and the sense of too many unexplained factors.
All in all, I’m very glad I spent time with Angel Beats, and will surely miss its presence. At the same time, it pains me to think of how much better it could have been if the show didn’t feel so rushed, and if the writers had put a bit more planning and effort into the final moments.
I obsessively try to spot the cracks and flaws in a plot, but I overlook a lot of flaws in the beginning of an anime to give it a fair chance. From the start the plot’s foundation was already showing cracks, but I ignored them due to my high hopes for this “MUST WATCH!” The story begins with our main protagonist waking up in some kind of “afterlife” and he is greeted by a teenage girl with a sniper rifle. The apparent “antagonist” called Angel is, like everyone in this “afterlife”, immortal, but she has extra powers (cause why settle for immortality, am I right?) The leader of the “resistance” is perfectly aware of their opponent’s immortality but she and her group of rebels shoot at her anyway (with guns made from dirt by the way…), even though one of her powers allows bullets to pass straight through her. I was just waiting for one rebel to shout: “Our bullets have been passing harmlessly through her for the past 5 minutes, sir!” Then the leader would answer: “Just shoot harder!!” I would be crying on the floor! (Not tears of laughter but tears of pain cause I would have fell off my chair laughing!)
This “Pre-afterlife” world is a highschool (cause every anime needs a bunch of not-so-normal teens that go to high school.) At this school you are given a chance to make peace with your tragic life and move on to your reincarnation. One of the ways to pass on? Get good grades… So this group of rebels against God decide to go to class but not pay any attention…brilliant! Why even go to class in the first place? Another thing that irritated me is they added filler scenes and 3 or 4 filler episodes to a 13 episode anime! The characters and plot never had a chance to develop in that short time because it was given 2nd or sometimes 3rd priority! If you take off your thinking cap, lend it to a friend, sit down and just immerse yourself in the art, music, action and comedy then you might enjoy this anime quite a bit. The plot is also very slow paced and when it finally picks up the pace the anime is almost over, everything is rushed and you end up with a horde of mini-arcs.
School scenario, group of misfits, each an embodiment of some stereotype, it’s been done too many times… Let’s start with a positive. This anime had some of the most interesting characters I’ve seen in a while. I needed to know more and when I realized that they will be telling each character’s backstory and revealing the reason for them “qualifying” for this school I was ecstatic! There was hope for this anime! Sadly the 3 most interesting/mysterious characters were not even developed the slightest! Their backstories were not even told! You had the chilled guy who never stopped dancing and only spoke small snippets of vague English. You had the introvert girl who was always on her own and who had a love for puppies and the weapon obsessed, hot tempered guy who had a crush on one of the main female protagonists. These 3 supporting characters in my opinion had the most potential. All 3 pushed aside and only used for comic relief… The waste of potential was shocking and really got to me.
Now I need to agree with almost every review here and admit, the art was amazing. The use of rays of light reflecting off objects and the creamy colours were very soothing to the eye. Beautiful backgrounds and scenes complemented the scenarios and were not too busy. The characters had simple, but original designs. (At least most of them…) Even though they were pointless, the action scenes were smooth and flowed. The art was one of the aspects that slightly redeemed this anime and that acted as a safety net to slow it’s steady decent down my anime list.
The music matched the scenes and really added atmosphere and added emotion to the scenes that were “meant” to touch you. (It was incredibly easy to see the formula that the writer followed to try and tug at my heart strings.) One track in particular that played during the last episode in the saddest moment made a smile briefly creep onto my disappointed face.
I loved the art and sound, but those are just enhancers of the story. Sadly great art and sound could never save a wrecked plot, no matter how good. It did cushion the blow however.
This anime’s last chance to grab a point or two from me. Sadly even this chance was squandered… I started watching this anime with the hope of sharing the same feels as all the fans of this anime begging me to give it a chance. The ending lacked any emotional impact though… I could almost see the writer add every typical element to the ending to make it resemble a genuinely sad yet still realistic ending. I unfortunately found the ending devoid of even a scrap of logic and even the timeline of past events shown to the viewer via flashbacks made no sense…(I don’t want to spoil anything) But without spoiling I just need to say that the ending makes all the efforts and motives of the “resistance” redundant and laughable… Even their reincarnation theory or should I say fear of not wanting to risk coming back as a barnacle is totally blown out of the water…(No pun intended)
Now there is one thing about the end that I need to address, so please skip the next well designated paragraph but NOT the rest of the review if you want to avoid a slight spoiler. You gone? Good 🙂 Don’t say I didn’t warn you…
***BEGINNING OF SPOILER***
At the very end the main character and Kanade (Angel) move on and are reincarnated as humans that look almost exactly like their former selves, that are also conveniently the same age and live in the same town/city and Angel is conveniently humming a song from the afterlife so that reincarnated Otanashi (Main character) can recognise the tune and they end up meeting again… Out of all the BILLIONS of lifeforms they could have been reincarnated as…or lets just say for arguments sake that humans can only be reincarnated as humans the odds are still impossible! That is complete and utter bullshit and terrible writing! Haha
***END OF SPOILER***
ENJOYMENT: 3 + OVERALL: 4
I know saying that you did not like Angel Beats! is like saying you prefer Dub over Sub in the anime community, but I’ll carry that burden 😉 The art and music were fantastic and the comedy made me laugh, but I struggled to take the anime seriously. I never knew if they wanted to make things seem realistic or not. If you are going to make an anime take place in the afterlife, might as well throw realism out of the window rather than to try and fix the many problems that come with anime of this genre. Summed up: A group of teens that go to highschool in the afterlife while rebelling against an unknown/unseen/faceless God and shooting an immortal enemy with bullets and guns made from dirt… Immortal teens afraid to die in a world where death means a trip to the school nurse… Some characters did not even have particularly sad stories. One failed to catch a baseball for f* sake… The school is “designed” to help souls who had tragic lives accept their fate and move on, right? But why are there no new arrivals throughout the anime? If you take the population of the earth into perspective, then there would be a massive influx of new arrivals at the school daily due to our world being the chaotic mess that it is. There has to be people/teens who live tragic lives 100 times worse than the characters of this anime, but why don’t we see them arrive at the “school”?
I know this review was horribly critical of Angel Beats!, but I had no choice. Angel Beats! is a rotten egg that has been beautifully painted (Art) and coated in perfume (Sound)
Take Angel Beats as an example.
Any fan of certain Key visual novels (or their KyoAni adaptations), will undoubtedly be familiar with the work of Maeda Jun, whose inimitable style, approach, and methodology to storytelling is clearly on display in Angel Beats, and on the surface this may actually seem like a good thing. Given the whole concept of a high school purgatory one would think there was enormous scope for the tale, and in some aspects the story is delivered very well. The only problem is that as a viewer, I’m kind of getting bored of watching the same thing over and over again.
Here’s what I mean. Angel Beats takes the idea of purgatory (to those of you who don’t know that word, google it), and places it firmly in a high school setting, something which is familiar territory to Maeda, and while the plot actually works fairly well within that setting, there isn’t actually anything that I found inspiring or moving in any way. In addition to this the whole basis of the story is that this particular purgatory is only for young people, however one has to question why this is so, and also why the only young people who get to go there are all people with regrets.
Confused? Throughout the whole series not one character actually displayed any kind of violent or vengeful behaviour in their past life, and this omission place a huge bias on the story. As far as I’m aware, the nature of purgatory is that it exists not only for those with regrets, but also for those whose sins aren’t great enough for them to be sent to hell.
Purgatory is, in effect, the last chance a soul has to “get it right”, and whilst Angel Beats does kind of show this, the lack of anyone who died for revenge makes the whole story unbalanced. The fact that almost everyone in the story only has regret makes the whole show a bit too sugary sweet, and while the whole series is actually pretty well written, this only makes the areas that are missing more pronounced.
Still, the plot is paced nicely, and the idea is definitely unusual for a high school series. There’s also the inclusion of certain elements that are interesting, but the show never really puts them to good use until near the end of the series and at that point it just seems too little, too late.
Moving on to another area of confusion, the art and animation throughout the show is actually pretty decent on the whole. The characters are designed nicely and have a certain look about them that really does remind one of KyoAni’s work with Key. The backgrounds and scenery are pretty normal (the high school setting doesn’t really allow for much in the way of creativity), and don’t really set themselves apart from other shows of this ilk.
The problem is actually the concert scenes. The whole series is designed and animated in a certain style which at first seems pretty decent. Then P.A. Works make concert scenes that not only look better, but have more fluid and detailed animation, are better choreographed, and are just plain superior to the show itself.
Why not do the whole show in this way? It’s as if P.A. Works are telling the viewer “this is what we’re really capable of, but we’re not going to give it to you so you’ll have to make do with the leftovers”. If the whole series was animated in the same manner as the concert scenes then this would easily be one of the best looking shows in anime, and the fact that the viewer can clearly see that P.A. Works are capable of much greater things is more than a little annoying.
That said, while Angel Beats looks decent where it could have been great, it sounds so much better than one might expect. Given the high school setting there’s a wealth of character types on display, including the voices. The acting is pretty decent throughout, but there’s very little for the seiyuu to work with as the characters are pretty much one dimensional (more on this in a bit).
What really steals the show though, is the music. Yes, there are very well produced concert scenes, but the music that’s actually used throughout the series is pretty good too. Surprisingly, Maeda is also the composer for Angel Beats, while the actual arrangement of the thematic pieces is done by Anant-Garde Eyes. As for the title tracks the OP, “My Soul, Your Beats”, is a decent enough pop song, while the ED, “Brave Story”, is a rather nice ballad.
As far as the characters go, it’s here where Angel Beats begins to suffer from the inherent lack of creativity. While there are some nice ideas and concepts in the show, the fact that Maeda and director Kishi Seiji have opted for the stereotype leaves a lot to be desired.
That’s not to say that the characters are bad per se, no, it simply means that they are very much as one would expect, right down to their personalities. Yuri, for example, reminded me of a certain leader from a particularly famous KyoAni franchise. While the similarities between characters from Angel Beats and other shows may sometimes be only skin deep, the fact that no thought was given to trying out something new, especially with the more interesting ideas that the show toyed with, makes one think that the business side of the industry has taken over, at least where this show is concerned.
Now while I’ve been fairly critical about Angel Beats, that doesn’t mean to say that the series is bad, or that I didn’t enjoy it. The fact is that this show has something to offer to many people, and while I may not be a hardcore fan of this anime, or hate it with a passion, I can honestly see why those perspective are valid. The simple fact is that Angel Beats truly did have the potential to be something special in anime, and that has been wasted in favour of producing something that will appeal to the existing moe fan base.
Granted, the whole industry needs to make money (and what better way than to milk it from fans who don’t know any better by giving them more of the same), but it would be nice if, just for once, one of these creators would actually give us the series that they truly want us to see.
Then again, that’s probably nothing more than a pipe dream.
MAL Score: 8.14
In Tokyo’s downtown district of Ikebukuro, amidst many strange rumors and warnings of anonymous gangs and dangerous occupants, one urban legend stands out above the rest—the existence of a headless “Black Rider” who is said to be seen driving a jet-black motorcycle through the city streets.
Mikado Ryuugamine has always longed for the excitement of the city life, and an invitation from a childhood friend convinces him to move to Tokyo. Witnessing the Black Rider on his first day in the city, his wishes already seem to have been granted. But as supernatural events begin to occur, ordinary citizens like himself, along with Ikebukuro’s most colorful inhabitants, are mixed up in the commotion breaking out in their city.
Putting aside the immediately obvious fact that the animation for this series is superb and all opening and ending songs are awesome, what’s left for me to complain about is the pacing, the plot, and the nearly nonexistent character development. Oh, and the mind-numbingly boring way in which the dialogue is remarkably unsubtle, anvilicious, and pretentious.
I know this is based on a series of light novels and that there’s also a manga version. But while I know a bit about both, I haven’t read enough of either, and this is an anime review anyway, so I’m glad I haven’t yet so I can focus on the anime. I actually wonder if I may be too old for this anime, because it left me completely unimpressed, didn’t change my point of view in anyway, and I learned nothing and felt nothing while I watched it. It felt like the entire thing was made by a bunch of disaffected college students that have nothing better to do with their spare time than angst about how the world is so sad and boring. And while this seems perhaps an unfair attack on the team that made the anime and for all I know they’re completely the opposite, it’s how the series came off as.
For all the darkness or apparent maturity of the themes, the show comes off as incredibly naive. The characters spend way too long and talk too much in an effort to explain themselves and their actions. There’s too much talking! Even when what they’re saying is plainly obvious or when they could have stopped after one sentence and it’s especially annoying when you realize that their justifications are pretty much senseless or stupid after the nth time they’ve explained it. I honestly blocked out whole chunks of dialogue from boredom. Then I went back to see if I missed anything by doing so. I didn’t.
I don’t think the series is as meaningful as it thinks it is, and I wasn’t moved by most of the characters. The only ones I really cared about by the end of it all was Kida Masaomi and Celty, the headless biker. (And Heiwajima Shizuo who is crazy awesome. I like Orihara Izaya and he’s one of my favorite characters, but I don’t really care or am concerned about the guy because he should honestly die in a fire.) Speaking of which, what really bothered me was how so many of the characters escaped karma — except Kida Masaomi, who the show seemed determined to break because that’s his designated role. The show also tries to present Mikado Ryuugamine as somewhat of a hero, which I refuse to accept. And to bring up the manga and novels, I think the anime tries much harder than those two make him likeable or acceptable (and overall NICER) to count as one and it’s obvious. I’m sorry, but no. Better to have left him a bit of a magnificent bastard than to do so. By extension, the Dollars are supposed to be the good gang, which is laughable, since while they do some good in the anime, they’re not much different from the bad gangs — they’re a bunch of easily manipulated cowardly sheep who can’t even do good on their own (with the exception of a few, but they’re in the extended hero’s group so…).
What really bothers me about the Dollars is, had their leader been actually smarter and less interested in his own entertainment, they could have PUT AWAY SOMEONE THAT’S DONE SOMETHING CLEARLY WRONG. In the first half, the major conflict involved a shady pharmaceutical company responsible for a string of kidnappings and that was covering up an assault. Granted, the assaulted girl was cray cray and a stalker, and she didn’t press charges because she’s madly in love with the guy that nearly killed her and they wound up together thanks to the said pharmaceutical company, but really? REALLY? The guy that ALMOST CRACKED HER HEAD OPEN escaped punishment and is later on referred to as “he’s weird, but kind of cool”? By the show’s protagonist? WHAT?! And what did the leader of the Dollars choose to do about this? MESS WITH THE MIND OF THE PERSON BEHIND ALL OF IT. Yeah, that’s all. And the result? Was not so awful that by the next episode she’s seen working for the information broker that orchestrated it all while still full of haughty arrogance. And speaking of the information broker, I don’t know if he really is just that awesome or the other characters are just so stupid or weak that he’s pretty much untouchable despite being so plainly evil.
The only thing that could have possibly redeemed this whole show was the friendship between the three main characters (Anri, Mikado, and Kida). But as a friendship, it just fails. There are countless other anime and manga that have portrayed friendship in an amazingly poignant way. This anime had that chance but it just fell so miserably short.
The light novels and the manga version of this show goes farther from what I’ve seen and heard about. If there’s a second season, my point of view might change. Who knows? As it stands, it’s pointless, other than being pretty to look at. Much of the show seems focused on being cool for the sake of being cool and that’s it.
Durarara likes to rely on the ‘Rule of Cool’ but there’s not much cool about it. It doesn’t even have the complete pandemonium that makes its predecessor Baccano so great. It’s not set onboard a zany animated Orient Express… It’s just a normal city in Japan. They repeatedly reference a ‘Color gang war’, an apparently important event in the city’s history, but we never learn anything interesting or important about it.
The characters aren’t exception. You’ve a country bumpin… Who moved to the big city… To *sigh* GO TO HIGH SCHOOL.
Yoou’ve got a class rep with big tits with a dark secret, a dumbass pervert best friend, and oh big surprise, they’re in a love triangle with the protagonist.
Side characters aren’t special. You have anger issues man, slimy knife man, otakus, and token diversity character (tried to cross off a lot of squares, he’s a giant black dude from Russia).
These characters get no development. Their introducitons are bland, their hastily added backstories are cringeworthy, and everything about them seems to exist just so you can tell them apart… Like NPCs in a bad video game.
The only character who gets any depth is Celty. She’s a Dulahan (Headless spectre from Celtic mythology) in Japan searching for her lost head. I don’t know if she’s a good character of if she’s just the only one who isn’t terrible… But either way she’s better than the rest. If I could change it, I’d focus on her story. Her motivations, conflicts, and interactions are easily the best part of the show, and the only reason the characters get a 5/10
The soundtrack isn’s bad. Funk and jazz, very Baccano – the opening theme is almost comically similar. There’s some amazing unconventional tracks with solo upright bass. Like Baccano, both the Japanese and the English dubs are great. Shame it doesn’t save the show.
The animation isn’t bad either, but it’s not great. You get the sense they’re saving the budget for a huge awesome payoff… That never happens. If you’re gonna go full rule of cool it has to LOOK cool, not just average all the time.
Enjoyment? Well, if you watch the show as brainlessly as possible, you’ll enjoy it for the first few episodes, but the flaws will quickly become impossible to ignore and you’ll lose your patience, so when it gets boring it’s really frustrating. It has a few good moments, but I found it hard to finish.
Everything that this show gets wrong, Baccano gets right. And everything that this show gets right, Baccano does better. This is obviously a tribute to Baccano, and honestly… If you want to watch a tribute to something, I’d recommend watching the real thing. Go watch Baccano instead. Durarara is a waste of your time.
This show has an absurdly volatile and defensive fanbase, which makes it even harder to like. They hype it up as a masterpiece, and it’s so far from it, you’re annoyed before you’ve made it halfway through.
A recent anime series, entitled Durarara!!, is a perfect demonstration of what the Japanese animation industry is capable of and the benefits of its broader range of creativity. Stretching over twenty-four episodes (not taking into account any possible OVAs or specials), Durarara!! tells a wonderfully unique story set in the Ikebukuro district of Tokyo, Japan. Dealing with themes such as friendship, betrayal, gang wars, the urban lifestyle, identity and the lack thereof, consumerism, and even the supernatural, its storyline is beautifully complex, surprisingly comprehensive as a whole, and features several intertwining story arcs that blend together in an impressive manner.
Durarara!! starts off with the teenager Mikado Ryugamine and his arrival in Tokyo, where he is greeted by his childhood friend Masaomi Kida, who has lived in the city for several years now. Mikado has longed for a big city life ever since he was young, and was newly convinced by Masaomi to transfer to his current high school in Japan’s capital, Tokyo. During their childhood, the two have been best friends up until Masaomi moved away, and have kept in touch through the internet ever since then. As they finally meet again in one of the biggest cities in the world, Masaomi wastes little time with catching up and immediately proceeds to show the timid Mikado around Ikebukuro. However, Mikado, still overwhelmed by the intimidating urban lifestyle prevailing throughout Tokyo, is even more stunned after realizing just how many secrets and mysteries this city actually holds.
While Masaomi shows Mikado around the city, he also introduces him to a bunch of people, some friends of his, others not so much, something which can be seen as an act of setting up the exposition upon which the rest of the series will depend. Durarara!! features a lot of characters and every episode follows more than a single plotline, so it may take a while to become comfortable with the occasionally frantic pace and often perplexing storyline prevailing throughout the series, though once the first impressions settle in, it all becomes a very exciting and interesting ride, thanks to the various fascinating elements making up the story as the anime progresses.
As mentioned earlier on, Durarara!! is a series that is very rich in characters and story arcs. As far as the protagonist goes, Mikado Ryugamine would be the obvious pick, though under the surface, things are a little more complicated than that. The first few episodes definitely focus on Mikado for the most part, developing him as a lead character and also using him as a means of constructing the exposition of the series. Once things are in place, a great deal of characters that were previously introduced come into play and several story arcs begin to take shape. On one side, there’s the group of high school friends consisting of the above mentioned Mikado Ryugamine, his longtime buddy Masaomi Kida, and the voluptuous, introverted and often shy Anri Sonohara. There’s an interesting, though perhaps somewhat clichéd dynamic going on between the three of them, and the full extent of their common bond only emerges towards the finale.
Another set of characters come into focus a little further down the line, some of the more noteworthy consisting of Shizuo Heiwajima, a bodyguard wearing a bartender’s uniform and sunglasses who is widely known around Ikebukuro as the strongest man in the world, Izaya Orihara, a young and enigmatic information dealer who seems to manipulate other people for his own enjoyment—he’s also Shizuo’s sworn enemy, and last but definitely not least, a mysterious motorcyclist known as the black rider who is often seen driving around Ikebukuro for unknown reasons—rumours have it that the rider is actually headless, an allusion to the legend of the headless horseman. These are only but a few of all the characters appearing in the series, giving you sort of an idea of how expansive the world of Durarara!! is, even though the entire anime takes place in one common location: the Ikebukuro district of Tokyo.
As impressive as Durarara!! is on a narrative level, it also excels in the visual and sound departments. The art and animation of the series is thoroughly impressive, giving each particular character a unique appearance that contributes to making an impression on the viewer. The city of Tokyo is beautifully portrayed, and Ikebukuro is drawn in a way that gives it a special urban atmosphere, with particular attention given to the nightlife, which truly vibrates amidst the glow of streetlights and hidden secrets. Durarara!! features an art style that is a little different from the usual anime series, meaning that characters are a little more rich in detail, have a slightly different build and their specific facial traits are more accentuated. What that means is that it may take a while for some viewers to get used to this particular style, though ultimately, it fits the overall feeling of the series well.
The series is also complemented by solid voice acting and a very impressive and memorable soundtrack, constituting a vigorous and upbeat opening track during the first half of the show and a very evocative and somewhat melancholic one during the other half. Both songs work well and are especially catchy, never seeming to get old, even after twelve episodes have passed. Unfortunately, the two songs played during the ending sequence of the episodes are a little underwhelming and definitely do not measure up to the standards set by the ones playing during the introductory section, but that’s just a small complaint, because the music tracks are still quite fitting, meaning that the mood prevailing throughout the show is never ruined.
As good of an anime series as Durarara!! is, it still exhibits a fair amount of flaws and imperfections along the way. The narrative power and expansiveness of the show has proved to be its strongest suit, but it has also made way to a few inconsistencies in the flow of the story, as well as a couple of unresolved plot points that have garnered over the course of the series’ running time. The ending of Durarara!! feels pretty rushed, a common shortcoming among many other anime series, which will surely anger some viewers, especially considering the time the show spent on developing certain characters and plot elements. It definitely could have used one or two more episodes to properly conclude things, if you ask me. Here’s to hoping that a second season will be made in the future—however unlikely—that will sort out some of these unresolved issues.
Its rushed finale and partially unfinished storyline aside, Durarara!! is an excellent anime series that is unique enough and boasts plenty of originality so as to make it one of the best show of the year. It’s definitely the most well-written series in a significant amount of time, featuring thoroughly intriguing characters and engaging story arcs. The way everything intertwines and relates to each other during the course of the story is quite fascinating and it’s definitely interesting to see how things unfold in the end. Personally, seeing Durarara!! nail the look and feel of an urban lifestyle and depict the city of Tokyo in such a gorgeous way has sealed the deal for me, though I’m sure others will find plenty of diverse things to hold on to while on a ride through the mysterious Ikebukuro.
5: Katekyo Hitman Reborn!
MAL Score: 8.15
There is no putting it lightly—Tsunayoshi Sawada is just no good. He is clumsy, talentless, and desperately in love with the school idol Kyouko Sasagawa, a girl so completely out of his league. Dubbed “Loser Tsuna” by his classmates, he seems to be the very personification of failure in the guise of a middle-schooler.
Tsuna’s boring life takes an extraordinary twist when he encounters the mysterious Reborn, who happens to be a hitman… and shockingly, a baby! Sent from the strongest Mafia family in Italy, Reborn is assigned the daunting mission of preparing the dull middle schooler to succeed the ninth boss of the notorious Vongola family, who is on the brink of retirement. The dull boy has a grueling road ahead, but with the help of his new criminal affiliates and his peculiar home tutor, perhaps even Loser Tsuna can achieve greatness.
At first glance, Katekyo Hitman Reborn may seem boring. The major flaw of the anime is that it absolutely misleads you, and it completely deceives you into either a) dropping the anime or b) thinking the anime is lame, when it isn’t!
The first 20 episodes may mislead you to drop the anime, just like it misled me, because of its fillerlike episodes. You will most likely tell yourself “Wow, this is really lame. What’s the point of all this?” That’s what I thought, but I gave it a chance. (And I’m SO glad I did. Katekyo Hitman Reborn is now my absolute favorite anime.)
The beginning is kind of slow and different from the rest of the later episodes, because apparently KHR was initially meant to be a gag anime – it was supposed to be something funny and comedic. The anime took a different turn as you progress to episode 20 into something more serious.
The first 20 episodes is merely a /long/ introduction to the anime. It’s worth watching though, because you get to be familiar with all the characters. They are all likeable! If you decide to watch Katekyo Hitman Reborn (and I hope you will!) you should decide whether you like it or not, after 25 episodes or so. It’s only fair, right? All animes have their flaws; and it’s flaw, in my opinion is that they don’t give it a decent start. If you do not have the patience for that, then this anime may not be for you.
Katekyo Hitman Reborn deals with the mafia. Tsuna, the *main* character, is in the next line to be the 10th boss for the Vongola Family~ (one of the many families in the mafia.) Reborn, a hitman, and also a baby (hehe), travels from Italy to Japan to tutor Tsuna to become a worthy boss for the Vongola Family.
From then on, Tsuna’s adventures and what he experiences are endless– but they’re all interesting. Over the course of the anime, Tsuna grows and matures, and becomes really strong; fighting his enemies and getting stronger each fight he experiences. The fights he encounters are well made, and they WILL keep you at the edge of your seat. Tsuna isn’t the only one fighting, though– he also has a “family”– his comrades, if you will, and the battles they encounter are endless.
The art is well made; I don’t think there is much to complain about it.
It isn’t outstandingly good, nor is it horribly bad to a point where you have to shield your eyes. The characters are wonderfully drawn and are all unique in their own ways. The art progressively gets better as you further get into the anime.
The sound is absolutely AMAZING. It deserves an 11/10, as opposed to a 10/10.
I loved all of the openings, and endings– I never once had to skip it; and that’s kind of rare, considering the fact that I’m absolutely picky with my music.
The soundtrack is amazing as well, there is a couple of them for EACH character (well, the main characters, anyways.)
They have a soundtrack for every different scene in the anime, and it is absolutely positively pleasing to the ears. Everything about it is EPIC!
The characters are very well portrayed; you can’t help but love all of them (well most of them anyways.) They change greatly over the course of the anime and it’s worthwhile to watch them grow up.
I love Katekyo Hitman Reborn! I love everything about it; it makes me laugh until I fall off my seat and look like a loser, it makes me sad as they go through their hard times, it makes me happy as they overcome their obstacles– and so on.
I can ramble on forever about how much I love the anime, but I’m going to end now, before I end up typing a ten page paper.
Katekyo Hitman Reborn is an AMAZING anime as I mentioned a billion times (well not really, but let’s pretend.) I highly suggest that you go off and watch it right now, but I can’t tell you what to do. It’s ultimately up to you.
Everything about it is amazing- it’s storyline, (although it may seem boring at first) it’s art, it’s sound, it’s characters– it’s everything!
Tsuna is a generic high school teenager which has the hots for some girl and doesn’t have the balls to do anything about it standard shonen cliché’s. The art is fairly mediocre as well the action scenes look alright for a shonen but everything else looks so bland and generic especially the character designs.
The soundtrack is very forgettable as well nothing really stands out except for the openings they are pretty great l think l like all the reborn openings which is really rare the last one is my least favourite though.
The characters god fucking damn it the characters l think l already talked about tsuna enough he is a standard generic shonen protagonist which wants to protect his friends also he dosen’t want to become a Mafioso even if it runs in his family’s tree his character is just so infuriating the other main characters are fairly forgettable as well only character l really remember fondly was hibari because he didn’t give a shit about anything that happened none of the characters get a huge amount of significant development for a 200 and something episode series.
There is also quite a lot of filler in reborn especially in the future arc with the girls cooking food and going on strike and it all feels quite pointless for a shonen to have it was probably there to save money because l don’t remember the filler scenes going for as long as they did in the manga.
While l do have a lot of complaints with the story and the characters l did enjoy myself with the show it was a fun cheesy shonen just don’t bother with the manga it gets even worse especially with the manga ending which l won’t spoil.
Overall Hitman reborn is a fun generic shonen it does hold a special place in my heart though because it was one of the first shows l ever watched when l first got in to anime.
Just DON’T judge the anime by the first 20 episodes. Watching till 20 I was ready to quit a few times, but i read some good reviews so i kept watching. If you cant stand them at all, DONT skip em! Just be patient. These episodes are to introduce some of the characters, and of course make you laugh a lot!
The only drawback of this anime (personal opinion) is it’s art. Sometimes characters’ and backgrounds’ art aren’t good at all, since the detail is too low.
“So why should i watch it then?” you may ask, the answer is simple: Just give it a try and you will understand why I’m giving it a big 9/10 no matter the drawbacks mntioned above!
4: InuYasha: Kanketsu-hen
English: InuYasha: The Final Act
Japanese: 犬夜叉 完結編
MAL Score: 8.21
Thwarted again by Naraku, Inuyasha, Kagome Higurashi, and their friends must continue their hunt for the few remaining Shikon Jewel shards, lest they fully form into a corrupted jewel at the hands of Naraku. But Naraku has plans of his own to acquire them, and will destroy anyone and anything standing in his way—even his own underlings.
The persistent, unyielding danger posed by Naraku forces Sango and Miroku to decide what is most important to them—each other or their duty in battle. Meanwhile, Inuyasha must decide whether his heart lies with Kikyou or Kagome, before fate decides for him. Amid the race to find the shards, Inuyasha and his brother Sesshoumaru must also resolve their feud and cooperate for their final confrontation with Naraku, as it is a battle they must win in order to put a stop to his evil and cruelty once and for all.
The art as always was clean and enjoyable. But the development of the characters was spectacular! I am so glad that the ending was the way it was. What I hoped for all along.
So glad I watched it and highly recommend to others as well!
To a man who completely watched every single Inuyasha episode known to man, I want to point out that this here is one of the most miraculous things ever.
Story – The story takes wherever the last story picked of. I found this to be much better than the 167 episodes the original one took place. The psychological impact of the story stunned me to no end, making me marathon this over and over again. Truly amazing. 10/10
Characters – Out of all the characters in this series, Kagome evolved the most. Not to say that the others stayed the same, but Kagome. She played the most significant role and completely carried the show. Unfortunately, the way Inuyasha changed was completely irrelevant in any standard and should not be mentioned again, overall best character development. 10/10
Sound – You may not realize it, but the dub for this show was gorgeous. You could say that this is dubbing gone right. It made the show feel very realistic and logical in every aspect of the story. Don’t forget the OST. Truly just gorgeous. I spent $20 downloading the Inuyasha OST and not once regretting it. 10/10
Art – The art style for this was pretty astounding, feeling refined like my new born child. He was born yesterday April 4, 2014 at 12:27 AM while I was finishing up this show. 10/10
Enjoyment – Disregarding what ever my wife says about this show, it will always be 1st in my life. 10/10
Overall – This was a masterpiece of a show that i would never recommend the first season to. It was glorious in all aspects. In the honor I gave my son the middle name of InuYasha 10/10
Im out and never forgot to blaze it.
Story (10) Definitely one of the more in-depth storylines in anime. The show takes you back in time, well it literally does each time Kagome goes through her family’s well, to see peoples’ pasts to see how everyone is connected to each other. The story picks up where the first season ended, Inuyasha and company are going after Naraku to end his evil in their world. This is the main story, but things that weren’t taken care of in the first season were finally given a resting place. What I mean by this is things like “What happened to Inuyasha-Kagome-Kikyou love triangle?!?” are finally resolved and definite.
Something that I would like to point out is the pacing of this continuation series. This 26 episode ending is NOT rushed, everything is greatly paced.
Art (8) A definite improvement in animation, but not to the extent that it is extremely noticeable. The animation style is kept the same, which is great because I believe that having the same character animation is crucial in the overall enjoyment of the anime. An example for this would be the Minami-ke series where all 4 seasons are animated differently because they were made in 4 different studios. It had an obvious effect to many of the views, including myself. Animation is smooth and attractive, yet not too flashy.
Sound (10) Music in the InuYasha series have always been great! Song likes Dearest – Ayume Hamasaki, Every Heart – Boa, Fukai Mori – Do As Infinity, and Rakuen – Do As Infinity, are great examples of the awesome music. Music is incorporated into the anime well with the timing of it, and also the selection of music they use. In fact, my first spine-chilling experience while watching anime came from this show. It was due to the mix of what was happening in the anime and the song that came with it. When I think of great music in anime I think of InuYasha immediately.
Character (10) The complex relationship between Inuyasha, Kagome, and Kikyou is one of the most engaging subjects of anime that I have ever seen. The anime does a great job in taking time with character development. You do not have to worry about not understanding why things happen, because the anime explains, or has explained, why. The characters are original, that is what I love about them. I love that they all have pasts, especially Inuyasha and Kikyou. It adds so much more depth to the story. Another thing I love about the characters is the timing of their actions. They are themselves when nothing is going on, and they serious, but still themselves, when something is happening. They have dimension.
Enjoyment (9) Just an absolutely fitting ending to a great series. It was well made, and while typing that I just told myself I wish I could watch this for the first time again.
Overall (9) An extremely high 9 rating in my books. Recommend it to anyone, especially to those that are interested in action, romance, drama, and some comedy.
MAL Score: 8.34
In an Edo-era Japan lush with a variety of sword-fighting styles, Shichika Yasuri practices the most unique one: Kyotouryuu, a technique in which the user’s own body is wielded as a blade. The enigmatic seventh head of the Kyotouryuu school, Shichika lives quietly in exile with his sister Nanami until one day—the wildly ambitious strategist Togame barges into their lives.
Togame brazenly requests that Shichika help in her mission to collect twelve unique swords, known as the “Deviant Blades,” for the shogunate. Shichika accepts, interested in the girl herself rather than petty politics, and thus sets out on a journey. Standing in their way are the fierce wielders of these legendary weapons as well as other power-hungry entities who seek to thwart Togame’s objective. In order to prevail against their enemies, the duo must become an unbreakable team as they forge ahead on a path of uncertainty and peril.
Which is where Katanagatari comes in to the picture.
Written by Nisio Isin (although he usually writes it as NisiOisiN since his name is a palindrome), the twelve volumes of the original light novel series were published as part of the Kodansha Box line. Strangely, all of the books were released at a rate of one per month from January to December 2007, with a spin off novel published in February 2008. Now while this is clearly a phenomenal feat, one does have to wonder if a few corners were cut for the sake of expediency and to meet deadlines, and also if the adaptation can stand up to scrutiny.
Katanagatari is basically what the title suggests – a story about swords. It begins with fire and death as a rebellion against the Owari shogunate meets a bloody end. Twenty years later, a small boat makes its way across the sea to a deserted island where the passenger, Togame, hopes to enlist the aid of Yasuri Mutsue, the 6th generation head of the Kyoutouryuu sword style and the hero of the rebellion.
Instead she finds Yasuri Shichika, who is more bumpkin than the term allows for, and is also as hard as nails.
One of the things that really stands out about the series (aside from the visuals, but we’ll get to that in a bit), is the dialogue. The show is very well scripted with some very good conversations and witty repartee, and the explanations are usually clear and concise enough for the viewer to follow. There are also numerous verbal nods in the direction of modern popular culture, which makes a nice change of pace as one might normally expect lots of serious conversations about honour, loyalty, duty, revenge, or other concepts that are usually found in these types of story.
The problem though, is that the dialogue can also be off putting for viewers who want a little less conversation, a little more action (sing along if you know the words), especially as the fights are over in a very short space of time. In addition to this the story can sometimes err on the side of predictable, especially with the number of plot coupons that drive the whole show (in this case the “cursed” swords), and the series can sometimes become nothing more than a repetition of talk, talk, talk, fight, talk, end. The biggest criticism about Katanagatari though, is that it’s nothing more than a very nice looking “fetch quest”, and while the dialogue really does pull the whole show together, the storyline can sometimes feel derived or contrived.
What really makes the series stand out are the rather stylized visuals. The design principle attempts to merge several themes ranging from traditional Japanese art to modern fighting games, and while there are some flaws here and there, the overall effect is … something else. The scenery is surprising to say the least, and almost every frame is literally filled with little details that will often go unnoticed by the viewer, from the grain and different tones found in wood, to the multiple hues and fractures of stone.
In contrast to this the characters are simplistic yet colourfully flamboyant. The costumes vary from the utilitarian to the nonsensical (especially those of the Maniwa ninja corps), while the characters themselves have exaggeratedly simple, almost cartoon-like, facial features. Oddly enough, whilst one might expect this sort of design to lack in terms of expression, the opposite is true for Katanagatari.
White Fox, who produced Tears to Tiara and are currently working on Stein’s Gate, have done a tremendous job with the design and animation of this series. The characters have a certain grace about their movements that belies their simplistic appearance and sometimes clunky costumes, while actual combat scenes are extremely well choreographed and animated, so much so that the individual moves of Shichika Hachiretsu (Seven hits, Eight Pieces), are clearly defined.
That said, the art style may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but if you can handle it then there’s a pretty good story here.
One of the defining aspects of a good narrative is the strength of the scriptwriting, and because of the extremely strong dialogue in this anime, it’s often easy to overlook how good the actors actually are. Hosoya Yoshimasa’s role as the über country bumpkin Yasuri Shichika may have caused him some consternation as the character is effectively emotionless for a good portion of the series. That said, his deadpan delivery works very well, and can often make the viewer stop and try to work out if what he says is meant to be a joke. On the other hand, Tamura Yukari’s not-quite-tsundere Togame is sometimes a joy to watch, with the character’s many mood swings and emotional changes handled with aplomb. But then again, what else would one expect from an actress who’s also played Takamichi Nanoha, Kawasumi Mai (Kanon), Furude Rika (Higurashi), and a horde of other lead and supporting roles.
To be honest, given that Hosoya only has a handful of shows under his belt it’s amazing he managed to keep his head working alongside such an experienced seiyuu.
Katanagatari features quite a lot of music in the form of two opening themes, twelve ending themes, and a plethora of background tracks. The OPs and EDs are handled well, but given the number of songs on offer, deciding what works and what doesn’t is very much a matter of personal taste. The incidental music is another matter, as while there are scenes where the music dominates proceedings, the majority of the series features either very subtle tunes that are almost unnoticeable, or no music whatsoever.
The nice thing about this approach is that the dialogue doesn’t have to fight to lead a particular scene, and while the more subtle background music is pleasant enough, this is ultimately a “wordy” anime.
The biggest weakness of shows like Katanagatari is that they have too many characters for their own good. While Shichika and Togame are played confidently, have some well though out dialogue, and generally bounce off each other like peas on a drum, the same cannot be said of the supporting characters, in particular the Maniwa Corps who seem to be nothing more than a collective of whipping boys whose only role in life is to prove just how strong Shichika and his sister are.
That doesn’t mean the characters are bad though. Both Shichika and Togame’s emotional development is handled in a very competent manner, and as their relationship slowly becomes more defined, so too do their actions change towards each other and the world around them. Unfortunately, while a lot of attention is lavished on the two leads, there is very little left over for the supporting cast, which is a shame as there are some great performances in this anime.
Now while the series has a lot to recommend it there are some valid criticisms that can be levelled at it, the main one being that Katanagatari is far too “wordy”. See, the problem is that since the dialogue is very good, someone has decided that the series should have more of it than it actually needs, and the upshot of this is that there are occasions when the characters just go on and on. Now it should be pointed out that a part of this is because the series parodies certain stereotypical behaviours found in shounen anime and manga (and James Bond stories I might add), which is nice, but ultimately unnecessary.
Katanagatari is a strange anime that’s part “fetch quest”, part wuxia tale, and strangely enough, part Seinfeld (i.e lots of people being dryly humourous, deadpan or witty), which isn’t a normal combination by any measure. That said, I thoroughly enjoyed this anime for its originality and innovation, as it would have been all too easy for White Fox to follow the tried and tested route for samurai anime, so the fact that they decided to stick with Isin’s concept of how the characters should look is laudable.
Now if only the other studios would start broadening their horizons …
Original work written by the same author as ‘Bakemonogatari’, this is a dialogue-based series that I cannot recommend to Shounen and other viewers who seek mindless battle scenes, you can ignore my warnings… “but by that time, you’d be slashed into pieces.”
The story of ‘Katanagatari’ is driven by the characters who stand in the way of the sword gathering. New characters and weapon of the month are introduced in every episode. Through negotiation and battles with Togame and Shichika, we learn about their opponents’ backgrounds and purpose to fight. It can be said that the story progresses by disposing expendable side characters. The story may be about the main couple gathering the 12 swords, but the show is really all about why people fight.
The humor in this series heavily relies on 「すべり芸」, the comedy through deliberately failed attempts to be funny, which in turn creates a humorous atmosphere for its sheer lameness. The frantic pace of conversation was the key to making this comedy style work, as well as the persistence (such as catchphrases, Togame missing the battle, sexual implication etc) in every episode.
The episodic nature of the series makes character development difficult, but it was made possible by dedicating each episode to a theme or lesson for Shichika, and sometimes Togame.
2: What to protect
8: Human Will
Shichika started out as an emotionless weapon that blindly follows Togame’s orders, acting as her sword. By facing the variety of opponents in their journey and influence of Togame herself, Shichika gradually grow up as a human being, learning ways of the society and new emotions with each encounter. Character development was excellent. By end of the show, Shichika was no longer a brutal killing machine; he had his own purposes and opinions. Character design was fantastic in this series. Everyone was easily distinguishable. Even those who died quickly had very distinct personalities and features that left lasting impressions.
Character naming was pretty interesting in kanji, such as Shichika –> “Seven Flowers”, Togame –> wordplay of 「十が目」(Eye is a Cross) and “Blame”, Hitei-hime –> “Princess Denial”. Every name basically describes the person.
My only complaint with the characters is that every adversary in this show had a sympathetic or honorable reason to fight. They were too lovable. I believe there should be at least one character for everyone to hate in this type of action/adventure series. There should’ve been an enemy who was simply a serial killer who loved taking life, or a corrupt leader oppressing the innocent civilians. I also felt sorry for Maniwani, for being defeated (often easily) in every single battle against Shichika or Sword-holders.
The final episode summarizes and concludes the series well, lots of cool action, and the funniest scene occurred in stage 10 of dojo-yaburi, with Hakari the Scale. I also liked how in the end, it showed that possession of powerful weapon is pointless unless the wielder has the skill and knowledge to make full use of it.
I still consider ‘Bakemonogatari’ voice acting to be the best ever, but ‘Katanagatari’ is a close second. Togame (Tamura Yukari)’s voice takes a while to get used to, but it grew on me in time. Shichika (Hosoya Yoshimasa)’s voice sounds like reading the script at first, but not really; quite humorous and emotional when needed to be. Other than that, everyone else’s voice was an instant hit (this is important because some of the characters were dead within minutes of appearance), which is quite a feat because there are over 30 major characters in this series. This is another series that made me think “Seiyuu sure are amazing”.
BGM, on the other hand, makes a strong case for a new benchmark. It should be noted that at least one new piece of BGM is played in every episode, but all pieces flows so well that it doesn’t sound like deliberate theme music for each villain. Most pieces are fully orchestrated in Western or Japanese traditional instruments, charged with the grandeur of the adventure. Others are jovial Japanese rap that serves its purpose by being so bad that it’s funny. However, it’s not the quality of individual number that makes the background music of ‘Katanagatari’ remarkable, rather its application. Every number is used in exactly the right places. The most distinguishable characteristic of the implementation is that the music start well before each significant scene to build up the tension, harmonizing with the story to enhance the drama as they climax with absolute precision.
OP1 was very catchy with good balance of anime beats and traditional Japanese atmosphere, but OP2 was average. EDs are different for every episode. Ep4, 8, 12 were particularly strong songs, but all were shared by outstanding vocals.
Character in this series had extremely crude designs, with background detail of varying degree. However, the artwork has a very unique style that creates a Japanese fairytale, picturebook-like atmosphere that suits this series well. One can tell the animation director and staff went lengths to visually compliment the story with wonderful “camera work”, composition, and fabulous fight scenes.
I want to believe that the character designs are simplified so that they (especially the protagonist) begin as blank canvases, and their impressions and details painted in viewer’s minds as the show progress through words.
The art quality in this series is technically inferior compared to most shows airing this year, but in my opinion had one of the best presentation and style. Probably hit or miss depending on tastes.
Although there are limits to episodic storytelling, the show had great character development and interesting story. The story was full of surprises and unpredictable turn of events despite it being a simple tale of sword gathering. Quite innovative and bold in style with both artwork and plot development. There were many great episodes in this series, I hereby declare episode 2, 4, 10, 12 「神回」 (godly epic episodes). Episode 7 was one too, though it probably had been possessed by a demon than god in many ways.
Perhaps it’s a result of loose deadline due to monthly episode, but you can tell the staff paid close attention to perfect everything, from animation to sound to story structure.
It was one hell of an adventure around Japan. In spite of all the flaws mentioned above, ‘Katanagatari’ is a series that I enjoyed tremendously. This series was filled with so many interesting quirks, and I will definitely remember it for a long time.
Cheerio! Let’s all hype up this word with the wrong meaning.
I originally stumbled upon this anime thinking it was a continuation of the Monogatari series. It’s not. But it’s a great show nonetheless. What wowed me about this show was its pacing. Katanagatari is easily one of the most well-paced animes I’ve ever seen, and the pacing reminds me a lot of BBC’s Sherlock series. Each of the 45-minute episodes are like a mini-movie, leaving very little in terms of cliff-hangers, yet keeps you wanting more, if and when you have time. For me, it made for a good series to relax and watch with my girlfriend on the weekends of my hectic whirlwind lifestyle.
So why did I choose to start with a quote from an obscure 2002 Jet Li movie? Well, the one thing that probably caused Katanagatari’s score to drop a few points for a lot of people was its ending, which undoubtedly left 90~% of viewers confused and angry. So, I decided to take a metaphorical stab at an explanation (for which I will enlist the help of this obscure 2002 Jet Li movie) that will hopefully shed some light on the true meaning behind Katanagatari, and help you reach a more fulfilling understanding of what the heck you just watched. However, as my explanation contains light spoilers, I will leave it at the end of my review for you to read after you’ve already finished the series.
Now, for the review:
– Story (8/10) –
The story of Katanagatari is both very straightforward and somehow wildy unpredictable. It follows a rinse and repeat cycle where our heroes, Togame (a delicate strategist) and Shichika (an emotionless jungle boy), face off against an enemy with a powerful and unique weapon, find some way to defeat them, and subsequently take their weapon. It may sound dull and repetitive, but the show does a great job of keeping things fresh with cute/clever interactions between Togame and Shichika, who are superstar characters in their own rights, but I’ll get to that in a bit. The only thing the story is lacking is depth behind each character’s motivations. Togame is collecting swords for the Shogunate, which is the enemy of her loving deceased father, while Shichika is there because… I have no clue. He claims it’s because he fell in love at first sight with Togame, but his attraction is rather platonic. I think the real reason was because he was bored. That’s not to say their relationship seems fake. Katanagatari doesn’t pull love out of thin air like some animes do (*cough* Angel Beats!). While the relationship between Togame and Shichika starts off a little suspicious, and the show doesn’t try to hide the fact that Shichika comes off as this asexual weirdo, it develops into something that seems very real by the time we get to the closing credits. Throughout their travels, Shichika undergoes a very subtle transformation from emo-jungle-boy to fun-loving prankster that’s shown in the way he interacts and teases Togame. It’s all done in a Flowers for Algernon kind of way, meaning the narrator doesn’t have to tell us that Shichika and Togame are changing, it’s just obvious. It’s really refreshing to see an anime that shows us things rather than tells us what to think, wouldn’t you agree? (NOD YOUR HEAD) But still, the initial motivations behind each character’s actions leaves a lot viewers scratching their heads. This, of course, is compounded by the problems people have with the ending. It’s not just Shichika and Togame either. All of the characters have a tendency to act in unpredictable and senseless ways, from Hou-oh, a beloved clan leader randomly decapitating his dear disciple to Shichika’s sister running around killing people for no reason. None of their motivations seem to make any sense. But motivations aside, it still gets an 8 out of 10 for it’s combination of fun-filled subplots, clever battle sequences, and colorful cast of characters.
– Art (9/10) –
Have you ever watch an episode of an action anime and thought, why is there no fighting in this episode? Well, Katanagatari never has this problem. There’s fighting in every episode. And while the fighting is not flashy (or forced for that matter), it is very well drawn and sensibly creative. The style is not detailed, except with some of the scenery, and the artist takes liberties with the shape of human bodies and faces, but it’s all still very cool looking. It all reminds me a LOT of Gurren Laggan. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it fits well with the style of the anime as a whole. There are two weird things about the artwork that might annoy some people. First, like the artist for Gurren Lagann, this artist doesn’t like to draw normal looking eyes. I don’t mean having something like the Sharingan of Naruto canon, that’s actually connected the story. I mean some characters will just randomly have pentagons for eyes, because why not? And second, the art style changes slightly after the first few episodes (the lines get noticeably thinner). I don’t know if this is to show aging (older characters are typically given lighter lines in anime), but it’s all made very obvious during flashbacks. But if you can disregard those two things, I’m sure you’ll find the graphics as entertaining as I did.
– Sound (9/10) –
The opening/closing and the music in general fit well with the anime. That’s really all I can say about that. The background music has a modern/Sengoku style to it that reminds me a bit of Samurai Champloo, but more Sengoku and less modern than Samurai Champloo (there’s very little rap). And obviously, it’s by a different composer (RIP Jun Seba). Actually, I think the opening is by the same band that did the Monogatari series. Anyways, it’s all very good. The intros/outros are memorable, although neither of them really wowed me. The voice acting was underrated as well. However, I’ve only seen the sub.
– Characters (9/10) –
The characters are probably the best thing about this show. The main characters, Togame and Shichika are both very distinct and clever. Neither of them fall entirely within any anime cliche. The repertoire between them is great, and they both have some very memorable lines. The development of the characters is relatable as the pair try to find meaning behind why they fight, what it is they’re searching for, and what they really want out of life. The side characters are also very interesting. All of the enemies are unique and interesting. In fact, even the guys who only get 10 seconds of screen time are interesting. I’m going to say “interesting” one more time for emphasis, just in case you didn’t catch the first 30 times I said it. They all have fun quirks about them, and none of them really came off as annoying. One good example of this is the Maniwa Corps, a group of ninjas that are sort of like what Team Rocket is for Ash and Company on Pokemon, but way cooler. The difference is that while Team Rocket is made up almost entirely of storm troopers clones, every single of one of the 12 (14?) Maniwa members are unique. About 5 seconds ago (or 10-30 seconds depending on how fast you read), I mentioned that none of them come off as annoying. Well, that’s not entirely true. The fact that their motivations often fail the logic test, as I mentioned earlier, can come off a bit annoying at times. But even this does little to make them full blown annoying characters. Even Hou-oh, who I mentioned briefly earlier as acting out of random uncharacteristic impulse, turned out to be one of my favorite anime side characters in a long time. Basically what I’m trying to say is that the characters have minor annoying tendencies, but the core that makes them who they are is solid, and will keep you invested in them.
– Enjoyment (10/10)
Memorable dialogue? Check. Fun scenarios? Check. Colorful characters? Check. Fulfilling story? Check. Top-notch pacing? Check. Meaningful fight scenes? Check. A spattering of fan service here and there? Ding Ding Ding. We have a winner.
Its not the greatest show I’ve ever seen. But it’s definitely worth the watch. I honestly believe it would be rated a lot higher if people weren’t so upset with the ending. To cure that, I’ve decided to write an explanation. So if you haven’t yet finished the show, PLEASE STOP READING HERE. If you have finished the 12 episode series, here’s my take on what the ending was about…
(Warning: Light Spoilers)
Katanagatari (or Story of the Sword), taken as a whole, is about the falsification and course-correction of history. So it only makes sense that the first question we should ask is what part of history was corrected and what part was falsified?
Let’s start with what was falsified. The subject matter behind this story is China, not Japan. And Shichika is an anime-parallel of Jing Ke. Name sound familiar? If so, either you’re a history buff or you’ve watched too many Jet Li movies. Jing Ke, as some of you may know, is the main character of the 2002 Jet Li movie, “Hero” (although in the movie, he’s known as “nameless”). And the history that is course-corrected is Jing Ke failed assassination of Ying Zheng, the King of Qin, and the man who would later become China’s first Emperor. (the name Shichika in Japanese means “seven,” which could refer to the seven warring nations of Han before they were united under Ying Zheng) He’s also the one who ordered the eventual construction of the great wall of China to fend China off from foreign invaders, which the anime briefly mentions. The legend goes, Jing Ke earned an audience with Zheng upon presenting him with a present – the 12 broken swords of his greatest enemies. But in the end, Jing Ke failed because of two critical mistakes. First, he was paralyzed with fear for both himself and his loved ones at the sight of the King, and second, he was too slow in retrieving the poisoned dagger he hid in the scroll he presented to the King.
Now that the stage is set, let’s move on to course-correction. While it’s true that Emperor Zheng built the great wall, he was actually hated in China. The construction of the great wall cost the lives of millions, and Zheng was remembered as being a ruthless coward. And so peering into the future, Kiki Shikizaki (and his descendant Princess Hitei) attempted to course-correct Jing Ke’s failed assassination by getting rid of his two weaknesses – his human heart, and his need of a weapon. And so he taught Ke’s ancestor the Kyotouryuu and created the deviant blades as a condition precedent for Ke’s meeting with Zheng. Lastly, by killing Togame, the love of his life (who’s name in Japanese means “Blame” as in the one to blame for countless deaths), Princess Hitei fulfilled her ancestor’s goal in getting rid of Jing Ke’s second weakness, and turning him into a perfected weapon, without residual attachment to the world. This allowed him to overcome his fears, and even go as far as to wish for death. And so all the blood shed would not be in vain and millions of lives are saved from the clutches of China’s first tyrant. Of course, this would mean that Zheng could no longer build the great wall to protect China from invaders, to which Shichika replies (and I’m paraphrasing) – we’ll just have to trust the heroes of the future to tear them to pieces.
Ok, so that should explain what happened. I may be wrong, but at the very least, it gives you a basis for understanding the theme of this story. By focusing on what could have happened (history), rather than what did happen (anime), the ending should hold a bit more weight. The story doesn’t do that, it really couldn’t. That was something that had to be left to the viewer. Another thing that probably upset people is how Shichika ends up with Hitei. Well, that’s something you have to look at in context of the overarching theme of the anime – the falsification of history. History is written by the victor. Now ask yourself who you think the narrator of the story is. It could only be one person. And once you’ve figured that out, things should become clearer. History is written by the victor, and in this case a victor with a penchant for falsifying history. Is it not possible that the ending was a lie too? Call it a narrator’s wishful thinking, if you must. Hopefully, you were able to figure out what I meant. I can’t solve all your riddles for you. It would take too long. And by then, I will have already torn you all to pieces. Cheerio!
MAL Score: 8.95
The Amanto, aliens from outer space, have invaded Earth and taken over feudal Japan. As a result, a prohibition on swords has been established, and the samurai of Japan are treated with disregard as a consequence.
However one man, Gintoki Sakata, still possesses the heart of the samurai, although from his love of sweets and work as a yorozuya, one might not expect it. Accompanying him in his jack-of-all-trades line of work are Shinpachi Shimura, a boy with glasses and a strong heart, Kagura with her umbrella and seemingly bottomless stomach, as well as Sadaharu, their oversized pet dog. Of course, these odd jobs are not always simple, as they frequently have run-ins with the police, ragtag rebels, and assassins, oftentimes leading to humorous but unfortunate consequences.
Who said life as an errand boy was easy?
It’s strange to say this, but humour has never been a strong department for the medium, partly because of the cultural differences between East and West, but mainly because the majority of anime comedies rely more on parody than anything else. The problem with this is that quite often the viewer is left without a frame of reference, so the humour simply goes over their heads. Some shows manage to get away with it purely by throwing out an almost constant stream of gags in the hope that people will understand enough of them to be entertained, while others like Seto no Hanayome and Jungle wa Itsumo Hale Nochi Guu have a slightly more careful approach.
The area where anime is weakest is where situational comedy is concerned. There are plenty of shows around that could invariably class themselves as sit-coms, but the penchant for studios to base their stories in some sort of school setting severely limits the quality of the humour. In essence, the industry’s blind adherence to what they think is a winning formula has resulted in the dilution of just about every single joke that could be told in a school setting, so much so in fact that these days studios have fallen to relying on fanservice based comedies in order to make ends meet (pardon the pun).
Comedy anime isn’t dead though, as there are some rays of light shining down on the wreckage of red noses, bladders on sticks and giant shoes. Nodame Cantabile insane otaku heroine and her long suffering boyfriend introduced many people to the world of classical music and the usage of otaku power when learning French. Genshiken took a slightly rose tinted look at the multi-layered world of the Japanese otaku, while Moyashimon payed homage to the classic American frat comedy National Lampoon’s Animal House.
One series has, however, defied all the conventions, and has become one of the greatest comedy anime of all time. Incorporating elements from some of the best comedy of both East and West, the series has an anarchic streak that, at times, is more reminiscent of Monty Python, The Simpsons and Family Guy.
I am, of course, talking about Gintama.
The concept of a samurai sit-com isn’t new to anime and manga, however it wasn’t until the serialisation of Sorachi Hideaki’s manga in 2003 that anyone actually realised the potential in this type of story. Set in a quasi-historical Edo, Japan (and possibly the rest of the world), has been conquered by an alien race known as the Amanto. The nation’s strongest warriors were no match for the alien technology, and in an effort to prevent another samurai uprising, the powers that be have banned humans from carrying swords in public.
In this world there lives a former samurai with silver hair who runs the firm known as Yorozuya from his rented second floor apartment. From time to time he takes on odd jobs (yorozuya), for people in order to pay his rent and buy milkshakes and his beloved Weekly Shounen Jump.
He is Sakata Gintoki, and his destiny is to make you cry with laughter.
To say that the story is a bit on the haphazard side is probably a gross understatement, however Gintama is nothing if not consistent in its approach. The underlying story is of Gintoki and his “friends”, Shimura Shinpachi (an average human teenager with no real special qualities), and Kagura (an alien who looks human and possesses monstrous strength), as they go through their days doing odd jobs for people, getting into arguments/figths with the Shinsengumi (police, kind of), drinking strawberry milkshakes (or some other flavour depending on Gintoki’s mood), and trying in some small way to make the world a better place.
And that’s really about as serious as many of the episodes get. The haphazard approach to the story is a purposeful measure that, strangely enough, works very well, mainly because Gintama is a comedy series. There are story arcs that occur over the course of the show, and even though they may include some serious or dramatic content, Gintama never once loses its sense of fun. Indeed, the comedy is the true strength of this series, not simply in its style and delivery, but also in its content. Many of the visual gags have to be seen to be believed (seriously, how the hell did they get away with the Neo Armstrong Cyclone Jet Armstrong Cannon), and whilst the series is top-filled with parodies, the humour is always involving so the viewer rarely feels like a joke has gone over their head.
That said, Ginatama has one aspect that is greater than all others in terms of its plot and comedy content, and that is its ability to turn the seemingly ordinary into something completely different. This is the main reason why Gintama can be considered a sit-com rather than a parody, as this aspect has more in common with shows like Blackadder and Monty Python than anything else. There are numerous occasions where the series will catch the viewer off guard with its sly, anarchic take on seemingly normal events (like being in a public toilet and running out of paper).
Of course, there are downsides too. Although the series is extremely strong in terms of comedy, it sometimes lacks when events take a serious turn. This may be due to the audience’s reactions, as viewers may automatically think that something funny is going to happen next, however a part of it also stems from the fact that the comedy is sometimes too “strong”. It’s ironic to say this, but Gintama’s greatest strength may also be its biggest weakness.
As with any long running shounen series animation and design are pretty good on the whole. The characters convey a sense of visual individuality that at times goes beyond that of other shounen anime, although this is tempered with a small degree of genericism that allows the humour to flourish . The colours are extremely bold and solid, while the backgrounds and set designs highlight the synergy between alien technology and Edo. The animation itself is of an extremely high standard, so much so in fact that some of the visual gags only really work because of it.
The high points of the visuals are the show’s numerous and well crafted parodies. There are many occasions where the style, animation, end even the character design, changes to make the humour more immediate, sometimes occuring in the blink of an eye, and sometimes lasting for a good portion of a given episode. The series also plays around with a variety of concepts that most people only really read about, one example being an occasion where Gintoki and the gang are rendered invisible because the episode is incomplete. It’s nigh on impossible to find another anime that not only mentions something like this, but also shows the viewer what it would look like.
Much of the humour comes from the characters themselves, but no matter how good the scripting is, delivery is everything when it comes to comedy, and in this respect Gintama is extremely well served by its seiyuu. The cast are able to perform with a panache that is sometimes astonishing, and their portrayals of their respective characters are so good that one would be forgiven for believing they were full time comedians. Possibly the best example of this is Kugimiya Rie (Kagura), who for many years has been typecast into various tsundere roles. Her portrayal of Kagura is truly excellent, especially in terms of comedy, and much like the rest of the cast she manages to not only maintain a consistent character for a an extended period of time, but has actually become more adept with her timing and delivery.
Gintama is generally consistent with its choice of music, and certain tracks are repeated throughout the series usually to add to the comic atmosphere of a given scene. That said, some of the more serious moments can feel a little off-kilter as the score changes can sometimes be a little sudden. As with any long running series the OP and ED have changed since the show began airing in 2006. These tracks are usually pretty good at capturing the essence of Gintama (which just sounds wrong), as a whole, and the opening sequences are designed and choregraphed to highlight the important aspects of the anime – humour, fun, some seriousness, and a large slice of anarchy.
In all honesty, there is no real reason to find the characters outstanding, and the fact that they are iconic, original and memorable is possibly Gintama’s greatest triumph. Gintoki, Shinpachi, Kagura, the members of the Shinsengumi, and all the sundry characters, alien and otherwise, who appear in the show will find some funny bone to tickle. When taken as individuals each is a flawed creation that really wouldn’t work were this any other anime, but the plot and scripting for the series, together with the talent of the seiyuu and the design of each character, turns this idea completely on its head. Much of the comedy is dependent on the characters, and it’s because the series is so good at entertaining the audience that any noticeable flaws are generally forgiven or ignored.
Gintama is not simply a funny anime though. Over the seasons the show has gradually become a phenomenon in the medium, mainly because of its ability to maintain consistent humour for over most of its 201 episodes. The irreverent and oh-so anarchic humour can, at times, come off as weird, but this has only served to endear the series to more viewers.
Numerous fans refer to Gintama as their “anime crack”, a sentiment which is understandable in a sense as it has the ability to lift one’s mood in a way that few other anime can manage. That doesn’t mean that everyone will be entertained though, but if the viewer approaches the show with the right sort of mindset (e.g. open), then the series has a lot to offer.
That said, shounen fans will definitely find Gintama appealing, not simply because it bears all the stereotypical hallmarks of that genre of anime, but also for its ability to creatively parody other shounen tales (like Bleach, Naruto, One Piece, etc – who can forget the infamous DragonBleaPiece movie trailer). Fans of comedy anime like Seto no Hanayome, Jungle wa Itsumo Hale Nochi Guu and others of that ilk, will also find Gintama’s ability to mess with everyday concepts worthwhile.
There are plenty of aspects to the series that possess a broad appeal in terms of humour, and it’s to the credit of everyone involved with the production (from mangaka Sorachi Hideaki on down to the guy/girl who makes the tea), that the show never gets old, stale, or too bogged down in how good it actually is.
There’s a new king of comedy in town. Make way for Gintama.
Now this is a show I’ve wrestled with for a long time. Many of my friends pledged almost fanatically this is the best anime in existence. I watched the first episode. So this is it? I was not impressed. As a person who found pleasure in the darkest and most gloomy kinds of settings, I would almost immediately say that this was not for me. Everything was just so weird and appeared to be arbitrarily glued together.
I was so naïve.
At some point I picked Gintama up again, I’m one of the people who are not easily moved to laughter but still, there had to be something to this… Let me tell you this, Gintama is a journey, a pilgrimage. You will not appreciate it after two or three episodes, even twenty may not be enough. It took me sixty whole episodes when I was finally thoroughly entertained but it was then that I realized: Gintama is like a snowball rolling down a mountain. It’s barely recognizable at first but the next time you turn your gaze in its direction, it will have turned into an avalanche.
Sooo… yeah, this is actually hard. Gintama is composed of a series of mini arcs that have no real connection to each other. You can’t call it a consistent storyline but it’s also not really episodic, there are also fillers organically weaved into the style and pace of the anime. A strange kind of hybrid, that still works somehow. We have different little events like the Benizakura, Yoshiwara or Popularity Poll arc, which all are amazingly done. Action, drama and most of all comedy, Gintama’s got them all and none of them are bad. Also, because I can’t find a better place to do this, let may tell you a few things about the often overlooked setting. The pseudo-medieval, post war Japanese capital Edo with modern technology, invaded by a multitude of alien races called Amanto. Sounds utterly random right? Wrong. It is my firm believe that this setting is actually the backbone of Gintama. Why you ask? Because it allows for the greatest number of possible scenarios, different people and places. You can have a samurai, a rebel leader, an alien and a penguin costume guy added to the cast and nobody bats an eye, because it still feels natural. Never forget the setting, it makes this anime what it is.
It’s strange, when I started watching I thought to myself ‘This looks somehow generic’ but at the same time ‘This looks somehow unique’. It’s hard to explain but that’s the feeling I get from Gintama. Visual quality may not be top notch here but it gets progressively better, a fact that is especially apparent in latter battle sequences. I would leave it at nine points but there’s another thing… facial expressions. They are beyond hilarious, I won’t say too much about it but you will understand once you have seen a few exemplary episodes.
There are a few very iconic and memorable tracks on the Gintama OST, that’s probably due to the fact that they are used so frequently but that doesn’t mean that I ever got sick of them. Audio is mostly bright and uplifting, fitting to the animes focus on comedy. Opening and ending themes are also pleasing, notably Donten and Stairway Generation. This would also be a eight or nine if it wasn’t for the seiyuus. These guys are BRILLIANT! Every voice fits its character and Sugita Tomokazu is probably the most unique voice I have ever heard in anime. He’s now the voice of Gintoki for me, forever. Kugumiya Rie is a rather well-known name, revered for her roles as your run of the mill tsundere girls. Kagura was a kind of character that was probably new to her but she still did an excellent job. There are a dozen other examples but I’m not going into debt on all of them, only thing you have to know is that the voiceover job is amazing.
Alright, so this is the deciding factor that makes this anime awesome. Here we have some amazingly thought out characters and not just for comedy purposes, most of them have a backstory, even the vilest of antagonists are not just pure embodied malice. This is also what causes the anime to take time to get going, you have to get to know the characters. A naked random guy is very much different to a naked Isao Kondo. Almost all of them are likeable, memorable and most of all funny. We have no focus on development here but such progression would do more harm than anything else. It takes time to get to know them and that process is very important, changing a well-established character after that process is complete doesn’t strike me as a good idea.
It takes time, 60 episodes to get it rolling, 140 episodes to have me almost dying of laughter but it was well worth it. Gintama maintains a consistent, no, increasing level of entertainment over the course of its 201 episodes. It’s already hilarious and would have been even better if I was capable of understanding the Japanese language without subtitles or if I’d seen more anime to understand all the parodies going on. Knowledge of basic Shounen Jump, Ghibli Movies, NGE, Doraemon or Gundam widely enhances the spectrum of jokes you can laugh about. Even without that and as part of a western audience, I found myself crying out in laughter over a majority of the jokes, there are just so many of them, no way you can miss everything.
So are all these people right, is Gintama the best anime of all time? I dare not to pass judgment unto that, simply because Gintama is so unique and unconventional that I feel it falls into a category of its own. There is no competition for this anime in its specific category because it’s the only one that ever made it there. This is not the best of all anime, this is just Gintama, don’t lump it together with all the others! Even if they’re brilliant, if they’re entrancing, if they’re masterpieces, don’t make that mistake. I myself who is speaking so highly of this anime have other favorites; this is simply Gintama, no need for comparison.
If you plan on taking a shot at Gintama and you’re not completely hooked after the first few episodes, bring a lot of patience, it will pay off.
There isn’t a single cohesive narrative to Gintama. There are some loosely connected arcs, and a whole lot of episodes that have nothing to do with those arcs, but there is no single narrative. The basic setup is that the world has been conquered by aliens, referred to in Gintama as “Amanto” and the government is still subservient to them. Samurai are no longer allowed to carry swords except for a few who work for the government or who have wealth and connections. In this world a samurai named Gintoki works by, in theory, doing odd jobs. Although that largely consists of him doing nothing. His crew consists of a youngster named Shinpachi, an Amanto girl named Kagura who possesses super strength and is highly vulnerable to sunlight, and a giant dog named Sadaharu, our cute character who requires ear scritches and belly rubs. Hijinks ensue as this group and the people around them get into shenanigans.
Let’s begin by looking at the problems with the series, shall we? By far the biggest issue is that the writing aesthetic is horribly inconsistent. Most of the episodes are highly random and intended for humour but when they get to the more story heavy arcs things take a huge shift into serious territory, sometimes including really heavy topics like sex trafficking, and it creates a huge tonal clash between episodes. You can’t segue from jokes about testicles and bloody rectums into a story about an underground city where children are sold to be raised as sex slaves. There is quite literally no way to make that transition so that it isn’t painfully awkward and completely disrespectful to the serious issue. It’s worse than that Captain Planet episode that dealt with AIDS. Sure, that was way over the series’ head too, but there wasn’t such a radical tonal problem. The tone isn’t the only thing that has problems with consistency, there’s also the continuity. There are three basic ways to do continuity. The first is having a strict, coherent continuity where everything matters. The second is to have a basic progression from one episode to the next but the details aren’t that important. The third is to toss continuity out the window completely, like Galaxy Angel. The problem with Gintama is that it does all three. Some episodes deal very much with continuity as being super important, others follow the more fast and loose route where there’s a progression but the details aren’t important and there are other episodes that don’t fit into any kind of continuity and will never be mentioned again after they’re over.
Now that we’ve been over that, let’s talk a bit about the comedy in this series that is, mostly, comedic. A lot of it is pretty puerile humour where someone defecates in their pants, or someone’s anus bleeds or where the punchline is something involving testicles. There are also a lot of bits where the characters will make loud references to some other piece of media and there are some other random bits of humour. The trouble is, a lot of it really isn’t funny. For example, there’s a running gag about one of the characters eating too much mayonnaise which is funny because… if he ate that much mayo in reality he’d weigh two hundred kilos and have to get around with a motorised scooter? There are two characters who pretty much exist for stalker jokes and there’s another running joke about Katsura getting annoyed by people calling him the wrong thing. There are times when the randomness can work and there are some points where they parody something competently instead of just making reference to it but they’re few and far between. I will give the series full credit for having some surprisingly clever deconstructions here and there, particularly when it comes to its treatment of trans-gendered characters.
Gintama has a large cast of reoccurring characters, but very little in terms of complex ones. Most of them are used for one or two jokes and that’s pretty much it. I will say that there’s nothing wrong with that for a comedic work. You can have a bunch of fairly one-note characters as long as they have dynamics that provide good comedic possibilities and you can take advantage of that. The problem is the more serious episodes. This cast would be perfectly passable if the series didn’t have those largely serious story arcs but when you take a bunch of relatively shallow comedic characters and try to do something fairly serious with them it just quickly loses any sense of tension and the characters come across as heavily under-developed, if not as completely out of place.
The artwork and animation are pretty decent. There are some cases where they recycle footage or show a background with nothing happening, which they will almost always lampshade, but it’s competently done. The action sequences can be pretty strong, both when they’re doing something largely serious and when they’re doing a jokey action scene.
The actors are pretty capable and no one does badly. However, the level of over-exaggeration in the series is really high and you might very well find yourself growing weary of listening to people shouting. The music varies. Sometimes it’s pretty good, sometimes it’s kind of annoying. Mostly, it’s just kind of bland.
There’s some in the series. There’s an openly lesbian character who shows up on a semi-regular basis and there’s a guy who is heavily implied to have romantic feelings for Sougo who shows up for a couple of episodes late in the series. There’s no reciprocation for their feelings, but they also aren’t used for jokes based on their sexuality. Some of the other characters act like asses about it at points, but the series itself doesn’t treat it as an issue. So, I’ll give Gintama some credit for treating its gay characters no differently than it does its straight characters. It is pretty refreshing, especially when you have “comedies” like Baka to Test that have to be as mean-spirited as possible about things like that.
Gintama has a real problem with consistency. Its tone is wildly inconsistent which can lead to some really awkward and stilted moments. It’s inconsistent with what it wants to do with its continuity. If you like humour that’s more than a little puerile and pretty random then you might still enjoy the series in spite of that and there are some things it does pretty decently but it’s honestly not my cup of tea in that regard. I just don’t find ninety percent of the attempts at humour to be amusing. As such, I have to give the series a 4/10. Next week we’ll have this year’s film festival. Starting with Kara no Kyoukai 6 on Sunday. Because I’ve looked at that franchise first during the last two years and I might as well do it this time as well.
1: Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
English: Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
Japanese: 鋼の錬金術師 FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST
MAL Score: 9.16
After a horrific alchemy experiment goes wrong in the Elric household, brothers Edward and Alphonse are left in a catastrophic new reality. Ignoring the alchemical principle banning human transmutation, the boys attempted to bring their recently deceased mother back to life. Instead, they suffered brutal personal loss: Alphonse’s body disintegrated while Edward lost a leg and then sacrificed an arm to keep Alphonse’s soul in the physical realm by binding it to a hulking suit of armor.
The brothers are rescued by their neighbor Pinako Rockbell and her granddaughter Winry. Known as a bio-mechanical engineering prodigy, Winry creates prosthetic limbs for Edward by utilizing “automail,” a tough, versatile metal used in robots and combat armor. After years of training, the Elric brothers set off on a quest to restore their bodies by locating the Philosopher’s Stone—a powerful gem that allows an alchemist to defy the traditional laws of Equivalent Exchange.
As Edward becomes an infamous alchemist and gains the nickname “Fullmetal,” the boys’ journey embroils them in a growing conspiracy that threatens the fate of the world.
I admit that as I’ve seen the original and read the manga, the pacing of Brotherhood seems to start off being VERY fast (I finally got used to the pacing after watching the first fifteen eps or so). Events that took up half a volume of the manga and had spread though a few episodes of the original anime were now shown in just a single episode. However, after trying to look at it from the perspective of someone who’s new to FMA (not comparing it to the manga nor the original), I believe that the pacing works and it manages to tell an intriguing story effectively with little confusion. The plot is full of clever ideas and unpredictable twists that link various parts of the story together. By the final episode, all loose ends are neatly tied up and what’s left is a hugely satisfying epilogue.
The animation in FMA Brotherhood is crisp and very well done (although it does sometimes dip a bit in quality). Compared to the original FMA it’s a bit simpler but that’s just because the original set a very high standard to follow. The facial emotions of the characters are also perfectly presented. The action scenes are brilliant and VERY well animated, with a variety of alchemy techniques and other talents being displayed nearly every episode. The various battles are consistently exciting to watch, but somehow get even better towards the end of the series.
The voice acting is of an excellent and consistent quality, and I think that pretty much all the characters have voice actors which suit their personalities. The majority of the openings/endings are a pleasure to watch due to fantastic animated sequences and theme songs. The background music which play during the episodes usually fit very well with the situation, although some tracks seem to be overused a little at first. This becomes less of a problem as the series progresses, with plenty of new music being introduced to support the story as it reaches the finale.
Moving on to the characters (best thing about this series), the original FMA focussed mainly on Ed and Al and on their struggles to regain their bodies, whereas Brotherhood also explores other characters to great detail at the same time. The majority of the spotlight is still on the two brothers, but it highlights their interactions with new characters which were not present in the original anime. New characters include a group of people from Xing (a neighbouring country), another person from the Armstrong family (who I think has become one of the coolest members of the supporting cast), and a new main antagonist. For me, the Xingese characters in particular (Ling Yao and Mei Chang among others) provide a new dimension to the FMA world, by showing us a different culture to the militaristic one we’re familiar with. I think the new antagonist is an improvement on the original FMA, as this person has a much stronger and clever link to the Elric brothers’ father. Returning characters from the original FMA, such as Mustang and Scar, are much more awesome and developed due to the fact that Brotherhood is 100% faithful to the manga. Plus, Winry Rockbell now has a much more active role in the story. I can say for sure that this anime has one of the best main/supporting casts I’ve ever seen, and you’d probably find it difficult to label any of the recurring characters (whether they are good or evil) as being either boring or unnecessary in terms of the storyline.
One of the many good things about this series is that there has been absolutely no filler at all (yes, I’m thinking of Naruto, Inuyasha, etc), which prevents the story from losing momentum. All the episodes are concise and every scene is important as part of the huge plot. The dialogue fully explains everything and is straight to the point. As multiple characters are explored there are lots of side stories, but these are all perfectly intertwined with the main story of the Elric brothers and more often than not directly influence their journey too. Like most anime series, there are things from the manga which have been left out, but these are usually just restricted to comedy moments. There has been one episode which shows a lot of flashbacks of events so far, but that’s forgiven as it shows the most epic moments of the series, and also provided us with some history on the father of the Elric brothers.
FMA Brotherhood will be sorely missed now that it’s finished. It is excellent in every aspect and has very little, if anything, that can be called a flaw (maybe rushed character development at first due to the fast pacing, but this quickly subsides). Each episode feels like it’s too short, a testimony to how much it draws you in to the story and characters. There are moments which leave you smiling, laughing, sad and simply amazed. Try this anime, it’s recommended for absolutely everyone, to newcomers and to those familiar with Fullmetal Alchemist.
I’m not a huge fan of the MAL categorical rating system, as I’ve mentioned in some of my previous reviews. I oftentimes outright ignore it. However, looking at the categories right now, I feel as though this is one instance where I can use it to talk about everything I want to so I’m going to use it.
The FMA:B plot and world-building are some of its strongest aspects. The world that it creates is an immersive, full-feeling thing with many animate pieces that move even when you aren’t looking at them. It’s an extremely creative world as well, adopting its own set of universal laws including alchemy through equivalent exchange, mind-body duality and its own interpretation of a higher power, and it sticks by these laws. Never once does the story contradict its own rules, instead using them in creative ways to build off of each other. The plot is also one of the most engaging parts of the show, unveiling itself at just the right pace to keep you interested whilst still keeping a few major cards to play at the very end. The pieces fall into place in a way that is satisfying because it simultaneously mind-blowing and obvious, and that’s one of the marks of strong storytelling.
While the FMA:B story is certainly one of the best I’ve seen, I find that I have to withhold my 10 score here on the grounds that its incredible direction and creativity are marred by some detrimental weaknesses. First of all, the exposition is handled extremely poorly. The first and third episodes feel like they’re from some shitty cartoon network show, the show blatantly ignores the show-don’t-tell rule in the entirety of its first chunk (with characters spelling out exactly what is happening and why it’s happening) and its tendency to repeat important plot points over and over again quite frankly feels insulting to me as the audience as though the show is assuming I’m not able to pay attention or figure things out for myself and need to have the fact that Ed and Al committed the sin of human transmutation and lost their bodies told to me at least twenty-five times in the first two hours of show. Secondly, there’s a period of time which I would probably refer to as the third fourth of the show (episodes 40-53ish) in which the show drags incredibly, adopting a typical battle-shonen approach of having characters engage in multiple-episode long one-on-one or two-on-one battles, giving them plenty of time to pose and stand off and monologue at each other. This isn’t how fighting or war works, and these contrived battles really take away a lot of the climactic atmosphere. Finally, the show’s ending is not nearly as satisfying as I wish it had been. The final few episodes are for the most part brilliant, but once the show plays all its cards and it’s resolution time, it wraps itself up with cliches and in-your-face themes.
The art is absolutely astounding 80% of the time and absolutely horrid 20% of the time. Thus the 8 score. The action is all stunning, the openings gorgeous, the backgrounds consistent and unique, building a sense of a real lived-in world. The character designs are sometimes a little bland, but for the most part they are memorable and the homunculi look brilliant so I don’t have any real complaints there.
What I have a problem with is the obnoxious number of times that the show goes “anime” – reducing its characters to shittily-drawn caricatures and its animation to blocky, looped motion. Usually this is used during the shows attempts at humor, which I’ll talk about later, but most of the time it was just extremely cringe-inducing and distracting, ruining the sense of continuity and immersion in this world. The show obviously wants you to take it seriously (it sure loves its drama) and when Al is portrayed as a big grey mound with a squiggle for a mouth it makes this difficult. There’s a difference between having your character goof around and having the show itself goof around. It almost feels like a laugh-track, telling the audience “this is the funny part!”
For the most part, however, the art is gorgeous. When it counts, it shines, and that’s really what matters.
Undeniably the strongest aspect of the show. I have no complaints whatsoever. The soundtrack is never distracting but always effective, the voice-actors (especially for Bradley and Al) absolutely nailed it and the openings and endings… dear lord. It’s been said before, but the openings and endings to FMA:B are some of the very best ever made, both in sound and visuals. They tell small stories of their own. They set the tone for the episode and for their section of the show as a whole. I especially loved ‘Golden Time Lover’ and ‘Chemistry’, but I have to give special mention to SID’s ‘Rain’. As far as I’m concerned, that opening could have been the end of the show. It single-handedly established a sense of finality, a long-endured struggle of these characters and their causes. Everyone is portrayed as exhausted, weak and full of both despair and determination: protagonist and antagonist alike, fighting under the rain. Not for glory, not for honor, but just for the one thing they care most for. Personally, it made me extremely hyped for the final stretch of the show. It wasn’t quite what we got, but at least we got some of it.
I believe that there is an intense connection between a show’s opening and the audience’s willingness to appreciate it. It is very likely that the intensity of many fanbases is in part due to the ability that openings such as these have to maintain feelings in regards to the show, oftentimes perhaps even distorting or altering memories of the show itself into what the opening would have you believe the show was like rather than what it was actually like. Obvious examples that jump to mind are Sword Art Online’s “Courage” and Guilty Crown’s “My Dearest”. Remember how those shows were absolutely nothing like that? No?? IT’S TOO LATE FOR YOU
But I digress.
I would definitely call out the show’s characters on being the weakest link and the most undeserving of the praise that the show receives. For starters, the writing is often clunky and awkward, but that’s not the main issue. It’s because most of them are not really characters: they’re plot devices with one or two distinguishing traits tacked on. They’re entirely predictable, not because they feel like real people but because they do the same things over and over again. Al talks about what he’ll do when he gets his body back. Ed talks about how they’ll find a way and how they will atone for their mistakes and etc. It’s not that it’s melodrama: it’s the fact that it’s the SAME melodrama over and over again. It wasn’t until sometime past episode 30 that Ed stopped sounding perpetually like a broken record and started to feel as though he were actually developing, but even then he was really just defined by his arc and not by any amount of complexity.
And that’s the pitfall that so many of these characters fall into. If your character’s only real traits beyond their development for the sake of the show are “hates being called short” and “hates milk” they’re really more of a tool with some googly eyes stuck on to them. Other characters are even worse: Armstrong is manly. His sister is more manly. Mustang wants to be Fuhrer and avenge Hughes (he’s even got this great relationship with Hawkeye that could have been seriously compelling if they ever had any real conversations about anything besides “we must overthrow the government” and “Hughes!” over and over again). Winry likes Ed and automail. Ling wants to be emperor. Now, FMA:B is a complex, busy show. I could understand if it didn’t have the time to make these characters anything more than chess pieces for its grand and elaborate plot, giving them a few distinguishing traits because that’s really all it can manage without dragging itself out immensely. But it DOES have the time: it has all the time it spends having Ed yell about being called short. It has all the time it spends having Armstrong pull of his shirt and yell about being manly. It has all the time it spends having Ed and Al talk about getting their goddamn bodies back over and fucking over again as though I would somehow manage to forget it. Ling passing out from lack of food. May fawning comically over Ed. Mustang is antisocial LOL. The same gags, over and over again, barely even rehashed in any original way. Not only do they become painful to watch, they devour all of the development that this shallow cast of characters could have had to make me actually invested in them. They’re far too static, with most of them having a single change or revelation over the course of the show’s 64 episodes in order to indicate that they have grown as a person. But a good character has so much more than that: what kind of music do these people listen to? Why? Who are their role models? Why? What books do they like? What are their favorite places to eat? What do they appreciate in the people they’re close to?? What are their personal histories…
Oh wait, sorry! I didn’t mean to ask that last one! Please, I take it back! NOOOOOOO…
Yeah so I forgot to mention something. Screw all that stuff about making these characters possess complex personalities, FMA:B has a better way to define them.
Everyone who’s remotely relevant has a traumatic backstory. It’s a harsh world, sure. I get that. Here’s the issue: people are introduced and then defined through their trauma. Now this isn’t Angel Beats bad, where horrible things happen to perfectly innocent people for no reason. Most of the tragedy is partially a result of the decisions of the characters involved, and their resulting struggle is a combination of having to cope with the consequences and with themselves and their mistakes. However, this cannot be used as a SUBSTITUTE for character development. A supplement, sure, but I still remember in episode four when Ed and Al meet a state alchemist who literally introduces himself with something along the lines of “my wife left me because we were too poor” before he even tells them his goddamn NAME. Here, come on in! Take a seat! Would you like some sorrow pie or tragic backstory cake? We have plenty! Ed and Al’s dad left, then their mom died, then they f*cking ripped their bodies apart. Winry’s parents were murdered in cold blood. Mustang had to kill lots of people. Armstrong had to kill lots of people. Everyone had to kill lots of people. Scar watched everyone he loved get killed, and then had to kill lots of people. These are always the first things we find out about people, and then for the rest of the show they are defined almost exclusively by them. If anyone is overly happy and wholesome, it means something horrid is going to happen to them. It’s basic emotional manipulation. Look at this adorable little girl and her dog! Dead. Look at this smiling, picturesque family! Husband dead. Dead. Everyone innocuously happy has to die or lose someone close to them. The more broken and internally conflicted you are, the safer you are. There’s no need to pile more grief on Scar, so he’s relatively safe.
Yes, the characters suffer from repeatable and preventable problems. They exist mainly to function as morals-in-a-bottle with gags tacked on to them. They’re difficult to relate to, because all we know about them is whatever themes they embody and one or two dumb jokes. Ikuhara writes characters more personable than this, and his stories don’t make sense on PURPOSE. I did give the characters a 6 though, and there are reasons for that.
First off, despite their lack of humanization the characters complete their tasks of being walking themes with relative effectiveness. This isn’t anywhere near Log Horizon S1 bad. These characters are here for a reason, they represent something, and they represent those things well. Sure, they could have easily been better, but they fulfill their purpose and for that alone they are not failures. I will also give special mention to Scar, who, while still actively defined by his trauma was executed far more impressively than the other characters. This is probably in part because the show actually viewed him as morally ambiguous as opposed to just making the character FEEL morally ambiguous when there was really no doubt that the show wanted you to think this was a ‘good guy’ (*cough* Mustang)
Second off, there are some exceptions to the rule. Most of my complaints thusfar have been leveled at the shows protagonists. They are the ones that suffer from dismal repetition and blatant violation of show-don’t-tell. Where the show does excel is with its antagonists. There are seven homunculi in the show, incarnations of the seven deadly sins, and they so utterly clobber their “good-guy” counterparts in terms of being engaging, personable subtle characters that it isn’t even funny. Their intensive backstories are never shoved in your face, their apparent contradictions are given plenty of time to be uncovered by the viewer, and the deliciously ironic conclusions to their arcs are done tactfully. Many times I found myself actively routing for them because they were just so much more interesting and well-executed. I would happily watch an “Adventures of the Homunculus” spinoff cataloging the several hundred years most of them lived before the start of the series.
I was constantly gripped by the plot. I actively looked forward to the openings and endings. The art was oftentimes orgasmic. The homunculi made me want to start looking for ingredients to make a philosopher’s stone with. However, I was constantly frustrated by the show’s apparent lack of respect for its viewers and by its absolutely abysmal humor. I’ve already said it, but I don’t know if I’ve driven home just how infuriating it is to have exposition repeated to you over and f*cking over again and how cringe-inducing it is when somebody violates the show-don’t-tell rule at extremely tense and crucial moments. It actively snapped me out of the experience whenever Ed and Al had a conversation about getting their bodies back after the 5th time it happened, and when God literally spelled out for Ed that he had discovered the meaning of life I facepalmed hard. That’s not how you do themes, man. That just comes off as preachy. That’s something the show suffered constantly from: it felt incredibly preachy. It’s character’s speeches about the answers they had found to their struggles felt much more pointed at the audience than at anyone in the show they were talking to, and that bothered the ever-loving crap out of me. And have I mentioned the humor? For every joke the show has that lands, it tries about five others that fall on their face. As I’ve already mentioned, they’re repetitive and used as a substitute for meaningful character interactions and development. It seems as thought the show is trying to use them as a counterbalance for its immense amount of melodrama, but instead they end up just ripping apart the tone and stagnating the story. Despite these gripes, I did overall enjoy the experience and felt that the positives did inevitably outweigh the negatives so I will happily give it a 7 for enjoyment.
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is not a masterpiece. It’s a very respectable, unique, inspired and creative show and it’s definitely a classic. I would happily recommend this to most people. However, don’t go in with irrational expectations. It’s enjoyable, it’s engaging, it will definitely give you plenty to think about, but in my personal opinion it gets a little too much praise and a little too much hype. I probably would have enjoyed it more myself if I hadn’t heard nothing but angelic worship for it before going into it. I formally apologize to any huge fans of the show that I may have offended: it’s not by any means a bad show! I don’t give out 7s all that lightly, believe me. This is merely an argument against FMA:B being the be-all-end-all of anime. Thanks for reading if you made it through that wall of text, and have a nice day!
One of the issues at hand seems to be ownership as producers, writers and directors all seem to want the work to be reflective of their style and perception, and in order to stamp their mark on a show they will makes numerous unnecessary changes or additions. Admittedly there are times when the adaptation supersedes the original work, but more often than not the result is at best a decent anime, and at worst utter twaddle.
And then there’s the other side of the coin, where the anime adaptation sticks to the storyline set out in the original work. Normally one would expect these to be superior works, but in a strange irony this is not always the case. The problem with these types of adaptations is that the original work may not have been very good, or even have a suitable narrative, to begin with, and turning them into anime only seems to exacerbate their inherent flaws.
Fortunately, the Full Metal Alchemist franchise manages to steer clear almost all of these pitfalls. The problem is, there are no other anime that have so evenly split the viewing public’s opinion between the two versions of the series. Unlike the 2003 adaptation, Brotherhood is a faithful representation of Arakawa Hiromu’s hit manga, and while many fans of the franchise laud it as the best thing since sliced bread, there are a number who consider the original anime version to be the superior tale.
But we’ll get to that in a bit.
Many people will already be familiar with the particulars of the story, and in a very real sense the common perception is well formed. Unfortunately, one of the problems with liking something too much is that one becomes blinded to its flaws, and while Brotherhood has very few noticeable ones where the narrative is concerned, this also serves to make them stand out.
The story is told in a very straight forward, no nonsense manner that is kind of refreshing given the penchant for filler episodes. The issue though, is that the content of the tale is much lighter in tone, much more typically “shounen” in its essence, than that of the first adaptation. One of the reasons for this is because the undercurrent of obsession amongst the main characters peters out towards the end of the story – a stark contrast to the ending in the first adaptation. Instead, these obsessive behaviours are effectively “de-humanised” by pushing them on to the non human characters.
There is a very clear sense that the plot is geared towards a more typical shounen standpoint and mentality, and while the whole still works very well as a story, one does have to wonder if the writers for the first adaptation didn’t steal a march on Arakawa. It’s possible that she had to change her idea of how the tale should develop because the first anime version took a much darker path than most other shounen franchises.
That said, the ending allows for a degree of catharsis that was missing from the first adaptation, and although there are some broad similarities between the two versions at times, in truth they are as different as chalk and cheese. As an added bonus this series is far less dependent on random comedic moments, and the difference this makes to the flow of the plot is palpable when the two versions are directly compared.
One big advantage that Brotherhood has is that the seven year gap has allowed for improvements in various aspects of production, and it shows in a number of areas. The animation is more fluid than before, although admittedly the difference isn’t really obvious at first and only really appears during large scale action set pieces. The character designs will be very familiar to any fan, but are subtly sharper and more defined than in the previous series.
Interestingly enough, one of the biggest plus points for Brotherhood is actually its wealth of interesting characters.
As one would expect, a number of the characters from the first adaptation appear in Brotherhood, but there are also several who are notable for their absence as they do no appear in the manga. Instead, a horde of new characters appear throughout the course of the series, many of whom have their own goals, ideals and personalities. Indeed the biggest difference between the two versions is the sheer number of people who all seem to have some impact on the story.
For much of the series Edward and Alphonse Elric behave in a manner that many who have watched the first adaptation will find familiar, and one of the nice things about this is that familiarity is used to very subtly develop the pair into very different characters. The change in their personas happens very gradually, but by the end of Brotherhood one can see just how much growth the pair has undergone.
Strangely enough, the most interesting additions to the series are actually Yao Ling and Olivier Mira Armstrong (Alex Louis Armstrong’s older sister – but without all the muscle flexing), two of the supporting roles. Yao Ling presents a strange dichotomy for the series to tackle, and while he doesn’t develop as much as he possibly could have, this is offset by the moral and ethical dilemmas inherent in his situation towards the end of the series. On the other Olivier Armstrong possesses some of the strongest characterisation in the whole story, and while she is without doubt a major player at certain points of the show, what makes her interesting is the fact that the viewer is never quite sure of her goals.
There are a number of very strong characterisations in the series, but one of the things that is a little strange is the difference between the two versions where the homunculi are concerned. Unlike the first adaptation the homunculi in Brotherhood have very different origins, even though they still deal with similar obsessions. This raises an interesting perspective on the series as a whole, and is one of the reasons why Brotherhood is far more of a shounen tale than the original adaptation. The plot takes on a subtly lighter tone, even though it may not seem that way, once their origins are understood, and the main reason for this is the “de-humanisation” I mentioned earlier. The viewer is aware that these characters, though human-like in form, are not linked to humans in any way, and this awareness acts as a buffer so the viewer is less likely to question the actions and behaviour of the homunculi. In essence one is subjected to the ethos that monsters are evil and do bad things, which raises some interesting issues where Kimblee, Greed and the military’s generals are concerned.
The quality of the acting is possibly the main reason why Brotherhood is able to pull off its feat of developing not only the familiar characters, but also the new additions. Paku Romi and Kugimiya Rie reprise their roles as Edward and Alphonse Elric, but with the exception of a few roles, the remaining cast are very different from the first outing. Now normally one might consider this a recipe for disaster, but it’s a testament to the quality of not only the actor’s abilities, but also the scriptwriters, that this series easily stands shoulder to shoulder with the original.
The music is very well composed and produced, and the series has a surprisingly large number of opening and ending themes, especially for 64 episode series. That said, fans of Brotherhood may find themselves in a bit of a quandary, especially if they prefer the OPs and EDs from the first series. As for the sound effects, they are handled in a decidedly competent manner that makes one wonder why other shounen anime seem to have trouble in this department. Granted there are occasions when there’s a bit of a cacophony, but in general the effects are clear, bold, and well choreographed.
Now unlike most viewers, I actually consider Brotherhood to be equal to the first series, and I don’t really fall on one side or another. Like a number of fans my preference is for the much darker tone of the first series, however the cathartic ending of Brotherhood, as well as the improvements in production and animation, go some way to balancing the scales. Some people prefer the somewhat darker nature to Ed’s character from the first adaptation, but in all honesty the rationale behind the two versions is very different, and while they’re broadly the same character, that perception is only really valid until the last few episodes of either show. The same principle applies to Alphonse, Roy Mustang, in fact to most of the characters.
That said, Brotherhood is just as entertaining and involving as its predecessor, and it’s a testament to Arakawa’s skill as a mangaka that she has been able to produce a tale that, at the very least, rivals the original anime adaptation.Yes, Brotherhood is more typically shounen than the other version, but the nice thing about this is that fans are given two very good versions of the same story, and that is something rare in anime.
Now if only all remakes, revisions or reboots could be this good.
Did YOUR favorite anime make the cut? Let us know in the comments below!
1. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
4. InuYasha: Kanketsu-hen
5. Katekyo Hitman Reborn!
7. Angel Beats!
8. Heartcatch Precure!
9. Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt
10. Toaru Kagaku no Railgun