They’re the best Anime that 2008 has to offer! We counts down the best anime to come out this year, including the likes of Casshern Sins, Golgo 13 (TV), Nijuu Mensou no Musume, and more!
10: Casshern Sins
English: Casshern Sins
Japanese: キャシャーン SINS
MAL Score: 7.52
In a distant future, Earth has become a wasteland and humanity as we know it has died out. All that remains are sentient robots. They were supposed to be able to live forever—until the one called Luna died and The Ruin started. Their bodies will rust, and there is nothing that can be done to fix it. Now the robots are left only to contemplate their deaths, kept going only by the rumor that if they eat the one called Casshern they will gain immortality.
Casshern knows nothing about his past, why he exists or what he is, but he must find out or he will face the constant torment of being hunted by robots who don’t want to die. Casshern leaves death wherever he goes, but he must face it if he is to find out the truth of this world.
Like most good shows, Casshern is amazing in a number of areas and wouldn’t be the same without any of them. The soundtrack, voice acting, animation, directing, fights, dialog, art – everything aligns just right to create a show that is just about perfect for what it is. I’ll be getting into detail on that now.
Casshern Sins has a very powerful and gripping soundtrack composed by Kaoru Wada (Princess Tutu, Tekkaman Blade, To Heart). The songs are all symphonic, ranging from minimalist and pretty to towering and sinister. The loud songs are very intensely dramatic and dark to the point that some (like the first track Sins) sound outright evil. (Interestingly, that song sounds like the symphonic version of an Opeth song.) The calmer songs are usually very airy and often acoustic-guitar driven. They definitely evoke images of Casshern’s world where you’ve heard them in the background. While either type is great, I prefer the calm songs if only because the more dramatic ones would go better with the show.
There is something very mysterious but also very charming about these calmer songs. They bring a sense of wonder mixed with familiarity. It’s a sense like seeing something totally new, but so enthralling that it feels like home. The ultimate song that captures this feeling is ‘Memory Past’ which is the song that usually played whenever Casshern met someone new and learned their story. The closest real musical comparison I have for this OST is the music in Phendrana Drifts in Metroid Prime which has always been some of my favorite composition. In the context of the series, all of the songs work superbly well to add ten extra layers of tone onto the already tone-tacular series. The music is notable straight from episode 1, which I guess it’d have to be to make me go and find the OST.
In addition to the OST, there has been a Best Theme Collection from this series. The show has one opening theme (Aoi Hana by color bottle) and 3 endings (Reason by KANA, Aoi Kage by Otoya Kichiemon, and Hikari to Kage by Kuno Shinji), the second of which is only used for one episode. The best theme collection has the op and main eds in TV size, several instrumental versions of Aoi Kage, two original tracks by Wada Kaoru, two important vocal insert songs from te series (Sky and A Path by Nami Miyahara who voices Lyuze), and finally, both the original Tatakae! Casshan! theme and a new, heavy version of the song by Otoya Kichiemon.
I personally didn’t care much for the 2 main eds, but I found myself completely unable to skip the op for even one episode. It is easily one of my favorite opening songs in a while. Aoi Kage and the modern Tatakae! Casshan! are both awesome because they manage to play heavy metal acoustics. Anything that can do that is automatically awesome. The old-school Tatakae! Casshan! is the ultimate great touch for lovers of old-school tatsunoko songs. However, great as that all is, Sky and A Path were the real reasons I was interested in this release. These songs made episode 8 of the show amazing and reappear at many great moments later in the show. Both are extemely pretty and wonderful, and Nami Miyahara’s English is excellent (evidently she studied English in Australia).
It’s worth making the statement that Casshern Sins has some of the coolest sound effects ever. The effects during fights are visceral, intense, and completely full of impact. Care was taken to make the sound effects just right and give every hit that needed extra edge. I’m thinking that they made a lot of the effects in the studio, seeing as there were very organic sounds of like pots breaking or the creak of metal. It’s pretty rare I think these days for so much craft to go into sound effects in anime, so it’s pretty notable when it does.
As far as voice acting goes, this show amassed a royal fuckton of talent. Being as there were so many minor characters, a lot of voices were required, and Madhouse didn’t skip out on giving every single character a standout voice. For starters, Casshern himself is voiced by Tohru Furuya (certainly most notable as freaking Amuro Ray, as well as Tuxedo Mask, Pegasus Seiya, and Yamcha) which is a very interesting performance. The voice of Casshern is certainly unique, sounding strong but never stern, and in pain but never really weak. The voice adds a lot of mystery to the character, sounding like the robot he is, who doens’t quite understand emotion even though he seems to feel it. The best part though is his wails in agony which are used frequently when Casshern’s body self-repairs. That dude’s wails are frightening.
Nami Miyahara plays Lyuze with the perfect mixture of resolve, confusion, rage, and love. Like Casshern, hers is a very distinct voice. Yuko Minaguchi (Videl – Dragonball, Yawara, Akiko – Kanon) does a completely superb job as Ringo. She should be cast as every single little kid in anime. I’ve never heard a kid voice that managed to sound young and yet in no way annoying. Best kid voice ever. ‘Cho‘ reprises his role as every old man in anime, lol. Akiko Yajime (Diva – Blood+, Shin-chan, Relena Peacecraft, Kuu – Haibane – damn that’s range) brings her mysterious voice to Luna which tricks you with it’s very regal sound until you start to see another side… well that’s a spoiler. Kenji Utsumi (Shenlong – DBZ, Zodd – Berserk, Lt. Armstrong – FMA) is Braiking Boss who he played in the old version of the show as well, bringing a nostalgia factor.
Toshiyuki Morikawa (Who is in everything. His list is totally nuts.) is awesome as Dio. He plays the perfect rival character. His voice has a darkness to it, but not like an evil bad-dude, more like a man driven by dark purposes but full of resolve, which Dio is. Mami Koyama (Lunch – Dragonball – yes, most of the cast worked on Dragonball, Balalaika – Black Lagoon) brings the thunder as Leda who is convincingly evil and conceited, but also has an inner emotional side. Some of my favorite minor character performances include Mami Koyama’s second roll as Lizbell in episode 7 (which is interestng because Koyama is Tohru Furuya’s ex-wife, which when you think about it makes certain scenes very awkward), Tomoko Akiya whose performance as Sophita is borderline creepy and very fun, and Taeka Kawata who plays Nico, the little girl whose brain has been fried.
Casshern Sins is animated by Madhouse. The dudes who brought you (alphabetically) Black Lagoon, Boogiepop Phantom, Death Note, Dennou Coil, Gunslinger Girl, Nana, everything Satoshi Kon, Texhnolyze, Trigun, and X, just to name a few. If you’ve seen none of those, I’ll just say it – they have incredibly high production quality and have been around forever. To give you an idea of how high their budget is, the first half of Casshern Sins aired simultaneously with three other Madhouse shows, the second half with one, all of which had unfaltering high-quality animation throughout. There is pretty much no other studio who can do something like that. So it really comes as no surprise when I say that Casshern Sins has incredibly beautiful animation.
The most instantly and consistently notable thing about Casshern’s art is the luscious backgrounds. The background art is almost incomparably beautiful – almost. Probably only one show matches up to it, it being Mushi-shi, which is why it’s no surprise that Yoshihiko Umakoshi was the art director and character designer for both series (a dual job he’s done for Zipang, Street Fighter Alpha, and Boys Over Flowers, none of which I’ve seen. He also did it for Air Master which doesn’t matter because that show is fugly, probably thanks to budget.) I’ve actually watched an interview with this guy on one of the Mushi-shi DVDs and while he is very boring to listen to, I do remember him saying that he was a perfectionist and would always stress that there be boatloads of detail in the backgrounds, which I guess he’s still up to.
Casshern’s art is almost always barren, lifeless, and cold. The world of Casshern faces ruin (basically, apocalypse) and so there is little life to be found. The landscape is jagged and covered in large mountains, hills, valleys, craters, and deserts of sand and snow. Remnants of civilization can be found, some cold cities have buildings that still tower while others have fallen apart and buildings have become decrepit husks. Some places have become so dry and ruined that the ground has actually crystallized and cracks under every step. Occasionally, though, there are places of lush, brimming life to be found. Secret gardens surviving in caves or wellsprings and oceans. There is definitely a sense of mystery to the world that you can find anything if you look around enough. And, as a character in one episode teaches Casshern, every place in this world is beautiful. As a big fan of dystopic art, I found myself completely enraptured in these wastelands as much as I was mystified by the lush outcropping of life in unexpected places.
Umakoshi’s character designs are drop-dead gorgeous. It takes skills to make a masked superhero with a big red C on his chest and ornamental horns on his helmet fit into a dark, somber setting. But, somehow, he’s done it. Casshern looks like a badass but also looks like he fits into the setting. He is supposed to be a beautiful person, and it’s certainly visible in his design. All of the characters are very tall and lanky, almost like CLAMP designs, but have an added sharpness to them and are actually consistent. I can easily call them some of the best character designs I’ve seen in anime.
What’s most impressive, though, is that a definitive 70s style remains ingrained into the designs. Every one has absurdly big hair and their facial features are very old-school. However, these elements have been perfectly crafted so that the designs still look modern and not ridiculous as they often do when new shows try to use old style. The robots especially represent the old school with their very basic designs, but they have a bloodthirstiness about their designs that makes it unsurprising when they are killing machines. Overall, I’d say my favorite designs from the series were definitely Lyuze and Luna.
Naturally, since this is Madhouse, there are also plenty of exemplary animation techniques. Unfortunately, ANN doesn’t have any animators listed, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Hiroyuki Imaishi’s (director of Gurren Lagann and animator of all those wacky scenes in shows like FLCL, Mahoromatic, and even FullMetal Alchemist) name ended up on that list since his trademark over-the-top and hyperactive style is used in many of the fights. The show features a lot of ‘sketchy lines‘ and badass shadow effects. The fight scenes often contain mind-blowing animation tricks that will make people who notice these things cream a huge load.
I think that series director and storyboarder Shigeyasu Yamauchi probably had the biggest impact on the way this series turned out. As you can see on his ANN page, he directed a bunch of the Dragon Ball/Z and Saint Seiya movies and had involvement with their main series (and going by their ANN pages, he would have had experience with nearly all of this show’s seiyuu during those times). The experience with those series can be seen heavily in the fight scenes. When Casshern and Dio fight, nearly every strike rockets someone into a wall which explodes just as the other fighter shoots at them like a bullet for the next blow. There are several scenes where the ground around Dio craters under the sheer fluctuation of his power. Yamauchi definitely wanted to bring the scope and intensity of a DBZ fight to this series, which is something I personally have always wanted to see done in a serious anime. It is made a thousand times better by the huge budget of the show which allows the fights to look amazing, cool, and fluid.
Yamauchi definitely has a great sense of dramatic cinematography. Every shot is carefully composed to look as cool as possible, with characters nearly always in some kind of dramatic pose and the light hitting them just right. This is taken to an almost hilarious extent in some of Casshern’s fights against robot armies because he will literally attack them by kind of jumping at them, striking an epic pose, and somehow causing them to explode. Lighting is impeccable and the use of color is very important. Most of the show has a sort of blue and grey hue to it, but when other colors appear they are striking and noticeable against the backdrop of blue. Overall, I think Yamauchi just does a splendid job and probably had a lot of fun with it.
The overall plot in Casshern Sins is so simple that I could detail the whole thing thoroughly in a small paragraph (but I won’t for spoilers’ sake.) The show’s focus is more on the themes that drive the series and the characters representing or interacting with those themes. That said, while the plot is simple, it is very well-presented and interesting, making it a great driving force for the action and themes.
All of the show’s themes relate directly to the conflict between life and death. The dark, barren world of Casshern is on it’s way to ruin and death is ever-present. Every person is directly grappling with death and the end of the world, and those who don’t die just from the ruin usually die at the hands of other robots, especially if they try to attack Casshern. There are few characters who survive their own episode, much less the whole show.
What Casshern, who is immortal, learns in his travels through the dying world is how death effects different people (usually robots). Most of the world desperately clings to life. The strong robots fight and kill each other constantly to steal each other’s parts and try to prolong their lives. The weak search for any means of survival, clinging to little hopes or loosing to despair. Some merely accept the ruin as pleasantly as they can, but more often than not they will turn from this mindset at the slightest sight of hope – namely, the supposed immortality that one will gain if they devour Casshern.
However, not everyone is desperately clinging to life. Casshern encounters some robots and humans who aspire to something without the fear of death. Some teach him that the world is beautiful even in ruin, that there is hope in the world, or that they can live forever in the things that they leave behind. Casshern’s conflict becomes whether or not eternal life is justified or death necessary. He is torn between the sadness of death and the liveliness brought out by it’s presence.
The themes of each episode are interesting and deep, sometimes moving, and more so as they culminate into the over-arching theme. Casshern, as a stark contrast to the world around him that he desperately tries to understand, makes for the perfect receptacle to these themes.
Casshern Sins features surprisingly complex main characters in light of it’s simplistic plot and usually episodic nature. Casshern himself starts off as basically a blank slate with no memories and only knowledge as far as he learns from others. As he experiences the world, he has to weigh his experiences against each other to figure out his own beliefs. His character is kept interesting by the conflicting ideas he develops in relation to those experiences.
Lyuze’s conflict is between her desire to kill Casshern because of him ruining the world, effectively killing her sister, and her growing care for him and changing perception of the world. Casshern’s first companion, Friender, has some pretty great development considering that he is a robot dog who cannot speak. Friender’s emotions are represented through actions, and in those actions we see how he slowly transitions from hating Casshern to trusting him and eventually both protecting him and keeping him under control.
Without spoiling, the villains, Leda and Dio, have their own interesting development. Dio has dreamed of nothing but killing Casshern, while Leda is using dio to try and make the world her own. Each of them is thoroughly explored and developed. Luna, Oji, and Braiking Boss are also great characters with a lot of development, but those are spoilers.
There are a whole plethora of minor characters, most of whom appear just for one episode. Every one of these characters feels alive – they don’t merely expunge their beliefs onto Casshern, but show him the way that they live (or, of course, die) through their actions. Characters come in all variety of personality, shape, and size. (inside joke) Casshern could be said to have the best pseudo-harem since Ginko from Musi-shi.
Casshern Sins is episodic much in the same sense as Cowboy Bebop. The chains of episodic parts are broken up by plot-related episodes, the major characters get their own introspective episodes, and the last group of episodes form the conclusion. There were a couple of less-than-amazing episodes (I remember finding 15 and 16 a bit boring and 21 is kind of ill-done but the next episode justifies it) but otherwise, every episode was great.
All of the plot episodes were superb, especially whenever Casshern and Dio fought, which was always quite epic. Besides the wonderful climactic episodes, I pretty much had 4 favorites. Episode 7, where a woman in a high tower teaches Casshern about the beauty of this ruined world – Episode 8, where a woman wants to spread hope through her song – Episode 12, where a man tries to paint his city his color so that the world will remember him – and Episode 18, and excellent cuckoo nest episode into Lyuze’s psyche.
As I stated in the beginning, Casshern Sins is definitely not for everyone. If you like all kinds of anime regardless of genre and are easily interested in something without it having to be fast-paced, Casshern may be for you. If you’ve always wished that the philosophical plots of pretentious anime would mix with the good fun and awesome fights of shounen action, Casshern may be for you. However, if slowness leaves you bored or action leaves you disinterested, you’ll want to stay away. For me, the show was everything I could have wanted and filled a niche that I’ve long waited for an anime to fill.
Casshern Sins is a remarkable feat, in that it somehow captures every single, minute detail of the human spirit. It achieves this by starting from the very basics and quickly developing on the basics as the series moves on.
One thing that really took me in, is how Casshern Sins truly captured my fear of death. It achieved this through an odd but clever display of writing, by showing us that even the machines that we make will some day fall into decline as rusting scrap metal.
I for one like to identify myself through the materials that I collect and make, and even this review right here is constructing another aspect of myself. Casshern Sins asks, what is the point of all this? I believe the materials that remain after my death will serve as a reminder of my existence, but nothing can escape the harsh reality of time and a millenium from now, it is an almost inescapable fact that those materials that I had so carefully constructed, so thoughtfully made, will just vanish. It is quite frightening and puts true emphasis on the word death.
Things change however, a chance of hope comes along. An ideal that preserves life, immortality.
Many religious affiliations pervade Casshern Sins series. God from the perspective of Catholicism promises a chance of eternal life, I make this comparison as Sins as a robot stands as a metaphor for this deity, a promise for immortality. Building on that concept, the precious beautiful skin of his body only serves to emphasize the prize of such a trait, but being immortal comes at a price. A price that one may not expect. As time wears on, one discovers an infinite sea of potentials, this quest to transcend the boundaries between being just a simple robot engineered to destroy, to becoming ‘human’, not physically but consciously has begun, but once this has been achieved. Who is left to bear witness it? Even though this concept and theme is not exactly original, it must be said that Casshern Sins is particularly noteworthy on how it manages to effectively show this journey of emotional discovery in every excruciatingly painful detail.
Watching this show reminded me of Paulo Coelho’s quote “It is the simple things in life that are the most extraordinary” and it is the simple things in life that Casshern Sins detaches from and allows us to witness as realistically as possible; both the efforts and dramas to recapture these important and sometimes trivial things, but it is these aspects that only elevate the potency of Sins journey. Even when the helping hand of a loyal friend may seem far away, capturing that relatable and simple essence of loneliness has rarely ever made such a profound impact.
A negative aspect to the story can largely be centered on the extremely pessimistic nature of the series and it can arguably fall into the category of angsty melodrama rather than insightful, and many of the concepts that are brought up through the entire series can come across as completely redundant by the series conclusion simply because of the handling. One scene that I wanted to bring up in particular is a scene where a robot finally submits to her desire of wanting to be immortal after reflecting for an entire episode that she wants to die naturally. Whilst it was certainly a powerful scene at the time, thinking back on it, the series only seems to want to be as depressing as possible. Whilst this isn’t always a bad thing, it comes across as forced, and lacks a level of fluidity.
However, with those observations out of the way, it still can’t be dismissed that the overall series has very solid writing and is riveting in how it plays out. Never failing to provide a delicate balance of answers to the many questions that the series asks.
Much of Casshern Sins’ characters are truly integral to the story that the show is telling, and because of the theme heavy story in respect with the series episodic nature. It is only inevitable that many new characters are constantly introduced in order to represent another aspect of a philosophical question/s that the series imposes. A lot of the characters become representations for the themes of mostly hope and despair, but entangles within many varying levels of regret, remorse, guilt, jealousy, occasional romantic struggle and sometimes optimism.
Considering the series episodic nature, a large majority of the episodes do an absolutely splendid job of building characters in such a short time and it is a truly commendable aspect because at times I was almost pushed to tears in some of the more powerful episodes. Saying that, I will have to discredit some of the episodes for having an inconsistent quality, this inconsistency is mostly due to the characters that are being presented, but for the most part the character development is well above average and occasionally phenomenal but these cases are few and far between.
I can only appreciate the characters so far though, because as I said previously there is a varying level of quality in the development of many of the characters, another problem I had with the characters is that many of them have very similar intentions throughout the entire series, it can get a little repetitive at times. Adding onto that; some characters only seemed to be placed there to plunge Sins into a more intense state of guilt and regret. Even though this can be perceived as a problem. The fact remains that this can be ignored to an extent because these characters show that this the series is remaining true to the premise that it has given and does not cop-out, even at the moments when the series becomes unbearable.
Many of the motivations for the characters are understandable, as a dying breed of life suffering from an incurable disease; I imagine it would only be natural for someone to carry out desperate measures when they have been pushed to their breaking point. This is one theme that Casshern Sins portrays better than anything else.
The series artwork does nothing but do what it sets out to do, abysmal and ruined, wrapped up in an unusual mixture of bluish-greyish brownish textures that builds the apocalyptic landscape with powerful ease.
The series takes time to build on its own sorrow in order to emphasize some lovely landscapes that capture the quintessential and brooding style that is reminiscent of an Edward Hoppers painting, two that come to mind are “The Lighthouse at Two Lights”, and “Screaming Monkey Drive In”, pleasant to look at but cringing with a landscape of heart-ache and desperation.
Much of the animation is carefully designed. One noticeable moment was a touch of rust painted below the eye-line of a robot. The moment was heart-breaking and is something that took me by absolute surprise. Rust is deterioration and its symbolic connotation within this scene was used to its utmost potential.
I always look forward to bear witness to the fascinating ideas of art that series from Madhouse Animation studios have to offer and Casshern Sins is a beautiful edition to the collection that is sure to become an influence in the future.
One thing I noticed about the OST was the consistently monotonous style across the board. Which certainly works in the series favor, but a couple of tracks stood out for me: the first one being “Roamer” as it captured the image of one man, simply standing a-top a hill graced in a red sunset, contemplating as to where his feet will take him next, it’s a classic pose and one that holds much weight.
The second one was “Memory Past”, I’m not entirely sure what it was about this track but it just pushed a button in me. It was like I was floating in a sea of water feeling the waves softly carrying me. An interesting perspective to say the least, but I couldn’t help picturing myself as a robot resting in the sand of the shallows feeling the water brush over me. It was a vivid moment, and a beautifully foolish one, it is simply a moment of passing time awaiting the day of no-return.
At the time of watching this series. I think I was in the exact state of mind that was required to enjoy Casshern Sins and I finished it up in a marathon sitting. I tend to love a nice happy show as much as the next fellow but my thirst for drama can be over-bearing at times and Casshern Sins knew how to keep me glued to the couch. I was engaged with every detail that was playing out before me and every bit of terror, every moment of blissful decadence only served to invoke a greater emotional response from me. Those special moments of heart-ache scattered throughout, only serves my interest as keeping Casshern Sins as a worthy investment of my time for years to come.
From what has been discussed I believe that Casshern Sins is a fantastic work, capturing every rigid emotion of the human spirit and melding every element so effectively. Constantly serving as a reminder to the breadth of questions that have been brought up and sought after in this series. Deep, often beautiful questions that serves as a recipe for sympathy and empathy towards all its characters as you bear witness to there destruction.
I find it difficult to recommend this series mostly due to its overbearingly negative nature, and time has shown that not many people like pessimistic series. Nevertheless, for all of those out there who can withstand or perhaps immerse themselves in Casshern Sins battlefield of depression, they will surely find solace in the beauty of its melancholy.
Here’s a good test whether you may or may not like it.
Are you an anime fan one who:
A) Tolerates a continuously oppressively grim atmosphere and a snail-paced plot?
B) Forgives gaping plot holes for the sake of appreciating the heavy symbolism and existentialism?
C) Is fine with an acrobatic fist-fight for every single episode?
D) Doesn’t mind sparse dialogue, one-note and melodramatic characters, and numerous silent introspections?
E) All of the above
If you picked choice E, the chances are in your favor and you may like this style over substance anime.
**No Spoilers really. And I’ll be vague in the analysis as for the most part, you should be the one doing that. Keep in mind, that it can be a depressing anime. **
Concepts, Character, Story-
It doesn’t have much of a plot but has some unique and interesting concepts.
The first half starts episodically, featuring heavily on the surrounding bleak world. Our main protagonist, Casshern, wanders around the barren wasteland and sees how the various humans and robots react towards this post-apocalyptic event that he caused. Suffering from amnesia, he intends to find answers in his placement for this world. Meanwhile, the second half starts explaining the mysteries of what occurs. But it never gets fully resolved and makes gigantic jumps in the narrative. There were sudden shifts in characterization and in the end, becomes incredibly ambiguous.
As for the cast of characters, “naturally wooden” would be the best way to describe them.
The main quintet of Casshern, Lyuze, Ringo, Ouji and Friender appear one-note and simple to evaluate. Their dialogue is sparse, often calling each other’s name many times or simply staying silent the entire time in an artistic way. Also, Casshern may seem also too melodramatic at first, but very slowly develops because of the other characters. The antagonists and robots (if I can even call them antagonists) have simple motives but gets confusing as it changes pace in the second half and stumbles itself near the end.
Regardless of their flat characterization, they give out further meaning towards this post-apocalyptic world in a crucial, yet subtle way. However, for Casshern Sins, it becomes a double-edged sword as non-recurring secondary characters of each episode suffer from redundancy. There are no surprises from seeing what may occur to them (it’s quite predictable and repetitive), but taken upon further necessary examination, they provide some heavy symbolism that manages to be new in its own right episodically.
In all, it depicts a metaphorical setting that not many anime generally would take. There are lengths for ambiguity for it and different interpretations on what they may mean. However, most of the themes are rooted in existentialism and the meaning of life.
Granted, despite its slow pacing and episodic format, I had to binge watch this over the course of 3 days as I’ll end up forgetting the impact of the setting and atmosphere.
Sound and Art/Animation-
As for the OST, Kaoru Wada made it seem like a déjà vu for his InuYasha’s OST. Seriously, I could replace some of the tracks and it wouldn’t make much of a difference. However, it does well to bring out the bleak aspects of the atmosphere and manages to blend into the ambiance. The opening “Aoi Hana” by Color Bottle has a catchy sound that I like but doesn’t fit well overall.
On the other hand, “A Path” sung by Nami Miyahara has some pretty good English pronunciations (even more so with the English version by Caitlin Glass) and bears weight to the overall themes to the anime. It’s very emotionally moving, but it noticeably gets repeated a couple times, though.
Voice acting for both English and Japanese carry out their part when necessary and manages to project the character’s angst for catharsis. One thing that I may have overlooked would be the sound effects. The visceral crunches of the iron clad robots and the most minor of movements such as rustling fabric embellish the complexion of its environment even when dialogue remains tacit. And there are occasions of a show-and-don’t-tell presentation.
When it comes visually, it does well for it. It’s Madhouse what do you expect.
The brown rusting of the robots gives a good contrast to the azure sky. The details are quite beautiful to gaze especially since not much else is going on. The specks of dust and other particles splinter into the air on many occasions and it’s very aesthetically pleasing especially with the flora that sometimes gets presented.
Childlike character designs are juxtaposed towards its more depressing background. The contours are bold and sleek but details are quite simple. The animation features very solid figures with hand-to-hand combat, although I can’t help but easily see the numerous repetitions of each scene. I distinctly remember certain fights and robots being re-used. Because of these repetitions, it makes it feel even more monotonous. It’s a bit unique though as choreographed scenes quickly pan to the smaller details of the area rather than focusing on the characters, having that elegant flair.
While certainly not the most high-budgeted and most amazing animation, its presentation and style is what makes work well for the atmosphere and the anime as a whole.
Enjoyment- 9/10 (first 15 episodes)
7/10 (latter part)
What made me enjoy this anime would be its world. The pacing is intentionally slow and not hamfisted with details, allowing for some thought-provoking ideas on existentialism to leak through. It establishes that ambiance and truly makes it a post-apocalyptic world. Because of this, even if I found many scenes to be melodramatic and not relatable, it manages to get me emotionally that some other anime can’t pull off.
It takes the conventional heroism where the main character is OP, and there are continuous strings of fights for a sense of justice. However, it subverts it as the fights are never thrilling, mostly everyone (including the antagonists) are victims of the decaying society, and the meaning to continue to pursue a goal is grimly lost as one mindlessly wanders around the world, knowing that he is different and must be alone as he loses everyone around him.
Once it starts trying to unravel its mystery, my focus shifted towards that and I was expecting some sort of large revelation that would solve everything. But it doesn’t. Near the end, the pacing speeds up, makes a large shift in unresolved details, and fizzles out in the end.
If I would make an analogy, it’s kind of like Ouji’s dilapidated jeep. It works well slowly, but when it puts the pedal to the metal and makes a large U-turn, the rusted parts start crumbling away because of the Ruin. At least there is still some meaning for that ending.
Overall- a mid-high 7/10 (Good, not average)
The flaws are apparent such as its monotonous pacing and unrealistic characters. If taken at face-value, this anime will be a terrible chore. This anime is not the most accessible as it doesn’t cater the audience’s general accustomed tastes. However, its quality is mostly based on the eye of the beholder through individual experience and appreciation for analyzing. If read in-between the lines in its atmospheric presentation, it will be a unique experience that few ever dwell upon.
9: Golgo 13 (TV)
English: Golgo 13
MAL Score: 7.53
Golgo 13 is not his real name. Then again, neither is Duke Togo, Tadashi Togo, or any number of the aliases he goes by. A man of mystery, not even the world’s most prominent intelligence agencies can determine who Golgo really is, or just where he came from. But all agree that his skills are nothing short of legendary.
Armed with a custom M16, Golgo is willing to take any job for any agency, from the FBI to the KGB. He has completed every contract he has ever taken and will work for anyone who can meet his price. He is both the greatest weapon and the greatest threat to any nation; no one is safe once they are in Golgo’s sights.
To start with, this is an anime that gives off an oldschool-ish feeling and that is to be expected, since the manga started publishing about 40 years ago. The drawing style clearly shows it: all characters have very serious and rough faces, showing each and every wrinkle. The scenery is quite good. Even though it might lack detail, it clearly isn’t the type you would shove off as a picture-based-and-streched-over-the-horizon background.
There are no major problems with the sound either. At first it might feel as if there is a lack of music, but as the series goes on, you will probably start to notice the recurring tones. Some might find them a tad repetitive, but considering the retro feeling this anime gives off, some repetitiveness could actually be considered as a tool to emphasize that special kind of feel. I have no complaints about the opening themes or the ending themes either.
When it comes to the characters, it is quite difficult to provide an evaluation. As this show is centered on Duke Tougou (a.k.a. Golgo 13) going on solo assignments, you will not be seeing any other major characters. There is not much to say about character development either. I mean, we have a cold-blooded sniper with nearly inhumane skills, unwavering principles and, most of the time, a perfect example of a poker face. He is certainly the most silent protagonist I have ever seen and we can’t “hear” his thoughts either, so what is there to develop (not to mention how)? Still, it feels like Golgo becomes a tad more talkative and expressive towards the end of the series, so it is possible to interpret it as a slight emotional shift, though the reason for it is anyone’s guess. Despite this, though, all the characters feel quite real and alive; they all have individual personalities and different attitudes towards Golgo, so the anime does not lose ground on this aspect either.
Where it does, though, is the story. Or, more precisely, the lack thereof. The series is episodic and there is no relation between the assignments whatsoever. In fact, if your younger sibling wanted to make a prank and rearranged the playlist while you were making a sandwich, you would not even notice it. I am guessing the studio picked the missions from the manga randomly, hence the lack of cohesion. Yet, despite the anime not having a coherent plot as a whole, every episode has a different and unique story, various circumstances and characters that continue to pique the viewers interest and provide tons of entertainment.
To conclude, anime series with no plot tend to lose their appeal very quickly. However, Golgo 13 is quite enjoyable. It just has something in it that makes you look forward to Tougou’s next assignment and keeps you wondering, just how he is going to demonstrate his prowess. When his enemies underestimate him or make wrong deductions, you just get the proud feeling “That’s my Golgo! Those bastards don’t have a chance! Show them who’s boss!”, or something along those lines.
If you are a fan of super-manliness, protagonists having nearly inhumane skills and an oldschool feel wrapping it all up, this is one show you should definitely watch.
Each episode is non-sequential, and has no bearing on future or previous episodes so you can essentially watch the episodes in no particular order and have more or less the same enjoyment. Each episode begins with Duke Togo aka Golgo 13, receiving a request to kill a target, and the rest of the episode usually involves Golgo 13 undertaking some masterful feat to accomplish his goal. There is no story overall other than following Golgo 13’s exploits, however each individual story is fairly unique in regards to how it is presented, each supporting character’s backdrops and storylines. That being said, each episode falls back into same formula and you essentially know how each episode will end.
Ah characters… or should i say “character” as each episode introduces us to only one character who returns every episode. (excluding the gun craftsman who appears a few times). As previously stated, Golgo 13 is the best sniper in the world, he can take out any target, regardless of the circumstances. Also a master in hand to hand combat and short ranged armed combat. Golgo 13 has the outward appearance of a cold emotionless killer, amazingly well built, and has his share of battle scars from earlier days. Quite possibly the manliest man of anime. That being said though, he undergoes very little character development over the entire series. There is a plethora of other characters introduced, usually with unique stories, or backgrounds, however many either end up dead (targets) or will never appear again throughout the series.
Clean artwork, great colouring and shading. I was a big fan of the gloomy atmosphere that the shading gives the series. even in the bright and sunshining days, there still exists that sort of darkness. Character design is somewhat lacking however in this series. Although for the first few episodes you don’t really notice it, a general trend starts to develop… A lot of the supporting characters start to look the same. There are soo many supporting characters introduced throughout the series, that most of the henchmen,a few of the targets, and many of the supporting/extra women throughout tend to look nearly identical to each other. Fluid animations throughout, amazing backdrops, and overall pretty good stuff
the First Opening: “take the wave” from naifu was actually quite catchy, Also a big fan of ” Glass no Highway from doa. other op and eds were alright. I thought the seiyu for Golgo 13; Tachi Hiroshi did a great job voicing Duke Togo (Golgo 13), It was a cold emotionless voice that just fit the character perfectly.
This series was fairly enjoyable, The viewing experience was over a period of 8 or so months, so there was a decent gap inbetween watching, Although thinking about it now, This likely isn’t one of those anime where you can just keep watching all the episodes back to back and in 1-4 sittings, Each episode will tend to get very repetitive over time. But as a simple, sit back and watch every now and then show, this anime has merit
A pretty good experience to watch, Has some pretty enjoyable moments, and a few twists and turns along the way. Check it out if you find the time
Golgo is an elite sniper. Man with a mission. All you need is 3 million USD and he will make any of your wishes happen. Need to embarrass a violist during his play? No worries! Golgo can shoot the string of a moving instrument from 500 feet away, eyes closed while parrying flying katanas. Here’s a meme. Who would win? Bulletproof, 30 inch thick class wall or one big boy with a toy gun? There is literally nothing this dude can’t make happen.
Story-wise, Golgo 13 is entirely episodic show. One man, one mission, one episode. The best part is how consistently fucking amazing the writing is. For example, during one episode, he trolls the police forces in 5 different ways and they all fall under his master troll, but it is not a keikaku doori tier meme, everything is planned, shown to the viewer. and works because the police officers are doing their job in the exact way they are supposed to. This other time, our dude got a life sentence in prison just to break out of the “unbreakable” jail with an inmate, purely to shoot him moments later. There are only 7 episodes that were more mediocre than amazing, which leaves similar shows such as City Hunter in absolute shame. Nearly every episode is unique and so different from one another that watching the show becomes nothing less than hooking. It’s impressive how knowledgeable the writer is of so many different subject and how he manages to create such successful episodes around all of them.
During the run, the amount of times Golgo smiles is 0. He does not smile. This is a serious anime. So. Damn. Serious. No matter how ridiculously awesome and amusing the events get, there is absolutely no room for character centric comedy. He also has sex with something like 34 different women during the run, and no matter how much he likes these women, he never shows it in any other way than sex. He never speaks, he never answers their feelings nor shows an expression of any sort, and in case they happen to witness him practicing his profession, there is no soft spot in his hard. Any witness dies. There is no limit to how Man and how loyal to himself this dude is. If there ever was a person who doesn’t break his character, it is him.
What really serves this series is the English dub which made the thing incredibly enjoyable to watch. Golgo himself is voiced with a guy who sounds like a real professional killer. Especially meaningless side characters have been voiced according to their character archetype. Different English pronunciation have not been left out as there are everything from “oi m8” aussies to Irish drunktards. Some of the dialog has been seasoned with insane puns and more of the witty side banter. Like in one episodes, there is this guy – who is paralyzed below the weist – being targeted by Golgo 13, so he flees on an island and covers the entire island with bulletproof matter. When Golgo 13 arrives there with his helicopter, this dude’s friends and bodyguards go to him and say “Looks like you can’t even take one step out of this island.” Pure comedic gold.
Art-wise, here’s a tip: the bluray is a disaster. Not as bad as, let’s say Death Note remaster, but it was a failed attempt. Get the DVD instead. The art itself follows the more classic side seen on mature anime series that were made with 90’s style without the typical anime bs. Gungrave, Speed Grapher and practically every old Gonzo production are good example of the familiar and welcoming art style this anime has. In terms of animation, compromises are rarely ever made. Story telling and visuals are prioritized over cheap effects and atmosphere killing tricks that mainly would remind the viewer that they are, indeed, watching an anime.
I highly recommend Golgo 13 to people who like their anime manly and mature, served ice cold with nothing but respect towards the audience.
8: Nijuu Mensou no Musume
English: The Daughter of 20 Faces
MAL Score: 7.57
Chiko is the daughter of the wealthy Mikamo family who has to live with her aunt and uncle after her parents passed away. Because her aunt wants to inherit the Mikamo family’s wealth, she gives Chiko poisoned food. One day, however, she’s kidnapped by the Nijuu Mensou (20 Faces) and decides to join his clan.
Enter then, Nijuu Mensou no Musume or, to give it a snappier title, “The Daughter of Twenty Faces” (I should point out that the show also has the unfortunate title “Chiko, Heiress of the Phantom Thief” for some odd reason – I prefer the middle title as it has a certain grandstanding, operatic quality about it which is more in keeping with the series).
The story is loosely based on the detective novels by Edogawa Rampo (the author’s pen-name), in which the lead characters were often an eccentric but skilled detective named Kogoro Akechi, and his arch nemesis Kajin Nijuu Mensou (the Fiend with Twenty Faces). The anime version is an adaptation of the manga that was released in 2002.
Where the anime version deviates from the works of Edogawa is in making the main character a girl who gets caught up in the exploits of the famous thief known as Twenty Faces. She views her “kidnapping” by Twenty Faces and his gang as a gift, and rapidly warms up to her new “family” – the reasons for this being made obvious in the first few episodes.
The plot is very well paced throughout the series and, whilst the main story is split into two very clearly defined arcs, the method in which the story is handled is very subtly different in the second arc. The first arc is dramatic and mysterious, especially when Chizuko (Chiko for short), considers the mysterious man known as Twenty Faces. The second arc has an added sense of adventure which is brought about by the introduction of Shunka Koito. Although the second arc tries to maintain some of the same suspense as the first, it never quite matches up to it as the audience by then is well aware of Chiko’s capabilities, and knows that she will find a way to come out on top.
The animation is, for want of a better word, excellent. The characters move with a natural surety and sense of rythm that’s wonderful to see, and this is not only prominent in action sequences, but in the quieter moments as well. Each of the characters is also very well designed, with a sense of individuality to them. One thing that I liked was the sometimes subtle changes made to each of the characters to show the passage of years.
The backgrounds and backdrops are very well made, with an exceptional amount of detail in them. These make a very atmospheric and realistic setting upon which the action can take place. CG has been used to great effect in the series, and is sometimes almost indistinguishable from the normal animation.
As far as the music goes, the show has a very atmospheric soundtrack that is reflective of it’s post-war setting (i.e. 1950’s). The OP is a very nice track called “Kasumi” that has a certain tragic yet hopeful quality to it, whilst the ED, called “Unnamed World”, is a very upbeat ditty sung by Hirano Aya (who also plays the role of Chiko). One nice thing about the two theme songs is how reflective they are of the two story arcs without actually giving anything away.
The effects are extremely well used in the show, and actually have a greater impact on the viewer than one would expect. The sounds are very atmospheric, and when added to the music, gives a scene a certain “completeness”.
As I’ve already mentioned, Hirano Aya plays the role of Chiko, but this is no Suzumiya Haruhi typecast, oh no. Chiko is calm, capable, and very, very clever, and it’s nice to see Hirano displaying a wider range of talents here than she is normally able to. The other characters are equally as well portrayed, however the main focus of the show is Chiko, which is one of the downsides to the series (not a big one though).
It should go without saying by now that Chiko is an extremely well realised character in the series, and her growth and development is well handled in both the scipt and Hirano’s acting abilities. Unfortunately, the series has a wealth of characters who I would have liked to have known more about. The original members of Twenty Face’s gang for example, and the reasons why they joined him were things that could have been included. That said, I found it both surprising and pleasing to find that the mysterious Twenty Faces is actually rounded out very well come the end of the series, mainly through the use of flashbacks.
I found that I enjoyed this series a lot. Whilst it does suffer from a certain transparency at times, it does have a lot of action and mysteryto keep you interested. The sub-plot in the second arc was actually more interesting for me as it went into more detail about the “Great War” that Twenty Faces alludes to in the first arc, and not even the antics of the “Detective Girls” could stop me from wondering what would happen next.
What I found nice about the series as a whole was that it is clearly an homage to Japan’s first mystery series featuring a recurring detective and nemesis, and the flavour one gets from the story is very Conan-Doyle, a fitting tribute since Edogawa was heavily influenced by him. The fact that Kogoro Akechi appears in the series, and is on the trail of Twenty Faces is great to see, however there are more homages to Edogawa’s novels than just the obvious, one in particular appearing in the final episode (see if you can spot it, and if not, then just ask).
This is a good series that just misses the mark of being great, primarily because of it’s focus on Chiko. The lack of attention to the other characters (in comparison to Chiko that is), gives the whole series a slightly unfinished feel come the end. Whilst it does have the feeling of a classic detective story, it lacks that certain polish that comes with a cast of characters you actually care about.
On the whole though, it’s a very good homage to Japan’s first great detective novelist, and it would be nice to see more mysteries of this kind.
The story follows a gang of thieves led by the infamous man known only as ‘Twenty Faces’, who one day decides to take a young girl with him (hence the name of this series). The beginning is nothing spectacular, it just sets the scene for this late 50s themed detective fiction, which focuses mostly on Chizuko. The series follows an episodic nature, with each episode dealing with individual endeavours but unlike most episodic anime, the story actually progresses nicely from episode to episode. Though the endeavours the group undertake tend to be more geared towards anime theatrics than thought-provoking realism. This all changes once it reaches the major turning point, early on and the series goes downhill a bit, upon losing all direction it once had. Adjusting to the sudden change does take some getting used to and it doesn’t help that the once entertaining story of thievery becomes something too complex for its own good.
What makes up the story has to be the large cast of characters; which 20 Faces’ gang, the important recurring characters of the second arc and the unimportant episodic characters make up. Chizuko (Chiko) is quite the remarkable girl because not only is she really intelligent in the beginning, she is also the only one that develops very well throughout the series. 20 Faces does prove to be quite the enigmatic figure however the rest of the gang just don’t seem all that important but that doesn’t mean they are any less entertaining.
Just what you’d expect from Bones, the series features some great animation & sounds. This anime has some immensely detailed environments, aesthetic realism for the settings, appropriately used CGI & nicely animated characters that fit in well with it all. Overall it’s great but I did feel the animation could have been much better. The music on the other hand fit the theme it was going for perfectly, going for some suspenseful music to match the detective-fiction themed adventure.
Overall this anime series is a very entertaining experience, as it’s full of action, drama & suspense then develops into something very mystifying. Though there are still numerous flaws, most of which are prominent in the second arc, when the story diverges and the ‘great war’ subplot becomes more apparent. It really isn’t clear what to expect upon watching this series, so it’s best to just watch and experience it yourself.
Note: May edit if necessary. ^_^
Daughter of 20 Faces is a Bones anime from spring 2008. The story is about a girl called Chieko who was freed from her horrible life with her evil stepmother by a band of thieves led by the charismatic 20 Faces. The band became Chieko’s surrogate family, with 20 Faces become a father figure to her. He taught Chieko tricks of the trade along with many other lessons about humanity and morals and so on. Chieko was a pretty talented thief in her own right even at a young age, many suggesting she would succeed 20 Faces to be the new leader. She became the ‘daughter of 20 faces’ so to say. That is, until shit got real in episode 6. I can’t quite remember the exact details, but basically 20 Faces rescued Chieko and disappeared off on a burning train, presumably to have died.
This is the Death of the Tutor, a pretty standard trope in any mode of story-telling. Everything from Star Wars to Madoka Magica does this. The reason it happens is to allow for further development of the main character. They learn the life lessons from the tutor but they can’t move on while they live in the shadow of said tutor. The Death of the Tutor shocks them out of that sense of security and forces them to develop themselves. This is exactly what happens in Daughter of 20 Faces. Chieko’s development went from talented child under her evil stepmother to finally having the freedom and guidance to train these talents of her. Getting 20 Faces out the picture forced Chieko to develop further. There was some moping but she then went on to form the ‘detective girls’ with some friends, starting down the road of a perhaps more law-abiding version of 20 Faces gang of thieves. They discover a bigger plot is going on, Chieko and co. start to uncover the mystery until about episode 12 where the fatal happens.
20 Faces comes back.
And with that, the story dies.
Chieko reverts back to how she was before episode 6. Her development is aborted. She’s back to relying on 20 Faces for guidance, unable to tackle these problems herself. The ‘plot’ continues, but the plot was never particularly good to begin with. It was a vague mystical science thing where water can blow up, scary scientists plot world domination and plot holes are as regular as a panty flash in Rosario to Vampire. The real appeal of the anime lay in the development of Chieko’s character, which until now had been done brilliantly. That ended with 20 Faces return. She wasn’t capable of developing further.The author didn’t have the balls to kill off 20 Faces, but in bringing him back, he succeeded in killing his very own story. The Death of the Tutor seems like a tired trope, but watching Daughter of 20 Faces brought to light how important it truly is.
Since this is MAL, you’re apparently meant to cover points like animation and sound even when they have nothing to do with the points you are making. So here we go:
Story: Plot is as dumb as fuck. The real story ends in episode 12
Art: Good. This is still Bones after all
Sound: Forgettable. Lots of Aya Hirano going ‘Oji-san’
Character: See entire above review
Enjoyment: Ended when 20 Faces came back
7: Kekkaishi (TV)
MAL Score: 7.61
Yoshimura Sumimura comes from a long line of “Kekkaishi,” individuals who have supernatural abilities and are able to destroy evil creatures called Ayakashi that venture into the human realm from time to time. The Ayakashi are demons that look to feast on the power emanating from the land of Karasumori, which also happens to be where Yoshimura’s high school is located. Now, Yoshimura must fight to protect his beloved school and hometown. Although, if it were up to him, he would rather be baking cakes than fighting off the ugly characters that show up at night.
Thankfully, Yoshimura isn’t the only one helping to keep the baddies at bay. His childhood friend and neighbor, Tokine Yukimura, joins him in this righteous battle. Despite the fact that they are from rival clans, these two make a fantastic team. And teamwork is something vital to fighting the evil that is closing in, as the Ayakashi attack in waves, looking to claim the land as their own, and a shadowy organization looks on, ready to pounce when the time is right…
Yoshimori and Tokine, our plucky teens, are charged with the seemingly life-long mission to protect a mystical piece of land with their barrier technique. The ability to create barriers of all shapes and sizes by pointing their fingers and shouting "Ketsu!" and destroying the contents of their CGI boxes with "Metsu!" It’s a very cool and unusual technique and the animation remains consistently good throughout the series, so it never gets old watching the two develop their skills, or to watch Tokine take liberties and use her kekkai to smack Yoshimori in the face.
The manga is written by a female so you can expect some good characterization for Tokine. The two heroes are on an even level for most of the anime, and being that it’s written by a female, the relationship and romance has a more deft touch to it. Sexist observation? Maybe, but I can tell you that I didn’t really roll my eyes or get bored with any of the lovey dovey moments sprinkled throughout Kekkaishi.
Populated by interesting and amusing characters, an epically memorable Taku Iwasaki score, refreshing pacing, and creative action, Kekkaishi is the definition of how a shonen genre anime is meant to be made. It does get a tad derivative towards the end, being unable to escape the tropes of the genre, but its still good fun. Each episode also ends with a great Photoshop-like montage of characters, basically summing up the climax of the last 20 minutes.
The producers even had the grace to just end the adaptation at the end of an arc, rather than overtake the manga or descend into filler hell. It’s a bittersweet compromise but one we should accept and respect. For a show sponsored by McDonalds, you’d think greed would compel them to milk everything out of this show, but they knew when to stop. Whether it was due to Kekkaishi not being as sell-able as Naruto or One Piece for example, I don’t know, but I don’t care when what they leave us with is an anime as excellent as this.
So like I said, Kekkaishi is a kind of siege story, a staple of the action-thriller genre that live-action films occasionally excel at, but anime rarely ever touches. Kekkaishi greets the genre head on with shonen enthusiasm and ends up an entertaining show worth watching.
_Kekkaishi_ offers nothing new, nothing spectacular, essentially nothing. It’s not one of those animes that tries to be high brow and thought provoking. In the limitation of its scope, however, the series has done extremely well. The story progresses with fast enough pace that one doesn’t feel the urge to fast forward, often with suspense–in the form of unresolved secrets or crisis–sustained throughout several episodes. The art is excellent as well: very clean and rarely with the exaggeration of either being too ‘shoujo’ or too ‘shounen.’ It’s rather rare these days to see the female protagonist drawn without over-developed body parts, which in this case only makes her more charming and lovable.
The story is simple and rather straight-forward. The basic premise of nearly all episodes lies on the encounter of the two main characters with the invading monster(s) of the week, with stories dedicated to character development revolving around this premise. I am glad to say, however, that the story has not fallen into one of the major caveats of this structure. The conflict resolution does not always depend on the main characters getting stronger (through training, for instance), but also on their character growth and interaction.
Many hints are dropped within the series suggesting the series targets a rather young main audience: too many things are explicitly spelled out for you. The male protagonist’s main drive, for instance, is hammered repeatedly to the audience from his own dialogue. A good thing that comes out of this is that the characters have well-defined personalities that explain why they do the things they do. Every character remains faithful to his/her main trait. This, unfortunately, also makes the characters rather simplistic and two-dimensional, with no room left for surprise. I find it difficult, however, to blame a series dedicated to younger audience for being reductionist in its portrayal of human psyche.
Kekkaishi has your drama, your comic relief scenes, and your thought provoking scenarios all in one AND the best part is that it isn’t long and overly drawn out like Naruto, Bleach, or InuYasha.
As mentioned earlier, it’s got your basic goofy main character who has a crush on his neighbor and later on meets his best friend who happens to be half-Ayakashi (“ghost”/”demon”). HOWEVER, Kekaishi also successfully merges in some well back story plots that defies your average shounen story making it about 100x more interesting and it isn’t drawn out to be annoying. The only reason I don’t give it a full 10 was because I felt the ending could have used a little more “padding” i.e, giving it a slightly more thorough conclusion. It wasn’t completely open-ended, but I do feel that there were maybe one or two knots that could have been tied before ending completely.
Considering that I’m writing this review in 2015 and this anime finished airing in 2008, I’m actually rather impressed with some of the special effects in the show. There were a few questionable shots, but overall I thought the art work was clean, well-done, and interesting. I only give it an 8 though because there were a few awkward shots/angles.
Awesome voice acing (I’m talking about the original Japanese) the voices are all amazing and you really feel like you’re watching something and not listening to someone reading off a script. There are also some very good, well-known voice actors such as Hiroyuki Yoshino and Kenjiro Tsuda. Also, including sound, the voice sound wasn’t as ill-proportioned as some anime can be (i.e, the sound effects and music overpowers the voices making it difficult to hear).
The characters were all very “3D” meaning they really captured the audience’s attention. In my opinion, I really got to “know” the characters more as people than just characters in a story. Even the villain Kaguro, because dang, did that guy have STYLE! He was bad to the core, but there was a certain amount of charm in the way he did things that kind of makes you like him and respect him, but still not “like-liking” him enough to hope he isn’t killed off in the end. He made for a very good villain and normally one would hope to look for “grey villains” in anime that can decide to be seen as good or bad, but not this time. Kaguro was completely black in personality, and it was kind of “refreshing” in a way because often anime creates antagonists who, more usually than not, join the hero side which, although interesting, can kind of become predictably boring after seeing it occur so often.
There is also a good amount of character development and interesting personalities and, like I said, you really “fall in love” with the characters.
Overall and Enjoyment (10/10:
Overall, it was an awesome show with a relatively satisfying ending and I’m actually really depressed now that it’s over. I suggest it for people who want mindless fun, but not to the point of brain dead fluff. I mean, I liked it so much that I managed to write a review for it, which I haven’t even done for my most FAVORITE or favorite shows; so it just goes to show how great this series is, right? 😛
6: Kyou kara Maou! 3rd Series
MAL Score: 7.78
At the end of season 2. Yuuri defeats Shinou, but since Shinou had been defeated, Yuuri and Murata could no longer go to the Shin Makoku. However, because Yuuri had fought and defeated him, his powers had surpassed that of Shinou’s, resulting in him being able to rely on his own power to return to Shin Makoku.
After the ceremony at the age of 16, Yuuri slowly begins to discover that much has happened while he was away. The ten officials of the noble family have decided to make Wolfram the next Maou, but now that Yuuri has returned and taken back his role as Maou, complications arise when one noble disagrees with Yuuri returning to the throne.
In addition, an ancient secret society that threatens the peace of both humans and Mazoku has risen, and a fight for the throne that now leaves the nobles wondering who is the legitimate Maou.
Just like the OVA Saralegui (Sara) enters into this anime and uses sly methods to get Yuuri to do his bidding. This anime had a sense of betrayal and may be a little more emotional than the first for some people. Saralegui isn’t rather friendly at the beginning of the series but then he realizes not only Yuuri’s special qualities that make them help each other but that also his ______ is invloved.(Six letter word)
the basic story is a war between the Mazoku and humans. Yuuri was away for some time apparently and this caused several people to rethink who is the legitamate successor of the throne. This problem is mainly caused by Wolfram’s relative who wants Wolfram to take over.
Yuuri travels around trying to help stop the war, as usual trying to be the hero. At some point he is even unable to return home. ~~Mystery~~
All these problems are caused mainly by one person and for a good reason, in order to obtain the…not spoiling it.
There is still quite an amount of humour based in the show and there are different arcs even though it is only a 39 episode anime. Yuuri’s brother is alot more involved which makes it more enjoyable, especially the last episode were i almost pissed myself. It was sooooooooo funny. You may just think i am weird but i enjoyed this anime and i recommend it to you if you enjoyed the first series.
P.S. The OVA is crap so don’t judge this anime from that.
The show is extremely entertaining, just as America’s funniest home videos or Keeping up with the kardashians is, except unlike those shows, you don’t end up with a lower brain cell count afterwards.
The show is a classic stereotypical anime, and a pretty good reason why people who don’t watch anime think all of us who do are fucking wierdos’. There is blatant cringe worthy yaoi, almost to an excessive amount, made worse by the fact it is often seen as a running joke(Wolfram being gay, and Yuri sort of not really being gay?- They are “engaged”) and never actually given a reason. It’s not like “Wolfram is gay” because nobody, including the character himself, would admit it or say it. Then, you’re like, Yuri, just tell him you don’t like dick, but then there’s scenes where he is alone with a guy and says shit like “he smells nice” or “he has nice features” and then blushes like a fucking schoolboy who just got asked who is crush is by his own crush.
The yaoi alone kills me, sometimes so much that I have to pause the anime and go for a walk. Then there’s the matter of the characters them selves. All characters are hilariously cliche, and almost always the same person honestly. There is very rarely two characters who aren’t like the other. Yes, there’s aspects that are different-in personality and background- but only just enough for a lazy writer to say “job well done, I think I’ll go check out an anime cafe”
Yuri himself is likable, but very cliche. He’s trustworthy to a fault, and never learns not to be, despite it literally causing nearly every story arcs problems. Does he have character development? Sort of. But really all he does is just understand more people, more. He really never changes or learns from anything, and him, and nearly every character in the show, is waaaayyy over the top. Like, Jim Carey over the top, except with post 2005’s quality.
One character they do add, King Sara, is likable only because he is rather different from everyone else. He is mysterious, manipulative, sociopathic, and influential, all the while being 2 years older than Yuri. While the character is still not great by any means, it’s certainly a better character than the villains in the show. They are about as forgettable as the show itself.
That’s actually an apt way to describe the anime: Forgettable. I liked the first series, but if you were to ask me what the fuck happened, I would space out for about 4 minutes, remembering only the tense yaoi moments and sincere stupidly of yuri himself. I can’t even recall villains in the first series, other than Adalbert, and if you think he was a villain, then you might need to higher your standards.
In a nutshell to describe characters of this series- Largely likable, largely forgettable, but entirely entertaining.
The plot is what it is as well. It isn’t so much messy as it is just plain bad. So, really, that’s sort of a good thing. The main plot in this third series often had me mouthing obscenities and face palming myself. It’s like “Okay, yuri did this again” or “Yuri, how are you this stupid”.
Then, the show can’t even make up for it’s over the top cliche sincerity, with adding cool fight scenes or even blood or gore. Nobody ever seems to die in this show. It’s like it’s made for 9 year olds but could only be appreciated by 14 year olds.
The art, given the year it was made, is passable, but considering other shows made the same year, is pretty crap in comparison. It’s not really bad per say, just underwhelming and sometimes, like when it comes to the animation of the show, hilariously bad. The animation is so mediocre it makes the art appear above average in comparison.
What the show does really suffer from at all, is sound. The background music, just as in the first series, is lovely, potent, and always fitting. It’s not amazing, but certainly the best aspect of this entire show.
To conclude: The 3rd series of Kyo Kara Maoh’s cringe worthy cliche moments and characters, as well as it’s childlike tone and attitudes, are only saved due to the likability of the show- a likeness that’s rather embarrassing that even among anime fans, I rarely mention this as something I watched and actually enjoyed.
You probably will too.
The action sucks, plot is ridiculous most of the times but its no less enjoyable than others! You can’t help but feel warm and fluffy inside while watching this anime. I’ve seen a lot of anime with better storyline, art, plot but not all of them can affect a person’s emotion. I think that what makes it possible are the characters. I’m not an expert when it comes to analyzing stories but I think that the characters in this anime are well designed. Not in terms of appearance but in personality and background story. I felt genuinely sad for the character Geneus despite being a villain. For Saralegui, i felt irritation at the same time sympathy but regardless he’s one of my most favorite character in this series! Also, I’m not a fan of pure, naive characters since most of them are just dumb and helpless, but Yuuri is an exception. He doesnt waver. He stands his ground and most importantly he fights for what he believes in. Yuuri is truly PURE. regarding the shonen ai department, theres completely NO development but I dont feel disappointed at all.
To summarize, the story revolves around loyalty, trust and friendship. Its worth watching and I plan to rewatch the whole anime in the near future!
Best episode: episode 25, when the 10 nobles and yuuri played “shinou’ed away”… I somewhat felt proud for yuuri 🙂
5: Michiko to Hatchin
English: Michiko & Hatchin
MAL Score: 7.84
Under the unrelenting heat of the South American sun, hardened criminal Michiko Malandro breaks out of a high security prison for the fourth time in search of a man from her past. Michiko finds a clue in the form of Hana Morenos, a young girl trapped under the fists of her abusive foster family. In her powerlessness, Hana fantasizes about the day when she is finally whisked away from her captors by her very own Prince Charming. Little does she know that her fated prince would turn out to be the buxom and husky convict who charges in atop a stolen motorbike, claiming to be her mother.
The unlikely duo chase down their dreams in the sun-drenched land of Diamandra, navigating through the cacophony of betrayal, poverty, and child exploitation rings hiding in plain sight. However, wind of Michiko’s manhunt soon reaches the ears of criminal syndicate Monstro Preto, and a storm of gang warfare begins brewing over the horizon…
Michiko to Hatchin is the story of vibrant people and their clashing agendas, and of all the unlikely human connections drawn together by one elusive man.
Manglobe, the production company (and the brains behind), Michiko to Hatchin, have really pushed the boat out with this anime. But then again, they’re no strangers to success or quality, especially as they are the company responsible for Ergo Proxy and Samurai Champloo. The series was directed by Yamamoto Sayo and is effectively her first full time at the helm of a production, and whilst this may have been a gamble on the part of Manglobe, it’s one that certainly paid off as Michiko to Hatchin has a certain “fresh” quality that I haven’t seen in anime in a long time (not since Cowboy Bebop in fact).
The tale is about an escaped convict named Michiko Malandro and her quest to find her lost, and supposedly dead, lover Hiroshi Morenos. In order to achieve this, she “kidnaps” a girl who is supposedly Hiroshi’s daughter, initially thinking that she would know where Hiroshi is. However the world has changed during her years in prison, becoming at times more brutal and less forgiving.
The decision to set this tale in a quasi-South American (Brazilian), country was a stroke of genius as the creators and director could do things that would never have been included had the show been given a more staid setting. In addition to this, the characters themselves are able to have that little bit more “flair” about them because of the setting, something that initially detracts from some of them until one realises that the gaudiness is all simply part of that character’s persona – more on that later though.
Now fans of Ergo Proxy and Samurai Champloo will know that Manglobe are able to produce some stunning visuals, and Michiko to Hatchin is no slouch in this department. From barren deserts to lush jungles, from slum shanties to sleek factories, the level of detail is excellent, and well above that of many recent titles. In addition to this, the various settings in which the story takes place have a certain realistic quality about them that belies the fact that this is an anime.
In addition to the great scenery, the characters are extremely unique and well designed, again, adding to the sense of realism about the show. The leads and immediate supporting cast are individuals to a tee, with each character possessing a certain lifelike quality that many anime would find difficult to match.
One area where the show really excels is with the animation. It’s rare to see such lifelike movement in anime, and in many ways the fluidity and natural motion in Michiko to Hatchin represents a step up from that of Samurai Champloo.
Sound is another area where this show works very well. The effects are extremely well chosen and choreographed, and while some may be overwhelming, this is actually purposeful because of the situations the characters may find themselves in. The music used throughout the series is atmospheric and refreshing, and is reflective of the Latin-American feel of the show. The OP, a track called “Paraiso” by the Japanese jazz band Soil & “Pimp” Sessions, is an excellent piece that harks back to the classic “Tank!” of Cowboy Bebop fame. Unfortunately the same cannot be said of the ED, “Best Friend” by Karutetto, as it is a bit too “boy-band” for my tastes.
One of the truly great things about Michiko to Hatchin is actually the cast. Manglobe and Yamamoto took the somewhat surprising, move when they chose the actors, opting not for established traditional seiyuu but for established screen actors. However, this seemingly risky choice has paid off in spades for the series. Maki Yoko (Battle Royale II: Requiem, The Grudge), is extremely versatile as the sexy, pouting, hotheaded, and somewhat childish Michiko, whilst Ohgo Suzuka (Year One in the North, Memoirs of a Geisha), is truly excellent in the role of Hatchin as she provides a depth of character that is rare to find.
Which neatly brings us to the characters themselves. Michiko is willful, headstrong, selfish in the extreme, and very childish. Hatchin is somewhat shy and nervous, but also responsible, tidy, and hates laziness. Both leads are extremely well defined from the outset, something which is reinforced as the relationship between the two is extremely combative (the pair are effectively polar opposites). Others like the terrifying Satoshi Batista or the terrier-like (i.e. always chasing Michiko), Atsuko Jackson are also well defined from the start, and through the first few episodes it may be difficult to see how any of the characters are actually developing because of the strength of the characterizations.
One reason for this is because both Manglobe and Yamamoto decided against using normal anime practices for developing characters, and instead chose a far more realistic and subtle approach. One needs only to compare the relationship between Michiko and Hatchin (or even Michiko and Atsuko), at the beginning of the series, with their behaviour towards the end to see exactly how much they have developed as characters. An example of this is the fact that Michiko is initially very much an annoying, sexy, pouting, selfish jerk, however at the end of the series she reminds me of Balsa from Seirei no Moribito. Hatchin, Atsuko and Satoshi also undergo this extremely subtle development (you’ll see how much by episode 20).
I thoroughly enjoyed this series for many reasons, the main one being the fact that this is a show that is not afraid to show the casual brutality of its setting. There will be some out there who didn’t like the way the series ended, however I found the conclusion to be very much in keeping with the essence of the series, whilst at the same time being far more realistic than the endings of most other anime.
Michiko to Hatchin is a rarity in the medium, and should not be prejudged on the basis of one or two episodes. The complexity of each character, the harsh, unforgiving setting, the sometimes brutally real actions of individuals, and the extremely subtle development all serve to make this one of the best shows of 2008, and one of the best anime to appear in the last decade. At times Thelma & Louise, at times City of God, at times Laurel and Hardy, this anime possesses a style and flair that surpasses that of Samurai Champloo – a feat by any measure.
Given the quality of this series, and its previous titles, I’m rapidly becoming a fan of Manglobe.
The world depicted in “Michiko to Hatchin” is this wasteland, a setting fraught with greed and death amid the indigent and the impoverished. This is South America (Brazil), or rather a variation of it. From the gritty alleys, to the squalid shanties and the lush and viridescent landscapes, Manglobe doesn’t disappoint. The setting is not only a beauty to look at but is also something unique and rare that allows the show to take wing and travel regions that are distinctive yet still within the realms of what was initially established. Through this director Yamamoto is able to channel the genius of Watanabe and the result is something unlike any other that challenges and perhaps even surpasses works such as Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo.
The story chronicles the lives of mainly Michiko Malandro, an escaped convict on a desperate hunt to find a supposedly dead man that was once her everything and Hana Morenas nicknamed Hatchin, the apparent daughter of this man and who Michiko initially thinks is the ultimate clue to helping her achieve her goal. The premise is set, but the main plot is less prominent than what many would expect. In this show it is merely used as a device to tie in many self-contained stories together and give the show a satisfactory conclusion because ultimately this show isn’t about the goal, it never was. The show is about the journey and the bonds that are broken and healed along the way. And the stubborn, immature Michiko along with the self-righteous, mature Hatchin are characters real and charming enough to carry you through this journey and not let you go.
The show also has an astounding soundtrack that lives and breathes nearly as much as the characters do. The energetic soundtrack fits every beat and every pulse of this high-powered train ride, yet also smoothly transitions towards a more melancholy nature when the situation calls for it. Through this the music is able to create remarkable scenes of raw emotion and immeasurable charisma that echo and persist long after you have finished the show. The animation is no slouch in its department either. One of the reasons why Michiko and Hatchin feel so startlingly real is that they look and move like real people as well and while there are times where the animation quality may drop, it still stays very consistent throughout and lends to an experience that is both aesthetically pleasing and emotionally stimulating.
Ultimately this is a series that as well as examining the lengths in which people would go to accomplish their goals, more importantly looks at the bonds that are formed during that time. Michiko and Hatchin go on a dangerous adventure together as a tornado of a tag team, and through this are able to form a relationship that overcomes the trials and tribulations that come their way and even the long and arduous chasm created by time. It is a bond both honest and deep that lies in juxtaposition with the superficial and vapid bonds congesting the streets of Brazil, a strong bond of indomitable love and unending trust. And though there are many instances throughout the series where the two characters pull each other down with their flawed personas to the extent that you would think they are better off without each other, it becomes evident later on how much they need one another, how much more they are able to accomplish with each other as their platforms. The show does well to depict two sides of a relationship, one of anger and disarray during quarrels and also one of a serene and resonant beauty during the rare moments of an embrace and while the show is far from deep or a riddled literary piece of work, it does well to show the power of friendship and love in a realistic manner and the way in which it is able to travel the void of time and always be there right when you need it, proving that love is far from a burden, but rather a privilege. The privilege of being responsible for another.
Sayo Yamamoto’s first work is by no means perfect, but through its unique setting, remarkable soundtrack and captivating characters, she is able to construct a show filled with raw emotions and a flaring style constituting to a heartening, disturbing and riveting journey that in my book is nothing less than a masterpiece.
Michiko to hatchin’s story is rather unusually executed; my original impressions was that the series was episodic but upon completion that statement was a fairly inaccurate description, but in saying that I still find that each episode is ‘episodic’ in its own way. Each episode does contribute to the story being told, but interestingly enough they also provide detail on many background details: such as the lives of a group of kids growing up in the slums Sao Paulo, or even settling in on the business motives of an organized crime network hosting a bullfighting tournament or a prostitution ring etc etc…
To its credit these many moments scattered throughout the series helped maintain my interest throughout the series entirety; each scenario was new and refreshing, each life had something different to offer. Unfortunately, criticisms still need to be considered, as whilst all these many moments managed to pique my interest. I could only feel that they somehow seemed to be a foot-hold in grabbing the viewers attention because the actual story seems kind of trivial in comparison to many of the side-stories.
This observation still only further justifies why i believe this series to be good, as it came up with such a variety of side-stories that managed to maintain a consistently high level of quality, that made the long journey all the more worth it in the end.
One thing that I wanted to point out upon entering this series, is that at the period of time in which Michiko to Hatchin is set. Brazil was going through a revolution. I was personally a little disappointed when I discovered that this series covered very little of that historic event. Not to discredit the series for this because instead of doing that, it’s vivid portrayal of life in Brazil at the time seems particularly plausible and in many ways makes up for my disappointment. Underneath every garbage bin and behind every building, the place oozes with a deep sinister corruption. Everything from the police cover-ups and false justifications, money laundering, prostitution, you name it, this series probably has it.
A positive to all this, is that the series doesn’t try to make a bad name out of all of this. It simply lets its vision unwrap itself never bombarding its audience with moral preaching. This is the lives of these people, are they happy with it? Maybe, maybe not, but at least they are making a living out of what they got, and if what they have is morally ambiguous then why not use its absolute best.
The actual story whilst being rather trivial as I mentioned earlier is twisted around with the many side-stories adding a bit to the series worth. What irks me though is the motivations behind the foundation of the story, our main character Michiko being one of the soul main characters comes across as ditzy and in many ways, really gullible which does little to help with story progression, and most of the story is moved forward by side-characters.
Even with these criticisms, I still must say that Michiko to Hatchin’s ending is probably one of the best conclusions to an anime series that I have ever encountered. One problem I have found with many shows is that they take too long to conclude or the exact opposite where they don’t have a conclusion. Michiko to Hatchin falls fair and square into the middle. Covering everything that it had previously established and no noticable plot threads are left unresolved without seeming to rushed or too slow.
One of the most notable things about Michiko to Hatchin’s story is its interesting cast. The show takes the time and effort to construct a diverse quantity of personality and character traits. I do have a couple of issues with some minor and the main characters, some minor characters (not many) are occasionally used as plot conveniences but even these characters still get some level of development. Emphasizing that this series waste’s no time in establishing its characters personalities, ambitions and motivations, which is certainly a good thing.
One of the best things about watching this series was watching Michiko and Hatchin’s characters develop as the series played out, they’re an unusual and possibly eccentric combination of mother and daughter. Many times I began to wonder if they are even related, like at all, but as a member of the audience, I could feel a relationship present, whilst being slightly unorthodox it was not an impossible relationship to envision. It is entertaining to watch as they interact, learning from each others mistakes. Watching the unusually mature Hatchin take care of the naively reckless but caring Michiko, and vice-versa.
My complaints with some of the characters, are that their motivations are occasionally very vague. A good example would be some of the interactions between Michiko and Atsuko, a few of the outcomes from there encounters are occasionally poorly explained and sometimes a little stupid. Without giving away any spoilers, there was one particular scene where I was screaming at Atsuko in my head for not carrying out a particular action that she had tried so hard to achieve but in the end didn’t carry it out. The reason? Well I might have missed it because the motivation behind it was sort of precarious but the consequences for iit rendered their reasons completely arbitrary.
Our main character Michiko isn’t without fault either, very prone to some questionable actions throughout the series, chasing someone who is clearly trying to get away from her just seems to be a motivation that is slightly beyond my comprehension.
Other than these complaints it was an interesting cast nonetheless and despite these people’s shortcomings, these actions (even the ones that I previously mentioned) never felt out of character and becomes a small plus in my book.
The Art whilst not anything spectacular is very clean and this quality is constant throughout the entirety of the series. The most notable moments are seen in the many action sequences. Each scenes choreography was well animated rarely ever resorting to cheap techniques (and if the series did they were very well disguised). Each scene had a fluidity all on its own, it was fast-paced when it needed to be, retrospectively it was slow when demanded and normal between these many moments. Each frame never felt out of place when actions were being displayed. I mention this because the sheer breadth and style of the many action sequences in this series never lets up and the art knows how to dictate the adrenaline pumping moments and thus contributes to the series well-established atmosphere.
One of the best things about Michiko to Hatchin is the background designs. Never before have I seen a 3rd world/2nd world country presentation as detailed than I have in Michiko to Hatchin (with a possible exception of “Flag”) in an anime/manga series. Everything from the large open spaces accompanying a desolate road; to the slum, crime ridden districts of Brazil’s many cities, towns and communities. The level of detail that goes into many of the locations emphasize the tensions building in each district and community.
The character designs across the board are very commendable, and I loved how all the characters have a degree of acceptable realism to them. Whilst Michiko the main lead has a busty accentuated figure, her figure is complimented by the shows diverse characters and as mentioned previously with their large range of personalities, the same can be said for each character’s designs. Figures often appear in a versatility of chubby, well-groomed and formal, poor and hungry, old and young character types. Serving to make the characters far more relatable, increasing the series impact.
One particular aspect of the art that I wish to take into consideration is actually the opening and ending credits. One thing I loved about this series was the mesh of beautiful textures that I witnessed upon entering and leaving every episode. With a hint of photo-shop thrown into the blend of pseudo-phantasmagorical art reminiscent of a retro-American psychedelic hippie movement.
Michiko to Hatchin’s soundtrack is a well-made and thoroughly appropriate soundtrack with a collaboration of string instrumentals, mostly of the ukulele and acoustic guitar, with a common accompaniment of percussion instruments such as the timpani, bongos and such. A lot of the songs in the series ost are wildly and energetically presented, catering to the fun and adrenalin-soaked and occasionally sexually fused atmosphere that the series provides.
Some of the tracks are particularly memorable, most notably the opening sequence with its bubbly bebop jazz style. Effectively melding its complex harmonics making it an absolute blast to listen to, with the show forcing me to listen to it every single time I started a new episode, and that is definitely a good thing.
Each track adequately sets the tone of each scene and never fails to boast an exciting entourage. Overall I see no reason to complain about the ost. It is effective, different and great to listen to.
Overall, this show does have a couple of faulty points, where entertainment value can be somewhat lacking on a couple of occasions and at times I felt the characters make stupid decisions but they are few and far between. And as I mentioned before, rarely do those stupid decisions seem out of character, so if anything it helps benefit the series.
Altogether this series is a quality adventure taking place in an untouched landscape. It has a positively balanced story with non-repetitive scenario’s, the show never tries too hard at what it does and loves to revel in its own world. It knows its limits and actively makes use of that boundary. It is a vision that is both refreshing and entertaining and I would recommend it to anyone who shares a delight in venturing into a world of interesting characters and constant thumping of a glorious beat in every background.
Japanese: ディー グレイマン
MAL Score: 8.04
Losing a loved one is so painful that one may sometimes wish to be able to resurrect them—a weakness that the enigmatic Millennium Earl exploits. To make his mechanical weapons known as “Akuma,” he uses the souls of the dead that are called back. Once a soul is placed in an Akuma, it is trapped forever, and the only way to save them is to exorcise them from their vessel using the Anti-Akuma weapon, “Innocence.”
After spending three years as the disciple of General Cross, Allen Walker is sent to the Black Order—an organization comprised of those willing to fight Akuma and the Millennium Earl—to become an official Exorcist. With an arm as his Innocence and a cursed eye that can see the suffering souls within an Akuma, it’s up to Allen and his fellow Exorcists to stop the Millennium Earl’s ultimate plot: one that can lead to the destruction of the world.
I’ll start with the plot, which is far darker than your average shounen. From the very first episode, we are shown a merciless enemy that will exploit any weakness, who’s main weapon, the Akuma (demons) uses the souls of the dead. These are not zombies, just mindless corpses. These are weapons which pull a soul back from heaven and torture it as their power source. A lot of shounens gloss over the concept of death, bad guys are captured alive or shown the error of their ways, people fall unconscious but can be healed, etc. In D. Gray-man, death is very real, and resting in peace is only for the fortunate ones who’s loved ones are strong enough not to be tempted to call them back.
Against the Akuma and their creator, the Millennium Earl, are the Exorcists of the Dark Order. Exorcists are those chosen by God to use ‘innocence’, a mysterious substance which can be used to form weapons capable of destroying the Akuma. The series follows Allen Walker, a new recruit with the ability to see the souls trapped within the Akuma. The plot itself begins slowly, with short arcs in which Allen and his comrades are dispatched to investigate mysterious phenomena which are thought to be caused by innocence fragments. After a few of these arcs, the Noah Clan, allies of the Millennium Earl, begin to be introduced and the focus turns to the war between him and the Dark Order.
The plot is, for the most part, very well paced. Early arcs are kept short, about 4 episodes or so long, with a single ‘filler’ episode in between. Don’t be put off when I say filler. While the plot could easily go without these episodes, I found them all to be entertaining (if somewhat silly at times) and they served well as comic relief within an otherwise serious plot. And if you don’t enjoy them, they do become fewer and further between as the war intensifies and plot arcs become longer. With one exception, none of these longer plot arcs drag on to the point that the viewer just wants them to get on with it. In the one arc in which this does occur, it is saved in part by having another plot running at the same time. Battles often do last across multiple episodes, but in most of these, the battle changes and develops over those episodes, unlike drawn out battles in other shounen which just get repetitive, where the middle episodes can often just be skipped entirely.
The show also boasts one of the best sets of characters of any anime I have seen. Each hero is flawed, and the Earl and Noah are far more fleshed out (in more ways than one in the Earl’s case) than most villains. It says a lot about the quality of a series’ characters when the villains mourning a dead friend can evoke sympathy. They also managed to inspire doubt as to whether the exorcists are in fact the good guys, thanks to the show’s religious imagery.
As for the heroes, each has their own motive, each of which is more complex than the standard shounen motives of just saving the world or becoming the strongest and the like. Allen wants to save the souls of the Akuma, to the point where he can even show disregard for his own or others’ lives at times. Lenalee, the series’ main female character, fights for the sake of her friends and brother, and her past reveals that she may not support the Dark Order’s cause even as she fights for them.
My personal favourite characters were Lavi and Bookman. These two are a master (Bookman) and apprentice (Lavi) of a clan of historians who became exorcists to be close to history as it occurred so that it could be recorded, and while they do fight, they try to minimise how much they interfere. Lavi’s conflict between his duty as a Bookman and as an Exorcist, the loyalty he developed for his friends despite Bookman’s orders to become close to no one, and his doubts as to whether the cheerful, friendly, fun guy is the real him or a mask that he should remove was probably my favourite aspect of the series.
So, here I am singing the series’ praises, yet it got a 9, not a 10. Why? Well, in complete contrast to what I said at the beginning, because it ended. A lot wasn’t able to be explained before the series was cancelled. The last ten episodes or so suffered from trying to rush one of the story arcs after having taken their time over previous ones. The battle in the last three episodes was amazing, but it also wasn’t the final battle that I wanted to see. There is a lot of potential for a sequel, including a development at the end that virtually screamed “to be continued”. I do sincerely hope that there will be a sequel. But if there isn’t, the show ended in the best possible place it could. A clear cut ending is often unrealistic, and endings in which the heroes won but the villain is there in the shadows, not as dead as they thought, muttering “This isn’t over” gets old quickly. Maybe the abiguity was for the best.
All in all, the show is well worth watching, even if you don’t usually commit to long running shounen. Just don’t go in expecting to not have any questions at the end.
The Story has a very original plot. When I started this anime I immediately liked the concept of chosen humans + “innocence” = akuma (demon) butt-kicking “Exorcists”! I knew nothing about it but i decided to watch it based on its good animation and I was not disappointed at all. The characters and their uniforms/weapons all look outstanding!
I found that all of the op. and end. songs are excellent songs that you wouldnt mind listening to each episode. Normally I would skip songs but I listened to all of D.Gray-man’s because they really do suit the anime and sound good! Background music could be a bit better tho…
Character is one of the best aspects of the anime. Each and every character is Amazing! Each main character is lovable, unique, strong, nice-looking and they all have mysterious pasts and secrets. I have found fan clubs for even the evil characters. You wont find out about the evil characters until late in the anime but they are surprisingly loved as well. There might be a few characters you dont like but those would likely be side characters..all the main characters are great! The development of the ALL the characters through out the series always amazed me…
Try not to give up on this anime too early…after watching about 30 episodes I started to get a little bored… But since I loved the characters and was curious about the plot I decided to go read the manga. I was instantly hooked and it became a favorite! The point is that at the start of the anime there are a lot of filler-type episodes (especially before episode 38). Dont get me wrong, these are not the typical useless filler episodes. All most all these episodes are either action-packed or show some character development.
Even in the most serious of times there are humorous moments and great weapons/abilities/battles..
D.Gray-man finished with 103 episodes and not many fillers..In my opinion do not be disappointed with the end of the anime. There are many amazing battles that lead up to the climatic end but a lot of things are left unexplained. I don’t think its confirmed but I am expecting a second season in the future after a lot more manga chapters are released (when the anime ended, it was very close to manga and i guess they decided not to go into fillers…)
Overall this anime is excellent [9-10] and covers almost every genre;
A worthy watch! It can be compared with the popular shounen anime Naruto and Bleach but I found more interest in D.Gray-man which is a bit more serious and in depth. (And a lot less out-stretched if you know what I mean…)
The story was bad to say the least. It was badly paced as most of the time your stuck to seeing something between shonen- anime glued together with a lot of dramatism. And that means that action fight’s are predictable and almost seem pointless and the Allen or Lenalle or other guys from the Order cry after almost every fight about something. The story had so much plot-holes that there were more holes then the plot. Also on the end all you get is about the same were this anime started. The last episode everyone is still fighting akuma’s and more then 100 episodes passed away already.
It was very good. Nowhere in this anime you can see bad animation and it was 103 episodes long. That’s a lot of episodes! Off course it wasn’t anything ground braking and akuma’s could of been made more creepier.
It was awesome. All the time I liked the sound in the anime soundtracks. Specially when Allen played piano. Only reason I didn’t give it 10 was, because few openings could of been a bit more better. Almost all of the openings were top notch, but none of them were something that I would like to listen.
The good guys were decent characters.The main protagonist Allen was an interesting character, but he lacked the brains or the attitude to be a real protagonist. Allen is basically a good guy and nothing more. The protagonist might as well be Lavi or The Krory( The vampire dude). Well at least the good guys had some good character development, but because of the bad story the character development was really hard to see. The villains were just pointless. There goal was pointless and even 3 year old kids have better goals to accomplish. For example, Earl’s goal was to destroy the world. And what will happen to him? Who the hell would want to destroy something his life depends on? Makes no sense.
I kinda enjoyed this anime with a big minus. I liked to watch some of the fights in D. Gray-man, like Krory against Lavi and Allen. Though most of the time the fights were one-sided like Allen killing lvl 1 akuma’s. The comedy in here was like: Should I be laughing or not? So I didn’t crack any laugh at all. Well at least I liked to listen to the music. But once I remember how long this anime was I feel like I wasted too much of my time for almost nothing. I will never rewatch this anime.
The story is rubbish. For 103 episodes it went nowhere and the last episode just ended with a cliffhanger. Character’s are decent. The art and music is quality stuff, but nothing ground-braking.
If you really have nothing to do then go watch D. Gray-man. At the start you will like it , then you will get bored of it somewhere in the middle, then close to the end you will start to like it again and you will want to know what will happen next and at the end you will just get a wtf moment that will leave you with a bad taste in your mouth and a lot of wasted time.
3: Saiunkoku Monogatari 2nd Season
English: Tales of Saiunkoku
Japanese: 彩雲国物語 第2シリーズ
MAL Score: 8.05
Shuurei Kou and her friend Eigetsu To, a boy prodigy of humble origins, have been appointed co-governors of the Sa province, one of the eight provinces in Saiunkoku. Together, they decide to make the province an academic research center in the hopes of bringing a long overdue prosperity to the region.
However, while Shuurei goes to the capital to obtain approvals for the ambitious project, the Sa province’s recently established tranquility is threatened by a pandemic that brings both death and turmoil as it begins to spread among the people. Counting on Eigetsu to monitor the situation until her return, Shuurei seeks support from her allies to find a suitable treatment. Yet, Eigetsu’s past personal conflicts distract him, providing an opportunity for opponents of Shuurei’s position to take advantage of the troubles and undermine her authority.
Becoming a government official has been Shuurei’s lifelong dream, but it is no easy task for the first woman undertaking such a position. Will she step up and overcome this great challenge or give in to the looming adversities?
Story – 10
The second season starts off around where the last one ends, so I recommend you watch the first season before you tackle this one. Anyway, the second season is easily even more intricate than the first, with Ryuuki finally taking charge as emperor, something not all members of government appreciates. New enemies appear, and the clans continue to feud as always. Every detail in the story is important, something viewers should be used to by now.
Animation – 9
I really appreciated all the costumes this time around. Everyone’s hair, the jewelery, and building designs, all of it is so wonderfully done. Actions scenes could be a bit better, but that’s not really what the story is about.
Sound – 9
It’s the same, top-quality sounds as the first season. The OP/ED haven’t changed, which makes me glad. They’re really fitting. The seiyūs are kind of awesome and wonderfully casted. Some standouts include: Serian, played by the same seiyu as Xingke from Code Geass (ironic since they’re both very similar characters) and Ran Ryuuren (Hei from Darker than BLACK). Okay, the whole cast is amazing.
Character – 10
All the characters from the previous season appear once again, gaining even more development. Kourin and Eigetsu get a particularity epic storyline, something I did not expect, but ended up loving. Shuurei is as motivated as before, trying her hardest to succeed. Ryuuki is also doing his best, and slowly building a group of loyal supporters. Seiran has found a place for himself in the royal guard, and is finally allowing his true personality to show through. Everyone is wonderfully written as usual, probably thanks to Saiunkoku Monogatari being based off a series of novels.
Enjoyment – 10
The second season takes everything I love about this series and adds even more. All my favourite secondary characters get their chances to shine, and some new characters bring fresh life to the show (Go Jyūsan-hime!). I was impressed by the costumes and soothed by the sounds of the erhu. Usually, second seasons aren’t as good as their firsts, but Saiunkoku Monogatari does not stick to this norm.
You know that series that you obsess over continuously like some druggie? The series that makes you even risk staying up at night and pretending to be asleep when your parents check on you but you have to watch it? It was that sort of series for me.
The thing about this anime is that it completely sucks you in. At first I was very reluctant to watch it because of the whole ‘harem’ thing which really annoys me but I decided to give it a shot when the “ohmygosh exams are coming” craze hit my head. And then I couldn’t stop watching.
I watched both seasons in a week. I sacrificed a lot to finish it. AND I DON’T REGRET ANYTHING. The characters are all so different and they feel so real, it feels good to be able to distinguish between them. In season two the story just got better and there were times I bit my pillow in frustration or to simply stop myself from screaming. My family caught me talking and gushing while pointing at the laptop screen but they decided to leave me alone. I would like to thank them for that.
Then there were the new costumes and Shuurie got some new hairstyles. Good for her. BY THE WAY, Shuurie (am I spelling her name right? I can’t tell. I feel like a mindless zombie because I just finished watching the last episode) is my all time favorite heroine now! I rarely get to see such a strong female lead who doesn’t annoy me and, for some funny reason, in my eyes she just got prettier and prettier after every episode. And I was like, have you ever met such a beautiful character, both inside and out?
New characters were introduced and some older characters’ background details were explored. Very touching stuff, actually. These people feel real to me. I’m glad Ryuuki became stronger in the end and found his resolve and learned to be a better emperor.
There’s so much going on inside my head right now. It’s a jumbled mess. But, the most important question is, WHERE IS SEASON THREE? Breaks my heart. honestly.
Excuse me while I go look for the novels online. Goodbye (^_^)/
MAL Score: 8.16
In a world where memories exist in memory chips separate from the body, death of the body no longer means death of the soul. It is possible for memories to be viewed, altered, and transferred between bodies. These memory chips are used by the rich to obtain eternal lives in carefully selected bodies, while for the poor, selling their own bodies and conserving their souls in the chips often become the only way to earn a living. An electrolytic cloud in the sky serves as a barrier between the heavens of the fortunate and the underworld of the destitute, making this social division impregnable.
One day, a man named Kaiba wakes up in an empty room with no memories, a mysterious hole in his chest, and a locket holding the picture of an unknown woman. After escaping an attack and stumbling upon a decrepit village of underworld residents, he begins his adventure across the different planets of this strange universe to find out more about his own identity and the woman he once knew.
Through a journey of self-discovery and acceptance, Kaiba weaves together tales of souls and spirits and explores the importance of memories.
Story: 9 (Great amnesia story, love the sci-fi elements)
Art: 10 ("I DO" yelled Sam, "I do like green eggs and ham!")
Sound: 7 (overly silent at times, but dialog helps lot)
Character: 9 (So simple yet very complex, a must see)
Enjoyment: 10 (Felt like a 3-hour summer blockbuster movie)
Overall: 45/50 = 9 (Everyone must experience this)
People always try to be above others. It’s because they can’t be happy unless they have people below them. This show creates a whole universe around this concept and other unconventional ideals. From the anime description and genre choices for this show, and even the database picture the normal anime viewer might be a little turned off from this show. At first glance for me I quickly turned it away as I thought it was aimed toward children. Despite showing an R+ rating I also notice ratings are usually 20% correct in the MAL database.
But after pushing it aside for about two weeks, I finally decided to give it a shot and boy will you be surprised. Right off the start, you’re heart will start racing as you follow the story of the main character. A after waking up from a daze, blade runner ‘esque chase quickly follows. After the action, the main character appears to be very lost, which I’m sure most of you will feel the same way he does. This also starts a unique connection and experience between the viewer and the main character. This is where the show really starts.
One thing I’m sure most people will notice is the art style. You will either love it or hate it but don’t let the artwork turn you away from this show. After an episode or two you will most likely appreciate the level of originality this art style brings to the plate. After i have seen over 100+ series in a three month span, this was a very welcome change to the orthodox anime styles. Dont let the simple look fool you as well, there are more than enough small details to pay attention to throughout. From the tiny memory pellets to an overcrowded storage room. Everything looks very thought out and amazing. Often you’ll probably think to yourself, how the hell does Misaaki and Nobutaka make this ***t up?
Another false assumption was that the characters were mostly children since they have a simple child like look to them. But they are very much mature adults. The characters are are all so very likable and I owe a lot of that to the art style and the small details that they do or don’t leave out. The even greater point is how Masaaki Yuasa goes to great depths to control the viewers emotions with the use of these characters. One minute, you’ll hate a character, then the next you’ll feel sorry for them, then you’ll feel frustrated because this is almost an emotional roller coaster. Rest assured, this is a good kind of frustration (if there is such a thing).
Defintiely "don’t judge this book by its cover." This point of view story was rather an interesting one and the science, technology, and hierarchy surrounding this universe was very captivating experience. There are quite a large number of allusions and ideals in every episode that got me reflecting on what I have just experienced (which I absolutely love). I can’t really compare this to any other anime show. If i had to compare the story to something, it like a telling of a blade runner/ matrix story in the eyes of Dr. Seuss.
A great way to close this epic show would be a quote from Dr. Seuss’ Yertle the Turtle:
"You hush your mouth!" Howled the Mighty King Yertle.
"You have no right to talk to the world’s highest turtle.
"I rule from the clouds, over land, over sea!
There is no nothing, NOTHING, that’s higher than me!"
Like any other cyberpunk and dystopian anime it is apparent from the inception that it is a society that has been totally dehumanized. In this case, to handheld chips and yellow blobs. Bodies are thrown away like old clothing and replaced on mere whims. Human life and emotion is “seemingly” disregarded. Which is generally the most common criticism, and maybe even point, of these genres. They lack any real empathy and it is understandable that this can deter viewers from the genre. However, this is where Kaiba truly shines. Kaiba puts the futuristic technology into a more human context and is the reason why I emphasize the word seemingly. It is an empathetic cyberpunk, that is to say, that characters express true emotions and warmth. Which is something these series generally lack (for better or for worse? that’s each person’s decision). It shows this empathy whilst at the same time, it is able to show the total loss of human value. To be able to show both polar opposites of this spectrum without one impacting the other is a true testament to how well done this series is.
The empathy is shown in many cases throughout the series, such as maternal bonds, but most notably through the two main characters that, despite not remembering each other, and being in totally different bodies, they are still drawn together and attracted to one another. It also shows the sacrifices one is willing to take to stay with their loved ones and no amount of deceit and lies will stand between characters coming together. And at heart, this really is a series about human longing and romance.
Similarly, the OST completely compliments and helps illustrate both the dystopian nature of the world in which Kaiba is set and also its warm empathetic side. Most notably two pieces: the Melody of Clonico and The Tree Song. The Melody of Clonico (episode 3) really serves to illustrate the empathetic side of the series. The Tree Song holds magnificent symbolism in both a literal and metaphorical sense, and it is no surprise why this song is teased throughout the entire series becoming its ‘staple’ piece. While this may not be relevant to some, it is something I can wholeheartedly appreciate. This song illustrates the entire series as a whole in more than one way.
Kaiba’s characters are fantastic for the most part. A large portion of the series can be considered episodic, meaning, Kaiba travels from one place to another and in doing so meets characters along the way that don’t stay relevant for very long but they do what’s required of them and are well developed enough in most cases that you genuinely care about them and what happens to them. Kaiba is a very interesting and mysterious character that at the beginning, the viewer knows as much (or as little) as Kaiba himself, who has lost his memories. As the series progresses Kaiba – and the viewer – learn more about his past which made it a very engaging experience as he slowly becomes more aware of the girl in his locket. That girl being Neiro. Neiro is also a very interesting character, who, without spoiling much, has issues of her own in regards to her memories. The most rewarding thing about the characters, namely Kaiba – but also others – is that his genuine interactions with other characters within the series brings a sense of warmth to an otherwise, overly cold and dark society.
The art is a love or hate relationship. It is far from mainstream and maybe even pretentious. There’s not much to say about that, the animation is still fluid, the characters are still well designed and the world they find themselves in is equally well designed. I personally found it to be one of the series greatest strengths and made it an even more rewarding watch.
Kaiba is a bag of mixed emotions, on one hand it is incredibly sad to watch as human life is literally thrown away and treated like garbage, but on the other hand it is beautifully warm to see individuals stop at nothing to preserve this life and connect with their loved ones. It left me not knowing what to feel at times and I can only say that as absolute praise for the series. I am not saying this series is for everyone, it is totally understandable that if you’re not a fan of cyberpunk/dystopian anime this may not be for you, but if you don’t like these genres for the lack of empathy they portray, this may pleasantly surprise you. There are other reasons why this isn’t for everyone, most notably, its art which as I said, is far from the mainstream. It may not be an easy watch for some, especially given the cyberpunk/dystopian tropes it has, but it is something I loved wholeheartedly.
Thanks for taking the time to read.
It is true that this type of story has not been done before. One that deals with the concept of minds and how it’s our self, but with Kaiba, it’s like a journey you go through with our main hero, named Kaiba. He meets different characters from his trip that all have distinct characteristics that make them stick out from the rest, who may or may not help him in his search to find his memories that have been lost after his long slumber. As we follow our likable hero, we discover how the world that Kaiba inhabits has begun to crumble under its dystopia. Although they portray the setting in a surrealist manner to give it a distinctive look, there’s still the lack of any depth to the world itself. In other words, there’s not enough to go around from the lack of exposition it gives to the history of this world that Kaiba has to offer, and it only succeeds halfheartedly.
With that said, even though the plot features some mind-bending, philosophical facets that incorporate Kaiba, the story-telling that helps guide them through the narrative is somewhat lacking. Nonetheless, when the show starts, it manages to make an excellent first impression in showing us first-hand what the world is like and how the other people who live in it go through the absolute turmoil that plagues their way of life. Some moments were even strong enough to invoke tears from my eyes. However, it doesn’t take long until we cut away from the protagonist and then start going into the character back story of another named Chroniko. To explain this clearly, Kaiba implants his memories into Chroniko, and from then on we get to explore Chroniko’s past and how she was brought up into the world. While this might seem admirable to make us know that there are, in fact, more than just Kaiba that might matter, I feel as though it wasn’t even needed in the first place when we already have to follow Kaiba and his journey to get his memories back, even though technically he’s inside of Chroniko in these scenes.
Furthermore, we follow other characters such as the sheriff, named Vanilla, and his fascination with Chroniko, or in this case, the body that Kaiba inhabits. This plays off more like a desperate attempt to make the show longer. After that, we discourage entirely that whole moment that involved both of those characters, and we follow Kaiba like nothing ever happened previously. One could say that those plot arcs were necessary for Kaiba to understand the meaning of human emotion and the human condition, but it comes across as a bit trite and forgettable once the next episode rolls in.
Although with that said, the conclusion to the story felt incredibly fulfilling to experience after a brilliant romantic setup between Kaiba and Neiro, who play off each other very well. Their immediate feelings for each other might seem a little cliched, but how they direct the dialogue they say to each other comes off rather fluently and feels genuine. Right near the very last frame of the previous episode, it felt like the best way to give Kaiba a sense of closure.
By far the most alluring aspect of Kaiba that has made it somewhat of an indistinguishable show amongst the anime community is the art and animation. Directed by Masaaki Yuasa, who also directed the classic The Tatami Galaxy and directed the animation and wrote the surrealist film Cat Soup, this man knows his way of transforming his visions into reality and making us clamor for more of his artistic creativity. Kaiba’s hook from its animation relies not just on an unconventional art style, but also its seamless implementation to the story and tone it tries to convey to us. Once we see the art style which Yuasa executes on constructing Kaiba’s world, the result is no less than jaw-dropping. In some areas, it might seem even a little forceful in the attempts of making things a little too wacky and cartoony, the moments where it shows how people can invade someone’s memories look incredible at face value.
The fluid motions that the characters exhibit in the show’s animation feel reminiscent of western-influence and the works of the great Osamu Tezuka. The abstract shapes of the buildings and vehicles give the show its unique identity and ultimately becomes very memorable in that aspect. There is about as much creativity as one could get from a studio named Madhouse, who’s no stranger to producing shows similar in nature of Kaiba.
On the overall quality of the sound production, the voice acting is serviceable with the veteran voice actresses Romi Park and Mamiko Noto giving out terrific performances. Even with the limited amount of dialogue that the character Kaiba has throughout the story, Houko Kuwashima plays out the amnesiac archetype rather convincingly. Her voice emotes perfectly as an unemotional character who has lost all sense of meaning in his life because of how memories play a huge role to him and how that was perpetually lost. One thing to note in music is the opening song for Kaiba which is composed quite beautifully from the sublime electronic ambiance mixed with subtle orchestration. On top of that is the beautiful voice of Seira Kagami, giving a dazzling performance that sets a tone of pure melancholic loneliness, one of the main themes of the entirety of Kaiba.
There’s nothing quite like Kaiba’s style and finesse to be found in most anime shows. I say style as in the animation, which is the only significant aspect of the show that makes it worth watching, but that’s not to say that the story is terrible by any means. There’s more to be seen in Kaiba than just the art and animation; but if it was only focused a little more tightly and given more world-building for it to be memorable, this would’ve been ranked higher. There is no doubt people will be looking at the art style and start thinking it’s nothing like anime they’re used to and reject it immediately. Distinctive qualities are a rarity these days, and I’m perfectly fine with this. No doubt we need more creative measures put into the medium, but when one show comes out in that one particular season that puts a lot of effort into its aesthetic qualities that challenge the norm, then that makes that one show all the more special.
1: Ookami to Koushinryou
English: Spice and Wolf
MAL Score: 8.25
Holo is a powerful wolf deity who is celebrated and revered in the small town of Pasloe for blessing the annual harvest. Yet as years go by and the villagers become more self-sufficient, Holo, who stylizes herself as the “Wise Wolf of Yoitsu,” has been reduced to a mere folk tale. When a traveling merchant named Kraft Lawrence stops at Pasloe, Holo offers to become his business partner if he eventually takes her to her northern home of Yoitsu. The savvy trader recognizes Holo’s unusual ability to evaluate a person’s character and accepts her proposition. Now in the possession of both sharp business skills and a charismatic negotiator, Lawrence inches closer to his goal of opening his own shop. However, as Lawrence travels the countryside with Holo in search of economic opportunities, he begins to realize that his aspirations are slowly morphing into something unexpected.
Based on the popular light novel of the same name, Ookami to Koushinryou, also known as Spice and Wolf, fuses the two polar genres of economics and romance to create an enthralling story abundant with elaborate schemes, sharp humor, and witty dialogue. Ookami to Koushinryou is more than just a story of bartering; it turns into a journey of searching for a lost identity in an ever-changing world.
Ever since i was in middle school I used to play video games with trading and how prices rise and fall from location to location and how supply and demand and even risk margins for investing in certain things to turn a profit. That was the main goal, to make money. And that is the main goal of our main character Lawrence Kraft. Through his travels he entrusted a small heretic town that believed in a wolf god named Horo that watched over their crops. And it just happens that Lawrence Kraft befriends this god and he soon finds out that she just wants to go home. And so the adventure begins….
Being a story about trading goods there is bound to be alot of dialog between bartering, negotiating, trading information and the chemistry between Horo and Lawrence. If theres going to be alot of dialog an my anime it better at least intelligent and make sense. Luckily this show does it very well, almost perfect. And its safe to say this is because how Horo and Lawrence feed off each others energies so well that you almost feel like you’re right there arguing with Horo. Theres no "voice in the head" in this anime, all their thoughts and ideas go between each other and nothing is never left out. Although little background details are left out for time constraints, viewers with an open mind can understand most of the unmentioned side stories. Those who cant figure out the small things, the subbers (ayako) were nice to place side notes for every episode. Its very refreshing to see an anime that actually takes time to explain things to the point that you are convinced enough to believe the situation at hand.
Lawrence and Horo are the only main characters of the show so having a good chemistry between them was key but also having a strong seiyu cast for those two is another reason why this show is addicting. Their voices emit their emotions perfectly and the background music just makes this show so much more elegant and beautiful. Its basically consists of a string quartet. Who ever composed all of the background music must be one of the best composers I’ve ever heard. I never knew so many emotions can come out of just a group of strings. Environmental sound effects are just as what you would expect after hearing the beautiful strings and artwork. Crickets chirp at night, flames flicker and click, they’re all of high quality. But they never interfere with the dialog at all which I enjoy the most.
The last component that brings this whole show to masterpiece status is the artwork. This show is best shown on HD resolution definitely. You can see all the painstaking detail it took for all the artists to draw all the settings of the medieval towns, each cobble stone looks different from each other, the stained glass is painted with perfect care. Even all the guild halls and churches have a massive feel to them. Everything about the artwork screams perfection and is easily one of the best artwork I’ve laid my eyes on. The character animations aren’t as greatly skilled as the background and static animations but it does hold a medium-high quality at best. But Horo and Lawrence are still quite memorable throughout the whole show.
Overall this show crams so much information and dialog to the viewers its easy to say that its not for everyone. But this is indeed a very intelligent, beautiful, and intriguing show. Its a show that you will either understand or not. As for me I love shows like this that leaves JUST enough out for the viewer to make them think and analyze about the episode they just saw. And I am a total sucker for beautiful artwork and music, but character chemistry is what drives me (and all my other 10’s on my list) to score this a 10.
…mind you this show still isn’t for everyone.
TL;DR – Great show. Refreshing medieval drama without corny magic (stunning historically accurate and fun depiction of medieval economics and commerce), immensely likeable main characters, awesome period-appropriate soundtrack, amazing dub, good art. Watch this show, despite the unfortunate cliffhanger ending of Season 2.
This is a great lesson on ‘Never judge a book by the cover’. That said, I wish they had a better cover… Spice and Wolf was marketed with a half-naked furry wolf girl. Like most people, I was repulsed by it at first sight. Little did I know this seemingly shallow fanservice poster girl is one of the deepest characters in any anime ever, and the show is far better than the light novels it’s based on.
Spice and Wolf doesn’t have a grand story – but follows the motivations of its two main characters – Lawrence, a traveling merchant, and Holo, an outcast diety traveling with him. This gives the show freedom to deeply invest into its arcs, and use them as an excellent form of character-building. It also does something great – leaves a lot unsaid, but does it so tastefully that it creates mystery and intrigue rather than frustration.
Besides one of the characters being an outcast god, this is an incredibly low-fantasy, low-magic medieval drama, and I haven’t seen anything quite like it in Anime – that I enjoyed.
The main characters are incredible. They’re fun, intelligent, and never compromised to move the plot along. When something happens, it almost always makes sense given the characters’ motivations and flaws. The character flaws are so well written, which lets the characters be defined by their shortcomings as much as their strengths. It’s great to see them experience joy, fear, exhileration, jealousy, rage… All in complex, unique, believable ways.
The side characters aren’t as great, but their screen time is so limited that I don’t care, they serve their purpose and don’t overstay their welcome. Bonus points because the English Dub is far better than the Japanese and brings out the characters way more.
The animation isn’t groundbreaking or extravagant, but is thoughtful and gorgeous. It captures the setting of a medieval world before the advent of mass industry, blending undisturbed nature with primitive settlements and medieval cities, all without obnoxious fantasy outfits and outlandish weapons. They changed the studio in the second season, but honestly the different style works pretty well too.
The soundtrack is great – Yuuji Yoshino seems to have gone to great lengths to specifically use historically accurate instrumentation and techniques, and it shows. Everything hits home, from the festival music (there’s a LOT of festival music) to the darker, suspenful tracks.
I can’t talk about the sound without bringing this up. WATCH. THE. DUB. The Japanese voices can’t hold a candle to the English. J. Michael Tatum is a genius, and Brina Palencia is the definitive Holo. The Japanese voices are full of Anime cliches – and once removed, this show has almost none, making it a truly refreshing watch.
Don’t miss it.
How could this not turn out to be brilliant?
When discussing Spice and Wolf, the very title of the series is of interest. More particularly, the sequence of the words of that title. Whereas the Japanese original should have produced the sequence ‘Wolf and Spice’, the reverse is used in the English title; both sequences are used when people talk about the series. The very preference of one sequence of the title’s elements over the other might very well show which such element is more important to the viewer. Equally, it will probably betray appreciation of the show as a whole, as one of the two elements is clearly inferior to the other.
-= Wolf =-
One way of looking at this series is to see it as a traveller’s tale, perhaps even one of a budding romance: a story of two companions trekking from place to place to reach their goal and becoming more firm friends with each bump in the road – bumps that are present, partly as that’s how roads are, but mostly as a method of giving the travellers something to struggle with and to overcome.
Such a view can easily enough be taken, since both protagonists, travelling merchant Kraft Lorenz and his companion Holo, have a penchant of running into trouble at each way stop, either of their own making or by coincidence and plot-convenience, and especially since theirs is an age-old adventure tale, a tale of crossing a continent while finding one’s way home. The particular angle from which Spice and Wolf looks at this story is noteworthy, though.
Kraft Lorenz is one of the more unusual characters concepted within the entirety of anime and manga. A travelling trader owning little but his own horse and carriage and dreaming of making enough money to open a shop, he is hardly an archetypal hero. Nor is he concepted to become one. The focus of his character and his actions lie squarely on his business. A generally upright and decent, if competitive, man, his is a less than overly adventurous life of trying to strike a good deal and staving off bankruptcy, trading in commodities and making the best of opportunities encountered by favourable exchange rates or the novelty of trading on credit. At first glance it may not be the most exciting of lives to watch, but it is made up for by the detail poured in each individual transaction and the worries they bring to someone whose very survival hinges on the successful deal.
There is also the little fact that he has made a promise to a spirit of an age past, letting this spirit travel with him and helping her search for her far-off home for as long as their routes overlap. His motivation is partly one of expedience, partly one of awe, and partly one of wishing for a companion on the road.
While Lorenz is simply a character who is able to assess and laugh about himself and who never strays too far from the path of weighing all his options and usually acting from his thoughts instead of his emotions (somewhat rare in itself), only being overcome at times by the greed his profession might by necessity entail, Holo is what, to many, makes the show memorable.
First of all, there’s her concept. She’s a ‘Roggenwolf’, a wolf-spirit from folk legend who was a protector of the rye fields and the harvest; the legend depicted in the anime, including the idea that the wolf hides in the last sheaf of rye, comes directly from the actual legend (although the anime most likely speaks about barley, not rye – it’s hard to tell, with ‘mugi’ meaning barley as well as rye and wheat). But Spice and Wolf adds to this simple notion, mentioning how she agreed to be present in the fields in days when the success of the harvest depended on the whims of nature and the supernatural, only to be forgotten when progress and developing technology made her antiquated, until she roused herself from her placidity, longing to return to her old home, a semi-mythical place where everything was bathed in a brilliant silver.
A being who is not human, Holo is shown to enjoy the marvels of the human world with all the lack of solicitude of a child. Seeing herself as better than humans, she is a trickster, toying with whatever interests her, shown to like mind-games, wittiness and swiftness in conversation, all the while seemingly thoroughly enjoying being pampered, being treated to large amounts of alcoholic beverages and socialising.
While this might make her likable, perhaps even charming, it doesn’t make her stand out as a character. What does manage to do so is the fact that, every now and again, without too much attention being piled on it, she, and the audience with her, is reminded of the fact that she is, in truth and not only in word, different, a spirit. At such times realisation creeps through that she is, in fact, hundreds of years old and wise in the ways of the world – but in the ways of the world that was and now is gone. She is a stranger in a strange land, having awoken from slumber only to find that what she once knew is lost. It infuses her with a sense of loneliness that might not always be the most convincing, but at least appears to be sincere.
Viewed as a traveller’s tale, their story is one of visiting new places and getting involved with the goings-on there, either by becoming embroiled in the affairs of that locale or by interacting with the local markets and traders in a professional capacity. The different tales, more or less one per locale, depicting the ideological problem of Holo being a wolf-spirit and the fiasco of investing in something the market is flooded with, among others, focusing on the interaction of the two travelling companions in their persons and professions with the wider world, generally lead to a calm pacing that give the two ample space to converse with each other and their surroundings and developing the bond between such unlikely bedfellows.
As it should be, that bond is slow to develop. Their travelling together at first being nothing but a marriage of convenience, slowly the practical agreement gains an emotional aspect as trust starts to build up. Equally slowly, their conversations change from the purely economical (in all meanings of that word) to the moral and the emotional, yet both keep their distance, befitting two persons who have only known each other for a short time: though banter is exchanged, sometimes infused with quite a bit of wit and mocking of self, once it starts getting personal both have a tendency to back off unless it is truly important for their travels together. If there is no progress in their relationship, this is because there should not be any: Lorenz and Holo are companions, perhaps friends. By knowing each other, they can work together; by caring, they can travel together. But more would be out of place: they are fundamentally different persons in outlook and goals and their focus on the practical side of things only makes them all the more realistic and mature.
-= Spice =-
Looking at Spice and Wolf as the story of its two protagonists, travelling companions and unlikely friends slowly growing into a stronger relationship is, however, missing the trees for the forest. The super-story isn’t but a method to link the little tales together. What makes this series one that stands out from the crowd is the staggering amount of detail poured into the fictional world, a world brought to life in many of its facets by the highly unconventional method of making one of the protagonists a merchant.
As a trader, Lorenz is bound to explore the cities he travels through and while he does so the audience is treated to a setting that is as evocative as it is true to actual history. Though Spice and Wolf is ostensibly set in a fictional world, it becomes clear very soon that this world is the Central Europe of the late 14th, early 15th centuries in all but name. In particular, the cities appear as the market towns of the late Middle Ages, and the trading guilds mentioned are a clear reference to the rising Italian companies and the Hanseatic League.
The actual content of the show has little to do with the relationship between Holo and Lorenz, but is squarely focused on immersing the audience in the particulars of the small-scale trade of a time when pepper was worth more than gold. It is this what makes Spice and Wolf different from almost anything else out there, and the series makes the most of it, being sure to place enough emphasis on minute details to bring both the practice of the trade and its mentality to life.
Through Lorenz and his dealings, the audience is shown the workings of the guilds and bourses of that age, including the modus operandi of the early international trading companies and the limited use (and understanding) of trading on credit, as well as the developing sense of difference between nominal and real value of coinage. While watching Lorenz and Holo exchanging banter, the audience is also shown the more mundane aspects of city life, being taken to watch folk festivals, inns and hostels and a variety of stalls and shops.
The faithful rendition of historical detail of the setting – utensils, architecture, accoutrements all, and even, for once, the ships – surpasses anything I’ve seen to date in anime, putting your average (and better-than-average) Renaissance fair to shame. From the exact construction of buildings to the fact that trenchers were usually made of bread, it seems as if every single detail of the daily life of people has been carefully checked and incorporated. It does so well that I was honestly miffed when noticing that one letter shown was written in modern, not mediaeval, German.
Equally striking is the general optimism of the general worldview, a sense that people can understand the world and leave their footprint on it. This, too, is an important part of the portrayed setting and true to historical fact. The time was, and is explained to be in the setting, one of technological progress, one wherein more and more tools were developed to aid agriculture and industry and less and less was dependent on chance. Belief systems focus on the human and their mastery of the world, with nothing standing between man and his God but his own mind, resulting in a general outlook of opportunity, contrasting sharply to most fantasy and historical shows and befitting the more grounded story marvellously.
-= And everything nice =-
And then, there is myth. Vague, half-forgotten, impossible but in the dark places of the world. Hidden in plain view, in tales from the countryside and quaint mannerisms of people who should know better, shadows of a system of belief of a world past still remain. Only very seldom made explicit, Spice and Wolf employs one of the more subtle and low-key depictions of magic, neatly integrating it into the overall setting. Spirits being real, they only survive where the remaining tales say they ought to be. Reminding the audience every now and then that there is more to the fictional world than market towns, Holo is made less of a unique phenomenon and her desire to return to a home the continued existence of which she can’t even be certain of, is thereby enhanced. The supporting cast, as well, complements the setting very well, living wholly in the world of man’s endeavours or still faintly recalling what’s outside the walls, considering alchemy to be a science yet still a bit fearful of getting involved in it because of its storied connection to the supernatural.
Being a series with a slow-moving plot and a lot of dialogue, it was a good choice to try and have each conversation be infused with at least an attempt at wit, and it’s nice to see how the failing attempts are often recognised as such by the characters themselves. Always remaining on the safe side of the rational-emotional spectrum, the conversations have a lightness and lack of unnecessary outbursts that keeps the overall tone of the series intact.
Mention should further be made of the music. Granted, it’s about as standard folk fair as it comes, but it fits the setting, accompanying especially the more festive moments perfectly and has the good graces to sometimes simply not be very good. As far as I can tell, there has been made something of an effort to only use traditional folk instruments and what’s left of the musical scores of the time (little of which is certain to be actually old, by the way), and some of these instruments just aren’t capable of producing the purer sounds their modern varieties can produce. The opening tune’s lyrics also do a very good job of introducing and accompanying the type of story told.
-= Icing and Cake =-
Looking at Spice and Wolf as the tale of Holo and Lorenz is mistaking the icing for the cake. What comes first in this show is the spice, that is, the setting. In many ways, the travels of the protagonists are but a means to show the audience a small piece of a living and breathing world.
Original, if not unique, in focus and angle, superbly detailed in setting and at least decent in adding a glue to fit the separate stories together, Spice and Wolf was, to me, 2008’s biggest surprise and an instant favourite. I’ll admit that my particular interest in the era alluded to makes me biased, but even without it the originality of the concept, the integration of actual and made-up legend in a detailed world and the soothing charm of the low-key telling of the tales would have me recommend it as one of the very few shows that shirk away from the incessant need to bombard audiences with action and suspense, romance and relationship or like topics.
Charming, enjoyable by all age groups, calm and beautiful in its manifold details, Spice and Wolf is a delight to sit down by after a long day and simply enjoy.
Did YOUR favorite anime make the cut? Let us know in the comments below!
1. Ookami to Koushinryou
3. Saiunkoku Monogatari 2nd Season
5. Michiko to Hatchin
6. Kyou kara Maou! 3rd Series
7. Kekkaishi (TV)
8. Nijuu Mensou no Musume
9. Golgo 13 (TV)
10. Casshern Sins