They’re the best Anime that 2010 has to offer! We counts down the best anime to come out this year, including the likes of Battle Spirits: Brave, Cobra The Animation, Pokemon Diamond & Pearl, and more!
10: Battle Spirits: Brave
Japanese: バトルスピリッツ ブレイヴ
MAL Score: 7.09
Two years ago, the world was saved by Dan Bashin and the other light bearers of the cores. Having once risked his life in Grand Rolo’s strife, Dan no longer finds passion in the mundanity of everyday card battles. When Dan desires to clash against stronger opponents, he is approached by Mai Shinomiya. She offers to bring him to the future, the stage of a new conflict where Dan’s strength is needed.
The two arrive in the year 2650, where civilization has been ravaged by the struggle for power between mankind and an otherworldly race known as “Mazoku.” As humanity begins to crumble under the dominance of the Mazoku, the hardened light bearers are destined to cross paths once more. Armed with new cards from the future, Dan and the other warriors must yet again bear the fate of humanity on their shoulders.
Art: too good.
Sound: good. Especially you can observe it while the battle spirits fight goes on.
Characters: Barone character is the one which seems to change a lot. He thinks of the humans in another perspective . Most amazing characters- though were not shown quite frequently -are the queen of mazoku and the wife of a captain of mazoku -Duke (who work hard for both the species). Both of these ladies understood their environment and planned well their future. For instance, Queen perceives that here court officials are trying for a coup d’etat, plans beforehand. She even understands others though the way they battle. She bowed to Dan when duke was defeated in a battle with Dan. She hold on to her promise with Dan. But her bow to Dan makes her to face severe consequences, she never quivered. Again duke’s wife seems to understand the emotions of people around her. In the final episodes, she comforts mai well. She even accepts a human as a son so that her husband’s ideal may be achieved.
What i do not like in this series:
1. To show Dan more mature and serious.
2. To forcefully show romantic relationship or at least hints between Dan and Mai.
3. Search for the 12 zodaic cards is not executed well. I mean to say is that for some episodes these were shown and for some Dan says we got 8 we need some more. No struggle at all shown for achiveving the cards from Suzuri’s prospective.
4. Clackey is left completely side character.
Finally i disliked this series. So i gave very low ratine in my watch llist.
9: Cobra The Animation
Japanese: COBRA THE ANIMATION
MAL Score: 7.10
This Cobra adaptation features short arcs of Cobra saving the world, his friends or himself.
If you sat down to Cobra for the story, you would be sadly disappointed. As with most shows that could be described as pulpy, the plot is more a way to give Cobra things to do to be a badass. It does that well, and that is really all the show asks. There are a few story arcs, the longest lasting four episodes, and several one-shots. They’re entertaining enough, but hardly memorable.
The animation is fairly good. There’s no glaring animation errors, and the entire production has a low-budget, old school feel to it that lends a lot of flavor to the show. The CG is (intentionally?) fairly poor, but is perfectly suited to the throwback style that the show is trying to cultivate.
All in all, Cobra will a bit of a hard sell to most anime fans, looking for the next androgynous pretty-boy protagonist. However, if you yearn for the days where men were men, women were “dames,” and arms were guns, against a backdrop of cool jazz… well, I think I have a show for you.
If you seen everything Cobra related, then this series does deliver the same content we gotten before, perhaps even manlier than ever. We see Cobra fight in an illegal underground fist fight, battles a gladiator which briefly turns into a DBZ fight, dives under the sea, climbs a mountain which may not exist, explores a planet filled with the most disturbing plants with faces & ends the series with a King’s rescue mission.
While the animation looks at his highest it doesn’t have that visual flair compared to its movie & 1982 series. In my opinon, the women somehow look at their sexiest in this series. The stories featured here are more tragic especially episodes 8 & 9 as it goes in a much darker route than Cobra usually goes to. Out of all the episodes I’d say the mountain story arc (6&7) is probably the best one in terms of mystery & suspense. As for action, it never really peaks or stays engaging all the way through, it instead has some action highlights in bits & pieces rather than a full episode.
Overall, the same fun is found here although 13 episodes feels way too short. I also felt it wasn’t as creative when it came to exploring the universe of Cobra(again comparing it to the first anime). Not a bad addition as the episodes are based on certain manga chapters, but the original series still remains the best of the Cobra franchise.
1) It’s something that’s trying to be a serious action series and fails because it’s terribly cheesy,
2) This is ~meant~ to be a throwback to cheesy cartoons of the 1970s and 1980s, and the cheese is, at least in part, self-satire.
Personally, I lean more towards the second interpretation, and find that the series is accomplishing what it’s set out to do. If you don’t like cheesy old-school or satire, you’re really not going to like this series at all, I’ll give you that as a fair warning.
First, you’ve got the typical daredevil macho hero with an arm that looks like it belongs on Megaman, then there’s the scantily clad heroine and the villain I can almost imagine yelling “I’ll get you next time, Gadget!” as she flies away in her ship after having her plans foiled. (I want to say again, but this is only the first episode so far)
Second, you’ve got what looks like a pretty typical plot – keep the key to the Universe from the bad guys while you get it to where it needs to be. Nothing fancy at all here.
So, why the (somewhat) high rating?
Maybe it’s just that something feels almost nostalgic about this, or maybe it’s that this type of “typical” is actually pretty uncommon in anime. I’d say the main character almost feels like He-Man with a gun arm, and certainly seems like he’d belong more in an American-style cartoon rather than an anime.
I also appreciated a couple of satirical bits in the first episode: Normally, when the hero blasts away a vehicle as it races towards him, the flaming debris that should remain seems to conveniently vanish. This wasn’t the case with Cobra, as the flying vehicle speeding towards the hero simply became a flaming flying vehicle speeding towards the hero instead.
Given that we’re only at the first episode right now, I could be wrong and this could turn out to be a terrible series, but so far I’m leaning towards believing it’s satire and am enjoying it thoroughly.
8: Pokemon Diamond & Pearl
Japanese: ポケットモンスター ダイヤモンド&パール
MAL Score: 7.22
Following the end of Satoshi’s Hoenn journey, he travels to the Sinnoh region for his next adventure en route to becoming a Pokémon Master. Immediately upon arrival, Team Rocket makes another attempt to snatch Pikachu, only for it to fail once again. However, Pikachu has fallen deep into a forest and it’s up to Satoshi to find him! Along the way, he reunites with Takeshi—a Pokémon breeder with whom he has traveled through many regions—and meets his soon-to-be rival, Shinji, a power-hungry trainer who cares little for his Pokémons’ feelings.
Still in search for Pikachu, Satoshi notices a powerful electric attack in the distance and heads toward it to find Pikachu with Team Rocket and Hikari—a novice trainer aiming to be the top Pokémon coordinator. After foiling Team Rocket’s plans, Satoshi reunites with Pikachu and Hikari joins the group. And thus, Ash and his friends begin their journey through the exciting land of Sinnoh.
Story: Satoshi or Ash for us American viewers is traveling by himself as he makes his way to the Sinnoh region. He eventully meets up with his long time traveling friend Takeshi/Brock and a new friend Hikari/Dawn. Like the other series, Ash along with his friends explore the area they are currently in while seeing and capturing new Pokemon, participate in Gym battles, make new friends and rivals, battle Team Rocket all while learning about growing up, friendship and other themes of such nature.
Art: Compared to the older series, D&P is a step up in the art department. Of course the original has a nostalgic touch to it and Advance Generation has that sequal value but D&P is very vibrant in color. The environment is abosulutely beautiful and the way that some of the attcks look are perfect! It appears as if some of the attacks have texture to them. Somthing the recent series have picked up and started doing. the characters are drawn well. Although Ash and Dawn are 10 they very well look like they are at least 13 giving off a more mature appeal.
Sound: The music is good. It’s not “rock your socks off” good but for its target audience, it gets the job done. A lot of the battle and travel music returns from the previous shows so if your a fan of those, you’re in for a treat. The sound effects are good like the colision of attacks or something simple like the characters walking.
Character: Out of all the catergories in this review, the character catergory got the lowest rate. Ash and Brock are pretty much the same. They don’t develop much however the introduction of the Sinnoh rival Shinji/Paul does add a bit of flare to something that was very well missing in Ash’s life after the absence of Gary. Paul did in fact challenge Ash. I won’t say that he helped Ash develop his style of battling. That actually came over the course of the series but Paul was serious about his job as a trainer. He was a tad bit cliche with the whole “pokemon are tools” outlook but nonetheless he gave Ash a run for his money. I was a bit disappointed with Dawn. Despite being the female lead to level out the male ratio, she didn’t do much for team development and was a bit of a wasted character. Like her previous female lead, Haruka/May, Dawn is a Pokemon Coordinator. The main difference is that Dawn starts off as a coordinator while May grew into it. Also Dawn is the child of a famous coordinator. But that’s really it. Dawn isn’t that great at coordinating (at first) and the series introduces her as a rookie. She pretty much was in the same spot as May. When it comes to the overall character of Dawn, she felt forced. Forced to be liked because she was a good guy. Forced because she had a dream to be a coordinator. Forced because when she felt sad, the viewers ahd to feel sad as well. Honestly, I would’ve liked Dawn more if she was already somewhat advanced in her craft similar to Misty. The dynamic would’ve changed greatly if Dawn wasn’t your avergae Pokemon rookie. The coordinator thing has already been done and it doesn’t help that the previous female lead was more profound in the skill than the current. The rest of the characters were either short lived or not memorable. Did I mention that Team Rocket is still trying to capture Pikachu?
Enjoyment: I enjoyed D&P fairly well. As expected, things have changed but it’s a new enviornment with the same fundamentals.
Overall: Pokemon D&P is an upgrade in the battle sequences, the story and is overall is visually stunning. Unfortunately the characters were lacking. Paul was an interesting add to the series but Dawn was a step backwards from the other two female leads especailly since she gave no reason to be liked or rooted for other than the fact that the audience is SUPPOSE to like and root for her. However if you’ve been riding the Pokemon train this long, why stop here? It’s a decent addition to the series and it came at a good time where things were getting stale. Pokemon D&P defintely holds a place in the Pokemon family tree and is sure to be liked by the younger generations and the veterans who know how the Pokemon formula goes.
PACE: Pacing was one issue that was well managed in the first two seasons. Third season, however, was a complete disappointment in terms of direction with bunch of fillers. On top, the spread was horrible. Fourth season somehow regained the pace back after the initial episodes though.
CHARACTERS: Characters were another highlight of the series with Dawn, Ash & Paul being the most remarkable characters. It felt as if I’m witnessing three seperate journeys correlated to one another. I loved how Dawn never felt like a ‘companion’ but rather a lead character. Bond between Ash, Dawn & Brock were entirely on a different level making them the most lively trio in my opinion! The arcs that provided some natural development to the characters were unique and solidified the path to conclusion! Ash’s growth as a trainer and Dawn’s rising confidence were so pleasingly evident. Besides, even the minor and side characters had a lot of impact, influence and relevance on the plot, making DP a fantastic experience overall. The designs however were only decent but the artstyle was still good!
POKÉMON: Lots of Sinnoh as well as Pokémon from other regions were shown providing the perfect balance the series needed. But what stood out is the most is the Pokémon partners of the main characters! The chemistry, the bond, the determination & everything were perfect reflection of their owners making the “Pokémon cast” very memorable!
REGION PORTRAYAL: This is another weak-point of DP as it failed to showcase the beauty of Sinnoh. The region, throughout the series, looked extremely one dimensional and boring to some extent. Hoenn or Johto, in that regard, were much better.
TEAM ROCKET: Many complaint about the 100% appearance rate of Team Rocket in the series but I actually found them to be as good as ever! In my opinion, the portrayal of Team Rocket in DP has been the most hilarious till the date!
TEAM GALACTIC: Team Galactic showed a lot of promises initially. Every arcs carried a tensed atmosphere and promised us of something huge. Even the last arc was extremely good. But only if the conclusion was as good.
GYM BATTLES: With the limited animation DP had, I loved how the battles still managed to be extremely intense. Credits to the buildup and the choreography. But what I liked the most about the battles were the showcases of stats moves, hazard setters, fusion moves & counter shield. They were amazingly done making DP the closest series to the games!
CONTESTS: Contests were one aspect I found tremendously boring in AG. Although, the experience was totally different when it came to DP as time kept on going, I actually ended up liking ’em (possibly due to slightly better animation comparatively)! The extravagant moves and chemistry shown by the trainers and their Pokémon with some intense yet so elegant battles were just amazing to see.
LEAGUE: The Sinnoh League is probably the most well-written league till the date. Lots of emotions were put in as numerous characters got their conclusions. Battles, too, were a delight to watch. Although, Tobias vs. Ash could’ve been a much better battle (though, I don’t mind Ash losing out.
OVERALL ANIMATION: Other than battles where a lot of efforts were put in with whatever the resources were, the animation overall was a disappointment. There were hardly any upgrades evident post the AG saga initially. But once the series started to adapt 16:9 resolution, the animation too somehow got much better. Color palette, however, seemed dull throughout but not one-dimensional.
THEME SONGS: Pretty much all the theme songs were good enough. Especially the 2nd & 3rd season’s themes. Although, they weren’t anywhere near the predecessor (a.k.a. AG).
VOICE ACTING: Sarah Natochenny did a fantastic job in voicing Ash. The emotions during his highs and lows were captured so well. I feel like her voice acting skills played a key role. Other than her, everyone else were as good too, which was a surprising element!
OVERALL DIRECTION: The direction overall has been just ‘good’ with the sky-high potential it had for a Pokémon series. Had the fillers been spread with a proper balance, the series would’ve turned much better than what it was. Although, that said, DP is still a GREAT series nevertheless!
FINAL RATING: Rating DP is very difficult with the highs and lows it has. The flaws were very trivial but evident at the same time. But the positives were everywhere, that managed to overshadow the production issues and whatever flaws it had! The stortelling process was a delight to witness. 192 episodes might seem bit too much, but trust me, it’s worth it if you’re a Pokémon fan! And therefore, I believe giving it a 8/10 is absolutely fair! That said, DP is surely my most favourite Pokémon Series alongside XY now!
7: Uragiri wa Boku no Namae wo Shitteiru
English: The Betrayal Knows My Name
MAL Score: 7.23
Growing up as an orphan, Yuki Sakurai questions his reason for living and ability to see a person’s painful memory by simply touching them. After receiving anonymous notes telling him to die, Yuki is unable to shake off the nagging feeling forming inside of him. Unbeknownst to him, he is being watched, both by people who want to harm him and those who want to protect him.
One foggy night, Yuki’s life is saved by a beautiful man with silver eyes and jet black hair—a man he has never met before yet seems familiar. With the arrival of this mysterious stranger, Yuki’s forgotten past has been awakened and the purpose of his existence has appeared before him.
Uragiri wa Boku no Namae wo Shitteiru tells the story of a teenage boy as he discovers who he is and where he comes from—all while making friends, experiencing betrayal, and slowly piecing together the puzzle of his past.
I don’t mean to offend, but probably the only viewers that would actually enjoy this show are angsty teen girls who need some affirmation. Because the side characters spend most of their time worrying about, discussing, or affirming our main character (who comes across as a sensitive weakling who doesn’t actually do anything).
I gave this series a low rating because there is practically no story. It’s almost as if the script began as 4-episode OVA, but then someone decided to stretch it into a full-season series. For an incredible 24 episodes, practically nothing happens, and by the end of the series, we’ve barely learned anything about the characters. Even about Yuki, who’s supposedly our hero.
The setup seemed promising. We meet our main character, Yuki. He apparently has some supernatural skill, including healing. More interesting is his ability to look into people’s minds by touching them.
Yuki was raised at an orphanage. A guy claiming to be his long-lost brother takes him out, tells Yuki that he is a re-incarnated fighter, and now must live with other re-incarnated fighters. For centuries, the souls of these warriors have been fighting demons in each generation. Each character has a unique fighting skill. And most of these warriors are high school kids (and, of course, totally hot-looking).
The first few episodes were interesting, but after that, it seemed the series devolved into….Yuki-worship.
Yuki is the only one of the team who has no memories of his past. For some inexplicable reason, all the other warriors adore him. It’s like their whole world revolves around him. When Yuki is sad, everyone sits around in the living room, doing nothing. When he is away from the house, they stand around in the dining room, doing nothing. And the whole time, they randomly call out his name: “Yuki,” or ask, “I wonder how Yuki is doing now?” “I wonder how he’s feeling?” “I feel so sorry for Yuki.” It made me want to say, “SHUT UP AND DO SOMETHING PRODUCTIVE!!! DON’T YOU GUYS HAVE BETTER THINGS TO DO?” For warriors, they spend a lot of time worrying about their comrade’s…angst. I almost forgot this story was supposed to be about a big battle of good vs. evil.
It’s stuff like that which eats up most of the time in each show. Again, and again, characters stand around, randomly saying each other’s names. It’s like the creators were scraping around trying to stuff in every possible bit of filler they could. I wonder if the actors felt ashamed, having to say such inane lines over and over again.
The things which I actually wanted to know more about was never discussed. For instance, Yuki and Luka’s backstory is barely discussed, even though it’s supposedly important. Yuki is said to be important to the team, but he barely uses any of his skills. (After the first 2 or 3 episodes, he barely use his super abilities any more.) There are a few meaningful conversations, and an occasional battle (which are decently done).
But for the most part, any chance to put in real or meaningful content was scrapped in favor of filler that communicated…nothing.
I think I’ve beat this series enough, so I won’t say much more (except that a lot of the costumes and weapons were downright cheesy). Unless you’re a major bishounen fan, you probably won’t enjoy this series much. The last episode wasn’t much of an ending. Nothing was really resolved. It was like, “Was that it? Did I miss something?”
(P.S. Despite the tag, it’s not truly a shounen-ai)
STORY & CHARACTERS
Uraboku gets off to a serious start, delving into heavy subject matter such as: orphans, troubled pasts, parental abuse, death threats, and world destruction. What an impressive way to begin things. It makes you wonder why everything is so dark and sinister around the most innocent person in the world, Yuki.
Yuki is a soft-spoken and mature boy who helps to take care of children in an orphanage that he had grown up in, and he often hangs out with his childhood friend. The peaceful days don’t last forever though as the Duras begin to stir activities nearby while his friend engages in more odd, secretive behavior. Furthermore, Yuki has these powers that suddenly awaken and cause problems. After a series of odd events, he meets a mysterious, sexy beast named Luka who claims to be his protector, followed by members of the Zweilt, and the head of the Giou Clan who tells Yuki that he is his half-brother and would like to take him away. So they end up taking him to the Twilight Mansion, and he comes to learn all about the Zweilt Guardians and their shared destiny.
Luka is a powerful duras fighting on the protagonist’s side, and it’s obvious that he is very attracted to Yuki and vice versa. Most of the time, he is standing around quietly with a deadpan expression and wearing ridiculous outfits. While he doesn’t seem to be that great initially, he gradually gets more involved with the other characters. In addition to that, he has an ancient love story that he is hiding from Yuki, and it eventually becomes a concern and interest to him.
The Zweilt Guardians are strong, courageous fighters who have a detailed history behind their group. Most of them look to be Yuki’s age, and they each have a close partner that they fight with. In fact, they’re almost always seen in pairs and act like a big family. Their characterizations are very well done, for they have distinct personalities, fully developed backgrounds, and a strong fighting morale. Seriously, they rarely ever hesitate in battle and emphasize on working as a team. Their close relationships give off a certain charm as they grow into very likeable characters. However, their main drawback is that they can be too sentimental and melodramatic at times, and they constantly worry about Yuki every darn minute. Let the poor feminine boy breathe!
The Duras are the big weakness of the show. None of them can be taken that seriously except for one that appears in a very late episode. The main bad guy turns out to be a horrible cliché (I’m sure you can guess who it is), and his henchmen consist of a pair of evil twins, a giggly girl who collects hot guys, a sexy woman who wants Luka, etc. Some of them easily get obliterated, but the higher-grade demons do receive a bit more characterization.
There are a few side characters who also reside in the Twilight Mansion, such as the doctor, the maid, etc. They are annoying, clichéd, and their comedy doesn’t even beat Luka’s bizarre outfits. But don’t worry; they don’t actually get a lot of screen time. I nearly dropped this series when they were introduced too.
This anime is classified as shounen-ai, meaning boy-love. But if you’re coming into this expecting something along the lines of Gravitation or Junjou Romantica, you will be disappointed. You will never see any obvious indication of shounen-ai, like ‘kissing’ for example. Some of the male characters are rather close, but they could also just pass off as best friends. They’re left up to your interpretation. Personally, I am not a big shounen-ai fan, so I appreciate how the gay tones are handled in this.
Epic, just epic! This is undoubtedly the best OST that I have heard all year. The music is done by Shōgo Kaida whom I have not quite heard of before. During major battles, the tunes are orchestral, enchanting, and dark, such as “Zweilt Imashime no Te” and “Me wa Yaiba Kami wa Yoru.” Another great track that has a soothing, ghostly choir in the background is called “Bloody†Cross”. During slow scenes, the music is usually airy, melodic, and sweet such as “Kaeranu Hibi Shiroki Ashita.” You can easily find these on YT for streaming.
There are two OP songs, “Till the World without Betrayals” and “Inishie” by Rayflower. They’re decent Jrock at best, but they’re not my favorite, and I probably won’t listen to them again after the series ends.
Uraboku has a lot of things going for itself, such as a likeable, well-developed cast of visually-appealing characters, colorful action, dark undertones, and an epic OST. Plus, the shounen-ai tones are very subtle much to my pleasure. However, the plot really does lack originality, and the villains are clichéd and can’t be taken seriously.
bishounen – yes;
shounen-ai – yes;
teen fighters – yes;
magic – yes;
reincarnation – yes;
not so Ordinary High School Student with superpowers – yes;
sexy demon aka loyal servant – yes;
kawaii animal with a forehead gem – yes;
flowing cloaks, crosses, chains and other clanking metal things – in abundance;
sophisticated spells and names in pseudo-German – yes.
Wait, seems there is something missing… Oh, yeah, plot. Well, its optional. As well as logic.
90% of time the screen is occupied by main character Yuki (a boy who happens to be a girl in his previous life), crying and moaning: “Kanata-san! Kanata-san!” – in reference to his best friend who turned out to be the main Bad Guy of this story. Sometimes other characters take the stage, crying and moaning: “Yuki! Yuki!” – in reference to his cruel destiny which makes Yuki to accept people’s pain and suffering as his own.
Then, there are meaningless battles with bad guys, in which Yuki, though utterly useless, tries to help his comrades. The problem is his comrades have a mission to protect Yuki while he sees his mission in protecting others, so they all go in circles. And there is no proper ending, as it always happens with anime based on an ongoing manga.
In theory, the story should be made more intriguing by the fact that Yuki-girl and the above mentioned sexy demon by the name of Luka were lovers in their previous life, and Luka still loves Yuki-boy dearly. Unfortunately, Yuki himself doesn’t remember anything (though has some vague idea). But every time he tries to talk to Luka about this, they are interrupted by others, who seem to be unable to survive without Yuki even for a minute. So the shounen-ai is somehow incomplete.
The only consolation is that bishounen are in abundance, music is fine and voice actors are good (though always spurting some embarrassing nonsense). All in all, not the worst way to kill time – but not the best either.
6: Densetsu no Yuusha no Densetsu
English: The Legend of the Legendary Heroes
MAL Score: 7.56
“Alpha Stigma” are known to be eyes that can analyze all types of magic. However, they are more infamously known as cursed eyes that can only bring destruction and death to others.
Ryner Lute, a talented mage and also an Alpha Stigma bearer, was once a student of the Roland Empire’s Magician Academy, an elite school dedicated to training magicians for military purposes. However, after many of his classmates died in a war, he makes an oath to make the nation a more orderly and peaceful place, with fellow survivor and best friend, Sion Astal.
Now that Sion is the the king of Roland, he orders Ryner to search for useful relics that will aid the nation. Together with Ferris Eris, a beautiful and highly skilled swordswoman, Ryner goes on a journey to search for relics of legendary heroes from the past, and also uncover the secrets behind his cursed eyes.
The original eleven volume light novel series by Kagami Takaya was published in Dragon Magazine from February 2002 until October 2006 and has spawned a sequel (The Legend of the Great Heroes of Legend), and two spin offs (The Legend of the Legendary Heroes Anyway, and The Legend of the Black Fallen Hero), as well as being adapted as a drama CD, a PSP game, a manga, and the recent anime rendition.
Now aside from mild curiosity at the obvious addiction to using the words “legend” and “hero” in some manner, one has to wonder if the anime adaptation can really live up to the popularity of the franchise.
The story begins with an attack by the Nelphan army on the person of Ryner Lute, a layabout who is on a mission for his trusted friend, boss, and cause of all of his problems, King Sion Astal of Roland. Accompanying him on his journey is the warrior and perpetual dango addict Ferris Eris, a woman who may be a genius with a sword, but is pretty clueless with almost everything else (except dango). The pair have been tasked with finding and acquiring the legendary artifacts known as the Relics of Heroes, which lie hidden in various places across the continent of Menoris.
As with any fantasy tale there’s an element of derivation inherent in the plot which results in several very familiar scenarios being played out over the course of the series. This in itself isn’t a bad thing though, as these staples are often used to drive home a particular point, or as support for the main storyline.
And this anime really does need the support.
The main issues with Denstsu no Yuusha no Densetsu (DenYuuDen), are the lack of coherency with the story and the constantly changing pace of the plot. Viewers may often find themselves wondering how a particular situation came about, and while there are efforts to tie up certain loose ends, these are nothing more than papering over the cracks. The narrative suffers from a distinct lack of timely explanations, and events can lead the audience on a merry dance as they struggle to keep up with the storyline. This is exacerbated by the constant mood swings that occur from one episode to the next, and the addition of seemingly random comedy scenes give the viewer the sense that even the show itself has no idea what’s going to happen next.
The heart of the problem is simply that ZEXCS, like many other studios, have made a screenplay that is nothing more than a “cut and paste” rendition of the original source material. While there are some anime that get away with summarily stringing together disparate events, it would have been better for everyone if they at least made the effort to stick to the story. Better yet, ZEXCS could have followed the example set by Satelight when they made Guin Saga, and only adapted a portion of the story to ensure there would be a continuous flow to the plot.
One has to wonder what moment of “genius” would persuade director Kawasaki Itsuro and series composer Yoshimura Kiyoko to make such a disjointed narrative.
On the plus side the lack of care with the storyline isn’t really reflected in the look of the show, and DenYuuDen has some nice, imaginative scenes that really show what ZEXCS are capable of if they put their backs into it. The series features some decent animation, but the design principle impinges on this to a degree, partly because of the bishounen aspect of the show, but mainly because of the costumes. While the various outfits and garments are creative in their own way, there are several scenes where things like cloaks would clearly be a hindrance to any actual combat. In addition to this the characters tend to be on the impassive side when it comes to facial expressions, although this becomes less of an issue as the series progresses.
DenYuuDen also features some very nice lighting and visual effects that add an extra layer of atmosphere to particular events, giving them an elegant, decadent, or dramatic feel that requires little in the way of added audio. Unfortunately this is offset by a lack of attention with small, specific details which seem like they were pencilled in as afterthoughts (Ryner’s two year old beard is one example of this). While it’s sometimes easy to overlook these relatively minor flaws, every now and then they become impossible to ignore, and viewers may be left wondering why the studio didn’t notice these discrepancies before releasing certain episodes.
The series features two opening themes, LAMENT Yagate Yorokobi Wo by Yuuki Aira (episodes 1 to 12), and Last Inferno by Ceui (episodes 13 to 24). The first OP is a rather bland affair that is generally well timed and edited, but ultimately fails to inspire. The second track is an altogether different beast that has far better choreography, and possesses a more serious and dramatic air than before. As for the ending themes, Truth Of My Destiny by Ceui and Hikari no Filament by Takagaki Ayahi, neither is anything other than a reasonable pop ballad coupled with pointless visuals that have no bearing on the story proper.
What is interesting is the manner in which the background music is utilised. The tracks are often subtle additions that never really come to the fore unless the situation warrants more drama or tension, and because of this there are very few clashes with the dialogue. In addition to this the effects are given precedence over the music during a number of action sequences, and given that this series is a relatively disjointed affair, the quality of the audio choreography is more than a little surprising.
One of the problem areas for DenYuuDen is the dialogue, in particular the tendency towards oratory and the sudden changes between banter and seriousness that are extensions of the inherent issues with the storyline, so it’s to the credit of the actors and actresses that they deliver some decent performances. Fukuyama Jun (Ryner Lute), Ono Daisuke (Sion Astal), Takagaki Ayahi (Ferris Eris), and the rest of the cast are able to inject a degree of personality into their characters, but this is limited by some truly cumbersome scripting.
Unfortunately this, together with the compression of the story, has a knock on effect where the characters are concerned.
Like so many other fantasy anime out there, DenYuuDen follows the tried and tested method of event driven development, but like many other shows it also falls into the trap of poor characterisation. From the beginning of the first episode the viewer is expected to not only identify with Ryner, Ferris and Sion without knowing anything about them, they are also supposed to wait for any explanations because of the disjointed nature of the story. Add to that the fact that much of the growth is dependent on specific events that are scattered throughout the narrative, and the lack of personality comes to the fore.
That said, while there is little to maintain the viewer’s interest in the characters at the start of the show, things do take a turn for the better at the midway stage so that by the end of the series they are no longer cardboard cutouts. The events that drive the development also become a little more complex as the story develops, which is nice to see as the tendency in fantasy anime is to add more detail to the story while keeping these “signposts” simple.
Now it may seem like I’m being unfair to DenYuuDen by picking up on so many of its flaws, but there is a reason for this. While there is a lot that could have been done to improve the series as a whole, it’s actually a rather enjoyable romp too. The byplay between Ryner, Eris and Sion can be odd because of the poor scripting, but there is humour in there, enough to make the viewer smile at least. In addition to that, there is a concerted effort to improve the story in the second half of the show, with darker themes emerging and more focus on consequences. The action sequences are decent enough, but every so often there is a flash of brilliance, and the characters can sometimes show a surprising depth that really should have been there for most of the series.
And that’s the rub. It really, really could have been so much better than it is. There is so much that ZEXCS could have easily done to improve DenYuuDen, and even something as relatively simple as deciding to adapt only a portion of the light novel series would have made a profound difference.
One thing that should be touched on is the mistaken assumption that Densetsu no Yuusha no Densetsu is somehow an homage to Legend Of The Galactic Heroes due to the similarity in the naming conventions. The problem is that far too many people who have heard of, or watched, the latter anime have automatically decided that DenYuuDen should be just as good when, aside from the name and the fact that heroes, politics and war are involved, the two bear very few similarities. It’s a bit like saying apples and apricots should taste the same just because they’re both fruits that grow on trees and their names start with “ap”.
Anyway, leaving that aside, the one thing that really stands out about this anime is that it’s effectively an unfinished product, especially as the light novels are still publishing. The disjointed storyline and initially lacklustre characters make this a much more difficult show to invest in, and this is a shame as there are several key plot elements that are interesting enough to warrant much more attention.
That said, ZEXCS’ attempt at adapting the novels has some good points, and while there is enjoyment to be had, it’s a far cry from being an epic.
Okay I admit, the title is a bit… I mean it’s really something that can put you off. Add to that, a very very ordinary first episode definitely led many to have a thought such as “Oh! Okay. Densetsu no Yuusha no Densetsu (Legend of the Legendary Heroes). I will watch it later.” or most likely, ‘Meh, it’s definitely not my type.” And yes, I can tell that with the number of people actually dropping it after first couple of episodes, let alone placed it in their ‘on hold/plan to watch’ list which is staggering.
Regardless, before you even read this review, I would suggest to watch the first three episodes (you can seriously do without the FUNistreams, since it is actually nicely animated) and drop the show if you like, well its more like I dare you would drop it once you’ve seen episode three.
So much for an introduction, here goes the real deal:
Legend of the Legendary Heroes is based on a novel of the same title which goes back some 8 years from now (first published in 2002). The anime is almost an exact adaptation of the novel. The novel and its anime adaptation are based on a feudal European setting, just that, blended with Magic and Monsters.
As for a brief introduction to where the story picks up, Ryner Lute (Fukuyama Jun), a magician of the Empire of Roland goes on a journey to find what they call the ‘Hero Relics’ scattered all over the continent. He is partnered with Ferris Eris (Takagaki Ayahi), a beautiful, arrogant and insanely skilled swords-woman. Both of them have been dispatched by Sion Astal (Ono Daisuke), the young Hero-King of the Roland Empire. If it wasn’t for Sion’s slave-running, as what both Ryner and Ferris see him to be, Ryner would have been enjoying countless number of days taking his afternoon naps while Ferris enjoying her share of dango, and only dango in all of her meals. Everyday!
To give an insight, Hero Relics are assumed to be sources of immense power that can overthrow an entire empire, something Sion desires to have available at his disposal so that he can make his empire a force to be recognized. You can easily understand Ryner and Ferris wouldn’t be the only ones on the hunt. As Ryner and Ferris keep searching for the relics, putting his absolute faith on both of them, Sion follows his dream to make an empire where everyone would have a wonderful life. Something that comes with a price indeed; Coup d’état followed by numerous assassination attempts from time to time from power hungry nobles and their followers. I won’t say anymore than this. Rest are for you to find out, because it goes far beyond anything as simple as it might seem as you’ve just read.
The story is surprisingly good. I always tend to enjoy anime with lots of flashbacks, past happenings which often help a story to grow. Denyuuden, as what it is called in short, really is impressive on that regard. While the first episode is more like an introductory episode that goes to show the main characters involved in the anime, the following couple of episodes show flashbacks from where it all began, why Ryner set for the journey to find the relics, why Ferris has been appointed as his companion, and how, young Sion came to throne. These two episodes (2 and 3) are basically the foundation of the story that will take so many turns here and there as more characters are blended in while making the anime all too enjoyable, that when you will look back, you will be thrilled to realize how simply it all started. The story has unimaginable twists and when you think a character was included just for the sake of it, they will surprise you with the role they are going to play in the development of the whole story. Story wise, this couldn’t be any better. And I dare say, I have seen lots of anime already to make such a rather bold statement.
The anime can be seen as from both the characters’ point of views, as well as from the political aspects involved, which makes it a very intelligent anime. For example, the decisions Sion makes as a King often conflict with his philosophy, but he shoulders everything as a King should, refusing to give in to his ideals. At the same time, the conflicting nature of the characters within themselves makes it a very heartfelt anime. Like Ryner, who has been through enough, shows lack of emotion, although he cares for every living thing around him, ironically though, he puts threat on those around him just through his very existence. Ferris, who is always mocking Ryner doesn’t falter to hold him dearly when he really needs it the most. And the anime translates a society that is ruled by the so called nobles and their hunger for power, and a society where everyone brands certain people as ‘monsters’ for the inhuman power they possess, ironically again, something they wish they never have possessed, something they were born with in the first place.
The characters are nicely depicted. From the absolute loyalty of the subordinates of Sion, for instance General Claugh Klom, to the emotional involvements of the members of the Roland Taboo Hunter team, (yeah, you have to know Milk Callaud (Fujita Saki) and her reverse-harem :P) everything makes sense. Characters making their entrance halfway through the series, for instance, the Hero-King of Gastark, Riphal Edea (Nakai Kazuya), or even the late, very late introduction of Tiia Rumiblue (Sakurai Takahiro) has been intensifying. And there are mysterious characters like Ferris’ older brother Lucile (Sugita Tomokazu), Sion’s right hand Miran Froaude (Suwabe Junichi) and Milk Callaud’s second in command Luke Stokkart (Hino Satoshi) will make you ponder to understand their every move and their motives. You must have been really annoyed by now to see all those seiyuus in the bracket. But the reason behind putting them there is to show the number of popular voice-casts have been working on this anime, justifying the weight of the characters being portrayed overall.
The animation quality is really of top notch. The backgrounds are nicely animated and gives you the feel of a feudal European setting coupled with magical terrains and mysterious plains. The actions are simply put, stunning. From the magical circles that Ryner draws before unleashing the commands, to Ferris’ sword fights are animated smoothly without any glitch. Like I warned before, watching online streams, or stream-rips will kill half the real enjoyment. The fierce battles, magic circles, blood gores; you really cant enjoy them over low quality streams. This is not an anti-FUNi claim, just a fact which you can clearly confirm if you google the anime’s screenshots/screencaptures. I would rather you buy the DVD/Blu-rays when they are out.
The sound, particularly the BGM of the anime is really good. They change and merge so nicely with the mood that it makes the anime vibrant. One of the major contributions of BGMs is to propagate the emotional state of mind of the characters involved and Denyuuden scores a perfect 10/10 in that aspect. I would also like to say that the OP/EDs are really good, and grow into you as you continue the anime.
The only downside of the anime is probably every time it wants to pull a comedy. I would say it failed miserably to make me laugh even once.
[Edit X: the following bits under [Ignore][/Ignore] was a conclusion I came up at episode 18. So they don’t carry enough significance for my overall entertainment of the anime up till that point. Of course it changed after episode 24. Regardless, it was a nice watch and I found the anime quite good compared to many other shows that came out in Spring 2010 anime calender.]
[Ignore]I hope this review helps you to pick an anime that gives you a negative vibe when it actually is one of the real gems out there. I am enjoying this anime like nothing else from the Spring 2010 season and the reason behind writing this review is to make YOU find out what you’ve been missing out!
Again a reminder: Please do watch the first three episodes at least before coming to any conclusion. And if you still think its not your plate of dango, I would rather see you finding this review I took my time to write on ‘Not ‘. [/Ignore]
[Edit Part B: The anime decided to stick with the original novel and follow it until the final episode. Which left the Anime highly open ended and a lot of things to be answered. According to forum reads, twitter feeds and blogs, I have reached to a conclusion that unless there is a significant improvement of the market of DVD/Bluray Disc, which is really poor at the moment, a sequel is highly unlikely. So if you don’t intend to read the sequel novel, which is still ongoing, this anime is definitely not for you. Other than that, I would just say that there were bits in the original anime trailer which were never shown in the 24 episodes run of the entire show, leaving a bigger question, why those bits were there in the trailer when they were never in the anime series at all. Of course, I am referring to the bits that directly showed parts that collaborates with where the anime ended and giving a glimmer of hope to a sequel of the anime. You just never know.]
The story opens with two of the three main characters, the wizard Ryner and the knight Ferris, as they journey across the continent of Menoris in search of powerful Hero Relics to aid our third main character, the High King of Roland, Sion. The lazy Ryner and steadfast Ferris aren’t anything beyond that in the first episode, with the only noticeable interplay between them being a scene where Ferris calls Ryner a pervert. Unfortunately, this scene is a running gag throughout the show that turns the Ryner and Ferris duo from simple to cringeworthy.
Much of the show follows Ryner and Ferris’ adventures, meaning much of that time focuses on their relationship, which is Ferris calling Ryner a pervert for no reason; Ryner doesn’t so much as see a pantyshot from Ferris, so it’s not even clichéd in the way it should be, but outright unbelievable. Their relationship is 70% one running joke and 30% serious moments with no real progress between them, because they’re only sentimental when the show calls for it. Their relationship goes in a circle, or maybe it’s a see-saw; I don’t care, but neither do the writers.
In one of the show’s scenes, Ryner is going out of control for plot reasons while Ferris is trying to snap him out of it. After she manages to get through to him, Ryner breaks down and starts crying in her arms as the rain suddenly pours. This scene of clichés doesn’t work since there’s a lack of tells on their progress. Ferris blushes maybe once before this while Ryner shows no interest in her at all. And even if this scene did work, they go back into being a weightless comedy duo until the story demands their sentiments again. And this happens more than once.
But Ryner and Ferris’ relationship is harmless compared to the threads in the rest of the show. Ryner’s lack of personality outside his laziness can be made up for with his background, but the show’s storytelling often jumps back and forth from present day to flashback without any tell it’s done so, making it hard to follow. Even then, most of what little backstory he has is in the later parts of the show. It’s hard to take his tragic past seriously when the show often glosses over it for attempted comedy.
Ferris is an even bigger joke than Ryner. When she’s not wrongly calling him a pervert for whatever reason, she’s going on about dango flavors without much else to her character. Somehow, she has even less background than Ryner, and it doesn’t help that this background is little more than skin service that isn’t even charming, but a forced attempt at being dark and edgy. But, it wouldn’t be a forced attempt at being dark and edgy if Ferris was a character worth caring for, if she had real progress and most of her time didn’t focus on failed comedy.
The final main character, Sion, is also a big joke. His character arc is about learning to make tough choices that come with being High King, but his personality doesn’t show it at all. He’s equally serious and easygoing until the end of the show, which makes it easy to wonder whether story events are affecting him at all. Most of his background involves characters that have one or two lines of dialog, which isn’t enough for it to be taken seriously like it’s supposed to. He’s also incomprehensible, saying he doesn’t want to rule like a tyrant one moment, then leaves his assassin servant to take extreme measures so he can reach his goals the next moment.
Sorry, I tried jumping over one cliché and fell onto another. When the story isn’t being lazy with its characters’ progress or background, it tries TOO hard and ends up being a war and politics philosophy discussion without compelling characters to distract from the fact. These heavy themes require a delicate touch, but unfortunately most of the villains—villains, not antagonists—are wealthy, evil people that take away from any social depth the show tries to have.
Not that what depth the show does have is worth much anyway. There’s a lot more going on in the story, but most of it amounts to nothing or is rushed. One of the characters shows a thirst for vengeance without any build-up leading to that moment. The character he wants revenge on wants revenge on another character. And that final character is dealt with so quickly it disrespects the passion and empathy the first two characters (try to) invoke. If that sounds like a short plot description, then don’t worry, because the show doesn’t give these multiple story threads more than a few episodes.
But even with a lot of episodes, one of the characters still proves ineffectual.
When this character is introduced, she wants to reunite with Ryner because he was her friend during her rough childhood. It makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is how bubbly she is for most of the show, badly clashing with her background. What’s worse is that this isn’t the set-up to a gag character, because she’s supposed to be taken seriously. But her serious moments don’t work, because she lacks the roundedness needed to make her bubbly and serious side believable as the same character.
The only decent characters are more like two pairings that are unfortunately not around for long. One of the characters in the first pairing appears at the early and later parts of the show. She meets someone she doesn’t like at first, but in their next scene they’re enjoying a cup of tea, and in the scene following she’s a blushing maiden. The other pairing is a classic warrior and princess story that believably flows from adoration to sweetness; in the first scene they’re smitten at first rescue, in the next scene they’re trying to hide their feelings from their friends to no effect, and then they’re enjoying a moonlight walk.
Ignoring the small amount of screentime these four characters have, they’re believable because there’s real progress to their relationships. Sure, it’s cheesy, but it’s at least an attempt at a pairing compared to Ryner and Ferris’ see-saw relationship. It’s not as layered as the other parts of the story, but being more layered doesn’t mean better, but a greater chance to be worse. When there’s more plot to juggle, it only falls down much worse when the juggle isn’t kept up, and the juggle falls the moment it starts.
This is part of why Legend of the Legendary Heroes’ writing leaves a bad taste, and what I mean when I say the story adopts a taste for complexities. It tries to execute too many threads at the same time and doesn’t give enough time for each thread to be properly weaved. At the same time, the three main characters take up most of the story’s screentime but have almost nothing to show for it. It’s this odd combination of incoherent density and weightless quantity that makes this show such a failure from a storytelling standpoint.
This leaves only the presentation to save the show, but the visual part of that falls short. Save for Sion, his assassin servant, and the four pairing characters—the last four lack screentime—most of the character designs are multi-colored to the point where it’s hard to tell them apart. For a world with swords and magic, many of the fight scenes are underwhelming for being nothing but beam spam or poor choreography that makes one question if the combatants are only as strong as the plot demands.
The best part of the presentation is the music, but music isn’t the aesthetic focus of an action fantasy show. Still, it’s loud when it needs to be, and has a surprising amount of grace during quieter scenes when it uses the art of silence to put focus on the dialog. Unfortunately, the music is held back by its odd habit of using random rock music during some scenes. This modern flare clashes with the medieval, fantasy feel of the show. I suppose it’s trying to be cool, and in a better show it’d be shameless fun, but here it comes across as trying too hard.
Which is odd, because looking at how the show’s main characters are handled, it’s like they weren’t trying at all. No respect is given to most of the characters and their stories, it tries to tell too many stories, the stories often lack chronological coherence, the social themes lack any depth with its stereotypical villains, and the presentation is best where it doesn’t matter anyway. This show does a few things right and everything else very egregiously wrong.
But the best thing I can say about this show is what Ryner goes on about from episode 1; take a nap. Sage advice, because taking a tap is preferable to watching Legend of the Legendary Heroes. Sure, you won’t be doing anything, but at least it’s better than getting Alpha Stigma-level angry at the people who made this.
English: Tegami Bachi: Letter Bee
MAL Score: 7.64
With his mother taken away from him and having lost everything, Lag Seeing is now a letter whose delivery has been assigned to Gauche Suede, a Letter Bee. Despite their troubling start, the two of them become friends, leading Lag to realize what his aim in life is: to deliver people’s most important feelings in the form of letters, just as Gauche has done.
Although Tegami Bachi may seem extraordinarily childish at first, the subtle, dark undertones are what make it very appealing.
Amberground, the setting of the story, is divided into three sections based on social class: Yodaka, Yuusari and Akatsuki. The land is covered by darkness with the exception of the artificial sun with illuminates the capital (Akatsuki); therefore, the farther away you get from the capital, the darker it gets.
Lag Seeing, an orphan, was found by a Letter Bee, Gauche Suede, who realized that Lag was the package he had to deliver to Campbell Litus, a small town in the dark Yodaka District. To Lag, Gauche was like a hero – he had saved his life numerous times during the delivery. Gauche was also the one who taught him about how letters hold the hearts of those who write it, and how the gaichuu (giant insects) are out to steal those hearts. Overshadowed by his hero, Lag swears to become a Letter Bee when he grows up. Only, when he finally achieves his goal, he discovers that the person who inspired him is no longer working as a Bee. Desperate to see him again, he begins to search for Gauche during his deliveries. In the process, Lag learns of an underground organization plotting to overthrow the capital, and the price that the citizens of Amberground pay for the artificial sunlight.
Studio Pierrot has done a pretty good job with the animation. All the colours look very comfortable and eye-pleasing, with fabulous openings and endings.
I really like the music in Tegami Bachi because it really adds to the story. Each piece of music was carefully planned out and they really suit the setting of the story.
This is where I really think the story is lacking. Lag is an annoying crybaby who really, is nothing more than annoying. Niche, Lag’s dingo, does incomprehensible things almost every episode. Gauche is the only one who has a relatively deep character, that enables you to understand his thoughts and motivations. The occasional flashbacks do help explain Gauche’s character, but in general, you can’t really relate to the characters.
The light mood mixed with the dark undertones make a nice blend.
There is a strange land called Amberground where it is constantly night, and an artificial sun only partially illuminates it. A mail delivery service known as “Bee Hive” recruits young “Letter Bees” to travel near and far and deliver letters. To make things difficult, the land on which they travel is teeming with monsters called “Gaichuu.” The letter bees are equipped with special guns and a protective pet called a “dingo” to overcome such challenges. Lag Seeing is our main letter bee with a special power and dingo, and he strives to become the top letter bee.
With such an interesting and original premise, was the story executed well? I have to say that Letter Bee started out strong. We first see Lag as a distressed, confused young child whose mother was taken away by the capital. He is nothing more than a “letter” needing to be delivered to a person who will take care of him. You follow Lag as he encounters an inspirational letter bee named Gauche, and upon being delivered safely, he swears to become a letter bee just like him.
Eventually, Lag takes a letter bee exam, finds a dingo, and meets many other letter bees who will occasionally work alongside him. Unfortunately, Gauche isn’t among them because he suddenly goes missing before Lag arrives. The series manages to develop a lot of mystery up to this point about his whereabouts, Lag’s mother, and the strange events that occur in their world. Letter Bee also becomes a bit political as we gain insight into Amberground’s system of government.
Just before midway of the series, all of the mysteries are temporarily forgotten, and filler episodes take over. The majority of the show consists of Lag making deliveries to random people whose personal stories range from compelling to cheesy, looking at flashbacks, blasting up Gaichuu, getting sick with a fever, racing, celebrating Christmas, and so on. After a while, these episodes feel like a waste of time. I personally wanted the story to move back to the mystery, especially with the anime nearing its end so fast.
The final few episodes actually grow darker in nature and return to the mystery that made this series so fascinating in the beginning. My friend and I thought that this was what Letter Bee should have been all along. In the end, the story leaves off with much to be desired; however, a second season has recently been announced which explains why we ended up watching so many fillers. Hopefully Letter Bee’s continuation will explore more of its dark mystery and answer some questions.
To answer my own question, I would say that the story was not executed as well as it could have been, but I do look at this anime under a more positive light knowing that a second season is soon on its way. There is much potential left for Letter Bee to bring out.
The characters certainly drive the series and make it very interesting. Lag Seeing, as I have so often mentioned already, is an innocent, determined child who possesses the power to look directly into people’s hearts upon shooting his gun. He views himself as delivering the hearts of people rather than just mere letters. However, his major drawback is that he is a crybaby in every single episode. Every little thing seems to touch his heart and bring tears down his cheeks. Either you like him or you don’t. I found him to be quite likeable despite his drawback. Lag travels with his dingo called Niche who is rather compulsive in attacking others and is protective of him. It is very fun to watch them interact during their travels.
We also get to really know the other letter bees and Bee Hive officers. They each have their own personality, strength, motive, and unique dingo. Their backgrounds are slowly revealed through flashbacks; however, a few of them have yet to receive proper development which I suspect has been saved for season two. Nevertheless, they are strong and memorable characters.
The rest of the cast consists of people whom Lag meets while delivering letters: a lonely little girl, a pair of lovers, a worried mother, a con artist, you name it. While a few of them are pretty interesting, it is hard to just care about them all and to see the show focused on them so much. Their purpose more or less serves to give Lag and the other letter bees some character development.
Animation, Setting, and Music
The animation is a mixed bag. The character designs are great, as well as the background scenery for the towns and such. However, it has not been a thrill ride to watch the fights that occur during every delivery. The animation there is so-so, and the monsters are a bit too CGI for my tastes. They never feel like they fit quite right in the show.
This season worked very hard on developing its setting and atmosphere. They are simply Letter Bee’s strongest points as of right now. The atmosphere can be rather haunting because the world is always dark and bleak beyond the lively, warm towns. The background music largely contributes to this with its gentle, spooky tunes and classical music.
Letter Bee is a very unique and atmospheric anime full of deep mysteries and strong characters. Its story might have gotten a bit weak midway with all its fillers and flashbacks, but it has so much potential for the second season. This season was all about building up the characters and atmosphere; the second one just might get straight to business. With high anticipation for its continuation, I recommend this anime.
4: Tegamibachi Reverse
English: Tegami Bachi: Letter Bee Reverse
Japanese: テガミバチ REVERSE
MAL Score: 7.76
After Niche carries the wounded and stunned Lag back to the Bee Hive, the Letter Bee finally begins to piece the puzzle together. Now he knows what’s happened to Gauche, why the Marauders are so focused on stealing mail and the actual intent of the group controlling both, Reverse. However, when he’s forbidden to reveal the truth, Lag is soon forced out of the artificial sunlight and back into the world of perpetual night. And soon Reverse’s plot to take down the Letter Bees and overthrow the Amberground government begins to accelerate. If things weren’t already bad enough, the giant insect creatures called gaichuu are apparently evolving into something new; there may be traitors working within the Hive; and Niche’s sister, who’s definitely not human friendly, shows up to turn family drama into a full-scale siege! It all spells serious trouble for the Letter Bees, but if anyone can weather the storms and gloom of night, Lag and his team are the ones who’ll deliver.
STORY: At initial glance, it doesn’t seem very original, NOT CLICHE either, but hardly something very unique. Letter-delivering. Very mundane. Not so in this anime. Letter Bees go on very dangerous missions, transversing many miles through the flickering light of Amberground, they face the constant threat of ‘gaichuu’. This particular story follows Lag Seeing- the world’s most adorable/lovable protagonist, a letter bee searching for his idol and his saviour – Gauche Suede; in the most basic, basic terms.
The first season has very llttle plot development in terms of the previously mentioned concept, IN fact, it is safe to say the first season really just ‘sets the scene’ in 25 episodes, so by the time you reached the finale, you have a very thorough understanding of what being a letter bee entails, their impact on the lives of the civilians, the huge social divisionsof Amberground, basic knowledge on all the characters encountered so far, etc.etc.
The Second season is when the plot really gets moving. Don’t get me wrong, the first season was absolutely beautiful exhibition of the greatness of the human spirit. Beautiful and extremely moving. However, the second season is so extremely addictive and exciting because you are immersed in the journeys of all the protagonists and all their successes and failures are amplified tenfold for you, and in the most basic terms, season 2 retains little episodic elements of season 1 and is also much more exciting because there is significant plot movement.
ART AND ANIMATION: I’ve combined these two because there isn’t much I can say about them as I’m not an expert, but the art is beautiful and the animation is excellent. While watching this anime the last thing you’ll be unhappy with is the art, (which is actually pallettable ART), and the animation, (which is smooth, non-jittery and enjoyable to watch, I.E. looks like it’s done by ACTUAL professionals) 0o0
SOUND: WONDERFUL WONDERFUL WONDERFUl…. Music that is actually music, voice-acting that is actually done with emotion, openings and endings you actually want to watch, all in all, very impressive.
CHARACTER; Ahhh, the characters/ protagonists were most definitely a hiighlight of the anime. On a general note, every single character of the series is an actual character, with emotions, development, (however small), history (however much touched on), hopes, dreams, and aspirations, NOT 2 dimensional stereotypes, which many animes have succumbed to. Not this one. The main character – Lag Seeing, is the biggest crybaby I have ever come across. EVER. But in a weird warp he is also the most endearing and moving and emotionally sensitive soul I have also come across in all fiction, and the real world. He is type of character you wish you knew because he would be the greatest friend that would always be loyal to you and love you. AND FOR ONCE THE PROTAGONIST IS NOT A PERVERTED TWAT. AND you LOVE HIM FOR IT. Also, Lag Seeing, from the very first episode undergoes a huge emotional journey. Wrenched away from everything ever known, he grows a great deal in only the first few episodes; he learns the meaning of the words ‘friendship, love, and journey.’ Understanding first hand the experience of being a letter, it inspires him to able to give what Gauche Suede, (the letter bee that delivered Lag) gave him. This character development does not stop for one second in the duration of the both series.
His dingo – Niche is an equally interesting character. Adorable, but equally deadly, in many ways, she is the polar opposite of Lag, but in another weird warp they make an unbeatable team. The relationship entails many hardships, as all realtionship do, but also triumphs through them, which really contributes to not only the likability of these two characters, but the whole series.
THEMES: I could write a whole essay on this one. And I would. Happily. But for review purposes I will TRY to keep it succint. 😛 Sorry reader. OKK… Tegami Bachi is chocablock filled with themes. In fact, I don’t think the word ‘themes’ quite entails what this show offers intellectually. Obviously, it can be interpreted very differently, but this is just my personal opinion. But Tegami Bachi is most definitely about communication. Duh. Delivering letters is just the front. In Tegami Bachi, letters are communication devices that allow addressers and addressees to read into one another’s innermost feelings and wishes. It is a portal into one’s heart, where people can really use time to think carefully and articulate what they really want to say ONTO paper. And it is the letter bees job to carry all that emotion and ‘heart’ emanating from that flimsy bit of paper that could have so much significance on someone’s life, safely to their destination. This immortal secret is what (I think) the series tries to teach us. Unlike many deep meaningful series it doesn’t preach right behaviour or good morals. It TEACHES. Yes, teaches. Teaches about friendship, explored through the interaction and the community of all the letter bees, and the friendships between letter bees and their dingos, that immortal bond so overlooked, prime examples constantly dotted throughout the series. (I’m trying not to spoil it). It also teaches, about respecting others, and in not the way you’d expect. That particular lesson broke my heart to pieces. It really exemplifies the meaning of sacrifice, and what true friends do for one another. Another major theme explored is ‘good and evil’. Suprisingly I felt absolutely no enmity for the villian of the second season. I did hate a particular someone for the atrocious betrayal of trust but I won’t specify who. Watch if you want to find out. 😀 Anyway, the series goes back deep enough into a character’s history that I was able to emphasize enough with the villain to understand the reasonings behind their actions. weird….
On a smaller note, the one thing that I wish that some important questions were answered. It seems like, while the series is absolutely great, the producers/directors forget about a few aspects of the Lag’s history, and while it touches on it lightly is not nearly enough for fans to draw respectable conlcusions from it. Which is extremely unfortunate.
ENJOYMENT: I think it’s pretty clear from the rest of my review how much I LOVED LOVED LOVED this series. There has been a couple of negative reviews and what I really plead to you is to give this anime a chance. This anime really changed what I thought of anime as a whole, it was a refreshing, touching, at times heart-breaking series, forever immortalised in my heart, and I believe with every inch of my soul that it’ll have some place in yours too.
The animation was beautiful like I said before. Great graphics, lighting, colour, just made me happy =D. It was all lies to try and deceive me.
Other than the bitchy crying 24/7, outstanding sound. The music at most scenes was wonderful and fit perfectly. The voices did too, but I haven’t heard such great music that sorta made me feel good in other shows. I feel weird talking.. or typing about how I feel. Oops I did it again.
Not much to say here, these characters were original. I would give it a 10 if it wasn’t for Gauche’s stupid memory loss thing which caused him to think he was Noir and leave HER POOR SISTER BEHIND JUST LIKE THAT EVEN THOUGH HE SAID HE’D HELP HER FIX HER LEGS. What the fuck.. now that I think about it…… WHY, NOT, ASK, DOCTOR THUNDERLAND FOR SURGERY?
YOU DUMBSHIT GAUCHE, DUMB SHIT.
I enjoyment-ed nothing. Nothing from the story plot. But the music and art was enjoymentingfull =D. (My own word)
Now to the story.
Letter Bee left us with a cliffhanger. Reverse continued on from that, with a story which pretty much says “Fck you all, we’re gonna hide the story behind Lag’s mother, the artificial sun and gonna take away Gauche with all his memories gone like the assholes we are, you motha fckers can go watch Pokemon.” Well fk you people too. This continued series solves NONE of the questions people may have, all it does is give more questions like a fking math teacher, and tells us to solve it or leave it. And then we’re left thinking of what might have the story about Lag’s mother and the Sun been about.
I loved season 1.
Hell with season 2.
There are still things from last season still present that makes this series unique and enjoyable to watch. The atmosphere in this series is absolutely phenomenal. We are completely immersed into the distinct world in “Tegamibachi”, in the constant darkness shined only by the faint light of artificial sun, and the desolate landscapes between towns. Character design was also wonderful, the unique Letter Bee uniform, the cute designs for kids, and the cool (almost bishounen) looks of the adult Letter Bees. Other than the Gaichuu still looking like video game rendered, this series is pure visual pleasure to watch.
However, ‘REVERSE’ still has many flaws evident in the previous season. Lag Seeing is still a crybaby who cries EVERY single episode. There are extremely poorly made fillers (although far fewer in numbers). The ability to see memory of others is shameless abused as a deliberate plot device, as Seeing and others continue to use their abilities to invade personal privacy. Characters’ actions or motivations not making any sense, and even plot holes such as knowing things a character was never told about. Horrible, horrible character and location naming sense (“Lag Seeing”? “Jinro”? “Blue Notes Blues” (wtf?)) And of course, the highly predictable nature of the story itself that was a constant loop of melodrama. The ending lacked resolution, and much of the mystery about the ‘Tegamibachi’ universe and Akatsuki remain unexplained.
Lag Seeing’s voice is clearly female as usual and quite annoying at times, but I’m used to it by now. Everyone else’s voices are near perfect matches, quite smooth and emotional when needed. BGM sounded very generic as last season, used in all the right places, but just lacks something that moves your heart. Both OP/ED were of very poor quality, not particularly fitting well with the series, nor as catchy as ones from the first season.
Two seasons of ‘Tegamibachi’ were very disappointing because it had so much potential. The premise was so unique and had so many possible developments built in, but the story and characters were simply incapable of reaching their full potential. Lag Seeing’s character remained a crybaby to the end, the use of their abilities too corny, and pacing was absolutely horrible and seemed to drag on forever. It also gave me the impression of the characters saying and doing same thing over and over. The story was so horribly written near the end that it was almost insulting.
The theme of this anime was delivering thoughts and feelings, but it had failed to reach my heart.
3: InuYasha: Kanketsu-hen
English: InuYasha: The Final Act
Japanese: 犬夜叉 完結編
MAL Score: 8.21
Thwarted again by Naraku, Inuyasha, Kagome Higurashi, and their friends must continue their hunt for the few remaining Shikon Jewel shards, lest they fully form into a corrupted jewel at the hands of Naraku. But Naraku has plans of his own to acquire them, and will destroy anyone and anything standing in his way—even his own underlings.
The persistent, unyielding danger posed by Naraku forces Sango and Miroku to decide what is most important to them—each other or their duty in battle. Meanwhile, Inuyasha must decide whether his heart lies with Kikyou or Kagome, before fate decides for him. Amid the race to find the shards, Inuyasha and his brother Sesshoumaru must also resolve their feud and cooperate for their final confrontation with Naraku, as it is a battle they must win in order to put a stop to his evil and cruelty once and for all.
The art as always was clean and enjoyable. But the development of the characters was spectacular! I am so glad that the ending was the way it was. What I hoped for all along.
So glad I watched it and highly recommend to others as well!
To a man who completely watched every single Inuyasha episode known to man, I want to point out that this here is one of the most miraculous things ever.
Story – The story takes wherever the last story picked of. I found this to be much better than the 167 episodes the original one took place. The psychological impact of the story stunned me to no end, making me marathon this over and over again. Truly amazing. 10/10
Characters – Out of all the characters in this series, Kagome evolved the most. Not to say that the others stayed the same, but Kagome. She played the most significant role and completely carried the show. Unfortunately, the way Inuyasha changed was completely irrelevant in any standard and should not be mentioned again, overall best character development. 10/10
Sound – You may not realize it, but the dub for this show was gorgeous. You could say that this is dubbing gone right. It made the show feel very realistic and logical in every aspect of the story. Don’t forget the OST. Truly just gorgeous. I spent $20 downloading the Inuyasha OST and not once regretting it. 10/10
Art – The art style for this was pretty astounding, feeling refined like my new born child. He was born yesterday April 4, 2014 at 12:27 AM while I was finishing up this show. 10/10
Enjoyment – Disregarding what ever my wife says about this show, it will always be 1st in my life. 10/10
Overall – This was a masterpiece of a show that i would never recommend the first season to. It was glorious in all aspects. In the honor I gave my son the middle name of InuYasha 10/10
Im out and never forgot to blaze it.
Story (10) Definitely one of the more in-depth storylines in anime. The show takes you back in time, well it literally does each time Kagome goes through her family’s well, to see peoples’ pasts to see how everyone is connected to each other. The story picks up where the first season ended, Inuyasha and company are going after Naraku to end his evil in their world. This is the main story, but things that weren’t taken care of in the first season were finally given a resting place. What I mean by this is things like “What happened to Inuyasha-Kagome-Kikyou love triangle?!?” are finally resolved and definite.
Something that I would like to point out is the pacing of this continuation series. This 26 episode ending is NOT rushed, everything is greatly paced.
Art (8) A definite improvement in animation, but not to the extent that it is extremely noticeable. The animation style is kept the same, which is great because I believe that having the same character animation is crucial in the overall enjoyment of the anime. An example for this would be the Minami-ke series where all 4 seasons are animated differently because they were made in 4 different studios. It had an obvious effect to many of the views, including myself. Animation is smooth and attractive, yet not too flashy.
Sound (10) Music in the InuYasha series have always been great! Song likes Dearest – Ayume Hamasaki, Every Heart – Boa, Fukai Mori – Do As Infinity, and Rakuen – Do As Infinity, are great examples of the awesome music. Music is incorporated into the anime well with the timing of it, and also the selection of music they use. In fact, my first spine-chilling experience while watching anime came from this show. It was due to the mix of what was happening in the anime and the song that came with it. When I think of great music in anime I think of InuYasha immediately.
Character (10) The complex relationship between Inuyasha, Kagome, and Kikyou is one of the most engaging subjects of anime that I have ever seen. The anime does a great job in taking time with character development. You do not have to worry about not understanding why things happen, because the anime explains, or has explained, why. The characters are original, that is what I love about them. I love that they all have pasts, especially Inuyasha and Kikyou. It adds so much more depth to the story. Another thing I love about the characters is the timing of their actions. They are themselves when nothing is going on, and they serious, but still themselves, when something is happening. They have dimension.
Enjoyment (9) Just an absolutely fitting ending to a great series. It was well made, and while typing that I just told myself I wish I could watch this for the first time again.
Overall (9) An extremely high 9 rating in my books. Recommend it to anyone, especially to those that are interested in action, romance, drama, and some comedy.
MAL Score: 8.34
In an Edo-era Japan lush with a variety of sword-fighting styles, Shichika Yasuri practices the most unique one: Kyotouryuu, a technique in which the user’s own body is wielded as a blade. The enigmatic seventh head of the Kyotouryuu school, Shichika lives quietly in exile with his sister Nanami until one day—the wildly ambitious strategist Togame barges into their lives.
Togame brazenly requests that Shichika help in her mission to collect twelve unique swords, known as the “Deviant Blades,” for the shogunate. Shichika accepts, interested in the girl herself rather than petty politics, and thus sets out on a journey. Standing in their way are the fierce wielders of these legendary weapons as well as other power-hungry entities who seek to thwart Togame’s objective. In order to prevail against their enemies, the duo must become an unbreakable team as they forge ahead on a path of uncertainty and peril.
Which is where Katanagatari comes in to the picture.
Written by Nisio Isin (although he usually writes it as NisiOisiN since his name is a palindrome), the twelve volumes of the original light novel series were published as part of the Kodansha Box line. Strangely, all of the books were released at a rate of one per month from January to December 2007, with a spin off novel published in February 2008. Now while this is clearly a phenomenal feat, one does have to wonder if a few corners were cut for the sake of expediency and to meet deadlines, and also if the adaptation can stand up to scrutiny.
Katanagatari is basically what the title suggests – a story about swords. It begins with fire and death as a rebellion against the Owari shogunate meets a bloody end. Twenty years later, a small boat makes its way across the sea to a deserted island where the passenger, Togame, hopes to enlist the aid of Yasuri Mutsue, the 6th generation head of the Kyoutouryuu sword style and the hero of the rebellion.
Instead she finds Yasuri Shichika, who is more bumpkin than the term allows for, and is also as hard as nails.
One of the things that really stands out about the series (aside from the visuals, but we’ll get to that in a bit), is the dialogue. The show is very well scripted with some very good conversations and witty repartee, and the explanations are usually clear and concise enough for the viewer to follow. There are also numerous verbal nods in the direction of modern popular culture, which makes a nice change of pace as one might normally expect lots of serious conversations about honour, loyalty, duty, revenge, or other concepts that are usually found in these types of story.
The problem though, is that the dialogue can also be off putting for viewers who want a little less conversation, a little more action (sing along if you know the words), especially as the fights are over in a very short space of time. In addition to this the story can sometimes err on the side of predictable, especially with the number of plot coupons that drive the whole show (in this case the “cursed” swords), and the series can sometimes become nothing more than a repetition of talk, talk, talk, fight, talk, end. The biggest criticism about Katanagatari though, is that it’s nothing more than a very nice looking “fetch quest”, and while the dialogue really does pull the whole show together, the storyline can sometimes feel derived or contrived.
What really makes the series stand out are the rather stylized visuals. The design principle attempts to merge several themes ranging from traditional Japanese art to modern fighting games, and while there are some flaws here and there, the overall effect is … something else. The scenery is surprising to say the least, and almost every frame is literally filled with little details that will often go unnoticed by the viewer, from the grain and different tones found in wood, to the multiple hues and fractures of stone.
In contrast to this the characters are simplistic yet colourfully flamboyant. The costumes vary from the utilitarian to the nonsensical (especially those of the Maniwa ninja corps), while the characters themselves have exaggeratedly simple, almost cartoon-like, facial features. Oddly enough, whilst one might expect this sort of design to lack in terms of expression, the opposite is true for Katanagatari.
White Fox, who produced Tears to Tiara and are currently working on Stein’s Gate, have done a tremendous job with the design and animation of this series. The characters have a certain grace about their movements that belies their simplistic appearance and sometimes clunky costumes, while actual combat scenes are extremely well choreographed and animated, so much so that the individual moves of Shichika Hachiretsu (Seven hits, Eight Pieces), are clearly defined.
That said, the art style may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but if you can handle it then there’s a pretty good story here.
One of the defining aspects of a good narrative is the strength of the scriptwriting, and because of the extremely strong dialogue in this anime, it’s often easy to overlook how good the actors actually are. Hosoya Yoshimasa’s role as the über country bumpkin Yasuri Shichika may have caused him some consternation as the character is effectively emotionless for a good portion of the series. That said, his deadpan delivery works very well, and can often make the viewer stop and try to work out if what he says is meant to be a joke. On the other hand, Tamura Yukari’s not-quite-tsundere Togame is sometimes a joy to watch, with the character’s many mood swings and emotional changes handled with aplomb. But then again, what else would one expect from an actress who’s also played Takamichi Nanoha, Kawasumi Mai (Kanon), Furude Rika (Higurashi), and a horde of other lead and supporting roles.
To be honest, given that Hosoya only has a handful of shows under his belt it’s amazing he managed to keep his head working alongside such an experienced seiyuu.
Katanagatari features quite a lot of music in the form of two opening themes, twelve ending themes, and a plethora of background tracks. The OPs and EDs are handled well, but given the number of songs on offer, deciding what works and what doesn’t is very much a matter of personal taste. The incidental music is another matter, as while there are scenes where the music dominates proceedings, the majority of the series features either very subtle tunes that are almost unnoticeable, or no music whatsoever.
The nice thing about this approach is that the dialogue doesn’t have to fight to lead a particular scene, and while the more subtle background music is pleasant enough, this is ultimately a “wordy” anime.
The biggest weakness of shows like Katanagatari is that they have too many characters for their own good. While Shichika and Togame are played confidently, have some well though out dialogue, and generally bounce off each other like peas on a drum, the same cannot be said of the supporting characters, in particular the Maniwa Corps who seem to be nothing more than a collective of whipping boys whose only role in life is to prove just how strong Shichika and his sister are.
That doesn’t mean the characters are bad though. Both Shichika and Togame’s emotional development is handled in a very competent manner, and as their relationship slowly becomes more defined, so too do their actions change towards each other and the world around them. Unfortunately, while a lot of attention is lavished on the two leads, there is very little left over for the supporting cast, which is a shame as there are some great performances in this anime.
Now while the series has a lot to recommend it there are some valid criticisms that can be levelled at it, the main one being that Katanagatari is far too “wordy”. See, the problem is that since the dialogue is very good, someone has decided that the series should have more of it than it actually needs, and the upshot of this is that there are occasions when the characters just go on and on. Now it should be pointed out that a part of this is because the series parodies certain stereotypical behaviours found in shounen anime and manga (and James Bond stories I might add), which is nice, but ultimately unnecessary.
Katanagatari is a strange anime that’s part “fetch quest”, part wuxia tale, and strangely enough, part Seinfeld (i.e lots of people being dryly humourous, deadpan or witty), which isn’t a normal combination by any measure. That said, I thoroughly enjoyed this anime for its originality and innovation, as it would have been all too easy for White Fox to follow the tried and tested route for samurai anime, so the fact that they decided to stick with Isin’s concept of how the characters should look is laudable.
Now if only the other studios would start broadening their horizons …
Original work written by the same author as ‘Bakemonogatari’, this is a dialogue-based series that I cannot recommend to Shounen and other viewers who seek mindless battle scenes, you can ignore my warnings… “but by that time, you’d be slashed into pieces.”
The story of ‘Katanagatari’ is driven by the characters who stand in the way of the sword gathering. New characters and weapon of the month are introduced in every episode. Through negotiation and battles with Togame and Shichika, we learn about their opponents’ backgrounds and purpose to fight. It can be said that the story progresses by disposing expendable side characters. The story may be about the main couple gathering the 12 swords, but the show is really all about why people fight.
The humor in this series heavily relies on 「すべり芸」, the comedy through deliberately failed attempts to be funny, which in turn creates a humorous atmosphere for its sheer lameness. The frantic pace of conversation was the key to making this comedy style work, as well as the persistence (such as catchphrases, Togame missing the battle, sexual implication etc) in every episode.
The episodic nature of the series makes character development difficult, but it was made possible by dedicating each episode to a theme or lesson for Shichika, and sometimes Togame.
2: What to protect
8: Human Will
Shichika started out as an emotionless weapon that blindly follows Togame’s orders, acting as her sword. By facing the variety of opponents in their journey and influence of Togame herself, Shichika gradually grow up as a human being, learning ways of the society and new emotions with each encounter. Character development was excellent. By end of the show, Shichika was no longer a brutal killing machine; he had his own purposes and opinions. Character design was fantastic in this series. Everyone was easily distinguishable. Even those who died quickly had very distinct personalities and features that left lasting impressions.
Character naming was pretty interesting in kanji, such as Shichika –> “Seven Flowers”, Togame –> wordplay of 「十が目」(Eye is a Cross) and “Blame”, Hitei-hime –> “Princess Denial”. Every name basically describes the person.
My only complaint with the characters is that every adversary in this show had a sympathetic or honorable reason to fight. They were too lovable. I believe there should be at least one character for everyone to hate in this type of action/adventure series. There should’ve been an enemy who was simply a serial killer who loved taking life, or a corrupt leader oppressing the innocent civilians. I also felt sorry for Maniwani, for being defeated (often easily) in every single battle against Shichika or Sword-holders.
The final episode summarizes and concludes the series well, lots of cool action, and the funniest scene occurred in stage 10 of dojo-yaburi, with Hakari the Scale. I also liked how in the end, it showed that possession of powerful weapon is pointless unless the wielder has the skill and knowledge to make full use of it.
I still consider ‘Bakemonogatari’ voice acting to be the best ever, but ‘Katanagatari’ is a close second. Togame (Tamura Yukari)’s voice takes a while to get used to, but it grew on me in time. Shichika (Hosoya Yoshimasa)’s voice sounds like reading the script at first, but not really; quite humorous and emotional when needed to be. Other than that, everyone else’s voice was an instant hit (this is important because some of the characters were dead within minutes of appearance), which is quite a feat because there are over 30 major characters in this series. This is another series that made me think “Seiyuu sure are amazing”.
BGM, on the other hand, makes a strong case for a new benchmark. It should be noted that at least one new piece of BGM is played in every episode, but all pieces flows so well that it doesn’t sound like deliberate theme music for each villain. Most pieces are fully orchestrated in Western or Japanese traditional instruments, charged with the grandeur of the adventure. Others are jovial Japanese rap that serves its purpose by being so bad that it’s funny. However, it’s not the quality of individual number that makes the background music of ‘Katanagatari’ remarkable, rather its application. Every number is used in exactly the right places. The most distinguishable characteristic of the implementation is that the music start well before each significant scene to build up the tension, harmonizing with the story to enhance the drama as they climax with absolute precision.
OP1 was very catchy with good balance of anime beats and traditional Japanese atmosphere, but OP2 was average. EDs are different for every episode. Ep4, 8, 12 were particularly strong songs, but all were shared by outstanding vocals.
Character in this series had extremely crude designs, with background detail of varying degree. However, the artwork has a very unique style that creates a Japanese fairytale, picturebook-like atmosphere that suits this series well. One can tell the animation director and staff went lengths to visually compliment the story with wonderful “camera work”, composition, and fabulous fight scenes.
I want to believe that the character designs are simplified so that they (especially the protagonist) begin as blank canvases, and their impressions and details painted in viewer’s minds as the show progress through words.
The art quality in this series is technically inferior compared to most shows airing this year, but in my opinion had one of the best presentation and style. Probably hit or miss depending on tastes.
Although there are limits to episodic storytelling, the show had great character development and interesting story. The story was full of surprises and unpredictable turn of events despite it being a simple tale of sword gathering. Quite innovative and bold in style with both artwork and plot development. There were many great episodes in this series, I hereby declare episode 2, 4, 10, 12 「神回」 (godly epic episodes). Episode 7 was one too, though it probably had been possessed by a demon than god in many ways.
Perhaps it’s a result of loose deadline due to monthly episode, but you can tell the staff paid close attention to perfect everything, from animation to sound to story structure.
It was one hell of an adventure around Japan. In spite of all the flaws mentioned above, ‘Katanagatari’ is a series that I enjoyed tremendously. This series was filled with so many interesting quirks, and I will definitely remember it for a long time.
Cheerio! Let’s all hype up this word with the wrong meaning.
I originally stumbled upon this anime thinking it was a continuation of the Monogatari series. It’s not. But it’s a great show nonetheless. What wowed me about this show was its pacing. Katanagatari is easily one of the most well-paced animes I’ve ever seen, and the pacing reminds me a lot of BBC’s Sherlock series. Each of the 45-minute episodes are like a mini-movie, leaving very little in terms of cliff-hangers, yet keeps you wanting more, if and when you have time. For me, it made for a good series to relax and watch with my girlfriend on the weekends of my hectic whirlwind lifestyle.
So why did I choose to start with a quote from an obscure 2002 Jet Li movie? Well, the one thing that probably caused Katanagatari’s score to drop a few points for a lot of people was its ending, which undoubtedly left 90~% of viewers confused and angry. So, I decided to take a metaphorical stab at an explanation (for which I will enlist the help of this obscure 2002 Jet Li movie) that will hopefully shed some light on the true meaning behind Katanagatari, and help you reach a more fulfilling understanding of what the heck you just watched. However, as my explanation contains light spoilers, I will leave it at the end of my review for you to read after you’ve already finished the series.
Now, for the review:
– Story (8/10) –
The story of Katanagatari is both very straightforward and somehow wildy unpredictable. It follows a rinse and repeat cycle where our heroes, Togame (a delicate strategist) and Shichika (an emotionless jungle boy), face off against an enemy with a powerful and unique weapon, find some way to defeat them, and subsequently take their weapon. It may sound dull and repetitive, but the show does a great job of keeping things fresh with cute/clever interactions between Togame and Shichika, who are superstar characters in their own rights, but I’ll get to that in a bit. The only thing the story is lacking is depth behind each character’s motivations. Togame is collecting swords for the Shogunate, which is the enemy of her loving deceased father, while Shichika is there because… I have no clue. He claims it’s because he fell in love at first sight with Togame, but his attraction is rather platonic. I think the real reason was because he was bored. That’s not to say their relationship seems fake. Katanagatari doesn’t pull love out of thin air like some animes do (*cough* Angel Beats!). While the relationship between Togame and Shichika starts off a little suspicious, and the show doesn’t try to hide the fact that Shichika comes off as this asexual weirdo, it develops into something that seems very real by the time we get to the closing credits. Throughout their travels, Shichika undergoes a very subtle transformation from emo-jungle-boy to fun-loving prankster that’s shown in the way he interacts and teases Togame. It’s all done in a Flowers for Algernon kind of way, meaning the narrator doesn’t have to tell us that Shichika and Togame are changing, it’s just obvious. It’s really refreshing to see an anime that shows us things rather than tells us what to think, wouldn’t you agree? (NOD YOUR HEAD) But still, the initial motivations behind each character’s actions leaves a lot viewers scratching their heads. This, of course, is compounded by the problems people have with the ending. It’s not just Shichika and Togame either. All of the characters have a tendency to act in unpredictable and senseless ways, from Hou-oh, a beloved clan leader randomly decapitating his dear disciple to Shichika’s sister running around killing people for no reason. None of their motivations seem to make any sense. But motivations aside, it still gets an 8 out of 10 for it’s combination of fun-filled subplots, clever battle sequences, and colorful cast of characters.
– Art (9/10) –
Have you ever watch an episode of an action anime and thought, why is there no fighting in this episode? Well, Katanagatari never has this problem. There’s fighting in every episode. And while the fighting is not flashy (or forced for that matter), it is very well drawn and sensibly creative. The style is not detailed, except with some of the scenery, and the artist takes liberties with the shape of human bodies and faces, but it’s all still very cool looking. It all reminds me a LOT of Gurren Laggan. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it fits well with the style of the anime as a whole. There are two weird things about the artwork that might annoy some people. First, like the artist for Gurren Lagann, this artist doesn’t like to draw normal looking eyes. I don’t mean having something like the Sharingan of Naruto canon, that’s actually connected the story. I mean some characters will just randomly have pentagons for eyes, because why not? And second, the art style changes slightly after the first few episodes (the lines get noticeably thinner). I don’t know if this is to show aging (older characters are typically given lighter lines in anime), but it’s all made very obvious during flashbacks. But if you can disregard those two things, I’m sure you’ll find the graphics as entertaining as I did.
– Sound (9/10) –
The opening/closing and the music in general fit well with the anime. That’s really all I can say about that. The background music has a modern/Sengoku style to it that reminds me a bit of Samurai Champloo, but more Sengoku and less modern than Samurai Champloo (there’s very little rap). And obviously, it’s by a different composer (RIP Jun Seba). Actually, I think the opening is by the same band that did the Monogatari series. Anyways, it’s all very good. The intros/outros are memorable, although neither of them really wowed me. The voice acting was underrated as well. However, I’ve only seen the sub.
– Characters (9/10) –
The characters are probably the best thing about this show. The main characters, Togame and Shichika are both very distinct and clever. Neither of them fall entirely within any anime cliche. The repertoire between them is great, and they both have some very memorable lines. The development of the characters is relatable as the pair try to find meaning behind why they fight, what it is they’re searching for, and what they really want out of life. The side characters are also very interesting. All of the enemies are unique and interesting. In fact, even the guys who only get 10 seconds of screen time are interesting. I’m going to say “interesting” one more time for emphasis, just in case you didn’t catch the first 30 times I said it. They all have fun quirks about them, and none of them really came off as annoying. One good example of this is the Maniwa Corps, a group of ninjas that are sort of like what Team Rocket is for Ash and Company on Pokemon, but way cooler. The difference is that while Team Rocket is made up almost entirely of storm troopers clones, every single of one of the 12 (14?) Maniwa members are unique. About 5 seconds ago (or 10-30 seconds depending on how fast you read), I mentioned that none of them come off as annoying. Well, that’s not entirely true. The fact that their motivations often fail the logic test, as I mentioned earlier, can come off a bit annoying at times. But even this does little to make them full blown annoying characters. Even Hou-oh, who I mentioned briefly earlier as acting out of random uncharacteristic impulse, turned out to be one of my favorite anime side characters in a long time. Basically what I’m trying to say is that the characters have minor annoying tendencies, but the core that makes them who they are is solid, and will keep you invested in them.
– Enjoyment (10/10)
Memorable dialogue? Check. Fun scenarios? Check. Colorful characters? Check. Fulfilling story? Check. Top-notch pacing? Check. Meaningful fight scenes? Check. A spattering of fan service here and there? Ding Ding Ding. We have a winner.
Its not the greatest show I’ve ever seen. But it’s definitely worth the watch. I honestly believe it would be rated a lot higher if people weren’t so upset with the ending. To cure that, I’ve decided to write an explanation. So if you haven’t yet finished the show, PLEASE STOP READING HERE. If you have finished the 12 episode series, here’s my take on what the ending was about…
(Warning: Light Spoilers)
Katanagatari (or Story of the Sword), taken as a whole, is about the falsification and course-correction of history. So it only makes sense that the first question we should ask is what part of history was corrected and what part was falsified?
Let’s start with what was falsified. The subject matter behind this story is China, not Japan. And Shichika is an anime-parallel of Jing Ke. Name sound familiar? If so, either you’re a history buff or you’ve watched too many Jet Li movies. Jing Ke, as some of you may know, is the main character of the 2002 Jet Li movie, “Hero” (although in the movie, he’s known as “nameless”). And the history that is course-corrected is Jing Ke failed assassination of Ying Zheng, the King of Qin, and the man who would later become China’s first Emperor. (the name Shichika in Japanese means “seven,” which could refer to the seven warring nations of Han before they were united under Ying Zheng) He’s also the one who ordered the eventual construction of the great wall of China to fend China off from foreign invaders, which the anime briefly mentions. The legend goes, Jing Ke earned an audience with Zheng upon presenting him with a present – the 12 broken swords of his greatest enemies. But in the end, Jing Ke failed because of two critical mistakes. First, he was paralyzed with fear for both himself and his loved ones at the sight of the King, and second, he was too slow in retrieving the poisoned dagger he hid in the scroll he presented to the King.
Now that the stage is set, let’s move on to course-correction. While it’s true that Emperor Zheng built the great wall, he was actually hated in China. The construction of the great wall cost the lives of millions, and Zheng was remembered as being a ruthless coward. And so peering into the future, Kiki Shikizaki (and his descendant Princess Hitei) attempted to course-correct Jing Ke’s failed assassination by getting rid of his two weaknesses – his human heart, and his need of a weapon. And so he taught Ke’s ancestor the Kyotouryuu and created the deviant blades as a condition precedent for Ke’s meeting with Zheng. Lastly, by killing Togame, the love of his life (who’s name in Japanese means “Blame” as in the one to blame for countless deaths), Princess Hitei fulfilled her ancestor’s goal in getting rid of Jing Ke’s second weakness, and turning him into a perfected weapon, without residual attachment to the world. This allowed him to overcome his fears, and even go as far as to wish for death. And so all the blood shed would not be in vain and millions of lives are saved from the clutches of China’s first tyrant. Of course, this would mean that Zheng could no longer build the great wall to protect China from invaders, to which Shichika replies (and I’m paraphrasing) – we’ll just have to trust the heroes of the future to tear them to pieces.
Ok, so that should explain what happened. I may be wrong, but at the very least, it gives you a basis for understanding the theme of this story. By focusing on what could have happened (history), rather than what did happen (anime), the ending should hold a bit more weight. The story doesn’t do that, it really couldn’t. That was something that had to be left to the viewer. Another thing that probably upset people is how Shichika ends up with Hitei. Well, that’s something you have to look at in context of the overarching theme of the anime – the falsification of history. History is written by the victor. Now ask yourself who you think the narrator of the story is. It could only be one person. And once you’ve figured that out, things should become clearer. History is written by the victor, and in this case a victor with a penchant for falsifying history. Is it not possible that the ending was a lie too? Call it a narrator’s wishful thinking, if you must. Hopefully, you were able to figure out what I meant. I can’t solve all your riddles for you. It would take too long. And by then, I will have already torn you all to pieces. Cheerio!
1: Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
English: Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
Japanese: 鋼の錬金術師 FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST
MAL Score: 9.16
After a horrific alchemy experiment goes wrong in the Elric household, brothers Edward and Alphonse are left in a catastrophic new reality. Ignoring the alchemical principle banning human transmutation, the boys attempted to bring their recently deceased mother back to life. Instead, they suffered brutal personal loss: Alphonse’s body disintegrated while Edward lost a leg and then sacrificed an arm to keep Alphonse’s soul in the physical realm by binding it to a hulking suit of armor.
The brothers are rescued by their neighbor Pinako Rockbell and her granddaughter Winry. Known as a bio-mechanical engineering prodigy, Winry creates prosthetic limbs for Edward by utilizing “automail,” a tough, versatile metal used in robots and combat armor. After years of training, the Elric brothers set off on a quest to restore their bodies by locating the Philosopher’s Stone—a powerful gem that allows an alchemist to defy the traditional laws of Equivalent Exchange.
As Edward becomes an infamous alchemist and gains the nickname “Fullmetal,” the boys’ journey embroils them in a growing conspiracy that threatens the fate of the world.
I admit that as I’ve seen the original and read the manga, the pacing of Brotherhood seems to start off being VERY fast (I finally got used to the pacing after watching the first fifteen eps or so). Events that took up half a volume of the manga and had spread though a few episodes of the original anime were now shown in just a single episode. However, after trying to look at it from the perspective of someone who’s new to FMA (not comparing it to the manga nor the original), I believe that the pacing works and it manages to tell an intriguing story effectively with little confusion. The plot is full of clever ideas and unpredictable twists that link various parts of the story together. By the final episode, all loose ends are neatly tied up and what’s left is a hugely satisfying epilogue.
The animation in FMA Brotherhood is crisp and very well done (although it does sometimes dip a bit in quality). Compared to the original FMA it’s a bit simpler but that’s just because the original set a very high standard to follow. The facial emotions of the characters are also perfectly presented. The action scenes are brilliant and VERY well animated, with a variety of alchemy techniques and other talents being displayed nearly every episode. The various battles are consistently exciting to watch, but somehow get even better towards the end of the series.
The voice acting is of an excellent and consistent quality, and I think that pretty much all the characters have voice actors which suit their personalities. The majority of the openings/endings are a pleasure to watch due to fantastic animated sequences and theme songs. The background music which play during the episodes usually fit very well with the situation, although some tracks seem to be overused a little at first. This becomes less of a problem as the series progresses, with plenty of new music being introduced to support the story as it reaches the finale.
Moving on to the characters (best thing about this series), the original FMA focussed mainly on Ed and Al and on their struggles to regain their bodies, whereas Brotherhood also explores other characters to great detail at the same time. The majority of the spotlight is still on the two brothers, but it highlights their interactions with new characters which were not present in the original anime. New characters include a group of people from Xing (a neighbouring country), another person from the Armstrong family (who I think has become one of the coolest members of the supporting cast), and a new main antagonist. For me, the Xingese characters in particular (Ling Yao and Mei Chang among others) provide a new dimension to the FMA world, by showing us a different culture to the militaristic one we’re familiar with. I think the new antagonist is an improvement on the original FMA, as this person has a much stronger and clever link to the Elric brothers’ father. Returning characters from the original FMA, such as Mustang and Scar, are much more awesome and developed due to the fact that Brotherhood is 100% faithful to the manga. Plus, Winry Rockbell now has a much more active role in the story. I can say for sure that this anime has one of the best main/supporting casts I’ve ever seen, and you’d probably find it difficult to label any of the recurring characters (whether they are good or evil) as being either boring or unnecessary in terms of the storyline.
One of the many good things about this series is that there has been absolutely no filler at all (yes, I’m thinking of Naruto, Inuyasha, etc), which prevents the story from losing momentum. All the episodes are concise and every scene is important as part of the huge plot. The dialogue fully explains everything and is straight to the point. As multiple characters are explored there are lots of side stories, but these are all perfectly intertwined with the main story of the Elric brothers and more often than not directly influence their journey too. Like most anime series, there are things from the manga which have been left out, but these are usually just restricted to comedy moments. There has been one episode which shows a lot of flashbacks of events so far, but that’s forgiven as it shows the most epic moments of the series, and also provided us with some history on the father of the Elric brothers.
FMA Brotherhood will be sorely missed now that it’s finished. It is excellent in every aspect and has very little, if anything, that can be called a flaw (maybe rushed character development at first due to the fast pacing, but this quickly subsides). Each episode feels like it’s too short, a testimony to how much it draws you in to the story and characters. There are moments which leave you smiling, laughing, sad and simply amazed. Try this anime, it’s recommended for absolutely everyone, to newcomers and to those familiar with Fullmetal Alchemist.
I’m not a huge fan of the MAL categorical rating system, as I’ve mentioned in some of my previous reviews. I oftentimes outright ignore it. However, looking at the categories right now, I feel as though this is one instance where I can use it to talk about everything I want to so I’m going to use it.
The FMA:B plot and world-building are some of its strongest aspects. The world that it creates is an immersive, full-feeling thing with many animate pieces that move even when you aren’t looking at them. It’s an extremely creative world as well, adopting its own set of universal laws including alchemy through equivalent exchange, mind-body duality and its own interpretation of a higher power, and it sticks by these laws. Never once does the story contradict its own rules, instead using them in creative ways to build off of each other. The plot is also one of the most engaging parts of the show, unveiling itself at just the right pace to keep you interested whilst still keeping a few major cards to play at the very end. The pieces fall into place in a way that is satisfying because it simultaneously mind-blowing and obvious, and that’s one of the marks of strong storytelling.
While the FMA:B story is certainly one of the best I’ve seen, I find that I have to withhold my 10 score here on the grounds that its incredible direction and creativity are marred by some detrimental weaknesses. First of all, the exposition is handled extremely poorly. The first and third episodes feel like they’re from some shitty cartoon network show, the show blatantly ignores the show-don’t-tell rule in the entirety of its first chunk (with characters spelling out exactly what is happening and why it’s happening) and its tendency to repeat important plot points over and over again quite frankly feels insulting to me as the audience as though the show is assuming I’m not able to pay attention or figure things out for myself and need to have the fact that Ed and Al committed the sin of human transmutation and lost their bodies told to me at least twenty-five times in the first two hours of show. Secondly, there’s a period of time which I would probably refer to as the third fourth of the show (episodes 40-53ish) in which the show drags incredibly, adopting a typical battle-shonen approach of having characters engage in multiple-episode long one-on-one or two-on-one battles, giving them plenty of time to pose and stand off and monologue at each other. This isn’t how fighting or war works, and these contrived battles really take away a lot of the climactic atmosphere. Finally, the show’s ending is not nearly as satisfying as I wish it had been. The final few episodes are for the most part brilliant, but once the show plays all its cards and it’s resolution time, it wraps itself up with cliches and in-your-face themes.
The art is absolutely astounding 80% of the time and absolutely horrid 20% of the time. Thus the 8 score. The action is all stunning, the openings gorgeous, the backgrounds consistent and unique, building a sense of a real lived-in world. The character designs are sometimes a little bland, but for the most part they are memorable and the homunculi look brilliant so I don’t have any real complaints there.
What I have a problem with is the obnoxious number of times that the show goes “anime” – reducing its characters to shittily-drawn caricatures and its animation to blocky, looped motion. Usually this is used during the shows attempts at humor, which I’ll talk about later, but most of the time it was just extremely cringe-inducing and distracting, ruining the sense of continuity and immersion in this world. The show obviously wants you to take it seriously (it sure loves its drama) and when Al is portrayed as a big grey mound with a squiggle for a mouth it makes this difficult. There’s a difference between having your character goof around and having the show itself goof around. It almost feels like a laugh-track, telling the audience “this is the funny part!”
For the most part, however, the art is gorgeous. When it counts, it shines, and that’s really what matters.
Undeniably the strongest aspect of the show. I have no complaints whatsoever. The soundtrack is never distracting but always effective, the voice-actors (especially for Bradley and Al) absolutely nailed it and the openings and endings… dear lord. It’s been said before, but the openings and endings to FMA:B are some of the very best ever made, both in sound and visuals. They tell small stories of their own. They set the tone for the episode and for their section of the show as a whole. I especially loved ‘Golden Time Lover’ and ‘Chemistry’, but I have to give special mention to SID’s ‘Rain’. As far as I’m concerned, that opening could have been the end of the show. It single-handedly established a sense of finality, a long-endured struggle of these characters and their causes. Everyone is portrayed as exhausted, weak and full of both despair and determination: protagonist and antagonist alike, fighting under the rain. Not for glory, not for honor, but just for the one thing they care most for. Personally, it made me extremely hyped for the final stretch of the show. It wasn’t quite what we got, but at least we got some of it.
I believe that there is an intense connection between a show’s opening and the audience’s willingness to appreciate it. It is very likely that the intensity of many fanbases is in part due to the ability that openings such as these have to maintain feelings in regards to the show, oftentimes perhaps even distorting or altering memories of the show itself into what the opening would have you believe the show was like rather than what it was actually like. Obvious examples that jump to mind are Sword Art Online’s “Courage” and Guilty Crown’s “My Dearest”. Remember how those shows were absolutely nothing like that? No?? IT’S TOO LATE FOR YOU
But I digress.
I would definitely call out the show’s characters on being the weakest link and the most undeserving of the praise that the show receives. For starters, the writing is often clunky and awkward, but that’s not the main issue. It’s because most of them are not really characters: they’re plot devices with one or two distinguishing traits tacked on. They’re entirely predictable, not because they feel like real people but because they do the same things over and over again. Al talks about what he’ll do when he gets his body back. Ed talks about how they’ll find a way and how they will atone for their mistakes and etc. It’s not that it’s melodrama: it’s the fact that it’s the SAME melodrama over and over again. It wasn’t until sometime past episode 30 that Ed stopped sounding perpetually like a broken record and started to feel as though he were actually developing, but even then he was really just defined by his arc and not by any amount of complexity.
And that’s the pitfall that so many of these characters fall into. If your character’s only real traits beyond their development for the sake of the show are “hates being called short” and “hates milk” they’re really more of a tool with some googly eyes stuck on to them. Other characters are even worse: Armstrong is manly. His sister is more manly. Mustang wants to be Fuhrer and avenge Hughes (he’s even got this great relationship with Hawkeye that could have been seriously compelling if they ever had any real conversations about anything besides “we must overthrow the government” and “Hughes!” over and over again). Winry likes Ed and automail. Ling wants to be emperor. Now, FMA:B is a complex, busy show. I could understand if it didn’t have the time to make these characters anything more than chess pieces for its grand and elaborate plot, giving them a few distinguishing traits because that’s really all it can manage without dragging itself out immensely. But it DOES have the time: it has all the time it spends having Ed yell about being called short. It has all the time it spends having Armstrong pull of his shirt and yell about being manly. It has all the time it spends having Ed and Al talk about getting their goddamn bodies back over and fucking over again as though I would somehow manage to forget it. Ling passing out from lack of food. May fawning comically over Ed. Mustang is antisocial LOL. The same gags, over and over again, barely even rehashed in any original way. Not only do they become painful to watch, they devour all of the development that this shallow cast of characters could have had to make me actually invested in them. They’re far too static, with most of them having a single change or revelation over the course of the show’s 64 episodes in order to indicate that they have grown as a person. But a good character has so much more than that: what kind of music do these people listen to? Why? Who are their role models? Why? What books do they like? What are their favorite places to eat? What do they appreciate in the people they’re close to?? What are their personal histories…
Oh wait, sorry! I didn’t mean to ask that last one! Please, I take it back! NOOOOOOO…
Yeah so I forgot to mention something. Screw all that stuff about making these characters possess complex personalities, FMA:B has a better way to define them.
Everyone who’s remotely relevant has a traumatic backstory. It’s a harsh world, sure. I get that. Here’s the issue: people are introduced and then defined through their trauma. Now this isn’t Angel Beats bad, where horrible things happen to perfectly innocent people for no reason. Most of the tragedy is partially a result of the decisions of the characters involved, and their resulting struggle is a combination of having to cope with the consequences and with themselves and their mistakes. However, this cannot be used as a SUBSTITUTE for character development. A supplement, sure, but I still remember in episode four when Ed and Al meet a state alchemist who literally introduces himself with something along the lines of “my wife left me because we were too poor” before he even tells them his goddamn NAME. Here, come on in! Take a seat! Would you like some sorrow pie or tragic backstory cake? We have plenty! Ed and Al’s dad left, then their mom died, then they f*cking ripped their bodies apart. Winry’s parents were murdered in cold blood. Mustang had to kill lots of people. Armstrong had to kill lots of people. Everyone had to kill lots of people. Scar watched everyone he loved get killed, and then had to kill lots of people. These are always the first things we find out about people, and then for the rest of the show they are defined almost exclusively by them. If anyone is overly happy and wholesome, it means something horrid is going to happen to them. It’s basic emotional manipulation. Look at this adorable little girl and her dog! Dead. Look at this smiling, picturesque family! Husband dead. Dead. Everyone innocuously happy has to die or lose someone close to them. The more broken and internally conflicted you are, the safer you are. There’s no need to pile more grief on Scar, so he’s relatively safe.
Yes, the characters suffer from repeatable and preventable problems. They exist mainly to function as morals-in-a-bottle with gags tacked on to them. They’re difficult to relate to, because all we know about them is whatever themes they embody and one or two dumb jokes. Ikuhara writes characters more personable than this, and his stories don’t make sense on PURPOSE. I did give the characters a 6 though, and there are reasons for that.
First off, despite their lack of humanization the characters complete their tasks of being walking themes with relative effectiveness. This isn’t anywhere near Log Horizon S1 bad. These characters are here for a reason, they represent something, and they represent those things well. Sure, they could have easily been better, but they fulfill their purpose and for that alone they are not failures. I will also give special mention to Scar, who, while still actively defined by his trauma was executed far more impressively than the other characters. This is probably in part because the show actually viewed him as morally ambiguous as opposed to just making the character FEEL morally ambiguous when there was really no doubt that the show wanted you to think this was a ‘good guy’ (*cough* Mustang)
Second off, there are some exceptions to the rule. Most of my complaints thusfar have been leveled at the shows protagonists. They are the ones that suffer from dismal repetition and blatant violation of show-don’t-tell. Where the show does excel is with its antagonists. There are seven homunculi in the show, incarnations of the seven deadly sins, and they so utterly clobber their “good-guy” counterparts in terms of being engaging, personable subtle characters that it isn’t even funny. Their intensive backstories are never shoved in your face, their apparent contradictions are given plenty of time to be uncovered by the viewer, and the deliciously ironic conclusions to their arcs are done tactfully. Many times I found myself actively routing for them because they were just so much more interesting and well-executed. I would happily watch an “Adventures of the Homunculus” spinoff cataloging the several hundred years most of them lived before the start of the series.
I was constantly gripped by the plot. I actively looked forward to the openings and endings. The art was oftentimes orgasmic. The homunculi made me want to start looking for ingredients to make a philosopher’s stone with. However, I was constantly frustrated by the show’s apparent lack of respect for its viewers and by its absolutely abysmal humor. I’ve already said it, but I don’t know if I’ve driven home just how infuriating it is to have exposition repeated to you over and f*cking over again and how cringe-inducing it is when somebody violates the show-don’t-tell rule at extremely tense and crucial moments. It actively snapped me out of the experience whenever Ed and Al had a conversation about getting their bodies back after the 5th time it happened, and when God literally spelled out for Ed that he had discovered the meaning of life I facepalmed hard. That’s not how you do themes, man. That just comes off as preachy. That’s something the show suffered constantly from: it felt incredibly preachy. It’s character’s speeches about the answers they had found to their struggles felt much more pointed at the audience than at anyone in the show they were talking to, and that bothered the ever-loving crap out of me. And have I mentioned the humor? For every joke the show has that lands, it tries about five others that fall on their face. As I’ve already mentioned, they’re repetitive and used as a substitute for meaningful character interactions and development. It seems as thought the show is trying to use them as a counterbalance for its immense amount of melodrama, but instead they end up just ripping apart the tone and stagnating the story. Despite these gripes, I did overall enjoy the experience and felt that the positives did inevitably outweigh the negatives so I will happily give it a 7 for enjoyment.
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is not a masterpiece. It’s a very respectable, unique, inspired and creative show and it’s definitely a classic. I would happily recommend this to most people. However, don’t go in with irrational expectations. It’s enjoyable, it’s engaging, it will definitely give you plenty to think about, but in my personal opinion it gets a little too much praise and a little too much hype. I probably would have enjoyed it more myself if I hadn’t heard nothing but angelic worship for it before going into it. I formally apologize to any huge fans of the show that I may have offended: it’s not by any means a bad show! I don’t give out 7s all that lightly, believe me. This is merely an argument against FMA:B being the be-all-end-all of anime. Thanks for reading if you made it through that wall of text, and have a nice day!
One of the issues at hand seems to be ownership as producers, writers and directors all seem to want the work to be reflective of their style and perception, and in order to stamp their mark on a show they will makes numerous unnecessary changes or additions. Admittedly there are times when the adaptation supersedes the original work, but more often than not the result is at best a decent anime, and at worst utter twaddle.
And then there’s the other side of the coin, where the anime adaptation sticks to the storyline set out in the original work. Normally one would expect these to be superior works, but in a strange irony this is not always the case. The problem with these types of adaptations is that the original work may not have been very good, or even have a suitable narrative, to begin with, and turning them into anime only seems to exacerbate their inherent flaws.
Fortunately, the Full Metal Alchemist franchise manages to steer clear almost all of these pitfalls. The problem is, there are no other anime that have so evenly split the viewing public’s opinion between the two versions of the series. Unlike the 2003 adaptation, Brotherhood is a faithful representation of Arakawa Hiromu’s hit manga, and while many fans of the franchise laud it as the best thing since sliced bread, there are a number who consider the original anime version to be the superior tale.
But we’ll get to that in a bit.
Many people will already be familiar with the particulars of the story, and in a very real sense the common perception is well formed. Unfortunately, one of the problems with liking something too much is that one becomes blinded to its flaws, and while Brotherhood has very few noticeable ones where the narrative is concerned, this also serves to make them stand out.
The story is told in a very straight forward, no nonsense manner that is kind of refreshing given the penchant for filler episodes. The issue though, is that the content of the tale is much lighter in tone, much more typically “shounen” in its essence, than that of the first adaptation. One of the reasons for this is because the undercurrent of obsession amongst the main characters peters out towards the end of the story – a stark contrast to the ending in the first adaptation. Instead, these obsessive behaviours are effectively “de-humanised” by pushing them on to the non human characters.
There is a very clear sense that the plot is geared towards a more typical shounen standpoint and mentality, and while the whole still works very well as a story, one does have to wonder if the writers for the first adaptation didn’t steal a march on Arakawa. It’s possible that she had to change her idea of how the tale should develop because the first anime version took a much darker path than most other shounen franchises.
That said, the ending allows for a degree of catharsis that was missing from the first adaptation, and although there are some broad similarities between the two versions at times, in truth they are as different as chalk and cheese. As an added bonus this series is far less dependent on random comedic moments, and the difference this makes to the flow of the plot is palpable when the two versions are directly compared.
One big advantage that Brotherhood has is that the seven year gap has allowed for improvements in various aspects of production, and it shows in a number of areas. The animation is more fluid than before, although admittedly the difference isn’t really obvious at first and only really appears during large scale action set pieces. The character designs will be very familiar to any fan, but are subtly sharper and more defined than in the previous series.
Interestingly enough, one of the biggest plus points for Brotherhood is actually its wealth of interesting characters.
As one would expect, a number of the characters from the first adaptation appear in Brotherhood, but there are also several who are notable for their absence as they do no appear in the manga. Instead, a horde of new characters appear throughout the course of the series, many of whom have their own goals, ideals and personalities. Indeed the biggest difference between the two versions is the sheer number of people who all seem to have some impact on the story.
For much of the series Edward and Alphonse Elric behave in a manner that many who have watched the first adaptation will find familiar, and one of the nice things about this is that familiarity is used to very subtly develop the pair into very different characters. The change in their personas happens very gradually, but by the end of Brotherhood one can see just how much growth the pair has undergone.
Strangely enough, the most interesting additions to the series are actually Yao Ling and Olivier Mira Armstrong (Alex Louis Armstrong’s older sister – but without all the muscle flexing), two of the supporting roles. Yao Ling presents a strange dichotomy for the series to tackle, and while he doesn’t develop as much as he possibly could have, this is offset by the moral and ethical dilemmas inherent in his situation towards the end of the series. On the other Olivier Armstrong possesses some of the strongest characterisation in the whole story, and while she is without doubt a major player at certain points of the show, what makes her interesting is the fact that the viewer is never quite sure of her goals.
There are a number of very strong characterisations in the series, but one of the things that is a little strange is the difference between the two versions where the homunculi are concerned. Unlike the first adaptation the homunculi in Brotherhood have very different origins, even though they still deal with similar obsessions. This raises an interesting perspective on the series as a whole, and is one of the reasons why Brotherhood is far more of a shounen tale than the original adaptation. The plot takes on a subtly lighter tone, even though it may not seem that way, once their origins are understood, and the main reason for this is the “de-humanisation” I mentioned earlier. The viewer is aware that these characters, though human-like in form, are not linked to humans in any way, and this awareness acts as a buffer so the viewer is less likely to question the actions and behaviour of the homunculi. In essence one is subjected to the ethos that monsters are evil and do bad things, which raises some interesting issues where Kimblee, Greed and the military’s generals are concerned.
The quality of the acting is possibly the main reason why Brotherhood is able to pull off its feat of developing not only the familiar characters, but also the new additions. Paku Romi and Kugimiya Rie reprise their roles as Edward and Alphonse Elric, but with the exception of a few roles, the remaining cast are very different from the first outing. Now normally one might consider this a recipe for disaster, but it’s a testament to the quality of not only the actor’s abilities, but also the scriptwriters, that this series easily stands shoulder to shoulder with the original.
The music is very well composed and produced, and the series has a surprisingly large number of opening and ending themes, especially for 64 episode series. That said, fans of Brotherhood may find themselves in a bit of a quandary, especially if they prefer the OPs and EDs from the first series. As for the sound effects, they are handled in a decidedly competent manner that makes one wonder why other shounen anime seem to have trouble in this department. Granted there are occasions when there’s a bit of a cacophony, but in general the effects are clear, bold, and well choreographed.
Now unlike most viewers, I actually consider Brotherhood to be equal to the first series, and I don’t really fall on one side or another. Like a number of fans my preference is for the much darker tone of the first series, however the cathartic ending of Brotherhood, as well as the improvements in production and animation, go some way to balancing the scales. Some people prefer the somewhat darker nature to Ed’s character from the first adaptation, but in all honesty the rationale behind the two versions is very different, and while they’re broadly the same character, that perception is only really valid until the last few episodes of either show. The same principle applies to Alphonse, Roy Mustang, in fact to most of the characters.
That said, Brotherhood is just as entertaining and involving as its predecessor, and it’s a testament to Arakawa’s skill as a mangaka that she has been able to produce a tale that, at the very least, rivals the original anime adaptation.Yes, Brotherhood is more typically shounen than the other version, but the nice thing about this is that fans are given two very good versions of the same story, and that is something rare in anime.
Now if only all remakes, revisions or reboots could be this good.
Did YOUR favorite anime make the cut? Let us know in the comments below!
1. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
3. InuYasha: Kanketsu-hen
4. Tegamibachi Reverse
6. Densetsu no Yuusha no Densetsu
7. Uragiri wa Boku no Namae wo Shitteiru
8. Pokemon Diamond & Pearl
9. Cobra The Animation
10. Battle Spirits: Brave