They’re the best Anime that 2004 has to offer! We counts down the best anime to come out this year, including the likes of Tantei Gakuen Q, Kochira Katsushikaku Kameari Kouenmae Hashutsujo, InuYasha, and more!
10: Tantei Gakuen Q
English: Detective School Q
MAL Score: 7.75
Kyuu is your average boy with a knack for logic and reasoning. Desiring to become a detective, he finds out about the existence of the Dan Detective School (DDS); a famed school where students are allowed to bear arms. Together with Megu, a girl with photographic memory, the martial arts master Kinta, the genius programmer Kazuma and the mysterious Ryuu, Kyuu tackles many well planned out crimes, always seeking the truth.
Tantei Gakuen Q is episodic, with each episode mostly focusing on different crimes that occur around Kyuu and his friends. There are a number of multi-episode mysteries in the show, which in my opinion are much more interesting, witty and detailed compared to the one-shot mysteries. Majority of the mysteries are fun to watch, with some crimes containing tricks that are incredibly complicated. Occasionally the story may drift to cheesiness, and certain parts may be quite predictable. A plotline runs throughout the entire series, although the main focus of the show is still on the specific crimes in each case. The ending of the anime, unfortunately, is rather unsatisfying, with the previously mentioned main plotline finishing off rather unresolved.
The animation is rather plain, and contains nothing special. Occasionally, characters may appear disfigured, but with the focus of the viewer on the mysteries occurring in the show, animation is most likely the last thing on everyone’s minds. Character designs are simple and more or less unappealing. It is a wonder with the logical nature of this show why the main character has green and white hair (even as a child).
For the sound, voice acting is satisfying. No character really stands out with an incredible voice actor although you may find one or two characters with a VA that you would rather not have to listen to. The background music is rather enjoyable to listen to, if not overused in the show. You’ll most likely not complain if you like it enough that you wouldn’t mind the same piece to be played over and over again. The openings and endings are rather unmemorable. Especially with the cliffhanger endings in the show, a lot of people would probably rather skip through the opening if they could. With that said, the openings and endings are not bad per se, and I find the first opening to be excellent.
Characters are not really the strongest point in the show. Character development is near non-existent, from the beginning to the very end; characters more or less still act the same (with an exception of a few individuals). Each of the main characters have their own specific traits and talents, and help out in each of the cases using these traits. The teachers in the show are hardly ever seen, and are pretty much forgettable. The criminals are rather generic, with their weak revenge driven hearts, anger, greed, selfishness or tragic upbringings or events that lead them to do their crimes.
As for why I like Tantei Gakuen Q, the tricks used in the show were fascinating. I did not really care much for any other aspect of the show; the mystery was pretty much the only thing I found really going for it. The drama in the show was frankly rather annoying and cheesy to watch most of the time. I also wish the show wasn’t aimed at kids.
Overall, Tantei Gakuen Q is pretty much an anime that the mystery and detective lovers would probably like the most. It doesn’t have much else going for it except for the specific stories in each of the cases. If you would like to give your deduction skills a try, go ahead and watch Tantei Gakuen Q. All hints are always given and fully explained in the show. Be warned though, some of the tricks are complicated and not exactly the sort of thing an average person is going to suddenly think up.
9: Kochira Katsushikaku Kameari Kouenmae Hashutsujo
Japanese: こちら葛飾区亀有公園前派出所 (1996)
MAL Score: 7.75
Ryoutsu, being an underpaid policeman, is always coming up with underhanded schemes in order to make a quick buck. But in the end, his plans (which are ridiculous to begin with) always go wrong and land him in big trouble with the chief.
Later it got discontinued, the reasons are unknown but many of us speculate it was an inappropriate show for kids…
I rewatched it in 2021 for sheer nostalgia towards this show…
The main character, Ryotsu is my fav comic character…
The story is based around the shenanigans of Ryotsu…
Ryotsu:- Good for nothing a mid-aged lazy cop with bushy eyebrows trying to earn money and wants to live in leisure… he always finds himself in trouble and tries to overcome it by using unique techniques, or his sportsmanlike skills…The only thing which could make him do his duty or any work that is MONEY and so occasionally he uses illegal moneymaking schemes or gets greed in the middle of some mission which is why he finds himself in a lot of trouble…Besides his greed for money, he’s also a somewhat talented and knowledgeable dude regarding current trends, sports, Japanese culture, and many more things…he will most probably try to take advantage of everyone around him with smooth talk like any clever person would…
I believe first-time watchers will also enjoy it as the show’s humour never gets old and also it is one of the top-selling manga…
Story revolves around Ryotsu and his shenanigans as a police officer along with his colleagues in order to make easy money or get out of crazy situations he got himself to.
The episodes are mostly standalone, you can start anywhere you want, although i recommend you watch the first batch of episodes (10 -12) so you can get used to the characters.
I mean it’s not something amazing but it fits the show nicely for what it tries to portrait.
It didn’t make much of an impact to me, but the OP and the ED were quite nice, although they aired them on Spanish.
Personally i don’t care much about the characters. Most of the police officers are pretty generic (rich boy, police chief that always gets mad, etc…) but i absolutely adore Ryotsu and the way he plans his schemes or escapes, and pretty much the reason why most would watch this show I’d say.
It’s not bad.The way Ryotsu handles most of his situations are what makes this show worth of watching , what i believe would boost this show’s popularity is an improvement on the characters’s personality to make them less generic. The art and sound fit the show the way they are supposed to so i don’t think they need an improvement and sadly the fact that it’s mostly standalone stories there’s barely any space for some sort of plot progression in the show. The show is indeed catered at a younger demographic but i’d still recommend it if you like animes like sergeant keroro.
At first i wasn’t interested in it since most reviews state it as a “funny” show about a troublesome policeman,well,the show is about this but it has more to it. After watching more and more episodes i discovered that this is more of a slice of life show than a comedy one.
Ryoutsu (the main character) has a very interesting background story which is telled while the story progresses,he is a kinhearted person that doesn’t think twice before helping someone. In many episode he meets characters with problems which he helps resolve.
A thing i enjoyed on the spanish dub was the OP and ED,but i haven’t heard the original one though,since there isn’t much about this show on the internet.
Story is 8/10
As seen by my review,i enjoyed the story,i gave it a 8/10 because the stories are really deep and sometimes sad,but still they manage to add a slice of comedy into it,turning the show into a very enjoyable thing to watch.
As for the characters,i’d say it’s a 9/10
Even though there isn’t much to say about most of the characters,i really enjoy the ones they add while the show advances.
MAL Score: 7.85
Based on the Shogakukan award-winning manga of the same name, InuYasha follows Kagome Higurashi, a fifteen-year-old girl whose normal life ends when a demon drags her into a cursed well on the grounds of her family’s Shinto shrine. Instead of hitting the bottom of the well, Kagome ends up 500 years in the past during Japan’s violent Sengoku period with the demon’s true target, a wish-granting jewel called the Shikon Jewel, reborn inside of her.
After a battle with a revived demon accidentally causes the sacred jewel to shatter, Kagome enlists the help of a young hybrid dog-demon/human named Inuyasha to help her collect the shards and prevent them from falling into the wrong hands. Joining Kagome and Inuyasha on their quest are the orphan fox-demon Shippo, the intelligent monk Miroku, and the lethal demon slayer Sango. Together, they must set aside their differences and work together to find the power granting shards spread across feudal Japan and deal with the threats that arise.
There are flaws in the overall composition. Things one might ask themselves like; why, if you KNEW you we’re going to be trekking across feudal Japan for months on end, would you bring only one outfit? And more importantly why would it be your Junior High School uniform – i.e. a bright green miniskirt?
Regardless, the story itself is very weak, as its the random plot arcs and ridiculous character relations that really make the show. To summarize, a young girl falls down a well at her family’s shrine, only to be transported back in time to feudal Japan, where she frees a grumpy dog eared half demon man who is stuck to a tree (The result of a bad breakup) and ends up breaking a magical mystical artifact that then shatters into a bazillion pieces. Ditzy teenage girl and pissy dog demon guy now must work together to find all the shards of “The Sacred Jewel” before the bad guys do. Sure there’s another load of subplots – pointless, funny and romantic alike – but we’ll get to that.
Although the premise is simplistic it does expand further along in the story, but only if one likes the show enough initially to move on in the series through the 160 + episodes.
The subplots and the arcs are what make this series entertaining. (And also agonizing if the arc you’re in bores you to tears) We’ll have run ins with random demons and get mixed up with numerous characters who may or may not come and go. Each plot brings changes and the characters do a very good job of growing and evolving as a result. The series does, despite its episodic nature, still follow some sense of linearity. Development in the characters remain as they would in a real person. (This excludes the Inuyasha movies, unfortunately)
Despite all that, its still one of those series that makes it very easy to drop in at any time and figure things out eventually. I watched from the middle first before I decided I loved the show and went back to see the beginning – which was drastically different to me considering the amount of change that takes place from beginning to middle to end.
I can’t go into detail very well considering the story, as there is so much of it its hard to find a place to start. The elements of the setting and time really come into play with the presence of the spirits and demons all of which offer a uniqueness all to its own. The multiple love triangle issues are superficial but also complex, so there is a degree of decent conflict in that regard. I also really appreciate personally how the development of the relationship between the two main characters, Inuyasha and Kagome, is gradual.
Coming to the characters, there are many. Too many to identify them all in this review. This is a great thing about the show, but can also be annoying and for the casual observer, confusing as hell. I’ll touch on the main characters at least:
Kagome is a really plain Junior High School girl. As a heroine she starts out pathetically dull and often comes off as a total ditz. However if you give her a chance she does show you how she can grow to be a capable human being despite the fact that she is a 15 year old idiot running around feudal Japan in a miniskirt. Throughout the show we find shes short tempered, opinionated and rash, but she does keep a sense femininity intact somehow. She also retains an ability to sympathize with and care for the people she comes to know. What I love about her is that she starts out completely incompetent. Literally she is nothing but a Mary-Sue-ish teenage airhead with little care in the world aside doing well in school, and she morphs (gradually) into a priestess who can use a bow and even protect herself. She – going through the show constantly compared to the priestess Kikiyo (Details will become clear if you decide to watch the show) she makes a deliberate effort to break free of that confine and become her own person, and I like that.
Inuyasha is also a great source of character development. I know I keep saying “Development development development!” but really is one of the biggest things this show has going for itself. I almost see this anime as some kind of document of how Inuyasha becomes a man. Hes over 50 years old but despite that he is extremely childish, boorish and often rude and annoying. He also works pretty hard to gain strength and create a name for himself. He is an ‘underdog’ (lol puns) and also has a bit of a Gary-Stu thing going for him. Being a half demon with a snobby older brother and a messed up undead ex-girlfriend gives him a lot of stuff to complain about.
The characters ARE shallow. But their relationships are entertaining and – if you get all the way to the end of this series and the short Inuyasha Sequel: Inuyasha the Final Act – are rewarding to see until the end.
I’ll keep the review of the art quick in saying that it is very traditional for the time it was made. Its got a lot of square and rectangular shapes and brightly colored character designs that fit in well with its shounen genre. The style is very consistent, budget obviously allowed for lots of attention to detail and a tone of seriousness. It has its own sort of beauty, very reminiscent of Takahashi’s earlier works like Ranma 1/2 and the like, which aired in the late 1980’s. Almost a retro anime style if you get my meaning. Movies have much more bold and sharp lines. Character designs could use work (I can’t get over the miniskirt thing, I’m sorry. Its just too stupid. And I get really sick of Inuyasha never wearing anything but his giant red.. thing)
Even quicker, my opinion of the sound. The music is diverse and beautifully complex. One of the best parts of the show. Multiple opening and ending themes, background music all magical and perfectly suitable to the time period. Voice acting is always better in Japanese. English is very harsh on the ears, I strongly dislike it nowadays.
Very long review and I’ve only just scratched the surface. Inuyasha, as I see it, is a classic shounen. Its time in the limelight long passed when it made room for Naruto and Bleach to move in on the scene. For those of you who can take a long series and like the sound of this show, give it a shot. Perhaps google a list of filler episodes you might feel like skipping if this does tickle your fancy. Inuyasha does have something for everyone. From the action to the supernatural, to the romantic and the historical. Its a story hard to place and hard to review with a fair share of chaos and confusion. Its a mess, really. But its a big fun mess if you’re willing to see it through.
As always, keep good humor in mind while watching. This show is bananas and it will make you want to throw objects at the screen from time to time.
For now, I tip my hat to Inuyasha. I thank it for showing me this world, showing me complexity and hilarity, and for showing me how flaws can be celebrated for their entertainment just as well as the parts that shine.
The storyline is basic and very easy to follow, however the story does seem to drag on, so if you have patience with animes this could be for you.
The characters are pure genius, each with their own running joke. Each character (with the exception of Kagome) has a dark and kind of upsetting past often including the death of a loved one. My favourite is Miroku by far. He is a perverted womanising monk who flirts with pretty much any girl. However, some characters, like Shippo (an adorable fox demon), have a minor role with little or no fight scenes. (Then again that’s a small part of his jokes).
The fights are good, lots of blood in some places. However the fights are short and it seems to always be Inuyasha doing most of the work. (As he has stated a few times). The others seem to be back up and use the same moves. For example, Sango, a demon slayer, uses her Hirakotsu (a giant boomerang often used hitting Miroku when he flirts with other girls or touches her butt) but she has a sword which rarely gets used. I think I’ve seen it 3 times and then I can only remember when she is about to use it on Kohaku (her little brother who has no memory of killing their whole village because he’s being controlled by the main bad guy).
The romance is my favourite part in all of the series. It’s more sweet than it is romantic. But it’s the sort that makes you feel all warm inside. I’m sad to say that the romance barely progresses. (Apart from Miroku and Sango). And there is a really big love net. But like I said, it sweet in a LOT of places.(Oh, for you fan girls, I know Sesshomaru, Inuyasha’s brother, is a favourite. Oh, I’m not a fan girl.)
All in all, Inuyasha is a good anime (and my favourite). Watch it if you have patience and love a good laugh, fight sometimes full of blood and sweet romantic bits in an anime.
After the intoduction of the fourth protagonist ( Sango), apart from a few side-stories, the plot essentially deteriorates into a viscous cycle. In a few occasions it seems there will be some new development, but I was dissapointed when the same-old thing happened again. The fillers were heavily Naruto-like, admittedly better.
Overall: I think the series can be alot better, but if you like extended series, this could be for you.
7: School Rumble
English: School Rumble
MAL Score: 7.91
Just the words “I love you,” and everything changes—such is the nature of the bittersweet trials of high school romance. Tenma Tsukamoto, a second year, is on a quest to confess her feelings to the boy she likes. Kenji Harima, a delinquent with a sizable reputation, is in a similar situation, as he cannot properly convey his feelings to the one he loves. Between school, friends, rivalries, and hobbies, these two will find that high school romance is no walk in the park, especially as misunderstandings further complicate their plight.
School Rumble is a high-octane romantic comedy full of relatable situations, as Tenma and Kenji both try to win the hearts of those they desire.
As the story goes on, it becomes more and more hilarious! I wished my high school was as fun as this. It portrays as guys being very pathetic and always going after girls, this makes them very funny to watch! The jokes are very humorous; some is just silly.
The animation is very beautiful, although it has more beautiful girls and the boys are all very weird. The animals drawn are very cute and the main character is such a klutz, her face turns fat all the time.
The background sounds are funny, adds comedy to the scene. The soundtrack is just as good, the music is very soothing. The voice characters are just funny and the voices are exaggerated very much, which give the impression that the character is very dumb.
The characters are very distinct; I get confused sometimes because there are many characters and a lot of names to remember. I only remember Harima Kenji because the English version of this name is Harry McKenzie. But his character was the funniest out of all the boys in the class, he is supposed to be a delinquent but then turns all soft and lovey dovey, and the girl he falls for is an average looking slow girl, which makes it all so much funnier because he is dumb as well.
This is very enjoyable if you like to watch comedy genres, and don’t mind the occasional half naked scenes. There were many scenes where I was cracking up; this anime has to be the funniest I’ve seen and the most random.
Highly recommended for boys more than girls because it has a lot of big breasts involved. It’s just too damn funny!
School Rumble is basically the story of a love triangle. The hyper, slow-witted, dense and yet extremely nice and lovable character Tsukamoto Tenma is in love with her strange and seemingly dull classmate Karasuma Oji and at the same time the misunderstood delinquent Harima Kenji is madly in love with Tsukamoto Tenma to the point that he has been transformed into a new man because of it.
The series best fits in the comedy genre and anytime you feel the story is about to take a serious turn, it swings back to its comedic nature faster than you can blink.
The characters are probably the best part of this series. While there is really only three or four main characters, on numerous occasions, the series turns its attention to some of the backgrounds characters and lets the viewers get to know them better through some interesting side stories. Tsukamoto Tenma is extremely cute and lovable, Harima Kenji is a brooding delinquent you will love to root for, and Karasuma Oji is the character you will love to hate. The background characters such as Tsukamoto Tenma’s sister, Yakumo (quiet, reserved, and gorgeous girl that almost all men fall in love with at first sight) , Sawachika Eri (the seemingly shallow rich blonde girl sought after by many guys), Suou Mikoto (the athletic and cool tomboy that seems to be good at just about everything), Takano Akira (the quiet, calm, and mysterious girl that seems to know everything) are also very well developed and quite entertaining to watch. There is a character type to suit any viewer’s tastes.
The Japanese voice acting is absolutely fantastic and the voices match the characters well without exception. The most notable are the voices Tsukamoto Tenma which is done brilliantly by Koshimizu Ami (The very talented voice actress who does the voices of Kallen in Code Geass – Hangyaku no Lelouch /R2 and Horo in “Spice and Wolf”), and the voice of Harima Kenji which is done by Takahashi Hiroki (the voice of Kikumaru Eiji in Prince of Tennis and Hisoka in Hunter X Hunter). I can’t comment on the English voice acting due to the fact that I have not watched the dubbed version of the series (…and I have no intention of doing so).
The art and animations are not quite as noteworthy as the character design and voice acting. The art is average and the animations are done well most of the time with a few exceptions here and there. That is about all that needs to be said about the art and animations.
The story itself and the way it’s developed are both very interesting. However, I did find it quite irritating at times where I felt the story should perhaps take a more serious turn. The show is a comedy and above all else it should be funny and in that area there is definitely no shortcomings. The show is absolutely hilarious. However, while it is a comedy, its subject matter is not, and I would have found it quite refreshing if the writers had not shied away from including some serious elements as a complement to the comedy. Instead, they chose to completely slam on the breaks and put it in reverse whenever there was even the slightest danger of any serious development. The only part where things get even in the least bit serious is in the final two-episode OVA where they attempt to conclude the story.
Another area where this show suffered a bit had to do with filler episodes. There are not too many filler episodes and some of the fillers even contribute a little bit to the story. But, fillers are still fillers. While they are not abused to extremes as with some other shows such as Bleach, their presence still adds some annoyance for the viewer.
ATTENTION: The next paragraph talks about the ending. While I will not include any specifics about what happens at the end of the series, I will talk about the style and quality of the ending. If you feel this might spoil things for you, skip over the next paragraph.
This is where the show lost the most points from me. While, I did not know the specifics of the ending, I had a very close guess formed by the second or third episode of the first season regarding how the show would conclude. I knew I was in for at least a bit of a letdown at the end simply based on the nature of the show and how it completely shied away from getting even slightly serious. The ending doesn’t really leave you hanging which is good. However, I did not get the ending I wanted and I am fairly certain most people who have watched the series in the past and those who will watch it in the future have felt and will feel the same way I do about this. It will not catch you off guard. You will know it is coming fairly early in the series. But it is still a letdown. Perhaps, an alternate ending episode might have remedied this.
The two places this series lost marks from me were the filler episodes and the ending. Without the fillers and with the correct ending this show would have scored full marks.
Story – Basically, School Rumble has no real storyline besides Tenma going after Karasuma and Harima going after Tenma, thats basically it. But the thing about School Rumble is, even if it barely has a storyline it still appeals to many many people, which is something i believe is unique.
Art – I adore School Rumble’s beautiful design of characters. Even though its a 2004 anime, it still has considerable good graphic maybe even better then some animes in the year 2007. Also one thing i find quite different in the art of school rumble is how KJ ( Kobayashi Jin, creator of school rumble) hides the good-looking appearance of some of the characters such as Harima and Hanai.
Sound – School Rumble has one of the catchiest and most addictive OP any anime ever had ‘Guru Guru Mawaru Guru Guru Mawaru….’ this song just makes you want to get up dance to the melody. The ED was also very catchy as well, School Rumble’s ending is one of the ONLY ones i’ve watched for all of the episodes. Side from the OP and ED, the voice actor/actress fitted the role very well, from cute and loving Tenma to the complete pervert Imadori, there voice seems to be made for the character. Also Horie Yui is one of my favorite voice actress so i guess that adds up to the score as well.. hehe.
Character – Wide range of entertaining characters all which make you literally laugh out loud. They are all entertaining but they all have very unique personality from the Tsundere Ojou to the Semi-yandere Yakumo. I highly doubt you will hate any of these characters because i certainly didn’t!
Enjoyment – If i could give bonus points for enjoyment of this series, i would. First off, as stated before, this series literally makes you laugh out loud. A series that can actually make someone laugh out loud is something I’d think is freaking hilarious. Hilarious = Enjoyable… therefore School Rumble is really hilarious and enjoyable. (Yes that was lame..)
Overall – Overall, this series is definitely something you should watch if something is really bothering you and you want to watch something fun and laugh all the pain away. Even if you like really serious stuff like Death Note, you should still try this, you never know you might actually like this genre of anime.
6: Kaleido Star
English: Kaleido Star
MAL Score: 7.92
The Kaleido Stage is known throughout the world for captivating audiences with its amazing acrobatics, innovative routines, and extravagant costumes and sets. It is a place for guests to believe in magic, and Sora Naegino wants nothing more than to be a part of that magic—by becoming an acrobat for the famed circus herself.
To realize her dream, she travels from Japan to California to audition for a place in the group. However, Sora learns that she needs much more than her natural talent to bring joy to the faces in the crowd. She quickly discovers just how difficult it is to be a professional performer where the stakes—and the stunts—are higher and mistakes spell danger! To put on performances worthy of the Kaleido Stage, she will need to endure rigorous training, unconventional assignments, fierce competition, and the antics of a mischievous spirit named Fool.
Can Sora reach new heights, make new friends, conquer her fears, and surpass her limits to become a Kaleido Star?
I was proven wrong..
Overall, it was beautiful, bright colours and flowing movements that even appeared graceful, a very colorful setting that didn\’t appear too flashy….it totally captured the brilliance of a circus and the lovely performances that I just had to rewatch again. However it had its flaws, I noticed that several episodes had seemingly worse animation compared to the rest in which the characters looked distorted, thankfully this was hardly significant during the performances which kept their high standard throughout the whole anime.
The opening and ending themes were ok and catchy enough but what i really loved was the background music, some tracks were sometimes quite repetitive but it totally created the magical feel for this anime and enhanced it a lot more (even though you may not realise it). So do turn up the volume whenever you watch any of their performances as \’swan lake\’, \’little mermaid\’ etc. would not be so astoundingly beautiful without the music
Kaleido Star can be divided into 2 parts, 1st being Sora\’s introduction to the circus and striving to be in par with Layla Hamilton. Whereas the second part introduces 2 new character, Leon and May in which might be a turn-off for most viewers due to Sora suffering the most, but of course this is only to build the wonderful finale.
The overall concept may not seem special as it is only about a girl striving to achieve her dream and encountering many hardships. But the idea about a circus and acrobats is very unique, I don\’t think there are many animes out there that have attempted this genre and managed to keep it so interesting and magical. Whats good is the emphasis on friendship, Sora gets through a lot mostly due to the help of the people around her, it is not a one-girl show, all the rest are equally important characters and do shine as well.
Even though this is a shoujo anime, romance is only hinted but barely there, truly not the highlight of the show
As mentioned above, all the characters are great, in fact it is impossible to hate either of them since even the bad ones turn good at the end. Although this seems rather idealistic, it leaves you with a warm fuzzy feeling at the end
Overall this was a great ride, Satou Junichi\’s other creation, Princess tutu had left me in a bit of a trance when it ended, apparantly this had the same effect. It is hard to describe the truly magical effect this has, you have to watch it to know, and you won\’t regret it
Kaleido Star is the story of our dreams. How they all start from tiny things. Memories from days gone by that we think are insignificant, but at the same time, have really touched us and inspired us to become who we are today. Our dreams are not easy though. There will always be detours and obstacles in our way, and no dream can be reached without putting our own inner selves to the ultimate test, but if we can overcome these obstacles, befriend our enemies, and see the good in everyone’s dreams that they aspire for as well, then your dream can come true.
Despite the formulaic way Kaleido Star goes about fulfilling the dreams of the characters, it works splendidly because of how sincere each and every character is about wanting their special dream to come true, and how the series treats the sincerity of each character with a great deal of respect to the point that the formulaic contrivances such as the cliched “special training” and running away only to come back having “found yourself” feel like genuine happenings.
Likewise, this series as it is couldn’t be anything without its characters. The main focal point of the series is seeing the growth and struggle of all the members of Kaleido Stage from the primadonna to the lowly stagehands, and oh how they grow, and oh how they struggle. I credit this series immensely with how it puts each and every character through their own personal wringer, good guys and “bad guys” alike. It never lets them take the easy way out. Each and every accomplishment any character achieves is 100% earned. There are no gimmes.
And oh the accomplishments! I can’t go into detail because of spoilers but this is where the technical aspects really shine! For as much as people seem to tease GONZO for being GONZO, this is arguably their opus. A setting such as Kaleido Stage requires dazzling animation to fully bring out the Cirque du Soleil atmosphere of the stage, and the animation astounds every time, especially the climaxes of both halves of the series. They are so gorgeous, that don’t be surprised if you forget to breathe for a moment.
The soundtrack is also quite lovely with lots of wonderful performances, especially Ryou Hirohashi as Sora, who brings the same radiance and energy that Sora herself embodies.
With outstandingly gorgeous animation, heartwarming performances, characters that make you believe that everyone in this world, no matter how heartless or cruel they may be, are all good people inside, and a story that invokes you to believe your dreams, no matter how great or small, can all come true. Kaleido Star is one of the best anime I have ever seen. Heartwarming, heartbreaking, and inspiring to all. This is the stuff true dreams are made of.
Overall, I happily give Kaleido Star a 10 out of 10.
The most prominent feature of Kaleido Star is undoubtedly its characterisation, and as such, each character is given a strong dream or ambition that they strive towards over the course of the show, as well as a heavily fleshed-out personality. Almost every character is likeable and easy to become attached to. If you find that you’re a sucker for getting behind your favourite characters and empathising with their hardships, then Kaleido Star is a good bet. By the end of the show, the real emotional impact lies not in the conclusion to the plot, but in the final send-off for a great cast of characters you’ve come to know and love. Relationships are dealt with, but almost always in the form of friendships, rivalries and companionships. Rarely does Kaleido Star tread in the thorny realm of romance, and when it does it’s usually just for a cheap gag. Don’t be deterred though, the friendships that are grown over the course of the series have more weight to them than most romantic relationships in anime. I’m not sure if the characters interactions are massively realistic, but they are believable and earnest enough to work. Really though, the rest of the series is in orbit around Sora Naegino, the heart and star of the series. Fortunately, she is really a great protagonist, particularly in the first season. She is portrayed very much as being a real person, with holes poked into her resolve to achieve her dreams, and struggles that she must overcome, not with superhero talent, but with hard work and perseverance. I must admit to being in admiration of her from time to time. Most importantly, through all the harsh training she endures, you end up really wanting to see her succeed, which really makes the stage performance scenes what they are.
The animation used in the stage show scenes themselves is certainly quite good. Although the level of detail in the cel animation is overall surprisingly low, the stage scenes are carried by a high degree of fluidity in the animation and strong use of artistic direction, such as the use of colour and dramatic camera angles. The music definitely helped to create the sense of tension and beauty required. I do think they could have been done better, and rendered in more lavish detail befitting the scope of the shows, but for a 51-episode tv series it’s production is definitely solid. Unfortunately, off-stage doesn’t allow for the same graceful movement to overcome the simple visual style. The background art lacks personality and detail. The character designs range from completely bland and uninteresting to memorable. Sora and Rosetta, fit into the latter category, while most of the other character designs leave little impression. The music had a very strong presence in the series, and it was definitely good quality, with rousing instrumentals and melancholic strings tugging at the heart when required. However, it was far too repetitive; far more music is required for a series of this length to stop the tracks from overstaying their welcome. The OPs and EDs were relatively good. I watched the first and second OPs every episode, but was appalled by the 3rd.
The plot, looked at in isolation, is very weak indeed, marred by inconsistency and incongruence, especially in the way the plot for season 1 is wholly confused by that of season 2. The way terms like “true Kaleido Star” were thrown about really annoyed me, in much the same way as the over-use of the Angel/Demon analogy in season 2. It all felt so contrived and silly, as though it was an attempt to give the stage some sort of misplaced mythology that ended up just being a distraction from the performances themselves. Furthermore, Leon Oswald’s backstory, and his frequent visions of Sophie grated my patience, because they were a symptom of the overall problem with the second half of the story, which is immature and simplistic plot development. Everything was given parallel and faux meaning with such forceful blatancy that it became a nagging irritation. However, unlike most series, the plot is not the backbone of the show, and with its strong characterisation and emotional themes, it can stand on its feet without the need for a concrete story to support it.
Kaleido Star is no great achievement as an anime series from a technical or cynical perspective. If you watch past the first season, the plot becomes haphazardly thrown together and nauseatingly unsophisticated. However, for its colour, vitality and charm, Kaleido Star proves to be a worthy entertainer/ Perhaps ones could look at the series for advice about why it is so enjoyable – like Sora’s stage play, it is unpretentious fun, and manages to keep itself at an arms length away from derivative clichés. And more than just light-hearted fluff, it has the potential to wet the eyes of all its viewers through Sora’s trials and mesmerising triumphs.
5: Yakitate!! Japan
English: Yakitate!! Japan
Japanese: 焼きたて!! ジャぱん
MAL Score: 7.93
While countries such as France, England, and Germany all have their own internationally celebrated bread, Japan simply does not have one that can match in reputation.
Thus after discovering the wonders of breadmaking at a young age, Kazuma Azuma embarks on a quest to create Japan’s own unique national bread. And being blessed with unusually warm hands that allow dough to ferment faster, Azuma is able to bring his baking innovations to another level.
As he begins working at the prestigious Japanese bakery chain, Pantasia, Azuma encounters other talented bakers and experiences firsthand the competitive world of baking. Along with his newfound friends and rivals, Azuma strives to create new and unparalleled bread that will start a baking revolution.
The story’s your basis shounen plotline: rise to the challenge, succeed, face the next challenge.. but all in the confines of competitive bread making. It’s a little silly and repetitive (like a lot of stories in the genre), but if you enjoy the first couple "bread battles," you’ll probably like the rest (like a lot of stories in the genre). 😉 (It’s Pokemon, set in a bakery!)
The art is clean cut and pretty simple. So is the music. It’s not nuanced or original, but it doesn’t really have to be. The style suits the atmosphere of the show. The taste-reactions are elaborate and amusing, but other than that I wouldn’t say there’s much about the way it looks or sounds that stands out in any way.
The main characters are pretty basic once again. Again, you’re probably going to be disappointed if you’re looking for nuance or detail. The good guys, the bad guys… they’re all kind of cardboard cut-outs of cliche shounen roles. And basically, the audience is just expected to accept them as they are without any explanation or even speculation as to why the character is the way he/she is.
Despite the lack of originality, detail or depth to the story, art, sound or characters… you should still watch this show. I gave the show a 9 overall because (1) I really do think the simplicity of the story, art, etc suits the nature of the show and (2) because my enjoyment completely outweighed whatever the series lacked in the other departments. I would have given it a 12 for enjoyment if I could.
The simplicity of it was like a breath of fresh air. It felt like a throwback out of the era of "Leave it to Beaver" or something innocent and uncomplicated like that. There are "darker" story lines later in the show, but they really weren’t that dark. Meanwhile, the characters are all so over-exaggerated and silly that I found it charming, especially in the context of the world of competitive bread making. Kuroyanagi’s crazy reactions were funny, but I really found the way he talked down to inferior bakers hilarious. To take something like bread-making and make it that abusive and have him take it that seriously… it just tickled me. Azuma’s earnest, bleeding-heart sincerity and natural baking genius; the manager’s bad-ass, macho wisdom… it was just so funny to see all these archetypes in a story about baking bread. =) (Kind of like a G-rated BeerFest.)
All in all, I think the show strikes me as child-like. Some of the characters are mean in the way that, frankly, kids are mean. It’s pretty upfront, straightforward and kind of superficial. They show competition, optimism, determination and energy in the same way. It just feels like there’s not very many layers to what’s going on. Maybe that’s what I mean by innocent?
Just to warn you though, I do feel that there was a definite decline in show quality towards the end — most noticeable by the time they get to the third large scale competitive arena. It started feeling less sincere and more mass-manufactured, which was unfortunate. I try not to hold that sort of thing against the show too much, but… it was kind of disappointing.
On the upside, you get all this trivia about bread, bread-making and the regions of Japan from the show, which throws in a little educational frosting on top of an already entertaining show. 😉
Story: 9 (no story but excellent comedy segments)
Art: 6 (unimpressive art style but not bad either)
Sound: 8 (good comedy cant work without good sound)
Character: 7 (cliche characters but classic situations)
Enjoyment: 10 (never laughed so much in 50 episodes)
Overall: 40/50 = 8.0 (i love food i love comedy, instant classic)
Yakitate Japan is a PERFECT example of anything can be made in to a good shounen anime just as long it has the three key ingredients: chemistry, direction, and anticipation. This show turns a somewhat lame idea of an emerging baker and turns it to nonstop laughs and ‘suspense’.
You’re probably thinking, how can a baking anime be suspenseful? Which brings me back to the point of you can make any anime great if its structured great (not necessarily a good story) . Since its practically impossible to have ‘action’ in a baking show, theres a laugh every minute. Throughout the show you’ll encounter the same style of jokes 100’s of times over, but the way they reinvent the jokes every episode and lace a few facts in every episode is what makes this show so fun to watch from beginning to end. I even managed to marathon it and i still had lots of laughs every episode. Not only are there baking jokes and cooking facts, they also manage ALOT of running gags, one-shot gags, play on words, and the star of the show: "the BREAD REACTION." If you have any sense of humor whatsoever, you will LOVE the reactions no matter how many times they play over and over. Also the ‘factual’ information is pretty informative as well… i never knew there was such thing as Bombay Blood or that the legendary japanese sticky rice was a specialty of Sakata city in the Yamagata prefecture. It is true though, the best comedy comes from real life information.
The since its geared toward children, art is standard quality thats very reminiscent to something like Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh, or Angelic Layer. That doesnt mean it looks terrible but when they want to emphasis something, they make it more detailed, and if something is supposed to be funny you’ll get the ‘flashy’ backgrounds general stuff like that. Of course since they’re parodying all the typical shounen anime, they do things WAAAYYY over the top and thats why i love this show so much as well. Not only do they take the time to make fun of itself, but they manage to make fun of the whole shounen style as much as possible!
The sound reminds me of a mix of Pokemon meets Iron Chef. Overly serious with slapstick everywhere else 🙂 It all works very well. Music is everywhere but its never intrusive. And I love it when an anime isn’t afraid to add a fart joke or two. Sure its not refined, but its a comedy and toilet humor is such a lost art these days.
The characters are also just pure greatness when it comes right down to it. You have a good mix of serious, outrageous, confident, cute, sexy characters that you’re bound to like 3 or 4 of them. Some of them are used simply for joke executions, others are used as support for Azuma, but all of them are definitely going to be used in a joke or two. "NANDATO!!!" and "UMAIIII" will be etched in your mind forever. Mind you that none of them are unique or original in anyway but since they are pretty cliche’ take on the shounen comedy that turns out to be hilarious in its own right.
After watching this show from start to finish, I know some will love it and some will simply hate it just for the fact that its so out of this world. But for those who love it, they’ll have their own reasons in to loving it. As weird at it may seem, I enjoyed the bread reactions and cooking facts more than anything else in this show. But in retrospect, someone might hate the show for the exact same reasons. On top of that, it never stops to take the time to make fun of itself as well 🙂 I only recommend this to someone who absolutely loves a fun comedy anime and has an open mind to the wacky, crazy universe that is Fresh Baked Japan!!
…and yes they make a cannabis bread (so much for children’s show ^_^)
Also watching this you will notice that Black Star of Soul Eater is an exact replica of Azuma Kazuma (not Naruto -_-)
Art: Some episodes looked great, a few were pretty bad. I hate those little black vertical scratches under the characters’ eyes, if those ever make it into an Anime, it’ll force me drop the score for art. They serve no purpose, they just mess up the character’s face… Overall though, the animation was simple but not horrible.
Sound: Nothing worth getting the Ost(s) for, a couple of the tracks are memorable but that’s because they play it so often. A few of the Openings and Endings got my attention. You can find several cool songs here. Voice actors did a fine job, no problems there. However one character called Mizuno, was so annoying to listen to.
Character: Almost a perfect 10 if it wasn’t for what they did to Kawachi. In the beginning he knew what he was doing as a baker but around the last arc and a bit before he was failing big time (Like Kuwabara from Yu Yu Hakusho, but the failures aren’t funny, just pathetic). The last arc pretty much used him as a filler character, he didn’t even get to participate in his team anymore. He was just there to reuse bad jokes.
As for the characters overall, I really liked them and you really feel for them because a few of them have difficult pasts. The characters that receive development did gain some respect from me so I’d say things worked out in that department. Most of the characters are just for jokes though and support Azuma from the sidelines but I still think they’re entertaining to watch.
Enjoyment: I kept watching it episode after episode when I started. I was pretty hooked. Then it got repetitive at the end, I had to force myself to finish the last 5 episodes but for a 69 episode series, me watching consistently for so many episodes is rare which shows how much I liked it.
Overall: It was a fresh take on Shounen Anime and I really enjoyed it. I need to thank the guy who recommended it to me. It’s also interesting to go back and re-watch some of the episodes. It made me want to become a baker because it was so cool to watch them make such amazing creations. I’m sure it has that effect on many people who have seen it.
Thank you for reading my review. Feedback would be greatly appreciated. Hope this helped.
4: Fullmetal Alchemist
English: Fullmetal Alchemist
MAL Score: 8.13
Edward Elric, a young, brilliant alchemist, has lost much in his twelve-year life: when he and his brother Alphonse try to resurrect their dead mother through the forbidden act of human transmutation, Edward loses his brother as well as two of his limbs. With his supreme alchemy skills, Edward binds Alphonse’s soul to a large suit of armor.
A year later, Edward, now promoted to the fullmetal alchemist of the state, embarks on a journey with his younger brother to obtain the Philosopher’s Stone. The fabled mythical object is rumored to be capable of amplifying an alchemist’s abilities by leaps and bounds, thus allowing them to override the fundamental law of alchemy: to gain something, an alchemist must sacrifice something of equal value. Edward hopes to draw into the military’s resources to find the fabled stone and restore his and Alphonse’s bodies to normal. However, the Elric brothers soon discover that there is more to the legendary stone than meets the eye, as they are led to the epicenter of a far darker battle than they could have ever imagined.
Isn’t it strange then, that such a well known human trait can so easily be mistaken for something else entirely?
Or is it simply a case of people not seeing what they don’t want to see, especially if there something new and shiny to watch?
Many anime fans are currently raving about the new series of Full Metal Alchemist, especially as it is an almost direct adaptation of the manga, however in the light of all this new found glory, the original adaptation has become the topic of much debate and controversy, especially by those who once praised the show for being something … a little different.
Now unlike many, the fact that the original adaptation didn’t follow the manga for much of its run was something that I wasn’t overly concerned about, and there’s a very good reason for this too. One of the issues I had with the manga, and in turn Brotherhood, was the fact that the tale is far more “shounen” than the original adaptation, and this difference in not only plot and story content, but overall perspective as well, is noticeable in a number of areas.
As far as pacing, plot, and depth of story goes, Full Metal Alchemist does lose out somewhat to Brotherhood, however this is partly due to the fact that Arakawa Hiromu had far more time to produce a story that worked, whereas the writers for the original adaptation only had part of Arakawa’s work to play with, and had to make up the rest.
Normally this would be the cause for a number of issues, not the least of which is continuity, however Full Metal Alchemist never really suffered from those except where the numerous, and unnecessary, comedy moments were included. That said, what the writers achieved was actually quite remarkable, as they produced a tale that is very clearly about one thing only – obsession – and in that respect, they actually managed to score quite a major coup over Arakawa’s tale.
Some of you may be a tad confused by where this is all going, but fear not, it will become clearer as we get into more detail. Let’s talk more about the actually show itself for a moment though.
In terms of looks, the original adaptation managed to transpose the characters fairly well, and while they didn’t really require any bouts of creativity in general, there were a few new faces as, at the time, the manga hadn’t actually introduced all the players. As for the various locations in which the characters find themselves, the first adaptation generally followed the path laid down by the manga, however there were also some surprisingly original and inventive additions to the various locales, many of which are unique to this particular adaptation.
Strangely enough though, the quality of the animation is almost the same as that of Brotherhood, and given the large degree of crossover in both adaptations, this is actually surprising as usually one version is greatly superior to the other. That said, the new series does have the advantage of seven years of improvements in animation, so one would be forgiven for thinking the margin between the two would be bigger.
Where sound and music are concerned, one might expect more pronounced differences between the two adaptations, however this is not the case. The selection of music for the first adaptation is actually very good throughout the series, and also gave rise to one of the catchiest opening themes in shounen anime – “Ready Steady Go” by L’Arc-en-Ciel. The aural effects are well chosen and choreographed, and while there are many occasions that feature frenetic clashes and lots of noise, care has generally been taken to modulate this to a level that won’t unnerve the viewer (admittedly there are some minor overwhelming moments, but they’re not really worth going into any detail as they don’t really affect the story in any way).
As for the acting, granted there are some different seiyuu between the two adaptations, but the series’ big guns are in force in both. That said, while there is some acting continuity between the two, the actual quality is a little better in Brotherhood, however this may be due to an increased familiarity with the characters, and also because Brotherhood is far more a straight forward shounen tale than the original adaptation- something which actually shows in the acting.
And now to the most interesting bit – the characters.
Unlike both the manga and Brotherhood, the original anime adaptation of Full Metal Alchemist featured some surprising and unique characters, not the least of which is Edward Elric himself.
But before we get into that though, let’s talk Homunculi.
One of the most overlooked aspects of the original series was the nomenclature given to the homunculi, and although their names and purpose have been “clarified” by the manga and Brotherhood, the writers for the original adaptation didn’t have this knowledge, so they actually made them work in a completely different way. The whole deal with the Seven Sins is very different in the first anime, as the writers used the homunculus to highlight the aspect of obsession throughout the series. This is why the first anime adaptation had them being “born” in a particular manner, rather than the more trite reasoning given in the manga and Brotherhood much later.
The homunculi are effectively born from the obsession of humans, a theme which is also present in Arakawa’s version of the story, even though it has been downplayed a lot.
So what does this have to do with the characters? Well, rather a lot actually. Throughout the whole series, there are very few characters who don’t show any of the visible signs that one would normally associate with obsessive behaviour, and this is because they’re cleverly hidden for the most part. From Maes Hughes’ constant babble about his daughter, to Winry’s love of automail. From Izumi Curtis’ longing for her baby, to Dante’s desire for immortality (incidentally, one has to wonder why that particular character was called Dante).
And right at the top of the list is Edward Elric.
In essence, his obsession with being better than his father is what starts the whole chain of events, which then turns to his obsession with the Philosopher’s Stone, and so on. The surprising thing though, is that Ed never actually lets go of his desires in the same manner that others who attempted human transmutation did, and there is actually proof of this too. One look at the manner of Alphonse Elric’s return to his body, as well as the nature of that return, will highlight just how very different this show is to Arakwa’s version, and how different the mentality is come the end.
And if you want more clarification on this, then feel free to ask.
The characters are actually pretty well developed throughout the series, and it’s a testament to the writer’s and seiyuu’s abilities that they turned out as well as they did. That’s not to say there aren’t any problems, however the flaws with the characters stem mainly from a difference in goals and perspective rather than any real lack of talent.
In all honesty, it’s difficult to decide which version is actually better as the differences in plot, theme and character development make this version and Arakawa’s two very different tales. That said, there will be those who fall on one side or the other, some preferring the darker nature of the first adaptation while others like the more direct approach of the manga and Brotherhood. Personally, I found both versions to be very good, especially as the route that Arakawa’s tale takes bears almost no resemblance to this one. While there are some broad similarities between the two in terms of locale, characters and basic plot, in actuality these are only skin deep, as the original adaptation of Full Metal Alchemist deviates quite a lot from the typical shounen sensibilities come the end of the series. The obsessive theme of the first adaptation is a far cry from what one is given in the manga and Brotherhood.
Regardless of which version one prefers though, the simple fact is that we, as anime fans, have been given two great takes on the story, and we should count ourselves lucky to have such a wealth as all too often we must suffer through mediocrity and crap just find some entertainment.
It just a shame that so many people feel the need to side with one version or the other …
Now I’m sure most of you already know the story. The Elric brothers, Edward and Alphonse attempt to bring back their mother and as a consequence for going against the law of equivalent exchange, Ed loses his right arm and left leg. And Alphonse loses his entire body to only have his soul become bonded to a suit of armor. With the help of their childhood friend Winery, she constructs an automail leg and arm for Ed. Soon, they learn about this special artifact known as the Philosophers stone, it has the ability to defy the laws of alchemy and perform the taboo known as human transmutation. Eventually they come to the conclusion that their best bet in hopes of finding the stone would be to join the military. Although, Ed is the only one who joins because he insisted on doing so. And so they embark on their journey. Along the way, the brothers encounter corrupt government officials, homunculi, chimeras and more.
As far as the story goes, it’s fantastic. Especially considering the fact that this anime is a shonen. FMA has a far more intricate and complex plot then shonens like One Piece, Fairy Tail, Naruto or Bleach. Thematically, it delves into area’s that you wouldn’t expect a show of its kind to do. What’s a life worth? An arm? A leg? An entire body? Can human’s play the role of god ? Should we even be allowed to play the role of god in the first place? Can we disrupt the flow of nature? So yeah, Fullmetal Alchemist is smarter then your average shonen!
Also, the setting of the anime takes place in a fictionalized version of early 20th century Europe during the industrial revolution. The majority of the show takes place in Amestris. A key part of the plot that I almost forgot to mention involves the neighboring nation of Ishval. Long ago, after the tragic incident of when an Amestrian officer shot an Ishvalan child in cold blood, a chaotic war erupted between the two nations. In the midst of the war, state alchemists were brought in to exterminate the Ishvalans through horrific acts of genocide. This is where the revenge driven Ishvalan named Scar comes in.
Speaking of characters, character wise, FMA is just as good. From Roy Mustang, to Riza Hawkeye, to the Elric brothers. All are given considerable amounts of depth. Take for example, the Elric brothers. Ed feels as if he got off easy because he still has his body and is burdened by this. Alphonse is constantly questioning his humanity, existence and whether or not he was a human to begin with ( his memory was erased when Ed bonded his soul to a suit of armor). And I just barely scratched the surface.
When it comes to the production values, yet again, this anime doesn’t disappoint. The animation is very crisp and fluid. It never lets up, character designs are good and remain consistent until the very end. The OST is also worth mentioning here. Michiru Oshima did a very good job. One track that stood out in particular was “Brothers.” Simply put, it was a beautifully done string instrumental over some harmonious Russian vocals. In regards to the opening and ending themes, they’re solid. Opening 4 was my personal favorite. Lastly, the voice acting. I’ll tell you right here and now that it is mandatory that you watch the dub instead of the sub. Why? Because, hands down without a doubt, Fullmetal Alchemist has one of the best dubs you’ll ever here in anime. It’s definitely one of Funimation’s best efforts. All the performances were fantastic from Vic Mignogna, to Aaron Dismuke, to Dameon Clarke, to Colleen Clinkenbeard.
Unfortunately, there are a couple of flaws here and there that prevent Fullmetal Alchemist from achieving perfection. Most notably the first 15 episode, these episodes were unevenly paced and it really didn’t get interesting until Scar showed up. Episodes 4, 5, 10-12 were completely unnecessary and felt very fillerish (I’m not sure but I think they were actually fillers, but don’t quote me on that).
Now of course, I can’t write a review without addressing the ending because it’s one of the reasons why anime fans have such a polarized reaction for this show. I personally liked the ending, it was very bitter sweet. It wasn’t like every other ending for a shonen where everything works out in the end and all the characters hold hands and sing Kumbaya. Plus there are no beach episodes (Jesus Christ, I f**kin hate those g**damn beach episodes in anime). Well, time to wrap this review up, all in all, FMA is an amazing anime. I highly recommend it to anime fans and non-anime fans alike.
I’m typing this review, and i wonder to myself, “Why am i doing this? What can i say about a show that’s been talked about to death?”, and you know what, i don’t exactly have a clear answer. Fullmetal Alchemist premiered a decade ago and is still to this day, one of the most beloved and well known anime of our recent generation. It’s so well known that talking about it almost seems redundant as about 90% of anime fans have already seen it, and if they haven’t seen it then they at least have heard of it, know the premise, and might even know some of the more shocking twists in it. But over the past few years, more and more people have begun to disregard it all thanks to a little thing called Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, to the point where i’ve heard Brotherhood fans say to people on several occasions that they shouldn’t watch the original series and just go watch Brotherhood, which i answer to with a big, “Huh?”. But this isn’t about Brotherhood, i’ll cover that elephant in the room if i ever choose to do a review of it. No this is about the original Fullmetal Alchemist anime, and why if you haven’t already seen it, then you should check out as soon as possible.
As i said it’s almost pointless to sum up the plot that everybody already knows but, formulaic procedure wins. The story is about the two Elric brothers, Edward and Alphonse, who try to use a blend of science and magic called alchemy to bring their mother back from the dead. Things go terribly wrong however, and in the process Edward loses an arm and a leg, and Alphonse loses his entire body, being forced to fuse his soul with a body of armor to survive. They soon join the country’s militia, the state alchemist division to be precise, in order to search for a item of great power called the philosopher’s stone, in order to revive their bodies back to their original forms. The idea of two brothers setting off on a journey is already a concept that could fill an entire show, but then there’s also the story of the them joining the military and how their more childish outlook and views clash with the military’s actions, which is also enough to fill an entire show. But then there’s also the military itself and it’s mission to reform the country, and also the soldiers that wish to change the military to better the country, and then there’s the evil forces that the Elric brothers encounter with their own mission and backstory, and so on and so forth. Fullmetal Alchemist has enough plot lines to fill up 10 different anime, which could easily just make for a cluttered mess of ruined potential, but the story in Fullmetal Alchemist is a well written, perfectly paced, and air tight. But even so this seems like a lot for just a battle shounen, but you can’t really call it just a battle shounen as it seems like the show has just about every genre you can think of all in one. There’s action, adventure, comedy, drama, supernatural, super power, military, romance, mystery, thriller, horror, shock jock, fantasy, and sci fi, all in one. Once again, having so much in one show could easily be the death of it, but all of these genres are performed well and at just the right moments, even having them clash at times just to prove a point. And if that wasn’t enough, this show completes every plot point and every character saga, and still has room for filler. To some the concept of adding filler is a bad thing, but in this case i find being able to have filler more of a compliment than anything. If you haven’t gotten what’s good about the story of FMA from this, let me sum it up for you. Fullmetal Alchemist is an emotional, action packed, well written saga and above all, is fucking big, displaying a vast world of different cultures, inventions and religions that just sucks you in from the very beginning.
Fullmetal Alchemist was made by studio BONES and is probably the show most responsible for the seemingly endless pockets of money that the studio had for many years. But this was an early work, so it’s not exactly perfect. The show didn’t have all that much of a budget to work with, and there were times when it showed, inconsistent character designs, jagged edges, and one or two episodes in particular that looked fairly cheap. But the show is still overall a good looking show. What impressed me most was probably the shading in it and how perfectly it was used to represent different emotions and foreshadowing. The character facial designs also helped this, done well enough at times that two characters could just share a scene together, with zero dialogue, and in just one stare, convey all the emotions they need to get across. Of course this is a battle series, and you can tell that this is where a good chunk of the budget was spent, with fluid animation and splendid choreographing that kept your eyes firmly glued to the screen. Fullmetal Alchemist is a good looking show with some dents here and there, but the moments of brilliance shine right though.
The soundtrack is comprised completely of orchestral pieces, all of which compliment their scenes quite well. It’s in the background, always noticeable but never overpowering, a perfect accompaniment to the show. But, to tell the truth, nothing on the OST really sticks out on it’s own and it’s not really a soundtrack that you listen to on it’s own. A good soundtrack nonetheless but nothing spectacular. If i was only judging the sound based off the soundtrack then i’d probably only give it a 7 or 8 out of 10, but there’s one more important thing to talk about. The dub. This was an early Funimation show, but i’m guessing that they knew ahead of time how big the show would be, because they really brought their A game for it. Talking about Vic Mignogna as Edward Elric is almost as redundant as telling people about the plot to FMA, he’s great as the role, and it’s the number one reason why he has so many fangirls. Plus this was also the show that launched Travis Willingham’s career for his performance as Roy Mustang, which is well deserved. And i’d be remiss to not mention Christopher Sabbat’s performance as Major Alex Louise Armstrong who just does the role complete justice as though IT WAS A PERFORMANCE HANDED DOWN THE ARMSTRONG FAMILY FOR GENERATIONS. There are plenty of other big names like Johnny Yong Bosch and Luci Christanson playing ver small roles which are always nice to hear. But the thing that really impressed me about the dub is that they had actual kids playing the kids including a 12 year old Aaron Dismuke doing a bang up job in his first performance as Alphonse Elric. It’s definitely a show worth checking out dubbed.
A story as big as Fullmetal Alchemist need a big cast, and not only is this cast supplied, but their also just as well written as the story itself. First off we have out two main characters Edward and Alphonse Elric. Edward is the prodigy of the two, the genius who often makes the decisions of what the two of them will do, which can proof to be disastrous at times, considering that with great intelligence and curiosity comes an overwhelming temptation to the dark side. He’s the one who decided to resurrect their mother, he’s the one who decides to join the military, and he’s the one who constantly has to struggle with doing the right thing and doing the things that most benefit them. But he’s still just a kid, and with so comes a certain naiveté towards things. He’s quick to learn from his mistakes and often feels guilt for what his actions have causes, and is driven with a strong determination to set things right, making him the ideal protagonist. Alphonse on the other hand is the philosopher, usually being the moral compass of the two and keeping his older brother grounded to the right side. Between the two brothers, he loses the most, but instead of being angry and bitter about it, is often friendly and optimistic and hates to see people suffer for his sake, giving him great guilt as well for what his brother has to go through for his sake. These are of course, only the two main characters, and Fullmetal Alchemist has nearly 40 supporting and recurring character, meaning characters that show up for more than two episodes and have a role in the overall plot. And you know what, each and every one of them is left unresolved. Like the story, the characters of Fullmetal Alchemist are memorable, well written, and big. But the most important thing that these characters do in the series, is acknowledge and represent the importance of family bonds, from the relationship between the Elric brothers, to the relationship between the military soldiers, and event he weird relationship between the Homunculi of the series that form their own little family in a way. From the arrogant but gentle hearted Colonel Roy Mustang, to the incredibly manly glittering Major Alex Louise Armstrong, to the Homunculi that oppose the Elric brothers, all of the characters of Fullmetal Alchemist are fleshed out and memorable.
Enjoyment and Overall (10/10)
In case you haven’t been able to tell, i love Fullmetal Alchemist, very few series have made me love them this much. I’m not really sure what i can say about this series that i haven’t already said. It’s an epic tale of love, determination, and passion that every one should check out. We never needed a movie, the series ended fine on it’s own, and just because Brotherhood now exists, doesn’t mean we should disregard this series, personal tastes aside. Fullmetal Alchemist is a series that is completely on par with the original manga and proof that a series doesn’t need fidelity to succeed. I’ll leave off with this quote, which is technically from Brotherhood but screw it, it works.
“There’s no such thing as a painless lesson. They just don’t exist. Sacrifices are necessary. You can’t gain anything without losing something first. Although, if you can endure that pain and walk away from it, you will find that you now have a heart strong enough to overcome any obstacle. Yes…a heart that’s Fullmetal.”
3: Major S1
Japanese: メジャー （第1シリーズ）
MAL Score: 8.25
Gorou Honda, a little boy obsessed with baseball, has always admired his father, Shigeharu. Wishing to follow in his father’s footsteps, Gorou dreams of becoming a professional baseball player. In turn, his son’s starry-eyed admiration encourages Shigeharu to keep persevering, despite his late wife’s death and his unsatisfying position on the second-string team Blue Ocean.
Unfortunately, an elbow injury forces Shigeharu off the team, and he falls into despair. However, after an offhand joke from his childhood friend, Shigeharu reevaluates his choices and decides to keep playing, leaving behind his prime position as pitcher and taking up the bat. Now motivated more than ever, Gorou works hard to carve his way in the Japanese Little League.
Major is the definition of the word underrated. It is very unfortunate that people often overlook this series simply because it falls under the sports category. It is SO much more than that. I have recommended this anime to people countless times and will continue doing so because not only do I love it, but I believe it has the power to inspire.
The main character of the story is named Honda Goro (changed to Honda Shigeno after a tragic event). He is gifted in pitching and is absolutely in love with baseball. He has the tendency to bring out the best in other people simply because of his passion and attitude for the sport. People seemingly gather around him for this reason. No matter how grim a situation may look, he never gives up. The most impressive part about this anime (besides the storyline of course) is the character development. As the series progresses you will witness the characters grow physically and mentally. It is also very easy to get attached to the characters since they are all unique within their own right.
All I have to say is that the first season starts off REALLY strong. Take your time with this anime. It is really easy to get addicted with Major. A person can literally fly through the episodes because of how engaging it is.
Honestly, the real fun begins when you get past the first season.
Review is to whole Major as you might have guessed. Spoiler free.
The story of Major is pretty bromaculous and manly, but all in all simple. Goro, our MC, is 4 year-old guy who likes baseball because his father is professional baseball player. 6 fucking days later Goro is 34 years-old professional baseball player who teaches kids how to play baseball. How shit got from the start to the end is one hell of an amazing trip. Including drama, comedy, utter awesomeness, character development of one of a kind, romantic subplot, one of the most awe-inspiring shitz since GTO and yeah, some baseball too.
One of the first questions people seem to ask is “Do I need to like baseball to like Major?” Well I dunno. Do you need to like school to like Great Teacher Onizuka? Do you need to be otaku to like anime? Well, those questions doesn’t matter. The point is, almost everything I know about baseball is because I watched Major. Almost none plays it in my country anyway. Do I like Major then? A big Yes!
The characters of Major are one of the strongest part of the series. Goro is more awe-inspiring than anyone. If he loses consciousness during the game then he finishes the match unconsciously. He is awesome like that. Don’t get me wrong, he isn’t ultimate badass, superhero nor the typical shonen protag who wins because he is a ninja or some other shit like that. All he does is his best. It doesn’t matter if he loses or wins, he just wants to see what he is capable to do. All there is for him is the moment, he doesn’t plan to play baseball in the future, he plans to play the next game and whateverthefuck happens after that happens when it happens if it happens. Don’t mind, don’t mind. Fukkyah. Goro is now my favorite character of all time.
So in the end Goro alone makes the characters great and that’s it… wait, NO. I still remember the names of almost all the million side characters. That’s pretty rare for me since Japanese shit sounds like Gibberish anyway. As I said before the series includes character development one of a kind. By that I don’t mean solely the MC but actually rest of the fuckhuge cast as well. Gibson is Jesus, Sato gets bitches like no other, Shimizu is the culmination of sweety. Those are just some characters from the first episodes. What makes Major so great from the character part is how every single side character is in important role and nothing would be possible if even one them was missing. Baseball is a team sports and author really gives value to that. If one the team members is delinquent who doesn’t give a fuck, then he changes to a guy who shits rainbows. Developmentyeah. Sure we have other sports series e.g. Eyeshield 21, Slam Dunk, Cross Game, H2 which are about team work as well but none of those manages to come to Major’s level in terms of characters by any means.
Major is objectively best animu ever and completely flawless. Well lolno. It has problems and flaws like everything has. Characters’ actions aren’t always exactly the most believable thing ever. Writing is sometimes simplistic. 4th season has problems with pacing, language barrier in american league is confusing, 2nd season could have more rewarding ending. One could say the series is predictable, which it obviously is if you start guessing who wins and who loses since there ain’t so many results anyway. But Major isn’t about the destination but how to get there. Did I predict all of it? No, not even close. The author knows his shit very well – plot twists, sports series has those as well. Is it realistic? Yes, very. All in all one of the most realistic sport series I’ve seen. I thought the series would be repetitive towards the end since it’s just baseball but now I’m glad of being wrong. There also doesn’t seem to be this thing called “just baseball” in existence.
The art is simple and beautiful, something I would call smooth and perfectly fitting to the series. Animation is obviously somewhat old and not perfect but something only faggotass would complain about. Visual effect are rather cool during action moments. These all goes for better during the show. Especially after season 3. The sounds, well voice acting is actually impressive as fuck. Goro’s voice after 1st season is one of the most original and memorable ones I’ve heard. Tashiro sounds like he has 20 inch dick. I get chills everytime Shimizu says “Honda” (Goro’s old last name) That’s definitely a good thing in my eyes. And other characters (voice actors, weh) are awesome like that as well. Music is great, not just something worth of including to the series but something which I actually listened earlier today because it’s good. Sound director knows his shit like all people behind the show seems to know so lets that be it.
When it comes to enjoyment Major broke all my expectations by being more awesome than I could have Imagined. After getting older and seeing lot of series it comes harder to enjoy something because quality and logic comes more important due education and other useless shit. Major does great job on fitting the quality standards. It quite literally reminded me what enjoying something means. As it being a baseball series I thought I would end up watching baseball games, but the series isn’t like that. I was there on the field experiencing it all. I learnt a lot, but baseball isn’t the thing I learned the most. The series grasp the viewers by being dramatic, thrilling and fun to watch all at the same time, atmosphere being godly. Did I laugh? Yeah, it’s funnier than gintama. Did I cry? Yeah, a lot. Not so much because of the drama but because it’s so awe-inspiring. The series was partly so exciting that I had problems on changing to new episodes fast enough. I also got heart attacks everytime the romance side developed to some direction. In the end Major is one of the most enjoyable series I’ve seen. To make it clear, I’m not saying the series is great because I enjoyed it so much. I’m saying the series is so great that it’s extremely hard for not to enjoy it.
Eyeshield 21 (manga)
Slam Dunk (manga)
Cross Game (anime)
Great Teacher Onizuka
Hoshi no Samidare (manga)
This is actually pretty typical. Boy strives to become the best in something, which in this case is baseball. Honda Goro tries to take after his father as a pitcher who plays in the pro league in Japan. That’s basically all you’re gonna get. They play baseball to try to get to the next "level", fighting stronger opponents as they go on.
However there are various plot advances as well as drama thrown into the mix, so don’t go in thinking this is just a tournament-after-tournament anime.
Art is very solid and pleasing although the animation does get a little sloppy at certain times. However, it is well done during important parts, especially during games. I won’t go so far as to say this is any ground-breaking animation, but it serves its purpose. After all, this is a baseball anime, not something that has flashy explosions.
I absolutely loved the soundtrack. Very few songs used in the background actually are able to make me find myself humming them unconsciously later onward. There are quite a few notable pieces used throughout the series and they all carry out their duty in helping to further emote scenes.
This is where the series shines for me. I enjoyed the character development that Major had. As baseball is a team sport, there is also a lot of focus on developing relationships within the team, and how problems arise and are solved amongst one another. The characters are all very likable (well, with a few exceptions), and its fun to watch them interact with one another.
The show also focuses quite moderately on family relationships. There are a few issues which come up within Goro’s family and it shows how he as a child, handles them. I found certain scenes to be quite touching also.
Uh, I enjoyed this. A lot. It’s my favorite sports anime. Although it isn’t without its flaws, I found it a great watch. If you enjoy seeing a character "grow", then you will like this. Not too sure about those who are familiar with baseball though, as it helped as a device to pique my interest.
Amongst all the seasons, I found this one to be the strongest. (Though this is not to say the other seasons are vastly inferior.) You should give at least this first season a try, even if you don’t like baseball, as the character relations are great to watch no matter what sport they are playing.
English: Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad
MAL Score: 8.30
Fourteen-year-old Yukio “Koyuki” Tanaka is a dispirited young boy with no goals in life. However, this all changes when Koyuki saves a strange-looking dog named Beck from being harassed by a group of local kids. The dog’s owner, 16-year-old Ryuusuke “Ray” Minami, is an emerging guitarist and the former member of a popular rock band.
After Koyuki meets Ray again in a diner, the older boy leads him to his former band’s meeting place and dazzles Koyuki with his amazing guitar skills. Slowly becoming interested in the glamour of western rock culture, Koyuki decides to start playing the guitar while helping Ray achieve his dream of leading the ultimate rock band. Together with Ray’s younger sister Maho and a few other members, the two boys launch their career into the world of rock by forming a band called BECK. Beck follows the group’s struggles and successes as they spread their fame across Japan.
It’s about this middle school kid named Koyuki, who finally connects with the world around him through music and what eventually becomes a band called Beck… blah, blah, blah.
Story-wise… it’s a little kooky. I don’t know how other people viewed it, but being from the U.S., well, I had to remind myself a few times to take it with a grain of salt. I really enjoyed the slow development of Koyuki and the band and the relationships between everyone… I thought that part of the story was really well done. It’s just that (especially in the second half), you have to be prepared to suspend your disbelief a little and accept the oddness of the whole Lucille subplot.
The art? I really liked looking at it. There was something very appealing about it. I think I especially liked how the everything was kind of gritty and muted looking to match the mood of the underground music scene. Also, the color palette they chose fit really well with the tone and vibe of the main characters and the story line, I thought.
Okay, the music really, really grew on me. I thought I was going to hate it and I have to admit that the grammar kind of bugged me at first… but I totally hum/sing a bunch of the songs to myself without thinking about it now. Even the opening song is catchy and fun. And even though you do hear bits of a few songs over and over again, it’s nice, because I felt like I was getting more and more familiar with their sound… and it gave me a chance to become a "fan" of the band. 😉 Also I thought that the people who were singing Koyuki and Maho’s parts did a *great* job.
Character-wise… I don’t think you get to know anyone as well as you get to know Koyuki. In fact, I think you only get to know everyone else as well as Koyuki himself does. But that’s one of the nice things about the show, actually. They don’t always like each other. They’re bandmates and they aren’t each others’ whole lives. …So, it felt okay to be irritated with or irked by some of the characters. And personally, I really prefer characters who are flawed and honest and real, so I really didn’t mind not always liking the people on the show because it felt so much more… authentic, in a way.
And I don’t know if this is character or story, but I also liked the way the series kind of kept us updated on Beck’s rival band and used their story as a contrast to the main story.
I would say though, that if you’re not used to the way heavily accented English sounds, listening to some of the conversations and the songs might be a little jarring at first. It didn’t bother me since I was watching it w/ subs anyway and I’m used to thick accents, but I know some people who found it distracting… they couldn’t concentrate on what was going on because they were too busy listening and trying to figure out what they were saying.
Overall, great show. It’s different from your typical perky, funny, energetic sort of high school shows… it’s sort of more of a "My So-Called Life" type show, without all the drama and with a band. 😉 So, this probably isn’t what you’re looking for if you want sort of a funny, light-hearted high school slice of life show; it’s …quieter than that. But if you’re looking for a break from all the sugar, this is a really nice change of pace.
Speaking of the band, the BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad was a good band (I say it’s "good" because I am not a fan of rap-rock music). Earlier in the series, when Ryuusuke was talking about chemistry in a band and stuff, I did see the chemistry among the five. First you have Ryuusuke, who reeks of pure rocker, Taira, the mysterious bass player, Chiba, the crazy rapper/singer, Saku, the awesome drummer and even Koyuki, who irritates me sometimes, the wide eyed lead singer/ budding artist.
These guys make wicked music. It’s definitely not typical j-rock, it actually sounds modern and americanized. A lot of the songs were in english, but there were definitely a few mistakes in grammar (These grammatical mistakes can also be found in between dialogues with Ryuusuke, Maho and all them americanized Japanese kids). The mistakes are just minor ones anyway that can be overlooked. A few of my favorites are "Hit in the USA", "My world coming down", and "Moon on the water", who are supposedly sang by the fictional band, DyBre. I also like the insert song provided by the band "The Pillows" which makes their cameo as "The Heroes", Taira’s 4th band.
I mentioned that Koyuki irritated me sometimes. I just don’t like the fact that he gets picked on everywhere he goes. Is there some sort of sign in his head that says "bully bait" or something? I also hated it when he cried. He is such a crybaby. I know he’s a kid and all, but I never met a 14-year old boy who would cry at the drop of a hat. He did win me over during the parts when he would sing. His Japanese accent was heavy when he would sing the english songs, but he does have a considerably good voice.
In the beginning of the review I said the drawings were sub par, and that’s mainly because the characters were not proportionate, but then again, all anime characters are not drawn proportionately anyway. I did like the different look, cause in a way I was getting tired of the usual way anime are drawn, as well as weird hair and eye colors. As I’ve said, the storyline does make up for it. Other than that, the inanimate objects are seemingly drawn well. The guitars and cars had very intricate details, and it almost looked life like. Even the electric fan earlier in the series was well designed.
The voice acting was also good. I like the fact that the american characters sounded like americans, and even the italian american guy had the accent going. I did kind of think that Eddie and Ryuusuke kind of sounded like hip hoppers more than rockers, but A for effort anyway.
It was a really good anime, and I hope there’s going to be a sequel. I want to know what happens next!
The anime pretty much pays homage to music it’s dedicated too which is “Rock ‘n’ Roll” and Soft-Rock inspired for its music tracks. Consist of good guitar plays and rock music that enforces the anime strength when it comes to the sound and music department. The show previews a lot of references on historically known western rock bands like the Stones, Zeppelin, and Beatles, and others alike. It also has some English that is good enough that it sounds natural even if it’s not purely grammatically correct from time to time. The English Dub version does polish the language further for the western audience. But I am here to talk about beck as a whole, not by the discussion whether the original Japanese or the dub English version is a better pick-up.
Beck is a story of growth, dedication, adventure, and trials in life. To succeed in the hardship in life, one must have hard work, determination, and a little bit of luck. This message is fully illustrated to the audience by seeing the daily life of our main protagonist Yukio, Tanaka or well known by the nickname “Koyuki”. We are able to see his growth from being an aimless, weak-willed, and zero confidence teenager to a goal-oriented, dedicated, and well-respected character over the span of 26 episodes.
It introduces us to a couple of interesting characters like Maho and Ryuusuke that stirred up the plot dynamics and Koyuki’s motivation in life. Each new character introduce serves as a narrative of change in Koyuki Life that made the show move forward. Some characters remain static and some forgotten entirely at some point in the show, but there are other characters that got a fair share of development. Though for me, the show would benefit more if we get to know more about the other band members of Beck’s side of the story, especially Ryuusuke story that I found more interesting than Koyukis.
When it comes to artistic presentation. Beck is somewhat a contrast to other show’s art style and color design that is airing at the time. While anime uses multi bright colors and flashy character design for audience appeal. Beck throws that out of the water and chooses the complete opposite. Starting with the color choices, the show is consistent with dimmed colors like grey and dull colors that emit a small amount of light that made the show seems dark even in broad daylight.
The character design is much more grounded, with only a few features that distinguish them from each other. People will point out that Beck has low production value, on so why it doesn’t look like an eye-candy show, but for me in understanding the creator’s intention and given it made by MADHOUSE, a studio that excels in varying styles and cinematic composition over the years, in my viewpoint this is intentional in the melodramatic mood and atmosphere of the show.
In conclusion, the show is worth checking out if you’re interested in watching something different in the medium. It’s down to earth from its platonic romance and its simple humor. The story is progressively steady pace, even if the time-lapse per scene is consists of days up to weeks skip within just one episode. The show has a lot of good soundtracks and my favorite might be “Hit in the USA” by Beat Crusaders and “Moon on the Water” by Sowelu. If only the show has more episodes and a much more solid conclusion I would love it more. I do admit I did get bored in the show’s lack of spice from time to time but it’s part of the experience. Overall a good show of its genre that I wish it could offer more. Because 26 episodes are not enough to finish the journey.
A story about mediocre characters band together that aim for something big even with the flaws and insecurity. Once you get past the unconventionally common art style and color pallet, you will be rewarded with an anime with good characters and some memorable music to stick in your own playlist.
1: Samurai Champloo
English: Samurai Champloo
MAL Score: 8.50
Fuu Kasumi is a young and clumsy waitress who spends her days peacefully working in a small teahouse. That is, until she accidentally spills a drink all over one of her customers! With a group of samurai now incessantly harassing her, Fuu desperately calls upon another samurai in the shop, Mugen, who quickly defeats them with his wild fighting technique, utilizing movements reminiscent to that of breakdancing. Unfortunately, Mugen decides to pick a fight with the unwilling ronin Jin, who wields a more precise and traditional style of swordfighting, and the latter proves to be a formidable opponent. The only problem is, they end up destroying the entire shop as well as accidentally killing the local magistrate’s son.
For their crime, the two samurai are captured and set to be executed. However, they are rescued by Fuu, who hires the duo as her bodyguards. Though she no longer has a place to return to, the former waitress wishes to find a certain samurai who smells of sunflowers and enlists the help of the now exonerated pair to do so. Despite initially disapproving of this idea, the two eventually agree to assist the girl in her quest; thus, the trio embark upon an adventure to find this mysterious warrior—that is, if Fuu can keep Mugen and Jin from killing each other.
Set in an alternate Edo Period of Japan, Samurai Champloo follows the journey of these three eccentric individuals in an epic quest full of action, comedy, and dynamic sword fighting, all set to the beat of a unique hip-hop infused soundtrack.
Of course, Cowboy Bebop was not Shinichiro Watanabe’s first foray into resonant crossover in anime: Macross Plus was a monolithic amalgamation of Top Gun’s hot-headed romantic drama and sci-fi tropes including a pop-idol hologram version of 2001: A Space Odyssey’s HAL, in turn influencing the famous cyberpunk writer William Gibson to write Idoru, a novel about a Japanese virtual idol and her marriage to a real-life rock star. Of course, all of this was before the invention of the Vocaloid, though I suppose the future imagined by Watanabe and Gibson was, in a way, not so far off.
Anyhow, now that I’ve finished my little history lesson — which I feel is relevant, as having such a perspective may deepen your enjoyment of Samurai Champloo as much as it did for me — let’s continue on to the review. In light of all the prescient futurism found in Watanabe’s other works, it’s rather interesting that he decided to shift his focus to the past and present. Of course, the world’s future is always in its past… and what we have here is, in a nutshell, Edo-period Japan: the remix. Baseball, tagging/graffiti, Van Gogh, zombies, and Catholicism are tossed into the “chanpurū” with a whole lot of revised Japanese pseudo-history. As such the medley of influences and tangential tale-spinning occasionally smacks of filler, but one would do well to understand that this show is simply all /about/ the filler — and this is all for the better, because Samurai Champloo is at its freshest and most hilarious when it’s veering off the rails. It even has the single most entertaining recap episode I’ve ever seen. Even with all this episodic improv, Fuu’s journey in search of a “samurai who smells like sunflowers” provides a compelling core to the story, much like a steady hip-hop beat giving structure to the mix of samples and freestyle verses. Her ronin traveling companions Mugen and Jin mingle like oil and water, and there we have the perfect cast for hilarity and drama.
Samurai Champloo is one good-looking show, with its thick linework giving an impression of manga blended with graffiti style. One episode even takes a quick trip into the psychedelic, with a sudden burst of colorful hallucination, Mind Game style — courtesy of episode key animator Masaaki Yuasa, of course. A wide variety of such notable animators were brought on board and thus the style occasionally varies slightly from episode to episode or even scene to scene, but it’s always pleasing and completely in tune with the show’s theme. Rural Japan has never looked so urban; almost any given scene in Samurai Champloo would be right at home spray-painted on the side of a city building or underpass.
The music, likewise, blends hip-hop, rhythm & blues, and traditional Japanese shamisen. Music often plays second fiddle to the look and quality of the animation when it comes to my enjoyment of anime, but in some cases it becomes just as important. This is one such anime, where the music contributes so greatly to the feel of it that it defines it and sets it apart from other anime — much like the soundtrack by Yoko Kanno and the Seatbelts did for Cowboy Bebop. It’s also worth mentioning that rap and beatboxing sometimes enter the dialogue, and it’s always amusing. Admittedly, most younger people these days are far more familiar with hip-hop than they are with the jazz, blues, and big band genres; nonetheless, in the realm of anime this feels a bit groundbreaking, especially with the theme songs featuring Japanese rap lyrics. The world is getting bigger and smaller every day.
Samurai Champloo is a show for everyone. Plenty of great sword-slashing action, clever comedy, and a good share of moments that will tug at your heartstrings — often all at once. If you enjoy anime, this is one you can’t miss.
I recently re-watched the show and felt compelled to write a retrospective/review of the series. While watching Jin, Mugen and Fuu traipse around 19th century Japan getting into ridiculous adventures, I realised Shinichirô Watanabe’s follow up to Cowboy Bebop is one of the most subversive animes ever made. Taking a staple genre, dressing it up in anachronism, but continually tackling subjects often avoided by the medium.
It takes 25 episodes until a character literally says “I was born in the wrong era.” Champloo is basically saying Japan’s lofty samurai era was actually a shit place to live for common people like us actually thank you very much.
It’s a divisive show that tested the patience of many viewers, drove others away entirely after a few episodes, and frustrated people who were too used to watching a plot move characters forward for 26 episodes. Champloo doesn’t even have characters who move the plot forward. The hook of how the three disparate characters end up travelling together through Edo period Japan is just that, it’s a hook to draw you in.
Samurai Champloo is about, and also not about, three characters hunting a samurai who smells of sunflowers. There’s an episode late into the series which features two street gangs having a graffiti battle across town, and though somewhat amusing also served no benefit towards the journey of the three characters. So if you hop into any forum thread you’ll see a multitude of complaints about it. However, the point of the episode is the same as the theme running throughout the entire show: people from a bygone era rebelling against authority and social norms in a way 21st century people do: through counter-culture.
I’ve gained a new appreciation for this show. It’s been so so long since I saw it, but rewatching it I realise how the story is about how incompatible Tokugawa era Japan is with our way of life; all the things we take for granted were rare luxuries back then. This is an obvious fact for anyone with a remote understanding of Japanese history, but still, the show rams it home with stark contrasts. Each episode highlights a 21st century aspect of our lives, a form of freedom (creative, sexual, geographical, etc) that characters in the 19th century yearned for despite the odds.
It’s set in an era ruled by rigid order, social rules and hierarchies. Stifling to the point of causing grief among the downtrodden populace. Yet a populace we should not treat as foreign aliens. The show asks us to empathise with them; they were just like us. Some of them had our modern spirit and ultimately struggled to exist in such a society as a result. Our heroes are a ronin, vagabond, and an orphan. Fighting against their era’s rules with a modern spirit.
One of the things I love about this show is how the three characters hate each other for the majority of the 26 episodes, but their hatred gives away inch by inch. They initially try to break apart, to run away from each other, but situations conspire to brig them back together, until a turning point where they actively make a choice to stick together, grudgingly recognising that they are of the same fiery rebellious soul. This is infinitely more satisfying than characters who automatically stick together from the outset. Another theme of Champloo is that travelling a journey with strangers can bring you together like family.
Champloo is more known for its scenes that are juxtaposed with modern quirks such as people beatboxing to humorous and surreal effect, and scene transitions that look like a DJ playing with their deck.
Episode topics try to cover every area that is barely explored by other samurai-era anime that are more concerned with traditional ‘fight evil’ plots (or even movies for that matter) from the prevalence of the yakuza co-existing with samurai, the tragedy of women forced into prostitution to pay off their husbands’ debts, human trafficking in the art world, existence of homosexuality, persecution of Christians and Ainu, and graffiti gangs with too much time on their hands. There’s even a hilarious baseball game with members of an American expedition that predates Commodore Perry’s by a few years.
Champloo features one of the best soundtracks ever, brought to you by Nujabes, whose life was tragically cut short in 2010. Instrumental hip hop might bring to your mind a certain perception of what to expect, but the soundtrack is a mixture of traditional beats with Japanese influence, floating ephemeral sounds constantly conjure a feeling of melancholy, or ‘mono no aware’, the fleeting transience of things.
The appeal of the show is ‘style over substance’, however that is a great discredit to what Champloo accomplishes. All the modern quirks in historical context are not just there to make the show stand out visually. The show is about entertaining this idea, this hope, that even back in Edo era Japan there were open-minded people fighting for creativity, individuality and basic human rights. Sure, most of them didn’t last long, but they didn’t die without a fight. Banzai!
The story of Champloo is an original work from Shinichiro Watanabe. The story centers on Fuu’s search for a samurai who smells of sunflowers. As the wanders continue on their travel they encounter many problems, mostly dealing with how to make money for their various expenses some times causing trouble for the three. In the travels many humorous things occur like Mugen entering a beetle type cock fight, Jin and Mugen’s adventure in to the red-light district, or the three entering an eating contest. As the three get closer to the samurai who smells of sunflowers, things begin to unravel leading the three to the most trouble they have ever seen.
Champloo has crisp clean stylistic animation. Characters are draw clean and clear with many details. The landscapes of Champloo are filled with beautiful shots of Japan’s country side. There are even a few scenes were the animation becomes only black and white and seem as they where draw straight from sketches to add to the scene. There is also one part were the colors and animation becomes so lively that it gives the impression of a whacked out hallucination.
The score of Champloo is what sets its self apart from any other anime in its genre. The background music is filled with urban hip-hop to give it a loose free flowing fill to it. A big portion of Champloo is focused on its original sound and it shows. For action scenes we get a fast flowing sound that gives the sword fights a more stylistic feel to them. For the more dramatic scenes we get deeper sounding background music. There are even moments during some flash back scenes were the music that we get to hear a rich Japanese sound to give a deeper feeling to it.
Samurai Champloo focuses around 3 core characters. Mugen is a straight loud mouth anti-hero. Mugen is the wild one of the group, always flying by the seat of his pants. Mugen also seems to have a problem with authority. Mugen is the first to draw and the last to leave a fight. Jin is a noble ronin in the search of a purpose. Jin although quite and wise, he too has some distaste with authority like Mugen, although with different reason mainly because he sees the one’s in charge as waste. Fuu is a young girl in the search of a samurai who smells of sunflowers, she keeps these reasons to herself for some reason. Fuu is clumsy and some times naive. Fuu is constantly being kidnapped even though she has two strong bodyguards. And for some reason she keeps a flying squirrel with her to help out sometimes.
Any one who is a fan of samurai action will surely like Champloo. Filled with enough action to keep those hard core action fans at bay, Champloo sprinkles some comedy and drama on top. If you are someone who doesn’t like the hip-hop aspect of Champloo, then at least give it a try, you may be surprised.
Did YOUR favorite anime make the cut? Let us know in the comments below!
1. Samurai Champloo
3. Major S1
4. Fullmetal Alchemist
5. Yakitate!! Japan
6. Kaleido Star
7. School Rumble
9. Tantei Gakuen Q
10. Kochira Katsushikaku Kameari Kouenmae Hashutsujo