They’re the best Anime that 2003 has to offer! We counts down the best anime to come out this year, including the likes of Tantei Gakuen Q, Texhnolyze, Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, 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.
MAL Score: 7.76
Texhnolyze takes place in the city of Lux, a man-made underground city that has crumbled after years of neglect and lack of repairs. Citizens of Lux have come to refer to their home as simply “The City” and treat it as though it has a mind and will of its own. Three major factions battle to control Lux: Organo, a group of “professionals” who collaborate with the criminal underworld that controls Texhnolyze (prosthetics), the Salvation Union, a populist group that seeks to disrupt Organo’s business, and Racan, a collection of young individuals with Texhnolyzes that use their abilities for personal gain.
Ichise was once an orphan who has made a place for himself in Lux as a prize fighter. One day, a fight promoter grows angry with him and the altercation that follows results in Ichise losing an arm and a leg. Before death can take him, Ichise is found by the scientist Eriko Kamata, who uses him as a test subject for her newly designed Texhnolyze. With these powerful new limbs at his disposal, Ichise begins to work for Oonishi, the leader of Organo. He soon meets a mysterious young girl, Ran, who has the power to see possible futures. Together, they soon realize that Lux is on the brink of war and collapse, and that they may be the only ones who can save The City.
However rather than bore me, I personally found the pace to be a breath of fresh air. This slow and steady treatment of the story is more realistic and true-to-life for me, and while it might not be as instantly gratifying as some other series it’s truly enveloping and convincing. The plot itself is highly complex, and as with Lain, Texhnolyze’s spiritual predecessor, you probably won’t be able to take it all in with one viewing.
The art is beautiful and highly atmospheric. The world of Lux springs to life with many lush, yet dark and gloomy settings. The characters are soft spoken but oddly compelling, especially in the case of Ichise. They’re also weirdly real. The cast of Texhnolyze is one of the more believably human ensembles I’ve ever seen in an anime, and it’s difficult not to become attached to them.
Another point I’d like to bring up is the weird disconnect it establishes between the events that happen on screen and the viewer. Right from the getgo the perspective seems grimly neutral. Texhnolyze isn’t telling you how to feel about what’s happening, just presenting what happens and letting you make the call. The realistic presentation and attention to detail add to this sensation. It’s almost as if the story was told from the point of view of the mysterious city itself.
Between the realistic pacing, heady plot, and gorgeous settings, Texhnolyze was one of those rare anime that, for me, made everything else seem not quite as good. I don’t give out 10s easily but if that doesn’t earn one I don’t know what does. Highly recommended for anyone looking for a contemplative, challenging series.
There’s a subplot about “texhnolyzation”, a procedure to repair or upgrade a person using technologies such as mechanical limbs. The transhumanist ideas herein, which have potential, are unfortunately enveloped in a lot of empty atmosphere. Most scenes are comprised of long shots of nothing, sound effects that were ran through one too many flange filters, and cryptic dialog that’s just later reiterated in dull exposition.
The tone is reminiscent of the cheap drawings an angry teenager would sketch up after being sent to his room for cursing out his mother. There’s hardly any diversity among the characters; they all share the same stern facial expression, and communicate by either mumbling or shouting.
Episodes 19 – 22, though still reliant on exposition, are admittedly fascinating as they focus on the aforementioned subplot. With that said, I’m not entirely sure the ending was worth sitting through the preceding 6 hours of tedium. If this show had been around 10 episodes instead of 22, it could have been good, maybe even great.
Story – 10/10
Texhnolyze’s story stands out because of the power of its narrative. The story of the Texhnolyzed Ichise is not one that progresses very rapidly, but the complexities of the world of Lux and its counterparts, the inhabitants and their allegiances, as well as the external forces that bring change to the city are all dealt with in full length, providing the viewer by the end of the show a wide and deep understanding of the world of Texhnolyze.
That being said, Texhnolyze shows way more than it tells, and while it’s minimalist dialogue and slow pacing may be a turn off to viewers who were expecting fast action based off of the opening, to me it’s a great change of pace and very fitting for the dark material that it covers.
As a result, Texhnolyze doesn’t spoon feed you information, but instead tries to convey its story more stylistically through the use of different colors, drawings, scene construction, character expressions, and symbolism. And I think it does very well. The show is multi-layered, with religious, artistic, and literary references that enhances the show’s already powerful messages but not so overwhelming that you’re lost in an incomprehensible mess.
The themes of Texhnolyze are also thought provoking. From traditional cyber punk themes of the fusion of man and machine and the negative impacts of technology or post apocalyptic messages ranging from the fall of man to the meaningless of life, Texhnolyze gives the viewer a lot to think about when the credits rolls at the end, and it leaves up a lot to interpretation to the point where as dark as it is, Texhnolyze still offers a bit of hope at the end of the tunnel.
Art – 9/10
The art of Texhnolyze really does deserve a ten, and my giving it a nine is more of a personal snicker than anything else. The show’s set pieces are very fitting for its content. There are few shows where the expression of a character’s face or a camera angle or the depiction of certain buildings adds value and importance to the story. Whether it’s the haunting perspective of Ichise where his view is now covered with details about his new robotic limbs or the apathetic expression from the show’s deadly instigator, Texhnolyze offers up a lot of fine detail to analyze.
Texhnolyze manages to do that and more. While the majority of Lux is bound in grey and other colors that have been shaded with darker hues, the use of lighting is used very effectively when it comes to important and critical scenes or used thematically as a means of splitting characters in light or dark. In short, Texhnolyze uses all forms of visual storytelling to improve upon its already powerful story.
My only gripe with the show is that its cover art is kind of misleading. Ichise, Ran, Onishi, and Motoharu, some of the main characters in the story, are nowhere near as sexy (and for Ran…well she’s still kind of cute) as they are in the cover art. Which made me sad. 🙁
Sound – 10/10
The opening and ending of the show are really interesting and I think they kind of set the pace for the show in a very noticeable way too, getting our bloods pumping by the beginning of the show and then gradually calming us down by the end with a peaceful melody by Gackt. Juno Reactor’s Guardian Angel is splendid and I can’t think of any better way to have opened the anime.
Its soundtrack is also a diverse mix of slow piano pieces, guitar solos, fast more trance/techno beats, and even the occasional rap. One wonders when listening to Texhnolyze’s soundtracks how such a violent and depressing anime could have uplifting tracks, and I think that’s one of the qualities of Texhnolyze.
But beyond the sounds, one must realize that Texhnolyze is still a very sensory experience. Just like how the art was used in a way to highlight characters, sound is used pretty extensively as a means of conveying the narrative. The ragged breaths of Ichise as his anger rises up and down, the soft sound of footsteps at a suspenseful moment, the sound of trains, gunfire , shifting of the legs, all these sounds are amplified and brought out in a way that creates such an intense atmosphere that wouldn’t have existed with such good sound editing.
Character – 10/10
The characters in Texhnolyze are deeply flawed, but that’s all part of their charm. I’ve heard many people say that they couldn’t get emotionally attached to these characters, and while I disagree, I think that’s still missing the point.
I’m not a big fan of the phrase “I’m in this show for the characters” because that implies an attachment to certain characters than a show might or might not really need to succeed. There are plenty fans of Eva who find characters like Shinji or Asuka or Rei revolting and still love the show for what it is. The same can be said with a show like Ergo Proxy (and that’s not the only thing asinine about that show).
I happened to love the characters but even so, Texhnolyze offers up very human characters that all have plenty of development and screen time. We understand their motives, their philosophies, and they all add something important to the narrative. Whether it’s Doc and her attempts at bridging the world of man and machine or Onishi with his steadfast sanity that kept the city from falling into utter chaos or Yoshii with an apathy that I have never seen since reading The Stranger, all of these characters have great characterization.
Enjoyment – 10/10
Texhnolyze is not a show for everyone. It’s violent, slow, and almost downright depressing. It’s also not a show where people just sit down and expect a fun experience. It’s thought provoking and tries to create a narrative that’s multi-layered and deep, and it definitely succeeds. It just happens to frighten away a good proportion of the anime fanbase in the process.
I personally thought that Texhnolyze was an intensely enjoyable experience. Every episode was filled with such great world building, characterization, atmosphere, and sometimes even action to admire and think about. I left every episode thinking about something new, and Texhnolyze was enough of an interesting take on cyberpunk that I would say that I came out kind of enlightened and thought about the genre in a different light.
The fact that a lot of the show was up to interpretation was also interesting. Plenty of friends cite how bleak it is, but I happen to think Texhnolyze has some uplifting moments. It offers up that mankind, even down in its darkest moments, is constantly fighting for survival, to live, to find one’s meaning in life. It offers that while technology may be a bane on existence, perhaps there’s something else there, that it helps us forge bonds or become more human than we were. Texhnolyze has these kinds of themes and messages for us, lying in wait. One just has to look for them to understand and enjoy what the show has to offer.
Overall, Texhnolyze is easily one of the best, if not the best, anime I have ever seen. I think I’ve found the words I’ve been meaning to say for a long time.
Texhnolyze is not for everyone, but if one is an anime fan, I highly recommend you give it a shot.
8: Mobile Suit Gundam SEED
English: Mobile Suit Gundam SEED
MAL Score: 7.77
In the year Cosmic Era 0071, the space colony Heliopolis remains neutral in the great war raging across the galaxy between Coordinators, human beings whose biological traits have been altered before birth, and Naturals, unaltered people who remain on the planet Earth. The Naturals’ deep hatred of the Coordinators drove the advanced beings into space, seeking shelter in man-made colonies.
Kira Yamato is a Coordinator and university student on Heliopolis, when his life is thrown into disarray as ZAFT, the military organization composed of rebellious Coordinators, attacks the colony in an effort to steal a set of five state-of-the-art military mobile suits known as Gundams.
While ZAFT manages to make off with four of the mobile suits, Kira take control of the final Gundam, the Strike. Surviving the battle, Kira and his college friends join the crew of the Archangel, a ship run by the Earth Alliance, and the young soldiers experience the horrors of war and the loss that comes with it.
STORY – At this point, you’d have to stretch pretty far to find a Gundam series with a mindblowingly different premise, so there’s no point in really focusing on the fact that yes, this is another series about teenagers in giant robots fighting a war that’s pretty pointless. There is nothing new about Gundam SEED, but then, it deserves points for being able to stand out despite that very fact. For me, one of the most appealing things about SEED was its very easy-to-understand plotline. The root of the war, while decidedly trivial to some extent, is simple. I’m sure more than a few people were confused, and subsequently put off, by the political madness that ravaged the plots of the original Mobile Suit Gundam, as well as newer classics like Gundam Wing, so it was nice to see something so simple come along.
In addition to the war, one of the strongest story points for me was the conflict between Athrun and Kira. The cruelty and tragicness of pitting friend against friend works very well here, and I know I’ve said before that I’m just a sucker for this kind of stuff. For SEED, this conflict was well done, progressed smoothly, and resolved rather satisfactory. It was pretty neat to see the same conflict mirrored later with Dearka and Yzak too. Also, this series was one of the first in a long time to surprise me so much with things happening in the story. People died. People you really didn’t expect to die died. So many people die that at some point, you kind of started wondering if anyone was actually going to live! But despite the number of deaths, you never got the feeling that it was overdone, or that any of the characters’ deaths didn’t have some significance or meaning, and that’s definitely a feat.
Those two aspects of SEED made up for all the cliches that came with being a Gundam series — white mask’s ulterior motive was nothing amazing, and the ending to the war wasn’t anything special either. But by the end of it all, it isn’t the basics of the story that’s important, it’s all the progress you’ve made with the characters and their own personal resolutions.
CHARACTER – The characters in SEED probably contributed the most to gaining my favor. All of them are exceptionally well done. Yes, even the minor characters, which is definitely a rarity in anime. All of them seem like real people; they’re complex and have emotions, motives, flaws. Both of the protagonists are split between a side that has to fight and a side that hurt because of everything that’s happening. After all the stoic personalities in Gundam Wing, it was incredible for me to see characters that would actually cry. On several occasions, even. In fact, for the first half of the series, it seriously surprised me just how much of a crybaby Kira was. But it worked for his character, so even though he kind of turned into a godmodding, self-righteous bastard later on, it was okay.
Kira aside, for me, Athrun was the most interesting character and had the most depth. Throughout the entire series, he was in conflict. And as soon as one conflict was resolved, another would present itself. The poor guy was in constant turmoil, which was really great to see. He was easy to relate to and never grew out of reach like Kira did. Secondary characters like Cagalli and Lacus were also refreshing to see — female characters that had strength to stand up on their own. Indeed, one might venture to say that our male protagonists depended much more on their female counterparts than the other way around, as is traditionally the case.
It would be exhausting to go through the list of other characters, though many of them are also important and very relevant. Suffice to say that there are almost NO flat characters in SEED. All of them have dimension and depth and develop throughout the series. I don’t really think this happens in many other anime.
ARTWORK & ANIMATION – I rather like the art style of SEED (the same people also did Sokyuu no Fafner); it’s pleasing to the eye and works well for the content of the series. The animation itself is pretty average, and I’m still waiting for the day when explosions in the distance graduate from looking like Pacman, but oh well. There’s nothing else really worth noting, but it certainly isn’t an ugly series.
MUSIC – I… adore the music for this entire series. All three instrumental soundtracks are well worth getting! The battle music is strong and epic! The introspection music is interesting and intriguing! The tragic music makes the already tragic scene ten times more touching. It’s just fantastic all around. After the bigshots Yoko Kanno and Yuki Kajiura, it’s Toshihiko Sahashi that makes it on my playlist the most! And the OP/ED themes are pretty much all top notch as well. I’ve been a fan of T.M. Revolution for a long time, so "Invoke" was perfect for the first opening. SEED introduced the world to Nami Tamaki, and I must say I’ve definitely become a fan since her debut. SEE-SAW and Mika Nakashima are always good as well, and even the lesser known artists in the lineup are pretty awesome.
DUBBING & VOCALS – I saw the first half of this series in English but ended up seeing the second half subbed (because SEED was, for some reason, so unpopular that CN shoved it in a death slot). The dub was nothing spectacular certainly, but it was decent. None of the voices were up to par with their Japanese counterparts, but the only one that seriously annoyed me was Richard Cox, and that was mostly because the man can’t seem to change his voice between characters (and thus, the character he voiced sounded like Inuyasha to me). The Japanese cast, on the other hand, is top notch. Akira Ishida as Athrun remains one of my favorite performances ever, and Souichiro Hoshi as Kira was pretty great too. And of course, you can’t forget Rie Tanaka as Lacus — Lacus has several songs she performs within the series and Tanaka is the one singing all of them. It always pleases me when they’re able to do that and helps reaffirm the fact that the Japanese seem to take their voice acting much more seriously than we do.
OVERALL – I know I haven’t seen all of the Gundam series out there, but of those I’ve seen, this is definitely my favorite. The characters come to life and everything else falls into place behind that. A lot of people cling onto Mobile Suit Gundam as the only good one because it’s the original, but though it was a good series that obviously propelled the creation of all subsequent Gundams, for this generation of anime fans, it’s sorely outdated. I really feel like Gundam SEED should be the series taking its place for the post-2000 generation of fans. That statement may bode well in Japan, as this series was wildly popular, but I’m disappointed to see that it failed miserably in the States. Chalk that up to other factors though, ’cause this series is damn good.
The whole series is basically about an ongoing war between the Natural human race and the genetically superior Coordinators. This may seem like a straightforward plotline, however several things push the plot so it is not as simple as it seems. Throughout the series you are left wondering which side is truly the right side to be on. Throughout the series you get to see both sides of the story as much of the Natural’s justifications are shown with Kira and most of Coordinator’s justifications are shown with Athrun.
Because this is a very old series, the art style is very different from the art style today. It’s not to say that it’s bad, but it might take some getting used to for someone who has only started watching anime recently. The battle scenes have a lot of flashing lights and aren’t choreographed too badly. I would say this area is the weakest point of the whole series.
I thought that all of the opening and ending songs really fit the series as a whole. The best music to me was Rie Tanaka’s singing throughout the series. I was really amazed when I first heard her sing has Lacus Clyne because she sung for her own character. In my experience, many people usually get singers to sing their character roles. So I was really impressed that she sung her own song and that she was actually very good at it.
The characters are the strongest point of this series. This series is built on the interaction between the characters. The battles and action almost seems secondary to me compared to the drama occurring between the main characters. This series has a lot of characters that pushed the plotline forward, but the main characters really shone above the others.
Kira Yamato is the main protagonist of the story. During the beginning of the series he really is a normal person with many weaknesses and faults. However as the series progresses, he grows and matures in order to face the trials given to him. I believe Kira’s growth as a person is one of the things that really grabs a viewer. He grows from a weak school student to a leader that many people can count on.
Athrun Zala is another main protagonist of the story. Athrun enters the story on the opposite side of the war as Kira. Their past history of being childhood friends becomes one of the key factors in the story as Athrun and Kira both fight on opposite sides in the war. Athrun’s emotional struggle continues throughout the series as he tries to figure out what is the right thing to do.
Lacus Clyne is one the main female protagonists of the story. While originally appearing as Athrun’s finance, she later becomes Kira’s love interest. Lacus’s first appearance in the series is as a normal girl who doesn’t hold any importance in the war aside from the fact that her father is the High Supreme Councilor of the Coordinators. However as the story progresses, Lacus quickly shows her strength as she rallies up support against the war in face of great opposition.
Cagalli Yula Athha is the other female protagonist. Although very close with Kira in the beginning of the series, she later becomes Athrun’s love interest. She appears in the beginning of the series as a strong woman who is capable of fighting for what she believes in. Later on in the series her heritage of being the daughter of Orb’s leader is revealed.
Gundam Seed is one of my most favorite series of all time. I would say that this is a must see series for all new, incoming anime fans.
GS was considered to be an updated version of the original Mobile Suit Gundam (MSG) for the 21st century, as it deals with more contemporary issues (ie cloning, genetic modification, etc). So it should be no surprise that GS starts out in a very similar vein to MSG. However, this isn’t to say that GS copied MSG, instead GS took the best parts of MSG and improved it. Well at least for the first half of the series. The pacing was a definite improvement as it was nearly flawless, I can’t really separate the episodes easily as they blended so well together which makes GS ideal for marathoning. The story is also very similar, 2 warring factions, political intrigue, and the viewpoint of both sides, typical Gundam. I don’t need to get in to specifics, in general the crew of the <new advanced ship> attempts to escape/fight off another ship and its crew. This is while trying to get to a specific destination and completing various checkpoints. Sure it wasn’t the most original of stories but paired with its fast pace and execution it was damn entertaining in its own right. However, in the case of GS the characters take a much bigger role. While the 1st half was good and entertaining it doesn’t compare to its 2nd half.
The 2nd half was where GS breaks free from its MSG roots and finds its true self. Here, GS really focuses on the characters, in particular the conflict between Kira and Athrun. Not only them, there was a lot of focus on the various character’s conflicts as well as plenty of character development. Here the action/battles take an even more secondary focus and the characters/narrative clearly becomes the primary focus. The overall structure of the story improved tremendously as it’s no longer linear (from checkpoint to checkpoint); instead GS features a more dynamics story structure. Pacing for the 2nd half moves even faster and GS rides this momentum until the very end. However, its not without its faults. The new antagonist introduced felt like they were introduced for the sake of having Gundam battles/make more toys. This is due to them being extremely one-dimensional. Finally, there were quite a few coincidences and illogical moments throughout. For example, when the odds becomes overwhelming Kira or someone else coming out of nowhere to save the day. Considering the overall quality of everything else, those moments can easily be forgiven.
As I mentioned before there was a much bigger focus on the characters in GS than in MSG. For the most part, the characters are multi-dimensional and likeable, the major exception being the newly introduced antagonist in the 2nd half. Kira in particular has gone through quite a bit of development. The angst Kira goes through in the beginning is often exaggerated by some people. If anything Kira is quite admirable, fighting/doing what he has to despite his fears and doubts. He doesn’t let his feelings get in the way of what needs to be done and the only person he’s complained/confided in was Fray. This is unlike Amuro or most of the cast of Zeta where they do whatever they want for no concern for the greater good. However, Athrun get my vote for most complex and interesting character in GS. Not only does he have to deal with having his best friend as an enemy, he also has to deal with his father, own beliefs, etc. Plus he’s a badass when it comes to all forms of combat.
In terms of purely technical merit, GS features good animation and artwork. Rarely does the quality drop. My only major complaint would be with the constant use of recycled animation, a major pet peeve of mine. Also, the action scenes feel a bit uninspired. Gundam shoots, close up of plot screaming, Gundam does a melee attack, close up of pilot and repeat. What made these mecha battles more exciting was the excellent and powerful music. The ost in general is also well done and features some very good insert songs.
Another interesting thing to note would be the recap episodes. Normally, I hate recaps but in the case of GS there were a few that were worth watching. This is because some of the recap episodes actually add background information to the GS universe. Nevertheless a recap episode is still a recap episode and they had far too many. (Not 1 or 2 recap episodes but 4!)
I also have to warn the viewer that GS features many references to other Gundam titles and the Gundam universe in general. References such as newtypes, Char clones, etc will go over the head of viewers not familiar with the Gundam universe. While its not necessary to watch other Gundams to enjoy GS it will most likely increase one’s enjoyment.
GS is easily one of the better mecha anime titles I’ve seen. The first half was light and enjoyable with a fast paced plot, albeit very linear. It feels like the crew of the Archangel was simply moving form checkpoint to checkpoint. When the 2nd half comes the overall quality increases. This is partly due to GS becoming its own and really focus on the character/narrative. The 2nd half was distinctly more serious and dramatic. Plus it takes its momentum and keeps building and building until the very end. Animation and art were all top notch, suffering from a few thing namely, recycled animation and slightly uninspired action scenes. GS also suffered from too many coincidences and illogical moments. Although, considering the quality of everything else, those things can be ignored. In the end Gundam SEED is fast paced entertaining watch, but the true strength of Gundam SEED can be found in the 2nd half with its characters.
7: Wolf’s Rain
English: Wolf’s Rain
MAL Score: 7.81
In a dying world, there exists an ancient legend: when the world ends, the gateway to paradise will be opened. This utopia is the sole salvation for the remnants of life in this barren land, but the legend also dictates that only wolves can find their way to this mythical realm. Though long thought to be extinct, wolves still exist and live amongst humans, disguising themselves through elaborate illusions.
A lone wolf named Kiba finds himself drawn by an intoxicating scent to Freeze City, an impoverished town under the rule of the callous Lord Orkham. Here, Kiba discovers that wolves Hige, Tsume, and Toboe have been drawn in by the same aroma. By following the fragrance of “Lunar Flowers,” said to be the key to opening the door to their ideal world, the wolves set off on a journey across desolate landscapes and crumbling cities to find their legendary promised land. However, they are not the only ones seeking paradise, and those with more sinister intentions will do anything in their power to reach it first.
The music was composed by Yoko Kanno, which means I might not have to say anymore, but I will. All her work is magnificent, but this may be some of her best. Insert songs and orchestration are beautiful as standalone but absolutely MAKE the emotional moments too. It’s a wonderful soundtrack to listen to without the anime, but it never overwhelms the story either, matching the action onscreen beat for beat.
In terms of voice acting, the Japanese is a solid listen, but also, Wolf’s Rain has one of the best dubs ever made. There’s not one askew line in the whole package, and what’s more, while I usually use this time to mention the standout players of the cast, I can’t even do that for Wolf’s Rain. Every single voice actor goes beyond the call of duty in their roles, all of them. Even some of the extras leave a strong impression in their five-minutes in the spotlight. This dub is perfect.
So the production values are top dog, but the real important things are story and characters, right? Well, that’s where your mileage may vary. Some people will shout, “This is brilliant!” only to be echoed by others saying “Uh…what is?”
Wolf’s Rain takes place in a complex fantasy world with a rich history, but doesn’t feel like sharing any of that history with the class directly. This is good because that leads to greater focus on the characters, and almost NO exposition spouting. Speaking of the characters, they all start out as flat archetypes and slowly flesh out into very complex personalities, which is kinda different. Still, this approach of showing very little and telling far less really forces you to think and catch fine details in order to understand why wolves are considered divine, what makes the nobles different from normal human beings, and most importantly, just what happened 200 years ago to make the world what it is in the story. It is possible to figure it all out, but it’s NOT easy.
This is because, and this is a little known fact about the show, Wolf’s Rain is an allegory, whereby most everything is actually symbolic of something else. Pilgrim’s Progress was a religious allegory, The Little Prince was a sociological allegory, and Wolf’s Rain is both, but not as obvious as either of them. The show cross-references several religions and mythologies to portray a unified theme. The wolves face trials of doubt, despair, mistrust, confusion and even a false paradise that offers bliss in exchange for identity, and this is in addition to the villains that hound them. The humans in the story struggle with issues of self-worth, denial, choosing comfort over facing the truth, etc., all leading up to a whizbang climax featuring one noble’s idea of the “perfect city for humans.” Think Brave New World or 1984.
The thing I like about this approach is that it’s subliminal. It’s not like Evangelion or Lain where you know there’s this big philosophy being waggled at you, you may not recognize any of the references in Wolf’s Rain, but its powerful message gets through just fine without mentioning a hedgehog’s dilemma or a god in the Wired. Simply put, Wolf’s Rain is powerful and it will make you think, but you’ll get even more out of it if you’ve say, read Revelation or know anything about Shinto animal symbolism, but the writers don’t expect you to. I learned a lot more about the show after I did some research, but I only researched because it was already fascinating.
If there’s a problem with Wolf’s Rain, it’s the infamous recaps. There are four completely useless recap episodes right in the middle of the show together, and I still don’t know why they are there. Still, this isn’t much of a detriment as all four of them can be skipped without missing any new info. And if you’re buying the DVDs, they’re all on one disc by themselves! Unless you’re a masochist, don’t buy the disc.
In the end, though, even if you want to turn your brain off and be a little confused while you watch, the outward beauty and emotional resonance of the series cannot be denied, even in its fairly controversial conclusion. I’ve watched it through several times now and every single time I discover something new and profound. It’s pure magic, it will make you cry, but I hope in the end you’ll be howling-happy.
All in all, I almost pulled this series down a level because of its slightly alienating religious themes and focus on animals instead of humans, but then I thought, how can I punish a show for being both incredibly deep and refreshingly different? It may not be perfect, and I can’t promise you’ll like it, but it is a quality work of art amongst anime and a whole new breed of fantasy.
*THIS IS A PARTIAL TRANSCRIPT OF MY VIDEO REVIEW WHICH CAN BE FOUND HERE:
Thanks for reading!
Take first, the main character Kiba. He has a goal and he’ll do anything to reach it. But he has two distinct sides to his character. One is his proud, rash, and arrogant self that attacks anything that stands in his way. And the other is a quiet, mysterious, and observing type that is expressed when meeting new friends (For instance, when he was reluctant to say his name to Hige) and whenever he is around Cheza. Though not technically the sorrowful character one would expect him to be in an orphaned and lonely state, he still makes sad connections to his past.
As this was an anime before it became a manga series, BONES (the same company that made Fullmetal Alchemist) had unlimited freedom on where to go with the series. Except for a few “flashback” or “clip” episodes in the middle of the series, there is almost no filler and the pacing of each episode is excellent. The animation is amazing (as expected of BONES) and the music just as well. Beautiful orchestral music is played throughout the series, and, unique to most anime, the opening and ending themes are in perfect English (as are other soundtracks songs during the actual show).
The main story follows an unusual cast of characters, most of which are not even human. Kiba and his crew are all wolves with the power to create the illusion that they are human (though it is not perfect as their shadows and pawprints are still shown through). There are also the typical human characters, like the greedy Dracia that wants Paradise to himself and a pair of lovers that rekindle their relationship through hardship. Plus there’s also the ghost of a cryptic owl that gives advice in proverbs. (Whether or not this is a Legend of Zelda reference is still beyond me)
But there is never a time when an anime can be perfect. There are still plot-holes within Wolf’s Rain. Mainly the ending: It’s open-ended and leaves more to be desired. But as a more thought-provoking series, the ending does its job… Kind of. But besides a few odd turns, Wolf’s Rain is good at creating plot twists. And BONES was so confident about the series that most episodes don’t even end in a cliffhanger. They just find a natural stopping point.
Overall, Wolf’s Rain is an enjoyable series if you love wolves, action, the supernatural, and beautiful music. Though don’t expect it to be happy or provide fan-service.
When I look back at it, I honestly believe that the characters just followed common stereotypes, and really didn’t evolve throughout the plot. The supporting characters were able to garner a little interest from me, but the lead was dull and drab, and the only dialogue I can remember from him is “we have to get to paradise”. A lead character is supposed to get a viewer emotionally attatched, not bore the viewer to tears.
Then there is the plot. Basically it follows a rather dull and drawn out journey to find the wolves “Paradise”, with a few twists and turns along the way. As the characters personalities barely evolve through the course of their journey, the plot becomes tedious, and I found myself not caring at all about the characters and their journey after a few episodes.
Then, there is the final act. To me, the last few episodes feel rushed and poorly thought out, and the story reaches a conclusion where there is no reward for patiently watching the show in its entirety. The show ended on a very vague and sour note, and had kept me in an irritated state for a fair while.
Despite not enjoying the overall plot and the characters, the sound and animation quality of this anime is great. I still find myself listening to pieces of the score to this day to fuel my imagination, which I am very grateful for. I watched the dubbed version, and the voice acting throughout was done well enough. I still despise that opening song, Strays, or whatever it was called, just not my cup of tea.
In conclusion, if more thought was put into the character development and plot, Wolf’s Rain could have potentially been a great anime in my eyes. The shows concept really interested me, and I wanted to like the show, but it sadly didn’t work out the way I wanted it to.
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: Full Moon wo Sagashite
English: Searching for the Full Moon
MAL Score: 7.95
Two years ago, Mitsuki Kouyama’s friend, Eichi Sakurai, moved to America before she could confess her feelings to him. Though she cannot contact him, they made a promise to fulfill their respective dreams: Mitsuki wants to become a professional singer, and Eichi an astronomer. She hopes that one day her music will reach him across the world with a brilliance like that of the full moon.
There is just one catch: Mitsuki suffers from throat cancer, which makes her voice quiet and singing strenuous. Her grandmother, who has a hatred of music, insists that Mitsuki undergo surgery to remove the cancer, but she refuses due to the risk of losing her voice. One day, two shinigami—Meroko Yui and Takuto Kira—appear to tell her that she only has one year left to live. This sudden revelation spurs Mitsuki into action, and she decides that with Meroko and Takuto’s help, she will become a professional singer in the time she has left.
Full Moon wo Sagashite follows the emotional story of Mitsuki and her shinigami friends as they discover what it means to sing—and ultimately, what it means to live.
While Full Moon wo Sagashite may not see like much on the surface — little girl has a life-threatening disease, wants to sing, and becomes sixteen years old with the help of two friendly shinigami — it becomes so much more deeper as the series move on. This anime doesn\’t shrink away from the uncomfortable subjects of death and suicide, and that is wonderfully refreshing. While initially cutesy on the surface, Full Moon wo Sagashite has a deep, moving storyline that touches upon every human emotion. I don\’t think I\’ve ever cried so much while watching an anime, and I doubt any other can truly touch me as much as Full Moon wo Sagashite did.
Many people complain that the first half of the series is comprised of filler episodes. While this may be true when first watching them, I don\’t think the second half would come off nearly as well without those \"fillers\". They developed the characters, showed you who they really were and what they were looking for, and prepared you for the emotional roller coaster that is the second half of Full Moon wo Sagashite. So, even if you\’re bored during the first half, I implore you to see the series to the end. You won\’t regret it.
I initially didn\’t like the character designs all that much, particularly that of Full Moon. After a while, however, the art smoothed out and became even pleasing. So, not the best, but not the worst either.
There\’s only one way to describe the music of Full Moon wo Sagashite: absolutely astounding. Every song (most of which were sung by myco, Mitsuki\’s seiyuu) was wonderful in its own way. While I didn\’t particularly like the two OPs, they grew on me after a while. Still, nothing can touch the four EDs this show has. My personal favorite is New Future, although Eternal Snow is heartbreakingly beautiful.
Another plus of Full Moon wo Sagashite are the characters. Meroko and Izumi have become two of my favorite characters, although Izumi doesn\’t really come into his own in the anime. His soft side is only shown in the last episode, but that moment is definitely worth it.
The one quibble I have concerning the characters is that their back stories aren\’t as fully explained as they were in the manga. Meroko and Izumi\’s pasts are barely brushed upon, which is a real disappointment. Still, Meroko comes off as one of the best — if not THE best — characters in the entire series.
I will never forget watching Full Moon wo Sagashite. It is certainly an experience, especially for the last fifteen or so episodes.
One thing that really struck me was the ending. I\’ve never come across an anime with such a perfect ending. Everything was tied up, and the emotions that came across were just… mind-blowing. I think I actually sobbed the entire last episode.
So, as a parting note, I urge you to give Full Moon wo Sagashite a try. I did, and it became one of my top five anime.
Pros: Incredible story, characters, and music; best anime ending EVER
Cons: So-so character design at times, not enough back story
Story – 10/10
At first, this looks like the typical shoujo series directed at young girls, thanks to all the bright colours and cute characters. From the synopsis, it looks like a sad and depressing anime about death. But it’s so much more than that.
We meet the main character, Mitsuki, who is a young girl with throat cancer and whose biggest dream is to become a great singer and maybe one day meet the boy she loves, but who left for America two years ago. One day she is visited by two death gods (the Shinigami) – Takuto and Meroko, who tell her she only has one year to live. But instead of sulking and feeling sorry for herself, Mitsuki decides that since she only has one year, she’ll make the best of it. Instead of being stuck at home, always worrying about her health, she’ll give it all and try to achieve her dream of a singing career. When she goes to audition, the shinigami Takuto decides to help her a little bit, by transforming her body into a healthy 16-year-old. Against all odds, Mitsuki is chosen at the audition. In that moment, even going against the Shinigami rules, Takuto and Meroko decide to help her with her dream, in the time that she has left.
This series is slightly similar to the "magical girl" genre (examples: Fancy Lala, Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne or Pretear), but not exactly. Takuto has the ability to transform Mitsuki’s body into a healthy 16-year-old’s, but she doesn’t gain magical powers. Even though this is a show about a dying girl, it manages to be very positive and inspiring. There’s a very good mixture of comedy and drama, with some scenes that will make you laugh hard and others that will make you cry like a baby.
In the first half of the series there are a lot of filler episodes. I guess they contribute to the development of the characters and to add realism to the story. As Mitsuki progresses in her career, she has to go through photoshoots, sound checks, clothes’ design, interviews, autograph sessions, etc. If you’re patient and watch that, you’ll get to the good stuff.
In the later half, there are considerably less filler episodes. The plot gets much more complex and interesting. The mood changes to a darker tone. The last 13 episodes are really the best ones and will make you stick to the screen waiting to see what happens. There are a few plot twists.
At last, the ending. I’d say it’s the BEST ending in anime that I’ve ever watched. There are no loose ends. Everything gets explained.
Visuals – 8/10
The light colours really make it look like an anime for young kids. I’d compare the overall visuals of this anime to those of Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne. The characters were appealing and the shading was well done. Don’t expect something 3D-like. There is little computer animation, only present in a few scenes. But although simple, I though it had good visuals.
Audio – 9/10
Full Moon wo Sagashite has one of the best anime soundtracks ever. Even though you’ll hear many, many times songs like "Myself" or "Eternal Snow", you’ll never grow tired of them. "Myself", "Eternal Snow", "New Future", "Smile" and "Love Chronicle", by the band Changin’ My Life, are sang by Myco, who is Mitsuki’s voice actress. So you don’t have to worry about Mitsuki’s 12-year-old voice being different from the 16-year-old… because they were done by the same person.
I absolutely hated the openings. "I Love You" and "Rock’n’Roll Princess" by The*Scanty. Why? First because they don’t sound good. Second because they make the whole anime look so childish that only 4-year-olds would watch it. Ignore the openings! The anime isn’t THAT childish!
And, best for last, the voice actor for Takuto, Yasuo Saitou. He has a really nice voice and can be very expressive. But best of all, there are scenes where he has to sing… and he does it perfectly.
Characters – 9/10
This anime has all kinds of characters. Some that you’ll instantly fall in love with, others that you’ll instantly hate. And you might even change your opinion on a few of them, once you get to know them better. I really like the character development in this anime. You’ll progressively learn more about each character… it’s motivations or even it’s past. You’ll be impressed! Each character is unique in it’s own way and you can’t apply a stereotype to it. They interact extremely well with each other and you’ll definitely feel connected to them.
Overall – 9/10
I absolutely loved this anime. At first I thought it was really childish, but my friends ASSURED me it was worth watching… so I endured the more boring parts and kept watching… and it was totally worth it. It has become my favourite one. You’ll want to re-watch it many times, even if it does have 52 episodes. I’ve watched the whole thing 3 times, in 6 months.
The anime is very different from the manga, but it’s still faithful. And you’ll find this intersting: when they made the ending for this anime, the manga still hadn’t ended. But still, they made an extremely good ending.
Give it a try! It’ll be worth it! No matter how old you are or even if you’re a guy or a girl, it can be appreciated by anyone!
“Full Moon wo Sagashite” is quite a heart warming anime about a little girl who wants to become a singer, but only has one year to live because of the tumour in her throat. Spanning 52 episodes, it was one of the longest anime I watched at the time. To be honest, I think it could have been amazing if it was reduced to half its length – I found the series as a whole to be a bit of a struggle to get through, as most of the episodes up until about episode 40 are actually disposable, girly fluff. Watching “Full Moon wo Sagashite” will pretty much give you the very definition of what a “filler” episode is, because it contains so many of them. I disagree with people who say that these fillers are necessary for character developments purposes – most of them they don’t really reveal much beyond the fact that Mitsuki is a boringly nice person. I’ve seen anime that’s done waaay more and waaaay better character development in its first THIRTEEN episodes than this anime’s done in its first THIRTY *cough*SeikaiNoMonshou*cough*, which just goes to show you don’t need a mass of filler episodes to do a decent a job. Most of these fillers aren’t even very enjoyable to watch. They’re mostly very generic shoujo material and generally fall somewhere between the “dull” and the “mediocre” sections of the scale in terms of entertainment. This is not to say the first 40 episodes of “Full Moon wo Sagashite” is totally worthless. Some of those episodes do progress the storyline a bit (like, a couple of inches) and there are some pretty good standalone episodes as well, but they tend to be few and far in between.
Another thing I found odd is why everyone seem to rate the music from “Full Moon wo Sagashite” so highly – just because it’s an anime about music doesn’t automatically make the music on it good. To me, the music production for “Full Moon wo Sagashite” is very good at best and awkward at worst. For starters, what’s up with Mitsuki’s singing voice? Her voice sounds nice when she talks, and fits that pure and innocent image that she plays, but when she sings, she sounds completely different, and not in a good way. For one thing, she sounds about 10 years older, and her voice has an irritating sandy quality to it. For another, she sounds like she’s trying too hard to inject emotions into the songs, to the point where she starts to sound really fake and unnatural. I’m really surprised to hear the person who does Mitsuki’s voice is a pop star – I’d never have guessed from her singing. It really says a lot when I much prefer the music box version of “Eternal Snow” to the proper vocal version. In fact I don’t think much of the vocal tracks in general. Normally, it is expected that that music in an anime would supplement the show by enhancing the atmosphere. But some of the vocal songs in this series are so bland that at times, it feels like it’s the anime that’s supplementing *them*, causing them to sound better than they actually are by playing them during emotional moments. In addition to this, a lot songs are criminally overplayed… especially the more mediocre ones, which might have been a good thing in a way, because it took quite a few hearings before I got used to the grating vocals. The background music proved to be far superior than the vocal tracks. From the gentle, warm moments to the occasional eerie, chilling ones, it consistently does the job perfectly whenever called upon.
The original idea behind story’s was good, especially with twists building up towards the end, but it is diluted by the massive amounts of filler episodes and took too long to get going. There are times when any resemblance of realism goes out of the window. Normally this happens when Mitsuki’s talking to her shinigumi friends in a dead loud voice – even shouting at times – with other people standing around. She could at least pretend to whisper, but no, she has to talk in her normal voice and it seems that hardly anyone notices, which really bugs me. An example of how it could have been done better would be in “Hikaru no Go”, where people would actually look at Hikaru weirdly when he gets too noisy interacting with the spirit. There’s also the cancer aspect that’s so wrapped up in sugar coating that it’s totally unconvincing. Like many people, I’ve experienced the pain of losing someone close to me to cancer, and the fact that this anime completely failed to connect to me on this front is saying an awful lot. All they’ve done is have Mitsuki clutch at her throat every 10 episodes or so, and occasionally fall ill at the storyline’s convenience, for the most part there is no sense of urgency, no resemblance of the terrifying progression that’s so typical of the condition. All I’m left with is a sense that it’s just essentially used as a plot device, and not much more than that.
“Full Moon wo Sagashite” has got some good characters, but again, they’re no where near as good as they’re hyped up to be, and they don’t really do much in the early part of the series (when there’s a downpour of the supposedly character developing filler episodes, ironically), and only broke out of their 2D personalities when the plot got going later on. I also have major issues with the relationships that goes on in the anime, specifically with the romance aspect of it. I’m surprised that not many people have said anything about this, but hasn’t anyone else noticed that when Eichi, the boy Mitsuki’s in love with, made his “declaration of love” to her, he was about 15-16 and Mitsuki was about 10?! Is it just me that finds this a “tad” unrealistic, not to mention a “tad” dodgy as well?! I can kind of imagine where Mitsuki’s feelings might come from, but Eichi should know better at his age than to try and seduce a 10 year old 😛 Perhaps Eichi should change his name to “Ecchi”, as that’s more inline with the kind of things he seems to be into. I don’t know why they insisted on making this a romantic relationship – it would have been far more appropriate to play the relationship off as a big brother and little sister one rather than this sickening “ooooh Mitsuki, I love you! Even though I’m nearly a young adult now and you’ve barely entered double figures in terms of age” cack. Those scenes never failed to make me cringe. Also, Takuto was supposed to be 12 when he was in a band (yeah this seems a bit young too, considering his band didn’t exactly look like a kids band), so why is he seen riding a motorbike during one of the flashbacks? Now, the explanation may be because he was in the band for a number of years during which time he’d grown up into an adult and was able to learn to ride a motorbike… but this raises the question of why he started falling for a 12 year old girl if he was already so old when he became a shinigumi?!? I wasn’t under any impression that the anime is trying to portray all the boys in it as perverts. What is this obsession with shoehorning romance into absolutely everything these days? Is it really so hard making a shoujo without resorting to this? It’s because of this apparent obligation to make a love story that we’re stuck with these plot holes and rather contrived relationships.
This otherwise stale series is salvaged from mediocrity by the sheer brilliance of its final ten or so episodes that really breathed life into the show. I always thought there was too much sunshine in the early episodes given the premises of the story, but here, the anime rectifies the situation by taking a darker and more depressing turn. With the previously pedestrian story suddenly breaking into a sprint, and the character interactions suddenly becoming interesting, it’s here that the anime really starts to earn its praise. It’s so good that it’s probably worth wading through the previous 40 episodes just so you can watch the last 10. With so many compelling twists happening in the last part of the story, I was actually expecting something more original than the most cliched ending imaginable that I got, especially considering that it’s so often touted to be “the best ending ever”. Still, I’ll admit it is a very good ending – they’ve taken something pretty predictable and executed it pretty much to perfection – but like the rest of the anime, it’s just no where near deserving its “best” label.
Overall, I think “Full Moon wo Sagashite” is an enjoyable, “feel-good” anime, even if it did need the last ten or so episodes to drag it kicking and screaming up to this level of praise. I think the makers made a pretty cunning decision to save those best parts till last – I suspect the strength of those later episodes made people forget how unremarkable most of the rest of the series is. I however, haven’t forgotten, and I stand by my claim that this should really have been condensed down to 26 episodes, not left at 52.
4: Hanada Shounen-shi
MAL Score: 8.00
Ichiro Hanada is a hyperactive little boy who lives with his parents, sister, and grandfather in a rural town. He is always up to some kind of mischief, often teasing his sister or making rude comments to others. Consequently, his mother constantly scolds him, and even the neighbours express disturbance from time to time on how rowdy he can be.
One day, after pulling a terrible prank, Ichiro sprints onto the streets as his mother chases him. He steals a nearby bicycle and takes on a dangerous route, eventually being hit by a truck. Miraculously, he survives the crash, requiring nine stitches to the back of his head and balding for the surgery. However, the near-death experience gains him the ability to see ghosts—the last thing he needs in his life.
Since Ichiro is the only one who can communicate with them, several ghosts of people who have recently died come to him, seeking help to fulfill their last wishes before achieving enlightenment. Each adventure with a ghost leaves the young and curious boy with a different lesson that gradually makes him wiser.
Above all, it’s really, really funny.
While it’s not for the very young (there is some brief nudity, some fairly mature emotional stuff, and Ichiro swears like a sailor at his mother), the many qualities of the show should appeal to a fairly wide range of people.
We meet young Ichiro Hanada doing what he does best – fighting with his mother. He sasses and insults her constantly, and argues with his entire family, who certainly don’t pull any punches with him, either. His happy-drunk father and grandfather often tease him relentlessly. He also really loves to eat. Of course, Ichiro’s selfishness and foul temper make him bring it all on himself. In fact, it’s while fleeing from a fight with his mother that he gets into the accident which sets the story in motion.
Ichiro is hit by a truck, and has a near-death experience. He has a vision of his recently deceased grandmother, who helps him get back to his body and wake up in the hospital, still alive. None of this affects Ichiro’s temperament, however. The only difference is that he now has a scar across the back of his head, which was shaved bald for the surgery. And for some reason his hair won’t grow back.
Ichiro soon learns that he can see and hear spirits. He has no idea what’s going on, and gets frightened when the first one appears. It turns out that his accident gave him the special ability to communicate with the spirits of those who have just died but have not yet "passed on" to the other side. They all seem to have some unfinished business keeping them in limbo, and they enlist Ichiro’s help. Naturally, Ichiro hates it, and refuses, and at first the ghosts have to resort to scaring him half to death to get him to cooperate.
Eventually, he gets used to the nagging spirits. They come in all sorts of varieties, and have different reasons for seeking Ichiro’s help. There’s the father who wants to tell his son that it’s okay for his mother to marry again, an old man who happened to die in an undignified position and needs help, and a student who died while still a virgin and wants to see a naked woman before he goes. There’s even a phony medium who, although she used to con people by pretending to be clairvoyant, actually developed real powers as a spirit.
Ichiro goes through a lot of personal trials in the midst of all this, slowly but surely learning not to be such a little monster. He learns a different lesson on life from each adventure with a spirit.
The series ends in a nice place, but the manga is apparently still going. Ichiro eventually grows up, and his ability to see spirits is passed on to his son. It would be great to see some new animated adventures at some point, so long as it’s done with the same care and skill.
What makes this show so great is like Mushishi (which is the depressing mature version of this) its episodic yet doesnt follow the same pattern making it unpredictable and engaging as not every episode has a happy ending, some tragic, some funny and some out right inspirational.
Dont let the cover fool you, this is a seinen anime and gets better after every episode. My only hang with it is the awful opening and eding choices of songs, other than that, this show is flawless
Right from the start we got introduced to Ichiro Hanada, a mischievous boy – as all kids should be. He’s always cursing everyone around him and doing stuff that drive them crazy. One faithful day, he got himself in a traffic accident. Fortunately, he’s safe but after that near-death experience, he found himself seeing ghost and from there the journey of our little reluctant hero begins.
This anime took a very different approach from the usual. It’s very straightforward, aggressive and surprisingly heart-warming. Its story is divided into small arcs when little Ichiro have to deal with the ghost’s problems. And that’s the shining part of this show, the plots of this anime is simple yet engaging, lovely to watch and in the same time, pretty touching. It shows that you don’t need big words or complicated problems to make a good story, keep it simple and close to the heart is what make the experiences watching Hanada Shounen-shi unforgettable.
And then the characters, my god, are lovable. They interact with each other like human beings, not cliched characters we often see on screen nowadays. With Ichiro in the spotlight, this anime succeeded in keeping the viewers in seat. Ichiro is a kind-hearted kid, he might talk a little too rude but he got good intentions with him. He’s also unpredictable. Watching him is such a joy. The humour of Hanada Shounen-shi is often on point with slight moments of offensive.
Overall, Hanada Shounen-shi is a case where you should not judge a book by its cover. You will miss out a lot on this amazing anime with full of heart-touching moments and happiness. I realize how important the people around to me now after watching this show.
3: 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.”
2: Princess Tutu
English: Princess Tutu
MAL Score: 8.13
In a fairy tale come to life, the clumsy, sweet, and gentle Ahiru (Japanese for “duck”) seems like an unlikely protagonist. In reality, Ahiru is just as magical as the talking cats and crocodiles that inhabit her town—for Ahiru really is a duck! Transformed by the mysterious Drosselmeyer into a human girl, Ahiru soon learns the reason for her existence. Using her magical egg-shaped pendant, Ahiru can transform into Princess Tutu—a beautiful and talented ballet dancer whose dances relieve people of the turmoil in their hearts. With her newfound ability, Ahiru accepts the challenge of collecting the lost shards of her prince’s heart, for long ago he had shattered it in order to seal an evil raven away for all eternity.
Princess Tutu is a tale of heroes and their struggle against fate. Their beliefs, their feelings, and ultimately their actions will determine whether this fairy tale can reach its “happily ever after.”
There were few reasons for me to watch Princess Tutu, but I still had a strange feeling about it. Today I regret not having watched it sooner for what I saw was one of the most engaging, clever and downright beautiful shows I had ever seen, overflowing with soul and passion.
Story: A unique fairytale which goes far beyond it’s limitations. Masterfully written, the story is a perfect blend of powerful moments, unexpected twists, comedy and romance. The fairytale structure takes the best out of classic ballets and weaves a story that is both coherent and diverse. The endings to both seasons are particularly outstanding.
Art: The series has a stylized and clean art style combined with great animation. Although I felt it fit the series very well, not everyone feels that way. Some believe the art style is a bit too girly or misleading, but it actually fits the fairytale theme very well. The backgrounds are great and the ballet scenes are beautifully animated (although some use too many stills which, even though beautiful, aren’t as good as the animated moments).
Sound: The "coup-de-grace" of the show, the soundtrack doesn’t simply support the show: it is part of the story itself. Each episode is accompanied by a certain ballet suite and takes the most advantage of it. The suites were carefully chosen and superbly performed by a bulgarian orchestra. I had heard many of them before and I was amazed by the quality of the performance. Every single note fits perfectly and sounds delightful, even the songs that were composed for the show. Truly mindblowing, the music adds a whole new layer of depth to it. The voices and dialog are also very good and fitting.
Characters: With such a great story and soundtrack, some would think that the development team wouldn’t be focused on character development. Wrong. All characters are believable, feel real and evolve throughout the story. Even secondary characters show a glowing spirit that many main characters wish they had. If you allow yourself to, you will be able to feel a strong bond and sympathy for those characters, even those you didn’t expect. The multi-layered Ahiru is an amazing and strong main character, and the others will surprise you as well. Not only do characters evolve but they also take advantage of a distinct way to show their "persona": dance.
Enjoyment: A show that you won’t be able to put down until you finish it. The episodes are so engaging and fantastic it’s easy to get sucked in. A surprisingly rich experience you won’t find anywhere else. Surprisingly, I found myself rewatching several scenes shortly after finishing the show. I recommend you to use headphones so that you don’t miss a single note of this visual and musical wonder.
Overall, Princess Tutu is a living, breathing anime that, unlike most magical-shoujo shows, truly feels magical. Yes, I may sound cheesy, lame and corny, but don’t miss out on this unique gem. A true masterpiece.
Story and Characters:
Well, the series starts off a little cliche and trope ridden. In fact, I had subconsciously made a list of every cliche I expected to play out during the series. But boy by the end of that series was I eating that list right back, this series completely redefines how magical girl series can be done. The series frequently takes plot lines and ideas from ballets and other classical pieces of music and then it takes all of them to make its own original and unique thing. And to anyone as concerned with the girly factor as I was, I really didn’t find any of the main plot as overly girly as I was expecting (I found it mildly girly to be fair). The ending has to be one of the best and most rewarding endings I’ve seen in an anime ever, this is a series that definitely delivers, even if you didn’t know what you wanted delivered.
Characters designs and animation are all crisp and beautiful and fit into the world so incredibly well. There’s also frequent CGI at times that is never jarring and fits ever so perfectly. But sound is where is where it was really at for me, having been an already existing fan of classical music. The series didn’t just use common pieces all the time, it used whatever piece fit, no matter how obscure and the series was made better for it. All the pieces that they picked intensified the mood of whatever scene it was in to make a perfect compliment. I’m not sure if I’ll ever find soundtrack usage this perfect again personally. It wasn’t only about having a strong soundtrack, but it was also about using it well.
This is one of my very few 10 series and quite possibly my favorite anime of all time. I think this series should be seen by everyone, you’ll find a lovely diamond in the rough with a great and memorable story. I really can’t think of anything else quite like it, this is a must watch.
Like all good fairy tales, the story is most crucial. It must be whimsical yet cautionary, quickly paced, and tightly-knit. Tutu follows this formula well, though not so much the "quickly paced" bit. This is because Tutu has an episodic monster-of-the-week nature that can become an irritance, and would have been if every episode didn’t, in some way, tie directly back to the main story. Much like director Junichi Sato’s other hidden gem Kaleido Star, the story is broken into two distinct parts, which while seperate, are directly connected. This storytelling works best in that it provides two distinct and memorable climaxes while never feeling rushed or out-of-place.
The main story itself is flawless. A fantastic tribute to the forgotten and oft-dismissed power of fairy tales and ballet, whimsical enough to never forget its true nature, and dark enough to invest interest and revoke the idea of it just being a children’s show.
It’s characters range from the absurd to the sinister and some even manage to play both during the course of the series. The characters alone are uniquely crafted. Though some follow certain Junichi Sato molds, such as Fakir and Mythos, Ahiru stands out as a subversion of the cheerful, determined heroine his works are often known for in that her efforts do not always deem satisfaction, and her ultimate goal is not met with her ideal ending. Everyone interacts sincere to their motives and personalities and no one ever feels like they’re doing something they shouldn’t be.
Of course the art, provided by Sato’s mainstay HAL Film Maker is divine. Every scene is fluid and graceful, especially the dance numbers. Character designs and backgrounds are very imaginative and hold the Germanic fairy tale motif that the series sets for itself.
The accompaniment for the series is a numerous array of classical music and ballet numbers, most of which will be recognizable by ear even if you can’t remember the name of what you’re hearing. Moreso, the music provides a direct parallel to the conflict in each scene it is used, and often scenes are choreographed around the music, making for dramatic impact mostly unparalleled.
Yes, the title is a turn-off, and I’m sure many of you out there think ballet is for 6-year-old girls, but Tutu takes the most universal and respected elements of the things children love and craft something everyone can and most likely will enjoy. Though it trudges in a few places, Tutu never forgets where it’s going. It’s magical waltz always catches up and makes sure it ends on the best note it can.
Overall, I give Princess Tutu a 9 out of 10.
MAL Score: 8.29
In 2075, space travel is no longer just a dream, but an everyday reality for mankind. Advancements in science and technology have led to the colonization of the moon, the commercialization of outer space, and the formation of large space corporations. Ai Tanabe, an upbeat woman whose interests lie in the cosmos, joins Technora Corporation as a member of their Debris Section, a department dedicated to the removal of dangerous space junk between the orbits of the Earth and Moon.
However, Ai soon discovers how unappreciated her job is. As the laughingstock of Technora, the Debris Section is severely understaffed, poorly funded, and is forced to use a dilapidated spaceship nicknamed the “Toy Box” for debris retrieval. Undeterred, Ai perseveres and gradually becomes acquainted with the strange personalities that make up the Debris Section’s staff, such as the bumbling but good-natured chief clerk Philippe Myers; the mysterious and tight-lipped temp worker Edelgard Rivera; and the hotheaded and passionate Hachirouta Hoshino, who longs for a spaceship to call his own.
Planetes is an unconventional sci-fi series that portrays the vastness of space as a backdrop for the personal lives of ordinary people—people who may have been born on Earth, but whose hopes and dreams lie amongst the stars.
With that being said, on with the review.
Story: Planetes starts off rather slow. In fact, the "main" story doesn’t even really pick up until about episode 10 or so. Before that, you’re introduced to character personalities and dreams/motives. This is absolutely necessary though, because without this strong intro, the latter part of the show wouldn’t have had nearly the same kind of effect.
Animation: The animiation is pretty well done. CGI is used in quite a few scenes and I didn’t notice any problems. My only beef is that I didn’t fall in love with the character designs too much. They’re good, but I think a few characters got shafted.
Sound: Probably the most lacking area in the series in my opinion. The intro is decent, but hardly anything special. The background music throughout the show is bland and never really stands out. The only music that ever really caught my attention was the ending theme, and it’s not wonderful either. I should mention that the Seiyuu’s did an excellent job though.
Character: Characters are definitely the biggest plus to Planetes. Hachimaki and Ai are excellent leading characters. The other crew members are nearly equally as interesting as them too. Everyone, like most shows, has their own problems and own ambitions. Planetes does a great job at detailing each character.
Enjoyment: Took me 4 days to complete the show (could have done it sooner if school wasn’t taking my time). 26 eps in 4 days usually constitutes hard core enjoyable watching. 🙂 This is a feel good Anime (well, most of it is at least), so what’s not to enjoy?
Overall: This needs to become more popular! It deserves better than only a couple hundreds watchers. Take the time and watch it.
Planetes starts about how you might expect a show with such an odd premise to begin. It’s a very quirky show, practically a comedy/sitcom type show. The first 13 episodes or so are all episodic, there’s lots of laugh, and the show rarely takes itself too seriously. At this point I would call the show very good. It was entertaining, but, I never felt compelled to watch the next episode immediately after finishing one. I’d be fine to wait a while before booting up a new episode.
And then, the second half of the show begins. This is where arcs begin to start, the show starts to have more continuity, and basically, it becomes more of a serious space drama show. This is when the show really kicks it up a notch and becomes the masterpiece I think it is. The second half of the show offers some incredibly intense moments, lots of philosophical talk about whether space development is really needed for mankind, and some awesome character development.
In fact, all 26 episodes of Planetes have some amazing character development. All the characters on the space debris crew have at least one episode where they get a decent amount of focus. In fact, pretty much everyone who gets a decent amount of screen time gets fleshed out. It’s actually pretty amazing. All the characters are also very real feeling. I think I could see a lot of these characters in real life. And because of that, you see most of the characters good sides and ugly sides. There may be times when you dislike a character that you once liked, especially with the main character, Hachimaki. This as a whole makes the characters feel even more authentic though.
The most interesting thing about Planetes characters isn’t just how they develop, but how they interact. Events happen, and over the course of the show, almost all the characters change in some ways. In a lot of shows, despite character development, all the characters seem to interact with each other in mostly the same way, but in Planetes, all the interactions become different as characters change and know each other better. They even realize when someone has changes. It’s a cool dynamic and adds a lot to the show.
Planetes is pretty short, and I never thought it got stale at all throughout the whole ride. I think it helped a lot that the show was more of a comedy in the first half. When the switch is made to more of a drama, the change of pace helps things to never get boring.
The best part of Planetes as a whole though is the way it makes you think. You will find yourself thinking a lot about this fictional world, and also about how it applies to the world today. The messages the show sends are kind of “in your face”, but they are only in your face when it comes to the world Planetes is set in. It takes some thinking to really apply it to our world today, so I don’t think anyone will really be put off by it.
Planetes art and sound are also pretty fantastic. I thought all the animation was pretty crisp and they do a good job crafting characters that look just as unique from each other as their personalities are. The sound is really awesome too, the opening theme is especially cool. The only flaw is that, the ending theme is very happy and perky, which worked perfectly for the first half of the show, however, in the 2nd half of the show, when the show gets serious, it gets flat out awkward. For example, someone will be pointing a gun at someone, the episode ends, and then some of the happiest music you could imagine comes on. It’s not a big deal, but it can kind of ruin the intensity that the episode just left you with.
Despite the lack of action, I think this is a show almost anyone can enjoy. It’s smart, has great character development, and can be very intense. I highly reccomend it to anyone.
One of the greatest strengths of Planetes is that just like the content it covers, the story it’s wrapped up in is also progressive, despite what the sheep’s clothing it wears would have you believe. It doesn’t try to maintain a status quo like most shows tend to but instead is constantly expanding, going through methodically built up stages of change, both in its plotting and character involvement. Upon my initial viewing, I thought I was going to watch a simple tale of the daily lives of garbage collectors, and while the 1st handful of episodes fooled me into taking on that presumption, what I walked away with was something far more ambitious. An undertaking rarely achieved in storytelling of this magnitude.
The 1st half of the show places all of its characters in a container and shakes it up to see what type of interactions would blossom when their ideals collide, while also giving us insight into their motives for joining the trash collecting division. These build up episodes are essential since they set in motion the continuous metamorphosis we’re treated to as the narrative threads converge to create the bigger story. Dealing with themes of pro-ecology, corporate hierarchy, and geopolitical ethics, to name a few, the show never skittishly avoids taking on material that others would actively divert its content away from. It could have quickly just dealt with the everyday life of living in space and called it a day but because it bothered to show all sides, both pros and cons of societal expansion, it ended up embracing all truths of what a space inhabited humanity would become. If we carve up imaginary borders on Earth, it stands to reason that that selfish mindset would only seep out as we conquer the heavens as well.
In the hands of less capable creators, this could have easily become an overzealous, preachy “let’s make love, not war” kind of narrative. All it would have taken was a blatant “EVIL CORP” conglomerate pumping toxic fumes everywhere while laughing maniacally on their misdeeds or any other forceful narrative turn that someone like Michael Bay would incorporate with a copious amount of cleavage and explosions. From the macroeconomic relationship between 1st and 3rd world countries to the individualistic struggles of our characters navigating their way through a changing world, everything here was handled responsibly. Planetes is a show that knows when to unwind but never forgets to deliver its messages during pivotal moments.
For any other show, just being able to pull this off would have been enough, but for Planetes, that’s only the main course meal, as it also manages to treat us to dessert with a heartwarming romance that grows along with the narrative the further we plunge forward. And since the core characters involved are comprised entirely of adults, this romance bothers to go somewhere, unlike the typical high-school drama shows that does a “would or wouldn’t they” scenario to only end it with a confession. Of course, this isn’t to say that Planetes delivered the best romance for your price of admission but rather, for a show where romance was never the core focus, to begin with, what we got was still conclusive and satisfactory. Effectively making it a better love story than other shows that are primarily just that, which was more than I ever expected from it.
Another surprising turn of events was just how well the art and animation held up.
The attention to detail was just superb. Just the little things included that would usually go unnoticed by the untrained eye, like the emphasis placed on the widgets, body mechanics in the environment of space, and the functionality of devices used, all helped in turning this piece of fiction into something science-plausible. It all added to the practicality of the scenarios we were introduced to, giving off this feeling that the people behind the show’s creation truly cared about immersing the viewer into the project. The color choices were also utilized well, with monochromatic layouts used to emphasize the isolation and vastness of space, to the vibrant hues of luminescent blues used to give off a sense of warmth that radiated from earth. It’s little things like this that brought the show to life. Of course, since it was made back in 2003, a time when animators were still tinkering with new digital technology, there were some influxes in quality-control to be found; like the usage of CGI in certain scenes and some characters being drawn off model. But overall, the title aged incredibly well, especially when taking into consideration other shows made during the same period. With a telling eye for detail and proper understanding of color placement, Planetes has bought itself a longer shelf-life than many of its competition.
And for a show as far-reaching as this one, a soundtrack of equal proportions was also needed. Thankfully, that’s precisely what we got.
With booming brass sections, choirs humming along to percussion wizardry and string instruments that never missed a chance to join in; the music was a real treat, even deserving of a stand-alone listen. I can’t help but think of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey when I sit back and listen to it (as smarmy as that may sound). It’s just a score that grows on you the more you listen to it, made even more memorable given the title it’s attached to. What’s probably more surprising than the technical proficiency of it is that it never oversteps its boundary during the show’s run-time. Instead of drowning out any given scene, it instead operates as a companion piece; only there as a tool to punctuate the message. Some may think it’s being underutilized, but I believe it’s the creators knowing when to let the tunes elevate the material and knowing when to practice restraint. From the more boisterous tracks to the subdued ones, they were all used accordingly. The opening theme was also catchy and fit the overall feeling the show gave off. Although not much of a favorite for me, it was still memorable and one I rarely skipped.
And with all that Planetes had going for it, ultimately what sold the experience for me was the cast itself.
Characters often serve as the audience’s gateway into a show’s universe and can often be what makes or breaks the experience, even if everything else is fine-tuned. Without characters that we as viewers would like to latch on to, immersion is usually harder to achieve. With that being said, Planete’s cast was nothing short of amazing and arguably the show’s greatest highlight. And since the show spanned across vast distances, due to the content it chose to cover, the cast was equally as big to compensate for that. For the sake of brevity, I’ll only cover the two main leads.
Hachirota Hoshino, or Hachimaki, as his peers call him, can best be summed up as an ambitious, yet abrasive delinquent. When introduced, he’s made out to be your garden variety of schmuck who feels stuck in a dead-end job. Of course, as the show goes on, we get to learn about him as an individual and what formed him to be the person he is today. And what initially started out as a debut for a simpleton upon first encounter was gradually revealed to be much more as things shifted into focus. Exposing a latent animosity that was spurred on by reckless ambition, Planetes slowly divulges into the self-reflection of a man who was at first negligent to his complacency, accepting the cards that life dealt him, until being placed in a corner where that way of thinking was no longer viable. As the narrative of Planetes expands, so too does Hachimaki, as he explores parts of himself he didn’t know was there in the first place. What makes him compelling as a character was these very blemishes that he tried desperately to ignore. He isn’t some Gary Stu that has everything handed to him on a silver platter but just a regular person who dreams big but often limits himself in fear of not reaching his goals. Planetes understands the crushing defeat of life—and with Hachimaki being used as its conduit—never shies away from addressing it.
And to counterbalance Hachimaki’s personality, we’re given a 2nd lead that stands as the antithesis of him.
Ai Tanabe is your uber-idealistic individual who’s naivety is apparent from the moment she makes her grand entrance. Her bold and often stubborn conviction frequently causes her to butt heads with Hachimaki. Although her character type has seen many times before, Planetes makes an active effort in assuring that she goes through the proper character growth that comes with the drastic life change she decides for herself. But possibly the most significant draw to her as a character is seeing the gradual relationship form between her and Hachimaki. Often tested by circumstances around them, their relationship can be seen as a direct reflection of the narrative’s twists and turns.
The gradual development of the leads was also well paced and stayed constant with the progressive themes of the anime. It showed that anything worth striving for requires effort. It’s a show that bastardizes complacency by either having the characters move forward or be left behind by the changing times. Whether it be an external goal like with our protagonist Hachi or an internal one like Ai’s challenged conviction, nothing was left to just stagnate.
Big or small, every characters’ roles helped define Planetes and everything the show stood for. Every story beat, character moment, big displays and quiet moments, coalesced into a theatrical display of the endeavors we all collectively go through in pursuit of the unknown lying beyond the ether.
The repertoire of what I consider to be masterpiece-level titles is quite small, and Planetes has easily found its place among them. Bold and triumphant, this anime is one that resonated with me in ways that many others could only scrape at. Very few shows successfully celebrate the future of humanity in the way this one does, but perhaps even better, the need to combat complacency through the pursuit of greater ambitions.
Planetes is a title that demands more exposure than what it currently has and hopefully this review would encourage a few others to give it a try. It’s thematically well-structured but never overly-complicated; it’s easy to watch but contains excellent social commentary; it wraps everything up nicely, but the implications leave you in awe, thinking long after the credits roll. The build-up may seem a little slow to some, and the constant shifting of character and narrative motion may not register well with those that like perpetual stasis, but if given a chance, this anime could be a crowd-pleaser like no other you’ve experienced before.
Did YOUR favorite anime make the cut? Let us know in the comments below!
2. Fullmetal Alchemist
3. Princess Tutu
4. Hanada Shounen-shi
5. Full Moon wo Sagashite
6. Kaleido Star
7. Wolf’s Rain
8. Mobile Suit Gundam SEED
10. Tantei Gakuen Q