They’re the best Anime that 2004 has to offer! We counts down the best anime to come out this year, including the likes of Mousou Dairinin, Tantei Gakuen Q, Kaleido Star, and more!
10: Mousou Dairinin
English: Paranoia Agent
MAL Score: 7.68
The infamous Shounen Bat (Lil’ Slugger) is terrorizing the residents of Musashino City. Flying around on his rollerblades and beating people down with a golden baseball bat, the assailant seems impossible to catch—much less understand. His first victim, the well-known yet timid character designer Tsukiko Sagi, is suspected of orchestrating the attacks. Believed only by her anthropomorphic pink stuffed animal, Maromi, Tsukiko is just one of Shounen Bat’s many victims.
As Shounen Bat continues his relentless assault on the town, detectives Keiichi Ikari and Mitsuhiro Maniwa begin to investigate the identity of the attacker. However, more and more people fall victim to the notorious golden bat, and news of the assailant begins circulating around the town. Paranoia starts to set in as chilling rumors spread amongst adults and children alike.
Will the two detectives be able to unravel the truth behind Shounen Bat, or will the paranoia get to them first?
Even with that extra knowledge I couldn’t help but think that half the episodes had a filler feeling to them. Many times you’ll wonder why certain story arcs are being told or how that person is connected to the overall story but it will all make sense in the end (except for episode 09). The character cast is extremely varied, in terms of look and personality. The details show in most of their faces.Whats most noticeable is the older the character is, the more detail their face becomes. The voice acting in the english and japanese dubs are extremely top notch as well. For the serious otakus you’ll definitely notice Mamiko Noto’s voice or Haruko Momoi, but if you’re open minded enough to listen to the english side of the voices you’ll notice good voices as well like Carrie Savage or Sam Regal. But the attention to detail don’t just stop with character style and voice acting.
Character props and background art is where this show shines the most, from an artists cluttered cubicle to an otaku’s room filled with figures. I could have sworn you can actually see a layer of dust on an old bookshelf. Each scene is unique and different and you can tell they put alot of time and effort on all the small details to make this show stand out better than the rest. My only gripe out the artwork is that it is very earth tone and dark. Well not really dark per se but its color scheme is very warm and brownish looking which I didn’t like all that much but you will soon overcome the problem the more you watch it.
Another gripe I am not to fond of how Kon draws his characters. Some of them look very normal, ordinary and sometimes cute. But the characters who wear their personality on their sleeves look very drastic. Like abnormaly huge mouths, beady eyes, fishy lips, all very strange to look at. The most that suffers from this type of look are the male figures in the show. I’m not fond of it but im sure most people will enjoy the change of pace from all the cute moe cartoons that plage the anime world.
If you have never seen a Sat-Kon anime, I highly reccomend watching this series simply because it will definitely be a different experience that you should see for yourself. With the outrageous plot twists and holes in some parts, the story does have a few problems overall. Like I said way back in the beggining the story starts out fine then it takes a serious turn for the surreal so take that however you may but I highly recommender this to anyone who doesn’t mind a crazy mind trip of "Alice in Wonderland" proportions.
Anime: The animation production for Paranoia Agent was done by Madhouse (famous for work on Death Note and Paradise Kiss), and was directed by Satoshi Kon (famous for Perfect Blue and Paprika). It aired on Japanese television from February 2nd, 2004 to May 18th, 2004. Geneon (soon to be defunct) licensed it Stateside, and the fourth and final volume was released May 10th, 2005. The dubbed version also had a run on Adult Swim, the first of which began on May 28th, 2005, and an encore run on June 6th, 2006.
Story: The first episode kicks off with character designer (Sugi) being pressured to follow up on her first hit and dealing with creative block. On her way home, she runs into an older woman rummaging through garbage and who randomly disappears — never a good sign, especially in a Satoshi Kon work. Things get progressively creepier from there, culminating in her getting beat over the head by some random elementary school punk on gold skates with a bent bat, which draws suspicion from the detectives investigating the case. Soon, others are attacked in the same way and give the same description of the kid, who is dubbed "Shounen Bat" (Bat Boy in English, but I prefer Shounen Bat, personally :P).
From there, a different director takes the helm each episode, and the episodes become self-contained one-shots that focus on a different victim of Shounen Bat. Each of the episodes are, for the most part, self-contained, but, at the same time, link together (oxymoronic, I know) in the tiniest, subtlest ways to become a part of the larger series. It’s only in the last third or so of the series that episodes actually pick up where they left off the last time and connect to each other. And each of the victims have one major common factor (but I can’t tell you that, because it would spoil the series for you), but connect to each other in smaller, subtler ways.
This story is nothing short of phenomenal. You’ll be on the edge of your seat as you watch each victim’s story unfold, wait for the inevitable attack, and watch the mystery of Shounen Bat unfold.
Just be warned, though: this is classic Kon, which means there’s going to be blurring between fantasy and reality, the occasional trippiness, and psychological problems. I think this is Kon Lite, though (then again, I may have just gotten used to his works).
WARNING: There’s a bit of sex and nudity in here, and some trippiness, but, as I said before, it’s nothing, compared to his other works. Still, nice to know that it’s there.
Art: Madhouse’s realistic style fits this production to a tee. They tend to use darker colors and shades, except for when they use brighter hues, usually to a darker effect (yes, I know it’s oxymoronic, work with me here).
But remember how I said that directors changed each episode? Well, this applies to the art directors, too; this results in a subtle changing of styles each episode that affects what each director most wants to get across, while still remaining Madhouse’s trademark realistic style. Art directors can even change several times within an episode, which makes for some interesting style changes.
Music: Satoshi Kon almost never does a work without Susumu Hirasawa, and this is where the latter has a chance to shine. The OP is absolutely eerie, and sets the tone for the series perfectly, and the ED manages to make bright music seem like the damn creepiest thing ever. The music for the series alternates between these two extremes, but it never gets old. The ED (which is also the theme for one of the series’ main characters) and the theme for Shounen Bat will never fail to send shivers running up and down your spine.
Length: Perfect. If it were any longer, it would’ve started to drag, but if it were shorter, they probably wouldn’t have been able to tie everything together like they did. The length allows for the perfect exploration of each victim, and for the larger mystery to unfold like it does.
Seiyuu: No particular standouts or any seiyuu that I recognize, really. Overall, good job.
Overall: A Kon work, through and through, with a phenomenal story and amazing art, all because of the changing directors.
This is one of the anime that I believe you must see at least one episode of before you die. So go watch it already!
Overall: 46/50; 92% (A)
No. episodes – 13
It is very hard to give a rating for Paranoia agent that can be surmised using the numbers rating system. The story is quite complicated but excecuted with flair. Any dull moments serve to advance the viewers understanding of the complicated characters and scenarios. Plainly the plot revolves around a series of attacks on people who appear to be unrelated. The plot dedicates episodes to each of these victims and merges their paths together to weave a story of connections and basically highlight the power of Paranoia. This is a gritty and mature anime, it deals with issues such as incest, violence, technology and consumerism, blackmail, hatred, the power of the media and the power of rumours as ‘Little Slugger’ becomes more fiction than fact.
I won’t lie – The last 5 episodes are quite mind boggling, the plot shifts focus on random people and their own issues and encounters. This may frustrate keen viewers as it felt like a MAJOR detour to me… Luckily for us, there is a plot ending and resolution. Even a little closure. I personally haven’t seen something as mentally interesting since Neon Genesis, and that’s a statement!
I fully believe this series deserves such a high rating. The animation was spectacular, fluid and very accurate. Right down to small nuances in each character and the intricacies of clothing and background. Paranoias animation techniques are supposed to be an almost realistic representation of people, not the typical big eyed crazy haired anime moe styles. The same director (Satoshi Kon) also directed thriller classics Big O and Perfect Blue. Kon also directed Tokyo Godfathers, so if you have viewed these titles before you know what to expect. Paranoia Agent utilises a whole variety of cinematic techniques which serves to make the show visually interesting. The reason the art didn’t warrent a full score was because in the last DvD I felt that the quality and attention to detail had taken a back seat to let the crazy plot entertain us more.
I thought Paranoia Agent did very well with background music, often creating an eerie intensity. The Opening song was as a bizarre reflection of the show. The melody is bright and happy while the lyrics themselves sing a different story. The Opening is very ironic but pretty catchy. The Ending clip and song was really disappointing. It’s really a very simple melody and even the clip was very boring. In the directors comments Kon mentioned that he comissioned the Opening sequence to wake the viewer up, and the closing sequence to prepare the viewer to wind down and relax. Also – I watched this in the English dub, no complaints! A top job. All the VA’s matched their characters very well and really brought them to life.
If went into too much detail here I would spoil the entire enjoyment of this show. The plot is primarily supported by the assortment of complex and interesting characters. Human emotions, sensibilities and weaknesses. If you’re a fan of character driven shows Paranoia Agent should fit you perfectly.
Like I previously mentioned, animation is spectacular and brings the characters to life. Points were lost because the character of ‘Lil Slugger’ was so intentionally vague and this caused me a bit of frustration throughout the series. Although that’s just personal… Other than that all of them were very interesting. The characters emotions have also been animated very well, really bringing out the grit of the series and letting us empathise with them. If
I had some very Genuine moments of ‘wtf’ because this is the sort of show that illicites, wtf moments. A good friend of mine described the series as ‘General Mind f******’ pardon the language – but that perfectly summarises my thoughts too. If your into being messed around with and fantastic animation this show would be right up your alley. It’s bizarre, intense and very intruiging. Understanding human nature is essentially what this show deals with IMO so be prepared to have to think!
Totally recomend this!
BUT If you’re distressed easily I would steer clear of this title because it can be quite confronting.
9: 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.
8: 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.
7: 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.”
6: Initial D Fourth Stage
Japanese: 頭文字〈イニシャル〉D FOURTH STAGE
MAL Score: 8.14
Takumi Fujiwara finally joins Ryousuke and Keisuke Takahashi to create “Project D.” Their goal is twofold: Ryousuke wants to develop his “High-Speed Street Racing Theory,” while Keisuke and Takumi aim at improving their driving skills by facing powerful opponents on dangerous roads. The idea of Project D is to challenge street racing teams from other prefectures to improve both their uphill and downhill records. In order to attract the attention of the best racing teams, Ryousuke creates a dedicated website to announce the future battles of Project D and post the team’s results.
The fourth season of Initial D details the hardships and successes of the members of Project D as they try to become the best street racing team outside of Gunma Prefecture.
Itsuki, Iketani, and Kenji are of course present. Itsuki will also have his time to somewhat shine again. I think they are useful but not impacting. I think the purpose of their presence is to demonstrate that Takumi is developing and can talk about racing and cars, and Takumi won’t explain things all spaced out like in 1st stage. Other characters from previous season will be making a return and they also have their own contributions. The newer characters are interesting in their own right and you’re getting characters from all kinds of backgrounds and skill levels. Granted it’s been the same with previous installments, but this takes it to a whole new level in ways you can never have expected. By the end, you get characters that are not traditionally found in Initial D, but you would tend to find in Wangan Midnight, another racing anime and manga. Some teams go as far as getting professional racers to challenge Project D. A flaw that will stand out to those familiar with the manga is that Keisuke’s races such as that with the Integra and the R34 are mentioned, but are never shown, but afterwards they show his races. I don’t know why. But I heard they were animated for Battle Stage 2, which I have yet to see. I also recall that Kyoko, the black FD driver being spunkier in the manga while in this one, she’s more of a likeable and sweet girl, but with a unique passion for cars and racing. Over looking these flaws, the pacing felt as fast as the races, which will be my next topic of discussion.
Well, you’ll notice a lot of changes in this series in style. What I liked is that it brings a style more manga-like. The art was sketchier and it used a lot more cross-hatching to show the shadowing. I’m personally more of a manga person, so I felt appreciated as a manga fan. I also loved how the coloring and resolution complimented this approach as well. But one thing in particular that really stood out to me was that the characters wore different clothes in every episode. Usually in cartoons, video games, and anime, characters will always wear one set of clothes just to make them “iconic.” I know it may sound stupid those who are listening to this review, but this quality just stood out to me and I just happened to enjoy it. But one thing I didn’t like personally is that Shigeno-sensei at this point is sort of getting lazy with his female designs. How come Kyoko and Nao have to look like Natsuki? Why can’t he draw women in the fashion of Impact Blue? I don’t know where he went wrong there.
The rendering of the cars this time has more of a cel-shaded style, though not really in the same nature of that as in Jet Set Radio or Okami. It still has a CG kind of look, and I thought the rendering blended excellently with the style of this season. The races in this one are of course more exciting than ever, but I think they relied on the chase race more. You know the races like what Takumi had with Impact Blue in first stage, and with Wataru in second. But I heard in mountain races in Japan, that kind of racing is most common. I prefer the time attack races and I think in addition to realism they used the chase race just to drag the races a little bit more, but I feel the conclusions and finishes are more dramatic as a result, though sometimes anti-climatic, but there are legitimate reasons and purposes. But like other installments as the series progresses, new courses will of course mean new features and factors to how the races will turn out which is another contribution to motivating development. And sorry to bring up a spoiler, but I couldn’t help but mention that by the end, it will feature Mt. Tsukuba, also known as the Purple Mountain, a course I used to live not too far from and have hiked. And the home team is appropriately named the Purple Shadow. And I haven’t played the newer games enough to give the judgment of the accuracy of the course’s portrayal.
Even though I skim through this section in the last two reviews of Initial D, I need to really extend this particular section more in relation to the voice acting. First I will briefly talk about the music. My favorite song is the 2005 remix of Wild Reputation by Dave Rodgers, and it’s featured in episode 13. I just think the song really reflected the bad boy images of Wataru and Keisuke. And to conclude with the music, MOVE’s style has gone more radical where it was more reliant on rap in previous seasons, while they added more rock elements to come across as more extreme and it works out really well. So that’s it for music.
The voice acting in this season starting with Takahashi Ryosuke played by Koyasu Takehito, is taken to a new level of appreciation in my book. It’s not just his unique charisma and intimidation, but I just love how he makes the character distinguishing. His acting abilities truly bring those qualities to Ryosuke. It makes him sound like a Bruce Lee of street racing though that’s really Bunta’s role, but Koyasu’s acting just steals that spotlight. Miki Shin’ichiro also brings out Takumi’s development in relation to his ability to articulate his abilities racing and doesn’t sound as spaced out. He just really pulls you into the character and you can’t call him an empty shell. And as usual, I love Seki Tomokazu’s hot tempered portrayal as Keisuke. And Toyoguchi Megumi, who you may know as the voice of Elena in Advent Children, Millaria in Gundam SEED, and Sei in Maria-san ga Miteru did an excellent performance with the anime’s portrayal of Kyoko who is passionate, but yet mellow and focused. Even though my perfect scores in previous installments was out of fanboyism on my part, I just feel that for the first time I felt moved and more educated by the performances.
Despite how highly I rate this, I still acknowledge Initial D isn’t an anime for everyone whether new, casual, or hardcore. I’m just saying this as a guy who’ll try everything, and I didn’t expect to like Initial D. I like what’s fresh and original, which Initial D has always offered me and is free from most anime stereotypes, and it’s very educational to me as someone who has friends who like to race and I have been going to car shows and drag races since I was in high school, though I don’t participate in them. But the concept of racing isn’t something everyone is going to embrace and I know that eurobeat isn’t universally appealing. And the tech speak is something that can turn off people and I’ve seen that a lot. But if you want character and story development that is well motivated, maybe these qualities will make up for the surface ones that make you uninterested, I don’t know.
Now I will conclude this on a note that people will call me stupid and crazy, and for all the right reasons by fans and non-fans alike. It’s just that when I watched this, I felt the execution and presentation made me start to think that touge racing is a legitimate sport in its own way and requires a unique set of skills and customization of your car. After all, some famous racers started out on the street and Tsuchiya Keiichi, the drift king and supervisor of this anime was no different. Outside of public traffic risk and legality factors, other conditions that are explained and portrayed truly demonstrate this distinction to make you come to that assumption and I do have a new sense of respect for touge racing as a sport thanks to watching this anime. As for a fifth stage, the manga is still going on, so you can look forward to it at some point, or read the manga.
The story of Fourth Stage has come from the budding of Fujiwara Takumi’s driving skill to the nationwide domination of Project D, a new race team established by Takahashi Ryouske. The story proceeds well from the small victories in various regions, to the eventual domination of the prefecture as a whole. The story however, does also drop into the various personal lives of the characters. By allowing viewers to see what is driving the character’s ambitions and dreams, they can come to understand the determination that all hold.
The artwork has come a long way since the original First Stage. Character animations are more fluid and polished. Overall, they more attractive as well since they were pretty hard to view in the beginning. The biggest improvements have come, of course, in the vehicle and race animations. All the cars are depicted almost flawlessly both inside and out to let auto enthusiasts truly appreciate their favorite vehicles. The races are much smother and the vehicles have lost that "paste-on-top" feel that they used to have. A very welcome change. Fans can now truly feel the races blend together in solid animation.
The soundwork of Initial D has always been a key point to it’s success. The squeeling tires, high-revving engines, and bursting exhausts are all delivered in an excellence that is to be expected. The background music has stayed true to the Initial D style with it’s happy-pop Eurobeat soundtrack. The music, while perhaps annoying on it’s own, does help to provide a great sense of energy during the race scenes. By combining the music and sounds in great choreography with the revamped animation, a completed scene gives it’s viewers a real sense of awe. The new introduction and ending music are pretty similar to the previous tunes held by the earlier seasons. The intro music is fastpaced and energetic while the ending themes are a bit softer to give a sense of closure after each episode.
The characters in Initial D have come a long way since the original series, yet they still seem to have a hard time developing aside from their driving skill. Anger, drama, sadness, and determination are all delivered well enough, but any actual development is rarely made. The traditional overcoming by Takumi is nothing new but is fun to watch as new techniques and skills are found. The drama, itself, is pretty much based on a would-be relationship that is similar to one found in Second Stage. Again, while the characters learn and grow as drivers, they don’t seem to evolve much as people.
Overall, Initial D Fourth Stage is an excellent addition to growing franchise. The new artwork will be a welcomed upgrade amongst fans of previous series and may even captivate the eyes of new viewers. For series focused on automotive enthusiasm, drifting, and driver determination, it does well for itself. However, it may find difficulty in capturing the attention of those that have little or no interest in auto racing or drifting.
This series focuses on the exploits of the new team founded by Ryosuke, Project.D, which is composed of Ryosuke (leader and strategist), downhill specialist Takumi, uphill specialist Keisuke, and a staff consisting primarily of members of the Akagi Red Suns. The team travels the region, challenging other teams and posting the results of the battles on their website. Each race is intended by Ryosuke to develop a specific area of his drivers’ skills. By this time, Takumi matures slowly into a more confident and knowledgeable street racer, while Keisuke improves on his technical driving skills.
In the series, the main drivers and their racing skills do develop as they race against the opponents they’re matched with and could make their better drivers, but as normal people and in my opinion, they are flawed (which is a good thing) but they are crazy to think that racing is the only thing that fulfill their lives. For example, Keisuke has this girl named Kyoko Iwase, who is a fellow Mazda RX-7 FD driver and uphill ace racing for the Northern Saitama Alliance, has a crush on him as she admires his racing techniques and he does like her but he doesn’t want her to interfere with his racing, even though she said she wasn’t going to. Look, I get not being distracted during your time of racing but are you seriously going to say that it’s more important than a girl who has some interest in you because of your talent? Okay, maybe it could be distracting but still after hearing enough crap about that “lonely driver” thing from Takumi’s crew (friends who we never see race anyone BTW) during the first three stages and soon they realize what they been saying is a bunch of bulls**t.
As for the main story, it’s the same as always. People think the Eight-Six can’t race worth jack squat, they challenge him, they race which lasts about 2-3 episodes, they think they are about to win until Takumi tries this stunt that makes it impossible for the opponents to believe, they do the same thing and mess up and Takumi wins……only this time, it also happens to the other racers on Project D. It’s basically the same story with a few different story elements thrown in and some of the other drivers in Project D doing the same thing.
As for the animation, it’s done by another anime studio. Remember Studio ACGT (or Adenine Cytosine Guanine Thymine), the same studio that did the formerly reviewed Koi Kaze? Well, of course in this series, the animation is still better than what it used to be and ACGT definitely animated this better than the other aforementioned anime. The music is slightly better with the first opening theme, “Dogfight” by move, which is the better opening theme in either one of the Initial D series but, however, that theme only lasts for 10 episodes and the other one, “Noizy Tribe” also by move, is very lackluster at best. The ending theme songs you can just skip to the next episode since there is no next episode clip as they do in most anime.
FINAL VERDICT: 4th stage is the weakest of the series and it shows with shifting pace on storyline from turtle-like slow to roadrunner fast. At some parts, you will know what’s going to happen during the show. It’s becoming too predictable for its own good and doesn’t care about the other situations going on at the same time. The characters are merely just there and only motivate on one thing and make themselves look like robotic and stiff. I would say to watch it only to continue the saga but frankly, while doing that, just skip over the parts that you can guess already.
English: Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo
MAL Score: 8.16
In the year 5053, French aristocrats Viscount Albert de Morcerf and Baron Franz d’Epinay attend the festival of Carnival on the moon city of Luna. While Franz is just looking to have fun, Albert is seeking something more to fill his life—but he finds more than he bargained for in The Count of Monte Cristo, a mysterious and charming self-made nobleman who meets his gaze during an opera performance.
Through a few twists and turns, Albert befriends the Count and introduces him into French society. The Count, however, has more on his mind than just friendship; he plots to finally unleash his vengeance on those who wronged him years earlier. Gankutsuou follows Albert and the Count’s intertwined destinies and the ultimate price paid for enacting revenge.
In most reviews I’d start with perhaps the characters or the story, but now I must truly start with the art. The art itself was disorientating to me at first, I looked at it and found it hard to concentrate too long on the screen, things blended together so well that at times I found it hard to believe the entire scenery wasn’t part of the character I was watching. But after the first few episodes the art was something else altogether, it seemed to take a new life. I watched it and was captivated by it, at times I even had to rewind because I had missed several lines of text because I couldn’t tear myself away from it all. The art simply leaps off the screen and at first it may seem a little jarring but eventually you’ll ever wonder why you questioned the design of it all. While the art itself is beautiful there are some places it lacks, although the rest more than makes up for it. Some of the characters I found to be too plain in certain situations, however it was a miniscule thought, it did not detract from the visual experience of the show in the least.
Now for the proverbial meat of it all, story. The anime is a loose adaptation of, what is called by some, the greatest story of revenge ever told. Coming in to that there are many expectations that must be lived up to in order for this story to truly hold it’s own and it lives up to them beautifully.
As I stated the drive of the story is revenge, everything else within it are simply unfortunate souls that get caught up in the bloody, sadistic revenge of the man known as the Count of Monte Cristo. But although The Count is what the story revolves around it is told from the perspective of the naïve, and often downright foolish, Albert Morcerf. The story begins with a meeting of destiny between our protagonist Albert and someone I can’t quite call an antagonist, The Count. With his charming words, devilish smile and warm eyes he quickly wins his way into our naïve Albert’s heart and becomes an important figure in the boys life. He continues to pursue his friendship with The Count despite the nagging of the, obviously smarter, Franz Epinay, Albert’s best friend. As the story continues the happiness of our hero is bombarded by the darkness and despair brought about by circumstances that might have been prevented.
Story is everything for an anime such as this, if you lack it you’ll produce a piss-poor adaptation of a great piece of literature. Being able to make your heart break one moment and your blood boil the next, able to leave you breathless in your seat with your heart pounding in your chest, these are proof that you’re watching something amazing. It is clear that Gankutsuou, if not at least meeting your expectations, it will blow them away and leave you speechless.
This will perhaps be the shortest section of the review, simply because the sound played no part in my heightened or lessened enjoyment of the show. Do not mistake my words, the music within the show is very fitting and very well done, however it does not simply jump out and grab you. It does not make you stop and go “I have to listen to that once more.” However that is within the show itself, the opening and ending themes are a different matter. It was almost strange to see them both, it honestly seemed as if someone had goofed and mistaken the ending for the opening. However after two episodes I was humming along with the tune to both and even downloaded them to put on my mp3. The songs themselves are so good I’ve almost started singing along with them out in public. There really is nothing more to say than, the music worked well, it was subtle, let you know it there but didn’t make any bold statements.
I’m tempted to simply write “flawless” and call it a day here but that would be an insult to the greatness of each. I will not list them all here, of course, but I shall list those that I think play an important role and need to be looked at in the spotlight. But let me state that although I do not talk about all the characters, I believe none are truly “secondary” for they all have their own role that drives the story, they all have their own flaws and a depth you wouldn’t expect from characters you rarely see. Now, onto the spotlight
The Count: Was everything that he needed to be and then some. He could be the hero of the piece or the villain, whichever role he was playing at the time all eyes were glued to him. Charming, subtle, seductive and kind he played them all so well and then there were times where we all saw the darkness he brought with him. He was a strange maze of understanding, never knowing what he was going to do next simply because he didn’t know what role he’d slip into. The Count is truly one of the most dark and captivating characters I’ve ever laid eyes on.
Albert: I have a desire to scream idiot here and be done with it, but again that is not true. He is not an idiot, he is simply naïve and often childish in his decisions. He refuses to see the bad in people, which can be good but not all the time. He’s hard headed and stubborn, but he’s a character that you feel for, he bears the most humanity of them all and when his heart breaks, so does yours.
Franz: The best friend that everyone wants, loyal, caring and willing to do whatever necessary to keep his friend safe. He’s stubborn as well but he is the voice of reason in Albert’s and his relationship. He is the first to be skeptical of The Count and one of the first to pursue information about the mysterious man.
While there are other characters that perhaps deserved the spotlight I felt that, mostly, these three characters were the most important simply because they were around for almost every single event that drove the plot. The others characters, however, are not to be dismissed, they each have good character designs as well as wonderful personalities and even flaws. Some even evolve throughout the show, which can be rare for a character deemed “secondary.” But they all fit together and play off each other so well it would take too long to praise them all.
I truly doubt there is a single thing I did not enjoy throughout my entire watching of this show. There are a few minor things but they’re so miniscule when compared to the good things that they’re just overlooked and swept under the rug, still there but completely forgotten. I found myself completely captivated by this show, every emotional twist made me feel what it was supposed to, every mystery kept me guessing and theorizing and wondering. I ranted and raved about things that had happened when I wasn’t watching, I sometimes found myself balling my hands into white knuckled fists at the more infuriating scenes and crying like a child at others, I truly believe I went through almost the entire emotional spectrum while watching this show. And that is truly a mark of my enjoyment of it.
In the end this can only be summed up as something that you need to watch, that is said a lot in reviews but it is truly something that will be appreciated (even if you haven’t read the novel). It’s compelling story, beautiful artwork and in depth characters will drag you into the world and never let you go, even after you’ve finished the final episode The Count of Monte Cristo will still have you under his spell.
-To those who vote "Not " if you could message me to tell me what you disliked I could improve on this and future reviews, thank you.-
Those familiar with the novel will know the basics of who the characters are and what the general outcome of the story will be, much like how anyone who knew the basic plot of Romeo and Juliet could easily predict what fate would befall the title characters in the anime Romeo X Juliet. To keep things fresh and interesting, the story gets an extreme makeover by catapulting the plot three thousand years into the future and onto the moon. The story is also told through Albert Morcef’s perspective, rather than the Count’s, allowing for a new take on the story and minor characters in the novel, such as Franz D’Epiney become more developed and are given a larger role.
The story follows the main themes of the novel though; love, betrayl, revenge and redemption. It is an intricately woven story throughout the 24 episodes, each one ending in a cliff hanger making the viewer want to jump right into the next episode. Elements of mystery and suspense are used so effectively, I was compelled to watch the whole anime in one sitting, something I have never done with any other anime before.
The visuals are beautiful and innovative, using textures rather than solid colours. While this can be disorienting at first, especially with layers of brightly coloured textures flashing across the screen, it does make for some of the most beautiful and creative scenery I have seen in any film media. The style is something unique to this anime and the CG components are excellent. Music is a mix of orchestral piano pieces, brooding techno, waltzes and the beautiful ballad ‘We Were Lovers’ for the opening theme. These combine the classical roots of the story with the futuristic elements wonderfully.
Characters in Gankutsuou are given little grey area. While some characters, such as The Count, motives and morals remain in the grey, most are clearly good or bad, making it heart wrenching when the good, and often innocent characters are pulled into the anti-hero’s deadly revenge plot. The audience wants to see the bad guys punished by the man they betrayed, but at the same time want the innocent bystanders who are pulled into the plot have a happily ever after ending. Albert, the main character, is an idealistic and often rash, privilleged young fifteen year old. His angsting, naivite and rashness might grate some viewers, but at the same time his actions are believable for an average fifteen year old, unlike many shonen series. It also makes him more vulnerable to the more wily characters, as a child his age might be. Many of the characters are not all powerful, having both strengths and weaknesses, making them much more human and believable.
One aspect that won me over though was the portrayl of a character who is very strongly hinted at being homosexual. The Seiyu of this particular character confirmed his belief that the character he portrayed was indeed a homosexual. Rather than being slotted into a stereotype or cliche, this character is shown to be very capable, loyal and above all arguably the most rational individual in the series. He is not shown to be flamboyant, perverted, or visually offputing like many gay characters added in for laughs. This character was fleshed out, and in my opinion a very positive representation of a gay character. In fact he takes on many of the Japanese ideals of a homosexual lover, including beauty, brains, strength, sensitivity and above all loyalty. Bravo for this!
I would reccomend this anime for fans of drama, mystery, and suspense. Fans of the original novel; beware of deviations and creative liscense. This is not a completely accurate retelling of Alexandre Dumas’ work, if you couldn’t tell from the giant robots and space ships. The series contains alcohol and hints of drug usage, incest, hints of sex (both consensual and nonconsensual), human trafficing, violence, nudity, frightening imagery and character death. If any of this offends or upsets you, you may not want to watch this one (though you’re really missing out on an awesome series).
Overall: This is the best anime I have seen in a very long time. It is the first anime that has compelled me to watch the whole thing in one sitting. The art is innovative, the story is intricately woven, the characters are believable, and the suspense keeps you on the edge of your seat wanting more. This one is a must for your ‘completed’ list.
Manga/Anime/Both: Anime series, 24 episodes, ran from October 5th, 2004 to March 29th, 2005 in Japan, licenced by Geneon, with six of six volumes released. A manga is currently running in Japan in Kodansha’s magazine Afternoon, and has yet to be licenced over here.
Story: And now, the hard part… There is no simple way to sum up Gankutsuou’s story, although I’ll try.
Gankutsuou is based off of Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo. I say "based off of," because in the later part of the series (Episode 18 and thereabouts), the series takes a major divergence from the book. Plotwise, though, Maeda slightly alters whose point of view we see this from and some sideplots; most notably are the Valentine/Maximilien and Cavalcanti plots. The most notable change is the setting, time-wise; Gankutsuou takes place in Paris for the most part, but about two, three thousand years in the future, and on another planet at some points. Also, characters that are barely mentioned in the book get major screentime. However, for the most part, the anime sticks close to the book. If you’re a Dumas purist, though, stay far away from this series.
Also, there are slight shonen-ai overtones; it’s nothing explicit, and only implied, but you can tell that it’s there. And there’s crossdressing on numerous accounts. Again, if this any of this offends you, stay away.
Story Critique: For the most part, if you know the original Dumas story, you have a good idea of what’s going to happen in Gankutsuou. Maeda has taken his liberties, though; and after Episode 18, as I said before, the series takes a completely different direction, and will make the purists want to hunt him down with pitchforks and torches.
However, I’m really happy with Maeda’s changes; the only gripe I have is that he altered the Valentine/Maximilien and Cavalcanti sideplots the way he did, and that he killed off one of the characters he did. For the most part, though, the alterations only add to the sheer awesomeness of the series, and lets some characters shine in ways that they didn’t get to in the book.
This story will keep you on the edge of your seat and hooked till the bitter end. I didn’t get bored with the series at all, as I usually do at the halfway point; in fact, I watched this series pretty much in under a week. I’ve always thought that The Count of Monte Cristo was prime anime material, considering the serialistic way that it was written.
EDIT: There have been complaints lately saying that Gankutsuou isn’t for everyone. And admittedly, it isn’t. If you think that Bleach and Naruto are the epitome of anime, then you should probably stay away from this show, as this and that are worlds apart. It WILL take some effort on your part to follow the story, which, yes, means using your brain as you’re watching this, unlike the typical mindless shonen problem/monster-of-the-week plot seen in both shows I’ve previously mentioned.
Art Style: This is one of the integral parts of the series. The art style will turn some people off; in fact, when Maeda was first screening Gankutsuou, the most frequent complaint was that the art style made viewers’ eyes hurt.
Maeda uses a unique 2-D animation technique, most notable in regards to characters’ clothing — the technique makes it look like the characters’ clothes are moving, but the characters themselves are not. It’s really noticeable in the first few episodes, but by the fourth or fifth episode, you become used to it. This technique is used to great effect not only in the clothes that the characters wear, but in the trippy sequences involved with the plot.
CG animation is also used heavily in this series; it’s mostly used for some backgrounds and vehicles. At times, the juxtapostion of traditional/the new technique of 2D/CG can be jarring, but it takes some getting used to, as well. The backgrounds are where the CG animation really shines though.
This combination is definitely a step into the unknown for Gonzo, and has a tendency to polarize viewers; either you love it, or you hate it.
Music: There are two types of music in Gankutusou: original compositions and classical music.
The classical music has a tendency to become easily associated with certain moods and event types, not to mention become grating. There’s one piece in particular (I can’t remember the name at the minute ><) that, by the third episode, will become associated with DEATH AND IMMINENT DOOM. The music that doesn’t become mood-associated is usually used in connection to one main character’s musicianship, and isn’t heard that often.
The original compositions are by both Kasamatsu Kouji and Jean-Jacques of the band The Stranglers; he also does the opening and ending. The original compositions tend to also become associated with mood and event types; however, there are enough different ones, and are used sparingly enough that they don’t become grating. The opening and endings are absolutely awesome; ask FMS how much I was spazzing after getting the full versions. XD The opening is a sentimental song accompanied by piano and strings, and the ending is a raging rock number with a full band and strings that’ll have you on your feet by its end; both have a lot to do with the plot.
Voice Seiyuu: The voices for this series are simply amazing. Every seiyuu matches their respective character perfectly, and no voice seems out of place. The real standouts for this series, for me, are the seiyuu for the Count, and Mercedes; Joji Nakata, and Kikuko Inoue, respectively. Both capture their characters perfectly, and you can hear the dynamic between them, which is a major factor in the series.
Dub/Voice Actors: The first I saw of this series was on the October or November (can’t remember which again) DVD sampler for Newtype; dubbed was the only option available. After watching the one DVD I have subbed, and then dubbed, I can say that I really don’t have a problem with the dub at all which, for me, is rare. I know that Himura hates it when people do this, but the Japanese and English VAs for these series are easily comprable. The standout voice for the dub is the Count, once again; I don’t know his VA, but he does a superb job of capturing his character.
Length: Perfect. Shortening the series by a few episodes wouldn’t have hurt the series, but character development would’ve definitely taken a major hit if they had. Had they added more episodes, it would’ve been too long. However, I would like to see an OAV on the backstory of the Count; we saw brief flashes that explained a lot, but not quite in depth as Dumas’ original story.
Overall: This anime is one of the best of 05. You will be sucked in the moment you start watching it, and it will not let you go.
To sum it up, a line from the promotional trailer from the first DVD:
Tell me; why am I so fascinated by you?
Art Style: 10/10
Dub/Voice Actors: 9/10
Overall score: 56/60; 93%
4: Major S1
Japanese: メジャー （第1シリーズ）
MAL Score: 8.25
Gorou Honda, a little boy obsessed with baseball, has always admired his father, Shigeharu. Wishing to follow in his father’s footsteps, Gorou dreams of becoming a professional baseball player. In turn, his son’s starry-eyed admiration encourages Shigeharu to keep persevering, despite his late wife’s death and his unsatisfying position on the second-string team Blue Ocean.
Unfortunately, an elbow injury forces Shigeharu off the team, and he falls into despair. However, after an offhand joke from his childhood friend, Shigeharu reevaluates his choices and decides to keep playing, leaving behind his prime position as pitcher and taking up the bat. Now motivated more than ever, Gorou works hard to carve his way in the Japanese Little League.
Major is the definition of the word underrated. It is very unfortunate that people often overlook this series simply because it falls under the sports category. It is SO much more than that. I have recommended this anime to people countless times and will continue doing so because not only do I love it, but I believe it has the power to inspire.
The main character of the story is named Honda Goro (changed to Honda Shigeno after a tragic event). He is gifted in pitching and is absolutely in love with baseball. He has the tendency to bring out the best in other people simply because of his passion and attitude for the sport. People seemingly gather around him for this reason. No matter how grim a situation may look, he never gives up. The most impressive part about this anime (besides the storyline of course) is the character development. As the series progresses you will witness the characters grow physically and mentally. It is also very easy to get attached to the characters since they are all unique within their own right.
All I have to say is that the first season starts off REALLY strong. Take your time with this anime. It is really easy to get addicted with Major. A person can literally fly through the episodes because of how engaging it is.
Honestly, the real fun begins when you get past the first season.
Review is to whole Major as you might have guessed. Spoiler free.
The story of Major is pretty bromaculous and manly, but all in all simple. Goro, our MC, is 4 year-old guy who likes baseball because his father is professional baseball player. 6 fucking days later Goro is 34 years-old professional baseball player who teaches kids how to play baseball. How shit got from the start to the end is one hell of an amazing trip. Including drama, comedy, utter awesomeness, character development of one of a kind, romantic subplot, one of the most awe-inspiring shitz since GTO and yeah, some baseball too.
One of the first questions people seem to ask is “Do I need to like baseball to like Major?” Well I dunno. Do you need to like school to like Great Teacher Onizuka? Do you need to be otaku to like anime? Well, those questions doesn’t matter. The point is, almost everything I know about baseball is because I watched Major. Almost none plays it in my country anyway. Do I like Major then? A big Yes!
The characters of Major are one of the strongest part of the series. Goro is more awe-inspiring than anyone. If he loses consciousness during the game then he finishes the match unconsciously. He is awesome like that. Don’t get me wrong, he isn’t ultimate badass, superhero nor the typical shonen protag who wins because he is a ninja or some other shit like that. All he does is his best. It doesn’t matter if he loses or wins, he just wants to see what he is capable to do. All there is for him is the moment, he doesn’t plan to play baseball in the future, he plans to play the next game and whateverthefuck happens after that happens when it happens if it happens. Don’t mind, don’t mind. Fukkyah. Goro is now my favorite character of all time.
So in the end Goro alone makes the characters great and that’s it… wait, NO. I still remember the names of almost all the million side characters. That’s pretty rare for me since Japanese shit sounds like Gibberish anyway. As I said before the series includes character development one of a kind. By that I don’t mean solely the MC but actually rest of the fuckhuge cast as well. Gibson is Jesus, Sato gets bitches like no other, Shimizu is the culmination of sweety. Those are just some characters from the first episodes. What makes Major so great from the character part is how every single side character is in important role and nothing would be possible if even one them was missing. Baseball is a team sports and author really gives value to that. If one the team members is delinquent who doesn’t give a fuck, then he changes to a guy who shits rainbows. Developmentyeah. Sure we have other sports series e.g. Eyeshield 21, Slam Dunk, Cross Game, H2 which are about team work as well but none of those manages to come to Major’s level in terms of characters by any means.
Major is objectively best animu ever and completely flawless. Well lolno. It has problems and flaws like everything has. Characters’ actions aren’t always exactly the most believable thing ever. Writing is sometimes simplistic. 4th season has problems with pacing, language barrier in american league is confusing, 2nd season could have more rewarding ending. One could say the series is predictable, which it obviously is if you start guessing who wins and who loses since there ain’t so many results anyway. But Major isn’t about the destination but how to get there. Did I predict all of it? No, not even close. The author knows his shit very well – plot twists, sports series has those as well. Is it realistic? Yes, very. All in all one of the most realistic sport series I’ve seen. I thought the series would be repetitive towards the end since it’s just baseball but now I’m glad of being wrong. There also doesn’t seem to be this thing called “just baseball” in existence.
The art is simple and beautiful, something I would call smooth and perfectly fitting to the series. Animation is obviously somewhat old and not perfect but something only faggotass would complain about. Visual effect are rather cool during action moments. These all goes for better during the show. Especially after season 3. The sounds, well voice acting is actually impressive as fuck. Goro’s voice after 1st season is one of the most original and memorable ones I’ve heard. Tashiro sounds like he has 20 inch dick. I get chills everytime Shimizu says “Honda” (Goro’s old last name) That’s definitely a good thing in my eyes. And other characters (voice actors, weh) are awesome like that as well. Music is great, not just something worth of including to the series but something which I actually listened earlier today because it’s good. Sound director knows his shit like all people behind the show seems to know so lets that be it.
When it comes to enjoyment Major broke all my expectations by being more awesome than I could have Imagined. After getting older and seeing lot of series it comes harder to enjoy something because quality and logic comes more important due education and other useless shit. Major does great job on fitting the quality standards. It quite literally reminded me what enjoying something means. As it being a baseball series I thought I would end up watching baseball games, but the series isn’t like that. I was there on the field experiencing it all. I learnt a lot, but baseball isn’t the thing I learned the most. The series grasp the viewers by being dramatic, thrilling and fun to watch all at the same time, atmosphere being godly. Did I laugh? Yeah, it’s funnier than gintama. Did I cry? Yeah, a lot. Not so much because of the drama but because it’s so awe-inspiring. The series was partly so exciting that I had problems on changing to new episodes fast enough. I also got heart attacks everytime the romance side developed to some direction. In the end Major is one of the most enjoyable series I’ve seen. To make it clear, I’m not saying the series is great because I enjoyed it so much. I’m saying the series is so great that it’s extremely hard for not to enjoy it.
Eyeshield 21 (manga)
Slam Dunk (manga)
Cross Game (anime)
Great Teacher Onizuka
Hoshi no Samidare (manga)
This is actually pretty typical. Boy strives to become the best in something, which in this case is baseball. Honda Goro tries to take after his father as a pitcher who plays in the pro league in Japan. That’s basically all you’re gonna get. They play baseball to try to get to the next "level", fighting stronger opponents as they go on.
However there are various plot advances as well as drama thrown into the mix, so don’t go in thinking this is just a tournament-after-tournament anime.
Art is very solid and pleasing although the animation does get a little sloppy at certain times. However, it is well done during important parts, especially during games. I won’t go so far as to say this is any ground-breaking animation, but it serves its purpose. After all, this is a baseball anime, not something that has flashy explosions.
I absolutely loved the soundtrack. Very few songs used in the background actually are able to make me find myself humming them unconsciously later onward. There are quite a few notable pieces used throughout the series and they all carry out their duty in helping to further emote scenes.
This is where the series shines for me. I enjoyed the character development that Major had. As baseball is a team sport, there is also a lot of focus on developing relationships within the team, and how problems arise and are solved amongst one another. The characters are all very likable (well, with a few exceptions), and its fun to watch them interact with one another.
The show also focuses quite moderately on family relationships. There are a few issues which come up within Goro’s family and it shows how he as a child, handles them. I found certain scenes to be quite touching also.
Uh, I enjoyed this. A lot. It’s my favorite sports anime. Although it isn’t without its flaws, I found it a great watch. If you enjoy seeing a character "grow", then you will like this. Not too sure about those who are familiar with baseball though, as it helped as a device to pique my interest.
Amongst all the seasons, I found this one to be the strongest. (Though this is not to say the other seasons are vastly inferior.) You should give at least this first season a try, even if you don’t like baseball, as the character relations are great to watch no matter what sport they are playing.
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.
English: Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad
MAL Score: 8.30
Fourteen-year-old Yukio “Koyuki” Tanaka is a dispirited young boy with no goals in life. However, this all changes when Koyuki saves a strange-looking dog named Beck from being harassed by a group of local kids. The dog’s owner, 16-year-old Ryuusuke “Ray” Minami, is an emerging guitarist and the former member of a popular rock band.
After Koyuki meets Ray again in a diner, the older boy leads him to his former band’s meeting place and dazzles Koyuki with his amazing guitar skills. Slowly becoming interested in the glamour of western rock culture, Koyuki decides to start playing the guitar while helping Ray achieve his dream of leading the ultimate rock band. Together with Ray’s younger sister Maho and a few other members, the two boys launch their career into the world of rock by forming a band called BECK. Beck follows the group’s struggles and successes as they spread their fame across Japan.
It’s about this middle school kid named Koyuki, who finally connects with the world around him through music and what eventually becomes a band called Beck… blah, blah, blah.
Story-wise… it’s a little kooky. I don’t know how other people viewed it, but being from the U.S., well, I had to remind myself a few times to take it with a grain of salt. I really enjoyed the slow development of Koyuki and the band and the relationships between everyone… I thought that part of the story was really well done. It’s just that (especially in the second half), you have to be prepared to suspend your disbelief a little and accept the oddness of the whole Lucille subplot.
The art? I really liked looking at it. There was something very appealing about it. I think I especially liked how the everything was kind of gritty and muted looking to match the mood of the underground music scene. Also, the color palette they chose fit really well with the tone and vibe of the main characters and the story line, I thought.
Okay, the music really, really grew on me. I thought I was going to hate it and I have to admit that the grammar kind of bugged me at first… but I totally hum/sing a bunch of the songs to myself without thinking about it now. Even the opening song is catchy and fun. And even though you do hear bits of a few songs over and over again, it’s nice, because I felt like I was getting more and more familiar with their sound… and it gave me a chance to become a "fan" of the band. 😉 Also I thought that the people who were singing Koyuki and Maho’s parts did a *great* job.
Character-wise… I don’t think you get to know anyone as well as you get to know Koyuki. In fact, I think you only get to know everyone else as well as Koyuki himself does. But that’s one of the nice things about the show, actually. They don’t always like each other. They’re bandmates and they aren’t each others’ whole lives. …So, it felt okay to be irritated with or irked by some of the characters. And personally, I really prefer characters who are flawed and honest and real, so I really didn’t mind not always liking the people on the show because it felt so much more… authentic, in a way.
And I don’t know if this is character or story, but I also liked the way the series kind of kept us updated on Beck’s rival band and used their story as a contrast to the main story.
I would say though, that if you’re not used to the way heavily accented English sounds, listening to some of the conversations and the songs might be a little jarring at first. It didn’t bother me since I was watching it w/ subs anyway and I’m used to thick accents, but I know some people who found it distracting… they couldn’t concentrate on what was going on because they were too busy listening and trying to figure out what they were saying.
Overall, great show. It’s different from your typical perky, funny, energetic sort of high school shows… it’s sort of more of a "My So-Called Life" type show, without all the drama and with a band. 😉 So, this probably isn’t what you’re looking for if you want sort of a funny, light-hearted high school slice of life show; it’s …quieter than that. But if you’re looking for a break from all the sugar, this is a really nice change of pace.
Speaking of the band, the BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad was a good band (I say it’s "good" because I am not a fan of rap-rock music). Earlier in the series, when Ryuusuke was talking about chemistry in a band and stuff, I did see the chemistry among the five. First you have Ryuusuke, who reeks of pure rocker, Taira, the mysterious bass player, Chiba, the crazy rapper/singer, Saku, the awesome drummer and even Koyuki, who irritates me sometimes, the wide eyed lead singer/ budding artist.
These guys make wicked music. It’s definitely not typical j-rock, it actually sounds modern and americanized. A lot of the songs were in english, but there were definitely a few mistakes in grammar (These grammatical mistakes can also be found in between dialogues with Ryuusuke, Maho and all them americanized Japanese kids). The mistakes are just minor ones anyway that can be overlooked. A few of my favorites are "Hit in the USA", "My world coming down", and "Moon on the water", who are supposedly sang by the fictional band, DyBre. I also like the insert song provided by the band "The Pillows" which makes their cameo as "The Heroes", Taira’s 4th band.
I mentioned that Koyuki irritated me sometimes. I just don’t like the fact that he gets picked on everywhere he goes. Is there some sort of sign in his head that says "bully bait" or something? I also hated it when he cried. He is such a crybaby. I know he’s a kid and all, but I never met a 14-year old boy who would cry at the drop of a hat. He did win me over during the parts when he would sing. His Japanese accent was heavy when he would sing the english songs, but he does have a considerably good voice.
In the beginning of the review I said the drawings were sub par, and that’s mainly because the characters were not proportionate, but then again, all anime characters are not drawn proportionately anyway. I did like the different look, cause in a way I was getting tired of the usual way anime are drawn, as well as weird hair and eye colors. As I’ve said, the storyline does make up for it. Other than that, the inanimate objects are seemingly drawn well. The guitars and cars had very intricate details, and it almost looked life like. Even the electric fan earlier in the series was well designed.
The voice acting was also good. I like the fact that the american characters sounded like americans, and even the italian american guy had the accent going. I did kind of think that Eddie and Ryuusuke kind of sounded like hip hoppers more than rockers, but A for effort anyway.
It was a really good anime, and I hope there’s going to be a sequel. I want to know what happens next!
The anime pretty much pays homage to music it’s dedicated too which is “Rock ‘n’ Roll” and Soft-Rock inspired for its music tracks. Consist of good guitar plays and rock music that enforces the anime strength when it comes to the sound and music department. The show previews a lot of references on historically known western rock bands like the Stones, Zeppelin, and Beatles, and others alike. It also has some English that is good enough that it sounds natural even if it’s not purely grammatically correct from time to time. The English Dub version does polish the language further for the western audience. But I am here to talk about beck as a whole, not by the discussion whether the original Japanese or the dub English version is a better pick-up.
Beck is a story of growth, dedication, adventure, and trials in life. To succeed in the hardship in life, one must have hard work, determination, and a little bit of luck. This message is fully illustrated to the audience by seeing the daily life of our main protagonist Yukio, Tanaka or well known by the nickname “Koyuki”. We are able to see his growth from being an aimless, weak-willed, and zero confidence teenager to a goal-oriented, dedicated, and well-respected character over the span of 26 episodes.
It introduces us to a couple of interesting characters like Maho and Ryuusuke that stirred up the plot dynamics and Koyuki’s motivation in life. Each new character introduce serves as a narrative of change in Koyuki Life that made the show move forward. Some characters remain static and some forgotten entirely at some point in the show, but there are other characters that got a fair share of development. Though for me, the show would benefit more if we get to know more about the other band members of Beck’s side of the story, especially Ryuusuke story that I found more interesting than Koyukis.
When it comes to artistic presentation. Beck is somewhat a contrast to other show’s art style and color design that is airing at the time. While anime uses multi bright colors and flashy character design for audience appeal. Beck throws that out of the water and chooses the complete opposite. Starting with the color choices, the show is consistent with dimmed colors like grey and dull colors that emit a small amount of light that made the show seems dark even in broad daylight.
The character design is much more grounded, with only a few features that distinguish them from each other. People will point out that Beck has low production value, on so why it doesn’t look like an eye-candy show, but for me in understanding the creator’s intention and given it made by MADHOUSE, a studio that excels in varying styles and cinematic composition over the years, in my viewpoint this is intentional in the melodramatic mood and atmosphere of the show.
In conclusion, the show is worth checking out if you’re interested in watching something different in the medium. It’s down to earth from its platonic romance and its simple humor. The story is progressively steady pace, even if the time-lapse per scene is consists of days up to weeks skip within just one episode. The show has a lot of good soundtracks and my favorite might be “Hit in the USA” by Beat Crusaders and “Moon on the Water” by Sowelu. If only the show has more episodes and a much more solid conclusion I would love it more. I do admit I did get bored in the show’s lack of spice from time to time but it’s part of the experience. Overall a good show of its genre that I wish it could offer more. Because 26 episodes are not enough to finish the journey.
A story about mediocre characters band together that aim for something big even with the flaws and insecurity. Once you get past the unconventionally common art style and color pallet, you will be rewarded with an anime with good characters and some memorable music to stick in your own playlist.
MAL Score: 8.80
Dr. Kenzou Tenma, an elite neurosurgeon recently engaged to his hospital director’s daughter, is well on his way to ascending the hospital hierarchy. That is until one night, a seemingly small event changes Dr. Tenma’s life forever. While preparing to perform surgery on someone, he gets a call from the hospital director telling him to switch patients and instead perform life-saving brain surgery on a famous performer. His fellow doctors, fiancée, and the hospital director applaud his accomplishment; but because of the switch, a poor immigrant worker is dead, causing Dr. Tenma to have a crisis of conscience.
So when a similar situation arises, Dr. Tenma stands his ground and chooses to perform surgery on the young boy Johan Liebert instead of the town’s mayor. Unfortunately, this choice leads to serious ramifications for Dr. Tenma—losing his social standing being one of them. However, with the mysterious death of the director and two other doctors, Dr. Tenma’s position is restored. With no evidence to convict him, he is released and goes on to attain the position of hospital director.
Nine years later when Dr. Tenma saves the life of a criminal, his past comes back to haunt him—once again, he comes face to face with the monster he operated on. He must now embark on a quest of pursuit to make amends for the havoc spread by the one he saved.
The writing in Monster is exceptional. The pace is a slow burn that smartly captivates the viewer with moments of shock, awe, and depravity, which are masterfully combined with well executed moments of anticipation and proper denouement. Once the show has established the setting and many of the players, the series begins a thrilling, rollercoaster of action, suspense and character development. Viewer will rarely feel as though they have missed an important piece of information, and will instead find themselves riveted to the screen as the overarching mystery unfurls.
Dialogue is not wasted in frivolity for Monster. The anxious atmosphere is enhanced with carefully crafted lines that provide insight into characters’ personalities and cast shadows of suspicion. The intelligent interconnectedness of all the characters, especially towards the climax of the show, speaks volumes about the care given to crafting living individuals in appropriate circumstances.
The art both augments tone and adds layers of character to the series. The dynamic use of light and shadow often creates red-herrings, skewing the faces of particular characters into unforgiving masks. Character designs stand out for their realism and attention to facial structure, especially regarding emotions. Variety in body type distinguishes characters, allowing viewers to immediately recognize someone from their visage, or even their silhouette, without hesitation. Characters who are old look old, with age lines harrowed into sagging skin. There are distinct differences given to dissimilar nationalities, so much so that the viewer can easily determine whether a character is of Asian, Slavic, or Middle-Eastern decent.
The background art is a feat in and of itself. There is a wonderful variety spreading from pastoral vineyards to dilapidated cities. German towns and districts such as Düsseldorf, Bavaria, and Hamburg are executed to a near photorealistic quality that extends into the Czech Republic and France.
Everyone in the voice acting crew does well. They suit their characters perfectly and never falter, even in the more dramatic scenes. Sasaki, Isobe, and Kiuchi (Johan, Lunge, and Tenma respectively), give outstanding performances that express the complexity of the emotions, personalities, and experiences of their characters.
The sound effects used throughout the series serve to add an additional layer of realism. As a testament to Monster’s focus on being accurate even in minute details, each gunshot correctly reflects the weapon which was used to fire it.
The OP gives you a hint of what to expect and the ED, “For the Love of Life” by David Sylvian, is one of the spookiest ending themes in anime. The soundtrack should also be commended for its spectacular use of subtlety. It truly fits the idea of “background music,” often setting the tone of the scene with a simple phrase. Additionally, whilst the series has a relatively limited tracklist, the music never feels repetitive.
Perhaps Monster’s greatest strength lies in the depth of its characters, with the main cast representing some of the strongest leads in the genre, whilst those in the supporting roles are often defined far better than the regular cast in many other series. The show manages to bring its characters to life with extraordinary clarity, and although viewers will be “dazzled” by the quality of the lead roles, they may often find themselves growing attached to the minor characters over the course of the series.
The centrepiece of the series is the complex relationship between the Tenma and Johann. Tenma’s emotional, physical, and psychological transitions lead the audience through a complex maze of issues regarding personal and social morality. This is remarkably achieved without losing Tenma’s basic humanity or resorting to didacticism, and contrasts sharply with Johan’s manipulations and calculations which strike a cold, appallingly realistic note with the audience.
The supporting ensemble does a great job of adding intensity and gravity to the relationship between Tenma and Johan. They are all well crafted and executed, and often have their own demons and battles that remind the audience of what precisely lies in the balance between good and evil. Discovering why these people are the way they are and how they relate to each other is half the journey as a viewer.
From its brilliant characters with outstanding development, to its well-paced story and realistic setting, Monster will leave you on the edge of your seat. Finding a show like this is a real treat, and whilst 74 episodes may seem daunting, it is utterly worthwhile in light of the great journey taken. The show’s dramatic storyline and intrigue filled atmosphere will keep you guessing, thinking, and feeling. The complex issues and relationships addressed throughout mark this as one of the most unique anime to appear in many years, and the questions it asks should be confronted by everyone at least once.
Monster is a true rarity in anime. The quality of its story, cast and production have earned it widespread acclaim, even garnering it plaudits from the “hate what’s popular” clique. It is both entertaining and enlightening, and the sheer depth of the series has led to it being widely regarded as a modern classic of anime.
This review is the final result of a review team composed of members from the “Critics and Connoisseurs” club. The team original members were:
Lowell – Writer
Calla – Writer
Sai_notts – Writer
Revisions were done by:
noteDhero – Writer/Editor
naikou – Writer/Editor
Editing was done by:
Here are their individual scorings for the show:
Category – noteDhero, naikou
Story – 10, 10
Art – 9, 9
Sound – 9, 9
Character – 10, 10
Enjoyment – 10, 10
Overall – 10, 10
In the club wide poll held for Monster it received an average overall rating of 9.16
Those who have seen Monster can attest collectively (whether they liked it or not) to how incredibly uncomfortable and unconventional this show is. The topic of evil is proactively exploited through revealing the extent of human depravity in conjunction with exploring matters like child abuse, mass murder, collective brainwashing, human experimentation, the value of life, and so much more. These are some themes that most people make a conscious effort to keep as far away from as possible, yet Monster sits those rights next to the viewer, maybe even introduces them. It’s a slow descent into a world consumed by violence, angst, murder, and retribution. Yet for every larger “evil”, there is always a counterbalance, a small ray of love and redemption. Thus, Monster reinvents the classic dichotomy of good and evil and does so masterfully.
It doesn’t take very long for this show to become an addiction, a classic, a novelty, that one can’t help but indulge in completely and it’s clear why.
Monster takes the viewer into a world where the line between good and evil is rapidly dissipating; subsequently creating a dark yet realistic environment that is inexplicably terrifying. The story centralizes around a brilliant neurosurgeon Kenzo Tenma, who practices in a distinguished hospital in Germany. He lives a perfect life, with his ideal fiancé and top-notch position. His utopian world abruptly comes to an end when he makes the decision to save a young boy, Johann Liebert. The story from this point starts to slowly unravel and spans into a riveting 74-episode long journey, in which, Tenma aims to correct the mistake that he made by seemingly saving the young Liebert and in the process exposing a shocking reality that will change the course of his life and those he encounters.
*74-episodes?* Yes, and by God, every single episode was worth it. Fillers are almost non-existent in this show. The real point to marvel at is the way this anime bitch-slaps the viewer with its unparalleled twists and turns.
The structure and pacing of this show is incredible. Much of the show is divided into various character arcs (many that Tenma encounters on his journey), who at first seem unrelated to the overarching plot, but every character and their allocated story plays a role into solving the mystery of the “Monster”. That is precisely what makes this show ingenious. The story-telling and plot are perfect not just structurally but also substantially. Monster is filled with philosophical concepts that pick at the viewer’s brain consistently and these very uncomfortable notions are the fundamental blocks of the show.
The pacing is skillfully crafted and although slow, it captures the audience with its invigorating interactions and development. There are instances in the show that display rare moments of hope, altruism, and dare I say “humanism” to balance out the overbearing debauchery and utter hopelessness. Therefore, the extensive span of this show is well justified because of the intricacy of this story, that would not have been nearly as compelling if it was shortened. In essence, DO NOT LET “74” EPS TURN YOU OFF, because at the end of episode 74, you will climax, for hours.
The animation compliments the story beautifully. An important component that attributes to the success of any story is the setting. With its accurate and picturesque illustrations, the setting not only enhances the overall anime, but brings the viewer into the story as well. Tenma’s journey takes him on a wild goose chase, landing him in the most obscure of places, but the animation displays each and every place remarkably.
It is obvious, the time that was spent in creating the physical attributes of each specific character. They are all designed realistically and are quite personable. Therefore, this isn’t the anime to go to for bug-eyed, “watermelon-chested” and disproportional characters. The characters are simple, real, and sympathetic, in the sense that the viewer could step into their shoes. As their individual story progresses, the character evolve visually as well. The characters are blessed with this physical realism that is subtle yet evoking.
The accompanying music and dialogue were nearly flawless in Monster. First, the music was not overbearing, instead it fine-tuned the mood and heightened the senses of the viewer. The OP stays consistently the same throughout the anime and for good reason. It is so goddamn creepy yet alluring, that it’s the perfect opening for this masterpiece (same with the ending song). The music throughout the anime is just as fitting. There isn’t an extensive soundtrack for Monster, just relevant music that fits every situation ideally. Second, the creepy atmosphere is ubiquitous in this show and nothing helps that factor more than the music and dialogue.
Dialogue was a personal favorite in this anime. This is simply because the dialogue was so well-written and nothing was ever “out-of-character”. From the colloquial interactions to some of the most enlightening statements, the dialogue had a mix of everything, but it was never over-the-top. The voices of the respective characters couldn’t have been any more appropriate (subbed version). Everyone played their part magnificently and after watching the show, it was apparent just how apt the voice actors were especially in regards to the main cast.
Whether one loved a character or hated a character, it can be safely asserted that the characters of Monster are undeniably some of the best and unforgettable. Granted that the two main characters of the series, Tenma and Johann are crafted and developed meticulously well, one must recognize the range of supporting characters that were superb as well. Often times, one will end up admiring them more so, partly because of the effort put into molding all of the characters and making them wholesome, both main and supporting. There are no instances of incomplete characterization.
Tenma’s journey manifests vicariously through Johann; both characters are crucial to one another, for they essentially give each other meaning. Their characters are absolutely vital and the anime does not fall short in delivering that. Tenma and Johann can be considered a dichotomous pair: Every move they make, every sentence they say, every facial expression they make, progresses their character just a little closer to that dichotomy. The overarching themes are personified through these characters and the viewer really gets to immerse themselves in the decisions that these two make. Tenma’s and Johann’s development as characters cannot be simply deconstructed. However, they can be considered almost existential by nature due to the explicitly absurd experiences and the importance that “existence rather than essence” plays in defining their characters. There is no doubt that the amount of hours and work that went through in creating these two characters, they truly transcend the customary.
The supporting cast is just as essential because they are the means that help this anime arrive at a successful end. The supporting characters really make one realize that this anime isn’t about the end, rather everything that leads to it. Simply, it’s about the means to the end instead of the end itself. That’s the imperative role that each and every supporting role plays in this anime. None of these characters are half-assed, but constructed carefully and logically, and help not only propel the main characters closer to the truth, but the viewers themselves. The best part of this anime is the familiarity it brings to its viewers in terms of character(s). No one can feel indifferent or nonchalant towards the characters in this anime because of the way each individual’s story and feelings are depicted. The main characters, although some change in major ways throughout the show, remain loyal to their core disposition. The character construction and development in Monster is awe-inspiring and commendable.
Even with masterpieces I personally find flawless, there are some issues that I can address for the sake of reviewing:
1. The abrupt halt in some arcs: Sometimes when a sub-arc within Monster came to an end, it would conclude at a point that would be absolutely frustrating and wouldn’t pick up again. This was only a problem because it left some questions unanswered (not really pertaining to the bigger picture), but it felt a bit incomplete in terms of that specific story.
2. Convoluted explanations: Perhaps this was just a contrived adaptation “problem” (maybe it was better executed in the manga), and I use “problem” very loosely. However, at certain crucial points, where certain mysteries are being revealed, there tended to be an intentional veil always hovering over it as to keep the viewer confused. Then a little later, things would get resolved, and the resolution would seem a bit far-fetched. Although, this is something that played in favor for this anime for the most part, it got irritating at times.
Overall Enjoyment 10/10
Monster is truly a show that reinvents the normative standards for a “masterpiece”. It is the quintessential mystery. With its superb plot –driven, character-driven story, it enraptures the viewers from the beginning and leaves them insatiable at the end of every episode, while completely satisfying them by the finale. One cannot hope for anything more than the kind of adaption this anime brings to life.
That being said, this anime isn’t for everyone nor would I recommend it as a must-watch to just anyone. Monster resurrects a horrifying world that is so realistic but feels so surreal to the viewer. It deals with a world that no one would want to deal with and shows experiences that no one would want to experience. Yet, it engages the viewer completely. Therefore, if you crave an original mystery, a thought-provoking story, an unconventional tale that will shake your very core, then I suggest, you get acquainted with “Monster”.
But Monster lives up to every word of the praise it gets.
The story of Monster begins fairly simply. A skilled Neurosurgeon named Kenzo Tenma is due to perform an operation on a patient, but is called away to operate on a popular singer instead. The singer’s life is saved, but his original patient dies. Dr. Tenma is, soon after, called away from another operation due to the mayor needing his services, but this time, he declines, and instead operates on the patient he was originally supposed to save. The operation is a success, but this time, the mayor instead dies. For his insolence, Tenma is to be demoted and replaced… but at the last second, everyone standing in his way is mysteriously killed.
Years later, Tenma’s career is back on track, and he is enjoying a successful life doing what he does best. But one day, a string of bizarre serial murders winds up leading to one of Tenma’s patients. Amidst the investigation surrounding him, the patient disappears… Tenma follows, only to see his patient murdered before his eyes, by the orchestrator of the serial killings… Johan Liebert, the boy whose life he chose to save those years ago.
What follows is 70+ episodes of Tenma’s frantic search to find the boy he saved, and fix his mistake. Along the way, we meet some of the most unique and interesting, yet believably human characters in the history of anime, matched with amazing, compelling subplots, with all of these both answering mysteries regarding, and yet at the same time, furthering the question: Who is Johan Liebert, and what is he trying to do?
While the 70 episode runtime can be daunting, Monster is a worthy investment of time. While it is driven by compelling mysteries that make you want to watch more, Monster is just as much about enjoying the journey as it is reaching the destination. To hold the viewer’s attention for 74 episodes is a feat in of itself, but Monster goes beyond that… it’s a show that, once you start watching, you’ll never want to stop. Monster is in the master class of suspense. It keeps a constant stream of new twists and developments that, while plentiful, never feel contrived. The characters are both strong and numerous, but while there are countless cast members, unlike many shows where there are large amounts of characters that are completely useless and contribute nothing to the plot, every character in Monster brings something to the mix. Not only that, but they are rarely left open-ended, as Urasawa makes sure to bring back characters from previous arcs, using each one to their fullest extent.
The brilliance of Monster also extends past the plot to the production. While Naoki Urasawa’s art style is better suited to pen and paper than it is to animation, it doesn’t take long to get used to, and the detail is quite noticeable. The genius in Urasawa’s distinctive style is in the way he draws faces. The cartoony, yet detailed features have a strange level of warmth to them, but they can also be used to create truly intimidating expressions, ranging from death glares to blank, glassy-eyed gazes. The directing is also top-notch, cutting no corners to create a perfect adaptation to the manga.
Also of note is the soundtrack. Every song on it is a fantastic piece of music, beautifully married to the scene it accompanies. Many pieces are subtle, yet brilliant… The Seeds of Time, for example, rather than going for full-on, orchestral bombastics, eases in with quiet, yet tension-ridden power that gradually rises, making for several of the most stunning scenes in the entire series. The opening and ending themes are also very strong… the opening theme, Grain, would have to be, as it is the opening for the entire course of the 74 episode series. The ending themes, For The Love of Life and Make It Home, are strange, ethereal, haunting songs, and match the “Monster With No Name” theme of the series that is used in the ending credits perfectly.
As for the voice acting, both languages have a very strong cast. In terms of acting quality, the Japanese is the better of the two, if not by a wide margin, featuring several great performances, the highlight of which is Nozomu Sasaki’s dead-on, creepy take on Johan. However, while the acting is slightly inferior in the dub, the casting is considerably better. Richard Epcar is perfect for the role of Detective Lunge, and Patrick Seitz’ deep tones and off-kilter performance are a great match for the eerily poker-faced Wolfgang Grimmer. The only actor who seems off in the dub is Keith Silverstein’s work as Johan, which feels rather unnatural, and overshadowed by his superior Japanese counterpart. Overall, I would recommend the dub, but it’s hard to go wrong with either language.
Now, as much as I hate to say it, Monster isn’t quite perfect. It’s probably as close as you’re likely to find, but it does have one problem. Whilst not so much a fault as a double-edged sword, Urasawa’s storytelling technique of switching off to another location whenever the plot starts to get tired can be somewhat problematic. Don’t get me wrong… as a storytelling technique, it’s a very good one. It helps to keep the viewer’s interest and stop the plot from getting stale, and also features prominently in Urasawa’s later works, 20th Century Boys and Pluto. The problem is that on some occasions, it gets overused. While Monster is nowhere near as big an offender for this as 20th Century Boys is, it goes off on new plot threads that, while enjoyable, don’t really lend anything to the plot. While they often develop into full-fledged and brilliant story arcs, they sometimes end up going nowhere, and in a series where the viewer is dying to find out more, this can be somewhat distracting.
However, any complaints against this series are completely and utterly silenced by the ending. The final six episodes are probably the best in the entire series. The remaining cast members are all given a triumphant finale, as the tension reaches its absolute peak, and it is thoroughly clear that this is what the entire series was leading to. With the exception of one small Deus ex Machina that I shall not name due to spoilers, everything about it is a flawlessly executed conclusion.
Monster probably isn’t something that beginners to anime would enjoy. If you enjoy the medium for the abundant exaggeration, then this probably isn’t up your alley. This is more of a classic, cat and mouse detective series than anything you regularly see in anime, and if that sounds like your sort of thing then Monster is an absolute must-watch.
Final Words: Exemplary in every single aspect, from the story, to the characters, to the writing, to the directing.
English Dub: 9/10
For Fans Of: Pluto, Gankutsuou.
Did YOUR favorite anime make the cut? Let us know in the comments below!
4. Major S1
6. Initial D Fourth Stage
7. Fullmetal Alchemist
8. Kaleido Star
9. Tantei Gakuen Q
10. Mousou Dairinin