They’re the best Anime that 2007 has to offer! We counts down the best anime to come out this year, including the likes of ef: A Tale of Memories., Kanon (2006), Clannad, and more!
10: ef: A Tale of Memories.
English: ef – a tale of memories.
Japanese: ef – a tale of memories.
MAL Score: 7.92
On Christmas Eve, Hiro Hirono runs into Miyako Miyamura, a frivolous girl who “borrows” his bicycle in order to chase down a purse thief. After Hiro finds his bicycle wrecked and Miyako unconscious, the two unexpectedly spend their Christmas Eve together, and when they discover they go to the same high school, their accidental relationship develops even further. This sparks the jealousy of Hiro’s childhood friend Kei Shindou, whose pure approach to life catches the eye of Kyosuke Tsutsumi, a womanizing photographer searching for the perfect shot.
Elsewhere, Renji Asou, a boy who dreams of being a girl’s knight in shining armor, has a chance encounter with Kei’s twin sister—the overly shy Chihiro Shindou, who spends her time reading alone—at an abandoned train station. The two quickly become friends and eventually decide to write a novel together. However, when Renji discovers Chihiro’s secret, a disability that causes her to have an eternally ephemeral memory, his childish ideals will be put to the test.
Guided by two mysterious adults, these youths’ relationships intertwine in a heart-rending tale of love, rejection, acceptance, and memories.
Love. Tragedy. Sadness. This show has all the basic ingredients that’s needed to make me cry. . However, not all shows with those basic ingredients have done so. What made this show so special then?
I guess the characters, and the way they were portrayed. They were all struggling… struggling with their dreams. What to do. Who to be with. That was portrayed in such a way that I completely fell into it, with my entire mind. It was as if I was standing next to them, having to watch them struggle through their dreams and loves… forcing me to cry, both in the good and bad times they were experiencing. Also, the animation and the way the scenes were made was really beautiful and enjoyable. It was something I’ve never seen before, and normally I’d probably say that it was weird, I guess. But with this show… it just fit in so perfectly. The ending of this show was also something that was enjoyable. When I started watching the show, I’d never think about the ending it had, and I’d definitely not like the idea of such an ending. However, after having watched it, I msut say that it was indeed the perfect way to sum it all up. It couldn’t have been done more beautifully, not the slightest inch better. Not at all.
This show is truly one of the best shows I’ve watched, and I think that anyone who enjoys a tear-jerking show will love this show. Fully and completely.
To ‘Not ‘ voters (and you ” voters too): Feedback greatly appreciated =)
Ef – a tale of memories is one of those anime that will probably stay in your memory and will be used as a standard to compare with other similar series in the future. Why in the future? Because the entire series is so beautifully made that there is only a very small handful of shows that are worth comparing it to at present time. In fact, as far as animation quality and technique are concerned Ef – a tale of memories is one of a kind and will most likely remain so for some time to come.
The unique animation style is first shown in the first OP. While colourful images and sceneries directly taken out from the anime itself often proved to be an effective foreshadowing device (and a good way to capture viewers attention), the exact opposite apparently also work! With a simple coloured background plus a bunch of text, and some occasional symbolic representation of certain character/event, the OP of Ef – a tale of memories can be quite addictive to watch. Aside from the OP, the anime itself is equally impressive (if not more impressive). Extremely high quality animation is just a standard for this show. What makes it truly unique are the camera angles used in difference scenes, or in some cases the very effective use of repetitive text on the screen. The former often give viewers a greater view of things and present some background of the setting, while the latter case, the simple words and phrases are enough to advance the plot and at the same time depicts the mental state of the characters.
Viewers will most likely find the beginning of Ef – a tale of memories hard to follow. This can be attributed to the introduction of most (if not all) of the primary casts in the first episode. However, it was necessary to introduce all the seemingly unrelated characters at once since the storyline focuses deeply on the various characters’ developments. It should also be pointed out that a few of the secondary characters will actually become the main characters of the sequel, Ef – a tale of melodies. Thus becoming familiar with the sideline characters now will serve as a good foundation for the sequel.
There are two parallel plots occurring simultaneously. The first involve a simple love triangle between a guy and two girls (somewhat similar to True Tears for those who have seen it), personally I did not find this plot particularly well written. However, the second plot is what makes Ef – a tale of memories shine like a bright star among numerous other anime of the same genre (it is also where the title of the anime came from!). The concept of the second story was designed to move ones’ heart. It was built around pity and sadness. It was written in a way such that viewers will unconsciously find the couple destined to be together, yet due to some circumstances, made it near impossible for them to stay together. Overall, the story and characters are there to evoke a mixed array of emotions from us, the viewers.
As previously mentioned, the entire show is beautifully executed. This includes the music as well. From the BGM in the prelude episode to the OP to the BGM throughout the series to the ending, they all fulfill their purpose very nicely and matches perfectly with the particularly scene at that particularly moment. Personally, it was the amazing OP (plus stunning animation from the OP) that caught my attention to this series. The music are largely composed by Tenmon who happened to be the music composer of other great shows such as 5 Centimeters per Second, Voices of a Distant Star, The Place Promised in Our Early Days, et cetera.
Ef – a tale of memories is truly a great romance anime that all romance suckers should not miss. From unbelievably stunning animation to music to characters to story, there is hardly anything to complain about this show (aside from the lack of “big name” seiyu which some people care about). On the whole, Ef – a tale of memories is, without a doubt, one of the top romance anime of the decade.
The first episode of the series may seem pretty confusing and hard to follow, as the viewer is dragged, from one situation to another. However once you’ve grasped the concept, it quickly becomes clear that this series is made up of two separate, main stories. From then on the show becomes easy to follow and to enjoy, for its uniqueness. There are so many twists and turns that are able to turn any anime cliche into a work of art.
The characters are great and very well defined, as they all developed in their own way, throughout the story. You will have some that are involved in a tangled web of romance, others with their own psychological issues and one in particular that is suffering from an illness (which I must say, has never been portrayed so well in a long time). These characters are then able to show a mixed array of emotions and in turn, makes us viewers feel a mixed array of emotions whilst watching them.
The animation and music quality are one of the best points as it illustrates scenes in such a way that you’ll forget this anime was based of a visual novel (dating sim). This is just another one of the few SHAFT works that boast superb and somewhat unique artistic animation style and quality. The music is pretty amazing in its own way, with some really catchy OP and ED themes and during the show itself; there’s also a wide collection of piano and violin melodies.
Overall ef- A Tales of Memories proved to be a truly captivating romance anime that excelled, far above expectations. Having to go up against the mighty titan that is “Clannad”, this short anime series proved to be a worthy opponent. It’s a very enjoyable series to watch, as each episode brings forth an interesting development however some of these developments can make anyone feel slightly disturbed. But it’s this that sets the anime series apart, from all else. If you have a soft spot for romance anime, then there is no chance you’ll be disappointed with this work of art.
9: Kanon (2006)
Japanese: カノン (2006)
MAL Score: 7.98
As a young child, Aizawa Yuuichi had often visited his cousin in the city; however, something drastic happened to keep him away for seven long years. Now, Yuuichi returns, his memories of those days are simply gone.
Settling into the wintry town, Yuuichi comes across several young girls, all of whom are connected to his past. As he befriends them and continues to interact with them, the long forgotten memories from his childhood begin to resurface…
Sure, the concept sounds like just about any other anime based on a visual novel would be. However, despite several other shows of that type, this actually does remarkably well.
Well, to be honest, this show has got to be one of the greater shows I’ve ever watched, no doubt! The story is just so good it leaves me astonished at times. It starts out as a pretty normal show of its genre. You’re also introduced to several of the girls, but it doesn’t touch upon all their stories at once. There’s some comedic moments every now and then.
At first it might seem like it’s just some slice of life series, but the story progresses a lot from its initial stages, and as you’re taken through the individual girls’ story arcs, you’ll be taken away. It has good a lot of good moments, some romantic, some dramatic. However, just about everything that happens in the story later on will base itself on supernatural elements (mostly miracles), which makes a contrast to the earlier parts of it. That’s not really a bad thing though; I at least found it most enjoyable.
The animation in the series is really awesome too; the character designs, details in environments and everything just looks awesome. The lighting which you find in many of the afternoon scenes is pure awesomeness too; it really makes the scenes moody; and very dramatic if that’s what the scene is about.
The characters of Kanon is really awesome. The girls’ stories are just awesome to behold, and Yuuichi’s own background with them is very intriguing, and it ends up making you wanting to know more about it. The main hero, Yuuichi, is also a very interesting character in his own right. To be short about it; they are awesome and you’ll love them (at least one or two of them).
The music in this anime is really great as well. There’s a lot of nice piano themes, so if you enjoy good piano themes you’ll definitely enjoy the music in this series. The show’s got some good music aside that too, and the OP and ED themes are magnificent.
There’s nothing to say on the sounds aside the music, and the seiyuu do a great job on their roles; the characters’ voices are very good.
All in all, this is a lovely anime, a true masterpiece. If you like anime series based on visual novels, you’ll enjoy this. If you haven’t watched any anime series of that kind, watch it anyway, because you’ll love it.
To ‘Not ‘ voters (and you ” voters too): Feedback greatly appreciated =)
Here is the general outline for a Key story arc. First you introduce a little girl. She is supposedly a teenager the same age as our asshole lead male character. However at every single turn we are establishing how childlike they are. They look 6 years old, they act like they’re 6 years old, the male lead constantly treats them like they’re 6 years old and outright tells them they might as well be 6 years old. Each girl has their own little quip that in one girl’s case might as well be her saying “goo goo”.
They are also depicted as fragile and weak and needing your attention. A bunch of them are in the slow process of dying, either through poorly explained illnesses or magical illnesses. They’re emotionally fragile and with each arc fall apart in their own ways. One girl in particular has her own rotary functions and general maturity, what little of it there was, stripped away from her. The reasons for this shift usually comes straight out of the writer’s backsides, such as a character’s mum getting randomly hit by a car because we needed little girls to be more emotionally unstable.
Their emotional instability and life view all appears to come from when the girls were 6 years old (as in actually on this planet for 6 years, not just emotionally 6 years old). The childhood promise is the most powerful force in the world of Kanon, capable of raising the dead and conjuring ghosts. According to the world of Kanon, all relationships are born from before the age of 6 and everyone you meet since then might as well not exist. Nearly all the girls in Kanon are desperately trying to get back to the relationship they had with the male character from when they were 6.
You get the uncomfortable feeling that the writers believe that the 6 year old mindframe for women is the ideal. Not just so you can comfort them as they slowly die, but from a romantic standpoint too, and whenever you try to strip them off this childlike state the show punishes them for it. Kanon operates on horror movie logic where as soon as a girl displays anything resembling romantic feelings it gets stripped from them. Even if their romantic feelings come from a desire to just be together with someone because they’re lonely, as soon as anything resembling romance happens is when the show starts killing them.
That is this nakige formula. Key aren’t the only people who do it, but they’re certainly the most famous. Bring in a female character. Make the male lead belittle her in s’life segments for her immaturity so he can establish his place as above her. Reveal that she may have romantic feelings for her. Then strip the girl of any independence either physically or emotionally and then usually kill her.
Normally a reviewer will say that the worst thing a piece of entertainment’s can do is be boring, but that’s not Kanon’s problem. Certainly it is mind-blowingly boring since practically all the humour and conversations consist of a girl with no mental capacity being told by the main character how stupid she is. But the real reason I hate Kanon so much is the bits after that. The rinse and repeat of taking a little girl, stripping her of all agency and then killing her in order to draw tears from the audience, who invariably fall for it each and every time.
Not that I blame you. The same way I don’t blame people for clicking on buzzfeed clickbait articles on web advertising. They are designed in that insidious way to get you to click on them, and its only once you realise that do you stop supporting this “You Won’t Believe These 8 Ways Miley Cyrus Hates Minecraft Pokemon” headlines by not clicking on them. I know you think Kanon, Clannad and Air are emotional because they made you cry, but punching you in the face and breaking your nose would probably make you cry too. That doesn’t make the punch a 10/10 emotional piece of high entertainment. All they are doing are taking weak creatures and killing them to draw a reaction from you. Stop falling for it. Please.
The development starts out rather slow and silly and can get a bit dull. I was on a hiatus with this series for almost half a year before I started watching again. It is set up like a harem series, but it is different from them, which sets it apart from other harem series. It is not a harem in a story; it is a story with a harem. There is a difference, and Kanon does it extremely well. Look at all the anime out there. Many of them have similar plots, but what makes some better than others? The execution of the story, and this is where Kanon shines. There is a constant air of mystery behind everything: the characters, the setting, the season, and so forth. The story is emotional, dramatic, and even light-hearted at times. With this nice blend, a seemingly simple story of a new boy surrounded by a group of girls becomes a unique tale. The only major problem was that when one of the girl’s arc ended, they completely disappeared in another character’s arc. This style feels way too much like a visual novel, and lacks blending and character interaction.
There is not much to say about the art and animation when it is done by Kyoto Animations because most of it is a regurgitation of what other fans have already said: absolutely amazing, gorgeous, and stunning. The setting and season of winter are extremely well drawn so that it puts the viewers into that setting. Falling snow has never look so good in an anime until now. It does not just fall; it falls in a way that I could watch it forever. The art style, though it’s very clear, colorful and crisp, is a bit generic. The designs are of the eyes, a staple in these types of stories, were a bit too large and I did not like.
Ah, canon, canon, Kanon. There are reasons why this series is called that, and one of the more obvious reasons is the presence of Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major. Such a lovely piece, especially for one who has already played it. Besides that, the music complements the mood very nicely. When things get dramatic and sad, it is the music that allows those tears to run free. Although I did not find any one track that stood out for me (except for well, the obvious one) the music was nice and fitting. It would not be a soundtrack that I would listen to without the anime playing though. The voice acting was also very good, although every time Yuuichi opened his mouth, I immediately thought of Kyon. It does not help that those two look uncannily similar.
The characters in this series were a bit generic but that’s not necessarily a bad thing with the right development and execution. They did all have their mysteries, problems and development. Every character, from the first time they appear on screen, seems to have a mysterious side. Each of them are different and stands out. And Yuuichi is such an awesome lead. He can be a bit insensitive and playful at times, but he truly is a nice guy and it’s not surprising that he’s so well liked among the girls. The major downside in this series is the lack of interaction among the girls. Once a girls’ story arc is done, they aren’t really seen all that much until the end. It would have fleshed out their characters more if they interacted more.
I enjoyed this anime all right; enjoyed it to the point I cried through episodes nonstop. It might have also been the fact that I marathoned three or four episode at once, so the water works just seemed to never stop. There were times where I laughed out loud, times where I cheered (the ending), and many times where I bawled my eyes out.
Overall, I enjoyed this series immensely. It has a touch of everything: drama, comedy, supernatural elements and so forth. I thought it was a very enjoyable series despite its flaws. 8/10
MAL Score: 8.03
Tomoya Okazaki is a delinquent who finds life dull and believes he’ll never amount to anything. Along with his friend Youhei Sunohara, he skips school and plans to waste his high school days away.
One day while walking to school, Tomoya passes a young girl muttering quietly to herself. Without warning she exclaims “Anpan!” (a popular Japanese food) which catches Tomoya’s attention. He soon discovers the girl’s name is Nagisa Furukawa and that she exclaims things she likes in order to motivate herself. Nagisa claims they are now friends, but Tomoya walks away passing the encounter off as nothing.
However, Tomoya finds he is noticing Nagisa more and more around school. Eventually he concedes and befriends her. Tomoya learns Nagisa has been held back a year due to a severe illness and that her dream is to revive the school’s drama club. Claiming he has nothing better to do, he decides to help her achieve this goal along with the help of four other girls.
As Tomoya spends more time with the girls, he learns more about them and their problems. As he attempts to help each girl overcome her respective obstacle, he begins to realize life isn’t as dull as he once thought.
This show expects us to believe that teenage girls act like five-year-olds. It expects us to care about these infantile, one-dimensional characters. It expects us to have genuine emotional reactions to the ‘blossoming relationships’ between our bland protagonist and these excuses for characters.
Is this too harsh? Let’s look at the individual components that MAL expects us to rate anime by.
STORY: To be fair, the anime didn’t have much to work with, given that it was based on the original VN plot. Still, the outlandish (one word: Fuuko) and emotionally manipulative plot elements (most of the backstories that were explored) weakened what might otherwise have been a sweet, unpretentious slice-of-life drama/romance.
I mean: a story about a girl who is shy and has trouble making friends? Yeah, cool, you can watch Kimi no Todoke or something. A story about a girl with Mysterious Anime Disease who has the intellectual capacity of a child? Sorry, it’s not working for me. [4/10]
ART: High budget, great production values and art direction. Squishy moe character designs may not be everyone’s cup of tea (Sanae looks barely older than Nagisa), but again, that comes with the territory. If anything, this aspect of Clannad makes me despair, because I can think of a lot of better anime series that deserve to have this sort of budget. [8/10]
SOUND: Evocative without being overdramatic, for the most part. Unfortunately, all the female characters sound like babies. [6/10]
CHARACTER: This is probably the greatest problem I have with Clannad, and again, it’s thanks to the source material. Few of the characters get much development. All of them (the female ones, anyway) exhibit some degree of fanboy-pandering. Kyou’s tsundere-ness, Fuuko’s quirkiness, Nagisa’s unending sweetness, etc. – not to mention the fact that Fuuko, Kotomi and Nagisa, at least, sound at least half their age. Their childish and insecure natures (especially early in the series) make for unrealistic characters – and therefore compromise this show’s unrelenting attempts at making us care about them.
It’s also hard to understand Tomoya’s motivations at the start of the series, i.e. why he even bothered with/cared about Nagisa et al. We get no insight into his motivations at all. Why would a so-called delinquent suddenly take up this project of helping a random girl he’s never met before? Why does he find her interesting? What is the point? [3/10]
ENJOYMENT: Obviously higher if you’re a moe fan, but those who derive little enjoyment from watching cute girls doing cute things might find this series rather trying.
Those who watch anime with their brain switched on will find this series trying.
Those who think that female characters should actually resemble, you know, real people… yeah, don’t watch this show, it’ll make you rage. [5/10]
If Clannad weren’t so obviously manipulative, it might be a better series. Which is not to say that the series is obviously cynical – on the contrary, I think it exhibits a genuine warmth that lesser harem-type series lack. Yet the series ultimately feels contrived and heavy-handed, and its unrealistic characters undermine its would-be heart-warming nature.
The first time I watched Clannad was back in 2008, and I just finished re-watching it for the 3rd time this past few days. Now I realize that will take years before I watch something that does the same impact on me like this anime did. I was moved by it the first time I watched, and the third as well, but surprisingly in a different way. Throughout all anime history this is one of the most notorious series in the romance/drama genre, not only for the emotional load it carries but also for the effects and different reactions it causes on the people who watched it.
The quote at the beginning of the review is from the description of the blu-ray edition. Of course they wouldn’t bad-mouth their own release on the disc cover, but it’s so honest and true that I couldn’t find a better way to introduce this review (I just removed the “and now it’s available in HD!” part, obviously.)
I’d like to start this review, if I may, going straight to the point; the main reason why some people avoid Clannad.
“It’s too cute.”
Yes man, it is. I agree with you. There were times I thought to myself “this would never happen in the real world” but what is the problem? Appreciating these beautiful moments won’t bruise you. “You’ll cry” is also a sentence often read in reviews. I admit, I wrote it on my After Story review, but it’s not mandatory! Nobody is obligated to cry or feel sad, it’s just that the anime is so strong that it makes a lot of people cry. Even if you’re not really into drama or romances, give it a try. If you dislike then drop the 2nd season, but complete this one! It’s one in a lifetime experience, I dare to say you’ll enjoy at least half of the show.
The Clannad collection is undoubtedly a well known anime. Even though, the After Story receive much more attention than the first season. Mostly because it’s more “touching” than its predecessor, but it wouldn’t be the same and wouldn’t even exist without this prequel. It’s the entire set that makes Clannad the masterpiece it is.
Some people end up watching After Story before the first series. The storyline is set in a way it’s not necessary watch the first season to understand what is going on, the characters are introduced again and it’s a different theme. However, I cannot guarantee that you will enjoy the show as much as someone who watched the 1st season before.
Clannad is something I would recommend even to a friend who have never watched any kind of anime. There is no need to have a “anime background” in order to enjoy it, it’s something everyone, without exceptions, can watch. Despite the genre, age, tastes… There is no gore, violence, profanity, battles… it’s just the classical slice-of-life humor mixed with a lovely romance, that proves how strong some stories can be by themselves without any kind of “attractive” or fan-service.
Do you know anyone who’s a little depressed and is now reading some kind of self-help book trying to see the “beauty of life”? Recommend to him/her this anime.
If I were to define this series with one word, I’d say it’s “charming”. It’s an anime to be enjoyed, appreciated. All the aspects of it, including art, soundtrack, characters but specially story.
When we were little, we used to find everything amazing, even the most stupid and simple thing was something amusing. We had a hell of a time with friends, laughing for no reason… But, suddenly it’s all gone.
All those great mementos are now just vague memories and you’re stuck in a boring and endless routine. This are the thoughts of our male protagonist, Tomoya Okazaki. And this little fragment from the first scene gives you already an idea of how the story will progress. However these are also thoughts we all have inside of us, and that’s why Clannad’s story becomes so realistic at some point, because it’s close to reality, a reality some people have experienced themselves.
Don’t worry, this sadness isn’t the main focus of the story. Clannad is a heartwarming tale. Our protagonist will make many friends along the way, and with them new situations will appear, turning his lonely days into something much more enjoyable, happy, and also mysterious.
Jun Maeda and the screenwriters from Key did a marvelous job with the development of some points from the story, keeping some surprises hidden until the very end.
Clannad is a character-driven anime. Since it’s based in a Visual Novel by Key, KyoAni decided to maintain the same setting, that’s why it is divided into “arcs”, each one focusing in a specific character.
When you say on a review that one series has these arcs, a lot of people usually interprets it with a prejudgment that it’s bad because they think it will completely focus in one character during some episodes and leave the rest like if they were in “standby”. This is not how it works with this series. Clannad was divided into arcs because that’s how the Visual Novel was done, it was already like this, KyoAni just decided to follow the order. Even though, these arcs are all tight together and some ‘themes’ are continuously being developed, sometimes on the background but also taking the main stage at some episodes.
While talking about characters, I must praise those who imagined and designed them. From my standpoint, they’re original, unique.
Nagisa, for example, has a strong personality but is easily turned down, she’s caring but also very naive. It must seems incoherent but this is where things gets interesting. These characters’ personalities aren’t “fixed”, and just like us, they change as the time passes by. Watching a character that’s plain and you can predict its next action is boring. Stereotypes like the “tsundere friend” will always be present because in a way or another they’re trademarks of slice-of-life. Even though, the way they’re interpreted and the actions these characters take is what makes the difference between the average and the outstanding.
Kyoto Animation has always impressed me with the visuals and the details you can get from their animes. As expected from a high budget company they have in their hands the most recent software. That said, the artwork was also a joy. It’s common to see wallpapers of Clannad around the internet, just another proof of it.
The placement and setting for the story was really well done, all the buildings and alleys seemed like a small countryside city. Same goes for the characters, they all have a clean and careful outline with that “moe” style KyoAni has. Like said before, KyoAni did an adaptation of the original story, so it means they had almost everything of the storyline done, this way they could focus on improving and include minor “spoilers” and visual jokes from the later chapters into the very first episodes which is great because when you finally get to those episodes, you have that déjà vu kind of feeling and remember they did hint you about that.
The soundtrack chosen and created for this series is something to give praise. I was astonished with the OST. They included some really emotional piano pieces for the strong scenes but also relaxing songs for the happy moments.
Although, they did a huge mistake with the ED. Not that it was the wrong song, Dango Daikazoku is addictive and a cute melody, however, there were lots of emotional endings throughout the anime, but after that heartbreaking scene, they throw the usual ending theme. Ok, Dango is a great melody but it isn’t perfect for every moment. You can’t have a happy and a sad ending with the same song! In some scenes, it ruined the entire emotional atmosphere that was built up. This would be one of the few reasons for me to remove some points from Clannad score.
I once read this marvelous anonymous quote:
-“Oh, now I understand why there are few doujinshi of this anime”
and a caption followed: “otaku after watching the complete Clannad series.”
It’s true! The story is perfect the way it is, nobody wants to mess with it.
It’s a complicated thing to say “that series is the best anime of all times”, this is something too relative. Even rankings like the one here on MAL aren’t trustful. I’m not saying that it’s wrong! It’s just that these things are extremely relative since each website of anime has it own community and, as well, some differences in the rankings. Even though, there’s one thing you can take as “absolute”. If an anime is acclaimed by the majority of the critic during years it must mean it’s good. I hope I was able to make a point, and at least convince some of you to watch it.
[…] adfghkjgfdssSorry, just sweeping my tears of the keyboard.
That word is “moe”. I’d never come across the word before “Clannad”, but I sure as hell knew its meaning afterwards. The word categorises a feeling that originates from the sweetness of the female characters, a sweetness that oozes from their character designs to their voices to the way they behave. But it’s not a charming kind of sweetness that you get from, say, “Aria” or “Usagi Drop”. Rather, it’s a cloying kind of sweetness, the kind that makes my tooth ache and my stomach churn. I can’t stand this kind of sweetness because it feels so artificial, arising from a cynical, carefully engineered attempt to portray the girls as cutely as possible. Taken to this extreme, it’s the anime equivalent of junk food – all empty calories and no real substance or nutrition, serving only to obstruct good characterisation.
You can tell pretty quickly that “Clannad” originates from a harem visual novel or a dating sim. The main protagonist doesn’t waste much time hooking up with most of the girls within his field of view. What’s more, the character designs, with their hair colours extracted from almost all major parts of the visible spectrum, are exactly what you’d expect from that kind of source material. There’s the Brown-Haired Girl, the Blue Haired Girl (they don’t even need names, and to be honest they don’t deserve them), the Grey-Haired Girl, and even a pair of Purple-Haired Twins. In fact I’m surprised to see the roster missing a Pink-Haired Girl.
Predictably a generically distinct personality is assigned to each girl. Now, “generically distinct” may sound like an oxymoron, but let me elaborate. The girls’ personalities are all distinct from one another, but they all conform to a generic archetype that can be readily identified within about 20 seconds of their introduction. There’s the Moronically-Childish Girl (aka Green-Haired Girl), the Shy Girl (aka one half of the Purple-Haired Twins), the Tsundere Girl (aka the other half of the Purple-Haired Twins) etc etc. Again, I’m surprised to see the roster missing a Ditzy Girl – maybe the writers deliberately missed one out in order to prevent the whole thing from becoming even more painfully transparent. It also soon becomes obvious that, though all the girls show interest in the protagonist, for the purpose of this playthrough-, er, I mean, storyline, the player- I mean, protagonist, has targeted Generically Sweet Girl (aka Brown-Haired Girl) to woo.
Though I guess “Clannad” is technically not quite a harem since the show contains another guy besides the main character, it may as well be one. The other guy in question qualifies as a guy only on technicalities. In practice, he more closely resembles some sub-human creature roughly on the level of a worm, and is suitably treated like one too. Most of the girls treat him with disdain, and none of them is interested in him in the slightest. To be fair, the main character himself isn’t quite your average harem lead, and for this reason, I have decided to give him the courtesy of actually using his name in this review: he’s called Okazaki Tomoya. What makes Tomoya different from a typical harem lead is that although he’s a bit of a good for nothing, he at least possesses more charisma and confidence than the typical loser-but-nice stereotypical lead that’s recycled through most harems, and so you can at least kind of get why he’s able to attract a harem, especially when displayed next to the worm-like-lowlife.
Other than the insane amount of moe, “Clannad” distinguishes itself by the insane amount of heavy-handed manipulation of emotions. The show has more of it than “Saikano”, and that is saying something. I bristle at the sight of the slice-of-life tag attached to the show because it completely sacrifices any sort of realism associated with that genre in favour of trying to force more emotions out of the viewer with unbelievably melodramatic storylines. The “tragic” stories from the various characters’ pasts feel so contrived that at times it seems like a competition to see which one can be more ridiculous. It’s a competition won by Blue Haired Girl’s backstory involving a teddy bear. The punchline to the story proved so “moving” it had everyone at my anime society showing bursting into tears. Tears of laughter that is.
Moreover, most of the girls – Blue Haired girl being a prime example – disappears into the background as soon as their part of the story is over. The shift in focus from one girl to the next is so swift and ruthless that I found it rather off-putting. What’s the point of spending an arc fleshing out these characters if they’re shelved as soon as their arc is over? Given the source material, I can guess why: the anime probably pulled together storylines from multiple playthroughs focusing on different characters, but couldn’t assemble them into a single, coherent storyline. Brown Haired Girl stands out as the only girl who’s a constant presence throughout, and that’s only because she’s the girl destined to hook up with Tomoya (but don’t worry, if you don’t like the Tomoyo x Brown Haired Girl pairing, Kyoto Animation has rather helpfully made several special episodes which are in essence alternative playthroughs where Tomoya picks someone else).
Just one of the tragic character situations did not come off as overly melodramatic – the one involving Tomoya’s relationship with his dad. However, that one felt like a tacked-on side story that was jarringly integrated into the show. The side story comes into focus randomly with little apparent purpose, and also feels out of place when placed alongside the cheesily cheerful parts. It’s almost as though when given a piece of material with genuine potential, the makers of “Clannad” didn’t quite know what to do with it.
In the end, I’m grateful I watched “Clannad” with others at my anime society, because watching the whole thing by myself would have been an ordeal more harrowing than any of the forced drama the show could conjure up. During the weeks when I couldn’t attend the society showings and had to catch up on the show by myself, it literally took me two or three sittings to grind through each episode because I couldn’t stomach more than a few minutes of “Clannad” at a time. And no wonder – with its sickeningly sweet stench of moe, ludicrously contrived stories and array of cardboard template cut-outs masquerading as female characters, just what is there to like for someone who’s not into moe or extremely sappy melodrama?
Personal rating: -2.0 (terribad)
7: Saiunkoku Monogatari 2nd Season
English: Tales of Saiunkoku
Japanese: 彩雲国物語 第2シリーズ
MAL Score: 8.05
Shuurei Kou and her friend Eigetsu To, a boy prodigy of humble origins, have been appointed co-governors of the Sa province, one of the eight provinces in Saiunkoku. Together, they decide to make the province an academic research center in the hopes of bringing a long overdue prosperity to the region.
However, while Shuurei goes to the capital to obtain approvals for the ambitious project, the Sa province’s recently established tranquility is threatened by a pandemic that brings both death and turmoil as it begins to spread among the people. Counting on Eigetsu to monitor the situation until her return, Shuurei seeks support from her allies to find a suitable treatment. Yet, Eigetsu’s past personal conflicts distract him, providing an opportunity for opponents of Shuurei’s position to take advantage of the troubles and undermine her authority.
Becoming a government official has been Shuurei’s lifelong dream, but it is no easy task for the first woman undertaking such a position. Will she step up and overcome this great challenge or give in to the looming adversities?
Story – 10
The second season starts off around where the last one ends, so I recommend you watch the first season before you tackle this one. Anyway, the second season is easily even more intricate than the first, with Ryuuki finally taking charge as emperor, something not all members of government appreciates. New enemies appear, and the clans continue to feud as always. Every detail in the story is important, something viewers should be used to by now.
Animation – 9
I really appreciated all the costumes this time around. Everyone’s hair, the jewelery, and building designs, all of it is so wonderfully done. Actions scenes could be a bit better, but that’s not really what the story is about.
Sound – 9
It’s the same, top-quality sounds as the first season. The OP/ED haven’t changed, which makes me glad. They’re really fitting. The seiyūs are kind of awesome and wonderfully casted. Some standouts include: Serian, played by the same seiyu as Xingke from Code Geass (ironic since they’re both very similar characters) and Ran Ryuuren (Hei from Darker than BLACK). Okay, the whole cast is amazing.
Character – 10
All the characters from the previous season appear once again, gaining even more development. Kourin and Eigetsu get a particularity epic storyline, something I did not expect, but ended up loving. Shuurei is as motivated as before, trying her hardest to succeed. Ryuuki is also doing his best, and slowly building a group of loyal supporters. Seiran has found a place for himself in the royal guard, and is finally allowing his true personality to show through. Everyone is wonderfully written as usual, probably thanks to Saiunkoku Monogatari being based off a series of novels.
Enjoyment – 10
The second season takes everything I love about this series and adds even more. All my favourite secondary characters get their chances to shine, and some new characters bring fresh life to the show (Go Jyūsan-hime!). I was impressed by the costumes and soothed by the sounds of the erhu. Usually, second seasons aren’t as good as their firsts, but Saiunkoku Monogatari does not stick to this norm.
You know that series that you obsess over continuously like some druggie? The series that makes you even risk staying up at night and pretending to be asleep when your parents check on you but you have to watch it? It was that sort of series for me.
The thing about this anime is that it completely sucks you in. At first I was very reluctant to watch it because of the whole ‘harem’ thing which really annoys me but I decided to give it a shot when the “ohmygosh exams are coming” craze hit my head. And then I couldn’t stop watching.
I watched both seasons in a week. I sacrificed a lot to finish it. AND I DON’T REGRET ANYTHING. The characters are all so different and they feel so real, it feels good to be able to distinguish between them. In season two the story just got better and there were times I bit my pillow in frustration or to simply stop myself from screaming. My family caught me talking and gushing while pointing at the laptop screen but they decided to leave me alone. I would like to thank them for that.
Then there were the new costumes and Shuurie got some new hairstyles. Good for her. BY THE WAY, Shuurie (am I spelling her name right? I can’t tell. I feel like a mindless zombie because I just finished watching the last episode) is my all time favorite heroine now! I rarely get to see such a strong female lead who doesn’t annoy me and, for some funny reason, in my eyes she just got prettier and prettier after every episode. And I was like, have you ever met such a beautiful character, both inside and out?
New characters were introduced and some older characters’ background details were explored. Very touching stuff, actually. These people feel real to me. I’m glad Ryuuki became stronger in the end and found his resolve and learned to be a better emperor.
There’s so much going on inside my head right now. It’s a jumbled mess. But, the most important question is, WHERE IS SEASON THREE? Breaks my heart. honestly.
Excuse me while I go look for the novels online. Goodbye (^_^)/
6: Dennou Coil
English: Den-noh Coil
MAL Score: 8.08
In the near future, augmented reality has become a key part of daily life. A gentle middle school girl named Yuuko “Yasako” Okonogi and her family have just moved to Daikoku City despite rumors of people disappearing. There, her grandmother, nicknamed “Mega-baa,” runs a shop called Megasia that specializes in illegal tools which interact with parts of the virtual world.
Mega-baa also hosts an unofficial detective agency called “Coil,” a group of children around Yasako’s age who find and handle corruption of the virtual world. Yasako gets involved with the group when Fumie Hashimoto, a playful member of Coil, helps rescue her cyberdog Densuke after getting trapped in virtual space while chasing a mysterious virus. Also investigating these corruptions and viruses is an abrasive hacker named Yuuko Amasawa, who the others take to calling Isako.
Can Coil discover the truths behind the mysterious viruses and corruption, and if they can, at what cost?
ANIME: Dennou Coil was directed by Mitsuo Iso (well known for his key animation work on early Ghibli movies and Neon Genesis Evangelion) and was produced by Madhouse (well-known for their work on Death Note and Paranoia Agent). It ran on Japanese TV from May 12th, 2007 till December 1st, 2007 and, as of the time of this writing, has not been licensed Stateside.
STORY: The year is 2026, eleven years after the technology to turn the internet into augmented reality by the use of immersive “cyberglasses” was developed. Yuko “Yasako” Okonogi, a young girl in sixth grade, moves to Daikoku City, the center of the technology behind the glasses, and is strongarmed by her grandmother into joining her “investigation agency”, composed of children with powerful illegal software codes and tools. On her first day in town, she runs into Yuko “Isako” Amasawa, a cold, aloof master hacker chasing a mystery in Daikoku City, that will soon involve both Yukos and their friends…
Dennou Coil is probably one of the best shows I’ve watched in a good long time. This show has been in development for about ten years, and with the incredible subtlety of this entire show, I can believe it. Every aspect of the technology, how the world works, and every tiny detail that one can think of for this blends together to make the world seem incredibly believable, if not possible in just a few years’ time. It’s just futuristic enough to seem amazing, yet grounded enough in reality to seem incredibly possible.
The plot and characters in this are incredibly well-constructed as well. Characters are slowly developed through various interactions and their relationships to others in episodes, and even though characters may not take a prominent role for a few episodes, they’re always there in the background. And the plot itself is intricately woven; the smallest details from the earliest episodes, which seem like throwaways, come back to play in full force in the last half of the show. The first third of the show establishes the basics of the world and characters, then comes a brief filler arc that slowly brings things to the fore, and then the last third of the show takes everything that’s come before and takes it into far darker places than everything up until this point would have you believe was possible. The final episodes of the show are probably some of the darkest I’ve seen in a show aimed towards a younger audience to date, but, regardless, resolve amazingly well.
ART: Dennou Coil has a bit simpler character design than other shows that Madhouse has done; the kids and adults are a bit more angular, and are a bit less intricately designed than, say, characters from Death Note. However, their traditional realism shows through in the interaction of the virtual environment and the real environment; incredible amounts of detail are put into the various software codes and tools that the children use, along with how they manifest (and yes, some will call similarities on some of the patterns that show in the hackers’ codings and the arrays in Fullmetal Alchemist, but really, let’s not be nitpicky here).
MUSIC: The background music for this series doesn’t particularly stand out, but, regardless, is a well-done score, and worth a listen to. The OP and ED are done by the same singer, Ayako Ikeda, and are some of the best opening and ending songs I’ve heard in a long while, the OP and its eerieness in general especially.
SEIYUU: Fumiko Orikasa (well-known for her roles in Hellsing as Seras and in Saikano as Chise) takes a starring role in this as Yasako and does an incredible job in the role. Otherwise, all the other seiyuu in this production do a solid job.
LENGTH: Dennou Coil was meticulously planned, I think, to be just the right length; not too long, so that it wouldn’t drag, but not too short, so that there wouldn’t be information overload. No complaints here, in general, a wonderful job in planning – then again, ten years in development does that to a show.
OVERALL: One of the best shows that I’ve seen in a good long time, with incredible amounts of detail, and well-constructed plots and characters, and solid background music, art, and seiyuu.
An underappreciated gem of the 2007 season; watch it.
OVERALL: 47/50; 94% (A)
STORY – Dennou Coil’s story is a very unique and interesting take on a popular old subject: digital technologies and the human consciousness are both subjects that have been explored for years. Usually though, a series’ protagonists are similar in age to its primary target audience, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here as Dennou Coil’s themes are actually rather sophisticated and suggest a complexity beyond what may be expected when the characters are in the 10-11 year old range. The connection between the consciousness and a digital projection of oneself has been examined in series such as Ghost in the Shell, but it’s definitely interesting to see this sort of stuff with Digimon-aged characters. The story is good and solid, but what can be a point of frustration is the leisurely pace the plot seems to progress at for the first half of the series. Though it’s a mystery at its core, the series often lapses into almost slice-of-life or simple adventure-type episodes that seem to contribute very little to the overall story.
This was indeed frustrating to me, and I was close to dropping the series as a result. But I stuck it through on my brother’s recommendation, and I was definitely rewarded. Almost all the "useless"-seeming episodes contain nuggets of important information, and even the recap-like episode has bits of new, and very relevant, material slipped in between the recycled animation. In retrospect, this was actually incredibly clever as it mimics the mystery of the series and forces you to recall things later as you suddenly realize their importance. Keep your eyes pried.
Once you hit the second half of the series, everything starts progressing very quickly. The tension rises, the suspense more than doubles, and the mystery deepens as the characters explore avenues and possibilities they hadn’t considered before. The story becomes even more engaging and intriguing as you delve into the pasts of various characters, intertwined in ways they don’t realize. It gets scary too, in that wonderful creepy way that most horror movies aren’t able to accomplish. Watch the second half of this series by yourself with the lights out in the middle of the night. It’s fun. 8D
CHARACTER – The two main characters in Dennou Coil are both wonderfully in-depth characters. Yasako and Isako appear to be polar opposites, and it’s really great watching their relationship change and grow throughout the course of the series as they are forced against each other and along side one another by circumstances. As they’re both new the area at the start of the series, it’s also interesting to follow their interactions with the other children as they carve out their places among them. They’re great foil characters, and though this comparative nature is made obvious by their similarly pronounced given names (they’re both named Yuko, though the kanji is different, allowing them to have different nicknames), I don’t really feel as if that cheapens it. Additionally, though I usually tend to dislike wholly "good" characters, the fact that we’re dealing with children makes their personalities and motives easier to sympathize with, regardless of "goodness." Besides, it’s not that hard to believe that children just aren’t that jaded, even if sometimes they pretend to be.
The rest of the children vary in complexity of character, but none of them seem completely flat or boring. Daichi and his gang may seem pretty stereotypical at first glance, but all of them are explored further (sure, Daichi and Denpa more than the rest, but even the lackeys have some ulterior motives). Fumie, Akira, and Kyoko interested me the least (Kyoko annoyed the hell out of me, really), but they facilitated plot points well enough, and the latter two are minor enough (and young enough) to not really matter much beyond that. Haraken I kind of have mixed feelings about because his character never seemed to change much, even when it seemed like he should have. It was an understandable staticness, to some extent, but it still bugs me somewhat. Still, his relationship with his aunt was fun to follow, and I think it’s kind of hilarious that the aunt is only seventeen, but considering the ages of most of the other characters, that’s pretty damn old! Then again, there’s also Mega-baa… who’s ancient, but possibly more childlike and energetic than anyone else in the series!
All in all, I was very happy with the characters in Dennou Coil, even the ones that appeared kind of generic found ways to make themselves entertaining for the most part.
ARTSTYLE & ANIMATION – I don’t think there was anything especially notable about the art or animation in this series, but both were definitely fitting. The characters looked appropriate for their given ages, and there was a softness about the general style that seemed to suggest the same. The animation I would consider to be on the high end of average; the explosions, the shininess of metatags and metabugs, as well as the Illegals were all very well done.
MUSIC – I’m very fond of both the opening and end themes in Dennou Coil; both have this sort of mysteriousness and anticipation to them that go very well with the story and general mood of the series. The music present in the series itself must not have been anything too memorable since I can’t seem to recall anything right now, but nothing stands out as bad either so. There may actually be some good tracks I can’t think of right now though; there were some pretty nice action and suspense scenes, and I’m sure the music was appropriate for them. I just can’t recall anything right now.
VOICE ACTING – This series hasn’t even been licensed yet, I don’t think, so subbed is your only choice for now. Average? Yeah, I’d say about average, average-good? Most of the voices were pretty nice, especially for more eccentric characters like Mega-baa and Haraken’s aunt, but otherwise nothing particularly notable.
OVERALL – I think Dennou Coil is a great series, despite its slow pacing at times. You can consider it reflective of reality — mysteries aren’t always solved immediately, and children tend to have short attention spans, so they may wander off and do something else for a little while before being reminded of the task at hand. Mystery is a pretty neglected genre in anime in my opinion, but Dennou Coil handles it very well while matching familiar digital/reality themes with characters that aren’t traditional to them. Everything wraps up neatly in the end (yes, that does mean it’s a mystery that has a good ending!), and I was left feeling very satisfied.
The story basically follows the adventures of different elementary kids who are trying to uncover the secrets of this augmented reality. As the series begins it doesn’t give the viewer much to go on, except a few things you’ll notice and able to pick up on straight away. Once having a basic understanding about what this whole plot and story is about, it becomes very interesting to watch, as these little kids end up discovering different mysteries. The characters themselves are pretty ordinary and don’t really do much for the story, accept later on once the story begins to find its place. However viewers may find themselves getting annoyed by some of the characters, but the intriguing and dramatic story will help you forgot about these little annoyances.
The animation has a certain uniqueness to it, as it seamlessly blends in drawn animation with 3D CG. It is not all the time when you find an anime which works so well with CG but it actually helps portray the half-virtual world in this one. The music is pretty good as well, with fun melodies while normal things are happening, dreary tunes for the mysterious moments and exciting tunes for the pockets of action throughout.
Overall Dennou Coil is an intriguing sci-fi anime that is similar to “Ghost in the Shell”, in the way that it shows another possibility of future’s technology. The story itself is very interesting, as it somehow portrays a realistic possibility of developed city, whilst also managing to incorporate many mysterious supernatural elements as well. This helped to add some incredibly intense drama in the highly eventful 2nd half of the series. Yet amongst all the fun, interesting and exciting episodes are a few incredibly dull and boring ones, in the 1st half, which let the series down.
Other than this, Dennou Coil is definitely an anime worth watching and I would have given it a higher overall rating but the uneventful 1st half of the series prevented me from doing that.
5: Mobile Suit Gundam 00
English: Mobile Suit Gundam 00
MAL Score: 8.13
In the distant future, mankind’s dependence on fossil fuels will lead to their complete depletion, an energy crisis unlike anything the world witnessed. Out of retaliation and fear, humanity began focusing at an alternative source of energy: solar power. Different nations have united together to form three major factions—the Union of Solar Energy and Free Nations, the Advanced European Union, and the Human Reform League. Each of these sectors has access to a solar power generator, which gives them limitless energy.
As a result, countries that were once dependent on the sale of fossil fuels are now plunged in poverty, leading to years of warfare and internal strife over the control of solar energy. Amid this chaos, an unknown paramilitary organization appeared identifying themselves as “Celestial Being,” aspire to end all warfare through armed intervention by using mysterious and technologically advanced Mobile Suits known as Gundams.
Mobile Suit Gundam 00 follows the story of Celestial Being’s Gundam Meisters Setsuna F. Seiei, Lockon Stratos, Allelujah Haptism, and Tieria Erde. These four dive into the devastating battle between the three superpowers to accomplish their goal of changing the world.
I haven’t seen any of the previous Gundams, I knew about them of course, but never actually sat down and watched them. Partly because 00 had a more sleek art style and partly because the instant contradictions within the plot and characters intrigued me.
This review may contain hints of spoilers, but nothing explicit and flat out.
STORY- The story is political, to say the least. Because this is the first season, there’s a lot of focus on why things are the way they are, the factions and their goals, observing them discuss, ect. I admit it’s a little hard to keep up with sometimes once you feel it start to drone on. Thankfully, it’s not that long, and just long enough to get the point across. What interested me the most was a point that was shown through the relationship between Setsuna and Marina. Celestial Being is trying to eradicate war, as they say, but they are fighting to do that. That itself is a huge contradiction, one that isn’t ignored by the characters themselves. Setsuna in particular I remember musing over it. Marina on the other hand seeks peace, creating a good-hearted light of hope in all of the violence. The whole thing is very realistic and that was a drawing point. This isn’t an alternate universe, this is a version of an imagined future.
ART- Again I’ll say it, the sleek art is what drew me the most to 00. I’d seen the previous gundams, but never watched them because the designs nor the style caught me. The character designs themselves are very nice. A crazy crayola crayon box, but nice. Mobile animations and designs were done very fluidly and detailed. If anything, it’s not an ugly show to watch at all. It’s not full of big eyed girls with moe attitudes, there’s a varied female design throughout. Same could be said for the males. While the girl designs feel more futuristic, the boys somehow feel more earthy to me. Still- that’s just me.
SOUND- No one’s tracked how many times I’ve raved about 00’s OP and EDs. They are the absolute best I’ve ever seen. The lyrics, the accompanying animation and the whole exhibition of it is produced beautifully. I’m one of those people who normally skip over OPs after so long and never really watch EDs, but every single time I watched both in 00. The soundtrack in itself isn’t very noticeable nor memorable, though that didn’t bother me much. I was too preoccupied with the OPs and EDs still, because I can’t imagine such a string of beauty throughout a whole anime season for anything other than 00.
CHARACTER- This is the point I have to strongly fight that bias. The hugest thing that kept me watching the series was the characters, who I found a relief from all the others that seem to be popping up. The relationships between them, the backgrounds… learning about the characters was a bit slow paced, but rewarding all the same. None of the meisters have had easy pasts. Allelujah finds himself fighting with a split personality from experimentation. Setsuna gained his cold and unaffectionate demeanor from his life as a child soldier. Tieria, an exceptionally mysterious character, isn’t what you’d call fully human. Then even the guy who would light up the room with his smile, Lockon, carried a hatred for terrorists within his heart that clouded his judgement.
All of them bond. All of them grow closer without saying anything. Lockon in particular is to thank for these growths, because he is truly the shining light of the show. The one who unites all the others, smiling to help them grow. It’s hard not to become attached to his magnetic personality, like him or hate him. Then there are the more minor parts of CB, including a socially awkward young girl who doesn’t know how to express herself to people and finds solace in robotics, an alcoholic strategic who never misses a chance to have a drink, a friendly young adult woman who, despite the dreariness she’s surrounded with, manages to keep an upbeat and sociable attitude.
And of course there are the antagonists, as well as everyone else. It’s quite a cast. The Trinity siblings I felt, didn’t get nearly enough screen time, being introduced more than ten episodes into the series, but they were dynamic. They shook up things wherever they went, and were nothing but a joy to see. Never dull. Nena Trinity, the youngest, does an excessively violent act late in the season that truly exhibits the sibling’s ruthlessness. The antagonists were intriguing, but they too, I wished had more screen time to really let the viewers get a better feel. All the relationships were so complicated- it made the two civilians, Saji and Louise, stand out like a sore thumb in the cast. Very fun comic relief and a chance to see what’s happening through a civilian’s point of view. Ultimately, while the two may not seem important, gradually they gain almost the most character development throughout the cast, surprisingly enough.
ENJOYMENT AND OVERALL- If you can sit through some politics, enjoy having your morals questioned and are willing to keep an open mind, it’s a fantastic series and I recommend it. As many have said- it’s an excellent gundam series to start off with.
The premise of Mobile Suit Gundam 00 focuses on the paramilitary organization/force known as Celestial Being, and their idealistic goal towards eradicating war through violence itself. Much like fighting fire with fire, the controversial goal of Celestial Being is embodied through mobile suits known as "Gundams" and their armed interventions.
Pitting a paramilitary force and its overpowered mobile suits against the world, you basically get a massive serving of shiny mech to mech action. Not exactly the most innovative. The story’s essentially set up so the show can have as many mobile suit battles as possible; and frankly, that isn’t a bad thing as long as it’s toppled with good characters and drama. It’s a decent story, but it’s lacking some of the military aspects that Gundam is known for.
Besides the main story, there’s also a subplot involving two characters named Saji and Louise. Their purpose is to basically show the viewer the civilian standpoint of Celestial Being’s fight against the world’s three superpowers. Which is probably the show’s only source of slight comic relief and lightheartedness.
Art and Animation
The character designs of the four main Meisters are all quite well done. Much like Gundam Wing, the main characters are all pretty boys. Besides the main characters, we also have our blonde antagonist Graham whose appearance all-around gives the vibe of an ace pilot. Female designs are also done very well, such as Marina, who, though young, gives off a very motherly appearance; a very important aspect regarding her role in the plot.
The Mecha designs of Gundam 00 is very unique in that they’re not rehashes of mobile suits from previous series. Gundam Exia (AKA the main main Gundam) offers a very simplistic and futuristic design; in fact, that goes to all the other mobile suit designs in this series. So unlike the Strike Freedom, the Gundams don’t have a million things on their backs and enemies don’t look overdone as if they were meant to sell model kits. The Mecha designs in 00 are, in my opinion, some of the best in the Gundam metaseries.
The animation in this series is absolutely stunning. You wouldn’t find a prettier anime on this planet. Gundam 00 contains some of the most fluid Mecha action I’ve ever seen. The likes only rivaled by another Sunrise mech, Code Geass R2. Everything in this series is animation gold, from the shading and facial expressions of characters to the GN drive emitting particles from the Gundams. It should be noted that there are some minor slip-ups, but they’re passable and like mentioned, minor.
The sound (speaking of music, not sound effects) in 00 is probably the weakest part of the entire series. This is one of the few things that its predecessor, SEED, is by far superior in. The soundtrack isn’t necessarily bad, it just doesn’t bring out the mood as effectively as it should. Though there are some great background music such as Fight, Counterattack, and Union.
The OP’s and ED’s on the otherhand are fantastic. Unlike SEED, new openings use different animation and things are actually MOVING and isn’t a slideshow of pictures.
The characters in Gundam 00 are.. interesting. Can’t say the score eight is definite as the second season hasn’t aired yet. But judging solely on the first season, the characters are all quite reserved if not emotionless. Setsuna, being the main character, has a very interesting if not bloody background to him. Tieria is mysterious and strict, Allelujah is a character struggling with his mind, and Lockon is easygoing and likable, though he harnesses a deep hatred towards terrorists.
Other characters include the Char-like ace pilot Graham, war-loving Ali Al Saachez, and Human Reform League veteran soldier Sergei Smirnov.
The cast in general is a good cast, the characters aren’t anything we haven’t seen in Gundam before, but maybe that’s a good thing.
It’s an enjoyable series, especially towards the end. The Mecha action will glue you to the screen, the characters will make you empathize, and old time Gundam fans will have fun comparing it to Wing and/or finding the Char clone. The show also carries the ‘Kill em all’ kind of ending done by Director Yoshiyuki Tomino, something UC fans may fancy.
Gundam 00 is by no means a deep show, it’s the Gundam you know and love, with the usual war themes and ideology; all wrapped up in HD goodness. For newcomers, Gundam 00 is a fantastic introduction to the franchise. All-around it’s a solid show. Gundam 00 proves once again how sitting in a cockpit while shouting out morals and personal philosophies is a win-win formula even after almost thirty years since its debut.
General impression, summary, and thoughts:
Story: B+ : A storyline you would expect from a mecha geared towards the Shounen demographic.
Art & Animation: A+ : Good interesting mecha and character designs, fluid mecha action.
Sound: B : Weak, forgettable.
Character: B+ : The characters are there, they get developed but overall it’s more plot-driven.
Overall: B+ : Another solid installment to the Gundam franchise, a promising ending setting up for the second season.
STORY – Sometimes, it’s easy to become jaded with the Gundam franchise; it’s always another war and another group of over-powered mechs piloted by super-capable teenagers. Each series seems to have its own unique set of deviations though, and that’s undoubtedly why the franchise has survived for as long as it has. In 00’s case, it’s interesting to note that there’s no clear-cut war between two factions. The world’s existing conflicts are a mix of terrorism, civil war, and totalitarian oppression. Though morals are still cited a lot, there’s no clear-cut definition of "good" or "evil," and our protagonists admit up front that they aren’t necessarily "good." Some of the politics are eerily similar to some real life current events, but it wasn’t clear enough to me whether they were actually trying to make a statement about something or whether it was mostly coincidence. There are also some religious and environmental messages tossed into the mix, but again, not sure if any of it was supposed to be legitimate commentary. If anything though, Sunrise plays good politics.
Our protagonists, the paramilitary organization Celestial Being, declares its purpose to be the eradication of all war, and it aims to do so by intervening with all armed conflicts with their over-powered Gundams… and that’s where the ground starts getting shaky. I never really thought the "war to end all wars" thing had much logic to it, but I can still enjoy a show with that sentiment at its core if the storytelling is all right and if events still seem to unfold logically. But Celestial Being was founded two hundred years prior to the events of the series, and all of their technology was developed then. And yet somehow, they are still mad over-powering against armies built on recent technology? Seriously? Realism does not compute. It’s frustrating that not a lot is ever said/explained/discovered about the organization’s origins throughout the course of the series, and I really don’t understand the need for 00 to be split into two seasons. I don’t buy that it’s just the four year timeskip because Gurren Lagann proved that you could have a hugely significant timeskip mid-series no problem.
For the record, I hated the ending of this first season. It goes along fine for a while, but then we get this supremely rushed-feeling, arbitrary, and cobbled-together series of events that seemed to serve little purpose beyond hitting some sort of end-point for the season. And the thing I hate the most about Sunrise? Faked character deaths. Zombie characters. They’re notorious for it, yes. No body means no death in Sunrise, but knowing this doesn’t make it any less infuriating every time they do it. The Zombie problem alone made me disinclined to care about the second season, especially since I felt like they could have legitimately ended the series at 25 episodes if they had cut out a thus far pointless subplot and replaced it with relevant information about Celestial Being. Oh, Sunrise…
CHARACTER – Ensemble casts always wrestle with the problem of underdeveloped characters, and this is especially problematic in 00. It took me a really long time (probably at least ten episodes, which is way too long) to get into the characters and to care about them, and even then, my interest was limited. Of the four pilots, Setsuna’s past is expanded upon the most, and I found it interesting the way the viewers’ perception of him changed the more we learned even though Setsuna himself doesn’t start to grow/change much until the near-end of the season. Allelujah’s character and past isn’t terribly inspired, but I think the acting really helped to garner audience sympathy to his case, and I liked the way his split personality was portrayed through reflections.
Lockon probably has the most terrible name pun ever (though H/Allelujah is pretty bad too), but I can live knowing that it’s only a code name. That aside, he was probably the most generic of the pilots. Easy-going, friendly, righteous, and all that. Nothing special…except that his Haro is probably the most ridiculously adorable incarnation of a Haro ever. I also really appreciated the fact that there was some age disparity between the pilots. Setsuna is sixteen. Lockon is twenty-four. Everyone isn’t a fifteen year-old kid! Oh, and Tieria? We never learn anything about Tieria, so I didn’t really care about him at all. Sure, there’s a whole ‘nother season to explain things in, but I shouldn’t need to wait that long to care. It’s always a problem if I don’t care about the characters.
The other characters… ugh, there are just too many of them, and I didn’t care about any of them. There were too many characters trying to play puppetmaster and making brief, unexplained appearances every few episodes, and none of them seem to have an interesting motivation or ambition. I am tired of characters trying to take over the world, and I’m sure you are too. Even Celestial Being’s founder felt like he was trying to force the world into something… Marina Ismail? She was generic to the point that I had no sympathy for her for that reason alone. Graham Akre? I don’t care about your vengeance-driving bullshit. Ali Al-Saachez? Don’t care. Super Soldier #1? Whatever. The worst of it was the gigantic subplot involving the civilian characters. Their scenes were awkwardly woven into the politics, morals, and action, and I was thoroughly annoyed with all of it. Most likely, this subplot will lead up to something that (might hopefully kind of) be relevant in the second season, but that’s too long of a build-up for me.
ARTSTYLE & ANIMATION – The animation in 00 is pretty top notch. The mecha battles are slick, clean, and super entertaining to watch. The Gundam designs are fun and unique, and I’m especially fond of Exia (come on, anything with seven blades has to be badass). The other mech designs, as well as the battleship designs, are also pretty neat.
Unfortunately, I found the character designs to be a bit lacking. Aside from Tieria’s overt androgyny, I appreciated that they didn’t have crazy wild appearances, and it is neat that many of the characters are supposed to be of different nationalities, but in the end, it’s just supposing. If they never mentioned that Lockon is Irish, that Setsuna is Kurdish, that Saji is Japanese, you’d never know. Especially among the female characters, I felt like I’d seen them all before. Generic political figures, generic princesses, generic prettyboys. It didn’t help that I had a hard time distinguishing some characters from others for a good five or six episodes; blame it on my own crappy memory and incompetence, but even so.
MUSIC – Well, I’m pretty biased towards both opening themes for 00. As a L’Arc~en~Ciel fan, I loved "Daybreak’s Bell" long before I ever saw this series, and as I’m currently on a Tomoko Kawase kick thanks to Soul Eater’s second opening, I’ve come to really love "Ash Like Snow" as well. They’re both great songs though, and I always love when the lyrics feel relevant to the actual series. The end themes didn’t feel as exciting in contrast, but once again, it could just be my bias towards the two bands doing the openings. (Actually, I found the first end theme, "Wana," to be pretty annoying…)
The background music for the series pales in contrast to its theme songs, as well as previous Gundam series like SEED, and other Sunrise mecha series like Code Geass. Very few tracks stood out to me during the series; the few that did were generally battle themes, but even those were pretty subpar. It wasn’t terrible music, so it didn’t really take away from the experience, but I’m sure a lot of scenes would have been better had there been a more emotional or meaningful soundtrack.
VOICE ACTING – Pretty average for the most part. Allelujah has a very unique-sounding and emotional voice; I think that’s one of the reasons I warmed up to his character, and Setsuna was interesting in that he’s one of the first monotone-voiced characters that didn’t seriously annoy me. I appreciate the versatility of Miyano’s voice — it’s very easy to distinguish his many roles. Beyond that, none of the other characters really stood out to me. Nothing amazing, but each character had a voice that suited them perfectly well.
Edit; I saw one episode of the English dub (episode #11). Overall, it was pretty lulz-worthy. Tieria and Lockon both sound better than I expected, but they still feel awkward and unnatural, particularly Tieria, though I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that many of his lines are kind of corny. Setsuna didn’t have a very big role in the episode, but the few lines he did have also impressed me. Swalie’s voice is much more versatile than I thought. Cox on the other hand… Allelujah sounds terrible. The voice doesn’t suit him at all and really made him seem like an entirely different character. Hallelujah is passable, but Allelujah fails utterly. Much of the secondary cast feels just as awkward, sadly: both Graham Akre and Billy Katagiri are very lulzy; Feldt and Marina are super generic, as are Col. Smirnoff and Soma; Sumeragi is actually pretty okay, but it can’t be hard to sound "okay" when everyone else is just so… wtf. I don’t think I’ll be watching any more of the dub. The "sound" score component is not affected by the dub.
OVERALL – I think this review might have turned out a bit more negative than I intended just because I’m still annoyed with the season’s ending. You might wonder what I actually liked about 00. Well, I enjoyed the story and main conflict for the most part. It’s always good to see a blurring of good and evil, especially when characters try so hard to convince themselves that they’re doing the right thing. If I could score this series somewhere between a 7 and an 8, I would. 7 feels a bit harsh, but 8 feels too generous. I think 00’s main problem is just that there are too many little details to the plot and few of them are explained properly; similarly, there are too many characters, and none of them get the attention they deserve. The intense build-up for the second season leaves this first season pretty void of substance, which is really disappointing. If you’re going to divide up your forces, divide them evenly, huh?
I’ll see how this second season goes though, but Zombie characters isn’t a really great place to start if you ask me.
4: Major S3
Japanese: メジャー (第3シリーズ)
MAL Score: 8.25
Having bid farewell to his former teammates at Kaido High School’s baseball club, Gorou Honda returns to his hometown eager to continue playing. Attending a new high school proves to be more difficult than he initially expected, as Tetsufumi Egashira’s merciless slandering of his name prevents Gorou from being accepted into any school with an existing baseball team.
Left with no other options, Gorou joins Seishuu High School, where his childhood friend Kaoru Shimizu also attends. However, Seishuu has always been an all-girls school until two years ago, so there is not yet a dedicated men’s baseball team.
But nothing will stop Gorou in his pursuit of Koshien. He must now create a baseball team from scratch with the seven male students at Seishuu, but all of them are complete amateurs! He decides to train the incompetent team up to nationally competitive levels, but such a feat is easier said than done. Will Gorou once again perform miracles? Or will he give up on achieving his goal of defeating Kaido with his own team?
In order to do this, Major implements two major storylines during season 3. The first one is very similar to season 1, as Goro is forced to essentially make a team from scratch, composed of baseball rookies. The second storyline is something I will leave as a surprise.
Over the course of season 3, both these storylines are kind of hit or miss, sometimes they annoyed me, sometimes it really did lead to a more exciting show. Because of that, Season 3 definitely isn’t as good as season 2.
However, don’t let that discourage you from watching the show! Season 3 of Major is once again some awesome sports shounen. It’s a bit unrealistic, but the baseball is always exciting. And they really have crafted a fantastic character in Shigeno Goro. It’s easy to keep rooting for the good guys solely for how awesome Goro is.
The most important part of Season 3 is the inevitable clash with Kaido. This match has been built up for 2 seasons, and luckily, it lives up to the build and the hype, and the match ends up being very satisfying. It would have been a huge disappointment if after all the build up, the match sucked, but luckily, they delivered.
Basically, everything else is as it always has been. There isn’t too much of a need to elaborate. If you liked the first 2 seasons of Major, there is really no reason to not watch this.
Well that’s what I really enjoy about this anime. The main character in this anime really believes that putting all your effort to something you really like, definitely there’s gonna be a good outcome without any grief.
As this anime goes to its third level (3rd season) all his effort from his childhood up to now went smoothly. The different about it from it’s past season is that he will prove to everyone else that nothing will stop his dream and overcome the obstacles he will encounter.
The story is like a “do or die”, it really excites me that whenever they’re in a bad situation their true skills shows as the game continues. Other thing that interest me in continuing the show is that their trust, friendship, perseverance, and willingness to the game that leads them to victory.
He’s the one responsible in making this anime worth seeing, he’s burning every time there’s a game, putting all his effort and leaving his enemy restrained after receiving a whack onto their faces. A somewhat (crazy guy) that put all his effort to the maximum level even it’s his life is at risk, even though he do this there are some point that it gives an extreme feeling to its crowd and viewer.
After seeing and finished all the episodes it really sent me some superb excitement and intense feeling. The anticipation on each episode will bring you to the much awaited outcome and will lead you to watch all the episodes.
It’s a great anime to watch and to follow up to it’s ending, I’d give it a 8.
After watching the 1st and 2nd season. I think it’s the best season for me for now.
For those you want to watch this anime make sure to watch the 1st and 2nd season for you to truly understand the whole story.
If you are about to watch season 3 then I’m sure you have seen the other 2, otherwise why the hell are you here?!
Without season 1 you won’t understand Goro and his family and without season 2 you won’t understand the plot of this season for everything that happens here is a continuation of a conflict that started in previous season.
Ah! So you did watch them?
Then let us begin!
After season 2, this one might be disappointing for you and the reason is that we are going back to the start of season 1 where Goro has to build up a team of rookies and keep them playing.
What made season 2 good is a variation of a setting where Goro was surrounded by professionals and training in sport camp. A very different fill while here we are back to the roots.
Disappointing isn’t it?
However, don’t let it discourage you! Despite going back to the start, things are not the same anymore!
One of main problems in previous two seasons, especially in 2nd one is that Goro was made to look like a self centered egoist with godly powers. In season 2 it was painfully to watch sometimes and that is where season 3 makes a massive improvement.
Yes, Goro is still strong and yes Goro still wants to play for biggest part of the team. But can he play alone as he mostly did till now? Is pitcher alone enough to win the game? That’s what we were made to believe in season 2 for Goro struck out everyone without a fail. But is it believable? Is it really the case?
That’s where season 3 shines and that’s the questions it answers. It tells us if Goro really is a God of baseball or is it just an imagination. And if so, how can it be fixed? Can noobs make any difference or is it the same like if they were not there?
I don’t know about you guys but Goro’s personality till now was really making me mad. He just asked for a punch in the face!
This season made me actually care about him and look up to him. He finally is a person that we are supposed to admire and author managed to do that without ruining his character and everything we knew about him till now.
This is a development! This is what we needed all this time and this is from where great things will start. At least that’s what I believe.
Games and new characters are fun too and we actually see some old faces as well. We get their stories and we get to know them better.
Games have more of a variation to them what makes it more exciting even though outcome is obvious for most part.
However, what really made this season almost perfect for me was the last game against Kaidou. I don’t want to spoil anything but this showdown has delivered on so many levels in comparison to everything we saw till now.
It had tension, it had conflicting emotions, great animation, side problems and varieties of solutions. So many things going on!
This is what really makes this season shine for me.
At first I planned to give it 8 but after seeing conclusion I just had to raise it to 9.
This season delivered exactly what I was searching for and I’m sure that many others are looking for it too.
So watch it, you won’t be disappointed especially with the last game.
3: Nodame Cantabile
English: Nodame Cantabile
MAL Score: 8.30
Shinichi Chiaki is a first class musician whose dream is to play among the elites in Europe. Coming from a distinguished family, he is an infamous perfectionist—not only is he highly critical of himself, but of others as well. The only thing stopping Shinichi from leaving for Europe is his fear of flying. As a result, he’s grounded in Japan.
During his fourth year at Japan’s top music university, Shinichi happens to meet Megumi Noda or, as she refers to herself, Nodame. On the surface, she seems to be an unkempt girl with no direction in life. However, when Shinichi hears Nodame play the piano for the first time, he is in awe of the kind of music she creates. Nevertheless, Shinichi is dismayed to discover that Nodame is his neighbor, and worse, she ends up falling head over heels in love with him.
I’m not sure why, but for some reason I’ve found myself reviewing certain franchises in reverse order. Then again, given the nature of Nodame Cantabile and its heroine Noda Megumi, maybe doing things in a not so normal manner is the way to go.
For those of you who don’t know the series, Nodame Cantabile is based on the bestselling manga of the same name by Ninomiya Tomoko, and while I do like that particular work, the anime is a little bit special in that it’s one of the rare occasions where the adaptation is as good as, or in this case better than, the original.
We’ll talk about that in a moment though.
Now, many people have been raving about the current Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood series because of how faithful it is to the manga, but what many people seem to have forgotten is that there were already a few shows around that were almost completely true to their manga counterparts (and that didn’t include much in the way of filler episodes) – Genshiken, Air Gear, History’s Strongest Disciple and Nodame Cantabile to name but a few. In addition to this, many of the long running shounen franchises like Bleach, Naruto, One Piece, etc, generally stay true to the manga for much of the main story, but have a tendency to provide “anime original” tales and filler episodes too.
Regardless of what one may think of a given show though, the surprising thing is that many faithful reproductions of the original manga are pretty decent, especially if the source material is good. When the tale is something like Nodame Cantabile though, then something special happens, something that doesn’t happen very often in anime.
As with the manga, the story follows the “adventures” of the eccentric musical genius Noda Megumi, and her love interest, the handsome Chiaki Shinichi. The two meet by complete accident and Nodame quickly falls in love.
What follows is, well, a roller coaster of laughs, many of which you won’t see coming.
Unlike many other romantic comedy anime, the action in Nodame Cantabile doesn’t take place in a high school but instead centres around Momogaoka College of Music, and the difference in not only the mentality and personality of the characters, but the overall approach to the story and plot, is actually quite telling. When one watches the series, it becomes obvious that the characters are no longer children, and while they may not yet be out of full time education, their attitudes to life, the world, and to other people, are actually very different from what one encounters in the hordes of high school romantic comedies around.
Now one of the main issues when it comes to adapting a manga is that of pacing, in particular how the plot flows from one episode to the next, and from one story arc to the next. With manga, as with anything written, the pacing is dictated by the reader, whereas with anime the pacing is already there, and it’s up to the director to find the balance so that viewers and fans of the original work will warm to the adaptation. Thankfully, Kasai Kenichi (Honey & Clover, KimiKiss Pure Rouge, Major), managed to get the formula very close to what many viewers find acceptable.
Okay, some of you may be confused by all this talk about pacing issues, but there’s actually a good reason for bringing it up. Many shows can get by when the pacing is a little bit off from what you would prefer (Bleach, for example, with it’s annoying recaps at the beginning of each episode), however Nodame Cantabile is a special case as problems with pacing and timing would have had disastrous effects on one’s enjoyment of the show, and the reason for this is because the series lives, and dies, by its music.
Earlier I mentioned that this anime is one of the rare occasions where the adaptation is better than the mange, and the reason for this is because of the music. Where the manga made do with track names and examples of written scores, actually hearing the music played in the anime brings the whole series to a new level. While there are a number of thematic tracks on offer, the heart and soul of Nodame Cantabile are the various pieces of classical music that are played throughout the series, whether it be solo or with an orchestra. In addition to this, unlike other classical music based anime like La Corda D’Oro ~Primo Passo~ and Piano no Mori, as well as the more pop/rock style shows like K-On, Beck, etc, one of the things that sets this series, indeed the whole franchise, apart is the aspect of musical appreciation.
Confused? Well it’s fairly easy to explain. One of the aspects of Nodame Cantabile that can heavily influence whether one enjoys the series or not is whether you, the viewer, actually listen to, and appreciate, the music itself. People may find that in order to better understand the character’s passion for music, they will in turn listen to the track in a way that they may not have done with other shows, and while this may not seem obvious to most at first, a good question to ask come the end of the series is whether your opinion of classical music has improved over the course of the series. Nodame’s antics may help things along with a good dose of comic relief, but the music is the glue that holds everything together.
Given the heavy musical emphasis, one would be forgiven for thinking that something was sacrificed in order for the whole thing to work. It’s surprising then that Nodame Cantabile is actually pretty close to the manga in terms of plot and story, and although some alterations to the tale do occur, these are barely noticeable as they don’t really contribute to any major changes in the plot or characters.
Now, while the music is a hugely important factor when deciding if one will enjoy Nodame Cantabile, one other aspect will determine whether you love the series or not – the characters.
Unlike many other romantic comedies the show has opted for a slightly more whimsical approach to love, life and relationships, and the characters are generally the epitome of this ethos. Noda Megumi (the titular Nodame), is not simply an eccentric musical genius, she is also thoroughly otaku, has a tendency to stalk her love interest, and hates cleaning. Chiaki, on the other hand, is a talented but arrogant musician who is widely regarded as the “prince” of the college.
What sets this series apart from other romantic comedies is the manner in which the characters are used. While the two leads may be the focus of the show, there is considerable development on the part of several other supporting characters as they strive to become better musicians, and in keeping with the sentiments of the franchise, this never really occurs in the way one expects.
Actually, at heart Nodame Cantabile is simply a different take on the “Beauty and the Beast” format, with classical music and a bit of role reversal thrown in for good measure.
That said, there’s nothing beastly about the looks, although there is a slight “cartoon” element to the facial features of the characters, something which is used to good effect during the funny moments. The overall design of the characters however, errs on the side of realism in respect of their movements, and while there’s an over-the-top element to the actual animation of their movements during certain scenes, the majority of the time the characters move how one would expect a normal person to move.
The backdrops and settings are pretty well realised for the most part, although there is a watercolour feel to some of the scenery, and the colour palette seems more understated than in most other anime. The combination is strangely elegant in its own way, and makes the visual comedy and parodies of typical shoujo manga scenes funnier for some reason (but that may just be me).
The one issue I do have with the animation is this – why on earth choose such bad CG for the orchestrral scenes. Granted the animation is technically astute when it comes to finger movements and hand positions, but the overall execution is poor, and does not mesh well with the general feel of the show.
One of the reasons why I was attracted to this series is because I like classical music, however even I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Nodame Cantabile. The series plays fast and loose with the typical perception that such music is staid and proper, and the comedy is often surprising in both its accuracy and its execution. Much of the humour is easily accessible to those with no knowledge of music, especially Nodame’s notorious “Fart Song” and “Moja Moja Suite”. This strange but well executed combination of classical music and comedy is a far cry from other shows, and the approach is far more tongue in cheek than one might initially expect.
In addition to this, the depiction of student life is easily on a par with the like of Moyashimon and Genshiken, with everything that entails too. It’s nice to see students doing things that students would actually do (like going out as a group and getting hammered).
Given the current glut of high school romantic comedies, Nodame Cantabile is a breath of fresh air because of its more mature yet whimsical take on love and life.
Nodame Cantabile follows the lives of Chiaki, Nodame and an assortment of other musically talented characters attending Japan’s top music university. Throughout their studies they encounter any number of trials and tribulations as their undying passion for the art grows evermore, and through each other they learn to appreciate music and performance in a whole different light, while also discovering true romance and what it is they want out of life.
The story is handled in such a mature, hard-hitting, ever so relatable way. A romantic, musically-focused plot about ardour in and outside of a relationship, Nodame Cantabile is not just for instrumentalists, romantics and music fans, but for doubters, dramatics and anyone who has ever had a passion. It’s a relatable series with realistic characters, thoughtful dialogue and worldly themes of uncertainty, struggle and infatuation; as enjoyable and funny as it is heartbreaking and frank. It’s well structured, wonderfully written and superbly developed. The plot has a real sense of purpose, there’s genuine progress in the characters and just as many light-hearted, warm, fuzzy, humorous and loveable moments to be had as there is dramatic twists, heart-wrenching drama and eye-popping musical set pieces.
As with the plot, this exceptional quality and superb writing – which I should attribute a great deal to Tomoko Ninomiya as the author of the source material, along with the anime staff – is ever-present in the characters. The main characters – Chiaki and Nodame – are an always-interesting duo, and certain members of the supporting cast are extremely well matured; there’s large amounts of progression not only in terms of their personality, but also in their actions and motivations. The characters feel very ‘real’ – even Nodame’s sometimes outlandish behaviour never wears thin – they’re down-to-earth, relatable, likeable and memorable creations, flawlessly complementing the story.
As a series focused on classical music, the sound department utulise many of the famous maestros, from Rachmaninoff to Bach. When the characters aren’t performing or practicing, Matsutani Suguru provides the score, which blends seamlessly with the vintage classical tone of the famous compositions, while also adding a variety of more up-tempo, lighthearted tracks for comedic scenes. It’s of particular note that, as the series progresses and introduces orchestras and large scale performances, the staff don’t shy away from committing lengthy compositions to the screen. An episode of Nodame Cantabile has a run-time of twenty-two minutes, but during episodes which feature an orchestral performance, often nearly half or a third of that time the backing track will consist solely of a single arrangement. The staffs dedication and reluctance to cut corners with the music is admirable. Allowing the compositions to play for so long offers audiences a beauty and experience a sample would fail to execute. The music is Nodame Cantabile is handled with care and executed to perfection.
One of the series’ only let-downs is in the animation. Despite committing to such lengthy compositions that beautifully eat away at a large portion of an episodes run-time, the animation becomes very stagnant and disappointing during the performance sequences. An orchestra is usually extremely lively, the conductor is filled with energy and there are constant bursts of movement, but this is often not depicted in Nodame Cantabile. Instead, audiences are presented with many panning shots of still frames, with only a small number of animated sequences in-between; this sadly sucks much of the life and excitement out of the performances. The rest of the animation is generally very fluid, however, and the sequences that do depict the motions of an instrument are beautifully done. The art style evokes well Niniomiya’s manga; it has a very soft tone, pleasing to the eye.
Nodame Cantabile is a sensational, all-around compelling watch, not only for its masterful depictions of love, life and the beauty of music, but also for its comedic aspects. It’s at times a lighthearted series, full of laughs and humour with precise comedic timing and intelligent punchlines. The hilarity never overstays its welcome, however, as the drama often takes the reins with full force, creating an abundance of memorable, affecting and emotive television. Nodame Cantabile is an ultimately moving series, with a completely fascinating story and spellbinding characters, depicting romance – in more ways than one – as beautiful as the classics themselves. It’s an extremely admirable creation; certainly one of the genres best and an absolutely outstanding anime production.
STORY – "Work hard and you’ll achieve your dream!" It’s a very cliche and often-used storyline, right? Well, yes. Yes, it is, but that hardly means that the subsequent series has to be old and tiresome. I’ve said before that the best stories take something that’s been done a thousand times already and somehow manage to tell it in a way that’s better and more interesting. In a genre dominated by high school drama, Nodame Cantabile steps it up and uses college students, something I’d love to see happen more often. The storytelling happens in a mostly slice-of-life format, but it doesn’t shy away from progressing significantly in time — weeks pass, months pass, whole seasons and school years pass, and it’s great to be able to follow the characters for these longer periods of time, especially since it emphasizes the fact that change and progress take both hard work and time.
Nodame Cantabile is very focused for a slice-of-life series in that almost all of the characters are very serious and motivated by their goals; there are notably few subplots that veer away from the main points. I think this can make it a bit more attractive to people that are generally bored by a wandering plotline, but it’s pretty easy to get engaged in this series regardless. Reading summaries for Nodame Cantabile can only bring skepticism and doubt considering the frequency of the main plot, but watching it? I was charmed by episode one.
CHARACTER – Without a doubt, most of Nodame Cantabile’s appeal is in its characters. Though it feels a little odd to use the adjective on him, Shinichi Chiaki is definitely gar: all the girls want him, and all the guys want to be him (actually, wait, some of the guys want him too). This most likely includes the members of the audience! He’s a genius at what he does and furiously motivated; everywhere he goes, people throw themselves at his feet and do everything in their power to push him forward. You’re compelled to cheer for him every step of the way. It’s funny sometimes how that much charisma can make it through the screen, but it’s there, and it’s because despite Chiaki’s exceeding excellence at everything, he remains a very accessible character. His weaknesses are just as glaring and significant as his strengths, and they’re what balance him out. It’s easy to imagine yourself in Chiaki’s shoes.
Nodame, strangely enough, is very much the same. She’s crazy, quirky, wild, and questionable, but once again, she’s very human. Her antics are never so over-the-top that they’re utterly unbelievable, and her hopes and dreams are notably muddled alongside her classmates’ — something a lot of people can also relate to. The differences between Nodame and Chiaki made them perfect foils, and it was really fun watching all the drama and interaction between the two. Despite the frequency of Nodame’s claims on Chiaki, I really felt like this was one of the least forced-feeling romances I’ve ever seen. At no point did their relationship feel cheap, contrived, or overly convenient. Because so much time passes during the series, the relationship felt like it progressed at a much more natural place; it was great (and adorable).
All of the support characters are nice in their own way, and I don’t think there was a single one I disliked. One of the reasons I loved that this series features college-aged students is the fact that they can all drink, smoke, and have sex and it isn’t shocking or scandalous! It also added a nice bit of insight into the lives of Japanese college students and their hilarious nightlifes (clubs, arcades, and karaoke!) when they aren’t busy studying.
ARTSTYLE & ANIMATION – Nodame Cantabile has a pretty damn simple and generic art style, but in that simplicity, it’s hard to find anything to pick at. The only thing that stands out for me in the character design is that many characters look like they’re perpetually blushing, which is a little confusing at times — once I got used to it though, it really wasn’t that big of a deal.
The most obvious critique of the animation in this series comes from the numerous still-frames used in the dozens of playing and concert montages. As an anime about music, there’s obviously a lot of music-playing involved. Especially in scenes involving entire orchestras, the animation is minimal to none — nine out of ten times you see a flute, a clarinet, an oboe, a french horn, or a cello, the players’ arms and fingers aren’t moving. The ratio is slightly improved for violin, and the piano gets the most attention with moving fingers maybe 40% of the time. It’s understandable though; after all, animating individual fingers playing instruments with many keys is incredibly difficult, especially for the piano, when they make a huge effort to animate the actual notes that are being played.
Aside from piano, where we’re sometimes lucky enough to get ten to twenty measures of music at a time, most instruments are only shown being played for seconds at a time, and it’s often CG. This makes the rendering of the instrument perfectly accurate and shiny (especially the clarinets and oboes), and I loved catching those sniplets of action in between the panning shots. There are a lot of still shots, but I do think what they do show us is worth it. There is one concert near the beginning of the series that’s about half an episode’s worth of still montages, but that’s the worst of it — as the series progresses, there’s gradually more and more actual playing. :3
MUSIC – Ah, classical music! And of such a nice variety too! I was happy to see that the selection of music in Nodame Cantabile represented more than just the select few scores and piano pieces known by the general public. Most of the composers are still familiar, but there are also lesser-known names such as Debussy, Ravel and Sarasate. Unfortunately, as much as I do love classical music, I don’t have a trained enough ear to be able to tell whether or not the music played in the series was tailored specifically for it — for example, when characters supposedly play a piece poorly, I really can’t tell. When characters supposedly improvise and don’t play exactly what the piece dictates, I can’t tell.
I would think that a vast majority of the pieces would be professionally recorded pieces borrowed for the series though, and that they’re all free of glaring errors. (I just can’t imagine that they’d budget the money required to hire an entire orchestra to mess up.) Still, at least some of the piano solos (the Moja Moja Suite? The improvised piano version of some made-up show?) had to have been recorded for the show. Overall, all of the music is very pleasing to listen to and well-performed. Maybe you don’t be moved to tears like the characters are, but if you’re even a mild fan of classical music, you’ll be fine. 🙂
VOICE ACTING – Seki Tomokazu and Ayako Kawasumi both do a great job with their leads. As both characters go through a full range of emotions, their voices had to match up appropriately, and they did! Especially for a character like Nodame, who habitually puts up one front while fostering other thoughts and feelings inside, it was really important that she have a good voice. The rest of the characters all had pretty nice voices as well, though no others really stood out to me as being particularly notable.
OVERALL – As a longtime fan of classical music, an amateur pianist, and a former clarinetist, Nodame Cantabile was both inspiring and nostalgic. It made me want to play more piano, and it made me really miss playing the school band or orchestra. It was educational, giving insight into the world and careers of classical musicians, and it was touching, allowing for a window in the lives of some very believable characters. It was hilarious and very silly at times, but I don’t think it ever crossed the line into over-the-top territory. Even for those who aren’t huge, huge fans of classical music, I think this series has enough merit to warrant a taste, and for those who are fans, you definitely don’t want to miss this series. I already can’t wait to move onto the sequel. :3
Japanese: NANA [ナナ]
MAL Score: 8.49
Nana Komatsu is a helpless, na?ve 20-year-old who easily falls in love and becomes dependent and clingy to those around her. Even though she nurses ambitious dreams of removing herself from her provincial roots and finding her true calling, she ends up traveling to Tokyo with the humble reason of chasing her current boyfriend Shouji Endo.
Nana Osaki, on the other hand, is a proud, enigmatic punk rock vocalist from a similarly rural background, who nurtures the desire to become a professional singer. Putting her career with a fairly popular band (and her passionate romance with one of its former members) firmly behind her, she boards the same train to Tokyo as Nana Komatsu.
Through a fateful encounter in their journey toward the metropolis, the young women with the same given name are brought together, sparking a chain of events which eventually result in them sharing an apartment. As their friendship deepens, the two attempt to support each other through thick and thin, their deeply intertwined lives filled with romance, music, challenges, and heartbreaks that will ultimately test their seemingly unbreakable bond.
These words are the introduction of the beautiful world of “Nana”. Ai Yazawa is probably the most convincing shoujo manga writer ever. With colourful, realistic characters, breathtaking events and just a pinch of music she creates a world in witch every girl can forget about reality and fall into the embrace of romantic fantasies.
One of the best things about “Nana” are the characters – we can actually see the reflection of ourselves in some of them and believe, that someone like that can really exist. This is proof that you can make a good anime without the conventional tsundere, moe or annoying childhood friend.
One thing I didn’t like though is Hachi’s personality. Her behaviour at times is despicable. Mainly because she has no ideals or dreams (except getting married witch is pretty boring compared to the rest of the characters).
The story is also one of Nana’s strong points. Ai Yazawa worked really hard on it, and did her best to create a realistic world so that the reader can almost become part of it and experience it emotionaly.
Even though the plot is a typical shoujo tearjerker (with a bit of music) it has that magical something that makes you cheer unconsciously for some characters and experience emotionally some events almost as strongly as the characters themselves. Another good thing about the story is that it exposes the hard, cruel reality, which has no happy endings and pure loves. Yazawa-sensei gives her characters a big imagination (especially Hachi) But the world they live in is just like ours.
As for the art, it wasn’t that impressive. It annoys me how all the characters are so thin and tall. Other that that I think the art matched the story pretty well. There were lots of details regarding shadows and highlights. That’s in order to underline the mood of certain moments, mainly in room 707.
Nana has one of the best soundtracks I’ve ever heard. The openings and endings were songs by the 2 fictional bands in the show, witch was a brilliant idea imo. Olivia Lufkin and Anna Tsuchiya fit the characters perfectly. Nothing much to add here: the music in Nana is brilliant. Period.
Overall, Nana is a must-see position for shoujo-fans. It tells us a lot about life, it’s hardships and also teaches us an important lesson about the mistakes, that we shouldn’t make.
This is my first review, so please don’t be hard on me 😉
For those of you who have watched your share of anime about love/relationships, I bet you could identify somehow with “Bokura ga Ita”, “Kimi ga Nozomu Eien” or “Kare Kano”. Or at least you felt connected with its characters. I have watched them all and know what I’m talking about.
Recently, I finally sat down and watched “Paradise Kiss”. It’s a short (12 episodes) anime that, to make it short, is about relationships and growing up. I was impressed by its maturity. The art style took a while to get used to, but afterwards I loved it. After watching it, I decided to watch “Nana”, which is by the same author and deals with similar issues.
“On board the train to Tokyo to meet her boyfriend Shoji, Nana Komatsu ("Hachi") happened to sit beside Nana Osaki who was traveling to Tokyo to fulfill her dreams of becoming a musician. The vocalist for her punk band "Blast", Nana aims for a major debut for "Blast" in Tokyo where her boyfriend, Ren, is the guitarist for a popular band "Trapnest". Sharing the same name "Nana", both girls quickly form a bond of friendship. Their paths cross again when they encounter each other while searching for accommodation in Tokyo. Eventually they decide to live together in the same unit and this further strengthens their bond as the two "Nana(s)" go through their love lives and career.” – AnimeNewsNetwork
I almost have no words to express how it made me feel. It’s amazing. Incredibly realistic and moving. I started watching it without knowing a thing about it (not even synopsis), though the title “Nana” sounded familiar as something popular among anime fans. The anime was broadcasted in 2006, lasting 47 episodes, but the manga first came out in Japan in 2000 and is still ongoing.
The concept itself isn’t anything too extraordinary. People living together, people falling in and out of love, people trying to make it in showbiz and other stuff. You could say it blends many overused ideas, then twists them around and reinvents them, transforming itself into a completely original and brilliant idea. And it contains romance, drama and comedy, but the transition between them is really well done, so it doesn’t feel weird.
What really makes “Nana” shine is the incredible character development. The evolution of each character’s personality and relationships with other characters. The things we watch them go through seem so real, like we’d probably make the same mistakes and choices as they did. No one is perfect – that’s a fact. We often think to ourselves “If I was [him], I wouldn’t have made that choice”, but the truth is we are lying to ourselves. We are insecure, emotional beings, that often ignore rational thought and make reckless decisions. “Nana” is so realistic that it’ll blow your mind away.
This is a long series, but it’s not hard to watch. In the first episodes, the action often switches between the actual time and many flashbacks, but they really are important to understand a character’s background. At some point you might get the feeling that they’re repeating the flashbacks, but don’t worry. This isn’t a filler-filled series.
In the end I felt that the story was really well told. But they leave you in a sort of cliffhanger… because the manga isn’t finished yet. But they made it more than obvious that at some point there’ll be a second season of Nana, so don’t worry. In fact, I loved watching this and the way it ended wasn’t too frustrating because I’d just experienced an awesome series.
The way the characters look might be a little hard to get used to (at least imo), but I really like the art style. I don’t think there’s anything too impressive or revolutionary about the visuals here… which is a good thing. I think the plot alone would be enough to hold the audience and maybe if they’d done something too extravagant visually (*cough* Air *cough*) the viewer would get sidetracked from the story itself. I think the animation was very fitting for the anime.
The animation studio is Madhouse, which was also responsible for “Beck”, “CardCaptor Sakura”, “Paradise Kiss”, “Death Note” and a bunch of others.
I watched the episodes with the original Japanese voice actors and English subtitles. As for the actors, I think they were perfect for their roles. KAORI gave her voice to Nana “Hachi”, which suited the character perfectly with the childish and girlish tone (but thankfully not an annoying high-pitched voice). For the tough rock singer Nana Osaki we have Romi Paku, who also voiced Edward Elric in Full Metal Alchemist. They knew that “Nana” would be an instant success, so they gave it a cast of famous actors and spared no expense.
At first this seems like an anime about music, but it doesn’t play that much of a part here. I mean, we hear lots of songs, but the story isn’t focused on showing us the making of the songs in detail. Compared to “Gravitation” or “Full Moon wo Sagashite”, music wasn’t as important here.
I loved the songs. The fictional bands’ songs are used as openings and endings. OLIVIA is the singing voice of Reira, and we hear many songs from her. My favourite was “A little pain”. It was the first Ending, and since each episode ended on a relatively sad tone, the song fit perfectly. When I heard the first words of the lyrics (“Travel to the moon…”) it almost made me want to cry.
As I’ve mentioned, the characters are the best thing about the anime. We get the chance to know a bit about each character’s history, motivations, thoughts and desires. They are so realistic that we just can’t help but being sucked in by them.
As the anime progresses, the characters gradually grow. This is a very “slice of life” genre of anime, so we watch them growing up. I love how they all interact and deal with their decisions. I love how they aren’t perfect… but as flawed as humans should be.
I loved this anime and it will definitely become one of my favorite series of all time. I feel like watching it again and again, but since it is 47 episodes long and makes me very emotional, maybe it’ll have to wait until I have more time.
I don’t feel like reading the manga for the sole reason that it is too damn long. If it weren’t for that, I would have already ordered all the volumes. But I gained new respect for the mangaka Ai Yazawa.
There are 2 live-action movies for “Nana”. I haven’t watched them yet, but will soon. I’m curious as to how they squeezed all that plot into 2 movies (I’d say they have enough material to make a whole 11 episode drama or maybe something even longer).
The anime will have a second season… I’m sure of that. But for that to happen, we’ll have to wait until the manga is finished. Hurry up!
Said lack of enthusiasm along with the fact that it’s a relatively long show directed by Morio Asaka aka that flowery director who’s so slow-paced in his storytelling that even the stuff of his I’ve actually liked ended up feeling underwhelming in the end, is the main reason I never watched Nana. But part of said reason was just that I wasn’t interested. I never even cared enough to learn what happens in the show other than the fact that it was about two women named Nana who become friends and deal with relationship issues. And as much as I like the Paradise Kiss anime, part of its appeal was that it was really short. Eleven episodes, which admittedly made manga fans a bit grumpy considering an important male character and some story details got shortchanged as a result, but if it meant less boredom caused by dead space, than I was all for it.
But even with the huge amount of summer anime I keep up with riding my ass like a sexual metaphor that I’m not going to elaborate on because it would be too nasty even for me, I had free time to surf Netflix for new shows to get into. And after my failure to get into the Netflix originals that I tried, along with browsing the anime selection and noticing Nana was on there, I decided it was as good a time as any to watch it and ended up finishing the show in less than two weeks. You have no idea how much free time I sacrificed regarding other activities I could have been doing – like finally playing Bioshock Infinite for one – to accomplish that, especially since I don’t actually love Nana. Not that I don’t think it’s good. It is. But if you were to ask me if I wanted to rewatch in the future, I’d just shove my Paradise Kiss DVDs in your face, and not because I managed to get those really hard-to-find DVDs for a relatively cheap price and want to brag about it. Not just because of that, anyways.
And yes, it is the pacing that’s the problem. I’m okay with taking a break in-between dramatic moments in order to set them up so that they’d actually have some impact, but not breaks that go on this long. The very first episode of the anime introduces our two twenty-year old protagonists, a happy go-lucky idiot named Nana Komatsu and a rock punk chick named Nana Osaki, by having them meet on a train during their move to Tokyo and end up becoming roommates due to various circumstances. I was expecting the next episode to showcase the two getting to know each other whilst revealing their motivations for moving to Tokyo in the first place, until I read the Netflix summaries and discovered that the next five episodes would flashback to their pasts in a “how we got here” sort of way meaning we wouldn’t get any meaningful interaction between them until half a one-cour series has passed. And to top it all off, they rehash the opening episode in Episode 6, which makes me wonder why you needed a prologue to begin with. I mean there’s hooking the audience and then there’s just baiting them with cookies for breakfast. It’s an extreme, but by no means the only example of this sort of pacing dragging the show down. Certainly not the worst example from the show either.
Not that the downtime is dull. It’s just pretty average. If you’ve seen one story about a quirky female trying to make friends and ends meet, then you’ve seen Nana’s light-hearted stretch of episodes. The only thing that makes it tolerable compared to most go-nowhere shoujo series is how despite Nana K trying her hardest to be independent, she’s completely dependent on others, which becomes increasingly problematic on the people surrounding her as well as herself throughout the series. This leads to a decently engaging climax ⅓ of the way through the series when said hypocrisy pushes her boyfriend towards another woman, but I couldn’t quite shake the feeling that I had just watched a romance movie that was the first part of a trilogy and stretched out to three times the length it needed to be.
It wasn’t until Nana O’s circle of friends, including the band of which her former boyfriend is a member of, shows up that the average-to-engaging ratio started to tip more towards the latter. But even then, it has its slow moments. Whilst I appreciate Nana for having buildup so that I could actually care for the “will they or won’t they” part of the story rather than act like a man in his forties who’s desperate to lose his virginity, I could have completed an entire workout routine in the time it took for the buildup to go somewhere whilst still having enough time to cook some meat afterwards.
The absolute nadir of the experience was with the story’s final arc, where after Nana K makes a mistake that causes her and everyone to face their own demons in a heart-wrenching string of episodes that rivals Kids on the Slope’s final stretch in terms of emotional intensity, the show then spends the next ten episodes trying to have the characters go on with their lives with each episode having about 3-5 minutes of compelling drama and 17-20 minutes of “whilst I like these characters, this doesn’t further the story in any real way” I know a bunch of people were sour on Kids on the Slope for skipping an entire volume of the manga – amongst other things – but please explain to me what showcasing the actual process of Kaoru moving on from wrecking his entire life would actually add. Sometimes, some things are best left to the imagination and you just need to end the thing right then and there.
And just to make things worse, nothing even comes out of all that buildup other than a reaffirmation and closure of old plot threads that whilst engaging, don’t really lend any sort finality to the show as a whole. Without giving too much away, there’s this weird and unnecessary use of time skip before it cuts back to the present with the characters just acting like they usually do, even when major events occur. And whilst a hard decision is made in said finale, said decision is undercut by the timeskip showing that everything is going to be alright in the future, rendering it completely pointless. It feels like the anime ended right in the middle of the story, and whilst I understand that Nana’s source material hasn’t concluded even to this day – although the chances we’ll ever get a conclusion from the author at this point are about as likely as Iggy Azalea ever being relevant again after her breakdown – you could have at least had made some sort of big deal out of things. At least achieve a small last-minute accomplishment? No? Alright then, but don’t expect me to read your manga in order to find out what happens next. Especially since there’s a certain car crash that happens later on that I think I’m better off pretending doesn’t exist.
Am I banging too much on how unnecessarily long I found this series? Well it’s the most unique thing I can say about it, because like me, even if you don’t know what happens plot-wise, I’d be very surprised if you didn’t have any idea what Nana was actually about. The whole story is somewhere between Beck Mongolian Chop Squad and a Seo Kouji manga in that the majority of the characters are working towards making it as a punk band whilst dealing with all sorts of heartbreak and truths regarding how complicated relationships can get. All the characters are adults and even the more assholish members of the cast are likable, which automatically makes Nana better than those works. And it doesn’t hurt that it focuses more on the latter than the former, which I prefer because my interest in the inner workings of how a band operates is virtually nil whilst my interest in the inner workings of how a relationship works is higher than the peak of Mount Olympus.
Whilst there are some weird plot contrivances to further the story along, complaining about that in a drama is like complaining they’re emotionally manipulative or comedies are funny. If you don’t like the very idea of them, then you shouldn’t be watching anything from the genre to begin with. You don’t see me watching Bollywood movies for a reason you know. And whilst some of the plot points are eerily reminiscent of Suzuka, they work here because the drama fires in all cylinders rather than play favoritism towards one weak direction. Everything that happens is a result of the characters’ personalities. Events that happen to one character also affects those around them, causing all involved parties to face themselves along with their circumstances. Nobody is a true bad guy, even when it’s clear that one side is more wrong than the other. Even the high school kid who demands money from the girls he sleeps with is a lot nicer in practice than he sounds right no–get out of that chat room! I swear he’s a decent guy…sort of.
And most of all, the romance and relationship stuff is ultimately just a tool for larger issues. Sure we’ve seen said issues addressed before: responsibility, personal luck, inner demons, etc. But those sorts of issues are never going to stop being relevant anytime soon, no matter what your age is. And as long as that remains true and they’re explored in a way that reminds us of said truth, I’m always going to find the stuff that Nana represents intriguing. That is why Nana continues to be remembered as one of the anime greats despite not being popular in this current generation of anime fans. Which makes it all the more frustrating that the show is to romance stories what Monster (sans conclusive ending despite the ambiguity of it all) is to crime stories.
As well-written, decent-looking (although Nana’s actual animation is pretty terrible), nicely dubbed, and overall enjoyable both Madhouse productions are, my desire to ever revisit them is severely tempered by their long lengths and the inevitable dead space and repetition that comes from this sort of serialized storytelling “should have been a movie” format. Maybe if the comedy during Nana’s lower-quality stretches was funny, the pacing wouldn’t have been so much of a problem. But all the jokes come from “How to write shoujo comedy 101”, which is about as funny as a kid from a PBS show throwing a tantrum during the middle of a Lifetime drama. Sure it sounds like a good laugh on paper, but so does page 67 of the Kama Sutra. And don’t blame me if your partner never wants to sleep with you again after that experience.
1: Code Geass: Hangyaku no Lelouch
English: Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion
Japanese: コードギアス 反逆のルルーシュ
MAL Score: 8.71
In the year 2010, the Holy Empire of Britannia is establishing itself as a dominant military nation, starting with the conquest of Japan. Renamed to Area 11 after its swift defeat, Japan has seen significant resistance against these tyrants in an attempt to regain independence.
Lelouch Lamperouge, a Britannian student, unfortunately finds himself caught in a crossfire between the Britannian and the Area 11 rebel armed forces. He is able to escape, however, thanks to the timely appearance of a mysterious girl named C.C., who bestows upon him Geass, the “Power of Kings.” Realizing the vast potential of his newfound “power of absolute obedience,” Lelouch embarks upon a perilous journey as the masked vigilante known as Zero, leading a merciless onslaught against Britannia in order to get revenge once and for all.
STORY – Before I saw this series, it was described to me on multiple occasions as "Death Note with mechas." After seeing it, however, I am inclined to disagree. The similarities between the two series are superficial at best, and though I can see why people would draw the comparison, I don’t really think that dis/liking one means that you’ll dis/like the other. But anyway, unlike Death Note, I wouldn’t say that the story in Code Geass is particularly notable or unique. It’s actually rather straightforward and even a little cliche, but that’s exactly why this is such a well done series — the barebones storyline is handled in a refreshing and new way that grabs the viewer’s attention. There are enough twists and turns involved to keep you on the edge of your seat. The pacing is excellent and nothing feels rushed or drawn out. Indeed, the progression up to the conclusion is especially brilliant. (It’s a cliffhanger "ending," but oh, it’s just a fantastic cliffhanger.)
The series is also appealing in its uncanny ability to mix genres. Yes, this is a mecha series, but it really doesn’t have to be. Yes, CLAMP did the character designs and there are some very shoujo elements (read: homolust), but there are very shounen rivalries and some pretty epic battle scenes too. Everybody wins! Additionally, because of the number of characters, the story allows for a number of small subplots. I was very happy with how this was handled in particular because all of the subplots relate and affect the main plot directly, whether by revealing some bit of information to both the characters and the viewer or by pushing forward interesting character development. Everything is well thought out and wonderfully executed, so despite the fact that "strong-willed person with plans to change the world receives mysterious power that helps facilitate his goals" isn’t a very unique storyline… Code Geass makes it work.
Also. Code Geass utilizes the "best friends trying to kill each other" plotline, and I’m a sucker for that plotline.
CHARACTER – The characters in this series are rather varied. Some are very plain and one-dimensional, while others have an amazing complexity to them that makes them very life-like. I’ll be honest. I’ve become somewhat infatuated with Lelouch as a character (and am rather biased as a result). To me, he is very much a human character — he has emotions, opinions, a unique point of view, and some very serious flaws, all of which make him incredibly easy to relate to and to sympathize with. He is easily the most complex character in the series, and he feels real to me, even with his supernatural powers and his genius-level intellect. This ability to make the audience relate to him is also probably the series’ greatest strength and the main reason why the story is able to remain relevant and interesting despite the fact that there aren’t too many new ideas plotwise.
Suzaku would probably be second in line for complexity after Lelouch, though his sense of justice might be called cliche at first (along with Nunnally’s and Euphemia’s), and his hax-level physical prowess is somehow harder to accept than Lelouch’s genius-level intelligence. It’s harder to appreciate Suzaku’s depth at first, partially because he is presented as Lelouch’s main obstacle and the audience’s sympathies are with Lelouch, but a great deal is revealed about his character throughout the course of the series, and he becomes an amazing foil to his rival. Their conflicting ideologies and philosophies are fascinating if you really look into it, and gay as it sounds, they really do compliment each other very well.
Much of the rest of the cast seems to fall into typical archetypes — there’s your adorable little sister, your mad scientist and his assistant, your cheerful schoolgirls, your best friend, your most loyal soldier, your second-in-command, your village idiot, your… really creepy lesbian girl? Despite the generic-sounding descriptions, most of the characters are actually pretty fun, or at the very least, interesting. C.C. provides snarky commentary. Shirley spreads innocent schoolgirl love. Nunnally is so moe you’ll die. Jeremiah is a good butt of all jokes. Little bits of backstory are tossed in here and there to separate them from the crowd, but it’s never enough to actually intrude, and the wide range of characters lets you settle into the world pretty well too; after all, what universe is complete without an animal mascot that shows up now and again?
ARTWORK & ANIMATION – I wasn’t too impressed with CLAMP’s character designs at first (noodleboys!), but as always seems to be the case, they gradually grew on me, and I remembered just how pretty X was. CLAMP just knows how to make everyone look amazingly sexy, male or female. I really loved how they did all of the facial expressions in the series though, especially for Lelouch. Seriously, that guy had some of the most awesome crazy expressions, some of the most amazingly touching sadface expressions, and of course, some of the most amusing WTF expressions. The mecha designs for the Knightmare Frames were also pretty awesome. I dig the whole rollar blade thing, and some of the technologies they come up with are neat, if a little over-the-top. The animation is fluid and smooth for the most part and very few things stood out as being bad.
MUSIC – Initially, I wasn’t particularly fond of any of the OP/EDs for Code Geass except the first ending by ALI PROJECT because 1) they’re awesome, and 2) Yuki Kajiura’s style seemed to suit the series very well. The screaming violins both convey the high status of Britannia and the intensity of the emotions in the series. The rest of the themes seemed lackluster in comparison, but though I was never a huge fan of FLOW, "COLORS" kind of grew on me after a while. The final insert song, "Innocent Days" by Hitomi is pretty nice as well. Very thoughtful, very poignant, very fitting. The background music during the series was negligible for the most part; there is some pretty generic battle build-up type music and other appropriate, but rather typical, themes. Still, there’s some neat classical/opera stuff, and the "All hail Brittania!" theme is definitely awesome.
VOICE ACTING – I’ve seen all of Code Geass subbed and most of it dubbed. Although I was incredibly turned off by Johnny Yong Bosch’s role as Lelouch initially, it kind of grew on me, and now I think it fits well enough, though I do wish he’d change his voice a little more when Lelouch is Zero (make it a little deeper?). Suzaku’s dub voice surprised me with how appropriate it was too. One of the things I really wish we could replicate in English though, is the subtle differences in manners between characters, between Lelouch and Suzaku at various stages of their lives, and between Lelouch and Zero. In Japanese, when Lelouch and Suzaku are children, they refer to themselves with "boku" and "ore" respectively. As teenagers, the pronouns are swapped, with Lelouch using "ore" (Zero uses "watashi") and Suzaku using "boku." Euphemia uses "watakushi." I’ll skip the grammar lesson (go wiki "Japanese pronouns"), but suffice to say that these differences provide a lot of very interesting insight into each of the characters. It’s really too bad English isn’t nearly as interesting.
The rest of the voices in the dub are pretty average, perhaps the low end of average, with a stereotypically high-pitched girly voice for Nunnally that is amazingly annoying, and very forgettable voices for virtually all the female characters (Milly, Shirley, and Kallen all kind of sound the same). I was very impressed with Lloyd’s dub voice though, even if nothing will ever amount to his amazing original voice, which is uh, amazing! Seriously. One of the most amusing voices I’ve ever heard. Jun Fukuyama’s voice for Lelouch I found to be a bit too deep/old sounding initially, but that grew on me as well, and I really love the badassity of his voice for Zero. Suzaku’s original voice sounds a little generic at first, but it grows with his character. There’s a good bit of Engrish in the Japanese version as well, which is always fun. I don’t think you can ever get tired of their "Yes, my lord(o)!" or their "All hail Britannia!"
Overall, I’d say the original is damn awesome, and the dub is pretty watchable — always a plus, right?
OVERALL – I really love this series, and I definitely did not see that happening. Honestly, I found the first episode incredibly underwhelming: the opening sequence made it look like a series I wouldn’t be interested in watching at all, and all of the expository really turned me off…but the second episode? That was so much more epic than I could have ever predicted, and I was pretty much won over after that. I’m just a sucker for chess analogies, I guess! Seriously though, good story, good characters, good animation, and good music! Mechas, politics, rivalry and comradery, strained friendships, love and hate, complex ideologies, and blowing shit up! What more could you want? 😀
For some people, the plot, characters, and music alone is bad enough to make the show unwatchable. For others, the high action, flashy animation, and drama will be more than enough to make the show a favorite of all time though I like everything about Code Geass.
Story: Lelouch Lamperouge appears to be a typical high school student at Ashford Academy in the Britannian controlled Area 11 (formerly named Japan.) But he’s actually a prince in the Britannian imperial family, and seventeenth in line to the throne. He develops a hatred for the emperor of Britannia and the entire imperial establishment, vowing to one day destroy them for the death of his mother and cripple of his sister. After an encounter with a mysterious young woman named C.C., Lelouch gains the power of Geass, which grants him the ability to force anyone to do what he wishes. With this ability, Lelouch becomes a mysterious figure named Zero and begins his battle against the Britannian Empire.
Code Geass have too many loose and cliff hanging ends. The end are always left unexplained, leaving the viewer with questions not only about various subplots but also about several key elements of the storyline. However, what makes up for this is the plot and character developments. Every episode is surprising and leave you eager to watch the next episode.
It seems Code Geass mainly focus on the drama, emotion, and the heart-breaking moments. Geass ends up being not so much a story with a certain plot and characters but rather a series of exciting, exaggerated but well-crafted, incredulous and definitely memorable scenes.
Characters: The characters, are so great and awesome that it’s hard to stop enjoying them. There are characters that are a goody too shoe, outright intolerable that will make you want to strangle and kill them off the show. The characters are all so great that something unexpected might happen to them. There are also characters that are naive, filled with too much hate and/or love but in the end, you’ll have a character you like or maybe even love. My favorite character, of course, are C.C., Kallen, and Lelouch.
Art & Animation: Another good thing about Code Geass is its high production values and colorful animation. The character designs, created by CLAMP, are great and well drawn. The animation may not be great but it is detailed, vivid, and lively. The fights aren’t as smooth or fluid as it could be but it’s flashy, colorful, which is very much fitting considering the nature of the series.
Sound: The voice acting also plays a role in the show’s success. Characters like Zero and Suzaku may be outrageous or cliched but their voice actors fit the characters so well that they are able to sell the characters. One of my favorite voice actor, Jun Fukuyama, does a great job playing the key character of Lelouch/Zero. His performance, especially how well he change from the carefree high school student to the more sinister and manipulative rebel is vital to keeping the series enjoyable and entertaining. Fukuyama is usually playing two characters and does it absolutely convincingly. There’s nothing to complain about of the music either as the background music is very good and it fits right in it. The openings for Code Geass are my favorite. It’s very paced and exciting.
Enjoyment: I’ve seen Geass more than 5 times in a row already. (Not counting season 2) This is a nice, great anime. With the non-stop action, you’ll be wanting to see which side will win and lose. For one moment you can be smiling, then crying the next. Happens to me sometimes.
Overall: Code Geass is a awesome anime that will surely gather different opinions from viewers and other reviewers other than myself. I’ve seen and heard a lot of people saying SUNRISE has done an awesome job and it’s not because of the use of mecha, action or drama, but rather how effectively it appeals to that certain aspect of anime that is not often addressed and yet is one of the main purposes of anime: entertainment. If your main interest in anime is in the quality of the storytelling or the characters, then Geass is probably not for you. However, if you’re in it to have fun or for some good laughs, then take a look at this anime. You wont be disappointed. Indeed Geass is a rare accomplishment.
Let me take a step back for a moment, because the truth of the matter is that Code Geass brought with it a genuinely compelling concept, one that could have done wonders if the creators at Sunrise had known what the hell they were doing. It takes place in an alternate universe where a version of the British Empire called Britannia, through various quirks of fate, manages to endure and thrive into the 21st century. After witnessing the assasination of his mother and having his and his sister’s lives ruined by his father, an exiled Britannian prince living under the assumed name Lelouch Lamperouge, out of a desire for revenge against the emperor, rises to become a revolutionary leader in an occupied Japan.
This concept could have gone in any number of directions and in the right hands could have been turned into something truly remarkable. Unfortunately Goro Tanaguchi and his team at Sunrise either didn’t realize the potential of what they’d come up with or were simply too caught up in making a commercially successful product to care. For, you see, although the basic premise survived to see the light of day it has been chained to and obscured by a wide variety of disparate concepts and ideas, none of which add anything of substance to the proceedings. This is a program that wants to be a mecha action series at the same time it wants to be a war drama at the same time it wants to be a romance/harem series at the same time it wants to be a high school comedy while above all else its trying to be Death Note with a copy of V for Vendetta in its pocket. It all gives the impression of a program that’s so terribly frightened of being disliked by any one subset of the anime fandom that it rushes to appeal to every conceivable kind of viewer and as a result is never truly exceptional at any of the things it attempts.
Giant robots, for example, are thrown in for no better reason than to draw in and satisfy the needs of the giant robot fandom. I don’t have anything against mecha per se but neither do I have any great love for it leaving me rather indifferent to it overall. All I ask is that it adds something to the experience, that there is some concrete purpose for their presence motivated by the narrative, that the giant robots aren’t merely props easily interchangeable with any other fantastical weaponry. Full Metal Panic provides, in its continuity, a fairly detailed justification for how its variation on the giant robot concept came into being. Patlabor provides a similarly believable rationale as well. Ride Back would have had a wonderful thematic connection to its motorcycle/robot hybrids had the creators had the sense to utilize a specific scene outside of the end credits. Code Geass has no such virtue. The “Knightmare frames” come across as a ploy just as empty and cynical as Gonzo’s additions of giant robots to their adaptations of Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai and Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo.
The story itself runs into trouble fairly quickly. In the first episode, Lelouch is inspired to begin his campaign against Britannia when he obtains a supernatural ability called Geass from a mysterious girl wearing a tight-fitting straitjacket. This ability allows him to control the will and actions of anyone he chooses with very few actual limitations. All he needs is direct eye contact with his intended victim and that’s it. By comparison the Death Note has a whole page full of rules and restrictions on its use. As a result, a lot of Death Note’s intrigue is generated from the various ways Light Yagami finds to work with or around those rules. The Geass is almost too powerful by comparison. As a result it makes his decision to start a rebellion in Japan as a means of gaining revenge against his father in Britannia seem a very roundabout way of doing things. It would seem more effective to simply hop a plane home, Geass his way past security to get to his father and that would be the end of it. Its not like Lelouch doesn’t accomplish much the same thing with his brother Clovis at the end of the second episode. Of course, if Lelouch were to actually follow the course simple logic would dictate then he wouldn’t have started his rebellion and Code Geass wouldn’t have had the opportunity to indulge in enough overblown spectacle to shame Michael Bay.
This problem is further compounded by the revelation in the second episode that Lelouch is some sort of super-genius strategist. It’s never explained to any degree where his ability comes from, whether the creators want the viewer to assume that its some sort of blood inherited trait or that he was simply educated on the subject. The most the viewer is allowed to understand is that Lelouch’s “strategic brilliance” has something to do with the fact that he’s good at chess, which, if you actually accept that, only explains a fraction of the schemes that he devises. In the end, as a character Lelouch comes across as little more than a plot devise, a strategy generating machine that provides the series with its single greatest source of overblown spectacle.
Out of the rest of the cast the only character who made, or I should say had the potential to leave in impression on me was the anti-Britannian rebel Kallen. She receives an entire episode devoted to her background as the daughter of a Japanese mother and a Britannian father. Much is made of her identification with the Japanese side of her parentage and how her deceased brother figures into things and there is indeed potential for something interesting here. Unfortunately nothing is ever done with any of these elements. Everything that was brought up in that episode is quickly shelved and never brought up again.
It should be noted that a good portion of the issues I have with the show stem from the fact that Code Geass possesses all the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the skull. The result is a heavily calculated experience where the hands of the creators can be clearly seen picking and choosing which ideas or scenarios would have the greatest impact regardless of whether or not they make any sense (coincidences are invoked to the point of absurdity). The first episode alone depicts an ethnic cleansing (a scenario the series portrays twice in its first season) and a bloody mass suicide sure to satisfy the more ghoulish members of the viewership. Fanservice is plentiful and obvious with only a scant few female cast members escaping the first season with their dignity, if they ever had any to begin with.
On the technical side of things there isn’t really a whole lot I can complain about. The animation is smooth well done. The color scheme employed can be a little too bright and cheery for its own good with purple mechs and a city that is lit with pink lighting at night but that is a minor complaint overall. Character designs come courtesy of CLAMP so if you like their artwork you’ll like what you see here. If you don’t like CLAMP then there isn’t anything in Code Geass that will convince you otherwise. The soundtrack, credited to Hitomi Kuroishi and Kotaro Nakagawa, isn’t anything spectacular but it is nonetheless serviceable. It is a competent presentation overall, if only.
Did YOUR favorite anime make the cut? Let us know in the comments below!
1. Code Geass: Hangyaku no Lelouch
3. Nodame Cantabile
4. Major S3
5. Mobile Suit Gundam 00
6. Dennou Coil
7. Saiunkoku Monogatari 2nd Season
9. Kanon (2006)
10. ef: A Tale of Memories.