They’re the best Anime that 2008 has to offer! We counts down the best anime to come out this year, including the likes of ef: A Tale of Melodies., Saiunkoku Monogatari 2nd Season, Mobile Suit Gundam 00 Second Season, and more!
10: ef: A Tale of Melodies.
English: ef – a tale of melodies.
Japanese: ef – a tale of melodies.
MAL Score: 8.03
In a story set years in the past, Himura Yuu is a studious and diligent young man intent solely on maintaining his top academic position at Otowa Academy. One day, he meets a mysterious girl named Amamiya Yuuko, who, to his surprise, recognizes him. Memories of a distant childhood, memories rather left forgotten… meeting Yuuko again will force Yuu to confront the regrets and sorrows of their collective pasts and presents.
In the present, Kuze Shuuichi may seem like a womanizer, but upon closer inspection, is a man who would rather be left alone. Hayama Mizuki, however, is not the type of girl who would let him be, especially after hearing the beautiful sounds of his violin performance. As Mizuki attempts to become closer to him, Kuze attempts to push her away—the tale of their budding relationship is darkened with undertones of an imminent tragedy.
Taking place after the first installment known as ef- a tale of memories, we now follow the tale of most of the supporting cast from the original I just mentioned. Going into this I was a bit bummed that they didn’t decide to simply go with a whole brand new cast for this, but it actually worked out quite well, as this time around we get to learn more about: Kuze, Mizuki, Yuuko and Yu. (which again were simply the supporting cast from the first ef series) And get a better understanding as to who they are, and also answer questions that were not answered from the original. You will be transported back and forth from the past to the present, as the overall plot can only be understood by doing so. Now watching this series you won’t really find anything particularly new here with the story, most of the events that take place are more along the lines of what you would see in a Soap Opera—in other words, lots and LOTS of drama here. Basically each of the four cast members will (or eventually) fall for one another, each having to face their own personal demons (just a medifore) in the process. Most of them are not quite what they appear to be at first, and as the story progress you get a much more in depth look as to who they are. The way it is told though, is what really makes “ef- a tale of melodies” stand out. You don’t just simply watch the story and love scenes progress like you would a regular anime. This one is told in a more artistic tone. For example: when the characters are in deep thought from a certain situation, you may see them in a room by themselves–or even see them all chained up as a black silhouette, (this of course represents that the certain character is a prisoner either to themselves, or by another) and a lot of it takes place in the character’s mind and not in the physical form. So you can’t go into this series expecting a “what you see is what you get” idea, because this series doesn’t do it that way. Setting the artistic themes aside for a moment, the situations themselves are pretty standard for a drama, which may turn off some people and give the feeling to them that the whole “medifore” idea is simply there to only cover up a more standard fared story. Which quite honestly isn’t too far from the truth, as many scenes tended to last quite long, and sometimes seemed to give a more slower pace to the storyline. Still, what it lacks in actual new material with its story, it makes up for by the artistic way it shows it. It also has a worth while ending too!
The art of this series is so rich and detailed, I would expect nothing less from the “ef” series, in fact just watching the opening scene with the paper airplane gliding along the sunset sky, is truly appealing for the eyes, as is the entire series. The character design (while nothing particularly new) is well distinct. I especially liked the eyes of the characters. The water effects that come from the ocean will seem to just glide across your screen so fluently. And the character animation and backgrounds are truly superb!
I have to say that the sound was the weakest link for me in the anime, the opening and closing were indeed well planned out tracks (both ranging from soft and sincere, to catchy “finger snapping” tunes, ” one even sung in English no less) The background music was a bit lack luster though, while you do get nice and appropriate orchestral music that plays in the back during events, nothing ever really stands out too much, with the exception of Kuze’s violin piece. The voice cast was a bit of a “hit and miss” for me too. Most of the deep males voices were nice at complimenting the artistic theme of the anime. But most of the female cast I found to be a bit on the standard side, with the exception of a girl name Yuuko, her’s was well fitting the part. Overall it was a great soundtrack, but it just didn’t seem to be quite as good as the original’s.
I really liked each and everyone of the characters, nobody ever came off as annoying, or would make you feel that they tossed one in just for the sake of doing so. I was especially captivated with the character “Kuze, ” he is a musician with a quite interesting past, and the turmoil he goes through is quite sad–yet exciting at times. The character chemistry was a bit rushed for one of the couples, but seemed to be pulled off appropriately at the end. Since half of this title is all about back story, you get a pretty in depth look into the character’s lives and can really connect with just who they are, and will feel what they feel!
ef – a tale of melodies is a truly satisfying experience if you can appreciate it’s approach in things. It’s debatable as to whether this one surpassed the original or not. It can at least be said however, that this is truly an outstanding sequel! If you prefer a simple and casual romance themed anime then it would probably be best to avoid this one. As many of its extended medifore scenes may tend to drag out and frustrate some viewers. But if you’re an anime fan with a taste for the arts, or perhaps looking for a new way of viewing a romance title, then this series is for you. ef – a tale of melodies is not spectacular in what it shows…but how it shows it!
Side Note: If you are interested in watching this title, I would recommend watching the prequel first. As some of the original main characters from the first make an appearance here, and the whole overall story can only be understood fully from both sides.
After watching Memories, you probably asked yourself these questions:
– Why does Yuuko pop up out of nowhere and disappear before you can blink an eye?
– How do Yuuko and Yuu know each other?
– How do Renji and Chihiro; Hiro and Miyako; and Kyousuke and Kei’s relationships continue?
ef: A Tale of Melodies will answer all of those questions as it introduces the background of vague characters from Memories: Mizuki, Yuuko, Yuu, Kuze, and Nagi. There is a brilliant connection between those characters and the ones from Memories. Just like in Memories, there’s drama, psychological history in characters, brutal pasts, and everlasting romance resulting from someone refusing to let go of the person they love.
The anime shows three stories:
– Yuuko and Yuu have one of the most romantic histories in the series, mainly because they knew each other since childhood. They met each other in an orphanage when they were younger. Yuu lost his little sister in an earthquake in Japan, and he rejects Yuuko because of his grievance. Once they meet again in high school, Yuu regrets how he treated Yuuko after he finds out how brutal her life became after she left the orphanage. Determined to protect the woman he loves, he goes through all odds to hold onto her.
– While visiting her cousin Renji in Australia, Mizuki was introduced to Kuze by Renji’s mom. Mizuki heard a beautiful song played by the violin one day, and Renji’s mom insisted that Mizuki and Kuze spend time together. Mizuki and Kuze spend the next few days together in Kuze’s nearly-empty house. After confessing her love for Kuze, their relationship began to blossom. Shortly, Kuze began pushing Mizuki away to avoid hurting her, even though he loved her, too. Despite Kuze’s medical condition and his rejection, Mizuki is determined to stay by his side no matter what it takes. You should see all of the crazy yet romantic things she does to make him happy.
– Relationships from Memories continue…
Art and Sound: The art and sound fit perfectly together. It is more museum-like with the mirrored bodies and masks. As the art is displayed, dramatic music is played simultaneously. Kuze’s violin piece and Yuuko’s improvised lyrics fully explains the moral of the entire series. In order to avoid confusion, the anime presents footnotes at the end of each episode to describe certain terms and references mentioned in the episode. Also, it attaches the time so you can recall where you heard the reference.
– Yuu is an artist and draws quite often. He never desired to join the Art Club, but he drew amazing landscapes and portraits, especially of Yuuko. His dream is to create a beautiful city filled with kind people, which is why he stayed in Australia.
– Yuuko was Yuu’s lover in the past. She is now the magical advisor that appears before the main characters to bring happiness to them all. With the same dream as Yuu, she is located in Japan.
– Kuze is a famous violinist and Renji’s next-door neighbor. He struggled with a personality disorder ever since he had a heart spasm during a concert. As he awaits for his death, he attempts to end all relationships in an attempt to make it so that he simply disappeared.
– Mizuki is Kei’s close friend and appears off and on in Memories. She’s quite energetic and refuses to shed a tear in front of others. After graduating from Otawa Academy, she moved to Australia to live with Renji (her cousin). There is when she met Kuze.
– Nagi is the elder sister of Hiro, Kei, and Chihiro. She used to crush on Yuu in high school but lost to Yuuko. She later became engaged to Kuze.
Just as Memories, you’re in for some deep romantic stories.
I don’t remember exactly in which movie did I hear this phrase, but it has haunted me ever since the first time I heard it. It contains in itself an irrevocable truth about human mind, that tastes are not "universal", but rather contained in each individual.
Thus some people would manage to enjoy stuff like Rosario to Vampire and Miley Sirius music, while others might rather puke at mere mention of them.
Where does the difference lie? In the intelligence of the one who enjoys it, perhaps? I doubt it. If such were the case, it would be reason, not emotions, the one that would makes the difference, and its a well know empirical fact that don’t "think" you like something, you just "know". (It is more probable that intelligent people might be reluctant to be lumped up with "the stupid" and avoid everything that’s "main stream" like not long ago the aristocracy rejected that which was done by those not belonging to noble class. )
I think the difference falls into the capability of the subject to relate it self with the art. Once it become something similar, akin to experience, one can truly understand its meaning and able to get its true message. Think of this: love songs will often sound "shallow" and "stupid" until you fall in for the first time. Then, Oh! everything make sense. In fact , Too much sense
When one "gets" what they are talking about, then you can move on to the next phase. The art cannot only speak of what you have already experienced, but leave you with a new perspective of the situation. It might affect your way of thinking altogether and change you for good. That is right art, one that is not only a passive object, but one that becomes part of the observant and modifies him into something new.
With that in mind, I can say with out regrets that Ef- a tale of memories/melodies ( I must consider both, since they actualy belong to the same game) is not only a piece art, but "right art". It tackled to of my favourite topics (God and death) and managed to give me new perspective into those issues, and some little changes in my view of my life as a whole. (it may sound exaggerated and melodramatic, but think how many people had their life changed because of Evangelion. That one did screw up my entire generation, and almost every generation after that one. Compared to that this one is just a mere breeze )
With that in mind, I must lay down a warning. You might find it either a Masterpiece or no more than a cheap soap opera with around 15 minutes of talk and 10 minutes of Songs. It depends on your capacity to relate to the story, which in itself depends on the way you had lived your life so far. It will also depends in the reason you have to watch anime as a whole, or even in your emotional states as you go throught the episodes.
Then, I specially recommend trying it if had ever thought you are fucked up and hated God, if you had loss someone you loved, or if you like pretty drawings and shiny colourful scenes that have nothing to do with the story. If you are not one of those, I could still recommend it if you have nothing else to watch, if only so you can brag about it later and write condescending reviews to mocks those who didnt like it so they can see how cool you are.
9: 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 (^_^)/
8: Mobile Suit Gundam 00 Second Season
English: Mobile Suit Gundam 00: Second Season
Japanese: 機動戦士ガンダム00 セカンドシーズン
MAL Score: 8.10
In the year 2311 AD, a world that once saw itself full of inter-continental conflict now stands unified, led by the Earth Sphere Federation (ESF). The ESF established a preventative military task force known as the A-Laws, tasking them with shutting down violent terrorist organizations. As they gain more and more legal authority, the A-Laws begin to twist the law to fit their own agenda, ruling the citizens of Earth with a heavy hand.
In response to the fascistic behavior of the A-Laws, the anti-terrorist group Celestial Being reappears. Led by state-of-the-art mobile suits known as Gundam, the pilots of Celestial Being wage a new war with the A-Laws, aiming to stop their tyrannical abuse of power.
Setsuna F. Seiei, pilot of the Gundam Exia, helps to lead the charge along with his fellow Gundam Meisters Lockon Stratos, Allelujah Haptism, and Tieria Erde. But in the process, Setsuna stumbles upon a conspiratorial plot spearheaded by a new faction, the Innovators, and must contend with his own old wounds and ghosts of the past in order to save a world that despises him.
Now, Season 2 started out with a lot of potential. The main characters were reintroduced very well, preserving the characteristics they were known for and refining them, along with offering a slightly different side of their personality. Some characters did change for the worse, but this is necessary to create the strife needed for the story to build. And it did build. A new faction came into play here, and some of the old characters on the antagonistic side in Season 1 are not happy with the new world order. New characters are introduced very well and immediately create a third side to the previous two-sided strife in Season 1. There are many characters that are struggling to find themselves in the new world order, so the series has a bit of a depressive feeling to it. Not even Lockon’s lighthearted comments helped much here.
However, as well as the introductions to the new characters were, the development of many of these characters had something to be desired. It falls into the same trap that swallowed Code Geass R2, which is to let new characters languish in development. However, while R2 introduces too many characters and has to shift back and forth awkwardly between the factions, Gundam 00 introduces fewer new characters and makes the shifts amongst them much more fluidly, going for “Let’s integrate all the factions into the episode” rather than Geass R2’s “focus here for one episode, focus there for another.” 00 also focuses on the protagonists much better. The antagonists (that fat blonde guy), along with Bushido, along with the Innovators, could have used more development, but at least I got a better idea of their true personalities better than the Knights from Geass R2. If there was one glaring complaint about 00 S2’s characterization, it would come in the form of antagonistic development in the form of the true mastermind, Ribbons Almark. An antagonist is supposed to create a feeling of hatred in your heart, or you fall for the antagonist’s plot and cheer on the protagonists’ failure. But the main feeling I get from Ribbons is ambivalence. “Your comrade just got killed.” *no emotion* “You just got betrayed.” *no emotion* “Your test subject just wrecked your newest Mobile Suit.” *no emotion* “Your plan to take over the world has caught a HUGE snare.” *Whatever* All he does is sit on a MAGENTA couch and twiddle on his thumbs, no matter if his plans succeed or fail. For someone who’s the mastermind, he doesn’t like to get involved much, like he’s a puppetmaster with really long strings on his puppets. Problem is, he feels disconnected from the plot and action, and well, let’s just say that 00 S2’s biggest fault after this is plot management.
Now, the first… 2/3 of the series was developed very well. We get to see the main characters discover a different side to themselves and we are able to supplement the change with what we know about the characters in season 1. But after that, the series starts to stumble. The audience is waiting for a return of aspects that distinguished the characters from season 1. In creating a different dimension for the characters, they gave up the platform built up for the characters in season 1. Like Hallelujah, whose reintroduction was too sudden. Welcome, but not well done. Thus, after about the 2/3 mark, the series starts to wander and lose its footing. The focus is on little plot elements that need time to develop, but the producers only had so many episodes of plot to work with. Thus, the big plot elements were placed on the back burner and left to overcook. The series has to rush to resolve these big issues, but didn’t get to do so until the last 3 episodes or so, so it was a miracle that episodes 23 and 24 didn’t feel too rushed. What would have been nice is if they started focusing on these big plot elements around… episode 20 or so? But it’s no big surprise that episode 25 felt like you were landing an airplane but hadn’t slowed down enough. You do stop, but all your passengers are thrown 2 rows forward in your attempt. The series was haphazardly wrapped up as a result.
But don’t get me wrong: Gundam 00 S2 is still worth your time to watch if you enjoyed S1. There’s still a lot to like, such as the more complex story, matured characters, and many characters just finding their true selves during their personal struggles. I’m not sure if I just expected too much, though. It’s still a likable series, but it just tossed away its potential for becoming a masterpiece about 2/3 of the way in.
(This review assumes familiarity with the first season of Gundam 00 and references several season one spoilers. Season two spoilers are hinted at but not explicitly stated.)
STORY – Gundam 00 had a precarious premise from the very beginning. The “war to end all wars” story is one that seems to be visited often, but because it’s such an idealistic goal, series pursuing it always stand on a shaky foundation of logic and realism. As a result, it’s a very difficult premise to execute well. One of biggest logical gaps for me is still the idea that Celestial Being’s two hundred-year old technology can be superior to that of current-day armies, especially since Celestial Being itself seems to have a very poor understanding of the machines they’re making use of. Instead, they are reliant on a supercomputer and the notes and secret power-ups passed down to them by a dead man. All of the questions I had from the first season surrounding the organization’s conception and survival over the last two centuries remain unanswered for the most part, but the most frustrating thing was not knowing the ultimate purpose of CB until the series’ finale.
It blows my mind that most of the characters didn’t even seem to know exactly what the “real” purpose of their organization was. It’s one thing to keep the audience in the dark, but seriously, even the characters didn’t know? Yes, everyone fights for their own reasons, but if you’re part of an organization, you should maybe know what they’re up to. Just sayin’. The antagonistic Innovators are introduced this season as the new puppeteers of the world, along with their half-puppets, the A-Laws. Presumably, they know what’s going on, but since the point of view of the story follows the members of Celestial Being more than the Innovators, the story becomes very reactionary. CB is trying to do this to stop the Innovators from doing this. CB does this because the Innovators are going to do this. But why should the audience care if they ultimately have no idea what anyone’s fighting for? The goals from the first season seem to have gone to the wayside somewhere along the way.
The flimsy storyline also contributed to an entire season of awful pacing marred by way too many romantic subplots. Seriously, could there possibly have been more of them? It didn’t take long for 00 to feel like one gigantic soap opera that just happens to take place in space with some kind of war going on in the background. In fact, I’d venture to say that the romantic storylines and drama were the main focus and the war, morals, and fate of the universe thing was the secondary subplot. Who will get Setsuna in the end? Marina or Gundam? Can Lyle save Anew from her overused mind-control plot device? Will Tieria ever be able to win Veda back from Ribbons? Will Allelujah ever actually do anything important in this series or say a word other than “Marie”? Will Saji ever stop being spineless, and will Louise eventually accept him again or just go to Andrei instead? Can Billy forgive Sumeragi for using him? Can Shirin and Klaus both survive to the end of the series for their happily ever after? Will Mr. Bushido ever give up on Setsuna? Will Patrick ever win Kati’s heart??
It. Is. Ridiculous. To be honest, most of the relationship drama (romantic or otherwise) in 00 had the potential to be interesting, but the fact that there was so much of it limited the relevance of each individual subplot and put a huge strain on the viewer’s ability to care, especially with an unclear central plotline to tie everything together. The conclusion of the second season and the series as a whole is just as bad as, if not worse than, the first season’s ending. It felt similarly rushed, extremely anticlimatic and unrealistic, and didn’t resolve nearly as much as I would have wanted. Many of the characters feel stranded at the end of the series, though you do get a resolution for most of the relationship nonsense, further supporting the idea that the relationships were the core of the series and that everything else was secondary. As far as the politics go, it was definitely more of a forced ending than a conclusion. A conclusion implies that things are actually concluded.
CHARACTER – With a few exceptions, most of the first season’s gigantic ensemble cast returned for the second season’s “four years later.” A new season really wasn’t necessary just for a timeskip, but it was still really nice being able to see Setsuna age. He’s the most interesting character in the entire series just because he matures so much as events unfold, and even as he doubts himself, his motivation, and purpose in the world, he never falls into the trap of the Jesus-kun Syndrome — when a character becomes a preachy moralfag and refuses to kill people, often accomplishing this by disabling mobile suits in battle instead of destroying them. That isn’t to say that having morals and a conscience makes for bad characters, but I find it refreshing when the morals and conscience can coincide with the resolve to fight and the knowledge that killing is sometimes necessary. Rather than instilling the pacifist streak in Setsuna, Sunrise made a good decision in having Marina around to balance things out. As irritating and useless as she was most of the time, I think she was necessary to round out the points of views in the series; that is to say, she was a good idea, just poorly executed.
Lyle, the new Lockon, felt like a huge cop-out from the beginning. Sunrise actually succeeded in killing a character! …But here’s his identical twin to replace him. Great. It didn’t help that they never utilized the “twin” or “brothers” aspect to the best of its potential, and Lyle’s logic failed on so many levels. He did not want to be compared to his brother, but essentially agreed to take over his brother’s previous identity when he joined Celestial Being by taking on his old codename, his Gundam, and his Haro. Lyle’s romantic subplot with Anew was one of the ones that had the most potential, and there was a lot of good acting as far as Lyle’s inner conflict and reactions went, but in the end, I don’t think his character evolved as much as it could have, and static characters remain uninteresting.
Allelujah was amazingly disappointing throughout the second season and pretty much drops off the map after episode seven. You wonder whether his role as a Gundam Meister actually makes him a “main character” or not since he dwindles to the point where he doesn’t even have any speaking roles for several episodes at a time. Since Hallelujah supposedly “died” for one reason or another, there wasn’t anything in the way of personal conflict. Instead, he spends the whole time chasing after Marie/Soma Peries. Unfortunately, Allelujah/Marie interactions are idealistic and boring while Allelujah/Soma interactions are repetitive and boring. Marie’s struggle with Soma and Soma’s struggle with belonging and revenge are interesting for many of the reasons the Allelujah/Hallelujah struggle was last season, but the character(s) could have stood well enough on their own without the obligatory romance/attention of Allelujah. Really, Allelujah probably brought them down by turning it into a cheesy would-be romance rather than the revenge/moral conflict it should have been.
Rounding out the Meisters, Tieria changed a lot between the first and second season. It would have been nice to be able to actually see that progress rather than just accepting that development had happened, but it’s still refreshing to see characters that actually grow and change, and Tieria does continue to mature. Throughout the second season Tieria struggles with the fact that he’s an Innovator and his role in both Celestial Being’s and the other Innovators’ goals. On the most basic level, it’s probably the most interesting of the Meisters’ conflicts, usurping even Setsuna, but poor execution, lack of attention, and being constantly thrown back by a dozen other subplots kept it from really succeeding, especially at the end.
As previously mentioned, there are probably two dozen other characters all with subplots of varying degrees of depth and relevance. Saji and Louise’s is especially prominent, but the themes of their relationship cover very little that one of the others doesn’t already, especially now that they’re both directly involved in the fighting and are no longer bystanders. Neither of them are particularly strong or interesting characters, and I still think that 00 would have been better off without them. It would have probably saved us about ten episodes of drama. There are also still an assload of characters aside from those listed above that make appearances at random, but aren’t actually relevant to anything anymore. Ali Al-Saachez will pop up again every seven or eight episodes. As will Nena Trinity, who really should have just died in the first season with her brothers. And as will Liu Mei Wang and Hong Long, who really do anything at all the entire season. All of the Innovators aside from Ribbons are pretty much interchangeable, and even Regene didn’t seem to mean much in the end.
ARTSTYLE & ANIMATION – The animation in the second season remains slick, and the battles are all relatively fun to watch. I really missed the Gundam Exia’s design, though the 0, 00, 0-Riser, and 00-Riser are all pretty interesting as well. I didn’t think the Arios was much of an improvement over the Kyrios, though honestly, you don’t see Allelujah in action enough this season for his suit to really leave an impression on you. The GN Archer, which actually had a neat design, could have also been featured a lot more. Seravee and Seraphim also had a nice concept, but like the others, was ever over-shadowed by the 00 and 00-Riser. And the Cherudim? As with the Dynames, the prominence of the gigantic rifle made the rest of the suit less important, but even visually, the Cherudim was less to look at than the Dynames.
The updated character and costume designs did a lot of good, I think, and I’m fond of Setsuna’s older appearance. The only new characters that are introduced in the second season are the score of Innovators. They come in pairs with hilariously punny names like “Revive Revival,” “Anew Returner,” and “Bring Stabity.” They also come in a variety of colorful flavors! Way to make it easy to spot the plot devices hiding out in the army and in Celestial Being, guys. There had to have been a better way to illustrate the concept of a race superior to humans without making it ridiculously obvious, right? The ease at which it is to spot these characters also makes the montage at the end of the series open to a lot of debate, but I really just think Sunrise is trolling us at that point.
MUSIC – The music is probably what I ended up enjoying the most in this entire series. I didn’t much care for the second season’s first opening and ending themes, but chalk that up to my general indifference to UVERworld and Chiaki Ishikawa. Neither are terrible songs or particularly annoying — just not my thing, I suppose. The second opening and ending, on the other hand, are probably why I even bothered to sit through some of the later episodes since neither of the singles had released at the time. “Namida no Mukou” by stereophony actually took a while to warm up to me because I found the timing awkward in many parts, but I loved the vocalist’s voice and the energy in the song is just fantastic.
Meanwhile, I loved “trust you” by Yuna Ito pretty much immediately. I’d only listened to a few of Ito’s songs prior to that, but “trust you” just blew me away. The melody is beautiful and the steady tempo really carries it through. Furthermore, the accompanying animation was gorgeous and well-timed to fit with the music, and it left a wonderful contemplative feeling at the end of each episode — more than most of the episodes deserved. It was also a great follow-up the animation for the second ending of the first season, “Friends” by Stephanie. There are a few episodes that end with a brief a capella version of “trust you” that I found really unnecessary and awkward, but the song itself is great.Oddly enough though, I like the TV Cut much better than the full single.
Tommy heavenly6’s “Unlimited Sky” is used as an insert song for some of the later episodes, which was also pretty awesome. I adore Tomoko Kawase’s voice in general, but I always find her anime songs much more energetic and upbeat than her other work, and “Unlimited Sky” is no exception. It always made the battle scenes that much more exciting — a very needed extra when you’re having a hard time caring about the characters involved or the storyline at the time.
Lastly, the instrumental soundtrack for 00 seemed markedly improved in the second season. The leitmotifs are a bit more prominent and the music in general seemed to compliment the mood and feeling of each scene a lot better. It was really refreshing to see/hear something actually improve between the seasons.
VOICE ACTING – Average for the most part, though I suppose Shinichiro Miki gets special mention for some excellent acting involving a very emotional Lyle, and Noboru Sougetsu (Ribbons), for managing to not remind everyone of Amuro Ray, at least most of the time.
The dub is still pretty awful. The best of the dub cast is Brad Swaile as Setsuna and maybe Alex Zahara as Lyle; both are pretty average. The rest of the cast either sound painfully uninspired or just… the same. Half of the female characters in this series sound the same in the dub. It’s must be pretty bad when I’m offended at how poorly done the voices are for even characters I don’t care about (which, in 00, is most of them).
OVERALL – When I reviewed the first season of Gundam 00, my main complaints included the fact that they had more details than structure, that they didn’t bother to explain a lot of what I would consider to be important backstory, and that there were far, far too many characters, all of whom were trying too hard to be the focus. The lackluster ending to the first season didn’t lead me to have a lot of expectations for the second season, but I’m still rather disappointed that they managed to let all of their problems get worse rather than better. In the end, I only saw 00 through to the end for the sake of having seen it to the end, which is never a really good reason at all. Then again, maybe I only saw it through so I could eventually bitch about it here… which really isn’t that great of a reason either.
But Gundam 00 S2 is crappy as hell (aside from the good looks.. the production value was top notch).
I have to admit that I liked Gundam 00 S1 (except for the ending).
Gundam 00 S1 focused a lot on the plot/action and because of that, the character development got neglected.
But that didn’t matter, because even with the 1-dimensional characters, it was still an interesting and exciting mecha anime.
However in Gundam 00 S2, ‘they’ tried to ‘spice up’ the character development a bit.
They totally froze the storytelling and decided to focus (a lot more) on the characters.
But they failed miserably!!! The characters didn’t come ‘alive’ one bit!!!!
The result = crap.
Hell.. what annoyed me the most were the things that just didn’t make sense.
For example the ‘couple’: Louise and Saji.
Saji discovers something (very) important about Louise’s tragedy (spoiler?) and ‘every’ viewer knows Louise should know about this.
But for some reason whenever Saji meets Louise, he NEVER discloses this important information to Louise.
What we get instead is a lot of shit dialogue like: “Saji..” “Louise!” “Saji!!” “Louise!!”
The same with Setsuna.. awww .. I’m not even going to start with his “Orewah Gundammmuhhh” dialogues/monologues…
In short.. Gundam 00 S2.. was bad.. very bad.. compared to season 1..
The story became predictable, the (romantic) character development was crap, some unimportant characters died,
bad guys didn’t actually die in season 1, you get spammed with loads of new characters,
Ribbons ‘bitch-slaps’ female characters and they ‘endure’ it *cough*.. and so on…
But anyways .. loads of you brainwashed *Gundam-lovers* will probably love this show anyways..
So… enjoy the sequel you guys.. 😐
7: Skip Beat!
English: Skip Beat!
Japanese: スキップ ビート！
MAL Score: 8.10
Bright, diligent, and yet na?ve 16-year-old Kyouko Mogami works hard to support the career and dreams of her childhood friend, crush, and rising pop icon, Shoutarou Fuwa. Toiling endlessly at burger joints and tea ceremonies, the innocent Kyouko remains unaware that day in day out, all her tireless efforts have been taken for granted, until, one day, she finds out that her beloved Shou sees her as nothing but a free servant. Shocked, heartbroken and enraged, she vows to take revenge on the rookie star by entering the ruthless world of entertainment herself. As she steps into this new life, Kyouko will face new challenges as well as people who will push her out of her comfort zone.
Based on the best-selling shoujo manga by Yoshiki Nakamura, Skip Beat showcases the growth of a young woman who slowly unlearns how to work herself to the bone for the satisfaction of others and takes her future into her own hands instead.
Skip Beat! follows the endearing young Kyoko Mogami as she travels 200-something miles across Japan to support her childhood friend Sho in his debut as a pop singer. She continues to bail him out until she finds out he’s only been using her for her delicious cooking and wife-like, hardworking traits. And he’s allowed to because he is THE Fuwa Sho? Kyoko doesn’t think so.
Here’s where the anime gets a little interesting.
Unlike other female leads who might cry over numerous tubs of ice cream while re-watching their favorite soap operas, Kyoko takes this pain and suffering she’s gone through and turns it into something beautiful. She uses her new-found hatred for Sho as an endless supply of fuel for her journey into the mysterious and somewhat scary world of show business.
Like Kyoko, all of the characters in this anime have a reason to do what they are doing. They all have a single purpose they are trying to achieve through professions such as acting, singing or debuting in big-budget films.
Because not all of the characters were there for the same reason, we as viewers are able to see some great ideology clashes and disputes that break out among this wide variety of characters.
Thinking back, the sole reason why this anime was so enjoyable was the cast of wacky, memorable characters who brought a sense of purpose and bursts of life to what could have been a very stereotypical, bland and fabricated holywood-glamorized portrayal of the world of show business. This cast includes the enigmatic Tsuruga Ren, the selfishly obnoxious Fuwa Sho, the tsundere-dere “Mouko” and the all-knowingly eccentric LME president. While their characters may seem generic and cardboard-like at first, the story’s excellent pacing and wonderful use of character interactions gives depth and meaning to each character….
even the most unlikable character becomes slightly tolerable as you learn to appreciate his existence in the anime.
That being said, the characters’ designs were not exactly up-to-par or great. I am an artist myself and it’s probably the reason why I am so particular about the aspect of art in an anime. The colors were generally very bright and one-sided, while the character designs themselves didn’t stand out much. I did like the emphasis on the expressions of the characters that changed when they were acting but other than that, there was nothing much to look for.
It was truly the characters themselves and the cast of seiyuu who did a fantastic job portraying their animated-counterparts that made me like this anime.
The same goes for sound. Nothing was very special about the upbeat, very forgettable pop-song opening but the ending did a very nice job of capturing any left over angst and anxiety from being a victim of horrible circumstances. OST’s turned out to be fine as well, mostly in the department of dramatizing an event or adding extra suspense.
Lastly, I appreciated the anime’s ability to create an engaging atmosphere with the audience as it tackled the tricky topic of what really goes on behind the camera. How much are we seeing of these underpaid actors who go through sleepless nights and bottles of gin to try and perfect their role?
We only see their perfectly chiseled faces covered in pounds of make-up and we think, “man that’s the life.”
This anime reveals all of the ugly that actually goes on behind that makeup and perfectly lit photos while remaining professional, non-cliche and upbeat. There’s no unnecessary drama, no stupid tabloid induced scandals, no fake love relationships. It could have easily gone down the reality-tv-show path of “look, stars are real humans too! they eat lunch just like we do!”, but it didn’t, thank goodness.
We empathize with these characters and their struggles and triumphs because we actually SEE what they’re going through.
The anime is able to give us viewers insights on their world in a very down-to-earth and realistic manner.
All in all, this anime was fun and very easy to get lost in. I remember seeing it as a middle schooler thinking “wow this is pretty good” and now, as a more-grown-up-but-still-kinda-childish viewer, I’m still thinking the same thing. If you’re looking for a nice way to spend your Saturday afternoon, go ahead and watch it. I encourage you to.
While it’s not beneath the show to humiliate the characters or make them look foolish, they are complex and principled, and the show has enough compassion to give them their dignity. The way it allows even its most prickly characters to learn and change feels natural, authentic and worthwhile. It’s rare to see any show about anything from anywhere as concerned with human dignity as Skip Beat! is.
Let’s have a second season, already.
Beyond Kyoko, some other characters get focused on within the world of stardom as they come to connect with Kyoko and we learn of their own personal challenges they struggled through to get to the point where they were at within their careers. Tsuruga’s character is given the more prominent focus in his interactions with Kyoko as he seemingly hates Kyoko’s motivations for persuing an acting career at first, before the changes in her motivations lead him to start supporting her and developing feelings for her. The series does drop hints that Tsuruga may have a more tragic past than Kyoko and he may have known her for far longer than she thinks, but the series abruptly ends before more of these aspects to the storyline could be explored. This weakness appears to be due to the title’s manga source material still being ongoing as of this review.
Another issue I did find with the series at points came with its comedy. Scenes with it tend to pop up throughout a good part of the series, serving to either exaggerate on a conflict or emotional state affecting one of the characters or to lighten the mood following a rather serious development in the show’s storyline. The title’s comedic style was hit-or-miss for me as I had some moments where the humor focused on the former got me laughing, but others left me indifferent and usually had me feeling that they got in the way of the mood of serious scenes for the latter mentioned moments. Fortunately, the comedy does tone itself down as Kyoko’s emotional state improves from adjusting positively to her new life as an actress and doesn’t intrude too heavily upon later developments with her character and others.
The visuals to the series are rather standard for a late 2000s anime in terms of detail and design for characters and scenery. Details are clean and bright color is used to go along with the show’s upbeat mood, but this and the animation for Skip Beat don’t particularly stick out. The same thing applies to the show’s soundtrack as it does its part to complement scenes in the series that fit for their intended purpose, but have nothing too memorable with them.
Gripes aside, Skip Beat is still one of the better shoujo titles I’ve seen recently as there hasn’t been anything from the demographic that has seriously hooked me beyond a number of titles that came out during the late 1990s and early 2000s. The focus on Kyoko’s growth as an actress is a compelling and enjoyable story worth seeing throughout Skip Beat’s 25-episode run, alongside other characters in stardom who interact with her. If you’re a shoujo anime fan, this is worth a definite look.
6: 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.
5: Major S4
Japanese: メジャー （第4シリーズ)
MAL Score: 8.22
Having finished high school, Gorou Honda sets his sights on becoming a professional baseball player. His dreams are much more ambitious than becoming a Japanese Baseball League player, so he instead decides to move to the birthplace of his beloved sport, America, in order to play in the Major League.
However, Gorou finds that the Major League players are much faster, stronger, and more driven than he is. Nonetheless, he is eager to catch up with them. In order to do so, Gorou must first conquer the ranks of the Minor League, where numerous skilled players compete in the grueling rise to the Majors.
Gorou learns that he will have to adapt to the stark differences of American culture and push himself to new extremes as his race to join the Major League begins.
Once again another great season of major has been made with another story to begin with. A well made anime with a little comedy and drama on it. You may look at this season as an appetizer like the 1st and 2nd season because of the story hanging at the end of it.
Most of the episodes are like a tale that gives some entertainment but the point is that some of them are an annoyance with the main plot that decreases the enjoyment of it.
Just like the first impression about it, I’m a bit upset that the enjoyment of some of the episodes doesn’t connect with the main plot, a high – low feature. Another disappointment is that there are so many plots that ended up quickly without being shown step by step, but even though some of them gives a bit tension on the main character. As the story moves on, there’s only a few positive on it, like the continuing development, motivation, faith and perseverance of the main character, and also for the new characters that comes in to the picture with a bit passion about the game and continues to fire up as it goes.
As this season, Shigeno, Goro improves as well. He burns up to a new level, though there’s something missing about it. New and old characters also helps to add some good effects on the enjoyment of the season, characters that helps the main character to go smoothly, even though some of them didn’t show some superb skills.
The ending song is a bit catchy and easy to follow as the rhythm goes on but the opening song is the one that needs improvement though.
As this episode, it was a great anime but to think there’s something lacking and being spoil about the story, thus, some of the episodes give a great impact like the first five episodes that brings thought of continuing and finding out the ending of it. Therefore I’m quite happy that it contains some features that a great anime must have, as it forms a nice and deserving one.
A fine made anime that gives enough enjoyment and thrill, even though there are some episodes that I’m displeased. Characters, Sound, and a bit of story will make it as a nice anime to watch.
Watch the prequels to maximize the enjoyment and understanding about the story. Hope it helps =)
One sport that I have never had a particular enjoyment for is baseball. Growing up in the United States usually equates to someone loving America’s past time and with the help of Major it might have worked. Major is split up into 6 different seasons and each one has a different tone and way of progressing the story. It is common to hear that Major Season 1 and Major Season 3 are the favorites but Season 4 is usually left out.
The previous installments of Major involves Goro, our baseball protagonist, trying to climb many hurdles of challenges that he faces on a daily basis. His goal is to play against a certain someone and to become the best baseball player possible. The way the animation studio relayed this to the audience is by placing Goro is almost impossible situations in every season. This is not a bad thing as when Goro achieves these goals it plays out like an underdog story. Season 4 however changes things up as he is on a somewhat capable team and overall just has to watch out for himself. The overall tone for Season 4 is also more aloof and comedy driven than previous seasons. It focuses less on baseball domination and more on the bond Goro forms with his new team members. Many people felt that this season was a let down as they did not care for the new team and thought Goro was simply killing time.
The animation in Season 4 is far better than previous installments but still relatively basic if compared to other series. Facial expressions have been improved as you will be seeing Goro’s over-confidant smirk throughout the show’s entirety. Scenes from the baseball games are fluid and detailed but become stale after repeated use.
Sound is average at best in terms of title and background music. The opening theme for this season is worse than Major Season 3 which I LOVED to death. In terms of the music that plays during the show, there are a couple compositions that are very good and fit the mood perfectly. There are however other songs that are supposed to capture American and just turn out at stereotypical Texan like country music. Not a huge problem but if you know how America really is then you know how much this show relies on United States stereotypes. The voice actors are pretty well done as Goro and the new team’s owner have many back and forth skits. Each character has a distinctive voice and vocal mannerisms that stick throughout the entire season. Background sounds such as baseball hits and when the ball hits the foul ball pole are very well done and fit in the scenes.
Where others think this season lacked in I think has succeeded greatly. The whole season mostly revolves around Goro and his team trying to win the championship (mostly like the previous seasons) but we see less of the games and more of the character bonding. Goro meets a pitcher who very effectively shows him he has a lot to learn before he is ready for the Majors. This season also shows something that has been left out so far in the past; how a team effects the city they play for. There are many parts of this season where different members of the city come to Goro telling him their dreams and hopes are in his hands. Not only does this form a connection between the team and the city, it shows how Goro has mentally improved himself to play under extreme pressure (something that is needed in any sport).
Lots of average scores for each category due to the fact that this season does seem like less of an impact than say Major Season 1. However, with a strong cast that I missed when Goro moved on, something great was achevied in this season that I think Major was missing. We saw more of how baseball affects everyday people’s lives and how the pressures of the Major League affect minor league players. The new characters had great personalities and helped Goro mature and grow as a human being and a baseball player. For some watchers of Major, the change of pace will be a turn off but even so this season added new things to Goro’s life that at least for me helped change him into a better athlete. If you are thinking of skipping this season to go directly to Major Season 5, I encourage that you give it a shot and just sit back and relax. The final episodes pick up on the baseball battles to give the season a great finish. Not the best season for Major but still a great anime.
Thanks for reading my review! If you liked my writing style, would like to see some other reviews, or just want to talk, please stop by my page!
STORY(73): A common story, but works, and talk about nice and important themes
ART(49): Yeah, Major have problems yet, the animation is of low profile, but is enough.
SOUND(71): This season was the better in sound, have the better Intro and music put in good points.
CHARACTERS(82): The development of characters was very good, how the sucess and fails are trated by the story, we see Goro have sucess, but we see to players that don´t get her dreams, but is normal, happens, and the anime know, and work with this.
OVERALL (74): Best Season until now, the out of last director, do good for Major.
4: xxxHOLiC Kei
Japanese: ×××HOLiC 継
MAL Score: 8.23
Kimihiro Watanuki’s life was never really normal. But in addition to his ability to see spirits, this sequel to xxxHOLiC finds him still slaving away for Yuuko, the bizarre owner of a strange shop, who promised to rid him of this ability. However, this otherworldly woman can only do so when he has worked enough to earn his wish. Such is the way for anyone who finds their way into the shop to have their request granted: a compensation equal to their wish must be paid.
In this odd shop that straddles the world of the living and the dead, Watanuki finds himself doing household chores for the seemingly lazy Yuuko and her companions, while also helping out clients. Along with his classmates, supposed romantic rival Shizuka Doumeki and his crush Himawari Kunogi, Watanuki deals with the many misfortunes surrounding Yuuko’s customers, as well as those that closely follow him and his friends.
xxxHOLiC – Kei is the sequel to the first xxxHOLiC anime which is an adaptation of the CLAMP manga of the same name.
+ A great plot that leaves you wanting to know what happens next
+ Very deep symbolisms and philosophy are presented
+ A bigger focus on character development
+ An actual sense of continuity unlike the first season’s more episodic format
+ Great mix of supernatural elements into a slice of life anime
– Fans who prefered the episodic format might be let down
– Less freakish supernatural situations (in comparison) to the first season
– Fans of the manga might be let down at the lack of references to Tsubasa Chronicles this far into the story.
+ Flawless animation
+ No quiality fluctuations throughout the series, solid and stable all the way
+ CLAMP art (for those who love it)
– CLAMP art (for those who hate it)
– A little spoilerish but I wish they had kept “a certain person'” eye colours like they should have been
+ Very awesome soundtrack that fits the atmospheres perfectly
+ Very good use of the soundtrack making scenes more powerful
+ Great performance by all the seiyuu’s they did an awesome job
– Watanuki’s voice can get irritaring sometimes (but thats me)
+ Yuuko is amazing….very deep and mysterious character that just makes you wanna know more about her
+ Watanuki, despite being annoying sometimes, is a great and likeable character
+ The rest of the cast both main and supporting are very likeable
+ Great character development that actually makes you care for them
– Watanuki’s short temper irritates me sometimes (but thats me)
– Mokona is also annoying
Enjoyment: xxxHOLiC – Kei was really an incredibly fun anime to watch, I just didn’t feel like stopping, mainly because I loved the characters and the plot.
Overall: xxxHOLiC Kei is a great sequel to a great anime that is adapted from a great manga. But even as great as the anime is I highly recommend you read the manga since there is a lot of IMPORTANT material that was left out of both anime adaptations. If you like slice of life and supernatural animes, then by all means watch xxxHOLiC, its one of the best at doing both at once.
Almost every episode had the making of two or three story arcs. The writers of "xxxholic kei" seem to be the type who when asked, "How did you like that elephant that just walked by?" reply, "What elephant?"
To someone who watched all the first season episodes at least twice the second season is an insult.
The less episodic format led to improvements in some areas, but ultimately this season still suffers from many of the issues I had with the first season, like character designs and the repetitive interactions between characters.
Instead of being mostly episodic like its first season, xxxHOLiC Kei is presented in loosely connected arcs 2-4 episodes. This should’ve helped by allowing more time for developing more in-depth stories and settings, but outside of one arc towards the end the arcs felt mediocre. The couple plot twists they attempted were too predictable, and most the new characters introduced weren’t interesting enough to carry the story.
I think they dropped the ball in their attempts to develop Watanuki’s friend group. In the first few episodes it seemed like the relationship between Doumeki and Watanuki would develop past the very stale, one-dimensional interactions they would have in the first season, but their dynamic hardly changed. The end result is basically an ability that’s used sparingly throughout the season. Himawari’s development was strange and almost nonsensical, that’s all I can say without spoiling. Even with these developments though, nothing really changed with their interactions. Watanuki’s still unreasonably antagonistic towards Doumeki, and swoons over Himawari any times she’s mentioned.
I enjoyed just one arc, which was about 4 episodes. Everything else mildly enjoyable at best and boring/repetitive at worst.
3: Natsume Yuujinchou
English: Natsume’s Book of Friends
MAL Score: 8.32
While most fifteen-year-old boys, in one way or another, harbor secrets that are related to girls, Takashi Natsume has a peculiar and terrifying secret involving youkai: for as long as he can remember, he has been constantly chased by these spirits. Natsume soon discovers that his deceased grandmother Reiko had passed on to him the Yuujinchou, or “Book of Friends,” which contains the names of the spirits whom she brought under her control. Now in Natsume’s possession, the book gives Reiko’s grandson this power as well, which is why these enraged beings now haunt him in hopes of somehow attaining their freedom.
Without parents and a loving home, and constantly being hunted by hostile, merciless youkai, Natsume is looking for solace—a place where he belongs. However, his only companion is a self-proclaimed bodyguard named Madara. Fondly referred to as Nyanko-sensei, Madara is a mysterious, pint-sized feline spirit who has his own reasons for sticking with the boy.
Based on the critically acclaimed manga by Yuki Midorikawa, Natsume Yuujinchou is an unconventional and supernatural slice-of-life series that follows Natsume as he, with his infamous protector Madara, endeavors to free the spirits bound by his grandmother’s contract.
I’ve been looking forward to this anime ever since I saw one of the promotional images — Natsume sitting on a tree branch with his foot slightly touching the water underneath, and an unusual looking cat by his side. I fell in love with that image alone and could not stop thinking about it. Needless to say, I watched Natsume Yuujinchou while it was still ongoing and waited eagerly for the subtitles to come out. Now that it’s over, I can say for sure — it was a short but beautiful experience, and became one of my very special personal favorites.
“Thank you… for not growing to hate humans.”
Each episode Natsume encounters a different youkai. Sometimes, it’s a youkai seeking to get his/her name back; at other times, a youkai wanting some other help from Natsume, which he can never refuse.
As much as those stories revolve around youkai, Natsume Yuujinchou is ultimately about humans. It focuses on the bonds between humans, as well as the bonds between humans and youkai.
Each story is very well thought out and carries a deep message that Natsume derives from his encounters. Reasons why Natsume cannot let go of his bond with youkai, reasons why youkai fall in love with humans; Natsume Yuujinchou is a collection of beautiful bittersweet pieces of a not very ordinary every day life. Each piece left me with a somewhat sad but warm feeling and made me go back to re-watch and think upon it again and again.
Natsume Yuujinchou is full of unique personalities. Natsume does not help youkai just because he has nothing better to do. His bond with the beings of the other world is very deep and is explored in great detail. From a boy who was forced to shut himself off from nearly all humans, Natsume grows to trust humans again and shares his experiences with others. Seemingly eager for nothing more than obtaining the Book of Friends, Madara is also not that simple of a character. With time, he becomes attached to Natsume and, despite his own constant contradictions, appears to worry more about his companion than the actual book.
Youkai are also very interesting. Although most of them appear only in their assigned episode, each one is very memorable, and their personalities and inner troubles are so well thought out that it’s hard to believe that they were really present for only twenty minutes.
The artwork is beautiful. It may seem rather simple, but it couldn’t be more perfect for this anime. In fact, the simplicity of it is what makes it truly stunning for me. It greatly enhances the story and the atmosphere with its warm colors and memorable designs. Also, every time a scene of Natsume returning youkai’s name is shown, I fall in love with this anime all over again; it almost makes me feel his breath as he blows out the letters from the page.
After the very first episode, I fell in love with both opening and ending songs. Like the artwork, the soundtrack is beautiful in its simplicity and fits Natsume Yuujinchou’s atmosphere perfectly. It’s the kind of music that probably would not feel the same or as special outside of the actual anime, but combined with the rest of the aspects, it becomes a wonderful soundtrack.
What more can I say? I fell completely in love with this anime. If you want something relaxing and heartwarming, Natsume Yuujinchou is for you.
Pity, anger, sorrow, astonishment, and absolute elation are to name a few.
And some tears on the side…Manly tears, obviously.
Natsume Yuujinchou is episodic, there is no defining plot line. The most common, unifying theme is Natsume’s ultimate goal to return all the Youkai names that his Grandmother Reiko took and stored in the Book of Friends. The episodes range from various Youkai simply wanting their names back, to far more complex issues such as lonely spirits longing for companionship, desperate to relive the memories that are so precious to them.
Each episode is wrapped up so masterfully, so beautifully, that it’s nearly impossible to not spend the next few moments contemplating what you’ve just seen. The messages and lessons conveyed are just as pertinent as they are meaningful. At some point in everyone’s life, there will be something (a problem, ability, anything) that they feel is impossible to talk about, that no one can relate. As Natsume Yuujinchou illustrates, isolation is rarely the answer, and through purposeful human (and maybe not so human) interactions, inner peace can be achieved.
The art in Natsume Yuujinchou is phenomenal, depicting a gorgeous countryside town. Each aspect of the landscape is drawn with amazing attention to detail, the large plains of grass not just being lush green, but also golden, with a few shades of light red. The bodies of water are drawn to ripple realistically with the hustling and bustling of fish (and water-related Youkai). The light from the sun pours through the openings of the trees in a divine manner. The human characters are drawn with that middle of the road style of animation, where they aren’t too realistic but they also aren’t too cartoonish, too cartoonish being enormous eyes, no visible nose, etc. Youkai are drawn in almost every way imaginable, the sky was the limit in creating these spirits as each episode continuously provides unique designs. The artwork never falters, and remains beautiful at every attempt made, from fireworks in the night sky, to majestic, elegant Youkai.
I fell in love with the opening song upon first listen. Without thinking about it, I always found myself singing along, the tempo getting faster and faster, my excitement growing more and more. This opening is truly the perfect fit for Natsume Yuujinchou, as it is expressive of my anticipation for the upcoming episode. This was the same case with the end song, perfectly fitting, as it always sums up the current episode, allowing you to become engrossed in your own thoughts. The almost nostalgic way the music starts quietly playing right before the end of the episode, a slightly melancholic acoustic guitar chimes in, and emotions begin to overflow. A memorable end for an unforgettable anime.
Most of the Youkai encountered are, aside from the general superiority complex over humans, very different. Their personalities are what keeps the show fresh. A Youkai that first appears to be nothing but malicious may actually have a much more complicated character, though that isn’t to say there are no instances of purely malevolent Youkai.
Despite that superiority complex, most of the Youkai do in fact have human tendencies. Love, loneliness, and real bonds of friendship are all things that Youkai are not entirely devoid of. It becomes obvious that, despite differences in appearence, powers, and social norms, humans and Youkai aren’t so different…
This is an anime that is enjoyable from start to finish, and as someone who is more prone to believe in the existence of the supernatural, I was enthralled. From now on, I’ll think twice about those moments where a cold chill overcomes you, or when a blast of wind hits you on a relatively calm day.
This show is a fantasy masterpiece. If you’re in the mood to cry tears of happiness (manly tears, naturally) or just see a great show, then this is a must watch.
“I can hear the footsteps of Winter, the cold night…But, this place is warm”
Now, let’s talk about the story.
One of the things I hated the most about this anime was the fact that it’s episodic, and it doesn’t work. In my opinion, this only makes it painfully predicable and underdeveloped. Honestly, you’ve seen the first three episodes you’ve seen the whole show. A youkai comes. Cool. They want Natsume’s help. Oh. They get their help. There’s a revelation. Ok. The majority of the episodes follow this structure. And for the first few or so episodes, yes. It’s entertaining. Heartwarming even. But I wouldn’t expect that to be the whole show. CAN SOMETHING ELSE HAPPEN. CAN THE PLOT PROGRESS. CAN WE STOP THIS CYCLE. It’s too simple. It got boring.
And the art/animation…
The art is uninteresting. It’s boring. it’s simple. Which pretty much matches the story. The story and the art go together. So I guess that’s a good thing. It further sets the mood of the anime. It made it more boring for me.
I hated the soundtrack of this anime. I always skipped the opening, which I almost never do. The sound effects and all that were clear. Voices, clear. So the sound is fine. That soundtrack though. No. But it does do a good job of further setting the over all mood of the anime.
The character development in this anime really lacks. What the hell even is Natsume’s personality. He barely has one. The youkai though, they have much better personalities. But just because they’re better than Natsume’s doesn’t mean they’re deep or “thought provoking” no. But they are definitely entertaining. The one character I truly did like was Madara. He’s a gem, really liked him. It’s like they compensated for Natsume’s lack of development with Madara’s.
If you read what I previously wrote it’s pretty obvious I did not enjoy this anime. I watched it to the end to be able to make a full conclusion about it. BUT BOY WAS THAT PAINFUL.
I just think this anime wasn’t for me. If you’re the type of person that likes to decipher plots, enjoys suspense, twists and turns- this is really not the anime for you. Skip it. If you like more simple, heartwarming type things give this a try. This isn’t the kinda anime where you’re on the tip of your toes, heads spinning, mind boggling. This is the kinda anime you watch when you’re in your room bored, too tired to watch something with a more developed, complex plot.
2: Code Geass: Hangyaku no Lelouch R2
English: Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion R2
Japanese: コードギアス 反逆のルルーシュ 続編
MAL Score: 8.91
One year has passed since the Black Rebellion, a failed uprising against the Holy Britannian Empire led by the masked vigilante Zero, who is now missing. At a loss without their revolutionary leader, Area 11’s resistance group—the Black Knights—find themselves too powerless to combat the brutality inflicted upon the Elevens by Britannia, which has increased significantly in order to crush any hope of a future revolt.
Lelouch Lamperouge, having lost all memory of his double life, is living peacefully alongside his friends as a high school student at Ashford Academy. His former partner C.C., unable to accept this turn of events, takes it upon herself to remind him of his past purpose, hoping that the mastermind Zero will rise once again to finish what he started, in this thrilling conclusion to the series.
Code Geass: Hangyaku no Lelouch R2 is both more of the same and yet a departure for the series in several ways. On one hand, it’s often even more ridiculous and over the top than its predecessor, and on the other surprisingly dramatic, with an emotional resonance not found in the first season. This results in the show feeling more like a reboot/reimagining of the series rather than a simple continuation of the storyline. Now to be sure, many of the classic Geass moments of the first season are present, however, this time around things feel very different in ways that are superior to the original even if R2 itself can’t quite top the overall impact of its predecessor. Some will feel that R2 wasn’t as good as the first season but it does live up to the Code Geass franchise.
Story: Code Geass R2 continues the story of Lelouch Lamperouge and the Black Knights as they continue their fight against the Holy Britannian Empire. We are introduced to more characters including new allies, enemies, and Nightmare Frames. As the series progresses new factions are introduced and new alliances formed, with plot twists abound. The plot twists in R2 are even more abundant, and at times even more implausible and unexpected than the first season, with every episode essentially ending in a cliffhanger. However, the characters this time around are far more likable, even if they are so numerous that many of them, unfortunately, end up being underdeveloped. And while the show starts off slow, the plot eventually moves forward very fast and while stumbles somewhat near the climax, manages to pull off a remarkably well-crafted resolution at the end. Fans who were disappointed by the way the first season ended will undoubtedly be satisfied with the bizarre ending of R2.
Characters: Here’s a series that has real emotional depth and dramatic resonance. Now to be clear, by no means is this a primary focus of R2, however, the actions and motivations of the characters and the events themselves seem to have greater meaning and purpose. The range of emotions felt by the characters is better conveyed: we feel their desperation and determination, their sadness and joy, their anger and regret. Characters that seemed so empty or clichéd in the first season are given greater depth and expression, with exceptions of course. Lelouch, in particular, is a far more interesting character this time around, and his inner conflict and desire for self-resolution. He’ll do things that you wouldn’t expect him to do. Also, his changing relationships with his comrades and enemies alike act as a drive that propels the show from a mere continuation into a rejuvenation of the series. Lelouch fans will definitely find him more interesting and amazing as well as the other characters. Especially Kallen.
Art & Animation: SUNRISE and CLAMPE have definitely outdone itself. The visuals of R2 are not just better than the original, but are also some/one of the best I’ve seen (though somewhat expected considering them using an extraordinary amount of budget.) R2 is definitely more flashier and colorful than ever before, the high quality of the visuals consistently impresses from one episode to the next. The characters and backgrounds are incredibly detailed and the large-scale action sequences are spectacular to watch. The only gripe I have is that the animation itself often lacks fluidity, especially during some of the more hectic action sequences. This didn’t really take much away from the actual quality of the visuals but it is rather noticeable nevertheless. Actually, with the action and everything going on, you won’t even notice the lack of fluidity. And while SUNRISE doesn’t quite stand at the absolute top-tier level in terms of overall animation quality, R2 represents their best work since their old age of shows like Cowboy Bebop. In terms of the animation, Code Geass R2 sure have one of the best this year.
Sound: The audio is just as impressive as the visuals, with great sound effects and the solid voice acting (Jun Fukuyama, Ami Koshimizu, Yukana, etc) you’ve come to expect from the first season. The music, on the other hand, is more of a mixed bag. The soundtrack itself is solid, a score that is well suited for the mixture of tones that a series like Geass goes through. The theme songs, conversely, are merely mediocre and all but one remains memorable. The pop theme surely is one of my favorite having listen to the songs many times.
Enjoyment: While watching, you’ll be hooked onto the episodes and you might even finish the whole series in less than two days. This show will leave you wanting more and more till you have completed it. You might even want to re-watch the series.
Overall: Code Geass R2 is a series that almost every Code Geass fan will be happy to watch – for newer fans watching the first season is recommended. While its approach is often divergent from the first, it shares enough absurdities and overindulgence that those who didn’t like the first series will most likely detest this one. Yet for all its flashiness, its superficiality and its dangerously complex back-story, this is still a far more entertaining series than most of the other shows out there. Again, Code Geass R2 proves that entertainment doesn’t always have to be meaningful, just enjoyable. If you didn’t enjoy the first season, then you most likely will not enjoy R2.
Code Geass is the dumbest show to ever take itself seriously. It is essentially a hackneyed amalgamation of clichés and overused plot devices that clumsily attempts to disguise itself as something greater. Hell, it stole Death Note’s whole shtick, and ruined it completely, before the anime version even finished airing. It blatantly stole from Evangelion, the most popular mecha anime and deconstruction there is, to make one of the weakest and most cliché mecha series ever. Both of the series Code Geass stole from were dark and had at least some depth; Code Geass, on the other hand, juxtaposes pseudo-dark scenes with light school-life harem romcom. Plot develops with a marked carelessness; people die and are inexplicably brought back to life, even though they were either shown dying or there was clearly no way they could have possibly lived. Plot armor at its finest. Oh, did you want an epic and dense war story? Too bad, instead you’re going to get aimless filler, centered on a bunch of people who probably shouldn’t even be in high school, including an episode dedicated to catching a cat. This anime is most notable for having one of the highest concentrations of plot holes and loose ends that I have ever seen.
First of all, the supernatural aspect of the story is just ridiculous and, by extension, the story is as well. This “Geass” ability is completely inconsistent. Sometimes it can be deterred with mere willpower, or even the power of kisses (no joke,) but most of the time it appears to be pretty much undefeatable. There is a Geass canceller that is developed, but it is inexplicably given to only one dude who just pops up whenever he feels like it, with a different personality every time. A weakness, where the ability becomes uncontrollable, introduces itself at one point, but this plot point is quickly dealt with and forgotten. Every Geass user has one single ability granted by their Geass, except for one guy that inexplicably has several, but I won’t even get into that. The biggest issue is that the conflict is all entirely pointless, as Lelouch’s ability allows him to give anybody a command that they must obey. Hell, it can apparently even work on God. This command only works once, but the show makes it entirely clear that he could simply give a command along the lines of “you will be my slave and do whatever I say, until I do x.” So why doesn’t he do that from the very beginning? Because the story must be milked for two seasons, I guess. The whole anime could have ended in episode 1 had Lelouch, the supposed genius, made better use of his ability. Despite this, everything that was built up in the first season is destroyed in the most anticlimactic ending I have ever seen, the show returns to square one, and we have to go through the same style of drawn-out story arc in season two.
Characterization is probably the biggest flaw in Code Geass. The characters are irritating, flat, inconsistent, contrived, and they alone destroy any possibility of this being even a decent anime. The main character, Lelouch, is good at chess and inexplicably predicts a lot of minor events a bit before they happen. This is how we know he’s a genius. He makes a lot of dumb decisions, he wastes troops and resources, he kills potential allies, he spares enemies, he gets caught in needless battles, he makes emotional decisions in battle, he accidentally orders massacres, he never makes a proper back-up plan to deal with things he knows are like to happen, and we never get any indication that he knows the first thing about proper tactics, but he somehow wins battles and he’s somehow a genius. Go figure. Luckily, all “tactics” were just replaced with boring beam spamming in the end, but I don’t know if that’s really much better. Any development in Lelouch’s character is completely contrived and comes out of nowhere. Additionally, he has the inexplicable ability to teleport; at least, that would be the only explanation for how he travels such huge distances so quickly. Suzaku, the kind-of antagonist kind-of not, is probably the dumbest anime character ever created. He is Lelouch’s friend, and if he was a Jew during the holocaust he would do his very best to argue that Hitler is actually an okay guy after all. He believes that the corrupt government should be changed from the inside. So does he get into politics to accomplish this? No, I don’t think he’s really allowed to; instead, he (inexplicably) becomes a mecha pilot for the military that is slaughtering and oppressing his people. He fails to see how this is not helping them. He also moves like a ninja, and dodges bullets, despite being quite clearly anorexic. I’m not even going to talk about their goddawful character designs, just look at some screen shots for that one. All I’ll say on that topic is this: if you’re going to act like a character is hot, then don’t make them an extraordinarily and inhumanly ugly emo anorexic with a ridiculously pointy chin. As for the other characters, there’s some annoying racist yandere lesbian who sexually assaults a table at one point. Seriously. There’s also some immortal chick with green hair who likes pizza; not much else to say about her. There’s an irritating crippled chick, with a completely inconsistent personality, who mostly serves to be useless and need constant protection. Really, for about 90% of the plot, her character just exists to get kidnapped. There’s also some redhead with big tits who loves the main character and has big tits, has a drug addict mother who we forget about for most of the series, and can inexplicably pilot mechas with her big tits and has big tits plus a pair of large breasts. She has a nice ass as well, and you should expect it or her bosom to be the main focus whenever she is in the shot. The “bad guys” are horrible characters as well; one of the main antagonists is eventually revealed to be “a good guy after all, yaaaaay” and the audience is expected to ignore all the horrific atrocities he oversaw. Do these characters sound compelling? Well, if not, then it is because they are not characters at all; they are merely inconsistent and cliché plot devices. Especially the women, who are all objectified to pretty much just get protected, cry, and provide fanservice.
Watch Code Geass if you have a weird Deus ex Machina fetish, but otherwise stay away. It does nothing new and it does nothing well. It doesn’t even fail in an interesting or original way, destroying any chance for campy “so-bad-it’s-good” appeal. As a result, I can’t think of a single positive thing to say about it, and I have no choice but to give it a 1.
1. This review covers both seasons. It would be pointless and unnecessary to write a separate review for each. Some manga series have over 40 volumes and we just write a review for them as a whole. I also fail to see why separate reviews should be written for each season when I’m just going to give each one the same score. The second season would be the inferior one due to even more plot holes, worse characters, more fanservice, and inconsistencies, but it also is more entertaining because there’s less aimless filler, just in case you were wondering. The two are both 1s though.
2. I didn’t mention Shirley or Rolo when I discussed the other characters. Why? Because I’m trying to forget those fuckers exist.
3. Among my most used words for this review were “inexplicably/inexplicable” and “inconsistency/inconsistent.” Yeah, there’s a very good reason for that.
Did it jump the shark? Was it flawlessly executed? Could it have been improved on? Was it outright horrible? That I will not answer; such a question is for you to answer yourself. To me, it was great. It was awesome. While reluctant at first, I always ended up thinking that each change the series brought about, every little plot twist, every character development; it made the series even greater than it was. Every step that it took made it better; that is the undeniable truth for me. However, its pacing made it take too many steps in too short an amount of time, and it nearly stumbled at times. Details could be overlooked, minor events skipped, that wasn’t too much of a problem. But it spent too little time on some of the major events, and in the end I’m not satisfied at all by that.
The previous season took care of the introduction of most of the main cast, which left an opportunity to extensively develop the cast during the second season. This was an opportunity that the creators took, used and drained to its full potential. With its 25 episodes, it does of course not have time to develop the entirety of Code Geass’ cast, which is extremely large for its length – close to 80 named primary, secondary and tertiary characters. However, they developed the main cast extensively, did a great job with the supporting characters, and the new ones that were introduced were really cool too. Some may classify Lelouch’s development as jumping the shark, but personally I felt that they did a great job, and that he is a great character; one whom I could believe in when it came to his development and actions, all the way to – and especially during – the very end.
Another aspect that Code Geass brings into perspective is love. There’s a lot of loving going on between various characters, and this allowed for both drama and comedy to be played out, and it was done so in a very good fashion too. Several characters’ love stories revolve around Lelouch, most notably those of Shirley and Kallen; both who obviously like Lelouch quite a lot. This is given both comedic and dramatic effects, and eventually plays an important part in the plot.
The animation superseded the previous season’s, improving on nearly all points. By now you are probably used to the CLAMP-styled character designs, and who knows, you might’ve even grown to like them, in spite of their lankiness. Backgrounds and sceneries are done with good detail, and were enjoyable to behold, and the same can be said about the Knightmare battles. Animated in a perfect juxtapose of fluidity and chaos, mixed with great special- and ligthing effects, the battles were enjoyable aesthetically in addition to everything else they provided the viewer with.
The soundtrack was perfect for the series, this season as well. Keeping some old ones, introducing new ones, the soundtrack was refreshed, yet it kept the same tone it had during the previous season. The background music, while nothing especially noteworthy, provided an amplifying effect to the atmosphere; be it battle, thought, love, comedy or something else. The opening and ending themes were good this season too, with the second opening theme standing out as the best one. The final episode ended nicely with an insert song that made the scenes that unfolded before my eyes make me cry – I’m a sensitive person. They did one mistake however, and that was by not ending it after that insert song; of all things they had to fire in the Ali Project ending, which completely ruined the poignancy that had been built up.
Code Geass R2 provides an highly entertaining sequel that has fallen into the hit-or-miss pit-trap, with hating on one side and loving on the other. How you will react to it, only the gods know that, so all that I can say is: watch it to the very end and see for yourself. The constant plot twists may sway your opinion up and down multifarious times. It did with me, but in the end, everything fell to place and all went well.
1: Clannad: After Story
English: Clannad ~After Story~
Japanese: CLANNAD AFTER STORY クラナド アフターストーリー
MAL Score: 8.95
Clannad: After Story, the sequel to the critically acclaimed slice-of-life series Clannad, begins after Tomoya Okazaki and Nagisa Furukawa graduate from high school. Together, they experience the emotional rollercoaster of growing up. Unable to decide on a course for his future, Tomoya learns the value of a strong work ethic and discovers the strength of Nagisa’s support. Through the couple’s dedication and unity of purpose, they push forward to confront their personal problems, deepen their old relationships, and create new bonds.
Time also moves on in the Illusionary World. As the plains grow cold with the approach of winter, the Illusionary Girl and the Garbage Doll are presented with a difficult situation that reveals the World’s true purpose.
Based on the visual novel by Key and produced by Kyoto Animation, Clannad: After Story is an impactful drama highlighting the importance of family and the struggles of adulthood.
I experienced something that changed my life…
In a nutshell, Clannad ~After Story~ influenced the way I will live for the rest of my life and not just in some half-assed way like any other show would. It legitimately moved me to make certain decisions, for better or for worse. In that sense, no other anime can compare, as no other anime has provided an equivalent reaction on my part.
Before you continue, you should know that Clannad ~After Story~ is a continuation of the story from Clannad and an adaptation from the original Visual Novel by KEY. Although knowledge of the first season is not necessary, it is highly recommended if you want to get the most out of ~After Story~ as well as this review. That being said, this review is tailored to all readers, and can be understood without knowledge of the first season. Note that there may be very minor spoilers. Now then, on to the meat and potatoes.
I won’t spend much time on the individual components of Clannad ~After Story~ (or Clannad ~AS~ as I will call it now) like I have with my other reviews. At first glance, there is nothing notably outstanding about it as a whole. For those who are interested in the individual components, here they are and the reasons behind them are available at the end of the review:
Enjoyment (in this case influence): 10+/10
| Main Review |
It is difficult to convey the emotions that went through my mind as I watched Clannad ~AS~. For those of you who watched the first season and dropped the show, I urge you to pick up ~AS~ and give it a chance. The first few episodes run almost identically to those of the first season, but the true After Story part branches off in a manner that is unique only to ~AS~. What Clannad ~AS~ gives the viewer is a story of life. A story of despair. A story of forgiveness. A story of hope. Through this story, Clannad ~AS~ can powerfully change the way you perceive the world around you. I am well aware that not everyone enjoys Clannad and ~AS~, especially since the magical light orbs are outlandish to some, but for me it was a bit of a godsend among anime.
The concept of Clannad ~AS~ is neither truly unique nor breathtakingly wonderful. What the viewer gets when watching it is the story of a man. Nothing less and nothing more. What Clannad ~AS~ really excels at, however, is the way it tells the story of that man. While it may be classified as a romance or even a harem anime by some (at least the first season could be), I really classify Clannad ~AS~ as a slice of life. A slice out of the life of a delinquent who can’t seem to do anything right and struggles to protect what really matters to him as the world comes crashing down.
However, “slice of life” can be a deceptive term. As I watched Clannad ~AS~, it was not as much a slice out of Tomoya’s life but a slice out of mine. You see, what Kyoani succeeds in is hitting on the points that make life truly what it is. The continuation of time. The reality of truth. The genuine meaning of “life goes on.” Additionally, by extending over many years, the true significance of every event begins to emerge. Clannad ~AS~ takes the tale of the first season and shapes it around a single person. It is a respectable reflection of life and delves into what many shows do not, and cannot, represent: the story after the story.
While many of the situations may be overblown and excessively dramatized (at least in the opinion of some people), it is ultimately true that every facet of Clannad ~AS~ gives the audience some insight into life. Does it matter that there are miracles and magic orbs of light flying around? For me, no. For others, this could be the case. That is to say, not all aspects of Clannad ~AS~ are perfect, but the impact was enough for me.
If you are looking for a cheerful anime, turn away now. Kyoto Animation does many things with Clannad ~AS~ including some very effective humor in many places, but Clannad ~AS~ will make you cry and smile, often both in the same episode. I won’t lie, I cried at least 5 times throughout the season. Even when rewatching episodes, I cried again. Don’t get me wrong, Clannad ~AS~ really has some happy moments as well, but Kyoani tends to depress many, many times. Each sad moment is profound and beautiful, but nevertheless it is sad. The ending song, Torch, which is played in every episode, serves to alleviate this, for better or worse. Torch is very upbeat, but many people consider it unnecessary and I agree. Torch can be a real mood breaker at times.
The power that Clannad ~AS~ exerts comes from its characters. While the first season portrayed many main characters and their stories, ~AS~ focuses on the life of Tomoya and lightly on the lives of those who surround him. Tomoya is a failure in a cruel world. In a sense, he is a fatal hero. While he may not know it, he is destined to face pain and suffering through his life. There is a bit of controversy over the ending of ~AS~, but those who wish to have a “truer” ending can consider the second to last episode as such (don’t hate me for suggesting it). When seen in that light, Clannad ~AS~ effectively played out a story that neither catered to an audience nor skewed reality (except for the orbs of light, of course). What it presented was something that many people can relate to. The loss of a loved one. The pain of recovery. The neglect of a father. Rediscovering love and friendship. Coping with suffering. *SPOILER* The feeling of holding a daughter in your arms for the first time. The pains and joys of being a father. */SPOLER* What it ended with was a realistic ending and a message for the future. Additionally, if seen that way, the last episode can be portrayed as Kyoani staying true to the visual novel and respecting the source material.
*Unfortunately, more talk of the plot would undeniably lead to spoilers, which I am trying to keep free from this review, so please bear with me. Heck, if I’ve convinced you at this point, what are you waiting for? Go see for yourself what all the hype is about. Otherwise, read on!*
Ultimately, Clannad ~AS~ molded characters that I thought I was familiar with into something close to human. Their stories produced emotion that made me reconsider the situations of the people that I see every day. Through social commentary and moral struggles, the viewer can genuinely begin to respect Tomoya. I know I wouldn’t be able to withstand half of what he did, but I truly began to respect the fact that he kept going, despite him being a fictional character. Through his struggles, I began to learn about myself. Through the struggles of those around him, I began to respect those whom I had once hated. This may seem extreme, and you may think that I am crazy, but what I write is nothing but the truth. Every episode gripped me, and many episodes evoked tearful reactions, which I am not very prone to. As I continued to watch, I could hardly bear waiting a week for each new episode to come out. At the same time, however, I knew that each episode held a bomb – a flood of emotions that could affect the rest of my day. Clannad ~AS~ went way beyond enjoyment – it went into the realm of what I could call an “epiphany.”
Can the story of one man influence the lives of others? Is it still possible if that man is a fictional character? For me, I did not think it was possible for anime to extend its influence at such a level. Clannad ~AS~ proved me wrong time and time again. Look past the first season and the first few episodes, and perhaps you can begin to understand what I mean.
For those interested or who can relate after watching the show, this is the ultimate and most powerful result of the show as it applies to me. The following is the reason why I can’t keep my mind off of Clannad ~AS~ and the reason why it will remain as my #1 favorite for what I know will be many, many seasons: *SPOILER* Through Clannad ~AS~, I have basically committed to wanting to have a baby. Ushio love. */SPOILER*
| Analysis of components |
Clannad ~AS~ is unique in its storytelling, but the story itself is nothing special. The earlier episodes present almost unrelated stories just as the first season did, but Clannad ~AS~ takes a turn for the better with a focus on a single character and his ordeal. At this point, Clannad ~AS~ does nothing but follow the life of a young adult, Tomoya. Sure there is drama (oh, is there drama) and there is romance, in a sense, but in reality, there is no real plot to speak of. What there is, however, is the tale of a life experience that can change the way you live. A real deterrent might come from some of the magic that inexplicably finds its way into Clannad (both seasons), but that never really bothered me. The ending is also less-than-stellar and can be a bit confusing, but as stated before, there’s always the second to last episode to fall back on.
There is nothing blatantly wrong with the animation quality. Kyoto Animation produced Clannad ~AS~, so fans will know that there is nothing to fear. The character design is the same as that of Clannad and other KEY adaptations. The KEY character design is quite distinguishable, with its giant eyes. Personally, I am a fan, but other viewers might dislike the artwork. Other than that, Kyoani did another solid job with the animation, and there are no jerky movements that detract from the gorgeous lessons that unfold.
Kyoani had its ups and downs with the music for Clannad ~AS~. In many aspects, Clannad ~AS~ shoots beyond other KEY adaptations with its unique, unconventional plotline and incredibly well enacted scenes of what could very well be the life of an individual. In fact, many of the ordeals that Tomoya must face strike a particularly strong emotional chord among many people. Who knows, you might not be that certain type of person, but I definitely was. Anyways… back to the music. Clannad ~AS~’s opening sequence is a strong piano melody with deceptively deep lyrics. However, the ending sequence detracts from many of the spectacular moments, especially because Kyoani tends to end episodes on a sad note. As such, many would classify Torch (the ED) as an elaborate troll because it is too lively. Beyond the OP and ED, Clannad ~AS~ features tracks from the Visual Novel, which include very familiar tracks from the first season. Notable among these are the songs with lyrics, ie Ana. Certain parts of the OST mesh very well, and a powerful soundtrack can produce a powerful reaction. However, I don’t remember anything in particular clearly standing out to me, and as previously mentioned, Torch ruined quite a few strong moments.
While most of the other aspects of Clannad ~AS~ are very similar to their counterparts in the first season, character development in ~AS~ take a turn for the better. Kyoani successfully made me hate characters that I loved and love characters that I hated. Through a roller coaster complete with dips and turns, Clannad ~AS~ changed the way I perceive all type of people. From Tomoya’s seemingly disinterested, alcoholic father to Nagisa, a character who I actually deemed annoying in the first season, I came to understand what truly makes up a person. Every character really has a story behind their dejected or cheerful façade. Despite the usual “Clannad magic,” every character also turned out to be associable, adding to the personal level of the show. Even the more comical, secondary characters had their share of emotional moments, giving them real depth and giving the viewer a relatively accurate understanding of human nature. About half-way through the show, there is a certain character that changes many, many things. I won’t spoil it now, but her unique appearance is what truly brought Clannad ~AS~ to unmatchable levels.
Enjoyment is really up to the beholder. My view of enjoyment may be somewhat different from others’. Clannad is not for everybody, but for those who dropped the first season, ~AS~ is truly on a league of its own and worth another shot. Every person has that one anime that leaps up above the rest and leaves a lasting impression. For me, that anime was Clannad ~AS~. No other words can describe the effect it had on me, and I hope that this review has at least made you, the reader, consider picking up this diamond in the rough.
| Final Thoughts |
Thank you for your time (I know the review was long), and I sincerely wish that you give Clannad ~AS~ a chance. Who knows, it may change your life. As always, comments about how effectively this review worked are welcome. Also, a helpful rating is always appreciated.
As I said before, I started After Story expecting it to have the same light-hearted high school drama feel as the first season and, unfortunately, the first eight episodes did nothing to prove me wrong. The first eight episodes are Clannad at its storytelling worst, more specifically the Sunohara arc. Thankfully, Clannad at its storytelling worst is simply “okay”. The Sunohara arc makes Youhei’s younger sister, Mei, seem like a nosy and irrational little girl in contrast to the mature-beyond-her-years character that the writers seemed to be trying to present her as. The Yukine arc was better, but it pushes the boundaries of Tomoya’s “good Samaritan” personality a bit too far. The Misae arc is good by itself, but has very little to do with the story or the characters that we care about. If it weren’t for each arc each containing details that are vital to the enjoyment of understanding of the later part of the anime, I would recommend skipping the first eight episodes altogether to get straight to the real good stuff.
Thankfully, the latter part of After Story more than makes up for its mediocre first act with the absolute greatest storytelling in anime. After Story quickly gets back on its feet and shows what truly makes it great as we ride the greatest emotional rollercoaster in recent memory. The ending has caused some controversy for being too ambiguous to fully understand without having played the video game, but I feel otherwise. Granted, I had to see the anime twice before I truly understood it, but I was nonetheless able to figure out exactly what happened without any outside help. It’s a tough one, but it’s very possible.
While the main setting has its moments of visual awe, the artistic aspect of the anime truly shines in the beautiful and surreal “hidden world”. The impact differs greatly from the main world, boasting beautiful lighting, animation, and colors. In the main world, colors do a great job of changing from bright to dull based on the situation and animation is polished to a shine.
I’ve always been a big fan of a musical score acting as a compliment to whats happening on screen rather than a mere accompaniment. Clannad: After Story masterfully pairs its score with each event to further the emotional impact of each scene. It is done so well, in fact, that one cannot hear the music on its own without feeling some kind of emotion attached to that song by a certain event from the anime. The OP is good and very versatile in setting the correct emotional tone for each episode. On the downside, the bouncy, poppy ED is often horribly inappropriate to the emotions that you are left with at the end of each episode and is almost guaranteed to ruin the mood if you aren’t quick enough to stop it. I found myself sometimes ending the episode early when the scene seemed like an ending due to my fear of facing the buzzkill of an ED.
On the voice acting side, the English performances are top-notch. Each character is paired with a voice that fits their appearance and personality very well and that can easily be recognized among other voices. Luci Christian gives a flawless performance as both English Nagisa and Ushio, and Andrew Love does really great stuff with the situations he is put in as Akio.
The characters are without a doubt the strongest aspect of After Story. Each one is as incredibly human as they are likable, and their easiness to get attached to is one of the biggest reasons that the anime has such a great emotional impact. When the characters are suffering, it as if one of our friends is suffering, and when they are happy, we are happy for them. I have never felt such an attachment to a set of characters as I did in After Story. Each character plays so well off of each other, including Tomoya and Nagisa, who are without a doubt the greatest couple in anime. In most stories, be it in books, cinema, or television, the romance sub plot is almost always one of two things, the incredibly good-looking and nice alpha-male protagonist gets paired with the incredibly good-looking romantic interest, or the incredibly good-looking and nice but shy protagonist gets paired with the incredibly good-looking romantic interest. In both scenarios, the two characters are always blessed with the perfect personalities and that’s why they go so well together. Tomoya and Nagisa are different. Neither of them have perfect personalities, but both of their personalities are able to compliment the other’s. Tomoya’s hot headedness is able to be cooled by Nagisa’s quiet, strong demeanor. It’s not perfect gets paired with perfect, it’s human finds human.
After I finished Clannad: After Story for the first time, there was only one thing I wanted to do: watch the entire series again, so I did. I know that the word “experience” is overused in film and television, but that’s exactly what After Story is. I don’t cry during movies or anime. I’ve seen Elfen Lied, Old Yeller, My Dog Skip, Grave of the Fireflies, etc. You name it, I’ve seen it and didn’t shed a tear. Clannad: After Story made me cry like a girl multiple times, and the reason it did is because it’s different from anything else I’ve ever seen before in one way. It is able to appeal to the most human parts of you, whether it’s Tomoya’s responsibility as a man or Nagisa’s inherent ability to remain positive for the sake of the people she loves, the one thing that makes this anime so emotionally powerful is the fact that you could see it happening to you.
“After Story” takes place right after the first season of Clannad and chronicles the lives of certain characters from the first season, primarily focusing on Tomoya, his relationship with Nagisa and more importantly, himself. It attempts to bring a sense of realism to its viewer through the joys and hardships that Tomoya goes through and accomplishes that for a while. It also eliminates the harem aspect of season one and adopts a much more serious tone.
The series spans 24-episodes with the first 10-episodes composed of various arcs dealing with other characters and their corresponding dilemmas while the rest of the show focuses on the primary protagonists. This brings up the problem of structure and inconsistency. The initial problem with “After Story” is the characters that are focused on for the first 10 episodes. With the exception of the Misae arc as it LOOSELY connects to the magical component of the show, the other arcs have no direct relevance to the overarching story nor do they serve any function in moving the plot, but are just thrown in there, forcing unnecessary drama. This also causes a huge gap in consistency between the first part of the show and the rest, especially in regards to quality. However, the next few episodes are a pleasure to watch as they highlight Tomoya’s evolution as a character along with his relationship with Nagisa. Structurally, “After Story” fell short, consequently causing a gap in quality and consistency.
Substantially, “After Story” has its share of delightful moments, but those are restricted to a very limited amount of episodes. The story is unoriginal, but imbues concepts and themes that are very real and relatable such as: imploring responsibility and growing up, the innateness of hardships, the importance of relationships, moving on, and many others that are close to home. Yet, “After Story” manages to ruin the very thing it tries to achieve. The show spends a great deal of time trying to evoke “realism” through manifesting the aforementioned themes, but subsequently destroys that with its detachment from reality and deus ex machina resolve. For example, one of the arcs in the earlier part of the series shows how two supposedly bitter and rival gangs end up being bros4lyfe via some [extraneous] female side-character. I may not have a proper grasp on gang psychology, but I’m fairly certain that the odds of something like a dudefest and “understanding” blossoming between two rival gangs are astronomical. This notion of “bonds of friendships overcoming everything” is extremely over exaggerated deeming many of the earlier arcs unrealistic, effectively leaving me in a state of overwhelming ennui.
For a series that tries to emphasize real life, especially while trying to deal with issues such as loss, acceptance, etc., it negates all validity by embracing a faux idealism grounded in wish fulfillment. The realism juxtaposed with magical idealism/wish fulfillment really disintegrates the show by the end. However, that is probably one of the overarching reasons the show is as popular it is, because instead of staying true to its realistic core, it defaults into fantasy, idealism, and wish fulfillment. It’s successful but at the cost of complete contradiction therefore making After Story somewhat of a Pyrrhic victory. It should be noted that there is nothing wrong with having a plot based on supernatural/metaphysical notions, however, when the show is simultaneously trying to bring a strong sense of realism to the front, it becomes counter-productive and contradictory. I can’t even incorporate this under efficient “magical realism” because of how badly the two are handled when looked at as a pair.
Essentially, where “After Story” excels at is deception. It does an excellent job serenading its viewer into a false lull making it seem exponentially better than it actually is by manipulating sympathetic themes and completely over exaggerating them, however, when dissected the story offers nothing unique, let alone life altering. It’s a good effort, but that’s all it is, an effort, that has its comely yet ephemeral moments. Conclusively, “After Story” ends up stumbling within its own narrative and resolution.
“After Story” gets a ridiculous amount of praise for having “human-like” characters, however, the series lacks greatly in terms of balanced characterization. Tomoya is well developed and one can partly empathize with his struggles as he tries to shuffle through the various challenges he encounters. Tomoya’s progression is probably the most realistic part of the show and is fairly well-executed. While the show gives us a dynamic Tomoya, we are left face-palming in deep regret and resentment with the lack of attention given to Nagisa. There is nothing memorable about her; struck with some unknown illness, we often see her washing dishes for like three continuous episodes. I felt no sort of attachment, relation, or even empathy towards Nagisa, rather her lack of progression had the opposite effect. Her static, ingénue personality got unbearable. Oh and she can’t hold her liquor. That just heightened my insouciance even further. The futility of Nagisa truly is a burden on “After Story”.
The over-development of one protagonist and under-development of the other did not have a neutralizing effect, but a detrimental one. Their relationship is the foundation of “After Story” but it remains immature, mainly due to Nagisa’s incomplete characterization. Instead of spending the initial 10 episodes on completely useless characters, the series could have utilized the same time to construct Nagisa into a character with dimension, personality, and purpose. The show spent so much time trying to build this false delusion about how “friendship solves everything” that essential aspects got completely disregarded. Tomoya along with an unmentioned character carry the weight of “After Story”. In hopes of keeping this review spoiler free, only the two main protagonists (Tomoya x Nagisa) are discussed.
There are plenty of supporting/side characters in the show, some making cameos (from season one), others for reasons I have yet to understand. The only notable side characters are Nagisa’s parents who provide some comedic relief (which is the same recycled humor of the first season) but they still manage to maintain their likability.
Don’t hold your breath expecting anything aesthetically orgasmic. The girls are molded with “moe” in mind at all times: Unrealistic character designs for a “realistic” anime. In terms of the actual art, “After Story” does a fairly good job. Bright colors are often used to accompany the magical atmosphere and vibrancy of life that the show is grounded upon. There are instances of visually striking scenes scattered here and there, especially with some of the natural backgrounds. There is always light illuminating from somewhere, even in the darker scenes. The one place where the animation did shine is while depicting the “illusionary” world. The background, colors, and overall depiction of that world is nicely done as it provides a very surreal atmosphere to the viewer. However, don’t expect gorgeous animation akin to something like “5 centimeter”. It’s nice, but nothing exceptional.
“After Story” has a viable soundtrack that fit its purposes. Composed of subtle, soft, and sometimes melancholic piano music, the OST is pleasant, but conventional. It wasn’t something that compelled me to go download or re-listen to. The same applies to the OP/ED selections. They are very imminent and “of-the-moment” in the sense that they are enjoyable and appropriate at the time they played. However, I almost always forwarded the OP and rarely listened to ED. The voice actors are fitting in regards to their respective roles.
Undoubtedly, “After Story” is at the forefront its genre because of its inherent ability to capitalize on emotions and “feels” to the point where many “manly” tears are shed and lives are changed. However, I could not relate; as the anime defied all levels of logic with convenient plot devices, contradicted its own pursuit of realism, over-dramatized situations, wasted 11 episodes of my time with frankly fatuous arcs, and underestimated the importance of complete characterization–emotions no longer mattered. After all, feels and impact are evanescent, quality is what remains.
“After Story” therefore didn’t really leave a strong impact on me nor did I learn some particularly significant lesson about life nor did I put my feels on suicide watch. Nevertheless, the four or five episodes towards the middle/end are truly poignant and laudable—if “After Story” could have maintained that level of quality throughout and refrained from committing some of the aforementioned blunders, the series would have lived up to its hype. Alas, I cannot rate a 24-episode series any higher based on my enjoyment of five episodes. My “After Story” experience is a step away from the norm and that’s the reason I spewed all of this—to offer some solace to those who couldn’t cry those manly tears or indulge in wish fulfillment, while also providing another perspective to those who have yet to watch it that isn’t soaked in sheer “feels”.
Did YOUR favorite anime make the cut? Let us know in the comments below!
1. Clannad: After Story
2. Code Geass: Hangyaku no Lelouch R2
3. Natsume Yuujinchou
4. xxxHOLiC Kei
5. Major S4
6. Mobile Suit Gundam 00
7. Mobile Suit Gundam 00 Second Season
8. Skip Beat!
9. Saiunkoku Monogatari 2nd Season
10. ef: A Tale of Melodies.