They’re the best Anime that 2010 has to offer! We counts down the best anime to come out this year, including the likes of Hanasakeru Seishounen, Saraiya Goyou, Kobato., and more!
10: Hanasakeru Seishounen
MAL Score: 7.73
Kajika Louisa Kugami Burnsworth is the only daughter of Harry Burnsworth, an influential and respected industrialist who has the power to move the world. There was a threat on Kajika’s life when she was just two years old, and her mother died protecting her. After this tragic incident, Harry sent his only child to an isolated island, Giviolle, where she was raised by the island’s native, Maria. Kajika’s companions during her time there include a white leopard named Mustafa and a boy named Li Ren Fang, who visited her two or three times a year.
Kajika, now fourteen, returns to her father’s side, only to be told to begin a game to find her future husband. Harry makes sure that Kajika willingly participates in this game by telling her that she needs to face the harshness of her fate along with the man she chooses to be her husband. She needs to decide among the three candidates that Harry has personally chosen, but it won’t be easy. Kajika must figure out who they are and where they are without any information to go on except that they all possess an irresistible brilliance and charm. All the while, the men aren’t even aware that they are the chosen ones. Kajika must also choose wisely, as her partner has to willingly accept her to be his bride.
Hansakeru Seishounen revolves around endearing love, intense passion, noble friendship, undying loyalty, family relations, and political intrigue. The heaviness of Kajika’s fate is real, the threat on Kajika’s life is inevitable, and the husband game is more than just a mere game. Harry needs to find a suitable partner to protect his daughter before someone discovers Kajika’s deep secret—a secret even she is unaware of.
“I love the happiness and the suffering. Because the only emotions I feel… are the ones you grant me.”
At first, Hanasakeru Seishounen appears to be a rather typical reverse harem story. Young girl surrounded by several beautiful men, nothing new for the given genre. But don’t let this throw you off. Soon enough, our protagonists, along with the three marriage candidates, get involved in a complicated political conspiracy of a small Middle Eastern country. They face great dangers as they travel across the world, learn to trust and support each other, discover new emotions within themselves, and mature in order to survive and reach their goals.
The story was nicely paced and very intriguing, with numerous plot twists — I could not bring myself to stop watching it or to let any other anime interrupt it. I loved that although the story set off with romance in mind, it was not the main focus. I will even say that if the whole husband-choosing piece was not present, this anime would still be just as good.
At the end of the series, there was a certain sense of completeness, all questions were answered, all characters found their place in the world; it was a perfect spot to drop the curtain. I did feel a little sad, however, that such a great series came to a finale.
Kajika is not your typical damsel in distress constantly being saved by her male harem. She is strong and confident, is able to stand up for herself and to speak her mind when she has to. She is, however, rather slow when it comes to love and realizing her own feelings; but that is also understandable, considering that she grew up away from society and did not get a chance to experience romance until the husband game began. But even despite that, she treats each man with equal respect and consideration, which is very admirable.
To me, however, the most interesting characters are the men surrounding Kajika. Needless to say that they are also not your typical male stereotypes found in a reverse harem. What grabbed me the most is how each one of potential candidates represented a different kind of love. Li Ren’s love is strong and deep, to the point of becoming possessive of Kajika, yet his pride as a head of his clan stops him from being honest. Eugene’s love is noble and selfless; he is willing to spend an eternity just watching over Kajika, whether she chooses him or not. Lumati, a young heir of Raginei, is blunt and straightforward about his love, but is also ready to admit defeat if his rival is worthy. And lastly, Carl is rather reserved and indecisive, but is equally sincere with his love and respectful toward his rivals. I really loved that these characters are not at each other’s throats all the time, despite “fighting” against each other and feeling jealous, and instead act like mature adults and take both Kajika and each other seriously. Li Ren and Eugene may be an exception to that, but I don’t believe they were ever serious during their quarrels.
One character whose purpose I am still not sure about is Yui, Kajika’s first female friend. She does not seem to do anything aside from exchanging letters with Kajika and fangirling over the male cast. She definitely belongs in a more typical shoujo setting, but thankfully her occurance was not frequent enough to cause a distraction.
Somewhere around episode 10 I found out that starting from episode 24 the series will have a different director. I was not worried about that. In fact, I was sure the series would become even better, considering that the second director is more experienced with shoujo anime and is famous for series like Fushigi Yuugi and Ayashi no Ceres. But unfortunately, as I later discovered, that change was not the best idea. It was obvious how the series became more “shoujo”, with more diverse and less realistic facial expressions, and a couple super-deformed scenes here and there. However, Hanasakeru Seishounen is a dramatic story that had no need for comedy elements; if anything, they were a distraction. Kajika, who was now blushing and showing her “girly” side more often, almost started to look like a typical shoujo heroine. Semi-chibi elements seemed completely out of place in such a serious setting. The character designs also went through a slight change, and although it was not major, some general inaccuracies emerged; for example, Kajika described Eugene’s eye color as “topaz” in the beginning, but with the direction change, his eyes became a mix of light green and yellow instead of a golden brown from the first twenty-three episodes.
The animation quality itself seemed to have improved in the second half and toward the end, and the opening animation also became more appealing, but I would still prefer that it did not undergo such a drastic change in the middle. Also, all the CG vehicles stood out too much and were a pain to look at; especially considering that cars, planes, and helicopters appeared on the screen very often because the characters moved around a lot between cities and countries.
The background music was pretty good; it did not really grab my attention though, so there isn’t much to discuss. I was not too impressed by the opening and ending songs either — they were too “pop” for my tastes.
Not your average reverse harem. Kajika, the main character is a strong heroine and you can’t help but love her. Also, the characteristics of the guys surrounding her are very intimidating but you will come to love their uniqueness. Although it does not have the comedic ingredient that i usually go for, it’s very heartwarming.
It’s a 9/10 for me!
The story is rather interesting + unique to me. The thought of a “marriage game” may seem kinda cheezy, but the story goes WAY more deeper than that. For a reverse harem, it actually satisfies me somewhat. It has romance, drama, mysteries, political strategies, action (Oh. NOT hardcore stuff, like fighting ghosts and whatnot, but just fighting + guns, basically), and hey…. eventually, you might even find the tiniest bit of comedy towards the end (they are more like “inside”-kind of jokes, though, because you literally have to watch through the series, and know the characters to be able to understand the very little humor in this).
The art is standard to me, and sometimes, I have noticed that the characters appear kinda “stiff.” Not the typical sparkly-pretty. The artwork looks rather old-fashioned, and frankly, I didn’t like it very must at first. Of course, I can’t blame it because the manga was actually published somewhere in the late 1980’s (which I just recently looked it up online). Why would they have an anime broadcast all of a sudden? Beats me. —-The thing that stands out to me are the EYES. It’s like the moods are pretty much portrayed in them. The backgrounds are also very nice with a “classic”- feel to it. And…. Oh. Yes. THERE ARE BISHOUNENS. 😀
I think the voice actors/actresses have done their jobs well. I could feel the strength in their voice during those serious, dramatic moments. (NOTE: There are only 1 op + ed songs through-out the ENTIRE series) The opening is…. well~ nice, and I think what has won me over is the ending theme. Although, maybe it’s just because I’m easily taken by those kind of sappy songs.
This is the high-point of the series for me. The characters are absolutely BEAUTIFULLY portrayed, especially the main ones. Their backgrounds, and how they interact with each other really bring out the GOOD-NESS in their personalities. They have…. ONE WORD: depth. Kajika is strong-willed, brave, reckless, and inexperience, but what I find weird is how…. understanding she could be at times. She’s unique in that way. (I will not be going over all of the boys’ personalities, but I do suggest of you to find that out yourself ) At first, some characters are rather dull, but I think it just takes time for them to come through. ~I’m sure you’ll love all of them (or most). They are likable.
I really enjoyed watching this 39 episodes- series. It have put me like at the edge of my seat more times than I can remember!! They sure do know how to build-up suspense. I, literally, looked forward to watching this every week (maybe above all of the other on-going anime). The length of it was not too short where it made you crave for more, nor was it too long and dragged out everything. I may be just a sucker for reverse harems and shoujo with romance.. and bishounens and whatnot, but everything put together in this anime was what made it memorable for me.
I’ll say it flat-out: HANASAKERU SEISHOUNEN is a wonderful series. It’s original in pretty much every aspects, and inspirational/sweet. It may even be one of my favorite. However, I do (regretingly) not recommend it if you don’t like mysteries, romance, serious drama, etc.. Well~ Even for someone like me, who knows like nothing about political stuff, I find it to be extremely entertaining. Just give it some time, and I’m sure you’ll like it.
—-NOTE: I may have overrated this just the tiniest bit because it’s still fresh in my memories. Thank you for reading. ^^ I hope this helps, even if a little.
9: Saraiya Goyou
English: House of Five Leaves
Japanese: さらい屋 五葉
MAL Score: 7.81
Saraiya Goyou follows Masanosuke Akitsu, a wandering ronin adrift in Japan’s peaceful Edo period. Despite being a skilled swordsman, Masa’s meek personality has netted him the label “unreliable,” and he is often abruptly dismissed by his employers, leading him to question his resolve as a samurai.
As Masa reaches his lowest point, he is approached by Yaichi, a carefree man draped in pink who seemingly hires him on a whim as his bodyguard. Unbeknownst to Masa, the job is not as innocent as it seems, and he is drawn into the illicit activities of the group spearheaded by Yaichi. As he becomes further entwined with the gang known as the “Five Leaves,” Masa struggles with his own principles. Still, his curiosity spurs him forward to uncover the past and motivations of this mysterious band of outlaws.
Welcome to the Five Leaves, an association of almost chivalrous robbers (I say almost because, well, they keep what they “earn” but do their jobs for the greater good). The story follows our already stated protagonist, Masa, the not-so-scary swordsman. Masa is in need of a job, since he keeps getting fired, because well, he just isn’t good at being a bodyguard. It doesn’t suit him. This is when he runs into the Five Leaves. The leader of the Five Leaves, Yaichi, is a bouncer at the local brothel. After a chain of events Masa joins up with Yaichi to take on jobs such as smuggling, theft, kidnapping, and so on. Also in the group are many other interesting characters – Ume the tavern owner, Okinu his daughter, Otake a local prostitute, and Matsu an unfriendly swordsman. The stories behind each of these characters are all eventually divulged, thus I don’t want to ruin any of the fun here. All I can say about the story is that while at the beginning of the series it looks pretty weak, and by the end, it comes and hits you in the face pretty dang strong.
Er well… If you don’t like the art then well, there’s no hope. You won’t like this anime. The art I believe, is incredibly important to setting the mood of the anime. Awkward. No not like “that’s so awkward” but like… It brings you out of your comfort zone of what you usually see in anime, while not being CrAzY like Trapeze or Yojou-han. The Animation is fine, but there really isn’t a whole lot if it. The anime heavily relies on dialogue to explain things, unlike other samurai anime like Sword of the Stranger that heavily relies on animation to tell it’s tale. If you liked the artist behind Ristorante Paradiso, you’re in luck because well, it’s the exact same one – Ono Natsume!
Simply brilliant. Each track of this anime got me snapping or tapping my finger, even if just a little bit. Every song sounded original and interesting and just… fun! The sound is like elevator music, infused with light techno, and a little jazz. It doesn’t distract you from the anime, but you simply can’t ignore it. The opening song, “Sign of Love” by immi is also just awesome – a light technopop opening in MY anime about samurais? Magnificent. The ending was nice too, but barely compares to the soundtrack and opening. The voice acting was great too. Namikawa Daisuke (Hohenheim from FMA:B) and Takahiro Sakurai (Suzaku from Code Geass) voice the two protagonists, Masa and Yaichi. If you like either you now have a very good reason to sitting your arse down and watching this anime. But fear not! The rest of the casts voices are also just so… right! So spot on! Takahiro Ai (who I’ve never heard of before until this anime) voiced Okinu, the young girl who assists at the tavern where the Five Leaves meets has such a cute voice it’s deadly! I hope to hear more of her in the future. Overall, the sound is a feast for the ears and skipping out on it is like saying you don’t like your ears. Your ears would be very sad if they heard that.
I’ve actually addressed most of the characters at this point. Yaichi, the “lone mysterious cool guy” actually gets some of the most character development I’ve ever seen and part of the second half of the anime hinges on him alone. To be blunt, he isn’t as cool and suave as he is first introduced to be. Masa obviously is a deeper character than first presented and I noticed a lot of people complaining how much of a “wimp” and “loser” he is. Let me say this, if all the protagonists in anime were AWESOME and COOL then anime itself as a medium would suck. Masa actually doesn’t even whine or complain at ALL throughout the series, and saying he’s a wimp is like calling Shinji from NGE cool. It’s just not gonna fly. He undergoes some serious character development and by the end of the series he well, can be seen in a different light than before. Matsu is another character I’d like to talk about. He at first appears to be another cold and unfriendly character, but by goodness this anime manages to make even him look good. The secondary characters are all strong and interesting in themselves but a few here and there are kind of shallow (not many, but some). Whilst not perfect, House of Five Leaves has some of the most realistic characters I’ve seen to date that are simply just – human.
Even with all these awesome aspects, the show can at times be a mixed-bag. Flashbacks at confusing times, with confusing material addressed, in a confusing way, and backgrounds that usually don’t have much color or vibrancy in them (but seeing as a lot of the anime takes place at night I can accept that). The weird pacing that takes place early in the series, while very different, can be a major turn-off. The latter half of the series is totally amazing and ties off and puts a nice bow on top of everything occurring at the start of the series. It’s not hard to miss something in this anime too, which was kind of a problem, because if you space out for a little while, you can miss some serious plot. If you don’t like heavy dialogues and minimal action, then I don’t recommend you try this anime, but if you could see yourself giving it a try, then heck, go for it.
There’s nothing disappointing about this anime while I believe there could have been improvement. It’s an intelligent anime that is better watched alone, and focus is definitely necessary, but a rewarding anime it is. You’ll be glad you checked out House of Five Leaves.
This anime will never be popular. You will never see someone wearing a Sarai-ya Goyou T-Shirt. You will never see someone pretend to be Masa and do his samurai techniques. It’s not that kind of anime. It’s an anime that is doomed to be unpopular and only spoken of on the smallest portions of internet forums and be referenced as “a hidden gem.” I don’t know why all gems have to be hidden, but the statement stands true with Sarai-ya Goyou. It’s an anime that can easily be overlooked if you didn’t take the time to check it out, so go take 12 episodes of your time (and a fast 12 it is) and enjoy yourself with House of Five Leaves.
Story & Characters
The members of Five Leaves make their money through undercover jobs such as kidnapping, but they are not the usual rough and tough gangsters. Most of them appear to be friendly, thoughtful people who spend their time lounging around in a relaxed environment, discussing personal issues until their next job. The gang includes a charismatic leader, a shy swordsman, a shop owner, a metallic ornament craftsman, and a woman. Their varied personalities make them an unlikely group to hang out, but they manage to work together on behalf of Five Leaves.
This series is completely character-driven and wastes no time in exploring the member’s personal backgrounds, revealing each of their motives for joining the gang in the first place. Perhaps the most intriguing member of Five Leaves is the leader himself, Yaichi. He is admired for his calm demeanor, yet he is perceived as mysterious because he seems to hide a lot of information about himself. The show delves into how the other members feel about Yaichi, particularly the shy swordsman who is new to the group.
The scenes move slowly and quietly as you watch the characters contemplate about things, plan their missions, and embark on a few short travels. You won’t see a lot of sword fighting or other eventful action here. Even when the members carry out a job, it is more about information gathering and sneaking around places rather than fighting. That is not to say that the show never has its intense moments though; it masterfully weaves in tension and drama just at the right times.
The characters are so down-to-earth and believable that the pleasure of this series comes from observing their close interactions, facial expressions, dialogue, and the subtle changes in their personalities. If you don’t particularly enjoy concentrating on such details, this series might be perceived as a bit dull.
Artwork & Animation
I know a few people who thought that Saraiya Goyou was quite interesting, but they couldn’t continue watching it because they were distracted by the character designs. They’re distinguished by having dark, gloomy eyes, pointy noses, and low, wide mouths. Some people just say “frog faces.” Even though they are a little odd, I find the designs to be personally fitting in the context of this series. I’ve also known them to grow on viewers who have given them a chance.
The amount of detail in the animation is very impressive. For example, I appreciate how well they animated the momentum of water in a cup while it was being swayed or tilted, the breeze effect on a lighted candle after a door was just closed, and the fluid movement of the characters. The artwork is finely detailed as well and really captures the look and feel of the Edo period.
There always seems to be a dark cloud looming over the characters. Their minds are heavy with thoughts of their pasts and current responsibilities. Some viewers say that the show is merely all about “gloomy people,” and they are right to a certain degree. The characters aren’t that upbeat, but despite that, the atmosphere doesn’t feel depressing all of the time. I found that there’s also a lighter air of relaxation and occasional amusement which adds to the enjoyment of watching.
The opening song, “Sign of Love” by Immi, is a melodic, electronic beat which surprised me. I took a liking to it, so I had high hopes for the rest of the soundtrack. Fortunately, the background music has been superb. Nearly every musical piece is a calm, soothing melody that enhances the show’s atmosphere. Some of the tunes are also catchy, and I’ve found myself randomly playing them in my head.
Without a doubt, Saraiya Goyou is a must-see from the Spring 2010 season. Rather than relying on action to tell its story, the show excels in rich characterization, detailed animation, sound, subtleness, and realism. Saraiya Goyou is an example of maturity in anime at its best.
The story follows our protagonist Masanosuke as he searches for a purpose in which he can excel at. However being a wondering ronin limits his options to bodyguard duty and through this he becomes acquainted with the “Five Leaves”: A band of kidnappers that target affluent people of questionable business behaviors to receive ransom. It isn’t structured as a clear cut point A to point B narrative but more of a character driven one. The show follows several mini arcs, each either involving the mission of the team or showing the main overarching story, which involves slowly unveiling the gangs’ boss Yaichi’s life and backstory. This slowly exfoliates throughout the show’s duration with a ending that wraps everything up nicely by coming full circle. The effectiveness of the story is within its simplicity. Since its structured in such a simple way it allows the characters in it to breath life into their world as they remain the primary focus throughout. It’s simple storytelling done right.
Everything from the opaque backgrounds to the character’s visual aesthetic was handled with great care. It’s like a painting brought to life. The world building was also handled well, as you’re immediately sucked into the setting and time period that the story takes place in. You can also tell that the animators had a grasp of capturing a sense of depth of frame, as there was a clear distinction separating the foreground from the background, something many shows tend to neglect to do. They use an acid washed color palette accompanied with rich blacks and other textures to help build an aura that looms over the entire show, bathing in a distinct tinge of melancholy while still being easygoing. They were also aware of when and how to use color, as they would limit color choices given the kind of mood they’re trying to capture and convey. This was evident with flashbacks and key episodes throughout the show. It’s an impressive display of color theory and color placement that was spearheaded by a talented and impassioned crew of creators.
The character designs of Five Leaves are far from conventional. They all share a distinct facial structure with gaping looking eyes (as shown on the anime art cover), which, despite the obtuse expression, was actually pulled off well. They become a part of the environment they’re presented in and are uniquely designed when compared to the “run of the mill” brightly colored haired bishounens we’re used to seeing. This unique character design gave the show its trademark identity that made it stand out from the crowd. Whether you like it or not comes down to preference but there’s no denying its distinct look.
It’s hard pinpointing the soundtrack for the show. Sure It had its somber piano ballads, traditional Japanese song instrumentals and other pieces to accompany its usual easy going setting, but there are some tracks that are clearly inspired by French/European flavoring with an Accordion playing throughout certain songs. Seeing that this anime is set during an Edo period Japan, the cultural clash of European influenced music seems like a rather odd choice. One would think they would stick to only traditional instruments of that era of Japan’s history, such as the more common placed Biwa or Koto stringed instruments for example. This does not take away from the music used but it would have certainly set a better tone if the show would have taken a stricter cultured route. If they were going for a self-aware cultural mash-up like Samurai Champloo it would have been understandable but they clearly wasn’t. It’s certainly a unique choice but sometimes it doesn’t fit the mood as well. Seeing that music is subjective to one’s tastes, how much this bother you as a viewer will vary. Hell, it may not even register with you at all, which in any case it doesn’t do much to hinder the show’s overall quality to begin with. You can see this as more of a personal nitpick than an actual problem.
The voice actors were also well composed. Everyone came across like they were in their element, this made the character interactions to show great chemistry. Almost like listening to a conversation between old friends, which in turn allowed for great immersion.
Our main protagonist Masa suffers from a clear case of inferiority complex. Although this approach isn’t new it’s handled well and not made out to be simple melodrama. It’s nice to see him strive for self-worth without sacrificing his ideals as a person, with him being a man with a decent moral compass. Another refreshing aspect is that he doesn’t throw this ideal around like a bishonen MC would, but rather expresses it to show his distaste for certain actions. Due to his timid behavior, however, he doesn’t seem to fight against the actions his companions take. This may make him out to be a push over but due to the character interactions it’s never abused for unnecessary drama. Slowly but surely he opens up to the lifestyle of the group and proves his worth.
Yaichi is by far the most enigmatic and captivating character, mostly due to his ambiguous and collective personality. He always steals the spotlight in whichever scene he’s in, as we as viewers are constantly trying to piece together his true motives. He isn’t simply clear cut as “the cool guy” but more so a person that seem to dabble in the grey, which makes his presence unnerving at times.
Ume is a man of stubborn pride that only seem to care for those who he’s close to. He takes on the role of big brother to the others and is often the one with the sharp tongue. He isn’t afraid to speak his mind but is also protective of his friends and family. Just like Masa he has a moral compass, but unlike him, he isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty if it means protecting the ones closest to him.
Matsu seem to be a closed off individual that is all about business and fulfilling his obligations. He’s the information gatherer of the group and his job reflects his personality. He can be summed up as a lone wolf. He only show respect to those he’s indebted to and shows loyalty to the group but never brings up anything regarding his personal life. Due to his detachment to others he isn’t quite explored until later into the show with his individual arc.
Otake is a rather carefree woman, she doesn’t seem to take anything too seriously but still composes herself to a degree. She seems to go about things on a whim with a smile always on her face and always find pleasure in the company of others. Her past, like the others in the group, is revealed later on, which brought another aspect to the story involving Yaichi. There isn’t much to her in layered characterization but she is still a nice addition to the group.
the rest of the supporting cast also play their roles well and don’t need over the top quirky personalities to be understood. They simply play their roles in the story without overstepping their boundaries.
Together these characters are all subtle in execution and are down to earth enough that their presence feel natural. The air of maturity complimented the melancholic tone of the show quite well. This brings forth nice organic character interactions between them, making all their time on screen a pleasure to watch. All the characters show a sense of honor as to be expected among Japanese customs. This mutual comradery for each other is what makes this cast among the better ones anime has to offer.
I entered this anime to seek escape from the usual dime a dozen shows and that’s exactly what I got. It’s soothing, got to the point and didn’t overstay its welcome. For that, I can easily recommend this to anyone seeking the same kind of escape as myself.
Don’t be fooled, this anime will not be everyone’s cup of tea. It’s not trying to impress the audience nor is it trying to be more than it is. It’s simply an anime that slowly unfolds a simple story on its own pace. If you’re looking for a show to relax to or just something to offer a break from anime’s usual tropes then this might be just the remedy. But if you’re looking for intense samurai action flick and a grandiose story I advise you look somewhere else.
As for other recommendations, I point you towards:
Mushishi: A show that also captures the familiar melancholic atmosphere, accompanied with unique character designs and tranquil presentation. It also takes its time exploring its world and individual stories. However, it lacks an overarching story as oppose to House of Five Leaves.
Shigurui: You won’t find the tranquil easy going nature of House of Five Leaves here but what they do share in common is that sense of mutual comradery, slow pacing and similar Edo period world setting with samurais. Also, it has a slowly unfolding backstory of certain characters as well. Be warned though, it’s a VERY bloody show and follows more of a grittier approach. If you’re one who doesn’t want to see a bloodbath, stay away.
MAL Score: 7.96
The friendly and sincere Kobato Hanato has a wish to go to a particular place no matter what. To fulfill this desire, she is tasked with helping people in their times of distress. For each mended broken heart, a small candy-like fragment is produced and fills a special bottle. Once the bottle is full, her wish will be granted.
As Kobato carries out her mission alongside her stuffed toy companion, Ioryogi, she encounters various people troubled by their different situations. From a child struggling with his parents, a high school girl troubled about romance, and everything in between, Kobato’s naturally sweet smile and outgoing personality are ready to brighten their day!
Kobato herself begins as a bit of a mystery, tasked with a mission of healing the hearts of others in order for her to be granted her own wish. Despite being a hopeless idiot and incurably moe, Kobato does the best she can helping others. She is guided and protected by Ioryogi, an important figure from the spirit world who appears to Kobato in the form of a stuffed animal. The reasons for her mission, her origins, and the reason for Ioryogi’s appearance are explained as the story unfolds.
Most of the plot is going to be fairly predictable to anyone who’s seen many series like this and the early episodes are a bit formulaic. However this does change as the plot thickens over the last half of the series. I found the pacing to be good and I never felt that it lingered or stalled for too long in any place for me to get bored with it. Maybe the only exception would be the first half dozen episodes, with their similar and episodic plotlines. I was never blown away with any of it despite Kobato’s overwhelming cuteness, but the ending story arc is both heartwarming and heat wrenching. But I did like the ending overall and felt it wrapped up the series nicely and tied up all the loose ends.
The main reason to watch Kobato is for the titular character. She is overbearingly adorable in every way. Her character design is extremely appealing and she has possibly the best wardrobe I have yet seen in anime. Kobato could be the poster girl for moe; she’s earnest, innocent, naive, lacking any common sense, and impossibly stupid. On the surface one would probably think she lacked substance as well. While you could definitely say this early on, due to the length of the series and the time spent growing and developing her character she eventually becomes a great all around protagonist, instead of just a moe figurehead.
Kobato’s main foil would be her guardian Ioryogi. A quick tempered spirit stuck in the form of a stuffed animal, he is constantly berating Kobato for her stupidity and chastising her for not staying on task. However despite his gruff nature it’s obvious that he really loves and cares about her too. The relationship between them is the source of a lot of the shows humor, and I found the pair to be quite a delight to watch.
The other most important character to the story would be the introverted and standoffish Fugimoto. I am not really a big fan of Fugimoto’s type and always feel this is an overused cliché, particularly in shoujo and romance anime. I don’t think I will ever understand why girls find this kind of guy to be appealing. Why would you want to break down the guys emotional barriers and deal with all his baggage when there are plenty of other guys who are actually nice to you? Someday I hope to understand this mindset.
The rest of the supporting cast is handled well and for the most part quite interesting. Sayaka is the most important, as the head of the preschool that Fugimoto and Kobato work. The great majority of the story takes place at the school and revolves around their efforts to save it from villainous loan sharks. Sayaka is given some back story and development but most of the remaining cast remains mostly static. They push the story in the right direction when needed and then fade from view. This is a good thing since it allows the show to focus on those who deserve the screen time.
I am not particularly a huge fan of CLAMP artwork and designs. While their drawings are undoubtedly brilliant and beautiful (particularly when drawing children), I never liked the skinny and malnourished looking characters. However, I was pleasantly surprised that this wasn’t the case in Kobato and the production studio opted for a more normal look. While everyone is still a bit too thin, they don’t look like they are starving to death. What really won me over and why I think this is perhaps the most visually appealing work yet was Kobato and her beautiful clothing. Also, being a CLAMP product you can expect are to see plenty of references and cameos by familiar characters from their other works. It is nice that at least for the important ones, they don’t seem to reuse the same old models with different names. This may or may not be a bonus to some fans, but for me it was refreshing.
The series music, the OP theme and the in between songs are cute and very fitting of the series nature. In addition the acting is solid all around. Kobato’s seiyuu is suitably adorable sounding and brings out her personality. Though it does become a bit grating and overly cute at times, it is a minor annoyance and it probably wouldn’t work as well with a more mature sounding voice.
Overall I found Kobato to be a rewarding and wonderful viewing experience. If you like cute and adorable things, CLAMP, light hearted and touching stories with a hint of romance; then Kobato should be high on your list. If you really dislike moe or need action to be entertained than this is something you should stay away from. While it may not go down as an all-time classic, Kobato will leave you with a smile.
I’m rather picky with my ratings, but for the first time in a good while, I decided on a ten.
Story-9 The plot of Kobato. starts out simple enough- a girl assigned the task of healing peoples’ wounded hearts. The first half of the series covers the bases of the overall objective- cases of Kobato doing her work. Even these earlier episodes I though were awesome, but as the series enters its second half, Kobato.’s plot thickens and the series develops into a masterpiece.
In the first half, we see glimpses of the dark realities of life beneath the bright, cheerful character of Kobato- and from the very start, Kobato. deals with very real life details; a misunderstanding with a friend, a tragedy with a lover, family problems…
In the second half, however, is revealed a whole new facet of Kobato. The show cuts deeper than a story about a girl with the objective of fulfilling her dream. Debts. Love. Death. Tragedy. Farewells. We see all of these events changing and forming a much more mature Hanato Kobato
Art-10 I loved the art- I loved it! The details are intricate, the colors and effects wonderfully done. I don’t think I could have asked more of the creators (especially considering this is based off a CLAMP work) except actually letting viewers distinguish the ages of the characters.
Sound-10 The soundtrack for Kobato. was one of the best I’ve ever heard. My favorite soundtrack up until the point I saw Kobato. was the True Tears Soundtrack, but Kobato. really gave True Tears a run for its money. The sounds vary- cheerful, light, heavy, peaceful… Both soundtracks are masterpieces that fulfill their purpose, supporting and improving the show.
Character-10 Character. Yes, I’m someone who doesn’t enjoy a book, movie… or anything with shallow characters. At a glimpse, people may think Kobato, is just another “moe”, empty-headed character, but as the series progresses, all the characters- Fujimoto and Kobato noticeably- grow and mature as they learn important life lessons through their trials. The storyline doesn’t go “easy” on them: the lessons they learn are tough, yes, but also shape and define the characters.
Enjoyment-10 I both laughed and cried while watching Kobato. It really is a series with contrasting qualities; it brings laughter and tears. It shows the darkness in our society, but also the hope, dreams, and goodness in it. There are trials, but also miracles and second chances. This simple, 24-episode story has all this- and what’s even better is that it has a healing quality, one that warms the heart.
Overall-10 Overall, I give Kobato. a ten. I would give an eleven if I could. Kobato. is something viewers of all ages can watch- I would recommend to anyone, anyday. You could watch it with the whole family, your siblings, friends… it’s not something you have to filter or think through.
All I can say is to give it a try- and let the show do the rest.
Let me explain. I have never once made an attempt at learning Japanese. I know about as much as any weeaboo who watches subbed anime would know. Watching Kobato wasn’t a sudden grand realisation that I was now fluent in Japanese. It was the simplicity of the language the characters used. They all had just a few stock lines they would throw out in most situations which meant that after watching a few episodes paying attention to the subs you knew pretty much everything that they could say. This effects the anime in far more ways than you might realise. Of course you get the painfully dull and repetitive dialogue. Of course there’s the way every scene and every episode feels the exact bloody same with no inspiration, ingenuity or imagination, bar Kobato’s wardrobe. But alongside that you also have the actual tension in the series solved using the same uninspired methods in every episode. Kobato throws out a few stock phrases, Ioryogi mutters something in the background and all is right with the world once again. It limits the direction any episode can take.
But yes, it does get better. It may take until around episode 17 before I actually went through an episode without having beaten 3–4 pokemon trainers while it was playing, but it certainly did improve. Vastly improved. By episode 20 I had shut that Game Boy for good and was actually watching this show for real. The show took a much more dramatic and melancholic tone that suited the style of storytelling far more. After watching the previous 16 episodes of failed comedy (bar Ioryogi dodging cork bullets at the festival. That was quite funny) and bland stories that were supposed to be heartwarming, the effect this change to a plot-driven story had on the overall quality of the show was phenomenal.
Let me talk about the MAL stats for a second on this series. There’s a very high percentage drop rate to completed rate, around 20% of the people who watched it, dropped it. And yet the anime is rated 8.07 at the time of writing, a very respectable score indeed. MAL doesn’t count the scores once you’ve seen beyond a certain number of episodes so those who actually sat through the entire thing were clearly rewarded for their efforts. It also shows the usual reaction of people to rate something highly because the later episodes were better, much like After Story. It’s something that bugs me a lot because I hate having to sit through several poor episodes just because ‘it gets better I swear!’. I don’t doubt it does. It’s just those earlier episodes are a right pain to sit through. Because Kobato is, for the most part, a poor anime. It just happens to end on a very high note. Plus you can’t skip those earlier episodes the same way you theoretically can for After Story. Without those earlier episodes the ending ones don’t work.
It did turn me into a romantic sap though. Good old Clamp did it again. They made me believe that, through anything, love will prevail. No matter what happens to you, what you go through, what form you’re in, love will get through all that. It did the very same thing Chobits did. It made me believe in the Power of Love. I came into this anime looking for something to replicate the feeling Chobits gave me and, in the end, I guess it did exactly that.
7: Kimi ni Todoke
English: Kimi ni Todoke: From Me to You
MAL Score: 8.00
Known for her semblance to the Sadako character of The Ring series, Sawako Kuronuma is given the nickname “Sadako” and misunderstood to be frightening and malicious like her fictional counterpart, despite having a timid and sweet nature. Longing to make friends and live a normal life, Sawako is naturally drawn to the cheerful and friendly Shouta Kazehaya, the most popular boy in her class. From their first meeting, Sawako has admired Kazehaya’s ability to be the center of attention and aspires to be like him.
When Kazehaya organizes a test of courage for the entire class and encourages her to attend, Sawako sees this as an opportunity to get along with her classmates, starting with Ayane Yano and Chizuru Yoshida. Through each new encounter and emotion she experiences, Sawako believes that meeting Kazehaya has changed her for the better. Little does Sawako know, her presence has also changed Kazehaya.
At first, Kimi ni Todake drew me in before I saw its first frame of film with its story concept. Our heroine is Sawako, a sweet and gentle girl with an awkward personality and an uncanny resemblance to Sadako from The Ring. Desperately wanting others to understand her she is instead shunned and feared by her classmates. This all changes when she meets a boy named Kazehaya who is the first to truly see her and slowly she begins to draw herself out of her shell. The remaining story is one of self discovery as Sawako experiences the first feelings of love and friendship she has ever felt. While her situation is a bit contrived and not overly realistic, the way it is presented is so wonderfully sweet and beautiful that it is impossible not to love.
I firmly believe that in order to really fully appreciate just how special Kimi ni Todake is, you have to already be a veteran of at least a dozen or more of its shoujo peers. There are none of the usual tired clichés. Sawako isn’t the plain and perky heroine determined to get a man to fall for her who ignores her or treats her horribly. She isn’t out for revenge nor is she being pursued by a harem of bishounens with a desperate struggle to choose between them. Kazehaya isn’t a dick, for lack of a better term. He’s a guy who will be loved by viewers not because he’s hot, but because he’s just a really nice guy any girl would want to fall in love with and guys would want as a friend.
The feelings and situations presented to us are real and powerful but not in an overly dramatic way. Nobody has torturous family lives or tragic pasts or other situations that always feel forced in a way to create drama that could be better achieved with fantastic characters and storytelling. The concepts are simple, the pacing slow, and full of the required blushes and aw shucks moments. Much like its soft artwork and color palette, Kimi ni Todake is the kind of show you will sit back and relax too, forgetting about all the problems of your day.
This is not to say that it doesn’t have its faults. While just about every aspect of the series was wonderful to behold, the series already slow pace comes to an even greater crawl over the last 8-10 episodes. While I still enjoyed them immensely, I suspect some viewers will likely begin to lose patience at the lack of progress or action in the story. And while perhaps we are also being setup for a continuation at some point, since the manga is still ongoing, the ending was also not particularly ideal.
Sawako herself goes down as one of my all-time favorite characters. She is so completely earnest and innocent that she is impossible not to love. While her character concept is initially not all that unique she becomes so much more than just a socially awkward, shy, and moe girl. Everyone can find something to relate with her over and from a character development standpoint, the person she becomes by the end of the series is so remarkably different from her beginning that it’s truly amazing. Yet despite this enormous change she never deep down changes from what she really is at her core. Her closing monologue at the end of the show is a prime example of just how much she has grown.
Kazehaya is a rare breed for a romance series. First he is the one and only love interest. No reverse harems of bishies here to waste story time or antagonize the heroine. He is also unique in that outside series such as Kanon or Clannad, he is one of the only leads that looks and feels like a real person. He is never made out to be a caricature of the fantasies and dreams of young girls. He is not super wealthy, nor is he a famous athlete, or come from a notorious family. Sure he is really good looking, popular with the girls and the guys, and good at baseball but you never feel like these are things that he didn’t earn with his own merits. Unlike most of his anime contemporaries who have abrasive or aloof personalities but are still enormously popular because well they are supposed to be. They’re perfect men after all! His personality is the kind that draws people to him and his popularity is not just because he’s handsome. People like him because he’s nice to them. What a novel idea!
While on the surface, Kazehaya and Sawako seem to be completely different people, deep down they both share the same confusing emotions and fears about the feelings each has for the other. The interaction between the two is truly special and lovely. Amazingly I never really lost my patience with them either or yell at the screen, “Oh come on just kiss her already!”
Kimi’s supporting cast is also quite remarkable. This is nowhere more evident than with Sawako’s new best friends, Ayane and Chizu. From the start of the story you never would have though these girls would have become her friends. They had almost written on their faces “villainess” and it was such a pleasant surprise to see these two develop into perhaps the best shoujo best friends I have seen yet. They are so completely different from one another that it is a bit surprising they are friends. Ayane is the beautiful, fashionable temptress, while Chizu is the butch and athletic type. Their reactions to Sawako kind of mirror the way the audience will perceive her. There bonds grow stronger as they experience things together, and overcome some adversity. They were truly a joy to watch.
Other characters come and go but are no less impactful to the story. The only real rival, Kurumi, who appears in the middle portions of the story never, outstays her welcome and while she would technically serve as the series villainess, she never really feels to me like a villain. Shockingly Sawako’s family life is also quite normal, she neither has a tragic home situation or a perverted father, and they are both loving and normal parents (both to her and to each other).
Artistically Kimi really shines. Its soft colors and artwork just match the beauty and sweetness in the story perfectly. It does a good job of mixing in comedic art along with its beautiful scenery to make every episode visually appealing and smile inducing. This is even more brought out with the spectacular musical score and cast. Mamiko Noto seems to have been born to play this role. It’s a typical character type for her, one that we have heard from her many times, but this will be one that fans will remember for years and years to come. I can’t say enough about the OP theme, I was instantly in love with from the first chorus and its animation is tremendous. I also found the ED to be equally perfect, though I suspect Chara’s gravelly voice to be unappealing to some.
Overall, Kimi ni Todake is easily a top 5 series for me and one of the best shows of the decade. It was immediately appealing to me from the first episode and I am extremely sad to see it end. This is how more romance shows should be done and is not to be missed by anyone who likes the genre in even the slightest bit. It really doesn’t get much better than this one.
The first few episodes were definitely enjoyable, the back story to why Sawako is an outcast is different and interesting and so is how she begins to make friends. Unfortunately after about episode 6 or 7 you are wasting your time. This anime should have been shorter as it moves at an incredible slow pace. Honestly it began to become a mission to sit through another episode. Not only were the episodes repetitive (never has a character cried so much before this) but you can pretty much guess what is going to happen in each episode after the first minute. Unfortunately there is no great ending to uplift the series, it just sort of flattens out part way through and never gets any momentum back.
I think was really annoyed me the most is the lack of development with the characters. There were so many beginnings of side stories and other love interests in this anime that never really developed. At least these could have livened up the second half of the series.
A few good things about this anime were the art, I thoroughly enjoyed the almost water colour style. The opening track is lovely to listen to as well and suits the anime perfectly. Kazehaya was actually quite a good character and was probably the most original out of all of them with his glass half full attitude that never wavered.
Overall I am giving this a 5/10 as although the first half was enjoyable the second half nearly put me into a coma.
Kimi ni Todoke starts off as an anime that could make you wonder if you’re actually watching said series. The very first scene is practically a half-horror scene attempted by the animators to make you understand in a snap what kind of person the main character is. Kuronuma Sawako: a girl who looks a bit gloomy and scares away most of the people she’s nearby to. The reason because of that is a simple one: she’s very easily misunderstood. The tone of her voice sounds like a ghost that waited a thousand years in a closet and finally sees someone to scare away. Sawako may not have waited a thousand years but she does scare away people with her awkward attempt to greet someone, which earned her the nickname ”Sadako” (the ghost from the movie ”The Ring”).
It’s natural that any person watching until now will get a feeling of sympathy. We see and hear things that play in Sawako’s mind, and in Sawako’s mind only. She doesn’t mean to scare anyone away. She doesn’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable. Even her life motto (”A good deed a day”) sounds like it’s something made up by a loving person who likes to help. This is by far the biggest message the story is trying to convey: no matter how good your intentions are deep inside, if it’s not coming out in the proper way, nobody will see it on the outside. Sawako is struggling with this harsh truth that tackles her every single day. She has no real friends, feels very lonely at times and has a hard time understanding social situations not knowing how to react. It all feels very sad for Sawako and she is just trying to fit in and help people. But she can’t because of her way of conveying a message to another person; she hasn’t learned to do that properly.
If there is a second message this anime tries to portray, it has to be the message of hope. Because even for Sawako, light in the dark tunnel of social situations can be seen. You could say that Sawako actually is a clean slate of life that hasn’t been written on. The good things and the bad. Because that slate is almost empty, she’s never learned to interact, to recognize backstabbers and to clear up a misunderstanding. But also, she’s never learned to talk behind someone’s back, to steal anything or even to spread rumors.
Sawako is unique. An empty book that can be written in with all the things that life teaches us. That is one of the most brilliant ways to begin a story about an individual that grows up and steadily learns new things.
It’s actually unusual to write so much about a character in a show, even if it’s one of the most complex main characters. The story and the thought behind the story is what should be elaborately written about. But here, the character IS actually the story. Of course it’s possible to name all the events that happened in the show and write a bunch of thoughts about that. The truth is however that the story itself is very thin. And the best thing about that: it does not matter at all.
Which brings me to my next point. To understand why the story doesn’t matter, we have to look at the pacing of the show. Most stories tend to start off with a bang. Then there are some small events that explain all the things about that big happening and move the story forward. Then there is another peak in the story and the cycle repeats itself.
Kimi ni Todoke is nothing like that. You must realize that the pacing is extremely slow in this show. But the joke is that you must ask yourself the question if it matters to you. The story is about Sawako experiencing all the things in life that almost anyone can relate to. From your first classmate ever sitting next to you, to your first love in high school. It’s that emotional ride that makes this anime so darn special. And the pacing has a very, very important role in delivering those emotions. Basically, it actually makes it possible to notice all the small talk that the characters are having, the fun moments that they’re experiencing, the flowing rivers of sadness that are shown and even the growing love between characters. And most importantly: it’s possible to notice Sawako coming out of her shell. It’s because the pacing is that slow, you can notice and appreciate those things that come by in the anime.
In terms of art, it’s really crucial that you watch this show with an open mind without prejudices. Keep in mind that this is a ”shoujo”. This means that it’s a story with the point of view of a girl and most likely with some ”girly” elements. But if you manage to overcome these things (or are a girl yourself), Kimi ni Todoke is a breath of fresh air to watch. While the animation may not be the greatest you will ever see, the art is amazing. It’s one of those anime which captures the feel of the manga almost perfectly. The scenery is beautiful and everything has this ”fresh” feel, as if you’re diving in a nice cold bath after sweating.
Most of the time in animated shows, either the characters are well drawn or the backgrounds are. Kimi ni Todoke does both well with maybe the backgrounds being a tiny bit better drawn than the characters. Cute bubbles and sparkles pop up randomly in many scenes but actually fit very snuggly in the story strangely enough. And the people who composed the musical score deserve applause. The music captures those emotions portrayed beautifully and manages to play as a nice ear massage if listened to.
It’s too bad that Kimi ni Todoke has one of the most banal summaries you will ever see. Ever. Anyone who decides to watch an anime based on the summary he or she has read will most likely miss this gem of a show. If one day someone will invent a way to include snippets of emotions in a summary, Kimi ni Todoke will stand at the top of the charts and that inventor will hopefully be rich and famous. It’s also too bad that the anime is over. The manga is still going strong so there is hope for a second season; there are literally many who are begging for one. It’s not possible to fully share in words what this anime makes so special, it’s an experience you’ll have to call your own. And because you can relate to almost anyone in the show, it will give you that honest feeling. That feeling which makes you believe that life has more in store, that you CAN move forward and change things. Sawako manages to do it, and so does everyone.
6: Angel Beats!
English: Angel Beats!
Japanese: Angel Beats!（エンジェルビーツ）
MAL Score: 8.10
Otonashi awakens only to learn he is dead. A rifle-toting girl named Yuri explains that they are in the afterlife, and Otonashi realizes the only thing he can remember about himself is his name. Yuri tells him that she leads the Shinda Sekai Sensen (Afterlife Battlefront) and wages war against a girl named Tenshi. Unable to believe Yuri’s claims that Tenshi is evil, Otonashi attempts to speak with her, but the encounter doesn’t go as he intended.
Otonashi decides to join the SSS and battle Tenshi, but he finds himself oddly drawn to her. While trying to regain his memories and understand Tenshi, he gradually unravels the mysteries of the afterlife.
Basically, Angel Beats is about an afterlife in which a group of dead students refuse to ‘move on’ to the next life, because they have some sort of peace to make with the world and themselves. There’s a unique mix of common school life against the supernatural. It’s a setting that I found to be original enough; I also expected it to be a simple tear-jerker, but that isn’t the case.
Angel Beats has a duality about it. One part of it is comedy – most of it is well timed, and on several occasions, had me laughing out loud at my screen like a nutcase. The English-speaking, nonsensical TK doesn’t even need an introduction anymore. Even the slapstick comedy is quite well done, and usually timed with unfitting music which (for the most part) heightens the comedy.
The other part would be the melodrama. Most of the important characters have a back story to them, which are revealed piece by piece. And, as to be expected, many are torturous, depressing tales. These stories aren’t your stereotypical ‘my puppy died’ stories; in fact, I’ve found that most of the stories that have been revealed are all original in some way or another, and interesting as well. Their common theme seems to be ‘regrets’ – especially those of teenagers struggling with family, society and life in general.
Topping it all off and decorating the whole package is a very clean, crisp presentation, and music that can move you from the first time you hear it. The rock concert scenes are some of the finest I’ve ever seen, with spectacular animation and crisp lighting effects. The music alone made me re-watch the concert episodes over and over. The art is also very pleasant on the eyes, with soft but vibrant colors and simple but effective character styles.
The greatest problem that many people make an issue out of is the transition between the two previously mentioned parts of comedy and drama. Sometimes, the parts can seem fragmented and poorly transitioned. But I only noticed this after I heard the criticisms and look for such inappropriateness. I’m a fan of such shows that mix in different types of enjoyment. Angel Beats also isn’t a stupid show; I never felt that my emotions were being toyed with in a rudimentary or heavy handed manner.
What I’m trying to say is that while this may seem contradictory and schizophrenic to some, overall, it seems to be a fairly successful blend to me. I found I actually liked being proven wrong about my guesses as to ‘what kind of show this will end up being’. And I know that many scenes will evoke familiar memories from other shows, but really, this show deserves to be considered as it is, by itself.
Let me do some breaking down:
The story is revealed irregularly; some episodes teach you various things about the world, while others spend their time screwing around. I had fun watching those anyway, but I can see how others would think it’s a waste of time.
The art is beautiful. Beyond what we’ve come to expect, the animation is amazing (especially for the concerts), and the lighting effects give the show a slightly washed-out, surreal look – which I’m sure was the intended effect.
It’s been a while since I’ve liked every song in a show. Some of the BGMs are repeated a bit often, but the feature songs are all brilliant. The seiyuu also do a fine job. No voices will annoy you – unless it was intentional.
This one’s tricky, as many of the characters’ back stories are still veiled. Some characters seem to follow the usual anime tropes, but they work. I definitely felt more interested in a character once I learned more about their past.
There’s a very obvious sign as to how much I’m enjoying a show; I get antsy and check for updates every hour. The more I see, the more I want. The concert scenes alone are worth the watch.
I guess in the end, your enjoyment of Angel Beats will depend on whether its various aspects strike a chord with you or not (pardon the pun). For my part, I’m glad to have found a series that keeps me guessing, interests me with its premise, dazzles my eyes, while making me laugh and sniffle in the same episode.
This one’s definitely worth your attention, at least until you’re absolutely sure you don’t like everything about it. Check it out.
After having finished this series, I needed to add a short addendum – because it helped me realize the potential problem of this series. In short, it’s a little messy. If you watch the final episode, you’ll probably come to realize the main theme of the series (the entire first half of the final episode is dedicated to it). But when you do, you start thinking of ways in which certain story elements could have been developed and presented a little better.
I can’t help but compare it to Clannad, a series that expertly manages the drama and the waves of emotion from the viewer. It’s almost like the show is psychic, and knows exactly when to say or show something in order to get the maximum emotional impact and reaction. Compared to that, Angel Beats is more than a little awkward; in particular, the final scene – it just didn’t hit me as hard as I thought it should. I was affected, but was distracted at the same time by the clumsy dialogue and the sense of too many unexplained factors.
All in all, I’m very glad I spent time with Angel Beats, and will surely miss its presence. At the same time, it pains me to think of how much better it could have been if the show didn’t feel so rushed, and if the writers had put a bit more planning and effort into the final moments.
I obsessively try to spot the cracks and flaws in a plot, but I overlook a lot of flaws in the beginning of an anime to give it a fair chance. From the start the plot’s foundation was already showing cracks, but I ignored them due to my high hopes for this “MUST WATCH!” The story begins with our main protagonist waking up in some kind of “afterlife” and he is greeted by a teenage girl with a sniper rifle. The apparent “antagonist” called Angel is, like everyone in this “afterlife”, immortal, but she has extra powers (cause why settle for immortality, am I right?) The leader of the “resistance” is perfectly aware of their opponent’s immortality but she and her group of rebels shoot at her anyway (with guns made from dirt by the way…), even though one of her powers allows bullets to pass straight through her. I was just waiting for one rebel to shout: “Our bullets have been passing harmlessly through her for the past 5 minutes, sir!” Then the leader would answer: “Just shoot harder!!” I would be crying on the floor! (Not tears of laughter but tears of pain cause I would have fell off my chair laughing!)
This “Pre-afterlife” world is a highschool (cause every anime needs a bunch of not-so-normal teens that go to high school.) At this school you are given a chance to make peace with your tragic life and move on to your reincarnation. One of the ways to pass on? Get good grades… So this group of rebels against God decide to go to class but not pay any attention…brilliant! Why even go to class in the first place? Another thing that irritated me is they added filler scenes and 3 or 4 filler episodes to a 13 episode anime! The characters and plot never had a chance to develop in that short time because it was given 2nd or sometimes 3rd priority! If you take off your thinking cap, lend it to a friend, sit down and just immerse yourself in the art, music, action and comedy then you might enjoy this anime quite a bit. The plot is also very slow paced and when it finally picks up the pace the anime is almost over, everything is rushed and you end up with a horde of mini-arcs.
School scenario, group of misfits, each an embodiment of some stereotype, it’s been done too many times… Let’s start with a positive. This anime had some of the most interesting characters I’ve seen in a while. I needed to know more and when I realized that they will be telling each character’s backstory and revealing the reason for them “qualifying” for this school I was ecstatic! There was hope for this anime! Sadly the 3 most interesting/mysterious characters were not even developed the slightest! Their backstories were not even told! You had the chilled guy who never stopped dancing and only spoke small snippets of vague English. You had the introvert girl who was always on her own and who had a love for puppies and the weapon obsessed, hot tempered guy who had a crush on one of the main female protagonists. These 3 supporting characters in my opinion had the most potential. All 3 pushed aside and only used for comic relief… The waste of potential was shocking and really got to me.
Now I need to agree with almost every review here and admit, the art was amazing. The use of rays of light reflecting off objects and the creamy colours were very soothing to the eye. Beautiful backgrounds and scenes complemented the scenarios and were not too busy. The characters had simple, but original designs. (At least most of them…) Even though they were pointless, the action scenes were smooth and flowed. The art was one of the aspects that slightly redeemed this anime and that acted as a safety net to slow it’s steady decent down my anime list.
The music matched the scenes and really added atmosphere and added emotion to the scenes that were “meant” to touch you. (It was incredibly easy to see the formula that the writer followed to try and tug at my heart strings.) One track in particular that played during the last episode in the saddest moment made a smile briefly creep onto my disappointed face.
I loved the art and sound, but those are just enhancers of the story. Sadly great art and sound could never save a wrecked plot, no matter how good. It did cushion the blow however.
This anime’s last chance to grab a point or two from me. Sadly even this chance was squandered… I started watching this anime with the hope of sharing the same feels as all the fans of this anime begging me to give it a chance. The ending lacked any emotional impact though… I could almost see the writer add every typical element to the ending to make it resemble a genuinely sad yet still realistic ending. I unfortunately found the ending devoid of even a scrap of logic and even the timeline of past events shown to the viewer via flashbacks made no sense…(I don’t want to spoil anything) But without spoiling I just need to say that the ending makes all the efforts and motives of the “resistance” redundant and laughable… Even their reincarnation theory or should I say fear of not wanting to risk coming back as a barnacle is totally blown out of the water…(No pun intended)
Now there is one thing about the end that I need to address, so please skip the next well designated paragraph but NOT the rest of the review if you want to avoid a slight spoiler. You gone? Good 🙂 Don’t say I didn’t warn you…
***BEGINNING OF SPOILER***
At the very end the main character and Kanade (Angel) move on and are reincarnated as humans that look almost exactly like their former selves, that are also conveniently the same age and live in the same town/city and Angel is conveniently humming a song from the afterlife so that reincarnated Otanashi (Main character) can recognise the tune and they end up meeting again… Out of all the BILLIONS of lifeforms they could have been reincarnated as…or lets just say for arguments sake that humans can only be reincarnated as humans the odds are still impossible! That is complete and utter bullshit and terrible writing! Haha
***END OF SPOILER***
ENJOYMENT: 3 + OVERALL: 4
I know saying that you did not like Angel Beats! is like saying you prefer Dub over Sub in the anime community, but I’ll carry that burden 😉 The art and music were fantastic and the comedy made me laugh, but I struggled to take the anime seriously. I never knew if they wanted to make things seem realistic or not. If you are going to make an anime take place in the afterlife, might as well throw realism out of the window rather than to try and fix the many problems that come with anime of this genre. Summed up: A group of teens that go to highschool in the afterlife while rebelling against an unknown/unseen/faceless God and shooting an immortal enemy with bullets and guns made from dirt… Immortal teens afraid to die in a world where death means a trip to the school nurse… Some characters did not even have particularly sad stories. One failed to catch a baseball for f* sake… The school is “designed” to help souls who had tragic lives accept their fate and move on, right? But why are there no new arrivals throughout the anime? If you take the population of the earth into perspective, then there would be a massive influx of new arrivals at the school daily due to our world being the chaotic mess that it is. There has to be people/teens who live tragic lives 100 times worse than the characters of this anime, but why don’t we see them arrive at the “school”?
I know this review was horribly critical of Angel Beats!, but I had no choice. Angel Beats! is a rotten egg that has been beautifully painted (Art) and coated in perfume (Sound)
Take Angel Beats as an example.
Any fan of certain Key visual novels (or their KyoAni adaptations), will undoubtedly be familiar with the work of Maeda Jun, whose inimitable style, approach, and methodology to storytelling is clearly on display in Angel Beats, and on the surface this may actually seem like a good thing. Given the whole concept of a high school purgatory one would think there was enormous scope for the tale, and in some aspects the story is delivered very well. The only problem is that as a viewer, I’m kind of getting bored of watching the same thing over and over again.
Here’s what I mean. Angel Beats takes the idea of purgatory (to those of you who don’t know that word, google it), and places it firmly in a high school setting, something which is familiar territory to Maeda, and while the plot actually works fairly well within that setting, there isn’t actually anything that I found inspiring or moving in any way. In addition to this the whole basis of the story is that this particular purgatory is only for young people, however one has to question why this is so, and also why the only young people who get to go there are all people with regrets.
Confused? Throughout the whole series not one character actually displayed any kind of violent or vengeful behaviour in their past life, and this omission place a huge bias on the story. As far as I’m aware, the nature of purgatory is that it exists not only for those with regrets, but also for those whose sins aren’t great enough for them to be sent to hell.
Purgatory is, in effect, the last chance a soul has to “get it right”, and whilst Angel Beats does kind of show this, the lack of anyone who died for revenge makes the whole story unbalanced. The fact that almost everyone in the story only has regret makes the whole show a bit too sugary sweet, and while the whole series is actually pretty well written, this only makes the areas that are missing more pronounced.
Still, the plot is paced nicely, and the idea is definitely unusual for a high school series. There’s also the inclusion of certain elements that are interesting, but the show never really puts them to good use until near the end of the series and at that point it just seems too little, too late.
Moving on to another area of confusion, the art and animation throughout the show is actually pretty decent on the whole. The characters are designed nicely and have a certain look about them that really does remind one of KyoAni’s work with Key. The backgrounds and scenery are pretty normal (the high school setting doesn’t really allow for much in the way of creativity), and don’t really set themselves apart from other shows of this ilk.
The problem is actually the concert scenes. The whole series is designed and animated in a certain style which at first seems pretty decent. Then P.A. Works make concert scenes that not only look better, but have more fluid and detailed animation, are better choreographed, and are just plain superior to the show itself.
Why not do the whole show in this way? It’s as if P.A. Works are telling the viewer “this is what we’re really capable of, but we’re not going to give it to you so you’ll have to make do with the leftovers”. If the whole series was animated in the same manner as the concert scenes then this would easily be one of the best looking shows in anime, and the fact that the viewer can clearly see that P.A. Works are capable of much greater things is more than a little annoying.
That said, while Angel Beats looks decent where it could have been great, it sounds so much better than one might expect. Given the high school setting there’s a wealth of character types on display, including the voices. The acting is pretty decent throughout, but there’s very little for the seiyuu to work with as the characters are pretty much one dimensional (more on this in a bit).
What really steals the show though, is the music. Yes, there are very well produced concert scenes, but the music that’s actually used throughout the series is pretty good too. Surprisingly, Maeda is also the composer for Angel Beats, while the actual arrangement of the thematic pieces is done by Anant-Garde Eyes. As for the title tracks the OP, “My Soul, Your Beats”, is a decent enough pop song, while the ED, “Brave Story”, is a rather nice ballad.
As far as the characters go, it’s here where Angel Beats begins to suffer from the inherent lack of creativity. While there are some nice ideas and concepts in the show, the fact that Maeda and director Kishi Seiji have opted for the stereotype leaves a lot to be desired.
That’s not to say that the characters are bad per se, no, it simply means that they are very much as one would expect, right down to their personalities. Yuri, for example, reminded me of a certain leader from a particularly famous KyoAni franchise. While the similarities between characters from Angel Beats and other shows may sometimes be only skin deep, the fact that no thought was given to trying out something new, especially with the more interesting ideas that the show toyed with, makes one think that the business side of the industry has taken over, at least where this show is concerned.
Now while I’ve been fairly critical about Angel Beats, that doesn’t mean to say that the series is bad, or that I didn’t enjoy it. The fact is that this show has something to offer to many people, and while I may not be a hardcore fan of this anime, or hate it with a passion, I can honestly see why those perspective are valid. The simple fact is that Angel Beats truly did have the potential to be something special in anime, and that has been wasted in favour of producing something that will appeal to the existing moe fan base.
Granted, the whole industry needs to make money (and what better way than to milk it from fans who don’t know any better by giving them more of the same), but it would be nice if, just for once, one of these creators would actually give us the series that they truly want us to see.
Then again, that’s probably nothing more than a pipe dream.
MAL Score: 8.21
As a child, Moritaka Mashiro dreamt of becoming a mangaka, just like his childhood hero and uncle, Tarou Kawaguchi, creator of a popular gag manga. But when tragedy strikes, he gives up on his dream and spends his middle school days studying, aiming to become a salaryman instead.
One day, his classmate Akito Takagi, the school’s top student and aspiring writer, notices the detailed drawings in Moritaka’s notebook. Seeing the vast potential of his artistic talent, Akito approaches Moritaka, proposing that they become mangaka together. After much convincing, Moritaka realizes that if he is able to create a popular manga series, he may be able to get the girl he has a crush on, Miho Azuki, to take part in the anime adaptation as a voice actor. Thus the pair begins creating manga under the pen name Muto Ashirogi, hoping to become the greatest mangaka in Japan, the likes of which no one has ever seen.
The true meaning of the title was never revealed, but most speculators believe it’s short for ‘BAKUchi MANga.’ (Gambling Manga). It is a simple tale of two middle school guys setting out to become professional manga artists. The story progresses like any other sports or music anime, where ordinary guys aim for the top, facing many challenges and rivals on the way. However, I consider this to be the greatest shounen/seishun (coming of age) genre anime I have ever encountered, because it analyzes what makes a manga good in a coherent way, and more importantly, it practices what it preaches.
This is a review by EIGHTHSin, and contains many spoilers. Read it at your own risk.
According to ‘Bakuman.’, there are SEVEN major steps to manga creation – Name, under-sketch, inking, filling, effects, screen tone, and whiteout. I’m no expert in manga drawing, but with this series being a manga about manga (which actually got serialized), I have no doubt this is correct. Of course, this anime alone is not nearly enough to teach you about how to draw manga, but it is quite enough to entertain a casual viewer like me. The show also emphasizes the difficulty of the process, that one cannot hope to succeed half-heartedly.
As the character mentioned in the first episode, “Manga is the Japanese cultural heritage popular across the globe.”
This NHK series is extremely educational not only in introducing the process of manga creation, it also debates many other aspects of mang such as: how things work in a weekly manga publisher; the selection process; how artist stay serialized; the importance of target demographics; and argues how things ought to be in the industry. In addition, famous classic and current manga series and their authors are mentioned throughout this series without alteration of any sort, which functions as a masterpiece suggestion for new manga readers. It even directly quotes them, re-enacts DBZ “fusion”, and uses quirks like Naruto’s “-dattebayo”. I take this to be a stamp of approval from those authors, and also to pressure themselves to create a masterpiece worthy of mentioning those names. The show uses real-life examples as case studies to explain its theories.
According to ‘Bakuman.’, there are SIX key elements to a successful shounen manga – A world that pulls the readers in, clear reason why protagonists are fighting, battles where it’s easy to tell what’s happening, equally or even more intriguing antagonist, a cute heroine, and some laughs or tears.
The first episode had an extremely strong pull – The tested and tried “average joe whose life changed by a trigger event”, in this case, Takagi’s request to be a partner. The turn of events leads to a promise of marriage upon realization of dreams, which serves as the clear reason why the protagonist wants to get his manga serialized, which is the first step to getting an anime series.
The story then goes on to show them making manga, meeting their ‘opponents’ in manga contests, and their manga are actually shown… even with a clear ranking measurements to determine a winner – easy to tell what’s happening in the battle.
Then, there is Niizuma Eiji, the prodigy archrival of the protagonists, who is extremely intriguing, and happens to follow the “Introduce an enemy character, he’s even stronger than protagonists, but turns out to be an ally” as mentioned during the ‘CROW’ production.
There’s the cute heroine in Azuki, and the show has many comedy and tear-jerker moments to keep the audience interested throughout the series.
I find it interesting that the shows makes many observations that we probably don’t consciously realize when casually reading manga, and even more interesting that if we pay close attention, almost EVERY observations of a successful manga made in this series are actually reflected in the series itself. In fact, it was also mentioned that most shounen protagonists wield swords, and if you think about it, the protagonists in this show brandish their pens in “battle”.
The protagonists make FIVE manga series in the first anime series – ‘The Two Earths’, ‘A Millionth of’, ‘The World Runs on Money and Wits’, ‘Angel Days’, and ‘Quasi-Detective TRAP’.
‘The Two Earths’ is their very first manga. It serves as introduction to the manga creation process.
‘A Millionth of’ shows the difficulty of getting a prize in manga contests, and introduction of various styles of manga.
‘The World Runs on Money and Wits’ functions as their confidence booster, as well as their gateway to future successes.
‘Angel Days’ is used to show the qualities of typical shounen manga, and the importance of choosing manga that fits each author style.
Finally, ‘Quasi-Detective TRAP’ is their success of the series, and its production process emphasizes the bond and friendship between the two main characters.
The story follows the standard shounen format with many seishun elements. The good guys work hard to realize their dreams while encountering one obstacle after another. After clearing each obstacle, they “level up” by becoming better artists and attain better understanding of themselves. Like all seishun sports or music anime, there are consistent themes of awkward youth love, challenges of being a student, and the importance of friendship.
The protagonists set FOUR years as their goal for their anime debut. This is the prime reason why Mashiro is always in such a rush to make manga, and frequently shows his impatience.
The main characters in this series are extremely human, and they act according to their own desires to make their dreams come true.
Takagi has the ambition of becoming rich and famous, and he gave up the “mainstream” path of elites (get good grades to get into a prestigious university) for his love of manga and became a true “gambler”.
Azuki follows her dream of becoming a seiyuu and moves to Tokyo, while stubbornly limits interaction with Mashiro to motivate both herself and Mashiro.
Miyoshi truly acts on her desires, and can’t help but reveal secrets of others and butting into their business.
Niizuma also acting on his desires, but in a different way, drawing what he pleases and doesn’t care what others think about him.
Hattori sees promise in Ashirogi, and does everything, even some “dirty adult tricks” to make them succeed.
What I’m trying to get at, is that the characters are interesting, and they “move on their own” according to their desires. I have to say, they are *too* human at times, and causes their actions and motivations to detach from reality, but as a fantasy and dreams shounen series, this is totally acceptable.
According to ‘Bakuman.’, there are THREE requirements for a successful mangaka – Conceit (Confidence), Effort, and Luck.
One of the major themes in the series is to have “Confidence” in yourself to follow your dream.
To follow that dream, the protagonists put a lot of “Effort” into manga, sacrificing sleep, school, and even time for girls in order to become successful.
Further more, “Luck” is prevalent in this series. However, it remains realistic due to many setbacks they face, just as they would in the harsh reality. The protagonists consists of a relative of a mangaka and a guy who’s getting the best grades in school yet interested in manga. Right off the bat, they have been dealt pocket aces as “gamblers”. Still, they don’t become an overnight success. It took a lot of sacrifices and effort, and after 5 manga series, they finally made it to an authentic weekly magazine.
This series isn’t just a fairy tale. It successfully shows the difficulty of making a living with manga, and shows the harsh reality that only the most talented *and* hardworking succeed. They were dealt another lucky card in getting Hattori as the editor, who truly cares about the authors and preciously “raises” them as mangaka.
As a shounen manga, a convenient setting is actually preferred. The key is how realistic the story develops given the fantasy-filled premise.
I especially loved a subtle snippet of reality in Mashiro’s family. Where the breadwinner and the eldest of the family call the shots in home, like when father and grandpa straight up shut off the mother in roundabout ways, with the “Decision-making process” in his home and “Please get me seconds (refill my bowl)” by grandpa. It’s outdated and somewhat sexist, but the harsh reality in Japanese culture.
According to ‘Bakuman.’, there are TWO types of successful mangaka – “The Genius-Type”, and “The Calculating-Type”.
The anonymous author of this series is the same as that of ‘Death Note’ series, and it is also clear in this series that the storyteller is the “Calculating-Type” just like the protagonists. In other words, he “calculates the laughs and tears in a way that doesn’t seem to be calculated, through calculation.” Obviously, this is not going to work on everyone, so we will all have different opinion, but the story is extremely well-constructed, and the anime direction presented the plot in very interesting ways. It’s easy to sympathize with the characters.
I believe the ONE single most important theme in ‘Bakuman.’ is the love for manga. Both protagonist and antagonists in this series really have passion for manga. It really shows how much love the author has for this series, and manga in general.
The series points out flaws in Shounen Jump (“Shounen Jack” in series), the only real-life title altered in the anime. The show communicates to producers in the real life through its characters.
For example, there shouldn’t be any politics in manga selection, like rejecting student submission or favoring popular authors – “Anything interesting will be published.”
The potential incompetence of editors, in their heavy reliance of survey to determine which series gets cut off – “Manga written for votes rather than true quality.”
The need for manga to have a strong pull early due to selection process of using names of first three weeks and the threat of cancellation due to votes – “The lack of series that slowly draws the audience in, and consequently series being approved without long-term prospects.”
Manga published in order of popularity – “Creates unfairness for new and aspring authors.”
How audience like stereotypical stuff that stifles creativity – “All popular series have swords”
The young mangaka depicted in this series have hinted how they wanted to change Shounen Jack when they get popular. Perhaps the author of ‘Bakuman.’ wanted to do the same with this show as well.
‘Bakuman.’ is the “mainstream among mainstreams” in terms of shounen anime, but has the dreams, the inspiration, the depth, the entertainment value, and of course, the laughs and tears unmatched by any other. It also has the uniqueness in being a manga about manga and an anime about anime. In terms of contribution to the industry, this easily ranks among the most significant series to be aired in this century so far, and I have enjoyed every minute of it.
I’ll start by giving credit where credit is due. This anime is an AMAZING look into the manga industry and the lives of mangaka. By the end of the show, I felt like I knew how to create a manga of my very own and it told me how I too could get it published in a weekly magazine. It also told me why I wouldn’t ever want do that in a million years. Being a mangaka is hard, and Bakuman shows us that in spades. It cleverly uses Ashirogi Muto’s emotions to give a clear understanding of how they’re feeling and what they’re thinking. That’s certainly where this anime shines the most. So, what’s wrong with it? Well…
Although Bakuman uses Ashirogi Muto well in some cases, it completely fails at making them likable in the slightest. Mashiro is an arrogant love struck teenager who has a crush on some girl he’s barely ever made any interactions with, and Takagi is just the plain boring smart yet doesn’t act smart kind of character. I’m sorry if I’m being a little harsh, but in an anime that tries to show a realistic representation of the challenges in the manga industry, making the main characters get away with absolutely everything that would probably get them fired just from the power of pure arrogance and a tad bit of plot-armour just doesn’t sit well with me. And that’s not even talking about the most forced romance in anime history.
Mashiro decides his entire future based off of a promise he made to girl he had a slight crush on. That’s would be pretty fine, if not still a bit stupid, if it weren’t for the fact that they drag out this completely uninteresting romance for the ENTIRE SERIES. And they only ever talk directly about 3 times. 3 times! The show rubs it off as being their own way of expressing love or some shit like that, but it was just painful to watch from start to finish.
Not all the characters are bad. Whilst most of the best ones don’t really show up that much till season 2, Niizuma Eiji is by far the best character in this show. I won’t spoil anything, but let’s just say that he’s fun to watch every time he shows up on screen and his passion for manga makes you route for him all the way.
Overall, I can see the appeal of this anime. I really can. But the characters and story were just so uninteresting for the most part that I cant bring myself to like this anime. If what I just told you puts you off watching this in anyway, then stay clear. There’s much better anime out there.
You’re still probably going to end up watching it after reading the other reviews anyway, aren’t you?
Oh, and the music isn’t that memorable. I forgot that part.
NOTE: This review covers all 75 episodes of Bakuman.
Contains Minor Spoilers
If I could describe the story of Bakuman in one sentence it would be something like this: Bakuman is a tale about two best friends, Mashiro Moritaka and Tagaki Akito who want to become Japan’s greatest mangakas. Their journey is long and filled with laughter, cheers, tears, courage and romance. The personal lives of our mangakas contain a lot of twists and drama which makes the story more engaging than one would expect. The story is engrossing and so well written that I wish some of the stories and ideas that the characters come up with for their manga were real.
One word, beautiful. Obata Takeshi is an extremely talented artist. His art matches perfectly with the uplifting story and bright atmosphere of Bakuman. Character designs are drawn very realistically however from time to time designs are exaggerated for slapstick purposes, and it actually manages to be extremely funny. The backgrounds are extremely detailed, from the art pens and work desks to the manga posters spread throughout the series. You can even see Mashiro’s writer’s bump callus from drawing so much. It’s amazing how Obata manages to come up with different art styles for the different manga in the series. Whether it’s dark, gloomy and serious or bubbly and flashy, the art always manages to be entertaining and eye catching.
I enjoyed every single song used in the show, particularly “Blue Bird” by Kobukuro and “Moshimo no Hashi” by nano.RIPE. The voice acting was top notch. All the seiyuus did a fantastic job, especially Morita Masakazu and Okamoto Nobuhiko, who were hilarious and constantly had me rolling on the floor.
Bakuman’s greatest strength lies not in its story, but in its characters. Mashiro and Takagi are fantastic leads that fit the theme of the story perfectly because through them we see the struggles mangakas go through in order to get serialized and the constant battle to keep on being serialized. Both of them care for one another deeply and through ups and downs, together they always keep pushing forward. The supporting cast is one of the most likeable and funniest I’ve ever seen. From the fellow mangakas to the editors everyone felt like they had a purpose and helped contribute to the story. I loved every single character however I felt Niizuma Eiji and Hiramaru Kazuya stood out above the rest. They were eccentric, funny and just plain damn fun to watch. And like I said previously, Morita Masakazu and Okamoto Nobuhiko portrayed the characters perfectly.
Bakuman is one my all time favourite anime. It’s not philosophical, cynical, depressing or about the downfall of humanity. It’s not the anime to end all anime. I just love it because it was so fun to watch. I forgot about my problems for 75 episodes and that’s why I watch anime, to have fun. A great story, beautiful art, a catchy soundtrack and a well developed cast of characters, please give this one a try.
4: Major S6
Japanese: メジャー 第6シリーズ
MAL Score: 8.35
The intense Baseball World Cup has reached its conclusion. Gorou Honda has regained his passion for baseball and is once again back in full gear. He has secured a team position with the Hornets and has travelled back to America to prepare for his spectacular debut as a Major League pitcher.
However, Gorou encounters a sudden series of unexpected issues and devastating events follow, crushing his motivation and potentially reducing the baseball career that he has worked tirelessly to maintain into crumbs. In the final season of Major, Gorou must yet again overcome immense hardship in order to save his baseball career. This time there is no simple solution, as the problem is deeply rooted within his own mind…
And im not just talking about this season, but the show as a whole. It starts of with a bang, like these kind of animes usually do. With a tragedy that leads a talented individual to pursue his dream. In this case, to be the best baseball pitcher in the world. But most of all, just play baseball.
You follow Goro Shigeno/Honda through some rough years of his life. Battling with both injuries, tragedies and strong opponents. And they always get stronger, and the wall to climb always gets higher. And it’s truly, an epic journey. There are some rough paths from little league to major league. But you quickly learn that there is no shortcut to success.
So, this anime follows a storyline pattern that is proven successful by many shows before. And then it’s no suprise when i tell you, i think its brilliant. They start of with a little kid idolizing his father. But when his father falls victim to a freak accident, he starts to rely on himself. And grows to be, the very talented, hotheaded and cocky main character. With one goal, to get stronger.
The main character is very important in this series, more so than some of the other animes i have watched. Of course, all animes revolves around 1 or more main characters, but this series i feel is a little bit different. I can’t put my finger on it, but they way they have done the “storytelling”, makes me care more for this character than in any other anime. Maybe with the exception of Hajime no Ippo. Which is the only show i can compare it with, mainly because of the storytelling and the colorful characters.
So, i have followed Goro though fire and ice, thick and thin, blood and sweat.
And i have to be honest, i love him. I love his sincerity, his innocence and childish but cocky behaviour. His humour, his guts, his talent, his heart and his soul. And that’s basically what this show is about.
What more do you need?
Pretty original, some signs of the shounen pattern, but still. It have turned it up a notch and spiced it further than anyone before them.
The first two seasons were decent. But from there the quality got alot better along the lines, and the last season is magnificent.
Realistic sound, alot of variation in the different scenarios. It’s impressive in every way, and i can’t recall that i have every noticed a flaw.
This show gets top score on character, but not just because of the main character. You meet alot of interesting characters when you follow Goro, and each and one of them are unique. Of course, some of them are similar to characters in other animes. But if you add all the characters up, they deserve top score. No doubt.
This show captures the nervous moment when you can decide a game, with one throw/pitch. And does it brilliantly. But the humour, the characters and the story are marvelous. I almost cried when i was finished with the last episode, and it left me with that empty hole in your heart. The feeling you usually get when you miss something and you want more.
That means i enjoyed it alot, and it deserves full score
No suprise here.
When you get that empty feeling like i just wrote about. That’s a pretty good indication that this anime was superb.
So, what can i say. It’s been almost three months since i finished this anime, and the emptiness in my heart is still there.
You want any more reasons to watch this?
Note: This review is all about all the seasons of Major including its OVAs and Movies
Major is somewhat my favorite sports anime of all time. The anime is all about the struggles of Goro Shigeno, an avid baseball player, who wants to join the Majors. Baseball is actually my least favorite sport for the reason it is tedious but somehow Major makes it look fun.
Major isn’t only about Baseball but it is also about Goro’s desires and struggles in his life. As Major marches onward, Goro grows physically and mentally. Major is different from sports anime who initially focuses on teams but Major focuses on Goro alone. Major is an amazing chronicle of baseball.
Major has good characters. Although it is a show that is Goro-centric, it still has good development on its characters. These characters are well-made especially Goro. Goro is a stubborn man. This attitude of his never disappears. But as he continually develops, he grows into a better man. The height of his development might be in the last season when he got a psychological problem.
Major’s visual are quite normal for a sports anime but it is well directed and animated. The baseball games were great and exciting. I like how the staff emphasised the pitches. The music is also amazing and one of the openings is one of my favorite
Overall, I enjoyed Major. It is not just a simple sports anime but a character-driven one in a lesser form. I have no issues on it. Everything was simply amazing. The characters, story, visuals, music. Major is really an epitome of how sports anime should be.
tl;dr at the bottom
*check my previous review on S3 before reading this*
This is for seasons 4,5,6 epilogue and world series OVA.
Genre:- Sports, Drama, romance
As I had said in my first review the first 3 seasons are appetizers, the real deal starts from season 4.
These three seasons are undoubtedly right at the top of sports anime genre, treading a path very few sports anime do. Most of the anime have a school setting in this genre, while a select few like Giant killing, One outs and a few others go on to show us the professional nature of sports. And Major sits on the top of these undoubtedly. While One outs is essentially more of a thriller than real sports, Giant killing manages to portray the problems of a football manager in a professional league rather decently. But between 12 episodes and 72 episodes it isnt difficult to see which of them is more comprehensive. Also major is baseball and GK is football. major is from a players POV while the other is from a manager’s.
Season 4 picks off right from where S3 left. As usual things feel a little surreal and rushed, but the anime still manages to be realistic and shows a few of the basic problems someone faces when they go to an unknown country with little to no knowledge of the dialect(or language if you please). The hero is still OP but if you think he is going to breeze through everything well lets just say you might be surprised. Honestly what they show in this season has probably happened somewhere in baseball already. (Its still actually not far fetched at all since lionel messi did worse stuff in Barcelona practice to his teammates than what they show here). in what they very skilfully introduce a growth chart to the protagonist. the matches get way more intense and I can safely say I havent enjoyed baseball matches so match since One Outs, it makes Diamond no Ace matches look stupid. The matches do not drag, are finished within 2-3 episodes, and the main focus is actually more on the humans playing baseball than some tricks(there are tricks but they do not overwhelm the character interactions). Sure a bit of shouneny stuff are thrown here and there, but thats never a deterrent to the actual show. (Those who want to focus on that aspect of the show and bash it are welcome to, but tbh if you use a convex lens so much, you can pretty much give up enjoying anything). And yes this season has some of my favourite character interactions.
S5 goes bigger and better. The main storyline which started from S1 becomes greatly important. And things are settled. But the drama is extraordinarily intense, and tbh I havent seen more drama in a sports anime anywhere. (maybe baby steps, but still the intensity is lower). The final game is my favourite of the entire series and the conclusion is something I did not expect. This season for me was the pinnacle of a drama sports shounen, something that cannot be bettered, ever. But this season was also about romance. Romance started to bloom slowly but surely. And it was interesting to see our protagonist juggling baseball and romance.
I thought it was over with S5 but I was wrong S6 was almost equally brilliant and handled one very important aspect of a sportsman(or two), and they did it very well. They didnt overextend it and neither did they undermine its importance. The focus shifted from the games to Goro(the protagonist) as a persona and his problems, as well as his arrogance which led to his downfall. How he overcomes the odds and how his teammates get inspired from him(In fact the entire series is like that). And finally at the very last episode we get one of my favourite confessions ever. This season had splendidly done drama and showed the life of a player beautifully, the problems and the ups and downs.
The world series OVA was essentially a bridge between between S6 and the epilogue, which had essentially 2 games and more of shounen sports stuff, but it is essential for a sense of completion.
Finally the epilogue. The epilogue is my favourite part of the entire series. I love how they make things go the “full circle”. I love how they show the protagonist grown up. I love how at the very end they show the entire 6 seasons in 5 mins while the first opening starts playing. I am a huge sucker for growing up anime, and this was the pick of the lot. I teared up at the end when they showed the entire journey of the guy. I grew up with Goro. Only flaw maybe a timeskip, but they couldnt have done a better job IMO.
There are a lot of things I take back from the anime. And a lot of regrets and wants crop up. I want a love of my life like Goro had, someone to fall for me as his girlfriend did. it taught me that having talent doesnt mean anything unless you practice hard enough because somewhere in the world there will always be someone better than you at what you do. It teaches you to value your friendships. And it made me nostalgic about mine. And finally it showed how life had a weird way of repeating itself(you would know what I mean when you see the anime).
tl;dr:- Incredible drama, the best baseball you will see, a story about growing up, a heart warming epilogue, thats all you need from an anime like this. the most complete sports anime ever.
rating:- (Animation, Music, Story, Characters, Enjoyment)
World series OVA(7,7,6,6,10 36/50)
Epilogue-10/10(sorry couldnt split this one 🙂 )
3: Cross Game
English: Cross Game
MAL Score: 8.41
Kou Kitamura and Aoba Tsukishima are often at odds—even though their families happen to be close friends and business partners. Although the only child of a sports shop owner, Kou has never been interested in playing baseball. Despite this, he possesses an impressive batting ability honed by frequent visits to the local baseball batting center run by the Tsukushima family. On the other hand, Aoba loves to play baseball and is a star player with exceptional pitching form.
However, these two seemingly complete opposites share something very important to them—Wakaba Tsukishima, Aoba’s older sister and Kou’s destined sweetheart. Admired by the quarrelsome duo, Wakaba often finds herself the catalyst to their never-ending rivalry. But whether or not they realize that they have more in common than either would care to admit, only time will tell. The game of baseball may just be what the pair needs to ultimately overcome their own personal struggles.
Honestly, i was blown away by the first episode, what a very strong start for an anime. It was all unexpected, Just the first episode and it already made me cry… The story was about the cat and dog relationship of Kou and Aoba. Adachi-sensei used his usual pattern of story, the childhood friend route. With a lot of twist , surprise event and a roller coaster of emotion that you will like. We have comedy, romance, drama, Baseball action in one place.
First, let’s discuss comedy, Adachi-sensei never missed any opportunity to crack a joke, the very important thing about delivering a joke was the Timing and that was done perfectly. He will happily use anyone or anything (old or new) as a punch line, so even its just an ordinary day you will find it funny and interesting. Next is Romance, the romance in the story isn’t rushed, you can see it develop little by little, with love triangle in every corner makes it interesting so you can enjoy the love and hate relationship of the two protagonist until the end~. Drama, when Adachi-sensei put a drama in his work it become the key point of the story, just like what happened in the first episode, it will leave an impression until the end of story. Baseball action, Maybe because Adachi-sensei have his own baseball team that he can deliver such an exciting baseball game. He knows When and how to make incredible events to happen, totally surprising, that’s why I love the baseball manga the he writes.
Another key point of the story is memories~ Every now and then you’ll see a flashback in the story, well I didn’t find it annoying, it plays a major role in the character development of the main characters. Sometimes those memories makes me teary.Ending, I’m somewhat contented with it, all the feelings was sorted out and finished the climax of the waited battle in the baseball tournament. Somewhat because i wish he continued it until koushien XD
If u already read some of Adachi-sensei’s manga you will find that all of his male protagonist has the same kind of character and i think same goes for the female. This time its Kitamura Kou, only son, cant even play catch ball till 5th grade, hard working and good at lying. The Ace Pitcher of the Seishu Academy, a typical character that you will like. Tsukishima Wakaba, same age, birthday and birthplace as Kou and love him more than anyone else. She plays a major role in the story despite of her status. Tsukishima Aoba, wakaba’s little sister, who hates Kou very much and love Wakaba. If there’s a word to describe her its “Tsundere”. Kou’s teacher about pitching. Very talented in Baseball despite of being a girl. Akaishi Osamu, position catcher, 5th batter and later the Captain of the Seishu baseball team. Like Kou he loves Wakaba too. Azuma Yuuhei, 1st base and the 4th batter and a talented one. He first appeared as an antagonist. He’s emotionless when talking and only shows different emotion when playing baseball. Takigawa Akane, I’m really surprised of her appearance in the story, almost jaw dropping. The girl that moved next door and the daughter of the Soba Restaurant owner and a great painter. Her appearance takes the story to a new height.
Here’s another trademark of Adachi-sensei. Imagine a classic drawing and add modern day coloring and you will get a remastered feeling. His character design is all the same, specially the ears and the hair color were black, blond and brown. Same goes for the character faces, i had read in one of his manga that even Adachi-sensei criticize his own work for having the same face design for some character. Overall, the classic animation style that used in this anime was some-what refreshing if you want to escape the modern day animation style.
The Opening song “Summer Rain” really suits the anime, it gives the listener a tropical kind of beat, maybe because of the guitar. Good thing that they didn’t replace it until the end of the series. The Ending song Koi Kogarete Mita Yume fit perfectly to the 1st quarter of the season~ that slow and sad song can easily make u cry if added in the scene specially in the 1st episode~ The 2nd one is Orange Days, a Rap song, IMO it doesn’t fit the anime, its not like the song is bad or anything, just that using a song like that in an anime with a classic style of animation isnt good. The 3rd Moeru You na Koi Janai Kedo got a nice beat and slow rhythm . And the last ED song is Rehersal, one of my favorite song. The piano is great and the lyrics too.
I really enjoy Cross Game. I laugh on the jabs, cries in the sad and touchy scenes and get caught in the suspense and excitement of baseball action. that you will ask for more. Well if you Want more baseball action, read H2 and Touch.
Cross Game is my first Adachi anime, and I was thoroughly impressed by its storytelling. The whole series is slow paced and filled with tension. Despite being somewhat predictable, Cross Game is well executed. There is only 1 filler episode out of 50, and even that episode tied pretty well into the main story. My only criticism is Adachi could have fleshed it out a little more, adding some more episodes. Yes this show already has 50 episodes, but it feels shorter than that.
I really liked the art from this show. It feels like an old school anime, and the nostalgic atmosphere it creates serves it well. There were a few points in the show where the animation quality dipped. However, the no non-sense/frills animation was pretty consistent throughout its entirety.
Cross Game’s cast is one of the most memorable in all of anime (that I have watched at least). Each character is developed so well that there isn’t really a character that you won’t like. In fact, you will really sympathize with the main cast’s struggles, hardships, and triumphs.
I loved the OP and the first ED. The next few ED’s are great, but not as powerfully moving as the first one. The first ED “Koi Kogarete Mita Yume” is a beautiful song in its own right, but coupled with this anime, it really could not be more perfect. The OP “Summer Rain” is another song that really speaks volumes about the show and instantly feels like a classic. Finally the soundtrack is wonderfully arranged and really adds to the tension/excitement of the show.
I’m not really a big fan of baseball and when I started this show I was a little hesitant, but I had heard great things about it. From the start, the show hooked me in and never dropped the ball. Easily one of the best slice of life shows I’ve seen (one of the best anime’s I’ve seen for that matter), so I highly recommend this show to others. If you can get past its animation (for some, that’s the weakest part of the show), you will be rewarded with a classic.
Average Series Rating: 9.4 – Classic
One of the most common misconceptions viewers have regarding any form of media is something I call the “been there, done that” phenomenon. That is, if something similar has been done before, chances are the viewer will form a set of judgmental comparisons and criteria to be matched. This leads to the unrealistic expectation that equates to the viewer expecting some sort of literary revolution, only looking forward without truly embracing what the present has to offer. Adachi Mitsuru’s Cross Game accepts its genre boundaries, and relies on the deftness of its storytelling and the depth of its characterization to keep you wanting more.
Kitamura Ko is the only son of Kitamura Sports Shop, whose apathetic nature belies his immense potential as a baseball player. Living down the street from Tsukishima Batting Center, home to its four sisters, Ko’s family has formed a long-lasting relationship with the Tsukishima’s. This bond is strengthened by the fated pair, Ko and the Tsukishima’s second oldest, Wakaba, both being born on the same day in the same hospital.
Almost immediately, Adachi throws a tragic curveball to the viewer, to which he first displays his skillful handling of his story. With such heavy dramatic potential in just the first episode alone, Adachi carefully utilizes this opportunity to not throw away his setup in favor of melodrama, but instead capitalize on creating a human connection between the characters and the viewers. This connection cements the foundation for a strong cast of personalities, led by Ko and the Tsukishima’s third sister, Aoba.
The two protagonists are startlingly similar, and Adachi builds the pair up like two halves of a perfect whole. Despite Aoba’s generally spiteful attitude towards Ko and his reluctant acceptance of her continual ridicule, the exchanges between the two do not detract from their development, but instead define its progression. Additionally, a further romantic element is introduced, which adds a dramatic tone that quickens the story’s pacing towards their lives in Seishu High School and their dreams of aiming for Koshien, while introducing human complexities and relationships that are surprisingly, never overdramatized.
However, to assume the depth of characterization stops with the protagonists would be a major mistake. Perhaps the most interesting character besides the leading pair is Akaishi Osamu, a childhood friend to Ko. Eventually named team captain to Seishu’s baseball team, Akaishi’s personality and decisions throughout the series draw a heavy emotional connection not expected of side characters, especially in sports anime that typically focus only on the protagonists. A whole slew of other characters are also given some time to shine, from Seishu’s cleanup hitter, Azuma Yuhei, to the team’s former manager, Shidou Risa. Each character opts to stay true to who they are, while developing as a result of the progression of the story. Adachi embraces the notion that people never completely change who they are, but they do make adjustments to make better of their lives.
Outside of the drama and relationships is a generally lighthearted dialogue that surrounds a rather typical formula to get to Koshien, Japan’s High School baseball championship. The progression of Seishu’s baseball team and Aoba’s struggle to continue baseball despite not being able to participate in official games become key plot points that seamlessly intertwine with consistent character interaction defined by Adachi’s keen sense of humor.
Speaking of humor, jokes are masterfully timed and clever, despite seeming cliché from time to time. The juxtaposition of the serious and the blithe is a tone not seen pulled off correctly too often in anime, but Cross Game is able to nail it almost every time, making sure each joke is cracked just the right number of times and at the right time too. However, the frivolity of their banter is not wasted either. Even the lightest of jokes serves a purpose to further an emotional connection between the character and the audience, and as the series progresses, the viewer will find him or herself laughing or crying along with the characters.
Regarding the actual baseball in the series, there is definitely plenty of it, and the games are done very well. One does not have to be a fan of baseball to simply enjoy the timely suspense of a close game, and unlike most other sports anime, the series doesn’t sell out on creating unrealistic situations or miracle comebacks to keep the viewer at the edge of her seat.
The pacing of Cross Game is slow for a sports anime, but well-executed. The three major twists in the series are timed perfectly, which adds a sense of believability, for coincidences in life do occur, but not constantly. While relationships between characters may seem to grow complex, the foundation of the series remains rather simple and true to itself. For this series to be labeled as a “drama” is definitely justified, but a bit of an overstatement. It carries many slice of life elements and ultimately is a feel-good experience, but the sheer variety of what it has to offer extends beyond a simple genre label.
However, that’s not to say that the series is flaw-free either. With a decent amount of characters spanning 50 episodes, one can’t help but to ask for just a bit more from a few more characters. There were many lovable personalities throughout the series, and while some continued to develop, others like Nakanishi or Senda could have had some more time dedicated to them, seeing how they were both constants throughout the series.
The animation is relatively consistent throughout the show. Released in 2009 by SynergySP, Cross Game definitely isn’t one of the top shows in the animation department; however, the series definitely wins some points with its charm in character design. Even though the art style might not seem too refined, it is easy to grow onto, and within a dozen episodes, one will hardly notice any huge complaints in that department.
One step above the animation is the quality of Cross Game’s soundtrack and voice acting. While there isn’t anything in particular that stands out about the voice acting, Irino Miyu’s Kitamura Kou and Tomatsu Haruka’s Tsukishima Aoba were a fine lead pair. The true standout of Cross Game’s sound set was its OST, which includes several tracks that were awe-inspiring when played alongside certain scenes. However, the OST probably was not used to its full potential mostly because the most captivating tracks were saved for the grandest moments, and most of the series consisted of lighthearted moments with lighthearted tunes to match it. The only opening of the series, Summer Rain, was an excellent choice to carry the series through 50 whole episodes. The first ending, Koi Kogarete Mita Yume, was my personal favorite and a highly emotional ballad. The other endings were all solid with their own respects.
They say to never judge a book by its cover, and Cross Game is an excellent example that supports this time-worn metaphor. Underneath a genre filled with complexities and controversy, Cross Game flourishes with a simple tale to tell, and it’s given a lengthy amount of time to do so. Unhurried, yet engaging – simple, but beautiful – Cross Game was an emotional and memorable experience that has undoubtedly been the best Sports-related anime I’ve watched thus far.
+ Charming design
+ Consistent animation
– Nothing too special
– A few gaffes in animation
+ Extensive cast that is believably human
+ Heavy emotional connection
+ Excellent Development
+ Does not fall victim to repetitive tropes
– Some characters could’ve used more attention
+ Excellent OST and op/ed sequences
+ Solid voice acting
– Some wasted potential in soundtrack usage
+ Engaging story that is simple at heart
+ Nearly perfect pacing that always keeps the viewer at the edge of her seat
+ Highly entertaining baseball games
+ Mixes well with characters
Overall: 9.3/10, Highly recommended for anyone to give a try. Potential classic of the genre.
2: Rainbow: Nisha Rokubou no Shichinin
Japanese: RAINBOW 二舎六房の七人
MAL Score: 8.50
Japan, 1955: Mario Minakami has just arrived at Shounan Special Reform School along with five other teenagers who have been arrested on serious criminal charges. All assigned to the same cell, they meet older inmate Rokurouta Sakuragi—a former boxer—with whom they establish a close bond. Under his guidance, and with the promise that they will meet again on the outside after serving their sentences, the delinquents begin to view their hopeless situation in a better light.
Rainbow: Nisha Rokubou no Shichinin follows the seven cellmates as they struggle together against the brutal suffering and humiliation inflicted upon them by Ishihara, a sadistic guard with a grudge on Rokurouta, and Gisuke Sasaki, a doctor who takes pleasure in violating boys. Facing such hellish conditions, the seven inmates must scrape together all the strength they have to survive until their sentences are up; but even if they do, just what kind of lives are waiting for them on the other side?
After finishing episode 26, I finally exhaled. This series was a rush of nonstop emotion all the way throw and never faltered for a second. Everything I said here over a half a year ago holds completely true and I can’t flaunt my glowing recommendation for this series enough.
Rainbow is definitely one of the best things Japan has put out in a long time, and not in an ironic “Oh, Japan!” flashy comedy/campy/ridiculous way. It’s a serious story. So serious that the first episode starts off with a disclaimer about explicit content. Think about that for a second. In a medium like anime where there’s blood, tits and who knows that else in so many shows, what are they warning you about? Real stuff, that’s what. Rainbow is constantly presented as a brutal, depressing series where the violent content is required to present the story in a proper way.
But don’t be put off because it sounds too depressing or even boring(I don’t know how anyone could think this, personally), because Rainbow is also a story of true bro-ship. Like Gungrave before it, Rainbow will be bleak. It will be depressing. But through all that, a heartwarming tale of friendship will shine. A tale that’s under the perpetual threat of being crushed by the blackened circumstances around it, and that’s what will keep you engrossed.
The animation is terrific, as expected of Madhouse by this point. This includes the great still art that pops in during narrated scenes, as seen by the series’ title art to the left. The whole episode, and most likely a good portion of the series was depicted with very few colors other than shades of grey and dark blue. Any bright things on screen are bright things in the eyes of the story, like the sunshine outside or the end of a lit cigarette shared between the beaten characters. This was a very fine touch and does nothing but add to the heavy atmosphere of the series.
The audio and the animation work beautifully in tandem, with the music bringing scenes to life by boosting the dank atmosphere. The opening by Coldrain is especially great, bringing a badass touch to the show. Similarly, the voices are gruff and work very well with the rest of the presentation.
The above was stated after watching episode 1, and now that the series is over I think it’s time to address these issues. Firstly, Rainbow finished excellently. It did not, however, cover the entire 22 volumes of story and instead opted to stop around volume 12 or so. This is no reason to not watch the series, as the stopping point they chose was pretty tactfully chosen and very satisfying. When it comes to negatives, Rainbow suffered from two things at certain points: Pacing and over-emotion. Even if you haven’t read the manga, there’s a good chance you’ll notice that certain parts, mostly in the second half, seem rushed or like they crammed too many chapters into an episode and that makes it seem like the story skips around a little too much. It’s not a big deal at all and very rarely detracts from anything, but it’s a factor you’ll probably notice. One of the bigger factors that may not sit well with some is that the series can come off as a little too over-dramatized or sappy at points. Sometimes the manly guitar solos and power ballads work incredibly well and you’ll be clenching your teeth with man tears streaming down your cheeks, and other times it doesn’t work too well. That’s something that’ll vary a lot from person to person though.
The final thing that bothered me was that one of the characters never gets an episode or arc devoted to him, which is pretty unsettling considering the other six boys got the spotlight multiple times. That was the main casualty of the long manga->short anime transition, so what can you do?
In closing, Rainbow’s definitely in the top 10, maybe even top 5 shows of the year 2010. Not watching it should be a crime.
Since the anime has such a high score and a crazy amount of 10/10 reviews (what aggravates me, because its far from perfect), i will write a review, pointing all of the problems i found with it. This anime was very hard to watch and relate to at a lot of points. No, not because of how sad and harsh it is, but because as an anime that takes itself seriously its too inconsistent and illogical. Now don’t get me wrong, this anime has a lot of strong points, but they still can’t fully cover for all the flaws. Ill start from the very beginning, and state every problem i personally spotted and can remember (by chronological order).
An-chan “kills” his father. Its also said he committed suicide. So how exactly did An-chan get to the reformatory? Did he turn himself in to the police saying he is the one who did it? If so, did no one bother checking? Because his father didn’t have a grudge against him, and logically would commit suicide in a way that can’t be connected to his son (to avoid giving him more trouble)… What follows is the suicide incident (in the reformatory). An-chan didn’t seem to be a stupid guy. He only had a few months left, so he could just quietly get out and bring both the bad guys to justice. Instead he decided to tell Ishihara that he knows. WHY? No logical explanation is provided, and none is even possible.
Next up is “Turtle”. I’m not sure about the circumstances of the post nuclear bombing aid that was given (or not given) in japan, but shouldn’t he have been placed in some sort of hospital and/or trauma rehabilitation facility, and if he ran off and was judged, wouldn’t he at least get a more considerate verdict based on his personal file?
Moving on. When the boys come to the reformatory, they seem to be already familiar with each other, how, and when did that happen, and why is it not mentioned? Also why did An-chan decide to beat them all up when they got there? Because it was completely unnecessary, and frankly out of character for him to do so, the only reason for this event i can think of is to speed up their bonding instead of showing it develop overtime (though frankly i doubt that one as well, because usually no one would bond with someone that beat them up faster that if he wouldn’t)… The boys in the reformatory also seem to have the ability to go the the library as they please, yet never use it except for one time… What’s the point of sitting in a prison cell then if they can always or at least sometimes be in the library?!
Side characters. They just seem to be there for decoration, as if no one else even exists. When Joe runs away and gets caught, he clearly states that the woman who took him in raped him in front of two guards, and she replies in a hostile way and even hits him and draws blood. The two guards seem shocked, but this does not lead anywhere. When the fire starts at the reformatory, no one seems interested to investigate why and how it started, and why 7 people where almost burned alive. Why does it seem no one else supervises the reformatory aside the doctor? In episode 2 the director is shown, but later he’s never mentioned. The doctor also seems to have too much power (able to fire guards and he’s completely unsupervised). Why does that stay true after 2 lethal accidents and a fire that almost killed 7 people? Normally those events would definitely earn the attention of investigators and the director.
After the fire, An-chan decides to come out of the infirmary early, again, for no apparent reason. He is put in with a few angry cell mates who where instructed to beat him to death overtime. He endures it. But after his friend gets hurt while trying to persuade them to take it out on him instead, he beats them all up at once, and threatens them so they won’t blame him and the problem gets solved. The question arises – why the heck didn’t he do that in the first place?
When An-chan is made to starve, a good guard appears. Instead of talking to other guards and maybe filing a report, he goes against the doc and Ishihara, eventually getting killed (again, with no consequences, because its apparently easier to kill a guard than a prisoner. Another point – this man, who pretty much lost his life while trying to help the protagonists, got completely forgotten, and the boys didn’t even once visit his grave).
And finally, the escape. Everything would be ok about it if you have a very short memory, BUT, if you do remember back a little, an important detail gets left out (for the plot convenience, as usual). When Joe escaped, the director said that the police will be involved if he’s not back in 48 hours. This time nothing like that was mentioned. So, was that not important in the first place? Or if it was, then the police surely got involved this time, so why was it not shown, and why was it fruitless?
An-chan’s death. It was ridiculous. There was so many problems with this event alone that its almost comical. First off – Ishihara shot the gun. He shot it a few times, NEAR A MILITARY BASE. Now i don’t know what anyone thinks, but let me assure you, if something like that really happened, the guards would come running. Yet no one came (until later, when it serves the wanted plot… in reality – just in time to be court martialed for not doing their job), not after the shooting, and not after the motorcycle accident. An-chan didn’t knock him out for some reason as well (though if you’d consider his character he WOULD do that much before he got stabbed). Now explain to me, if going back to see the boxing match was so important, why did he remember it just when it was convenient? Why not just knock out Ishihara? Why not knock him out after giving him the letter and he still came at him? And why remember to go back only when he’s about to get killed, taking the knife out and walking menacingly towards armed men? I mean he above all else should have known that getting killed is the worst possible thing he can do to his friends…
And what about the cops who decided to side with An-chan at the very end? What happened to the investigation of why he got killed? All the leads where there – Ishihara’s finger prints on the gun, the man who called them and said he had the gun, and then lied to them and told them to shoot the wrong guy? Why was Ishihara not interrogated and put in prison/ mental facility? How did the doctor not get arrested over that, how did he leave the reformatory, and how on the earth some time later, he, being a DOCTOR tried running for a mayor?
Later we have the “revenge”. It was pretty good, BUT… Logically, it would be a pretty big scoop, leading to a major investigation. This would mean that Mario (and Turtle) would no longer have to be a fugitive if he simply turned himself in, and aided the investigation, explaining his circumstances. But he doesn’t, because it seems logic and this anime are on a different wavelength.
And finally we get to the last parts – the protagonist’s arcs. First off – Mario. This is just a load of bull. A man in the bar where he is an assistant at, doesn’t pay for the drink and assaults the owner, while breaking property. Mario then lets him hit himself twice before beating him up. Now what do we have here? 3 witnesses that saw the barman being assaulted, followed by Mario, who then applied self defense. 3 against 1! And he probably had a past of doing so in other bars too! Logically, he would be too afraid to even file a complain, because he’s clearly at fault and there where 3 witnesses. Instead, the bar owner fires him because “he dislikes this sort of thing” (though the barman clearly likes him, and logically would help file a complaint), and Mario and Joe just keep quiet about it. The stupidity in this one is overwhelming.
Instead, Soldier gets hurt trying to get the guy at fault to sign a document saying Mario is not at fault (instead of getting the asshole in jail and revoking his complaint that way)… All for nothing, because the judge is a moron, an aggressive one on top of it. Normally, the scoop from the doctor’s arrest would be pretty much enough to explain everything, yet it seems they forgot that thing exists. Instead, Baremoto turns out to be a son of the judge’s friend, and they get the girl to testify she was raped and that was the reason Mario got into the reformatory in the first place, so Mario leaves happily (despite all the stuff the judge told him, and even hit him)
Next up is Joe. The logic fail is rather immense in this one, so i will explain it in depth. The problem here is when Joe is late to his concert, after almost getting killed, along with the woman who sponsored him in exchange for having sex with her. She is not portrayed as too bad of a character up to now, except making Joe lay with her to fulfill his dream. Yet after she fails to protect him, nearly gets him and herself killed and saved by his friends, instead of being shocked, or explaining Joe that its over for him (like you’d expect of her), suddenly, for no reason at all she starts to yell at him that he’s a loser, its his fault for being late, and that he’ll always stay scum… Just W T F . It was so frustrating to watch, not because i felt bad for Joe (at this pint i lost all emotional involvement and was torn between laughing my ass off or getting mad trying to understand wtf just happened), but because it was so horribly illogical and retarded.
Baremoto. At the fire incident, he learned to trust his friends, and that they are the most important thing in the world for him. At his arc though, he falls for a prostitute, and forgets it all without a single hesitation. This is BS. Not as BS though as Turtle’s arc, who we got led to believe was seriously ill because of being near and in the blast zone of a nuke, but then, suddenly, its all ok, and we forget all about it.
And this sums it up for the story problems, now for my other problems with this anime:
No soldier arc!
The anime could use an extra ending and opening.
And finally, the characters are too immature and shounen like, while its supposed to be seinen. I also didn’t expect there would be so much happy endings for everyone in it. Now don’t get me wrong, Its not like i don’t like happy endings.. But those look so forced, undeserved and unfitting. Not much gets resolved, after An-chan’s death and revenge on their tormentors, the only problems are trivial stuff, arising from the boys being unable to deal with the real world. Yet they want to make it look like its just as dramatic and bad as everything else that happened before, and that feels as ridiculous as if a man who just literally escaped from hell itself with relative ease, suddenly broke down after being called a “poopy face” by a little kid.
*Edit* : Oh, and how could i forget? There’s an extremely annoying narration going on, always pointing out the obvious and taking up extra time, not to mention the voice of the narrator is in itself pretty bad, like one you’d get in an old, self dubbed video in the 90’s
So final verdict- the anime is not bad, but the story falls apart due to the infinite plot holes, inconsistency and logic fails, as well as the characters being unfit for the universe around them, and having pretty small issues in the second half compared to the first half of the show, leading to a fall in interest. Despite that 6 is usually a score i’d usually say is somewhat good, i would not really recommend this anime, as its major trait that is supposed to be the dark atmosphere and struggles of the protagonists is severely broken apart and comical if you have a long attention span and look at it critically.
Story – Rainbow is a tale about seven inmates in a special reform school who grow closer with the increased time they spend together. All seven of them are there for committing several crimes which shaped these very different yet very similar individuals. From the opening moments of the first episode right through to the last scene of the last episode I was hooked. The show grabbed me and forced me to sit down and watch what happened next. Rainbow is brutal, mature, dark and at times depressing. But I was surprised at how light the show can get at certain points, from the funny banter between the seven inmates to the way they overcome obstacles by relying on each other and their bond. The tone shifts from time to time but Rainbow manages to keep the shifts fluid and smooth. For me, Rainbow had two highlights, and the story was definitely one of them. The writing was well done because the show didn’t come off as melodramatic and managed to feel really inspirational at certain points and there were more twists than one would expect from a show like this.
Characters – I mentioned that the show had two aspects that really stood out. The characters were the second aspect. These were really cool guys. They were bad ass but they were portrayed in such a sympathetic way that you would root for all of them, sort of like multi-layered anti-heroes. The story was really amazing but I really enjoyed seeing the guys react to the situations they found themselves in. Character driven stories always work when it’s executed properly. Like I said their friendship is an intricate part of the story. It is tested time and time again. It’s wonderful to see selfless friendship like the one showed here. If you have a best friend or an entire “entourage” that you’ll take a bullet for you’ll know what I’m talking about. Two characters took a back seat to the others sometimes but that didn’t detract from how enjoyable Rainbow was.
Sound – The voice acting was fantastic with each character sounding like they ought to. It is a lot more difficult to illustrate chemistry between animated characters than live-action characters but once again Rainbow manages to pull it off. There are a couple of bonuses available in the form of short clips with some the show’s voice actors and I must say I really found new respect for seiyuus. The OP is probably not for everyone. A heavy metal track will turn some off but in my opinion it fitted well with the tone and atmosphere of the show. Listen to it and you’ll know what to expect. The rest of the OST wasn’t very bad and after listening to “A FAR OFF DISTANCE” I just had to get it on my phone.
Art – Rainbow’s art is really good. I’m not an artist so I don’t know how to explain it in detail but it’s not too shabby. The art is very realistic like seinen should be. There are no alterations to characters’ facial expressions for Japanese slapstick and like the voice acting, the art of each inmate fits to their personality and who they are.
Enjoyment – A part of me wishes that I didn’t see Rainbow because after watching it, it’ll be hard to find another series that will be able to top the standard Rainbow set. The story is brutal and violent, but also sincere and inspirational. The characters are extremely likeable and their relationship can get one emotional. Lump in throat emotional. The voice acting and soundtrack sound great and the art is beautiful. George Abe and Masumi Kakizaki really managed to create a distinctive style here.
Rainbow is a fantastic character driven story chronicling the lives of seven inmates who became best friends. The show is not for the weak of heart but please give it a try, you’ll be surprised how much you love it.
Who said anime was just for kids?
1: Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
English: Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
Japanese: 鋼の錬金術師 FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST
MAL Score: 9.16
After a horrific alchemy experiment goes wrong in the Elric household, brothers Edward and Alphonse are left in a catastrophic new reality. Ignoring the alchemical principle banning human transmutation, the boys attempted to bring their recently deceased mother back to life. Instead, they suffered brutal personal loss: Alphonse’s body disintegrated while Edward lost a leg and then sacrificed an arm to keep Alphonse’s soul in the physical realm by binding it to a hulking suit of armor.
The brothers are rescued by their neighbor Pinako Rockbell and her granddaughter Winry. Known as a bio-mechanical engineering prodigy, Winry creates prosthetic limbs for Edward by utilizing “automail,” a tough, versatile metal used in robots and combat armor. After years of training, the Elric brothers set off on a quest to restore their bodies by locating the Philosopher’s Stone—a powerful gem that allows an alchemist to defy the traditional laws of Equivalent Exchange.
As Edward becomes an infamous alchemist and gains the nickname “Fullmetal,” the boys’ journey embroils them in a growing conspiracy that threatens the fate of the world.
I admit that as I’ve seen the original and read the manga, the pacing of Brotherhood seems to start off being VERY fast (I finally got used to the pacing after watching the first fifteen eps or so). Events that took up half a volume of the manga and had spread though a few episodes of the original anime were now shown in just a single episode. However, after trying to look at it from the perspective of someone who’s new to FMA (not comparing it to the manga nor the original), I believe that the pacing works and it manages to tell an intriguing story effectively with little confusion. The plot is full of clever ideas and unpredictable twists that link various parts of the story together. By the final episode, all loose ends are neatly tied up and what’s left is a hugely satisfying epilogue.
The animation in FMA Brotherhood is crisp and very well done (although it does sometimes dip a bit in quality). Compared to the original FMA it’s a bit simpler but that’s just because the original set a very high standard to follow. The facial emotions of the characters are also perfectly presented. The action scenes are brilliant and VERY well animated, with a variety of alchemy techniques and other talents being displayed nearly every episode. The various battles are consistently exciting to watch, but somehow get even better towards the end of the series.
The voice acting is of an excellent and consistent quality, and I think that pretty much all the characters have voice actors which suit their personalities. The majority of the openings/endings are a pleasure to watch due to fantastic animated sequences and theme songs. The background music which play during the episodes usually fit very well with the situation, although some tracks seem to be overused a little at first. This becomes less of a problem as the series progresses, with plenty of new music being introduced to support the story as it reaches the finale.
Moving on to the characters (best thing about this series), the original FMA focussed mainly on Ed and Al and on their struggles to regain their bodies, whereas Brotherhood also explores other characters to great detail at the same time. The majority of the spotlight is still on the two brothers, but it highlights their interactions with new characters which were not present in the original anime. New characters include a group of people from Xing (a neighbouring country), another person from the Armstrong family (who I think has become one of the coolest members of the supporting cast), and a new main antagonist. For me, the Xingese characters in particular (Ling Yao and Mei Chang among others) provide a new dimension to the FMA world, by showing us a different culture to the militaristic one we’re familiar with. I think the new antagonist is an improvement on the original FMA, as this person has a much stronger and clever link to the Elric brothers’ father. Returning characters from the original FMA, such as Mustang and Scar, are much more awesome and developed due to the fact that Brotherhood is 100% faithful to the manga. Plus, Winry Rockbell now has a much more active role in the story. I can say for sure that this anime has one of the best main/supporting casts I’ve ever seen, and you’d probably find it difficult to label any of the recurring characters (whether they are good or evil) as being either boring or unnecessary in terms of the storyline.
One of the many good things about this series is that there has been absolutely no filler at all (yes, I’m thinking of Naruto, Inuyasha, etc), which prevents the story from losing momentum. All the episodes are concise and every scene is important as part of the huge plot. The dialogue fully explains everything and is straight to the point. As multiple characters are explored there are lots of side stories, but these are all perfectly intertwined with the main story of the Elric brothers and more often than not directly influence their journey too. Like most anime series, there are things from the manga which have been left out, but these are usually just restricted to comedy moments. There has been one episode which shows a lot of flashbacks of events so far, but that’s forgiven as it shows the most epic moments of the series, and also provided us with some history on the father of the Elric brothers.
FMA Brotherhood will be sorely missed now that it’s finished. It is excellent in every aspect and has very little, if anything, that can be called a flaw (maybe rushed character development at first due to the fast pacing, but this quickly subsides). Each episode feels like it’s too short, a testimony to how much it draws you in to the story and characters. There are moments which leave you smiling, laughing, sad and simply amazed. Try this anime, it’s recommended for absolutely everyone, to newcomers and to those familiar with Fullmetal Alchemist.
I’m not a huge fan of the MAL categorical rating system, as I’ve mentioned in some of my previous reviews. I oftentimes outright ignore it. However, looking at the categories right now, I feel as though this is one instance where I can use it to talk about everything I want to so I’m going to use it.
The FMA:B plot and world-building are some of its strongest aspects. The world that it creates is an immersive, full-feeling thing with many animate pieces that move even when you aren’t looking at them. It’s an extremely creative world as well, adopting its own set of universal laws including alchemy through equivalent exchange, mind-body duality and its own interpretation of a higher power, and it sticks by these laws. Never once does the story contradict its own rules, instead using them in creative ways to build off of each other. The plot is also one of the most engaging parts of the show, unveiling itself at just the right pace to keep you interested whilst still keeping a few major cards to play at the very end. The pieces fall into place in a way that is satisfying because it simultaneously mind-blowing and obvious, and that’s one of the marks of strong storytelling.
While the FMA:B story is certainly one of the best I’ve seen, I find that I have to withhold my 10 score here on the grounds that its incredible direction and creativity are marred by some detrimental weaknesses. First of all, the exposition is handled extremely poorly. The first and third episodes feel like they’re from some shitty cartoon network show, the show blatantly ignores the show-don’t-tell rule in the entirety of its first chunk (with characters spelling out exactly what is happening and why it’s happening) and its tendency to repeat important plot points over and over again quite frankly feels insulting to me as the audience as though the show is assuming I’m not able to pay attention or figure things out for myself and need to have the fact that Ed and Al committed the sin of human transmutation and lost their bodies told to me at least twenty-five times in the first two hours of show. Secondly, there’s a period of time which I would probably refer to as the third fourth of the show (episodes 40-53ish) in which the show drags incredibly, adopting a typical battle-shonen approach of having characters engage in multiple-episode long one-on-one or two-on-one battles, giving them plenty of time to pose and stand off and monologue at each other. This isn’t how fighting or war works, and these contrived battles really take away a lot of the climactic atmosphere. Finally, the show’s ending is not nearly as satisfying as I wish it had been. The final few episodes are for the most part brilliant, but once the show plays all its cards and it’s resolution time, it wraps itself up with cliches and in-your-face themes.
The art is absolutely astounding 80% of the time and absolutely horrid 20% of the time. Thus the 8 score. The action is all stunning, the openings gorgeous, the backgrounds consistent and unique, building a sense of a real lived-in world. The character designs are sometimes a little bland, but for the most part they are memorable and the homunculi look brilliant so I don’t have any real complaints there.
What I have a problem with is the obnoxious number of times that the show goes “anime” – reducing its characters to shittily-drawn caricatures and its animation to blocky, looped motion. Usually this is used during the shows attempts at humor, which I’ll talk about later, but most of the time it was just extremely cringe-inducing and distracting, ruining the sense of continuity and immersion in this world. The show obviously wants you to take it seriously (it sure loves its drama) and when Al is portrayed as a big grey mound with a squiggle for a mouth it makes this difficult. There’s a difference between having your character goof around and having the show itself goof around. It almost feels like a laugh-track, telling the audience “this is the funny part!”
For the most part, however, the art is gorgeous. When it counts, it shines, and that’s really what matters.
Undeniably the strongest aspect of the show. I have no complaints whatsoever. The soundtrack is never distracting but always effective, the voice-actors (especially for Bradley and Al) absolutely nailed it and the openings and endings… dear lord. It’s been said before, but the openings and endings to FMA:B are some of the very best ever made, both in sound and visuals. They tell small stories of their own. They set the tone for the episode and for their section of the show as a whole. I especially loved ‘Golden Time Lover’ and ‘Chemistry’, but I have to give special mention to SID’s ‘Rain’. As far as I’m concerned, that opening could have been the end of the show. It single-handedly established a sense of finality, a long-endured struggle of these characters and their causes. Everyone is portrayed as exhausted, weak and full of both despair and determination: protagonist and antagonist alike, fighting under the rain. Not for glory, not for honor, but just for the one thing they care most for. Personally, it made me extremely hyped for the final stretch of the show. It wasn’t quite what we got, but at least we got some of it.
I believe that there is an intense connection between a show’s opening and the audience’s willingness to appreciate it. It is very likely that the intensity of many fanbases is in part due to the ability that openings such as these have to maintain feelings in regards to the show, oftentimes perhaps even distorting or altering memories of the show itself into what the opening would have you believe the show was like rather than what it was actually like. Obvious examples that jump to mind are Sword Art Online’s “Courage” and Guilty Crown’s “My Dearest”. Remember how those shows were absolutely nothing like that? No?? IT’S TOO LATE FOR YOU
But I digress.
I would definitely call out the show’s characters on being the weakest link and the most undeserving of the praise that the show receives. For starters, the writing is often clunky and awkward, but that’s not the main issue. It’s because most of them are not really characters: they’re plot devices with one or two distinguishing traits tacked on. They’re entirely predictable, not because they feel like real people but because they do the same things over and over again. Al talks about what he’ll do when he gets his body back. Ed talks about how they’ll find a way and how they will atone for their mistakes and etc. It’s not that it’s melodrama: it’s the fact that it’s the SAME melodrama over and over again. It wasn’t until sometime past episode 30 that Ed stopped sounding perpetually like a broken record and started to feel as though he were actually developing, but even then he was really just defined by his arc and not by any amount of complexity.
And that’s the pitfall that so many of these characters fall into. If your character’s only real traits beyond their development for the sake of the show are “hates being called short” and “hates milk” they’re really more of a tool with some googly eyes stuck on to them. Other characters are even worse: Armstrong is manly. His sister is more manly. Mustang wants to be Fuhrer and avenge Hughes (he’s even got this great relationship with Hawkeye that could have been seriously compelling if they ever had any real conversations about anything besides “we must overthrow the government” and “Hughes!” over and over again). Winry likes Ed and automail. Ling wants to be emperor. Now, FMA:B is a complex, busy show. I could understand if it didn’t have the time to make these characters anything more than chess pieces for its grand and elaborate plot, giving them a few distinguishing traits because that’s really all it can manage without dragging itself out immensely. But it DOES have the time: it has all the time it spends having Ed yell about being called short. It has all the time it spends having Armstrong pull of his shirt and yell about being manly. It has all the time it spends having Ed and Al talk about getting their goddamn bodies back over and fucking over again as though I would somehow manage to forget it. Ling passing out from lack of food. May fawning comically over Ed. Mustang is antisocial LOL. The same gags, over and over again, barely even rehashed in any original way. Not only do they become painful to watch, they devour all of the development that this shallow cast of characters could have had to make me actually invested in them. They’re far too static, with most of them having a single change or revelation over the course of the show’s 64 episodes in order to indicate that they have grown as a person. But a good character has so much more than that: what kind of music do these people listen to? Why? Who are their role models? Why? What books do they like? What are their favorite places to eat? What do they appreciate in the people they’re close to?? What are their personal histories…
Oh wait, sorry! I didn’t mean to ask that last one! Please, I take it back! NOOOOOOO…
Yeah so I forgot to mention something. Screw all that stuff about making these characters possess complex personalities, FMA:B has a better way to define them.
Everyone who’s remotely relevant has a traumatic backstory. It’s a harsh world, sure. I get that. Here’s the issue: people are introduced and then defined through their trauma. Now this isn’t Angel Beats bad, where horrible things happen to perfectly innocent people for no reason. Most of the tragedy is partially a result of the decisions of the characters involved, and their resulting struggle is a combination of having to cope with the consequences and with themselves and their mistakes. However, this cannot be used as a SUBSTITUTE for character development. A supplement, sure, but I still remember in episode four when Ed and Al meet a state alchemist who literally introduces himself with something along the lines of “my wife left me because we were too poor” before he even tells them his goddamn NAME. Here, come on in! Take a seat! Would you like some sorrow pie or tragic backstory cake? We have plenty! Ed and Al’s dad left, then their mom died, then they f*cking ripped their bodies apart. Winry’s parents were murdered in cold blood. Mustang had to kill lots of people. Armstrong had to kill lots of people. Everyone had to kill lots of people. Scar watched everyone he loved get killed, and then had to kill lots of people. These are always the first things we find out about people, and then for the rest of the show they are defined almost exclusively by them. If anyone is overly happy and wholesome, it means something horrid is going to happen to them. It’s basic emotional manipulation. Look at this adorable little girl and her dog! Dead. Look at this smiling, picturesque family! Husband dead. Dead. Everyone innocuously happy has to die or lose someone close to them. The more broken and internally conflicted you are, the safer you are. There’s no need to pile more grief on Scar, so he’s relatively safe.
Yes, the characters suffer from repeatable and preventable problems. They exist mainly to function as morals-in-a-bottle with gags tacked on to them. They’re difficult to relate to, because all we know about them is whatever themes they embody and one or two dumb jokes. Ikuhara writes characters more personable than this, and his stories don’t make sense on PURPOSE. I did give the characters a 6 though, and there are reasons for that.
First off, despite their lack of humanization the characters complete their tasks of being walking themes with relative effectiveness. This isn’t anywhere near Log Horizon S1 bad. These characters are here for a reason, they represent something, and they represent those things well. Sure, they could have easily been better, but they fulfill their purpose and for that alone they are not failures. I will also give special mention to Scar, who, while still actively defined by his trauma was executed far more impressively than the other characters. This is probably in part because the show actually viewed him as morally ambiguous as opposed to just making the character FEEL morally ambiguous when there was really no doubt that the show wanted you to think this was a ‘good guy’ (*cough* Mustang)
Second off, there are some exceptions to the rule. Most of my complaints thusfar have been leveled at the shows protagonists. They are the ones that suffer from dismal repetition and blatant violation of show-don’t-tell. Where the show does excel is with its antagonists. There are seven homunculi in the show, incarnations of the seven deadly sins, and they so utterly clobber their “good-guy” counterparts in terms of being engaging, personable subtle characters that it isn’t even funny. Their intensive backstories are never shoved in your face, their apparent contradictions are given plenty of time to be uncovered by the viewer, and the deliciously ironic conclusions to their arcs are done tactfully. Many times I found myself actively routing for them because they were just so much more interesting and well-executed. I would happily watch an “Adventures of the Homunculus” spinoff cataloging the several hundred years most of them lived before the start of the series.
I was constantly gripped by the plot. I actively looked forward to the openings and endings. The art was oftentimes orgasmic. The homunculi made me want to start looking for ingredients to make a philosopher’s stone with. However, I was constantly frustrated by the show’s apparent lack of respect for its viewers and by its absolutely abysmal humor. I’ve already said it, but I don’t know if I’ve driven home just how infuriating it is to have exposition repeated to you over and f*cking over again and how cringe-inducing it is when somebody violates the show-don’t-tell rule at extremely tense and crucial moments. It actively snapped me out of the experience whenever Ed and Al had a conversation about getting their bodies back after the 5th time it happened, and when God literally spelled out for Ed that he had discovered the meaning of life I facepalmed hard. That’s not how you do themes, man. That just comes off as preachy. That’s something the show suffered constantly from: it felt incredibly preachy. It’s character’s speeches about the answers they had found to their struggles felt much more pointed at the audience than at anyone in the show they were talking to, and that bothered the ever-loving crap out of me. And have I mentioned the humor? For every joke the show has that lands, it tries about five others that fall on their face. As I’ve already mentioned, they’re repetitive and used as a substitute for meaningful character interactions and development. It seems as thought the show is trying to use them as a counterbalance for its immense amount of melodrama, but instead they end up just ripping apart the tone and stagnating the story. Despite these gripes, I did overall enjoy the experience and felt that the positives did inevitably outweigh the negatives so I will happily give it a 7 for enjoyment.
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is not a masterpiece. It’s a very respectable, unique, inspired and creative show and it’s definitely a classic. I would happily recommend this to most people. However, don’t go in with irrational expectations. It’s enjoyable, it’s engaging, it will definitely give you plenty to think about, but in my personal opinion it gets a little too much praise and a little too much hype. I probably would have enjoyed it more myself if I hadn’t heard nothing but angelic worship for it before going into it. I formally apologize to any huge fans of the show that I may have offended: it’s not by any means a bad show! I don’t give out 7s all that lightly, believe me. This is merely an argument against FMA:B being the be-all-end-all of anime. Thanks for reading if you made it through that wall of text, and have a nice day!
One of the issues at hand seems to be ownership as producers, writers and directors all seem to want the work to be reflective of their style and perception, and in order to stamp their mark on a show they will makes numerous unnecessary changes or additions. Admittedly there are times when the adaptation supersedes the original work, but more often than not the result is at best a decent anime, and at worst utter twaddle.
And then there’s the other side of the coin, where the anime adaptation sticks to the storyline set out in the original work. Normally one would expect these to be superior works, but in a strange irony this is not always the case. The problem with these types of adaptations is that the original work may not have been very good, or even have a suitable narrative, to begin with, and turning them into anime only seems to exacerbate their inherent flaws.
Fortunately, the Full Metal Alchemist franchise manages to steer clear almost all of these pitfalls. The problem is, there are no other anime that have so evenly split the viewing public’s opinion between the two versions of the series. Unlike the 2003 adaptation, Brotherhood is a faithful representation of Arakawa Hiromu’s hit manga, and while many fans of the franchise laud it as the best thing since sliced bread, there are a number who consider the original anime version to be the superior tale.
But we’ll get to that in a bit.
Many people will already be familiar with the particulars of the story, and in a very real sense the common perception is well formed. Unfortunately, one of the problems with liking something too much is that one becomes blinded to its flaws, and while Brotherhood has very few noticeable ones where the narrative is concerned, this also serves to make them stand out.
The story is told in a very straight forward, no nonsense manner that is kind of refreshing given the penchant for filler episodes. The issue though, is that the content of the tale is much lighter in tone, much more typically “shounen” in its essence, than that of the first adaptation. One of the reasons for this is because the undercurrent of obsession amongst the main characters peters out towards the end of the story – a stark contrast to the ending in the first adaptation. Instead, these obsessive behaviours are effectively “de-humanised” by pushing them on to the non human characters.
There is a very clear sense that the plot is geared towards a more typical shounen standpoint and mentality, and while the whole still works very well as a story, one does have to wonder if the writers for the first adaptation didn’t steal a march on Arakawa. It’s possible that she had to change her idea of how the tale should develop because the first anime version took a much darker path than most other shounen franchises.
That said, the ending allows for a degree of catharsis that was missing from the first adaptation, and although there are some broad similarities between the two versions at times, in truth they are as different as chalk and cheese. As an added bonus this series is far less dependent on random comedic moments, and the difference this makes to the flow of the plot is palpable when the two versions are directly compared.
One big advantage that Brotherhood has is that the seven year gap has allowed for improvements in various aspects of production, and it shows in a number of areas. The animation is more fluid than before, although admittedly the difference isn’t really obvious at first and only really appears during large scale action set pieces. The character designs will be very familiar to any fan, but are subtly sharper and more defined than in the previous series.
Interestingly enough, one of the biggest plus points for Brotherhood is actually its wealth of interesting characters.
As one would expect, a number of the characters from the first adaptation appear in Brotherhood, but there are also several who are notable for their absence as they do no appear in the manga. Instead, a horde of new characters appear throughout the course of the series, many of whom have their own goals, ideals and personalities. Indeed the biggest difference between the two versions is the sheer number of people who all seem to have some impact on the story.
For much of the series Edward and Alphonse Elric behave in a manner that many who have watched the first adaptation will find familiar, and one of the nice things about this is that familiarity is used to very subtly develop the pair into very different characters. The change in their personas happens very gradually, but by the end of Brotherhood one can see just how much growth the pair has undergone.
Strangely enough, the most interesting additions to the series are actually Yao Ling and Olivier Mira Armstrong (Alex Louis Armstrong’s older sister – but without all the muscle flexing), two of the supporting roles. Yao Ling presents a strange dichotomy for the series to tackle, and while he doesn’t develop as much as he possibly could have, this is offset by the moral and ethical dilemmas inherent in his situation towards the end of the series. On the other Olivier Armstrong possesses some of the strongest characterisation in the whole story, and while she is without doubt a major player at certain points of the show, what makes her interesting is the fact that the viewer is never quite sure of her goals.
There are a number of very strong characterisations in the series, but one of the things that is a little strange is the difference between the two versions where the homunculi are concerned. Unlike the first adaptation the homunculi in Brotherhood have very different origins, even though they still deal with similar obsessions. This raises an interesting perspective on the series as a whole, and is one of the reasons why Brotherhood is far more of a shounen tale than the original adaptation. The plot takes on a subtly lighter tone, even though it may not seem that way, once their origins are understood, and the main reason for this is the “de-humanisation” I mentioned earlier. The viewer is aware that these characters, though human-like in form, are not linked to humans in any way, and this awareness acts as a buffer so the viewer is less likely to question the actions and behaviour of the homunculi. In essence one is subjected to the ethos that monsters are evil and do bad things, which raises some interesting issues where Kimblee, Greed and the military’s generals are concerned.
The quality of the acting is possibly the main reason why Brotherhood is able to pull off its feat of developing not only the familiar characters, but also the new additions. Paku Romi and Kugimiya Rie reprise their roles as Edward and Alphonse Elric, but with the exception of a few roles, the remaining cast are very different from the first outing. Now normally one might consider this a recipe for disaster, but it’s a testament to the quality of not only the actor’s abilities, but also the scriptwriters, that this series easily stands shoulder to shoulder with the original.
The music is very well composed and produced, and the series has a surprisingly large number of opening and ending themes, especially for 64 episode series. That said, fans of Brotherhood may find themselves in a bit of a quandary, especially if they prefer the OPs and EDs from the first series. As for the sound effects, they are handled in a decidedly competent manner that makes one wonder why other shounen anime seem to have trouble in this department. Granted there are occasions when there’s a bit of a cacophony, but in general the effects are clear, bold, and well choreographed.
Now unlike most viewers, I actually consider Brotherhood to be equal to the first series, and I don’t really fall on one side or another. Like a number of fans my preference is for the much darker tone of the first series, however the cathartic ending of Brotherhood, as well as the improvements in production and animation, go some way to balancing the scales. Some people prefer the somewhat darker nature to Ed’s character from the first adaptation, but in all honesty the rationale behind the two versions is very different, and while they’re broadly the same character, that perception is only really valid until the last few episodes of either show. The same principle applies to Alphonse, Roy Mustang, in fact to most of the characters.
That said, Brotherhood is just as entertaining and involving as its predecessor, and it’s a testament to Arakawa’s skill as a mangaka that she has been able to produce a tale that, at the very least, rivals the original anime adaptation.Yes, Brotherhood is more typically shounen than the other version, but the nice thing about this is that fans are given two very good versions of the same story, and that is something rare in anime.
Now if only all remakes, revisions or reboots could be this good.
Did YOUR favorite anime make the cut? Let us know in the comments below!
1. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
2. Rainbow: Nisha Rokubou no Shichinin
3. Cross Game
4. Major S6
6. Angel Beats!
7. Kimi ni Todoke
9. Saraiya Goyou
10. Hanasakeru Seishounen