They’re the best Anime that 1997 has to offer! We counts down the best anime to come out this year, including the likes of Maze☆Bakunetsu Jikuu (TV), Mahou Shoujo Pretty Sammy (1996), Elf wo Karu Mono-tachi II, and more!
10: Maze☆Bakunetsu Jikuu (TV)
English: Maze: The Mega-Burst Space
MAL Score: 6.64
Maze wakes up in her house, everything is a wreck and she has amnesia. Before she can gather what has happened the girl Mill storms into her house thanking her for having saved her life. She tells Maze that her house suddenly fell down from the sky and crushed Mills pursuers under it. However before long they are both on the run from further pursuers who want their hands on princess Mill. They are only saved when Maze discovers that she has phantom light magical powers and can summon Mills family heirloom mecha. However her performance with the mecha is weak; that is until the sun goes down and she is turned in to a lecherous man. Soon other travellers join them as Maze tries to protect Mill and figure out what she is doing in this fantasy world.
It all being with Maze, a girl that suddely finds her whole room being transported into a completely different world. In this world she meet the Princess of the area, Mill, who is on the run after escaping from the castle. Maze also discovers that not only does she have dual personalities but also dual bodies that strangely enough is shared as one. We have certainly heard of things simillar to this before but throughout the series you will notice that the first impression is not the one you should trust.
The animation is also typical mid 90s with wacky ideas and desing. For example the mechas called Demi Armors insert the pilot into them by extracting the classical hentai-tentacles and making the pilot a part of the mecha. You really got a wtf-feeling first time you saw it.
While the soundtrack other than the op/ed are not that good and easily forgettable, the voice actors are quite funny and over the top. That my personal favorite Ai Orikasa portaits the overly sexual lesbian Solude certainly doesn’t make it any worse.
As much else in this series the characters are also over the top. You get flashbacks for almost all of the main and supporting characters which helps to build the depth for them. Sadly the bad-guys are boring and kills the mood more often than they contribute to it.
I really found this show enjoyable the characters are hillarious the art helps to add to that hillariousness but as always this show has some bad points. One of them being the boring crooks the other being the lack of something extra. It remains a enjoyable series and though it has some interesting and unexpected twists it never breaks the basic pattern it set up from the first episode.
In the end Maze is a funny show and if you feel like watching something light and wacky that will left you in a good mood and a smile on your lips. Just don’t expect it to be the greatest comedy ever.
I wasn’t particularly expecting much. To be honest I was excepting the illegitimate child of Fushigi Yuugi and Ranma ½. I’m sure most people are after reading the synopsis. But no, this…strange but enjoyable show takes on a whole new twist that pretty much shattered those expectations for me.
The story confused me. Not in the sense that I had no clue as to what was going on, more in the sense that it was just not what I expected. I can’t even begin to elaborate beyond the synopsis without giving spoilers, but I can tell you that it was a solid story. All loose ends were wrapped up quite nicely. I found myself unable to stop watching because I wanted to know what was going to happen next.
I was very impressed with the character development. For one Maze (female version) started off to be the type of character that I hate. The perfect, everyone-loves-me, goody two-shoes who refuses to fight and believes all violence can be replaced with kind words and compromise. Gag me. The second she started that I wanted to reach into the screen and kill her. Thankfully she out-grows that, which I find amazing since most characters who start off that way manage to keep it up until the last episode. I did feel some characters got left behind in the whole characterization train, Aster and Mill for starters. I especially wish Mill had gotten more attention, as the thought of her someday becoming a Queen horrifies me. She’s cute, but sheesh.
I’ll be honest, the art was gross. It wasn’t enough to turn me off the show completely but good grief. They were just outright lazy with the animation in this one. A couple of times I found myself stopping to ponder where their cheek bones stopped and their chin began, it was that bad. The animation does get better as the series progresses. It’s almost a bit jarring when that happens because you get so used to seeing their disproportionate faces, but in the end I’m glad for the change. I was impressed with the second to last battle, for the first time really since none of the other battles brought on that “EPIC!” feeling for me.
The music was mediocre. Nothing bad, but nothing to call home about. For the most part you will not notice it, especially since they’re good about not getting obnoxious with the add-in music. The opening song provided me with endless amusement. “MAZE IN YOUR FACE!” (Best or worst lyrics ever? I couldn’t decide) Moving on…
I did enjoy this show immensely. I was a little…wary at first. I had decided to marathon it and through the whole first and second episode I kept thinking, “What have I gotten myself into?” I expected watching this show to be one big chore, but no, I had fun. At one point I found myself all hyped up, partly from sugar and partly because that particular episode was just insane. There was one plot element that just…well I was confused. I refuse to spoil it, but I can’t say the ending fills me with joy. It’s not a bad ending at all. It just wasn’t the one I wanted. Regardless, I feel that I can recommend this show. I really doubt it’s for everyone. It’ll be hit or miss for sure, but try it anyway. You might be pleasantly surprised like I was.
I watched most of this on Comcast’s Anime Selects VOD. I recently bought the DVD Box Set, and watched the entire thing again. All in English, but I did watch part of an episode in Japanese to compare voices.
I thought the Plot was pretty good. Sure nothing "inspiring" or groundbraking, but critics and veiwers complain about it. They expetced too much from it(though only God knows why). They say it was train wreck of ideas, just trhown together, clearly this is untrue. I thought it was very well thought out. There are some real reasons why, but they are spoilers. Let’s just say everything was planned out, and thought out with a grand idea in mind, from the start. Nothing seems forced or thrown together as critics have said. The main focus was the rebelion against Jainai Holy Group and the Creator, and althought on their journey there are some side stories, everything is a build up to the final battle(which is EPIC!!!), and the fight against the Creator. I really LOVED the way Jaina (a religious group) took control of the Kingdom. This entire anime had lots of social comentary about soicety that was easily overlooked by the masses. I won’t get into any spoilers but just the way religion took control of the entire country is very interesting. Then it turns out they have no real interest in religion, but just power. VERY deep!! There are tons of "themes, lessons,commentary" and other interesting thoughts this anime raises, sadly ingored by everyone. Stuff like: the conflict of "pacifist" and "fighting to defend someone", "who should govern the people?", "the idea of selling yourself,(life and soul) to destory your enemy", "will revenge make you happy?", "when does a Kingdom (for the people) turn into an Empire(for the people in power)" and questions of "why you should fight", not to mention countless others. . Plus I just loved the whole rebels vs empire thing it had going on. The side stories added to the anime, something very hard to do. In some animes they seem forced, or added on to extend the lenght. While here they did not. Remeber it’s all a buildup to the final battle. The war is the main focus, and this is done very well. It uses humur (a lot of it, most times sex jokes) to lighten the mode. I think because of lots of use of humur it’s shrugged off a little as a "stupid" anime. I liked the comedy here, but I didn’t think thatw as the main point.
Characters: Everyone says the charcaters and mecha are all rip offs from NGE, Pokemon, Ranma 1/2 ,Rayearth, Escaflowne, Slayers, and whatever other anime. However these are all just slight nods to these animes, nothing more. The characters are all original, despite what critics and veiwers say. While none of the characters are very strong, they are all still good.
The Creator –
The Creator (male and female form) was defently my favorite, and the best character overall. Influenced by the Emporer from Star Wars, but still very much his own character. So evil, so heartless, yet I can understand him. You either love him/her, or love to hate him/her. You either want to join his army, or join up with the rebels, after watching him for a minute or two. He is very powerful.
Princess Mill –
She is also very cool, but some could find her anoying. She never bothered me though. Although she can be some what of an airhead, she’s not useless, and is very nice. She is not at all a spoiled princess, and one who could be fit to sit at the throne. One problem I had with her, is she didn’t really seem too sad her parents were killed (not a spoiler you learn it in the first episode)
Solude is very interesting, and her backstory is easily the most developed and just best one overall. By the end of the anime, when she takes more of backseat to the plot, you will feel like you completely understand her. You get right in her head. The writers did a good job, and everything she says or does, there was a reason to it.
Asterote ("Aster") Reighe –
He’s a cool "tough" dude, and he totally kicks ass. And Aster’s not stupid, but rather pretty smart. He just prefures to fight, rather then use his intelligence and his other skills. You need a guy like this, and he sure pulls his own weight. His past is a mystery, and I think this is intentional.
There are tons of other characters, and they all seem real to me. Not one is a copy of another. Evene non important characters seem real to me, not just "people". They all have their own motives, and loyalties. Some are more obviuse then others. I don’t want to talk much about Maze(the lead character), because that would lead to spoilers.
The Mechas –
Every single one looks real. They all look like they fit into that world, and every mecha looks different. Some look evil, some like facotry built, some look speciale. But every mecha looks cool.
The art and animation was pretty bad, even for it’s time, but could have been a lot better. I remember when i first wastched this, thinking it was from the early 80’s or mid 80’s. I was amazed to see this was made in 1997!! While it gets the job done, shortcuts are very comonly used, and can get ugly. The animation depends on the episode, and I personally think the first and last episodes were the best, and all the others were worse. But even the best, was not that good. It doesn’t harm the anime overall too much, but they really gipped this anime of good animation. The designs of the mecha and characters and background were all orignal. But when thrown together, felt very cheap.Evene the fight scenes were horrible animated (sometimes). Compare this to other anime of it’s time (Revolutionary Girl Utena, Case Closed, Agent Aika, Vampire Princess Miyu) and you can clearly see it’s not up to par. I kind of think the artists and anyone involved with the animation were put in cryogenic freezing sometime around 1983, and thawed out for this anime. Becuase it looks like it’s from that time period. If it was, I wouldn’t care this much about the art.
English and Music –
The Sound was done well. Nothing bad. The dub was very good, and I enjoyed it. It’s not Cowboy Bebop of FLCL, but it’s still very nice. Dan Green rocks in everything he does (I think he likes his job a little too much). And the 1st ending theme is so funny, so cute, so great, that you have to get up and dance to it! (Also sounds like it’s from the 80’s another reason why I thought it was, but this was not a bad thing here). Very upbeat and "party" like. I’ve heard people say "the only thing I liked about the anime was that ending song, and damn it was good!!". People really like the song, and why not when it’s supercatchy! I have a theory, that states if you don’t like the first ending to this anime, you aren’t a human being. The other ending is good, and opening is cool too!
The Japanese was good I guess. But sense I don’t speak or understand Japanese, I can’t tell if they are good actors or anything like that. NO ONE CAN unless they speak/understand Japanese at a near-native level. And for the record Princess Mill’s voice was more anoying in Japanese then English! So glad they toned that down a bit for the dub!
Defently an anime for the Fantasy or Mecha fans, but still very deep.Give it a try if you like mechas or fantasy, fictional wars, or the idea of "rebelion" vs "the empire". Not a shallow anime, in fact makes statements about soicety, but you gata look for them. Many people have a problem with this anime, so I warn you be careful before investing time and money in it("Money??" yes buy the DVD’s damn it!!) . Probally not going to inspire you, but still it’s more deep then something like Naruto or Inuyasha. It has a good story to tell, and underated!
9: Mahou Shoujo Pretty Sammy (1996)
English: Magical Project S
MAL Score: 6.72
The carefree Tsunami is next in line to rule over the Magical Kingdom of Juraihelm. But before she is officially crowned as queen, she must restore balance to the universe that has come to favor darkness. To accomplish her goal, Tsunami gives the ordinary Sasami Kawai a magical baton that can transform her into a magical girl. She also appoints the rabbit-like creature Ryou-Ouki to aid Sasami in the battle against evil.
However, Sasami refuses to become a magical girl—not because she is scared, but because she finds it too embarrassing! Meanwhile, the arrogant Ramia is plotting to overthrow Tsunami by enlisting her own magical girl—the eccentric Pixy Misa—to cause chaos and ensure that balance is never restored. As Pixy Misa terrorizes the planet with her Love-Love monsters, Sasami must learn to swallow her pride and accept her role as the universe’s champion of justice, Pretty Sammy.
Story: We basically follow little Sasami (a seemingly ordinary girl) who is destined to take on the identity of a super heroine called "Pretty Sammy." She is chosen by Tsunami, that if Pretty Sammy can do enough good deeds, then Tsunami will become the next Queen of their magical world known as Juraihelm. However there is also a rival candidate that makes her own magical girl called "Pixie Misa," who has the very same goal in mind. Now I know that all this sounds nice, and really it is a good concept for a magical girl story. What brings Mahou Shoujo Pretty Sammy down so much, is its extremely corny content! It’s a series that definitely doesn’t take itself seriously. Sammy has all your standard magical girl attacks (known as the Codfish bomber, which come in the form of a magical heart style attack) and transformations, they don’t really change throughout the series, but are pretty amusing to watch, so again there actual is a good formula here for the series. The kind of corny content that it suffers from as I mentioned however, are as followed: The monsters (which usually are pretty ridiculous to look at, such as a talking Karaoke Machine and a Cowboy Girl), character origins (such as a boy who turns into a bird) and many of its joke lines (such as Sammy singing a song while they show her briefly pick up a house with her bare hands). However, the one thing that does make this series worth a peek at, are the numerous Tenchi Muyu character cameos! All of the cast that you grew to love, or hate, during the Tenchi series all make an appearance here. With the exception of the new characters from the GPX series, since this spin-off came before that one. Most of the characters don’t really stay long (Tenchi himself only makes a one episode appearance), so the majority staple characters from the series that you get are: Sasami, Ryo-Okhi, Tsunami and Washu–as they are the only real characters that remain from beginning to end. Ayeka does appear later under the name Romeo, to my recollection she was the only one that had her name changed for the series. So anyway, the bulk of the story has Pretty Sammy stopping Pixie Misa from doing harm to other people, which mostly happens by way of a monster being summoned. The more times she stops her, the more points Tsunami gets, which she needs to be queen. So from beginning to near end it revolves around that plot, all the while having over the top humor and jokes. Which can get very repetitive very fast! The storyline also feels very very blodded at times, like they could have snipped this series down to half as long and it wouldn’t have made much difference. Near the end though:
a surprise guest appears that turns out to be the real enemy of the series.
And I do have to go on par to say that it does actually conclude at the end, so if you do decide to give it a chance, it’s nice to know that you will be treated to one at the end.
There isn’t too much as far as offensive material goes, though there is a scene or two where Sasami ends up taking a bath with her dad. It’s done in a innocent way…but is still awkward none the less. So yeah he can be pretty creepy, and honestly–the dude makes me want to retreat into myself sometimes! Is that odd? Ahem…anyway…
Art: The art style from the Tenchi series remains here, so you will recognize all of the cast once they appear. The only odd thing I found is that this series was made around the same time as "Tenchi in Tokyo," yet the color clarity seems to have dropped compared to that one. Not really sure what happened here, its by no means bad–it just fails in comparison to the series that came before it. The character design is indeed the best part though, I mean they are the Tenchi characters after all.
Sound: I really liked the soundtrack, even if it was a bit campy at times. The character voices do sound alright, and you do get a catchy opening theme sung by "Yokoyama, Chisa." Who is the voice of Sasami herself. The ending theme changes twice throughout the series, both are quite enjoyable and varied. (one a soft late night theme, the other a Samba style theme) I think they got the right characters for the right job in each role. Though some (such as Sasami’s dad and the monsters) come off as awfully exaggerated.
Characters: Well they are the Tenchi characters, so you can expect pretty much that, only this time them being a lot more over the top in their personalities. This is especially true with Washu, who seems to be even more of a wacky inventor now. I mean…there is an episode where she dresses up like Santa in order to help Sasami defeat the monster, yet it’s not Christmas…need I say more??? I felt they got Tsunami’s role down perfectly though, she retains her very quiet and mature nature. Sasami acts like she did in the Tenchi series, only now she is much more child-like in her personality. There really is no character development that takes place here, with exception of Sasami and a girl named Misao, they actually do grow closer to one another by the end.
Overall: Pretty Sammy is an interesting title to say the least, it may have simply been a desperate attempt to cash in on the Tenchi series, but I don’t think it is quite as bad as others would see it as. Because it does have a good magical girl formula down here, it just suffers from its corny (and cheesy) approach in story. I recommend it to the hardcore Tenchi fans out there, or to viewers who are will to go in with lower expectations. I would consider sampling an episode or two, you’ll know by then if it’s your cup of tea or not.
Seriously, this show parodies every magical girl trope you can imagine. Sasami Kawai is a normal ten-year-old girl who’s perfectly happy with her life. She has loving parents, a great best friend in shy girl Misao Amano, enjoys school, and is pretty average…however, one day, a strange woman named Tsunami appears in her house, giving her a strange baton and asking her to become a magical girl named Pretty Sammy. Tsunami is a woman from a magical world called Juraihelm, and she is a candidate to become queen, but she is up against two other candidates, Romio and Ramia. As part of the succession rites, Tsunami has to find someone, a kindred spirit, on Earth to give magical powers to so she can restore Juraihelm’s balance. Sasami is in no way happy about this sudden change in her life, and questions why she even has to do this when she’s not even the queen-to-be. Things get complicated when another magical girl, Pixy Misa, keeps getting in her way and sending Love-Love Monsters after her. Seeing as there’s no way out, Sasami has to deal with being a magical girl and all the baggage that comes with it.
For its time, the animations looks quite good. It looks smooth, the characters are well designed most of the time, and it does its job well. The fact that it goes out of its way to make its characters look zany and stupid, especially during the comedic moments in the show, also works for the show’s benefit since this is a parody, and we can’t have a parody without some humor, right? However, I do have some issues with the magical girl outfits that Sammy and Misa are forced to wear. Do their skirts REALLY have to be so ridiclously short and skimpy? And they’re ten years old! Then again, I think the show is trying to make fun of how silly most magical girl outfits were at the time, and the good thing is the show doesn’t make any attempts to use them for fanservice (panty shots, anyone?), so I can give it some plus points for that. The soundtrack isn’t really particularly memorable. The opening theme…is admittedly very badly sung, like the singer is trying waaaaay too hard to sound cutesy and high pitched, and all it does is grate on my ears. But there are some fun BGMs that really get you in the moment when something’s about to happen, and it uses a wide range of music genres like jazz, pop, orchestra, etc.
The characters are arguably a mixed bag. The two main characters, Sasami and Misao, are easily the best characters, as they receive the most development throughout the entire series, and the two are just a joy to watch. I wish I could tell you more about them but to do so would make way for spoilers. Sasami’s parents are very good parents who love their daughter deeply and even when she gets bad grades, they don’t make her feel bad about herself about it and actually spend time with her (Hear that, Sailor Moon?!), even if Sasami’s dad, Ginji, is ridiculously overpowered and knows way more about stuff he shouldn’t than he should. Washu and some of the other adult characters…I don’t really care for. Washu was just overpowered and Mihoshi is a pretty poor excuse of a teacher with a really annoying voice who doesn’t do much of anything, and DEAR GOD I hated those two girls Konoha and Eimi, the former because she’s an annoying little brat who pesters the heck out of one of the boys (the show even points this out), bullies Misao for stupid reasons, and generally causes trouble for everyone, and Eimi is a stuck-up little prick who freaks out over the littlest things, claiming they’re against school rules even when they have nothing to do with school. Every time they opened their mouths I wanted to deck’em! But the worst of them is Tsunami herself: she pretty much does NOTHING throughout the entire series. The whole thing is about her becoming queen of Juraihelm, but she doesn’t even do anything to warrant becoming a queen, makes Sasami do everything for her where she could easily do those things herself had she not been put under the restriction not to leave Juraihelm, and is so dense and ditzy that you wonder if she’s even aware of anything going on around her. You could replace her with another, much better character, and nothing would be lost. She’s pretty much woefully useless, and it really says a lot when the villains are WAY more proactive than she is.
But bad supporting characters isn’t the only major flaw Pretty Sammy has. When I first began watching it, one aspect almost turned me off to the show entirely: The ridiculously over-the-top voice acting! Some of the actresses try way too hard to make their voices go as high pitched as possible, amping them up to completely unlistenable levels, not only coming off as shrill, but ear-rum blastingly annoying. Sasami, Sasami’s mother, Konoha, Eimi, and Mihoshi are the biggest offenders. Sasami’s voice actress, Chisa Yokoyama, is trying WAY TOO HARD to sound cute, and when she shouts her transformation phrase, I always turned the volume lower because it was that annoying. It’s a shame, because the voice she uses for Tsunami is just fine, and she can do better, more natural sounding voices without needing to go so over-the-top. Sasami’s mother also has a thankfully not annoying high pitched voice, but she still sounds like a little girl even when she’s a mom, Konoha and Eimi’s voices are just shrill and annoying, especially when they yell, and Mihoshi…she has the worst voice of all! She sounds like she inhaled way too much helium, and when she cries and yells she comes off as even more shrill, almost to the point where my eardrums almost exploded! It’s especially jarring because her voice actress, Yuko Mizutani, is capable of doing much more mature, natural sounding voices, even more so since this was three years before she got to voice Sora from Digimon, and it really says something when her voice for Sora is MUCH more mature and listenable than Mihoshi’s could ever be!
There were also some concepts and even individual episodes that didn’t make any sense, such as one episode where Sasami and her dad end up in a ninja village and they get into a fight with a Western cowboy faction. There was also one where some kid raises the monsters that Pixy Misa creates even though Pretty Sammy managed to defeat them. Also…Washu is confirmed to be 12 years old yet she’s teaching at an elementary school. How does that many any sense whatsoever? And she can create a gigantic rocket controlled by robotic puppets of herself. I won’t explain the context, as that would give away spoilers. So yeah, not even a parody series is safe from gigantic plot holes and inconsistencies.
Even so, I still really enjoyed this series. It has its flaws, yes, but I found myself invested in almost every episode, even the bad ones. I found most of the jokes and take thats to the genre genuinely funny (especially when the show asks when Sasami’s parents will figure out that their daughter is the magical girl they see saving the world all the time), Sasami and Misao are a joy to watch, the battles were funny yet compelling, and…the final villain, who I won’t name because of spoilers, is one of the best villains ever. (Red from Happiness Charge, you could learn a thing or two from this villain! Seriously!) Not only that, it does both comedy and drama really well, and because we get time to get to know the characters, we actually care about their plights when bad things happen, and when things get serious, boy, do they ever! Plus…this is the ONLY anime that has a school cultural festival that I actually liked AND cared about, and usually those episodes either bore me to death or annoy me with their flaws (As much as I hate to admit it, Go! Princess Pretty Cure is a pretty bad offender with this one). Not an easy feat to accomplish. So yeah, even if it does have major flaws that keep it from being perfect, I still enjoyed it, and given the choice, I’d watch it again! Seriously, as much as I like Sailor Moon, why couldn’t THIS show be the most well known magical girl show of all time?! It doesn’t even have an English dub, and it could really benefit from one if done right!
Not a perfect magical girl show, but a reasonably fun parody and a genuinely fun show to watch if you’re ever bored or want to kill some time. Just jam some ear plugs in if you can’t stand many of the annoying high pitched voices.
8: Elf wo Karu Mono-tachi II
English: Those Who Hunt Elves II
Japanese: エルフを狩るモノたち II
MAL Score: 7.02
After Junpei botched the second attempt to transport back to Japan, the four embark their journey once again to collect runes imprinted on skin of Elven females by stripping them. Celsia is cursed into the form of another animal this time.
Both part 1 & 2 are only a few years apart, like 3 – 4 years so the art barely changes. Part 1 was made in the 90s and therefore has that 90’s anime look and the second part was 90’s inspired so the shapes and coloring are very similar….but you can tell that the second part was slightly newer because the coloring was a little smoother and edges aren’t as sharp.
I watched this show in English dub, and the biggest perceptible difference between Those Who Hunt Elves 1 & 2 is the dialogue. Just like with the first part of Saiyuki the language is seriously hardcore, people were calling each other bitches and even f-bombs were being dropped every now and then. And frankly, I like anime shows that talk dirty like that, maybe because that’s how I speak and it just seems more genuine that way or it just seems funnier to me. I just don’t find many people who speak in a squeaky clean fashion anymore….not since grammar school anyway.
But I guess as compensation for cleaning up the language in the second part we get Shelley Calene-Black as Celcia which is cool because she has this incredible knack for conveying a lot of sarcasm and is way funny….although the first actress who played Celcia wasn’t bad either.
The story concept is pretty original: 3 individuals from the world as we know it get transported to a fantasy land that has elves and a bunch of other strange creatures. Due to a botched ritual to send these 3 individuals home, Elf High-Priestess Celcia scatters the elvish spell symbols all over this new world and now they have to go around stripping female elves to recover the spell symbols. But even though the concept sounds original…it’s really sorta like Inuyasha in a way with the collection of the Shikon shards.
Also the narration is rather simplistic…not that I’m saying anything is wrong with that. Actually I think keeping it simple really worked for this anime, it allowed us to really enjoy the humor without having to look for hidden meanings or interpret any subtext, there weren’t any complicated plot twists or surprise character appearances. Just a new and funny adventure that gets resolved each episode.
I really love small casts. It seems more intimate that way and it makes the viewer feel like they are part of the gang. With a cast as small as this [4 main characters] you get the opportunity to become familiarized with each character and although this is not a hard-hitting dramatic anime with overly complex characters you still get a little insight on how each character thinks as they develop along with the show.
I had no favorite character for this series, I liked all four characters equally. Junpei, being the only guy in the crew, was very funny he’s very blunt and eventho he doesn’t admit it…deep down we know he loves stripping those elf-women naked. Celcia is by far the most sarcastic, her comedic timing and one-liners keep me laughing non-stop. Airi I like because she puts out this refined Meryl Streep Oscar-winning vibe on the surface, but deep down she’s pretty sadistic and likes toying with people. I also liked how nobody can fool her, she’s really more of a psychologist than an actress. And then there’s Ritsuko this teeny-bopper girl with a severe military fetish who likes to play with landmines and grenades and has a pet tank that’s possessed by a cat-demon and a teddy bear that shits toilet-paper. They are all so very original.
don’t pick this title and expect the reinvention of the wheel…that’s not what this show is about. It is a funny, simplistic show that makes fun of itself and the fantasy genre of anime. This show has a decent amount of slapstick which is always good however if you are a quick-witted person who likes a lot of fast-paced witty banter and verbal exchange then you will truly appreciate this show more.
Whatever the reason is, it’s safe to say that I found “Those Who Hunt Elves II” considerably funnier, in particular the abuse-filled exchanges between Celcia and Junpei. The stories seem better too – even though it’s essentially same thing as the first season, the episodics seem more imaginative and interesting. It also feels like there’s even less serious content than the first season, which is good because the first season fell flat on its face on the occasions when it tried to be more serious. This isn’t to say the plot doesn’t have its problems, a glaring one being the lack of urgency on the part of the protagonists, which totally contradicts the events that led up to the second season. The ending was also poor, and was in fact so meaningless that I’d struggled to remember what happened within a couple of weeks of watching it. In addition to its own problems, “Those Who Hunt Elves II” also inherit some of the senseless problems of the first series, such as Junpei continuing to strip elves in the most crude manner possible and the others making no attempt to persuade him otherwise.
While “Those Who Hunt Elves II” retained the general feel of the original, there were some small changes here and there: the episode titles now have a common theme; they introduced this adorable teddy bear who doubles up as a kind of mascot for the series, which worked pretty well; there’s also the addition of a bizarre but strangely funny line at the end of each next-week-preview clips, but it only really works when Junpei says it. Oh, and they’ve added a new combination of open/ending themes. The new opening is nothing to write home about, but the new ending theme is great.
“Those Who Hunt Elves II” may satisfy the conventional goals of a good sequel – building and improving upon its predecessor – but the first season was so far from being good that this second season needed to improve a lot to be considered good itself. Unsurprisingly, it falls short. It’s funny at times, but not consistently so; it’s better, but still suffers from too many of the original’s problems. It’s an example that, no matter how much you decorate and polish a turd, it’s still just a turd.
The artwork is lacking a lot. Characters look blocky, animation loops, and a lot of it doesn’t have a lot of textures. Characters also seem to thin. I feel that the animation is some of the weakest that I have seen in a while. It’s sad because I think that it just needs a bit more love in the drawing. It really looks bad, seriously.
The music is a bit strange for the opening, and doesn’t sound right for the comedy in the show. I love the dub since it adds more comedy in it though it goes off from the original script sometimes. The voices though don’t sound very good. They seem more like Bible Black.
7: Yume no Crayon Oukoku
English: Crayon Kingdom of Dreams
MAL Score: 7.10
The civilians of the Crayon Kingdom have always view their Princess Silver as a twelve-year old girl with a beautiful smile. However, unknown to them, the princess has 12 bad habits. This has created much distress to the Chameleon Prime Minister and the Crayon ministers for it would be embarassing if this gets out. One day, a party was held to celebrate Princess Silver’s twelvth birthday. The princess was trying to seek her Prince Charming that she forgot to take notice of her bad habits. One of the boys at the party was so angry that he changed Silver’s parents, the King and Queen, into stone. In order to break the curse and save her parents, Silver decided to set on a journey to locate the boy. Together with her companions, Silver begins her adventure.
MAL Score: 7.12
Sorao is an ordinary student who lives an ordinary everyday life of a typical kid, accidentally makes friends with two aliens stranded here on Earth. His life changes as he decides to help them find a way to get home. When they do reach the aliens’ homeworld, Sorao along with Miki, discovered a blood feud between two different tribes. Things gone awry as the tribes’ representatives try to out do one another in search of the missing treasure of the past with the help of an uncovered clue.
MAL Score: 7.35
Pokemon are peculiar creatures with a vast array of different abilities and appearances; many people, known as Pokemon trainers, capture and train them, often with the intent of battling others. Young Satoshi has not only dreamed of becoming a Pokemon trainer but also a “Pokemon Master,” and on the arrival of his 10th birthday, he finally has a chance to make that dream a reality. Unfortunately for him, all three Pokemon available to beginning trainers have already been claimed and only Pikachu, a rebellious Electric type Pokemon, remains. However, this chance encounter would mark the start of a lifelong friendship and an epic adventure!
Setting off on a journey to become the very best, Satoshi and Pikachu travel across beautiful, sprawling regions with their friends Kasumi, a Water type trainer, and Takeshi, a Rock type trainer. But danger lurks around every corner. The infamous Team Rocket is always nearby, seeking to steal powerful Pokemon through nefarious schemes. It’ll be up to Satoshi and his friends to thwart their efforts as he also strives to earn the eight Pokemon Gym Badges he’ll need to challenge the Pokemon League, and eventually claim the title of Pokemon Master.
Pokemon works with a re-use formula, the story is long, it is repetitive, it doesn’t progress in any way because development doesn’t really happen.
Art and sound is mediocre as it is a mass-produced anime. Production costs would have been sky-high if they spent any more money on it, and it shows.
The characters are pretty two-dimensional. They aren’t deep, you don’t go into their heads, and they’re all about 11-15 years old but all act the same.
But why do I love this anime so much?? I was obsessed with it as a child, and it still has a warm place in my heart. I think it’s a perfect anime for children because it teaches them some good lessons: try to be the best, do the right thing, and your friends and family are the most important people in your life.
Only unfabulously mean people hate on Pokemon. You know they all watched it and liked it as a child, but my, how uppity we have all become. If you’re feeling nostalgic and want to go back to when anime was about adventure and friendship and silliness, then Pokemon is for you. It’s also a harmless, fun anime for your kids, too. So I totally recommend it. Fabulous, it is.
It starts out with a tiny step, like most other journeys. Our hero, Ash Ketchum, has high dreams of becoming the ultimate Pokemon trainer (I’ll refrain from explaining that to you), and he starts out by sleeping in too late! before logn however, he’s gotten his first (reluctant) Pokemon, everyone’s favorite mouse Pikachu, and they’re off on their epic journey!
The shows brings out an epic adventure of friendship, harsh battles and whatnot; everything you’d expect from a shonen that’s aimed at the younger kids. It isn’t that great however, as it gets very repetitive after a while; a Pokemon/person of the day formula with some kind of problem that always ends well. And that’s what most of the episodes contain, with a small bit of getting further on their journey every now and then.
Animation-wise, the show doesn’t feature anything boastable, with flat character designs, okay backgrounds and no spectacular special effects at all. Was it because of budget restrictions (it is a pretty long anime, after all), or was it because the producers knew the kids they were aiming the show at didn’t care anyway? Well, whatever it was, the animation isn’t anything to brag about.
The soundtrack is what you’d expect of such a show; adventurous opening themes, background music that’s supposed to get you into the fighting/comedic mood, and a variety of sound effects to use for all the moves and whatnot you’ll see. The voice acting is decent, but honestly – my unability to cope with dubs in anime pretty much wins over my nostalgia here, and that is the main reason I stopped watching the show some time ago.
The characters are, well, what you’d expect from a shonen. The rash, headstrong main character and his oh-so-arrogant rival, and the people he travels with; the older, more reasonable (mostly) fellow, and of course, the tomboyish girl with whome he argues a lot. Yup, that’s shonen for ya. The main comedic relief of the series, the Team Rocket trio, is actually a pretty entertaining one. Despite constantly neglecting to look over their mistakes and realise that every one of their contraptions fail against Ash and company, they keep on trying, knowing thinking that their boss will reward them greatly of they bring him the Pikachu. I like their stupid enthusiasm a lot, and their scenes are often among amogn the better ones in the series.
So… Pokemon is basically a cliche-ridden shonen with no real thing to make it stand out. Wait… that can’t be right? What about all the kids that love it? And what of all the others that love it? One of the things, I believe, is the adventurous feel of the series; who wouldn’t want to experience such an epic adventure for themselves? (I know I want to, at least!) Not to mention, the great values of friendship, loyalty and trust which are presented to the viewers. That is one thing that makes Pokemon so great, and I’d try to get any kid into the show becasue of that reason alone. And that’s what there is to say about Pokemon, actually.
The animation was great for its time, and the songs were very addictive. It was obvious that everybody that saw the show enjoyed it very much, myself included. And to this day, over 10 years after the debut of Pokemon, they are still able to sell merchandise.
But what created the downfall of the series was that it never ended! The show could’ve easily ended at the end of episode 84, with the end of the Pokemon League. They could’ve said “Since that day, Ash trained hard to be a master.” and then show him as a master. But no, the episodes just keep coming and coming. Johto was cool because of showing new pokemon, but when they repeated the trend of “new pokemon lolz” it got old really quick. And not mention that Ash never matured. He had a birthday one episode and in the 3rd movie he exclaimed that he and Pikachu have been together for a year. But at the start of Diamond and Pearl Ash was mentioned to be 10 years old again. Inconsistency is bad if you want to keep your audience.
It still find myself rewatching the first few seasons of Pokemon and hugging my pikachu pillow. But the new episodes these days just don’t have the same atmosphere as the old show and it is hard to watch it without booing the lack-luster effort that gets put into each episode. But Pokemon will always have an unforgettable place in my heart and (ignoring anything past the Johto season) for that I give it an 8/10.
4: Slayers Try
Japanese: スレイヤーズ TRY
MAL Score: 7.82
For nearly a millennium, demons have imposed a magical barrier that has impeded the people trapped within it from reaching the outside world. Now that it is broken, several kingdoms seek to explore the lands that were once beyond their grasp. To this end, they establish a peace delegation to make contact with the inhabitants of the new world.
Meanwhile, the young sorceress Lina Inverse receives a message from a mysterious woman named Filia ul Copt. When they meet, Filia expresses interest in hiring Lina and her friends, having heard of their great deeds, for a certain task that will take them to the outside realm. Despite that, Filia feels the need to put their strength to the test and pits them against a dragon in the middle of the city! After proving themselves, the sorceress and her fellow adventurers set off for the unexplored lands, where many adventures and a worrying prophecy await them.
Another good example is Slayers Try.
Unlike the previous iterations in the Slayers franchise, Try is not actually based on a novel by Kanzaka Hajime, however the author did write the basic outline for the series. This meant that there was far more room for the creativity of other writers to come to the fore, and it’s actually surprising how well Try follows on from the first two series. However, given that many of the production staff are the same as in the previous two outings, and that director Watanabe Takashi is once again at the helm, it should be no surprise that the writers would have a “passing familiarity” with the content.
The story is set several months after Next. The magical barrier that kept the lands isolated has been destroyed, and various kingdoms have decided to send a group of emmisaries to explore and re-establish relationships with the outside world. Unfortunately, Lina and the gang are taking a break in the port city from which the expedition is leaving…
One thing that really stands out about the plot for Slayers Try is the degree to which it progresses throughout the show. While the series manages to retain much of its irrevent humour (albeit in a punchier form), the story is far more focused than in previous outings, and fans of the series may find themselves surprised by the difference.
One unfortunate side effect of this “change” though (although I consider it more of an evolution), is that certain viewers, especially those who are diehard fans of the original two series, consider Try to be the inferior addition to the franchise, partly because it’s not based on an existing novel, but also because of the increase in plot focus.
Whatever the case may be, personally I consider Try to be at least as good as the original series and Next. The plot is well paced and flowing for much of the series, and the increased focus on telling the story only serves to make the humour more precious.
The main aspects that fans of the series will find appealing is the fact that in terms of sound and visuals, Try is without any shadow of a doubt, part of the Slayers franchise. Everything from the character design and animation, to the seiyuu and music are, by and large, the same as in previous outings, and this pays off in a big way in many areas of the show. The animators are far more capable and composed than either of the previous two series, while the voice actors are more self assured than before. The fact that even the same production staff have been used on many aspects of Try gives it an extra dimension that neither the original series nor Next had, and this is because at almost every level of production there is a good deal of experience with the Slayers franchise – and it shows.
In terms of characters, Try is a more than worthy addition to the franchise. After all, the gang’s all here, and this time they have a whole world to play with. Lina and Gourry are just as funny as before, even with the noticeable reduction in jokes involving food and/or eating, Zelgadis is just as moody as ever, and Amelia is still heroically gung ho. Try, however, is unlike either of the previous two series in that the characters are more solid, however this is partly due to the more focused plot. That said, while there is a degree of development for most of the characters, the majority of growth occurs on the part of only one character.
Filia ul Copt is, in many respects, a parody of the stereotypical Dungeons & Dragons “Gold Dragon”, however she is also the character with the most development in Try. Her background, together with the history of her race, make for a solid platform upon which to develop a character, however this seems to be the biggest area of debate, as many viewers feel that Try should have focused on developing the relationship between Lina and Gourry.
Personally, I don’t mind her at all, and I can’t really understand what all the fuss is about. Filia’s personality works well with the other characters, and the fact that she is oft times portrayed as a parody of the D&D Golden Dragon means that she fits in nicely with the ethos of Slayers.
In terms of its content, Slayers Try is very different to either of the first two series and, in all honesty, the show seems to have “borrowed” some of the best aspects of both. Being a fan of the franchise, I found that I enjoyed Try just as much as I did either of the first two seasons. However, the more focused plot may be disconcerting to purists, however much of the humour is retained throughout the show, and this is the area where the Slayers franchise normally excels.
Granted there will be those who simply don’t like Try for one reason or another, and while I can understand the perspective voiced by many nay-sayers, it should be remembered that, like any series, unless there is an effort made to develop the franchise it will simply stagnate. The bigger crime, at least for me, would be to let down the original series and Next by simply re-using the same formula over and over again – such things become tiresome after a while. Granted there is a degree of that in the third series, however Try is also very different to its predecessors because of its tighter story and focused plot.
Try is most definitely a great addition to the Slayers franchise, and while there are those who don’t like the series, there are just as many who do. If you’re a fan of Slayers but haven’t seen Try, then you should definitely mark it as one to watch. The show has all of the appeal of the first two series, yet is unique enough in its own right as well.
That said, newcomers to the franchise are advised to watch the first two series before watching Try, as there are numerous references to previous events and characters.
On the whole, Slayers Try is one of those shows that you should really make your own judgement on. While there is a certain “business as usual” feel to the series, there are plenty of new characters, places and occurences for Lina and the gang to mess with/blow up/steal from, and it’s great to see them given a much bigger “playground” this time around.
Of course and Slayers wouldn’t be slayers without those really strange and wacky episodes and characters which I’m glad to say there are a decent amount but not too much craziness to diverge too far from the plot. Nice little comedic breaks. All the characters have their outstanding personalities and we even dive deeper into a few of the main characters. I love this anime series, mainly because it was the first one I saw, but this season blew me away. I’ve re-watched it 4 times and still enjoy it.
Each season of slayers seems to build more on the storyline (ignoring Revolution and Evolution-R), and Try does a great job of that. It focuses on a lot of different perspectives, and the question of how to define the good guys vs. the bad guys.
The series explores the relationships between Mazoku, gods, those that are neither, and those that are both. Xellos shows his dark side, which makes me love him that much more. And the relationship between Xellos and Filia is hilarious.
The comedy in Try is different that the previous two seasons. There are fewer filler episodes, a lot of suspense, and a lot of action. There are 6 episodes in the season that I found sort of weak (15-20), but the other 20 episodes are by far the best in the series. The series brings out a lot of emotion, and is in my opinion the best of them all.
3: Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon: Sailor Stars
English: Sailor Moon Sailor Stars
Japanese: 美少女戦士セーラームーン セーラースターズ
MAL Score: 7.92
Like the R Season, Sailor Stars is divided into two arcs:
The first arc (also filler) solves some conflicts from the SuperS season, and also sees the return of the Outer Senshi, Haruka, Michiru, Setsuna, and Hotaru (now reborn as a child).
The second arc is the actual plot from the manga. Usagi bids farewell to Mamoru, who is going to America to study abroad. In his place comes the Three Lights, an idol trio consisting of three boys, Seiya, Taiki, and Yaten. The new enemy is Galaxia, a woman who desires to rule the entire galaxy by collecting the Star Seeds of humans. Three new Senshi appear, the Sailor Starlights, who also intend to stop Galaxia without Sailor Moon’s help.
First of all, let me tell you, I can agree on why Sailor Moon Sailor Stars wasn’t licensed for the american dub version. If you watch this series, you will find out why. But enough with that matter, let me tell you what I thought of this amazing season of Sailor Moon.
I personally thought the story deserved higher that a 6, at that matter. The story was actually well thought out and planned detail to detail. Naoko Takeuchi had really improved since SuperS. I mean, how the new characters incorperated right into the story perfectly. The Starlights added a new sense of different careers in the story and how Seiya tried his/her best to be like a ‘new’ Mamoru for Usagi.
The art had pretty much improved since SuperS, in my opinion. The detail and different colors use to express the characters was amazing. I really thought that the design of the new senshi outfits was absolutly genius! Also, I must say, Sailor Moon’s Moon Tier was really detailed and perfetly executed the attacks every episode.
The sound in the series really got me into the season more and more. The new opening theme really changed the sense of the series after the same theme song season after season. Change was definetly in order. But I must admit, some of the songs the 3 Lights sang weren’t very good in my opinion. I understand they were looking for their princess for a very long period of time but I never got use to the songs they sang.
The Starlights intro into the series really up-ed my opinion on the rating of Character. Yet, in the anime, how they were changed into Male to Female really didn’t make me happy. I’m sure Naoko diefinetly felt the same way. Anyways, away from that matter, I believe that most of the characters didn’t change that much, yet I enjoyed how they comforted Usagi in her hard times.
The enjoyment of the series difinetly deserved a 10/10 in my opinion. The story brought along many happy, sad, romantic, ect., to the series. I think that Naoko did an exceptional job on this season and the manga at that.
Overall, this series deserves a 10/10! The series was outstanding to me and was one of the first anime I watched when I was young. The series always kept me at the edge of my seat and I really enjoyed some humor here and there. If you are in the mood for an amazing series, I highly reccomend this series to any mahou shoujo anime fan out there. The series was excellent to me and I bet any Sailor Moon fan would agree.
There’s plenty of new scouts from other galaxies and other leaded by another princess. It also features a cool idol group as some of the season’s new characters.
This season was the last season of Sailor Moon and it was never dubbed in English during it’s original release. This season may be still new news to some fans who just watched and were familiar with the original English dub.
Break from Mini Moon-
And of course we get a break from Mini Moon. Even though she is still an important character in it’s first episodes, she does get a break and doesn’t appear through the second arc of this season. This could be a relief to some fans after SuperS.
Yes, this season has plenty of hardships, downfalls, and Sailor Moon will be find herself very heartbroken at times.
Villains are scouts-
Yes! I mentioned there was drama. Not only are there new scouts called the Starlights, the villains themselves are also scouts, which makes it hard to know who to trust.
This is all around a super season and is a must watch for fans. Despite the flaws that Tuxedo Mask is absent from the second arc (but it’s for a reason), and the outers appear very little times. It’s still it’s a great season and you won’t be disappointed.
And this last season was the best one (I missed Mamoru-chan but.. ^^).. We saw friendship, love, longing, and also determination and faith.. of course with the sufficient amount of humour ^^ It has everything in it, and it is an anime that I’d show my children..
Everybody should watch this classic, imo. The storyline, the characters, fight scenes.. all of them were 10/10 for me ^^
(Should I begin watching it again?? ^^)
2: Shoujo Kakumei Utena
English: Revolutionary Girl Utena
MAL Score: 8.19
After meeting a traveling prince who consoled her after the deaths of her parents, Utena Tenjou vowed to become a prince herself. The prince left Utena only with a ring bearing a strange rose crest and a promise that she would meet him again some day.
A few years later, Utena attends Ootori Academy, where she is drawn into a dangerous game. Duelists with rings matching Utena’s own compete for a unique prize: the Rose Bride, Anthy Himemiya, and her mysterious powers. When Utena wins Anthy in a duel, she realizes that if she is to free Anthy and discover the secrets behind Ootori Academy, she has only one option: to revolutionize the world.
Shoujo Kakumei Utena blends surrealist imagery and ideas with complex allegories and metaphors to create a unique coming-of-age story with themes including idealism, illusions, adulthood, and identity.
That being said, Utena fulfills all of those criteria beautifully. And it is enjoyable on multiple levels. I enjoy it as much now, at age 20, as I did at age 12. My understanding of the characters, the symbolism, and the message inherent in each episode has changed dramatically. At a young age I saw everything as Utena did; I viewed the series from her standpoint, agreed with her fully, and essentially played the role of the fool. In the final episodes when she does not understand what Akio was saying, I did not either. Now I do. Now I sympathize with him, understand his cynicism and manipulation of adolescence, and now I realize just how truly revolutionary and powerful one Tenjou Utena was. Now I understand Akio’s shock. He’s lost the ability to see things as the iconoclast–the fool who is an iconoclast without being self-aware of the full implications of what he or she is doing.
But then, I digress.
"Utena" borrows heavily from the philosophies of Carl Jung and Hermann Hesse, most notably the latter’s incredible novel "Demian". I highly recommend that those who enjoyed this series read the works of both men. The anime incorporates a brilliant and deft weave of existentialism and psychological analysis with excellent characterization and a degree of slice-of-life realism. There is a running theme of the discomfort inherent in becoming self-aware, adolescent discomfort, budding sexuality, and dissatisfaction with the status quo that is inherent in these realizations. These are teenagers who look for the meaning in everything; they cannot yet except there IS no meaning in everything. They want to rebuild the world. In this sense, these turbulent, anarchic sentiments are a throwback to "Demian"; they are the same sentiments that had an entire generation of disillusioned German youth hailing the book as a voice speaking on their behalf for the first time. In many ways, that voice is universal. "Utena" does it justice.
From a technical standpoint, Utena is top-notch. The artwork is gorgeous, the music lush, and the direction lucid. It hearkens to the era of cel-based animation with a minimum of CGI, especially as compared to current offerings. The seiyuu all do an excellent job with their characters. J.A. Seazer’s musical compositions are worthy of stand-alone acclaim. They are quite unlike anything else known in the anime genre.
I suppose I am obligated to warn of the exploration of various taboo subjects beyond homosexuality (Utena and Anthy being one of few canon yuri couples out there outside of hentai), including incest; if you are squiked beyond your comfort threshold by this, don’t watch the show. Otherwise, I cannot recommend this show highly enough. I acknowledge it is not for everyone, but if you are that sort of twisted, abstract person who would enjoy this show, and if you remember the growing pains of adolescence (or are currently undergoing them), you can’t watch it soon enough.
Title: Revolutionary Girl Utena
Manga, Anime: Revolutionary Girl Utena was originally a manga with story by Be-Papas and art by Chiho Saito that ran in Shogakugan’s Ciao magazine from 1996 to 1997. It has been licensed Stateside by Viz Media, and the final volume, which covers the movie, was released on December 3rd, 2007.
Revolutionary Girl Utena has two anime incarnations. One is the original TV show, which is made of 39 total episodes, and was produced by JC Staff (famous for their work on Honey and Clover and Potemayo), and directed by Kunihiko Ikuhara (famous for becoming the director Sailor Moon after the second half of the R season up until the SuperS season). It ran on Japanese TV from April 2nd, 1997 till December 24th, 1997. The second is a movie adaptation, which will be covered later in this review. Both have been licensed Stateside by Central Park Media, which is now defunct. Let’s just say it’s been out for a long time Stateside.
Story: "Once upon a time, years and years ago, there was a little princess, and she was very sad, for her father and mother had died. Before the princess appeared a traveling prince riding upon a white horse. He had a regal bearing and a kind smile. The prince wrapped the princess in a rose-scented embrace and gently wiped the tears from her eyes. ‘Little one,’ he said, ‘who bears up alone in such deep sorrow, never lose that strength and nobility, even when you grow up. I give you this to remember this day. We will meet again. This ring will lead you to me one day.’ Perhaps the ring the prince gave her was an engagement ring. This was all well and good, but she was so impressed by him that the princess vowed to become a prince one day. But was that really such a good idea?" This is the story that a younger Utena Tenjou tells us as her older self, still aspiring to be a prince and dressing like a boy, goes to the prestigious Ohtori Academy. After her close friend Wakaba is cruelly treated by a member of the Student Council, Saionji and she sees him slapping Anthy, his supposed girfriend, she challenges him to a duel. The ring she wears unknowingly admits her to a secret duelling arena in the forest where Saionji meets her with Anthy, who is apparently the Rose Bride. Saionji then pulls a sword out of Anthy’s chest, and things only get odder from there on out…
Utena is an absolutely amazing series.
On the surface, Utena is just a duelist of the week series, with recurring duelists. However, what makes this show so much more than that is the depth of character development that you get with the duelists, and even with the recurring minor characters. Each duel shows another side to them, and, in addition, reveals even more reasons why these people should go to a psychiatrist. Seriously, you could probably do a good case study on every one of the main characters, and a good deal of the minor recurring characters. Hell, even the girl who’s mainly used as comedic relief gets excellent development and light shed on her psychological problems!
The other thing about this series is that nothing, nothing is what it seems to be at first. There are layers and layers to every single character and aspect of this show, and as the show goes on, you realize exactly what is going on at Ohtori Academy. There’s some very heavy symbolism that uses some fairly mundane objects and allegories that foreshadow what’s going to happen long before it ever does, and you’ll only catch this on another watchthrough of the series.
Which, by the way, would probably be best after you’ve watched this the first time through. There’s a lot of things that you only get in subsequent watchthroughs, and you’ll realize just how much there is to this series when you do. I am convinced that someone could probably write a master’s thesis on this show.
Warning: There are some fairly blatant innuendos and sexual images in this, along with hints of incest and major age differences and definite abuse. Oh, and there’s lots of girls and boys feeling up/kissing their respective genders. So, if you don’t like that, you should stay away from this series.
Art: The art takes a bit of getting used to, admittedly, with blank eyes, sharp edges, and heavy lines. In general, Utena is heavily stylized, but when compared to other shows airing around that time (Neon Genesis Evangelion, Beserk), the quality is fairly high. A lot of work goes into the background art and all the symbolism as well, all of which figure heavily into the show.
There’s a lot of stock footage in this show, but luckily it’s animated well enough that it doesn’t bother you, and every time it plays, you can catch some new little detail about it.
Music: The background music for Utena is done by Shinkinchi Mitsumune, who also did work on Rozen Maiden’s background music. From what I’ve heard from him, this is probably his best work, and I wonder what happened that he put so little effort forth with Rozen Maiden, compared to the effort that had to have gone into this. Every theme is memorable, and is probably some of my favorite music from a series ever.
And then there are the vocal songs that play while the duels happen, done by J.A Seazer. When you’re looking at a translation of the songs, you’re going to realize that they make absolutely no sense and just seem like random words thrown together. And, at first glance, they do. However, as you’re watching the show through again, you realize just how much effort went into those random words, and that yes, they actually do mean something.
The OP, which never changes, is one of my favorites. It’s not anything out of the normal standard for OPs out there, upbeat female JPop number, like with Ouran, but for whatever reason, I really like it. It’s the same thing with the three EDs; all upbeat female JPop numbers that I normally wouldn’t like, but really work for the series.
Seiyuu: Takehito Koyasu (known for his roles as Hotohori in Fushigi Yuugi and Haruhi’s dad in Ouran High School Host Club) appears as the voice of Touga, one of the more interesting male characters in here and one of my favorites, and Kotono Mitsuishi (known for her role as Sailor Moon in the show of the same name and Misato Katsuragi in Neon Genesis Evangelion) appears as the voice of Juri Arisugawa, probably the most interesting female character after Utena and Anthy. Akio’s seiyuu, juurouta Kosugi, was also Fernand d’Morcerf’s seiyuu in Gankutsuou, and sounds like sex and malice incarnate. And Anthy’s seiyuu, Yuriko Fuchizaki, brings an amazing amount of depth to her character, just barely hinting at what’s going on beneath the surface and letting hints slip as to what she really is throughout the series.
All in all, an amazing cast.
Length: Thirty-nine episodes may seem a bit lengthy at first glance. And admittedly, there are elements that get a bit repetitive. But I’m fine with the length, as it allows you to see a lot of detail that you might not necessarily see in a shorter series, which works to the benefit of Utena.
Overall: An absolutely amazingly written and acted series with lots of depth, heavy character development, stylization, symbolism and allegories, and people with lots of issues, that has a lot of details you’ll notice on subsequent watchthroughs.
Tied for my all-time favorite series. Watch this. You will not regret it.
Overall: 48/50; 96% (A)
I’d heard a lot about “Utena” beforehand. Some say it’s the shoujo version of “Neon Genesis Evangelion”; others say that Oscar from “Rose of Versailles” is Utena’s spiritual grandmother; and many people consider it to be one of the greatest masterpieces in anime. Having seen it, I can conclude that there is merit in all of those statements. Well, perhaps apart from that last one. For me, “Utena” is too flawed to be deserving of that honour. However, there’s no denying that it’s an influential series, and many of its influences can still be seen in more recent shows.
Although “Rose of Versailles” does have a certian degree of influence on “Utena”, most of these extend only as far as the surface. The most obvious of these influences is Utena herself. Born as a girl, but lived most of her life as a “prince” rather than a “princess”, the parallels between Utena and Oscar, the heroine of “Rose of Versailles”, are obvious. A lot of the visual effects (such as the various rose effects) that “Revolutionary Girl Utena” deploys also seem to be derived from “Rose of Versailles”, although a lot of them do seem to be used in a rather more tongue in cheek way. But beyond this, the two series are vastly different in terms of content. “Rose of Versailles” tells a much more straight forward story, albeit with the gender bender twist provided by Oscar herself, while “Revolutionary Girl Utena” is anything but straight forward.
Not being a fan of the overly abstract and surreal, I had a little trouble getting to grips with the show. For the settings in “Utena”, you have this school with a bunch of these outlandish rules, where the school council members fights duels with each other in a secret tower in the forest for the possession of the Rose Bride (another student), in order to gain the power to revolutionarise the world… Whaddaf*ck? Is this some kind of peculiar school play? Alas no, it appears to be reality, just not as we know it. Utena (who is, in case you haven’t guessed, the protagonist) is thrown straight into this strange setting, and initially, she seemed as confused as I was about the strangeness of it all. She does make some effort towards finding out what the heck is going on, as you would naturally expect her to do, but her efforts are… kinda pathetic. One minute, she’s like “WTF is all this?! Duels? Rose Bride?? Power to revolutionalise the world???” Then the next minute she’s completely sold on all the weirdness and, without anyone prompting her, starts drawing swords out of Rose Bride’s chest and shouting key phrases such as “grant me the power to revolutionalise the world!” like the rest of those freaks from the student council.
And so, after this extremely half-hearted effort at forming a tenuous link to reality (I don’t know why they even bothered to be honest), the scene is set for the rest of the show!
Despite all the weirdness of the premises, I initially found “Utena” less difficult to to get through than I would have expected. However, a few episodes in, I found an even bigger problem that made the going a lot tougher – repetitiveness. There is simply a ludicrous amount of it. If they took out all the repeated scenes, the series would probably be able to fit into a standard 26 episode season quite easily. In each of the arcs of the series, the same scene is reused to set up almost every battle as well as to end almost every battle. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen Utena accepting the power of Dios into her… it’s the same scene everytime, no matter what the situation leading up to it is. Sometimes she would be crouching before the scene, sometimes standing, sometimes even with the enemy rushing towards her, but always, she finds the time to casually stand around, being infused with the power and then lunge at her opponent and win the dual. After seeing it 20+ times (and I don’t think I’m exaggerating in the slightest here), there’s just one word to describe this… BOOOOORIIIING. Perhaps they’re trying to parody the transformation sequence of the magical girl, but even as a (not particularly funny) running joke, it wears out its welcome pretty quickly. The action scenes aren’t even good, and they certainly don’t become good after about the 30th time of viewing.
The repetitions aren’t just limited to the battles either, they extend to the “Duelist of the Week” format. “Utena” really taken this format to extremes, with a lot of the scenes/dialogues being used to set up the duels being recycled to the point of annoyance. In the black rose saga, for example, every episode follows the same formula of some person with some personal problems getting told that their only option is to “revolutionalise the world”, and it just seems laughable that it’s the answer to all their problems
“My cat has died.”
“I see. Your only option is to revolutionalise the world.”
“I’ve lost my favourite red pencil.”
“I see. Your only option is to revolutionalise the world.”
“I got a hole in my left sock.”
“I see. Your only option is to revolutinoalise the world.”
You wouldn’t believe how sick of that phrase I became. The dialogues often borders on absurd and smacks of lazy scripting.
But because of all the repetitions this show has, on the rare occasions when it does makes a deliberate change to the script, the contrast can really pack a hefty punch, and those episodes shines all the more brightly because of it. It’s hard to say whether this is a positive thing because the resulting effect can be so refreshingly wonderful, or whether it’s a negative thing because the show’s repetitions drove me to the point where I end up over reacting to the smallest change. Probably a bit of both. Perhaps it’s all deliberate, and you may say I’m missing the point as I’m unfairly criticising what it’s aiming to do, but just because some chef *deliberately* poured a bottle of vinegar into a dish in order to give it an extra zany kick doesn’t change the fact that he’s completely ruined the dish as a result, and it doesn’t make me feel much better knowing that it’s all intentional when I’m gagging from the taste.
As someone who’s really into character driven shows, I did not find the characters of “Revolutionary Girl Utena” to be particularly interesting in general. There’s too much posturing and general displays of shallowness. Every week Anthea the souless doll gets slapped for some petty reason as she’s the scape goat for everything; most of the girls are annoyingly vain, but most of the guys are even more so, and need no encouragement to unbutton their shirt and start poncing around. There’s an irritatingly large amount of time devoted to this, while more fascinating characters like Jury are criminally under used. Admittedly, by the end, most of the characters do reveal themselves to be more than just faceless people in a dull crowd, but still, with a couple of exceptions, I found it hard to care about most of them at any given point in the show. It says a lot that I’m more interested in what Anthea’s pet monkey Chu-Chu is doing than what most of the characters – Anthea especially – is doing. At least Chuh-Chu’s crazy antics, in particularly when he’s battling his arch enemy the frog, never ceases to amuse me.
Speaking of amusement, the nature of the humour in “Utena” is random, and whether it’s effective or not also seem to be pretty random. There are times when it works but then at other times it’s just… random… without being at all amusing.
The similarities between “Neon Genesis Evangelion” and “Utena” comes mostly from comes from the apocalyptic themes and also the mountain of symbolisms the two of them contain. If anything “Utena”‘s use of symbolims is even more aggressive than that of “Neon Genesis Evangelion” – they’re constantly being shoved into your face and, to be honest, I found it all a bit too much. As the author Stephen King once put it, “Symbolisms exists to adorn and enrich, not to create a sense of artificial profundity,” and there’s a sense that “Utena” is more of the latter than the former. In my opinion, symbolisms should be done with a subtle touch, preferably integrated into the show such that they don’t stick out like a sore thumb. This way, it can be nice when you get them and you don’t feel like you’re missing out if you don’t. The fireflies motif from “Grave of the Fireflies” is a textbook example of how I think it should be done. The intrusiveness nature of the symbolisms in “Utena” on the other hand, feels like it goes against the whole spirit of the concept, and it results in some completely bizarre scenes (f*cking cars popping up all over the place, anyone?) that can really be frustrating if you’ve no idea what these weirdass symbols are supposed to mean.
In terms of production values, “Utena” also comes up short. Other than the ludicrous amount of reused footage that I’ve already mentioned (they should consider displaying “Warning: Contains at least 25% reused animation! on their DVD boxes), the sound production quality also comes off as something more dated than it actually is. I was unimpressed by the much lauded soundtrack that consists a lot of rather experimental sounding songs with gibberish lyrics relating to apocalyptic themes. What’s worse is that those songs tends to stick out badly, so not only did I not like them, I also found it hard not to take notice. It does improve in the second half of the show (I particularly liked the second ending theme, and one of the eyecatch themes is nothing short of beautiful despite its short length), but overall the sound department mostly comes off as a poorly produced, failed experiment.
But despite the amount of time I’ve just spent bitching about the show, I actually think it’s good. It’s just that I found it a lot easier to identify the source of my negative feelings towards it than the positive. I guess there’s an odd kind of enjoyment to be had in “Utena” by turning off the part of your brain that’s grounded in reality, and there’s a certainly a kind of magnetism about the show that keeps it interesting. Amidst all the surreal madness, some of the direction is undeniably brilliant, especially in its execution of twists.
Ultimately, “Utena” is a show that’s far greater than the sum of its parts – in spite of the overly repetitive animation, the overly similar shallow, vain individuals in its cast, the overly aggressive use of symbolisms and the overly filler nature of the story etc, the whole thing works surprisingly well. I just wasn’t blown away, that’s all.
1: Kenpuu Denki Berserk
MAL Score: 8.51
Born from the corpse of his mother, a young mercenary known only as Guts embraces the battlefield as his only means of survival. Day in and day out, putting his life on the line just to make enough to get by, he moves from one bloodshed to the next.
After a run-in with the Band of the Hawk, a formidable troop of mercenaries, Guts is recruited by their charismatic leader Griffith, nicknamed the “White Hawk.” As he quickly climbed the ranks in order to become the head of the offensive faction, Guts proves to be a mighty addition to Griffith’s force, taking Midland by storm. However, while the band’s quest for recognition continues, Guts slowly realizes that the world is not as black-and-white as he once assumed.
Set in the medieval era, Kenpuu Denki Berserk is a dark, gritty tale that follows one man’s struggle to find his own path, while supporting another’s lust for power, and the unimaginable tragedy that begins to turn the wheels of fate.
But the main elements, the magic that made the epic manga what it is are all present in the animated version. Guts, The Black Swordsman, is still the hapless avenger wandering in search for revenge and peace of mind. The world in which the story is set is still that medieval realm right down to the brilliant castles with their greedy landlords, the disadvantaged common folk, and the never-ending wars. And, perhaps most importantly along with the characters, the story is still the same tragedy of fate, friendship and love.
Perhaps one point of criticism for some could be the outdated artstyle. Having aired more than ten years ago, the art and animation will inevitably seem rough and simple for those (like me) who’ve discovered anime rather recently, through recent shows with more high-tech appearance. Upon closer look, however, I’d say that instead of a shortcoming, Berserk’s old-school animation works exactly in the shows favor. The story is, after all, rough by nature and set in an age long gone, in which case the ancient animation actually accentuates the overall mood quite nicely. I wonder if the series’s impact would’ve been the same had it been done in the 2000s, closer to this day. I dare doubt it.
An avid listener of music though I am, I rarely pay much attention to the tunes played in anime. But whereas most shows fail to catch my admiration with their musical score, Berserk did so in spades. Far more than once I found myself being chilled to the bone as the horror scenes rolled in, aided by terrifyingly fitting ominous sounds without which the anime’s horror elements would’ve lacked greatly. In comparison, the joyful tunes of bonfire festivals, the musical elegance of the upper class’s dances, and the emotional pieces of the more waffy scenes all help to highlight the sentiment of each situation. 10/10 score for this department; a true rarity given by me.
One might wonder why I’ve so far mostly talked about aspects many would consider minor in comparison to an anime’s story and characters. Well for one, both animation and music contribute so much to the show’s overall score that there’s nothing minor about them in this instance. As for the other reason, if I’d start to go on detailing bit by bit what makes the story and characters of Berserk so unfathomably excellent, we’d all soon be looking at a review of more than 10,000 words. And since reading all of it would be that much more away from your Berserk-watching (or reading) time, I’m going to keep it simple. Just imagine a story so compelling and layered you’ll truly find yourself gasping at times, a cast of characters so real you actually start to care for them though they don’t even exist, and a high-fantasy medieval world so immersing you can almost feel the reality around you blur away.
But an adaptation from a manga as this is, there’s no way to escape the shadow of the original work. An no matter how excellent an anime this is even forgetting the manga, fact of the matter is that Berserk is the greatest MANGA ever made, and the anime is just a colorful side-kick next to it. At the beginning of my review I said the anime loses to the manga in nothing but length and detail. True. But ponder on this: the anime is one of 25 normal length (a bit over 20 minutes) episodes. The manga is one of over 300 and still going on chapters. The conclusion being, Berserk anime loses A LOT to the manga in length and detail. I didn’t even care to count all the scenes an details of the original work that didn’t exist in the anime, and now as I’m doing so for the sake of writing this review, I can’t help but note that, again, A LOT is lost when such a number of details that helped understanding the characters in the manga, for example, are nowhere to be seen in the anime. To refrain from writing a novel-length review, again, let’s just say that even though Berserk manga had nothing but text and black and white drawings to reach me, I never felt nearly as immersed by the anime as I did by the original.
Be that as it may, Berserk is truly one to deserve the title “epic” in the history of anime. It is an obligatory watch for anyone who likes Japanese animation. It is a classic right there among Evangelion, Miyazaki’s works, or any other anime one might deem ageless and undying. It is right there among them, shining in their midst as the bloodiest gem of them all.
One of those people is a young man called Guts, who we find introduced as The Black Swordsman. Along the way we’ll find out how he came to be a warrior more powerful than any other human, with death more than just nipping at his heels from his very birth. He isn’t merely your average war-torn soul—he embodies the desire to live on the battlefield, choosing to relentlessly face his fate head on and swinging a sword that might as well be a tombstone as tall as a man. His dogged ferocity endears Griffith, compelling him to draw Guts into the Band of the Hawk. Here he also meets Caska, a dark and fiery-tempered woman second only to Griffith in terms of skill and leadership; second to none in terms of honor and loyalty. And thus our tale truly begins.
It is a story about a world full of evil and brutality, of dreams and despair, where people struggle to find themselves in the midst of it all and define the meaning of their existence. Friendship and love are slow to come, but when it’s there it’ll bring tears to your eyes, for the relationships forged in Berserk are more meaningful than almost any you’ll find in anime.
You will soon learn that there are no limits to Griffith’s ambition, nor to his charisma. A leader that seems to grace his era as if stepped right out of a painting, his Band of the Hawk serves him faithfully, offering their own hopes and aspirations to his “bonfire of dreams”—for simply being near him seems to promise glory. He is also in possession of a strange relic—an egg-like pendant bearing ominous notions…
Berserk is not for the faint of heart (or the very young), brimming with violent battles and head-to-head confrontations resulting in dismemberment, bodies sliced entirely in two, blood and entrails by the bucketload, and some very intense sexuality including rape and molestation.
The quality of the animation here varies somewhat from time to time, but it is always good enough, and frankly needs no real mention because it is so overshadowed by every other quality here. That said, there are some pretty stunning moments of gorgeous animation—particularly during the action scenes—but most will likely think it looks somewhat bland by today’s standards. I urge you not to let this deter you.
I’ll make note of the music, since that is certainly one of the most enjoyable things about Berserk. Some viewers might recognize Hirasawa Susumu’s very distinguished sound from other anime like Paranoia Agent and Paprika, and it is all extremely memorable. You will find yourself whistling along when “Forces” chimes in, and various other tunes are used to delightful effect, heightening the emotional impact of already emotional scenes.
Berserk’s finale is one of the most notoriously shocking cliffhanger endings in anime history. The story arc covered by the anime is known as the “Golden Age” of Miura’s manga, encompassed by volumes 4-13. One might even advise a newcomer to skip the first episode (a flash-forward that takes place beyond the ending) and save it to watch after the 25th, but this might not even be necessary—anyone who is truly drawn into this tale will feel compelled to read the manga afterward. This is such a layered and powerful story, filled with so much ugliness and beauty, that you will almost inevitably be drawn in. Berserk is a true classic.
There are three major themes that mark this series: (1) MEDIEVAL, (2) GORE, and (3) PHILOSOPHY.
This is why I think this is a great series: this combination of themes, which is already rare in anime, are very well incorporated together as a complete story.
The (1) MEDIEVAL theme brings the setting of the story. creating an atmosphere where the gore and philosophy can develop together. This also sets the pace of the story based on the technological circumstances of medieval culture. The slow nature of this large-scale medieval story allows enough time to unravel the deep characters.
The (2) GORE theme accents the philosophy, reinforcing characters and foreshadowing the character progression by their behaviour in battle. This is a real treat to see the battle behaviour contrasting with the respective characters you’ve watched develop (Most notably the main protagonist).
The (3) PHILOSOPHY theme is a major feature to the characterization in the main characters. The characters and their actions are defined by their varied internal philosophies. With a very distinct difference in character philosophies and a heavy story focus on them, central story events are marked by relationships between these philosophies.
SOUND: At first glance, the soundtrack seems to be lacking with only 11 songs (Including intro and outro). However, the placement and feeling (And sometimes repetition) of these soundtracks is well done, giving the story great fluidity and emotional propulsion. Voice acting and sound effects are well done, even on dub. Voice acting most notably reflects the characters well, save for some of the demons.
ART: A rough art technique is used in this series, with unique design. Both of these accent the themes by reinforcing and elevating the serious nature of this anime (As opposed to the chibi art design). At times there is an over usage of scrolling single pictures in place of animation, which works as both an advantage and disadvantage. The advantage: it is reflective of the pacing of the anime. The disadvantage: it can be too slow (Especially in the beginning when the story is slower).
STORY, CHARACTER: Probably the greatest strength of this anime are it’s story and characters. The story and characters grow simultaneously making the world of Berserk very lively. Most of the typical anime cliches are steered clear of here (with the exception of one blatant one), which really improved the effectiveness of the story and characters. With a unique and lively world, Berserk captures a lot of realism for an anime.
OVERALL, ENJOYMENT: This is definitely not a lighthearted anime. It can be embraced to the extreme of obsession (Like me) because of the interesting, deep perspectives that operate in the story. The good development quality only makes it further enjoyable. But this anime is truly for a certain crowd because of its extremely deep nature and depictions of extreme brutality. This is going to be a ‘hate it or love it’ sort of anime.
(Updated August 2008: Touched everything up a bit; explanations should be clearer now. =] Thanks for all the positive feedback.)
Did YOUR favorite anime make the cut? Let us know in the comments below!
1. Kenpuu Denki Berserk
2. Shoujo Kakumei Utena
3. Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon: Sailor Stars
4. Slayers Try
7. Yume no Crayon Oukoku
8. Elf wo Karu Mono-tachi II
9. Mahou Shoujo Pretty Sammy (1996)
10. Maze☆Bakunetsu Jikuu (TV)