They’re the best Anime that 2008 has to offer! We counts down the best anime to come out this year, including the likes of Nabari no Ou, Tales of the Abyss, Zero no Tsukaima: Princesses no Rondo, and more!
10: Nabari no Ou
English: Nabari no Ou
MAL Score: 7.28
Silent, apathetic, yet mischievous, 14-year-old Rokujou Miharu is the bearer of the hijutsu, “Shinrabanshou,” a powerful technique many ninja clans desire to possess to become the ruler of Nabari. Fellow classmate Kouichi and his English teacher Kumohira are both secretly Banten clan ninjas, pledging themselves to protect Miharu from his many attackers. Keeping apathetic, Miharu attempts to reject their invitation to join their ninja “club.” However, after numerous attacks, he finds no choice but to join their group as a means for his survival. Slowly, Miharu takes a step closer to becoming the ruler of Nabari.
At first, I was pretty disappointed with the series. It seemed to be the same old tired ninja series with nothing special to offer. They didn’t execute the modern day ninja as nicely as I’d have liked them too. However, about 10 or so episodes in the show started changing focus. Yes. Instead of running around to get scrolls, Miharu was becoming obsessed with a boy named Yoite. From this point on, some really complex character relationships start to form, creating a sort of soap opera effect that keeps you watching. It gets ridiculously melodramatic at points (running in the snow at Christmas after someone, a character going into a coma, Yoite being unable to accept kindness…) but it’s impossible to not get sucked in by the drama. I feel this may not be as interesting for guys though, because the relationships become borderline yaoi at a certain point, so some guys may not have the same interest in the series after the “boy love shift” occurs.
The story itself ends up getting lost amongst the drama and character relationships. The epic hunt for all the scrolls is pretty laughable because the only enemy is a group called Kairoushuu….You would think every ninja clan in the world would be trying to collect scrolls to get their hands on Miharu’s power but nope. Just one group. Anyways, Kairoushuu is the worst villain group ever. The villains aren’t evil – they constantly help the heroes. In fact, they constantly run to them and provide them with information or even work alongside them. It creates no tension at all. Oh, and the leader? His final “battle” with Yoite ends in….5 seconds maybe? That’s just pathetic. Don’t even get me started on how bad the ending was. It went from EXTREME ACTION into the quaint, melancholy ending of japanese drama series. There is no plausible way for it to have been more anti-climactic.
Lastly, the characters need some work. Nabari no Ou wanted to be like Bleach so they put in a hole flock of characters – many of which they don’t even use for anything interesting. They build up something about a character (Oda and Katou’s relationship, Aizawa’s ‘secret’ or Hattori’s assistant) and then don’t touch it any further. Personally, I would like to know how Oda and Katou hit it off afterwards, or see Aizawa use his EPIC secret in abttle at least more than once in 26 episodes. Even seemingly main characters end up just spectating or flouncing around, like Kumohira-sensei. At a certain point, the designs even started to get less interesting. However, the main characters they DO focus on are pretty captivating.
Overall, I can see that this series has some minor flaws (too many characters, plot could use work) but it really is very enjoyable. Some may watch for the fights, but I watch for the character relationships.
Thus we come to Nabari no Ou (English: King of Nabari), an anime which attempts to present multiple character relationships and the complexities of human interaction with a bit of ninja action to spruce things up.
The story is one that had an interesting premise: The apathetic Miharu is told that he holds the power of the Shinrabanshou, a technique desired by the entire ninja world named “Nabari”. He doesn’t really feel anything towards the responsibility until he befriends Yoite, a merciless killer who is on the side that wants to attack Miharu. They both forge an unlikely bond they never had before and Miharu promises to wipe Yoite existence from the face of the earth with his power.
Unfortunately the rest of the show does not live up to this premise. It not only follows this summary, but the stories and relationship of those around them, as well as the entire Nabari conspiracy and plots to overthrow the ninja world. And that is where the first mistake appears. In an attempt to create an eco-system like story where everything affects everything else it dangers itself into using every cliché imaginable. Clichés aren’t necessarily a bad thing when used properly, and Nabari no Ou doesn’t, the worst cliché being “The Chosen One” seen one-too many times. Praise has to come to Yoite’s and Miharu’s ambiguous connection though. If there was a spark of originality it would be them – the friendship between the main protagonist and main antagonist.
As aforementioned, there is an attempt to display meaningful character relationships and it remains just that – an attempt. The failure of this is due to the superficial cast of characters seen a hundred times, seen in a hundred different anime. There’s the spunky girl, the geeky yet strong boy, the all-knowing mysterious guy who randomly pops up, the emo and the beautiful ninja showing a bit too much of that cleavage. I don’t believe it is a bad thing to have the obvious traits in the typical character; but these characters are just outright boring and bland with nothing remotely important to give to the show.
How all the characters affect and are intertwined with each other could more or less be summed up with the following motion: Yawn. Caring less about these people with such pathetic reasoning and whimsical basis for relationships and justifications would be a challenge. Take Miharu’s and Yoite’s relationship for example: Basis for such an excellent bond? Because they are both lonely. The arbitrary relationship was so irrational it might as well be deemed as “Love at first sight”, in which case the anime also had gay undertones.
Miharu also becomes one of the most boring hero’s I’ve seen in any show. Primarily because he is an overly passive one. No, really, he does NOTHING. Most of his screen time consists of him crying for Yoite and waffling on about life.
Now we come to the ‘ninja’ aspect. I was actually looking forward to this part as I thought if anything could redeem this show it would be the action. Again, I was left thoroughly disappointed. We all know how the ‘Ninja’ genre isn’t really taken too literally in anime since they’re about as sneaky and invisible as a bearded lady; but even so, that is no excuse for calling this a ninja anime then having no attributes to the genre in it whatsoever. To call this a ninja anime is like calling Death Note a romance just because an infatuated broad comes along and speaks about “dates” and “boyfriends” or Fruits Basket a shounen because of the odd duel. Out of the 520 minutes you would have wasted watching this show, about 8 minutes of that is filled with rather poorly choreographed action.
Nabari’s uniqueness stems mainly off of the art. It easily catches the viewer’s attention with the sketch-like drawings and water colour inking which makes the entire show looks like a painting. But ‘uniqueness’ doesn’t always mean ‘good’. The low-budget quality of art becomes irritable; especially the sickly anorexic character designs which made me want to force feed them all.
The music themes were assets to the show as well as being a liability. The themes played throughout the show usually consisted of high pitched violin solos which added to moments of drama – a fine piece; however it was the only piece memorable. It wasn’t that it was particularly outstanding but it was CONSTANTLY being recycled over and over again to the point where it Britney Spears’ “Toxic” would’ve sound more appealing to me. The OP song is skipable as it is too annoying to sit through 1:30 minutes of a j-pop opening that sounded like it was sung through the nose.
Being an English dub fan I wasn’t impressed at all by the voice acting. Most of the English voice were just average. Brenda Palencia is an excellent voice actress to portray young boys, but her voice did not fit well with Miharu’s character — probably because of Miharu’s split character at times, especially when he to play “cute”. On the other hand, the Japanese seiyuu, Rie Kuguyima did an excellent job in portraying both Miharu’s real personality and his fake one. However, there is one English performance I can truly applaud — and that is Joel McDonald, who played the emo-like Yoite. He gave the character more personality than the art or character’s actions ever could. Choosing between the English and Japanese audio is a matter of preference — both versions are equally listenable; so if you enjoy a certain language more than the other then go with it, since there is no extra merit to listen to the opposite language to your preference.
The dialogue was definitely the worst part of the show. Firstly, I wanted to chuck a thesaurus at whoever the screenwriters were due to the fact that the word “apathetic” was mentioned every five agonizing minutes. How about words like “indifferent” or “nonchalant”? Then there was the rest of the dialogue: biggest bull I have ever heard. Nabari no Ou will make you cringe at the unoriginal waffling, and mostly unimportant dialogue. You could forward ten minutes to find that they are STILL babbling on about the same subject.
A dragged out story. Annoying, stereotypical, carbon copy characters. Repetitive sound. Low budget animation. Rubbish action. And the most pretentious dialogue ever. I’m not kidding you when I say this is bad, but by all means check it out for yourself if you’re that much of a masochist.
Nabari no Ou is more about the relationship between Yoite and Miharu. They meet each other as enemies, but as the story progresses, they slowly become friends. Yoite wishes Miharu to end his existence using the power Shiranbanshou, while Miharu tries to master this technique to fulfill his wish.
The story, is at best, mediocre. From the synopsis, I was lead to believe this series would be action-packed. But it really isn’t. There is little to none ninja/fighting scenes, and most of the story is told through the characters’ interactions and dialogues. Nabari no Ou isn’t quite episodic, but I actually wish it was. After 26 episodes, there isn’t really much content. Many of the events that occur in the middle of the story really has nothing to do with the main plot. If you had missed half of the episodes in the middle, you’d be perfectly fine. Nabari no Ou’s story was rather dull for 26 episodes; it would’ve been much better had it been 12 or 13 episodes. However, the progressing bond between Miharu and Yoite was done very well, and the end, although not exciting at all, was very satisfactory and conclusive.
The characters were quite weak for the most part. Nabari no Ou had a serious problem with transition in terms of character reactions and personality. For example, near the end of one episode, a certain character laments over a dreadful event and grieves. The next episode, right after the event passes, and the next arc comes along, that character acts as if nothing bad had happened. This happens many times to many characters throughout the episodes. It seriously kills any affection for Nabari no Ou’s characters, and watchers really can’t identify with such characters that seem obviously fictitious.
The art is unarguably one of the better aspects of Nabari no Ou. Characters are quite skinny, but then again, that’s perfectly normal in anime. What I really enjoyed is the background scenery. Edges and lines are not sharp, and the coloring reminds me of pastels and crayons. The backgrounds provide a really peaceful and tranquil atmosphere for Nabari no Ou.
The sound consists mostly of serene background music, and during scenes of action, music filled with anticipation kicks in. Overall, the background music wasn’t spectacular, but there wasn’t wrong with it either.
Overall, I feel Nabari no Ou could have been so much better if it was only 12 or 13 episodes long. The plot is quite simple and straightforward, and having 24 episodes with such a short plot creates repetition and dullness in Nabari no Ou. If you decide to watch Nabari no Ou, I highly recommend skipping scenes or fast forwards parts. You won’t miss anything important.
9: Tales of the Abyss
English: Tales of the Abyss
Japanese: テイルズ オブ ジ アビス
MAL Score: 7.30
The world of Auldrant is bound by the Score, a series of prophecies from centuries past that dictate the world’s future. It is considered an absolute fate that everyone lives by—even people whose actions lead to bloodshed and tears. Using magical abilities known as the Fonic Arts, a war between the nation of Kimlasca-Lanvaldear and the Malkuth Empire is waged in hopes of bringing the Score’s foreseen utopia to life.
Tales of the Abyss follows Luke von Fabre, who spends his days locked away in his manor after being kidnapped and losing memories as a child. One day, while honing his swordsmanship, a woman named Tear attempts to assassinate his master. Luke defends him, but the clash results in the two being teleported to a distant land. Luke and Tear’s journey back quickly escalates into a quest that will either free the world from the Score’s chains or destroy it completely.
The story starts out slowly, but each character gives the viewer an immediate impression when introduced and one quickly develops feelings towards him or her, whether good or bad. Each character is developed to the fullest extent, with detailed backstories, distinct personalities, personal motivation and conflicts, and excellent designs. You can truly feel the conflicts they experience, and the depth they get into is truly spectacular. The antagonists are as well-developed as the protagonists, and since their development is on the same level, when conflict does arise, it’s felt much more forcefully since you don’t know which side has more willpower to win the ensuring battles. The development is especially strong for Luke, and just seeing him undergo his transformation throughout the series is breathtaking. Also, all the characters just mesh in with each other extremely well, and the chemistry amongst everyone is well-done, again, both protagonists, secondary characters, and antagonists.
The animation, like the characters, is wonderful, with fluid movements and flashy attacks. Pair that up with colorful drawings and excellent backgrounds and scenes, and scenes exceed my expectations. It even gives the .hack series a run for the money in this aspect. The pacing helps get the animation and drawings noticed, since there are moments where it’s slow enough to admire the drawings and detail work woven into the scenes, but it’s not too slow so that you get bored and drift off. There is enough action mixed into each mission to keep the pace up, plus good dialogue amongst the characters.
Unfortunately, there is a flaw in the dialogue in that the vocabulary often used is difficult to comprehend, and many references are made to these words. Explanations are given for the vocabulary and what the world is like, but having not played the games is a bit disadvantageous, since the explanations are long and require pausing, rewatching, and analysis before one understands it. What’s offered in the anime is just a fast-placed blurb and a quick picture where you have about 5 seconds to absorb all the information. Thus, without pausing, it limits the viewer’s degree of plot comprehension. I’m sure those who have played the games will be able to enjoy and understand the series without pausing and thinking for this kind of comprehension.
Despite having to take a little more time to understand some of the terminology in Tales of the Abyss, I do think the series is well worth the time. Even if you haven’t played the games, the series is very enjoyable. Great characters, good plotline, fantastic drawings and animations await those who watch Tales.
In the review below I’ve tried to include an objective opinion of both the fan treats and possible faults that a game adaption poses to viewers, who haven’t played the game. To this end a section called “Compared to the game” can be found later on in the review.
Tales of the Abyss’ storyline has a balanced amount of both good and bad points. The main storyline is interesting, but is highly dependent on long tiring explanations of terms like “fonons”, “Yulia’s score” and “fomicry”. However the main story moves along at a fairly good pace even if a few explanations are needed along the way.
Also the short stories about the characters’ relationships and pasts are very good. They bring a fresh perspective once in a while and makes sure the viewer isn’t left totally clueless about the characters’ former lives. Especially the slight romances make the story appear more appealing.
The most alarming point of the anime’s story is the sudden leaps in time and progression. A few times during the show an episode ends on a cliffhanger only to skip the situation, and leave the viewer wondering what happened in between the two episodes.
These sorts of skips are continuously used throughout the show and might irritate even the most die hard fans of the game.
Despite the tiring explanations and unresolved cliffhangers Tales of the Abyss presents a fairly enjoyable story with a lot of powerful action and appealing side stories.
The protagonist of Tales of the Abyss is primarily Luke von Fabre. However the rest of the protagonists play essential roles regarding both the main storyline and the immense character development of Luke.
One of the best elements of this particular anime is the character development that all the main characters go through. The development of each character is carefully included in the storyline and none of it seems forced or out of place. This makes for a cast of very likeable characters and a pleasant watch.
Even so a few of the major developments happens in a very short amount of time and a few characters loose some of their distinctive and humoristic character traits. This is a very small fault but it’s still bound to upset some viewers, even if the characters actually seem more likeable after the development.
Altogether the anime presents the characters in a good way and the character development is smooth and nicely included in the main storyline or some of the previously mentioned short side stories.
The category in which Tales of the Abyss performs the best is animation.
The high quality of character models and scenery is constant through all 26 episodes, and it doesn’t seem like Sunrise and Bandai Visual made any noticeable or irritating mishaps.
The production team should especially be credited for the fast paced swordfights which are all breathtaking and surprisingly fluid in motion.
Also a select few scenery shots seem particularly well made; for example the shots of the capitals: “Baticul” and “Grand Chokmah” seen from bird’s eyes view.
The character models are all highly detailed, very distinctive and recognizable. This is certainly a positive aspect during the high paced fighting where some viewers might have confused one character for another, had the characters been more alike.
The only slightly infuriating thing about the characters might be the cast of “good” characters, who seem a bit neutral compared to the “evil” characters. The evil “God-generals” simply seem to be more unique and interesting in design. Animation wise some of these characters definitely deserved more screen time. However, despite the critique, the good characters shouldn’t be called boring or uninteresting.
The show also contains a high amount of well placed CG and the CG objects don’t seem out of place. Some of the computer generated spell graphics are a bit extravagant. However this isn’t really a flaw since the same graphics and spells were used in the original console game.
All in all the show should be particularly credited for the high quality of animation which the production team at Sunrise and Bandai Visual is responsible for.
The music of the show didn’t impress me much. The background music used during the actual episodes is neither spectacular nor bad. The music helps set the mood but I personally didn’t notice the music much throughout the episodes.
I did like the opener “Karma” by Bump of Chicken but just listening to the song without the animated intro makes it loose some of its charm. Especially because a lot of the emotions expressed in the song is complimented by the opening sequences. Nevertheless “Karma” is worth recommending to any fans of J-rock (myself not particularly being one of them though). The ED “Bouken Suisei” by Kurumi Enomoto, like the background music, was okay but nothing out of the ordinary.
The voice actors did a decent/good job portraying the emotions of the characters and it’s always a treat for the fans of the game, when the original voice actors also do the voices of the anime. However the voices of Luke fon Fabre and Mieu did irritate me a tad at first but getting used to both voices doesn’t take long.
Compared to the game
Being an adaption of a RPG game, it’s inevitable that the show doesn’t contain some obvious game-based faults, one of them being the unexplainable fast-travel from one location to another.
If the viewer hasn’t played the original game or equivalent, the jumping could seem weird and confusing, since no information about the trips is given. Also the spells, abilities and tech terms (see Story) might be confusing if the viewer has no knowledge of the game. The use of the original spells is simply a treat for the fans without any real meaning to the individual watching Tales of the Abyss by chance.
The last big fault is the dramatic change in tempo during episodes. The action is definitely one of the best things about this anime, but the high paced action makes the story progressing conversation seem boring at times.
Yet even with the obvious fault, the production team did a good job adapting the game into a fairly enjoyable anime adventure which should please fans of the “Tales” series.
Tales of the Abyss isn’t a masterpiece but probably never had the potential either. Yet it’s still a fairly good series with a balanced amount of good and bad elements. The story is complicated and some of the leaps in time are awfully confusing, but the characters are likeable, the character development is interesting and the animation is great. The fluid movements during action scenes would without a doubt be pleasing to every anime action fan out there.
For the fans of the original game this is a must see, while other potential viewers should be aware that some parts of the anime is included purely as treats for fans of the game.
Tales of the Abyss is good but nothing spectacular. If you’re a fan of the “Tales” series or an adventure/action fan this show is worth checking out.
I won’t summarize the story, or explain why it was “dreadful” for me. Rather, I’ll tell you why I hate this: there was potential for greatness, but from the very beginning, major details ruined it.
Annoying characters, huge plot holes, directing which seemed to not take itself seriously, personalities which are easily interchangeable, and no sense of “suspended disbelief”.
Nothing in this anime was worth the time it took to make it. Somewhere, early in the design process, a competent director and editor were misplaced with writers who previously only wrote fanfics and a commitee who designed the storyboards.
As as result, even with competent animation and enthusiastic efforts by the music and character design staff, the end result is much less than the sum of its parts.
Please give me back the nearly 13 hours of my life that I wasted on this!
8: Zero no Tsukaima: Princesses no Rondo
English: The Familiar of Zero: Rondo of Princesses
Japanese: ゼロの使い魔 ～三美姫（プリンセッセ）の輪舞（ロンド）～
MAL Score: 7.36
Following his brave sacrifice in the war against Albion, Saito Hiraga is knighted and treated as an aristocrat, something that proves difficult for Louise Fran?oise Le Blanc de La Vallière. With their relationship no longer defined as the mighty Void mage and clueless familiar, she wonders what exactly this means for them.
While venturing to a castle, Louise is ambushed by a powerful mage named Sheffield. Battling alone, the young mage nearly faces defeat until Saito makes his appearance. The mystical and unknown nature of Void magic seems to be at work in the battle, and Louise begins to believe in the possibility of another Void user. Moreover, she realizes that Saito’s magical rune is fading, and so a new adventure begins as they search for the elf who revived Saito in the past. The relationship between former master and servant faces a new challenge as they work to restore the runes and redefine the bond which holds them together.
Art is the same as the last two seasons, it’s nicely rounded out, and for being a cute/ecchi anime, the fighting scenes are better than expected, giving it a score of 7.
I’ve always really liked the Zero no Tsukaima soundtrack and music cues, so although nothing but the OP/ED changes, I will give it a 9.
Story was weird – I mean, it’s built around the characters’ backgrounds, sure, and then we have the interesting development midway, but nothing is really fleshed out and the end of the season feels more like facing just another Robotnik boss after shoving Sonic through a million winding tubes in Hydrocity Zone. I wish the general war/story/etc could focus almost entirely on how it affects the characters because that’s what ZnT is based around. This random plot in the third season doesn’t really excite me at all and I’d rather endure the agonizing fanservice. This gets a 3.
Characters, right. So the main reason I did this review was the rant about the characters, so get ready.
I seriously don’t get why the makers of ZnT think it’s all right to pull the same old romantic comedy junk without trying to develop the MAIN CHARACTERS one single bit. Yes, you can list all the things they’ve ‘been through’, but in the end, they’re in the SAME GODDAMN PHASE that they were in at the end of Season 1. It’s like they’re daring each other – “are you willing to go this far for me?” or “you don’t like me that much do you?” I mean…really? Being a Tsundere is one thing, but having chronic amnesia every episode is another. I thought I could endure it for season 3, but the first ten minutes of the very first episode almost literally made me spit out what I was drinking at that time because the fight that Louise and Saito had would be LUDICROUS to anybody else that had gone through what they had at the end of the second season. How does a life-changing event NOT lead to character development? ZnT is like the opposite of Clannad in the fact that almost all of the characters are completely inelastic except for maybe Agnes/Henrietta/Tabitha.
In summary, I hated the fact that after three seasons, the ZnT crew were still not up to the task of plotting out a realistic relationship of any degree. The only thing that keeps me from dropping the character score down to a 3 is the Henrietta/Tabitha development, which could go so many ways, so good for us, and the Colbert coolness factor, kicking the character score up to a 7.
Overall, I still did enjoy it – ZnT is mainly the anime where you get some smiles from the awkward moments and “aww”s from the cute moments and perhaps little else. I say perhaps because Saito’s harem has ridiculous potential to not only enhance the viewer’s experience but even the plot, both relationship and general, which gave me motivation to keep watching this thing. But anyways, watch this if you’re a fan of ZnT, pray for a 4th season, and keep that suspension of disbelief locked in that cupboard.
One of the best aspects of Zero no Tsukaima are the animations, the character designs are fairly decent visuals, and the illustrations successfully convey the character’s expressions to the audience without a problem while adding onto the humorous moments. There is also a fair amount of detail in the background which would enlighten the audience respectively.
The opening and ending themes are fairly decent and manage to fit well and the bgm is also well-accustomed to the particular moments. The voice actors are consistent throughout the series as well with their voice acting.
In conclusion, Zero no Tsukaima ~Princesses no Rondo~ is an above average sequel to the series with some intriguing moments. It seemed to ignore the most compelling and intriguing aspects of the series, the storyline. It could have been possible to focus on the two main antagonists and the overall objective of the antagonists while filling in the plotholes instead or it could of spent more effort on the relationship of Saito and Louise.
Hopefully, the next season will end this cliffhanger.
Though the enjoyability of this series is dependent on what exactly you are expecting.
Now, to be truthful, there’s a lot that can be said against this show. The story is weak in itself, filled with more deux ex than can possibly be explained. It’s almost like the creators just don’t care about plot holes and rediculous assumptions. Not only that, but the original premise of Season 1 (where Louise is a magic student in a magical academy) has been completely abandoned. I think the academy showed up once or twice in Season 3 and the Professor showed up only in the last episode.
However, somehow, all of the bad things that can be said about this show still gets pushed to the backburner because this anime is just downright fun! I could watch the episodes over and over because the characters are so well done and the dialogue and voice acting are top-notch and the relationship between Louise and Saito is just amazing. (Just watch the boat scene in episode 4 of Season 2 and you’ll know what I mean. That kind of thing NEVER happens in romance anime, especially in the middle of the season, so I’ve watched it so many times, because I just loved it so much.)
Louise is perhaps the most adorable character in the history of tsunderes, if not in all of anime. She hardly ever gets on your nerves like most tsundere types can from time to time, because in every episode you can see how vulnerable she is… how much she needs Saito. And unlike most tundere types, she breaks down quite easily in confessing what she doesn’t want to: that she has feelings for him. That hits at the heart of what usually annoys most fans of romance: that it just takes too dark long for the characters to confess their love and that when it does happen, the anime is already concluding and we don’t get to see any aftermath. Well, that’s not the case with Zero. Louise and Saito confess early and often in Season 1 and after that, it’s just more and more development, more and more physical contact that displays their feelings, and more and more love. It’s actually amazing what a simple plot change can do when you do it right and let me tell you all: Zero no Tsukaima gets romance right!
Other notables about this anime. The fanservice isn’t the best, but its good. There’s no nudity, but perhaps in this case, there’s no need (although Louise naked would be nice, but that’s just me *wink*). Louise’s stuttering nervous voice is beyond adorable and I guarantee you’ll fall in love with her the minute you hear it. Saito is actually pretty solid as a lead male in this genre and he surprises often. If I had to use one word to describe him, it would be "realistic." Everything about him from his responses to his feelings is spot on and just makes sense. He brings balance to the anime.
Anyways, overall, I would reccommend this to anyone who loves romance anime with strong harem theme, but isn’t truly harem. I guarantee you won’t find many pairings that matches the strength of Louise and Saito. From the looks of the last episode, it seems they probably aren’t doing a Season 4, but luckily the last episode of Season 3 was magnificent.
English: Shigofumi: Letters from the Departed
MAL Score: 7.48
There are some things that people are unable to say while they are alive; for these, there are “shigofumi,” letters carried from the world of the dead to the world of the living. When a person with strong emotions dies, they are able to create a shigofumi, whether their feelings are of love, longing, or resentment. It is the quiet and mysterious Fumika’s job to deliver these messages from the departed. Along with her talking magic staff Kanaka, she ensures that each shigofumi reaches its intended recipient, even if that person does not want to face its contents.
Fumika witnesses the tragedies of people, both dead and alive, and sees their deepest secrets revealed. What is unclear, however, are the details of Fumika’s past. Who was she before she came to be a carrier of shigofumi?
At first we’re presented to separate stories that revolve around the delivery of Shigofumi, the letter from the dead. But the themes and characters involved are a lot more serious than you’d normally see in shows like Jigoku Shoujo and Shinigami no Ballad, shows that follow the same basic concept of Shigofumi. Bullying, child abuse, teenage suicide, the list goes on. They’re all recent issues that are so real to us, treated without sugar-coating. The characters are so human and their situations so easy to recognize that it’s hard to be indifferent to them.
And we’re not served of only parallel stories. The main character actually holds a story of her own, some dark secret, and often we think we know something, but the unexpected pops up. A mixture of supernatural, reality, human characters and those that are just meant to be eccentric, mixed with a pretty good soundtrack and a beautiful art that J.C.Staff is known to deliver.
Shigofumi is a definite enjoyment if you’re looking for a quick but still meaningful series. The ride is good, and it definitely stands out among its "episodic series that deal with death" sisters.
The characters of this anime series are great and that is because they are all well developed. Being able to develop specific characters, bit by bit, in such a small space of time and then move onto the next is an amazing feat. I also must say that the main characters (Fumika & Kanaka) don’t necessarily receive the same treatment, as they have plenty of time to be developed slowly.
The animation quality both has it’s good and minor bad points. The animation is noted for its amazing artistry with marvelously detailed environments, the deaths were nicely dramatized and everything, including the characters move fluidly. On the other hand the characters designs are somewhat lacking, yet I guess it’s just me searching for some minor faults.
The music was pretty eerie, especially the OP theme but it helps bring about tension and does a good job building up towards a climatic scene.
Overall Shigofumi is a sublime short drama series that does an amazing job with tying in the supernatural theme of shigofumi with real life stories and issues. The great thing about this series is that there are episodes that are bound to touch people, due to how close to home it may feel (bullying, suicide, illnesses, etc). Yet it also can remove the uneasy feeling with a bit of light comedy, mostly from the talking staffs. This is a most watch if you want a serious but short drama, but I must say that the ending could have been better.
The story is well-made with "death letters" being the main dish. No beating around the bush since all storyline will end with each episode in the early parts. Although at first, it may be bit confusing, especially Fumika’s story but will eventually be revealed later on.
Not as appealing or dazzy such as Shakugan no Shana but J.C. Staff made good use of the artwork and styling. Some episodes however are not consistent with the animation quality but only in fair details.
BGM done in the series was good and very much appeal. ALI Project made use of their stylistic approach for the OP theme making it haunting and adds a mystery around the series. The ED theme also was done fairly but not compared how the OP was done.
Character styles was done nicely in good amounts such as Fumika, Chiaki and especially Fumika’s father character of evil but pure intention. Character development leaves a fair amount to the series due to it being short thus focusing mainly on the main character (Fumika). Voice acting is good especially Fumika and Kanaka.
Considering "death" as one of the factors in the series, the average otaku might be intimidate at first due to some "controversial" topic such as child abuse, suicide, and school bullying. Nevertheless, this series aims to expose the dark side of humans and how people came to notice that death may be the answer.
Although the sensitive topics the series is shedding light on might be a cause of disbelief and confusion, this anime did aim to teach us how fragile human feelings are. This is a highly recommended short anime series to watch if you are looking for psychological and rare slice-of-life-but-dark theme. Happy watching! ^__^
6: Shakugan no Shana II (Second)
English: Shakugan no Shana: Season II
Japanese: 灼眼のシャナII –Second–
MAL Score: 7.58
Denizens from the Crimson Realm continue to infiltrate Misaki City and steal life energy from humans. To combat this threat, Flame Hazes are tasked with saving humans from losing their existences. But while it is a Flame Haze’s duty to protect humans, Shana—the “Flame-Haired Burning-Eyed Hunter”—seems to be focusing her attention on one human in particular: Yuuji Sakai, a teenage boy who was unwittingly dragged into the fight between Crimson Denizens and Flame Hazes. Since her first encounter with Yuuji, Shana has started to see him as more than just a friend. In fact, Yuuji wonders if Shana might have revealed her feelings to him once before, but it is difficult for him to confirm due to her hot-and-cold personality. Nonetheless, their days pass like any other, until a new transfer student arrives at their high school—one who bears a striking resemblance to an old enemy.
Yuuji and Shana have no time to dance around their feelings for each other; while their adversaries from the Bal Masqué organization plan their next attack, the two must keep their guard up as they explore the origin behind the coveted magical object within Yuuji’s body, the “Midnight Lost Child.”
It is highly recommended to complete the first season of Shakugan no Shana before watching this. This is a DIRECT sequel, so prior knowledge of the series is expected from you.
Shakugan no Shana II is sometimes viewed as a “filler” season due to the plot trailing off from the light novels where it originates from. It also received numerous “bashing” from fans of the previous season who complained that the first half of Shakugan no Shana II lacked actions. Personally, I really liked how they began Shakugan no Shana II so I have nothing to complain about. But many who prefer actions over character developments would be rather disappointed in this season, but a real Shakugan no Shana fan should actually be happy that the anime is spending time explaining the mysteries and/or unclear relations between certain people or things.
Continuing from where the first season left off, Shakugan no Shana Second as it is officially called start us off in a very noglistic way. Summing up most of the main events in season one in half an episode (not to mention a battle is going on at the same time) is quite innovative. Shana II, unlike its predecessor, does not have a lot of flashy battles. Instead, it focuses much more on bringing out each character’s unique characteristics and their relationship with one another (more about the characters later).
Those who are familiar with the first season should be able to jump right into Shana II as the production crew practically used the same graphical engines to animate the show. This means 2 things:
1. the animation crew got lazy and presented us a 2005 quality anime
2. it is still animated on par (if not above) most of the 2008 animations
The same singers were asked to perform the OP and ED for Shana II so fans shouldn’t have much to complain. As stated from my previous review on Shakugan no Shana, it is packed with many bright and talented seiyus. Excluding Shana and Kazumi who were already covered in the past review, we also have
Mamiko Noto (Kotomi Ichinose in Clannad, Yuka in Elfen Lied, Anna Liebert in Monster) performing the role of Hecate and Fumina Konoe
Hitomi Nabatame (Unchou Kan-u in Ikkitousen, Mikoto Suou in School Rumble ) voicing for Margery Daw
Shizuka Itou (Himawari Kunogi in xxxHOLiC, Lenalee Lee in D.Gray-man) performing the role of Wilhelmina Carmel
Last but not least, we have Marina Inoue (Tsukiumi in Sekirei, Yoko in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, Tsukasa Kiryu in Akane-iro ni Somaru Saka) voicing for Pheles
This show is flawless when it comes to characters. The production crew did an amazing job at creating the characters in such a way that makes them believable and in many ways demonstrated that they are not much different from us (ie. make them real.. not like some fantasy characters). I was simply dazed by how fabulously constructed the characters (both main and supporting) are in Shana II. Although the first season of Shakugan no Shana was already extremely well made, this successor is no doubt a level above (11/10?).
Shakugan no Shana II expanded on what was lacking in the previous season (namely some explanation on certain issues and character mental growth for some minor supporting roles). However, because the crew had to cover these, they had to take out some attractive actions that the fans wanted to see in the beginning. Overall I would not say this is inferior or superior to the first season, but if I have to choose I will say I like this one slightly more (excluding the flashy actions).
I’m not arguiing that the animation and sound is as epic as ever. My main complain is “what the hell happened with the plot!?”. Maybe the plot died at the explosion in the end of the first season. Maybe the people in charge of adapting the novel said “Adapt the novell as it is?, pff that’s for NOOBS, we are pro, we got mad skillz yo. We gonna get high and come up with a plot of our own, using the same characters as the first season”.
You could give this piece of crap a higher score out of love / respect for the first season. Or maybe out of love for some of the characters. Yes you could, but please don’t. If you give this abomination an 8, how could you give the first season a 10?, you would have to give it a 20 or else the scores won’t make sense anymore.
More like character involution. During season one, the characters meet, they live a lot of things together, wich makes their relationship / feelings (not just romantic) evolve, change, as it happens in real life as you get to know someone better you like / dislike him / her more.
There is no way you could say the relationship between Shana – Yuji – Yoshida is the same at the beg of the first season, than at the end.
Great!, so why trun back the clock in season 2?. Why GOD WHY!?. Why start again with the whole “should i teel him?, shouldn’t i tell him?, what does he think of me?, what does he thinks of her?. Im going to ramble like this for 24 episodes, maybe i’ll figure out the answer in season 3 or something… Yes sounds like a plan”.
We were over this towards the end of season one, you had a frigging life /death experience, you can’t get any closer than that…. But NO, let’s just go back like we just met. AWESOME!.
The last thing im going to say about character development in this show is abou the end, but don’t worry it’s not a spoiler. The only thing im going to say is that you will get three things:
* The feeling that NOTHING CHANGED IN 24 EPISODES.
* The urge to rewatch the first season, to remind yourself why you tortured your brains until the very end of season 2.
* The wish that you could just “unsee” everything you just saw.
Oh yes, this is a whole new section. With the exception of Shana, and A BIT Yuji, all the characters become as intresting as a grapefruit.
Yoshida, who already was as intresting as watching the grass grow, becomes even more ANNOYING. Whenever she went on with her monologues about yearning Yuji’s attention i felt like skipping the whole thing. She had so much appearence time, and what did she do? NOTHING, and you can’t deny it.
“Ane-San” who had the job of providing comic relief in season one, and was a really intresting character. Suddenly gets all dark and boring.
The guy with glasses: ZOMG why didn’t he die on the second episode of season one?, seriously.
Ane-San’s lackeys: Who gives a flying fuck about them?.
You know a plot is poorly developed when you can’t clearly define what the hell is a show about.
Take for instance season 1
“It’s about a tsundere loli that hunts spirits and artifacts, finds a guy with a super powerful artifact inside who decides to help her fight the bad guys”. Ok so it’s a show about action, hunting things and killing demons spirits whatever. Ok i can get into that.
Now let’s take a look at season 2 plot:
It’s about a love triangle between a tsundere DFC and a big breasted wife-kind of girl. No it’s about a silver armor that’s gonna destroy the world. No wait, it’s about a sandwoman who lost her husband. No wait it’s about the curious things that happen in the everyday life. Wait i think that they fight some kind of “things” from time to time, so is it about fighting?”.
Hey guys you had an objective rememeber?, i mean there was a whole first season about “FIGHTING THE TOMOGARAS”, so why did you just decided to say “fuck that, let’s all behave like this is a shitty harem / love triangle slice of life”.
The episodes go by and they talk, and talk, and talk… And the worst thing is that they aren’t really saying anything!!!.
If you liked season 1, don’t watch this. This is a scam. The only thing in common with the first season is the characters.
Ah yes, what better to have a second season with so many things left to answer from the first.
In the anime Shakugan no Shana II we learn more about the Reiji Maigo (The treasure inside Yuji Sakai) and its real purpose, but in the process a powerful tomogara as well as former enemies have their eyes set on the this treasure which will put Yuji in harms way once again.
The story does tend to start off at first slow which is in-fact a great let down. The usual tension continues between Shana and Kazumi still exists which pretty much threw a lot of people off from this anime; fans were pretty much in a state where it felt like they were watching the first season again… I know that because that how I felt, but if you do survive the first 5~6 episodes you will find some things starting to be answered that was left opened from season one which will keep you in this anime as well as other things.
Flashy opening, but pretty much the same style as the first season.
Same battle music as the first season, but as the anime goes on and fights emerges the music becomes perfect suspense maker which will keep you in your seats.
Let me tell you this… The characters DO mature! OMG Finally!!!! Which is why I gave this section a perfect 10. I could not stand how Shana and Kazumi were acting like little kids in the first season; their rivalry got old pretty quick. The character development does start out like the first season, but "everyone" in this anime matures someway to how real people should be acting.
Enjoyment? Hmm… well like stated the story does start off slow, but then the story pretty much picks up and becomes interesting to watch.
Fight scenes are awesome but not long enough… =/
A great anime indeed. If you watched the first season then you must definitely watch this one. Like stated before, this season will answer some of the questions you had left over from the first.
*hopes for a season 3* 😀
5: Kyou kara Maou! 3rd Series
MAL Score: 7.78
At the end of season 2. Yuuri defeats Shinou, but since Shinou had been defeated, Yuuri and Murata could no longer go to the Shin Makoku. However, because Yuuri had fought and defeated him, his powers had surpassed that of Shinou’s, resulting in him being able to rely on his own power to return to Shin Makoku.
After the ceremony at the age of 16, Yuuri slowly begins to discover that much has happened while he was away. The ten officials of the noble family have decided to make Wolfram the next Maou, but now that Yuuri has returned and taken back his role as Maou, complications arise when one noble disagrees with Yuuri returning to the throne.
In addition, an ancient secret society that threatens the peace of both humans and Mazoku has risen, and a fight for the throne that now leaves the nobles wondering who is the legitimate Maou.
Just like the OVA Saralegui (Sara) enters into this anime and uses sly methods to get Yuuri to do his bidding. This anime had a sense of betrayal and may be a little more emotional than the first for some people. Saralegui isn’t rather friendly at the beginning of the series but then he realizes not only Yuuri’s special qualities that make them help each other but that also his ______ is invloved.(Six letter word)
the basic story is a war between the Mazoku and humans. Yuuri was away for some time apparently and this caused several people to rethink who is the legitamate successor of the throne. This problem is mainly caused by Wolfram’s relative who wants Wolfram to take over.
Yuuri travels around trying to help stop the war, as usual trying to be the hero. At some point he is even unable to return home. ~~Mystery~~
All these problems are caused mainly by one person and for a good reason, in order to obtain the…not spoiling it.
There is still quite an amount of humour based in the show and there are different arcs even though it is only a 39 episode anime. Yuuri’s brother is alot more involved which makes it more enjoyable, especially the last episode were i almost pissed myself. It was sooooooooo funny. You may just think i am weird but i enjoyed this anime and i recommend it to you if you enjoyed the first series.
P.S. The OVA is crap so don’t judge this anime from that.
The show is extremely entertaining, just as America’s funniest home videos or Keeping up with the kardashians is, except unlike those shows, you don’t end up with a lower brain cell count afterwards.
The show is a classic stereotypical anime, and a pretty good reason why people who don’t watch anime think all of us who do are fucking wierdos’. There is blatant cringe worthy yaoi, almost to an excessive amount, made worse by the fact it is often seen as a running joke(Wolfram being gay, and Yuri sort of not really being gay?- They are “engaged”) and never actually given a reason. It’s not like “Wolfram is gay” because nobody, including the character himself, would admit it or say it. Then, you’re like, Yuri, just tell him you don’t like dick, but then there’s scenes where he is alone with a guy and says shit like “he smells nice” or “he has nice features” and then blushes like a fucking schoolboy who just got asked who is crush is by his own crush.
The yaoi alone kills me, sometimes so much that I have to pause the anime and go for a walk. Then there’s the matter of the characters them selves. All characters are hilariously cliche, and almost always the same person honestly. There is very rarely two characters who aren’t like the other. Yes, there’s aspects that are different-in personality and background- but only just enough for a lazy writer to say “job well done, I think I’ll go check out an anime cafe”
Yuri himself is likable, but very cliche. He’s trustworthy to a fault, and never learns not to be, despite it literally causing nearly every story arcs problems. Does he have character development? Sort of. But really all he does is just understand more people, more. He really never changes or learns from anything, and him, and nearly every character in the show, is waaaayyy over the top. Like, Jim Carey over the top, except with post 2005’s quality.
One character they do add, King Sara, is likable only because he is rather different from everyone else. He is mysterious, manipulative, sociopathic, and influential, all the while being 2 years older than Yuri. While the character is still not great by any means, it’s certainly a better character than the villains in the show. They are about as forgettable as the show itself.
That’s actually an apt way to describe the anime: Forgettable. I liked the first series, but if you were to ask me what the fuck happened, I would space out for about 4 minutes, remembering only the tense yaoi moments and sincere stupidly of yuri himself. I can’t even recall villains in the first series, other than Adalbert, and if you think he was a villain, then you might need to higher your standards.
In a nutshell to describe characters of this series- Largely likable, largely forgettable, but entirely entertaining.
The plot is what it is as well. It isn’t so much messy as it is just plain bad. So, really, that’s sort of a good thing. The main plot in this third series often had me mouthing obscenities and face palming myself. It’s like “Okay, yuri did this again” or “Yuri, how are you this stupid”.
Then, the show can’t even make up for it’s over the top cliche sincerity, with adding cool fight scenes or even blood or gore. Nobody ever seems to die in this show. It’s like it’s made for 9 year olds but could only be appreciated by 14 year olds.
The art, given the year it was made, is passable, but considering other shows made the same year, is pretty crap in comparison. It’s not really bad per say, just underwhelming and sometimes, like when it comes to the animation of the show, hilariously bad. The animation is so mediocre it makes the art appear above average in comparison.
What the show does really suffer from at all, is sound. The background music, just as in the first series, is lovely, potent, and always fitting. It’s not amazing, but certainly the best aspect of this entire show.
To conclude: The 3rd series of Kyo Kara Maoh’s cringe worthy cliche moments and characters, as well as it’s childlike tone and attitudes, are only saved due to the likability of the show- a likeness that’s rather embarrassing that even among anime fans, I rarely mention this as something I watched and actually enjoyed.
You probably will too.
The action sucks, plot is ridiculous most of the times but its no less enjoyable than others! You can’t help but feel warm and fluffy inside while watching this anime. I’ve seen a lot of anime with better storyline, art, plot but not all of them can affect a person’s emotion. I think that what makes it possible are the characters. I’m not an expert when it comes to analyzing stories but I think that the characters in this anime are well designed. Not in terms of appearance but in personality and background story. I felt genuinely sad for the character Geneus despite being a villain. For Saralegui, i felt irritation at the same time sympathy but regardless he’s one of my most favorite character in this series! Also, I’m not a fan of pure, naive characters since most of them are just dumb and helpless, but Yuuri is an exception. He doesnt waver. He stands his ground and most importantly he fights for what he believes in. Yuuri is truly PURE. regarding the shonen ai department, theres completely NO development but I dont feel disappointed at all.
To summarize, the story revolves around loyalty, trust and friendship. Its worth watching and I plan to rewatch the whole anime in the near future!
Best episode: episode 25, when the 10 nobles and yuuri played “shinou’ed away”… I somewhat felt proud for yuuri 🙂
4: Soul Eater
English: Soul Eater
MAL Score: 7.85
Death City is home to the famous Death Weapon Meister Academy, a technical academy headed by the Shinigami—Lord Death himself. Its mission: to raise “Death Scythes” for the Shinigami to wield against the many evils of their fantastical world. These Death Scythes, however, are not made from physical weapons; rather, they are born from human hybrids who have the ability to transform their bodies into Demon Weapons, and only after they have consumed the souls of 99 evil beings and one witch’s soul.
Soul Eater Evans, a Demon Scythe who only seems to care about what’s cool, aims to become a Death Scythe with the help of his straight-laced wielder, or meister, Maka Albarn. The contrasting duo work and study alongside the hot headed Black☆Star and his caring weapon Tsubaki, as well as the Shinigami’s own son, Death the Kid, an obsessive-compulsive dual wielder of twin pistols Patty and Liz.
Soul Eater follows these students of Shibusen as they take on missions to collect souls and protect the city from the world’s threats while working together under the snickering sun to become sounder in mind, body, and soul.
This show is incredibly stylish, literally everything has a very cool vibe about it and really stands out from other similar animes. If FLCL and Bleach came together and had a love child, that child would be Soul Eater. The characters are all likeable and unique, even if they do follow the list of shonen anime stereotypes (loud kid who wants to be the best, check; quiet cool guy, check; self-depricating girl who holds much potential power, double check.) The adult characters are less stereotypical than the kids, which can make them more interesting to watch in certain episodes, however. Even if their personalities are familiar, there is enough unique and enjoyable about them that it never becomes a problem.
The fights themselves are very well animated and choreographed. They’re all ridiculous and cartoony, but they are always visceral and exciting to watch. The progression is also very shonen in nature, with enemies that are way stronger than the heroes, and the heroes having to train to beat them and gain new powers, but again its so entertaining it shouldn’t become a big issue. The fights are all about style and execution though, and if you keep that in mind and don’t analyze them with rational thought, they all become very entertaining and exciting. The first 26 episodes are great flashy entertainment for anime fans.
I really wish I could stop the review at this point, and tell you Soul Eater is a really fun shonen series that fans of action anime should see. Now the bad point of the show, the entire second half of the series. Around the halfway point, Soul Eater changes from a lighthearted, entertaining fun action anime into a serious, melodramatic action anime. The story starts to take itself way too seriously, and the enjoyment of this anime greatly suffers because of this. When your anime is about people who transform into guns and swords who fight witches, it’s kind of hard to take the change in tone seriously.
Soul Eater ends up losing most if not all of its charm because of this drastic and unnecessary shift in tone. All of the characters become whiny punks who sulk all day, and Maka becomes borderline unbearable as a main character with her melancholic attitude and constant bitching about how she’s not strong enough to fight the main enemy of the show. All of this nonsense comes together in a final episode that is so ridiculous I would sound stupid if I tried to explain it in this review. Let me just put it to you this way, all themes the show was building up to this point are thrown out the window, the main villain turns into a gigantic pansy, and the logic behind the ending makes absolutely no sense in the grand scheme of the show. Oh, and it tries to copy Evangelion in ways that are so unnecessary and artistically nonsensical in the show that I laughed out loud when I first saw them in this episode.
What in the world happened to Soul Eater? What happened to this really fun, always entertaining action anime in the second half of the show? What is with all this ridiculous emo nonsense that gets introduced in the second half? How the hell could Bones, the studio behind Fullmetal Alchemist and Eureka Seven fail so badly at this show? I have no idea how to answer any of these questions. If you are going to watch Soul Eater, watch the first 26 episodes, and then stop. Otherwise, you are in store for one of the strangest, confusing, and most disappointing action animes ever made. Come on Bones, you are better than this.
Final Grade, C-
The first few episodes start off as prequels for the main seven characters – three ‘Meisters/Technicians’ and their ‘Weapons’. These episodes are ones that I found to be somewhat disjointed, and to be honest I probably would have given up on the anime after 4 episodes or so if it wasn’t for aforementioned pally. Swiftly afterwards, once the main characters start to interact together, I was hooked. And shortly after that when the frankly ingenious support characters were introduced and fleshed out, I was manic about it to the point where I was screaming in outrage at the screen if any other character DARED to so much as harm a hair on their heads.
Plot – [7/10] I wouldn’t describe the plot as being either typical or particularly inventive. I will say, however, that it does dangle a standard premise in front of you for a good few episodes (in order for a Technician to turn their Weapon into the ultimate Death Scythe, they must collect 99 evil souls and then one Witch’s soul; cue epic quest) and then almost entirely removes it for something much better – a pleasant surprise that, as I understand it, doesn’t quite happen in the manga. While some elements of the plot remain unclear and somewhat incomplete by the end of the series, I ultimately felt that it didn’t detract too much from my enjoyment. Bar the very last scenes, unfortunately, in which I was left starving for a bit more of a tie-up, or better yet, a follow-up montage in the ending credits. Still, I suppose that’s what the manga’s for.
Characters – [9/10] The meat of Soul Eater, with some big-name voice actors who really give the characters life. Firstly, we have Miyano Mamoru-san (Yagami Light of Death Note, Kiba of Wolf’s Rain) as the symmetry-obssessed Death the Kid (an awkward-sounding name, I have to say, that belies a truly slick character); the ever-prolific and utterly fabulous Koyasu Takehito-san (Sakarazuka Seishirou of Tokyo Babylon, Zechs Merquise/Milliardo Peacecraft of Gundam Wing) as the Weapon Excalibur, who will surprise you in several different ways with his presence throughout the series; and Kobayashi Yumiko-san (Sarah McDougal of Love Hina, Dan Taichi of Prince of Tennis) as the headstrong Black*Star, to whom a nod must go for the most subtle yet engaging main-character development; to name a few. On top of these, Soul Eater showcases a surprising amount of young, new talent – notably, the voices of Soul (the title character) and Maka Albarn, the female lead who I unfortunately found to be incredibly irritating.
Let me make my point hard on this. Maka is hard-working and academically very smart, with a down-to-earth attitude that helps her to deal with her absent mother and womanizing father, who recently divorced prior to the start of the series. But (and oh, it’s a big But) it doesn’t last. Rather than character growth, we seem to have a case of the exact opposite as the series progresses. Maka repeatedly ends up making absolutely ridiculous decisions that can in no way be logically justified. As much as I don’t like to use Naruto as a comparison, I think I have to. Maka’s choices aren’t a Naruto-style situation wherein Naruto makes sometimes-stupid decisions because of his raw emotions, because that’s Naruto’s character and way of life; plus, Naruto has (for the most part) the strength to back up his convictions. Maka, on the other hand, does not. Not only that, but she apparently doesn’t learn from her monumental mistakes. And /then/ she’ll bitch to the series’ headstrong character Black*Star about how he acts before he thinks. Though, come to think of it, at least Maka isn’t exactly a hypocrite on that matter because it’s shown that she does in fact think about her actions before she carries them out, comes to the conclusion that it’s stupid… and then does the wrong thing /anyway/. If it wasn’t for almost every other character providing sustained interest and sheer compelling brilliance whenever Maka’s off-screen, I think Soul Eater would fall far short of greatness.
Art – [9/10] And of course, there can be no characters without the visual art. While the quality of the animation itself is fairly standard shounen-style fare, the rating for this section gets bumped up enormously for originality. The designs of virtually everything – from the fantastically surreal moon and sun to the laboratory of the anime’s resident Mad Scientist (who would have an entire paragraph in the above section if it wouldn‘t turn into an essay on why he’s such a /darn good character/ on both an emotional and a story-telling level) to the eyes of the later villains – positively shines with mouth-watering creativity. I could wax lyrical about the brain-melting inventiveness of the character designs all day. It’s honestly worth watching for the artistic genius alone.
Music – [8/10] With the exception of the very first ending theme (which was painful, if I’m honest), I thoroughly appreciated each different ending and opening. They were well-chosen and fitted the style and feel of the anime well. The music used throughout the episodes themselves suited the atmosphere wonderfully – the fighting music was driving, the sad-scenes music was sorrowful and the cheery music gave the anime a smile. While it wasn’t as memorable as, say, the music to Gundam Wing or Gintama, it did its job in style. Also in this section, I’d like to add that the song sung by the Weapon Excalibur made me almost die of Sheer Heart-Rending Joy.
Overall – [9/10] Easy to watch and a great mix of creepy, surreal and fun. Objectively, I’d give this a high 8, and then I’m going to take the liberty of bumping it up to a 9 for the downright enjoyment I experienced with this show. I thoroughly recommend this to anyone who enjoys Full Metal Alchemist or Gintama – or, for that matter, any shounen manga/anime – as well as anyone who enjoyed the quirks of such series as Ouran High School Host Club.
Soul Eater is one of the most unique anime’s I have ever seen in the sense of graphics and story. The graphics are ultra-high quality, along with very interesting anime cut-scenes. Soul Eater has a little taste of everything an anime should have – a first-class story, superior graphics, a modest bit of pervert, and a VERY interactive world. Camera angle and character motions are very musical, flow very well with each other, and so on – which is one of the biggest plus sides to this anime. The characters are very fun and surprising – which is a big part of the story.
10/10 ~ Epic.
This review will be updated as the series progresses.
If you did in fact find this review helpful, I do take value in my “” rating, so please take a moment of your time to tell me how you liked this review.
3: Saiunkoku Monogatari 2nd Season
English: Tales of Saiunkoku
Japanese: 彩雲国物語 第2シリーズ
MAL Score: 8.05
Shuurei Kou and her friend Eigetsu To, a boy prodigy of humble origins, have been appointed co-governors of the Sa province, one of the eight provinces in Saiunkoku. Together, they decide to make the province an academic research center in the hopes of bringing a long overdue prosperity to the region.
However, while Shuurei goes to the capital to obtain approvals for the ambitious project, the Sa province’s recently established tranquility is threatened by a pandemic that brings both death and turmoil as it begins to spread among the people. Counting on Eigetsu to monitor the situation until her return, Shuurei seeks support from her allies to find a suitable treatment. Yet, Eigetsu’s past personal conflicts distract him, providing an opportunity for opponents of Shuurei’s position to take advantage of the troubles and undermine her authority.
Becoming a government official has been Shuurei’s lifelong dream, but it is no easy task for the first woman undertaking such a position. Will she step up and overcome this great challenge or give in to the looming adversities?
Story – 10
The second season starts off around where the last one ends, so I recommend you watch the first season before you tackle this one. Anyway, the second season is easily even more intricate than the first, with Ryuuki finally taking charge as emperor, something not all members of government appreciates. New enemies appear, and the clans continue to feud as always. Every detail in the story is important, something viewers should be used to by now.
Animation – 9
I really appreciated all the costumes this time around. Everyone’s hair, the jewelery, and building designs, all of it is so wonderfully done. Actions scenes could be a bit better, but that’s not really what the story is about.
Sound – 9
It’s the same, top-quality sounds as the first season. The OP/ED haven’t changed, which makes me glad. They’re really fitting. The seiyūs are kind of awesome and wonderfully casted. Some standouts include: Serian, played by the same seiyu as Xingke from Code Geass (ironic since they’re both very similar characters) and Ran Ryuuren (Hei from Darker than BLACK). Okay, the whole cast is amazing.
Character – 10
All the characters from the previous season appear once again, gaining even more development. Kourin and Eigetsu get a particularity epic storyline, something I did not expect, but ended up loving. Shuurei is as motivated as before, trying her hardest to succeed. Ryuuki is also doing his best, and slowly building a group of loyal supporters. Seiran has found a place for himself in the royal guard, and is finally allowing his true personality to show through. Everyone is wonderfully written as usual, probably thanks to Saiunkoku Monogatari being based off a series of novels.
Enjoyment – 10
The second season takes everything I love about this series and adds even more. All my favourite secondary characters get their chances to shine, and some new characters bring fresh life to the show (Go Jyūsan-hime!). I was impressed by the costumes and soothed by the sounds of the erhu. Usually, second seasons aren’t as good as their firsts, but Saiunkoku Monogatari does not stick to this norm.
You know that series that you obsess over continuously like some druggie? The series that makes you even risk staying up at night and pretending to be asleep when your parents check on you but you have to watch it? It was that sort of series for me.
The thing about this anime is that it completely sucks you in. At first I was very reluctant to watch it because of the whole ‘harem’ thing which really annoys me but I decided to give it a shot when the “ohmygosh exams are coming” craze hit my head. And then I couldn’t stop watching.
I watched both seasons in a week. I sacrificed a lot to finish it. AND I DON’T REGRET ANYTHING. The characters are all so different and they feel so real, it feels good to be able to distinguish between them. In season two the story just got better and there were times I bit my pillow in frustration or to simply stop myself from screaming. My family caught me talking and gushing while pointing at the laptop screen but they decided to leave me alone. I would like to thank them for that.
Then there were the new costumes and Shuurie got some new hairstyles. Good for her. BY THE WAY, Shuurie (am I spelling her name right? I can’t tell. I feel like a mindless zombie because I just finished watching the last episode) is my all time favorite heroine now! I rarely get to see such a strong female lead who doesn’t annoy me and, for some funny reason, in my eyes she just got prettier and prettier after every episode. And I was like, have you ever met such a beautiful character, both inside and out?
New characters were introduced and some older characters’ background details were explored. Very touching stuff, actually. These people feel real to me. I’m glad Ryuuki became stronger in the end and found his resolve and learned to be a better emperor.
There’s so much going on inside my head right now. It’s a jumbled mess. But, the most important question is, WHERE IS SEASON THREE? Breaks my heart. honestly.
Excuse me while I go look for the novels online. Goodbye (^_^)/
2: Ookami to Koushinryou
English: Spice and Wolf
MAL Score: 8.25
Holo is a powerful wolf deity who is celebrated and revered in the small town of Pasloe for blessing the annual harvest. Yet as years go by and the villagers become more self-sufficient, Holo, who stylizes herself as the “Wise Wolf of Yoitsu,” has been reduced to a mere folk tale. When a traveling merchant named Kraft Lawrence stops at Pasloe, Holo offers to become his business partner if he eventually takes her to her northern home of Yoitsu. The savvy trader recognizes Holo’s unusual ability to evaluate a person’s character and accepts her proposition. Now in the possession of both sharp business skills and a charismatic negotiator, Lawrence inches closer to his goal of opening his own shop. However, as Lawrence travels the countryside with Holo in search of economic opportunities, he begins to realize that his aspirations are slowly morphing into something unexpected.
Based on the popular light novel of the same name, Ookami to Koushinryou, also known as Spice and Wolf, fuses the two polar genres of economics and romance to create an enthralling story abundant with elaborate schemes, sharp humor, and witty dialogue. Ookami to Koushinryou is more than just a story of bartering; it turns into a journey of searching for a lost identity in an ever-changing world.
Ever since i was in middle school I used to play video games with trading and how prices rise and fall from location to location and how supply and demand and even risk margins for investing in certain things to turn a profit. That was the main goal, to make money. And that is the main goal of our main character Lawrence Kraft. Through his travels he entrusted a small heretic town that believed in a wolf god named Horo that watched over their crops. And it just happens that Lawrence Kraft befriends this god and he soon finds out that she just wants to go home. And so the adventure begins….
Being a story about trading goods there is bound to be alot of dialog between bartering, negotiating, trading information and the chemistry between Horo and Lawrence. If theres going to be alot of dialog an my anime it better at least intelligent and make sense. Luckily this show does it very well, almost perfect. And its safe to say this is because how Horo and Lawrence feed off each others energies so well that you almost feel like you’re right there arguing with Horo. Theres no "voice in the head" in this anime, all their thoughts and ideas go between each other and nothing is never left out. Although little background details are left out for time constraints, viewers with an open mind can understand most of the unmentioned side stories. Those who cant figure out the small things, the subbers (ayako) were nice to place side notes for every episode. Its very refreshing to see an anime that actually takes time to explain things to the point that you are convinced enough to believe the situation at hand.
Lawrence and Horo are the only main characters of the show so having a good chemistry between them was key but also having a strong seiyu cast for those two is another reason why this show is addicting. Their voices emit their emotions perfectly and the background music just makes this show so much more elegant and beautiful. Its basically consists of a string quartet. Who ever composed all of the background music must be one of the best composers I’ve ever heard. I never knew so many emotions can come out of just a group of strings. Environmental sound effects are just as what you would expect after hearing the beautiful strings and artwork. Crickets chirp at night, flames flicker and click, they’re all of high quality. But they never interfere with the dialog at all which I enjoy the most.
The last component that brings this whole show to masterpiece status is the artwork. This show is best shown on HD resolution definitely. You can see all the painstaking detail it took for all the artists to draw all the settings of the medieval towns, each cobble stone looks different from each other, the stained glass is painted with perfect care. Even all the guild halls and churches have a massive feel to them. Everything about the artwork screams perfection and is easily one of the best artwork I’ve laid my eyes on. The character animations aren’t as greatly skilled as the background and static animations but it does hold a medium-high quality at best. But Horo and Lawrence are still quite memorable throughout the whole show.
Overall this show crams so much information and dialog to the viewers its easy to say that its not for everyone. But this is indeed a very intelligent, beautiful, and intriguing show. Its a show that you will either understand or not. As for me I love shows like this that leaves JUST enough out for the viewer to make them think and analyze about the episode they just saw. And I am a total sucker for beautiful artwork and music, but character chemistry is what drives me (and all my other 10’s on my list) to score this a 10.
…mind you this show still isn’t for everyone.
TL;DR – Great show. Refreshing medieval drama without corny magic (stunning historically accurate and fun depiction of medieval economics and commerce), immensely likeable main characters, awesome period-appropriate soundtrack, amazing dub, good art. Watch this show, despite the unfortunate cliffhanger ending of Season 2.
This is a great lesson on ‘Never judge a book by the cover’. That said, I wish they had a better cover… Spice and Wolf was marketed with a half-naked furry wolf girl. Like most people, I was repulsed by it at first sight. Little did I know this seemingly shallow fanservice poster girl is one of the deepest characters in any anime ever, and the show is far better than the light novels it’s based on.
Spice and Wolf doesn’t have a grand story – but follows the motivations of its two main characters – Lawrence, a traveling merchant, and Holo, an outcast diety traveling with him. This gives the show freedom to deeply invest into its arcs, and use them as an excellent form of character-building. It also does something great – leaves a lot unsaid, but does it so tastefully that it creates mystery and intrigue rather than frustration.
Besides one of the characters being an outcast god, this is an incredibly low-fantasy, low-magic medieval drama, and I haven’t seen anything quite like it in Anime – that I enjoyed.
The main characters are incredible. They’re fun, intelligent, and never compromised to move the plot along. When something happens, it almost always makes sense given the characters’ motivations and flaws. The character flaws are so well written, which lets the characters be defined by their shortcomings as much as their strengths. It’s great to see them experience joy, fear, exhileration, jealousy, rage… All in complex, unique, believable ways.
The side characters aren’t as great, but their screen time is so limited that I don’t care, they serve their purpose and don’t overstay their welcome. Bonus points because the English Dub is far better than the Japanese and brings out the characters way more.
The animation isn’t groundbreaking or extravagant, but is thoughtful and gorgeous. It captures the setting of a medieval world before the advent of mass industry, blending undisturbed nature with primitive settlements and medieval cities, all without obnoxious fantasy outfits and outlandish weapons. They changed the studio in the second season, but honestly the different style works pretty well too.
The soundtrack is great – Yuuji Yoshino seems to have gone to great lengths to specifically use historically accurate instrumentation and techniques, and it shows. Everything hits home, from the festival music (there’s a LOT of festival music) to the darker, suspenful tracks.
I can’t talk about the sound without bringing this up. WATCH. THE. DUB. The Japanese voices can’t hold a candle to the English. J. Michael Tatum is a genius, and Brina Palencia is the definitive Holo. The Japanese voices are full of Anime cliches – and once removed, this show has almost none, making it a truly refreshing watch.
Don’t miss it.
How could this not turn out to be brilliant?
When discussing Spice and Wolf, the very title of the series is of interest. More particularly, the sequence of the words of that title. Whereas the Japanese original should have produced the sequence ‘Wolf and Spice’, the reverse is used in the English title; both sequences are used when people talk about the series. The very preference of one sequence of the title’s elements over the other might very well show which such element is more important to the viewer. Equally, it will probably betray appreciation of the show as a whole, as one of the two elements is clearly inferior to the other.
-= Wolf =-
One way of looking at this series is to see it as a traveller’s tale, perhaps even one of a budding romance: a story of two companions trekking from place to place to reach their goal and becoming more firm friends with each bump in the road – bumps that are present, partly as that’s how roads are, but mostly as a method of giving the travellers something to struggle with and to overcome.
Such a view can easily enough be taken, since both protagonists, travelling merchant Kraft Lorenz and his companion Holo, have a penchant of running into trouble at each way stop, either of their own making or by coincidence and plot-convenience, and especially since theirs is an age-old adventure tale, a tale of crossing a continent while finding one’s way home. The particular angle from which Spice and Wolf looks at this story is noteworthy, though.
Kraft Lorenz is one of the more unusual characters concepted within the entirety of anime and manga. A travelling trader owning little but his own horse and carriage and dreaming of making enough money to open a shop, he is hardly an archetypal hero. Nor is he concepted to become one. The focus of his character and his actions lie squarely on his business. A generally upright and decent, if competitive, man, his is a less than overly adventurous life of trying to strike a good deal and staving off bankruptcy, trading in commodities and making the best of opportunities encountered by favourable exchange rates or the novelty of trading on credit. At first glance it may not be the most exciting of lives to watch, but it is made up for by the detail poured in each individual transaction and the worries they bring to someone whose very survival hinges on the successful deal.
There is also the little fact that he has made a promise to a spirit of an age past, letting this spirit travel with him and helping her search for her far-off home for as long as their routes overlap. His motivation is partly one of expedience, partly one of awe, and partly one of wishing for a companion on the road.
While Lorenz is simply a character who is able to assess and laugh about himself and who never strays too far from the path of weighing all his options and usually acting from his thoughts instead of his emotions (somewhat rare in itself), only being overcome at times by the greed his profession might by necessity entail, Holo is what, to many, makes the show memorable.
First of all, there’s her concept. She’s a ‘Roggenwolf’, a wolf-spirit from folk legend who was a protector of the rye fields and the harvest; the legend depicted in the anime, including the idea that the wolf hides in the last sheaf of rye, comes directly from the actual legend (although the anime most likely speaks about barley, not rye – it’s hard to tell, with ‘mugi’ meaning barley as well as rye and wheat). But Spice and Wolf adds to this simple notion, mentioning how she agreed to be present in the fields in days when the success of the harvest depended on the whims of nature and the supernatural, only to be forgotten when progress and developing technology made her antiquated, until she roused herself from her placidity, longing to return to her old home, a semi-mythical place where everything was bathed in a brilliant silver.
A being who is not human, Holo is shown to enjoy the marvels of the human world with all the lack of solicitude of a child. Seeing herself as better than humans, she is a trickster, toying with whatever interests her, shown to like mind-games, wittiness and swiftness in conversation, all the while seemingly thoroughly enjoying being pampered, being treated to large amounts of alcoholic beverages and socialising.
While this might make her likable, perhaps even charming, it doesn’t make her stand out as a character. What does manage to do so is the fact that, every now and again, without too much attention being piled on it, she, and the audience with her, is reminded of the fact that she is, in truth and not only in word, different, a spirit. At such times realisation creeps through that she is, in fact, hundreds of years old and wise in the ways of the world – but in the ways of the world that was and now is gone. She is a stranger in a strange land, having awoken from slumber only to find that what she once knew is lost. It infuses her with a sense of loneliness that might not always be the most convincing, but at least appears to be sincere.
Viewed as a traveller’s tale, their story is one of visiting new places and getting involved with the goings-on there, either by becoming embroiled in the affairs of that locale or by interacting with the local markets and traders in a professional capacity. The different tales, more or less one per locale, depicting the ideological problem of Holo being a wolf-spirit and the fiasco of investing in something the market is flooded with, among others, focusing on the interaction of the two travelling companions in their persons and professions with the wider world, generally lead to a calm pacing that give the two ample space to converse with each other and their surroundings and developing the bond between such unlikely bedfellows.
As it should be, that bond is slow to develop. Their travelling together at first being nothing but a marriage of convenience, slowly the practical agreement gains an emotional aspect as trust starts to build up. Equally slowly, their conversations change from the purely economical (in all meanings of that word) to the moral and the emotional, yet both keep their distance, befitting two persons who have only known each other for a short time: though banter is exchanged, sometimes infused with quite a bit of wit and mocking of self, once it starts getting personal both have a tendency to back off unless it is truly important for their travels together. If there is no progress in their relationship, this is because there should not be any: Lorenz and Holo are companions, perhaps friends. By knowing each other, they can work together; by caring, they can travel together. But more would be out of place: they are fundamentally different persons in outlook and goals and their focus on the practical side of things only makes them all the more realistic and mature.
-= Spice =-
Looking at Spice and Wolf as the story of its two protagonists, travelling companions and unlikely friends slowly growing into a stronger relationship is, however, missing the trees for the forest. The super-story isn’t but a method to link the little tales together. What makes this series one that stands out from the crowd is the staggering amount of detail poured into the fictional world, a world brought to life in many of its facets by the highly unconventional method of making one of the protagonists a merchant.
As a trader, Lorenz is bound to explore the cities he travels through and while he does so the audience is treated to a setting that is as evocative as it is true to actual history. Though Spice and Wolf is ostensibly set in a fictional world, it becomes clear very soon that this world is the Central Europe of the late 14th, early 15th centuries in all but name. In particular, the cities appear as the market towns of the late Middle Ages, and the trading guilds mentioned are a clear reference to the rising Italian companies and the Hanseatic League.
The actual content of the show has little to do with the relationship between Holo and Lorenz, but is squarely focused on immersing the audience in the particulars of the small-scale trade of a time when pepper was worth more than gold. It is this what makes Spice and Wolf different from almost anything else out there, and the series makes the most of it, being sure to place enough emphasis on minute details to bring both the practice of the trade and its mentality to life.
Through Lorenz and his dealings, the audience is shown the workings of the guilds and bourses of that age, including the modus operandi of the early international trading companies and the limited use (and understanding) of trading on credit, as well as the developing sense of difference between nominal and real value of coinage. While watching Lorenz and Holo exchanging banter, the audience is also shown the more mundane aspects of city life, being taken to watch folk festivals, inns and hostels and a variety of stalls and shops.
The faithful rendition of historical detail of the setting – utensils, architecture, accoutrements all, and even, for once, the ships – surpasses anything I’ve seen to date in anime, putting your average (and better-than-average) Renaissance fair to shame. From the exact construction of buildings to the fact that trenchers were usually made of bread, it seems as if every single detail of the daily life of people has been carefully checked and incorporated. It does so well that I was honestly miffed when noticing that one letter shown was written in modern, not mediaeval, German.
Equally striking is the general optimism of the general worldview, a sense that people can understand the world and leave their footprint on it. This, too, is an important part of the portrayed setting and true to historical fact. The time was, and is explained to be in the setting, one of technological progress, one wherein more and more tools were developed to aid agriculture and industry and less and less was dependent on chance. Belief systems focus on the human and their mastery of the world, with nothing standing between man and his God but his own mind, resulting in a general outlook of opportunity, contrasting sharply to most fantasy and historical shows and befitting the more grounded story marvellously.
-= And everything nice =-
And then, there is myth. Vague, half-forgotten, impossible but in the dark places of the world. Hidden in plain view, in tales from the countryside and quaint mannerisms of people who should know better, shadows of a system of belief of a world past still remain. Only very seldom made explicit, Spice and Wolf employs one of the more subtle and low-key depictions of magic, neatly integrating it into the overall setting. Spirits being real, they only survive where the remaining tales say they ought to be. Reminding the audience every now and then that there is more to the fictional world than market towns, Holo is made less of a unique phenomenon and her desire to return to a home the continued existence of which she can’t even be certain of, is thereby enhanced. The supporting cast, as well, complements the setting very well, living wholly in the world of man’s endeavours or still faintly recalling what’s outside the walls, considering alchemy to be a science yet still a bit fearful of getting involved in it because of its storied connection to the supernatural.
Being a series with a slow-moving plot and a lot of dialogue, it was a good choice to try and have each conversation be infused with at least an attempt at wit, and it’s nice to see how the failing attempts are often recognised as such by the characters themselves. Always remaining on the safe side of the rational-emotional spectrum, the conversations have a lightness and lack of unnecessary outbursts that keeps the overall tone of the series intact.
Mention should further be made of the music. Granted, it’s about as standard folk fair as it comes, but it fits the setting, accompanying especially the more festive moments perfectly and has the good graces to sometimes simply not be very good. As far as I can tell, there has been made something of an effort to only use traditional folk instruments and what’s left of the musical scores of the time (little of which is certain to be actually old, by the way), and some of these instruments just aren’t capable of producing the purer sounds their modern varieties can produce. The opening tune’s lyrics also do a very good job of introducing and accompanying the type of story told.
-= Icing and Cake =-
Looking at Spice and Wolf as the tale of Holo and Lorenz is mistaking the icing for the cake. What comes first in this show is the spice, that is, the setting. In many ways, the travels of the protagonists are but a means to show the audience a small piece of a living and breathing world.
Original, if not unique, in focus and angle, superbly detailed in setting and at least decent in adding a glue to fit the separate stories together, Spice and Wolf was, to me, 2008’s biggest surprise and an instant favourite. I’ll admit that my particular interest in the era alluded to makes me biased, but even without it the originality of the concept, the integration of actual and made-up legend in a detailed world and the soothing charm of the low-key telling of the tales would have me recommend it as one of the very few shows that shirk away from the incessant need to bombard audiences with action and suspense, romance and relationship or like topics.
Charming, enjoyable by all age groups, calm and beautiful in its manifold details, Spice and Wolf is a delight to sit down by after a long day and simply enjoy.
1: Aria the Origination
English: Aria the Origination
Japanese: ARIA The ORIGINATION
MAL Score: 8.51
In the 24th century on the planet Aqua, three girls—Akari Mizunashi, Alice Carroll, and Aika S. Granzchesta—continue to work hard toward achieving their goal of becoming Prima Undines: professional tour guide gondoliers. Luckily, the girls have the guidance of the three best Prima Undines in Neo-Venezia—Alicia Florence, Athena Glory, and Akira E. Ferrari—who are known as the “Water Fairies” in honor of their skill. With their help, the young apprentices train hard and work to overcome any situations that they find themselves in.
Aria The Origination follows the hardships and daily lives of these three young girls, who are doing their best to improve as tour gondoliers in Neo-Venezia, a terraformed replica of Venice.
The story continues in much the same fashion as the first two series, dealing as it does with the daily lives of Akari, Aika and Alice and their efforts to become Prima Undines, however the biggest difference is that the characters are not only developed more in Origination, but developed well.
One of the main strengths of the Aria series as a whole is the effortless manner in which it tells its various stories, and Origination is the pinnacle of this. The plot in each episode is far more fluid than in the previous two series, and as the show progresses the story moves into a barely unnoticeable higher gear as the bittersweet climax approaches.
There are two things which make the story in Origination noticeably different from the first two series. The first, and most obvious difference, is the fact that Origination has a goal in mind, and unlike the previous two offerings, doesn’t simply peter out towards the end but actually gains momentum. The second difference is surprisingly (and somewhat unfortunately), unrealised by many, however it is key to appreciating the franchise in its entirety.
As I stated in my review of the second series, The Animation was simply an introduction to the characters and Neo Venezia, whilst The Natural was an introduction to the world of Aqua. This is important to know as many people misjudge the first two series and believe they have no real focus. In fact they do, and without that focus Origination would never have been as good as it is. If one keeps in mind that the whole point of The Animation is not to develop the characters, but simply to introduce them, then it makes things a little clearer as to why it was structured in such a way. The same goes for The Natural, as the focus there was to familiarise the viewer with the world of Aqua, and its wonders and oddities. The characters receive some measure of development in the second series, however this is not the main focus of the show, as it is essential for the viewer, when watching the final series, to have more than a passing familiarity with the characters and their environs.
This is where Origination steps in. From the outset the assumption is that one is familiar with the characters, Neo Venezia, and the world of Aqua, and because of this Origination can proceed with the story proper without the need for introductions, supernatural events, exploration, etc. Everything up until that point was simply preparation, which at first may seem wasteful, but watching the first and second season is a pleasant experience so one could fairly state that the effort was justified to a degree.
The art and animation in Origination is much the same as the first two outings. There isn’t any real change to the design of the characters, or to Neo Venezia and Aqua, although it should be pointed out that Origination has more in common with the first season in terms of art and backgrounds as it is mainly centred in Neo Venezia as well. The quality of animation remains superb, with no real noticeable flaws, whilst the level of detail in both the animation and the artwork is once again excellent.
One of the strongest areas for the series as a whole is in the quality of its sound and music, and whilst the first two series were excellent in this department, Origination represents a step up. The subtlety and detail of some of the effects are truly phenomenal, and although the thematic music may be the same as the previous two series, the score actually feels fresh in Origination (more on this in a bit). The voice actors are, once more, excellent, however there is a very subtle difference with their portrayals in Origination in that the characters seem more self-assured than in either of the previous two series.
Characters are as adorable as ever, but once again there is a difference to them. The feeling of self assurance one receives from the voice actors is carried through with the actions of the characters themselves, and this is one of the ways in which they receive some of their phenomenal development. This doesn’t simply apply to Akari, Aika and Alice either, but is also extended to Alicia, Akira, Athena, Akatsuki, Al, and even Grandma Akino.
The surprising thing about Origination’s characters is that, in comparison to The Natural, they possess and air that is fresh and new. This feeling is also inherent in the score (as I mentioned earlier), in the settings, and in the voices too. There is a very simple reason for this though. Whilst it may (or may not), be true that the viewers are already familiar with the series before watching Origination, it is a certainty that everyone who has worked on it will know the characters, Neo Venezia and Aqua, pretty much inside out. This, together with the fact that Origination actually has a focus and a definite end, means that everything was already defined before the series even began. It is because of this that Origination is able to achieve its remarkable feat of plot and character development, something it could never have done had everything been told over the course of one season.
In terms of enjoyment, Origination is something I would recommend to everyone, however it should be remembered that the first two series should be watched prior to this. The show is as relaxing as The Animation, whilst retaining the same adventurous quality of The Natural. The characters actually become more endearing as the show progresses, especially if one has watched seasons 1 and 2, and whilst the format may still be episodic, it doesn’t suffer from the same ambiguity that affected the previous two series.
Origination is an excellent show that successfully retains the essence of the series whilst at the same time developing the characters and advancing the plot. Because of the definite focus of the show, things that may have seemed stale in The Natural have been given a new lease of life and, whilst this may not seem like a difficult thing to achieve, it is actually one of the hardest things to do in any medium.
All good things must end.
Man, I hate that saying. I hate it for how true it is. Kozue Amano, why couldn’t you keep it going? Did you run out of ideas? Was five and a half years enough? Did you already plan this out? Wait, what am I saying? Of course you planned it out. Month after month, you crafted chapter after chapter of this masterpiece.
Jyunichi Sato, thank you for taking this work and running with it. For three separate seasons, each one improving on the last, you dealt the manga justice. You even added a new character that Kozue retconned into the story. And she was fabulous.
I should probably stop the ranting and the gratitude-giving and get to the review. Although this is under Aria the Origination, this will be a review of all three seasons plus the OAV.
Aria is a bloody masterpiece.
Yes, you heard me right. "All 10’s will make you untrustworthy and prejudiced, and people won’t pay attention to your reviews anymore!" Blah blah blah, whatever. I don’t care if no one ever reads my reviews again. ARIA is that good. I savored each and every episode of the anime, along with each and every chapter of the manga. Whenever I watch ARIA, I have this stupid grin on my face. I can’t help it.
So why is Aria that good?
One, the magic of the characters. You start off with Akari, the cheery protagonist, arriving on Aqua (used to be Mars) to fulfill her dream of becoming a master gondolier, an Undine. There, she meets her mentor, the perfect Alicia, who teachs Akari the ins and outs of the trade. Along the way, Akari befriends Aika, the heir to one of the biggest gondolier companies on the planet, Himeya. She also befriends Alice, the genius gondolier from Orange Planet. Aika also has a mentor, the ever-so-awesome Akira. Alice’s mentor is the ever-so-clumsy Athena. Akari also meets Akatsuki, the apprentice Salamander who controls Aqua’s climate, Albert, the Gnome who controls Aqua’s gravity, and Woody, the Sylph who makes deliveries by aircraft. Akari also meets Akino, the mentor of Alicia, and Ai, a girl from Manhome (Earth). Yes, all of the characters have names that start with A with the exception of Woody, but there is never a time when you are confused between who’s who. Character introductions and development are handled impeccably well.
Two, the complete lack of an overarching plot. Yep. Every episode is basically a one-shot, providing a glimpse at the utopian society of Neo-Venezia. Some episodes are character driven, while others are setting-driven. There are no antagonists, no final boss fight, and no conflicts. Therein lies the terms "healing anime" and "slice-of-life," which both describe this show perfectly. Now, that does not mean that ARIA fails to invoke emotion. Some episodes will make you cry manly tears. Some episodes will make you laugh out loud. ARIA is a show that you can sit back and watch every night before you go to bed. It improves the quality of your sleep. I guarantee it.
Three, the progression of the animation throughout seasons improves leaps and bounds. I’ll admit that some scenes were full of QUALITY, but by Origination, there is none of that. Origination is even in widescreen, giving everything a more epic sense. I loved the water animation, the chibi faces, the epic gondolier rowing, everything.
ARIA has something for everyone. Lesbian tendencies? Oh yes. Epic boat rowing? Even more yes. Heartwarming just to the point of sappiness? Triple yes. And there are much, much more: a soothing soundtrack, amazing vocal insert songs, fabulous opening and endings. The sound production is just perfect. The openings are different for each episode too, allowing you to immerse yourself into each episode seamlessly.
I cannot pinpoint a favorite episode, but I loved the 11th episode of the first season, when Akari waves to Aika and Alice from the bridge. I also loved the snowball episode, the four-leaf clover episode, and the well episode. My favorite character is Akira, by far. Her spunkiness and her awesome chibi-face won me over.
But alas, all good things do come to an end. As I sit and watch the final episode of Origination again, I cannot help but close my eyes and feel them tearing up. I’ll miss each and every character immensely.
Good work, Kozue Amano. Good job, Jyunichi Sato. I salute you for making me sleep better at night these last five and a half years.
Sit back and enjoy.
A.D. 2301 – The Voyage from Neo-Venezia.
This is what I’ve been looking for all along. This is the reason why I have been spending countless hours experiencing many different stories, encompassing so many different themes while simultaneously being sucked into an abundance of worlds. There is a saying that goes as such: “A good life is a collection of happy moments”. This is exactly what this anime was to me. It taught me, along with many others, to appreciate life, and how incredible it truly is.
The third and final season of Aria didn’t try to impress its audience from the get-go. Instead it allowed the viewers to try and envision what the outcome might be, however obvious it was from early on in the franchise. I even found myself in the first couple of episodes of this season scratching my head, wondering why people were giving the show as much praise as it frequently gets; as the opening episodes were not as flashy as I expected them to be. I almost got the impression that I was re-watching the first season: Aria the Animation. I felt as if this season was a bit of a back-step; lowering itself in terms of storytelling from the brilliant Aria the Natural. Don’t be afraid, however, if you find yourself feeling the same way after watching the first couple episodes. It is certainly not like that the whole through. I can assure you. Don’t get me wrong, the first two or three episodes were still pretty good, just not as ‘special’ as I thought they would be.
Origination focuses much more purely in being a undine in Aqua. Unlike Natural, which focuses more in the city of Neo Venezia, and all the supernatural beings which inhabit it, the final season shines its spotlight on the act of being a gondolier. We see more prospect in how our three young undines go by their day-to-day life, rowing their gondola, and their struggles and efforts to finally becoming a prima. Earlier on I mentioned that it is quite evident what will happen by the end of the series, and by that I meant that it will end with Akari, Alice, and Aika being prima undines. If this was to end otherwise, it would be unsatisfactory, and almost a dreadful ‘read the manga’ ending, that would ultimately be a massive spit in the face to the viewer. Heck there are even pictures of the show, which illustrate our three undines, without their signature gloves: this obviously meaning that they have become primas. Regardless, I assure you that the show ends almost perfectly, as it left a wide, almost creepy smile across my face, for the entirety of the final several episodes. Aria the origination was brilliantly directed, as we dive into the fantastical world that is Aqua, in all its glory.
The pacing of the show is as well truly extraordinary. There is a very correct balance between comical moments, and more heart-tugging moments, with each individual episode ending with Ai-chan’s unbearably cute voice. Of course the setting is still on-point, as Neo Venezia is almost as if its an exact replica of Venice. Each building feels real, the sea and the chilling breeze when a character stares into the ocean, reaches the viewer, as I often felt chills down my spine. Thus the city is given life, just like how Akari explains almost every episode.
I have not once been left disappointed by the fluidity, background depth and detail, character designs and color palette, but instead I am left in awe by how brilliantly done they all are. The final season of Aria, as expected, does not disappoint. In matter of fact, it is even more spectacular. There were times that I felt as if I as watching a movie by the sheer magnificence of the show visually. One aspect of the art that really surprised my how by the use of 3D in this season. You can tell just how much effort was put into this anime! Another example of how much the animation/art quality improved in this season, was the detail of each character’s faces, or more specifically their eyes. Any scene which took place on the Hope Hill (the green hill with all the wind turbines), looked almost godly. The only minor irritation I had with this aspect was that there were a few too many (albeit hilarious) chibi scenes. Although these helped tone down the show, I feel as if it would have been better without as many as there were. The reason why I included that comment in this section, is since such scenes tended to be more lackluster in animation (as one would expect). Overall, however, I am utterly pleased with this aspect of the show.
If you go ask anyone who has watched the entirety of Aria, what their favorite aspect of the show was, 9/10 times it would be the soundtrack.Why, do you ask? Well it was through this show that I found out that one could orgasm through longitudinal waves! (nerdy joke) But on a more serious note; the mixture between orchestra, piano, and violin was masterful, and each track was played at the perfect moment! If this aspect was not how it was, the ending result would be no where near as impactful as it is. This might be an obvious statement, but Aria the Origination heavily relied on its soundtrack to guide the tone of the show. And without guidance, you have a badly paced series. Something I should truly praise the show for is its seiyuu performances. Each and every seiyuu was perfect: especially Akari’s voice actress: she reflected Akari’s character flawlessly, as being a constantly happy and optimistic girl; a role which I believe to be exceedingly difficult to master. The ending song was one of the greatest things I have ever experienced: both visually, and sound-wise. It fat the tone of the show quintessentially! The opening was as well great, although not as memorable.There’s not much I can say to bash this section, as the show did almost everything right, in my opinion.
A problem that I tend to have with shows that have a very limited cast, is that there is not enough variety through their emotions, in order to truly satisfy my needs as a viewer. However, Aria is a show that turns this speculation upside down. Each and every character is fully developed, three-dimensional, and human. They are realistic, and although they are happy most of the times, there is more behind that smile than one would think. Akari Mizunashi is a great example of this. She is described as a quote on quote “Eternal optimist” or “Miss expect of happiness” and there is a valid reason for this. It is rare to see this character feeling down or depressed. At first I found this trope pretty unrealistic, but especially with Origination I was proven very wrong. She expresses so much emotion just by her intelligent analogies and ‘speeches’ about how important life is to those who respect their lives. She is very important to the story, as her character makes the entire city feel happy and content. She helps her friends when they feel down, and she even tries her utmost when she herself feels as if she cannot mirror her title. Alicia Florence is another fantastic character: she does not go about explaining her reasoning like any other human. Instead, she will go about her explanation in a very peculiar way. She might start rolling a snowball out of nowhere just to prove a point! I realise that this sounds silly, but I was utterly amused by how accurate those actions were to help explain her points. She, like Akari, is more often than not, always wearing a smile. This helps Akari keep her own smile, so that she could be able to illustrate her talent as an undine.
Alice Carroll is my personal favorite character ( plus my new waifu but that’s besides the point). The reason why this is so, is since she is probably the most logical, intelligent, and talented undine out of all the cast, at such a young age. She is almost inspiring as a character: not only to those in the anime, but to the viewer him/herself. I particularly love how she has an O.C.D, as she has to, for example, kick a stone all the way home one day, or another she will have to walk backwards, or walk only in shadows. This makes her character more realistic, as it demonstrates her more childish side, since shes only 14. *Small Spoiler* She also has an impeccable singing voice which came to my surprise.
The rest if the cast, which I could talk about for eternities, is all fully fledged out, and as i mentioned before, realistic. The only issue I had is that I wanted a bit more backstory for other characters, but that’s only a small problem, which wouldn’t really affect the show too much. An honorable mention is Grandma, who had a brilliant backstory, and was a fantastic addition to the cast, even though it was seldom that she appeared in the show. But I digress, since the characters were all pretty much perfect; even the secondary characters such as the Patissiere and Akatsuki.
I don’t think there is any other slice of life series that could provide as much enjoyment as this one did. Almost every single episode left me teary-eyed. Episode 9 was one of the greatest episodes I have seen in a LONG time. It was surprising, beautiful and incredibly well animated. That is not to say that it was miles ahead of any other episode, as they were all important to the story, which ultimately lead to the magnificent and conclusive ending, which could not have satisfied me more than it did. All I can say is Bravo! What an accomplishment this show truly was.
If only this series gained more mainstream recognition. It truly, truly deserves a wider audience, even though it is not, of course, perfect. But then again, no show ever is. Sayonara Akari, Alice, Alicia, Aika, Athena, Akira, and Aria. It was a fantastic run. Cheers!
Story – [Score: 9]
Characters – [Score: 9]
Art/Animation – [Score: 9]
Sound – [Score: 10]
Enjoyment – [Score: 9]
[Final Score: 9.4/10]
Final Comment: A legendary slice of life series, that should be enjoyed by many, if not all anime fans.
Did YOUR favorite anime make the cut? Let us know in the comments below!
1. Aria the Origination
2. Ookami to Koushinryou
3. Saiunkoku Monogatari 2nd Season
4. Soul Eater
5. Kyou kara Maou! 3rd Series
6. Shakugan no Shana II (Second)
8. Zero no Tsukaima: Princesses no Rondo
9. Tales of the Abyss
10. Nabari no Ou