They’re the best Anime that 2010 has to offer! We counts down the best anime to come out this year, including the likes of Tatakau Shisho: The Book of Bantorra, Uragiri wa Boku no Namae wo Shitteiru, Fresh Precure!, and more!
10: Tatakau Shisho: The Book of Bantorra
English: Armed Librarians: The Book of Bantorra
Japanese: 戦う司書 The Book of Bantorra
MAL Score: 7.23
In a world where dead people turn into books and are stored in the Bantorra Library where anyone who reads a book can learn their past, Bantorra Library is maintained by Armed Librarians who wield psychic powers and their enemy is a religious society known as Sindeki Kyoudan.
Now here is something original. After a person dies, their memories turn into a stone tablet called a “book” that leaves their body to be collected. When someone comes along and touches that person’s book, they can see vivid imagery of their past as if they were really there to witness it. These are very special books and must be kept safe at all costs, and that is what the Bantorra Library serves to do. A group of people known as the Armed Librarians guard these books with their lives using psychic powers.
This story is NOT linear with a one-track mind. Instead, it branches off into many intricate subplots. You will see the Armed Librarians tracking down stolen books, recruiting new members, having personal quarrels and drama, going on adventurous missions, and each character pursuing their own personal and hidden agenda. They also fight their common enemy known as the Sindeki Kyoudan, an enigmatic religious group that manipulates people against the library for its own reasons. There is much discussion about heaven and what it means to be a “true man” to enter such a place.
After a while, the story does not seem to have a clear focus. It hops around to many different issues, never staying on a single one for too long. Criticism has been heavily placed on this area because the story can get confusing fast. Often times you might be mislead to believe that main story will be about this or that particular thing. I actually like that, but it is required of you to pay close attention to the events to appreciate how they all come together near the end.
The last thing I will say about the story is that I love its unpredictability. This anime makes you think. Nothing is straightforward, and there seems to be a plot-twist within every subplot..and that’s a LOT of plot-twists. The story, so full of secrets, character betrayals, and philosophical questions, will take you for an entertaining ride.
There are 30+ characters listed under this anime, and you’re introduced to a whole lot at once. The characters shine just as magnificently as the story does; they each have very detailed backgrounds and different motives. It is not really clear on which people are the bad guys and the good guys. It is also not clear on which character is the main one that we should be focusing on. Everyone gets the same amount of attention.
I give much praise to the characters because a handful of them are refreshing and have strong personality. I had my doubts about how well they would turn out to be, but they took me by surprise. The characters are very dynamic, meaning that they change and develop internally. As the show steadily progresses, you’re constantly being introduced to someone new and exciting.
The character section on this page does a good job in describing each character and their psychic ability, so I recommend reading those if you want to know the specifics.
One of the first things I hear people say when they start watching this is that the characters look unappealing, and the CGI looks very out of place.
Either you love the character designs or you don’t. They appear more on the dark-outlined, shadowy side without much shine, but it’s best if you take a look for yourself. Some of the female characters look a bit masculine also. Despite all this, I thought that the designs were okay.
If you are patient enough to get to the best fighting scenes in this anime, you won’t be disappointed. High production values were saved for these moments, and the CGI gets put to good use.
This is where your personal taste really comes in. I found the OST to be fantastic. As a fan of Ali Project, I liked the first OP theme called “Datengoku Sensen.” The background music is also enjoyable and consists of many low-key orchestral sounds that suit the suspenseful atmosphere.
Armed Librarians is an entertaining, action-packed anime that uses its large, developed cast to its advantage. The story may seem rather confusing and directionless at times, but it all pays off towards the end. I recommend this anime.
-Bantorra has very complicated story and is really serious with few funny moments. Sometimes its just hard to connect the story, but if you pay attention you will see that almost everything is properly explained. The end of the anime really pays off if you survived other arcs first.
-it is recommended that you watch it whole at once, if you can, if not, try not to make long hiatuses with this anime, cause it will be easier to remember some important stuff such as minor details that come in handy.
-As for the story itself, it has really unique ideas.
-The art was what mostly made me to watch this. There are no chibi faces and moments and no big eyed shoujo girls with sparkles all around, thank god.
-it has pretty cool looking guys
-also cute and serious looking girls
-Animation can be weird in some moments, but in almost all scenes its well drawn and animated.
-has pretty colors and beautiful scenery as well.
-didnt impress me much though both openings were ok. There is well known Ali project ofc.
-The effect sounds were amazing though 😀
-are the highlight of the series.
-they are various and deep
-anime provides background of the characters in arcs, and you get to know them better and their decisions 😀
There are 5 main characters such as:
-Hamyuts “Hamy” Meseta-the acting director of the Armed Librarians, battle crazy “defeat me if you can” kind of a girl;
-Volken McMarney- has a strong sense of justice and kind personality ;
-Noloty Maruchie- is a straight-forward person who does not like to kill people;
-Mattalast Balory-known as a liar and one of the strongest librarians;
-Mirepoch Finder-cute but really strict person and in love over her head.
well better to say, it depends from person to person. In my case its 10 because i love serious stories and idea itself was pretty much awesome.
If you dont like serious stuff than it isnt for you, if you do though, i highly recommend it.
I highly recommend it to people who love deep stories and characters. The only thing i do mind is that story itself IS hard to follow and you MUST pay attention to every single detail. But itself is an anime which can move you, that is to make you smile or cry, filled with lot of action and with an original idea.
The anime focusses on the books as well as the armed librarians, people with psychic powers, tasked with retrieving and maintaining the huge archives. As it will, it is not that simple: an organisation by the name of Sindeki Kyoudan thwarts the librarians because of opposing ideologies. The integrants of said organisation strive becoming the best and most valuable books by achieving maximum happiness, what basically boils down to doing whatever one pleases, including homicide. In essence, armed librarians exist to counter said party.
The whole anime is divided is several small arcs, ranging from background stories of the main cast, to people affected by the divide between the two powers. An example would be the “Meat”, who are mindless humans turned into bombs. It shows audiences the various powers, the effects of books on the population, as well as exposing the reason of the library including some of the characters. However, when taking a closer look to the structure of the narrative, in addition to some of the arcs provided, it is quite messy.
First of all, some of the plots introduced are carefully executed, just to be resolved in a matter of episodes with arguably weak conclusions that do not live up to the quality of the build-up episode(s). Other problem is the sparse introduction of plot lines, just to be left aside to suddenly pop up again much later. A non linear narrative is not an issue on its own, yet when done with little to no coherence, it just leaves confusion in the viewer on the reason of such approach. Finally, the conclusion of the series is rather underwhelming, where it simply culminates into a cluster of battles with a rather poor explanation on the existence and reasons of some of the mysteries surrounding the lore of that world.
As for the characters of Armed Librarians, it is as a whole rather generic and uninteresting to the exception of a few, despite having a large cast of characters. The cast can be easily described by their personalities: the one blinded in self justice, a strict person, the incredibly person, a battle hungry killing machine, a lady-killer, you name it. The main problem is that most characters are either left unexplored or are too one-dimensional to feel any interest in them.
Naturally, there are some exceptions; for instance there is long hair Enrique whose struggle with his destiny as a “Meat” has interesting consequences to his character, as well as providing development as a person. Volken is another example, although it offers interesting points to the main plot, as a character he is wasted. Then there is the strongest librarian of all, the killing machine Hamyuts Meseta, who receives some fleshing out explaining her nature, albeit being a bit uninspired; but hey, it can be very entertaining watching a woman kick ass as she does, and that with a simple sling.
The animation was overall well executed with fluent battle scenes in addition to some great backgrounds. Character designs are not too generic providing a nice change to the usual ones, although in some occasions some discrepancies could be found when viewed from different angles. As for the soundtrack used, it is as whole matching with the anime, yet not outstanding. The same could be said about the voice actors, although in some cases they managed to convey ones personality in a great manner.
Armed Librarians: the Book of Bantorra was overall an enjoyable watch, with intriguing small arcs, where sadly the structure of the narrative as well as the somewhat aimlessly story were the main reasons for a lesser experience. It offered some interesting characters, alongside a nice setting. Although personally it is not a great anime, it surely is entertaining enough, and thus recommended to anyone with some spare time, and not swayed by the messy narrative.
Thank you reading.
9: Uragiri wa Boku no Namae wo Shitteiru
English: The Betrayal Knows My Name
MAL Score: 7.23
Growing up as an orphan, Yuki Sakurai questions his reason for living and ability to see a person’s painful memory by simply touching them. After receiving anonymous notes telling him to die, Yuki is unable to shake off the nagging feeling forming inside of him. Unbeknownst to him, he is being watched, both by people who want to harm him and those who want to protect him.
One foggy night, Yuki’s life is saved by a beautiful man with silver eyes and jet black hair—a man he has never met before yet seems familiar. With the arrival of this mysterious stranger, Yuki’s forgotten past has been awakened and the purpose of his existence has appeared before him.
Uragiri wa Boku no Namae wo Shitteiru tells the story of a teenage boy as he discovers who he is and where he comes from—all while making friends, experiencing betrayal, and slowly piecing together the puzzle of his past.
I don’t mean to offend, but probably the only viewers that would actually enjoy this show are angsty teen girls who need some affirmation. Because the side characters spend most of their time worrying about, discussing, or affirming our main character (who comes across as a sensitive weakling who doesn’t actually do anything).
I gave this series a low rating because there is practically no story. It’s almost as if the script began as 4-episode OVA, but then someone decided to stretch it into a full-season series. For an incredible 24 episodes, practically nothing happens, and by the end of the series, we’ve barely learned anything about the characters. Even about Yuki, who’s supposedly our hero.
The setup seemed promising. We meet our main character, Yuki. He apparently has some supernatural skill, including healing. More interesting is his ability to look into people’s minds by touching them.
Yuki was raised at an orphanage. A guy claiming to be his long-lost brother takes him out, tells Yuki that he is a re-incarnated fighter, and now must live with other re-incarnated fighters. For centuries, the souls of these warriors have been fighting demons in each generation. Each character has a unique fighting skill. And most of these warriors are high school kids (and, of course, totally hot-looking).
The first few episodes were interesting, but after that, it seemed the series devolved into….Yuki-worship.
Yuki is the only one of the team who has no memories of his past. For some inexplicable reason, all the other warriors adore him. It’s like their whole world revolves around him. When Yuki is sad, everyone sits around in the living room, doing nothing. When he is away from the house, they stand around in the dining room, doing nothing. And the whole time, they randomly call out his name: “Yuki,” or ask, “I wonder how Yuki is doing now?” “I wonder how he’s feeling?” “I feel so sorry for Yuki.” It made me want to say, “SHUT UP AND DO SOMETHING PRODUCTIVE!!! DON’T YOU GUYS HAVE BETTER THINGS TO DO?” For warriors, they spend a lot of time worrying about their comrade’s…angst. I almost forgot this story was supposed to be about a big battle of good vs. evil.
It’s stuff like that which eats up most of the time in each show. Again, and again, characters stand around, randomly saying each other’s names. It’s like the creators were scraping around trying to stuff in every possible bit of filler they could. I wonder if the actors felt ashamed, having to say such inane lines over and over again.
The things which I actually wanted to know more about was never discussed. For instance, Yuki and Luka’s backstory is barely discussed, even though it’s supposedly important. Yuki is said to be important to the team, but he barely uses any of his skills. (After the first 2 or 3 episodes, he barely use his super abilities any more.) There are a few meaningful conversations, and an occasional battle (which are decently done).
But for the most part, any chance to put in real or meaningful content was scrapped in favor of filler that communicated…nothing.
I think I’ve beat this series enough, so I won’t say much more (except that a lot of the costumes and weapons were downright cheesy). Unless you’re a major bishounen fan, you probably won’t enjoy this series much. The last episode wasn’t much of an ending. Nothing was really resolved. It was like, “Was that it? Did I miss something?”
(P.S. Despite the tag, it’s not truly a shounen-ai)
STORY & CHARACTERS
Uraboku gets off to a serious start, delving into heavy subject matter such as: orphans, troubled pasts, parental abuse, death threats, and world destruction. What an impressive way to begin things. It makes you wonder why everything is so dark and sinister around the most innocent person in the world, Yuki.
Yuki is a soft-spoken and mature boy who helps to take care of children in an orphanage that he had grown up in, and he often hangs out with his childhood friend. The peaceful days don’t last forever though as the Duras begin to stir activities nearby while his friend engages in more odd, secretive behavior. Furthermore, Yuki has these powers that suddenly awaken and cause problems. After a series of odd events, he meets a mysterious, sexy beast named Luka who claims to be his protector, followed by members of the Zweilt, and the head of the Giou Clan who tells Yuki that he is his half-brother and would like to take him away. So they end up taking him to the Twilight Mansion, and he comes to learn all about the Zweilt Guardians and their shared destiny.
Luka is a powerful duras fighting on the protagonist’s side, and it’s obvious that he is very attracted to Yuki and vice versa. Most of the time, he is standing around quietly with a deadpan expression and wearing ridiculous outfits. While he doesn’t seem to be that great initially, he gradually gets more involved with the other characters. In addition to that, he has an ancient love story that he is hiding from Yuki, and it eventually becomes a concern and interest to him.
The Zweilt Guardians are strong, courageous fighters who have a detailed history behind their group. Most of them look to be Yuki’s age, and they each have a close partner that they fight with. In fact, they’re almost always seen in pairs and act like a big family. Their characterizations are very well done, for they have distinct personalities, fully developed backgrounds, and a strong fighting morale. Seriously, they rarely ever hesitate in battle and emphasize on working as a team. Their close relationships give off a certain charm as they grow into very likeable characters. However, their main drawback is that they can be too sentimental and melodramatic at times, and they constantly worry about Yuki every darn minute. Let the poor feminine boy breathe!
The Duras are the big weakness of the show. None of them can be taken that seriously except for one that appears in a very late episode. The main bad guy turns out to be a horrible cliché (I’m sure you can guess who it is), and his henchmen consist of a pair of evil twins, a giggly girl who collects hot guys, a sexy woman who wants Luka, etc. Some of them easily get obliterated, but the higher-grade demons do receive a bit more characterization.
There are a few side characters who also reside in the Twilight Mansion, such as the doctor, the maid, etc. They are annoying, clichéd, and their comedy doesn’t even beat Luka’s bizarre outfits. But don’t worry; they don’t actually get a lot of screen time. I nearly dropped this series when they were introduced too.
This anime is classified as shounen-ai, meaning boy-love. But if you’re coming into this expecting something along the lines of Gravitation or Junjou Romantica, you will be disappointed. You will never see any obvious indication of shounen-ai, like ‘kissing’ for example. Some of the male characters are rather close, but they could also just pass off as best friends. They’re left up to your interpretation. Personally, I am not a big shounen-ai fan, so I appreciate how the gay tones are handled in this.
Epic, just epic! This is undoubtedly the best OST that I have heard all year. The music is done by Shōgo Kaida whom I have not quite heard of before. During major battles, the tunes are orchestral, enchanting, and dark, such as “Zweilt Imashime no Te” and “Me wa Yaiba Kami wa Yoru.” Another great track that has a soothing, ghostly choir in the background is called “Bloody†Cross”. During slow scenes, the music is usually airy, melodic, and sweet such as “Kaeranu Hibi Shiroki Ashita.” You can easily find these on YT for streaming.
There are two OP songs, “Till the World without Betrayals” and “Inishie” by Rayflower. They’re decent Jrock at best, but they’re not my favorite, and I probably won’t listen to them again after the series ends.
Uraboku has a lot of things going for itself, such as a likeable, well-developed cast of visually-appealing characters, colorful action, dark undertones, and an epic OST. Plus, the shounen-ai tones are very subtle much to my pleasure. However, the plot really does lack originality, and the villains are clichéd and can’t be taken seriously.
bishounen – yes;
shounen-ai – yes;
teen fighters – yes;
magic – yes;
reincarnation – yes;
not so Ordinary High School Student with superpowers – yes;
sexy demon aka loyal servant – yes;
kawaii animal with a forehead gem – yes;
flowing cloaks, crosses, chains and other clanking metal things – in abundance;
sophisticated spells and names in pseudo-German – yes.
Wait, seems there is something missing… Oh, yeah, plot. Well, its optional. As well as logic.
90% of time the screen is occupied by main character Yuki (a boy who happens to be a girl in his previous life), crying and moaning: “Kanata-san! Kanata-san!” – in reference to his best friend who turned out to be the main Bad Guy of this story. Sometimes other characters take the stage, crying and moaning: “Yuki! Yuki!” – in reference to his cruel destiny which makes Yuki to accept people’s pain and suffering as his own.
Then, there are meaningless battles with bad guys, in which Yuki, though utterly useless, tries to help his comrades. The problem is his comrades have a mission to protect Yuki while he sees his mission in protecting others, so they all go in circles. And there is no proper ending, as it always happens with anime based on an ongoing manga.
In theory, the story should be made more intriguing by the fact that Yuki-girl and the above mentioned sexy demon by the name of Luka were lovers in their previous life, and Luka still loves Yuki-boy dearly. Unfortunately, Yuki himself doesn’t remember anything (though has some vague idea). But every time he tries to talk to Luka about this, they are interrupted by others, who seem to be unable to survive without Yuki even for a minute. So the shounen-ai is somehow incomplete.
The only consolation is that bishounen are in abundance, music is fine and voice actors are good (though always spurting some embarrassing nonsense). All in all, not the worst way to kill time – but not the best either.
8: Fresh Precure!
MAL Score: 7.31
Love Momozono is a 14-year-old student at Yotsuba Junior Highschool that tends to care more for others than for herself. One day she visits a show of the famous dance unit “Trinity” and decides to become a dancer, too. On the same event, subordinates of the Labyrinth Kingdom show up who want to collect the unhappiness of the audience. Love gets the power to change into Cure Peach and fights them. Soon after, she is joined by her good friends Miki, who is Cure Berry, and Inori, who becomes Cure Pine.
Precure also did an outstanding job in taking the piss out of themselves: making fun of their own tropes and themes from past seasons, things that have seemed contrived from out of nowhere (such as the theming of seasons themselves; Flora barely had a part in her own season finale despite the entire adventure being about the Cure Rose Garden), and even the subversion of typical monsters-of-the-day into HELPERS-of-the-day, which I believe is a first in magical girl history to subvert this trope in this type of way. My point is, Fresh knew exactly what they wanted to get out of this show going in, and as a result they were able to build up not only tension, but make important moments completely iconic without wasting time. This is why no episode got a 1: they were extremely careful with not only giving characters time to build up and develop, but how they develop. Take Miki, a typical fashionista sterotype, who had to confront her fear of octopi and had the help of Setsuna, and managed to fight an octopus monster alone. Or Buki, who had a semi-irrational fear of ferrets that actually strengthened her and Tart’s bond to the point I’d say she and Tart were closest by even midseason. Not even a single side character annoyed me this season, nobody who I wanted to throw in the Delete Hole, not even the crushes or even Kaoru. In my opinion, this is peak Precure: it has hit its Golden Age.
The story this time is set in Clover Town Street, a very cheerful place where the main characters live. After the protagonist of this entry, Love, gets involved in the attack of the enemies from this story during a performance of the unit band Trinity, becoming a Precure in the process, she and her friends will have to fight to save the world from a bad ending.
The cast of Fresh is one of the strongest from the franchise IMO, this time the main trio (the cheerful and passionate for dancing Love, the kind and animal lover Inori and the fashion fan Miki) were already friends from before the start of the series and they really felt like a group with their interactions. Due to what happened at the start they also started to practice dancing with the help of the leader of Trinity and that gives them another point to work hard together that gets really nice use through the story.
While the main trio is solid (although I’m not that big on Miki, who honestly suffered from lack of spotlight) and I really like Love, it’s with the fantastic side cast that the series really shines. The main villain trio of the story for example are characters I grew to love a lot. Wester is a super goofy character that delivered tons of laughs with his personality, Soular is the serious business one of the group that gave great challenges to overcome for the Precure with his plans, and lastly there is my favorite chracters of this entry: Eas, who had an incredible and emotional arc that I absolutely adored. The story does a great job showing the place and situation this characters come from and it’s hard to not grow to love them as the episodes pass, maybe even more than the main trio.
And I still have to mention other great side characters like Daisuke, who is a great love interest for Love and forms part of some of my favorite episodes of this entry with the focus on those two, and the mysterious Kaoru, who gives as many laughs as donuts he sells. This entry also has two of my favorite mascots with Tarte and Chiffon, the first feels very different to the usual mascot as Harry from Hugtto did due to his personality, and Chiffon is really freaking adorable. I can perfectly understand the dislike for baby characters (I’m not that big on them either) but this one particularly stood out in the positive side, being 99% aww 1% cry.
Now it’s time to talk about the art and music, Fresh is actually the entry that looked the least appealing to me visually from the few info I saw from each before starting, but I ended up being pleased with what I got even if I liked others more. The color palette of this entry is less colorful than usual, and while this entry had good quality overall, it rarely stood out as others did with fights outside of two or three very nice moments. The transformation scenes and stock footage attacks are solid although I feel that this entry suffered from the second ones being too long. Overall it could definitely be better but it was consistently good. When it comes to the music, this entry has one of my favorite transformation songs and nice OP and EDs, that together with some nice songs through the episodes made me satisfied on that department.
Fresh Precure is one of the best choices for first Precure to watch thanks to the great execution of the formula and the lovable characters it has, I really recommend to give it a chance!
The story of this anime is simple: labyrinth wants to find “infinity” (even they don’t know how it looks like) to govern all words. Tart, a fairy of the Sweets Kingdom has to find the 3 pretty cures. For a magic girl for little girls the story is simple. But sometimes you can say: O.o That was a surprise, I didn’t believe that… In all 50 episodes we know all about the present and past of the cure’s, what are they afraid etc. The story is also full of comedy become the enemies (they’re in part silly) and tart
If you see other pretty cure season, the art of this very showy, with too much shiny color and very attractive. The mascots here are also attractive. Tart may look like a ferret, but he is a very proud fairy and he will not get tired to say it. The villains design are also attractive, Soular and Wester look like a shoujo manga man: very “bishounen’, but too silly.
About the sound, I really like both versions of the opening (I like better the hybrid version of the opening) and the two openings, but the soundtrack isn’t any special. Comparing with the OP and Ed, the soundtrack is simple and boring.
About the animation is good, but sometimes looks so lame, and ugly. And if you put attention the perspective of sizes sometimes is incoherent. But this only happens in the first episodes. When they transform and when they are fighting with the enemy the animation is great. Also I lime the CGI ending dance. Is good to see all ending dance, you will enjoy it.
About the characters, as I said, the anime really one strived in showing all the personality of all the characters. What they like, they efforts to become they’re dream come true, what are they afraid and other things about their present and past, how they interact with love prospective and all things what a girl of 14 years old do. I really like this.
About the overall and enjoyment some of the episodes you can skip them, some of them are really boring and it won’t affect if you see them or not. Fresh iOS one of the seasons of pretty cure you have to see: is funny, really enjoyable 9most of the episodes an (98% of all) and has a great and epic final.
7: Densetsu no Yuusha no Densetsu
English: The Legend of the Legendary Heroes
MAL Score: 7.56
“Alpha Stigma” are known to be eyes that can analyze all types of magic. However, they are more infamously known as cursed eyes that can only bring destruction and death to others.
Ryner Lute, a talented mage and also an Alpha Stigma bearer, was once a student of the Roland Empire’s Magician Academy, an elite school dedicated to training magicians for military purposes. However, after many of his classmates died in a war, he makes an oath to make the nation a more orderly and peaceful place, with fellow survivor and best friend, Sion Astal.
Now that Sion is the the king of Roland, he orders Ryner to search for useful relics that will aid the nation. Together with Ferris Eris, a beautiful and highly skilled swordswoman, Ryner goes on a journey to search for relics of legendary heroes from the past, and also uncover the secrets behind his cursed eyes.
The original eleven volume light novel series by Kagami Takaya was published in Dragon Magazine from February 2002 until October 2006 and has spawned a sequel (The Legend of the Great Heroes of Legend), and two spin offs (The Legend of the Legendary Heroes Anyway, and The Legend of the Black Fallen Hero), as well as being adapted as a drama CD, a PSP game, a manga, and the recent anime rendition.
Now aside from mild curiosity at the obvious addiction to using the words “legend” and “hero” in some manner, one has to wonder if the anime adaptation can really live up to the popularity of the franchise.
The story begins with an attack by the Nelphan army on the person of Ryner Lute, a layabout who is on a mission for his trusted friend, boss, and cause of all of his problems, King Sion Astal of Roland. Accompanying him on his journey is the warrior and perpetual dango addict Ferris Eris, a woman who may be a genius with a sword, but is pretty clueless with almost everything else (except dango). The pair have been tasked with finding and acquiring the legendary artifacts known as the Relics of Heroes, which lie hidden in various places across the continent of Menoris.
As with any fantasy tale there’s an element of derivation inherent in the plot which results in several very familiar scenarios being played out over the course of the series. This in itself isn’t a bad thing though, as these staples are often used to drive home a particular point, or as support for the main storyline.
And this anime really does need the support.
The main issues with Denstsu no Yuusha no Densetsu (DenYuuDen), are the lack of coherency with the story and the constantly changing pace of the plot. Viewers may often find themselves wondering how a particular situation came about, and while there are efforts to tie up certain loose ends, these are nothing more than papering over the cracks. The narrative suffers from a distinct lack of timely explanations, and events can lead the audience on a merry dance as they struggle to keep up with the storyline. This is exacerbated by the constant mood swings that occur from one episode to the next, and the addition of seemingly random comedy scenes give the viewer the sense that even the show itself has no idea what’s going to happen next.
The heart of the problem is simply that ZEXCS, like many other studios, have made a screenplay that is nothing more than a “cut and paste” rendition of the original source material. While there are some anime that get away with summarily stringing together disparate events, it would have been better for everyone if they at least made the effort to stick to the story. Better yet, ZEXCS could have followed the example set by Satelight when they made Guin Saga, and only adapted a portion of the story to ensure there would be a continuous flow to the plot.
One has to wonder what moment of “genius” would persuade director Kawasaki Itsuro and series composer Yoshimura Kiyoko to make such a disjointed narrative.
On the plus side the lack of care with the storyline isn’t really reflected in the look of the show, and DenYuuDen has some nice, imaginative scenes that really show what ZEXCS are capable of if they put their backs into it. The series features some decent animation, but the design principle impinges on this to a degree, partly because of the bishounen aspect of the show, but mainly because of the costumes. While the various outfits and garments are creative in their own way, there are several scenes where things like cloaks would clearly be a hindrance to any actual combat. In addition to this the characters tend to be on the impassive side when it comes to facial expressions, although this becomes less of an issue as the series progresses.
DenYuuDen also features some very nice lighting and visual effects that add an extra layer of atmosphere to particular events, giving them an elegant, decadent, or dramatic feel that requires little in the way of added audio. Unfortunately this is offset by a lack of attention with small, specific details which seem like they were pencilled in as afterthoughts (Ryner’s two year old beard is one example of this). While it’s sometimes easy to overlook these relatively minor flaws, every now and then they become impossible to ignore, and viewers may be left wondering why the studio didn’t notice these discrepancies before releasing certain episodes.
The series features two opening themes, LAMENT Yagate Yorokobi Wo by Yuuki Aira (episodes 1 to 12), and Last Inferno by Ceui (episodes 13 to 24). The first OP is a rather bland affair that is generally well timed and edited, but ultimately fails to inspire. The second track is an altogether different beast that has far better choreography, and possesses a more serious and dramatic air than before. As for the ending themes, Truth Of My Destiny by Ceui and Hikari no Filament by Takagaki Ayahi, neither is anything other than a reasonable pop ballad coupled with pointless visuals that have no bearing on the story proper.
What is interesting is the manner in which the background music is utilised. The tracks are often subtle additions that never really come to the fore unless the situation warrants more drama or tension, and because of this there are very few clashes with the dialogue. In addition to this the effects are given precedence over the music during a number of action sequences, and given that this series is a relatively disjointed affair, the quality of the audio choreography is more than a little surprising.
One of the problem areas for DenYuuDen is the dialogue, in particular the tendency towards oratory and the sudden changes between banter and seriousness that are extensions of the inherent issues with the storyline, so it’s to the credit of the actors and actresses that they deliver some decent performances. Fukuyama Jun (Ryner Lute), Ono Daisuke (Sion Astal), Takagaki Ayahi (Ferris Eris), and the rest of the cast are able to inject a degree of personality into their characters, but this is limited by some truly cumbersome scripting.
Unfortunately this, together with the compression of the story, has a knock on effect where the characters are concerned.
Like so many other fantasy anime out there, DenYuuDen follows the tried and tested method of event driven development, but like many other shows it also falls into the trap of poor characterisation. From the beginning of the first episode the viewer is expected to not only identify with Ryner, Ferris and Sion without knowing anything about them, they are also supposed to wait for any explanations because of the disjointed nature of the story. Add to that the fact that much of the growth is dependent on specific events that are scattered throughout the narrative, and the lack of personality comes to the fore.
That said, while there is little to maintain the viewer’s interest in the characters at the start of the show, things do take a turn for the better at the midway stage so that by the end of the series they are no longer cardboard cutouts. The events that drive the development also become a little more complex as the story develops, which is nice to see as the tendency in fantasy anime is to add more detail to the story while keeping these “signposts” simple.
Now it may seem like I’m being unfair to DenYuuDen by picking up on so many of its flaws, but there is a reason for this. While there is a lot that could have been done to improve the series as a whole, it’s actually a rather enjoyable romp too. The byplay between Ryner, Eris and Sion can be odd because of the poor scripting, but there is humour in there, enough to make the viewer smile at least. In addition to that, there is a concerted effort to improve the story in the second half of the show, with darker themes emerging and more focus on consequences. The action sequences are decent enough, but every so often there is a flash of brilliance, and the characters can sometimes show a surprising depth that really should have been there for most of the series.
And that’s the rub. It really, really could have been so much better than it is. There is so much that ZEXCS could have easily done to improve DenYuuDen, and even something as relatively simple as deciding to adapt only a portion of the light novel series would have made a profound difference.
One thing that should be touched on is the mistaken assumption that Densetsu no Yuusha no Densetsu is somehow an homage to Legend Of The Galactic Heroes due to the similarity in the naming conventions. The problem is that far too many people who have heard of, or watched, the latter anime have automatically decided that DenYuuDen should be just as good when, aside from the name and the fact that heroes, politics and war are involved, the two bear very few similarities. It’s a bit like saying apples and apricots should taste the same just because they’re both fruits that grow on trees and their names start with “ap”.
Anyway, leaving that aside, the one thing that really stands out about this anime is that it’s effectively an unfinished product, especially as the light novels are still publishing. The disjointed storyline and initially lacklustre characters make this a much more difficult show to invest in, and this is a shame as there are several key plot elements that are interesting enough to warrant much more attention.
That said, ZEXCS’ attempt at adapting the novels has some good points, and while there is enjoyment to be had, it’s a far cry from being an epic.
Okay I admit, the title is a bit… I mean it’s really something that can put you off. Add to that, a very very ordinary first episode definitely led many to have a thought such as “Oh! Okay. Densetsu no Yuusha no Densetsu (Legend of the Legendary Heroes). I will watch it later.” or most likely, ‘Meh, it’s definitely not my type.” And yes, I can tell that with the number of people actually dropping it after first couple of episodes, let alone placed it in their ‘on hold/plan to watch’ list which is staggering.
Regardless, before you even read this review, I would suggest to watch the first three episodes (you can seriously do without the FUNistreams, since it is actually nicely animated) and drop the show if you like, well its more like I dare you would drop it once you’ve seen episode three.
So much for an introduction, here goes the real deal:
Legend of the Legendary Heroes is based on a novel of the same title which goes back some 8 years from now (first published in 2002). The anime is almost an exact adaptation of the novel. The novel and its anime adaptation are based on a feudal European setting, just that, blended with Magic and Monsters.
As for a brief introduction to where the story picks up, Ryner Lute (Fukuyama Jun), a magician of the Empire of Roland goes on a journey to find what they call the ‘Hero Relics’ scattered all over the continent. He is partnered with Ferris Eris (Takagaki Ayahi), a beautiful, arrogant and insanely skilled swords-woman. Both of them have been dispatched by Sion Astal (Ono Daisuke), the young Hero-King of the Roland Empire. If it wasn’t for Sion’s slave-running, as what both Ryner and Ferris see him to be, Ryner would have been enjoying countless number of days taking his afternoon naps while Ferris enjoying her share of dango, and only dango in all of her meals. Everyday!
To give an insight, Hero Relics are assumed to be sources of immense power that can overthrow an entire empire, something Sion desires to have available at his disposal so that he can make his empire a force to be recognized. You can easily understand Ryner and Ferris wouldn’t be the only ones on the hunt. As Ryner and Ferris keep searching for the relics, putting his absolute faith on both of them, Sion follows his dream to make an empire where everyone would have a wonderful life. Something that comes with a price indeed; Coup d’état followed by numerous assassination attempts from time to time from power hungry nobles and their followers. I won’t say anymore than this. Rest are for you to find out, because it goes far beyond anything as simple as it might seem as you’ve just read.
The story is surprisingly good. I always tend to enjoy anime with lots of flashbacks, past happenings which often help a story to grow. Denyuuden, as what it is called in short, really is impressive on that regard. While the first episode is more like an introductory episode that goes to show the main characters involved in the anime, the following couple of episodes show flashbacks from where it all began, why Ryner set for the journey to find the relics, why Ferris has been appointed as his companion, and how, young Sion came to throne. These two episodes (2 and 3) are basically the foundation of the story that will take so many turns here and there as more characters are blended in while making the anime all too enjoyable, that when you will look back, you will be thrilled to realize how simply it all started. The story has unimaginable twists and when you think a character was included just for the sake of it, they will surprise you with the role they are going to play in the development of the whole story. Story wise, this couldn’t be any better. And I dare say, I have seen lots of anime already to make such a rather bold statement.
The anime can be seen as from both the characters’ point of views, as well as from the political aspects involved, which makes it a very intelligent anime. For example, the decisions Sion makes as a King often conflict with his philosophy, but he shoulders everything as a King should, refusing to give in to his ideals. At the same time, the conflicting nature of the characters within themselves makes it a very heartfelt anime. Like Ryner, who has been through enough, shows lack of emotion, although he cares for every living thing around him, ironically though, he puts threat on those around him just through his very existence. Ferris, who is always mocking Ryner doesn’t falter to hold him dearly when he really needs it the most. And the anime translates a society that is ruled by the so called nobles and their hunger for power, and a society where everyone brands certain people as ‘monsters’ for the inhuman power they possess, ironically again, something they wish they never have possessed, something they were born with in the first place.
The characters are nicely depicted. From the absolute loyalty of the subordinates of Sion, for instance General Claugh Klom, to the emotional involvements of the members of the Roland Taboo Hunter team, (yeah, you have to know Milk Callaud (Fujita Saki) and her reverse-harem :P) everything makes sense. Characters making their entrance halfway through the series, for instance, the Hero-King of Gastark, Riphal Edea (Nakai Kazuya), or even the late, very late introduction of Tiia Rumiblue (Sakurai Takahiro) has been intensifying. And there are mysterious characters like Ferris’ older brother Lucile (Sugita Tomokazu), Sion’s right hand Miran Froaude (Suwabe Junichi) and Milk Callaud’s second in command Luke Stokkart (Hino Satoshi) will make you ponder to understand their every move and their motives. You must have been really annoyed by now to see all those seiyuus in the bracket. But the reason behind putting them there is to show the number of popular voice-casts have been working on this anime, justifying the weight of the characters being portrayed overall.
The animation quality is really of top notch. The backgrounds are nicely animated and gives you the feel of a feudal European setting coupled with magical terrains and mysterious plains. The actions are simply put, stunning. From the magical circles that Ryner draws before unleashing the commands, to Ferris’ sword fights are animated smoothly without any glitch. Like I warned before, watching online streams, or stream-rips will kill half the real enjoyment. The fierce battles, magic circles, blood gores; you really cant enjoy them over low quality streams. This is not an anti-FUNi claim, just a fact which you can clearly confirm if you google the anime’s screenshots/screencaptures. I would rather you buy the DVD/Blu-rays when they are out.
The sound, particularly the BGM of the anime is really good. They change and merge so nicely with the mood that it makes the anime vibrant. One of the major contributions of BGMs is to propagate the emotional state of mind of the characters involved and Denyuuden scores a perfect 10/10 in that aspect. I would also like to say that the OP/EDs are really good, and grow into you as you continue the anime.
The only downside of the anime is probably every time it wants to pull a comedy. I would say it failed miserably to make me laugh even once.
[Edit X: the following bits under [Ignore][/Ignore] was a conclusion I came up at episode 18. So they don’t carry enough significance for my overall entertainment of the anime up till that point. Of course it changed after episode 24. Regardless, it was a nice watch and I found the anime quite good compared to many other shows that came out in Spring 2010 anime calender.]
[Ignore]I hope this review helps you to pick an anime that gives you a negative vibe when it actually is one of the real gems out there. I am enjoying this anime like nothing else from the Spring 2010 season and the reason behind writing this review is to make YOU find out what you’ve been missing out!
Again a reminder: Please do watch the first three episodes at least before coming to any conclusion. And if you still think its not your plate of dango, I would rather see you finding this review I took my time to write on ‘Not ‘. [/Ignore]
[Edit Part B: The anime decided to stick with the original novel and follow it until the final episode. Which left the Anime highly open ended and a lot of things to be answered. According to forum reads, twitter feeds and blogs, I have reached to a conclusion that unless there is a significant improvement of the market of DVD/Bluray Disc, which is really poor at the moment, a sequel is highly unlikely. So if you don’t intend to read the sequel novel, which is still ongoing, this anime is definitely not for you. Other than that, I would just say that there were bits in the original anime trailer which were never shown in the 24 episodes run of the entire show, leaving a bigger question, why those bits were there in the trailer when they were never in the anime series at all. Of course, I am referring to the bits that directly showed parts that collaborates with where the anime ended and giving a glimmer of hope to a sequel of the anime. You just never know.]
The story opens with two of the three main characters, the wizard Ryner and the knight Ferris, as they journey across the continent of Menoris in search of powerful Hero Relics to aid our third main character, the High King of Roland, Sion. The lazy Ryner and steadfast Ferris aren’t anything beyond that in the first episode, with the only noticeable interplay between them being a scene where Ferris calls Ryner a pervert. Unfortunately, this scene is a running gag throughout the show that turns the Ryner and Ferris duo from simple to cringeworthy.
Much of the show follows Ryner and Ferris’ adventures, meaning much of that time focuses on their relationship, which is Ferris calling Ryner a pervert for no reason; Ryner doesn’t so much as see a pantyshot from Ferris, so it’s not even clichéd in the way it should be, but outright unbelievable. Their relationship is 70% one running joke and 30% serious moments with no real progress between them, because they’re only sentimental when the show calls for it. Their relationship goes in a circle, or maybe it’s a see-saw; I don’t care, but neither do the writers.
In one of the show’s scenes, Ryner is going out of control for plot reasons while Ferris is trying to snap him out of it. After she manages to get through to him, Ryner breaks down and starts crying in her arms as the rain suddenly pours. This scene of clichés doesn’t work since there’s a lack of tells on their progress. Ferris blushes maybe once before this while Ryner shows no interest in her at all. And even if this scene did work, they go back into being a weightless comedy duo until the story demands their sentiments again. And this happens more than once.
But Ryner and Ferris’ relationship is harmless compared to the threads in the rest of the show. Ryner’s lack of personality outside his laziness can be made up for with his background, but the show’s storytelling often jumps back and forth from present day to flashback without any tell it’s done so, making it hard to follow. Even then, most of what little backstory he has is in the later parts of the show. It’s hard to take his tragic past seriously when the show often glosses over it for attempted comedy.
Ferris is an even bigger joke than Ryner. When she’s not wrongly calling him a pervert for whatever reason, she’s going on about dango flavors without much else to her character. Somehow, she has even less background than Ryner, and it doesn’t help that this background is little more than skin service that isn’t even charming, but a forced attempt at being dark and edgy. But, it wouldn’t be a forced attempt at being dark and edgy if Ferris was a character worth caring for, if she had real progress and most of her time didn’t focus on failed comedy.
The final main character, Sion, is also a big joke. His character arc is about learning to make tough choices that come with being High King, but his personality doesn’t show it at all. He’s equally serious and easygoing until the end of the show, which makes it easy to wonder whether story events are affecting him at all. Most of his background involves characters that have one or two lines of dialog, which isn’t enough for it to be taken seriously like it’s supposed to. He’s also incomprehensible, saying he doesn’t want to rule like a tyrant one moment, then leaves his assassin servant to take extreme measures so he can reach his goals the next moment.
Sorry, I tried jumping over one cliché and fell onto another. When the story isn’t being lazy with its characters’ progress or background, it tries TOO hard and ends up being a war and politics philosophy discussion without compelling characters to distract from the fact. These heavy themes require a delicate touch, but unfortunately most of the villains—villains, not antagonists—are wealthy, evil people that take away from any social depth the show tries to have.
Not that what depth the show does have is worth much anyway. There’s a lot more going on in the story, but most of it amounts to nothing or is rushed. One of the characters shows a thirst for vengeance without any build-up leading to that moment. The character he wants revenge on wants revenge on another character. And that final character is dealt with so quickly it disrespects the passion and empathy the first two characters (try to) invoke. If that sounds like a short plot description, then don’t worry, because the show doesn’t give these multiple story threads more than a few episodes.
But even with a lot of episodes, one of the characters still proves ineffectual.
When this character is introduced, she wants to reunite with Ryner because he was her friend during her rough childhood. It makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is how bubbly she is for most of the show, badly clashing with her background. What’s worse is that this isn’t the set-up to a gag character, because she’s supposed to be taken seriously. But her serious moments don’t work, because she lacks the roundedness needed to make her bubbly and serious side believable as the same character.
The only decent characters are more like two pairings that are unfortunately not around for long. One of the characters in the first pairing appears at the early and later parts of the show. She meets someone she doesn’t like at first, but in their next scene they’re enjoying a cup of tea, and in the scene following she’s a blushing maiden. The other pairing is a classic warrior and princess story that believably flows from adoration to sweetness; in the first scene they’re smitten at first rescue, in the next scene they’re trying to hide their feelings from their friends to no effect, and then they’re enjoying a moonlight walk.
Ignoring the small amount of screentime these four characters have, they’re believable because there’s real progress to their relationships. Sure, it’s cheesy, but it’s at least an attempt at a pairing compared to Ryner and Ferris’ see-saw relationship. It’s not as layered as the other parts of the story, but being more layered doesn’t mean better, but a greater chance to be worse. When there’s more plot to juggle, it only falls down much worse when the juggle isn’t kept up, and the juggle falls the moment it starts.
This is part of why Legend of the Legendary Heroes’ writing leaves a bad taste, and what I mean when I say the story adopts a taste for complexities. It tries to execute too many threads at the same time and doesn’t give enough time for each thread to be properly weaved. At the same time, the three main characters take up most of the story’s screentime but have almost nothing to show for it. It’s this odd combination of incoherent density and weightless quantity that makes this show such a failure from a storytelling standpoint.
This leaves only the presentation to save the show, but the visual part of that falls short. Save for Sion, his assassin servant, and the four pairing characters—the last four lack screentime—most of the character designs are multi-colored to the point where it’s hard to tell them apart. For a world with swords and magic, many of the fight scenes are underwhelming for being nothing but beam spam or poor choreography that makes one question if the combatants are only as strong as the plot demands.
The best part of the presentation is the music, but music isn’t the aesthetic focus of an action fantasy show. Still, it’s loud when it needs to be, and has a surprising amount of grace during quieter scenes when it uses the art of silence to put focus on the dialog. Unfortunately, the music is held back by its odd habit of using random rock music during some scenes. This modern flare clashes with the medieval, fantasy feel of the show. I suppose it’s trying to be cool, and in a better show it’d be shameless fun, but here it comes across as trying too hard.
Which is odd, because looking at how the show’s main characters are handled, it’s like they weren’t trying at all. No respect is given to most of the characters and their stories, it tries to tell too many stories, the stories often lack chronological coherence, the social themes lack any depth with its stereotypical villains, and the presentation is best where it doesn’t matter anyway. This show does a few things right and everything else very egregiously wrong.
But the best thing I can say about this show is what Ryner goes on about from episode 1; take a nap. Sage advice, because taking a tap is preferable to watching Legend of the Legendary Heroes. Sure, you won’t be doing anything, but at least it’s better than getting Alpha Stigma-level angry at the people who made this.
English: Tegami Bachi: Letter Bee
MAL Score: 7.64
With his mother taken away from him and having lost everything, Lag Seeing is now a letter whose delivery has been assigned to Gauche Suede, a Letter Bee. Despite their troubling start, the two of them become friends, leading Lag to realize what his aim in life is: to deliver people’s most important feelings in the form of letters, just as Gauche has done.
Although Tegami Bachi may seem extraordinarily childish at first, the subtle, dark undertones are what make it very appealing.
Amberground, the setting of the story, is divided into three sections based on social class: Yodaka, Yuusari and Akatsuki. The land is covered by darkness with the exception of the artificial sun with illuminates the capital (Akatsuki); therefore, the farther away you get from the capital, the darker it gets.
Lag Seeing, an orphan, was found by a Letter Bee, Gauche Suede, who realized that Lag was the package he had to deliver to Campbell Litus, a small town in the dark Yodaka District. To Lag, Gauche was like a hero – he had saved his life numerous times during the delivery. Gauche was also the one who taught him about how letters hold the hearts of those who write it, and how the gaichuu (giant insects) are out to steal those hearts. Overshadowed by his hero, Lag swears to become a Letter Bee when he grows up. Only, when he finally achieves his goal, he discovers that the person who inspired him is no longer working as a Bee. Desperate to see him again, he begins to search for Gauche during his deliveries. In the process, Lag learns of an underground organization plotting to overthrow the capital, and the price that the citizens of Amberground pay for the artificial sunlight.
Studio Pierrot has done a pretty good job with the animation. All the colours look very comfortable and eye-pleasing, with fabulous openings and endings.
I really like the music in Tegami Bachi because it really adds to the story. Each piece of music was carefully planned out and they really suit the setting of the story.
This is where I really think the story is lacking. Lag is an annoying crybaby who really, is nothing more than annoying. Niche, Lag’s dingo, does incomprehensible things almost every episode. Gauche is the only one who has a relatively deep character, that enables you to understand his thoughts and motivations. The occasional flashbacks do help explain Gauche’s character, but in general, you can’t really relate to the characters.
The light mood mixed with the dark undertones make a nice blend.
There is a strange land called Amberground where it is constantly night, and an artificial sun only partially illuminates it. A mail delivery service known as “Bee Hive” recruits young “Letter Bees” to travel near and far and deliver letters. To make things difficult, the land on which they travel is teeming with monsters called “Gaichuu.” The letter bees are equipped with special guns and a protective pet called a “dingo” to overcome such challenges. Lag Seeing is our main letter bee with a special power and dingo, and he strives to become the top letter bee.
With such an interesting and original premise, was the story executed well? I have to say that Letter Bee started out strong. We first see Lag as a distressed, confused young child whose mother was taken away by the capital. He is nothing more than a “letter” needing to be delivered to a person who will take care of him. You follow Lag as he encounters an inspirational letter bee named Gauche, and upon being delivered safely, he swears to become a letter bee just like him.
Eventually, Lag takes a letter bee exam, finds a dingo, and meets many other letter bees who will occasionally work alongside him. Unfortunately, Gauche isn’t among them because he suddenly goes missing before Lag arrives. The series manages to develop a lot of mystery up to this point about his whereabouts, Lag’s mother, and the strange events that occur in their world. Letter Bee also becomes a bit political as we gain insight into Amberground’s system of government.
Just before midway of the series, all of the mysteries are temporarily forgotten, and filler episodes take over. The majority of the show consists of Lag making deliveries to random people whose personal stories range from compelling to cheesy, looking at flashbacks, blasting up Gaichuu, getting sick with a fever, racing, celebrating Christmas, and so on. After a while, these episodes feel like a waste of time. I personally wanted the story to move back to the mystery, especially with the anime nearing its end so fast.
The final few episodes actually grow darker in nature and return to the mystery that made this series so fascinating in the beginning. My friend and I thought that this was what Letter Bee should have been all along. In the end, the story leaves off with much to be desired; however, a second season has recently been announced which explains why we ended up watching so many fillers. Hopefully Letter Bee’s continuation will explore more of its dark mystery and answer some questions.
To answer my own question, I would say that the story was not executed as well as it could have been, but I do look at this anime under a more positive light knowing that a second season is soon on its way. There is much potential left for Letter Bee to bring out.
The characters certainly drive the series and make it very interesting. Lag Seeing, as I have so often mentioned already, is an innocent, determined child who possesses the power to look directly into people’s hearts upon shooting his gun. He views himself as delivering the hearts of people rather than just mere letters. However, his major drawback is that he is a crybaby in every single episode. Every little thing seems to touch his heart and bring tears down his cheeks. Either you like him or you don’t. I found him to be quite likeable despite his drawback. Lag travels with his dingo called Niche who is rather compulsive in attacking others and is protective of him. It is very fun to watch them interact during their travels.
We also get to really know the other letter bees and Bee Hive officers. They each have their own personality, strength, motive, and unique dingo. Their backgrounds are slowly revealed through flashbacks; however, a few of them have yet to receive proper development which I suspect has been saved for season two. Nevertheless, they are strong and memorable characters.
The rest of the cast consists of people whom Lag meets while delivering letters: a lonely little girl, a pair of lovers, a worried mother, a con artist, you name it. While a few of them are pretty interesting, it is hard to just care about them all and to see the show focused on them so much. Their purpose more or less serves to give Lag and the other letter bees some character development.
Animation, Setting, and Music
The animation is a mixed bag. The character designs are great, as well as the background scenery for the towns and such. However, it has not been a thrill ride to watch the fights that occur during every delivery. The animation there is so-so, and the monsters are a bit too CGI for my tastes. They never feel like they fit quite right in the show.
This season worked very hard on developing its setting and atmosphere. They are simply Letter Bee’s strongest points as of right now. The atmosphere can be rather haunting because the world is always dark and bleak beyond the lively, warm towns. The background music largely contributes to this with its gentle, spooky tunes and classical music.
Letter Bee is a very unique and atmospheric anime full of deep mysteries and strong characters. Its story might have gotten a bit weak midway with all its fillers and flashbacks, but it has so much potential for the second season. This season was all about building up the characters and atmosphere; the second one just might get straight to business. With high anticipation for its continuation, I recommend this anime.
5: Tegamibachi Reverse
English: Tegami Bachi: Letter Bee Reverse
Japanese: テガミバチ REVERSE
MAL Score: 7.76
After Niche carries the wounded and stunned Lag back to the Bee Hive, the Letter Bee finally begins to piece the puzzle together. Now he knows what’s happened to Gauche, why the Marauders are so focused on stealing mail and the actual intent of the group controlling both, Reverse. However, when he’s forbidden to reveal the truth, Lag is soon forced out of the artificial sunlight and back into the world of perpetual night. And soon Reverse’s plot to take down the Letter Bees and overthrow the Amberground government begins to accelerate. If things weren’t already bad enough, the giant insect creatures called gaichuu are apparently evolving into something new; there may be traitors working within the Hive; and Niche’s sister, who’s definitely not human friendly, shows up to turn family drama into a full-scale siege! It all spells serious trouble for the Letter Bees, but if anyone can weather the storms and gloom of night, Lag and his team are the ones who’ll deliver.
STORY: At initial glance, it doesn’t seem very original, NOT CLICHE either, but hardly something very unique. Letter-delivering. Very mundane. Not so in this anime. Letter Bees go on very dangerous missions, transversing many miles through the flickering light of Amberground, they face the constant threat of ‘gaichuu’. This particular story follows Lag Seeing- the world’s most adorable/lovable protagonist, a letter bee searching for his idol and his saviour – Gauche Suede; in the most basic, basic terms.
The first season has very llttle plot development in terms of the previously mentioned concept, IN fact, it is safe to say the first season really just ‘sets the scene’ in 25 episodes, so by the time you reached the finale, you have a very thorough understanding of what being a letter bee entails, their impact on the lives of the civilians, the huge social divisionsof Amberground, basic knowledge on all the characters encountered so far, etc.etc.
The Second season is when the plot really gets moving. Don’t get me wrong, the first season was absolutely beautiful exhibition of the greatness of the human spirit. Beautiful and extremely moving. However, the second season is so extremely addictive and exciting because you are immersed in the journeys of all the protagonists and all their successes and failures are amplified tenfold for you, and in the most basic terms, season 2 retains little episodic elements of season 1 and is also much more exciting because there is significant plot movement.
ART AND ANIMATION: I’ve combined these two because there isn’t much I can say about them as I’m not an expert, but the art is beautiful and the animation is excellent. While watching this anime the last thing you’ll be unhappy with is the art, (which is actually pallettable ART), and the animation, (which is smooth, non-jittery and enjoyable to watch, I.E. looks like it’s done by ACTUAL professionals) 0o0
SOUND: WONDERFUL WONDERFUL WONDERFUl…. Music that is actually music, voice-acting that is actually done with emotion, openings and endings you actually want to watch, all in all, very impressive.
CHARACTER; Ahhh, the characters/ protagonists were most definitely a hiighlight of the anime. On a general note, every single character of the series is an actual character, with emotions, development, (however small), history (however much touched on), hopes, dreams, and aspirations, NOT 2 dimensional stereotypes, which many animes have succumbed to. Not this one. The main character – Lag Seeing, is the biggest crybaby I have ever come across. EVER. But in a weird warp he is also the most endearing and moving and emotionally sensitive soul I have also come across in all fiction, and the real world. He is type of character you wish you knew because he would be the greatest friend that would always be loyal to you and love you. AND FOR ONCE THE PROTAGONIST IS NOT A PERVERTED TWAT. AND you LOVE HIM FOR IT. Also, Lag Seeing, from the very first episode undergoes a huge emotional journey. Wrenched away from everything ever known, he grows a great deal in only the first few episodes; he learns the meaning of the words ‘friendship, love, and journey.’ Understanding first hand the experience of being a letter, it inspires him to able to give what Gauche Suede, (the letter bee that delivered Lag) gave him. This character development does not stop for one second in the duration of the both series.
His dingo – Niche is an equally interesting character. Adorable, but equally deadly, in many ways, she is the polar opposite of Lag, but in another weird warp they make an unbeatable team. The relationship entails many hardships, as all realtionship do, but also triumphs through them, which really contributes to not only the likability of these two characters, but the whole series.
THEMES: I could write a whole essay on this one. And I would. Happily. But for review purposes I will TRY to keep it succint. 😛 Sorry reader. OKK… Tegami Bachi is chocablock filled with themes. In fact, I don’t think the word ‘themes’ quite entails what this show offers intellectually. Obviously, it can be interpreted very differently, but this is just my personal opinion. But Tegami Bachi is most definitely about communication. Duh. Delivering letters is just the front. In Tegami Bachi, letters are communication devices that allow addressers and addressees to read into one another’s innermost feelings and wishes. It is a portal into one’s heart, where people can really use time to think carefully and articulate what they really want to say ONTO paper. And it is the letter bees job to carry all that emotion and ‘heart’ emanating from that flimsy bit of paper that could have so much significance on someone’s life, safely to their destination. This immortal secret is what (I think) the series tries to teach us. Unlike many deep meaningful series it doesn’t preach right behaviour or good morals. It TEACHES. Yes, teaches. Teaches about friendship, explored through the interaction and the community of all the letter bees, and the friendships between letter bees and their dingos, that immortal bond so overlooked, prime examples constantly dotted throughout the series. (I’m trying not to spoil it). It also teaches, about respecting others, and in not the way you’d expect. That particular lesson broke my heart to pieces. It really exemplifies the meaning of sacrifice, and what true friends do for one another. Another major theme explored is ‘good and evil’. Suprisingly I felt absolutely no enmity for the villian of the second season. I did hate a particular someone for the atrocious betrayal of trust but I won’t specify who. Watch if you want to find out. 😀 Anyway, the series goes back deep enough into a character’s history that I was able to emphasize enough with the villain to understand the reasonings behind their actions. weird….
On a smaller note, the one thing that I wish that some important questions were answered. It seems like, while the series is absolutely great, the producers/directors forget about a few aspects of the Lag’s history, and while it touches on it lightly is not nearly enough for fans to draw respectable conlcusions from it. Which is extremely unfortunate.
ENJOYMENT: I think it’s pretty clear from the rest of my review how much I LOVED LOVED LOVED this series. There has been a couple of negative reviews and what I really plead to you is to give this anime a chance. This anime really changed what I thought of anime as a whole, it was a refreshing, touching, at times heart-breaking series, forever immortalised in my heart, and I believe with every inch of my soul that it’ll have some place in yours too.
The animation was beautiful like I said before. Great graphics, lighting, colour, just made me happy =D. It was all lies to try and deceive me.
Other than the bitchy crying 24/7, outstanding sound. The music at most scenes was wonderful and fit perfectly. The voices did too, but I haven’t heard such great music that sorta made me feel good in other shows. I feel weird talking.. or typing about how I feel. Oops I did it again.
Not much to say here, these characters were original. I would give it a 10 if it wasn’t for Gauche’s stupid memory loss thing which caused him to think he was Noir and leave HER POOR SISTER BEHIND JUST LIKE THAT EVEN THOUGH HE SAID HE’D HELP HER FIX HER LEGS. What the fuck.. now that I think about it…… WHY, NOT, ASK, DOCTOR THUNDERLAND FOR SURGERY?
YOU DUMBSHIT GAUCHE, DUMB SHIT.
I enjoyment-ed nothing. Nothing from the story plot. But the music and art was enjoymentingfull =D. (My own word)
Now to the story.
Letter Bee left us with a cliffhanger. Reverse continued on from that, with a story which pretty much says “Fck you all, we’re gonna hide the story behind Lag’s mother, the artificial sun and gonna take away Gauche with all his memories gone like the assholes we are, you motha fckers can go watch Pokemon.” Well fk you people too. This continued series solves NONE of the questions people may have, all it does is give more questions like a fking math teacher, and tells us to solve it or leave it. And then we’re left thinking of what might have the story about Lag’s mother and the Sun been about.
I loved season 1.
Hell with season 2.
There are still things from last season still present that makes this series unique and enjoyable to watch. The atmosphere in this series is absolutely phenomenal. We are completely immersed into the distinct world in “Tegamibachi”, in the constant darkness shined only by the faint light of artificial sun, and the desolate landscapes between towns. Character design was also wonderful, the unique Letter Bee uniform, the cute designs for kids, and the cool (almost bishounen) looks of the adult Letter Bees. Other than the Gaichuu still looking like video game rendered, this series is pure visual pleasure to watch.
However, ‘REVERSE’ still has many flaws evident in the previous season. Lag Seeing is still a crybaby who cries EVERY single episode. There are extremely poorly made fillers (although far fewer in numbers). The ability to see memory of others is shameless abused as a deliberate plot device, as Seeing and others continue to use their abilities to invade personal privacy. Characters’ actions or motivations not making any sense, and even plot holes such as knowing things a character was never told about. Horrible, horrible character and location naming sense (“Lag Seeing”? “Jinro”? “Blue Notes Blues” (wtf?)) And of course, the highly predictable nature of the story itself that was a constant loop of melodrama. The ending lacked resolution, and much of the mystery about the ‘Tegamibachi’ universe and Akatsuki remain unexplained.
Lag Seeing’s voice is clearly female as usual and quite annoying at times, but I’m used to it by now. Everyone else’s voices are near perfect matches, quite smooth and emotional when needed. BGM sounded very generic as last season, used in all the right places, but just lacks something that moves your heart. Both OP/ED were of very poor quality, not particularly fitting well with the series, nor as catchy as ones from the first season.
Two seasons of ‘Tegamibachi’ were very disappointing because it had so much potential. The premise was so unique and had so many possible developments built in, but the story and characters were simply incapable of reaching their full potential. Lag Seeing’s character remained a crybaby to the end, the use of their abilities too corny, and pacing was absolutely horrible and seemed to drag on forever. It also gave me the impression of the characters saying and doing same thing over and over. The story was so horribly written near the end that it was almost insulting.
The theme of this anime was delivering thoughts and feelings, but it had failed to reach my heart.
4: Heartcatch Precure!
MAL Score: 7.79
Young flower enthusiast Tsubomi Hanasaki is often modest and quiet. But with her family moving to a new town, she aims to reinvent her image at her new school as someone more confident and outgoing. On moving day, she dreams of a mysterious tree in the sky guarded by a warrior named “Cure Moonlight.”
Tsubomi quickly learns that this was no ordinary dream when she encounters two mysterious fairies—Chypre and Coffret—who are being hunted down by a strange woman. When the woman summons a giant monster to attack the city, Tsubomi finds herself transforming into a warrior to fight the enemy! Taking on the alias “Cure Blossom,” Tsubomi learns that the woman is part of a villainous group that aims to turn the world into a lifeless desert, with her new duty being to stop it from happening. As Tsubomi continues to battle more monsters and uncover the secrets behind Cure Moonlight, will she find the confidence needed to overcome her timid nature?
What this anime is, is about 40 episodes of filler. Filler seems to be the no-no word for an anime to be a very good anime, see anime like Naruto for instance. However, as some hallmarks of anime like Cowboy Bebop prove, filler doesn’t have to make an anime bad, and can make the series even greater. This is the case with Heartcatch as well. While the series uses a pretty distinct formula: the main group of girls have a minor conflict, and we’re introduced to a character of the week that is having a similar conflict, that drives them to despair. One of the generals catch them in sorrow and steal their sou- …um heart flower and turn them into a Deserterian, the girls transform and fight the monster, the general mocks the character of the week for their stress , one of the girls, usually Tsubomi argues for the good nature of the character of the week, the purify the COTW and the COTW’s conflict is resolved, we learn about some “Flower Language 101” (which isn’t just made up by the creators, Google it) and its case closed. Even though the formula is, for the most part, rigid, it rarely gets tedious and they even throw some new tricks into the bag such as the general piloting the Desertarian like its a mecha. Even though they’re only one episode long, two tops, they stand on their own nicely.
But its not just episodic narratives all the way through, about 10-15 episodes is dedicated to advancing the story, whether it be introducing new cures, or the excellent last 6 episodes, which pretty much sealed the perfect 10 that I gave the story. The ending probably ranks along with Code Geass and Madoka Magica among the best endings in my book.
They do cut a lot of corners sometimes with the animation, using a bunch of CG for stuff like the activation items, and occasionally sloppy animation. Also the reuse of animation for things like transformations and finishing moves may turn some people down. However, at several points they show how good the animation team is, especially during the final 6 episodes.
The designs are a whole different ballgame, they are very versatile and can work in many situations. Not to mention they are heart-attack-inducing adorable! Also, the Gold Forte Burst animation is jaw-dropping to say the least.
The soundtrack is very excellent. The series got dark and it got tragic sometimes. The art and the soundtrack really are the two things that made these moments so great. One thing I have yet to mention is how the series uses parallelism to great effect in this series. At one point the song “Heart Goes On”, initially used during the fashion show that was built up to for several episodes, is used during the climax of the series. The soundtrack helped the series make me cheer, laugh, and nearly cry.
I’ll not spend a century focusing on ALL the characters, but they all are solidly built. Tsubomi develops throughout the series from a coward to a bright and loving hero. Yuri Tsukigage is a minor character for nearly half the series, but nearly steals the spotlight from Tsubomi near the end, not to spoil a whole lot. The rest of the cures are excellently built and a great ensemble. The characters of the week are of special mention as nearly all of them get a detailed backstory, except for the last one, who just gets his sou-…heart flower snatched right after he remarks how he doesn’t have a girlfriend, and he is never seen again. They serve as a Chekhov’s Gun near the end as they help the cures not lose hope when the bad guy is nearly about to win.
Speaking of bad guys, I guess I have to mention them.
The generals are excellent characters, you sympathize with them, but ultimately root for the cures to triumph. They are quirky but not to be trifled with. Excellent.
Sabbaku is defininely worth mentioning as a great character. His best traits are best left undiscussed due to MAJOR spoilers. But near the end reminds you of a certain other masked villain that you’ll probably recognize unless you live under a rock.
Dark Cure while kinda vague, definitely acts as a solid adversary, espescially for the final cure.
The big boss, Dune, is a fabulous villain in more ways than one. He nearly accomplishes his goal, which makes him probably the most capable villain I know of, and takes all the strength the cures can muster to defeat. GG Dune.
I was hesitant to give this anime a perfect 10, but this anime is one of the best series I have watched. And to think its a kids’ show.
RECOMMENDATION: VERY HIGH
Now the heart tree will get better!
Your move My Little Pony!
Another point in Heartcatch’s favour is the animation style. It’s done by the same team who did Casshern Sins, which is a bit of an odd mix. Casshern Sins is a great show, but it’s hella depressing post-apocalyptic material, and to have them do a Precure seems like a match made in “didn’t think this through properly” land. But it works, certainly in the animation style department. Heartcatch is stylish. The designs seem to be made with movement in mind, rather than other Precures where the characters don’t move freely at all and every fight scene is simply them panning across the screen (*cough* Fresh Precure *cough*). The animators are rather happy to let their characters go deformed for the sake of more fluid animation, but the artstyle suits the free-flowing designs quite well. Heartcatch’s fight scenes are far and away the best out of the Precure franchise, albeit that’s not particularly high praise. In comparison to other action anime, it doesn’t compare to Bones or Gainax level material, but it sure is pretty to look at.
The transformation sequences are…well, actually they’re not all that bitching at all. At least, the main two aren’t. They decided a cell phone was too unoriginal for this version of Precure, so instead decided to use perfume as a Precure transformation aid. Full points for originality I guess, but this does mean what you get is a spray-on Precure costume, which is rather underwhelming. It’s only until the third Precure shows up that we get a proper bitchin’ transformation sequence
Not that Heartcatch solved all the problems of the previous Precures. The magical pets are still as annoying as fuck. The BUY OUR TOYS still isn’t that well integrated into the plot. No really Precure, I’m cool with your amazing gospel 2nd ending song having awesome CGI dancing in it, but it’s jarring when every instance of BUY OUR TOYS is accompanied with the product in question being in CGI itself. It makes it stand out all the more jarringly, especially when they have to go through gimicky actions that the toys can also do. Like, come on. What sort of magical girl has to wind up their wand before they can use it? But the fact that it had a brain and wasn’t painfully stupid with its episodic plotlines far outweigh the problems I had with BUY OUR TOYS and annoying magical pets.
Precure is a cartoon aimed at little girls. Kids like repetition, or so I’ve been told. I did too, when I was, like, 4. Heartcatch’s non-plot related episodes follow such a strict formula that they start to get boring after a while. It’s the same problem I had with Hell Girl, and even that tried to mix things up a little more than Heartcatch ever tried to. Every episode follows the exact same damn pattern, to the point that they start to blend together. This is Not Good for an episodic show. Each episode should have something that makes it stand out from the rest. That was the one where they all talked backwards for the episode. That was the one where the colours all inverted. I dunno, I’m not a scriptwriter, but there’s nothing remarkable about most of the episodes. They don’t try to make them stand out, except on very rare occasions. Even the ones where plot-related stuff happen, the show still goes through the exact same motions. It doesn’t matter how great your formula is, it will be less interesting with every repeat of the formula if you don’t mix it up a bit.
Then there was the plot. Yeah. The plot. For gods sake, why do even the apparently good Precure villains fall foul of the pathetically dumb Precure villain syndrome? Dark Precure is Cool. She has a single black wing and is amazingly overpowered compared to our heroes. Then why does she not attack them? There is a scene where she is about to deliver the finishing blow, but then retreats because Mysterious Voice From The Sky calls her away. There was no reason for her to be called away either, she just went anyway. And it’s not like the villains don’t realise what a threat the Precures are to them. I don’t necessarily mind that the underlings are stupid, spending their time admiring themselves in the mirror. They’re meant to be stupid, and the show embraces that. But why are Sabaku and Dark Precure not attacking the Precures when they realise what a threat they are? What the fuck do they spend their time doing in the dark castle? She had no problem defeating Cure Moonlight back in the day, why not these two Precures before they get stronger? Oh wait yeah, I know. Precure Villain Syndrome. Give them a stick and a banana just out of their reach, they’ll proceed to choke on the stick.
But even the plot with the good guys is stupid. Every single revelation to the plot was lame. The revelation who the fancy man who kept saving them was an incredible anti-climax. The reveal of who the third Precure would be was a let down. Every time a plot related incident would occur in the episode, it would never result in something I particularly cared about. The plot related episodes were never particularly good, apart from maybe introducing a new bitchin’ transformation sequence or new move. The best episode of the series was the Mother’s Day one by an absolute mile, and that had nothing to do with the plot. It was just a well-directed episode that told a powerful message. But non-plot related episodes, as I explained earlier, got repetitive and dull. I found myself watching the next episode previews to see if anything potentially different would happen. But this too was a misnomer, as new events never succeeded in improving the quality of the episodes. Next episode has a new Precure, hopefully that will improve the quality, right? Nope, still the same old stuff it has been pumping out since episode 1, except now there’s an extra part to the transformation sequence.
I reached the episode where we got the fourth Precure. But her becoming a Precure was telegraphed to us for the past several episodes, so there was no joy in seeing it be realised. How she came about gaining the power to become a Precure was done via several randomly introduced plot elements over the past few episodes, such as a magical flying castle and the fact the Heart Tree can apparently travel across time and space, and that magical pets come from heart seeds, and all sorts of totally randomly introduced plot points for the sake of advancing the plot. But it’s not like the show ever changed. The villains were still being stupid. The Precures were still going through the same routine. The end of the episode showed the fourth Precure doing her bitchin’ transformation sequence and getting ready to fight Dark Precure. I thought to myself “well that was boring, but I gotta see the next episode because she fights Dark Precure in it”
…and stopped myself. I had fallen into that trap. I’m not watching the anime to see what’s happening. I’m watching the anime to see what’s going to happen. Nothing that’s ever happening in the present ever entertains me. Only the promise of changes in the future keep me going. Even if there is something worth watching, it comes out of non-foreseeable, non-plot related events like the Mothers Day episode. And there was where I dropped it. Episode 33. At the very point of the grand reveal, I gave up.
Tsubomi, the protagonist of this story, is a shy girl who definitely didn’t fit with what the image of what the standard Precure protagonist looked to me, I think that this is played very nicely through the story and seeing her open up more while keeping what makes her be her was so satisfying to see. Together with the cheerful and absurdly lovable Erika by her side, they form the main duo of the story for a good time before the other Precure join.
Those episodes with them alone were “the weakest” part of the series to me (saying that in quotes because they were still enjoyable) and were focused on giving the spotlight to side characters (mostly classmates or the family of the MCs) and our girls helping them both via interactions, and by kicking ass defeating the “Desertrians”, monsters created by the enemies of this story combining an object and the wiltered hearts of the characters. This anime uses the fact that Tsubomi loves flowers very strongly using that detail, with the flower each character has having a meaning that fits with their problem.
Once the other and equally nice Precure join the group, the plot starts to really pick up and only gets better and better, with very emotional moments and solid development for the characters. I don’t want to possibly overhype it, but honestly the final episodes were some of the most epic I have watched.
With a nice main cast is also needed a nice villain side, and The Desert Apostles did a successful job on that. Precure does a very good job at being lighthearted while also not shying away when it has to be darker, and the villains were a good example of that in execution, I enjoyed the interactions and comedy moments between them and/or with the Precures a lot and they ended up being very memorable as well when it came to the more serious parts involving their characters.
The art style of the series is so visually appealing and allows for a wide array of nice reactions and goofy movements from the characters while looking perfectly fitting with the show, and the great designs by Yoshihiko Umakoshi (Casshern Sins, Boku no Hero Academia, Doremi, Mushishi…) definitely were a part of that, the action scenes are also solid, abundant and well animated, not to mention the nice transformation scenes of the characters. The soundtrack of the series is also nice and has some very memorable tracks.
After only saying more and more positives I guess that it’s time to say the problems I had with the series, which honestly didn’t affect my opinion in the long run:
– The first is the already mentioned slower start, while I always enjoyed watching the episodes, I didn’t feel that it hooked me in nowhere as much as Hugtto or Princess Precure (which I watched right after) did, so I wasn’t feeling as hyped and also a bit worried that maybe I wouldn’t end up loving it as much as I wanted to, but yeah, that got fixed later on, boy it did.
– The second is the mascot characters of the main duo, that honestly were pretty annoying at first and I was never a fan of the “a heart seed is coming out!” scene after they defeat the Desertrians they face (and thank god the animation of that part got more polished, they are clearly pooping it, c’mon!) But they grew on me as the episodes passed and even took the spotlight in a comedy focused episode that made me laugh really hard and I loved.
– Lastly, this just seems to be a thing with the franchise as a whole. As a series that lives by selling the toys they make based on the anime they know that they have to advertise them, and how they do so? By making the objects the girls use look exactly like they would as a toy and even use CGI for some, this makes total sense but at times I couldn’t help but feel like “man, they are really trying to sell the product here”, which let’s be honest, it’s pretty stupid thinking about it: of course they are not making anime because why not, we wouldn’t get more if it didn’t sell! It’s a matter of getting used to it, and why lie, I freaking want a Flower Tact! I’m not surprised at all that this is the best selling entry so far.
If you haven’t watched any Precure yet and you’re reading my review you might feel put off by the last two negative points and think that this is in anime that only kids might find enjoyable, but I can promise you that this isn’t the case and that anyone has a chance to really enjoy it, the characters are very compelling and likeable, the comedy is solid, the action is nice looking and the story is interesting and has some darker moments that definitely surprised me seeing. This franchise is so painfully underwatched in the west and I hope that this slowly changes as time passes. Nice anime I can’t recommend enough and a totally good point to start with the franchise.
MAL Score: 7.96
The friendly and sincere Kobato Hanato has a wish to go to a particular place no matter what. To fulfill this desire, she is tasked with helping people in their times of distress. For each mended broken heart, a small candy-like fragment is produced and fills a special bottle. Once the bottle is full, her wish will be granted.
As Kobato carries out her mission alongside her stuffed toy companion, Ioryogi, she encounters various people troubled by their different situations. From a child struggling with his parents, a high school girl troubled about romance, and everything in between, Kobato’s naturally sweet smile and outgoing personality are ready to brighten their day!
Kobato herself begins as a bit of a mystery, tasked with a mission of healing the hearts of others in order for her to be granted her own wish. Despite being a hopeless idiot and incurably moe, Kobato does the best she can helping others. She is guided and protected by Ioryogi, an important figure from the spirit world who appears to Kobato in the form of a stuffed animal. The reasons for her mission, her origins, and the reason for Ioryogi’s appearance are explained as the story unfolds.
Most of the plot is going to be fairly predictable to anyone who’s seen many series like this and the early episodes are a bit formulaic. However this does change as the plot thickens over the last half of the series. I found the pacing to be good and I never felt that it lingered or stalled for too long in any place for me to get bored with it. Maybe the only exception would be the first half dozen episodes, with their similar and episodic plotlines. I was never blown away with any of it despite Kobato’s overwhelming cuteness, but the ending story arc is both heartwarming and heat wrenching. But I did like the ending overall and felt it wrapped up the series nicely and tied up all the loose ends.
The main reason to watch Kobato is for the titular character. She is overbearingly adorable in every way. Her character design is extremely appealing and she has possibly the best wardrobe I have yet seen in anime. Kobato could be the poster girl for moe; she’s earnest, innocent, naive, lacking any common sense, and impossibly stupid. On the surface one would probably think she lacked substance as well. While you could definitely say this early on, due to the length of the series and the time spent growing and developing her character she eventually becomes a great all around protagonist, instead of just a moe figurehead.
Kobato’s main foil would be her guardian Ioryogi. A quick tempered spirit stuck in the form of a stuffed animal, he is constantly berating Kobato for her stupidity and chastising her for not staying on task. However despite his gruff nature it’s obvious that he really loves and cares about her too. The relationship between them is the source of a lot of the shows humor, and I found the pair to be quite a delight to watch.
The other most important character to the story would be the introverted and standoffish Fugimoto. I am not really a big fan of Fugimoto’s type and always feel this is an overused cliché, particularly in shoujo and romance anime. I don’t think I will ever understand why girls find this kind of guy to be appealing. Why would you want to break down the guys emotional barriers and deal with all his baggage when there are plenty of other guys who are actually nice to you? Someday I hope to understand this mindset.
The rest of the supporting cast is handled well and for the most part quite interesting. Sayaka is the most important, as the head of the preschool that Fugimoto and Kobato work. The great majority of the story takes place at the school and revolves around their efforts to save it from villainous loan sharks. Sayaka is given some back story and development but most of the remaining cast remains mostly static. They push the story in the right direction when needed and then fade from view. This is a good thing since it allows the show to focus on those who deserve the screen time.
I am not particularly a huge fan of CLAMP artwork and designs. While their drawings are undoubtedly brilliant and beautiful (particularly when drawing children), I never liked the skinny and malnourished looking characters. However, I was pleasantly surprised that this wasn’t the case in Kobato and the production studio opted for a more normal look. While everyone is still a bit too thin, they don’t look like they are starving to death. What really won me over and why I think this is perhaps the most visually appealing work yet was Kobato and her beautiful clothing. Also, being a CLAMP product you can expect are to see plenty of references and cameos by familiar characters from their other works. It is nice that at least for the important ones, they don’t seem to reuse the same old models with different names. This may or may not be a bonus to some fans, but for me it was refreshing.
The series music, the OP theme and the in between songs are cute and very fitting of the series nature. In addition the acting is solid all around. Kobato’s seiyuu is suitably adorable sounding and brings out her personality. Though it does become a bit grating and overly cute at times, it is a minor annoyance and it probably wouldn’t work as well with a more mature sounding voice.
Overall I found Kobato to be a rewarding and wonderful viewing experience. If you like cute and adorable things, CLAMP, light hearted and touching stories with a hint of romance; then Kobato should be high on your list. If you really dislike moe or need action to be entertained than this is something you should stay away from. While it may not go down as an all-time classic, Kobato will leave you with a smile.
I’m rather picky with my ratings, but for the first time in a good while, I decided on a ten.
Story-9 The plot of Kobato. starts out simple enough- a girl assigned the task of healing peoples’ wounded hearts. The first half of the series covers the bases of the overall objective- cases of Kobato doing her work. Even these earlier episodes I though were awesome, but as the series enters its second half, Kobato.’s plot thickens and the series develops into a masterpiece.
In the first half, we see glimpses of the dark realities of life beneath the bright, cheerful character of Kobato- and from the very start, Kobato. deals with very real life details; a misunderstanding with a friend, a tragedy with a lover, family problems…
In the second half, however, is revealed a whole new facet of Kobato. The show cuts deeper than a story about a girl with the objective of fulfilling her dream. Debts. Love. Death. Tragedy. Farewells. We see all of these events changing and forming a much more mature Hanato Kobato
Art-10 I loved the art- I loved it! The details are intricate, the colors and effects wonderfully done. I don’t think I could have asked more of the creators (especially considering this is based off a CLAMP work) except actually letting viewers distinguish the ages of the characters.
Sound-10 The soundtrack for Kobato. was one of the best I’ve ever heard. My favorite soundtrack up until the point I saw Kobato. was the True Tears Soundtrack, but Kobato. really gave True Tears a run for its money. The sounds vary- cheerful, light, heavy, peaceful… Both soundtracks are masterpieces that fulfill their purpose, supporting and improving the show.
Character-10 Character. Yes, I’m someone who doesn’t enjoy a book, movie… or anything with shallow characters. At a glimpse, people may think Kobato, is just another “moe”, empty-headed character, but as the series progresses, all the characters- Fujimoto and Kobato noticeably- grow and mature as they learn important life lessons through their trials. The storyline doesn’t go “easy” on them: the lessons they learn are tough, yes, but also shape and define the characters.
Enjoyment-10 I both laughed and cried while watching Kobato. It really is a series with contrasting qualities; it brings laughter and tears. It shows the darkness in our society, but also the hope, dreams, and goodness in it. There are trials, but also miracles and second chances. This simple, 24-episode story has all this- and what’s even better is that it has a healing quality, one that warms the heart.
Overall-10 Overall, I give Kobato. a ten. I would give an eleven if I could. Kobato. is something viewers of all ages can watch- I would recommend to anyone, anyday. You could watch it with the whole family, your siblings, friends… it’s not something you have to filter or think through.
All I can say is to give it a try- and let the show do the rest.
Let me explain. I have never once made an attempt at learning Japanese. I know about as much as any weeaboo who watches subbed anime would know. Watching Kobato wasn’t a sudden grand realisation that I was now fluent in Japanese. It was the simplicity of the language the characters used. They all had just a few stock lines they would throw out in most situations which meant that after watching a few episodes paying attention to the subs you knew pretty much everything that they could say. This effects the anime in far more ways than you might realise. Of course you get the painfully dull and repetitive dialogue. Of course there’s the way every scene and every episode feels the exact bloody same with no inspiration, ingenuity or imagination, bar Kobato’s wardrobe. But alongside that you also have the actual tension in the series solved using the same uninspired methods in every episode. Kobato throws out a few stock phrases, Ioryogi mutters something in the background and all is right with the world once again. It limits the direction any episode can take.
But yes, it does get better. It may take until around episode 17 before I actually went through an episode without having beaten 3–4 pokemon trainers while it was playing, but it certainly did improve. Vastly improved. By episode 20 I had shut that Game Boy for good and was actually watching this show for real. The show took a much more dramatic and melancholic tone that suited the style of storytelling far more. After watching the previous 16 episodes of failed comedy (bar Ioryogi dodging cork bullets at the festival. That was quite funny) and bland stories that were supposed to be heartwarming, the effect this change to a plot-driven story had on the overall quality of the show was phenomenal.
Let me talk about the MAL stats for a second on this series. There’s a very high percentage drop rate to completed rate, around 20% of the people who watched it, dropped it. And yet the anime is rated 8.07 at the time of writing, a very respectable score indeed. MAL doesn’t count the scores once you’ve seen beyond a certain number of episodes so those who actually sat through the entire thing were clearly rewarded for their efforts. It also shows the usual reaction of people to rate something highly because the later episodes were better, much like After Story. It’s something that bugs me a lot because I hate having to sit through several poor episodes just because ‘it gets better I swear!’. I don’t doubt it does. It’s just those earlier episodes are a right pain to sit through. Because Kobato is, for the most part, a poor anime. It just happens to end on a very high note. Plus you can’t skip those earlier episodes the same way you theoretically can for After Story. Without those earlier episodes the ending ones don’t work.
It did turn me into a romantic sap though. Good old Clamp did it again. They made me believe that, through anything, love will prevail. No matter what happens to you, what you go through, what form you’re in, love will get through all that. It did the very same thing Chobits did. It made me believe in the Power of Love. I came into this anime looking for something to replicate the feeling Chobits gave me and, in the end, I guess it did exactly that.
2: InuYasha: Kanketsu-hen
English: InuYasha: The Final Act
Japanese: 犬夜叉 完結編
MAL Score: 8.21
Thwarted again by Naraku, Inuyasha, Kagome Higurashi, and their friends must continue their hunt for the few remaining Shikon Jewel shards, lest they fully form into a corrupted jewel at the hands of Naraku. But Naraku has plans of his own to acquire them, and will destroy anyone and anything standing in his way—even his own underlings.
The persistent, unyielding danger posed by Naraku forces Sango and Miroku to decide what is most important to them—each other or their duty in battle. Meanwhile, Inuyasha must decide whether his heart lies with Kikyou or Kagome, before fate decides for him. Amid the race to find the shards, Inuyasha and his brother Sesshoumaru must also resolve their feud and cooperate for their final confrontation with Naraku, as it is a battle they must win in order to put a stop to his evil and cruelty once and for all.
The art as always was clean and enjoyable. But the development of the characters was spectacular! I am so glad that the ending was the way it was. What I hoped for all along.
So glad I watched it and highly recommend to others as well!
To a man who completely watched every single Inuyasha episode known to man, I want to point out that this here is one of the most miraculous things ever.
Story – The story takes wherever the last story picked of. I found this to be much better than the 167 episodes the original one took place. The psychological impact of the story stunned me to no end, making me marathon this over and over again. Truly amazing. 10/10
Characters – Out of all the characters in this series, Kagome evolved the most. Not to say that the others stayed the same, but Kagome. She played the most significant role and completely carried the show. Unfortunately, the way Inuyasha changed was completely irrelevant in any standard and should not be mentioned again, overall best character development. 10/10
Sound – You may not realize it, but the dub for this show was gorgeous. You could say that this is dubbing gone right. It made the show feel very realistic and logical in every aspect of the story. Don’t forget the OST. Truly just gorgeous. I spent $20 downloading the Inuyasha OST and not once regretting it. 10/10
Art – The art style for this was pretty astounding, feeling refined like my new born child. He was born yesterday April 4, 2014 at 12:27 AM while I was finishing up this show. 10/10
Enjoyment – Disregarding what ever my wife says about this show, it will always be 1st in my life. 10/10
Overall – This was a masterpiece of a show that i would never recommend the first season to. It was glorious in all aspects. In the honor I gave my son the middle name of InuYasha 10/10
Im out and never forgot to blaze it.
Story (10) Definitely one of the more in-depth storylines in anime. The show takes you back in time, well it literally does each time Kagome goes through her family’s well, to see peoples’ pasts to see how everyone is connected to each other. The story picks up where the first season ended, Inuyasha and company are going after Naraku to end his evil in their world. This is the main story, but things that weren’t taken care of in the first season were finally given a resting place. What I mean by this is things like “What happened to Inuyasha-Kagome-Kikyou love triangle?!?” are finally resolved and definite.
Something that I would like to point out is the pacing of this continuation series. This 26 episode ending is NOT rushed, everything is greatly paced.
Art (8) A definite improvement in animation, but not to the extent that it is extremely noticeable. The animation style is kept the same, which is great because I believe that having the same character animation is crucial in the overall enjoyment of the anime. An example for this would be the Minami-ke series where all 4 seasons are animated differently because they were made in 4 different studios. It had an obvious effect to many of the views, including myself. Animation is smooth and attractive, yet not too flashy.
Sound (10) Music in the InuYasha series have always been great! Song likes Dearest – Ayume Hamasaki, Every Heart – Boa, Fukai Mori – Do As Infinity, and Rakuen – Do As Infinity, are great examples of the awesome music. Music is incorporated into the anime well with the timing of it, and also the selection of music they use. In fact, my first spine-chilling experience while watching anime came from this show. It was due to the mix of what was happening in the anime and the song that came with it. When I think of great music in anime I think of InuYasha immediately.
Character (10) The complex relationship between Inuyasha, Kagome, and Kikyou is one of the most engaging subjects of anime that I have ever seen. The anime does a great job in taking time with character development. You do not have to worry about not understanding why things happen, because the anime explains, or has explained, why. The characters are original, that is what I love about them. I love that they all have pasts, especially Inuyasha and Kikyou. It adds so much more depth to the story. Another thing I love about the characters is the timing of their actions. They are themselves when nothing is going on, and they serious, but still themselves, when something is happening. They have dimension.
Enjoyment (9) Just an absolutely fitting ending to a great series. It was well made, and while typing that I just told myself I wish I could watch this for the first time again.
Overall (9) An extremely high 9 rating in my books. Recommend it to anyone, especially to those that are interested in action, romance, drama, and some comedy.
1: Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
English: Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
Japanese: 鋼の錬金術師 FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST
MAL Score: 9.16
After a horrific alchemy experiment goes wrong in the Elric household, brothers Edward and Alphonse are left in a catastrophic new reality. Ignoring the alchemical principle banning human transmutation, the boys attempted to bring their recently deceased mother back to life. Instead, they suffered brutal personal loss: Alphonse’s body disintegrated while Edward lost a leg and then sacrificed an arm to keep Alphonse’s soul in the physical realm by binding it to a hulking suit of armor.
The brothers are rescued by their neighbor Pinako Rockbell and her granddaughter Winry. Known as a bio-mechanical engineering prodigy, Winry creates prosthetic limbs for Edward by utilizing “automail,” a tough, versatile metal used in robots and combat armor. After years of training, the Elric brothers set off on a quest to restore their bodies by locating the Philosopher’s Stone—a powerful gem that allows an alchemist to defy the traditional laws of Equivalent Exchange.
As Edward becomes an infamous alchemist and gains the nickname “Fullmetal,” the boys’ journey embroils them in a growing conspiracy that threatens the fate of the world.
I admit that as I’ve seen the original and read the manga, the pacing of Brotherhood seems to start off being VERY fast (I finally got used to the pacing after watching the first fifteen eps or so). Events that took up half a volume of the manga and had spread though a few episodes of the original anime were now shown in just a single episode. However, after trying to look at it from the perspective of someone who’s new to FMA (not comparing it to the manga nor the original), I believe that the pacing works and it manages to tell an intriguing story effectively with little confusion. The plot is full of clever ideas and unpredictable twists that link various parts of the story together. By the final episode, all loose ends are neatly tied up and what’s left is a hugely satisfying epilogue.
The animation in FMA Brotherhood is crisp and very well done (although it does sometimes dip a bit in quality). Compared to the original FMA it’s a bit simpler but that’s just because the original set a very high standard to follow. The facial emotions of the characters are also perfectly presented. The action scenes are brilliant and VERY well animated, with a variety of alchemy techniques and other talents being displayed nearly every episode. The various battles are consistently exciting to watch, but somehow get even better towards the end of the series.
The voice acting is of an excellent and consistent quality, and I think that pretty much all the characters have voice actors which suit their personalities. The majority of the openings/endings are a pleasure to watch due to fantastic animated sequences and theme songs. The background music which play during the episodes usually fit very well with the situation, although some tracks seem to be overused a little at first. This becomes less of a problem as the series progresses, with plenty of new music being introduced to support the story as it reaches the finale.
Moving on to the characters (best thing about this series), the original FMA focussed mainly on Ed and Al and on their struggles to regain their bodies, whereas Brotherhood also explores other characters to great detail at the same time. The majority of the spotlight is still on the two brothers, but it highlights their interactions with new characters which were not present in the original anime. New characters include a group of people from Xing (a neighbouring country), another person from the Armstrong family (who I think has become one of the coolest members of the supporting cast), and a new main antagonist. For me, the Xingese characters in particular (Ling Yao and Mei Chang among others) provide a new dimension to the FMA world, by showing us a different culture to the militaristic one we’re familiar with. I think the new antagonist is an improvement on the original FMA, as this person has a much stronger and clever link to the Elric brothers’ father. Returning characters from the original FMA, such as Mustang and Scar, are much more awesome and developed due to the fact that Brotherhood is 100% faithful to the manga. Plus, Winry Rockbell now has a much more active role in the story. I can say for sure that this anime has one of the best main/supporting casts I’ve ever seen, and you’d probably find it difficult to label any of the recurring characters (whether they are good or evil) as being either boring or unnecessary in terms of the storyline.
One of the many good things about this series is that there has been absolutely no filler at all (yes, I’m thinking of Naruto, Inuyasha, etc), which prevents the story from losing momentum. All the episodes are concise and every scene is important as part of the huge plot. The dialogue fully explains everything and is straight to the point. As multiple characters are explored there are lots of side stories, but these are all perfectly intertwined with the main story of the Elric brothers and more often than not directly influence their journey too. Like most anime series, there are things from the manga which have been left out, but these are usually just restricted to comedy moments. There has been one episode which shows a lot of flashbacks of events so far, but that’s forgiven as it shows the most epic moments of the series, and also provided us with some history on the father of the Elric brothers.
FMA Brotherhood will be sorely missed now that it’s finished. It is excellent in every aspect and has very little, if anything, that can be called a flaw (maybe rushed character development at first due to the fast pacing, but this quickly subsides). Each episode feels like it’s too short, a testimony to how much it draws you in to the story and characters. There are moments which leave you smiling, laughing, sad and simply amazed. Try this anime, it’s recommended for absolutely everyone, to newcomers and to those familiar with Fullmetal Alchemist.
I’m not a huge fan of the MAL categorical rating system, as I’ve mentioned in some of my previous reviews. I oftentimes outright ignore it. However, looking at the categories right now, I feel as though this is one instance where I can use it to talk about everything I want to so I’m going to use it.
The FMA:B plot and world-building are some of its strongest aspects. The world that it creates is an immersive, full-feeling thing with many animate pieces that move even when you aren’t looking at them. It’s an extremely creative world as well, adopting its own set of universal laws including alchemy through equivalent exchange, mind-body duality and its own interpretation of a higher power, and it sticks by these laws. Never once does the story contradict its own rules, instead using them in creative ways to build off of each other. The plot is also one of the most engaging parts of the show, unveiling itself at just the right pace to keep you interested whilst still keeping a few major cards to play at the very end. The pieces fall into place in a way that is satisfying because it simultaneously mind-blowing and obvious, and that’s one of the marks of strong storytelling.
While the FMA:B story is certainly one of the best I’ve seen, I find that I have to withhold my 10 score here on the grounds that its incredible direction and creativity are marred by some detrimental weaknesses. First of all, the exposition is handled extremely poorly. The first and third episodes feel like they’re from some shitty cartoon network show, the show blatantly ignores the show-don’t-tell rule in the entirety of its first chunk (with characters spelling out exactly what is happening and why it’s happening) and its tendency to repeat important plot points over and over again quite frankly feels insulting to me as the audience as though the show is assuming I’m not able to pay attention or figure things out for myself and need to have the fact that Ed and Al committed the sin of human transmutation and lost their bodies told to me at least twenty-five times in the first two hours of show. Secondly, there’s a period of time which I would probably refer to as the third fourth of the show (episodes 40-53ish) in which the show drags incredibly, adopting a typical battle-shonen approach of having characters engage in multiple-episode long one-on-one or two-on-one battles, giving them plenty of time to pose and stand off and monologue at each other. This isn’t how fighting or war works, and these contrived battles really take away a lot of the climactic atmosphere. Finally, the show’s ending is not nearly as satisfying as I wish it had been. The final few episodes are for the most part brilliant, but once the show plays all its cards and it’s resolution time, it wraps itself up with cliches and in-your-face themes.
The art is absolutely astounding 80% of the time and absolutely horrid 20% of the time. Thus the 8 score. The action is all stunning, the openings gorgeous, the backgrounds consistent and unique, building a sense of a real lived-in world. The character designs are sometimes a little bland, but for the most part they are memorable and the homunculi look brilliant so I don’t have any real complaints there.
What I have a problem with is the obnoxious number of times that the show goes “anime” – reducing its characters to shittily-drawn caricatures and its animation to blocky, looped motion. Usually this is used during the shows attempts at humor, which I’ll talk about later, but most of the time it was just extremely cringe-inducing and distracting, ruining the sense of continuity and immersion in this world. The show obviously wants you to take it seriously (it sure loves its drama) and when Al is portrayed as a big grey mound with a squiggle for a mouth it makes this difficult. There’s a difference between having your character goof around and having the show itself goof around. It almost feels like a laugh-track, telling the audience “this is the funny part!”
For the most part, however, the art is gorgeous. When it counts, it shines, and that’s really what matters.
Undeniably the strongest aspect of the show. I have no complaints whatsoever. The soundtrack is never distracting but always effective, the voice-actors (especially for Bradley and Al) absolutely nailed it and the openings and endings… dear lord. It’s been said before, but the openings and endings to FMA:B are some of the very best ever made, both in sound and visuals. They tell small stories of their own. They set the tone for the episode and for their section of the show as a whole. I especially loved ‘Golden Time Lover’ and ‘Chemistry’, but I have to give special mention to SID’s ‘Rain’. As far as I’m concerned, that opening could have been the end of the show. It single-handedly established a sense of finality, a long-endured struggle of these characters and their causes. Everyone is portrayed as exhausted, weak and full of both despair and determination: protagonist and antagonist alike, fighting under the rain. Not for glory, not for honor, but just for the one thing they care most for. Personally, it made me extremely hyped for the final stretch of the show. It wasn’t quite what we got, but at least we got some of it.
I believe that there is an intense connection between a show’s opening and the audience’s willingness to appreciate it. It is very likely that the intensity of many fanbases is in part due to the ability that openings such as these have to maintain feelings in regards to the show, oftentimes perhaps even distorting or altering memories of the show itself into what the opening would have you believe the show was like rather than what it was actually like. Obvious examples that jump to mind are Sword Art Online’s “Courage” and Guilty Crown’s “My Dearest”. Remember how those shows were absolutely nothing like that? No?? IT’S TOO LATE FOR YOU
But I digress.
I would definitely call out the show’s characters on being the weakest link and the most undeserving of the praise that the show receives. For starters, the writing is often clunky and awkward, but that’s not the main issue. It’s because most of them are not really characters: they’re plot devices with one or two distinguishing traits tacked on. They’re entirely predictable, not because they feel like real people but because they do the same things over and over again. Al talks about what he’ll do when he gets his body back. Ed talks about how they’ll find a way and how they will atone for their mistakes and etc. It’s not that it’s melodrama: it’s the fact that it’s the SAME melodrama over and over again. It wasn’t until sometime past episode 30 that Ed stopped sounding perpetually like a broken record and started to feel as though he were actually developing, but even then he was really just defined by his arc and not by any amount of complexity.
And that’s the pitfall that so many of these characters fall into. If your character’s only real traits beyond their development for the sake of the show are “hates being called short” and “hates milk” they’re really more of a tool with some googly eyes stuck on to them. Other characters are even worse: Armstrong is manly. His sister is more manly. Mustang wants to be Fuhrer and avenge Hughes (he’s even got this great relationship with Hawkeye that could have been seriously compelling if they ever had any real conversations about anything besides “we must overthrow the government” and “Hughes!” over and over again). Winry likes Ed and automail. Ling wants to be emperor. Now, FMA:B is a complex, busy show. I could understand if it didn’t have the time to make these characters anything more than chess pieces for its grand and elaborate plot, giving them a few distinguishing traits because that’s really all it can manage without dragging itself out immensely. But it DOES have the time: it has all the time it spends having Ed yell about being called short. It has all the time it spends having Armstrong pull of his shirt and yell about being manly. It has all the time it spends having Ed and Al talk about getting their goddamn bodies back over and fucking over again as though I would somehow manage to forget it. Ling passing out from lack of food. May fawning comically over Ed. Mustang is antisocial LOL. The same gags, over and over again, barely even rehashed in any original way. Not only do they become painful to watch, they devour all of the development that this shallow cast of characters could have had to make me actually invested in them. They’re far too static, with most of them having a single change or revelation over the course of the show’s 64 episodes in order to indicate that they have grown as a person. But a good character has so much more than that: what kind of music do these people listen to? Why? Who are their role models? Why? What books do they like? What are their favorite places to eat? What do they appreciate in the people they’re close to?? What are their personal histories…
Oh wait, sorry! I didn’t mean to ask that last one! Please, I take it back! NOOOOOOO…
Yeah so I forgot to mention something. Screw all that stuff about making these characters possess complex personalities, FMA:B has a better way to define them.
Everyone who’s remotely relevant has a traumatic backstory. It’s a harsh world, sure. I get that. Here’s the issue: people are introduced and then defined through their trauma. Now this isn’t Angel Beats bad, where horrible things happen to perfectly innocent people for no reason. Most of the tragedy is partially a result of the decisions of the characters involved, and their resulting struggle is a combination of having to cope with the consequences and with themselves and their mistakes. However, this cannot be used as a SUBSTITUTE for character development. A supplement, sure, but I still remember in episode four when Ed and Al meet a state alchemist who literally introduces himself with something along the lines of “my wife left me because we were too poor” before he even tells them his goddamn NAME. Here, come on in! Take a seat! Would you like some sorrow pie or tragic backstory cake? We have plenty! Ed and Al’s dad left, then their mom died, then they f*cking ripped their bodies apart. Winry’s parents were murdered in cold blood. Mustang had to kill lots of people. Armstrong had to kill lots of people. Everyone had to kill lots of people. Scar watched everyone he loved get killed, and then had to kill lots of people. These are always the first things we find out about people, and then for the rest of the show they are defined almost exclusively by them. If anyone is overly happy and wholesome, it means something horrid is going to happen to them. It’s basic emotional manipulation. Look at this adorable little girl and her dog! Dead. Look at this smiling, picturesque family! Husband dead. Dead. Everyone innocuously happy has to die or lose someone close to them. The more broken and internally conflicted you are, the safer you are. There’s no need to pile more grief on Scar, so he’s relatively safe.
Yes, the characters suffer from repeatable and preventable problems. They exist mainly to function as morals-in-a-bottle with gags tacked on to them. They’re difficult to relate to, because all we know about them is whatever themes they embody and one or two dumb jokes. Ikuhara writes characters more personable than this, and his stories don’t make sense on PURPOSE. I did give the characters a 6 though, and there are reasons for that.
First off, despite their lack of humanization the characters complete their tasks of being walking themes with relative effectiveness. This isn’t anywhere near Log Horizon S1 bad. These characters are here for a reason, they represent something, and they represent those things well. Sure, they could have easily been better, but they fulfill their purpose and for that alone they are not failures. I will also give special mention to Scar, who, while still actively defined by his trauma was executed far more impressively than the other characters. This is probably in part because the show actually viewed him as morally ambiguous as opposed to just making the character FEEL morally ambiguous when there was really no doubt that the show wanted you to think this was a ‘good guy’ (*cough* Mustang)
Second off, there are some exceptions to the rule. Most of my complaints thusfar have been leveled at the shows protagonists. They are the ones that suffer from dismal repetition and blatant violation of show-don’t-tell. Where the show does excel is with its antagonists. There are seven homunculi in the show, incarnations of the seven deadly sins, and they so utterly clobber their “good-guy” counterparts in terms of being engaging, personable subtle characters that it isn’t even funny. Their intensive backstories are never shoved in your face, their apparent contradictions are given plenty of time to be uncovered by the viewer, and the deliciously ironic conclusions to their arcs are done tactfully. Many times I found myself actively routing for them because they were just so much more interesting and well-executed. I would happily watch an “Adventures of the Homunculus” spinoff cataloging the several hundred years most of them lived before the start of the series.
I was constantly gripped by the plot. I actively looked forward to the openings and endings. The art was oftentimes orgasmic. The homunculi made me want to start looking for ingredients to make a philosopher’s stone with. However, I was constantly frustrated by the show’s apparent lack of respect for its viewers and by its absolutely abysmal humor. I’ve already said it, but I don’t know if I’ve driven home just how infuriating it is to have exposition repeated to you over and f*cking over again and how cringe-inducing it is when somebody violates the show-don’t-tell rule at extremely tense and crucial moments. It actively snapped me out of the experience whenever Ed and Al had a conversation about getting their bodies back after the 5th time it happened, and when God literally spelled out for Ed that he had discovered the meaning of life I facepalmed hard. That’s not how you do themes, man. That just comes off as preachy. That’s something the show suffered constantly from: it felt incredibly preachy. It’s character’s speeches about the answers they had found to their struggles felt much more pointed at the audience than at anyone in the show they were talking to, and that bothered the ever-loving crap out of me. And have I mentioned the humor? For every joke the show has that lands, it tries about five others that fall on their face. As I’ve already mentioned, they’re repetitive and used as a substitute for meaningful character interactions and development. It seems as thought the show is trying to use them as a counterbalance for its immense amount of melodrama, but instead they end up just ripping apart the tone and stagnating the story. Despite these gripes, I did overall enjoy the experience and felt that the positives did inevitably outweigh the negatives so I will happily give it a 7 for enjoyment.
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is not a masterpiece. It’s a very respectable, unique, inspired and creative show and it’s definitely a classic. I would happily recommend this to most people. However, don’t go in with irrational expectations. It’s enjoyable, it’s engaging, it will definitely give you plenty to think about, but in my personal opinion it gets a little too much praise and a little too much hype. I probably would have enjoyed it more myself if I hadn’t heard nothing but angelic worship for it before going into it. I formally apologize to any huge fans of the show that I may have offended: it’s not by any means a bad show! I don’t give out 7s all that lightly, believe me. This is merely an argument against FMA:B being the be-all-end-all of anime. Thanks for reading if you made it through that wall of text, and have a nice day!
One of the issues at hand seems to be ownership as producers, writers and directors all seem to want the work to be reflective of their style and perception, and in order to stamp their mark on a show they will makes numerous unnecessary changes or additions. Admittedly there are times when the adaptation supersedes the original work, but more often than not the result is at best a decent anime, and at worst utter twaddle.
And then there’s the other side of the coin, where the anime adaptation sticks to the storyline set out in the original work. Normally one would expect these to be superior works, but in a strange irony this is not always the case. The problem with these types of adaptations is that the original work may not have been very good, or even have a suitable narrative, to begin with, and turning them into anime only seems to exacerbate their inherent flaws.
Fortunately, the Full Metal Alchemist franchise manages to steer clear almost all of these pitfalls. The problem is, there are no other anime that have so evenly split the viewing public’s opinion between the two versions of the series. Unlike the 2003 adaptation, Brotherhood is a faithful representation of Arakawa Hiromu’s hit manga, and while many fans of the franchise laud it as the best thing since sliced bread, there are a number who consider the original anime version to be the superior tale.
But we’ll get to that in a bit.
Many people will already be familiar with the particulars of the story, and in a very real sense the common perception is well formed. Unfortunately, one of the problems with liking something too much is that one becomes blinded to its flaws, and while Brotherhood has very few noticeable ones where the narrative is concerned, this also serves to make them stand out.
The story is told in a very straight forward, no nonsense manner that is kind of refreshing given the penchant for filler episodes. The issue though, is that the content of the tale is much lighter in tone, much more typically “shounen” in its essence, than that of the first adaptation. One of the reasons for this is because the undercurrent of obsession amongst the main characters peters out towards the end of the story – a stark contrast to the ending in the first adaptation. Instead, these obsessive behaviours are effectively “de-humanised” by pushing them on to the non human characters.
There is a very clear sense that the plot is geared towards a more typical shounen standpoint and mentality, and while the whole still works very well as a story, one does have to wonder if the writers for the first adaptation didn’t steal a march on Arakawa. It’s possible that she had to change her idea of how the tale should develop because the first anime version took a much darker path than most other shounen franchises.
That said, the ending allows for a degree of catharsis that was missing from the first adaptation, and although there are some broad similarities between the two versions at times, in truth they are as different as chalk and cheese. As an added bonus this series is far less dependent on random comedic moments, and the difference this makes to the flow of the plot is palpable when the two versions are directly compared.
One big advantage that Brotherhood has is that the seven year gap has allowed for improvements in various aspects of production, and it shows in a number of areas. The animation is more fluid than before, although admittedly the difference isn’t really obvious at first and only really appears during large scale action set pieces. The character designs will be very familiar to any fan, but are subtly sharper and more defined than in the previous series.
Interestingly enough, one of the biggest plus points for Brotherhood is actually its wealth of interesting characters.
As one would expect, a number of the characters from the first adaptation appear in Brotherhood, but there are also several who are notable for their absence as they do no appear in the manga. Instead, a horde of new characters appear throughout the course of the series, many of whom have their own goals, ideals and personalities. Indeed the biggest difference between the two versions is the sheer number of people who all seem to have some impact on the story.
For much of the series Edward and Alphonse Elric behave in a manner that many who have watched the first adaptation will find familiar, and one of the nice things about this is that familiarity is used to very subtly develop the pair into very different characters. The change in their personas happens very gradually, but by the end of Brotherhood one can see just how much growth the pair has undergone.
Strangely enough, the most interesting additions to the series are actually Yao Ling and Olivier Mira Armstrong (Alex Louis Armstrong’s older sister – but without all the muscle flexing), two of the supporting roles. Yao Ling presents a strange dichotomy for the series to tackle, and while he doesn’t develop as much as he possibly could have, this is offset by the moral and ethical dilemmas inherent in his situation towards the end of the series. On the other Olivier Armstrong possesses some of the strongest characterisation in the whole story, and while she is without doubt a major player at certain points of the show, what makes her interesting is the fact that the viewer is never quite sure of her goals.
There are a number of very strong characterisations in the series, but one of the things that is a little strange is the difference between the two versions where the homunculi are concerned. Unlike the first adaptation the homunculi in Brotherhood have very different origins, even though they still deal with similar obsessions. This raises an interesting perspective on the series as a whole, and is one of the reasons why Brotherhood is far more of a shounen tale than the original adaptation. The plot takes on a subtly lighter tone, even though it may not seem that way, once their origins are understood, and the main reason for this is the “de-humanisation” I mentioned earlier. The viewer is aware that these characters, though human-like in form, are not linked to humans in any way, and this awareness acts as a buffer so the viewer is less likely to question the actions and behaviour of the homunculi. In essence one is subjected to the ethos that monsters are evil and do bad things, which raises some interesting issues where Kimblee, Greed and the military’s generals are concerned.
The quality of the acting is possibly the main reason why Brotherhood is able to pull off its feat of developing not only the familiar characters, but also the new additions. Paku Romi and Kugimiya Rie reprise their roles as Edward and Alphonse Elric, but with the exception of a few roles, the remaining cast are very different from the first outing. Now normally one might consider this a recipe for disaster, but it’s a testament to the quality of not only the actor’s abilities, but also the scriptwriters, that this series easily stands shoulder to shoulder with the original.
The music is very well composed and produced, and the series has a surprisingly large number of opening and ending themes, especially for 64 episode series. That said, fans of Brotherhood may find themselves in a bit of a quandary, especially if they prefer the OPs and EDs from the first series. As for the sound effects, they are handled in a decidedly competent manner that makes one wonder why other shounen anime seem to have trouble in this department. Granted there are occasions when there’s a bit of a cacophony, but in general the effects are clear, bold, and well choreographed.
Now unlike most viewers, I actually consider Brotherhood to be equal to the first series, and I don’t really fall on one side or another. Like a number of fans my preference is for the much darker tone of the first series, however the cathartic ending of Brotherhood, as well as the improvements in production and animation, go some way to balancing the scales. Some people prefer the somewhat darker nature to Ed’s character from the first adaptation, but in all honesty the rationale behind the two versions is very different, and while they’re broadly the same character, that perception is only really valid until the last few episodes of either show. The same principle applies to Alphonse, Roy Mustang, in fact to most of the characters.
That said, Brotherhood is just as entertaining and involving as its predecessor, and it’s a testament to Arakawa’s skill as a mangaka that she has been able to produce a tale that, at the very least, rivals the original anime adaptation.Yes, Brotherhood is more typically shounen than the other version, but the nice thing about this is that fans are given two very good versions of the same story, and that is something rare in anime.
Now if only all remakes, revisions or reboots could be this good.
Did YOUR favorite anime make the cut? Let us know in the comments below!
1. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
2. InuYasha: Kanketsu-hen
4. Heartcatch Precure!
5. Tegamibachi Reverse
7. Densetsu no Yuusha no Densetsu
8. Fresh Precure!
9. Tatakau Shisho: The Book of Bantorra
10. Uragiri wa Boku no Namae wo Shitteiru