They’re the best Anime that 2003 has to offer! We counts down the best anime to come out this year, including the likes of Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo, The Big O, R.O.D: The TV, and more!
10: Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo
English: Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo
Japanese: ボボボーボ ボーボボ
MAL Score: 7.49
In a futuristic world, the Maruhage Empire is a militant organization out to steal everyone’s hair, and thus their freedom. But a brave man with an afro of gold and nose hairs of steel stands up against their tyranny. Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo, trained in the ways of hair, rescues a teenager named Beauty from the grunts of the Maruhage Empire. Together, they start on a journey to defeat Emperor Tsuru Tsurulina IV. As Bo-bobo meets new friends and battles foes along the way, so too does he begin his quest to save all the hairs of the world!
Light-hearted and comical, Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo details a wacky adventure in which Bo-bobo and his companions fight all sorts of villains and deviants within the Maruhage Empire, all the while having a fun and exciting adventure.
Most of the time this anime doesnt make sense. And the ultimate story is pretty stupid. but like I said it suppose to be. Its like Scrubs to ER…or better example Reno 911 to COPS.
Its inane, everything in it is for pure humor. Its not suppose to make sense. So don’t judge it by its lame art story and characters. Because thats how its suppose to be.
I really thought the ending was something…completely unexpeceted…you must watch to find out..
a strange show following a gang of fighters rebeling against an tyranical army attempting to rid the world of hair. The characters are armed with the powers of nose hair, jelly, gas and lots of other things. there is very little sense to be had. Almost every main character acts in strange ways with even stranger powers.
If that sounds good to you then give it a watch. Its a hilarious and imaginative show.
If not then don’t watch it. It will give you headaches trying to stick with it.
nothing too revolutionary in terms of art and sound but nothing that will push anyone away.
the story is fun but lacks any real strong moments. most of it is just them going from bad guy to bad guy after every arc with no real goal. It is very fun watching it all if you don’t mind the lack of anything that makes sense.
most of the characters are fun,but none of them can really stand amoung the best and they have weak moments.
overall. fun for me but most sane people will be pushed away
Nose hair stands for everything that is deemed disgusting by society, but is still an important part of ourselves. By using his nose hair as a fighting tool against the Hair Hunters, Bo-bobo demonstrates acknowledging your faults and turning them into advantages. Great anime, great message, 10/10.
9: The Big O
English: The Big O
MAL Score: 7.53
Paradigm City, a city of amnesia and a place of belonging. It remains populated by forgotten pasts and the ruins of their labors due to a calamity 40 years ago. Shrouded in a fog-like mystery, it is up to people like Roger Smith to shine a light through the mist. Acting as a professional negotiator and suave agent, Roger is a self-tailored ladies man whose only love is for funeral black. However, as he gets deeply involved with his clients, what often starts as a simple negotiation evolves into Roger saving Paradigm from crime and peril.
In the process, Roger stumbles even deeper into the untold folds of the city. As a rule, things are hardly ever as they appear. Serving as gray knight in a gray world, Roger is not without allies. By his side are Norman, a loyal and widely skilled butler, and Dorothy, a human-like android with deadpan snark. Together with the relic Big O, a jet-black mecha of gargantuan size and weight, they help Roger serve iron justice to Paradigm’s lurking villains as he discovers the truth about 40 years ago.
First of all, if you are a mecha fan, you may be sorely dissapointed with this show, it has much more of a mystery feel to it and the Mecha fights may not be to your liking.
However, if your not a hard-core mecha fan like me but can appreciate the art-form of Mecha, you will likely enjoy this.
The main reason I love this show was because of it’s fantastic mysteries and it’s fantastic characters. I love all the characters in this show, because they are somewhat unique in their own ways. Characters like Schwarzwald who to many people appears to be evil actually is trying to good. While people like Alan Gabriel are completely insane and the main Villain Alex Rosewater has a superiority complex.
Again I gave this a 10 almost across the board, because It’s my opinion on the series. I felt it was a well told story.
Overall I think BIG O is under appreciated by most anime fans. Everyone should check out this series.
anyways, its basically about a negotiator named roger smith that pilots the big freaking mecha, big o. later on he gets swept up in all of this espionage and secrets and whatnot.
the first season is mostly stand alone episodes roger gets hired as a negotiator and he gets into battles with other mechas destroying most of the city (only for it to miraculously be exactly back to normal the next episodes.. ooh anime, gotta love it XDD) he runs into various villians including some reaccuring ones such as beck the wacky criminal that always seems to get himself locked up, schwatzwald that was once a newspaper reporter went crazy and is now dressed up in bandages and goes around setting stuff on fire and wants to uncover the truth. and more youll see threwout the series.
the second season has more of a plot feel to it, this is when you get into the somewhat wierdness of the series, and the crazy twists and turns and stuff.
both seasons are great. and it has a very nior batman-esque feel to it. im not very good at explaining things, but i would totally recommend it 🙂 plus its only 26 ep. so its not so bad (each season is 13 ep.)
8: R.O.D: The TV
English: R.O.D -The TV-
Japanese: アール オー ディー ザ ティーヴィー
MAL Score: 7.54
Anita King, Maggie Mui, and Michelle Cheung are the Paper Sisters. They run the Three Sisters Detective Agency in Hong Kong which is dedicated to solving cases involving books. They are hired as local guides for Nenene Sumiregawa, a Japanese novelist who has been struggling with writer’s block following the disappearance of her longtime friend, Yomiko Readman. The sisters are all Paper Masters—individuals with the power to control paper—and with their abilities, they save Nenene from the dangerous terrorists targeting her at a book signing. But in case they strike again, the sisters remain as her bodyguards to protect her from further harm.
This is a dream come true for bookworms Maggie and Michelle who love Nenene’s stories, but the young Anita cannot stand books despite her powers over paper. The three struggle to adapt to their new daily life in Japan, guarding Nenene while continuing their detective work under a mysterious organization, Dokusensha. However, the more they get to know Nenene, the more they discover the link between her, the disappearance of her friend Yomiko, and the mysterious books Dokusensha sends the Paper Masters to investigate. What began as a simple job ends up a bigger case than they have ever had before. Are these girls really willing to risk their lives over literature?
The story is pretty deep and intreguing starting by looking for her lost friend only to find out that there is ALOT more than what she bargins for. Since the series is a 2 season affair (26 episodes) This gave them the time to flesh out the side stories of the main characters and find out their ultimate goals with really really REALLY good twists. No spoilers here considering thats half the fun of ROD is finding out how everything fits into place so well…
The artistic detail in ROD is very well done but its not the best i\’ve ever seen. The details in the action scenes are well executed, you truly get the feeling of lots of paper being wasted fighting the baddies. Even after the aftermath (from fighting or just trashing nenene\’s house or the sisters apartment) the detail of the junk lying around is very well placed. Little details like a stack of books next to a staircase or a bookshelf so full its almost about to burst really pull you more and more into the story. I\’m a total sucker for small details like this. A minor gripe would be the sound… the paper monsters should have sounded a little more ferocious, and paper rustling is EVERYWHERE. But it cant be helped ^_^
Overall i really enjoyed this show despite it lacking ecchiness (big surprise i know). But the big fight scenes the animation and detail of every subtle movement make this show flow very smoothly and seamlessly. I mean its practically an 8 hour movie and i sat watched all 8 hours with great intent. I did have a 2 hour nap in between tho since i didnt sleep for 24hours straight.
But anyone whos into magical warfare but
wants something a little different than sparkles
and wands, please pick this anime up! ^_^
Read or Die – the TV follows the adventures of three sisters who have the ability to manipulate paper. These three sisters end up protecting a famous writer Nenene, who’s being targeted by some dangerous people. Yet while protecting her, they also take on missions from the Chinese Intelligence on the side, to retrieve rare stolen books. It continues like this until the British Empire begins to make their move.
The storyline of this action-packed anime takes place 5 years after the incident in the original R.O.D OAV. Just like in the OAV this anime follows the adventures of the main characters Michelle, Maggie and Anita who are all paper manipulators just like Yomiko from the OAV. During the show there’s a decent amount of amazing paper combat and character developments. The main problem with R.O. D – the TV is the pace of this show and the number of dull and boring moments. The show started of well but flowed very slowly, with episodes of very little happening and it wasn’t until episode 11 when the story actually started to develop. From here right through to the end there are some of the most exciting battles, a decent plot-twist and the most hoped for return of "The Paper" from the OAV.
The animation quality for R.O.D – the TV was great with a decent amount of detail put in. the characters were well designed but the only thing that may annoy some is how cute they made some of them, with their blushing cheeks. Yet this is easily forgotten when there’s a major action-packed battle, which is surprisingly fluid, even with multiple characters doing separate things (episode 12 is a good example of this).
The music was superb with every episode starting of with a great Jazz beat (with no lyrics), just like in Cowboy Bebop. The music during the show was also great and blended in well with the mood however it’s sometimes spoilt by the character’s annoying voices.
Overall this turned out to be a great anime, which had a lot of dull moments but at least it didn’t let it spoil the story. As the story began to reach its climax, the new plot did feel a little too unrealistic; of how creating a new world without books would help end wars. At the very end of this series I was really disappointed that very little action happened, so if you’re hoping for one big showdown then you’ll be disappointed as well. This anime is best suited for those who want to see something interesting that hasn’t really been done before, but I recommend watching the OAV first.
Where the laughably crazy plot in the OVA held a certain charm, it doesn`t serve well as the plot of a TV series. The plot is fairly thin for the first half of the series. It alternates between monsters of the week and some slice of life pieces. The monster of the week encounters don`t have the same elaborate design as the action packed encounters in the OVA, but they more or less have the same wackiness. The characters of the TV series are also more or less of the same quality as the OVA. They are simple characters with one or two defining quirks, some of which are a bit cliche in the Anime world. A short 3 episode stint is conducive to simple and cliche`d characters, but slice of life is not. By far the worst segment of this series is when it explores the daily lives of the 4 new main characters. The slice of life subplots are boring in and of themselves, and these characters are far too simple and played out to spark empathy.
The story suddenly and completely changes from around the midway mark,kicking out all of the monster of the weeks and slice of life bits for its central plot. It shapes into something vaguely similar to the OVA`s. The heroes have to stop some maniacal villain from taking over the flow of books, and thus, the world. It`s certainly a lot more complex than that of the OVA`s, but to its own detriment. Far too many plot developments stem from extraordinary lapses of common sense by some of the characters. Contrivances like these are sadly, a gigantic driving force. This leaves the plot not only wacky, but also nonsensical.
As if that wasn`t enough, we still have to stomach our average dose of B rate Anime melodrama, including but not limited to complete over-dramatization of trauma, loss, and depression. As per usual also,the maniacal villain has to give his share of philosophical lectures on how to make the world a better place, all of which are answered by the hot headed heroes with equally bogus, but less pessimistic philosophy.
The TV series isn`t really unfaithful to the OVA. It`s not quite as impressive visually, and maybe it`s a bit cheesier, but it goes for the same feel the OVA does. This just goes to show that campy charm is exceedingly delicate. Where the OVA in many ways was so weird, so bad that it was good, trying to stretch that same appeal into 26 episodes just leaves it as plain weird and bad.
7: Mujin Wakusei Survive
MAL Score: 7.71
The story is set in the 22nd century where space travel, planet colonization and anti-gravity basketball are practically everyday things. Planet Earth has become uninhabitable, and therefore people live in colonies on the surrounding planets. On a school field trip, a mistake causes the protagonist, a young transfer student named Luna, her pet robot, and six of her classmates to be thrown through a gravity storm and crash land on a seemingly uninhabited planet. There, with Luna as their leader, the robot cat Chako, the lone wolf Kaoru, the spoiled rich boy Howard, the shy Sharla, the obedient Bell, the prideful musician Menori and the young genius Shingo must fight for their survival. But is the planet really uninhabited, or is there someone or something out there, waiting in the shadows?
Overall, the story line is excellent. The group of young teens (plus one “animal”, as it says in the opening) get stranded on an uninhabited planet. The main premise is an old one: characters get stranded, must learn how to survive, get along, deal with assorted trials of nature and bad guys, figure out how to get back home. But for once, the writers handle it all very well. Episode plots are tight, the story moves along briskly but without sloppiness. One story arc lasts too long, which made the next one feel far too short, but other than that, the writing is as good as that in any top series.
A lot of thought went into real elements of survival in the wild, and the kids definitely have a hard time of it before they learn how to do all the necessary tasks to feed and shelter themselves. It’s not a picnic at all, contrary to most shows, live action or animated. The characters themselves start out as cardboard cutout stereotypes, but eventually individually-focused episodes and a bit of back-story flesh them out enough that you can’t help but root for them all. The writers maintain a good group dynamic throughout the series, with different characters revealing strengths and weaknesses along the way.
Also, Chako is quite simply the best cute animal mascot character in any series, ever. And I absolutely hate cute animal mascots (except Teto from Nausicaä). I hate them in anime, and I hate them in Engineering in the new Star Trek movie. But Chako is a good one.
The artwork isn’t all that great, but it’s not meant to be. The characters and animals all have a Pokemon look to them, but it’s not objectionable. The backgrounds, landscapes, and alien designs are well done, with nice colors, giving the viewer a good feel for the planet and its creatures. As others have mentioned, the character artwork and animation is very inconsistent. It seems like some of the in-betweens just weren’t done as well as the key frames. There are also a few moments where you want to shout at the screen to tell the animator not to attempt to do certain camera angles if he can’t draw those perspectives. But overall the artwork is nice and colorful enough, with that Pokemon-like bright and cheerful look, while still having a different enough to have its own character.
The opening sequence music really sets the mood, and reminds me of 80s American TV for some reason. End music is decent enough, but not as good. Background music is pretty good, and mostly unobtrusive (as it should be).
I’ll miss this show now that I’ve seen the whole thing. Disney would make a fortune licensing it for the US market, and I don’t understand why they haven’t brought it over already.
Well, its a story of survival on a remote island after a shipwreck or a plane crash (think a child’s version of Cast Away and Lost), but add elements of sci fi into it and you can imagine the basic premise of Uninhabited Planet Survive. Personally I really enjoyed the story of this anime, as it touches on many of the topics of actual survival in the wild if one was to unexpectedly find themselves stranded on a remote island (for example, having to find food, fresh water and shelter), but also had more fantastic themes often involved with science fiction, like monsters and aliens. However, this anime is obviously targeted at a much younger audience as all the characters are of elementary school age and as a result are oftentimes at an elementary school children annoyance level :p. The characters are realistic, although a little bit expected, with the typical rich brat, the classroom president type, the slow witted ox, the nerd, the girl that is always scared, the mysterious emo male, and the peacemaker (whom is the main character of the anime) and her pet robot.
Overall this anime is recommended to those of you who like stories of survival as well as discovery, but dont mind the characters being like your younger siblings. The real strength of the anime lies in its story, as the plot was well paced and you really get a sense of being part of this group, which is a lot of fun especially when they discover new things about the planet.
The art is simple, decent, but not the best I’ve seen.
Sound is also alright, but I positively despised one [Sharla] of the characters voices, I think they could have cast her better.
The character development was well done, considering the circumstances and the ages of the members, I think that they all developed well, and realistically.
So yeah, over all I really enjoyed this ^.^
MAL Score: 7.76
Texhnolyze takes place in the city of Lux, a man-made underground city that has crumbled after years of neglect and lack of repairs. Citizens of Lux have come to refer to their home as simply “The City” and treat it as though it has a mind and will of its own. Three major factions battle to control Lux: Organo, a group of “professionals” who collaborate with the criminal underworld that controls Texhnolyze (prosthetics), the Salvation Union, a populist group that seeks to disrupt Organo’s business, and Racan, a collection of young individuals with Texhnolyzes that use their abilities for personal gain.
Ichise was once an orphan who has made a place for himself in Lux as a prize fighter. One day, a fight promoter grows angry with him and the altercation that follows results in Ichise losing an arm and a leg. Before death can take him, Ichise is found by the scientist Eriko Kamata, who uses him as a test subject for her newly designed Texhnolyze. With these powerful new limbs at his disposal, Ichise begins to work for Oonishi, the leader of Organo. He soon meets a mysterious young girl, Ran, who has the power to see possible futures. Together, they soon realize that Lux is on the brink of war and collapse, and that they may be the only ones who can save The City.
However rather than bore me, I personally found the pace to be a breath of fresh air. This slow and steady treatment of the story is more realistic and true-to-life for me, and while it might not be as instantly gratifying as some other series it’s truly enveloping and convincing. The plot itself is highly complex, and as with Lain, Texhnolyze’s spiritual predecessor, you probably won’t be able to take it all in with one viewing.
The art is beautiful and highly atmospheric. The world of Lux springs to life with many lush, yet dark and gloomy settings. The characters are soft spoken but oddly compelling, especially in the case of Ichise. They’re also weirdly real. The cast of Texhnolyze is one of the more believably human ensembles I’ve ever seen in an anime, and it’s difficult not to become attached to them.
Another point I’d like to bring up is the weird disconnect it establishes between the events that happen on screen and the viewer. Right from the getgo the perspective seems grimly neutral. Texhnolyze isn’t telling you how to feel about what’s happening, just presenting what happens and letting you make the call. The realistic presentation and attention to detail add to this sensation. It’s almost as if the story was told from the point of view of the mysterious city itself.
Between the realistic pacing, heady plot, and gorgeous settings, Texhnolyze was one of those rare anime that, for me, made everything else seem not quite as good. I don’t give out 10s easily but if that doesn’t earn one I don’t know what does. Highly recommended for anyone looking for a contemplative, challenging series.
There’s a subplot about “texhnolyzation”, a procedure to repair or upgrade a person using technologies such as mechanical limbs. The transhumanist ideas herein, which have potential, are unfortunately enveloped in a lot of empty atmosphere. Most scenes are comprised of long shots of nothing, sound effects that were ran through one too many flange filters, and cryptic dialog that’s just later reiterated in dull exposition.
The tone is reminiscent of the cheap drawings an angry teenager would sketch up after being sent to his room for cursing out his mother. There’s hardly any diversity among the characters; they all share the same stern facial expression, and communicate by either mumbling or shouting.
Episodes 19 – 22, though still reliant on exposition, are admittedly fascinating as they focus on the aforementioned subplot. With that said, I’m not entirely sure the ending was worth sitting through the preceding 6 hours of tedium. If this show had been around 10 episodes instead of 22, it could have been good, maybe even great.
Story – 10/10
Texhnolyze’s story stands out because of the power of its narrative. The story of the Texhnolyzed Ichise is not one that progresses very rapidly, but the complexities of the world of Lux and its counterparts, the inhabitants and their allegiances, as well as the external forces that bring change to the city are all dealt with in full length, providing the viewer by the end of the show a wide and deep understanding of the world of Texhnolyze.
That being said, Texhnolyze shows way more than it tells, and while it’s minimalist dialogue and slow pacing may be a turn off to viewers who were expecting fast action based off of the opening, to me it’s a great change of pace and very fitting for the dark material that it covers.
As a result, Texhnolyze doesn’t spoon feed you information, but instead tries to convey its story more stylistically through the use of different colors, drawings, scene construction, character expressions, and symbolism. And I think it does very well. The show is multi-layered, with religious, artistic, and literary references that enhances the show’s already powerful messages but not so overwhelming that you’re lost in an incomprehensible mess.
The themes of Texhnolyze are also thought provoking. From traditional cyber punk themes of the fusion of man and machine and the negative impacts of technology or post apocalyptic messages ranging from the fall of man to the meaningless of life, Texhnolyze gives the viewer a lot to think about when the credits rolls at the end, and it leaves up a lot to interpretation to the point where as dark as it is, Texhnolyze still offers a bit of hope at the end of the tunnel.
Art – 9/10
The art of Texhnolyze really does deserve a ten, and my giving it a nine is more of a personal snicker than anything else. The show’s set pieces are very fitting for its content. There are few shows where the expression of a character’s face or a camera angle or the depiction of certain buildings adds value and importance to the story. Whether it’s the haunting perspective of Ichise where his view is now covered with details about his new robotic limbs or the apathetic expression from the show’s deadly instigator, Texhnolyze offers up a lot of fine detail to analyze.
Texhnolyze manages to do that and more. While the majority of Lux is bound in grey and other colors that have been shaded with darker hues, the use of lighting is used very effectively when it comes to important and critical scenes or used thematically as a means of splitting characters in light or dark. In short, Texhnolyze uses all forms of visual storytelling to improve upon its already powerful story.
My only gripe with the show is that its cover art is kind of misleading. Ichise, Ran, Onishi, and Motoharu, some of the main characters in the story, are nowhere near as sexy (and for Ran…well she’s still kind of cute) as they are in the cover art. Which made me sad. 🙁
Sound – 10/10
The opening and ending of the show are really interesting and I think they kind of set the pace for the show in a very noticeable way too, getting our bloods pumping by the beginning of the show and then gradually calming us down by the end with a peaceful melody by Gackt. Juno Reactor’s Guardian Angel is splendid and I can’t think of any better way to have opened the anime.
Its soundtrack is also a diverse mix of slow piano pieces, guitar solos, fast more trance/techno beats, and even the occasional rap. One wonders when listening to Texhnolyze’s soundtracks how such a violent and depressing anime could have uplifting tracks, and I think that’s one of the qualities of Texhnolyze.
But beyond the sounds, one must realize that Texhnolyze is still a very sensory experience. Just like how the art was used in a way to highlight characters, sound is used pretty extensively as a means of conveying the narrative. The ragged breaths of Ichise as his anger rises up and down, the soft sound of footsteps at a suspenseful moment, the sound of trains, gunfire , shifting of the legs, all these sounds are amplified and brought out in a way that creates such an intense atmosphere that wouldn’t have existed with such good sound editing.
Character – 10/10
The characters in Texhnolyze are deeply flawed, but that’s all part of their charm. I’ve heard many people say that they couldn’t get emotionally attached to these characters, and while I disagree, I think that’s still missing the point.
I’m not a big fan of the phrase “I’m in this show for the characters” because that implies an attachment to certain characters than a show might or might not really need to succeed. There are plenty fans of Eva who find characters like Shinji or Asuka or Rei revolting and still love the show for what it is. The same can be said with a show like Ergo Proxy (and that’s not the only thing asinine about that show).
I happened to love the characters but even so, Texhnolyze offers up very human characters that all have plenty of development and screen time. We understand their motives, their philosophies, and they all add something important to the narrative. Whether it’s Doc and her attempts at bridging the world of man and machine or Onishi with his steadfast sanity that kept the city from falling into utter chaos or Yoshii with an apathy that I have never seen since reading The Stranger, all of these characters have great characterization.
Enjoyment – 10/10
Texhnolyze is not a show for everyone. It’s violent, slow, and almost downright depressing. It’s also not a show where people just sit down and expect a fun experience. It’s thought provoking and tries to create a narrative that’s multi-layered and deep, and it definitely succeeds. It just happens to frighten away a good proportion of the anime fanbase in the process.
I personally thought that Texhnolyze was an intensely enjoyable experience. Every episode was filled with such great world building, characterization, atmosphere, and sometimes even action to admire and think about. I left every episode thinking about something new, and Texhnolyze was enough of an interesting take on cyberpunk that I would say that I came out kind of enlightened and thought about the genre in a different light.
The fact that a lot of the show was up to interpretation was also interesting. Plenty of friends cite how bleak it is, but I happen to think Texhnolyze has some uplifting moments. It offers up that mankind, even down in its darkest moments, is constantly fighting for survival, to live, to find one’s meaning in life. It offers that while technology may be a bane on existence, perhaps there’s something else there, that it helps us forge bonds or become more human than we were. Texhnolyze has these kinds of themes and messages for us, lying in wait. One just has to look for them to understand and enjoy what the show has to offer.
Overall, Texhnolyze is easily one of the best, if not the best, anime I have ever seen. I think I’ve found the words I’ve been meaning to say for a long time.
Texhnolyze is not for everyone, but if one is an anime fan, I highly recommend you give it a shot.
5: Mobile Suit Gundam SEED
English: Mobile Suit Gundam SEED
MAL Score: 7.77
In the year Cosmic Era 0071, the space colony Heliopolis remains neutral in the great war raging across the galaxy between Coordinators, human beings whose biological traits have been altered before birth, and Naturals, unaltered people who remain on the planet Earth. The Naturals’ deep hatred of the Coordinators drove the advanced beings into space, seeking shelter in man-made colonies.
Kira Yamato is a Coordinator and university student on Heliopolis, when his life is thrown into disarray as ZAFT, the military organization composed of rebellious Coordinators, attacks the colony in an effort to steal a set of five state-of-the-art military mobile suits known as Gundams.
While ZAFT manages to make off with four of the mobile suits, Kira take control of the final Gundam, the Strike. Surviving the battle, Kira and his college friends join the crew of the Archangel, a ship run by the Earth Alliance, and the young soldiers experience the horrors of war and the loss that comes with it.
STORY – At this point, you’d have to stretch pretty far to find a Gundam series with a mindblowingly different premise, so there’s no point in really focusing on the fact that yes, this is another series about teenagers in giant robots fighting a war that’s pretty pointless. There is nothing new about Gundam SEED, but then, it deserves points for being able to stand out despite that very fact. For me, one of the most appealing things about SEED was its very easy-to-understand plotline. The root of the war, while decidedly trivial to some extent, is simple. I’m sure more than a few people were confused, and subsequently put off, by the political madness that ravaged the plots of the original Mobile Suit Gundam, as well as newer classics like Gundam Wing, so it was nice to see something so simple come along.
In addition to the war, one of the strongest story points for me was the conflict between Athrun and Kira. The cruelty and tragicness of pitting friend against friend works very well here, and I know I’ve said before that I’m just a sucker for this kind of stuff. For SEED, this conflict was well done, progressed smoothly, and resolved rather satisfactory. It was pretty neat to see the same conflict mirrored later with Dearka and Yzak too. Also, this series was one of the first in a long time to surprise me so much with things happening in the story. People died. People you really didn’t expect to die died. So many people die that at some point, you kind of started wondering if anyone was actually going to live! But despite the number of deaths, you never got the feeling that it was overdone, or that any of the characters’ deaths didn’t have some significance or meaning, and that’s definitely a feat.
Those two aspects of SEED made up for all the cliches that came with being a Gundam series — white mask’s ulterior motive was nothing amazing, and the ending to the war wasn’t anything special either. But by the end of it all, it isn’t the basics of the story that’s important, it’s all the progress you’ve made with the characters and their own personal resolutions.
CHARACTER – The characters in SEED probably contributed the most to gaining my favor. All of them are exceptionally well done. Yes, even the minor characters, which is definitely a rarity in anime. All of them seem like real people; they’re complex and have emotions, motives, flaws. Both of the protagonists are split between a side that has to fight and a side that hurt because of everything that’s happening. After all the stoic personalities in Gundam Wing, it was incredible for me to see characters that would actually cry. On several occasions, even. In fact, for the first half of the series, it seriously surprised me just how much of a crybaby Kira was. But it worked for his character, so even though he kind of turned into a godmodding, self-righteous bastard later on, it was okay.
Kira aside, for me, Athrun was the most interesting character and had the most depth. Throughout the entire series, he was in conflict. And as soon as one conflict was resolved, another would present itself. The poor guy was in constant turmoil, which was really great to see. He was easy to relate to and never grew out of reach like Kira did. Secondary characters like Cagalli and Lacus were also refreshing to see — female characters that had strength to stand up on their own. Indeed, one might venture to say that our male protagonists depended much more on their female counterparts than the other way around, as is traditionally the case.
It would be exhausting to go through the list of other characters, though many of them are also important and very relevant. Suffice to say that there are almost NO flat characters in SEED. All of them have dimension and depth and develop throughout the series. I don’t really think this happens in many other anime.
ARTWORK & ANIMATION – I rather like the art style of SEED (the same people also did Sokyuu no Fafner); it’s pleasing to the eye and works well for the content of the series. The animation itself is pretty average, and I’m still waiting for the day when explosions in the distance graduate from looking like Pacman, but oh well. There’s nothing else really worth noting, but it certainly isn’t an ugly series.
MUSIC – I… adore the music for this entire series. All three instrumental soundtracks are well worth getting! The battle music is strong and epic! The introspection music is interesting and intriguing! The tragic music makes the already tragic scene ten times more touching. It’s just fantastic all around. After the bigshots Yoko Kanno and Yuki Kajiura, it’s Toshihiko Sahashi that makes it on my playlist the most! And the OP/ED themes are pretty much all top notch as well. I’ve been a fan of T.M. Revolution for a long time, so "Invoke" was perfect for the first opening. SEED introduced the world to Nami Tamaki, and I must say I’ve definitely become a fan since her debut. SEE-SAW and Mika Nakashima are always good as well, and even the lesser known artists in the lineup are pretty awesome.
DUBBING & VOCALS – I saw the first half of this series in English but ended up seeing the second half subbed (because SEED was, for some reason, so unpopular that CN shoved it in a death slot). The dub was nothing spectacular certainly, but it was decent. None of the voices were up to par with their Japanese counterparts, but the only one that seriously annoyed me was Richard Cox, and that was mostly because the man can’t seem to change his voice between characters (and thus, the character he voiced sounded like Inuyasha to me). The Japanese cast, on the other hand, is top notch. Akira Ishida as Athrun remains one of my favorite performances ever, and Souichiro Hoshi as Kira was pretty great too. And of course, you can’t forget Rie Tanaka as Lacus — Lacus has several songs she performs within the series and Tanaka is the one singing all of them. It always pleases me when they’re able to do that and helps reaffirm the fact that the Japanese seem to take their voice acting much more seriously than we do.
OVERALL – I know I haven’t seen all of the Gundam series out there, but of those I’ve seen, this is definitely my favorite. The characters come to life and everything else falls into place behind that. A lot of people cling onto Mobile Suit Gundam as the only good one because it’s the original, but though it was a good series that obviously propelled the creation of all subsequent Gundams, for this generation of anime fans, it’s sorely outdated. I really feel like Gundam SEED should be the series taking its place for the post-2000 generation of fans. That statement may bode well in Japan, as this series was wildly popular, but I’m disappointed to see that it failed miserably in the States. Chalk that up to other factors though, ’cause this series is damn good.
The whole series is basically about an ongoing war between the Natural human race and the genetically superior Coordinators. This may seem like a straightforward plotline, however several things push the plot so it is not as simple as it seems. Throughout the series you are left wondering which side is truly the right side to be on. Throughout the series you get to see both sides of the story as much of the Natural’s justifications are shown with Kira and most of Coordinator’s justifications are shown with Athrun.
Because this is a very old series, the art style is very different from the art style today. It’s not to say that it’s bad, but it might take some getting used to for someone who has only started watching anime recently. The battle scenes have a lot of flashing lights and aren’t choreographed too badly. I would say this area is the weakest point of the whole series.
I thought that all of the opening and ending songs really fit the series as a whole. The best music to me was Rie Tanaka’s singing throughout the series. I was really amazed when I first heard her sing has Lacus Clyne because she sung for her own character. In my experience, many people usually get singers to sing their character roles. So I was really impressed that she sung her own song and that she was actually very good at it.
The characters are the strongest point of this series. This series is built on the interaction between the characters. The battles and action almost seems secondary to me compared to the drama occurring between the main characters. This series has a lot of characters that pushed the plotline forward, but the main characters really shone above the others.
Kira Yamato is the main protagonist of the story. During the beginning of the series he really is a normal person with many weaknesses and faults. However as the series progresses, he grows and matures in order to face the trials given to him. I believe Kira’s growth as a person is one of the things that really grabs a viewer. He grows from a weak school student to a leader that many people can count on.
Athrun Zala is another main protagonist of the story. Athrun enters the story on the opposite side of the war as Kira. Their past history of being childhood friends becomes one of the key factors in the story as Athrun and Kira both fight on opposite sides in the war. Athrun’s emotional struggle continues throughout the series as he tries to figure out what is the right thing to do.
Lacus Clyne is one the main female protagonists of the story. While originally appearing as Athrun’s finance, she later becomes Kira’s love interest. Lacus’s first appearance in the series is as a normal girl who doesn’t hold any importance in the war aside from the fact that her father is the High Supreme Councilor of the Coordinators. However as the story progresses, Lacus quickly shows her strength as she rallies up support against the war in face of great opposition.
Cagalli Yula Athha is the other female protagonist. Although very close with Kira in the beginning of the series, she later becomes Athrun’s love interest. She appears in the beginning of the series as a strong woman who is capable of fighting for what she believes in. Later on in the series her heritage of being the daughter of Orb’s leader is revealed.
Gundam Seed is one of my most favorite series of all time. I would say that this is a must see series for all new, incoming anime fans.
GS was considered to be an updated version of the original Mobile Suit Gundam (MSG) for the 21st century, as it deals with more contemporary issues (ie cloning, genetic modification, etc). So it should be no surprise that GS starts out in a very similar vein to MSG. However, this isn’t to say that GS copied MSG, instead GS took the best parts of MSG and improved it. Well at least for the first half of the series. The pacing was a definite improvement as it was nearly flawless, I can’t really separate the episodes easily as they blended so well together which makes GS ideal for marathoning. The story is also very similar, 2 warring factions, political intrigue, and the viewpoint of both sides, typical Gundam. I don’t need to get in to specifics, in general the crew of the <new advanced ship> attempts to escape/fight off another ship and its crew. This is while trying to get to a specific destination and completing various checkpoints. Sure it wasn’t the most original of stories but paired with its fast pace and execution it was damn entertaining in its own right. However, in the case of GS the characters take a much bigger role. While the 1st half was good and entertaining it doesn’t compare to its 2nd half.
The 2nd half was where GS breaks free from its MSG roots and finds its true self. Here, GS really focuses on the characters, in particular the conflict between Kira and Athrun. Not only them, there was a lot of focus on the various character’s conflicts as well as plenty of character development. Here the action/battles take an even more secondary focus and the characters/narrative clearly becomes the primary focus. The overall structure of the story improved tremendously as it’s no longer linear (from checkpoint to checkpoint); instead GS features a more dynamics story structure. Pacing for the 2nd half moves even faster and GS rides this momentum until the very end. However, its not without its faults. The new antagonist introduced felt like they were introduced for the sake of having Gundam battles/make more toys. This is due to them being extremely one-dimensional. Finally, there were quite a few coincidences and illogical moments throughout. For example, when the odds becomes overwhelming Kira or someone else coming out of nowhere to save the day. Considering the overall quality of everything else, those moments can easily be forgiven.
As I mentioned before there was a much bigger focus on the characters in GS than in MSG. For the most part, the characters are multi-dimensional and likeable, the major exception being the newly introduced antagonist in the 2nd half. Kira in particular has gone through quite a bit of development. The angst Kira goes through in the beginning is often exaggerated by some people. If anything Kira is quite admirable, fighting/doing what he has to despite his fears and doubts. He doesn’t let his feelings get in the way of what needs to be done and the only person he’s complained/confided in was Fray. This is unlike Amuro or most of the cast of Zeta where they do whatever they want for no concern for the greater good. However, Athrun get my vote for most complex and interesting character in GS. Not only does he have to deal with having his best friend as an enemy, he also has to deal with his father, own beliefs, etc. Plus he’s a badass when it comes to all forms of combat.
In terms of purely technical merit, GS features good animation and artwork. Rarely does the quality drop. My only major complaint would be with the constant use of recycled animation, a major pet peeve of mine. Also, the action scenes feel a bit uninspired. Gundam shoots, close up of plot screaming, Gundam does a melee attack, close up of pilot and repeat. What made these mecha battles more exciting was the excellent and powerful music. The ost in general is also well done and features some very good insert songs.
Another interesting thing to note would be the recap episodes. Normally, I hate recaps but in the case of GS there were a few that were worth watching. This is because some of the recap episodes actually add background information to the GS universe. Nevertheless a recap episode is still a recap episode and they had far too many. (Not 1 or 2 recap episodes but 4!)
I also have to warn the viewer that GS features many references to other Gundam titles and the Gundam universe in general. References such as newtypes, Char clones, etc will go over the head of viewers not familiar with the Gundam universe. While its not necessary to watch other Gundams to enjoy GS it will most likely increase one’s enjoyment.
GS is easily one of the better mecha anime titles I’ve seen. The first half was light and enjoyable with a fast paced plot, albeit very linear. It feels like the crew of the Archangel was simply moving form checkpoint to checkpoint. When the 2nd half comes the overall quality increases. This is partly due to GS becoming its own and really focus on the character/narrative. The 2nd half was distinctly more serious and dramatic. Plus it takes its momentum and keeps building and building until the very end. Animation and art were all top notch, suffering from a few thing namely, recycled animation and slightly uninspired action scenes. GS also suffered from too many coincidences and illogical moments. Although, considering the quality of everything else, those things can be ignored. In the end Gundam SEED is fast paced entertaining watch, but the true strength of Gundam SEED can be found in the 2nd half with its characters.
4: Last Exile
English: Last Exile
Japanese: LAST EXILE（ラストエグザイル）
MAL Score: 7.81
In the world of Prester, flight is the dominant mode of transportation, made possible by Claudia Fluid: a liquidized form of the crystals that are produced on the planet. An organization known solely as “the Guild” has absolute authority over the skies, with a monopoly on the engines that make use of this fluid. Moreover, as ecological disasters destabilize the warring countries of Anatoray and Disith, the Guild also arbitrates in the disputes between the two. Caught in the middle of the conflict are Sky Couriers, piloting small, two-person vanships that fly freely through the sky.
Last Exile follows the adventures of two teenagers who dream of surpassing their parents: Claus Valca, son of a famous vanship pilot, and Lavie Head, Claus’ best friend and navigator. Their job as couriers entails passing through an air current called the Grand Stream that separates the hostile nations, which even standard airships struggle to survive. However, when they take on a high-rated delivery to bring an orphan girl named Alvis Hamilton to the battleship Silvana, they get dragged into a much greater conflict that pits them against the might of the Guild.
Thankfully Last Exile is a one that, for the most part, they got right, but then again, the series was made to celebrate Gonzo’s 10th anniversary so it’s understandable that they made the extra effort.
The show follows the adventures of Claus Valca and Lavie Head, two childhood friends who are determined to follow in their father’s footsteps, and become the best vanship couriers around. Like their respective parents, Hamilcar Valca and George Head, Claus is the pilot and Lavie is the navigator, and their entry into the Norkia Cup race signifies the beginning of their journey, one which will change both their lives.
One of the things that people complain about with Last Exile is that the first half of the series offers very little explanation about the events that occur while adding more and more layers to the plot. However, the more patient viewer will be rewarded as the answers are forthcoming in the second half of the show, and while there is a nice amount of complexity to the story, this is nowhere near enough to confuse people. In truth, I found the show was pitched in a manner that would appeal to many viewers as there is always enough going on to keep one interested.
What is most interesting about the show though, is that it is one of the few steam punk themed anime available. There are a number of aspects and designs that are clearly influenced by the Industrial Revolution and Germany during the time between the two World Wars, and more references are forthcoming when one looks closer at the series. There is also a clear influence from two classic Ghibli movies, Nausicaa and Laputa: Castle in the Sky, although neither of those titles is as heavily steam punk as Last Exile.
With regards to the look of the show, it’s interesting to note that the visual production of the series relied heavily on CG. In particular, Gonzo used non-photorealistic rendering as a method to combine traditional hand drawn animation and CG, and the benefits of this technique are clearly visible throughout the anime. The quality of animation is extremely good throughout, and together with the designs of the characters, ships, equipment, and scenery, affords Last Exile a look and feel that is superior to most anime around.
That said, one of the issues with the series is that the rare colour clashes can sometimes be a little hard on the eyes.
The overall quality of the series extends to the music and effects too. The various tracks used throughout the series are often well chosen, whilst the numerous noises and sounds are well choreographed, and pitched at a level that rarely overwhelms the viewer. The OP, “Cloud Age Symphony” by Okino Shuntaro, is a strange piece of music that may not sit well with some viewers due to its more experimental approach. This is also true of the ED, “Over the Sky” by Kuroishi Hitomi, a track which is far more melodic than the OP, but retains the same off-kilter feel.
As for the acting, both Asano Mayumi and Saito Chiwa are in fine form as Claus and Lavie respectively, whilst Morikawa Toshiyuki is suitably taciturn as the enigmatic Alex Rowe. Each of the seiyuu portray their characters well, although there are one or two moments when the delivery seems a little forced, something that only really occurs during heavy action sequences.
One of the things that really sets Last Exile apart is the quality of its characters. Many people talk about things like “realism” and “believability” when it comes to characters, but in truth this is simply an attempt to explain how well the characters work in the context of the story, and also how well the characters follow certain patterns of behaviour that many know to be the average for people (and by this I mean how would the average, real world person react in a similar situation).
Its nice to see then, that Last Exile uses the characters very well. Both Claus and Lavie behave in a manner that is reasonable and understandable, and both are allowed to develop rather well over the course of the show. This is also true of a number of other characters, including Alex Rowe, who is akin to a modern day Harlock in some respects.
That’s not to say that every character is great though, as there are on or two who don’t seem to serve any real purpose, and are nothing more than window dressing. While it’s true that there are always characters like this in any half decent story, the last place you should see them is on a battleship.
As a fan of steam punk, I found myself warming to Last Exile almost immediately. The plot, pacing and designs are very well handled and presented, and the story is easy to follow while retaining a degree of suspense and complexity – something which isn’t easy to achieve. The series would easily appeal to fans of Nausicaa and Laputa, however fans of shows like Sakura Taisen, Steamboy, Giant Robo, or any anime about flying may find this rewarding viewing.
This is one of those rare titles that has something for everyone, but fans of steam punk should definitely give it a try.
Granted there are some minor niggles here and there, but overall Last Exile is well told story that looks and sounds great. A great deal of thought has gone into this series, and it shows in a number of ways. It’s easily one of the more imaginative titles to appear in anime, especially as it’s one that isn’t based on a manga/novel/game/etc. It may not appeal to everyone, but those willing to give it a try may not be disappointed.
I just wish they’d make more imaginative shows like this instead of all the school based pap we’re being served these days.
The beginning of the story is nothing special, as there is no real excitement or shocking moments. All this series is to begin with, a series of events with not much meaning to them. It is only till halfway into the series that the story starts to get interesting, with some developments in the storyline. The major downfall is that the major questions are not really answered until the last couple episode, when some kind of meaning behind the show title “Last Exile” is revealed. However at this point the story undergoes a major change which can lead to you asking, “Where is this story heading?”
The quality of the animation is excellent as it is one of the best mixes of drawn animation and CG, giving it a realistic feel. So much detail is put into the cloud and smoke effects only that watching them soar through the skies is amazing. The slightly hazy look this anime has can sometimes distort the images, especially in dark scenes but it really isn’t that big a deal.
The music is alright, with is mostly a bunch of melodies that are the sort of stuff typical heard in anime. The music doesn’t really add anything to the show experience or help set the atmosphere; no real suspense, drama, excitement, nothing.
Overall this is quite an enjoyable anime series to watch however it is so incredibly slow paced, to the point where in half the episodes, nothing important happens. For a kid’s show this was pretty hard to understand, because the major plot related questions were only answered in the last couple episodes. Some people may find the ending rather disappointing with no real build-up to it and too many deaths. However at least there was some kind of resolution, to be pleased with. This show had so much potential to be superb, as there was a lot of effort put into it, however a better story could have helped.
This is a pretty good anime to watch, but it lacks something crucial to make it any special. ^_^
Starting with Story. A science fiction story that at first glance was joining up elements of advance technology (e.g. flying battle ships) and medieval element (e.g. musketeers; honor code from European battles). It reeled me in at first, as the first 2 episodes were intense and interesting. The third episode continued with good pace also ( this time bringing a race and it was not only this element but the junction of others from the first 2 which made me feel that this anime got many inspiration from Star Wars). But it\’s was in the 4th ep. that I first start seeing plot holes (eg. in character relationship, and background), and it wouldn\’t be the last time. Even so the overall story was interesting although it sometimes developed faster or even in a slower pace than it should have.
This will depend a bit on people tastes, but I did not enjoy the ending, and especially how some of the plot lines around some characters resolved.
So in resume, the story has its ups and downs, it\’s pace it\’s quite irregular sometimes moving fast and other times going slow, it\’s good in overall but fails in many details.
Like the story, the characters started up promising, but many of them turned out to be disappointing. Especially main characters who got little development whatsoever in terms of personality. In fact the characters that got more evolution were within secondary cast, and at some point in the anime I actually started to care more about the latest then the ones I was supposed to care about. Good examples are Sophia, Mullin and Dio. Being the last one the character that most appealed to me, mostly due to is initial personality and also because he got a good evolution during the anime.
I can\’t stop thinking a bit of romance would have done wonders to improve character interaction but no moves were made in that direction.
So the strong points turn out to be the interesting secondary cast and the overall character design wich was very good.
Animation is Last Exile strongest point. It combines regular animation with 3D CGI sequences. And this is done quite well making not only battles but also many other scenes very pleasant to watch. The animation level is kept high during the whole anime and no glitches are worth mentioning. The overall ship design is very good and the same goes for character design stated above, background scenarios are also amazing.
As for Sound, it\’s pretty good as well. VA\’s do a great job, sound effects are very good and background music is so-so. The opening theme was very good and the ending theme was well done although it did not appeal so much to me.
The Enjoyment you take out will very much depend from person to person. For me personally it had it\’s ups and downs due to some periods of or indecision, and because I did not identify myself with the primary cast. Even so there were memorable sequences that made this show worth while.
In overall Last Exile is a good watch but not more than that. It has an interesting story, and although not having a really good primary cast, the secondary characters manage to complement this flaw. It has great animation, joining up 2D and 3D Computer Generated Imagery that give action scenes and other ordinary scenes a very good look, which is complemented by good sound effects. I do recommend this one, however don\’t have really high expectations because apart from the animation, there is nothing of really outstanding nor breathtaking in Last Exile.
3: Wolf’s Rain
English: Wolf’s Rain
MAL Score: 7.81
In a dying world, there exists an ancient legend: when the world ends, the gateway to paradise will be opened. This utopia is the sole salvation for the remnants of life in this barren land, but the legend also dictates that only wolves can find their way to this mythical realm. Though long thought to be extinct, wolves still exist and live amongst humans, disguising themselves through elaborate illusions.
A lone wolf named Kiba finds himself drawn by an intoxicating scent to Freeze City, an impoverished town under the rule of the callous Lord Orkham. Here, Kiba discovers that wolves Hige, Tsume, and Toboe have been drawn in by the same aroma. By following the fragrance of “Lunar Flowers,” said to be the key to opening the door to their ideal world, the wolves set off on a journey across desolate landscapes and crumbling cities to find their legendary promised land. However, they are not the only ones seeking paradise, and those with more sinister intentions will do anything in their power to reach it first.
The music was composed by Yoko Kanno, which means I might not have to say anymore, but I will. All her work is magnificent, but this may be some of her best. Insert songs and orchestration are beautiful as standalone but absolutely MAKE the emotional moments too. It’s a wonderful soundtrack to listen to without the anime, but it never overwhelms the story either, matching the action onscreen beat for beat.
In terms of voice acting, the Japanese is a solid listen, but also, Wolf’s Rain has one of the best dubs ever made. There’s not one askew line in the whole package, and what’s more, while I usually use this time to mention the standout players of the cast, I can’t even do that for Wolf’s Rain. Every single voice actor goes beyond the call of duty in their roles, all of them. Even some of the extras leave a strong impression in their five-minutes in the spotlight. This dub is perfect.
So the production values are top dog, but the real important things are story and characters, right? Well, that’s where your mileage may vary. Some people will shout, “This is brilliant!” only to be echoed by others saying “Uh…what is?”
Wolf’s Rain takes place in a complex fantasy world with a rich history, but doesn’t feel like sharing any of that history with the class directly. This is good because that leads to greater focus on the characters, and almost NO exposition spouting. Speaking of the characters, they all start out as flat archetypes and slowly flesh out into very complex personalities, which is kinda different. Still, this approach of showing very little and telling far less really forces you to think and catch fine details in order to understand why wolves are considered divine, what makes the nobles different from normal human beings, and most importantly, just what happened 200 years ago to make the world what it is in the story. It is possible to figure it all out, but it’s NOT easy.
This is because, and this is a little known fact about the show, Wolf’s Rain is an allegory, whereby most everything is actually symbolic of something else. Pilgrim’s Progress was a religious allegory, The Little Prince was a sociological allegory, and Wolf’s Rain is both, but not as obvious as either of them. The show cross-references several religions and mythologies to portray a unified theme. The wolves face trials of doubt, despair, mistrust, confusion and even a false paradise that offers bliss in exchange for identity, and this is in addition to the villains that hound them. The humans in the story struggle with issues of self-worth, denial, choosing comfort over facing the truth, etc., all leading up to a whizbang climax featuring one noble’s idea of the “perfect city for humans.” Think Brave New World or 1984.
The thing I like about this approach is that it’s subliminal. It’s not like Evangelion or Lain where you know there’s this big philosophy being waggled at you, you may not recognize any of the references in Wolf’s Rain, but its powerful message gets through just fine without mentioning a hedgehog’s dilemma or a god in the Wired. Simply put, Wolf’s Rain is powerful and it will make you think, but you’ll get even more out of it if you’ve say, read Revelation or know anything about Shinto animal symbolism, but the writers don’t expect you to. I learned a lot more about the show after I did some research, but I only researched because it was already fascinating.
If there’s a problem with Wolf’s Rain, it’s the infamous recaps. There are four completely useless recap episodes right in the middle of the show together, and I still don’t know why they are there. Still, this isn’t much of a detriment as all four of them can be skipped without missing any new info. And if you’re buying the DVDs, they’re all on one disc by themselves! Unless you’re a masochist, don’t buy the disc.
In the end, though, even if you want to turn your brain off and be a little confused while you watch, the outward beauty and emotional resonance of the series cannot be denied, even in its fairly controversial conclusion. I’ve watched it through several times now and every single time I discover something new and profound. It’s pure magic, it will make you cry, but I hope in the end you’ll be howling-happy.
All in all, I almost pulled this series down a level because of its slightly alienating religious themes and focus on animals instead of humans, but then I thought, how can I punish a show for being both incredibly deep and refreshingly different? It may not be perfect, and I can’t promise you’ll like it, but it is a quality work of art amongst anime and a whole new breed of fantasy.
*THIS IS A PARTIAL TRANSCRIPT OF MY VIDEO REVIEW WHICH CAN BE FOUND HERE:
Thanks for reading!
Take first, the main character Kiba. He has a goal and he’ll do anything to reach it. But he has two distinct sides to his character. One is his proud, rash, and arrogant self that attacks anything that stands in his way. And the other is a quiet, mysterious, and observing type that is expressed when meeting new friends (For instance, when he was reluctant to say his name to Hige) and whenever he is around Cheza. Though not technically the sorrowful character one would expect him to be in an orphaned and lonely state, he still makes sad connections to his past.
As this was an anime before it became a manga series, BONES (the same company that made Fullmetal Alchemist) had unlimited freedom on where to go with the series. Except for a few “flashback” or “clip” episodes in the middle of the series, there is almost no filler and the pacing of each episode is excellent. The animation is amazing (as expected of BONES) and the music just as well. Beautiful orchestral music is played throughout the series, and, unique to most anime, the opening and ending themes are in perfect English (as are other soundtracks songs during the actual show).
The main story follows an unusual cast of characters, most of which are not even human. Kiba and his crew are all wolves with the power to create the illusion that they are human (though it is not perfect as their shadows and pawprints are still shown through). There are also the typical human characters, like the greedy Dracia that wants Paradise to himself and a pair of lovers that rekindle their relationship through hardship. Plus there’s also the ghost of a cryptic owl that gives advice in proverbs. (Whether or not this is a Legend of Zelda reference is still beyond me)
But there is never a time when an anime can be perfect. There are still plot-holes within Wolf’s Rain. Mainly the ending: It’s open-ended and leaves more to be desired. But as a more thought-provoking series, the ending does its job… Kind of. But besides a few odd turns, Wolf’s Rain is good at creating plot twists. And BONES was so confident about the series that most episodes don’t even end in a cliffhanger. They just find a natural stopping point.
Overall, Wolf’s Rain is an enjoyable series if you love wolves, action, the supernatural, and beautiful music. Though don’t expect it to be happy or provide fan-service.
When I look back at it, I honestly believe that the characters just followed common stereotypes, and really didn’t evolve throughout the plot. The supporting characters were able to garner a little interest from me, but the lead was dull and drab, and the only dialogue I can remember from him is “we have to get to paradise”. A lead character is supposed to get a viewer emotionally attatched, not bore the viewer to tears.
Then there is the plot. Basically it follows a rather dull and drawn out journey to find the wolves “Paradise”, with a few twists and turns along the way. As the characters personalities barely evolve through the course of their journey, the plot becomes tedious, and I found myself not caring at all about the characters and their journey after a few episodes.
Then, there is the final act. To me, the last few episodes feel rushed and poorly thought out, and the story reaches a conclusion where there is no reward for patiently watching the show in its entirety. The show ended on a very vague and sour note, and had kept me in an irritated state for a fair while.
Despite not enjoying the overall plot and the characters, the sound and animation quality of this anime is great. I still find myself listening to pieces of the score to this day to fuel my imagination, which I am very grateful for. I watched the dubbed version, and the voice acting throughout was done well enough. I still despise that opening song, Strays, or whatever it was called, just not my cup of tea.
In conclusion, if more thought was put into the character development and plot, Wolf’s Rain could have potentially been a great anime in my eyes. The shows concept really interested me, and I wanted to like the show, but it sadly didn’t work out the way I wanted it to.
MAL Score: 8.29
In 2075, space travel is no longer just a dream, but an everyday reality for mankind. Advancements in science and technology have led to the colonization of the moon, the commercialization of outer space, and the formation of large space corporations. Ai Tanabe, an upbeat woman whose interests lie in the cosmos, joins Technora Corporation as a member of their Debris Section, a department dedicated to the removal of dangerous space junk between the orbits of the Earth and Moon.
However, Ai soon discovers how unappreciated her job is. As the laughingstock of Technora, the Debris Section is severely understaffed, poorly funded, and is forced to use a dilapidated spaceship nicknamed the “Toy Box” for debris retrieval. Undeterred, Ai perseveres and gradually becomes acquainted with the strange personalities that make up the Debris Section’s staff, such as the bumbling but good-natured chief clerk Philippe Myers; the mysterious and tight-lipped temp worker Edelgard Rivera; and the hotheaded and passionate Hachirouta Hoshino, who longs for a spaceship to call his own.
Planetes is an unconventional sci-fi series that portrays the vastness of space as a backdrop for the personal lives of ordinary people—people who may have been born on Earth, but whose hopes and dreams lie amongst the stars.
With that being said, on with the review.
Story: Planetes starts off rather slow. In fact, the "main" story doesn’t even really pick up until about episode 10 or so. Before that, you’re introduced to character personalities and dreams/motives. This is absolutely necessary though, because without this strong intro, the latter part of the show wouldn’t have had nearly the same kind of effect.
Animation: The animiation is pretty well done. CGI is used in quite a few scenes and I didn’t notice any problems. My only beef is that I didn’t fall in love with the character designs too much. They’re good, but I think a few characters got shafted.
Sound: Probably the most lacking area in the series in my opinion. The intro is decent, but hardly anything special. The background music throughout the show is bland and never really stands out. The only music that ever really caught my attention was the ending theme, and it’s not wonderful either. I should mention that the Seiyuu’s did an excellent job though.
Character: Characters are definitely the biggest plus to Planetes. Hachimaki and Ai are excellent leading characters. The other crew members are nearly equally as interesting as them too. Everyone, like most shows, has their own problems and own ambitions. Planetes does a great job at detailing each character.
Enjoyment: Took me 4 days to complete the show (could have done it sooner if school wasn’t taking my time). 26 eps in 4 days usually constitutes hard core enjoyable watching. 🙂 This is a feel good Anime (well, most of it is at least), so what’s not to enjoy?
Overall: This needs to become more popular! It deserves better than only a couple hundreds watchers. Take the time and watch it.
Planetes starts about how you might expect a show with such an odd premise to begin. It’s a very quirky show, practically a comedy/sitcom type show. The first 13 episodes or so are all episodic, there’s lots of laugh, and the show rarely takes itself too seriously. At this point I would call the show very good. It was entertaining, but, I never felt compelled to watch the next episode immediately after finishing one. I’d be fine to wait a while before booting up a new episode.
And then, the second half of the show begins. This is where arcs begin to start, the show starts to have more continuity, and basically, it becomes more of a serious space drama show. This is when the show really kicks it up a notch and becomes the masterpiece I think it is. The second half of the show offers some incredibly intense moments, lots of philosophical talk about whether space development is really needed for mankind, and some awesome character development.
In fact, all 26 episodes of Planetes have some amazing character development. All the characters on the space debris crew have at least one episode where they get a decent amount of focus. In fact, pretty much everyone who gets a decent amount of screen time gets fleshed out. It’s actually pretty amazing. All the characters are also very real feeling. I think I could see a lot of these characters in real life. And because of that, you see most of the characters good sides and ugly sides. There may be times when you dislike a character that you once liked, especially with the main character, Hachimaki. This as a whole makes the characters feel even more authentic though.
The most interesting thing about Planetes characters isn’t just how they develop, but how they interact. Events happen, and over the course of the show, almost all the characters change in some ways. In a lot of shows, despite character development, all the characters seem to interact with each other in mostly the same way, but in Planetes, all the interactions become different as characters change and know each other better. They even realize when someone has changes. It’s a cool dynamic and adds a lot to the show.
Planetes is pretty short, and I never thought it got stale at all throughout the whole ride. I think it helped a lot that the show was more of a comedy in the first half. When the switch is made to more of a drama, the change of pace helps things to never get boring.
The best part of Planetes as a whole though is the way it makes you think. You will find yourself thinking a lot about this fictional world, and also about how it applies to the world today. The messages the show sends are kind of “in your face”, but they are only in your face when it comes to the world Planetes is set in. It takes some thinking to really apply it to our world today, so I don’t think anyone will really be put off by it.
Planetes art and sound are also pretty fantastic. I thought all the animation was pretty crisp and they do a good job crafting characters that look just as unique from each other as their personalities are. The sound is really awesome too, the opening theme is especially cool. The only flaw is that, the ending theme is very happy and perky, which worked perfectly for the first half of the show, however, in the 2nd half of the show, when the show gets serious, it gets flat out awkward. For example, someone will be pointing a gun at someone, the episode ends, and then some of the happiest music you could imagine comes on. It’s not a big deal, but it can kind of ruin the intensity that the episode just left you with.
Despite the lack of action, I think this is a show almost anyone can enjoy. It’s smart, has great character development, and can be very intense. I highly reccomend it to anyone.
One of the greatest strengths of Planetes is that just like the content it covers, the story it’s wrapped up in is also progressive, despite what the sheep’s clothing it wears would have you believe. It doesn’t try to maintain a status quo like most shows tend to but instead is constantly expanding, going through methodically built up stages of change, both in its plotting and character involvement. Upon my initial viewing, I thought I was going to watch a simple tale of the daily lives of garbage collectors, and while the 1st handful of episodes fooled me into taking on that presumption, what I walked away with was something far more ambitious. An undertaking rarely achieved in storytelling of this magnitude.
The 1st half of the show places all of its characters in a container and shakes it up to see what type of interactions would blossom when their ideals collide, while also giving us insight into their motives for joining the trash collecting division. These build up episodes are essential since they set in motion the continuous metamorphosis we’re treated to as the narrative threads converge to create the bigger story. Dealing with themes of pro-ecology, corporate hierarchy, and geopolitical ethics, to name a few, the show never skittishly avoids taking on material that others would actively divert its content away from. It could have quickly just dealt with the everyday life of living in space and called it a day but because it bothered to show all sides, both pros and cons of societal expansion, it ended up embracing all truths of what a space inhabited humanity would become. If we carve up imaginary borders on Earth, it stands to reason that that selfish mindset would only seep out as we conquer the heavens as well.
In the hands of less capable creators, this could have easily become an overzealous, preachy “let’s make love, not war” kind of narrative. All it would have taken was a blatant “EVIL CORP” conglomerate pumping toxic fumes everywhere while laughing maniacally on their misdeeds or any other forceful narrative turn that someone like Michael Bay would incorporate with a copious amount of cleavage and explosions. From the macroeconomic relationship between 1st and 3rd world countries to the individualistic struggles of our characters navigating their way through a changing world, everything here was handled responsibly. Planetes is a show that knows when to unwind but never forgets to deliver its messages during pivotal moments.
For any other show, just being able to pull this off would have been enough, but for Planetes, that’s only the main course meal, as it also manages to treat us to dessert with a heartwarming romance that grows along with the narrative the further we plunge forward. And since the core characters involved are comprised entirely of adults, this romance bothers to go somewhere, unlike the typical high-school drama shows that does a “would or wouldn’t they” scenario to only end it with a confession. Of course, this isn’t to say that Planetes delivered the best romance for your price of admission but rather, for a show where romance was never the core focus, to begin with, what we got was still conclusive and satisfactory. Effectively making it a better love story than other shows that are primarily just that, which was more than I ever expected from it.
Another surprising turn of events was just how well the art and animation held up.
The attention to detail was just superb. Just the little things included that would usually go unnoticed by the untrained eye, like the emphasis placed on the widgets, body mechanics in the environment of space, and the functionality of devices used, all helped in turning this piece of fiction into something science-plausible. It all added to the practicality of the scenarios we were introduced to, giving off this feeling that the people behind the show’s creation truly cared about immersing the viewer into the project. The color choices were also utilized well, with monochromatic layouts used to emphasize the isolation and vastness of space, to the vibrant hues of luminescent blues used to give off a sense of warmth that radiated from earth. It’s little things like this that brought the show to life. Of course, since it was made back in 2003, a time when animators were still tinkering with new digital technology, there were some influxes in quality-control to be found; like the usage of CGI in certain scenes and some characters being drawn off model. But overall, the title aged incredibly well, especially when taking into consideration other shows made during the same period. With a telling eye for detail and proper understanding of color placement, Planetes has bought itself a longer shelf-life than many of its competition.
And for a show as far-reaching as this one, a soundtrack of equal proportions was also needed. Thankfully, that’s precisely what we got.
With booming brass sections, choirs humming along to percussion wizardry and string instruments that never missed a chance to join in; the music was a real treat, even deserving of a stand-alone listen. I can’t help but think of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey when I sit back and listen to it (as smarmy as that may sound). It’s just a score that grows on you the more you listen to it, made even more memorable given the title it’s attached to. What’s probably more surprising than the technical proficiency of it is that it never oversteps its boundary during the show’s run-time. Instead of drowning out any given scene, it instead operates as a companion piece; only there as a tool to punctuate the message. Some may think it’s being underutilized, but I believe it’s the creators knowing when to let the tunes elevate the material and knowing when to practice restraint. From the more boisterous tracks to the subdued ones, they were all used accordingly. The opening theme was also catchy and fit the overall feeling the show gave off. Although not much of a favorite for me, it was still memorable and one I rarely skipped.
And with all that Planetes had going for it, ultimately what sold the experience for me was the cast itself.
Characters often serve as the audience’s gateway into a show’s universe and can often be what makes or breaks the experience, even if everything else is fine-tuned. Without characters that we as viewers would like to latch on to, immersion is usually harder to achieve. With that being said, Planete’s cast was nothing short of amazing and arguably the show’s greatest highlight. And since the show spanned across vast distances, due to the content it chose to cover, the cast was equally as big to compensate for that. For the sake of brevity, I’ll only cover the two main leads.
Hachirota Hoshino, or Hachimaki, as his peers call him, can best be summed up as an ambitious, yet abrasive delinquent. When introduced, he’s made out to be your garden variety of schmuck who feels stuck in a dead-end job. Of course, as the show goes on, we get to learn about him as an individual and what formed him to be the person he is today. And what initially started out as a debut for a simpleton upon first encounter was gradually revealed to be much more as things shifted into focus. Exposing a latent animosity that was spurred on by reckless ambition, Planetes slowly divulges into the self-reflection of a man who was at first negligent to his complacency, accepting the cards that life dealt him, until being placed in a corner where that way of thinking was no longer viable. As the narrative of Planetes expands, so too does Hachimaki, as he explores parts of himself he didn’t know was there in the first place. What makes him compelling as a character was these very blemishes that he tried desperately to ignore. He isn’t some Gary Stu that has everything handed to him on a silver platter but just a regular person who dreams big but often limits himself in fear of not reaching his goals. Planetes understands the crushing defeat of life—and with Hachimaki being used as its conduit—never shies away from addressing it.
And to counterbalance Hachimaki’s personality, we’re given a 2nd lead that stands as the antithesis of him.
Ai Tanabe is your uber-idealistic individual who’s naivety is apparent from the moment she makes her grand entrance. Her bold and often stubborn conviction frequently causes her to butt heads with Hachimaki. Although her character type has seen many times before, Planetes makes an active effort in assuring that she goes through the proper character growth that comes with the drastic life change she decides for herself. But possibly the most significant draw to her as a character is seeing the gradual relationship form between her and Hachimaki. Often tested by circumstances around them, their relationship can be seen as a direct reflection of the narrative’s twists and turns.
The gradual development of the leads was also well paced and stayed constant with the progressive themes of the anime. It showed that anything worth striving for requires effort. It’s a show that bastardizes complacency by either having the characters move forward or be left behind by the changing times. Whether it be an external goal like with our protagonist Hachi or an internal one like Ai’s challenged conviction, nothing was left to just stagnate.
Big or small, every characters’ roles helped define Planetes and everything the show stood for. Every story beat, character moment, big displays and quiet moments, coalesced into a theatrical display of the endeavors we all collectively go through in pursuit of the unknown lying beyond the ether.
The repertoire of what I consider to be masterpiece-level titles is quite small, and Planetes has easily found its place among them. Bold and triumphant, this anime is one that resonated with me in ways that many others could only scrape at. Very few shows successfully celebrate the future of humanity in the way this one does, but perhaps even better, the need to combat complacency through the pursuit of greater ambitions.
Planetes is a title that demands more exposure than what it currently has and hopefully this review would encourage a few others to give it a try. It’s thematically well-structured but never overly-complicated; it’s easy to watch but contains excellent social commentary; it wraps everything up nicely, but the implications leave you in awe, thinking long after the credits roll. The build-up may seem a little slow to some, and the constant shifting of character and narrative motion may not register well with those that like perpetual stasis, but if given a chance, this anime could be a crowd-pleaser like no other you’ve experienced before.
1: Koukaku Kidoutai: Stand Alone Complex
English: Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
Japanese: 攻殻機動隊 STAND ALONE COMPLEX
MAL Score: 8.44
In the not so distant future, mankind has advanced to a state where complete body transplants from flesh to machine is possible. This allows for great increases in both physical and cybernetic prowess and blurring the lines between the two worlds. However, criminals can also make full use of such technology, leading to new and sometimes, very dangerous crimes. In response to such innovative new methods, the Japanese Government has established Section 9, an independently operating police unit which deals with such highly sensitive crimes.
Led by Daisuke Aramaki and Motoko Kusanagi, Section 9 deals with such crimes over the entire social spectrum, usually with success. However, when faced with a new A level hacker nicknamed “The Laughing Man,” the team is thrown into a dangerous cat and mouse game, following the hacker’s trail as it leaves its mark on Japan.
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is a series that really doesn’t need any introduction. The original movie proposed a disturbingly plausible future for mankind that is akin to the work of Philip K Dick and William Gibson. The series however, deviates from the movie’s premise in a number of ways, some of which are not obvious at first, partly because of how the series is laid out.
SAC isn’t a sequential series, and is actually made up of two completely different plot elements – Stand Alone and Complex. The Stand Alone episodes focus on the work of Section 9 as they investigate various cases, while the Complex episodes focus on the main plot – The Laughing Man. This has caused a certain amount of confusion for some people who were expecting a series that developed in the manner a “normal” anime would, especially as the Stand Alone and Complex episodes were interspersed with each other.
Where the series really shines though is in the complexity of it’s story, characters and setting. The biggest change between SAC and either of the movies is that the focus is not on “individuality”. Instead, SAC takes a far more societal perspective, and the Stand Alone episodes are actually essential in this respect. Without them, the viewer would remain unaware as to exactly how the members of Section 9 fit into the workins of society and government and, more importantly, how they fit with each other as a team. Each member of Section 9 is a survivor after all, and the Stand Alone episodes highlight this fact in a way that the movies never could.
The Complex episodes that form the “main” story arc can be watched as a separate entity, as is proven by the release of the compilation movie in 2005. The problem with this though, is that the viewer is far less familiar with the workings of Section 9 or the influence of it’s chief, Aramaki Daisuke, within the political, police, military and business sectors of society.
With regards to the stories in both Stand Alone and Complex, they are very well scripted. The change of themes between SAC and the movies has been accomplished in a unique and inventive manner, with far more focus on poiltical machinations, schemes, plans, plots, second guesses, double jeopardies and outrirght confrontations. The series is extremely successful in it’s depiction of a society that has begun to stagnate, partly because of the usage of cyber culture, with Cyber Brain Sclerosis being a metaphor for this deterioration. One of the truly great things about SAC is the debates that occur in most episodes, some of which are slightly surreal (in the middle of a gun battle for example), but all of which provide the viewer with a perspective on what is occuring that is sometimes surprising. Some may find this philosophication to be off putting, but SAC, indeed the entire Ghost in the Shell franchise, was never intended to be all glamour and no substance.
In terms of art and animation most viewers agree that SAC is a step up from the original movie, even though the series had a much lower budget per minute of animation than the either of the movies. One of the upshots of this is that, whilst the majority of the series is extremely well animated, especially in terms of blending CG and normal animation, there are occasions when the foreground action does not conform with the CG background. Even with that flaw though, the series remains extremely well animated and choregraphed for the most part, and aside from that issue I mentioned, most other problems are simply nit-picking.
I will mention one thing about the animation though. SAC is particularly noteworthy for it’s fairly accurate portrayal of combat. Unlike most action anime, there are no glamourous finishing moves here, no power-ups, no fly-by-wire martial arts, etc, etc. Instead what we have is what one would expect in this sort of scenario, a group of tough soldier-like veterans who fight to win.
Sound is another area where the series excels and, in many respects, SAC is actually superior to the movie in terms of it’s effects usage, voice acting and score. The dubs for both Japanese and English are extremely well done, with the English dub adopting a far more intuitive approach instead of an outright translation. The voice actors for both dubs are extremely well suited to their roles, with Tanaka Atsuko reprising her role as Kusanagi Motoko from the original movie along with Ohtsuka Akio and Yamadera Kouichi (Batou and Togusa). Mimi Woods, who played the major in the first movie, has been replaced in the English dub with Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, and I have to admit that I much prefer McGlynn’s portrayal to Woods’ as her voice has a cadence and that is far more suited to the role.
Given the length of time between the original movie and SAC, it’s only natural that there would be some changes to the cast. On the whole, SAC is well served by it’s voice actors, and the changes to the cast have actually improved the quality and delivery, making the characters that little bit more believable than they were before.
The music for SAC was composed by the great Kanno Yoko, who should need no introduction. The often inspired creations add a depth and tone to the series that goes beyond anything achieved in the original movie, however most people will simply focus on the OP and ED. “Inner Universe”, the opening track to each episode, has become one of the most played anime songs in history, a remarkable feat given that the lyrics, written by Origa (Ol’ga Vital’evna Yakovleva), and Shanti Snyder, are almost completely in Russian. The track, sung by Origa and soprano Benedict Del Maestro, is striking in that it blends several different genres of music. The ED, an alternative rock track titled “Lithium Flower”, is another rarity in anime as it is one of the few songs written and sung in English.
I could wax lyrical about the music in this series, especially as I’m a huge fan of Kanno’s work, however I think you all get my point already.
One of the biggest differences between SAC and the original movie is the inclusion of the other members of Section 9. In the movie they were either bit parts or alluded to in conversation. Here, however, they are characers who not only have a role within the framework of the story, but individuals in their own right. The major characters like Kusanagi and Batou have also undergone a tranasformation, not in terms of looks but in terms of persona. Each of the main characters feels more “real” than they did in the movie and, while this may be due to the fact that the series can give more background, this is still a very noteworthy achievement as anime in general is notorious for offering poor characterizations.
Possibly the most fascinating and interesting addition to the series are the Tachikomas. These A.I. controlled “mini-tanks” sometimes act as comic relief, however their main pupose is to highlight how humans in the series are becoming more robotic, whilst beings like the Tachikoma are becoming more human. This is one of the reasons why the Tachikoma are presented with childlike voices and qualities, especially an insatiable curiosity.
SAC is one of the few anime that, in my opinion, can only be “enjoyed” in purely subjective terms. The complexity in both its story and characters, combined with its technologically plausible setting, ethical debates and philosophical arguments, means that whilst there is a lot of action, there is actually a point to it all instead of it being just mindless violence.
This is very much an intelligent series for intelligent people and, while there are some who won’t enjoy it, I found the blend of action, mystery, philosophy and thriller to be truly excellent.
One such examination is the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (GitS) series. Revitalizing the cyberpunk genre and honing in on various veins of society, GitS is a series that revamps the boundaries of typical sci-fi/cyberpunk story-telling.
Set in the future, the first installment of the Stand Alone series trails the respective missions and cases dealt with by an independent, elite unit established by the government titled Section 9. The manner in which the story is structured is peculiarly fascinating: the show is divided up by stand-alone episodes and “dividual”/complex or simply the pivotal episodes that deal with the central case of the laughing man. Therefore, GitS can be considered largely episodic. That by no means indicates a lapse in quality as those stand-alone episodes fulfill many functions; one being, to present an encompassing view of the society depicted and the individuals that compose it, especially the leading cast. It is especially effective because a large part in appreciating this narrative is understanding the intricacies of the world it offers. To put it simply: nothing is done in vain.
With that being said, this is a tale that unfolds slowly. Although, it is a crime-centric series which would imply a certain degree of action, it is smartly and properly utilized. This is a multi-layered show and each layer is carefully peeled and explored. Composed of exceptional writing, intuitive expositions, and an extensive setting, GitS manages to create a consistent flow without relying on an array of shock values or incessant action fillers . Furthermore, the action isn’t used superficially or gratuitously, but as an auxiliary measure to provide a worthwhile experience. This isn’t the series to go to for fast-paced and continual action; it has long tenures of recurring dialogue and expositions, which can be detractingly slow for some. Regardless, the pacing is well-seasoned; allowing for a more effective and comprehensive outlook of its society.
The GitS society is composed of cyborgs, humans, A.I, and other mechanically-altered beings/machines. Consequently, one can imagine that certain inquiries are bound to rise up. From ontological speculation to political turmoil ; from corporate debauchery to ethical breaches; the series inherently sets up a plethora of topics for the audience to ruminate upon. The core of GitS is embedded in its concepts of “ghost” and “shell” which are extrapolated further to craft the philosophy of the series. Created truly in an ineffable manner, it borrows from a handful of philosophical narratives and works of literature to construct a hyper-“cyberized” realm which draws upon the aforesaid concepts and generates the Stand Alone Complex; yet it is also able to simultaneously maintain an air of authenticity.
Even though the dominant focus is on macro/social-constructs, there are some other very interesting nuances. For example, the disillusionment that accompanies “upgrading” one’s body is subtly depicted by various events such as cyborgs not being able to indulge in their favorite foods because their new bodies have no need for savory sustenance. The perpetual paradox of clinging to one’s humanity by physically losing it is wonderfully crafted. One can’t help but ponder upon where the attributes of “human-ness” start and end. Additionally, that paradox is juxtaposed quite ingeniously by the addition of the innocently intuitive Tachikomas (A.I -robots), who throughout the show, question concepts such as individuality, free will, fate, freedom, life, and death which are essentially synonymous with the history of human thought. Where there is humanity lost, elsewhere it is “found”. GitS shows us that it’s precisely where we least expect it, by “our own” design, can it resurface.
What GitS must be endlessly praised for is its uncanny ability to combine various disciplines such as: literature, ethics, philosophy (to name a few), and incorporate them in a relevant and meaningful way. There is both insight and context to almost every concept, reference, and quote that was used in the show. All of this is swiftly integrated and explicitly reflected through the laughing man case. Furthermore, literary devices such as motifs, allusions, and references are implemented elegantly within the narrative, rather than as a detached component. A recurring flaw that occurs in similar works is the constant abuse of irrelevant references, quote dropping, and other superfluous insertions that serve no purpose whatsoever other than to give the false impression of depth or intelligence. This series manages to avoid that and instead, provide perceptive commentary without breaking immersion, while also resonating deeply with the viewer as it frequently serves as a reflecting mirror of the reality in more than one way(s).
In a society where machines are questioning their existence, humans are questioning their humanity, and amidst it all, the marriage between man and machine is eternalized; GitS takes a very neutral stance and just reports, rather than preach. This is a notable technique because it abandons the didactic tone and allows room for personal introspection/interpretation, rather than force-feeding a subscribed ideology. Embracing its thematic heart, GitS offers a level of unmatched profundity.
The characters of GitS are equally fascinating– not as glamorized mouth-pieces– but as integral entities that provided a kaleidoscopic view; one seeped in many colors. “One-woman army” Major Motoko Kusanagi is undoubtedly the driving force of the series. Her attributes aren’t necessarily unique, but convincing given her role. She serves as a concrete pillar for her team and as an intriguing lead for the series. The rest of the characters are also well-maintained and created with care and purpose.
A point of true admiration is how the show expands on the collective struggle of the team in accordance with the prevalent themes and ideological undercurrents. Furthermore, the dynamics between the characters are assiduously constructed and are focal to the characterization aspect of the show. There is a surprising amount of depth in the dialogues between the members of Section 9 and those they pursue, which often times is the only portal into understanding the respective character’s persona. Though the characters remain somewhat innately enigmatic, they serve a pivotal role in providing different views on other characters and the world that they occupy.
One caveat that lightly burdens the series is the lack of [balanced] development of the characters on an individual level. There were some members that were rarely elaborated upon even though they were essential to the team. Some characters changed while many remained the same—which isn’t necessarily a fault–but the series could have taken it step further to add a deeper element of empathy. Sporadic and detailed snapshots were provided for certain characters which were a delight, but tantalizing nonetheless, for they often incited the urge to want more. The characters were generally solid, but alas, there was a lingering emptiness—a feeling of something “lacking”.
The connection that is often forged between the audience and the characters they watch or read is important but due to the “dehumanized” nature of the series, GitS was underwhelming in that aspect. Although, it can be easily argued that it remained true to its ambitions and what it was trying to achieve, the overall experience could have slightly improved if individual characterization was given more weight. Despite that, the characters were all interesting and maintained the allure of the GitS world with grace.
Aesthetically, the series does not disappoint. GitS has this precocious ability to show and tell, which allows it to manifest into an unforgettable audio-visual-sensory experience. The art and animation are commendable not just because of fluidity and style but because of well it intertwined with overall atmosphere. The visuals and sound work hand-in-hand to provide a front-and-center view for the audience, thus producing a remarkable atmosphere. For example, the urban metropolis, sprawling with celestial skyscrapers and engulfed in a sea of endless lights– is often infused with a continual dark and destitute tone– that is partly depicted by off-setting the vibrancy with shifts in darker colors and shades. One can feel the alienation dripping off the atmosphere and embrace it as if it were their own. Truly, the animation and art style provides a very visceral experience.
Further complementing the atmosphere is the sublime soundtrack of GitS. This doesn’t come as a surprise to many considering Yoko Kanno is the woman behind it all. From the OP to the overall background music, GitS provides a euphonious journey for one’s ears. The meshing of various dialects and fusing distinct styles– such as jazz, classical, and electronica-rock– all are combined to assemble one of the most spectacular soundtracks that will surely find a place on one’s playlist.
In essence, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is truly a gem that paints a very interesting picture of not just a potential future, but also of one that parallels the present. As humanity continues to leap towards a rapidly changing future and form a holy liaison with its pursuit of technological advancement, many of us can’t help but ponder upon where all these efforts will take us, and more importantly, whether they will be worth it. Until then, astute creators and artists will continue to prophesize and fulfill their roles as latent harbingers. To exploit that imagination and satisfy one’s curiosity comes the GitS: SAC narrative that should be experienced by all those who are interested in such a reverie. Graced with the wisdom of a sage and the creative curiosity of youth, Stand Alone Complex is a tale that can be thoroughly relished on various planes of cognition and enjoyment.
The way the story sets up isn’t just following one main story, which is the Laughing Man plot arc. Instead, it follows a formulaic style that makes us support the Section 9 team going after various cases around the world. An argument against the show’s credit that the Stand Alone episodes deviate the main focus of the Complex episodes that chronicle the Laughing Man plot arc, but I would argue that the Stand Alone episodes are essential to deal with a considerable amount of character development for our main characters. Some of the episodes offer memorable story arcs that aren’t important to the overall narrative, but they continuously show how immensely well crafted the writing is in not only the dialogue but of how well put together the world is in the show. What’s so great about the world of Stand Alone Complex is the subtle details the writers put into the account, such as the political and social plateau of how the world works that truly make it a living breathing world and not a superficial one.
As with character development goes, Stand Alone Complex stands out in how it gives a lot of time to put forth plenty of depth with each on-screen character. This doesn’t just apply with the main characters, many of the side characters in each episode that we come across have a deep level of characterization to where they aren’t just these one-sided antagonists who do evil, they’re just ordinary people who are in this situation because of the society they’re living in. About each specific main character, they all have their own uniquely written personalities that show off their presence in the show. Handled with great care and precision, they all play out so well with each other that make you care so much for their struggles and relationships as coworkers trying to handle any given situation they meet. Chemistry is the crucial part in tying together a well-rounded cast of characters and Stand Alone Complex hits the nail on that part exquisitely. Batou and Kusanagi are especially two of the best characters, only by how well the chemistry is between the two from their interactions and personalities.
What many consider the most poignant in the Ghost in the Shell saga is its music. Out comes famed composer Yoko Kanno producing all the music in Stand Alone Complex and provides a profoundly layered texture into the overall atmosphere in the show. Shows typically set in a futuristic setting relies heavily on electronic sounding orchestration mixed in to feel more natural within the landscape of the environment. While there are indeed a lot of that to experience through the ears, Yoko’s brilliant blend of Jazz, Electronica, and Classical musicianship that combine each other amazingly well to give the soundtrack it’s own unique style that she is widely known for. Although I find Kenji Kawai’s score in the Ghost in the Shell movie left more of a profound impact on me in how it incorporates a lot of dark ambiance to the atmosphere, there is no denying the creativity that Yoko put into the score and ignoring it completely would be insane when discussing the show.
Usually anime movies have the upper hand as having stellar animation and art while TV anime have a limited capacity in the level of budget that film studios have. There are, of course, exceptions to this and Stand Alone Complex is one of them. Sure the animation isn’t as fluid as the movie, but how the art’s quality perfectly compliments the ascetic vision that the artists were going for, it’s a real accomplishment to experience. How the city looked, the characters all having their distinct look that makes them recognizable the moment we see them, and how the 3D models of the machines flow with the 2D animation of the characters work each other sublimely.
It is haphazard to call Ghost in the Shell an action show since it relies heavily on Noir aspects of tone and pacing, unlike in your typical action show where the pacing is more fast-paced in that respect. However, once it does delve into action territory, that is where the animation and sound take it to the next level of technical genius. The fluid motions involving characters fighting each other still hold up to this day than many other action anime out there in terms of animated fighting sequences and gunfights. Sound effects of machines and gunfire feel very authentic and real that puts you on the edge of your seat as you’re transported into the scene. So yeah like I said, the show on the technical level is surprisingly still amazing to look at as it once was ten years ago.
One other aspect of Ghost in the Shell that is often noted when discussing the series is its profound philosophical themes. In the movie, it delved into the ideas of consciousness and ethics of A.I., while Stand Alone Complex is mostly centered on political corruption and conspiracy theories that involve the book “The Catcher in the Rye.” The one part where it does delve deeper into is when we follow the Tachikomas and how they describe the “Ghost” in each machine through their A.I. Oddly enough, it works even though these childlike voiced machines seem as though they were there for comic relief. With regards to the political themes thrown into the plot, it doesn’t have nearly as much impact as the writers thought it would have considering how it’s told through a conventional style of storytelling and not try to seem as though they wanted to make a big political statement out of it. That’s not the same as saying that it’s a significant knock on the show, but it’s something that I felt would’ve been much stronger.
Whatever the case, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex will surely leave a strong impression on people on what makes a story stand-out as one of the most well-crafted entries in writing great characters and a large detailed world. It is by no means a show that you can like for the action or the great animation because that is only one-third of what makes Stand Alone Complex so deep in its overall philosophy and story. Well written character progression, great world-building, and fantastic animation all combined into one glorious experience that will inspire anyone who wants to get into writing stories for years to come.
Did YOUR favorite anime make the cut? Let us know in the comments below!
1. Koukaku Kidoutai: Stand Alone Complex
3. Last Exile
4. Wolf’s Rain
5. Mobile Suit Gundam SEED
7. Mujin Wakusei Survive
8. R.O.D: The TV
9. The Big O
10. Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo